Tagged Advice

Super Simple Organization Plan - The Bag Lady System

Get Organized with The Bag Lady System


Organization has always been a bit elusive for me. I love to see a well organized space and truly see the value in it but as a busy mom of two, it is the reality that gets in the way.

Super Simple Organization Plan - The Bag Lady SystemSo, in my attempt to save my sanity, I devised an organizational system that works for my kids and myself. I have dubbed it The Bag Lady System, but really make it your own.

Designate a Bag

We have designated tote bags for each activity that my girls participate in. Soccer has its own bag and all soccer related stuff, including extra water, bug spray, sun screen go in that bag. The cool thing is it is a system that seems to work for my family too. If they are looking for certain items I will here them say, “look in the _________ bag for it.” I have never been accused of being over organized, mind you, but I hate getting to an event without the proper uniform, snacks or equipment.

Get Organized with The Bag Lady SystemRestock Immediately

In this type of organizational system the key is to check the bag or box after each use. If you have to wash something, make sure it goes right back. If you run out of something, replace it in the bag immediately. Now this system will drive type A personalities a bit crazy I am sure, but for the rest of us mere organizational mortals, this system seems to work quite well!

Choose Your Bags Carefully

I have also found that the style of bag can play an important role in the success of this system. I use a sturdy backpack for our adventures at a local amusement park so it is easy to carry around all day. On the other hand for soccer or swim lessons I use a big open tote so my kids can easily access towels, balls, snacks and water bottles. For school, as I am a teacher, I designate one bag for my school stuff. This bag is a professional style computer bag that I am not embarrassed to be seen with in a work setting. You may have to play around with the style of bag to see what works for you, or for the given activity.

Good luck on your endeavor to quickly and easily becoming more organized without breaking the bank or losing your mind in the process.

Conflict Resolution

Conflict Resolution: How I Stopped Worrying And Embraced The Fight


Conflict ResolutionBeing a parent is not easy on a normal day. But then, there are those ‘other days.’

If you have not had a day where you wanted to take an ice pick to the ol’ retina, then my friend, you have not been tested like I have as a parent.

And, trust me, I am a proponent of parenting. It is the best thing that has ever happened to me. Sure it’s also the most challenging thing. But, nothing is quite as good without the challenge, or at least, that’s what the inspirational memes say on Google, the ones I seek out at 11:30 at night to reassure myself.

If you have multiple kids, then you know all about conflict. There are conflicts, many conflicts within a day.

Conflicts can eat you alive if you don’t have a plan. I can’t tell you what is best for you, but I do have a plan, and these next words may seem crazy, but stay with me:


It is going to happen, as sure as the sun will come up tomorrow, as sure as we need nutrients to live (unless you’re a 5-year-old that can live off a strict diet of graham crackers and peanut butter), it is known that my son will snatch my daughter’s favorite possession right from her hands (which then becomes the only toy in the house and the last toy ever made) and run. I know my daughter will chase after him, yelling and screaming. It will happen.

What to do? Take it all in. This is really what having a sibling is after all, and the kids relish it, so why shouldn’t I?


After I hear a conflict, I first check to see who’s going to be the adult to mediate, if I hear the wife’s footsteps, then I back out like a dump truck on a crowded street. (beep, beep beep).

But, if it’s me, I approach willingly. Take a deep breath, hold it in, and gently breath out. If I do that before I get involved, two things will happen:

  1. I will not burst out laughing at the (occasional) absurdity of the situation.
  2. I will keep my own emotions in check – allowing their emotions to be at the forefront, and leaving my own frustration back on the couch where I belong.


As easy as it would be to set up a judicial system, with myself as the supreme overlord, it would not help my children understand why they’re fighting, and it teaches them nothing about how to handle an argument down the road, when they are adults.

Most importantly, I want my kids to know that their feelings matter. I want them to learn empathy, so model it I must. Therefore, at this point, the only questions is “You look really upset, what happened?” I really try to feel the feelings of my child. This shows them that they are entitled to whatever emotion they are having. Young children don’t always recognize their especially powerful emotions, so once we can suss out the emotions being felt, I try to label those feelings for future reference.

