Posts Tagged ‘good parenting’

PostHeaderIcon Using Silence as an Invitation

Using Silence as an Invitation

Tina Feigal, M.S., Ed.

fatherdaughterDo you remember a time when purposely using silence actually worked to resolve an issue for you?  Maybe it happened and you didn’t even realize you were doing it.  I’ve become a big fan of silence as a powerful tool, not to “give someone the silent treatment” but to invite their thoughts and feelings into the space between us.  When children are upset or pondering a big question (which happens much more often than we realize) we can offer them an invitation by just giving their thoughts time to formulate.

How would this work in life?  Let’s look at a scenario:

Your anxious child comes to you with an urgent message:  “Dad, I need to have my new swim suit ready for tomorrow, but I left it at Sarah’s and there’s no time to go over there.”

You: “Sounds like a problem. ”

Child: “Yeah, and we need to get my suit!”

You: “OK.”  Pause and let the silence invite your child to think of her own solution.

Child: “Maybe just for tomorrow, I can use my old one and ask Sarah to bring the other one on Wednesday.”

You: “Great idea! That will work perfectly.”

We often get caught up in rapid fire/fix-it-now conversations with our children that seem to solve issues quickly and help us move on with our fast-paced lives.  But when we do this, we actually rob our kids of something so valuable – the ability to think for themselves.  We also subliminally tell them that they aren’t capable of resolving issues, and that they need us to guide their every move.  Then we get mad when they don’t solve their own problems!  “You’re eight years old!  (Or eighteen or twenty!)  You should know how to deal with this by now!” How should they, when we’ve been so quick to “resolve it and move on?”

I’m not faulting parents – believe me, I’ve been there, and my sons have been oh-so-reslient and forgiving.  But I do want to wake us up to the fact that children’s inner wisdom needs to be heard.  And that it’s much more present and powerful than we realize.  But we need to allow silence to invite it in.

Once I was talking to a mom and her seven-year-old daughter.  The mom posed a question about how to get along with siblings better.  Then I encouraged her to wait, wait, wait.  After SEVERAL minutes, the daughter erupted with the most elegant ideas about how siblings should get along.  Mom was stunned.  She’d never dreamed that her daughter had such grown-up thoughts.  It just took her some time to formulate them (after all, she wasn’t used to such a long silent invitation, either!)  But when the silence lasted long enough, voila!  Her inner wisdom blossomed, and mom came away with a whole new appreciation for how advanced her daughter’s thoughts had become.

Emotional child development can catch us by surprise. We’re so used to the “measurable” in our world that we forget about the less tangible, but equally amazing emotional and cognitive growth that kids of all ages experience.  We’ll often say to our nieces, “Wow, did you grow 6 inches since I saw you last? I bet you need new clothes every other month!”  But how often do we allow time for our nieces to demonstrate their emotional growth?  Can you picture saying, “Wow, I love watching how your mind works on the topic of humans and the environment!”  No, we stick to the visible.  That’s a huge mistake, because ultimately we want to raise thoughtful, sensitive kids.  How tall they get is pretty insignificant compared to how deeply compassionate their ideas become. We get to choose what we encourage and cultivate.

So the next time your child has an issue with how the world works, offer the silent invitation to his thoughts. “Minimal encouragers”, such as, “What an interesting question,” or “Tell me more about your ideas,” will let the child know the invitation is on the table.  (Also, turn off the video games, so the thoughts aren’t sidetracked by endless electronic stimulation.) You will be delightfully amazed by his emotional development.  Offer silence so you don’t miss the magic!

For personalized parent education (coaching) on this or other parenting challenges, be sure to visit

Copyright © 2013 Center for the Challenging Child






PostHeaderIcon Saying No to One Thing Means Saying Yes to Another

Saying No to One Thing Means Saying Yes to Another

As we Minnesotans watch an April snowstorm blanket the landscape with eight new inches of “pretty stuff”, it’s hard to accept “no” from Mother Nature when we yearn for Spring RIGHT NOW.  We desperately want warm sun on our faces, robins and daffodils, not boots, gloves, and snow shovels!

Isn’t it interesting to note how as adults, we have experiences that thwart our desires, just the way our kids do?  Last night, my son texted me an interesting thought to ponder.  “When we say no to something, we’re saying yes to something else.”  Then he typed, in his adorably thought-provoking way, “Opposition.”

When our children are oppositional, they are saying “no” to one thing, such as “brush your teeth”, “get off the computer”, “time for bed”, or “finish your homework.” What’s the thing they are saying “yes” to at that moment?  Of course, you might answer, more freedom to play video games, more freedom to stay up late, more freedom to watch a movie instead of finish homework.  But there’s more to it than that.

