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Parenting the Strong Willed Child

Having a strong willed child is not a bad thing, it’s actually a positive trait!

How to Help Kids Mask Up

How to Help Kids Mask Up

By Parenting the Strong Willed Child
How to Help Kids Mask Up

Do as I say, not as I do”, and other convenient old-school parenting sayings might come in handy right about now…now that we need kids to continue wearing masks, even though many people have decided to ditch theirs.

With the recent surge in Covid cases, we find ourselves in a precarious situation as we enter the new 2021 school year. Many believe that the current state of the pandemic may be even worse and more divisive than the last year and a half when we were all on the same team fighting the war: People vs. The Pandemic.

Kids of 2021 know they have rights. I doubt many of you remember the show from the 1980s, Kids Are People Too? (I spent A LOT of time on the couch as a kid…good for you if you were actually playing outside.) Nowadays, kids are treated like people too AND, we need them to understand that even though they are “people too”, the rules for other people may be different than the rules for them… especially when the other people are vaccinated.

You may find yourself yearning for yesteryear – a time of, “Because I said so. Case closed.” It would be SO much easier if these empowered little people, growing up during a deadly health crisis, would just stop arguing and put on their freaking masks. Sigh.

And since kids learn by our example rather than by what we tell them to do without doing ourselves, be prepared to be called out by the obvious hypocrisy.

Your kids may ask why they are required to follow different rules than their grownups or older sibs, “why should I wear a mask?” they ask. When it’s a matter of health and safety, it can feel extra exhausting to go round and round with them. These progressive little humans, raised with voices and worthiness, are making life very inconvenient for us by questioning the validity of the mask rules when other people are choosing to go maskless. I think it makes sense that they might push back about following rules that many people have decided are now arbitrary.

To avoid unnecessary power struggles and mask drama, here is my guidance when it comes to navigating this issue with your kids:

The 3 Step Productive Convo with Kids About Masking Up: 

1. See Their Perspective – I think I can speak for most of us when I say we crave fairness and are incensed by injustice. Personally, I will immediately see red and become defensive when someone imposes a rule on me that they, themselves, choose not to follow. I highly doubt I’m alone on this. Our kids are no different. Therefore, begin the conversation by seeing your child’s perspective rather than attempting to parent with controlling methods or justifying why the rules only apply to them. This will allow you to work together, create a plan and diffuse potential mask drama.

  • The different rules for kids when it comes to wearing masks doesn’t seem very fair, huh? You’re probably sick of wearing a mask and now with so many vaccinated people not wearing masks, maybe it doesn’t seem fair that kids are still required to wear uncomfortable masks? It might seem like we should all just continue wearing masks until everyone is vaccinated. Do you feel okay about wearing a mask to keep yourself safe from the virus regardless of whether other people are masked or not? What are your thoughts on this?”

2.Actively Listen – Listening and really hearing another person is one of the most loving and generous acts. All humans seek validation…we want to feel seen and know that we matter. When you actively listen to your child, they will feel connected and much more likely to problem solve rather than argue and power struggle. Active listening requires attention, presence, and mirroring. This step does not involve your words of wisdom or teaching about the vaccine or mask rules. Simply listen attentively, reflect and mirror back in your tone and facial expression that you really hear their words and their message.

  • You’re sick of wearing a mask. It does feel unfair even though you understand it’s for your health. Ya, makes sense. I get it. This pandemic has gone on for way too long. You’re. Over. It.

3.Problem Solve Together – Collaborative problem solving creates a team or “we” mentality rather than one involving “me vs. you”. Begin this step by asking “what” and “how” questions to encourage your child to be the leader on their mask plan. This will empower them to take ownership of the choice to keep themselves safe and mask up!

  • What will you do if you are in a public place and other people aren’t wearing masks?” “How can I help you remember to bring a mask before you leave the house?” “What do you think our plan should be to make sure you always have a mask available?

“What we focus on grows”, so remember to end the conversation with hugs and “atta boys”. Letting your kids know how responsible they are for always wearing a mask, continuing to be patient during such a “less than awesome time” and keeping their bodies safe and healthy can really go a long way in building your connection and ensuring cooperative behavior.

