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Category Archives: Parents-Tips & Strategies

How can I keep my kids entertained inside this winter?

I could give you a list of “things-to-do” but you’d soon run out of them and would be looking for more.

Instead, look at it this way…

Once you get past the screen time negotiations and the “I’m bored”s – a whole world opens up!

The only thing you need to do is supply the raw materials, an imaginative suggestion (if they even need it), and then get out of the way!

I loved this book as a kid – a boy sick in bed and all the clever, creative things he manages to do with a ball of string.

See what your kids can do with raw materials like:
Tape – all kinds of tape!

Give them a problem to solve.
What can they make to do one of their chores more efficiently?
Can they make an automatic dog feeder? etc. etc.

Give them an adventure.
Put a blanket on the floor – the island – and let them equip it with everything they’ll need from now until bedtime. Then, on they go to the island while gator or sharks swim around… you get the idea.

Foster a connection.
Can you use all of your green legos to make a way to transport teddy bear down the stairs?
Can you act out a scene from the book you’re reading? – make the scene, etc.

When all else fails…
Living in Maine when my girls were little – we had a LOT of -30 degree days to contend with. My go-to was the kitchen. Let them bake. Let them make up recipes. Let them play in a sink full of water.

Funny enough after all that time in the kitchen…fast forward 20 years and my oldest daughter started, ran and then sold a successful snack making business before she turned 30.

You never know where long winter days of creative, open-ended, imaginative play will lead!

Now, go find some string…!

P.S. If you’re hungry for more tips, tools, and strategies to understand your son, join me for the Boys Alive! Learning Lab – an in-depth on-line live workshop super-focused on a specific topic. Click here to learn more.

“Can I Kiss You?”

A simple question.

There are so many reasons that we don’t ask it.

The news is FILLED with accusations of sexual assault – from inappropriate touch, to underage ‘dating’ by older men, to well…. you know if you’ve listened to the news…Kevin Spacey, Harvey Weinstein, Louis CK, Roy Moore….and that’s just in the past week.


It seems an overwhelming topic.

Who wants to consider that YOUR SON could become one of “those people”?!

I attended a standing-room-only event last night, hosted by 13-year-old Irie Page, who wanted to do something different to celebrate her 14th birthday (kids are amazing, I tell ya).

She invited Mike Domirtz of the DATE SAFE PROJECT to come to Portland. She fund-raised the entire speaking fee of $6500 and reached out for support from local resources including Portland State University, who hosted this event attended by nearly 500 people.  So cool, right?

Some take-aways:

We talk about consent.

But what does “giving consent” actually mean?

CONSENT is NOT permission.

ASKING is only the first step towards seeking consent.  It is NOT CONSENT until you have a YES.  That “YES” must be mutual – and be enthusiastically given.  Then you have consent (and doesn’t that feel good?! – no ambiguity.)

“Can I Kiss You?” is the first step towards consent.

Seems simple, right?

According to Mike, we must teach our kids to ask. And answer.

What if that answer is NO?

We’ve been taught that saying no is MEAN.  (And all of those women who are coming out now, somehow knew that saying no would jeopardize their jobs or their families.)  We must teach our kids early that they have every right to say no.

Mike suggests the no answer can be as simple as, “No, but thank you for asking.”  He reminded that we do not need to explain or justify the no.

The person who asked can respond with, “I’m glad I asked. The last thing I’d want to do is make you feel uncomfortable.”

An honest, simple interaction that is consensual or not but respectful either way.


All of the incidents that are coming to light from Hollywood, politics, and sports had a classic power disparity.

>>Look at the ways you imply your power over your child when he is saying no. Do you cajole him to give grandma a hug even when he is reluctant?  Do you require night-night kisses and hugs for visiting aunts and uncles?

>>MODEL CONSENT for your child.  Ask your child and your partner if you can give them a hug or a kiss before swooping in.  Let your children HEAR YOU saying yes to your partner and let them hear you saying no, too.

>>As I write this, I think about the times I was tickled unmercifully by my siblings – it was fun but there was a point where it crossed the line into “this isn’t fun anymore,” and I wanted it to stop.

>>Begin to notice times when your child wants to say no but maybe isn’t able to communicate that clearly or isn’t being listened to.

THIS IS HOW LEARNING CONSENT BEGINS and it must be practiced – and talked about – early and often.

If you’re wondering how to begin – let’s talk. CLICK HERE to schedule a complimentary call with me.


“Help! Transitions with my son are the worst!”

Janet discusses how to make transitions more peaceful and productive with Jennifer.

Vlog with Jennifer - Transitions
Click HERE or on the image to listen to the 8-minute video.

Jennifer, mom of a 5 year old boy recently asked, “My son has trouble with transitions. Going to school in the morning, leaving a play date, or getting out of the house to go to the grocery store are difficult for him – and me!”

“How can I help him be more productive and help both of us have more peaceful transitions?”

Janet responds:

What comes before?

Notice your patterns. What comes before the “transition melt-down moment”? Are you rushing around? Are you commanding/demanding/nagging/reminding from the other room?

Imagine yourself in the place of your child for a moment. How would you feel to have your boss or significant other using just the words, body language, and unseen energy that you are giving to your child at these moments of transition? Yuk. We would’ve quit that job long ago!

It is HARD to leave what we’re doing. For adults. For children.

What to do instead –

Engage with him IN HIS WORLD for just a minute or two. If he is busy building a fort, be with him – FULLY engaged. (Sounds easy, takes practice). Now, use that moment as the catalyst for transition. Building a fort? Use that imagery to propel you both to the next activity. “We need to search for more branches, let’s brush our teeth and go in search of them.” You get the idea. Live into HIS pretend and stretch the bounds of your imagination, too (never a bad thing).

Children nourish us by being in the present. When we allow ourselves, we can fully immerse with them and forget about our busy adult lives. When we emerge from their make-believe, we are refreshed on a soul level. The present really is the ONLY place we can actually be…might as well enjoy it!

A ‘Magic’ Word –

Using the word “Let’s” with the accompanying ‘sweeping gesture.’ This works especially well with the young child. “Let’s go brush our teeth.” Then do it together rather than you being the director and he the actor…and likely a very reluctant one.

Jennifer comments, “I’ve tried reminding him, telling him what we have to do next, preparing him with all the steps to our day. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.”

“Just Tell Me ONE Thing!”

Fewer words, please! Many husbands, boyfriends, and sons would like to tell their wife, girlfriend, and mother those very words. And, indeed, I’ve had many report to me that they have!

Females talk — a lot! We process while we’re talking, compelling us to talk even more! The male brain works with language differently – it has fewer places to process all those words you use.

When you describe every step, ask multiple questions, and keep up a constant stream of chitter-chatter, you may be overwhelming his brain and he will likely:
• Ignore you
• Get silly or angry
• Have a meltdown

Silence really is golden! He just wants you to BE with him. So give him concise information, no more than necessary. He doesn’t need a run-down of the whole day, especially if you have a strong rhythm to your day’s routine.

