The Do's and Don'ts of Toddler Discipline

So you've got yourself a little toddler there – good times. Dana Carvey once quipped “They're not so bad, just keep M&M's in your pocket and feed 'em here and there.” If only it were so easy. What makes them so terrible sometimes? That answer is not as mysterious as it sometimes seems (e.g., in the eye of a tantrum at Target checkout). Think about it – right now while you're calm and not tantrumming back at them. What are they grappling with that we have learned and hence take for granted? Two things: they don't know how to communicate yet and they don't know how to manage the overwhelming emotions they're experiencing for the first time. Wouldn't that make you want to freak out?

Well, the next time your toddler does, take solace in the fact that you have choices on how to react. What's more, if you make the “right” choices, they're gonna' freak out less and less. I'm going to elaborate but first, allow me to establish some irrefutable truths of human nature – truths that will light your way in your quest to curb your toddler's seemingly unruly behavior and hence bring you more peace and quiet.

  1. Human beings wish to be treated with respect. It's innate and it's evident as early as one year. If you want your child to heed your guidance, you will want to treat him with respect.
  2. Children don't naturally want to “misbehave.” Sure they're wired to test a bit, but if they do it repeatedly it's because they have been conditioned to or have not been taught how else to behave.
  3. The word “discipline” has a latin meaning of “instruction, knowledge.” “Disciple” means “learner.” (please note the absence of the terms “training” or “punishment.”)
  4. Young children learn best by modeling behavior.
  5. “Anger is the enemy of instruction.” OK, it's a quote from eleven-time NBA championship coach Phil Jackson, but I'm putting it here in the irrefutable truths section. Think about it. Frustration and anger just distract humans from attaining messages.

Now, watch how these do's and don'ts flow seamlessly from these truths. The next time your toddler is faced with a challenge – be it physical, social, emotional, cognitive or all of the above – and proceeds to lose her marbles, keep these do's and don'ts in mind:

The hardest part in all of this is keeping your own emotions under control when your child is pushing your buttons (see - didn't you like me better when I understood you?). But if you can manage to do more of these “do's” and less of these “don'ts,” you'll find your child will internalize the lessons sooner. That'll give you more time to read parenting articles – joy!

Get More Specific Guidance and Support in Tom's book,

"What They Won't Tell You About Parenting" Here!


Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

What Can We Learn from the San Francisco Giants to Help Make Our Children More Resilient?

How to Build Resiliency

What Parents Can Learn from Bruce Bochy and the San Francisco Giants

In 2010, the San Francisco Giants were 6½ games back in their division in August. In 2012, they were neck and neck with the Dodgers mid-season, when the Dodgers made multiple blockbuster trades. Next thing you know, one of the Giants' best players gets suspended for the remainder of the season. This year they lost game six of the World Series 10-0. Somehow, some way, three seasons ended in champagne celebrations and ticker-tape parades. How were the Giants able to overcome such adversity, stay united, and ultimately attain success?

The Giants did what any group of people does when they encounter a crisis, they looked to their leader. Bruce Bochy manages with a calm, honest confidence. At a lifetime achievement acceptance speech in 2011, he discussed the keys to a leader building resiliency. We all want our children to be resilient and learn to handle life's inevitable challenges with grace and determination. To that end, there's much we can learn from Bruce Bochy and the World Champion San Francisco Giants.

Begin with Gratitude

Did you know the world's leading scientific expert on gratitude lives right here in Northern California? Not Berkeley, but good guess. Robert Emmons, Psychology Professor at UC Davis, has been studying the varying benefits and healing powers of gratitude for 13 years. In his book, Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier!, he highlights four reasons why gratitude has trans-formative effects on people's lives. His conclusions can certainly benefit our day-to-day lives. I contend they apply perfectly to our role as parents as well.

But before I begin, let me say: Don't think for a minute I don't understand or appreciate how frustrating parenting can be. I've seen it and personally experienced it for years. The simple truth is: starting from a place of gratitude will make you a better leader. Your child will be more apt to listen to you. That's what you want.