When children oppose their parents, they’re also saying “yes” to their own sense of who they are.  As young as 12 months, they’re wired to start opposing their parents’ requests because they are exercising their newfound will.  Is this a disrespectful aspect to all children?  Some may argue yes.  But it’s really more helpful and less conflict producing to see it as a natural developmental phase.  As adults, this is our job and we even benefit from celebrating that our kids with big wills are on the right path. We do better to support their will, rather than try to fight it.

So, you might say to me, “How do we get the bath taken in time for bed, when all they want to do is play?”  The answer lies in recognizing the emerging will as a vital part of the child’s growth as a person.  Acknowledging how much they want to continue to watch their favorite show, play their favorite video game, or finish up their art project, will go a long way toward gaining cooperation.  Say, “You’re really into this game, I can see! I notice that you’re gaining a lot of new skills by playing it. Finish this one game and I’ll meet you in your room, ready for bed in 10 minutes.”

This approach acknowledges the child’s will to play the game and also encourages, rather than forces, the letting go.  (We all know how well it turns out when we try to force a child to do something.)

Here are the 5 steps:
1. Establish a routine bedtime with your children’s input during a family meeting.
2. Tell your child exactly how you will let him or her know it’s bedtime.  Have him sit in front of the computer and rehearse this aspect.  Place your hand on his back if he can tolerate it, and say in a respectful tone, “See what time it is? I’ll meet you in your room in 10 minutes.”  That’s all.  He knows when bedtime is.
3.  Just wait respectfully for him to comply.  If it takes longer than you thought, rehearse again tomorrow, but don’t lecture now.
4. Give heartfelt appreciation for coming when he does.  Even if it’s a few minutes late, you want to let him know he’s been successful in coming to the room.  Reward what you want, and you will see more of it.
5. Have a peaceful, appreciative end to the day.

If you need coaching help with these steps, or any other parenting challenge, click here.

PostHeaderIcon What to Give Your Child for the Holidays

What to Give Your Child for the Holidays

by Tina Feigal © 2011

This holiday season, I’m encouraging you to give your child a different kind of gift than the one you visualized when you read this article’s title.

Each year, kids are excited about the gifts they will receive.  Visions of XBOX 360s, Wii’s, iPhones, skis, dolls, trucks, stuffed animals, Legos, and a variety of other gifts float through their heads.  After the holiday, the gifts often lose some of their allure, and kids are back to saying, “I’m bored.” So let’s focus instead on a gift that keeps on giving.

I’m going to suggest that you give your child a sense of himself as a needed person for a gift this year.  It’s something that doesn’t come to most adults during the annual holiday buying frenzy, but it’s a gift that will keep on giving for a lifetime.  So stop for a few minutes and think of ways you can set your child up for feeling really valued, cared for, and yes, generous, during this holiday season.  After all, isn’t that what we all want?  Kids with a strong sense of their place in the world as contributors?  You have the power in this special time of year to create a kid with a true sense of purpose, something he or she will remember for years to come.

To create a success around being needed, take your child into your confidence around a gift you are thinking of giving his sibling.  Ask, “Do you think she’d like the red sweater or this cute skirt better?”  Then take your child’s advice.  It’s more important to build a giving spirit than to get the perfect gift.

Ask what he thinks he’d like to give his sister, and then offer to help him get it if he’s too young to have his own money. Give him heartfelt appreciation when he makes a selection, and talk up his gift before it’s opened.  Say, “I love how thoughtfully you chose this for Samantha. I think she’s gonna love it.”

Let your kids see you giving to people outside the family who may be in need.  If you are donating toys, don’t just take care of it when they kids are in school, but include them in the selection and the dropping off at the collection site.  This way they feel part of something bigger than the immediate family, and remember how fortunate they are.  Or if there’s a needy family in your faith community, be sure your kids contribute some of their allowance to participate in the family’s giving efforts. If you want grateful, generous kids, put more of your effort into fostering their gratitude and generosity than into trying to please them.

Giving doesn’t have to be material.  If you see an opportunity for your child to push the ottoman closer to grandpa’s chair, give him the gift of quietly suggesting he do so.  If you see him spontaneously sharing his time with a younger cousin, be sure he hears how much you admire that.  If she works hard to maintain a good mood when in a crowd of people, give her positive feedback so she sees what you see, a child who makes an effort for others.

The chances to give your child kudos abound at holiday time.  Plan now to tap the present moment to focus on them, and watch him “glow” with a strong sense of his own strength as a giving person.  The benefits are immeasurable, and everyone receives them!

