A journey in the car with the kids in the back can go many ways.  Sometimes, we feel harassed by incessant squabbling that we’re not able to get to the bottom of because we can’t see what ‘s really going on.  Other times, we get to quietly listen in on the conversations between our children and feel our hearts flutter with what they say.  This is a story about the latter.

It was a Friday afternoon.  Thomas (almost 3 years old) had been to kindy and Jake had been to school.  As I drove, they were exchanging notes on their days – sandpits, train sets, playground adventures and friends. Then, totally unprompted, Thomas said, “I’m grateful for kindy”.  Fortunately, we were stopped at traffic lights, otherwise I might have driven off the road.  Even Jake realised that this was a momentous moment for our family – “Mum, Thomas just said he’s grateful for kindy!”  This was the first time we had heard Thomas spontaneously share his gratitude.

Gratitude is important in our family.  We have a few simple habits – rituals – to help us keep gratitude active in our hearts and minds.  When tucking the boys into bed at night, we each share something we’re grateful for.   This year, we also began a gratitude jar.  Every Sunday night, we each write something we’re especially grateful for from the past week on a piece of paper (we each have our own colour).  We then fold the pieces of paper up and put them in the large jar that sits in the hall.  The idea is that, on 31 December, we’ll each have 52 special moments to reflect on and appreciate.  If it’s been a tough year, we’ll realised there has still been lots to be grateful for.  If it’s been a “good” year, we’ll appreciate it even more.  We also get to think about the things we have written on our pieces of paper every time we walk past the jar in the hall.

“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is ‘thank you’, it will be enough”. – Meister Eckhart



Of course, there are plenty of times when it feels like the “attitude of gratitude” I’m trying to cultivate has disintegrated to dust.  On that Friday afternoon, Thomas and I had picked up Jake from school and surprised him with the news that we were taking our scooters to the skate park.  Currently one of Jake’s favourite hang-outs, he was thrilled.  But there was no “thank you” on hearing the news.  In fact, his first words were, “can we get ice-creams too?”  *@?#! When our scootering was finished and it was time to go home, he kept whining, “why can’t we stay a bit longer?”  I found myself recycling my mother’s sentiments – “I’m not going to take you for treats if you’re always going to ask for more.  Why can’t you appreciate what you have?!”  (In Jake’s defence, he did thank me afterwards and is often very appreciative of his own accord.)  Then I grumbled to myself, “I don’t know why I bother doing nice things for them, it’s never enough.  How did they become so entitled?”  I want to be able to treat my boys sometimes without them expecting it all the time.

We can become a bit complacent about gratitude these days.  It’s been a bit of a buzz word for a number of years now and every gift shop has items with sentiments of gratitude on them – mugs, prints, journals, ornaments, magnets…  (I do like the quote “When I count my blessings, I count you twice”, though.)  But gratitude is powerful – it cultivates real joy and empowerment.  On one occasion when entitlement was in full swing, I said to Jake, “When you’re grateful, you’re too busy enjoying yourself to think about what else you want and it helps you to notice even more things to be grateful for”.  Gratitude gives us a sense of our cup running over and, in turn, our capacity to be generous, creative and forgiving, for example, expands.

So, gratitude is not just a temporary pick-me-up technique.  Gratitude helps us to tap into the abundance (in all senses of the word) that is available to us and our own capacity to serve.  I imagine how I would have felt as a child to know that I had so much myself and so much to give.  I would’ve been happier and felt more powerful.



Here are some quick ideas we can use to start building our children’s gratitude.

Create regular opportunities to share something they’re grateful for.  Get the whole family involved in quick, simple moments of gratitude.

Be a grateful example – when I’m grateful for something, I sometimes share it aloud, in the moment.  I try to point out a variety of things I’m grateful for.  My boys pretty much stick to toys, outings and unhealthy food at this stage, but I try to include acts of kindness, beauty in nature, health and other people, for example.

Encourage genuine appreciation instead of polite thanks when they receive something (eg. a gift or help).  This is hard and I haven’t yet discovered the best way to do this.  With young children, it can be difficult to get a genuine “thank you” from them of their own accord.  When it comes to gifts, after each birthday party, I help Jake to write thank you notes.  We discuss the effort each person has gone to to select the gift for him and include in the note one thing he likes about it.

When my boys are behaving in an entitled way, I’ve started saying, “Put on your gratitude glasses”.  I think I’ve lectured enough for Jake to know what I mean.  It’s a fun reminder rather than a disapproving instruction to choose gratitude.

Avoid calling our children “ungrateful”, as if they have done something wrong.  This turns them off gratitude because it seems like something they should be rather than what it really is – a choice to live in fullness, joy and service.



Entitlement seems to be a modern-day parenting issue that is difficult to navigate – ironically, a case of external abundance and internal lack.  My hope is that a focus on gratitude can do something to offset it.  We can’t make our children be grateful but we can demonstrate a life of gratitude and invite them to share in it with us.  Hearing Thomas announce that he is grateful for kindy, is reassuring.  Perhaps all those things we try to teach our children don’t just go in one ear and out the other.  Even if we don’t currently see any evidence of our children taking it on board, they are absorbing it.  We have planted the seed.


Much love to you and your little souls,


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When Jake was a pre-schooler, I often noticed him hanging on to things after giving him a firm word or disciplining him in some way.  He seemed uncertain how to interact with me, unsure whether I was still upset with him or not.  So my husband and I started making a point of telling him that it was “finished” once any discipline had been dealt with.  We would then continue as normal, ensuring our manner with Jack was back to usual, not angry or upset in any way.  This was to show him that the incident was over and no hard feelings remained.  Looking back, I can see that this was a precursor to teaching him about forgiveness.

Last week, the long school holidays were getting the better of us both.  It felt to me that Jake wasn’t listening to much of what I said (unless the word “chocolate” featured) and I was tired of being patient & consistent.  I ended up shouting in exasperation.  Later, as we both sat at the table having morning tea, we exchanged apologies for our behaviour.  Jake kept repeating his apology despite my acceptance and I realised that I had never spoken explicitly about forgiveness with him.  So, I reminded him of how I used to say “finished” after a telling-off so that he knew it was over.  “When we forgive someone, we decide that it is finished, we decide not to keep feeling upset with the other person”, I told him.

