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

What does Thanks…Giving Mean Anyway?

Question from a parent of three:

“Thanksgiving always reminds me to count my blessings.  But I find myself at a loss when it comes to teaching my children how to be grateful.  It seems like even though they say “Thanks” when they get something it is quick and insincere”.


The “Give to Get Rule” is always worth repeating this time of year.  Remember every time you give your child a toy or when they get a big turkey dinner, it is your chance to model for them how to be grateful.

It is never too young to start a family ritual of ALWAYS giving away one of their unused toys to someone less fortunate than themselves, when they get a new one.

But, don’t just bundle up the toys in a bag and leave it on the street curb for ‘the truck’ to pick up.  Because, what this means to a child is that ‘the truck’ took my toys!

Instead take your child’s hand and walk with them into a childcare center or half-way house for abused & neglected children and have your child actually hand over their toy into the hands of another child.  Do the same with a turkey dinner to one of your neighbors who otherwise wouldn’t have one this holiday season.  The look of joy and appreciation on another child’s face will make a lifelong memory for your child.

How parents show gratitude themselves has everything to do with how kids learn the importance and joys of giving themselves. So give back wherever and whenever you can and make sure your kids are watching!

I am truly grateful for all of you and your amazing families…Happy Thanksgiving, Dr. Ann

P.S. For words of wisdom from Dr. Bill Sears this holiday season check out www.askdrsears.com!

“Studies have shown that people that are grateful are healthier because they often feel happier, are more optimistic, take better care of themselves, have stronger immune systems and have a brighter outlook on the future”.  -Dr. Bill

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.

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

Terrible Two’s and Whinning

Dear Dr. Corwin,

Francesca turned two in January. She is a very energetic child and she is very sweet. We came to Toddler Talks last year and your suggestions were really helpful.

I just purchased the DVD as many behavior challenges have been occurring. It is overwhelming sometimes. Last night, she did not want to go in her car seat and it was exhausting. She was frustrated and so was I.
I asked her to help Mommy by getting into her seat. She refused. We had been at the mall and she was probably getting tired. I was also getting tired.

I am searching for answers. I love her dearly and am concerned because so many of the techniques that have worked before are not working now. It feels like she is becoming more defiant. We do not want to spank either.

I understand this is a time for her to be her own person and try out new things. I want to embrace her spontaneity and most of the times I can laugh. When I feel the most anxiety is when we are tired at the end of the day. Also, she will lie down at the mall and I do not want her to get stepped on.

What I do not know is if there is something that we are doing as parents which would be a better suggestion. We have tried time outs, redirecting and counting to 3 (when requesting her to do something like getting in the car seat).

In the past month or so, it feels like she challenges us more than previously. What I do not know is if this is typical two year old behavior and it will pass? Or, if the behavior is due to having Mommy around less so confusion in rules have led to these patterns?

My in-laws watch Francesca while John and I work. When she whines, they have handed her what it is she is asking for. Now, she is whining more often and crying when we tell her no. My husband and I do not give her the item while she whines. My husband is also discussing with his parents how having two different responses is not helpful. They are trying so I hope it gets better.
I was taking a class towards my degree so between work and school there was less time together. It was for four months and just finished a couple of weeks ago. I am hoping that we can get back on track this summer. I am analyzing which work committees to back off of so I have more time with Francesca and my husband.

I would appreciate hearing any suggestions that you have. Thanks for listening. I woke up with insomnia.

Cara B

Thanks for your thoughtful questions. In a nutshell, whenever a child’s behavior starts to escalate, it means you are giving them too many chances and choices. So just put her in her car seat by pressing the heal of your hand on her breast bone, her back will automatically round and then you can put the straps on quickly.

Don’t ask her to help you, don’t look at her or give her any opportunity to object, ‘just do it’ because car seats are not an option…it’s all about safety, as you know.

You are probably right, your absence has been tough on her, but now that you will be spending more time with her some of that will go away.

Your husband is right, you need to get grandma on the same page about ‘whining. Whining is a form of communication that kids experiment with, if they get a response from a parent/grandparent when they do this, then the child inadvertently believes that sometimes they should continue to use this form of communication.

So whenever she whines, stop looking at her, do not talk to her or give her what she wants. That will stop the behavior. But, in order to change the behavior, you need to talk to her ALL the time when she speaks without the whine.

Tell her that you love her voice, label what the voice is, like say “I love your Buenaventura voice, talk some more”. So she knows she gets time and attention from you when she talks in that voice instead of a whine, where she gets nothing.

Hope this helps? The next Toddler Talk is Sept 8th, 15th and 22nd. You can call and register any time you want. Take care, Dr. Ann

P.S. And yes a lot of this behavior is typical two.