All posts in “Developmental Stages”

How to Diffuse a Power Struggle AND Gain Back Control

Every parent has experienced it… Those extremely frustrating POWER STRUGGLES that ultimately leave you feeling dis-empowered and defeated.  These struggles happen at home and in public (extra frustrating) and are often over things like putting on shoes, leaving a public place, getting in the car seat or sitting on the potty to name a few!  As adults it is easy to feel like these are small “things”, but we need to keep in mind that to our little ones these are BIG things.

When these power struggles become a part of your daily routine it can feel as if your parental confidence is in the gutter and you feel you have no choice but to just give in.  Well, I’d think twice before taking this approach…

Power struggles change from small “things” to  much bigger “things” as kids get older.  An overall lack of listening and being respectful will begin to build and pretty soon you will be struggling with a bigger more argumentative child.  So it is VERY important to get these struggles under control while your little’s are still little.

So. how can you regain control and diffuse these situations??

When your little’s are still little – 

1.  When tantrums ensue:  Power struggles and tantrums ensue because things happen too abruptly.  So give a warning about what is happening next…”We are leaving the park in 5 minutes”.

2.  When transitions are tough:  Talk, talk, talk…I can’t say this enough. It is easy to just rush through your routine with your little one but this can cause anxiety for them.   Think about it everything is NEW to them.  How would you feel if someone carted you around all day to unfamiliar places, never telling you what was happening next?

Even though your little one may not be talking yet they are still listening and absorbing EVERYTHING around them. Talk about what your schedule is for the day, starting the night before…

“Tomorrow Ashley is going to school and daddy is going to work.  We are going to have breakfast, take her to school and then we are going to gymnastics, then lunch and after nap we are going to the doctor.”  Then continue to talk about it through at the day, “now we are…and then…”.  Try this for a week and see how the power struggles and tantrums start to disappear.

3. When there is no letting go:  Say “goodbye” to inanimate objects.  Say “goodbye” to the ball, say “goodbye” to the puppy dog, whatever it is this approach allows your child to process letting go of said “thing” and therefore diffuses a power struggle of letting go.

4.  When independence takes over:  Around 3 years old little ones begin to want to do things on their own.  You want them to be independent but this sets the ground for lots of power struggles. Being the mindful, intelligent parent that you are, you allow them feel as if they have the power to choose but ultimately you know you are in control.

For example:  Your little one doesn’t want to wear a shirt. You WANT your little one to wear a shirt.  You allow him to choose between two shirts.  You ask him a few times to pick one but he refuses.  So you pull out the, “I’m going to count 3 and then you pick”.

Now, this can play out one of two ways…you count to 3 and he doesn’t choose and the struggle goes on and on OR when  you get to 3, you say, “ok, pick a shirt or I’m going to pick for you.”  And that is that!  He may be upset for a minute but now you have put a boundary in place that he will remember.  “I better choose or mommy will choose for me.”

When your little’s are not so little – 

1.  When power struggles become a teaching moment: Look at power struggles as your opportunity as a parent to provide guidance.  Remain calm and confident.

2.  When your child tries to argue or yell:  Always take the higher road and do not engage in arguing but instead diffuse the situation by saying something like, “I’m not going to argue about this, I’ve asked you to do it already and I trust that you will.”

3.  When you want your child to do something right away:   Coming across as a drill sergeant will get you nowhere.   Stop, take a breath and tune into their world for a minute.  We all know how irritating it can be to have to stop something we are really involved in to do something else.  Give em a break once in a while….

4. When your child is acting out:  Try and dig deeper,  if your child is normally a good listener see what the underlying issue is that may be causing this behavior.  Did something happen at school?  How are they feeling?

5.  When nothing is working:  Try and re-think your approach.  What works for one child may not work for another.  Depending on temperament and what type of learner your child is you may need to switch things up.

