Do your kids seem to behave better for everyone else?

Most parents believe and say, “My kids know how to push my buttons to manipulate me and that is why they don’t behave for me”!  I also hear well-meaning, grandmothers/fathers, mother-in-laws and neighbors reinforce this notion by saying, “He never does that at my house”!  This implies of course that the parents are responsible for the child’s inappropriate behavior.

Believe it or not this is not why kids behave inappropriately with their parents and not with others.  It’s because their parents unconditionally love them and that makes kids feel safe enough to misbehave.  In other words, they feel comfortable enough and are sure enough in the love of their parents to experiment with different behaviors.  They know that their parents won’t ever leave them, no matter how troubling their behavior might be.

So parents, have faith the next time your kids seem out of control with you, that you are doing something right and that is allowing your kids to try out different ways of communicating to see how you will react.

Remember when your kids behave appropriately be there to let them know that by telling them you like the way they are talking to you, following the family rules and or treating you and others.  And when they pick other, not so appropriate ways to behave, make sure they see you respond to them in a different way.  This will help your kids begin to tell the difference between what they get from their parent when they behave in different ways.

For kids, life is all about learning how healthy relationships work by trying out different ways to behave.  So, instead of looking for ways to get your kids to stop misbehaving look for ways to teach them what they can do to create a healthy relationship with you, their parent, who they love & adore, Dr. Ann

*Check out my newest project Pocket Full of Feelings, a product for family emotional literacy learning.

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

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

Want To Know Why You’re In a Bad Mood? Watch T.V.

Ever get up “on the wrong side of the bed” and don’t know why?
At one time or another just about everybody experiences not knowing why they feel the way they do. Kids get even more confused than parents do about their feelings. All kids behaviors are in response to some sort of feeling and most of time kids don’t know what that feeling is or what to do about it. That is why when you ask your kids “why did you do that” they usually say, “I don’t know”. So, how can you help your kids learn about feelings?

Watch Dr. Ann Corwin on A Place of Own KCET- TV – Channel 6 in Los Angeles, CA tomorrow, June 29th at 1:30 p.m. or 4:30 p.m. the Emotional Literacy show (or check local PBS listings in your area) for answers to any questions you might have about how to teach your kids to handle their moods.

Looking forward to your feedback about the show and any questions or comments you might have, Dr. Ann

In Praise of Fathers

Fathers should be appreciated all year… not just on one day! While Father’s Day is a tremendous idea, we all need to affirm Dads for their significance every day of the year.

I come from a long line of fantastic fathering men. My grandfathers were both grand fathering me from birth to their deaths. My Dad, in his 80’s, is still fathering me long distance and with just as much love, sincerity and respect as always. My husband has been an awesome father for 28 years. One of the problems with us mothers is that we sometimes spend too much time trying to get the fathers in our lives to mother, instead of just appreciating what fathering does for our children.

Fathers teach two very crucial concepts to children: how to trust themselves and how to take risks! Since men don’t have the same hormonal response as women when their kids move away from them, a familiar scenario often happens. Mom might go out to the park and ask her husband to watch the kids while she goes to the bathroom. When she returns, the kids are playing on the playground equipment, at the furthest point from where her husband is standing. He is in deep conversation with another Dad. Mom’s first response is usually, “why are you not watching the kids, they are way too far away and you weren’t even looking at them when I came out of the bathroom?”

The truth of the matter is, kids can move six times further away from a Dad, as opposed to a Mom, before he has any physical response like that alarm that goes off in Mom’s head saying, “where are the kids?” That does not mean that men love or protect their children any less than a woman. What it does mean is that fathers teach their kids that it is okay to trust your self and take risks.

So Moms, celebrate Father’s Day by valuing what Dad’s give kids!

In deep appreciation of fathers 365 days per year, Dr. Ann Corwin

You Know I Love You Anyway

In celebration of Mother’s Day, I’d like to share a special poem with you that was given to me by a mom that I had been working with earlier this year. She was a new mommy having trouble adjusting to being a stay-at-home-mom after the birth of her second child. She came seeking guidelines in managing her impatience with her children… the same impatience that many of us experience in trying to juggle life’s many demands. In the course of working with her, she found this poem and shared it with me, and today I share it with you as a subtle reminder to slow down and enjoy your precious children.

I bumped into a stranger as he passed by.

“Oh, excuse me, please,” was my reply.

He said, “Please excuse me too.

I wasn’t even watching for you.”

Oh, we were polite – this stranger and I.

We went on our way and we said our goodbye.

But at home a different story is told

how we treat our loved ones, young and old.

Later that day, cooking the evening meal,

my daughter stood beside me very still.

When I turned, I nearly knocked her down.

“Move out of the way!” I said with a frown.

She walked away, her little heart broken.

