Category Archives: 4. The Growing Child

From age 4 to age 9.

Embracing Positive Discipline’s Challenges

By Kelly Bartlett, certified positive discipline educator and leader of API of East Portland, Oregon USA

Positive discipline doesn’t come instinctively for many people. In fact, that’s why most parents endeavor in positive discipline in the first place; they want to change their current instincts about raising children. They want to break the cycle of using traditional discipline methods that compromise the parent-child relationship, and they are forging their way in a new direction. As opposed to parenting with strict control and scare tactics, when children are raised with kindness and respect, parents are instilling a new instinct for discipline. Children learn how to solve problems, manage difficult emotions, and make intrinsic decisions about what’s right and wrong. Positive discipline is a parenting approach that is based on connection and trust, rather than on longing and fear.

However, while the theory has remarkable appeal, many parents are skeptical to begin the journey into positive discipline. It seems doubtful that any deviation from what has, up until now, seemed like the “normal” way to parent children is going to work. Or more likely, that a different approach will work more effectively. This reluctance is natural. After all, it goes back to instincts; parents naturally turn to the same methods with which they were raised. The thought of doing anything differently can bring on resistance:

“It’s too much work.”

Going from a reactive discipline approach to one that’s primarily proactive can feel very intimidating. Positive discipline takes the cultural belief about discipline and turns it on its head. When parents are accustomed to responding to children’s behavior with yelling, threats, and punishments, it is difficult to stop and re-think how to respond using the language of positive discipline. Indeed, much like learning a new language, learning positive discipline skills also takes time and practice.

Parents can take baby steps in the direction they want to go by substituting one positive discipline tool in place of a corresponding traditional one. For example, to raise kids who are problem solvers, focus on solutions instead of issuing punishments. To raise kids who are effective communicators, ask questions and listen instead of lecturing. To raise kids who are internally motivated, say “thank you” instead of “good job.” For every attribute parents aspire to teach their children, there are baby steps they can take to get there. Start with one; step by step, you will soon see great strides.

“It takes too long to see results.”

While it’s true that traditional discipline aims to stop unwanted behavior now, positive discipline works toward a bigger goal than the immediate present. Most of the positive discipline tools are proactive, rather than reactive. This means they won’t elicit the same results as traditional discipline methods. For many parents, this can be frustrating when trying to manage difficult behavior.

Glenda Montgomery, a certified postive discipline educator with the Positive Discipline Association, likens positive discipline to a dance. She tells parents, “Imagine that throughout these years, you’ve been in a dance with your child. You know all of each other’s moves. You know each other’s actions and consequent reactions. Now suddenly, [by using positive discipline] you’re changing the dance routine. You are moving in a new direction while your child is continuing with the same moves as before. Their moves might even be more pronounced than usual as your child tries to lead you back into a familiar dance routine. It’s going to take some time for everyone to get in sync with the new moves.”

Yes, it does take time to see significant results with positive discipline. Consider the adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.” If your first attempt at using a positive discipline tool doesn’t succeed in changing behavior, try it again. And again. Perhaps try a different tool. And try that one again. What all of these tries add up to over the course of the growth of the child is a new “dance”; a new relationship between the two of you and a new perspective for seeing disciplinary results.

“Life is not ‘positive’.”

In the “real world,” there are consequences for poor behavior and rewards for good behavior. If you break a law, you are punished with jail time. If you excel at your job, you are given a bonus. If you drive too fast, you get a ticket. If you travel enough, you get status perks. The world is full of conditions. This makes many parents want to adopt a punishment-and-reward system at home with prizes, timeouts, sticker charts, and losses of privileges, so children can grow up experiencing what the “real world” is like.

Jane Nelsen, PhD, author of Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World, argues that there are much more effective ways to teach children about developing sound judgment skills to succeed in the real world, without mimicking the punishments and rewards that are intended for adults in an adult system. She says that moral and ethical development requires not the enforcement of external provisions, but “a mentorship between children and adults.” The best way to help children develop sound judgment is to give them the opportunity to practice.

This means parents must refrain from making all of their children’s decisions for them and must provide them with opportunities to think through their own choices; to make mistakes. When parents do this, and allow their children to fully experience the consequences of their mistakes without being rescued, children learn much more efficiently the effects of their actions. Dr. Nelsen says, “When young people discover that their choices affect their outcomes, they feel potent and significant and become increasingly confident that they hold the reins in their lives. With practice, they become more adept in holding these reins — and better human beings.”

