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by Tamara Parnay on Feb 28, 2023

Happy, confident, caring children grow up in an atmosphere of flexibility and trust, supported by respectful and realistic parents who do not see challenging behaviors as indications that there is a problem with their children.

Adults and children share many of the behaviors considered to be "problem behaviors" when exhibited by children. Why is there a "problem child" but not a "problem parent"? 

The "Problem Parent" Self-Assessment

Do you ever... with your mouth full?
...skip the broccoli but eat the ice cream?
...have trouble choosing what to wear?
...forget to say "please" or "thank you"?

...stay up past your bedtime?
...prefer not to sleep alone?
...forget to brush your teeth?
...spill anything?

...break a bowl or plate?
...get food stains on your clothes?
...cry when upset?
...fidget when bored or nervous?

...break a bowl of plate?
...get food stains on your clothes?
...cry when upset?
...fidget when bored or nervous?

...become irritable when tired or ill?
...decide not to share your things?
...not come promptly when called?
...leave your clothes and things around?

...prefer playing or relaxing to doing chores?
...need repeated reminders?
...have trouble buying only essential items when shopping?
...speak too loudly?

...get distracted?
...feel annoyed at being told what to do?
...have trouble getting along with others?

...avoid eye contact during heated moments? others' undivided attention?
...become withdrawn when not getting the support you need?
...feel indignant when people don't take your feelings or concerns seriously?

...enjoy having others serve you?
...need support when upset or scared?
...forget where you put something?
...forget to birng along your jacket?

...need approval?
...tell little lies to protect yourself from disapproval?
...get frustrated when not given the benefit of the doubt?
...become frustrated when you can't figure out how to do something?

...become adamant about doing or learning things in your own way, and in your own time?
...feel upset when you can't meet others' expectations?
...have trouble controlling your emotions?
...become irritable for no apparent reason?

...reject cuddles and kisses?
...walk away when lectured to?
...have difficulty saying "I'm sorry"?
...become uncomfortable when others talk about you in your presence, as if you weren't there?

...feel stressed when rushed?
...react negatively to threats, bribes, or other forms of manipulation?
...get overwhelmed by complex instructions or explanations?
...become sad when you feel misunderstood?

...complain when you don't get your way?
...complain when you have to sit in the car for a long time?
...complain when the weather isn't cooperating with your plans?
...need reassurance that you are loved and valued?

People of any age can be labeled as "problems," but only if we choose to perceive them that way. I must confess to you that I answer many of the above questions with a "yes." If I am honest with myself and fair to my children, and have a sense of humor, I should refer to myself as a "problem parent."

Perhaps the self-acknowledged "problem parents" among us, myself included, can agree to do away with the label. The label is the problem, not the person, no matter their age.

Parents are much older and have accumulated learning and life experiences, while children are fresh to the world and have much to learn, but the learning hasn't stopped for parents. Our children can offer us so much through their innocently insightful perspective. Parents can learn and grow alongside their children. Consider this quote from C.G. Jung: "If there is anything that we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could better be changed in ourselves."

Take This Self-Assessment a Step Further

List your child's behaviors that are of concern to you. Include any behaviors that you feel need to be corrected, whether they evoke a strongly negative response from you. Mark the behaviors that do evoke a strongly negative response from you. 

Compare this list with your self-assessment:

  • Which behaviors do you share with your child?
  • Which behaviors that you share with your child are behaviors that evoked a strongly negative response from your own parents, a teacher, or another caregiver?

Other people, especially those closest to us, act as a mirror for us. Sometimes we see in them what we like about ourselves. Sometimes they reflect back to us aspects of ourselves that we don't like. Because our own children can be our most powerful mirrors, they offer us our greatest opportunities to learn and grow.

Thus, when I am bothered by my child's behavior, I need to ask myself: 

  • When I see what I like about myself in my child, how do I respond to her?
  • When I see what I don't like, how do I respond to her?
  • Why do I respond in the ways that I do?
  • What can I learn about myself?


If you want to change your child, change yourself first

by the HOPE National Resource Center on Feb 23, 2023

Research has shown that positive childhood experiences help children grow into healthy, resilient adults. These positive experiences can be categorized into what we call the four building blocks of HOPE: relationships, environments, engagement, and emotional growth.

What is HOPE? HOPE, which stands for Healthy Outcomes from Positive Experiences, is a renewed way of seeing and talking about experiences to better support children's growth and development into healthy, resilient adults. 

Many organizations are working to incorporate HOPE into their approach to supporting parents and families. Nurturings is among these organizations.

Let's take a deeper look at the first building block of HOPE: Relationships

Individuals that recall being in nurturing, supportive relationships during childhood experience significantly lower rates of depression and poor mental health during adulthood. What kind of relationships?

  • Foundational relationships with parents who respond to a child's needs and offer warm, responsive reactions;
  • Adults outside the family who take a genuine interest in a child and support their growth and development;
  • Healthy, close, and positive relationships with peers.

What can you do to promote these kinds of relationships?

