parenting

5 Ways to Help Kids Face Their Fears

girl hiding under coversgirl hiding under covers

girl hiding under covers

It’s the peace and quiet of children finally sleeping. But mid-way through your exhaled sigh of relief, you hear a tiny voice chirping. “Mom! Dad! I’m scared!”

It’s nothing new–over the years, you’ve checked for monsters under the bed, velociraptors in the closet, aliens outside the window, and a giant, creepy clown that supposedly visits your child’s room at night.

Even your best detective skills have never turned up anything more than a couple of dust bunnies and a missing sock. 

Still, your kiddo remains doubtful. 

Because…what if?

Common childhood fears aren’t limited to nighttime, of course–many kids are afraid of everything from swimming pools (what if there’s a shark in the deep end?!?) to thunderstorms (what if the lightning gets me?!?) to spiders (can you blame them?).

Some fears may be more legitimate than others, but all are very real to your child, whether they’re two or twelve.

If there’s a fierce imaginary something plaguing your house, don’t worry: your kids don’t have to grow up unreasonably afraid of the dark, or anything else! 

(Looking for ways to encourage your kids? Our FREE list of 27 Encouraging Words and Phrases is full of helpful suggestions.)

The five strategies below will help give your child the confidence and courage to brave the bogeymen–alongside life’s weightiest, most realistic fears.

1. Validate, Rather Than Brush Off, Your Child’s Feelings

You may feel too busy, frustrated, or exhausted to talk about zombies, vampires, or any of the common antagonists of macabre fiction again. (“They’re just made-up creatures, Honey!”)

But younger children, especially, are still making sense of the world and sorting reality from fantasy. That distinction is understandably murky.

It’s our job to reassure our kiddos that certain threats are far less plausible than others (or just plain impossible), but we can accompany that assurance with a pang of empathy, too. It’s hard to be little and awash with hundreds or more images–and verbal warnings–of potential dangers each day. 

Kids aren’t silly for resorting to fight and flight while processing everything; fear first, in-depth reasoning later. (Even though you know your kid won’t get food poisoning from that bite of broccoli, he’s not so sure…)

And, of course, fear can be useful. Its purpose in survival is crystal clear. 

Rather than dismissing our children’s anxieties, it helps to respond with empathy and encouragement. 

Lending a sympathetic tone doesn’t mean playing into the anxiety or the fear. It just means we’re letting our kids know we understand how it feels to be scared–and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. 

2. Prompt Your Kids to Problem-Solve Solutions With Confidence

After showing sympathy, it’s time to express that we’re confident our kids can overcome their fears. 

Neuroscientists and psychologists agree that while some fear is inherent, much of it is also learned

The fantastic news is that this allows us more control over our fears. And we can all agree that having more control is an advantageous place to be. 

In fact, kids who have a little more control over their lives–whether it’s making a few age-appropriate decisions throughout the day or being given a chance to voice their opinions–feel increased levels of belonging and significance. This naturally raises their feelings of validation and confidence. 

And, as you can imagine, confident kids are more willing to take healthy risks and work bravely through their fears. 

Let’s say your 6-year-old approaches you–having been exposed to something his old sister was watching–and wants you to comfort him. He relies on you to manage his fear and protect him. 

This is natural, of course. We are the parents, and we protect our children! But it’s never too soon to introduce our kids to tools that will help them problem-solve fearful situations for themselves. 

link to list of encouraging phrases

You can kneel down to your 6-year-old and say, “When you see something on the TV that bothers you, you change the channel or walk away!” Or, “You can remind yourself that those are actors, and they are just pretending!” 

Of course, not all fears are based on something fake. One day, your 11-year-old might mention a bullying incident at school. She’s afraid to go back to that same class and be humiliated–or even physically assaulted. 

First off–it’s amazing that she’s going to you for protection. It means she trusts you and your guidance. You’ll offer it gladly, of course, and assist in any way you can. (You always want to keep those lines of communication open!)

But situations like these are also a wonderful opportunity to coach our kids on problem-solving–like how to handle conflicts with other individuals. 

