042: Miss Conduct – Boston Globe Magazine’s Advice Columnist Robin Abrahams – Is My Guest Today!

Robin Abrahams, a.k.a. Boston Globe advice columnist Miss Conduct
Robin Abrahams, a.k.a. Boston Globe advice columnist Miss Conduct

It can be tough to find time to read the paper on a Sunday morning. In fact, I generally don’t finish it until much later in the week! But Sundays, I always find time for a favorite column, Miss Conduct, because author Robin Abrahams – stand-up comedian, doctor of research psychology, researcher at Harvard business school and professor of psychology and writing – shares great relationship advice in her own special, fun way.

When Robin agreed to come on my show, I did a little happy dance! And… I did another little happy dance when we had our conversation 🙂

Highlights include:

1) Robin’s most favorite question she’s ever been asked – and why

2) how the Miss Conduct column is similar to Seinfeld

3) outstanding advice for listeners in the midst of the crazy-busy month of December (or, any crazy-busy time leading up to an event): include the children in the lead-up to the big event, and try to spread the joy out over several days… I’m heeding this advice and it’s really helping me enjoy the season

I hope you find our conversation lively, fun, and above all helpful as you navigate this next crazy few weeks, which for most of us is going to be pretty darned busy!

038: Positive Discipline Ninja Tactics!

Today’s episode dives into the four best, most practical ninja tactics that I know and use every day to teach my boys right from wrong. Because, that’s really what discipline is, isn’t it? Teaching right from wrong – in my experience as a teacher and parent, positive discipline is not only the most user-friendly way to do this, but the most effective, too.

Listen to the episode for details, but here are the four ninja tactics of positive discipline:

1) stop using the timeout chair and timer for timeouts; let your child take a timeout him or herself, and most importantly let him or her decide how long it should be

2) use natural consequences as your disciplinary measures; often, the natural consequences of an action are all it takes to teach right from wrong

3) start early – like, immediately – in the development of empathy with your child

4) consider the power vacuum dynamics that come into play when you ignore a behavior you don’t want to see; ignoring the behavior rather than engaging about it makes that behavior go away sooner

And, those are the four! I hope they help you every day, but whether they do or they don’t, I hope you will click the contact tab on my website and tell me about your successes, failures, and questions. Especially questions.

Thanks for listening! If you listen all the way to the end, I share a project I’ve just started: helping parents individually, when you feel like your challenges as a parent are more than listening to the podcast can fix. Go here to find out more!

 

035: The Power of Positive Discipline – Part One, The Mindset

Today is the first of a two parter, because the subject of positive discipline – how we teach our kids right from wrong – is such a biggie.

In this first part, we talk about the mindset of positive discipline… Three things are required for us parents to get into this mindset:

1) a calm, quiet demeanor; yelling and screaming produces negativity, not to mention unhappy family members

2) making the punishment fit the crime; every situation is different, we can’t have a set list of infractions and punishments

3) taking our children seriously; by this I mean let’s start with the assumption that they are good kids, they want not to get in trouble, they’re doing the best they possibly can

All we need for the positive discipline mindset. They sound simple, but they can be really difficult to implement! Today, I try to persuade you that the best thing you can do for your child – and you – is get into the positive discipline mindset.

Thanks for listening! If you listen all the way to the end, I share a project I’ve just started: helping parents individually, when you feel like your challenges as a parent are more than listening to the podcast can fix. Go here to find out more!

In the next Just You and Me episode, number 38, we will get into the ninja tactics of positive discipline!

Podcast Episode 026: 3 Ways to Make No Sound Like Yes

Did you know that, by the time we are five years old, we’ve heard “no” 40,000 times? And that in that same span of time, we’ve only heard “yes” 5000 times? (I learned that reading The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson, a great book by the way.)

While it’s true that “no” is important – for safety, if nothing else – this n-word can really bring us down… As Jeff puts it: “Eight times as many noes as yeses. Eight times the force holding you down, compared to the force lifting you up. Eight times the gravity against your desire to soar.”

Today, I share with you the primo ninja parenting tactic of them all… Make no sound like yes! Here’s how:

1) Actually say yes. When they ask “Mom, can I have an ice cream?” you respond “sure! Right after dinner.” If it’s “can we play play dough?” and if there isn’t time at the moment, you respond “absolutely – as soon as we get home from the doctor.” This works in so many situations, and have the added bonus of making us parents feel somehow lighter and happier… because no sucks and yes is nice.

