Category: Sanity Savers

What’s the Most Important Meal of the Day? All of Them!

Recently a mom posted on a mom-based support group I am a part of, “How do you find time to eat during the day with your baby?” She was greatly struggling to balance the new-ness of being a mom, taking care of her baby, and taking care of herself.  I read this and thought to myself, “Oh my gosh, been there.” In the early days I struggled to find time to take care of myself. With no family nearby, my “downtime” was when my husband would come home from work and I had chance to take care of myself. This included making dinner, going to work out, and preparing meals for the next day. No naps for this exhausted first-time momma! Does it sound much like self-care? Probably not — but it really was.

I was able to prepare meals for the next day, because I, much like this woman I spoke about, knew what it was like to find myself ravishing midday and not having snacks or meals prepped. I would go workout, and even as tired as I was, going to work out meant taking care of myself and allowing myself to feel good in my new, post-pregnancy body. I learned that if I wanted to be able to take care of myself and my baby the next day, I needed to prepare while my husband was home, even though napping was much more appealing. It was a steep learning curve for sure.

Suggested tools for your first time momma toolbox:
  • Plan your meals and grocery shop for the week.
  • Breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack. Have it all in your house. You will be able to refer back to your list and when you are super hungry and in the midst of the chaos you can grab something healthy that you have already prepared.
  • Have simple, healthy, and easy-to-eat snacks available and ready to go.  If you are running out the door, make sure to have granola bars, fruit, and vegetables (already cut up and in containers).
  • Give yourself GRACE! You just had a baby, and you are learning and growing together.
There is a learning curve to being a new mom — YOU GOT THIS!


Jenny Wegner, MS, MFT

To contact Jenny or to make an appointment:


Phone: 303-834-0190

Find out more about Jenny here.

Airplane Travel with Toddlers: Nine Out-of-the-Box Strategies

Before I had kids, vacation started the moment I sat down on the airplane. That all changed when I started traveling with toddlers.  And how!

When traveling with toddlers, boarding a flight signals the beginning of the biggest challenge of the trip: trying to confine little people with the need for speed into one small space for hours on end. And keep them quiet.  T’ain’t natural. Talk about a set up for parental frustration.

A mother of two rowdy toddlers who are barely two and almost four just spent an entire session of parent coaching with me, crafting a plan to get through a flight with the kids without losing her cool.  We won’t discuss her husband who gets really tense if the kids act up at all; suffice it to say she’s on her own for managing the children.

Here are some out-of-the-box strategies she’s going to try:

