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Active Listening: How to Master the Skill That Will Make You a More Effective Parent

Active Listening: Title Poster“YOU NEVER LISTEN TO ME!!!!” 

The scream echoes through the house. As does the slam of the bedroom door.

Have you been there?

It’s an all too familiar family scene. It’s after dinner, homework isn’t even close to being done, and a mild reminder about finishing up a book report has turned into WWIII.

My husband and I look at each other. I have steam coming out of my ears. He looks as if he’s witnessed a car crash.

“I just wish he’d listen to me!” I fume as we straighten the pictures on the walls sent rocking by the shockwaves.

Meanwhile my son sulks in his room. “I just wish you guys would listen to me!” he vents.

But I AM listening!

Then again, am I really? 

While I was in grad school where I was getting my Master’s degree in organization development, I learned that not all listening is created equal. As an organization development (OD) consultant we practice something called “active listening” as a means to help clients analyze their issues and brainstorm solutions.

I never suspected it then, but I was also learning how to be a more effective parent.

Active listening is a way of fully hearing what the other person is saying. Not just assuming we know what they’re going to say after hearing the first two words and then spending the rest of the time they are talking preparing a perfect response. Instead, active listening focuses on dropping assumptions and working to understand the feelings, motives, and views of the other person.

We don’t quite realize it, but a lot of the time, we as a parents, don’t listen actively at all.

How often have you just heard a few words from your kids and jumped in to correct them or offer solutions? How often have you lost patience while kids fumbled to put their complex thoughts and emotions into coherent sentences? How often do you just take a look at the situation and know what needs to be done, without even giving your kids a chance to explain?

Yeah, when I viewed my conversation with my son that evening through the lens of what my professor had told me about active listening, I was quite ashamed.

It was time to try something different.

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How to Respond to An Emotional Meltdown to Raise Strong Kids

Responding to an emotional meltdown - main posterAren’t you amazed at how seemingly random things can send our kids into a complete emotional meltdown?

It doesn’t matter whether the child is 4 or 14.

In the moments before a meltdown it’s the face scrunching that gives it away.

As body language goes it’s all out there, up front and very personal. A clear signal that your child is very sad and needs your help to cope with the rush of unbearable feelings.

But in the heat of the meltdown, emotions run high. For us parents too. So what’s the best way to cool down the situation without clamping down the emotions?

My four-year-old son became distraught last weekend because his big sister had a bag to carry to the park, and he didn’t.

His suffering was palpable. The emotions vivid on his face. His little body tense with distress.

It took a lot of self-control to suppress my own mounting discomfort at his obvious upset over something so trivial from a grown-up perspective. With effort I remained calm, held him close and loved him through the moment.

We found another bag.

He was fine.

And yet, he wasn’t.

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What is Emotional Intelligence and Why You Should Care

What is emotional intelligence and why you should care - title imageIt’s there on your bucket list of great parenting – to raise a well adjusted, successful child who will maximize his potential and flourish as an adult. 

But how do you do that? What experiences can you give your child now to help prepare him for a world that grows increasingly complex each day?

Schools push standardized tests and curricula based around STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) or Common Core, but future success is not just about best educational practices.

The latest research indicates that the more likely predictors of future success include not just cognitive learning factors but social and emotional learning tool, starting in pre-school through post secondary education.

In other words, it’s not just about IQ, But EQ – their Emotional Intelligence Quotient – as well.

But Really, What is Emotional Intelligence?

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Top 10 Apps For Parents That Will Save Your Sanity

Apps for Parents - MainIt was 8:15 in the morning when I got a panicked call from my husband who was dropping off our kids at school.

“We were supposed to send in flowers for the School Open House this morning. Everybody brought theirs and is handing them to the teacher.”

I replied confidently, “Don’t worry, honey, the Open House isn’t until this evening, and I’ll bring the flowers then.”

“No, the flowers were supposed to be brought in advance. The teacher said it was in her email.”

I searched my inbox for the email about the Open House, and to my embarrassment saw that he was right.

This was not the first time something like this had happened. Despite spending hours each week reading emails, copying and pasting things into my calendar, and writing reminder notes for myself, I had forgotten to dress my kids in pajamas on PJ day (something they would not let me forget), send the library book back on library day and – my worst offense – pick them up on time on an early dismissal day.

Every time it happened, I would look into my kids’ disappointed faces and feel terrible, like I was such a bad mom.

I didn’t want to feel like that ever again, so I started to look for a way to handle it.

As I spoke to a few of my friends who had already traveled this part of the parenting journey before, one thing became very clear – everyone was using some sort of an app or a website, in many cases several, to help maintain order in their lives (and save their sanity).

Duh!

I’ve since been an avid collector of apps/sites that simplify life and have even founded an app company myself that offers group communication and organization for parents, which you’ll see below, called SimplyCircle.

Today, I’ve put together for you a list of 10 of my favorites apps for parents of school-aged kids. Some are smartphone apps, some are web apps, but all offer something to simplify our lives and allow us to feel like the fine parents that we are.

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How to Look Beautiful Fast: Secrets For Busy Moms From a Stylist to the Stars

How to look beautiful - MainAs a fashion stylist, I am paid to make movie stars look fabulous.

Ironically, I don’t always feel fabulous. I’m an over caffeinated mom on the run. I am a chauffeur, PTA volunteer, chef and homework helper to two busy kids.

Sound familiar?

Balancing the supermom persona with fashion stylist to some of the world’s most successful and high-profile personalities like Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Julia Roberts and  Heidi Klum, is quite a challenge.

It’s important for me to make a good first impression. When we first meet, I notice the star checking me out from head to toe, probably asking themselves if I could be trusted to dress them for public scrutiny.

Believe me, some days I just want to show up for the grueling day in sweats. But I can’t. My clients’ trust in me is proportional to the way I present myself.

Whether you run a household or a Fortune 500 company, it’s the same — there is scientific evidence that looking your best makes you more persuasive, confident and successful.

Known as the “halo effect,” the term was first used by psychologist Edward Thorndike in a 1920s study. It is human nature to judge. The better a person presents themselves, the better we judge them to be. We see attractive people as nicer, trustworthy or successful in all areas of their lives.

Here’s a little secret though — looking beautiful doesn’t require a big change or a lot of work. All you need is to make some time for yourself to raise your style game.

The key to looking beautiful is organization and an easy, signature style of your choice. Over the years I have developed a system that I use not only for myself, but for the stars I dress as well.

Here’s how to look beautiful fast –

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