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This Blog Has Moved!!!

I have combined blogs into one centralized location. You can now find all entries from Positive and Effective Parenting at The Homeschool Advocate – “Where hilarity, learning, and parenting challenges collide.” Even if you are not planning on homeschooling, come take a look and recommend it to other parents. There is much more to the site that simply homeschooling topics!


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Coin-Operated Boy Redux

I love my daughter. Actually, I love both of them, very much. However, today, I’m speaking of the younger one, age four years three months.

Recently, she has had an obsession with the song “Coin-Operated Boy” by the Dresden Dolls. Now, let’s ignore the phallic symbolism and self-love implications for a moment here. After all, she’s four, she has no idea what the song is talking about. She only knows that she likes the song, and only remembers one line from the song, “and I’ll never be alone” which she will sing over and over and over and over, and yes, over again.

As we were driving to her grandmother’s house she began to sing (rather loudly, I may add, it drowned out the radio) this one phrase for about three minutes straight. I thought I would lose my mind. 90% of me wanted to yell, “Enough already! Shut up, you!”

Thankfully I listened to the quiet 10% instead. The conversation played out something like this:

Emily: And I’ll never be alone, and I’ll never be alone, and I’ll…

Me: Wow! You really like that song, don’t you?

Emily: [enthusiastically] Oh yes!…[begins to sing AGAIN] And I’ll never be alone, and I’ll never be alone, and I’ll…

Me: What other songs do you like?

Emily: Well, I like the song that has the bananas…and I like the song with the rainbow in it.

Me: Really? Bananas and rainbows? How fun? Let’s see, do you remember any of the words?

Emily: No…

Me: Would the song with the rainbow be…[singing] Somewhere, over the rainbow…

Emily: Yes, yes! That was it!

What followed was a ten minute discussion on lyrics and songs that she liked, of which there were many. And thankfully, I didn’t have to listen to “and I’ll never be alone, and I’ll never be alone” any longer!

What struck me the most was the joy in her voice when I first commented on how she liked the song, and then again when I asked what other songs she liked. Joy at sharing her interests with me, joy at the personal attention she was getting, it made a difference to her. I realized, hearing that joy so evident, that she hadn’t been trying to drive me insane, which I had certainly contemplated after three solid minutes of hearing her repeatedly sing “and I’ll never be alone.”

It reminded me of the four goals of behavior:

  • Attention/Contact
  • Power/Independence
  • Revenge/Protection
  • Inadequacy/Withdrawal

When we examine our children’s behaviors, they typically fall into one of the four main categories and are exhibited in either appropriate or inappropriate ways. For example, if your child is constantly bothering you while you are on a phone call and will not stop, that could be Attention. However, if he comes up, asks if you will read to him, and then accepts your answer of “no, I’m on the phone and I will read to you when I get off of it” then that would be Contact.

Power struggles often arise out of a need for Independence. We see this in toddlers and often refer to this age as “The Terrible Twos” – the child wants to dress herself and you find yourself arguing that “no, you can’t wear a bathing suit outside in December!”

Judging by Emily’s response to my interactions, she was definitely in the Attention/Contact category of behavior. When I think back, I realize she had no idea she was annoying me, so she wasn’t even going about it in a way that could be considered inappropriate. But the simple repetition of it was enough to make me want to change the paradigm, and quickly! So I used distraction and engagement – and as a result we had a lovely discussion and a peaceful remainder of our drive to grandma’s house.

Understanding the goals of behavior is important. Once you understand the need your child has, you can adjust your own reactions to turn an inappropriate behavior into an appropriate one. This strengthens your relationship and helps with future communications. One of the keys to understanding which of the four goals of behavior your child currently is exhibiting is to pay attention to your own reaction. The next time your kiddo says or does something that has you all riled up, ask yourself the following:

  • What is my reaction to this behavior?

Annoyance and Irritation – If you feel annoyance or irritation, your child is most likely asking/demanding attention.

Threatened, provoked or intimidated – If you feel any of these emotions, your child is most likely seeking Power/Independence

Deeply hurt, resentment, or even hatred – Your child has most likely done something to seek Revenge

Helpless and discouraged – Your child may have retreated, given up on something you think he is capable of doing, or in other words, Display of Inadequacy

There is an excellent article here that describes the four goals of behavior and gives some tips on how to deal with them.

More often than not, our children are not deliberately trying to drive us crazy. Instead, they are seeking to fill needs, just as they did as infants in regards to comfort (food, clean diaper, rest). One of our jobs as parents is to help them make appropriate choices, and encourage appropriate behavior, while helping them to fill those needs and goals.

Happy Parenting!

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Lessons from “Jack and the Beanstalk”

The other day as I was snapping my daughter into her car seat, I noticed a strange bulge.

In her pants.

“‘Don’t look!” she wailed, covering the bulge.

I ignored her and pulled out…a golf ball.

Weird, yes. Out of the ordinary? Quite.

“Where did you get this?” I asked.

“From [name of playmate].”

“Does she know you have it?”

A guilty look, “No.”

“Emily! When you take something that doesn’t belong to you, without someone giving you permission, that is stealing! And stealing is bad.” She promptly burst into tears.

A few minutes later, we had returned the ball and apologized for taking something that was not ours. But the discussion was not over, and as we drove home, Emily and I talked about how it must feel to have something taken from you, how it hurts people’s feelings, and on and on.

