parenting

Best Parenting Books: Top Picks for 2021

Stack of books
Stack of books

stack of colorful books
Whether you are in the trenches of potty training, are trying to teach your kids empathy, or need the magic formula to coparent with your ex, one thing is certain: You. Want. Answers.

With the overwhelming amount of information on the internet and the slew of parenting books that make their home on Amazon, it’s nearly impossible to sift through the online bookshelves to find the help you need.

As an author myself, I get asked all the time, “Amy, what are your favorite parenting books?!” Well, my friend, it’s nearly impossible to give you all of my favorites, but here are a FEW that I know you will love.

From general parenting advice to tackling specific struggles, this list of books will help you navigate many of the parenting issues you’re facing.

Before we jump into our Top Picks for 2021, we just HAVE to tell you about a must-have book that’s being released on February 2nd, 2021! Sure, at first glance it might not look like a parenting book, but for anyone with a parenting partner, this book will help lay the perfect foundation for a united parenting front.

The Argument Hangover: Empowering Couples to Fight Smarter & Overcome Communication Pitfalls

By Jocelyn & Aaron FreemanThe Argument Hangover

If you’re parenting with a partner and have trouble getting on the same page, this book is for you! The Freemans are world-renown relationship experts and will help you make the most out of your adult relationship so that you and your parenting partner can do the best you can for your kids!

In this relatable, no b.s. book for couples, the Freemans explain what an argument hangover is, what causes it, and how to clearly communicate your needs to feel understood, without having to change each other.

This modern guide includes step-by-step tools and exercises you can implement right away, so you can handle the challenges that so many couples face today. Topics include:

  • Why conflict doesn’t have to be something you avoid
  • How to keep arguments from escalating
  • How to resolve those nagging two or three disagreements that keep coming up

Embrace conflict and grow from it with the right communication skills―and say goodbye to argument hangovers once and for all.

Plus, if you preorder this book before February 2nd, you’ll get access to 3 Pre-Order Bonuses worth over $200 — including a 4-part mini-course, a “debrief after conflict” guide, and a 90-minute communication training video. Simply order The Argument Hangover…and claim your bonuses here!

Now for our list of already-published parenting favorites…

1. The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children

By Ross W. Greene, Ph.D.

Explosive Child

Do you feel like your child is out of control? Does your child often respond to problems by crying, screaming, swearing, hitting, etc? If you’ve tried everything and nothing seems to work, please get your hands on this book.

This compassionate, thoughtful, and practical book will give you the roadmap you need to diffuse these destructive behaviors in the moment and prevent them from happening in the future.

Dr. Greene will help you understand why traditional parenting methods of punishment and rewards don’t work with explosive children and what to do instead.

2. Live Love Now

By Rachel Macy StaffordLive Love Now

In Live Love Now, New York Times bestselling author Rachel Macy Stafford tackles the biggest challenges facing kids today and equips adults to engage them with humanness and heart, compassion and honesty to discover the deep, life-giving connection everyone is longing for.

What do young people need now more than ever? Adults who are Truth-tellers not taskmasters. Encouragers not enforcers. Guides not half-listeners. The good news is, it’s not too late! No matter what’s happened in the past, you can help the kids you love face the top stressors of today, including academic pressure, parental expectations, technoference, lack of purpose, isolation, and loneliness.

Whether you’re a parent, educator, older sibling, coach, or anyone in a role of leading young people, Rachel Macy Stafford will help you meet the goal of raising and guiding young people to become resilient, compassionate, and capable adults.


3. Positive Discipline: The Classic Guide to Helping Children Develop Self-Discipline, Responsibility, Cooperation, and Problem-Solving Skills

Positive Discipline

By Jane Nelsen, Ed.D.

Jane Nelsen is the mother of  Positive Discipline – the books, training and methodology based on the work of Alfred Adler, MD.

Jane’s background as a psychologist, educator and mother of seven make her a trusted voice in parenting. In this book (and in all the books authored and co-authored by Jane) she shares practical strategies to help parents and teachers be both kind and firm, loving and consistent.

The key to Positive Discipline is not punishment, she tells us, but mutual respect. Jane will teach you strategies to get compliance from your children while still saving their dignity.


4. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

By Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D.

Mindset New Psychology

After a quick search of the title, you may be thinking, “Wait a second! That’s not a parenting book!” Before you stop reading, my friend, let’s get something straight: parenting, like most things in life, is all about mindset.

If YOU want to be a successful parent and you want to raise successful kids, then this book has EVERYTHING to do with parenting.

In this brilliant book, Dr. Dweck shows how success in almost every human endeavor (parenting included) can be dramatically influenced by how we think about our talents and abilities.

People with a fixed mindset–those who believe that abilities are fixed–are less likely to flourish than those with a growth mindset–those who believe that abilities can be developed. This must-read book reveals how great parents and teachers can put this idea to use to foster outstanding accomplishment in their kids.

5. How to Do It Now Because It’s Not Going Away

By Leslie Josel

how to do it now because it isn't going awayOur dear friend Leslie Josel (founder of Order Out of Chaos) developed the must-have guide for parents who struggle helping kids push through the roadblock of PROCRASTINATION.

Procrastination is especially tough for young adults. Getting started is overwhelming, it’s hard to get motivated, not knowing how long things take messes up planning, and distractions are everywhere.

We are all wired to put things off, but we can learn tools and techniques to kick this habit. This book is a user-friendly guide to help teens get their tasks done. Simple, straightforward, and with a touch of humor, this book is packed with practical solutions and easily digestible tips to stay on top of homework, develop a sense of time, manage digital distractions, create easy-to-follow routines, and get unstuck.

In her breezy, witty style, internationally recognized academic and parenting coach Leslie Josel opens the door to a student’s view of procrastination, dives deep into what that really looks like, and offers up her Triple Ts―tips, tools and techniques―to teach students how to get stuff done…now.


6. The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing MindWhole Brain Child

By Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, M.D.

By understanding what’s happening in your child’s brain, Dr. Siegel and Dr. Bryson give you strategies that work with your child’s brain instead of against it. By implementing these 12 strategies, you’ll help foster healthy brain development which leads to calmer, happier children.

