A Simple Tool for a More Positive Home

“Affirming words from moms and dads are like light switches. Speak a word of affirmation at the right moment in a child's life and it's like lighting up a whole roomful of possibilities.” -Gary Smalley

“Affirming words from moms and dads are like light switches. Speak a word of affirmation at the right moment in a child’s life and it’s like lighting up a whole roomful of possibilities.” -Gary Smalley

 The other night I was lying beside my 6-year-old daughter at bedtime when she snuggled in close and released a contented sigh. “I’m glad I have a family,” she whispered softly.

After agreeing whole-heartedly with her beautiful statement, an unexpected question popped out of my mouth. “If you didn’t have a family, who would you want to live with?” I asked.

Without hesitation, she rattled off four extraordinary women in our family’s life, including a current teacher and a past teacher.

As we were discussing these special ladies, my oldest daughter popped into her sister’s room to return something she borrowed. “What are you talking about?” she inquired.

When I told her what we were discussing, she immediately confirmed the value of a teacher in a child’s life by saying, “If I didn’t have a family, I would want to live with my teacher, Mrs. Reynolds.”

I was not the least bit surprised that my daughters had great affection and trust for these particular teachers. I had been in their classroom many times. I saw the love they had for their students displayed in both words and actions on many occasions.  On the day my youngest child came to school in her new glasses, her teacher did not wear her contact lenses as usual. She dug up her old glasses and wore them so my child would not feel alone. She did that for months—maybe even the remainder of the school year. To this day, my daughter still loves to wear her glasses, and she wears them with pride.

I also remember how one of these special teachers noticed my oldest daughter was struggling with the organization of her assignments and loose papers. As soon as the teacher spotted the difficulty, she told my child, “When I was young, I was just like you. I had so many neat things going on in my brain it was hard to keep up with the papers.” As a team, my daughter and her teacher figured out a way to stay organized that my daughter still uses today.

I could name countless ways these particular teachers chose to build on the positive when addressing my children’s differences, insecurities, and weaknesses rather than using condemnation to get them to change, conform, or improve.

I am fortunate to have observed these extraordinary teachers when I most needed to be reminded of the power of positivity. Because I must admit, I was once prone to criticize my children under the guise of “good intentions.” Whether it was poor posture, unmannerly eating habits, improper grooming, uncoordinated outfits, or a less-than-desired performance in sports or music, these were all areas in which I felt the need to correct. I justified the criticism by saying I didn’t want my child to be teased …  or I wanted her to be successful in life …  or be well liked … or gain self-confidence. But truthfully, it was all about me. I was concerned about how my children’s behavior or appearance was going to reflect on me. I pushed for perfection because I was overly concerned about what other people were going to think me, not them.

The truth hurts, but the truth heals.

But that all changed the day my youngest daughter laid down her ukulele in the middle of a practice session. After much parental scrutiny and disapproval for the way she was playing, she just stopped. As if surrendering to a battle she could never win, my child said seven words I won’t forget as long as I live. “I just want to be good, Mama.”

I just want to be good.

My child, who has a genuine talent for playing the ukulele and an inherent love of singing, thought she was no good. And it was because of me—my critical words, my constant suggestions, and my disapproving looks. I had practically convinced myself that the corrections were building her up—when in reality, they were breaking her down.

My child’s painful words revealed the destructive nature of criticism. Immediately, I thought of other instances when being overly critical caused regression, not improvement in my children. It became clear to me that constant corrections were not helping my children become more successful, more productive, more effective, or more fulfilled.  Being critical was hindering my children’s gifts and causing them to be unsure of their abilities. Criticism was diminishing their unique lights that made them who they are.

That’s when I decided no more. I wanted to Notice the Good.

I vowed to return to being the positive and affirming person I was with my students throughout my teaching career. I went straight to our basement and dug through my stored teacher supplies. For nine years, I taught children with behavior problems and learning disabilities. There were many negative behaviors and mistakes that I could have been critical of, but I wasn’t. I strived to find at least one strength and one positive in each student everyday, and then I would focus and build on that. I tried to notice as many appropriate actions as I could and comment specifically on them. I used the positive approach for nine years because I saw it work miracles with troubled students that many people thought would never succeed.

