Disappointment and failure are two things that you want your child to avoid at all costs as they are growing up.

Just kidding!

We all know that having a perfect rosy life isn’t possible and probably isn’t the ideal either and yet we try to provide that for our children; to their detriment.

Let’s start with disappointment.

As soon as your children turn two years old (or often just a couple of months before they turn that amazing age) they start to experience disappointment.  They are disappointed that they didn’t get to turn on the light.  They are disappointed that they didn’t get the red cup.  They are disappointed that they can’t eat the chocolate muffin for dinner.   As soon as they fuss and cry to show their disappointment, we want to relieve that discomfort of being disappointed and we give them the chance to turn on the light, we get them the red cup, we get them a muffin and then we become the saviors of the day!  Hooray! Disappointment averted!

However, disappointment is the best and healthiest experience for a young child.

Disappointment teaches resiliency, it teaches them about life, it helps them become an adult.

My husband works with young adults and he often talks to me about how parents can shape children to become functional adults.  He is currently reading Ownership Thinking: How to End Entitlement and Create a Culture of Accountability, Purpose and Profit by Brad Hams.  Apparently this is a hot topic in all business as one google search of “Creating Ownership” will give you pages and pages of how to reduce entitlement.  The book talks about how employers should not “rescue” their employees just as a parent shouldn’t “rescue” their children.  

We have the option of creating the next generation of adults who aren’t entitled and who feel empowered.

How do we do that?  Allow our children to experience disappointment and failure.


Failures are different from disappointment as disappointment is the external world not going your way and failure is when your own actions/ choices/ attempts don’t work as you would have hoped.  As your children grow, they will start to have little failures and then bigger failures.

It might start with a lego set that breaks. Or maybe it is a lunch that was forgotten.  It might then be a bad grade or forgetting to do homework until the night before.  These are all little failures that are important for your child to experience.  These are tears that need to fall.

You can be there for your child to give them a hug and, but you can’t fix the failure.  Failures are how children learn and grow.  Failures are how children become adults.

So don’t avoid these two parts of your children’s lives.  Raise your children to become adults!

wrong answer

I know, this sounds completely counter-intuitive, but it works and here is why:

Children want to find limits.  They want to know what is right and what is wrong.  So at some point in raising a child, you are going to say, “If you throw your food one more time, I will take your food away”.  Instinctively, you want the child to stop throwing food, but for discipline’s sake start chanting in your head, “Throw the food!  Throw the food!”

If your child throws the food- then they learn that there is a consequence.  The food gets taken away.

If they don’t ever throw the food, then they haven’t learned anything.  They don’t know what actually happens when food is thrown and so they will be more likely to throw it in the future to find out how we react.

Here’s another example:

Situation 1:

My son doesn’t want to get out of the bath.  I totally understand that.  I say, “If you want time for a story before bed, you’ll need to get out of the bath now.”  Perfect, that should get him out.  It didn’t.   I say, “OK, I’m going to give you one more chance to get out…”  Then 30 seconds later say, “This is your last chance.”  I start to walk away saying, “OK, no story then…” and my son puts down his bath toys just in the nick of time and gets out of the bath.  Hooray!  He gets a story!!

But he didn’t learn anything except that he can probably get away with about 4 more minutes of playing once I say it’s time to stop.  He will continue this behavior for the next 100 baths.  And I will be asking myself why my children never listen to me.

Situation 2:

My son doesn’t want to get out of the bath.  I totally understand that.  I say, “If you want time for a story before bed, you’ll need to get out of the bath now.”  Perfect, that should get him out.  It didn’t.   I say, “OK, I’m going to give you one more chance to get out…”

This moment in time is the perfect moment in discipline time.  I then chant in my head while getting the toothbrushes ready,Don’t get out!  Don’t get out!  Don’t get out!”.

I take one look back at the bath and then walk out the door. If you have other children, you can then start their bedtime routine up until the story part, and tell your child, “Sorry, you don’t get a story tonight because you used up your story time in the bath.”  If this is your only child, then wait about 5 minutes (or however long story time is) and then do your bedtime routine then skip the story part with the same explanation.

Your child will get upset, because it is difficult not to get your way.  We want our bath and our story too! But your child has also learned something.  That your words have meaning.  That choices have consequences.  That there are limits.

All of this is done in an empathetic and calm way.  There was no yelling.  I was never angry.  And I truly felt sorry.  I really did want him to get the story, but more than that, I wanted him to feel comfortable in that there are limits and that my words are meaningful.

This article could also be titled, “Follow Through”, but I think as parents we know that we need to follow through, it is just hard.  But when we think, “Make the wrong choice!  Make the wrong choice!  Make the choice that will facilitate learning!!”  then we are more likely to follow through and instead of getting frustrated, we will actually enjoy it because we know that we are teaching our children.


Life is tough.

Many days, I wish that someone would come and take away some of my challenges, but it never seems to happen.

So why then, do we so often remove challenges from children’s lives?

As a teacher, I was often in team situations where other teachers would remove challenges from their classroom, In fact, it was sometimes the theme of a professional development workshop.   

They would say things like:

“In order to have less conflict in your classroom, be sure to have multiple copies of one toy.”  

Now I’m not saying that we should limit the number of toys in classroom (because I think that there should be enough toys so that every child has one) but I don’t think that there should be more than one of a certain toy just because it might cause conflict.   

In fact, I think that teachers should deliberately have just one special toy in their classroom in order to create a challenge and teach children how to manage it!

