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About Positive Discipline Positive Discipline is a program developed by Dr. Jane Nelsen. It is based on the work of Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs and designed to teach young people to become responsible, respectful and resourceful members of their communities. All writers for COMPASS have been trained and certified through the Positive Discipline Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating respectful relationships in homes and schools. COMPASS—Positive Discipline E-Zine Editorial Director Ariadne Brill Copyright 2016 Distribution and/or reproduction of all materials without prior consent of each individual contributor is a violation of copyright. For reprint permission of articles, please contact individual contributors directly.

This publication is not for sale or resale. The materials contained herein are intended as educational and informational materials only. Materials are not a substitute for counseling or mental health services and not provided as such.

If you are concerned about your child’s health and development please contact your health provider.

Spring 2017

A Little Bit of Back Talk Your last issue was just so good! Thank you. – Robby M.

Image via © jul14ka Cover design Ariadne Brill

Reading all of the real life examples of positive discipline is inspiring and helpful. –Oliva P.

Send us your feedback and questions. We would love to hear from you. EMAIL:

In This Issue

A Different View of The World


When Kids Are Pushing Your Buttons


3 Tips For Being a More Empowered Parent


Raising Emotionally Healthy Children


Positive Strategies for Tears and Tantrums


Nurturing Creativity in Children


Shifting into Problem Solving Mode


Encouraging Sibling Connection

22 3

A Different View of The World The Value of pausing to See the World From Your Child’s Perspective By Amber Traina Today I took my boys to the Fish Hatchery. I was pushing my youngest in the stroller while my eldest led us around throwing fish food into the ponds for the fish to eat. He got so excited when the fish went nuts for the food, splashing and jumping out of the water. We finally got to the last pond and it was very still. Though the atmosphere was more serene, the fish in this pond were way more interesting than in the other ponds. Some were very long and narrow and some were very large. I was surprised that my son wasn't more interested in the different looking fish. He was intent on throwing food in the water but the fish were lingering at the bottom of the pond, obviously uninterested. He kept throwing food in the pond even though I told him the fish weren't hungry. I could see he was getting frustrated and the tub of fish food was about to go flying. I parked the stroller and walked over to him.

As I bent down, I noticed that there was a glare on the water at his height. The lightbulb in my head went off. He couldn't see the fish underneath. No wonder he was getting frustrated that the fish weren't coming to the surface. No wonder he wasn't interested in the peculiar looking fish. I picked him up and pointed out the fish on the bottom of the pond. We talked about the long fish and the fat fish. He agreed that they must not be hungry. His demeanor flipped immediately back to that of an engaged, curious three year-old. I wondered, how many times has this happened? How many times have I assumed that my son sees the world, experiences the world, the same way that I do? And how many times have I had expectations of him based on that assumption? In my brain I "know" that my children experience

the world differently than I do. I "know" that their physical size and developmental level are HUGE in shaping the lens through which they experience the world. And yet I forget. I forget to put myself in their shoes. I forget to get into their world.

live in. It is real for my children and it shapes their perception. So what can we, as parents, do? There are a number of tools that can help us get into our child's world so that we can truly connect with them.

I was listening to a podcast the other day and the guest described a rare and enjoyable evening she got to spend doing a puzzle with her husband. It was relaxing and leisurely and they were enjoying themselves very much. She later wondered how she would have felt and reacted if someone had walked in, picked up the puzzle, and said, 'Ok, playtime is over. Time to go."

GET EYE TO EYE Stop what you are doing. Get on your child's level close enough to see in his or her eyes. You will likely notice a difference in your approach and your child's response.

