Archive for July 30, 2016

Discipline: Time Out or Tuning In

Parents have attempted to use “time out” as a popular discipline technique for years.  Unfortunately, it is often misused and, as a result, leads to more arguing and greater parent-child conflict. You might have had the experience of trying to give your child a “time

out” only to find yourself in a drawn out argument with him instead. It just didn’t work. Let me try to explain why.

  • “Time out” is intended to remove stimulation, including any attention that increases a child’s negative behavior. Without this stimulation, the child can calm himself and think about more appropriate behaviors. Parents, however, often send their child to his room for a “time out.” He finds a multitude of stimulation and distraction in his room—radio, TV, video games, texting friends, etc. With all these stimulations to distract him, he never has a chance to think about his negative behavior. “Time out” has become ineffective.
  • Of course, a “time out chair” or “time out corner” could remove the stimulation but this often leads to a power struggle between the parent and child. Conflict (a negative form of attention attention) escalates as part of the parents’ attempt to force their child into the designated “time out” spot. Emotions become raw. Parental lectures expand. Parent-child debates intensify. And, the child continues to receive his parents’ (albeit negative) attention which reinforces his negative behavior. He focuses not on his own behavior, but his parents’ “crazy behavior.” On some level, he also recognizes his parents’ lack of control and power, producing insecurity in his life. “Time out” has become ineffective.
  • Children feel overwhelmed and out of control in the midst of their emotional outbursts. When a child does comply with the “time out chair” or “goes to his room,” he finds himself separated from his parents, the people who most help him manage his emotions. He may feel isolated and lonely. The person he turns to in time of need has cast him out and abandoned him rather than help him in his time of emotional need. “Time out” has become ineffective.

May I suggest a few tips to remedy this situation, to redeem the “time out?” Actually, we may more aptly call this “tuning in” to discipline your child.

  1. Practice “time-in” with your child. Make time to engage them in play, conversation, and activities throughout the day. Having “time-ins” with your child will build your relationship with him. As you respond to your child’s needs during “time-ins,” you will find that he responds to you more readily as well.
  2. When your child does misbehave, take a breath. Think about the misbehavior and the behavior you would like to see instead.
  3. Take your child by the hand or shoulder and gently guide them into another area, away from the stimulation found in the area of the negative behavior.
  4. Empathize with their feelings by identifying the emotion. Label it. Simply knowing “my” emotions are accepted and have a name helps a person calm down. Spend time “hearing,” acknowledging, and accepting the emotion your child feels.
  5. As they calm, begin to discuss behavior as well. All emotions are acceptable, but not all behaviors are acceptable. Delineate between appropriate responses to emotions and inappropriate responses, appropriate behaviors and inappropriate behaviors.
  6. After your child has calmed down, return to the area and let them practice the new behavior. If they say they would rather just leave, you might allow them to do so.
  7. Acknowledge their effort in implementing the new behavior or their wisdom in avoiding further conflict. Let them know you appreciate their new actions.

I realize this format takes more time and effort on the parents’ part, but the reward is equally superior. You will deepen your relationship with your child. Your child will learn to manage his emotions and engage in appropriate behaviors on a more regular basis. Give “tuning in” a try for the next month and see if you don’t find the change in your child’s behavior rewarding.

What? That Can Increase Family Happiness?

Well, a study published in the Journal of Public Health (read more here) confirmed another way to increase happiness in your family. To some, this method of increasing happiness will come as a shock and lead to a resounding groan. To others it will lead to a collective shout

of joy. What could increase family happiness and still have such a variety of responses? Eating fruits and vegetables. What? It’s true. You have to be kidding! No, the study shows that eating 8 servings of fruit and vegetables will increase happiness (click here to check out the graph embedded in this review to show the increase). This is no small study either. Mujcic and Oswald (the authors) examined food diaries of 12,385 adults over the years 2007, 2009, and 2013.   That represents a lot of people over a long period of time. They found that eating 8 servings of fruits and vegetables a day boosted happiness “to the max.” In fact, the  boost in happiness from eating 8 servings of fruits and vegetables had the same impact as getting a job after a period of unemployment! The boost in happiness occurred quickly as well. It didn’t take days or weeks. Eating fruits and vegetables today led to greater happiness tomorrow (unlike “the hamburger today [for which] I’ll gladly pay tomorrow”). So, bring on the brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and green beans. Stock up on apples, oranges, bananas, and berries. Encourage your family to eat fruits and vegetables. It will bring greater happiness into your home.

