Coloring Inside the Lines

by Sharon Silver on June 15, 2015

Group-with-Date-Post-400I’d like to speak with you about that moment every parent inevitably faces… the sinking feeling that happens when you realize what you are doing isn’t working for you or your family. What happened to all of the fun you imagined having together?
Instead you are tired, uninspired and no matter how many times you repeat yourself, no one seems to be listening. Everyone is talking, or grunting or crying… You are in a constant state of management instead of a gentle place of connection and you wonder how it got to be this way…
Maybe you’ve been attributing the chaos and disconnect to the “terrible twos,” or “teenage rebellion”. “It’s just a phase”, everyone says… but one phase quickly rolls into another and the challenges keep growing and the opportunities to connect and really be present with your kids seem few, and far between.
But there IS good news! These seemingly “normal” stages of parenting no longer need to be normal for you. You can choose to create a whole new “normal”- one that doesn’t feed on chaos and disconnect.
How does that sound?
Just the other day, I was invited to an exciting interview event called Coloring Outside The Lines hosted by Life and Family Coach, Lianne Dixon. Starting on Tuesday, June 16, Lianne is going to be interviewing parenting, personal, and spiritual experts to create an archive of the BEST advice available for parents who are looking for strategies to build better connections with their children. No tricks, just real heart-centered stuff intended to help you explore the many opportunities for deep, meaningful connection.  
When you listen in, you’ll hear from 20+ experts who will offer heart-centered tools and methods that embrace conscious, kind, and present communication. Additionally, this event will include on a number of unconventional activities such as meditation, yoga/breathwork, EFT, guided imagery, and other activities that can contribute to deeper connections and more family fun.
I’ll be participating on the expert panel of this event and as a courtesy to me, Lianne is allowing me to invite all of my subscribers to listen in! If you’d like to learn more about this event and claim your free registration.
All too often, parents believe that a constant state of chaos or disconnect are typical and have to be endured. Are you willing to be wrong about that? Are you willing to uncover what else is possible?
Click on the words to register for free right now.
I’m excited to share my ideas and expand my understanding of the latest alternative parenting strategies that experts in child development are currently advocating for! I hope you’ll join me!
Sharon and Lianne


Shocking: Yelling Isn’t Where a Reaction Begins!

by Sharon Silver on June 8, 2015

stressed mom 1It’s Monday morning at 7:45 am and you’ve already yelled at Suzie Q, shrieked at Timmy, and argued with your spouse! You’re exhausted and wonder what in the world happened to your life?! Sound familiar?

I know you don’t have a drop of energy left at the end of the day to learn new techniques, no matter how valuable they are, I get it.

However, if you keep reacting, not only will you build a wedge between you and your family, you’ll also continue feeling drained and defeated each and every day.

The plain truth is reacting drains your energy, where as responding allows you to retain your energy.

Here’s what one parent had to say, “… responding gives us energy. We let the kids take some responsibility, and we aren’t trying to fix and control everything. The kids seem to be happier and have responded wonderfully to our new parenting style.” Janet Borchert, mother of 4 Lafayette Colorado

Today’s tip is about how a reaction comes to be, and why it drains you so badly. This description and much more about reacting is included in Module #1, section #1 of the BreakThrough Series which is on Sale at a ridiculously low price till Friday June 12th at midnight.

Let me ask you a question, “What’s a reaction?” My guess is your answer would be something like, “It’s when I explode and begin yelling!”

Well, yelling is the end result. Reacting begins before yelling occurs, and has nothing to do with your child! Don’t get me wrong, your child’s behavior is the trigger, but it’s not the point of origin.

I doubt there’s anyone these days who hasn’t heard of the reptilian part of our brain that decides if we go into the fight or flight mode. This was an essential part of our brain when there was a possibility we could be eaten by a Saber Tooth Tiger, oh my! Even though we don’t face that threat any longer, that part of our brain is still active.

When we sit in traffic to and from work, rush to get here and there, work on family and household activities all weekend, and then begin again on Monday, our bodies send the signal to our brain that we’re in stress mode 24/7. When life does not include downtime or some good ole fashioned rest, and our bodies unconsciously send the message to our brain that we’re in constant stress which triggers us to go into, and stay, in the fight or flight mode.

Being in fight or flight mode means your blood is directed away from the digestive tract out toward the limbs so there’s greater ability to run or fight. In today’s society we have heart issues, digestion issues, lack of sleep, aches and pains and if we continue at this level … well you know the rest, and there's more:

1. When you reside in the fight or fight mode, for extended periods of time, your body tends to see everything in your environment as a possible threat  to your survival, even something your spouse, partner or child says, or does, is perceived as a threat.

2. Your unconscious automatically turns stress mode into survival mode and everything feels like a series of short-term emergencies.

3. You actually begin living crisis to crisis and feel like there’s no relief in sight

4. That means that every bout of misbehavior is handled at the same high intensity as a true emergency.

5. When you live at this level of intensity and your child misbehaves, that misbehavior is the straw that broke the camels back, and you react.

That’s what I meant when I said, “your child’s behavior is the trigger, but it’s not the point of origin.”

