Good Parenting Isn’t Just Luck

Parent On Purpose

Good parenting is done on purpose. Years ago, young parents learned parenting from their parents. In fact, many times young parents lived with extended family making parenting a shared experience. Due to couples having children later in life, changes in geographic area and other influencing factors, parents are much more on their own.

In Parenting, Don’t Just “Wing It”

These changes make it more important to seek out good parent education and support. The key is to find the parenting program that fits your personality, and is effective and simple enough to remember in the heat of a power struggle. My husband and I were blessed to have guidance and help from my mom and dad, but the thing was they had never dealt with as strong willed of a child as our oldest. That is why we found Love and Logic®.

Love and Logic® was simple enough that we could remember how to use it and in a very short period of time – effectively. We certainly had to work at it. Over-time we felt confident and even our parents would comment that we had a handle on things.

4 Ways to be Intentional as a Parent

So what are the best tools you can use to parent on purpose?

  1. Choices. No matter what parenting program you use. Choices are a part of the tools. Lean on them, use them and enjoy the relationship that develops because you share control with your kiddos.
  2. Set firm limits with a calm tone. The more upset you get the worse things are.
  3. Less is more. Less activities and more time together working on living together. Yes I said working! Chores are contributions to the family. Less sport and entertainment activities that only focus on the kids. Be a family on purpose!
  4. If you are married, stay married. Work on your relationship to the best of your ability. Children win when parents stay together – modeling love, respect, forgiveness, and grace.

There are no perfect parents. The Bible outlines in Proverbs that if you train your children in the ways they should go, they will return to it. Now Proverbs is not a promise book, it is a guide book. Basically, it means do your best. By striving to be good parents, we can have an impact for generations to come.

Teaching Children to Cover their Mouths Before Coughing

Recently, I observed a parent tell their child to cover their mouth when the child coughed. No big deal. Here is the issue though: in about an hour time frame she told him 15 times. Not once did the child cover his mouth. He simply ignored her.

What went wrong? Why could she not teach her son this simple skill?

There are two issues here: No shared control and no consequence.

Sharing Control

How many of us like to be TOLD what to do? Not me. So how about instead of mom giving a command “cover your mouth” she says “so sad about your cough (empathy) what do you want to do next time you have to cough, cover your mouth or cough in the inside of your elbow? If the child chooses one of the two options, the odds go up that he will actually do one of those good choices. Shared control can also be used with the tool “ownership of the problem”. Here are the steps to hand this problem back to the child:

  1. Empathetic response such as, “So sad about your cough…”
  2. Ask: “What do you think you can do to not put all you germs on others?”
  3. Ask: “Do you want some ideas?”
  4. Allow the child to decide from one of the ideas you both come up with.

Now IF the child engages in the brainstorming, the odds will go up that he will cover his mouth. The great thing about this approach of shared control is that when the child does engage with the better choice, you get to give a lot of praise! The child grows in relationship with you and in self-confidence.


We learn through experience, how many of you refrain from speeding because you got a speeding ticket once? I sure do.

Kids need an experience that teaches them what to do and what not to do. It’s actions that turn our words into gold. So what would this look like for our coughing child?

Time Out

It’s simple. They are sent to time out for not covering their mouth. It is not our first choice but it will work. Jim Fay from the Love and Logic Institute always shares that a parent can use time out for ANYTHING you don’t like. Here is what it looks like:

[Johnny coughs without covering their mouth.]

Parent: “Johnny, please cover your mouth next time you cough, germs go on other people.”

[Johnny coughs again and does not cover their mouth.]

Parent: “Uh-oh time to go to time-out for not covering your mouth” (here are suggested steps to time out.)

One More Thing

Sometimes kids need training to help them learn to cover their mouth, especially with brain-stem reactions. Coughing is natural response to keep the airway clear. So a child might need to practice covering their mouth and brainstorming how it feels when a cough is coming on so that they can cover their mouth. This is another time that “Ownership of the Problem” can be used. Have fun with this!

If you are interested in this post, you may also like:

Past post: 2 Parenting Tips to Make Sick Child Care Easier

Additional Resources: The Life Saver Kit (CD), When Kids Drain Your Energy (CD), Painless Parenting for the Preschool Years (DVD)

Homeschooling Parents: Teaching Responsibility

Aside from building a strong relationship with the child as I wrote about previously – when homeschooling, mom can teach her children to take responsibility for their own problems. This is so important for all parents to teach, whether they are homeschooling or not. The ability to take responsibility for your own actions without blaming others, trying to escape a consequence, or have an attitude of entitlement is a key life skill. So let’s paint a picture of a typical home school teaching situation:

Mom: “It is time for math, please get out your math book”

Child: “I don’t want to do math, I want to play outside, whine, whine, whine…”

Mom: She uses the enforceable statement, “I am happy to allow you to play outside when your math work is finished.”

