Archives for 2015

BENDO AT THE WINDOW (an Elf on the Shelf remix)

elf at windowHave you ever wondered how Santa can know if you’re getting better at self-control each year as you grow?  For hundreds of years it’s been a big secret.  It now can be shared if you promise to keep it.
At holiday time Santa gives me a turn to watch and report on the skills that you’ve learned. My job’s an assignment from Santa himself. And I am his helper and a great scout elf!
My name is Bendo and I’m the eldest of elves.  I’m really good at observing, if I do say so myself!  All day I am peering through the windows of your house though you may never see me for I’m as quiet as a mouse.
I watch for the ups and I watch for the downs…for each family goes through them no matter in what town. I see when you lose it (and when mom and dad does too).  I know you’re all doing the best you can do.
Your brain is still wiring; you’re learning each day how to manage your emotions when your nerves feel frayed.  It helps when your parents can model for you how to breathe when you’re angry, how to mourn when you’re blue.
Each night as you’re sleeping to Santa I’ll fly…to the North Pole right through the night sky.  Of course Christmas magic helps me to be quick.  I laugh with my friends and report to St. Nick.  I see your improvements and on that I report.  Santa knows that you’re trying; he’s a really good sport.
I’ll tell him if your efforts have paid out yet or not; the news of the day doesn’t affect him a lot.  He knows that you’ll learn at your pace and besides, he knows his own happiness comes from inside.  Not from how you behave or what you do…his main job is just to love and encourage you.
I’ll be back at your home before you’re out of the bed, looking forward to observing the day ahead. There are no hard and fast rules but I do have a request. If you see me, come hug me and then I’ll feel blessed.  For my magic grows stronger when I share it with you and feeling connected brings happiness too.
The gleam in my eye and my bright little smile shows you I’m listening and your words are worthwhile. I’ll listen to you tell me your wishes, wants and needs.  It’s good that you know them, that’s how to proceed.  For once you know your needs, you can bet…there’s lots of choices on how to get them met.
So keep on trying and when you make a mistake, just say you’re sorry and do a remake.  Nobody’s perfect, not even near.  Just give it your best and keep improving each year.  There’s no need to worry that you won’t measure up. Forget that misguided Elf on the Shelf who’s forever turning the pressure up.
Santa will never try to punish or coerce.  He knows you can’t make a child behave better by making him feel worse. He long ago threw out those words “naughty” and “nice” when he discovered motivation from the outside comes at too high a price. Santa will love you no matter what you choose.  His love is the kind you can’t earn and can’t lose.
The night before Christmas my job’s at an end. The rest of the year with Santa I’ll spend. And you’ll keep on growing and learning and oh my! I bet I won’t recognize you the next time I come by. Of course I’ll miss you but wait till next year.  When the holidays come I’ll again reappear. To celebrate all the ways you have grown. And to let you know that you’re never alone.
Until then I wish every girl and each boy a Christmas of peace and a year full of joy.
with love,
*Please forgive my friend Elf on the Shelf.  He’s young and still learning. 

If you live long enough…

mom and teen PDOne of my favorite sayings from my friend Faye is “If you live long enough…”  I can’t tell you how many times this phrase has helped me to re-evaluate my perspective and take a longer view of my parenting.
When we’re in the midst of the day to day challenges of parenting, it can seem like every undesirable behavior is an indication of a dire future for our child. If she fights with her younger sibling or if she is unwilling to share with her friends, it means she will live a life of social isolation and failed relationships.  Or we will be viewed as incompetent parents and shunned from our communities.  If our teen sleeps until noon on weekends or defies the curfew agreement, it means he will never be able to hold a job and will have trouble following rules out there in the “real world.”  Our minds can come up with some doozies of worst case scenarios and we wind up using parenting strategies that are based on fear rather than love.
It’s good to have a friend like Faye (as a grandmother, she’s “been there, done that”) to remind you: You know what?  “If you live long enough…” you’ll find that most of your worries about the future never pan out and most things work out satisfactorily in the long run.
We sometimes think we have to directly “teach” our children values and good character traits.  When really they come into this world hardwired to develop toward thriving and belonging.  We just have to prepare the soil and water those seeds in them.  They’re already there.  We really don’t have to “teach” them that much. We just have to provide the environment and the nurturance for them to blossom into who they already are naturally becoming.

