10% is Enough

mom pulling hairWhen I first started teaching parenting classes back in 2005 I once told my class about an incident that had just happened where I yelled at my child.  I remember several people gasped and they all exchanged looks. Then one person asked, “You mean you yell?”  Another added, “At your child?”

I was equally bewildered by their bewilderment.  And then it hit me…they think I’m on the “other side” of this parenting stuff … somehow they’ve gotten the impression that I’ve graduated…that I’ve arrived…that I’ve reached perfect parenting nirvana and bliss. This was a disconcerting thought because, in reality, nothing could be further from the truth!

Oh!  Wow!,” I exclaimed, “I hope I haven’t misled you into thinking that I don’t do all these things that we’ve been talking about…the things you are trying to change and improve.  I’m right there with you!  I’m teaching this because I need to learn it myself.”

Then, as I watched those words sink in for them, for a moment it entered my mind that this was the beginning of the end of parenting classes for me. I had just let the cat out of the bag and now the word would get out that I yelled at my own children, and no one would want to come to my parenting classes.  What could I possibly teach anyone about parenting when I didn’t have my own parenting act together?

Thankfully, after I was knocked clean off that perfect parenting pedestal (thank God!), the parents expressed relief. I went from being the “parenting expert” to a “mom” who was struggling with the same issues that they were struggling with…and who was able to apply what I was teaching to my own parenting around 10% of the time (yeah, I got a little crazy with my confessions).  My willingness to be vulnerable and “let it all hang out” put us on equal ground and created emotional safety where we could openly share what was really going on in our families, the guilt (and sometimes shame) we felt around our parenting, and the hope that we still had time to get it right…or at least to get it good enough.

Fast forward 12 years and I’ll tell you 10 things I’ve learned about the parenting paradigm I teach–even if you can only apply the concepts 10% of the time:

  • 10% of conscious intentional parenting is better than 90% of fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants parenting.
  • 10% of focused attention on your relationship with your child is better than 90% of focused attention on “behavior issues.”
  • 10% of striving to connect and understand is better than 90% of attempting to correct, convince, cajole or coerce.
  • 10% of parent “time-ins” is better than 90% of child “time-outs.”
  • 10% of quality engaging time with your child is better than 90% of stressed-out distracted time with your child.
  • 10% of listening is better than 90% of lecturing.
  • 10% of setting loving limits is better than 90% of issuing threats, punishments or bribes.
  • 10% of changing ourselves is better than 90% of trying to change our children.
  • 10% of unconditional love is better than 90% of love with conditions.
  • 10% of honest imperfect parenting is better than 90% of false unattainable perfect parenting.

It’s been quite a journey since that parenting class when I confessed to my own imperfect parenting. After over a decade of studying, practicing and teaching conscious forms of parenting, I may be up to applying it 25% of the time in the heat of the moment….and that’s on a good day.

But now I know that’s more than enough!

I’ll leave you with these words from Brené Brown, about imperfect parenting as a gift:

        “The practice of framing mothers and fathers as good or bad is both rampant and corrosive.  It turns parenting into a shame minefield.  The real questions for parents should be, “Are you engaged?  Are you paying attention?”  If so, plan to make lots of mistakes and bad decisions.
         Imperfect parenting moments turn into gifts as our children watch us try to figure out what went wrong and how we can do better next time.  The mandate is not ‘be perfect and raise happy children.’  Perfection doesn’t exist and I found that what makes children happy doesn’t always prepare them to be courageous, engaged adults.”
        — Brené Brown, Daring Greatly


Invite yourself to a nice cup of tea and sit down and ask yourself these questions:

  • In what areas do I try to edit the version of my family that I present to the world?
  • In what ways am I afraid of being judged by other parents?
  • Do I ever judge other parents based on how their children act, look, or sound?
  • Do I put pressure on my kids to be, act, look, and sound perfect so that I look good as a parent?
  • What part of my authentic self am I afraid to show to others?
  • What would be the worst thing that could happen if I revealed this part of me?

Based on your reflections, decide if there’s room to practice more authenticity and vulnerability in your life.

