Former Shows & Episodes

Growing Great Families

Growing Great Families – What you shouldn’t say to your children

In our travels and work with families we try to tune in to how parents are communicating with their children. At times we just want to hit the pause button and give the parents some feedback on why what they are doing or saying simply won‘t work. Since that is not possible, we decided to summarize the most common declarations of frustrated parents and suggest alternatives ways of approaching a situation. It is important to understand that none of us are perfect and from time to time we might say something to our kids that we regret.
The problem is when we make a habit of these responses and become chronic abusers of things we shouldn’t say. For example, parents will often respond to an upset child, especially a teen, with, “I know how you feel.” On the surface this appears like a caring response. However, most of us believe that what we are feeling is unique to us as an individual and someone else could never really know how we feel. A better response might be, “You really seem upset right now.” The difference is that in the second retort you are validating how the other person is feeling without comparison to yourself. This opens the door for further problem solving with the child rather than being dismissed with, “You are not me, you don’t know how I feel.” Another example is something we hear quite often from frustrated parents, “If you don’t cut it out you will (get a spanking, be grounded for a week or something equally harsh),” The problem is that the parent is probably angry and not thinking clearly and the threats will be difficult to carry out. In addition, the child is learning to continue an inappropriate behavior until the parent makes a threat.
We discuss other common communication mistakes, such as using always and never, telling a child to just get over it or stop crying – big boys don’t cry and telling your child not to hang around with__________. Again we provide alternative strategies to help parents avoid some of the knee jerk responses that really do not lend themselves to sound discipline.

Growing Great Families – Parenting The Exceptional Child

Children who are exceptional, either those with disabilities or those with special gifts present unique challenges for families. Today we are going to spend some time talking about parenting a child with a disability. We will follow up on our next show with parenting a child who is gifted and talented.
We start with defining what we mean by a disability. A condition – either physical, emotional, cognitive – that impairs an individual’s functioning in such a way that accommodations are needed to compete on a level playing field with individuals without a disability. We remind our listeners that the degree of impairment is more important than a label or a diagnosis in assessing the needs of a child with a disability. One must examine an individual’s specific needs based on how well they function in a variety of settings rather than just respond to the name of their disability.
In addition we discuss the similarities and differences of how different disabilities impact on family life. At times, despite the obvious challenges, the purely physical disabilities are easier to accommodate than the hidden disabilities – emotional and cognitive. We point out, for example, that divorce rates among families with a child with a disability may be as high as 80%. In addition, siblings of children with a disability often feel abandoned because of the extra time and energy devoted to their brother or sister with a disability. We hone in on specific parenting practices that help families to manage and thrive despite the fact that there is a child or children with a disability in the family. Following the Family Centered Parenting strategies will help with the caution that there is just a smaller margin of error in implementing the recommended practices. We conclude with a discussion of what makes some families more successful than others – by successful we mean making the most of their abilities rather than being victims of a disability.

Growing Great Families – Kids Harming Themselves: Cutting & Suicide

There are alarming increases in self-injurious behaviors and suicide attempts by teenagers. Today we will attempt to give an overview of the issues and what parents can do to protect their kids. We will show how self-harming behaviors like cutting and suicide attempts are related because they both reflect attempts by teens to cope with emotional overload through self destructive choices.

However, cutting is not a gateway to suicide. Cutters do not articulate that they want to die rather that is their attempt to cope with emotions that they can not express. We share the words of a former cutter who describes how, “Cutting helps relieves stress, to be able to feel something, or to have control.” Shockingly a study in 2006 found that 1 in 5 students at two Ivy League schools say that have purposely injured themselves. These numbers are consistent with what counselors at high schools and middle schools report.

In our discussion about teen suicides we attempt to bust some common myths about teen suicide and offer parents and caregivers concrete suggestions on what they need to look for. One common myth is that talking about suicide with depressed teens may prompt them to kill themselves. This is not true. Actually, most adolescents attempt suicide to call attention to the emotional pain which they are suffering. They want to live. If they receive the help they are asking for they have no need to attempt suicide again. Only one percent of all survivors of suicide attempts kill themselves within one year, only 10 percent within ten years.

We discuss the steps parents can take to protect your children/teens. Most importantly, know your child. Be aware of changes in their moods and plans. Validate what you see and hear before problem solving. Keep the relationship even when disciplining and seek help whenever possible.

We attempt to connect the dots between self-injurious behaviors and teen suicide and show how both are need fulfilling choices. We conclude with some ideas about what is missing in our kids lives and why does life seem so stressful to today’s teens.

Growing Great Families – How well do you know your child’s brain?

We are learning so much about how our children learn and interact with the world from research by neuroscientists that we decided to devote this show to help parents relate this research to everyday parenting. We will be drawing upon a recent book, “Welcome To Your Child’s Brain” for most of what we share. The book is based on current research and authored by two prominent neuroscientists, Dr. Sandra Aamodt and Dr. Sam Wang.