Kids are smart and resilient and when we communicate with them in respectful ways that treat them as people too, they buy-in. You got this!

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by Randi Rubenstein
Parenting Involves Lots of Judgment Calls

Parenting Involves Lots of Judgement Calls

By Kids Using Technology, Parenting the Strong Willed Child
parenting involves judgement calls

I walked by and noticed Cory watching videos on his computer in our game room. Don’t get nervous…I didn’t bust him with porn or anything inappropriate. I think the videos were of other boys playing the video game that he likes to play. It seems boring to watch someone else playing video games but apparently, it’s normal these days. THESE. Days.
In our family, the kids have a set amount of tech time allotted each day. Our system is for Cory to keep track of his time by using the timer on his phone because, as we know…the minutes become hours become days in that Youtube, XBOX, TiKTok rabbit hole. Right?

And the rule is: No timer counting down, no more time on screens for the day.

I asked if his timer was set? He said no.

My immediate thought was probably, “Dammit. Now I have to spend energy on this shit.” Plus, it’s so hard to enforce consequences with a kid like Cory because he’s really such a delightful little person the majority of the time, and therefore, it’s easy to justify why it’s okay to let the rule-breaking slide.

Cory is also our baby, and we’ve been parenting for like a million years. And the discipline thing is the genuinely exhausting part, and we’re rather tired.

But I love the Cor too much not to suck it up and do the suckiest part of parenting. So, I FOLLOWED THRU with the consequences (established ahead of time, btw…a consequence introduced the first time in the heat of the moment is not a consequence and not how to make your kids listen. It’s a punishment). I told Cory that tomorrow would be a new day, and he could try again to follow the rules and enjoy his tech time.

He argued. He begged. He made a decent argument, but I won’t bore you with those details. AND I told him that tomorrow and beyond, he’d remember to use the timer because of losing his privileges tonight. It will significantly affect his brain, and he’ll remember, and that’s the goal: self-monitoring himself on screens over the long haul.

He wasn’t happy. It was tense. He was muttering under his breath and maybe even a little teary (oy, it kills me when this particular sweet baby is weepy).

I walked away and left it.

About 10 minutes later, he calmly asked if he could watch a cartoon in my bed on the old-fashioned thing mounted on the wall… also known by us “boomers” as a television.

You may be surprised by my answer to his cartoon request. I said yes. It was an in-the-moment judgment call.

It was my way of compromising. As we watched, he laid next to me, and there may have even been a little hand-holding – our non-verbal way to say we had let go of the unpleasantness from the consequence convo. Plus, his dad and sister ended up watching too, and it became my favorite thing, a family bed party. I gave an inch without worrying he’d try to take a mile. I chose to feel connected rather than confused about my parenting rules.

I share this with you because I want you to know that parenting involves lots of judgment calls. You know your kid best; these things are not always black and white. AND Cory is not a black and white thinker. I knew I could follow through and compromise, and he’d still get the lesson.

Parenting judgment calls lead back to your main intention. My main purpose is to help my kids grow up feeling healthy and whole and navigate the big world. The tech boundaries put in place are to help him learn that boundaries around technology are important to keep tech in check. I made a judgment call to connect over cartoons surrounded by family during his break from his preferred tech time…until he has a chance tomorrow to hole upon his device again. Sigh.

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by Randi Rubenstein
Let's Talk about Boundaries

Let’s Talk About Boundaries…

By Parenting the Strong Willed Child
Let's Talk about Boundaries

This topic is relevant to anyone who struggles with pack leadership, wishy washy follow thru, camp counselor mom who turns into yelling and shaming mom.

We had a conversation a few days ago in my parenting group about women and why boundaries are so hard for so many of us.

And when boundaries aren’t so hard, meaning you ask unapologetically for what you want, you’re assigned a negative label like bitch, selfish, self absorbed, narcissist.

