Archive for February, 2013

February 28, 2013

Cooperative Kids – Book Giveaway and Answers to Your Parenting Questions!! – XP

Original here *must comment on original post to enter giveaway*

In case you missed it, start here with Part 1 of this mini series in which I introduced the book Love Limits & Lessons and the powerful impact it has had on my parenting repertoire.  Included in that post was the fantastic opportunity for readers to write in with questions for author, Bill Corbett to provide some thoughts on!

First for a little background.  Bill Corbett is a member of the American Psychological Association (APA), the National Children’s Alliance (NCA), the North American Society of Adlerian Psychology (NASAP), and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). He is also on the Resource Advisory Committee of Attachment Parenting International (API) and spent 12 years as a parent educator and training director with the International Network for Children and Families. His syndicated column on discipline and child behavior appears in local family publications in many states across the country.  He has 3 grown children, 2 grandchildren, and 3 step children.  Needless to say, he’s got some great insight to share!

Q. My biggest parenting struggle these days is getting my son dressed in the morning. He’s four and lately it has turned into a huge battle every morning…I’m not sure what’s happening here or how to get out of this power struggle.

A. Children crave “reconnecting” with the parent(s) in the morning after being a part over night (this also happens after school).  Parents are more successful if they spend 10 – 20 minutes in an activity with the child that makes the child feel important and special.  The parent should refrain from speaking and let the child do all the talking.  It can even mean just eating breakfast with the child and asking him open ended questions.  A visual timer should be set, not audible.  Audible timers and sticker charts don’t work for the most part.  Plus the sticker charts become tiresome to maintain.  Preschoolers live only in the moment and have great difficulty seeing ahead to the collection of stickers.  If the child isn’t allowed to reconnect with the primary parent, then he will attempt to get that need met by running away from getting dressed or doing the opposite of what the parent wants him to do.  In other words, avoiding what the parents wants him to do is his way of getting that connection through attention and feeling powerful.

The parent could try laying out two different outfits for the boy to wear and to give him power by allowing him to pick one of the outfits.  This makes him feel valuable and powerful and avoids his need to find his power on his terms.


If the parent is already doing all of this and more, than the pediatrician’s suggestion of bringing the child to school in his pajamas is a good one.  But in order to make this work, it’s important to get the school to work with the parent by creating the requirement that the child cannot enter the classroom until he is completely dressed.  This means that the parent must bring the change of clothes in a bag and had the child and the bag to a teacher, and then leave.  It will be up to the “receiving” teacher to lay down the rule for the child and remain with him (outside of the classroom) until he dresses himself.  The teacher should also refrain from showing any emotion (such as frustration) or speaking to the child.


One additional note:  preschoolers LOVE when they have the power to make adults react.  So if the parent is getting worked up over the child not putting on his clothes, such as yelling, scolding, reminding, etc., the child will love this.  Therefore the parent must remain completely calm and silent so as not to give the child a reason to avoid getting dressed.  The parent must behave as if it doesn’t even bother her/him and just be ready with a change of clothes in a bag to leave with.

Q. Right now I’m struggling with my 3 year old tantrums (like kicking me when I strap her into her car seat), keeping my monkey of a 2 year old from climbing everything (both safety concerns as we’ll as a listening issue) and the never-ending battle of sharing.

A. Tantrums are usually a child’s way of saying, “I’m tired of you adults bossing me around all the time, I wish you would give me advance notice when transition is about to occur.”  More than the tantrum, I suggest the parent focus on what CAUSED the tantrum.  In other words, determine what the triggers are that set the child off.  You cannot just walk up to a child and shut a cartoon off, or demand she get dressed, or suddenly remove her dish from the table and expect her to comply happily.  She needs advanced notice, something visual to watch for that tells her transition is about to occur soon.  That’s where visual schedules and visual timers come into play.  [Visual products like these can be found at]


The parent will also be more successful by giving the child a choice in the matter.  She could say, “Would you like grandma to put you in the car seat or mommy?”  If mom is alone, she could say, “Would you like mommy to put you in the car seat or would you like to go in there by yourself?”  Please keep in mind that if the parent is stressed and rushed, the child can pick up on that instantly and will become resistant and uncooperative.  If that’s the situation, then I can only suggest that the parent calm down in order to obtain some success.  It also works well to redirect the child’s attention when getting ready to get in the car to go somewhere, such as having a special toy in the car that the child loves and can play with ONLY while riding in the car.  Or getting the child to focus on where you’re going and getting her excited about what will happen at the destination.