I dug through my teacher supplies until I found what I was looking for: The Warm Fuzzy Jar. There was a large crack on the side from one of our many moves as a family. I quickly decided I didn’t have to use this particular jar—just as this strategy for noticing positive behavior wasn’t just for classrooms!

I went to the kitchen and found a large, empty pickle jar and filled it with the colorful pom-pom balls. Then I set two smaller jars beside it on the kitchen counter. Within minutes, my children noticed the jars and inquired about them.

“This is The Warm Fuzzy Jar,” I explained. “Whenever you do something helpful or kind, you place a pom-pom ball in your designated jar because kind and helpful acts make people feel good, like a warm fuzzy.” The girls looked at each other with wide eyes and big smiles, so I continued. “And if you are doing something helpful together or just getting along nicely, you can put two pom-poms in your designated jar. And when your jar becomes full, you can choose something special for you and I to do together.”

My children had the same reaction as my former students did to filling The Warm Fuzzy Jar—pure enthusiasm. They wasted no time being helpful.

They carried in groceries that I typically brought in by myself.

They put away shoes in the hallway that they used to step over for days.

They made their beds in the morning without being told … dirty clothes actually made it to the hamper without my help … dishes made it to the sink (and even got rinsed) with helpful smiles …  musical instruments were played without reminders to practice.

There were even a few shockers like a surprise organization of my spice rack and a super clean toilet bowl. But that wasn’t all. The Warm Fuzzy Jar changed the atmosphere of our home. Cooperation and kindness seems to lighten everyone’s moods—most notably mine.

The fuzzy, colorful balls made everyone more aware—aware of “doing good” and “noticing good.”

I noticed that she dressed herself and hung the discarded clothes back on hangers—not the striped socks that didn’t match with the plaid shorts.

I noticed that she was helping her sister write sentences—not that she was using a Sharpie that was turning her fingers black.

I noticed that she prepared a healthy breakfast of cereal and cantaloupe—not the trail of milk that went all the way from the counter to the kitchen table.

I noticed that she helped her sister do her hair—not the twelve barrettes that were secured haphazardly to the back of her head.

I was Noticing the Good, and it was making a huge difference in our day-to-day interactions and my children’s overall wellbeing.

After the jar worked its magic for a couple months, I put it away so the novelty would not wear off. But a week ago, as the children’s school year was coming to a close, I decided it was the perfect time to get the jar out again. The long, hot summer months can be challenging, and I need daily reminders to Notice the Good. In preparation for The Warm Fuzzy Jar return, I set the items on the kitchen counter.

“The happy jars!” my youngest child shouted when she saw the jars and pom-poms on the counter. “When can we start filling them?” she asked excitedly.

I shrugged, “Well, I was going to wait until the first day of summer vacation, but you can start today, if you’d like.”

Both girls went right into action, and so did I—the children were “doing good” and I was “noticing good.” Once again, the powerful awareness lightened the entire atmosphere of our home and made us all more helpful and kind.

Yesterday, I noticed the girls’ jars are already half full.  Suddenly it occurred to me that the children hadn’t even declared what they would be earning when they filled their jar.

To me, that fact spoke volumes.

When it comes to positive affirmation—the prize doesn’t matter.

Because being affirmed is the prize.

Because having someone notice and celebrate your good work is the prize.

Because seeing the smile on your parent’s face because of something you did is the prize.

But wait. Here’s the real prize …

When you fill up a child, her eyes become brighter. Her head is held higher. Her dreams come closer.

And suddenly, life is full of possibilities for the most precious prize of all: your child.

The Warm Fuzzy Jars #handsfreemama


For more truthful storytelling and further inspiration to be an encouraging, loving presence rather than a critical, controlling one, please see my latest book, HANDS FREE LIFE: Nine Habits for Overcoming Distraction, Living Better, & Loving More. It is filled with practical daily habits that will help you stop managing, screaming, and stressing life and start living it with love, peace, and presence.

For those who are new here, my first book details the steps I used to transform my distracted, hurried life into one of meaningful connection and peace. HANDS FREE MAMA is a New York Times Bestseller. 

