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The TRUE Meaning of Charity…Teaching it to Your Children

Hello Everyone!

In my last newsletter, I talked about focusing on the Season of Giving instead of getting.  The article we are sharing with you today is all about giving… your love of humanity: “9 Ways to Teach Your Child Charity.”  By Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller

The term “Charity” has taken on more than one definition in today’s culture, so I checked in with good ol’ Webster for the “Full” definition and found just what I was looking for: what I believe is the definition of true Charity: 1.  benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity.”  If we have Charity, we will act in the manner or ways described in the second definition listed: 2.  generosity and helpfulness especially toward the needy or suffering; also: aid given to those in need.”

Charity, all too often, is seen as only giving money or doing something for people who are disadvantaged in some way.  I disagree – and so does Webster!  Christmas is the perfect time to remember the true meaning of Charity – to have benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity: showing kindness, love, friendship, being patient with a tired child, smiling, softening the hurt of a broken heart, extending a listening ear, seeing the good in each other, choosing not to take offense, being a peacemaker, looking for a positive solution when conflict arises; doing/being these ways toward another because we recognize our one common characteristic…our humanity.  We all have it, regardless of our status in our community, our stage in life, our bank balance (or lack thereof); the beauty others see in us, or not;….we still share our humanness.

I hope you enjoy this article as much as I did – and, although it focuses on Charity being expressed through acts of service, these acts are diverse in nature and intent – not only in how they touch the lives of others, but those fortunate enough to participate in gifting them. I hope you are inspired to embody true Charity this Season, and as you do, motivate your children to embrace it as part of theirs, and together, carry it into the New Year by sharing with them the inspiring tips in “9 Ways to Teach Your Child Charity.”

Merry Christmas!



9 Ways to Teach Your Child About Charity

By Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller

 Inspired Giving

Charity and the spirit of giving have been elevated to a new level in the past few years, following natural disasters, war in Iraq, and terrorist attacks around the globe. After witnessing the horrific images of pain and suffering streaming steadily across their TV sets, more people than ever before have dipped deeper into their own pockets to offer needed relief to the survivors of unprecedented tragedies.

Many parents are using the destruction delivered by these catastrophes as an opportunity to help children learn about charity and the importance of reaching out to others in their time of need. They have made generous family donations, often involving their children in picking out the charity, writing the check, and preparing and mailing the envelope. They have allowed their children to witness turning the pain and grief of unimaginable loss into a time of extending love and compassion to unknown people half way around the world.

Clearly, recent devastation provides an opportune time to teach children about charity. But what if parents want lessons about charity to be more than a one-time occurrence? What if they want the spirit of giving to be a way of life for their children? How do they make charity become a habit?

To help your children acquire the habit of charity, consider implementing as a family the strategies which follow.

1. Donate clothes.

Periodically go through your closets rooting out clothes you haven’t worn in a while, which can be given to the Salvation Army or Goodwill for distribution to the needy. Encourage your children to do the same. Allow them to select which clothes or toys they wish to donate. The value of this activity is diminished greatly if you go through their closets for them without their presence. For maximum benefit, get your children involved in choosing the appropriate items. Take your children with you when you drop the items off at the charitable destination.

2. Help neighbors.

Regularly engage in a service-oriented project. Rake the leaves of an elderly couple. Bake cookies for a serviceman or servicewoman. Bake bread and deliver it to the homeless feeding station in your community.

3. Give blood.

Take your children with you so they see you as a model for giving. Talk to them about why you choose to donate blood and what you hope it will accomplish by doing so.

4. Make birthdays charitable.

Set up birthday parties as a time for giving to others. At your child’s first school-age birthday party, ask guests to bring a gift of a book (new or used) to be donated to a local charity. Talk to your son about the books he has and about children who have no books. Explain that one way to celebrate a birthday would be to give to those who have less. Involve the birthday boy in the decision of whether not to give the books to a woman’s shelter, a doctor’s office, or some other appropriate organization. When you deliver the books with your son, record it on camera, and revisit that movie (or those pictures) on future birthdays.

5. Include pets.

At regular intervals, buy dog or cat food and take it to the humane society. Allow your children to spend some time with the recipients of the gift.

6. Deliver nutrition.

Build food baskets around the holidays and give to a needy family suggested by your church or school. Involve your children is selecting canned goods, fruit, and other treats to include. Decorate the gift package and deliver it together, as a family.

7. Change for a difference.

Create a charity jar to be used by the family when allowances are distributed. Invite children to share some of their allowance with others through donating to the jar. As the jar fills, decide as a family where to contribute the contents. You may choose to save a whale, buy gloves for needy children, or contribute to a cancer charity among others. Read about various charities on the Internet and share this information with your children to help them make an informed decision.

8. Help elders.

Do things for the elderly that they have trouble doing for themselves. Pick up sticks in your neighbor’s yard after a big windstorm. Mow the grass for Grandma. Wash Grandpa’s car. Clean their windows in the spring. Help them plant flowers.

9. Pitch in.

Get on a regular service schedule at your church or synagogue. Sign up for a time to mow the grass and trim the bushes. Take your turn ushering and allow your child to assist.

By implementing some of these ideas or others like them, you will be teaching your children that charity is not reserved only for emergencies. You will be helping them appreciate that reaching out to others in need is a way of life, rather than a moment in time when a catastrophic disaster occurs. Remember, while you are giving to others, you are giving your children important messages about your beliefs concerning the spirit of giving.

Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are the authors of The 10 Commitments: Parenting with Purpose. Moorman is a former classroom teacher and the currect director of the Institute of Personal Power.




Seven “E”z Tips for Holidays Filled with Fun, Family and Freedom from Stress!

I woke up the other day with a very familiar feeling, and in trying to discover what it was…  I realized it’s that, BEGINNING OF THE END feeling!  Some of you may recognize it yourself – that little bit of exciting, but doomsday feeling, that “can’t wait until it’s over, but over the moon, thrilled it’s finally here!” feeling.  You know – October is almost over, SO…that means the Holiday season is officially about to begin!  When I say Holiday season, I mean, well…..

HalloweenVeteransDayThanksgivingAdventChanukahChristmasNewYear’sEveNewYear’sDay!  WHEW!  Putting it all together like that, feels kinda overwhelming, no?  And that’s just saying it in one breath –  not actually living it – day to day, week to week, over the next,  2 ½ months!

Moms regularly comment to me at this time of year, they want their holidays to include more family time, more fun, and freedom from stress.  Unfortunately, each year, come January, these same moms seem more discouraged, broke, and worn out from their well-intention, over-stretched, stress-filled lives from the prior October through December!

I decided to share my Seven “E”z Tips for Holidays Filled with Fun, Family and Freedom from Stress!

1.   ENVISION: (End in Mind)

a. Find a quiet place for you to be alone and take three slow, deep breaths, close your eyes and Envision: WHAT YOUR “END IN MIND” IS FOR EACH HOLIDAY!

