Good? Bad? Who knows?

Let’s face it. We all want our kids to be good. To do good things like listen, share, help and wait their turn. To be cooperative, responsible, kind, empathetic, capable and more. What parent doesn’t want these things?!

And so it is that by ages one and two, many of us begin to label things for our kids as either good or bad. It’s meant to be helpful — a way of bottom lining things — teaching our kids the ways of the world. Hoping to see more of the good and less of the bad, we parents say things like:

“You used the potty. Good boy!!!”
“Stop being so loud! It’s bad to yell/whine!!!”
“You shared your toys! Good girl!!!”
“You are so bad at listening.”

But unfortunately, the practice of labeling things as simply good or bad can create more problems than solutions for our young kids, failing to do the very thing we want it to do, namely, to help our kids learn to manage themselves and follow the golden rule.

fishing meme

To examine labeling as a parenting strategy, let’s look to the following famous parable for insight.

A farmer’s only horse ran away. The neighbors, trying to console him, said, “What terrible news about your horse. What will you do?” But the farmer said, “Bad news, good news… who knows?”

A few days later, the horse returned, leading an entire herd of wild horses. The neighbors exclaimed, “How wonderful!” The farmer replied, “Good news, bad news… who knows?”

The next day, the farmer’s son tried to ride one of the new horses. The horse threw the son, who broke both legs. The neighbors said, “What a misfortune! Your son won’t be able to work on the farm.” The farmer stood still and said, “Bad news, good news… who knows?”

Within the week, news of a war had broken out.  Soldiers arrived in the village, taking new recruits.  All the young men were drafted to fight, except for the farmer’s son.

Good news? Bad news? (Good behavior? Bad behavior?) Who knows?

Good/bad statements are by definition, dualistic, rooted in the notion that people and things are one way or another — black or white with little room for gray.

The gray of life, where things like intuition, empathy, passion, spirit, gut feelings and the permission to follow one’s bliss live. Permission to tune into one’s self for guidance, to trust what’s there and to follow it — not only living from the head and what is ‘right’, but from the heart and head in balance, comfortable with the nuances and the many interpretations the moments of our lives bring.

Do we really want our kids to feel comfortable in the gray? I do… and here’s why:

Because sometimes, not listening is the thing to do.

Because sometimes, going for what you want, even when you meet resistance, is the very thing that will bring you into the fullness of life.

Because sometimes, taking risks and having the strength to fall flat on your face and get up again, dusting off the dirt to have another go, is what it takes to break through in this world.

When children repeatedly receive good/bad labeling, over time they can deduce that things are only one way or the other… and that they are their actions. “If I do a good thing I am good. If I do a bad thing I am bad.”

Over time, with enough good/bad labeling, the mounting evidence before our children can tell a very different story than we would have it. Stories like:


But it doesn’t have to be this way. We have the power to change this, starting today, when we choose clear, firm, respectful parenting practices and words that allow for the gray.

In those moments when all hell is breaking loose in your home and you think to yourself, “I have the worst child(ren) in the world!!!”, perhaps this is your very moment. Teach them another way. Let go of “no” and “don’t” and “can’t” and “need” and use words and actions that model and explain what it is you are wanting.

Even in the face of misbehavior or great achievement, encourage the process rather than praise the outcome alone, teach what you want to see rather than punish for what you don’t. Here are the examples from above, reworked:

You used the potty! How does that feel?!?” (encouragement) Instead of “You used the potty. Good boy!!!” (praise)

“I know it’s hard when you really want something and it doesn’t happen. It looks like you are feeling ________ (however you imagine your child is feeling)? Can I give you a hug?” then offering ideas to the child for what they might do instead. (teaching) Instead of,  “Stop it. It’s very bad to yell/whine!!!” (punishing/shaming)

“You shared your toys! Did you see the smile on your friends face when you let him play with your truck? How did it feel to share your toys?”(encouragement) Instead of, “You shared your toys! Good girl!!!”” (praise)

“Can you turn on your listening ears?” or “Look me in the eyes (for just before you ask your child something)” (teaching) Instead of “You are SO bad at listening.” (punishing/shaming)

Moving past good and bad. It’s not easy. While I have never been in the habit of calling any of our kids good or bad, I still catch myself using a hefty amount of duality when it comes to everyday things of life.

