Tag: problem solving

Teaching Our Kids to Be Happy

Teaching Kids to Be HappyAll of us want our kids to grow up to be happy adults. So, what’s the secret to raising kids who see the glass as half full rather than half empty?

Teaching our children that happiness comes from within is probably the most important piece of the puzzle.

In other words, happiness has more to do with how we think about our circumstances than with our actual circumstances.

Much of this optimism is taught through modeling.

When the car has a flat tire, teach your kids to be happy by saying:
“Well, the good thing is that it’s only flat on the bottom!”

When it’s rainy outside, teach them to be optimistic by saying:
“That’s the liquid sunshine that makes flowers grow.”

When you make a mistake, smile and say:
“Wouldn’t it be annoying if you had perfect parents?”

When your kids blow it, pat them on the back and say:
“The great thing about you is that you’re a chip off the old block…you’re great at solving problems.”

Positive parents raise positive kids!

Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2013 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

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Desperate Situations Require Desperate Measures

Give Kids Candy for Dinner!

A dad I work with had to take his three young sons to a long, boring meeting in an attorney’s office. He was sweating it because his boys were likely to act up.

To inspire them to great behavior, he offered the reward of “Candy for dinner and movies till you fall asleep!”

Now THAT was motivation to these three! (Not to mention a desperate parent.) On the way there, he upped the odds of their success by playing “What If” and asking what things might keep them from earning their reward. The oldest brother speculated that the middle brother might “make me mad.” They talked through how the oldest could manage that. They went through a variety of scenarios so that the boys would know how to handle themselves.

Once in the office, he broke the hour and half into six chunks of 15 minutes each. For each 15 minutes that they went with good behavior, they earned a point. Four points earned them the dinner of their dreams… candy. Those boys may not have been able to get through 90 minutes perfectly, but they were angels for almost every one of those 15-minute chunks and they got their reward. Don’t worry, dad had to pay the next day with grumpy, tired boys… but he got through the meeting intact.


Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2013 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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Energy Drain: Consequences for Children

Would you like your life as a parent to be complicated?
Would you like to live in a constant state of confusion and anxiety?
consequences for childrenWould you like to feel unsure about how to deal with the problems your children create?
Would you like to frequently think to yourself something like, “Oh, no. Now what do I do about this?”

Here is a tried and true recipe: Adopt the belief that every child’s misbehavior must have a different and unique consequence.

In our fast-paced world, none of us has the time or energy to use this parenting style. 

 Instead of approaching parenting this way, Love and Logic parents try to keep it simple. For one reason, something that is simple is something that we can remember during stressful times. 

 Love and Logic parents find it easy to remember that anything that causes a problem for the parent drains energy from the parent. That energy needs to be replaced in some way.

It can be replaced when the child does some work for the parent, or it can be replaced by relieving the parent of some duty such as taking the child to an activity. 

 This is most effective when the child has a choice about how to replace the energy. It might sound like, “When I see you throwing things when you are mad, I worry about you and it drains my energy. How would you like to put the energy back? Would you like to do one of my chores? Would you like to excuse me from driving you to cheerleader practice so I could have some time to myself? Or would you like to do something really nice for the widow next door? I always feel better when things like that happen.”

This generic consequence works for all situations for kids of all ages. Just adjust for the age of the child.

So when you don’t know what to do, have an energy drain.

©2009 Jim Fay, Love and Logic™ Institute



Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2012 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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Part 3: Happy Family Evenings End With Happy Hour

Wouldn’t it be nice to start each evening with some time to sit, relax and chat with your husband, wife or significant other?

<Parenting Help for Happy FamiliesEvening parenting takes a lot of energy after a full day of either working outside the home or parenting. One couple I worked with used to try to sit and talk when the working dad got home from work, but their sons would whine, “You want to talk to mommy more than to me!” Their kids would be disruptive and demand attention. Mom and dad just wanted a few minutes of peace to relax and catch up. Sitting and talking with each other became more frustrating than it was worth.

