Manipulative Child Behavior? My Kids Are “Too Smart for Their Own Good” by Debbie Pincus MS LMHC

“My kids are driving me crazy! They are so manipulative I can’t stand it!”

Does this sound familiar? “My middle schooler blackmails me emotionally – he cries that I ‘don’t care about him and love his brother more’ when I ask him to stop playing his video games. It’s true that he’s a more difficult kid, and his words make me feel so bad that I often feel guilty and let him continue to play.” Or “My teenager negotiates with me relentlessly to get her way. ‘If you let me go to the party tonight,’ she’ll say, ‘then I promise I’ll get all my work done tomorrow.’ I figure, why not? So I let her go. But then, ’Oops!’ She conveniently forgets all her promises.”

“When we step way back we can see that kids can only manipulate us because we allow their behavior to be effective.”

If your kids are like most, they are  masterful at finding creative ways to wear you down to get their way. You might think, “My child is just too smart for his own good!” It’s important to understand first that it’s natural for kids to “want what they want and try to get it at all costs.” It’s also natural for us as parents to get frustrated and tired, and to give in to these behaviors sometimes — or perhaps more often than we’d like to admit! Parents have busy lives and lots of stressors – we can only take so much, after all.

As aggravating as it is for you, for your child, finding ingenious ways to try and get what she wants or avoid what she doesn’t want to do is a way for her to exercise influence in a world run by adults. (It doesn’t mean you have to give in, but it’s important to realize that it’s developmentally appropriate.) Your child doesn’t have adult power yet  – most kids can’t make major decisions like choosing their neighborhood or school, for example. Having initiative, drive and passion are positives, even though it doesn’t always feel that way as a parent. But keep in mind that these traits can actually be a force for good if you can help your child to use it properly, balance it with self-restraint and respect boundaries.

Look at it this way: your kid’s job is to make demands, to communicate his desires and to try to get them met by hook or by crook. Your job is to not get stirred up by it – and not give in to it, either. Instead, try to help your child balance the energy of his endless wants with self-control and integrity.

The Cycle of Manipulation, Control and Defiance

Parents often get frustrated by their kids’ manipulative attempts to get their way. It’s not easy to remain calm and level-headed when you feel that your child is trying to push you around or take advantage of you. You might feel accosted and lose your temper. Or maybe when you feel disrespected, you withdraw. Or perhaps you try to avoid conflict and keep the peace, so you give in to your child’s demands.

Sometimes you might even tighten your grip to show that you’re in control. Unfortunately, this usually just invites a power struggle with your child, because she starts pulling back on the tug of war rope as hard as she can. If you then tighten your grip more forcefully and pull back in response, the endless cycle of manipulation, control, and defiance can go on and on.

As a parent, I understand that it can be easy at times to take manipulative tactics personally. You think, “If he really loved me, he would never lie to me.” Or, “If she really cared about me, she would never try to sneak behind my back in order to go to her friend’s house.” And some parents overgeneralize their kids’ behavior. They reason, “If he can look me in the face and deceive me, that means he’s a deceitful person.” But it’s best not to put too much meaning on these behaviors—instead, stand up to them. (I’ll explain more about that in a moment.)

When we step way back, we can see that our kids can only manipulate us because we allow their behavior to be effective. Children are human – they want to get their way. (Who doesn’t?) But they’ve learned over time and through using some typical behaviors such as emotional blackmail, lying, tantrums, shutting down, negotiating relentlessly, dividing and conquering or playing the victim that they can get  what they seek. Voila—it works! The danger is when those behaviors become a  way of life.

Remember, though, that kids can only manipulate us if we permit them to. It takes two to tango, but only one to change this pattern.

So how do we help them and ourselves so that we can stop the pattern of manipulation? Here are 6 tips for parents who are stuck in the manipulation cycle:

1. Recognize Manipulative Behaviors

Recognize manipulative behaviors so you don’t get sucked in by them. Instinctively, as part of kids’ survival, they come with tools to get what they want and avoid what they don’t want. These tactics work when they trigger a reaction in us. Pay attention to your triggers. For example, your child might try to emotionally blackmail you by acting sad until he gets what he wants. This will be a trigger for you if you believe your job is to keep your child happy. Start by asking yourself if your job is to make your child  happy or to help him prepare to cope with life. If it’s the latter, then you can answer with, “I’m sorry you’re sad, but you’re still grounded this weekend.”

Other common behaviors include lying, dividing and conquering, shutting down, screaming “I Hate You” or “You Don’t Care About Me” or “That’s not Fair!” Don’t take these statements to heart. Respond with, “ I know you’re angry with me but you do need to put your bike away now.” Or “I know you don’t see this as fair, but you need to go to bed when I tell you to.”

Some kids will play the victim and say things like, “All the other kids’ parents let them hang out past 11:00.” Don’t take the bait. Separate out the emotional content from what your child is trying to get. Hear her feelings about being the “only one,” but stand strong on your curfew time. Tip: It’s helpful to make a list of all the many different behaviors and words that your child does and says for  the purpose of throwing you off balance. Prepare for how you will respond next time you hear them.

2. Know Your Triggers

Triggers are behaviors that upset you and get you to react. They can be a tone of voice, a certain look, an attitude or certain actions. Manipulative behaviors therefore might set you off. If you prepare for them by knowing your buttons, they will be less likely to get pushed. If you have a strong need for approval from your child, for example, then hearing him shout “I hate you” might trigger you. You might want peace between the two of you. Instinctively, you might let him off the hook so he won’t be unhappy with you. Recognizing your triggers will help you plan and prepare for how not to let your child push your buttons. Tip: Sit down and make a list of your top three triggers so you are aware of what they are.

