A dad was telling me a humorous story about his two-and-a-half-year-old son.  When this little guy’s mom picked him up and told him “it’s time to use the potty”, he spoke firmly into his mom’s ear “no potty” and then turned her head and repeated his declaration “no potty” in her other ear – just in case he hadn’t made himself perfectly clear.

The strong universal “NO’ that a toddler can project can reverberate throughout a room..  This dad recognized and appreciated what he knew to be his son exercising his developing ” assertiveness muscles”.

And just as we are thrilled with our children’s first smiles, first steps, and first words, these shows of independent thought, determination, and ownership are also to be understood and celebrated.

We can choose to react with a matching response which often intensifies the exchange between us – or we can just hear our child, acknowledge we hear him, but …we need to carry on anyway.

Except when we don’t.

And that’s the time when it works – the times when we are able to offer our yeses – when we can offer the space for independence and growth to take place. Yes to help with the dishes – yes to baking, yes to dressing, yes to putting away the groceries, or washing the car – whatever it is that these focused little spirits want and need to do and we can say yes to – in their continuing exploration of the world around them –  as they find their own place in it.

As parents, we can understand their striving,  provide for it whenever possible, and love them for it.

Enjoy the ride!


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did I just say that?

Has it happened to you?  As soon as the words come out of your mouth, you gasp a bit – and think – “oh my goodness  – I sound just like my mother, or my grandmother  or my dad!”

Sometimes it’s something we vowed we wouldn’t ever say to our child – that we would choose our own parenting words in our own new parenting style.  Yet in that moment our mother’s  words came out.

I think sometimes it takes becoming a parent to understand our own parents. We may have developed new ways of responding to our children different than our parents did with us. However, when that occasional phrase is spoken- or disciplinary action takes place – just think, this is a reminder of how my own parent felt with me.

Parenting is universal and the joys, celebrations, trials and tribulations are collective common experiences among us all.

It’s kind of a humbling revelation I think – one that brings us more understanding of our shared parenting experiences – and maybe even a little forgiveness.

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hearth and home

I’ve been thinking a lot about Earth Day coming up.  How can one not be tuned in to celebrating the beauty of the earth these days, as right before our eyes the splendor of Springtime unfolds?

I’m reminded that it was a Senator from Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson, who was responsible for the very first Earth Day on April 22, 1970.  So – really – here in Wisconsin, Earth Day is definitely ours to proudly remember, ours to honor, ours to celebrate!

The thing about honoring Earth Day, however, especially with young children, is that it definitely begins at home.  Add an H to earth and you have Hearth – and so it is in our hearth and home and our yard and our neighborhood that we can all make a difference.

This year Earth Day is on Saturday, April 22nd. There will be community planned celebrations, runs, and events to attend and join.  However, whenever we take to our yards with rakes and hoes and gloves to pick up litter, rake up the old leaves and clutter, prepare the soil for flowers, plants or vegetables, we are celebrating Earth Day.

And whenever we stop and notice and observe with our children the wind, the birds, the bees and the butterflies, the frogs and the chipmunks, the worms and the puddles, the blossoms and the weeds, we are celebrating Earth Day.

And whenever  we have a picnic lunch and make sure all of our waste gets picked up and thrown properly away, we are celebrating Earth Day.

And when our toddler takes the empty egg container and independently knows that it goes into the recycle bin, we are definitely “high fiving” Earth Day.

For simply speaking, Earth Day begins and is beautifully remembered, celebrated and repeated right in the midst of our very own busy hearths and homes and family.


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Saturday morning I happened to glance out my front windows, then stopped what I was doing to stand and watch what was to me a simple but most charming moment.

A young boy about five years old was walking along on the curb, arms outstretched and wavering, carefully balancing himself, as his mom walked along nearby in the street.

When they reached the corner, he hopped off the curb, playfully catching up with his mom, taking her hand, and swinging their arms, they crossed the street together.  Then once again, he let her hand go and returned to his task at hand – perfecting his balance.

This was a moment that I could sense, and I bet this mom and her little boy felt too, that all seemed right in their world.

