Reduce the stress of parenting

By Carol Dores


Parenting can be so stressful.  Parents aren’t given many instructions when they are first born.  Many feel judged by their own parents, friends and neighbors.  Some feel a need to build their child’s resume, so that they can eventually get in to the “right” college. This can start with getting them in to the right nursery school and continues to them taking as many Advanced Placement classes in high school.  Getting involved in many extracurricular activities positions can also be important, and adds stress with driving children from place to place, sometimes seven days a week.  No wonder parents feel stressed out!

Positive Discipline can help parents manage the stress, build a stronger family community, and bring more joy in to parenting.

Getting children involved with doing jobs at home is a good place to begin.  As a family, come up with a list of the jobs that need to be done to keep the household running.  This can include a wide range of things, from setting the table to mowing the lawn, paying the bills to folding the laundry, menu planning to take the garbage out.  Once the list is developed, ask each child which jobs they would like to be responsible for.  Parents then sign up for jobs as well. Then, take the time to teach the children how to do the jobs they have chosen.  For younger children, having a picture of can be helpful, as a parent’s view of what a “clean playroom” looks like may be different than a child’s.  As a family, decide how often jobs will be rotated and when they will be done.  Some families put music on and all do their jobs on Saturday mornings, and watch a movie with popcorn when it’s all done.  By being involved, children feel more empowered and like they are a meaningful part of the household.  They develop a sense of capability and purpose. Contributing to a household by having jobs for each family member, we feel a part of the home community.

Work together with each child develop a routine chart for morning and bedtime, and any other times that are stressful.  Help each child list all of the things that need to get done, suggesting any that they have forgotten.  Then ask them to put them in the order they would like to do them.  For younger children, having them draw pictures or take pictures of them doing each thing and putting it on the routine chart can be helpful.  When they then are doing something else, simply ask, “What is next on your routine chart?”

Another way to reduce the stress of parenting is to figure out what each child’s strengths are.  Sit with each child separately, and together come up with a list of their strengths.  This can include things like music, helping younger children, taking care of animals, drawing, taking things apart, building things, math, etc.  Have them put a copy in their room where they can see it, and make a copy that you can look at when feeling upset with a child, to help remind you of positive things about each child.  This list can be used to help them use their strengths with areas that are challenges.  For example, if they are strong in music and struggle with spelling, they can sing spelling words quietly to help them remember them.  The list can also be used to think about areas they might want to focus their extracurricular activities, high school electives, college courses and career.  They are likely to be more motivated when encouraged to use their strengths.  Also, when we focus on strengths, they grow.

Another cause of parent’s stress is when children push our buttons, and they certainly seem to know how!  When stressed out or angry, we do not have access to the rational thinking part of the brain. We only have access to the emotions and the fight/flight/freeze response.  It is not the time to engage in conversation.  It is in everyone’s best interest if we let children know we are upset, and need to take time to calm down before talking.  Slow breathing or counting to ten are ways to calm down.  When calm, it is important to talk with children about what was upsetting, and resolve the problem together.


Learning how to express feelings in a respectful and appropriate way can also be helpful.  There are four basic emotions: mad, sad, scared and glad.  Developing a list of other words to describe these feelings can be helpful, both for parents and children.  Then, we can use “I statements” to express how we feel, “I feel ____ because _____, and I wish _____.”  For example, I feel angry when my clothes are borrowed without asking, and I wish I would be asked first.”  When we express how we are feeling respectfully, it helps us feel better, and also is more likely to be heard by the person we are talking with.

When feeling burned out, it is hard to remain calm.  It is important that time is set aside to take care of ourselves.  This doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming.  Make a list of all of the things you like to do to calm down.  This can range from digging in the dirt to walking, reading to taking a bath, listening to music to meditation, etc.  Schedule time at least once a week to do one of the things on this list.  It’s also a real gift to children to have them develop their own list, and have this become part of their weekly routine.

Lastly, finding time to do enjoyable things with each child and together as a family can bring more joy into parenting.  Doing what each child likes for 20 minutes a week can help build a stronger relationship.  Family meals and activities at least a few times a week can help build the family relationship.  Positive Discipline family meetings can also help a family connect, resolve problems together and have fun.

Loving our children by letting them fall

By Carol Dores


I remember wanting to save our children from the pains of life, because I loved them so very much.  When they forgot their homework or lunch, driving it to school.  When they fell, running over to make sure they were okay.  When they got a bad grade, feeling badly for their pain.  When they struggled with friends, wanting to make it all better.

This was all more hurtful to them than helpful.

While my intent was to love and protect them, it caused them to not be able to deal with uncertainty and to feel incapable – their words, not mine.  Wow!

