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How to Have The Scary “Birds and Bees Talk” With Your Kids

Birds and Bees Talk - Main PosterDoes it make you nervous that your children will ask many different questions about sex, and those questions will only get more specific as they get older?

Many parents think giving vague answers, or perhaps changing the subject and offering the questioning child a cookie, is a valid solution.

But really, we moms and dads have to up our game.

We must be prepared with thoughtful and honest answers so our kids continue coming to us… rather than looking for answers online, on bathroom walls or whispered conversations with equally clueless peers.

I’ve been through these different phases of questioning and can tell you there’s a way to get your kids from elementary school through high school without diseases or pregnancies.

If Your Child Is In Elementary School…

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10 Essential Non-Verbal Communication Skills That Will Make You a Better Parent

Non Verbal Communication Skills - Main PosterEver wonder when your little ones will finally follow directions?

Do you want to encourage your children to respond positively to what you say?

And how can you make them better listeners?

Even more so, how can you positively affect their communication skills?

As parents, we spend much time speaking and instructing our kids. Yet, how many of us have thought about the nonverbal ways we communicate to our children?

Eye rolls, smiles, arms crossed, shoulders hunched.

Nonverbal communication can have long-lasting effects on how they listen, behave, process information, and speak to others.  It also impacts their attitudes towards us parents and affects how others see them.

Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages, performed several studies on nonverbal language. He found that body language accounts for 93% of a message. Who knew our physical mannerisms could speak such loud volumes?

Nonverbal communication may have serious effects on how well-liked a child becomes and the types of opportunities offered to them in the future.

Bottom line: it can make them or break them.

As a mother of two and a speech-language pathologist, I’ve had to address this issue in a variety of ways.  My little boy, a toddler, responds much better to my ‘messages’ when I take a moment to alter my gestures in a way that he will be receptive and willing to hear me out.

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How to Handle Your Child’s Video Game Obsession Positively

Kids Playing Video Games - Main PosterDo you live with a child obsessed with video games?

A kid who’d rather play Minecraft than ball?

Who would sooner build worlds in Terraria than accompany you to the neighborhood barbecue?

I took it hard, the day I finally admitted to myself that what most inspires my nine-year-old son is a video game.

Certain we were on the road to laziness, brain atrophy, and obesity, I went through a long spell of helicopter parenting: policing, nagging, and threatening.

My lowest move was to hide the ipad.

This was not a sustainable approach. It didn’t make the desire for video games go away. If anything, the deprivation increased the appetite. It made everybody feel bad.

I had to face facts: the world was against me in this fight. Laptops, ipads, ipods, smart phones, Xbox–this stuff isn’t going anywhere.

I needed a positive approach to video games, to screen time in general, a term meaning any time spent in front of a screen: games, movies, or movies of other kids playing games. The following strategies worked.

I now look at screen time as a fact of life. It doesn’t depress me that my kids like this stuff. I no longer believe that loving Minecraft means you are lazy, dull and destined to have clogged arteries.

And most importantly, I don’t feel guilty about my changed beliefs.

Limits are the key. Start with your attitude: approach video games as one of many options in the vast tool bag containing cool things your kids get to do, rather than the evil monster that will take over your life.

The beast can be tamed. Here’s how.

#1 Accept that gaming is fun for your child, even if it’s not fun for you

Kids Playing Video Games - It is fun for themThose of us who did not grow up with ipads, ipods, and multitudes of devices wonder why anyone would want to spend his down time in a two-dimensional world with no real plot?

Well, not a lot of us want to play tag for more than ten minutes, either.

Minecraft offers yet another opportunity to separate your experience from that of your child.

It isn’t your fault. The love of games did not come from your failure to expose them to sports or to read to them. They like what they like.

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How to Be a Positive Parent Even if You Weren’t Raised by One

What is Positive Parenting - Main PosterDo you ever feel doomed to being just like your parents, even though you’re trying hard to do better?

I know how hard it is to try being a positive parent when you’ve been raised in a punitive home.

Like me, you may have grown up in a home where spanking, hitting, yelling, or shaming were the main “discipline techniques.” And now maybe you’re horrified to find yourself resorting to these techniques, too.

I lay SweetPea down on the floor to change her diaper. Immediately she twists her hips to flip over so she can crawl away. Clenching my jaw, I flip her on her back again and try to distract her with singing, but she is intent on reaching her activity center. Unbidden, the image of my hand slapping the soft, tender flesh of her thigh flashes through my mind.  I take a deep breath. I acknowledge my own frustration. I decide she and I both need a break from the struggle. “We’ll try again in a few minutes,” I say as I let her go and she happily crawls away.

