Category Archives: personal development

Taking the drama out of conflict

“He’s not following the rules!  He’s a cheater!”

“She is being mean to me and my friends. She won’t include us in her club.”

“She took my markers and lost them.  Now I don’t have any.”

Some days it feels like all we do as educators and parents is solve conflicts between kids. Maybe you even feel  like you’ve tried everything and you are at the end of your  rope. “Why can’t kids just get along?” we wonder.  It’s frustrating. It’s exhausting.

Here are a few ideas but get ready… most of them mean changing your mindset as well as your strategies.

  • Re-frame conflict as opportunity instead of a battle of the wills- As a parent, I used to actually thank my children when they were having a disagreement.  Sounds crazy I know, (and they’d look at me like I had lost my mind) but I’d explain that life is full of conflict and it’s good that you can learn to solve conflicts as kids.  It’s true of course;  learning to solve conflicts is a necessary life skill.
  • Create conflict rules-For example: no blaming, no name calling and no threatening. Help children define what the rules mean.  Calling someone a cheater is name calling.  Refusing to be someone’s friend if you don’t get your way is threatening.  Saying it is all your fault is blaming.  Post the rules and refer to them when needed.
  • Take the drama out of the  situation-You can of course sympathize a bit with hurt feelings but don’t let it rule the day.  Begin by establishing the facts.  What happened first?  What happened next? Teach children to clearly identify the problem. It helps to have them state the problem without any feelings attached.  Teach the difference between the facts and the feelings.  And while we are talking about feelings…
  • Teach children to be responsible for their own feelings-Most of us think that others have the power to make us mad, or sad or to hurt our feelings. Disagreements provide a great opportunity to teach that others don’t have that power.  We control our own feelings by what we tell ourselves about the situation.
  • Teach a variety of ways to problem solve and resolve conflicts-Does one child want to play with a toy and the other not want to share?  Ask them to list all the possible solutions to the problem.  Then rather than you as the parent or teacher making the executive decision have them work together to decide which choice is best.
  • Recognize your own feelings surrounding conflict and interpersonal differences.  Just as  children come with their own personalities, we as parents and educators have our own temperament and our own history with conflict as well.  Were you the youngest child in your family who felt continually picked on by the oldest?  Were you the middle child who felt you had to create conflict to get noticed?  Our own history may flavor how we react to conflict in our children.  Make sure that you are operating out of a calm space and teaching good skills rather than taking sides or replaying your own history.

As parents and educators, we aren’t just solving kids’ problems today, we are teaching them how to solve much bigger conflicts later in life.  Does this take more time than simply telling kids to stop fighting and get along?  Yes!  But in the long run you are teaching important skills as well as saving time because children are learning strategies to solve their own problems rather than rely on you to solve problems for them.

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Wyatt Learns about Good Manners

Wyatt is always wondering about something and lately it is how to get his friend, Max to change his bossy ways.  What can he do?  Join Wyatt as he considers some rather unusual options until he finally discovers that a heart to heart talk with Max can create a new friendship with an old friend. Wyatt_the_Wonder_Dog_Cover_Manners_Kindle

Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Learns About Good Manners

On Teachers Pay Teachers:

Free Product Situation Cards for Lessons on Conflict






3 Ways to Develop Resilient Kids

Tuesday, February 7th, I’ll be attending an event raising money for a thirteen year old boy who experienced a brain injury after a biking accident.  In a networking group this week, I talked to a business owner who has had cancer of the eye, his daughter has recovered from a brain tumor and his wife is a breast cancer survivor.  While you probably don’t know these individuals, I bet you know someone who has had similar challenges to overcome. Sometimes it is a physical challenge, sometimes it is an environmental challenge and other times it is a mental challenge.