I do think there’s a balance. I think all healthy relationships involve compromise or I guess I should say I’m learning these things…because remember, I’m doing this work too and definitely don’t have all the answers.


Asking for the things we want to happen.

Stating our rules. Our non-negotiables.

Making clear what we stand for and what we WON’T stand for.

Boundaries are often met with resistance and discontent from others.

And this is totally normal. Of course other people might not be thrilled about our boundaries. It inconveniences them if they had other ideas about what they’d like to happen in that moment or re: that thing.

Do you remember being happy as a kid when you wanted to run around the lunch room or a restaurant and the grown ups would not have it.

Kids weren’t designed to dine. They were designed to run and play.

However, you learned at some point what the boundaries were around meal time. Somehow every kid in that lunch room clearly understood those boundaries and managed to adhere to the rules and ultimately manage their bodies and stay seated.

Effective boundary setting is a big part of pack leadership.

It helps kids feel safe b/c it takes the constant uncertainty outta the equation, especially when established without shame, guilt or yelling.

Why is it so hard to allow our kids and the people we love to experience discomfort? Why do we rescue? Why is it so uncomfortable for us?

This. Is. The. Work.

And how often are we rescuing and sorta pissed about it? I promise this creeps into your relationships and creates resentment and friction.

Martyr-hood is FAR from sainthood. Don’t fool yourself that just b/c you’re doing all the things and putting yourself last on your list that you’ll be celebrated.

I promise you do a lot of the things with a little bit of a jerky attitude and your people feel that and end up resenting you for it!

And if you think you unapologetically speak up and have been mislabeled as selfish, check yourself too.

Are you in a pattern where you just want more more more time to yourself and you have a hard time just chillin’ with your family?

There’s possibly guilt and shame on the scene for you about the time you do spend on yourself and this precludes your mind from relaxing and truly being present during the little moments with your kids.

And like martyhood, that’s exhausting too!

When we resist doing every little thing or constantly saving the day, our people (and pets, Aryn:), learn better coping skills to manage their own discomfort.

When we rescue and do all the things, we enable, coddle and foster codependency.

Never. Healthy…

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Punishment's is Really Parent Bullying

Punishment is Really Parent Bullying

By Parenting the Strong Willed Child
Punishment's is Really Parent Bullying

Many of us silently speak to ourselves when we make a mistake using harsh words.

“I’m such an idiot” or “That was so stupid.”

That negative inner dialogue is a part of our programming. It comes from the belief that we were bad or naughty when we made a mistake as a kid.

That is what kids conclude when you stick them in a corner or hit them. One hurts emotionally and one hurts physically.

Why on earth would a child trust the person who hurts them?

Of course, some teens that are raised with this method retaliate by shutting us out, lying or worse.

Others just take part in LOTS of risky behavior. I’ve even seen a wave of parents who permit or even JOIN them – yup, partying together, as a way to finally bond. Pretty effed up.

One of my amazing Mastermind Mamas shared an article with me knowing that I’d love it.

The article talked about the effects of early childhood punishment on the all too common distant or combative parent teenage relationship.

Punishment is really parent bullying in my opinion. Consequences when used CORRECTLY are the much better replacement to help a child learn an important lesson.

Unfortunately most parents are still attempting to control their kids with old school punishment while slapping the term consequences on it.

Just bc you name a cat “Dog” and every time you call it, you say here “doggy doggy” won’t make that cat a dog.

It will always be a cat regardless of it’s name. A “consequence” that involves fear or physical pain is a punishment.

Punishment may shut something down in the moment but doesn’t teach a child to improve future behavior.

It teaches them to lie to you, not to trust you and to speak unkindly to themselves silently.

Getting curious about what’s at the root of the “big feelings” when the little people act out rather than hitting or banishing them, is the only HUMANE way to begin to help a child.

We have to get underneath the behavior to help our kids improve it without negatively impacting them long term on the inside.

Bottom line: Our world has changed. There’s a better way to raise kids that supports them in becoming healthy, happy and successful. AND it doesn’t cause them to hate you or themselves.

I want it for all the little people shoved in corners out there.