Where are you when you talk to him?

Many times, as busy parents, we find ourselves giving directives from the kitchen up to the bedroom, from the bedroom down to the playroom…you get the idea. It is really easy for him to tune you out when he doesn’t have the physical connection with you..which means you nag, say it more, say it louder, etc.

Take a moment to go to him – enter into HIS world, his space, for a moment – put your hand on his shoulder and ask your question, make your request. As a wise speech teacher used to say to me, “Be direct, be brief, and be seated.”

When all else fails – SING!

Another wonderful way to facilitate transitions (known by many a wise preschool teacher) is to SING through the transition. It can be a silly song or a tried-and-true favorite. An added benefit to singing is that your breathing and heart rate become synchronized – what better way to face the world together than that?! (see article here)

Join him in his world FIRST.

THEN, with imagination and certainty, move him smoothly through the transition to the next event. Take the moment you need to be fully and deeply connected to him and your breathing and hearts will beat in unison and harmony.

If you’re struggling in this area (like many parents), join me for a 20-minute complementary Discovery Call here.

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Let Him Fail


His failure is okay AND so necessary for his development.

“There is no failure – only feedback.”

As the new school approaches – it is time to assess and recognize:

  • He is a year older – are you ready to be a year older too?
  • Are you ready to recognize and welcome his new abilities?
  • Or are you still thinking of him as that younger boy?

I provide professional development to teachers. As I drove into an elementary school parking lot to observe in classes, I was speechless as I watched ALL of the parents carrying backpacks, lunch boxes, and musical instruments. Less than 1 in 10 children were carrying anything that belonged to them! Boys and girls were jumping over puddles and greeting friends – while parents schlepped!

I asked the teachers about this and wondered if I should bring it up at my parent evening talk. There was a resounding “Yes!” When I spoke to parents about how boys need to be of service and we need to provide them with that opportunity, I challenged the parents to go on strike and stop carrying anything that their children needed for school. After some sideways glances at each other, most agreed.

When I returned a month later for follow-up work, I immediately noticed the children carrying their backpacks by themselves. Teachers noted the transition into the school day was easier and much less chaotic.

“That” Call

“Mom, I forgot my lunch.”

“Dad, I forgot my homework and my teacher’s gonna kill me!”

(Insert tears here, if that’s your child’s nature.)


Are you the parent that stops what you’re doing and rushes said item to school?

I beg you now, dear parent, it is time to let him fail.


Will he starve? No.

Will he have to interact with friends or a teacher and ask for help? Yes.

Will he experience some uncomfortable emotions? Yes.

Will he remember his homework or his lunch the next time? Yes!


Will he learn resilience?

Creative thinking?

Making do?

Problem solving?



But, not if you are constantly fixing things for him.

When he fails, he will learn to get himself organized.

Your son may see how well you have things under control and decide that he doesn’t need to because Mom (or Dad) will take care of it. Unless you’re planning to go to college with him, the time to relinquish some control and organizational management IS NOW.

Help him design a system to stay organized.

  1. Let him implement the system. After he’s tried it for two weeks, help him make the changes he needs to adjust his system.
  2. Take an arm’s length approach.
  3. Be interested and engaged. Your role now is to ask the right question so he can find the answer that works best for him.

Recognize that he is a year older and let him grow into this year and experience all of his new capabilities THIS YEAR.

Keep in mind…  “There are no mistakes, only opportunities.”

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Adventure Games instead of Gun Play

There are so many childhood games that offer adventure and intrigue without guns.

Help him find play alternatives that meet his need for adventure, risk, and excitement!

Sharifa Oppenheimer, mother of 3 sons, and seasoned early childhood teacher, in her book Heaven on Earth: A Handbook for Parents of Young Children, offers these ideas for war-free adventure games:

Make bows and arrows: Put time into finding just the right sticks and feathers. “Sharpen” the arrows by rubbing tips on a stone or cement. Create a quiver out of a cardboard tube, painting it and decorating it.

Hunting games: Capture wild ponies or hunt for buffalo, accompanied by the bow and arrows.

Fire: Child-made, parent-supervised campfires are magical. Teach the essentials and finish off the adventure with skewered apples, marshmallows, or toasted bananas. Of course, proper roasting sticks must be found and carefully prepared.

Magic potions: berries, clover, mud, baking soda and vinegar. Often games of mystery and intrigue result.

Scrap lumber, hammers, nails (roofing nails with big heads). Use two low, wide stumps as a work bench. Stack a few pieces and hammer together (don’t make them “perfect”) — call this a boat. See what your child creates! (I still have a hill and house scene that my daughter made at age 7). Get the paint out, too.

Small, dull pocket knives for sixes and up: Cut bush branches, peel bark. Decide the rules together. Are they always supervised? Always on the porch? Only when no other children are playing?

Sleepovers: in tents in the back yard. Lots of chores beforehand: clear rocks, haul leaves for padding, make a rock fire-ring, gather sticks for fire, fill water bottles, fix food, etc.

Fort building: Use branches, scrap lumber. Child may need help tying basic stick structure together.

Water play: Shallow creeks, boats to sail, puddles, hoses, all offer opportunities to discover the qualities of water.

Be open to your child’s creativity.

Let them take the lead. You will be amazed at the adventures they will create.

Enjoy the adventure play (without the guns)!

Join us on Facebook for more all-things-boys conversation.


Boys Playing with Guns

WHY does he turn EVERYTHING into a gun?!

What parent-of-a-boy hasn’t asked this question and made this complaint?!

Understanding what drives his desire for gun play may help you to accept it – and guide their play into other avenues.

“They’ll Make a Gun Out of Anything! ”  

Do you allow it – or not?
Parents and teachers constantly struggle with this moral dilemma.

Early childhood teacher, author of Heaven on Earth, A Handbook for Parents of Young Children and mother of three boys, Sharifa Oppenheimer, believes that while we can recognize the desire for the “grand adventure, for the drive and daring energy that gun play involves,” we can still discourage the violence.” She believes “it is the excitement and the energy behind gun play that is so compelling for many children, not the violence.

You may find the following ways in which Ms. Oppenheimer handles gun play in large groups and at home helpful as you decide how to handle this ‘loaded’ topic. (yes, I did just say that, didn’t I?)

Kids Playing With Guns in Large Groups

In large groups of children, Ms. Oppenheimer maintains the policy of no weapons.

If children use fingers or sticks, she reminds them, “no pointing.” She then offers children who want to play with guns alternative ideas that are “filled with the adventure and excitement, with the hiding and intrigue that gun play involves…encouraging them to be arctic explorers, caught in a blizzard, or paddling down the Amazon in a boat with huge pythons slithering by, or even firefighters saving dozens of people.”

She says that “usually this kind of suggestion sparks ideas of their own, and they are off and running.”

Playing With Guns at Home

At home, Ms. Oppenheimer handles the gun play issue differently.