Complete with age-appropriate strategies for dealing with day-to-day struggles and illustrations that will help you explain these concepts to your child, The Whole-Brain Child shows you how to cultivate healthy emotional and intellectual development so that your children can lead balanced, meaningful, and connected lives.


7. Middle School Makeover middle school makeover

By Michelle Icard

This little book is a must-have guide for parents and educators who want to help the tweens in their lives navigate the socially fraught hallways, gyms, and cafeterias of middle school.

Michelle helps parents, teachers, and other adults in middle school settings understand the social dilemmas and other issues that kids today face.

She covers a large range of topics, beginning with helping us understand what is happening in the brains of tweens and how these neurological development affects decision-making and questions around identity. She also addresses social media, dating, and peer exclusion.

Using both recent research and her personal, extensive experience working with middle-school-aged kids and their parents, Icard offers readers concrete and practical advice for guiding children through this chaotic developmental stage while also building their confidence.

NEW FROM MICHELLE IN 2021! On February 23, 2021, Michelle is releasing her brand-new book 14 Talks by Age 14: The Essential Conversations You Need to Have with Your Kids Before They Start High School. This book is another must-read for all parents who want to equip their teens with the skills they need to grow into capable and responsible adults. Pre-Order your copy today!


8. The Conscious Parent: Transforming Ourselves, Empowering Our ChildrenConscious Parent

By Dr. Shefali Tsabary

In this book, Dr. Tsabary helps parents get in tune with their own psychological and emotional awareness. By encouraging parents to look in the mirror, Tsabary helps parents understand why it’s important to be conscious of our own histories in order to pass along a positive wholeness to our children.

This book serves as a holistic approach to parenting, rather than a quick fix, but will help parents and children engage in a mutually loving relationship rather than a hierarchical one.


9. Oh Crap! Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to Do It Once and Do It RightOH Crap Potty Training

By Jamie Glowacki

Jamie is my go-to gal for all things potty training.  Her no-nonsense approach to potty training is effective and informative, humorous and heartfelt. Jamie is a mama and social worker who has been there and helped thousands of parents cheer their toddler onto success in the bathroom.

Using no bribes and no gimmicks, Jamie can help you wave farewell to the diapers in your life for good!


10. How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will TalkTalk Kids Listen

By Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

This gem is a must-read for any parent who frequently finds themselves in the throes of a power struggle. This book is easy-to-read and packed with practical steps you can take to resolve conflict and improve cooperation from your children.

Filled with exact scripts and real-life examples, you’ll learn how to talk with your kids in a way that diffuses their anger and allows you to reconnect with their sweet, loving side.


11. Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live TooSiblings Without Rivalry

By Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

Adele and Elaine bring sound wisdom again in this second book! As parents themselves, they were determined to help their children get along. The result was Siblings Without Rivalry.
With the help of scripts and cartoons, they teach you how to manage the competition in a way that feels fair to all children.

This book offers practical strategies to improve cooperation among your children and reduce feelings of competition – all while helping your children connect to build lifelong friendships.


12. Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for LifePeaceful Parent Happy Siblings

By Dr. Laura Markham

I couldn’t choose my favorite book on Sibling Rivalry, so I had to include them both! Popular parenting expert Dr. Laura Markham tackles one of the greatest struggles parents face: sibling rivalry.

In this book, she shares strategies to improve the relationship between your children by equipping you with tools and scripts to use in the heat of the moment.

You’ll learn how to decrease the competition in your home and how to foster a loving, supportive bond between siblings.


13. The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed Gift of Failure

By Jessica Lahey

This book is a must-read for any parent of school-aged children! While many parents tout their desire to raise responsible, resilient, and independent adults, Jessica argues modern parenting strategies inhibit our progress towards this goal.

In this beautifully written manifesto, Jessica challenges the idea that we need to deliver the forgotten homework or try to resolve our kids’ friendship troubles.

She explains that even though overprotective parents see themselves as being highly responsive to their child’s well being, they are prohibiting their child from learning to solve problems on their own.

To help parents adjust their over-responsive tendencies, Lahey lays out a blueprint for handling homework, report cards, social dynamics, and sports. Most importantly, she sets forth a plan to help parents learn to step back and embrace their children’s failures.

14. Parenting Apart: How Separated and Divorced Parents Can Raise Happy and Secure KidsParenting Apart

By Christina McGhee

Oh, sweet friend. If you are co-parenting or parenting apart from your ex, you NEED this book. This is the book every child of divorce wishes their parents would read!

Christina tackles all of the biggest issues of divorce and separation and helps you make a game plan for parenting your kids. You’ll learn:

  • How and when to tell the children about the divorce
  • How to guide children through family change
  • How to help children cope with having two homes
  • Deal with finances
  • Manage a difficult relationship with an ex
  • And more so much more!

This book is relevant no matter what age your children are!


15. The Sleep Lady’s Good Night, Sleep Tight: Gentle Proven Solutions to Help your Child Sleep Well and Wake Up HappySleep Lady Good Night Sleep Tight

By Kim West, LCSW-C with Joanne Kenen

Are you losing sleep over your bedtime routine? Don’t worry, The Sleep Lady has got you covered from infants to bigger kids. This step-by-step guide helps you tackle even the toughest bedtime struggles so you and your children can get the sleep you need, without any of the frustration leading up to it.

Having helped thousands of parents tackle the bedtime routine, The Sleep Lady is a trusted resource in the world of sleep training.


16. UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me WorldUnselfie

By Dr. Michele Borba

Dr. Borba tells us that teens today are forty percent less empathetic than they were thirty years ago. She argues that this lack of empathy hurts kids’ academic performance, leads to more bullying, and correlates with more cheating and less resilience. But don’t worry, not all hope is lost.

In this book, she offers a step-by-step plan to increase empathy in your children.

Empathy is a trait that can be taught and nurtured and Dr. Borba will teach you just how to do it, so that you can raise successful, happy kids who also are kind, moral, courageous, and resilient.


