Helping Your Kids Set Boundaries

The things is, in a world that is ever encroaching on boundaries… physically, mentally, emotionally and even logistically we must teach and model boundaries to our kids.  It’s important because “every one of us must learn to self-advocate as part of our independent process. Our moms and dads won’t always be there to take care of us.  A parent’s job is to equip kids with coping skills to self-advocate,” said Walfish, also author of the book The Self-Aware Parent. 

Below, are some ideas Walfish shared about how parents can help their kids set boundaries… along with my own commentary.

Get clear on your own boundaries.

Work on setting your own boundaries with your kids and do it appropriately. This affects their behavior and models the right way to create their boundaries for themselves.

Identifying your boundaries and conveying them in a firm, non-negotiable but calm manner gives your children a healthy behavior to emulate. 

Help them honor themselves.

For instance, if you have a shy child, avoid pressuring them to talk to others — which will make them embarrassed and self-conscious and maybe shame the child.

Instead, in an empathic tone of voice say, “You know, I think you’re the kind of person who likes to take time and warm up to someone before you feel comfortable talking, and that’s fine.”

This way, you’re helping your child define a boundary. You’re helping them figure out what works for them and what doesn’t — and to honor that.

Talk about it.

Teach your kids about what it means to be a good friend, and how to deal with bullying or exclusion from the schoolyard. “If kids say, ‘you can’t play with us,’ teach your kids to say ‘you’re not being a good friend.”

Help them understand that kids who reject them aren’t nice kids — and who wants to hang out with mean kids anyway? Many of us pursue those who reject us, and that’s the wrong pursuit.  Be sure to talk to your child on their level, depending on age.  Don’t talk to a toddler like you would a teen and vice versa.


Ask your kids to play what-if scenarios.  I do this all the time in sessions with clients and it can be a great way to solidify a good behavior and valuable skills.  Ask them what they might say in certain situations. Avoid feeding them the answers, because this facilitates dependency and a tendency to always be looking to you for the answer. And it’s key to praise every increment toward your child’s autonomy.

It is also helpful to give your kids several key phrases they can use to self-advocate, and to teach them to use their words, not their hands.

Remember, boundaries are not necessarily barriers.  They are parameters to protect ourselves and our relationships.  Teach your children from the youngest age possible what this looks like and how to establish and maintain boundaries in a healthy and respectful way.

We understand that this sounds simple but it’s not easy.  We are always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions for us!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  

Written by Lisa Smith

Helping Your Kids Set Boundaries

How to Deal With Disappointment

With the new year comes hope for better things to come as well as the reality that disappointments will come our way.  Some disappointments are small and easy to shake off while others shake us to our core.  We know they will come in one form or another.  The question is how do we deal with them when they do?

1.  Feel It
One of the hardest things to do for many of us is to just let ourself experience a feeling… especially a painful and difficult one. Studies have shown that even at the most difficulties times, such as grieving, Americans  only allow themselves 1 to 2 weeks to feel sad or to grieve before expecting to get back into normality again.  This isn’t always reasonable.  Give yourself permission to feel the pain, even lean in to it.  Let it out.  And know that eventually the pain of disappointment will lessen.

2.  Get Perspective
Once you have allowed yourself to experience the emotion of disappointment you can then get some perspective.  Take a few steps back.  Look at what you do have instead of only what you do not have.  This is not denying the loss or the pain you have experienced but it’s acknowledging that there is more to your story than just the heartache right in front of you.

3.  Know Yourself
Disappointment can ripple through to the core of who you are. Sometimes disappointments can catch us so off guard and turn our lives upside down.  If you don’t know what your core values are, you may not have a framework to support you when you experience negative emotions that are inevitable when things go sideways.  

Knowing your own heart and your values gives you the freedom of choice. You can choose to be driven by what happens to you, or you can choose to live in line with your principles.  So I ask you… what are your core values?  What principles do you live by no matter what comes your way?  

4.  Practice Acceptance
As human beings, even though we know that some things are bound to happen, we’re not always willing to accept them.

Every time I am disappointed, I feel overwhelmed by my emotions. I’m inclined to withdraw, wanting to wallow in my disappointment. Each time, I have to accept that I will feel these things again.