Her natural inclination was to forbid gun play but feared the “forbidden fruit syndrome.” She found a compromise by giving her three sons a small dose, with very specific parameters, allowing them to play with little wooden rifles on Saturday mornings.

Playing With Guns – Ground Rules

Her ground rules:

  • Everyone has to be on the same team
  • It is absolutely forbidden to point the guns at each other
  • Everyone has to be having fun

She continues, “If any of these ground rules were broken, the game ended, the guns were put away and they could try again next Saturday.”

Ms. Oppenheimer found that because her sons “had so much experience playing games that were thrilling and intricate without the use of guns, many Saturdays came and went without their rifles, because they simply forgot about them!”  She does say that if they remembered later in the week, she would allow one hour of gun play and then they were put away until the following Saturday.

Are you challenged to find enticing alternatives to their play that involves guns?  Find ideas here: “Adventure Games instead of Gun Play.”

Be sure to join our conversation about this and other boy-topics on Facebook, too!

Click here.

Kid Clutter

by BOY TALK Guest Karen Raymond

“Our studies show that giving children too many toys or toys of the wrong types can actually be doing them harm. They get overwhelmed and cannot concentrate on any one thing long enough to learn from it,” ~Claire Lerner, L.C.S.W-C, Zero to Three

Kid STUFF has been a pretty popular topic swirling around me lately.

Here are a few things I have heard or read:

“Their room is a disaster!”

“My kid’s STUFF is everywhere! They never put away their toys when they are done playing with them.”

“They don’t respect nor do they take care of their belongings.”

Here are a few statistics:

The average size of an American home went up from 1,725 sq ft in 1983 to 2,598 sq ft in 2013.

However, the average size of an American family went down from 3.26 persons/family in 1983 to 3.12 persons/family in 2013.

Therefore, the average square footage per person in a home has increased from 529 sq ft to 832 sq ft. That is over 300 square feet of space more per person to put more STUFF in.

For kids, that means MORE STUFF!!!

  • More dress up clothes
  • More building toys
  • More action figures and dolls
  • More “learning” toys
  • More instruments
  • More books
  • More puzzles
  • More pretend play toys (kitchens, workshops, etc.)
  • More outdoor play toys for inside (trampolines, jumpy houses, little tikes cars, slides, tunnels, etc.)

All given with the intention of providing variety and choices for our little ones and to encourage independence.

Yet, according to a British study published in The Telegraph, children probably play with just 5% or their toys!

And then we go back to the quote at the beginning of this post.

For children under the age of 5, they play less when they have more toys due to overwhelm, distraction, and inability to concentrate on one thing for the amount of time that it takes for them to learn from that toy. Let that marinate for a few minutes.

Let’s examine the complaints again:

Their room is a disaster! – It’s huge and they have a ton of STUFF. They probably have a hard time finding anything and it’s probably completely overwhelming for them. Then they are told to “clean your room!” Where on earth should they start? We can’t even compare to when we were kids because I bet that most of you reading this did not have as much STUFF as your kids now have. It’s like comparing apples to oranges. Cleaning up for kids these days looks a whole lot different than it did for us when we were kids.

My kids never put away their toys when they are done playing with them! – Tons of toys = overwhelm and distraction. Especially if they are young, they probably go from one toy to the next as their senses are so overwhelmed they are unable to concentrate on any one toy for a long period of time. Therefore, a trail of toys are littering the living room. It’s a lot easier to put away their favorite doll, a book, and a toy car on the shelf than having to clean up all the toy food items that have been vomited all over the floor.

They don’t respect nor do they take care of their belongings – If there is a constant flow of STUFF coming in, it brings down the value of the STUFF. Basic economics, I guess. A simple case of supply and demand. Demand is high; supply is low; high value. Supply is high; the demand is low; the value is low. It’s as simple as that.

So, next time you start to feel your blood pressure rising in regards to the kid clutter, I invite you to take a pause and imagine yourself at their age but in their current situation.

And then imagine the possibilities of life if this particular issue were just eliminated from your lives.

You don’t feel the need to nag, the child doesn’t feel nagged.

What does life look like to you without you or your child having to deal with all that STUFF?

How does that feel in your body and your heart?

Perhaps you can do yourself and your child a favor by taking the steps to simplify their environment with them!

Learn more at: KEEP IT SIMPLE

You’re invited to join the conversation at our Boys Alive! Facebook group:

‘Tis the Season…of STUFF

Oh, the mountains of STUFF!

Pictures of kid’s messy rooms recently began appearing on my Facebook feed, no doubt in anticipation of the more toys to come.  Living rooms, play rooms, bed rooms – all filled with heaps and heaps of STUFF.

Moms lamented, “I’ve given up on picking up toys.” “It drives me nuts!” “I’m constantly picking up his toys…” “My son’s room looks like a bomb went off!” “I’ve given up cleaning – it’s just going to get messy 5 minutes later.”

Having so much STUFF stresses us out…


Imagine how stressful it is for our kids when they have to choose what to play with OR are being told to pick it up!

How would you feel to be told (over and over) to pick up your 20, or 50, or 70 things every day? (Add in some nagging and/or yelling for emphasis.)

No exaggeration! In Born to Buy, sociologist Juliet Schor reports that the average American child is given 70 toys per year. ….SEVENTY!

What to do?

You’ve probably fantasized about gathering everything into black plastic garbage bags and sneaking them out to the curb in the middle of the night.  But then…a picture of your sobbing child enters your head as he cries, “But that was special to me!”

After hearing me talk on this subject, a single dad decided to pack up and dispose of over half of his daughter’s toys. He anticipated her tantrum – but it never came. He saw a more relaxed child who was more deeply involved in her imaginative play.


Take one step toward sanity!

“We downsized our whole lives and I couldn’t be happier!” said one Facebook Mom.

As a new influx of STUFF looms on the horizon at this gift-giving season, I turn to Kim John Payne of Simplicity Parenting, the voice of reason for de-cluttering and simplifying family life.

He describes the many occasions for which toys are now given – and it is easy to see how the total quickly reaches seventy!

Toys are no longer given for just one special occasion. Now, it is an avalanche – toys for grades, toys for behavior, toys just because, toys in fast-food restaurants, toys from grandparents, toys because “all my friends have one,” and toys for attending a birthday party (seriously? that trend needs to stop!).

Payne: “Too much stuff leads to too many choices, which leads to overwhelm and stress.”

Too much STUFF leads to overwhelm AND greed, entitlement, and unfocused, surface play.

The billion-dollar toy industry is MORE than HAPPY to be invited into your home!

Test it.

Ask your child (whether 4 or 14) to name some toy brands. According to Juliet Schor, in Born to Buy, “Children recognize logos by 18 months, ask for products by brand name by 2 years, and by 3 1/2 years they believe that certain brands will reflect well on them as cool, strong, smart, etc. By first grade, they can come up with over 200 name brands.”

