How to Protect Children from Toxic Amp dults

March 17, 2018

We teach our kids to respect adults and other children, and they have should, respect is an important part of growing up to be a pretty great human. There’s something else though that’s even more important – teaching them to respect themselves first.

Sometimes that means letting them know when we don’t support something an adult in their lives has said or done and giving them permission to close down to the influence of those who contaminate their self-esteem, their happiness and their self concept. It’s not always easy or possible to withdraw from a relationship, but with our support they can minimize the influence and impact of those broken adults who might otherwise do harm.

Toxic relationships are ones in which someone’s own negative behavior can cause emotional damage or contaminate the way a child sees himself or herself, or how other’s see that child.  They can lead to anxiety, depression, physical illnesses and feelings of isolation. Children can end up blaming themselves and feeling guilt or shame. Even if there is something about our kids that needs a little bit of a nudge in a different direction, any behavior that makes them feel less than or ashamed just won’t do it. In fact, it will don’t o damage.

We all have an inner voice. It’s the one that tells us how we’re going, whether we’re good enough, how we think the world sees us, what we’ve done wrong and what we’ve done right. When another adult is toxic, the risk is that the inner voice of the child will pick it up and make the words their own. Children are born awesome. Our job as the adults in their lives is to make sure they know this and to minimize the effect of anyone who might influence them to feel otherwise. When children feel small, inadequate, stupid, naughty, troublesome, untrustworthy, incapable or silenced in response to the comments of any adult in their lives, it’s time for us to be their voice.

We adults will get it wrong sometimes. On some days, we’ll get it so wrong that it will feel like ‘right’ won’t want anything to do with us for a while, but kids are savvy and seem to know the difference between a bad day, a bad mood, bad timing and something more enduring and targeted. Our kids will look to us for confirmation and validation of what the world is telling them. Though it’s important to support the other adults in their lives as much as we possibly can, when there is an adult who is causing them harm or responding to them with bad intent, it’s equally important for us to let our children know that we don’t support that adult’s behaviour.

Toxic people can come in the form of teachers, coaches, relatives, parents (their own and the parents of others) and friends. Adults should be a source of support, safety and trust for children. At the very least, they should do no harm. When they are a source of shame, anxiety or stress, the risk to the child is too much to allow it to keep going. Though it’s important to provide our kids with the opportunity to be resilient to difficult people, part of being resilient is knowing when to draw a bold heavy line between our self and another. Kids need our permission and our guidance to being able close down to people who scrape against them continuously.
This doesn’t mean that we withdraw our support from every adult who makes a decision that we or our children don’t like. We’re all human and life disappoints us all sometimes with plenty of decisions that go against us along the way.

Part of becoming a successful adult is learning to bounce back from these with the capacity to sustain relationships through disagreements and disappointments.

A bad decision or a difficult relationship isn’t necessarily a toxic one. The line can be a blurry though. Toxic people are usually masters in the art subtlety and skilled at staying just behind-the-line-but-not really-but-kind-of. Fortunately, children are often skilled at picking up on when something – or someone – feels bad. I’m not talking about the cranky teacher or the day they get blamed for something that isn’t their fault. I’m talking about ongoing behavior that feels shaming, belittling and ‘bad’.  Kids might not always talk about it because they won’t always have the words, so it’s up to us as the adults in their lives to notice the changes in them and to listen when they try to tell us that something isn’t right.

The Signs

Kids won’t always be able to say when something doesn’t feel right, particularly if it’s in response to an adult whose authority they’ve been taught to respect or whose intentions they’ve been taught to trust. The first sign that something isn’t right might be in their behavior.

Here are some things to watch out for. Remember, you’re looking for changes from their normal:

  • They seem withdrawn.
  • They don’t want to go to somewhere they previously had no problems going (e.g. school, soccer, dancing). (Remember that you’re looking for changes from the norm. If your child has always had trouble saying goodbye at school drop-off, that doesn’t mean there is someone there that they are having trouble with. What’s more likely is that they’re a little bit anxious about leaving you.)
  • Their grades drop.  Particularly noteworthy when grades dip in subject areas where they have historically excelled.
  • They cry more easily than usual, or more often.
  • They have a lack of energy.
  • They aren’t as interested in the things they used to enjoy.
  • They have unexplained tummy aches, headaches or other pains or illnesses.
  • They’re clingy.
  • They’re aggressive or more cranky than usual.
  • They seem worried more than usual.
  • They seem more controlling than usual.(When there is something that feels out of control in one part of their lives, a normal response is to try to take control over other things.)
  • They’re treating their siblings differently.(They might treat younger people in their lives the way they feel that someone is treating them.)


