Behavior is an Iceberg

August 11, 2014 at 7:48 am (Attachment Parenting, General, Positive Discipline)

What you see is only a small part of what’s really there.


Like an iceberg, the bulk of behavior’s “mass” is found below the surface; it is what gives rise to the part that is visible.  Behavior is triggered from feelings, which stem from the more deeply rooted needs of a person. These are not needs like, “I need candy/ I need a new toy/ I need to play video games.” Basic human needs consist of things like autonomy, safety, security, trust, empathy, understanding, adequate sleep and nutrition, a sense of belonging and inclusion, competency, respect, and love.

When a child’s basic needs are met, he feels satisfied, connected, secure, confident. The behavior looks “good.”

If a child’s needs are not met, he may feel insecure, afraid, angry, or detached. The behavior that shows, then, looks to be what we might call “unacceptable” as the child reaches out to try to satisfy these unmet needs. This occurs subconsciously, of course; a child is not able to articulate: “You know mom and dad, I have not felt included in the family since the new baby arrived, nor have I felt respected when I speak, so I’m going to be whiny and belligerent for a while.” His needs are valid; his feelings are valid. But he is misguided in his attempts to rectify them.

What we must do as parents is, in the face of misbehavior, remember that 90% of what is going on is below the surface. We must look deep to ensure the child is getting everything he needs, for behavior builds from there.

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Don’t Seek the Right Answers, Seek the Right Answers for Your Child

June 10, 2014 at 11:10 am (Attachment Parenting)


My husband is an expert carp angler. This is unusual in the fly fishing community. Targeting carp, as opposed to the traditionally “pretty” fish like trout or salmon, is a relatively new sport, though its popularity is gaining. With years of proficiency under his belt, my husband often gives presentations to fly fishing groups, clubs, and communities on the techniques involved in catching a carp on the fly. Invariably, at every presentation, someone asks him, “What is the best fly for catching carp?” And his response is always the same: “There is no best fly for all carp, but there will be a best fly for your carp.” Meaning: it depends on where you’re fishing. The conditions of the surrounding environment will dictate what kind of fly best imitates what the carp there are eating, so the best thing you can do is to know your forage.

I told him I’m totally going to use that line in my presentations. Because when I speak to parents or teach classes, I inevitably get asked a similar question. “What should I do?”

People attend parenting conferences or take positive discipline classes because they’re often in a place in their parenting in which they need some help. They’re in a tough stage with their child, they’re seeing behavior that challenges them, they’re frustrated with a recurring situation at home, or they’re eager to pick up some new parenting techniques. But the underlying question among parents in the room is always, “What is the right answer for how we should respond to behavior?”

And my response is: There is no right answer for all children, but there is a right answer for your child.

Meaning: There is no universal fix. There is no tool or technique that will fit all children perfectly. Your best answer is going to depend on your child, your family, and the relationship you have with one another. The conditions of the surrounding environment–personality, temperament, learning style, level of confidence, likes, dislikes, natural skills, inherent challenges, and relationships with others–will indicate what your child needs most to thrive. So the best thing you can do is to know your child.

Understand that your answers will be necessarily different from those of other parents. They’re fishing in different conditions.

Know your child, and you will find your answer.

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One Principle to Simplify Your Parenting

June 2, 2014 at 12:42 pm (Attachment Parenting)


With all of the tools, techniques, strategies, and “fixes” out there, parenting tends to get complicated. It is certainly easy to fill your parenting toolbox (not to mention your email inbox and social media news feeds) with the latest parenting “how-to”s, “to-do”s and “to-try”s.  Every hour of every day I see a new parenting post in my Facebook feed. I’ve seen pin boards with hundreds of posts about discipline, timeout strategies, reward charts, and tutorials on how to get kids to clean their rooms, eat their food, do their chores, brush their teeth, stay in bed, do their homework…

Here’s the thing. Sometimes parenting can use a good de-cluttering just like a house can. There is much that can get in the way of living parenting  in a peaceful, breathable environment. Clutter free. So when raising children starts to feel like too much to do to “get it right,” here is the one thing to keep in mind that will simplify everything:

Focus less on what you do and more on who you are to your child.

That’s it. When you’re feeling overwhelmed with behavior and the multitude of strategies out there to counteract or manage those behaviors, try to declutter your parenting toolbox. Be who your child needs you to be. That means…

Focus less on discipline tools, and more on communication. Does your child know that mistakes are OK?

Focus less on management, and more on relationship. Are you a person your child wants to come to?

Focus less on scheduling activities, and more on everyday presence. Are you grateful your child is in your life (and does he know that)?

Focus less on finding fault, and more on understanding. Do you know who your child is?

Focus less on fixing, and more on accepting. Can you accept your child for who she is rather than who you want her to be?

Sometimes the “clutter” of parenting can get overwhelming and it’s a good thing to downsize. Minimize. Simplify. Let the worry of putting all the best parenting tools to use at just the right times slide off your shoulders. Then kick it to the curb. Successful parenting isn’t complicated because its not an implementation of a carefully planned discipline or management approach. It’s about starting with the essential elements of the relationship and allowing that to lead.

