The Happy Kid Handbook in Stores Now!

Happy Kid #1 close up


Yesterday was an exciting day! Thanks to so many of you, The Happy Kid Handbook made it to #1 for parenting on Amazon! I am humbled by and grateful for your support. This is just the beginning. In the coming weeks I will hit the road to talk about the book and share my passion for taking back childhood and empowering our kids to live happy lives.

There were some great articles about the book yesterday. While I did my best to share them on social media as much as possible, I decided to share them here just in case you missed something that might be helpful to you and your family.

Yahoo interviewed me a few weeks ago and shared 8 Ways to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World. That was a super fun interview and I love the article.

Club Mid for Scary Mommy shared an exclusive excerpt of the book. Check out How Do We Teach Our Kids About Forgiveness? for some tips straight from the book!

My friends at shared another exclusive excerpt from the book – this one on raising kids who speak up. Read 5 Ways to Raise a Kid Who Speaks Up for more on teaching assertiveness skills.

Also on, my dear friend Sherri wrote The Secret to Raising a Happy Kid – warning, always bring tissues when reading Sherri.

By now you know I’m a huge believer in the power of play. My friend Marilyin at Roots of Action shared this article on the importance of play: The Benefits of Play are “Oh, So Big!”

Passion is always a hot topic. Should a kid have just one or is more really better? I enjoyed writing this article for Psychology Today: How to Support and Nurture Your Child’s Passions.

And you don’t want to miss 5 Steps to a Happier Home on

Thank you so very much! If you didn’t get your copy, please check it out!

If you did, and you want to stop by Amazon and leave a review…I will owe you a giant hug and a latte!

I’ll have some bookstore and speaking dates for you soon…stay tuned!

Get out and play!

3 Phrases That Will Strengthen Your Bond With Your Child Today


It’s easy to talk about and practice unconditional love when we are rested, happy and healthy but when times get tough – the act of unconditional can fade away. And that’s just it. We all talk about it often. Of course we feel huge love for our children. But do we show it? Do we make sure to communicate it?

Unconditional love isn’t just a feeling in our hearts, after all, it’s an action we take to communicate that feeling.

I was overwhelmed with exhaustion. A cold morphed into croup – the kind of croup that triggers the asthma and results in a desperate call for help in the dark of night. There were treatments and visits to the doctor and more treatments. There was little sleep. We were both overwhelmed and bone tired. Worry kept me awake, standing guard over her little lungs while she finally slept. It seemed as though it might never end this time. Nothing worked. Until it did. Finally, the light emerged.

But getting back to the daily grind was no easy task. That kind of illness, that inability to take a single breath – that leaves little ones scared and clingy. That triggers worries and sadness and difficulty sleeping. Although I was running on empty and wanted to rush through the process of reentering the world, I knew I couldn’t. I had to find the strength and patience to continue to practice that unconditional love. I had to help her through the next steps – to wash the fears away.

It wasn’t easy. I used a few strategies from the book. We did rainbow breathing together and practiced bossing back that pesky worry brain. When she was ready, we both tentatively let go. Our eyes met through the window of the classroom, both sets lined with tears. I watched and waited. She opened her book. Slowly, I walked away, placing my trust in unconditional love.

Kids need to know that we are always there for them. They need to hear the words and feel our arms wrapped around them. When we build them up with love, they are better able to spread their wings and fly.

There are countless things we can say and do to communicate unconditional love. Try these:

“I trust you.”

We spend a fair amount of time guiding our kids, as we should. We teach them to play well with others. We show them how to mediate conflict. We give them strategies to cope with the hard stuff. But at some point, we have to trust them. We have to believe that they can take it from here.

Communicate that to your child. Trust that your child can make good decisions, stand up for what’s right and walk away from what isn’t. Build your child up by trusting in her ability to thrive while she’s away from you.

“I believe in you.”

Many kids are pleasers by nature. They run to us with every little accomplishment because they want us to cheer for their success. They want us to know that they can do it! The hard part is empowering your kids to believe in themselves. We want them to carve their own paths – to find happiness by reaching their own goals. Not by pleasing us.

“I believe in you” is a frequently used phrase around here. I use it when they struggle to make decisions, when they walk into their classrooms each morning, when they step onto the field or dance floor or when they question their own abilities.

“I believe in you” puts your faith in them and empowers them to reach their own goals on their own timeline to make their own dreams come true. Powerful stuff.

“I will always be here for you.”

Growing up is hard work and sometimes letting go feels like jumping into the great unknown without a parachute. Kids need the parachute.

You know you’ll always be there to love them through their successes and failures, but kids need to hear their parents communicate this to them.

“I will always be here for you.” Say it often. Set it on repeat. Make it happen.