After talking with someone about personal challenges like this, I always ask, “What is it that sustains you and gets you through the  experience?”   I get a lot of answers but if I were to summarize the attributes of a resilient individual I’d list the following…

  1. A growth mindset instead of a victim mindset–Individuals who believe that change and growth is possible stay engaged in practices that help them overcome their current circumstances. They follow treatment protocols, they ask for help and guidance, they set goals and follow the steps necessary to attain them.  Individuals with a victim mindset give up and allow their  circumstances to control the outcome.
  2. A community environment instead of an isolated environment–Community can take many forms.  For some it is their faith community while for others it is their family or friends and co-workers.  Regardless of who makes up the support community, resilient people don’t try to go it alone.  Difficult as it may be, they learn to ask for and receive help.  They share their struggles with others.  Not only do they reap the benefit but often their challenges pull the community closer together as well.
  3. A personal sense of purpose and identity instead of low self-esteem— Resilient individuals believe they have something unique to offer and they are determined to make a difference in their world through their strengths and skills.  They take failure and hardship in stride as part of the necessary road to success.  They don’t let their circumstances define who they are but maintain a strong sense of self and purpose. They don’t waste time wishing their life was easy and problem free.  Instead they allow their situation to help them develop mental and physical muscles that sustain them through the tough times.

How can we as parents and educators instill resiliency in our children?

  1. Foster a growth mindset–Encourage children to see obstacles as challenges to be overcome.  Instead of asking, “Why me?” teach them to ask “How can I learn from this?”
  2. Create a supportive community–We all need encouragers and teachers in our lives. Don’t wait for a crisis to establish a community in your life or your children’s lives. Develop systems of support and be that support for others as well.
  3. Develop a personal sense of identity and purpose–Help children develop a sense of who they are as worthwhile individuals with something to offer the world. Challenge them to learn from failure and celebrate success.

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Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Winning

Wyatt the Wonder Dog didn’t make it on the All Star baseball team and he feels like a loser.  All  his friends will be playing baseball this summer, while he and his pesky sister, Callie, visit grandparents at the beach.  How Wyatt learns to handle disappointment and failure will be an important lesson for the future.  Will he give up trying new things?  Will he have the confidence to try again?  Are there some things that take more practice and persistence to learn than others? Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns About Winning
Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Winning (Wyatt the Wonder Dog Books) (Volume 5)


Is your child a people pleaser?

Is there a child in your life that is a people pleaser?

Are they always looking for  approval and recognition?

Do they worry too much about fitting in?

Do they complain that they have no friends?

Do they have trouble taking initiative, even in situations where they have experience and ability?

Young children are often naturally authentic.  They don’t worry about giving the right answer or comparing their efforts to someone else.  In fact, this was one of the things that made teaching lessons in kindergarten so fun and entertaining.  I never knew what students would say in answer to questions.

However at some point, the comparison trap kicks in and children begin to recognize and value the opinions of others. Soon they are worried about saying the right thing, doing the right thing and even wearing the right clothes.  In her excellent book on The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown pinpoints the age that this begins to show up as around fourth grade, although I think it happens much younger. Brown goes on to define authenticity as the daily practice of letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we are.  

Considering authenticity a practice is good news for all of us who have been compulsive people pleasers because it means that being authentic is actually a choice albeit a choice that we must make over and over on a daily basis.  How can we share this information with the children in our lives and encourage a lifetime of authenticity rather than comparison and people pleasing?  Teaching and modeling authenticity is tricky business for sure. Here are some tips:

  • Re-frame mistakes and failure as learning not losing.  Look for the opportunity to learn in every experience.  This helps defeat the need to compare my score or success with yours.
  • Praise the effort and intention behind the work rather than the end result.  Teach children to practice self-talk that  models this so that they can encourage themselves to be authentic even when you are not available to encourage them in this direction. As Brene Brown says, “Talk to yourself as if you were talking to someone you love.”
  • Model authentic behavior as well as a brave attitude when faced with challenges yourself so that you can teach through example as well as words.
  • Use the examples found in the lives of well known people who have followed their own vision and mission rather than conform to the expectations of others.

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Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Friendship

It’s not easy being the new kid at school, especially if you are a cat and everyone else is a dog.  How do you make friends?  Can you even be friends with someone who is totally different from you?  Wyatt the Wonder Dog helps solve Ami’s friendship problem with empathy and compassion. A great story for teaching children the critical life skill of making friends.

Wyatt the Wonder Dog-Friendship Cover (1)

Wyatt Learns about Friendship





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Who do you want to be? Helping children find their voice.

Helping children find their voice and determine who they are at their core has been a task for all generations.  Over the years we have certainly approached it in many different ways. There have been generations that  focused less on who you wanted to be as an adult and more on survival issues such as finding a job and feeling secure.  However, today’s students often have the luxury of envisioning a future where they can discover a career that not only pays the bills but also combines passion and purpose as well.