3. Define Yourself and Your Parenting Principles

Manipulative behaviors are designed to throw you off balance and create self doubt. Knowing your own bottom line as a parent will help you when your kids come at you with their ingenious ways to make you unsure of yourself and lose your center. Hold on to yourself by holding on to your parenting principles. Be careful not to let your children’s emotions drive you. Listen to their feelings so they know you care, but stick to the rules you’ve established. Guiding your kids with your well-thought-out principles will generally be better for them than making sure everyone feels good. Tip: Make a list of some of your important guiding principles and refer to them when you feel like you’re losing your footing.

4. Approach the Bench

Don’t get mad at your child for trying to go after what she wants in life. Would you really prefer her not to? Be empathetic to her desires and wishes while helping her learn how to get what she wants more directly, honestly and effectively.

For example,  help your son to see that not doing what he is asked by “Shutting down” or “avoiding  the issue” by not responding to your request is not going to be effective in  getting him what he wants. As a matter of fact, it will only get him in further  trouble. Help him learn to “approach the bench.” In other words, during a calm moment, encourage him  to ask directly for what he needs. Instead of fighting you, he might learn to say, “Mom, it’s difficult for me to get off the  computer the second you ask. Could you give me some warning?” or “Dad, when you  shout at me when I’m not doing what you want, I feel bad. It would help if you asked me in a nicer way.” Or “I think I’m old enough for a later curfew.  Can we come up with a plan together?” (Rather than fighting, whining and coming in late every time your teen goes out.)

When your child asks for what he needs, listen. Give his requests the consideration they deserve. That does not mean always saying yes, but it does mean giving them some honest thought. If your child knows he can come to you directly, he will be less likely  to try to get what he wants indirectly.

5. Believe in Your Child

Have faith in your child’s good intentions. Believe in him. Understand that kids are works in progress. They might need to learn better ways to manage themselves in life, but they are not bad or malicious. Their intentions are not to “get us” or make our life miserable. However, if we believe that’s their intention, then we will see them that way. Believing in our children will help them see themselves with all the goodness that is in them and with all their best intentions.

6. Soothe Yourself

Learn how to soothe yourself when you’re anxious or distressed. Be in charge of your own emotional health. Don’t give in to your kids’ manipulations so that you can feel calmer. If you need them to be happy or to validate you, then you might inadvertently give in to your children so that you can feel good. But each time you justify their behavior and let them off the hook so that you feel better, they learn that these behaviors are effective and they grow to depend on them. Instead, learn to tolerate their upset, which will in turn help them to tolerate their own. Managing your own calm will free your kids up to learn how to manage their own lives and get their needs met more successfully.

Our kids are doing their job: they are asking us through their behaviors to please be their leaders – to define ourselves clearly – to have boundaries so they know where the fence is. Even though they’ll rarely say it out loud, kids need us to have backbones. Remember when our kids were little and they would test us to see how far we could be pushed and where the limits were? Our kids wanted us to be strong for them. Yes, they do want what they want, but on a deeper level they want us not to let them get away with developing a bad character. They want us to help them learn how to tolerate limits in life and the frustration that comes with sometimes not getting what they want.
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Honey Badger Rules of Parenting

by kelly muir

When my book Instructor Revolution was published,  the most surprising feedback was  NOT from martial art instructors but, rather,  from teachers. Teachers who were  frustrated dealing with parents year after year who simply make their job harder. We had many good laughs over the material.  More than once it was suggested I  should write a second book called “Parenting Revolution”.  Great theory but I would NEVER do it. Why? Parenting is an on-going journey. I still have two kids in my home for at least 8 more years…that gives me plenty of time to screw it up! There are no real rules, no truly perfect pattern of parenting. After 22 years of parenting, and 8 more “in home” years to go, I know enough to know that sometimes I get it right, and, well, sometimes it is a crap shoot.

Regardless, there are some hard and fast rules I have learned through the years. Some were hard earned, some came easy.  This blog is my Top Ten. If you can use any of them,  great. If you can’t, great. If  I offend you, Great. If I don’t, Great. There is a reason this is called the “Honey Badger Rules of Parenting”.  Enjoy….


#1) You are in Charge. Your Kid is not.  You do not need their permission to make a decision nor do you need to apologize for a decision you have made.  In addition, you don’t need to explain the reason behind every thought in your head.  Most of all, when you are having a conversation with someone else, it is not necessary to allow your child to interrupt the conversation every time they feel they have something to say. When they DO interrupt, it IS necessary to stop your conversation, let them know they are being rude and tell them to wait their turn. Despite the pervasive (and erroneous) belief that a child needs to express their precious thoughts as those thoughts develop, teaching them that the world does not need to come to a screeching halt every time they want to speak is a lesson that will last them a lifetime.

#2) Your Kid is Probably Not The MOST Brilliant, Amazing, Incredible human being on the earth.AND….telling them that they are does not make it so. Whatdoes work is being honest with them.  We can all be encouraging to our children and help them  to discover where their talents may be. After that, it is appropriate to assist them in maximizing  their personal potential in those areas. It is reckless to insinuate that they are brilliant,  spectacular or Unbelievable when, in fact, they may just be a little above average.  A honey Badger parent doesn’t give a S*&^ about boosting their childs confidence using false praise. The HBP will be quick to point out that being an above  average kid with a consistent work ethic  almost always beats Raw talent  that  is not consistent.  If a parent or teacher over states the childs ability, then the only consistent thread will be the kids skewed view of themselves.

