Teachable Moments

Trust and Responsibility: The Missing Pieces of Disciplining Your Child

Strong parent-child relationships are built on reciprocal trust which sets the framework for positive discipline. From birth you teach your child to trust you as their caregiver. This sense of trust is the foundation for a successful life. Often though, “good parenting” defines that trust is a one-way street. Children are expected to trust their parent, but the same level of trust is not afforded to them. To children, this feels unfair and it is. A truly trusting relationship is one where the trust is awarded equally.

Empowered children have a strong sense of independence and self-confidence. Children develop these skills through interacting with the world and having opportunities to succeed. They believe that they are capable of handling the world around them. They desire opportunities to express their budding independence. A great way to provide children with opportunities to succeed is to trust them to be responsible for things you know they can handle or can learn to handle with a bit of initial guidance. This instills a sense of autonomy and gives children an opportunity to experience the power of taking responsibility for self. It encourages children to take action over their own behaviors.

This knowledge can be a blessing when approaching disciplinary practices with your child. When you trust your child to be responsible for following the rules and to be independent in their own actions they feel empowered to do so. When you communicate trust, you are showing a deep level of respect that will be reciprocated. The result is a win-win situation, your child’s sense of independence and self-confidence is bolstered all while they are following the rules.

Now…how do you do all this?

Adding Trust into Discipline 

First, make sure your child understands what trust and responsibility are. You can have a conversation about these topics and you can also point out examples in the real world. This works really well when children begin showing an interest in asserting their independence. This will be apparent when your child wants to start doing things for themselves.

Anytime you are offering positive discipline to a child you want to make it as brief and understandable as possible. You do not need to lecture your child in order for them to understand. They will understand best if your message is clear and concise.

The following is a general outline of what you can say to communicate a rule and trust to your child….

  • Here is the rule. This does not have to be a long description or even a full sentence. I also find it helpful to include “We” in the rule as it demonstrates the rule applies to the whole family. For example, “We do not run in the street.”
  • This is why we have this rule. “Running in the street is not safe.”
  • I trust you to follow this rule and I know that you can.
  • Here is the consequence if you don’t follow this rule. “You will be carried or pushed in a stroller when we are near a street if I can’t trust you to be safe near the street.”

*After you communicate this with your child, you do not need to ask your child if they understand you or say, “Okay?” at the end of your communication. This undermines your position and your power. This opens up space for your child to debate the rules, which I am guessing is not your goal. Your rules are non-negotiable (and aptly so). There is no need to give your child the false idea that there is any wiggle room. It also adds on extra words that are unnecessary and can confuse your meaning.

*This does not mean that you are no longer paying attention to their safety. You still need to be vigilant of their safety and follow through consistently on the consequences you gave if necessary.

Barriers to True Trust 

Trusting your child to take control of their actions can feel a bit scary. As a parent, all you want is for your child to succeed in the world. Our culture teaches that “good parents” know what is best for their child and children do not inherently know what is best for themselves. This places parents in a powerful role, where parents have high expectations for their children’s behavior without considering their needs for nurturance and empowerment. In such a relationship, the parent has all the power and the child is seen as an empty vessel needing to be filled and taught.

“We parent by the misconception that our job is to teach our children how to act and perform in the world, and if they don’t do it right (according to whom?) then they must be forced with some kind of manipulative, punitive tactic to get them on track. What track? Whose track? What if your child is meant to establish a new track or a track you don’t approve of? What if it’s a track that public schools don’t teach?”Trust Your Children More; Teach Them Less by Bonnie Harris 

Trusting your child requires that you let go of your need for complete control. Parenting should not be a power-play, you do not need to exert power over your child. Yes, your child needs to respect you but that will come naturally when you have a relationship built on mutual respect, trust, and love. Within this framework you can apply positive discipline as you nurture and empower your child. And remember that trusting your child also means that you recognize their innate wisdom.

Teachable Moments

Strengthening Children’s Intuition Through Truth

Children are intuitive beings and their intuitive abilities deserve to be respected and cultivated through reverence and truth.

When children’s intuition is not honored and recognized as true knowledge, their abilities begin to dwindle. The potential to recognize intuition may eventually become only a small internal whisper, a nagging feeling that they try to shake as they grow older. Sooner or later, if this process continues, they forget that they have an intuition at all. They ignore the wisdom that radiates from within.

This is disempowering. It disconnects children from an integral aspect of their being. It is disembodying.

We want children who are embodied and empowered. While there are many ways to nurture children’s intuition, I will be talking specifically about the importance of truth.

Strive to be True with Your Kids

Human beings have an electromagnetic energy zone, called the biofield, surrounding their bodies. Understanding this energy layer is important because our individual biofield interacts with the biofields of other people when we are in close proximity to them.

 “…These energy fields are in continuous interaction with the multiplicity of energy fields in the environment, it appears that information about nonlocal events and process is conveyed back to the body and processed as intuition.” Heart-Brain Interactions, Psychophysiological Coherence, and the Emergence of System-Wide Order” 

Children can intuitively feel when they are lied to. They can sense that the information they are receiving is not in alignment with the truth they feel inside. They can tell something is off.

However, you as the parent are in a position of great power and influence. Children, especially when young, have an inborn and established inclination to trust you. In fact, you have been building this trust-based relationship since your baby was born. Every time your baby cried and you responded with care, you nurtured trust. This familial trust empowered your baby to feel that they could trust the world.

Trust is the foundation from which your child will be able to go forth in the world and succeed. When you lie, your child’s natural response is to trust you, even if it goes against their intuition. Over time, children become confused by these mixed messages. They begin trusting spoken word over actions and internal messages. They start doubting their intuition. They no longer think it is the source of truth. They disconnect from their bodily wisdom. They learn to ignore their intuition. They become disembodied.

When you strive to be truthful with your child, you will strengthen their intuition and you will strengthen your relationship.

