Tag Archives: foster parents

How to Use Shame as a Parenting Tool – Six Tips

You or a child doing something really bad? Shamed? Shame is designed to get you back on track. Sadly, it doesn’t rate what is  worthy of shame.

Shamed by dropping a lunch box.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry tells this story about shame in his book The Little Prince:

“Why are you drinking? demanded the little prince.”

“So that I may forget,” replied the tippler.

“Forget what?” inquired the little prince, who was already sorry for him.
“Forget that I am ashamed,” the tippler confessed, hanging his head.

“Ashamed of what?” insisted the little prince, who wanted to help him.

“Ashamed of drinking!”

If drinking is leading to self harm or violence toward others, it is worthy of shame. But the shame is useless if it does not lead to a change in harmful behavior. Like most feelings shame is a signal that needs decoding. The stronger the feeling, the more decoding is necessary.

Leading Harvard researcher Jerome Kagan, views shame as nature’s way of keeping us from doing the unthinkable. He points out that shame develops when a child has become powerful enough to kill a troublesome younger sibling.  For the very young child,  a strong painful emotion needs to come into play to prevent the Sin of Cain. Shame develops naturally and is nature’s teaching tool.

Shame is considered toxic by most parent advisers. Not true.  Parents are also seen as the major reason shame becomes troubling to someone. Also not true, as Kagan points out. 

Parents need to spend less time trying to avoid a child’s feeling ashamed and more time teaching the value of shame as a warning to think about what matters. Moments of shame should be teachable moments.


Shame is only a useful  emotion only when it  keeps a child  from doing the unthinkable.  Part of every parent’s job is to teach right from wrong. Shame opens the door on teaching what is unacceptable behaviors. Here are some tips for how to shame in ways that help your child.

Tip one:  Be alert to unthinkable behavior in your pre-schooler. Doing so is easy –  no hurting people, including yourself,  or animals,   That is what nature intended shame to stop.

Tip two:  Come down hard enough so the child gets the point  what s/he is doing  is not acceptable. A loud “No hurting” or “No hitting” works. If the unacceptable behavior continues a time out is in order.   

Tip three:  When the behavior has stopped and the child has served his time out, if that was necessary, use the CARE Plan to make it clear the behavior was wrong, but the child is loved.

The CARE Plan

Making amends after losing control.

Tip four:  Teach the child to rate hurtful behaviors.  Why a rating scale? It jump starts critical thinking. Critical thinking is essential for dealing properly with life’s hurts. Critical thinking also reduces the power of lashing out at others when you are hurt.

A five point rating scale for physical hurts can start the toddler off.

  1. Five = life threatening
  2. Four = needing medical attention
  3. Three = a crying hurt
  4. Two = a big ouch
  5. One =  a “Suck it up buttercup ” hurt.

Most physical hurts are a three or less.

Starting when the child is four or five, emotional hurts can be rated on a three point scale”

  1. Three: Crying hurts mostly from being seriously bullied in one way or another,
  2. Two: Nastiness that leads to or comes from fighting and name calling,
  3. One: Suck it up stuff like not getting your own way, losing a game.

Tip five:  Teach the child self-defense skills.  

Just as I think all children should be taught to swim, I think all children need to learn basic self-defense skills.  I advocate for karate that emphasizes avoiding conflict when possible but know how to stay safe when trouble cannot be avoided.  Seek out a Peace Dojo and take lessons as a family.

Tip six: Defuse the hurt of shame.  Use the Care Plan. But also had  with self soothing skills which should be everyone’s armor against shame and hurt. For the younger child, this Breathing Buddy Video by Daniel Goleman  starts that process with a three or  four  year child.

The OMM found here works for both adults and school aged children.

Pre-teens and teens can be encouraged to think about what matters, another important Emotional Fitness Training Exercise.


Sharing is caring; so is liking, or commenting.

Thank you and work at staying strong until next time,. I work hard to do the same as life is often difficult, but exercises like this one lets me find the good.


This post was not inspired by this WordPress Daily Prompt  Connect the DotsScour the news for an entirely uninteresting story. Consider how it connects to your life. Write about that. 

The stories that lead to this post are horrific ones: school shootings and terrorist attacks for I believe toxic shame plays a part in such behaviors. Most of those who shoot up schools struggled with learning or social relationships and ended up feeling shamed but also angry enough to want to kill those they blamed for shaming them. Terrorists share a cultural shame of one sort or another.


These links are for those not familiar with Emotional Intelligence or the idea of Emotional Fitness.