Focus less on what you do and more on who you are to your child.

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9 Lessons I Learned From My Mom

May 11, 2014 at 8:24 am (General)


Family comes first. Being there for each other, spending time together, and supporting each other is a must. I remember once when my brother and I were in college and we were preparing for a vacation to Disney World, my mom said, “This might be our last family vacation together…” But guess what? It’s almost 20 years later and we still take family vacations together. From school events to movie nights to family vacations, prioritizing our family time has been that significant.

“If it is to be, it’s up to me.” If something is important enough, make it happen. You are capable.

No one can take your education away from you. No matter what hardships may fall upon you in life, you’ll always carry with you the knowledge and skills you made an effort to learn. It’s always worthwhile to learn something new.

Speak up. You might just get what you want.

Eat meals together. Dinnertime is essential enough to schedule or reschedule so everyone can be there. Cooking and baking and eating brings everyone together in meaningful ways.

Tears are OK. One night as a kid, I started crying in my bed at night and I didn’t know why. My mom came in to ask what was wrong, and when I couldn’t tell her, she held me and responded, “That’s OK. Sometimes big feelings overwhelm us and we just need to cry.” Whew…weight lifted.

Small savings add up to long term financial security. It’s the little expenditures that have the biggest impact. Most things we think are needs are really just wants. Know the difference.

Everyone has feelings. No one deserves to be hurt. Ever.

The one who matters most is the one in the glass. It’s not the critic who counts, but the person you see looking back at you from the mirror. That’s the one–the only one–you should worry about pleasing.

Happy Mother’s Day to my mom and to all the wonderful moms who teach their children lessons about life and what true love really is!

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Have Kids? Have Technology? Here’s a New Ebook You’ll Want to Read

May 5, 2014 at 7:27 am (General, Positive Discipline)

SCreen Time_2

One day I wrote a post about a time in which my children and I were struggling with screen time. I wrote about how we detoxed. Then one day soon after that post came out, Jane Neslen, author of the Positive Discipline series, contacted me, said she loved the post and wouldn’t it be great if we could put together a resource for parents on this very important topic? I said absolutely yes and started to get to work on what would become our ebook collaboration.

The irony was, every time I sat down to work on the book, I was tempted to either turn on a movie for my kids or hand them an iPad so I could get work done on it. I remember thinking, “Do I really want to write a book about the value of reducing screen time while my kids sit in front of a screen so I can get it done?” I decided no. I couldn’t do that.

So the book had to wait. Wait a bit until my kids were a little older and our schedules aligned and I had some uninterrupted work time…without the assistance of screens. Since that day a few years ago, we have had even more chances to work through additional challenges with our use of screens…adding to my growing understanding that there was certainly no cut-and-dry answer for every family and their screen time dilemmas.

It would be easy to declare, “Go screen free! Here is why, here is how, and here are the alternatives.” To give families ONE simple answer for their media use. The truth is, there is no ONE answer that works for everyone. Viewpoints on the topic of screen time range from 100% unlimited access to disowning TVs completely and avoiding video games like the plague.

Though, there is much in between.

That’s where our new resource comes in. For the families in the in-between…Those who fall somewhere in between full access and total banishment for their kids’ media use. I was thrilled when the ebook started coming together and we finally had a pub date. That date was last Monday, so the ebook is now available to everyone!


Don’t think I missed the irony of publishing a book about screen time in (only) a digital format. I noticed. I wondered about that. Realistically, this is how we live. Like the opening line of the book says, “Screens are everywhere.” So many aspects of our lives have been infiltrated by electronic gagets….and that’s not always so terrible. Tablets? Pretty handy. Smartphones? Helpful. eReaders? Awesome. I happen to love our gadgets. The danger–and where I think many parents struggle–lies in not finding balance of your family’s screen use. Of forming strong habits and depending on those devices too much.

It becomes easy to lose track of time when kids play on the computer or xBox. It becomes easy to fall into routines that involve screened entertainment when it may not be necessary–when there are alternative forms of engagement  we could be having with our kids.

So keep your iPhones, keep your TVs, and keep your video games. Keep reading ebooks (especially this one!). The key lies not in banishment, but in balance. This resource is meant to help parents understand the value of interpersonal connection, as well as the enjoyment of our devices, and to help you find a balance that works for your family.

In this book you will learn how to….

  • Be proactive in managing your media use
  • Set your family up for success with appropriate amounts of screen time
  • Set limits effectively
  • Solve problems when problems arise

You will also find a section of questions from parents just like you and answers from Positive Discipline experts and educators. How do I get my son off Minecraft? What are the best rules to set for Xbox use? What guidelines do you suggest for getting a child a cell phone?

There is also a template for a phone contract you can use with your kids that follows the principles of Positive Discipline. When your kids are ready for their first phone, this is  a great agreement to use to help everyone in the family get clear on the expectations and responsibilities that come with owning a phone.

The book is on sale now and available at these retailers:



Positive Discipline Store (downloadable as a PDF)

If you’ve read it already, we’d love to hear your feedback! Please let us know what you think.

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