TalkBack To Vicki Jardine

A TalkBack on Parenting Issues

Spoil Your Child and Spoil Your Child’s Chances February 12, 2011

The other day I was talking to a mother of an 11 year old boy.   He is not doing very well in school, despite being fairly bright.  He has been suspended several times so far this year for behavior related things and is now on academic probation.  She has tried everything she knows to do and admitted that she is having difficulty sleeping and is experiencing some anxiety over her son.

The school counsellor is inclined to refer the boy for assessing to see if he has a ‘condition’ and is requesting the teachers to compile a profile of this child’s behaviors which might be useful to those who would be conducting the psychological analysis.

While I understand that many children are suffering conditions brought on by various external and internal elements, and these can be measured and treated (and should be), I also feel that before going down that road all adults involved in the care of that child should agree to determine whether it could simply be a case of immaturity combined with other elements like lack of self-discipline, laziness, lack of motivation, poor positive recognition or simply pure ‘indulgence’.  Then if all those things have been ruled out, then proceed to psychological evaluation.

In the case of this particular child, he does not have a condition, I don’t believe.  But he IS suffering.  He is suffering the realization that the world as he knew it, does not actually exist.

Until now he has lived in a world where he could have pretty much whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted it.  He could just make everyone laugh and they would forgive his tardiness, his irresponsibility, his forgetfulness and his laziness.  He could turn on the charm and dance around and joke with everyone, parents and teachers alike, and get through every single day without major incident of consequence TO HIM.  Of course, his parents and teachers were pulling their hair out looking for a solution for him.

And therein lies the key!

Thinking is a necessary skill

We have to make sure that we provide children with opportunities in which we link what is important for them to LEARN with what IS SIMPLY IMPORTANT TO THEM.

So for example, with this young man I have been describing, it has become very apparent now, at age 11 that this young man is going through a paradigm shift.  Suddenly, teachers are expecting him to accomplish work during class.  His parents, who have even paid for tutors up till now with little or no lasting results, now expect him to take his studies seriously.

But how?

How can this boy suddenly see the world a different way?  And if he doesn’t begin to see the world a different way, then he may end up on medication for a condition that he has been diagnosed with.

But what if he does not have a condition?  What if he is simply…. spoiled?

Now of course, every child is different, but here’s what I found with this boy:

He is not accustomed to using his brain.  At the very point at which he needs to engage his thought processes, he instead expends huge amounts of energy trying to avoid ‘thinking’.

He is very clever, actually.  The thoughts that occupy his mind are all related to playing.

How can I play?

When can I play?

Who can I play with?

His teachers say he will copy from the board.  He sits still if forced to.  He can even appear to be listening and probably is listening.

But when it comes to accessing his knowledge, applying information or actually initiating an idea, this boy just ‘folds’.

He employs tactics like asking clarifying questions.  These work really well to give the impression he is engaged with the topic.  However truth be known, it is a tactic to keep the teacher talking, so as to minimize the time left for him to work independently.

If the teacher maintains the stance that he has enough information to begin the task and is not drawn into any extra prolonged explanations, and then this boy simply states, ‘I don’t understand’.

But it is not true in this boy’s case.  He absolutely does understand.  Remember, I said he was bright.  He understands, but he has neither  the motivation nor the habit of engaging his thought processes, as he has never had to use them this way before.

If the teacher then says to him,

‘Yes, you do understand.  You are a very smart boy.  You just need to think about what you know, and then you will work out for yourself, what to do’.

It is at this point where he can see the tactics have not worked.  Now, in order to get what he really wants…..TO PLAY…. he has to get the work done.

So guess what!  He does it.  And he does it correctly with excellent attention to detail.  Sometimes he is a little shaky on his confidence, and is hesitant, but on the whole once he finds out that what has always worked for him in the past does no longer work, that the only way he can reach his personal goal (to play) is to reach his teacher’s goal first, he then just gets on with it.

Then the young man has the opportunity to develop confidence in himself and in his abilities.  If he does gain in confidence, then it is possible for the adults in his life to help him recognize the good feelings he has when he independently solves a problem, completes class work or homework, or contributes in the classroom.

All those times while he was little, he should not have been indulged.  He should never have come to see the world as a place in which you simply play and never take responsibility for anything.