Now, you may still think your child may be the “top of the top”, destined for greatness beyond greatness. Fair Enough.  In that case, it is even MORE important that they are not constantly told how their very presence on this earth is life changing and that everyone who encounters them should throw open a door of opportunity.  I guarantee that the more talented they are in WHATEVER area of life, there will many others just like them. If they really are that gifted, they will meet those other incredibly gifted people along their journey.   When they meet the others, your kid better be damn hungry. Regardless where their talents lie,  they are going to need to compete. High level competition is brutal ~ guaranteeing there will be a long line of people waiting to destroy your kid in an effort to  take their place at the top.  That doesn’t sound reassuring, does it? Well, if you spend your entire 18 year parenting period assuring them how brilliant and amazing they are, they will be easily consumed by their own self importance. It’s a hell of a lot easier to be competitive when you have actually prepared for the competition.  If a child hasonly heard their parents or coaches give them glowing reviews, they aren’t even expecting competition – let alone preparing for it.

#3) Teach Your Kid The Value of Manual Labor.  I could never express how absolutely incredible I feel that it is for children to work. Not for an allowance…not even for a dime. They should learn to work because it’s just the right thing to do.  Are we talking about making beds and doing dishes? No. They should be doing that everyday anyway. We are talking  “hands on” physical work. If you don’t have much to do around the house, just make it up.  When it snows, give them a shovel and make them move snow piles around.  Why?  Just for the hell of it. If they ask why, just tell them it’s good for them. Make them get up early, weed the yard, cut the grass, haul things around, clean the garage…whatever. Heck,  go make them move stones from one side of the yard to another and then BACK again.  Who cares WHAT they do – just make them do it.  Why? Manual Work teaches a strong work ethic – period. It also teaches them to appreciate the hard work of other people.

#4) Call it Like it is & Stop Making Excuses for Your Kid

  • If a child is acting like a brat,  it is not only fair, but necessary, to tell them that they are. Don’t sugar coat it. You don’t need to.  Acting like a brat as a child translates into acting like an jackass as an adult.  I think we have plenty of adults running around who could have benefitted from having their parent tell them to knock off the bratty behavior early on.
  • If a child is whining – tell them to stop. It’s pretty simple. When a child at my karate center begins to whine about something hurting them (My foot is sore, my toe hurts, I have a bruise…etc), I have one quick response: “If it isn’t broken, bleeding, or falling off, I don’t want to hear about it.” I keep a very close eye on real injuries but the overwhelming majority of the time when a child comes up to tell me that they have a bruise,  they are tired, they have a sore finger, etc…those are excuses to do less work. If their left leg is out of commission, I will tell them to work on the right. If both legs are hurt, they can work the core. There is always something they can do and making whiney excuses isn’t on the list.
  • Knock off the crying.  While parents don’t ever want to hear it, there is a time to tell a kid to stop the waterworks when they don’t get their way or they get their feelings hurt. Remember that old “ You want to cry ?I will give you something to cry about!” line from our parents and grand parents? Well, it really wasn’t such a bad line.  At some point,  it is fair, as a parent to say, “Toughen Up – the world doesn’t owe you a thing.”  Sound harsh? If you don’t say it to them, trust me, someone else will.

#5)  Shoot the Hostage. Ok, don’t get all panicky. This is not as bad as it sounds UNLESS you place the monetary value of an item higher than the value of raising a solid human being.  Sometimes it takes one extreme behavior to ensure that the kids get the message fast. Parents have a bad habit of “taking things away”  from a child and then giving them back too easily.  It doesn’t take a child very long to figure out that routine – and they then just ride out their time without the item. Even worse,  kids learn very quickly that a simple “I’m sorry” can be just the ticket to get their prized possession back.

If you really want to make an impact and get your message across while simultaneaously ensuring that you will probably  NEVER have to deal with a subject again – just “Shoot the Hostage.”  This term came from me listening to my kids argue over  a TV many years ago. I literally felt like the TV was holding me hostage in my own living room. As long as it was there, I was constantly forced to deal with it. So, rather thanargue with the kids who were arguing over the TV – I just got rid of the TV. I took that thing out to the curb, put a sign on it that read “It’s Free and it Works” and waited for someone to pick it up. That TV was gone in 10 minutes and I went years without hearing that argument again. Problem…solved.

When your kids won’t let up over an item – just get rid of the item. I don’t care if it’s a tonka truck, an  ipod  or a car. If they can’t be respectful regarding  it’s use, get rid of the damn thing and let them figure it out.  Your swift and unpredictable action will probably be your  single greatest moment of parenting.  In one moment you will have demonstrated to your kid (s) that you mean business.The story will become family legend and I promise you that they will think twice The next time you say you are going to do something. Trust me, they will NOT question you.

#6) Stop Hovering!   Give them some space to breathe, function, and maybe even fail. It won’t be the end of the world.  It is part of learning about life. There is nothing more unimpressive than a parent who is making excuses or ensuring that everything in their world is “OK”. Once a child is around 9 or 10, They are old enough to begin working out the details of their day. Protect the big things (like safety, etc) and allow them to experience the small details.

  • If they forget something for school, they can deal with the consequences. Stop running back to the school to take them homework, musical instruments or lunch bags. If they call, just say no. It’s perfectly normal to want to swoop in and make it all better, but what is the lesson there? Nothing. Let them suck it up once or twice. It’s elementary school. They will be just fine. Better to take an “F” on a third grade assignment and learn a lesson than flunk out of college at 20 years old.
  • Let Teachers teach and coaches coach. Trust that your child is exactly where they need to be in order to learn whatever lesson they need to learn…and then let it go.  If you don’t like your child’s teacher, or you don’t like the way their coaches work with them, voice your opinion once and then let them do their job.  Some of my greatest life lessons came from people who I had the hardest time dealing with. As parents, our job is not to always ensure our children’s comfort, it is also to provide wisdom and guidance at moments when they are uncomfortable.  Learning to persevere through moments of frustration, even with other people, is a critical life component. When things are tough and  a parent  allows their kid to quit, or to completely change the situation using outside influences, they are truly just weakening their child and setting them up for failure further down the road. Let ‘em work it out.

