Even if you don’t have kids or ever thought of having kids, you have still heard of the “terrible twos” which has now expanded into the “threenager” and the “F- you fours”.    I love all of these descriptions because it really helps parents navigate these ages and it says, “You are not alone.”  “These ages are tough!”

But after spending some time outside of the good ol’ USA, I started to wonder if the “terrible twos” were an American fabrication.

Basically the terrible twos are children exploring independence.  It’s not a bad thing as I explain in this post about independence. But we have interpreted the constant “no’s” as terrible rather than as an opportunity for learning and responsibility.

So what happens in other countries that doesn’t happen in the states? Or vice versa; what doesn’t happen there that does happen here?

Good question.

I think the answer is two-fold:

Parents don’t put up with s#*$t in other countries

In the USA, we want to take such good care of our children, that we let them run the show.  Parents want to support their children, they want to nourish their children and they don’t want to squelch their children.  This desire for their children to bloom can co-exist with setting limits and letting children know what is allowed and what isn’t.  But unfortunately (often due to social media, but also other cultural factors) it manifests itself into never wanting the child to cry or be distressed, so sometimes we as parents backtrack until everyone is happy again.  But this just creates more strife and more terrible behavior.

Parents allow their children independence in other countries

We all grew up with stranger danger and it is so strong that even though it has been proven that most child abductions and child abuse come from people that children already know, we are still scared of the world.  It is OK to give our children some independence.  Even if it takes twice the amount of time, we need to let them put their shoes on.  And they can wear shoes that don’t even match and are on the wrong feet.  We can let them help us cut vegetables without worrying about ending up in the emergency room.  They can climb trees, they can dig holes for our garden, they can choose a cereal box off the grocery shelf.   This is a gift that only you can give them.  They deserve the chance to be more independent and you deserve the respite that it brings when they fuss less.


How can we learn from other countries?

Get your little ones a passport and book a flight to learn all the different ways to raise a child.  Then start setting some limits on what behavior is allowed in your family and what behavior isn’t allowed.  Then open the door to your children.  Let them explore the world.





As very young children get older, they start to become more independent.  But there are two things working against that independence.

1) They don’t fully understand all the implications of independence, (i.e. responsibility, safety and sometimes independence is scary)

2) We aren’t always ready to give them independence because they are still our babies.

Because of these two obstacles, independence often takes the form of defiance. 

My two-year old (almost three-year old) boys are dabbling in defiance.  I am slowly giving them more independence-

  • They can get in and out of bed by themselves
  • They can wash their hands by themselves
  • They can get dressed by themselves
  • They can prepare some of their food by themselves

But really, they don’t have that much independence yet and as they grow older, they will request more.

How do they do this?

By asserting themselves.

This comes across as being defiant.  But a child who has opportunities throughout the day to be independent will be less defiant.

How does this work?  Well, this goes hand in hand with the “giving-children-more-opportunities-for-risk” post.  

It is hard to allow children to fail, fall, hurt, cry, or fumble but we need to give our children those opportunities and it will help with the defiance we see in young children as well as the defiance we see in teenagers. 

We have scares, and like many parents, we have them often.  But instead of shielding and sheltering my children more, I love feeling the confidence of a child who just learned that it is not OK to play behind a truck.  So that if he ever finds himself in a place behind a truck that is starting, he will get out of there and not wait for someone to come get him.

A child who is acting defiant is a child who needs more independence.

What does this look like and what can parents do?

Let’s say you are getting ready for bed and your child starts acting up.



“I don’t like those pajamas!”

or however it manifests in your household.

These are all signs of defiance that could be turned into independence.

Your child can take control over what pajamas they want to wear.  They can have control over who brushes their teeth.  And of course they have the independence to choose what book to read.

These are all easy ways to give our children more independence that they are craving.

They are asserting themselves as individuals and we need to give them that opportunity.

Here’s another thought:

If we give children more opportunities to assert their Independence throughout the day, will they ultimately be less defiant?

Try it tomorrow and see what happens.



This was the exact question that I got asked yesterday and I love this question!  Unfortunately it isn’t a short yes or no answer, but there is some concrete information out there that can really help parents.  But there are also a lot of emotions out there that can really complicate this topic.

So the shortest answer?

