What can Generations of Mothering teach us?

My mother is about to turn 91 on the 4th of July.  My memories of my mom and her mother, Nana and my Dad’s mother, Gammie are very vivid to me.  You see even though my mom celebrates her 91st B-day she has been ‘gone’ for over a decade as she has Alzheimer’s disease. So, when I say memories it’s the conversations and experiences with my mom and grandmothers I am referring to.

My mom’s mom, Nana, was of German decent and she was very stereotypical of her heritage.  Strict was her nature with everything, but the love I felt from her was never rigid. Even though we had to eat with the proper fork, come up from the beach at noon for lunch; taking off our wet swim suits & putting on clothes, if only for that hour and getting a big bear hug from her whether we liked it or not, I never questioned whether she loved me!

She gave me who she was…

My Dad’s mom, Gammie, was a slight woman, who we always thought if the wind blew too hard one day she’d fly away.  She never flew in an airplane or drove a car or took care of her household but she always showed her love to her family and the birds she adored who actually remind us all of her; fragile, but beautifully lovable.

She gave me who she was…

Both my grandmothers, Gammie and Nana had one thing in common that I loved, filled candy dishes. Nana with chocolate non-pareils and Gammie with jelly beans.  To this day I barely get through a day without a non-pareil!  They both showed their love by being exactly who they were and giving me the best of themselves.

My Mom still remains lovable with all she has left of who she is!  I can only hope when I become a grandmother myself I’ll give the best parts of me to my grandchildren as I have to my children, so the tradition of who we are and what we can give as mothers will pass on to the next generation.

Mother’s Day is a reminder to me to be thankful for the time and presence these women gave to me in the only way they knew how and try to duplicate that for my kid’s children in the next generation.

Cherish your mom, grandmothers and all mothers for giving life to you and all they could give to you,

Dr. Ann

Why telling your child to stop FEELING ‘shy’ won’t work!

Being shy is typical for many young children. By the age of 5 they now have all of their feelings and language acquisition, but unfortunately don’t know ’how to’ socially apply these skills. Therefore, they say or don’t say things at inappropriate times. So as parents it means we have to teach them exactly what to do when feelings come.

This emotional education should go something like this;

First, sit them down in a quiet moment and say, “You know buddy when I’ve been telling you to say ‘hi’ to other kids, etc. and sometimes you either look away or hide behind Mommy that is called shy”.

Second, tell your child WHO gets shy. It’s the grocery store check-out lady, it’s a policeman, it’s Daddy, I even get shy, EVERYBODY has shy! This helps your child understand they are not the only one who gets shy. And it’s our job (as parents) to teach you “what to do” when you feel shy.  All shy is…is not knowing what to do when someone comes up to you and says something!

Third, kids learn best through play.  So play a game with your child, where you put on a ‘funny hat’ or get on your knees like you are a kid and you say, “Hi I’m Kyle from next door, can we play side-walk chalk together?”  Then tell him what he is supposed to say back, “Yes, sit down, here’s some chalk”.  Or if he is resistant to do this with you, as the parent, you just need to model this scene for them.

Fourth, and most importantly if they continue to hide behind you and not say anything or do anything appropriate like a “high five” for example, do NOT force your child to do it. Instead, you just step up and model for them (saying hi yourself or give a hi five), ultimately do what  you want your child to do!  Do not ask them ‘why’ they didn’t say hi or bring up the subject at all afterwards.

In the meantime, when he does say hi to ANYONE, you included (even in the morning when you wake up and your child automatically says hi or when you pick them up from grandma’s house, etc.) you tell your child “great saying hi”.

Telling our children to not feel something is second nature, because as parents we want to help them out when they feel stuck in social situations.  But, telling them to ‘not be a feeling’, like shy never works because it’s a biological fact that feelings come whether we want them to or not.  So next time the urge comes to tell your child to not be shy, mad or sad try helping them instead by figuring out how to deal with the feeling when it comes!

Keep in touch as comments are always welcome, Dr. Ann

Trick-or-Treat…What To Do with ALL that CANDY?

Before we get into what to do with the mounds of candy kids collect on Halloween each year, we need to take a step back and ask ourselves if our kids seem ready to Trick-or-Treat, or if my child is too old to Trick-or Treat? If your child shows reluctance to participate in Halloween, listen to them. You must respect your child’s scary feelings as they are REAL in their experience. Do not expose your kids to what they perceive as ‘real threats’.  Just wait until the next year when they are ready and your whole family holiday experience will be all smiles.