If a power struggle occurs, mom can use an Energy Drain as consequence.

THEN, when things are calm and the consequence occurs, mom sits with the child and talks about the PROBLEM of not doing what is assigned when it is assigned.

She will share how sad it was that he did not get to go to soccer because her energy was drained arguing about doing math.

She will then take the next step to ask her wonderful child, “What do you think you could have done differently when I told you it was time for math?”

Next, brainstorm ideas about how the child could have handled it better, the whys about his struggle with math.

Lastly, allow the child to try his ideas the next time. Be sure to praise the child when they try their new idea.

The key to this tool is to not get into big power struggle with the child. Instead, consequence the negative behavior, and then empower the child to use better skills next time. Read this handout from Love and Logic® on the steps to hand problems back to children.

A parent being the teacher can be very difficult considering that not many students will say no to a teacher and whine. But the one-on-one time and individual teaching a child gains from being home schooled can be so wonderful, especially when a parent uses great tools to increase relationship and responsibility.

Homeschooling Parents: Relationship is Key

I recently received an email from a parent who home schools her two boys. She asked if there were any Love and Logic® tools for home school parents. Through my own experience homeschooling my daughters, as well as coaching other parents in the Seattle area – two fantastic resources came to mind:
  1. The Love and Logic® page for educators.
  2. A CD called “Winning the Homework Battle”
Both resources will give her simple ideas on how to teach her sons two important skills. In this post, I’ll cover “Relationship is Key”, then address Taking Responsibility next week.

Relationship is Key

Good educators know the most important thing they can do the first month of school is to develop a trusting relationship with each student. Google it, there is so much research on this topic. Here is just one paper written on the subject…
In context of a parent being the teacher it is important the parent does all they can to be a good consultant parent.
Here are the three key tools from Love and Logic® that will help:
  1. Choices. Choices help to avoid power struggles. Here is a post about how to give choices…
  2. Use Enforceable Statements. Good teachers avoid telling kids what to do, instead they share with them what they are willing to do for the student or allow. Example: “I allow anyone to go out to recess when their tasks are completed” or “I am happy to read when it is quiet”. Can a home schooling parent do the same? Oh yes!
  3. Energy Drain. This a great tool because if always provides plenty of time for the child to think about the consequences that might be coming. Here is a MP3 download from Love and Logic® outlining how to use the consequence of Energy Drain
  4. Empathy: Be sure to use a lot of empathy and stay calm as you allow consequences to impact.
A parent being the teacher can be very difficult. Not many students will say no to a teacher and whine like they will with a parent. But the one-on-one time and individual teaching a child gains from being home schooled can be so wonderful, especially when a parent uses great tools to increase relationship and responsibility skills.

The Family Meal

I recently taught a mom and dad a simple but powerful tool: eating using the family meal style. It was wonderful to hear that after two weeks, they had made eating family meal style a regular experience in their household. Before I go into a more detailed description, there were two comments that came from these parents that delighted my heart:

  1. The 6 year old’s prayer at dinner “Thank you God that we now say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ at the dinner table.”
  2. The father shared, that he noticed their 14 year old stayed longer at the table and talked with everyone. He said, “That alone, is worth doing more dishes.”

Here’s another friend’s experience with family style eating.

What is family meal style?

It is when you sit at a table and pass the food, allowing each person to CHOOSE the quantity of each item instead of plating the food. Does it create move dishes? Yes. Does it increase the sense of control and help kids eat more of better foods? YES! Just picture it, being handed a plate of food that you did not ask for or have any control as to what was on it – as opposed to having control. The outcome is a better experience for both parents and children.
So here are the benefits of family meal style:
  • Shared control. Kids naturally feel more in control when they get to choose. This goes for food as well.
  • Modeling. When we say “Please pass…” and “Thank you” kids learn that skill!
  • Deeper emotional connection. Eye contact is exchanged when you pass the food.
  • Mom gets to eat with the family. I have heard so many times how the mother is serving from the stove the entire meal. One mom told me she could not remember that last time she ate her food hot. Yikes, not only is hot food great, so is sending the message that MOM IS NOT THE SERVANT.

The Family Dinner Challenge

My challenge to you for this Holiday season and New Year: Try family meal style for two weeks and see what happens.  It is simple and very powerful!
PS: I understand how it happens; when your child is young you can’t place a plate in front of them. But post 2 years of age, they should be able to not throw their plate on the floor. If they do, just remove the food with a lot of empathy and sadness. They will learn, experience with calmness always teaches.

Kids are Empowered when they Give

I work at a great children, family and community support agency in my small town. It is a privilege to be a part of an organization that helps so many in my community. Recently, I received an email from our community support manager asking if any of my clients in need would be interested in having their child participate in a shopping spree sponsored by a real estate company.