  1. Long before travel day, mom is going to pick seats.  Instead of putting her and her husband across the aisle from each other, they are going to sit in front and back of each other.  Why?  Because her kids love to kick the seat in front of them.  This way, the orneriest one will only be kicking her seat, not a stranger’s.
  2. First and foremost, mom has to get herself mentally prepared for the task. This is the time to show up reasonably rested and ready for a challenge. She’s a runner so she’s going to think like she’s getting ready for a race: the right gear, the right nutrition, plenty of rest, and the mindset of being ready for a challenge.
  3. Part of the mental preparation is getting in the right headspace. We talked about how she loves her kids and doesn’t want to yell at them during the trip because a) she feels bad about it and b) it stresses the kids and makes them more likely to misbehave. She repeated a mantra that she’ll run through her head while trying to survive the trip with some sort of sanity intact. Her mantra was, “I love them and I love me.” This is a reminder to be compassionate with them and kind to herself.
  4. Part of the prep is getting the kids ready.  Her husband has been warning them about the “rules” for when they fly: “No loud voices, no getting out of your seats.”  What a great challenge for two strong-willed little peeps who love to show their parents who’s boss by screaming, kicking the seat in front of them, and running down the aisle.  We shifted this mini-lecture to a challenge. Or call it a game.  Or an experiment.  It might sound like this: “I wonder how many minutes in a row you’ll be able to use your indoor voice!” “I wonder how many prizes you’ll be able to earn by sitting still on the plane.” (I’ll come back to this.)
  5. The next part of the prep happens on the way to the airport.  With compassion and playfulness, she’s going to say, “I can imagine that it might be hard to sit quietly on the plane for so long so how about if you get all your yells and screams out of your system now?”  Then she’ll encourage them to yell, roar, bark, meow, howl….. whatever they want, as loud as they can.  She’ll do it right along with them, encouraging them to do even more, even louder.  This is one of my favorite parenting tricks: you TRY to get them to make a lot of noise on your terms. This sucks some of the wind out of their sails.  All of a sudden, you think it’s fun and funny to make a lot of noise (at a time and place you have chosen), which instantly stops the battle that they are accustomed to winning.
  6. Once they get checked in and through security, she’s going to pull the same trick on them in the concourse by saying, “I can imagine it might be hard to still still on the plane so let’s get all our wiggles out now.”  They are going to run and chase and jump and wiggle their waggles away. All the while, she’ll be reminding herself, “I did not come here to form long-lasting relationships with the people in this airport.”  And while this strategy of shaking their sillies out might be a “trick,” it’s a kind trick.  It’s one that honors the fact that little toddlers want to move and wiggle and make noise.  It gives them a chance to feel understood and honored.  I can tell you from experience that most strategies of getting toddlers to sit still, like threatening and repeating, are not loving and honoring. Oh, and they don’t usually work.
  7. This family is flying near bedtime, so after the kids have wiggled their waggles away, she’s going to get them in the mindset of bedtime by putting on their pj’s and brushing their teeth.  On the plane, she’ll give them their warm milk, read their bedtime stories, whisper their lullabies and snuggle the best she can.
  8. Once they board, this mom is going to befriend the people sitting right near her family and offer to buy them drinks. After that, she is not going to look at them or worry about what they are thinking.  She’s going to focus on doing her best to get through the flight with minimal brain damage.  Trying to please everyone around her is not her job. Employing her best parenting skills with her kids… THAT is her job.
  9. Now that game/challenge/experiment that she cued up a while back comes into play. She will challenge her two year old to see if she can stay seated and use her indoor voice for three minutes.  During that time, she’ll talk to her, read to her, and be attentive.  When her daughter makes it three minutes, she’s going to trace one of the girl’s fingers on a piece of paper.  Then she’ll do it again and trace the next finger.  Then again.  And again.  When the girl’s entire hand is traced, she’ll get to pick a little wrapped prize that mom has tucked into the carry-on.  At this rate, she’ll have checked the box on fifteen peaceful minutes. If she can do a handful of these cycles, she will have gotten through take off and a good chunk of the flight.  And, more importantly, she will have given her daughter practice at doing what mom wants her to do…. sit quietly and use her indoor voice.  This is so much more effective than focusing on what she doesn’t want her to do: run and scream.

That’s it.  After all that, she’ll focus on bedtime stories and getting her daughter to sleep. The trip probably won’t go perfectly, but then, many challenges with toddlers don’t.  But this mom feels more prepared and hopeful and she has some things to focus on to up the odds that at least a good part of the trip goes better than it might have.

One last thought: even though it can be exhausting and embarrassing flying with toddlers, I hope you don’t wish it away.  What I’ve experienced is that they do eventually grow up and become easy to travel with.  But there’s a catch: when they get to the part where they’re easy to travel with, it’s not long until they start flying away….. away to college, away on semesters abroad, away on trips that don’t involve us.  And that, just like traveling with toddlers, brings its own kind of sweetness and its own kind of bitterness, all wrapped up in one.

Copyright December 2017 by Kerry Stutzman, LMFT, MSW.  Kerry offers parent coaching as well as marriage, family, and individual therapy.  She believes in thinking differently about how we think about things.

3 Tips for Parenting in December Without Losing Your Ho! Ho! Ho!

It happens every year.  The sweet mother of two young children sat in my office, slouched over, and shared how she dreads December.  “I take on too much,” she sighed.  Then she gets overloaded, becomes irritable with her kids and ends up hating the stress of December.  All that effort for the sake of her family having good holiday memories and she ends up depleted and grumpy.  The impossibly long list of thoughtful, creative things things she expects herself to do overwhelms her.  We all know she’s not alone.

She walked out of her parent coaching session with three assignments:


  1. Make a list of every single task you expect yourself to do in December.  Does that mean one task is getting the tree, another is putting on the lights, and another is decorating it?  Yup.
  2. Put them in order by date due.
  3. Circle the ones you LOVE to do.  These are ones that make you happy and have meaning.
  4. Circle the ones you HATE to do.  The ones that make you grumpy when you are doing them.
  5. If you have a significant other, have them do the same thing on the same list.
  6. For the tasks on the “HATE” list, figure out a way to dump the item.  Or at least read Assignment #2 for ways to survive them.
  7. For the ones in the middle, decide if there are ways to simplify or delegate.  For example, I make hot fudge sauce for my neighbors, teachers and relatives. Some years, they were decorated with painstakingly fancy labels. Some years, all I could do was make the fudge and slap on a computer-printed label.  But if it preserved a little of my sanity and left me a little more able to be sweet to my children, it was worth it.  Simplifying can be wonderful.