There are two extremes:

  • Cry-it-out extinction where the parent leaves the child alone in the room for the night is on one end
  • Attending to every single whimper so that the child never cries is on the other hand.

Neither of these is recommended by a single expert.


So now for the longer answer:

Your child is going to cry at some point.  That is OK and is normal, expected, not going to cause any harm and is actually recommended with you there to support your kiddo.

You and your child are going to go through transitions as they grow.  You will eventually stop night feedings, your child may develop fears, you might return to work, your child will develop separation anxiety, your child will drop naps, your child will develop independence, and with each of these transitions, there will be some adjustment to the change.

There will be tears.

You can be there to support those tears.

You can also give some space.

So on one end of the spectrum cry-it-out might look like this:

Your 6 month old baby sleeps in a crib in another room.  You have your baby on a pretty good schedule but she is still waking every two hours at night.   You make a plan with her and your husband that you are only going to feed her two times at night.  You tell her that she can do it and that you will be there for her.   Then when she wakes when it isn’t time to feed, you or your husband are there to comfort her.  You may lie by the crib or you may rub her back for 2 minutes and then leave for 5 minutes until she stops crying.  After a couple of nights, she gets used to the new schedule and only wakes to feed twice a night. 

And on the other end of the spectrum, cry-it-out might look like this:

You share a bed with your 13 month old.  You feed her when she asks but it is getting to be too much because it is every one to two hours at night.  You would like to bring the feedings down to one or two feedings per night.  You make a plan with her and your husband that you are only going to feed her two times at night.  You tell her that she can do it and that you will be there for her.   Then when she wakes when it isn’t time to feed, you or your husband are there to comfort her.  You may sleep in another room while your husband comforts her so that she doesn’t try to get milk.  Or you may just remind her while rubbing her back or cradling her that there isn’t any food until a certain time.  There will be crying and you will be there for her and comfort her while you cut back on night feedings.   After a couple of nights, she gets used to the new schedule and only wakes to feed twice at night. 


What does the research say about cry it out?

You have probably heard that there are studies that say that cry-it-out will cause long-term damage to your child.  You may also have heard that cry-it-out is just fine for your baby.  There are actually only two heavily referenced studies on cry-it-out and both of them only give limited info on the subject.  The only thing experts truly know about this is that we don’t know enough and we could do a plethora of studies to learn more.

The cry-it-out is bad for babies study

This study was done with a group of babies in a lab and it was testing the synchronicity of the mother’s and baby’s cortisol levels when they were crying-it-out.  We don’t know much about how the babies were supported but what we do know is that after 3 nights, the mothers’ cortisol levels went down and the babies’ cortisol levels remained high.  We do know what cortisol levels are an indicator of stress and we do know what certain amounts of stress are bad.  We also know that it good when mothers are in tune with their babies.  So yes, there will be a certain amount of stress with crying-it-out.  Does it cause long-term damage?  This study doesn’t show that it does.

The cry-it-out is fine for babies study

This study was done over five years with a group of families and one group of families was given sleep training information and the other group got no additional information.  After 5 years, they couldn’t tell much of a difference in either behavior or sleep habits.  So what does this show?  Nothing really. It just says that the babies who may have been sleep trained turned out fine and that the parents who didn’t sleep train have children that sleep just fine. 


Your babies are going to cry and that’s OK.  All babies will cry.  

You choose the level of support and when you want to make transitions.  

It isn’t recommended by anyone to leave your baby to cry for hours by yourself.  You baby may cry for hours, but you will be there so support them. 





Oh my goodness. If you haven’t seen this book yet, go check it out.

The Little Tree by Loren Long is about a tree that wants to hold on to its leaves.

There are a lot of things that we want to hold on to and it shows up in our bodies in a not great way.

The word that Loren Long uses over and over again is, “tight,”

That’s how it feels.  Your back? tight.  Your neck? tight.  Your body? tight.

We know that it isn’t healthy for us to hold on to this and to create this tension so teaching this idea at a young age is genius. We can show our kids how tight feels and how letting go feels.

When you get to the part where little tree lets go, watch your child.  Watch how things float away.  Watch their body and watch how it melts.

It’s magical.

Get this book and read it.  It will help you as well!