Teachable Moments

Slow Down and Simplify: The Importance of Child-Led Learning

Sometimes it feels as though the day flies by. That there is not even one spare moment of peace to be found until you collapse into bed at night. In all this rush and chaotic sweeping energy, it can be challenging to slow down and give children time to learn.

You may be thinking, “Wait a minute, part of my crazy busy daily schedule is driving my child all over town for different classes, so they can learn!”

I’m not speaking of that type of learning; the learning that happens in a desk, with a planned curriculum and a set of outcomes for what the child must be taught.  I’m speaking of the vitally important learning that takes place when children are given ample time to do things for themselves, to learn how to problem solve and come up with creative solutions or new ways of learning.

Children, especially when young, take their time when learning new skills. The brain adds on layers of synaptic connections as each facet of a new skill is mastered and stored into long-term memory.

Learning happens in layers and so often teachable moments and child-led learning are blown over by time’s tornado. This can be seen when children’s questions are quickly answered or brushed off with a “because,” when parents do things for their child, or when a child who wants to help is told that it will take too long.

A flurry of Query

Children are inherently curious. At any given moment there are an infinite amount of questions bursting in your child’s mind, most often starting with, “WHY.”

What if you asked your child a question or series of questions in return to their question? Why not?

Why not lead your child towards uncovering the answer for them-self? Why not nurture your child towards child-led learning?

When children are guided to find their own answers, they are empowered. They will have learned valuable skills for problem solving that will contribute to their ability to figure things out for themselves in the future.

The art of questioning can be challenging at first but with some practice you will learn what works best with your child. Start with small easy to answer questions that give your child confidence. Then move on towards more challenging questions that require a bit of thinking.

Unstructured Free Play 

In school, children do not get much time for unstructured play. Teachers tend to lead play, this changes the dynamics of children’s play. Some schools offer free play in which teachers take a more observational role but their presence is still felt by the children and has the potential to alter play. As children get older the amount of time they are given for play decreases drastically.

While classes can be a great way for children to gain new experiences they often do not capitalize on children’s inborn ability to learn through play. In fact, the primary way in which children learn is through play, not through rigid lectures or mindless worksheets. So, by scheduling classes every night each week children may end up missing out on a crucial piece of learning, play time!

Unstructured free play is a time when children are the masters and creators of their play. It is completely child-led and ideally free of an authority figure’s contributions.

Offering unstructured free play may require you to slow-down and simplify your child’s schedule. Instead of rushing around to different classes relax into giving your child time to just play.

Risk-Taking in Play

Unstructured play has an inherent element of risk. It can seem scary to some parents who may have concerns about children’s safety. One of our primary instincts is to protect children. However, without experiences overcoming challenges independently how will your child be able to deal with life experiences later on?

There may be some elements of risk taking in child-led play and that is okay. Instead of thinking of all the negative things that may come from your child taking a risk, ask yourself what the benefits will be.

Below are just a few of the ways that children benefit from risk-taking

  1. Decision making and reflection: When a child is approaching a risky situation, they need to engage in the process of decision-making and assessment. After the risk has been taken reflection on the efficacy of their decision will occur. Were they successful or do they need to come up with a new strategy? Taking this time to make a decision and then reflect on the decision will lead to an increased ability to approach risk in the future.
  2. Development of body awareness: When children take risks, they learn where their abilities lie and have opportunities to improve. Children naturally seek out experiences and sensory input that will help them grow into the next stages of development. When children are allowed opportunities for free play and risk taking they build developmentally appropriate body awareness, strength, and coordination. When time is not made for these opportunities we see children who are delayed in areas of development, often sensory and motor.
  3. Cultivate confidence: When children take risks, they learn that it is okay to make mistakes. They also gain experience, through reflection, in learning from their mistakes. When a child has opportunity for risk-taking and failure they will learn coping skills for moving past failure and finding strategies for success.

Slow Down and Simplify 

We need to slow down and simplify our children’s schedule to nurture their innate need to learn through child-led play. Ultimately, this will empower children to be independent, confident, and capable beings who are developmentally strong.  Children who are given this chance will have a willingness to approach life creatively and with joy, even in the face of challenges.

A child once asked me, “Why do adults think children can’t do things?” She had just accomplished a very challenging and risky task on her own. Although it took a lot longer than it would have if I had just done it on my own the look of pride on her face swept away the pressure of time. I think the answer to her questions is that we do not give them a chance. What do you think would be the answer for you?


Teachable Moments

How to Reduce Exposure to Wireless Radiation and How your Child will Benefit

Wireless devices can seem to be magical saviors of sanity when it comes to taking care of children. When you just need something to distract your child, so you can get a moment of quiet, your phone is there as a quick fix, right? What if the wireless radiation from these magical devices posed life-long health risks to you and your child?

If you are struggling with your child’s challenging behavior at home or your child is not sleeping through the night wireless radiation may be part of the root cause.

A Brief Discussion of the Dangers of EMF

The EMF energy given off by wireless devices has been considered weak and touted to pose no health risks. However, this claim is not entirely supported by research; many studies show that wireless radiation is damaging to overall health and child development. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (a branch of WHO-the World Health Organization) classifies RF energy as a Class 2B Carcinogen. Other carcinogens that have this classification are: lead, chloroform, gasoline fumes, and the pesticide DDT. Would you want your child exposed to any of these carcinogens at the level of current Wi-Fi exposure?

In addition, safety standards do not typically account for the effect of radiation on a developing fetus or small child. The research that does analyze the effects of EMF on children have alarming results. In 2004, A study on animals linked EMF exposure to delayed kidney development in utero. In 2009, A study conducted in Austria found that exposure to wireless radiation disrupts normal cellular development, especially for fetal development. This runs the risk of increasing the potential for developmental disorders.

Disrupted sleep

One way in which these dangers manifest is in the quality and amount of sleep we receive. Sleep is foundational to children’s development and disrupted sleep is deleterious to health and optimal well-being. To read more on the importance of sleep check out my articles, Neuroscience of Sleep Part 1: Rock the Baby and Neuroscience of Sleep Part 2: Challenging Sleep Behaviors in Children.

