Reflective Parenting

Respond rather than react to your children

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Tips for Resolving Conflicts With School Personnel

Hello Parents,

Conflict is inevitable!  It’s how conflict is resolved that’s important.  As a former teacher, I’d like to offer some tips when your children come home with complaints about educational staff.

  • Expect conflict!
  • View conflict as an opportunity to be curious…curious about your child’s point of view and curious about the other’s point of view.
  • Conflict is a great way to practice many skills such as listening with empathy, patience, and compassion…
  • Conflict helps us practice being reflective (rather than reactive) and non-judgmental.
  • Conflict is often misinterpretation…remember, there are at least three interpretations for any given issue.
  • Almost without exception, conflict can be sorted out when ALL parties involved sit down together and focus on solutions.
  • Talk to the person involved in the complaint.  If your child is having difficulty with an educational assistant, talk with the educational assistant, not the principal!  If there is a rule at your child’s school that all complaints must go to the principal, insist that you will only talk to All parties involved at the SAME time.   If someone objects to that, consider it a red flag.
  • Listen calmly to your child AND do not make judgements about the educator involved.  Show empathy.  Remember, your child is watching how YOU resolve conflicts.
  • Refrain from taking the teacher’s side OR your child’s side.
  • When the situation is resolved, forgive, remember the lessons learned and move on.
  • Take notes, review with those present and send copies to all parties.

Here are three examples that I hope will be helpful.

First Example:

I grew up in a small town, and my father was a principal of an elementary school.  When we came home with a complaint about a teacher, my parents first question was, “What did you do to make the teacher so upset?”

This strategy put all the onus on us, and there were a few times when the teacher was at fault.  However, I gave up telling my parents my concerns because I was pretty certain I wouldn’t be taken seriously.  In grade 3, I was treated badly by a teacher, and it was years before I told my parents.  It was a serious offence, and my father asked me why I didn’t tell him.  I indicated that I didn’t think he’d believe me.  Teachers can make mistakes; they’re human.  Your children need to know that.  They also need to know what is a serious offence.

Second Example:

An experienced teacher, noted for her sensitivity, integrity and honesty, found herself being bullied by a group of Grade 9 students. The teacher was of a conservative religious faith, wore her hair in a bun and dressed plainly and modestly.  Students called her names, ridiculed her religion, ignored her instructions, regularly damaged her art supplies, criticized her until she finally went to the Head and asked for assistance.  The principal, close to retirement, did make some attempts to help her.  Even though this teacher had excellent teaching reports with no blemishes on her teaching report, she finally resigned.  A few years after her resignation, her art work was showcased, and it became clearly apparent to many associated with that school what an excellent teacher they had lost.  She never returned to teaching.

In this situation, the students clearly had control.  It appeared that her “differences” were key to the reasons she was bullied.  Group bullying such as this is becoming more and more “acceptable” in school situations.  Youth want to be accepted by their peers.  Parents, educators, administrators need to be sure that everyone, including educational staff,  models acceptable and appropriate emotional and intellectual intelligence.  Educational staff who consistently refuse to maintain these standards or improve have no place in schools.  Other than their parents, children look to their teachers as models.

Third Example:

I was substituting for a teacher at the same school where my father was teaching.  One of the students left class.  went home to her mother and told her that I wouldn’t let her or other students go to the bathroom.  The parent and the child turned up at the school…irate.  The school principal called several of the students in the classroom to his office.  He pleasantly told me he was conducting a survey so he would be asking several students to come to his office for a few minutes.  I thought nothing of it.  At the end of the class, there was a knock on my classroom door and there was Lizzy and her mother.  Her mother said, “Lizzy, has something to tell you.”  Lizzy told me what she had done and apologized for her behavior.

Wise principal.  He separately interviewed children he could trust and discovered that Missy’s complaint had no merit.  From what I understood later, Lizzy had to face some uncomfortable consequences.  One of the consequences was that her mother indicated that Lizzy would have to work hard to regain her trust.