There will be ups and downs along this journey. There will be long days and longer nights and heartbreaking moments that bring you tears, but there will also be laughter, happiness and moments of pride that can’t be put into words. Be there for all of them, both in words and in spirit.


For more strategies to empower your kids to live happy lives and teach your kids how to cope with the hard stuff, preorder your copy of The Happy Kid Handbook today!



Feelings Faces Magnets With The Happy Kid Handbook!



Big News!!!

We are just one month away from the release of my first book, The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World (Tarcher Books, Penguin Random House)!

I’ve been a writer since I can remember and this book is a dream come true. I put my heart and soul into this book and it is my greatest hope that it will bring some comfort to some of you along this parenting journey.

A gift for you…

Emotional regulation plays a big role in helping kids learn how to cope with the hard stuff that life has to offer. The truth is that we all experience ups and downs along the way and, despite all best efforts, we can’t protect our children from obstacles in their paths. We can, however, give them the tools they need to work through those obstacles on their own.

This is a theme in Happy Kid: Empowering our kids to work through obstacles independently so that they can live happy lives!

A first great step is helping your child build a feelings vocabulary. When kids can accurately identify their feelings, they can learn how to cope with them. Sounds simple, right? I can’t tell you how many kids sit on my couch and struggle to answer the following question: “How do you feel today?”

I love feelings faces charts because they help kids draw the connections between facial expressions and emotions. They also open the door to communication about feelings. I put a feelings faces poster on my family room wall when my daughter was 18 months old, and we still use it to this day!

You see those adorable magnets in the picture above? I worked with a talented artist, my dear friend Stacie Ottoson, to create those just for you! The first 50 people to preorder The Happy Kid Handbook will receive a custom designed Happy Kid feelings faces magnetic chart (size 4×6) as a token of my deep appreciation of your support of the book.

How do you get one?

It’s easy. Follow these steps:

  1. Preorder The Happy Kid Handbook through one of the links below or at your favorite local bookstore (support your local independent bookstores – please!)
  2. Take a screenshot or picture of your receipt – block out or blur that credit card info, though.
  3. Email your receipt to me at katiehurleylcsw(at)gmail(dot)com or send me a private message on Facebook.
  4. Include your full name and mailing address (United States only for now!)

Preorder The Happy Kid Handbook here:


Barnes & Noble



If you already preordered the book because you’re simply amazing – you still get the magnet. Just let me know where to find you!

I’m ready to send out 50 feelings faces magnets – let’s get to it!

I can’t thank you enough for your support. Many of you loyal readers have been there from the beginning – you helped me get here. For that, I am full of gratitude.

Stay tuned for upcoming bookstore and speaking events…

It’s time to start spreading the happy with #TheHappyKidHandbook!

Don’t Wait for November to Teach Gratitude

Teach gratitude every day

Earlier today my kids spotted a dime on the floor at the exact same time. This almost never happens. My daughter is dreamy like me and tends to have her head in the clouds. She doesn’t always see what’s right in front of her because she’s busy thinking – dreaming big dreams. My son, like his dad, is a details kind of guy. He likes numbers, facts and lively conversations about numbers and facts. And history – oh how they love history. He’s the champion coin finder in the family because even when he gets lost in thought, he has an incredible ability to remain partially grounded in the here and now. He always sees the coins.

I walked down the stairs to find them deep in conversation about how to handle the coin situation. Numbers guy thought trading it in for two nickels made the most sense. But the dreamer wasn’t so sure. She liked the feel of the dime as she rolled it between her fingers, and that sent her spinning into her thought clouds.

I kept a safe distance, eager to see how the story might end. It wasn’t long before they crafted the perfect solution.

I should back up a bit. In late August, they came running to me with huge smiles and sparkling eyes. “We have a great idea!” they shouted. “We want to match a family with kids exactly our ages this time because we know so many things they will like!” At holiday time, our church organizes a family-to-family giving program.  You can sponsor a family (or two or three…) to help with a Thanksgiving dinner and some gifts under the tree. My kids had so much fun choosing gifts last year that they haven’t stopped thinking about it. Truly, the whole experience was heartwarming on many levels.

This year, my kids seem to want to take the lead. They talk about saving money of their own to contribute. They’ve created gift lists and edited them over and over again. The experience of helping another family left them so full of gratitude that they just can’t wait to do it again.

“Do we have our family YET?” they ask, every few days (and then some).

I sat quietly, watching them whisper. They were hatching a plan, that much I knew. We’ll donate it. Can we donate it? Can we donate one coin? I heard bits and pieces as I waited for them to come to a final decision. This coin, as it turns out, started a movement in our little family. The excitement mounted as they discussed the possibility of putting all loose change and found coins into a a jar to save for a family in need this holiday season. No longer would they depend on me to buy the gifts – they were making a difference. Moments later a jar appeared and the loose change left behind this morning was thrown right into it. They were on their way to spreading kindness, one small coin at a time.

