Mother’s Day Remembrance

When was the last time you slowed down to ….

summerfield-336672_1280Notice the rays of the sun highlighting your child’s hair?
Hold your partner close and notice the rhythm of his heart beating?
Extend a smile of welcome to someone on the periphery?
Wholeheartedly do what you want – without feeling guilty?

For me, this is about being present and grateful.

Three days ago I lost a close college friend, Lisa.  She was smart, funny, real, compassionate (before it was a “thing”). She was one of those people who looked at you and you could see the love in her eyes. She was romantic, thoughtful, spontaneous and deliberate. And so much more.  She left an impression on my heart.


I’d left a couple phone messages for her over the last couple months, but we hadn’t connected in a while. I envisioned a reunion (soon!) of the 5 or 6 of us who’ve remained close since college. You know those friends, the ones that you know you’ll be friends with as long as you’re alive? Maybe you, too have grown lax about seeing them regularly with hectic schedules, and school vacations that never align, or money constraints.

If Lisa’s life was anything like mine (or maybe anything like yours), her last day may have been spent thinking about the errands she would run when she felt better. Planning upcoming birthday parties in her mind. Remembering that she hadn’t responded to this social invitation or that one. Thinking about what she would do this summer with her husband and kids.


How in the world would you wish you’d spent your last 24 hours?

This Mother’s Day, I feel Lisa nudging me to let go of the urgent, but unimportant things in my life – for the sake of making more time for what’s most important.

Love more. Laugh more. Play together more.
Really pay attention.
Do laundry Monday – it will still be there.
Make time for the bike ride you’ve been meaning to go on with your child.
Look in the eyes of the man or woman you love and remember why you fell in love in the first place.
Notice the mantle of joy and freedom that your kids run so confidently underneath. (There’s room for you there, too!)
Set aside your worries and live in this moment. (Try it just one moment at a time).
Do something everyday that makes you feel ALIVE
Choose love over pettiness.
Be honest and learn from mistakes.
Lean into compassion, courage and gratitude.
Accept what is – and know you can change somethings, but not all things.
Trust that you are enough, that perfection isn’t required (or even desirable!)
Let people see the real you – and look back on others with eyes of love.
Tell someone “I love you” – and mean it.
Be a sheltering heart for a friend.
Make your life beautiful, from the inside out.

We are not in control. We do not know that we will wake up tomorrow, that our loved ones will walk back through the door again at the end of the day. We trust that it will be so. Like squinting up at the sun, we can’t look too closely at our mortality.

In moments of loss, I’m reminded that we can’t live in fear, but we can live aware that each day is precious.

We can live lightly, with the freedom and joy of a child, if we take time to appreciate the many beautiful things (and people) in our lives.  Have you noticed that when you pay attention, life comes into sharp focus? You can take in many things at once, and time seems to stop, even while the busyness of life runs right past you?  For me, those are gratitude moments.

This Mother’s Day, slow down and open your eyes. Open your heart. Look around and live this day like it may be your last. Love like a mom loves: fully, freely, with fierce commitment, seeing the beauty and potential buried under lack of skill or confidence.

Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 1.07.41 AM

Lisa, you are loved and already deeply missed, sweet friend!

We will remember you to your husband and children, to each other, and celebrate the ways you shaped our hearts.

Until I see you again –

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3 Reasons Your Kids’ Routines Are Shaky (And What To Do About It)

3 Reasons Routines Shaky (1)

My “easy” child is now 13, and the outside world (the one I inhabit) at times holds way less interest than what her friends are doing, watching on TV, posting online, etc.  

If physical effort is required, it usually prompts an eye roll and massive sigh.  As if asking her to unload the car is akin to running a marathon.  “But I just got upstairs, Mom!”

But she’ll spend hours exerting herself with sports or other activities.

(This is why I meditate – so my kids can survive to adulthood. )

In the photo above, hers would be the feet sticking out the window (she’s lying on the seat texting), and the guitar represents her intent to relax and enjoy life (no matter that the guitar is probably going to fall over at any moment!).  I’m not pictured, because I’m already unloading my stuff from the car and schlepping toward the house.

I’d noticed that things were slowly falling apart with this girl, but I couldn’t figure out what the problem was:  “She can do this!  What’s the problem?”  I asked myself.  Then it hit me – I’m the problem.

3 Reason Your Kids’ Routines are Shaky

1.  You’ve become distracted.   It’s easy to forget that your teen’s ability is not equal to action. Yup, follow through still depends on YOU.   

