Tag Archives: teens

Four Rules To Simplify Parenting

The Four Rules play out in many different ways, but used when teaching or disciplining a child, each rule teaches what matters. This covers one:

Poster for those raised to know what matters

A Facebook post. Check out the EFTI Store for more parenting tips and inspiration. For now most  Poster Coaches can be downloaded free.

 The Four Rules

Respect yourself

Rule one: Respect self

Rule two: Respect others

Rule three: Respect property

Rule four: Respect reasonable laws

Examples of how to use each rule

Respect self:

“Respect yourself, stay safe.”
“Respect yourself, don’t let others hurt you.”
“Respect yourself; wash your hands before eating.”
“Respect yourself, eat healthy.”
“Respect yourself, stay out of trouble.”
“Respect yourself; don’t say things you will regret later.”
“Respect yourself, do the right thing.”

Respect others:

“Respect others, take turns.”
“Respect others, don’t gossip.”
“Respect others; say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you.’”
“Respect others, don’t call names.”
“Respect others, keep your language clean.”
“Respect others; don’t talk when others are talking.”
“Respect others; keep your hands to yourself.”

Respect property:

“Respect property, don’t break your toys.”
“Respect property, don’t write on the wall.”
“Respect property, put your toys away.
“Respect property, keep things neat and clean.“
“Respect property, put your trash in the trash can.”
“Respect property, drive safely.”

Respect the law:

“Respect the law, cross when the light is green,”
“Respect the law, don’t take what does not belong to you.”
“Respect the law, don’t fight physically unless the other person physically attacks you first and you can’t get away.”
“Respect the law, if it is unreasonable, work to change it.”

 SIX tips to help enforce these rules

Parenting tip one: Put the rules in writing. Here they are as a Poster Coach you can download for free.  To use it print it up in color and post it where you will see it often.


Paths to the good life

Visit the EFTI Store for more tips, exercises, and inspiration. For the  month of May and June, most Poster Coaches can be downloaded for free.

Do so even if your child is still in the cradle. You have to model the rules and that means thinking of this way a  habit. The poster Coach will help you do that. The more times you frame unacceptable or acceptable behavior using these rule, the more doing so becomes a good habit.

Parenting tip two:  Teach according to age and stage. For example, “Respect the law, cross when the light is green” works for beginning to teach the rules. “Respect the law, if it is unreasonable work to change it.” works for teens.

Parenting tip three: Use a warning system when a child is about to break a rule or is already breaking it.  Tell the child what the rule is, announce a punishment if the rule is broken or in the process of being broken, give some good.   Think TAG,   Examples:

T = Tell.  The school called and said you cut three classes today. A = Announce. You won’t get any good behavior money tonight. G = Give.  You did better yesterday.  I hope you can get your act together again soon.  I know you like doing things the right way.  It is up to you.

T = Tell.  I am missing $5.00 from my pocket-book. A = Announce.  As we agreed, when I miss money, your allowance pays. G = Give. I would like to give you all the money you want, but I can’t.  What happens next is up to you. The rules are clear.

After you TAG a child, end the conversation then and there.  If you must, get up and leave the room while saying something like “I don’t have time to discuss this further, you broke the rule, you know the punishment, I have more important things to do.”

Thomas Phelon uses a variation of TAG this with his One, Two, Three Magic , Both are great ways to discipline and can begin when you child is  two years old.

Parenting tip four: Ignore rule three when the child is engaging in unsafe or destructive behavior.  That is the time to take a hint from the dogs – growl menacingly; in human terms grwoling means, scream and shout, send the kid immediately to time out or if necessary physically force obedience.

Parenting tip five: When you have to scream and shout, use the CARE response to mend the relationship. C is for confronting unacceptable behavior or behavior that has stepped on your last nerve. A is for allying with the person you just blasted, take a calming breath, soften your voice, remember the good things about the person; R is for reviewing what set you off. This occasionally means apologizing and admitting you are have a bad mood moment. The main purpose of the R, however, is to see if the child knows what s/he did wrong, so depending on the child’s age state what made you blow or for preteens and teens ask if they know what the did that lead to your screaming and shouting.  E is End on a positive note. “I know you can do better” is one way to end. For the child who still loves hugs, a hug combined with the above works well.

Parenting tip six: Strengthen your self-soothing skills. Try these Easy Emotional Fitness Exercises or buy my eBook Self-soothing to Create Calm in Your Life.  The book costs less than a latte and does more good. Remember you do not need a kindle to read an eBook. Amazon has a free application you can download to read any of their books on any device. 


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 word press daily prompt inspired this post – Placebo Effect: If you could create a painless, inexpensive cure for a single ailment, what would you cure and why?

I think I would opt to cure bad manners, as essentially good manners mean respecting yourself, others, property, and reasonable laws.

