Parenting Blog

5 Ways to Show Respect for Your Child….and develop their sense of capability…and avoid power struggles.

teen boy and teen girl

The list below is adapted from one of my all-time favorite books: How to Talk So Kids will Listen and Listen So Kids will Talk by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish.

I began compiling the list to give parents a quick refresher on ways to demonstrate respect for kids. (Remember, we can’t expect kids to respect us unless we also show respect to them.)

Not only will these strategies demonstrate respect for kids, but each suggestion goes a long way in fostering their autonomy and capability. Instead of jumping in to do things for our kids or answer for them – let them answer, struggle, and think for themselves. You’ll be amazed at how their sense of personal significance will grow.

And, by the way…they’re also great strategies for avoiding power struggles. Each example provides a way to empower your child rather than igniting power struggles between you.

Try these 5 ways to show respect, develop their capability and avoid power struggles:

1. Don’t ask too many questions.
Instead of “How was school today?” “Was the science test hard?” “What did you have for lunch?” Try: “Welcome home. I’m SO glad to see you!”

happy girl

2. Don’t rush to answer questions.
Try: “That’s an interesting question. What do you think?”

3. Let your child own his/her own body.
Refrain from brushing her hair out of her eyes, tucking in his shirt, etc. Kids view this as fussing over them and an invasion of their physical privacy.

4. Let your child answer for herself/himself!
Try: “Jack can tell you. He’s the one who knows.” Or, for an older child, just be silent and don’t answer. The awkward silence will encourage your child to speak up.

5. Show respect for your child’s eventual “readiness.”
Try: “I’m not concerned. When you’re ready, you’ll use the potty.” (This also removes the power struggle. There’s no need to fight you because you are giving the him the power to decide.) Or try: “When you decide to, you’ll get into the water.”

Kids are accustomed to parents communicating with a lot of ordering, correcting and directing. These 5 strategies will show your kids that you respect them, and will lead to greater capability and autonomy with fewer power struggles.

How to Talk to Your Child About Cyberbullying Now

Rachel Simmons

The following is a guest post from The New York Times Best Selling author, Rachel Simmons.

The recent suicide of 15 year old Phoebe Prince in South Hadley, MA has communities around the country reeling. Phoebe didn’t just suffer taunts, mean looks and harassment at school. She was cyberbullied: tortured online and by phone.

Phoebe’s death – and an explosion in cyberbullying worldwide – are telegraphing an emergency message to schools and families: we must take action now. Yet the vast majority of schools decline to intervene with real consequences when cyberbullying incidents occur.

Why? Because, school officials say, it’s happening off school grounds. I understand the legal issues involved, but I get really angry when I hear this argument. Schools are terrific at using technology to connect classrooms to the moon via NASA and to students in other countries. Classrooms without borders are swell when they teach – but when students start dehumanizing each other using the very same technology, and it threatens their education and safety at school, well, we can’t go there.

Cyberbullying has intensified the experience of getting bullied by literally shattering the walls between school and home. There is no escape. As Parry Aftab, a leading expert in cyberlaw and privacy issues, has said, “cyberbullying follows you everywhere: home, summer camp, to Grandma’s house.”

Which means that kids are being suffocated and overwhelmed by an onslaught of abuse. They are unable to find refuge from the torment. Suicide, for some, may feel like the only way out.

Fact is, it’s not enough to say to a kid, “So don’t go online. Don’t pick up the phone.” Could you follow that advice? I sure couldn’t. Young people are passionate about their reputations. They’re also developmentally unable to understand that anything beyond their personal hell exists.

With a recent study showing that youth spend nearly every waking moment with a device in their hands, I want to share some of my advice to parents on how to talk with your child about cyberbullying and digital citizenship. If you haven’t had this conversation, or one like it, do not pass go. The time is now.

