How to Praise Children (and feel good too)

Heather Criswell How to Praise a Child

The debate still stands. Do we praise our children or not? Does praise help or hurt our children? The founder of the Everyday Genius Institute, Taryn Voget, interviews Heather Criswell to offer a different thought on praise. She shares ways to praise a child.  Watch this video and discover how Heather approaches praising children.






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A New Way to Look at Your Child’s Grades

What are grades for? Should we punish our children when they get a “bad” grade? Should we reward them when they get a “good” grade?  Is paying kids for good grades a good idea?  Taryn Voget, founder of the Everyday Genius Institute, asked Heather Criswell what she does. Listen in and discover a whole new way to look at your child’s grades.






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What makes a parent a good parent?

What Makes a Good Parent - Good Mom

 Tune into this BlogTalkRadio show on “What makes a parent a good parent?”



Wouldn’t it be great if children came with a manual? I recently shared my thoughts on parenting – and what makes a good parent – with Dr. Wendy Dearborn, Holistic Life Coach.

In this BlogTalkRadio show I share what parents can do to be their best with themselves and with their children.

Listen in as Dr. Wendy challenges some of my thoughts. And stay tuned while I share with a teacher who called in on why we need to update our parenting strategies to work with the modern children coming into this world.  This is an episode full of unconventional wisdom and specific strategies parents can use in their families.




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Why No Punishment is Your Reward

Parenting and Punishment

I am cruising down the highway, minding my own business, going around 70 mph in a 55 mph zone.  I hear the sirens, look in my rear view mirror, and I realize the highway patrol is not happy with my choice to go a little faster than recommended.  He pulls me over and I comply with his requests: license, insurance and registration.  He proceeds to ask me a very condescending question. “Do you know how fast you were going?”  (Of course I do! I have to go that fast to get to my meeting on time!)  I say, “Around 65 mph.” His response: “No, actually you were going 71 in a 55 zone.”  I am thinking to myself, “Really?  You couldn’t say 70?  You had to say 71????”

He proceeds to issue me a ticket and warn me of all the dangers of going 71 miles per hour on this highway.  He tries to scare me into being “good” and following the rules with a story of a recent fatality on the highway.  The story was of a driver going 71 mph or so!  Anyway, he gives me the ticket and says, “I hope you have learned your lesson.”

I immediately think, ”Yep, I need to pay more attention to where you guys hide so I can slow down and avoid a ticket!”

This officer sparked a thought in my mind…

Does punishment really work?

The ticket does not detour me from ever speeding again.  The officer shaming or fearing me into not speeding has no effect on my choice to speed in the future.  I actually look to find ways to “beat the system” instead of working together.

What if we could come to an understanding between each other?  What if we were able to communicate our needs and desires to each other, respectfully, and have it result in collaboration – an understanding of what works for both parties?

For me, it feels better to leave out the punishment with any child.  Tell me what you need, ask me what I need, and let’s come to an understanding together.

So you say, “That is a great thought, but not possible with a 16 year-old!”  And I say, it is possible, and actually works really well! (It really works with any age, teenagers just make the story better.)

So my 16-year old came home late on a Saturday night.  Not just late, really late.  Like 2 hours past the time he said he would be home.  I am angry.  But under the feeling of anger I am really worried that something terrible has happened to him.  I am sitting, waiting, and playing the worst-case scenarios out in my mind.  When he finally rolls in the door, he acts like nothing has happened.

I am angry and my first thought is, “What can I do to him to make him suffer as much as I have suffered tonight?”  The punishments in my mind range from taking his cell phone, taking his computer, grounding him, or all of the above.

I take a moment to remember my conversation with the patrol officer and instantly decide to change my approach.  As my son walks in the door, I ask him to come sit down for a minute.  The conversation sounds like this:

“I have to tell you first, I am glad you are at home safe.  I am not feeling good about this situation because I thought we were on the same page when you left the house earlier.  I thought we agreed for you to be home at 12am.  When the clock hit 12:01, I instantly started worrying that something terrible had happened.“

My son interrupts, “Mom, I am fine, I just was late.”

