Parenting Problems

Parenting Articles

Showing Respect for a Parent’s Request: Getting Kids to Listen!

Parents are often asking how to get their kids to listen and respect their request to help out or to take care of basic responsibilities.  Many times parents will say,” Why do I have to ask Johnny to pick up his shoes seven times before he will listen to me?  Why can’t he just respect me when I ask him to do something?”


In essence, these parents are asking that their kids listen.  They want to be able to ask their kids once, and have their children respond.


But often children do not respond by honoring a parent’s request.  Some just ignore their mom or dad.  Some say, “I’m busy.  Wait.”  Others may be more defiant, simply stating, “No!”


The end result is often the same, as the child is not listening.  As time goes on, if parents do not develop an effective strategy, the pattern will worsen and parents will end up asking over and over again.  Typically, most parents get very frustrated with kids’ not listening like this, and ultimately it ends up in an ugly, unpleasant exchange.


So what’s the secret to getting respect for a request? 


There are three keys to getting your kids to listen when you ask them to do something.  It doesn’t depend upon their personality, although certainly kids have different personality styles.  Some will respond more rapidly, and others will take a little bit of time.  However, the formula remains the same regardless of your child’s temperament.  Don’t get seduced into believing that you have to dance around your child’s temperament, or you will always be dancing!


  1. You will get respect by offering respect.  Many times parents will fall into a pattern of using very controlling and demanding language with their kids.  It might sound like this:
    1. “Pick that up.”
    2. “Put that away.”
    3. “Get your homework done.”
    4. “Stop hitting your brother.”
    5. “I said STOP THAT NOW!”

      Would you like to be spoken to in that way?  I doubt it.  If you want your kids to respond to a request, make sure that it sounds like a request-and not a command.  If you’re asking them to pick up their toys, make sure that you’re asking.  If you want them to do their homework, ask.  If it’s a time when you need to be more firm, and you have to get out the door, say it like this: “It’s time to get your shoes on, because we have to go to the doctor’s appointment now.”

      Avoid the command, “Get your shoes on now.”  If you fall into that pattern, you likely won’t like what evolves when your child moves into those teenage years.  It can get really ugly when your words come back to haunt you!

      This “asking” will not ensure a success.  It just ensures that you speak to your kids in a manner that models the way that you would like to have them speak to you.

  2. If it’s really important, say it once…and only once.

    Rather than making the request over and over, just say it once. If you are in the habit of asking seven times to get your kids to do something, their brain learns to expect seven requests.

    If you want them to respect the first request, make only one request.  If you end up harping and nagging on them, their brains will begin to expect that.  They actually come to learn that you saying something once only means you will say it again…and again…and again.

    Know that it doesn’t work to repeat your request…if you want respect for your request…unless you want to spend most of your time constantly repeating everything you say just to get every little chore done around the house.

    Bottom line:  Say it once and then…

  3. Rely upon actions to teach respect for your words.

    When you follow words with more words, the value of your words becomes diluted.  If you just keep throwing more and more words out there, your children learn that your words don’t mean anything.  How would you expect your kids to know that you really mean business, if you’re willing to repeat the same request a dozen times?  It just can’t work that way!

    The secret here is to find a consequence (that requires your action) and trust that that consequence will teach your kids to value your words.

    For example, if you want your daughter to cut off the TV and come to dinner, you ask once.  Perhaps you wait five minutes and then you go out to where the TV is, cut it off, and walk out of the room without saying a word.

    Let’s imagine that you’re in the grocery store, and your son starts bugging you for a treat.  You tell him “No” once, and then you go on with your shopping.  If he wants to have an upset, let him have his upset…but your “action” is to walk away from his whining and upset.

    In every situation, you want to remain respectful.  You will never feel bad for maintaining your cool.  State your position once, and then follow with decisive action.


If you follow that simple formula, you’ll see that your requests become honored with increasing consistency.  Just remember however; all of this is a learning process.  Don’t expect perfection immediately.  You have to allow your kids the opportunity to learn, and that may take two to three weeks.  Be patient, and let the respect for your requests build over time.



Teaching Kids About Money

  • How can you teach your children to handle money responsibly?


  • What are the strategies that successful parents use, when teaching their kids about money?


  • Do you pay kids for doing their chores?


  • Should you remove allowances if they are acting poorly?


These are great questions, and ones that parents often ask inquire about.  While your answers may differ from mine, I encourage you to consider the approach outlined below.  My recommendations are based upon years of working with families who have developed successful strategies for dealing with money.


  1. Never buy responsible behavior.

    It is a mistake to pay children for completing basic responsibilities around the house.  If you use allowance as a tool to “purchase behavior,” you always end up purchasing their compliance.  It’s not good.

    Your kids will never learn to “own” their behavior.  You will be purchasing the appearance of responsible behavior.  Instead of this being a signal of responsibility, it is simply a signal that your parenting toolbox is empty, and that you can pay for maid service.  It will not generalize to future patterns.