So what is a better way to help them develop to their capabilities, sense of responsibility and resiliency?

Let them fall and fail!

First, empathize with them.  “You seem upset with that grade.”  “I wonder if what happened made you feel sad?”  “You seem like your feelings were hurt.”

Next, when they feel better, ask them question.  “What did you learn from this?”  “What will you do differently next time?”  “Do you want to practice pretending I’m your friend?”

Children need to develop resiliency muscles, which come from learning from positive and negative experiences.  We can help them through the thinking and problem-solving process by asking questions.  They are more likely to become independent, responsible people with this approach.  And, it is still showing our love, just in a different way!


When your child is bullied….

By Carol Dores

I remember when one of our sons was in kindergarten, and was being bullied.  He came home and asked us if his head could be pulled off.  We showed him that it couldn’t be, and asked him why.  “Because ‘Joey’ said he was going to pull it off.  He went in to school the next day, and told ‘Joey’ that he couldn’t pull his head off.  ‘Joey’ said he was going to bring his father’s hunting knife in the next day.  When he told us, the Mama Bear in me came out.

I called the teacher the next day, who responded that ‘Joey’s’ mother was in class several times a week volunteering, and that I was one of the only mothers who worked outside of the home and didn’t come in to class.  She also said she didn’t believe that ‘Joey’ would ever say or do such a thing.  We called the school psychologist, shared the story, and asked her to check ‘Joey’s’ backpack to be sure there was no knife.  We also asked her to observe the class, and help us help our son not be bullied.

We then talked to our son, and suggested that we invite ‘Joey’ over for a play date, with both mothers there.  He agreed.  ‘Joey’ and our son had a wonderful time, sometimes with our help.  We found things that both boys liked to do, and helped them see the good in each other.  They became very close friends, and are still friends as adults.

Not all bullying situations turn out okay.  As parents, we can help guide our children to see the good in each other.  We can ask others to help intervene.  Many children need guidance to learn how to be a friend and have a friend.  Social skills are learned, and come easier to some than others.

It’s also important to talk to our children about being kind to everyone.  If they see someone who is looking for a place to sit at lunch, inviting them to join.

Helping children learn how to communicate, listen, and share respectfully. If they need help with schoolwork or other things, learning how to help each other is important. We can help our children learn how to be respectful, kind, caring adults.

Where did the time go?

By Carol Dores

I remember the day each of our sons were born like it was yesterday.  The sleep deprivation, being so unsure of what we were doing as parents, and the awe of having newborn babies.

When we were both working outside the home, we’d argue over who was taking care of what, and who got to have down time on the weekends.  We bought a lot of pre-made food, and used the microwave a lot.  The boys went to sleep in their clothes for the next day, to ease the morning rush.

As I see lots of pictures on Facebook of the first day of school for many children, I fondly remember our sons’ excitement mixed with apprehension.  Will they have a good year?  Will they enjoy their teachers?

Somehow, amidst the craziness of busy lives, we raised good people. I believe that the love, caring and support in our home helped.  They were involved in good things – activities related to their interests, community service related projects,, and physical activities.  They are now grown men, successfully living on their own, in their 20’s.  They are both happy in relationships, work and life.  They both live out of state – one a train ride away, the other a very long plane ride away.  I look forward to their phone calls and visits, which are never as often as I’d like.

Best wishes to each of you for a wonderful school year.  We hope that you too will continue to love and support your children, while empowering them to do all that they are capable of.

Setting up routines before the school year starts

By Carol Dores

I remember the craziness of the school year.  We were always in a rush to get out the door, and no one was ever ready on time.  Getting homework done before watching t.v. or playing video games was challenging.  And I was always ready for bed way before our children.  I wish I knew about routine charts then!

Before the school year starts, have each child develop a routine chart for morning and bedtime, and any other times that are stressful.  Help each child list all of the things that need to get done, suggesting any that they have forgotten.  Then ask them to put them in the order they would like to do them.  When they want to watch t.v. for one show before doing homework, it may take some letting go, and allow them to do things in the order that they think will work for them.  Many children need down time after a long school day, and become more productive once they have had that time.

Then, ask them how long they think each thing takes.  If they don’t know, they can be timed.  Add up the total minutes, and see when the routine has to begin.  If it’s too early, talk about what can be shortened or eliminated.

For younger children, having them draw pictures or take pictures of them doing each thing and putting it on the routine chart can be helpful.  For older children, simply having a written list can work.  This is their chart to manage and follow. When they then are doing something else, simply ask, “What is next on your routine chart?”

After a week, sit down with each child and ask how it’s going.  Talk about what, if anything, needs to be changed.

Remember, we are empowering them to develop and manage their own schedules. This helps them become independent, and can help them develop skills like project and time management.

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