061: Siblings and Fighting – A Your Child Explained Q&A

Today we are taking a break from our month of food – and how to get your young child to eat it – and answering a listener Q&A. When Ruth asked her question, I knew that I wanted to bring it up on the show ASAP because, if you have more than one kid, you have sibling rivalry and that didn’t seem like it could wait until April!

Ruth asks: “Hi, I would love some advice as to how to reduce the amount of sibling fights in our home. It seems to be constant! My boys are nearly 3 in nearly 5. It seems that they both have a hard time expressing their feelings of frustration in a respectful/nonthreatening tone without physical contact. This makes everyone feel tense and is putting strain on parental-child relationships also. Many thanks, Ruth”

Press play to hear my advice for Ruth about this all-to-common family problem! Click here or go to weturnedoutokay.com/061 for notes on the show, as well as the links to resources that I recommend for Ruth.

First of all, anybody with more than one child needs the amazing and fantastic book Siblings Without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. When our second child was born, this great book fell into my hands and I feel so lucky about that! Adele and Elaine’s writing style brings you right in, they conduct workshops with parents so they have a huge range of sibling issues to talk about – and figure out how to handle; they even teach the principles through comics at the end of each chapter. I bet your local library has a copy, you could have it in your hands by the end of the day!

Next, back at the beginning of We Turned Out Okay I took what seemed to me to be the most important principles from Siblings Without Rivalry and turned them into an episode: click here or go to weturnedoutokay.com/007 to listen to When Siblings Attack: Stopping the Rivalry. I hope it’s helpful!

Finally, I share two pieces of advice that really helped me in containing the sibling rivalry. While I don’t have very much detail as to Ruth’s situation, the vast majority of 2 to 5-year-olds do have a very difficult time expressing their feelings of frustration without physical contact. They just don’t have the brain-speech connection required, they are just not mature enough to be able to express their frustrations without getting physical. These two ideas often helped me:

  • to settle an ongoing altercation, get down on the kids’ level and lower your voice… I mean really lower it, almost to a whisper; now they have to stop fighting just hear you
  • one key aspect discussed in Siblings Without Rivalry, that I also learned worked well as a teacher in a public preschool program: ignore the aggressor/perpetrator; give your attention to the child who’s hurt, whether in feelings or physically because this takes all the attention off of the perpetrator, who was really expecting your attention, even if it was in the form of “you’re in so much trouble” or “I told you to stop that;” negative attention, kids often seem to feel, is better than no attention at all… So support the “injured” child, with hugs or an ice pack or a positive redirection of some kind; often times you’ll find that the perpetrator stops with the negative behavior because it did not garner the attention he or she was hoping for

I hope that helps! Most importantly, Ruth and you too, if you have more than one kid and they’re fighting, I hope knowing that you are not alone and that every family goes through this is helpful. You will come through and we are here to help 🙂

Key Links:

Siblings Without Rivalry is widely available; I found my copy at a thrift shop for $.75! Click here to grab the book from Amazon, but maybe try your public library first, and then purchase the book to have over the long-term.

Click here or go to weturnedoutokay.com/007 to listen to my talk about Siblings Without Rivalry

Finally, while my forthcoming book Positive Discipline Ninja Tactics: Key Tools to Handle Every Temper Tantrum, Keep Your Cool, and Enjoy Life With Your Young Child does not have a chapter about siblings – that book (right up there 🙂 had already been written – it does have a ton of hacks and advice for helping you worry less and enjoy more every day with your young child… And it’s going to be free for three short days when it launches in Amazon, hopefully April 3! To sign up so you’ll know right away when it launches, to get your FAQs about Positive Discipline Ninja Tactics answered, and to get your free anti-tantrum infographic – perfect for printing out and placing on the fridge so that babysitters, grandparents, and older siblings all are on the same page about how to handle a tantrum in your home – just go to positivedisciplineninjatactics.com. I’m so excited to get this book into your hands!

058: How to Know If Something’s Wrong: A Your Child Explained Episode

Welcome! To listen to today’s episode, scroll on down to the bottom and click the triangular “play” button. Enjoy the show!

My younger brothers and I – I'm in the upper right with the Dorothy Hamill haircut.
My younger brothers and I – I’m in the upper right with the Dorothy Hamill haircut.

