The Power of Positive Reinforcement


My comments in an article in Today’s Parent regarding positive reinforcement:

Read the full article here

Baby Playtime: How Much is Enough?


New moms often ask, “How much should I play with baby?”  The simple answer is, “As much as you wish to.”  Babies love faces and the best time to interact with those they love is face-to-face contact times such as bath times, diaper changes, and feeding times.

During those contact times, it helps to sing, talk, tickle, read, make facial expressions and use vocal variety to baby.  Don’t forget to smile.  Babies love facial interaction and they will naturally turn their head away when they have had enough.

Try to give baby some “tummy time” for several minute periods each day.  It helps baby to develop neck and upper arm muscles and it relieves pressure on the head so that the risk of plagiocephally (flat head) is reduced.  Many babies don’t like tummy time, on a hard floor, so it can be helpful to put baby on parent’s chest while parent is lying down on the sofa.  This counts as tummy time.  Also, keep in mind that tummy time can be several minutes, several times a day, instead of a twenty-minute marathon every day.

Baby carriers are a wonderful way for babies to be stimulated and entertained through the day.  Baby watching you make dinner from the elevated view of a backpack is fascinating for him and is just as stimulating for his brain development as watching “educational” videos.

In spite of our society’s intensive push to give early learning to young children, try to avoid worrying about how much stimulation and playtime she is supposed to be getting.  If you enjoy spending time with baby, interacting with your natural enthusiasm, rest assured she is getting enough stimulation! (403) 714-6766

How to Handle a Bad Report Card


The exam results are in!

Your child brings home a bad report card. Your first instinct may be to punish him in order to make him raise his marks. However, will that really solve the problem? We know from research in the workplace, that punishment never solves motivation or performance problems, so why would it work for children?  What can do you do to encourage him instead?  It’s good to keep in mind that a report card is only one “view” of your child. It’s a picture to report to parents what the child is like in school. However, he is a multifaceted learner with strengths and room for improvement in all areas of his life, just as anybody is.  Think of your child’s performance like a three legged stool.  All three legs are required for the stool to function and all perspectives can give an accurate assessment of the child as a learner.

One leg of the stool is from the teacher who is gives an academic skills report. This report should include information on how the child is doing learning subject matter in the four cores of math, language arts, science, social studies, and options. Schools like to report on character and other things that are not academic, but they only see the child participating in an institutional setting with many peers. The teacher does not see the child at home, or “outside of school” social situations.

The other leg is the parent who also gives a report card on two of the most important learning’s: life skills and people skills. The parent can present the report card to the child at any given time. Life skills include chores, money management, organization skills, problem-solving, initiative, responsibilities, health and wellbeing maintenance, and volunteer commitment.  In other words – all the skills that parents witness at home. People skills include sharing, sibling conflict resolution, attitude, listening, assertiveness, and politeness, emotional intelligence at home and out in social situations. Most people with academic and technical brilliance lose their jobs not because of inefficiency in that area, but because of lack of people and life skills.  These are the some of the most important skills to develop.  These skills can be learned and practiced by all children.  Not all children can get an “A” in math, but all children can learn to be polite and organized.

The final leg of the three legged stool is the child. He can self-evaluate and give himself a report card on all three components – Academic skills, life skills and people skills.  This is the most important evaluation and parents and teachers can ask how they can support growth and success for the child in all these areas.

Finally, the parent, teacher and child should discuss where the strengths are and room-for-improvement and come to an agreement on how to go about setting improvement in place.

Education is a journey, and is not a race. The letter or number grade does not indicate learning or self- awareness.  In fact, when children only chase a grade, they can be more prone to cheating and learn nothing.  We learn the best when we fail or make mistakes which over insight and reflection, give us ideas for change. When children make mistakes, ask them “what did you learn from this?”  The ability to self-evaluate, and find motivation to start again is the real learning and the upmost key to success. The Winklevoss twins learned more about life and resilience in their court battle with Facebook, than all those academic years at Harvard.

Parents, de-emphasize the numbers. As a society, we tend to treasure what we measure, but learning can’t be denigrated to a number.  Most of what we do in life that really counts; love, help, volunteering, life learning, and kindness can’t be evaluated by a number, but can be observed, noticed and appreciated.

No one is perfect and we all have room for improvement. Your job as parents is to figure out with your child, how can you pick him up, dust him off and support him moving forward?

Judy Arnall is a non-punitive parenting and education expert.


Liberals favour appealing Section 43 – the spanking law

It’s about time!

