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Welcome to the EP Parenting Blog

This is the place to read blog posts from our experts and from EP's team of dedicated Parent Bloggers, who write about their own experiences raising their children. Comment, ask questions, and share advice. If you're interested in blogging for us, please click here.
Posted By:

The Adrian Peterson story has ignited a debate about corporal punishment in our country—particularly around whether it’s ok to use the same methods of physical discipline some of our parents used on us. I’m seeing comments that run from one extreme to the other on social media:

“My dad used a switch on me, and I turned out ok.”

“He’s a monster. Turn the switch on him and see how he likes it.”

Stories like this touch our nerves quickly as parents. We think back immediately to how we were disciplined…or not. We defend the parent at the center of the controversy or we vilify him. The truth is, the moment of learning for us as parents comes neither in the defense nor the vilification. It comes from asking ourselves if we have all the training we need to do this job of “parent.”

We don’t know the details of what happened in Adrian Peterson’s home. What we do know is that parents everywhere have a need for direction on how to discipline their children. As a society, we succeed if parents have clear direction and a plan for dealing with negative child behavior. I think we get into trouble when parents don’t ask for help and rely too often on instinct, “gut,” or the way they were parented. We simply need more than that today, and fortunately there is more than that available.

In our work with parents and behaviorally disordered children, my husband, James, and I held fast to this rule: There is no excuse for abuse. That holds true whether the abuse is from the child to the parent or the parent to the child. I believe it’s important for parents to understand what abuse is, what their options are for effective discipline and where to turn for help if they feel they are out of options. For example, they can call the 2-1-1 National Helpline to connect to resources in their area for parenting support. If  you are concerned about a child’s safety, the National Child Abuse Hotline can help at 1-800-422-4453.

I also believe the time has come to remove the stigma around parents asking for help once a bad pattern is established. Any parent who loves their child and wants to make a change is highly motivated and can be very successful in changing a negative dynamic. But they have to ask for help, and we have to make it okay for them to ask for that help.

There are many, many parents all over this country who will be pushed today and who will react in a way that they regret, that isn’t effective or that is hurtful emotionally or physically. They won’t be able to see their way through the problem in front of them, and neither will their children. They won’t see that between, “Stop that!” and striking out at their child, there is a whole range of tools and options that will get them better results.  In the end, bad child behavior stems from a child’s inability to solve basic social problems. Teach them how to solve problems better, get some coaching from our Parental Support Specialists, and you’re more effective as a parent. You don’t have to parent in the extreme because you have a plan and options.

In the weeks ahead, there will no doubt be more publicity about the investigation surrounding this case and its career implications for the man at the center of the controversy. But those headlines are really not relevant to the core problem this story reveals: the absolute importance of getting parents the coaching they need to be better parents.

For more on how to use effective consequences to discipline your child, check out my article here on Empowering Parents: Child Discipline: Consequences and Effective Parenting


Janet Lehman, MSW has worked with troubled children and teens for over 30 years and is the co-creator of The Total Transformation Program. She is a social worker who has held a variety of positions during her career,  including juvenile probation officer, case manager, therapist and program director for 22 years in traditional residential care and in group homes for difficult children.

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Back-to-school can bring up many emotions for parents.  One of the more emotional and difficult transitions can be when a child goes to college.  We recently asked the readers of Empowering Parents about the challenges and concerns they have about their child attending college, and we received some great responses (You can view the full results of the poll by going here).  Thank you to everyone who participated in our poll.  Below are our readers’ top 3 concerns as their child heads off to college.

1. My Child’s Safety.  Many parents are understandably concerned for their child’s safety at college.  Media reports of crimes such as sexual assault, shootings, riots and arson around college campuses are not uncommon, in addition to prevalent alcohol and drug use.   While you can’t be there to help your child stay safe, you can share your concerns with them. Have a problem-solving conversation with your child about some common scenarios, and how they can stay safe.