Perfect example: cleaning out the car at the end of the day.  For her, LATER is always the best time.  I enter the garage with good intentions of overseeing complete unpacking, then forget as I start carrying 4 things into the house and thinking about what else I need to do when I walk in the door. 

Sadly, this example pretty much proves the rule of three’s in my life:  our energy returns to us as many times as needed until we learn the lesson. 

Result of not following through on the routine:  the homework due is in her backpack in my car – and she’s not in it!  

Bonus #2:  She brought stuff home to work on and obviously didn’t do it last night.  

Bonus #3: communication and planning error on my part.  I should have checked in to see what needed to be completed before I agreed to take her to the non essential activity after school.

Bonus #4: I’ll have the opportunity to resist the urge to rescue when she asks me to bring it to her at school!  Finally, it might become a problem for her.

The domino effect at work…

2.  You don’t enforce the other parts of the routine that lead to ____ getting done.  I can really only focus on two things at a time.  In fact, if there are two, the odds of the second one getting done is a total crapshoot.  

Part of the problem is that she may be using her phone when we pull into the garage.  She’s.  Totally.  Distracted.  

I often don’t follow through to see that she unloads the car immediately because I’m already racing into the house.  I’m distracted, too.

This makes me think I need to discuss a no phone rule on the way home.  Ideally, we’ll use the time to connect and chat (which we mostly do anyway as we listen to horrible pop music on her phone).  So no phone may not be the way to go…

Dang!  Now I have to change my routine to make sure her routine happens.    Options that come to mind:

a) put a sticky note in my car to remind me – unload car!  I stick around in garage until I see her actually unloading her stuff.  At that point, if the phone is the distraction, we can deal with that problem. 

b) we talk about the routine and I ask her for ideas about how to solve the problem.

c) I realize part of the issue with this routine is that after we pull into the garage, she also goes into the backyard to feed the cats, using her phone flashlight to see in the dark.  So while I get out of the car and unload my stuff, she sits in the car for a few minutes texting, then probably switches from texting to using the phone flashlight to feed the cats.  Then forgets to unload the car on her way back through the garage.   Hmmm…

Routines can be a tangled web, no?

3.  The schedule has changed and the old routine doesn’t work anymore.  Sometimes this sneaks up on me.  I’ve only just gotten used to the latest sports/carpool schedule, and it changes.  It take me a few passes before I realize it’s just not going to work anymore.  Then, I need to re-think sequence, timing, systems (blech!) and involve the kids in creating something new.    

Another opportunity to grow as a person!

Action steps:

  1.  Re-commit to the routine (if it still makes sense).  I still want the car unloaded, but the order of operations (unload, cats) may need to change.  
  2. Slow down.  I can remember that it’s not a race, and getting in the door 2 minutes faster doesn’t change anything, just leaves me feeling rushed.  I can pause and respectfully request that she unload the car immediately (at least until it’s no longer a problem).  Be mentally prepared to be pleasant and firm.
  3.  Recall your long-term goals.  We unload the car because I hate driving a “mobile land fill”, and I want her to learn life skills (organization, planning, responsibility).   I can stay clear, direct and calm, even when she pushes back.
  4. Practice consistency.  It has to be worth enforcing.  I’ll think about creating a new habit to cue me that it’s time to follow through on the unload the car routine.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if she turns out to be a total and compulsively organized neat freak as an adult?  Hope springs eternal!  

What trips your routines up?

What will you do to get back on track?

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Tip #4 Holidays – Be Present & Pay Attention

Tip #4 is be present and pay attention.  It’s possible to “miss” good chunks of your life because you’re so focused on getting things done – or thinking about the future or the past – that you forget to pay attention to what you are doing and the people you are with.

The upside is as soon as you realize you’re “gone”, you can choose to do something about it.  When you choose to be present, you re-establish a sense of connection with yourself, the people you love, and the natural world.


Specific ways to refocus your attention in the moment:  your body is your best bet.


  • Make eye contact if someone is speaking to you
  • Notice shadow, the shape of a mouth or nose, hands, the depth of color in a loved one’s eyes or hair.


  • For the emotion (or lack thereof) in what is being said.
  • Try to identify as many different sounds as you can, wherever you are.
  • I never thought I would forget the sound of my kids’ laughter as young children, but be warned: unless you record it, you might.


