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Kids Not Communicating: Are you speaking their language?

Last updated on September 2nd, 2019 at 07:52 pm

While I was kicking the soccer ball with a nine-year-old boy this week, it struck me that family conversations like The Family Meeting really need to be conducted outside in the fresh air. Who likes to be cooped up around the dinner table talking about what needs improving? I actually like the dinner table, ’cause it provides structure for conversations and easy opportunities for life lessons, not to mention the delicious food. But let’s just for a moment, consider that you might be willing to interact with your kids, teach them new skills and get close to their hearts with a bit of outdoor movement.

For many years, I have been working with families in their homes, teaching brain-based parenting skills. These families are kind, involved and caring. Often they have a child with a brain uniqueness such as ADHD. But increasingly, they are families just like yours where parents simply feel overwhelmed, children won’t do as they are told or home organization needs a bit of a touch up. Having earned my master’s degree in physical education longer ago than I care to admit, it has always struck me that when we play with our children they communicate better, feel more attached and even open up more.

So I’ve been thinking lately, “Are we speaking the child’s language or do we need to change things up?

What’s New? The past few years, I’ve been walking into homes with hoola-hoops, exercise balls and SPARKPE equipment, more than the traditional therapy fare. When we introduce families to the concept that we need to SEE IT, SAY IT, WRITE IT, PLAY ITandBUILD ITto LEARN IT, most families are game.

Where to start? Well you likely have sports equipment, lawn chairs, a chess set, a few games and other cool stuff in your home calling out to be used. You could make a portable family activities bag. I have a huge duffel bag I tote on wheels that has all sorts of goodies for engagement.

Inside are:

  • 3 marker boards
  • 10 expo markers
  • A set of base ten math blocks (kids love these for math, building or communicating)
  • 6 tennis balls
  • 6 polyspots
  • 3 cones
  • 1 dodge ball
  • 1 soccer ball
  • 1 deck of cards
  • White paper, graph paper, pens, stickers, glue, tape, scissors and more

What to do?

Got something on your mind? Want to know about your child’s day? Want to help your children practice taking turns and sharing? Family activities open the opportunity for exploration and learning.

A few fast ideas:

1. Kick the soccer ball back and forth, stand rather close together at first so that even beginners experience the feeling of accomplishment.

Now make a game out of it.

  • Parent: “Do you want to play the What’s the right thing to do game?”
  • Child: “No, I just want to play.”
  • Parent: “That’s right, we’ll play. I’ll name a situation when I kick the ball, then you can give me a good idea when you kick the ball. Let’s see.” “What’s the right thing to do when your classmate talks to you when you’re both supposed to be paying attention to the teacher?”
  • Child: “I just ignore him.”
  • Parent: “Right, good idea. What can you actually say?”
  • Child: “I can say, be quiet we’ll get in trouble.”

Change up the questions, give your child the opportunity to ask the questions when he or she gets familiar with the game.

You can have conversations about anything:

  • What family contributions (tasks) can the kids make in our home?
  • What can we do when Johnny takes our toys in the sandbox?
  • What do we do with our bodies when mom says, No!
  • What are three nice things we can do instead of rolling our eyes at our sister.
  • What are three things we can do as a family this weekend?

2. Bounce the tennis ball. There is nothing like rhythm to get the brain engaged. Alternate choosing a new rhythm to bounce the tennis ball to. I always have one ball for each person, bouncing the ball on your own is easier that bouncing it to another person.

3. Pass the talking ball. Are your kids all talking at one time? Identify one ball, stuffed animal or bean bag as the “talking ball.” When you sit or stand to talk as a family be it outside your car, at the kitchen table or in the store, if things get heated or muddled-up have one person hold the ball and only that person speaks everyone else listens.

4. Use many different modalities, if your kids generate a good idea while playing ball or chess, ask them to write it on the marker board to teach other family members later.

