Good Job is Not Enough

encouraging children hi
It is generally accepted in today’s generation of parents that praise and encouragement are the tools of choice in childrearing rather than some past methods such as yelling, shaming, and, of course, whupping. Praise and encouragement have taken the place of criticism and disparagement.  The catchphrase of the new mentality might be pithily captured in the ubiquitous declaration, “good job!” While I think “good job” is far better as an encouraging statement than nothing at all (or even a diminishment of personal accomplishment), effectiveness in “positive parenting” demands a little more thoug...
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Making Your Marriage a Priority

empty nesters hi
Recently I was interviewed on the radio to discuss the question of how to prioritize your relationship with your spouse vs. your kids. You can listen to the 20-minute segment here. Here’s the spoiler: I come down firmly on the side of keeping your spouse #1 on your list. This of course doesn’t mean that you ignore your children’s needs or that you spend 100% of your time and energy on your spouse. It just means that your relationship with your spouse comes first. Many people think that “the children come first” and end up putting too little, or nothing at all, into the marital relationship....
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Parenting Tools: Noticing

noticing children hi
Young children are constantly running to their parents to show them what they’re doing or playing with – “Mommy look! I put a hat on the baby doll!” “Daddy, see the picture I drew?”  Often our instinctive response is to gush how wonderful it is or how talented they are.  It’s not a terrible response – certainly better than offering a distant “oh, great” while not moving our eyes from the smartphone screen.  But it also probably isn’t the best we can do either. Praise, like love, isn’t needed unconditionally.  Unconditional praise can turn children into approval junkies, always turning to yo...
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A Simple Parenting Tool – Stories

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I’d like to share with you a handy parenting tool that is easier to use than it might sound.  It’s nothing brilliant or novel – just one of those things sitting under your nose all this time.  It’s called “stories.”  Yup, that’s it. Nothing new, right?  Well, let’s talk about how you can use them. Of course, reading bedtime stories is certainly one way to use stories as part of your parenting approach. Enough has been said about the benefits of reading to your children on a daily basis that I won’t go into it at length here.  Instead I’ll focus on some of the other ways they can be used to ...
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How Do I Get My Kids to Eat Their Vegetables?

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Another common battleground for parents with young children is mealtime.  Getting kids to eat their proverbial veggies has been a vexing problem since time immemorial.  Just as we noted with bedtime, it’s unlikely you will ever have children who are 100% compliant with your wishes 100% of the time.  Nevertheless, there are certain steps you can take to make mealtimes easier and more pleasant for all involved. Lower Your Expectations Sometimes the frustration parents experience at mealtime is simply a product of expectations that are too high.  A two-year-old is not going to remain spotlessly...
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How to I Get My Kids to Go to Bed?

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If you have young children, you don’t need me to tell you what it’s like getting through bedtime.  The hassle, the arguments, the frustrations – it happens to all of us.  Don’t worry – it’s not just you!  Bedtime is often one of the most challenging times of day. And the truth is, no matter what tips and advice you get, it’s likely to be that way at least some of the time.  Nothing anyone tells you is going to make the difficulty of childrearing disappear. That said, there are certainly approaches you can use to make it easier and more manageable.  Here are some ideas to start with: 1. Wind d...
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The Five Love Languages: Words of Affirmation

Words of Affirmation hi
Words of Affirmation is the first of the love languages described in Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages system. For people whose primary love language is Words of Affirmation, it’s what you say that counts.  This of course does not mean that you can act like a slob, forget your wife’s birthday gift or cheat on your spouse as long as you say nice things while you do it. It just means that in order for your spouse to feel truly loved by you, you will need to use the power of speech. This is in some ways very easy and in some ways very difficult.  On one hand, we all know what it means to spea...
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Family Therapy: Parental Transitions

Family Therapy hi
In the previous post we cited a number of examples of role changes that can lead to conflict in the home and the importance of family therapy for managing these transitions.  There we focused primarily on the changes experienced by the daughter in a relationship (see here for why I am using female protagonists in this discussion). However, I wanted to note that transition is really a lifelong companion and that parents too go through their own life transitions. A common time in a parent’s life that causes a major role shift is retirement.  If an individual has been in the workforce for deca...
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Mothers & Daughters: Changing Roles

Mother & Daughter hi
Why do relationships between mothers and daughters that are warm, loving, and peaceable turn into battlegrounds of conflict and frustration?  What happens that causes such a drastic change, often in so short a time? The usual culprit is transition.  Life transitions are generally a period of personal instability and therefore instability in relationships. This can be felt powerfully in parent-child relationships because usually one party is undergoing a major change while the other isn’t, and is therefore not expecting things to change. For example, a common period when conflict betw...
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Family Therapy: Parents & Children

mother and daughter hi
We frequently get calls for family therapy, specifically regarding troubled mother/daughter relationships.  These include young parents with school- or preschool-aged children, middle-aged women with their teenage/young adult daughters, and even up to elderly women who still struggle with having a proper relationship with their adult daughters. Why does this particular relationship so often run into trouble?  The truth is, there is probably just as much opportunity for conflict with fathers and with sons. However, since our culture frowns upon men expressing emotion (apart from the emotio...
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The Kids Were Difficult Tonight

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An amazing thing happened in my house last night. I was out for the evening, and I came home to find a tired but relatively cheerful wife and three sleeping children. This is what I would call an excellent outcome for a nighttime routine executed with only one parent. But that wasn’t the amazing part. That was excellent, but not necessarily amazing. What was amazing was my wife’s take on it. She said, quote, “The kids were difficult tonight, so I had to be extra creative.” AMAZING! Did you hear that? She did not say “the kids were difficult tonight and I totally lost my cool,” or, “the kids...
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A Letter to Mom

