Archive | General

Kind-and-Firm: a Positive Parenting Fundamental

Kind & Firm

Kind & Firm

In Positive Discipline a fundamental concept for teaching our children confidence and self-reliance is to be kind-and-firm at the same time.

Kind-and-Firm is one of the first concepts we explore in my Positive Discipline Series.

Let’s visualize for a moment the extreme version of “kind” parenting. What comes to mind?

“Over-indulgence”, “spoiled”, “kids rule”, “anything goes”, “chaos”, “freedom”

Now let’s imagine the opposite of that – extreme “firmness”:

“Mean”, “control”, “yelling”, “tight”, “order”, “no freedom”, “on-schedule”

What happens for most of us is that we oscillate between these two extremes trying to find that ever elusive balance. I’m here to buck the trend and say stop looking for balance! 


Okay, nice idea, but how do I do that and what does it look like?

Here’s a real-life example that I hope will bring kind-and-firm AT THE SAME TIME to life:

Putting my four-year-old son to bed had become a predictable and exhausting routine. We’d read two stories and just when I was giving him one last kiss he’d say,“Mommy, lay with me for a tiny – just lay with me for a tiny, please?”

On kind nights I’d say, “Okay honey, tonight I will.” I’d lay with him, but feel annoyed with myself. I was a sucker, yes, but for that moment felt relieved that I had the patience to hang in there until he fell asleep.

On firm nights, I’d feel highly annoyed with him.  My tone of voice and body language would push him away saying, “No, I’m done tonight. You’ve had your stories and mommy needs time alone.”

What matters here is how I felt: angry and worried – I’d created this person who’d become a bottomless pit of need or maybe he’d become a spoiled monster. (Transforming the little moments blog).

Kind or mean, oh, I mean firm… deep down I felt out of control.

In neither situation did I feel neutral, peaceful or good about my parenting.

This pattern continued until one evening, after I’d attended a Positive Discipline training, I came home to put my little guy to bed with a renewed perspective – a PD shot in the arm.

I had an image in my mind of how I could actually be kind-and-firm AT THE SAME TIME during our bedtime routine.

I read him two stories. When it was time for me to leave he made his usual plea for a “tiny.” I took a deep, calm, affirming breath, looked at him and said, “Honey, I have complete faith in you to fall asleep on your own.”

Without a word he rolled over in bed, pulled up his covers and proceeded to go to sleep. Shocking but true!

I will always remember that moment: I felt kind, conveying love through my tone of voice, and firm, conveying genuine, soft confidence (without that mean edge). My guess is that my son absorbed how I felt and in turn trusted my actions and himself. This interaction of love and grounding became his security blanket. His need for prolonged engagement dissolved.

Kind-and-firm parenting can feel slippery – hard to put your finger on. Keep taking small steps in the direction you want to go and when you hit that kind and firm zone – you’ll know it. Take time to acknowledge yourself – remember how it felt for you and how your child responded. Write it down – replay it in your mind and tell your friends and family! Most importantly, sit and relish it for yourself.

When we linger on our successes, no matter how small they may seem to us, we change our brains and we increase the likelihood of repeating such successes! (Buddha’s Brain.)


Have you had that “Aha” moment with being kind and firm at the same time? Celebrate it by sharing it with us here!

Bonus: What does parenting with kindness and firmness have in common with a tree?

Are you interested in learning more about kindness and firmness?  Here’s an article and podcast from Jane Nelsen and another real life example from Kelly Bartlett.


Power Struggle Turn Around!

IMG_1846 - Version 3Let’s face it, we can’t do it alone.

Have you had that experience where you find yourself in a tight parenting situation and low and behold a friend, stranger, or even your child pops up at the perfect moment to remind you of what’s important and then, voila!…crisis averted?

Sheena, a graduate from my parenting course, Parenting with Positive Discipline,  tells this story:

At a local pool this summer my daughter and I were changing in the locker room when I realized I’d forgotten to pack her swimsuit. Oh no! She was not happy. I checked to see if I could buy her a swimsuit. …nope. Maybe our friends had one I could borrow?…Nope.  Luckily I found a swimsuit in the lost-and-found, a little worn out, but wearable.

