handmade_gift_for_the_fall_table-5handmade_gift_for_the_fall_table-6 handmade_gift_for_the_fall_table-2handmade_gift_for_the_fall_table-4Although I love sharing and receiving gifts for special occasions, my favorite gifts are the ones shared for no reason at all. Don’t you love receiving random gifts from others? Maybe a stranger in line before you purchases your coffee or maybe a friend drops by a new candle or a neighbor leaves you a baked good. While small, these thoughtful acts can shift the course of our day. They gently remind us we’re seen.

This last weekend, my sister and I arranged bare branches, succulents, and candles across our backyard tables for Liam’s birthday, when she had the lovely idea to wrap some grasses I had purchased for our yard and use them, too. I tend to always keep some craft paper and twine around the house for these sort of ideas, and with several hands to help, we had added just the right mixture of textures to the table for early fall. These hand-wrapped plants would also be the perfect way to surprise a friend or a neighbor with a little gift for their own table this season.

The project is simple enough for the smallest of hands and the materials needed are quite simple, too: craft paper, twine, scissors, and a small plant or cutting flowers from a garden. You might also consider drafting a brief note to attach or adding a drawing/painting from your child. Discuss together with your children who might like a new plant for their table, or who might simply need a gift from a friend? These small gifts can remind us all to pay attention to those around us, especially to those around us who may need a reminder that they’re seen.


The use of technology in childhood is one of the hottest topics for modern parents, and it seems where ever you land on the issue, it can be a potential point of shame and judgement, one where each family must establish strong justification for their home choices in the sea of varied opinion. Before I share my own, I think it’s fair to preface with this: let’s be gentle with one another on this parenting journey. Ask questions. Test ideas. But let’s always be gentle and give space for the various family contexts.

As with most things our family treats screentime and the internet with moderation and respect. Briefly put: we enjoy both with boundaries. Screens have never been a central part of our family narrative, and we prefer to keep it that way. But we do use them often during the school year for research, writing, audiobooks, music, and educational play. Still, to keep these helpful uses in check, we try to keep this educational screen time to a minimum and periodically discuss: How does this benefit us? What does this cost us? These have been helpful questions as our children grow older and more of their friends have personal devices––something we haven’t opted for them yet. How do screens change your time together? How do they affect your attitudes or relationships? How do they benefit you? What might they cost you? This ongoing conversation is also an education.

The truth is, as an adult, I’m still learning how to navigate and set boundaries for myself in the abstract Internet space. And although I want my children to enjoy and learn to create with modern tools, part of my goal as a parent is also to help them understand boundaries, why they exist and how they are ultimately for our good even as we grow older. Healthy boundaries in childhood can be stepping stones to healthy habits as adults.

During the school year, we allow our children 30 minutes of daily free time on a screen (watching a show, playing a video game, playing with a new app)––after school work, home responsibilities, and outdoor play have happened. And since it’s generally not practical for me to sit and count minutes with each of my children while they enjoy this screen time (that’s usually when I begin checking emails, finish a bit of work, or prep dinner), I’m grateful to have recently found Circle, a device that pairs with our Wi-Fi to help me manage ALL the internet usage in our home during the day, including my own. I’ve only been using it the last month, and already I am loving it. Parents with children and teens who have personal devices, listen up!
Managing_Internet_At_Homecircle_manage_internet_at_home-7 circle_manage_internet_at_home-9managing_the_internet


As a parent, it’s one part to create the rule and another part to hold to it. I do want my children to learn how to manage and use screen technology, to view it as an asset to imagination, education, creativity, and outdoor play––not a replacement. As we slip into our new school year this week and our routine fills up a bit more, here’s a few ways Circle has been a gift to me as a parent, a help in setting and holding the boundaries we value, even boundaries for myself.

Pause the Internet // One of the largest distractors from my time with the kids is the internet on my phone. Whether I’m editing and sharing an image or trying to quickly check my email, it can quickly become a bunny trail, especially in our homeschool morning. With Circle, I can actually pause the internet on my phone (or any other device), helping me to keep focus. This fall, I plan to use this feature often during our school hours, keeping me free of notifications and even quick email checks at the wrong time. It will also keep them from sneaking off with the iPad or from browsing the computer without permission. If they need the computer or an app during our time, I can simply click a button and allow them to do so, pausing again when their allotted time is up.