5. Play 15-30 minutes at a time.Honestly, a good solid exploration can take place in as little as three minutes.

If this is new to you you may be skeptical or thinks it’s silly. But when you see how the kids connect with you, talk with more ease and use their creativity in making new games, you’ll appreciate the magic of moving while talking. There is no one way to move and talk, but there is ample evidence that movement enhances brain function, improves concentration, decreases impulsivity and engages the brain. For the scientists among you, consider taking a peek at some of the following books:

So get moving before you start talking. Let us know what your family comes up with. We’re interested.


This post reflects Dr Kenney’s “The Family Coach Method”. Used in practice for a number of years, The Family Coach Method is ‘rug-level,’ friendly and centered on the concept of families as a winning team – with dozens of age-appropriate sample conversations and problem solving scenarios to guide a family to the desired place of mutual respect, shared values and strengths. The goal is to help children to develop the life skills, judgment and independence that can help them navigate the challenges of an increasingly complex world.



5 Tantrum Parenting Mistakes and the Tamers That Keep You Sane

Last updated on September 2nd, 2019 at 07:54 pm

No one wants to be the parent with the red-faced toddler screaming and crying at the grocery checkout because he can’t have Gummi Bears. But when parents attempt to calm kids down, they often get it wrong, according to experts.

Here are the most common mistakes parents make — and what works instead.

Tantrum Mistake No. 1: You try reasoning with him.

Parents tend to keep talking and explaining to their overwrought child why he can’t have the thing he wants. “He’s emotionally wound up and incapable at that moment of being logical,” says Susan Stiffelman, a family therapist and author of Parenting Without Power Struggles: Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Cool, Calm and Connected. “Trying to make him think rationally will actually make him feel more alone.”

Tantrum Tamer: Stop talking. After your initial explanation, don’t say another word to him, suggests Stiffelman. Once he realizes his tantrum isn’t getting him anywhere, he’ll calm down.

Tantrum Mistake No. 2: You’re unclear about the rule.

If you tell your child “No” but then start hedging as his tantrum escalates, he’ll sense your hesitation and keep at it until you give in, says Thomas W. Phelan, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and author of 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12.

Tantrum Tamer: Spell it out and stick to it. “If you’re clear and consistent, pretty soon the kid will understand that when you say “No,” you mean no, and if he pushes, nothing good will come of it.”

Tantrum Mistake No. 3: You’re not empathetic.

It’s hard to have sympathy in the middle of a meltdown, but not acknowledging that your child is upset makes him feel that his frustrations are going unheard, according to Stiffelman.

Tantrum Tamer: Show you understand. If your child goes ballistic when the baby sitter arrives, say something like: “It doesn’t seem fair that you can’t go out to dinner with Mommy and Daddy tonight.” But don’t add an explanation; that will make things worse. Expecting a young child to understand is unrealistic because … he won’t.

Tantrum Mistake No. 4: You lose your temper.

One out-of-control person is enough. What’s more, “you’re modeling bad temper to your child,” says Phelan. “Although sometimes you can intimidate him into quieting down, this will only give you a false sense of control.”

Tantrum Tamer: Keep quiet. Remain calm and say nothing. And if you’re in a public place, leave as quickly as possible.

Tantrum Mistake No. 5: You ignore his needs.

You’re asking for trouble if you’re not tuned in to what sets him off, according to Stiffelman. You can avoid many meltdowns by taking his needs into account.

Tantrum Tamer: Think ahead. If your child frequently has a meltdown when you two spend the entire morning running from store to store doing errands, adjust your schedule accordingly. Not playing to your child’s tantrums helps restore calm — for both of you.

And while you can’t always avoid meltdowns, having smart strategies lets you keep them from escalating and stop them sooner.

How to Raise a Charitable Child – Hidden Ways They Benefit

Last updated on December 10th, 2018 at 06:29 pm

You know charity starts at home. Here’s how to cultivate a giving spirit in kids and start an UnSelfie Revolution, so they think we, not me!

Samantha is not yet 4 years old, but she already has the makings of a charitable child. She was distributing school supplies with her family to kids at a shelter and noticed one child in a corner didn’t have a backpack. She picked up a spare, walked to him and said, “I sorry you don’t have one. I hope you happy.”