So when my friend Faye says, “If you live long enough…,” it means if you prepare the soil, give it lots of attention and love, the seeds will blossom eventually in their own time.

Some of you may be like I was and want your child to be a “mini-me.”  To handle situations the way you would handle them, to think about things the way you would think about them, and to act the way you would act.  What I’ve come to believe is my most important job as a parent is to love and accept my child as he is and encourage him to grow into who he is becoming…rather than grooming him to be a mini-me.

Love and acceptance…
not love…and be like me
This is really hard sometimes, especially if your child starts to go in a very different direction than you would.  But “if you live long enough…”
Last night my older son came in from college for Thanksgiving and we went to eat breakfast this morning.  On the way out of the restaurant I was walking in front of him and I pushed my way through the exit door.  Then I heard my son behind me say, “Mom, wait!  I would like to open the door for you but I can’t.  You’re walking way too fast.”I had to smile, remembering the many years I tried and failed (so I thought) to “teach” him the gentlemanly act of opening doors for ladies.  Growing up, he refused to do it or did it with a lot of grumbling and resented it being expected of him.  Since I managed to get through those years by picking my battles, the gentlemanly opening of doors didn’t make the battle list and I let it go.
But I’ve lived long enough and …. He got it!  In his own time.  In his own way.

What is it about your kids that you’re afraid that if you don’t “nip it in the bud” now that they will turn out irreparably damaged?  Whatever it is, I encourage you to expand your view and take a longer perspective. If they are resisting, and you fight hard to “teach” your value or your expectation, I predict your efforts will backfire.

I invite you bring some acceptance around it, knowing that if you consistently model the value that is important to you, your child is likely to learn the value on her own, in her own time.  See if you can model and encourage the value without it becoming a demand or expectation.

If I could give you the perfect gift this holiday season it would be to give you…a friend like Faye.  Someone who invites you to take a “reality check.”  Someone who has gone before and can lead the way through the jungle of parenting with confidence and assurance.   Everyone needs a friend like Faye when they’re in the thick and thin of it, when it’s hard to see the forest for the trees.  Everyone needs a reminder of the natural unfolding of things…of the way time itself takes care of many imagined problems…“if you live long enough.”


Do your kids have to fight for power?

kids tug of warINTRO
In my parenting classes we often have lively discussions when we start to consider the partnership parenting approach that I teach.  What does it mean to share power in your family?  Can kids really handle more choice and power?  Isn’t it our job to make most decisions for them while they are very young and limit their choice-making to wearing either the blue or the red socks? In my experience, children can handle way more power than we, as the adults in their lives, are willing to give them.  In fact, I believe we unconsciously foster, to a great extent, powerlessness in our children.  And when children feel powerless, what options do they have but to submit or rebel? Submission turns them into nice dead people and rebellion turns them into very challenging children to raise.  If you see submission or rebellion in your kids, put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself honestly, “Do I feel power-full?  or do I feel power-less?”
In my own family, I know that my life would be so much easier if my kids would submit to my power and just do what I tell them to do.  But I’m not interested in just getting compliance if it’s going to come at a cost, if it harms the relationship in the long-term.  Plus, I want my children to realize they are powerful beings and to recognize and be in touch with their own needs–even if it means disagreeing with me and what I think is best for them.  After all, it is their life and their journey.  I don’t want to stand in the way of what they are here to learn.

Do your kids have to fight for power?

The shift to a power-sharing parenting paradigm can be mind-boggling and a lot of inside resistance can come up.  it usually goes like this, “If I open that can of worms, if I let my child have some power in making decisions that affect him, then all hell will break loose and I’ll never get back any control.”

So you start white-knuckling it, trying to keep control at all costs.  And, eventually, it does come at a cost.  They don’t stay young and pliable forever.  And that’s if you’re lucky enough to start out with a compliant child.  I didn’t start with a compliant child so my learning came early and quick!  Within the first year I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that control was just an illusion.  Once I loosened my grip on that illusion, things started to shift for the better.

There are sometimes very good reasons not to share power.  But I believe that are more good reasons to share power with our kids, starting when they are young.  Allowing them to have choice and leadership in their lives (within safe limits) in ever larger doses as they age, instills in them confidence that they can manage their lives, make decisions–even bad ones–and bounce back when they make mistakes.  It instills in them a knowing that what they think and need matters in this world.  This inner trust in themselves (or the lack of it) will be their guide into adulthood and will impact every relationship they have, especially the one with themselves.

