Monday, June 10, 2019

To Spank or Not To Spank

“Mom, come on, we were supposed to be home an hour ago. Damn it!” (slap!)

That day in the supermarket was one of the most humiliating moments of my life. That slap got me to stop complaining alright. But how much damage did it do to my self-esteem?

When my own kids were little, I did give them a smack on their bottom every now and then. My upbringing showed me that this is what parents do. It gets the kids’ attention and emphasizes the point. Right?

But, somehow, I never felt comfortable with spanking. One day, I whacked my daughter on the back of the head, once, not very hard, but still, it stopped me in my tracks. I thought, “What am I doing? What if I actually did some damage here?” And then I wondered what message I was sending my kids. That’s it’s okay to hit? No, that is not at all the message I want to send to my children. I want to teach them that hitting is unacceptable behavior at all times. We don’t hit our siblings. We don’t hit our parents. We don’t hit our friends. We don’t hit.

I did some serious thinking about spanking. And I asked myself some questions. Does spanking do any good? Is spanking necessary? Or are their alternatives?

I did a little research. Dr. Fitzhugh Dodson says in his book, How to Father, “Punishment is a very ineffective method of discipline…for punishment, strangely enough, often has the effect of teaching the child to behave in exactly the opposite way from the way we want him to behave!”

The Committee on Violence from The Department of Psychiatry at Stanford University says, “From a review of the literature, it is concluded that physical punishment by parents does not inhibit violence and most likely encourages it.”

And a quote from a Newsday article written in August, 1978 goes like this: “Researchers believe that one in five parents have suffered…abuse at the hands of their children, an expression perhaps of the adolescent turmoil that can bubble over; objects lobbed at their heads, shoving, pushing, furious verbal abuse…there is “stark evidence” that physical abuse of the parent is actually learned at the knee of the parent.”

My sister work for years helping women coming out of battered women’s shelters. I don’t need to go into all the different ways that violence permeates our society. You just have to turn on the TV or open a newspaper to hear the details. It is possible - in fact, I think it is quite probable - that it all begins at home with our upbringing.

So how do we stop this habit of striking out? How do we catch ourselves in the moment? I’ll tell you what worked for me. I made up my mind that no matter what, I wouldn’t hit. Period. NO MATTER WHAT.

There’s got to be a better way. And as I perused parenting books, I found some very useful alternatives.

First, there is Time Out. This technique is very effective. Placing my child in his or her room for 2-5 minutes (depending on his/her age) produces a very clear message that their behavior is unacceptable.

Second, you can give yourself a time-out. Sometimes it’s the parent that needs a little time for reflection and de-stressing.

If your child is determined to argue with you all day (and many of them do), you can just say, “No more arguing. It’s just going to be this way. End of discussion.” This worked wonders for me.

Distraction works. Bargaining works. Taking a walk. A hug. A touch of humor. Use your imagination. Just give up the spanking or hitting of any kind. It’ll make the world a better place for all of us.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Developing Self-Esteem

Is your child suffering from lack of self-esteem? Is there anything you can do to build their confidence? The answer is YES!

Here are some techniques that can make a world of difference:


1. Make a list of everything good about your child. What are his or her strengths? See what you can come up with on your own. At first, this may be difficult. You may be in the habit of focusing on their problems and weaknesses. So this is good practice to turn your attention to the positive!

After you’ve written down a few, take a look at the list below and see if you can add anything from our list. There’s no limit to how long the list can be…

A natural leader          Courageous                Imaginative            Persistent
Adventurous               Creative                  Independent            Practical
Affectionate              Dependable                Inventive              Pretty
Athletic                  Energetic                 Kind                   Problem-solver
Beautiful                 Fun Loving                Loving                 Resourceful
Cheerful                  Funny                     Musical                Sensitive
Clever                    Good listener             Optimistic             Smart
Confident                 Great sense of humor      Original               Sweet
Considerate               Hardworking               Passionate             Talented
Cooperative               Helpful                   Patient                Understanding

2. Add the heading _(child’s name)__’s STRENGTHS”

3. Go over them with your child.

4. Tack this list on the wall somewhere where you and your child will see it often.


The best way to really listen to your child is to repeat back to them what you think they said. For example: “So, you’re saying you had a bad day at school today because Kevin accidentally tripped you on the playground.”

Then add: “That must have made you feel embarrassed and hurt your feelings as well.” If it’s not how they were feeling, they will correct you. Either way, it helps to put their actual feelings into words, without judgement

For more on this subject, see the book How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk .


First: Spend a little time with each child at bedtime if you can. We used to call this “snuggle time”. We would lie down in bed together for 5 minutes and sometimes things would come up about their day that they wouldn’t normally think to tell you. It’s a great way to connect with your child in a loving way at the end of a hectic or stressful day. With young children, this can happen after a routine time reading a book together. But, this also works well with preteens and teenagers.