It is very hard on him to re-calibrate his thinking now.  And remember, he was almost on the path to medication.

He is not sick.  He does not have a condition.  He is merely ‘spoiled’.

As parents, it is a good idea to make sure you are allowing your child to strive, not struggle.  Allow him or her to work things out for themselves.  Don’t be too quick to give the solution to a problem, be it how to tie shoelaces or button a shirt, to how to solve an algebraic equation.  Let your child feel good about trying.  Let them feel better about trying than about succeeding.

In this time and age that we live in, one of the greatest gifts you can give your child is the opportunity to develop ‘innovative’ thought processes.  Experimenting, failing, trying again, creating, trying something different, learning from mistakes.  These are the qualities and skills we want to be helping our children develop.

Our role is not to smooth out all the bumps in the road so they don’t feel upset or inconvenienced.

Our role is to be there cheering them on, setting an example, exposing them to positive role models, providing learning opportunities and encouraging them when it doesn’t go as they hoped.


Cause and Effect January 16, 2010

Cause and Effect....or Choices and Consequences

Have you ever wondered why your child seems better behaved for one person than they are for another?

Or why does your child conform to expectations at school much better than he/she does at home for you?

It happens all the time, mom can’t get her child to take a nap, but every day at pre-school the teacher manages to get 20 small children to lie down at the same time.  Is it a phenomenon?  Or can it be explained?

I believe it can be quite simply explained in 2 words:  Cause and Effect.

Child-Care professionals understand the need to introduce the concept of ‘consequences’ to very young children.  Once a child understands that there are consequences to the choices they make, most of the time they will choose well.  So for example when it comes to nap-time, the children know that if they lie down for a little while, they will then get to play with something special, or they will have a treat and their teacher will be really happy with them….the payoffs to them are numerous and irrefutable.  They will see that for those children who chose not to nap, they will miss out.  Most children clearly understand ‘cause and effect’ when the adults in their life have clearly linked the consequences of their choices to the outcomes that they receive.

No matter how irrational your child seems, they truly do understand the language of Cause and Effect. 

Humans, no matter how young simply do not do things for which there is no evident payoff.  It will make daily life a lot easier for you as a parent, if you learn to talk to your child in terms of choices and consequences.  If you make it clear what will happen if they do one thing and what will happen if they do another, then they will usually choose the outcome that they want and will surprise you by the degree of commitment they can show to that outcome.

If your child does not lie down and take a nap when you know they need to, then that can be explained by the fact that your child doesn’t see what the payoff is. 

When it comes to payoff, there really does need to be some emotional payoff as well.  Going back to the pre-school example, you will notice that the outcome for napping was not just a treat or something special.  It also includes that the teacher is very happy with them.  The teacher will smile a lot at each child, pat them lovingly on the back, shoulder or head and will instinctively make sure each child knows they made a good choice…and that people are proud of them.  The teacher may boast about them to other adults and tell their mom and dad how wonderful they are and how they always nap well like it is some really big achievement.

I know this because I know the payoff for the teacher is that more of the children will nap well and so the day will be a better one.  Cause and Effect!

So no matter how old your child is, make sure you are arranging your child’s world so that it is clearly a series of choices each with different outcomes and that you are helping your child see what the payoff is to them, in language they will understand.  When they make a poor choice and the ‘effect’ is not what the child wants, let them learn from that.  Don’t save them all the time.  Let your child forego a nap or whatever but then make sure that they see that when they don’t nap, they are tired and cranky and that playing isn’t as much fun for the rest of the day.  Help them see that now, because they didn’t nap, they cannot go to the park or stay up and watch their show on television.  Let them see that they chose that and that next time they might want to make the other choice.  Show them what the ‘effect’ would have looked like had they made the other choice.  That they would now be able to stay up, that they would not be feeling so out of sorts with everyone and everything if they had had that nap.

Then next time when they have to choose to nap or not, help them remember the way they felt when they made the choice not to nap last time.  Help them connect the choice they have to make right now, with the ‘effects’ they have suffered in the past.  Remember that they need you to always connect the dots for them.

This applies to almost all the things that fill up your child’s day…not just to napping. 