The preschooler may have missed a few words. But her message displayed empathy and a charitable spirit, all because her parents were raising her to care about others. And the benefits of doing so? Oh, let me count the ways.

  • Over and over, researchers are finding that empathy is the cornerstone for becoming a happy, well-adjusted, successful adult.
  • Studies show that possessing empathy also makes children more likable, more employable, better leaders, more conscience-driven, and even increases their overall performance.

The best news is that empathy can be cultivated, and one of the best empathy generators are service projects to help kids step out of their comfort zones, open their eyes, and expose them to others’ lives. And there are other proven ways to raise an empathetic child as well. Here are simple, science-backed tips adapted for this blog from my book, “UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed In Our All-About-Me World” to inspire generosity in your children 365 days a year:

1. Prioritize caring. Harvard University’s Making Caring Common Project report, “The Children We Mean to Raise: The Real Messages Adults Are Sending About Values,” found that most teens value academic achievement and individual happiness over caring for others. Their reason for this? Kids believed that’s what adults value.

Prioritize charitableness in your family chats. Be clear that you expect them not only to do their academic best, but to care about others. Display photos of your kids engaged in thoughtful endeavors, rather than just showcasing their school successes, athletic prowess or having them look cute for the camera, so they recognize that how much they care about others matters to you.

2. Be a charitable role model. The old saying, “Children learn what they live,” has a lot of truth to it. Studies show that if parents are generous and giving, kids are likely to adopt those qualities. So show your child the joy you get by giving.

There are so many daily opportunities: phoning a friend who is down, collecting blankets for the homeless, volunteering at a food bank. After volunteering, be sure to tell your child how good it made you feel.

3. Make it a family routine. A simple way to inspire children’s generosity is by reinforcing it. Keep a box by your backdoor to encourage family members to donate their gently used toys, games or books. Then each time the box is filled, deliver the items as a family to a shelter or needy family. Make charity a routine ritual that becomes a cherished childhood memory.

4. Acknowledge charitableness. Whenever your child acts in a kind-hearted way, say so: Thank them for being kind or helping out. Also, let your kids overhear (without them thinking they’re supposed to) you describing their caring qualities to others.

5. Use real events. Instead of just bemoaning bad news, talk about how you might help in the local community. It could be donating items to help after a widely publicized fire, or thinking about ways to assist the most vulnerable – like the homeless – during the winter. You can start at home, too, such as teaching them to be there for a family member who is going through a hard time.

6. Start a “giving plan.” Encourage your children to give a portion of their allowance – or tooth fairy money – to a charity of their choice. Provide three small plastic containers for younger kids or envelopes for teens that are labeled: “Save,” “Spend,” and “Give,” and help them decide which percentage of their money is to be allocated to each container.

7. Find your child’s passion. Kids are more likely to want to get involved in service projects that match their interests. Help your kids choose something they’re good at and enjoy doing. If he loves reading: read to the blind; enjoys writing: be a pen pal to an overseas orphan; likes sports: volunteer for the Special Olympics; is musical: play at a homeless shelter; enjoys knitting: knit a beanie for a soldier. You get the idea.

8. Make charity a family affair – or share the experience with friends. Find a service to do together, like serving in a soup kitchen. If your child enjoys volunteering with friends, ask if she’d like to do her project with someone. Or your child can form a club with neighbors, classmates, members of their scout troop or a church group.

9. Recap their impact. Research has found that children who are given the opportunity to help others tend to become more helpful, especially if the impact of their helpful actions is pointed out. So encourage your child to reflect on her volunteering experiences: “What did the person do when you helped? How do you think he felt? How did you feel? Is lending a hand easier than it used to be?” And do remind your kids that their caring efforts are making a difference.

10. Keep giving. A once-a-year day of volunteering is rarely enough for a child to adopt a charitable mindset. Look for ways to help your children experience the joy of giving on a regular basis: baking an extra batch of cookies for the lonely neighbor next door, adopting an orphan overseas (a portion of their allowance each week goes to that child), singing to a nursing home to add a little joy. The goal of getting kids involved in charity is not about winning the Nobel Peace Prize, but to give them the opportunity to experience goodness.