At any age – 

Treat them with the same loving kindness you expect from them.  Use these times of struggle to center yourself, be mindful of your actions and re-connect with your kids.  You will begin to find that you are now experiencing more peace and balance instead of struggle.

Please share your experiences with diffusing a power struggle below!  Any tips to add?

The Power of Positive Reinforcement

If you watched Mike and Bob Bryan the famous twins who won Wimbledon last year then you’d know they give off a positive, caring vibe towards each other on the court.  Having over 62 professional titles the Bryan brothers are no doubt talented.  Part of this may be due to the fact that their parents Kathy and Wayne never allowed the boys to play each other in tournaments.   When they met in junior tournaments they had the boys alternate, forfeiting to each other to cut down on sibling rivalry and unhealthy competitive behavior. Instead Kathy and Wayne focused on building each child’s strengths through the power of positive reinforcement.   In fact Wayne went on to write a book called, “How to Raise a Champion in Athletics, Arts and Academics.”

The theory behind positive reinforcement called Operant Conditioning was first developed by B.F. Skinner in 1938. He conducted an experiment where he placed rats into boxes with levers which released food when the rat accidentally ran into it.  Quickly the rats learned to go directly to the lever when placed in the box.  The consequence/reward of receiving the food when the rat pressed the lever, guaranteed that the rat would repeat this behavior every time it was put into the box (McLeod, 2007).

Just as Kathy and Wayne used this strategy to guide their boys into success, positive reinforcement can be used to change your child’s behavior in both minor and major ways.

Behavior charts are a great example of using positive reinforcement to change your child’s behavior.  Typically behavior charts are best recommended for use at age 3 but I’ve used charts with children at 2 1/2 with great success.  You can use a chart for any behavior that you would like to change or one you’d like to encourage.  In my coaching practice I have recommended the use of charts for things like sleeping through the night, not having a melt down when mommy leaves and of course potty charts and chore charts. This system works just as the reward of food worked with the rats, except in this case the reward is the sticker and of course we’re talking about our precious little’s and not rats:)

A few HH tips on behavior charts:

1.  Be creative together – have your child help make the chart and actively talk with them about using it.  Example:  “This is your potty chart, when you go potty you get a sticker”, “Now Tommy tell mommy how you get a sticker for your chart?”.

2.  Make it special – You may already have some stickers lying around the house but for the reward to feel special it’s important to truly make it feel that way.  Plan an outing to pick out “special stickers” for your child’s chart.  Make sure that those stickers are only used for the chart.  This will give your child more motivation in wanting to earn their “special sticker”.

3.  Be consistent– Take the time to allow your child to choose a sticker right after they have displayed the positive behavior.  If you wait the reward will not have the same effect.

4.  Don’t get chart happy – Having success using this approach can lead to the idea that this will work great for everything.  Too many charts at one time is no good.  This desensitized the reward and reduces their motivation because the child is getting too many rewards at one time.  Stick to one chart at a time or at the utmost two.

5.  Praise and communication – These two components are key in changing a negative behavior pattern.  As adults it is easy to subconsciously get caught in the idea that your child is too young to understand certain concepts so we just don’t talk about it.  Well the truth is kids are smarter than we think.  Engaging in active conversation with them by making statements and asking questions get’s them to feel more comfortable about situations and transitions.  Praise is always necessary in guiding them to continue on the path to more positive behaviors.

6.  Be patient –  It can take 3 weeks to change a behavior pattern so be patient, follow these tips, add in some coaching support to get you through the tough times and you will be sure to see positive results.

Below is an example of a Happy Day Chart used with a client.

The little guy (2 and 1/2-year-old), got a sticker for not crying when his mommy went to work and the nanny came.  On first use of the chart along with actively talking with him about the transition, he no longer cried in the mornings.