Does it seem like all your toddler does is fly off the handle? Do you feel overwhelmed by your toddler’s behavior?  Or is your child pretty awesome, but still has these moments where you just don’t know what to do?

Here’s my top 5 tips to help calm your toddler.


Toddlers are learning about their world and asserting their independence and the easiest way for them to assert their independence is to throw a fit.  So to help them navigate their world, you can help them to be in more control by giving your children some control.   When you give control, they don’t need to take it by way of a tantrum.  So give your child little bits of control throughout the day, and they will be more calm.  Let them choose which shoes to wear to the park.  Give them control over how many necklaces they want to wear.  Allow them to choose their snack.  Ask them which pajamas they want to wear.  This will lessen the amount of time that they are battling you and will create calmness in the house.

Get outside

Nature is Therapeutic.  If you are feeling at the end of your rope, or if you child is losing it; head outside!  Nature will raise your spirits, it will help you breathe, it will calm your nerves.  Once you are outside, you will probably get some exercise and if you get some exercise you will sleep better and if you sleep better, you will be more calm.  This works for your kiddos too.

Check sleep routines

On of my mantras to my children is “when I’m tired, I get pretty fussy.”  They see this in action as I can be short with them when I am more tired.  The same is true for my kids.  If they are getting fussy, it probably means that I need to move bedtime sooner or get a nap in.  If tiredness is a constant, then looking at how much sleep kids are getting and how the routines are working is a must.

Teaching calming down techniques

It’s hard to calm down if you don’t know how to do it.  So, what are some techniques? The first technique is taking a deep breath.  Teach this technique all the time and do it when everyone is happy and calm.  When is the best time to do that?  Right before dinner or right before bed or during a bath.  Say, “Smell the roses” as you breath in deeply.  Then say, “Blow out the candles” and release your breath.

Another technique is taking space or taking a break.  When children are very little, just a change of scenery will be enough to calm a child down.  Read a book, look outside or go to a different room.  Sometimes they will need more space and will need to be alone for a little while.  Also known as a “time-out”, if children are taught this technique in a calm way, it can be very effective.

Model behavior

I hear over and over again how parents feel bad when they get upset with their children.  But getting upset isn’t a bad thing.  It is totally normal.  It is also a perfect time to model calming down techniques.  You get upset at something.  You yell.  Then you say out loud “I am really upset right now and I need to find a way to calm down!!” (If you can identify your behavior, your children will learn how to do the same.) Then you say (or yell!) “I’m going to take some deep breaths right now and I hope that helps!!!” or “I’m going to take 5 minutes in the bathroom or my bedroom right now and try to calm myself down!!”.  Your child will be staring at you in disbelief but will be watching and learning about how to calm down.

Once you are calmer, you can talk about what worked and what didn’t.  You can also apologize if you did something that you wish you hadn’t.  That is also a great learning experience for children and better in the long run for children than to have parents that never make any mistakes at all.


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Have you ever yelled at your children?  Have your children gotten angry and screamed at you or threw things?  You may feel like your family is the only family that ever gets angry, but the truth is that everyone feels anger and that feeling angry is perfectly OK.  But what do we do when we feel angry, or after we feel angry?  We weren’t really ever taught how to deal with it, so it is important that we teach our own kids about this unique emotion.

A lot of parents shy away from showing or talking about strong emotions.  We were brought up to think that emotions should be hidden.  But teaching empathy and talking about our emotions is the healthiest way to take care of our minds and bodies.

So we are going to get angry.  And our children are going to get angry.  And that is perfectly OK.  But we also talk about it and read about it.

My favorite book about anger is When Sophie Gets Angry, Really, Really Angry… By Molly Bang

Here’s why:

It’s the classic kid problem.  Both kids want the same thing.  How often does this happen?  Every. Single. Day. About a hundred times.   The classic kid response to this classic kid problem?  Anger. 

The description of anger is dead on.  She is like a volcano, she is like a tiger.  She wants to roar.  She feels like she is going to explode.  That is exactly how I feel.

How she deals with it.  She runs. She leaves.  She doesn’t hurt anyone. She breathes.  She cries.  She stops and she starts coming back through awareness of her surroundings.  It’s like Buddha wrote this book.  It is so sweet. 