Many of us value holiday traditions and want our kids to grow up with good memories.  But hear me when I tell you this: you don’t have to do every tradition every year in order for your kids to have great memories.  My friend grew up with a memory of her mom doing a cookie exchange.  She remembered that every year, she came home to a group of women in the kitchen who had baked and exchanged dozens and dozens of cookies.  My friend took it upon herself to continue the tradition whether she felt like it or not. It wasn’t until her kids were teens when she friend learned that her mom had only done that a few times ever. Nowhere close to every year.  She did it on the years that it suited.

So as you think about your traditions and how they stress you, what if you consider rotating them?

If it’s going to cause stress, what if you give yourself permission to pass on it for a year?  You don’t have to dump it forever; you can decide year by year.  Sometimes we have to pick:  tradition or calm state of mind.  A grumpy, stressed out mommy is generally NOT what our kids need, so why do we keep setting ourselves up to feel overwhelmed?


Ok, truth is, there are some things we really want to do and we want to be happy about but it ends up feeling like a chore. To that, I say: think outside the box to find a way to make it enjoyable.

Have a mountain of gifts to wrap?

What if you do it with a friend?  My girlfriend and I used to take turns hauling our stuff to each other’s house to wrap together while we listened to Christmas music and chatted.  It was highly productive AND fun.

Signing Christmas cards or online shopping?

Another girlfriend lights candles, pours herself something good to drink, turns on good music, and tells herself that it’s a treat to sit and think about the people she loves as she shops and/or signs cards. Works for her.

How about having a friend or family member over to bake while your kids play with theirs?

My girlfriend and I have done this for years: the kids played, we baked, and everyone was happy.

While it may well feel like Christmas has become this huge, commercialized machine of expectations, we do have a choice about how we choose to participate. You have a vote in this.

It’s ok to say NO to being overwhelmed so that you can YES to showing up for your kids and yourself.


Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT
©2016 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents


Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT, 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.

Dear Kerry: “Sick of all the Whining”

DearKerry_12yoWhiningDear Kerry,

My 12 year old son whines constantly and it drives me absolutely crazy. It’s almost like it’s his default way of speaking. I don’t want to constantly berate him – but I am not sure how to curb the whining?

Sick of All the Whining

Dear Sick,

For better or worse, this seems to be rather common for kids this age. I know that doesn’t make it any less aggravating for you to live with, but hopefully you at least know you are in good company with a lot of other parents.

If you focus on putting an end to the whining, you will end up putting your attention on what you DON’T want.

Focus instead on what you DO want; for example, calm voice, doing what you ask the first time, respectful words, pleasant tone. I call this “Parenting the Invisible” because it’s hard for us to notice when our kids do it.  We tend to take the good, quiet, cooperative behavior for granted.  Our brains are wired to hone in on the undesirable behaviors.  If you pay attention, however, to the little, quiet, good behaviors and nice way of speaking, you’re likely to see that they actually do exist even when it seems like they don’t.  If you can reward those in some way, you are helping your son grow the good behaviors.  Rewards can be small and simple like a smile or nice word or affectionate touch and thanks.  Even better, you can set up a plan for your son to earn something worth earning by having a point system and earning a point with every good behavior.  Dr. Kazdin outlines a specific strategy for this in his book, The Everyday Parenting Toolkit.

I think the only way to really make “Parenting the Invisible” work is to set timers.  When I’m really working it with my 12 year old son, I have to set a timer to go off every 20-30 minutes to remind me that I’m watching for the invisible.  If I don’t set a timer, I forget.  I like to give myself a certain chunk of an evening that I’m focused on being diligent about  parenting this way and during which he can earn points.  It’s not realistic to expect ourselves to do it perfectly all the time, especially if we have other kids and other distractions.

It’s easy to say, “I shouldn’t have to reward this; he should just do it because it’s the right way to act.”