#7) Expect them to Behave ~ All the Time. I hear parents say, well, “Kids will be kids” in an effort to explain their bad behavior. I want to say, “You are right and you need to be the parent and tell them to knock it off.”  My own kids have tried the “Well, other kids can do it.” I am a honey badger of a mother…I don’t give a shit what other kids and/or parents do.


#8) You are NOT their friend. Really, please learn this fast. We have a job. It takes about 18 years. When you decided to have a baby, you accepted the job.  If you do your job well, you can be their friend after.

#9) No kid is beyond a bad decision. Not mine. Not  yours. Don’t be naïve. Put a kid in a group of other kids and anything can happen. NO parent is immune from their child making a bad decision. If someone suggests that your child was involved in something less than stellar, do NOT assume they are wrong simply because you are “certain” your child could never do such a thing. Due Diligence is required here.

#10) Be a little Crazy and Unpredictable.  The older kids get, the bigger issues they face. It’s not all white picket fences and lemonade stands.  Making sure that your kid knows you are a little “off”  is not a bad thing. Your kids AND their friends should know that you are NOT beyond showing up to check on them, sitting in their classroom, reading their email, commenting on their facebook or generally being a pain in their side until they are grown.

I have met parents who actually say that they would NEVER embarrass their child or “check up on them.”  Crazy Talk. I make a Point to do those things.  It pays off.  Just last week,  I pulled up next to a group of 13 year old boys.  I recognized a few of them as boys my son knows from school. One of the boys thought it would be funny to “play” around in front of my car and block me from movng forward.  Ironically, when I got out of my car to tell him to knock it off, another boy recognized me, turned to his buddy in a hurry and said, “Dude, that’s Reece’s Mom. She isn’t playin’.  Stop it.”   And he did. I got back in my car and watched the boys move on down the road without incident.  Why? Well, apparently at least one kid had NO idea what I might do but he knew I would do something. Perfect. For that moment, I sighed and thought, “Chalk one up for all the Honey Badger Moms in the world….”

Do these ten rules make me a hard nosed mom, incapable of feeling emotion and love for my children?  Hardly! It’s the opposite. When you Love your kid enough to lay down the law, be strong in the hard moments and hold your ground when all you really want to do is run to them, scoop them up and make it all better, a bell of victory rings in the parenting universe and your child moves one step forward to becoming a strong, healthy and productive adult. Remember, that is the Objective of the Job.

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No-Stress Holiday Travel with Kids

Whether you’re planning a long drive to Grandma’s house or a flight across time zones, our suggestions will keep your family safe, sound, and sane.

By Mary Mohler from Parents Magazine
Smart Travel Tricks
mother with children walking through airport

Traveling during the holiday season is never easy: Think traffic jams, winter weather, delayed flights, and crowded airports. This year, thanks to high fuel costs and cutbacks in airline service, things could be even worse. When you add squirming kids into the equation, you may be tempted to simply hunker down at home.

Nevertheless, millions of Americans are expected to hit the road this Christmas season. The holidays are a great time to visit relatives, reconnect with old friends, or even (lucky you!) take that long-awaited vacation to a warm and sunny family resort. “The trick to smooth holiday travel is careful planning,” says Eileen Ogintz, creator of the travel site “And whenever you’re on the road with children, it’s important to stay flexible and calm.” Keep your cool — and keep your kids happy — by following these savvy travel tips from our experts.

Before You Go

Make it a family affair. Don’t wait until the last minute to get your kids psyched for your holiday journey. If you involve them in the planning process, they’re likely to be more invested in the trip. Give them little tasks so they’ll feel like they’re contributing: Have your oldest child help you look on the Internet to find a movie theater near Aunt Judy’s house, or let your toddler pick out the books he wants to take along for the car ride.

Clue kids in. Once you’ve nailed down the details, tell everyone exactly what you’ve got planned. Kids feel more secure when they know what to expect each day. Warn little ones about potentially scary situations, like the security check at airports. “Explain that the security machine will take a picture of her teddy but that it will be waiting for her safely on the other side,” says Ogintz. If it’s her first flight, prepare her by reading simple picture books, such as Going on a Plane, by Anne Civardi.

Time your travel. If you can, pad your schedule with a few extra vacation days so you’ve got some wiggle room in case of bad weather, illness, or airline delays. This will also allow you to avoid the peak travel days just before (and after) Christmas and New Year’s. “If you’re flying, try to book nonstop so you don’t end up stuck in a random city because of a snowstorm,” says Ogintz. For road trips, log on to Google Maps ( to find the best route and to avoid road closures.

Check on childproofing. Yes, Grandma’s house is a loving, warm place to gather for the holidays, but it might not be the safest one for little kids. Talk to her about storing medications, cleaning products, and other hazards out of reach. If you’re staying at a hotel, call in advance to ask whether the staff will childproof the room for you. Or take along a travel childproofing kit or a roll of duct tape to cover outlets, fasten back window curtains and cords, and secure bathroom cabinets.

Pack in plastic. Keep your suitcases organized by separating clothing in clear zip-top bags and labeling them with names and contents, such as Henry’s underwear and Katie’s dresses. This makes it easier to quickly find what you need, and you can store dirty clothing in them on the way back. If you expect to be bringing back more than you started with, stash an extra nylon duffle in your suitcase so you’ll be able to haul your loot home.

Bring snacks. Have a supply of good travel foods (Cheerios, string cheese, bananas) with you at all times. If your child doesn’t like the food on the plane or at a party, snacks are a great way to head off a tantrum from a hungry toddler. Water is the best on-the-go beverage because kids only drink as much as they need, which will cut down on emergency bathroom breaks, says Vicki Lansky, author of Trouble-Free Travel with Children.