That was enough for one morning but our chat made me realise that there is so much for a person to learn about forgiveness.  Many adults struggle with it.  And perhaps it’s because we don’t truly understand what forgiveness is – a gift to ourselves.



Having given it some thought, I’ve come up with four characteristics of true forgiveness that we can aim to pass on to our children.  They may not grasp it all at first as forgiveness can look different on the outside than it is on the inside.  From the outside, it sometimes looks like politeness or forgetting but it’s neither of these things.

1. We forgive for our own benefit.   Forgiveness is not saying “it’s Ok” but, rather, “I’m OK”.  Ultimately, it is a choice not to let whatever happened hurt us anymore.  I have seen people who are almost defined by the event they refuse to forgive – often bitter, vengeful and hard, their non-forgiveness is apparent even when they don’t realise it.  Yet the people they won’t forgive have likely moved on and are unaware of the resentment harboured towards them.  Those who won’t forgive don’t see that their forgiveness is for themselves and that they suffer most for their decision not to allow it.

2. Forgiving is not pretending it never happened. When we forgive, we are forgiving the person, not their actions. We let go of our resentment towards them.  What happened may still upset us when we think of it but we no longer see ourselves as the victim of a personal attack.  With time, we may even recognise the gift hidden in the experience – something we needed to learn about ourselves.  I think this is what is meant by the phrase, “forgiven, not forgotten”.

“Anger makes you smaller, while forgiveness forces you to grow beyond what you were”. – Cherie Carter-Scott

3. We can’t force someone (or ourselves) to forgive. A list of reasons to forgive is not going to make someone forgive because forgiveness does not happen through logic – it happens through love. Taking a moment to see the humanness of the person whose actions hurt us can help open us up to forgiving them.  When we recognise that the other’s hurtful behaviour was caused by their issues & misconceptions, we realise that whatever happened wasn’t about us at all.  It then becomes easier to forgive because we know we can relate – we have issues & misconceptions of our own that affect our behaviour.  Seeing that we are all ultimately the same enables us to be compassionate instead of judgemental and willing to forgive.

4. Forgiveness doesn’t require an apology. Just as whatever happened to hurt us wasn’t really about us, forgiving isn’t really about the other person. Because it’s not about them, we can choose to let forgiveness in at any time without an exchange of words.  When we do receive an apology, it is an invitation to forgive, a reminder that the power to do so is in our hands.  We simply decide that we are open to forgiving and allow Love to do the rest.



Having defined “forgiveness”, the big question is how to teach our children about it.  We want them to really understand what it is so they don’t just go through the motions of forgiveness because it is expected of them, to appear polite.  There are a number of things we can do towards giving them a full picture of forgiveness –

Forgive our children.  Once our children have offered us an apology for something or been through the consequences of their inappropriate actions, it is over – I repeat, OVER!  Often I have seen a child put through the consequences & offer an apology and still have to endure 10 more minutes of lecturing or suffer the cold shoulder for the rest of the day.  What’s happening in these situations? – their parents haven’t forgiven them.

Let our children see us forgiving others around us.  There are many small acts of forgiveness in a day for our children to witness.  We forgive their siblings when they shout at us.  We forgive our partners for being home late.  We forgive the shop assistant who over-charged us and had to put us through the lengthy paperwork required to refund us.  When someone offers an apology to us, our children should see us accept it with a “thank you”.  (Accepting an apology is not forgiving them on the spot, just appreciating their acknowledgement that they have hurt us).  We can also talk to our children about the compassion we have for those who have wronged us.  Eg. “The shop assistant made a mistake when he was adding up our purchases, we all make mistakes sometimes”.  This shows our children that forgiveness comes from Love, and that judgement has no place alongside forgiveness.

Notice and talk about it when we see that our child has or hasn’t forgiven someone.  We can talk with our children about how they feel to have let go or to be holding on to their resentment.  This will make them more aware of how their choice to forgive or not impacts themselves.

Don’t expect our children to forgive straightaway.  Often they will need time to allow the emotions of the situation to pass before they’re able to forgive.  (This is true for adults too.)  If they’re not yet ready to forgive a playmate, suggest they play apart for a while.  If they are offered an apology, they can receive it with a “thank you” and forgive when they are ready.  (You may also be interested to read my post Should I Make My Children Apologise?)

Suggest your child pray for help to forgive if they’re finding it hard.  Logic changes the mind, Love changes the heart.  While we choose to allow forgiveness in, it is a matter for the heart.  Prayer opens us up to receive the love we may need for the task.    This suggestion is probably suitable for school-aged children but we can say a prayer to help our younger children along.



Forgiveness is, I think, one of the most important spiritual and life skills we need to learn.  Yet, it is something easily overlooked by parents.  It would be easy to teach our children to graciously accept an apology without addressing the inner process required to truly forgive.

Forgiveness is an act of self-love.  When we refuse to forgive, we are really refusing ourselves freedom – the freedom to live with openness and joy. Like any skill, we get better at forgiving by practising it. When children forgive the child who called them a hurtful name, the parent who punished them unfairly, the teacher who overlooked them for an opportunity, they’ll more readily forgive the more painful experiences that are a part of life.

It is not weak to forgive.  It makes us stronger.  We can travel further if we’re not lugging our resentments around with us.

Nothing is unforgivable.


Much love to you and your little souls,


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If you’re not in New Zealand, children here begin school when they turn 5.  The Summer school holidays are ending and it’s back-to-school this week.  Children under 5 can go to an early childhood education (ECE) centre.  Kindergarten is one type of ECE centre.

Jake (5 years) goes back to school this week and Thomas (almost 3 years) has just had his first days at Kindergarten (kindy).  For some children, these transitions are smooth-sailing.  For others, they are very stressful.  Jake amazed me with his effortless start to school last year.  Thomas has been sticking close to me while we’ve been at kindy and has been upset while I’ve been gone.   Having been a teacher myself, I have the benefit of understanding these transition stages from both sides so wanted to make a list of my best tips to help parents.  Most of them are common sense, really, but it’s helpful to be reminded of them.