Liberals in favour of repealing section 43

Best Parenting Tips from the Trenches


By Judy Arnall, BA, CCFE-Certified Canadian Family Life Educator


Sleep cures all:  Half of all discipline issues could be prevented if parents could secure a full eight hours of sleep in a 24 hour day. Make sleep a priority.  The meals, laundry, and clutter will always be there, but a rested, contented parent is the biggest asset for patience, calmness and joy in parenting.


I’m not the mom:  When your children are out in public with you and misbehaving badly, pretend that you are the Aunt taking the kids for the day.  Say loudly, “Just wait until your Mother hears about this!” and go about your usual routine.


Bad days:  In the midst of chaos, centre yourself first, before you calm down any screaming, or crying children. Make sure everyone is safe. Lie in the middle of the living room floor, put on your ipod, close your eyes and deep breathe.  Get calm and centered.  Then get up and decide what everyone needs in order to turn the day around: food, nap, walk, outing, or hugs.


Your relationship, not obedience, is where it’s at:  Rather than focus on your child’s obedience as a gauge of how well you parent, focus on the quality of your relationship.  Is your child still communicating with you, sharing feelings, opinions and values?  If so, you are a success.


Stop punishing your children:  Respect never includes punishment in a love relationship, no matter what the ages of the people involved.  And parenting is a love relationship.  Instead of looking at issues of discipline as behavior to be corrected, look at it as conflicts to be resolved.


ABC’s of loving parenting:  “A” is for Acknowledging the feelings of your child. Feelings have no limits.  They are as real and normal as skin.  “B” is for Behavior communication.  What is your child trying to tell you?  Look at their needs and feelings that drive the behavior.  “C” is for Calming down.  Get yourself calm, then get your child calm, then mutually problem-solve the issue.

Build your parent-child relationship first, and their resume second: Unconditional love is support, encouragement and help in discovering who your child is and what they are capable of.  When you love them unconditionally, they learn to love themselves, unconditionally and will grow into the wonderful people they are meant to be.


Peace in the world begins in the home:  The family is the training ground for all future relationships in love, work, politics, religion and friendship.  If we treat our babies with love, safety and respect, as we would want to be treated, we will raise the next generation equipped to change the world a child at a time.


Separate your anger from your discipline:  When we are angry, we lose our self-control and issue punishments that we have no intention of carrying out when we are calm.  Because the purpose of discipline is to teach self-control  of behavior and self-regulation of emotions in our children, we need to demonstrate the same in ourselves. When we are calm, we make much better decisions and most always can focus on solving the problem with clarity of thinking. We don’t have to hurt children to teach them. In fact, they learn much better when not under stress.


It takes a village, to cherish a parent, to nurture a child: Parents are the very first relationship builders.  We can’t control our children, but we have tremendous influence.  Parents need support, encouragement and practical help, not judgment.  Hug, smile at, high five, give an A-OK, a kind word, encouragement, or give a pat on the back, to a parent you know who needs support.  Sometimes they don’t need a problem-solver ; sometimes they just need a listening ear, and re-assurance that they are an awesome parent.


Hugs; The best discipline tool ever!  The child that needs our attention the most, is usually the one that “deserves” it the least.  If you ever are in the position of not knowing what to do in any parenting situation, (as most parents routinely are) then default to a hug.  If learning follows, you will be coming from a place of acceptance and caring and the message will stick much more with your child.


Use your kindest words at home with those you love the most: Too often, we are the nicest, politest, kindest people to strangers.  The store clerk, the plumber and the teacher all get our best behaviour, when we should be giving it to those we love – our family.


Expressions of all feelings is absolutely necessary for health: Feelings are as common to our body as our big toe. The most respectful way to express feelings is to talk about them. Saying “I feel…” can be very therapeutic for children trying to sort out their feelings.

We need to help our children deal with their frustrations, not to help your children avoid them: Our job as parents is to help our children sort out their unhappy feelings, by acknowledging that they exist and validating them.  It doesn’t mean that we agree with them or understand them.  It just means that we accept them.


Time-outs are for parents, time-in is for the child: Parents need to take a minute to get themselves calmed-down.  They teach children how time-out works, not by forcing the child into time-out, but by taking a time-out themselves.  My fear is that we are raising an entire generation adverse to taking a time-out, because they have only experienced it as a punishment.  Time-out is a wonderful life skill.  Let’s demonstrate that by our actions. Giving a child time-in means to stay with him in a calming environment to help him gain self-control again.  It’s not meant to be isolating and may include items to help him calm-down in his learning style.


Children learn better by discovery than by being told: There are many lessons in parenting that parents cannot teach.  Life will teach them if we let it unfold.


