Monthly Archives: September 2012


I returned a mom’s call last week about her 11 year-old-daughter.  “Help” was her message.

During the first part of our conversation, every moment of this mom’s daily interactions with her daughter was a battle.  It was only after listening and asking questions that other moments came into play, like  snuggling on the couch together, watching a favorite TV show; cooking side-by-side in the kitchen; sharing the same sense of humor and laughing about things together; her daughter always coming to say she’s sorry after an outburst.

I wasn’t trying to dismiss the negative behavior this mom was experiencing,  but I did want to bring her around full circle to view the other side as well – the side where both of them feel connected and close.  That’s the groundwork, I believe, on which this mom can focus –  on the positive connections that still flow between them, even if a bit rocky at times.

This young girl has just begun Middle School, doesn’t know any of the kids in her class, and is very anxious about that.  She’s always been anxious about new situations.  And I asked how has she managed her anxiety in the past at home?  “By having major melt-downs”. When I asked how her daughter responds to teachers in school, neighbors, other adults?  The answer was “very polite, friendly, absolutely appropriate”.

Rather than pulling back in total frustration, anger and discouragement, I suggested this mom think more about reaching out.  As much as their relationship is being put to the test right now, her daughter implicitly trusts her mom and the strength she counts on from their relationship, to always be there for her.

The storminess of an 11-year-old and a 2-year-0ld share many similarities, but a preteen’s words can feel much more like a direct hit.

As a parent, facing this type of situation,  it is not unusual to come down hard, pull back, take away privileges, get ahead of it. That’s what this mom was trying, to no avail.

I encouraged Mom to focus, instead, on the strengths of their relationship – the times that connections were there – to try and build on them and to listen for the meaning of the emotion behind the words her daughter is hurling when she is upset – to listen to what her behavior is screaming.

Whether our children are toddlers, tweens, or teenagers, our biggest success will always be in maintaining a strong relationship and emotional connection with them.  It is through this connection and understanding of emotions that our children grow in self-regulation and positive, strong interactions- at home and with others.

That’s why I encourage parents to consider The Parenting Place’s Positive Solutions for Families class beginning on Thursday, October 4th.  It’s an 8-week interactive series that will help parents strengthen the bond with their young children, understand the meaning behind some of their child’s challenging behaviors and practice how to communicate this understanding to their child.

Connections – what relationship is all about.

If you are interested in more information about Positive Solutions for Families or to register, call The Parenting Place, 784-8125.  Registration is required.

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a clue

What could it mean to discover a Scrabble letter “O” lying in my path as I walked in Myrick Park marsh?  As someone whose eye is always keen for small treasures, especially in nature, this one really surprised me.  It looked so out-of-place lying there alone.  Hmmm – is this some kind of clue?

While I haven’t uncovered any real significance to my unusual find (even though we’ve had some fun conjuring up secret meanings it might hold for me), I’m hanging on to my “O”.  Who knows when one might need an extra scrabble letter?  And it did look like it really needed a home.

With our children’s behavior, however, we are constantly receiving masked clues, not readily recognized.  In the busyness of our days, many of these clues pass right over our heads.  But if you are dealing with an on-going behavior issue, step back and search for the meaning behind the behavior.

We know misbehavior is always just a symptom – the clue that might lead us to discover the real reason behind a child’s actions.

I talked with a mom a few days ago who was concerned about her young kindergartner who seems so angry since school has begun.  From the moment he’s picked up after school, he’s so quick to react in anger.  I encouraged her to look further for what’s causing this intensity of emotion.  “Is he getting enough sleep?” to which Mom answered” absolutely”.
“Is he eating his lunch?”  And I wasn’t surprised when she said “n0, hardly And not hungry at breakfast either!”

This young fellow, like so many of his classmates, is so anxious to find his place on the playground, that lunch is not a priority. (one reason why it would be so nice to have recess before lunch – in my opinion)

I suggested, as I have in the past to many parents who have experienced this situation, to give him a nutritious snack immediately when he gets home.  Have it ready and waiting.  Often low blood sugar is the culprit and it can turn many a good-natured child into an out-of-control whirlwind.

Like in any scavenger hunt, we need to pay attention to our child’s behavior by reading the clues, following our intuition, and observing what’s going on.   It’s actually kind of fun to think of parenting in this way.  It’s empowering to know we can step back and see the big picture.  And we can believe that when our child is acting up, there’s always a clue behind it.


If you want some help in looking for the clues in your child’s behavior, give me a call at The Parenting Place, 784-8125 and we can hunt together.

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This weekend we watched the movie Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.  Both my husband and I were profoundly moved by the ficticious story of a young boy, Oskar, and his emotional struggle to understand and accept the death of his dad who died on September 11 in the World Trade Center attack.

Oskar and his dad shared a powerful positive relationship together and because of this, Oskar is convinced that his dad has left a final message for him, hidden somewhere in the city.  His search leads him to successfully discover this connection he seeks from his dad as well as the power to overcome his fears.

Oskar always refers to September 11th as “the Worst Day”. One can definitely understand why.  More than 3,000 children had parents who died in the 911 attacks.  Each of these children have their own true emotional story.

As parents, it is unthinkable to imagine our children growing up without us.  I remember the hard conversations when our children were young, trying to imagine who would be their guardian if we were not alive.  This process alone is painful – but the reality of not having a direct plan is much worse.

That’s why The Parenting Place has planned an Estate Planning Seminar for parents.  I mentioned this to a parent recently who laughed and said, “What estate?”.

Even if one doesn’t have an estate to speak of, there is very significant information to learn.  It is about understanding essential documents that all parents should have for their own peace of mind and the security and future of their children. There are even ways to continue instilling your values if you are gone.

The estate planning attorneys at Johns, Flaherty and Collins will provide information and answer questions and concerns.  This is an introduction to prepare parents with the facts and knowledge to inspire the conversation we encourage them to have.

It is distressing to think if the “unthinkable” happens and we do not have a plan for our children’s future, it will be the courts who will make that decision for us.

I know from experience how easy it is to put this conversation off.  That’s why I encourage you to attend this free informational workshop – a time to listen, to ask questions and to learn what it is you can do to make sure your family is best taken care of for whatever life brings.

I’ll be there.  Hope to see you too.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call me.   Registration is necessary.  To register, call The Parenting Place, 784-8125.  There is limited childcare available.  Call early.

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Take a break

Sometimes you just have to “fess up” – come clean, tell it like it is.  The original post that I had begun to write this week was just not coming together for me.  (Darn – and it seemed like such a good idea too!)

So I tried another angle – thought I was on to something – and even that fell flat.

What’s going on here?  Is it that blue moon from the other night or what?

Sometimes as parents, we also have to admit that the path we are pursuing with our child is not working.  We are trying something over and over and nothing is changing a particular behavior.

That’s when it is helpful to take a step back and consider.

Recently I spoke with a parent who was frustrated trying to toilet train their just-turned-three-year-old son.  They had tried every angle in the book – to no avail.  I suggested they take a break – a real break –  stopping everything, all talk and expectations.  Their son liked that idea and shared with all those he met that they were indeed “taking a break” from potty learning.

When they started up again, even though there was great uncertainty at first that this would ever happen –  just like that – mission accomplished.

Maybe I just needed to “take a break”.

Hope everyone enjoyed their Labor Day weekend and are feeling peaceful about their children’s first day of school tomorrow.

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