The good news is, you can do something about it. The BreakThrough Series shares ways to help you:

a. Lower the stress that comes from parenting.

b. Lower stress diminishes your intense feelings.

c. Feeling less intense reduces the possibility that your brain sees you living in crisis mode.

d. When your brain doesn’t think you’re in crisis mode, you stop automatically reacting.

e. Fewer reactions allow you to respond, which gives you energy and the ability to think, so you can teach, instead of react.

Whew, that’s a mouth full!

I hope you now see how a reaction occurs. What can responding do instead? Oh, so much!

Responding always begins with a deep breath, or two or three, if need be. That deep breath immediately sends an unconscious message to your brain that says, “I’ve got this, stand down.” The deep breath also sends several messages to your child as well.

1. It alerts your child to the fact that (s)he misbehaved, versus the need to yell.

2. It tells him or her that getting calm is something people decide to do, it doesn’t just happen.

This is important because you tell your kids every day to “calm down” but have you shown them how to calm down? Your simple deep breath shows your kids, this is step one. 

3. It shows your child you’re serious about the rules, and that breathing resets your parent power so you can focus on what’s happened.

4. And finally, your deep breath shares a very important life lesson, “Think before you act.” and that’s something every parent wants to impart to his or her child. 

All of that comes from an intentional deep breath or two.

Is there more to responding? Yes, and that’s what’s in the BreakThrough Series, the rest of the story, so to speak!

Don’t forget the BreakThrough Series goes away forever Tonight at midnight! Yes, we're really taking it down forever on  Read more. 


I failed My Kid: I’m Coming Clean (part #2)

by Sharon Silver on June 2, 2015

Woman YellingYesterday I posted a story all parents hope to avoid. Today is the resolution of the story!  If you haven’t read part #1, scroll down below this one.

As I said yesterday, I was so mad at my son that I wasn’t sure what to do or say. However, the moment I saw the police officer standing next to my boy, I instantly changed my tune. I could clearly see my son was terrified. His head was down, his shoulders were slummed, I knew that stance very well—he was scared to death!

As soon as we pulled up my son, and his terrified face, glanced in our direction. He obviously needed to connect with us. He’d never been in a situation like this before. He was scared to death and reaching out for support. That was the moment it all became crystal clear. I took a deep breath and reflected on how I was really feeling, right here, right now. Once I assessed how I felt in this moment, not how I felt five minutes ago, I knew what I had to do.

Instantly love and empathy replaced my overwhelming anger. Was I still angry? Yes, I was. Was I still going to do something about this, oh you betcha! But now I was able to think again, and that was what I needed. I needed to move from my overwhelming reaction, to a response that I could live with, and one my son could learn from.

I continued to take deep breaths as I slowly walked up to the damaged car. Since I was calm, I was able to notice that the police officer watching me walk up to the car as well.

When I arrived I touched my son’s arm and said, “Are you okay? Was anyone hurt?” The police officer said, “No one was hurt.” and then there was an uncomfortable silent.

I knew this was a defining moment for me, for my son, and for the police officer. Was I going to lash out and begin yelling at my son? Or was I able to remain calm so I could teach him?

I began shaking my head as I looked at the car, and then looked up at my son and said, “Wow, I am so sorry this happened to you. And I’m even sorrier that 100% of your graduation money will be going toward fixing the damage from this accident, and that you’ll need to get a job to pay for the rest of the damage. This certainly changes your summer plans, and that sucks!”

At this point my son looked directly into my eyes. He was looking for a way to argue, but what he saw was a calm clear firmness on my face. He unconsciously took a deep breath. He seemed relieved by my reaction. The child inside the almost grown young man was grateful that I gave him a way to accept what he already knew was true, this was his fault, and he knew it was his responsibly to fix it. He felt safe again.

The police officer looked at my son and said, “I was going to give you a ticket, but I can see that your mom has this well in hand. You’re a lucky young man to have a mom like that. I’d like to hear you to tell your mom that you understand, and will be respectful and take responsibility for the damage. Oh, and mom, if he doesn’t hold up his end of the bargain I’d be happy to issue him a ticket, just let me know.”

Had I yelled and reacted when I arrived several things would have most likely happened instead.

The police officer would have given him a ticket thinking he was the one who had to teach my son this life lesson because an angry parent wasn’t able to do the job.

Since my son was already going thought a rebellious phase, he would have found a way to focus on my anger and yelling instead of taking responsibility for the accident, thereby learning nothing.

Because I was calm enough to handle things, right here and right now, he knew that 100% of his graduation money would go toward fixing the damage, and he’d have to get a summer job to pay for the rest, so there was very little chance he’d argue with me about this when the estimate came in.

Finally, since I was calm enough to teach my child the true lesson immediately, the backup the police officer gave us, stating that if my son failed to be responsible and respectful in any way that he would issue a ticket, was the perfect addition to the lesson. It taught my son that sometimes you have to abide by society’s rules, not just mom and dad’s rules.

You may be wondering if my son was able to follow through with his agreement? Yes, he was! Was there an argument about the need to use his graduation money to fix his car? No, there wasn’t. Did he ever find out how angry we were? Oh, yes he did. Was being truthful about our anger considered reacting? No, we were able to calmly express our anger and disappointment so he could hear it. Our anger was our truth and part of the reality he had to learn! Did he accept all of this because I’m a parent educator? No. He accepted all of this because we’d been teaching both of our kids this way since they were in preschool.