  2. Commit to a reasonable allowance around 4th to 5th grade…NOT contingent on “good behavior.”

    I strongly encourage you to give the kids an allowance that does not depend on their behavior.  Let them know that they get an allowance because you love them and you want them to learn to take care of their own money.

    Decide on a reasonable amount of spending money for your children, and include monies for treats that you might typically buy them.  For example, if you normally buy the kids some juice when you are getting gas, include that portion in their allowance.  As they get older, include their lunch money in their allowance.  Include some extra spending money, for the small “stuff” they often want and that you pick up for them.

    Let them know that it’s their money to manage each week, and watch them learn from their choices.  Begin early on, to allow children to experience the consequence of good judgment, as well as poor judgment in their use of their money.

  3. Open a checking account for your kids, and teach them to manage it.

    Consider opening a checking account for the kids, and consider putting their allowance in the bank.  Teach them how to get their monies, and when they want to purchase something, they can write a check.

    This is a remarkably practical and powerful way to learn about basic money management.  Set aside time weekly to help your kids balance their checkbook, and to discuss how they might spend their resources.  In today’s world, they will not only learn to balance their checkbook, but also learn to gain access to their records via their computer.

  4. Open a savings or investment account for your children, and teach compound interest.

    When you open the savings account, sit down and show your kids the effect of compound interest.  Make sure you repeat this on a regular basis, and teach them how the bank will pay them to “store” their money there.  If they start saving at an early age, show them how easy it will be to have abundant resources by the time they reach the middle stages of their life.

    As an incentive to their savings program, let them know that you will match every dollar that they put and keep in their savings account, with a dollar from Mom and Dad.  Show them the power of this as they look ahead to the next 10, 20, 30, and even 40 years.  (If you haven’t played with a compound interest calculator, you may want to do this with you children…especially as they move into adolescence.)

  5. Never model impulse buying.

    When you model for children a willingness to buy impulsively, you are teaching them to do the same.  In every arena of life, you simply can’t escape what you model.

    If you want them to make wise purchases, with forethought and consideration about the importance of the purchase, make sure that you model this.

    Remember:  Your kids are always learning.  And you are the primary teacher.

  6. Buy the Book:  Rich Dad, Poor Dad:  What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money. By: Robert T. Kiyosaki.

    Mr. Kiyosaki has written several books under the general title of, “ Rich Dad, Poor Dad.” They are all excellent books.  However, the book written for teaching children about money is an excellent primer on this subject.  It’s a great place to start.


In closing, if you find yourself struggling with how to teach responsible patterns of behavior without paying for it, I encourage you to carefully review the materials on my website, at  The tools of effective parenting are much more powerful than money, and the results are more enduring.  As always, I encourage you to email me with your feedback, at




Take The Terrific Parenting 30-Day Challenge


Do you feel like you are wasting energy with your kids?  Does it seem that the whining and complaining is going to drive you crazy?  Do you lose your cool when trying to get the kids to listen?  Are you eager to have a more positive and healthy relationship with your kids?  Have you had enough with your kids not listening to you?


Well maybe it’s time to start 2008 with the Terrific Parenting 30 day challenge!


Let me ask you to imagine this.  Suppose I have been magically following you around your house for the past year, and I have been carrying two huge buckets.  On the side of the first bucket is a plus sign (+) for positive behavior.  Every time that you engaged, noticed, smiled at, or talked to your kids during a positive or healthy moment, I put a penny in the positive bucket.


In the other hand, I have another bucket with a big negative (-) sign.  Every time that you invested energy in a negative behavior, I dropped a penny in this bucket.  In other words, every time you were nagging, reminding, prodding, pushing, arguing, giving nasty looks, or even “commanding” your children to change their current behavior…you get a penny.


What is critical to understand here is that I am putting pennies in the bucket every time you engage (i.e., give your attention and energy) either a positive moment…or a negative moment.  Now, back to the buckets….What would these two buckets looks like?


Many of the parents I work with tell me like it looks like the negative bucket is overflowing, and there are a few pennies in the positive bucket.


Well, this is a problem.  It’s even a bigger problem than it appears, as time goes by.  We have to change this, if we want 2008 to be the best year ever.


Why?  Because you can’t nurture more positive behavior by investing your energy in negative behavior. 


This is a critical fundamental that many of us just don’t get.  If your child happens to be an easy child, who has few oppositional or challenging qualities, then you can “sneak by” without coming to head to head with this critical lesson.


However, if you have a child who is more oppositional, strong willed, resistant or non-compliant, then you must understand this fundamental principal, or otherwise life will get ugly.



So, the first principal to master is:  You cannot nurture positive and healthy behavior by consistently investing your energy and time in negative behavior.  So what do you do instead?


You Must Master The Rule Of Watering Seeds, and Starving Weeds! 