                             i.    Be clear, specific and detailed about what it will “look” like:

                            ii.    #1Top Priority? – What is it and Why?

                                      iii.    Be extremely descriptive so you can remain focused on what you are truly trying to achieve: The feeling, environment, connection, etc.


 a.    Encourage your family to share their ideas, top priorities, hates and must haves to join you in collaborating for a shared End in Mind.  It also offers an opportunity to get to know each other better and to encourage “buy-in” or “ownership” for this process from those who are helping to create this shared vision.

 3.   ENLIST:

a. Once you have a shared vision, you will need to ENLIST your family members as “teammates” or “partners” to plan and carry out the “End in Mind.”  Enlisting is “getting them on board!”  All human beings desire to feel needed, valued and the importance of our contribution.  The key, then, to Enlisting each teammate is by having a them chose how they will contribute to, which tasks to carry out, vocalize how achieving our shared “End in Mind” helps them feel valued and important..  Allowing family members to participate in choosing how they participate is important for true enlistment – they have to want to get to the End, or they won’t necessarily continue with the plan through to the End.

4.   EASY:

a.    Keep your plan as EASY and simple as possible.  The Holidays are busy enough without addition more chaos to them!  If things feel chaotic – time to EVALUATE!

b.   Give step by step instructions whenever possible.

c.    Have a buddy system to help with accountability and follow through.

d.   Have clear, defined times, dates, assignments, etc., WRITTEN DOWN.


a. As a team, EVALUATE your plan:

                             i.    What could possibly go wrong?  Are there any holes that need plugging?

                              ii.    Is this item necessary to the “End in Mind?”  If so, how?

iii.    Is it EASY and simple enough?

iv.    How are we helping each other succeed?

v.    What are the time deadlines reasonable so everyone can be successful?

vi.    When do we meet again to re-evaluate?


a. No one reaches “The End in Mind” without taking action!  After Evaluating your plan – put it into action immediately!   “A thing done, when thought of, needs no further attention!” (Thank you, Betty!  My sweet Mother-in-law)

7.   ENJOY:

a.    Take a deep breath!  You and your family have things in hand!  You have a Plan, Stick to it and you will succeed!  Fail to plan and you plan to fail!

b.   Remember: What I give returns to me tenfold – share the joy that comes from relaxing ,enjoying the time you get to spend with your family, the fun you are having and the freedom from the stress of chaos and contention that used to come with the holidays!

 One mother, I had the opportunity to work with, wanted to change the “lack of feeling” around Thanksgiving.  I invited her to try my 7 Ez Tips.  She decided her “End in Mind” for one Thanksgiving was to “encourage the development of gratitude in her family along with providing learning opportunities for recognizing abundance in their lives.”  As a single mom, she didn’t have many financial resources or available time.  She called her two grade-school daughters and teenage son together to Encourage them to share their ideas about creating a game to play for the month of November.  She had already made a mock-up of her idea – an Advent-type calendar that had a word to be revealed beneath each day of the week – to see what they thought and to collaborate on what words to use and how to use the calendar, and if they wanted to use the calendar.  A discussion ensued with the calendar being agreed upon.  Next, the mother Enlisted each member of the family by asking them to volunteer for particular assignments in creating the actual calendar that would be used and choosing the words to with it The words ranged from kindness, to laughter to service.  When they decided on how to play the game, they kept it Easy and simple, so they could stay with it until the End. In their Evaluation of their plan, they determined the purpose of the game stayed true to their goal., the time frame for the game (breakfast and dinner) fit everyone’s’ schedule so it was less likely for things to go wrong.  The family then went to work Executing their decisions and taking action – making the calendar was fun for the girls – they consulted mom, when they needed her help, but did most of it on their own.  The older son and mom worked together to find words that would appeal to all members of the family.

 When November rolled around the following week, and the family of four came together for their first Calendar Breakfast – the word for the day was revealed, “living.” Each family member was to discover how it applied to “gratitude” and to “abundance.” Later, at dinner that night, they would each discuss what they found out.  On Thanksgiving, each individual shared what they had Enjoyed learning through this process.  This game brought their family closer, with more time spent together and they discovered how differently they each experienced the people and world around them.  It also provided them shared opportunities to serve others outside their own family, resulting in a realization of the abundance in their own lives.





“Did you see her outfit – was it sooo “sick” or what?  I mean, her skirt is like –“presh”!  I love it!  An’ the way she looks, the guys will totally be spittin’ game at her all night long!  That means  ‘No chance for the rest of us gurlz!’” This was one-half of a phone conversation overheard by a mom during the carpool drive home after school one recent Friday afternoon!  Listening to her daughter discuss what to wear, how to wear it, what’s in and how to impress others in her peer group is a common pastime of adolescents.  For parents, setting clear, consistent, and reasonable limits for tweens and teenagers can be, well…challenging at times.  Three rules of thumb –1) Say what you mean, mean what you say, AND do what you say you will!  2) Model what you say – your actions give your words meaning; and 3) Remember, the more empathy you respond with, the more likely you are to have a good relationship and good influence!

I hope you enjoy this three part series by Michele Borba Ed. D (The Big Book of Parenting Solutions)


 “My kids are obsessed with what they wear and their appearance. ‘I have to have a Coach Bag. All the girls have one!’ ” The shirt has to have an alligator on it, Dad. That’s what the other guys wear. ‘ But I’m more concerned about the image that wearing those clothes can portray. Is there a happy medium?”


Don’t get hung up arguing with your kid about “style.”  If you need a reality check, take a look at your old school photos to help you realize that fashions have never been the most flattering, but just part of the culture children are trying to fit into. Instead, hold the line on bigger issues that can have a real impact on your child’s reputation and attitude. Kids have always wanted to fit in; what they wear is a big part of how they form identity and let others know which group they hang with. This is why you see them in groups wearing almost the identical “look” – from backpacks to shoes to clothing styles.

The problem is that achieving that desired ‘look” these days comes with a price. First, these name brands that are all the rage can be ridiculously expensive. Second, clothing styles these days are often sexually provocative even for the preschool set. Messages printed on kids apparel are often in poor taste (and that’s putting it mildly). Here are six ways to help you navigate today’s pricey, sexy kid fashion industry:

1. Make sure your child adheres to the school dress code.  Each school district sets clear rules as to acceptable and unacceptable attire; these are usually published in the school handbook. The general belief of educators is that a child’s appearance – including gadgets, attire, and makeup – should not distract from learning, and I’m a firm supporter of that philosophy. Many schools require uniforms to avoid those clothing hassles. Get a copy of your child’s school handbook (check the school Website), review those rules with your child, and then set a clear rule that anything worn on school grounds or to a school affair (games, field trips, dances, competitions) must follow those standards. If you have any hesitation about the acceptability of your child’s attire, it’s better to be on the safe side and have her change so that she is not disciplined (or sent home). Beware: wearing certain colors may be prohibited as a safety issue because they represent gangs in a nearby area.