Now Explore a Little Deeper. Have the Conversation.

If you suspect there is somebody in your child’s life who is causing trouble, have the conversation.

Here are some questions to guide you in your chat with them:

  • So – if you had to say five people you like being around, who would you say? What makes them good to be around? Is there anyone who doesn’t feel good to be around?
  • Start with something that’s easy to talk about so your child will (hopefully!) feel relaxed enough and engaged enough with you to speak about something that might be more difficult.
  • Would you say they’re mostly good to be around or mostly bad? What makes it so? How do you feel when you’ve been with that person?
  • Look particularly for how your child feels about him/herself. Remember the danger of toxic people is damage to the self-concept.
  • What do you think that person thinks of you?

Adults don’t have to like everyone and they don’t have to like your child. Regardless of how an adult feels though, it’s critical that any negative personal opinions are kept away from the child. An adult might disapprove of a certain behavior, but the child should always feel supported and liked regardless. This needs to be conveyed verbally as well as non-verbally. It’s not enough for an adult to say, ‘But I’ve never said anything bad.’

Good. But what about the non-verbals?
What does that person think of other kids?
If your child says this person is grumpy with everyone, there’s less chance that the things the adult says or does will be taken personally, which minimizes the chances of doing damage. If your child says the adult is fine with everyone else but doesn’t like him or her, then that sound you hear will be alarm bells.

Does this person treat you the same as the other kids or a bit differently? If differently, how?

These questions are more for you. Your child might not be able to answer them directly but they are important ones to consider. The answers might be more likely to come up through observation, passing comments or in direct conversation with the adult in questions.

  • Is your child’s feelings towards this adult different to their feelings towards other adults?
  • If there are a few adults the child feels like this about, it may be a symptom of a broader problem, rather than one problem person. Is your child misinterpreting?
  • Taking things personally that aren’t intended that way?
  • Acting in a way that’s problematic?
  • Does the adult exclude your child from activities or give your child less opportunities than other kids who are also under the adult’s supervision or care.
  • Is the adult quick to blame the child for their (the adult’s) own behavior, mood or feelings?
  • Does the adult lack empathy towards your child and fail to understand why your child feels or behaves as he or she does?
  • Does the adult often find fault with your child?
  • What is it that the adult does that causes distress to the child?

See if you can get a handle on exactly what it is about the adult that upsets the child. It may just be that the adult has a loud voice, or a way of speaking that sounds more abrasive than is intended. A measure is whether the adult does this with everyone or just your child.

  • Does the adult interfere with the child’s opportunities?
  • Does the adult try to convince you, (or particularly in the case of a parent) health professionals or the child they there is something wrong with the child?
  • Does the adult try to harm the child’s reputation (the reputation of the child’s parents, family or friends) by spreading lies and gossip?   Toxic adults are slick and often present malicious gossip under the use of care and concern.
  • Does that adult do anything that undermines the child’s capacity to cope or their belief that they can cope (with whatever)?

Kids are born with a beautifully intact sense of who they are. As the adults in their lives, it’s up to us to see to it that their self-concept stays as dent free as possible. Of course there will be scars and bruises – they’re an unavoidable part of learning and being better, stronger, wiser and braver, but when deeper cuts are made into that self-concept, the damage is harder to repair. Sometimes it changes people forever.

As parents, we are told to support teachers  and other adults in the lives of our children and this is true – to a point.

What’s more important is supporting our own children in drawing the line between what is acceptable and what isn’t when it comes to other people. Sometimes that means openly naming unacceptable behavior When did it ever become more important to support an adult than to protect a child?

I’m not talking about openly speaking out against a decision that neither you nor the child like, or behavior that might have gone against what you would prefer. There are plenty of times to ‘suck it up’ and get on with it. What I’m talking about is the behavior that does damage. It can be a hard line to draw, and given the finesse with which toxic people have mastered the art of subtlety, it can also be a blurry one. Remember this though – you know your child, and you will know when something is changing them – the way they are, the way they see themselves. Trust yourself to know when something isn’t right. If it feels ‘off’, then it probably is.