Many of these feelings, I, as an adult, don’t have much anymore. Try and imagine the last time you actually cried because someone at work had something for lunch that you wanted and you will see what I mean. It’s important to try and be in touch with these feelings, for their sake.


Once the emotions have been appropriately labeled and validated, the children are more likely to be forthcoming with further information. So I listen closely, then restate what I hear “So, your brother put your cereal bowl on his head and wore it like a hat, is that what made you upset?” This is called Sportscasting and a quick Google will give you further examples. I try to be as impartial as I can be. I don’t want to take sides, or lay blame. I try to direct all the dialogue to the other child, “tell your brother, not me.”


When I was a child, the solutions to conflicts with my brother were easy. There were only two possible solutions:

  1. Run for my life and find my parents
  2. Run for my life and not find parents (be pounded by big brother)

As a parent, I want better (and more) solutions for my own kids, and I want my kids to learn to be the ones to find these solutions.

This requires the largest commitment in this process: Patience. You may feel the urge to quickly drop down some solutions so you can move on. Fight this feeling – remember – you’ve embraced the conflict and here is your reward: you get to hear your kids come up with some ways to fix it – and here’s the beauty – It doesn’t even have to be fair. Nope, you don’t have to look out for the underdog. If they both agree to it- then you’re golden!

Finding a solution may take time in the beginning, depending on the severity of stubbornness of your child (My son is at a nuclear level) and that’s OK. You can suggest ideas after they’ve had time to come up with your own. But eventually, it will be fast: “Take turns.” “Set a timer!” – to referee the length of said turns – and oh the glory of it!


When are you most likely to get a speeding ticket? 3 blocks from your home. What is the hardest part of your Everest adventure? The way down.

When is it most likely to have a reoccurrence of a conflict? Within 1 minute of solving the problem. So, don’t go screaming “home free” yet. Stay around for a minute –or-2, and consider yourself a resource in this time. This is such an important time, where the solution goes into practice. Try to regale in this victory, and congratulate your kids on their victory in problem solving. Live in the moment, because guess what? The conflict will return. Only in time, you’ll love it (see step 1) and your children will be a bit more prepared for it each and every time.

{The teaching application of conflict resolution via HighScope can be further researched in the book: You Can’t Come To My Birthday Party!I think this is also a great resource for parents.}


Parenting a Child with Anxiety: Experienced Parents Speak Up

Parenting a Child with Anxiety: Experienced Parents Speak Up


Parenting a Child with Anxiety: Experienced Parents Speak UpParenting a child with a mental health disorder can be scary, frustrating and tiring. Parents often navigate multiple mental health and educational systems and they frequently do it alone.

Scared to discuss what’s happening with their child, ashamed that they did something wrong, worried that disclosing mental health issues will negatively impact their child – whatever the reason, parents remain silent (except in small, trusted circles). The silence makes it easier to misunderstand the realities of childhood mental health issues.

In honor of Childhood Mental Health Awareness Week, we’re taking a peak into the lives of 11 parents who live with childhood anxiety daily. Knowledge can lead to understanding. Understanding can lead to empathy.

Let’s take the stigma out of childhood mental health disorders – after all, 13 – 20% of kids in the US will experience one in any given year (Centers for Disease Control).

What does anxiety look like for your child?

My son will wear a heavy hooded sweatshirt to school, even when it is 100 degrees outside, because he needs to put his hood up to feel safe. His worry is so encompassing that he turns in an incomplete test, simply because someone else finished before him. His panic attacks are an all-encompassing – they grip his mind and his body. During a panic attack, he can’t adequately process the threats in his environment. – M.M.

Anxiety is woefully misunderstood. It can present itself in so many ways, sometimes within the same person, that it takes real courage to try to wrap one’s head around it. – P.P.

My son’s explosive temper is usually triggered by anxiety. – J.Z.

Anxiety comes in sheer waves of panic that can envelope my sweet boy. The biggest anxiety attack he had, he did not remember having. He truly did not recall the complete and utter meltdown/devastation he experienced. I could do nothing but breathe with him until he could sit down. Then I spoke softly and repetitively to him until he could get under the covers. Then I read Winnie the Pooh to a shaking, sobbing 10 year old boy. I used the most unaccented, monotone voice I could muster. His cries finally became sobs, became intermittent chuffles became heavy sleep. It was heart wrenching and very, VERY real. – D. M.

