Plan B

I'm disappointed that Plan B won't be available over the counter to girls under 17. Birth control failures happen. Often. I know children who were conceived while their intelligent, responsible, adult mothers were using almost every type of birth control available to women, including tubal ligation. 

when kids don't respond to your request to stop playing

Q: An ongoing thing for us has been when the kids are involved in playing and it’s dinner time (or bedtime, or time to leave the house) and we say something to them and there is no response. We say it again and again, and it is as if they are deaf. If we lose it and get mad and shout at them, no one is happy (the kids start crying, we are stressed). If we go over to them and pick them up and remove them from their play, they are not happy either (understandably). How can we get them to pay attention to us in a way that doesn’t cause stress or tension?

collaborative problem solving

Many of you already know that I am a huge fan of Dr. Ross Greene's parenting model as described in his book The Explosive Child.

I've mentioned before that I think the title is a bit unfortunate, because the strategies for collaborative problem solving that he teaches apply equally as well to non-explosive kids, and even to adults, businesses, and nations. 

teaching your child the joy of giving

Have you heard about the anonymous couple that made a New Year's resolution to donate $52 each week for a year (52 weeks)?  They started a blog to chronicle their experience and encourage others to join them:

Each Friday they choose a different recipient. If you read only one of their posts, I recommend this one.  And have kleenex handy.

Why should I let my co-parent walk all over me?

Yesterday I posted a response to a mother who asked this question in a specific context, and I realized I have a bit more to say on this subject that may apply more broadly.

To refresh your memory, here's the part of her question I want to address in more detail:

I read your post "Ten Strategies for Co-Parenting with an Uncooperative Ex" which really hit home. I strive to do all those things, but do not believe my ex does.  Why should I keep letting him walk all over me? I believe that teaches our daughter bad self-esteem. 

There's so much to this issue that I'll probably have even more to say down the road.

But for now, I want to start with how children really learn to treat other people.  It's not primarily by being taught.  It's by watching what we do. 

When a Co-Parent Has Addiction or Mental Health Issues

Q: I read your post "Ten Strategies for Co-Parenting with an Uncooperative Ex" which really hit home. I strive to do all those things, but do not believe my ex does.  Why should I keep letting him walk all over me? I believe that teaches our daughter bad self-esteem. Where is the line between negotiating (or giving in) and standing your ground, especially with a co-parent who has addiction and mental health issues?  I tend to think my situation is different than what you were writing about, but part of me thinks maybe it isn't. 

a great article about crying after an injury

love this. have seen it happen exactly this way. staying close and providing loving attention for as long as the crying takes to run its course is a very powerful way to help our children build resilience.

and it's not always easy - we parents often have unexpressed tears of our own that we need to shed within the loving attention of another adult before we can be present in this way for our kids. but every little bit helps!

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prevention is more effective than punishment

While doing some research online I came across this quote from Eleanor Roosevelt:

When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?

I think there's some wisdom in this for parents. It's not uncommon for us to notice the telltale signs that our child is about to act out -- the arm slowly rising, the fist clenching, the tight-lipped frown or furrowed brow, the verbal and manual attempts to clear a space around himself that often precede a bite -- and yet instead of stepping in to help by restraining him from committing the injurious behavior, we expect the child to stop himself upon our request or reminder.

10 year old who cries at everything

Q: My ten year old daughter cries at everything and is not very good at sharing. She's not as emotionally mature as her 8 year old sister. Every time they are in a conflict, my younger one gives in so that her older sister won't cry. 

Also, she has friends but is always being left out. Every time there is a group activity, she is the one without a group and has to be assigned. She is very sad about it.

Do you have any suggestions?

A: With just this little bit of info to go on, the best I can do is offer a hunch for you to consider, and perhaps some ideas for you to experiment with.

on the radio

I was interviewed on The Stacey Stern Show today! We discussed how to communicate with angry or defensive people, including our children and teenagers. Here's the link to the archived recording if you'd like to listen or share:

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

a few thoughts on truth, lying, and teasing

A conversation with a friend today inspired me to search the archives of my old website for an article I wrote about ten years ago after seeing a father teasing his young son. Here it is:

Do you tell your children the truth, and model congruence between your words and behavior?

In other words, are you trustable? Examples:

Not trustable: Telling a toddler "No more . . . juice is all gone. All gone," as you are hiding a half full juice pitcher behind your back.

Trustable: "We're all done with the juice for now. I'm going to put it away and you can have more at snack time."

Children are biologically programmed to look to their parents and elders as reference points. Ideally, they will have their perception and experience of the world validated.

food for thought from The Atlantic

interesting article about the potential consequences of over-protecting our children from life's little rough spots; losing at a game, not having a choice, not getting what they want when they want it. Helicopter parenting does not make it easy for our kids to learn resilience and trust in their ability to move through difficulty.

I can't say I love the title, but there's some fascinating food for thought here, including this:

“Happiness as a byproduct of living your life is a great thing,” Barry Schwartz, a professor of social theory at Swarthmore College, told me. “But happiness as a goal is a recipe for disaster.” It’s precisely this goal, though, that many modern parents focus on obsessively—only to see it backfire. Observing this phenomenon, my colleagues and I began to wonder: Could it be that by protecting our kids from unhappiness as children, we’re depriving them of happiness as adults?
I must admit, I recognized myself in this article at times, and it had me squirming. Good stuff.

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

worried about going to college and leaving my siblings with an abusive mother

Q: My mother has what seems to be an awfully long history of mentally and physically abusing us. It's clear that she has mental health issues that she refuses to admit exist. I'm eighteen and am going to college in the fall and I don't want to leave my younger sisters unable to protect themselves, at least from her verbal abuse. Can you help?

A: Bless your heart! What a bittersweet position to find yourself in - finally able to leave a violent and abusive situation yourself, but carrying deep and lingering concern in your heart for those you love who must remain.

the truth behind your child's lies

Patty Wipfler over at posted an absolutely fantastic article clarifying what's going on for a child who decides to lie, and what parents can do about it. I highly recommend the other articles on her site as well.

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

it's alright to cry

Parents almost always have good intentions when they tell an upset child, "Don't cry."
We are usually trying to soothe the child, although if we are painfully honest with ourselves we may admit that we want it to stop for reasons of our own, often some combination of the following:

Nine year old stealing without remorse

Q: I googled what to do if your 9 year old daughter steals from someone and shows no remorse and stumbled upon your blog. I was touched by the compassion you showed when you answered the question, since most of the other sites I had visited went from one extreme to another showing little regard for the child and the "why".

no credit, no blame: the tao of parenting a high-need child

A good friend of mine recently gave birth to a beautiful baby girl who seems to be at the high-need end of the continuum for now. Hearing about her adjustment and experience reminded me of an article I wrote for a local parenting newspaper about fifteen years ago:

When I was in college, I came down firmly on the side of nurture in the nurture vs. nature debate. Tabula rasa and all that. It was so obvious . . . good parenting produced good children. Simply hold firm to a schedule and baby will adapt. Oh yes, I knew all about raising children.  Until I actually gave birth to one!


I've been reading 10-10-10 by Suzy Welch, and I'm intrigued by the transformation this method for decision making could bring to parent-child discussions.

Here's the basic idea: When a decision needs to be made, you consider the potential outcome of each option in the future by looking ahead ten minutes, ten months, and ten years. The author explains that the time frames are not meant to be literal, but to represent Now, In A Little While, and Much Later.

Imagine this scenario: you want your teenager to fill out her college applications, which are due next week, and she wants to spend the weekend with her friends at a cabin in the mountains.