This family made their evenings with their boys, ages 3 and 4, so much more enjoyable by doing the following:

Mom now tells the boys that when Daddy gets home, the grown ups are going to sit and talk for 20 minutes. It’s their “happy hour” because sitting and talking to each other makes them happy. She says, “I know that when Daddy comes home, you want his attention right away and it’s hard to wait. So this is your time to tell me how you feel about that.” They tell her how they don’t like to wait and how they want to play “Hop On Pop” with daddy. She encourages them to say it a bunch of times to get it out of their system. She listens lovingly and encourages them to say everything they have to say about the matter. She asks, “Is there anything else you need to say to get it out of your system?”

Next, mom asks them, “What can you do to keep yourself happy while Daddy and I have our Happy Time? She gives them choices of playdough, an art project, a TV show, the sandbox, their train set. She could even write these choices on popsicle sticks and let them draw an activity each evening so that it feels like a surprise to see what their activity will be.

When Daddy comes home, he give hugs, kisses and smiles to everyone. Then explains to the boys that for every minute they entertain themselves peacefully and without interruping, they earn a minute of “Hop on Pop” wrestling time with Daddy.

This smart couple now gets to start most evenings with time to relax and connect before they head into “parent duty.” And now, even if they collapse into bed after the kids are asleep, they’ve gotten to enjoy each other’s company for a few precious minutes. Kids may seem to WANT every minute of your attention, but giving them the gift of modeling a good relationship is invaluable, even if it means they must entertain themselves for a bit.


Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2012 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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Part Two: Happy Family Evenings Continue With An Intention

Most of us SAY that family comes first, right? Wouldn’t it be nice if living that motto was as easy as saying it? Whether we like it or not, work often drains the best from many of us and our family gets stuck the leftovers.

Parenting Tips to Build Happy FamiliesDale used to come home stressed, tired, and irritated by the people he had to deal with at his job. While he drove home, he’d be on the phone, finishing up his work day and dealing with more stress. When he walked in the door, he’d often be on a phone call, waving off his little girls who were antsy to see daddy and get his attention. He had no transition time and the girls seemed like just another demand in his exhausting day. Mom would be annoyed, wishing he’d walk in the door happy to see his little girls and give her a hug and a kiss. Not a good start to the evening.

There is a quick trick that can make a huge difference in how evening family time goes. I don’t guarantee much when it comes to human behavior, but if I were to try, I’d hedge my bets on this technique for parents who work outside of the home. Stay at home parents can use the same technique, just from inside the house.

Dale started to use a 10 minute technique that dramatically changed evenings for his entire family. Here’s what he did:

He started pulling over on his way home to take a few minutes to transition from “work mode” to “family mode.”
He turned off the ringer on his phone.
He turned on a song that put him into a good mood. Sometimes he just savored the silence.
He sat and soaked in the view and took a few conscious breaths to slow down his brain.
He talked himself into leaving work at the office so that he could show up fully present for the ones he loved most in all the world.

Lastly, he set an intention for his time with the family that evening. Sometimes it was to make sure to look his wife and each child in the eyes and ask about their day…. and then to actually listen to their answers. Some days he committed to making sure to smile at each of his family members. Other days he’d focus on being a good partner in the tasks of dishes and putting the kids to bed. Sometimes he committed (to himself) to take the girls on a bike ride. Once in a while, he would look up a joke that he could tell at dinner. And always, he set his intention to be as loving as he could be. This was a big step for his goal of living without regret.

Ten minutes was all it took for this man to show up as the beloved, superstar daddy that he was to his two little girls. It made his wife love him more. Evenings were transformed. Not perfect, but transformed.


Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2012 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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Part One: Happy Family Evenings Start with a Check In

Parenting Tips to Build Happy FamiliesEvening family time can sound so lovely … family dinner, playtime, baths, stories and cuddles.

In many households, however, people don’t quite feel like they’re “livin’ the dream.” Quite the contrary, in fact.

Many couples I work with tend to “read” each other and make guesses about how their mate is feeling. Fact: they often guess wrong. They mistake stress for grumpiness and tiredness for rejection. I don’t care how long you’ve been with someone, it is still always your job to let your darling know how you’re feeling and what you need.