The truth is, kids don’t learn how to be kind from reading about it in a textbook, but from doing kind deeds. The more children witness or experience what it feels like to give, the more likely they will develop a charitable spirit. And that’s how we’ll raise the next generation to be good, caring people.

What are you doing to help your children learn the value of giving to others?


UnSelfie 140x210Teens today are 40 percent less empathetic than they were thirty years ago. Why is a lack of empathy—along with the self-absorption epidemic Dr. Michele Borba calls the Selfie Syndrome—so dangerous? First, it hurts kids’ academic performance and leads to bullying behaviors. Also, it correlates with more cheating and less resilience. And once children grow up, it hampers their ability to collaborate, innovate and problem-solve—all must-have skills for the global economy. The good news? Empathy is a trait that can be taught and nurtured. UnSelfie is a blueprint for parents and educators who want activate our children’s hearts and shift their focus from I, me, and mine… to we, us, and ours. It’s time to include “empathy” in our parenting and teaching! UnSelfie is AVAILABLE NOW at

When Should I Get My Child a Dog…and What Should We Get?

Last updated on November 2nd, 2018 at 11:11 pm

A few years back I wrote an article about what was the best age to get your child s dog and what breed you should get. Apparently over the last few years, this article has been viewed numerous times, so our editor asked me to go over it, update it a bit and maybe add a few more ideas along the way. For those of you who read the original article, I hope you find the add-ons helpful; for those of you reading it for the first time, I hope you also find it helpful and informative.

sad puppies shelterOver the many years I have been working with dogs and their people, I have heard so many different responses to this same question: “I promised my son a dog when he was old enough to take care of it” and “I told my daughter if she does well on her report card, we would get her a dog” and I have also seen the after-effects of this; the child reached the age the parent thought was necessary for them to get the dog, now the dog is used as a threat… “It’s your dog…. You wanted him and promised to take care of him. If you don’t clean up after him, we’re getting rid of him.” I have even had multiple customers call, asking me to take the dog to my house as a way to ‘show the child we mean business.”

So, let me explain a few things to help you make an informed decision on when it is right for your family to have a dog, and what dog might best suit your family. First, notice I said ‘for yourfamily to have a dog.’ It is not realistic to think any child can be completely responsible for the care and well-being of a dog. While a child can help with many responsibilities, always remember… you will be the primary care taker. Ultimately, the right age for your family to get a dog is when it is something youwant and youare ready for the commitment.

Similarly, I have also been asked many times over the years about getting a second dog… usually the typical time I am asked about this is when the kids are old enough to go to school full time and the stay-at-home parent is going back to work, and they think Fido needs a companion. We dog trainers have a saying about this, “Never get your dog a dog.” If you want a second dog and are ready for the commitment of a second dog, that is fine. But there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • There is no guarantee that your current dog will be as excited about another dog living in their home as you expected him to be.
  • If you think Fido is going to train the second dog, you are going to be very disappointed. If they do get along, and all is fine, while there are certain things the new dog will learn from Fido, they still need to be taught by you how to behave and follow commands.
  • Seriously reflect on the training you did with your first dog… If your reason for getting another dog is because you do not have as much time for the first dog as you would like, and therefore think they may be lonely, ask yourself realistically if you are going to have the time to do the necessary training for dog number two!

If you have made the decision that you want (and are ready for) a dog (or a second dog), the next step is research. Learn what you can about the different dog breeds. It is not enough to Google something like “Best Dogs For Kids.” It is not a bad place to start… and may list some breeds that are generally not good with kids, like a Chow Chow or a Lhasa Apso, but it is way too general. Just like every child is different, so is every dog. You want to do this prior to walking into a shelter or finding a breeder because these places have a way of tugging at your heart-strings, and the majority of the time, you will end up getting a dog on impulse. Whether it is because you couldn’t bear to leave the dog there, or because it is just so adorable… Remember, all puppies are adorable, but just like your kids, they grow up. So having a basic knowledge of dog breeds will help in your decision. Also, you don’t want to choose one for an individual family member (yourself included) but decide on what is going to be best for the entire family.