Some things college students can do to stay safe:

  • Be aware of their surroundings (this includes being sober, as well as not wearing headphones/earbuds or being distracted by technology)
  • Walk on well-lit pathways at night and with others if possible
  • Know how to contact campus public safety officials
  • Subscribe to any campus mass notification system in place
  • Let others know their schedule and whereabouts
  • Lock the door when sleeping or leaving
  • Keep keys and valuables secure at all times
  • Have a “buddy plan” if going out at night; agree to keep an eye out for one another.

Campus sexual assault, in particular, is gaining increased visibility as a public safety issue at many colleges across the country.    The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), the nation’s largest anti-sexual assault organization, has more advice and information for parents of college-bound students in their article Have You Had the Talk?  For support around sexual violence, you can reach them by visiting or by calling their free, confidential 24/7 hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

2. Paying for College.  Let’s face it, higher education is expensive, and it does not appear that costs will be going down anytime soon.  With numerous stories in the media about recent graduates struggling to find jobs and facing crippling student loan debt, it’s no wonder that many parents try to take on financial responsibility for their child’s education in order to eliminate or reduce that burden for their child.  If that works for you and your family, that’s great!  If this is not working for some reason, (for example, if your child is repeatedly failing classes or you are struggling to make ends meet) it’s OK to step back from taking on this responsibility.  Once your child turns 18, anything you choose to provide is considered a privilege—including tuition.

One strategy for parents who are wondering whether to continue paying for their child’s college education is to think about it as an investment, like a stock portfolio.  If you are repeatedly getting a bad return, chances are you are going to make some changes in your investment strategy.  It’s important to have clear communication with your child about how much financial support you are willing and able to provide and the terms of that support.  Do some brainstorming with your child about how they can help make up any difference between the amount you can contribute and the costs incurred.  If they aren’t willing to do this, it will be most effective to step back and let your child figure it out on their own.  Let them experience any natural consequences that come from their decisions.

3. I Don’t Know What’s Going on with My Child on a Daily Basis.  When your child goes away to college, it can be quite an adjustment for everyone. When you are used to the day-to-day minutiae of living with someone, updates via phone calls, emails, text messages and social media just aren’t the same.  Many parents feel hurt, frustrated and/or worried if they don’t hear from their child every day.  It’s helpful to keep in mind that this is a normal part of your child’s development.  Teens and young adults need to develop their own identity outside of the family, and create their own life path.  It’s probably not a personal attack on you, or your child trying to hurt your feelings.  It’s more likely due to your child acclimating to their new environment:  new classes, new professors and a new social scene to navigate.

It can be helpful to develop a self-care plan for times when you are feeling anxious or hurt by the drop in communication that typically happens when kids go to college.  Get back into a hobby you once enjoyed or start a new one.  Enroll in an adult education course.  Talk with friends who may be going through the same thing.  Of course, these are just examples; the real key is finding something that you enjoy doing to help you get through this time.

College is a big change on a lot of levels.  As with most transitions, it is normal to feel anxiety about what might happen, and what outcomes may result.  Recognize this as a normal part of the process, and remember to take care of yourself too!



Rebecca Wolfenden is a loving Momma to her son and a dedicated Parental  Support Line Advisor. She earned her degree in Social Work from West  Virginia University and has been with Legacy Publishing since 2011.  Rebecca has experience working with children and families in home settings and  schools, and has extensive practice working with people of all ages who have  survived significant emotional and physical trauma.

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On Monday, you couldn’t turn on the news or go online without coming face-to-face with the horrific video of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancée while they were in an elevator. And while another video had previously surfaced showing him dragging her unconscious out of the elevator, this was an added information bite that led to an indefinite suspension for the player. It seemed like everyone, including President Obama, weighed in on the incident. It was a heinous act, one that deserved the resulting consequences.

I tried to avoid seeing the video, myself. After all, seeing a man knock out a woman is not anything I want to watch. But, it just wasn’t possible. Media inevitably stokes this type of news for ratings. On Facebook, Twitter, my Yahoo homepage, and every TV channel I flipped through, the video was front and center. I ended up seeing the whole thing in bits and pieces by the end of the day. It was almost inevitable. And it got me thinking: if I eventually viewed the video even though I was actively trying not to, how many kids were exposed to this? More than anyone would want, I’m guessing. One unfortunate by-product of the video’s media saturation is the impact watching this violent act has and will have on our children. Its impact may not be readily apparent until you go on Twitter and other social media sites. While the majority of adults were appalled by the video (and the posting to effect), there were teen boys tweeting things like “going #RayRice on her” and “pull a #RayRice on her.”

