A Moment of Gratitude

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I want to share with you something that happened last night in my own family that I thought might be helpful to you.


The past several weeks have been somewhat stressful for me and my extended family.


I recently went down to Washington, D.C., to visit some family with my two kids. We spent some time and that was great. Yesterday I drove back, and it was about a five-hour drive. We got home around 7:30pm. I was exhausted from driving, hadn’t slept well the night before, and was just really tired. So I said to my kids, “Hey I need your cooperation. I need you to brush your teeth, get into bed and please cooperate with what I ask of you.” And they did.



Over the past week or so, my youngest child, the five-year-old, had been whining, and talking like a baby, reverting to baby talk. And my cousin who I went to go see asked me about that. I explained that sometimes, reverting to baby talk and reverting to baby behavior is an indication that they have a need. When they were babies, we were attentive to them when they cried and cooed. We always responded to them, and now that my kid is 5, she does a lot so independently! She brushes her teeth, gets dressed, and takes baths, all on her own. Talking like a baby is her way of saying, “I need your attention” and the only way I think I can get it is by behaving like a baby.


The past few weeks, I’ve been distracted and focused on all that has been going on with our family, and not paying as much attention to my children.



Still, they went to bed, and my older one who is almost 7, came out of her room crying, saying, “I need you; I need you; I’m scared.” I had very little patience that night. I took my deep breath, and I tried to hang in there and I said, “OK, sweetie, I need you to go to bed. I need to clean up a few more things, and I’ll be up. Please just go to bed.” And she insisted, “No, can you please just come to bed with me? I need you.”


I cleaned up as quickly as I could and I went back to her room, and thought, I’m not going to lay down with her. I got really stubborn. I thought, I’m not laying down, I’m just going to sit here.


She laid back in her bed. I got on my phone, and I was texting or looking at Facebook, or doing whatever I do, and she leaned over and said, “Do you want to come here, and lay down next to me?” And at that moment I listened. And I put down my phone and laid right next to her. And it felt so good to take that deep breath that I really needed, and I laid down with her and then she said quietly, “Can you please sleep with me tonight?”


All I really wanted was to sleep in my own bed. We had been traveling, sleeping in another bed for five days.  My husband wasn’t home; he was traveling. So I said, “Why don’t you come sleep in my room?” and she did.



She fell asleep quickly. I didn’t—it took me a while. She reached out her hand to me and we held hands. When we were holding hands I reviewed all the things I was stressed about over the past few weeks, what I was feeling, what was going on, what my thoughts were, what my feelings were, and I cried. I didn’t wake her, thankfully, and we just held hands. And I loved that moment of stillness and quietness and calmness with her.


At that moment I didn’t know who was holding whose hand.  Was I holding her hand or was she holding my hand?


That’s what I needed at that moment. Somehow, I wasn’t listening to myself, to say, “Maria, settle down, calm down, take a deep breath, take care of yourself.” But my child must have known what I needed, because she asked me, begged me, “Please come with me, I’m scared.” She said all these things that had nothing to do with her, but somehow, she knew, the universe knew, that I needed that moment.


I needed that time. And I was grateful for it. I’m grateful she reached out her hand and held me through that time.

What My Yoga Instructor Taught Me About Parenting

Photo by KarinaUvarova/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by KarinaUvarova/iStock / Getty Images


What I want to talk about today is yoga. And parenting, of course. I took a yoga class the day before a recent snowstorm. I knew I needed to ground myself, connect, and I knew it would feel really good to spend some time working on me for an hour before I had to walk into a day of a snowstorm with the girls. So, I did yoga. And my instructor is amazing. She talked about the breath, and how important the breath is, and slowing us down and finding ways to connect and reconnect, and create space, which is so much of what I talk about.  


The other thing she mentioned was a situation that she had. She had gone out in the city the night before and left her car at the train station. The next morning, she didn’t realize she had left her car there. She got up in a hurry to take the kids to school and she realized when she opened the garage, “Oh my goodness, the car isn’t here.” It took her a minute to figure out, OK, where is my car? Am I going to freak out? Am I freaking out a lot? Am I freaking out a little bit? And what are my next steps?