Help Your Children Internalize Great Values

As parents, we want our children to internalize positive values and the discernment to make wise choices. We encourage them to begin developing this kind of maturity early in hopes that, over time, they will internalize the skills necessary to do so independently. How can we help our children internalize the positive values and behaviors needed to live well? Here are some do’s and don’ts to consider.

First the DON’T’s:

  • parenting challengeDon’t yell. Yelling “scrambles” children’s minds. It threatens their sense of security. They feel responsible for their parent’s anger and threatened at the same time. Their fight or flight system is activated as a result; but they can’t run or fight. They are left in limbo, frozen, minds scrambled, unable to listen and unable to learn. Rather than yell, stay calm. Speak firmly but respectfully.
  • Don’t lecture. Children stop listening when parents lecture. They shut down. Instead, make your statements brief, concise, and to the point.
  • Don’t use permanent attributions like “always” and “never.” Your children will internalize your “always” and “never.” If you say your child “always lies” or “never cleans,” they will come to believe that about themselves and live it out. Use phrases like “this time” instead. Stick to “this” specific situation rather than letting your mind and your words go to “always” and “never.”
  • Don’t make comparisons. Comparisons never turnout well. Instead of helping to internalize positive values, comparisons contribute to a poor self-image, overly competitive behavior, fear of failure, and resentment. Focus on the specific behavior you want to address instead.

Don’t stop with the “don’ts” above. To really help your children internalize positive values and wisdom…

  • Do invest in a relationship with your children. Children internalize the values of people they know love them. If you want your children to listen to you and follow your guidance, build a relationship with them. This will demand an investment of time and energy. Take time getting to know your children. Learn about those things that interest them. Meet their friends. Enjoy activities with them. The closer your relationship with your children, the more likely they will internalize positive values from you. (Check out this Amazing Parenting Insight I Learned in 3 Parts for more.)
  • Do build on what they know already. Children already have a surprising ability to know right from wrong. Just check out this video from Yale University’s Infant Cognition Center, you might be surprised. Capitalize on that innate knowledge and encourage it. Rather than simply telling them what to do, ask them what they think and gently give input. Talk to them about choices movie characters make and the consequences. When a friend does something, ask them about it and their thoughts. Give them a chance to talk and develop their knowledge of right and wrong with your gently guidance and acceptance.
  • Do let them make choices. Children of all ages can make choices. Of course the nature of those choices will change over time; but, the opportunity to make choices will help them internalize positive values at any age. Let your toddler pick a shirt from the two you lay out. Your teen, on the other hand, can pick out a shirt from his whole closet. Let them make choices about simple daily activities like whether to take a bath or shower. And let them participate in larger more complex family decisions like where to go for dinner or what to do on vacation.
  • Do let them suffer. Sometimes our children will make poor choices that lead to some consequence. Don’t bail them out. Do let them suffer the consequences. Let them experience the results of their choices and their behaviors. Of course, take the initiative to protect them from decisions that can lead to greater harm. But, if they forget their lunch one day, let them suffer. They’ll survive. If they neglect their school project, let them suffer a poor grade. They’ll recover. Our children, like us, will learn a lot from the experience of a consequence.

DON’T neglect these four Do’s and four Don’ts to help your children internalize positive values. Get out there and DO them. And, have fun!

Think Like a Child to Discipline Well

Learning how children think helps parents discipline well. It’s true. Knowing how children process information gives parents crucial information for effectively stopping unwanted behavior and teaching desired behavior. Take lying for example. Studies suggest that up to 96% of children lie (see Help! My Teen Lies to Me for information on teens lying). So, if you have children you will have to deal with children lying. But, consider how children’s reasons for lying changes as they mature.