The truth is, sports stars are held in high esteem, near blindly idolized for their talents. Kids don’t just look up to them, they want to be them. As Dr. Kate explains in her blog, Justin Bieber’s Wild Ride: How to Talk to Your Child about Celebrity Heroes Behaving Badly, it’s important to talk to our kids when their idols fall. It may even be more important in this situation because it involves domestic violence.

As upsetting and distressing as this situation is, it can be a chance to talk with our kids about things we might not normally discuss, such as why it’s not OK to use physical violence as a way to deal with issues and what other coping skills can be utilized to deal with anger and frustration.  You will want to be mindful of your child’s developmental age and take care not go into lecture mode. You also want to be careful not to criticize the person and keep the focus on the behavior. This is especially true with teens. Because of their developmental stage, they are hardwired to defend people they hold in esteem, like friends and people they consider role models. Keeping the focus on the behavior will help avoid this pitfall.

You might start out by asking if your child has seen the video and what their thoughts are around it. This can be a springboard for a deeper discussion around what exactly abuse and domestic violence is. The National Domestic Violence Hotline has guidelines you can use for explaining what domestic violence and abuse is on their website, It can also be a good time to review with your kids the red flags indicating that they might be in an abusive relationship. After all, most abusive relationships do not start out that way. Helping them to learn the warning signs is another way of giving them the tools for developing healthy relationships. While most people would have this talk with daughters, it is beneficial for sons as well.

I’m not trying to get up on a soapbox. I think we can all agree that domestic violence is an awful, terrible thing for anyone to have to experience or witness. I really wish the world was such that these types of conversations weren’t necessary. But that’s not the world we live in. As parents, we need to help our children develop the skills to be successful adults.  We need to be aware of the impact these types of events have on our kids and be willing to talk about them.  And even if the conversations are uncomfortable or feel awkward, we still have to have them.


Denise Rowden is a parent of two teens: a 17-year-old daughter and a 19-year-old son.  She has worked in Special Education, Alternative Education and adolescent group homes. She has a BS in Psychology from USM and is currently working on her Life Coach certification from ICF.

Posted By:

A little while before my son was born, I started on a quest to track one the world’s most elusive creatures. There have been times when I think I am really, really close and have caught glimpses of this rare beast over the past 20 years. I’ve seen something out of the corner of my eye but when I would turn around, the image would be gone. Sometimes I have felt dejected; if I could only find this being, my life would be complete and the sun would shine down on me all day. Other times I felt guilty, wondering if I had made the right choices. Had I spent too much time in my search, at the expense of my kids’ happiness and my own? Then, I would see something on TV, on my Facebook newsfeed, or on a Pinterest board that would remind me of my search and I would be off again on my mission. There have been times, too, when I was too tired, discontent, or annoyed at my lack of success, and I gave up the mission completely.  Surprisingly, it has been during those times that I have had the most peace.

At this point, you are probably wondering what I could possibly be searching for all of these years. It’s something many of us spend a good deal of our adult lives searching for – the perfect parent. I’ll take a moment to describe to you what image I carry in my head for the perfect parent. For me, the perfect parent keeps an immaculate house, with “floors so clean you could eat off them,” as my mom would say. There are no dirty laundry piles because it has all been washed, folded and put away before anyone else is even up. Meals are planned well in advance, using only the best, most nutritious ingredients. She is able to bring the family together each evening to share in the delectable dinner she has prepared. She always knows the right thing to say to motivate her children, and is able to balance work/life perfectly. She has it all, it’s all put together, and it’s all in the exact right place. And, most importantly, she never, ever has a voice in her head questioning whether or not she is doing the “right” thing.

