How to Go From a Buzzkill to a Top Motivator With One Simple Vocabulary Tweak

This article was originally entitled, The Power of ‘And.” accepted the article and changed the title to the catchier “How to Go From a Buzzkill to a Top Motivator With One Simple Vocabulary Tweak.”


We’ve all had it said to us.

You’re boss has said it.

“You did really awesome on the project, but your teamwork could use some improvement.”

Your mom has said it.

“I am proud at how successful you are, but when are you getting married?”

Your best friend has said it.

“You look really pretty in that dress, but you would look so good with your hair down!”

Do you even remember the first part of that sentence?  The part that came before the ‘but’?  You know, the compliment?

It turns out no one does. Especially not our kids.

But we’re supposed to give feedback, right? Isn’t that how we help our kids develop grit and resilience?  Isn’t this how we help them build up and develop their talents?

How can we help them grow and achieve wonderful things if they think we don’t value them? If they believe they’ll never be good enough?

Don’t worry. There IS a way.   ——->>>


10 Simple Tools from Parenting and Psychology Experts that will Make You a Better Parent

This is part of a two piece series I did for a Positive Parenting Conference. It is FREE from May 22nd until May 26th. All the speakers are amazing and have really learned a lot about how to help my children become successful, happy, and intelligent adults. It is well worth your time.

10 Simple Tools from Parenting and Psychology Experts that will Make You a Better Parent

Why does parenting have to be so complicated!?!

There are so many things to know! And not just know, but to be an expert on. During my almost 12 years of parenting I feel like have had to become an executive assistant, strategic planner, dietician, psychologist, nurse, and wizard. (If only that last one came with a wand!)

And I’m constantly searching the Internet for ways I can be a more effective parent. That’s why I go looking for simple and easy tools. I don’t have time for complicated and hard!

I was helping Sumitha summarize the “deep dive” talks for her FREE online Positive Parenting Conference and I found myself jotting down note after note about the simplest things I can do to help get through my most complicated parenting issues.

Like handling school stress. Just last night my oldest called me into his room at bedtime and let out all his anxiety and anger about these Basic Skills Tests that he and his class have been taking for the last 9 days. It turns out that he’s so anxious his feelings are leaking into his relationships with his friends and coming out as anger.

Because of all these amazing experts I was able listen to him and then help him to express his anxiety and reframe these tiffs and hard words with his friends into something not quite so scary. (You’ll read more about all that below!)

I’ve put together a list of these simple tools from 10 amazing experts that helped me with the parenting issues I feel most at-sea about. I know they will help you, too!  —> CLICK HERE

6 Simple Perspective Shifts that Will Transform Your Parenting

One of my latest gigs was to help out Sumitha Bhandarkar, the editor of 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 –

100 Ways to Connect with your Children

As I wrote before, I have a few New Year’s goals. One I was saving to write about was building a deeper connection with my children. I’ve found that since we’ve moved back to America I am going about a thousand miles an hour and often the boys are left behind. Here are some ways I’m intending to help deepen my connection with them.  And this was published at! 

100 Easy Ways to Connect with Your Children

Doesn’t it sometimes catch you by surprise how hectic our world has become?

We’re running all over the place, scheduled to the absolute limit of space and time. There are some days when I have been so busy it has taken me until 4 pm to notice that my kiddos still have a smear of breakfast Nutella on their faces!

It makes me worry.  Life, for all of us, is only going to get busier and busier. And If I can’t even find time to really look at them for breakfast smears how on earth am I going to stay connected to them as they grow up??

Thankfully, with just a little bit of intentional action, there are lots of easy ways for us to stay connected with our kids.

I’ve made a list of 100 of these. Many of them only take about 10 minutes of real, quality time, and some not even that. Doing just a few of these everyday will create a deep and meaningful connection that will keep us bonded together despite our hectic lives.

Bookmark this page and come back to it often to spark up some new ideas in your mind to stay connected throughout the year. OK, here we go –

  1. Read together
  2. Cuddle on the couch while watching TV
  3. Say “yes” to something you’d normally say “no” to
  4. Give them a hug
  5. Draw together
  6. Feed some ducks at a pond with them
  7. Visit your local library and see what books inspire them
  8. Build something with them – Legos, toy models, dog houses
  9. Spend a Saturday together at a museum
  10. Pick a day to leave work early and spend that time with them

Read more here —> CLICK!