  • While washing/bathing, notice the feel of water splashing and soap sliding on your skin
  • Feel the warmth of a loved one’s breath on your face as they give you a kiss.
  • Give or get a hug that lasts 5- 10 seconds or more


  • Your morning coffee/tea
  • The food you eat
  • The rain, your child (best after a bath/shower if you have ‘tweens or teens)
  • Your house as you walk in the door after being away


  • Each.  Bite.
  • Something salty, sour, sweet, bitter

If you realize you can hardly remember driving home (or what you did yesterday), chances are your mind was wandering while you were doing whatever you were doing.  That’s natural, but it’s a good practice to reign it in and be able to direct (and sustain) your attention when you want to.  Obviously a key life skills for kiddos, too!

In addition to the above, here are some fun ways to help kids learn to focus their attention.

  • Try sitting quietly, eyes closed, for a whole minute
  • Notice the sound and feel of their breath as they blow bubbles
  • Close your eyes and identify 3 sounds in the room right now
  • While dancing to music, pause the music and “freeze” for 10 seconds
  • Notice flavor, texture, smell, and sound of the food being eaten
  • Walking only on the lines on the sidewalk, playground (some Montessori classrooms have a line of tape on the classroom floor)
  • Balancing on one foot
  • Watching their bellies rise and fall as they breathe
  • Thinking about what and where they are putting any object (homework, sports gear, keys, etc).

The irony is that so often, in retrospect, it’s the simple routines, casual moments, and everyday conversation and kindnesses that make our lives meaningful.  Take a cue from your kids, who generally inhabit the moment.  In the process, you, too, may find a restful moment and make the choice to savor it.

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Tip 3 Holidays – Embrace Reality

There is holiday magic, to be sure.  But magical thinking probably won’t serve you as well.

Tip 3 is Embrace Reality.  We all have fantasies of what would be wonderful.  And, it’s important to be grounded in reality so you can create plans that actually work.  With the people you actually live with.


5 Tips - Reality (2)

It often feels like I’m the one who has to embrace reality (I mean, really, why can’t everyone else just get with the program?!)  That is often not a helpful path to travel down, as you’ve probably experienced.

Embracing reality might look like …

Age appropriate expectations.  Yes, it would be nice to have an uninterrupted meal (but not likely if you have a pre-schooler).

Remembering that kids don’t share the same priorities as adults.  (Despite the fact that you’ve been trying to persuade your kids to pick up their dirty clothes for eons).

Saying “No.”  And sticking with it.

Asking for what you want or need – rather than expecting your family members to read your mind.  If they’re not the people to meet your needs, find someone else (another reason it’s so important to maintain your own adult friendships)!

Letting go of the idea that you can do back to back to back activities and not live to regret it.

One reality check for me is that when I take on a task/errand for my kids or husband, my own to do list is often put on the back burner.   That’s OK from time to time, but when I start to feel resentful, I know I’ve let my boundaries slip too far, and I need to take action to get back on track.

“Sorry, that’s not a priority for me right now.  I could do it ___ (day/time) instead.”

Or, “I can do that when I finish ____.”

Or, “Sorry, something else needs to come off the list first.  Do we need to talk about it?”

These are critical skills in family life.  (As is the wisdom to know when to put someone else’s needs first).  They’re actually skills that kids need to learn, too.  (A plug for giving kids the freedom to say “no” sometimes.)

These require flexibility, courage, taking personal responsibility for getting your own needs met, and the ability to say “yes” and “no”.

Embracing reality will help you stay in action on the things that are most important to you, while working within the constraints of the situation. If you really want a reality check,  give someone you trust permission to let you know when you’ve entered the land of magical thinking.

Just because you opened the door to fantasy land, doesn’t mean you have to walk through it.




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Tip #2 Holidays That Restore: Get Honest

‘Tis the season to put on your own oxygen mask!  The hardest thing about doing this is telling the truth to yourself.  Tip #2 is Get Honest.

If you’re thinking, “This doesn’t apply to me,”try this simple test:  think of something you regularly complain about.  Got one?  Good.  Now, if it involves another person, find a way to make a request directly in order to resolve your complaint.  What are you tolerating?  In yourself?  In your relationships?  From your kids?

There are many opportunities to practice being honest.  The reward to taking a risk in rocking the boat?  You may be able to come up with something better than what you’re currently settling for.

Even though it can be uncomfortable, it’s worth sharing honestly with the ones you love.

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When you’re fatigued or feeling resentful, you’re less likely to parent (or do much of anything else) the way you intend to.