Just today I said “Oh GOOD, the frig is working again!” (which I just said 3 minutes ago ’cause – happy-dancing- it is. Spontaneously! With no repair man needed. Boom!) and “Oh no, I burnt the toast!!!”, among a zillion other good/bad implied statements, I am sure. And while the zen-mommy in me wants to say “Good broken frig? Bad broken frig? Who knows? Good burnt toast? Bad burnt toast? Who knows?” I’m just not fully there yet. Still, even if we as parents cannot always model an acceptance of ‘what is’ at the level the farmer did when life seemingly delivers lemons, we can begin to let go of good and bad as it pertains to our kids- their very being and their behaviors. And for me, it’s been eye opening to simply notice which things in life I do label as good or bad.

Fortunately, letting go of good/bad and shame-ridden judgement goes for ourselves and our parenting as well. We don’t need to fully master the art of non-duality for our kids to get a healthy taste of the gray — we get to start where we are, letting go of labels when we can, leaving shame and blame in the dust as we go.

Last summer, my husband took our four kids fishing.

As the sun began to set, our four year old son, Colin, caught by far the biggest fish of the day, measuring in at just about half his height. As his dad helped him hold the fish up and examine it, another fisherman came by to praise Colin. He said, “Wow, that’s a BIG fish. You are a BIG BOY!!!”

My son paused to consider this. He looked at his dad, at the fish and then back at the man as he thought this statement over. Then, with a matter-of-fact look upon his face, he replied,”We’re fishermen. That’s what we do.” The man smiled, nodded and agreed. “We ARE fishermen. That’s what we do.” he repeated before he walked away.

Colin had reshaped the man’s comment, meant as praise, in a way that made sense to him. Catching the big fish didn’t make him a bigger boy than he already was — it didn’t make him a “good” boy either, or better than his dad or his sisters. He had simply caught a fish. It’s what fishermen do.

What stories do you want your children to know about themselves? I invite you to join me in moving past good and bad and telling our kids THOSE stories instead. In the way we teach. In the way we encourage. Every. Day.

(((I’d love to hear your stories below!!!)))


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It Is Not Your Job

Our children want to be seen, to be known and to be loved. They do not need us as parents to feel responsible for “making” them. Our children already ARE. Our job is to support and guide them.

As I watch my four kids growing into the tots, tween and teen that they are today, more full expressions of the unique individuals I’ve known them to be since first breaths, first words and first steps, it is just that much easier for me to believe this very important concept:

It is not my job to make my children (fill-in-the-blank).

This frankly FANTASTIC revelation comes to me after years of parenting from a very different place. For years I parented believing it was my responsibility, nay, my duty and my moral obligation, to make my children a sometimes short and sometimes rather long list of VERY IMPORTANT THINGS depending on the moment.

Creative. Driven. Sensitive. Smart. Polite. Focused. Funny. Humble. Responsible. Outgoing. Patient. Kind. Generous. Empathetic.

My very important things list and yours might differ based on our upbringing, experiences, faith, age, cultural biases, education, gender, etc, but rest assured, if you know what it is to feel pressure from both inside and outside of yourself to make your child (fill-in-the-blank), then you know what I’m talking about.

Our very-important-things-place or VITP, is a not so fun, pressure-cooker like sort of place we parents go when we feel put upon by ourselves and/or society to MAKE our children something, especially when it is something our children are so very clearly NOT by their very nature. It’s a confusing and often self-contradicting place we drag our children when we fool ourselves into believing that as parents we have the power to MAKE THEM (fill-in-the-blank) by withdrawing our love, removing our favor, and resorting to tactics like shame, blame, bribery and manipulation.

Hadley bedtime poem

Some confusing messages that derive from this place might look like this:

“Be sensitive… but also be outgoing and fearless.”