My daughter’s anxiety brings out all sorts of “annoying” behaviors. 
She’s not singing in a really high-pitched voice or whistling or flipping her body around because she’s trying to annoy you. 

She’s not trying to be the center of attention. 
She’s not doing it because she doesn’t care about what you’re saying. 
She’s probably not even aware she’s doing it and she might not be able to stop it right away even if you ask her to.
These are things I have to remind myself on a daily basis. – M.P.

What has been the most difficult part of parenting a child with anxiety?

The most difficult part is that I just want to take it away. I wish I could magically erase it all from his mind. He houses worries in his mind that are too big for his little body to carry. – C.C.

Seeing my child suffer. – H.C.

Being patient — everything takes a long time. Educating family and friends and teachers, finding the right therapist and psychiatrist, treatment and helping him build skills to keep it from taking over. – G.G.

The most difficult part for me is that it triggers my own anxieties. I don’t like to let anything get in the way of offering my children my best. – H.M.

Listening a 7-year old tell me that she wished she were dead and watching her claw her arms because she doesn’t have the words to express what she is feeling is heart-breaking. -K.X.

Accepting that it’s real and then helping others to understand it. – C.G.

It is so hard to know what is anxious behavior and what is just plain kid misbehavior. Establishing boundaries that shape positive behavior and don’t penalize anxious behavior is tough! Our basic rules are that you have to be safe and kind, even in the midst of a panic attack. – M.M.

What advice do you have for a parent who suspects their child has anxiety?

Get professional help. Anxiety can mimic all sorts of other things. Let a professional help you figure out what is really going on. Then you can develop a plan together to help your child. Don’t be scared of medication, if used well it can bring your child back to you and might even save his life. – M.M.

Fight to get them tested. We were told “he’ll grow out of it, aka mature” nope. – H.C.

Don’t be dismissive – be a safe place your child can talk about his anxiety and worries. Even if it seems silly to us, it’s not for them. – G.G.

Lorazepam for the win. – C.G.

Relax. This may take a lot of work — do whatever it takes. – H.M.

Look for the anxiety behind any behavior, from anger to depression to inattention. – J.Z.

Be patient! It does get better. Find something that helps calm your child. For my daughter, art has been a life-saver. She doesn’t leave the house without her sketch pad, but she pulls it out less and less these days. – K.X.

What do you wish your child’s school/teacher understood about your child’s anxiety?

I wish they realized that the child can’t help it – that they think in a totally different way than the teacher might be teaching and that the advice/comments that the parents give them is more true than they think. – H.C.

Anxiety may not always look reasonable to them, and it may not always look like anxiety. My son makes excellent grades, but his worst anxieties are surrounding tests and major projects. He often responds by shutting down and procrastinating. Harping on him to hurry up is therefore counterproductive. – H.M.

You can’t talk someone out of it. Sometimes trying to talk them down to calm them just drags it out and makes it worse. – C.G.

That many of the behavior systems and “motivation” systems they have in place to help kids make kids with anxiety feel worse. – G.G.

We’ve worked hard to help his teachers learn how his anxiety manifests in the classroom and then what does and doesn’t help. Some teachers get it – they know that my son is more than his anxiety. Those teachers are golden! – M.M.

What do you wish your friends and family understood about your child’s anxiety?

That they should include us in parties and activities — for better or worse — and not pity us. I have some great friends who know we may not stay for the full party, or that our son may need to step away from an outing to regroup. But they are gracious and don’t make a big deal so our son can save face and still participate to whatever degree he’s able that day. This has been so helpful, as having an anxious child can be very isolating. – G.G.

We’ve been lucky. Our friends and family have educated themselves about childhood anxiety disorders. They consistently show our son that they want to understand and help – they give him space when needed, provide calm stability during panic attacks and they treat him like any other kid when he’s feeling good. I couldn’t ask for much more. – M.M.

Too much praise or emphasis on an area of anxiety can make it worse — if a child makes good grades or devotes a lot of time to charitable efforts, for example, bragging on them too much actually puts a lot of pressure on them. Sometimes it is most helpful to be low-key and spend quality time. – H.M.

