Thursday, April 16, 2015


"You're Grounded!"  Uh oh - you shouted in anger but now what????

I recently read an article on Facebook entitled “Congratulations – You’re Grounded”.   It detailed a list of chores with point values and told the errant child he needed to earn 500 points to get ungrounded.  A friend asked my opinion which I couldn't  reduce to a nice sound bite so here is my reply!

My first thought was that most everything on the list was a basic chore that kids should be doing anyway – as members of “Team Family”.  Kids don’t make much money so they can’t help pay the bills.  But their family is the most important team they will ever belong to.  Every sports team I know of requires all members to work hard at making the team successful.  A family should be no different!  So chores it is – from a young age!  Chores are not about punishment – they are about learning to run a house, learning to be responsible and helping to create the free time for fun family activities.

So the list struck me as much too simplistic.  The only truly extra chores on the list were washing and detailing the family car and writing a nice letter to a family member (I liked that one!).  Everything else was the fabric of daily life – washing dishes, emptying the dishwasher, cleaning one’s own room, vacuuming, laundry, taking out garbage, etc.    If you teach kids to do chores from about age 4 onward, it becomes a core responsibility of the household – occasional grumbling, of course, but no blatant refusal to participate if handled without too much drama.

Now on to grounding:   Grounding should not be used lightly.  It should be reserved for majorly unacceptable behaviors – times when your child needs a huge wake up call.  If over used (like any punishment) it loses its WOW factor and serves to create hostile, rebellious kids – probably because over use generally means micromanagement and micromanagement creates rebellion!  Micromanagement also means you are not giving kids the freedom they need to learn life’s important lessons by trial and error – but that is a whole other topic!

So if a child has committed a great big, terrible, awful behavior, grounding makes good sense.  And at its core, the chore list meant the kid couldn't just sit alone in his house to serve his sentence.  That is a GREAT idea – sitting around gives too much time for brooding over having the meanest, most unreasonable parents on earth and thinking up all the arguments why his crime was not wrong or not his fault.

But I would make the list much more meaningful.  I would select things that take up significant amounts of time – detailing the cars, cleaning out the basement, the attic, painting the picket fence, the garage, big spring/fall cleaning chores like washing all the curtains and rehanging over washed windows, etc.  Make the list worthy of about 2 weeks of spare time.  Your child then actually chooses how long he is grounded without you ever saying a word.  It will be at least 2 weeks, but as much longer as he chooses to let it play out before he completes the list.  So he can brood or mope or cry foul, but he is only extending his sentence.  When he decides to move forward I am often surprised when parents report a happier kid, a creative kid (figuring out how to get this done faster and better) and a more responsible, respectful kid.  So let the brooding continue with little or no discussion and just wait calmly for your child to choose when to move on.

Once this little episode plays out, your child will have no question over what he did wrong and how he got himself out of it.  Those strong lessons will help your child act more responsibly the next time he is faced with outrageous choices!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Giving Teens Freedom!

Give them all the freedom they want!

Am I nuts??? Whatever am I thinking????

Oh, but did I forget to say that with all that freedom comes great responsibility? 

And if they do not handle it responsibly, the freedom gets reduced dramatically?

This is one of those offers that a kid cannot refuse.  He gets increasing freedom and it is 100% up to him about how much more he gets or whether he loses it.   He has no one to blame but himself if he messes things up.  Yes, he might try to blame his parents because you, after all, will have the final say.  But if you are careful not to micromanage and over-react to the small transgressions, he will know in his heart that whatever consequences he gets are those that he, alone, has earned.

This does not work well with a teen that is behind the 8 ball and already being irresponsible and defiant.  But let’s assume you have a reasonably behaved 13 year old son.  Now is the time to start increasing his freedoms and gradually changing your role from teacher to mentor.

Here are a few suggestions:

Let him know that he is likely to meet more and more people over the next few years and you trust him to pick good friends.  You will not be trying to control who he pals around with.  However if he should ever get into any trouble with friends, you will hold him 200% responsible for any costs associated with said trouble.  YES – 200%; designed to make him accept his choices, not get away with blaming others and pay you back for whatever aggravation went along with mentoring him through the trouble.

Let him know that he is a mere 3 years away from wanting a car.  Let him know you will help him buy the car (if that is possible for you) but he will be responsible for the gas, insurance and repairs.  He will have the freedom a car can bring but the responsibility of managing the costs.  How he gets the money most likely includes getting a part time job as soon as he is able.  (Even 13 year olds can mow lawns, get a paper route or shovel snow.) 

Tell him that his curfew is now 9PM (or whatever you consider reasonable).  He needs to honor that curfew 100% successfully for the next 6 months, at which point you will extend it by 30 minutes.  If he is completely successful, his curfew will be midnight by the time he is 16 – after which you will give him the freedom of no curfew.  The point is if he learns to be responsible now, he will be able to handle no curfew at 16.  Anytime he messes up, the current 6 month period extends 6 more months.  Of course, he still needs to tell you where he is going and who he is going with – you are not abdicating your parental responsibilities.  You are simply giving him more and more opportunities to learn how to handle freedom responsibly. 

Trust me when I tell you how relieved you will be, when he leaves home at 18 for college, a job, or the military, to feel in your heart that he knows how to keep himself safe – and believes that he should!

