6 Simple Perspective Shifts that Will Transform Your Parenting

One of my latest gigs was to help out Sumitha Bhandarkar, the editor of AFineParent.com summarize some interview she did. These weren’t just any interviews. These were interview with experts in the parenting field: Psychologists, Parentologists, Therapists, and Counselors. The talks were about everything from bullying to emotional intelligence to getting cooperation to how the Dutch parent/see the world.

I also did two round-up pieces for her. This one below is from the Perspective Shifting segment of the conference. And I have to say they did shift a lot of my perspectives on different bits of my parenting.

This conference is from May 22 – 26th and is FREE!!!! But only for those dates, so mark them on your calendar. (If you miss it you can buy copies of the talks.) So I highly encourage you to read through and see what advice these experts have to offer you.

And some of the talks aren’t just for parents. They are for anyone who has to get along with people. (So that makes 99% of us, right?)

6 Simple Perspective Shifts that Will Transform Your Parenting

Here’s a parenting conundrum for you…

Sometimes you chug along… Everything flows smoothly. You are on top of your game. Every time you see your friends struggling with this particular aspect of parenting, you wonder: Why? What is the big deal?

And then there are other times when you just can’t seem to get something right. It doesn’t matter how hard you try or how many new “techniques” you test… some issues that bothered you when your kids were 3, are still issues when they are 13. And you’re just stuck and spinning your wheels.

Case in point: I have a tween. Some days we are getting along great. He wants to spend time with me. We are having deep conversations about what is going on in his life. I’m rejoicing that we have such a close and loving relationship. And then I’m suddenly on a tilt-a-whirl! Suddenly he’s mad and shouting and then I’m shouting and then WHAM! He’s stomped up to his room and slammed the door. It doesn’t matter how many times we go through this it’s always the same and I just can’t figure out why.

What gives? Why is it that we are so good at a few things, and suck at others?

Turns out there is a simple explanation – perspective.

I was putting together the summaries for the talks at the FREE online Positive Parenting Conference that Sumitha is working on, and every now and then the speaker would say something that made me go “Aha!”

These are fundamental shifts that knock down some long held belief or value. Or makes you see things in a completely different light.  It’s these that make the difference between whether we ace an aspect of parenting, or struggle with it endlessly.

I’ve put together a few of these perspective shifts for you to consider. Take a look. Who knows… maybe one of these will transform one of your “I don’t know what to do” items into a “I’ve totally got this” item!

Alright, here we go –

Connected Hearts Journal

A few weeks ago I told you about the Connected Hearts Journal being funded on Kickstarter.

Well, it has been fully funded! Meaning that if you order or pay into the Kickstarter you are for sure getting a journal. And if you want one there is only 30 hours left to get one for yourself and your child.

This journal is a safe space for you and your child to share thoughts, feelings, and memories. Writing together and sharing your writing and thoughts can create a bond that will last through even the worst of the teenage years and uncertain times in your own life.

And even if you don’t choose to take advantage of the low price that comes with this Kickstarter campaign get yourself a notebook and start journaling with your child. This particular journal makes it easy and fun to do, but just journal.

Journaling the Journey: Writing Makes Everything Better

Something I do as an Organization Development professional and a Life Coach is journaling. Not so much that I become a navel-gazing moron, but I write down enough so I can sort things out in my head.

All OD pros do it. We’re taught to journal as part of the training. It becomes second nature to all of us.

Journaling helps me to clear my mind; express my creativity; know myself better.

When I know myself I can see how I am influenced by and how I influence the world around me. I can learn what brings me joy, or sadness. I can learn where my triggers or “buttons” are and even the responses I have to those “buttons.”

I learn my programming.

But it’s more than just knowing. It’s also being able to contemplate why. Why am I programmed this way? Why is it I love the smell of rosemary? Why does the color blue make me so happy?

And why, for example, don’t I like it when my kids’ playing hits a certain volume or pitch?

