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News On Dog Attacks Is Scary – Is Your Dog “Child Friendly”?

This year alone, we seem to be hearing more and more stories in the news about dog attacks, even among us trainers we notice the increase of instances! But no headline stops our hearts as much as when we see ‘Child Mauled by Family Dog’. So it stands to reason that parents who were not concerned before, are now (understandably) worried if their own lovable family pet they’ve had for years would be capable of inflicting harm to their child, and question if they would be able to tell the difference between a ‘typical’ puppy teething nip, and when it may be a pre-curser to a more serious issue.

The fact is, young puppies have sharp needle-like teeth, and It hurts when they nip! And if they happen to get just the right spot, or nip a child’s tender fragile skin, a puppy meaning no harm can still draw blood from a nip! So how can you tell the meaning behind it and when you should be concerned?

The first place to start in answering some of these questions would be to better define certain words that are thrown around in the media a bit too quickly…. The top two being “Attack” and “Aggression.” When I’m talking to a customer, and they say, “My dog keeps attacking my son” I have to consciously remind myself to ask many questions… because usually, after a few simple answers from them, I can ascertain that they just mean the dog keeps running up to and jumping on their child… not that this is okay or acceptable behavior, but definitely a far cry from the dog ‘attacking’ their child.

In Miriam Webster’s Dictionary, the words aggression and attack go hand-in-hand with the words “forceful”, “hostile” and “offensive against”.  If this doesn’t sound like your dog, then before we get into some of the things you may want to keep an eye on, hopefully this will help ease your worry about two things that probably shouldn’t keep you up at night.

So now that we have a better understanding of these two words, often, it all boils down to intent. There are many signs your dog will emit regarding their intent long before an actual bite occurs. Although on occasion it does happen, it is very rare that a dog will suddenly strike out without provocation or warning signs. The problem is for the average every day person, those signs can be very subtle. To learn more about what your dog’s body might be telling you, please read my previous article.

But for now, let’s break down some things to be wary of, and then add in some important ‘do’s and don’ts’.

First…if you have a puppy:

