About us

Welcome to our page. We are moms, educators and therapists who hold a firm belief in gentle, mindful parenting. We hope to empower you with current research, personal stories, and inspired readings to help you approach parenting through a mindful awareness of how your connection to your children affects their present and future behaviors and emotional intelligence. When children are treated with kindness, respect and unconditional acceptance they have the freedom to grow in to healthy, compassionate and responsible adults.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Are Kids Silly?

Silly. This word has been on my mind a lot lately. A friend of mine brought it up when she witnessed someone call her child "silly" after deciding to sit on the ground next to the car at carpool. Her child wasn't being "silly" at all; she was actually having a difficult time, feeling tired and overwhelmed, and was in need of  some empathy and help. Ever since my friend's story I've been paying a lot more attention to the word "silly" and how it's used. I've also become very cognizant of my own use of the word "silly", and I've paid attention to how my daughter uses the word too. We've had some interesting converstions about the word "silly" over the past couple of weeks. Here's a few bits of these conversations:

Me: "what does 'silly' mean?"
Daughter: "it's when you do something to make someone laugh."

Me: "what does it mean when someone says, 'you're so silly'?"
Daughter: "it means you're being funny, even when they don't want you to."

Me: "do you like to be silly?"
Daughter: "Mhmm. I like to have fun."

Me: "what do you think of being 'silly'?"
Daughter: "it's okay. sometimes it's fun to be silly."

...and most recently, "mom, this is silly" (makes a funny face and noise), "you try it" (she pauses while I do my best imitation). "no, that's not silly. you don't know how to be silly." Oh, ok. LOL

And then I wondered, "what is it about this word that has my attention?" Of course, the obvious part was in my friend's story: sometimes we ignore what's really going on with children, and just call their behavior "silly." Usually this happens when we're tired or distracted. It might feel like a playful way to acknowledge our children's behavior; an attempt to acknowledge them and avoid being critical, demanding, or derisive. I've been there. I get that.

But what does my child "get" when I call her behavior "silly"?

For Example:

My daugher comes running into the room where the adults are talking with a skirt on her head, mismatched socks and performs her own little jig while singing her favorite song (this really happened while we were visiting Grandma in KY).

She's displaying creativity, sponteneity, and playful energy; she's looking to connect, entertain, bring out smiles and engage with us...and she succeeds! We laugh, connect, and have fun together. But how would this scenario play out if I responded by saying, "you're so silly"? Maybe nothing. Except she begins to label these gifts as silly - all this creativity, sponteneity, playfulness, connection, engagement, it all gets labeled as silly. And if I REALLY think about it, the term "silly" would really be just a way to brush her off. It would stifle the connection and engagement. It would create distance.

I understand how the term "silly" can also be very benign and even create connection. Last night a friend of mine came over for dinner with her daughter. After dinner my friend said, "it's ok to be silly here. Let's be silly!" And so the girls made funny faces and noises, they jumped and squealed and laughed. We all felt very connected and engaged with each other. So what's the difference?

The difference is the meaning or intention behind the word. And this is where it gets dicey. How an adult interprets language can be very different from how a child interprets language. For that matter, adults miscommunicate with each other all the time! So language IS very important. So here's some things I try to keep in mind when I choose the language I use (which isn't to say I don't screw up...good grief do I):

How would I feel if someone called me silly right now?
Would I feel accepted or rejected?
Would I feel acknowledged or dismissed?
Would I feel valued or unimportant?
When I really think about it, how would I feel if I came in to show someone something and they said, "you're so silly"? I'd probably have lots of feelings: confused, angry, belittled, misunderstood, etc. (feel free to use the comments section to help me out here!)


I know lots of loving, beautiful, amazing people...teachers, therapists, childcare workers, friends, myself, etc. who casually use the term "silly."

