Failing, and it’s kind of fun!

Parenting is tough. The job is around the clock. It brings unexpected twists and turns. It tries your every last nerves, and challenges you to put others first while being a role model who stays on your toes. We want to be tough and have boundaries, while also being fair….but not too nice because we don’t want to be their best friend either. Like Goldilocks, it’s gotta be just right. That can be hard and definitely tiring……

….Which is why I’m ‘failing’ a little bit. Typically, I reflect on good practices, good choices, and ‘winning’ at life. However, this summer has been filled with a little more wiggle room, a lot more sleep, even more laziness, and some bending of good choices! Yesterday while leaving Starbucks, I realized this when Anna was slurping down a decaf- caramel Frappuccino for the first time.

Image result for caramel frappuccino

We go to Starbucks periodically, and we have a for years starting this bad habit early. Often, she opts for a chai tea (yes, she has always loved unusual 40-year-old women things)! Yesterday, however, I opened a whole new door when I explained that she could indeed get the sugar-laden, but insanely delicious Frappuccino made with decaf. She loves coffee flavored things and she absolutely freaked over this drink, finishing it before we even arrived at home for me to take a picture.

When we were leaving Starbucks, Anna and I with our overpriced, super unhealthy drinks in hand, she grabbed my hand and said, “You’re the best mom ever.” Bad choices= happy kids.

It made me think about other bad choices I’ve made as a parent, bad habits we accept. Take for example that Anna got her first pedicure before she even entered kindergarten. Now, I know this is ridiculous. I was in high school or maybe even college before I got my first pedicure yet here I was taking cute, little girly Anna to pick out her polish when she was a tiny squirt. She loved it then and now I basically don’t go without her!……another parenting fail.

Then, there’s Brody and food. (And, Bo is just as responsible for this fail as much or maybe more). The kid is picky, like super-duper picky. Yes, we know that you should not feed your children different foods than the adults. Yes, we have read that they’ll eat when they’re hungry. Yes, we know that white pasta isn’t a healthy carb yet we have been failing at this habit for years. The kid simply never has and never will just eat because he gets hungry enough. He’s skinny and food just isn’t important to him ( don’t understand how he’s our child!). So what have we done? Catered to him.

King Brody gets something different to eat about 75% of the time, which is progress because it used to be 100% of the time. And while my rational brain knows this is simply not the best habit, we have made this choice because he eats. Much like when he was a baby and we cuddled him every night, in our bed or laps never putting him down because he would scream. We kept him happy. And what does he still do now? He’s a cuddler! (not a fail)

Then, there’s the Fortnite obsession that even this mama gave into this spring after much deliberation. Now this full-on addiction has infiltrated our house and my 45-year-old husband plays daily too! He verifies that it’s addictive (duh) but also very strategic. And while I worried most about the violence at first, it’s really the amount of time that concerns me most. There’s always another loooong round. But, wow do boys love this social game!

Image result for fortnite obsession

Now this fail has actually provided some really good leverage and motivation at our house. I’ve conditioned Brody to have to do his 2 chores and reading before he can start Fortnite. So, he’s read a lot this summer! I’d still be waiting at bedtime if it weren’t for Fortnite. In fact, he loves those new skins so much that for the first time in his life, he has asked to do poop-duty when it’s not his week to earn money. So maybe these fails aren’t really so bad.

When thinking about our parenting fails, it makes me realize that we all fail sometimes. Sometimes, it’s a parenting fail. Sometimes, it’s a personal fail. But, it makes us realize that we are human. It also makes me think that ‘failing’ is kind of fun too, and we do all need some fun in our life! I want to be healthy as much as the next person, but maybe some of these unhealthy, ‘bad’ choices aren’t so bad either. Or, maybe like me, you need to loosen up a little! Like parenting, life is a balancing act. Allow yourself to ‘fail’ a little in order to win.

Let them drink the Frappuccino, play some Fortnite, sneak a little Coke, and stay up a little past bedtime because before we know it, they’ll be grown and making their own choices! Have fun within reason. Allow for imperfection. And, maybe even enjoy ‘failing’ or simply making some poor choices every now and then!







