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While You Lay Sleeping….

I placed my hand on your chest and

relished the sound of your heartbeat.

While You Lay Sleeping…

I felt your warm breath tickle my ear and

welcomed a tear of unconditional love.

While You Lay Sleeping…

I envisioned your future and

marveled at the possibilities.

While You Lay Sleeping…

I caught a glimpse of who you might become and

dared to believe all your dreams would come true.

While You Lay Sleeping…

I traced the line of your face and

caught a fleeting, backward glance of my childhood.

While You Lay Sleeping…

I embraced your tiny shape and

vowed to protect you for as long as I live.

While You Lay Sleeping…

I watched you dream and

quietly realized that mine had already come true.

I finally understood why I was put on this earth…

All While You Lay Sleeping.

Please feel free to reproduce- credit to Melissa Lowry.  Thanks!


How to Teach Children about Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation

 What is done is done for the love of it- or not really done at all.

-Robert Frost

Every child has developed a case of the “gimmies” at one time or another.  And heck, when Hollywood celebrates yet another brat getting a Range Rover for her 16th birthday, the rest of us typical parents don’t stand a chance.  So, during this season where we desperately want our children to grasp of concept of giving vs. receiving, it’s also important to take a look at what motivates our offspring to accomplish a goal, even if that goal is simply resisting the urge to hit his little sister.  As an early holiday gift, here are some ways you can help your child become more intrinsically motivated.

How do we get children to do things for the love of doing it?

Motivation comes from either oneself (intrinsic) or other people (extrinsic).   The million dollar question?  How do we teach our kids to become motivated from within themselves instead of from outside factors such as treats or money?

As parents, we need to…

  • Focus on the long term and good decision making skills.
  • Instill values that motivate our children to do things (social, emotional, academic) because they are responsible and want to succeed in life.
  • A very important aspect of teaching intrinsic motivation is assisting your child in his development of strong self-esteem.  This isn’t done through bribes, rewards and/or false praise.  Parents help children build strong self-esteem by teaching them that they are worthy of love, praise, success and that they should love themselves for who they are.  When people allow their identity to become tied to only material things, they value themselves based on what they “have,” and not “who they are.”  The same idea can be applied to one’s to physical appearance.

Teacher tools to use in place of tangible rewards

  • Lunch with teacher
  • Extra recess
  • Praise
  • Special class helper

Parent tools to use in place of tangible rewards

  • Read an extra book at bedtime
  • Choose an outing w/a parent one on one time)
  • Choose the movie for family movie night

A way to practice delayed gratification and the value of working for something.

  • Have your child choose an item he would like you to buy for him.  Tell him that by working hard, he can earn it for himself.  Set up a plan where your child “earns” credits or money (depending on his age and developmental level) toward the item.  Keep a tally of what your child does to “earn” this item (chores, community service, positive behavior- whatever you choose) and then allow him the pleasure of purchasing the item once he’s earned it.
  • Go one step further.  Really talk about the item and if it was worth the effort.  This is important because children (and adults) often have fleeting “fancies” and desires.  Engaging in this activity will allow you to help your child understand the concept of delayed gratification AND assist him in differentiating between fly by night desires and real goals.

Now, grab some eggnog and kick up your feet.  Merry, merry.  Happy, happy.  All with a perfectly wrapped ribbon on top!


I was planning to post something more serious today, but I found this in my archives of discarded material from Answer Keys.  I dusted it off, made a few changes, and I think it turned out pretty darn good.  Feel free to re-post or pass it along…just let them know who wrote it (that’s me, by the way).  Enjoy!


A gift.

An awesome responsibility.

An opportunity to influence.


A feeling of unconditional love.

An experience unlike any other.


Parenthood gives us unfathomable joy


Awesome responsibility.

It gives us the gift of seeing the world again through a new, less jaded lens.

Parenthood allows us to influence a life other than our own.

Parenthood gives us the power to persuade.

The opportunity to build something beautiful.

To love fiercely, openly and unconditionally.