Growing Yourself as a Parent

mom and girl PAID“Grown-ups never understand anything for themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.”   -Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince
Imagine a baby shower where the guests bring a special kind of gift for the new parents.
Not baby clothes. Not strollers or cribs. Not even a single book on child-rearing.
The gifts for the new parents? Self-awareness, self-love and self-growth as a person, as well as a parent.
The best parenting requires that we not only work to nurture and care for our children but that we nurture and care for ourselves.
Parenting is one of the–if not the–most challenging jobs on the planet. There is the awesome responsibility of raising and guiding another human being, of course. But it’s the daily interactions between children and parents that can require almost super-human amounts of flexibility, patience and awareness. All the experts and all the books aren’t there when it’s your toddler who won’t nap, your child who grabbed the toy out of his friend’s hand, your depressed teen who is desperately searching for answers, your adult child who can’t hold down a job.
Successful–even joyful–parenting is about listening to ourselves as well as listening to our children. It’s a self-awareness approach that brings the focus back to what we are feeling and needing, so that we don’t unthinkingly rain anger and fear down upon our children. Being aware of ourselves helps us develop a strong “inner authority” or an intuitive sense of knowing what is best for us and our children in any moment. (As well as accepting that sometimes we really don’t know yet!)
“We guide (our children) not because they have basically shabby motives, but because they lack the one strength most of us have: awareness of the world,” write authors Hugh and Gayle Prather in their book, Spiritual Parenting: A Guide to Understanding and Nurturing the Heart in Your Child.
Their book calls parenting a spiritual path that helps us grow as people while we are helping our children grow into adults. Our children challenge us and if we can truly listen, we can grow.
One of the first challenges is to understand that old patterns–often formed in our own childhoods–can often rule our behavior as parents right now. For example, if our own parents tried to fix everything that went wrong, we may try to do the same with our children. But our children may need us just to listen to their fears and not jump in with our own fears and try to “fix” it all.
In the process, we allow our kids to make mistakes, and that means we can, too. And if we can forgive our kids and accept them in all their flawed glory, it can’t be too big a jump to do this for ourselves.
As author Joyce Maynard writes, “It’s not only children who grow. Parents do, too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours. I can’t tell my children to reach for the sun. All I can do is reach for it myself.”


Spend time reflecting on your own childhood and how you were raised as a child.  Make two lists: what you want to do the same way as your parents did it…and what you want to do differently.  Pick one of the things you want to do differently, and over the next week, make a conscious effort to pause…and choose your new way.

Keeping the Focus on Relationship

This post was orginally published on August 5, 2011

Next week my kids go off to school and as always, the bittersweet nostalgia sets in.  I so enjoy the summer months and spending more time with my kids.  I so look forward to school starting again so I can regain some focus on work, some peace and quiet, and some “normalcy” to our days and schedules.

This year my older son goes to high school and I am humbled by my relative lack of influence on his choices.  Gone are the days when I could share my values with him while he sat intently listening, asking questions, and formulating his own ideas and opinions—which pretty much mimicked my own.  Now I worry that our values seem so far apart.  Our priorities so different.  Our attempts at resolving conflicts messy and requiring lots of effort and self-empathy.

At 14, he is just entering those murky waters of the teen years.  Already we’ve wrestled with some big issues that could easily shake even a sturdy foundation.  I’m often gripped by fear when I observe behavior I label “risky,” “dangerous,” “self-destructive.”  I constantly walk a fine line between honoring his needs for autonomy, expression, and freedom and my needs for trust, safety and his wellbeing.  I seem to constantly be in the mode of relationship repair.  Conscious parenting is not for the faint-hearted.

And still there is comfort in knowing that we can repair the relationship when the connection breaks.  We do know a way back and have found it many times.  I’ve worked with families where the chasm in their connection is so wide that it can seem quite hopeless to build a bridge across.  And yet I know that certain conscious parenting processes, like Parenting From Your Heart and Connection Parenting, can support families in establishing, repairing, and maintaining trust and connection.  Even in those difficult teen years.

Compared to other processes, conscious parenting may take more time and effort.  It’s often easier to use power-over, especially when the kids are young, to get the behavior and “cooperation” we want.  But just try “counting to three” with a teenager or forcing a teenager to sit in “timeout.”  I think you’ll find those behavior modification techniques are short-lived and buy you a little extra time at best. At worst, they tend to be disconnecting and alienating, the antithesis of relationship-building.