In addition, poor sleep is related to many types of challenging behavior and impaired cognitive processes in children. According to the research article, Behavior Sleep Problems and their Potential Impact on Developing Executive Function in Children, studies have found a correlation between reported sleep problems in children and difficulty with problem solving, self-regulation, attention, hyperactivity, aggression, opposition, mood, anxiety, poor school functioning, and lower cognitive performance. In the editorial, The Feedback Whirlpool of Early Childhood Sleep and Behavior Problems, Michelle Garrison details that the connection between sleep and behavior challenges is bidirectional. When a child is experiencing problems with sleep, behavioral difficulties arise or are increased which in turn leads to further sleep struggles. This puts in place a dangerous cycle that derails children’s developmental health. This cycle could be ended by reducing your child’s exposure to EMF and enabling a full night’s restful sleep.

The following is a list of some of the correlative dangers associated with sleep and wireless radiation

  • Delayed deep non-REM sleep
  • Decreased amount of time spent in sleep stages
  • Inhibition of melatonin (the hormone that regulates sleep cycles)
  • Changes in brainwaves connected to a more challenging time falling asleep
  • Development of chronic sleep problems
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Depression
  • Hypertension
  • Reduced brain activity

Stop the Signal 

Decrease nighttime exposure and environmental radiation.

Phase 1 Where to begin? Turn your WiFi off before going to sleep. This will reduce your exposure by 33%. 

Phase 2 Ready to do more? Keep your WiFi router off until you need to use it.

Phase 3 Possibly the safest choice…is to hardwire your internet connection and do away with wireless radiation altogether. This may be a change and require some work but there are very real benefits. For starters, hardwired internet tends to be faster and more reliable!

Decrease daytime exposure

Start limiting time with devices that expose children to radiation. If your child loves playing games on your phone this may be challenging, so you can go slowly. You can decrease the amount of time spent on devices and offer fun alternatives that engage your child.

Children do not need technology to be entertained or pacified. There are many activities children love to do that do not expose them to the dangers of radiation.

  • Encourage children to play! Especially outside
  • Read with your child
  • Provide books for your child to look at-even before children can read they love to look at books
  • Bring an activity when going on an outing such as coloring books, puzzles, toys etc…
  • Use CD players for music

Follow your Intuition

If you decide to reduce your family’s EMF exposure, note the changes you see in your life. While effects of wireless radiation may not result in an immediate disease, there may health issues in your life that you do not connect to EMF exposure. Once you limit or remove wireless radiation you most likely will start to see an improvement in you and your child’s overall health and happiness.

Are you sleeping better at night? Is your child sleeping through the night? (YES! That is a possibility) Do you have more energy during the day


Teachable Moments

A Guide on How to Manage Chaos with Children

To Fight or to Flow

When caring for children, chaos lurks around every corner. The possibility for chaos is imbued in the general nature of parenthood. Raising children can be overwhelming and your patience may be tested, often. Learning how to not only manage chaos effectively but to thrive in its midst is important for you and your family’s empowered well-being. You cannot control everything your child will do or how he or she may be feeling and acting on a particular day. Similarly, you cannot control every moment of the day in your drive to be a perfect parent.  Parenting is a practice. Sometimes, the most effective way to manage chaos is to surrender to its flow rather than fight.

Rather than allowing family pandemonium to spin you into a tizzy of surmounting stress, ease into an acceptance that all will be okay. You can learn how to stop fighting chaos and thrive in its depths. The most important thing, at the end of the day, is you and your child’s feelings of happiness and connection.

Take out the Shoulds

Often, the source of chaos is a parent’s feelings of how they should be parenting. These shoulds may stem from experiences as a child, seeing how others parent, or from advice on parenting. Many parents take on the endless demands that come with raising children, having a job, and keeping a household with the expectation that if they do not do all these things perfectly then they have failed. It can be challenging to feel out of control when it comes to your children’s behavior, especially when you feel things should be going differently. When you remove the shoulds from the situation you will be able to set your expectations for yourself and your child with an authentic understanding of everyone’s needs.

When you should yourself and your abilities as a parent you are comparing yourself to a fantasy version of yourself. You do not need to do this. You are enough. You are a good parent.

To learn more about how to take the shoulds out of parenting read my article, Stop Shame & Empower Authenticity

The Importance of Play

woman and child on beach

A factor that contributes to chaos is an overly busy schedule. Parents are feeling an ever-increasing pressure to promote early learning through regimented and rigorous means. With the increased exposure to (social) media, parents are seeing many children displaying abilities beyond what is developmentally appropriate. It is great that some 2-year olds can play the piano. That does not mean that you are doing something wrong as a parent if your child cannot nor does it mean that there is anything wrong with your child.

Children learn best through play. Pack your schedule with playful possibilities. Incorporate learning into play rather than taking away from play to learn.

Play also gets pushed to the side by parent’s desires to keep the house clean and organized. While it is certainly true that having a neat house can help minimize feelings of chaos, trying to control a constant state of clean can be impossible and contribute to feelings of overwhelm.

When children play, things get messy and disorganized. This is an unavoidable part of raising children. Accept the mess and you will feel less overwhelmed and stressed out. When children are done playing or it is time to move on to another activity, that is when it is time to cleanup.

The easiest way to handle playtime messiness is to include your child in clean up! You do not have to clean up the whole house on your own. You can even make cleaning up fun! Make sure to teach your child to put away toys when he or she is done with them (for tips on how to do this read this article). Also, plan to stop play 5-10 minutes early so you and your child can clean together so you will have less of a mess later.


Take as many moments as you can to be present with your child, to offer your undivided attention. Even a few moments of complete connection can revive you both and decrease the negative feelings that can build with chaos.

Counter Chaos with the Calm of Nature

Find time throughout the day to play in nature. Nature holds innumerable benefits for child development and the well-being of your family as a whole. One relevant benefit of playing in nature is a sense of calming and grounding. When you and your child feel calm and grounded chaos will be unable to cavort into your life.