  • Be a supportive relationship by taking the time to connect with the children around you.
  • Share information about youth activities where children might connect with coaches, mentors, or peers.
  • Ask parents about the positive experiences they remember from childhood and what made those experiences good. Celebrate with them, and encourage them to think about how they can offer the same experiences to their children.
  • Share information about parent-child attachment. Validate and reflect back when you see warm reactions between the parent and child.
  • Ask about other positive adults in the child's life: coaches, teachers, pastors, mentors. Celebrate these relationships and encourage consistent connection with these individuals.
  • Play and connect with your children regularly. Be silly. Incorporate movement. Read a book. Watch a movie. 

It takes a village. The larger the village, the more opportunities a child has for connection and support.

Interested in learning more? Join us at the 3rd annual virtual HOPE Summit on March 29-30. More information, including registration, can be found here.


by Lisa Lord on Feb 21, 2023

Julia Cameron came up with the idea of authoring The Artist's Way books more than two decades ago while sharing ideas with a few friends in their living room. Today, more than 30 books include her byline including The Artist's Way for Parents.

Julia has inspired more creativity in my relationships with my children, and through this interview, she shares tips that you may find helpful for your home, too.

Q: What are the benefits of parents tapping into their own creativity when it comes to their relationships with their children?

JULIA: When you pay attention to the creativity of your child, you are connecting to a part of your child that is timeless. When you try to connect to your child's creativity and sense of wonder, you reawaken your own creativity and your own sense of wonder. If you focus on making it a safe and benevolent environment for your child to have self-expression, you then find yourself with a desire to have a safe, protected environment for yourself. The home becomes a sort of sanctuary, not only for your child's creativity but for your own.

Q: So the very intention to foster your own creativity and your child's creativity brings more connection to parent and child as well?

JULIA: Yes, they form a very special kind of bond. The children appreciate this sense of safety that the attentive parent gives them, and the parent appreciates the whimsy and originality that comes forward from the child.

Q: It's not uncommon for people to feel, "Oh, I'm not creative." Why do you think so many people feel this way and what effect might it have on their lives?

JULIA: I think we have a mythology around creativity that is very destructive. We tend to believe that only a few people are genuinely creative, that they are born knowing they are creative and that they go through life with that creative spark undimmed.

We need a new mythology around creativity, one that says we are all creative, we all have a divine spark within us, we all have the capacity to tap into our originality, and we all have gifts whether we recognize them or not.

Q: You suggest three tools for a foundation of creativity. Among them is Morning Pages. Can you share about this?

JULIA: Morning Pages are three pages of long-hand morning writing about absolutely anything. I assign Morning Pages to anyone trying to wake up their creativity. What they do is clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize, and synchronize the day that you're going to have. As you lay out on the pages your secret thoughts, you begin to become more authentic and you begin to know yourself much better.

A lot of times, Morning Pages are extremely important for parents because we have a lot of emotions about taking care of our children that we feel we shouldn't be having. We may feel resentful, lonely, angry, and frustrated. 

If you get those feelings down on the page, it's as though you are confiding them to a greatly listening friend. You begin to take comfort. You begin to have ideas about what you can do differently in order to feel more connected to your child, more connected to the universe, more connected to the idea that your child is connected to the universe, and so on. It's just very important.

Q: What do you say to parents who feel they can't make time for Morning Pages? Are there alternative ways to fit them into busy lives?

JULIA: A lot of times people think they don't have time for Morning Pages. I will tell them to just take a dash at the page, get as much done as you can, then as you settle into your day's routine, sneak in extra writing time until you have your three pages completed.

Q: Another creativity tool of yours is the Creative Expedition, during which a parent and child together plan a fun weekly outing. Can you share more about this?

JULIA: It doesn't have to be high art. It's just an expedition that intrigues you. You might go to an aquarium store. You take this expedition, which bonds you further with your child but also takes you outside of the house where we interact with other people.

Q: The third tool is Highlights. Can you tell us about this?

JULIA: Highlights are a nightly ritual, which may be done before or after reading to your child, when you single out the high point of your day and share that with your child, then ask the child to do the same. This builds a habit of optimism and of gratitude. 

You may find that it's a genuine spark of connection, because the same thing was a highlight for both of you, such as when you took your dog to the dog park and watched the puppies playing. Other times, your Highlights may be very different, and you get to know your child's unique personality through listening to the Highlights.

Q: You also recommend walking. Why is this?

JULIA: Very often, when you walk out with a problem and you walk for 20 minutes, you may find yourself walking back in with the solution. Walking helps integrate the insights you receive from the other tools. 

It's wonderful to put yourself in touch with nature, even if nature is just looking at the window boxes in the neighborhood. You also put your child in touch with nature, and this leads to a sense of connection.

Q: These tools are a way to create rituals, and you encourage people to incorporate other rituals into their lives as well. What are the benefits of rituals?

JULIA: What we are talking about is creating a sense of safety. Rituals bring a sense of safety to the child and to the adult. As you pause and perform your daily ritual, whether it's grace before meals, a bedtime prayer, or sharing Highlights with children, these rituals tell them that there is safety in the world.

Q: I imagine that bringing a sense of safety for yourself, with ritual or the other tools, perhaps means your mind is less occupied with worrisome thoughts, which opens the door for even more creativity because you have a freer channel to connect with your creativity. Do you feel that's the case?