Your moment of truth may be simple:  “I’m fried and I can’t commit to one more thing!”,

Or it may hit you as you catch yourself doing something crazy and realizing this is not the exception, but has become commonplace for you

  • racing around because you’re habitually late
  • cooking separate meals for everyone in your family
  • not enforcing limits (bedtime, screen time,  extra-curricular activities)
  • blaming others instead of taking responsibility for your part in interactions that went poorly

If you’re sleep deprived, you may have gotten used to it, but it’s not good for you.  Did you know that being awake for 18 hours is equivalent to a blood-alcohol level of 0.08%, which is legally drunk and can leave you at equal risk for a crash.  (Fun fact:  People who work more than 60 hours a week and those who travel frequently for business are also more likely to suffer from sleep deprivation).

What do you need to be honest about?

With whom do you need to share this info?

How can you create a change?

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5 Tips for Holidays That Restore

5 Tips Holidays - Intent


This Christmas will be my first without my Dad, who passed away in June.  I’ve decided not to make up a story about how hard it will be.  I trust there will be moments of joy – and grief.  I’m willing to feel both.  I have to trust that my whole family is in this together, and we will help each other through.  Also, my Dad would be PISSED if he thought that we would all sit around crying instead of enjoying being alive and being together.  I hope I can feel his presence quietly lighting the room.

I want to feel peaceful, calm, grateful, and loved.

  • For me, that means I have to slow down enough to let myself have room to feel.  But I don’t want to park myself in grief.  I can pull into that space for a few minutes and let it be what it is.  Then, I’ll be ready to move back into the flow of my life.
  • I am simplifying things this year.  Not over thinking gift choices, mailing stuff early, reminding myself that the gifts I give are just tokens of my love.
  • I need to be present in the moment in order to receive love from my people when they are ready give it.  To not brush off the hug, the kiss, the chance to connect  because I’m focused on a task or lost in my own thoughts.
  • I need to be able to observe my thinking and make the choice to get it back on a healthy track if it’s going off the cliff.  I do get to choose.

I need to say “NO” to over scheduling.

I need to say “NO” to expending a lot of energy trying to make things perfect.  My husband is going to miss a Christmas gathering.  I wish it weren’t so.  And I”m choosing to let it go and focus on the bigger picture, less on the tangential stuff that is so easy to get tangled up in.

I will just trust that it is all “good enough” and no one will leave my house hungry or feeling unloved.  Really, is there more?

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Parenting Through Death & Loss


When Words Fail

My last post was in honor of my Dad on Father’s Day.  It was also the day I got the news that the cancer Dad had only recently been diagnosed with was taking over his whole body, and his organs were beginning to shut down.  I didn’t know that I would only have 8 more days with him before he passed away.

In the wake of my Dad’s unexpected death this summer, I’m finding that being honest about what I’m feeling is important.  It’s not always easy.  But I always feel better when I am honest.
My kids are almost 13 & 16, so we were able to share the diagnosis, and our hope – but uncertainty – that he would be able to be treated and survive the cancer.  Too soon, I had to make the decision to tell them he was really dying and they needed to spend time and say goodbye.  I couldn’t protect them from that reality. All I could do was encourage them to be brave with their love – not to hold back, not to play it safe.  That they couldn’t count on “next time”.
That’s all I could do, in the end.  Be present, try to be brave, not play it safe.  I vowed not to look away, as much as it hurt to watch and to feel so helpless.  My heart is still a gaping wound.
I’m feeling free to be real with my kids. It helps.  I don’t think there’s a “right” way to do it.  I don’t want to over burden them, but I do want them to know that loss and pain are real.  And that we can survive them.

Here are some things I’ve been learning about parenting through loss; some practices and intentions that I’m finding helpful during a tough time.

I’m being honest about how I’m feeling.  Sad.  A little lost.  Ripped off.  Regret.  Untethered.  Exhausted.  Sometimes hopeful.  Grateful.  Angry.  Disbelieving.

Doing it this way (at least right now) sometimes brings remembrances of my Dad from them, which are dear to me.  Sometimes they offer a hug.  I’m finding they have a pretty surprising ability to just “be with” me without trying to make me feel better.  It’s really powerful to be on the receiving end of that.
I’m making room for them to  share their own feelings.  And remembering that their experience is different from mine.  One has a fair amount to share, the other not much to say.
Being clear that there is no “right way” to get through it. Sometimes it’s with tears, sometimes anger or despair, sometimes hope and happy memories.
Reassuring them that the range of feelings is fine.
Explaining it’s possible they might feel sad but not experience it as a huge loss right now.  That each person in our family feels it differently and expresses grief differently.  That our feelings will change over time.