Reverse the trend – thumb your nose at the toy industry!

Back to Payne’s wisdom: “As you decrease the quantity of your child’s toys, you increase their attention and their capacity for deep, creative play.”

Children with too many choices, don’t know what to choose, so they tend to wander from thing to thing to thing without learning and practicing the art of becoming deeply involved with only one thing at a time.

Even as you decrease the quantity of toys, pay attention to the quality of the toy.



If you give a child a fire engine – bright, shiny red, with ladders and hoses – that toy can ONLY be a fire engine. Give him a block of wood – polished and sleek, with wheels or without – that block of wood can be ANYTHING – a space ship, a bulldozer, a train. You’ll see the fire engine quickly be relegated to “the pile” while the block of wood is played with again and again.

(photo courtesy of Bella Luna Toys)

But HOW?

The pile is massive and messy, your child pleads the case for every toy – “It’s special to me.”

Or, worse yet, you’re thinking, “Oh, I remember when he carried this around…when so-and-so gave it to him…or you love the item, too.”  Be strong!

Set aside two or three hours when your child is out of the house. Yep, give them a heads-up about it but they don’t get to help. They can choose 2 or 3 special items but YOU decide the rest.

There is a list below to guide you.

Make a Keep Pile, a Goodwill Pile, and a Maybe Pile. Then halve the Keep and the Maybe Piles and halve them again. BE STRONG!

Payne suggests these criteria for saying good-bye to the STUFF and welcoming a simpler, less-cluttered, confusing, overwhelming, and stress-filled home.

Checklist for saying good-bye…to STUFF!


Whether it is old or new, if it’s broken – it goes out. (No, you won’t ever getting around to fixing it.)


If he doesn’t play with anymore, he’s likely outgrown it – so Goodwill or gift it forward. If you’re waiting for him to ‘grow into it’ – pack it away until he does.


These are the toys that can only be one thing – like the fire engine mentioned above – and they’ve likely quickly gotten bored with it and moved onto other toys.


Those toys with a million pieces (many of which are lost), and that has broken yet again – out with it!


Seriously, how many stuffed animals does one child need?


Anything with flashing lights, annoying music, mechanical voices, and speed – they may give you a headache, but they give your child an adrenaline rush, which means you may be peeling him off the ceiling later.


Now is your chance to get rid of that toy Great-Aunt Martha gave him 2 years ago – it was weird then and it is still weird – say bye-bye.


As noted above, your child knows logos at a very early age. Advertisers know this too! They begin early, telling us how to have smarter, and even more beautiful children – don’t buy it!


Your son just had to have that latest somethin-somethin last year, “Everyone has one, Mom!” he pleaded until you caved. He’s probably already moved on from this toy and you won’t fall for the pleading again this year, right?


If you have to manage how it is played with, do yourself a favor and let it go!

Still More Stuff:

After seeing this post, a mom posted this photo:


How many beach toys do 2 children & 2 adults need to go to the beach?  Twenty-eight. There are 23 pictured here. We counted them after dumping them out, so we wouldn’t allow any to be washed away. This pic doesn’t even show the mountain of towels, swim floaters and snacks that we brought!”

You’ve said good-bye, and now what?


Boys are very visual, so hide the visual clutter in baskets and bins, or behind a curtain. He’ll be less likely to ‘tear into things’ and more able to focus on one thing at a time. Teach them the habit of putting one thing back before getting the next one out – yes, it is possible!


Tell friends and family exactly what you’d like your child to be gifted. Stop the birthday party favor madness! Guide grandparents and others to gift simple experiences rather than STUFF. For example, Grandma can gift ingredients for a favorite recipe to cook together.


YOU could be that mom who said she downsized and couldn’t be happier!  It takes will-power and rolling up your sleeves. You’ll be calmer and your kids will be happier…that’s a promise!

THEN JOIN US in our private Facebook group…

There are 1500+ Moms plus ME waiting for YOU to join us in the Boys Alive! private Facebook group. We’re laughing, sharing, celebrating, and supporting each other through the good, the bad, and the ugly.  We need you there!

CLICK HERE to join this amazing group of parents and teachers!

Is He Addicted to Screens?

“He cried uncontrollably when I took it away…”

“I think he’s addicted…”




“We’re as bad as they are…”

“It takes my attention away for them…”

“I’m the only one that can change this…”


A mom and dad recently expressed concern for their 12 yo son in a Family Coaching session with me.

Don’t take my screens away!

After a summer of not much to do, he seemed increasingly attached to his screen time. When dad threatened to take his ipad and ipod away, he had a monumental melt-down.

As we sifted through the behavior challenges, the developmental milestones, and the family and friends interactions of “Sam” – it became increasingly clear that yet another boy has been captivated by the allure of screens.

Girls love screens, too.

Sure, girls certainly spend a lot of time on screens, but true to their nature, they are more relational with their screen use – posting on instagram, snapchatting with friends, connecting and relating to others. Video games are not as much of a draw for girls because they don’t offer the relational benefits for girls.  Most girls do not seek the constant action and competition that video games offer to boys.

Is he addicted?

2Boys, on the other hand, are quite entranced with screens – and most often with gaming. They relate to their friends via games. They google and figure out all sorts of things – including how to uninstall your monitoring software (they love the challenge!). You do have monitoring software, right?


We interviewed Dr. Victoria Dunckley, an expert on interactive screen usage and the effects they are having on our kids on BOY TALK #12, part of a bundle of interviews all focusing on this theme.

Electronic Screen Syndrome

She has identified and categorized the many effects of screen time in the patients coming to her as Electronic Screen Syndrome or ESS. It is, “a disorder of dysregulation. Because it is so stimulating, interactive screen-time shifts the nervous system into fight-or-flight mode.”

Signs and symptoms of ESS:

Typical signs and symptoms mimic chronic stress and sleep deprivation and can include:

  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Rapidly changing moods
  • Excessive or age-inappropriate tantrums
  • Low frustration tolerance
  • Poor sportsmanship
  • Social immaturity
  • Opposition-defiant behavior
  • Disorganized behavior
  • Poor self-regulation (impulse control)
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Learning difficulties
  • Poor short-term memory
  • Poor executive functioning (includes reasoning, planning, judgment, task completion, problem solving and critical thinking)

That is a LONG – and very concerning – LIST… but there is more:

CERTAIN FACTORS increase the risk for ESS:

  • Preexisting learning or behavioral disorders
  • Family history of addiction
  • Younger age when first exposed to screen-time
  • Boys with ADHD and/or autism spectrum are at particularly high risk.

You may be thinking — well, he has a little of this and a little of that.

And aren’t all kids defiant at times?

Don’t all kids have melt-downs?

Sure, they do. But if you have a gut feeling that his behavior has changed or is extreme – its time to look at the amount of screen time he is consuming. Even small amounts of screen time can be too much.