What does all this mean to you?

The truth is…

            You, too, can have all the skills I used — today. You can learn them at your pace, in small sections about 15 minutes long. 

             And you can have it at a ridiculously low price of $97.00, not the original price of $197.00, because it’s our Schools Out Sale. Forgive my sounding like a car dealer here!

Your kids will be out of school in a week or two. That means you’ll be dealing with camp, or daycare, or the neighborhood kids and their influences. You’ll experience some new behavior that comes with summer freedom and attitudes, as well as all that reactions that pop-up as the new school year approaches. I know you’re sick of reacting, repeating your requests, and oh so tired of yelling.

Proactive Parenting’s BreakThrough Series can and will teach you another way.

This master class will:

Teach you new skills to correct behavior so you’re not constantly feeling drained by yelling and reacting.

Share new ways to respond that increase listening, respect, cooperation and will inspire you to handle things so you can think when situations arise.

Reshape your connection to your kids so you can be empathetic as well as firm as you face the challenges all parents deal with when summer arrives and the coming school year rounds the bend.

Apply to kids of all ages because all examples are broken out into three groups, one for preschoolers, one for grade school kids, and one for tweens/teens.

But you have to hurry. This sale for 12 days only, AND the BreakThrough Series really is being taken off the website on June 12th at midnight!

Click here to read all about The BreakThrough Series.

Kids do misbehave, and parents do get mad as a result, that’s a fact of life. The key to changing your child’s behavior isn’t about hiding your anger; it’s about how to express any anger or frustration you feel, honestly, as you calmly and firmly correct behavior without reacting.

Click here to learn more about this special parenting roadmap.

I know, some people say, “This product is going away forever” and they never take the produce down. But I am taking it down! I am a woman of my word, ask my kids!

Remember: The BreakThrough Series will be gone forever tonight, June 12th at Midnight!

Get your Breakthrough Series today and begin listening when you have time, so you’re ready to enjoy summer!

Click here to learn more NOW.


I Failed My Kid: I’m Coming Clean

by Sharon Silver on June 1, 2015

Teen-cookie-sbs I’ll bet you didn’t know that I’m funny. There are times when I’m absolutely hilarious, ask my family! There are two more things you may not know about me. I’m seriously passionate about the work I do, and I’ve failed. Yes, I failed my kids!

The part where I said “I failed” is what caught your eye isn’t? Be honest, everyone likes to read a good failure story! Well, here’s one I think you’ll relate too. Read this story to its conclusion, part one and part two, because the end turns out a bit different than you might guess.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while then you know my advice to parents is to allow your kids to learn from their choices. Stand beside them, be empathetic, and support them, but let them learn from the inside out.

Well, I’ve been known to react. There I said it! I’ve been known to lose it and react big time! And more than once!

I’ve been known to let my fear and emotions get the best of me. My reactions can be way over the top. At times my reactions are loud and filled with yelling. So for me, in my life, I consider that a failure. I know you want to hear about it, so here’s the story.

First, Let Me set The Stage 

It was about one week before son #2 was to graduate from high school. Said child was going through a rebellious phase, unusual for him, but there it was. Everything we said to him seemed to be met with a snarky teenage attitude. One that sent the silent message … "What do you know?!"

Now, I know you’re kids are not teens—but hang in there with me, this story will be relatable, I promise!

Back To My Story!

It was a warm sunny day as hubby and I waited in line at our favorite breakfast place. We’d literally just been seated when our son called. He said that on the way home from graduation rehearsal his cell phone rang, and I think you know what happened next, he looked down for a split second and ran into the car in front of him.

I was livid. I was a jumble of mad and blame all mushed up together. I wanted to read him the riot act. I wanted to ground him. I wanted to take his car away! I wanted to lock him in his room for being so reckless. We’d told him again and again — n.e.v.e.r look at the phone when driving. I was so mad that I really had no idea what to do.

That’s when I began to feel like a failure. My mind was filled with rage, yes I was that mad! I was reacting big time! And as a result, I couldn’t think! I was drawing a blank.

As we drove up and saw several police cars another emotion blasted through. I was terrified. Was he hurt? Was someone else hurt? Now my mind was filled anger and fear! I had no idea what to do. My heart was racing. My anger was boiling. I was madder than I had been in years! I was a mess!

So when I tell you in newsletters and emails that I know what reacting does to you, trust me I do. This story is a perfect example of what reacting does to you.

It doesn’t matter what the situation is, or how old your kids are, when you’re reacting, you can’t think! And when you can’t think, yelling makes sense; it feels like the perfect release. Yelling takes on a life of it’s own, it can make you feel empowered with divine authority and cause you to throw threats and punishment at your child without stopping to take a breath!

Even though you may feel justified to yell, scream, threaten and punish, is it the best course of action, usually not.

You have to ask yourself, will my child really learn what to do instead of what he’s done if I scream at him? Will my child really understand all the reasons why: This. Is. Not. Okay. AND You. Should. Never. Ever. Do. This. Again!