Take off your child’s shoes and allow for barefoot play! If you are in an area where it would be unsafe for children to play barefoot, encourage your child to touch the ground often. When our feet come into contact with nature we interact and connect with the world in a new way, this is called earthing. When earthing occurs there is a transference of electrons from the earth to your body. Not only does earthing feel good but it also benefits your mind, body, and soul in ways that are supported by science. The electrons that flow up into your body neutralize free radicals, promoting self-regulation of the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems to crush the effects of chaos.

Check out my upcoming article on the benefits of earthing for children.

Simplify Routines

While in the midst of chaos, fighting the flow will only make you feel more overwhelmed. Life will feel as though it is spiraling out of control. As you fight you will most likely begin a free fall into the pit of negative emotions chaos can create. This is where routines save your sanity.

Routines are like trampolines. When you are falling into the pit of chaos (and dirty laundry), the trampoline will be there to soften your landing and bounce you back into safety. When you surrender into chaos and enjoy the ride, your established routines will support you. You may even end up having fun along the way.

Make a chart

Having your routine written down and hung in a central location is a great reminder. It is also a very helpful tool for children. Just like adults, children love knowing what comes next during the day. When children have a clear understanding of the structure of the day everything will flow more smoothly. Make sure to have the schedule at a height where your child can easily see it (you may need to get on your knees to change your perspective).

Give yourself plenty of time

When I am planning schedules for children or preschools I always give at least 15 minutes of transition time between routines and activities. This time includes clean up, last minute bathroom trips, time to gather snacks, time to get into the car etc…. Always give you and your child plenty of time for transition. Even if it means you have to end playtime. Rushing through transitions is chaotic and will make everything more stressful.

Make it fun

Playing music or using a timer during routines will make them significantly more fun. When you and your child are having fun, feelings of chaos will disappear.

Give your child a job

Especially as children get older, they love to express their independence. Use this to your advantage! Take as many opportunities as you can to let your child take on some control and work. Give your child a job to do as part of the routine.

If you have a chart for your routine, you can use magnets or a check list, so your child can mark off what they have accomplished. At first, this may cause the routine to move a bit slower as your child learns to master new skills but in the end it will benefit you and your child. Give yourself more time so that no one feels rushed through the routine, that would only add to the chaos.

Teachable Moments

DIY Music Activities for Child Development + Bonus Tips for Toy Organization

Importance of Instrument and Rhythm Play for Child Development

Music can be soothing or energizing. It can uplift your spirts and set your soul on fire.  There are so many benefits of music activities for children! Instrument play for children, ignites all areas of developmental growth. Listening to music, moving to music, and playing music all have brain benefits for child development.

Music activities for children activate the auditory, motor, self-appraisal, and emotional regulation areas of the brain, leading to increased brain development. The Southern California’s Brain and Creativity Institute describes that experiences with musical instruments sky rockets brain development in children. They found that this is particularly true in the developmental domains of language acquisition and reading skills. In addition, according to the National Association of Music Merchants Foundation, play with instruments is beneficial to children’s skills for mathematical learning.

Other ways instrument play sparks healthy child development….

Temporal Processing: Pattern and rhythm learning are important developmental milestones for young children. Experiencing rhythm nurtures temporal processing, which refers to the ability to understand auditory information.

Fine Motor Movements: Music activities for children require the use of fine-motor movements (movements involving the fingers and hands). Practicing fine-motor movements is an important stepping-stone that will eventually lead to children’s ability to hold a pencil and write.

Brain Alignment: Playing with musical instruments aligns the body and mind, inviting authentic action and creativity. It also helps to strengthen the corpus callosum, the bridge made of nerve fibers connecting the two brain hemispheres.

Creative Expression: Music’s essence is self-expression. Children love to express themselves in creative ways, it is how they begin to form a sense of self.

Memory: According to the Portland Chamber Orchestra, music activities for children can lead to beneficial changes in the brain. One such change is in the hippocampus, contributing to improved learning and memory.

Free Play: Having a basket of instruments available for music activities for children can be a great way to encourage your child to enjoy free play. Free play, in which children choose what they want to play and how they want to play, promotes many aspects of empowered child development. Free play does not include unsupervised time with electronics.

Benefits of free play…

• Encourages creativity and imagination
• Invites instances for the creation of ideas and motor planning
• Fosters decision making
• Nurtures independence
• Supports social skills and abilities for collaborative play
• Provides special time for children to discover their skills and interests

How to Keep Musical Instruments and Other Toys Organized

I have never known a child who thoroughly enjoyed cleaning and organizing (although I imagine such a child exists, somewhere). It can be a challenge for children to stop playing, let alone put away their play things and tidy up! This can be difficult for adults who, for the most part, have already learned to clean up after themselves and expect the same of their children. On the flip side, helping keep things organized with children present can be a struggle if you, as the caregiver, have a hard time keeping things organized yourself.

It is important to have an awareness that children will need to be reminded to clean up and put their toys back. This is absolutely developmentally appropriate. As a general guideline, it is extraordinarily helpful to have a designated spot for toys that is clearly labeled with both words and a picture. Having a label for toys is a beneficial tool for organizational purposes and for children’s budding love for literacy. The toys need to be put back in this spot every time.

Make it your priority to help your child do this by offering as many reminders as is necessary. If your child is expressing challenging behavior when you say it is time to clean up, start offering an earlier warning so he or she has time to finish up. This will also prime your child’s brain to be ready when it is time. This warning can be paired with a noise or music. For example, a 10 minute clean up warning can be given with a bell, a 5 minute warning can be offered with a triangle, and a final 2 minute warning can be signaled with the start of music. Alternatively, you can use a timer. Sand timers are a fun option to use because children can watch the sand moving to the bottom.

Get Creative! DIY Musical Instruments

The following are simple DIY ideas for instruments made with materials that can be found in most houses. These ideas invite creativity and opportunities to brainstorm with your child. You can make a game out of finding new things in the house or outdoors to make into a musical instrument. You can go on a nature walk and collect items that may make a fun sound.