I have to accept that I will continue to be disappointed—that it is a part of life, part of being human. I also have to accept that I will probably continue to struggle to accept this fact, at various points throughout the rest of my life!

This is a lifelong challenge and fundamental to dealing with disappointment. I will be disappointed, I will disappoint, you will be disappointed, and you will disappoint. Life will be disappointing—but it will pass.

Practice acceptance and we may suffer less as it is happening and notice the good things in life more.

Disappointment is a part of life and life is often difficult. But we can grow if we can endure.  We can be present and aware even in the midst of negative emotions that come with disappointment and therefore live more fully.

We understand that this sounds simple but it’s not easy.  We are always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions for us!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  
Written by Lisa Smith


The Four Things Your Child Needs

School is not only about academics, there is much more to learn. It’s no longer the 3 R’s of reading, writing and arithmetic.  Parenting expert Dr. Bob Barns talks about a different set of R’s, the 4 R’s including Recreation, Routine, Responsibility and Relationships. Teaching these areas will help a parent guide their child to be a more well balanced person.
Recreation may be thought of as a sport like soccer or baseball and these are healthy for the body as well as teaching teamwork and how to win or loose. All are good lessons but there are other recreations that might also be considered like music, art, model airplanes, cooking, these other activities that may be more appealing to your child. These activities can help a child learn to use their free time in ways that challenge and entertain. We can teach them how to fill the void with things other than computer games, T.V. or social media.
Routine refers to teaching our children time management. Children may not seem to appreciate a routine but it does give them structure and security as well as teaching them self discipline. There is a time to get up in the morning and go to bed, a time to get homework done or do chores. You tell them what is expected and then make sure you follow through and enforce the routine. As they take on more of the responsibility on their own then you can become more flexible.
Responsibility includes school assignments but there are also responsibilities at home. We have dumbed down our children and do not require much of them in the home. The family is a team and we need to all work together so the home runs smoothly. That means giving each child an age appropriate responsibility in helping. It is for the sake of the family and the child. It is a training opportunity.  Don’t forget to celebrate the victories, the affirmations will encourage and support the idea.
Relationships include the family and others. But in terms of the family we need to be proactive and schedule time with each of our children and our spouse. If this is not done then these important times get pushed to the side. Some parents tell me they don’t know what to talk about alone with their child so I suggest providing  a distraction, meet over a meal, do a puzzle or build something. This provides an opportunity for conversation and we need to listen. Doing this allows us to disconnect from the pressures of our world and social media and allows an opportunity to relate to each other.
The 4 R’s will create a family that works together and can enjoy each other. This is something worth the effort.
Written by Lisa Strong

The Deadliest Mindset of All and the Cure

It’s the worst disease a human being or an entire society can catch. It’s a disease that rips the soul out of a person yet leaves the heart still beating. It leaves people alive physically but broken mentally. It leaves weakness instead of strength. It leaves dependent individuals instead of independent ones. It results in playing a game of “pass the blame” when things don’t go as planned. It’s a disease I would not wish on anyone. It’s called “entitlement mentality.”

The online definition states, “An entitlement mentality is a state of mind in which an individual comes to believe that privileges are instead rights, and that they are to be expected as a matter of course.”

It just sucks the initiative, the self-determination and self-esteem right out of a person!  I have seen it in many of the thousands of families I have worked with.  And it just kills me!

A hardworking, self-made person pulls themselves up by the bootstraps. They work hard. They never give up. They fail many times before they succeed. They have a family. And, often driven by love, blinded by love, these parents desire to ensure that “my kids don’t go through what I had to go through.” They seek to shield their kids from the pains they had to endure.

But what many parents fail to realize is that by depriving children of hardship, we deprive them of the very experiences and learnings that shaped the parents! If a child grows up getting everything they want, having every sharp corner in life covered by Mommy and Daddy, then suddenly this is how life really is in their belief system. A good life is no longer a privilege, but a God-given right. They shouldn’t have to work for it. Living in luxury is an expectation. And there is anger if one doesn’t get it, and get it easily.

So what is the vaccine for this deadly entitlement mindset? Adversity. Many people who suffer from entitlement simply don’t understand reality — the reality of how the world lives. That life is about largely suffering and overcoming that suffering. That life’s greatest moments are in the achievement of something that took effort. There is no lasting joy in getting everything in life handed to you.