Because children are not on the same developmental level as adults, emotionally or cognitively, they do not need “practice” in experiencing punishments intended on an adult level in an adult world. What they need from parents are discipline strategies that focus instead on problem solving and communication. They need to cultivate problem solving skills and internal motivation for doing what’s right. In short, they need to develop sound judgment now (through experiencing mistakes and solving problems), so they will inherently avoid the legal system later when they’re in the “real world.”

“It rewards poor behavior.”

Because positive discipline involves no punishments and lots of connection, it is often first seen as permissive. It makes more sense to parents to threaten a consequence to stop a tantrum than to scoop a screaming child up for a hug. Isn’t doling out hugs instead of consequences just rewarding bad behavior? It’s easy to see how positive discipline challenges mainstream thought about behavior. It moves from a behaviorist approach — offering superficial solutions to control innate human behavior — to a connected, communicative one. It aims to first understand — to get at the root of human needs — then to guide. Positive discipline is connection before correction.

It is possible to reconsider the idea that human behavior must be manipulated and controlled by a set of external stimuli (punishments and rewards). Parents can remember that, unlike animals, children’s behavior is a direct reaction to their feelings, and those feelings stem from genuine needs. Because difficult behavior in a child is a result of an unmet need, parents can first pause to assess what that child might be feeling, and therefore needing, before being too hasty to chastise the behavior. As human brains are more complex than those of any other animal, positive discipline methods, as opposed to behaviorist strategies, are aimed at changing behavior by specifically addressing those complexities. So although for many parents it may seem like positive discipline methods reward undesirable behavior, they in fact do not. It’s not a “carrot and stick” approach to manipulating behavior; rather it regards behavior at its source on a uniquely emotional level. Positive discipline addresses behavior at its core, without merely treating its symptoms.

“I’m alone in this.”

More often than not, parents meet other parents who are unfamiliar with the concept of positive discipline, than those who use it regularly in their families. Sometimes, it’s even within the same family that parents disagree on how to discipline. Spousal differences or grandparent disparities may convey many of the resistances described above, and make it seem difficult for a family to succeed in their positive discipline efforts.

There is support available for helping parents succeed with positive discipline! No matter where you are on your journey, there are various forms of education, inspiration, and encouragement. In-person positive discipline classes are available in states across the country, and they offer inspiring evenings of learning, activities, and connection with like-minded families. It is immensely helpful for parents to be able to connect with other moms and dads who are also on a positive discipline journey. Online or in person, parents come together to create a network of support for each other. They’re there to encourage, commiserate with, and bounce ideas off of each other. Parents should surround themselves with positive discipline enthusiasts; create networks of support to help themselves succeed.

Find more information on local positive discipline workshops, as well as online support, at www.positivediscipline.com.  Also available is a downloadable iPhone app in which parents can conveniently have the 52 Positive Discipline Tool Cards always at their fingertips.

Learning positive discipline takes a lot of thought, effort, and most importantly, a huge shift in paradigm. Discipline approaches change from reactive to proactive. Discipline tools change from “what can I do to my child” to “what can I do for my child.” And discipline strategies change from quick-fix to long-term. Despite the initial effort involved, the payoff is life-long for family unity, parent-child relationships, children’s well-being, and even children’s future families. It is absolutely possible and undoubtedly worth the investment to work on creating new instincts for raising secure, confident children.

How to Respond to the Most Frustrating Phrases Kids Say

By Rita Brhel, managing editor and attachment parenting resource leader (API)

“No!”

“You’re so mean.”

“I hate you!”

“Daddy lets me.”

“You like him better than me.”

“Why should I?”

“You can’t make me!”

“That’s mine!”

“I don’t want to.”

Kids say the darndest things, but sometimes also the most hurtful things. It can be surprising what comes out of your child’s mouth when she decides she wants to do something different than what you’re wanting her to do! Especially as your child starts going to preschool, playdates, and other places where they’re around other children, they start picking up on other behaviors and bringing them home. I’ve heard “No!” many times from my children, but I was shocked the first time my four-year-old daughter threw her arms up in the air, said “Hmmph,” and stomp away after a request — until I observed one of her playmates do the same to her mother. The light bulb turned on in my brain: Oh, that’s where she got it. And she’s brought home a lot of other behaviors and phrases since then.

