There are lots of lists of “top ten” tips on this and that – top ten best self-tanners, top ten best local pizzerias, etc. As a part of this edition of FAMILY FOCUS, I thought I would share the top ten best parenting tips. At The Wise Family (, we refer to them as COMMANDMENTS because, more than tips, they really are rules to live by. Although we didn’t find these on stone tablets, they have been in our toolbox for decades, so credit is due to the brilliant author, with a few updates from us –


1. Set a good example. Your child looks up to you and tries to be like you. It’s fine to tell your child to be respectful, truthful, helpful, and kind. But it won’t count unless you act that way, too. PS. That goes for eating your broccoli and not being on Facebook at the dinner table, too.

2. Give energy and attention to goodness. What you feed, grows. Look for chances to reward positive behavior with your attention. Look for chances to give your attention when no negative behavior is happening.

3. Avoid giving energy and attention to badness. What you feed, grows. Kids want any attention, good or bad. If you argue or yell at your child, he will learn to misbehave more to get your attention. Instead, simply give the child a short time out where no attention is available. When quiet again for a few minutes, then you can give him attention for taking a few minutes to calm down and reflect.

4. Keep your promises. Your child counts on you to feel loved and secure. When you don’t come through on a promise, she may feel insecure, and believe that you don’t care about her. Promises are just as important whether it’s for a “treat” or for something the child doesn’t even want, like a time out. If you are not sure it will happen, don’t use the “P” word.

5. Only make promises you can keep. Don’t promise things you only wish could happen – it only hurts worse when it can’t. Also, avoid making big threats or punishments – these are promises, too. Later, you may realize that you were wrong, and take it back. Stick with promises that you can keep.

6. Use consequences, not punishments. A consequence is something that is naturally caused by a behavior. For example, when you are not being kind to others, you can’t be around people for a little while. When you make a mess, you clean it up. When you don’t finish your homework, you can’t watch TV. When you leave my tool outside, I won’t want to lend it to you next time you ask. Children learn how to behave better from having natural consequences. (Notice that we didn’t use the word “IF”).

A punishment is something that is given by an angry adult for revenge. For example, when you do that one more time, you can’t go to the park tomorrow. Punishments – including spankings – are for children to suffer. Children also learn from punishments: they learn to be sneaky and hateful.

7. Stay in control. Everyone gets mad. The trick is to catch yourself when you’re just starting to get upset or frustrated. Then you can take care of the situation quickly, before it gets out of hand – maybe by giving a time out, finding some goodness to give attention to, or taking a time out for yourself. Parents make most of their mistakes when they are mad: they yell, they argue, they give attention to badness, and they give punishments – which might also turn out to be broken promises. If you can’t catch yourself before you lose control, get help and learn how. It’s worth it.

8. Include your child. Children naturally want to help out and be included. For example, even a very young child can “help” you wash dishes by stirring the dishwater with a spoon. If you take the time to include the child and to make chores fun, he will learn to be helpful and to feel good about himself.

9. Make your child feel special. Avoid comparing children to each other or trying to give each child exactly the same thing all the time. That just fosters insecurity and sibling rivalry. Children don’t need “equal” treatment; they need to feel special. Find ways of appreciating each child for her own qualities. You can show this with special privileges, small gifts, attention, or activities.

10. Take care of yourself. Obvious, but important anyway. Parents need nutritious food, enough sleep, exercise, friends, enjoyment, a little time off for themselves… Raising kids is a big challenge. Your job is not to make your children happy, but to model happiness in your own life, work and outlook.

Connect with us at our website,, or find us in the social media sphere @wisefamilies if you have something to add to our commandments above! We’d love to hear from you!

Be Wise.