With bullying, solutions might include ignoring taunts, talking to school administrators, learning self-defense, involving counselors, or even going to the police. You can present multiple options and train your kids on the best course of action for the circumstance. 

Because next time, you may not be available or nearby to help. 

Any time we emphasize problem-solving, we’re giving our children a chance not to sidestep fear and its negative effects, but face and work through it. 

Nelson Mandela quote

3. Slow-Roll Exposure to Scarier Shows

We can’t control everything our children are exposed to. Even kid-friendly movies have a token bad guy. It’s part of life.

But we can manage a lot of the information that comes through their screens. This includes installing smartphone, television, and tablet controls. 

And, for what we can’t monitor, we can provide context and critical thinking. 

Remember–everything our children watch on television or the Internet will be duly processed in their information-mining minds. 

While watching something scary, we can put things in perspective. It could be: “those soldiers died for a good cause,” or, “this has been exaggerated to make the story more dramatic” (and for the littlest tykes, “Ursula can’t actually steal Ariel’s voice and turn King Triton into a sea polyp– that’s silly!”).

If kids are watching something scary based on a true story–let’s say a war movie–we can talk about how the real-life characters showed avarice, bravery, and everything in between. It’s a golden opportunity to talk about morals and your family’s belief system–both of which offer a foundational stronghold for facing fears. 

The ultimate intent isn’t to keep our children ignorant of all real-life ills: it’s to slowly expose them to potential harm. This can help them put the pieces of a sometimes tragic world into place without excessive worry and super sleepless nights. 

While we may frantically yell at them to stay out of the street or stay far from a cliff’s edge, nothing sudden and/or traumatic has to be seen on screen for them to come to terms with hard realities.

And, although conquering fear is great–like Bruce Wayne embodying Batman to overcome his fear of bats–eliminating it doesn’t have to be the ultimate goal. A little fear kept in check can be useful when it comes to procrastinating over an exam, driving carefully in the snow, and talking to strangers, amongst other things. 

We just don’t want fear to be debilitating: especially in a world where kids are reporting increased anxiety over everything from test scores to competitive try-outs. The aim is to help our kids find a healthy balance. 

4. Increase Quality-Time Comforts

Children that feel safe and secure–both in body and in mind–are likely to brave their fears with greater ease. 

In our online Positive Parenting Solutions® course, we argue that the best way to give kids this deep-seated comfort is through MIND, BODY AND SOUL TIME® activities (MBST). 

When kids are leery of bedtime and obsess over fears at night, evening MBST can give them a sense of being “armed”–protectively–with love. They may fall asleep with less struggle and sleep far more peacefully. 

Whether their apprehension about bedtime stems from separation anxiety, night terrors, or an oh-so-common fear of the dark, adding MBST into bedtime routines distracts kids from scarier “what if” thinking. Not only does it provide a tremendous sense of comfort, but it also boosts well-being and confidence. 

All you need for a successful MBST session is 10-15 minutes of your undistracted time. Your child gets to choose the activity, and then you just need to label it–both before and after the fact. 

I’m so happy to start our ‘mommy/daughter’ time. It’s my favorite time of day.” And, “I really enjoyed our ‘daddy/dude’ session this evening!”

Giving MBST a special name helps hone in on the fact that you are dedicating this undivided time to your kids. Your kids will understand your commitment and feel all the more grateful. 

The only difference between daytime and bedtime MBST activities is that evening MBST is ideally calm and relaxed. This might mean you read aloud together, talk to one another about your day, play 20 questions, or even build a comfy pillow fort atop their bed. You just don’t want your kiddo getting too amped up before sleep. 

Even if you don’t have time for MBST every evening, eliminating anxiety, fighting, and power struggles as much as possible before bedtime helps kids fall asleep faster. 

And, the next day? Well-rested kids are better equipped, both emotionally and physically, to face fears head-on.

5. Differentiate Between Real and Exaggerated Fears 

Sometimes, kids hyperbolize their fears to get our attention. Delayed bedtime tactics like, “Can you check my closet for monsters again,” or a request like, “Can I sleep next to you tonight, just this once?” could be classic examples. 