“Dream big and think outside of the box… but also fit in with your peers, be compliant and do-as-you-are-told (i.e.: hug your grandma, put on your coat and go to the bathroom when I tell you to even when you say you don’t have to go or don’t “want” to… even when it goes against your intuition.)

“Be strong and lead… but also be passive, stop bossing your friends around and for God’s sakes don’t ask so many question or challenge the things we, your parents, tell you to be or do (or other authority figures for that matter – how could you embarrass us like that?!?)”

After 14 years of striving to catch my VITP in action, I’ve gotten better at recognizing it for what it is. When I feel the familiar tentacles of fear and not-enoughness taking hold, instead of surrendering to my VITP’s power, feeling off center, defensive, and blaming my kids for it, instead, I’m gently reminding myself to drop the chalupa. To step away from the wormhole sucking the whole-hearted love I have for my children out of me, a wormhole that would like to leave me with conditional love based on my approval/disapproval of my kids actions and beliefs.

we belong to each other

When I can catch my VITP at work these days, I say to myself:

“I can support these very-important-things I’m wanting to see within my children, but I cannot make them these things. My children’s true-est, most-powerful gifts already ARE. It is my job to love and guide my children such that they recognize and strengthen the already beautiful and intact attributes they already hold within themselves.”

Parenting in this way involves setting clear, firm, consistent limits when I see my kids moving off track (messy bedrooms, rude statements, mismanagement of time, etc, etc) but not from the angry, judgmental place my VITP wants to take me. If I truly want to lead and guide my children, I get to discipline them from my center. And yes, this entails saying “no” even as I craft my words to say YES— explaining what I want to see from them over what I do not. This entails being selfish if by definition “selfish” means my needs and wants are held right along side the needs and wants of every member of my family. This also entails letting go of the idea that I can love my family in a “perfect” way such that they will be happy and instead, embracing the truth that happiness is not the goal of parenting — my love and more full presence is. My willingness to grow right along side my child is. This road involves some NOT “happy” moments and that’s okay.

We ask our kids from as early an age as 2 or 3, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Instead of “A doctor/nurse”, “A baseball player” or “A ballerina!”, I imagine a world where our children reply instead, “What about who I am NOW? What about the things I love to do and be NOW? What about the things I think I’m good at doing and being TODAY?!?”

If we asked our children these three things daily in the way we parent, we just might get a closer look at each one’s very nature and stop deluding ourselves into thinking that we are MAKING our children (fill-in-the-blank).

In this new year, I hope you will join me in letting go of the notion that we MAKE our children (fill-in-the-blank) and instead, declaring the following:

“My job as mom/dad is to SEE my children – to know them and to love them – as they come to better know and love themselves.”

love imperfections


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When did “like a girl” become a put down?!

How old were you when these words were first hurdled at you as an insult? Were you 9? 13? I honestly can’t remember a time when I did not know “running like a girl”, “hitting like a girl” and “throwing like a girl” to be put downs.

We can change this. As the commercial above shows, there is a time (generally pre-teens/tweens) where kids know running “like a girl” means running fast  and “throwing like a girl” means throwing far.

Always just kicked off a campaign aimed at making sure “girls everywhere keep their confidence throughout puberty and beyond.” How? Simply put, “by showing them that doing it #LikeAGirl is an awesome thing.”

“In my work as a documentarian, I have witnessed the confidence crisis among girls and the negative impact of stereotypes first-hand,” said Lauren Greenfield, filmmaker and director of the #LikeAGirl video. “When the words ‘like a girl’ are used to mean something bad, it is profoundly disempowering. I am proud to partner with Always to shed light on how this simple phrase can have a significant and long-lasting impact on girls and women. I am excited to be a part of the movement to redefine ‘like a girl’ into a positive affirmation.”

Let’s be a part of this change starting today. Comment below and tell me (with pride) what amazing things can YOU do #likeagirl? How about your daughters, mothers, sisters, wives, neighbors, friends?