  1. Warning signs you might want to be aware of:
  • A pup that is guarding their food or Toys: When they are eating or chewing a toy, if they suddenly stop and their body seems to ‘freeze’ whenever there is movement around them, it can be cause for concern. If you see this behavior, do not allow the kids around the pup until you investigate further. A safe way for YOU to test this is to tie the leash to something strong, solid and unmovable. Before attaching him to the leash, see how far the leash extends in any given direction. Now put him on the leash, put his food bowl down within his reach and walk away. Once he starts eating, calmly and assertively walk by (taking care to remain outside of the leash’s reach) and watch his reaction closely. If he reacts negatively in any way (growling, lunging, freezing, etc.) or you are unsure, it might be a good idea to call in a professional to evaluate him. A great resource to find a professional trainer near you is the International Association of Canine Professionals
  • A pup that is relentlessly biting, no matter how often you correct it: Again, this could be a major issue later on. Many scientists did extensive research on this and found that there are many vital and valuable lessons a pup receives through play with the mother and littermates. Sometimes when a pup is separated from them too soon (prior to eight weeks of age) there are certain behavioral issues that are often very difficult to break because they do not learn bite-inhibition… they don’t understand that biting really hurts!  In this scenario, early intervention is essential.
  • Any pup showing early signs of neurological deficits: Walking with their head constantly leaning to one side, their gait unsteady, etc. Make sure you discuss any concerns you may have with your vet.
  1. Some Important Do’s:
  • Encourage calm, gentle interactions and petting of the puppy by all members of the family. Just like you did “Tummy Time” with your baby, encourage “Back Time” with your pup. Put them on their backs and while holding them there, gently stroke them. This is a submissive position for a dog/pup and allows you to be the ‘alpha’ (or top dog). Make sure to also gently rub and message their paws… including the pads… on a regular basis right from the start. You’re building trust and bonding with your puppy
  • Remember that at this stage, everything is a learning experience for your pup, so start setting the rules and boundaries in place immediately. At this life-stage, they are thirsty for knowledge and desperately want to please you!
  • Make sure everything ‘matches’: Your body language, tone, and your words. If they are doing something wrong, don’t say the word ‘NO’ softly to them while continuing to pet them. When we tell a child no, it is usually coupled with a denial of a privilege or the removal or refusal of something they want. Thus, the word quickly gains its meaning for them. But if you are petting your pup and cooing, “no, no” you confuse the meaning of the word. Stop the petting, stiffen your body slightly (this clearly tells them you are not happy with their actions) and say “NO!” very clearly. When they stop what they are doing, relax your posture, lower your voice and praise calmly.
  1. Some Important Don’ts:
  • When playing, don’t wiggle your fingers in their face or make your hands a toy. Remember, teaching them first that this is an okay form of play, then getting upset when they’re biting your hand is a very confusing mixed message for them.
  • Be aware not to just replace your hand with a toy when they’re nipping without including a correction first. Correcting before replacing is a very important step you don’t want to miss… otherwise the message they get is ‘if I want their attention or a toy, all I have to do is bite their hand first!’ Remember that pups are all about cause and effect – action and reaction.
  • Don’t forget that even in play, your pup is learning the do’s and don’t of your world. Playing fetch? Don’t just throw the ball, grab it out of their mouth when they return and throw it again…. This is a great opportunity to teach them, “DROP IT,” “SIT,” and “STAY.” It helps them learn boundaries, limits, impulse control, and builds trust that you’re not trying to ‘steal’ their toy, but if they give it to you, the game can continue and is much more fun! Add in that if you have youngsters in the house, teaching your pup to give you what is in their mouth on command is vital: it reduces the chance of ‘possession aggression’ and the possible risk of your child going to take something from their mouths and getting bitten.
  • Lastly (for this article anyway, because a pup’s training never really ends!) don’t wrestle with them or allow them to jump on you during play. A 5 lb. pup at eight weeks old jumping on you may not seem like a big deal, but it will be hard for them to understand why you suddenly do not want it anymore when they are 40 lbs.!

So what about the dog you already have? 

  1. Warning signs you might want to be aware of:
  • Not sure you can predict how your dog is going to react by their body language? Here are some suggestions: When it comes to your dog, you need to keep an eye on the overall picture. Don’t go by just a wagging tail. How they are holding their tail? Is it standing straight up, or tucked between their legs with just the tip wagging? Is the fur standing up on the back of their neck? Is their head up or lowered and level with their back? If you are not sure… please do not take chances.; call a professional in to evaluate them.

I recently had a client who called me in for their dog’s aggressive issues, and told me, “He bites without warning.” After working with him for 45 minutes, he was lying down and nodding off.  I asked them all to look closely and tell me if the dog looked relaxed to them. They laughed and all agreed he was very relaxed. Then I pointed out what I saw…. The muscles in his shoulders and back legs were tight and rigid, toes were curled, ears were back… I did NOT see a relaxed dog. To prove my point, I made sure they had a good hold on the leash, then I got up and took a few steps forward. The owners were shocked as the dog sprang to life in full defensive mode. If I had moved without making sure they had a firm grip on the leash, he would have successfully gotten to me.

  • What if your dogs actions indicate they’re highly fearful?
    • First, don’t assume in the ‘fight or flight’ scenario, they will always choose flight and run away! This can be a very dangerous assumption! It gives you a false sense of security when your dog typically ‘slinks away’ from something they are afraid of, allowing you to lower your guard. You never know what ‘trigger’ might put them over the edge. I’m not sure the exact number, but I do know a huge percentage of dogs that bite strike out of fear. It is vital that you work on confidence building skills with them such as following commands. Dogs who are focused, mentally stimulated, and understand exactly what is expected of them are much more solid and stable animals.
    • Second, and most importantly, do not coddle or pity them!! This is the worst thing you can do! It encourages the negative behavior even more! In the wild, there is no empathy or sympathy. Pack members instinctively align themselves with and respect the “strong” pack leader. They know… A leader will keep them alive…. a weak member may get them killed. The pack leader keeps order by setting clear cut boundaries, limits, and rules. Your fearful dog will gain a sense of security when they know exactly what it is you want and expect of them.  When you become the pack leader they will respect, depend on and listen to you.

