Monthly Archives: June 2014


Is one child in your family really pushing your buttons?  Is he/she the one that makes you become a “screaming meamie”?

Then this is the child for you to take a week, even better, two weeks, to focus on.  By that I mean intentionally and quietly watching, observing, seeing the expression on his face when he’s involved, noticing the way she tries to get heard or be included or be noticed, even if inappropriate.

After days of really seeing your most challenging child from the inside out, your understanding of why she’s doing the things she does might begin to make more sense.

Look for the emotion behind the expression on this particular child.  What might that tell you? Remember the patterns of the behavior.  When did it happen most?  Was your child in need of sleep, hungry, needing attention, feeling left out, rushed, being teased, trying to keep up and fit in,  embarrassed, vulnerable?

This is not ammunition for future tirades that you are gathering.  This is an emotional data collection to figure out for yourself what it is that makes this particular child so personally challenging.

Don’t rely on memory.  Pick a spot out of reach of little hands that you can easily put a sticky note with a word or two to remind you about what you noticed.

I think it might be eye-opening.  It may show exactly what this child needs.  It may even reveal his/her challenge has also always been your own and might put your strong reaction to the behavior more into context.

Is this really going to change anything?

What I believe it will do is open your eyes and your heart to whys and ways you can recognize, appreciate, and build a more positive understanding, and  find solutions that will bail both of you out from this ongoing negative behavior cycle.

Disconnected to connected.  Perhaps all due to focus.

If you need some help in figuring out what to do with the “emotional data” you collected and how to proceed, give me a call at The Parenting Place, 608-784-8125 to come in for a one-on 0ne discussion,  or we can chat about it on a warmline.  Together we can bring things into focus.



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summer evenings

From nightly neighborhood walks and sitting on front porches  to Riverside Band concerts and strolling along the river, from Friday nights’ farmer’s markets to picnics anywhere, we can appreciate the relaxed, slower pace of a summer evening.

Notice the freedom and confidence these times provide for our children.  We can sense it in their stride, their skipping, their climbing as they walk  along with their families  We feel it in the proud, content look of the child riding astride a dad’s shoulders , observing his world, high and close to one of his most significant people. We can watch and enjoy the independence of young children as they leave their parents’ blankets to run and cavort and dance at the farmer’s market.

We can all enjoy an ice cream cone or popsicle for sure.

It’s about simplicity, when nothing is expected but much is received. It doesn’t matter what the day was like.  A summer evening is about relaxing … allowing … accepting … letting go of shoulds and lists and just soaking in the warmth and the comfort of the moment.

It is about sharing, and a feeling of community.  It is about a sense of belonging.  And it brings all of us closer and makes all of us feel more secure and grateful.

It is our reward for February.

Summer evenings – hold on to them.

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presence not perfection

Today I listened to a wise woman speak about fathers and her message was “Children are not asking for perfection from their dads. They are asking for presence.”

Isn’t that the truth!  And the same goes for all parents really.  But today’s dads have won the freedom and the expectation to be nurturers as well as providers.  For we are providing the most for our children when we parent them with love, caring, and yes, presence.

So many dads are out there everyday meeting the immediate needs of their children.  I enjoy seeing one of my stay-at-home dads arrive at Play Shoppe at The Parenting Place on Friday mornings,  two young boys in tow, a diaper sticking out of his pants pocket.

Fathering in action.

I spoke with a stay-at-home dad on the phone recently who had a question about his young son’s sleeping habits.  We talked about these concerns, and then I told him about our Play Shoppe.  I love that this Dad is present enough to know the right questions to ask about his son.  Now they’re one of our regulars at Play Shoppe, and the last I heard, his son is sleeping well.

Of course, you don’t have to be a stay-at-home dad to be present for children.   It’s the sharing, interaction and connections that take place in a family that are so significant in a child’s life.

I have heard moms joke that dads put their children’s clothes on backwards and forget to brush their hair or give a final wipe to breakfast still on their child’s face.  But as the knowing woman who spoke today reminds us – presence not perfection.

I am particularly warmed by this message of fathers being present and hands on in their parenting.