Back in the locker room I showed my daughter the lost-and-found suit. She was still unhappy.  At first I was a really nice mommy: I apologized for my forgetfulness and told her we wouldn’t be able to retrieve her swimsuit from home. The look on my daughter’s face said that wasn’t working either. Next, I tried bribing her with cookies, and ice cream from the snack shop. She did not budge.

Now I was starting to get mad. How was I going to get her to wear this swimsuit?! I walked out to the pool to tell our friends we were leaving.

Then I saw Lisa. Having taken her parenting class, I prayed she would have some advice for me.

I quickly told her the story and she gave me some words of compassion She held up the swimsuit and said, “what a gorgeous suit!” and “that pattern is so pretty!” (She glanced over the mildew stains on the butt…). It took me a second to realize what she was doing…I wanted a hard and fast answer to my problem and she was admiring the swimsuit?

Then I caught on…ah ha. I headed back to the locker room and my waiting daughter. This time I was a lot calmer and less determined to get her to “wear the suit or else!” I sat down next to her on the bench, offered her one of the cookies, and said lets eat these while we think of what to do next. I then held up the swimsuit and did exactly what Lisa had just done. I started to admire the swimsuit. Within a minute my daughter had changed into the suit and was ready to go swimming. It worked! It worked!

Thank you, Lisa. Your calm and thoughtful approach to parenting is an inspiration.”

What shifted this situation?

Sheenas’ experience is one we all know too well.  Our patience gets tested, we get emotionally charged, and our minds become less flexible. My hunch is that our chance encounter gave Sheena a touchstone to her open, creative mind AND a renewed sense of faith in her child and herself. During this ah ha moment, she was able to beam out from the weeds and the trees to see the entire forest.

Our little ones pick up on our mental shifts. When a child senses her parents urgency, she will dig in. (Aha! here is a game I can play and maybe even win!)

Take urgency out of the equation, and there’s nothing to resist or engage. When we let the air out of that balloon, we all get a chance to relax.

That day at the pool when Sheena bumped into me, it wasn’t my advice or expert knowledge that helped. Rather, I offered a reminder of what she already knew. Afterwards, Sheena relaxed and let go of her goal to get her daughter in the suit. Sensing this shift, her 6-year old similarly let go and decided that swimming would be more fun than continuing with a deflated power struggle.


What helps you shift your perspective from struggle to connection?

What’s most important to you about your relationship with your child?



Free Parenting Workshop! Join Us!

I am so excited to team up with the inspiring Rev. Monte McClain to bring your an evening of Positive Discipline! In this two hour introductory workshop we’ll cover the core principles underlying PD in addition to 3 powerful tools you can start practicing right away.

Here are the details….

Date:  November 13, 2013

Time:  7 to 9 pm

Place:  College Avenue Presbyterian Church  5951 College Avenue, Oakland 94618

Cost:  Free

Registration: Email Kathyrn at to let her know you’re coming

Share this information with your friends!



A Sliding Door Moment

A favorite time of day for me is when my family has gone to bed. The children are all tucked in, I crawl into bed, and get to chose from my IMG_2902stack of great reads.

One recent evening, my 13-year old son came into our room. Just as I was settling into cozy contemplation, about to nod off, he asked “Mom can you come and lay with me while I go to sleep?”

I’d been reading Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly, a powerful book about relationships, parenting and life.  On the pages I’d just finished reading Brene referenced John Gottman’s “sliding door” moments. The sliding door moment is when we come face to face with a choice, exactly the moment I experienced with E standing next to me.

In this moment, we have the possibility of connection or turning away.

Of course it doesn’t boil down to one moment but rather the trend established over time. Gottman says that trust erodes very slowly if we continue to turn away.

Now let’s return to my moment. I so wanted to turn back to my book and the warmth of my cozy bed. However, in front of me was a clear choice. Did I choose to connect with E, or turn away from him? What would you do?