How to Respond to Toddlers

Young children do these behaviors as they explore their independence. They are not meaning to be hurtful — just trying to find their way in the world and test out different phrases and behaviors to see what the consequences are. For my child’s playmate, as described above, her consequence was getting what she sought. For my child, her consequence was not getting it until she gave an appropriate request.

There are four tips to responding to toddlers (these are taken from the Appelbaum Training Institute) who like to say any of the variations of “No!” back to us:

  • Honor the boundaries you’ve set — Teach your child that he won’t be getting what he wants without an appropriate request (without whining, hitting, tantrumming, etc.), and sometimes not at all, depending on the request, such as eating sister’s holiday candy. But remember not to force the child to do what you want her to do; according to Attached at the Heart by Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker, “your goal is not to break a young child’s will, but to help instill the desire to be ‘good’ and develop his own will to make good decisions. This will mean that he can feel good about having some control in his life that can lead to better cooperation.” Try playful parenting or nonviolent communication to avoid a power struggle while continuing to honor your boundaries.
  • Focus on the positive — Tell your child what he can do, rather than can’t. Provide a brief explanation. Say what you need him to do, not what you want him to do; phrase it as “I need you to…”
  • Give your child choices — Have her choose between two toys, two drinks, two snacks, etc. I also have my children choose their shirt to wear for the day and then the choice of two pairs of pants that match the shirt. I also have them choose between two colors of drinking cups, bowls, and more. It’s sometimes better to have two choices, rather than more, so that it doesn’t become overwhelming to the child, but as the child gets older, preschoolers can often handle more choices.
  • Make transitions fun — Transitions are hard for young children, because they become engrossed in their activity and don’t want to switch. This is why any of the variations of “No!” come out often at times of transition. Try making it fun by playing the “Freeze” game, during which the children “freeze” for a moment when you call out the word; or sing a song with actions such as “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”; or walk like an animal, drive a car, or fly like a bird. Before naptime, demonstrate to the child how to melt into her napping surface — it makes this often-difficult transition fun!

How to Respond to Preschoolers

As toddlers grow into the preschool years, their needs become more complex, and “No!” may mean more than frustration with a transition. There are generally three reasons why your child is telling you any of the variations of “No!”:

  1. Independence — the child is learning they have a voice. This is your basic “No!”
  2. Attention-Seeking — the child is looking for attention. This can be hurtful, such as “I hate you!”
  3. Self-Protection — the child is trying to avoid the consequences of his behavior. This may include the other spouse or another caregiver, such as “Daddy lets me.”

For every behavior, there is a function. Once the function — one of the three reasons above — is identified, here are some guidelines to dealing with the behavior:

  • Independence — Don’t dwell on the behavior, but teach the child how to respond respectfully. For example, instead of “I want that now,” how about “I would like a turn with that toy”? In reply to “No!” or “I don’t want to” or “You can’t make me,” offer the child a choice between tasks.
  • Attention-Seeking — Affirm to the child that she does have value. Spend more time with your child. During discipline, be consistent and give a brief explanation of your expectations.
  • Self-Protection — Demonstrate a genuine interest in the child. Tell the child what you need, and ask the child to repeat back to you what you asked of him. When addressing comments about other caregivers’ rules, explain that right now, you need your child to follow your rule, such as “That is your daddy’s rule when I’m not home, but my rule right now is…, so I need you to…”

What Not to Do

There are five behaviors we, as parents and caregivers, should never do in response to the hurtful and defiant phrases or actions given to us by our children:

  1. Argue.
  2. Defend ourselves.
  3. Become sarcastic.
  4. Lose our cool.
  5. Roll our eyes.

Remember to bite your tongue, as children pick up on our behaviors, too, and will repeat them back to us!

The “See One, Teach One, Do One” Approach to Teaching

By Kelly Bartlett, certified positive discipline educator and leader for Portland API, Oregon USA

Teaching children practical life skills takes more time than we usually think.  It’s common for parents to get frustrated with kids who aren’t doing something we think they should know how to do, like putting on socks or shoes, preparing food, putting laundry away, or the ever-popular instruction, “Clean your room!” Tasks like these seem so straightforward to us, but for children they can be overwhelming and surprisingly complicated.