Often times we parents have to give our kids external reasons to do the right things until they develop an internal compass that guides them.

This internal compass kicks in for different kids at different ages depending on their temperament and life stressors, among other things.

Another idea is to stay as calm as possible and simply make an enforceable statement: “I will help you when I hear you ask in a respectful way.” Then go quiet and do not argue or engage with his whining.  If we parents respond and argue and engage when our kids are nasty to us, we teach them that this is an OK way to talk to people.  It’s better for us to let them know that we will be available to provide services, help, time, etc, when they treat us respectfully.  Think “FUTURE SPOUSE.” If you don’t want your son to grow up treating his spouse the way he’s treating you, then do not reward the nasty tone.  Stay calm, go quiet, and be available when you are treated well.

One more idea for you is the Love & Logic® notion of putting an end to whining and arguing by going “Brain Dead” and using a “One-Liner.”  Check out these videos to learn more:

Good luck and please let me know how it goes!

With love and laughter,
Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT
©2015 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT, 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.

Standing Up to Teen Defiance

How to deal with teen defiance, love and logic, parenting classes, denver, co

Big Problems with Teen Defiance

Siblings and rivalry go hand-in-hand so it’s no surprise that 14 year-old Preston taunts and pesters his younger brother, Kyle. Recently, Preston refused to stop pestering his brother and was provoking him by throwing things, hassling him and doing anything he could to elicit a response from his brother just for entertainment. This was much more interesting to him than sitting down and doing homework.  As mom listened to the bickering, name-calling and yelling, she wondered how she would diffuse the situation without aggravating her defiant, strong-willed adolescent even further.

Parenting was so much simpler when the boys were little but now as a single mother of 3 boys, parenting was often aggravating and left mom wondering what to do. After all, two of her three sons were teenagers and had outgrown the parenting strategies that had worked long ago. She wondered how it was possible to reprimand her sons when they became defiant without putting herself in harm’s way.

Taking a Stand Against a Big Kid

When Preston refused to leave the room even when mom demanded it, it was apparent that he had his own agenda. Finally, he left the room but only to return minutes later exhibiting the same behavior that got him in trouble the first time. At that point Preston was worked up and mom was frustrated at her son’s unwillingness to cooperate. Nothing was resolved and mom felt miserable with the state of her family, but it was time for bed. There was no way that this mom was going to try and reprimand her strong-willed teen when he was clearly fired up. She knew better.

Get Out of the Red Zone

Stepping away and allowing her son a chance to cool down elicited a much different response the next morning. After a good night’s sleep, mom decided to tackle her son’s growing defiance when the situation was no longer in the red zone. That morning, she took her son’s phone away for the defiance he had exhibited the night before. Although he was unhappy with his mom’s decision, he was no longer fired up and he begrudgingly handed over his phone.

Be Persistent

After surviving a day without his cell phone and then getting it back, Preston was back to his old tricks. He was taunting his little brother and pestering him for no reason.  This time, however, mom set boundaries immediately for his unwanted behavior and stuck to them. A quick glance from mom along with a calmly executed, “This looks like defiance” was all it took for him to stop. Preston had figured out that his mom was not willing to let his poor behavior be left unchecked..

This was a big wake-up call for her son and a feeling of accomplishment for mom.

She had busted through the fear of angering her teen and was able to take control of the situation with minimal struggle.

Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT
©2014 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT, 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.

Discipline that Makes Cents

Discipline that Makes Sense

Tax Unwanted Behavior

At a parent coaching session recently,  a single dad talked about a real world solution to his parenting dilemma. He charged a tax to his children when they displayed unwanted behavior and paid them a bonus when they displayed positive behavior. What appeared to be a simple solution proved to be a valuable lesson to his children and this reward system worked wonders on bad behavior.

Carpe DIME: Seizing the Opportunity to Change Bad Behavior

This dad shared a story about his 7 year old son and some unwanted behavior. These behaviors included eye rolling and every parent’s favorite phrase, “whatever.”

“It was simple,” he explained, “whenever my son would roll his eyes or say something I didn’t like, he was charged 25 cents.”