I remember sharing a gym time with one teacher who would always remove all the obstacles from the bike track and it drove me crazy every day.  I wanted signs and obstacles in the way so that they had to learn how to get around them. When I asked her why she always wanted the track free of debris, she said that she didn’t want the kids to get into a traffic jam.  When I asked her ‘why not?’, she didn’t have an answer.  

One day I asked her to watch the kids if we didn’t move things out of the way for them and see what would happen. These children, (3-5 years old) with many different abilities and languages, communicated more, interacted more, worked together and problem solved when before they would just go around in circles for 45 minutes. 

Here’s the thing-

They will struggle.

They will get frustrated 

And that will be hard for you.

But it is ok for them and they don’t need you to take the challenge away.

This will seem counter-intuitive, because you will want to help them and relieve their frustration.  But as I have said before, parenting is no longer intuitive.  Only in the last fifty or so years has parenting become so interactive with children.  Children used to watch each other or help out with chores all day and there wasn’t time for a parent to just “be” with their child.  Now a parent’s job is to hang out with their children and that puts us into many situations where we can “help” our children but we end up helping too much.

But you aren’t going to let your child run around the neighborhood completely independent so since you will be around your child, you can coach your child when a challenge arises.  Instead of doing it for them, helping them out of a fix, you can talk to them and:

1) Tell them that they can do it!

2) Offer up some solutions of ways that they can solve their problem.

3)  Acknowledge how hard it is and that it might take a lot of work.

4) Sometimes you can empathize and talk about hard things that you do and how sometimes it is really frustrating.

This way of parenting is hard, and will cause more tantrums, but in the end will be worth it and you can do it!

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With Christmas just behind us and the onslaught of new gadgets overwhelming us, let me tell you about another great little trick.

You may have heard about the idea to put a lot of the new Christmas toys away and slowly bring them out as each month goes by.  I love that idea and I want you to take it a step further.  Do it all the time instead of just at the holidays. 

Rotate your toys!

Almost every preschool teacher in the world does this and it is really quite simple and superbly brilliant!

If you have any storage space at all (or if you are like me and live in a small house, create storage space by building high shelves) then put the majority of your children’s toys away in that space. This space should be out of reach and out of sight.  

Rotate your toys!

This way, you only have a couple of toys out with which the children can play.  It may sound counterintuitive because if the children only have a couple of toys out, they are going to fight more and they are going to be bored quicker, but it actually works the other way.

Here’s some things that will happen by rotating your toys:

  • Children are less stimulated and overwhelmed by the sight, noise and options of toys and will be calmer.
  • The toys will be more interesting since they haven’t seen the toys in a couple of months and they will be more engaged.
  • Children need to learn how to take turns with toys and once they are used to the idea of fewer toys and they have learned how to take turns, they will be able to navigate the play room more easily.
  • Cleaning up toys is an issue with every child and every parent and if you have fewer toys and the children know where each toys belongs, then cleanup is easier, faster and less of a headache.
Start by getting some opaque storage crates because it helps in organizing the toys and if you haven’t created storage room yet, you can just stack them in a corner.  Pack up about 60% of your children’s toys in these boxes and almost immediately, you will feel lighter and you will see the difference in the way your children play.
Rotate those toys!


Parenting was intuitive many many years ago.  In fact, the word parenting didn’t exist because it wasn’t a “thing”; it just happened.  People didn’t have discussions about parenting or whether what they were doing was right or wrong.  They just did.

Nowadays, parenting is no longer intuitive, although many people will argue against that.  But times have changed and what came naturally when our grandparents were growing up doesn’t exist now.  Parents have a different job now with the way our world is changing.

  • Is managing your child’s screen time intuitive? no.
  • Is deciding what school your child is going to go to or if you should home-school or un-school intuitive? no
  • Is dealing with temper tantrums at the library story time intuitive? no
  • Is loving your child intuitive? YES (thank goodness!)

Parenting was intuitive when things had to get done.  So if you are growing up on a farm and the cows have to be milked, and the hay has to be harvested, and the eggs have to be collected, then your communication with your children is intuitive.  They help out, end of story.

If your family was traveling across the country in a covered wagon to find work, then children had to help and be part of the working equation.  End of story.

I’m not at all nostalgic for that time because I could not imagine for the life of me traveling across the country in a wagon with young children.  But people did it because they had to.

What we deal with today is cleaning up our toys after play time, taking a bath, eating a nice meal even though we just had one a couple of hours ago, getting to music class on time.  None of these things have to happen for the sake of survival.   This is where parenting loses its intuitiveness.

This is where parents struggle everyday.  This is where coaching helps because this is where parents are getting “stuck”.

In order to bring back some of the intuitiveness to parenting, the first step is to realize what is essential and what isn’t.  A great example of this is feeding children.  A lot of parents feel that a child must eat three balanced meals a day to be healthy.  But young children often don’t want to eat.  Their teeth may be hurting, they may not be growing that much for a short period, they may not feel well.  Parenting becomes intuitive when you know that they will not wither away if they decide not to eat.  They will eat when they are hungry.

The times have changed and by accepting that things are different now and that parenting isn’t intuitive,  you are actually giving yourself a break.  You may not know how to deal with this.  It is ok that your stomach gives a little flutter and you feel nervous that you may be in over your head.  You are just acknowledging that this journey is big and that parenting isn’t what it used to be.