For parent coaching on what to give your child for the holidays or any other topic, contact Tina Feigal at 651-453-0123 or email

PostHeaderIcon What Your Child Can’t Tell You

What Your Child Can’t Tell You

Copyright © 2011 Tina Feigal, Parent Coach and Parenting Speaker
You have probably heard the phrase, “All behavior is communication.” The more I think about this, the more I see that it is a crucial thought for raising children. I want everyone to emblazon this idea where they will see it every day. Children misbehave because they lack the communication skills and insight to tell us what’s really happening. It’s our job to look beyond the behavior to the root feelings.
When a child whines, it is not because she likes the sound of whining. It’s because she lacks the maturity and experience to say, “Mom, Dad, I am frustrated right now because you are asking me to hurry for school, but I am a kid and I’m just slower.” Instead, she’ll exhibit all kinds of unwanted behaviors: whining, delaying, arguing, and even getting physically aggressive.
When a grade-schooler refuses to do his homework, it’s not likely that he is simply lazy. His behavior is communicating that he is discouraged in some way. Our first impulse as parents is to make him seethat he needs to get the work done so he can be successful. We remind, cajole, threaten, and eventually explode. Our first impulse would be much more helpful if instead, it was to determine what to do about the discouragement.
When a teenager doesn’t listen to our advice, it’s not because he is just being a jerk. His behavior is communicating that he is in a new phase of development. He needs to make his own decisions, and we are inadvertently calling him incompetent whenever we advise him. He takes it as an insult every time we make a suggestion. He can’t say, “Mom, Dad, I appreciate that you care about me, and that you are more wise than I am. But I need to make these decisions myself because I am becoming a young adult, and that’s what young adults do. Please bear with me as I struggle and even fail sometimes.” So he leaves the house in a huff, giving the door an extra hard slam for emphasis. We would be much better off if our first impulse was to support him in his decision-making, rather than tell him what to do.

It’s essentially a short-cut. If you want cooperative behavior from your kids, take the short-cut by training your mind to see what’s beneath the communication. Practice seeing your child’s innocence first, and working to understand what lies beneath the foul language, the time spent with the door locked, and the “interesting” style of dress. You will find a vulnerable, changing child who simply doesn’t have insight yet. That’s our job as adults … to gain the insight and act accordingly.

Rather than exhibit anger over disrespectful behavior, acknowledge there’s an emotion that the child cannot express directly lying just under the surface. Kids get hurt a lot easier than most adults realize, so they are compelled to protect their tender hearts by lashing out. If we don’t give them cause to protect themselves (by seeing what’s really going on) they won’t have to be so defensive.

So the next time you see a child “acting out”, ask yourself what’s being communicated. It will be an emotion that the child is too young or too immature to express directly, such as hurt, frustration, disappointment, hopelessness, or something else you can help to identify. Then address the child in those terms, rather than with your own irritation. Say, “You seem upset. Want to tell me what’s up?” or “How about you take some time in your own room until you feel better and we can talk?” or “I remember being your age and feeling that same way. Sit down, and let’s try to make this better together.” You are getting to the root emotion, rather than placing judgment on the child’s behavior. Congratulations! You are on the short-cut to better communication and better behavior with your child.

Copyright © 2011 Tina Feigal

PostHeaderIcon A Mom’s Good Parenting Success Story

A Mom’s “Good Parenting” Success Story

From a parent coaching client who is also a new parent coach.

Hi Tina,

Here’s our latest story of raising two young boys, creating more good parenting!  On August 17th Alexander was bitten by an insect shortly after he went to bed in the loft at the cottage. We believe it was a spider, but as we didn’t see it, we can’t be certain.

Shortly after the kids went to sleep, I heard a whimpering sound for a moment. Nick suggested he was probably just dreaming, but I wanted to check on Alexander and did. He was face down in his bed. I rubbed his back and felt a lump the size of a golf ball. It was a very hard lump that stuck out. It was rather scary to feel it. I rolled him over and his face seemed puffy. By the time I got him down into the light in the kitchen, one eye was swollen completely shut, and his lips and tongue were starting to swell. It was happening very rapidly. I had some Benadryl in my first aid kit, so I gave him a dose of that. First time I’ve ever used it! We didn’t have a cell signal at all, so we loaded the kids into the car (10:00 at night or so) and headed south. As soon as there was a cell signal, I called 911 to find out where the closest hospital was located. There used to be clinics in the area but it had been many years since I’d been to either and I wasn’t certain where to go. Alexander’s tongue and lips were swelling so that he couldn’t talk easily, but he was trying to make jokes and was in good spirits.

The ambulance service insisted on sending an ambulance to meet us part way, which was good. We hooked up with them and then spent a couple of hours at the hospital. Alexander was given a needle and we monitored him for a little while. At the time, we felt that good parenting would dictate that we go back home to Collingwood to his familiar surroundings, so we only took the kids back to the cottage to sleep for a few hours (I couldn’t sleep because Alexander’s breathing was all over the place and I was afraid the allergies would return) and then we started packing up. The next day, we were on our way home when Alexander’s fever spiked. His face was still so swollen but also started to look black blue like he’d been boxing. I insisted we stop at Orillia hospital (which is half way between home and the cottage – – cottage is a 3 hour drive away).