I also plan to use this feature for myself during our weekly family movie nights and family meetings, too. This will even be handy when Mark and I enjoy date nights at home, since it can be difficult for both of us to shut off our screen work. With Circle, I can pause the internet for an individual device or for our entire home by clicking a pause button. Win win, as they say.

Create Filters and Establish Time Limits // First, I should note our children do not ever have free reign to browse the internet or certain apps (YouTube) on their own for all the reasons one might imagine. Even knowing how to search the internet is a learned skill, one we’re practicing together. There are of course a variety of softwares and ways to set filters for computers and phones, but I appreciate how easy it is in Circle. I created an account for each child using the app on my iPhone, where I could hand-select the apps they’re allowed to use and even change how long they can use each app. For instance, I de-select YouTube and Amazon since I don’t want them on those apps without my knowing. You can also set a general home filter for all the shared screens, which are most of ours.

I like that I can have an itemize list of all the sites and apps that have been used on each device. If I’ve given them the iPad during school hours to review math facts or play a specific game, Circle let’s me know if they’re actually doing it. I can also choose the general level of content they can access by person or device, i.e. kid or teen? This feature also filters sites that might contain content more mature than you’ve selected for the person or device (pornographic or violent).  

If your children have personal devices, this would be particularly helpful, as you can see and regulate the sites they visit and how long they spend on the internet or on a specific app each day. You can also help your children regulate their time by adjusting how long they use a specific app or the Internet in a day, an especially helpful feature as the school year approaches and the day demands more of them. On a side note, this has been so good for me, too, as it allows me to view and occasionally set limits on the amount of time I spend in my social apps. Wink.

Set a Regular Internet Bedtime // Since our children don’t take any devices to bed with them, this isn’t really applicable for them yet. But after writing about the value of unplugging a few weeks ago, I’ve recognized how often I still pick up my phone before bed, even when I have intended to do something different. Habits are so difficult to break. To shift and create a healthier evening habit for myself, I’ve set my own internet bedtime using the Circle app, leaving myself the time to read and unwind without distraction.

While Circle is valuable to me as a parent, especially heading into teen years, it’s also valuable for myself and my own time management, to help me remain focused on what I really value for daily family living. I’m grateful to have a system to help re-direct my attention when I lose focus and also impose set boundaries for my children when I forget or lose track of time.

I’m curious, how do you handle the internet in your home? Do you have a set age in mind or another litmus for when your children are ready for personal devices? Id’ love to hear. 

This post is sponsored by Circle with Disney, a new way for parents to manage devices and time. For those of you interested in trying Circle, you can purchase it on discount for $89 at Amazon, Best Buy, Target, or meetcircle.com until August 31, 2016. As always all thoughts and images are my own. Thank you for supporting the businesses that keep this space afloat.

music_at_home_spotify-9music_in_the_homemusic_at_home_spotify-12 music_at_home_spotify-10 music_at_home_spotify-8music_at_home_spotify-6music_in_the_home-spotifymusic_at_home_daily_rhythms_spotify-2music_at_home_daily_rhythms_spotify-5

“Music is the art of thinking with sounds.” ― Jules Combarieu

Books and music have always created a backdrop for our days at home together, even as the specific rhythms have varied through the years. During our children’s early childhood, I kept a small basket of instruments on the shelf for play throughout the day. And often we set aside a small portion of our homeschool morning for raucous singing and dancing together. Music time doesn’t always need to be serious, and these sort of moments can be a simple tool for bonding and playful experiences with sounds. If too much of this tends to stress you out as a parent (raises hand), my advice is to tuck certain instruments away until this daily time together. Wink.

Although much social and scientific research has revealed the positive effects of music on the developing brain, I’d argue it’s also good for the soul of the home. Music can lift and encourage heavy days, help heal fragmented emotions, and quiet noisy hearts and attitudes. It can even at times give language to emotion in ways young children might struggle to express. One moment a few years ago, when Olive was unhappy with me, she stomped away and then abruptly turned to the piano. She looked at me, pounded out three staccato bass notes, and then walked away. I laughed aloud of course but was also awed at how much she had communicated to me through those three notes, more than she might have been capable with her words. For her, sounds intuitively connected with her emotions and thoughts, even at age three.

As our children have grown older, music still makes up much of our days and evenings together. A record is often spinning or the iPod is humming through the speakers, sometimes quietly in the background, other times blasting for energetic clean-ups, impromptu dance parties, or even in the kitchen when the kids love to play “guess which soundtrack?” We listen to a variety of sounds during the day here, often complimenting (or re-directing) the activity and mood, and although we own a lot of music, I have also used the Spotify app for years to easily browse new music and create private and public playlists for the home. The kids have several of their own, too––a fun way for them to explore their own style.