While it may look very different than mine, this vision of the idealized parent has likely grown and changed over time as you witnessed more parents exhibiting flawless execution of nurturing and caring. I use the term “exhibiting” here on purpose. For, “to exhibit” means to put on display or to expose to view. As parents, we are all on display as we parent our children in the store, at the soccer game, or at the local pizza place. We see other parents and it can be pretty easy to compare ourselves to them. That comparison often comes up lacking on your end if you happen to have been blessed with a strong-willed child as I have. I know I’m not alone in this because I talk to parents every day who ask me the same question: “Why can’t my family be like that?”

I could go into all the cliches about how each family is different (they are), your family isn’t as dysfunctional as you believe it to be (it’s not), and how we’ve all been there (we have). James Lehman is able to clarify what’s going on much better than I when he says, “Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides.” Don’t compare what goes on in your home, with your family, to what you see going on in other families. Those glimpses we get into other people’s lives are just that—glimpses, and not the full picture.

I’ve come to the realization that the perfect parent will never be found because the perfect parent doesn’t exist, like the mythical unicorn.  It is simply an ideal we have created within ourselves from a mishmash of what we “think” a parent is supposed to be. Having an ideal isn’t necessarily bad. After all, it may motivate us to change things about our parenting that just aren’t working with the child we have. The problem comes when we keep that ideal in the forefront of our minds, constantly comparing and berating ourselves for always, always coming up short. It can cause us to harbor a lot of negativity in our lives in the form of guilt, sadness, worry, and blame. Those feelings may keep us stuck where we are and cause us to miss out on all the positives that exist right alongside those challenges.

Do I still think about being a perfect parent? Of course I do. Something that ingrained may never go away completely. My aim has changed somewhat, though.  Instead of perfection, I’m looking for just right, or what Janet Lehman refers to as the “good enough” parent. We have dinner every night in my house and most of the time we sit down together. Sometimes I don’t know what we’re having until I go into the kitchen to make it. It’s not always the most nutritious and sometimes it comes from a box or a bag, but, we always have dinner. Some of the time I do know exactly what to say to my kids to motivate them or to help them through a tough spot. Other times, I come up empty and only hope that I can help them with my presence. The laundry will never be done because, well, it’s laundry. Until they develop self-cleaning clothes, there are always going to be clothes that need to be washed. I may not have it all or be completely put together, but I am becoming more aware of who I am and what I offer my kids as their parent. While it may not be perfect, I’m pretty sure it is good enough.


Denise Rowden is a parent of two teens: a 17-year-old daughter and a 19-year-old son.  She has worked in Special Education, Alternative Education and adolescent group homes. She has a BS in Psychology from USM and is currently working on her Life Coach certification from ICF.

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In the day-to-day of parenting, it can be excruciating to keep my mouth shut at times. Since I clearly know what is best, it seems like it is my duty to share that with my lovely children. If I don’t tell them what to do and how to do it, how will they learn?

When they were very young, my hawk-like vigilance seemed absolutely necessary; it appeared to be a sign of good parenting. I decided what they should eat and how much. If they refused my choices, I amped up my efforts and tried cajoling, encouraging and occasionally bribing. At some point, likely when they had a large enough vocabulary and a sense of how the world worked, I started to question my strategy. If I served healthy food and they declined to eat it, who actually had the problem? I started to see that if I tied my need to be seen as a great mom, to what they ate or wore or said or did, I was always going to fall short.

I took a vow to be quiet. If they didn’t like what I made for dinner (which was always made with their preferences in mind), I shrugged. I wasn’t going to be hungry.

This strategy worked well for quite a few years. The fears of not being good enough rose up once again when I realized they were going to be in high school, the precursor to college and adult life. What if my hands-off approach meant they wouldn’t pass their classes or take the ‘right’ ones, or that they might fail at sports and not get a coveted scholarship? What if they make bad choices without my wise guidance?

Perhaps you already know where this is going. My son failed pre-calculus, refused to take Advanced Placement courses and eschewed even the mention of sports. I stopped checking his grades and GPA— they tended to make me want to cajole, encourage or bribe him again.