For wearable reminders to Notice the Good, see the ONLY LOVE TODAY & I CHOOSE LOVE vintage wrist wraps in the Hands Free Shop. 

Here is more information about The Warm Fuzzy Jar:

I purchased the pom-poms at a craft store, but they can be found at Wal-Mart or online. The jar was effective in promoting prosocial behaviors in students from preschool-age through 12th grade. For younger children, it is most effective to make a daily goal such as, “You need 6 pom-poms to earn _____,” rather than a long-term goal. My students most often chose special activity time with me as their reward, but the reward can be anything motivating to your child. I found that the children were most motivated by seeing their jars fill with pom-poms and the praise that accompanied it. I allow children to put the pom poms in the jar themselves and report positive actions I may have not witnessed. You may choose to do it differently. Some of my readers with teens mentioned that their kids earned gas cards using this system.

It typically takes my school-aged daughters two weeks to a month to fill their jars which is why their earned activities are ones they consider a rare treat. Once the jar is filled, they start over. Note: I do not remove pom-poms from their jars for misbehavior. I just remind the children that what they are choosing to do does not earn them a pom-pom. I use the jar according to the practices I learned while earning my Master’s Degree in Special Education and through a decade of teaching experience.



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  2. 4

    Michelle says

    I LOVE it! I am going to implement this in some form too, for my almost 4 and almost 6 year old boys! Thank you for your inspiring posts! I remember in 2nd grade (I am now 31), my teacher talked about warm fuzzy’s and cold prickly’s (she had little props). It was more about how we as children treated each other (be sure to give warm fuzzy’s and not cold prickly’s). 🙂

  3. 9

    Jillian says

    I love this idea! I too, have a tendency to hyper focus on the stuff that doesn’t matter in the long run. You’re absolutely right–it’s a worry of judgement on our parenting. My son loves playing with pompoms, so maybe we will create our own “noticing and doing good” jars. He’s super helpful already, but this is great incentive to keep it up; also, a visual for me of how awesome he already is 🙂 sometimes, in the chaos of the day, simple reminders and cues help us to stop and be the parents we truly want to be.

  4. 13

    Catherine says

    I have boys and they are a little older – so we have kept the practice of affirmation strong by writing a short bit at the end of each day in a beautiful leather bound book. I call it the “Book of Rights” and it is filled with things like you’ve mentioned in your post.

  5. 17


    Thank you for sharing. My daughter is 3.5 and we have been struggling for a bit now. I am adding this to our home today (my jars are ready to go when she wakes up!). I hope it will help me focus on the positive (which I see but often don’t recognize), and her feel better about herself and proud of herself for how wonderful she truly is! Thank you!

    • 18


      This is just the greatest gift I could receive, Melissa. To know the post resonated with you so much that you have already taken steps to promote the positive in your child means so much! Thank you!

  6. 19

    Jen Petroski says

    Thank you so much for your posts! I have 6
    Boys at home and so many of your posts hit home for me. Thank you for continually opening my eyes and reminding me of things that I need to improve on and ways to help me become the parent I want to be. God bless!

  7. 21


    I love this idea, and your blog in general. Do you have any similar ideas that I can use with a 20 month old? I don’t think she’s quite old enough to really understand the warm fuzzy jar. Thanks!

    • 22

      Jennifer says

      Valerie, I find that at that age (and now at almost 2) my son really responded when I pointed his positives out to others. If he did something praiseworthy during the day, I would make sure to tell his grandparents/dad about what he did. For example, a few weeks ago I told everyone “F was such a big helper in the garden today and he planted the zucchini perfectly all by himself!” Hearing me tell others about him really makes him light up. He now proudly states that he is a big helper whenever we work in the garden (and sometimes he really is!)