My impulse to lash out comes naturally to me; I absorbed it from my parents.  I’ve spent the last 15 years as a teacher and nanny learning how to react differently and overcome these unbidden impulses so that I don’t pass them on to my daughter.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to take you 15 years to start becoming a more positive parent! I’ll share with you how I healed from childhood wounds and techniques you can use now to re-write your parenting scripts.

Choosing a Better Way

Re-creating the same negativity is not our destiny; we can choose a better way to raise our own kids.

The question, of course, is how?

Despite our best intentions, the things our parents said to us often become the same dreaded words we say to our kids.

“Because I said so.” 

“Stop that crying right this instant.” 

“That’s it! No TV for you tonight.”

Like my momentary impulse to slap my daughter when she resists diaper-changes, the way we were parented becomes our automatic default response.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. [Read More…]

How to Raise Confident Kids Without Being a Praise Pusher

raise confident kids without too much praise - main poster“I’m so proud!”  “What a good girl!” “You are SO talented!”

So, there are worse things to say to your child – right?

Of course! But… there are better things to say to them as well, without trafficking in the kind of never-ending praise that sends our kids into a “need it, crave it, got to have it” almost addiction to getting patted on the back.

For many families it’s the beginning of a very slippery slope into entitlement that they find hard to reverse.

“But Amy, that’s what parents DO.”

I get it!

You think you’re helping them be more poised and self-assured, but left unchecked, you may be setting your kid up to be a person who needs constant “that a boys” from everyone around them to feel good about his own ability or choices.

Younger praise junkies may seek approval from parents and teachers.  “Do you like my singing, Daddy?”  “Was that a good shot?”

But when they’re older – their limitless need for affirmation can send kids gravitating towards their peers or the boyfriend/girlfriend for approval, and becoming the kind of entitled, high-maintenance people that most of us don’t really want to be around.

So all good intentions aside, let’s start turning that praise junkie tide right now in your home with these three steps:

1. Help them learn to be their own best cheerleader

Instead of too much praise instil internal motivationThe trick is to turn the tables for them by switching their source for affirmation from external (you and the rest of the world) to internal (what they see in themselves) so that they can develop a healthy self-worth rather than rely on others to fill that void.

For example – when your child says, “Do you like my picture, Mommy?”  Respond with, “Well, more importantly honey, what do YOU like about your picture? How does it make you feel?”

By making this one small shift you can encourage dialogue, internal reflection, and teach kids to be self-reliant for their self-image.

Is it easy at first?  Maybe not.  You’ll have to learn to say things like “You must be so proud of YOURSELF,” rather than “I’m so proud of you!”

That’s not to say that you can’t tell your kids you’re proud of them, but you also want to instill in them internal pride and motivation to try new things, excel at their talents, and make their own decisions. That way they won’t grow up to be the kind of people who feel the need to fish for compliments or entitled to praise for every little thing they do.

2. It’s about the process not the “end product”

Do your best to shift your dialogues from the end results to the process for your kids. Instead of focusing only on the “A” he earned on the spelling test, talk about how he studied and prepared for it. Instead of showering praise for your child’s score in the game, talk about how all the practice and perseverance paid off.

When kids focus on the process – how they can get to the end products rather than the final outcome itself, they still enjoy the highs from the wins, but don’t worry quite so much about the lows and they’ll be less dependent on others for approval.

3. Let go of the labels

Labeling is a form of too much praiseLabels, even the positive ones, don’t help kids in the long run. We’re usually aware of the negative labels and their effect on kids, but to avoid raising praise junkies, we have to steer clear of the positive labels as well.

Labels like smart, pretty, and athletic are external labels that put unnecessary pressure on kids to always live up to them. If a child is defined as the “smart one,” how will she feel if she comes home with a “C” in Language Arts?  Is she suddenly not “smart” anymore?

And of course, we don’t want kids to feel entitled to success or an easy ride because they are smart or talented. Again, focus on the things kids CAN control: hard work, perseverance, a great attitude, asking for extra help and more – and success is sure to follow.

Begin making these three simple shifts today and watch how your kids respond.  Not only will they have your unconditional love and support but they’ll also begin to become their own best champion.  They’ll learn to take pride in their accomplishments – and what it takes to reach them. All win-win-wins for you and your kids!

Amy McCready - MeMeMe - Preorder BonusWant to learn more about keeping your kids from becoming praise junkies and how to curb entitlement in your home? Pick up a copy of Amy’s new book, The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic:  A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World.  Available August 11, 2015 wherever books are sold.

Get FREE COACHING with Amy McCready when you pre-order The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic.  Learn more at www.AmyMcCready.com.