2) Keep your cautions to yourself. If your mouth says “yes” but your body language, facial expression, and tone communicate fear and worry, your child won’t hear the yes. Worse, if you say yes and then come up with 10 reasons why your child shouldn’t climb that tree, or go barefoot, or eat the Halloween candy you just told him he could eat, are you really saying yes? Not really… This is where we need to be angels, not balloon poppers.

3) Use “yes, and…” A great turn-no-into-yes tactic for transitional times, try this one when your child wants to do one thing and you know that you need to do another… “Mom, can we play play dough?” “Yes, we can play now for a bit and will keep going with it when we get back from the doctor.”

If you take just one thing from this episode, I hope it is this: our words matter. The more yeses we can squeeze into a child’s day – more noes we can eliminate – the lighter and happier we will all be.

How are you changing “no” to “yes”? Please share! Either go to weturnedoutokay.com/contact or leave a comment right at the bottom of this post. I can’t wait to hear your innovations!

Podcast 012: How to Handle Parenting Challenges with Early Childhood Educator Mariana Sanford Maynard

Today’s guest is an early intervention therapist by trade, and has such an interesting perspective on life that I just know you are going to love our conversation! Mariana Sanford Maynard has a background in equine massage, is bilingual, raised for part of her life in Brazil (even though she has no accent), and the divorced mom of two kids. Her gentle, loving demeanor permeates our whole conversation, and I felt like I had the knowledge to be a better parent after we were done talking.

Listen for:

  • similarities between horses and children – you’ll be surprised
  • thinking about the system in which our kids live, and how understanding that system can help us be better parents for them
  • how to keep the idea of “family” alive, even after a divorce

If you take just one thing away from our conversation today, I hope it is this: there is real value in apologizing to our kids when we mess up. It helps them know that we are human, we make mistakes, and when we do we atone for them.

I know you’re going to get so much out of this episode, please drop me a line – Karen@weturnedoutokay.com – and let me know what really resonated with you!

Podcast 011: How to Help Your Young Kids Love Reading

Are you concerned about your fledgling reader losing ground this summer? Then you need my guide, Six Ways to Help Your Kids Love Reading! Click the button below to enjoy summer AND foster a love of reading in your home.

(Please note, in Episode 11 I said the button would say “Help My Readers!” but that sounded a little silly, so I changed the text.)
Click Here to Help Your Young Reader

We are headed into summer as I record today, a classic time for parents to worry about kids’ academic work slipping. Is this a thing that you worry about? If so, you are going to love today’s’s show – all about six steps to creating young, happy readers!
No matter when you listen, whether in the middle of an extended summer vacation or in deepest winter, you will love it, because here is where I share my six steps to having happy readers.

Listen for:
How to bond with your kids over books, no matter how young or old the kids are, no matter how simple or complex the books are
Strategies to stop the scourge of trying to be perfect; one of my favorite quotes is from Henry Winkler, a.k.a. the Fonz from Happy Days: “perfectionism is destructive… Beating the sh*t out of yourself is a killer”
Why reading aloud is the single most important thing you can do with your children

We cover an awful lot today, so I knew you were going to want to write all this down – that’s why I created a guide, Six Ways to Help Your Kids Love Reading, which you can get just by going to weturnedoutokay.com and clicking the button! As a bonus, I’ve got a resource section of awesome books included with the guide… Between these six steps and the resource section of awesome books, you will soon have some really happy readers in your home.

A Book You’ll Love

Author Mark Brown and illustrator Amy Brown's new book!
Author Mark Brown and illustrator Amy Brown’s new book!

Gratitude has been a huge part of my recovery from my mystery tendon illness. Listeners to the podcast, especially episode 000, will know that for nearly 4 years I’ve kind of randomly had limbs that just stop working; I spent some of 2011 and 2012 needing a wheelchair when I left the house, stopped being able to use my elbows in 2013, and then devastatingly lost almost all the use of my hands in 2014.

But it turns out that it wasn’t really random, that I’ve had trouble with tendons where the muscles around them are weak. Tendons, for those of you who’ve never had to think of them, are what hold our muscles to our bones. Unhappy tendons scream with pain, as anyone who’s ever had tennis elbow knows. Also, unhappy tendons take a really long time to heal, sometimes years. That is certainly been the case with my tendons!

So what you do when you lose the ability to shave your legs standing up, or walk, or twirl your spaghetti?

You learn.

You learn patience, teamwork, that you are valuable for more than what you are physically capable of.

You learn gratitude.