  1. Be sure of your decision. As a parent, check that you are feeling good about your choice of school or ECE centre. When choosing a school or centre, remember that none will be perfect but, if it generally feels right, trust that feeling.  When deciding on the right time for your under-5 to begin ECE, remember that there also may be no ideal time – you’re weighing up so many factors which may not coincide perfectly.  So, again, trust your feeling about the timing.  This is my first tip because settling in can be a difficult process for some families and it is much easier for you to be strong for your child when you are confident in your decisions.
  2. Build familiarity before school/kindy starts. Most schools and ECE centres offer the opportunity for you to visit with your child before they officially begin. During his kindy visits, Thomas had a chance to connect with the teachers and discover some of the activities that he would be able to do when started kindy.  While Jake is returning to the same school, over the last few weeks of holiday, I have organised a few playdates for him to reconnect with school friends.  There are also little ways to add familiarity to your child’s day once school/kindy starts.  For example, pack lunches with food your child has had before and likes.
  3. Address the practicalities. Depending on your child’s age, this means different things. It includes giving them clothing and equipment they can manage independently.  For example, a school-aged child needs to be able to take their shoes, coats and hats on and off themselves.  Make sure your child knows what happens for toileting.  At school, do they know where their classroom’s closest toilet is and what they have to do to let the teacher know they need to go (teachers have a variety of systems around this)?  At kindy, I showed Thomas where the change table was and explained that a teacher would change his nappy when he was at kindy.  By addressing these kinds of practicalities, we can eliminate them as stressors, which is particularly helpful for a child who is anxious about their new beginning.
  4. Acknowledge and allow any anxious feelings your child has. If they are old-enough, give them an opportunity to tell you how they are feeling about starting or returning to school/kindy. One question to ask is, “Is there anything you’re worried about?”  This question is better not asked just before going to bed, incase they lie awake worrying.  Choose a time when they are relaxed and calm.  Without dishing out a list of instructions, it may be appropriate to discuss simple strategies for dealing with some of their concerns.  But, most importantly, show your understanding.  Life is full of new beginnings which can create anxiety in all of us.  Your child’s anxious feelings are normal and they need assurance of this.  Also, allow your child their tears when it comes time to leave them at school or kindy.  Telling them off for crying or offering rewards for not crying when you leave adds the pressure of holding themselves together in an already stressful situation.  As a parent, their tears and hysterics can feel embarrassing and over-the-top but we need to tuck our egos away and be their support.
  5. Talk positively about school or kindy. If your child sees that you feel positively about school or kindy, they will feel assured that it’s a good place to go. Talk with them about what they are looking forward to.  It may be learning to read, playing on the playground or seeing a friend.  Talk about teachers and children you met while on your visit – their friendliness, kindness, sense of humour.
  6. Pray with and for your children. If you’re a praying family, this is a great tool for both parents and children. As Thomas has been settling into Kindy, I have prayed each morning that he feels safe and enjoys himself.  I ask that the teachers are tuned in to his needs.  On Jake’s first day back to school, we will say a prayer together.    We have a 12-minute drive to school and often pray together on the way.  I have a motto which I apply to many things, including prayer – “begin with thank you”.  In this case, Jake may be grateful to see his friends or to play on the playground at lunchtimes.  We will pray for support over anything that’s worrying him about returning to school and just for a great school year generally.  Praying with our children, shows that we have faith that The Universe is with them, supporting them.  I hope my boys will develop a sense of God being everywhere they go, including the classrooms and playgrounds of school.
  7. Remind your children of techniques they can use to manage their feelings while at school. This tip may be more for older children. Which techniques they use don’t matter and will depend on what you have taught them.  For example, you can suggest that, when they are feeling anxious or lonely, they could take a few mindful breaths to calm down or say a prayer to remember that God is with them.  These little things can help prevent them from descending into overwhelm or panic.
  8. Create predictability around drop-off and pick-up times. As I write this, Thomas is into his third day at kindy. I have ducked out to give him an hour without me as part of the transition process.  Before kindy this morning, I told him exactly when I would be leaving and when I’d be returning.  I left exactly when I said I would and will be back at kindy in exactly 29 minutes.  This builds his trust in me so that he knows I will always return when I say I will, making him happier to be left at kindy.  Another way to create predictability for your child is to develop a drop-off routine over the first days/weeks.  It may be that you stay with them while they put their things away, read a story together in the classroom/centre, hug and kiss, then go.  If your child has trouble at drop-off time, enlist their teacher’s help.  When I was teaching, I gave anxious children a job to do once they had said their goodbyes to keep them busy and give them a sense of belonging.
  9. No long goodbyes. If you say you’re going to go after reading one story – go! It is heart-wrenching when we see our child worried and upset but it is more confusing for them and prolongs their anxiety if we don’t leave after saying “goodbye”.  They may also learn that, if they’re dramatic enough, you’ll stay longer – using your empathy against you!  Remember, your child is in good hands – teachers are used to managing separation and want your child to be settled and happy at school just like you do.  If you’re anticipating “a scene” when it comes time to go, let the teacher know so they can be on-hand to comfort your child while you leave and settle them in.
  10. Make and take time to settle your child in. I can see that Thomas needs a gradual easing into kindy. He hasn’t been left with people other than close family before and is finding the separation from me difficult.  Currently, I’m leaving only for an hour each time and staying with him for the rest of the session because he has been upset without me. I have cleared my calendar so I can do this.  Once Thomas is more settled during his hour without me, I will gradually lengthen the time I stay away until he can be dropped-off at the start of session and picked-up at the end like usual.  While he needs to learn how to be at kindy without me, I also want to avoid him associating kindy with feeling distraught because I’m not there.  He’s very happy when I am there, playing and building positive associations with kindy.  We’re aiming for more happy, settled moments than, upset, anxious ones.  For most school-aged children, this slower settling-in process won’t be necessary because they’ll be older and likely to have attended an ECE centre where they’ve adjusted to staying without their parents.


I hope there’s something useful here for you and that your children’s transition into school or kindy is a happy one.

Much love to you and your little souls,


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Thomas and I had a few items to pick up from the supermarket on our way home.  Always eager to help, Thomas likes pulling the wheeled basket along behind him and eating the free fruit the shop puts out for kids.  The two of us usually have fun together at the supermarket.

When we got to the supermarket, there were no wheeled baskets and the fruit box was empty.  You can probably guess how the rest of this story goes.