In an interview with Boys Alive!, Dr. Dunckley explains how to implement a 4-week “screen-fast” with your family. The most heartening thing she said was that, for boys, a change in behavior and engagement shows up in the first week!

You may already be thinking that THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE!

You’ve already thought of all the reasons why a screen-fast can’t happen in your family:

  • He needs it for homework
  • That’s what he does with his friends
  • Does it mean I’ll have to give up my screens, too?!

All of those excuses (and more) are familiar to Carolyn, mom of 2 boys. She thought it would be impossible for them to give up screen time…until her son’s teacher reported that he was unable to focus and his behavior in kindergarten was becoming a problem.

Enter Dr. Dunckley and Carolyn was ready to try anything – including a 4-week screen-fast. She thought her boys would protest…and was surprised that they didn’t.

Bottom line:

I urge you to consider YOUR screen usage first.

The mom and dad in my Family Coaching session quickly realized that THEY have to change their behavior first…

That THEY have to take a stand for family time from work-overlap and friends and family in the habit of texting at all hours.

That THEY have to model different behavior for their kids.

You can get your family back – Mom Carolyn is proof of that!

BOY TALK Podcasts have been called, “fantastic – experienced, thoughtful, relevant, progressive.” You’ve got support! Download these experts to your personal library:

Make it a Boy-friendly year

You’re invited to join us in the Boys Alive! Private Facebook Group – ask a question, offer support, enjoy an article, laugh and cry with us. We are stronger together!

If you’d like to chat with Janet Allison one-on-one, use this link to schedule a 20-minute complementary phone call or email me at I’m here for you!

Summer to School Transition: Sleep Schedules

Back-to-School sales….School supplies filling the shelves…

And, perhaps you, too, itch to buy new notebooks and pencils.  Have you seen how many new composition book covers there are?  No more plain old black and white!

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The real reality though, is GETTING KIDS BACK IN A ROUTINE.  You may be fighting it as much as they are but you’ll thank yourself for starting early – on the bedtime routine, especially.

Use the “10” Method:

  • Start 10 days before school begins
  • 10 minute earlier bedtime
  • 10 minute earlier wake-up time

Your challenge is to be consistent!

Use the following sleep recommendations and plug them into your schedule and you’ll know what time they need to be asleep so that they get the recommended amount.

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The National Sleep Foundation updated their recommendations in 2015:

  • Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours
  • Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours
  • Preschoolers (3-5): 10-13 hours
  • School age children (6-13): 9-11 hours
  • Teenagers (14-17): 8-10 hours
  • Younger adults (18-25): 7-9 hours
  • Adults (26-64): 7-9 hours
  • Older adults (65+): 7-8 hours (a new age category)

The National Sleep Foundation also notes, “One of the reasons it’s so hard to know when our kids are getting insufficient sleep is that drowsy children don’t necessarily slow down the way we do—they wind up.

In fact, sleepiness can look like symptoms of attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Children often act as if they’re not tired, resisting bedtime and becoming hyper as the evening goes on. All this can happen because the child is overtired.”

My teenager stays awake late and then can’t get up in the morning!

Teen’s body clocks change and they do become night owls.

Enlist their help in planning a structured evening/morning routine so they get optimal sleep (catching up on the weekend doesn’t count…)

Some things to watch:

  • No caffeine 6 hours before sleep.
  • No media 2 hours before sleep
  • NO MEDIA in the bedroom (including phones) – some parents require phones parked in their room overnight.

And of course…by now, they should be setting an alarm and getting themselves up without your help!  (You won’t be at college to wake them up…)

Lack of sleep is harmful!

Studies show that lack of sleep affects our ability to focus and learn efficiently PLUS sleep is needed to make learning stick so it can be recalled in the future.

Help your kids be their best by helping them get enough sleep this school year!

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A Year of Boy Talk

BOY TALK Nuggets of Wisdom…

Enjoy these words gleaned from our many parenting experts…

Each Boy Talk is on sale this month and includes a Tool Kit, summarizing our conversation and with additional resources and recommendations.  All Boy Talks are here.
BOY TALK #1: How to Get Him Reading and Keep Him Reading
Many boys read later than girls – and don’t consider themselves to be readers. Remind him that reading sports statistics, Minecraft handbooks, lego instructions, encyclopedias, and magic cards is also reading! Many boys ‘read for a purpose’ rather than simply for pleasure.

BOY TALK #2: Boy-Friendly Schools
When you’re looking for a school that “gets” boys, look for: water available at all times, alternative seating options, active lessons, and plenty of outside time.  ‘Alternative reading materials’ – magazines and instruction manuals are a good clue that “boy talk” is spoken here. More practical strategies for home and school are included.

BOY TALK #3: Coping with Disappointment, Loss, and Grief 
Our kids will definitely experience disappointment, loss and grief in their lives – how to you help them with those big emotions? Tune into your own first (name it to tame it) and then tune into your child: Identify his feelings (even if you get it wrong); Give him something physical to do to move back into his body (squeeze a ball, drink water, etc.); Continue to identify his feelings – often what is at the surface isn’t what is really going on. Be patient and go deeper.  This may feel like it takes a lot of time but when a child feels heard and acknowledge, they can more quickly return to cooperation.  Do you ever wonder if it is okay to cry in front of your child? Carole has answers to this question and more.

Boy Talk #4: The Birds and The Bees
A delicate topic – which needs to be talked about early and often, is the topic of sex and healthy relationships. Where do you start?  Amy’s advice: from birth, use correct names for body parts both female and male. (If you haven’t been, start using them now). By about age 5, let children know how babies are made, pregnancy and birth, about different kinds of families, and that sex feels good to grown-up bodies. By third & fourth grade, let them know people have sex for pleasure 99.9% of the time. Always telling them that, “Sex is not for children, it is for later in life, sex is for grown-ups. Your hearts, minds and bodies are not ready for sex.” Find out what your child needs to know in middle school and beyond in this interview.

Boy Talk #5: Peace with Your Preschooler 

Many a parent gets frustrated because their preschooler doesn’t listen to them! Christina offers these reasons:

  1. They need more information. They need some connection and understanding of what is going on.
  2. They need to release some stress. Their bodies are changing and developing rapidly. They are learning so much and there are so many expectations that sometimes they need to have a big release of energy.
  3. They have a basic need that is not being met. You’ve probably checked in on whether they’re hungry or tired, but they may be needing connection, attention, or autonomy.

Try this: Go to him. Take a moment to observe what he is doing. Is he just about to guide his horse over the bridge? Sit with him for a moment and acknowledge where he is, “Your horse is just about to get to the bridge. When he crosses the bridge then it will be time to tie him up and come to dinner.” Tom feels a connection with you. He feels seen by you. He will be much more likely to respond to your request now.

More wisdom from Christina on how to handle big emotions to how to create a ‘sanity saving’ sleep and meal routine.