Reconnecting Through Breath

She quickly realized, OK, I left my car at the train, I forgot it, and she called an Uber, and was able to send her kids off to school. In that discussion, she talked about how yoga and breathing played such a role in her reaction to the situation.  I also talk about how breathing plays such an important role in parenting. She said that if she had not been such a regular practitioner of yoga, and focusing on the breath, that she would have freaked out much more in regards to her car “missing” from her garage. Instead, she freaked out a little bit. She jokingly said, “Oh, I only used three curse words instead of five,” and “I really would have freaked out had I not been able to reconnect with the breath and slow down and realize what happened.”


That’s true for parenting, too. It’s so important to reconnect with the breath. Because we will get frustrated. We will get triggered by our children and by situations that we’re in with our children. But maybe we won’t freak out as much with our children if we are able to develop a routine practice of taking a pause and some breaths upon entering situations.


How Tight Is Too Tight?

She also talked about our yoga strap. We were doing an exercise where we had to hold the strap behind our head, and she said, “Make sure you’re holding the strap loosely. I see you guys are holding it tightly. Hold it loosely. Make sure you’re holding it, but don’t make a strong grip around it.”


And then she said, “I can tell by the way you’re holding your strap—how tightly you’re holding that strap—how much you would freak out if the car situation happened to you. Let go a little bit.”


So, it was in what she was saying, that I started, again, thinking about parenting, and I was thinking, the strap is kind of like our children, right? We want to hold so tightly. We want to control it. We think if we hold it tightly, we’re doing the right thing. But what we really need to do is just let go a little bit. The more we try to control and hold on tightly, the more we will be upset, the more we will freak out, when things don’t go our way. If we can create a gentle hold with our children, hold lightly, be there for support, but not to entangle them, we allow for freedom of expression. We allow for freedom of emotion. We allow for freedom of changes and mishaps and mistakes and all of that. But if we try to hold on too tightly, we are taking too much control into trying to manipulate the situation and manipulate our children, instead of holding loosely and trusting, the strap will be there. We’re still holding on. We just have to let go a little.


I just wanted to share that with you, and maybe think about how tightly you are holding onto that strap, or how tightly you are holding onto your children.

The Art of Parenting

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First, I’m going to talk about our children and then I will talk about us. Because there’s really two parts to this equation—it takes two to tango, right? Behavior is a form of communication. Our children behave in certain ways to communicate. And sometimes, because they’re really young or because they’re frustrated, they can’t get the right words out. Either it’s a lack of skill—they don’t know how to communicate the right way—or it’s just because they can’t, because their brain is flooded with all the frustration or the madness, or whatever’s happening. They’re trying to communicate a need.


It’s our job as parents to figure out exactly what that need is. We have to dig deep, and try to look under the behavior, the tantrum, to what the “no” saying is all about and figure out what that all is. As parents, Dr. Siegel said that we can foster secure attachment if we remember the following 4 “S”s.  Our children need to be: Seen, Safe, Soothed and Secure. Those are four things that our children need. They’re looking for a way to get attention, which means that they need connection.


What Do Our Kids Need?

What we need to figure out is, what is it that our kids need? Do they need something physical or social.   Do they have a need for food, water or sleep?  Do they have a need to be hugged or squeezed (physical input)? It could also be something where they just need that connection. They’re looking for attention, and they need connection. Is it that they need five minutes with the parent? Or is it that they need attention from the person they’re fighting with? Maybe their sibling isn’t paying attention to them and that’s why they’re fighting.


Looking at what that need is, is really important. We have to be little detectives to figure out what is the behavior saying, because the child can’t say it.


Finding Teachable Moments

The other part is being able to teach our children. Discipline is a teaching opportunity. So instead of punishing our children, let’s try to teach them so they learn the right way. We can do this by role modeling.


We do this by showing our kids a different way to speak to get their needs met. We show our children, instead of grabbing a toy, we ask, “When you’re finished with that, can I play with that toy?” And we physically role model with our words. That way it’s a teaching opportunity and we’re not always resorting to punishment. This practice and role modeling will help alleviate some of the stress for the child when they are in a hyper- reactive state.