The Kitchen

Creativity can start in the kitchen. Brainstorm different ways to use pots, pans, and utensils. You will be surprised at how magically musical an overturned bowl sounds when a beat is tapped with a wooden spoon. Experiment with all of the sounds that can be created in your enchanting kitchen orchestra.

The Body

The rhythm of life flows within us. Encourage your child to find new and unique ways to use the body to make music. Clap, stomp, snap, pop, and whistle. There are so many sounds that we can create.

This can be a fun game to play in the car. Before beginning the game set a rule that each person can only make up to 10 sounds per round (or whatever number you like). This will allow for the game to be ended easily when you are ready for some silence or music.

Using the body to make music is also a great strategy to employ if your child is having a challenging time waiting. Moving the body to create music is engaging and fun.


Practically anything can be used as a drum. Play around with empty disposable containers that once held items such as coffee, nuts, macaroons or whatever else you can find.

Musical Rain Sticks

Take toilet paper rolls, paper towel tubes or any other type of tube you have around the house. Put tape over one end, making sure it is sealed completely. Then you can pour any materials you have that you would like to experiment with. Some suggestions are beans, rice, small pebbles, buttons, wine corks, bottle caps, sand, and shells. Do not fill it completely, the sound comes from the materials moving around inside the tube. Once you have filled your stick, tape the other side and test it out!

If you would like to decorate the outside of your rain stick, you can cover it with white paper before or after and allow your child to be creative. Rain sticks are also fun for collaging projects. Offer some magazines or images to your child to paste onto the rain stick.

Movement Bells

Select a ribbon or string and tie a knot at one end. String on however many bells you would like and then tie another knot to keep them from sliding off the string. You can also use buttons, although the noise will be very different. This can then be tied onto your child’s wrist or ankle.

Rattles and Shakers

Almost any container can be used as a musical shaker when filled with rice, beans, or buttons. Plastic Easter eggs are wonderful because they fit easily in little hands. Yogurt tubs and metal canisters work well too.


Children and Music: Benefits of Music in Child Development

The Benefits of Preschool Music Lessons

Every Brain Needs Music – What Happens When the Brain Plays a Musical Instrument?

The Benefits of Music Education

Teachable Moments

Anger and the Authentic Child – Part 2

Anger has a fiery energy that can be used constructively and creatively. Anger is associated with aggression and negative actions that our culture deems inappropriate and counterproductive to living in a social community. Much of what we teach children are ways to think and act to live and thrive in the current cultural community. Being polite, nice, and respectful are some qualities that many cultures value and these are duly imparted upon children. This is wonderful but has the tendency to tip the tides towards the suppression of emotions and authentic being. Often, when working towards anger management in children, we focus on suppressing anger and negative feelings. That, is not so wonderful.

It is part of our nature to want to be liked by others and to want this for our children. We want our children to be nice, respectful, empathetic, gracious, loving and forgiving TO OTHERS. We teach this to our children but what often does not get taught is how to uphold these qualities in your relationship to self. We do not place as much emphasis on teaching children to be nice, respectful, empathetic, gracious, loving and forgiving to THEMSELVES.

We need to shift away from nurturing nice children to empowering authentic children.

This means accepting anger, sadness, fear, and every other wave of feeling that may find flow in a child’s life. It means redefining how we approach anger management for children.

The below guide can be generalized to fit the needs of all emotions. The strategies provided are anger management for children exercises that you can practice with your child.

Four Easy Steps for Managing Your Child’s Anger

The First Step

Begin to label anger and its various energetic expressions (mad, upset, furious etc..). Label it for yourself, label it for others, label it for your child! If a child cannot recognize the emotion he or she cannot work with it constructively. Anger management for children begins with an awareness of the textures and sensations of the emotion that arises when anger is building.

The Second Step

Cultivate an awareness of anger triggers and signs, talk about them with your child.

Ask your child to do the same and guide them through this process. Write it out, turn it into a song, create a dance about where your child’s anger starts in his or her body and moves as the energy builds and transforms. Do whatever it takes to make this a fun and engaging activity. This will help your child to sharpen the senses for an acute awareness of the different textures of emotions and how they translate to outward bodily manifestations. Some children may tense their body and some may begin to raise their voice.  Everyone is unique and everyone can learn to recognize how their body reacts to emotions for an empowered sense of anger management.

The Third Step

Turn this awareness into conscious action.

Work on finding a few strategies for self-regulation and anger management for children. This does not mean squashing or suppressing the fiery energy that is arising but intentionally bringing awareness to it. Acknowledging the energy and giving it the respect to flow within will nurture and stoke an internal fire of power. This fire is where creative energy culminates. When anger is allowed to spiral out of control, the prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain in charge of higher thinking) is scorched, and sparks of explosive volatile energy shoot outwards and a loss of energy can be felt inwards.

When children begin to recognize their personal signs of arising anger they can use these strategies to dive into the flow of energy and act consciously and authentically.

The Fourth Step

Anger does not magically dissipate without direct action. It demands to be felt and expressed. When anger is forced into submission it gets stored in the body, it creates inflammation and tension. I have known many children whose bodies manifest their suppressed emotions in symptoms such as stomach aches and headaches. We want children to develop an intuitive awareness of what their bodies need rather than forcing their bodies to develop symptoms in order to be heard. Anger may also flare into a bright uncontrollable blaze later and seem unconnected to what truly caused the original anger. A crucial step in anger management for children is learning to ground and release anger in constructive ways.

This will look different for each child and each situation. Sometimes all that is needed is a shift in perspective, actively employing empathy may release anger. Sometimes our bodies scream for momentum, to free the energy through natural movement.  Sometimes the anger needs to be let out, the source of anger to be expressed. This is challenging for caregivers who desire nice children. If your child is conscious of the emotion and able to act with intention, allowing the fire of anger to be expressed does not have to be scary. Children who are authentically expressing anger will not be blowing up or throwing a tantrum.