The criteria for the shopping spree was simple, one child per family, between 6 and 12 years of age, and available on Saturday. Each child was given $175.00 for their child to shop for their family, then paired with an agent to be their shopping buddy. Also, another agent would be shopping for the child, so they too would have special gifts under the tree. All of the gifts would be wrapped and given to the child to bring home.

Needless to say, I was all in. I was able to connect 8 of my current and past clients with this great event. So fun! When I thanked our community manager for giving this opportunity to me, she shared that she wished more people were as excited about the opportunity as I was. Apparently some complained about parents not being able to shop with their children with this money, but the fact is – our children need to give, not just receive.

Parenting Challenge

Think of how you can involve your children in the gift giving. Just be sure they are involved in the whole process. As a result, your children will grow in their character; self-esteem, and have less of an attitude of entitlement. Here are some ideas:

  1. Put a list of jobs to earn money on the refrigerator, see what happens.
  2. Participate in a community gift activity. They are out there. Each item is usually less than a dollar.
  3. Set time aside to go shopping with your child. If you have more than one child, it is difficult. But remember you are teaching a great life skill, thinking of others. Be sure the child does more work than you in this activity. It is THEIR gift they are giving. The child needs to earn the money, budget, choose the gifts, wrap them and last but not least, watch their loved one open it.
  4. Teach your child how to make a craft item. Be sure it is age appropriate. Remember it is THEIR gift. I have a friend who has grandchildren. At the age of 5 she helps them make gifts for their family. This year, her 9 year old granddaughter sewed pillowcases for her whole family. She was so proud of her work and so excited to give.

Please share your ideas to help kids contribute.

Here is a good resource from Love and Logic® that outlines how to build character in your kids:

Great Parents Resist Stubbornness

Have you ever experience a lack of motivation to adjust your parenting strategy? Have you ever just been fed up? Is there any hope/point to working on this relationship with my child/step-child?

Legitimate Parenting Concerns

Overcome them. It’s worth it.

Parenting Story #1

In the book “Cure for the Common Life” Max Lucado shares a story of Ulrich Zwingli. Zwingli promoted unity during Europe’s great Reformation. At one point he found himself at odds with Martin Luther. He was struggling to know how to handle the conflict and more so, know how to resolve his internal desire to push away from Luther. He found his answer one day while hiking on a Swiss mountain. He watched two goats traversing a narrow path from opposite directions, one ascending, and the other descending. At one point the narrow trail prevented them from passing each other. When they saw each other they backed up and lowered their heads, ready to lunge. But a wonderful thing happened. The ascending goat lay down on the path. The other stepped over his back. The first animal then arose and continued his climb to the top. Zwingli observed that the goat made it higher because he was willing to bend lower.

Parenting Story #2

I recently was talking with a parent about some homework I had given. It was to go for ice cream two times over their vacation with her stepson. Ice cream is sort of a bonding agent.  Great, right! She admitted that she simply did not want to do the bonding homework. She just didn’t FEEL like connecting to her stepson, there were too many hard feelings. But because she KNEW it was the best thing, she tried. She set her feelings of discontent aside and did the homework.

It was not easy. Her teenage stepson did everything possible to not connect with her over their vacation. But as she kept inviting him to go for ice cream, by the end of the week, they had connected two times. She was amazed at they difference the first connection made, mainly that the next time she asked, he accepted. Was their relationship healed? Not yet, but it is going the right direction.

So What?

Great parents at times lower themselves so that their family will ascend higher.

Here are some good resources for great parenting from from Love and Logic®:

Follow Your Baby’s Lead

We’re talking about babies. Try not to worry about failing as a mom. Babies have built in triggers to make sure that we know what they need. So mom, just listen to your baby and enjoy this special time in your child’s life.

Video: Listen To Your Baby

Video Transcription


It’s time to talk about babies. Babies are so awesome. They’re so little for such a short time, and you know as a young mom I know I was really nervous; am I doing it all right, am I okay, and really trying to meet all of my little precious daughters needs and do it just perfectly. For one, you’ll never do it perfectly, but I really encourage you to just sit back and relax. Babies naturally get what they need.

They cry, I mean they have built in radar’s to make sure that they get what they need. They’ll cry until they get what they need. That is their number one alarm that you can listen and watch for.

So, the other thing that if you’re just wanting to do it all right, the best thing you can do is look deeply into your infants eyes, and do lots of facial contact, lots of eye contact, and lots of physical touch with the baby, and then just follow your babies lead, and you won’t fail as a mom.

You look into the eyes, you do physical touch, and you follow that babies lead, respond to the cries, and I know there’s a lot out there about sleep training etc, and you’re not going to be responding all the time to a babies cry, but under two years of age it’s really important to respond to those cries, because your child is telling you they have a need.