Connection to nature. Being outdoors.  I heard someone say once that it is impossible to be angry while looking at a rainbow.  Sometimes just getting outside will help with our emotions and this is exactly what Sophie does. 

It’s an example of a perfect time out.  Time outs are effective when they are used as a calming down strategy.  The strategy is talked about before the child gets angry and is modeled by the parent.  So when I get angry, I say, “I’m going to take some space like Sophie and take some deep breaths.”  Then later, I can talk about how I calmed myself down and read the book again with my children.  When they get really angry, I can offer, “Do you want to take some time like Sophie?  Do you want to go outside by the tree like Sophie?”

Kids really relate to this book and it is perfect for teaching children about anger, emotions and empathy.




family dinner

I was talking with my husband about kids last night and how difficult it is to raise children with drugs, media, violence, diseases, addiction and all the other bad things out there in the world.  We were starting to feel a bit depressed when I remembered that there is one thing that you can do to guard your children against all that.

The Family Dinner

Here are the top 5 reasons why you need to have a family dinner with your children this week:

1) Connection

When you sit down at a dinner table, all facing each other, there will be conversation, questions, and connection.  You will build memories, vocabularies, world knowledge and just know more about each other.  This connection will be with your family through the thick and thin.

2) Screen-free

An important part of the family dinner is to turn off all screens.  Not only does this set a precedent for how to eat with others, it will carve out an automatic screen-free time where everyone can be in the present and not connected to something else.  


If there is just one change that you make to create a stronger family, more resilient kids and a better world (corny, I know, but it’s true) then have at least one family dinner this week!


3) Nutrition and picky eaters

Do you have picky eaters?  Family dinner is one of the many ways that you can help them, but the most important thing to remember, is no pressure.  When food is presented in an attractive way, everyone is eating it and everyone is happy and comfortable, children are more likely to try it.  That doesn’t mean that they will eat it, or like it, but if a child just tries a bite of food, science shows that after 20 tries, they will like the food.  So don’t pressure them, just enjoy the food yourself and over the years, your children will be less picky.

4) Family stories

One of my favorite New York Times article talks about how children who have more of a foundation can weather trauma better.  So if they have heard more stories about their family and know more details about their parents and their lives, then they have more tools in their toolbox when things get rough.

5) Routine

With routine, you build trust and create rituals that will ultimately build a foundation on which your child can grow.  One of my favorite routines is to have everyone take a deep breath before everyone starts eating (or once everyone is sitting at the table).  “In through your nose” *breathe* “Out through your mouth” *breathe* “Smell the flowers” *breathe* “blow out the candle”.  This daily exercise will not only help you as a parent to relax and ground yourself, but it also teaches your child essential calming skills.


Most parents are wondering what to do when their child is having a tantrum, or what to do when they are hitting.   But a lot of parenting challenges can be resolved when everyone is calm.

Sometimes we don’t take advantage of this time because we might forget. But even more often, we don’t want to “rock the boat” when things are good.  We don’t want to lose the good part by bringing up the bad part.

But don’t be afraid!

There are a lot of things you can do when things are calm to help the times that aren’t calm.

Each situation is a little bit different on how to handle the behavior, but here are ten things you can do when everyone is in a good mood:

1) Teach calming down strategies

The best strategy for calming down is to take a deep breath.  It works for kids, it works for adults.  Young children love imagery so you can say, “Smell the flowers. Blow out the candle.”  You may not think that you have to practice, but when everyone is in the heat of the moment, breathing deeper is a lot harder than you’d think.  If you are eating dinner together, you can start the meal with two deep breaths.  That helps your daily practice, as well as setting the stage for a nice meal.  Another strategy for calming down is taking space.  You can talk to your kids about taking space and how it helps calm you down and then actually act it out.  Pretend that you are upset and then go into your room.  Come out a minute later much calmer and talk about how taking space helped.

2) Read a book together

There are many great anger and tantrum books out there that you can read with your children, but the best book that you can use to help your child is one that you wrote about your situation.  Does your child always get upset about their little brother? Write a book about it with real pictures!  Does your child throw things all the time?  Write a book about it!  Then you can discuss the book and the behavior with your child when everyone is calm.