The role of adversity in developing a person’s full potential has been well documented. Renowned blind mountain climber Erik Weihenmayer (the only blind man to summit Everest) even wrote a book on it called The Adversity Advantage.

So, what’s my point?  Let your kids suffer!  Allow them to feel pain, disappointment and even regret.  (Don’t confuse this with inflicting suffering or pain, the world and life do enough of that.)  Remember that need is the greatest motivator of all.  If they need something, get out of the way and let them figure out how to get it.  Don’t give it to them.  Raising happy kids is not the goal!  This leads to entitlement.  Raising resilient, content, responsible kids is the goal and by default they will be happy in life because they will be happy with themselves.

Written by Lisa Smith

How do I Handle my Child’s Emotions?

Your home is an internship for your children to learn to handle their emotions and themselves socially when they are challenged. To learn to communicate feelings, resolve conflict and show care in a loving relationship. Your child should not feel like they have to fight you and justify their feeling. That is a good way to send them over the edge. Then what do we do when our child is dealing with a strong emotion, either sadness, anger, frustration or fear for example? We want to help them through these emotions in a healthy way. Giving them tools to understand and deal with the emotions.

Here are some dos and don’ts for how to handle an emotional child.

Don’t demand that they be immediately rational, they are at that moment being emotional which is opposite of using our rational brain. If they are hysterical or throwing a tantrum then leave them alone for a time until they can be calm enough to talk to you.

Do show the child empathy. Talk to them about what they are feeling. Are they scared or frustrated? As they become calmer ask them to explain what upset them and listen to their story.

Don’t tell them that there is nothing to be upset about. They are upset already so there must be something upsetting them.

Do let them tell their story, help them by asking questions about what happened. This may be hard at first but when the child realizes you are there for support and that you are calm this will give them security.

Don’t do all the talking, be more of a listener.

Don’t argue and deny their emotions. Let them know it is OK to have strong emotions.

Don’t add the word “but”  Saying, “I see you’re disappointed but…” erases everything you just said.

Do reflect back what they have told you, this will validate their feelings.

After the child has calmed down and feels like you have listened to them then you can teach them an appropriate response to the frustration. Tell them what is acceptable and what isn’t. Now that they feel heard and know that you have shown care and respect for their feelings they will be more likely to listen to your guidance. This is when you parent and teach them what the boundaries are.

Written by Lisa Strong

Feeding Family Relationships

Feeding Family Relationships.

60 Years Ago, the average family dinner time was 90 minutes, today it is less than 12 minutes. Our lives have changed, both parents may be working, we have our children in after school activities and we don’t all work 9-5. We have all heard of the benefits that studies show for kids and teens who share family dinners. It is true that they do better in school and are less likely to be overweight or engage in risky behaviors like drugs, alcohol, and sexual activity. But what is it exactly about the time around the table that brings these results?

The dinner table can act as a unifier for the family. A place where everyone feels connected, a place of community. Children report better relationships with their parents and surely relationships between adults can also benefit.

Now what is a family to do if family dinner is not an option. I think we can recreate a similar benefit by purposefully making a time for this connection. Maybe a special family breakfast either during the week or on Saturday or Sunday is one option or make Friday game night or family movie night, rent a movie and provide popcorn. We want to make it a fun time and a time when you all make it a priority to be together and connect.

As a parent, especially in the teen years, you can begin to feel like all your interactions with your children is about their behavior, are they doing what is expected, you become the cop. Family time provides as opportunity to build your relationship with your child apart from performance. A time to enjoy each other without being critiqued.

Childhood is not always easy, children experience stresses in school academically as well as socially. When a child is feeling down or depressed, family time can act as an intervention. A time when we can listen to our children, give them a safe place to talk and be supported. If you have multiple children teach them to be respectful of each other. Do not allow one to put the other down, or tease to the point of hurt. We want everyone to feel that family is safe and loving.

With all the research and awareness of the benefits of the family dinner, let us be purposeful and bring something like this back in our home. We want our children to come to family for connection, love and support not anywhere else and we need to provide that opportunity.