Here we are at the final day of our 5-Day Mindset challenge. And the one thing we haven’t talked about is how we talk to ourselves. Maybe talking out loud to yourself works for you, or maybe you just have an inner voice that tells you stories and guides you in your life. How we talk to ourselves plays a huge role in our lives. It’s amazing the things that we do and don’t believe about ourselves, just by the words we use. This week we challenge you to work with your kid(s) to find words and phrases that will help them keep on trying, even when things get hard.

Thanks for joining us on this growth mindset challenge! We hope it encouraged you and your children and that you were able to learn and grow together! Remember that you can get the full challenge at BIGLIFEJOURNAL.COM. And tag us with your photos on Instagram @wisefamilies or comment on our Facebook page Wise Families! We would love to hear what you thought of this challenge, and if you’d like more!

And as always, stay wise!


We’re not there YET! In her book, Mindset, Carol Dweck describes a different way of thinking than most people often think. She encourages people who maybe cannot do something, to not get down on themselves, but to tell themselves, I cannot do this YET!

This fosters the growth mindset. We challenge you to think of three sentences you could add “YET” to. How does it make you feel? We also challenge you to encourage your kids to try out “I can’t do it, yet!” rather than simply saying “I can’t do it.” And in the words of Daniel Tiger, “Keeping trying, you’ll get better!”

Remember that each week of the 5-Day challenge we will be sending out another part of the challenge – to get the full challenge, visit our friends at BIGLIFEJOURNAL.COM. And tag us with your photos on Instagram @wisefamilies or comment on our Facebook page Wise Families! We would love to hear if your kids can embrace the power of YET?!

Maybe not yet, but soon!

Until next week, Be Wise!

As parents we are often aware of how are children are growing. The dress that fit Susie last week is suddenly a mini skirt and Johnny’s toes are all of the sudden smashed in the tennis shoes that seemed to fit just yesterday. Another growth area that we challenge you to be aware of is your child’s mindset. Mindset is the way that your particular brain thinks. A growth mindset is a positive way of looking at and thinking about things that occur every day. For example, “Practice makes perfect!”. A fixed mindset is when you believe that things can’t get better, even with practice.

This week we challenge you to talk with your kids about the different mindsets and ways of viewing the world. Download the graphic below to talk about the different ways of thinking. We also encourage you to challenge your kids throughout the day on their mindset and encourage them to have a growth mindset, even when the going gets tough!

Remember that each week of the 5-Day challenge we will be sending out another part of the challenge – to get the full challenge, visit our friends at BIGLIFEJOURNAL.COM. And tag us with your photos on Instagram @wisefamilies or comment on our Facebook page Wise Families! We would love to hear how your kiddos are growing!


Grow, baby, Grow!

Until next week, Be Wise!

We are taking a break from our Growth Mindset Challenge to talk about Mindfulness this week.

In my clinical work with adolescents and young adults, I find mindfulness to be paramount to their success in reducing stress and coping. Mindfulness can be a challenging practice at any age. The first step to incorporating mindfulness practice into your life is to learn what mindfulness is. Marsha Linehan (2015) shared that mindfulness is the process of observing, describing, and participating in reality in a non-judgmental manner, in the moment and with effectiveness.

To break this down a bit further – Mindfulness is “allowing” experiences rather than suppressing or avoiding them. Mindfulness helps you learn to control your mind, instead of letting your mind control you. During mindfulness practice, you direct your attention to only one thing that you are living in the moment.

Summer is a great time to start a mindfulness practice because, as I remind my clients, it means increased enjoyment of summer as you are truly soaking up all summer has to offer instead of summer breezing by you like it normally does. You know the feeling of “Where did summer go?” The great thing about mindfulness is you can practice mindfulness ANYTIME and ANYWHERE. The key is to practice and try just a few moments each day. Start small and be kind to yourself, as it will be challenging especially in the beginning. Think about the first time you rode your bike, was that easy? Did you get on the first attempt or did it take time and practice? Give yourself the space to learn and grow your mindful practice free of judgment.

