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Joyful Musings--a weekly blog

Joyful Parenting Coaching is focused on clarity, consistency, connection, being an effective parent, finding balance as a parent, and above all being a confident and joyous parent. Topics include communication, having difficult conversations, having constructive conversations, chores, routines, family meetings,  I teach parent education and parenting classes because parenting is a skill—not something we are born knowing. Get the parenting skills you need today!

Filtering by Tag: creativity

Are You a Playful Parent? Do You Pull on the Power of Play to Engage Your Kids?

Elisabeth Stitt

Last night in my yoga class, the instructor asked us to dedicate our practice to being more playful.  That got me to thinking about the power of playfulness in parenting.  When I got home, I went to the Joyful Parenting Website and searched “play.” Twenty blogs came up in which I mention the power of play and being a playful parent.  That tells me what an important role I think play plays (ha ha, pun intended) for happy children and a happy home life.  That being said, I realize I’ve never devoted an entire blog to the Importance of Play. 

I do that here AND teach two playful techniques you can put to work in your family today.

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Every Day Is Labor Day!

Elisabeth Stitt

And Every Day is Independence Day...

by Elisabeth Stitt

Maria Montessori's rule of thumb is, "Never do for the child what he can do for himself."  Her entire educational program is built around the idea that by building on kids' basic skills and giving them more and more to do, we build their power--their self-confidence, their self-control and their self efficacy.  

I love the word self efficacy.  It means a person's "confidence in the ability to exert control over one's own motivation, behavior, and social environment."  

It is worth remembering that when we give kids positive control over their lives, they have much less need to gain negative control through whiny, bratty, out of control behavior.  

Set Kids Up for Success with the Skills and Tools they Need

By asking kids to help--to labor--along side you, you will be giving them a sense of personal power.  There are a lot of ways to do this with toddlers and preschoolers.  I outline some here in my blog on making pancakes.  My blog on Making the Bed is really about connecting with your children through daily activities, but it also demonstrates how a daily chore can increasingly be given over to the child.  HOW TO GET THEM UP AND OUT THE DOOR ON THEIR OWN is a blog that also resonated with lots of parents. Another really great resource is Jeanne-Marie Paynel's videos on how to set up basic living skill development for your kids. Here, for example, is a demonstration of how to teach a small child to peel a hard-boiled egg and what competencies it will help develop.  

For young children helping out means being a connected part of the family.  It means stepping into their own power--not as dependents but as contributors.   Many kids' first real phrase is along the lines of "Me do.  No Mommy do.  Me do."  

Historically, children worked along side their parents, learning the tasks of home and hearth, field and barn from the moment they could toddle.  Now they mostly spend the day separate from us.  Depending on the preschool curriculum, your children may get opportunities to learn independence tasks at school, but it still mostly falls on us to structure home life in such a way that kids become increasingly independent.  

Recommendations for Building Independence:  

•Make a list of basic skills that kids need for daily tasks.  This includes things like pouring and squeezing with control, spreading and cutting with a knife, snapping, buttoning and tying, stirring and mixing dry goods and wet goods without spilling.

•Look to where kids can practice these skills in their daily play--in the sandbox, with play doh, dressing and undressing stuffies, in the bathtub. Use whatever old bowls, spoons, pots, cups, etc. you have on hand. Be willing for things to get messy and be willing to sacrifice things like cups of rice, dried beans, expired pancake mix or baking soda to their exploration.  

•Look to where kids can help you--sorting the laundry, fluffing the pillows, cutting something soft, brushing teeth

•Decide on one or two tasks you'd like to focus on.  Make sure your kids have opportunities to practice these skills as part of their play.  Then start practicing the daily living task on days when you have a little more time (like the weekends or a day you don't have an early meeting).  

•When they are competent enough (not perfect), hand the task over to them as a daily responsibility.  A two year old, for example, can put his dirty clothes in the hamper or hang them on a low hook.  Yes, she will need lots of reminding, but eventually it will become habitual.  