Parenthood gives us the freedom to dream again…

this time for someone else’s future.


It allows us to give and sacrifice in ways we never thought possible.

Parenthood means our hearts will break…

The day they’re born.

When they take their first steps.

Their first day of school.

The day they get a driver’s license.

When they leave for college.

At college graduation.

When they marry.

As they begin the circle of life again with the birth of their own children.

We do it, though, understanding the risks & anticipating the obstacles.

Owning the heartbreak.

We do it because we can envision the rewards we will reap

by gifting the world with another beautiful life.

Parenthood is love, hope, disappointment, joy

and every other emotion rolled into one.

Parenthood is life.

And what a beautiful life it is.


It’s a few weeks into school, and you’ve got your groove back.  Carpool is humming, schedules have been ironed out, and after school activities are well under way.  You cruise down the boulevard with your Starbucks latte (non-fat, natch!), Sexy Back by Justin Timberlake blaring out the windows (no more Kidsrock 20!), and your ear buds in so that you can touch base with your BFF.  Let’s face it….life is good!

Well, that is until reality hits at 3:00pm and you have to pick up your little cuties, pop in the age appropriate music, cart everyone to activities A-Z, get a somewhat healthy dinner on the table AND, conquer homework for one or more little monsters….I mean, cuties.  Honey- this requires an entirely new plan!

Let’s face it, homework and studying for tests can be difficult, especially in the younger grades where they have yet to develop independence, study/time management skills and parents are expected to walk children through directions, guided reading and the dreaded spelling list!

So, here are a few tips to make that spelling list a bit more manageable!

  1. Tape the list to the back of the seat.  This way your child can quiz himself on the way to school.  It also begins to teach independence and works for other activities that require memorization (phone numbers, the spelling of one’s name, etc.).
  2. Utilize bath time.  Buy some of those funky bath markers and have your child spell out the words on the wall while she’s in the tub.
  3. Get jiggy with it.  Most spelling words in grades 1-3 are context or phonics based.  This means they either go along with a topic the child is studying in class (i.e. jobs- police, fire fighter, paramedic, etc.) or how words are linked by their sound/symbol relationship (i.e. c-v-c words (consonant-vowel-consonant):  hat, cat, mat, etc.).  Make up a rhyme or a rap that includes the words, their meanings and their spellings.  This allows the child to learn the words in context and commit them to memory in a fun and creative way.
  4. Keep it on context.  Take index cards and have your child write out each spelling word.  Attach the index card to the object (i.e. mat – put it on the doormat).  This will give your child a chance to learn the word within the context it’s being used.  This helps with retention and with comprehension of more difficult words (i.e. drawer, fireplace, etc.).
  5. Break things up.  Although 10-15 “easy” words may not seem like a big deal to us, the task of learning all of them within a week may seem daunting to your child.  Break up the list so that you cover a few words M-W and then use TH to review all of the words together.  Although it may seem boring, having your child write out the words by memory (even just one time) can her identify problem words and commit them to memory.  Additionally, let your child fix her own mistakes.  If she spells a word incorrectly, indicate that one or more of the words are spelled incorrectly, but don’t say which one(s).  If she cannot find the mistake, circle it.  However, do not correct the spelling.  Allow her to develop an ability to catch and correct her own mistakes.
  6. Bring it home.  As your child’s primary educator, look for ways you can incorporate the spelling words into your everyday vocabulary.  Have your child listen for when you use the word, and when you do, have them shout out how to spell it and its meaning.  Using larger, more complex words in the correct context will better help your child commit their spelling to memory.

None of this is jaw dropping, nor is it rocket science.  However, I’m a parent too, and I know how overwhelming it can all be.  Sometimes, it’s nice to have a little extra somethin’, somethin’ in your arsenal of parenting tools.  I hope these help and would love to hear your comments or what else you do to prepare for those elementary grade spelling tests.  Happy studying!