  1. Gratitude Allows us to celebrate the present. The theme of the final chapter of my book, living in the moment is a worthy goal for parents. How many times have you heard the phrases, “They grow so fast,” or “the blink of an eye?” Beginning from a place of gratitude is the best way to be more present in our lives and with our children. There's no denying parenting can be frustrating and tiring. But most parents will tell you the joys outweigh the struggles. A key to tipping that balance in our favor, is making a conscious effort to start from a place of gratitude. When we make a conscious effort to be grateful for our children, we not only apply the power of gratitude, we also enlist the undeniable influence of the self-fulfilling prophecy. Ultimately we decide whether our children are our greatest burden or our greatest joy. They will become whichever we chose. The next time you have an opportunity to share time with your children, make a conscious effort to live in the moment and enjoy their presence, then sit back and watch how enjoyable they become.
  2. Gratitude blocks toxic, negative emotions. We all have them. As you know, when our children aren't listening to us, it's easy to succumb to feelings of anger and resentment. We forget, our children are going through so many changes and challenges, it's only natural for them to get frustrated and defeated. If we match their frustration and stress with equally negative energy, we end up in power struggles and heated arguments no one can win. Even Ghandi wouldn't be able to maintain gratitude in the midst of a two-year-old tantrum, but the point is to begin there. If you start from a thankful perspective, it will be so much easier to meet their “misbehavior” with an understanding that they just don't know better yet. Our attitude will color all our interactions with them - and help them to be more grateful as well. You'll find the moments of frustration, while an inevitable part of life, will be fewer and less fervent in time.
  3. Grateful people are more stress resistant. I'm guessing that like me, you have enough stress in your life. No doubt the challenge of parenting is part of that. When someone suggests a way to alleviate stress, I listen. Deepak Chopra will tell you that gratitude will connect you with the source of abundance. That sounds good to me, but I'll add that it will make the task of parenting easier and less stressful for you. Let's go ahead and accept the idea that parenting is a form of leadership. Who wants to follow a stressed-out, panicking leader? Begin with gratitude, and you'll be a more positive, confident captain. Your children will be more inclined to follow your lead and grow to be equally gracious and successful.
  4. Grateful people have higher sense of self-worth. Buy low, sell high. We all want to be happy and content in our lives. As parents, we want the same for our children. Start recognizing and acknowledging all you have and those who have helped you along the way. It will change your entire mojo from “woe-is-me” to “happy-go-lucky!” Model and articulate it for your children and watch it spread like pink eye. Simply by inviting the power of gratitude into your life, you'll improve your whole family's sense of purpose and quality of life.

So many tangible benefits to applying the power of gratitude to parenting. Unlike starting a new workout regime or diet, making an effort to be more grateful is relatively easy. You can start right now. When you're done reading here, take a moment and consider how fortunate you are to have your children in your life. As challenging as parenting can be, reflect upon how much meaning and joy they bring to your world. If it comes from your heart, don't be shy about telling your children how thankful you are for them. When you begin with gratitude, you'll be delighted to find that you'll finish there as well.

How to Not be "That Guy"

This post was published on goodmenproject.com here


You've seen him. He eagerly attends his kids' games (and unfortunately yours' as well) and suddenly fashions himself the Vince Lombardi of the grandstands. One minute in, he shakes his head and makes disapproving comments he pretends to keep under his breath. Overcome by his desire to “help” the coach get the best out of his kid (and yours), he screams out reminders colored with frustration and disappointment.

Much like an overprotective mother who never allows her child to taste disappointment, he means well and genuinely wants his child to succeed. How do the best of intentions go awry? When does encouragement become pressure? How do you get the best out of a person? All parents, teachers, and coaches are faced with these questions. Let's take a look at what some of the most successful coaches of all time have learned.

All of these principles fall under the umbrella of respect. The desire for respect is as natural and innate as our need for water. As parents, we all want our children to learn to respect others – including us. Lenny Wilkens was one of the most successful NBA coaches ever. Take it from him: “If you want it, you've got to give it.”

The Themes of Dad's Playbook

If you're like most of us parents, you can use all the guidance and inspiration you can get on a daily basis. I'm always on the lookout for life lessons that can be applied to parenthood. When I find them, I'm compelled to share. Because, as I state clearly in my new book, Dad's Playbook: Wisdom for Fathers from the Greatest Coaches of All Time, “Parenting is no easy business.” That's the opening line of the section titled, “Teach and Learn.”