  • Disobedient boyThree-year-olds lie to avoid punishment. Even if you catch them with their hand in the proverbial cookie jar, in the act itself, they will lie in an attempt to avoid punishment. When researchers asked five-year-olds about lying, 92% said lying was “always wrong.” Still, they lied. Why? To avoid getting punished.
  • Things seem to change around six-years-old. Six-year-olds no longer lie when caught with their hand in the cookie jar. Instead, they tell the truth hoping it will make their parent happy (and it usually does). They no longer lie to simply avoid punishment but to keep their parents happy as well. They want the reward of parents who are happy with them.
  • When children hit the “preteen” years, they demonstrate an awareness of the impact of lying on others. They become more considerate of other people’s feelings and the potential risk lying poses to relationships. About 22% of eleven-year-olds carry some guilt for lying. They want to part of a group and know that lying can isolate them from the group.
  • 48% of eleven-year-olds say that lying destroys trust. They know that lying breaks down the social order. If a person lies, who can you trust…and how can society operate without trust.

I share these findings to make a point. Children think differently at different ages. To discipline effectively, a parent needs to consider their children’s developmental level and address the behavior at that level. In other words, they need to think like their children. A three-year-old may respond to a simple time out in a chair while a six-year-old will need more…like the constant acknowledgement of positive behaviors. Six-year-olds love to help their parents, providing an excellent opportunity to teach them chores and responsibilities. Eleven-year-olds begin to understand how behaviors impact their relationships and the world around them. Our explanations for appropriate behavior need to include this information. (More on child development in 5 Steps of Moral Development)

You get the idea. Listen to your children. Listen to how they think and observe what they find important. Learn about the changes that occur in children as they mature (More on development at Ages & Stages from Healthy Children). Use all this information in creative ways to discipline your children…and enjoy the rewards of your effective discipline!

12 Simple & Creative Summer Activities for Your Family

Having fun with your family does not have to be expensive this summer. Try some of these ideas.

  1. Go get ice cream cones together.
  2. Go for a walk in the woods.
  3. Roller skatesHave a picnic at a local park…or in your back yard.
  4. Enjoy an evening of stargazing. Tell stories about various constellations.
  5. Enjoy a free concert at a local venue.
  6. Pull out the sprinkler and put on your bathing suits for a day of water fun. Add squirt guns for even more fun.
  7. Go to a baseball game. If you have a minor league team nearby, enjoy watching their game.
  8. Play some yard games like Frisbee, Corn Hole, or catch.
  9. Enjoy a game of putt-putt.
  10. Make a home-made bird feeder out of a milk carton, fill it up with bird seed and do some bird watching.
  11. Go for a hike and start a leaf collection. Pick some wildflowers and arrange a beautiful bouquet for a shut-in.
  12. Have a campfire in the back yard and tell stories.

Changing the World: Families Sharing Grace

Watching the news today saddens me. The world is troubled. Vengeance, power grabbing, and insecure self-obsession have reached an all-time high. They have hit the streets in our communities…and our communities have become more dangerous and isolated as a result.
They roam the halls in our schools…and our children suffer, even going from class to class in fear and isolation. Even more insidious, vengeance, power grabbing, and self-obsession are broadcast across social media…creating anger, bitterness, and hurt within our families and friends. I fear that these attitudes have even infiltrated our families and our relationships, tearing us apart at the seams. Vengeance, power grabbing, and insecure self-obsession have left our world, our communities, even our families, desperately troubled. We need a change and that change begins with YOU practicing one small word in your daily life and family: GRACEbusinessman holding gift

Grace simplifies life by filling us with an awareness of unconditional acceptance. Acceptance within the family creates a sense of security. It communicates that each family member is loved “no matter what.” It builds loving bonds and intimate relationships out of which appropriate behaviors like respect, honor, helpfulness, and kindness blossom and bloom. Make it a point to show acceptance to your spouse and children today and every day. Set aside your own plans for a time so you can spend time with your family, learn about their interests, and let them know you love them.


Grace frees us from the crushing weight of anger and bitterness, releasing us from the burden of vengeance. One way grace does this is by promoting forgiveness. Forgiveness strengthens marriages. It creates secure parent-child relationships. It restores loving sibling connections that last through the good times and the bad. Forgiveness replaces bitterness and other hurt emotions with greater understanding and happiness. It replaces the desire for revenge with love and compassion, restoring broken relationships. It replaces walls of division with bridges of long-term intimacy.