Of course, we do not want our children – we don’t even want our worst enemies – to learn lessons this way! It really sucked.

So then the question becomes, how do we teach gratitude?

Well, here is what the husband and wife team of Mark Brown and Amy Brown did: they wrote a book about a pig. And not just any pig; this guy has a lot to teach about patience and gratitude, and being in the moment… My 10-year-old called the book “awesome” and especially loved the pictures. I love those, and the sweet poetry that accompanies them.

Additionally, Mark and Amy have partnered with a charity called Know. Think. Act., And through this charity every copy of Zen Pig sold provides 10 people with clean water for a whole year.… So in purchasing this book, not only are you helping teach these principles that, as parents, we really care about. You are helping people in need of clean water get it.

As the pig says: “care for each other/as much as yourself.” I’d love to hear your stories of how you are teaching your children this! Leave a note in the comments, or email me at Karen@weturnedoutokay.com. And then, go hug your little ones and be grateful together 🙂

008: Parents ARE Leaders: Talking With Dr. Bob Nolley of The Labrador Leadership Podcast

Do you think of yourself as a leader? Maybe not, but as parents, the decisions we make every day – resolving conflicts, allocating money, making decisions that involve our kids – call us out as leaders whether we think of it that way or not.

I used to think of leaders only in a public or corporate sense; the president’s a leader. Heads of corporations are leaders, but certainly not me! Dr. Bob Nolley’s Labrador Leadership Podcast completely changed my views on leadership when I first heard him in January 2015, helping me realize that to lead has much more to do with our hearts than the size of the group we lead.

Listen for:

  • the Big Rocks exercise (Dr. Stephen Covey’s idea) to help you figure out what’s most important to you
  • how to make a list that will help you relax while also getting done what needs to be done
  • two examples of leaders in unusual places: one runs a quick-oil-change shop in Richmond, Virginia, and the other is Dr. Bob’s cohost on Labrador Leadership
  • conflict resolution and the art of apologizing

if you take only one thing away from today’s episode, I hope it is this: you are a leader! Thinking of yourself that way will help you both support the people in your life you care about most, and enjoy the life that you share with those people more.

006: How Do We Learn What We Need To Know?

Today’s guest Daniel Wolff has, among many other things, produced a documentary about Hurricane Katrina, been nominated for a Grammy in 2003, and written 10 books on all different subjects including the one that we spend most of our time discussing today, How Lincoln Learned To Read. Written in 2009, this book is a go-to for me whenever I need to make big decisions about about the boys’ upbringing; because Mr. Wolff tells the stories of the childhoods of many prominent Americans throughout history, I learn something different from each one. Plus, a great read that’s fun, interesting, historical – and makes me feel a little smarter each time I pull it off the shelf.

During today’s’s show, listen for:

  • the importance of fun in education; all these years later, we may think of Ben Franklin as old and stodgy, but almost right from the moment he could read, Franklin was quite the mischief maker
  • how author and scientist Rachel Carson’s girlhood, during which she stayed home often from school to play and walk in the woods, helped her grow up into the advocate for national environmental change she became
  • a great piece of parenting advice – my guest shares that decisions became much easier for him when he to “think like a grandparent”

Key Links:

Daniel Wolff’s author page at Four Way Books; here is his new book, The Names of Birds

How Lincoln Learned To Read, a great read that has helped me be a better parent

Amazing poet-four-children-of-all-ages Shel Silverstein

If you take just one thing away from today’s show, I hope it is this: we parents must play a crucial role in helping our children understand about fighting hard for what they want to become; there will always be someone around to knock an idea down, or discourage our kids… for them to truly succeed in life, we must be their true support.

Kindergarten: What It Is, and What It Could Be

“The importance of play to young children’s healthy development and learning has been documented beyond question by research. Yet play is rapidly disappearing from kindergarten and early education as a whole. We believe that the stifling of play has dire consequences—not only for children but for the future of our nation. This report is meant to bring broad public attention to the crisis in our kindergartens and to spur collective action to reverse the damage now being done.”…

So begins one of the most compelling papers I’ve ever read, Crisis in the Kindergarten, by Edward Miller and Joan Almon, the summary of a HUGE study encompassing data from kindergarten classrooms in California and New York State and highlighting the problems we are now creating for our children by taking away their time to play.