We can’t stop toxic people coming into the lives of our children. What we can do though is give our kids independence of mind and permission to recognize that person and their behavior as wrong. We can teach our kids that being kind and respectful doesn’t necessarily mean accepting someone’s behavior beliefs or influence. The kindness and respect we teach our children to show to adults should never be used against them by those broken adults who might do harm.

Our kids are amazing. Let’s do whatever we have to to keep them that way.


Hey Sigmund – Where they Science of Psychology Meet The Art of Being Human

Making Caring Count Project for Children

February 18, 2018


Building Self Esteem in Children

February 17, 2018

A positive self esteem is one of the greatest gifts you can give your child.

Here are 25 phases that you can use to increase confidence and self-esteem in your children: and

1. “You are capable.”
As a parent, our words become the internal language in the minds of our children. We know that our kids are capable of so much—let your words match this belief. Avoid saying things like, “You are going to hurt yourself” or “Don’t fall.” Our tone and language should communicate confidence.

2. “That was brave.”
Sometimes we need to notice things aloud. That means to let them know when we see them being brave. When we notice our kids being brave, they start to notice too.

3. “You’ve got this.”
You know that they have the skills and means necessary and your vote of confidence will give them that extra boost they need to succeed.

4. “I believe in you.”
As the parent, you have faith in your child’s ability. When you openly communicate that faith in them it will inspire it within themselves.

5. “You can do hard things.”
When the going gets tough the obstacles can seem insurmountable. So this direct phrase will tell them exactly what they need to hear—acknowledgment that this is hard work and that they are capable

6. No matter what happens, I love you.”
Our children need to hear words that communicate unconditional love. That means providing reassurance of our love—regardless of the outcome.

7. “Let’s try it together.”
Sometimes we all need a helping hand and be sure they know that you will be that hand when they need it.

8. “How’d you do that?”
Ask questions. When you see them do something hard, say, “How did you manage that? How can you do it again?”

9. “That sounds awesome, can you tell me more?” Take it one step further than just noticing their effort—ask them to elaborate. Then hear the the pride in their voice when they explain.

10. “How can I help?”
When they get really stuck, don’t be afraid to offer your support. Let them know that the offer to help is on the table.

11. “Give it your best.”
We will never win it all, do it all, or be it all. But we can give it our best. Let’s teach our kids this lesson.

12. “I know it’s hard, but I have seen you do it before.”
It can seem overwhelming, but let’s give them evidence of when they have been successful before. This will instill the confidence that they can do it again.

13. “You are enough.”
It doesn’t matter what the outcome—they need to know they are enough just the way they are.

14. “You make me proud.”
Straight and to the point—you can never tell your child this enough.

15. “Even when we get frustrated, we still love each other.”
Feelings like frustration, anger and hopelessness are all common human emotions. And despite these big feelings we will stand by the side of our children with unconditional love.

16. “I wonder what would happen if…”
Try to evoke curiosity and a new way of thinking by wondering about the possibilities.

17. “Do you know what grit means?”
Kids love learning new words. Teach them about grit, resilience and perseverance to help them reach towards these goals.

18. “Want to hear a story?”
Share stories with your kids. Tell them about times when you overcame obstacles, met your goals, and reached for the stars.

19. “Do you want to try something crazy?”
Challenge your children with things they think are beyond reach (even if it sounds a little crazy). They might surprise you and themselves.

20. “Sometimes new things can seem scary, but they can be exciting.”
Young children tend to cling toward people and environments that are familiar. But if we emphasize how exciting and joyful that new experiences can be, we can encourage the confidence to venture out of the comfort zone.

21. “I know you tried your hardest and I am proud of that effort.”
When we see them working hard and giving it their all, we can recognize this effort. After all, life is about the journey, not the destination.


22. “It looks like you are curious about this, let’s take a deeper look.”
Encourage curiosity and exploration in children of all ages. As a result, they will be more likely to seek out new information and experiences with confidence.