Reminding myself that permission to actually FEEL whatever I feel is how I can eventually move through the painful stuff and back into whatever the present moment holds.  The present moment is a lot easier to understand.  It’s a respite from the fear of the future.  In this moment, there is love.  Peace.  Joy.  Laughter.  And pain, too.  But it’s not all pain, all the time, which I am so very grateful for.  I pop in and out of grief.  Sometimes it’s all I can see.  Other times I forget for a little while before coming back to it.

Getting support for myself from other adults  This is part of what helps me discern how much to talk with my kids about all this  I want to be sensitive to their needs, not just dump my feelings on them because I don’t have another outlet.
I feel part of an unhappy club now – those who know the pain of losing a parent.  It’s as if my eyes have been opened to a whole other world I never knew existed.  Kind of like before you have kids.
I’m finding solace in the experience, wisdom and compassion of friends.  Of others who have suffered the loss of their parents.  And in some unexpected places, too.
I’m so very grateful to be able to say my Dad loved me, and I knew it, I felt his love and support.  I’m grateful to have had the kind of relationship where I could tell him I love him.  I realized, pretty late in the game, that I hadn’t told him enough how proud I was of him.  He was a wonderful man in so many ways.
He gave me everything I could need. I just wish there had been more time.
Thank you for everything, Dad.   I love you.
Posted in Dads, Gratitude, Resilience, Stress, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Parenting Through Death & Loss

How Fathers Create Space for Imperfection

What’s your take on these wise words from Seth Godin? 

“Truly perfect is becoming friendly with your imperfections on the way to doing something remarkable.”

I interpret this with a parenting twist:


Truly perfect is feeling free to embrace your imperfections, knowing that the real you is more than the sum of your achievements (or your child’s achievements).  Along the way, you create room for someone else to be imperfect and realize the world won’t stop turning.  Truly perfect is accepting that growth is a (messy) process, at best.  

The more you can create space for your best self to emerge, the more you are able to encourage your child’s best self to emerge, as well.

Here’s what Seth said recently as he urged readers to abandon perfection:

“…It’s possible you work in an industry built on perfect. That you’re a scrub nurse in the OR, or an air traffic controller or even in charge of compliance at a nuclear power plant.

The rest of us, though, are rewarded for breaking things…”

Wow, rewarded for breaking things?!  I’m starting to like the sound of this…

He continues:  “Perfect is the ideal defense mechanism, the work of Pressfield’s Resistance, the lizard brain giving you an out. Perfect lets you stall, ask more questions, do more reviews, dumb it down, safe it up and generally avoid doing anything that might fail (or anything important).  You’re not in the perfect business. Stop pretending that’s what the world wants from you.”

As parents, perhaps our most important job is to love our kids so relentlessly that they believe they are lovable, worthy, deserving – so much that they dare to take risks, fail, and break things.  BE IMPERFECT – and not feel bad about it at all!

A great father seems to know how to coax this out of his kids instinctively.  And the irony is that Dads  don’t accept sloppy work, half-hearted effort.  Yet, the net effect is that they encourage us to be our best.  Maybe because they are so often asking the best from themselves?

© Alaska Teacher via CC

© Alaska Teacher via CC

Dads encourage us to take risks, stretch ourselves, not play it safe.  They play rough, they don’t always listen to our protests, they are willing to push us.

Dads don’t coddle us.  Instead, they’re more apt to get in our face, demand we give our best efforts, and be fine with us being pissed off at them.

Dads trust that we can handle disappointment, displays of anger, impatience, and “real life”.  In fact, they seem universally concerned with making sure that we understand that life doesn’t owe us anything, and we’d better get our **it together if we want to make it in the world.

Dads are mellow – until they get ticked off.  Then they tend to be louder, more aggressive, less politically correct.  They don’t worry that we can’t take it.  They worry that we’ll be soft, irresponsible, lacking self-discipline and motivation.

A group of teens told me about their fathers:

  • He’s good at making money
  • He’s good at sports
  • He’s good at keeping order in our house
  • He plays rough with me
  • He’s the first man a girl will look up to

Dads have their own awesome style.  Different.  And vitally important.

Dad:  Why are you mad?

Kid:  Because _____

Dad:  Get over it.

Not to say that Dads don’t have EQ.  The best do.