Alliance for Childhood, the group that created and implemented the study, is full of incredibly well-respected early childhood professionals; their National Advisory Board reads like a Who’s Who of Required Reading for graduate students in early childhood education. We are talking people like David Elkind, Professor Emeritus of Child Development at Tufts University, Dorothy G Singer, Senior Research Scientist at Yale’s Child Study Center, Sue Bredekamp, currently the Directer of Research at the Council for Professional Recognition but whose name I remember from her work with The National Association for the Education of Young Children, the best and most rigorous certification that a preschool or childcare center can achieve…

These are the people who have dedicated their whole lives to figuring out what young children need to thrive, and believe me, they really know their schtuff!

The problems documented in this study, undertaken by researchers at UCLA in Los Angeles, and Long Island University and Sarah Lawrence College in New York City, are just breathtaking:

“On a typical day, kindergartners in Los Angeles and New York City spend four to six times as long being instructed and tested in literacy and math (two to three hours per day) as in free play or “choice time” (30 minutes or less).

Standardized testing and preparation for tests are now a daily activity in most of the kindergartens studied, despite the fact that most uses of such tests with children under age eight are of questionable validity and can lead to harmful labeling.

Classic play materials like blocks, sand and water tables, and props for dramatic play have largely disappeared from the 268 full-day kindergarten classrooms studied.

In many kindergarten classrooms there is no playtime at all. Teachers say the curriculum does not incorporate play, there isn’t time for it, and many school administrators don’t value it.”

– Alliance for Childhood’s Crisis in the Kindergarten summary, page 3

The paper goes on to discuss the dangers of this disappearance of play:

” while many politicians and policymakers are calling for even more tests, more accountability, and more hard-core academics in early childhood classrooms, the leaders of major business corporations are saying that creativity and play are the future of the U.S. economy. Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind, writes about the “imagination economy,” and says that “people have to be able to do something that can’t be outsourced, something that’s hard to automate and that delivers on the growing demand for nonmaterial things like stories and design. Typically these are things we associate with the right side of the brain, with artistic and empathetic and playful sorts of abilities.” How can we expect our children to thrive in the imagination economy of the future if we deny them opportunities for play and creativity in kindergarten?” (Crisis in the Kindergarten summary, page 4, bolding mine)

And, from page 2:

“China and Japan are envied in the U.S. for their success in teaching science, math, and technology. But one rarely hears about their approach to schooling before second grade, which is playful and experiential rather than didactic.”…

I thought it was interesting that they bring up Japan, because a friend recently passed on this TED talk to me: The Best Kindergarten You Have Ever Seen. The speaker, Takaharu Tezuka, is an architect who specializes in creating schools and hospitals that people love – talk about playful and experiential! The school that Tezuka highlights in his talk is built on two levels, and it’s round so that kids can run, often there is no separation between the interior of the classroom and the outdoor play space. Kids move, play, get their energy out, talk, laugh, help each other… They spend the bulk of their time at play!

Juxtaposed, the Crisis in the Kindergarten paper and Tezuka’s TED talk have really got me thinking about what is in this country – and what could be.

Here are three recommendations that the Alliance For Childhood shares (summary, page 7):

“Give teachers of young children first-rate preparation that emphasizes the full development of the child and the importance of play, nurtures children’s innate love of learning, and supports teachers’ own capacities for creativity, autonomy, and integrity. … Do not make important decisions about young children, their teachers, or their schools based solely or primarily on standardized test scores. …Address the obstacles to play, such as unsafe neighborhoods, overscheduling of children’s lives, excessive screen time, toys linked to entertainment media, and education that emphasizes skills, drills, and homework and undermines creativity, imagination, and overall well-being.”

Now, the first two of those – and I should say, there are many more recommendations, these are the three that spoke to me – the first two are more societal, the sorts of things that we talk about, but aren’t really sure how to implement. But how could we have an influence? Could we band together and insist that our schools of education “give teachers of young children first-rate preparation that emphasizes the full development of the child and the importance of play”? Could we elect school committee members based on their opinion about making or not making “important decisions about young children, their teachers, or their schools based solely or primarily on standardized test scores”? I bet we could…

The third one is really where the rubber meets the road, though. That’s the one that we could really have an influence on. As screens become evermore insidious in every aspect of our lives, it gets harder and harder to keep the kids off the screens. We start to worry we are not exposing our child to enough enrichment because all the other playgroup children take enrichment classes in everything from the violin to fencing (to quote speaker Thom Singer, “people have died from exposure!”)…

Let’s start small: what if today, I hide the tablets for a few hours? Or choose not to sign my son up for a second sport this season? What if we skip the toy store, and continue right on to the park?

I think that’s how we could fix things, if we each start by doing something small.