•As your kids become automatic with one task, start introducing the next one.  The aim is to provide challenge without letting it get to the point of frustration.  

Seeing Kids as Being in Progress While Keeping the Long Term Goals in Mind

Your long term goal is to have children going through their off to school and going to bed routines independently (which should free you up to go through yours!). Most children are capable of getting there eventually if you are persistent.  It will take some longer to get the physical coordination they need; it will take some more reminders.  Some kids will need visual reminders; others will respond to a timer being set to keep them on track.  Many will just fall into the routine.  The trick is to keep your long term expectations for independence high while keeping your day-to-day expectations realistic.  

If you are struggling with getting your kids to do things on their own, I am always ready to help.  Sign up HERE for a complimentary Labor Day Strategy Session.  

Do You Have a Case of the Middle School Mom Blues?

Elisabeth Stitt

Did you see the article in the Wall Street Journal about Middle School Moms’ Blues?  

A new study finds the stress and anxiety Middle School Moms feel is even greater than that of moms of infants!

Well, with the bulk of my teaching career spent with middle schoolers, that is no surprise to me.  In fact, I started my business, Joyful Parenting Coaching, because of a conversation I had with the mom of a 7th grader whose daughter was coming home crying every day.  This mom felt at a loss, but to me the saddest part was that she did not trust she could share what was going on with other moms in the class.  The feared being judged, looked down on or pitied kept her from reaching out.  

That broke my heart.  

But I don’t think she was alone.  The more work I’ve done out of the classroom and directly with parents, the more I see how many of them are carrying the burdens of parenting in isolation.  

I would never have survived parenting—any stage of it—if I hadn’t felt like I had trusted people around me with whom to compare notes—or to just let off steam!!  I don’t know about you, but I have certainly had days when I could have killed my child.  Or at least cheerfully sold her to the gypsies.  Of course, I never would, but it sure helped to have close and loving friends who could give me their Amen to That, Sister! rally before helping me find constructive solutions.  

The article does not really break down why Middle School Moms are so stressed.  

Here is my theory on why Middle School Moms find parenting harder than other stages: 

1.  As our children go up in grades, the ways society measures their success gets narrower and narrower.  Academic ease and performance become key.  Sports and Artistic proficiency can provide some secondary credit, but in our get-into-a-good-college-at-all-costs society, measurable numbers (grade point averages, state testing scores, SATs) hold the most weight.  Lots of parents start obsessing about those things and find it hard to stop.  

2.  As our children go up in grades, the percentage of moms who are working full time also goes up.  That means as women we spend the whole day talking business, not kids and parenting.  Last week I volunteered at the high school for a couple of hours stuffing envelopes (the beauty of working from home, being my own boss and living close to the high school).   I realized it was pretty much the same moms I had seen the two other times I have volunteered this year.  Their chatter was incessant and far ranging.  These moms knew each other well and clearly had spent a lot of hours together.  They felt perfectly comfortable airing their dirty laundry—and getting and receiving advice from each other.  

But most moms don’t have that.  Many moms drop their kids off at school in the morning and pick them up from childcare or after school activities in the evening.  Not only does that not allow that mom much time for connecting with her kids, it really doesn’t allow her much time to meet up with a girlfriend and compare notes (and I am not saying you cannot or should not be comparing notes with your spouse, but it is really useful to get the perspective of what is going on with other kids in other households).  

3.  Perhaps the most significant reason parenting a middle school child is harder than other ages and stages is that the rewards are not as great.  With an infant you are exhausted and lose sleep, but then that child smiles at you—or laughs for the first time—and in a moment you are totally in love again.  The preschooler balances tantrums with ardent declarations of “I love you, Mommy!” In lower elementary, kids become a lot less work and at the same time still look to you for you insights and views on the world in general and their own worries in particular.  But the middle school child?  Well, I don’t know how you were in middle school, but I was miserable.  I hated school, I basically had no friends, and I was an emotional wreck.  On top of all that, I was convinced my mom (who always painted a picture of her friends and fun activities in middle school) could never in a million years understand what I was going through.  8th grade was the year my grades went down, I lied, and I even cut school!  My poor mom!  