Boy Talk #6: Jump Into a Book: Reading Tips & Recommendations

Our Holiday edition, this interview and Tool Kit is PACKED with great reading recommendations especially chosen for boys – by a mom/editor who KNOWS boys!  In addition to great titles, she includes these wise tips on how boys prefer to read:

Boys tend to stay in the “Listening” Stage of reading longer. They enjoy hearing the story and don’t necessarily want to be able to read it themselves.

Boys must relate to the central character and the story line in order to stay active and engaged with a book.

Boys tend to prefer short bits of text along with a picture, cartoon, or sketch.

Boys will tend to want to listen while he is doing something with his hands.


Boy Talk #7: Being HAPPY So You Can Raise HAPPY! 

Ever wonder how to balance it all?! We all do and Michelle has shared some practical wisdom in this interview including:

What to do AFTER we mess up…because we will!  We mess up. We judge ourselves – that we aren’t doing something right. We may just be focusing too much on the “Facebook world”… it looks so perfect but in reality, life is messy. At the end of the day, in the middle of that mess, the true testament is that commitment we make to return each and every moment.  We can do that by asking ourselves, “What is the next best choice I can make?”


Boy Talk #8: Tame the Screen Dragon!

Carolyn was worried – her boys were ‘checked out,’ not interacting with each other or with her, choosing screens over outside play – when she realized screens had become the default for everything in her son’s life, she committed to an “Electronics Fast.”  Wondering what electronic obsession looks like? Carolyn said:

• Screen-time trumped everything.

• No outside time.

• Reward for everything. “Let’s go to the park and then you can play with the i-pad.”

• Didn’t want to hang out with friends.

• Didn’t interact with each other.

• Meltdowns if they didn’t have them.

• Revved up but exhausted at the same time.

• Irritable moods.

Any of those sound familiar? Find out how this mom managed to reclaim her sons from the Screen Dragon.


Boy Talk #9: Australia’s Boy-Champion Maggie Dent Shares

Worlds apart but not so different after all. Maggie Dent raised 4 boys and shares her wisdom – both science based and ancient wisdom from Australia’s Aborigines, whom she grew up with. She discusses Resilience and gives the 10 BUILDING BLOCKS for resilient children, the foundational four shared here:

  1. Healthy pregnancy
  2. Quality nutrition – with lots of healthy fats and protein for your growing boy
  3. Nurturing care within the circle of the family especially in the first 5 years
  4. Plenty of play with things that have a heartbeat (yep, no technology)…

For the rest of these building blocks and the bedtime ritual that will have him expressing his love, check out Maggie’s lively conversation!


Boy Talk #10: How Do You Want to Feel Everyday?

LIFE advice from Heather, who DOES NOT mince words! She encourages us to WAKE UP to how we are parenting and create each and every day with that HOW informing our actions, which includes changing our Do-Do-Do list to our Be-Be-Be list.  With her Action and Clarity Challenge, she shows us how to get started by asking, “How do I want to feel every day?” “Are my actions in alignment with how I want to feel?”  Yes, as Heather says: “Parenting is personal growth on steroids!”  Let Heather show you the steps to get going in a positive direction in this conversation.


Boy Talk #11: Tweens and Teens

Tweens and teens present their own special stage of development, challenges, benefits, and stress… Howard tells us being a tween/teen is stressful for the child but also for the parent and the family! How will you handle all the changes coming at you so fast? Understanding the stage of development is the first step, teens are:

  • More reclusive, wanting more alone time
  • Challenging parenting and school authority
  • Choosing peer group over family
  • Developing their own identity
  • Experimenting with new thinking, ideas, and beliefs
  • Experimenting with drugs, risky behavior, and sexuality

How will you approach all these new dynamics? Howard offers reassurance along with practical strategies in this conversation.


Boy Talk #12: Reset Your Child’s Brain by Reversing the Effects of Screen-Time

Dr. Victoria Dunckley explains the symptoms of Electronic Screen Syndrome and gives the Four-Week Plan to remedy it. Do you or your child experience:

  • Melt-downs over minor frustrations?
  • Irritability when asked to get off of screens?
  • Increasing defiance or opposition?
  • Decrease in enjoyment of activities she/he used to enjoy?
  • A diagnosis (ADHD, anxiety) that doesn’t run in your family and doesn’t quite seem to fit?

Find out more about the effects of interactive screen-time on the brain, it’s addictive tendencies, and how to re-set your child’s brain – and re-claim your family, too!

It’s Okay If He Doesn’t Like You

FINALLY! You can stop feeling guilty for not giving into your son…

As you look toward the school year ending (it’ll be here before you know it!), you may be just frazzled enough to begin relaxing the homework routine or allowing just those few extra minutes of screen time – because you’re tired, and school’s almost out, and, hey, summer is coming.



Summer is coming?

What then?

If you’re like many parents that I’ve coached over the years – one of your highest priorities is to stay connected to your boy and build a close relationship that will last into his adulthood.

Seems pretty easy to do when your son is little and relies on you for everything.

But as he grows and expresses his own mind, he may have other priorities than just keeping you happy.  Ouch.

We want our kids to like us, right?

At the same time that we are doing so much to make sure they like us, I also hear parents complaining about how entitled their kids are, how it’s impossible to get them to help around the house, and, well, don’t even get started on the negotiation that happens every single minute over screen time!

And still… We want our kids to like us!

So, we settle.

We negotiate with ourselves (even more than with them).  We tell ourselves, “It’s just this one time.”  “It’s just because he’s been sick.”  “His friends have been mean to him, so just this once…”

And soon, we feel out of control and uncomfortable…and angry…at them.  

But, more honestly, we’re angry with ourselves because we didn’t hold the line when we could have and probably should have.

In order for us to hold the line – WE have to be okay with spending some time on the other side of it – the side of being disliked, hated, reviled, ridiculed, and embarrassed by our kids. Ouch.

When we put the emphasis on wanting our kids to like us – we lose out on opportunities.

First and foremost, we miss the opportunity to swim in our own discomfort.  

Who knew that would be a thing that could be good for us?!  

But when we can be uncomfortable within our own skin, we are more likely to find the strength to show up for them when they face their own uncertainties.

When we can be okay with discomfort, it means we don’t NEED to have to have our kids like us all the time!

Hallelujah – and that means FREEDOM!

Now we can be free when he says, “I’m bored!”

Free to respond — or not.

Free to let HIM figure out what he wants to do, build, read, or bake.

Now we can be free when he says, “I don’t want to play with my baby brother any more!”

Free to respond or not.

Free to let them work it out or free to split them up and see how long it takes before they are begging to play together again.

Now we can be free when he says, “Pllllllease just let me finish this level or I’ll lose all of my game!” Free to respond or not.

Free to let him “hate” you when the timer goes off because that’s what you’ve decided on ahead of time and your Negotiation Department is closed.

Sure, we want our kids to like us!

More importantly, we want our kids to LOVE us.

And that means we’ve given them firm boundaries, kind guidance, and a good strong NO when they need it – all along the way.