He went on to add that, on one occasion, he charged his son $1.00 for an exceptionally crummy thing he had done to his younger brother. After saving their allowances, the boys were given the opportunity to pick a toy at the local Target. The 7 year old had been diligent about saving his allowance and picked out a really cool Star Wars Lego set that he was especially proud of. His younger brother, not being as savvy a shopper, picked out a few cheap toys that were poorly made and not a great value. Although the 3 year old was thrilled with his purchase, his older brother quickly took the wind out of his sails by telling him how stupid his purchase was. The little guy wilted but Dad made sure to turn this into a lesson his 7 year old wouldn’t forget.

Later in the car, Dad told the 7 year old that he would be charged $1.00 for the unnecessary and hurtful actions towards his brother. He told him how much he loved him and, because of that love, he would teach him to be a better person by exhibiting kindness towards his brother. That said, the 7 year old now had his turn to wilt but promptly handed over the dollar to his Dad. The following night, the 7 year old was given the chance to earn back his dollar by treating his brother with love and kindness.

Lessons Learned and Money Earned

The lesson that this Dad was able to teach his 7 year old was invaluable and will serve as a reminder to his son that there are rewards with good behavior just as there are repercussions for bad behavior. With real world lessons such as this one, Dad was able to instill in his son the value of kindness while helping his son to be a better person.
Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT
©2014 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT, 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.

Five Ways to Stop Preschool Drop Off Separation Anxiety (Yes, They Really Work!)

CryingThe hardest part of my day used to be prying my preschooler and kindergartners arms off my legs when I had to drop them off at school. My sons’ howls of protest hurt my heart at the same time it made me wonder what I was doing wrong or what was wrong with them. All three of my boys did it at some stage or another. I can reassure you that this does pass…. my oldest son did absolutely no leg-holding or crying when he left for college last week.

After surviving three kids’ separation anxiety, or “drop off dramas” and talking with many parents about what has helped them, here are a few ideas to experiment with. Please let me know how they work!

Drop off drama usually follows hot on the tail of “Getting Ready in the Mornings Drama” which for many families is the worst time of day. Drop off drama is about a young person experiencing a painful transition from their beloved parent to a room full of new kids and adults. This is very stressful for some little people, especially those who prefer to be at home.

1. Fill the Bucket!

If mornings are stressful, drop offs are bound to be stressful as well. I love the idea of taking a few minutes right before drop off… either in the car or while still at home… to “fill the bucket” of your little one. Imagine if you said something like this, “I know that saying goodbye is hard some days, so how about if we take some time to snuggle and get you all filled up with mommy/daddy-time?”

2. Acknowledge the Sadness and Encourage Communication

Acknowledge your child’s sadness. Invite her to “get her sad out” while you are there to hold her. This can be a good time to read one of the children’s books that address the pain of goodbye The Kissing Hand, The Invisible String, Love You Forever, Wherever You Are: My Love Will Find You). It can be fascinating to ask your little one to get out all of his/her sadness while you are together. She might cry, he might protest. You can just be there and say things like, “I know, it’s hard to say goodbye, isn’t it?’ “I love it when you can say how you feel.” You can even invite some fit-throwing. It sounds counter-productive but I promise, it has helped many parents tone down drama and end tantrums in some children. Encouraging your child to feel all his feelings and share them ahead of time lets them feel strongly but do so in the safety of your presence and the privacy of home.

3. Teach Self-Soothing

When it’s NOT the critical drop off moment, have a conversation with your child about what he can say to himself that will help drop offs go better. Hint: He won’t have a clue. That’s when you get to teach positive self-talk by saying something like: “Some kids find it helps to say, ‘I can have fun at school even when I miss my daddy.” Or, “It’s ok to feel sad and mad about saying goodbye. I can handle it.” Or “My mommy/daddy’s love is with me wherever I go.”

4. Give Choices from a “Go To School Menu”

Give them three choices for the three days they go to preschool and each week they can pick which day they use each style. Write them on a simple chart.  No repeats are allowed in a week.

The choices are:
1) Scream and cry and hold onto Mommy’s legs all the way into the classroom.
2) Scream and cry in the car and then walk in holding mommy’s hands, give a big hug and say “goodbye.” 
3) Snuggle with a book before getting in the car and play follow the leader into school, blow kisses and smile.

On the days they chose the scream and cry model, really encourage them do it as intensely as they can. If they start to cry on a non-cry day, warmly remind them that they already had their crying day for that week. After all the build-up and permission to do some good fit-throwing, some kids simply no longer feel the need to do “Drop-off-Drama” and the situation can resolve itself fairly quickly.