Grace liberates us from the entanglements of narcissism by teaching us how to serve and sacrifice for one another. In Fighting for Your Marriage (For a more thorough review of this book, click here), the authors state that “research suggests some degree of sacrifice is a normal, healthy aspect of a solid relationship. In the absence of an attitude of sacrifice, what do you have? You have a relationship in which at least one of you is in it mostly for what you can get. That’s not a recipe for satisfaction or growth.” I would go further to say sacrifice is not only normal but necessary for a growing healthy relationship. Seize the opportunity to give up your own momentary interests to learn about the interests of your spouse and children. Capitalize on the opportunity to give up your right to sleep in so you can invest time in your children. Snatch the chance to watch the movie your spouse chooses and even enjoy talking with her about it. Wash the dishes. Help with homework. Clean the bathroom. Serve one another!


Our world is troubled, no doubt. Changes our troubled world begins with changing our families. Model grace toward your family. Teach grace in your family. Practice grace as a family. Let it overflow into your community…and watch how grace can point our troubled world toward change.

For at least 50 practical ways to share grace in your family, go to The Family Bank of Honor: Gifts of Grace…and have fun sharing grace!

3 Steps to Teach Children Better Behavior

Effective discipline involves teaching appropriate behavior, not just punishing negative behavior. In fact, the most effective discipline focuses first and foremost on teaching positive behaviors with these three steps.

  1. Mother And Son Doing LaundryModel the behavior you want to see in your children. If you want honest children, model honesty. Tell them the truth. Keep your promises so they know “your word is good” and truthful. If you want your children to avoid drugs and alcohol, live a drug-free lifestyle. If you desire polite and considerate children, be polite and considerate to your children as well as the adults around you. if you want children who have clear boundaries, set clear boundaries yourself. if you notice your children consistently engaging in some negative behavior, check your own behavior. Make sure you are not modeling that behavior in some way. Teaching positive behavior begins with you your own behavior. Model the behavior you want to see in your children.
  2. Point out the effect of you children’s misbehavior on those around them. Statements like “If you run through the crowd, you might knock someone down and hurt them,” “Your friend is sad because you won’t share,” “People in this restaurant are getting irritated with your loud behavior.” Pointing out the effect of their behavior on others can help your children learn to consider the consequences of their behavior, recognize how others are responding to their behavior, and to have empathy for others.
  3. Teach your children the behavior you desire. Don’t expect your children to know what behavior you expect. Show it to them. Explain it to them clearly. This may be as simple as cleaning their room with them or folding clothes with them so you can teach as you go. It can also include heart to heart discussions on topics like drugs, public behaviors, dating boundaries, expectations around driving. You could speak about these topics directly or through characters in stories or movies, current events, or experiences of friends. Whatever the topic, keep the expectations clear and concise. Avoid lecturing and nagging. Just dive in clear, concise and to the point. I know. It may seem like our children should already know better. But, how will they know unless we teach them? We need to make sure they know. So teach them again. The conversation may feel awkward; but a little awkwardness is worth the assurance that our children know exactly what is expected of them. And, that awkward conversation will actually contribute to a deeper relationship as well.

For a great example of this behavior read Dunkin’ Donuts & a Better Behaved Child and notice how this mother:

  1. Modeled the behavior she desired by staying calm.
  2. Explained the effects of her child’s behavior on others.
  3. Taught her child the behavior she desired.

Enjoyed the results!

Prelude, Fugue, & Variation in “NO”

Prelude in “NO”: Learning to tell your children “no” will benefit them for a lifetime. They won’t like to hear it; after all, they have a mind of their own and your “no” reminds them they can’t do everything they want to do. Still, they need your “no.” They lack the experience and knowledge to make wise choices in many situations. They need your “no” to set the limits and boundaries of safety. They need your “no” to promote their healthy physical, emotional, and spiritual development. They need your “no” so they can learn to say “no” for themselves as they become more independent.

parenting challengeFugue in “NO”: Saying “no” effectively is built on at least four foundational themes. Theme #1: children deserve our respect, even when we have to set a limit. No need to scream and yell, name call, or intimidate and threaten. Instead, remain considerate and respectful when saying “no.” Theme #2: learn to say “yes” as well as “no.” Effective “no’s” are balanced by “yeses.” Theme #3: effective “no’s” are based on values rather than the arbitrary mood of parents. They promote safety, health, and respectful interactions. Theme #4: parents communicate a good “no” with their voice, body, and facial expression. Master “the look,” the “polite but firm voice,” and the “strong but loving stance” with your “no” and each will come to speak “no” alone as well.