The 2-year-old climbing is an indication that the child needs to climb.  Therefore, the solution at home is to establish a climbing device or apparatus in a play room somewhere.  Then, ever time the toddler begins to climb other furniture, the parent should immediately bring the child to that special climbing apparatus and do it without speaking.  And do it every single time calmly.


Q. Any thoughts or advice on how to negotiate helping an emotionally distressed preschooler when you yourself are feeling equally as emotionally distressed?

A. Please know that a child can feel the emotional chaos that the adults who care for him are feeling.  The ultimate solution is to calm yourself and that feeling too will be transmitted to the child.

 [See above for advice on the emotional outbursts and tantrums]

Q. My daughter is 11 so I’m dealing with getting homework and chores done in a timely manner. Also cell phones/social media/Internet – how can one give them some freedom yet make sure they understand how important it is to think before texting/posting something. Another issue is my daughter got bad acne early (2nd grade!!) and now she is dealing (still) with being picked on about that in addition to trying to handle the start of puberty, any tips on making things easier? Making sure she knows she can talk to me about anything & everything?

A. There should be established “windows of time” for texting at home, and times when it is not allowed.  In fact, the parent should be setting the expectation that the cell phone or iPod should be “signed out” for approved use and then “signed back in” later.  Here are some suggestions:  First establish when the child will do her homework, with her input.  Some kids can do it as soon as they get home and some need a break.  Work with her to establish how long she needs and the start and stop time.  Once it’s established it should be the set time frame every day, Monday thru Thursday.  Document it and post it so that it is not forgotten.  During homework time, all electronic devices should be turned in or at least be turned off and out of the child’s reach.  If the child has to use a computer, it should be a family computer located in a common area where the parent can look over the child’s shoulder at any given time.  Here is the hardest and the most important rule… this “no electronics” rule should be established every day, Mon.-Thurs., even if the child has no homework.  If the child has not finished her homework and the designated homework time is up, that is of no concern to the parent.  That is the child’s problem.  If she want to not finish her math and go text, that’s her choice.  Cell phones should not be allowed to be “signed back out” if the chores are not completed.  A cell phone is a privilege and not a right.


If the child is dealing with a health or physical issue that is generating ridicule from her peers, the parents job is to teach the child how to deflect those comments or remarks and not take them personally.  My two daughters were red-heads and they suffered extreme ridicule through the two primary phases of childhood, at the early school age and then again as a teenager when their male peers became sexually aware of girls and sexuality.  The boys were mean.  Each time one of my girls came home crying, I would coach them to say to themselves in response to ridicule, “No matter what you say or do to me, I am still a worthwhile person.”  This repetitive script helps a child to rebuild their self-image and program their self-talk in a positive and reinforcing way.


Finally, the secret to getting a child to want to talk to the parent about anything and everything is to refrain from blaming, yelling, accusing, punishing, lecturing, guilting, spanking, or anything else that involves bringing up things the child does wrong and doing it in an accusatory manner.  It involves demonstrating unconditional love and kindness, no matter what mistakes the child has made.  It also involves engaging the child in warm, friendly, open discussions often where the parent asks open ended questions to get the child to share his or her feelings, dreams and thoughts without judgment, criticism or reprimand.

Q.   We have a 2.5 year old special needs child, yet to be diagnosed, that we are adopting and I struggle with her behavior a lot. We are currently doing PCIT/PCAT once a week and she has a teacher come to our home twice a week, during those appointments she is bright, playful, appropriately verbal, attention seeking, silly, basically a typical 2 year old… When we don’t have a teacher or therapist here she is quiet, her play is rudimentary and distracted, she doesn’t act silly or seek attention, and she behaves like she can’t do things she normally does easily (use words, put clothes on/take them off, eat, etc.). I’ve attributed this difference to her needing the one on one attention but having three other children (9, 5, and 1), I can’t give her that kind of attention 100% of the time. I’ve scheduled times each day where she and I are alone doing stimulating activities, she thrives then but goes back to her quiet self as soon as my attention has to be shared. What more can I do for her?

