Monday, February 17, 2020

More Than Moods: What's a Mom and Dad to Do?


Parenting Tips for the Modern Family

(Zhuk, Adobe Stock)

The first post in this series discussed parenting style—how the attitude and approach of mothers and fathers can affect their children. 

This post will highlight two important factors in parenting specific to children: their development and temperament.

More than Moods

(Tostphoto, Adobe Stock)


Any parent with a child at least six months old can tell you that as soon as you think you have figured out your baby, or overcome a problem, or finally have a good routine, they grow into the next stage seemingly overnight. Keeping pace with your child’s development is both exciting and challenging. Dr. Laurence Steinberg taught it this way: “As your child grows and matures, her abilities, concerns, and needs change. Your parenting needs to change over time, too” (65).
(Soupstock, Adobe Stock)

·         “First, when your child develops from one stage to the next, he is changing on the inside as well as the outside”(66-68).Development includes changes in all areas—physical, emotional, intellectual, as well as social.
·         “Second, the stages of psychological development that children go through are reasonably predictable”(66-68). Some parents spend time learning about the development of their infant, but stop there. Learning about each stage from toddler to teen can provide preparation for and insight into what is happening with your child.
·         “Third, neither you nor your child can control the nature or pace of her psychological development any more than you or she can control the nature or pace of her physical development. Development unfolds more or less on its own timetable. You can't rush a child through a particular psychological phase any more than you can force your child to stop crawling and start walking" (66-68).
·         “Fourth, the same forces that are changing your child for the better as he develops are usually contributing to the parenting challenges associated with that period.” The same drive for independence that is making your three-year-old say no all the time is what's motivating him to be toilet trained. The same intellectual growth spurt that is making your thirteen-year-old curious and inquisitive in the classroom is also making her argumentative at the dinner table. Oppositionalism is bothersome, and argumentativeness is tiresome, but both are signs that your child is developing. That's something to be happy about” (66-68).

An Important Point about Parenting and Your Child’s Development

Does it show weakness to change your parenting practices based on your child’s stage of life? No, it doesn't. You can still follow sound principles, but it’s completely appropriate to adapt and adjust your practices based on your child’s needs.


(Booleen, Adobe Stock)
Another important aspect to understand about your child is their personality. The research shows what many parents of multiple children have learned: babies are born with an identifiable disposition or temperament.

(Booleen, Adobe Stock)
“All children come into the world with an inborn temperament that influences how active they are, how easily they become frustrated or distressed, and how well they adapt to change. Your child's innate disposition influences the way he responds to virtually everything he encounters.”
“A wary child can't help being wary, nor can an active child help being active or a fearful one help being fearful. Your child's temperament is not under his control” (Steinberg, 71)
(Booleen, Adobe Stock)
“The most important thing ... is that if you have a child with a difficult temperament, you will need to allow extra time when she is facing any sort of change or unfamiliar situation. ... whether your child is especially fearful, ... shy, or especially irritable, or any combination of the three. Any of these characteristics require that you take extra time to help her adapt to something new, such as a new caregiver, a new school, a new house, or a new schedule.... You're going to have to be patient while she adjusts (Steinberg, 71-72).

Ten Temperament Traits

From the Center for Parenting Education

Based on a thirty-year study begun in 1956, temperament explains why some children are very easy-going while others tend to be more challenging for parents. Child development research has identified 10 temperament traits that everyone exhibits to some extent. They are:

1. Intensity 

  • Does your child show happiness or frustration strongly and dramatically? Or does your child express those feelings mildly?

2. Activity Level 

  •  Is it hard to read a book with your child because he is always on the go? Or, does your child prefer sedentary quiet activities?

3. Regularity 

  • Does your child eat and sleep at predictable times? Or, is your child unpredictable in terms of eating and sleeping schedules?

4. Quality of Mood 

  • Is your child generally in a happy mood? Or, does your child seem more serious?

5. Emotional Sensitivity 

  • Does your child react strongly to his own or other’s feelings and emotions? Or does your child seem unaware of how he or others are feeling?

6. Sensory Sensitivity 

  • Does your child react positively or negatively to sounds, tastes, and textures?