In the book, I collected over one hundred quotes from the greatest coaches in sporting history and I applied them to the task of parenting. Hall of Fame Quarterback and father of four, Steve Young was gracious enough to write the Foreword. Chronicle Books did an amazing job with the design and production and I must say, it is the ideal gift book for any dad – especially the millions of us that love sports (although I know plenty of non-sports fan moms and dads that have found the book inspirational). “Teach and Learn” is just one of five sections in my book. They all have concise two-word titles, thought-provoking quotes, and enduring lessons and messages that apply succinctly to all parents and leaders.

The first section is titled, “Lead and Inspire.” I thought it was important to establish the idea that the best way to influence and motivate your child is to provide her with a role model – that would be you. So many parents, especially in sporting circles, are eager to demand hard work and dedication from their children, but often they don't apply the same expectations to themselves. It's only natural for children to mimic and learn from adults so it follows that the best way to lead and inspire them is through your actions.

As I explain in my book, “Through your example, every day you show your children how to treat each other, how to handle adversity, and how to get things done.” I think it's important to recognize and even embrace the responsibility of parenting and to consciously create a positive and encouraging environment in your home. Perhaps legendary UCLA men's basketball coach John Wooden says it best: “Young people need models, not critics.”

In the next section, “Believe and Praise,” I tackle the controversial parenting topic of praise. Like anything in parenting or any form of leadership, it's all about balance and communication. I explain that it's indeed best to be specific with praise and to focus on effort, but the main theme of this introduction is to highlight the best way to motivate children long before we wish to praise them: to believe in your child. Jim Valvano, Head Coach of the 1983 North Carolina State National Championship mens basketball team concurs, “My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person: He believed in me.”

I'm pretty sure the next section would be Aretha Franklin's favorite: “Love and Respect.” In it, I explain that respect is a gateway to compliance. Compliance gets a bad rap, but the simple truth is: we all want our children to listen. The good news is you can set limits clearly and still convey love and respect. All you have to do is add a simple explanation. Consistently remind your child you have their best interests in mind.

Every time you explain a limit to your child you show her that you love and respect her. When she protests (and she will), be ready to listen and empathize, but stand firm in the knowledge that your reasons are sound. Legendary Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz ties these love and respect themes nicely into the lead and inspire lessons, “Do right. Do your best. Treat others as you want to be treated.”

Wisdom for Fathers from the Greatest Coaches of All Time

Much like Parent Coach Tom, an ideal blend of practical advice and applicable inspiration!

The next section, “Teach and Learn” is all about learning from mistakes. As parents, it's up to us to help children interpret and learn from the inevitable adversities of life. If we can begin to see challenges and even failures as opportunities for learning, “then each test is a means to strengthen your bond with your child and for her to ultimately succeed.”

Most parents would agree that a big part of their role is teaching, but it's equally important to acknowledge the self-learning that can be experienced through parenthood. Legendary Oakland Raiders coach John Madden explains that, “Coaches have to watch for what they don't want to see and listen to what they don't want to hear.” Sometimes, the same can be said for parents. Sometimes our children are the teachers.

In the final section of Dad's Playbook: Wisdom for Fathers from the Greatest Coaches of All Time, I remind parents that two incredibly important steps towards success of any kind are to focus on the present moment and to enjoy it as much as possible. We all know parenting can be challenging, but it's my goal to leave the reader inspired to fully invest himself into the task of parenting and to make a conscious effort to enjoy each moment with his children. Of the twenty-three quotes I included in this section aptly titled “Live and Enjoy,” I think two-time Super Bowl Champion coach Joe Gibbs sums it up best, “People who enjoy what they are doing invariably do it well.”

Knowing full-well the task of parenting can often seem thankless and exhausting, I close my book with one final correlation between coaching and parenting and an inspirational reminder to the reader: the idea that the memories and relationship he creates together with his children are his championship. It is my sincere hope that through this book, I am able to inspire parents and help them embrace and enjoy our roles as teachers, coaches, and leaders. I know that if we can manage to start there, the journey will be much smoother, and the lessons will be all the more clear.