Before we get overly frustrated with our children, it helps if parents can remember the “see one, teach one, do one” approach to learning new tasks.  These are the steps it typically takes for kids to learn new things:

See One

The child should see you demonstrating the task, and will watch with the purpose of learning. You can explain what you’re doing as you go. “Watch how I do these three things to get your room clean. First, I…”

Teach One

Involve your child and do the task together. Have him help you with the various steps involved in cleaning that room. “You put all of the dirty clothes in the laundry basket, while I make your bed.” When you are working together, the job doesn’t seem so daunting for a child, and you’re also modeling cooperation, teamwork, and respect.

This also works well for older children who forget to do their jobs. A Certified Positive Discipline Trainer from Greenville, South Carolina in the USA, Kelly Pfieffer shares a story of her teenage son who would continually forget to bring in the garbage cans and recycling bins after garbage day. This was meant to be his responsibility, but it wouldn’t get done at the end of the day, nor even the next morning on his way out to school. “My husband would be especially upset because it was obvious to the neighbors that our trash cans had not been brought in,” she said.

Kelly decided to take time to teach her son and help him learn by making the job one that they would do together. She gave her son the opportunity to bring in the garbage cans when he got home, but when he didn’t, she met him at the door with a hug, a smile, and a, “We’re doing the trash together now. Let’s get it done.” It took a few weeks of this cooperative teaching, with no nagging or lecturing, and her son started going right to the garbage cans when he got home! Kelly says, “Now it’s unusual for him to forget, when it used to be unusual for him to remember. Though if needed, I will do the task with him again.”

Just as it took Kelly several weeks of teaching her son how to bring in the garbage cans, it will most likely take kids several teaching sessions before they get the hang of a job and are able to think through it on their own. Kelly even says she expects her son to forget again, as his priorities are simply different than hers. But she is ready and willing to step in and do it together with him again. Instead of labeling this step “teach one,” it would be more aptly called “teach many, many times!”

Do One

This final step is when the child is able to do the task on her own. Some children (like Kelly’s teenager) might be able to go right from cooperative learning to doing it on their own, while some children (such as younger ones) might benefit from the opportunity to do a task themselves while you’re there to supervise and help. Eventually, depending on the activity and the child, they’ll be able to do tasks on their own, unsupervised. Keep in mind, too, that even when kids seem to be capable of doing a job on their own, they may “forget how” from time to time. A refresher course given together in a calm and loving manner, without nagging or lecturing, will help kids remember what to do, while keeping your relationship positive.

Most importantly in this process of teaching children, parents can remember to use it as an opportunity to connect with them. When we can let go of the outcome — the focus on what our child “should” be doing — we can enjoy communicating with and helping our kids, and trust that the learning will occur.

What to do When Children Demean Each Other

By Naomi Aldort, author of Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves, www.naomialdort.com

Q: My daughter calls her brother stupid and he feels hurt. He does the same in return. I tried everything, but neither of them will stop. How do I teach them to stop hurting each other and to use proper language?

A: At a family counseling in my home, a girl called her sister “stupid.” Both girls then engaged in yelling at each other, “you are stupid,” and were getting very upset. I then announced, “Me too. I am stupid.” They looked at me and started laughing, relieving their own stress. I continued cheerfully and with rhythm, “I am stupid, Dad is stupid, Mom is stupid too, Grandma is stupid, Beethoven was stupid, the neighbor is stupid…” Then I shared my own stupid moments and the upset turned into laughter. The children got so excited that they started telling about their own stupid moments.

Two weeks later, the mother called to tell me that her older daughter said, “I can’t call her [sister] stupid anymore. It doesn’t work. She doesn’t get hurt.” To the mother’s surprise, the result was not a new vocabulary of harsh words but a greater connection between the girls. Continue reading

Why It’s Important to Help Children Make Friends

By Rita Brhel, managing editor and attachment parenting resource leader (API)

My four-year-old is exceptionally smart but has a tough time with social relationships due to developmental delays spurring from prematurity. In fact, she’s in a special school program designed to teach her social skills such as initiating interaction and maintaining conversation with peers. Some progress has been made, with much more to be done before she goes to Kindergarten.

Some people don’t understand why I put such emphasis on her social development, especially since academically she is well above her peers. But I remember having a tough time in school because of my lack of social skills, and I want my children to avoid that by learning all they can when they’re young. The ability to make and keep friendships is a life skill that will go on to determine part of their adult happiness.