I realized my thirteen year old son was offering me a precious moment to build trust and share affection. I pulled myself out of bed (with some effort & audible moaning, I confess), and padded down the hall after him. I’d made my choice.

Next time you have a sliding door moment and your first instinct is to turn away, take a moment to observe yourself and see what happens when you choose to connect with your child.


Notice when you say no and when you say yes to a sliding door moment.

What is a moment you are going to say yes to this week?

Share your thoughts here in the comments and pass this on to a friend.


Transforming the Little Moments to Bring in the Light

Wouldn’t it be great to have a “before” and “after” parenting show?

Last month I traveled on swanky Virgin America and enjoyed the guilty pleasure of watching “What Not to Wear”. Are you like me? Loving the transformation of the frumpy working gal into the self-confident put together chick? (Hint: I’m a great candidate – waiting to be nominated).

I’m drawn to the details of improvement – the way a crowded, gloomy living room, rearranged with better light, pillows, and plants becomes a welcoming space for activity and life. Powerful.

Let’s bring this analogy home to my role as parent. Here’s a situation I’m sure you’ll relate to. Notice the before and after scenes – I’m the same, loving mom in each. The difference is, in the second scene, I have a deeper understanding of Positive Discipline and with a few tweaks, the interaction with my daughter is transformed at the core.


The scene: I’m putting my 6 year-old, S, to bed and have just finished reading her a bedtime story.


S: Mom, I’m afraid.

Me: What are you afraid of? (a bit annoyed and really thinking “what could you possibly be afraid of?!”)

S: I’m scared to go to bed.

Me: There’s nothing to be scared of – you’re in your cozy bed and your family is home with you. (My annoyance is building.)

S: I’m still afraid.

Me: That’s silly cause you are perfectly safe. (I’m determined to leave and stop this conversation.)

As I leave the room a jumble of thoughts go through my mind:

  • What have I done to make her so insecure?
  • What’s wrong with her that she can’t simply go to sleep?
  • What’s her fear going to become as she gets older?
  • It’s simple, she hasn’t had enough hardship in her life – if she’d had more trials, like me, then she’d know what fear really is!

After (with a Positive Discipline approach):

S: Mom, I’m afraid.

Me: What are you afraid of?

S: I’m afraid to go to sleep. I’m afraid of all the normal stuff that people are afraid of.

Me: Where do you feel that in your body?

S: My heart. It’s like I have butterflies fluttering in my heart and frogs jumping in my stomach.

Me: Oh, that doesn’t sound good. (I place my hand on her heart).

S: Do you ever get scared?

Me: Yes. Remember last week when we were on the airplane and it was really bumpy and you were laughing and whooping it up? I was really afraid – I didn’t like how that felt AT ALL.

S: I was scared too but it was also fun and funny.

Me: People get scared of different things – I LOVE GOING TO BED.

I left the room, my daughter fell asleep. I wasn’t worried about her future. I felt close and connected to her.

Let’s look at some of the obvious differences in how I felt and acted in the two scenes.


  • Worried
  • Fearful
  • Stuck in limited “role” of mom
  • Focus on how I’ve failed as a mom


  • Curious
  • Open
  • Interested in our shared human experience
  • Willing to share my vulnerability
  • In the present
  • Faith in my daughter to figure it out

While there’s no perfect way to parent, we can make small, subtle shifts that bring in the light to reveal our higher self. When we allow this to happen, we truly sparkle. The end result? An intimate moment of precious connection with our child. There’s nothing more beautiful than that.

We have much to learn from each other.


In the comments below share what motivates you to go from scene 1 to 2? What helps you sparkle?

Next time you’re in that #1 scenario, stop, breath, connect, wait. Let us know what happens.

Contact me to learn more about parent and life coaching and future Parenting with Positive Discipline Classes.



The Self-Care Connection

I’ve come to realize something about me and food. The healthier I eat, the better I feel. Duh!