Don’t wait for November!

Come November we will be flooded with information about raising grateful kids and projects to get the gratitude going. People will slow down just a little and remember to give thanks and the world will feel just a little bit more friendly. Kindness will take center stage as we roll into the winter holiday season.

But what if lessons in gratitude were taught all year long? What if acts of kindness, big and small, were simply part of the backdrop? What if we didn’t wait?

We all know that helping others is a great way to help kids slow down and think about gratitude. But sometimes kids feel powerless. It’s hard to know where to begin, how to spread kindness, when you don’t have much control over your own life. Kids can make a difference. Through small acts of kindness, kids can spread gratitude and happiness to others – they can be change makers.

Try a few of these kid friendly acts of kindness:

  • Collect coins to donate to someone or a charity in need.
  • Save the proceeds of a lemonade stand to donate.
  • Help weed a garden or rake leaves for an elderly neighbor.
  • Bake something for a neighbor or relative who is ill.
  • Make cards to cheer up kids in a local children’s hospital.

When kids realize that they have the ability to make a difference on their own, they become change makers. They tap into empathy a little bit more and stop to think about the wellbeing of others.

Don’t wait until November to start teaching gratitude this year. Engage in deliberate acts of kindness, big and small, as much as possible and talk about how spreading kindness makes the world a happier, and more grateful, place to live.

If you choose to join my kids and coin it forward to someone in need (or if you have another great family community service project going), please stop by the Facebook page and tell us all about it!

Support, Don’t Hover, to Raise Independent Kids


Sometimes it feels like parenting is a no-win situation these days. If you stick too close, you’re a helicopter. If you hang too far back, you’re not engaged. If you let your kids ride their bikes alone, you might even be reported for neglect. Okay, maybe that last one is a little bit extreme, but you get the point.

Parents are constantly under a microscope today. Parents read articles and books on parenting to gather information and perhaps solve a few parenting mysteries (we all have them from time to time). That’s a good thing. The flip side is that input is everywhere…even when you’re not looking for it. That’s not such a good thing. That can damage the self-esteem of the parent. That can cause parents to question their instincts. That can cause arguments and frustration.

New research, for instance, shows that “helicopter parenting” is detrimental to kids no matter how loving the parents are. This particular study shows that children raised by controlling parents are actually less engaged in the classroom. While the researchers thought they might find that love and support neutralized the controlling behavior, they didn’t.

The quick takeaway, of course, is that helicopter parenting is no good. But what does that actually mean?

For purposes of the study, the researchers defined “helicopter parenting” as engaging in over-involved habits such as solving problems for kids or making decisions for them.

The term “helicopter parent” first appeared in a book in 1969, referring to a parent of a teen who hovers too close. It gained steam in the 2000’s as college deans reported such behaviors as parents looking to get grades changed and calling to wake college kids for classes. I’m not sure my parents even knew when my classes were when I was in college – I can’t imagine a daily wake-up call.

Somewhere along the line, “helicopter parenting” trickled down to parents with younger children. Today, if you stay too close, according to the judgment of another, you’re a helicopter. I get tons of questions from confused parents – they want to do their best to love and support their kids, but they don’t want to hang too close and cause problems by “hovering”. Sigh.

Young children need parental support. They need help and guidance along the way. Do they need you to solve every problem? Of course not! Do they sometimes need help brainstorming problem solving strategies? Absolutely.

The best advice I can give on this one is to strike the term “helicopter parenting” from your vocabulary. It’s overused and often misused, and that’s a problem.

Beyond that, try this:

Trust your instincts.

You know your family better than anyone else. Some kids need close supervision at the park, while others need room to spread their wings and fly. I know, for instance, that my daughter can climb super high and never fall but if my son follows her I need to trail him – he often catches up to her only to realize that he doesn’t love heights. I also know that my kids have potentially fatal food allergies, so all parties require close supervision.

Trust your parental instincts. You know what your kids need and how to fulfill those needs. If you worry about what others think, you might not make the best choices for your family. Stay focused on your own family and tune out the white noise.

Talk about feelings.

Kids need to be able to experience and cope with frustration, anger, sadness, and every other feeling that comes up throughout the day. Too often parents jump in to solve a problem so that kids don’t have to experience big emotions.

Emotions are good and all feelings matter. Talk about the feelings that occur when something is hard or just out of reach. Let your child cry and express her emotions as she sees fit. Then label those feelings, talk about what caused them, and discuss ways to feel calm.

Problem solve together.

Solving every problem for your child leads to learned helplessness. Solving problems with your child provides guidance and support while empowering your child to become a problem solver.