For those of you interested, I’ve included a playlist below entitle Daily Rhythms, a sample of songs our family is enjoying together right now. The music feels quiet, but varies in energy, much like the plot line of our days at home. Spotify also now has a Kids & Family category in their app/site, too, which includes specially curated playlists for different age groups and activities––an easy cheat when we begin to feel in a rut. We particularly love Milk & Cookies and Bedtime Stories––a playlist with short stories, like Peter Rabbit and the Three Little Pigs (perfect for rest time). Pop 4 Kids is always fun for a brief dance party in the living room when our bodies and brains need rejuvenating. Enjoy!

This post is sponsored by Spotify, a seamless way for people to enjoy and share music anywhere together. Images by Kristen Douglass. All thoughts are my own. Thank you for supporting businesses that help keep this space afloat. 

vista_la_plata_durango_colorado5vista_la_plata_durango_colorado-8 vista_la_plata_durango_colorado7vista_la_plata_durango_colorado-7vista_la_plata_durango_colorado-16vista_la_plata_durango_colorado6vista_la_plata_durango_colorado-19vista_la_plata_durango_colorado9

Some people prefer large soirees with friends and food and gifts to celebrate monumental birthdays, and we have hosted a couple of those fun events over the years. Yet as Mark’s fortieth birthday loomed, I wanted something quieter and more restful, something that wouldn’t require us crafting a menu or rushing through home projects to enjoy. Neither of us has the energy for that sort of work in late May and early June when the school year has just ended; instead we tend more toward collapsing, preferably somewhere cool and within a day’s driving distance.

During a conversation last spring with my friend Ruth, she side-mentioned her family’s rental property in Colorado, and after hearing a few details, I was instantly smitten with the idea of Vista La Plata, their charming home on 70 acres just outside of Durango, Colorado. I booked a week for our family over Mark’s birthday weekend and began planning the trip in secret, telling Mark only the dates to block from his calendar. Tim and Kristen joined us since the house was large enough to accommodate our combined seven children. It was the perfect surprise gift, one that didn’t require an ounce of work from him until we loaded the car.


Vista La Plata is filled with light and flowing curtains, perfect for rising with the sunlight and coffee, and also for living with the windows open. Mark brought his hammock, which nestled perfectly on the front porch next to the rockers, and we all took turns during the week finding a little refuge there. After a long drive the first day, we were happy to plant ourselves on the property for the first day or so. The kids also enjoyed the freedom of exploring the property on their own, discovering different plants and trees and even a fort.  A few times, we drove down the road to Mormon Reservoir, a quiet and hidden reserve to kayak, fish, or skip rocks after dinner. We often passed small herds of deer nibbling the grasses, unbothered by our passing.

The lowest level of the home belonged to the kids for the week, where they played board games and enjoyed rest and art time. My older boys enjoyed their cave-like sleeping quarters (their favorite sleeping arrangement) and having a cool place to tuck away when the day felt hot and tired. Although there are so many family activities in Durango area, we took the week slow, keeping with the spirit of rest. We inadvertently spent two afternoons at the Durango Mountain Resort, where we let each of the kids pick one ticket activity. The boys opted to zip-line, while the girls bungee-jumped (feet down on a trampoline), and afterward Mark and I hiked alone with our boys, while Kristen and Tim took the other kids home for rest. On this afternoon, we discovered half of a snow patrol sled and carried it to a large patch of snow for play.

vista_la_plata_durango_colorado-15vista_la_plata_durango_colorado-3vista_la_plata_durango_colorado-12vista_la_plata_durango_colorado-14 vista_la_plata_durango_colorado4 vista_la_plata_durango_colorado-13 vista_la_plata_durango_colorado vista_la_plata_durango_colorado-21

On another other day, we all took the chairlift to the top of the mountain and ate lunch together, and afterward Mark and I took all of the older children hiking. Olive and Shepherd found flags along the way and carried them with us, and later when we crossed paths with another family, they asked if we were a mountain-guided school. We laughed, and then I thought how lovely that would be if this were our daily school.

We spent Saturday in downtown Durango at the farmers market, admiring handmade goods and tasting yummy foods. The kids walked away with balloon animals, and Olive’s popped on the long straw-like grasses within two minutes. There was a car show that day as well, which we wandered through and then waded in the icy cold Animas river. For lunch, we ate on the patio at Carver Brewing Co. and then meandered through Old Colorado Vintage and of course into Cream Bean Berry for gelato and affogatos (espresso poured over vanilla gelato).