I wish that they [family] would stop minimizing it. It’s a big deal to HIM. Maybe they don’t think x, y, z is scary but it is to him. Don’t discount his emotional experience. – C.C.

I wish other adults could see through surface behaviors and read what is going on beneath the surface. I recognize so many kids struggling with anxiety that manifests as aggression or defiance. Adults need to slow down and take time to really listen beyond the words and actions. They need to understand that most kids don’t know what “anxiety” is, so they say things like “my stomach hurts” or “I have a headache” and hope that someone will figure out what that means. – K.X.


Parenting a Child with AnxietyIf you are a parent of a child with anxiety, what do you wish other parents, family, teachers, etc…knew about your child or about anxiety disorders in general?



When Worry is Too Much: Childhood Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety and Giftedness: What is the Reality?

5 Tips to Conquering Homework with a 2E Kid

Parent and Teacher Resources for Childhood Mental Health

The Kids are Roughhousing Again

The Kids are Roughhousing Again


My Introduction to Roughhousing

My introduction to roughhousing probably started when I tried to bowl over my older brother when I was 9 or 10. That didn’t go so well for me. Through the years of our youth, my brother, 2 years my senior, and I would continue wrestling each other in episodes sparked by…complete randomness. By random, I mean it The Kids are Roughhousing Again
was never sparked by the need for retribution or to seek punishment for some wrong committed by the other. That fraternal judicial system was a completely different one that involved a warning and a punch in the arm. And the punch in the arm always followed the warning because any younger brother worth his salt never heeds the warning! Roughhousing, on the other hand, isn’t about anger or fighting.

So how or why do siblings end up rolling around on the floor so often?

If you do a quick google search for “why do kids wrestle”, you get several links about the benefits of play fighting, a book entitled, The Art of Roughhousing, and pleas from wrestling organizations to help keep the sport alive. If you’re feeling more zoological and you search for “why do animals wrestle” you’ll learn a little about professional wrestler and WWE Hall-of-Famer Road Warrior Animal, aka Joe Laurinaitis or the fact that the WWE has a Hall of Fame. In other words, there are not tons of people searching for why young kids, teenagers and even young adults spontaneously wrestle each other. It’s like we don’t care why it happens. We just want to know whether we should let it happen and when we should stop it. That’s the practicality of parenthood.

Play-Fighting or Serious Business – Hey there, Anthropology!

My own children’s roughhousing can sometimes look more like my two dogs going after each other (a 2.5 yr old female and a 10 mo old boy puppy). My dogs bear teeth, nip faces and legs and the older one will sometimes drag the puppy around by his collar. Yes!! This sounds a little more like my two boys! It’s a funny comparison but when our pets wrestling each other, we accept that they instinctually have to establish an alpha role. Do our kids need to do the same? As parents, that’s not an easy question to ask much less answer. Play fighting or roughhousing sounds innocent and developmental while establishing dominance seems callous and bullying.brown-bear-cubs-wrestling_w560_h700

Should we make room for the type of roughhousing that’s more Animal Planet and less Sprout?

Back to my web browser and focusing more anthropologically, I came across a study entitled “The Logic of Animal Conflict”, printed in 1973 in Nature and I’m thinking YES!

Indeed, you will read about intraspecies “limited war” in which winners “gain mates, dominance rights, desirable territory, or other advantages that will tend toward transmitting its genes to future generations at higher frequencies than the loser’s genes,” and I’m thinking YIKES!!

So now I’m backtracking and thinking that maybe my kids aren’t like my pets. We’re animals but we have frontal lobes. Plus the article doesn’t even broach the subject on humans because it’s purpose is to explore the evolutionary benefits of play-fighting to individuals and species and we’re a species of individuals undecided about evolution, but I digress.

Evolution or Egg Shells

Desirable territory? They chose their own bedrooms!!

Access to resources? Steak dinners and ample closets!!

Dominance rights? We love our kids equally!!

But wait!!

One of those needs isn’t like the others. As parents, we remove the need for our children to define their territory by giving them their own spaces, especially when they’re being particularly annoying. We provide food and clothing until our fashion choices for them become socially unacceptable.