Talking About Feelings

Again, if the children are young, or if they are in a state of hyper-reactivity, they’re not able to come out with the vocabulary themselves. Being able to talk about the feelings and naming the feelings empowers the child. Dr. Dan Siegel suggested naming to tame the feeling “For all of us, as teenagers or adults, when intense emotions erupt in our minds, we need to learn to feel them and deal with them…Learning to deal with emotions means being aware of them and modifying them inside so we can think clearly.  Sometimes we can name it to tame it and help balance our brains emotional intensity by putting words to what we feel…There are even some brain studies that show how this naming process can activate the prefrontal cortex and calm the limbic amygdala!”.  Giving a name to the feeling often disempowers the feeling, and just brings some relief to the situation. It’s really important to practice naming the feelings that are happening.


“I see that you’re frustrated.”

“Are you feeling frustrated because your sister won’t share the toy?”

“Are you feeling frustrated or sad? Are you feeling sad because I won’t lay in bed with you?”

Offering this kind of role modeling for our children is really important.


So that’s really the crux of what I want us to pay attention to with the kids: It’s looking at behaviors, communication, teaching, role modeling, and talking about feelings. And again, we need to do this. And it takes practice.


Where We’re Coming From

I’m going to move into parenting, to us as the parents. I want all of us to really bring some self-empathy to the situation. I want us to forgive ourselves when we make these mistakes. We can be the parent we want to be, but we need to make some changes. I’m hoping some of these ideas will help you along that journey.


As far as the parent, that’s a big part, and a lot of times it’s difficult for parent to hear this, but we need to accept the situation for what it is. A lot of times we see our kids fighting and we want to stop it.  If everyone is safe, what we need to do is accept the situation: our kids are fighting and go forward without judgement. Without saying to your older child, “Oh, you’re always the one starting this fight with your little sister. Can’t you just share? You should know better.” Those are all phrases that we say with judgement, and that doesn’t really allow for honest communication.


Let’s accept the situation for what it is. It’s happening. We can’t change it. So, we have to accept it for what it is. And what we can do, what we do have control of, is looking at our internal landscape.

What is happening on the inside?

What’s happening in my head?

What are the words that I’m saying to myself, what are the phrases I’m saying?

What are the feelings within my body, physiologically? Is my heart rate increasing? Is my stomach tight? Am I trying to detach from my children and just ignore the situation and hope it goes away?


Really get in tune and be a witness to what is happening inside of you.


Responding with Compassion

Parents often respond with fear. Because we’re afraid that our children are going to continue fighting and that they’re going to fight forever, or they’re never going to sleep by themselves, or they’ll go to college still sucking their thumb, or whatever it is. This is a reaction based on fear, instead of responding with compassion, which is what our children really need. Our children need our compassion, so that they feel understood. So that they know, hey, my mom gets me. And we think, Even if I don’t agree with the situation, I understand you’re frustrated. You might have not handled it the right way, but I understand you’re really frustrated.


Reasons for Our Response Style

And the last thing, the most important thing, is to understand why you are being triggered. A lot of our parenting beliefs and what frustrates us comes from the way we were parented.


We need to understand what those triggers are. For example, I have two girls. I am one of two sisters, and I was really mean to my little sister when I was a kid. So now I tend to get really frustrated with my older child when she’s mean to her little sister because I remember being mean to my sister, and I don’t want my older daughter treating my younger daughter the way I treated my little sister. So that easily triggers me.


You need to look inside yourself and think about, where does that trigger come from? Once you understand the trigger, you really can start to sit with it a little bit longer, and accept that as is, and create some space. And that space creates opportunity for change.


I think I’ve spoken about this before: breath is so important. When our kids are fighting, when we’re frustrated because they want us to lay with them at bedtime, or they want us to help pack their bag to get out the door or whatever it is, when we take a deep breath, we create space, and that space gives us the opportunity for change. It gives us the opportunity to look at the situation, to look within ourselves. I hope all of this is really helpful in supporting you in some of these parenting challenges.


Thank you for all the comments I’ve received over the past few weeks. If any of you practice some of this, accepting the “as is,” and moving forward without judgement, and looking at your triggers, I would love to hear from you. I would love to hear how that transformed the situation. 