2. Hold a firm line on sexy attire. These days some kids clothing is so provocative that it’s been aptly name the “come-hither look.” And designs are sized for even the preschool set. “The sleaze look” appears to be catching on: in just one year, seven-to twelve-year-olds spent $1.6 million on thong underwear alone. Beware: most adults frown upon such attire, and wearing such a sexy look could well affect your child’s reputation. It also send a message to your child that you approve of sexual apparel, which could influence your child’s attitudes and behavior. One rule to consider adopting in your family the sets clears parameters on provocative attire is my “Three B Rule”- It simply means that apparel revealing any anatomy beginning with the letter “B -bottom, boobs, or belly button” – may not be worn. You might extend the rule to include that no underwear or bra straps may be shown either.

3. Beware of distasteful messages. T-shirts, hats, backpacks, sweatshirts, and the like are laced with “attitude” and distasteful wording, logos, or drawings. Those messages range from mild (“Cute but Psycho,””#1 Brat,” and “Math Never Spells Fun”)  to outright distasteful (“you can look but you can’t touch” or “FCUK”). Be clear that you will not tolerate any apparel that is offensive or provocative or that that shows your child in a poor light. Such slogans as “Professional Drama Queen” may seem cute and harmless, but those images can stick and become self-fulfilling prophecies, especially as others comment about them, and they could influence your child’s reputation or her attitude. Set a rule that your child must receive your permission to purchase or wear apparel with writing on it (other than a nationally known sports teams or Logo). Even then, you might want to get a second interpretation of the message. One tween bought a shirt touting “I like boys who vote” with her mom’s blessing. Both mother and daughter assumed the message was patriotic. The mom was mortified when a father explained to her that wearing the shirt meant the ten-year-old preferred men eighteen and older, and encouraged her not to let her daughter wear it. So when in doubt, ask for a second opinion.

4. Set a clothing budget and stick to it. Designer labels are no longer just for adults, but are now aimed even at infants. Studies also show that our kids are more materialistic than ever.  Don’t be afraid to set a realistic clothing budget for your child and stick to it. And don’t give out loans. Teach your child to be a comparison shopper, prioritize her shopping needs, and shop for sales. Also, set clothing limits. For instance, you will buy one pair of “have to have” but your kid has to earn money to buy the second. Or just feel free to say no to brand-name items altogether.

(Just make sure you’re not drooling over those hot name-brand items yourself and sending a mixed message to your daughter.)

5. Help your child make a good first impression. First impressions do make a difference, so take a serious look at the way your kid presents herself. Kids do need to learn that how they choose to dress and behave does create an image that can turn folks off or on. Don’t assume that your child knows what image her attire is sending or even what the message implies. Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabes, finds that girls respond much better to the word “image” than “reputation.” So your daughter may be more receptive if you say, “you know, I’m afraid you’ll project the wrong image if you wear those jeans so low.”

(Keri’s suggestion:  “Mind if I ask a question?  Have you considered what image you might be projecting when your “boobs pop out,” “your belly button shows” and/or “your butt peeks over your pants?”  Is there a possibility that the person who sees you for your interview might see it differently than you do?)

6. Get on board with other parents.

Is your child pushing you to let her wear make-up? Does your son say you’re the world’s meanest parent because you won’t let him wear shirts covered with those “in your face” messages? Consider talking with parents of your child’s friends and hear their views. Chances are they share your dress standards, and standing together as to what is acceptable attire will reduce those “You’re the only parent who feels that way” guilt trip.

(Keri’s note: When we get to know other parents and share our values we can support each other in helping to hold firm to those  values.)

Any Child can be well groomed, have good hygiene, and dress in a style that allows her to fit in with the rest. Just remember that first impressions do count. So every once in a while, take a more objective look at your child and ask yourself what kind of image she is projecting. If there is just one things you can tune up – a more conservative haircut, less tightly fitting jeans, a slightly less baggy look – consider making the adjustment. Remember that regardless of the peer and consumer push, tweens do seek guidance from their parents. So use your influence! 

(Keri’s Note: Remember:  Influence comes with a good relationship AND a positive model!).


Have a great week


Old Yeller!

It’s only 8am.  I hear the familiar sounds of the day warming up; the milk spills triggering my toddler’s whining which seems to go on and on while my 8 year old twins play their latest game of “who can run the fastest in the house and create the most noise!”  The first thing I wanted to do was YELL at the top of my lungs for peace and quiet!  Then, I remembered you want to be the calm, smiling, compassionate, and understanding mom.  If I could stick to my plan, then I’d be the “perfect mom!”  RIGHT?  What an illusion and unreasonable expectation that label is – “perfect mom!”    It is the quintessential feeling so many of us mothers have, “a good mom: needs to do it all, know it all, stay up on all the latest, well, of everything, and certainly keeps ourselves connected through all forms of social media.”  With that definition of a “good mom” in mind, we moms reach out to each other for support, information, connection, help, and friendship in every way possible.  So, how can we stay present in parenting our children in the midst of all these distractions and expectations?

The  P.B. Parenting©  approach came to mind after reading the article I’m sharing with you this week.  This approach is a way of Pausing: taking a break or a “Mama, Time Out,”.  It allows you to assess where you are, your heart and your head (are they in synch?), Breathing to calm down, if necessary, and step back to look at the big picture.

The article below gives great insight as to how we can allow our own distractions to take us away from being “present” and put us in a situation where even the smallest interruption of the current task, can be the trigger – causing us to explode – often without us even being fully aware of the consequences of our meltdown.  This is where the P.B. Parenting©  approach of, “Pause and Breathe,” can be an important skill in  our parenting tool kit.

I will be taking some time this week to practice the P.B. Parenting© approach and I invite you to join me on my journey to Pause and Breath – taking a few minutes  each day to evaluate some of my own choices that may distract me from choosing to “be” present with those whom I am with..  I’m committed to being more aware of what “things” I want to set aside so I can focus on the bigger picture,  to keep the “Old Yeller” patterns from returning and becoming a common occurrence in my home.  You might want to try using the  P.B. Parenting©  approach this week to bring things back to the present and to be a presence of peace in your home.

Make it a peaceful week.



The important thing about yelling

By Rachel Macy Stafford

Hands Free MamaPublished: Tuesday, July 15 2014 3:00 p.m. MDT

Updated: Tuesday, July 15 2014 6:43 p.m. MDT

The important thing is … it’s not too late to stop yelling at your children.

What had become of me that I needed to scream at two precious little people who I loved more than life?

This article was originally published It has been republished here with permission.

I cherish the notes I receive from my children — whether they are scribbled with a Sharpie on a yellow sticky note or written in perfect penmanship on lined paper. But the Mother’s Day poem I recently received from my 9-year-old daughter was especially meaningful. In fact, the first line of the poem caused my breath to catch as warm tears slid down my face.

“The important thing about my mom is … she’s always there for me, even when I get in trouble.”

You see, it hasn’t always been this way.