There are too many grown-ups walking around today with this harsh voice inside that says things like, “You’re not worthy.  You’re not enough.  You’re not loveable because you are flawed.  You don’t really matter.”  Wouldn’t it be nice if our kids grow up to hear a different voice inside, a nurturing one that says things like, “I’m not perfect but I’m still worthy and loveable.  I am enough; I don’t have to be something I’m not.  I matter.  I have the power to create the life I want.”

How do they learn this power and how to manage it if we never give it to them?  Or if they have to fight so hard for it that they never learn the give and take of sharing power with others?  I don’t have the “right” answer, but I sure do love the questions!  We encourage our children to share with others.  Are we modeling the same when it comes to power?

What to do when your child says “no!”

child saying noI don’t believe there is a parent on the planet who hasn’t heard the word “no” coming from their child’s lips.  It seems that almost as soon as they learn to speak, this word becomes a mainstay for kids.  Particularly during those early years, when they are discovering they have their own preferences and testing the limits with how far they can go in making their own choices.

Often, our impulse is to get them to change their minds.  We try to get them to say yes to our requests through convincing, cajoling, or coercing.  We persuade, we try to reason and when all else fails, we either use power over them or we give up, we submit.  Power struggles are very common when our child says “no!”What if there was a better way to respond when you hear a “no”?   A response that discharges the power struggles and leads to connection with your child instead?  Well, guess what?  There is and it’s simple.  You just have to hear the “yes” behind the “no.”  Would you like to give it a try?

Here’s how it works. The next time your child says “no” to a request you have made,  listen for what she is saying “yes” to instead.  For example, if you ask your child to pick up the toys and put them in the toy chest, and she says “no,” perhaps she is saying “yes” to playing longer.  Or “yes” to deciding for herself when she will pick up the toys.  Or “yes” to ease and efficiency.  Make a guess and see if it’s right.

“When I hear you say ‘no,’ I wonder if you want to play a little longer?”  If  you guess wrong, she’s likely to let you know and give you more information, such as, “I’m just going to get them out again in the morning.”  Go with the new information and guess again, “So you want it to be easy in the morning and have your toys right here on the floor ready to play?”  “Yes!”  Surely you can relate to that “yes”; aren’t there times when you want ease and efficiency in your life?

Now that you know what she’s saying yes to, validate her yes.  “That would be so easy, wouldn’t it?  To walk in here in the morning and everything is right here, ready to play!”  With this new understanding maybe leaving the toys on the floor will work for you.  Or maybe it still won’t.  Maybe you have a need for order so you can relax at bedtime.  Maybe you’re concerned that someone will trip on the toys and get hurt.

Then you can share with her what you are saying “yes” to.  “I understand that would make it easier for you when you come in to play in the morning, not having to get the toys out again.  And I will be up later than you tonight and would like the room to look nice.  When things are in their place, it helps me to relax.  I’d like to be able to walk through the room without tripping.”

When you share the “yes” behind your request, you allow your child to consider if she wants to contribute to making life more wonderful for you.  You are planting a seed in her, which, if watered gently over time, will blossom into consideration and regard for others. She will learn not to do something just because she is told to do it, but because she is in touch with her natural capacity to contribute to others.

Perhaps she will choose to pick up the toys because she knows it will help you relax.  Or perhaps she will still insist on leaving them out.  Don’t worry; your child’s capacity to care for others grows over time with lots of practice.  If the latter is the case, you can still water that seed of consideration in her by modeling it for her.  You lay all the “yeses” out on the table to be considered and together you brainstorm how to make it work for both of you.  “I hear you want it to be easy to start playing right away in the morning and I want the room to look nice and not have to worry about tripping over toys.  What can we do?”

First let her explore ideas and then offer your ideas if needed.  This will help her develop the skill of collaborative problem-solving.  You just might be surprised at the creative ideas that bubble up from both of you.  “How about I put my toys on this blanket and slide it over in this corner?”

“Thanks for trying that.  Hmmmm, it still doesn’t look tidy enough for me.  I really enjoy looking at an uncluttered room.  How about we bundle the toys up in the blanket and put it inside the toy chest?  That way, it will be easy to pull it out in the morning and lay it back on the floor.  Will you try that?”  Thus begins the dialogue, the connection, the consideration of everyone’s input.