To best frame the information we are going to use a twenty item quiz. You will hear the questions in a multiple choice format and then we will share the correct answer with the thinking behind it. We start with – Which of the following is a good way to get your child to eat his spinach? The possible answers are: a. Cover the spinach in melted cheese. b. Start the meal with few bites of dessert. c. Feed him with soy-based formula as an infant. d. All of the above. e. None of the above. Incredibly the answer is d. All of the above. The reason being is that the child will associate the spinach with a positive taste. This is especially true if we give a sample of the dessert 9 seconds before the spinach or other food that our children may shun.

Another question which pertains to an older child – Which of the following activities is likely to improve a child’s school performance? The possible answers are a. Studying with a friend. b. Listening to music while studying. c. Taking breaks from studying to play video games. d. All of the above. e. None of the above. Surprisingly the answer is c – Taking breaks from studying to play video games. Research has shown that two study sessions with times between them can result in twice as much learning as a single study session of the tame total length. This is called spaced training.

This is just a sample of the breadth of information now available to parents about how learning about our child’s brain can make parenting a more manageable and fulfilling journey. Join us to hear more.

Growing Great Families – Cool Moms – Managing The Challenges of Family Life and Career

As we were thinking about how to acknowledge the start of a new year on our show our thoughts turned to the topic of the New Year’s resolution or intention. Either formally or informally we try to look at the new year as a clean slate, a time to commit to making changes in our lives. Unfortunately, unless we really do it in a systematic way our good intentions tend to fall by the wayside. This is especially true for parents who are feeling overwhelmed and are experiencing a degree of dissatisfaction in the trajectory of their lives. That is why we thought it would be a good idea to invite an individual who has not only lived this journey but has made it her mission to help women make important changes in their journeys.
Nancy Root, founder of Cool Moms Only, is with us to offer guidance on how to find that elusive balance of being a successful parent while achieving one’s professional goals. After working in corporate America for over 25 years while balancing the demands between a professional career and family Nancy likes to say “I am Survivor.” The road is not easy for women today. We have many roles in life; wives, ex-wives, mothers, sisters, sister-in laws, daughters, daughter in-laws, granddaughters, employees, managers, co-workers, business owners, room mothers, community volunteers or organizers, and friends. The list is endless and so is our desire to do it all, be it all, and have it all continues.
Nancy will share her story about why and how she created Cool Moms Only and how Cool Moms Only can be a resource for women to start and stay on the path to fulfill their dreams. We will also discuss with Nancy about what a Cool Dad’s role is in our changing family structure Nancy leaves us with her prescription for a productive life – the four L’s – live, laugh, learn love.

Growing Great Families – 20 Secrets To Growing A Great Family – Part 2

As we think about the coming new year we are going to share more of our suggestions regarding some of the greatest concerns that parents tell us they have raising their children. We begin with a fundamental question, “Is There a difference between discipline and punishment?” Although commonly interchanged there are distinct differences between a punishment approach to child rearing and a discipline approach. A punishment such as a removal of privileges, or a quick spank takes little time for a parent to administer. However, although swift, it tends to diminish the self-respect of the individual receiving it while simultaneously shifting responsibility from the “punishee” to the “punisher.” Discipline is often more challenging and time consuming because of the need to engage in discussion and processing. The only way for a child to truly take responsibility for his behavior and commit to changing that behavior is through dialogue and coaching.

“Isn’t negotiating with a child just an excuse for being a pushover parent?” Many parents get uptight when they hear or read that negotiating with children is a good idea. This reaction is rather surprising when we consider how important negotiating skills are in order to be successful in our personal and work lives. Somehow there is a misperception that negotiating with adults is OK but when we do it with children there is a loss of power. Negotiating is empowering for all parties regardless of their age.

We are often asked “What’s wrong with an occasional spanking when my child misbehaves? My parents did it to me and I turned out OK.” There are very limited times where physical force is appropriate. The price we pay for resorting to violent means to control behavior is great. The most significant consequence is that we are modeling through our behavior that violence is an acceptable way to resolve problems. After the spanking, the event is over. When we use a discipline approach instead, we get to the heart of the misbehavior, and instill individual responsibility that will keep a child from repeating the offense.

We also deal with concerns about relocating, peer influence, managing technology, behavior modification, parenting teens, sharing our mistakes and school concerns.

If you would like a free copy of our “20 Secrets To Growing A Great Family” just email us at

We wish you all a wonderful new year of growing your family great!

Growing Great Families – 20 Secrets To Growing A Great Family – Part 1

As we think about the coming new year we are going to share our suggestions regarding some of the greatest concerns that parents tell us they have raising their children.

We begin with, “How can I get my children to follow rules and do their chores willingly and without reminders?” The most important step is the process followed by the family in establishing rules and chores. Many parenting books simply say parents must make rules and have their children follow them. This approach fails because, to kids, parents making rules without their input often experience those rules as arbitrary and unfair.

“How can I find the time for myself as an individual as well as meeting the needs of my children?” In our typically over scheduled household, the ones who lose out the most are often the parents. Parents should take stock on what they need and work within the family system to figure out how their needs can be met. At times parents need to give themselves permission to back off from some of their child’s activities.