For that’s what balance is all about.  And all through our lives, we try to find the right balance for ourselves, our children, our families.  It takes practice – a few slips here and there  – before we start to trust our judgements, our choices for the way our families live, work, and play together.

This young boy, seeking his own personal balance and connection, had found it for sure that morning as he proudly walked the curb on his own, and then again, as he trustingly reached out to his mom’s ready hand.

A perfect balance of exploration and security  for a young boy on a sunny Saturday morning.

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Let the sunshine in

I have a hand-out –  a coloring sheet, actually-  displaying multiple rays extending from a round sun – and above the sun,  block letters that read “Let the sunshine in”.

I’ve offered this occasionally to parents as a simple exercise in changing their focus.  I ask them to write their child’s name in the sun, and in the nine rays, think of all the special, lovely things about their child – funny, kind, loving, creative, sensitive, smart.

One time, meeting with a mom and dad who I already knew were feeling somewhat defeated with their 6-year-old’s behavior, I offered this sheet to them to complete before we began talking about their concerns.

By the time they finished completing their exercise, there were tears in their eyes.  They realized how much they had missed these past weeks – focusing solely on what was wrong rather than the strengths that were so readily part of their son.

And so that turned out to be the perfect place to begin our conversation – to understand what might be happening with their son to cause the behaviors they were noticing.

I love that exercise. It’s such an eye-opener for whomever we are in a relationship with – or just our lives in general. What are the strengths we see and know are there?

A good way to let the sun shine in.

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April Fools

This year – this week in fact – April Fool’s Day will be on a Saturday.  Perfect!

And why you might wonder does that fall into the “perfect” zone?

Well for most of us , Saturdays are a bit more laid back, slower – we don’t have to rush off to daycare, school, or work.  And so – there’s time to maybe be a little silly, maybe have some fun family shenanigans on April Fool’s Day.

For just as much as consistent routines, good sleep, and healthy meals are important in family life, laughing and being silly with our children lowers stress, creates togetherness, and makes connections that clear the air and unifies us.

You’ve all heard of comic relief, right?  Well initiating zany pranks with our children can offer exactly that.

Waking the family up and saying “hurry up – we all overslept.  We have to get moving fast!” was one that I remember my mom doing to us on April Fool’s Day – and we fell for it each time.

Hang pictures upside down, set the table in a weird way, freeze milk and cereal in a bowl overnight for a tricky breakfast reaction.  Only you know what will “get” your family.

Put your minds together and let the kids come up with how to fool Dad, or Grandma, or the next-door-neighbor.  Make it a tradition in your house.

April Fool’s Day – a day you get to be mischievously clever!

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food for thought

Right now, sitting here thinking of what to share this week, I note a definite absence of a certain four-legged creature, our dog Tootsie. And as any parent can attest, when it’s too quiet, when a child is out of sight and out of sound, something might be up.

It isn’t any too different with Tootsie than it was with our children or is with any child.

And so I stop what I’m doing and go and check.  I was right.  There she was, caught in the act- a sock in her mouth, another sock and a pair of underwear strewn around her.

I know immediately that I have left the gate to the laundry room open once again.  And the temptation is too great for Tootsie – and she must enter, steal, and chew up.

And so I rant and rave a bit to get her to come and sit and drop – and she sheepishly does.  But in all fairness, I should have closed the gate behind me. Because closing the gate to avoid such temptations for Tootsie, such disruption and annoyance for me – is a pretty simple thing to do.  And I know it.

As parents, how often are we frustrated with our children’s behavior because of something that could have been avoided?

Stopping at the market when we know our child is exhausted and hungry, staying too long to visit with a friend, over-scheduling our days so there is little downtime, skipping naps, whatever is your own personal equivalent to “not closing the laundry room gate”.

As parents we don’t need to “beat ourselves up”over this. Because it happens – it just does. But it is revealing, isn’t it, that so often when our children are the most challenging, we forgot, took our chances, pushed the envelope a bit too far, and our children responded – like children.

Good food for thought – for change – on this glorious 1st day of Spring!

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