17. No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate GirlsNo More Mean Girls

By Katie Hurley

In this self-promoting, digital age we live in, it’s incredibly difficult to raise daughters who are able to confidently separate themselves from society’s views of who they should be. When girls feel insecure and devalued, these feelings often manifest in ways that put other girls down instead of lifting them up.

Luckily, Katie provides actionable steps to help parents empower young girls to be kind, confident leaders who work together and build each other up.

Katie will help you and your daughter navigate this consumer-world so she can discern what positive traits she can offer this world. By empowering your daughter to focus on her strengths, you’ll increase her self-confidence and ability to lead other girls well.

 


I hope this list helps you sort through the millions of parenting books on the shelves and that you’ll find them helpful! These authors and teachers are incredibly wise, and you can trust that they are offering sound advice. I’ve also written a couple books that could be helpful to you, too!


The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic: A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled WorldMe Me Me Epidemic

In today’s 24/7, often over-stimulated, over-indulged, can’t get enough culture – many parents struggle to find the means to not only say “no” – but to connect with their kids in a way that allows them to better learn to be RESPECTFUL, RESPONSIBLE, and READY to meet a world where frankly, it’s NOT all about them.

 

In this book, I outline the step-by-step strategies for empowering your kids without indulging them. Fueling their spirit – not just funding their wish-lists. Building bonds that can last a lifetime. Fostering compassion for others, rather than focusing on themselves. And parenting in powerfully positive, proactive, life-changing ways.


If I Have to Tell You One More Time…: The Revolutionary Program that Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling

Tell you one more time

In this best-selling book, I point to one of the all-time great paradoxes of parenting: giving our children more power–not less–can put an end to power struggles in the home.

Drawing on Adlerian psychology, I explain that every human being has a basic need to feel powerful–with children being no exception to the rule. And when this need isn’t met in positive ways, kids will resort to negative methods, which often result in some of the most frustrating behavior they exhibit.

Inside these pages you’ll find step-by-step tools and instructions to diffuse the power struggles in your home!

If, after reading through some of these books, you’re still looking for answers, I’d encourage you to join us for a free online class and learn how to get your kids to listen without nagging, reminding, or yelling! We are always here to help you on your parenting journey!

5 Positive Parenting Techniques You Can Use in 2021

Mom Throwing Kid in Air
Mom Throwing Kid in Air

Mom Throwing Kid in Air

It’s the moment parents know all too well: the moment where the energy in your house totally shifts.

All was calm until you handed breakfast to your toddler on the ever-so-controversial blue plate. You know, the one he liked YESTERDAY. Somehow overnight, everything you thought you knew about your child was suddenly wrong –  “I want my sandwich in triangles not rectangles!” or “I want the green cup not the red one!” or “I hate those socks!!”

“What happened to my sweet child?” you wonder.

As the energy in the house escalates and it appears your child is willing to fall on his sword over every little request, you lose it. After all, his requests make no sense to an adult, and because they don’t make logical sense, your only response is rage – “STOP YELLING!” you scream.

“JUST EAT OFF THE BLUE PLATE!” you yell.

“IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT SHAPE YOUR SANDWICH IS IN!” you exclaim.

And then in a moment of clarity, it hits you – you yelled at your child to stop yelling. The phrase “Do as I say, not as I do,”  has never held so much weight.

Oh, friend. I’ve been there and I know those feelings all too well.

As a former yeller, I remember going to bed hoarse and defeated many nights until I decided there MUST be a better way. After years of studying Positive Parenting and Adlerian Psychology, I created a toolbox of strategies that completely transformed my family.

After seeing the effects firsthand, I knew I had to share this positive parenting philosophy and the corresponding discipline strategies with parents worldwide. The results continue to be astonishing.

The list of techniques below will help you see misbehavior in a different light. There is a full Toolbox of strategies that go along with these techniques, but this list will give you a great start to begin seeing a remarkable difference in your home.

 

1. Get to the Root of the Behavior

Positive parenting experts worldwide can agree on this: there is always something motivating a child’s negative or disruptive behavior.

So that tantrum over the blue plate? It wasn’t a random display of poor judgment –  it was motivated by something intrinsically in your child. Whether that was a lack of skills in managing his big feelings, a desire to get your attention, or a power play to assert his free will – there’s always a reason for the behavior. (Even if he doesn’t realize it – and most times he doesn’t!)

The thing to remember is the behavior itself is simply the symptom. Our challenge as parents is figuring out what’s really underneath that frustrating behavior.

It would make things MUCH easier if your child could simply say, “Mommy, I would really like some one-on-one attention with you when I have you all to myself. Is there a time we can do that this evening?” But we all know this is an absurd expectation. So instead, children push our buttons as a way to gain our attention, albeit negative. Because the truth is, if a child doesn’t receive our attention in positive ways, (when they don’t have to beg for or demand it) they will find ways to get any attention they can, even it’s negative.

Picture yourself as a detective. When a child begins to act out, ask yourself “What is this child trying to accomplish through his actions?”  If he had the verbal skills and emotional awareness, “What would he be trying to tell me with this behavior?

Once you identify the root cause of the issue, you can become a more PROACTIVE parent and preempt the outbursts from happening in the first place.

For example, imagine you have to take an important call but while you’re on the phone, your children decide it’s a great time to start a wrestling match. While still trying to sound engaged in the phone conversation, you give your kids the “if you don’t stop this right now I’m going to lose it when I’m done” look – but to no avail.  You continue with the non-verbal shushing as you run from one room to the next searching for quiet, but the wrestling match seems to follow you. It’s exhausting. And by the end of the phone call you feel like you just ran 5 miles.

The goal behind that wrestling match – that just happened to start the minute you got on the phone – was most likely intended to get your attention and push your buttons. They knew you were trapped on the phone and unable to intervene, so it became the perfect time to act up, getting your attention in negative ways. Use this as a learning experience and now PROACTIVELY PREPARE for the next time you need to take a call.

20 minutes before your phone call, say to your kiddos, “Hey guys, mommy has to get on the phone in 20 minutes. Before I do that, I would LOVE to play a game with you all!”