Fiery Finale

I want to empower you as a caregiver and guide to create an honoring climate where you and your child can feel. Nix the need to be nice and negate negative emotions. Nurture your child to blossom into an empowered and authentic being.

Teachable Moments

Parent’s Anger – Yelling and the Acoustics of Fear

Negative emotions have gotten a bad reputation. Such is the case for the powerfully purifying emotion, anger.  Anger is an especially tricky emotion for caregivers to feel. Even more so, when that anger is sparked by a child. Rather than learning how to deal with anger, we are taught to mask these emotions from others with the façade of “I’m fine.” We continue this cycle of concealment by teaching and modeling this to our children.

The suppression of negative emotions affects the brain. It tips the brain’s balance towards negative emotions, decreasing your ability to experience positive emotions. It enrages the amygdala, sending it into over-activation.

The spectrum of human emotion demands to be felt and honored. When we recognize our emotions and consciously allow them to resound into our actions, we create the possibility for openness and lightheartedness. When we respect the flow of feelings and invite them to act as inspiration for empowered interactions, we create healing. When we do not acknowledge our emotions we begin to feel tightness, constriction, or numbness.

Acknowledging Anger 

It is absolutely acceptable and healthy to feel angry about your child’s behavior. When you do feel angry, there are more effective communication and discipline strategies than yelling. You can learn how to deal with anger in a constructive way.

You can recognize your emotions and take responsibility for how you react to them. This will empower authentic actions that are made consciously. This will help to prevent you from blowing up at your child.

Your anger can provide you with information about yourself and the situation at hand. You can reflect on your anger and try to identify the behavior that caused you to flip your lid. This will help you identify your triggers in order to more effectively learn how to deal with anger. You can analyze your anger to notice the signs of building tension. Were your muscles constricting? Did you begin to clench your jaw? Did your heart and breathing rate speed up? Reflecting on your emotions in this way will help you more readily recognize the signs of building anger in the future.

Common reasons caregivers yell at a child

  • Flipped his or her lid (lost control)
  • Attempt to control a child’s behavior
  • Offer discipline
  • Gain attention of a child
  • Assert power
  • Demand respect
  • Make a child feel a certain way

These justifications allow for anger to be ignored. Often, the true reason a caregiver is yelling is because they are angry and have let anger build over time. In such a situation the caregiver has chosen to express that anger without taking the time to cool down first. The caregiver reacted without consciously considering the erupting emotions.

Everyone has the choice to nurture an awareness of emotions to cultivate the ability to deal with anger.  With this awareness, emotions can be used as a tool to empower authenticity and inspired interactions.

The Effects of Yelling on the Brain

Some claim that they yell at children because it is an effective form of discipline. This idea is not backed by neuroscience or any other research on child development. In fact, the opposite is true, studies show that yelling is ineffective as discipline.

Scientists have found that a yell elicits the fear response in the human brain more effectively than other sounds. David Poeppel, a neuroscience professor at New York University, asserts that screams have an acoustic quality known as roughness. Roughness describes rapid sound changes in volume. No other sound is comparable for levels of roughness. Interestingly, yells are also unique in that they trigger activation of the amygdala, which scans the environment for danger. Yelling activates the amygdala and spins the brain into a fear response, sending stress levels soaring and increasing cortisol in the bloodstream. Rough sounds, such as yelling, awaken neural circuits involved in fear/danger processing. This means that when you yell at a child, an evolutionary neural response to danger is stimulated in the brain.

You do not want to send your child into a fear response. It can lead to lifelong physical and mental health problems.

The release of stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, that result from the amygdala’s activation are detrimental to healthy child development. These hormones affect the ability of the prefrontal cortex to regulate thought, emotions, and actions. They impair the brain’s ability to send new information to memory centers. Neuroimaging visualization has proven that when a child’s amygdala is over-activated no new learning can occur and no storage of new information can take place.

When a message of discipline is yelled at a child, the child’s brain is unable to process the new information. The behavior may stop in the moment due to the fight, flight, or freeze/fall asleep response but the child will not have learned anything that can positively contribute to development. The child will, more likely than not, continue to repeat the same behavior because they are not able to process the information being provided.

What does yelling really communicate to children?

  • I will receive attention if I misbehave *this sets children up to misbehave in the future to receive attention, even if it is negative attention
  • Since it is okay for you to yell at me, it is okay for me to yell at you (or others)
  • My caregiver is mad at me
  • My caregiver has power and I do not
  • I am not worth talking to in a respectful way
  • I deserve to be yelled at

Parenting is a Practice

I am not advocating for perfection, remember, parenting is a practice. Our feelings, especially powerful ones such as anger, have a tendency of bubbling out of control fast. Cultivating an awareness of your emotions and consciously acting with authenticity will take practice. As you work on this skill it will become easier until you are able to unconsciously and automatically know how to deal with anger effectively.

There are times when yelling is necessary as a safety protocol. For example, if your child is about to run across the street and you are not within arm’s reach.

A Guide for Effective Discipline in the Face of Anger 

Step 1: Voice your feelings and label the emotion.

“I am feeling angry right now.”

Step 2: Take the time you need to move into a place where you can act with intention.

Step 3: Offer guidance/discipline that is just (this means that it makes sense based on the child’s behavior) and can be followed through on. *Never use discipline that you cannot be consistent with. You have to follow through.

Step 4: Take time to talk with your child about the situation.

A powerful shift comes with voicing to children that you are angry with their actions not who they are as a person. 


Teachable Moments

Stop Shame Based Parenting & Empower Authenticity Instead

Parenting practices often use shame based messages that are rooted in the perception of what that child should or should not do rather than on what would authentically empower the child. We need to shift our attention from communicating shame to empowering authenticity. A should-based message is a shame-based message.  We use these messages with ourselves as well. How many times a day do you think, “I should be doing this” or “I should feel…” Shoulding your child is shaming your child. Shoulding yourself is shaming yourself. Even more, every time you should yourself or a child you are creating dysregulation. Since you are shoulding yourself, you are challenging yourself. This stimulates your nervous system to respond to a perceived affront. You send your nervous system into a fight, flight, or freeze (fall asleep) response. It is important to look at how you talk with and discipline your child to see if the messages you are sending as a parent include shame based messages. Shaming children is not an effective discipline strategy and has negative affects on child development. This article will provide strategies on how to stop shaming your child and yourself.