When I remind myself to get into the world my children live in, to bend down, to get on the floor, I remember that they often have a completely different point of view and a different set of priorities. There is a whole other world going on in my house that has no perception of time, that has no care for getting laundry done or floors cleaned, that doesn't even see the world above three feet most of the time. I know that if I want to be an effective parent I need to remind myself of their world. It is just as significant as the world I

CLOSET LISTENING Take time to sit quietly near your kids. If they ask what you want, say, "I just wanted to hang out with you for a few minutes." If they talk, listen without judgement or blame. ASK CURIOSITY QUESTIONS Ask instead of tell (avoid judgement and blame). "What happened?" "How did that make you feel?" "What could you do next time?" TAKE A STEP BACK & OBSERVE When we are in the moment, sometimes it is hard to see what might be happening for your child. Take a step back and consider the

Amber Traina Amber Traina is a certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator, owner and facilitator with PDParenting, and mother of two. As the eldest granddaughter of Dr. Jane Nelsen, founder and coauthor of the Positive Discipline series, Amber was fortunate to first encounter Positive Discipline as a child growing up and now brings the third generation of Positive Discipline to her own family. As a Parent Educator, Amber wishes to share the invaluable tools that Positive Discipline offers with parents, educators, and caregivers so that they may build empowering, respectful relationships with the children in their lives. Amber is a graduate of Wake Forest University with a prior career in Hospitality Operations and Marketing and currently resides with her family on Long Island, NY.


When Kids Are Pushing Your Buttons By Carol Dores

The things that used to “push my buttons”….being asked the same thing over and over again. Being interrupted while on the phone. Finding dirty dishes in bedrooms….again and again. Ignoring rules about time on video games. Fighting with each other. I could go on and on. Eventually, I would end up screaming, taking things away or sending them to their rooms. What did this accomplish? Maybe a change of behavior for the moment. It certainly didn’t help them learn anything long term. It didn’t help them grow up to be responsible and respectful people. What can we do differently? Pay attention to what pushes your buttons. Awareness is the first part of change. Learn how to walk away when upset, and figure out what is needed to calm down.

For me, slow breathing in a rocking chair really helps. Do not respond until everyone is calm. Have a conversation about what bothers you.

‘It bugs me when I find dirty dishes in your room. I wish they would end up in the dishwasher,” is an example. Ask your child for ideas on how to solve the problem. You can share ideas, too. See if you can find an idea that everyone can agree on, and try it for a week. Then check in to see how it is going. If a child asks things over and over again, Lynn Lott suggests responding with, “asked and answered”, saying nothing else.

If an agreement has been reached about screen time, and they want to “just finish this level”, ask, “what was our agreement?” and wait for a response. You can lovingly put a hand on their shoulder, and try to get eye contact. Once they meet the agreement, simply say, “thank you for keeping our agreement.” When you lose it, apologize. “I am sorry I yelled at you.” And say nothing else…do not add “but you….”.

Positive Discipline is about building relationships with our children, so that we can connect with them before working on correcting the situation. Showing children how to walk away when angry will help them learn how to do the same thing. Our actions are louder than our words.

Carol Schilling Dores Carol is the mother of two adult sons, and lives in Connecticut with her husband of over 30 years. She is a Certified Positive Discipline Parenting and Classroom Trainer. She is the co-founder and President of Positive Discipline of Connecticut, and served on the Positive Discipline Association of Directors as Board member, Secretary, and Co-Chair. She is available to teach parenting classes and to bring Positive Discipline in to schools and classrooms. She also will travel to facilitate "Teaching Parenting the Positive Discipline Way" and "Positive Discipline in the Classroom" certification workshops. Email:


3 Tips For Being a More Empowered Parent By Casey O’Roarty

If you are like me, you have had moments on your parenting journey that have been colored by defeat. Moments where you have felt as though you wanted to give up, questioned your abilities, longed for a life where you get a break. Maybe during the early years, when your young children melt down for what feels like hours at a time, because you gave them the wrong cup. Or perhaps it shows up with your schoolaged children, who have taken sibling rivalry next level. Or during those adolescent years, when all you want is to find out about their life, and all they want is for you to leave them alone.

The challenges that show up while raising children are real, and raw, and can sweep us off our feet. In our own emotional upset, we can feel justified in blaming our kids, blaming our partners, or going into deep beat up on ourselves for not being the parents we thought we would be.

It can feel incredibly disempowering. And discouraging. And we can slip into feelings of despair and resentment. We stop believing that we can influence our life, we stop seeing the choices that are always present, even in our toughest moments. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Even in the darkest times, we can choose to be empowered.