Seeds refer to positive, healthy and productive behavior.  There are seeds of happiness; there are seeds of responsibility; and there are seeds of kindness.  These are all the behaviors we want to nurture.


Then, there are weeds!  Weeds include all the negative behavior, such as whining, complaining, negotiating, arguing, not listening, disrespect, kids squabbling, and general attitudes of negativity.


Your home may be place where you invest more of your energy in weeds than seeds.  If so, you likely have a few struggles on your hands.  If you take the 30-day challenge, you can turn this around and make 2008 the best year ever.


How do you do this? 


You start watering seeds very heavily.  For the next 30 days, obsess on moments of thoughtfulness, kindness, hard work, and responsibility.  When the kids are carrying their plate from the table to the dishwasher, touch them on the shoulder and smile.  When they help to carry in the groceries, gently wink at them.  While they are doing their homework, walk by and give them a 30 second shoulder rub.  When they are playing well together, walk by and smile, or bring them a cup of juice, or give them a thumbs-up.  Every time you give your attention to these positive moments, you are watering seeds of responsibility with your attention and energy.


In addition however, you must “starve weeds.”  You must avoid giving your energy to weeds, or otherwise they just keep growing.  Have you noticed that you can bring harsh consequences upon these “weed like behaviors” and they just still don’t seem to go away?  It’s because you keep watering them…watering them with your attention and energy.


So over the next 30 days, see what happens when you start ignoring those weeds.  That’s right!  Ignore the weeds.  I know it’s hard.  I know it’s tough.  I know it’s annoying.  But you still have to show them that this negative behavior is not worthy of your attention.


The world will not invest in these negative, annoying and unproductive moments.  So…to prepare them for the real world…you must teach them you will walk away.


For some of you, your child will follow you.  They will be your shadow, whining and complaining all the while.  Keep starving that weed…until it fades away.


Step 3:  Be patient! Seeds take a while to grow.


As you go through the next month, do not expect magical results at the end of a week.  I would encourage you not even to expect magical results by the end of two weeks.


But, if you consistently put your energy into moments of positive, healthy behavior and consistently walk away from more negative behavior, you will see a dramatic shift in your household over the next 30 days.  Test it, and make 2008 the best year ever!



A healthy sense of believing in one’s self is at the core of a happy, productive, and successful life.  We want our children to develop healthy self-esteem.


Unfortunately, the more concerned we become about our children’s self-esteem, and the more we focus on building a strong sense of self, our efforts often create the opposite result.


In other words, in trying to build their self-esteem, we actually weaken their self-confidence.  While this might not make sense initially, when we are really observant, we can see this in action.  Whenever I work harder at esteeming my children…than they do…I see them losing confidence.


It would be like taking your child to the gym to get a workout, and you carry them around the gym.  They cannot develop muscle in that way.  Likewise, children do not develop the “muscle of self-esteem” if we carry too much of the weight.


To avoid this, consider these three secrets to nurturing self-esteem.


  1. Your children are always esteeming themselves…either positively or negatively.

    Self-esteem is not a thing.  It’s a way of thinking about ourselves, and a set of beliefs about who we are.  Children do not inherently have negative messages in their heads about themselves, but unfortunately they pick up these messages from the world around them.

    A healthy self-esteem emerges in the absence of negative, critical esteem robbing experiences.  Therefore…

  2. Limit your children’s exposure to negative esteem robbing experiences.

    Children can learn to think negatively about themselves based upon a variety of esteem robbing experiences.  I would encourage you to ask these questions:

    a.) What do my children see and hear?  Do they hear critical parents?  Do they hear lots of negative comments?  Are their parents critical of others, or critical of themselves?  Criticism in the “outside world” only breads internal criticism.

    b.) How do kids entertain themselves?  What shows do they watch?  What videos do they play?  Do they live an active life, or is theirs a passive life where “the box” entertains them?  Too often children are entertained passively, and they escape from the real life requirements of the world, such as the demand of exercise, or mastering relationships with peers, or engaging in responsible, academic effort.

    Such passive activity is often an escape from living life, and such escape never produces success…it never produces joy…it never builds resilience and strength.

    c.) Do they hear parents constantly nagging?  Nagging is like sending two messages.  The verbal message is, “Take care of that.”  The non-verbal message is saying…”you’re doing it wrong…you’re doing it wrong…you can’t get it right.”

    The impact of constant nagging is that your children hear that message as one of failure and incompetence.  If you are a constant nagger, then understand that your children are constantly hearing the “hidden message” that they are not doing it right.

  3. Stop trying so hard to build self-esteem and allow their inner strength to emerge.

    There are two ways that our efforts can actually destroy the emergence of a healthy self-esteem.  First, when we begin to offer constant praise and encouragement, and offer repeated statements about how wonderful and unique and smart and intelligent our kids are, we actually don’t help them in any way.  Just test this.  Notice if your kids begin to behave in ways that reflect a greater sense of self-esteem.  You’ll find that it doesn’t work.