A should message is not in alignment with an individual’s authentic self. A should message is a comparison between who you are and a fantasy version of who you think you should be. For children, a should message from a caregiver is a comparison between the authentic self and who someone else expects them to be.

You are who you are, own your space and live in congruence with your authentic self. Nurture your child’s developing self and empower his or her authenticity. Nurture your abilities as a parent to stop shaming your child and offer discipline that will empower child development.

Neuroscience of Shame

Neuroscience shows us that shame stems from the brain. Shame is felt from the pregenual anterior cingulate cortex, an area of the brain where our emotional responses arise.

Shame has its roots in evolutionary biology and is an aspect of our ability to maintain social relationships.  Mild feelings of shame are universal and have developed as an evolutionary mechanism for regulating behaviors to live in a social context. However, these shame messages only serve to further child development in a positive way if they are paired with reassurances or repairs rather than punishment. Instinctive internal feelings of shame when followed by punishment, can lead to toxic shame.

Should messages are not inherently bad but rather provide internal feedback that you can be conscious of as a way to aspire towards authenticity.

Shifting Away From Shame Based Parenting

Shame messages as part of parenting are often aimed at guiding children towards appropriate behavior. This goal can be achieved without the use of shame. The following are simple strategies on how to stop shaming your child.

Children are inherently interested in learning what behaviors are appropriate for social settings. Rather than shaming the behavior you can explain how the behavior affects others and offer redirection or guidance. This allows children to build empathy and a strong foundation for how to act in the future.

Take the shoulds out! This is simpler than you think.

Strive to understand the communication that is happening in the behavior before you should or shame your child. Challenging behavior can be difficult to deal with. It is spontaneous in nature which can lead to an automatic reaction from a caregiver. This reaction can be a statement (sometimes yelled) that the child should not be behaving in such a way. Children hear that message and feel confused. Why shouldn’t they behave that way? Why are they feeling shamed for behaving in a way that felt natural to them?

There is wisdom and communication in all behavior and we can redirect inappropriate behavior while honoring this wisdom.

For example, a child who has just bitten another child is communicating a strong emotion. This emotion can be anything from feelings of frustration to an overwhelming need to get that other child to move away. Regardless, the action of biting was a natural, brain/body-based response to external stimuli. The child bit because he or she did not have an alternative strategy for communication. The child was being authentic and acting on his or her intuition.

The shift: You shouldn’t bite vs. We don’t bite. We……(fill in the blank)

By taking the should out of the statement and simply saying, “We don’t bite,” you are offering a message that tells the child what the appropriate behavior is. You can follow this up by giving an alternative behavior that the child can use in the future. By shifting your parenting language away from a should message you are respecting your child and guiding them towards appropriate behavior, without the use of shame.

Repairing Shame

Toxic shame occurs when a child experiences frequent shaming experiences without repair in his or her early childhood development. Repair refers to when the individual who gave the shaming message apologized or reassured the child in any way. Even a seemingly simple smile can offer reassurance to a child. When repair has taken place the child is able to draw constructive meaning from the feelings of shame that will guide future behavior.

Toxic shame has the potential to undermine the confidence of children over the span of their lives. This can lead to the development of coping mechanisms such as disembodiment, numbing of emotions, and substance abuse.

It is never too late to repair your relationship with your child after an accidental shame slip. Parenting is a practice, being a perfect parent is unattainable and unrealistic. All that is required of you is that you are authentic and do your best. Do your best to stop shaming your child and work towards repairing and empowering your relationship.

Empowering Authenticity

Below are two interconnected guidance offerings that bolster children’s authentic self-confidence and provide a buffer to shame.

Inspire Intuition & Voice Your Feelings

One of the strongest ways to empower a child’s ability to live authentically is to nurture his or her intuition. In order to live authentically, a child must listen to intuitive truth instead of listening to what others think the truth should be

You can strengthen your child’s intuition by helping him or her to learn to honor intuitive wisdom. This can be as simple as periodically asking your child to share how his or her body feels. By this I do not just mean feelings of health but all possibilities of feelings, including emotions and feelings of energetic openness or constriction. When your child shares these things with you, reaffirm his or her words by respecting the courage to listen to intuition.

Another powerful way to empower a child’s intuition is to be authentic with yourself. When you are authentic, your thoughts, words, and actions are congruent. You are your child’s greatest teacher and your child will model what he or she sees you do. A child who has consistent experiences with an authentic adult will learn how to make sense of the world because there has been consistency between what the child feels, hears, and sees. This means that it is absolutely okay for you to voice your feelings. It is entirely okay for you to feel upset or overwhelmed and to share this with your child.


Disciplining Without Shaming

Breaking Out of the “Shoulds”

“Good” Children – at What Price? The Secret Cost of Shame

Parental Predictors of Children’s Shame and Guilt at Age 6

Is there a place for shame in your parenting toolbox?

Don’t Shame Children In Pursuit of Discipline

Teachable Moments

The Neuroscience of Gratitude + A Gratitude Guide

“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” 
― Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose

The Brain on Gratitude

Nurturing a gratitude practice empowers health and happiness. The neuroscience of gratitude shows that the blessing of a gratitude practice begins in the brain by altering the brain’s molecular structure. Gratitude affects us on a psychological and neurobiological level. The neuroscience of gratitude shows that it is a practice of peace, soothing the central nervous system and stimulating happiness. The boon of gratitude can be felt in all areas of life and is especially powerful for inciting an inspired family.

This journey can begin as a way to effectively address challenging behavior or as a way to simply skyrocket your child and family’s ability to thrive. Gratitude is the perfect opportunity for caregivers to work as partners in learning with a child. Developing a gratitude practice can begin as a family and will reward everyone. Once you begin your practice your heart will feel more open and attuned to the possibility of gratitude. You will create a free flow of happiness rooted in gratitude.