1. Begin with a discussion. Raise the issue by talking about what you’ve heard or read. “It seems like cyberbullying is becoming a big deal lately.” Mention Phoebe’s suicide. Ask your child what she’s seen.
2. Let her know you’re there if she’s in trouble, no matter what – even if she’s partly responsible for a situation. Assure her that you’ll keep a problem between you when you can, and that you’ll be open to discussing it if she doesn’t want you to intervene (never promise that you won’t intervene). Your bottom line: this is a serious issue, and if she’s in trouble, you don’t want her to be alone, no matter what.
3. Ensure her cell phone and computer have screen locks that are password protected. Find other preventative steps you can take to keep your child safe here.
4. Let her know your policy on cyberbullying. For example: “I want to make sure we’re both clear on some rules around your use of technology. I expect you to conduct yourself online the same way you do in real life. That means making sure you treat people with kindness and respect at all times.”
5. Talk about some examples of what breaking the rules might look like. Use some of what you heard in the opening discussion you had to get specific about what’s not okay. Make sure she understands she is expected to steer clear of the following behaviors: She is expected not to use another person’s cell phone or computer without his/her permission; to circulate embarrassing photographs or video about another person; to forward hurtful or embarrassing messages or media; to use anonymous or unrecognizable screen names to communicate; to use foul or abusive language that could embarrass or hurt others. You may want to create an ethical Internet use contract together. See a sample here.
6. Explain your stance. Don’t just say “no;” explain why. Use the conversation as an opportunity to talk about the values that are important to you and your family: respect, kindness, integrity, and compassion.
7. Let her know technology is a privilege. “Being able to have a phone or computer is no different from being able to drive a car. When you get your license, it’s because you’ve proven you’re mature enough to follow rules and take others into consideration. The same will be true for tech use. If you aren’t mature enough to act with respect, you will lose your access.”
8. Emphasize the positive: “I see you as a person with enormous kindness, integrity and respect for others. I expect you to be that same person when you’re using an electronic device.
It’s never too early to have this conversation. Talk to your kids about cyberbullying, and start talking to school officials about getting involved. South Hadley High School began every day last week with a moment of silence to remember Phoebe. Silence is the last thing we need on this issue. Let’s not let Phoebe die in vain.
9. Encourage empathy. Talk with your kids about what Phoebe may have been feeling when she was being bullied. Many are now identifying with Phoebe in death. By considering her experience before she died, kids can identify with her in life — and reflect on behaviors and situations they have real power to change.

Rachel Simmons is an educator and bestselling author of The Curse of the Good Girl and Odd Girl Out. She was the host of the 2009 PBS special “A Girl’s Life.” This post originally appeared at her website,

Potty Talk to Swearing…10 Tips to Curb Foul Language in Your House

End the Foul Language Today

10 ways to curb foul language

All children experiment with foul language. Toddlers may use “poopie head” or “butt face” and older kids can be more colorful and offensive in their use of language.

Follow these 10 tips to curb cursing and potty talk in your house…

1. Make sure children have plenty of positive ways to get attention and power. A child who has sufficient positive attention and opportunities to exercise power in positive ways, doesn’t have to use foul language to get attention and power.

2. For younger kids, teach them the appropriate names for body parts and use them conversationally to remove the excitement of using those words.

3. Monitor TV, video, music lyrics and Internet usage. Kids see and hear much more than we did when we were growing up. If you’re not comfortable with the back talk you hear coming from your television, have a candid conversation about that with your kids or make that show off-limits in your house.

4. Don’t over-react! Kids use foul language to get a rise out of you and engage you in a power struggle. When you get upset, they score a big payoff of attention and power and just about guarantees that they’ll use the word again!

5. Be very clear about what words are okay and not okay in your family… “You may hear other kids say that word but it’s not okay in our family.”

6. For older kids who swear…try to understand where it’s coming from. Are they trying to fit in or act cool? Do they struggle to express their anger in appropriate ways? If the swearing stems from anger, validate the feelings but suggest other ways to communicate their anger… “I can tell you’re really angry about this and I would love to talk to you about this when you’ve calmed down and we can have a respectful conversation.”