Here are three tips for getting there: Stop taking things personally How many times have we heard or said, my child loves to push my buttons? We are really quick to put ourselves in the center of our kids universe, and decide that every behavior that shows up is really a plot to make us crazy. Stop that. It isn’t true, and it isn’t helpful. Our kids are doing the best they can with the tools they have. They are navigating their world, with all of its social, emotional and physical minefields the best they can. It really isn’t about you. The brain takes 25 years to be fully developed – 25 YEARS! Couple that with the fact that each one of us has a personal lens, developed over time and experience, that we use to make sense of the world, and it is any wonder that we can feel as though we live in our own private freak show?? Let it go.

Empowered parents don’t take things personally.

Quit blaming Knowing that parenting is a collective journey, I am guessing you have heard yourself saying, you are in charge of you, to one of your children, while later stating, you are MAKING ME so frustrated! Ahh, the mixed messages we give… Stop blaming your children for your behavior. We set a really high bar for them, we want them to do well in school, be kind, eat their dinner, do their chores, want to go to bed at the end of the day, wash their hands…. I mean, the list goes on and on. Oh, and we would REALLY like them to do all of this without being told (because we already told them once), without whining, without tantrums, eye rolls, back talk… And then, when they show up poorly - don’t WANT to eat, do chores, go to bed, leave a playdate – when they fall apart and can’t navigate your expectation and their physiemotional response, we can often meet them in their tantrum - yelling, shaming, blaming… You know what I am talking about.

children, make amends, this is powerful modeling for your children, and a life skill we want them to learn to embody. Empowered parents take ownership of their emotions and their behavior.

Recognize where you have influence Will our children have meltdowns? Yes. Will our children roll their eyes at us? Yes. Will our children be openly defiant at times? Yes. Our kids are continuously trying on what it means to be separate from us, separate humans who want to know they matter. And we are their teachers. We are the models of who they will one day grow to be. Who we BE in challenges and struggles, is how we influence who they GROW to be.

Trust yourself. Empowered parents know that our response is where we have power. Do your work. Know that it is a practice and will get easier over time.

This isn’t about perfection and not having our own emotions. Have your emotions, but stop blaming what you are feeling on your children. And when you show up poorly for your

Casey O’Roarty, M.Ed. Casey O’Roarty, M.Ed. is a wife, mother, Certified Positive Discipline Trainer, and Coach. She holds a BA in Sociology from the University of Arizona and earned her Masters in Education from the University of Washington. She teaches parents and teachers how to build stronger, more authentic relationships with themselves and the children in their lives. Casey encourages grown ups to recognize and embrace the challenges of parenting as opportunities to model, teach, and practice the skills we want our children to learn to embody. Read more of her work and check out her online offers at


Raising Emotionally Healthy Children by Debbie Zeichner, LCSW

Emotional Intelligence” or EQ refers to the abil-

2.) See situations from your child’s per-

ity to know one’s own emotions as well as the

spective and help him learn about his

emotions of others. It is the quality most em-

emotional world – It’s important to know

ployers look for in a potential candidate. Having

that kids are always making decisions and form-

EQ has also been shown to be a better predictor

ing beliefs based on what

of “happiness and success” than IQ.

they perceive happening around them. This is part of what drives their behav-

If you’re wondering how to cultivate this essen-

ior. However, we need to keep in mind that be-

tial trait, while raising kids who feel a strong

cause they still lack the cognitive development

sense of identity, contentment and connection,

and experience, their perceptions are not always

consider these 10 vital suggestions…

accurate and therefore their behavior will not always make sense.

1.) Focus on the relationship you have with your child above all else – Connected

Our ability to empathize with how they experi-

kids are happier kids.

ence various situations helps them make sense of

their world. Helping them label the emotions they are likely feeling, provides comfort and security, while building emotional intelligence. 3.) Acknowledge and validate your child’s experience and emotions – Feelings are not good or bad; right or wrong. They are simply what make us human. When kids feel acknowledged, accepted and understood, for the full range of their feelings, they develop self-awareness, selfconfidence and a sense that they are capable of managing their emotions. In addition, they become less reactive and more receptive to any guidance and suggestions we have to offer. 4.) Consider brain development and have realistic expectations – The logical, rational part of a child’s brain is still developing (up until the age of 26!), so understand that they don’t always have “control” over their emotions and impulses in the way we would hope or expect.