Get your beauty rest!


It amazes me how sleep deprived our young children are. With some years of experience under my belt as a School Counselor, I began to realize that many problems in elementary age children could be prevented if children were simply getting enough rest. I-pads, phones, gaming systems, and t.v.’s are robbing our children of the recommended amount of shut-eye and we are seeing the effects in schools.

Anyone have a child who emotional, overly sensitive, irritable, or irrational when they get sleepy or hungry? They all are but they never realize it, of course! It’s true that some kids are more sensitive than others (and I know I must have my beauty rest and food or I’m a mess!). But, most children need the recommended 9-12 hours of sleep that they aren’t getting.

Yesterday, a school ‘friend’ who is actually a bit younger than my son was having a rough day. He’s 10 but has a teenage sister. He’s way more exposed to adult things than my son but also way more immature than him. He gets easily frustrated and makes foolish mistakes both in his academics and behavior. So, he asked to see me yesterday when he was needing a break and in “recovery”.

It was wise to ask for what he needs, rather than get in trouble, but I could tell he was on edge and struggling. And, I know him well so one of the first things I asked him was what time he went to sleep last night. -12 a.m.- He gets up at 6 a.m. to get ready for the bus. Now, I’m here to tell you that I’d be sleepy and angry with 6 hours of sleep, and I’m not 10. 6 hours of sleep!? He knew that 12 a.m. was late but he had NO idea that he only got 6 hours of sleep.

He laughed when I told him how much his body and brain needed to function at an optimal level (9-12 hours). No way was he going to sleep at 9 like my children because that’s when he comes inside, he said! Like many kids with older siblings, it’s hard to enforce different bed-times. But, this 10- year old is getting 5-8 hours of sleep a night. He plays on his phone after his dad has told him good night because he’s one of many kids I know who sleep with their devices.


Sure, parents like his can say goodnight but that’s not stopping kids. Most children don’t have enough self-control to want to choose sleep over devices so we have to remove this temptation. It’s hard enough with the homework and practices in the evening. The older they get, the later they start practices (and I hate that)! So on the evenings when we are home, we have to enforce what’s best for them even if it’s not what they like. Just look online and you can find an abundance of research to support this theory that kids with devices aren’t getting as much sleep as their peers!

We need our sleep! Weight gain, attention, memory, self-regulation, and irritability can all be linked to sleep, and kids aren’t getting enough. So when in doubt, try giving your kid some healthy, real food and getting them to sleep a little earlier. Make it even easier by just not allowing devices and gaming during the week. Their brains have enough to think about as is! And, make sleep a priority.


“It is ok to say you’re welcome…”


Every year, I have an attention-grabber for school. Sometimes, I’ve found them online. And more often, I think of the most recent children’s movie hit and boom! I’ve got my attention-grabber for ‘guidance’ or leadership class!

Ready to rock? …….Ready to roll!

Who’s the one who likes to play?……….. Bing Bong! Bing Bong!

Just keep swimming…….just keep swimming, swimming, swimming!

And now, (drumroll!): It is ok to say……YOU’RE WELCOME!! Click here for the full, fun version from the movie, Moana! Better than yelling at them to be quiet, right!?

It’s even cooler when it also ties into the school theme like this year. PBIS is where it’s at across Knox County. This stands for “positive behavior interventions and support”. All schools in Knox county are moving towards implementing this. With tons of trainings, principals, teachers, and support staff have 4 fundamental standards or rules that are universal. Sounds fancy and important, right!? Well, it is….mostly.

  • Be safe.
  • Be kind.
  • Be respectful.
  • Be responsible.

Who can argue that these aren’t important principles to live by and expect out of our children? These are basically what we used to consider good manners. So, it’s good to know that these will be consistent throughout any class and area if implemented correctly, right!? Sure.

But, what I just find sad or strange about this rubric is that people, children and adults, should already be doing these things! Have people forgotten that nothing else works in the world, including school, if we don’t follow these tenants!?  We have to get the basics for societies to work. And, these character traits and manners are something that School Counselors have always taught anyway! Many of our comprehensive programs are centered around similar character traits so that’s another weird piece too! And, it’s what many, many teachers have always expected and led their students in doing.