Easy Emotional Fitness Exercises (www.emotionalfitnesstraining.com
The five components of Emotional Intelligence (www.sonoma.edu)Emotional Intelligence (en.wikipedia.org)
An Emotional Fitness Program for Parents(amazon.com)

Smell Smoke? Don’t Panic, Have a Plan – 3 Parenting Tips

Senses warn of danger. However, smelling smoke in the middle of the night  should activate a plan, not panic.  A laugh first:

Savage Chicken CartoonWhy this post? Because the WordPress Daily Prompt suggested this: Smell You Later – Humans have very strong scent memory. Tell us about a smell that transports you.

If you remember my recent post on Four Rules to the Good Life? Respect for self, others, and property headed the list. The First Commandment related to respect? Safety.

The smell of smoke in the middle of the night should transport you and yours to safety. The best chances of that happening? Thinking ahead and doing the following.

Parenting tip one:  Actively teach your kids to respect fire.  Know of at least one first in a house started by a five year old playing with matches in a closet.  His parents had just said “Danger” when lighting a fire. Not enough.  Our kids started helping light candles at the age of three, helping build and light camp fires at the same age. Learning to cook on a gas stove helped a bit.

Parenting tip two: Have fire drills.  Here is a Kids Health article all about fire safety.  The down and dirty – teach kids not to open a closed door when the fire alarm goes off or they smell smoke.  The fire  might rush in after them. The younger the child the more likely s/he will want to run to you.   Establish where the child is to wait for you to come to his or her room. By the age of six or seven, children can  be taught to use an alternative exit if smoke starts to come into their room and you have not come to them. Then drill all of the above into their little heads.

Parenting tips: You and your child need strong self-soothing skills to stay calm in any emergency. So yes, here’s a call to buy my eBook Self Soothing to Create Calm in Your Life. 

As I always note, my eBooks cost less than a latte and last longer and are healthier.

Emotional intelligence aka emotional fitness is about staying calm so you can think wisely.  Her’s  a quick introduction to the 12 Daily Easy exercises. 

Here is a video  by Daniel Goleman about teaching children to self-sooth.


Remember sharing is caring and the easiest way to practice kindness is to share this post if you found it helpful.  Share it even if it doesn’t speak to you, it will speak to some. Didn’t like it?  Comment and tell me why and how to improve.



These links are for those not familiar with Emotional Intelligence or the idea of Emotional Fitness.


5 Tips for Leading Your Cubs to the Good Life

Like it or not, if you are a parent, you are the leader of a pack. You owe it to your children to know the how the best leaders lead. First a laugh.


TY Doug for giving me a laugh, something to think about, and something to share.

Did you laugh? Then you know the drill about being asked for feedback and then being keel-hauled.  Bad leadership. Very bad leadership. What to do? These tips and the books mentioned offer the best leadership advice for parents.

Parenting tip one: Learn the difference between abuse and punishment.  I have worked in the Child Welfare field. I know the difference, Many people do not.

What is report-able abuse? Physical abuse involves inflicting harm on a child that leaves marks. Even then there are degrees of abuse. A hard slap leaves a red mark, so that is abuse; but when reported, circumstances may make it unfounded. Why? The mark has usually faded by the time the child protective worker visits. If the slap occurs in public however, and the police are involved quickly, then it may result in what is called founded abuse. The parents will have to go to court and prove their are not abusive.

Spankings are not abuse. Only when a spanking is really a beating that leaves marks  it is abuse. This runs counter to much of the ranting by many parenting gurus, but most spankings do not leave marks and are the sign of frustrated parenting.

Emotional abuse is a bit more complicated and much harder to prove.  Briefly it is  commonly defined as  behavior by parents or caregivers that keeps a child from growing normally. It includes: ignoring, rejecting, isolating the child, corrupting the child. verbally assaulting, terrorizing, neglecting the child’s education,  health or mental health.

Parenting tip two: Remember as Gregory Bateson noted: “Communication is response. ” 

Try this memory exercise; it will explain Bateson’s idea.  Think back to your childhood? Find the times you knew you had better behave or else.  The look from my mother came first and when not heeded, an angry word attack.  Others have reported

  • “Pointing at the closet where the strap hung.”
  •  “A raised hand.”
  •  “My full name.”
  • “Grabbing my shoulder and pinching.”
  • “A mean laugh.”
  • “The words, “Cruising for a bruising?

Effective punishments results in changed behavior. All the punishments are effective, when the unwanted behavior stops.