Finally, I will say what I always say: Children should NEVER be left alone and unattended with any dog.  Even the most calm, stable, and non-reactive dog can ‘have a moment’ where they do not want to be bothered, or they might be having some pain you are unaware of, or not feeling well. Remember, a bite can happen in the blink of an eye!

To wrap this up, remember that choosing the right puppy from the get-go really can make a huge difference in the relationship with your entire family, especially the kids. But if the pup or dog is already established in the household, there are many things you can do to establish and maintain a peaceful  and safe home. And one last note to add…. A nipping pup is normal…. They are teething… and just like it did for your human baby, the chewing helps soothe the pain. Correcting the behavior and giving them something you deem acceptable to chew on will help your dog to understand that you are in charge, that there are boundaries and limits they must adhere to and will help them build a healthy respect and bond with you and your family that will last their lifetime.

How To Survive When Your Special Child’s Medical Needs Resurface

When my child was born she ended up with some potentially serious medical conditions. They turned out to be minor – really minor – but could have been much, much worse. The other day one of them reared its ugly head (and I mean ugly). Frankly, I had almost forgotten about this particular bugaboo but just like riding a bike, it all came back to me.

When it hit, I could hardly breathe. It seemed that all the progress we had made went right out the window, or maybe I had just imagined it all. I couldn’t believe that I had actually let myself forget all that we had been through and I was angry with myself because I had dared to let my guard down. Realistically you can’t really live with your guard up 24/7 year after year. I know that now that the moment has passed…

So, here are some things that help me get through when it seems that we have taken a step backwards:

Keep it in perspective

Things may not going well today but that doesn’t automatically mean they will continue to spiral down tomorrow, or next week. Everyone deals with ups and downs, no matter how perfect their lives may seem on social media.

Get yourself help

Ask friends or family to take on some tasks to lighten your load, or outsource the work if you can afford it. If the prognosis is truly dire, seek professional counseling or a support group even if you think you don’t need it. Parents and caregivers of kids with special needs sometimes have to be superhuman, but superhuman still has the word human in it. Sometimes we humans need help.

Take care of yourself

Eating and showering may seem pointless when dealing with your child’s medical crisis (no matter how small) but you can’t take care of your child if you don’t take care of yourself. Find time to keep up with good nutrition, basic hygiene and sleep. These things will help with your stress level and overall health so you can be at your best for your child.

Find your outlet

Don’t feel pressured to load up on yoga classes or whatever the latest exercise trend might be…unless yoga works for you, of course. Maybe washing your car is therapeutic for you, or you feel truly relaxed while brushing your dog. Find what helps you unwind, whatever that looks like for you. And when you find it, let me know what it is because I am still looking for mine!

Do You Know What Vitamins & Supplements Your Little One Needs?

The average healthy American child probably does not need much of anything to supplement their diet and the emphasis should be placed on offering a healthy diet in moderation of all portions of that diet to include fats and carbohydrates (sugar). Most regular vitamins we all hear about are needed in very small doses that are easily supplied by a varied North American diet. Having said that, there are certain groups of children who definitely need supplementation; to mention just a few, certain chronically ill children, certain children from third world countries suffering from starvation or emotional deprivation, or severely abused children in this country who have been subjected to the worst possible environmental deprivations.

The Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following for other special groups:

  1. Since another recommendation is to limit sun exposure in children in order to prevent later skin cancers, and this restriction can lower amount of vitamin D normally produced in sunlight, and therefore, a supplement of 400 IU of vitamin D is recommended based on sun exposure (or lack thereof). For exclusively breast fed babies, 400 IU of vitamin D daily is recommended early after delivery. For those babies drinking 32 ounces of formula a day no vitamin D supplement is recommended since all American formulas have the correct supplement of this vitamin.  Whole milk also has correct vitamin D supplement but whole milk not recommended for children over 12 months of age. Check with your baby’s Doctor about the need for this vitamin.  Similar recommendations are made for calcium and phosphorus intake.
  2. Babies who are full term and have no problems have probably received enough iron from their mothers during the last month of pregnancy to last the first 3- 4 months so an exclusively breastfed baby should begin Iron supplementation beginning at age four. Iron in breast milk is only partially absorbed. Preterm and developmentally disabled children are also at higher risk for Iron deficiency while formula fed infants will receive the proper amount of iron as long as they continue formula. Fortunately, it is common place for Pediatricians to check a blood count as an indication of iron status at age 9- 10 months and again at around 15 months and if anemia is found iron can be added to the diet. The bottom line again is to check with your Doctor for the need and amount of iron needed for your infant and child.
  3. Large amounts of certain vitamins such as A, C, D and K has never been shown to provide any beneficial effects in normal healthy North American children and can be toxic– this is not a case of “if a little is good a lot is better”- often times this is not the best policy for anything.
  4. As far as other vitamins (such as A & B) are concerned, I stick with my original paragraph that most healthy children eating a fairly well rounded diet over all, (not day to day) does not need any extra vitamin supplement at.

Homeopathic supplements for children are very popular now but there are no adequate recommendations for amount used and frequency for children and therefore should be used with caution; further knowledge and research is needed.

Other complementary medical treatments have no definite guidelines for use in children, but certain children may benefit from their use.

Always involve your child’s Doctor when considering going beyond the established guidelines in your children.

How Can I Make Sure My Toddler Eats Healthy: Meal Ideas

If you need some inspiration to help you cook healthy and tasty food for your kids, try these meal ideas. 

They’re not suitable as first foods, but fine once your baby is used to eating a wide range of solid foods.

When preparing food for babies, don’t add salt, sugar or stock cubes directly to the food, or to the cooking water.

Breakfast ideas for babies and children

  • unsweetened porridge or cereal mixed with milk, topped with mashed ripe pear
  • wholewheat biscuit cereal with milk and unsweetened stewed fruit
  • toast fingers with mashed banana
  • toast fingers with a hard-boiled egg and slices of ripe peach
  • unsweetened stewed apple and breakfast cereal with plain, unsweetened yoghurt

Children’s lunch or tea ideas

  • cauliflower cheese with cooked pasta pieces
  • mashed pasta with broccoli and cheese
  • baked beans (reduced salt and sugar) with toast
  • scrambled egg with toast, chapatti or pitta bread
  • cottage cheese dip with pitta bread and cucumber and carrot sticks
  • plain fromage frais with stewed apple

Children’s dinners

  • mashed sweet potato with mashed chickpeas and cauliflower
  • shepherd’s pie (made with beef or lamb) with green vegetables
  • rice and mashed peas with courgette sticks
  • mashed cooked lentils with rice
  • minced chicken and vegetable casserole with mashed potato
  • mashed canned salmon with couscous and peas
  • fish poached in milk with potato, broccoli and carrot

Snacks for babies and toddlers

  • fresh fruit, such as small pieces of soft, ripe peeled pear or peach
  • canned fruit in fruit juice
  • rice pudding or porridge (with no added sugar or salt)
  • plain, unsweetened yoghurt
  • toast, pitta or chapatti fingers
  • unsalted and unsweetened rice cakes
  • plain bagels
  • small cubes of cheese

Getting your child to eat fruit and vegetables

Try these ways of increasing your child’s intake of fruit and vegetables:

  • Put their favourite vegetables or canned pineapple on top of pizza.
  • Give carrot sticks, slices of pepper and peeled apple as snacks.
  • Mix chopped or mashed vegetables with rice, mashed potatoes, meat sauces or dhal.
  • Chop prunes or dried apricots into cereal or plain, unsweetened yoghurt, or add them to a stew.
  • For a tasty dessert, try mixing fruit (fresh, canned or stewed) with plain, unsweetened yoghurt. You could also try tinned fruit in fruit juice, such as pears and peaches, or unsweetened stewed fruit, such as apples.