7. Adaptability 

  • Does your child have difficulty with changes in routines, or with transitions from one activity to another? Or does your child handle them smoothly?

8. Approach/Withdrawal 

  • Does your child easily approach new situations or people? Or does your child seem to hold back when faced with new situations, people or things?

9. Distractibility 

  • Is your child easily sidetracked when trying to do chores or homework? Or, does your child stay on task?

10. Persistence 

  • Does your child react strongly when told “no” to something? Does your child have a hard time letting ideas go? Or does your child seem to give up without trying their hardest

Why is Knowing this Important?

  • You can meet their needs because you understand them better.
  • You can help your child manage their reactions. 
  • You can see the positive aspects of their traits. "Stubborn" can be "persistent."
  • You can appreciate that some "difficult" qualities may be what they need as adults.
  • Working with your child can create a more positive relationship.

So, what’s a mom or dad to do?

The more you learn about your child’s development and temperament, the better equipped you will be to meet his or her needs. Keep learning as they grow. Allowing extra time for a child that doesn’t adapt well to new situations, accommodating your child’s activity level, and understanding your child’s degree of persistence are all ways to work with, and not against, your child’s disposition.

(Passey, tl;dr)

Navigate the Series

First Post - Parenting Styles

Third Post - Lies and Punishment

Series Introduction


Booleen. Child in a bad mood. [Photo]. Retrieved from

Booleen. Child Shock. [Photo]. Retrieved from

Booleen. Smiling Boy. [Photo]. Retrieved from

Passey, T. (2020) tl;dr. [Graphic].

Steinberg, L. D. (2005). The Ten Basic Principles of Good Parenting. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks.

Temperament Overview. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Tostphoto. Love and Happiness Emoticon. Retrieved from

Soupstock. Boy growing from age three to eleven. [Photo]. Retrieved from

Zhuk, A. Happy Young Family. [Photo]. Retrieved from


Here is a great Rating Scale and more information for learning about your child’s temperament:


Lies and Punishment: What’s a Mom and Dad to Do?

Parenting Tips for the Modern Family

(Zhuk,Adobe Stock)

Lies and Punishment: What’s a Mom and Dad to Do?


Bad behavior is unpleasant for everybody, but when it’s your child and you are the one responsible to provide correction, it can quickly become uncomfortable and tricky. There’s no shortage of ideas about child discipline, some often contradict each other.

I found an approach I like in the book The Ten Basic Principles of Good Parenting by Dr. Laurence Steinberg. It includes five elements for effective punishment, and they just make so much sense.

(Gwimages, Adobe Stock)

Instead of confusion, a parent can have confidence:

(, Adobe Stock)

Steinberg suggests the-following order:

• An identification of the specific act that was wrong.
• A statement describing the impact of the misbehavior.
• A suggestion for one or more alternatives to the undesirable behavior.
• A clear statement of what the punishment is going to be.
• A statement of your expectation that your child will do better the next time (2005, p. 156)

It seems like a lot, but look at the example here and see what you think:

Try to do all five of these whenever you punish your child. Your four-year-old has been told that she should not whine when she can't have her way. Now she's whining because you won't let her have a cookie right before dinner. Say something like this: "Please don't whine when you want something (Identification). It puts me in a bad mood (Impact). If you are hungry and it is nearly dinner time, you can have a carrot or a piece of celery (Alternative). I'm going to put you on a time-out until you've settled down (Punishment). I know the next time I say you can't have something, you won't whine about it (Expectation)"(2005, p. 156)

I love this pattern. It demystifies how to respond to almost any bad behavior and it applies young children as well as teenagers. I’m sure I’ve managed to include these elements here and there in my efforts to do my best, but until now I haven’t included all five in such a concise way. It may take some practice to do this in real life (please do not tell my children I need any extra opportunities!), but it is worth the effort. With this method, a child is not confused why they are receiving punishment because the behavior is identified. They are taught what the impact of their actions are. I think the best part is providing an alternative because children often feel like they had no choice—when really, they just lack experience. Stating an expectation is also another way of expressing confidence in them that they can make good choices in the future.