Parenting tip three:  Remember the three things make punishment less effective:

  1. The child cannot do what he or she is being asked to do. Why age and stage matter, not just physical age, but also chronological or mental age.
  2. The child’s temperament varies the response. A sensitive child may need only “The Look” to obey; a bold child may need much more before he responds positively to a punishment
  3. The child has become habituated to the punishment. We get used to almost anything. Have you heard about the frog put in a pan of cold water that eventually becomes so hot the frog dies?  The more often a certain punishment is used, the less it works. Why it is good to mix things up.

Parenting tip four: These books should be read by all parents.

  1. The One Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard – A quick read that covers all the basics needed to be a great leader.
  2. Parents Are People Too by Katherine Gordy Levine – My emotional fitness program for parents. You need to stay calm and in control of your emotions is you are going to put Blanchard’s advice into practice.  You can get a used copy for a penny plus shipping or an eBook copy. I think it is a book to keep around and dip into off and on as your child is growing.  I wrote it after realizing as a foster mother providing short-term care to troubled teens that if I didn’t control my feelings it was useless to expect my kids to control theirs.
  3. These three books relate to Age and Stage:
  4. This link takes you to  books and videos by Jean Tracy  She is my favorite modern-day parenting guru and  provides sound problem solving approaches for the many problems and dilemmas facing most parents. Follow her blog.


Remember sharing is caring and the easiest way to practice kindness is to share this post if you found it helpful.  Share it even if it doesn’t speak to you, it will speak to some. Didn’t like it?  Comment and tell me why and how to improve.


Word Press’ DAILY PROMPT inspired this post with this question. Dear Leader: If your government (local or national) accomplishes one thing this year, what would you like that to be?

Train all parents in the above leadership skills.


These links are for those not familiar with Emotional Intelligence or the idea of Emotional Fitness.

Need Help? What Parent Doesn’t? How to Find Mentors and Others to Help

Anyone caring 24/7 for a child needs a Mentor and an  Added Care Team.  As the saying goes: “It takes a village to raise a child.”

Unfortunately, many of today’s villages have been torn apart. Some parents commute two or three hours a day, others hold two or three jobs outside the home. Some can only be home during weekends. Divorces tear out hearts. Grandparents live miles, even states away. Too many  children are in the care of people paid to care; that might be okay if those people care. Not all do.

When I grew up in the forties and fifties, I lived in a small town of  about 5000 people. I was born during the depression, lived through World War II. I remember blackout curtains and air raid drills. I remember the sirens announcing the end of the war, the horror of the pictures and films of those being released from concentration camps or killed when the A bomb was dropped. I remember crouching under my desk during drills prompted by fears of the cold war and atomic bombs. I knew darn well my desk was not a bomb shelter, but kids have to humor adults in power.

Polio fears abounded until Jonas Salk’s vaccine wiped it out. I had the measles, mumps, chicken pox and whooping cough. My life was probably saved by the discovery of penicillin—I spent a year in bed recovering from Rheumatic fever; twenty years on penicillin kept further attacks and heart damage at bay. There were other dangers and problems, but mostly as a child I was unaware of the evils that are part of this world.

Why did I feel safe living in such scary  times? Because I was  protected by a village of relatives and neighbors. Not all were kind or good. My maternal grandmother was a user and abuser of people, mostly my parents. I was told to never be alone  with “Uncle Charlie.”

But in my small home town, I roamed free by the time I was eight or nine, walking to and from school, then taking myself and my dog Lady around to the farms surrounding the town. These were gentlemen farms, mainly used to stable horses. I visited them to feed the horses.

The owner of one said never to go in the pasture, her horse would trample me. I suppressed the laugh as his horse, Gerry Jim and I always raced up and down the pasture, his nose on my shoulder.  If I tripped, he was more careful than my brothers at not stepping on me. He was lonely and so was I. He gave me strength and I hoped I added pleasure to his life.

I wandered free because back then people minded other people’s business particularly when it came to the children of the town. For a period, I thought my mother was a witch because she always seemed to know where I was and what I was doing. She didn’t, of course, know all; but her friends in the village kept their eyes on me and let Mom know where they had seen me and what they had seen me doing.

Not so today, although my two sons grew up with pretty much the same freedom because we lived in a small town where they could and did ride their bikes all around.  The village was weaker, however, and now is weaker still  with the possible exception of small apartment buildings.

When we lived in the Bronx, our apartment building was five stories high and each floor had about 10 apartments. Moreover, most of us entered through a common door before dispersing to our homes. We knew each other and for the most part took care of each other. Part of the team was a super and a building manager who both made sure to know everyone and would and did go above and beyond. We also has connections to the local synagogues and had friends in each that could be called on to help in various ways.