This is especially likely if kids are feeling unnoticed or aren’t getting that daily dose of MIND, BODY AND SOUL TIME® bonding. 

You know your child best. You can probably tell if the fear is contrived or in earnest. If not, there are certain signs to look out for

If your family has recently faced trauma, or your kids feel consistently or uncontrollably upset, afraid, or anxious, you may want to seek help. The fear could be situational (and still in need of attention) or could signal an underlying anxiety disorder or phobia

Plenty of counselors and psychologists specialize in treating fear in children, so if in doubt, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. 

Final Thoughts 

Fear may be an unfortunate reality, but in our children’s daily lives, it should never be paralyzing. With these strategies, you can help your kids tame their deepest concerns and grow increasingly self-assured of their inner strength. 

From toddlers to teens, our kids are warriors. Let’s help them see that.

6 Parenting Resolutions You Can Keep in 2024

Boy Holding SparklerBoy Holding Sparkler

Little boy holding sparklers
With the most enthusiasm you can muster (to start 2024 off with a bang) you’ve purchased a new online gym membership and meal planning service. Or maybe you’ve decided THIS is going to be the year you finally get out of debt and 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 2024 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 2024.

(Sign up for our FREE ONLINE PARENTING CLASS for a sneak peek of the 37 positive parenting tools that will help you along your new parenting journey.)

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 2024 with undeniable confidence as a parent.
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Best Parenting Products of 2024: 12 Tools to Make Your Life Easier

Baby in Shopping CartBaby in Shopping Cart

kid in shopping cart in shopping aisle

While it is our absolute joy to bring you a list of our favorite products, we may receive a small commission if you purchase products through some of the links on this page (don’t worry, this doesn’t affect the price you pay). But please know that even though we are constantly asked to review products, we only recommend products we absolutely LOVE, so you can trust that this list contains only our shout-it-from-the-rooftops favorites!

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!

At Positive Parenting Solutions, we’ve made it our mission to equip parents with the tools they need to raise empowered, capable, and resilient kids. We want every parent to feel confident in their abilities and walk away knowing they’re rocking this whole parenting thing. (Want a glimpse of these parenting tools and strategies? Try our FREE PARENTING CLASS today!)

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 12 List of Positive Parenting Products: Read More

5 Positive Parenting Techniques You Can Use in 2024

Mom Throwing Kid in AirMom Throwing Kid in Air

Mom Throwing Kid in Air
It’s the moment parents know all too well: the moment when 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. (Get a sneak peek with our FREE PARENTING CLASS!)

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 negatively. 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 if 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 can write or draw whatever they want 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 better behaved the next time you 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, and last-minute additions are made to the calendar. 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 Ultimate Survival Guide module included in your enrollment: The Technology Survival Plan.

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.

Amy McCready quote

One way we can control our responses is to decide what we’re willing to do AHEAD OF TIME. This works great for getting kids to take on responsibilities they’re perfectly capable of or we 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 him.)

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 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 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 effective in the short term, but if kids aren’t taught (a.k.a. disciplined) 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 all parents can 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!

Teaching Kids Respect–for Themselves and Others

Kids sitting happily in classroom, showing respect to teacherKids sitting happily in classroom, showing respect to teacher

Kids sitting happily in classroom, showing respect to teacher

“Kids today are SO disrespectful,” you’ve probably heard (or even muttered, amongst other statements). 

It’s true that parent-child relationships are evolving. Many kids today behave differently, communicate differently, and have different goals and expectations than a mere generation ago. 

They are growing up in a different world. 

Still, teaching respect is as important now as when Aretha first sang about it.

Some children today are granted more leeway and left ample room to question and challenge our guidance. This can feel and appear disrespectful. 

Alternatively, kids taught to blindly follow authority can lack confidence, problem-solving skills, and have an unhealthy fear of failure. They don’t necessarily learn to trust or respect themselves.

Respect is twofold: we must remain courteous to others while also standing up for ourselves. 

The conundrum is, when does letting our kids speak for themselves border on disrespect? And, at what point do our actions as parents fail to respect our kids? (Learn how to stop all the yelling with our FREE online class.) 