Nevertheless there are many pitfalls and detours that students can take that will leave them derailed from developing a lifestyle that matches their inner voice.  What are common mistakes?  Here are a few:

  1. They can become too absorbed in tracking other’s opinions rather determining their own.  Peer pressure and friend’s views have always been important but social media has enhanced this to an alarming level.  Every word and picture is up for everyone to like or love and it can become a personal mission to win approval. Finding your voice means turning inward and listening to your personal strengths and abilities, desires and passions not turning outward and tracking what others say.
  2. They can develop an expectation that everything must happen at the speed of light or at least at the speed of the internet connection.  Because we live in a microwave fast world, students can believe that they should be able to determine their life course lickety-split and they tend to give up on situations that don’t measure up quickly.  The days of expecting to pay your dues are gone and while there are some benefits to that, success is still dependent on persistence and determination.  Every opportunity is a chance to learn more about ourselves and what matters but sometimes it takes time to determine the benefits.
  3. They can become dependent on standard methods for finding their voice rather than developing their own path and journey.  While going directly from high school to college is certainly one pathway to exploring career options, there are many more that are not widely recognized.  Certainly not every student needs to or even wants to go to college.  However there is often a lack of support and encouragement to discover alternative paths such as:
    1. taking a year to explore a variety of interests in order to be better focused in academic endeavors
    2. attending a community or trade school
    3. finding an apprenticeship situation
    4. creating their own business through entrepreneurial efforts

How Can We Help?

As educators and parents we can best help children find their voice when we provide opportunities for discovery rather give pat answers.  The world is changing rapidly and students need to learn how to cope and adapt to any situation, not just how to navigate the world as it is today.  That being said many of the best practices are actually old practices useful in our new world.  We can help students:

1. Discover how to use their talents to help others and make the world a better place.

Rather than feeding off the approval of others, students can feel better about themselves when they serve others.  Approval becomes irrelevant when we focus on helping others rather than comparing ourselves to others.

2. Find a cause they can believe in that is bigger than themselves.

We all want to belong somewhere and students benefit when they can find a positive place to fit in.  Belonging to a group or a cause can provide support and encouragement during tough or uncertain times.

3. Develop and reach for personal goals.

Children flourish when they are able to achieve what matters to them.  This is a much better self-esteem builder than hollow affirmations. It also teaches children that accomplishing goals is a process with many steps and an action plan, not something that magically happens because you wish for it.

Yes, its a new and ever-changing world and the best preparation that we can give children is to embrace it with enthusiasm while exploring ways to use their gifts and talents for the betterment of others.

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Wyatt Learns about Giving

It’s almost Christmas and Wyatt the Wonder Dog is wondering how long he will have to wait until the big day and what gifts he will get.  His mother however, has a more important question, “What will you give for Christmas?”  Join Wyatt as he learns a valuable lesson about how anyone can be generous and giving at Christmas and all through the year.  Wyatt_the_Wonder_Dog_Cover_for_Kindle
Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Learns About Giving


One phrase that can change an entitlement mindset

Ever wonder how we could wind up with a whole generation of kids who feel entitled?

Entitled to good grades without having to work and study for them.

Entitled to a spot on the team or in the organization without having to practice and prove themselves.

Entitled to success without having to work for it?

In my last post on grit, I wrote about Angela Duckworth and how she found that students with grit weren’t necessarily the students with the best home environments, the most talent or the highest IQ.  Students who were successful were instead students who combined passion with perseverance.  They applied themselves to the task at hand and they didn’t give up when things got rough or challenging.  Intuitively we all know this.  But sometimes as parents or even educators we want to protect children from the challenges ahead and the disappointment of failure. Ironically this desire can have the opposite effect.

In his book, The Entitlement Cure, Dr. John Townsend addresses the problems that businesses are confronted with due to  the rampant entitlement attitude.  He recommends one phrase that parents can replace in a child’s vocabulary that is guaranteed to change an entitlement mindset.  It’s pretty simple and here it is:  Change “I deserve” to  “I am responsible”.  Here are some examples:

I deserve an A on my test… change to:  I am responsible for  studying and  earning the grade that I get on my test.

