Children and Friendship Problems


As a school counselor for twenty years, one of the most common problems that I talked to kids about was friendship.  What do you do when a friend wants to do something that is unkind, thoughtless, or involves breaking the rules?  What do you do when a friend is bossy, self-centered and treats you unkindly?  This is a tough concept for us all. Relationships are messy for both children and adults.

Children and Self-Worth

One of the key concepts that all children need to learn and internalize is a feeling of worth and value that is inherent in their authentic self rather than based on another’s opinion. We all try to avoid this difficult work.  It’s not just children that spend time trying to look and act like a  well-publicized role model. Just look at the trends on social media or television.

Being a Best Friend

I love books that combine a good story with a good lesson. It’s even better if the lesson can be summed up in one memorable sentence. The book Hunter’s Best Friend at School does all of the above and more. Written by Laura Malone Elliott, it is the tale of two raccoons who are best friends and want to do everything together and just alike. This doesn’t normally create problems, but when Stripe shows up at school in a mischief-making mood, Hunter is faced with the choice of whether or not to follow along. He soon discovers that making the wrong choice not only means they are both in trouble, but also that he is not even happy with himself. When his mother discovers his dilemma, she teaches him a great life lesson when she says, “Sometimes being a best friend means you have to help your friend be his best self.” Couldn’t we all benefit from her wisdom?

Three Tips to Help Children

How can we as parents and educators help children recognized that they are “enough” just as they are?  How can we teach them to interact in a positive way with friends, even when friends are challenging?  Here are some tips:

  • Recognize the role that you play as a role model.  Children imitate what they see around them and if you are not comfortable with yourself and your own value, if you are constantly trying to measure up to someone else’s standard, children will follow the same path.
  • Recognize and encourage children in their areas of strength.  Too often we focus on areas that need improvement and of course this is necessary, but make sure the balance of your interaction is supportive and empowering.
  • Teach children through example and practice how to interact with peers in ways that encourage others to be their “best selves”.  You can use books, movies or real life examples as role playing opportunities.


February 24-26th is a countdown special on Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Good Manners .  In this book, Wyatt learns what to say to a bossy friend and how to turn a challenging situation into an empowering one for both characters.  You can find the book here:

Helping Children Handle Disappointment


We all face disappointment, children and adults alike.  Whether it’s missing the winning shot or rain that ruins a picnic at the park, life is full of big and little disappointments.  As parents and teachers we would like to spare kids from these letdowns.  However, we can do children a greater service if instead, we teach them tools and skills for how to deal with those times when things didn’t go as planned.

You Get What You Get if You Don’t Throw a Fit

“Melvin did not deal well with disappointment.”  This is the beginning of Julie Gassman’s  book, You Get What You Get.  It tackles the problem of handling disappointment in a clever and straightforward way.  Melvin throws a fit whenever he doesn’t get what he wants.  Apparently this is works well at home since he always gets his way, but at school the rule is “You get what you get if you don’t throw a fit.”  Melvin quickly learns to control his behavior at school and when he spills the beans at home, his parents take on a new philosophy as well.  The book makes a great lesson and relevant point about self control that any child can understand. With bright illustrations and a to-the-point message, Gassman has created a winning book with a great message.

Young shouting child in glasses and striped knitted jacket. Studio shot.

Developing Skills to Handle Disappointment

While the book teaches self control, it doesn’t teach children other tools for handling disappointment.  It is after all a picture book and can’t cover everything.   Here are some suggestions for expanding the story:

      • Teach children that while feeling disappointed or angry is okay, certain behaviors such as throwing a fit are not.  
        • Ask the reader, “What could Melvin have done instead of throwing a fit?”
      • Teach children to communicate and talk through their feelings in a respectful way.  
        • Ask the reader, “How could Melvin have expressed how disappointed he was in a respectful way?”
      • Teach children to recognize the difference between things they can change and things that need to be accepted. Not always getting to go first may need to be accepted. Not being accepted into the elite choir ensemble at school may also need to be accepted but if this is a true goal then perhaps voice lessons and further practice should be considered for next year.  Help children develop critical thinking skills to evaluate different situations and the best response to each.
        • Ask the reader, “When Melvin didn’t get what he wanted, what could he have done next?”
      • Teach children that there is often a lesson learned or even an opportunity in disappointment.  As a teacher or parent you can share a time that you didn’t get what you wanted but in the end you got an opportunity that you would not have expected because of the disappointment.
        • Ask the reader to imagine “What will happen to Melvin in the future?  How would you like to add to the story?”