A Final Note

There are few difficulties that cannot be solved in an non=judgmental environment where calmness and compassion to ourselves and each other prevail.

What can you take from this article to more smoothly resolve conflicts at school?



Comments always welcome!


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Moms ‘n Daughters: Bond Making DIY Beauty Products

One special memory I have of my mom while growing up is that she stored her Charles of the Ritz beauty products in the fridge!  She only used them on special occasions.  We children were admonished not to touch them!  I don’t know if Charles of the Ritz products even exist today, but my life-long love affair with make-up began with mysterious Charles!

Later on in her life, my mom started making some of her own facial products, particularly cleansers.  One afternoon when I was feeling particularly tired, I accepted her offer to give me a facial.  I can remember her bringing her ingredients over to my apartment, mixing them up and then carefully slathering her “secret” mixture on my face.  I asked her what was it in, and I remember she was reluctant to tell me too much.  My mom liked secrets!  I can remember yoghurt and lemon juice.  I’m sure there were some other ingredients, as well.  What I remember most was how good whatever concoction she mixed up felt on my face.  Even though this happened years ago, I still remember how cooling and refreshing my face felt during and after the facial.  My face felt fresher and looked cleaner and rosier.  That was my one and only facial.  I wish we’d done that more often.

For whatever reason, I have become more and more intrigued with making my own beauty products.  I have long had a sensitivity to chemicals in beauty, cleaning and food products.  (My father, an educator, had to write a note to my Grade 9 Home Economics teacher indicating that I had an allergy to the dish detergent used in class and could I be excused from dishwashing duties?  It was embarrassing for both of us.)

Summer is a time when most moms take some vacation time, and making beauty products with your daughter(s) can be a wonderful bonding experience.  It is a time to talk, not only about the beauty products, but about body image, fashion, style, boys, dating….  It is an opportunity for both moms and daughters to share their perspectives and beliefs on a variety of issues.  It’s a time to get to know each other in a deeper and fulfilling way.  It’s a time to laugh, to tell stories, to share memories, to bond.

I invite you, mothers, and, even, dads, to get together and have fun making your own beauty products.  They are inexpensive; many of the ingredients you already have in your kitchen!  To start you off, I have listed some of my favorite beauty DIY products…creams, shampoo, bath bombs, bath salts and  a face mask.  Have fun and let me know how you make out!

(For bathbombs, you can use moulds.  Check IKEA or thrift stores.  As well, pick up glass containers on the cheap at thrift stores, yard sales, neighbours.  As well, all of these posts have lots of comments.  I found much good information in the comments.)

A special thank you to Herbs and Oils World ( which was a lead for these DIY beauty products.



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Ten Strategies to Calm Children

Hello Parents,

Parents often use time-outs to help young children calm down.  Many times, though, time-outs only fuel what are already big emotions.  I believe there are other strategies, such as the ones listed below, that parents can use to  teach children how to manage their emotions in wholesome and mindful ways.

