the importance of listening

In my work with divorced parents, I often hear fear, trepidation, and frustration about the inability to control the child's experience while under the other parent's care.

This takes many forms ... my kids are eating junk food at the other house! not going to bed early enough! not finishing the antibiotics! wearing shorts to school in cold weather! hearing terrible things about me that are not true!

beautiful video about the first breastfeeding after birth

it's called the Breast Crawl. lay the newborn between mom's breasts and eventually it will make its way to the nipple and start sucking. this video brought tears to my eyes.

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

Joint Custody: When a parent doesn't show up for visitation

Q: My four year old son gets so upset when his dad doesn't show up for his scheduled parenting time/visitation. What should I do?

A: This one is pretty straightforward. It's a rare four-year-old who maintains an internal clock and calendar in his mind. It's up to you to remind him what happens when. So simply don't mention that his dad is supposed to come.

If he shows up, let it be a lovely surprise. Plan your day in a flexible way so that your son can spend time with his dad without missing out on anything major. If he doesn't come, you and your son can do something fun together.

real drowning does not look like it does on TV

I had no idea that drowning people cannot call for help, are usually vertical, and don't flail their arms. The Instinctive Drowning Response looks nothing like what we see on TV. Before I read this article, a kid could have been drowning right next to me and I would not have known what was going on. I consider this a must-read for all parents:

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

link to a great article about public tantrums

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

Joint Custody: Why Is Neutral Language So Important?

Q: Your ten strategies for coparenting with an uncooperative ex were passed to me and there is substantial good advice there-in, but I make a strict practise of never lying to my daughter.

Thus while it is good when you write "If it is true, your child will love hearing that she was conceived in love, or that Mommy and Daddy were so happy when he was born", I cannot come at your insistence "You'll need a neutral and non-judgmental answer" to explain why parents divorced.

a story about the power of listening

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

an excellent article about how to parent kids with ADHD

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

my ex hates me and I can't change that

Q: My son's dad simply ignores my questions when he doesn't feel like answering. I am trying so hard to be flexible, co-operative, kind, helpful, and even forgiving in the face of his hurtful, mean-spirited manner and downright rude behavior. I feel so angry I get to tears. I can't yell, scream, or curse, so I end up crying. I feel so hurt that this man I made a child with could treat me so terribly. I don't know how to deal with it. I can't do this alone. He hates me and I can't change it. No matter how nice I am or the nice things I do, they are disregarded in an instant if he is angry. He's almost got me believing he's right. We can't co-parent. It might be impossible.

teens and technology

I can always count on Sue Blaney over at Please Stop the Rollercoaster to post wise and practical information and resources for parents. I thought this post on teens and technology was exceptionally insightful:

Visit Ann Collier's blog to be kept up to speed on the latest technology from a family perspective.

Oh, and don't forget to ask your kids to teach you about what's new! That's a fun conversation, and it's a nice way to maintain a close connection with them.

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

giving up the pacifier

Our son has been very attached to his pacifier since birth. We began preparing him in fall that when he turned 3, he would get a big boy bed and he would need to get rid of them. Last week I went to wash them and noticed they were breaking and could be choking hazard. So I told him we had to throw them out right away, and he did. Then we made a big celebration out of his big boy bed.

He was excited at the time... until bed time. It's been so emotional for me and him. And here it is 4 days later, and he desperately misses his pacifiers. He is constantly shoving his fingers in his mouth and chewing on his shirt (even though he only had them at nap and bedtime), which he has NEVER done, and he also has a rash on his chin because of it.

So my question is... can you help us? Do I get more pacifiers and let him have them back until he is ready to let go of them? Or stick to it and he will find something to replace that sucking habit?

stuck in a parenting rut?

Sometimes, even when we know exactly what we want to do differently in our parenting, we feel like we are stuck repeating the same patterns over and over again. We may continue to yell, threaten, withdraw, or overreact, even when we truly want to respond calmly and rationally to our children.

My child shows no remorse #3

Q: I have a 4 year old son who doesn’t seem to show any empathy when he hurts someone. Just yesterday he was sent home from school because he punched a child in the face. When he was asked to apologize to the boy that was crying, he didn’t seem to show any signs of empathy, sadness for the other boy or embarrassment for what he did.

monkey see, monkey do

this article is rather sobering given the amount of time most kids spend playing video games and watching TV. here's an excerpt:

When we watch another person move, our observations of their movement activates in our own brain the same areas that are involved when we make that movement. This innate tendency for imitation was first observed in macaque monkeys where "mirror neurons" in the monkey's prefrontal cortex respond both when the monkey grasps a peanut and when it watches another monkey grasp it. Mirror neurons are also active in our brains.

If you observe my hand reaching for a cup of tea the motor cortex in your brain will become slightly active in the same areas you would use if you reached for the cup of tea yourself. Further, if you observe my lips as I savor the tea, the area of your brain corresponding to lip movements will fire as well. Of course that doesn't mean you can taste my tea but it does mean that I am directly affecting your brain as you watch me drinking it. And the process is reciprocal. If you pour yourself a cup of tea, a similar pattern occurs in my brain. In both situations the artificial distinction between you and me breaks down; we form a unit influencing each other's actions: I alter your brain as a result of your observations of me, and vice versa.

On the bright side, we can stack the deck for healthy behaviors by letting our children watch us doing them. The power of example penetrates into the brain at a cellular level.

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

we all need somebody to lean on

This afternoon on my walk I passed our local elementary school while the kids were being dismissed for the day. As I approached I could hear the wailing of one tiny little girl, who was sobbing and clunking her feet in big snow boots a few paces behind what appeared to be her mom and dad. She looked like she was maybe three or four years old -- but kids come in all shapes and sizes, so she was probably a kindergartener.