Brainstorm together. Ask leading questions, but don’t provide the answers. We all have moments when we need sometime to listen and provide support, right? Kids feel the same way. Sometimes they need someone to sit close and listen while they try to find a solution.


Listen for the sake of listening, not for the sake of crafting the perfect response. Too often we get caught up in partial listening – we listen to respond. The best listeners, however, need time to respond. They need time process what was said and respond when they have something thoughtful to add to the conversation. The best listeners…listen.

Listen to what your kids say. Let the feelings and emotions hang in the air for a moment. Sit with them. Experience them. Take the time to empathize before you problem solve. When your children learn that they won’t break every time they experience big emotions, they will be better equipped to cope with the hard stuff along the way.

Make time for play.

Kids learn a lot from free play. They learn to solve problems. They learn to resolve conflict. They learn to cope with emotions. Play is the business of childhood – make time for it.

For more on the importance of free play, check out these articles:

Parents, Are Your Kids Getting Enough Free Play Time?

5 Ways Even Working Parents Can Factor in More Free Play

Why Free Play Is Important During the Summer

Parenting with Presence with Susan Stiffelman


I read a lot of parenting books.  When parents come to me for help, I need to know what they’re reading and why it speaks to them.  When they come to me with the latest and greatest parenting “theory”, I need to understand why that particular style appeals to them.  I stay on top of the current research, I read until my eyes fall out, and I help parents apply that coveted information to their daily lives.

The truth is that parenting is challenging at times, and while books are full of useful information – learning to apply that information to the bumps in the road can also be a challenge.  If you really want to practice mindful parenting but find that it’s hard to do so when your children arguing about that one toy (again), you’re not alone.  Sometimes what we read at night doesn’t always work the next morning.

This time is different.  From the moment I opened Susan Stiffelman’s book, Parenting with Presence, I felt a sense of calm.  The chapter on throwing away the snapshot is worthy of a book of its own.  I think we all do this, to some degree.  We create a snapshot of what we want our families, our lives, our careers, and even our friendships to look like.  When those snapshots conflict with reality, we feel disappointed, angry, and sometimes depressed as a result.  We have to learn to start where we are – parent the kids that we have – instead of desperately trying to live up to the snapshots we created.

With a focus on self-love, acceptance, and compassion, Stiffelman guides us through the hard stuff – making peace with our own feelings and emotions while understanding why our children might feel hurt or upset at times.  Stiffelman provides practical strategies for parents and, more importantly, she also provides hope.  Parenting with Presence will shift your thinking and calm your soul.

Please enjoy Stiffelman’s 5 tips for parenting with presence below, and get your copy of her book here!


Five Tips for Parenting With Presence


I had meditated from the time I was sixteen, so as I approached motherhood, I was certain I would be spared those dramatic, stressful moments I saw frazzled parents having with their children. Yelling or shouting? I would be too centered to succumb to that level of frustration. Trying to rush my child to get where we were going? I was confident about my ability to slow down and live in the moment.




In theory, parenting with presence sounds easy enough. Putting it into practice in real time with real children is another thing altogether. No one can push our buttons the way our kids can — ignoring repeated requests to come to dinner after we’ve made something healthy and tasty, or refusing to stay in their beds when we’ve run out of steam and desperately want to go to sleep. Sometimes we lose our cool, and our way.


Parenting shows us just how human we are. Humbling, yes, but if we relax into the experience rather than resist the difficult moments, it can be one of the greatest opportunities we will ever have to learn how to love more deeply, live more fully in the moment and become more open-hearted versions of ourselves. A blessing of untold magnitude, but one with a never-ending invitation to stretch and grow.


Here are a few of the things I have learned about parenting with presence:


Be good enough. Our children don’t need us to be saintly or enlightened. We just need to be good enough. Don’t allow mean, critical voices in your head to tell you that you’re not adequately conscious or evolved. That voice — the one telling you that if you were more “spiritual,” you wouldn’t yell at your kids– is not your friend. It is only with a heart that is at ease with our imperfections that we can truly embrace the opportunities for spiritual growth that come with being a parent. When you lose your way, touch your heart with a “There, there” as you would comfort a child, and begin anew.


When your buttons get pushed, look beneath the surface. None of us like being ignored or dealing with tantrums. But when we feel especially triggered by our child’s unpleasant behavior, unfinished business from our own childhood may be rearing its ugly head. If your child’s anger makes your blood boil, it may be rekindling memories of a parent’s explosive temper. If you feel painfully disrespected when your kids pretend they don’t hear you, it may be activating the hurt of being ignored as a child. Our children can be invaluable beacons of light, illuminating our emotional dark corners to catalyze deep healing and open us to extraordinary dimensions of love and acceptance.