Today I’m exploring inside the mind of a child – a very specific child, me, in fact – to help you figure out how to know if something is wrong. Click here or go to weturnedoutokay.com/058 for notes to today’s episode!

As a seven-year-old girl (that’s my little brothers and I in that picture to the right), I was sexually abused. Just once – I think of it as kind of a date rape situation – and by someone that I only came into contact with a few times over my childhood, thank goodness! Still, the experience had lasting repercussions; he threatened my life if I ever told and between the actual acts and the life-threatening, I was well into adulthood before I could think of myself as a survivor instead of a victim. (This book, The Courage to Heal, was instrumental in my recovery and I recommend it to you if you’re recovering from childhood sexual trauma.)

I tried to tell my folks, as a young teenager, but for a variety of reasons they just didn’t hear me. In my early 20s we finally all got on the same page – I tell the whole story as it unfolded in today’s’s episode – but even in the years that my parents did not know what had happened to me, they saw that something was wrong based on my behavior.

At age 7, I went from being a relatively carefree little kid to feeling continually anxious and worried. I remember being terrified of getting lost, whether separated from my parents out in the world or, if we were driving somewhere, that we wouldn’t know how to get back home.

Looking into our kids’ minds, kids cannot come out and say what the problem is sometimes, they can’t define it; their behavior gives us clues to what’s going on in their minds. It’s up to us to interpret their behavior, and if we see something unusual to mark it as a red flag. Here are three other examples I discuss in today’s episode:

  • In my first year as a preschool teacher a student of ours, a four-year-old named “Sherry,” acted on the kids at school some of the behaviors she had learned at home; once she had hurt a few kids at school we got the Department of Children and Families involved and eventually Sherry was removed from her home
  • Shane and Jocelyn Sams of the great Flipped Lifestyle podcast (click here to check out their website, flippedlifestyle.com) share in a December 2015 episode about the catalyst for leaving their full-time teaching jobs and creating a worklife balance so that “life always comes before work;” their little boy, away from them every day in child care while they both worked, developed fear of the dark and fear of enclosed spaces… they observed these changes in behavior and were trying to help little Isaac cope with them when they found out that a teacher at child care disciplined Isaac and the other children by shutting them up in a dark closet!
  • We started homeschooling Max because of changes in his behavior; in the early grades but especially first, Max was diagnosed with migraine headaches, lost 20% of his body weight in the first grade, and had other alarming symptoms

In each case above, it was the children’s behavior that led the way. Then the question became – as it did with me as a child – what do we do about this?

Even if we don’t know what the problem is, we can still help our kids (my mom and dad helped me SO much even without knowing that I had been molested.) The most important thing we can do is to take them seriously; we must validate their feelings.

This means saying something like “that sounds scary” instead of “stop talking like that… It can’t be as bad as all that… That’s silly.” Saying things like the latter might help us feel better. But what our kids really need is that we communicate our understanding and our empathy – they need to know that we get that they’re going through something tough and that we will help them.

This idea of taking our kids seriously comes up in the book I’m writing for you guys, Positive Discipline Ninja Tactics. In it, there’s a whole chapter on the whys and hows of taking kids seriously. But the subject of today’s show – that is, how to tell when there’s something really wrong – doesn’t come up in the chapter yet as it’s written.

So I’d like to leave you with a question: would it be valuable to you if I brought this in? It’s pretty heavy stuff… But definitely worth thinking about, taking them seriously as a way of noticing red flags and not panicking.

Do you want me to add this aspect of taking kids seriously into that chapter? Please let me know! Find me at weturnedoutokay.com/contact… On instagram @weturnedoutokay… And on twitter @StoneAgeTechie.

You can also get in touch with me by going to positivedisciplineninjatactics.com, where right now you can sign up for me to email you both my fridge-worthy infographic about how to handle any tantrum and to get an alert on the day the book launches (April 3 is our planned launch date) because it will be free for three short days when it first launches in Amazon! You can also hit reply to any of my emails from positivedisciplineninjatactics.com and let me know your thoughts on adding in the subject of today’s show, how to know when there’s something wrong.

Thanks for sticking with me during this heavier-than-usual-subject-matter show! I hope it was helpful to you, and I really appreciate you listening.