It got harder to keep quiet because the stakes got higher. Nothing happened when they did not eat the broccoli on their plate.  Allowing my son to fail classes was much more difficult. Good thing I had been practicing all those years. “Guess you will have to take pre-calc again,” I shrugged. He just nodded.

Yes, he passed it the second time. No, he didn’t get an A. Did retaking the class make him try harder? Not really. He was still making choices and I was still keeping quiet.

Apparently my kids possess the ability to learn from their mistakes. That is, if I let them make mistakes.

Perhaps it is the term ‘mistakes’ that impedes us. What if we just called it growing up? My son is taking calculus this year and he is taking the Advanced Placement class. He has learned that he actually does have the skills to do the work, and he has learned that he likes the AP classes. He recently told me he wishes he had taken more AP classes during high school. Not because they count towards college or competition with his peers but because he tends to like the teachers and students in them; it’s his tribe. If I had made my son take them during high school, he may have come to the same conclusion or he may have just opposed the whole thing because I made him. Either way, he would not have had the opportunity to learn from his own choices, and I wouldn’t have learned how to keep quiet.


Anna Stewart is a family advocate, writer, speaker, facilitator and single mother of 3 unique kids. She is passionate about helping families learn to advocate WITH their children and teens and supporting those with AD/HD. Anna is the author of School Support for Students with AD/HD. Visit her website and Facebook page here.

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For some single parents, the weight of the world often sits squarely on our shoulders. We are responsible for an incredible amount of things, duties, and actions. It’s not enough to pay the mortgage, be smart when making a purchase and keep the floors relatively clean – we are also responsible for our children. Now this isn’t exactly a newsflash, but let’s look at it a step further. Let’s say your child is in elementary school and you get a call from his teacher. He’s been acting up in class, not listening to her and disrupting the daily flow. How do you feel? I will tell you I’ve received those calls – more than a few times. I immediately felt like a balloon that had lost its air. My son’s misbehavior felt like my failure. Obviously I hadn’t taught him proper behavior, or how to control his impulses. I would ruminate over this situation until I wore a groove of negative self-talk into my brain.

As single parents, we become gun shy whenever someone tells us our child misbehaved. It’s as though huge neon arrows are pointed at us so the world can know our kid messed up; therefore, we did too. Maybe married parents feel this way too, I don’t know. But I do know this. There are so many negative assumptions and stereotypes about single parenting. For example, the term “broken home.” That one makes me cringe. My home is not broken; it just looks different from others. Anyway, my mission as I started this solo mom journey was to not be that stereotype. I shunned it and did what I could to prevent anyone from labeling my sons or me. Now sometimes there’s just no way around it. People are going to assume and judge and we just need to hold our heads high and keep living. But the truth is, every time something happens that has to do with our child misbehaving, it knocks the wind out of our sails.

Now that my sons are on the verge of young adulthood, I don’t get those phone calls anymore (thank goodness, as it would mean bigger issues). I am proud of the young men my boys have become and the paths they are forging into the world. But every once in awhile, ghosts from the past show up like a monster behind the door at a haunted house. Case in point – I was at a graduation party with my best friend and fellow single parent of boys. We were enjoying the celebration along with some cake when our kids’ youth pastor arrived. He’s a wonderful person and really good with youth and loving them up. We were reminiscing, as you do at these types of events and he began telling stories about our sons with a huge smile on his face. However, these stories all had the same theme – they were all about how our sons had screwed up , how they didn’t follow rules and got caught.  I felt the oxygen begin to leave the room little by little with each story, until I found myself highly irritated and no longer interested in graduation cake.

My best friend and I talked about this afterwards; why were only the negative stories told? Collectively we have four sons and yet we did not hear any good stories or positive comments about any of them. While our boys are certainly not perfect, they are good people and we are incredibly proud of them. Certainly there are plenty of encouraging stories that could have been told about them, because let’s face it: every parent shines when their child is complimented. Heck, hearing positive things about our kids can put enough fuel in our tank to last for miles. But since that didn’t happen, and even though our boys had grown past those moments, my friend and I both felt those old familiar biting feelings of failure. We didn’t do enough, we weren’t good enough moms, and our kids came from a broken home.