JULIA: I do.

Q: You write that "the act of spending time doing something we want to do as opposed to something we have to do takes courage," and you encourage parents to include enjoyable activities in their day, even if only for 15 minutes. Why is this so important?

JULIA: Children learn from what they see us doing. They learn when they see us valuing ourselves. 

In the book, I gave the example of an editor who felt he had no time to read his favorite classics, because he was so busy being a parent. He loved reading, so I suggested he read for 15 minutes a day. He said he didn't have 15 minutes, so I asked him to just try. He tried reading a book that he loved, Moby Dick, and his son noticed he was reading and asked him about it. They began to have a conversation about the book. About a week later, he found his son sitting in his reading chair with a book. When the father asked about the book, the son said, "Oh, Dad, it's another book about a whale: Pinocchio!"

Q: You feel that structure and limits lend themselves to freedom and creativity. How does this work?

JULIA: We often think in our mythology that creativity demands great swaths of free time, and we don't have that. Instead, I have found that if you have a careful structure that allows for some play time and allows for your child to unwind, then they can turn to their homework or to their lessons with a renewed sense of self. When you have scheduled free time, the child is willing later to turn to lessons and what we might think of as self-improvement.

Q: Our technology-filled lives often don't leave any room for boredom, which you define as "being ready for the next idea." Children and parents alike may be almost constantly stimulated by technology in one form or another. What impact do you feel technology has on our willingness to be bored and therefore on our creativity?

JULIA: I think that when we say we're bored, what we're doing is actually a manipulation. We are saying, "Fix it for me." If you resist the impulse to meddle and instead say to the child, "I'm sure you can figure out what you want to do next," then it imparts to the child a belief in their own resiliency and their own originality. 

If you suggest that together you spend an hour without any screens, and you put your own phone aside and don't go near your computer, then you find yourself coming up with new ideas. In the book, I talk about a child who was so overscheduled by his mother's determination that he be the best and brightest. I suggested to the mother to give him an hour's free play with no screens, and when she did this, he picked up a pen and started writing a short story.

Q: Speaking of education, our children's current learning culture outside the home is often based on test results, where there is always a right and wrong answer. Can you share about the effects of this on creativity?

JULIA: I want to say you should hang tough! What happens is that when kids turn about 7, they start to be given standardized tests [in public and private schools], and the focus of the classroom becomes how well they do on the tests. It teaches children that what matters is not the process of learning, which is where creativity lies, but the product, which is the test result.

The emphasis on testing well means that the focus is on performance. It's very competitive. Originality is not valued. Spontaneity is not valued. What is valued are rigid responses.

I think parents sometimes fall into the trap of believing that they have to make their children test-worthy, and they reinforce in their children beliefs in the rigidity of responses. What I would say is you need to create an environment where there is an appreciative response for creative thinking. If this doesn't happen at school, that is all the more reason for it to happen at home.

Q: Can you talk about the process-versus-product and how this contributes toward creativity?

JULIA: Creativity is the art of making something out of nothing, the art of making something new out of something old. It's a moment-by-moment action in which you become entranced with your own imagination.

Our job as parents is to appreciate the process that our children go through rather than trying to correct it into a more rigid form. For example, if you have a child who draws a green pony, you say, "Oh, a green pony! That's wonderful," instead of telling the child that ponies aren't green.

Q: So judging and making statements about something being right or wrong, good or bad, are not necessarily helpful? Nurturing the child's interest and appreciating whatever the product is would be far more helpful so the child comes to enjoy the process?

JULIA: Yes, that's it.

Q: Can you talk about the danger and futility of seeking perfection, whether it be in our endeavors or our children's, our bodies or our physical surroundings?

JULIA: Perfectionism is probably the biggest creativity block I run across. When we speak of perfection, we actually are reaching for an unattainable goal, because as human beings, we aren't perfect. If we look to perfection to judge our work by, we will always fall short, so it's very important to model that it's OK to be imperfect and that there are such things as rough drafts. 

For children to realize that practicing imperfection over and over again is moving a little bit at a time toward an ideal, is a much kinder way to go than demanding that the first job or the first attempt be perfect. That can stop a child's or anyone's creativity in its tracks.

Q: What effect can a gratitude practice have on our experience of daily life, our interactions with each other and our overall creativity?

JULIA: Gratitude is a form of optimism. I have people write out gratitude lists of things that they feel are right with their life and, very often, it creates a complete shift in focus.

Before it, we may be grumpy or feeling sorry for ourselves and generally negative. When we try to practice gratitude, then instead of saying, "My house is too small and messy," we might say, "I have a snug house with a secure roof, and I can work at decluttering it and making it more livable."

We often have so many things to be grateful for, and it's particularly true in our human relationships. We may focus on what is wrong, but then we realize, "Gee, my husband really has a wonderful sense of humor."

Q: So with our children, stopping to take a minute to be grateful for all of their good qualities changes things right there and then in that moment and allows us to look at them completely differently?

JULIA: Yes, that's right.


When you connect to your child's creativity and sense of wonder, you reawaken your own