Commit to moments of full engagement. Most of us juggle the demands of our lives by giving partial attention to each activity without being fully present for any of them. We listen halfheartedly to our child’s story about Show and Tell while our wandering mind thinks over the emails we need to send. We rush our kids through brushing their teeth, counting the moments until we can fall wearily into bed. When our kids sense our divided attention, they often generate chaos and drama to bring all of us into the room, even if their behavior results in threats or punishments. Focus on the one thing you’re doing, whether it’s serving a snack or changing a diaper. Investing even a few moments of fully-engaged time with your kids can bring greater joy to your parenting life.


Challenge fear. Many parents are driven by anxiety. What will happen if she doesn’t finish her homework? What if he refuses to eat dinner…again? When we are ruled by fear, we tend to come across to our children as desperate and needy, effectively putting them in charge of our happiness. Make friends with the worst case scenario so it has less of a hold over you.


Unplug. These days it is nearly impossible to visit a park and not find parents checking their devices while the kids play, or strolling their baby while chatting on their cell phone. Rarely do you see families in a restaurant without at least one person—often a child— on some kind of digital device. We all know that the digital revolution has brought amazing things to our lives, but our children need regular doses of our presence. Yes, it’s great that you can reach out for the support of your cyber-tribe when you’re feeling isolated with little kids. But the next time your cell phone beeps, try staying a little longer in the 3D world.


My now twenty-four year old son walks into the house as I’m finishing up this article. I feel the tug of my writing, but the pull on my heart is stronger and I stand up to share a hug and a few moments of “How’ve ya been?” as we catch up after not seeing each other for a few days.


I have enjoyed many soul-nurturing experiences in my life but to this day, seeing my son still splits open my heart like nothing else can. Through the many rough patches and the countless days when I fell miles short of being as conscious as I had hoped to be, this love remains. Pure, perfect and miraculous.


# # #


Susan Stiffelman, MFT is the bestselling author of Parenting with Presence and Parenting without Power Struggles. She is a licensed marriage and family therapist, a credentialed teacher, and the Huffington Post’s weekly “Parent Coach” advice columnist. She lives in Malibu, California where she is an aspiring banjo player, a determined tap-dancer, and an optimistic gardener. Visit her online at


Based on the book Parenting with Presence: Practices for Raising Conscious, Confident, Caring Kids ©2015 by Susan Stiffelman. Printed with permission of New World Library.


Your Must-Have Resource for Navigating Social Media With Tweens

Image via Amazon

Image via Amazon

When I think back to middle school, I can’t help but remember the notes passed in study hall or in between classes.  Do you like Katie?  Circle one: YES or NO.  Remember those?  They weren’t always about boys, of course.  Sometimes they were about friends.  Do you think Katie is nice?  Circle one:  YES NO I DON’T KNOW. This social hierarchy thing?  That’s been around forever.  We act like it’s a new development, but this has been happening for years.

What IS a new development is taking the notes (nice ones and not-so-nice ones) and attaching them to something like an Instagram – in the secret code of tweendom (you know, letters that you have to decode – which really means just ask a tween to tell you what in the world “#lmirl” means.)

While many tweens use social media to connect with others, some do make mistakes.  And some intentionally bully others online. That embarrassing note passed in study hall years ago is much worse today because now it’s posted online for others to see.  With a simple screenshot, that note can continue to be posted over and over again.  That note that you tore up on your worst day in middle school has the potential to stick around forever in the life of a tween today.  Let that sink in for a minute.

Helping tweens and teens navigate the bumpy road of social media is tricky.  On the one hand, you can’t just bury your head in the sand and hope that your kid never makes a bad choice.  Kids make mistakes – it happens.  Even though they think they know everything…they do need support and guidance.  On the other hand, they need independence.  They need to have friendships on their own terms.  They don’t need you hovering and “liking” their every move.

What’s a parent to do?

Allow me to introduce you to Galit Breen!  In her new book, “Kindness Wins“, Breen covers all things social media and guides parents through the process – a road she recently began traveling with her own girls.  Breen knows how to weave a story, and her personal anecdotes will capture your heart and help you feel understood.  Not all parents talk openly about the struggles of raising adolescents, and that can feel isolating.  Breen breaks it down and shares her stories in this empowering parenting guide with a simple message:  Kindness always wins.

Also?  Breen is no stranger to online bullying.  She knows firsthand the pain of a hurtful comment or two.  Instead of allowing online bullying to tear apart her soul, however, she turned it around and did something about it.  How’s that for inspiring?


If kindness wins, accountability rules. The need for this mantra is never clearer than when scrolling through posts and comments left online.

Approximately four out of ten kids (42 percent) have experienced cyberbullying. When we were young, our bullies weren’t usually strangers. They were the kids who passed mean notes about us in class, the ones who didn’t let us sit at their table during lunch, and the ones who tripped us in the hallway or embarrassed us in gym class. Cyberbullying isn’t all that different from the playground bullying of our youth and nightmares. But with social media, our bullies have nonstop access to us–and our kids. In fact, we’re often “friends” with our bullies online.