Your baby and cows’ milk

From six months, keep giving your child mum’s milk or formula milk, as well as introducing solid foods, but don’t give cows’ milk as a drink. Whole cows’ milk can be used in small amounts in cooking or mixed with foods from the age of six months. You can give it to your child as a drink from the age of one.

Semi-skimmed milk can be introduced at two years old, providing your child is eating a varied diet and growing well for their age. From five years, you can give your child 1% or skimmed milk to drink.

Further information

NHS Choices logo


How Can I Make Sure My Toddler Eats Healthy: Parent Q&A

What are healthy snacks for toddlers?

You could try:

  • raw vegetable sticks, such as cucumber and carrots
  • a plain yoghurt with a banana sliced into it
  • a slice of toast with cheese spread, hummus or a slice of ham
  • some crackers, breadsticks or unsalted rice cakes with cheese
  • a bowl of cereal with milk
  • a piece of fruit

What can I pack in my toddler’s lunchbox when they go to nursery (*preschool)?

Good sandwich fillings are canned tuna or salmon, hummus, hard or cream cheese, ham or peanut butter (see Advice on peanut allergy).

You could add a few vegetable sticks, such as carrots, peppers or cucumber, to munch on and a container of bite-sized fruit – for example, a peeled satsuma or washed seedless grapes. A box of raisins is fine if eaten at lunchtime. Examples of healthier sweet options include a yoghurt, fromage frais, a scone or a currant bun.

If you include a fromage frais or yoghurt, don’t forget a spoon. A piece of kitchen towel (*paper towel) is also useful.

If lunchboxes are not kept in the fridge at nursery, use an insulated box with an ice pack to keep food safe and cool. You can give milk, water or well-diluted fruit juice in a leak-proof beaker.

Read more about healthy lunchboxes.

I’ve heard that high-fibre foods aren’t suitable for toddlers. Why?

Fibre is an important part of a healthy, balanced diet. But foods that contain a lot of fibre (such as wholemeal bread and pasta, brown rice and wholegrain breakfast cereals) can fill up small tummies, leaving little room for other foods. This means your toddler can feel full before they’ve taken in the calories they need.

It’s good for your toddler to try different kinds of starchy foods, but don’t give only wholegrain foods before your child is five years old.

My child will only drink sugary drinks. What can I do?

Drinking sugary drinks increases the chance of tooth decay. If your toddler will only drink sugary drinks, it can take a while to break the habit. Start to dilute the drinks with water, increasing the amount of water gradually over time, so the change isn’t too noticeable to them. Water and full-fat cows’ milk are the best drinks for toddlers.

See Drinks and cups for children for a list of other healthier drinks.

Am I entitled to any benefits to help me buy healthy food for my child?

If you have children *(in the UK) under four, you’re pregnant and on benefits, or you’re pregnant and under 18, you may qualify for Healthy Start vouchers.

For more information, visit the Healthy Start website, where you can find out if you qualify for vouchers. If so, you can apply online for Healthy Start vouchers, or get an application form from your GP surgery, midwife or health visitor. You can also call 0845 607 6823 if you would like one sent to you in the post.

Further information

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.

NHS Choices logo


Helping Kids Set Goals For The New Year and Keep Them!

Do you know that goal-setting is one of the most highly correlated traits of peak performers and successful individuals? But goal-setting isn’t just for grown-ups.

Studies show that goal-setting can help kids gain the sense of discipline and that internal drive it takes to stay motivated to complete the tasks they’ve set for themselves.

And once they’ve learned how to set their own goal it shows in their performance as well as in their self-esteem! But there are other benefits for teaching goal-setting as well.

