my ex does not support my relationship with my teenage daughters

Q: Here is an excerpt from e-mail that I received from my ex-wife. As you can tell by the tone of this message, she is very angry, for some reason. And it is obvious that she has no inclination to help me with my relationship with my children. I appreciate anything you could suggest...

A: The email in question, which I did not include in order to preserve confidentiality, was about trying to schedule time with his older teenage daughters. His ex is refusing to facilitate this, and his daughters are not responding to the messages or texts he sends directly to their cell phones. Below is my reply:

my parenting book recommendations

Parents often ask me for book recommendations, and I'm sometimes at a bit of a loss because I rarely come across a book that I can endorse without reservation. (I'm very, very picky!)

So before I suggest a title, I typically issue the disclaimer that I hope parents will see books and other parenting resources not as instruction manuals to be followed rigidly or blindly, but rather as sources of ideas to contemplate, experiment with, and customize.

That said, here are a few resources that have been inspiring and informative for me: (Which is obviously not a book, but a website with lots of great articles, plus some inexpensive pamphlets that can be ordered.)

Becoming the Parent You Want To Be: A Sourcebook of Strategies for the First Five Years by Laura Davis and Janis Keyser

Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles: Winning for a Lifetime by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka

The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children By Ross Greene

Scattered: How Attention Deficit Disorder Originates and What You Can Do About It by Gabor Mate

Please Stop the Rollercoaster!: How Parents of Teenagers Can Smooth Out the Ride by Sue Blaney

Joint Custody with a Jerk: Raising a Child with an Uncooperative Ex, A Hands on, practical guide to coping with custody issues that arise with an uncooperative ex-spouse by Ross and Corcoran (and I have to go on record as saying I REALLY don't like this title, but the content is excellent. I recommend using a book cover because it pains me to think of a child thinking that one parent considers the other to be a jerk!)

I have posted a rather extensive list of recommended resources on many topics, including parenting, on my other website: I haven't updated it to include my up-to-the-minute favorites, but there's enough there to keep you busy for quite a while.

I'd love to hear your recommendations, so please let me know about your favorites by posting a comment, so others can enjoy them as well!

For more information about Karen's parenting consultations, click here or visit

a little parental silliness can save the day

Learned something interesting from a client today. When her kids are frowning, she tells them that's great, because she's making frown soup and she could use another frown to throw in the pot.

Then she chases them around and tries to grab the frown off their face, and of course they end up laughing and smiling, and then she acts all bummed that she can't have the frown for her soup, and they gloat with glee.

When they whine, she says Oh, good, I could use some whine in my frown soup because it makes it nice and spicy. And then she chases them around trying to catch the whine, and they all end up giggling.

Frowning happens to be their family issue, but I bet this could be adapted for other issues, too. There are very few issues that can't be resolved with the silly treatment.

Doesn't have to be soup, necessarily. When my kids were little, they absolutely loved when their dad would wrap them up in blankets and roll them around like he was making them into burritos. Periodically he would say Oops, I forgot to add the beans (or cheese, or good manners, or sharing hands, or whatever the desired behavior was), then unwrap the blankets, tickle them a little, wrap them up and roll them around again.

My client reported that she's really been working on not getting caught up in her kids moods/issues and not taking them so seriously. She's been singing goofy songs and making up games as much as possible, and her days are now much less stressful than when she thought she had to stop and get serious and address every infraction every time.

So there's a few ideas to fuel your creative parenting engine. I'd love to hear what other kind of silly games you play with your kids to lighten things up at your house!

For more information about Karen's parenting consultations, click here or visit

What to do when your child whines, "It's not fair!"

Q: My kids whine that it's not fair when one of them gets something the others don't, like a goody bag at a birthday party. What do I say to them when they tell me that I should buy them a treat, too, to make it fair?

A: Ah, yes. This one is a classic! Although we parents know that life isn't always fair, a whining child is not exactly receptive to that lesson in that moment.

So first, give empathy -- perhaps by saying, "You really wish you could have a goody bag, too."