    The second way that we can undermine self-esteem is by continuing to correct children when they complain against themselves.  In other words, children will sometimes make statements that are highly self-critical.  They complain about their appearance, or about their intelligence, or how other kids don’t like them.

    As your kids offer these complaints, notice that they are rarely offered in a manner suggesting a desire to solve a problem.  Instead, these are self-directed complaints.


What can you do?


Rather than trying to repeatedly counter these complaints, become completely disinterested them.  Why?  Because these are lies!  Children are lying about themselves, and you are not interested in such self-directed lies.


The more that you engage the self-directed complaint (or lie), the more that you validate that complaint for your child.  It’s as if your very effort to try to have them drop that complaint about themselves deepens the power of the complaint.


If children are predictably able to obtain the attention and energy of the family when they offer negativity, their brains begin to believe that the world cares about negativity.  This is a formula for failure.


So turn this around.  Walk away from these repeated self-complaints and lies.


Instead, reserve your attention for those moments when there is a positive event.  Reserve your attention to notice a moment of cooperation…a moment of effort…a moment of responsibility…a moment of kindness.  Put your energy into what you want WHILE IT IS HAPPENING and notice that their esteem will begin to grow.


Behind these three simple principles are the tools that give you true power and influence as a parent.  For a complete solution to this problem, check out my new program, The Confident Child.  You will find it on my website at

Sibling Harmony on Vacations: Fantasy or Reality?

Do you find vacations turn into bickering matches, sibling unhappiness and constant negotiation over what to do when?  If so, you can turn this around—with a few simple changes.

How so?  Because you have more leverage on vacations than you often have during more “normal” family time.

Let’s review a few simple ideas that will quickly resolve most major challenges while traveling with your children.  Just notice, most of this begins to teach your kids a critical lesson:  You are becoming parents of action…not excessive words.  That is one of the hidden keys to parenting success.



Here’s my insiders game plan that always works.  Just follow these guidelines, and you will find much more peace in your travels.


  1. Before leaving, explain to the kids that there will be a new ‘rule’ in place throughout the vacation. Explain that this rule will not be altered, or varied in any way, regardless of whether or not they approve or do not approve.


  1. Here’s the rule: “We vacation peacefully, or we stop.”

    Explain the rule like this:  Let the kids know that the car will be moving as long as there is civil and reasonable conversation, without bickering and fighting.  The moment that the fighting or bickering begins, and mom or dad are distracted in any way, it’s not safe and it’s not peaceful.

    Do not remind them to be quiet or to calm down.  Instead, pull over at the next possible moment, and turn on the radio while sitting calmly in the car.  All electronics are off otherwise.  Let them know you will sit until there is five minutes of silence.

    Allow them to go through whatever fighting and bickering they want to go through, until they are bored with this.  Eventually, there will be silence.  Don’t argue or remind them to quiet.  Just wait it out.  (Remember:  You can let them know in advance that this is exactly what you will be doing.  Simply don’t remind them of this while traveling.)

  1. If in the hotel, or at a restaurant, simply let the kids know that the “train” will not be moving until there is peaceful and civil communications between them. If the kids are fighting in the morning, have a conversation between parents and let them go on and on.  Just wait for boredom to show up…then move on with your day.


  1. Be willing to leave any activity! That’s right!  Let your kids know in advance that any extreme behavior will mean that you will walk out.  And you won’t come back.  You don’t want to talk about this a lot.  You want to make the statement up front, and then follow through.


Once you do this one time, you will not have to do it again.  Simply make sure that you use the consequence and follow through immediately.

If two kids are behaving relatively well, and one child is out of control, then one parent can walk out with the difficult child.  No discussion or dialogue about the “inappropriate behavior” occurs.  Simply leave the activity, and wait until the rest of the family is done.

Again, while this can be extremely boring and tedious for one of you, it is much more so for your son or daughter.  It is the consequence that follows immediately after their behavior that effectively teaches them.  It is not your repeated requests or prodding or encouragement.  This only makes things worse.

Remember:  Fewer words and warnings, and more immediate follow through!

NOTE:  In situations such as Disney world, or some other all day activity, it will not be necessary to walk out all day.  Simply go to a “time out” area, and allow plenty of time for the kids to understand that they are missing fun stuff while their siblings are enjoying it all.  If you want to show you are really serious (and I suggest you do), go back to the car and sit there until all is calm.  (Did he really say ….back to the car?)  That’s right.  Take out the hour or so to make it back to the car.  Do a “time-out” in the car.  You will only have to do it once…maybe twice.  The rest will be smooth sailing!

While this discussion may seem relatively simple, these principles will transform your vacation experience, if you’ve had these kind of difficulties.  The key is action…particularly action immediately tied to problem behavior.  Be clear with kids upfront about how you will respond…then DO IT!