Key Links:

This past Tuesday, dad and teacher Bret Turner and I had a fantastic conversation which ranged across many topics including science fiction and incorporating music into the classroom – and the fact that, as a young child myself, I was molested. Bret and I spoke about confronting fears as a parent, and I just know you’re going to love that conversation; listen here or by going to weturnedoutokay.com/057 (but that episode is by no means a prerequisite to today’s.)

Click here to listen to my conversation with Bret Turner, or go to weturnedoutokay.com/057

This book, The Courage to Heal, is one that I would recommend to you if you were sexually abused as a child. It sure helped me get past my experience!

Listen to Shane and Jocelyn’s fantastic podcast, The Flipped Life Podcast, by clicking here or going to flippedlifestyle.com

Answer this question: should I include the subject of today’s show in my forthcoming book Positive Discipline Ninja Tactics? by getting in touch with me:


@weturnedoutokay on instagram

@StoneAgeTechie on twitter

Also, share your feelings on that question and get my printable, fridge-worthy infographic about how to handle any tantrum by going to positivedisciplineninjatactics.com

055: How Kids Look at Challenges: A Your Child Explained Episode

3D-bookshot-wo-borderIn this Your Child Explained episode, where we always try to get into the heads of our young kids, we look more closely at how kids face challenges. Today’s show digs more deeply into one aspect of episode 54, which dropped Tuesday and features mom and New York Times best-selling author Jessica Lahey. While episode 54 is not a prerequisite to today’s show, take a listen back if you get the chance because our conversation will really help you wrap your mind around the idea of what works – and what doesn’t – in helping your kids overcome setbacks and challenges.

For the full notes to today’s episode, click here click here to go to weturnedoutokay.com/055… If you’re listening on your iPhone and that link is not clickable, here’s what you do: tap the three little dots on the right, opposite the title of this episode, which pulls up a very useful menu. In that menu, click View Full Description, and that will make the links clickable. Enjoy!

Our young children face challenges every day. Learning how to walk is a challenge, as is learning to talk, creating an epic Lego scene, or cooking pancakes on the stove; all challenges, all opportunities for our kids to fail. At least, before they finally succeed! As Jessica and I talked about on Tuesday, humans must fail in order to learn and eventually succeed.

The first question we need to ask as we look at challenges from the perspective of our children is: is the challenge intrinsically or extrinsically motivated? When it’s a child-driven motivation, like learning to walk or talk, kids will take that challenge and run with it… Failures won’t feel like failures to them, they’ll feel like opportunities for learning.

When the challenge is extrinsically motivated – when, for example, we say to them “it’s time for you to learn to use the potty” and they are not ready – it’s much more difficult for them to find the motivation.

Our second question, once we’ve figured out if the current challenge is an intrinsic or extrinsic one, is: how do we see that challenge from their perspective? And if we can see that… How can we help?

We dig into Carol Dweck’s research here, on growth versus fixed mindset. We want to encourage the growth mindset rather than the fixed, and it’s in our everyday interactions with our children that we can make this happen.

A fixed mindset does not set our children up for success; it sets them up instead to try to be perfect. When you’re trying to be perfect, every challenge is an insurmountable obstacle because you can’t keep up perfection.

A growth mindset sets them up for success because, when we emphasize how impressed we are by the work they are doing (rather than by the outcome of that work), we communicate to them that it’s okay to make mistakes, it’s okay to fall down. Challenges become interesting and fun because, instead of trying to avoid mistakes, our kids are learning from them.

So, it’s much better for our kids when we say to them “wow, I can see you worked really hard on this drawing,” rather than “wow, what a perfect drawing!”

Key links:

My conversation with Jessica Lahey can be heard here.

Click here to check out Jessica’s book, The Gift of Failure.

My book, Positive Discipline Ninja Tactics, launches April 3! Click here to get on the prelaunch list, so you’ll know immediately when it goes live in Amazon (where for limited time you’ll be able to get it for free!)