During those 20 minutes leading up to the call, give your children undivided attention. You can give them reminders leading up to the call like “Wow! I love playing games with you. Once mommy is finished with her call, I’d love to play again!”

When it comes time for the call, give your children a choice – “Mommy needs to get on her call now. Would you like to watch a show or play quietly with your legos while I’m on the phone?”

Also give them a way to “tell you something” if something they view as urgent comes up while you’re on the call.  Leave a pad of paper nearby so they write or draw whatever they wanted to tell you as soon as your call is finished.

Chances are that if you fill their attention buckets ahead of time and lay out clear expectations, your children will be much better behaved the next time you need to take a call.

Note: For Positive Parenting Solutions Members, learn how to use the Attention Overload Tool in Lesson #31 in Session 4 to fend off all sorts of power struggles.

 

2. Be Consistent

While parents intellectually understand the importance of consistency, the truth is, life happens – school is canceled, plans change, additions are made to the calendar last-minute. While we can’t always control life happening, it’s best to maintain consistent routines, schedules, and expectations in your home the majority of the time.

How is your morning routine? If your children are expected to make their beds, brush their teeth and get dressed before eating breakfast, then maintain this routine every day.

PRO TIP: Maintain the SAME schedule on weekends and holidays. That way, you won’t have to experience the backslide that comes on Monday morning!  

Do you maintain firm technology “policies?”  What happens if your kids don’t respect your family rules for technology?  To be the positive parent you strive to be, it’s essential that technology rules are clearly communicated and that kids know the consequence if those rules are broken. If kids refuse or “forget” to turn off the video game when time is up, follow through each and every time with the previously discussed consequence. When parents are consistent with the rules and consequences, kids are much less likely to push the limits.

If you’re experiencing a lot of nagging and negotiating from your child because of inconsistency in the past, you can end it with 3 simple words, and get back on track.

Note: For Positive Parenting Solutions course members, refer to Session 3, Lessons 25 & 26 for everything you need to know about implementing effective consequences in your home. Also review the advanced training module included in your enrollment:  The Family Technology Contract.

 

Join Amy for a FREE class

3. Say No to Rewards

Parents who are unfamiliar with positive parenting techniques are often surprised when I discourage them from using rewards. After all, rewards sound positive, but the truth is they do more harm than good and can lead to a major dose of entitlement down the road.  

Parenting is a marathon, not a sprint. When making discipline decisions for your kids, it’s important to keep your long-term goals in mind. Rewards are ineffective because they only offer short-term gain.

Think about it..maybe today you rewarded your child with a cookie for behaving well in the grocery store, but what will she expect next time? At least one cookie, right? Maybe even two? Will a similar reward be expected during the next doctor’s office visit or trip to the mall?  

Or perhaps you bribed your picky eater to eat their vegetables by offering ice cream for dessert? Now that he knows vegetables can be sold for the price of ice cream, it only makes sense he would hold out on eating his greens until he’s offered ice cream or another equally appealing sweet reward.

Using rewards as a bargaining chip for the desired behavior is a slippery slope to an attitude of entitlement.

Further, many studies have shown that kids who are rewarded actually lose interest in the activity they’re being rewarded for – coloring, reading, practicing piano, doing their homework, etc. Hold your ground, my friend, children don’t need rewards to behave appropriately.

Related: When Treats Turn Sour: 3 Things to do Instead of Offering Rewards

 

4. Focus on what you can control – YOURSELF

Oh my friends, this one is tough, especially in the heat of the moment. But, if you remember that there’s always a REASON for the behavior AND your children have free will, then you can begin to respond appropriately.

After all, there is a level of emotional freedom that is found when parents realize “I can’t always control my kids, but I can control my responses.”

Sure, some parents might be able to scare their kids into behaving properly or threaten punishment to achieve a short-sighted goal, but at the end of the day – each child will grow into an adult who has full control over their life decisions.

So instead of overpowering children, or bribing, or shaming them into making good decisions, I encourage parents to reframe their perception of the child. Instead of thinking of him as a misbehaving child, view him as a little person who simply hasn’t been equipped with the right tools to behave appropriately in a given situation. By doing this, parents will be better prepared to handle the misbehaviors.

One way parents can control their responses is to decide what you’re willing to do AHEAD OF TIME. This works great for getting kids to take on responsibilities they’re perfectly capable of or you nag them about, but they normally just don’t do – emptying backpacks or lunchboxes, putting laundry in the hamper, cleaning up toys, etc.

Let’s use lunchboxes as an example.

Start by deciding what you’re willing to do, and what age-appropriate responsibility needs to be on your kids’ shoulders.

In a calm moment, reveal in advance, “I’m happy to make you a lunch every morning for school, as long as your lunchbox has been emptied out, and it’s on the shelf in the pantry or on the counter. If the lunchboxes are clean and in their place, I’m happy to make your lunch. If it’s not cleaned out or not in its place, it’ll be up to you to make your own lunch.”

Then ask, “Is there anything you’d like to do to help yourself remember to unload your lunchbox and put it in the pantry?” (He might want to make a sign in pictures or words to remind himself since you will not be reminding.)

And of course – make sure everyone has a clear understanding:  “Just so we’re on the same page, can you repeat back to me your responsibility for lunchboxes and what I’ve decided I will do about making lunches?”

At this point, you’ve trained and empowered your child, you’ve revealed what could happen, and you’ve told your child what you are willing to do.

The next step is to follow through. This part will be hard – but please don’t remind them or nag them – otherwise this becomes YOUR problem again.  If the lunchbox is clean and on the shelf – great, you’ll make the lunch. If not, it will make a wonderful learning opportunity for next time.

When you can proactively PREPARE  your responses to potentially sticky situations and clearly COMMUNICATE  your expectations beforehand, you’ll find yourself having to react to situations in the heat of the moment less frequently.

 

5. Discipline, Don’t Punish

One of the biggest differentiators between positive parenting techniques and other parenting methods is the focus on discipline over punishment.