I didn’t realize how harshly I’d spoken.

Later that night, wide awake in my bed,

a still, small voice came to me and said,

“While dealing with a stranger, common courtesy you use,

but the children you love, you seem to abuse!

Look upon the kitchen floor,

you’ll find some flowers there by the door.

Those are the flowers she brought for you,

she picked them herself – pink, yellow and blue.

She stood quietly, not to spoil the surprise,

and you never saw the tears in her eyes.”

By this time, I felt very small,

and now my tears began to fall.

I quietly went and knelt by her bed,

“Wake up, sweetheart,” I whispered and said.

“Are these the flowers you picked for me?”

She smiled, “I found ‘em, out by the tree.

I picked ‘em because they’re pretty like you.

I knew that you’d like them – especially the blue.”

I said, “Daughter, I’m sorry how I acted to you today,

I shouldn’t have yelled at you that way.”

She hugged me and said, “Mommy, that’s okay.

You know I love you anyway.”

I said, “Daughter, I love you too!

And I do like the flowers – especially the blue.”

Dr. Ann

Columbine…An Anniversary no one wants to celebrate!

No question 10 years ago and no question now that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were both severely mentally unstable teenagers. New perspectives on this horrifying tragedy are emerging. My only hope with any new information the parenting community does get is that all parents try to remember these three points:
#1 Learn what drives your kids behaviors at this age.
#2 Be ready to help your teenagers understand themselves better.
#3 Don’t be afraid to be involved with your teens on every level even when they object!

Teens and toddlers are so much alike it is scary.
Toddlers are like a bull in a china shop, constantly getting into trouble as they experiment with risky behavior on a daily basis. They do behaviors that are dangerous all the time, like running out into the street just because they think it looks fun, so they do it! Young kids are literally driven by their brains to do behaviors that will stimulate their brains. Their actions help their brains grow and this gets them ready to learn in school. So what whatever they think or feel they do without any regard for consequences, because they need to build the branches of their brain!

Teen’s behaviors are based on their brain development too. Only difference is teen’s brains are actually slowing down instead of going full speed ahead like a toddlers. As the teens brain begins to prune itself in order to keep learning it needs stimulation. For example, one of the best ways to stimulate anyone’s brain, young or old is through music. We encourage parents to have their toddlers listen to music to build brainpower. That is the same reason teens listen to music constantly, whether parents think their choice of music is appropriate or not doesn’t seem to matter, because that is how powerful the drive is to stimulate their brains. The ‘rush’ to stimulate a slowing brain becomes overwhelmingly necessary to teens.

Knowing all this can help us make sense out of seemingly senseless behaviors we see in teens. If a toddler runs out into the street and gets hit by a car, no one is their right mind would say they deserved it because they did a dangerous behavior. Or say, they should of known better! We understand that that their brain driven behavior was responsible. And more importantly after this tragedy happened all parents would understand the necessity of teaching toddlers not to run into the street.
We need to apply the same logic to teens. When tragedy strikes don’t point fingers, just remember the brain biology of teens and the importance of education for prevention of tragedy. With prayers for all the losses Columbine, Colorado endured, Dr. Ann

P.S. Look for Dr. Ann in Oregon at The Dalles Wahtonka High School on April 28th talking about this very subject from 6:30-8:30p.m. Entitled, “What’s This Alien Thing called Adolescence? Contact Debby Jones for more information at (541) 506-2673.

Lying…Why Tall Tales are Important!

Hi Ann

I have a situation with Elizabeth (my 4 1/2 year old) which I never ran across with Emily before. Elizabeth has been into telling very “tall tales” as of late. Sometimes I think she makes up stories because she missed out on something. (For example, a few weeks back, there was a coyote in our backyard. Emily saw it, but Elizabeth was sleeping, so she missed it.

About a week after that, Elizabeth started telling us how she woke up before everyone, went by the backyard window and saw another coyote. We know it’s not true because she wasn’t up before everyone.) Other times, they just seem to be flat out lying. On Monday she told me she was practicing karate at school. She told me a whole story of how the class was split in 2 and half went to dance class and half went to karate. They got to put on uniforms, etc. Then, when she started telling me about karate again today, I said I was going to ask her teacher about it and she started saying NO and DON’T, and was back peddling on the details of what had (or had not) happened. It’s such a regular occurrence now, that I’m not sure when to believe her. Any suggestions on how to handle this?

Dr. Ann Corwin, The Parenting Doctor AdviceWendi,
This is so very normal at 41/2, as she now “able” to “tell stories” and so she is practicing them! I’ve run out of time this week…to answer everyone but as far as “what to do about it”, basically “call her on it” just like you are doing. But, more importantly, start differenciating for her between “story telling” and reporting the truth.