I am sure you have stories about times your child had a lesson in ‘cause and effect’, or you have some situations you would like some help bringing into a ‘cause and effect’ understanding for your child.  If you want to share some of your ideas, stories or want some suggestions about how to word some of the choices positively, then please feel free to leave a comment on this blog post and I will answer you and I am sure some other parents will also bring their experiences to light.  Sharing what we know works for the sake of our children, in this very quickly changing world.  That’s what modern parenting is all about.

So talkback with me on the subject of ‘cause and effect’.  I want to hear what you have to say.

Warmest Wishes,

Vicki Jardine


Managing Kids When You Don’t Feel Motivated July 29, 2009

Feeling too tired?

Feeling drained?

Feeling frustrated about your job or the economy?

Just feeling like you are not where you thought you would be at the age you are?

Grieving the loss of a loved one?



Coping with a difficult relationship?

Struggling to overcome your own bad habits?

Managing an ongoing health issue of a loved one, or an aging parent?

Or simply feeling depressed and finding it difficult to snap out of?

How can you motivate yourself to be upbeat and positive for the sake of everyone around, especially your children?

No matter how you are feeling, parenthood does not wait for you to get it together.  It is literally 24/7 – ongoing.

Your child is counting on you to be a grown-up.  It will not have crossed your child’s mind that you are not the ideal model of an adult.  In fact, your child will most definitely model themselves on you (even if, as they grow older they really don’t wish to).

We parents need to be able to see the big picture.  We need to be able to view our daily life in perspective.  When we remember that we, ourselves are only part of the picture and all that we think we are suffering, will one day be ‘history’ much of which was of little real importance in the scheme of things, then we can begin to appreciate the needs of those around us.

I guess what I am saying is we only get one chance to parent our children.  They only have one childhood and it is truly only a ‘few years’ long.  In those years, we get to model for our children what it is to:

  • Care about others
  • Work towards goals
  • Be responsible
  • Be honest with ourselves and others
  • Contribute to sustainability of the globe

We cannot afford to get bogged down in the daily-ness of life with all its’ ups and downs.  We have to think about how we impact on our families and how they are looking to their parents to cope, lead, guide and inspire them.

We need to focus on being their sanctuary from the hardships they face on a daily basis rather than focusing on our own.  Because when we can do this, we have the knowledge that we are doing something great.  Something absolutely ‘invaluable’ that no amount of money can buy. 

We are giving our children the place of importance that they deserve, that builds their self-esteem, that teaches them how to value others needs and how to ‘focus-forward’, rather than on the way they are feeling at any given time.

They are going to need these qualities as they grow and mature into the magnificent adults that they will be.  You will find that while you may have been a ‘bit down’ some of the time when your children were young, that you cannot even really recall why you were down, in the years to come.  

Whatever the problem today, it is not made better by letting it get on top of you.  You will only look back and think about the days you wasted, rather than building your child’s bright future….and therefore your own. 

Once you are a parent, your happiness, sense of accomplishment and self-opinion does become inexplicably tied up in how you rate what you have done for your children, one way or another.  Your joy is very much dependent on how you perceive your children’s lives ‘turn out’, whether you like it or not.

So when you are feeling down, upset, out of sorts or stuck in an emotional black hole, you can re-focus your thoughts and motivate yourself to see the day through your children’s eyes.  I know it sounds simplistic and you are probably thinking I have never been unmotivated or ‘down’. 

I have though.  I have experienced what it feels like to just not be able to muster the energy I need, for one reason or another.  And one thing I have come to realize is that life is just like that.  Ups and downs. 

I am not saying that you don’t count or that the way you feel is not valid.  I am merely saying that in a day or two, or week or two, or month or two, the way you are feeling today will not be remembered. 

Feelings come and go. 

We dont have a lot of control over feelings.

But we do have control over thoughts.  We can think about things differently.  We can recognize that there is a ‘big picture’ and it is happy, rosy and filled with joy.  We can gain encouragement for ourselves to see how the big, rosy picture can motivate us out of feeling down.

Focusing on how things can turn out if we perservere and keep sight of the vision motivates because we all want to experience joy and happiness.  It is a need and a driving force within us.  And if that is true, then we can get the energy we need for today because we believe it will result in producing the end result that we are looking for.