Moreover, the neighborhood although mixed, was not a hundred per cent safe—there was a murder right around the corner. However, there was still a group of old-time residents, some Irish and some Jewish, who kept an eye on what was happening and would either intervene in some situations or call on the police to settle more serious problems. The local shopkeepers were also watchful eyes. I might not go strolling outside my apartment after midnight, but for the most part I felt safe in this ‘hood’. So relatives, neighbors, shopkeepers formed added circles of care around me both as a child and an adult.

Not so much now, for we  in an apartment complex that has three stories, but each apartment has its own entrance.   After two years of  living here, I do know some of my neighbors by  but only two by name. I also  have gotten to know a few of those with dogs from the surrounding building by name. The building maintenance men serve as a partial watch group, but are not around at night or on weekends. Finally, the closest shops are two blocks away.

One of my kids lives in a small town and knows most of the residents. He has driven the school bus during his businesses downtime.

The other son lives in more of a development and is more isolated from neighbors. He has a talking relationship with one neighbor and that neighbor is more hostile than caring.

I suspect that many of you reading this are in my second son’s situation. In fact this son and his wife asked us to move to Colorado when we retired, so they could have us around to help when they became parents. We were major players in their added care team. The more space between you and the rest of your neighbors, the less they are likely to be part of your added care team and the more important it is to spend some time building one.

how to create an added care team

Start by thinking  carefully about who involved in your child’s and your life that are helpful. These  form part of your Added Care Team.

You can map your Added Care Team using an exercise I have taught to those who worked for me when I directed mental health crisis teams in New York City before, during, and after 9/11.  Think of your Added Care Team as having three circles, one inside the other.  Here is a template:

The inner circle dubbed “Angels” maps  family members and friends you can call knowing they will help, not just with words, but with actions. One of my Angel Friends got out of bed and drove to the airport to pick up one of my kids when my car refused to start and I had no AAA. Other Angels make dinner when you are sick, take care of your kids when the boss keeps you late, lend you their car, and lend you money.

You are lucky if you have two or three among family who you can call Angels. You are even luckier if you have two or three friends that are worthy of being dubbed Angels.  Many people have only one or two Angels.  And the saddest thing when I directed a crisis teams was to discover those who had none.

The Part-time Angels are those who will help when they can or help in very specific ways. Some are friends. One of my part time Angels when I was raising my children could be relied on to care for my kids in a pinch, but would never lend her car. Another could  always cheer me up, but never gave any concrete help.

Some Part-time Angels are paid to do a job, do it well, but will go above and beyond when you are in need. I think of a gas station attendant back in the days when we didn’t have to pump our own. A tire blew out on my car and he saw me standing by the side of the road,  pulled over, changed the tire and would not take anything but a “Thank you.” I think of the super in our  Bronx apartment building, the shop keepers in that ‘hood’ who would often go above and beyond.

The final circle, dubbed Paid Angels, are those whose job is to care and to be there to help during their working hours.  Doctors, lawyers, caseworkers, nurses, nurses aides, teachers, child care workers, some coaches.  Not all belong in your circle of care; some just do a job; the ones who really care, who treat you and yours like people and not patients or clients are the ones who belong here.


Mind your manners when dealing with any of your angels.  The ones on your Added Care Team are people and they need to hear “Thank You” and “Please” and “May I” just as much as the rest of us do.  They also need quid pro quos—their back scratched because they scratch yours.

Moreover you can’t abuse them. If they care for your kids when you are sick, the favor must be returned. If they lend you money, you better darn well better pay it back and soon.

For those paid Angels that go above and beyond, a Thank you note with a cc to their boss is in order. In today’s electronic world, such notes are very easy to send and worth their weight in gratitude.


Remember’s sharing is caring and the easiest way to practice kindness right now is to share this post with someone who will find it inspiring. Thank you.



This DAILY PROMPTMentor Me – Have you ever had a mentor? What was the greatest lesson you learned from him or her?

I think I was lucky in having parents who taught me well and their best lesson was that you always had a choice to be kind or cruel and that the wisest choice was always kindness.


Like any coach, EFTI’s poster coaches inspire, teach, motivate, and reinforce thinking about what matters. To use, print up in color and post there it will be seen often. If not soon if for you, let me know and I will give it priority status.

Poster Coaches can also be used at Family Meetings to start a discussion about what matters. Most are free now, but I do plan to start charging for most in the near future.