If You’re Driving

Think safety first. Take your car in for a quick inspection (oil, antifreeze, brakes, tires) before you leave. Check the weather forecast a few days ahead to see whether you’ll need extra supplies or travel time. Just in case, pull together some emergency essentials, including a small shovel, blankets, a flashlight, and bottled water. Make sure your cell phone is fully charged.

Beat rush hour. You can’t avoid traffic jams caused by accidents or emergency roadwork, but you can plan your trip so you’re not in big cities during the morning or evening rush. You might also consider leaving at night if you feel well rested and comfortable driving in the dark. There will be fewer cars on the road, and your kids will probably sleep most of the way.

Take breaks. Hit rest stops regularly to prevent your kids from getting stir-crazy or going into tantrum mode in the car. For every two hours on the road, children need at least 15 to 30 minutes to stretch their legs and run around. Lansky suggests bringing along inflatable beach balls or Frisbees.

Keep kids entertained. Let your children pack their own bag of toys, travel games, books, and so on. But bring a special surprise or two to pull out when they start getting bored — maybe a toy they haven’t seen in a while or a small gift you bought just for the trip. Give little ones their favorite lovey, and then read or tell them a story so they don’t feel ignored. For older kids, encourage them to scout out license plates and road signs or have them track your route with a marker on a map. Books on tape or a portable DVD player also make great travel companions.

If You’re Flying

Get the luggage lowdown. Find out how many bags you’re allowed to carry on and to check, and if there are any weight restrictions. Most major airlines now charge between $20 and $50 for a second checked bag — and some make passengers pay for the first. Keep gifts you’re carrying unwrapped, even if they’re packed in your luggage, to make the security check easier. If you’ve got a lot to haul, consider shipping gifts and gear a week or two before you leave. Ground delivery might be less expensive than extra baggage fees. Visit the Transportation Security Administration at to find out about limits on carry-on gels and liquids, including baby food, formula, and breast milk.

Use the Web. Log on to your airline’s Web site to sign up for e-mail or cell-phone alerts that will advise you about delays and cancellations. You can also check in online and print your boarding passes at home. Get to the airport two to three hours in advance so you have plenty of time to drop off your suitcases and make it through the security checkpoints.

Dress well. Since plane cabins can get warm on the ground and cold in the air, make sure everyone is dressed in layers. It’s also smart to pack an extra day of outfits (along with diapers, snacks, and other essentials) in your carry-on in case of delays.

Fly right. Take the car seat for your baby to use on the plane. Though kids under 2 can travel on your lap for free, it’s safer for your little one to have his own seat. Plus, your child will be more comfortable in a car seat, since he’s already accustomed to traveling in it. Wake him on takeoff and landing to give him a bottle or a sippy cup (drinking eases the air-pressure changes, which cause many in-air crying fits). If you’ve got an energetic toddler, don’t board until the last minute. “More time in your seats simply means more time for kids to get restless,” says Lansky.

While You’re Away

Factor in recoup time. Be prepared to lose a day after a long flight or drive. It’s best to stick close to your home-away-from-home to let kids adjust to a new place and possibly a new time zone. If you do go out, keep it short and sweet.

Dine early. Your family may be more active than normal on your trip, which means the kids will be exhausted by the end of the day. Plan dinner for around 5 p.m., before they get too fussy or fall asleep. If you’re going to a restaurant, be an early bird to avoid long wait times for seating and food and to save money.

Don’t overdo it. When you’re away from home, it’s tempting to cram in as much fun as you possibly can. But too many people, parties, and activities can overload your child. Instead, focus on one big outing each day and schedule in plenty of downtime. This way your kids — and you — will avoid burnout and will return home from your trip feeling relaxed and refreshed.

Originally published in the December 2008 issue of Parents magazine.

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F A C T S H E E T Getting Yourself and Your Family Covered

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Getting Californians Covered
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and prescriptions.

Health insurance plans will be much easier to compare.
There will be four basic levels of coverage: Platinum, Gold,
Silver and Bronze. This will make it easier to compare plans
in the same category or across categories. As your coverage
increases, so does your monthly premium payment, but
your costs are lower when you receive medical care. You can
choose to pay a higher monthly premium so that when you
need medical care, you pay less. Or you can choose to pay a
lower monthly premium, which means that when you need
medical care, you pay more. You have the choice. You could
also qualify for Medi-Cal, a free program.
Covered California’s™ mission is to improve health care in
our state by increasing the number of Californians with
health insurance, improving the quality of health care for
all of us, reducing health care costs and ensuring that
California’s diverse population has fair and equal access to
quality health care.
Beginning in October 2013, legal residents of California will
be able to get health coverage through a new, easy-to-use
marketplace called Covered California. Covered California
will offer health insurance plans, which cannot be canceled
or denied, at an affordable price. Californians can shop
for the plans online or see if they are eligible for Medi-Cal,
and Covered California will provide in‑person and phone
assistance for those who need it.
There are three financial assistance
programs to help ensure everyone can
afford health care. These programs
are available to individuals and
families who make a certain amount
of money and do not have affordable
health insurance, which covers certain
benefits, from an employer or another
government program.
1. Premium assistance helps
reduce the cost of your insurance
premium, which is the amount you
pay to buy health insurance, usually
each month.
2. Cost-sharing assistance reduces
the amount of health care expenses
an individual or family has to pay
when getting care. These expenses
include copayments, coinsurance
and deductibles incurred when, for
example, you visit your doctor.
3. Medi-Cal is a free health insurance
program for those who qualify,
including people with disabilities
and those with annual incomes
of $15,856 or less for a single
individual and $32,499 or less for
a family of four.
How Financial Assistance Works
In the chart below, you can see how different people
qualify for assistance to pay for health insurance or qualify
for Medi-Cal. These are examples only; you may fall into a
different category.
Affordable Health Coverage
Many people know they need health insurance but are
concerned about the price. To make sure health coverage is
affordable, Covered California will help people find out whether
they qualify for federal financial assistance that will reduce
their costs. They can also find out if they qualify for Medi-Cal.
Number of People
in the Household
If Your Income* Is
If Your Income* Is
1 $15,857 $15,857 – $45,960
2 $21,404 $21,404 – $62,040
3 $26,952 $26,952 – $78,120
4 $32,500 $32,500 – $94,200
5 $38,047 $38,047 – $110,280
You may
qualify for: Medi-Cal
Premium assistance
Covered California
* Income levels are based on the year 2013
When you visit Covered California’s
marketplace, you will be able to make
apples-to-apples comparisons among
different health insurance plans
and choose the plan that best
meets your needs and those
of your family.