The work of conscious parenting, of building a relationship with your child based on mutual respect and trust, is harder and takes more time.  You often don’t see results right away.  It may take weeks or months or even years to build the trust.  Why would you want to put that much time and effort into it?  Because keeping the focus on relationship rather than behavior allows the process to grow as you and your child grow (not just in age, but also in consciousness and skills).  Behavior modification techniques come and go according to the latest trend or parenting guru.  A connecting relationship between you and your child transcends all ages, developmental stages, trends and “experts.”   Keeping the door open to communication and connection serves the relationship when your child is a toddler and carries over into when your child grows into an adult.  A solid relationship built of mutual respect and trust provides a strong sturdy foundation that lasts a lifetime!  I mean, way past the teen years.  Isn’t that worth the extra effort?

Know Thyself: Part 1


Imagine if you will, you’re on a bus getting ready to go on a long journey.  There’s a seemingly endless winding road before you and, even though the destination is not exactly clear, you’re in good spirits and feeling an exciting sense of adventure as the bus pulls out onto the highway.

At the beginning of the journey, all is well.  The wheels hum along, there’s lots of beautiful scenery, and the bus driver seems skilled and competent as she steers the bus around the curves in the road.

But then the rain begins, and the road narrows and starts to climb a steep mountain pass.  You feel the wheels slip on the curves and when you peer over the edge, the dizzying view of the valley far below sends a shiver up your spine.  But the real horror begins when you look at the bus driver and realize she’s been replaced by a little child!  A child whose feet barely touch the pedals and she’s straining to see above the steering wheel!  Her knuckles are white as she grips the wheel fighting to keep the bus from careening into the perilously close abyss.

Not a comforting image is it?  But this is similar to what’s going on in our brains when we are in reaction mode.  I’m talking about when our buttons get pushed.  I’m talking about when we are triggered by our kid’s behavior.  These are the moments when our “adult mind” abandons the driver’s seat and the frightened “little child within” grabs the wheel in her best effort to help us survive.

When we react to our child’s behavior in a way that creates disconnection in the relationship, i.e. yelling, shaming, blaming, hitting, punishing…(you get the picture), then you can bet that our “little child within” is driving the bus.  What happens is that our rational thinking brain, the prefrontal cortex, is abandoned [our “adult” self] … and the survival part of our brain, the fight/flight/freeze zone, is activated [our “little child” self].

In Part 2 of this series, I’ll talk about the neuroscience behind our reaction mode, but for this article, I want to discuss the crucial initial steps that are necessary to coax the adult self back into the driver’s seat…so that you can at least collaborate adult-to-adult about how to proceed safely up the mountain.

Step 1.  Be aware of who is driving the bus
The first step is to recognize when the rational thinking part of your brain has been abandoned and the amygdala (the fight/flight/freeze zone) has been activated.  Often we’re not even aware that this has happened.  If you hear yourself giving outlandish consequences (“We will never go to the park again young man!”  Or “No screen time for the next two months!“), your amygdala has been hijacked.  Same thing if you are reacting like I listed above:  yelling, shaming, blaming, hitting, or punishing.  Start to grow your awareness by getting into the habit of asking yourself, “Who is driving the bus in this moment?

Step 2. Put on the brakes
Hit the pause button.  Regroup.  Get to calm.

In order to get the prefrontal cortex back online, you first have to do something to calm the nervous system.  Do whatever it is you do to calm yourself down:  remove yourself from the situation, take a walk, breathe ten deep breaths, take a bubble bath, meditate, do yoga, go for a run, or pet the dog.
Hint:  When you discover what it is that helps you  get to calm, start to do it for at least 10 minutes every day.  When you’ve built up a daily calm practice, it will help you get to calm much faster during those trigger moments.

Step 3.  Get out your broom and dustpan
Go back and clean up the mess you made before you remembered to do Steps 1 and 2.
In Connection Parenting classes, we call these the 3 R’s:  Rewind, Repair, and Replay.

It can sound like this, “I regret that I yelled at you a little while ago.  You didn’t deserve that and that’s not how I wish to speak to you.  Even though I was really upset, I wish I had expressed myself like this….” and then you replay how you would have responded if the skillful, competent adult had stayed in the driver’s seat.
Warning:  You may be tempted to skip this step after everyone has calmed down.  Why bring the subject back up and risk emotions getting high again?  But sweeping these events under the rug erodes the relationship over time.  When you get out your broom and dustpan, go for the deep clean and restore the connection.  These repairs to the relationship can make it even stronger than before!