23. “Sometimes we make mistakes, and that is how we learn.”
The path to growing up is filled with stumbling blocks and learning experiences. When we parent without shame, we help our children to use these mistakes as learning experiences.

24. “How did you challenge yourself today?”
Start the conversation about growing, changing and taking risks. With each challenge and accomplishment, the sense of self-esteem will grow.

25. “Repeat after me, ‘I can do it.’”


Grief at School – Training Curriculum

February 9, 2018

American Hospice Foundation created a model Grief at School training curriculum that has been used by more than 3,500 schools and was endorsed by the national associations of school counselors, school psychologists and social workers. As part of their community service mission, many hospices have used this curriculum to train school staff to address the needs of grieving students and discuss grief and loss in the classroom.

Failure to address the needs of grieving children can have short-term effects on their school performance and serious consequences later in life. Schools can play a vital role in helping their pupils come to terms with losses and preparing them for life’s inevitable tragedies. Teachers, counselors, and other school personnel have considerable influence in the lives of students, especially for those for whom school assumes the importance of family. Children often look to their teachers and counselors when they need help in overcoming problems that are difficult to discuss at home.

By introducing classroom lessons about grief and loss, and responding appropriately when a child has suffered a loss, school personnel can encourage open discussions and enable students to develop healthy coping skills.

We hope you find these materials useful. They are all free and can be reproduced and shared.

Grief at School Training Video

In this 35-minute video, renowned author and trainer Helen Fitzgerald leads a children’s grief group and demonstrates how to introduce therapeutic activities in the classroom using stories, games, writing, and art. Ms. Fitzgerald is a certified thanatologist with more than 35 years of experience in designing and implementing grief programs for children.



Grief at School: A Guide for School Personnel
Grief at School: A Self-Study Toolkit for School-Based Professionals

1:1 Family Nanny Communication

January 28, 2018


1:1 meeting is an ongoing feedback strategy between an employer and employer. Much more informal than annual performance reviews, these meetings focus on solutions to day-to-day problems as well as help an employee develop strategies of their own in the long run. It’s important that the meeting be scheduled in advance, private, and free of distractions.

There are three elements to keep in mind when planning a 1:1 —

1. Frequency
2. Expectations
3. Location


Effective communication is important in any workplace. However, many parents don’t always communicate with their nanny nearly as often as they could or should.

According to a survey cited by the Harvard Business Review, research shows the main complaints employees have about their managers is not enough communication, particularly around both positive and negative feedback, clear direction, and making time to meet with the employee.

That’s why it’s so important to schedule routine 1:1 meetings. That way, you’re not just checking in when something goes wrong or right, but habitually on a long-term basis.

Weekly meetings are a great goal, but you can also start off with biweekly or monthly check-ins if you don’t currently hold 1:1 meetings with your employee.

The best way to find time is to make time. When managing your own work schedule, save time for your employees weeks and months in advance. Schedule it on your calendar in advance and stick to it.


When it comes to a 1:1, your employee is in the drivers seat. They dictate the content of the conversation and share the responsibility of setting the  agenda. Make sure they know that. Set expectations on what to discuss at these meetings by asking your employee to come prepared.

For example:
* Do you have the tools and resources to do your job. Are there items that need to be purchased or replaced?
* Are you facing any difficulties in your  day-to-day workflow?
* Do you have any concerns about the child’s emotional, mental or physical development?

Agree to meeting start and end time. Plan for 1 hour. If additional time is needed schedule a follow-up meeting.

Because this meeting is job specific the employee should be paid his/her hourly rate, even if the 1:1 was initiated by the employee and scheduled outside of work hours.


It helps to change up the setting of these meetings. Ideally it should be outside of the home without charges present. Go to a cafe, grab lunch, take a walk, or sit somewhere outdoors. The change of scenery can help reorient both you and your employee to the more informal, more relationship-based meeting.

It’s important that you both take notes in the meeting to remember actions, decisions and issues.

The goals of these 1:1 meetings should be employee-oriented and relationship-driven. It’s your chance to focus on the employee’s needs.

When done properly a 1:1 affords you the opportunity to practice honest and open communication, build consensus, increase engagement and morale, and thoughtfully respond to conflicts.

