In gardening the term “volunteers” refers to plants which self-seed and thus come back each year on a “volunteer” basis. This is a great situation for many desirable plants. I have had good luck with some flowers coming up along my pond and it makes me think of parenting techniques.

crop vignette flower volunteersThere are all kinds of successful parenting styles: democratic, authoritarian, laissez-fare or easy going. To some degree your parenting will be based on your personality and your rearing. But sometimes your best parenting will just happen by itself.


Parenting “Maven”

Dr. Karl Pillemer is gerontologist who has spent the last several years talking and writing about advice from people in their seventh decade or older. One of his key insights is that you should look for a “maven”—an expert or source of wisdom. This would be a person you admire and would like to be like. Their advice can help you achieve your goals.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I found such a “maven unit” and their advice helped me be a very successful parent. I looked at all the different family units of our coworkers. Some parents barked out orders and then fought with each other or their children when the orders were not followed. Some parents seem to plead with their children to do the “right” thing or say the correct thank you. One family seemed to work incredibly well. On many family decisions, everyone’s preferences were considered but the parents generally made the decision if the family members could not agree. I asked this family which child rearing philosophy they used. The parents said that they liked Richard Dreikur’s Children the Challenge. I found the underlying theme of that book incredibly helpful in approaching my parenting years. Dr. Driekurs wrote during the early 1960’s when the hippie and antiwar movement upset many people. He spoke about my generation as demanding more voice in the government and in the family decisions. He recommended helping children learn that their actions have consequences. His approach to parenting fathered many subsequent manuals such as Systematic Training for Effective Parenting, or S.T.E.P., and Parenting with Love and Logic. I highly recommend these 2 systems whenever you’re struggling with either your toddler or your teenager.



tulips crop


Spring and Easter are here. Whether you live in the city, suburbs or country, everyone thinks about this season—and most of us get the urge to plant something. With children it is a great time to get the old Dixie cup and put e soil in it with a bean—and watch it grow in a few weeks.

Here in the Rocky Mountain Region we can get an urge to plant before it makes any sense–we will have freezes and snow for another 2 months. But in many parts of the country and the world it is a great time to plant and even harvest. Parents can use this time to talk about where the vegetables we buy at the store come from. I love having big maps penned to the wall to talk about where our oranges come from. I found that my 5-year-old grandson could sustain interest in where he is now, where he has been and where our food comes from. It’s a great way to improve our own geographic knowledge of an increasingly small world.


Embrace the Chaos

Having recently spent spring break with my 6-year-old grandson, I was struck by how often, we tell our younger children to quiet down, turn down the noise or go to another room. It is an appropriate reaction to the constant noise and activity of a young person who frequently likes to do all his tasks–playing, using electronics, or exploring his world– very close and very loud to wherever we are.
It seems that this lesson finally sinks in by the time the child is a teenager. One of the most frequent complaints I hear from parents is that their teenager just stays in her room—doesn’t interact or spend time with the family. Patterns that we learn when we are young stay with us in subtle ways.
Think of that fact the next time your young child is driving you nuts. Embrace the chaos.


Seeing Pink in Tree Bark

“Seeing the color of tree bark (it really does have pink in it!)”
One of the most important lessons that I learned in high school was during an art class when my instructor asked me to really look at the color in the tree bark. He made me realize that despite my pre-conceived notions that bark was brown and gray, there really is pink in it. Sometimes when I would really stop and look at my children I would see them differently–not as I imagined them but as they were trying to tell me whom they were. Listening to my 3 year old son ask me “who is sleeping here” while I struggled to clean a flower bed, I realized that the phrases and words that I take for granted had a different meaning to him. I told him that the tulips were sleeping there but would awaken soon. The next time he asked me a question I couldn’t understand I “listened” again to our conversation and understood his point of view better.


Early Childhood Memories

Happy New Year!

(An interesting fact about early childhood memories)
Well, we have started and New Year and put 2014 into the part of brain that holds memories. How is memory stored? What memories will our children have of the Holidays of 2014? There is a lot of new information about childhood memories. In 1910 Freud introduced the term “Childhood amnesia” to describe what most people experience which is a lack of memories before the age of 3 or 4y. Scientists initially thought that the brain had just put those memories into hard to reach places but now it seems that the brain has not stored them. A 3 year old can accurately recall events that happened at 2 but the same child at age 5 can’t recall what happened before 3 or 4. It seems that the brain “overwrites” those memories. This phenomenon is described in the Christmas classic “The Polar Express”. Our earliest memories might not be retained but the feelings associated with those memories do influence who we become. If the people around us during the holidays are enjoying themselves and enjoying us, we retain a good feeling about the holidays even if we forget the details and even if we are very young. So truly, laugh more and stress less as we start a New Year.



One of the best thing about the holidays is all memories we have of past family events. Most of our memories are the warm and fuzzy kind but sometimes holiday memories can be painful. What we do know about memories is that the ones that survive have strong emotions attached to them.

As you think about your Christmases past, think about what activities made you happy. Several years ago we gave up doing a big family dinner on Christmas day. We now celebrate with quiche and crepes and lasagna–made on a different day. This way we have more time for the activities we like and remember fondly–family walks and basketball and opening our presents.

Traditions are important in a family and improve mental health but they do change over time. Keep the ones that work for your family and let the others–like a perfect Christmas dinner–fade away (Unless that is the tradition you like the most!)



One of the best ways to promote thankfulness in our children is for them to see us being thankful for our own blessings. It is easy to get excited about Christmas and gifts. Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to be actively thankful for we already have. Michael Lewis, author of MoneyBall, said the best way to raise your children is to be the person you what your children to be. They, like all of us, learn from example more than anything else.
Happy Thanksgiving!