In the midst of my highly distracted life, I started a new practice that was quite different from the way I behaved up until that point. I became a yeller. It wasn’t often, but it was extreme — like an overloaded balloon that suddenly pops and makes everyone in earshot startle with fear.

So what was it about my then 3-year-old and 6-year-old children that caused me to lose it? Was it how she insisted on running off to get three more beaded necklaces and her favorite pink sunglasses when we were already late? Was it that she tried to pour her own cereal and dumped the entire box on the kitchen counter? Was it that she dropped and shattered my special glass angel on the hardwood floor after being told not to touch it? Was it that she fought sleep like a prizefighter when I needed peace and quiet the most? Was it that the two of them fought over ridiculous things like who would be first out of the car or who got the biggest dip of ice cream?

Yes, it was those things — normal mishaps and typical kid issues and attitudes that irritated me to the point of losing control.

That is not an easy sentence to write. Nor is this an easy time in my life to relive because, truth be told, I hated myself in those moments. What had become of me that I needed to scream at two precious little people who I loved more than life?

Let me tell you what had become of me.

My distractions.

Excessive phone use, commitment overload, multiple-page to-do lists and the pursuit of perfection consumed me. And yelling at the people I loved was a direct result of the loss of control I was feeling in my life.

Inevitably, I had to fall apart somewhere. So I fell apart behind closed doors in the company of the people who meant the most to me.

Until one fateful day.

My oldest daughter had gotten on a stool and was reaching for something in the pantry when she accidentally dumped an entire bag of rice on the floor. As a million tiny grains pelted the floor like rain, my child’s eyes welled up with tears. And that’s when I saw it — the fear in her eyes as she braced herself for her mother’s tirade.

She’s scared of me, I thought with the most painful realization imaginable. My 6-year-old child is scared of my reaction to her innocent mistake.

With deep sorrow, I realized that was not the mother I wanted my children to grow up with, nor was it how I wanted to live the rest of my life.

Within a few weeks of that episode, I had myBreakdown-Breakthrough — my moment of painful awareness that propelled me on a Hands Free journey to let go of distraction and grasp what really mattered. That was two and a half years ago — two and half years of scaling back slowly on the excess and electronic distraction in my life, two and half years of releasing myself from the unachievable standard of perfection and societal pressure to “do it all.” As I let go of my internal and external distractions, the anger and stress pent up inside me slowly dissipated. With a lighten load, I was able to react to my children’s mistakes and wrongdoings in a more calm, compassionate and reasonable manner.

I said things like, “It’s just chocolate syrup. You can wipe it up, and the counter will be as good as new.”

(Instead of expelling an exasperated sigh and an eye roll for good measure.)

I offered to hold the broom while she swept up a sea of Cheerios that covered the floor.

(Instead of standing over her with a look of disapproval and utter annoyance.)

I helped her think through where she might have set down her glasses.

(Instead of shaming her for being so irresponsible.)

And in the moments when sheer exhaustion and incessant whining were about to get the best of me, I walked into the bathroom, shut the door, and gave myself a moment to exhale and remind myself they are children, and children make mistakes. Just like me.

And over time, the fear that once flared in my children’s eyes when they were in trouble disappeared. And thank goodness, I became a haven in their times of trouble — instead of the enemy from which to run and hide.

I am not sure I would have thought to write about this profound transformation had it not been for the incident that happened last Monday afternoon. In that moment, I got a taste of life overwhelmed and the urge to yell was on the tip of my tongue. I was nearing the final chapters of the book I am currently writing and my computer froze up. Suddenly the edits of three entire chapters disappeared in front of my eyes. I spent several minutes frantically trying to revert to the most recent version of the manuscript. When that failed to work, I consulted the time machine backup, only to find that it, too, had experienced an error. When I realized I would never recover the work I did on those three chapters, I wanted to cry — but even more so, I wanted to rage.

But I couldn’t because it was time to pick up the children from school and take them to swim team practice. With great restraint, I calmly shut my laptop and reminded myself there could be much, much worse problems than re-writing these chapters. Then I told myself there was absolutely nothing I could do about this problem right now.

When my children got in the car, they immediately knew something was wrong. “What’s wrong, Mama?” they asked in unison after taking one glimpse of my ashen face.

I felt like yelling, “I lost three days worth of work on my book!”

I felt like hitting the steering wheel with my fist because sitting in the car was the last place I wanted to be in that moment. I wanted to go home and fix my book — not shuttle kids to swim team, wring out wet bathing suits, comb through tangled hair, make dinner, wash dishes and do the nightly tuck in.

But instead I calmly said, “I’m having a little trouble talking right now. I lost part of my book. And I don’t want to talk because I feel very frustrated.”

“We’re sorry,” the oldest one said for the both of them. And then, as if they knew I needed space, they were quiet all the way to the pool. The children and I went about our day and although I was more quiet than usual, I didn’t yell and I tried my best to refrain from thinking about the book issue.

Finally, the day was almost done. I had tucked my youngest child in bed and was laying beside my oldest daughter for nightly Talk Time.

“Do you think you will get your chapters back?” my daughter asked quietly.

And that’s when I started to cry — not so much about the three chapters, I knew they could be rewritten — my heartbreak was more of a release due to the exhaustion and frustration involved in writing and editing a book. I had been so close to the end. To have it suddenly ripped away was incredibly disappointing.

To my surprise, my child reached out and stroked my hair softly. She said reassuring words like, “Computers can be so frustrating,” and “I could take a look at the time machine to see if I can fix the backup.” And then finally, “Mama, you can do this. You’re the best writer I know,” and “I’ll help you however I can.”

In my time of “trouble,” there she was, a patient and compassionate encourager who wouldn’t think of kicking me when I was already down.

My child would not have learned this empathetic response if I had remained a yeller. Because yelling shuts down the communication; it severs the bond; it causes people to separate — instead of come closer.

“The important thing is … my mom is always there for me, even when I get in trouble.”

My child wrote that about me, the woman who went through a difficult period that she’s not proud of, but she learned from. And in my daughter’s words, I see hope for others.

The important thing is … it’s not too late to stop yelling.

The important thing is … children forgive ± especially if they see the person they love trying to change.

The important thing is … life is too short to get upset over spilled cereal and misplaced shoes.

The important thing is … no matter what happened yesterday, today is a new day.

Today we can choose a peaceful response.

And in doing so, we can teach our children that peace builds bridges — bridges that can carry us over in times of trouble.


Rachel Macy Stafford is a certified special education teacher with a masters degree in education and 10 years of experience working with parents and children. In December 2010, she felt compelled to share her journey to let go of distraction and grasp what really matters by creating the blog Hands Free Mama. Her work has been featured in USA Today,,,, The Huffington Post and Reader’s Digest. Rachel recently released her first book, “Hands Free Mama,” which is a New York Times best-seller.


Success vs. Happiness vs. Kindness….Do our Children know the difference?

For today’s kids, achievement and happiness trumps caring for others

By Leslie Crawford, Senior Editor


girls hugging

Do you want your children to grow up to be kind and caring people?

Do they know it?