Children and Sleep

January 27, 2018


The American Sleep Association a great resource  for parents and caregivers.  Every living creature needs to sleep. It is the primary activity of the brain during early development. Circadian rhythms, or the sleep-wake cycle, are regulated by light and dark and these rhythms take time to develop, resulting in the irregular sleep schedules of newborns. The rhythms begin to develop at about six weeks, and by three to six months most infants have a regular sleep-wake cycle. By the age of two, most children have spent more time asleep than awake and overall, a child will spend 40 percent of his or her childhood asleep. Sleep is especially important for children as it directly impacts mental and physical development.

There are two alternating types or states of sleep:

Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) or “quiet” sleep. During the deep states of NREM sleep, blood supply to the muscles is increased, energy is restored, tissue growth and repair occur, and important hormones are released for growth and development.

Rapid Eye Movement(REM) or “active” sleep. During REM sleep, our brains are active and dreaming occurs. Our bodies become immobile, breathing and heart rates are irregular.

Babies spend 50 percent of their time in each of these states and the sleep cycle is about 50 minutes. At about six months of age, REM sleep comprises about 30 percent of sleep. By the time children reach preschool age, the sleep cycle is about every 90 minutes.

Sleep and Newborns (0-3 months)

newbornFor newborns, sleep during the early months occurs around the clock and the sleep-wake cycle interacts with the need to be fed, changed and nurtured. Newborns sleep a total of 10.5 to 18 hours a day on an irregular schedule with periods of one to three hours spent awake. The sleep period may last a few minutes to several hours. During sleep, they are often active, twitching their arms and legs, smiling, sucking and generally appearing restless.

Newborns express their need to sleep in different ways. Some fuss, cry, rub their eyes or indicate this need with individual gestures. It is best to put babies to bed when they are sleepy but not asleep. They are more likely to fall asleep quickly and eventually learn how to get themselves to sleep. Newborns can be encouraged to sleep less during the day by exposing them to light and noise, and by playing more with them in the daytime. As evening approaches, the environment can be quieter and dimmer with less activity.

Sleep Tips for Newborns

Observe baby’s sleep patterns and identify signs of sleepiness. Put baby in the crib when drowsy, not asleep.
Place baby to sleep on his/her back with face and head clear of blankets and other soft items.  Encourage nighttime sleep.

Sleep and Infants (4-11 months)

infantBy six months of age, nighttime feedings are usually not necessary and many infants sleep through the night; 70-80 percent will do so by nine months of age. Infants typically sleep 9-12 hours during the night and take 30 minute to two-hour naps, one to four times a day – fewer as they reach age one.

When infants are put to bed drowsy but not asleep, they are more likely to become “self- soothers” which enables them to fall asleep independently at bedtime and put themselves back to sleep during the night. Those who have become accustomed to parental assistance at bedtime often become “signalers” and cry for their parents to help them return to sleep during the night.

Social and developmental issues can also affect sleep. Secure infants who are attached to their caregiver may have less sleep problems, but some may also be reluctant to give up this engagement for sleep. During the second half of the year, infants may also experience separation anxiety. Illness and increased motor development may also disrupt sleep.

Sleep Tips for Infants

Develop regular daytime and bedtime schedules.
Create a consistent and enjoyable bedtime routine.
Establish a regular “sleep friendly” environment.
Encourage baby to fall asleep independently.
Sleep and Toddlers (1-2 years)

Toddlers need about 11-14 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. When they reach about 18 months of age their naptimes will decrease to once a day lasting about one to three hours.

Naps should not occur too close to bedtime as they may delay sleep at night.

Many toddlers experience sleep problems including resisting going to bed and nighttime awakenings. Nighttime fears and nightmares are also common.

Many factors can lead to sleep problems. Toddlers’ drive for independence and an increase in their motor, cognitive and social abilities can interfere with sleep. In addition, their ability to get out of bed, separation anxiety, the need for autonomy and the development of the child’s imagination can lead to sleep problems. Daytime sleepiness and behavior problems may signal poor sleep or a sleep problem.

Sleep Tips For Toddlers:

Maintain a daily sleep schedule and consistent bedtime routine.
Make the bedroom environment the same every night and throughout the night.
Set limits that are consistent, communicated and enforced. Encourage use of a security object such as a blanket or stuffed animal.