Three Ways To Help Kids Who Stuggle with Spelling

Thsi thitw uch fo ym righting ooks like then ym rain ets its down way ith be. I have a lesser known learning disability called Dsygraphia. Painful. Cartoon about failing

When you have dysgraphia you would welcome brain surgery if it helped. Thank you Doug Savage for permission to use your cartoons.

Could not figure out what I was writing. Here’s how the first sentence should read. This is what much of my writing  looks like when my brain gets its own way with me.

I only discovered that I had dysgraphia when my sons were diagnosed with it by a very smart psychologist. I am luckier than most for my dysgraphia did not come attached to dyslexia as it often does. I think that was partly because at the time I was learning to read children were being taught to sight read. Although that could be a mistake on my part; anyway I was not taught phonics and have an awful time sounding out strange words.

PAREnting tips

Parenting tip one: Know when to start worrying. The emphasis on the importance of academic success puts great pressure on parents, teachers, and children. The wish is that all can make A’s and get into a top college and then go on to get advanced degrees and win the Nobel Prize in medicine or physics.

First reality check: the odds of anyone winning one of those Nobel Prizes is probably larger than winning a mega lottery without even buying a ticket.

Second reality check: winning the Nobel Peace prize is a greater accomplishment, but sill like winning the mega lottery even when you buy a ticket.

Third reality check: Pressuring kids  to achieve  academic success only works for the 25% of all kids lucky enough to be born with the necessary resources including a safe environment, good school and the  talents needed to be successful in school from day one. Hurrah for those lucky ones, but the rest need help not pressure. .

Jerome Kagan, leading child development researcher, says by the third grade, students have ranked themselves academically and not accurately. Put simply he notes that by the third grade kids rank themselves and others as top student, good  student, dumb student.  Note there is no average student. Guess what the learning disabled student thinks about his or her ability?

So when to worry about the possibility of any learning disability?  For academic problems take your time. Learning reading, writing, and arithmetic happens for different kids at different times. Some do not master the basic skills until near the end of the second grade.  If, however, the child is very unhappy in school or teachers express concern, think about an evaluation. The earlier a learning disability is diagnosed the better.

That said a few other  things are worth worrying about early on. Most experts say worry a bit about these things in a pre-schooler:

  • Delayed speech – but do remember Einstein did not speak until he was three-years-old
  • Poor concentration
  • Difficulty following directions
  • Difficulty with buttoning, zipping, and tying

From my experiences with children, mine and others ,I would also add:

  • hyperactivity
  • difficulty putting age appropriate puzzles together
  • difficulty coloring between the lines

Parenting tip two: Get competent professional help.  Try to get a psychologist not affiliated with a school. The money you might have to spend will be well worth it. School psychologists have a school based agenda and once a child has been diagnosed can be helpful, but not necessarily before. Many hired by schools are either not eager to say a child has a learning disability or too eager to cast that label on a child. Why? Funding of Learning Disabled students varies from school to school and as was noted by Jerry Macquire – “Follow the money.”

If you cannot afford a private psychologist, go to your local mental health clinic and request their help.

Parenting tip three:  Develop an Added Care Team and make sure to include an educational advocate for yourself and one for your child. Again, schools will often offer advocates, many are helpful, but a few lean toward the school’s needs rather than your child’s needs.

Parenting tip four: Know what matters and teach the same to your child. Contrary to the idea that academic success leads to the good life, research shows that what Daniel Goleman popularized as Emotional Intelligence matters more.  Why I founded Emotional Fitness Training, Inc. To teach a child what matters you must:

  1. Help him or her learn to self-sooth. Starts with getting you newborn to go to sleep on his or her own; then moves on to dealing with pain which is the subject of one of my recent blog posts. Hone your  self-soothing skills so you can stay patient  and calm as your child struggles with learning to make in it the real world.
  2. Once a child starts walking and talking, the next step is teaching manners.
  3. And at any age focusing on what matters matters; particularly important with teens and pre-teens.

Parenting tip five: Open many roads to success.  In addition to pressure to achieve academically, our culture is star focused. Don’t think so – think about the salaries of athletes, movie stars, social media stars.  To combat this:

  1. Emphasize the pleasures and not the outcomes of sports  or performing.
  2. Encourage trying things for the fun of it.
  3. Help all your children find hobbies that give pleasure. Reading was one of mine.
  4. Encourage practice of Emotional Fitness Training’s Easy Exercises.

Mark Katz a psychologist friend who specializes in learning disabilities wrote a great book  On Playing a Poor Hand Well about helping kids with learning struggles. I see you can get it used for less than a movie costs. Worth it even at the full price.


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 word press daily prompt inspired this post Land of confusion: Which subject in school did you find impossible to master? Did math give you hives? Did English make you scream? Do tell!

Actually, another learning disability was and remains impossible for me to master, Math. I have trouble remember numbers and formulas and my dysgraphia also interferes. My English teachers appreciated the way I thought despite my mistakes. For Math teachers there was always a right answer and a wrong one, particularly in the early grades. The result for me meant missing  many recesses being drilled or standing at the black board, shamed and defeated.