(Yu, Adobe Stock)

I once heard someone say, “When your child learns he can lie, it’s a sign of intelligence. When he chooses not to lie, it’s a sign of maturity.” I thought that was pretty clever, but soon realized it didn’t offer much direction on what to do when a child keeps choosing to lie. Feeling good about a sign of intelligence can only last for so long!

Thankfully, parents do have options when it comes to dealing with this perplexing part of child development. The first step, according to Dr. Haim G. Ginott, (Between Parent and Child, 2003) is to prevent them—or at least not provoke lies. Hopefully parents don’t do this intentionally, but here is how Ginott explains it:

Children resent being interrogated by a parent, especially when they suspect that the answers are already known. They hate questions that are traps, questions that force them to choose between an awkward lie and an embarrassing confession (65-66).

He gives some examples:

Thus, it’s not a good idea to ask questions to which we already have the answers. For instance, “Did you clean the room as I asked?” while looking at a dirty room. Or, “Did you go to school today?” after having been informed that your daughter did not. A statement is preferable: “I see the room has not been cleaned yet.” Or, “We have been told that you skipped school today” (66-67).

I’ve always thought it was disingenuous to ask a question I knew the answer to in an effort to catch a lie. I think it can erode trust between a child and a parent. 

Ginott has more thoughts on why children may lie: “Sometimes they lie because they are not allowed to tell the truth” (67).

Four-year-old Willie stormed into the living room, angry, and complained to his mother: “I hate Grandma!” His mother, horrified, answered, “No, you don’t. You love Grandma! In this home we don’t hate. Besides, she gives you presents and takes you places. How can you even say such a horrible thing?”

But Willie insisted, “No, I hate her, I hate her. I don’t want to see her anymore.” His mother, now really upset, decided to use a more drastic educational method. She spanked Willie.
Willie, not wanting to be punished more, changed his tune: “I really love Grandma, Mommy,” he said. How did Mommy respond? She hugged and kissed Willie and praised him for being such a good boy.

What did little Willie learn from this exchange? It’s dangerous to tell the truth, to share your true feelings with your mother. When you’re truthful, you get punished; when you lie, you get love. Truth hurts. Stay away from it. Mommy loves little liars. Mommy likes to hear only pleasant truths. Tell her only what she wants to hear, not how you really feel (67).

This passage highlights how our children are learning from us in ways we may not intend or are even aware of. I think we need to ask ourselves what kind of parent we want to be, and then examine the messages we are sending by our actions. It might be uncomfortable to realize we’ve been teaching very different things from what we value.

(Nastia1983, Adobe Stock)
Is there a better way?

Ginott answers:

What could Willie’s mother have answered if she wanted to teach Willie to tell the truth?
She would have acknowledged his upset: “Oh, you no longer love Grandma. Would you like to tell me what Grandma did that made you so angry?” He may have answered, “She brought a present for the baby, not for me.”

If we want to teach honesty, then we must be prepared to listen to bitter truths as well as pleasant truths. If children are to grow up honest, they must not he encouraged to lie about their feelings, be they positive, negative, or ambivalent. It is from our reactions to their expressed feelings that children learn whether or not honesty is the best policy (68).

Our reactions matter so much. Do our actions align with what we claim is important?
More reasons children may lie:

Lies that tell truths. When punished for truth, children lie in self-defense. They also lie to give themselves in fantasy what they lack in reality. Lies tell truths about fears and hopes. They reveal what one would like to be or do. To a discerning ear, lies reveal what they intend to conceal. A mature reaction to a lie should reflect understanding of its meaning, rather than denial of its content or condemnation of its author. The information gained from the lie can be used to help the child to distinguish between reality and wishful thinking.

Ginott gives this example and a wonderful way to guide children:

When three-year-old Jasmine informed her grandma that she received a live elephant for Christmas, her grandma reflected her wish rather than tried to prove to her granddaughter that she was a liar. She answered, “You wish you did. You wish you had an elephant! You wish you had your own zoo! You wish you had a jungle full of animals! (68).

So, What’s a Mom and Dad to Do?