So in middle school we have all the worry, doubt and work of other stages but few opportunities to be our children’s heroes. 

Our kids may still need our advice and counsel, but they won’t admit it to save their lives.  Furthermore, they need us to step away from our god-like positions and become the wise elders who walk beside them.  One of my favorite analogies for teens is that they are on a roller coaster ride; Mom’s job is not to get on and ride with them but to stand on the platform ready to be there when they get off.

For all these reasons that make it especially challenging to parent kids in middle school, that’s why I have created the Middle School Moms’ Mastermind.  

Are you familiar with the concept of a mastermind?  I am in one for solo entrepreneur women.  We are smart, motivated and we face similar struggles.  While only our intrepid leader claims to be the expert, we still get a wealth of advice and good ideas from our fellow entrepreneurs.  We have a community of people to ask, What do you think of this idea?  Or Has anyone of you tried X before?  I love this group of brave, creative go-getters.  They are at once my role models and my friends, and when I get to share my own advice and experience, it makes me realize how far I have come as a business woman.  

We use a Private FB group as the primary means of communicating with each other (though I have also had private phone conversations from time to time with individuals who have a lot to share about a given topic). In twice monthly group coaching calls, our outstanding business coach gives us concrete advice both through direct instruction and through answer our specific questions about our specific situations.  

Imagine having that kind of support for your parenting!

That is exactly what I want for you.  The Middle School Moms’ Mastermind  will bring together a maximum of 15 moms of middle school kids.  I will moderate our private FB group where moms can post questions and observations.  Both moms and I will post relevant articles that we come across.  Moms will be free to post advice for people who ask for it as long as they do so in a way that has no shaming, blaming or judgment.  Additionally, I will lead two monthly calls (recorded so you can access them any time).  On these calls I will spend the first 15 to 20 minutes educating participants about some topic specific to early adolescents and then the rest of the call is your chance to ask me about your particular needs.  

Of course, I do not have all the answers (no one does!), but I do have three adult children and in my 25 years of teaching, I have dealt with more than 3,000 kids between the ages of 11-14.  That means I have pretty much seen it all—all kinds of kids and all kinds of families.  Working with such a large and diverse sample has taught me how many different ways there are to parent effectively.  It is incredibly useful to hear the views and insights of fellow parents.  Hearing a lot of different approaches allows you to get new perspectives and ideas for your own parenting.  



Does this sound like a group for you?  

Could you use a safe haven to share your woes, to compare notes, to get ideas on how other families handle things and to get access to my 25 years of expertise?  Let's talk.  Email me at or call me at 650.248.8916 (Pacific time) to find out if the Middle School Moms’ Mastermind is the tribe you have been longing for!

Act now to reserve your spot.  

I am gathering a group of moms who are dedicated to supporting each other in being the best moms they can be.  I absolutely believe that you can love parenting your middle school child.  I know that I love helping parents find the joy in whatever age or stage their children are, and while I cannot guarantee 100% that you are going to love parenting your middle school children as much as I love teaching them, I do guarantee the fellowship of other women, lots of laughs and unstinting faith that you are the parent your child needs.  

Why don't you try a complimentary group coaching call?  Our next call is Wednesday, October 19 at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time.  (If this time doesn't work for you, let me know what does so that I can let you know when else we are meeting).  

I can’t wait to talk to you.



Elisabeth Stitt/ Joyful Parenting Coaching/ 650.248.8916/

3 Awesome Tricks to Add to Your Bag for Your Hardest, Most High Energy, Most Challenging Kid Ever!

Elisabeth Stitt

by Elisabeth Stitt

Do you feel like your child is more difficult than other children? Guess what?  Lots of parents feel that way!  So, chances are yours is not actually the most challenging ever, but that doesn’t help much when you are in the thick of things and you are at the end of your rope

So what does help?  You never know!  But here are some ideas that have worked for me over the years:


Lots of paths can be smoothed by inviting the child into an imaginative state. 