Have you ever reacted like that? Have you ever reacted with an intensity that scared you? Scared your child? Caused you to stop thinking? I know you have. We all have!

What To Do 

Wouldn’t you like to know what to say instead?

Wouldn’t you like to know what to say to buy yourself some time so you can calm down?

Wouldn’t you like to know how to handle any situation, from preschooler to school age to tweens and teens, so you don’t draw a blank like I did?

Well, I can show you.

I know that’s a tall order, but here’s the truth. I can share a new perspective, a new way to look at reaction triggers, and you can pair that with your intuition, wisdom, and rules so you can change things. I could share the words, and you could use the words, at the right time, to turn a reaction into a response.

Tomorrow I will share part two of the story, the resolution, what I said and did when I got out of the car. And tomorrow I will explain why I placed "can" and "could" in italics.  

The BreakThrough Series will be taken down tonight June 12th at Midnight and will be gone forever. Read all about it 



Does Roughhousing Lead to Violence?

by Sharon Silver on May 22, 2015

Roughhousing-600We’ve talked about bickering between siblings. We’ve talked about the fact that siblings fight over silly things to find out if mom or dad loves a sibling more. Today’s topic is about wrestling, physical play, roughhousing or aggression, call it what you like.

I found this section the most difficult to write because of the implied stereotype that aggression is always wrong, and is typically a male activity. Yes, boys are more physically aggressive than girls, but girls get aggressive, too. However, most of the time female aggression is expressed through talking not physical activity, things like using mean, cruel, snarky, or backstabbing words. A great book about this is Queen Bees and Wannabes, by Rosalind Wiseman.

The word aggression gave me some problems as well. I have sons and didn’t want to give the impression that boys have no other qualities, because that’s just not true. My sons were, and are, sweet, gentle, strong, intense men. So I added another word along side the word aggression for this piece. The word is intensity, and I think that will give you a better understanding of the dynamic I’m talking about in this post.

Parents are much more conscious and aware these days than in previous generations, and that’s a good thing. We’re finally focusing on feelings, self-esteem, respect, and remaining connected. Because of that there’s an unexpressed fear that any physical play, any aggression, will result in violence of some kind.

As sweet and gentle as my boys were they could go from zero to 100 in a blink of an eye. My guys were always in constant motion, and I’m guessing your kids are as well. So that’s how I’m defining aggression [intensity] for this piece, as constant physical or emotional motion.

Michael Gurian, author of The Wonder of Boys says, “The male brain is hardwired to go into resting states, [similar to a computer in sleep mode] when he’s not active.” That means boys need to move in order to learn and process the world around them. Girls need to talk about things in order to process the world around them. And when a girl becomes aggressive she tends toward dramatic outbursts and mean words.

Some parents’ perceive constant physical motion as aggressive behavior that needs to be stopped no matter what. Research tells us that male aggression [intensity] is the result of testosterone. It’s what makes a male a hunter-gather, so there’s nothing inherently wrong with it. Parents can’t eliminate aggression from boys, but you can work with it. It’s the same for girls. You can’t stop a girl from getting dramatic when she’s upset, but you can work with her.

Violence is different than aggression; it’s a learned act. Violence requires an adult’s immediate attention, and should never be tolerated. Aggression [intensity], on the other hand needs to be guided and released.

Believe it or not roughhousing and physical play is a good way for boys and girls to release aggression. Shelly Macdonald, founder of says, “Roughhousing releases a chemical called brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) which acts like fertilizer for the brain. Roughhousing stimulates neuron growth within areas of the brain responsible for memory, learning, language, and logic.” So roughhousing, wrestling, and physical play serve a purpose. Okay, I’ve shared what the research says; now it’s time to give you some tips to respond instead of react when physical or verbal aggression appears.  


Real or Play, Which is it?

Years ago I heard a Montessori teacher ask two boys who were wrestling, “Is this agreed upon play?” Both boys stopped, looked at her and cheerfully said, “Yes!” and picked up where they left off. Sometimes play is play, and sometimes a fight has begun.

Boys learn about their power by playing physically. Girls learn about their power from how they use words, and how it affect others.

Make sure that any physical roughhousing, or verbal playacting is something that both parties have agreed to. If kids get physically or verbally violent, stop them.


I was never totally comfortable with the physical stuff, mostly because one of my dear friends used to tell me horror stories about the roughhousing he and his brothers did. That made think, we need some rules for our family so I can relax and let things play out. We decided as a family that when you wrestle there’s no slapping, no fists, no jumping off things, and no landing on people. That made it a little better!

Secret Words

Have the kids choose one secret word that they both use to alert their sibling that the play has to gone too far. When this secret word is said both of their hands must return to their sides, and all activity stops, immediately. My kids chose the word weirdo, so their friends wouldn’t know they had a secret word.

Since you too are affected by this kind of play, you should have a secret word as well! If you see things headed in a dangerous direction, or if the play is too loud for you at the moment, or whatever, use your secret word. Both kids will have to stop, bring their hands back to their sides and respect your wishes, or the play will be suspended for a day or two.

My secret word was “Freeze.” That word saved my youngest child from being hit by a car, stopped many potential wars, and got their attention No. Matter. What. Even now as adults, if I say, “Freeze” they will. I tried it a few years ago when they were in their 20’s and it still worked, tee hee!