We are now training lots and lots of principals, teachers, and support staff to have good manners and be nice. Honestly, that’s what it boils down to. Focus on reinforcing more positives than negatives. Use affective statements and point out how one’s behavior impacts others. And, reward good choices. That’s it in a nutshell as I see it. Now, there are some fancy bells and whistles but PBIS is genius because they are making money off of a program that’s really quite simple. 

So, parents, this isn’t something new. Like many concepts, programs, and curriculum, it’s rebranding. That’s ok , but it’s good to know that this alone cannot transform a school.  Now, the people who work in the school can. But, more importantly, our parents and society as a whole can and do impact the belief systems of our children. Children have to feel loved and they have to trust and respect in order to want comply and act nice. In order for PBIS to work, we have to also have adults living these same rules, and there in lies the problem!

We have been so busy rushing to cram new curriculum down their throats that we have lost time for the most simple and most important values and lessons in life. There’s no downtime in school and even many teachers resist scheduling a ‘guidance’ (leadership) class or taking a brain-break because they’re rushing to stay on track. What happened to the good ole-days when your teacher turned off the lights and everyone put heads down to take a break and calm people down!? We don’t have time.

Or, do we? We have to take time for kindness. Having a black and white matrix posted is all fine and good. It does serve as a good reminder on expectations. But, we also have to lead by example. 

For example, there’s a busy and thoughtful mom who, for years, has taken the time to write and mail thank you cards for the smallest things. She also has mailed many cards to my children recognizing them for their accomplishments. Her son is now starting middle school and she told me yesterday, that she has her cards ready!

And, then one of my daughter’s new teacher (that she was actually scared to get) came out to the walker line Friday to say hi. He snuck up behind her and told me in his deep voice that he needed to talk to me about my daughter. She started grinning, knowing he’s a jokester. He said she has been raising her hand and answering questions this week!

Taking a moment to just be nice is the best PBIS model that we can provide. Maybe, we all just need a reminder that it’s not that hard! Being nice, positive, and respectful makes people like you and want to listen and learn! So, my attention-grabber this year is to also say, “You’re welcome!”. It’s time for a refresher course!….

“And, thank you!” 😉

Dear Parent,

Father Saying Goodbye To Children As They Leave For School

Change is hard. Period. Adults, especially, have a hard time breaking habits, accepting a new job or responsibility, and trusting new people or ways. We are creatures of habit. We don’t want to change. We like what we like and we are sometimes resistant to even good changes.

It’s the unknown that can feel scary or just uncomfortable. We don’t always want to put in the extra effort or work to get somewhere new. Kids also like routines and comfort but are more adaptable and flexible. (It’s no coincidence that I prefer to work with kids versus adults!). Unlike adults, kids aren’t as resistant. In fact, kids can amaze me with their resiliency, openness, and even excitement for change!

Take me for example. Last year, I was moved from working at a school I loved. This change was out of my control and not what I wanted, as well as being a surprise right after the school year ended and summer was starting. I was personally insulted and angered that my feelings were not taken into consideration. And, I spent many summer weeks mulling over this unwanted change, sulking and complaining. (I am not one to fake my feelings!).

By the time school started at my new school, I had chosen to embrace the change. Dwelling on things we can’t control is a WASTE OF TIME and ENERGY anyway. The new school and staff was great and very different than any school I had worked in. The Administration completely trusted and valued the role of the School Counselor (which is so amazing and uncommon!). And reflecting back, I think I made some positive changes in some children and maybe even added some to the school climate. The year wasn’t wasted and I think I may have even grown a little as a professional.

What does any of this have to do with children and accepting change? Well, the school year is about to start and many have already discovered who their child’s new teacher will be. You might have even figured out some of the kids who will be in their class too. I know that my children did not receive the news they were hoping to hear and there was some disappointment this week . Their class placement is a surprise to me just like it is any parent but I didn’t expect for them to be in class with all their best friends like they did.