5. Make a Fun “Going To School” Book Starring Your Little One

Take them to preschool on a day that they don’t actually attend. Take pictures of them every step of the way. Since there is no impending good-bye, there won’t be any drama. Photograph them smiling in their carseats, smiling in front of the school, walking down the hall holding your hand and standing in the classroom waving a pretend goodbye. Then leave the school, go for a treat and talk about how it felt to go to school so happy. Next, print up the pictures and make a super simple little little book with your child’s name in it: For example: “William Goes to School” book.

Each morning after that, ask your child if they want to go to school happy or sad and let them look at the book. This reinforces that they were able to go to school happy and by looking at the pictures, they will remember the experience of going in peacefully. This technique worked so well with one mom that her child never fussed after that.

Important Things to Remember:

Show compassion for your children who fuss at drop off — saying goodbye to their “home-base” is painful for them. It’s a life skill they must learn, but acknowledge that it’s a hard one.

Have no expectation that this should be easy for them or you. If it’s not, it’s not. It can be a great opportunity for you to teach them different ways to master this important skill.

Put some time and effort into switching up the pattern and you could save yourself and your child a lot of drama and heartache in the long run.

Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT
©2014 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT, 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.

A Teenage Storm Today Makes Way for a Sunny Tomorrow

A Teenage Storm Today Makes Way for a Sunny Tomorrow There are many versions of a “Teenage Storm” – surly, annoyed, resentful, hurtful – perhaps it includes silence or is filled with an angry outburst claiming that you don’t understand. It could be your teen manipulating your emotions in the storm – looking for an opportunity to take advantage of your weakness. Whatever your particular teen brings to the table, I hope you let this parenting story help you remember to consistently stand your ground.

Just two days ago, 15-year old Parker was in a hurry to get out the door and head to school. When I took an extra minute to grab my coffee, he snapped at me in such a loud, angry voice that was so rude and harsh that it startled me. I kept my composure on the way to school. I needed to think about how I wanted to handle but I knew that we were both too heated to discuss it well in that moment. He got out of the car and slammed the door with a sarcastic remark of, “Good job mom, you finally made it.” Bear in mind that this kid could be riding the bus to school, but it’s a long walk and early morning and I generally like the chance to be with him, so I drive him to school.

After school, I calmly told him that the way he had treated me felt bad. He got fired up again and accused me of “going psycho over every little thing.” Of course, this hurt my feelings also. I mean, I am a reformed yeller and rarely raise my voice in anger!

In typical teenage fashion, that same afternoon, Parker wanted me to drive him to get a haircut and to a friend’s house. After putting on some mental armor and reinforcements to endure his inevitable protest, I calmly said to my son, “The way you treated me today doesn’t leave me feeling willing to do you any favors or drive you around.” Then I added a common phrase of mine, “I love you too much to let you learn it’s ok to treat me poorly.”

He was furious. And really disappointed about having to stay home while his friends got together. Fortunately, he kept it to himself. Still, I felt gross, he was grumpy and let’s just say it didn’t feel like the Cleaver household that evening.

The next day, everything changed. During breakfast, Parker was kind and helpful. He seemed calm and collected – the night of ruminating on his choices seemed to have had a positive effect. When he again asked me about taking him for a haircut, I had no problem rewarding his request and we had a nice evening.

Following through with consequences and limits with a strong-willed teen can be daunting. Teens never thank their parents for being firm (can you believe??) and we often feel like we have to run for cover when those particularly surly teens protest our attempts at discipline. But I swear, every time I set a limit and have the nerve to follow through, every time I’m strict with my strong-willed teen, I have to endure the storm, but once it is over, my teen is sweeter and nicer than he was before.

Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT
©2014 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT, 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.

Compassion is the Key to 5-year Old Bed Wetting

sleepy boy in blue bedclothesWe all have expectations as parents. One thing we don’t usually expect is for our school age child to still be wetting the bed on a regular basis. So when it happens over and over again, we can forget that they are little people trying hard to learn and we can end up being negative and shaming – which can prolong the bed wetting episodes.

I recently worked with a dad who was frustrated with his 5-year old’s constant bed-wetting.

So we tried a new approach.

