Try This Trick to Improve Family Communication

While families continue to find themselves together under one roof, as they are “staying home”, it may be the time to involve everyone in a family meeting. Family meetings are a great way to communicate honestly with one another and can help all members feel safe during these very uncertain times. Routines have shifted, school is happening in different environments and parents may be working from home. The new ways we are accommodating to the Coronavirus is shaping how we can continue to be adaptable in the future. With all of these factors in our new realities, it’s important to make sure to check in with all family members and a family meeting is a great way to do it all at once!

A family meeting may sound formal, but it is really quite simple. Agenda items for the family meeting might include:

  • Menu planning – what food do we have in the refrigerator and pantry, and who would like to help prepare and serve the meals.
  • Computer usage – who needs the computer connections for work or school projects and how can we share so that everyone can have access for what they need.
  • School projects – can older siblings assist younger siblings with any additional school projects or work?
  • Family game time – each family member can take a turn picking a game to play
  • Question and answer session – provide some time for individuals to share their concerns or ask questions. Ignoring situations that are on the news is not helpful, but always consider the age and appropriateness of shared information.

We also suggest beginning each family meeting with a round of compliments. This helps all family members feel appreciated and recognized for being an important part of the family.

It may sound corny, but family meetings are a simple way to get everyone in the family on the same page and enjoy some quality time together!

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Talking to Your Kids Who Are Missing Out on Big Moments

With all that’s going on to prevent the spread of COVID-19, many important events have needed to be adjusted, postponed, or even cancelled. Some of these events may be things that we and our kids, have been looking forward to for quite some time.

I’ve seen countless stories on social media about kids and parents alike who are sad or frustrated about events getting cancelled – like prom, commencement, family reunions, state level sports competitions, weddings, the big spring theater production, holiday gatherings, and other “rites of passage”. These big feelings associated with missing out are completely understandable and valid!

Part of the reason we have these big feelings about this is that many of these events would meet the research definition of a ritual. According to a literature review by Fiese and colleagues, rituals are defined across three important characteristics. They are…

  • Symbolic – rituals are a representation of “who we are”. (In other words, the event’s meaning may be more about what it represents than what we actually do during it).
  • Enduring and affective – rituals create an emotional and impactful memory that we can look back on.
  • Meaningful across generations – Rituals give us something to look forward to that those before us and after us will also participate in.

When we look at the event cancellations that have left us with shoulders dropped and tears in our eyes, we may find that it’s because they are tied to an important ritual or rite of passage. Our kids may have been looking forward to a ritual like walking across that stage at graduation – it represents an accomplishment and transitional phase in their life; it is a significant event that has an emotional impact; and it is something that parents, siblings, friends, and additional generations take part in.

It’s completely understandable that parents and kids alike are having big feelings about these unexpected changes. As adults, we recognize that while it may be disappointing to miss these events, that we will be okay in the long run. Hopefully we are using healthy coping strategies to adjust to these changes. However, our kids don’t necessarily have the same skills that we do, so it’s important to help them navigate these cancellations and adjustments.

Here’s four steps for helping your child navigate tough feelings of disappointment or frustration about cancellation of these rituals:

  1. Find out what “rituals” or big moments specifically your child is reflecting on. There may be different events that are more important to them than you might realize. Maybe they care more about missing out on senior activity day than about prom. (Hint: that’s okay!)
  2. Ask how they are feeling about it, and then accept and acknowledge those feelings. Some kids might feel anger, disappointment, frustration, sadness, or even relief about events getting cancelled. Whatever it is they are feeling – that’s okay. Listen to your child, and try to avoid dismissive statements like “there are way worse things in the world”, “suck it up”, or “it doesn’t matter in the big scheme of things”. While some of these statements may have some truth to them, it is not very helpful or supportive. Instead, try to focus on statements like “it’s okay to feel _______”, “I know this is something you were looking forward to”, or “this is really hard”.
  3. Provide some extra attention, talk about concerns, and provide the factual reason why the big moment was cancelled or postponed. Gently remind your child of the factual reasons why the event was postponed. Also remind them that it’s not their fault, or your fault, or the school’s fault. Try to give them the extra time to express their concern or frustration.
  4. Think creatively about how we can still create some of those feelings associated with this big moment or ritual. Think about how you can use your knowledge of the definition of rituals to still create a special memory, even if it looks different than originally planned. Maybe you can reenact the moment, do something virtually, commit to celebrating at a later date, or even asking your child what they’d like to do instead.