A new study from Harvard University has uncovered a vast disconnect between the message parents think they are sending their children about the importance of caring for others and the messages their  kids are receiving about prioritizing achievement and their own happiness over caring for others.

The survey, conducted through the Making Caring Common project at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, asked a broad range of more than 10,000 middle and high school students from 33 school districts across the country what they thought was more important: “caring for others,” “achieving at a high level,” or “being a happy person (feeling good most of the time).” 

Only 20 percent of the students said that caring for others was the most essential. That left 80 percent of kids who ranked achievement and their personal happiness as top priorities.

In a moment when the country is engaged in a knockdown about education standards, the middle class is disappearing, and there’s a steady drumbeat about our children’s lack of global competitiveness, this news shouldn’t surprise us. There’s a lot of anxiety about our children’s ability to pay the bills – and academic achievement is perhaps the one avenue most parents can imagine their children treading to avoid the hazards of a treacherous economic future.

But the finding that should make parents sit up and pay close attention is what the study calls the “rhetoric/reality gap” between what parents believe they’re communicating to their kids and what kids are hearing. The report, “The Children We Mean to Raise: The Real Messages Adults are Sending about Values,” states that in a 2012 study, nearly all parents – 96 percent to be precise – say developing moral 
character in kids is “very important, if not essential” and they highly valued their children being “honest, loving, and reliable.”

The study is part of a multifaceted effort to raise awareness about the importance of cultivating social emotional skills and ethics in our children. GreatSchools recently participated in a workshop (where this report was presented by its author) about how to galvanize a cultural shift in the  messages parents send this generation of children.

In the study, Harvard psychologist Richard Weissbourd and his co-authors found that when the students were asked to imagine how their parents and peers rank achievement, happiness, and caring, two-thirds answered that both their parents and peers would rank achievement above caring for others.

Students were three times more likely to agree than disagree with the statement: “My parents are prouder if I get good grades in my classes than if I’m a caring community member in class and school.” (The majority – 80 percent – of teachers, administrators, and school staff agreed with the kids, saying that they saw parents favoring achievement and happiness over caring for other people, too.) And the older the child, the less they focus on caring.

So what’s going on? According to the study, it appears our nation is suffering from a caring crisis, which – despite parents’ best efforts to remind their children to play fair and be nice – is also telling our children to look out for number one to get the A, the top-ranking college, and the six-figure job.

The news isn’t all bad. But if our goal really is to raise kind, ethical kids, the authors say it will take a shift in how we parent. Adults need to “walk the talk,” since young people, with their “razor sharp alertness to hypocrisy,” notice when their parents say one thing while prioritizing something else. The authors encourage parents to gut-check their messages around happiness and achievement in comparison to their messages around caring and fairness.

“Do we regularly tell our children, for example, ‘the most important thing is that you’re happy,’ or do we say that ‘the most important thing is that you act with integrity and are kind’? Do we insist that our children are not rude to us or never treat other people offhandedly? Do we insist that our children do the right thing even if it doesn’t make them happy or successful? Do we remind our children of their obligations to their communities, for example their classroom and schools, their teams and school choirs, and their neighborhoods?”

While parents and educators might worry that we’ll have to sacrifice achievement to emphasize caring, research suggests the opposite. In fact, good kids come out ahead, says Vicki Zakrzewski, a social emotional expert and the education director of the Greater Good Institute in Berkeley, California. 

“Children who are taught social-emotional skills rise in academic achievement,” says Zakrzewski, who notes that research has found that children who link their passions to something greater than themselves do better in school and in their careers years later. “Success and achievement doesn’t mean you forego those around you. You can extend care and compassion to others and be successful.”

Follow @LeslieMCrawford


Defusing the Family Feud

Defusing the family feud: Steps to repairing strained or broken relationships

By ,

Deseret News National Edition

As a young adult, Tony Marren left the faith he immersed himself in as a boy. His choice hurt his family and surprised others, with a fallout so intense he moved 2,255 miles away.

 Maggie Noud left her marriage after three years, sure she loved someone else. The damage from that action included strained relationships with her parents and sister, who also felt betrayed.

Family rifts can form over hurt feelings, disagreements about lifestyle choices or finances, religious differences, sibling rivalries, upset over who inherited Aunt Ruby’s china, jealousy and more. In-laws and step families can drive wedges, sometimes deliberately. Siblings have been torn apart by battles over care for Mom or Dad. Parents have been angered by an adult child’s “bad” career or education choices.

The reasons for rifts make a long and colorful list. The path to reconciliation, however, is in many ways more formulaic, said experts consulted for this story.

It took work, but Noud, of Washington, Missouri, and Marren, of Provo, Utah, are both back in close and loving contact with their families. Experts say reconciliation is usually possible if people face their issues, listen thoughtfully and give each other a break. They recommend some steps to guide that journey.

The Birth of Anger

Troy Dunn, TV’s “The Locator” and author of  “Family: The Good F Word,” loves family — and not just his own. “When the world outside is horrible, evil and destructive, if the home inside is peaceful, it can be a great, great life. The opposite is not true: If your career is great but inside the four walls, life is crumbling, there is nothing one can do to find happiness. The center of the universe is falling apart,” he said.

Dunn believes the most common reason families unravel is neglect, “things we do for perfect strangers that slowly we begin to not do for the people closest to us. You tolerate annoying strangers but snap at family and say things you would not say to a stranger in the mall.”

People tend to forgive the hurtful words of friends when asked, but if the hurt comes from a relative, grudges may linger, he said.

“I believe time heals almost no wounds,” said Dunn. “What heals a wound is good treatment. That doesn’t come from sitting there, waiting. … People 15 years later can recite with incredible accuracy the words that wounded them. The only way is to replace them with new words.”

It takes one person willing to slip a note in a crack of the barrier between two people — and the other must be willing to consider it. Both acts are brave, he said.

Joshua Coleman, a psychologist in the San Francisco area, regularly sees parents cut off by adult children, parents separated by divorce from children of all ages, and families strained by remarriage, sibling rivalries or bickering over inheritance. A daughter-in-law is often in the thick of things, said Coleman, co-chairman of The Council on Contemporary Families.

People tend to think families are ripped apart only by dramatic events such as abuse or neglect, but Coleman said rifts more often begin with a push for independence. For example, “helicopter” parents, hovering over their kids, may find themselves deserted later by children who want less interference.

Parents unwilling to allow their children to develop fully as individuals risk broken relationships, said Sharon Gilchrest O’Neill, a marriage and family therapist in Westchester County, New York, and author of  “A Short Guide to a Happy Marriage.” For example, “Daddy’s an engineer and would love everyone to be an engineer. You need to allow kids to evolve or a lot of miscommunication happens.”