Discipline means “to train by instruction and exercise” while punish means “to inflict a penalty for (an offense, fault, etc.)” or “to handle severely or roughly.”

By teaching our children the appropriate ways to behave without using blame, shame and pain forms of punishment, we equip and empower them to be competent and capable young adults.

When you are considering a response to an offense – just like with rewards – think long-term.

Does sending a child to time-out as punishment really help change a behavior?

Does spanking a child for hitting a sibling encourage a child to stop hitting?

In both examples, I’d argue the answer is “no.” Sure, time-out and spanking may seem to be effective in the short term, but if kids aren’t taught (aka disciplined) on how to behave appropriately, parents inadvertently put a band-aid on a long-term problem.

Related: How to Discipline Your Child

Final Thoughts

Parenting is hard, I get it. But with the right tools I believe that all parents can truly become the parents they’ve always dreamed of being.

If you’d like to learn even more positive parenting strategies, I’d be honored if you’d join me for a FREE ONLINE CLASS.

I’ll teach you how to get your kids to listen without nagging, reminding or yelling. With a little hard work and consistency, you can start seeing changes today!

6 Parenting Resolutions You Can Keep in 2021

Boy Holding Sparkler
Boy Holding Sparkler

Little boy holding sparklers
You’ve probably never been more ready to say good-bye to a year than you are to say farewell to 2020.

So with the most enthusiasm you can muster, to start 2021 afresh, you’ve purchased a new online gym membership or meal planning service. Or maybe you’ve decided THIS is going to be the year you finally get out of debt or you resolved to finish the degree you started several years ago.

And while I’m cheering you on for those resolutions and I want you to look back on 2021 as the year you finally followed through on your important intentions, might I suggest you add something different to your list this year?

A resolution that will impact your family for years to come. A resolution that will bring peace and joy into your home in ways you’ve never experienced. A resolution that will reconnect you with your children in a meaningful way.

This, sweet friends, is a resolution you can keep: Become the parent you’ve always wanted to be in 2021.

In order to make that resolution a reality, I want to share 6 practical things you can start doing today. This isn’t a resolution about doing MORE, but rather a resolution about doing BETTER – both better for you and better for your children.

You CAN become the parent you’ve always dreamed of being. Don’t let the gym memberships or new workout routines or financial goals be the only resolutions you make this year.

Resolve to be the best you can for the most important people in your life. Resolve to make these 6 changes today and I guarantee you’ll enter 2021 with undeniable confidence as a parent.
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4 Ways to Celebrate the Season Without Breeding Entitlement

young boy dreaming about christmas in a santa hat

You sit at the kitchen table with your 8-year-old son, watching as he joyously fills out his holiday wish list. You love seeing the gleam in his sweet eyes as he scribbles out his heart’s desires.

Of course, you aren’t new to this whole parenting thing. You’ve been here before–just last year, in fact–and you know with every passing minute, his list is getting longer and longer.

And more expensive.

Not to mention, he doesn’t need everything on it. He wants it. And there is a very big difference between giving him something he needs and something he wants. 

Of course, it is the season of giving, and you do want to make the holidays as memorable as possible. Plus, is there anything better than seeing his face light up as he opens his presents?

But you’re also concerned with giving him too much. After all, you know there’s a fine line between gifting and spoiling, and sometimes that line can seem razor thin. 

Whether it’s the toddler requesting a sucker for good grocery store etiquette or the teenager expecting cold hard cash for good grades, everywhere you look it seems entitlement is abounding. 

Trust me, this particular predicament is no walk in the park, but I can assure you that it’s absolutely common. So common, in fact, I’ve even written a book about it! And I’d be delighted to share some tips on how you can celebrate the holiday season without having to worry about breeding entitlement in your child.

It may sound tricky, but I promise you can do it. Using these 4 tips, you’ll be sure to have the holiday season you’ve been dreaming of–with a capable and grateful child enjoying it right along with you.

1. Give Back

So often, when it comes to the holidays, we tend to get caught up in the hustle and bustle that comes with the season. In non-pandemic years, we cart our children from pageants to parades. We drive around looking at Christmas lights and decorate beautiful trees in the middle of our living rooms. And let’s not forget the biggest expense of our time–gift giving!

‘Tis the season, after all.

However, amidst the chaos, it can be easy to forget that when we give, someone else receives. And when it comes to our children, it’s crucial that we make sure there’s a proper balance in place. Because if you’re only giving and they’re only receiving, you may be on the fast track to entitlement, dear friend.

So what can you do? Simple! Give them the opportunity to give back!

Charity

This time of year, you don’t have to look far to find a list of worthy and admirable charities to contribute to. These can be anything from local groups (like a soup kitchen or food pantry) to worldwide organizations.

To get your kids involved, there are a few routes you can go. 

If maintaining distance is your most important factor, have your kids set aside a portion of their allowance for charitable giving, and let them choose which organization they’d like to send it to. (Hint, hint–you can do this all year long!)

Otherwise, if your kids are super hands-on and love working with others, sign them up to serve food at the local shelter or become bell ringers for The Salvation Army.

And don’t forget, they can always give back by giving to other kids! The Angel Tree program is a wonderful way to do this and trees can be found in most cities in the US. All your kids need to do is find a tree, select an ornament, and head to the store, ready to buy the items listed for a child in need.

Involve Them in the Gift-Giving Process

Outside of charity, another amazing way you can instill the value of giving over receiving is to make sure your kids are actually involved in the gifting process.

That means, instead of adding their names to the gift tag on the box, take them shopping for the actual gift, whether in-person or online!

Ask questions like, What do you think Grandma would like this year? What do you think of when you think of your sister? What can we give your dad to bring him joy?

Not only are you going to get a great deal of help with the holiday shopping this year, but you’ll be giving your kids a huge dose of positive power by showing interest in their ideas and letting them make some decisions.

The bottom line? The holidays are a two-way street. We receive AND we give.

me me me epidemic

2. Make a Gratitude List

Let’s be honest. When it comes to the holiday season, most kids probably have only one list in mind. And while there’s nothing wrong with having them write down what gifts they’d like to receive this year, if you want to avoid entitlement, I have a better list for you to give them. 