How to Make the Most of Visiting Grandparents who Love Spoiling Children

This article appears at A Fine Parent, the online parenting blogazine.


You know what they say about too much of a good thing?

Yeah, that’s kind of what visiting grandparents is like for us.

Every summer and winter holiday we go to the Midwest for a long visit with both sets of grandparents.

My kids love it. Which isn’t surprising at all considering how much both our parents love spoiling grandchildren.

My kids eat more ice cream in those few weeks than they do all year round. They’re allowed to stay up late. They consume more television than is humanly possible. They play all day, every day.

On one hand, it’s lovely. I love that my kids get to do this.

But it also drives me crazy.  No homework gets done. Kids are tired and cranky from missing bedtimes and getting up early. Vegetables are a distant memory.

And I end up with the unsavory task of wrestling things back to normal when we get back home.

Time at Grandma and Grandpa’s is special. It should be. I don’t want to get in the way of that.

At the same time, I don’t like how out of balance my parenting feels by the end of the trip.

So for the past couple of years now, I’ve been trying out a few tricks to make the most of the fact that my kids have such wonderful grandparents, while at the same keeping it from straining my own relationship with my parents, or my kids.

Here are 4 things that have really helped:

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.

Switzerland has Ruined America for Me

When Mark was first assigned to the BIS in Basel I never dreamed how much living in Switzerland would change us.  Other than the language barrier, I thought getting around there would be breeze. We would move in, live there for 2 years, and then just fly on back to the US. Easy-peasy. How different can it be?

A lot, as it turned out.

Living in Switzerland was an eye-opening experience as to how life could be lived. And it has ruined a bit of America for me.

Firstly, the children there had a ton of freedom! And they had a lot of responsibility.

Our children were encouraged – no expected – to go it alone. To go to the park with their friends and not their parents. To run to the corner shop and pick up a liter of milk or some sugar on their bike or scooter. To walk to school or go on the tram to school by themselves from the age of 7 or 8.

The can do this because children are taught and trained how to behave from the time they are toddlers. It seems like the Swiss have made it a priority to teach their children how society works and to respect the rules of that society. They aren’t isolated and insulated from the rest of society by car travel and so there are a plethora of “teachable moments” and interactions with people.

And everyone parents every child. Whether it’s a stay-at-home parent in the park with their toddler or a pensioner on the tram or me walking through the neighborhood. We watch out for not only our own children, but everyone’s children. That means there is almost always a parental-type adult around.  Someone is always watching and there to help and keep them safe.

And there is an expectation that everyone gets the Benefit of the Doubt. The concept of Benefit of the Doubt is something that has been all but forgotten in America. I find I slip into assuming the worst, especially when I see kids on their own. I have a horror movie involving kidnapping or delinquent behavior running through my brain.  Where are their parents? is the common refrain. As if we should be hovering over them every minute of every day.

In Switzerland, children aren’t automatically thought to be destructive hooligans. They are just kids trying to have fun and who seem to need to be reminded that the tram is not a playground. Corrections are, therefore, short and not personal. And they are taken with seriousness and respect.

There is also the concept that the societal good is everyone’s business.

I don’t believe I ever heard the phrase Mind Your Own Business once in Switzerland. In America, it’s how we live our lives. We mind our own business. Ignore and move along. And don’t even think of correcting a child you didn’t birth yourself. Frankly, it has gotten dangerous to poke your nose into the business of the world around you, even when you should.

It’s so rare that news shows have done countless experiments highlighting people walking right by others in need and celebrating the “heroes” who choose to take the risk, give the Benefit of the Doubt, and do the right thing.

I remember a woman in a mobility cart tipped over getting out of the tram. No less than 12 people rushed to her side to help her; including 4 teenagers who slammed on the “door open” button and ran out to help to get her from behind. Without hesitation. It was an automatic reaction. And it made me very proud.