Do you share these feelings? How do you handle them? Here’s my request for today:  in the next few days, let’s all encourage other parents by telling them something we love and admire about their kids. Or how much we respect the parents for the thankless work they do raising children. From now on, let’s tell only positive stories.


Renee Brown is the tired yet happy mother of two young adult sons, Sam and Zachary. Almost an empty nester, she loves sharing her single parent experiences with the goal of providing hope and encouragement to those struggling on that “long and winding road.” Renee lives in Minneapolis, works in advertising, and also blogs for Your Teen magazine.

Posted By:

Sometimes transformation can be hard to see when you are in the middle of making changes in your life.  There was a situation soon after I started down the Peaceful Parenting road when I realized, “Hey, this stuff’s really sinking in!” Today, I want to give you a “Before and After snapshot” of the major changes I have made in the past versus the ones I make today as a newly reformed Peaceful Parent.

The Situation

For whatever reason, my son (10) was carrying a half-empty gallon of paint from one room to another. With that gallon, he was also carrying another full gallon and a pint, haphazardly stacked upon one another.

I was on the computer finishing some schoolwork and looked up, just in time to see him running through the house with the three containers. As it turned out, the lid of the half-empty container of paint was not properly secured. Before I knew it, my son trips and falls, and black paint (yes, black) was all over the light-tan living room carpet.

The “Before” Photo

There was once a time when this would have been just the thing to send me off the deep end. The situation might have gone something like this:

Boy runs through, wielding paint. He trips and spills paint everywhere. I lose my cool and proceed to yell at him, saying things like, “Why can’t you be more careful” or “What the hell were you thinking?” I might have even smacked him in the back of the head to ‘knock some sense into him,’ just as my father had so lovingly done for me when I was a kid.

Next, I would start barking out commands. Get me this! Get me that! We need to get this cleaned up now! It’s going to ruin my carpet!

Then, he would start crying. I would tell him to quit whining and help get the mess cleaned up. Stress levels would rise to the point that I would tell him to leave and I would clean up the mess myself.

Side note: As I wrote this segment on paper, I realized it was the first time I had spelled out an all-too-common encounter between my children and me. Writing it down made me feel disgusting and ashamed; like a monster looking in the mirror for the first time. I even considered removing the section from this post.

However, in order to give an accurate account of the considerable improvements that have been made, the “before” is just as important and necessary as the “after.”

The “After” Photo

The “After” photo of this situation was so much better. It was less stressful. There was no violence, no manipulation, no guilt.

Here’s how it went down:

Boy runs through wielding paint. He trips and spills paint everywhere.

Then I tried something different. I used a new tool; one that is so ground-breaking, I suggest every parent in the world learns how to harness its power.

I took a deep breath.

That’s it.

A deep breath.

Suddenly—armed with a new parenting philosophy and a moment of thought—the situation was much easier to handle.

Internally, I was still freaking out and stressing about how to get the stain out. But externally, I was a warm summer breeze, barely disturbing a leaf on the trees (bonus points if your comments on this post have a cheesy rhyme like that one!)

I got up from my seat and helped him figure out how to clean it up. We quickly put the lid back on the can and contained the spill as fast as possible.

I could see he felt bad about it. There was no need for manipulation. No sighs of disappointment.

I gave him calm instruction to get paper towels, wet rags, etc. and we cleaned the main spill. Then, to get the stain out, we looked up a method online that used products we already had around the house.

He apologized of his own volition and I reassured him that it was ok; that accidents happen and that running in the house is probably not a great idea.


Just like in weight loss and home improvement projects, it is important to periodically take a “Before and After snapshot” of your parenting skills. They allow you to look back and see how far you’ve come and the changes you’ve made. They allow you to gauge your progress and note where more improvements can be made.

This has been a critical part of the transition process from my old authoritarian parenting ideologies to the new Peaceful Parenting philosophies.