A. Sounds like you’re doing some great things already and to keep up the special date time with her.  The important thing is to not allow yourself to be impacted when she withdraws.  Avoid reacting to the withdrawal and act like it doesn’t even effect you; like you don’t even notice it.  Any over reaction by anyone around her will motivate her to continue to behave this way.  Look for special ways that she can gain attention (dancing, drawing, jumping on pillows, singing, acting out, wearing silly hats, dress-up, etc.) that everyone will notice.  What things does she like to do that you could create opportunities for her to do more of?  And when she does do something, even if it means pushing in her chair or eating all of her carrots, make a big deal of it with everyone present.  Consult the 9 and 5 year old to help you notice things and they too can make a big deal out things she does well.  Brief visitors about this need for more attention and have them pay special attention to her with the littlest things.  If she draws pictures, put them on display for all to see.  Also, be sure to join the visiting teacher with the attention she gives her.  Make her feel like the same caliber of attention is coming from both of you at the same time.  And use a visual timer to time the special time you have with her.  This will allow her to see that it is established and is real.

For further insight and parenting tips from Bill, check out a recent article on 10 Tips for Raising a More Peaceful Child along with these other great resources:

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 * Bill Corbett info and photos via


February 27, 2013


  • It has been more than a year since the children last saw their mom.  We’ve heard from her a couple times since, but not nearly the contact I was hoping for.  Sprout has mostly stopped asking when he’ll see her again…
  • Blossom celebrated her first birthday.  It was one year ago today that we learned of her and made a terribly hard decision.  Still not sure if it was the right one.  But on the other hand, she is still in foster care limbo with no indication of finalization any time soon…
February 21, 2013

Parenting with Love, Limits & Lessons – XP

Original here.

12/18/2009: I met my son for the first time.  He was 3 1/2 years old and I was going in entirely blind to his life experiences, previous discipline, capabilities…everything.  Now that I have a nearly 3 1/2 year old daughter whom I’ve raised since infancy, I realize how much of a lifetime I had missed.  The devastation she would feel if she were plucked up tomorrow and dropped at a new doorstep makes my head spin.  And yet? He showed up with a smile.  Amazing.

Christmas '09 017

12/21/2009: I wrote, “Well, we are about 4 days into our first placement and its going so much better than expected (I totally just jinxed myself).  We prepared ourselves for the worst but have been pleasantly surprised with age-appropriate, generally pleasant behavior!”  HA. Foolish, foolish woman…

12/30/2009: Reality sets in.  My ears are bleeding from all the whining.  Tantrums are an hourly occurrence.  Every moment is a battle.

01/04/2010:  We are trapped in our house.  The fits he throws the second we enter a public space are like nothing I’ve ever seen before.  It’s become a safety concern (just ask my black eye) and we’ve decided we won’t be taking him out for a while.  I’m suffocating and scared.

1/11/2010:  After barely managing to schlep myself to work, a coworker cheerily asked me how my weekend was.  I stared at her blankly for a moment wondering how the answer wasn’t already written all over my baggy-eyed face before answering with “Well, I survived”.

1/25/2010:  We tried to visit family today but cut the visit short when we started to worry about the screaming bothering the neighbors.  Well-intentioned family member just shakes her head in disbelief saying, “I had no idea it was this bad.”  As the tears well up in my eyes I respond, “This is a good day.”  We go back home, exhausted and alone.

2/14/2010:  Our first Valentine’s Day as a family.  We push through with heart-shaped pancakes, pink milk, and a walk to the park.  I had planned to surprise my wife with a nice dinner after we got the kids to bed (if we got the kids to bed), but she turned in early after a particularly hateful barrage of words from him.  He’s been doing this a lot lately and she is his favorite target.  So instead I hold her in our bed and we both cry.

2/16/2010: I write, “As a parent, there is a lot I don’t know.  I don’t know much of his history.  I don’t know what their future will hold.  I don’t know the dark demons that live in my little boy’s heart.  I don’t always know the best way to respond to behavior challenges.  I don’t know if I say the right things or if I do the right things.   Hell, I don’t even know how long I’ll be able to call myself a parent. But, what I do know is that my love is stronger than his anger.  And that’s all I need to know to get up tomorrow and do it all again.”

3/11/2010: His mom has been missing a lot of visits lately and that has thrown him into even more of a tailspin than usual.  I’m his new target and he has found my Achilles heel: peeing.purposely.on.everything.  Nothing gets my blood boiling more than this disgusting new habit.  I can’t take it for one more second.