A gratitude list.

Gratitude is an easy enough concept to grasp, yet so tricky to execute. Sure, making a list of all the things we have to be thankful for doesn’t seem like a daunting task, but actually taking the time to do so throws a wrench into more carefree holiday plans.

That’s where the list comes in. Because, when they write out a gratitude list, they naturally think about what they’re grateful for. They slow down and think about every item, committing it to memory. 

It’s a wonderful task for parents and an equally wonderful task for children. So why not do it together?

Look at your family’s schedule and carve out a time when you can sit down and make your lists. These can be private or shared; it’s up to each family member individually. 

Then, get writing. Really think it through and ask questions!

What positive things have happened to me recently? What do I appreciate the most at this time in my life? Who in my life makes me truly happy?

Practicing gratitude comes at no cost, yet yields enormous rewards. And when you take the time to do so with your kids by your side, you’ll start to see less entitlement and more appreciation.
practicing gratitude quote

3. Create Teachable Moments

Your daughter asked why the Fourth of July was a holiday and you found an excellent opportunity to teach her about freedom. Your son noticed a man on the side of the road holding a cardboard sign and it sparked an insightful conversation about charity and the importance of helping others.

There’s no denying that every single day with our children is filled with teachable moments. You know, those little opportunities that pop up out of nowhere, giving us the chance to make a valuable lesson known to our kids. We can’t plan for them, we just have to pay attention.

Teachable moments come in all forms and appear in every situation. And if you’re looking to open your child’s worldview and end any sense of entitlement she may have building up, this is the secret sauce that’s going to get you there.

Finding these moments is especially important during the holidays!

Imagine…

Your 10-year-old son wants nothing more for the holidays than a brand new Xbox. The graphics are second to none, the games are so fun, and not to mention, “all the other fifth graders are getting one from their parents.”

But at $500, the price is simply too steep.

Sure, you could cut back on some basic necessities or skip next month’s car payment. It would certainly make him happy! But would you be doing him any favors?

Absolutely not.

Instead, think of this as a teachable moment. 

Now is the time to have a very real, very important conversation…about finances.

Does he have an allowance? Let him know if he wants something that expensive, it’s up to him to pay for it. Help him understand how he can stretch his money and save it up, keeping in mind the end goal–the Xbox!

While I don’t advocate paying kids to do jobs that are expected of them around the house (after all, you don’t get paid to do the laundry, right?), they always have the opportunity to complete additional jobs outside their normal responsibilities to earn extra cash.

For older kids, this could be mowing the neighbors’ lawns or shoveling their sidewalks. Younger kids may want to host a lemonade stand (with your help, of course).

You can always take this teachable moment above and beyond by stepping outside the confines of your own four walls. Take your son to the local shelter, VA, or soup kitchen if they have any volunteer opportunities available during the holidays. 

Not all families have the means or ability to celebrate with expensive presents, yet they still manage to find the joy of the season. Seeing this with his own two eyes would work wonders on any entitlement he may have felt.

4. More Presence. Less Presents.

Let’s face it. Holiday consumerism is a tough beast to avoid. It seems everywhere you (or your children) look, another advertisement is hidden in plain sight, tempting you with the latest and greatest gadget, device, toy–whatever!

So why wouldn’t your daughter feel entitled to receive a brand new American Girl doll this year? The commercial told her she deserved one!

If this is something you and your children are wrestling with this year, I’d like to suggest a more simplified approach to help reduce the allure of buying endless gifts.

More presence. Less presents.

First of all, turn off the television, radio, and social media and step away for a little while. They have temptation written all over them.

Then, actively choose to buy fewer presents this year. Now, I’m not suggesting you don’t buy any presents–it is the season of giving, after all–just not as many as you may have in the past. 

One great option is to abide by the Four Gift Rule.

Instead of buying every item on your child’s wish list, stick to these four: something they want, something they need, something they wear, and something they read. Simple! 

Also, don’t forget to be mindful in your giving. As any parent knows, one super meaningful gift from the heart will outlast ten meaningless ones.

And, as always, you can never, ever go wrong with the greatest gift of all–your time! 

Now, you may be thinking, Ha! Amy, why don’t you try telling that to my 16-year-old? 

But I promise you, this truly is a gift worth giving. Even if you have to give it in a more roundabout way.

Because even teenagers benefit from a little one-on-one time–or as my fellow Positive Parenting Solutions members call it: Mind, Body, and Soul Time.

Would your 16-year-old enjoy a day at the spa with Mom? Would your 5-year-old be delighted with a day at the zoo? Pick something fun to do (together!) and turn it into a gift!

Not only will you be giving away the gift of your time and attention, but you’ll also be adding in a wonderful experience. It’s a two-for-one kind of deal! 

Final Thoughts

When all you hear from your kids is “Me, me, me,” or “gimme, gimme, gimme,” it can take a huge chunk of joy out of the holiday season. No parent wants to raise an entitled child, and I truly believe no parent intends to, either.

Fortunately, help is always a mouse click away. If you’re currently deep in the trenches of parenting entitled children, terrified of what the holidays will bring about, then you’ve come to the right place.

These four tips are simple, but so, so effective! Read them carefully, implement them into your holiday season, and stymie any sense of holiday entitlement present in your household–for good!

Best Parenting Products of 2021: 9 Tools to Make Your Life Easier

Baby in Shopping Cart
Baby in Shopping Cart

Little Asian girl staring into the window of a store front

I’m going to be honest, this isn’t your average parenting product review post. While you can scour the internet to find the elusive spill-proof sippy cup that actually works, or spend hours finding the best deal on educational video games for your teens, I’m here to tell you about products that will enhance your parenting skills and help bring peace into your home.

These are products I find myself recommending over and over again to parents during coaching calls or in our private members-only Facebook group. These tools help make your routines run more smoothly, improve cooperation from your kiddos and most importantly, make YOUR life easier!

Our mission at Positive Parenting Solutions is to equip parents with the tools to get kids to listen without nagging, yelling or losing control.

