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Summary: Why wouldn’t you want to make life as struggle free as possible?


While there will certainly be struggles, why not establish a structure and routine that makes life easier?  It can be done!


This is best achieved through creating a world where chores and responsibilities are completed without the need for constant decision making, without the need for nagging or prodding, and without the need for continued monitoring.


Thought-Full Routines:  How to make life a struggle!


First, lets talk about how not to do it.


Here’s how you can make life difficult and create a constant struggle.  This approach generally requires that you also get to “have” incessant nagging, prodding, negotiating, pushing…and sometimes even a bit of yelling, screaming, and threatening of consequences.


Make day-to-day routines flexible…make decisions based upon moment-to-moment fluctuations…and day-to-day routines will be a struggle!


That’s the rule!  You can fight it.  You can argue with it. You can disagree with it. But that’s the rule!


You make these daily routines flexible and changeable, and then you’ll always have a struggle as things go on.


Can I really say “always”?  Well perhaps there are a few exceptions, but I rarely see them.


Why is this the case?


  1. Children thrive with structure.

    Children thrive in an environment where there’s predictability.  Behaviorally, academically, and emotionally, children thrive when there are consistent, clear routines that remain relatively unchanging.


  1. Children thrive on predictability.

    There is comfort and security in knowing when things will happen.  While children involved in chaotic and out of control family systems often rebel at the initial signs of structure and routine, they quickly adjust and their behavior calms.

    With this, adjustment also comes an emotional calming.  Children will often report a sense that life is easier after experiencing a consistent structure and routine.


  1. Consistent routines remove decision-making.

    This is the true source of the magic.  Daily decision-making on all routine stuff is removed, and thus there is no wasted energy.  The energy is reserved for what’s really important!


How many of us actually have to make a decision to brush our teeth in the morning. Very few, I hope!  And as such it presents no emotional stress or challenge.  It’s not really

a chore!


For those of you who buckle your seatbelts on a daily basis, it becomes routine and there is no stress to this.


In the early stages of an exercise program, the daily commitment often involves a decision and, at times, a struggle to make the decision. If you have exercised regularly for years however, there is no decision to be made.  It is a given that you will exercise.  It gets easier…when there is no decision to be made.


In essence, these events have been “pre-decided.”  A level of automaticity then evolves that eliminates the stress of making a decision.  The result: reduced anxiety, and reduced stress and greater harmony.

“Thought-LESS” Routines


By “Thought-LESS” routines, I am referring to a way of parenting that does not involve constant thinking and evaluating about what kids need to do next.


By “Thought-LESS”, I mean that both children and parents fall into a structure and pattern that allows for the basic responsibilities to be addressed without a lot of struggle.  Instead, these occur effortlessly.


By “Thought-LESS” routines, I mean that that you nurture “habits” that eliminate the need to constantly figure out what’s next.  It’s been pre-decided.


What happens when you establish a home with “thought-LESS” routines:  Lots of time is available to discuss things that are of real importance to the family. Little time is put into managing homework behavior, and instead discussion actually occurs about what is being learned.


Little time is spent getting the children to the table to eat, and instead meaningful discussion occurs about life events.  Little time is spent arguing over homework or bedtime routines, and greater opportunity is available for simply spending quality time with children.


Do you have a sense how this works?


When routines become consistent and predictable, there is relatively little discussion and dialogue that goes into the completion of these fundamental responsibilities that we all have to take care of.  If children learn to do this, their minds are freed from the struggle with what’s important to do in life.  They don’t end up wasting their life doing battle with the fact that they have to do homework, even though they may not like to do it. They simply get it done.


This is a formula for success.  This is a formula for making life easy.  This is a formula for staying healthy, emotionally strong, and focused on what’s really important.  Make this the way you do things at home, and watch how much easier day-to-day life becomes.


The Season Of Gratitude: Three Essentials For Building Appreciation and Gratitude

As the Holiday Season starts to unfold, we not only begin Holiday plans, but often we build in more moments to pause and express our gratitude for our lives.  It is truly one of those hidden secrets of happiness.  Gratitude opens the door to enjoyment of the life we have now…rather than spending our time focused on the future as salvation from the present.