  • Connect…Use empathy to emotionally connect with your child.  For example, if your child trips and falls on the sidewalk, a comment such as, ” Oops, I bet you didn’t expect to fall.  You must feel a bit shook-up.  Would you like to take a moment to catch your breath?”  Once you have acknowledged the child’s feelings, the child feels “heard” and  is more likely to put the incident in perspective.  Not acknowledging or ignoring the child’s feelings (“That didn’t hurt.”) will keep the child “stuck” and you’ll probably be deluged with lots of whining, complaining, and crying.
  • Re-direct…Once you have shown empathy (seeing the child’s perspective), it’s easier to re-direct the child to another activity.  For instance, “I know that your sister wrecked your picture by colouring all over it.  And you’re right, it’s not fair she should do that.  She’s younger than you and she hasn’t learned how to value your things.  Let’s think of ways to keep your things safe.”
  • Boundaries…Even though your child is angry, keep your boundaries and resist giving into demands.  For instance, if a child is screaming for candy, you can say, “I understand you want that candy, but I’m not going to change my mind even if you choose to keep screaming.”  Continue to soothe the child and calmly repeat the message.  It helps to touch the child lightly on the back, shoulder or arm while giving and/or repeating the message.
  • Humor…Use humor to diffuse uncomfortable and frustrating moments.  Actions such as making a funny face, moving in unexpected ways, singing a made-up silly song often break the tension.
  • Setting Expectations…Let your child know your expectations.  For example, “I can read you one more story and then let’s think of two or three quiet activities that you can do while I’m making dinner.”
  • Keep Calm and Carry On…There is something to be said for the British saying that has recently come back in vogue.  Sometimes, it is necessary to focus on what needs to be done, regardless of the commotion that your kids are causing.  When children sense that you are calm, positive and purposeful, they will follow suit.
  • Touch…A hand on the child’s shoulder, back or arm, many times, is just enough to let the child know that you are “with them” and ready to be encouraging and supportive.
  • Move…Move and change the mood.  Often when young children are cranky, they have been sitting too long and need a break.  Jumping jacks, running on the spot, and other such activities will transform negative emotions into more positive ones.
  • Chill…When anger is present on anyone’s part, it is NOT the time to discipline or solve problems.  It’s the time to calm down so you can make reasoned and good choices.  No matter what age you are, you LOSE intelligence when you are angry.  For instance, if you like your home neat and you come home from work to a messy living room, it’s best to sit down, breathe and just “be.”  When you are calm, then is the time to decide calmly on how to manage the situation.
  • Repair…All parents make mistakes.  When you do, do whatever you need to do to calm yourself.  Then go to your child and apologize.  “Daddy lost it when he shouted at you.  I wish I would have spoken to you calmly.  Please forgive me.”  With older children, ask your child his/her version of what happened and apologize for your part in what went astray. It’s helpful to let your child know what triggered you and how you are going to better manage it..  As well, ask your child what both of you can do to avoid the same situation again.  Children come up with many good solutions when asked!  Make a plan for positive change.  When children see their parents change, it inspires them to do the same.  It also teaches your child that you are open and flexible to change.  Great modelling!

And, remember, BIG emotions, like thunderstorms, don’t last forever!

Calm is a quality that seems elusive in our busy world.  What strategies articulated above would help you to increase the peace in your relationship with your children?  I would be happy to hear your replies.  As always comments are welcomed and encouraged!






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Self-Esteem Versus Self-Confidence

Hello Parents!

What is the difference between self-esteem and self-confidence?  Many people use the terms interchangeably, but I believe there are distinct differences.

Self-esteem has to do with how you feel about your “self.”  Stand in front of a mirror and ask yourself, “Do I like myself?”  and “What do I like about me?”  Do you find yourself hesitating?  Are you finding this task difficult?”  Do you find yourself listing your faults rather than your strengths?  If your answer to any one of these questions is yes, your self-esteem needs work!

Self-confidence has to do with how you feel about what you do.  Often when I ask about clients about their self-esteem, I find they start listing off their accomplishments and achievements.  “I’m a great golfer.”  “My friends say I make a delicious cheesecake.”  “I’m good with dogs.”  What statements like this “say” are that you have confidence in what you do, not in who you are!

One would think that self-esteem and self-confidence go hand-in-hand.  But they do not!  This concept can be clearly illustrated by an example in my own life.  Several years ago I taught Drama.  I had worked hard to develop my own Improvisational Drama program for two community centres.  At one point, I organized a two-day conference.  I presented at two sessions, and the Recreational Director was present at one of them.  She made an observation about me  which has stayed with me for numerous years.  She indicated that I had “two personalities.”  When I was teaching and presenting about drama, she noted that I was this confident professional.  However, as soon as I stepped away from the role of presenter and teacher, I became my other self…introverted and shy.  Although I agreed with her observation, I wondered why I was like this.