As for older kids, make sure you give safety tips, like don’t eat anything you received trick or treating until you get home where your parents can check it out.  As a teenager, if you are not willing to ‘dress up’ you are too old to trick-or-treat.

So lets get back to the age old question…What to do with the candy?

My first suggestion is to introduce the “Candy Fairy”, it worked wonders with my kids when they were young and with countless numbers of my clients that I’ve shared this technique with over the last 35 years. Tell your kids that there are kids who don’t get candy on Halloween (which is the truth) & your family believes “it is more blessed to give than to receive”, so we are going to put most of our candy in a bag for the “candy fairy”. Then, the “candy fairy” will take it to the kids who didn’t get to go trick-or-treating.  But before they put their candy it the bag, tell them to “take out a few of their favorite pieces, then fill up that candy bag for the fairy to take to other kids”!

My second suggestion is to help your kids make the connection between what they put into their bodies and how that makes them FEEL.  Candy is fun, but empty calories and sugar which can change their behavior and not always for the best.  So make sure your kids exercise to burn off energy for better behavior and to get rid of those extra calories. If they want to run from house to house, let them go for it and definitely plan on a family walk the next day!

Denise Webster, Dr. Wm. Sears Family Wellness Educator at dwebster2@cox.net is a great resource for fun ways your family can eat healthy http://www.fuelingbrainsandbodies.com/

 Have a healthy, fun Halloween, Dr. Ann

How much screen time is too much screen time?

Almost daily parents ask me this question, “How much screen time is too much screen time”? The answer to this question is that time is not the real issue; it’s what a screen does to kids brain and behavior. 

Catherine Steiner-Adair, Ed.D. Harvard, interviews over 1,000 kids from the age of 4-18yrs in her new book to understand how technology is affecting their lives socially, emotionally and in their relationships. Her book, The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood & Family Relationships in the Digital Age says that parents are “not teaching their children how to deal with frustration & boredom”. Instead we sit them in front of a screen to not only entertain them but to keep them from getting bored & or frustrated instead of teaching them how to deal with their real feelings.

The article by Lori Leibovichabout Catherine’s book describes the 8 Ways Screens Are Ruining Your Life

1. Don’t put your baby in front of a screen. Ever.

2. And think hard about putting your toddler in front of one, too.

3. Teachers can tell if your child is getting too much screen time.

4. Your kids hate your screens.

5. Just because we can be connected to work 24/7 doesn’t mean we should be.

6. Screens aren’t good for your marriage. And that’s not good for your kids.

7. In order to be a good parent, you need to take care of yourself.

8. Sorry, but you really don’t know what your kids are doing online. But that doesn’t mean you should give up trying.

Please take the time to read 8 Ways Screens Are Ruining Your Life by Catherine Steiner-Adair in Lori Leibovich’s article for the Huff Post, it’s truly a great resource.

For more information about how easy it is to teach your kids how to deal with frustration & boredom, check out the Pocket Full of Feelings website of Ask Dr. Ann either through drann@theparentingdoctor.com or call (949)637-3482 for a consult.

Could you be spoiling your kids by saying your proud of them?

Do you ever wonder if you are spoiling your kids by saying you are proud of them…if you want the right answer to this question I recommend you read my colleague Kenneth Barish’s article Understanding Children’s Emotions: The Importance of Pride and Shame.

I highly recommend reading this informative article by Kenneth Barish Ph.D., clinical associate professor of psychology, Cornell University. Check out more of his work on his website www.kennethbarish.com.

I hope you enjoy reading Understanding Children’s Emotions: the Importance of Pride and Shame!

Have a fun and safe Labor day weekend! For more information about teaching your children about their emotions and how to deal with the way then feel visit my Pocket Full of Feelings project.

~Dr. Ann

Back to School…What do kids need in their backpacks?

Traditionally parents spend a lot of time picking out just the right backpack to put their kids essentials in for the first day of school.  It needs to be just the right color, have some identifying graphic or favorite character on the back and be the perfect size for all their child’s needs.

The reason parents put all these school supplies in their backpacks are so their children will have all the tools they need to be successful in the classroom. This year I’d like to give you an idea about what should go in that backpack aside from pens, rulers, glue sticks, Kleenex, spiral notebooks, #2 pencils & colored markers.