Thomas, being 2, insisted on carrying the regular basket with only handles himself.  It was awkward and heavy for him but I gave him a chance to try and to see for himself that he couldn’t manage it.  Uncharacteristically, he was getting himself in knots over it and our shopping wasn’t getting done.  In the end, I had to insist that I would carry the basket myself.  I was ready for crying and complaints but not for what came next.

Tears, screaming, pulling at me and the basket.  He had himself in hysterics.  I am not exaggerating when I say the whole supermarket could hear Thomas – and I could sense their ears listening.  I needed the few items on my shopping list and I knew it wouldn’t take long so I forged ahead.

But I had a choice to make about how I was going to forge ahead – with love or with fear.  I chose love.  And I mean self-love, not love for Thomas (bless him).  He was in no state for reason or, even, comfort.  He just needed his moment.  So I mentally detached myself from Thomas.  I detached myself from the shoppers and the staff.  I detached from my embarrassment.  “My child’s behaviour is not a reflection of me or my parenting,” I told myself as I charged down the aisles on my mission to get our essentials and get out of there. (Well, limped, really, as Thomas was semi-attached to me – but with the conviction of charging.)

I sensed the discomfort of the staff and shoppers at being witness to the scene I was responsible for.  My strength was wavering as I was heading for the one last thing I needed when…a stranger came up to me and said, “Excuse me, can I give you a hug?”.  She gave me a firm squeeze and said I was doing a good job.  With her kindness and understanding, I was fortified enough to finish my job with composure both within and without.  I am so appreciative of her support and, whoever you are – thank you, enormously.

I headed straight for the self-check-out as standing in queue wasn’t an option.  Like the parting of the red seas, people made room for me and my red-faced child.  A staff member pointed me to the next available check-out.  The customer at the check-out next to me offered to scan my groceries through for me.

The whole ordeal felt like forever but was probably under five minutes, due to everyone’s effort.  They and I both wanted us out of there!

By the time we got to the car, Thomas was hitting me in his frustration and overwhelm.  I simply told him, “no hitting, hitting hurts”.  He wasn’t in a place to receive any lessons. I figured I’d let him get it out and offer him comfort when he was ready to receive it. (see my post Helping Children to Manage Difficult Emotions)

So I had the joy of driving home with Thomas screaming in the back seat.  By the time we pulled up outside our house, he had quietened somewhat but told me he wanted me to keep driving and to listen to “Yellow Submarine”, which we’ve been playing a lot of in the car recently.  So I ended up reversing back down the driveway and cruising around the suburb with “Yellow Submarine” on repeat.  I looked in my rear vision mirror and Thomas was happy in the back seat, pretending to play the trombone along with the music.  He was reset.

That morning, I had listened to a podcast interview with Gabrielle Bernstein, author of The Universe Has Your Back as I was filling lunchboxes.  The interviewer had asked her, “How do you know the Universe has your back?”  This is how I know – the hugging stranger, the eager helpers at the self-checkout, Ringo Starr.  My quick stop at the supermarket didn’t go the way I would have had it, but there was help for me everywhere I turned.  I love the title of Gabby’s book and it is a truth I want my boys to know.

Much love to you and your little souls,


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At the end of my last post, Discipline 101, I promised I’d share my best discipline technique with you so I’ll jump right in.

Here it is –


Maybe you were hoping for something a bit more “practical”- 3 steps to take when your child’s behaviour goes askew, perhaps.  We all want a magical, quick-fix strategy to manage our children’s difficult behaviour and the discomfort it can cause.  But, when they require guidance, it’s our presence, not strategies that is needed.

By “presence” I mean having our attention focussed fully on our child and the moment we are experiencing with them (not on the phone call we just finished or where we have to be in ten minutes’ time).  Our total presence with our children enables us to tune into them and to see what is really going on.  Without presence, our ego gets loud – “he’s blatantly disrespecting me!” it shouts in our heads.  “He’s not getting away with it!”  With presence, our Love asks, “what is he needing from me right now?”

Two very different responses will come from these different kinds of thoughts.  The ego will likely make a declaration of our authority and perhaps an arbitrary removal of a ‘privilege’.   Love might acknowledge how our child is feeling, offer a comforting cuddle and, when they’re ready, an appropriate follow-up.  (See my post, No Such Thing as a Naughty Child)

I’m not a fan of using strategies thoughtlessly, but some good ones have come to me in moments of presence that I’ve been able to reuse selectively in the future.  One such technique is my “try that again” strategy for when my boys speak disrespectfully to myself or someone else.  Jake went through a phase of putting up big resistance when it came time to set the table for dinner.  I started feeling a sense of dread when I needed to ask him to do it because of the roaring, stomping and whining that would ensue.  One evening, my simple request for Jake to set the table had evoked a shout of “No!” and an exaggerated stamp of the foot.   He had struck me in a moment of presence and I realised it was upto me how things would go – whether I escalated the situation by arguing with him both about the way he had addressed me and the setting of the table or whether he accepted his job and did it, albeit grudgingly.  I recognised that all he was needing was a bit of understanding that he didn’t want to set the table – he knew the expectation wouldn’t change.  So I said to him, “try that again”.  He looked at me, puzzled. “Tell me what you have to say respectfully”, I said.  He hesitated for a moment then mumbled, “I don’t want to set the table”.  “I know it can be annoying to be interrupted from your play to set the table”, I commiserated then continued, “ it still needs to be done so we can eat our dinner”.  He went ahead and set the table.  Through presence, I had reminded him to speak respectfully to others, given him a chance to say what he had to say and got him to set the table.  Now, I just say, “try that again” when he speaks disrespectfully and usually the situation is diffused because he’s being polite and I’m listening to how he’s feeling.  So simple, yet I don’t think I would’ve thought of it had I been trying to “figure out” what I should do when he refused to set the table.

I regard presence as an essential personal and parenting skill (see my post Just Be: Presence and Stillness).  It helps us to discipline effectively and with Love.  In any moment, disciplinary or otherwise, it allows us to really see our children and recognise what is required of us.