It can become a game, guessing at the “yes” behind the “no.”  The more you can develop your curiosity and the less you take the “no” as a rejection of your request, the more joyful your interactions with your child will be around that dreaded word.

Who’s Your Momma? Is it Dr. Spock?

mom and books PAIDIt’s 2 am in the morning and you’ve finally gotten the baby back to sleep after more than an hour of nursing, rocking, walking, and trying various baby holding positions.
Or… it’s 2 am in the morning and your teenage son, who was supposed to be home by midnight, is just now sauntering through the door.
As badly as you just want to crawl back in bed, you also know you can’t go through another night like this one.  So you tiptoe downstairs to the computer, type in “Amazon” and “parenting books” and voila! 105,924 books on parenting show up.  Each one promising the solution to your problem.  So you order a dozen or so and hit “overnight shipping!”
The problem is, even if you somehow find the time to read the books, you will start to notice a curious thing–they contradict each other.  One says it’s okay to let a baby cry himself to sleep.  The other says always respond to the cry.  One says set strict rules and clear consequences and the other says talk to your child, find out what he’s feeling and needing.  Each parenting expert has his or her own tips, techniques, methods, routines, and philosophies that promise to solve your problems.
From the moment we bring the baby home, we are perpetually looking for that elusive instruction manual.  And if we could only find it, then everything would be alright, we’d get through it and we’d know what to do.
Well, guess what?  The manual doesn’t exist and still…everything will be alright and we’ll get through it…even if we don’t know the perfect thing to do.  When it comes to parenting, it’s time to embrace the gift of imperfection.  So much of parenting is going with your gut, trying something and if it doesn’t work, trying something else.
In today’s world of information overload, we seemingly have all the “answers” at our fingertips and to be sure, there’s lots of very beneficial advice, techniques, philosophies and inspirations out there.  The downside though is that when we become overly reliant on information outside of ourselves, we can quickly lose our parenting intuition and inner guidance.
It’s easy to do and it’s tragic.  If you’ve fallen into this trap, here’s 5 ways you can reclaim your power as your child’s parenting expert:
1.  Put the books back on the shelves (for a while anyway).  Just be present with your child.  Get to know her.  Notice what she likes and what she doesn’t like.  What interests her.  What makes her scared, or sad, or happy.  The best way to do this is to listen.  Listen way more than you talk.  In fact, you have the right to remain silent…and just listen, with ears and heart.
2.  Whether it’s whining, temper tantrums, waking at night, picky eating, or sibling fighting…when you feel triggered by your child’s behavior, take a step back and get a bigger perspective.  Notice what triggers you and notice what is your habitual reaction to it.  Then you can decide if you want to parent on auto-pilot or if you want to have a more thoughtful response to the behavior.  What’s happening may look so important right now and you may want it to STOP.  But in the big picture, does it matter if your child lies on the floor in Kroger for awhile and kicks and screams while you are present with him and his big feelings, or if he refuses to eat anything with burnt edges?  Will it really kill his chances of being president some day?
 3.  Be flexible, creative and open to new ideas.  All children are different. Just when you’ve finally figured out this parenting thing with your first child, your second one comes along and unravels that tightly knit sweater of parenting confidence you were wearing.  Nothing you’ve painstakingly learned works with her. You have to figure out a whole new parenting paradigm for this kid. The same thing happens as your children mature and develop.  You better be ready to roll with the changes and adjust how you practice parenting.  Parenting is not a static thing; it’s an ever evolving convoluted dynamic chaotic growth opportunity in perpetuity…which is to say, it’s eternally fun!
4.  Not every problem has to be solved.  If you’re mindful, you will find that balance of what must be dealt with now and what can wait.  I can almost guarantee you that your child will not be crawling into your bed in the middle of the night when he is 13.  She will not be insisting that you cut the crust off the bread and don’t let the peas touch the carrots when she is 22.  Time will take care of a lot of things.  Don’t add a layer of suffering.  This too shall pass.  In the meantime, have some fun and enjoy your kids!
5.  Take care of yourself or find someone who will.  The best parents know that the secret to being able to actually implement all the wonderful things you discover and learn as you become a parenting expert is to take good care of yourself.  When you are rested and healthy and your cup is full of love and vitality, it’s much easier to give these things to your children and to parent in alignment with your parenting integrity.  If you don’t trust you’ll  take good care of yourself, then all you have to do is find a partner who is totally devoted 100% to your happiness and wellbeing.  (sigh….)
It’s okay to share your “expertise” with other parents and support each other in finding ways to make parenting as peaceful, easy and joyful as possible.  Some parenting “experts” have experience in working with lots of parents and they may have some insights that will be helpful.  By all means, seek them out, learn from them.  Try this, try that.  But run everything through your own parenting filter. Take what is helpful and leave the rest.
When I work with parents, I consider myself a “facilitator” because my goal is to facilitate each parent’s uncovering of their own inner wisdom.  It’s there.  It’s never not been.  The only time I consider myself a parenting expert is with my own kids. And you are the parenting expert with yours.  Take back your power and unleash your parenting “guru” within.