I have a unique experience, working as the Counselor in the same school where my children attend. It doesn’t bring any special privileges or opportunities like some might imagine but it does offer me the benefit of having the inside scoop! It also lends to hearing and seeing both sides of an issue or situation, being friends with both teachers and parents, as well as knowing many kids on a more personal level. So, it’s great and very helpful even to me personally as a parent. I see inner-workings of the school while realizing what allows students to succeed. It’s at this time of the summer, before we about to embark on something new, that we, as parents, can help set the tone for the year. I hope this helps you, your child, and your child’s teacher build a relationship that’s symbiotic, positive, and productive this school year!



Your child was placed in their class with intention. There is a reason that not all of his/her friends are in there too. It will be o.k. Don’t complain and sulk along with your child. This is an opportunity to talk about forming new relationships. This is a chance to talk to your kid about how people change. Children are capable of changing and their behavior doesn’t define them so just because your child didn’t like them or their behavior lasts year doesn’t mean they won’t this year. Encourage your kid to give everyone a chance and explain that they may get to know and even like someone they never expected to like this year. Every school year is a chance to make new friends.

Don’t treat your child like they are better than or won’t have any friends this year just because your neighbors aren’t in their class. Don’t act like your child is a good kid from a good family just because you don’t know some of the other families. (We are all crazy behind our own front doors anyway!). Not only be open but tell your child it’s going to be exciting to make new friends and get to know people better no matter where they live, who they live with, or what they look like.

Stop judging a teacher before your child even steps in the door. Even at small schools, or especially at smaller schools, teachers are talked about and gain a reputation. Many times, it’s just rumors or based on isolated incidents. Sometimes, there is something to it but you never know how your child will fit with this teacher. Just because someone else didn’t like the teacher doesn’t mean your child won’t. Time and time again, you’ll be surprised with whom your child ends up clicking with if you don’t interfere.

Please go into the school year with an open mind. Don’t fuel the rumors if your child is disappointed and gossip about hearing this teacher yells all the time or is always mean. We don’t want to set up our children to have a perception formed before they’ve even had a chance to form their own opinion. It’s so surprising and also exciting to watch our children adapt to new teaching styles and personality types. Talk about setting them up for success in the future. If our kids can adapt and adjust to a completely new personality, think about what that could do for them in the future. We can’t always give them what we think will be the best fit because we just don’t know!

Embrace their teacher no matter what you’ve heard. Embrace their teacher even if you don’t like them. Yes, that’s right. If you think something negative, keep it to yourself because it will not help your child at all. Drop preconceived ideas and model going into the school year with an open mind. (You can’t trust gossip anyway!). And, trust your child’s teacher is teaching because they chose this profession. Unlike many jobs, they chose to work with children and there’s a reason.

Recognize that things aren’t going to always be perfect, and go into the year with a growth mindset. Just don’t be defensive. Your kid (and yes, my kid too) will be making some mistakes. They won’t get 100 on every test, and they may even get in trouble a time or two. Don’t overreact. Don’t sweat the small stuff! Expect that not only is their teacher not perfect but neither is your pride and joy. They will make some mistakes and they are in elementary school. What they make on one test will not matter. What they make on one report card will not stop them from getting into college. And, even sitting out one recess is not the end of the world!

Let the teachers handle it and take their lead. Be supportive of the decisions the teacher makes. And if you don’t agree, communicate with the teacher to understand privately. Don’t jump to also include your child and tell the teacher they are wrong. Follow up at home with your child. And, yes, there are consequences for actions (or lack of) but look at these mistakes as opportunities to change and grow. Adults need to take the blinders off this year and remind ourselves to look at the big picture.

Be forgiving! Sometimes, this takes a pause. Before we react, think about how important this is and whether it’s something you’ll remember or care about in a year.

Let go of little things. If they can’t sit by their best friend at lunch, that’s ok. If they are left out one day on the playground, it’s ok. If they don’t make student council, it’s ok. If your kids see you overreact, they grow entitled and start to believe there is something to be upset about. Let go if your child isn’t always first or the best. Help them move on from insignificant situations while accepting that we all are frustrated or disappointed sometimes.