Much love to you and your little souls,


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With Christmas around the corner, perhaps you are bracing yourself for your children’s “holiday behaviour”.  We know they will be excited and more tired than usual.  They’ll likely test the boundaries to see if there’s any “holiday flex” in them too.  Or it may be that, heading into the new year, you’re wanting to change the dynamic between yourself and your child so that it is more respectful and peaceful.  This time of year can be particularly joyful and particularly testing for parents so it seems a good time to offer a few thoughts on discipline from a spiritual point-of-view.  I try to appeal to the love in my children to encourage the best from them first but, there are times when discipline is needed.



From teachers of A Course in Miracles, I have learned that, in life, we are constantly choosing between Love and fear.  In a spiritually-led life, we aim to choose Love every time, though, of course, we don’t always manage to do so.  We can bring our intention to Love to those moments when we need to discipline our children.  To highlight the features of a love-based approach, let’s compare the two –

Fear-based Discipline:  With a fear-based approach, we use discipline to control our children so that they behave in a way that we judge as acceptable.  We don’t see our child in this approach, blinded by our own egoic fear – fear of being judged for our children’s behaviour, fear of losing control of our children, fear that our children won’t respect us…  We go on to create fear in our children in an attempt to avoid the things we’re fearful of,making threats and dishing out punishments of various kinds.  The punishments may be practical, such as removing screen time, or they may be emotional, such as humiliating our child or expressing our disapproval of them.  Ultimately, we undermine their self worth when we discipline from fear.  Sometimes their behaviour improves quickly, it may appear to “work”, but at the cost of our child’s belief in their own inherent value.  We set our children up for a long-term struggle with fear and unworthiness.

Love-based Discipline: With a love-based approach, we use discipline is to teach our children.  And what we are teaching them is to stay aligned with their own true nature.  When disciplining from Love, we remember that our children are our spiritual equals, each a representation of God, just as we are.  We know that they are essentially “good” and it is only their behaviour that needs correcting, not themselves.  When disciplining them, we have unconditional Love for them in the form of non-judgement and respect, even when we feel differently about their behaviour.  The discipline techniques we use when we are coming from Love can sometimes be slower to see effect but leave our child’s self-worth intact and empower them to be the marvellous person that they are.



S0, here are a few ideas to guide us in disciplining our children with Love.

  1. Be Respectful We need to be asking ourselves when disciplining whether we are being respectful of our child or not. We can measure how respectful we are towards our children by the respect they have for us (this can be sobering at times).  Our respect for our child can be shown in many different ways when disciplining them.  For example, when possible, we should give our child a (one) reminder of the expectation and the consequences if they continue their inappropriate behaviour before we follow through.  Suddenly springing a “punishment” on them when they’ve gotten carried away and forgotten to manage themselves is disrespectful and doesn’t give them the opportunity to self-correct (which is preferable for everyone).  Another way that we unwittingly disrespect our children is to send them to their bedrooms as a punishment.  I think we need to respect their bedrooms as their sanctuaries (see my post Home Sweet Home – A Place for Our Souls), a place they can retreat to when needed.  Let’s not make it their jail.
  2. Be Consistent By managing behaviour using a familiar set of expectations & consequences and applying them consistently, our children know exactly where the boundaries are and what will happen if they don’t stay within them. They can then deliberately choose for themselves how to behave (and sometimes they may decide the consequences for stepping outside of the boundaries are worth the excursion!).  Consistency allows us to carry out any necessary consequences in an objective way – we can calmly follow our family’s process and detach our emotions from the situation to an extent.
  3. Always Make Emotional Support Available To Love our children unconditionally is to do so regardless of their behaviour. When they are struggling with the emotions of a situation, we cannot withdraw our support without giving them the message that they are unworthy of our love in that moment. Sometimes, I offer a cuddle in the middle of a disciplining situation because I can see my son needs reassurance and help to manage his big emotions.  A child’s emotions need to be allowed to settle before they are in a position to learn anything from the situation (see my post Helping Children to Manage Difficult Emotions).
  4. Allow Life to be the Teacher Many situations are “self-disciplining”. By this, I mean that the natural consequences of a child’s actions are enough to teach them what they have to learn.  In these situations, we need to step back a little and give our child the space to experience life’s lessons.  I’ll explain this further in the section below.



I can think of three types of self-disciplining situation where the lesson naturally unfolds and we just need to allow it to.

  1. A natural emotional response There have been times when Jake has done something he shouldn’t have and I have immediately seen the regret on his face. The point doesn’t need driving home any further. He has learned.
  2. A natural consequence A simple example of this is when our child treats a playmate unkindly and the other child refuses to play with them anymore.  Fair enough!
  3. A natural opportunity to put things right For example, Thomas, like many two-year-olds, sometimes spits his food out if he doesn’t like it. I don’t mind (too much) if he spits in back onto his plate but sometimes he spits it on the floor. When he does, I simply get him to pick up the food and put it on his plate and remind him briefly of our rule.  No fuss needed.

In any of these types of situation, there is no need to use an arbitrary punishment to make our point. ( What does his television-watching have to do with spitting food, for example?)  There’s also no need to add heat to these situations with a telling-off or lecture.  If we do need to explain things a little further to help our children grasp their lesson, we can do so in a calm, informative way.  Fear-based parenting can see our egos wanting to have a bit of an authoritative rant at this stage, but it’s unnecessary and only serves to undermine our child and, in turn, our relationship with them.



When disciplining our children, we are really managing ourselves!  We are putting aside our fear and allowing Love to be the teacher.  This can be hard to do when our buttons have been pushed and we are feeling tired & frazzled.  If you see yourself in my description of fear-based discipline, as I do regularly, please forgive yourself.  So much of our fear is unconscious and most of us are doing the very best that we can.

What we are wanting is for our children to come through the disciplinary experience a little wiser and with their self-worth intact.  I’m sure I will come back to the topic of discipline many times, it’s complex and often highly emotional.  I hope I’ve provided a good starting point today.  Look out for my first post of 2017, “My Best Discipline Technique”.


Much love to you and your little souls,


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I’m sure you have watched a child apologise without meaning it on many occasions.  “Sorry”, they mumble, fidgeting and looking anywhere but at the person to whom they’re apologising.  Then – they get out of there as quickly as they can!

Likely leaving behind the well-meaning adult who had insisted they apologise.  I have been that well-meaning adult, embarrassed both by my child’s misdeed and the inadequacy of their apology.   Then, at some point, I realised that I had been insisting that my son apologise because I thought it would reflect badly on me and my parenting if I didn’t.  My ego had clouded my judgement and I wasn’t actually teaching him what an apology really is.