052: “… then we are all in a bad mood because we had to yell.”: A Your Child Explained Episode

Today, listener Lindsay channels the thoughts we all have on those days in which our kids refuse to listen. Lindsay writes “it’s not like after a few asks we don’t make him do it; we do and then we’re all in a bad mood because we had to yell. It’s stuff like getting dressed or coming to eat dinner. What is an old-school way to get him to just do what he has to do? Or is this just what parenting is all about?”

In this Your Child Explained episode, where we always try to understand what’s going on in the minds of our young kids, we jump into how to give our kids a sense of independence and control over their own lives – so they don’t end up living in our basement when they’re 35 – while preserving our sanity.

Click here for the full notes on this episode!

Lindsay’s questions are, I’m sure, questions that you’ve had; they were certainly questions that I had when my two boys were small. (Okay, still do sometimes.)

I think it helps to remember that all kids do this, it’s a developmental stage, necessary to becoming an independent and capable adult. Childhood is a marathon, not a sprint, and here is my virtual hug to you as you support your young children through this marathon!

Lindsay specifically mentions “getting dressed or coming to eat dinner;” two of many transition times during a child’s day. Kids have very little knowledge of how time works, and – just like anybody – really hate to be interrupted when they’re engaged in something that they love. Here are two ideas for helping ease the transition times:

  • try and put the upcoming transition on their horizon; in the case of getting ready for dinner, this works really well if you ask them to do a job that they love to do that has something to do with getting ready for dinner; my kids always loved to peel garlic and would come running from wherever they were in the house to do this beloved job
  • use the ninja tactic First, Then: go to them, get down on their level, and say something along the lines of “first, it’s time to get dressed, and then you can get back to playing with the Lego; which shirt would you like to wear, this one, or that one?”
    • In this episode I give detailed instructions for how I’ve made a First, Then chart, which requires clear contact paper, a few pieces of printer paper, and Velcro adhesive tape; my goal is to make a video of this so you can see how I do it, but for now if you listen to the episode at least you can hear how I do it 🙂

Remembering the long game (marathon, not sprint), that kids assert themselves because they must, even though it’s rarely pretty, and that you are not alone can help keep your spirits up. We old-school parents are all right there with you!

Key Links:

To listen to episode 51, with awesome guest Joel Boggess of the Relaunch Podcast, click here.

Here’s the link to download a free chapter of my forthcoming book, Positive Discipline Ninja Tactics, at positivedisciplineninjatactics.com! You are going to love this book, because it’s all about the ninja tactics we talk about in the podcast; in fact it came up today because of First, Then.

Also, I made you a present! Click here to find the link for the 9 1/2 Key Resources for Old-School Parents.

046: How to Really Hear Your Child – A Your Child Explained Episode

Carey Andersen, Tuesday’s guest in episode 45, had so many wonderful and inspiring things to say; we can learn a lot from her positive approach to balancing family and work – and the fact that she does it all with multiple sclerosis. Our chat this past Tuesday isn’t a prerequisite to today’s Your Child Explained episode, where we always get right into the minds of our children and see what makes them tick. But go back and give it a listen if you can; posted during one of the busiest weeks of the year for many of us, the lead up to Christmas, my talk with Carey Andersen will have you remembering why we do everything that we do!

Today, I’m thinking about a story Carey told regarding the terrible lottery placement her five-year-old ended up with for his kindergarten year, and how the appeals board allowed him to move to a more suitable school based on his very simple declaration:

“I don’t have enough time to play.”

Carey and her husband heard that simple sentence and knew they needed to make a change for their son, and it got me thinking about what can happen when we really hear our children.

Even when they are pre-verbal, they might be trying to tell us a simple truth – and it’s up to us to hear it.

In real time, this episode drops on Christmas eve, and if your life is full of Christmas crazy, and you still made the time to listen, I hope that today’s episode gives you something that you really need. For my part, I want you to know how much I appreciate that you listened! I wish for you a peaceful and wonderful time as we start to say goodbye to 2015.

043: How to Know When Your Young Child Isn’t Consenting: A Your Child Explained Episode

IMG_1919Today’s Your Child Explained episode – where we always try to get into the heads of our kids – is a little different. Usually, the Thursday YCE pertains to the previous Tuesday guest episode. This week, though, I wanted to share something a little different.

Last night my husband and I got to attend a live presentation with interest-led learning expert Blake Boles. His most recent book, The Art of Self-Directed Learning, is geared toward helping teens and young adults figure out what they really want out of life, and how to get it.

