All posts by Tracy

14 Sep


brain with gears edited

I am on fire about a new class I am offering! This is a four-week class for a parent and child to take together. Each week a new gear (or tool) is taught that will enable class members to shift gears into a growth mindset in bold, life-changing, relationship-building ways. We will learn through stories, games, hands-on activities, and at-home experiences that will revolutionize your relationship with yourself and with each other. Build a better, stronger YOU while shifting the dynamics of your family. You will leave this class with an improved perspective of yourself, a broader vision of possibilities, and proven tools to set and achieve your goals.

You will learn:

  • Growth mindset vs. fixed mindset
  • The power of yet
  • Goal setting and how to actually follow through and achieve them
  • Brain training tools
  • Perspectacles 101
  • The power of story to build resilience
  • Grit

Registration: $100 per parent-child team. The second parent comes for free! Additional children are $50. The next session will be held October 3, 10, 17, & 24 from 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. at The Venue in Rigby, Idaho and is geared for ages 9-12. Contact Tracy if you have questions or would like more information. To reserve your spot in this session, please complete this form.

18 Jul

The Decisive Element

When I learned of Haim Ginott’s work while studying Developmental Psychology, my heart was changed – my perspective on childhood, human relationships, and the possibilities of family life transformed forever. His words filled me with hope, beauty, and a sense of rightness I can’t quite explain in words, only feel them and hope others feel them too.

“I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration, I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanized or de-humanized. If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.”

― Haim G. Ginott, Teacher and Child: A Book for Parents and Teachers

I am grateful for the people who have treated me as I ought to be and have helped me become who I am today. Their behavior towards me and their vision of who I truly was under all the mess I presented to the world showed me the path I could choose to walk. I am living proof that empathy, connection, respect, and listening work. They saved my life and can bless and save the lives of those in your keeping as well.

Note: How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk is based on the work of Haim Ginott. Along with Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, H. Wallace Goddard is another of Haim’s students who has done much to spread the influence of Dr. Ginott.

17 Jul

Show Them How To Make Amends


How To Talk So Children Can Listen & Listen So Children Can Talk presents seven alternatives to punishment that teach children what they should be doing instead of throwing the book at them for what they did do, which often turns a child’s heart to anger and revenge, exactly opposite of the connection and learning we want to occur.

One of those alternatives is showing how to make amends. In our home, each person is given one towel. It is their towel for bathing, swimming. I make sure it gets washed at least once a week, more often if it gets dirty or is taken to the lake. The children’s responsibility is to hang their towel on their hook after they shower, put it on the washer after they go swimming, and let me know if there is a problem with their towel – got throw up on it, food spilled, etc. Just yesterday we went to the lake and one of my children couldn’t find her towel. She looked and looked and looked, but couldn’t find it. I have extra towels for guests when they come, so I let her bring one of those, and told her, “This towel will cost you fifty cents since I will have to do extra work to wash it. Would you like to pay for it or would you rather go without a towel?” She decided to pay me for the use of the towel and we all enjoyed a pleasant day at the lake.

On one of my not-so-stellar parenting days, I might have said “What do you mean you can’t find your towel! You will have to stay home!” or “Well, you’ll just have to freeze at the lake – serves you right for losing it!”

Instead, I offered her a way to make amends. She can fix this situation by paying me fifty cents to use an extra towel. Her hope is not lost, she doesn’t need to move into a place of rage against me, and we all get to walk out the door happy and connected.

Another example is when a child breaks something. Instead of doling out a punishment, we can offer a way for her to fix it. She can either do the work of repairing the broken item or can do the work to earn the money to pay someone else to repair it.

Situation: child leaves dad’s hammer out in yard instead of returning it the garage.

Dad: Here is some steel wool. It will take some scrubbing to get the rust off, but you can do it. When you’re finished, here is some oil to rub on it to help protect it in the future.

Child: I’ll take care of it right now.

Contrast that with a common scenario:

Dad: I can’t believe you left my hammer out in the rain! It is covered in rust! Don’t even think about using my tools again. You can go sit in your room and think about your behavior while you are grounded for the next week!