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by Randi Rubenstein
Let's Discuss Parenting The Teenagers

Let’s Discuss Parenting The TEENAGERS!?!

By Parenting the Strong Willed Child No Comments
Let's Discuss Parenting The Teenagers

Click play to learn more about Mastermind Parenting Teenager program.

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The Story Beneath the Surface

The Story Beneath the Surface

By Parenting the Strong Willed Child No Comments
The Story Beneath the Surface

Recently, I was chatting with one of my best friends.

My friend made a simple comment that really fired me up.

She said, “Oh while you’re probably writing a book and helping with world peace, I’m over here wasting my day away with hair and eyelash appointments”.

Sidenote: Her glam eyelashes make her look and feel like a movie star – truly fab!

And she likes to wear her naturally curly hair straightened – no small feat in humid Houston, Texas!

So basically, my friend was caught up in what I like to call, the story of “compare and despair”.

Within this story, our words are never kind and loving to ourselves.

In fact, in this story we are both the hero and the villain.

And guess who always wins the compare and despair battle?

You guessed it…the villain of unworthiness.

I. Was. Not. Having. It.

You see, my friend may look like she’s living a life of hair and eyelash appointments…

But I know the “behind the scenes” real story of her life.

My dear friend’s mom passed away far too young, at the age of 56.

My friend took a sabbatical from college to come home and be with her mama.

They spent that last month of her mom’s life lying side by side in bed…mostly just talking.

My friend’s final memories with her mom involve warmth, presence and REAL convos.

They laughed. They cried. They spent that month loving each other.

My friend promised herself that when she became a mom, every day with her own kids, would be like that last month with her mom.

Her kids are now 16 and 19.

They are the kids we all wanna raise – kind, respectful and beautiful people.

They adore their sweet mom.

My friend shows up with true presence and unconditional love in all of her most important relationships.

She experienced every kid’s biggest fear…losing your mom.

It changed her I’m sure.

She has never taken a day with her kids for granted because of her loss.

So yes, she may spend some of her time lunching, hair straightening and eye lashing.

However, my friend is anything but superficial.

Because when you’re raising and shaping people with unconditional love and support, you are CHANGING. THE. WORLD.

Click here to join the conversation and community over on FB

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the importance of rituals

The Importance of Rituals

By Parenting the Strong Willed Child
The Importance of Rituals

This beautiful bday ritual belongs to my dear lifelong friend and amazing Daddy, Jason Buchman

When you think back on your childhood, what memories typically stand out?

A special birthday dinner where your mom made your favorite dish?

Mine was my mom’s world famous chicken and eggplant parm.

My mom and dad had Italian neighbors when they were newlyweds and the two women taught each other how to make their favorite cultural delicacies.

I think my mom taught the Italian mama how to make chicken and matzoh ball soup.

Even the story behind my mom’s amazing Italian dishes was a part of the bday ritual.

Special rituals can add up to a lifetime of rich memories.

It might be a religious holiday tradition A nightly dinner ritual where everyone has their “assigned” seats A special Christmas cookie you bake with your kids or even better, have grandma bake with your kids:)A weekly or monthly family meeting followed by a fun family activity. A birthday tradition involving a special meal out or in A conversational question around the dinner table where everyone shares a fun fact about their day.

You can’t do it all.

Choose a few special rituals that feel fun for YOU.

Your kids will feel your enthusiasm, so do something that you enjoy too.

Rituals help tie the days, months and years together that without special rituals can often seem rather ordinary and uneventful in real time.

I promise that the extraordinary happens during the ordinary moments.

Ritualistic memories simply help you realize how beautiful your life has been raising your kids when you reflect back years from now.

Because years from now will be here in about a minute.

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3 Top Tips for Navigating Girl World

3 Top Tips for Navigating Girl World

By Parenting the Strong Willed Child
3 Top Tips for Navigating Girl World

Do you remember that exact moment when you found out you were pregnant with your daughter? I sure do.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love love love my boys.

However, I have to admit that the mother daughter bond is different.