Many parents, mine included, believe that if they involve their children in activities, that self-esteem will grow. And that’s not a necessarily correct belief.  They will grow in confidence in “doing” the activity, but that confidence doesn’t translate into good self-esteem (how one feels about oneself).

Children’s self-esteem reflects how their parents view themselves.  An example.  Although my father had many wonderful qualities, growing up as his daughter was less than pleasant.  He seemed to see the negative in most everything, and it was worrisome and concerning to me.  In my 30’s I had the opportunity to substitute teach at the same school my father taught at.  I can still remember sitting next to him in the lunch room.  He was positive, joking, laughing.  Was this my dad?  Unfortunately, this “cape” of positivity came off the minute he returned home.

Just like me, he was confident in his role as a teacher.  He was not comfortable, however, “being” himself.  Without his role as teacher and administrator, he returned to his negative beliefs about himself.  And his lack of self-esteem had a negative ripple effect on all his children.

What meaning do I take from these experiences?  It’s good to have children be involved in activities so they can gain confidence.  But don’t mistake self-confidence for self-esteem.  If you can’t define who you “are” then you lack a sense of self.  And a good sense of self is one of the most important gifts you can give yourself and your children.  Good self-esteem will see you and them through the ups and downs of life.

While you are making “to do” lists, also make “to be” lists.  Who are you when you are not in the role of parent, employee, soccer coach, speed swimmer?  I will explore this topic more in an up-coming post.  In the meantime, think of who you are…   Stay tuned!

As usual, I welcome your comments!



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Making An Effective Transition from Work to Home

Hello Parents!

Do you ever feel when you arrive home from work that you are still at work?  Here are some tips that you can use so when you arrive home, you leave work where it belongs–at work!

  • When you leave work, walk SLOWLY out of your workplace.  Take a few moments to focus on following your breath in and out.
  • Before you drive home, quickly review your day.  What went wrong?  What went right?  What would you like to do better tomorrow?  Forgive yourself for your mistakes and appreciate yourself for the positives.  
  • Driving home, visualize a calm and peaceful time that you experienced recently with members of your family.  Breathe in the joy of that moment.
  • On your way home, think of positive comments you can say to each member of your family.  Think of what you can tell your family about your day.  It’s fine to share a negative; just make sure you end on a positive note…good modeling for your children, especially.
  • Listen to calm music on your drive home.
  • When you arrive home, walk slowly into your home.
  • It’s vitally important to check in with your spouse and children first BEFORE changing your clothes or engaging in any other activity.  Rushing off to change your clothes as soon as you get home creates separation, abandonment  and stress.  This 5 and 10 minute check-in time with your family will set the “tone” for the rest of the evening.  Make sure that your cell-phone is OFF.  After spending this check-in time with your family members, then change into your “home” clothes. Another idea is to change into your home clothes before you leave work.

When you commit yourself to consistently focusing on mindfully transitioning from work to home, you’ll reap the following rewards:

  • calmer family members
  • stronger bonds between you and your family members
  • a better ability to respond (rather than react negatively) positively to issues that may arise
  • more cooperation among family members

What are the rewards for you in making clear boundaries between your work and home life?  Love to hear your responses!



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Tips for Helping Children Handle School Stress

Hello Everyone!

A few days ago, I was walking through a school hallway when I saw a poster that listed ways for students to reduce their stress at school.  My first reaction was surprise; my second reaction was one of gratitude.  Gratitude to the administration and school staff for acknowledging that stress is an increasing issue for students and identifying ways for students to diffuse their stress.  Here are some tips that will hopefully prove useful for school staff, parents and youth.