I gave myself time to write it down. And I learned that once a certain volume and pitch is reached, even if it’s laughter, someone gets hurt soon after. Crying and yelling starts. And I end up stomping up (or down) the stairs yelling and mad that they can’t just play together without someone getting hurt.

But now that I know all this – the button and response – it means that I can consciously watch for the trigger. In fact, the more I journal and contemplate I can even watch for the finger about to push the button.

Once I can do any of that I can then consciously change the response.

Journaling isn’t just for psychologists or organization development professionals. Journaling isn’t even just for adults. Children also benefit from writing down their thoughts.

Children’s journaling doesn’t have to be just writing. Poems and essays are great, and so are drawings, collages, stream of conscious lists. Journaling builds empathy and gratitude in children. It brings what they know subconsciously up into conscious realizations.

Journaling gives children a safe way to express negative feelings. Children can write out stories about bad days or rotten experiences. They can sketch out scripts to test conversations they might have with a classmate who is picking on them.

Journaling helps them play with mental creativity. Drawing, writing scripts, creating comic strips. This kind of creative self-expression can also help children heal from physical and emotional damage.

This kind of healing through self-expression is part of the reason why those fancy adult coloring books are so incredibly popular right now. Coloring, collage, and doodling all have the effect of lowering stress, increasing focus, and developing mindfulness in both adults and children.

Usually I just use a notebook as my journal. I go to the local bookstore and pick out a book that speaks to me. I let the kids pick out whatever speaks to them.

You have to love the journal you are using. You need to want to carry it with you all the time. You have to love the feel of it in your hand and the look of it as it sits on your desk or on your bedside table.

270929e58cd262f03ec5dacb3117f28b_originalIf this is your first time journaling you might need a journal that is also a little bit of a guide. This new one called The Connected Hearts Journal put together by Sumitha Bhandarkar is actually one that combines a journal for parents and a journal for kids.

It has questions that prompt introspection and deeper thinking, helping me to get to know myself better as a parent and my boys to get to know who they are. Especially for my tween, who is right smack in the middle of becoming someone new.

The Connected Hearts Journal also has a sharing section, but still allows for my boys to keep their own secrets. It lets me tell them how much I care for them and gives them the chance to figure out where their own strengths lay.

Children don’t have the experience to be introspective or to make connections into their subconscious without someone to help them. You don’t have to use a journal like this, but for those of us who don’t have a lot of experience teaching kids about writing, a journal like this helps to guide them into being able to more freely express themselves in a safe and private environment.

Even if you just get a regular spiral-bound notebook, start journaling. The benefits are worth the time. Even if you just have 10 minutes once or twice week journaling can lower your anxiety and help you to better understand yourself.

How to Deal with the I WANT Monster, Positively

How to Deal With the “I WANT” Monster Positively

by Malinda Carlson. Published at http://www.afineparent.com

I hate shopping with my children.

There. I said it. And I’ll say it again.

I hate shopping with my children.

There is nothing I dread more than taking my kids into a store. Any store. Grocery. Clothing. Toys. Especially toys.

It’s not that they are bad children. They are well-behaved for the most part. But at some point as we are wandering around the store the “I WANT” Monster appears.

The “I WANT” Monster is a wild little Tasmanian devil. He comes whirling and spinning out of his cave at the first scent of anything bright and shiny and new.

“I want this.”

“Can I have that?”

“I need these.”

“Please, please buy me those.”

Everything around them is a candy-colored rainbow. It’s sooooo tempting.

“I just can’t stand it!” panted my 7-year-old son, standing in the Star Wars aisle of Target, tortured by the clones and Jedi surrounding him.

Me either, son.

What’s with all this greed? Where does the “I WANT” Monster come from anyway?

Every child wants things. Heck, we all want things. Just today I was tempted by a really pretty china bowl with metal hummingbird on the rim and a hot pair of heels that would look perfect with a dress I have.

In a world of television and social media overload our society has pushed “keeping up with the Jones’s” to a whole new level. It’s hard to curb materialistic desires, but here are 5 techniques that can help.  (Keep reading at A Fine Parent!)