The addition to your child’s backpack this year should be the tools they need to DEAL with whatever feelings come their way in the classroom and on the playground. Even as parents we might say to ourselves “I wasn’t expecting that to happen today and it threw my whole day off!” Your children have these same feelings and need help from loving adults to know what to do when they are overwhelmed by unpredictable situations that come up on a daily basis.

So, when you send your kids off to school remember to equip them with the essential tools for DEALING with how they are FEELING during school days. For instance, your child might have a tantrum or pout or whine or hit because they feel frustrated (a very dark purple feeling) about getting ready for school as they’ve been on a totally different schedule all summer.  Sometimes parents first reaction is to say, “Don’t whine, just hurry up, you don’t want to be late on the very first day of school”! Sound familiar? Instead equip your kids with tools to DEAL with this feeling for a successful day.

Here is how to DEAL with the frustration your kids might have on the first days of school. Parents, when you’re filling that backpack take the opportunity for this teachable moment and…

Tell your kids they might feel frustrated because we have to get up early tomorrow. Did you know that frustration has a color just like all your feelings do and it’s dark purple? Everybody has this feeling and no one knows when it’s going to come, but I’m here to teach you how to deal with this feeling in the best way. The best way is to do something with your hands and/or listen to music.

So, if frustration comes tomorrow at home or at school say to yourself, “I’m frustrated because things aren’t going my way, but I know what to do. I can put my hands in my pockets or grab my fingers and hold them tightly behind my back or put on a feel good song at breakfast or on the way to school until frustration goes away”!

These techniques and tons more are what the Pocket Full of Feelings™ project gives you as a parent. Kinds behave because of the way they feel, the only way to equip kids for successful behavior in school is to teach then what to do when feelings arrive.

Look for more tips each week about how you can teach your kids to DEAL with the way they FEEL for success! Remember “Better Moods equal Better Behavior” – Dr. Ann

Pocket Full of Feelings

Here’s the answer to the #1 question parents have asked me over the last 30 years!


The question is “why is my child behaving this way”? Seems like they are pushing my buttons and I’m at my wits end!

The fact is children behave because of the way they FEEL and they don’t know how to DEAL! So, I developed the Pocket Full of Feelings™ (pff™) Package in order for every family to have easy solutions to the toughest parenting problems.

pff™ gives your kids exactly what they need to DEAL with whatever comes their way! Let Poffer, the wise owl, and his 15 owl buddies, the poff’s, show your family how to understand and positively deal with feelings so that children can feel proud of teh way they behave.

The pff™ Package includes:

  • Children’s Storybook
  • Comprehensive Parent Guide
  • 15 Feelings Poff’s
  • Poffer and his wise ways to deal
  • Feel and Deal Pocket Guide
  • Interactive pff™ play pockets

Please take the time to visit our Pocket Full of Feelings™ website to learn more about emotional literacy and the pff™ Package. Bring the gift of emotional literacy home today!

Dr. Ann

What’s the ULTIMATE in Sibling Rivalry?

This years Super Bowl, better known as the Harbowl!

This Sunday Super Bowl is one of the biggest sporting events in our country. Even if you are not a sports fan your probably going to watch it just for the cutting edge commercials. This year we not only have an excellent match up of teams but we have a unique match up of coaches. It’s two brothers in competition with each other for the same prize. Potentially every parents nightmare; which brother do they root for, which side of the field do they sit on, do they congratulate the excited winner in front of the disappointed loser? On the other hand, there is also certainly the overwhelming pride these parents must feel with the accomplishments of both of their sons.

So, how do parents prepare their children to deal with their competitive feelings? I think, sport and performance psychologist, Chris Carr, makes a great point when he says, “If they have a good, solid, stable relationship, with love and respect, then competition can be healthy, and it doesn’t have to paralyze or disable the brotherly relationship. If they can focus on the right things to be competitive and compete at a very high level, then regardless of the outcome…you’re happy for your sibling even as your disappointed in your own loss”.

Sibling rivalry at any age is normal but the message parents need to teach their children should be loud and clear about what to do with the intense feelings that come with competition. When parents ask me how do I teach my kids to be good losers and gracious winners here is what parents should remember. Kids are concrete thinkers all the way through elementary school so the more specific your instructions are the easier it is for them to follow. So simply say, “When you win the first thing you say to everyone who you have played with is thank you for playing with me”. If they lose tell them to say, “great game, congratulations”. This is how you teach your children to deal with the way that they feel.