Child stomping off in a huff: Fine! You can keep your blasted tools! Why would I want to use them anyway!

The first situation builds connection between the father and child. It allows the child to make restitution and doesn’t label the child as irresponsible. It allows for problem-solving and keeps hope intact. The second situation harms connection and puts the child in a place of hopelessness. There isn’t any obvious way to fix the problem and being grounded will allow feelings of anger to fester until the next time a disagreement occurs.

Making amends is a powerful tool for healing – on the part of the child and the parent. Being able to repair what you have done heals not only the heart of the one in error, but those around them as well.

17 Jul

Describe What You See


Praise is a two-edged sword. It encourages, builds, and affirms while at the same time it can create anxiety, be experienced as manipulation, or create doubt in the credibility of the praiser.

We can learn how to use praise effectively to build connection with our children’s hearts and affirm what’s right about them. Let’s start with the skill “Describe What You See”.

Many times when we want to respond to a child’s efforts we gush with accolades about how wonderful the product is. We evaluate the product’s worthiness. A different way of praising effort is to describe what we see.

When I teach gymnastics to children, I love to fill up their souls with encouragement. It is deeply important to me that the children in my classes walk away feeling good about their attempts to figure out how move their body in new ways. Here are some examples of different approaches to fill their souls:

Me: Wow! Fabulous cartwheel!


Me: I saw straight legs, pointed toes, and you finished with your arms in the air. Way to go!

In the second example, the child is hearing exactly what s/he did right, not just an exclamation of praise s/he can pat themselves on the back with without a further thought or discount my words because s/he knows the cartwheel was crooked or had a bent arm or something. The description gives them concrete information and turns on the thinking part of their brain, not just the emotion part.

If a child shows me a painting, I can say “It’s amazing!” with all manner of excitement and praise in my voice or I can describe what I see, “I see red and green and lot’s of blue. Tell me about the blue.” or “I see a house and a dog and a big, sky across the top.” This approach allows a child to share his/her creation without being subjected to my evaluation.

If a child has cleaned their room, I can evaluate and tell them what they did right and what they did wrong, which often starts an argument about how nothing s/he does is ever good enough or how my cleaning standards are too high or some other pointless argument that diminishes connection and often gets my ire up. Instead, I can describe what I see, “I see a lot of work has been going on in here. The shoes are in their holder, the books are on the shelves, and every single toy has been put away. It’s lovely to walk into this room.” At this point, if there is more that needs done, I can add “It looks like your bedding just needs to be taken to the washer and you will be done! Would you like to share some lemonade when you finish?”

The two keys to helpful praise are:

1. The adult describes with appreciation what he or she sees or feels.

2. The child, after hearing the description, is then able to praise himself.

Children don’t need us to tell them how beautiful, amazing, and good their work is, they need us to be part of the journey, to share their joy in the process, and to provide concrete feedback that helps them praise themselves.

17 Jul

Listen With Full Attention


One of the most challenging aspects of being human is dealing with and processing our wide-range of emotions. I think it is even more challenging to help someone else deal with and process their wide-range of emotions – especially when that person does not have the skills or life-experiences of an adult.

How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk (HTTSKWL&LSKWT) provides an entire section on “Helping Children Deal with Feelings” which is hugely beneficial in navigating the roller-coaster ride of emotions.

HTTSKWL&LSKWT is based on the work of Haim Ginott, a clinical psychologist, child therapist, parent educator, and author whose work has had a substantial impact on the way adults relate to children. At the heart of Ginott’s method is the recognition that denying feelings makes them more intense and confused. By contrast, the acknowledgment of feelings allows people to heal and consequently become better problem solvers.

Many of us are in the habit of denying feelings. We often argue with someone, insisting s/he doesn’t really feel the way they are saying they are feeling. Here are some examples:

Child: I hate this game!

Adult: Oh, honey, you don’t hate it. You played it yesterday with Sarah and had a great time. How can you say you hate it?