Multiple Roles for Mom Have Value

While many dads might argue that the last half-century has brought about huge changes in the role of fathers, it is clear that moms have experienced even greater challenges.  In the 1940’s, the wide majority of family households functioned with mom as caretaker, and dad as breadwinner.

Ozzie and Harriet Isn’t Reality Anymore


Recent statistics suggest that less than ¼ quarter of households now have one parent at home, while the other parent works.  That leaves ¾ of families are now functioning with both parents working.


Yet, many of us still carry an antiquated, yet idealized version of the traditional family, where dad is out working and mom is at home devoted to the children.   With this picture in our heads, there comes a general assumption that this family structure is easier on mom.


Being At Home With The Children Is More Stressful For Many Moms


There is no one conclusion that fits every home.  However, recent research reveals that our assumptions may be wrong about the ease of life for the at home moms.  When looking at households where women moved from being employed, to being a full time or part time homemakers, the incidence of depression increased.  A second study indicates that working moms feel less stressed than stay at home moms.  When we combine these findings, we discover what many homemakers have asserted for years… “It’s stressful taking care of the kids and managing every detail at home.”


Taking On Too Many Roles Can Also Be Overwhelming


Being a working mom, getting kids to the soccer field, cooking dinner, and volunteering at the local community center may stretch the limits of anyone’s talents for multitasking and changing hats.


The goal is not to try to do it all.  Yet, this is where many moms find themselves.  Taking on the new job, and not surrendering any of the household demands…that’s clearly too much!


Finding Balance and Partnership is the Solution


The news is not all bad.  There is a proven path where Moms can maintain their sanity and still juggle multiple roles with comfort.  However, it does require understanding of the limits of what is possible, and it also demands that mom and dad work together.  Let’s review some basic essentials to being a 21st Century Mom.


  • Strive for a true partnership.

    A true partnership is a commitment by parents.  Decisions are made with respect to the full load of responsibilities that each is carrying.  It involves mom and dad working together to balance household demands, getting kids to and from soccer practice, doctor’s appointments, and taking care of homework.  Each respects the other’s job responsibilities, and works to support the other.  No major decisions are made unilaterally.


  • Family time is a priority.

    Many families have fallen prey to “hyper-parenting.”  This is where kids are involved in six sports, four enhancements programs, and still stay up till twelve thirty studying for their exams.

    In more balanced households, the focus is put on limiting activity, and expectations are based upon parental values, not necessarily those of general society (e.g., playing a sport was okay, but travel teams demanded too much out of family time).  In these families, participation in the family is viewed as an essential part of life, and decisions are made that ensure children actually spend time with their parents.  This is a significant source of fulfillment for many parents.


  • Valuing time alone with children and each other.

    Mom and Dad are happier when they spend time with their children, and they also prioritize time alone with each other.  Time and time again, this remains a critical variable for parents.  Too often, when children become the sole focus of the family, the relationship between parents declines.  By the time they are ready to realize the distance between them, divorce becomes inevitable and regret eats at their core.  This is particularly important for moms because they may “over-identify” with the role of being a mother, and ignore the important role of couple hood in a successful and happy family life.


  • Using support of extended families, friends and employers.

    Mothers who are willing to ask for help and support are often less stressed.  This includes asking for help with family, as well as with employers.  The more flexible employers are for parents, the better workers they become…and this eases the stress at home.  It’s a win-win for both!


Bottom line Conclusion: 


The false image we have of the working mom needs to be erased.  It is not harmful for mom, and it’s not harmful for children.   In fact, it appears to be good for many mothers to have employment out of the home.


This is not to say that we need to value one lifestyle choice over the other, or to pit one lifestyle against the other.  It’s simply that having both parents working is a reality for most American households.  It also appears that there are benefits for parents and children, when the multiple demands are handled with careful attention.






Footnote:  The research behind this article can be found in the December 2005 edition of the American Psychologist “Monitor on Psychology.”


Secrets To (Stress-Free) Holiday Happiness

Why do most of us get so stressed out during the Holiday Season?  Okay, some of you might be saying…”Oh, I don’t stress out.”


Well, that’s great…but it’s not the reality for most of us.  Our anxiety and stress is, unfortunately, fairly predictable…given the way most of us think about the Holidays.  Our thinking isn’t “wrong.” It is however…stress-filled!  Here are three secrets that help you calm that stress!

  1. Avoid the thought poison of focusing on events out of your control.  Instead: Focus only on what you can directly change or influence.

    One of the secrets to living comfortably is to keep our attention on what we can control, rather than getting caught up in events out of our control.  It’s a simple, bur remarkably important secret to happiness.

    When I focus on what’s in my control, I stay in my “thought business.”  When I wander into your thoughts, your behavior, your decisions, your good (or bad) choices…I end up in your business.  No peace to be found there.