“My 5-year old son, Will, still wets the bed at least half of the nights. Each time it happens, he’ll walk into my room in the morning in different pajamas than he wore to bed with his chin tucked and a sad look on his face.  I asked the pediatrician who politely brushed me off, saying that it’s not uncommon and that I shouldn’t worry about it. I try to get Will to use the bathroom every night before bed, I have him help me change the sheets and I don’t get upset about it but I’m just not sure what else I should be doing.”

This is an issue with two levels of solutions: the physical and the mental.

The Physical Aspects

Ensure you are following these steps:

1. No liquids after dinner.
A belly full of water can equal a bed full of regret. Cut off all liquids after dinner, and if a bedtime drink is requested – make it small – 1 -2 swallows is plenty.

2. Use the bathroom right before bed.
Be certain that he goes to the bathroom before bed (make it into a game if it helps).

3. Sleepwalk to the bathroom.
Wake him up right before YOU go to bed.  Keep the lights low, speak quietly, and guide him into the bathroom, even if you have to carry him and help him sit.

The Mental Aspects

Kids are emotional little creatures. They pick up on meaning and subtext that we don’t even realize we’re giving off. With that said:
1. Show no irritation or intensity when he doesn’t make it through; sounds like he’s already bummed about it.

2. Have him set up an incentive to celebrate when he stays dry through the night. When he does stay dry, be happy with him.

3. Be kind and matter-of-fact about him helping put the sheets and pajamas in the washer.

4. Come up with something sweet and reassuring.

Here’s the part that can make potty-training an exercise in developing important life-long skills: have him come up with something sweet and reassuring to say to himself on the days he’s not successful staying dry.  Ask him what a good coach would say to encourage a player.  Some possibilities:

  • “No worries, better luck next time.”
  • “It’s ok, I don’t have to be perfect.”
  • “My body might not be quite ready but it’ll get there soon.”
  • “Lucky for me, people in our family are lovable even when they wet the bed.”

5. Envision the Positive
Each night before he goes to bed, have him say out loud: 1) what his reward will be for staying dry and, 2) what sweet thing he’ll say to himself if he wakes up wet.  Even better?  Have him get in bed and pretend that he is waking up wet.  Have him go through each detail of opening his eyes, checking his pajamas, smiling and saying his kind statement.  Then do the same drill with him pretending that he is waking up dry and enjoying his incentive.

If you do this, not only will you some day have a son who won’t need Pull-Ups but you’ll also have a son who can be compassionate and gentle with himself and others even when things aren’t perfect!

Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT
©2014 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT, 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.


Empty Threats Make Weak Parents

A father had no less than a gaggle of children in the grocery store…

little girl in supermarketGranted it was a Saturday, granted they were in the toy isle, and granted he was alone. I watched him try to corral all of his kids for about five solid minutes – he would get two listening and then another one was waving a small plastic sword around as if she was fighting some sort of eight-armed dragon. It was funny – but also a bit sad. He was struggling.

He kept saying things like “get over here,” “stop that,” and “c’mon” – pretty typical things for someone trying to gain control of a situation teetering on uncontrollable. And then we heard a large fart noise. It was super loud and all the kids fell into peals of laughter. The middle boy had stomped his foot on a whoppie cushion, which was now lying deflated on the floor.

This sent dad over the edge.

“You know what, now you are going to pay for that! Where is your money?? Get it out RIGHT NOW.”

Now, we all knew he wasn’t going to make the kid pay for it. I knew it, the store clerk knew it, and the kids especially knew it. The kids ignored the dad and all ran down the isle and around the corner – probably to find someone whom they respected.

So, what really happened here?
The kids knew they were pushing dad to the brink.
They knew no matter what they did, he didn’t have any follow through.
They kept testing – and finally found his trigger.
They laughed at his angry outburst and empty threat.
Dad was left feeling ineffective and outnumbered.

When you’re in this situation, take a few moments to form your plan of attack. What reasonable consequence might you propose right now, in this situation, that you will actually follow through with?  THEN DO JUST THAT.

No compromising. No empty threats.

Your kids will be mad. They will backtalk or cry or they might even throw a fit. But in the end, they will know you are a person of your word. That what you say is truth.

And that is something they will respect.

One final note: next time, plan ahead.  Have a game plan in mind since history tells you that the kids are likely to be unruly. Set up an incentive for good behavior. The old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is definitely true when it comes to parenting.
Roxann Blue
©2013 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

Roxann is a new mom, graphic designer, and contributing author for Head & Heart Parents. In her spare time she likes to sleep. You can learn more about her at