I continue. “Please let me finish my thoughts and then I will hear yours.  When you were late, I automatically thought something was wrong.  You are respectful, considerate, and caring, and I know that when you have run late in the past, you call.  You are one of the most important people in my world.  I know you are growing into your self and soon you will be out of this house, able to stay out as long as you want without feeling like you need to “report” to someone.  I appreciate and honor your independence.  I am asking you to work with me until you do leave so we can both feel good about our remaining time together.  Do you have any suggestions about how we can both get our needs met?”

The alternative?  I punish him. He is angry and resentful.  And honestly he just finds a way to get around it the next time, much like my speeding story.

I look at this as an opportunity for both of us to practice communicating what we need and practice getting both of our needs met, free from anger, shame or punishment.  I can promise you that having an honest conversation is more effective than a punishing one.  When I state clearly what I need and ask my child to clearly state his needs, we work together to come to a solution that offers us both a feeling of respect, power and success.




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Spare the rod and spoil the child. What a great idea!

Mom Dad Spanking Child

What I know for sure: when I was a child, spanking didn’t motivate, inspire, or fear me into any behavior or decision that my parents wanted for me in the moment.

It actually made me angry, frustrated and humiliated.  It often sparked a sense of revenge in my mind.  I also found it very ironic, even as a small child, when my parents would say, “It’s not ok to hit anyone, especially in anger.” (They said this after I beat the crap out of the boy that teased me year after year about being fat.) And yet on occasions when I was disciplined with spanking or slapping, it was always as an outlet for their anger.  My parents were responding to my behavior with anger – exactly what they told me NOT to do.

Children are literal.  They can’t make sense of mixed messages.  Here are a few questions children have asked me over the years:

  • “Why can my mom hit me when she is mad, but I get in trouble when I hit my brother because I am mad?”
  • “How come my dad got in trouble with the policeman for hitting his friend, but not when he hits me? ”
  • “Why do I have to say sorry to my friend for hitting him when my parents never say sorry to me?”
  • “Why is it ok for my parents to hit me, but my mom gets mad if my grandparents do it?”

As an educator and caregiver, it was never an option (morally or legally) to spank – ok let’s call a spade a spade – hit a child.  I had to find clever, inventive ways to get the desired response from the children I worked with.  I know, beyond any doubt, that is not only possible, but also probable, to get further with a child by leaving spanking out of the equation.

With that being said, I was raised deep in the heart of Texas where an ongoing motto is, “Spare the rod, spoil the child.”  I am not interested in changing your values or morals.  I am interested in offering you another way that feels better as a parent and as a child.

Here’s one for you…

So my child and I are in disagreement and it escalates to the famous one liner that sends me to into a rage in a matter of seconds:

“I hate you!”

I instantly flash to the time when I uttered those words to my mom 30 years ago.  I was “schooled” with a slap across the face.  I knew that my mother loved me.  I knew I had pushed her to a place beyond words.  It wasn’t the slap that made me question my choice of words:  it was the look in mom’s face.  Her face told a thousand stories all starting with, “How could you…?”

Now it’s my turn.  I immediately know that I want to handle this in a way that honors myself first, and my child.

Even if I have reached a point of rage, I have the presence of mind to stop and ask myself, “Am I in an angry, frustrated, or in an annoyed space right now?”  When I answer “Yes!!!!” to this question, I know in my heart it is not the right time to address my child.  I take this as a sign to remove myself physically from the space we are sharing and put myself in a space (usually a bathroom) where I can reflect on who I am and who I want to be as a parent.  And most of all I take this time to remember the great things that my child brings to my life.  My goal here is to view my own child with love, and not anger.  When I feel good again (sometimes this takes minutes, sometimes hours), I come back to my child.  When I am ready, I take the time to address the situation in a better state.

I know my parents did not find pleasure in spanking me, they didn’t even feel that it was the “right thing to do in the moment.” They just were frustrated or mad with my behavior and felt pushed into a corner with nowhere to go. They didn’t have the tools and techniques to do anything different.  I know that I have grown over time and am now equipped with the information I need to be the parent I want to be.  I have never met a parent that wants to hit their child. They just don’t know what else to do.  Every time I practice walking away and disengaging when I am angry, I get to come back and be the parent I want to be.





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