Today, instead of eating lunch while having a conversation or thinking about what you have to do after lunch; try to eat lunch and notice every flavor you taste. If you are being mindful, you are not thinking about “Is it good or bad to have lunch?” You are just really having lunch. By recognizing what your lunch looks like, feels like, tastes like, sounds like – you are being mindful!

Tomorrow go on a mindful walk in the park. Instead of walking through the park distracted by thoughts of the fight you had with your friend earlier; walk through the park being aware of your feelings and thoughts about the park, how the park looks, and the sensation of each step you take on the ground.

Take time each day to incorporate one mindfulness practice in your normal routine and with time expand your mindfulness practice to multiple parts of your life. The key to mindfulness is to observe, describe, and participate in one thing in the moment free of judgement and in an effective manner. Mindfulness brings you to the window to acceptance, freedom, and wisdom. You must first simply take a breath and notice. Join me today in being mindful!

By Dr. Dominique Adkins, Therapist for The Wise Family

Cited Resources:
Linehan, M. M. (2015). DBT® skills training manual (2nd ed.). New York, NY, US: Guilford Press.


Learn more about Dominique here! She’s our featured clinician of the month!

Day 2 – My Word Search

Last week we learned about the ability to change your mindset. Isn’t your brain amazing? Hopefully you and your kids were able to pump some brain iron by sticking with hard things!

This week we have a brain challenge to keep the strength training going! There are two word searches with growth mindset words inside each. Some words might be harder than others to find, encourage your child not to give up! We challenge you to work with your kids on these and talk about what the words mean. Use the time during the word searches to ask your child, when was a time you felt brave? Or talk to them about a time you had to be persistent!

Happy strength training!

Until next week, Be Wise!

Day 1 – I Can Change My Mindset!

Have you ever wondered why some children avoid taking guesses and crumble at the first sign of a struggle? Do you know kids who have a history of quitting sports and activities, or giving up on school work when they don’t know the answer right away? Years of opting out of things because they are hard can lead to children believing, “I’m not good at that.” At the Wise Family, we hear lots of kids tell us that they aren’t good at math, or baseball, or even that they aren’t good at making friends.

Learning the difference between this kind of “mindset”, which is called FIXED, and the alternative GROWTH mindset can help you change the destructive pattern of self-doubt and fear of failure.

Mindset is a simple idea pioneered by research psychologist, Carol Dweck. She asserts that some people believe their intelligence and abilities are unchangeable. This is called a FIXED mindset. Kids that believe this might say, “If I struggle at this, it must mean I am dumb.” Or, “I’m not good at this. I give up.” Others have different ideas about their intelligence and abilities. Some people believe that it is possible to grow your intelligence through effort. This is called a GROWTH mindset. Kids with this mindset might say, “Math was really confusing at first, but I studied really hard all year and it is a lot easier now.”

Dr. Dweck’s advice to parents is, “If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning. That way, their children don’t have to be slaves of praise. They will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence.”

We at the Wise Family want your kids to have a lifelong way to build and repair their confidence, and for you to see the kind of resilience and energy that comes from a growth mindset!

We are sharing parts of a 5-day Growth Mindset challenge with you and your family to move towards this GROWTH mindset for yourselves! Each week we will be sending out another part of the challenge – to get the full challenge, visit our friends at BIGLIFEJOURNAL.COM.

And don’t forget tag us with your family challenge photos on Instagram @wisefamilies or comment on our Facebook page Wise Families! We would love to hear how your kiddos think about their own mindset.

Be Wise!

School is out for the summer! Now what?! How to avoid the summer brain drain!

While kids look forward to summer all school year, it’s still important that we keep our kids learning even when they aren’t attending school every day. Summer learning loss is a real phenomenon! The National Summer Learning Association says that, on average, students can lose up to two months of learning. Not only that, most teachers spend at least 3 weeks re-teaching skills from the previous school year.