Penalties if You Do Not Have Insurance
If You Need Coverage Before 2014
If you do not currently have health
insurance, you do not have to wait until
Covered California opens to get covered.
You may be able to purchase private
insurance for yourself by contacting
a health insurance company directly
or working with an agent. You may be
eligible right now for health coverage
under Medi-Cal. For more information
on enrolling in the Medi-Cal program,
you can contact your local county social
services office.
If you have not yet turned 26 years old,
and your parents have health insurance,
you can be added to your parents’ plan.
If you are 65 or older or have certain
disabilities, you can receive coverage
under Medicare.
On Oct. 1, 2013, Covered California
will open its marketplace to provide
Californians the option of purchasing
affordable health insurance.
For many, this will be their first
opportunity to obtain coverage for
themselves and their families. We
believe more covered Californians is
the key to ensuring the health and
well-being of our state.
For more information,
or call (800) 300-1506.
Version: October 2013
The federal Affordable Care Act also requires most adults to have public or
private health insurance by January 2014 or face a financial penalty. The fine
increases over three years. In 2014, the fine will be 1 percent of yearly income or
$95 per person, whichever is greater. For adults with children, the fine for lack of
coverage for the child is $47.50. By 2016, the fine will be 2.5 percent of income
or $695 per person, whichever is greater. The fine will be assessed based on the
number of months without coverage.
To make sure you are covered in 2014, you must get health insurance before March
31, 2014, or you must wait until the next open-enrollment period begins, in October
2014, for coverage in 2015. You can always find out if you’re eligible for Medi-Cal.
For health insurance plans offered by Covered California, you must enroll during
open enrollment unless you have a life‑changing event, in which case you would
qualify for special enrollment. (Examples include the loss of a job, the death of a
spouse or the birth of a child). Medi-Cal enrollment is available year-round.
Choosing health insurance is an important decision, and Covered California is here
to help. Part of our mission is to reach out to your community by partnering with
people at the local level. We are training local people in your community right now
to help you learn about the new options for health insurance. There will be plenty
of opportunities for you to get help in person, by phone or online.
Covered California is the new online
“marketplace” that will make it simple
and affordable to purchase quality
health insurance and get financial
assistance to help pay for it. If your
income is limited, you may be eligible
for free coverage through Medi-Cal.

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5 Steps to Giving Effective Consequences to Young Kids

by Dr. Joan Simeo Munson

When the young child in your house breaks the rules, do you find yourself frustrated and confused about the next step to take? The key to creating better behavior at this tender age is to begin teaching your child the concept of consequences. There’s no better time than now to help your kids understand that their behavior, both positive and negative, has an effect on others. Keep reading to discover five helpful tips that make giving consequences to easier and less painful for everyone involved.

“The first step to creating consequences that stick is to acknowledge that this isn’t always going to feel good–and in fact, there may even be moments when you feel worse than your child.”

1. No one likes being the bad guy…

One of the hardest parts about being a parent is that sometimes we have to be “the bad guy” who makes decisions that our children are going to hate. This can be very difficult for many parents, especially if you had overly-strict or even punitive parents growing up. You may want to be kinder, more loving, and less rigid with our own kids. There’s nothing wrong with lavishing children with love and attention; that’s a natural and wonderful part of being a parent. Sometimes, though, it can be hard to know where to draw the line with your kids. Understand that it’s crucial to set the necessary boundaries that are needed to reign your kids in when their behavior is inappropriate. The first step to creating consequences that stick is to acknowledge that this isn’t always going to feel good–and in fact, there may even be moments when you feel worse than your child. The hard truth is that sometimes giving consequences makes us feel bad when we see that our kids are upset. But even though it doesn’t always feel good for us as parents, know that setting reasonable limits and giving consequences for poor behavior is the right thing to do for your child.

2. Consequences are a necessity.

Consequences are an absolute necessity for the world we live in, not just for our kids, but for grown ups as well. As adults, we all have to face consequences for our actions on a daily basis, in a multitude of environments. For instance, a positive consequence for doing your job well is that you may get a good review and a raise. If you don’t show up and do your job, however, the consequence may be getting fired. The point is, there’s no avoiding consequences, so it makes sense as a parent to begin teaching this important concept to your children starting now, when they’re young.

Another benefit is that in doing so, your kids will grow up feeling safe and secure. When kids act out, they’re often saying to their parents that they’re out of control and want to be reigned in. When you provide a consequence for your child’s actions, you’re essentially telling them, “I love you enough to say ‘no’ to you right now. I want you to be safe and to protect yourself.” Nothing feels safer to a child than having a parent who cares enough to set limits.

3. Begin at the beginning…

The first thing your young child or toddler needs to know is what you expect of them. Even though it’s a big word, explain what a consequence is. Keep it simple: “A consequence is what happens after we do something good or bad.” Give your child examples of a consequence from your own life, such as ”If I touch the stove when it’s on, it hurts my finger.” Or, “If I’m not nice, the consequence is that I may not have any friends.” Tell your child there’s a consequence for everything we do, especially for how we treat others. This can help lead the conversation towards using consequences for your child’s behavior in your home.