Your teenager is going to explore some new friends, some risky behaviors - any misguided attempt on your part to monitor his every move is going to result in rebellion and defiance – but when he has a great deal to lose if HE lets things get out of hand, the chances that he will make responsible choices improve by leaps and bounds.

Freedom is a wonderful thing, but as every adult knows, it must go hand in hand with responsibility.  The teenage years are a great empty canvass on which to paint this lesson!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Parenting Presentation

"Parenting Today's Kids" will be offered on Wednesday October 29, 2014 at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Williamsville.

Join me as I delve into how traditional parenting can inform your approach to key parenting issues of the 21st century.

Cost is $10 per person at the door.  I look forward to seeing you there!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Parenting Presentation

Join me as we celebrate "Back to School" with a refreshing discussion of leadership parenting, homes where parents are at the center of attention and some tips on how to restore/retain good behavior in your homes!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Stop Talking So Your Kids Can Listen!!!!!


One Mom has made herself this sign and posted it everywhere – both at home and at work.  She is completely amazed at the 180 degree change in her child’s behavior since she stopped explaining herself with words, words and more words.

When I first met her, I told her that sometimes the only thing you need to do to command your child’s attention is to use alpha speech, be clear, concise and commanding in your instructions and act like you expect to be obeyed.

But I didn't really think that would happen for them.  Their 6 year old was getting daily notes home from school and was wildly defiant with his parents.  Also, when I first talked to her, she was speaking so rapidly that she soon had me talking as fast as she was!  Neither of us could keep track of where the conversation was going!!

But in just 3 meetings, she really understood that she talked too much.  And that the more she talked and explained, the less her son was listening.

Talk about a Herculean effort!  But once she stopped talking about behavior, stopped asking him why he was misbehaving, and stopped micromanaging every minute of every day his behavior improved 100%. 

Misbehavior at school had meant that he went to his room after school.  They had been doing this for months and sadly told me it had no effect.  But then they told me they were inconsistent - letting him off the hook if he “forgot” or “lost” the note from the teacher.  And when he did bring home the note, Mom asked him the rest of the day why, why, why.

I encouraged them to restate the rule: if his daily note from his teacher is either negative or forgotten, he will go to his room after school.  They decided to ask no more questions about whatever the note said – just implemented the consequence.  And they did not ride him about EVERY single aspect of his existence.

Within 1 week, they reported a completely changed little boy.  Not one negative note for a whole week and an easy, happy child in most every aspect.

I certainly can’t guarantee such great results and I do think this little guy is going to regress and test his parents a bit, but I do know that the absolute FIRST step in commanding your child’s attention is to act like the leader of your family – with a few clear, concise words when giving directions.


Yes, it really can be that simple!!!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

LPC - In the News!!

LPC was featured in the "In the Field" Column of the Refresh magazine of the Buffalo News today.

Also Scott Scanlon, editor of the Refresh magazine wrote a blog about my business today:

Check both out and let me know your thoughts!!!!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

To Spank or Not To Spank

The hidden elephant in the room, right?  When I am coaching, this is a subject that parents NEVER bring up.  Prevailing wisdom equates spankings with beatings and no one wants to admit they have ever spanked a child because they don’t want to be accused of child abuse.  Ok, fair enough.

But spankings can be a reasonable disciplinary choice; if and only if a spanking is defined as 2 – 4 swats with an open hand on the clothed back side. Anything more than that constitutes a beating and is outrageously unacceptable.

So then, do I believe in spankings as defined above?  Well I do and I don’t.  Of my 2 kids, I spanked the oldest once and the youngest never.

Spankings should not be the first choice of handling misbehavior.  And they really don’t work well on kids younger than 3 or older than 6 or 7.  There are so many more options to establish your parental leadership that I rarely see a need for spankings.  The best consequence is one that greatly limits a child’s freedom – like early bedtime, room confinement, losing a bike for a week, being told they can’t go to a friend’s party.  And these types of consequences, when applied sparingly and strategically, make a huge impression on kids.  Children generally begin to rethink their behavior choices in ways that make the need for major consequences decrease dramatically.

Parents who levy major consequences are hardly mean parents when they only need to do so occasionally. They use consequences to assert their leadership, help their kids listen to them better and become more obedient. By the way, obedient children are clearly happier and more secure children!

Of course, it stands to reason that good parental leadership is focused on issues that matter.  Parents who try to micromanage kids, impose lots and lots of rules, and say “no” or punish twenty times a day exhaust themselves in their parenting. They exhaust and confuse their kids too - to the point that children may not know what is expected of them (because the rules likely change all the time).

So when is spanking a good idea?  When you need a child’s attention right now – because of danger or an emergency circumstance – and you absolutely have to stop a behavior or instill how wrong their action was.  My daughter’s one spanking was at age 3 when she pulled away from me to chase a butterfly across the road.  Thank God, there was no car coming.  I chased her, grabbed her arm and delivered 4 swats with my hand on her bottom.  Additionally, our daycare Mom spanked her once, too.  That was the day she went into the forbidden 4 square mile cornfield – can you imagine the danger and difficulty of finding a child who might get themselves lost in a fully grown cornfield? She was spanked – again with open hand – and confined to the house for the rest of the day.

So I do believe that spankings have their place but only in limited situations for young kids.

Other misbehaviors deserve thoughtful parents who think through their parenting values and then implement them strategically!