However, we don’t help our children establish dominance. In fact we do and say whatever we can to discourage this. We assure our children that they are all equal in abilities and when age and experience surface to the contrary, we explore and highlight enough variety in abilities to balance the equation so that no one is better or worse than anyone else when considering the sum of everything. Parents are the ultimate spin doctors.

Unlike our animal counterparts who seemingly don’t have feelings, us human parents cringe a little when our kids broach activities meant to establish dominance or bragging rights with sports or martial arts maybe being an exception. We move quickly to hedge against any gains or losses that one achieves over another. The problem is this: We can hedge and protect and insulate all we want, but our children will still constantly one up each other. Evolution for the win!

What Establishing Dominance Looks Like

Poking, pushing, bumping or otherwise taking up the other person’s space.

  • Where we see this: The backseat. It’s mandatory for rides over 10 minutes
  • Parent will say: “Keep your hands and feet to yourself!”
  • Ability to stop: That’s not a serious question, is it?

Quizzing each other on math, or sports factoids or Greek mythology – whatever subject one is sure that the other doesn’t know.

  • Where we see this: Dinner table
  • Parent will say: “You’re both smart in different ways!”
  • Ability to stop: Fairly easy, but why would you? You’re learning so much.

The scrum that looks like someone is going to injured at any moment.

  • Where we see this: Any open space inside or outside.
  • Parent will say: “watch it, stop it, careful, get off your brother, someone is going to get hurt!”
  • Ability to stop: Only if you witness desire to harm, but by then it’s a matter of seconds before someone starts crying and it’s over anyway.

Roughhousing in Action

On a recent trip to New Orleans, my Father-In-Law and I took my two 10-year old boys to Audubon Park for some exercise. We brought a spongy football with us. Before we got out of the parking lot, a silly toss towards the backside of one of my sons turned into “lets peg each other”. The ball and the tosses weren’t dangerous, no one was getting hurt and there was equal give and take until….

My younger son (younger by 8 months) felt a little picked on. He was losing this subtle form of roughhousing so he started hiding behind trees. Part not wanting the game to be over and part sensing an opportunity, my older son gave chase, still playing peg. Soon afterwards there was some de-escalation typical of roughhousing dynamics until….

The younger son rushes at the older one and jumps on him. No anger, tears or yelling. Just the younger determined to get the older onto the ground. Within 10 seconds, the younger was himself on his back with my older son walking away. The score: 0 people hurt to 1 point made.

And then the Younger decided to keep at it!

Charge! Grab! Tug! Get dumped on the ground! Charge! Grab! Etc!

The pattern repeated until the scorecry was about 0 to 5 and it was time to step in. Frustration was setting in as the younger wasn’t getting the results he wanted. He tried a different tact: “Dad, Davis keeps throwing me to the ground!” Knowing that Patrick (the younger) responds really well to logic, I tried “This seems like your own doing. If you don’t want Davis to drop you on the ground, you probably shouldn’t jump on him.”

And here is really where it turned from family sitcom to nature documentary:

After several seconds when I thought tensions were eased…

Charge! Grab! Get dumped on the ground!

Patrick rushed again at Davis and once again found himself among the dirt and leaves.

Now, if my boys were my pet dogs, this would have ended with them drinking out of the same water bowl and taking a nap together on the couch. Still a funny comparison, but my dogs don’t have feelings – or at least human feelings so it takes a little longer for my sons to reconcile.

But since I didn’t step in, blame Davis for Patrick’s dirty knees, face and back and since I didn’t otherwise reestablish equality between them, Patrick’s only recourse (in his own mind) was exasperation and a declaration of his exit from our family as he turned and walked away. He had initiated all of the action but he had trouble dealing with the outcomes.

Oh feelings.

Don’t Stop Wrestling, Learn From It

Replaying this in my head while I walked after my kid, my mission became clear. It wasn’t the wrestling that was the problem; it was Patrick’s (and Davis’s) ability or inability to learn from it.

It took almost 9/10th of a mile walk with Patrick to convince him of the same. Back at the house and after some decompression, we had a family huddle (my wife, the kids and I) so that we could all process it together. As I remember, the family huddle interrupted the kids playing again, so there’s that.