And while we have helped transform thousands of families, this does not diminish the fact that there are many great resources on the market to assist parents in their positive parenting journey.

All of these products are “Amy approved” and come with my biggest stamp of approval.

 

Here’s my Top 9 List of Positive Parenting Products: Read More

The Truth About Santa–and 4 Ways to Keep His Magic Alive

Santa playing with little girl around tree
Santa playing with little girl around tree

Santa playing with little girl around tree
 

Amy’s Note: I know how personal Santa is to you and your family. My intention isn’t to pass judgment, encourage one belief over another, or step on any toes. For those of you that have introduced Santa to your kids, or are considering it, these are simply ideas to transition away from a storybook Santa–whenever the time is right–and embrace a lifetime of actionable kindness and generosity. 

To millions around the world, the holiday season is incomplete without a jovial, resonant “Ho Ho Ho.” 

Santa Claus isn’t just a Christmas icon. Various countries and cultures have adopted the concept of Kris Kringle and run with it.

Any belief in Santa is deeply personal and can be presented and discussed however parents and caregivers choose. 

But if Santa has become part of your family’s traditions, there comes a time when kids learn who’s really making the gift list and checking it twice. 

As is true with the majority of positive parenting strategies I teach, the most effective way to navigate conversations about Santa is to take a proactive approach. 

So, while children are still whimsically wrapped up in Mr. Claus, here are tips to gently prepare them for the inevitable, big reveal.

Lay the “Christmas Spirit” Groundwork Early On

Many kids grow up entrenched in the idea of Santa. Babies are cuddled in his arms and toddlers sit on his giant, welcoming lap. Kids smile earnestly–or cry just as intensely–for the photo op. 

From our earliest Christmases, we know the old man in red works wonders. He has reindeer and a sleigh that circumnavigate the globe in a day. He automatically knows who’s been naughty and nice. And, he’s the keeper of the most coveted gifts. 

These visions of Santa make the holidays fun for kids and adults alike. The younger kids are, the more we can lean into these concepts and watch the wonder unfold. 

However, as wonderful as it is to delve into the magic, we can also lay the foundation for a future, longer-lasting Santa. Even as we line our kids up for photos and create cotton-ball beards, we can gently redirect them towards his character instead of his toy sack.

This way, when kids soon discover that nothing short of time travel can transport a person to that many houses in one night, they’ll have the spirit of Santa to inspire them in new ways.

Before the truth comes out, here are a few areas to focus on…

Emphasize Santa’s Kindness and Hard Work

One day, Santa won’t be landing on powdery-white rooftops. He’ll be a next-door neighbor helping your teenager shovel snow for the shared cul-de-sac. 

Another day soon, Santa won’t be gobbling up cookies on coffee tables. He’ll be volunteering with your family at the food shelter on Christmas Eve.

Santa, in essence, can be anyone who works hard to make a difference. 

The idea is, when we accentuate all the good things Santa does for people around the world, our kids can better comprehend the Christmas spirit: an attitude and moral code that can transcend all religions and traditions. It’s something your slightly older child will really be able to get behind.

In short, it’s never too soon to teach the true meaning of the holidays. When your kids’ visions of Santa and sugar plums are combined with true Christmas spirit, they won’t feel such a loss when the magic fades.

How the grinch stole christmas quote

Once our kids understand the true spirit of Santa, it’s also important to…

Abandon Naughty and Nice (and an Emphasis on Material Gifts)

If we want to accentuate the Christmas spirit, it’s also time to deviate from “naughty or nice.” 

While your kids are still young and believers in Santa, consider creating an environment where Santa doesn’t judge. An atmosphere that isn’t about give-and-take. 

Naughty behavior isn’t acceptable around the holidays or any time of year. But that doesn’t mean we should promise gift rewards for commendable behavior — especially when kids are told that Santa and his elves monitor their behavior and actions non-stop. 

Some kids latch on to Santa’s Big Brother tendencies to spy. Although he’s a lovable spy–the white-haired 007 type–it’s still discouraging, especially for kids who struggle with impulse control.

It may be awesome that Santa can do practically anything, but it’s equally intimidating that he can see and hear everything.

This sense of demoralization, especially for children who struggle to make appropriate choices, isn’t going to keep them from acting out less. In fact, it may increase bad behavior

And any subsequent good behavior will be carefully calculated on earning back gifts.  

Your kids will think, “If I don’t make Mommy and Daddy mad today, or most of the day tomorrow, I’ll probably still get my favorite gifts on Christmas morning!”


Join Amy for a free class

 

To be fair, it’s not really their fault–kids are practically trained to focus on what Santa will bring them each Christmas. But this sense of rewards, entitlement, and materialism is not what we want them focused on. 

Using gifts as a ploy for good behavior may seem expedient and practical for parents. But it misdirects kids from the true meaning of the holidays. It also creates a power struggle and a scenario in which parents are unlikely to follow through (you’re probably still going to give them presents, aren’t you?). 

It’s far kinder to find other ways to help our kids behave appropriately, and let Santa remain a jolly old elf.

Even after equipping your kids with long-term skills for better behavior, it can still be tough when they learn that Santa had nothing to do with any of it.

If you’re worried your child will feel deceived…

Explore Any Concerns About “Lying”

Sadly, it’s true; some kids are devastated when they read the fine print. They glom onto the fact their parents lied about Santa.

There’s no way to completely control how a child will react when learning who really delivers the presents. However, it’s a less earth-shaking surprise when parents regularly emphasize the tangible, real-world actions that bring Christmas cheer. 

If Santa is the Christmas spirit, and the Christmas spirit is kindness in action, then maybe Santa IS real?

This could be the truth you choose to emphasize all throughout their Santa-believing days.

If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of lying about Santa to your kids, then don’t. Omit more frivolous details, try not to emphasize them, or respond with questions like, “What do the stories say?” or “What do you think?” when your kids ask for answers. And don’t promote Santa at all if it feels disingenuous. 

Instead, consider telling your kids that some parents play a game where they pretend Santa brings presents. Ask if they’d like to play too. 