So if you or your child have hate math, you might want to explore this learning disablity. Dyscalculia.


Three Tips for Indulgng But Not Spoiling a Child

Parents just want their kids to have fun and be happy, every day, all day. Not possible; besides  a parent’s  job is training to their kids to survive in real life.

Thank you, Carl D'Agastino for being one of my Cartoonist friends who lets me have my way with their cartoons.

Thank you, Carl D’Agastino for being one of my cartoonist friends who lets me have my way with their cartoons. Laughing keeps us strong.

Surviving in real life means tolerating the times things don’t go you way, you get bitten by a bumble bee, or visited by a traumatic life blow.

I did a recent Emotional Fitness Training Post about Practicing Imperfection. Before moving on to some the rest of this blog, you might want to read that post. Why? Too many parenting gurus have  raised the goal post for good enough parenting so high, we all fail. The end result? Too many kids have wandered on to the Victim-hood Path.

Parenting thoughts and tip

Fun matters. In fact as many of you know, Laugh and Play is one of my Daily Emotional Fitness Exercises.  Moreover, play with your child promotes bonding. Why else did nature make grownups so eager to play peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake with babies, not just their own but with almost any baby they see that smiles at them.

Two  major schools (the behaviorists and the followers of Freud) when trying to explain human behavior agree only on  one thing – behavior is driven by the need to avoid pain and feel pleasure.  One of Freud’s followers goes so far as to say you can trace any unacceptable behavior back to pain of some sort or the fear of a future pain of some sort.

I agree with this theorist and challenged my student to present me with any behavior they did not understand and I would related it to pain or fear of pain. I promised a quick A in the course, if I failed to convince most in the class I had failed. No  one got such an A.

The trick of course, is broadening your understanding of what causes pain. The big four  include:

  1. Deprivation of a physical  need – food, warmth, shelter, sexual release.
  2. Physical pain either through accident, assault, or illness.
  3. Emotional pain –  including feeling unloved, unworthy, dissed from another; but just as easily feeling beset by your own conscience and thinking you are inadequate, stupid, not in control, or bad; but also can involve feeling you have been treated unjustly.
  4. Uncertainty – which is often fear of future pain but just as often can be related  in one way or another to the above sources of pain.

How does this related to parenting? Parents need to focus as much on helping their children develop the ability to tolerate discomfort and pain. Doing so is far  more important than trying to see that you child is always happy.

Parenting tip one:  As always you need to model what you teach. Bad news? Not really for by teaching these skills strengthens them.  As you teach your child, you will increase your ability to tolerate pain and add to your ability to enjoy the good

Parenting tip two: Teach how to rate things including how to rate pain.   As always you need to model what you teach. Bad news? Not really for by teaching these skills strengthens them.  As you teach your child, you will increase your ability to tolerate pain and add to your ability to enjoy the good.  As this poster coach shows, anything can be rated.

Rating scale poster

Teaching a child how to rate  physical pains can begin as soon as the child learns to walk and talk. Applaud tumbles when the child gets up and goes on. But if the child cries rate the pain for the child. Here is a useful rating scale:

  • Immobilized by pain and cannot even come to you for comfort say, “Big, big pain.”
  • Rushes to you and has a hard time calming down, say, “Big Pain.”
  • Calms down easily once in your lap, say, “Middle-size Pain.”
  • Stops crying without coming to you  say, “Small Pain.”
  • As the pain decreases note “Pain getting smaller” and then “Pain  gone.”

If you haven’t done this and your child is in school or a teen, worry not. Just take a more direct approach.

Parenting tip three: Teach and model what matters.  The media makes it seem like all that matters are how we look or what we own, the grades we get, or the awards we win. Not true. As I so often notice the researchers and the sages of the ages know that matters most is practicing kindness. That means first being kind to yourself, but also being kind to others.

Being kind to others does not mean allowing abuse, that needs to be made clear which is why I also preach teaching your children self-defense skills.

These tips are not magic, but following them will keep your children off the victim path so you can indulge them when and how you are able.


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.


inspiration for this post

This word press daily prompt inspired this post – You, the Sandwich  If a restaurant were to name something after you, what would it be? Describe it. (Bonus points if you give us a recipe!)

The Name for my sandwich would be Healthy Indulgence Sandwich.  The recipe? Any whole grain bread,  two slices of Swiss cheese, tomato slices and arugula, all slathered with avocado mayonnaise.

That would be so healthy you could later indulge in my favorite night-time treat.  A Sweet and Salty Sundae.  A scoop of vanilla ice cream, covered generously with lite maple syrup then sprinkled with salt and covered with whip cream.

For other healthy indulgences visit this EFTI Pinterest page. 


Like any coach, EFTI’s poster coaches inspire, teach, motivate, and reinforce thinking about what matters. 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.

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 or email a copy.


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.