How ironic is it that she should choose “Jack and the Beanstalk” for her bedtime story that night.

For those who have not read this little gem recently, I will recap it for you:

Jack and his mother are dirt poor and they sell their cow. In return they get magic beans which Jack’s mother throws out the window. The next morning Jack finds a beanstalk. He climbs it, goes into the giant’s castle [a classic case of breaking and entering], steals the giant’s gold coins [felony] and runs away. After Jack and his mother blow through the gold he returns and steals the golden goose [misdemeanor?]. After a while, he returns and steals a golden harp [felony] and the giant, having already been stolen from and trespassed upon twice, gives chase. Jack shimmies down the beanstalk and the giant tries to follow, instead of catching Jack, he falls to his death [involuntary manslaughter].

For all of this mischief, Jack and his mother [his accomplice and/or mentor] live happily ever after – having stolen repeatedly from and then having killed the giant.

So what if the giant eats Englishmen or likes the smell of their blood? He sure as heck never got a chance to eat Jack who is, after all, a classic repeat offender and overall malcontent.

I mistakenly thought that these old fairy tales were supposed to encourage children to be better behaved, not turn to larceny. Silly me!

Needless to say, I’ll be avoiding “Jack and the Beanstalk” for a little while. I don’t think it is giving my impressionable young daughter any more reason to turn towards a life of crime.

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“You Get What You Get” – Lessons from “Pinkalicious” and other books

A friend of mine gave my daughter a couple of cute books – “Pinkalicious” and “Purplicious” And a line from “Pinkalicious” keeps recurring around our house.

Pinkalicious’ mom tells her, “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.”

What is it about some lines in books that kids grab a hold of and never forget? In any case, Emily has done just this. It certainly has come in handy for me in a pinch.

“Mama, I want [fill in the blank] to eat.”

“You can have a slice of apple, but I’m serving dinner soon.”

“BUT…” The whine begins.

“You get what you get.” I remind her gently.

“And you don’t throw a fit.” She responds.


And that’s it. That’s all it takes. Oh, thank you “Pinkalicious!”

Another favorite phrase around our house is “Green Eggs and Ham!” This usually comes up with new food or food we haven’t fixed in a while.

Emily looks over the food cooking on the stove, “I don’t want that!”

“Green eggs and ham,” I say to her, “Try it, try it and, you might like it!”

A small suffering sigh in reply, “Ohhkay.”

Sometimes she likes it, other times not, but at least she tried the food.

I look forward to the day she uses these phrases on me…

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A Note From the Past

A wise woman once wrote:

“You can’t wing child rearing despite finest attempts and I KNOW you love her. But she is little and different. Not at all like an adult…I believe in good parenting to the depth of my soul.”

Okay…[deep breath]

#1: Never organize your papers (especially letters and cards from the past) when in a ‘delicate’ mindset. I think I need to sit under a nice wide-spectrum light and combat the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder, but I cried buckets when I read the card she had written.

#2: I heard you and I listened, Diane, for that matter I still am…20 years later.

I have yet to find a person for whom parenting comes naturally. It isn’t that I don’t believe they exist, for I’m sure they do, but the demands that raising a new life bring us are varied, ever-changing, and oh so challenging.I guess that’s why I’m such a believer in parenting classes. If for nothing else, it’s like being handed a toolbox with shiny new features and options guaranteed to improve and enhance. Even if you are already a great parent, getting to take home the toolbox adds clarity and commitment to everything you do.

I wish that I could tell Diane how much her not so subtle push towards that parenting class changed me, and altered everything that would follow in how I related to my children. I fell in love with parenting, the things I learned then and since altered me irrevocably. Not just that, but I was lucky enough to be in a position to help others become exceptional parents as well. Teaching parenting classes has been a true joy for me as I have shared what I have learned over the past twenty years with scores of parents.

I wish Diane could have met my little one, or even her own daughter’s two sons, now aged nine and four. They would have thought she was funny and weird, and they would have liked her a lot.

Diane passed from our lives in early 1994. In the eight years prior to that she infuriated, frustrated, amused, challenged and inspired me in countless ways. She had a quirky way about her, she lived her life fully and without compromise, and she left a legacy behind that I think of often:

  • Enjoy this moment, find humor in life’s dramas and embrace weirdness
  • Be the best parent that you can be, always and forever

A couple of months ago I blogged in Coaching Through Thought and Action – my life coaching blog – that “you must not come lightly” to life change or writing or whatever you set out to do. It bears repeating here. When it comes to parenting, you also ‘must not come lightly.’ As Diane so  eloquently wrote, you can’t wing it, despite your finest attempts. Take the time to think about it, to weigh what is right, to realize you hold such a precious gift in your hands.

I think of the twist of fate that brought parenting classes into my life. And I think of Diane often as I reflect on how those classes affected how I have raised my two children. She was right, “they are little and different, not at all like an adult.”

There are no ‘do-overs’ when raising a child.

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Welcome to PEP!

I suppose I could say it with a little cheese…here at PEP Parenting we parent with pep!


Okay, maybe not. For the lighter side of things, visit my other blog “Tales from the Edge of Reason.”

What you will find here are reviews of books (parenting and also children’s books), specific child-related problems that have come up in one of the classes, thoughts on specific behaviors, and tips for making parenting a happy and fulfilling experience.

Feel free to ask questions (relevant to the subjects at hand, of course).

I’ll be posting soon on a Love and Logic book I am currently reviewing. Stay tuned!

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