Change my mind

I’d be dishonest if I didn’t add that according to my sister I didn’t stopped tickling her when she said stop. She’s right I didn’t stop, sorry about that! This is a perfect example of something that’s fun until someone changes his or her mind.

We’ve all seen it, one minute there’s a smile on one kid’s face and the next minute there’s anger, upset or pain. Ask your kids to check the other person’s face every few minutes to make sure the other person is still having fun. This is a good way to begin introducing empathy. I honored my sister by including a rule that stated, when it’s no longer fun for one person; the other person has to stop.

Time and Place

This was a well-worn phrase in our house. Even though my kids were allowed to roughhouse at our house, and at uncle Mike’s house, they were never allowed to do that at Nana’s house. If things began to get wild we simply said, “Time and Place” and they stopped.

That’s all Folks

Hopefully now you have a better understanding about why bickering, silly fights, and physical or verbal aggression shows up and how to respond to it, instead of react to it. If you refer back to these responsive tips and they work for you, tell a friend!

Have a great Memorial Day Weekend!

Now go hug your kids!




{ 1 comment }

Yelling is Emotions on Steroids

by Sharon Silver on May 19, 2015

live_photo16734172We’ve all been there, you've had “one of those days!” Those are the days when you fantasize about running away! Before packing your bags, know this, there’s a reason why your kids force you to yell, and a way to change it. Yes, I said it. Your kids force you to yell, but not in the way you might think.

The Habit Begins

Since young children aren’t finished learning language yet, even though they sound totally fluent, they fill in missing gaps of knowledge by focusing on their parents’ facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice and then use their immature reasoning to interpret what they’ve observed.

We’ve all heard the cute misuses of language on YouTube, but there are also some behavioral misunderstands kids make that can cause a parent to yell, and that’s not so cute!

Nothing packs the energetic punch that yelling does! Think about what you do when you yell. You stop what you’re doing, you turn around, you lock eyes with your child, and you focus all of your words on him. That’s a bunch of attention!

Yes, kids adore loving words and actions, but they also want attention and they should have it. Since yelling packs such a huge energetic wallop, younger kids make the incorrect assumption that the best way to get that much focus and attention is to misbehave. I know it’s counterintuitive, but it’s true.

Shift the scales

If a child's habit of getting attention through misbehavior goes unchanged by a parent, then the child grows up seeking attention through misbehavior, and no parent wants that! To prevent that from happening it's best if parents can stop reacting and yelling during early childhood and shift to responding to correct behavior. What does that look like?

Be honest

Yelling is nothing more than your emotions on steroids. That means you have to look at what your triggers are. Do you expect perfect behavior? Are there too many things on your plate leaving you no energy to deal with the kids? Are there other adult situations impacting your feelings or stamina? Be honest and ask yourself, am I releasing my frustration on my kids becasue they can’t fight back at the same level as an adult would. If so, review what’s happening in your life and make some changes.

Remain Empathetically Connected

When your child misbehaves take a deep breath, exhale slowly, and make a conscious effort to connect with your heart before you say anything. This simple act engages empathy, which is a critical component for a child to feel in order to listen and cooperate.

Focus on the End

All parents want their kids to think before doing something. The best way to create a child who thinks before he leaps is to teach him how to reverse engineer a situation, and that’s a two-step process.  

          1. Ask questions

Ask him, “Is this what you thought would happen when you did that?” Then ask, “Can you think of a better way to do that?” This teaches him to review his decisions before acting on them.

           2. Personal Wisdom

We all know that learning from the results of our actions is the most powerful form of teaching. Parenting is not a license to interfere in that learning. The goal of parenting is to love our kids, keep them safe from danger, and let them learn as we empathetically support, guide and teach them. One aspect of responding means letting life teach your kids, if you can. Let things play out so your child learns from within, from their experience, versus imposing the lesson from outside by punishing.

Those are 3 basic tips to get you started. Are you looking for the meat and potatoes of how to apply these and many more principals to stop yelling? If so, consider our BreakThrough Series. It’s a Master Class designed to be your roadmap to guide you from the preschool years thru the high school years. It’s broken out into three age groups, preschool, school age, and tween/teen. It contains scripts that share the words that tranform your reacting into responding. And most importantly, it’s going away! Yes, what’s now all in one package, and at one low price, is being broken up into many packages and will cost much more soon. Take advantage of the low price and get yours TODAY.

Did you like those tips? If so, please share them on social media by tweeting or posting: Yelling is emotions on steroids! Stuck in yelling mode w/no results? 3 tips to take u from reacting 2 responding


“He’s Breathing My Air!” Or Fighting Part 2

by Sharon Silver on May 12, 2015

Solutions-Sibling-Fighting-2By now you’ve figured out that family life isn’t a fairytale filled with hugs, kisses and sweetness, only. Even though many times it is. By now you’ve realized that family life is complicated.


Part one in the fighting series was about bickering. That irritating snippy form of communication that attacks something a sibling has or something she's done. Today I’m talking about fighting. Not the potentially dangerous type of fighting that needs parental attention immediately, today I’m talking about the “He’s breathing my air!” type of fighting.