To gain a broader understanding on rituals and the impact of missing out, please listen or watch The Science of Parenting’s mini episode, “Missing Out on Big Moments.”

Watch the video:

Or Listen (also available on most podcast apps, including Apple and Spotify!):

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

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Words have POWER

Sometimes the best blogs come from the hearts of dear friends.

A while back a young mom posted this on social media. She has two young children and a heart of gold. I’m sharing this with her permission as food for thought as we kick of a series of blogs about the reality of parenting and how our words have impact.

“Words have POWER. Order matters…

Happy boy with raised arms

This morning my 4 year old came to me so proud of his outfit. If I had stopped to just observe first, I would have soaked in that pride and realized his happiness. Instead, my gaze shifts to the cold rainy day and I sputter that he should dress warmer. As I watch his expression change from beaming to sadness my heart drops. NOW I decide to tell him he looks nice, but it’s too late. It’s too late.

I want this world to be filled with love and kindness but I don’t take the time to process that what I’m filling my child with can be less than that. I hear my words being repeated and shudder by how it sounds. I didn’t intend for it to sound so rude and cold, but I didn’t put thought into ensuring otherwise.

Slow down momma, words have power. Every last one.”

This mom is right – words have power. They shape our interactions with our children and others, and they can shape the way we view ourselves. We welcome your thoughts over the next months as we look at how words matter.

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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Are we even communicating?

father son talking
Rearview shot of a father and his son bonding on their porch at home

Talk. Conversation. Communication. My last blogs on talk and conversation led me to communication. Have you ever asked this “Are we even communicating?” Or how about “Is anything I’m saying getting through?” As parents I KNOW you have asked yourself this at least one time.

Communication can almost be a four letter word, right? Every self-help book, leadership seminar, guidance and discipline book – EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE in EVERY part of our life seems to share about the importance of communication. If you’re like me, (please say you’re like me) then I know you have thrown your hands in the air and exclaimed “But it’s TOO hard!”. I’m angry, I’m exhausted, I’m hungry, I’m all these things and frankly I don’t WANT to communicate sometimes.

What do I do? I stomp off to the bathroom. Splash cold water on my face and look up. ARGH. Right then it hits me. That person in the mirror is the adult. I’m the parent. It’s my job to muddle through all the “I don’t want to”’s and make the communication happen. Me. It’s up to me. I need to talk, converse and communicate. All three.

The definition of communication has these words: exchanging, sending and receiving. This implies that in communication you will be the recipient of some type of information. Therefore, you will need to listen in order to receive it.

I freely admit, there are times when my children try to converse with me and I am not listening. I may be looking at my phone, writing a blog (oops) or watching tv. My children don’t look at my schedule and say “Oh I think I’ll have a conversation with mom at 5:17 right in between work and exercise.” They pick the moment that THEY are ready to converse. 7:28 a.m. (in the rush of school prep) or 11:26 a.m. (their lunch break but not mine) or even 10:06 p.m. (after my phone is on silent but their college studying is just beginning). Sometimes I remember to physically or figuratively splash the cold water and engage in the conversation. Other times, my child may have to say “mom did you hear me?”.

No parent is perfect.

There are going to be missed opportunities to have conversations with our children. However, no matter the age of the child, when they have something to say, and we the adult take a moment to converse, the more opportunities we will continue to have as they grow.

Additional resources can be found 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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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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Can we talk?

father son talking and walking
Father and son in public park

Talking. Conversation. Communication. I have been having some thoughts on those three words recently, so I thought I might come here to share them with you. This may take several posts but I don’t think I’m the only one with these thoughts.

Talking. Let’s start with the obvious one. And let’s just go ahead and start at the top with the big kids. I’m talking about you and me. The adults.

Talk. We talk out loud. We talk with our hands and body language. We even talk inside of our head where no one else can hear. Sometimes as a parent don’t you feel like you are constantly talking and no one is listening? I can’t help but wonder however, if the reason we think no one hears us is because the talk from our mouth isn’t matching the talk from our body language or even the talk inside our head?