Here are some tips to help you:

  • Recognize the signs that you are ‘down’.
  • Admit how your ‘downer’ may be affecting those around you.
  • Decide to re-focus on the bigger picture and put the daily picture into perspective (think 5-10 years). Here’s how to re-focus:
    • Imagine what joy you will feel when you see you have raised healthy and happy children.
    • Imagine (really see) your life the way you want it to be rather than keeping on looking at it the way it is now.
  • Take actions consistent with your image of your happy life and family.
  • Remind yourself of the ‘big picture’ and know that what you do today is building that picture.
  • Re-focus every hour or minute if you have to. 
  • Never give up on your dream for your family.

I know it sounds too simplistic.  But what if it is just that simple?

I am reminded of a verse from the Bible that really is consistent with this idea:

Philipians 4:8

Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Think on these things. 

What if it is telling us not to dwell on how down we are feeling? 

What if we can truly become motivated to be happy, even when we are down, simply by refusing to dwell on what we are down about?

I believe that so many of us parents have been raised by imperfect parents who simply did their best, but didn’t know what to really teach us about managing our everyday lives. 

I believe we struggle as adults without children.  But then we find ourselves with children and suddenly, we know we have one chance to help them.  One chance to set them up for life.

Then we try to draw on our own imperfect experiences, like that is going to be enough. 

It’s not enough to just draw on the past.  We have to really develop some vision about the future and work towards setting our children up for that.

So next time you just feel paralysed by your own problems and feel unmotivated, try to think about the future and the needs of your children and take the steps to motivate yourself through it. 

Simplistic?  Yes….but nonetheless true….and it’s worth the effort, I promise!

TalkBack to me.  I value your opinions.  Everyone has either experienced difficulties such as these, or knows someone who has.

Let other parents know about your solutions.  Share your thoughts on this subject.

Bye for now,

Vicki Jardine


Say NO and MEAN IT! July 16, 2009

Does this child look HAPPY to you?

Does this child look HAPPY to you?


Don’t be afraid to say NO to your child!

Children actually want you to say ‘no’ some of the time.  It makes them very nervous if the answer is always ‘yes’.

I know it is hard to believe.  Especially when you see how hard they are willing to work to have you change your mind when you do say NO.

They can sulk and throw tantrums and try over and over again, but if you can stick to your answer of NO despite what behaviours they dish up, you will be very surprised to discover that your child, who may have seemed completely out of control in the past, is actually very reasonable and calm and will accept your answers without too much opposition in the future.

The problem is that too often parents cannot stand the tantrum and come to believe that ‘giving in’ is the fastest, most effective solution.  But this is not true.

Step back from the situation and think about this from your child’s point of view.  They may be happier to accept NO for an answer than you think they are.  Perhaps you have not really put that to the test yet.

Let’s look at a scenario:

  • Your child wants something.
  • They let you know they want it.
  • You say NO
  • Your child tries again to get what he/she wants.
  • You again say NO.
  • Your child tries again…and maybe escalates the request to a demand.
  • You again say NO.
  • Then your child wants to know why not.
  • You answer or you don’t answer (doesn’t matter which)
  • Your child then tries to argue the point (whether you made one or not)

What happens next of course depends on you.  It depends largely on what you routinely do in response to your child’s repeated nagging, asking or demanding.

On the surface of it, it seems like the child simply wants to do or have something in particular.  It may even begin to feel like a battle of the wills (and sometimes it is exactly that, but not always!).

More often than not, your child actually understands that when they ask for something, the answer could be NO.  In fact, they will most likely have prepared a list of reasons that they should be allowed to have or do whatever it is that they want (this is of course in the case of an older child).  Young children only know that they want it.  Older children understand the concept of debate, argument and persistence.

Why is it that older children understand those things?

Well, it is because you, the parents taught those things to your child when they were young.

Persistence.  You taught your child to persist, when you changed a NO to a YES simply on the basis of the argument not being ‘worth the trouble’.  Your child learned that if they keep crying, screaming or simply asking over and over again, that you will eventually give in and say yes.  You taught them that by repeatedly doing so.  Later, when they are older they know you will eventually give in, so they are practically running the show a lot of the time.

But what would have happened if you had not allowed your child to see that their persistence paid off in that way?  Imagine if you let your NO be NO and your YES be YES.

It is never too late to bring in a new understanding into the way you run your family.

