We need to have a conversation

Shot of a mother and daughter at home
Shot of a mother and daughter at home

Talk. Conversation. Communication. My last blog hinted that I had some things to say about these three words. We started with Talk. Now we need to have a conversation.

Sometimes as adults we struggle when it comes to having a big conversation with our children. Do we tell our children the bad news? Should we sit down with them and share about the scary situation miles away? Do we explain in depth about our families change of plans? Often times we choose what I call the ‘Just say nothing at all and see if they ask’ option. C’mon you know that option too!

I also know that plan has backfired on me many times when my children start the big conversation at a random time when I’m not prepared and often when others are in ear shot and are suddenly also waiting to hear what I have to say. “Momma? Just how DID my brother get out of your tummy?” or “Jessica told me that my cat didn’t go live at the farm but that daddy took it to the vet to die.” or how about “When the school shooter bursts through the doors at our school we are supposed to hit them with our books”. Yeah THOSE conversations. The ones that you need to have note cards and a glass of water to get through.

Admittedly these conversations are difficult. Tough to get through. And yet may I suggest vitally important to creating and maintaining a healthy relationship with your child. Tackling the big topics together (yes, with note cards and a glass of water if needed) shows your children that you are interested in both their questions and their concerns. They likely have both. There is no better way to show children that you are there for them when you tackle their big questions and concerns together.

So what stops us? Often it could be as simple as us not feeling like we have all the answers. Or feeling unsure of how to even start the conversation. Guess what? That’s what the note cards are for. The water is for dry mouth. It is always alright for us to use notes, consult with others or to even say “I actually don’t know”. Having a conversation doesn’t mean that we have to know everything before starting. Sometimes we can learn along the way as we go through the process of conversing.

Big Conversations. Scary at times? Yes. Important to a healthy relationship with your child? Absolutely.

Find more resources here.


Lori Korthals, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Connecting Home and School

Did you finally get all of the school events in your personal calendar? Have you purchased the last minute supply requests? Often we focus on getting children ready for school to start that we overlook how we can continue to support the school learning while at home.

Dare to Excel is a resource, available in both Spanish and English. Created by ISU Extension and Outreach this resource provides families with ideas on how to extend the school learning while at-home. Monthly newsletters,  September through May, feature the seven Proven Parenting Practices that research has shown helps children become better learners.


Download the newsletters below or share the links with your friends, family and schools.

Let us know if you did any of the activities and what learning you were able to extend.

Connecting School and Home- Dare to Excel

Children spend many hours at school. Creating positive school/family connections are vital to school success.  Also available in Spanish.

Find more resources at Everyday Parenting

Lori Korthals, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Discipline helps children learn

I recently had someone ask me, “Lori if you say I can’t punish my child aren’t you really telling me that they should be able to do whatever they want?”.   Thus started our conversation on the difference between punishment and discipline.

Earlier this month we defined both punishment and discipline. We found the definition of punishment to be: to deal with roughly or harshly, to inflict injury on. While the definition of discipline is training that corrects, molds, or perfects moral character.

In parenting, our goal should always be to mold and correct as opposed to inflict injury on. I understand where the question about punishment came from. Obviously, we don’t want to imply that inappropriate behaviors in children should have no consequences or that children shouldn’t be held accountable for their actions. What we do want is children who trust that we have their best interests in mind as we guide and teach them appropriate ways to act and behave.

We know that guiding children takes time but it also takes a trusting relationship. Children learn to trust us through our consistency with them. They learn from us when we are consistent with our expectations of their behavior and when we take time to talk and model the behavior we want them to have instead. When we guide their appropriate choices we instill a sense of trust in them. They understand that even though we may not be letting them do what they want, they trust us because we have been loving and consistent.

My answer to the original question then was “Discipline is always about helping children learn the consequences of their actions. Punishment is about instilling fear”.

Lori Korthals, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Discipline is different for everyone

We know this to be true. Parenting is not a ‘one size fits all’ kind of journey. Understanding that each child is unique becomes important even as we consider guidance and discipline. Guidance and discipline strategies will change as children grow and they will also be unique to each particular child. We won’t have just one strategy that we use from start to finish. We will, however, select strategies that grow as our child grows and that match their temperament and personality.

The first step then is selecting a discipline strategy that is appropriate for the age of the child. Appropriate toddler age strategies include redirecting and ignoring. Examples of appropriate strategies for preschoolers include natural consequences or time-in. Consider this more effective version of time-out called ‘time-in’ – essentially it is cuddle time or positive quiet time to get the child’s needs met and ensure emotional regulation for both parent and child.