I had a friend that had decided to get a puppy, only she insisted it had to be very tiny… what they call a ‘teacup’ Yorkshire Terrier. She had a two year old and a four year old. I told her I did not think this was a great breed for her specific family. When she insisted she had always wanted one, I told her, “If you had always wanted a two seat convertible, and you were pregnant, would this be an ideal car for you?” Sometimes you can get away with saying things to a friend to get your point across that you just couldn’t say to a customer!

So how do you choose?

I have compiled a list of some important questions that may aid you in your decision making process.

  • What are your children’s ages? This is an important question because if you have a small or young child, a tiny dog might not be the best choice for you, as it wasn’t for my friend. Why not? Because little kids’ hands are often unsteady, or move very quickly… two things that can frighten a small dog, or make them feel like their safety is threatened. This is when they tend to go into the ‘fight or flight’ mode we talked about in other articles. And a very large breed dog can easily knock over a toddler or young child. So for these reasons, a medium sized dog might be your best option. One that is big enough to feel secure with small hands, but small enough to not topple over a little child.
  • Are there any allergies? For those of you that do not know what it is that makes people allergic to dogs, there are three things that most commonly make people react: The fur, the dander, and the saliva. Many people mistakenly think that a dog with a short coat will shed less than a dog with a long coat, but it is actually the opposite. Dogs with a short coat usually have fur, while most dogs with long coats have hair. Dog hair, just like our hair, grows, which is why they need to be groomed every 4 – 6 weeks (depending on how short you like to keep the coat.)
  • Are you a cleaning fanatic? Dogs with short coats, especially ones that may have feathering by the ears, paws, and tail need to be brushed so they do not become matted and tangled. The shedding is worse in the summer and the spring (what people call the shedding season). Dogs with long coats need to be brushed daily and be groomed to keep the hair short. And find out which dogs are droolers! If you are a neat-freak, a mastiff is not for you!
  • What are the finances like? Another important question. Big dogs come with higher expenses…. vaccinations and medicines, they eat more, have much bigger poops, etc. Also, some boarding facilities charge more for larger dogs, so if your family vacations a lot, you might want to consider this a factor as well. And if you prefer to vacation with your dog, many hotels (even pet friendly ones) have weight restrictions on dogs you can have. As for grooming needs, a non-shedding dog needs to be groomed regularly. (Some people buy the clippers and learn to do it themselves to save money.) You also want to consider the genetic dispositions of a breed if finances are tight. i.e. many people get bulldog pups because they are cute, fat and wrinkled… but most do not know that in general, it is a very unhealthy breed that requires quite a bit of money to properly take care of. They suffer from hip, skin, breathing and eye problems, have allergies, and have a short life-span.
  • Is your family a very active one or more sedate? Again, an important thing to consider. Many places are pet friendly nowadays, and allow you to take the dog with you. If you all enjoy camping, hiking and swimming, a dog like a bulldog who has difficulty breathing and a very low stamina is not the ideal pet for you. A Retriever or a Beagle might be a better choice. Same holds true in the opposite end of the spectrum. If you are a laid back family that prefers reading or TV, then a dog like a Weimeraner, who is in constant motion, will be more of a source of frustration for you than an enjoyable pet, and a dog like a Border Collie will not be content just lying around all day doing nothing… they are happiest with a job or task to focus on and their boredom can lead to serious destruction of your precious things!
  • Dog Taking Happy Handsome Black Boy Child for WalkAre your kids outgoing or shy? A shy quiet child may not do well with a bossy herding dog, like the Australian Shepherd or a dog that needs a firm upper hand such as a German Shepherd or a terrier. Or even a Golden Retriever puppy that calms down quite a bit when they are older, but are definitely a handful and a ball of energy when they are babies! They may do better with something like a Havanese, who is content to hang out with humans of any age and rarely challenges authority. But the flip side of that is that if you have a very loud and boisterous family, that may frighten or intimidate a small dog like the Havanese. You might be better off going with a dog more secure with itself, like a West Highland White Terrier (Westie) or a Bearded Collie.
  • How helpful, in general, are the kids when it comes to chores? If every chore your child is asked to do turns into an argument, do not think the dog is going to be any different. They will enjoy all of the fun things with the dog, but it will become a battle when it is time to do the ‘not-so-fun’ boring everyday things, like feeding, brushing, walking and cleaning up after him. It is this reason I stress please do not use getting a dog as a reward for good behavior. I have heard all of the promises kids make beforehand to get a dog, but rarely are they followed through with, especially when they have something else much more interesting on their minds than letting the dog out and waiting until he is done to let him back in.
  • How obedient do you want your dog to be, and what steps are you willing to take to ensure this happens? Remember, just like kids, dogs are not born with good or bad manners, they must learn them. But unlike children, what is instinctual and acceptable in a dog’s world is very different from what is acceptable in ours. Another potential issue is, if you decide on getting a rescue dog that is a little older, it has been raised in another person’s house… and what was acceptable to his original owner may be very different in your house. For example, getting up on the furniture may have been perfectly OK where he came from, but not in your house. So you have to remember that some training will be necessary. And although the kids can help with many of the dog’s needs, like feeding him, remember, it is very important that you always supervise their interactions.
    • You can’t just tell a child to ‘feed the dog’ without first teaching the dog to sit and stay and wait until their food is placed on the floor. An over-excited dog or pup is likely to jump up on the child, and may accidently hurt them.
    • Do not allow your small child to walk the dog on the leash outside until you have taught the dog not to pull. Otherwise, a nervous or excited dog can run into the street, pulling your child with them.
    • Finally, a small child will not know how to be very careful with a wire dog brush around sensitive areas like the eyes and ears, so they must be taught how to do it properly.