"You're so silly"
"That's so silly"
"Don't be silly"
"Isn't she silly"
"Why are you so silly"
So I began to ask myself WHY these phrases come up, and the conclusion I came to is this: we get tired and we have our own needs. Parenting, teaching, guiding, and caring for someone else who is learning to navigate the world around them can be exhausting. And sometimes we see a behavior we don't like or are too tired to understand, so we simply call it "silly." But I want to be mindful of my language and interaction even when I'm tired. So I came up with some alternate ways to engage when our minds are tired. Ways that are more respectful of children's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors; ways that may even help us recognize what they're really trying to say to us, but at least don't devalue their gifts.
You are making faces and laughing.
You sat on the ground.
That noise made me laugh.
You are laughing and pointing.
I see you put that on your head.
I see you have paint on your face.
I hear a noise that's different.
I think you're trying to tell me something.
Are you speaking in a different language?
Did you make up a new language?
You're blowing air over your tongue
You have so much energy
You are very excited
Wow, look at that
The difference is that there's no labeling of the behavior. We are simply noticing it without placing a judgment on it. We are naming what it is we see without making it positive or negative. We are letting our child know we see them and we continue to accept them and the myriad of behaviors they engage in to express their beautiful individuality and gifts.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Recommended Books

I have a love/hate relationship with the idea of recommending books. On the one hand, I love to pass along the book titles and authors that influence my approach to parenting and view of children. If it weren't for those books and authors I would not be the mother I am today. On the other hand, there are a lot of books with a lot of great ideas...that also include ideas I do not embrace in my own practice or philosophy. So I'm torn. But not really. Just as I have faith in a child's ability to grow, learn and become a vibrant, compassionate, moral and capable being, I also have faith in us as parents to shift our parenting paradigm by learning about new approaches and trusting our deep inner-connectedness with our children. I feel my connection in my chest; I know if something is right for my daughter by how it resonates between us and deep within my chest. For some it may be their stomach or behind their eyes; one mother told me she felt it deep in her bones. So wherever you resonate with your child's well-being and your parent-child connection, I feel confident you will listen to it as you grow, learn and become a vibrant, compassionate, moral and capable parent, knowing the impact every interaction has on your child. And I hope you will find something useful in our book resource lists.

In order for us to change any habit in our lives we often need a replacement behavior, whether it's our eating habits, exercise habits, or our parenting habits. Ultimately, as parents, we need a paradigm shift; a new way to view our children to replace our old, inaccurate view of children. A new way to be present with our children to replace our old ways of putting our expectations on them.
You can purchase any of these books through our Amazon Affiliate store here.
Here are some books to help us as parents begin to reconceptualize our role as parents and our view of children, and promote mutual cooperation & respect while providing alternatives to punishment (all ages):
  • Unconditional Parenting, by Alfie Kohn
  • Simplicity Parenting, by Kim John Payne
  • Punished by Rewards, by Alfie Kohn
  • How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will talk, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
  • ScreamFree Parenting, by Hal Runkel
  • The Whole-Brain Child

Teenagers have a special place in my heart. Maybe because I used to be one, or maybe because I like their courage to be themselves in a world where they are clearly misunderstood and undervalued. Whatever the reason, there are some great books to help us better understand our teenagers, their developmental goals, and the reasons for their seemingly "rebellious" or "lazy" behaviors. I hope you will enjoy these, and I hope to find more to read and add to the list. 

  • Simplicity Parenting, by Kim John Payne
  • How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish
  • ScreamFree Parenting, by Hal Runkel
  • Parenting Teenagers (STEPS), by Don Dinkmeyer

Self-care is crucial for parents because as our inner resources wear thin so does our patience. Self-care might mean healing our own childhood wounds, creating new healthy food or exercise habits, simplifying the family's schedule, or taking time for ourselves to read, take a bath, watch a movie, or just space out. Whatever part of your self-care regimen needs a boost, I hope you will find some helpful ideas in these books. This list is not exhaustive and I welcome suggestions that I will add as I read them!