More can be said about understanding and responding to lying, but these insights can help a parent reduce instances when they might be tempted to provoke a lie, and also help them start to see them for what the lies could mean. As Ginott says, when “dealing with dishonesty, an ounce of prevention is worth a ton of investigation” (68). If we want our children to learn that there is no need to lie to us, we can respond without interrogating and by redirecting them to the truth.

(Passey, tl;dr)

Navigate the Series

Series Introduction

First Post - Parenting Styles

Second Post - More Than Moods


Ginott, H. G., Ginott, A., & Goddard, H. W. (2003) Between parent and child. New York: Random House.

Gwimages. Boy in Trouble. [Photo]. Retrieved from

Nastia1983. Fun pupil girl. [Photo]. Retrieved from

Passey, T. (2020) tl;dr. [Graphic]. School psychologist with smart boy. [Photo]. Retrieved from

Steinberg, L. D. (2003). The Ten Basic Principles of Good Parenting. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks. 

Yu, Feng. Lies. [Graphic]. Retrieved from

Zhuk, A. Happy Young Family. [Photo]. Retrieved from


For more on lying and other tricky behavior, read: Chapter 3 "Self-defeating Patterns: There's No Right Way to Do a Wrong Thing"  from Between Parent and Child, 2003.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Series Introduction: What's a Mom and Dad To Do?


Parenting Tips for the Modern Family

(Zhuk, Adobe Stock)

Series Introduction

If you're a parent and you've spent anytime online or talking with friends and family, you already know parenting opinions are abundant, subject to change, and often contradictory. How do you sort through the confusing advice? What's a mom and dad to do? 

This series offers research-based information that can help you navigate a few of the inevitable questions and choices that are part of the adventure of raising your children. 

Introducing the NEPEM Model

What exactly is that, you ask? 

The NEPEM Model is pretty cool and happens to be the foundation for this series. 
Here's the full name:


The who, when, and where this model was published:

Smith, C. A., Cudaback, D., Goddard, H. W., & Myers-Walls, J. (1994). Manhattan, Kansas: Kansas Cooperative Extension Service.

A short summary of what it includes:

Infographic created by author, clip-art from FAML120

Click here to read on!

First Post - Parenting Styles

Second Post - More Than Moods


Smith, C. A., Cudaback, D., Goddard, H. W., & Myers-Walls, J. (1994). Manhattan, Kansas: Kansas Cooperative Extension Service.

Zhuk, A. Happy Young Family. Retrieved from

Parenting Style: What's a Mom and Dad To Do?


Parenting Tips for the Modern Family

(Zhuk,Adobe Stock)

Let's start with style. No, not your fashions sense, your overall approach to parenting. There are a few styles, and regardless of how aware (or not aware) you are of them and your parenting choices, they make a difference in the life of your child. 

Drawing from the work of researchers Diana Baumrind (Baumrind, 1967), Maccoby and Martin (1983), as well as teaching aids from an instructional Parenting Styles Video, parenting styles can be broken down into four areas. The objects below offer a representation of the traits belonging to that style.
(Passey, Parenting Styles Question)

Do you know which one is best?

Before you answer, how about a little more information?
This model focuses on two dimensions of parenting behavior.

  • Demanding-ness, as you can imagine, relates to the amount of control parents try to exert over their children's behavior or how much they demand their maturity.
  • Responsiveness, as it sounds, relates to the amount of sensitivity and acceptance parents offer to their children's emotional and developmental needs.

(Passey, Parenting Styles)

Putting it All Together

The Authoritative Style: 

A tennis ball is "firm on the outside, but has an incredible amount of give. In fact, the amount of bounce that a single tennis ball has changes over time, which can be likened to learning, changing, and progressing over time while parenting. A tennis ball is also fuzzy, representing softness, or a warm and fuzzy personality, one that is approachable. Parents who apply an authoritative style of parenting have high levels of warmth and high levels of expectations, yet they are willing to guide and negotiate with their children" (Video, FAML 120).