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Yes, this is an actual picture of me at something like 15 and my real-life mom. I believe we're on a biking trip in one of the Carolinas.  The exceptionally poor quality is due to this having been taken at twilight with one of those yellow plastic disposable cameras.  (Remember those?) So this post is about raising teens and, appropriately, links to my latest article at the Raising Teens blog ("a site for parents grappling with sanity"): Letter to Mom from Son at Graduation.  The truth is that I did not write this to my mom, nor did I write it at graduation.  I wrote it quite recently after b...
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Time Management for Busy Moms and Others

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Life in the modern era has become more and more of a sophisticated juggling act. Time management skills have become increasingly important: work, family, leisure, health – managing all our responsibilities is no easy feat. And if you have kids, well, it’s like having more balls to juggle and fewer hands! How do we learn to manage our time when there are so many people demanding it – including ourselves? Step one is prioritizing. You have to know yourself and what’s important to you. For some people, exercising three times a week is a non-negotiable; for others, it’s an ideal to meet one day...
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The Best Gift You Can Give Your Children – Part 4

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The last piece I’m going to post on the topic of why a good marriage is the best gift we can give to ours kids is probably the simplest: 4. It’s just nicer to live in a happy household than an unhappy one. Can anyone disagree with that? Who wants to live in a home where people are constantly upset with one another, yelling at each other, harping on each other’s insecurities? What gift could be better than a house full of love and contentment? Children superficially clamor for material things, because they cannot understand more than that – they beg for a new bike, the latest gadget, the new ...
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The Best Gift You Can Give Your Children – Part 3

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Continuing on in our exploration of why a good marriage is so vital to your childrearing endeavors, here is reason #3: 3. They’ll do as you do. Jimmy’s parents were called into school, where Jimmy was waiting apprehensively in the principal’s office. The principal sat down with the three of them, looking very sternly at Jimmy and his parents, and said he regretted to inform the parents that their son had been caught stealing pencils from the supply closet. “Stealing?!?!” gasped the father. “Jimmy, how could you?! If you needed pencils, why didn’t you just tell me? I would have brought you so...
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The Best Gift You Can Give Your Children – Part 2

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In the last post, I opened up the topic of why a good marriage is good parenting and discussed the issue of household stability. Here is reason #2 that the best gift you can give your children is a good marriage. 2. Kids run on emotion. As noted in the previous post, kids are consumed by their emotions. Rational self-control is a hallmark of maturity; no matter how persuasive your logical discourses may, you will not get a four-year-old to stop crying about a lost candy bar. The grief fills their entire being, and the faculty for saying, “You know what? I have twenty-three other kinds of can...
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The Best Gift You Can Give Your Children

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When I get a call from parents seeking help with problems with their children, it is not uncommon that a large portion of the work actually needs to happen with the parents themselves. Unrealistic expectations, misguided parenting approaches, personal problems, and other factors play into this a lot. One important element that needs to be considered is related to a point I make to many of these parents, and to many clients that come in for other issues as well, unrelated to their children, and that is: the best gift you can give to your kids is a good marriage. (This is an especially timely me...
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The Only Thing I Can Give to My Daughter That Matters

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I recently posted an article on Kveller.com, a site I enjoy sharing my personal experiences on. Check out my fun and educational story of the day I spent one-on-one with my four year old! http://www.kveller.com/the-only-thing-i-can-give-to-my-daughter-that-matters/   Learn more about our parenting counseling services here.
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Sexual Abuse Prevention: Words for Private Parts

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There is a difference of opinions out there as to whether it is important to use the proper names for private parts when teaching children about their bodies and discussing sexual abuse issues (i.e., not the latest news story but what they need to know to prevent it).  I stand heavily on the side of “YES” and I’ll give you a couple of reasons why that is, starting from the least significant (which is still pretty significant): (Note: I am actually deliberately not writing down the names of those parts in this post so as not to get blocked by anyone’s filter. This post is for everyone!) ...
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My New Favorite Parenting Expert!

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I recently chanced across an article by Andrea Nair and was so appreciative of it that I looked her up and ended up finding dozens more really helpful articles.  I agree with almost everything she says. I think her perspectives are spot-on and her techniques very solid.  Here is a super article entitled "Stop Tantrums: 33 Phrases to Use With Toddlers" (which I just reviewed for myself as I was posting this.)  A few choice excerpts: 3.     “Pajama time! How about like this?” Put your child’s bottoms on your head. 14.  Put a plate of cut vegetables at your place at the table and say, “I hope...
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Modern Communication Tools for Parents

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This morning while dropping my kids off at school I spotted a mom driving her minivan into the carpool line while talking on a handheld cellphone.  I don't know what the laws are in other states, and I'm not really going to go googling right now, but in Maryland, this is illegal.  And I am pretty confident that in all 50 states it's dangerous.  So let's take a look at all the messages this mother gave to her darling children in the back seats in this one moment: You don't need to follow the rules. It's okay to break rules as long as you don't get caught. Safety is not important if it's...
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Parenting Issue: Children & iPads

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I'm on TV! WBAL-TV interviewed me for my take on toddlers using iPads (See the accompanying article at http://www.wbaltv.com/news/limiting-childs-screentime-difficult-battle-for-parents/32819168).  Unfortunately, I think they did a so-so job representing my opinions, so let me clarify a little bit my position on toddlers using iPads: I did say that I don't think it's necessary for toddlers to use iPads. That doesn't mean I'm against it.  I don't think it's so terrible if parents allow their kids to use tablets, and certainly if they're using it only (or maybe even primarily) for educati...
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Free-Range Parenting

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A local Maryland couple in the news has once again raised discussion and debate about the free-range parenting movement.  Read more about it, including my opinions as quoted therein, at http://jewishtimes.com/36553/free-range.   Learn more about our parenting support services here.
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