In today’s episode, I’m really thinking about that presentation, and specifically one question from an audience member. Find the show notes to this episode here, on my website.

It was a great presentation. Blake Boles is a true storyteller who has really figured out some important stuff in life – and loves to share those lessons.

Also, Blake knows his own limitations. One part of the presentation involved the idea of consent, that in self-directed learning, the learner (the student, the teenager) must consent to the teaching. When Blake was asked as a child “would you like to go to camp?” he shouted yes please! That’s consent, he continued, remembering that no one asked him “would you like to go to school?”

Later, a mom stood up and asked: “how do you know if your young child is consenting or not?” This is why I mention Blake knowing his limitations; instead of giving a BS answer, he turned it back out to the audience saying “I’m not a parent… Can any of you help?”

At which point a woman named Amy, sharing that she currently has a four-year-old, suggested that we know when young children are not consenting… When they are miserable, with tummy aches, loss of appetite, personality changes. When those things happen and go on, that is our child actively telling us “I am not consenting to this.”

Getting back to the idea of self-directed learning – for young children it’s really all about self-directed learning, isn’t it? Anyone with two kids or more knows how very different they all are, each from the others. The differences are intrinsic and these differences give us parents clues about what our kids need, how to direct their learning.

As much as we can, it’s our job, then, to help facilitate more of what our kids need, and less of what they don’t. They’ll show us the way by giving us consent – or not.

I’d like to leave you with a question: how does your child show consent or not? After listening, what do you think about the whole idea? Drop me a line at my contact page, or find me on instagram or twitter… Maybe we can use a future Your Child Explained to talk about your insights on this idea!

040: What Happens When We Treat Our Kids Too Preciously – A Your Child Explained Episode

Tuesday’s guest – cartoonist and author Emily Flake – and I had a great conversation (although, full of swears and subject matter totally inappropriate for work or children – please take note 🙂 about modern parenting, but even with nearly an hour to talk we didn’t cover everything I wanted to cover.

Which leads to today’s Your Child Explained, episodes in which we are always looking right into the brains of our kids and figuring out what makes them tick. In her book, Mama Tried: Dispatches From The Seamy Underbelly of Modern Parenting, Emily shares that her older sister got pregnant and had a baby at age 17 – when Emily herself was just 13. The difference in how these two sisters were treated by the people around them while pregnant can’t be understated; Emily’s sister got a tremendously judgy and shaming vibe at 17, whereas Emily heard all about the “wonderful journey” that she and her husband were now on, while she was pregnant at age 34.

It really got me to thinking about what it means for our kids when we treat them too preciously – when we take care of their every need and want long after they’re too small to take care of themselves. Kids treated as if they’ll break at any moment come to believe that the world exists for their comfort and enjoyment only. This is dangerous, for the child and for our society.

The date this episode airs happens to be Thanksgiving Day of 2015, and it is in the spirit that I ask the question: what’s the opposite of believing that the world exists for your comfort and enjoyment? I think the answer is believing that we exist to serve – that serving in some way creates a feedback loop that makes us happy and filled with gratitude…

It’s a shift that paradoxically gives us the comfort and enjoyment we seek.

And it’s our responsibility to start teaching our kids early to serve others – for their own comfort and enjoyment.

How do we do that when they’re small? Well, letting them contribute to your family through housework and cooking, helping them understand that giving of themselves and their abilities is what will bring them the most comfort and enjoyment – that seems like a pretty good start to me.

Happy Thanksgiving, I hope you’re having the kind of Thanksgiving that is just perfect for you and I hope you know how grateful I am that you are listening to me today!

Podcast Episode 034: Why Do Kids Need to Play? A Your Child Explained episode

Podcast Episode 034: Why Do Kids Need to Play? A Your Child Explained Episode

This past Tuesday, I had a great conversation with mom and licensed mental health counselor Janine Halloran of encourageplay.com. Janine specializes in facilitating play, and our conversation ranged from the benefits of play and how little is really required to encourage it, to how endangered open-ended play is in our society.

Today, I want to extend on that conversation, and look at what’s really going on inside a child’s head during play, why it’s so important, and how we can bring more of it into our crazy-busy lives.