When learning of the “high levels of expectations” for this parenting style, it can sound harsh. The key is that it is paired with “high levels of warmth.” I think the combination of these two traits is what gives children structure and confidence. If my parents expect something from me—they must believe I’m capable.  The combination of expectation and warmth can give children feelings of respect and security too. If they care about how I feel when I’m doing what they ask, I can feel safe and respected, too. 
(Passey, Parenting Styles Named)

“This style of parenting is likely to create children who have good social skills and are ready to become independent upon reaching adulthood. Children of authoritative parents are often self-reliant and confident” (Video, FAML 120).

The Authoritarian Style:

You can imagine why the jawbreaker might represent the Authoritarian style of parenting. It’s pretty tough, hard to break through to the center, and sugar on the inside can mean not a lot of nourishment or nurture from this style. Authoritarian parenting tends to demand that children do something “because I said so.” There is no room for feelings.

Authoritarian parents call all the shots except strict obedience. Negotiation with the child is not a part of this style of parenting. Although authoritarian parents love their children, they have high demands with a low level of responsiveness. Often, their high expectations are met with very little warmth, and mistakes and shortcomings are harshly punished (Video, FAML 120).

By comparing this style to the similar-sounding, but more effective Authoritative style, you can see what is missing: warmth and caring. Without acknowledging feelings, caring for a child’s well-being, and treating them with respect, a vital connection between parent and child is lost. This can lead to a very different experience for the child.
“Living with a parent that is so rigid can be hard on the child, just like the jawbreaker. This style of parenting is likely to create unsociable and withdrawn children who may struggle to understand how to make appropriate choices for themselves” (Video, FAML 120).

The Permissive Style: 

The marshmallow couldn’t be more opposite than the jawbreaker. It is soft and easily molded instead of nearly unbreakable. The Permissive style of parenting is also the opposite of the Authoritarian style—all warmth and no demands.

Permissive parents are interested in being their child’s friend, often disregarding consequences for misbehavior. While there are high levels of work and parental involvement from the parent to the child there are low levels of demand, which equates to low levels of correction (Video, FAML 120).

While the higher level of involvement is a helpful aspect of this style and can lead to a better connection between parent and child, the vital ingredient of expectations and correction is missing. Children often don’t complain about this kind of style when they are young, but may recognize when they are older what they missed.
“Parent who use this style give in to their child, and the child learns quickly to manipulate situations. This style of parenting is likely to create immature and dependent children with low levels of self-control” (Video, FAML 120).

The Neglectful Style: 

A burnout light bulb represents the Neglectful style best. Neglectful parents do not demand anything of their children, and they also do not respond to them. For their children, it is truly like no one is home and the lights are off—even when in the same room.
As you can imagine, low involvement and indifference to needs can make it difficult for children to feel love and develop even basic life skills.
Children of Neglectful parents:
  • Are more impulsive
  • Cannot self-regulate
  • Encounter more delinquency and addiction
  • Have more difficulty with mental health

So, what’s a mom or dad to do?

With research pointing to the Authoritative style as most effective, parents can feel confident in setting rules and enforcing boundaries—but doing it by having open discussion and using reasoning. They can be reassured that showing affection and being supportive will not “weaken” them in the eyes of their child, but strengthen the connection they have.
Parenting For Brain. (2020, January 17). 4 Parenting Styles - Characteristics And Effects. [Blog Post]. Retrieved from

Parenting Styles Video, FAML 120 Parenting Skills

Passey, T. (2020) Parenting Styles. [Graphic].

Passey, T. (2020) Parenting Styles Named. [Graphic].

Passey, T. (2020) Parenting Styles Question. [Graphic].

Passey, T. (2020) tl;dr. [Graphic].

Zhuk, A. Happy Young Family. Retrieved from

Friday, January 5, 2018

After the Airport Goodbye

Raising Daughters

They need you and need you and need you
Until they don't
Because you've taught them well and
Shown them the way and 
Given them all you have
Your heart and your soul and your favorite flat iron.
They thank you, they hug you, and they leave you
In one motion
They are off and you wouldn't have it any other way
This is why you carried them, why you fed them, and why you held their hand
So one day 
They could let go
And live their beautiful life.


Monday, October 2, 2017

Resist The Fear, Refuse the Helplessness

I learned of the Las Vegas mass shooting at 8:20 a.m. today. My mind, my heart, cried “No, no, no!”