Furthermore, kids learn how to regulate their emotions by how we regulate ours. Have patience. Learn about each of their developmental stages. 5.) MODEL the very behavior that you want to see – So often, it’s not what we say, but what we DO that guides children’s actions. Pause before parenting. Those little eyes are always watching. Be it to teach it. 6.) Set limits with both kindness AND firmness – Kids need limits and boundaries. A too kind approach is permissive and a too firm approach is authoritarian. Being kind

Kids learn how to regulate their emotions by how we regulate ours.

and firm AT THE SAME TIME is respectful to both child and parent.


7.) Focus on what IS going well – It can be so easy to focus on the negative (tantrums, back talk, defiance etc), yet, there’s actually a lot of “good stuff” happening, when we take the time to really look for it. Kids are natural pleasers. 8.) Be present – Tune in. Listen to your child with genuine interest. Drop any agenda you may have.

Debbie Zeichner, LCSW

9.) Be playful – Play is the language of childhood. Get silly, have fun – life is too short to be taken so seriously! 10.) Love your kids (and yourself!) unconditionally! – Life is messy, imperfect and full of ups and downs. We all make mistakes – it’s how we learn, grow and evolve. Show compassion for yourself and your kids – we’re learning “life lessons” right alongside each other. All the best, Debbie

Debbie Zeichner, LCSW, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Parent Coach who has specialized in working with adults, children and families for over 18 years. As a Certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator and Mindful Parenting practitioner, Debbie facilitates engaging parenting classes, workshops and individualized coaching to support parents in creating a greater sense of calm, confidence and connection within themselves and their families. In addition, Debbie is also trained in the Mindful Schools curriculum and offers mindfulness training to youth in schools and within her community.

To learn more about Debbie and her parent coaching services, please visit:

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Positive Strategies for Tears and Tantrums By Ariadne Brill

With tears rolling down her little face, my daughter walked over to me and asked for a hug. She was having a really tough day. Her crayon broke while coloring. Her snack wasn’t tasty. Our puppy chewed up a hole into her favorite pair of shoes. Overwhelmed, she started to cry. Oh Tantrums! Maybe you have heard that ignoring tantrums is a good idea so that children will stop using tantrums to get what they want? Simply stopping tears and tantrums isn't the best way to help children learn how to cope with their ever changing emotions. Children cry for a reason. In the first five years, children often become overwhelmed with emotions they don’t yet know how to handle. Sometimes the reasons for tantrums seem absolutely absurd. Maybe you think you should not reward your child for crying about incorrectly opened bananas or sliced toast? The idea of being kind during a tantrum seems to be pampering? Validating feelings is not the same as pampering.

Kindness during a tantrum is not a reward. To raise a child that will eventually know how to regulate her own emotions, (self discipline) attending to a tantrum is a necessary part of parenting. Children need guidance to return to a state of calm. Their brains are simply not mature enough, and have not developed the neural pathways for recognizing and managing big upsetting moments. The good news is that many positive discipline tools can actively help children feel better while encouraging self regulation skill development. Here are 10 Positive Discipline based tools for tantrums and tears

1. Offer your child a hug: Touch is a wonderful way to connect with an upset child. This is a reassuring way to let your child know they aren't left alone to manage big feelings. 2. Tell your child you care about them: Offering sincere love can be very reassuring to an upset child “I love you. I can see you are very upset.”

3. Offer your child a helping hand: Asking your child if you can help them with whatever is frustrating them can help ease the tantrum. (If your child isn't ready for help, try tools #5 and #6 first.) 4. Go to a safe space: Tantrums that rise out of anger and rage may lead your child to act out in a physical way. Accompany your child to a safe and private space. Limit any destructive behaviors without ignoring feelings. 5. Sit near by and listen: Being present is one of the greatest acts of kindness you can give your child during a tantrum. It shows your child you care and love them, even when they are distressed. 6. Validate your child’s feelings: Allowing your child to feel their feelings is very important. For some children it is calming to say something like: “I can see you seem so very mad right now.” Other children may not be ready to receive validation until they have cried for a while. This is part of an emotion coaching strategy and very helpful to young children.