Benefits of Goal-Setting for Kids

  • You’ll see your child start a school project–without waiting until the last minute–and finish it.
  • You’ll find your child doing his chores–without your nagging–because he knows he has to do them in order to start on his homework.
  • You’ll discover your child thinking through the jobs he needs to do for the week and making plans to complete them.
  • You’ll also see your child’s confidence grow as he succeeds in the goals he’s set for himself.

The best news is that goal-setting is a skill that we can teach our children at a young age.

7 Steps to Teach Kids Goal-Setting

Here are simple ways to help kids understand what goals are, and why using them can enhance their chances of success.

Step 1. Define the term, “Goal”

One of the easiest ways to explain goals is to link the term to something children are familiar with such as hockey, soccer, or football.

You might say to your child:

“A goal is like a target or something you shoot for. A football player is aiming for a touchdown. A hockey or soccer player is shooting for a goal. Goals aren’t just for sports. Goals in life are something you shoot for to be more successful.  People set goals for things they want to achieve or get better at. Planning what you need to work on is called goal-setting. It’s a skill that will help you in school, at home, with your friends, or later in your job or as an adult. It’s a skill that helps you succeed.”

Step 2. Share Your Own Goals and Aspirations

To help children feel comfortable talking about goals, we parents need to share our own aspirations. So take time to share a few of your dreams and wishes and the resolution you plan to set for yourself like losing those extra pounds, learning to text, finally reading and finishing Moby Dick, taking that gourmet cooking class. Whatever!

The secret is to purposefully model goal-setting when your kids can watch or listen. In fact, modeling is such a simple way to learn the skill. All you need to remember is the formula for goal-setting: I will+ what + when and then teach it to your kids.

Goal Formula: I will + what + when: Goals usually start with the words I will and have two parts: a what and a when. The what explains what you want to accomplish. The when tells when you intend to accomplish it.

Then whenever an appropriate moment arises, put your goal into the language of the Goal Formula and model it so that you child sees formula in operation. For instance:

You walk in to the laundry room and find it piled high with dirty laundry. (No surprise in my house). It’s a perfect opportunity to model the formula. Tell what you hope to do, using goal language to your child: “I will get these clothes washed and dried by six o’clock” (what = washing and drying the clothes + when = by six o’clock).

The key is that your kid has now overheard you saying your plan.

REALITY CHECK: Studies find that kids are far more likely to adopt a new habit or skill if they saw it in action (instead of via the lecture or the worksheet). So reflect over just the last week. If you asked your child to describe your behavior would he add “She’s a goal setter!” or “He makes a list of what he aims to do.” or “She tells me what her plans are.” Bottom line: Are you a model of these steps to your child? If not, just tune them up in your own behavior so your child has a real example of goal-setting to copy.

Step 3. Help Kids Create Their “Dream List” 

Explain to your children that “goals start with dreams.” Then take time to discuss their dreams, wishes or aspirations. Next, provide paper and colored marking pens for each family member. Take turns writing or drawing dreams of what they wish they could “achieve or have or improve.” Reread the list and help your children select only dreams they actually have power to make happen.

Three crucial questions assure your child’s success. These questions help you determine if the goal is achievable for your child:

1. “Does my child have the necessary skills and knowledge to achieve the goal?”

2. “Does my child need much help from others to succeed at the goal?”

3. “Does my child have enough time to achieve the goal?”

If you answered “no” to any of the questions, you might want to help your child choose another goal.To achieve success the goal must be within your child’s ability and should be realistic. 

Help your child recognize that goal possibilities are endless. Here are 15 goal categories for kids to consider:

Goal Possibilities for Kids: Grades. Hobbies or interests. Friends. Exercise. TV viewing. Free time. Savings. Sports. Homework. School. Reading. Behavior. New Skills. Chores. New learning.