By Lisa Strong

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Protecting Mind and Body

As I watch young moms in my community I see many of them being hyper vigilant in the protecting of their children from harmful foods, chemicals, environmental toxins and anything that can harm their physical body. They are making their own baby food from organic vegetables, blending produce purchased at the farmers market.  Some parents are dressing their babies in clothing made from natural fibers, staying away from any synthetics. They are careful that the toys the child plays with are free from asbestos, lead and other toxic materials. The toys should be safe and eco friendly. I am not criticizing any of these loving, protective behaviors. Of course we want to do all we can to make sure our children are physically healthy and safe. 

My concern is that I see such vigilance in this protection of their physical bodies but what about their minds? We don’t let our children feed on junk food but their mind is feeding on harmful ideas in the media and we accept it as normal.

An average American youth will witness 200,000 violent acts on television before age 18. The problem is not only about violence but about all social behavior, how relationships are handled, sexual behavior, family dynamics and friendships. Children watch and assume that what they see on TV is how things are done and an estimated 54 percent of American children can watch this programming from the privacy of their own bedrooms. Why do we allow these ideas into our children minds so freely? 

I think that the longer you can delay putting your child in front of the TV the better off they will be. Children can learn to entertain themselves in an active way instead of being passively entertained. But if you have decided to have a TV in your home then you can still monitor the content. The problem is you can’t monitor the content if you can’t see the TV so do not put a TV in your child’s room. Have the TV or computer in an area that you can see. If you can view programming with your child and discuss the content then you can have input and control. 

This all seems like common sense, children mimic our behavior, I am often telling parents to model what you want your child to do, so then having them mimic what they see on TV is no surprise. I am not saying that all children that see a violent act on TV will act in the same way but why don’t we expose them to the behaviors we want them to learn? Let them watch behaviors that show kindness, respect, generosity, perseverance and compassion. The challenge of monitoring what your child views gets harder as they get older. When your children are teens I know this can be a battleground in the home. You will hear “all the other kids are watching this”. It won’t be easy and each child is different so just keep in mind as parents we are not only their to protect their physical body but their minds as well. 

By Lisa Strong

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Why Is It Hard to Forgive

Every single one of us has had to consider the idea of forgiveness yet it is one of the trickiest subjects to navigate and get our heads around.  What is forgiveness and why can it be so hard to forgive?

Most of us assume that if we forgive our offenders, they are let off the hook — scot-free — and get to go about their merry ways while we unfairly suffer from their actions. We also may think that we have to be friendly with them again, or go back to the old relationship. This, of course, would cause hesitation to forgive.  It’s important to realize, however, that we do not have to keep trusting those who violated our trust or even to like being around those who hurt us. Here are some components on forgiveness that we must consider:

  • Forgiveness is not letting the offender off the hook
  • Forgiveness is not letting the offense recur again and again
  • Forgiveness does not mean we have to revert to being the victim. Forgiving is not saying, “What you did was okay, so go ahead and walk all over me.” Nor is it playing the martyr, enjoying the performance of forgiving people because it perpetuates our victim role. 
  • Forgiveness is not the same as reconciling. We can forgive someone even if we never can get along with him again. 
  • Forgiveness is a process, not an event. It might take some time to work through our emotional problems before we can truly forgive. 
  • We have to forgive every time. If we find ourselves constantly forgiving, though, we might need to take a look at the dance we are doing with the other person that sets us up to be continually hurt, attacked, or abused. 
  • Forgiving does not mean denying reality or ignoring repeated offenses
  • Forgiveness is not based on others’ actions but on our attitude.  
  • Withholding forgiveness is a refusal to let go of perceived power. We can feel powerful when the offender is in need of forgiveness and only we can give it. We may fear going back to being powerless if we forgive.   
  • We might be pressured into false forgiveness before we are ready. When we feel obligated or we forgive just so others will still like us, accept us, or not think badly of us, it’s not true forgiveness — it’s a performance to avoid rejection. Give yourself permission to do it right. Maybe all you can offer today is, “I want to forgive you, but right now I’m struggling emotionally. I promise I will work on it.” 
  • Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. It’s normal for memories to be triggered in the future and that’s okay.  The key is to work through those triggers.
  • Forgiveness starts with a mental decision. The emotional part of forgiveness is finally being able to let go of the resentment. Emotional healing may or may not follow quickly after we forgive. 