10. Have faith: Telling your child you love them and that you want to understand or help them is a nice way to re-center, find a positive mindset and help both of you move on. Have faith your child is able to have her feelings, recover and move forward. Strive to be kind and allow tantrums to just be what they are: em otional release and a opportunity to practice self-regulation. Don't give into demands that are unreasonable. Instead provide kind and clear guidance to help your child thrive. As children grow they may be able to choose going to a calming corner or “positive time out” when overwhelmed. Learn more about calm down plans and emotion coaching by joining the Terrific Toddlers - Positive Discipline in the First Five Years online course. I hope to see you in the online classroom!

7. Try breathing together. Model deep calming breaths or short bunny breaths to help your child calm down. 8. Eye to Eye: Giving your child eye contact and a loving smile can help them sense your kindness and intention to help. 9. Try to find a solution: After reconnecting with your child with a hug or eye contact, try to give them what they need. If your child really just couldn’t express their need without some help and became frustrated, by meeting their need you are not being manipulated or tricked, rather you are helping your child and being kind. Just keep in mind needs and wants are not the same. Keep your limits clear, even if your child becomes upset.

Ariadne Brill Ariadne is the mom to two boys and one girl. She is a Certified Positive Discipline Parenting Educator and her specialty is helping parents find more calm and confidence on their parenting journey. Ariadne has training in Psychology, child development, communication and family counseling.

Let’s Connect!

Connect with Ariadne over at the Positive Parenting Connection, an 15online resource for parents and caregivers dedicated to promoting peaceful, playful and positive parenting. Positive Parenting Connection

Five Keys to Nurturing Creativity in Your Child By Cheryl Erwin


very parent has heard it—the howl of the bored child. “Mom, I don’t have anything to DO!” or “Dad, come play with me!” Despite a closet filled with toys and the electronic gizmos of the moment, children everywhere are flopping down in abject misery at the prospect of filling up their free time. Is it a parent’s job to provide constant stimulation and to solve every problem? Actually—no. In fact, if you constantly entertain your child and solve her problems for her, you are stealing from her the ability to be creative, to exercise her imagination, and possibly, to contribute new ideas and solutions to the world we all share. Why is creativity important? Beyond the arts we often associate with creativity—things like music, art, drama, and literature—creativity is necessary for solving problems, especially new problems. Divergent thinking, sometimes called “thinking outside the box”, is the potential source of cures for disease and solutions to world problems such as poverty and hunger. Be forewarned, though: Creativity can look an

awful lot like misbehavior. It can be messy and inefficient—and the world would be lost without it.

How can you nurture creativity in your child? Make messes together. Programs such as Italy’s Reggio Emilia have learned the value of providing rich natural materials of all kinds, and time and space to explore them. Everything from leaves and pebbles to mud and paints can spark a creative impulse. In a world where parents are in a hurry and “play” is packaged, timed, and organized, creativity can be in short supply. Provide lots of raw materials—the messier the better—and turn your child loose.

Stop helping. If you’re rushing in to “help” every time your child gets stuck, stop. Have a little faith, offer gentle clues, and let your child wrestle with the problem himself. Working through a problem on his own

builds critical and creative thinking skills, and the sense of satisfaction he gets from doing it himself is worth far more than your immediate assistance. Be creative yourself. Not only will creativity enrich your life, it may well inspire your child to discover her own imagination. Knit a scarf; paint with watercolors. Go to a pottery shop and toss a bowl together. Share what you know and make space for your child to experiment. You may discover that adding creative activities to your day enriches your life as well as your child’s. Ask, don’t tell. Consider for a moment: How much do you enjoy being ordered around and told what to do? Your child doesn’t like it much, either. Not only that: Telling a child what to do creates resistance and power struggles, and most parents have enough of those already. You can guide your child and provide clues about behavior without issuing a string of commands and directives. Here’s how: “Where should you put your dishes when you’re finished with breakfast?” “Where can you put your homework papers so you don’t forget them in the morning?” What do you need to wear so you won’t be cold outside?”