So often, making an apology becomes a punishment we dish out to our children.  At times, there is even an element of humiliation to it which we think will ‘teach’ them.  But, if children learn to equate apologising with fear, they’re going to become reluctant apologisers, unable to offer to others and experience for themselves, release from the situations they have created.

A true apology comes from love – sincere regret for our unloving behaviour. It is also a recognition of worth – both the worth of the apologiser and the recipient.  When we make a real apology, we know the other person was worthy of better treatment and that we are worthy of forgiveness.



When our children make empty, embarrassed apologies, it is because they are not ready to apologise.  So often, adults expect children to make an almost instant apology, before the child has had time to process the emotions they are feeling.  When something difficult has gone down between two people, resulting in an injury or insult, both parties may have big emotions to deal with.  The child who has done ‘wrong’ needs time to allow the emotions to pass before they can sincerely apologise.  They’re most likely dealing with remorse in tandem with the anger or hurt that made them lash out in some way.  And the other person may also need time before they are able to receive an apology.  (See my post Helping Children to Manage Difficult Emotions)

The child who is needing to apologise may need some physical space away from the situation while their emotions settle.  They also need our support. Too often, we withdraw our support in a show of disapproval but a cuddle or gentle words show that our love for our child and their worthiness are unconditional.  In doing this, we remind them that their behaviour is separate from who they are and we empower the love in them.  Once the strength of emotion has dissipated and they are reassured of their worth, the child will be ready to address what has happened and make an effort to put things right.  This may take only 30 seconds or it may take a lot longer. When we can see that they’re ready, we might suggest an apology by asking, “What do you want to do about it now…?” and discussing with them what they will do.  If they want us to accompany them while they apologise, I see no issue with doing so as long as the words come from their mouths.

Sometimes, a child refuses to apologise if forced to do so before they are ready.  I have seen parents apologise instead of their children (I have done this myself).  But it is their apology to make, not ours.  If we do it for them, they have lost their opportunity to learn how to weather their emotions and reach a point at which they’re ready to apologise.  An alternative to apologising instead of our child is to enquire after the hurt party and show our concern for them.  While we are doing this, the attention is off our own child and they are getting a moment to themselves to calm down.



Apologise ourselves, especially to our children – Children are worthy of receiving apologies just as adults are (see A CHILD’S WORTH).  When we apologise to them, we show them how it’s done and communicate their worthiness.  I usually know I will apologise immediately in the situation but I only do it when I’m ready.    Sometimes, I explain my process to my eldest. For example, “I was feeling very angry so I went to my room to calm down until I was ready to say ‘sorry’”.  A cuddle and a kiss put a nice fullstop on the situation.

Accept their apologies gracefully – A simple “thank you” is all that is needed.  Leave it there.  There is no need to follow-up with a lecture on why they shouldn’t have done what they did or a stern warning not to do it again.  They know!  If we respond with our ego, determined to “teach them a lesson”, they may come to dread apologising for the likely telling-off they’ll receive.  That doesn’t set them up to become generous apologisers as adults.

Teach the 3 elements of a good apology – These are eye-contact, using the person’s name and saying specifically what they’re sorry for.  At the dinner table a few nights ago, Jake apologised to my husband for something he had said and did all of these 3 things of his own accord.  I could see his sincerity and it went straight to my heart

For young children, with limited language and self-managing skills, I’m not sure it’s appropriate to insist they say ‘sorry’.  They would simply be parroting us, doing what we expected of them, which is rather meaningless.  What we can do is grow their awareness of the impact of their actions on others.  Yesterday, Thomas (2 years old) was playing at a water table with his little friend.  They were having a great time together until Thomas started hoarding all the equipment.  Too busy chatting, I hadn’t noticed.  Soon, the other child was crying because he had nothing left to play with.  In simple language, I showed Thomas that his friend was crying because he hadn’t been sharing the water toys.  My hope is that, when he’s older, Thomas’ apologies will be sincere – words that come from his love and empathy for others.  Compassion is our starting point.  He will learn about apologising by watching the older people in his life and receiving apologies himself.



My verdict is that we should teach our children how to truly apologise but not make them do it.  There is a lot of power in an apology.  I don’t entirely agree with the phrase “Forgiven but not forgotten”.  If someone sincerely apologises and the receiver sincerely forgives, it is forgotten in the sense that both people put it down, they don’t continue to carry the pain of what happened around with them.  Infact, sometimes an apology even brings us closer.  We know someone sees our value when they offer us a heart-felt apology or generously accept our own apology.  That can strengthen our connection with them.  And, in my experience, an apology is relatively easy to offer when it comes from love rather than fear. As the nurturer in our children’s lives, it is our own approach to apologising that shows our children how to say ‘sorry’ with love.


Much love to you and your little souls,



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Over recent months, Jake has been taking swimming lessons and also learning to ride his bike.  I have sat on the side of the pool and watched him transform from being too nervous to put his face in the water to playing in it confidently, as if he’s a dolphin.  My heart swells to see him trying so hard and feeling so proud of himself.   I have also clocked up many kilometres, jogging alongside him as he rattles along on his training wheels, complaining all the way around our short route and stopping at every slight challenge.  I’ve possibly never been more frustrated by him than when taking him out on his bike.  Why have learning to swim and learning to ride his bike been so different?

A few weeks ago, as I was coaxing Jake to come out for a short bike ride with me, I met resistance all of the way – as usual.  When he was finally sitting on his bike with his helmet on and ready to go, he moaned, “I can’t”.  And that’s when I realised the difference.  For some reason, he believed in himself as a swimmer but not as a cyclist.



It is not about the swimming or the biking.  You see, my hope is for Jake and Thomas to believe in themselves so that they will not be held back in their lives by fear.  I don’t want them to live small if, in their hearts, they have much bigger dreams.  Many self-help and spiritual books describe the magic combination of self-belief and effort in creating what we want for our lives.  More than wanting Jake to practice his biking, I want him to practice self-belief.

I believe that God is within us all.  This adds an extra dimension to the challenges I set myself.  It enables me to have faith and to keep going when the ride is wobbly.    If God is within me, surely I am capable beyond measure and there is no reason not to have self-belief!  I want my boys to know that they have this power within themselves.