A perk of having two sets of adults on a family vacation is swapping date nights, which we did. Mark and I strolled the downtown area for a bit and then went to dinner at the Cypress Cafe, which was a treat, especially sitting on the patio at dusk. I ordered salmon wrapped in grape leaves and Letters to Elliot to drink and have been attempting to re-create it ever since.

vista_la_plata_durango_colorado-10vista_la_plata_durango_colorado3vista_la_plata_durango_colorado-23vista_la_plata_durango_colorado-5vista_la_plata_durango_colorado-11 vista_la_plata_durango_colorado8 vista_la_plata_durango_colorado-2vista_la_plata_durango_colorado-17

Mark and I recently found a postcard from the 1950s in an antique store, where someone wrote to a friend, “we made the trip and only had to change our tires once!” Sometimes I forget how far travel has come in such a short period of time, that families regularly travel internationally, let alone a few states away in a car. I’m grateful for the ways travel broadens our scope of life and experience, how it teaches us patience and the power of improvisation. On the day of our arrival, just an hour from the house, Mark discovered a nail in two of our tires. Tim shuttled Kristen and myself to the house, helped unload, and then returned to pick up Mark and my boys. It was the longest day, but still worth it for the week that came after it. Happy birthday, my dearest.

For more images of our travels: HERE

For more ideas and activities around Vista La Plata: HERE


I gave Mark a wallet for father’s day in June with the last line from Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s Ulysses, “to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.” I might have inscribed the last seven lines, if it would have fit, and so I inscribed the words on my memory instead, and of course here with you.

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

I do not know what it is to set sail onto the sea without knowing where I am going, as Ulysses and so many great explorers and adventurers across time have. And yet––metaphorically, I do. I know what it is to face a new homeschool year and wonder where our family might land, or what it is like to bring a new baby into the earth and wonder who they might become and whether I can stay the course. I know what it is to stare at a young business or a forgotten house and feel compelled to go and do something with it, even when I’m unsure where it might take me, or how it might remake or destroy me. Perhaps the point of living isn’t so much about where we are going, but the fact that we are going at all. To live purposefully in any manner requires courage.

Wherever you find yourself on this Monday morning, cheers to you, to your heroic heart. May you find strength of will to accomplish the things in your hands today and the courage to seek, to find, and not to yield.

simply living

To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work. ― Mary Oliver

On my personal (and familial) quest to live more simply, I have learned one overarching truth: simple and easy are not always the same. Living simply requires thoughtful planning and hard work, but foremost it requires paying attention. When our days become out of sorts, many times what I need is not a new method or even a new book, but instead to take time to clarify or clean up what we’re already doing. This webinar will not have any cleaning tips or Mary Poppins wizardry, but I will share five general principals that help keep me focused in my days, balancing home and work life, and that also bring me back when our routine tends to drift. Life is complex, especially as a parent, but maybe our days don’t need to be. Grab a cup of coffee, and join me to discuss how our family returns again and again to simply living. Click the link to register.

Simply Living; Five Steps to Clarify Your Daily Routine

August 2, 10am CST


Q+A included, and the webinar will be recorded


Consider the regular practice of unplugging a cleanse for the soul, an opportunity to listen to both yourself and others in a different way.

Like many thirty-somethings, I am old enough to remember life prior to the internet, before cell phones or personal computers or even dial-up internet access. I remember car trips without the option of screens or electronic navigation. I remember writing nearly everything by hand, from school reports to the little notes I passed to friends in the school hallways or left on the fridge or countertops for my parents, little evidences of where I had been.  I remember the first time I heard about the world wide web and later opened my first personal email account. It sounds ancient now, even as I write it out, knowing these words are being read in another part of the globe, perhaps on a beach or a bus or a favorite bedroom chair. Technology has forever changed our human existence. It has more obviously changed the way we relate with others, but also the way we perceive and relate with ourselves.

It surprises me that on any given visit for a personal wellness check, my physician will ask me about my diet, drug/alcohol consumption, smoking habits, and stress levels, and yet not once ask how many hours a day I spend on a screen or whether I ever use my cell phone while driving, eating meals, or going to the bathroom. These questions seem just as relevant to my mental and emotional wellbeing.  I do not think the internet is inherently bad or harmful to the self. It allows us to follow news threads around the world, to take classes online, pay bills without stamps, and avoid shopping malls altogether. We can read books, write essays, and share photographs and art with the world and connect with other people, businesses, and causes outside of our locales. Technology can build community. It can educate us and even begin breaking down cultural biases, introducing us to parts of the world we might not ever see or experience. But the point is: it is always connecting us.