Second: At bedtime, remind your child to think happy thoughts. This teaches them (and reminds us) to focus on the positive. What happened today that was fun? What gave you a good-feeling? What are you looking forward to about tomorrow? What would you like to dream about? Get in the habit of thinking happy thoughts and watch your life, and your child’s life, transform into a happy one!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

How to Stop a Tantrum

Tantrums are not fun. Every parent has a couple of stories to tell… of being out in public and suddenly finding yourself doing battle with a toddler or preschooler who just totally loses it. Within minutes they may be screaming, flailing limbs, refusing any type of effort to calm down and be reasonable. When this happens, the parent doesn’t have many options, other than to wait it out, threaten, plead. Once you’ve experienced a full-blown tantrum, you don’t want to experience it ever again.

This happened to me, and I came up with a solution that worked. With just a little bit of effort the tantrum can be diffused. Here’s how:


Begin to tell your child a story about what he/she is experiencing. This technique is so easy to do. Here are the steps:

1. Begin with “Once upon a time…” This sentence alone will often grab his attention.

2. “…there was a little boy named _____…” Use your child’s name. This is very important. He needs to know your story is about him.

3. “…who was out shopping with his mommy…” Set the scene. Describe the situation. Describe the problem. Use details.

4. Mention your child’s feelings. Chances are he’s feeling anger, frustration, sadness, fear, or hurt. Make a guess. If you get it wrong, he’ll let you know. You can include your feelings as well, but describe his first.

5. Soon, he begins to participate in the story. He may ask a question, or clarify something you said. Repeat back what he says and include it in the story.

6. You’ll know when the crisis is over. He begins to breathe normally. His attention has shifted and he begins to take an interest in other things. Allow the conversation to move on. You can give him a hug if it feels appropriate.


Children love stories. And they especially like to hear about themselves.

But, most important, we all need to have our feelings heard and validated. Repeating back to our child what just happened and how they feel about it is a validation. Nothing is more comforting than to know you are heard and your feelings are understood.

For further reading: I’d like to recommend one of my favorite parenting/communication books. This book is awesome and has valuable advice for communicating and improving all your relationships:

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk

How to Stop Your Children from Swearing and Using Unkind Words

Have your children started using some not-so-nice words? They may have picked them up from friends with older siblings, from TV and the movies, from all kinds of possible places (even you!).

Even “shut-up” and “stupid” can be hurtful. It’s nice to have a home that is completely clean of hurtful and unpleasant words. It’s not the words that hurt, of course, it’s the intent or feeling behind them that gets you.

THE SOLUTION:- Quarter-in-the-Jar Game

1. Find a small cup or jar and tell your kids that from now on, anyone who uses a swear word or a mean word has to put a quarter in the jar.

2. Have the family sit down and make up a list of “quarter-in-the-jar” words. Start with “all swear words” and add any other words or phrases that you find unpleasant or hurtful.

3. If someone slips and uses a nasty word, someone shouts “QUARTER IN THE JAR!” Then the perpetrator must put a quarter in the jar.

4. Parents too! If you don’t want your children using nasty words at home, you have to set an example and give up those words yourself. This solution will only work if everyone in the family agrees to the rule. And the kids love it when one of their parents have to put a quarter in the jar, too!


This is a game, and kids love games. They love catching you and their siblings using a nasty word. It’s fun.

It helps if they have an allowance or earn some money with chores. Once they have a little money in their wallet or drawer, they don’t want to give it up.

It won’t take long at all for everyone in the family to stop using nasty words. After a while, you won’t even have to contribute a quarter to the jar. The point is made. Everyone has become aware of the words they use and you’ll rarely if ever hear nasty words at home anymore.

Now, I’m not saying the kids will never use these words at school or elsewhere. But, I have to tell you, once you’ve begun this game, it’ll be rare. And the point is, you’ll rarely hear them at home!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

How to Stop a Bully

One day when our daughter was in 4th grade, she came home from school upset. She told me a boy at school kept calling her names. He would often say, "You're a jerk!" Our daughter is very sensitive and even this relatively tame abuse made her want to cry. Whenever he did this, it ruined her day.

I didn't know what to say. I tried logic: "You know, he's probably unhappy about something else and he's taking it out on you."

I tried turning it into something sweet: "He probably has a crush on you and doesn't know how to show it."

Then, I tried giving her advice: "You know, if you can just learn to ignore it, he'll probably leave you alone. He probably does it because he gets a reaction."

At least some of these statements were probably true. And they all made her feel a little better. But, none of them gave her something to do about it. And the boy kept calling her names.

Then I had a brainstorm. I suggested that the next time the boy called her a name, she should throw a compliment at him! She looked at me with surprise, but I urged her to try it and she promised she would.