And I know it sounds like crazy town, but shortly after the bills were paid from the initial pink shopping spree,  I secretly began to worry about the mean girl years down the road.

I even read the book Reviving Ophelia  and Queen Bees and Wannabes while I was still pregnant with my now 17 year old daughter.

Without realizing it, I was already researching how to protect my  baby girl from the “Girl World” years ahead.

And the truth is,  I think we’re all kidding ourselves if we don’t admit that “Girl World” never truly goes away.

I think this is why it’s so incredibly triggering for us as girl moms. Navigating “Girl World” is painful business at every age.

Soooo, here are my Top 3 Tips for Navigating Girl World To Come Out On Top:

1. Listen Instead of Fixin’

If your daughter is the unlucky recipient of the girl drama this week, I want you to begin supporting her by taping your mouth shut.  You heard me Mama…check yourself and zip it.  Allow your girl to say or not say whatever is on her mind. Sit with her. Hold her hand. Rub her arm. Just be. This is called “holding space”. Nothing feels more generous and loving than when someone does this for you when you’re upset.

Instead of asking questions, I want you to say VERY little. If your daughter spills the beans and gives you the scoop, simply listen and reflect back her own words. Offer NO advice or possible theories in an attempt to “happy her up” or fix the situation. Be upset. Be angry. But mostly just BE.

2. Say Yes to the Invitation

You’re probably going to want to punch me in the face for saying this. Okay, here goes. This is actually the time to clean up your  old “Girl World” wounds.

Anytime we find ourselves “seeing red” about the party our daughter wasn’t invited to or the frenemy that talked behind her back, it’s truly an invitation for more self awareness (even though we may secretly want to hunt that little creep down along with her super creepy  mother.)

Trust me, I get it. Really I do. However, it will help your daughter way more if you do the emotional adult thing right now. Sigh.

So think back to a time when you experienced being excluded or had your feelings hurt by another girl? I want you to really “go there” in your mind and relive it. It will help you in the next step.

3.  Connect rather than Direct

When  your daughter feels like you  truly “get” it, she will feel more connected to you than ever before. So go “there” with her.

Share YOUR story rather than asking her questions like, “Well who was invited? Did you do something to upset her?” And for the love of God, please hear me on this…DO NOT CALL THE OTHER MOM.

Ya, those questions and overstepping  will result in your daughter feeling even worse. She will worry that you’re worried and will feel like a loser.  This will probably cause her to keep secrets and shut you out. I bet you already know this. Don’t worry, we’ve all done it.

Put all of your energy into connecting with her and sharing similar stories of yuckiness. Tell her your version of queen bee “Beth Ann Hewlett” from 7th grade as well as that embarrassing story from last week when you were the only one excluded from so and so’s 40th birthday lunch – even though she actually sucks and you wouldn’t have gone anyway, it still left you with a pang in your tummy.

Sit in the metaphorical mud next to your girl. Focusing on connecting rather than “directing”  is what your sweet girl needs.

Let her know she’s not alone.

When you communicate with your daughter from a place of empathy, you will both not only get through these years, you will grow stronger together. By following these 3 steps, Listen Instead of Fixin’, Say Yes to the Invitation and Connect Rather than Direct, you’re able to handle any mean girl situation thrown your way. You guys will use this to grow even closer and will feel more connected than ever.

Connection is also a HUGE confidence builder and guess what…mean girls usually leave the confident ones alone. Connection and confidence will protect your girl on the front lines of Girl World.

Only. Every. Single. Time.

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who's raising the mean kid?

Who’s raising the mean kid?

By Parenting the Strong Willed Child
Whos raising the mean kid

You know THAT kid.

The one who says sh!t that hurts your kid’s feelings.

It’s so hard to understand mean behavior.

Especially when your kid gets blasted in the crossfire.

I mean…we don’t want to think of the mean kid as an actual child.

It comes so much easier to think of that 9 year old as a little sociopath.

We go to all sorts of places in our mind that no mature adult wants to admit.

It’s like that scene in This Is 40 when Leslie Mann tells off Melissa McCarthy’s 12 yr old son for cyber bullying her daughter.