     We say out loud, “Stop IT!”

     Inside of our head we hear “Stop jumping on the furniture”.

     However, our body language shows that we aren’t really interested because we are looking at our phone.

We, in fact, are talking, but no one is listening. Could it possibly be that we are talking but not truly communicating? When we talk are we truly conveying the message we desire.

Example: Looking at my phone I say to the child, “Stop IT!” OR I turn and look at the child and say, “Stop jumping on the furniture and go jump outside”. It seems obvious and pretty clear cut that the second option actually conveys what we want to say. So simple, yet.

I actually had this exact scenario happen in my grown up life with another adult. I was the one saying “Stop IT”. The other adult looked at me and said “Stop what?”. I was stunned. Wasn’t it obvious what I was asking? Actually, no, it wasn’t obvious to anyone but me. Since that time I have found myself constantly recognizing and identifying what I call the ‘Stop IT’ syndrome. Some type of talking that is too vague to the listener but completely obvious to the talker. In the end however, no one is actually communicating.

So how do we remedy this ‘Stop IT’ syndrome? It’s up to us the adult to take the time to be clear about our expectations. Why are we making the request? “I don’t want the furniture to break or have you get hurt.” What is the desired outcome and what is it we what to see instead? “I don’t want you to jump on the furniture, please go jump outside”.

Talking. It seems simple but actually takes some energy and thought to have others hear what we say.

Check out our Guidance by Age 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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Practice Kindness Today


Smiling School Age Girl Holding Globe

We thank our guest blogger, Cheryl Clark, a human sciences specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach for reminding us about kindness and its impact on those around us!

Another day, another act of incivility, anger or violence. Ever-pervasive attitudes of self-centeredness and disregard for others seem to symbolize our times. But what if we could flip the script from callousness to kindness?

Did you know, Nov. 13 is World Kindness Day, according to the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation? The internationally recognized nonprofit provides free online resources to educators and others to encourage acts of kindness across the globe.

“Simply be kind,” said Clark. “Remember the old adage of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. This can help us more fully appreciate the unique and diverse aspects of our world.”

The Center for Inclusion, Diversity and Equity at the University of Missouri suggests that people seek first to understand. For example:

  • Read a book about a different person, culture, country or experience.
  • Listen to local, regional, international or a different genre of music.
  • Explore your heritage, family history and personal cultural worldview.
  • Visit a local cultural center.
  • Interact with people from different backgrounds and cultures by becoming a language partner.
  • Challenge yourself to learn 10 new words in another language.

For more ideas from the center, visit

“Another critical component to kindness is how we speak to and about each other. Being respectful of self and others in our words and actions is living kindness,” Clark said.

Clark offers the following techniques to build an atmosphere of respect:

  • Listen to others actively and intentionally.
  • Speak from personal experience and use “I” statements.
  • Withhold judgment and ask genuine questions for understanding.
  • Check your biases and assumptions.
  • Seek to understand your own communication and conflict style.

“Finally, take good care of yourself. This may seem to be at odds with ‘making the world a better place.’ However, we must care for ourselves in order to have the stamina, energy and desire to live kindness. Get enough sleep, eat well, exercise, connect with friends or family, and engage in spiritual practices,” Clark said.

“If you find yourself overwhelmed with the negativity, seek professional help. A counselor can help you in a trusting, non-judgmental setting. Call Iowa Concern at 800-447-1985 for help,” Clark said.

ISU Extension and Outreach’s Iowa Concern hotline provides access to stress counselors and an attorney for legal education, as well as information and referral services for a wide variety of topics. With a toll-free phone number, live chat capabilities and a website, Iowa Concern services are available 24 hours a day, seven days per week at no charge.

In addition, “All About Stress: Taking Charge (PM1660 A)” is available for free download from the Extension Store. The publication offers tips for coping with stress, managing stress and building resources to help.

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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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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Back To School Communication

As children prepare to head back to school, parents are getting ready as well. Buying school supplies, registering their children for activities and arranging for transportation are among the activities on many parents’ to-do list. However, another necessary item for back-to-school planning is open communication, which will ease everyone’s first-day nerves.