Be there to listen. Make sure you take the time to ask the right questions and listen to how your kids are doing. Ask how they’re feeling and praise the good choices they make. Use affective statements (which Knox county is beginning to implement county-wide…yay! 🙂 ) to acknowledge how you feel about how your kids are doing and reinforce positive actions.

And, show up…..but not too much! Some teachers like volunteers and some don’t. Some teachers communicate regularly and some only do when necessary. What teachers do not appreciate is no involvement or buy-in and too much involvement, lack of respect,  and lack of trust. Don’t email them if your child gets a ‘B’. Don’t schedule a conference because your child had a fight with their best friend this week. Don’t show up for lunch because your child doesn’t have anyone to sit beside. Give your child and teacher the trust that they are capable. Be there but also allow for some space for your child to work through some things creating independence.

Thank you for being there as involved people who care! Thank you for showing up. And, thank you for understanding that working in a school is hard! Thank you for volunteering and supporting our teachers. And, thank you for noticing all the pieces that make a school work. Here’s to new, exciting beginnings!


Your School Counselor and Parent

Your child will adjust to this new school year but will you!? With a balance of support, accountability, trust, and love,  it’s going to be a great, imperfect new year!




A Piece of Clay

Don’t you kind of secretly wish your child would be interested in the same things you are? It’s not the worst thing when someone comments on how your child reminds them of you, or looks like you (which rarely happens in my case)! But, it teeters on a compliment when your kid is called ‘mini-Sarah’. I admit that I don’t mind.

However, when Anna was little, I would frequently be disappointed by her genuine dislike for the outdoors. Forget hiking. She was super sensitive towards the cold. She was ultra lazy. And, she was just not happy with our outdoor excursions. While I feel energized by fresh air and nature, she was the polar opposite.

But, I kept trying. We kept going over to Ijams. We continued to go to the park. We even foolishly camped from time to time. Many memories include Anna crying, whining, and being generally unhappy. Yet, I persisted.


And then there was Brody. He did enjoy being outside and was usually happy exploring, getting dirty, and having adventures. What he wasn’t into was sports. While Bo once applied to work at ESPN and had season tickets to the VOLS, Brody just didn’t seem destined to be a sports guy.

He wasn’t one of those toddlers who went straight towards a ball. He didn’t have much coordination. He didn’t ever want to watch sports. He was (is) actaully a little wimpy. I just prepared Bo by telling him that he may not be the sports kid. (And we were both ok with that.)

Fast forward to ages 8 and 10 and I’d say their interests have changed quite a bit. I pressumed Anna would always be a little princess. Yet,  Anna actually said she wanted to go hiking the first day of spring break and thanked me afterwards. What!? And when we were at the beach this past week, Brody begged to play soccer at the soccer fields every day, all of the time.

family fun

Not only that, but Brody records football and soccer games on t.v. He has  knowledge of players I have never heard of. It’s like he actually cares. Is it because it’s the ‘cool’ thing to do when you’re a 4th grade boy? Maybe. But, I also think that if you continue exposing a kid to something and they kind of like you, it’ll catch. Eventually, you wear them down! 😉

I’m not saying Anna will hike the A.T. or Brody will become the next Messi, but there’s a chance that these are habits they’re building. Anna loved the school yoga class and chooses to go on walks, jogs, and even the occasisonal hike. While Brody asks to go play basketball, throw the football, and most frequently play soccer most afternoons. If we, as parents, didn’t enjoy these things and they didn’t see us doing this stuff, I don’t know that they’d want to give it a try.

Some kids are born just naturally loving something. Brody was passionate about dinosaurs and reptiles when he was young, and Anna still loves Baby Alives in an unnatural way. So they do have their unique interests, and I’m glad.

But, what I do believe is that kids are malleable. You can’t mold them into any shape you want (nor should you) but we do help shape them. Children who are close to their parents will end up absorbing some of their habits and interests, the good and the bad!

It’s really fullfilling to see them finding joy in something, self-discovered interests, family interests, and activities you enjoy together. I want to continue this balance. The ying yang of family interests and personal hobbies creates a healthy blend.