How to get Back on Track after a Shouting Match

I wrote this article for AFineParent.com and it was published this week.  I am so, so proud of this piece. It’s not just for parents, though! It’s for anyone who has ever had a disagreement with their spouse, friend, sibling, or co-worker.  The steps here are things I use as an organization development consultant when I go in to help resolve conflicts.

Okay, maybe I don’t have co-workers tell each other “I love you.”  But it is important to find a way to show respect for your  co-worker and their ideas. The concept of Unconditional Positive Regard is universal and there are many ways of conveying it.

I hope you enjoy the article. I would love it if you could leave comments at AFineParent, like it on the site, and share it with your friends.


How to get Back on Track after a Shouting Match

In my house 90% of all arguments start with a “Can I?” followed up with a “No.”

Then CRACK! We’re off to the shouting matches.

Here’s a recent shout-a-thon.

“Can I have a PS4?”


“But why can’t I have a PS4?? Alex has one! And so does Miles!”

“But you are not going to have one. You don’t need one!”

“But they have Star Front Battle Wars! I love that game!”

“I said NO!”

“But I WANT it! And I am GOING to get it!”

“You. Are. Not! Now, you listen to me, young man! There is no way, on this green earth, that I am going to buy you a PS4!!”



Did all that shouting solve anything? Nope.  Am I proud of myself? Not in the slightest.  In fact, as soon as I calm down I feel awful.  I shouted at my child! I’m not even sure why. I must be the worst parent ever!

Sound familiar?

I’ll let you in on a little secret …


Tween Emotional Tsunami

My 10 year old no longer wants a hug when I drop him off at school. When we go on the tram there is no acknowledgment of any relationship at all between us. It’s a complete pull back of affection.

But then there are times when he floods over us, drowning us in his desperate need for an intense, bone-cracking, never-ending hug.

This storm of emotions started about a year ago. It started with moments when he violently pushed us away, wanting nothing to do with us followed by demands for hugs, words of affection, and snuggles at bedtime. There was no predicting his moods. All his emotions were intense and huge. It was like being tossed around in a tsunami.

We have entered the Tween Tsunami Zone.


All the child psychologist experts tell parents to expect this kind of roller coastering of emotions as teenage hormones begin to rev up, getting ready for the big surge when they become full-fledged teens. We hadn’t even begun to wait and watch for these surges when BAM! here they were.

Our friends with teenagers tell us their horror stories to prepare us for full-blown teenhood.

  • It’s just like when he was two, except he was more reasonable then.
  • You are not to acknowledge their presence or the presence of their friends unless they ask for food or money.
  • He will smell so bad you will want to move him to the top floor of your house to keep the funk contained.
  • Your grocery bill is going to triple.
  • He’s going to make decisions so stupid you will not even believe it (like setting off fireworks in the bathtub).

E is practically a textbook tween.  He is spending hours in his room reading books – in fact, demanding it to the point where he and his little brother are fighting about rooming rights in their shared space.  He is rolling his eyes and huffing at me when I ask him to do things he feels he shouldn’t have to do or are stupid (which could be the same thing).  The slightest criticism or correction sets him off in an explosion of temper. He suddenly has an opinion about his hair length and wardrobe. Spending time with his friends has become waaaay more important than family game night.

All the signs are there. He doesn’t smell horrible yet and he hasn’t shunned us completely, but that time is coming.

So, short of inventing time travel and going back to when we were perfect and he was our little snugglie-boo, what can we do about it??

Here’s what we’ve come up with so far:

Give him space when he asks.

Hug him when he needs it.

Insist on family game and movie nights. 

Continue with electronic-free family dinners.

Insist on being treated with respect at all times.

Give him clear responsibilities.

Pick our battles.

Hang on for dear life.

This won’t make the path perfectly smooth. It won’t prevent him from thinking we are the most boring, uncool, dumbest parents ever. But hopefully it will keep us from getting swept away.

Traveling with Children: Tips and Tricks from Someone Who’s Been There

As you can see from my blog we travel with the kids. A lot. They go everywhere we go, whether they like it or not.