A wise friend recently shared her belief that what OUR parents really want for us is to know and understand that we are loved, so that we are able to love ourselves when they’re gone.  That they will have given us everything we need to carry on with love and purpose.

I’m starting to realize that we may not have all the time we think we do.  Life can change in an instant.  We all know someone whose life has been irrevocably changed by a twist of fate.  Usually it’s someone else, and we can maintain the illusion that it won’t happen to us.  But it can.  It will, eventually.

So this Father’s Day, take time to appreciate your Dad if you’re lucky enough to have him in your life.

Make the call.  Better yet, go do something together.  Feel like a kid again for a little while, basking in his love and the feeling that everything will be all right.

And don’t be afraid to be imperfect, to bring the part of you that stands up for yourself, doesn’t take crap from anyone, and speaks your mind.  Your Dad can handle it.

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11 Tips to Reduce Lying and Help Your Kids Tell the Truth


Wondering what works for teaching kids to tell the truth? 

Pinoccio by Stefano Mazzone via Creative Commons

Pinoccio by Stefano Mazzone via Creative Commons

These 11 tips will help you get to the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, more of the time.

There’s good news and bad news about children and lying:  which would you like to hear first? 

Let’s go with the good news first!  Lying actually requires advanced cognitive abilities and social skills that being honest doesn’t require.   A child has to be able to identify the truth, make up an alternate reality, and convince someone else of it. 

Now the bad news:  It’s a developmental milestone.  By their 4th birthday, all children will learn about lying.  Some children lie even earlier.

Click here to download “11 Tips to Reduce Lying” as a PDF

Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, authors of Nurture Shock (2009), shared some interesting research from Dr. Victoria Talwar of Montreal, Canada.   Dr. Talwar is one of the world’s leading experts on children’s lying behavior.   

Why Kids Lie

  The most common reason children lie is to cover up a transgression or avoid punishment.    glass-breakage-286098_1280   “Punishment is a primary catalyst for lying, but as kids develop empathy and become more aware of social relations, they start to consider others when they lie… Lying also becomes a way to increase a child’s power and sense of control – by manipulating friends with teasing, by bragging to assert his status, and by learning that he can fool his parents,” write Bronson & Merryman.  

Avoid 4 mistakes parents most often make when dealing with lying.

  1.  You think you can tell when your child is lying. Dr. Talwar’s research shows that parents score just above chance in their ability to tell whether or not their own child is lying (teachers score just slightly higher, at 60%).
  2. You focus on the initial offense but don’t deal with the lie.   Researchers report that parents rarely use lying as an opportunity to teach.  In less than one percent of situations where a child does something wrong, then lies about it, do parents use the lie as an opportunity to teach about lying.
  3. You assume your child will grow out of it naturally.  The research shows that kids don’t grow out of lying – they grow into it.   96% of children in the studies lied.   The better a child can distinguish a lie from a truth, the more likely she is to lie given the chance.
  4. You increase the threat of punishment. The research shows that kids who live in threat of consistent punishment don’t lie less. Instead, they get better at lying, at an earlier age, to avoid getting caught.

Strategies That Reduce Lying

5.  Extract a Promise.  “I’m going to ask you a question.  But before I do that, will you promise to tell the truth?” This cuts down lying by 25% in Dr. Talwar’s “Peeking Games” studies, in which a child is asked not to peek at a toy when a researcher leaves the room.  Cameras then record what happens, then the researcher returns, and last, asks the child whether or not he peeked.  Given that 96% of the kids lied in the studies, this is a significant reduction!

6.  Offer Immunity & Tell Them What You Want.  “I won’t be upset with you.  If you tell the truth, I will be really happy.”  Young kids are lying to make you happy, to please you.  When you offer immunity and a way to get into your good graces again, it disputes their thinking that you want to hear “good news”, instead of the truth.

7.  Teach the value of honesty as much as the fact that lying is wrong.  If honesty is a high value for you, let your child know.  Be consistent and deal with lies directly.  If you ignore lying when it comes up, you’re only teaching that it doesn’t matter. 

Encouraging Honesty

Positive, respectful, encouraging relationships are the most important part of creating an environment in which kids feel safe to learn and make mistakes.  Ideally, your kids know that you hold high standards for them – and that mistakes are treated as opportunities to learn.  In supportive, encouraging environments, growth happens.   Click here to download “11 Tips to Reduce Lying” as a PDF

Here are some strategies you can use with kids of any age.

