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

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.

It’s So Tempting to Spank…Times Are Tough!

It’s So Tempting to Spank…Times Are Tough!

These are hard times. Parents stress levels are at an all time high.
Kids feel this tension. Feeling helpless when you cannot keep your kids from acting out or you cannot pay your is normal. Using your body to express how you feel at any age is also normal. Because when you move, you feel better.

But, hitting your kids to get them to stop their behavior may work for the moment, but it will never change their behavior. When you’re at your wit’s end please do move to make yourself feel better about whatever bad situation you are in, but make sure it’s healthy movement. Dance more, run more, walk more, listen to music more and goof-around more!

There are tons of evidence-based reasons why spanking doesn’t work. Here are just a few:
• Study of over 3,000 children where corporal punishment was used the results were kids cheated more, lied more, bullied more, had no conscience about misbehavior, were more deliberately oppositional to their parents and had trouble getting along with their teachers.
• 1,112 kids 4-11 years in the National Survey of Families & Households discovered that regardless of age, race or gender kids that were spanked had increased antisocial behavior and fighting in school 5 years later.
• 1,519 adolescents boys studied showed that if they were hit, as younger children they were much more likely to hit their parents in adolescence.
• A five year study showed that boys who were hit where more likely to physically assault their girlfriends in the following 5 years.
• Kids that had less corporal punishment from their parents had a greater probability having an above average cognitive growth; simply kids are smarter.
• Lastly, in 1998 the American Academy of Pediatrics published “Guidelines for Effective Discipline” that advises parents to avoid spanking because it NEVER changes behavior in their kids.

Not spanking your kids doesn’t mean you shouldn’t discipline them when they are out of line.
Just remember to touch your kids when they are acting the way you want them to! When your kids are not behaving that is not the time to touch them especially in a hurtful way. So look for ways to make physical contact with your kids when you see them being kind to others, listening to you, smiling, and cooperating.
All of us parents, myself included will get through this tough time together, 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

Time Outs for a 2 1/2 Year Old

I have a 2 1/2-year-old who’s starting to behave badly. She throws fits and doesn’t do as she’s told. I’ve tried giving her “time-outs,” but they don’t seem to work. Please help!
– Evelyn, Oakland, CA

Dr. Ann Corwin, The Parenting Doctor Advice for Evelyn

Hi Evelyn,

Kids at a very young age don’t understand the concept of time, so the “out” in a “time-out” has to be the child’s focus. Time-outs should never last longer than it takes for the child to calm down. Telling a child how long the time-out will last has no relevance to them because they have no concept of time.

Some people are opposed to time-outs because they see them as a form of punishment.

Time-outs should never be used as a form of punishment or humiliation, nor should they make children feel threatened or afraid. There should not be a special chair or area assigned for a time-out.

Whenever possible, adults should offer children positive alternatives to their actions. When a provider observes inappropriate behavior, the child should be re-taught the appropriate behavior.

Avoid using time-outs for infants and toddlers.

Very young children should not be isolated, nor should they be ignored or left without proper stimulation. Infants and young toddlers who do not understand why their behavior is unacceptable should gently be directed to more acceptable behavior or activities.

Preventing unacceptable behavior is usually more effective than reacting to it.

When adults create environments that respect each individual child, they set forth a message that the world is a warm, friendly learning place. Positive discipline techniques that combine caring and direction are part of this healthy environment that help prevent unacceptable behavior.

Time outs should not be the first option.

Time outs should never be a first choice in correcting a child’s behavior, but instead should be a last resort for a child who is harming another or in danger of harming himself or herself. Used infrequently and for very brief periods, time-outs may give a child the opportunity to calm down after a frustrating situation.
Hope this helps… Dr. Ann

Reprinted from an article by Dr. Ann Corwin in A Place of Our Own

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2 Year Old Throwing Tantrums

Dear Dr. Ann,

I have a 2-year-old son who has been throwing tantrums lately. When he wants something, he whines, and to be honest, I don’t know what to do. Is this behavior normal, and what can I do to help him?
– Sandra

Dr. Ann Corwin, The Parenting Doctor Advice

Dear Sandra,

Most parents think tantrums are a calculated, deliberate, planned, embarrassing display by their child in order to keep them from enjoying themselves. They’re not!

Tantrums are a response to a feeling that children don’t understand.

Parents think that children have tantrum because they’re expressing something they’re feeling. The reality is that children are feeling something that they don’t understand, so they’re trying to understand it and it manifests itself as a loss of control. Tantrums come from children not being able to manage and understand how they feel. Children do it in order to gain control once they feel they’ve lost control. It’s a very purposeful act.

Tantrums can sometimes be prevented, but when they’re not preventable.

Make sure that children aren’t hurting themselves or anyone else and then let them have their tantrums. You should observe their environment and daily routine and watch for the “Why’s” of tantrums.

Does he tantrum right before naptime? If that’s when they seem to occur, then you might want to try and put him down a little earlier so that he’s not overtired. Is the tantrum before mealtime? If so, then the cause of this might be too many chances and choices. If young children are given too many chances and choices, they can’t handle that, so they lose control and go into a tantrum.

The triggers of tantrums are going to be different for every child so parents should be good observers and figure out what sets their child off.

A tantrum is a form of communication.

So keep in mind that children trying to communicate something but they’re not doing it in an appropriate way. Stop communication with them once they’re in a tantrum. Do as little touching as possible during a tantrum as long as they’re not hurting themselves or others.

But the key is to teach your child to stop himself without you getting involved. Parents should provide their children with their comfort objects, whether it be a stuffed toy, a blanket, a pacifier, etc., because this is a symbol of self-comfort and self-soothing.

You can’t expect them to calm themselves down when they’ve lost control so you give them something that they associate with making themselves feel better.

Staying calm is key.

This can be very difficult for many parents so my advice is always for parents to remind themselves, “My child is telling me ‘I’ve lost control and I don’t have the language to manage the way I feel.’ ”

If children start to throw a tantrum and they’re in danger of hurting themselves or others, sit down and hold them with their back to your chest and let the child have the tantrum. If you’re out in a public place, it helps to have a stroller so that they can have a safe place to tantrum.

As soon as they start to de-escalate, you start to whisper to them.

Whispering helps calm yourself down and calm children down. Pick a phrase to say to them as they’re coming down from their tantrum that helps them recognize that they’re not as frustrated. For example, say, “Good job! You’re not so angry anymore.” This labeling and praise shows them what it feels like to be able to stop themselves.

Dr. Ann

Reprinted from A Place of Our Own

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