The next thing that has ruined America for me is the Swiss philosophy of Quality over Quantity.

Quality matters a lot in Switzerland. They don’t do cheap and flimsy. Even the tissues are thick enough they can double as formal napkins in a pinch. Ikea is as cheap as the Swiss get and, actually, you find a majority of the shoppers are ex-pats.

Americans seem like they are more impressed with getting 50 mediocre cookies for $5 than they are with getting 5 of the most delicious cookies they’ve ever had in their lives for the same price. The Swiss value quality and so they produce quality. This is how they have ended up producing the world’s best chocolate and cheese.

I got use to buying fresh bread, still warm from the oven with incredible flavor. I reveled in buying cheeses that were made with in 20 miles of where I lived, each more delicious than the last. I still crave the crammed-with-flavor salami and prosciutto on my cheese platters.  There are some foods and things America does well, but we just don’t do good bread, cheese, and prosciutto.  Don’t worry, America, you still have the pizza and the hamburger.

Family time is also more of a priority in Switzerland than in America. Oh, we can preach about work-life balance all we want, but we don’t ever seem to be able to to achieve it. To be productive and “get ahead” is embedded our culture. We value productivity over everything. Our phones are always in our hands. People brag about sending out work reports at 4 in the morning or responding to their boss at midnight. If you are sitting down or having fun you are lazy. There is work to be done!

In Switzerland, employers, as a rule, don’t call employees at home. They don’t expect you to check your emails every minute of the day and they don’t call you on the weekend. (Exceptions happen, of course, but they are exceptions.)  You are with your families and you are expected to be engaged in family matters.  Family is a priority.

See, in Switzerland you work when you are at work. No posting to Facebook or shopping on Amazon when you should be working. You are given ample time at lunch or vacation to do all that.

Mark was able to take 1.5-2 hour lunches while in Basel. And he wasn’t the exception. Schools in Switzerland give their pupils 2 hours for lunch and it was typical/usual/expected that parents would come home and have lunch with their kids. Some shops with only 1 or 2 employees were also closed from 12-2 so they could enjoy a lunch and get their own personal things done.

We were astonished when we moved there to discover most stores are closed on Sundays. Grocery stores, department stores, the knitting shop on the corner. All closed on Sunday.

Sunday is a family day. The parks are full. People play Kubb, have a beer while laying in the sun, or kick a soccer ball around with a gang of kids. The hiking trails in the mountains are also full of couples and families.

Life is about just living, not about getting ahead or having the most.

As a result of our always working American lifestyles we barely talk to each other. When is the last time you had long leisurely meal or evening with your family free of phones and emails? When is the last time you went outside and played with the kids? In Switzerland this was the norm, not something reserved for a birthday or anniversary.

I will also miss the two solid weeks of vacation that my husband was forced to take every year. Mark had only worked at the BIS for a couple of months when his supervisor came to him and filled him in on the unofficial policy that he take a solid 2-weeks off at some point during the year. Some people take this in the summer and others wait until Christmas to enjoy a ski weekend.

2 weeks. Two solid weeks. Oh, that wasn’t the only vacation he got. He had plenty of other days for us to take a long weekend here and a week there. But 2 solid weeks of just doing whatever he wanted. Resting. Rejuvenating. Morale building. Family time. Traveling. No thinking about deadlines or the unexpected call from work. Just time with us hiking and traveling.

In America, if he were to take only a week off he’d be scrambling before we left and checking his email nightly to make sure things were running smoothly.  Even a 3-day weekend is a stretch for some! And when we do manage to fit in a vacation we have our phones strapped to our eyeballs making sure our desk will still be there when we get back. No wonder we’re so stressed out.

It’s going to be hard to come back into a society that believes if you aren’t “work” working everyday you aren’t productive or useful to society. When did family become an inconvenience? When did enjoying life become an impediment to success? And we wonder why people are waiting until their late 30s and early 40s to have children instead of having a family during their prime earning years. Politicians preach family values, but at the same time do nothing legislative to make it possible to enjoy our families. And that needs to change.

So, thanks, Switzerland. You’ve ruined me for American living.