Disappointment is something we’ve all experienced and our children will as well. Developing tools for handling it is an important life lesson.

What about you? Can you think of a disappointment that turned out to be a lesson learned or an unexpected opportunity?  How do you react to letdowns? Visit the Wyatt facebook page and share your story about disappointment.

Mark your calendars for a countdown special on Wyatt’s book:  Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Good Manners!  Beginning February 24th for ONE Day only you can download the Kindle edition for .99!  


Five Ways to Get Students’ Attention


Sometimes as teachers we forget that we are speakers as well as information sharers. We get so focused on progressing through the curriculum, that we forget the need to first engage the the class.  Every great speaker knows that they need to do something to hook their audience at the beginning of their presentation.  Not many speakers start with “Take out your textbook and turn to page 24.”  If they did… well their audience would probably either head for the exit or start playing Candy Crush on their iphone.  Instead great speakers begin with the unexpected and they engage their audience from the first few words.  Teachers could learn a lot from this approach.

Five ways to get student attention at the beginning of a lesson:

1.  Regroup the class–form groups or partners.  Move to the floor for a story or line up for an activity.  Stand up or sit on the floor.  Not only will you get their interest but it will be healthier.  Studies have shown that students and adults spend way too much time sitting. Get the class moving and wondering what is going to happen next.

2.  Do the unexpected.  Tell them NOT to take out their books, or a pencil and paper.  Put away books and begin with a clean desk.  Create a surprising environment in the classroom, by using decorations to create a theme.  Wear a hat, a vest or a costume that makes them think about the lesson.  Use props.


3.  Ask an open-ended question.  Here is one of my favorite interchanges with a kindergarten class:

Me:  Today we are going to talk about farms.  What is a farm?

Student:  A farm is where farmers live.

Me:  Some farmers raise chickens.  What do we get from chickens?

Student:  Bacon and eggs!!

Me:  Some farmers raise buffalo.  What do we get from buffalo?

Student:  Buffalo wings!

(Sometimes these things don’t go quite as you expected…)

4.  Use visuals.  I used lots of videos in my classroom guidance lessons.  Youtube videos, news clips and clips from popular movies are all great resources. Picture books are great for all ages.  Find a captivating image and show it.  Ask for feedback:  what is happening? what will happen next?  how would you change it?

5.  Play a game, act out a role play.  This can take a few minutes and lead into the lesson. Games can demonstrate cooperation, team building and goal setting.  Play twenty-one questions to guess a historical figure or two truths and a lie to identify facts about their life.  Give a few students a script or have them ad lib a situation.

What ever you do, begin each lesson with something that will hook your audience, spark their interest and create positive endorphins.  Not only will you engage their attention, but you will also make the lesson more memorable.

What other ideas do you have to engage student attention?  Let me know in the comment section.

What Makes for a Happy Child?

Lynne Watts and Elijah

Do you wonder what the key is to having happy children?  Maybe you even wonder about the key to finding happiness in your own life?  Turns out we don’t find happiness… it’s not even related to our circumstances.  Surprised?

The Research on the Happiness Advantage

In Shawn Achor’s  book, The Happiness Advantage, he writes about many of the misconceptions about happiness.  Turns out happiness is more a function of our perspective on life rather than on the circumstances that we find ourselves in each day. This explains how the child living in deplorable circumstances in a third world country may actually rate himself as happier than a suburban child in the United States living in a relatively rich environment.  Surprised again?

How can parents and educators use this information in our everyday encounters with students and children?

The Ratio of Positive to Negative Comments

There are several important components of experiencing happiness but one that we can have some influence on is the ratio of our positive to negative comments that we share with children.  Apparently the research shows this is a deal breaker in terms of an individual’s happiness factor.  In other words, what if for every negative comment we made, we followed-up with three positive comments. How would the environment change… or would we even notice?

The Losada Line

It turns out that a lot of research has been done on this very thing by psychologist and business consultant, Marcial Losada. Based on Losada’s extensive mathematical modeling, 2.9013 is the ratio of positive to negative interactions necessary to ensure success. Known as the ‘Losada Line’, the studies show that if you rise above this line (and ideally a ration of six positives to one negative is best), then teams produce their very best work.