Instead of punishment, problem-solve the issue: It’s not you against me.  Instead, it’s both of us working together against the problem. With two or more brains working in synergy, we can come up with solutions acceptable to both of us.


Modeling is discipline taught 24 hours a day, 365 days a year: In fact, if we provided no other interference in our children’s actions, other than modeling correct behavior, within the context of  building a great relationship with our children, we would raise responsible, caring, respectful citizens.


We underestimate our children’s ability to solve problems: Even a baby knows how to alleviate hunger.  In childhood, negotiation is treated as an 11 letter swear word, yet, it is very needed in every love relationship. Often, our child’s first experience of negotiation is when their employer gives them training courses as adults. It’s a life skill that needs practice in a safe environment, such as the home, and with safe  people such as parents, who will ensure safe consequences, while children are still young.


Children crave teaching, direction and advice: Like adults, they want to know how to do the right thing, but not be forced to do it.


The biggest technological advances in the past twenty years have been in communications, yet, our biggest hurdle in our relationships have been in interpersonal communications: Amid cell phones, internet, computers, video games, GPS, ipods, Blackberries and DVDs, there is one thing that every parent can provide their children that no advancement of technology will replace.  Human non-sexual touch…hugs, pats, snuggles, and love.


Judy Arnall, BA, DTM, CCFE, currently teaches parenting at The University of Calgary, Continuing Education, and has taught for Chinook Learning, Families Matter, and Alberta Health Services for the past 13 years. Judy is the author of the International bestseller, Discipline Without Distress: 135 Tools for raising caring, responsible children without time-out, spanking, punishment or bribery and the newly released Parenting With Patience: Turn frustration into connection with 3 easy steps.  WWW.PROFESSIONALPARENTING.CA 403-714-6766, Join our list for monthly notifications of free parenting webinars 



Sibling Rivalry Remedies


“Your kids fight?” people ask incredulously, when I am presenting a parenting workshop. “Of course!” I answer. “Every person in a love relationship fights.” I prefer to say that every relationship has conflict. It’s normal and inevitable to disagree. However, the determining factor in the quality of the relationship is how the fights get resolved.

Conflict happens between spouses, partners, relatives, friends, neighbours, co-workers, group members, governments, countries and everyone else. Why would the sibling relationship be different? You know it’s going to happen. But like many things in parenting, it’s better to know what you are dealing with and have some planned strategies to try.

First, know that there are basically 4 types of sibling conflicts. Each conflict type is driven by an underlying feeling, because most all relationship fights are generally about feelings, and not so much about the presenting issues. So the best way to deal with sibling fights is to deal head on with the feelings, rather than the issue. Here are the reasons kids fight, and what the child’s underlying feelings are:


The underlying feeling is, you guessed it! Boredom! What better way for your child to have some fun, than to bug someone who he knows is going to give him a great reaction?
Unhelpful parent strategy: Ignoring the fight. Punishing the child.

Helpful parent strategy: Give your child a new, interesting activity that is work, fun or something to do with you or someone else. Casually separating the children also helps, but don’t make it an enforced time out.


Your child is feeling left out, unloved, or un-noticed. Your child is silently screaming: “Notice me, whether negatively or positively, just notice me!”

Unhelpful parent strategy: Giving negative attention in the form of a punishment, time-out, or time spent playing judge and jury.

Helpful parent strategy: Avoid punishments. Ignore the fighting, but give more individual time and attention later when the fighting has subsided. Schedule a date night or time alone with just that child. Acknowledge pleasant sibling interactions when they occur.


Your child is feeling victimized, angry, frustration, or injustice.

Unhelpful parent strategy: Playing judge by directing who the perpetrator and victim was, and how restitution should be made, according to how you see things. Taking away fought over toys or privileges. Punishing both children regardless of the issue.

Helpful parent strategy: Avoid punishments. Accept and acknowledge each child’s feelings and point of view and try to help them express it to the other child. Help them come to solutions, that both children will agree to. Help them generate the ideas, rather than you do it for them. In addition, give each child input in family rule formation. Teach problem solving skills and then coach them through the process. Teach anger management strategies and self-calming techniques later when everyone has calmed down and the issues are resolved.


Your child may be feeling accumulated hatred and resentments toward their sibling, and may also be feeling jealousy, unworthiness, unloved, victimized, unvalued, or discarded.

Unhelpful parenting strategies: Group punishments, taking away toys or privileges, comparisons, and labelling. Being a judge without hearing or seeing the whole story.