They ran tests at the hospital to rule out a few things and monitored Alexander for 4 hours.

Through that time, Alexander and I both stayed very calm and he did soooo well. I was talking Alexander through each test, comforting him when he cried or got scared, and laughing with him when he was feeling more playful. I didn’t really consciously think about parenting skills or methods or frameworks, but in the days that followed our trip home – when reality set in about how scary that experience was – I realized how all of this training (and all of the work I have done to enhance my life and parenting) paid off. I know that I was more present, staying in the moment, more connected etc. I felt very in tune with my son, and connected with the staff, and the staff was amazing and naturally seemed to understand our relationship and respect us. They didn’t try to separate Alexander from his mom. Basically, everything flowed beautifully EVEN THOUGH the situation was so difficult and Alexander was all swollen up and unrecognizable with little slits for eyes, black and blue, and with such a high fever.

Days later, looking back and reflecting, I realized a few things about myself and this helped my confidence to grow. . . Sometimes I still feel I can never do enough or do right by Nathan, but ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, I am in many ways very good at what I do when I am mothering and it’s about time I just embrace that. . . not in an ego way but just to feel more at peace with being a mom.

After our return home, Alexander was on a bit of a roller coaster as his fever went up and down and as he recalled being “pinched” by the nurse (for a needle) and seeing blood come out of his arm and into a tube. We talked and shared without making an extra big deal about anything but just acknowledging. He bounced back quickly.

Boy, I got some amazing feedback about my good parenting from the doctors and nurses at the hospital. At the time I was focused on Alexander and didn’t take it in . . . but days later I remembered what they said when they gave me a big pat on the back and congratulated me for a job well done. They even told me about what they typically see or what they’d even just seen this morning with a child who refused to give a urine sample. And Nick gave me some awesome feedback too. Nathan also needed some extra support because he got quite scared with how swollen his brother looked. He had his moments, but all in all it was good.

So anyway, thank you for all of your mentoring on good parenting, and for being such a great friend. I’m so glad I participated in your training because that learning came through as tacit knowledge during that health emergency and made a difference. I think sometimes when we feel our strength in an emergency situation, it can help us to see things in a different way afterwards, and that will stick with me for a long time.



PostHeaderIcon Family Meetings Support Good Parenting

Good Parenting

Family Meetings Support

Good Parenting

Copyright © Tina Feigal 2011

For those who are looking to use good parenting methods, family meetings are powerful tools.

You want to make your family’s process effective and fun. Use regular meetings to lift the children up by pointing out the whole family’s successes. And when there is an issue that needs the family’s attention, use the resource of the wisdom of each family member to resolve it.

Following are tips on holding a successful family meeting:

1) Invite the children to the meeting, showing the same respect that you would for an adult. If the children aren’t available due to needing to do homework, etc., ask for an alternative time. Buy-in for good behavior is increased by the respect you communicate, and by giving the children a voice in the process.

2) State that the purpose of the meeting is to decide together how things are going in the family, share successes, and make improvements where necessary.  This lets the children see good parenting in action.  A favorite snack will also be a draw.

3) Have a talking piece, a symbol that is significant for the family and that communicates the good parenting you want to convey.
a.) You may want to have a fun session creating the talking piece.
b.) Whoever has the talking piece speaks, and whoever doesn’t have the it listens.
c.) The speaker continues speaking until completely finished, rather than being rushed to finish so others can speak. (This takes the pressure off the speaker, and removes the conflict over the talkng piece. It also teaches patience with the speaker.) Anyone can have the talking piece back when there is more to say.

4)For the first meeting, state what you love about the family’s interactions at this time, emphasizing how well the kids are doing with current behavior issues, and then end the meeting. This leaves the children with a positive feeling about being contributing members of the family and about participating in the family’s process.  It also feeds your sense of good parenting, which can carry you through the inevitable hard times.

5)  If you have some issues with children not listening, this is a golden opportunity to notice listening and use your good parenting skills.  “Anna, I think I just saw you listening to Morgan.  I bet you can even tell me what she just said!”  Anna says what Morgan just said and you say, “I thought you were listening!  You are a good listener!”  This will reward listening, assuring that you will see it again.

6) Decide on a regularly-scheduled family meeting, on Sundays at 7, for instance. Guard your meeting time as sacred.

7) As issues come up between meetings, state that anyone in the family can call a meeting when they need support. This again increases buy-in to the process and to the solutions. You have just taught the kids that your family is a safe place to talk, and that you have a system in place for expressing concerns.

To read about avoiding oppositional defiance and obtaining more good parenting strategies, click here.