    Why?  If I jump into your business, I use my energy to worry about and relentlessly question events and circumstances over which I have no real control.  This is “crazy making” in process.  During the Holidays, I could worry about Uncle Joe’s drinking, or whether everyone will show up on time for the party, or how much snow will fall on Christmas Eve.  I can worry about your gifts, and whether you will like them.  I can worry about your happiness, and surrender my happiness in the process.  It’s endless.

    If however, I deliberately put my energy only upon the activities and behaviors within my influence, I immediately experience a reduction in anxiety and worry.  It also allows me to invest my energy in a life that I can actually control—my own!

    So the bottom-line:  Notice what thoughts and worries you have about the holidays.  Which situations can you control?  Which circumstances or actions are out of your control or influence?

    Want to feel better?  Then resolve to drop any thoughts, worries, or ideas about events or actions that are outside of your direct influence.  Focus your attention only to those circumstances within your control and within your influence, and do your best with each of those.

  2. Focus on what you want; not on what you “don’t want.”

    This is also a very simple concept; however mastering it can bring tremendous stress relief.

    We seem to have a built in tendency to get hooked on our “don’t wants” and spend our fear-based energy generating more and more worry about imagined events we want to avoid.  It’s painful, and it’s stressful.  For example:

    1. We don’t want to “disappoint” our children or spouses.
    2. We don’t want to have a party that flops.
    3. We don’t want to get behind, or get frustrated.
    4. We don’t want to say the wrong thing.
    5. We don’t want to buy the wrong gift.
    6. We don’t even want to get stressed, and worry about that!

      Here’s a little secret:  The more we focus on what we don’t want, the more we surrender our ability to focus effectively on producing what we do want!  This also destroys our ability to be actively seeking what we do want!  So what do we do instead?

      Focus on what you WANT to experience this holiday season…and consistently take action to bring those “wants” into your home.

      Do you want more loving moments?  Do you want your family to have more joy?  Do you want to be more compassionate?  Do you want more laughter in your home?  Do you want to experience more gratitude?

      If the answer is yes to these questions, then practice focusing your attention first, and then your actions on the experiences that you want to have.  Be persistent!  Others may not be ready to join you. And that’s okay.  But, it likely will not happen unless you take action to make it happen.

  3. Avoid fantasy thinking, and seek reality-based expectations!

    Another source of stress comes from our tendency to develop unrealistic expectations and ideas about the holidays.
  • “I will find the perfect gift so everyone will be thrilled.”
  • “My children must have the best Christmas ever.”
  • “Everyone will have to enjoy the party, and really appreciate my hard work.”
  • “My husband/wife/family will finally treat me like they should this Christmas.”


So what do you do about this?  The answer:  Wake up!  Wake up and check reality.  You do not have to get the perfect gift.  Your children will not be happy all the time.  Not everyone will enjoy his or her Holiday.  Your family will treat you like they have always treated you, and your spouse still can’t read your mind.

It’s not that I am a grump about the Holidays…it’s just that reality is kinder that our made up stories about the way it should be.

You might ask, “But what if I want the Holidays to be better than it has been in the past?”  The answer begins with these three simple secrets:  First, stay in your business by focusing on your choices and actions.  Secondly, invest your energy in your deep desires, not in what you don’t want.  Finally, get real by checking your expectations against reality.  Reality will always be your friend this time of year.  Then, just step into every moment…and be the loving, caring person you want the world to be!  All the best to you all this Holiday Season!


Get Your Mornings Off To an Easy Start This School Year

Get Your Mornings Off To an Easy Start This School Year


As the school year begins, many times there is a deep sense of dread about those morning routines, and the constant prodding, pushing and nagging to keep the kids moving. For some parents, the morning routine is the worst part of the day.  The constant conflict, nagging and prodding, and escalating emotions often result in an angry and frustrated goodbye between parents and children as the bus arrives.

And it gets worse, at times, when there is the missed school bus, and mom or dad is late for work—all because there really is NO morning routine.

While these ugly starts to the day can be frustrating and challenging, these struggles can be easily avoided.

Here are my top 3 strategies for making mornings easy:

  1. Be The Leader In Preparedness

    You know how this works for many of you.  You are yelling from the bathroom, as you try to get dressed while getting the kids out of bed.  This isn’t going to work, if you want an easeful morning routine.

    Instead, just get up a half hour earlier, and be prepared and ready to go—before you even try to get the kids going.  Yes, I know this is a brain dead simple suggestion, but it works!  No confusing theory or complicated steps.

    Just get up a half hour earlier and be a model of what you want from your kids.  Show them how comfortable the morning can be when you are up and well prepared.  It makes you so much more resourceful and calm, as you get the ‘herd’ going.  Perhaps more importantly, being up and ready gives you the time to focus on the next two habit changing strategies.