I deserve a special position on the team or in the organization I am in… change to:  I am responsible for practicing and earning my place.

I deserve to have the latest video game or name-brand clothes or whatever… change to: I am responsible for taking care of the things I own and earning the right to new things.

I deserve special treatment in any situation… change to:  I am responsible for working diligently and giving it my best, even when things are hard.

Of course, there are healthy “deserves”.  We all deserve basic human rights and care.  The problem comes when we come to believe that we deserve things that we must first earn through applying ourselves with passion and perseverance;  when we forgo grit for comfort and ease.

Neuroscience shows that changing the phrases and the words that we use can change attitudes and changing attitudes can change behavior.  “I deserve” is a dis-empowering phrase;  it encourages passivity and a victim mentality.  “I am responsible” is an empowering phrase;  it encourages action and a leadership mentality.  Let’s teach our kids to be responsible, even when it is hard, so they can look forward to success in their future.

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Six Week Whole hearted group curriculum

3 kids and self discipline

This six week curriculum for grades 3-5 is based on Brene Brown’s book the Gift of Imperfection. Each week includes an intention, a quote, a story to read and discuss and a creative exercise to complete in the weekly journal which is included. Topics include: cultivating compassion and connection, cultivating your authentic voice, cultivating self-compassion, cultivating grit, cultivating gratitude and joy and cultivating intuition and trust. Six lesson plans are also included to apply the lessons in a classroom setting as well.

Wyatt Learns about Giving

It’s almost Christmas and Wyatt the Wonder Dog is wondering how long he will have to wait until the big day and what gifts he will get.  His mother however, has a more important question, “What will you give for Christmas?”  Join Wyatt as he learns a valuable lesson about how anyone can be generous and giving at Christmas and all through the year.  Wyatt_the_Wonder_Dog_Cover_for_Kindle
Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Learns About Giving

Characteristics of a great counselor


I was recently at a luncheon talking with some elementary school principals about school counselors and an evaluation method they are required to complete yearly on school counselors.  The instrument was so complex that they had to attend special training  to learn to use it properly. The evaluation emphasized collecting data in order to  prove the impact and success of the counselor.  One principal commented, “There is so much stress on data collection, the counselor can’t do her job.”

Has technology and data collection taken the heart out of the school counseling system?

In a recent article in Edutopia the question was asked,  What does it mean to be a great teacher?  Interestingly enough, excels at collecting data or has great test scores was not even on the list. While the six characteristics that were listed might be hard to quantify, they are definitely at the heart of teaching.  I’ve modified it a bit for counselors.

Six characteristics of a great counselor

A great counselor is kind–  Modeling and teaching kindness is an important part of every lesson and interaction for the school counselor.  Many counselors encourage random acts of kindness and encourage students to look for opportunities to pay it forward.

A great counselor is compassionate– Counselors are often called to love those students most difficult to understand and love.  Counselors take the time to understand the story behind the behavior and show compassion despite the difficulties.

A great counselor is empathetic– Counselors not only walk in a student’s shoes,  they often carry students when they can’t walk on their own. Counselors are a shoulder to cry on and a hand to lift you up when you are down.

A great counselor is positive-While they don’t ignore the challenges, counselors see what is possible for every student and share that vision with them. They are great encouragers and often believe in students when they don’t yet believe in themselves

A great counselor is a builder– Counselors equip children for the future.  They don’t leave them where they find them but they teach them the tools for becoming the best they can be.  Counselors are relationship builders.  They build relationships among students and adults without regard for age or  status. They model for others the importance of relationships and  how to create positive relationships in their own lives.

A great counselor is inspiring- Counselors inspire with their lessons and their words but they also inspire with their actions.  Counselors give direction to students’s lives and provide the necessary guidance needed to achieve goals that seem impossible.

What would you add as a quality of a great counselor?


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Wyatt’s Little Book of Lesson Plans, Worksheets and Games

Just for you!  Here are activities, lesson plans, discussion questions, coloring sheets, word search puzzles and games for each of the six Wyatt the Wonder Dog Books. A treasure trove of grab ‘n go lessons on cooperation, teamwork and leadership skills to quickly extend and incorporate the Wyatt stories.