Join with me and other moms here. The manual is ours to write but we don’t have to write it alone! Let’s connect on twitterfacebook and pinterest


How To Be Enough

Goal Setting Exercises For Children

How To Help Your Teens With Self Confidence

How To Be Vulnerable

Posts on Mindfulness

Taking Love Off The Line




You love your child. Period.

I know this the same way YOU know this.

It just is. A nearly universal thing we moms all relate to. A mother’s love for her child is unconditional — the sort of love that suspends all logic.

So why?

Why do we as parents act like our love is negotiable, putting our love on the line when we’re upset?

Why do we say things to make our kids think there is any possible way that we could love them less because of their flaws? Because of their human-ness? Because of the dark, scary places that live inside of them? The places they love and trust us alone enough to show? The places they hide — from their teachers, from their friends, for fear that they’d no longer be worthy of love if someone found them out.


We do it for that exact reason it was done to us. Because it is what we know. It is hard-wired into us. It is our knee-jerk reaction when things don’t go the way we’d like them to go. When our kids misbehave. When our kids are different. When they don’t fit into the square hole their school is pushing for them to fit into. When they don’t fit into the round hole our (generally well-meaning) parents, in-laws, friends, neighbors, doctors, etc tell us they “should” fit into.

We get triggered. We snap. We “lose it” on our kids.

It’s what we know.

But don’t we remember how it felt? That look from a parent (or a teacher or any other person of authority in our short little lives) that told us we had just completely let them down. The look that said “You, my friend, are a disappointment.”

Don’t we remember feeling the not-enoughness? Feeling, deep, in the pit of our stomachs, the I’m not good enough. I’m not smart enough. I’m not organized enough. I’m not sporty enough. I’m not social enough. I’m not outgoing enough. I’m not quiet enough. I’m not pretty enough… And on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on.

The beating ourselves up for our challenges, so much so we lost sight of our gifts?

“I can’t remember things like other people can. I don’t pay attention like other people do. I’m broken.”

Not only seeing it in their looks, but hearing it in their words.

What if, instead, we remember? Breathing. Clearing. Coming back to love.

Remembering that day when first, we locked eyes with our little one. The way we loved them then. Unconditionally. With our entire selves and everything we were. Love. More than life itself. Love.

Remembering. Our child’s innate goodness. Innate wholeness. Innate deservingness of love, not for anything they did or DO so much as just because THEY ARE.

Letting go. When old hurts creep up from the past to make their way into our ways of being today. Feeling for these moments. Watching for them. Sensing when we are about to move, are moving or have already moved off our center, triggered by something our child has said or done.

Catching these moments quicker as the weeks go by, quicker because of our growing awareness. Quicker because of grace and our breath and the support of a circle of other loving parents, equally committed the healing, growing journey that is parenthood.

Taking our love off the line.

Holding misbehavior as a sign of an un-met need and not a broken child. Using responsible, respectful, clear, consistent and firm words with our kids when met with a “teaching moment”.

“I love you but I do not love your behavior today.”

Connecting before correcting.

“Can we talk? I’m feeling very far away from you these days.”

“What do you think we could do to make mornings gentler/smoother/etc…?”

“I feel like I’m yelling at you all the time. I’m sorry I get so anxious when we’re running late. Do yo have any ideas that could help us here?”

Because really, you and me? Us — all of us — parents. We are on the same team as our kids. We’re not playing tennis, one on one, on opposite sides of the court as our children. NO. We are playing DOUBLES. TRIPLES. QUADRUPELS even. And there can many, many, many people on our same side of the court: husband’s, partner’s, teachers, doctors, etc.

We are all on the same side of the court.

The balls are flying at us, coming over that net at lightening fast speeds, and there we are, side by side, playing this game of life together… with our kids. Those balls, they’re not our kids. They’re life. Our pasts. Our fears. Other’s fears.

Tell this to your child today: “You and I? We are on the same side of the court.”

In the words you use. In the actions you take. Tell your child. Your love is theirs. Unconditionally.

It just is.