The next day at school when our daughter was on the playground with her class, this same boy came up to her and said, "Hey, you're a jerk!"

She stopped what she was doing, turned to him and said, "Well, you're... you're... you're a nice boy!" It was the first compliment that popped into her head.

"Huh?" said the boy.
"You're a nice boy," she repeated.
"Oh," he said. He looked at her strangely and then walked away. And he never called her a name again.

If you want to try this technique with your children, try the following:

1. Ask your child to think of three nice things about the bully. Write them down. It could be the color of the bully's hair or eyes. He/she could be smart or funny, have nice sneakers or a jacket, be good at art, anything.

2. If your child can't think of anything nice about this person after several minutes and some prompting, help the child make something up! Have fun with it! (Remember the boggart exercise from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban ?) These first two steps are very important. These exercises not only give you ideas for compliments, but it shifts the way the child feels the bully. His/her perception changes. Two favorite books of mine, "The Secret " and "The Attractor Factor " teach that we attract people and situations into our lives in response to our thoughts and feelings. You'll be amazed at how quickly things change after these exercises.

3. The next time the bully treats your child badly, he/she can throw a compliment!

Why this works: First, there's the element of surprise. The last thing a bully expects to hear is a compliment. It's the opposite of the reaction he/she expects.

Second, and most important, a bully usually picks on someone who is sensitive and easily cowed. Once they treat your child badly, your child will likely see the bully as a threat. By making a list of likable traits in the bully (and everyone has something likable about them) you are changing those vulnerable feelings. The outcome of the next interaction has to change, too.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Food sensitivities

When my son was about two, I made the mistake of eating chili for dinner. I was breastfeeding, but nobody had ever told me to avoid spicy foods. Anyway, that night around 2 in the morning he woke up with projectile vomiting. We noticed because he was sharing our bed. Let me tell you, they call it projectile vomiting for a very good reason.

A week or two later, it happened again. We figured it out. No chili.

A couple of months later, I noticed that it took several extra hours to get him to bed on nights that I had chocolate chip cookies with my lunch.

Then, a chiropractor friend of mine suggested we take our son (and me, since I was still nursing) off dairy. Our pediatrician was getting ready to put tubes in our son's ears because of frequent ear infections. We stopped eating dairy and the ears cleared up, so the ear doctor decided not to do the operation. From then on, as long as we stayed away from dairy, no more ear infections.

As the years went by, we got in the habit of looking at food and what we were eating as possible culprits for all kinds of issues. With lots of experimenting, mostly trial and error, we found that fruit, of all things, made our son hyper. He could tolerate sugar pretty well, but one blueberry would have him bouncing off the walls.

When we went out to dinner, he would curl up into a ball on his chair after eating, until we stopped giving him soda with his meal as a treat.

His acne was so bad as a teenager, I was really worried he would scar for life. We tried topical treatments, but didn't want to medicate him, as he's so sensitive. Finally, we found the culprit - eggs! He stopped eating eggs, and all products that have eggs in them, and the acne cleared up.

I hear more and more about kids with sensitivities to foods. Adults too. When I changed my diet, I stopped having headaches, heart palpitations, constipation, itchy skin, sore throats... the list goes on and on. I hope that other parents will do as I did and look at what you're eating and feeding your family. Experiment with your diet. Pay attention to what you eat when problems arise. It just may be that it is your diet that is making you sick.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A little stirring up

Did you ever think you could watch a doctor close a wound with stitches? I found out it was possible the day my son, at the age of 2, was crawling on the hardwood floor and my 4-year-old daughter decided it would be fun to play wheelbarrow and picked up his feet. His chin hit the floor with a whack and started bleeding profusely. I quickly staunched the flow, covered it with a band-aid, called the doctor to say that I was on my way, dropped my daughter at a neighbor’s house, and drove over to the doctor’s office. It was not far, thank heaven. He cried all the way.

At the doctor’s office, I had to hold my son down while the nurse cleaned him up and the doctor carefully stitched up his chin. He needed three stitches, but it seemed to take forever, as though the doctor was moving in slow motion. I never took my eyes off his hand while he worked, inwardly astonished at what I was doing. Funny, the things we are capable of in a crisis.

Now, years later, I wonder if there were repercussions, like a ripple in a pond that forever flows outward from a disturbance. Did my daughter ever get over the guilt of knowing she was responsible for hurting her little brother? Is that why she was so protective of him from that day forward? Did my son ever regain his trust in the people around him who held him down and put needles in him? Is this why I always felt I had to watch my children like a hawk so nothing bad ever happens to them?

Or is this the stuff that is supposed to happen? Perhaps life just decided things were going along too smoothly there, and we needed a little stirring up. Perhaps we needed to be knocked a little off balance so we can learn to find that balance again.