Preschoolers typically sleep 11-13 hours each night and most do not nap after five years of age. As with toddlers, difficulty falling asleep and waking up during the night are common. With further development of imagination, preschoolers commonly experience nighttime fears and nightmares. In addition, sleepwalking and sleep terrors peak during preschool years.

Sleep Tips for Preschoolers

Maintain a regular and consistent sleep schedule.
Have a relaxing bedtime routine that ends in the room where the child sleeps.
Child should sleep in the same sleeping environment every night, in a room that is cool, quiet and dark – and without a TV.

Sleep and School-aged Children (6-13 years)

Sleepy KidChildren aged six to 13 need 9-11 hours of sleep. At the same time, there is an increasing demand on their time from school (e.g., homework), sports and other extracurricular and social activities. In addition, school-aged children become more interested in TV, computers, the media and Internet as well as caffeine products – all of which can lead to difficulty falling asleep, nightmares and disruptions to their sleep. In particular, watching TV close to bedtime has been associated with bedtime resistance, difficulty falling asleep, anxiety around sleep and sleeping fewer hours.

Sleep problems and disorders are prevalent at this age. Poor or inadequate sleep can lead to mood swings, behavioral problems such as ADHD and cognitive problems that impact on their ability to learn in school.

Sleep Tips for School-aged Children

Teach school-aged children about healthy sleep habits.
Continue to emphasize need for regular and consistent sleep schedule and bedtime routine.
Make child’s bedroom conducive to sleep – dark, cool and quiet.
Keep TV and computers out of the bedroom.
Avoid caffeine.



What Cake and Gratitude Have in Common

January 26, 2018

Great! Great! Great! 

Researchers agree that there are multiple layers to gratitude, components of it, though how many, and what they are, vary. Dr. Robert Emmons, a leader in gratitude research, defines gratitude as having just two parts: recognition and acknowledgment. Another study suggest three layers to gratitude. Yet another lists 32.

Regardless of how gratitude is broken down, most researchers agree there are certain layers that require an emotional maturity that young children just don’t yet have. Some layers call for empathy, which surfaces around age 2, but takes years to fully develop. Some layers require an understanding that other people are free-thinking, which doesn’t start to happen until age four or five. Emmons notes, “children younger than the age of 7 do not reliably understand that gratitude requires giving credit to others.”

That doesn’t mean we can’t still try to teach gratitude to our kids. We can start by thinking through a few of the most important layers. Let’s call it the RICES process.

The first layer is Emmons’ Recognition: seeing that you have something, or more specifically, that you’ve been given something. Was it a gift? Was it help? Was it affection? Where did that thing come from? Did I manufacture it on my own? Or was it given to me by someone else?

Next, try to understand the Intent of the benefactor. Why did that person do this for me? Do they want something in return? Did I earn it? Were they forced to give me this thing? Did they do it just because they wanted to? Because they love me?

Then, dive deeper. Try to recognize the Costs to the gift giver. Did they give their time or money so that I could have this thing? Were there other things they could have done with their time and money?

Now, the focus can turn to your own Emotions. How do I feel about this gift? Does it make me happy? Do I feel cared for? What is the benefit that I’ve been given? Am I better off now that I have this?

And finally, the last layer is Showing appreciation. Maybe it’s as simple as saying thank you, or as much as a reciprocated gift. The point is that you let someone know that you understand the previous components, and that you’re grateful for what they’ve done.

Giving Kids the Gift of Gratitude

Maybe the reason we rush to teach the last layer is that it’s the easiest for a child to do (if you can call getting them to remember something “easy”) and it hints at an understanding of the rest (which may or may not be true). However, if we also work to teach the first components, “thank you” may just come from their mouths more naturally, more genuinely, and not only when prompted, or as a matter of course at Thanksgiving dinner. Here are some ways we can help nurture genuine gratitude in our kids.

For younger kids, we can start the lesson by modeling it. Try talking through your own gratitude with them. Use the RICES process and say it out loud. If you receive a gift, show them you recognize it. Discuss who the gift came from, what the giver had to do in order to for you to have it. Tell them what it makes you feel, and what you’re going to do about it. This can be especially effective if it involves a gift from the child herself. Did she draw you a picture at school? Discuss with her why it feels so good for you to receive it. Let her know you understand their effort in making it.