     I was recently with a five year old who was refusing to eat his oatmeal.  I looked at him and said, “What oatmeal?  You mean this bowl of newts and slugs?”  Of course, he immediately looked at me like, Lady, you’ve got to be kidding me!  But he took a bite.  Victory.  Then he said, I don’t want newts and slugs.  Not to be foiled, I tried, “What newts and slugs?  What you have there are fish eyes and blindworms. Try some!”  He did.  By this time he had entered into the game and asked me, “What’s this bite here?”  Fried ants and crickets, said I.  But what got this five-year-old to finish his breakfast?  Moose poop. Yes, you heard me right.  He ate his lovely bowl of moose poop all up.  

Now, I am not generally in favor of forcing kids to eat (I prefer to let them suffer the natural consequence of going hungry), but when I am caring for other people’s kids, I try to honor the house rules.  As the “substitute” parent, I didn’t have time to get compliance through consequences.  I needed results right then.  By shifting the conversation from You have to eat your breakfast to imagining eating all sorts of gross things to eat, the oatmeal got finished up in five lively minutes of laughter and rich vocabulary. 

Silliness/Being Weird

         Silliness can be another great way to go.  With older kids, they just think you are weird, but as with younger children, being weird can often get you where you want to go and the only thing it will cost you is your dignity.  I was babysitting a sixth grader who refused to talk to me.  I could have just ignored her and used the time to get some work done, but I could see this girl was unhappy.  It was going to be a much more pleasant evening if I could get her to give up her stance of silence.  I went into reporter mode and took up a wooden spoon as my microphone:  Ladies and gentlemen, I started my best Access Hollywood voice. Tonight we have the first actual documented case of the cat who got her tongue. I am here with Veronica Lopez, a sixth grader at Shady Oak Middle School.  This morning when she woke up, she found she could not talk.  She looked over to see that her cat, Justin Bieber, was actually playing with her tongue as if it were a dead mouse. I went on in this vein for a while until she couldn’t stand it any more and she finally asked me could I please shut up?  That was enough.  All I needed her to do was say one thing to me.  Sure! I readily agreed and then I switched to asking her about how her mom generally defrosted the chicken needed for making dinner.  Having established my capacity for being annoying and weird, she decided it was easier to talk to me than risk spending the evening with a deranged loony

Get Physical

     Lots of times we have problems with kids because we do not respect their need for movement.  Instead of getting a child to stop wiggling in his chair, sometime it is easier give him the physical outlet he needs.  You are trying to have a peaceful dinner and all you want to do is sit quietly and eat, but you are never going to get peace if your child cannot sit still.  Sometimes it is better to acknowledge that, get the whole family on their feet and have two or three minutes of physical activity.  That might be cranking some tunes for a quick dance or doing the hokey pokey or playing Simon says.  With older kids it might mean sending them out to take the stairs to the top of the building and back down before returning to your apartment or having them run to the bottom of the driveway and back.  If it is really cold and they don’t put on their jacket, that will just make them run faster! 

         You might resent having to put aside dinner for five minutes.  It is going to get cold, after all, and you are hungry.  It might work to firmly ask your kids to sit still or stop rocking their chair.  If you are good at being consistent and your kids know that if you give a consequence you will follow through, they may well make the effort to comply.  But you put less stress on everyone by giving them a chance to get the ants out of their pants and go from there.  This is especially true if your kids are transitioning from some sedentary activity like doing homework.  Given the chance to expel some energy, you might just get that happy family dinner you were hoping for! 

What are your best tricks?

         Remember, no approach is going to work for all children all of the time.  That is why the bigger your bag of tricks the greater the chance you’ll have the one you need.  So share with us!  What are the techniques that work well for you?

         Feeling like you need more tricks in your bag?  I’d be happy to have a complimentary Tricks for Your Bag coaching session.  Let’s brainstorm together what might work for your hard, high energy or challenging kid.  Sign up at

Can’t wait to talk to you!