3) Make a plan about a certain behavior

This one is so important.  Don’t wait until the behavior happens to make a plan.  Make a plan in the morning or evening when everyone is calm.  Start by mentioning the unwanted behavior.  “Do you remember what a tough time we had going to bed last night?  You were fussing about not getting enough water (stories/hugs/potty trips/etc). Let’s make a plan so that it doesn’t happen again tonight.”  Then after you mention the problem, you can start coming up with ideas on how to do things differently this time.  Also come up with a plan if things don’t go well again.

4) Talk about how much we take care of each other

Make this part of your daily routine.  Whenever you see someone helping out, mention it.  “I’m taking care of you guys by making breakfast.  You are taking good care of your kitty by being gentle.  Papa takes good care of us by working so hard.  Thank you for taking good care of your toys.  Your hug just made me feel so good- you take good care of me.”  Being part of a family means taking care of each other and it is good to point out each time it happens.

5) Solve a problem

Solving problems can be fun and when you practice the steps of problem solving, you make it easier to problem solve when times are rough.  First, name the problem “What is the problem?  Our spice drawer is really messy.  What are some solutions?  We could organize all the spices; we could build a spice rack; we could move them to a bigger drawer.  What do you guys think?”

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6) Let them overhear about what a good listener/ good problem solver/ good helper they are

My favorite quote is “The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice“.  So if a child hears that they are “crazy monsters”, then they will become a crazy monster.  If a child hears that they are a “good helper”  then they become a good helper.

7) Let them see you handle a conflict/ calm down

Modeling behavior is the best way to teach behavior and if you are a parent, chances are, you have gotten angry, upset or overwhelmed recently.  This gives you the perfect situation for modeling how to get out of that mood and it is by calming our bodies.  Once you are upset, talk about it. “I’m really upset right now. I’m going to take some deep breaths to help me calm down.  *breathe in*  *breathe out*  (pause) OK, I’m feeling a little bit more calm now.”

8) Eat a meal together without devices

The best way to deal with conflicts present and future is to eat a meal together without devices.  Eating a family dinner is one of the best things you can do to help your child’s behavior.  It is the perfect time to bring up situations in a non-threatening way and you can find solutions to help solve future problems.

9) Look at how much sleep your kids are getting

A tired kid is a cranky kid.  Compare your child’s sleep with how much sleep they should be getting.

10) Have a tickle fest!

Have fun together as a family.  Kids are a riot.  Enjoy them as much as you can and you will release a lot of stress and find yourself enjoying each other a lot more!


We know as adults that bribing doesn’t feel good; it doesn’t feel right.  If our boss were to say, “If you’d stay a couple of hours later tonight, I’ll bring you a chocolate cake tomorrow”; we’d probably stay and do the extra work but deep inside we might be thinking, “gosh, I didn’t need him to offer the chocolate cake, I would have stayed anyway.”

It feels even weirder when someone in our family bribes us.  If our spouse were to say, “If you were to keep the house a bit cleaner, then you’d get a special ice cream.”  Well, wow.  First of all, it feels weird that they think they have the power over us to do that.  Second of all, they can help clean the house.  Third of all, I’d like something special because you enjoy the time you spend with me, not because I clean the house.  Lastly, I do the best I can to clean the house.  I would have grave concerns about my marriage if this ever happened.

And what about rewards? Rewards are just another type of bribe.  A child who gets a prize for good behavior is the same thing as bribing a child.

There are two reasons why bribing doesn’t feel right to us and isn’t appropriate for most reasons when working with young children.

Bribing affects long-term relationships

One example of this is when parents bribe their children for eating.  If you eat all of your dinner, then you can have dessert.  This is by far one of the most common bribes that parents use.  It works, it is easy and it gets the job done.  However, it affects the child’s lifelong relationship with food.   It gets to the point where the child demands dessert, the entire meal is plagued with negotiation and frustration and as they get older they idolize sweets as the end-all-be-all.

Instead of bribing children with dessert, you have a couple of options: 1) Offer the dessert (fruit, sweet muffin, or even a cookie) with dinner.  This will seem very strange at first and the child will eat the dessert first, but then continue to eat the dinner without a fuss.  Or: 2) The child is done eating when they are full.  Sometimes there is something sweet after dinner and sometimes there isn’t.  It really models how we want to be as adults and again, it will be strange at first, especially if everyone is used to bribes, but it really does work.