Here’s my confession. I’m a chocolate junkie. Every day at 4 o’clock…WHAM! I NEED my fix — I feel compelled, as if I have no choice in the matter, to reach into my coveted chocolate stash.

Yesterday, I did something different.

Crunchy Kale Salad (with egg & brussel sprouts)

Crunchy Kale Salad
(with egg & brussel sprouts) Click for recipe!

I started a cleanse…  (I can hear you now, “not another cleanse?!” but this one is awesome … I know because I’ve done it before.) Designed by food & body coach Jamie Greenwood (scroll down to hear an audio download of my recent conversation with Jamie), the cleanse is simple – eat lots of delicious food BUT… no dairy, wheat, soy, caffeine, alcohol OR SUGAR.

What? No sugar???

I’ve been an anti-depravation girl my whole life, convinced it’s better not to deny myself the foods I crave. The logic? The more I deprive myself, the more I’ll want. So with chocolate I’ve kept an open door policy, always allowing for one more bite, then maybe just another, … the bar’s gone.

For my birthday last year I decided to give myself a gift – the Jamie Living Freakin’ Rad Fall Cleanse. Cool right? NEVER in my life had I given up sugar before so I was scared. Scared that I’d fail and let myself down.

Viktor Frankl, the German psychotherapy pioneer, said

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response, lie our growth and our freedom.

Between my craving and my habitual eating there is space. Now I have to figure out what to do with that space.

Reframing this challenge as a gift to myself transformed my perceived depravation, into something positive.

The truth is during the first few days I felt down right ill. However, like morning fog in the Bay Area it lifted and ….wow, the FREEDOM I felt. Not la-dee-dah “I’m free”, but HOLY COW! – I’m FREE! I was free of my craving and even more, free of the constant preoccupation that came with it.

Vanilla Maple Granola Click for recipe!

Vanilla Maple Granola
Click for recipe!


I’m not suggesting you throw away your Hershey stash. It’s different for everyone. Look at what you might be eating, drinking, watching, or avoiding to deny yourself the space to grow and be free.

In my Parenting Class, beginning September 26th, we spend only half of one session talking about self-care. The fact is self-care runs through every principle and tool, every discussion, every single class. Self-care is foundational. Self-care creates spaciousness.

Children do better when they feel better,” says Positive Discipline expert Jane Nelsen. This applies to us parents too.

I’m taking the next 10 days to make space, notice it and breathe in the life I need to thrive and be the best parent I can be. Here on day 2 I’m a bit foggy but experience tells me I’ll be soaring soon 🙂

To hear my conversation with Jamie Greenwood and learn more about living a healthier, spacious life click below. Email Jamie at to sign up for her free Body on Board call on Oct. 2.


Now it’s your turn! Remember, your comments remind us that we’re not alone, that we’re part of a community in the toughest job of all.


What keeps you from slowing down and acknowledging the space to choose how you live?

What happens in those moments when you do have space?

How do your habits impact parenting?





Weekly family meetings – your lifeboat!

Have your kids plunged into the sea of school yet? Do the homework, sports, music lessons…. all feel like huge waves crashing onto the shores of your once calm, summer life?

Today’s blog is a lifeboat to help you stay afloat. Maybe after you read this you’ll be inspired to ride those narly waves and find some grace and connection with your kids.

The lifeboat I’m talking about is a weekly family meeting. Yes, the family meeting is THE single, most powerful Positive Discipline tool.

During parent coaching and classes, I’m often asked, “How old should children be for family meetings?” The answer is, as young as 3 and as old as 30! Seriously. I know someone who started family meetings after all of their kids were grown and married. The meetings transformed the dynamic of their family and created the space for profound love and healing.

Truth be told, my kids don’t exactly clamor for family meetings. Sometimes my kids complain, resist or try to rush through them.  So the meetings are imperfect and messy . But that is precisely the point. The impact is felt by our commitment to make the meeting happen, not by their being done right (whatever that means).