You can begin by developing an age-appropriate list of your house rules.  Children as young as two are able to understand the basics, which might include “No Hitting” or “No Biting.”  Older children (ages 3-7) can help you create a list of house rules that can be hung where everyone can see them.  Next to each rule, list what the consequence will be when the rule is not followed.

Examples of a consequence can look something like this:

Rule: No Hitting Consequence: Sit Alone for 5 minutes

Rule: No Biting Consequence: Leave Play Group

Rule: No Throwing Consequence: Go to bed 15 minutes early

Rule: Finish Chores Consequence for not: No television

Explain to your child that from here on out, everyone in the family will be following the rules and the consequences that go along with them.

For children 5 and above: The staff has also developed a helpful ”Consequences List” and set of free downloadable charts that you can check out, full of helpful tips and age-appropriate examples for kids from the age of five to seventeen.

4. Keep Calm and Carry On!

The beauty of having a family list of rules and consequences is that when your child breaks a rule, you have the consequence right in front of you and can say, “Hmmm, it looks like you broke the ‘no hitting’ rule. The consequence is sitting alone.” This takes all the emotion and anger out of the situation, because you don’t have to think on the spot, “What do I do now?” or “What would an appropriate punishment be?” Simply point out the consequence listed and you are done talking about it. Of course your child may decide he doesn’t like that consequence and a tantrum may ensue. In this case, having a back-up plan helps. Say to your child, “I won’t talk with you when you are acting this way. You need some time to calm down,” and guide him to his room or other designated safe area until the tantrum subsides.

5. What not to do…

There are numerous roadblocks that should be avoided when you are giving consequences to your young child. First, many parents have expectations for their child that aren’t reasonable. A parent who expects their highly energetic, rambunctious three-year-old to sit quietly through story time at the library and then gets angry when she doesn’t isn’t being fair. If you know your child is unlikely to be able to follow through on something, don’t put her in a position to fail. Instead, know your child’s strengths and weaknesses and adjust your expectations accordingly. Likewise, having a long, drawn-out discussion with a four-year-old around why you are upset that he’s biting kids at his playgroup is useless. Kids this age are not remotely interested in your lectures. In these situations, simple is better. Saying something like, “We don’t bite,” and then giving a consequence is the best course of action.

Second, decide upon one or two consequences for each rule broken and stick to them. For instance, four-year-old Gracie was hitting kids at her pre-school. Her mom, while well-intentioned, was approaching her hitting with several solutions, none of which was working.  Yelling, bribing and discussing her actions at great length would simply be confusing to a child. It’s also important to realize that kids are geniuses at knowing when their parents are waffling and not confident in their decisions. Approaching your child with confidence and a consistent consequence each time is your best line of defense.

This is part of the reason why the number one way to teach consequences that stick is to be consistent. Consistency is a parent’s best friend and will go far in teaching your child the importance of consequences. Gracie’s mom, not knowing how to adequately handle her daughter, was inconsistent with her consequences, using yelling as a deterrent one day, then bribing her the next. The result was that the behavior only got worse. If your daughter bites one day and has to go to bed 15 minutes early, but then the next time she bites, you give her a lecture, it’s highly unlikely she will learn to take you or your consequence very seriously the next time you try to enforce one. When you consistently follow through with the same consequence, your child learns you mean business. And that’s when you witness behavior change.

What You’re Giving Your Child: A Gift That Keeps on Giving

We’ve all read stories in our local news about the teenager who is in and out of jail for continuing to commit crimes, or the drunk driver who’s had four previous convictions but is still driving. We get frustrated when we see these stories because we wonder, “Why hasn’t this person ever had any long-term consequences for their actions so they can stop?” These stories illustrate the importance of consequences in our daily lives. Giving consequences to a young child is rarely fun or easy to do; kids have a way of making us feel guilty or mean when we implement them regularly. The important thing is to not buy into the emotionality of the moment, and instead stand firm as you apply what you know.

Even though your kids will probably never admit it, they want you to help them through these tough years as they grow up, go through school and learn how to navigate social relationships as teens and young adults. Providing consequences now doesn’t just help your child get through their young years successfully, but also gives you the opportunity to lay the groundwork that is an absolute necessity for them to make it in “the real world” when they’re adults.

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“Mine, Mine, MIIIINE!!!” Teaching Young Kids How to Share

Does this sound familiar to anyone?  If so, then you are right where I am in my parenting journey-teaching my young child the concepts of sharing and taking turns.

I have to be honest — it can be very frustrating at times, and it would be a whole lot easier to just throw up my hands and say, “OK, buddy — you can have it,” or “Go ahead, you can take Momma’s turn.”  I find it’s helpful to keep my end goal in mind. That is, I am not raising a child; I am raising an adult who can function in the real world.  In the real world, we all have to wait for our turn and share with others from time to time; otherwise, we will experience some unpleasant natural social consequences if we cut in line or attempt to keep everything for ourselves!

Here are some simple guidelines to use when teaching this important life lesson.

State your expectation: It’s helpful to talk with your child during a calm time about what you expect from them.  You may need to have this conversation multiple times — and you may even feel as though you are a broken record!  This is normal.  Children learn best with lots of repetition and rehearsal, so you may talk about sharing toys when you are at home, in the car, and right before you get to a play date, for example.

Use simple, clear sentences: Remember to use simple, clear language in a neutral tone. Let your child know what you will do to hold him or her accountable if they don’t comply.  For example, you could practice sharing when you are at home, and then give a reminder such as, “Remember, you need to share your crayons with Katie just like we practiced.  If you don’t, then you will need to sit on the steps until you are ready to share,” right before starting a play date.

