A month ago, they were fighting so much we had to muzzle them when they were in the same room.

What changed?

A slow transition to unmuzzled company.

Daily exercise.

Firm but loving handling: sitting before going out a door, sitting before feeding, etc.

Immediately redirecting any aggressive behavior.

Lots of positive reinforcement of good behavior.


Dogs are a lot like humans!

Dear Ms.K., Thank You for Giving My Daughter Detention


Dear Ms. K.,

I want to thank you for giving my daughter detention today. Per our previous email, you informed me that she has been late to your class every day for several days. This baffled me, as I drop her off an hour early and you are her first class of the day. After several warnings, you emailed me to let me know that should she be late again, she would get detention. I assured you she would not repeat that mistake.

But of course, I cannot guarantee the actions of anyone besides myself.

After confronting her, she hurriedly assured me she learned her lesson. She explained that she gets hungry and her friend meets her to bring her food. Her friend is not always so quick.

Oh, are we blaming our friend?

No, no. It’s not her fault. Mom, it won’t happen again!

I try to give my daughter freedom within strict guidelines. A  “C” in a class at any time means her cell phone gets confiscated until the grade goes up. How she operates within her hours and activities is up to her.

When I remind her to make time for breakfast in the mornings and to pack a snack, I am met with heavy sighs. She is too busy styling her hair and applying makeup to worry about breakfast.

So it happened again today. She didn’t eat breakfast. She got hungry and met her friend. She was late to your class. And, as you promised, she will now have to serve detention – one hour after school tomorrow.

In the car, she was shaken. She’s never had this kind of consequence from a teacher before.

“It’s my fault. I got hungry. I didn’t pack any snacks or eat breakfast. It’s my responsibility. I will pack food the night before.”

I wanted to lecture  her and reinforce the lesson. I wanted to voice my dismay and disappointment. Instead, I said, “I am very proud of you for taking responsibility for this and not blaming anyone.”

Thank you, Ms. K., for doing the right thing. You are helping my daughter develop character and responsibility.








cactus with tiebacks
Our Ocotillo

We’re growing various plants in our backyard, including an herb garden and, of course, cactus. My favorite desert plant is the ocotillo. I see them growing magnificently in Usery Park (where they grow wildly and without irrigation) but in my own backyard, it’s taking its time. We don’t want the branches to grow out into the pathway, so we placed tiebacks on the branches to “encourage” and “redirect” growth in our desired formation.

Tiebacks work when the plant is still supple and maturing, and the tiebacks are gentle in their support. It wouldn’t work to have harsh restraints which could harm or kill parts of the plant.

Humans have tiebacks, too. They’re called habits. As with plant tiebacks, they’re most effective when we’re receptive and “supple” and when the habits are firm, but not too harsh.






She took her daughter out of the store and turned to her. She bent down so they were face to face. “I want you to stop touching everything in the store and when you make something fall down, you need to pick. it. up.”

I smiled. Ah! Order had been restored in the universe!

This was such a refreshing scene to what is becoming more commonplace in restaurants and malls: parents busy on their phones while their children run and scream,  hit each other or drum on tables with forks and knives.

ava note

My daughters have cell phones. I do regret purchasing iPhones for them. But we had purchased them a “dumb” phone (only good for making calls) and they never had it on them. Or, they wouldn’t turn it on. So much for emergencies! In any case, they love their new phones and we can always reach them. Problem: They’re on Instagram or Snapchat all the time. It’s summer break and they will (literally) be happy to lie on their bed and play on their phones for hours. They become sullen, lethargic and anti-social.

So I took their phones away. They have to hand them to me at 9:30pm and they don’t get them again until 5pm. In the meantime, they must make their beds, practice violin for at least 70 minutes each and do other chores. I’ve actually been called “strict,
“mean” and “bossy” for doing this. Really? 4 or 5 hours of complete freedom on their phones is being strict? I’m trying to teach them ethics – “work before pleasure.” Someone said, “Well, all the teenagers do this now.” This sentence reminds me of a comeback…something about everyone jumping off a bridge?

Balancing “control” and “freedom” is always a delicate issue when raising children. Giving them room to grow, letting them make mistakes and standing back as they learn from their mistakes is imperative! However, we are parents. We must not be afraid to do the right thing, which is limit the “bad stuff”. You don’t allow your kids to eat all the sugar they want, do you? Technology is the same thing. As they mature and demonstrate that they can put the phone down and do other things, I will ease up. But not yet.





The Girl and the Dress

My 14 year old daughter and I have been arguing. A lot. All this year.

She’s suddenly become that typical teenager who argues, whines and criticizes her mother for everything (“Why did you wear that, mom?”) while rolling her eyes.  I can live with this (sort of), but what has really gotten to me is how she takes everything for granted. She constantly asks to eat out. She wants new clothes. But when she changes out of them, they lay crumpled in the corner on in her bed. I have had family and friends look at me sideways as if to say You’re going to let her get away with that?   But I have had to choose my battles. Homework, violin practice, cleaning her room, getting out of the house at a decent time in the mornings – we have quarreled many times.

I have to admit, many afternoons, I am tired and she wears me out and I purchase food as snack or dinner, when I’d really rather not. I’m tired from working all day (90 kids/day) and I don’t want to cook that badly, either.

But today, when she asked me when we could buy her ANOTHER dress for a SECOND dance at school, I put my foot down.

“Josie, I’m not buying another dress. You have a savings account and you can use that money.”

“But mom! I need another dress that I can wear for the next recital and audition. I’d wear the new dress several times.” (whines)

“You have plenty of dresses. You CAN buy a new dress, you just have to pay for it and you have money.”

She thought and sulked for awhile in her room. Her younger sister has more money in savings and Josie has become competitive lately. She never used to care, but she has stopped withdrawing from it in recent months. The girls get cash gifts from grandparents and it goes into these accounts.

“I’m going to wash the baseboards to make some extra money,” she said.

I smiled. Inwardly.

Willey helped her get a bucket and rags. On her hands and knees, she started cleaning. I had to look away. I felt a little like the wicked stepmom with Cinderella. At the same time, I felt really good about it.

She washed half the baseboards and then abandoned it. I mentally noted I would not pay her more than $5. She worked for half an hour. That’s half the minimum wage. I refused to pay her guilt or inflated money.

She got on her bed with her cell phone. Half an hour passes.

“Mom, Megan is going to let me borrow one of her dresses.”

“OK. That’s great!”


Cue: “The Dance”