Variations on “NO”: You can communicate “no” in a variety of ways. In fact, the more ways you can say “no,” the more effective your “no” becomes. Let’s expand on the simple theme of saying “no” with a few variations.

  • Personalize the “no” by adding your child’s name. “No, John.” Say it calmly and politely but with a firm tone of voice. You will find adding your child’s name adds power to your “no.”
  • Add touch to your “no.” Put your hand gently on your child’s shoulder when you communicate “no.” Hold their hand while you say “no.” Gently move them away from the object of “no” and toward some other object or activity. Touch is a powerful tool in making your “no” effective.
  • Add eye contact to your “no.” Make sure you and your child look at each other when you tell him “no.” Let him see the love and concern in your eyes. Look for the understanding in his.
  • Change the setting. Rather than simply saying “no,” move to another room. Leave the area or redirect them to a different area. For instance, change the setting from inside to outside when the behavior gets too active or loud for inside.
  • Change the wording of your “no.” Use a word other than “no.” The words you choose will depend on your child’s age. For instance, you might say things like “Yuck, don’t touch,” or “Dirty,” or “Not now, how about tomorrow?” You get the idea. Be creative in setting limits and saying “no.”
  • Add a “yes” to positive substitutes. “No, you can’t have a cookie but you can have an apple.” In this way, you can redirect your child to a different and more positive behavior. This variation will help your child learn to accept a “no” and seek a positive alternative to meet their needs.
  • Change the timing. Sometimes a parent’s “no” simply reflects the timing of the behavior. Help your child learn the best time for behavior with your “no” and an explanation. “Don’t yell in the library. Wait until we’re outside.” “No, you can’t call your grandparents now, it’s too late. We’ll call earlier in the day tomorrow.”

Practice this Prelude, Fugue, and Variation in “NO” and you will hear your “no” become increasingly more moving and effective.

5 Benefits of a Family Adventure

My family and I just returned from vacation. We had a great time…fabulous. With my daughters getting older, we decided to go someplace new, someplace none of us have neworleans2visited before. We all love food and music, so we chose New Orleans.  We enjoyed a steamboat ride on the Mississippi, New Orleans jazz, historical museums, and great food. Some friendly New Orleans’ natives even taught us how to eat crawfish (delicious but a lot of work for the food). It truly was a great family trip. The whole thing made me think about the benefits of a family adventure. The adventure of a family vacation presents new experiences for the whole family. It teaches everyone in the family something new and builds stronger, healthier bonds within the family in at least 5 ways.

  1. Family adventures enhance communication. Family members have to communicate schedules, what they would like to do, when they get tired or hunger…the list goes on. Each family member learns to listen and speak with clarity as the whole family navigates new terrain, maneuvers unique circumstances, and designs mutually enjoyable experiences.
  2. Family adventures teach problem-solving skills. Let’s face it—most of us can’t do everything we want to do while on a vacation. We lack the financial resources and the time. Instead, we have to pick and choose which activities we will enjoy as a family and as individuals. This requires keeping other family member’s interests and possible scheduling issues in mind. It will demand negotiation and compromise. These, along with communication (see #1), are all great problem-solving skills.
  3. Family adventures provide playful experiences for the whole family. Work, school, and daily stresses all get left behind so the family can focus on relaxing and playing together. Don’t forget, families that play together stay together! (Read The Family That Laughs Together for more.)
  4. Family adventures gives us a broader, healthier perspective. Whether we experience the vastness of the sea, the majesty of the mountains, the power of the “mighty Mississippi,” or the amazing variety of cultures in our world, we gain a deeper perspective of life. We experience moments of awe (which carries its own benefits as described in Using the Power of Awe for Your Family) and a growing appreciation for the diversity of the world around us.
  5. Family adventures increase each family member’s confidence. Each adventure we navigate represents a new accomplishment. Each time a family member does something new—whether it be eating a new food, windsurfing, getting directions from a stranger, catching a fish, or hiking to the next lean to—they gain confidence in themselves and their abilities. We learn that each time we safely step out of our comfort zone we raise the chances of new opportunity. My daughter learned this in New Orleans when she approached a pianist to talk about his experiences on Broadway. During the conversation, he asked her to sing a song with him…and she did (see video below). A great experience and a great confidence boost.

All in all, family adventures help families grow. They bring out the best in all of us as individuals and as celebrating communities of honor and grace. Now get out there and have a fun adventure!