  1. Use The Tools Of Simple Leverage

    In the mornings, I find that parents have two types of leverage that they rarely use.  The first is breakfast, and the second is some form of entertainment, such as video games, computer, telephone (texting), TV or playtime with toys and goodies.

    Key Point:  Set up a rule where your kids must be up, dressed, book bag packed shoes on and ready to go PRIOR to breakfast or entertainment.  This means the TV isn’t on, the toy room is closed, and no phone texting or computers in any form BEFORE those morning routines are complete.  You can even cheat a little by fixing a wonderful breakfast, and allowing yourself to throw it all away, if they aren’t ready on time.  Be patient with this, and repeat.

    The TV doesn’t come on and breakfast isn’t served until your son or daughter is ready to go to school.  If they have to go to school hungry, because they get up late and miss breakfast, just let that occur.  Trust me, this natural consequence is important to them, and they will remember that tomorrow.  For some kids, missing breakfast is no big deal.  Just relax and stick to the plan. Don’t let their attitude throw you off!

  1. No More Nagging, Prodding, Pushing or Yelling!  You Are DONE!

    Under no circumstances do you nag, push, plead, or pull to get them going.  Stop all engagement of their lollygagging around.  Ignore their moaning and complaining.  Ignore their lying in bed.

    You cannot keep engaging your children (with your attention and energy) for the behaviors that you want to see disappear.  Yelling at them while they are in bed, or complaining repeatedly about how slow they are, or pulling them through each phase of the morning only serves to worsen the very habits that you want to change.

    If you keep engaging them for being slow and distracted, you will see more distractibility and more slowing down over the years ahead.  It has to happen that way!  It’s one of the laws of human behavior!  And yet…there’s one….

Final Insider Secret:  If your child doesn’t get up on time, they will have to go to bed 30 minutes earlier each day—until they get up on time.  This is particularly helpful with the oppositional child, stubborn child.   If they linger in bed, then once up, you remind them that’s its 30 minutes later to bed tonight!  You must be able to gain control over all the goodies, as this is a critical component at bedtime—so you can shut down their world when it’s bedtime—and not argue with them about it.

There is much to learn here, but these are the fundamentals to getting the day started on the right track.  Best of luck and have a great year!

Eating Out With Kids…in Peace: The Restaurant Rules

Eating Out With Kids…in Peace:  The Restaurant Rules


I often receive questions through my website about eating out with kids.  Typical problems center around:


  • kids complaining or whining before, during or after the meal;
  • siblings picking or kicking at one another;
  • kids acting out, with demands, outbursts or tantrums.


Each problem can be handled remarkably well with a simple, straightforward approach.  Below you will see that I promote becoming parents of action – and few words – when managing problem situations.


Another secret to success in parenting is to recognize that kids require an opportunity to learn.  Therefore, if you decide to use “Dr Cale’s Restaurant Rules,” it is essential to think of it as a learning process.


It is best to view your children’s responses to these new rules just as you would view their response to learning a new sport:  They need opportunities to practice and learn.  Once you have put these powerful strategies into place, you will need to PLAN on two to five meals out that are “training trips.”  During each trip the kids will learn that you are serious and that these new rules come with consequences.  (If you have more than one child, it will be easier if you have another adult with you during these “training trips.”)   After that … – peaceful eating ahead!


Dr. Cale’s Restaurant Rules For Kids


  1. We only eat in peace. You get one warning…, and it’s “Strike One.”

    You explain to the kids that they will be free to eat in the restaurant, as long as there is no complaining, whining, hitting, kicking, yelling, or tantruming.  The first – and ONLY THE FIRST – time you see the kids start to get out-of-hand, let them know, “It’s Strike One.”
  2. When you don’t eat in peace, you leave for Strike Two.

    If they break the rule #1, Mom or Dad will walk them to the car immediately to have a time-out in the car.  Let them know the specific details:  There must be five minutes of quiet, before you return to the restaurant.  Remind your child, “Strike Two. One more, and you are out.”
  3. When you don’t eat in peace again, Strike Three and you are out!

    Again, the child and a parent return to the car and wait until everyone else is done.   It’s Strike Three, and NO FOOD is taken home for the child/children sitting in the car for Strike Three.  Allow them to skip this meal.  They will be fine…, and they will begin to learn that you are serious about your new rules.
  4. Repeat this several times.

    Most kids understand that you are serious the first time you follow through.  Yet, some of you have more challenging kids.  They may need additional trips to the car before they realize you are serious.  Stay consistent.  They will get it…, if you also keep in mind the “Parent Restaurant Rules.”


Restaurant Rules for Parents


  1. Don’t do this unless you are serious.

    You don’t want to put new rules in place, unless you mean business; it undermines your credibility and your effectiveness.
  2. Be consistent.

    Regardless of the situation, or your level of fatigue, be consistent.  Follow through, not expecting immediate perfection.  Do expect your kids to learn from the consequences – not the threat of consequences.  That’s REALLY IMPORTANT!
  3. Don’t nag, lecture, remind, and constantly correct.