Research (Hartup, 1990) shows that friendship serve many purposes, including:

  • Emotional skills for having fun and adapting to stress.
  • Cognitive skills for problem-solving and acquiring new knowledge.
  • Social skills for communication, cooperation, and group entry.
  • A precursor to future relationships. Continue reading

Routines for Preschoolers

By Kelly Bartlett, certified positive discipline educator and leader for East Portland API, Oregon USA

Many parents fall into a routine with their new baby sometime in the first few months of life. Eating and sleeping habits go from having almost no predictability to settling into some level of expectedness. Over the first few years, with the addition of family activities, classes, friends, and preschool, parents and kids must somehow find a way to fit everything efficiently into their busy days.  Establishing routines helps with this.  Routines add comfort and security to families’ lives. Parents are able to feel more prepared in caring for their children, and kids can depend on the familiarity of “how things go.”

Dr. Jane Nelsen, author of Positive Discipline for Preschoolers, says that with routines, children have an opportunity to learn to focus on the needs of the situation: doing what need to be done because it needs to be done. “Children learn to be responsible for their own behavior, to feel capable, and to cooperate in the family. The parent doesn’t continually have to demand help,” according to Dr. Nelsen.  Continue reading

When Daddy Goes Away

By Naomi Aldort, author of Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves, www.naomialdort.com

Q: My husband will be going away for eight weeks in the near future. I am wondering how I can ease the stress of this separation on my 20-month-old son. My son is quite verbal, very sensitive, and very spirited. He is aware that Daddy is going to work, and has shown signs of stress already (potty training regression). What can I do to help my baby?

A: A baby who is loved and cared for by his mother and expresses his feelings fully can handle a lot more than we realize. Instead of wanting your baby not to experience anxiety, be present for his emotional expression. Children constantly heal themselves if we don’t get in their way or try to stop them.

Let your toddler go back to wearing diapers fully if he needs to, and support any crying, whining, and self-expression. He must go through the experience of missing dad, not avoid it. If you try to cheer him up and “avoid” the feelings, he learns that feelings are scary and that it is horrible to feel them. What heals him moment by moment is fully expressing himself.

To validate without drama, be sure that you don’t make up ideas that he is not feeling. If he cries and asks for his daddy, validate and reassure. He may be afraid that you would go, too. You can say things like, “You want Daddy to be here. Mommy knows,” and, “Mommy will never go. Daddy goes and come back.”

Drama is when you say things like, “Oh, you miss your daddy so much, poor thing, what a bummer…” Drama scares children. You want to give your toddler a sense of peace so he learns, “I have the power to be without daddy.” He does have that power because he is loved and has you always with him.

Be careful not to plant your anxiety in your baby’s mind. At this age, the child is present moment by moment and feels happy in the moment. It is possible that what you see is a response to your anxiety more than to dad’s trip. So, keep your attitude positive and powerful. He can handle daddy being away if you can handle what he feels about it.

As for technical ideas to ease separation, try video chatting and phone calls even before the trip, to get him used to seeing daddy on the screen and hearing his voice. However, some babies are better off not being reminded about the person they don’t get to see, so try and see how he reacts.

How much your baby anguishes over his dad’s absence is a reflection of your attitude. It is the same as when the toddler falls without injury. He will look at you to check what he is supposed to feel. If you rush toward him alarmed, he will cry. If you smile and do nothing, he gets up and keeps going. Be at peace and open to his emotions, and your baby will learn from you that he can go through this experience powerfully and joyfully.

Spotlight On: Camp Common Ground

API: Tell us, exactly what is Camp Common Ground?

CAROLE BLANE: I am a Leader of an Attachment Parenting International group in New Jersey and also the Program Coordinator at Camp Common Ground in Vermont. I was not always the program coordinator, however. Long ago I was just a practitioner of Attachment Parenting seeking a vacation spot for my family where we would be welcomed and embraced.

I don’t know about those of you who have little children now, but when ours were little we always found it difficult to take vacations with our three extended-nursing, cosleeping, and attached children. So many places in our culture are not actually all that family-friendly. I felt so lucky when I stumbled on Camp Common Ground, a family camp for adults and kids complete with arts and crafts, swimming, campfires, hiking, and cabins. Instead of sending your children away to camp, you get to go with them. What a unique idea! Continue reading

The Daycare Dilemma

By Jan Hunt, founder/director of The Natural Child Project, www.naturalchild.org

Jan HuntIt’s always a dilemma for me to know just how to address the subject of substitute care, because there is such a gap in our culture between the ideal and the possible. Ideally, there would be little need to use substitute care, nor would any mother feel a strong personal need or desire to do so. The reality, of course, is that parenting — the most important job a woman can have — is not valued sufficiently.