According to author Don Miguel Ruiz, “Respect is one of the greatest expressions of love.” 

If this is the case, it has the power to change the world–we just have to get it right. 

What Is The Difference Between Respectful and Disrespectful Behavior?

Respect is a balance of knowledge, intention, care, and reflection.

Only when we’ve taught and self-modeled respect towards others can we expect our children to know what it looks like, understand its value, and act respectfully themselves. 

When kids do know what’s expected and are blatantly unkind, it can be considered disrespect. They know how they should act, but they don’t care. Or, they have ulterior motives. 

First, consider whether your home environment allows your kids to make some decisions and voice their opinions. If so, a bit of questioning and complaining isn’t necessarily disrespectful.

Also, remember that kids are always gaining more independence; and sometimes, that means challenging their parents. 

Next, consider your child’s age when determining respect versus disrespect. A three-year-old isn’t going to immediately understand that it isn’t nice to point out a stranger as “fat” or an old lady as “more wrinkly than Grandma.” But with time and calm instruction on what (or not) to say, kids will learn.

Caveat: Children with neurological differences may have a medical reason for adverse actions. If you are concerned with your child’s behavior, please consult a counselor or physician. 

Disrespect quote Amy McCready

Do Respect and Good Manners Go Hand-in-Hand?

Charming phrases like “Yes Sir” and “Yes, Ma’am,” are falling further from children’s vocabulary. Backtalk seems to be bursting out instead. 

Parents can still train kids when and how to use social conventions at age-appropriate times for each individual child. Saying “please,” “thank you,” holding doors for people, complimenting a meal, and offering to pay gas money, are all types of respect and kindness. 

Kids want to do the right thing. And, they feel more confident in a variety of social situations when they know how to act. 

“Yes Sir” does indeed sound nice. But a child who doesn’t use formalities–even when trained–isn’t necessarily less respectful. 

Cordial behavior isn’t everything. And, it doesn’t mean much if it’s just surface-level. Caring about others is what makes a difference.

Some shy children rarely say “hi,” for instance, and it may seem rude. Before assuming that shyness has ill intent, we can offer strategies to make them more comfortable with greetings.  

Then, we can focus on how our young one helped fold laundry that day, or how our teenager listened to a friend in need. This proves that beyond greetings, there are alternative ways to show kindness. 

Respect and manners are also nuanced. Showing Grandma respect might look different from showing friends or even teachers respect. Kids greatly benefit from learning these societal/generational differences! 

Entitlement and Disrespect

Teaching respect means fighting against entitlement. Because entitlement doesn’t show respect for people’s time, money, or efforts. 

Along with an evolving social structure where kids have more input, there has also been a shift towards giving our kids more of everything else, too. More material possessions, more technology…and greater freedoms with fewer responsibilities. 

It’s understandable that we want our kids to have generous, carefree childhoods. We want to make life easier and more enjoyable for them. 

But in doing so–even when the intention is noble–parents are losing sight of the big picture. If we don’t expect kids to contribute in meaningful ways, we aren’t teaching respect (or receiving it)! 

The war against entitlement happens a little every day, like when we encourage our kids to do their Family Contributions (a helpful euphemism for chores!). Or, when we remind them to give, not just expect, appreciation for family, friends, and teachers. 

And lastly, we must stop rewarding our children for basic, expected tasks. When we offer candy for folding the laundry or a dollar for every completed homework assignment, we aren’t teaching them the intrinsic value of helping others–or themselves. 

Though we’re enticing them to get things done, we’re actually robbing them of essential lessons in generosity and self-respect.

Building a Respectful Environment At Home

If we build an environment where our children feel valued and their opinions are heard, we are already building the foundation of respect. 

We can solidify this intention by showing that respect in everyday situations. 

This starts by:

Using Discipline, Not Punishment

The distinction between punishment and discipline is often lost, but it is critical. 

Punishment intentionally blames, hurts, and embarrasses kids when they misbehave or make a poor choice. It’s meant to teach them not to repeat that action, but instead, it makes them feel worse about themselves–it teaches only fear

That’s not what respect is about! 