Teaching kids to love and to give through the concept of Santa Claus is always a choice. It’s your call whether–and how–to do it.

Now that you’ve laid the groundwork for the Santa-believing kid in your life, here are a few ways to gently spill the beans about Santa when the time comes (while still keeping the magic alive). 

1. Emphasize the Freedom of Belief

The world is all the more fascinating with its eclectic traditions. And it’s truly a gift when everyone can celebrate the holidays in their unique, special ways. 

Explaining that traditions and beliefs often vary by family helps kids transition to a new level of understanding of Santa Claus. They’ll learn there is more than one way to look at things. They can determine what they wish to see and what works for them.

But kids also need to understand their beliefs may not be held by others. 

Viewing Santa through a black and white lens can lead to that “belief-system let-down” we prefer to avoid. When other kids present opposing views, or we, as parents, pull back the curtain, we don’t want them to feel misled. 

We want them to feel enlightened.

Reminding our kids that everyone chooses their beliefs–including how they choose to view Santa–leaves room for interpretation, wonder, and possibility.

2. Embody Real Magic

Once their eyes are opened to the truth, it’s easier for kids to let go of Santa when they discover he (or she) is already in the house. 

Our actions and attitudes as parents can make the small things in life special, like focusing on things we’re grateful for and finding beauty everywhere.

Every day should be full of little bits of magic–real magic–and everyday heroism. 

Start with music. Fill your car rides, bath time, and virtual schooling breaks with all the tunes that make your heart happy. Sing along, all year long! We don’t want Santa to be the only magical concept our kids encounter each year. 

Because Santa lives for giving to others, show how you choose to give to others every day. It can be something small, like making cookies for a neighbor or just making dirty dishes disappear. Let your kids learn from your examples and help, too. 

Santa also has a great work ethic. So, illustrate all the wonderful things that come from practice and effort. After a day organizing the house, hang new fairy lights in the living room to show how beautiful it can look. Or, after patiently watching a YouTube video on cake decorating, show your kids how learning something new can be rewarding, pretty, and delicious!  

And because your kids are growing up, one way to spin the Santa conversation in a positive and empowering way is to…

3. Label the New Information “Privileged Knowledge”

Many of us want to keep the idea of Santa alive as long as possible. We like witnessing the magic in our kids’ eyes. We hate to relinquish their innocence to a more complex truth. 

But often, kids learn about Santa way before we’re ready to talk.

Maybe it was know-it-all Aiden telling the kindergarten class the North Pole is just an ocean of shifting ice. Or, your 8-year-old stumbled across the Claus costume in your husband’s corner of the closet.

How you manage interrogations from suddenly upset or curious kids depends on your wishes and beliefs. It could be time to reaffirm your stance, come clean, or simply shift gears. 

But one possible conversation could go like this:

“Lily–I know you’re upset about what Aiden said. While it wasn’t his place to tell you, he wasn’t lying, either. 

Now that you’re old enough, let me share some privileged knowledge with you. 

Santa, in a big way, is always real. He may not glide the globe in a day, have a full-fledged workshop at the North Pole, or fill your stocking on Christmas Eve. But the idea of Santa reminds us all to think of others and to always give.” 

Keep in mind, literal questions like “How can Santa come into our house when we don’t have a chimney?” may indicate your children are ready–and eager–for the truth. They’re likely at a high enough cognitive level to grasp deep, multilayered concepts, and they’ll gain confidence when their questions are respected.

We can always give kids the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their reasoning and their ability to cope with loss–even grief. They can handle it (and you can too).

With a little guidance, they can also handle the responsibility of keeping the truth on the down-low… 

Keep Them From Divulging Santa Intel 

Hopefully, your kids won’t feel the need to broadcast the privileged knowledge you’ve entrusted to them. 

By harboring knowledge they’re now “grown-up enough” to process, they may even feel more important than ever. 

Still, any conversation about Santa can end with a short caveat:

“I have confidence you’ll let your friends and siblings enjoy Santa’s magic a little longer. It was a special time for you, and it’s special for them, too.”

Kids are always encouraged when we express our confidence and faith in them. And they benefit greatly from open communication

Regardless, kids might tattle about Santa to feel more important. Or, maybe they’re angry with an uncomfortable new reality. 

We can help by expressing our empathy. The more kids feel validated for their big, complicated feelings, the less they’ll feel like invalidating the feelings of others.

Regular doses of encouragement and positive attention can also lessen any desire to divulge. 

And, especially for younger kids, we can take a few minutes to practice conversations they might have with their friends or siblings, reinforcing how to not spill the beans.

Quite possibly the best way to ensure their lips stay sealed is to…

4. Light the Way to Santa-Hood

Breaking the news about Santa doesn’t need to be sad or negative. Instead, we can think of the realization as a beautiful “aha” moment. 

This fresh, optimistic insight is the chance to pass the torch of kindness and generosity without extinguishing it. And, it’s a great way to counter all the excess and expectation of the holidays

This isn’t when childhood has to come crashing down. Instead, it’s when kids realize their parents–the ones who love them the most–are the true givers. It’s when they learn the holidays are about love and altruism–not about expecting, list-making, and judgment. 

And if we want our kids to spread Christmas-like cheer all year long, invite them in to “play Santa” during this holiday season.

Let your older children take a bite out of the Santa cookies your toddler put out. Invite them to stuff stockings for their younger siblings. Encourage them to leave powdered-sugar boot prints on your driveway for Christmas morning. 

Kids will soon catch on that the behaviors they see modeled in Santa Claus, and their own loved ones, are worth emulating–which means they have the power to become the jolly old elf himself.

Final Thoughts

It may feel like letting your kids in on the Santa secret is the end of something magical. But it’s really a wonderful beginning. Take this beautiful opportunity to tell your kids it’s their turn to embody the Christmas spirit. 

It’s not just about passing out gifts on Christmas morning. It’s a special, lifelong chance to spread kindness and joy. And it doesn’t have to be wrapped.

We want them to feel fortunate to be a part of this–the true magic of the season.