All children will not react the same way to the beginning of the new school year. Set aside some time to talk with your child about the upcoming year.

Parents take the time to ask your children what excites them about the beginning of the new school year, and what they may be curious or worried about.

If your child is anxious about school, acknowledge those feelings. Remind your child that you are always available to talk through any situations that may be worrisome. The time you spend communicating will help to alleviate fears that both of you may be feeling.

Let me provide a few helpful suggestions:

  • Remind your children that you care for them and are proud of the many new things they are learning and accomplishing.
  • Try to find some alone time with each child to explore the day’s happenings and how he or she is adjusting to school.
  • Family mealtime offers another opportunity to explore the school day.
  • Talk about your expectations, but offer support and guidance. Let your child know that you are open to solving problems together.
  • An older sibling also may provide support and information about school transition.
  • Establish a good relationship with your child’s teacher. When you have concerns, check-in with your child’s teacher to get a wider perspective.

A new school year brings opportunities to participate in many activities. Be aware that over scheduling can increase stress for everyone.

As a family, make some decisions about after-school activities that are meaningful to your children and that make good sense with the time available.

When you communicate and plan together, the new school year can be a year of success.

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Understanding Why They Do What They Do – Temperament

Last time I shared a bit about brain development and how I feel that it really helps to answer many of child development’s great questions, but what about all those emotions and feelings that get in the way of what the brain is trying to accomplish?

Temperament has fascinated me for more than two decades. It ends up being an integral part to why we think, feel and behave the way we do. I’ve watched the field of temperament grow from just one paragraph in a child development text to almost an entire chapter and even full scale parenting books on the topic.

“Why does one infant grimace strongly at the taste of strained peas while another barely flinches? ”

“Why does one toddler hide behind a parent’s leg while another races off to play at the new playground?”

“Why does one child need a standing desk and another a quiet space?”

All of these questions are ones I’ve asked as both a parent and an educator. If we root around the science of temperament, we can determine our own child’s particular temperament traits and create opportunities to support their natural temperamental tendencies. Designing guidance and discipline that provided support to their unique temperaments while at the same time teaching them positive social skills and appropriate behavior expectations.

As a parent of three distinctly different children it was obvious from the beginning that trying to parent them ‘all the exact same way’ wasn’t going to create success for anyone. As I learned to provide guidance to each of their individual temperaments, I was able to meet their individual needs as well as create opportunities for success. It wasn’t always easy (because don’t forget brain development), but it was always worth it.

Some of my favorite colleagues and friends in the temperament field.

Also, take time to browse our resources in Parenting in Challenging Moments. Many of our resources take temperament into consideration as we look at guiding children appropriately.

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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Same Girl, Different Year

Recently, I attended a professional Childhood journal entry from 2001development opportunity on the DiSC personality profile, which categorizes you into one of four areas – dominance, influence, conscientiousness, and steadiness (read more about specifics here: ). The day consisted of activities that better helped us to understand our personality type, the type of those with whom we work, and how to best interact with one another. According to the assessment, I’m an ‘I’ – which basically means that I try to make good impressions wherever I go, appreciate working with others, and like to… uh…  talk a lot. According to the assessment, I also lack the ability to be organized (who? me? nooooo).

The very next day after this training, my dad handed me a stack of papers he found tucked into a book in the basement: journal entries I had written in second grade. Entries included, but were not limited to:

  • “Things I love to do is draw, decorate, create, write, type, and pretend to teach.”
  • “Iowa state rules!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
  • “My vacation was fun, I stayed over night at my friends house”
  • “I never want to go to jail.”

As I was reading entries written by an 8-year-old me, all I could think was “that is totally me!” I love to draw and design, I work for Extension (where I get the chance to educate), enjoy spending time getting to know others (and appreciate vacations with others around), and I’m a huge Iowa State University sports fan. Lastly, I never want to go to jail – I’m convinced this stems from my fear of disappointing others.

This all got me to thinking –if I have the same personality I did 17 years ago, and we’re getting trained to acknowledge those traits in ourselves and others in the workforce – why aren’t we better at acknowledging the differences in the kiddos in our lives, so we are more equipped to help them succeed? In child development, we often refer to different personality types as ‘temperament.’