I will end this by giving you a link that may help you on your journey in finding the right dog for you and your family. It’s a questionnaire that you can fill out and it will give you several options of dogs that might be a good match for you and your family, and also recommend my favorite book Choosing a Dog For Dummies to help you chose the right breed for your family. The reason I personally like this book is because when I want a quick synopsis on a breed, I do not want to have to search twenty pages to find the one thing I am looking for. In this book, each page focuses on the highlights of one breed: Temperament, size full grown, good with kids, protection level, grooming needs and genetic issues to look out for.

Still not sure…call a professional and ask their opinion – the IACP always has folks willing to help.

Happy dog hunting!

How to Raise Kids With Manners in An Uncivilized World

Last updated on October 24th, 2018 at 12:02 am

REALITY CHECK: A survey conducted by US News & World Report found nine out of ten Americans felt the breakdown of common courtesy has become a serious problem in this country. A huge seventy-eight percent of those polled said manners and good social graces have significantly eroded over the past ten years, and is a major contributor to the breakdown of our values in this country. What’s more, 93 percent of adults feel the major cause of rudeness is because parents are have failed to teach respect to their kids.

What a sad commentary!

Make no mistake: courtesy does enhance our kids’ chances of success! Using good manners will enhance your child’s reputation in all arenas—home, school, and the community. Scores of studies find that well-mannered children are more popular and do better in school. Notice how often they’re invited to others’ homes? Kids like to be around kids who are nice. Listen to teachers speak about them using such positive accolades. Courteous children also have an edge later in life: the business world clearly tells us their first interview choices are those applicants displaying good social graces. They also get more “second” job interviews, and usually even the job. You just can’t help but react positively to people who are polite and courteous. By prioritizing polite behaviors with our children, we can enhance their social competence and give them a big boost towards success.

Every child has an “off day” and forgets their manners, but here are signs from The Big Book of Parenting Solutions that indicate that your child may need a more serious “Manners Tune-up.”