There’s the old saying, ‘A family that prays together, stays together.’ While that may be true (who knows?), I do believe that you spend enough quality time together and genuinely like, appreciate, and encourage each other, you’ll stay together.

A family that plays together, stays together!

You are what you eat….

If you are what you eat, I am a caramel macchiato. That was my treat this afternoon, and it’s buy one get one free for the next couple days! …(so good!) But, seriously, how bad is that!? I’d feel a little guilty if I did this every day. But, every once in a while, we all need a treat. I’m all about my treats. But, I’m also about balance.

If I eat my fruits and veggies, exercise, and get enough sleep, then I think I deserve a little Starbucks now and then! Today’s thought is what our kids are eating, though.

As a counselor, I spend a lot of time in the lunchroom. I often times take a moment to casually chat, check in on, and scan the kids. This week, I spent time both at breakfast and at lunch with students. And, what I’m seeing the kids eat for school lunch is just lousy. It’s actually more than lousy; it’s harmful. Our pre-packaged cafeteria food options in Knox county are horrible.

I remember being at a low-income school when they introduced free breakfast in classrooms for every student. WOW, I thought. This will be great because now kids will be fed, energized, and ready to learn! When the program was implemented, I was disappointed to see the free food the kids could choose from. Breakfast options might be choosing between a sausage biscuit (the healthier option) vs. Coco puff cereal. Sometimes, there was yogurt as an option but usually Fruit loops with chocolate milk was the breakfast of Champions. Why not have Cheerios and not the sugar-laden cereals? This is an image that came up in Google for American school lunches. Where is this being served? Not here…not even close. It’s colorful, well-balanced, and real food. It looks amazing!


But, most often, kids are eating frozen french toast sticks, pancakes, biscuits and gravy, or waffles. And, don’t forget the chocolate milk or frozen juice from concentrate. Now, that alone wouldn’t be horrible, minus the sugar crash they experience mid-morning, if they weren’t also given horrendous choices at lunch too.

Last week, I watched my girls’ group file in for lunch, half of which bought their school lunch. Many went straight to eating their ice cream and all girls who had school lunches had ice cream. Why? Because they ran out of syrup so instead, they got a free ice cream. So, let me recap. For their lunch, they had waffles, hash browns, and ice cream. Most trays were filled with white or beige foods only. (Chicken and waffles with syrup is a common school lunch). ice cream.png

Then today, I stopped to check in a kindergarten student who struggles to focus and retain information. He was chowing down on his cotton candy ice cream at the lunch table. His prepackaged pb&j Uncrustable was still in it’s plastic wrapper, as were his Cheezit’s and string cheese (also sealed in plastic). He said he was going to eat the cheezits, though. How is this nutritional!?

Many kids won’t have a choice. They are on free or reduced lunch and if given the chance, like most kids, will eat the ice cream. Ice cream is offered every day as a money-maker. Who needs ice cream at lunch every day!? Cookies often come with the meal. And, with strawberry and chocolate milk offered, who would choose white milk!? We are addicted to sugar in this country.

I include myself in this addition but I refuse to fill my children with empty calories and bad habits. This is unacceptable but many parents just don’t know. And, while fresh caesar salads, carrots, and fruit are also often offered, I witness most kids eating their beige, or plastic wrapped foods first. The main entree’s are not healthy with common meats including breaded chicken tenders, hamburgers (or something that’s supposed to be a burger), chick and waffles, chicken patty sandwiches on white buns, and hot dogs. We can’t let this be their choice. With childhood obesity, childhood diabetes, rising incidents of cancer, and attention and hyperactivity issues, we should take a step back and look at the basics.

To often sleep, diet, and exercise are overlooked. We should all advocate for our children. I realize all parents can’t or won’t pack their children’s lunches, controlling some of what they eat, but we can care. We can tell our children what they should be eating. We should teach why good nutrition is important. We should talk to our Board of Education about caring about our children’s health. And, diet is an important part of health and development. In a country that can afford to, we should be doing better America!


p.s. I have had great idea of creating healthy, ready-to-eat meals for kids. I just need an investor! No more Lunchables!!