It seems like the moment child #1 meets child #2 there’s an inaudible question floating in the air, “ Who do you love more?” And that my friend is the question that’s at the core of most sibling fights. How a parent deals with fighting determines the direction the fight will head, either toward resolution or mutual destruction! Kidding, sort of!

When a parent says things like, “I know you started this?” or “Stop picking on your sister?” or “You know better than to do that to your brother!” they’re unintentionally throwing another log on the fire, so to speak.

Sibling Fighting Strikes at the Very Core of a Parent’s Heart

When a parent hears the kids fighting, a predictable stream of thought emerges. “Why don’t my kids love each other?” then your mind move on to, “Will they grow up hating each other?” then you end with, “Did I do something to cause my kids to act this way?” No wonder parents will do almost anything to make the fighting stop, that mind chatter can drive you mad!

Unfortunately, some of the ways parents attempt to make fighting stop actually fuels the fight and keeps the kids from resolving the issue at hand. Let me explain.

This post is another nod to the wisdom makers on the topic of sibling rivalry, Elaine Mazlish and Adele Faber, authors of Siblings Without Rivalry. These ideas are truly game changers for families. However, in some cases, no matter what a parent does siblings just don’t like each other. From birth they seem to react to each other like oil and water, they don’t mix and never will. If you suspect that your kids are like oil and water, never fear, your family will still benefit from these ideas.

The ideas I’m about to share are life skills, plain and simple. All kids need to be taught problem solving techniques so they can resolve issues with everyone in their lives, not just siblings. Your kids will need these skills to resolve issues with you, other relatives, friends, classmates, and future working and romantic relationships.

Daily Actions to Take

Many parents believe sibling fighting is an issue that’s created by the kids, only. Here are 6 areas where parents unconsciously contribute to the mix.

1. Equally Rights for All

“Children don’t need to be treated equally, they need to be treated uniquely.” Faber and Mazlish

When you try to make sure everything is equal, three things happen.

  1. Neither child feels truly known.
  2. They become suspicious of each other, not satisfied.
  3. They begin to compete with each other hoping to force mom or dad to reveal who the favorite is.

Michelle Borba stated in an iVillage article (July 2007) “As much as we try to not show favoritism, studies reveal that kids do pick up our preferences.” When favoritism appears, jealousy rears its head causing siblings to resent each other and fight.

Solution: Even if you know who probably started the fight, stay away from casting a perpetrator and a victim.  

2. The Fairness Trap

We’ve all heard, “Life isn’t fair.” Family life needs to prepare kids for the real world outside their front door, not protect them from it. I’m not advocating that you be unfair, not at all. What I am saying is be honest, and let kids learn from that.  

Solution: Let children make choices based on what best for them as individuals. This satisfies their basic unconscious need to be seen for who they truly are and may help reduce the need to fight with a sibling.

                 Old version – Child: "He has a bigger piece than I do!" 

                  Mom: "There, now it’s fair, you each have the same amount."

                  New version – Mom: "I’m slicing the pie. What does your stomach have room for, a small or large piece?"

3. The Squeaky Wheel

There are times in all families when one child just needs you more than the others. If you spend most of your time with the sibling who’s acting out, you’re showing both kids that the best way to get one-on-one time with mom is through misbehavior.

Solution: Do what’s needed with the child who acts out, but don’t forget to spend time with the child who isn’t acting out.

4. Comparing Apples to Oranges

Nothing makes a child feel like fighting more than being compared to a sibling.

Solution: Acknowledge each child’s individual style and way of doing things.

Old version – Dad: "Why can't you be as neat as your brother?"

New version – Dad: “I like how you lined your books up. Do you think that idea would work to organize your shoes, too?”                                                                                                                                          

5. Constant Comment

If you pick at and argue about the small stuff all day long, you’re sending a silent message that says, the way we resolve things in our family is through fighting not through cooperation and problem solving.

Solution: Pick your battles, and remember there’s more than one way of doing things. It may not be how you would do it, or the best way to do it, but things will get done just the same.

6. Don’t Stare

There are many different ways to problem solve. In order to learn about them you have to respectfully listen to see how others do things.

Solution: Watch how other families solve problems on the playground or on TV. Highlight what’s good and bad about the way things are being resolved. Ask your child for her opinion. Ask her if she has other ideas about how to resolved things.

Let the Fight Begin

Many parents believe sibling fighting is something kids should handle all by themselves. I think that’s like giving a 2 yr. old a knife and asking her peel a carrot. She’s using the wrong tool to do the job and will most likely hurt herself or someone else along the way. Parents have to teach their kids the skills needed to resolve fights first, before the kids can handle things all by themselves. The best way to do that is for a parent to act as a facilitator versus judge and jury.  

What’s facilitating?

Parent Power defined facilitating as, “to help forward, to assist the process.” Here are 7 things a parent can do to facilitate a fight, instead of react to it.

1. Be fully present

Nothing is more upsetting than talking about your feelings while the other person is doing something else. Put technology away and focus on both kids.

2. Make physical contact

Instead of remote parenting, walk over to the kids. If they’re open to it, touch them lightly on the shoulder. Look them in eye before speaking.

3. Acknowledge feelings

Mom: “I hear two kids who are angry at each other. Let’s talk about it instead of shout about it.”