Learn to see mistakes—your own and your child’s—as opportunities to learn. Mistakes are not embarrassing failures. They are opportunities to learn new skills and to develop persistence. When your child spills his juice, try saying, “Oops—you made a mistake. What can we do now to fix it?” Then follow up by asking, “How can we avoid spilling the juice next time?” You are not only solving an everyday parenting problem (and teaching your child a useful skill in the process), you’re sending your child the message that you have faith in his ability to solve problems, and that mistakes aren’t fatal. Imagine how your family might feel if mistakes were accepted as part of everyday learning and growth. The world around us grows more complicated with each passing day. Inviting and inspiring your child’s creativity—no matter how messy— may hold the answers for the problems we all face.

Asking instead of telling invites critical thinking, less defiance— and more creativity.

Cheryl Erwin Cheryl Erwin is a Certified Positive Discipline Lead Trainer, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and the co-author of several books in the bestselling “Positive Discipline” series, including “Positive Discipline: the First Three Years”, “Positive Discipline for Preschoolers,” and “Positive Discipline for Single Parents.” You 17 can get support and learn more at

Shifting Into Problem Solving Mode By Marcilie Smith Boyle


play in the dirt, that was fine, but he’d have to take a shower after so that we could get the dirt out of his hair.

My then 3-year old son and I were at our favorite family camp one summer. My son loved to play in the woods – grabbing handfuls of red earth, and throwing them up in the air like fireworks. The beautiful color and sound filled him with joy as the dirt rained down over his head and body.

However, my son hated the shower. He screamed, cried, and hollered the whole time. We both left the bathroom feeling re-

his story about giving up some parenting responsibility comes from Louann, who recently took my 8week Parenting with Positive Discipline virtual class . . .

I, on the other hand, felt no joy when he laid his dirt-filled head of hair onto the pillow that night. I told him that if he wanted to

Seems like a very logical consequence, right?

I thought to ask him for solutions. sentful and exhausted. This battle persisted the following night. On the third night, while walking up the hill to our cabin and dreading another tear-

filled shower, I thought to ask him for solutions. “Hey buddy, I can see that you love playing in the red dirt, and I love seeing how much fun you’re having. The thing is, the dirt gets stuck in your hair and leaves a mess in the bed. You seem to really hate the shower, so what could we do?”

And then, something unexpected happened. This three-year old child actually offered a reasonable solution. He said, “Mommy the shower hurts my eyes. How about I just lean my head over the sink, put a washcloth over my eyes, and you can wash my hair that way?” I was so surprised because that idea never occurred to me! As soon as we arrived at our cabin, I washed his hair over the kitchen sink. He smiled throughout! As I dried him off, he looked me in the eye and and gave me a big grin with sparkling eyes. Then he hugged me and said “Mommy, I love you!” He was so proud of himself and I’d never seen him that happy and expressive. For

the next year, that became his preferred method for washing his hair.

I love this story because it’s a fantastic example of how our children can help solve their own problems – whether they’re behavior problems or any other kind. Just last night I experienced a heavy upset right alongside my own child’s when he bombed his math test.

As his mother, I don’t want him to hurt, or struggle. I feel depr essed when he does. I ache when he aches (and often when he doesn’t). Immediately I shifted into ProblemSolving Mode, and tried to figure out what I could do to make everything better. It’s my responsibility as a parent, right? It’s natural to feel these feelings, of course, and it’s not wrong. At the same time, I don’t need to take all the responsibility for solving his problems, nor is it in my child’s best interest for me to do so.

 Then he hugged me and said “Mommy, I love you!”


I took a deep breath, empathized, and re- Plus, when children participate in solving sisted the urge to fix (super hard for me). their own challenges, they’re more likely Instead, I asked him what his plan to own the solution and follow through. was. And what do you know? He had one. The invitation can be as simple as He said he had already written his teacher Louann’s in her story: to find a time to meet. In addition, he was  “What can we do?” watching Youtube videos that explained  “How could we solve this problem? the math concepts he didn’t understand. Any ideas?” Simply asking the question — even if your When I remember that my children are child is unable to answer it — lets children naturally creative and know themselves know that you believe in their ability to better than I do, and I invite them into the think creatively and solve problems. problem-solving process (or just let them own it), the solutions are often better than So remember that you don’t have to take anything I could come up with on my own. all the responsibility for your child’s be(Would I have thought of Youtube? No havior or dilemmas. Share the load with chance.) your child. It’s great practice for both of you.