Conscious Parenting: A Real Life Example

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 I’m here today to talk to you about conscious parenting—not just about what it is, but a real example that happened in my own home two nights ago.


I think this example is important because conscious parenting is a difficult topic. I had to hear about it over and over again, read about it, and learn about it, before I could really embrace it, take it in, and understand how I could use it in my own life.


The Story

A couple of nights ago, I made hamburgers. I thought that would be great! The kids would love hamburgers. We sat down for dinner, and my oldest daughter got mad—for what I thought was no reason. But she got mad. The burger was a little thick, and it kept slipping off the bun. She got mad at the burger and she threw it, and then ran away, and said, “Nobody’s helping me! Nobody’s helping me!” She came back to the table, tried to put the burger on the bun again, threw it, got mad, left again.  She tried going down to the basement.  She repeated this a number of times.  


And that was an opportunity for me to practice my conscious parenting.


Tying in Conscious Parenting

The first thing I did was take a deep breath. Breath is important because it slows everything down. It lowers your blood pressure, it slows down your heart rate, and it creates space in your body.  That breath creates space and space creates opportunity. That opportunity gave me the chance to either respond to my daughter with compassion or have more of a knee-jerk reaction.



A lot of people are concerned with conscious parenting, discipline and boundaries. I did set boundaries. I said, “I will not allow you to speak to me that way, but I’m here for you. So when you’re ready, I’m here for you. Please let me know how I can help you.”


The importance here was that I was trying to create a connection with my child. If I had gotten angry with her, and let her storm off, and said, “Yeah, you’re being ridiculous, leave the table. Stay in the basement.” That would have just created a disconnection. I took a deep breath, and laid down the boundary—because she was speaking in a really nasty way. “I won’t allow you to speak to me that way. I am also here for you.”


Inner Landscapes

This gave me an opportunity to remind myself about what was happening with my inner landscape. Conscious parenting allows us to be aware of what we’re thinking and what we’re feeling. On that day, unfortunately I had woken up at 4:30 in the morning, because my husband had to hop on a flight at that hour, and I really couldn’t get back to sleep. And that night I had a workshop that I was doing, on conscious parenting. I knew that I was going to be on edge all day. Partly because I was tired, and partly because I was anxious about the workshop, and all the other things I had to get done so I could leave for this workshop. It required me to take that minute and remind myself, OK, I have all this going on. That’s my inner landscape right now. I’m feeling stressed and I’m feeling tired. I reminded myself, so that I didn’t project that onto my child.


That also gave me the opportunity to remind myself that she has her own inner landscape. I don’t know what happened at school today. She might have gotten left out on the playground. She might have gotten yelled at by the teacher. Any number of things could have happened, and [that] I’m not aware of what her inner landscape is. And because she’s only six, she doesn’t have the vocabulary or the wherewithal that we do as adults—not that we even do. There are times I say things that later I’m like, Whoops, I was really angry, I shouldn’t have said it that way. Our kids do the same thing. So it’s not that we’re allowing it, not that it’s OK, but we’re accepting it—accepting the situation for what it is. She’s upset; she’s angry. I don’t know what it is, but I want that connection to stay.


Next Steps

I worked with her to make sure she knew I was here, the boundary was set, and I was also honoring that she’s a human being, she had experiences today, and what those experiences might have been to lead her to have this moment at the dinner table.


The exchange happened a few times where she got angry, left the table, and came back. I laid the boundary and offered the support. She got angry again. Left again. Finally, I just stayed quiet. I had already said what I needed to say. And I let her rant. And that’s a difficult thing to do, to hear your child just going and going and complaining. But she had this pent up energy that needed to be released and unfortunately, I was the target.


The point was I didn’t need to say anything anymore. Silence is golden. You’ve heard that. It kept me in a place where I don’t need to respond, I don’t need to react. I already responded. I can stay calm, try to focus on my meal. Next thing you know, and I’m not kidding, she bounced back. And it was like nothing ever happened. It was really bizarre. But that’s what happens.


