The easy thing to do when your kids are kicking each other, throwing crayons across the room or refusing to sit still to eat their Cheerios is to send them to time-out and call your significant other to complain about what’s happening!

The hardest thing to do is to calmly try to connect with them to find out what’s really going on inside their little heart and head! Teaching emotional intelligence and coping with a child’s emotional stress is challenging in many ways.

A colleague of mine uses a 5-Step strategy for mastering this feat of self-control and it is especially cool in that it allows you to teach your kids to handle big emotions by example!

Here are the 1st three steps –


Step One: Empathize – Let your child know that you can understand and tolerate his/her big feelings by saying things like:

“You are really upset about this.”

“I’m so sorry that this happened today.”

Step Two: Get Neutral – Listen to your child without judgment. Calmly let your child know you are there to help by saying things like:

“Tell me what happened.”

“I’m listening.”

Step Three: Narrow – Be as specific as possible regarding the nature of the problem by saying things like:

“When did you first start feeling this way?”

“What upset you the most about the class?”

Stay tuned next week for Steps Four and Five…and some real life examples of this strategy in action!

Credit to In Step, PC for sharing this strategy

February is LOVE month. I am often fond of singing, “Every kiss begins with Kay” to my husband in the mornings leading up to V-day! But feeling love and showing it can often be disconnected – especially in our language. Here are 15 super quick words of love and encouragement to try with your family today – and every day!

– Thank you for your help!

– You should be so proud of yourself!shutterstock_174824372

– You really worked hard to get this room clean!

– I love watching you play baseball! You really put a lot of energy into it!

– I noticed you were really patient with your little brother.

– You really seem to enjoy science.

– Your hard work paid off!

– That’s a tough one, but I know you’ll figure it out.

– I trust your judgment.

– I love being with you.

– You really put a smile on my face with your kind words

– You really worked it out!

– You are a special friend.

– You make it look easy!

– That’s a great observation.

Give some of these a try then look for the spark that appears in your child’s eyes…it will be there! Then smile knowing you are growing a WISE (and loving) family!

With Valentine’s Day a mere 3 days away, I wanted to share a mini-lesson on the difference between something we all carry in that fist-sized red organ that sits in the middle of our chests. I’m sharing this lesson because it is one of the keys to managing your child’s behavior – seriously!

Empathy is about connection and sympathy is about disconnection.

That’s it. Mini-lesson over. You want more? Ok. There are three key qualities of empathy that I want you to consider as we discover more about parenting –

1. Perspective taking – the ability to take the perspective, or “stand in the shoes of” another person

2. Staying out of judgment – rarely does empathy begin with the phrase, “At least”, as in “At least you got one hit in the game”.

3. Recognizing emotion – Identifying an emotion in another person, then communicating that. Instead of trying to make things better, how about saying, “Wow, I don’t even know what to say right now, but I’m so glad you told me.”shutterstock_173325368

A colleague of mine shares a story of empathy – imagine your child falling in a deep hole and shouting out, “I’m stuck, it’s dark, I’m overwhelmed.” Then we look in and we say, “Hey, I know what it’s like down here, and your not alone.”

Empathy is a vulnerable choice. In order to connect with our children, we have to connect with something inside ourselves that knows that feeling. Try some empathy with your heart-shaped chocolates this week! Be WISE!

Throughout the month of January, I have been thinking, writing and talking about the concept of change in families. Families come to me all the time to help them change – routines, behaviors, feelings…but change can be a scary word for many of us. I would rather approach this notion of change using the word SHIFT.


Making a SHIFT in the way your family goes about the business of getting everyone off to school by looking at the routine and tweaking a few elements – like no TV/iPad in the morning to delay the process of teeth, clothes, breakfast.

Making a SHIFT in your response to your child’s frustrated LEGO-piece-throwing by making the suggestion, “Is there a way I can help you with this?” or “Sometimes when we take a break from a frustrating project, we come back to it with new ideas.”

Making a SHIFT in how we support the big feelings that our kids experience. When they expresses sadness and hurt, shift your approach by sitting quietly and holding them – without trying to fix it or solve it – just be together with your child.

Families don’t usually need “fixing” by seeking out big changes. You might just consider SHIFTING your approach…your perspective.

You might be surprised at the big changes that magically happen by just a little SHIFT.