NOT by throwing our hands up in the air and saying we’ll give the bike away to someone who wants to ride it, as I have done!  Not my proudest parenting moment.  Added to his fear of falling off, I created fear of a parental meltdown for him to contend with also.  Poor Jake!

Learning a new skill is usually challenging and requires lots of accidents & mistakes as part of the process.  Falling off the bike a few times is pretty much inevitable.  I asked myself “how can I help Jake to believe in himself enough to face his fear of hurting himself when his current experience is that he has limited control of the bike and sometimes falls off?”  How can we nurture self-belief in our children?

Assure our children of our belief in them Once I got over my frustration with Jake’s apparent lack of effort and recognised that it was really fear that was paralysing him, I started responding to his “I can’ts” with “Well, I know you can”.

Teach our children about the power of self-talk
“Be careful how you talk to yourself because you are listening”. – Lisa M. Hayes
I was gifted an easy example to use when talking to Jake about this.  As I was helping him to practise his floating in the pool once, he said to me “Let go, I can do it”.  When he next came to riding his bike, I was able to remind him that, in the pool, he tells himself he can do it and he has learned so much.  I then pointed out that he says “I can’t” when biking and he has found it much more difficult & less enjoyable to learn.   Since that conversation, I have caught Jake saying to himself, “I can do it” in a number of different situations – including riding his bike.

Remind our children of other successes   As they build up a history of “successes”, they will begin to see that they are capable of learning new things and of achieving that which they put their minds to.  Since seeing himself progress so well with swimming, I have noticed that Jake is a lot more willing to attempt new physical skills and to persevere.  He can now slide down poles at playgrounds and spent close to an hour trying to climb the rock wall at school yesterday.

Be a self-believing example to our children – As I always say, our example is probably our biggest tool as parents, teachers and friends to children.  We need to show our children what self-belief looks like and its power in the face of fear & set-backs.  This is a challenge for me as my history is of having very little self-belief.  For most of my life, I felt as though I was cycling on a stationary bike – putting in lots of work and not getting very far.  Writing this blog is one of the first big acts of self-belief I have taken.  I am even going so far as to have a logo and website designed for me as a way of backing myself (watch this space!)   I have plenty of fear – but more self-belief.  I’m working hard but I’m on a mountain bike now and each cycle of my legs is getting me so much further.



I don’t mind if Jake’s not a cyclist.  I just want him to give it a good go so he can know for sure if it’s for him or not.  As with all new skills, he needs to persevere through the challenges of learning to get to the point where he’s able to ride for fun.  Then he can really decide if he’s interested or not.  With self-belief comes the willingness to put in the effort.

It is in childhood that we do much of our experimenting to find out what our strengths are and what brings us joy.  Without the willingness to experiment, our children limit their opportunities to discover what works for them.  Imagine going into adulthood with a good sense of who you are and a good dose of self-belief.  That would be a real gift.

Finally, incase he reads this post one day, I also want to say that, since taking the steps above to build his self-belief, Jake has become much more willing to ride his bike and can now cycle our route without stopping and without complaining.  The training wheels’ days are numbered.



Self-belief is best applied to those things that are part of our/God’s vision for us.  I have no self-belief in regard to becoming a rugby player, for example, but that’s ok because I don’t feel I’m meant to be a rugby player!  As children experiment with the opportunities in life, how do we nurture self-belief in the activities that aren’t a match for them and through ‘failure’?
What are you wondering about?


Much love to you and your little souls,


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When I was at primary school, I had a boy in my class who we called “Naughty Jason”.  He had to sit at a desk by himself while the rest of us sat in groups together at tables.  His place on the mat was right at the front, by the teacher’s feet.  I can’t, right now, remember one naughty thing he did but I do remember that I didn’t trust him and kept my distance.  Now, I feel horrified that Jason had to go about every day with the word “naughty” glued to him.  Once it stuck, did he have any hope of being anything but naughty?  Most likely, he just went on living up to that expectation.  What if he wasn’t naughty and was really just needing?

“Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart”. – Anne Frank

One of my core beliefs is that we are all extensions of God, intended to be distributors of His love.  If I believe this, then I must believe that everyone is essentially good.  So what happens to make people behave poorly?  One explanation is that they have a need that is not being met.  In my time as a teacher, I taught many children with difficult behaviour.  I can’t, though, think of one of them that I would have called naughty.  As an adult, I don’t think I’ve ever used the word naughty to describe a child.  In all of them, I could see a need that wasn’t being met.

Before I continue, I should clarify that I’m not talking about those occasional moments of misbehaviour, when a child is simply unable to resist their impulse for fun or curiosity, or they’re unwell and less able to manage themselves.  I’m talking about children who have consistent patterns of disruptive behaviour.


Needing To be Noticed and Have Their Worth Affirmed
My first post was about how we can know that we are all worthy, simply because God put us here.  If the key people in a child’s life don’t see that and don’t treat them according to this truth, misbehaviour might be a way that the child says, “Look at me, do you see me?  Am I worth anything?”  They may find that unwanted behaviour at least gets them some attention and decide that it is better than being ignored or under-valued.

Needing To Have Boundaries Set
Children are designed to test out boundaries, to check where the limits are and that they’re still there.  They like boundaries so they know where they stand.  We’ve all heard it said that giving our children boundaries is a way of showing our love so, at the same time that they’re checking their boundaries, they’re checking that our love is there also.  A child with very loose or no boundaries will push hard to find them, escalating their difficult behaviour as they push.
A very simple example recently in my house has been Thomas’ meal time behaviour.  First he started by standing on his chair either to reach things on the table to play with or to try to climb onto my knee.  My husband and I asked him to stay in his chair but weren’t particularly firm about it.  Then, he started throwing food and utensils.  Within a few days, he was playing, shouting and throwing every meal time.  Meal time chaos had crept up on us because we hadn’t been consistent with our boundaries.  What Thomas did was appropriate to his age (2 years) but a reminder that the boundaries need to be in place.