Yet, many parents express frustration with the lack of gratitude and appreciation that their children seem to experience.  This is not the case for all children, of course.  But for many families, parents notice that the more they give…the more that their children want.  And the more they want, the more they appear to lack appreciation for what they get.  Many of us see this happening, and don’t know what to do about it.  Here are three keys to getting started:


  1. Be Chronically Grateful!

    When parents come to my office and complain about their children not being grateful, I first ask how often they complain about their life.  Almost without exception, parents concede that their children often hear Mom and Dad complaining about each other, events at work, the lack of money in the budget, what the neighbors have done, in-laws “craziness”, or their lack of happiness with the children’s behavior.  In other words, many of us who want our children to be more grateful are modeling the opposite!  We model negativity…noticing much more of what is not working…rather than focusing on what is working!

    So the first suggestion is quite simple:  Become what you want your children to be.

    Stop noticing what’s wrong!  Instead…notice what is right in your world.  Pay attention, and stop complaining about what you don’t like.  Instead, nurture discussions around the parts of your life that you love, the parts of your life that you enjoy, and the parts of your life that you appreciate.

    Also, remember that it is hard to teach your kids a trait that you don’t own.  Gratitude has to begin with what we model.  The more we live in a state of gratitude and appreciation, the more our children can learn naturally and easily.  Without it, we are asking our children to master this perspective…when we haven’t done so ourselves.  It just won’t work.

  1. Stop Rewarding Negativity By Giving It Your Energy and Attention.

    Negativity can take many forms.  It can look like a complaint, a constant problem, finding what’s wrong with everything, and always wanting more.

    Okay…let’s get real for a minute.  This is what really gets to you…isn’t it.  When kids complain about their life…and you know that they really have an exceptional life.

    Intuitively, we understand that there is no room for gratitude when your kids are caught up in making complaints, finding only problems and constantly asking for more and more.

    As parents, you know that children can become upset, and can express legitimate concerns for which they need our help and guidance.  Obviously, you want to respond to these.

    However, if you notice that your children have learned to habitually complain about their siblings, friends, parents or their teachers…it’s time to just “allow” those complaints.  Or if they have fallen into the pattern of making repeated demands, then it is time to stop lecturing or resisting the demands and complaints.

    It is essential that you limit how much you “invest” in these complaints or demands, as your energy only serves to feed these negative patterns.

    Instead, just “allow” the complaints to fall on disinterested ears.  Show no interest whatsoever, in other words…just ignore them completely!

    Teach your children (by your actions) that such behavior is NOT worthy of your attention, and they will learn that such behavior is NOT worthy of their attention either.  They will learn to let go of these patterns…when you have let go of these patterns.  Instead…


  1. Invest Your Life Energy Into “The Good Stuff.”

    Are you serious about nurturing gratitude?  Here’s how you get the ball rolling.  You have got to put your daily energy into the behaviors and actions you value.

    Don’t be lazy about this.  If you are serious about nurturing gratitude and appreciation, here’s the formula that will make it happen.

  1. Start noticing how often things work out to serve you and your family.  Find (in your own mind) how you find more appreciation for clerk at the grocery store, your neighbor, your friend, and even your health.  Even when you see a lack (such as a lack of health), see if you can find a way where it serve to strengthen you, and bring you to a state of greater appreciation.  NOW…start expressing that when you around your children.
  2. Start noticing everything that you enjoy and appreciate about your children’s behavior. Let your kids know how grateful you are that they open the door, or help carry in the groceries, or take the dog for a walk.  Express appreciation for how they waited patiently in the car, or answered the phone respectfully.  Use thoughtful language consistently and repeatedly as you pay more and more attention to the behavior that you want to nurture and promote.
  3. For every instance where you express your appreciation for your children’s actions, “catch” four more positive moments and just notice these without verbal comment.  Simply smile.  Or simply wink.  Or simply nod.  Or it could be a touch on the shoulder or a brief “thumbs-up.”  In other words, give lots of non-verbal appreciation…by simply smiling and noticing the moments YOU really appreciate and enjoy.


In this way, you use your influence to nurture “the good stuff.”  Your children will learn to pay attention and to notice the most wonderful and valuable parts of their life…because you do!    They will be able to do so because you are taking the time and putting forth the energy to notice their behavior.

I wish you all a wonderful and peaceful Holiday Season!  As you spend time with those you love, I hope you begin to put these ideas to work, so you can see the power of these simple changes.