Family MeetingNow let’s get this baby started. As you read this, make a commitment to try one small family meeting for starters. You can do it. Here’s the low-down:

What:  Call it a family meeting, forum, council, rendezvous, whatever suits you. Have your kids make up a name for this special time (10 to 40 minutes, depending on what’s on the docket and what comes up in the moment).

When:  Once a week. Pick Sunday evenings and make it part of the routine. If you miss a week or two, don’t throw in the towel. Simply start up again.

Where:  Usually at home but my family has held them in the car during road trips or even while out to dinner.

Why:  This is an opportunity to teach and practice Positive Discipline parenting, such as routines, encouragement, follow through, responsibility, leadership, communication, listening, empathy, patience, problem solving and SO MUCH MORE. Each family member feels an increased sense of significance and belonging within the family. In the long-term, family meetings create connection and unity.

How:  Always start with a round of compliments given by all, to all (don’t forget to include yourself!). Other topics could be problem solving, meal, trip or family fun planning. Be flexible but always include appreciations.

See? It’s not so bad! In fact, it’s awesome!

For more on Family Meetings sign up here to get a free download of my super duper parenting tip sheet, “Unlock the Power of Family Meetings”.

The waves of life will keep on coming but now you are prepared. Inflate the family meeting routine and start floating with intentional, scheduled connection. Family meetings are simple, uniting and powerful.  Join me in taking this small but courageous step toward lasting and profound change in your family relationships.

Your kids will thank you for it!

Now it’s your turn! Remember, your comments remind us that we’re not alone, that we’re part of a community in the toughest job of all.

Feel free to ask questions in the comments section below.


What difference have family meetings made in your life?

What gets in the way of holding family meetings?

Commit to holding 1 this week!


What I learned on our RV vacation

I did something I never imagined I’d do.


Start of Hammond Coastal Trail, Arcata, CA

 I took an RV trip with my family for 9 days.

One of my husband’s fondest memories was a 3-week RV trip with a friend’s family. This summer he was determined to make such a trip happen for our kids.

I was going to be a good sport and go along for the ride.

6 days later we were packed. Our Cruise America RV (awkwardly parked on our narrow tree lined street!) was loaded with games, food, 3 tubes of toothpaste, toilet paper, dog chews and miles of cords, headsets and devices.

As we pulled away from home I felt a friend’s wise words — don’t be in a hurry — settle into my bones like a slow exhale.

I felt it when my husband, known to hide a speeding ticket or two, pulled over with a new civility and moderation to let the faster cars pass. Most folks waved or gave a friendly honk. He was relaxed and I could sense that he was enjoying the change of pace.

At times I was aware of the habitual worry creeping in. What had I forgotten? Was there somewhere we needed to be? The creeping worry is indeed a fixture in my day-to-day life.

I felt it just knowing that we were together. For 9 days we biked, played board games, prepared food, cleaned, and continually shared the experience of our new surroundings.

We hiked through the magical giant redwoods, biked along the Northern Californian coast (trying not to crash as I was awed by the splendor of the Pacific Ocean) and waded in the Rogue River while salmon jumped just feet away.

Don’t get me wrong, my kids did the normal bickering – etc. but I’ll save that for another post!

One of my solitary pleasures was getting up early to pick blackberries to share over breakfast.IMG_2292

I was sad when the trip came to an end. It was a sweet time of togetherness.

Now I’m home. Summer’s coming to an end with school starting tomorrow.

I’m wondering about that sense of ease during our trip. How do I re-capture the feeling of time slowing down, of being present with myself and, my children, husband and dog.

What allows YOU to be at ease and present in your everyday life? I want to know. Please share in the comment section below for the benefit of all our readers.


What allows you to be at ease and present in your everyday life? Generally and specifically.

What commitment are you going to make in order to bring more ease and presence into your life?


What I did when my daughter said “You’re the boringest and I HATE YOU!” on our first day of summer.

My husband texted me “Just rode our first coaster – Colossus! [Crazy face emoji.]”