A second example of how bribing affects life long relationships is when a parent offers a treat for a certain behavior.   Sometimes parents will say, “I have a treat in the car for you if we leave right now.”   When we try to control another person’s behavior through bribes, we are saying two things; 1) I have all of the control and you have none and 2) people can be manipulated by giving them things.

We want our children to build life long positive relationship with their family members as well as everyone around them.  They can’t build positive relationship by controlling other people and using ‘treats’ to control them.  There needs to be some equality in the amount of control to have a positive relationship and gifts should be given because of the joy it brings, not because it can manipulate people.

Bribing affects intrinsic motivation

This one is pretty obvious and we all know it, and yet, we still bribe our children.  When we ask them to do something with a reward at the end, we are teaching them to do things based on what they will receive rather than how it will make them feel.  We are separating them from the essential skill to decide to do things for themselves.

The pipe dream for most parents is for children to be OK (or even want to) help out with chores, or do their homework.  These are the types of jobs that we want our children to be motivated intrinsically to do.  So the worst thing to do is bribe them for these behaviors.  This will make them want to do them even less.  What you need to so is build these behaviors into your daily life.  Show them that mom and dad do their chores and their work without fussing.  Talk about how nice the house is or how the family can support themselves when they do a good job.

I’m not saying that you can’t set a limit.  For instance, if you child needs to clean up after dinner and you don’t want to bribe him by saying, ‘if you clean up, you can get a treat’, you can say, ‘We all clean up after ourselves. Once you clean up, we can have play time.’  or another option is, ‘We all clean up after ourselves.  I’d be happy to do it for you, but then I won’t have time to help you read a book before bedtime.’

But you don’t want to be saying, ‘We need to leave the park now.  If you get into the car, I’ll get you an ice cream.’  Instead, you can say, ‘We need to leave the park now.  Would you like to come back again next week?’  I’m not saying that your child won’t fuss simply because you ask them if they want to go back to the park again.  They will, and fussing is OK.  Your children have emotions and being upset that they have to leave is an acceptable emotion.  You can comfort them by saying, ‘I know, I love to come to the park too and leaving can be hard.  Do you want to come back next week?’

When are the three times bribing is OK and why?

The three times that it is OK to bribe your children is potty training, working with children with special needs and during or after big physical feats.

Potty training

Pretty much every parent talks about using M&M’s during potty training but most parents don’t know why.   Let’s first look at the two reasons we don’t want to bribe; long-term relationships and intrinsic motivation.  Potty training is neither of these.  Your child won’t have a long-term relationship with learning how to pee and poop.  It may take years to finally stop having accidents, but the act of usually getting our waste into the toilet is short-lived.  There are also no problems with children not having enough intrinsic motivation using the bathroom.  We don’t hear older children saying, “I really should use the bathroom, but I just can’t motivate myself to do it.”

Because potty training doesn’t go against building a long-term relationship or intrinsic motivation, it is perfectly fine to use bribing to get results.

Children with special needs

I have spent many years working with children with special needs and although all children are different, there are a lot of children who benefit from using rewards for certain behaviors.  For children who are on the autism spectrum, they develop relationships differently than typically developing children.  The way that they build relationships aren’t always harmed by using rewards.  They also have a different way of being motivated.  Their brains work differently and I have found that using rewards and bribes only affects them in a positive way rather than in a negative way.

During or after a big physical feat or Getting something special for doing something special

Let’s again look at the two reasons to avoid bribing, long-term relationships and intrinsic motivation.  If you were to offer an energy pill (skittle or small candy) during a bike, hike or ski, then you are not affecting any long-term relationships. Your child will learn that a little food during a physical activity helps with energy, which is absolutely scientifically correct.

Or if you were to offer a trip to the ice cream parlor after a big bike ride or after the swim race, then you  aren’t affecting long-term relationships or intrinsic motivation.  The child will still perform just as well during the bike ride or the swim race, with or without the ice cream.   And they may associate a big physical day with something fun at the end which is an OK association.  How many of you go out for a yummy meal after a big hike, bike ride or climb?  We certainly do.  It is enjoying life and celebrating all of the things we are physically able to do.