Our own children were fortunate to have a dad like that in their lives.  And my heart glows when I think about our son, a soon to be first-time father,  who looks forward to being a hands- on dad.

My advice to our son as we talked recently was that all moms and dads alike are new to this stage of becoming someone’s parent.  And as new parents, no one is really sure what exactly to do with this newborn in your life.  We all get through it by being there, figuring out the baby’s needs and your own needs, by doing it – with love and compassion and some weariness thrown in – until, suddenly you are the expert on your child.

You understand every look, every sound, the ones of distress and the ones of pleasure.  You know what your baby needs.

Presence not perfection.

Happy Fathers Day 2014 to all the Dads out there.

Know how significant you are!

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You can’t play

It’s a typical scene – two young children pretend playing in the tent at Play Shoppe.  Looks like fun – another child tries to move on in.

“You can’t come in” , often forcefully repeated until the “tent crasher” gives up or an adult comes to his rescue.

This is always a difficult moment for parents to observe when their child is being less than kind to another.  But, often, in their young minds, they feel totally in the right – after all, they were the first ones in the tent, and the “game” they were pretending was only for two.

Exclusion of others is a standard preschool power play, but there are some ways we can help our children to be mindful of how it makes someone feel.

Warmly including others is important for us to model for our children in our daily life – by letting children hear us openly invite another to share our play, our snack, our sled, a ride home, to play in our yard, to stay for lunch.  Modeling to our children – being generous in spirit – can become a way of life for them.

Sensitize our children’s abilities to read emotional clues on other people’s faces.  Do you think he feels sad, mad, happy?  With your own children, validate their emotions which will improve their ability to offer this empathy to others.  When reading together, talk about how your child thinks the boy in the story is feeling and why. Listen to and  problem solve with children in their own social missteps.

Social exclusion, however,  is also a pretty powerful feeling for the children doing the excluding.  If a child is excluding others frequently, perhaps take a look at different ways he/she may need to feel more in charge of her life, more significant, more powerful.  Simple decisions, age-appropriate choices, trusting in your children’s capable physical and hands-on abilities may help them  feel more important in their own right.

And an interesting twist on time outs is that they actually represent social exclusion to our children, and thus are as likely to backfire, especially if we overuse them, as teaching them not to hit by hitting.

Of course, there are times in families especially, when children need their space, their alone moments to play, to think, to read, to create, to daydream.  These are necessary and should be respected as much as possible.

But for the times when open play is the name of the game, we can take the rule that Vivian Paley instituted in her book by the same name, “You Can’t Say You Can’t Play”.  Then when there are those power play incidents of exclusion, you can get right to the point, as Ms. Paley says, “Oh, did you forget the rule?”

“You can’t say you can’t play.”

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“pants with a button”

Who knows what the real root of an emotional upset for a child is?  We often only witness the meltdown, the tears, the tantrum, the protest.

But – one thing we can always be sure of –  there is a reason.

I think if we can hold on to that reminder when our children are out of sorts and acting out, that they are doing just that –  “acting out” the very feelings they cannot express in words.

A mom told me last week that her young son was so upset and emotional when she chose  “pants with a button” for him to wear to school.  But he had his reasons, legitimate to him.  When she listened and realized why – her reassuring response was, “Well, let’s just wear a different pair of pants”.

Good answer!

Often, though, we go directly to the fear in us that our child is becoming a tyrant, spoiled, a brat and we must show him who’s boss.  And it is that fear we feel that comes out in our own angry response or our own determination to stand our ground and win, no matter what.

Of course, often it is necessary to stand our ground, but it doesn’t have to be in a matched defensive way.  We can acknowledge  our child’s reasons, even as we follow through with what needs to be done.

Because, don’t we all just want to be heard, to be understood, to have our feelings recognized?

So … try and go to the feelings first when dealing with an upset child – then to the fact – that your child does still need to comply, even though you understand and can empathize with him.

And when there’s those “pants with a button”  situations, we can make it easy –  “let’s just wear another pair!”

If your child is having upsets that you are struggling with, give me a call at The Parenting Place for a warm line talk – 784-8125 or make an appointment to come in for a one-on-one conversation to problem solve together.

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