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Archive for June, 2010

Being the parent of “that kid”

Friday, June 18th, 2010 by:

It’s not easy being the mother of “that kid.” Being the parent of the child who whacks other kids in the playground can mean constant worry and heartbreak. Being the mother of “that kid” means holding your breath during playgroups and hoping your child doesn’t push or pinch an unsuspecting child–and apologizing profusely when he does.

Before you know it, you become known as the mother of “that kid.” You know other mothers are saying things like “Oh, that kid, I don’t want that kid playing at my house,” or “I don’t want my son playing with that kid.” Sometimes other mothers stop seeing your child and see only a “bad kid.” They forget he is little person, with feelings, that he is young and he is struggling. (If we’re honest, we have all thought this way about certain kids and often sit in detached judgment, blaming the parents.)

As a family therapist, I work with the parents of “those kids” all the time and so often see parents who are trying everything to help their children to behave. I see their frustration, fear and tears. These parents love their children deeply and it is so painful to know the rest of the world does not feel the same way. They are often doing everything they can, removing their child from the situation, trying rewards and consequences.

Many moms cry themselves to sleep with worry, guilt and shame, wondering why their child can’t be like the other children. Many of these parents have other children who are not like this at all, which adds to the bewilderment. I work with so many moms who tell me when they walk into school they can barely stand it because they know all the other moms are looking at them and talking about their child.

So if you are the mother of a kid like that, it’s best to be open and honest. Let the other mothers know you are aware of the problem and that you’re working on the issues. Keep play dates and play situations short and sweet and keep a close eye on your child without hovering. If your child does hurt another child, give them a time out or leave the park or play date and have your child draw a picture for the other child. If your child was rude to the other parent, have them write a note or draw a picture for that parent, as a way of saying sorry it can go a long way.

If you can help the other parents to see your child as a child who is trying and struggling and not as an aggressor, this can really help. You just have to try to keep your chin up and get through it. Eventually when the behaviour changes, the kids figure it out–and so do the moms.

Jennifer Kolari is a child and parent therapist, and founder of Connected Parenting. For more information you can contact jennifer at or visit

Harnessing the power of play

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010 by:

As parents we often talk at our kids, telling them to stop doing something or to do something we want them to do. But we should be talking to them and not just correcting behavior or directing them all the time. The solution?

Try using different strategies, such as play, distraction, humour, games or contests to motivate your little one when it’s time to brush teeth or get ready for bed. Not everything has to be boring–it’s important to add a little fun sometimes! Here are some examples:

1.How to make hair-brushing less horrible:
Little girls with long hair can make hair-brushing seem like torture, crying and screaming “You’re hurting meeee! Stop it!” These daily fits can be so exhausting, it can sometimes seem better just to leave her hair looking like a bird’s nest. We often resort to angry threats that we’re going to take her to the hairdresser and have it cut short. What we need to do is stay neutral (and use a good de-tangler) along with imaginary play. You might, for example, ask your child to pretend she’s a princess and you are a friendly ogre, or a nice witch who has to brush her hair to undo a spell.

2. Ending bath-time battles:
For bathing or tooth-brushing, use superhero images to get your little boy to comply. Add some intrigue, imagination and excitement to the task, pretend the bathtub is a raft on a river or the shower is a waterfall in the rainforest. Be sure to choose a theme that’s fun and appealing for your child and make it a game. Using play will help change the behavior and create new habits so that, over time, you will no longer need to do it. In fact, you’ll be amazed how well this strategy can work. It’s also a nice way to connect with your child, and it may even be fun for you too!

Jennifer Kolari is a child and parent therapist, and founder of Connected Parenting. For more information you can contact jennifer at or visit

Perfection is overrated

Friday, June 4th, 2010 by:

I remember years ago when I worked as a family therapist at a children’s mental health center, my kids would come to visit occasionally and I would feel really stressed about how my clients would view me if my kids acted up. My supervisor had some very wise words for me, she said: “It’s not whether your kids will misbehave, because all kids will sometimes, it’s how you handle it when they do.”

That’s what people will notice. Those words stayed with me and have helped me through many situations. I have even chosen to talk about my own children and my own parenting experiences in my book. I thought it was important to share with parents that no child is perfect, and no parent is either. There are many moments when I think it’s hilarious that I’ve written a parenting book. When I’m impatient with my kids and losing my cool, when I ignore the voice in my head telling me to empathize and stay neutral.

I have great kids, but sometimes that everyday stuff (like my son taking forever to get out of bed, my teenage daughter having a fit because she has “nothing to wear,” or the bickering in the back seat of the car) can get to me like nails on a chalkboard. I can hear that voice in the back of my head telling me to use all the strategies I coach clients to use and even though they work incredibly well, there are still moments when I just can’t do what I know I should do in these situations.

As parents, we need to work towards doing the best we can, but we also have to be realistic. Families are wonderful and complicated. Siblings fight, kids melt down, some moments go well, and others just don’t. This is the stuff that life is made of and these are the very things we will miss one day when our children are grown up and gone.

Family relationships are dynamic and there will be moments when we bring out the absolute best in each other–and moments when we bring out the worst. Children need to learn to deal with other people’s emotions, and they need to know sometimes that they have hurt or upset others. All we can do as parents is work towards being loving and empathic, but firm and consistent, and the rest will take care of itself.

So when my son has trouble getting off the computer, my older daughter gets hysterical because her best pair of jeans is in the wash, and my six year old decides she wants to wear her dance costume to school, I just have to breathe and remind myself that we’re not perfect, but we are perfectly imperfect.

Jennifer Kolari is a child and parent therapist, and founder of Connected Parenting. For more information you can contact jennifer at or visit

Top Drugstore Sunscreens

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010 by:

Why are the best sunscreens so hard to find. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has just posted their 2010 report of the best beach and sport sunscreens. Unfortunately most of the brands are only found at niche natural store locations in large American cities. Want to buy your sunscreen at the local drug store?

La Roche-Posay Anthelios Water Resistant SPF 15 and La Roche-Posay Anthelios 40 Sunscreen Cream score top marks. And-surprise-Coppertone makes the list with three different sun screens: Sport Sunblock Lotion SPF 15, Oil-free Sunscreen lotion SPF 15 and ULTRAGOARD Sunscreen lotion.

Click here to see the full list.