Sounds too easy to be true doesn’t it?  Focusing on positive interactions and making sure that we provide a positive environment with more encouragement than negativity can just by itself ensure success.  This isn’t about behavior charts or prizes for behavior, although those things may be helpful.  This is about recognizing that we all perform best when we receive positive recognition for our efforts.

Isn’t this true for you?  As adults we know that we feel happiest and most valued when we receive positive feedback. How often do we as adults, however, feel that our job as parents and teachers is to instruct and correct children, while positive feedback is nice but not really necessary?  How often have you heard someone say, “Why do I have to compliment him on good behavior when that is just what he is expected to do anyway?”

Turns out we can all figure out why from our own lives… positive feedback is important because we all flourish and perform best in a positive environment.  I know I do… what about you?

Three Questions for New Parents


I’ve attended several baby showers lately for new parents and it brings back memories of blissfully  (and anxiously) anticipating the arrival of our first child. My oldest daughter will soon be thirty-one years old and it is certainly cause for reflection on the many difficult decisions that I have made over as many years. 

Parenting is challenging but well worth the many hectic and stressful days.  It is a wonderful feeling to watch children grow into confident, happy, successful adults.  Just as expecting parents prepare for the upcoming birth with a nursery full of accessories, they must also prepare by discussing and developing parenting skills.  Looking back there are probably three questions or situations that parents need to learn to handle in order to come out successfully on the other side of parenting.  


Know When To Say No

Some parents are reluctant to say no or to discipline their children.  Instead they say maybe later, I’ll think about it or ask your dad or mom.  They hope that natural consequences or some outside force will create the boundary so they won’t have to.  Never wanting to disappoint, they instead cajole, over explain or simply avoid the dreaded NO word.   Kids (and adults for that matter) need limits and despite their attempts to convince parents otherwise, they are often relieved when the answer is no.  Parents who never say no are often parents who are trying to be a friend instead of a parent. They are parents who want to be liked at the expense of being respected. Your child will have lots of friends in his or her lifetime but you are the only parent they will have.  Don’t be afraid to fill those shoes.


Know When To Say Yes

Just as important is the situation that calls for yes.  Sometimes it means yes-you can do it, yes-you are capable, you are smart enough, energetic or talented enough.  Sometimes it means that as the parent I am willing to encourage your independence, your ability, your skills, even though it will mean that I am inconvenienced myself in order to do that.  Recognize your child’s strengths, nurture and encourage them as much and  as often as you point out their weaknesses and  the areas they need to work on.


Know When To Ask For Help

Parenting can be unknown and uncharted territory for many.  Our only examples may be our own parents which for some is enough and for others may be seriously lacking as good role models.  As a new parent find experienced role models or mentors who can provide a caring shoulder to lean on and supportive advice when needed.  Equally important, find someone both you and your spouse can agree to agree with.  One of the biggest challenges of parenting is reconciling different parenting styles which come from our different family backgrounds and different personality styles.  Sometimes it takes a third party to calm the waters.

Knowing when to say no, when to say yes and when to ask for help, can provide guidance for the challenging parenting years.  I wish you much success along the journey!


Checkout my ebook:  Parenting with Heart:  Understanding Personality Styles  to       D-I-S-Cover your own personality style and how to speak the language of other personality styles in order to create a winning  environment in all the seasons of your family’s life.


Need some answers to common parenting questions?  In twenty years of school counseling I got asked a lot of questions!   Check out my ebook:  Stuff Parents Want to Know for some strategies and suggestions for books to share on twenty of the most common questions.  


Wyatt the Wonder Dog is on the Move!

What a great time I had last weekend in Manchester Tennessee at the Coffee County Manchester Library.  They hosted a a terrific author event with over twenty authors!

Author Event at Coffee County Manchester Library
Author Event at Coffee County Manchester Library

I always enjoy meeting other authors and hearing their story. I especially enjoyed talking to Teresa Hall, author of The Secret Innkeeper of Tiffany Hill, Chuck Schumacher, author of How to Play Baseball and John A. Anderson, author of The Jager Journal.  

Wyatt the Wonder Dog at Coffee County Manchester Library
Wyatt the Wonder Dog at Coffee County Manchester Library

Where will Wyatt be this week?  We will be visiting the Palmetto State School Counselor Conference in Myrtle Beach, where I’ll be doing a session on DISCover Your Personality Style.  We can’t wait!

South Carolina School Counselor Conference
South Carolina School Counselor Conference