  • Simplicity Parenting, by Kim John Payne
  • Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting, by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Myla Kabat-Zinn
  • Buddhism for Mothers: A Calm Approach for Caring for Yourself and Your Children, by Sarah Napthal
  • Prisoners of Childhood (and/or) The Drama of the Gifted Child, by Alice Miller

Here are some books on my "To Read" list written by authors who share similar gentle parenting appraches:

  • Two Thousand Kisses A Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages, by L. R. Knost
  • Siblings Without Rivalry, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
  • Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids, by Dr. Laura Markham
  • Playful Parenting, by Lawrence Cohen
  • Promoting Resilience in Children, by Colby Pearce

Websites and Links: I just want to include some links to make your research easier....

Please let us know your favorite books that offer alternatives to coercion and punishment and help reclaim a positive view of children!

You can purchase any of these books through our Amazon Affiliate store here.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Phrases That Inadvertently Foster Sibling Rivalry, and What to Say Instead

One of the challenging parts of parenting is being mindful of the things we say. Our words are our children’s inner voice. And many times we may not even realize the ways in which our words influence their behavior. Remember that comparing our children to each other promotes competition, not cooperation. Here are some phrases that foster sibling rivalry, and what we can say instead.

WHAT WE SAY:   Your brother eats his vegetables. Why don’t you?
WHAT THEY HEAR/FEEL:   You’re not as good as your brother unless you perform.
WHAT TO SAY INSTEAD:   I see you’re both still eating. Does anyone want seconds?

Food can easily become a power struggle.  Promote the idea that our children know when their bodies are full and avoid comparing, which only increases competition.

WHAT WE SAY:   We have to leave the playground now;  your brother needs to nap.
WHAT THEY HEAR/FEEL:  Your brother is more important than you.  They feel resentful.
WHAT TO SAY INSTEAD:   It’s time to go home. 

Keep it generic and don’t forget to give ample warning that it’s almost time to go – “five more minutes…..three more minutes….one more minute….is there one more thing you would like to do before we leave?”  If they need a reason then keep it simple:  “ we've been here a long time and now it’s time to get home.  We can come back another day.”

WHAT WE SAY:   Give that toy to your little brother.  You need to share.
WHAT THEY HEAR/FEEL:  Your brother is incapable and you must sacrifice your happiness for his. They feel angry/resentful.
WHAT TO SAY INSTEAD:  It looks like your brother would like a turn.  May he have a turn when you are done, please?

Remember to empower your younger child to ask and wait for their turn when their sibling is finished with his own.

WHAT WE SAY:   Go help your brother.
WHAT THEY HEAR/FEEL:  You are more capable and more powerful than your brother.  They feel more powerful.  They feel like they have the right to intervene without asking the younger child first.
WHAT TO SAY INSTEAD:  Your brother looks like he needs help.  Would you like to ask him if he wants your help?

While we often try to promote kindness, we sometimes forget to offer younger children respect too.  Encouraging them to respect each other’s space from the start will pay off in the long run.  It’s important to remember that we have to be the voice for our younger children.

WHAT WE SAY:   Why is your brother crying?  What did you do?
WHAT THEY HEAR/FEEL:  You are no good and always to blame.  They feel resentment and learn that the truth doesn't matter because things will always be their fault.  Their siblings may learn to be sneaky and try to get away with things by allowing their older sibling to be the scapegoat.
WHAT TO SAY INSTEAD:  You’re brother is feeling so sad.  Can you help me figure out what's going on?

Sometimes our children will have disagreements. Try to keep them in the same boat and focus on finding solutions rather than finding someone to blame.

WHAT WE SAY:  Why did you do that?  You’re older!  You know better!  He’s smaller than you!
WHAT THEY HEAR/FEEL:  You are not allowed to make mistakes anymore.  They feel sad, defeated, and the desire to be a baby again.
WHAT TO SAY INSTEAD:  I see that you _____.  You made a mistake.

Remember to always validate and empathize no matter the age of the child.  Love and empathy wins every time.  Approach every conflict with a heart of working together toward a resolution.  Comparisons only foster rivalry.

~ Amy & Ashley