Many friends and acquaintances are amazed. After telling one friend about a recent trip she said, “Oooo! You are so brave to do all that traveling with the boys!”  I hadn’t thought of it in terms of being brave. Sure, I was nervous about going by myself to Scotland with the boys, but that was because I was outnumbered.  But going to another country is just what a family vacation is here in Europe.

And since we seem to be going somewhere every other weekend, I’ve developed some tips and tricks to make traveling with the kids easy and as pain-free as possible.  You shouldn’t let having kids stop you from going out and seeing the world!

Here are 8 Things I’ve Learned About Traveling with Kids:

IMG_1144Always have something for them to do when they get bored.  Because they will get bored. It doesn’t matter if you are going to Disneyland or Grandma’s House, boredom is going to happen, esp on the airplane, in the car, or on the train.  You can bring a book, or one of those awesome travel games, or a toy or whatever, as long as they have something that will keep their attention and let them play quietly.  You will enjoy yourself more and so will the people around you.


Stay in an apartment.  This is an especially convenient and typically cheaper option if you are staying somewhere for a week or more.  We have a place that we usually rent via Vacation Rentals By Owner (www.VRBO.com) on Long Beach Island, New Jersey. On Holiday Lettings (www.holidaylettings.co.uk) we rented a great apartment for our week-long stay in Scotland. My friend Pat stayed all over Europe and America in some really, really posh places using AirBnB. Plus it gives you the chance to have a meal in when the kids are too exhausted to behave in a restaurant. And if you have picky breakfast eaters, you can go out and pick up exactly what they like and have a nice slow morning before charging out to conquer the city.


Remember to snack. Kids get hungry. Often. If the chance to stop at a cafe or ice cream parlor presents itself then stop. However, I always go out with a little something in my bag because there isn’t always a cafe or shop close by where you can buy something. It can be easy like a cereal bar, or a container of goldfish crackers (a solid plastic container so they don’t end up being goldfish powder), or some sliced apples in my purse for the boys.  Sometimes I have all three!

Henrik at the Art Museum 2015

Prepare to go slow. Kids just can’t move as fast as we can. Especially when it’s urgent. Their legs are short. Their wills to move it to catch the last tour of the day for the interiors of Prague Castle are limited. Plan accordingly. If it’s really important to you do it right away in the day. The practice some Zen breathing.


That look on E's face is, "There is pizza everywhere!"
That look on E’s face is, “There is pizza everywhere!”


Don’t expect them to get how awesome it is.  We went to Pisa to see the Leaning Tower. I thought it was the most awesome thing ever. I got to see one of the iconic buildings of our time! I was totally geeking out! The boys, however, were unimpressed. I begged them to understand how cool this was, but they remained unmoved. What they were truly impressed by was the number of pizza restaurants on each street.



The Land of Legos.
The Land of Legos.

Let them pick some activities for the trip. This gives them some control over a trip that is usually all about what Mom and Dad want to do.  They get to plan it out themselves. It also gives them something to be excited about and it is a handy thing to encourage them to think about when they are bored.


Don’t push through meal times.  This kind of goes with Having Snacks, but it’s even more important.  I know that the kids and I can be having the best time in the world and then as lunch approaches and our blood sugar starts to drop we start sniping at each other for the stupidest of reasons. (How can your shoe be untied again??) Thanks to Tina Fey this is now known as being “Hangry” – experiencing irrational anger because you are hungry. And not only does stopping for a meal provide much needed energy, it is a nice sit down break for everyone. Just say no to being Hangry!



Accept that things aren’t going to go as planned. It always happens on every vacation. We went to Hadrian’s Wall and it misted on us and rained a bit. But we just put on our rain jackets and headed out.  I also remember one time we had planned to go to the dinosaur museum and found it closed for renovation, so instead we happened upon a park with the most amazing carousel (the Europeans love their carousels).  There are always other things around to do and sometimes they are even better than what you had planned.

This is certainly not all there is to traveling with kids. But it basically boils down to: be prepared; eat often; be Zen.  So get out there and travel! Go see things!