Stay tuned for Know Thyself: Part 2

Today I’m the Host of Day 13 of the Virtual Tour for our Ebook

Parenting Responsively for Connection

Day 13 –Understanding Your Child’s Behavior

 Today’s excerpt is from my chapter “Nurturing Connection Through Setting Your Intentions” and the excerpt is about “Understanding Your Child’s Behavior”. 
Enjoy! and please pass along via facebook share if you find it useful.

Today I have the great pleasure of being the host on Day 13 of the Virtual Book Tour for the E-Book Parenting Responsively for Connection.  Written by ACPI Parenting Coaches for parents to deal with the most difficult task of maintaining connection with the growing child whose behavior changes and shifts.

Yesterday, the book tour stopped by Dr. Caron Good’s blog at http://HeartwiseParent.com/blog. Visit now if you haven’t had the opportunity to meet all the authors.   And be sure to follow the Virtual Book Tour tomorrow when the next stop is the blog www.classantics.com with blogger Corey Green, M.Ed. 
As usual, please share your comments and thoughts below. I love reading your feedback.  We appreciate the retweets and sharing on FB to spread the word.

Understanding Your Child’s Behavior
©2011 by Sherri Boles-Rogers 

                I often hear parents say things like “He always throws a temper tantrum just to get my attention,” or “She’s just trying to manipulate me.”  I know that it often feels that way, but I believe that when our children behave in less than desirable ways, there’s something deeper going on.  The more we understand what  the driving force behind the behavior is, the better we will be able to respond to it effectively. 

                What if I told you that all behavior is an attempt to get needs met—whether consciously or unconsciously.  I really don’t believe children get up in the morning and ask themselves, “How can I best antagonize Mom and Dad today?” Although some days it may seem like they do!  I believe our children (as well as us adults) behave, speak and act in ways that express our needs in an effort to  get those needs met.  It’s as simple as that.

                So often, we as parents place our focus on the outside–the behavior, rather than on the inside—what’s happening within our child to “cause” the behavior.  When we just deal with the behavior in front of us, we are like a doctor who prescribes cough syrup for a cough instead of treating  the infection in the lungs which is causing the cough.   Until the root cause is understood and addressed, the symptoms (and behaviors) will likely keep recurring.  So how do you find the root of the behavior? By thinking in terms of universal needs.

                Universal needs are those qualities of life that when met, enrich our life.  They are universal in that all humans on the planet share these needs.  Some examples of universal needs are  air, food, water, shelter, safety, security, rest, autonomy, connection, love, touch, acceptance, belonging, community, consideration, trust, honesty, support, reassurance, peace of mind, authenticity, meaning, self-worth, order, peace, harmony, ease, creativity, fun, play, to matter and the need  to contribute to others.  These are but a few of the universal needs we share as humans. Is there anything on this list that you would be willing to do without for the rest of your life?

                Obviously, we can’t get all our needs met all the time.  In any given moment, there are usually one or more needs that are more prominent than the others.   So strong and primal are these needs that we are constantly seeking ways (both consciously and unconsciously) to have them met.  Sometimes, we are aware of our needs and can make requests of ourselves or others to get our needs met.  For example, when we feel hungry and have a need for food, we may fix ourselves a sandwich or ask our spouse to take us out to dinner.  Other times, we are not consciously aware of what we’re needing and yet that need will manifest outwardly in an attempt to be met.  Your child’s behavior that you see in front of you is an outward expression of an inward need.

                So let’s take a look at the previous situations and see if we can discern what needs are driving the behaviors that are described:

Your daughter continues to draw instead of putting on her shoes as you asked.

 What needs is she trying to meet?  Creative expression?  Autonomy? 


Your sons are poking each other with their forks instead of eating. 

What needs are they attempting to meet?  Fun?  Play?  Connection? 

Your teenage daughter sneaks out of the house at night and meets up with a few friends. 

What needs is she hoping to meetAcceptance?  Belonging? Fun?


You get exasperated and yell at your young daughter, angrily grab the forks from your sons, and ground your teenage daughter for the rest of her life. 

What needs might you be attempting to meet?  Cooperation and ease?  Peace and harmony?  Safety and peace of mind?

                If we are to maintain our primary intention to connect,  how can we engage our child, address the behaviors, get to the root cause and stay connected?  I believe it starts with an attitude of curiosity.  In other words, we must strive to set an intention to understand what is going on inside of our child.  We must ask ourselves what could possibly be causing the behavior we see so clearly before us?  Then we can connect by making a guess at what our child is experiencing.  Even if we’re wrong with our guess, if we are sincerely investigating in an attempt to connect, we will likely discover what’s going on inside.