Most of the time this type of response shuts down further communication about the subject. The child won’t tell the adult what is really going on with the game because he/she feels unheard.

Here is an adult example:

Adult 1: Oh my goodness, I had the hardest day today! I had the slowest checker on the planet, the kids were whining in the checkout lane, then my bag split open and my apples rolled all over the parking lot. To top it all off, someone yelled at me when they slipped on one of the apples!

Adult 2: Take my advice, don’t go to the grocery store in the afternoon. Everyone knows the lines are longest then. And why would you take your children? That is a recipe for disaster right there. The way to solve your apple problem is with durable, resuable shopping bags – they don’t break like those cheap store bags.

Do you think Adult 1 feels heard? Or understood? Do you think she will talk openly to Adult 2 the next time she has a difficult day? Probably not.

When we don’t feel heard, we generally do one of two things, shut down or argue our position even more emphatically. When our initial statement hasn’t been accepted as valid, it is really difficult to move into healing mode or problem-solving mode which is where we really need to be to progress.

A skill that builds connection and helps others deal with their feelings is to listen with full attention. Really being present in the moment with them and allowing them to state their feelings is powerful. Many times all any of us need is to be heard. We don’t need advice or fixing or dismissal, we need listened to with a full heart. Our children need the same thing.

Here is one of my favorite depictions of the fixing mentality.

If listening with full attention isn’t a common practice for you, start small. Set a goal to listen with your whole heart and mind for one entire conversation with your child each day. Then build up your attention span and your connection abilities one conversation at a time.

23 Jun

Say It With A Word


There are many powerful principles and effective skills in How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk. One of my favorite techniques is “Say It With A Word” because it stops me from going on and on AND ON about something that needs taken care of in our home. Children don’t want or need to hear a lecture every time something needs done and most children quickly learn to tune out those very lectures parents hope will reform children’s behavior.

Many times we can bypass the lecture and say one or two words to get our point across in a way children will actually hear AND respond to. Take these two examples:

“I’ve been asking and asking you kids to get into pajamas and all you’ve been doing is clowning around. You agreed that before you watch TV you’d be in pajamas and I don’t see a sign of anyone doing anything about it!”

versus this short and sweet reminder:

“Kids, pajamas!

Or how about this contrast:

“You promised before we got a dog that you would feed him every day. Now this is the third time I’ve had to remind you this week and I’m getting sick and tired of it. Mom and I take our turns and it’s not fair that we have the whole burden.”

versus a simple reminder:

“Billy, the DOG.”

In my home, we have a problem with lights being left on and I am often tempted (and sometimes give in to the lecture seduction) to talk about the cost of electricity and the free power of the sun and on and on and on, but when I simpy say “lights” the effect is much more powerful. Instead of eye-rolling, stomping, and hard feelings, the lights are quickly turned off and our day goes forward with little interruption.

Children dislike hearing lectures, sermons, and long explanations. Don’t let those lecture demons ensnare you, just say it with a word.

20 Jun


Welcome to Raise Your Joys! I am tickled pink to finally bring this dream to life. I have been teaching a wide variety of childbirth, parenting, and education classes for the past 18 years and now I am creating a place online where parents can come and we can learn together.

Raise Your Joys has three meanings:

1. Most of us can use more joy in our lives. One of the best ways to do that is by improving the relationships in our homes. As we learn and implement effective communication techniques that honor our children’s feelings and agency, our children will respond by being more pleasant to be around, more willing to try new things, and less likely to cause contention.

2. I believe parenting happens best when parents make an active decision to raise their children…their joys…instead of letting life happen and children are left to grow up without those conscious choices of parents. There are thousands of decisions to be made as parents and making those decisions, not just going with the flow of what others are doing is a beautiful approach to actually raising your children.

3. “Raise your joys and triumphs high!” is a line from the famous hymn, Christ The Lord is Risen Today by Charles Wesley. My daughter is named after Charles’ mother, Susannah Annesley, an excellent mother who taught her children in both academics and religion.