7. Decide what YOU will do. You can’t “make” a child stop using potty talk or stop swearing. (You may try, but you really can’t.) Instead, decide what YOU will do when you hear offensive language. Let your child know that when you hear disrespectful language, you will turn around and walk away without saying a word. (This removes the “payoff” for the behavior.) Walking away without words isn’t letting him “get away” with foul language, it’s saying, “I deserve to be treated with respect and I choose not to listen to potty talk/swearing.” Our actions speak much louder than our ongoing lectures.

8. Consequences…parents often ask about the “related” consequence for swearing. I like turning the situation into a learning opportunity instead. Educational Psychologist and author, Michele Borba, Ed.D. suggests requiring the offender to look up a new, more appropriate word in the dictionary to replace the offensive one. The child can be asked to use that new word throughout the day in conversation or write it on an index card and teach it to the rest of the family.

9. Encourage your kids when you see them making any progress in the right direction. When you hear your toddler using the appropriate terms for body parts or using jokes (instead of potty words) to get attention – make a point of encouraging her “grown up” ways. Encourage older kids when they express their frustration without using offensive language. Even if they haven’t curbed their foul language completely, encourage ANY movement in the right direction.

10. And of course, watch your own language. Speak respectfully to your kids and to your spouse and model appropriate language. Kids are keenly sensitive to double standards. If it’s okay for you to swear, they don’t understand why it isn’t okay for them.

If swearing and foul language becomes more frequent and increasingly offensive, parents should recognize that it’s not about the “swearing.” Most likely, the child is using bad language as a potent tool to engage them in a power struggle or is using it as a revenge tool against the parents. At this point, it’s time to dig deeper and determine what’s really behind the behavior.


“I don’t have enough time!” It’s the common complaint of almost every parent I know! I think all parents WANT to spend more quality one-on-one time with their children and they WANT to spend quality family time together. Unfortunately, the craziness of our lives makes that a true challenge for most families.

I’ve enlisted the help of Certified Professional Organizer and Time Expert, Cyndy Ratcliffe, to help us better organize our lives so we can carve out time for what matters most.

Cyndy Ratcliffe

Ask any parent about priorities and most will tell you that family is number one. And yet, somehow family members in all their business can’t seem to “find time” to spend together. Parents know that family time is missing, but they don’t know why and they don’t know how to create it.

Often parents feel like each day is a game of passing the baton and not dropping it! Mom takes daughter here and then Dad picks her up and swings by to get the son who needs to be at a sporting event. After that drop off, he takes his daughter back to her mother so that she can get her to ballet in 30 minutes!

Most families struggle to create family time. The families are so caught up in running every day that it often takes an outsider looking in to help the family see how to stop and evaluate where they are missing time to spend as a family. As a Time Expert on “Time Makeover” on the Fine Living Network, as well as in my one-on-one work with families in this situation, I have discovered similar challenges:

Challenge One – Are you Ready?
Like making any change, the members involved must have a reason to want to change. In establishing family time all family members must be on board one hundred percent.
Solution – Get a commitment from each member. Sharing ideas for how you will spend family time can be a great motivator. One family I worked with decided that their children will take turns determining the activity for their family time each week. Consequently the activities have ranged from game night to sporting events to miniature golf. Once you have been able to share fun family time, the motivation will build.

Challenge Two – Communication
Often times all family members are not aware of the activities planned for the day, week or month. Parents often don’t even know each others’ schedules! This creates last-minute scheduling surprises that can cause resentment, panic, and lateness.
Solution – A family calendar posted in a high traffic area is essential for any family. Along with the calendar, a weekly family meeting is required of all family members. Sit down, communicate and note activities, needs and schedules on the calendar.

