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Category Archives: Toolbox Tips

Janet’s Toolbox Tip: Compassionate Listening

…because you can never have enough tools in your toolbox.
Not only is Compassionate Listening an essential tool for every parenting tool-box, it is an essential skill to build into every relationship. With thanks (and adapted) from Christina Perez of Little Sprigs.

The Four Parts of Compassionate Listening

1. Listen intently to what the other person is saying. This means allowing children to finish their whiny request, even if we know where they’re going and we know that we’re not giving in. Even children deserve the respect of being heard. When you offer the other your full attention and allow them to be heard, they will begin to calm down.

2. Listen without judgement. When your child misbehaves and you feel they should ‘know better’ – judgement can slip in fast. When we consider brain development, we know that only through repetition (and more repetition), imitation/modeling, and loving guidance from us, will they have the tools to take the high road the next time.

3. Refrain from comparing. Your child is unique. It may be tempting to compare them to other children. Why can’t my kid get this by now? Why can’t he be like his sister? Let go and truly meet the other where they are in that moment.

4. Refrain from interrupting. When your child is whining, crying, or asking again after you’ve said no countless times, listening can be difficult. We can feel trig erred by their emotions and want to put a stop to it.

Read more about applying compassionate listening in your life here.

Click here for your Boys Alive! Free Report: “6 Keys to Parenting Success”

Janet’s Toolbox Tip: Changing Attitudes

…because you can never have enough tools in your toolbox.

Changing Attitudes

Here’s a little peek into the human mind and how you can actually help yourself or your child experience a complete attitude shift.

“I can’t do it.”

“It can’t be done.”

“No way!”

Do you answer with, “Of course you can!” “Just give it a try!”

How does THAT work out?
When a human brain hears a question – no matter how unthinkable or impossible – it automatically imagines an answer.

Try it for yourself. Imagine something you don’t think you can do…then ask yourself: “What would it be like if I could do ______ really well?”

Your brain automatically imagines it.  It can’t help it!

Here’s the thing: It moves your mind from the frozen “impossible” position to, “Hmm…what would it be like if I could??”

So, by asking a question, you are pointing your child’s mind towards imagining an answer. We’re WIRED to notice questions and imagine answers.

It also loosens up attitudes that seem to be stuck. “Yeah, I know it’s impossible. Of course you can’t. But I was just wondering, what would it be like if you could _________?”

So rather than start off contradicting your child – and locking him into his attitude – here’s what to do:

1. Agree with them that they can’t, or it’s impossible, whatever the limitation is.

2. Ask, “But what would it be like if you could?”

Try it out.  Let me know what happens.

Adapted from NLP Comprehensive, 2006.

FOR MORE POSITIVE LANGUAGE try these from @sylviaduckworth:

10 Growth Mindset Statements: What Can I Say to Myself?

I’m not good at this.  TRY: What am I missing?

I’m awesome at this. TRY: I’m on the right track.

I give up. TRY: I’ll use some of the strategies we’ve learned.

This is too hard. TRY: This may take some time and effort.

I can’t make this any better. TRY: I can always improve so I’ll keep trying.

I just can’t do Math. TRY: I’m going to train my brain in Math.

I made a mistake. TRY: Mistakes help me to learn better.

She’s so smart. I’ll never be that smart. TRY: I’m going to figure out how she does it.

It’s good enough. TRY: Is it really my best work?

Plan “A” didn’t work. TRY: Good thing the alphabet has 25 more letters!

Click here for your Boys Alive! Free Report: “6 Keys to Parenting Success”

Janet’s Toolbox Tip: Power of the Pause

…because you can never have enough tools in your toolbox.

The Power of the Pause

The male brain tends to take a little longer to process your words. That means you need to s-l-o-w down (especially if you are a very verbal female).

Use your breath. When you train your brain through practice when interactions are calm, you’ll be prepared to breathe during stressful situations and include a PAUSE – which may make all the difference in the result!

An added benefit: “Healthful effects of slower breathing coupled with a calm mind have been well-documented. Animals that breathe the slowest live the longest. Elephants are slow, deep breathers in comparison to mice.”
Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 5.58.43 PM
Try this exercise, adapted from the book, Boys Alive! Bring Out Their Best:

  1. Place hands palm down across your belly button. Imagine you are floating a toy boat, slowly up and slowly down, upon your belly.
  2. Slowly breathe in through your nose on a count of 3, filling your lungs with air, and raising the toy boat.
  3. Hold breath for a count of 3 and release through your mouth completely, for another count of 3.
  4. PAUSE for a count of 3.
  5. Breathe in slowly and continue.