  • Be a good role model.  Practice some kind of meditation (breathing, visualization, prayer, yoga).  Doing so will help you say YES to life and be a positive role model in your children’s lives.
  • I know mornings are rush times!  Parents, make sure that you MINDFULLY focus a minute or so on your child(ren) before they leave for school.  What does it mean to mindfully focus?  Focus ALL your loving attention on your child.  Take their hands, put your hands on their shoulder(s) and let them know they will be in your heart that day, that you will be sending them compassion and positive energy throughout the day, and you will be looking forward to them coming home.  After all, they are going to work, too!
  • Parents, paste, pin, fasten a family picture inside their backpack with an accompanying note that identifies a strength and/or a character trait.  An accompanying short note helps.  Example:  “You are my sweet Lisa.  When I see your smile, you light up my world.  I am so grateful you are my little girl.”  OR  “It’s a pleasure to watch you progress in your swimming lessons.  At first, you were frightened to put your head in the water,   but now you are floating on your own!  I admire your determination.”  Change the note every week.
  • Strongly encourage your children to go outside at recess and noon hour and PLAY.  It is invigorating for children to swing, slide, play basketball.  Children who PLAY rather than stand around and grumble until the bell rings do better in school.
  • Teach your children that they are in charge of their own feelings and thoughts.  When they feel tired, crabby, encourage them to move and change their mood!
  • Teach your children to FOCUS on their breathing when they are feeling cranky, anxious, angry, etc.  To themselves, they can say, “Breathe in the good, breathe out the bad.”  Have them practice this with you several times with you.  Do it often and make it a habit.
  • Conflict inevitably arises on the school playground.  When your child complains that Sally no longer wants to be a friend, acknowledge feelings and indicate that Sally may be having a bad day, just wants to be alone or play with others.  Remind them that tomorrow will probably be different and Sally will be a friend again.  Tell your child that feelings and thoughts are temporary.
  • Be sure your children eat healthy foods (the less processed, the better) and drink water (stay clear of juice boxes and energy drinks)
  • Children need 8-10 hours of sleep.  Even if your children don’t sleep right away when they go to bed, they can read in bed, listen to calm music or engage in quiet activities.
  • Put away the technology at least an hour before bed.  Avoid sending cell phones, etc. to school.  Even if it isn’t school policy, advise your children to only use cell phones for specific times (not recess or lunch!).
  • Teach your children that they can always appreciate themselves.  Not everyone is going to notice their successes, but they can always congratulate themselves on their progress, big and small.  Image

Consistently following these tips will help your children have a better sense of well-being and experience less stress!



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Tips to Cope with Hallowe’en Candy

Hello Parents,

The big day has come and gone and now you probably have more candy in your household than you want or need.  Here are several tips to cope with kids and candy.

  • You, the parents, are the keeper of the candy bags.  Letting children keep their candy bags in their bedrooms is a recipe for disaster.  Older children may be granted this privilege if you know they will handle the candy responsibly.
  • Go through the candy and discard any candy that looks suspicious.
  • Donate a portion of candy to those you know who couldn’t participate in  Hallowe’en.  Many people, including friends and relatives, live in condos and townhouses which do not allow trick or treaters.  They, especially those living alone, would probably appreciate a small gift of candy.
  • Let your children pick out a few treats to eat at recess OR lunch.  If you find that your children are just eating the candy, then the natural consequence is not to include the candy as snacks or dessert the following day.
  • Avoid giving candy as night-time snacks.  Increased sugar levels will lead to less sleep.
  • If children start to become grumpy, complain about tummy aches and/or engage in disruptive behaviors, it’s time for a candy-free day.
  • Choose to let your children have more candy on the week-ends when they can engage in outdoor activities to run those “sugar highs” off.
  • For after-school snacks, include healthy snacks along with Hallowe’en candy.

Hallowe’en is an exciting time for children, and the thought of having so much candy at their fingertips is an overwhelming temptation for children.  Use this time as an opportunity to teach them about what food their bodies need to function properly (good nutrition) and the effects of eating too much candy.

Teach them that eating too much candy has an IMPACT on them and those around them.  The best thing they can do is to learn how to regulate their candy intake appropriately.  In that way, they learn to show compassion and kindness for themselves and their bodies as well as for others (you, their teachers) they interact with on a daily basis!

What are you going to do this Hallowe’en to teach you children how to appropriately manage their candy intake?

Until next time,