Communication also falls short regarding who is responsible for what home maintenance responsibilities. Most tasks, if not determined up front, fall to one or the other parent and that parent finds that he or she is so caught up with all these responsibilities that they have no time for anything else; he or she resents the fact that other family members are not on board with helping. All family members need individual responsibilities in order for a home to be happy and well maintained.
Solution – Create a list of home maintenance activities and at a family meeting determine who will be responsible for what. Let family members, mom and dad included, take turns choosing so that there is more ownership in the decisions. One client I worked with said that she was glad not to have to make the bed in the morning. Her husband had selected this task as his activity and if it wasn’t done she did not feel obligated to do it anymore.

Challenge Three – Making Decisions
Often making family time is about choosing it over other activities or events. We fall into a comfortable pattern and make commitments to others, making it hard to change.
Solution – Establishing family time requires us to take a look at how the family members currently spend their time. Creating family time will require each family member to make decisions on what changes need to be made. You have three options in changing the activities you currently are committed to in order to create family time.

1. Eliminate the activity – Schedules are full of time stealers. Many parents and children are overcommitted to outside activities. We feel the need as a society to stay busy and keep up with everyone else. Often the inability to say no has caused them to say yes to things that waste valuable time. Take a fresh look at these activities. Do they reflect your priorities now? Determine what you can let go of to keep your life focused on your priorities.

2. Delegate the activity – There are many folks looking to help you in activities that could easily give you back large chunks of time. A cleaning service every couple of weeks can cut the time your family spends on cleaning in half. “Wash, dry, fold” services abound; some even pick up and deliver! Imagine the time you can reclaim if laundry was off your activity list! Take advantage of dry cleaning services that pick up and deliver. You can even order your groceries on-line and for a minimal fee of $5 to $10 just sweep by and have them load the chosen groceries in your car! Heck, I’d spend a lot more than $10.00 on impulse items if I did the shopping myself!

3. Shorten the activity – Can you find a way to commit less time to an activity, consequently getting more time back for your family? Examples of this might be repositioning yourself as a member instead of a leader for an organization or choosing the church league that plays once a week over the city league that requires two weekday evenings and your Saturdays.

These choices may seem difficult at first, but change, even change for the good, can cause discomfort. Keep your focus on the results, additional time you will have to enjoy and learn more about your family.

Challenge Four – Scheduling Priorities
So many of us are prone to what I call the Puppet Syndrome. We create our schedule based on responding to the call of others when they “pull our strings.” Boundaries are missing. We react instead of act.
Solution – It is up to us to create time on our calendar. Draw a block around the time you want for family time and label it. Other activities quickly fill up your schedule unless you block out the time first. With this method you have made an appointment with your family and that comes first. When others ask you for that time (pull your strings), you simply state that you “are unavailable at that time.” Saying yes to family means saying no to other activities that try to steal that time from you.

The steps are simple; accomplishing them is not. Don’t let another day go by that you have once again missed time with the family. So slow down, set down that baton and gather your family to discuss the possibilities of finding time for each other.

Cyndy Ratcliffe is the Founder of Organizing Solutions, Inc., based in Wake Forest, NC. Organizing Solutions, Inc. has been assisting individuals to reduce their stress, boost their image and be more productive since their establishment in February 2002. Cyndy is one of only 6 Certified Professional Organizers® in North Carolina. She appeared as the Time Management Expert in three episodes of Time Makeover on the Fine Living Network where she assisted families to find time for what matters most. Contact Cyndy directly at 919.612.3953 or email her at

Parenting Blogs

I GET To Drive My Kids

Raise your hand if you feel like a taxi service. Running children from one activity to the next in our over scheduled lives gets to be quite hectic and frustrating at times. But, I now have a new approach to the Yellow Cab part of my life and it has changed my outlook completly.

I used to say…. “I HAVE to drive my kids to soccer practice.” Note the emphasis on “I have to”.

Now I say the same thing but I change one word: “I GET to drive my kids to soccer practice.” “I GET to drive carpool this morning.”