4. Use the Same Question

Begin by asking one child a question. After she answers turn to the other child and ask the exact same question. This allows them both to have their say and truly feel heard.

Mom: “Julie, tell Ashley why you’re mad? Ashley, tell Julie why you’re mad?”

5. Repeat what you heard them say

Mom: “Julie, you both were playing dress up when Ashley took the scarf you needed, right? Ashley, you took it because you love blue and always use that scarf, right?”

6. Rock bottom feelings

You may get the sense, even after steps 1-5, that the kids are still mad at each and not ready to problem solve yet. If so, ask them to deep breathe for a minute then express what else they’re feeling, then restate the new feelings.

Mom: “Ashley you were mad that Julie and I read a story this morning so when she took the scarf you got really mad and grabbed it back, is that right?”

7. Problem Solve

Obviously it’s easy for you to come up with ways to problem solve, but that won’t teach the kids the skills they need. Let them dig deep to come up with ideas. This will get easier with time.

Mom: “This is a problem! But it’s one I’m sure you two can solve. What ideas have you seen others do in situations like this? Who has an idea of how to fix a hurt heart? What should you do next time you feel like the other person got more time with me?”

There’s no magic wand here. Every situation, child and parent is different. The key is to use empathetic-active-reflective listening as you ask questions and let them express how they feel without stopping them or correcting them. You’ll be amazed at how quickly they resolve things after that!

Next week, I'll tackle when fighting gets physical. I hope this was helpful, if so, please share the link on social media. 





Siblings-400Yesterday it was in the low 80’s here, and today we’re fogged in and COLD! Big temperature changes remind me of how quickly things can shift between siblings. One minute they’re laughing and the next minute they’re bickering. It happens fast.

When situations change quickly it’s hard for parents to do anything but react…unless they have a plan.

Yesterday Parent Educator Shelly MacDonald inspired me to spread a detailed topic over several newsletters, so that's what I'm going to do for a few weeks, discuss a big family topic—arguing. 

During my 30-yr. career I’ve only used one book to guide me on the topic of siblings, Siblings w/o Rivalry, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. It was published a long time ago, so the book’s conversations are a tiny bit out of date, but the concepts are unparalleled. I have adapted the methods suggested in their book so I can show you how to respond, not react, to sibling fighting. The methods I’m sharing can also be creatively applied to other situations as well.

Today we’ll focus on something that tends to send a parent up the wall, bickering. The tiny, stupid little arguments that can cause a parent to act as judge and jury in order to stop things from getting any worse. What I’m about to advocate will be counterintuitive to you until you try it about 10 times and see that it works.



Two points you need to keep in mind as you read further.

1. Your parental job is to teach, not control your children.

2. Pick your battles.

The Scenario – Breakfast Bickering

Brother: “That’s my bowl, give it to me!”

Sister #1: “It’s not your bowl!”

Sister #2: “That’s my cup!”

Sister #1: “Mom got that cereal for me, it’s mine!”

Sister #2: “I can have some; you’re not the boss of me!”

Need I go on?

Every parent’s tendency is to rush in to “Stop it right now!” We either angrily attempt to identify who started it, or lump all the kids together and begin yelling. That’s reacting, and as we all know, things will get worse pretty quickly from there. That’s why I asked you to remember two things, your job is to teach, and pick your battles.

I know every fiber of your body, especially in the morning, wants to shut down the bickering immediately. But, believe it or not, this is a great learning opportunity.

If you rush in and insert yourself into the mix, your silent message teaches the kids that they’ll never need to, or be able to, resolve things without your help. Kids need to learn how to resolve things without your help, because you won’t always be there to help! So what can be done? Here’s a three-step process to try. 

Step One-Reminder only

Do not rush in and hand out a consequence, not yet. But do go in to deliver a reminder. Pretend that you need something and casually say, “There’s no name calling in this house” and walk out. That’s being proactive and reminding them of the rules, aka your job.

Why not try and stop it at this point?

I know bickering is annoying, however, bickering is pretty harmless in the grand scheme of things, remember… pick your battles. Bickering is what kids do to establish pecking order in a family. It’s a child’s form of communication. As long as all that’s going on is bickering, then just deliver the reminder.

Step Two-Cooling off

Continue listening closely to the bickering and banter between them. Listen for the moment when hurtful words are said or labels are being slung, or someone’s character has been attacked. At that moment calmly walk in and call for a mandatory 5-minute cool-off.

Kids don’t fully understand how to control themselves in every emotional situation yet, they’re kids. They haven’t had enough experiences in life yet to figure out how to dig deep to access their internal resources so they can control themselves. They learn how to do that by experiencing what happens when they don’t do that. In other words, when they experience the consequence of not controlling themselves, they become motivated to figure out how to control themselves.

Mom: “I’ve already reminded you that there’s no name calling in our family. Everyone please get up and go to your rooms for a 5-minute cool-off.”

Sister #1: “What about breakfast? I won’t have time to do my hair! I’ll be late if we don’t eat now!”

Mom: 5-minutes for all of you!

Remember this is not punishment; it is a cooling off moment to settle any ruffled feathers so they can return, apologize and try again.