Sibling Rivalry Part 3 of 3

For a quick review of Part 1 on Sibling Rivalry
For a quick review of Part 2 on Sibling Rivalry


 – Enjoy

Sibling Rivalry

The Big Book of Parenting Solutions

by Michele Borba Ed. D


Red Flags

Fighting words and actions between brothers and sisters; resentment and competition; constant or intense intermittent friction and hurt feelings; family disharmony due to constant sibling bickering.
STEP 3. Rapid Response

  • Stay neutral. Most research finds that the more involved you get in your kids’ tiffs, the more likely they are to engage in sibling rivalry. Siblings need to learn how to work out problems on their own. So intervene before an argument escales. If the conflict does get heated, stay neutral and make suggestions only when your kids seem stuck.
  • Find time alone for each child. Depending on your schedule, set aside blocks of time when each of your children can have your exclusive attention. While the other siblings are gone or another adult watches them, take turns taking each of the children on special outings, such as shopping, seeing a movie, or getting ice cream.
  • Let each kid tell the story. In the case of the hurt feelings or a battle, ask each kid to take turns explaining what happened. Doing so helps each child (especially a younger or less verbal one) feel that he has been heard. As each child speaks ask the other sibling to focus on him and really listen. No interrupting is allowed, and everyone gets a turn. You might need to set a timer for “equal talking time.” When the sibling is finished, briefly restate his view to show you do understand. You might then ask, “What can you do to solve this problem?” Hint: Don’t ask “What happened?” or “Who started it?” You’ll only get a one sided version, which can escalate the conflict even further.
  • Anticipate and distract. when you see their tempers rising or one kid’s patience maxed, it’s time to use the “distract or separate” method: “Let’s get out the Monopoly game” “how about a Popsicle?” “How about you two take a break from each other for five minutes?” Just use this strategy before their conflict has escalated to the point of no return.


The Five Simple House Rules to Curb Sibling Bickering

Here are five house rules to curb sibling tiffs. Each rule must be enforced consistently for results.

1. No Yelling. Family members must use calm voices only – no yelling allowed. If talks get heated, anyone can make a “time-out” hand sign hinting that he needs to cool down.

2. No taking without asking. Permission of the owner must be granted before borrowing, using, or taking property. (This is a major cause of sibling conflict, especially with tweens.)

3. No hurtful behaviors. Hitting, name-calling, and hurtful behaviors are never allowed and will result in a consequence (time-out for a younger child; loss of a privilege for an older one).

4. No involvement without evidence. Get involved only if you actually saw or heard the conflict. If your kids seek your help with no evidence, suggest that they use Rock, Paper, Scissors. It keeps you neutral, and your kids just might adopt the strategy for themselves.

5. No Tattling. This works wonders in curbing sibling resentment with younger kids: “unless you tell me something to keep your brother out of trouble or from being hurt, I won’t listen.”


Part 2 – Is your Summertime” Heating Up” with Sibling Rivalry? Here are some great tips for” Cooling it Down!”

 Sibling Rivalry
Part 2 of 3
For a quick review of Part 1 on Sibling Rivalry
– Enjoy


Sibling Rivalry

The Big Book of Parenting Solutions

by Michele Borba Ed. D


Red Flags

Fighting words and actions between brothers and sisters; resentment and competition; constant or intense intermittent friction and hurt feelings; family disharmony due to constant sibling bickering.

Step 2. Develop Habits for Change

  • Encourage outside friendships. Each sibling needs his own group of friends outside your family. In some cases you may want to be sure that if one child’s friends are coming over, the sibling doesn’t interfere or annoy them. This is especially important for tween.

  • See it from the other side. Kids often get so caught up in feeling they’re being treated unfairly that they don’t stop to think how the other person might be feeling. So ask, “See it from the other side now. How does your sister feel?” You could also ask, “how would your sister describe what happened?” Some parents even ask each child to describe the conflict in writing from the other sibling’s point of view and then compare the two versions.

  • Start family meetings. Don’t let animosity build up among siblings. It will only lead to more conflicts and resentment. Instead, provide the opportunity for each child to be able to express his feelings and concerns and work through issues he considers unfair. Family meetings are one way to air differences and talk though siblings’ problems. This is a great time to teach your kids to use the Fair Fighting rules (see the One Simple Solution box below). A fun way to begin the meeting is to have each member say something nice about each other. (Yes, it’s hard at the beginning, but if you keep it up, kids actually start thinking of nice things to say before the meeting.) some families set up a “concern Box” where kids can request  a “mediation” with the family member and a parent present to help them work things out. The secret is to find a way for kids to vent their feelings in a healthy way.


Teach “Fair Fighting Rules” to Help Siblings Solve Conflicts

University of Michigan Medical School: Research shows that siblings will fight more in families where there is no understanding of acceptable ways to solve conflicts. So help your kids learn the four crucial “Fair Fighting Rules” they need to resolve their bickering and keep things FAIR.

F – Focus on facts. Tell your brother or sister what he or she did that bothers you. Stick just o the facts so that you don’t put down the other person and cause hurt feelings.

A – Agree on a fair alternative. No more going to Mom or Dad unless someone is hurt or it’s just too big to solve on your own. Instead, think up options until you can agree on one solution that is fair for both.

I – Use and “I” message to say what’s bothering you. Start the message with “I” and then say what’s bugging you. “I get made when you take my stuff without asking.”

R – Remain Respectful. No name-calling. No put-downs. Take turns listening respectfully to each side without interrupting until you can work things out fairly.


Part 1 – Is your Summertime” Heating Up” with Sibling Rivalry? Here are some great tips for” Cooling it Down!”

Ahhhh, summertime and the living is……EASY?  Well, I guess that depends on whether you have children AND whether or not they decide to get along well together, at least that has been my experience as a mom!  If your summer has heated up with kids, bickering, fighting whinning and tattle-taling – Here are some great tips for solving the problems associated with “Sibling Rivalry.”

 – Enjoy



Sibling Rivalry

The Big Book of Parenting Solutions

by Michele Borba Ed. D.


Red Flags

Fighting words and actions between brothers and sisters; resentment and competition; constant or intense intermittent friction and hurt feelings; family disharmony due to

constant sibling bickering.


The Change to Parent For

Your children will appreciate one another and battle less by learning habits to help them get along, share their concerns, and solve their conflicts peacefully.

Question: “My Kids constantly bicker, but whenever It try to help out, they complain that I”m not fair and accuse me of favoring the other sibling. I can’t win! How do I

help them get along?”

Answer: Don’t go crazy trying to make things equal among siblings-it’s impossible! And don’t have unrealistic expectations for continued harmony, because resentment is inevitable and sometimes unavoidable. The truth is, your kids don’t have to like each other or even get along every minute of the day, but they do have to respect each other’s feelings and be considerate of the need for empathy and stability in the entire family. If you stress that principle, you will increase the likelihood that they will get along. (After all, the benchmarks of any strong relationship are empathy and respect.)

Why Change?

“Mahhhmmm, Jacob’s touching me!” “Can’t we give Jennifer away?” “I hate my brother!” “Why can’t Sara find her own friends?”