I like to think of temperament as a riddle – why do people act, think, and respond the way they do, and how can we make all the pieces fit together? Sometimes I, an emotional, social, person, have to stop and remind myself that my four year-old nephew might not like me demanding him for answers, but rather, might need to let him process while he plays alone with his toys before he responds. For my niece, the ultimate sass master, I can ask her a question and know what to expect (because she is exactly like me).

For more information on temperament and tools to work with a variety of small-but-mighty personalities, check out prior blog posts written by Lori and the team by searching ‘temperament’ in the search bar on our Science of Parenting site.

Side note – I’d love to hear stories of memorabilia you’ve found from your childhood!

Mackenzie DeJong

Aunt of four unique kiddos. Passionate about figuring how small brains develop, process, and differ. Human Sciences Specialist, Family Life in western Iowa with a B.S. in Family and Consumer Sciences and Design minor.

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Teenagers… Wait, what was your reaction when you read that word? Maybe an eye roll, a sigh, or perhaps a smile? Each of us have a different experience with raising teenagers – some parents think it is the most fun age during their parenting journey while others dread it. Some of us may even fall into the tendency to paint a mental picture of the teenage years filled with back talk, conversations about curfews, and loud music behind closed doors. But there is a flip side to that coin – seeing your teenager live out their values, getting the opportunity to watch them achieve and excel in their passions, and having meaningful and heartfelt conversations.

Regardless of which way you tend to view the teenage years, most of us who have raised teenagers know that these are the years when friends become a really BIG DEAL, right? Teens care what their classmates think about their looks and what they say and do. And as parents, you watch them grow closer and closer to friends, and it might feel like they are slipping away from you. But great news – they’re not. Sure, your teen is probably growing stronger relationships with their friends, but adolescents (a.k.a. teenagers) still care a lot about their parents and what they think! So don’t lose heart – your teen does hear what you say, and your opinion matters to them!

So continue to communicate your values to your teenager, even if you think you already have or if they give you the “I know this already” look. Sometimes the teen years bring their own challenges, but so does every age (I gotta say, I bet your teenager doesn’t cry while you cook supper like my toddler does, so that’s a plus J). Remember that while you are going to have some challenging moments here and there, you are also going to have some pretty amazing ones too.

Do you have more questions about navigating challenging parenting moments with your teenager? Check out the Parenting in Challenging Moments page on our Science of Parenting website. You can find resources for parenting a child of any age under the Guidance by Age section.

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

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Natural and Logical Consequences

This week we welcome guest blogger and doctoral candidate Amber Kreischer.

Amber is a doctoral candidate in the department of Human Development and Family Studies. Homeschooling mother of two. Former preschool teacher. Passionate about early childhood development, gender, and books.

Children are in a continuous state of learning how to manage their emotions, their bodies, and their thoughts. Because of this, it is common for children to have outbursts, make mistakes, and test boundaries. The question is: What can we do to help them learn from these events and help them change their behavior for the better? Two options are to use “natural” and “logical” consequences.

No matter our age, we all face consequences for our actions. Often, people argue that children who grow up ‘without consequences’ will never learn how to behave in society. The implied message behind this statement is that adults need to plan or manipulate the consequences that children experience in order for them to have an effect. This is not always the case.

Many times, teaching children “natural consequences” is an effective behavior management technique. It requires no intervention at all on the part of the adult, other than thoughtful discussion with the child regarding what happened. As the name suggests, these types of consequences occur naturally and can be strong motivators for children to reflect on and change undesirable behavior. If a child throws a toy in anger and the toy breaks, the natural consequence is that the toy is now broken. Immediately replacing or repairing the toy would not allow the child to learn from what naturally resulted from their actions. Similarly, perhaps your child is one of many whose bedroom gets messier by the second. Upon stepping on an object on the floor, their pained foot and broken object are natural consequences of choosing to have a messy room.

What is particularly powerful about natural consequences is their lifelong relevance. These are aspects of life that people must manage on a regular basis. Discussing these naturally-occurring outcomes with children benefits them both during the immediate situation as well as in the long run.