When freelance writer Galit Breen’s kids hinted that they’d like to post, tweet, and share photos on Instagram, Breen took a look at social media as a mom and as a teacher and quickly realized that there’s a ridiculous amount of kindness terrain to teach and explain to kids―and some adults―before letting them loose online. So she took to her pen and wrote a how-to book for parents who are tackling this issue with their kids.

Kindness Wins covers ten habits to directly teach kids as they’re learning how to be kind online. Each section is written in Breen’s trademark parent-to-parent-over-coffee style and concludes with resources for further reading, discussion starters, and bulleted takeaways. She concludes the book with two contracts―one to share with peers and one to share with kids. Just like we needed to teach our children how to walk, swim, and throw a ball, we need to teach them how to maneuver kindly online. This book will help you do just that.


Galit Breen was a classroom and reading teacher for ten years. She has a master’s degree in education and a bachelor’s degree in human development. In 2009, she launched a career as a freelance writer entrenched in social media. Since then, her work has been featured in various online magazines including Brain, Child, The Huffington Post, TIME, and xoJane. Breen lives in Minnesota with her husband, three children, and a ridiculously spoiled miniature golden doodle. You can learn more about Galit by visiting


1. Why did you write this book?
I had a post go viral this fall about coments I received about my weight on an article I wrote about marriage. Not too long after that, my daughter and her friends began using social media platforms like Instagram. When I looked through some of the kids’ profiles, I realized there’s a lot of kindness terrain to cover. After my experience with unkind comments and fat shaming, I knew I wanted to do something about cyberbullying. This book is my “something.” This is a guide for parents, teachers, youth groups, etc. to use for teaching our kids how to be kind online. I think this can and should be taught. I used my work in social media to inform what needs to be taught and I used my background in teaching (I have an MA in education and I was a classroom and reading teacher for 10 years) to guide the how-to portion of the book.

2. What’s the book’s format?

The book can be read in one gulp or in sections. Each chapter in Kindness Wins covers one habit to directly teach kids about how to be kind online. Each section is written in a simple, parent-to-parent over coffee style and concludes with one resource for further reading, two discussion starters (one to have with peers and one to have with kids), and three bulleted takeaways. At the end of the book there are two Kindness Wins contracts–one for peers and one for kids.

3. What do your kids think about the book?

My kids are my biggest cheerleaders. My tween girls were two of my early readers and they gave me so very much feedback and things to (re)consider. They questioned and redirected my thinking. It was wonderful. Everything that’s right and relevant about the advice I give in this book might just be due to them! And my young son heartily approves of my cover colors. Thank goodness for that. :)

4. Who is this book for? Can kids read it?

Kids can definitely read it; you have my own tweens’ seal of approval for that. I wrote this book for parents in the trenches of raising tweens and teens, older kids who are teetering on knowing more than we do about maneuvering online. Parenting is hard. When our kids were little, we figured out that sharing our experiences, challenges, goals, and wins with each other was a huge relief and help. Now that our kids are a little bit older, we need just as much help but our support system is dwindling because parenting them feels more private, more their story to tell then ours. But there’s so much to be said about joining forces with our parenting peers and helping each other out. So this book is meant to be read and discussed by parents, friends, teachers, coaches, youth group and club leaders. It’s also meant to be read by–and discussed with–kids. Parents and kids, mother daughter book clubs, scouts, teams, classrooms. Reading this book is a step toward online kindness winning. But the conversations your reading will springboard are the leaps. Kids can, and should, read it.

5. What’s your favorite part of the book?

My favorite parts of the book are where my girls gave me feedback and took my social media examples from good to great. I also found quotes from authors and celebrities to begin each with. I love these so very much because it feels justright to have people from so many walks of life–kids to parents to celebrities–touting the same kindness wins message. At the end of the book I also include our favorite peanut butter cookie recipe–so you can make the cookies to have while you engage in the tricky conversations the book encourages you to. This specific recipe connects to the book, I swear, you’ll have to find out how inside, though! And it makes me feel like a good Minnesotan to not show up to the conversation empty handed!

Buy the book here!

Find Galit Breen here.

This book is a great resource for parents – but it also belongs in the hands of teachers and school administrators.  If we want to raise kind kids, we all need to be on the same page.


Disclaimer:  I am ridiculously proud to call Galit a friend (a really, really good one) and she did send me the book to read before it went to press, but that doesn’t change my opinion of this book in AT ALL.  Raising adolescents is complicated, and this book helps parents navigate these tricky but very necessary conversations.  It also brings us all together for a common goal:  Kindness.  Who in this world can argue with that?  Are you still here?  Go out and get a copy of “Kindness Wins”!