If you allow your child to have what they want most of the time, then they will expect to get what they want by the same means elsewhere in their life, not only at home with you. 

So what’s wrong with that?

Well it is in fact highly unfair to let a child have what they want most of the time and to let them think that if they nag or throw a tantrum there is an excellent chance they will get what they want. 

This is not something that will happen for them everywhere they go.  It will not happen at school.  It will most likely not happen when they are playing with friends and with the parents of other children.

It would be great at this point if parents could keep in mind what is actually going on when a child escalates their behaviours to get what they want.

Children want to know that you love them more than anything else in the world.  They are not so interested in having what they want as knowing that you care about them.

  • What if you turned every request into an opportunity to show love to your child?
  • What if you looked at requests from your child differently?
  • What if you understood that saying no with love can actually make your child feel happy and secure?
  • What if you took a minute to explain why you are saying no, or that you would like to say yes, but you know it would not be good for your child?
  • What if you refused to enter into debate over a NO?
  • What if you expressed your understanding for why your child wants something and on top of that expressed that while you understand their reason, it does not change your answer?
  • What if you let your child see that you are in fact in control?

How do you think all these things would affect your child?

Well, I can tell you.  If you could do those things, CONSISTENTLY, here’s what you can expect to happen:

  • Your child will feel loved and secure.
  • They will relax in the knowledge that someone who knows more than them is ‘steering the boat’.  They will come to understand that arguing is not the way to turn a situation around. 
  • They will see what it looks like to manage other people rather than react to them. 
  • They will see that wanting something doesn’t mean you will get it. 
  • They will see that your role includes making decisions for them and their role is to live with those decisions.
  • They will learn that throwing a tantrum does not result in a change of decision (and can possibly have the opposite effect).
  • They will learn that love does not mean saying YES all the time.

So next time your child asks you can they have something, don’t be afraid to say NO.  But if you do say NO….stick to it no matter what.

If your child is not used this being the ‘norm’ in your home, then take a few minutes when there is no issue or request being denied and explain your role as the parent so your child can see that possibly something has changed.

It doesn’t matter if your children are strong-willed.  They will give in, in the interest of self-preservation.  If you have been giving your child most of what they want for a very long time, then it is only fair to expect them to ‘hold out’ for a very long time to get what they want.  Remember, you taught them that if they persist, they will get it.  So don’t hold it against them if they do persist.

Just understand that if you don’t stop this pattern of behaviour now, it is going to cost your child dearly as time goes by.  Also, it will mean you have less control over your own life probably for the rest of your life.  Do you really want to be a slave to your child’s whims for the rest of your life? 

How many people in their 50’s and 60’s have you seen still trying to ‘give’ their adult kids what they want one way or another?  When that happens it is easy to see that the parents have been mistaken.  And it is riduculous actually.

It is not as ridiculous when you see that happening with a 3 year old.  However, it really is as damaging to all involved.

So don’t be afraid to say NO and STICK TO IT!  It will save not only time, but ultimately could save your child from having unrealistic expectations of other people for the rest of their lives.

Leave a comment and let people know what you think about saying NO and sticking to it. 

Let us know about your child’s tantrums or if you have any questions you would like answered.

Talkback to me!  I’m interested in what you have to say.

Vicki Jardine


Fathers! Are Your Kids Sure You Love Them? June 12, 2009

Father's DayThis week I was fortunate enough to witness a father’s love for his child and how that love inspired the child to achieve more than ever before.  How beautiful to see the look of security and self-pride in the eyes of this child as his father gave gentle and loving encouragement, believing wholeheartedly in the child.  It was not a case of an amazing feat of fatherly love like that of Dick Hoyt to his son Rick.  (If you haven’t seen the tribute to Rick and Dick Hoyt, just go to and watch this inspirational video).  But this is not the kind of fatherly act I am talking about today. 

Today, I want to focus on the importance of ‘fathers’ to their children and the small and seemingly insignificant acts of love and encouragement a father can give to his child.

From speaking with so many parents over the years, it is evident that many, many mothers and fathers completely underestimate the importance of the father’s role as parent.  It’s like possessing the most effective tool and shoving into a cupboard and never using it.  Then wondering why the task is so difficult.

Most fathers do love their children.  That is true.