Social Emotional Learning Coming to Atlanta Schools

Guess what I’ve been up to this summer?  I’ve been in school….where I just finished the summer semester teaching Educators in Thomas University’s Master’s Program. The course I teach is called Cultivating Collaborative Classrooms through Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and it is akin to the skills I teach parents to develop self-awareness, regulate emotions, and collaboratively problem-solve in their families.Along with my passion to support children (and parents) in their home environment, this is a dream come true to impact the lives of children in their school environment. It seems that research is finally validating what I’ve known for a long time–that children’s social and emotional development is important to their academic success in school.

Research shows that SEL has a positive effect on school climate with students showing better classroom behavior, more motivation to learn, and a deeper commitment to school. Of course, what finally got Education Administrators’ attention was research that showed students who received SEL instruction had achievement scores an average of 11 percentile points higher than students who did not receive SEL instruction. Schools that implemented SEL into their curriculum also haddecreased disruptive classroom behavior, noncompliance, aggression, delinquent acts and disciplinarian referrals.  And they also reported fewer incidences of student depression, anxiety, stress, and social withdrawal.
The pendulum is swinging the other way as we are beginning to realize the negative outcomes of the “zero tolerance” policies of the last decade.  Instead of suspending or expelling students for negative behavior, we need to teach them skills to deal with their anger and conflicts.
An article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution last week said that Atlanta Public Schools will spend more than $1 million over the next year specifically to teach students how to become self-aware, responsible, caring adults through social emotional learning instruction.  And earlier this year, three bills were introduced in the U.S. Congress which earmark a portion of the national Education budget to SEL programs in schools nationwide.
Developing students’ ‘social-emotional learning skills’ will help improve their academic performance and behavior and have other benefits, Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen said.  “Research shows our students can master these SEL skills and develop their hearts, along with their smarts, to become better people than we could ever be,” she said in a written statement.
I’m so excited to be part of this movement toward teaching children valuable life skills that go way beyond their school years! 

Amazing fireworks inside the house!

fireworksFor some of us, fireworks don’t just happen on the 4th of July.  You parents of young children know what I’m talking about!  I’m talking about the fireworks that happen when our children have their meltdowns, tantrums, upsets, you-name-it….especially in a public place!  When it seems like the screaming and flailing about is just as loud and spectacular as any fireworks show you’ve seen.
[BTW…I saw a spectacular fireworks show last night featuring my 17-year-old and a broken cellphone!]
These are the times that test our fortitude as parents and test our ability to dance in the gap of (1) our vision of how we want to parent and (2) how we actually do it during the daily grind.  Hopefully, these 3 tips will help you bridge that gap in the midst of the familial pyrotechnics:
1.  Stay calm

THE MOST HELPFUL thing you can do when your child is losing it is to stay calm yourself.  If you lose it too then all hope is lost.  Your child needs you to guide her through the emotional storm.  That’s hard to do if you’re lost in the storm yourself.  So breathe and repeat a mantra to yourself that will help you stay calm…such as “I can do this in a calm loving way” or “This too shall pass.”