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You will never reach higher ground if you are always pushing others down.
-Jeffrey Benjamin


When parents think of school safety, they may imagine fire drills and disaster preparedness lessons.  With school violence in the news and at the forefront of many parents’ minds, however, more and more schools are creating bullying policies and adopting programs to combat the issue.  Research reveals that students report the majority of bullying takes place on school grounds, most often in the classroom, on the playground, in the cafeteria, bathrooms and in the halls.

Schools should take multiple steps to combat bullying and educate teachers, parents and students about the short and long term effects bullying can have on both the victim and the perpetrator.  Strong schools have programs that include the following elements: a clear school policy, faculty training, a curriculum that teachers can use in the classroom, a support system for students, and an open line of communication with parents.  Perhaps most important is that all adults and children in the school community foster a culture of caring.  When everyone involved has no tolerance for bullying and is dedicated to promoting a healthy and safe environment, bullies have no choice but to stop their negative behavior.

These steps are extremely positive and will help ensure a safe school campus.  However, as your child’s primary educator, you are still the first line of defense in keeping your child from being bullied or from becoming a bully.

Types of Bullying

Physical/Direct- hitting, punching, scratching, kicking, spitting or other forms of a physical attack.

Emotional/Indirect- spreading rumors or stories about someone, systematically excluding a student from activities, tormenting a student by making fun of a handicap or related issue, using sexist or racist slurs, name calling and various threats.

Cyber– using the Internet or cell phones to inflict emotional harm on another child by posting negative images, sending threats, leaving hurtful voice mails, creating negative web sites or posting negative information on a social networking sites.

Male bullying tends to be physical or involve intimidation and coercion (handing over lunch money) while female bullying tends to be indirect in nature.  Girls are more likely to exclude one another, spread rumors and use cyber bullying as a tool for harassment.  That doesn’t mean that girls never get physical or that boys never use the Internet to bully.  These patterns simply expose how gender can affect the type of bullying taking place in a given situation.

Types of Bullies

Current research reveals different roles children play in the bullying cycle.

Ring Leader– the person who leads or dictates the act of bullying through intimidation and influence

Assistant– the is the persons who participates in the bullying so as to avoid being a target of the ringleader.

Reinforcer– this child shows positive encouragement toward the main bully.

Bystander– a student who witnesses the act of bullying but stays silent out of fear and appears to condone the act because of his silence.  It is very easy for children to fall into this category.

Defender– the student who stands up against a bully or group of bullies.

A common myth is that bullies are anti-social and outcasts among classmates.  This could not be further from the truth for today’s bullies.  Recent research indicates that many of today’s bullies are typical kids who do not exhibit the stereotypical bully profile.  Many students engage in group bullying that allows them to feel they are not really responsible for their behavior.  It can be extremely difficult for children to walk away when it’s the popular kids who are doing the bullying.

Although many schools use the terms “teasing” and “bullying” interchangeably, it is important  that parents understand the difference between the two.

  • Teasing is a non-threatening back and forth that takes place between children on the same emotional and physical level.  Bullying, on the other hand, is when one or more children engage in systematic and organized behavior that is threatening, hurtful, physically harmful or spreads negative information via the Internet.
  • Research over the past 15 years supports that teasing can be a positive force in relationships.  School age children can use happy, fun teasing as an important part of play, and it can actually enhance their ability to express positive feelings toward one another.  Parents and children can enjoy teasing among each other too.  Teasing is even present in the animal world!  Juvenile monkeys pull the tails of other monkeys to engage them in play.
  • Teasing should be fun and mutual.  Make sure your child knows when enough is enough.

This post is part 1 of a 3 part series I will be posting over the next several days.  Read all 3 to get the full scoop on how to identify, approach and combat bullying.

Parts 2 & 3 will address the following-

  • Signs of bullying for both the victim and the bully
  • Steps parents & children can take to thwart a bully (both online and in person)
  • Steps parents can take to work their child if he/she is a bully

To read my entire Lesson Plan on Approaching Bullying, pick up a copy of my book,  Answer Keys: Teachers’ Lesson Plans for Successful Parenting at, Amazon or other fine retailers.