Chocolate cake and kitchen messes

It’s definitely my number one pet peeve for 21st century kids and parents. I just cannot stand watching families eat their Sunday lunch at restaurants while every family member is on their phone. And, I find it ultra-annoying that parents allow children to have their device anytime they have to wait, at the doctor, at the restaurant, or even during a church service.

But, I do get it. It’s just so easy. And, I too get preoccupied with keeping busy around the house while Brody wastes hours on early weekend mornings. To feel less guilty, I remind myself that he hasn’t played video games all week. And, it does allow for some quiet time and sibling separation. Slowly, as the school year gets more and more tiring, I get lazier and less aware of the 30 minute rule that I know is best.

So, today after an hour and a half or so, I told Brody he was done for awhile. He needed to do some other stuff and stay off the devices and t.v. for the rest of the morning. Then, I left to go running. When I returned awhile later, I was pleasantly surprised to find both of my children happily baking away in the kitchen.

Yes, that’s right. Both of them, as in together , and happily. It did surprise me too! And, not only were they baking but they were baking a cake they found in Southern Living from scratch!! That’s something I might do every 5 years, at best! And although the kitchen was destroyed, they were so proud to see it actually rising in the oven while also filming their cooking show!20170226_134009.jpg

In fact, while they waited, they decided to get their stuffed animals to show them how to ice the cake. They continued chatting and cooperating (yes, I just said that too!) while proudly icing their cake. They served Bo and I up a piece of fresh, warm, and edible chocolate cake. Yum!

But, had I not made Brody get off the Ipad, he’d still be sitting there brain-dead, isolated from the rest of the family. If I hadn’t just told him no more, he wouldn’t have been able to call himself “responsible” for doing his poop-duty chore before lunch! If I hadn’t been the parent, I wouldn’t have been able to just enjoy a piece of fresh cake.

When we stop using technology to fill our time, we can actually have time to be creative. And, I know not all kids will choose that on their own. That’s why it’s better to have them feel unhappy about having to stop because in the long-run they’ll feel happier,prouder, and have a chance to build other skills (including interacting with others) instead. Yes, we all have those days we just need the break but it’s too easy to make it a habit. I want more for my kids. Don’t you?

Instead of…

Yesterday, a ‘girl’ or woman in her 20’s was at my house.We were chatting about our neighborhood and I was telling her what I like most about it. Mainly, I love our neighbors and the fact that my children can play outside without me worrying about them. She smiled and said she doesn’t have kids yet but hopes when she does one day, she will have kids that play outside because it doesn’t seem like children do play outside anymore. She’s right…but not in our neighborhood.

Many, if not most, children do not play outside daily. Every single day at school, I see a young boy for counseling and we talk about what he did after school or what he will do. The only thing many boys look forward to is playing video games. There are some girls sprinkled in there but mainly it’s the boys who are addicted.

Often times, it’s the same boys who are behavior problems, impulsive, or the ones who can’t focus. Hmm…. This certainly isn’t a coincidence. But, it’s also a very preventable problem.


My son is the same type of boy who, if allowed, would spend hours on a screen. So, knowing he’s this type of kid and staring at a screen is not making him more creative, imaginative, or intelligent, we have rules. Most boys are shocked when the ‘nice’ counselor tells them that my son isn’t allowed to play video games at all during the school week.

In fact, he watches little to no t.v. most days. Why? Because instead, he’s running around outside. He’s kicking a soccer ball around with his friends. He’s asking me to play HORSE. He’s chasing kids in the cult-de-sac. He’s doing his homework, doing his chores, and helping with dinner. He’s busy because he has to be.

This is one of my pet peeves . Life is too short to not have friends, play, run in the fresh air, and create your fun. I am convinced that this habit is paying off. And while I feel proud that my children do indeed play, it does make me think about more instead of’s.

  • Instead of letting them eat crap after school, I can give them better choices.
  • Instead of cooking dinner every night, I can let them.
  • Instead of doing their laundry, I can teach them.
  • Instead of packing their lunch, I can let them.