So, looking back, what changes have you made in your parenting that would be worthy of a “Before & After snapshot”?


After unwittingly failing as a parent for over a decade, Daniel Wagner, father of four, was hit with some eye-opening facts and philosophical arguments that were impossible to ignore. From that point forward, he has been doing everything in his power to spread the word about Peaceful Parenting; offering perspective from both sides of the parenting debate and helping parents avoid making the same mistakes. To learn more, head over to the Parent of Progress website and pick up a free copy of his new eBook: “Mindset Shift: Are You Making These Parenting Mistakes?”

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As a teacher, I see parents carrying their children’s backpacks to the bus stop all too frequently. I also witness more parents driving their kids to school because the child “woke up too late” and the parents do not want them to experience the natural consequences of missing the bus. Why are parents doing so much for their children nowadays? Is it because they have a hard time saying “no” when their child asks them for something? Is it simply easier to do it themselves versus nag their child to get it done? Or do parents feel like they have failed if they don’t provide things that would make their child happy?  Most importantly, if you notice yourself doing too much for your child, what steps can you take to change that?

Don’t do for your kids what they can do for themselves.   Loving your kids does not mean doing everything for them—some of the greatest learning experiences and feelings of pride come from doing things yourself. Allowing a child to figure out how to do something independently gives them a feeling of self-confidence. This achievement can lead to the realization that they are capable of doing other things successfully as well. Now, a child may not complete the task correctly on the first, second, or even third try.  By being a source of encouragement and coaching your child forward, you can teach them how to become resilient and persevere through failure.

Allow children to experience the natural consequences of their actions.  I’ve seen parents involved in every aspect of their child’s schoolwork, from helping with homework and different projects to making sure each is done correctly. Parents take control of organizing their child’s binder from start-to-finish, then they go through the child’s backpack and make sure everything is ready for the next day. These are all great intentions and useful up to a certain point in elementary school. There comes a time, however, when a child needs to assume responsibility, make choices and suffer the natural consequences for their actions (or lack thereof).

Let’s say a child forgets to complete a homework assignment or loses it. The parent has a choice in how to respond.  If the parent “rescues” the child by completing the assignment or by making excuses for the child, this takes away from any opportunities the child has to learn from mistakes and to become an independent decision maker.  If the parent steps back and allows natural consequences to occur instead, it can provide a great learning opportunity and life lesson.

Remind them only once.  You probably don’t like to spend your time being a nag, and your child probably doesn’t like hearing you constantly nag. So what’s the solution? Clearly state to a child what it is you would like done and the deadline for completion. If you see that the child delays starting the task, provide one friendly reminder to him/her and include the consequence for not completing the request.

Don’t make excuses for your child and allow him/her to accept responsibility.  It is important for children to make up their own minds and accept responsibility. If they are seeking constant feedback and reassurance from others, they will have a difficult time finding their own strength and sense of self-confidence.

One big mistake I’ve seen parents make is excusing their child for not completing homework or something else. Saying, “We didn’t remember to remind them” or “It was a long night last night and my child was very tired” are enabling factors that children pick up on. It is important to realize that these “excuses” make kids believe the parents are responsible for the child’s work. This is simply not true!

As a child gets older, the stakes get higher and responsibilities grow. Forgetting a homework assignment may result in getting a zero, but being irresponsible at other tasks in the “real world” such as being late to work, driving on the road, or handling machinery could result in more serious repercussions. Teaching a child accountability early on in life is paramount to creating a responsible adult.


Douglas Haddad, M.S., C.N., Ph.D. (aka “Dr. Doug”) is a public school teacher in Connecticut and has worked with children in a variety of capacities as a coach, mentor, tutor, nutritionist, and inspirational speaker. He is the Learning Disabilities expert for, the author of the child guidance book Save Your Kids…Now! and co-author of a health and wellness book Top Ten Tips For Tip Top Shape. He regularly speaks, writes, and blogs about self-empowering topics for parents and children including his Success Strategies for Regaining Control Over Your Life…NOW! and his Happiness Formula for Achieving Anything. Visit his website at