8.  Model honesty and integrity in your own life.   Unfortunately, children often see adults lie, especially to protect someone else’s feelings or to avoid inconvenience.   In the process, they learn that dishonesty is a way to avoid conflict.  Over time, they get comfortable being less than honest, too.


Parents often lie to their children to avoid conflict or disappointment.   Before you lie to your child, ask yourself, “What do I want my child to be able to count on me for in life?”  Consider the impact lying will have on your ability to require honesty as the standard in your home, and the impact lying will have on your child’s trust in you over time.

9.  Don’t ask “leading” questions or tempt children to lie.   Avoid asking, “Did you clean up?” when you know your child didn’t.  Better to say, “I notice you didn’t clean up.  Please do it now.”

10.  Use empathy.  Say, “I know it can be scary (embarrassing, etc.) to admit when you’ve done something wrong.“  Empathy doesn’t condone, it’s just a way to foster connection and help a child feel understood. 

In Positive Discipline A-Z (2009), authors Jane Nelsen & Lynn Lott suggest saying, “I want you to know it’s safe for you to tell me the truth.  Let’s take a break from our conversation now.  Later, come and find me when you’re ready to tell me what really happened.”

11.  Instead of punishing, help your child explore the consequences of lying, and deal with the underlying problem.  Find out what’s going on.  Is your child lying because they lack knowledge or skills to resolve a problem? 

For example, if your child has taken something that doesn’t belong to him, help your child return the item to its owner.  Then, acknowledge your child for making amends and correcting his mistake.  Acknowledge the courage it takes to tell the truth and admit when we’ve been dishonest.

Talk together and help him figure out how he might handle the situation differently next time.   Brainstorm together:

Perhaps he would make a request to borrow the item.

He could ask you to buy it. 

Together, you could come up with ways for him to earn money by helping with extra jobs around the house. 

Let him know that it’s not unusual or bad for people to want things that others have, but that it’s wrong to take things that don’t belong to us.  He needs to either ask permission to use the item in question, or figure out a way to get one of his own.  

Talk about why lying is problematic.  What happens when people don’t trust each other?  What’s the impact?  Has your child had experience with a friend who didn’t tell the truth?  What happened?  Did it cause her to wonder if her friend was being dishonest in other areas, too? 

Help your child explore ways to get their needs met in an honest, constructive way.

Despite your best efforts, your kids may lie to you occasionally.  Sometimes you’ll find out (you know what to do) – and sometimes you won’t.  

Honesty Takes Time

In the end, we know it takes time for children to understand the moral implications of lying. 

© Google Images

© Google Images

Bronson and Merryman conclude, “It isn’t until age eleven that the majority demonstrate an understanding of its harm to others; at that point, 48% say the problem with lying is that it destroys trust, and 22% say it carries guilt.  Even then, a third still say the problem with lying is being punished.” 

If you’re parenting a teen, don’t be surprised to find your teen going “underground” in an effort to avoid confrontation, especially if they think you’ll judge them or tighten the controls.  Teens are still trying to figure out what they think about things, and may not be ready to share honestly with anyone – especially parents.

Be someone who can hear the truth.   Acknowledge your teen’s feelings, whether or not you agree.  Do affirm the qualities and values you hold most important, and find opportunities to share your thinking during the “little” moments in life.  Make honesty your standard AND be the safe person who accepts your teen for who she really is, while encouraging growth.  



Lynn Lott, co-author of Positive Discipline for Teenagers, Empowering Your Teen and Yourself Through Kind and Firm Parenting, says this, “I trust you to be exactly who you are.”  This means that as a parent, you know who your child is, and you know what they are working on.  You take that into account and deal with reality.  You make space for your child to be who they are – without giving up or giving in.

Teaching the value of honesty is a process, not a one -time conversation. 

  • Acknowledge your child when she tells the truth.
  • Help her find examples of honesty and its importance in daily life, in books, and in movies.
  • Talk about the importance of being honest – and being honest with oneself, too.
  •  Above all, be an example of someone who tells the truth, and is willing to hear the truth.

I hope these tips will help you create a relationship where your kids are more likely to tell the truth.

I’d love to know what your parents (or another important adult in your life) did to help you learn the importance of honesty.  Please share in the comments.

Bronson, Po, and Ashley Merryman. “Why Kids Lie.” NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children. New York: Twelve, 2009. 71-92. Print.

Nelsen, Jane, Lynn Lott, and H. Stephen. Glenn. Positive Discipline A-Z: 1001 Solutions to Everyday Parenting Problems. New York: Three Rivers, 2007. Print.