The Right Balance for Summer: Work vs. Play

Summer is around the corner, and we all anticipate good times ahead.  Summer is filled with fun times, vacations, camping, swimming, sports and plenty of down time.  We all need it, and anticipate the warm, lazy days of summer.


And yet, for most of us as parents, we also want to continue to nurture responsible habits and teach our children the fundamentals to be prepared for life.  However, too often we wait until late adolescence to start teaching this.  We then realize that our adolescent has no intention to take on responsibility, especially during the summer.  They believe, and have often been taught, that summers are for fun only and that they shouldn’t do any real ‘work.’


The ‘Making it Easy’ Approach to Summer.


Many children face the summer with multiple vacations, hanging at the pool and an endless array of sleepovers and daytrips to have fun.  They won’t crack a book, pick up a rake or make a bed.  Mom or Dad are not only planning what seems like an endless array of entertainment, but they are also responding to ongoing requests for sleepovers, pool parties and sudden get-togethers.  For others, sports practice and playing emerges as the primary activity, and family fun seems to hinge around these events.


All things considered, the focus is on making sure children get to do (mostly) what they want.  The ‘making it easy’ approach is filled with ease and fun, and little responsibility.  Parents seem to serve more as taxi drivers, day trip planners and ‘boredom fixers.’


So, what’s the problem you may ask?  Isn’t this what everyone else is doing?


Seeking Balance:  Easy vs Hard?


So somehow, in the middle of this overloaded world of opinions, marketing messages and exploding data, our sense of reasonableness has failed us.  We have lost our compass along the way!


We seem to want our kids to have only ease and fun, not realizing it seems that this will come with consequences.  Perhaps more problematic, we too easily seem to follow the lead of our children’s wants and desires.  It’s almost as if the more we give our children what they want, the more we seem to think this is good for them.  We see this trend growing, as six year olds carry IPhones and a Starbucks cup.


“Children do not know what they need.  They only know what they want.’


Until a solid, responsible maturity is reached, children will tend to want what is easy, what is enjoyable, and what relieves any pressure or sense of anxiety.  They will incessantly argue and fight for that easy path.  (Some adults take this path as well, of course.)


Notice, if you walk this path with your kids, your children seem to get almost everything they want, while putting forth little effort.  In today’s world, this translates to a very abundant life for your children, without any investment on their part.


Such choices come with two consequences, and many of you see this already.  First, there is usually very little sincere gratitude for all your efforts.  What happened yesterday is irrelevant.  It’s now, what will do YOU do for me today mom?  This is often quite poignant during the summer months, as week after week of effort on your part is met with minimal gratitude from your children.


Secondly, there is an inevitable building of the sense of entitlement.  Kids often feel they have a ‘right to an abundant life’ without any effort or investment.  We have trained them for this, and may again do so this summer.


The bottom line is this:  If we make things too easy for our kids, life will be harder later.


The Solution:  Balance Responsibility with Fun


When we review the literature on success and satisfaction in life, we find that hard work and effort must be balanced with some time to rejuvenate and enjoy.  This is the common sense formula for life satisfaction.  It is also a clear requisite for continued optimal functioning and good mental health.


When too much demand or responsibility is required, life is drudgery.   We have no sense of ease and no opportunity to rejuvenate and re-group.  The is true for adults and children.


We also see that muscle, that we fail to use, begins to atrophy.  This is true for ‘brain muscle’ as well.  When we learn a skill, and then ignore it for months, our skills decline.  Academically, children consistently lose between 2 and 3 months of their academic skills.  Why?  Because we put no demand on those skills during the summer.


No Surprises Here:   Preparation Comes from Preparation!


I know that sounds redundant, but let me explain.  If we want our kids to be well prepared for the school year this fall, we prepare them.  If we want our children to be well prepared to take responsibility in life, we give them responsibility.


Honestly, there is no secret psychological formula.  Our children will benefit from working the ‘muscle’ of responsibility and effort this summer.


The balance is simple:  Require some work, some effort each day.  Not a lot.  Just enough to keep the academic muscle strong.  And don’t hesitate to require daily chores to help out around the house before the friends come over or the fun begins.  It’s easy to start small, and yet the benefits are large.


You will be thankful as the years’ progress because your child learns lessons from life, that your words will fail to teach.  Offer them these lessons, while still enjoying an awesome summer.  Remember to follow me of Facebook and Twitter for great tips this summer.