3/12/2010: During a rage he screamed at me in his angriest voice: “I LOVE YOU!!”  And then I’m reminded.  He’s mad that he loves me.  He doesn’t want to have foster moms.  He doesn’t want to continually fall in love with caregivers just to be ripped away.  He wants to love his mom and have her love him back.  I still have no fucking clue what I’m doing, but I get it.

4/4/2010: Easter.  Our first day in nearly 4 months without a fit/rage/crying/peeing/major incident of any kind.  I feel a crack in my cloak of self-doubt.  You know what?  I think we can do this.  Of course, I’ve been saying that incessantly this whole time, but today my heart starts to believe it.

Easter '10 078

4/16/2010: For the first time, I attend a support group meeting for foster parents because, shit, I need something.  Just so happens a woman is there to give us a presentation on a parenting and discipline strategy called Cooperative Kids  based on the book Love, Limits & Lessons by Bill Corbett.  I quickly googled it to see if it would be worth my time to stay.  At this point I feel like I’ve read just about every parenting book out there, but something about this one caught my attention.  I liked the fact that the love came first.  In so many of those other books (including others with ‘love’ in the title), discipline is the primary goal and love the second, but that wasn’t going to work for me…not for this kid.  Amidst the sea of all that I didn’t know, I always knew that love and attachment trumped all.  There would be no healing, controlling, or disciplining until this child trusted me and was filled to the brim with love.  I bought the book and read it cover to cover in one night.  The next day I started implementing its strategies and I haven’t looked back since.

6/18/2010:  We celebrate 6 months as a family.  We have made it through the darkness.  There are still struggles and temper tantrums, but life has become manageable again.  In fact, we took our first family vacation and knowing where he had been 5 months earlier, I am so proud of my son.  I enjoyed him and his company and that brought me tears of relief.

Ptown 2010 259

7/26/2010: In an email to a friend: “And that’s when it occurred to me that I’m not parenting the same boy I was 6 months ago.  The pendulum has swung and the good far far outweighs the bad.  Man, I love that kid.”

8/23/2010:  He and I were winding down in a snuggle on the couch.  He got quiet and furrowed his brow when he asked, “Do you like being my mommy?” I couldn’t answer right away because his words had taken my breath.  Instead I kissed him on his forehead and breathed in the smell of his freshly washed hair.

“I like it more than anything else in the world.  Being your mommy is the best thing I’ve ever done.”

“Do you like it more than chocolate ice cream?”

“Way more.”

9/12/2010: Epic meltdown at church moments before we were supposed to head to a picnic complete with running wildly into oncoming traffic.  This is the part of the roller coaster ride that I find particularly intolerable.  The fact that we’ve gone months without a public tantrum, then all of a sudden, here it is again.  It feels like such a lack of progress – it feels like such a failure.  I really wanted to go to that picnic.

11/26/2010: We welcome our third child.  A complete shock and surprise to everyone leaving my son the same 2 hours to prepare as the rest of us.  He is incredible.  Happy, unthreatened, and loving.  These girls won the big brother jackpot.

Mehahlea 077

6/6/2011: We’re all hanging out at the playground, swinging high and happily chatting, when my wife asked, “How did we get such a sweet boy?”  He answered matter-of-factly as if we asked him the color of the sky: “You teached me.”

2/21/2013: My son is incredible.  He is happy, thriving, and never stops talking.  He is kind, respectful, cooperative, and has a noticeable appreciation for the boundaries and consequences present in his life.  He’s also a high-energy emotional kid who struggles at time with keeping a quiet body, listening ears, and calm expression of feelings.  In sum? He’s an awesomely typical 6 year old boy.  I love him so much, but even more, I really like him.  There were times I feared never being able to say that.


Of course time, maturity, and healing had a lot to do with his growth and success, but I also give a lot of credit to finding a plan that worked in Love, Limits & Lessons.  It was here that I learned that the tantrums and misbehavior are his, not mine. I don’t own them. I’m not burdened by them – he is.  This relates to one of my primary parenting rules: I can’t control my child, nor do I want to.  The only person I can control is this world is me.  My job is to guide and to teach, but he is his own individual spirit in control of his body and mind.  There is no power struggle because I freely give him all the power he needs and deserves – but that also means he gets the responsibility of his actions.  How freeing that philosophy is.  Also, disengaging myself from the hate and negativity made it that much easier for the love to flow in.

So, naturally, whenever I’m asked for a recommendation on a parenting book, this is my go-to.  It’s a quick read, funny and real.  Along with the broader philosophical discussions, it offers concrete solutions for common problems.  It provided me with an effective parenting voice that felt comfortable and nurturing.