Discipline differs greatly from punishment, because it offers a positive, proactive approach; it essentially allows kids to feel the effects of their choices without being chastised for them! It also teaches right versus wrong more effectively, because the lesson isn’t lost in reproach and resentment. 

fair and effective consequences CTA to free webinar

Involving Children in Decisions

Imagine parenthood as a system of government. A generation or more ago, kids were raised in a more autocratic-type system. Parents made the rules, and kids followed them–or else!

Fast-forward to the present day, and you might compare contemporary parenthood to a democracy of sorts. Kids get to have an opinion! They may not hold executive office, but they are certainly representatives in congress.

Kids’ thoughts, feelings, and grievances have a right to be aired. They matter

Society has been slowly peeling away from more autocratic parenting towards this system of democracy. But, it doesn’t mean kids can’t learn or focus on respect! 

In fact, like respectful discipline, kids learn better by being a part of decisions. It even increases their ability to work with, and mitigate, the wishes of others!

There are two simple Positive Parenting Solutions® tools you can employ to give kids the freedom of voice and choice–both of which personify respect!

Creating a Decision-Rich Environment

According to renowned psychologist Alfred Adler, all humans–including children!–long for power, belonging, and significance. It drives their every move.

So, kids aren’t being rude or less respectful for wanting attention, validation, a voice, a chance to air grievances, and a little more control.

When children are granted age-appropriate choices in their lives, these desires are quickly met: they’re given the power to make each choice, they know their opinions matter, and they immediately feel valued. 

Allowing kids to make decisions, and not dictating everything they do, awards them this basic respect.

A Decision-Rich Environment empowers a four-year-old to choose between two or three outfits to wear each day. Or, it encourages a teenager to choose Friday’s dinner menu each week.

Age and proven responsibility can allow additional, increasingly important choices–and this permits kids to improve their decision-making skills and shape their own lives! 

Using the Ask, Don’t Tell Tool

Another positive discipline tool is Ask, Don’t Tell. Designed by counselor/psychologist Lynn Lott, it represents freedom to a “T.” 

No one likes being bossed around in the first place. And believe it or not, kids might be more willing to help us, or do what we’re requesting, when we ask nicely!

This might sound like, “Any chance you’d be able to give me a hand getting the living room ready for our friends to come over?” instead of, “You need to get your things out of the living room.”

Kids need our guidance and direction, and sometimes, that takes some spurring. But asking respectfully not only sets a good example of how to treat someone, it also eliminates backtalk and power struggles

The key is, you DO have to ask–and you have to do this only when you are able to accept a “no” for an answer. But by doing so, you’re actually more likely to get a cheerful, “Sure!” in the long run. 

Because respect isn’t taking power from our kids. It’s giving it to them. 

Positive Parenting Solutions® Members: For more strategies to gain cooperation from your kids, revisit Steps 3 and 4 of the 7-Step Parenting Success System® course

Amy McCready quote about respect

Taking Time for Training

Kids deserve the chance to learn our expectations. 

In other words, our kids are not mind-readers!

We can’t say they’re acting disrespectfully if they haven’t been taught what respect looks like! 

Kids need training with everything from unloading the dishwasher for the first time to hanging up their clothes. 

When this is the case for everyday actions, they definitely require time to observe and practice the art of respect

In a scenario where a young kiddo unwittingly does something rude, like grab and lick his brother’s ice cream, it’s the perfect opportunity to do some training and role play how to ask for something you want in lieu of grabbing someone else’s food (or toys, or anything!). 

But you can’t expect kids to know what is rude before they’ve encountered that scenario. They also deserve a decent explanation as to why it’s disrespectful and sufficient training on an alternative behavior.

Modeling Respect Towards Others

No matter how respectfully we speak to our kids, we also have to prove with every action that we appreciate other people. Friends, strangers, everyone

Leading by example can never be overestimated. Otherwise, we’re hypocrites! 

If we tell our kids it’s rude to say mean words to acquaintances, they’ll be confused when they watch us berate the slow cashier or waitress. 