Helpful parent strategies: Notice generous, loving, caring, behaviour and point it out to the children in specific language. Avoid labels and comparisons. Love each child best. Encourage accomplishments and efforts of each child. Avoid punishments of any kind to anybody. Accept and acknowledge all feelings of each child, even if you don’t agree with them. Give a lot of individual attention and time to each child.

How you deal with sibling rivalry determines how the children treat each other. If you punish them, they will punish each other. If your approach is to work on “solving the problem in a mutually respectful way”, they will also take the same approach. And remember, you do not have to maintain equality at all times. Just commit yourself to giving only what each child needs. One child will bound to get more, because they need more, but the important point is that each child feels secure knowing that when he needs something, it will be given to him. In “Between Parent and Child”, Dr. Haim Ginott states: “We do not love all our children the same way, and there is no need to pretend that we do. We love each child uniquely, and we do not have to labour so hard to cover it up. The more vigilant we are to prevent apparent discrimination, the more alert each child becomes, in detecting instances of seeming inequality. Unwillingly, we find ourselves defensive against the child’s universal battle cry, ‘no fair!’” Celebrate your children’s fights! What a great opportunity to teach relationship skills and conflict resolution skills that they are bound to need later in life.

Judy Arnall is a professional international award-winning Parenting Speaker, and Trainer, Mom of five children, and author of the best-selling, “Discipline Without Distress: 135 tools for raising caring, responsible children without time-out, spanking, punishment or bribery” She specializes in “Non-punitive parenting” (403) 714-6766

Worried about Summer Learning Loss? Isn’t Minecraft Educational?

by Judy Arnall

Your ten-year old daughter is wasting another beautiful summer day inside the house, playing Minecraft. You fear that her brain is becoming atrophied for lack of academic stimulation. You worry about education company warnings that children can lose a month of their school year learning during the summer. Will summer fun and a “break from formal learning” cause kids to fall behind academically in the Fall? Is there another way to keep up with academic learning other than by text books and lectures? Could video games support education? Hey, isn’t Minecraft educational? Yes, of course it is! Any type of toy or game is educational, in that it teaches children knowledge, life skills and the competencies outlined by Alberta Education in the new curriculum redesign.

Often, parents are critically conscious of the time spent on computer games, and assume that video games and toys are a frivolous waste of time. They think that if the game doesn’t directly teach math or language skills, time is wasted. However, indirect teaching of communication and math skills may be the best feature of gaming, along with enjoyment of plot, graphics, music and gameplay. A game can develop academic learning and competencies, even though not marketed as an “educational game”.

As a parent of five gamers (both genders), I learned early that my children hated the “educational games” that have primitive graphics, poor logic, clumsy interface, are non-multiplayer and just plain lame. “Educational games” seem to be marketed to parents that aim for functional use of time, rather than fun. When my kids immersed themselves in games like World of Warcraft, Nox, Spore, Gizmos and Gadgets, Age of Empires, Graal, Runescape and League of Legends, they learned not only reading, writing and math skills, but also knowledge of social studies, mythology, history and science. They learned valuable social skills such as cooperation and conflict resolution with other players in the same game, and with buddies outside the game playing with them in the same room. They learned personal skills, such as resilience during adversity, perseverance and commitment to continue and finish for the team despite discouragement. They learned how to deal with problems, team members and competitors under time pressure. They learned how to win gracefully, and how to face losing with dignity and without throwing a keyboard across the room.

Indirectly, games and toys teach some academic concepts in a way that is compelling to children, aided by the focus that is essential for game success. Parents who don’t play the game may not realise how their children have learned these competencies. Here is a brief overview of how toys and games teach children within the framework of the new curriculum redesign by Alberta Education.
Of course, children still need exercise, fresh air, and breaks from screens, which are also great life skills, but if your daughter chooses to spend her quiet time playing Minecraft, relax! She is counteracting summer learning loss in a fun, educational and engaging way.
*Competencies retrieved from Ministerial Order on Student Learning (#001/2013), Alberta Education and adapted for this article. Retrieved from on April 29, 2014
Judy Arnall, BA, DTM, CCFE is a professional certified parenting and teacher conference speaker, and trainer, mom of five children, and author of the best-selling book, Discipline Without Distress: 135 tools for raising caring, responsible children without time-out, spanking, punishment or bribery and the new DVD, Plugged-In Parenting: Connecting with the digital generation for health, safety and love as well as the new book, To University from Unschooling, to be published Fall 2014,, 403-714-6766 Sign up for notifications of free monthly parenting webinars. Copyright permission granted for “reproduction without permission” of this article in whole or part, if the above credit is included in its entirety. Sections may be deleted for space constraints.