How to Inspire Your Kids to Spread Happiness


Today is the International Day of Happiness!  While it might seem a bit much to dedicate a day to celebrating happiness, I think a day like this is exactly what we need in this world.  Research shows us that connecting to others increases overall happiness, so it makes good sense that theme of today is making more connections.

Sure, you probably feel connected 24/7 thanks to your super smart phone, but how deep do those connections go?  How often do you carve out time to actually engage with others in a meaningful way?  We are a generation of quick wit and instant gratification, and we need to learn to slow down and consider the messages we send our children.

In this busy, go-go-go time of parenting, we need to learn to step back and find time to strengthen our existing relationships and establish new ones.

Just yesterday and elderly woman stopped me on my way into Rite Aid.  I was in a hurry, but the smile on her face told me that she needed to have a conversation.  Sure enough, she wanted to talk about polarized sunglasses.  It was a new concept to her and she wanted to know if I had any thoughts about them.  For fifteen minutes we stood in the entryway of the store, chatting about the glare, eye strain and saving money with coupons.  Then she patted me on the back and walked into the sunshine with her new polarized glasses.

Did that small connection make her day?  I don’t know, but it sure made mine!  I told my kids about it over dinner.  We talked about grandparents and getting older and loneliness…and then they talked about little things that might make other people happy.

Adults tend to be over-thinkers.  We know too much about the great big world, and that causes us to think big.  We think in grand gestures, and that can stop us from actually taking the time to connect with others.  When spreading happiness feels like another thing on the list, it’s easy to push it down. If we look to our children, however, we find that spreading happiness and establishing connections is actually quite simple.  The key is to think smaller.

My daughter always reminds me that smaller is happier by way of picking wildflowers for me along our walks.  She puts them in glasses with water and places them on the kitchen table for all to enjoy.  And we really do enjoy them. My son shows his small acts of kindness with his words.  He whispers kind words and leaves me sweet love notes almost every day.  And it works.  His child-sized expressions of love bring me great happiness – and that melts the stress away.

So how can we inspire our kids to spread kindness and happiness?

Point out acts of kindness:

This brings us back to thinking small, especially when it comes to very young children.  You know that bird nest your child created out of twigs and leaves?  That’s kindness in action.  You know that flower your child just had to pick for Grandma?  That’s kindness in action.

Talk about the acts of kindness that you see each day.  Discuss how those acts might make other people feel.  Connect the dots so that your children learn that they have the ability to help others feel happy.

Praise thoughtful behavior:

Kids do kind things because they want to show others that they care.  It’s how they express their love and gratitude.  While you probably thank them for those little pictures drawn on tiny scraps of paper, you might not be as inclined to label that action as “thoughtful”.  You should.

You want to know eight words that will build your child up and inspire further acts of kindness?  Here goes:  “I love that you are a thoughtful person.”  Go ahead, try it.  Your child will smile, that much I know.

Teach positive thinking:

Life can be frustrating, even for little kids.  Negative thinking can get in the way of kind behavior and overall happiness.  When kids have an “I can’t” approach to the hard stuff, they have a hard time seeing a positive end result.

Teach them to reframe their thoughts.  Stop a negative thought cycle with these steps:

  • I can see that your frustrated.  This feels really hard.
  • Take three deep breaths with me to take a break for a minute.
  • Let’s think of some positive words we can use while we work on this problem.
  • I’ll stay with you, and you can let me know if you need any help.

Model kindness:

Take the time to make connections and engage in small acts of kindness in the presence of your children.  Bring in the neighbor’s trash cans, help someone carry groceries, hold the door wide open (even if you have to slow down and wait)…

Kids learn a lot by watching us.  Do we all have great days every day?  No.  But we can model kindness, talk about our mistakes, and teach our kids to spread happiness…all we have to do is slow down and stay connected.

Have a happy day!

Parenting Articles on Momtastic

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I’ve been so busy freelancing everywhere else that I haven’t taken the time to share everything here.  Many of you email me or look me up on Facebook to ask advice on specific topics, and I cover most of those topics on other sites.

I recently joined the writing team at Momtastic.  They have great parenting content over there.  Please check out the following articles published there (if any of them are of interest to you).  I’ll see you over there!

5 Secrets to Raising a Kid With Excellent Anger Management Skills

Why Play-Based Learning in Kindergarten Is So Important (Favorite article in a while!)

8 Surprising Signs Your Kid Is Addicted to His iPad (Don’t let the title scare you…)

Why No Good Can Come From Pushing Kids to be Early Readers


How to Teach Your Kids About Strangers Without Using Crazy Scare Tactics (Important!)

Lesson learned:  Update more often.

Want Happy Kids? Teach Forgiveness.