Now here’s the really exciting news…I’ve connected with the Connecticut-based author and one week from today, you’ll have the opportunity to win a copy of the book to check out for yourself!  Not only that, but Bill Corbett has agreed to field some parenting questions from our CT Working Moms audience!

What is your biggest struggle right now?  Need advice on meal times, bed times, homework, dating?? This is your opportunity to get some advice from a fantastic parenting expert!  Leave your question in the comments here and check back next Thursday for a great parenting discussion and giveaway!


February 20, 2013

Wordless(ish) Wednesday

I ordered the pillow.  I didn’t exactly tell him it was from her, but I didn’t correct him when he made the assumption either.

The happiness on his face.

The connection and security he has found.

It may not have been the textbook correct solution to the dilemma, but I have no regrets.

sponge bob

They don’t make textbooks for these things anyway.


ps – that night was the one our pup Lilly passed away.  I had just given Sprout the pillow a few hours earlier, clueless to just how much comfort he would be needing that night.  A mother’s intuition, I guess.

February 18, 2013

Set the DVR!

Our Growing Family appears on The Ricki Lake Show this Thursday!

Check out a preview here!

February 7, 2013

Helping Children With the Loss of a Pet – XP

Meet Lilly:

One of the sweetest, gentlest souls to have ever graced this earth.  You know the way a dog loves you unconditionally with full abandon, loyalty, and forgiveness?  This dog was pure embodiment of that kind of puppy love.

In 2005 my wife and I were done with college, had stable jobs, and had moved into a nice apartment.  Wedding bells weren’t ringing and children were certainly not yet on the agenda, but we were ready for something a little more.  Hurricane Katrina hit, displacing hundreds of animals, and suddenly we knew what that “something more” was.  We first saw Lilly in a concrete pen at the back of the Humane Society.  She had traveled hundreds of miles, was cowering and shaking in fear, and her eye was injured and in need of surgery.  She was the one – I knew instantly.

She was a highly anxious dog and the next few years were spent training and calming her.  She was our baby and we poured our whole hearts into her.  She traveled with us, there were frequent trips to the dog park, a move into a house with a fenced backyard just for her, and I confess that there may have even been a dog sweater or two (I know, I know…).  By 2009 we were mostly sure that she was ready to help us welcome children into our lives, but I admit that I had my concerns.

Ready?? As I quickly came to see, this dog was born for children.  At least, for these children.  I watched her come into her own with her new “puppies”.  She calmed, had a purpose, and made an incredible family dog.  Lilly was an integral part of helping our foster kiddos adjust to our home and healing heartbreak after heartbreak of their long court process.  She was always there, always full of love.  And when it came time to talk about adoption, she was there to help them understand – as we told the kids, “Lilly is just like you! She had a first mommy who made her in her belly, but then she needed new parents to adopt her and give her a safe home to live in forever and ever.”  Lilly was so much more than a pet; she was one of them.

February 4, 2013, Lilly was hit by a car and passed away instantly.  In a split second a hugely important member of our family was taken and we are deeply mourning this loss.

I don’t believe there is any one right or wrong way to help children deal with the loss of a pet, but in our house we do it fully and openly.  We talk regularly about death in the matter-of-fact way children respond well to.  We also cry – happy and sad tears as we share favorite memories with our beloved dog.  We feel and accept the anger that sometimes overwhelms each of us at the injustice of a life taken too soon.  My 3-year-old is especially processing her emotions through anger – angry at Lilly for running into the road (“dats against the rules! only cars in the street!”) and angry at the car for not being able to stop (she reminds me on our way to school, “drive slow mommy and watch for dogs!”).

Possibly the most healing exercise, a tradition we started last year when one of our cats passed away, are our letters to heaven.

“to Havin”

The children draw pictures and we help them write stories to send to whomever has passed that is on our hearts.  Lilly got beautiful pictures of sunny days at the beach, walks in the woods, and “I liked when you kissed me with just your nose, not your tongue.”  And then?  They got a message back…


They have been taking turns reading the card over and over again and rubbing their fingers over the paw print.  Before we left for school this morning, my daughter gave the card a kiss and said, “Have a good day in heaven Lilly.”

Oh, sweet Lilly.  Yes, I hope you are having a good day…as good as all the ones you gave us.

Original here.