My prevailing impressions during this entire episode were NOT of fighting, aggression or anger but rather of Patrick’s stubbornness and Davis’s restraint. It wasn’t harmful or scary for either Davis or Patrick. We specifically asked about feelings of fear. So no physical or mental scars and no relationship chasms had occurred. Responses from the boys to our questions in those 10 minutes were answered with about as much concern as if we had asked them their favorite colors. The just wanted to get back to playing.

The lasting reality in all of this is that our kids are constantly figuring out for themselves where they rate in this world. Roughhousing, wrestling, or otherwise establishing dominance are all just data points that help them make sense of who they are and where they stand with each other. They’re far less concerned about thir need to do this and far more concerned about what it means in the grand scheme of things. This is where we need to focus as parents. Any efforts by us shouldn’t be to quell these roughhousing or contradict the results, but rather to help our children process the information.

“Wow, you’re sister really kicked your butt but I still love you.”

Not exactly, but if we allow our kids to have these matches and we’re there for them to deal with the results, without contradicting the results; everyone will be better for it.



The Logic of Animal Conflict (1973). Nature. Vol 246


Strengths Based Parenting

Strengths-Based Parenting. How to build on the positive.


Parenting is hard. You’d think that 10 years and two kids into it, we’d be getting into a groove. But in reality, each year brings new challenges. The challenges are certainly different than in years past – we’re no longer focused on the basics like teaching them to feed and dress themselves – they figured those things out a while back.

These days we spend a lot of time trying to figure out homework routines and coaching the boys through their first crushes. We’re working on emotional self-regulation, personal advocacy and self-management related to homework.

It seems like the stakes get higher each year and the emotional stuff becomes increasingly complex. I imagine that you, like me, are intensely motivated to raise happy, healthy children – children who will become happy, self-sufficient adults.

Strengths Based Parenting

At our house, we focus on a Strengths-Based Parenting approach. It’s not a fluffy, no-consequences kind of approach. Rather it requires that Rob and I focus on the good in our kids, that our first goal is to build on their strengths. We don’t always get there.

The last few weeks have been a struggle. There have been days that I thought the plague had descended on us – a kidney infection, migraines, a concussion, new ADHD medications, a stomach bug. Drop into the mix a new job for my husband and we’ve all been a little frazzled.

I’ve been short-tempered and grumpy. The boys have been hassling each other. Nothing is catastrophic; rather, I’ve just been off my game.

Last week I decided that I needed to course correct. Our family works much better when Rob and I focus on our kids’ strengths and stop trying to correct small annoying behaviors.

This isn’t as flighty as it sounds. These are the practical ways we use a strengths-based parenting approach:

Know your kids.

Don’t just know what they like, know what makes them tick. Know what they look forward to every day and how they express and receive love. Know their strengths. We have used Gallup’s work on Strengths Finders to find common language for our family’s strengths.

Help your kids know their strengths.

We keep our strengths displayed on our fridge. It’s a quick reminder that each of us has unique gifts; that each of us brings value to the family and to every situation we encounter. We talk about how these strengths benefit them and those around them. We work to instill pride.

Strength Finders

Promote a positive self-dialogue.

If I want my kids to think positively about themselves and believe in their strengths and innate goodness, then I have to teach them. I have to teach them how to use positive language when thinking about themselves. If this doesn’t come naturally to my kids, then I have to show them consistently how do to this. My words matter. The especially matter when teaching tools to combat the self-doubt that destroys self-esteem.

Set them up for success.

Davis is a relator. He builds long-lasting, deep friendships. He also likes to explore new things. Sometimes these strengths clash. Our job is to help him navigate and balance the old and the new.

Catch them doing a good job.

Do you know about the Magic Ratio of Praise to Criticism? It says that you should provide praise 5 times more frequently than you criticize. 5 TIMES! Honestly, we should probably be closer to a 10:1 with Davis because of his anxiety disorder. (If you need a place to start, check out the Rubber Band Method of Discipline and build from there.) When we provide positive feedback, it gives him confidence that we know him inside and out. It lets him focus on the good and build on a firm foundation.