3-5 minutes is good for older kids, 1 minute is good for younger kids. The time needs to be short so the situation remains fresh in their minds when they come back to the table.

Step Three- Apologies and A Try Again

Mom: “In this family we apologize when hurtful words have been used. Please apologize to each other from your heart, now.”

Mom: “I know each of you knows what hurtful words feel like and are totally capable of not using them with those you love! You guys decide how you want the rest of the morning to go. We can certainly do another cool-off, if need be. I’ll be in the office quietly drinking my coffee.”

That statement sends the silent message, I know you’re now fully aware of what will happen if you use hurtful words, a 5-minute cool-off will occur. And I trust you to figure out how to control yourself or there will be another cool-off period and another, even if it makes us late, until you stop. 

Bickering, teasing and taunting actually serve a purpose. It teaches kids how to reject harsh words, which can help when/if they ever face a bully. Shows them that when mean things are said, an apology must follow. Models that you believe in their ability to control themselves. It shares your family’s values—we don’t speak harshly to those we love. Repeatedly requires them to resolve things by facing them, apologizing, and beginning again.

See you next week! Let me know how this works for you.

Now go hug your kids.



Siblings, Cell Phones, NEVER Say That, Bad Things Happen, Timeout

April 24, 2015
Every week you deal with siblings fighting, kids wanting to use your cell phone, words that can damage a fragile tender heart, upsetting situations that your child experiences, and the need to somehow make it clear that You. Are. Not. Allowed. To. Behave. That. Way! And that's just a regular day in most homes!  This week Yahoo and […]
Read the full article →

Warning: Creating Empowerment can Cause Parental Pain!

April 9, 2015
When you sign up to get Proactive Parenting's weekly newsletter, and I hope you do, I invite new followers to send in one parenting question for me to answer in the newsletter, anonymously, of course. If you haven’t done that yet, What are you waiting for? Hint, you get a free e-Book when you do! Here’s this […]
Read the full article →

What’s The Story About Your Life?

April 1, 2015
What is The Story You Tell Yourself about your life? The title is sort of an odd question, I know. But let me ask it again in a different way. What is the story you tell yourself about your life, about your kids, and about yourself? Do you see yourself as a glorious whole being? Or […]
Read the full article →

Is it your job to entertain your kids?

March 12, 2015
This helpful article comes from "Parenting Power" Thanks for sharing ladies!    We are constantly hearing about the word 'Busy'. Robert Holden, in his book Success Intelligence, calls 'busy' the new status symbol; wherein appearing busy implies that one has greater status and value.   Perhaps this status symbol is trickling down to our children. It […]
Read the full article →

Chores, Kids and fun – You’ve got to be kidding?!

February 2, 2015
Chores are a hot topic in most households. Parents simply want the kids to do them, and do them without reminders. Chores can easily turn into a constant battle, unless parents first do some basic training during the preschool years. If parents create what I call the foundation of participation then chores become a normal, […]
Read the full article →

Emotional Energy. Is Gasoline Involved?

January 21, 2015
Today’s Question: “How can I stay in the moment, every moment?” AND “If there is a complex situation with several layers of communication and relationships: how can I work myself and my son through this chaos?” My answer is broad and addresses something you may not have thought about—the energetics of emotions. Let me begin by […]
Read the full article →

The Secret Sauce That Stop Reactions!

January 13, 2015
Take a deep breath. A real … long … three … second … breath. Really experience how long three seconds is. One-one thousand. Two-one thousand. Three-one thousand. It’s that long. Three seconds is your window of opportunity. Three seconds is your moment to stop your reaction. So what do you do while you’re taking a three […]
Read the full article →

When Parents Fight About How to Correct Behavior

November 12, 2014
Q: What can be done when there are two different parents with different temperaments and different ways of handling things? A: #1: Tell your kids that mom and dad handle things differently, and that you will not tolerate being played against each other. Children are exposed to different people and different rules all the time. […]
Read the full article →

How Yelling Keeps Kids From Listening

November 2, 2014
  Parenting and yelling, for many parents they seem to go hand in hand. The problem with yelling is it doesn't do what parents think it does. Yelling actually stops a child from listening. Yelling prevents the correction a parent is trying to make from registering with a child. Yelling slows the process of correcting behavior […]
Read the full article →

Q&A: Allow Sibling Fights, but Stop the Rivalry

October 21, 2014
Question: How to maintain my own inner calm while my kids (4 yr old girl and 8 yr old boy) have their emotional upheavals, arguments and dramas. I try several calm techniques to help them work through things and when those don't work I yell and they stop or figure out how to work it […]
Read the full article →

“Fixing” Your Child

October 12, 2014
So many times we try and fix whatever's upsetting our kids, secretly hoping that fixing things will stop the "big" emotions. Trying to fix what's upsetting your child sends the wrong message. It says, we, the adults, the most power people in your world, have to fix you, because you can't fix yourself.  Kids need to […]
Read the full article →

The Heart

October 9, 2014
This week has been hard for me. No real problems, lots of growth, some pain, but no “real” problems. As I spoke to others, I realized this week has been hard for many of you as well. We are a community. Small as we may be, those who read what comes from Proactive Parenting, we are […]
Read the full article →