First off, kids process things completely differently from adults – and play is what helps them process the events going on around them. Play helps kids understand and make sense of their world, and it’s up to us to remember that both to foster learning and to make our lives run more smoothly.

Secondly, if you want to grab a kid’s attention, start a game! Games help kids clean up, remember routines, and just add some fun into an otherwise humdrum task.

Thirdly, kids learn with their whole bodies, and need all different kinds of play – alone and with others, indoors and out, self-directed and open-ended.

Finally, play helps kids learn to navigate their world and negotiate and resolve conflicts (nonviolently). Studies are showing that kids aren’t learning the kind of negotiation skills that we need to get along in this world, and I share about a study done a few years ago showing just how little playtime kindergarten children get in school. Called The Crisis In The Kindergarten, I hope you’ll read this paper, learn about the study, and work extra hard to get your child more playtime. It’s truly our hope for the future.

I’d like to leave you with a question: how are you getting your child the kind of open-ended play time that every kid needs? Drop me a line and let me know, whether over at the contact page on weturnedoutokay.com or on instagram @weturnedoutokay.

Podcast Episode 031: Making Space for Wonder in Busy Daily Life – Your Child Explained

In today’s Your Child Explained episode – where we always take a subject and look at it from within the mind of our kids – we figure out how to incorporate time for daydreaming into our kids’ daily life.

If you remember, in episode 30 I spoke with dad and business owner Steve Mirando (give it a listen if you haven’t yet, it’s a great interview with lots of ideas for balancing work and life), and Steve told a really compelling story about his youngest attempting to “stop the wind.” This four-year-old’s idea for stopping the wind involved stopping a shrub from moving in the wind, and Steve recognized that moment as a really significant one… Because they’re so curious and creative, children just naturally bring a lot of wonder into our lives.

Today, I extend on this idea of daydreaming and big ideas and wonder – and how easily we can trample those things without even meaning to in the daily rush.

Did you know that Einstein came up with the theory of relativity by daydreaming? He imagined sitting on a beam of light as it moves through space, and asked the question, what would that be like? Often, people feel their most creative when they’re given the space and time to daydream. Adults really need that time – but kids need it even more, or at least more of it. The question is, how do we find the time for it in our daily lives?

Three things are necessary to create an environment that fosters big ideas and wonder:

1) an absence of screens

2) material for kids to keep their hands busy – a tray of sand (on a table covered with newspaper), some warm water and soap in the sink, play dough, or just some open-ended outside time

3) our willingness to engage in a conversation that is mostly us listening and observing our kids

What we’re doing here is noticing our kids questions and thoughts… Even if they can’t be lengthy, even if it’s just for a little while a few times a week, something special happens in these moments. They help us know and appreciate our kids more, and helps them know themselves better in the long run. As they get into school, grow up and experience the pressures of daily life, knowing what gets them excited about learning is the key to happiness.

So really, fostering the sense of wonder when they’re young translates to engaged, creative adults later on – and that’s really what we want for them, isn’t it?

Podcast Episode 028: YCE – Listener Q&A, and Your Child Explained, The Screen Time Edition

I love shows like today’s, when a listener has written in and I get to respond on the air!

Today, Melissa asks how to help give her young kids the support they need in the outside-of-school hours. Here’s what I suggest: that Melissa and her husband give their children some control over what they do in their out-of-school time. Listen in for more details!

The other reason I love today’s episode is that it is a Your Child Explained. This is where I get to do something I’m pretty good at, which is understanding what’s going on inside your child’s head and giving you tools to use in your quest to be a less-worried, more-happy Old-School Parent.

In this Your Child Explained we get into screen time; episode 27, which aired this past Tuesday in real time, featured the postmortem (finally!) with journalist and mom Heather Kempskie. Heather was on over the summer to share about her amazing family trip in an RV, and I went and blew it by accidentally deleting the second half of our interview about the trip… So this past Tuesday, Heather came back on – our first returning champion – to share about the ups and downs of RVing. A big part of our conversation centered on shutting off the Wi-Fi and how that felt for her kids during their trip, and it resonated so much with me that I wanted to talk more about what happens inside our kids’ heads both during screen time, and after screen time.