No, You Are Not Raising a Hoodlum – Tulsa Kids – September 2011 – Tulsa, OK.

This is a fantastic article.  I have recommended visiting the Gesell Institute’s website & books to parents and fellow educators alike.  Enjoy!!!


I highly recommend*, as it was started by two moms who wanted their children to have books that would feed the imagination, while instilling a respect for diversity and a love of the planet.  The Mother’s Club Family Learning Center in Pasadena, an organization with whom I am working this year as a Sustaining Advisor for a Jr. League Placement at the facility, utilizes English and Spanish versions (along with the read along CDs) to help immigrant parents learn to read with and teach their children important literacy skills.

The following recommendations for helping children through loss are wonderful, and while I hope you never need to use them, we all know that passing is part of our circle of life.  Helping our children learn to walk through death with dignity and a greater understanding of their place in this world will help them develop into well adjusted and empathetic adults.

Taken from

Aging and dying are not easy concepts for anyone to understand, particularly young children. These topics are often fraught with wonderment and fear, and can be challenging for parents to explain to their children. When a loved one passes away, or moves through the aging process, we want to help ease our children’s anxieties, and guide them through the grieving process in a healthy manner. Often though, we find ourselves perplexed as to the best ways to approach the subject.

The Gift, a book that explores a girl’s journey through life, is a wonderful tool for helping a child through a loss.  Written by Ann Duffy and illustrated by Rob Ryan.  Recommended for ages 8+, but I have read reviews where parents have used it with younger children too.

  • You know your child and family the best. Is a loved one ill or showing signs of age? Find out what may be on your child’s mind by sharing age-appropriate information with them and asking them how they feel and what they think. Listen to them closely and consider your responses carefully. Take some time in your reply  — you don’t need to say the first thing that comes to mind. Children respond well when adults say, “That’s a great question. I’m not sure of the best way to answer that but I will think of a way and let you know as soon as I do.” Then, be sure you do get back to them so that their question is answered.
  • Know that there is no right or wrong way of explaining the aging process to children. As with so much in parenting, it is best to trust your instincts, and keep the conversation going long after you brought it up the first time.
  • If a family member or loved one is facing a severe illness, it’s often best to provide appropriate information to your child so they are kept informed, and to prevent any surprises that may occur.
  • The questions about aging and the life cycle will evolve as your child grows and faces new situations. Keep in mind that children will most likely not be satisfied with one simple answer at a single point in time. The topic should be revisited periodically to address your child’s current fears and concerns.
  • If a loved one has passed away recently, create family traditions to celebrate their life. These traditions can be an important way for children to express their feelings and keep the loved one’s memory alive. Some ideas including eating the person’s favorite foods, wearing their favorite colors, dedicating a dinner conversation to sharing favorite memories, etc.
  • Share with your child the beauty of life with traditions and celebrations. Some ideas to mark the passage of time include planting a tree on special birthdays, displaying photos of loved ones, or keeping a journal with memories of cherished visits with grandparents and other loved ones.
  • Read books with your child that feature characters of different ages. As you read with your child, ask them questions about what they may be thinking or feeling. Books are a wonderful way to teach children about all aspects of life.
  • Be there for your children. Often when facing difficult realities, children find the most comfort in the presence of a parent. Take a long walk together, spend time on the couch together, identify times when you can be fully present with your child to talk, listen, and comfort them.
  • You are not alone. Explaining the circle of life to children is difficult for even the most seasoned parents. You might find support and ideas from trusted members of your community, such as members of the clergy, close friends, family, teachers, and counselors.

*  A note from Smartypantz- this was not a paid endorsement from Barefoot books.  I just think it’s a wonderful publishing house with a fantastic mission!







Alumni Spotlight: Melissa Lowry.

Thanks to the Loyola Marymount School of Education for highlighting the recent publication of my first book: Answer Keys: Teachers’ Lesson Plans for Successful Parenting.

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