And, they’ll take great notice when we’re disrespectful to a spouse. 

Modeling respect also means monitoring what our kids are exposed to. Tweens and teens, for instance, can be naturally indignant, but watching unkind and disrespectful actions on social media often makes things worse.

While we can’t control everything our kids witness, we can minimize bad examples (establish those parental tech controls and set limits!) until they can successfully demonstrate the difference between respect and a lack of it. 

Teaching Empathy

If respect is about loving one another, then empathy is an integral piece of the puzzle. Kids can’t learn respect without it! 

Empathy is the ability to put oneself in another’s position. And kids have an amazing capacity to sympathize with others! They just have to be reminded that not everything is about them. 

Your six-year-old may be aggravated when his older sister refuses to share her toys. But instead of letting him dwell on how it makes him feel slighted, you can say, “How do you think your sister feels when you constantly grab her toys?”

Empathy can also be taught through small acts of volunteering or by giving back in some way: planting trees, writing thank you cards, or donating $2.00 of an allowance to someone in need. 

Communicating with One Another

Communication is taught

It starts with our own willingness to open up with our kids. Kids learn that a wide range of feelings, even from adults, is normal. They learn to listen and sympathize. And, they understand that expressing emotions is not only therapeutic, but essential for problem-solving. 

Successful communication works both ways. During a typical whirlwind week, it’s easy to ignore a four-year-old asking why the grass is green…for the fiftieth time. Or, when we’re absorbed in work and texts on our phones, it’s easy to zone out and forget to listen. 

Showing our kids respect by listening to them–even when we have to hear who their friend’s brother’s cousin has a crush on!–proves that respect. 

Holding Routine Family Meetings

Family Meetings are like a power session in communication. Everyone in the family attends and takes turns talking about the upcoming week’s schedule and expectations. Kids and adults take turns as mediators and meeting leaders. 

These meetings go far beyond logistics. They give each and every family member a chance to talk about problems, concerns, and possible solutions. Family members take turns listening to one another speak–even the littlest ones have a say!–and work together to problem-solve. 

Routine family meetings epitomize cooperation. And cooperation can’t occur without granting others our time and attention (a.k.a. respect). 

Kids Must Learn to Respect Themselves, Too!

When kids believe in their abilities, they have the tools to respect (LOVE) themselves. 

Kids need to know they have an opinion, a voice, and power. They need to understand their significance. And, they must be aware they belong in this world. 

Kids that know how to respect themselves will naturally understand how they should be treated. But, they’ll also understand that selflessness can benefit others. 

Self-respecting kids also have a greater understanding of emotional and physical boundaries. They’re more apt to acknowledge the signs and symptoms of bullying and be aware when someone, or something, crosses a line.

Thankfully, modeling respectful practices, training kids to show respect in a variety of situations, and battling entitlement are all strategies to teach self-respect and help kids thrive. 

Final Thoughts

Respect is a way of life. It’s a deep, meaningful consideration of others and a feeling of belonging and significance–not only for one’s self, but for the people around us. 

This isn’t something that’s taught overnight! It’s a lifelong process. Don’t worry if your kids are still in the thick of it. You now know what you can focus on.  

But, imagine. If all children grow into adults who respect themselves and one another, the world will be a vastly better place.

Teach Your Children How to Try New Foods

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teach your children to try new photos photo

Guest post from sociologist and feeding expert, Dina Rose, PhD

I bet you know what your children ought to eat. It’s no secret that kids should eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and lots of variety, and that no one–not even the pickiest person–should subsist on crackers alone.

Yes, carrots trump candy. But how do you get a child, whose loyalty to pasta knows no bounds, to even consider eating anything else?

That’s the kind of question that trips parents up all the time (alongside questions about power struggles and challenging behaviors that the free Positive Parenting Solutions webinar can fill you in on today. Sign up for a time that works for your schedule!)

The answer, you may be surprised to learn, is to stop thinking so much about nutrition. Nutrition puts your focus squarely on the food, and that’s not where the problem lies.