Ah, the blissful sounds of siblings struggling to get along, Most of us have visions of our offspring being the world’s best buddies, but with kids living under the same roof, some bickering is bound to be the outcome. The closer your kids are in age, the more likely there are to be squabbles. keep in mind that research shows that kids spend about a third of their free time with siblings-that’s more time than they spend with parents, teachers, or friends. Although you can’t force your kids to like each other, there are ways to fend off some of those battles, and some skills you can teach that will minimize jealousies and help your kids appreciate one another, so that they are more apt to get along (and just maybe learn to like each other).

Signs and Symptoms

All siblings will squabble and have tiffs every now and then, but here are signs that their rivalry and battles are in need of an outside kick in the you-know-where.


  • Escalating arguments. Name-calling, yelling or aggression (hitting, kicking, punching) are intensifying; you can’t leave the kids alone with one another.

  • Increased animosity. Siblings are destroying each others’ possessions or relationships.

  • Deteriorating emotional well-being. One sibling or both feel less loved or favored; self-esteem and feelings of belonging as a member of your family are affected.

  • Family disharmony. Despite your best efforts, the relationship between the siblings is strained or the rivalry is escalating, and the conflict is having an impact your family’s happiness and stability.


Step 1. Early intervention

  • Discover the reason. Here are common causes of sibling rivalry and battles. Check any that may apply to your family and then consider if there is any simple solution to try.

  • Your kids temperament, personalities, abilities, priorities, and styles are very different.

  • Siblings have different parents, you are a blended family.

  • Siblings are not given opportunities to share feelings of discontent, so animosity builds.

  • Siblings are not allowed to explore their individual interests or have privacy; they have no “along time” to develop relationships.

  • Financial difficulties, marital conflicts, illness, or trauma lead to strained family dynamics.

  • Siblings lack vocabulary, skills, or maturity to solve problems or share concerns.

  • Siblings are imitating adult behavior. (You are fighting with your spouse, sibling, mother, boss.)

  • One sibling has specials needs or is overly aggressive or impulsive.

Identify the trigger. Try to witness-without their awareness-a sibling conflict. Tune in to their behaviors before the fighting starts.

What behaviors, perpetrated by one or both kids, escalate the situation, such as insulting, hitting, swearing, or biting?

What are the common battle issues? (For instance: both kids want to play with the same item or use the computer at the same time; each wants to watch a different TV program.)

Is there any solution you could implement that might minimize or prevent the problem? (For example, you might buy duplicate toys, arrange a computer schedule, teach a skill that might defuse the conflict before it becomes full blown.)

Once the conflict began, how did you respond, and how did your kids react to your response? did you escalate, reduce, or neutralize the conflict?

Is there one simple solution you can implement to reduce the chance that the same problem will arise in the future?

  • Take a reality check. Might you be playing favorites or putting too much pressure on one kid or another? Be honest Do you…

Expect more of one child?

Give one kid more attention?

Take sides?

Listen to ones kids side more or assume one kid is right?

Compare your kids in front of each other?

Encourage rivalry in academics, sports, or popularity by acknowledging one kid over another?

Pay equal attention to each child’s’ hobbies, friends, school and interests?

Distribute chores, rewards, and opportunities fairly?

Light up with the same intensity when you see each of your kids?

Take time to write a list of what you like most and what you like least about each child. If your list is more slanted to one side or the other, it may signal that you have a potential problem. Do you need to change your response? How?

  • Reduce sibling competition. Watch out for daily moments that may actually be setting your kids up as rivals. here are a few things to avoid because they can lead to resentment:

  • Never compare. Don’t say “Why can’t you bat like your brother?” A child may begin to think that he is inferior to a sibling in this parents’ eyes. “When your sister was your age, she always got all A’s.”

  • Avoid those labels. Follow this parenting rule: unless a label or nickname is respectful or builds the child up, don’t use it. Those labels (“Klutz,” “Slowpoke,” “Chubby”) can be self-fulling; they can derail self-esteem and remain with your child through adulthood.

  • Encourage teamwork. Stop those contests that force siblings to compete against each other. (Who can get dressed the fastest?” “Who will brush his teeth the most with week?”) Play more cooperative games where there are no winners and losers. Instead of making sibs compete, challenge them to beat the clock.

  • Nurture unique strengths and differences. Each sibling’s competing to define who he is as an individual often exacerbates sibling rivalry. So acknowledge each child’s special talent that sets him apart from his siblings. For example, if you have a child who excels in art, he’s the sibling whom you supply with colored pencils and sketchbooks and encourage to take art classes.  The trick is to cultivate each child’s’ natural talent and then find opportunities to show it off so that both kids aren’t vying for the same “fame.”

  • Give a little privacy. If siblings spend too much together time (and it’s not their choice), then find ways to separate them or give them each a bit of his own space. If they share a bedroom, then divide the closet and even the room in half; give each his own desk, bulletin board, bookshelf, clothes, drawers, and toy bins. If possible, arrange their schedule to keep them separate (without your going crazy): different playdates, different swim schedules. Is there anything you can do to give them two “alone time”?

  • Acknowledge cooperation. When you notice your children sharing or playing cooperatively or trying to resolve issues peacefully, let them know you are proud of their behavior. If the children know that you appreciate their efforts, they are more inclined to repeat them. “I really appreciate how you two worked things out calmly this time. Good for you .” “I noticed how you both made an effort to help each other figure out how to put the DVD’s away. Nice job.”



June 16, 2014 – Part 2

STEP 2 Rapid Response &  “The Five Simple House Rules to Curb Sibling Bickering”

June 23, 2014 – Part 3

STEP 3 Develop Habits for Change  & “Teach “Fair Fighting Rules” to Help Siblings Solve Conflicts.



Now that Summer is here… What do I do about “Screen-time?” Does it really matter THAT much?

“Screens, technology, gaming, software, hardware, the internet”…as parents these terms may be very familiar to us.  In fact, they may even be the tools and skills we might use in our jobs and everyday lives.  If so, hopefully, we have learned to manage quite well, the new and exciting upgraded and completely debugged -version of the latest and greatest “app” along with our time, resources, and priorities.  We will then be models of “how to” instead of “how NOT to!”  Helping our kids learn to navigate these tricky waters can be challenging – especially if you have children of varying ages and interests and if you have one or two who are, shall we say….overly fond of screens and technology!  If you are finding yourself in this category, you are not alone!  Many parents struggle with placing limits on themselves as well as setting them up for the whole family.  Here is an article from Raising Arizona Kids Magazine that offers several professional’s opinions on the subject, including suggestions and research.

I really enjoyed it and hope you do to!

Have a great week!


How can we manage screen time?

By Alexandra Muller Arboleda | May 2014

Technology is exciting, enticing and ever evolving. Its seductiveness has made “screen time”—time spent using an electronic device such as a television, computer, smart phone, tablet or game console—this generation’s most common parent/child power struggle.

How can we distinguish between “good” and “bad” time spent in the technology playground? How can we create reasonable expectations for its use? And how can we get our kids on board?