No one should ever feel that she is “only a mother” — motherhood should be more highly valued than any other profession. No other job is as critically important; no other job has the potential for improving our world by nurturing the capacity to love and trust others. As Canadian psychiatrist Elliott Barker wrote: “We have to change a lot of established patterns or ways we do things — our priorities — so that nothing gets in the way of attachment in the earliest years. The capacities for trust, empathy, and affection are in fact the central core of what it means to be human, and are indispensable for adults to be able to form lasting, mutually satisfying cooperative relationships with others.”

Our culture not only minimizes the importance of motherhood, it maximizes the desire to consume commercial products, defining success always in economic, rarely in humane or social, terms. There is no question that a mother with a professional career who uses daycare for her children receives far more recognition and respect than the mother who has left a professional job to stay at home with her children — despite the fact that the at-home mom is in a position to contribute far more to society in the long term. If motherhood was valued as highly as it should be, more mothers would choose to stay at home, and more pressure would be put on governments to help provide the means by which this could be done.

Creative solutions can only come about through a deeply-felt need. If everyone understood the critical importance of mothering, there would be fewer daycares and more and better alternative solutions that keep mother and child together. There would be more family centers where mothers with infants and young children could get together with other parents, watching the children as they play together. Families would be given sufficient financial support by the government, and this support would be seen not as a “handout” with all the stigma that welfare has now, but as a wise and critical investment in our future. Everyone would know that motherhood is the single most important profession there is, one that deserves the highest esteem and the highest pay. What kind of society do we have where athletes, movie stars, and CEOs get the highest pay? What kind of society do we have when the professional woman with her children away from her all day enjoys higher esteem than the stay-at-home mother who has the opportunity to nurture a human being, whose personal qualities, positive or negative, will affect all future relationships? Which is the more critical job?

Our vision is too narrow, too immediate, too limited. We see only the present contribution of the professional woman and are blind to the even greater potential contribution of the mother at home. We need to value these mothers now — or our future will look no different than it does at present, with our myriad social problems.

If we really understood the importance of the mother-child bond, we would find those solutions that now seem so elusive and difficult. We would recognize that a young child who has bonded with a particular caregiver, who then disappears from the child’s world, can internalize feelings of rejection and disappointment. We would be committed to finding ways to keep mothers, babies, and young children together. We would provide whatever financial support is needed, and give extensive parenting education to all. We would give greater prestige and sufficient financial support to dedicated stay-at-home mothers. Most of all, we would recognize that repeated separations from the mother can damage the mother-child relationship and create a tragic reluctance in the child to love and trust others in the future. Close bonds of love and trust take time to develop; they take time to maintain.

We would recognize the critical importance of providing paid maternity leave. We would understand that parental care has the most stability. We would build a healthier population and fewer hospitals and prisons. We would strive to learn more about the father-child bond, and give fathers an opportunity to bond early with their child, and to support the mother in the earliest years. We would enjoy a very different and vastly improved society, where compassion and connection were valued and desired more than any other goal or commodity, where a small house filled with love, trust and joy would be valued far higher than the biggest mansion.

What do you think? Weigh in on this Attachment Parenting International poll on the Value of Motherhood

How to Use Family Meetings

Kelly BartlettBy Kelly Bartlett, certified positive discipline educator and leader for East Portland API, Oregon USA

No matter if yours is a family of two or ten, taking regular opportunities to get together and talk about “business” helps families connect and communicate. Much like staff meetings in an office, family meetings offer a chance to share successes, brainstorm solution to problems, make plans, and set goals. The idea is to create a specific time to talk about issues that may not have an opportunity to come up naturally in conversation.

There is no magic age for children to participate in family meetings, as long as they can share their voice. Children as young as  two years old may enjoy getting in on a conversation about the day. When children are young, family meetings may begin at the dinner table, as meal times are very conducive to discussion. Over the years, as more family members are involved, meetings may be held anywhere it’s easy to focus on communication and work through problems. Continue reading