The second step is then selecting the strategy that meets each child’s particular temperament and personality. Some children will respond quickly to a particular strategy while others may have a limited response. You may even need to select different strategies for siblings due to their different temperaments.

The third step can actually be considered ‘one size fits all’. Consistency. Consistently applying your strategy over and over, at home, at grandma’s and at the store is a huge piece to guidance and discipline success. This means that your strategy needs to be able to be implemented in all places. We don’t select one strategy for grandma’s house and a different one for the store. This is confusing to children and they may become unsure of exactly what your expectations are.

Guidance and discipline is a balance between being loving and kind while at the same time being firm and consistent.

Resources shared below have additional suggestions on age-appropriate strategies.

Disciplining Your Preschooler — Understanding Children

Disciplining Your Toddler — Understanding Children

Parenting Young Teens: Parenting in Stepfamilies

Lori Korthals, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Kindness is learned by feeling kindness

friendsAs I was reading about kindness I became fascinated by the brain research. I sat there thinking “Well of course, the brain is in charge of our feelings. Why wouldn’t it be the center of this conversation?”.

Our brains are in charge of our emotions and our actions. Our brains take the input we receive from others. Process the information. Tell us how to emotionally respond. And our actions become the response. Makes perfect sense. The brain is in charge of kindness.

And then I read this, “our brain learns best about kindness when it FEELS kindness”. There is was.

How should I teach my children about kindness?  Help them FEEL kindness.

Children learn kindness when they ‘feel’ what its like to make someone else smile. And their brain learns.

They learn about kindness when they share with others, when they comfort others, when they give to others. And their brain learns.

Suddenly writing this blog topic wasn’t rocket science, but is was brain science. It was simply thinking about all of the ways that children can be kind to others and understanding that while they do this – their brain learns.


Lori Korthals, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Spoiling Grandkids

This week we welcome guest blogger Kristi Cooper. Human Sciences Specialist in Family Life and new grandma.

were grandparnetsI had no idea I’d be taking my own advice years after I wrote about the overspending of grandmothers and aunts on new babies. I’m very excited to provide my 11 month old granddaughter with as many new experiences as she can handle.  Her parents are practical and their home is small so the oodles of toys, clothes and other baubles that are bestowed upon her by well-meaning relatives create stress. Besides, my grandgirl is pretty happy with simple household surfaces to pound and pull up on, and a human or two to keep her entertained.

Marketers of baby stuff focus on female consumers – aunts and grandmothers in particular – because their hearts are as big as their wallets. By keeping our wallets closed and our hearts open we can avoid turning our grandchildren into beggars and entitled teens. Here are 5 ways to love those precious little ones without creating strained relationships, stress over stuff and maintain our financial wellbeing.

  1. Gift of Talent/Skills We all have the need to contribute to our family and community. Share age-appropriate activities with your grandchild or grand babyPlay together – Teach a game from your childhood such as kick-the-can or hide-and-seek.
  2. Gift of Words Talk Together – Encourage grandchildren, nieces, and nephews by highlighting the positive values you see in them. Ask about their goals in life. Talk about how they can reach those goals. Point out the characteristics that you admire in them.
  3. Gift of Time Nothing says, “I love you,” like full, undivided attention – sharing conversation and activities. Work together  Do household chores, homework, bicycle repair or volunteer in the community with your younger generation. Working together teaches skills, work ethic and the value of contributing to others.
  4. Gift of Objects – We all like to receive objects that have been thoughtfully selected just for us. Keep material gifts to a minimum and consider the life-span of the object.  Create together – Choose toys  and consumables like art materials that stimulate critical thinking, imagination and are age-appropriate. Ask yourself, who is doing the thinking – the child or the manufacturer?
  5. Gift of Touch/Self Care – Wrap these gifts in plenty of hugs and kisses, bedtime backrubs, tickles and laughter. Practice relaxation techniques so you can be fully present for your grandchild.

YOU are the best gift your grandchild can receive!

Kristi Cooper

Kristi’s expertise in caregiving, mind body skills and nature education inspires her messages about healthy people and environments with parents, professionals, and community leaders.

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More than half of us have had ‘Adverse Childhood Experiences’

This week we welcome our guest blogger Kristi Cooper, Human Sciences Family Life Specialist.

