Any study on childhood behavior starts with having parents fill out a checklist that reveals their child’s temperament. Basically, your child comes with a “blue print” that is hard wired at birth. This is the “nature” part of a person, which will be molded by the “nurture” part that is their life experiences. People tend to have one of 3 main personality types:

Fifty-five percent of people are compliant and easy. About 15% of these can be slow to warm up and cautious. These people are interested in pleasing others and getting along.

Strong willed or persistent people—sometimes called “aggressive researchers” are about 10 % of the population. These people are always pushing the limit before deciding what they want to do. They will repeatedly test a rule to see if it still stands.

About 35% of people are Fence sitters or observers: These people will sometimes side with the strong-willed or the compliant people. They are “skillful researchers”. They’re deciding which is the smartest path for them.

Most human beings are on a spectrum or combination of these personality types. Understanding your child’s temperament as well as your own is key to parenting your child successfully.

Think about where you and your child are on these spectrums and next we will talk about successful parenting approaches.

*For more detailed information, check out Robert MacKenzie’s “Setting Limits with Your Strong-Willed Child”.




Oh…routines. We drink the same cup of coffee, park in the same place at work, and sit at the same desk. Churchgoers frequently sit in the same pew each week. My dogs know which one goes first for the walk. Children use routines to navigate their world. When our routines get changed due to moves or job changes or illnesses, our children’s lives get completely out of whack. If your child is having trouble with mood or behavior, see if their routine has been disrupted. Something may have changed in their lives that you are not aware of: a substitute teacher or a friend shifting alliances or a new seat on the bus.

Vacations are one way of practicing changes and variations in routines.  They generally make us appreciate going back to the familiar.

Prepare your child for changes in routines: expect some difficulties. Remember that routines calm us. Offer your child other tools to calm down when routines change—try to find a few things that can remain the same.

Embrace the new and hug the old.



This is a topic that has more answers than successes. I often tell parents that “go clean your bedroom” is a really daunting task and to look around their bedroom and think how they would feel if someone told them to clean it.

Children (and maybe all of us) do better with specific tasks—put your dirty clothes in the hamper, make your bed, etc. Much of the time “too much” is the biggest problem. Too many toys or shoes or clothes. Just thinning stuff down will help a lot.

Try to model the behavior you want. Hang up your clothes and coat.

Have simple places to put everyday items. Walk your child through their chores rather than just keep yelling at them about their chores. Concentrate on every time they do what you want them to do.

Comment on how peaceful a clean house is and how nice it is to find stuff where you know it is suppose to be.

Most experts agree that tying allowance to chores is not helpful. We do chores because that is part of living and part of being in a family. Allowance is a chance to learn how to manage money and is most appropriate starting around 8-10 years. This age is late to start with basic self-care that is the primary reason for chores.


Not Tired Anymore

In honor of the holiday season, I’m starting a new campaign. Let’s not be tired anymore! This slogan started as a joke with a co-worker when we were discussing how to evaluate a patient who was “tired”. We thought for a minute and then realized that everyone we knew—friends, family, coworkers, patients and ourselves—were frequently complaining about being tired. Perhaps that complaint is a constant of the human condition. My mom’s doctor gave her the diagnosis of “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome”. This is usually a diagnosis given to younger people who have debilitating fatigue. My mom is 90 with heart disease and is the primary caretaker for my dad who is 94. She has reasons to be tired. I imagine all her doctor’s patients carry such a diagnosis.

Despite an occasional night of sleeplessness, I’ve decided to feel good and be full energy. Maybe we can all brainwash ourselves into feeling better or at the very least, recognize the days we feel good!



This is my favorite tea towel saying. It seems perfect for Thanksgiving because it reminds me to be thankful for all of the craziness that goes into making a family. I listen to family stories 15 times a day and not one of them is perfect but all of them are “normal”. Some are happier than others and some need more help but all of them are trying to be a family. So be thankful this week for your family whether it was the one you were born into or the one that you made or a combination of both.

This week I’m going to be especially thankful for planes that land on time and every time my phone drops but doesn’t break or land in the toilet. For good food and good company. For the family I was born into and the family and friends I have made.
Have a great holiday.

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Hearing and Listening

After the hearing test at their physical, I hear parents and children joking–ok, so you CAN hear me. I usually counter with the fact that we are only checking hearing. Listening is a very different skill.

I can remember watching TV as a child and hearing my mom talk to me from the kitchen. I began listening when her voice hit a certain pitch.

While co-teaching a class on parenting, the psychologist said that the BEST kids only do what they are told 75% of the time. And then I thought, “I can’t do what I’m told to do 75% of the time.”

The next time you are feeling frustrated with your children ask them to repeat what you just asked them to do. Then you can be sure that they both heard and listened to you. Of course, don’t be surprised when they later ask you to do the same. Parenting often provides a perfect mirror.



A Parent’s Lament

A Parent’s Lament by Wanda J Venters

I Forgot to Make It Rain today

I sometimes walk around with the weight of the world on my shoulders—I worry about terrorism and refugees, the Dow Average and interest rates, my children’s happiness and the weather. I worry about all the things I forgot to do today—I worry that I have Alzheimer’s because I forgot. I remember my dad teasing me that I was a worrywart. Much of what I have accomplished in my life I’ve done by worrying about details. I’m conscientious and committed. But really when I start worrying about how dry it is in the high desert and feeling that I should water in the middle of winter, I remind myself that I’m really not in charge of the weather. That it is okay that I forgot to make it rain today because really, I can’t.

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Hangry is a combination for the words and emotions caused by being hungry and angry. It is very common in toddlers— and in the parents of toddlers.

We’ve all looked at a child having a temper tantrum and thought “that is just how I feel”. Whenever we are tired or hungry—or sometimes in need of warm shower– we are more likely to get angry with the people nearest us who are frequently our children.

It is important to understand our own needs so that we can be better parents.

Whenever you find yourself screaming or mad, stop and think.

Are you hungry? Are you thirsty? Do you need to sit for a minute and take a few deep breathes? If you are any of these things it is a good chance that your child is experiencing these stresses as well. Get something to drink or eat. Sit for a minute and take a few deep breathes.

Remember that one of the cardinal rules of good parenting is to feed and water the PARENT and the child.



As school begins, I have a message from all teachers—“Help your child get the sleep they need to succeed in school!” Many children are falling asleep sitting in their chairs.

Summer is a time when sleep cycles shift and schedules are more relaxed. As school starts, regular bedtimes need to begin again to ensure that your child is in a position to learn and succeed.

Children less than one year old should sleep 12-16 hours a day (including naps).

Children 1-3 should sleep 11-14 hours a day including naps.

Children ages 3-5 should sleep 10 to13 hours a day.

Children ages 6-12 should sleep 9 to 12 hours a day.

Teenagers need 8-10 hours of sleep a day.

Many families of young children need to re-think their bedtime routine. Letting your young child stay up late because they cry when put to bed is not being “nice”. Late bedtimes are frequently just easier for the parents. But if your child is tired at school he’s the one that suffers.

Bedtime, including a bath, should take about an hour and should include a book read. After that your child should be comfortable in their room without any electronics except a lamp.

I officially went “off duty” at 9 p.m. My children knew that if they were bothering me after that they should be bleeding or barfing. That rule is still one of our family’s favorite jokes.