PS: If you liked this post, join our community of mindful mamas and receive weekly notes of inspiration and support for connecting with your kids along with a Hug Each Moment Kit direct to your inbox.


The journey of motherhood.  The manual is ours to write but we don’t have to write it alone. Let’s connect on twitterfacebook and pinterest too. xoxo


Suffering From the Terrible Two’s? Remember to BIRP

How Parenting Helps Me Grow

Parenting and Discipline


27 Weeks: Passing Out at Work

I didn’t pass out but I almost did! Three times today! I started feeling really lightheaded in the car this morning at 2:30, then it got worse when I got to my desk.

I took off my panty hose because I thought that was the problem…By the way I was laughed at when a girl at work heard I still wear panty hose. Not because I am pregnant but because they are “sooooo out.” Whatever, I wear the black tights under black pants only.

Anyway, that didn’t work, then I unbuttoned my pants…I thought I was cutting off the blood circulation. Nope. Still about to fall over. I managed to get through the show but it was rough.  So at 7 I ran over to my mom to be mentor Afton (KMOV web producer) to ask what the deal was.


She said she ended up in the hospital because of it when she was pregnant with her first child.  It’s now 10:15, I’ve had three bottles of water and I feel better but still not quite right.

I just read pregnant women are supposed to drink at least 8 ounces of water an hour! Holy Pee Breaks Batman! Seriously???

I will drink more but I’m still wearing panty hose with my black pants! I hate that flash of flesh that breaks up the black flow from the pants to the heels.  Know what I mean?

Here’s Afton and my video blog about the mini crisis this morning.


Virginia Kerr is a morning news anchor on News 4. You can watch her Monday – Friday from 5AM to 7AM.

*You’re invited to a baby shower for Virginia on Wednesday, August 25. More details.

Positive Parenting Tip: When to Use the BIG VOICE

positive_Parenting_tipOur Yogi Parenting audio tips are presented every Friday by Michaela Turner, BS Ed, CYKT, YKT, Co-creator of the Yogi Parenting course.

A great tip for both kids AND parents! Listen to this :15 AUDIO TIP:

If you are ready for parenting to be easier, more fun and less stressful, sign up for a free Yogi Parenting lesson.

[Read more…]

Positive Parenting Tip: Hulahoops and Personal Space

positive_Parenting_tipOur Yogi Parenting audio tips are presented every Friday by Michaela Turner, BS Ed, CYKT, YKT, Co-creator of the Yogi Parenting course.

Listen to this :15 AUDIO TIP:

If you are ready for parenting to be easier, more fun and less stressful, sign up for a free Yogi Parenting lesson.

[Read more…]

Positive Parenting Tip: Tattling?

positive_Parenting_tipOur Yogi Parenting audio tips are presented every Friday by Michaela Turner, BS Ed, CYKT, YKT, Co-creator of the Yogi Parenting course.

Listen to this :15 AUDIO TIP:

If you are ready for parenting to be easier, more fun and less stressful, sign up for a free Yogi Parenting lesson.

[Read more…]

Expert Mommy: Secrets Girls Keep

Carrie Silver-Stock is a licensed clinical social worker. Her new book, Secrets Girls Keep addresses the fact that too many teen girls are trapped by their secrets. So much so that girls hide their depression, eating disorders, pregnancies, and sexual relationships.

[Read more…]

Zen Mommy Minute: Fun Halloween Tips for Parents

This Halloween, keep it safe for sure… but also keep it FUN! Here are three simple tips to keep you and your kids smiling all Monster Mash night long:

  1. Share stories from Halloween past with your kids. Tell them about when you were little. What were your favorite costumes growing up? Favorite candy? Family traditions?
  2. Look up the meaning and origins of Halloween on the internet with your kids. Tweens might especially get a kick out of this.
  3. Keep the pressure off, especially around costumes, telling jokes and going to a certain number of houses to trick – or – treat. There’s no right or wrong here. Focus on the F-U-N. It’s easy to get wrapped up in all the things your neighbors are doing but remember (especially for young kids) less is more. [Read more…]