© 2015 Kimberly Gonsalves

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5 Ways to Boost Your Parenting Willpower

5 Ways to Improve Parenting Will Power-2


What do you do when your tween or teen is getting snotty and pushing your buttons? Remember when your kids were little, and you could just pick them up and physically move them if they didn’t do what you wanted them?  Yeah, that boat has long since sailed!

In the Solving The Mystery of Parenting Teens workshop, coming up May 15 & 16, Lynn Lott and I will share dozens of practical tools that parents can use to bring their best to parenting, improve communication and invite more buy in from their teens, but one of the most important is for you to pause before you react.  Easy to do when you’re not ticked off, right?  Much harder in the moment.

When I’m under pressure with my kids, I notice that my first instinct may be to:

  • Be more persuasive (soon they’ll recognize my vast stores of wisdom)
  • Start an imaginary conversation in my mind, as in “Really?  You really want to go that route?!”
  • Try to ignore my body as I feel my stress level rising and my throat start to tighten
  • Think I can control these disparate parts of myself and simply will myself to “do it better”

Sound familiar?

First, it’s a mistake to think there are “disparate parts” of ourselves.  Turns out, there is no such thing as mind, body. It’s mind-body. It’s all connected. For us, and for our kids.

So when we’re under pressure, when we need willpower to be at our best, why do we have such a hard time allowing ourselves time out to regroup?

Whatever your reasons for “losing it” with your teen — and I’m sure they’re all good ones—current research is showing us just how important “time out” and other restorative practices are to being able to sustain willpower and accomplish the things we really want, like being the parents our kids need us to be.

I had a chance to hear Dr. Kelly McGonigal speak about the science of willpower recently. Dr. McGonigal is a Stanford psychologist and the author of The Willpower Instinct (on the off chance that you’ve got that whole willpower thing down pat and haven’t heard of her).

Dr. McGonigal shared that our initial instinct when trying to increase willpower, in kids and in ourselves, is to use more discipline, to tighten the parameters. But in fact, that’s exactly the wrong strategy.

Instead, these five things are proven to boost your willpower.  They may not be what you think!

  • Self-compassion
  • Sleep
  • Physiology
  • Mindset
  • Connection


This is the ability to be gentle with yourself, the way you would respond to a good friend. You see your own mistakes or shortcomings and recognize it’s part of the human experience. You don’t beat yourself up (because it doesn’t help anyway).  You may think that if you didn’t kick your own butt, you’d never get anything done. In fact, the opposite is true.  Self-compassion enhances, rather than reduces motivation.  People who rate higher on measures of self-compassion haven’t lowered their standards – they still aim just as high – they just function better than people who do not relate to themselves with self-compassion.  In particular, people who rate higher in self compassion engage in fewer self-handicapping behaviors (love that term!), such as procrastination (Williams, Stark & Foster, 2008).  If you’re prone to being super hard on yourself, and you’d like to make some changes, get in touch – it’s one of my specialties!


Dr. McGonigal explained that the prefrontal cortex is sensitive to sleep deprivation.  In fact, sleep is food for the brain.  You already knew that from your own experience with a newborn, right? The dreaded “Mommy Brain” syndrome. But guess what?  There are parts of your brain that function extra well when you don’t get enough sleep: those parts that produce fear and anxiety, release stress hormones, and that run any automatic behaviors.  (Oh, crap!)

So if you’re sleep deprived, you’re more likely to be anxious, stressed, and to do the things you do automatically when you’re feeling stressed and pressured (think of your own habitual reactions under stress – probably not pretty, right?).  A 2013 Gallup poll found that 40% of Americans get less than the 7 recommended hours of sleep each night.  Almost half (46%) of people with kids under 18 years of age get less than 7 hours of sleep.

Now, consider that the average teen is chronically sleep-deprived.  The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) reports one study that found only 15% of teens get the recommended 8 to 10 hours of sleep they need on school nights.  NSF’s 2006 Sleep Poll found that 75% of the 1,600 American adolescents surveyed who reported feeling unhappy, sad, or depressed also reported not getting enough sleep at night and being excessively sleepy during the day.

Hmmm…. are you starting to see how the pieces of the puzzle are connected?

Coming up next:  the importance of physiology, mindset and connection in relation to willpower.  Stay tuned!

If you enjoyed this, please show some social love and share with a friend.  Friends don’t let friends parent alone!

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