Signs a Manners Tweak Is Needed

  • A typical response is an impolite tone (sarcastic or surly) delivered with disrespectful body language (rolling eyes, smirking, shrugging shoulders).
  • Impolite behaviors are now more frequent or becoming a habit.
  • Constant reminders are needed to reinforce manners that you thought you had already taught
  • Discourtesy is causing friction in your everyday relationship and breaking down your family harmony.
  • Social experiences and peer interactions (birthday or slumber party invites, dinners, etc) are hindered because your child lacks certain social graces or doesn’t feel comfortable using them.
  • Discourtesy is ruining his reputation among friends, parents, teachers, relatives, and family.

Parenting Solutions to Enhance Social Graces

All three of my sons attended a wonderful cooperative nursery school led by an incredibly caring teacher, Jeanette Thompson. The very first impression I had of the school was how well-mannered the children were. And, through the years as I put in my “coop” hours, I understood why her students were so polite: Mrs. Thompson never taught manners at a special time, instead she taught students manners all day long through her own example. Every sentence she ever uttered contained the word “please,” “thank you,” or “excuse me.” It was impossible for her students not to be polite. She used to always tell the moms, “Manners are caught, not taught.”

Was Mrs. Thompson ever right! I also learned an important secret from my children’s teacher: The first step to teaching kids good manners is to make sure you model them yourself. Amen!

Disrespect, poor character, and diminishing moral intelligence are increasing. Here are a few solutions to enhance good social graces in your children and give them that edge for a better life based on Mrs. Thompson’s strategies of raising a well-mannered child.

1. Stress Courtesy

Good manners are among the simplest skills to teach children because they are expressed in just a few very specific behaviors. We can instantly point out good or poor manners to our kids: “Wow, nice manners! Did you notice the smile on Grandma’s face when you thanked her for dinner?” or “Eating before waiting for the others to sit down wasn’t polite,” We can modify our children’s manners: “Next time, remember to say ‘Excuse Me’ when you walk in front of someone.” And we can always tune them up: “Before you ask for the dish, say “Please.”

2. Point Out the Value of Manners

Discuss with your children the value of good manners. You might say, “Using good manners helps you gain the respect of others. It’s also a great way to meet new friends. Polite people just make the world a kinder place.” Once kids understand the impact good manners have on others, they’re more likely to incorporate courtesy in their own behavior.

3. Teach A Manner A Week

When my children were young I taught them a jingle, “Hearts, like doors, will open with ease, if you learn to use these keys.” We’d then print a manner a week on a large paper key and tape it on our kitchen door as a reminder. Every child in the neighborhood could recite not only our jingle, but name the manners that are the “keys to opening hearts.” It helped me recognize “catching new manners” doesn’t happen overnight: it takes consistent effort to enhance them in our kids.

How about teaching a “Manner a Week?” Write the manner on an index card, post it on your refrigerator, and then hold a contest to see how many times family members hear another member use the word.

Here are a few to get you started:

“Please., Thank you., May I?, Excuse me, I’m sorry., Pardon me., I’m glad to meet you,, You go first.,May I introduce….? Please pass…, ”

Just remember that the best way for kids to learn a new skill is through seeing the skill and then practicing it. So do the manner with your child — or as a family, and then provide fun ways to practice, practice, practice until the manner becomes a habit!

4. Correct Impoliteness Immediately

Use the 3 Bs of Discipline: When your child uses an impolite comment, immediately correct the behavior by using the three “Bs” of discipline: “Be Brief, Be Private so no one but you and your child is aware you’re correcting your child, and Be Specific.”

“Starting your dinner without waiting first for Grandma to sit down, was impolite. Being polite means always respecting older people.”

Waiting for the right time when only your child can hear your correction, preserves dignity but still lets a child know behavior is unacceptable.

5. Acknowledge Politeness ASAP

Please also remember to point out the moment your child uses those manners and let him know you appreciate his efforts. The quickest way to shape behavior is by pointing out the moment a child does the action the right way.

“Thank you for using your polite voice! Did you notice the big smile on Grandma’s face?”

“You waited for everyone to sit at the table before you started to eat. So polite! Thank you!”