Develop a sense of family pride.

We work hard to develop a sense of family pride. It’s something I’m hyper focused on now, during their pre-teen years. I want my boys entering their teen years with a healthy sense of self and a firm foundation of our family values before they have to experiment in creating their own world order!

It seems that the language we have about our strengths, along with our Family Code of Living, helps build a sense of belonging. (I’ll write about our Code of Living soon.)

It doesn’t hurt that all four of us are “Relators,” meaning we like to build deep, lasting friendships.

Focus on their innate goodness.

Kids make mistakes. I try to operate on the assumption that my kids (all kids, all people) are well intentioned. It helps me to see their mistakes as growth opportunities and a normal part of growing up. The malicious attempt to deceive or disobey is rare. My focus must stay on guiding them past a mistake and learning a new way of handling the problem they face.

Give them a chance to shine.

Patrick likes to be the center of attention. Most of the time, it is his “Presence” strength shining through. Davis’ sense of “Confidence” has been known to end in boasting or taunting during a pick-up basketball game. When these get out of hand, it is normally because they don’t have a pro-social way to display these strengths. It’s good reminder for me to channel their strengths into activities that let them shine – like public speaking and drama for Patrick and social justice opportunities for Davis.


This parenting thing is hard. We all want the best for our kids and none of us want our decisions as parents to limit our kids in their adulthood. The stakes are high and we are hard on ourselves. (Check out these 10 Tips for Guilt Free Parenting!)

Take a few minutes to think about your kid’s strengths – think about their personalities, not their accomplishments. Find a ways to help them understand what makes them unique and how they shine. Be gracious when they mess up, so they know that their mistakes and missteps don’t define them – their strengths do!


How Full Is Your Bucket Gallup Strength’s Finders for kids ages 4 – 9

Strengths Explorers Gallup Strength’s Finders for kids ages 10 – 14

Strengths Finders Gallup Strengths Finders for adults

The Magic Ratio

Praise’s Magic Reinforcement Ratio

The Ideal Praise to Criticism Ratio – Harvard Business Review

The Rubber Band Method of Discipline

10 Tips for Guilt Free Parenting

10 Tips for Guilt Free Parenting


I teach my kids to be gracious.  Not just in the polite sense of the word, where they observe social niceties.  Gracious in terms of mercy and compassion.

They are 10 and don’t always get it right. They aren’t always models of grace – complaining about an unfair game, kicking a brother in the shin…  But they are working on it and so am I.  Sometimes instead of tattling, I’ll hear a sweet reconciliation or watch tolerance for incessant knock-knock jokes.

10 Tips for Guilt Free Parenting

These days, I’m primarily working on being gracious to myself.  Giving myself mercy for the ways I don’t live up to my own standards.  It’s hard – primarily because the stakes are high.

Most parents do the best they can.  Yet we still go through litanies of what we should have done:

  • I should have let him do it on his own.
  • I shouldn’t have raised my voice.
  • I should have set more clear limits.
  • I should have enforced the limits I set.
  • I shouldn’t have spent so much time at work.

These can be helpful, if they are truly based in self-reflection.  They weigh us down if they are based on some imagined (or exaggerated) offense or sense of inadequacy and guilt.   Here are a few things that help me lift the weight of guilt and remember how amazing my kids really are.

  1. Give your kids a compliment.  Make it genuine and meaningful.
  2. Set goals with your kids.  Make them accessible.
  3. Give your kids progressive autonomy.
  4. Trust yourself.  Most parents are doing everything they know how to do.
  5. Accept help.  Ask for advice or a break.  Parenting is hard and kids can be overwhelming.
  6. Parent from your strengths.  Acknowledge your limitations.
  7. Play with your kids – really play.  Work up a sweat.  Share a favorite activity.  Laugh.
  8. Recognize that your kid’s decisions are her own.  Help her take responsibility for her actions.
  9. Think first.  Hold off on disciplining your child when you are stressed out, frustrated, or just plain angry.
  10. Remember that kids complain – even about stuff they like.  Take complaints for what they really are.

This next week, try to be gentler with yourself.  Let go of the guilt. What’s your tip for being kind to yourself?

This post originally appeared on The Learning Lab.