What does your family need to SHIFT?  Email me below for more personal tips on how to make the perfect SHIFT for your family!

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Happy New Year! It’s the time of year when we all think about “New Year – New You” resolutions like get a new job, lose weight or start putting money in the college fund.


I absolutely want to lose weight and know that the goal requires taking baby steps (I’ve already tried and failed at the all-or-nothing approach). I have committed to eating less bread and scheduling yoga once a week.

But I definitely don’t want a new job! I love being a psychologist and parent consultant AND I love being a parent even more! But it is never too late to take the baby steps necessary to resolve to DO a better job at being a parent! Here are 3 to consider:

1. Celebrate your child’s strengths – Often we focus on what our kids are doing wrong and trying to “fix” those things. Resolve to focus on what your kids do well – and right. Notice if they get shutterstock_164519552their buttons lined up, remember to play nicely with their sibling or share the X-box controller. Mention new vocabulary words they are using or how their handwriting has improved. Build up your child’s confidence and you will be amazed at the improvement in competence!

2. Praise your child for their efforts – It isn’t always the final result that matters but the hard work it takes to get there! Just look at any of the college football teams in this week’s bowl games and you’ll see a whole lot of effort – but only one team goes home with the trophy. Your kids won’t always go home with the trophy but encourage their efforts every day to get to the finish line. My favorite phrase to keep your kids motivated, “I love to watch you (fill in the blank).”

3. Hug your kids every day – This is self-explanatory but, I know there are times when we parents are too tired…too angry…too frustrated…too over-it-all to take the time to reconnect with our kids! Make the time – anytime – to hug your kids. They need to know that everyday you love them and care about them – even when their behavior is insane!

Resolve to make 2014 a “New Year – New You” year! Stay tuned for more ways to be the best parent you can be – and some exciting programs coming in 2014 to work with me on becoming a WISE family!

shutterstock_89242903If you celebrate Christmas – or if you are like my family and celebrate a little of everything, including 3 birthdays – you are likely in the throws of shopping, wrapping, baking, card-writing, list-making, elf-moving, school program-attending and all of the many joys of the holidays! Next week you will be awakened at 5:45 AM to the ultimate joy of your children jumping on your bed, begging you to get up so they can open their presents. When I was little, we were made to stay in our rooms until the unbearable hour of 8:00 AM before we could come down the stairs to see the results of Santa’s nighttime escapades! That particular rule has never worked for my kids…

But in the midst of the sticky, candy-cane fingers, battery supply checks and endless questions of, “Is Christmas tomorrow?” consider taking a minute to remember the present. Not the presentS but the present – as in RIGHT NOW! While your kids are tearing open the LEGO sets and rainbow looms, here are a few tips to keep you in the moment –

· Notice your own feelings. Are you irritated that your kids are already fighting over who gets to play the new X-Box One? Is your mother eagerly reminding you that your children have too many toys? When people frustrate or aggravate us, it’s often because we are focused on what we want, how we think we should be treated or how we want everyone else to act. Try to focus your feelings on what the people around you need or want – in the moment.

· Let go of the desire to control. Did the beautiful holiday morning brunch go untouched and unappreciated? Do you hate tinsel but your entire family insists that your tree be completely covered in thick clumps of it (this is particularly personal to me)? Stress comes because we want to control how things go – which we really can’t. Practice not resisting what happens but being happy no matter what happens – in the moment.

· Appreciate the little things. Are you sitting anxiously, poised to pick up the scraps of wrapping shutterstock_166870709paper before your 1-year-old eats it? We get anxious because we wish things were different sometimes. But things are pretty amazing just as they are, without being different. Turn your attention to the joy in your child’s face, the warmth of your fireplace, the beauty of holiday lights – and even the squabbling video gamers and the tinsel!

Appreciate the moment – and stay in it, because it will disappear like the twinkle in Santa’s eye!

My blogs are typically planned in advance, thoughtful essays written about topics related to children and teens like handling melt downs, understanding your child’s temperament and discipline strategies when things get hairy.

But this week, I felt an urgent calling to shine a light on a different kind of topic related to children and teens. Suicide. My close-knit community – where I was born, raised and now raise my own family – has suffered too many recent suicide attempts and completed suicides in recent weeks.

Really, one is too many. Many families, school employees and community leaders are feeling raw, ragged…raging.