Marcilie Smith Boyle Marcilie coaches high achieving parents and professionals toward authentic success so that they can live, work, and parent with more peace, purpose, and joy. A Certified Positive Discipline Parenting Educator and Life & Leadership Coach, she leverages her previous sixteen-year consulting and marketing career to ensure her clients get a return on their coaching investment. Marcilie earned her MBA from Harvard Business School, and CPCC from The Coaches Training Institute. She offers 1:1 and group coaching (live or via phone/Skype) on topics such as parenting, work/ life balance, career transition, and leadership as well as “Parenting with Positive Discipline” More info here.

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teach but I think it’s because it’s a topic that I am pretty passionate about. This is not to say that my kids don’t fight. They do. Often. As a matter of fact, just this morning Katherine said Rebecca was pulling her pony tail. The difference is that we’ve taught them to try to communicate well throughout their altercation and we are always close by to help support them if they need it.

On the way to school, I asked the girls what makes them feel like they have a great relationship as sisters. Here were their response:

Encouraging Sibling Connection By Kristina Grum


ne day I asked on my Facebook page what people’s biggest struggle and biggest success is when it comes to siblings. The overwhelming answer was fighting. At a family function, a relative of a relative (who is not our relative) said to me, “Your girls get along so well. You should teach a class about how you foster such a great relationship with them.” I tried not to laugh as I said, “I do, actually. And I’m teaching it next week!” My sibling class is my favorite to

Katherine (8) – “When we get to talk on the way to school, I feel like we become better sisters.” Caroline ( 7) – “When we get to do things together.” Rebecca (5) – “When my sisters help me with a project.” I noticed the main theme through all their answers was connection. Creating connection between siblings is one of the most integral parts of fostering a solid relationship between them. Here are some suggestions and ideas: 1. TEACH THEM HOW TO MAKE DECISION WHERE EVERYONE WINS There are going to be a lot of situations where it looks like everyone can’t win. And sometimes that may be the case. For most situations, though, you can teach the kids how to create a win-win for everyone. At Easter my sister in law gave the girls these amazing large, fuzzy pillows. They were each a different color and the girls had to decide who would get what color. WHAT THIS LOOKS LIKE: Me – “I want you each to tell me what 2 color pillows you’d like to have. There’s yellow, pink, and purple. Think about what your fa-

vorite colors are and what color your room is because that’s where your pillow will be.” Katherine – “Pink and purple.” Caroline – “Yellow and pink.” Rebecca – “Pink and purple.” Caroline got the yellow one because she was the only one who wanted it. Katherine got the pink one and Rebecca got the purple one. Everyone was happy because they all got one of their top 2 choices. If this hadn’t worked and they all wanted the same colors, we would have waited to give any pillows to anyone. We don’t distribute anything until everyone is in agreement. HOW DO YOU HANDLE THAT? So if they all wanted the pink and purple pillows, I would have said, “Well, you all want the pink and purple pillows and there are only 2 of them and 3 of you. What can we do so that everyone feels like they get what they need in this situation?” I would have helped to guide them to different solutions like, “We can all take turns with the pillows and each color spends a week in someone’s room,” “Maybe we can return one at the store to get a new color,” “Make a new cover for one of the pillows,” or “Pick a color out of a hat.” They’d all have to agree on the method used to determine who gets what. If they don’t all agree on the method, they won’t be accepting of the outcome. If they do agree, that doesn’t leave them room to complain. Now, if they are having a hard time with this, as younger kids would, you can hold onto the pillows yourself until they’re ready to resolve the issue. Approaching it diplomatically will help them to sort out their own problems later. It also teaches them that each of their voices’ matter and that you won’t play favorites. 2. ENCOURAGE TEAMWORK Have the kids work on a project together. It can be a craft project, a cooking project, or even a cleaning project.

