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.

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.

You want to be more of a positive parent, but you still don’t want your child to get away with everything.  So what do you do?  Basically, all the same things, just take away the anger.  This can really only be a video post since I’m suggesting that you do everything you do as a parent the same as you do now, but without the anger and since you can’t show much emotion writing, it may be hard to explain:

Here is an info-graphic that you can refer to, or print up which gives a summary of how to work with your child’s behavior.  

It includes minor transgressions, common behavior issues as well as more major safety issues. 

Many parents ask, “how can you be a positive parent, while also setting limits?”  and this info- graphic shows you a three- step approach where you can connect with you child while also holding your boundary.

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




A lot of families are turning to positive parenting these days because they want to leave the yelling, screaming and anger that can happen with parenting in the past.

But what ends up sometimes happening with positive parenting is that the parents become permissive parents.

Positive parenting is still strict parenting.

It is loving parenting, but it is not permissive parenting.

Let me explain:

Parenting is a confusing world to navigate.  Most of us are on board that we no longer hit or spank our children.  And everyone would love to never yell or be angry with our children.  But the in-between section is gray, nebulous and full of indecision.

But you don’t want to be indecisive and your children don’t want you to be indecisive either.

So you have to come up with a plan.  And the first place that parents look for advice is on the internet.  This is great because the internet has so much information, and this is overwhelming because the internet has so much information.

I often find articles that say, “time-outs are bad”, and “consequences are bad”.  I read these articles and they make me want to hug my children all the time.  But then I scour them for exactly what I’m supposed to do when my whole family is losing it.  They give advice like: get close to your children, or give them space, or talk them through their emotions.

I’m sure that this works for some families and it is probably the ideal way to raise your children, but unfortunately, it doesn’t work for me and I’ve spoken with many parents who also struggle with this type of positive parenting.  I’ve only seen it confuse children because they don’t know what the expectations and limits are.

What does work for children is setting limits in a loving way.

So let’s make a plan.  You set a limit that says, “We do not hit people.”  You talk it over with your child and say, “We take care of each other, we do not hit people.”  Then you let them know ahead of time what the consequence will be.  “If you are hitting, that is not safe and you will need to spend time in your room where you and everyone else will be safe. Then when you are calm, you can join us again.”

Then, when your child hits someone, you pick up your child and bring them to their room (or pack n play, or safe space where they can calm down) while you calmly say something like, “We take care of each other.  We do not hit. I need you to be safe.  You can join us again when you are calm and safe.”

In this manner, you weren’t punitive, you weren’t aggressive, you weren’t angry.  You were loving and you set a limit.  This is important for children because children who don’t have limits have to keep pushing and questioning boundaries until they do know what the limit is.   So you can set a limit, have a consequence and even give a time-out in a positive way.

Now your child will probably want to leave the time-out almost immediately. That’s OK by me.  If they are truly calm and they are safe, then they can follow you back out.  If they are thrashing and screaming, then they need more time.

I read all the time that isolating a child when their behavior is unacceptable is damaging for the child.  So, I have to ask myself what do I do when I am overwhelmed?  Yes, sometimes I like a good hug, but most of the time I just need a minute to myself.  So what do I do when I’m losing it?  I go into my room, or I go outside for a minute.  I give myself a “time-out” and that’s not damaging to me.  It helps me calm down.  And that is what we are teaching our kids to do when we do it in a calm way.

So the next time your child reaches a limit and you are giving a consequence,  you can give them a hug while you do it.  Say, “As soon as you are calm and can be safe, we would love to have you join us.”  Hug and consequence.

That is positive parenting.


At some point, every parent is going to come across this problem.  Even if you only have one child, they are going to have a conflict with another child.  And if you have two or more children, it may be a daily issue.

Some parents have asked me, “What do I do about fighting?”  Every situation is unique but conflict is inevitable and once we realize that and teach children how to resolve problems rather than try to eliminate all conflicts, we will all be better off.

At a very young age (starting at 12-18 months), children can start to do simple problem solving.  The most common reason for fighting is that both children want the same item.  Many parents will approach the situation by saying, “Stop fighting and share!”  This approach, however, does nothing to solve the problem or to teach children how to manage the conflict.

So the ideal response is to teach the children how to resolve it on their own.

First, mention the problem:  “What is the problem? You both want the blue truck.”

Second, give the children the language to advocate for themselves:  “Tell your sibling that you are using it right now.” (This can be done with sign language for really little ones which is a hand patting the heart which means “Mine” or “My turn”).

Third, give them the language to problem-solve: “What are some solutions? You can ask for a turn when they are done” (again the child can pat their heart or say “My turn” depending on the developmental level).

Once the parameters are set on who’s turn it is now and who will get a turn soon, then you can guide the conversation in what ever direction works for that situation.  It may be, “What do you want to do while you wait for your turn?”  Or it may be finding a timer so that the turn taking is more concrete.

If the children are older and can help create solutions for the problem, then you can enlist them in finding one or two solutions each.  At the beginning, they will need coaching such as “One solution might be to have one sibling have a turn and then the other sibling have a turn.  Another solution might be to have Mom remove the toy from play.”

So your job at the beginning is to mediate the conflict resolution so that in a couple months (years) or so, they can do it on their own.


The second most common type of fighting is physical wrestling, pushing, hitting, etc.  Again, the most common response is for the parent to step in and end the altercation but if there isn’t an immediate danger, then it is more important to teach the children how to manage the conflict.  

Oftentimes, children like to play rough and you don’t want to step in.  You can monitor from the side to make sure no one gets hurt and then remind them that if one child says “stop!” or “no!” then that is the time to stop.  Remind the child who is probably whining or fussing that it is up to them to say “stop” or “no” and as soon as that word is said, it needs to be honored.  

So if the other child doesn’t stop, then they are not being safe and they are not listening which means that they need to be immediately removed from play whether in the shape of a time-out, or whatever works for your family.

Again, both of these scenarios take much longer than a quick, “No more fighting” but they give children more tools for dealing with conflict once an adult isn’t around.