Michael Handelman, of Phoenix, is the owner of Playtime Interactive, which designs and builds educational games for kids. He has designed and produced hundreds of children’s interactive products and has worked with companies such as LeapFrog, PBS Kids, Pearson Education and Mattel. Handelman has two children: Maya and Lila.

Look for the gems amid the clutter

By Michael Handelman

As a developer of kids’ interactive media, I have played thousands of video games and apps over the past 14 years and can say that most are not worth a minute of any child’s time and energy. I think the same can be said about most TV shows and movies—and even many books.

So why do I create video games and at times encourage my own two kids to grab an iPad or pick up an Xbox controller? Because once you sift through the heaps of bad content—there are more than a million apps in the Apple store alone—you will find some real gems.

It’s important to view these devices as tools that can either suck away precious minutes or enable wonderful experiences, whether for educational and social reasons or just plain fun.

When my 10-year-old daughter needed help with her fractions homework, I downloaded an app that quickly helped her learn concepts her worksheets couldn’t adequately convey. When my 7-year-old had questions about the human body, we played a game that led to valuable discussions. I love seeing the Video Star music videos my kids make together and with friends.

My advice is to educate yourself. Consult good review sites, including free sites like Common Sense Media, Tech With Kids, appo Learning or subscription-based Children’s Technology Review.

Play the games with your kids. Teach them to be mindful of their minutes. After all, screen time is not necessarily good or bad—it’s what you do with it that counts.


D. Scott Herrmann

D. Scott Herrmann, PhD, ABPP, is a licensed psychologist, board-certified specialist in clinical child and adolescent psychology and co-founding member of Arizona Child Psychology, PLLC. He is the father of Carlie.

Enforce boundaries

By D. Scott Herrmann

Managing screen time is the most significant parenting challenge of the 21st century. There are many wonderful technological resources available to youth today, but children and teens are not mature enough to regulate the use of them.

Enforcing boundaries is important to keep kids safe. Screen time should be limited by developmental age and content should be closely monitored. But nailing down specific time limits is fraught with challenges because so many factors are involved.

As the bill payers, parents hold the “keys to the kingdom.” Don’t be afraid to set appropriate limits with technology and screen time, even if you get pushback. Harness the power of these devices by limiting their use and by making their access contingent upon good behavior.

Here are some boundaries our practice recommends:
• Allow non-educational screen time only when obligations such as homework and chores are complete.
• In divorce situations, avoid parenting by handhelds; the parent who is physically present is the one on duty.
• Teen drivers should store handhelds in the trunk while driving.
• Because hackers can hijack webcams, never allow handhelds in bathrooms or bedrooms.
• Do not permit access to handhelds and screens during sleep hours.
• Establish technology-free days or zones (the dinner table, for example) to facilitate family communication.


Jennifer Serlin

Jennifer Serlin, PhD, of Phoenix, is a licensed psychologist who also teaches at Scottsdale Community College. Her Scottsdale practice specializes in performance and sport psychology, emotional intelligence, parenting and interpersonal dynamics and communication. She has three children: Isabel, Hannah and Jonah.

Keep it mindful

By Jennifer Serlin, PhD

When screen time is intentional, it is a tool that can enhance our lives. Intentional, or mindful, screen time is a useful way for parents to model and teach focus and emotional regulation—critical skills that facilitate well-being and success throughout children’s lives.

Technology use by default—TV on in the background, phone always in hand—disrupts meaningful interactions and activities. It’s OK to use technology to “veg out” for a brief period of time, but research indicates that after 30 minutes we are no longer relaxing but entering a state of inertia that actually saps our energy.

As parents we need to be aware of the messages we are sending with our own screen time. We need to model appropriate behaviors.

Mixed messages are the strongest ones. If I tell my kids to turn off the computer while I’m sending a text message (even if it’s about carpooling), that mixed message diminishes my credibility and authority.

When children are younger, transitioning in and out of screen time can be difficult. Limit screen time and help children learn to regulate these transitions. Giving your child a two-minute window to begin shutting down and having another activity lined up can help reduce the jarring effect of unplugging. During the tween years—when screen time expands to include cell phones—boundaries and parental modeling are particularly important. Teenagers still need help with limits on screen use but must begin learning to implement their own mindful practices.

Intentional technology use reminds us that we are only controlled by screen time if we let ourselves be.


William V. Fabricius

William V. Fabricius, PhD, of Tempe and New York City, a developmental psychologist and associate professor of psychology at Arizona State University, has studied the social-cognitive development of children from early childhood to adolescence. Fabricius has two grown children: Anna and John.

Personal interactions matter

By William V. Fabricius, PhD

There are two things to remember when it comes to questions about kids and screen time. One is that the child’s brain is programmed through adolescence in ways that will be hard to change later. The other is that the only way children learn the most important things they need to know about the physical and social world is by interacting with real things and with people face-to-face.

So it’s a trade-off. The more screen time, the less their brains are learning about the real world. And the younger the child, the more consequential this trade-off becomes.

The amount of information young brains must process is staggering: motor control of their own bodies; things and spaces in their environment and how to use them; people and how to interact with them; and last but not least, language. They learn none of that from interacting with images on screens.

As children get older, what they learn about people—themselves included—becomes increasingly complex. So do the language skills needed to communicate. People and language skills develop from face-to-face time. Children learn the most basic things about themselves—self-esteem and the ability to express themselves without fear of rejection—from family interactions.

Contrary to popular belief, adolescents want to spend time with their parents! Experience with the real physical and social world makes a difference in how children’s brains are programmed, and parents have 18 years to see to that.


Harry Lee Broome Jr.

Harry Lee Broome Jr., MD, FAAP, is a pediatrician at MVP Kids in Phoenix and Avondale. He has three children: Payson, Evan and Anna.

Keep kids moving

By Harry Lee Broome Jr., MD, FAAP

I frequently enter an exam room and see a 2-year-old playing on his mother’s iPhone. Occasionally that child will look up and ask for his mother’s password. When I ask older children, “What are your interests or hobbies?” the most common answer is “video games.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends fewer than two hours of daily recreational screen time for children—and no unsupervised screen time for children under 3. I can assure you that advice is not commonly followed.

One important goal in limiting screen time is to increase physical activity and improve fitness and health.

Food consumption while watching television is associated with increased BMI (body mass index) and contributes to obesity. Increased screen time, especially on mobile handheld devices, has other deleterious effects, including texting-associated car crashes. In my practice, doctors have treated numerous cases of texting-related wrist pain, laptop skin burns and Wii injuries.

Social effects include children and teens spending dinnertime in local restaurants staring at phones instead of conversing. Bullying has begotten cyber-bullying.

Parental monitoring is vital to our children’s health and safety. Serve as examples. Set and stick to rules and limits and explain why the limits are in place.

Track screen hours for a week or two then set achievable goals to reduce the total. Some examples: no games after dinner, no TV or phone use during dinner, no phones or texting in the car and no TV, games or computers in bed.

Don’t allow unsupervised screen time for children under age 3. And certainly don’t give them your passwords!