(You may have to come back to this mantra over and over again).
2.  Get down close to your writhing child*
Yes, you read that correctly.  Squat down, or even sit or lie down on the floor with your child (depending on where you are).  Perhaps you just wouldn’t be comfortable lying in the grocery store aisle; but if you’re at home or the home of a friend, go for it!
Instead of isolating your child or letting the emotional tempest keep you at bay… go in, get close.  As we say in the conflict resolution field:  lean into the conflict. This will get easier the more you do it, and your calm close presence is likely to have a calming influence on your child when he starts to trust that you can be a safe container for his big emotions.  With repetition, you may find this strategy alone lessens the intensity and decreases the time of a tantrum.
3.  Offer understanding and empathy to your child
Your child is too young developmentally to be able to reason out of her intense emotions.  That’s why all the perfect reasoning and logic in the world won’t help in those moments.  Plus, we tend to use way too many words when our child is upset.  (To be honest, when you are having intense emotions, do you want someone to give you reasons why you shouldn’t be feeling that way? Or do you want someone to hear you and to understand the pain you’re in?)
Instead, offer your child two precious gifts:  understanding and empathy.
Here are some phrases to try:

* I know it’s hard when you really really want that cookie right now. 

* It’s hard to want something really bad and not be able to have it. 

* I know…sometimes I want things too that I just can’t have.* It’s okay to cry.  I know it hurts.  I’m here with you.

* You want to sit on my lap?* You want me to hold you while you cry?

Comments such as these give your child the message:  “I know.  I understand. There’s nothing wrong with you for feeling this way.  I’m here to help you through it.”
Understanding and empathy are not permissive parenting.  You can set boundaries and limits and still be loving and supportive when they trigger intense emotions in your child.  Just as you support your child with physical hurts, it’s just as important to support the emotional hurts.
Your capacity to stay loving and supportive during an upset helps your child to build resiliency and capacity to behave better in the future.  Studies have shown that emotional responsiveness strengthens the integrative connections in the brain, helping to bring the prefrontal cortex (the thinking brain) back on-line quicker.  As the brain integrates more and more over time, this allows your child to make better choices and to better control her body and emotions.
So there you have it.  3 tips to help you and your child get through the “other” kind of fireworks show.  I invite you to start seeing every tantrum as an opportunity to instill this message in your child:

You are loved even when you’re at your worst. 
(Don’t we all want that?!) 
We’re a team and I’ve got your back! 
*Special Note:  Some children will not let you get near them when they are upset.  (My son is this way; he really needs his space when he’s upset.)  You can sit further away or in the doorway and keep letting him know you are there for him, at a distance, until he is ready to be comforted or to re-engage.

The Upstairs and Downstairs Brain

brainRecently, I attended a fascinating 3-day training on the latest findings in neuroscience.  This field has exploded in the last 10-12 years and one of the leading researchers, Dr. Dan Siegel, applies these new findings to the realm of parenting. He and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson, have co-authored two books (The Whole-Brain Child and No-Drama Discipline) which I highly recommend if you are interested in learning how to work with your child’s brain development instead of against it.

Here’s an article from Dr. Bryson on how to engage your child’s “upstairs” brain instead of devolving into the chaos of the “downstairs” brain.

5 Things to Know About Chores and Allowance

houseworkBasically, there are two schools of thought when it comes to our children doing household chores and receiving an allowance.

The first approach is to tie allowance to doing chores.  Money is given if agreed upon chores are completed or money is taken away from a decided amount if chores are not completed.  Some parents pick this approach because they want to model the “real world” where you have to work and earn your money if you expect to receive a paycheck.

The other approach is to NOT tie allowance to doing chores.  Some parents pick this approach because they want to instill in their children that freely contributing in some way is expected from every member of the family, i.e., everyone pitches in to make the household work without expecting to be paid for it.  Also, the parents model generosity by sharing their resources with all members of the family.

I decided to use the latter approach with my children because, for me, I wanted their motivation for contributing to the family to be intrinsic (based on their own feelings of accomplishment and contribution) rather than extrinsic (based on receiving a reward—money).

Whichever approach you decide to use with chores and allowance, here are 5 things that will help your children achieve a healthy relationship with money and family:

1. One of the ultimate lessons is to teach your children how to manage their financial resources for short-term and long-term goals.  In this vein, it helps to have them divvy up their allowance among three categories:  (1) long term savings, (2) charitable contributions, and (3) spending money. For example, when my children were young and received $3/week allowance—50¢ would go into long term savings, 50¢ would go into charitable contributions, and $2 would be leftover for “spending money.”

I paid them quarters and gave them 3 glass jars where they could watch the accumulation of their savings and charitable donations. The spending money didn’t accumulate for very long but hey, that portion was meant to practice spending, right?  The long term savings helped them learn to delay gratification and save up for those bigger ticket items.  And the charitable donations taught them the spirit of generosity and responsibility for being part of the solution to local and global problems. I remember their joyful faces when my children took their jar of quarters to donate to the local animal shelter.

