Parenting Blog


Elf on the Shelf: Does it really improve kids’ behavior?

Encouraging good behavior after Elf on the Shelf heads back to the North Pole

He sits on the shelf, keeping a watchful eye over your house as Christmas approaches, reporting each day’s household behavior to Santa at night.

He’s the Elf on the Shelf, and he seems like a parent’s dream for encouraging good behavior in the chaos before the holidays. Knowing their poor choices will be reported to the big guy up north, your kids will probably step up while the elf is perched on the mantle. But – is that really the best way to get good behavior from your kids?

Don’t get me wrong – we’re not down on the Elf on the Shelf. After all, watching the elf’s antics and discovering where he ends up every morning is fun for the whole family. However, using the elf (or Santa) to manipulate kids’ behavior is unfortunately not a long-term solution for bringing out the best behavior in your kids.

Knowing that Santa or Elf is watching can create anxiety for kids – especially for those who struggle with impulse control or who have difficulty making good choices.  Knowing they are being “watched” and may end up on the “naughty list” can be very discouraging.

An while Elf on the Shelf may seem like a great help during the holiday season – kids are quick to revert to their old ways once the reward of presents is removed. And let’s be honest… would you really withhold that new scooter or train set on Christmas morning because the Elf spied your daughter sweeping cookie crumbs under the rug?

Fortunately, it is possible to enjoy Elf of the Shelf purely for fun AND help improve your kids’ behavior through the anticipation of Christmas and even beyond.

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3 Unhelpful Things Well-Meaning Parents Say

Your child’s crumpled into a ball in the living room, sobbing over a newly broken toy. You jump into action to quell the crying and help him feel better – but will your words actually help?

As much as parents would like to consider ourselves fonts of unending wisdom, we can say some pretty unhelpful things at times. These aren’t necessarily things said in the midst of a late-afternoon tantrum or a middle-of-the-store meltdown, but things we say to comfort our kids with the best intentions of helping them.

So, the next time these words are on the tip of your tongue, take a second and look for a different way to approach the situation:
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Child Aggression

Fighting the Good Fight Against Child Aggression

child aggression

It’s the moment we all dread, played out in real life: our child whacks another—on purpose. Whether there are blood and bruises or only hurt feelings, we can’t believe our eyes. Not only is the episode an ugly reflection on our parenting, we think, but now we have to figure out a way to get our child to kick the habit.

It might seem impossible, but there are plenty of positive strategies for dealing with child aggression. Not only that – there’s good news: it’s entirely normal. From the toddler who bops her older sister in attempt to gain a sparkly fairy pony, to the 11-year-old who lashes out against his buddy who doesn’t want to play one-on-one basketball, virtually every youngster displays child aggression at various stages. Rest assured it’s not juvenile delinquency—but it is something you’ll need to address before it does become a bigger problem. Follow these guidelines:
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When Children Swear

How Do You Cope When Children Swear?

When Children SwearIf you missed my swearing segment on The Today Show with Dr. Jennifer Hartstein, you can catch it here. Here are the strategies we discussed for potty mouth parents as well as the guidelines we didn’t get to cover for what to do when children swear.

Is swearing in front of your kids really a big deal?
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How To Teach Kids To Say Sorry

When did “I’m sorry” become a meaningless action?

Thanks to nine-year-old Braydon, little Emily’s Barbie lost her head while getting ready for an evening out.  But even as Braydon dutifully – and immediately – apologizes to Emily and her doll, the stolen glances he’s giving his video games leave the Nintendo getting more eye contact than anyone else in the room.  How to teach kids to say sorry?

The fact is that while forcing kids to apologize in the heat of the moment often makes parents feel better, it does little to help children truly understand the effects of their misbehavior.  Instead, put the “sorry” on standby and — when everyone is calm and collected — follow these guidelines: Read More

Road Trip With Kids

Tips and Tricks for a Relaxing Road Trip with Kids

road trip with kidsAhh, summer vacation. What could be better than the all-American, old-fashioned family road trip with kids? Not much…until the whining starts. Before you reach for the earplugs, try one of these fun solutions, suggested by the creative parents visiting our Facebook page, to keep your kids happy and you sane:

  • Games are a great way to include the whole family while painlessly passing the road trip with kids. Top suggestions were Name that Tune, Spot the State License Plate, and Twenty Questions. But Tara C. turned the tables to put parents in the hot seat while teaching youngsters a bit about the country: “We looked in an atlas and quizzed Mommy and Daddy on capitals and states.” Or if you’re crawling through a busy town, try Red light/Green light, a game suggested by Elena A. To play, divide your car into teams. “If we make a light, we (green team) get a point and if we get stopped at the light, the red team scores. I like it because we win and lose and it is a great way to prevent their whining about getting there and the potential road rage on my part.”
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