Forgiveness is a key to living a whole and empowered life.  Allow yourself the time to consider who in your life you may need to forgive then keep in mind the principles above to start the process.

 Written by Lisa Smith

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How To Unplug

How to Unplug.

Our children feel like they have to be continually connected to their friends through their phone and social media. There is a strong drive and perceived need in them to stay connected. Teaching our children to handle this temptation in a healthy way can be a challenge for parents.

Home should be a place of refuge, free from the cutting statements of others and the pressure to fit in. Home should be a safe, stress free place. We as parents need to guide our children to learn how to achieve a balance between using the internet to their benefit and not letting it control them. We need to set rules in our homes that will create an environment that is healthy for them. No child is going to voluntarily do this on their own, it is to much of a temptation. So what can you do?

Here are some suggestions that may work for your family. We want to minimize distraction and constant interruptions especially during the time when they should be focusing on homework or time when the family is to be together such as at the dinner table or family movie night.  This is when there should be no phone. It should also be taken away when it is time to sleep. Don’t forget that your message will be more impactful if you as the parent are a role model. We need to put our phones away too.

We are teaching them the discipline and practice of unplugging so they can then do it themselves when they get on their own. They need to learn to connect with people face to face. We want our children to be able to establish relationships with others. To handle a job interview or a date night. To be an interesting person apart from their phone.

Another concern about always being connected to their phone is that they do not know how to entertain themselves without it. As soon as there is a moment of boredom our children turn to their phone or TV. As parents we need to teach our children to find other avenues to focus their attention.

The phone is separating our families. We need to teach our children and model for them how to put family as a priority. My own family has an old cabin in northern California. I have been going there since I was a child and I have taken my own children there for years. There is no TV, no internet or cell phone service. It is a time when we are forced to be unplugged. We play board games, charades, do jigsaw puzzles, take walks together and read. It is a very special time for our family. Through this experience we have learned to love games and now even though my children are adults we still have family game nights. Don’t let your family slip away from you. It’s not easy to enforce these rules or to discipline yourself to be a role model but it is worth it.

Don’t let yourself take the path of least resistance. Stand up for your family. You’re in this for the long haul and you will be thankful that you were able to teach your children to unplug, slow down and enjoy so much more.

By Lisa Strong

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Don’t Mess With Tradition

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Holidays like Easter which was just last week can bring memories of family gatherings, traditions and celebration. Each family has their own unique family rituals and traditions which you may or may not look forward to. For a child growing up they come to expect certain things on these special days. Easter for my family was hidden baskets and eggs, a special lunch including Jello eggs and extended family and friends stopping by. The children woke up excited and knowing what to expect.

When events are predictable and happen the same way each day or year then a child feels in control, secure, safe and less stress. They can prepare themselves for what is to come and this can be especially helpful for children who are highly sensitive, the structure offers them stability.

They look forward to what they know from past experience is coming. Even adults do not want to change from their traditions. When I tried to change the menu on Thanksgiving and make a mashed potato casserole instead of last minute making mashed potatoes, (I was trying to simplify my work load) this idea was met with resistance. “What no mashed potatoes?” I learned  not to mess with the tradition.

A child’s daily routine brings them stability. Children learn many things from these routines, such as how to take care of themselves. Having a morning and bedtime routine for example can teach a child how to dress themselves and good hygiene. However, the most important thing we all learn from regular routines is that life runs more smoothly if things are organized and predictable. Does your child have a bedtime routine? If you forget one of the steps, bedtime story, tucking in, or a glass of water you will hear about it from your child. Again, don’t mess with routine.

Your whole family can benefit from a structured routine. There will be less stress and drama if a child knows when he/she is expected to do homework or what time dinner is. In the routine each child can play a role. One child can set the table, another clears the table and rinses the dishes. Maybe Friday night is family movie night. Take turns picking the movie, have pizza, make popcorn and everyone is together and knows what to expect.

Knowing what to expect in our hectic lives  can provide structure and stability to a child. The structure improves efficiency and the family runs more smoothly. The benefit to the family and the child is a calmer child, clear expectations, less strife and family bonding.

Written by Lisa Strong