Now that you know, you can be like so many parents who’ve gone before you…

When he says, “I’m bored!” or “I’m sick of playing with my brother,” you can say:  GO OUTSIDE!  

And even though our own parents didn’t have to wrestle with the screen-monster, you’ve got the answer to all of his whining and pleading for more screen time: GO OUTSIDE!

And, maybe, just maybe, you might gently and lovingly lock the door behind you, knowing he’ll be out for hours digging, creating, and doing, or just staring at a tiny bug or the big wide blue sky.

And when he is an adult and looks back on his unhurried days, he’ll like you (and love you) all the more.

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Eulogy for Mom 2

Kansas, May 7, 2016 – Another step in the journey, as we inter my Mom’s ashes. If these words give you a measure of comfort, I’m grateful for that.


“Here we are, Mom, letting go again.

Its familiar somehow.

Each letting go has had its own measure of difficulty.

Each letting go challenged us to stay steady, dig deep, and carry on.

Each letting go allowed me to be with you in a whole new way.

From letting go of you, Mom, and our sewing, cooking and many conversations…I gained you, Mom, in a whole new way of being together.

We laughed, we sang silly songs, we sat and watched the evening sky – holding hands and saying all that needed to be said –

From my heart to yours,

And back again.

Letting go of those precious days has led to THIS day – letting go of your physical body now.

It feels so right that you are here in Kansas, in the middle of the country, which now becomes the center pole of our world. As each of us travels our own journey, the constant is  – our hearts filled with your pure love and each with a heart string tied to this place.


I love you, Mom, so much.

Rest now.”


Children and Anxiety

Our guest on BOY TALK this month is  Howard Hiton, a Licensed Professional Counselor, and passionate advocate for boys.

Howard shares this with us:

Supporting Children in an Age of Increasing Anxiety

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Remember the three C’s of managing anxiety:

Calm your body–Help your child notice the connection between anxiety and shallow, rapid breathing. Practice breath suspension and other breathing techniques. Spend time in nature. Explore mindfulness practices. Take a bath. Give your kids a massage. Exercise!

Correct your thinking-Consider the beliefs under your anxiety. We can help adolescents by helping them shift their negative thoughts (from: “this is going to be awful!” to: ”this will suck but I’ll be ok.”).

Confront your fears–Help your child face fears in a gradual, systematic way. Ultimately, they need to learn that they can handle and get through the uncomfortable feelings instead of avoiding them.

Control What You Can

  • Improve interpersonal effectiveness.
  • Create demand delays. It is not necessary to respond to every E-message right away.
  • Lower stimulation.
  • Take care of responsibilities and practice good self-care.

Accept What You Cannot Change

Sometimes it is best to accept your anxiety. Working to vanquish your anxious feelings may exacerbate them. Consider the spheres of influence and determine if you are spending too much time in the concern sphere. Help your children to do the same.

Consider Your Schedule

Is the busyness of your family life working?

How can you pace things to be more supportive?

Help your child to look ahead and break down assignments and prioritize them.

Keep perspective, stay objective and maintain connection.

Tease out the parts of the anxiety that are generic and those that are specific to your child.

Consider the world through your children’s eyes. Let your child have their feelings and take care of yours while still sympathizing and showing your children that they can handle their feelings.


Recommended Resources:

Faber, Adele and Mazlish, Elaine. How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk

Greene, Ross W. The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children

Kellner, Millicent. Staying in Control: Anger Management Skills for Parents of Young Adolescents

Payne, Kim John. Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids

Sapolsky, Robert. Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers

Wehrenberg, Margaret. The 10 Best -Ever Anxiety Management Techniques. The Insight Timer App from the App store

Copyright: Howard Hiton MS, LPC •

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6 Months IN

6 months.

In 6 months: 3 siblings and 1 spouse leave us. One sister left before. Now there are none.


6 months IN.

6 months since I held my mom as she took her final shuddering sigh and my world shifted on it’s axis.

Now it’s 6 months IN.  Not 6 months “later” or 6 months “ago.”  It’s 6 months IN.

Because there is no OUT of this place.

What have I learned that might help you?  Because even if you can’t imagine it in your wildest nightmares, chances are you’ll be in this place one day, too.  (I don’t need to go into all the reminders of what to do if you have your mom here still…but if you need them, go here.)


MONTH 1 and 2:

There were lots of baths, tears, naps and Netflix.  Sure, I knew I was intentionally numbing out here. I mean, 66 episodes of Grand Hotel – that’s a lot of numb.  I got really good at eating, watching, and bathing all at the same time. (And being totally okay with it.)

And, oh yes, her birthday, which happened to be exactly 1 month IN.

Then Thanksgiving.

Then Christmas.

And New Year’s, when somehow I just knew I’d be ready to get going with my life again. Because I’d gone so deeply into grieving, I figured I’d done it “right” and I could move on.

MONTH 3 and 4:

Okay, a slightly renewed zest for life. I missed her but continued to feel like… “I did that – I grieved well and now I’m good to go.” Slight enthusiasm for work projects that I was proud of.

Traveled with my dad, for the first time ever: JUST HIM and ME – a new experience for both of us!

Her sister-in-law passes.

MONTH 5 and 6:

Oops. Maybe I’m not done. Surprise!

I smelled a lilac bush and every cell of my being missed my mom. I don’t even associate her with lilacs! But there it was on a bright, sunny spring day.

My daughter visits and I feel inclined to apologize, “I’m sorry that it’s going to hurt like this for you when I die. I wish I could tell you that its okay – no need to hurt so much…” Yeah, right.

Their house is sold. Packing 175 boxes + furniture into storage because we couldn’t bear to see my Dad lose one more thing.

We prepare to take her ashes to their final rest at the grave of her parents in a tiny cemetery in Alma, Kansas. And suddenly everything is up for me again. I cry for no reason – or for every reason.

Her brother passes.

Five days later, her other brother passes. And now there are none.

My heart is still tender. I feel like I’m in an eddy – alive, breathing, head above water, looking around…not moving, not ready, not yet.

6 months IN.

And no relief in sight.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom – add this to month 7 – it hurts like hell.


What have I learned that can help you?  DO your journey.  Face it and know it will be familiar to others and unfamiliar, too. Be gracious with yourself. Gather your people – not to fix anything — just to make you laugh and make you cry.  Singing helps, too.



Do you give him too much information?

Do you feel like he doesn’t listen?

Tunes you out?

Ignores you?

Flipside: Many boys and men often complain when they’re given too many details.
Just give him the facts so he can get the job done.

He may have tuned you out after the first detail because he just doesn’t need – and can’t process – all the information that you want to give him.

When you use fewer words, you enable him to “hear” what you are saying.

If you’re like many females, this may feel odd to you at first – but ask any adult male and he will likely say, “Yes, please, I don’t need all the details – just tell me what you need me to know.”

Say exactly what you need, even though it may sound harsh to you:  “backpack” “boots” “lunchbox”

Say one thing.

Let him respond.