These benefits have been studied by various scientists who have formed a picture of the neuroscience of gratitude.

Gratitude boosts dopamine and serotonin in the brain.  

Gratitude is associated with:

  • Well-being
  • Cardiovascular health
  • Immune health
  • Resiliency to trauma
  • Enhancement to social relationships and social bonding
  • Motivation for prosocial behavior
  • General affective processing/ social processing
  • Perspective-taking

In a study published in NeuroImage, Kini Prathik, the leading scientist, found that subjects who practiced a simple writing task centered on gratitude showed an increase in behavioral expressions of gratitude three months after the task. In addition, these individuals displayed more gratitude-minded neural activity on brain scanners three months later. In alignment with this idea, the researchers noted that the anterior cingulate cortex and the medial prefrontal cortex in the brain, centers designed to predict how your actions will affect others, became more sensitive after the gratitude task. The researchers of this study imply that cultivating an awareness of gratitude becomes a perpetual practice.

You and your child have a gratitude muscle in the brain that will become increasingly stronger with use. As you cultivate your gratitude muscle, the more those feelings will come naturally to you in the future.

Strengthening your gratitude muscle will also help to fortify gratitude-based neural connections in the brain, sparking an even more spontaneous and automatic attitude of gratitude.

A Gratitude Mind-Set and Behavior

Prathik asserts that as you strengthen your gratitude muscle and your brain adapts to a gratitude-based mind-set these feelings will blossom into your actions. This can be very helpful for children who are still learning how to identify and express emotions. Many negative emotions such as aggression, frustration, and sadness can often be expressed through challenging behavior. While some children have a tenaciously sunny outlook on life, for many this is a skill that needs to be practiced. Despite even the cheeriest of moods, every child will feel negative emotions at some time. In order for a child to appropriately feel, express, and mindfully act within the realm of this emotion he or she needs to have a neurobiological foundation and a coping strategy that enables movement from negativity to positivity. A brain built on gratitude will look for constructive themes in life and deny destructive themes. By gracing the mind with gratitude our brain learns to lean towards positivity.

Mental Shift 

When we think of gratitude what floats to the forefront of our mind is the good things we have in life. Many children are grateful for the toys they are given or for extra time to play. That’s o.k. but there is so much more to be grateful for. Everything we have experienced, whether good or bad, has led us to where we are now. Everything that comes our way is a gift in one way or another. What falls to the wayside are the events in our life that were challenging or uncomfortable, that pushed us to find new growth. We need to learn to be grateful for these moments as well. If we shift our thinking to look for the meaning behind what occurs, we may see how something we thought to be “bad” actually lead to something great. We can look past the negative sensations of a moment to see the truth.

Just to offer up a small example…One day I had a child fall down and get badly hurt and startled. He cried, he screamed, and he made the statement, “This is the worst day of my life.” His friends came to his side to give him hugs, to check on him, and to try and cheer him up. They were clearly concerned for his well-being and wanted him to feel better. I saw that even though the child was stuck in a struggle with pain and emotion he was grateful to have his friends there. I explained this to the child and he cheered up immediately. He let one of his friends tell him a joke and then ran off to play, brandishing his scrape like a victory wound.

When we are in a moment where strong emotions are being experienced it can be challenging to focus on anything else. The mind becomes trapped in a never-ending loop of negativity. Choosing to focus on gratitude will free your mind and propel you towards positivity.

“Being grateful does not mean that everything is necessarily good. It just means that you can accept it as a gift.” 
― Roy T. Bennett

Gratitude Guide


Model: Cultivating a gratitude practice can begin at birth. You can model gratitude by verbally saying what you are grateful for. You can do this throughout the day.

Age 2 and beyond

Gratitude Jar

Step 1: At the end of the day have each member of the family add at least one thing they are grateful to the jar.

  • Switch it up
    • Write it out! If your child is working on writing have him or her write what they are grateful for on a scrap of paper (make sure you ask them what they wrote and write it on the back, so you can read it later).
    • Be Creative! Brainstorm different ways to communicate gratitude. You can have your child act it out and take a picture to drop into the jar. Similarly, you can use Play-Doh or clay to create what you are grateful for. You can have your child create any type of art that expresses gratitude (painting, coloring, sketching, collaging etc.).
  • Add to the gratitude jar as often as you can! Once you begin doing this you will find yourself adding to it more and more frequently as your brain becomes trained in gratitude. Adding to the jar is a great way to model gratitude to your child.
  • Use verbal reminders to encourage your child to add to the jar.
  • If your child feels stuck and cannot think of something he or she can pull from the jar for inspiration.

Optional step 2: Pick a day at the end of the week when you can all be together as a family and read a few scraps out of the gratitude jar. You can choose to read them out loud or in private, whatever feels most comfortable to your family.

Step 3: When your child is expressing challenging behavior prompt him or her to pull from the gratitude jar as an invitation to optimism. Below is a list of challenging behaviors that may benefit from this practice.

  • Whining
  • Complaining
  • Negativity
  • Sadness
  • Waking up from a bad dream
  • Anxiety over change in schedule/routine
  • Anxiety/fear for a new event (like going to school or the birth of a new sibling)

Share 3 things you are grateful for in the morning

This can happen at any time in the morning. Ideally, you would start this when your child first wakes up but it will be just as effective at other times. Having this sharing conversation can be worked in to any part of the morning that aligns best with your family schedule

This is a tool that I want all family members to practice, not just the child. Either after or before asking your child to share, you can share as well. Alternatively, you can take turns sharing, which will provide your child an added opportunity to practice turn-taking, reciprocal communication, speech and language development, and social emotional skills.


The Neuroscience of Gratitude

Helping Your Two-Year-Old Express Gratitude

The Effects of Gratitude Expression on Neural Activity

Neural Correlates of Gratitude

How Expressing Gratitude Might Change Your Brain

The Neuroscience of Gratitude