After two years then we get into some wants and we definitely need to set limits against wants. Under two years of age children basically just have needs. They need eye contact, that physical communication, and touch for bonding. They need to be fed, they need to be cleaned, and the need to have vocabulary given to them.

So, anything that your baby’s asking for under two just a really good rule of thumb, give it. Enjoy that infant, it won’t be little and cute forever.

Kids, Manners, and Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time we set aside each year to step back and count our blessings. This is a lot easier to do when our kids use manners! I recently met with a mom in the seattle area for parent coaching; she asked a great question: “How do I teach manners?” She shared she had read a blog that modeling is the best way to teach manners. She took the words right out of my mouth! But I also added.

  1. Praise (when warranted) and give choices. Praising your child when they use their manners is also a great way to guide them. Catch your child doing it correctly, and they will actually increase doing the behavior that is being praised. It is so fun to practice this at home for one week. Give choices instead of commands for saying “hello”, “goodbye” or other manners. Here is an example:A Parent and child walk into Aunt Cindy’s house for Thanksgiving. Hugs are exchanged between adults and then all attention is on the child.Parent: “Bobby, do you want to give a hug or say hello to Aunt Cindy?”Child: “Hug” Child hugs aunt.Parent: “Good decision!”

    For children who are a bit shy, the above scene could be stressful. Be sure to offer choices that will be easy for your child. Such as “Do you want to give your eyes to Aunt Cindy or give her a high five?”

    You could even say, “Do you want to say hello or have me say it for you?”  This is good for kids who freeze under pressure.

    Here is a handout to help you deal with the “what ifs” when using the tool of choices.

  2. Practice. Many times children don’t use their manners because there has been little experience using them. Many families don’t pass food around in a typical “family meal style” so when big family meals happen, they simply don’t know how. Take some time leading up to Thanksgiving Day, practicing the key manners you want your child to use. Here are some examples:
    • Saying “Hello/Goodbye”
    • Saying “Thank you”
    • Passing food to another person at the table.
    • Taking turns talking at the table.

    Be sure you make the practice fun. It is very important your child gets a “sweet” taste in their mouth from manners. It will be soooo much easier than telling and yelling!

  3. Give strategic attention. Kids need their parent’s attention about 1 minute per year old. For example:  If you have a 4 year old, give them positive attention every 4 minutes. It is a simple as saying, “I like how tall you made your tower” or “I like how many colors you are using to make your picture”

The key is to give the attention on your terms and consistently – or mark my words, they will DEMAND your attention and it will not be positive.

Here is another great resource from Love and Logic.

Sometimes Love Doesn’t

I’m reading a great book called “Love Does” by Bob Goff. Bob outlines how to love people through what you do, not what you say. As a Christian, this hits home because, let’s face it, throughout history Christians’ words don’t match up to their actions.

I also think that part of the reason this message is interesting to me, is because like many parents, I am a “doer”. I have a tendency to want to be involved, and “fix” things. Admittedly, I’m a recovering Helicopter Parent, and often struggle to not “do” too much as a mother.
The book really connects me to the action person in me who likes to take care of everything and serve those around me. That is how I love. BUT when it comes to children and teens, this is not a good quality, because as Jim Fay teaches, it sends the message that my children can’t make it in life without me. Which in turn decreases their self-concept (here’s a great self-concept product).

So what’s a mom to do?

In the video “Simple Parenting Strategies for raising great kids in complicated times” by Jim and Charles Fay, Charles outlines when it is OK to rescue in two circumstances:
  1. When the situation is dangerous. Be careful here when you are evaluating the danger. Many recovering helicopter parents like myself, will twist the assessment of the danger – “If he doesn’t turn in his math assignment, he will be living on the streets.” That’s a little far fetched right? Because actually if he experiences the natural consequences (poor grade, etc…) he will learn from the mistake and have a better chance of not living on the streets. A real danger is more in line with – when a child is young, you simply don’t let the natural consequences of running into the street happen.
  2. When your child/teen/ young adult is acting responsibility.  IF your child is being responsible with remembering their homework, but forgets it once in a great while, you CAN bring it to them at school. IF your young adult is doing well in college, not using drugs, has a job AND is respectful to you, etc… let them live with you or help them buy a car, etc.
In the same video Charles outlines two reasons NEVER to rescue a child, teen, or young adult:
  1. If they are irresponsible in THEIR life.
  2. If the child demands you help them.
So the book “Love Does” is great! But I think there are times when “Love Doesn’t”
Sometimes as parents we have to step back and allow our kids to experience the hard consequences of life, and as a result they learn they are capable! The worst message we can send is “you can’t make it in life without me.”
Also, remember how you communicate while stepping back is important! Be sure to use a lot of empathy, with “I” statements and choices such as, “This is hard, I need you to move out, it feels to me that is time. What works best for you to move by the end of the week or the end of the month?”
How can you let Love “do”, by NOT DOING this week?