It can certainly be a challenge to keep kids both physically and mentally active during the summer days and they may need some encouragement. Parents play a key role in filling gaps over the summer. Learning loss is much less pronounced in families that visited the library, participated in summer reading programs, or took part in free educational community activities.

We know that most kids won’t willingly sit down to complete a workbook or study their flashcards so the real question is – how do we keep our kids wanting to learn? Make it fun!

  • Encourage your child to practice their creative writing skills by writing a play to perform with their friends or a fun story to read to the family.
  • While you’re traveling have your kids write letters to their friends or send postcards to family members from all your fun vacation spots.
  • Use road trips as a time to learn. Study maps, estimate how long the trip may take, play the license plate game, and look up fun facts about the states.
  • Have them set a summer reading goal with a special treat at the end. You can even start a family book club!
  • Cook together! Practice measurements, fractions, and following directions. You could even pick recipes from different cultures.
  • Encourage a new hobby or trying something new. Have your child set some summer goals!
  • Work together on a building project – such as a robot building kit, a new lego structure, or get creative with household items to build a fort.
  • Have a family game night. Play games that involve strategy or planning and have your child keep score. Find trivia games that keep everyone guessing.
  • Take a nature walk or have a night of star gazing.
  • Incorporate math – count shells at the beach, look for different shapes at the playground, or keep track of the score of the soccer game.
  • Encourage creativity and keep them drawing, coloring, painting, and just creating.
  • Give the kids control of a day! Give a budget, allow them to pick an activity, make the plans, and figure out how to make it all possible.

With these fun activities the kids won’t even notice that you’re sneaking a little learning into their playtime! We also have to remember that physical health is important to maintain. Encourage your child to play outside, go on a family bike ride, or get out and explore your city together!

Have fun and spend time together. Have a great summer!

By Amanda Beyland, Therapist for The Wise Family

Learn more about Amanda here! She’s our featured clinician of the month!

Our friend, Mr. Fred Rogers, from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, said it best,

“Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning.”

Children learn through play. Play has a significant importance in the lives of children; it allows children to be creative, to interact with one another, to try out different roles and personalities, and to suspend reality. In her groundbreaking work on play, Maria Montessori called play “the work” of the child.

All behavior has a message. In the process of growing up, issues that children experience are often compounded by the limited ability of adults in their lives to understand or respond effectively to what children are feeling and trying to communicate. Play is a medium for expressing feelings when the use of verbal forms of expression are not fully developed.

Play Therapy serves as an extension of this idea. Play Therapy allows children to communicate and address challenges in a non-threatening way. It differs from regular play, in that, its focus is to help identify, address and resolve conflicts in a child’s life. Play Therapy can be therapist directed, where the therapist selects the game or items that will be used in a session, or client-led, where the room is set up as a “playroom” and the child selects any item to be used.

With both of these styles, play therapy supports children with expressing their feelings, confronting worries, enhancing social skills, and developing problem-solving strategies. Mr. Rogers said, “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning.”

In the safety of the Play Therapy experience, children are able to explore the unfamiliar and develop a knowing that is both experiential-feeling and cognitive. Through the process of play, the unfamiliar becomes familiar, and children often express outwardly through play what has taken place, or what is currently taking place, inwardly.

If you would like to know more about play therapy, or take a tour of our play therapy playroom, give us a call to chat HEREBe Wise!

From Kasey Cain, Resident in Counseling – Therapist for The Wise Family

and Dr. Amy Fortney Parks, Practice Owner


As some of you may know, Netflix has released a second season of 13 Reasons Why. We wanted to share some information with you in case you are unsure about how to discuss the important topics that arise from this series. If your child(ren) plans to watch the new season, or plans to start from the beginning, we highly recommend you watch with them. Here are few topics and issues you may wish to discuss as situations depicted in the show can be upsetting. As always, reach out to us if you have questions, and/or need support!
Refer to this helpful article by FCPS & Fairfax County Government
And Be Wise!