2. Communicate clearly what their spending portion of the allowance is expected to cover.  Will they be expected to pay for any toys they get other than toys they receive as gifts at holidays and birthdays?  Will they be expected to pay for candy they want?  Or for entertainment, i.e., going to the movies or to Chuck E. Cheese’s?  Or for their video games?  As they get older (and their allowance increases), make sure the list of what they are expected to cover increases along with it.

3. Let them “fail” by making bad choices with their money.  As hard as it is, don’t bail them out! They will learn from their “mistakes” better than any financial lecture you could give them. Instead of lecturing or bailing them out, give them empathy when they realize their mistake and give them encouragement when you see that they are learning to make better choices with their money. This will take time. They will make mistakes as they learn and grow, but they will also learn to “self-correct” as they live with the consequences of their spending choices. Your acceptance of their learning and your empathy help maintain the relationship and gives them a safe place to experiment–fail–self-correct.

4. Make a list of ALL the family contributions (I call them contributions, not chores–who wants to do “chores”?!) and divvy up the list:  Who will pay the mortgage? Who will buy gas for the car? Who will get the trash together weekly?  Who will cook dinner?  Who will set the table?  Who will dust the furniture? Who will do the laundry?  Who will put the folded laundry in the drawers? Who will clean the playroom?  Who will vacuum? This gives children a sense of all that goes into running a household and it gives them some perspective on the magnitude that their parents are already freely contributing to the family.  Engage the kids: ask for their input, have them cut out pictures of how they want to contribute and glue them into a collage, or hand make a game board with all the contributions they can make and play a game (roll the dice and whatever space they land on is their contribution for the upcoming week). Help meet their need for fun and play and you’ll reap more cooperation from your kids.

5. Be sure to follow-up with your appreciation when they contribute. (This is different from “praise” which I see as having some downsides.)  It’s merely noticing and appreciating–by stating how it affects you:

“I see that you have the table all set and ready for dinner. Thank you.
That makes it easier for me to focus on cooking.”

“I noticed you put all your clothes in the drawers. Thank you.
I like it when things are in their places, don’t you?”

“I see that you’ve gathered all the trash without me even having to remind you.
Thanks. I like it when I can trust that things will get done.”

 This builds self-esteem as they get better at performing tasks and when they see that their contributions are acknowledged and needed in the family.

Compassionate Communication in the Classroom

TU TeamParentingHeart is branching out from families to the classroom!  I’m excited to share that I have joined the adjunct faculty team at Thomas University to teach Compassionate Communication to Educators in the Master’s Degree program.  Compassionate Communication (sometimes called Nonviolent Communication) is also the basis for the parenting approach I teach. Bringing Compassionate Communication into the classroom has been a dream of mine for over a decade!
This is yet another way to impact the lives of children by training educators on how to build a classroom environment conducive to the development of the students’ optimal emotional health and emotional intelligence…which in turn increases their capacity for learning.


This week the educators are introducing Connection Circles in their classrooms as a way to build connection, trust and community among the students and teachers.  Here’s what one educator had to say about her experience:


“I never realized that this sort of connection was so effective in a classroom and that students would be so open to the process.  I see now how the circles can create a community of learners that are truly connected.”  

This cutting-edge program is led by Director of Education, Dr. Susan Lynn, at Thomas University…and hopefully…coming soon to a school near you!

What is your ONE WORD for 2015?

Do you remember last year at this time when I invited you to join with me in coming up withone word that captured your longing for the new year?  The one thing that you decided to focus on in such a heartfelt way that you were bound to bring more of it into your life?


Last year I shared with you that my word for 2014 was Y.  I wanted to be more intentional about bringing play into my life, especially with my kids (a bit challenging when they are teens).


Check out the videos here and here to see one of the ways I found to connect with my kids through PLAY.  I have to say my younger son “broke my ankles” (that’s basketball slang for “totally humiliated me”).


How about you?  What’s your one word for 2015?  What do you want to have more of in your life?


Write it down.  Post it by your desk or on your refrigerator.  And go get it in 2015!


…starting today.


Much love to you and your family.  May 2015 be a year of deepening connection.