WHAT THIS LOOKS LIKE: You can set up a project for them to do together and figure out on their own. For example, “I need you guys to clean the playroom. Can you guys figure out how to do it on your own or do you need some suggestions?” If they can figure it out on their own, keep an ear on them to make sure that one person isn’t taking advantage of another. If they need help, offer alternatives like, “One person can pick up the Legos, one person can pick up the books, and one person can put the craft supplies away. Who wants to do which project?” You may have it easy at this point where everyone picks a different item. However, parenting is not full of easy. Normally you’ll have them all wanting to do the same project.

HOW DO YOU HANDLE THAT? See above where I talk about how we decide who gets which pillow and use the same method. “Which 2 projects would you like to have?” 3. SHARING


Sharing isn’t an innate behavior. Everyone, including adults, can get territorial about their possessions and what they want to do. While I think it helps if your kids share things (less money spent by you!), I think it’s also important that each child has their own things that they don’t share. This revelation was a hard one for me to come to when Katherine and Caroline were little. They’re 14 months apart so I naturally thought they’d share everything. At around 2, Katherine said to me one day, “Mommy, I don’t want to share this – it’s my most special toy.” And it was. I realized that as an adult there are things that I don’t want to share with anyone. If I’m giving our kids the same respect that I expect, then I can’t expect them to share everything. This meant that we had 2 or 3 of some things but that’s okay. By teaching the girls that they have things that no one else can touch or play with, it also taught them that people’s things are valuable.

WHAT THIS LOOKS LIKE: Each child has a bucket that goes into a shelving unit in our playroom that belongs to them. We label them with their name. They aren’t allowed to touch anyone’s bucket without permission and anything they put in there is off limits to everyone else. This has been their space and they really value it.

4. OFFER SUPPORT You can offer to help them mediate a disagreement but don’t solve it for them. It’s easy to step in with all the answers but this is setting them up to be rescued every single time. By guiding them in their disagreements, it will require more of your time in the beginning, but it won’t in the end. Eventually they’ll know how to mediate their own disagreements and ask for help when they need it. What can be difficult is when you have younger children that aren’t yet verbal. WHAT THIS LOOKS LIKE: “Do you need Mommy’s help you to talk to your big brother? Can you tell us what you want?” or you can say something like, “I think what your little brother is trying to say is that he’s feeling frustrated that he still hasn’t gotten a turn yet. Is that right, little brother? When can we expect him to have a turn? Would you like me to set a timer for you so we know when it’s his turn?” It’s important to make sure you don’t put words in their mouth but try to put feelings into words. This will help both of them identify that feelings have labels and it will help them to recognize them when they happen. 5. TEACHING “MAKE UPS” When someone does something wrong it’s important to teach them how to make it better. You want the make up to be related to the offense so it’s a logical consequence. If you can’t think of a logical consequence, you

can ask the offended child, “How would you like your sister make it up to you?” It’s important that the consequence be logical because in this situation, a child can take some creative leeway. For example, you don’t want a child to clean their sibling’s entire room if they weren’t the one to mess it up. WHAT DOES THIS LOOK LIKE: If one sibling knocks blocks over, they can do a make up by helping to build the tower again or to pick up the blocks. If one sibling says mean things to the other, they can make a list of 3 things that they do like about the other sibling. If someone hurts someone else, they can draw them a picture to make them feel better. Now, this isn’t to say that if you do all these things with your kids that they will love each other forever and ever and never fight. They’re siblings and every person comes to a relationship with their own dynamics. The most important thing is to teach them how to be empathetic to each other and how to bounce back when they fall down. Because they will fall down. Over and over again. And they’re going to want their siblings there to offer support when they do. xoxo –k

P.S. If you are interested in the Building a Better Sibling Connection course, sign up for my newsletter. I’ll be teaching it online soon!

Kristina Grum Kristina Grum is a certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator who has over a decade of experience working with children, including being a classroom teacher. She currently teaches parenting classes in her local area and online and writes about shifting parenthood from barely surviving to thriving.


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Spring 2017 Edition featuring Problem Solving vs. Consequences, Parent Empowerment, Reducing Button Pushing, Positive Strategies for Tears a...