Why Telling Your Child to JUST Calm Down won’t work!


It’s very tempting when you see your child jumping up and down and screaming inappropriately in church or at story time in the library to say, “Shhhh” or tell them to calm down.  But, the reality is they cannot stop the feeling of excited from coming and they have to do something in order to deal with that feeling.

Being excited is a strong, common feeling for all children.  But unfortunately children don’t always know how to socially respond to powerful feelings, like excited.  So sometimes they deal with these feelings in inappropriate ways.  As parents, we need to teach our children exactly what to do when feelings like excited come.

This type of emotional education should go something like this;

First, sit them down in a quiet moment and say, “You know when you’re really glad that something happened or you learn something from a story that makes you want to cheer, that’s called being excited!”

Second, tell your child WHO gets excited. It’s your cousin when he is surprised by a new puppy, it’s you, knowing you get to go to the park with friends, it’s how you (and everyone) feels at their birthday party- because EVERYBODY feels excited! This helps your child understand they are not the only one who gets excited (or any other feeling for that matter).  Furthermore, it’s our job as parents, to suggest the behaviors they can do when they feel excited.

Third, kids learn best through play.  So play a game with your child, where you pretend you’re going to a party and start jumping up and down for joy.  Then tell him that’s a great way to deal with excited when you are at home or at grandma’s house, but if you are in a quiet place when excited comes it will work better to smile and whisper.  If your child is resistant, remember to model this yourself when you’re excited to show them how to deal in a different way.  Ultimately, you do what you want your child to do!

When your child does show excited in a positive way remember to look at them, touch them and say, “You know exactly how to deal with excited!”

Telling our children to not feel something is second nature, because as parents we want to help them out when they don’t know what to do in certain social situations.  But, telling them to ‘not be a feeling’ never works because it’s a biological fact that feelings come whether we want them to or not.  So next time the urge to tell your child to not be so excited comes, try instead to help them learn new ways to deal with the feeling!

Keep in touch as I love hearing your stories about how your family is dealing with their feelings, 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

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.

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

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

Why Do Kids Behave Differently When Mom is Around?

Dear Dr. Corwin:

I am the father of a two-year-old boy. When I am with him alone, he is a good toddler. He gives me no problems and doesn’t whine or throw tantrums. But when he is with my wife alone, or my wife and I are together with him, he is whiney and has tantrums when he doesn’t get his way. I tell my wife to be more stern with him and discipline him more, but she says that she does and it doesn’t help. Why is he whiney and has tantrums when my wife is around? As long as she is there, he just seems to change.

Dear Dad:
Thanks for your thoughtful question. This is VERY normal for a two-year-old. I assume his verbal skills are not terrific yet, so he is using his body to express how he feels. Whining and tantrums are forms of communication, even if they are not very appropriate ones.

Mothers symbolize NEEDS for children, and biologically kids are wired to associate the NEED for food and survival with their Mom. That is why kids will escalate their behavior to get attention (a connection) from their Mom anyway they can. Dads, on the other hand, symbolize trust, taking risks
and play for kids. So kids don’t get so desperate for that critical attention from their fathers, as it is not an innate survival attachment.

Kids are naturally behaving differently to get the attention they crave. If your wife gives your child attention by talking, looking at him or touching him when he communicates with whining and tantrums, that is why the behavior continues. So here are some solutions:

First and foremost, work on verbal skills everyday by labeling EVERYTHING for your two-year-old. For example, say a word for everything you give him and when he tries to say a word or sound, look him in the eye and say the word again. With improving language skills, you will see these behaviors fade.
When your son has a tantrum with both you and your wife present, let him just have it, provided he is not hurting himself or either of you. In other words, just turn your backs and walk away. When he is done, pick him up and tell him he did a good job of stopping because his arms and legs aren’t moving anymore and his tears are gone.
When he whines, just do the same thing: no talking, looking or touching. You can either distract him, or just remove him from behind when he whines. But the key to changing this behavior is that both of you are paying attention to him when he uses any words and begins repeating his own words to him.
It sounds like you are a very loving and hardworking Dad. Keep teaching your son verbal skills, help your wife to only react to him when he is not
whining or having a tantrum and you should see changes very soon.

Keep in touch,

Dr. Ann

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

Guilty Parents: You Are So Not Alone!

Guilty Parents: You Are So Not Alone!
In a brilliant attempt to advertise the new ABC TV comedy show “In the Motherhood” this week, Oprah had moms from all over the country share their fears, faux pas and just plain funny stories about struggling to be a good mom.

Oprah’s interview with moms revealed that basically every mom has questions and doubts about whether they are a good parent. Moms keep secrets about how they really feel so they can compete with other mom’s bragging about all they do for and with their kids.

The problem with these secrets is that they keep moms from realizing that every mom has the same insecurities about parenting. And the bigger problem is that these secrets keep moms feeling very alone.

Every day, for the past 25 years, someone calls my office and says, “my child is doing something I have never seen any other child do”. My first response is, “I know it must seem like that, but if you followed me around for the day, the names have changed, but the problems and feelings of moms are universal. YOU ARE SO NOT ALONE!”

No single parent is right. Nobody parents perfectly. And EVERYONE feels guilty about something they think they did to their child(ren). Your parenting purpose is to teach your kids how to love unconditionally: in other words, stop being so hard on yourself! Here are a few ideas to help you do just that:

Surround yourself with moms who support you when you make a mistake;
Try not to compare and compete, because you’ll never measure up;
Remember that all kids ‘shine’ at different times and for different reasons, your child will too;
Make friends with moms who genuinely want to know about your kids;
Ask other moms about their kids, so you don’t feel so alone in this journey;
Remind yourself, every time you feel like a failure, to learn from your mistakes;
If you continue to be hard on yourself as a mom, remember this one piece of advice. Get a 3×5 card and a big black magic marker. Write the word GUILTY on the card and put it in your dresser drawer. For two minutes each day, or once a week, whatever you choose, get the card out and feel your guilt for that amount of time. Then put the card back in the drawer and allow yourself to be done with feeling guilty. Get on with your life as the best mom you can be without beating yourself up with guilt! You are so not the only member of the GUILT CLUB: I’ve been a member in good standing for 28 years. Believe me, you’ll never be lonely because the membership never stops growing. Dr. Ann