                One way we can investigate is by asking questions.  “Are you frustrated that I want you to stop drawing now and put on your shoes because you want to choose what you do?”  Here you are guessing a need for autonomy.  Your daughter may reply, “No, I want to give this to my teacher today.  It’s a picture of a dog and her dog died yesterday.”  This new information may lead you to guess again in order to get an even clearer picture of what’s going on inside of her, “Oh, so you’re wanting to contribute to your teacher and let her know you’re thinking of her?”  “Yeah.  She was really really sad yesterday.” 

                With this short dialogue you now know what is happening inside your daughter.  You have figured out that in this moment she has a need to contribute to her teacher.  Surely you can resonate with her need.  Since needs are universal, you also know what it feels like to want to contribute to someone. 

                Isn’t this useful information to know?  Would this perhaps shift your thinking of “She’s so uncooperative,” or “She never listens to me?”  Once you get down to the needs level, conflicts fade away.  How could you be in opposition to her need to contribute?  The conflict only occurs at the strategy level–the way she has chosen to get her need for contribution met—by drawing a picture when it is normally the time to leave.

                Similarly, it can be just as eye-opening to take a look at what’s happening inside of ourselves when we feel frustrated and anxious or when we speak harshly or start doling out consequences to our children.  Taking the time to pause and understand what it is we need can open up a world of possibilities.  By asking ourselves what need are we longing to meet underneath our behavior we can identify the need and likely find there are more choices to meet that need than we had imagined.

                When interacting with your child and it feels  like she’s simply not listening or doing what is asked, pause and reflect on why it’s important for your child to do what you are requesting.  If you want your daughter to stop drawing and put on her shoes so you can leave for work, perhaps you have a need for cooperation.  You can check inside to see if there are other deeper needs by asking, “And if I had cooperation, what would I have?”  Well, I’d have ease.  “And if I had ease, what would I have?”  I’d feel grounded and connected—to myself and to my daughter.  Ahhhh, aren’t those wonderful needs to have?

                When  you have a clear understanding of what you are really dealing with–your daughter’s need to contribute and your needs for cooperation, ease and connection– together, can you brainstorm solutions that will work for both of you to get your needs met?  Perhaps she will agree to carry the crayons in the car to finish the drawing.  Perhaps you will agree to give her an extra five minutes to finish up.  When you get down to the needs level, you often find an abundance of solutions waiting to be discovered.

The concepts in this chapter, Nurturing Connection Through Setting Your Intentions, are based on the principles of Nonviolent Communication™, a communication process and needs-based consciousness developed by  Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D.  To learn more about Nonviolent Communication, visit www.cnvc.org.


Parenting Responsively for Connection


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Written by 12 Parenting Professionals, Parenting Responsively for Connection is a treasure trove of parenting insights, motivations, and tips.   From strengthening connection with your child to making family dinners enjoyable, from guiding your strong-willed child to strategies for school year success, there’s something for everyone in this book.  And since it’s written  from so  many different perspectives, you get a taste of many different experiences.  If you’re wanting to learn how to connect better with your child and respond effectively to their needs, then get your copy of the book today.
(ebook is delivered in pdf format).

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What is Parenting Coaching?

Parenting coaching, first and foremost, is a relationship.   The coach/client relationship enhances your ability to learn, make changes, and achieve desired goals. The coaching process leads you through a systematic framework that helps you to clarify your objectives, explore new options, make decisions and become accountable to act on your choices.

Often, coaching begins with choosing what areas you want to focus on in your family.  Are you experiencing challenges with “temper tantrums,”  sibling squabbling, defiant teenagers?  Are you wanting more connection and fun with your kids, more ease in your daily interactions, or more respect?  Focusing on your areas of concern, you use the coaching framework to set goals, create action items, and make commitments to change.  Together with your coach, you brainstorm strategies, analyze what worked and what didn’t, celebrate successes and receive encouragement and support to move forward toward your goals.

Your parenting coach holds your vision for your family and keeps you connected to it, even when the going gets tough.  Often your coach, as an outsider looking in, can provide an honest assessment and will challenge you to bring out the best in you.  With your parenting coach at your side, you will have the support you need to reach your parenting potential and create the family life you desire.