Reality Talk For Resistant Teens

Let me begin by emphasizing that this article is not about every adolescent.  However, for some of you, you have become quite familiar with the teen I am about to describe.   Let’s imagine you asked the question, “How was your day?”


It seems innocent.  It seems that you are concerned.  There was no tone in your voice.  There is nothing that you are angry about.  Your adolescent appears to be sitting at the table doing nothing.  All appears okay.


Yet the response that you get sounds something like this:


  • “None of your business!”
  • “Leave me alone!”
  • “Why do you keep bothering me?”\
  • “What’s wrong with you?”
  • “UUggghhh!”
  • “Don’t bother me!”
  •  “Why are you always asking me questions?”
  • And so forth….


Of course, with this adolescent, you have probably been through this several hundred times….maybe more!


It doesn’t matter what the time of day.  It doesn’t matter what question you ask.  It doesn’t matter how you ask it.  The more concerned and worried we become about their guarded or resistant responses, the more we tend to press…and the more ugly things seem to get.


The only exception might be in the event that your son or daughter actually WANTS something from you, and then you get a response that sounds more like a human being.  In fact, they can be “sweet as pie” as long as they are getting what they want.  If this is your child, you may have a case of what I call, “The Adolescent Third Degree Burn!”


What is the Adolescent Third Degree Burn?


While not every teenager goes through this phase, certainly many do.  This is a stage of life where every question, inquiry or request is taken as an imposition.  It’s as if you are probing into their personal world with a dagger in your hand.



To understand this metaphor, imagine their self-esteem has been burned…and the boundaries are hypersensitive to any effort to find out “What’s going on in there?”  The more you try to get inside…the more reactive they become!


If you are dealing with this, you are probably aware that most of what you read says that you should just keep asking….and keep asking…and keep asking.


This is wrong.   Why?  Because it doesn’t work for resistant kids!


Does your teen seem to appreciate your repeated worry, concern and efforts to connect?  Do they ever open up to your questioning and probing?


No!  Notice it just keeps pushing your son or daughter further and further away.


Now this doesn’t mean you give up communicating; it just means that you approach “touching” a child who has been “burned” very differently than you might approach others.


What’s the advantage of this metaphor?


First, it prepares you for the reality of trying to communicate with a teen who has landed in this place.  Be prepared for the hypersensitivity, and don’t take it personally. Just hold the awareness that if you probe, it will get ugly!


Secondly, the metaphor of a third degree burn implies that there would be great sensitivity to touch or pressure.  It’s not that you can’t communicate; it’s just that there can’t be an effort to move inside this psychological sphere of energy which is hypersensitive.


You can communicate with your teen.  You just can’t probe…you just can’t inquire…you just can’t push.  If you do, you will get the over reactive and seemingly inhumane treatment that no parent really deserves.


Third, all burns eventually heal, if you stop probing and picking at them!  Thus, the metaphor implies that this is not a lifelong condition.  However, when you stop pushing and probing, the burn begins to heal.


Finally, when you cease efforts to probe into your teenager’s world, you’ll find more opportunities for dialogue and discussion.  How?  Rather than inquiry, we focus on meeting them where they are at.


Meet Your Teen Where They Are At!


How do you do that…you are asking?


First, rather than probing about their day, comment on the day.  Simply state, “It was a beautiful day outside.”   Don’t get hooked by their response.  If it’s positive…keep going.  If not, ignore it.


Secondly, don’t ask questions where you already know or can get the answer.  Instead of asking who won the game, you do a little research and then comment, “I heard you guys won by five points.  Nice job.”


Third, rather than asking about the results of their math quiz, you comment, “I noticed how hard you studied for your Math quiz last night.  I am sure you did your best.”


Finally, try to resonate at their level of emotional investment.  By meeting them where they are at, you actually show respect for their struggle.  While it seems counter-intuitive, I encourage to simply notice the results.  You don’t have to wait weeks or months to see the effect of this strategy.


“But won’t they think that I don’t care?”


No, this is not the case.  The probing approach, with resistant teens, just pushes them away.  You invest more and more energy in the resistant, ugly comments…and you just keep getting more ugly comments.


In this approach, you stop investing in the ugly moments, and you stop being the only one always investing in the relationship.  Because you do this, you give your teenager the chance to begin investing in your family.  Just notice what happens when you try!  And remember, it doesn’t happen over night!  Burns take a while to heal…just be patient for a few weeks.


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.”


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