Step 4. Tailor the Goal to Your Child

First-time goal-setters need to see some immediate success. Have your younger (or first-time goal-setter)  set a goal that can be achieved at least within a week. Here’s a few goals children can achieve in a short time:

Short-Term Kid Goal Possibilities 

  • Finishing a simple school project
  • Reading a book (or a page a night)
  • Losing one pound
  • Writing all those thank you notes
  • Cleaning a closet
  • Raking the front lawn leaves
  • Learning how to address an envelope.
  • Practicing the piano 15 minutes a day (then increasing to whatever length)
  • Making his bed every day
  • Picking up her toys and putting them in the toy bin at 3 pm every day
  • Brushing his teeth without reminders.

Some children need to set even shorter goals: at the end of the hour, or a day. Set the length of the goal according to the time you think your child needs to succeed.

Step 5. Help Your Child Think Through Steps to Success

Once your child identifies his resolution or goal he needs to think through the steps to success.

The more children can think through their goal and identify what they need to do to achieve success, the greater the chance they will succeed.

These ideas help children learn to plan the steps they need to take in order to achieve their goals. Choose ones that may work best for your child.

Some kids need to write or draw all the steps. Other children can process this in their heads. Tailor the steps to your child’s ability and learning style,

1. Identify the what + when. First ask, “What do you want to achieve?” Help your child clarify his goal. Then ask, “When will you try to achieve your goal?” Here’s a few examples using the goal formula: “I will get 9 out of 10 spelling words right on my spelling test” “I will be one pound lighter on Tuesday.” “I will learn five math facts in 15 minutes.”

2. List what needs to be done. Ask, “What are all the things you need to do to achieve your goal?” Help your child write or draw a different task on index cards. When finished, reread the tasks and put them in order asking, “What should you do first, then second, and third…?” Keep arranging the strips in sequence, and then staple the packet together. Encourage your child to use the packet as he works on his goal. Each time a task is finished, your child tears off a strip until no more remain!

3. Gather your resources. Ask your child, “Who or what do you need to help you succeed in your goal?” Help your child list or identify all the needed resources. Suppose your child wants to increase his running time. He might list a coach to talk to about running techniques, his Dad to help him practice running, and his Mom to drive him to the track. On the “”What” or “Things” side he might include: an alarm clock to remind him to wake up earlier to get to the track, a stop watch to time himself, and graph paper to list his running times. Encourage him to hang up the page to remember his plan.

Step 6. Track Your Child’s Goal Progress

Write your child’s goal on paper and tack it up on the refrigerator or bulletin board. Tell your child each time he works towards his goals, you’ll mark the effort on the paper. Helping our kids see their goal progress motivates them to keep on trying.

  • Try visual reminders. Stickers or gummed stars are always colorful incentives for younger children to stick onto the page to check their progress. Point out the improvements and say: “Look how much closer you’re getting to your goal!”
  • Use a screensaver. Encourage tweens and teens to take a photo of their goal using their cell phone then keep it as a screen saver to remind them of their intention.

Step 7. Celebrate Family Goal Successes!

Nothing is more affirming to children than succeeding at goals they’ve worked hard to achieve. It’s the tangible proof your child interprets as, “I really did it!” and a great way to nurture your child’s self-confidence. As goals are achieved, celebrate them as a family. You might:

  • Capture the image: Photograph your child achieving her goal and framing it.
  • Victory log: Provide your child with a small notebook or journal (A Victory Log!) for your child to log each goal achievement.
  • Success dinner: Have a Victory Dinner where you cook your child’s favorite dinner and have a Victory Dinner.
  • Balloon pop: Take a dollar bill or a picture of an inexpensive prize and help your child tightly roll and insert it inside a large party balloon. Blow up the balloon and knot hte end. On the outside of the balloon use a black laundry pen to write or draw a goal your child wants to achieve. Tie string to the end and hang the balloon in a special place. Tell the child that the moment he achieves the goal, you will pop the balloon together. The prize inside will be his reward for his hard work. In the meantime, the blown baloon serves as a reminder to work hard at the goal.

Then, help your child set the next goal and the next and the next.

All the best for a happy, peaceful New Year!


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

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