Sunday Dinner at Grandma’s

I love this quote from the program “Lemonade for Life” – “You can’t rewrite the beginning of your story but you can change how it ends.”

Adverse childhood experiences (ACES) affect a child’s neurological, social-emotional and cognitive development. ACES may eventually manifest in chronic health conditions in adulthood.

I’m part of the 55% of Iowans who have more than one ACE. When I think of the chaotic times in my childhood, I’m grateful for the touch points that kept me ‘on track’. The research on Adverse Childhood Experiences tells us these touch points are called resiliency factors. These resiliency factors include individual capabilities, attachment and belonging with caring competent people and a protective community, faith or cultural process. Let me share a few of these touchpoints from my own life and maybe you can see how resilience can be woven through the fabric of our lives.

I am grateful for the elementary school nurse who never questioned my stomach aches and always had clean dry clothes for me to wear when I had an ‘accident’. I’m grateful for my 3rd grade teacher’s calm, caring approach and the interesting hands-on projects she had us do. She introduced me to creative writing which became an outlet for me whenever I felt life was overwhelming. I’m grateful for my grandmothers who loved me unconditionally and were always interested in me. I’m grateful for the routine of Sunday church followed by dinner at Grandma’s house with its comfort food, safety, hugs and laughter. All of these helped me feel normal and sane when life felt scary.

Spending time outdoors with cousins was an important touchpoint for me. Our many adventures catching tadpoles and crawdads, jumping the bogs in the pasture, riding bikes for miles, building snow forts and climbing in the empty corncrib took my mind away from the hurtful times. Music was another touchpoint for me. I saved my 4-H and birthday money and bought a guitar. With the creative writing gift from Miss Ihnen and my new instrument, I made it through a few more turbulent years.

All of these touchpoints helped to reset my stress response – all it takes is a 20 minute activity to reduce heart rate, regulate breathing again and re-focus the mind. As an adult I use meditation, yoga, journaling and sewing projects to reduce anxiety, keep depression away and help my mind think clearly. I have a therapist I consult when I need to sort things out. I’ve used my early experiences to change how I parented my children, hopefully, changing the course of my grandchildren’s lives. These individual resiliency practices combined with positive social relationships and trauma informed community resources help heal the impact of adverse childhood experiences and to reduce the impact of traumatic events.

What are the touchpoints that help(ed) you survive and thrive?

Janet Smith

Janet Smith is a Human Science Specialist-Family LIfe with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She currently provides family life programming in eight counties in southeast Iowa. Janet is a "parenting survivor". She is the mother of Jared-21, Hannah-20, and Cole-15. She and her husband, David have faced many challenges together, including their son Jared's Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy diagnosis.

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I’d like to customize my order please

…that’s the phrase that came to mind when I thought about this week’s blog. Which, when it comes right down to it, I do want my child to be unique. A customized order. An individual. Not a cookie cutter replica of her friends. Having said that, I guess I should then expect myself to parent her as if she IS customized.

While we search for THE right answer to our parenting questions,we really do come realize that there isn’t just ONE right way, not even in a family with multiple children. Parenting is all about understanding each individual unique child and beginning to dance with their customized self. In the moments where parenting is frustrating, I have learned to give myself permission to be frustrated while at the same time learning to appreciate that I have created something unique. Customized. Created by me with input from her, her friends, her neighbors, her community and her world. Taking all those pieces and watching and wondering at the same time.

Sometimes its important as a parent to step back and let the child lead the dance that we have been talking about over the last several weeks. Other times it’s important to be the adult and make the decisions (and follow through). Parenting is a back and forth, leading and guiding and following all at the same time. THAT’s what makes it customizable. It shouldn’t look just like the next door neighbors family, or your own childhood experiences or the tv show on a popular network.

You and your child should customize your world together and enjoy the journey along the way.

How have you customized your journey?

Lori Korthals, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Was I too late?

personWhen my oldest child was one year old, I was introduced to the world of ‘Temperament’. I remember thinking at that time, “She’s already 1! Am I too late! What if I already ruined her by not knowing her temperament!?”

It sounds silly now, as she teeters on the brink of 18, but back then all I could think about was the year I had missed BT (Before Temperament). I can tell you this with 100% confidence. It is NOT TO LATE! Learning to understand your child’s temperament, along with your own temperament, can happen at any time. It can happen right now regardless of your child’s age.