The PAUSE for a count of 3 is the habit you want to gain. This is the opportunity for you to assess a situation, realign your thoughts, gather your emotions, and a time for your child to process what you’ve said and make appropriate/alternative choices.

Focus on the Power of YOUR Pause to give you more of the right kind of power – in any situation. Your toolbox will overflow and you’ll be more calm and skillful!

Click here for your Boys Alive! Free Report: “6 Keys to Parenting Success”

Janet’s Toolbox Tip: Psychogeography

…because you can never have enough tools in your toolbox.


Psychogeography – It’s a big word – it simply means the effect your location has upon your interaction with another. In other words, when you call directions upstairs to your son from the kitchen, you’re likely going to get different results than if you were sitting side-by-side on the couch.

Here’s an exercise from my book, Boys Alive! Bring Out Their Best, that you can try with an adult partner. I encourage you to move through each location to truly experience the effect and to get your unconscious mind on board to help you realize the next time you might be tempted to send your voice up that staircase in the morning!

Many parents have found this exercise taught them the single concept that had the most impact on all of their communication with their children!

And they no longer had to ask, “Why do I have to repeat what I say a thousand times?”

Psychogeography Practice Exercise:

Speaking this nonsense phrase in a neutral voice: apples, pears, bananas takes the focus off of word meaning and voice tone and places it on body language.

In each of the following positions, be sure to speak in a neutral voice, take a deep breath between interactions, and allow the “child” to process the effect the “parent’s” words have had.

1. Parent faces Child about 1 foot apart. Parent says, “Apples, pears, bananas.”

2. Parent faces Child standing about 10 feet apart. Parent speaks phrase.

3. Still 10 feet apart, Child turns back towards Parent. Parent speaks phrase.

4. Parent stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Child, both facing in the same direction. Parent places hand lightly on Child’s shoulder. Parent speaks phrase.

5. Child squats down to about 3 feet, facing Parent. Parent speaks phrase.

6. Parent squats down to about 3 feet, facing Child. Parent speaks phrase.

Before discussing, switch roles and repeat the exercise. Use the following questions to guide you:
1. Which positions were comfortable for you?
2. Which position(s) were less comfortable for you?
3. When was it easier to listen?
4. When was it easier to ignore the speaker?

Consider your own parenting psychogeography:
1. When your requests are most effective, where are you located in relation to your boy?
2. Where are you located when you make requests that you have to repeat?
3. How often do you give directions or make requests from another room?
4. How often do you talk to your boy when your back is turned?
5. How often do you talk to your boy when his back is turned?
6. Note which interactions are least effective and re-run the scene through your mind, changing your psychogeography. How might the situation change?

This a subtle and profound tool for understanding our fellow human beings – they aren’t just for parent-child interactions! This tool will give you more flexibility and compassion in any interaction.

Click here for your Boys Alive! Free Report: “6 Keys to Parenting Success”

Positive Thoughts or Not?

“To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt

Our minds are always ON – especially if we are female.

Our brains are just designed that way.

Are you thinking positive thoughts?

We have about 60,000 thoughts each day – that’s about one thought per second during every waking hour. (No wonder we’re so tired at the end of the day!) More surprising, though, is that 95% are the same thoughts we had yesterday…and the day before…and the day before that!

Talk about a rut!

It gets worse.
80% of those recurring thoughts are NEGATIVE.
Do the math: That’s 45,000 negative thoughts every. single. day.

EVERYTHING we do as people, as parents… begins and ends with our thoughts.

As Dolly Parton said, “We cannot direct the wind but we can adjust the sails.”

YOU CAN adjust “the sails” of your thoughts.

When you hear yourself say something in the negative – either in your head to yourself or to your child or your partner, turn it around.


Try asking yourself: “What do I want instead?”

Instead of “Don’t spill your milk!” Try: “Keep the milk in your cup.”

Instead of “Stop whining!” Try: “Use your strong voice.”

Instead of “I’m not good at that.” Try: “I’m getting better at that every day.”

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