What’s Going On

Our children go off on these temper tantrums, and we need to be there for support. Not to create more of a disconnection. When our child is having a temper tantrum, it’s telling us that something is going on, and we need to figure out what that is. In that moment, I couldn’t figure out what it was, because she was in the middle of this temper tantrum. But the next day we reviewed it, and we repaired it. And that’s the big thing. It’s not like I “allowed” what happened to happen. I allowed it to happen in that moment. Because there was nothing I could do to change the trajectory of where it was going. I could have only made it worse.


I let it be, offered that connection, and then the next day we reviewed it and repaired it. The way we reviewed it was saying, “Hey, remember what happened last night?” and we talked about it. And I explained to her, “I don’t like being spoken to that way. I understand you were frustrated.” And we talked about what she might have been feeling that day, what happened at school. It was hard for her to articulate that, but just giving her the opportunity to voice her thoughts and her opinion, and reflect on what happened and what her behavior was, and offer her some alternatives, like, “Hey, next time you’re angry about your burger, or whatever it is you think you might be angry about, these are some things you could do.”


It’s not going to change overnight. It’s that repetitive modeling of behavior that I’m offering to her, that over time, she’ll learn that when she gets frustrated, that that’s not the way to talk to someone or get your needs met. But it takes time.


I would love to hear from you! If you could, write to me, explaining the times that are frustrating to you, where you would like to implement this idea of conscious parenting. I would love to hear from you!

You Only Have To Do A Little To Make Big Changes In Your Family

Photo by {artist}/{collectionName} / Getty Images

Photo by {artist}/{collectionName} / Getty Images



A lot of times—and I’ve been there—when things are crazy and we’re feeling overwhelmed with our children and our jobs and everything that’s going on, everything just seems a mess. And it’s really hard to find something that’s working well. But there’s importance in finding what is going right.

There’s got to be something that’s working well. As a coach, that’s my job: if you can’t find that, I help you refocus, to see what’s going on. I help parents relax, and get them to be able to take a step back, and get an overview of what’s really happening.

When you’re in that mess, it is so dark. It is so gloomy. It’s hard to see. When you’re stepping back, or you have someone else who can shine some light on what’s really happening, you see it from a different perspective. When you’re too close and up front, there’s no way that you can really see that there’s any possibility of good in the situation. So that’s how I partner with my clients—to help them focus, bring attention to, and relax around what’s happening.


Little Things Mean a Lot

What I want to share is that there are little things that are happening. Every day. Even things that maybe you don’t even realize. And it’s focusing on those little moments—it could be one interaction at breakfast. It could be that moment. For example, the other day I was upstairs, getting ready in the morning, and my littlest walked upstairs and just started crying, “Mommy, mommy, why are you getting ready? I wanted to snuggle with you.” And she was heartbroken. And in that moment, I dropped my makeup, I dropped whatever I was doing, and I said, “No problem, little one. Let’s go. We’ll hop into bed and snuggle for a little while.” And I snuggled with her. And it was that little moment that maybe changed the whole day for her. I don’t even know. But if I didn’t focus on that moment, and I didn’t realize that this was actually a great opportunity, it would have passed by. It’s about focusing on the small things that are really important.


The Potential Impact of a Seemingly Small Action

There’s an author by the name of Margaret J. Wheatley, who wrote the book Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic WorldAnd what she says is, “When the system is far from equilibrium, singular or small influences can have enormous impact.”


Had that interchange with my little child not happened, it could have spiraled into a whole morning of her just not feeling connected. It could have escalated her to have a bad time at breakfast, the milk could have been too hot or too cold, or her sister would have got in her way, or a whole number of things, whereas that small change, that small interaction really made a big impact in her day. It set the tone for the rest of her day: she got what she needed right off the bat.


We can find those moments. It doesn’t have to be at the beginning of the day, it could be at the end of the workday, right before bed, it can be whenever. But finding opportunities for small, little incremental changes will have an impact on your family.


You may think, “Oh, I want my family to be this way,” and “these are my goals,” and “I want my family to look this way and that way,” and “I want to feel this way.” You know what? Those goals are important, and that’s part of what we do. We set goals. Big goals.