It might sound like this:

“I have nothing left to give after being with these little people all day. I’m not grumpy, I’m just empty. I need to just sit with your arm around me and have a grown up conversation. And I need you to ask me about my day.”

“My brain is full after an intense day at work, but once I slow down a little, I’d love to play with the kids and give you a break.”

“I’m kind of irked right now and need some alone time before I’m ready to be a good parent. How can we make that work so that it feels ok for you?”

Imagine if each evening before you and your loved one showed up at home with young kids needing care and attention, you had a quick phone call to share what kind of mood you’re each in. You wouldn’t have to bother with the frustration that comes with misreading each other’s cues. You might be better able to meet each other’s needs and enjoy each other and your kids.

Single parent? Same holds true, you just have to do it with yourself. Stop and ask yourself how you feel and what you need. If your kids are old enough, you can ask them how they’re feeling and what they need. Maybe every one needs down time. Or food right away. Or family snuggles. Then figure out how everyone can get their needs met at some point during the evening. Maybe dad needs down-time first and then he’ll be able to play some catch. Or maybe the preschooler needs cuddle time right away, but then agrees to play quietly for 20 minutes while mom sits and unwinds. It’s not always easy, but it is possible for everyone to get their needs met eventually; it just takes some strategizing.

Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2012 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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Didn’t I Tell You What I Don’t Want?


Imagine this: you’re sitting in a restaurant and when the waitress asks for your friend’s order, your friend goes through the whole menu of what she DOESN’T want…

“I don’t want the burrito and I don’t want the tacos and I don’t want the chimichanga.” How likely is she to end up getting what she was hoping to have for dinner? Not very.

But don’t we do that to our kids on a regular basis when they are squabbling?

Do you ever get frustrated, dare I say, even yell at your kids, over sibling bickering? It’s no fun to admit, but many of us get annoyed at their bickering and say (or yell), “Stop arguing!” Or, “Don’t do that to your brother!” I wish it was effective parenting, because it sure does flow out of my mouth easily and frequently.

Perhaps…. instead of telling our kids what we DON’T want, maybe we can be more effective by telling them what we DO want…

with something more along the lines of, “I’d like you to keep your hands to yourself and use kind words.” It’s like saying to the waitress, “I’d like the enchiladas, please.”

On long summer days with all the kids around more than usual, some parents have found it helpful to be proactive instead of reactive with sibling bickering. They set a timer and tell the kids that if they can play together nicely until the timer rings, they get a _______ (fill in the blank here…. a check mark on a chart, a star, a quarter in the jar). After several rounds of success, the parents will then offer a fun activity as a treat for playing well together …. a trip for ice cream, game night, a special treat.

What’s cool about this strategy is that parents are creating more of what they do want (kids getting along with each other) instead of punishing kids for doing what the parents don’t want (fighting).

Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2012 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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Don’t You Know You’re Supposed to Behave Today?

For many years now, my children have unwittingly been actors in a drama… the play could be titled “Kerry’s Fantasies.”

These fantasies consist of dreams and stories created by a much younger me in which my children are happy and well adjusted, squeaky clean and smiling.

In this dream, there is an act by the name of “Easter morning” in which the happy children wake up excitedly on Easter morning and search for colored eggs and candy, delighting appreciatively in each find.

Some years, my children have cooperated quite nicely with my little storyline. One year, however, my older two boys were cantankerous and fought over who found which egg first, whose basket was better, who had more. They squabbled and argued. I found myself very irritated with these ungrateful little children who were not acting according to my script for them. If they hadn’t been so obnoxious, it might have been funny.

I took a photo of this unpleasant scene: Palmer pulling Keaton’s shirt, Keaton grimacing and hollering. I thought I’d use it when they were older to show them how ornery they used to be. Instead, that picture has served to teach ME a lesson.

What that morning and my aggravation taught me is that kids will be kids, regardless of the sacredness of a day or holiday. Some days will be fun and full of smiles. Others will involve hassles and irritation. I learned that it is better for my sanity if I just show up in the moment, ready to accept the day as it is. No more scripts that the kids know nothing about. No more trying to get them to behave a certain way because it is a certain day.It is better to just show up and accept my three sons in whatever form they appear on any given day.


Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2012 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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This is Not a Dress Rehearsal


On my kids’ first day of school this year, I first dropped off my high schooler.

Gasp. How can I have a kid that old?

I always thought being the parent of a high schooler was for grownups! Heck, I remember when I thought that having a child in elementary school was for grownups. As I sent off my son to fend for himself in the big new world of public high school, I thought about how it seemed like just yesterday that he was a babe in my arms.

After dropping off my middle schooler, I was off to the elementary school for my 3rd grader’s first day of school. I stood there, looking at the sea of little kids milling around, and thought “oh my goodness, there are still so many active years of parenting left.”

How do we navigate this push-pull, zoom-plod through this chapter of our adult lives? On one hand, it seems like time flies by… and that’s what all the “older” people tell us. On the other hand, some days of parenting can last forever and find us counting the hours until bedtime stories are over and lights are turned out.

Perhaps the best we can do is to create snippets of time where we are fully present in the moment. Right here, right now with our kids. Two things that I’ve found help me savor the here and now with my kids and have left me with sweet memories of being fully present:

1. Say Cheese!

It can make such a difference if we just stop and be intentional about looking our children in the eyes and smiling at them throughout the day. In my family, if the kids start to leave without eye contact, I will say, “Eyeballs!” That is their reminder to stop and look me in the eyes. It’s my reminder, as well, to look at them. In our times of zoom, zoom, zoom, it can feel so good to stop and look in the eyes of the most precious little people in our world.

2. Stop and Feel the Love

Parenting involves so much giving, caring and work. Sometimes it’s easy to get so caught up in all the tasks of parenting that we forget to really feel the love in our hearts for our beloved children. We can get grumpy when we forget to do that. A woman whose parenting advice I respect, Joyce Vissell, once suggested that each day, just for a few minutes, we close our eyes and picture our child at his/her sweetest. Then take a moment to see and feel all the love we feel for that child pouring from our heart to his/hers.

When it comes to parenting, “The days can last forever, but the years fly by.” I hope we’ll have fewer regrets when we look back if we make sure to live some of those moments to the fullest… as though this life is the real thing and not just a dress rehearsal.


Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2012 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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Quick Tips for Dads

1.  Speak Your Family’s Love Language

Read The Five Love Languages of Children, a quick, interesting book to improve how you express love to your family. Want to know the secret to making sure your child feels loved? Kids desperately need to know how much you love them. But if you don’t know their special “love languages” you might as well be speaking gibberish. Every child (like every adult) expresses and receives love best through one of five communication styles. Find out which one of these your child speaks: QUALITY TIME, WORDS OF AFFIRMATION, GIFTS, ACTS OF SERVICE, PHYSICAL TOUCH. Click here to view book info.

2.  Keep the Fire Burning by Getting Down and Dirty

Men who want a more active sex life need to get down and dirty, according to new research – by doing more housework. “Therapists say there’s a direct correlation between men doing more housework and the frequency of sex, and wives reported greater feelings of sexual interest and affection for husbands who participated in housework.”  To read more about this, click here.

3. Spend “Alone Time”

Spend some time every day with each child with the motto: “No questions, no commands.” This is not the time to ask if they’ve done their chores or to tell them how they can improve themselves. Just be with your child.

4. The Little Things are Huge

Smile at your wife.  Smile at the kids.   Implement the “Good neighbor policy” where you don’t speak to anyone in your family in a manner that you wouldn’t use with a good neighbor.  Be conscious of having eye contact with your family.

5. Two Ears, One Mouth

Just listen to your wife and kids.  Don’t try to fix “the problem,” especially if it’s emotionally based.  “There’s no place in heaven for people who give unasked for advice.” (Jim Fay, co-founder of The Love and Logic Institute)

6. Appreciate, Appreciate, Appreciate

Look for the good.  Notice, thank, and acknowledge at least three things each day that your family members do. You don’t need to judge or label, just notice….  “I see you really worked hard on that.”

Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2012 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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