I passed the parents first. I made eye contact and smiled, scanning their faces discreetly to see how they were reacting to the situation. They seemed pretty neutral, even a bit detached.

thoughts on authoritarian parenting

For some reason I've been very intrigued by the case of the sweatlodge deaths in Arizona, and have been following it closely. So I was not surprised to hear that James Arthur Ray was arrested the other day. This whole incident has really got me thinkin', and triggered a spirited discussion with some friends about child-rearing.

I tend toward letting kids learn from experience as much as possible, assuming they won't get themselves killed in the process (I wouldn't let a toddler learn about traffic by getting hit by a car!)

Rather than a limit-setting, discipline-oriented authority figure, I see my parenting role as more of a provider of information and an asker of questions that will help my children tune into their own common sense and intuition when making decisions.

For example, instead of saying, "No, you may not stay out until 12:30 to go to that party. Your curfew is 11 and you will be grounded if you are home late," I'd be more likely to say, "I hear that you want to stay out late that night. I'm concerned about the things that often go on at parties and on the roads after midnight. But if we can come up with some ways to make sure you are safe and sound, I think it would be okay to extend your curfew for this special occasion. What kind of ideas do you have? I might feel reassured of your safety if you would text me every half hour or so after 11, and I could come and pick you up instead of getting a ride home from your friends. What do you think?"

I want my kids to develop a trustworthy internal sense of Yes, that seems like it would be okay to try, and Nuh-uh, that feels like it's not worth the risk -- there's got to be a better way.

If I am constantly telling them how to act, what to decide, or to obey me because I said so, their internal decision making skills aren't getting much of a workout. If I demand that they comply with what I say, or punish them until they do, they may just take the batteries out of their internal smoke detectors, because they know I won't let them act on the alarms going off inside them. And later in life, when the stakes are much higher, they may continue to look to others to be told what to do.

Although no one will ever know the truth of what happened in that sweat lodge and why, perhaps this incident could serve as a warning about the danger of teaching our kids to respect external authority more than their own inner guidance. Blind obedience, in certain contexts, can kill.

If we demand that our children obey us on a regular basis without giving them any explanation for why we want something done a certain way, aren't we doing their thinking for them? Aren't we basically saying, Don't think for yourself, Don't question what I said, I know better than you what is best for you?

Is that the message we really want to send?

Don't we want their discernment muscles pretty well exercised by the time they are old enough to be sitting in a sweltering tent on the brink of death while being told by another external authority figure that they cannot leave until the next time he opens the door?

Don't we want them thinking for themselves, protecting themselves from harm, and listening to the inner guidance that says Get the heck outta here right now?

Now granted, it seems to me that part of the problem was that folks handed their internal authority over to this guy. From what I can discern, it seems that he did not hand it right back, as some spiritual teachers do. But it makes sense that followers will seek out leaders, and vice versa. No doubt this situation was much more complicated than we'll ever understand.

Nevertheless, I think as parents (and teachers, too) we have a marvelous opportunity to lay the groundwork so that the kids we love can be the ones who crawled out the bottom of the tent even though their esteemed leader told them not to, and survived.

Let's not be the ones who tell our kids to Sit down and shut up. Let's be the ones saying, Well, let's give this some thought. Does it make good sense? Is it safe? Is any part of you telling you that it's unwise or too risky? What's the worst that could happen if you do this?

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

a must-read article for those who practice attachment parenting

I so wish I had the benefit of a perspective like this when my kids were little! This profound wisdom from Patty Wipfler, the founder of Hand in Hand Parenting, might have made weaning so much easier:

Actually, all of my parenting could have been so much easier if I had understood that sometimes crying was a signal that my child needed my help fixing a problem (like hunger or physical discomfort or a need for stimulation) while other times, crying was the remedy itself.

research about how alcohol damages the teenage brain

Pardon the pun, but this information is quite sobering. Researchers have determined that teenage brains are physically damaged by 4 or 5 drinks once or twice a month.

Tapert's team found damaged nerve tissue in the brains of the teens who drank. The researchers believe this damage negatively affects attention span in boys, and girls' ability to comprehend and interpret visual information.

You may want to forward this article to your teen so you can talk about it together:

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

mother-daughter project

I heard about this from a friend who started her own mother-daughter group locally. I think it's a wonderful idea!

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

parenting book recommendation

When the Labels Don't Fit: A New Approach to Raising a Challenging Child just may be the book I thought I was going to have to write. Now that Barbara Probst has done it, I can just sit back and relax and send you all to her. She might even put me outta business!

This book is a priceless resource if you struggle with your child's behavior, and/or wonder why he or she can't be more like those mild-mannered, cooperative kids you know. It includes an extensive questionnaire that will help you identify where your child is located on a spectrum of different temperamental traits, and then goes on to list concrete strategies to bring out the best in your child.

Probst will help you see what is RIGHT about your child, as well as teach you exactly how to minimize tantrums, crying jags, emotional outbursts, resistance, and power struggles. This book gets my highest recommendation.

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

I just found out my middle schooler tried pot. What now?

This can be a very emotional and personal topic, so I want to make sure that you know my intention in posting this response. What follows is my opinion, and nothing more than that. I offer it solely as something for you to consider as you make your own decision about what course to follow.

I do not believe there is a right or wrong way to handle this situation (or any situation, for that matter!) If you read this, and find yourself vehemently opposed to what I say, then I will be glad that my words contributed to your sense of clarity even if it lies in the opposite direction from mine. Parenting is a journey, not a destination, and each of us must follow our own guidance.

So, on with my response. To avoid the he/she awkwardness, I simply switched pronouns halfway through:

Q: I just found out my middle schooler tried pot. What now?
Whew! If you are like many parents, your first reaction is a shocked thought of ALREADY? In middle school?