We are often asked, “What can I do to keep my children from using drugs or alcohol?” High-risk behaviors such as substance abuse certainly top the list. Our information-age culture certainly serves to increase the natural anxiety parents experience in their attempt to protect their children from the excesses of behavior that kids are constantly exposed to in the media and in the community. Although we associate these high risk behaviors with adolescence, it is unwise to wait for our children to become teenagers before we begin to discuss these issues within our families. Parents first need to focus on prevention. Prevention involves preparing our children for the choices they will have to make far in advance of the time they will actually have to make those choices.

We also deal with concerns about communication, bullying, positive reinforcement, time outs, conflicts with caregivers, homework and dealing with exceptional children.

If you would like a copy of our “20 Secrets To Growing A Great Family” just email us at

Growing Great Families – Why are they so difficult?

Not surprising, the most frequent questions we get from parents revolve around the parenting of teenagers. The teenage or adolescent years present so many challenges for both the youth and his/her parent it is no wonder why this period of child rearing is so stressful. On a previous show with an adolescent expert, Dr. Judith Kaufman we focused on some of the issues dealing with parenting teens however we might not have paid sufficient attention to what parents can do. We decided to re-visit the topic with a different approach. We start off with a quick summary of what is so unique about development during the adolescent years.

Some of the key points that parents need to be aware of are linked to the overriding theme of adolescence – that is figuring who I am as an individual. To accomplish this necessary step in development teenagers will start to push away from their parents and substitute the opinions of their peers above all else.

In addition, the adolescent brain is also going through changes. For example, the ability to make good decisions about risks and to make plans is part of the Executive Function skill set. Research has demonstrated that during the teen years the part of the brain that controls Executive Function is not fully developed despite the fact that at the same time our teens are achieving independence and are called upon to deal with complex choices including coping with body changes and their sexuality.

Our recommendations for parents start with effective communication principles. Communication is how we build and maintain relationships and parents of teens need to be very mindful of how they communicate with their children in order to be there for them during this stressful period of development. We highlight and illustrate how validating what we hear and see in our children’s behavior coupled with active listening skills insures that we keep the communication door wide open with our adolescents.

Growing Great Families – Protecting Your Kids From Sexual Predators

The Penn. State tragedy has certainly brought the issue of sexual exploitation of children back on the front page. Much has been written and discussed in the media and the internet about the horrific acts of the former coach. It also reminds us about past reports of similar activities by members of the clergy and others in position of authority.

Since our focus is parenting, we will devote this week’s show to what parents can do to protect their children from sexual predators. In addition to sharing some factual information about sexual predators we have invited Dr. Ed Adams, a clinical psychologist who has done extensive counseling with adults who were victimized as children, to share his insights on understanding the dynamics of sexual abuse.

We also offer parents important information that helps frame the discussion by utilizing the format of a true false quiz. The quiz highlights how much of what we think about sexual assault and sex offenders has been based on the myths we have all heard. For example, many parents only teach their children to be careful around strangers because they believe that most men who commit sexual offenses do not know their victim. However, the facts are that 90% of child victims know their offender, with almost half of the offenders being a family member. Of sexual assaults against people age 12 and up, approximately 80% of the victims know the offender. Another myth that is dispelled is that most child sexual abusers use physical force or threat to gain compliance from their victims. The reality is that in the majority of cases abusers gain access to their victims through deception and enticement, seldom using force. Abuse typically occurs within a long-term, ongoing relationship between the offender and victim and escalates over time.

We close the show with practical tips for parents. Educate your children about protecting themselves without making them fearful of adults, listen with your eyes as well as your ears to what your children are experiencing and, most importantly, help your child develop a positive sense of themselves and their connection to the family.

Growing Great Families – It’s Mid Year — How is your son/daughter doing in school?

In our show at the beginning of the school year we talked about what parents need to do to prepare for the school year. The school year is nearing half way and for many children the work has become more difficult and problems are becoming apparent. This is a particularly critical time for parents to get involved before problems become overwhelming and the school year comes to an end. Children who do not receive the reinforcement of good grades and recognition by their teachers for positive performance often seek negative attention and develop a self image as someone who is not able to learn.
Learning is about taking risks. If someone does not have confidence in their ability to learn they will stop trying in order to avoid failure. We discuss what a parent should look for that there are problems when they are not getting negative reports from the school. Comments from kids like, “school is boring” or “my teacher doesn’t like me” are not to be taken at face value and usually are indicative of difficulties with learning. In addition, parents should pay attention to changes in mood or increases in requests to stay home from school because of illness. These can also be signs of school issues.
We talk about what parents should do and differentiate between a child already deemed eligible for special education and one who is experiencing learning problems for the first time. Parents who already have an IEP or 504 plan should make sure that these learning contracts are being properly implemented and arrange a meeting to discuss changes if academic and behavioral goals are not being met. If your child has not been classified as needing special education and is experiencing learning issues, it is essential that you contact your child’s teacher(s) and arrange a face to face conference if possible. Share your concerns, and seek responses from the teacher. Agree upon some short term goals and plan a follow up conference. It is important for the parent to take notes that would be useful if the parent needs to go beyond the teacher and contact a supervisor of principal.
We close the show with a discussion about getting kids to do their homework – often a battleground issue in many families.