You also have to stop looking for the perfect recipe. Trust me, it doesn’t exist. Because even if you could find something your kids would love to eat today, there’s no guarantee that they’ll love–or even eat–it tomorrow. Kids are fickle that way, and that’s the problem.

Picky eating isn’t really about food. It can be about control, a reluctance to try new things, sensory sensitivity, a chewing and/or swallowing problem, or some other issue. And that’s good news! It means you can teach your way to healthy eating.

So how do you teach your way to healthy eating? Start by answering this question: What does your child need to learn in order to eat differently? For most kids, the answer is some combination of the following lessons.

How to:

  • Feel safe tasting new foods
  • Enjoy new flavors
  • Cope with challenging textures
  • Value the goal of eating new foods
  • Develop the habit of eating different foods on different days

If you’ve never thought about teaching your children these lessons before, don’t worry. Most parents haven’t. Take heart, though. Once you make the mind shift, the path to success becomes much clearer.

Here are six steps to get you started:

1. Talk to Your Children About Your Goal

It’s crucial to tell your kids the game plan. Otherwise, how will they get on board? You don’t need an elaborate explanation, however. Say something simple, like: “I know you don’t like to eat new foods, but I think this is something that is important for you to learn. Don’t worry. I’m not going to ask you to eat anything new. For now, we’re just going to learn how to taste new foods.”

2. Implement the Rotation Rule (Using Foods Your Children Already Enjoy)

The Rotation Rule is straightforward: Don’t serve any food (except milk) two days in a row. By mixing up the foods your children already eat, you are teaching them the habit of eating different foods on different days. This habit lays the foundation for introducing new foods.

3. Lower Your Expectations

Like most parents, you probably tell your children that all you want is for them to taste the chili you prepared for dinner, but deep down, you’re secretly hoping they’ll do more; you’re hoping that they’ll actually eat the chili.

That’s a lot of pressure. Celebrate a single, solitary taste.Positive Parenting Solutions free webinar banner CTA

4. Take the Surprise Out of New Foods

No one wants to try a food completely blind, without any reliable cues as to what it will taste like. Yet, this is what parents ask their children to do all the time! Practice giving your children lots of information before they taste something new. Say, “This is crunchy.” Or, “This tastes a little like the chicken you ate yesterday, because it has the same teriyaki sauce.” Or, “This is squishy, like apple sauce.”

5. Make Tastings Easy for Your Children

It’s tempting to steer clear of challenging tastes and textures, but that keeps kids stuck in their rut. Make an effort to introduce changes slowly. Start by using an accepted flavor or texture as a bridge to new foods. For instance, if your children like chicken nuggets because they’re crunchy, offer a taste of a crunchy fish stick. If they enjoy blueberry yogurt, offer a taste of blueberry vanilla yogurt. If textures are a sticking point, gradually introduce foods that are lumpier and bumpier.

6. Offer an Alternative to, “I don’t like it”

It’s helpful to remember that young children don’t have what researchers call stable taste preferences. When it comes to liking different foods, their taste preferences are all over the board.

Just as importantly, though, “I don’t like it” boxes kids into an opinion that is hard to change. Resist the urge to ask your kids if they like what they’ve tasted. Ask them to describe what they’ve eaten instead in terms of taste, texture, aroma, appearance and/or temperature, instead.

I know it’s hard to believe that your children will ever like new foods, but it happens! As they grow less fearful of trying new foods, they end up trying even more new foods. And once your kids are used to tasting new foods, you can start showing them how to eat new foods, too.

Final Thoughts From Amy

Picky eating is one of the most common–and difficult–aspects of parenting. And when it comes to something as important as nutrition, I’m thankful for Dina’s food for thought. For more on picky eating, join Positive Parenting Solutions today. Course members have access to our battle-tested blueprint, Raising Adventurous Eaters, and much, much more!

dina rose

Dina Rose, PhD is a sociologist, parent educator, and feeding expert. She is the author of It’s Not About the Broccoli: Three Habits to Teach Your Kids for a Lifetime of Healthy Eating (Perigee). In addition to writing her blog, It’s Not About Nutrition, Dina also writes for The Huffington Post and Psychology Today.