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

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

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

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.

Spanking… Why it Doesn’t Work!

Spanking is so misunderstood.

For decades spanking has been defined as a discipline technique. Spanking has nothing to do with discipline; it is a punishment technique. Discipline teaches a child how to behave so they can change and punishment only stops behavior, but never changes it.

A decade ago the word on the street and among professionals was that it was not kosher to spank your children. Some experts say that hitting a child who misbehaves only teaches the child to hit back and resent the parent who hits them.

The reality is plain and simple spanking doesn’t work. When a child feels the pain of the swat their stress hormones release automatically. These hormones bathe the child’s brain so it’s like being under water at a pool, you can hear people talking on the pool deck, but you cannot understand what they are saying.

So if parents are trying to teach their child a lesson with the spank, it is literally impossible because the child cannot hear it.

For the past thirty years, my work has focused on helping families be successful. So, if you want permanent change in your family, do not spank.

You will find the results you want by remembering to connect with your kids with gentle touch when they behave the way you want. Not connecting physically when they misbehave. And most importantly, when the incident is over, be sure to connect with your kids again laying gentle hands on them.

If you want help with alternatives to spanking stay in touch, Dr. Ann

Divorce Makes Kids Mad!

I am a Pediatrician going through divorce. I have a 4 and 7-year-old boy who hit, kick, push and call me names. They are great at school and with other parents, but when I am with them, I become their punching bag!

I put them up in their rooms, take things away; it does not seem to make a difference. My extended family is appalled by their behavior and their utter disrespect for me. I wake up to them fighting and creating havoc and I go to sleep, usually next to them, after a huge struggle with them at night about getting to sleep. And I am exhausted.

My 4 year old is showing a lot of anger and fear (wanting to know where I am all the time), some of which was apparent prior to the divorce proceedings starting, but now more intense.

I have read some books and tried. But nothing seems to work. My family thinks I should be spanking them. But how do you teach a child not to hit when you are hitting them? And it just doesn’t feel right to me.

Samantha Your children’s behavior is actually an attachment pattern that is not uncommon for children of divorce and the “fear” of abandonment which comes full force under these circumstances. Anger is the #1 defense mechanism for fear, so it is no wonder your kids are showing that emotion on a regular basis as you are the safest person to be angry at (it is called unconditional love). The good news is that your kids feel safe enough with you to show their fear by acting angry. Your instincts are totally correct, hitting never changes a behavior, and so spanking won’t get you anywhere, except feeling guilty afterwards. REMEMBER: Touch, make eye contact and talk to your kids when they are NOT acting out. Tell them their feeling is anger, because they think you will leave them like Dad did. Each day tell them you are NEVER going anyway, you will always be their mom. Teach them what ‘to do’ with anger…kick a bean-bag, put their hands in their pockets, running, going outside in the sunshine or listening to music. All this changes their moods so they can cope with this overwhelming fear.Dr. Ann

My Kids Don’t Listen to Me!

Hi Dr. Ann.
How do I get my children to acknowledge what I am telling them…my son seems to always make noises, shake his head around…while I’m trying to tell him something…I try to get him to say “ok mom” after I tell him something…but I’m not sure its coming from the “heart”…

This is a tough one with young children. Kids are wired at this age to play, play, play not listen. Literally their brains are on fire and the only way to keep the fire burning for your child is to pull things apart, unfasten things, climb on things and basically pay attention to whatever they are doing at the moment.

So, the only way to teach listening, is to do it while they are listening. One of the best ways to do this is when you are reading to them. So, if they stop moving and listen to you while you are reading do something like this…

Close the book for a split second, turn to them and touch them while you are saying, “You are stopped right now, your arms and legs are not moving, there are no words coming out of your mouth and the only thing that is working are your ears, that is called LISTENING”, way to go, I think I will read you another story because you know how to listen”. Kids need to know what listening is, not their parents telling them to listen when they are not.