We can also use RICES help them think through their own gratitude. When you see him receive a gift, or get help from someone, or receive affection, ask him some of the questions we listed above. Did you just get something new? Where did it come from? What had to happen for you to receive that? Why do you think you received it? Is it because you’re loved? Does that feel good? What should we do to show how you feel?

At the End of the Day…

Making someone grateful is hard. For kids, it just doesn’t come naturally. Believe me, I’ll continue teaching my kids to say thank you. I think it’s polite. It’s often expected. And manors will take them far in their lives. But I don’t want it to be a frustrating experience for them, or for me. So I’ll work harder to make sure that “thank you” doesn’t feel like one of their chores, that it comes out naturally as the final layer of genuine gratitude, as the S in RICES, and that they grow to be truly appreciative of everything they have in their lives, whether a holiday demands it or not.



Lee L. Krecklow


Emmons, R. A. (2007). THANKS: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier. New York City: Houghton

Strong Is The New Pretty

December 18, 2017

Girls being fearless. Girls being silly. Girls being wild, stubborn, and proud. Girls whose faces are smeared with dirt and lit up with joy. So simple and yet so powerful, Strong Is the New Pretty celebrates, through more than 175 memorable photographs, the strength and spirit of girls being 100% themselves.

Real beauty isn’t about being a certain size, acting a certain way, wearing the right clothes, or having your hair done (or even brushed). Real beauty is about being your authentic self and owning it. Kate T. Parker is a professional photographer who finds the real beauty in girls, capturing it for all the world to see in candid and arresting images.

A celebration, a catalog of spirit in words and smiles, an affirmation of the fact that it’s what’s inside you that counts, Strong Is the New Pretty conveys a powerful message for every girl, for every mother and father of a girl, for every coach and mentor and teacher, for everyone in the village that it takes to raise a strong and self-confident person.

Photographer KATE T. PARKER is a mother, wife, former collegiate soccer player, Ironman, and professional photographer who shoots both fine-art projects and commercial work for clients across North America. Her Strong Is the New Pretty photo series has led to collaborations with brands like Athleta, Kellogg’s, and Oxygen. The project has also inspired Kate to launch a philanthropic arm of Strong Is the New Pretty, partnering with organizations like Girls on the Run and The Bully Project that invests in girls’ health and education. When she’s not photographing, Kate can be found coaching her daughters’ soccer teams. She lives with her family in Atlanta, Georgia.


Upcoming Events

March 6
Talk & Book Signing – Little Shop of Stories
Decatur, Georgia

March 7
National Radio Tour

March 9
Book Launch – GLAM4GOOD at powerHouse Arena
Brooklyn, New York

March 11
Book Signing – Athleta Avalon
Alpharetta, Georgia

March 13
Speaker – SXSW
Austin, Texas

March 14
Book Signing – Athleta Lone Tree
Lone Tree, CO

March 20
Book Signing – Athleta City Creek Center
Salt Lake City, Utah

March 23
Reception, Talk & Book Signing – Ferris State Gallery
Big Rapids, Michigan

March 28
Book Signing – Athleta San Francisco
San Francisco, California

March 31
Talk & Book Signing – Avid Bookshop
Athens, Georgia

April 1
Speaker – TEDx Emory
Atlanta, GA, 30322

April 4
Talk & Book Signing – Rainy Day Books at Unity Temple on the Plaza
Kansas City, Missouri

April 5
Book Signing – Athleta Southport
Chicago, Illinois

April 6
Talk & Book Signing – Anderson’s Bookshop
Naperville, Illinois




To Prevent Bullying, Focus on Early Childhood

December 10, 2017


How do we prevent bullying? According to The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC),  despite decades of study and numerous programs claiming to be the solution to bullying, few programs have actually been shown to be effective. One of the main issues is that “bullying prevention” is often a misnomer; instead of trying to stop the behavior before it begins, the focus of many programs is on reducing already high rates of bullying. By the time students enter sixth grade, the earliest grade for which nationally representative data is collected, nearly 28 percent report having been targeted in the past year. For younger children, data are far more limited, but suggestive. The National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence found that 20.4 percent of children ages 2-5 had experienced physical bullying in their lifetime and 14.6 percent had been teased (verbally bullied).