Little does he know I’ve been riding one at home and it’s not nearly as thrilling.

He’s taken E and two friends off to Magic Mountain to celebrate E’s 14th birthday.

I’m home with our newly hatched 1st grader and experiencing the breezy joys of the first day of summer!

Not…IMG_2449 - Version 2

After two late nights her eyes are at half mast and simply put, nothing is right.

She demands to go to the pool. I say, that’s not going to work today.

And the tirade begins – I’m sparing you many of the gruesome details but these quotes will give you the flavor.

I want daddy!

I wish I were dead!

(she repeats this last one several times I think because she’s startled that I’m not reacting)

I’m not as composed as I want to be. Being a parent educator can really inflame feelings of parental inadequacy. My self talk that thankfully doesn’t come out my mouth is, S you’re acting like a spoiled brat and

what have I done to create this monster? How can I possibly say I have any answers for parents when my kid is acting like this!

I successfully take it down a few notches, not perfect but better, when I say to her, you’re tired. Maybe you’re even sick because this is how you act when you’re sick. There’s not much sympathy in my voice as I say some other not so choice words that infuriate her.

On the upside, I bear lots of her rage and both of our discomfort. Bearing it is good. Breathing through it is great. I give breathing a try and it helps.

As far as I can tell, along with deep breathing, the following are key elements that finally shift the energy.

There’s no substitute for time. It feels like a good hour of our back and forth. She pleads, I ignore, she rages, I stop and give her some kind and firm attention, she storms off, I fold laundry, ignore and finally I ask for her help.

One my favorite Positive Discipline sayings is children do better when they feel betterWhen I ask her for help, I tap into her desire for significance and belonging. While we’re not always aware of it, all of us are looking for significance and belonging.

Notice how imperfectly I handle this yet how important it is that I persist.

First, I suggest she pick up her room – she says NO – (admittedly a knee jerk bound to fail request on my part).

Second, I suggest she help clear the living room of her toys –  NO!  That’s two strikes….

Third, I ASK how she’d like to help and I LISTEN when she says she wants to help in the kitchen. She gets a stool and I fill a basin with warm soapy water.  Singing quietly, she scrubs dishes for a solid 15 minutes. (I’m in another room).

Like roller coasters inevitably do, it feels like this one is coming to a surprisingly smooth and sudden stop.

Now she’s done scrubbing and she’s disappeared.

I hear a harmonica in the distance.


Here’s your chance to support another parent! Share in the comment section below.

We ALL lose it as parents. On those days when you’re able to remain calm when your child presses your button, what’s different?

How will you make space for these calming features of life?


Welcome to the blog!

Hi, I’m Lisa. I’m a parenting educator and a life coach.

11138158_10153132340791291_4066429698204345443_nLike you, I love my kids and am wildly devoted to them. Like you, I’m making mistakes along the way and am open to continually learning. Like you, I find the humor in daily and sometimes hourly parenting foibles.

I look forward to sharing my learning, mistakes and humor with you in addition to cool and sometimes magical Positive Discipline strategies and tools.

What’s most important to me about this blog I’m creating? YOU.

When you read it I want you to feel curious and believe that anything is possible for you. I also hope it reminds you that YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Parenting is a butt kicking experience – fact.

The flavor? Imagine Mary Tyler Moore meets Buddha with a dash of Tina Fey.

Curious now? Me too.

In my classes and my private coaching sessions my hands down biggest continual surprise is people’s sheer delight and revived optimism about their potential as a parent and as a human being.

I hope you will feel sheer delight and revived optimism when you read this blog and participate in this community.  My goal is to make this space a virtual village where you learn, share, grow and delight in parenting.

This blog will be powerful because of your interactions with other parents in the comment section. I’ll be here too! How you and I respond will inspire, encourage, hearten and create great company with the thoughtful parents who are part of this growing community.

My work spreads 99% by word of mouth. If you find something helpful here, please pass it along to your friends.


What parenting issues are you most curious about?

What is most important to you in your relationship with your child? How do you want to act on that today?