This is an example of a lesson from the upcoming Pocket Full of Feelings(PFF) parent guide. Stay connected to through www.theparentingdoctor.com for the upcoming release of PFF.

Go 49ers, Dr. Ann!

*Coming soon: Pocket Full of Feelings, a product for family emotional literacy learning.

Trick or Treat…When should kids start? What To Do…With all that candy?

One year your child may be happily running from house to house and openly asking for treats. The next year, they are not so enthusiastic. That is why it makes sense for parents to be sensitive about what their kids can handle at different ages.

Here is the scoop on when to start and how to cope!

From birth to around the age of 2 yrs. kids don’t know enough yet to be scared. So with you carrying them or standing by their side holding your hand they seem to breeze through the ‘scary’ masks and goblins at the door.

By the time kids turn 3 yrs. and head toward age 4 yrs. their brains are functioning at a level where they definitely know enough to be scared.

If you take a 2 yr. old child to Disneyland to see a huge ‘Mickey Mouse’ they run right up to hug him. A year later, it is very obvious with their reluctance to approach ‘Mickey Mouse’ that they now know that if a mouse is that big they don’t want to have anything to do it.

Every year in my Toddler Talk group (1-3 yr. olds) during the Halloween season I walk into the group looking exactly like I do every other week. Then half way through the group, I openly, so all the kids can see, put on the witches mask. Immediately those kids start to look worried, withdraw from me and some move closer to the security of their parents. This is because they are not sure if I have actually transformed into the mask.

If your child shows reluctance to participate in Halloween, listen to them. Do not expose your kids to what they perceive as ‘real threats’. Just wait until the next year and they will be ready and your parenting experience will be all smiles.

As for older kids, make sure you give safety tips, like don’t eat anything you received trick or treating until you get home where your parents can check it out. As a teenager, if you are not willing to ‘dress up’ you are too old to trick or treat.

So, if your kids are Trick or Treating the age old question is what to do with the candy? My suggestion is introduce the “Candy Fairy” early and tell your kids that there are kids who don’t get candy on Halloween (which is the truth) & our family believes “it is more blessed to give than to receive”, so we are going to put most of our candy in a bag for the “candy fairy” and she will take it to kids who didn’t get to go trick or treating. Say, “Just take out a few favorite pieces for yourself and then fill up that candy bag for the fairy”!

Be respectful of what your kids can tolerate, teach them how to give to those less fortunate and then don’t forget to have fun in the process, Dr. Ann

*Coming soon: Pocket Full of Feelings, a product for family emotional literacy learning.

My kids saw on the news that a man killed people in a movie theater, and they are afraid now. What do I tell them?

Everyone watched with total sorrow and confusion as this horrific story unfolded and about all of the lives lost in a Colorado movie theater. It is tough to watch, but also hard to pull ourselves away from viewing this tragedy. That, of course, leaves our kids in the middle of it, seeing what we are watching and wondering what that means to them.

So, parents, use this unfortunate opportunity as a reminder to teach your child a life lesson about how to DEAL with the way they FEEL:

  1. Tell your kids that it is scary to hear about this senseless crime. But what you do when you are scared makes a big difference in how fast that feeling will turn into a happier feeling.
  2. Then say, “When you feel the black feeling of scared, remember that ‘Feelings are REAL and something you feel, what matters the most is the way that you DEAL!’”*
  3. Say “Thanks for telling me how you feel. Grab your favorite feel good toy, stuffed animal, picture, etc. and give it a hug. Remember these help you feel safe. Tell yourself you are okay, be brave and remember when the scared feeling comes you now know exactly what to do.”

Young children aren’t always sure what is a realistic fear. In order to help them DEAL, you need to tell them, “We will always be here to make sure nothing happens to you. There is nothing to be scared about as the man who hurt those people is in jail now.”

Remember to help your children recognize, identify and discuss feelings with you and make the connection between their feelings and behaviors, and finally, teach your kids new ways to DEAL appropriately with their feelings!

My prayers and heartfelt condolences go out to all of the families who have suffered this Colorado tragedy, Dr. Ann

*Coming soon: Pocket Full of Feelings, a product for family emotional literacy learning.