Last year, when our family began practicing a regular Sabbath meal/day together, I also began practicing a weekly 24-hour break from my phone and computer.  Most weeks, this lines up with our family’s sabbath day, but sometimes it doesn’t. Either way, it is an intentional 24-hour period where I make myself unavailable to email, interact on social media, work on the computer, and so on. I am unplugged. After years of working and connecting online, I have noticed my soul begins to ache after staring at a screen for too long. My brain begins to feel cloudy and weary, like it has multi-tasked for too long. Practicing a weekly rest from screens creates order and balance of self again. It prioritizes my life as it exists apart from the internet. It has also taught me to recognize when I need quiet, when I need to go outdoors and move my body or simply find a place to rest my thinking and stretch. This regular unplugging has revived the word unavailable again, and it feels good.



read a book | I have recently begun re-reading Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brainsa well-written book on how internet use is reshaping our neural pathways so that we are better skimmers and surveyors on information, but no longer able to focus or contemplate deeply. He writes, “What the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. Whether I’m online or not, my mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.” Reading books––real books––preserves the faculties of your brain that help you concentrate.

put the phone away | Even on a day I am not fasting from my screens, taking time to put to my phone away in the car or at the table or even on an average day at home is teaching my children something about phone etiquette, about offering preference to those whom you’re with over whatever might be happening elsewhere. Truly, I am not always wonderful with this, but I am learning. It is best if I tuck my phone in my purse out of reach, ignoring calls, texts, and emails until I arrive. I sometimes ask the kids to text for me, if it’s something time sensitive. Be patient with yourself and others as we navigate new cultural norms.

expect to listen  | When I am struggling to write or think clearly during my day, I know I need to unplug. It helps me to hear my own voice again, to work with my hands and let go of distraction in my mind and heart. I might take a walk around the block or stretch for a few moments wherever I am in the house. I breathe deeply and listen more closely.

go outside | This seems obvious, but it is always so refreshing (except when it is 100 degrees) to be outdoors. Sometimes I work in the yard or play with the kids. I might make a picnic or on the best weather days spread a blanket in the yard to read a book or sift through new recipes.


The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains | Sherry Turkle “Connected, but alone?” | Tiffany Schlain “Growing Up the Internet”


garden-6 garden-7 garden-4summer_weekend_local_garden-3garden-3garden-8garden

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
   but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

Mary Oliver, When I Am Among the Trees

Summer is always hot and sticky in the South, and this one is proving the same. My bedroom windows face the rising sun, and on my favorite mornings I am in bed long enough to wake to it. Even then it is hot outside, but I try to make my way out of the door anyway while the light is still sleepy. We do not live among the mountains or near a cold river or the sea. But we have the morning and the evening and of course also the green trees. And that is enough to fill me with hints of gladness, and to teach me how to walk slowly and bow often, as Oliver writes. And so I take a brief walk twice a day, once to begin and the other to close it.

summer_weekend_at_the_local_garden garden-12 garden-11garden-14 garden-17 summer_weekend_local_garden-2 garden-15 garden-18

Yesterday morning, while the boys finished their breakfasts and morning readings, the girls and I visited our local garden shop. We are planting new ivy for our backyard wall and also a late-season garden. Although it feels odd to be planting in the peak heat, sometimes sewing new life into the hardest circumstances sews life into the soul as well. So we walked about the shop’s property yesterday, noticing the sun-loving blooms and vines. We took refuge in the potting shed, grateful for the mid-morning shade. When we grew tired, we paused near the pond and enjoyed the sound of water running over the fountains. Beauty truly can be found in the smallest places.

As I consider the remaining summer days (and months!), I’m learning how to find joy in these types of simple moments and outings. As it turns, my children are learning the same. Of course, our favorite summer activities this time of year revolve around water, but without a backyard pool or pond or ocean, water activities need to be planned in advance for travel or with friends. The garden shop can be a place to play outdoors, to experience a variety of plant life at once, and to inspire a personal garden space. For me, it was a place to visit and be filled.