Needing Help To Manage Emotions
Behaviour that stresses us out can indicate that the child is stressed out themselves.  Anxiety, anger and hurt are the first emotions that come to mind when I think of children whose difficult behaviour stems from overwhelming emotions.  It is hard to see beyond our own frustration when our children are challenging us but we’re not going to help the child or improve their behaviour if we don’t excavate and find the root of the issue.


Noticing a need does not mean we allow the child to behave as they please. It means we are compassionate and proactive in meeting their needs but whatever discipline method we use, should be followed (as long as it’s respectful, in proportion to the behaviour and consistent).  I think there are also a couple of other things we can do to help.

Label our child’s behaviour but don’t label them
It is okay to tell our child that what they did was inconsiderate, disrespectful or unkind.  They need to be aware of how their behaviour impacts on others.  Everything we do affects others and it may be that they were too wound up in their own needing to think about their impact on the people around them.  However, don’t label the child.  “You are so rude”, for example.  This makes them feel that they have no chance of improving their behaviour because they are innately bad and no chance of redeeming themselves with us.  Their lost hope will likely make changing their behaviour much harder.

Show our faith in our child’s good
Notice the times that our child does behave well.  When doing this, try to appreciate their co-operation rather than praise it excessively. For example, “Thank you for asking nicely to stay longer at the playground today”.  When behaviour reverts back, as it will at times, we can say, “I know you can speak respectfully to me because you did it yesterday when you wanted more time on the playground”.  Let them see how their “good” behaviour positively impacts on us or the other people involved.   By doing these things, they begin to believe that they are essentially good and capable of behaving well.


Remembering that we are all God’s children is a helpful start when a child’s behaviour is fraying our nerves.  For me, it activates compassion and waters-down my frustration enough to be able to help my child rather than punish them with my disapproval.  “Needing, not naughty” I tell myself.


Much love to you and your little souls,



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As parents, our days are scattered with “good job” and other similar phrases, such as “great work” and “well done”.  Or, even worse, “good boy/girl” which suggests we see no separation between them and their behaviour.  We litter these comments about, thinking we are being positive and encouraging of our children. But, often, we are actually using them to “train” our children to do what we want them to do.  We are using positive reinforcement so they’ll continue to meet our expectations and, in the process, we are turning them into praise-junkies.   Each time we throw out one of these phrases meaninglessly, we teach our children fear rather than Love.  There are a couple of main ways that we use “good job” and I will use them to explain what I mean and suggest alternatives.



We all need co-operation from our children to make our day manageable – as in the example in my last post ( when I needed Jack to put his bag and coat in the boot of the car while I strapped Toby into his carseat so that we could get to school on time. There are a million instances in the day when a bit of co-operation makes all the difference.  When our children do as we have asked, we say “good job” in the hope that the praise they get will encourage them to be helpful again next time.    Perhaps we also say it with relief that we didn’t have to battle this one out! But how do our children hear it when we say “good job”?

As judgement.  Positive judgement in this case, but judgement none the less.  “Mum’s pleased with me.  She approves of my behaviour”, their little brains think.  They may also think, “Phew, she didn’t tell me off”.  Their co-operation has come from fear of disapproval and fear of our reaction if they don’t co-operate.  We have manipulated them into compliance and taught them nothing about teamwork, consideration of others and our faith in them.

So, what’s the alternative?  I use “thank you”.  With “thank you”, I am showing my boys that I believe in their willingness and ability to help.  I am expressing appreciation instead of judgement.  It shows them that their contribution is valued.  I’ll often go as far as to explain to them how their behaviour is helpful.  For example, “Thanks Jack.  Putting your things into the car yourself helps us to get to school on time”.  For my boys, “Thank you” changes the exercise in getting to school on time into teamwork instead of point-scoring for approval.  I enlist their co-operation instead of demanding it of them.



“Sweet words are like honey, a little may refresh, but too much gluts the stomach.” ― Anne Bradstreet.

I’m all for praising our children when it is due.  But often we find we’re praising an achievement that we know didn’t really require much of them.  Perhaps they finished a puzzle they’ve done many times and we know they can do easily.  Hearing “good job” in these circumstances has 2 main sticking points.

  1. Our children come to expect it and feel upset when they don’t hear it.  They become addicted to our praise.  They are doing the activity for our response more than for their own joy or satisfaction.  Their fear is that we won’t offer our praise and approval.
  2. Our children begin to think “she always says that, she doesn’t mean it”.  When we over-praise, they don’t believe it when we really are sincere.  Their fear is that they’re not really good enough to get genuine praise.

So, when my boys have done something that I want to acknowledge but don’t feel warrants “good job”, I use one, or a combination, of the following:

  • I make affirming comments that suggest I knew they could do it eg. “that’s it”, “yes” or “look at that”.
  • I ask a question eg. “What is this part of your block tower for?” or, simply, “tell me about it”.
  • I make a statement about their process eg. “You worked for a long time to get that finished” or “It looked like you really enjoyed making that”.

I am showing them that I am interested in what they have done but I am offering no judgement.  I am simply sharing in their satisfaction.

So, when I do say “good job”, my children know I really mean it.  I usually try to qualify my praise with a reason why it’s good.  If it’s art work, I might say, “Those colours look great together”.  If it’s a Lego creation of a spaceship, I might say, “You’ve thought about everything a spaceship needs”.  Being specific both gives useful feedback and shows that my praise is genuine.



Reconsidering our use of phrases such as “good job” and finding meaningful alternatives is a small way to activate love rather than fear in our children.  Choosing our words shows we believe in the love inside of them and that there is no need for them to prove their worth.  These are, for me, essential principles in nurturing little souls which you can read more about in A Child’s Worth and The Real Purpose of Parenting.



Given we tend to say words such as “Good job” so often, they are significant. Our language either empowers or undermines our children and choosing our words more thoughtfully can have a big impact.  And the good news is that this is one of the easier adjustments to make to our parenting styles.  Once I realised I wasn’t using “good job” consciously, I thought up a handful of alternatives that felt natural to me so that I was ready with new responses.  It’s been a case of creating a new habit when responding to my boys.  “Good job” still slips out at times when I’m distracted or busy but, most of the time, I only use it genuinely.  As a parent, it is empowering to realise that a small change such as this can make a real, positive difference for my boys.



What else do I say out of habit to my children that I could rethink?!  (Let’s listen to ourselves more carefully!)


Much love to you and your little souls,


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