I loved that scene. I’ve dreamt of that scene many times.

When some kid tells my son he sucks at soccer. Or when my daughter gets the shaft from a friend that no longer thinks she’s cool this week.

I wanna give those little turds a piece of my mind the way Leslie did.

But when I calm the eff down and get back into my thinking brain, I remember all the things.

The theories backed by science and child development research that I’ve learned over the last 20 years.

“Kids do well if they can.” ~Dr. Ross GreeneScreen Shot 2018-09-07 at 3.13.31 PM.png

Mean kids that hurt other kids, feel hurt inside themselves.

As I’ve told my kids time and time again…happy people don’t spread misery.

Mean behavior is a sign of inner misery.

Someone in pain.

Knowing this helps take mean behavior impersonally.

And eventually compassion takes over.

You gotta be pretty self aware and frankly, healthy, to find compassion for someone that behaves like an a-hole towards you.

This goes for parents too.

When we learn to see “mean” or strong willed  behavior in our kids as their inner reflection rather than making it about us…

Empathy and healing happen.

This. Is. The. Solution.

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Kids are more alive outside

Kids are More Alive…Outside

By Parenting the Strong Willed Child
Kids are more alive outside

This spring, we went on a family ski vacation in Colorado where the days were sunny, the snow was fluffy and the smell of marijuana was plentiful. Oh Colorado…why have you made being the parent of a teenager even harder. And more importantly, why didn’t you pass this law thirty years ago? I’m sort of just kidding.

In our regular life, my family lives in the concrete jungle of Houston Texas. Houston earned the fattest city in America title a few years back. Impressive, right?

No, Houston doesn’t have a multimillion dollar ad campaign, (that I know of), attracting the couch potatoes of the world. It can be difficult to be active in a fresh air sort of way in H-town.

The weather is hot, humid and mosquito-ey much of the year. Well let’s just say, it’s not exactly a paradise situation for those of us who enjoy being outdoors.

I love fresh air and sunshine. I crave it. My husband loves sports like surfing and snowboarding rather than working out or going to a gym. I dream of sunny “un-buggy” California days where we could eat every meal al fresco and basically live life outside surrounded by dogs, kids and a sense of freedom.

The freezing cold buildings leave me with a constant feeling of damp discomfort during the excruciating summer months. The minute I enter a sixty seven degree air conditioned building, the hair on my legs begins to grow back from the goose bumps. Okay I’m exaggerating a little. I had the hair lasered off my legs years ago. If you haven’t jumped on that depilatory train, what the heck are you waiting for!

Alright, enough about hair removal. And complaining about Houston weather. And admitting to having a major case of geography envy. The truth is, we do wish we lived somewhere more beautiful and more conducive to an active outdoor lifestyle. I know that kids thrive outside…exploring in nature, playing with friends, using their imaginations. As a result, we do spend a good amount of time heading out of town and hitting scenic spots where we can unplug and well, breathe deeply.

But as my twelve year old son, Cory, said recently on a short scenic hike while visiting Colorado, “I would love to live here and get to explore all the time but I’d want my friends from Houston to be here with me.”

Being outdoors and exploring natural beauty is my family’s happy place. However, I find that it’s the people in your everyday environment that create the most memorable moments in your life. My family lives in a big city inhabited by a warm, friendly and colorful group of interesting humans.

Someone recently told me that Houston is the most ethnically diverse city in the world. I don’t even know how to fact check that but it sounds way more brag-worthy than the fat thing so I’m just going with that for now. As Cory said, “It would be great to combine Colorado with the friends we love back home”.

We adore the people that live in our concrete jungle. I live in Houston. I love to be outside. I walk my dogs during the heat of the summer. I commit to the sweat and showering more than once a day. It’s part of the deal and I smell good most of the time.

And if you are lucky enough to get both – beautiful outdoor scenery shared with a beautiful community of friends and family, well then, you my friend have truly hit the jackpot  in my book.

And remember, kids feel more alive when they make memories with people they love…outside.

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by Randi Rubenstein