Then ask the next thing.

Too many words overwhelm his brain, so give him a break – say less!

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Do you say things a thousand times?

“WHY do I have to say things a thousand times?!”

“I’m so sick of saying things over and over and still he doesn’t do what I ask!”


So we ask.

And we ask again – a little louder.

And we ask again – even louder.

And we ask again  – and we’re really angry now!


What parent hasn’t experienced the frustration and anger that comes from having a request completely ignored?!

By the time you’ve repeated your request once or twice, he has likely tuned you out completely – if he even heard you in the first place.

You are angry, frustrated, and taking it personally.

Change your approach – and you are actually helping him to hear you.

NOTICE these specifics:
Where are you when you make your request?

Are you calling to him from the kitchen?

Is your back to him when you’re speaking?

Are you yelling up the stairs?

NO WONDER he doesn’t hear you!

Single focus is real:

Boys easily become enveloped in a single activity, with laser-focus.

You become ‘white-noise’ or an interruption for him.

His hearing differs, too. Most males hear a narrower range of sounds, so if you are a soft-spoken female there is a good chance that he can’t even hear the tone of your voice.

Here’s what to do:

Stop what you’re doing and go to him to ensure that he hears you and responds (for just a couple of moments).

Get into his zone – and just be with him there for a moment.

After you’ve been in his physical space – his zone – you’ll catch his attention.

Take a moment to comment on something he’s doing.

Let him feel you physically – touch his shoulder or leg, or give him a high five.

THEN ask your question and help him comply with your request.

PRACTICE!  It takes time to learn (and remember) to do this technique but you’ll soon find that it is highly effective!

It isn’t that he won’t listen — we just have to adjust so that he CAN listen!

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Are you doing too much for him?

“Let me do that for you….”

Do you wonder if you’re making him lazy?

Or…worse yet…entitled?

Do you rush to school when he calls to say he’s forgotten his homework?

Do you carry his “stuff” into school for him?

Do you wonder how you ever ended up doing so much for him?!


We all want our kids to grow up to be capable and responsible for themselves and their things. Yet, we forget that these habits and abilities are instilled at an early age.

We get so busy that we just want to ‘hurry up’ and so we carry their backpacks, lunch boxes, and musical instruments just to move the show along!

However, a deep need for boys is – to feel they are needed – THEY WANT TO SERVE!

They want to do things for us…you must let him start learning EARLY to serve you and the family.

When you create opportunities for him to be of service at home – laundry, dishes, table setting, and feeding the animals – he is learning about his growing abilities to do things.

As with all teaching, it takes patience and repetition to get it right but…

The PAY-OFF comes later.

When those habits are instilled in him and you can rely on his help with groceries, dishes, laundry etc, you have helped to develop his sense of service and helped him to realize the satisfaction that comes from being of service.

As he grows, you’ll be proud and amazed as he chooses his own ways to serve others and to serve his greater community.

That feeling? That begins now.
Let him carry in your groceries – at any age – and enjoy the shine in his eyes as he helps you!

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Asking Him to Look at You

“Look at me when I’m talking to you….”

What parent hasn’t said that?!

Add cheek-holding for emphasis….but it doesn’t work.

He STILL doesn’t listen!


This is a familiar refrain of MANY WOMEN – both with kids and with male partners.

“Look at me when I’m talking to you…” is often met with his glare, his resistance, or his melt down.

He probably doesn’t even really hear what you’re saying – much less being able to comply with it!

Do you end up taking his resistance personally?


Many males are uncomfortable with eye contact. They are designed that way.

If he has just had a run-in with you or with a friend, he is NOT going to want to talk about it in the moment. He may feel threatened if you insist that he make eye contact with you and he’ll shut down and close you out even more.

One dad explained it this way, “I tell my wife, if she wants me to listen to her, I can’t look at her. If she wants me to look at her, I can’t hear what she’s saying. I tell her to CHOOSE ONE CHANNEL.”

What should you do?

Connect with him side-by-side, shoulder-to-shoulder.

It takes practice to get used to not having direct eye contact with him (because females love and place value on eye contact). Yet, you CAN feel connected to him by touching shoulders or thighs as you sit, sharing a high-five, or making brief eye contact.

When you get comfortable without direct eye contact, you’ll be able to talk with him in a way that feels safer and easier for many boys and men.

If you encourage him to keep his hands busy – bouncing a ball, playing legos, crumpling paper – he’ll be even more relaxed and able to access his words.

And you’ll be well on your way to connecting at an even deeper level with him – whether he is your son, your partner, or your co-worker.

Give it a try!

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Boy Talk #7: We are the Mothers of Our Own Re-Invention

Guest author Michelle Ghilotti of Michelle Ghilotti, International shares her thoughts on having a happy life, so you can RAISE happiness, too. Michelle and I have known each other for years and I’m so happy to introduce you to her and her empowering work.
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She was our guest on BOY TALK  – save your seat for future BOY TALKs here.

From Michelle:


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Are we ever…the Mothers of our own re-invention.

As Mothers and generally as women, we are inherently creative. To that end, we are not only powerful enough to create and birth life but birth our own re-inventions, sometimes over and over and over again.

Think back on your life…you’ve done that.

We are so much more powerful than we give ourselves credit for. And it’s this power that grows exponentially when we feel supported and receive as much as we give.

I feel strongly about asking for what we need and want. How else do we move forward? We can do a lot but we can’t do it all ourselves. As with many of us, however, I learned to ask for what I need, in business / life through a process of discovery (trips/falls/bumps/bruises).

We must ask for what we want in order to continue moving forward toward the highest version of ourselves.

Think of what’s burning in you to create, change or birth? What is the highest version of your business and why haven’t you done it yet?

What could you ask for that would allow you to step into that vision gracefully?

Everything else is already inside of you.

It’s our birthright to be fully-expressed, to create and re-invent ourselves to increase our happiness.

If you need support, seize it. There are loads of coaches and support out there.

If what’s holding you back is confidence or a wall of fear…jump. (the only remedy I’ve found for jump-starting this re-invention process!). I wouldn’t have gotten much done up to this point without jumping (no net).

In the writing of the how to be a Walking Momtra™ book, this theme comes up again and again. I believe this ‘failure en route’ to goals is an empowering theme to also be sharing with our little ones. It’s empowering in its realism.

Tips for re-invention:

• Jump

• Get support

• Realize “failure en-route to your goals” is realistic and only makes you stronger for when you finally get there.

• And, as I always say, start today. Whether it’s a micro-movement (a call or email to get a ball rolling), do it. Put yourself in the game.

Your happiness awaits on the other side.

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This illustration I created with the help of an illustrator commemorates the reverence I have for change and re-invention. In ten years of business, I’ve lived in six different cities and three different countries. I’ve started a business, grown that business, changed the business, had a baby overseas, started anew many times after that, began writing a book and generally have put myself out there in more ways than I sometimes give myself credit for.

Life is good.

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