To actually prevent bullying before it starts, we need to focus on how bullying behaviors develop—for those engaging in bullying behaviors and those being targeted—starting in early childhood. Child Trends recently conducted a literature review and convened an expert roundtable, which NAEYC took part in, to document current understandings of the roots of bullying in early childhood. We identified key contextual factors linked to bullying behaviors, promising and evidence-based programs that help address emerging behavior, and the need for further research.

Research on bullying and early childhood development is limited. When we talk about bullying, the early childhood audience is often forgotten. There remains immense debate in the field about how to distinguish between typical, sometimes aggressive behavior that young children show and the more strategic and deliberate behaviors that define bullying. In preparing their uniform definition of bullying, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defined bullying as being between “school-aged youth,” recognizing that the behaviors observed in young children are often not what we traditionally think of as bullying, but are developmental in nature, as children first begin to navigate interactions with peers. Many young children who are aggressive with their peers will not engage in bullying behaviors in later childhood and adolescence. Likewise, being the target of an aggressive behavior does not mean that child will be victimized for life. Still, these early aggressions (and conversely, the early skills of sharing, listening, and empathy) are precursors to later behavior, and it is important to intervene early. More research is needed to understand the trajectory of early aggression into bullying behaviors.


Four key factors consistently seemed to be related to bullying behaviors in young children:

1) Parents’ treatment of each other, their children, and others influences how young children treat their peers. Specifically, parents’ use of harsh discipline and children’s exposure to domestic violence are related to increases in bullying behavior, while parents’ positive engagement in their children’s lives, such as through interactive play, reading, and meals together, seems to be protective against bullying behavior. Parents serve as role models for their children, and modeling empathy, concern, and care for others may help deter later bullying. Resources such as those provided by the Making Caring Common Project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education can help parents expand their own “circle of concern” and help their children do so, too. (It should be noted here that the majority of current research looks at the behaviors and characteristics of mothers; studies looking at the role of fathers are more limited, primarily because mothers are more likely to be the primary caregiver for young children and more likely to respond to the research. Some effort is being made, however, to address the role of fathers in bullying prevention.)

2) Young children exposed to maltreatment are more likely to be involved in bullying, both as the target and the aggressor. Not only can maltreatment change children’s behaviors, it has been shown to fundamentally alter the development of young children’s brain structures, which can lead to developmental deficits including in the social and emotional domains. Early intervention is critical to help stem these delays. Adults and Children Together (ACT) Against Violence Raising Safe Kids, an evidence-based program specifically aimed at helping reduce child maltreatment and promote positive parenting strategies, is one approach that shows promise.

3) Television and other media can contribute to the development of both aggression and pro-social skills.Screen time for your children is one of the most debated subjects among early childhood advocates. Research shows that increased television watching is related to increases in aggressive behavior even if the content is not inherently violent. Conversely, when shows are specifically designed to promote skills such as sharing, empathy, and other pro-social skills—shows like Sesame Street, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, or in past generations, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood—children are more likely to engage in these behaviors after viewing.

4) Building young children’s social and emotional skills and promoting welcoming classrooms can significantly reduce aggression. Evaluations of several evidence-based social and emotional learning programs for young children, such as PATHS for Preschool, Second Step, and Al’s Pals, show that helping children understand and control their own emotions, and understand those of others, can significantly reduce conflict and aggression. Even without these formalized interventions, teachers of young children (and parents for that matter) can work to reduce bullying behaviors. The Guidance Matters column in the professional journal Young Children provides a number of resources that can support these efforts.

Overall, it is clear that more attention needs to be paid to identifying, researching, and preventing the roots of bullying behavior in young children. It is only when we recognize that bullying behaviors do not simply appear in elementary or middle school, but may be part of a developmental trajectory, that will we be able to stop bullying.

Predicting Success in Children

October 28, 2017

Helen Pearson

For the past 70 years, scientists in Britain have been studying thousands of children through their lives to find out why some end up happy and healthy while others struggle. It’s the longest-running study of human development in the world, and it’s produced some of the best-studied people on the planet while changing the way we live, learn and parent. Reviewing this remarkable research, science journalist Helen Pearson shares some important findings and simple truths about childhood,  life and good parenting.

This talk was presented at an official TED conference, and was featured by TED editors.