Random and reckless. Terrifying and too much. I remember once again that I live in this world where people can hurt, maim, and kill. I can already see the wave of grief spreading out over the city and state, the country and the world. It takes all my willpower to resist the fear and refuse the helplessness.

A single thought whispers, "Do good. Do something kind. Love someone today."
At first it feels pointless or ineffective or too thin in the face of such thick evil. Yet the thought persists because of what I know.

You see, my son shares a birthday with his uncle. My brother. The brother that was killed—kicked to death—by three men. This isn’t a fact we dwell on when November rolls around and we sing Happy Birthday. For years after my brother’s death, I wished my son could have been born on a different day. But their shared birthday has led me to a comparison I might not have made otherwise.

My son is also a liver transplant recipient. Some organs you can share without giving your life—like kidneys. While others can only be given when your life ends—like hearts. So, yes, a child died unexpectedly and his parents agreed to donate his liver to our son who had been waiting almost three months. Through the next 24 hours of tears and prayers and skilled surgery, he emerged with a healthy liver and a body capable of living. And live he has. For 23 years our family has known joy. Whole-souled, awe-filled joy because of him. Not just because of the miracle of his life, but because of the miracle that someone we didn’t know was allowed to choose to give him another chance at life. They chose to give life, to love a stranger, even in an hour of pain and grief.

While I have grappled with the heart-sickening actions of others—hateful acts of violence and even small mistakes—and how those actions are allowed to wreak havoc in the lives of innocent people, I have gradually come to see what this means for the loving actions of others. Loving actions are allowed to impact us as well. Generous gestures, kind compliments, and heroic rescues can all create waves of comfort and peace. Doctors who dedicate years to practice so they can save a life or relieve a pain. Friends who show up on doorsteps with dinner, neighbors who water your plants and watch the street when you’re out of town. Family members who listen, encourage, and cheer you on—give you a hug (a high-five, a fist-bump—whatever love language you speak.) All of these loving actions can supply happiness and peace, hope and joy. Love can help and heal and give life. And like a wave, it can move through a family, a city, and the world too.

This is my reality: three men I will never know changed the landscape of my family causing immense grief and pain by ending my brother’s life. While another three people, two parents and a child, were allowed to give the gift of life, also changing my family—bringing infinite happiness and joy.

It may be impossible to avoid grief on a day like today—when the news headlines are driving pain into my heart and home. I don’t have maxims or adages and certainly not answers.

But I do have a longing, swelling up into a soul-filled determination, to push back against the wave with one of my own: Do good. Love someone. Don’t hold back. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Easy to Make Holiday Wreath

I love making wreaths, not that I’m great at it, but I love a pretty wreath. It’s like an art form and though the structure is simple, a round base with some kind of ornamentation for accent, it seems the possibilities are endless. And fun. So I look forward to making a new one when I can.

But this year has been, oh slightly busier than the normal holiday swirl. No surprise with a little thing like a book launch thrown into the season. I thought I might have to find a store-bought one. Ouch, hurts to write that.

I found a few I liked and they all had a price tag I didn’t. So here’s what I did:

I grabbed a pine base, ½ price at Hobby Lobby $10 (There may be cheaper ones out there but this one does have a double wire, makes for a fuller-looking wreath. And as my youngest daughter mentioned while we were comparing ‘if it’s too skimpy, it sort of ruins the door.’ Note taken.)They had pre-formed Christmas floral bunches. The ones I chose had a gold ornament, some frosted pine and white glittery spray—I’m not even pretending to use official descriptions here.From another retailer (Okay Wal-Mart) I found clip on ornaments. Where have these been all my life? I picked up three gold poinsettias and three pine cone clusters. No glue stick, string or floral ties needed. Just clip onto the pine branches like you would the tree, and voila! You have yourself a decorated wreath ready for the door.

I made this in less the twenty minutes for under twenty dollars. Now that’s making spirits bright!

Of course, then I installed it on the door and wondered if it needed a ribbon bow. I’m still wondering. Mainly because I haven’t had a spare minute to tie one on and decide. If I do I’ll let you know.

Until then, this is me wishing you a very merry holiday and hoping all of your creative dreams come true!


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