Narrate — and Use positive reinforcement: If it’s a situation where you unexpectedly find yourself needing to wait or share, I find it’s helpful for me to talk with my son about what’s going on, and use positive reinforcement if he is able to be patient.  For example, I might say something like: “We need to wait for that lady to pay for her groceries, and then it will be our turn.”  It can also be helpful to continue to “coach” your child while you are waiting with phrases such as, “It’s almost our turn” or “I like how you are being so patient.”  When he does well with this, I usually say something like, “I like how you were able to wait so quietly — I’m so proud of you, buddy!” with a smile and a high-five.  For some kids, it can also be helpful to give something more tangible as a reward, such as a sticker or getting some other small treasure.

It’s OK not to share everything:  I recently went to a play date with my son, and he was playing cars with another child.  All of a sudden, the other child started becoming very upset because my son was playing with the toy school bus.  I was confused by this, until the other mom explained that the school bus was her son’s favorite car, and apologized for not taking it out of the bin before our arrival.  From an adult perspective, this may not make a lot of sense — after all, it’s just a simple toy and what’s the difference between a school bus and a dump truck?  Think about it this way, though: how would you feel if someone came into your house and helped themselves to your favorite sweater or your grandfather’s watch?  Chances are, you would not be so open to sharing those items because they have added emotional value!  Part of setting up a child for success is recognizing that there are special items that s/he does not have to share.  Before going to play or having someone come over, it can be helpful to take a moment to put a few select things away that your child does not have to share, and to set out what is OK to play with.

Be realistic:  Sharing isn’t easy and patience does not come naturally to most people, especially young children accustomed to an instant gratification world.  It’s important to keep in mind that you need to “start where your child is, and coach them forward.”  If your child is having difficulty taking turns and has a meltdown whenever he has to share his toys, try closely supervised play dates with just one other child at first instead of a whole group.  Another idea is to try to set your child up for success as much as possible.  This may require some flexibility and creativity on your part, or waiting to do a play date at another time if your child is hungry or tired.

Although this is a difficult phase to get through right now, (and believe me, I know how hard it can be!) I keep trying to move forward as I teach these concepts to my son.  Through modeling  calm and trying to be consistent as much as possible, I am hopeful that my efforts will pay off with an empathic and patient human being in the future.

Rebecca Wolfenden earned her degree in Social Work from West Virginia University in 2005.  She has been with Legacy Publishing since 2011 working on the Parental Support Line. Rebecca, who is also a new mother, 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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Halloween Safety Tips

Halloween is an exciting time of year for kids. Here are some tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to help ensure they have a safe holiday.

All Dressed Up:

  • Plan costumes that are bright and reflective. Make sure that shoes fit well and that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement or contact with flame.
  • Consider adding reflective tape or striping to costumes and Trick-or-Treat bags for greater visibility.
  • Because masks can limit or block eyesight, consider non-toxic makeup and decorative hats as safer alternatives. Hats should fit properly to prevent them from sliding over eyes.
  • When shopping for costumes, wigs and accessories look for and purchase those with a label clearly indicating they are flame resistant.
  • If a sword, cane, or stick is a part of your child’s costume, make sure it is not sharp or too long. A child may be easily hurt by these accessories if he stumbles or trips.
  • Obtain flashlights with fresh batteries for all children and their escorts.
  • Do not use decorative contact lenses without an eye examination and a prescription from an eye care professional. While the packaging on decorative lenses will often make claims such as “one size fits all,” or “no need to see an eye specialist,” obtaining decorative contact lenses without a prescription is both dangerous and illegal. This can cause pain, inflammation, and serious eye disorders and infections, which may lead to permanent vision loss.
  • Teach children how to call 9-1-1 (or their local emergency number) if they have an emergency or become lost.

Carving a Niche:

  • Small children should never carve pumpkins. Children can draw a face with markers. Then parents can do the cutting.
  • Consider using a flashlight or glow stick instead of a candle to light your pumpkin. If you do use a candle, a votive candle is safest.
  • Candlelit pumpkins should be placed on a sturdy table, away from curtains and other flammable objects, and should never be left unattended.

Home Safe Home:

  • To keep homes safe for visiting trick-or-treaters, parents should remove from the porch and front yard anything a child could trip over such as garden hoses, toys, bikes and lawn decorations.
  • Parents should check outdoor lights and replace burned-out bulbs.
  • Wet leaves should be swept from sidewalks and steps.
  • Restrain pets so they do not inadvertently jump on or bite a trick-or-treater.

On the Trick-or-Treat Trail:

  • A parent or responsible adult should always accompany young children on their neighborhood rounds.
  • If your older children are going alone, plan and review the route that is acceptable to you. Agree on a specific time when they should return home.
  • Only go to homes with a porch light on and never enter a home or car for a treat.
  • Because pedestrian injuries are the most common injuries to children on Halloween, remind trick-or-treaters:
    • Stay in a group and communicate where they will be going.
    • Remember reflective tape for costumes and trick-or-treat bags.
    • Carry a cell phone for quick communication.
    • Remain on well-lit streets and always use the sidewalk.
    • If no sidewalk is available, walk at the far edge of the roadway facing traffic.
    • Never cut across yards or use alleys.
    • Only cross the street as a group in established crosswalks (as recognized by local custom). Never cross between parked cars or out driveways.
    • Don’t assume the right of way. Motorists may have trouble seeing trick-or-treaters. Just because one car stops, doesn’t mean others will!
  • Law enforcement authorities should be notified immediately of any suspicious or unlawful activity.

Healthy Halloween:

  • A good meal prior to parties and trick-or-treating will discourage youngsters from filling up on Halloween treats.
  • Consider purchasing non-food treats for those who visit your home, such as coloring books or pens and pencils.
  • Wait until children are home to sort and check treats. Though tampering is rare, a responsible adult should closely examine all treats and throw away any spoiled, unwrapped or suspicious items.
  • Try to ration treats for the days following Halloween.
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