However, in order to get to that finish line, you’ve got to take a step. Every single step makes a difference. So, yes, have those goals, but just focus on that one step. Take one step, and see what kind of impact it has for you. How does that make you feel and how does that make your child feel? With that in mind, I have some questions for you.



I know you’ve been thinking about it. We always have these ideas, like, “Oh, I’m just going to try to wake up a little bit earlier, so that I can have my coffee before my kids come and interrupt my morning.” Do that.

Maybe you've thought, "I am going to get through bed time without screaming." Do that.

Or even I am going to have a night out with my best friend. Do that.

You have great ideas. Trust your gut and trust your wisdom and know that you have those resources and those strengths to make change. Tap into that and take a look inside, and see just one little thing. Say, “Today, I’m going to make one change.” That one change may make a difference. And maybe it won’t. But know that you’re making an effort.



I know it might be difficult—we’re in the middle of a chaotic situation or time with our children. I know it’s hard. But there’s got to be one thing that I hope you can find that you’re doing, that you can do more of.



You’re making dinner, and it’s a hectic time, and you’re probably not smiling. But maybe it’s story time with your kids and you’re reading with them. And you feel a little smile come across your face. Why? What is happening in that moment that is making you feel that way? That’s really good. If you can tap into that, then you can focus on what’s happening.  Ask yourself, how can I make more of that happen? That’s what you want. That’s what I know I needed to focus on when I was feeling this way.





Imagine it, really. Focus on it, think about it. How would it feel, what would it sound like, what would it look like? All those ideas from that bigger image will start the ball rolling in thinking, “How can I get there? How can I start to make some incremental changes?”


The 5 Biggest Problems Parents Face


All parents! You, me and your neighbor with the greener grass!

Parenting is the hardest but also the most rewarding job that you’ll ever have. What makes it so challenging most days is that you may be doing everything right, yet the results don’t seem to be there. Your kids are not getting to bed on time, they’re not eating breakfast in the morning, or they’re spending too much time in front of the TV.

As a result, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and anxious. You may even begin to doubt the decisions that you’re making. That’s especially true if you’re raising young toddlers or preschool-age kids, where the gap between effort and result can often be daunting.

As a PCI Certified Parent Coach, I’ve seen a lot of different situations, but many of the reasons why parents reach out to me for help are the result of the five following issues:

  1. Children’s eating habits and mealtimes
  2. Morning routines and getting out the door on time
  3. Sleep times
  4. TV and screen time
  5. Work/life balance

Yes, that’s right. It may seem like there are many more things that cause stress in your daily life as a parent, but almost all of them can be reduced to these five basic problems. And don’t worry – every parent faces these problems, sooner or later. (Trust me, even the “perfect mom” who seems to have everything under control faces these issues).

The good news is that there are a variety of strategies and approaches for dealing with each of these issues. Take the example of children’s eating habits and mealtimes. It’s too easy to fall into the trap of focusing on the end result – my kids need to eat more vegetables! – and not enough on the process. As a result, the process of getting your kids to eat vegetables becomes even harder to fix because certain rules (such as “no standing while eating”) steadily get eroded, all in an effort to get to that final result.

My role as a parent coach is to understand what’s going on in a non-judgmental way, and then explain possible steps that might help alleviate the situation. Most importantly, I can be a sounding board for your concerns, and help you cut through the clutter of the latest child-rearing ideas and concepts.

Remember – parenting tends to follow fads and cycles. The fads and cycles might not be as obvious as they are in, say, the fashion industry, but they are definitely there. Grandparents and parents often have very different ideas of how to raise a child, and that also leads to its own share of tensions. You may have your own very defined ideas of how to raise your child, but if those ideas don’t seem to be working out in practice, it’s hard to deflect criticism or judgments from other members of your family!

That’s exactly where a parent coach can matter the most – not in telling you what you’re doing wrong, but in validating what you’re doing correctly. Over the next five blog posts, I’ll be taking a look at those five issues that seem to trip up every family, and provide some practical advice that you can use. This is advice that I’ve learned the “hard way” – as a school social worker, teacher and parent. And it’s advice that I’m hoping to pass on to you in the hopes of helping you rediscover the unique joy and meaning of parenting.