    In other words, don’t keep investing your energy in the very behaviors you don’t want!  Instead, just ignore the little stuff; focus your attention elsewhere when the small stuff is present.
  4. Become obsessed with noticing the kids when they are pleasant and appropriate.

    Notice when they are reading, talking quietly, or drawing a picture.  Just a smile, or a touch, or a nod WHILE they are doing what you want.  Invest your energy in what you cherish and value – in small and consistently subtle ways.  In this way, the healthy behavior can grow.
  1. Follow the rules impeccably.

    When the kids’ behavior has broken the rule, give one – only one – warning.  Let them know…”It’s Strike One.”

    Then, when they fail to eat in peace, it’s out to the car immediately… – even if the hot food just arrived…; send it back and remain impeccable in your follow-through.  If it’s two kids, then out to the car with both of them.

    This is how kids learn:  Not from your threats…, but from actually FEELING the consequences.  So don’t expect mastery of the rules…; expect mastery only when the kids have had several opportunities to learn from the consequences of the new rules.

    You can learn more about this topic at

    Randy L. Cale, Ph.D.

“Drop the Drama, Sweetheart!”

Today, it seems that more and more we see children who display lots of drama.  I like to define drama as “BIG” emotion over “little” stuff.  In essence, the emotion is disproportionate to the disappointment or frustration…and we all tend to get annoyed by it.


Let’s examine why this big drama has such a long term negative consequence—if we don’t help our children to ‘drop the drama.’ 


  1. Big drama multiplies pain.

    With drama, children experience small issues as if they are major problems.  Minor upsets become major events.  The amount of anguish and emotion is exaggerated, and thus life is filled with more pain than necessary.   Life is lived with a distorted sense of exaggerated pain and unhappiness.
  2. Big drama promotes a sad and negative orientation toward life.

    Because drama tends to magnify small upsets into major moments, life appears more pessimistic and negative than necessary.  It’s as if children are looking out through a selective filter that constantly finds reason to seek what’s wrong with the world…and often ignores what is right with the world.

    As time goes on, such drama is more and more unattractive to well adjusted and healthy kids.  Therefore…

  3. Drama kings and queens often (not always) attract other kids with drama.

    Children prone to drama end up making friends with other kids prone to drama.  They share their drama stories, and life is further filled with emotionality and upset.  There is little room for noticing and appreciating positive and healthy aspects of life.  The drama feeds on itself, particularly as children move into pre-adolescence and adolescence.
  4. Big drama destroys self-esteem.

    In part, self-esteem evolves from a sense of personal mastery and competence, and the self-knowledge that “I can handle life.”  As children grow older, they gain awareness of their own coping capacities.  When life is filled with lots of drama, self-esteem often suffers because it becomes obvious that little moments cause huge upsets, and that life feels like a roller-coaster ride.
  5. Big drama hampers their chance for life success.

    In order to succeed in various arenas in life, challenges need to be embraced, frustrations mastered, and an ability to persist in the face of obstacles.  These traits are requisites for success in almost every arena.

    When big drama shows up in the face of challenge or frustration, children are choosing drama over persistence.  Rather than turning toward the source of frustration, and pursuing a path through the difficult obstacles, they tend to get lost in the drama and disengage from the task at hand.  The drama becomes the center of attention, when efforts at persistence and problem solving are needed.


What you can do to help your child ‘Drop the Drama?’


Here are a few simple suggestions:


First, big drama is like an addiction….so make sure you don’t feed it.  Even though it doesn’t make sense, kids can become addicted to the drama.  During their early years, this drama often pulls parents to intervene…to console….to help their kids through these difficult moments.


Think of your repeated attention as an invitation for future drama…not a solution.  So see the drama as an addiction…and stop feeding it with your attention.


Secondly, kids need to get through their drama on their own.  They learn from this.  In fact, they learn from you being able to allow them to get through it.  This is a critical point.  In reality, we all ultimately need to get through our emotions on our own.  You’ll find when your kids are allowed to have a moment of drama, they’ll get through it.  If fact, they’ll get through it more and more quickly…when you simply allow them to have their upset…and don’t try to fix it!


Finally, above all, don’t reward the drama by giving in to drama demands.  As children get older, the drama emerges when they are not getting what they want.  If you allow yourself to reward the drama, in order to make it go away, you’re setting yourself up for misery during those adolescent years.


When the drama emerges, give it nothing.  Give it no energy.  Give it no attention.  And above all…don’t give into demanding drama!


If you follow those steps, then you will find yourself empowered to help your child develop more emotional stability.

Share and Enjoy
Friend me on FacebookFollow me on TwitterAdd me to your circlesJoin my network on LinkedInFollow me on TumblrWatch me on YouTubeRSS FeedFollow me on Pinterest