Changing one simple word changes my attitude completely.

It reminds me that picking up kids, shuttling them around to school and various activities is really a GIFT. I GET to spend uninterrupted time with them. I don’t have to compete with the TV, their friends or other distractions. They’re a captive audience and it gives me a chance to get into the “Child Ego State” and joke around, watch them cringe as I belt-out my 80’s tunes in the car and just have fun. We can talk about their day or whatever they want to share.

Sometimes it’s only one of my kids in the car and we have great discussions that wouldn’t happen with a sibling or a second parent around.

All parents get tired of the daily shuttle, but I encourage you to say the words OUT LOUD… “I GET to drive you to practice today.” It reminds you and your kids that these moments are a GIFT. Before we know it, they’ll be asking US for the keys to the car so they can drive themselves. Let’s enjoy it now!

From one busy parent to another – I wish you the best in your parenting journey!

Webinar Questions Answered from 2-18-2010

Thanks to everyone who attended the “Get Kids to Listen without Nagging, Reminding and Yelling” webinar last night.

Listed below are a few topics and questions I didn’t have time to fully cover during our session.

Birth Order: There was a lot of interest in Birth Order. One question that I didn’t answer was about how the first-born’s sense of significance is impacted when a new sibling arrives fairly soon – within 18 months or so. The first-born will generally still have a high sense of significance because even after the sibling arrives, he’s still the “first”, “the oldest” and is usually given more responsibility, etc.

However, the first born frequently feels “dethroned” when the new baby arrives (regardless of how many years in between) and his sense of “belonging” may be negatively affected. Very often older children revert back to baby-like behaviors because she sees that the baby gets a lot of attention for crying, fussing, messing the diaper, etc. It makes perfect “sense” from the child’s perspective: Baby gets a lot of attention when she whines and fusses, I’ll try that too!” This is also the birth of a good sibling rivalry.

There’s so much to cover regarding Birth Order, which can’t adequately be addressed in a 1-hour introductory session. This topic and how to ensure that all of your children have a high sense of belonging and significance (regardless of birth order) is covered in great detail in the online course.

boy playing the violin

Consequence for not practicing musical instrument: This was raised from several people. The first step in problem solving is asking “Who owns this problem?” If the parent is reminding, coaxing and pleading with the child to do (x) – then the parent owns the problem. The only way the behavior will change is if the child owns the problem.

One way to allow the child to “own the problem” is to structure a when-then routine. “When you are finished with 15 minutes of piano practice, then you can have your outside time/ TV time / call your friends, etc. The undesirable task must be done before a regularly occurring privilege.

This is another topic that we can’t adequately cover in one hour. We go into great detail on consequences, when-then, and how to allow the child to own the problem in Sessions 3 and 4 in the online course. The When-Then is just ONE tool in the Tool Box.

More on ConsequencesQ: I know that the first time a misbehavior happens, it’s a learning opportunity and parents should do training and reveal the consequence in advance for next time – but what if the misbehavior caused damage to property? (Dish soap “drawing” all over the floor?)

A: TRY to stay calm with your “budding artist”. Use it as an opportunity to do training – but also recognize it as an opportunity to “control the environment” by keeping the dish soap out of reach – or other things that could make a big mess!

When that happened the first time, you can still get his help to clean up the mess. That’s not “punishment” which inflicts blame, shame and pain – it’s just him helping to “make it right.” The difference is in your tone of voice and attitude. If you demand that he “help you clean it up right now” – then you’re in a power struggle and you’re the bad guy. Instead, use it as a training opportunity, get his help to clean up the mess and control the environment for the future.

If this situation was young curiosity and a desire to be creative – not a big deal. However, if it’s symptomatic of ongoing power struggles, it’s an indication that he is exerting his power in negative ways and you will want to focus on strategies that foster his POSITIVE personal power and sense of significance.

Thanks again to everyone for joining us last night!

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