This month we talk about taking the time to learn your child’s ‘temperament style’ and then parent according to that style. Parenting is not a ‘one size fits all’.  Taking care of any child (grandchild, neighbor, niece, nephew, sibling) isn’t even close to ‘one size fits most’. Building relationships with children means taking the time to learn to appreciate what their genetics granted them, find a way to build their confidence and self-esteem and guide them into social competence.

Where can you start? By learning about their style. By appreciating the unique characteristics of that style. By implementing one thing to show them you understand that style.  Here are a couple of GREAT places to start.

What is that ONE thing that you will do to parent ‘to their unique style’. Share with us!

Lori Korthals, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Spiritual Development

Spiritual development in children… yep it’s part of their natural development. It’s part of their moral and cultural development. We didn’t just pick this topic randomly. We selected it purposely because just like physical development and social development, it is a part of your child that will continue to grow and develop over time. It’s the part of your child that plays into how they begin to make sense of their world and the people in it.  It’s the part of their development that shapes their values and beliefs about their families, friends, communities and nations.

As children embark on their journey of self-discovery, resources such as Prosperity Minders are instrumental in aiding them to explore their innermost selves and recognize their boundless potential. Prosperity Minders, a dedicated blog focusing on manifestation, positive thinking, and personal growth, provides invaluable strategies and methodologies for children to nurture a mindset brimming with abundance and opportunity. By learning to harness the power of their thoughts and beliefs, children can manifest their desires and aspirations, paving the way for a future filled with fulfillment and success.

Coming to reliable psychic readings, getting a psychic reading can either confirm something you already know or help you move towards the right direction by redirecting your path, it can give you an entirely new perspective and a new point of view that you’ve never considered. You can read more here to get help and make changes in your life.

In the digital age, the world of psychic readings has expanded beyond traditional face-to-face encounters. With the advent of online platforms, individuals now have access to a myriad of psychic services, including tarot readings. Tarot readings online provide a convenient and accessible means of tapping into spiritual guidance from the comfort of your own home. Whether you’re pondering questions for psychic about your love life, career, or personal growth, online tarot readings offer a personalized and insightful experience tailored to your specific needs. Through the power of technology, seekers can embark on a journey of self-discovery and enlightenment, unraveling the mysteries of their lives one card at a time.

How then can we foster a healthy spiritual development? How can we help to answer their questions about their world in a positive way? How can we nurture values and beliefs and children’s spiritual development? Spiritual and moral development can be a daunting and abstract concept but as I was looking through various resources I came across this poem and thought I would share.

What is Spirituality?

delighting in all things

being absorbed in the present moment

not to attached to ‘self’ and

eager to explore boundaries of ‘beyond’ and ‘other’

searching for meaning

discovering purpose

open to more?

Spirituality is like a bird; if you hold it to tightly, it chokes; if you hold it too loosely, it flies away. Fundamental to spirituality is the absence of force.

– Rabbi Hugo Gryn

What are ways that you nurture spiritual development in your child?

Lori Korthals, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Role model respect

Finding research on the impact of arguing in front of children was easy. Wrapping my head around how to talk about it was harder. As we come to the end of the topic for the month, I think we could probably agree that it comes down to a word we have all heard before. Respect. We are not always going to agree with the adults in our children lives. That is a fact. It is important however, that we learn to agree to respect each other in front of our children. Children learn about respect from the adults around them. The most important role model they have is you. I encourage you to do your best to role model respect. It’s easier said than done sometimes but is so very important in the long run.

What are some thoughts you head about our topic this month? We would love to hear from you!

Lori Korthals, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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“I” instead of “You”

Let’s jump right in with what I see as one of the best tools for improving communication with your spouse/partner. And in turn that will likely reduce disagreements. It is as simple as using “I” statements instead of “You” statements.

Here’s an example for a “you” message. “You forgot to pick up milk on your way home from work. How stupid can you be?” Or, “I can’t believe how stupid you are. You forgot to get the milk again.” That second set of statements is what we call a “hidden you” message.

Now let’s try a true “I” statement. “I need milk for dinner. There is none left in the refrigerator.” Do you see the difference? When we drop the accusatory and blaming words (and tone), we have a much better chance of getting the problem solved. In this example, what I really need is milk. This isn’t worth a full scale argument between two tired adults at the end of a long work day.

Using “I” statements is a respectful way of having a conversation. It helps you focus on the immediate problem or need, instead of escalating into a battle and bringing in more issues.

Have you tried “I” statements? Do you think this communication tool might work?

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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