McLeod, S. A. (2007). Skinner – Operant Conditioning. Retrieved from


Developmental Milestones

As a new parent it can be both a happy and sad moment when you see your baby hit a new milestone.  On one hand you feel proud of your baby for their accomplishment but sadness that they are growing up too fast.  You may also feel somewhat frustrated when you have seen them crawl or walk on occasion but in general they tend to default to the easier option.  This same frustration can also translate to things like wanting your child to hold their own bottle or potty training.

The thing to keep in mind is that although, there is a general age range in which your child should be hitting these milestones every child is different and they will transition when they are ready.

As the parent this may make you feel useless, you want to help or feel that you are encouraging your child in some way.  Well, the truth is that how quickly your child conquers a milestone like walking is based on their own confidence and motivation.  As their parent all you can really do is increase their confidence by praising them and ensuring they have a safe accessible environment to practice their new-found skill.

Here are a few HH tips on how to feel valuable in aiding your child’s developmental milestones.

1.  Do some Feng Shui – Look around your house, are there obstacles on the floor that are making it hard for your child to crawl or walk?

2.  Declutter  – Clutter equals stress.  A baby will feel overwhelmed if there are too many toys on the floor or in their room.  Chose at most 2-3 toys for your baby to play with at one time.

3.  Organize! Organize! Organizer! –  Once you’ve decluttered start organizing.  An organized home creates a peaceful home.  Put things in accessible easy places that will help your home run smoother..i.e. extra socks by the door, diapers and wipes on each floor. (Check out Harmonious Households Organized Living and Pre-baby Home Consultation services).

4.  Land your helicopter– Helicopter parenting is not good for you or your child.  You may want to be involved with every little aspect of your baby’s life but this can be smothering to your child. Being overly anxious and encouraging them too much can actually cause them to regress in their development.   Take a second to relax and have a few deep breaths.  Enjoy what your child is doing now and trust that in their own time they will move on to the next milestone.

Toddlerhood – Impacting your Child’s Neurological Development

It’s no doubt that those toddler years can be down right, make you wanna pull your hair out frustrating!  When a child throws a tantrum we often feel confused, embarrassed, frustrated and fed up, thinking or sometimes even saying, “what on earth is the matter?”  and “this is just ridiculous! I can’t deal with this right now!”.  Every parent has had those moments,  these thoughts and feelings are totally ok and normal.   What can help in these intense moments is to first off have an understanding of what your toddler is going through physiologically, biologically and neurologically.  This knowledge can arm you with better ways of handling these outbursts.

Most parents have a  basic understanding of the different developmental stages their child is going through i.e. sitting up, crawling, walking, teething etc. But many people are unaware of what is going on neurologically during these first few years that allows these major milestones in development to occur.

From the early embryonic stage until around 2 years of age new neurons and synapses are being formed at an astonishing rate ( i.e. 40,000 synapses formed per second).  That’s a lot of synapses!  This ultimately leaves the child with many more neurons and synapses than are actually needed which causes the brain to begin Synaptic Pruning.  In synaptic pruning the extra synapses are eliminated allowing for more efficiency in the neural network.  Meaning that once those extra synapses or “roadblocks” are pruned the child can move on to the next milestone in development.

This process starts around 2 years of age and lasts until the child is about 10 years old.   The imperative piece in understanding these neurological changes is the knowledge that as a parent you can  impact this process.  A child’s synapses are either strengthened or pruned based on what their sensory, motor, emotional and intellectual experiences are. Therefore, as a parent if you are continually reinforcing positive, challenging, supportive and loving experiences at home then those synapses will be strengthened and preserved during the pruning process.   Just as optimism and positive thinking has been shown to reduce stress, improve health and create peace of mind for yourself, this same positive attitude can influence your child’s growth and development.  In the video below Dr. Masaru Emoto, a researcher and alternative healer, demonstrates the power of  positive and negative thinking on rice granules and points out how this can affect children…

Now that you are armed with this knowledge be mindful of your interactions with your children and remember that as their parent you have the power to guide them into being happy, healthy, loving humans.