A related technique involves the use of “logical consequences.” This technique requires caregivers to think of and employ consequences that logically connect to the given misbehavior. For example, at meal times children sometimes have a habit of bouncing around in their chairs. When a child spills their drink, it logically follows that they would be required to clean it up, rather than having an adult swoop in and clean it for them. My son had a habit of screaming in restaurants when he was a toddler. At first, we shushed him as much as we could, noting glares from other tables. Once I thought to use a logical consequence, his behavior quickly changed. In response to his loudness, we began to calmly remove him from the dining area while telling him that we could not scream in restaurants and we would return to our table when he was finished. It was evident that he learned that the behavior of screaming was not appropriate for restaurant environments, and after 2-3 times of receiving this logical consequence, he used an “inside voice” every time we went out to eat.

It can sometimes be difficult to think of natural and logical consequences in the moment. Consider some behaviors that your child exhibits often. What are some ways that you could allow them to learn from the logical and natural results of their actions?


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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A Look at Corporal Punishment

Last week we talked about how consistent discipline builds trust. This week we asked Dr. Carl Weems PhD, Professor and Chair of Human Development and Family Studies at Iowa State University about the effects of corporal punishment and its impact on youth’s ability to regulate their emotions.

In the study, Parenting Behaviors, Parent Heart Rate Variability and their Associations with Adolescent Heart Rate Variability, Journal of Youth and Adolescence, Dr. Weems and colleagues looked at the associations between parenting behaviors and emotion regulation.

Tell us a little about what your study looked at:

Emotion regulation is associated with positive social functioning and psychological adjustment among youth. Emotion regulation involves both the automatic and voluntary control of negative and positive emotions using physiological, cognitive, and behavioral means to achieve goals. Resting heart rate variability (i.e., the natural variability in the time between heart beats while an individual is at rest) is a physiological index of an individual’s emotion regulation. In our study we fund that certain parenting behaviors were related to this.

How did corporal punishment impact your findings?

Inconsistent discipline and corporal punishment were negatively associated with adolescent resting heart rate variability. Suggesting that corporal punishment is associated with diminished levels of emotion regulation. Theoretically, the extended use of corporal punishment as a disciplinary technique may be especially harmful for youth with low heart rate variability because it may cause youth to view their home environment as threatening and decrease their sense of control over their environment, which may exacerbate existing emotion dysregulation and maintain low heart rate variability levels.

Did you find impacts of positive parenting as well?

Positive parenting and parental involvement were positively associated with emotion regulation-suggesting these are associated with increased emotion regulation ability. Inconsistent discipline and parental involvement also influenced the relationship between parent and adolescent resting heart rate variability. Such that that in the context of low inconsistent discipline (i.e., consistent discipline), there was a positive association between parent and adolescent resting heart rate variability.

If you were to share one important message from this study what would that be?

This finding suggests that consistent discipline may entrain parent and adolescent heart rate variability (i.e., make parent and adolescent resting heart rate variability more similar). The findings provide evidence for a role of parenting behaviors in shaping the development of adolescent resting heart rate variability with inconsistent discipline and parental involvement potentially influencing the entrainment of resting heart rate variability in parents and their children.

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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Classroom Strategies to Support Special Needs Children

iStock_000005759838Small[1]Downs_1 copyThe beginning of the new school year can be an anxious time for parents of a child with special needs. Parents may worry about whether their child will be accepted into a new classroom. They may also worry about their child’s classmates and the teacher that is assigned. The school year is a long time, so every child deserves an environment that is suitable for learning and growing.
All children have the need for belonging, and yet, for children with special needs, they can often be left out by their classmates or left behind in their classroom studies. Having a learning disability doesn’t mean a child cannot learn, it simply means, the approach a teacher takes must be intentional so that the child CAN learn.

A few strategies that can make a big difference in the classroom include:

  • limiting distractions – teachers who are organized ahead of time, who can limit the number of interruptions or distractions can help a child stay focused on the learning.
  • breakdown instructions – teachers who will keep instructions short and who will repeat the instructions help students who need that reinforcement.
  • devise opportunities for students success. It may not seem important, but when students with special needs experience success in the classroom, it creates excitement that will reinforce their desire to try again! It is the support of the teacher, acknowledging student success that can make all the difference.

So parents, as school draws near, advocate for your child and watch your student succeed!

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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