But if that is true, then why is it that when you ask children do they believe their father loves them, many, (and I mean too many), will answer no?

 This perception of not being loved by their father has such far-reaching effects on the development of the child.   Nothing else can replace it for the child.  Not the extra love of a mother, or even grandparents. 

So if fathers do love their children, then why do so many children think that they don’t?

This is what I want to address today as we approach Father’s Day in the USA. 

You have most probably heard that a person’s perception of a situation is ‘their reality’.  Well, so it is for children.  A father may love their child immensely, but if that child cannot perceive that love, then that child’s reality is that their father does not love them.

So let’s just assume that the love exists.  So now, how can fathers ensure that their children are able to detect that love, find evidence of that love and perceive that love.  How can a father convey their love to their children in ways that really make a difference to the child and how they see themselves. 

Well, here’s some things for fathers to remember, why it is so important and how you can take various opportunities to demonstrate your love for your child:

  1. Your child’s world is dominated by how he thinks you see him/her.

Children formulate ideas about who they are, based on the feedback that they get from you.  They look to you to understand what kind of person, they themselves are. 

What to do:

  • Give your child feedback that is positive.  Look for the positive.  Too often they get to hear what they have done wrong. 
  • Tell them what you like about them. 
  • Tell them the ways in which they remind you of yourself at their age. 
  • Tell them the ways in which they remind you of their mother (in a good way). 
  • Tell them when you feel pride in them.  Emphasize that you are proud of their efforts…not only their achievements.
  • In your child’s presence boast about them to other people.
  1. Your child will do a lot of things to have your approval.

If you make it very clear to a child when you are happy with them and why, they will feel very good.  They will be motivated to get that ‘good feeling’ all the time.  This is such a powerful tool that you can use to help your child to mature confidently, because when a child is praised and recognized they will internalize that good feeling and they will begin to strive against their desire to play all the time, to actually do the things that you want them to. 

What to do:

  • Decide what you expect from your child. 
  • Be aware of your own expectations, so you can communicate them clearly to your child. 
  • Then when there is anything at all to praise…PRAISE it. 
  • Notice if they do something right.  Let them know you noticed.  If it’s a big deal, you can reward it even.  
  • After you have established an environment where your child is aware of your expectations and can anticipate your approval, you don’t always have to find words.  Sometimes a thumbs up and a huge smile is enough.  A wink and a nod at the child when they are looking at you to see your reaction to their effort or achievement can be so powerful. 
  • You may not know this, but each thing that is quite small to you…it may simply be that you wanted your son to put his bike in a certain place every evening and he is not always diligent with this.  Well on the occasion that he does put it in the right place….he does so with a huge feeling of anticipation about how impressed you are going to be.  But sometimes we parents come home and see the bike in the correct place … and think…yes, that’s how it should be.  We miss the opportunity to appreciate that from the minute the child put the bike there, he is anticipating your positive reaction, recognition and approval.

OK, so you get the idea.

Here are some more things your child wants from their father and how you can help your child to perceive your love for them.

  • Look them in the eyes when you talk to them.
  • Let them know you like them
  • Don’t just hug them….cuddle them.  If you don’t know what that means, then that’s sad, so look it up.
  • Talk to them about yourself.  Talk about now and also when you were a boy and what you think about things. 
  • Talk about your feelings to your children.
  • Tell them how you feel about them.
  • Set a good example all the time because they are definitely going to model themselves on you…. and they are watching to see how you handle things, both good and bad.
  • Top up their emotional security every hour or so with a look, a pat, a hug, a simple ‘are you ok?’
  • Your child wants to be recognized by you for every little positive thing they do.

So Fathers this Father’s Day stop and notice how hungry your children are for your love.  Look into their eyes and down into the core of their being.  Remember the first time you ever saw them and how tiny and helpless they were.  Appreciate how important you are to them and how they need you to love them in ways that make them ‘feel loved’.

Read the messages your child writes to you on Father’s Day and have an emotion about it.  You need to let them see that they can move you emotionally. 

Fathers, your children need to know that they are as important to you… you are to them!

TalkBack to me.  Share your fathering experiences with other fathers.  Mothers too!  Is there anything you want Fathers to know about their kids?  Let’s get some discussion on this topic.

Here’s to your child’s happiness and security.

Warmest Wishes

Vicki Jardine