These events – some secret and some well-publicized – in my community have rocked families to the core – and I hope they rock our mental health system both locally and nationally too!

shutterstock_79104379How do we deal with a lack of available resources, the disappearing ability to direct your own child’s care rather than trust the state’s temporary detention system, limited access to support for older teens who can’t be picked up and carried to a hospital and the reliance on alcohol and drugs to self-medicate when affordable mental health supports run out?

Suicide is the third leading cause of death among youth between the ages of 10 and 19, but how can we support the teens we know? How can we help teens see that there is help all around them – especially when it feels like there isn’t a person in sight who could possibly relate to how they are feeling?

We’re talking about this at my house – a lot. We’re talking about it at our schools – a lot. Talking about feelings…stress…trauma…heartbreak…cutting…suicide – these conversations DO NOT CAUSE kids to get more stressed out – they DO NOT CAUSE kids to self-injure or commit suicide. They open a dialog about LIFE.

Ask your kids about LIFE tonight – be willing to listen to the good…the bad…and the ugly without a running commentary. Let’s make the tragedies around us serve a higher purpose – Be WISE.

Please take a moment to read through these tips for parents and educators on how to help prevent youth suicide.

Hello!  I would like to introduce myself…


I am the Technical Virtual Assistant for WISE Mind Solutions, and I am human. Smile  If you recently received a post about a young man I called “M”, then I apologize.  I accidentally posted a personal post to the WISE blog in error.  I have since deleted the post, and promise to be more careful when posting next time.  Thank you for understanding that we are all human and we all make mistakes.

On a better note, I am so excited about working as the Tech VA for WISE Mind Solutions.  I truly believe in the vision Amy Fortney Parks has for her business and I am honored to be a part of the WISE team!  I am so privileged to work by her side (virtually from GA) and to learn from her as I begin my own parenting journey.

From all of us at WISE, thank you for reading and supporting all the WISE changes happening at WISE Mind Solutions!


It happened! I had been expecting it. I’m actually surprised it didn’t happen before now! I get it…it’s darker in the morning…it’s a Monday…it’s raining…the planets aren’t properly aligned to make for optimal waking up conditions!

My kids slept through their alarms today and were “alarmed” by me saying, “Hey, it’s 8:00 AM! You’re going to miss the bus!” But did they hit snooze too many times because they are tired from a weekend of texting their friends and doing craft projects? Or might we be running headlong into the early signs of ‘Unmotivated Mondays’?

If you are noticing days when your child doesn’t seem bright-eyed and bushy tailed at the breakfast table, maybe motivation is waning in your household as well.

As a parent, how you react and deal with the issue can either help or hurt the situation. There are three very common mistakes that parents make when they are in this predicament:

1) Chalking it up to laziness: Many parents struggle to understand why their child isn’t doing well in school and some of the behavior that goes along with it might look a lot like laziness, but it’s probably due to something else.

78369430a) Kids that struggle to pay attention at school may also struggle when it comes to homework and organization. Get involved and help your child get organized. Plan ahead, schedule time for studying and for play, or consider hiring a tutor. The #1 tool for organization – a dry-erase board!

b) The problems they’re having in school might be an indication of an underlying learning problem. If they’ve struggled with reading and writing and seem to have issues with procrastination and work avoidance, it may be a sign that they have a learning issue.

c) Be cautious about the pressure that you put on your child to be successful in school. That’s not to say that school success is not important, but putting a lot of pressure on them will not help them succeed. Let them know that you support them in doing their personal best, and that can be defined differently for every kid.

2) Paying them off: Giving monetary rewards for good grades may be a tempting way to get them motivated, but by doing this, you’re putting more value on the final product (the grade) than you are in the process (learning the material). You are in essence sending the message that the grades matter, but the learning doesn’t. Instead, reward effort by noticing times when your child is working hard and shutterstock_154262117demonstrating persistence on a task.

3) Punishing: Punishing bad grades is also a tempting option – taking away the cell phone or removing screen time privileges. Although technology can get in the way of learning, encourage your child to use their devices to put in some study time. Positive consequences for good study behavior will keep your child motivated at school and prevent creating a world full of restrictions at home.

Want to know more about strategies for kid success at school and at home? Subscribe to our monthly blog and look for upcoming opportunities to get some live – and personal – consulting as you work to grow a WISE family!