6. Practice Manners

A friend of mine who really wanted to make sure her children “caught good manners” started a unique family tradition: Once a month, she asks her children to help her plan a party. The children plan the menu, set their table–with only their “company dishes”–arrange a centerpiece of hand-picked flowers, and then sit in their “Sunday best.”

The party is just for their family, and it’s the time my friend helps her children practice table manners such as “please pass,” “thank you,” “May I be excused?” (as well keeping your napkin on your lap, chewing with your mouth closed, waiting for others to speak, and learning which fork to use with each course).

Yes, it takes a lot of work, but she swears it’s worth it, especially when so many people comment on how well-behaved her children are.

7. Identify the Underlying Cause of Your Child’s Incivility

If your child has a more serious case of rudeness, then it’s time to dig deeper and discover the reason. Here are the most common reasons kids backslide in the manners department (and if you notice any of these issues in your home it’s time to roll up those sleeves and do some serious manner teaching) Manners not modeled or prioritized at home; Impolite peers or adults are being imitated; Music, movies, or TV that flaunt rudeness are having a bad influence; You’re allowing her to get away with it; Fatigue, stress or illness;Testing the limits; Never taught particular etiquette skills. What’s your best guess? Fix it!

Good manners do not develop naturally but instead are the result of considerable effort, patience, and diligent training. There’s no way around it. So keep encouraging your child’s efforts and teaching new manner skills until you get the results you hope for.

And don’t settle for less. Please! It’s our best hope for a civilized, well-mannered world!


Dr Borba’s new book The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries, is one of the most comprehensive parenting book for kids 3 to 13. This down-to-earth guide offers advice for dealing with children’s difficult behavior and hot button issues including biting, tantrums, cheating, bad friends, inappropriate clothing, sex, drugs, peer pressure and much more. Each of the 101 challenging parenting issues includes specific step-by-step solutions and practical advice that is age appropriate based on the latest research. The Big Book of Parenting Solutions is available at

How To Teach Kids Storytelling To Improve Their Friendships

Last updated on September 27th, 2018 at 02:09 pm

Thinking, speaking or acting impulsively without planning or thinking things out poses social challenges for children. We can help children better manage their impulsive thoughts, words, and actions by using a storytelling activity we call The Thought Bubble Technique. In this visual conversation activity, we help children think, write, draw, and talk about what characters in a story might be thinking, feeling, saying or doing. The Thought Bubble Technique encourages children to use their imaginations while building their thinking skills.

Here is how you do it…

Open a book with vivid imagery such as a Dr. Seuss book. Let your child or student turn the pages until he discovers a page he finds interesting. Tell your child, “We’re going to use our imaginations. We’re going to imagine a thought bubble is over the head of each of the characters on the page. Then we’re going to imagine what they might be thinking.”

By looking at the images on the page ask your child to make up a story about what’s happening on the page. What are the characters thinking? What are the characters saying? What are the characters doing? How are the characters feeling?

Help the child “THINK OUT” how is the thought, feeling or action helpful or not helpful? How might the other characters respond? How can the characters shift their thoughts, words, feeling or actions so that each story has a happier ending?

The key is to use the creative exploration of images to help the child thoughtfully reflect on how words, thoughts, feelings, and actions are prosocial, facilitating relationships or challenging causing others to feel uncomfortable, unhappy or withdrawn. Use your own creative license, adapt the “Cognitive Conversation” with the child to help him or her see things in a new way. Thoughtful exploration leads to the mindful development of new thinking skills.


70-play-hi-res-150x197Written for teachers, educators, and clinicians whose work involves playing, talking or teaching children who would benefit from better executive function and social-emotional learning skills, 70 Play Activities incorporates over 100 research studies into printable worksheets, handouts, and guided scripts with step-by-step directions, to empower children to learn and behave better. “With 70 Play Activities we aim to improve the trajectory of children’s learning by integrating the newest neuroscience with activities children love!” With over 70 activities designed to improve thinking, self-regulation, learning and behavior, your tool-kit will be full and your creative brain will be inspired to craft your own meaningful exercises. 70 Play Activities is available at