Treats vs. bribing

Just like rewards are the same thing as bribes (you do this and you get that) treats are very different.  Treats are simply for the sake of something special.  This definition does it more justice than I ever could:

“An event or item that is out of the ordinary and gives great pleasure.”

Life isn’t just about abstaining ourselves from enjoying treats.  Treats by their very nature are special things to have every once in a while.  As soon as we are giving out treats for every behavior, they are no longer treats by definition.

So taking your children out for an ice cream every once in a while, or getting a new toy at the store, “just because” are encouraged.  Just don’t attach them to any behavior and you won’t be negatively affecting any long-term relationships or intrinsic motivation.



Time in time out


Let’s make a plan.

If you have ever been on the internet, then you have heard that giving a time out is a horrible thing.  It is not.

You have heard that connecting with your child during a fit or a tantrum is a better thing.  That is correct.

So let’s make a plan:

When we are calm, we have had good sleep and we have lots of patience in our hearts, let’s plan to stop when our child starts to tantrum.  Let’s plan to get down on their level.   Let’s plan to check in with them and try to figure out what need is not being met.  Let’s plan to do this for at least one tantrum or fit per day.

But then let’s let reality in. Let’s realize that maybe we didn’t get enough sleep last night.  Let’s remember that we might also be arguing with our spouse when the child melts down.  Let’s remember that we are in the middle of making dinner, we are hungry and crabby and let’s have plan B set in place.

Because the reality is that although we want to always connect with our children, it isn’t physically possible and we don’t know what to do when we are at our wit’s end.

Plan A: Time -In (Stop, breathe, connect with child until need is met or tantrum subsides)

Plan B: Time – Out (Stop, breathe, give child 2 warnings in a calm voice and then remove child from the situation until they are calm)

This type of parenting is positive parenting with limits.  It lives in reality.  Even though we want to connect with our child every time they act up, it just isn’t possible.

This is similar to so many aspects of parenting:


-Plan A- natural birth with lots of skin to skin contact

-Plan B- Epidural, emergency C-Section and skin to skin contact as soon as possible


-Plan A- exclusive breast-feeding until child self-weans

-Plan B- Breastfeeding with pumping and formula until child is a year old

Attachment parenting:

-Plan A- Never let child cry, carry everywhere

-Plan B- When child A is crying, feel bad for child B who is crying, Carry as much as possible


All of Plan A’s are based on what is best for the child and what we should do when everything is going right.  I always plan for A.  I always want what is best for my children.  There is a ton of research behind Plan A.  But when Plan A falls through, we cannot shame for Plan B.   I feel so lucky that I have been able to do Plan A for about half of my parenting goals, but I do my best everyday to not shame myself when it switches to Plan B.

The same thing is true for tantrums.  Whenever I read an article about Time-In or connecting with your child during tantrums, 90% of comments say “What a great reminder!”  “I’ll have to remember this!”  “Thanks so much for writing this- it’s beautiful!”  So far, I have yet to read a comment that said, “I do this 100% of the time with my children.”  Because you can’t.  Because it is a reminder.  It is a shout-out for Plan A.  Now if we could only have the article stop after they tout the benefits of Plan A and not allude to ruining your children with Plan B (because you won’t).

So let’s make a plan:

Let’s plan to meet as many of our children’s needs as possible.

Let’s plan to teach them calming down techniques when they are calm and happy (breathing, taking space, etc)

Let’s plan to make clear limits and boundaries that everyone is aware of.

Let’s plan to stop, breathe and connect with our children during a tantrum at least once per day.

Let’s plan to understand that at some point during the day, we will not have any more patience.

Let’s plan to have a safe space in the house where the child can go when they are upset and they can practice calming down.

Let’s plan to calmly give them 2 warnings before removing them from the situation (ie giving them a time out)

Let’s plan to calmly bring them to their safe place (most likely bedroom, but plan ahead if that space isn’t ideal) when they are unable to calm down and you are unable to connect.

We need to have a plan, because when we don’t, we can’t be consistent and the behavior only gets worse.  We need to follow-through with our plan, but we can only do that when we have one set in place.  So make a plan today with your spouse and cover all the angles so that you know what to do when the poop hits the fan.  This is the way to help your child and help their behavior.

Let’s have a plan in place.


Plan A: Time In– connect with your child

Plan B: Time- Out– give space to everyone