Chances are you’ve talked to your kids about forgiveness at some point. You’ve probably asked one child to forgive the other child for an unkind gesture or unfair treatment of some kind. You’ve probably talked about moving on, letting go, and getting over it. But have you actually taught your kids how to practice forgiveness?

Forgiveness is an essential life skill. It doesn’t get the attention it deserves, if you ask me. There are plenty of adults in this world who don’t practice the art of forgiveness in their lives. They might say they do. They might rely on clichés and phrases that speak to forgiveness, but do they actually take the time to forgive? Do they actually work through the feelings that serve as roadblocks to forgiveness and get to the other side?

Have you ever found yourself on the receiving end of a heated discussion when suddenly past issues enter the conversation? What begins as something seemingly minor can morph into an emotionally exhausting conversation filled with repressed anger and resentment that creeps out when tension spikes. These are the moments that speak to lack of forgiveness skills. These are the moments that cause hurt and sometimes irreparable damage to otherwise close relationships.

I’ve mediated these conversations in my office, and I’ve seen them in my own life at times. When people are unable to practice forgiveness, they carry with them feelings of anger, hurt, and resentment so strong that they struggle to maintain perspective. They have difficulty truly relating to and building close relationships with others when they struggle to forgive.

The benefits of learning to forgive are many. According the Mayo Clinic, forgiving people enjoy healthier relationships, less stress and anxiety, higher self-esteem, better immune functioning, and fewer symptoms of depression (to name a few). People who struggle to forgive, however, are more likely to become depressed or anxious, bring bitterness and anger to new relationships, and struggle to enjoy the present (among other things).

When it comes to raising happy kids, we need to consider the importance of teaching kids how to practice forgiveness. It isn’t just about a simple apology followed by acceptance. Forgiveness takes time and work.

Happiness is not the complete absence of stress; happiness is being able to work through stress, obstacles, and negative emotions and come out with a feeling of inner peace and a positive outlook. That’s a powerful lesson for little kids, and one that will help them for years to come.

So how do we teach kids to practice forgiveness? The obvious answer, of course, is that we practice forgiveness in our own lives. That is important. We need to use the words, talk about our feelings, and share our stories of forgiveness. When our children apologize to us, we need to forgive them out loud. When we’ve made a mistake, we need to own it and apologize and talk about forgiveness within the family. But it doesn’t stop there. Kids need to learn how to get from “I’m sorry” to “I forgive you” without glossing over the hard part in the middle.

Unpack feelings:

Kids are often put in the position of forgiving others without much discussion about what happened. Repressed feelings are a significant roadblock to true forgiveness. When we stuff our feelings, we give those feelings time to grow in size before they finally explode. They will explode at some point. They always do.

Kids need to understand that it’s perfectly normal to experience feelings of anger, frustration, disappointment, jealousy, and sadness when someone hurts our feelings. They need to express those feelings in a healthy manner. They need a trusted adult who can listen (not fix) and empathize. Kids need to work through their feelings before they can forgive.

Recognize their role:

I always tell my clients, particularly the ones with endless stories about being wronged, that even if you’re pretty sure that something is 99% the fault of someone else, there’s always that 1% out there waiting to be claimed. I have this same conversation with my kids, as well. Yes, your brother got frustrated and stormed off because you didn’t agree on a game to play, but what did your voice sound like when you shot down all of his ideas? Could his feelings have been hurt by criticism and voice tone?

When people argue or do things that hurt those close to them, big feelings are at play. Chances are, things are said and done on both ends. We all need to learn how to take responsibility for our roles in relationship issues if we want to be able to forgive and move forward.

Let go of anger:

This can be a hard one for kids (and adults). Anger is a powerful emotion, and it does snowball fairly quickly. One minute you’re fuming over a sarcastic comment that left you feeling hurt and the next you’re thinking about every moment ever that resulted in that same feeling. I see this a lot with young children in my office. One hurt opens the door to past hurts, and it’s very difficult to move forward when overwhelmed by a lifetime of hurt feelings.

Kids need to learn how to let go of angry feelings. A simple exercise in replacing negative thoughts with positive ones (rewriting the script as we refer to it in my office) teaches kids to verbalize their angry thoughts and replace them with positive adaptive statements.

You can’t force others to forgive:

There are those who choose to be forgiving, and there are those who choose to live with anger and resentment. A hard but necessary lesson for kids is that we can’t force others to forgive us and enjoy a positive relationship just because that’s the choice we want to make.

Forgiveness is a skill and it’s also a journey. It doesn’t happen overnight, and sometimes the choices of others will leave us feeling sad and disappointed. Opening the door to forgiveness, even if another one closes in your face, gives kids an opportunity to live a happier, healthier life full of deep and meaningful relationships. That’s a choice worth making, even if someone else makes a different choice.