Give her a reward, of your time and attention when she tells a great story and then says “that was pretend, mom”! You guys make up pretend stories too and define them as “pretend”. Then be sure to say when a story is “real”, so she can tell the difference.
Hope that helps? Call if you need to, Ann

Lying does serve a purpose


You won’t believe this one. After this incident with the shoplifting this past weekend, Chelsea was also recognized at school for the 8th Grade Awards – she was honored for Honor Roll for all year; Presidents Fitness (only 15 kids got this from the 8th grade); PAL (Peer Advisory League) – which is a role model organization that leads at school, etc, etc.

All in all, she received 5 different awards for Leadership, Academics and Physical Fitness. We told her how much we were proud of her and really made a big deal about her decision to succeed in these areas. Because of it she was given the opportunity to go to the 8th Grade Dance next week. But, I still wanted her to do the Community Service.

Yesterday, she called me from school and said she and a friend called the Library and was going to start her community service right after school. She got out at 3:20 and I called her at 4:30 to see how things were going at the library. I was on my way to bring Luke to his baseball game and was driving by the library and decided to stop in to see.

I ask her where she was and she said at the library. I asked where and what they had her doing. She said putting books on the shelf in the back room. Well, this library does not have a back room. I told her I WAS in the library and I didn’t see her. She was lying and was at school messing around with her friends.

I was furious. I didn’t say anything other than she was lying and this was not a good choice on her part and that there would be consequences for her actions. All afternoon and evening Chelsea was acting as if nothing was wrong (probably because I was not yelling at her !) She called me at the game to tell me that she was calling other libraries (turned out they never called the libraries either) and that she would follow up on it today, etc.

After talking to Donna about it, we decided (based on your note earlier in the day) that she should NOT be able to go to the dance. Chelsea was acting like lying was not a big deal. I think she has lied so much that she is immune to it. Donna and I feel helpless that no matter what we do it is not going to change anything in her behavior.

We have thought of sending her to a private high school or a boarding school. So, we are out of things to take away from her and summer hasn’t even begun and high school hasn’t even started. What do you suggest ?

Dr. Ann Corwin, The Parenting Doctor Advice

I do agree with you that Chelsea does not understand the difference between lying and telling the truth in terms of her communication with the two of you. Remember that kids want to communicate with their parents any way they can, so if ‘lying’ gets them time and attention from their parents, then they will continue to use that form of communication.

Remember too, that it is not so much what you “take away” from children that changes their behavior, but what you teach them to do instead and how to make telling the truth more rewarding than the lying cycle of communication. So when your kids tell you the truth about literally anything, be sure to look at them, touch them and tell them you love the “true” story they just told you.

When your instincts tell you that your kids are not telling the truth, just define for them, without sounding judgmental or punitive that you know their ‘story’ is not really the way it happened, but you still like the fact that they want to talk to you about something they ‘wish’ would of happened, but didn’t! Hope this helps? Dr. Ann

Saying something she knows is not true

Hi Ann!

I’m hoping that I can get your help on something…
I have a 2-1/2 year old daughter and a 3-1/2 month old son. Just recently Olivia has begun some very different behaviors. The one I’m most concerned with is that she will purposely say something that she knows is not true in order to get a response. For example, she will tell me that the sky is green. I will say, “no, the sky is blue” and she’ll begin to argue with me. Is this just a way to get my attention? How should I respond? I’m trying my best to spend one on one time with her, but nothing seems to help right now.

Dr. Ann Corwin, The Parenting Doctor Advice

Olivia is acting just like a 21/2 year old who is scared that she might disappear as quickly as her new baby brother appeared. So she will try to communicate with you any way she can to make sure you are paying attention and will not leave her. Now you and I know that is ridiculous, but she doesn’t! So yes, your instincts are correct, she is doing it to get attention and it is a direct result of her trying to deal with the new baby.

The arguing, even though it is not pleasant is better than you not talking to her at all. So, when she begins to say the “opposite” of what you are saying, you need to stop talking. You could just take her hand and lead her outside and point to the sky or just not say anything…change the subject and start talking about some other “truth”.

The quickest way to stop this type of attention seeking communication is for you not to respond at all. Then, just as importantly, when she does talk to you and does not argue or deliberately says something to “keep you communicating” you have to touch her, get down to her level and say something like, “I love talking to you right now”…so she knows how to get your attention and what is the right way to get my mom to pay attention.

Just keep trying to spend as much one-on-one time as is realistic to help her through this! But, another thing that might help is to tell her daily that you will always be with her, how she is different than her brother and special (This will help her believe that she will not being replaced by her baby brother.), each night tell her that you are looking forward to seeing her face in the morning and doing whatever you have planned for the day, so she begins to associate your words with feeling safe and never deserted by you! Hope this helps? If you need to set up a phone consultation, just give my office a call at (949) 643-9978 Take care, Ann