This post is in partnership with MUNY, a Brooklyn clothier creating handwoven, hand-printed clothing for women and children. Cloistered Away readers can save 25% off of anything in the 2016 line before July 15 using the code summer25. Thank you for supporting the brands that help keep this space afloat. 

A simple act or word of kindness can be a light for the soul, so can be a listening ear. From personal experience, the two are not entirely separate. During those playful and harrowing toddler and preschool years, it didn’t take long for me to notice, when my children were acting out with unkind words, gestures, or attitudes, it was often caused by a need for sleep or a need for more attention. It might surprise you to know, it doesn’t change as they grow. Children feel and think deeply, often beyond what they can articulate. It seems simple enough, that if we as parents are kind to our children then our children will naturally be kind in return. But rarely is it that simple. Our tone and words certainly impact our children, but they are also their own persons. They have their own thoughts, feelings, impulses, and perspectives––even the exact moments we share with them are experienced differently. This means some days kindness may trickle off of them like rain, with ease and effortlessness; on other days (or seasons or years), kindness will need to be filled and drawn from them like a well.

Our children have been squabbling more often with one another, and as result, we’ve had many conversations about kindness, about honoring one another with our words and actions. We often encourage our children that learning these skills now will help them learn how to love and treat others kindly outside of our home. Here is a brief list of how we work to cultivate kindness in our home, in case you find the same conversations spinning in yours.

watch and listen / So many things I’ve learned about my children hasn’t arrived through a book, but instead by observing and listening to them. Most children (even into their teens) are not articulate enough to explain their emotion, nor are they aware enough to see connections between thoughts, feelings, and actions. Parenting is a patient process in helping them learn to connect dots. For instance, “I’ve noticed when you feel angry, you do/say ___, which is hurtful to ___. It’s important to recognize and share when you feel angry. Can you think of a better way to tell them/me you’re angry?” If you are struggling with consistent unkindness in your home, look for patterns when it shows. Is it around a specific environment? Person? Activity? Does it happen more often when your children are left to independent activity too long or when they are indoors or with others for too long?

carve out space for more quality time / I noticed very early in parenting, when my toddlers or preschoolers were consistently whining or throwing tantrums, it was was typically a sign they needed more quality time with me. I can assure you, with older children (and teens, I’m expecting), it doesn’t change. Even as an adult, I can act grumpy and unkind when I haven’t taken time for myself. Children want positive, quality time with you, and it needn’t be heavy or deeply conversational either. Watch a favorite film or read a favorite book together, snuggled up and undistracted. Sneak away for an errand and stop for a coffee together. In some instances, life is too complicated or difficult to just sneak away with one child. In that instance, plan time at home to enjoy a treat  together while the others are occupied. In our home, I let the other children know when this is happening so there are fewer interruptions. In short, time shared with loving words and physical affection go a long way in teaching kindness.

create tighter boundaries / Sometimes my children simply need tighter boundaries, a little more structure to our day or to be watched a little more closely. Anytime I am trying to redirect behavior, especially in the little years, it is best to set aside a few days to watch them more closely, correct and bless. It helps with my consistency as a parent and also to give immediate feedback when they handle a situation well.

speak to their identity / When I am correcting my children for unkindness (which has sadly been happening more often the last few months), I take a moment also to speak truth to their identity, to who they really are. For instance, I might say, “I know it feels good to speak unkind words when you are hurt or angry, but that is not who you are. You are kind. You are gentle. And as you grow into adulthood, I am here to help support and protect that part of your heart.” Even when I’m correcting them or grounding them or telling no, I try to give a positive blessing so they have a glimpse of why it matters, why they matter.  Daniel Siegel notes in the book Brainstorm, “Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them become what they are capable of being.” Although I am not perfect and sometimes blow it in this area, I aim for my own corrective words to be delivered kindly, elevating them to see beyond the moment at hand but who they are capable of becoming.

practice kindness / Most of us learn best through practice, and one of the best ways to help cultivate kindness is through giving them opportunity. This might be as simple as a handwritten note or sharing a baked good or bunch of flowers with someone. Also consider volunteering regularly somewhere together. Working together for common good always builds character, and tends to also cultivate gratitude and kindness.

seek help / I am not a medical or psychological professional, I am simply sharing what I have learned through my effort and education as a parent and person. If you feel these tactics are out of reach for you or your child, or if your child is destructive to him/herself or others, please consider seeking help. There are so many wonderful ways to to help children through play and art therapy, and there are plenty of professionals wanting to help mothers and fathers, too. There’s no shame in ever asking for professional help.