The list goes on, and your list is different. But, I know there are more ‘instead’s’ to be done. It’s takes conscientious parenting, which is why I actually started this blog. In a culture that often does without thinking, I believe in the big picture. I believe in making choices and not defaulting to lazy and easy. What’s the instead you can start this week?



That 3-letter word produces some powerful emotions, and I’ve heard it a lot lately. It can be the biggest insult. One put-down can ruin a child’s fragile self-esteem. But, it’s also just as damaging when a child believes this about themself.

One might expect to hear this from girls since their bodies go through some drastic changes while hitting puberty. But, no. It’s the boys that I have heard this more from this year. To each other or about themselves, it’s really hurtful and hard to undo.

I’m FAT. They said I’m fat. I need to loose weight. I’m going on a diet. I’m ugly.

While we have traditionally thought about girls’ body image and self-esteem due to media pressure and the sexualization of women, we can forget that boys, too, also struggle with body image and confidence in this day and age. Social media has changed things, and made children more self conscientious and aware at too early of an age.

There is pressure to be cool, noticed, and liked. For girls in elementary, I’m noticing more of a trend to be recognized and popular based on who you are friends with. The social circles you hold carries a lot of weight, and not necessarily the clothes, shoes, or way you look.

However, for boys right now, there is a lot of pressure to be athletic, fit, and fast. There has always been some innate pressure to be strongest or fastest. It’s survival of the fittest so that’s not a huge surprise. But, boys are also feeling pressure to look cool. They care about their clothes and shoes, and also their bodies. Boys are sensitive to their height, shoe size, and definitely weigh . What makes it difficult is that these qualities are some that you can’t always control or change. So, many boys are feeling FAT, being called FAT, or calling themselves FAT.

It’s not uncommon for that to be the joke, “YOU’RE FAT”. Friends calling each other fat, and saying it’s just a “joke” is not uncommon. And when there is a boy who’s not thin, or if they are just a little overweight, this hits home and can be very painful. As a counselor, I have listened to more boys cry this year than girls about feeling fat. Body image is a serious thing to changing, growing minds and bodies.

What I’ve learned is that boys are super sensitive. Often times, more so than girls. Fat-jokes aren’t cool, and certainly aren’t funny at all to the recipient. We can no longer assume that this a girl-problem. Poor body image can have a lasting impact on feelings of self-worth for all children.

As parents, we must be conscientious of the comments and words we are using. Just yesterday, I called a mother about a suicide assessment I conducted on her 7 year old son. This is a serious thing to say you’re going to “kill yourself”. She admitted that she uses this statement, “I’m going to kill myself” as a coping mechanism. And now, so does her son. Modeling is so important.

If we use the words “fat” or make comments about people’s weight OR our own weight, kids will pick up on that. Sometimes, it’s what we mumble or what we want to believe the kids aren’t noticing that make the biggest impression, whether it’s about ourselves or others.

We want healthy children. But, if we have unhealthy, sedentary habits, our children may develop lifestyle habits that do lead to obesity. In fact, the boys I can think of that were called “fat” or call themselves “fat” are not necessarily obese but are indeed a little overweight. They don’t want to be , but many are boys who only have the hobby and outlet of gaming outside of school. If we want healthy children, we have to regulate their screen time.

One wish I have is for children to feel good about themselves, and to grow up confident and secure in who they are. Words like “dumb”, “not popular”, “short”, “ugly”, and “FAT” are serious words. It’s a 3-letter that really hurts. And, we don’t want it to be too late.


In a selfie world, the pressure is real. But, adults need to model healthy behavior and habits. And, sometimes we have to direct conversations about what not to say. Recently, I mediated an interaction between 2 friends in which one was calling his friend fat in front of the group of friends. We need to spell it out sometimes. That’s not nice and he doesn’t think it’s funny.

Have these conversations and notice changes in your child’s mood and behavior. It’s easy to assume boys aren’t that sensitive or they can handle it. We can’t do that anymore. It’s not fair. And, we don’t want overlook a child who’s hurting. We want to have healthy children on the inside and out!




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