  8. 23

    Bernadette Miller says

    I just found Hands Free Mama yesterday and I absolutely love it!!! I so needed to read some of these things, because I have been blessed with the most wonderful little boy and your suggestions will definitely help the two of us to grow together. I don’t want to be critical or yelling all the time (even though some days it’s hard) and reading your articles have really touched me. We will definitely be doing the Warm Fuzzy Jar over the summer also. Thank you so much for sharing your writings. <3

  9. 24

    Farah says

    I love all your posts, ALL, but this one in particular struck home as I often get compliments on how “well behaved” my children (13,9,5 & 7mo) are. Yes, they are, but it’s as a result, largely, of what you said- my concern for what others think or perhaps what I think of misbehaved kids.
    I really like that they put the warm fuzzy in the jar themselves. I’m going to implement this next week.
    Thanks so much!

  10. 25

    Janis says

    Thanks for this. I really needed it. I see myself turning into crazy mom sometimes and think this isn’t me or how I want the kids to remember me when they think back. I like the idea of the jar, and I think it being on the counter helps the parent keep in mind what is important. So maybe the jar is more for the mom? lol Thanks so much. I have an 8 yr old and 12 yr old boy, so I thought this may not work since they are pompoms, but I’m gonna go for it. That or use all those legos laying around! lol Thanks again. You have inspired an overly critical mom striving for perfection in an imperfect world.

    • 26


      Hi Janis, oh yes! I definitely agree that this is as much (or more) for me to focus on the positive! And you are so right that this idea can be modified to fit your individual circumstances. I love the idea of using Legos to fill the jar. With my some of my male students, I used marbles. I think I may have called it something generic like “Fun Time Jar” because they were earning special activity time for computer games and other games in the classroom. My friend Katrina just mentioned that her older boys could earn gas cards or Taco Bell $. That made me smile because I loved how she was thinking outside the box about what would work for her family. I just love this community! Thanks for taking the time to share and offer an idea to someone with older children.

      • 27

        Patty says

        My kids are 17 and 14 and I’ve been noticing their dad and I becoming more critical of them under the guise of “good intentions.” Their posture, the cleanliness of their room, eating habits, etc. As I was reading the post I thought it was a great idea, but not sure that a reward of spending time with mom and dad would be that enticing. 😉 I really like the idea of the gift cards for rewards! I think it may be more valuable for my husband and I, than the kids. Can’t wait to try it out! Thanks!

  11. 28

    Jennifer says

    I love this idea! I am trying to think of how to work it in at home. I have a 4 year old son & it feels like we argue A LOT! Maybe if he earned fuzz balls for eating a good dinner, picking up his toys, not talking back, in addition to good deeds; and he had to have a certain number by the end of the day to have a tv show before we start the bedtime routine. That way behaving or misbehaving become his “choice” & I don’t have to remind him & get frustrated. Feels like it might be worth a shot 🙂 thank you for the ideas!

    • 29


      That sounds great, Jen. With some of my students, I did exactly what you describe and had 3 or 4 specific tasks they were expected to do to earn their pom-pom balls. They were posted on a chart with a picture of that action. And like you said, then you don’t have to remind him of his duties, they are on his chart and he knows what he can choose to do or not do.

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    Sue Olson says

    Thank you so much for this. The warm fuzzies brought back huge memories for me – my now 75 year old mother was a teacher for 30 years and she used this concept with her students, and with me when I was growing up. It always made me feel good so I used it with my two boys who are now 11 and 14 and they still have the jars and fuzzies. I really love your blog and appreciate your caring insight.

    • 31


      Oh wow! Sue, this is incredibly meaningful to me! This is like a little glimpse into the future to know that these caring actions now will pay off later. I am so grateful for your message today.

  13. 32

    Melissa Turner says

    Amazing idea. I cannot wait to fill up the hearts of my nieces. and nephew and son. Thanks for sharing.

  14. 34


    About 6 months ago I was constantly ‘advising’ my 6yo that her outfit did not match and she needed to change. One day she just looked at me and said “Mom, I want to look like a rainbow. Everyday that is what I want!” So I stopped fixing her and just let her be her. Now I don’t worry about her being teased, or more likely, what other parents are thinking of the way I let my daughter go out, and admire her creative, vibrant, colourful self! Thank you for a great post and the brilliant Warm Fuzzy Jar idea!

    • 35


      This is SO awesome, Kari. I am so inspired by the way you listened and celebrated your daughter’s individuality. I would love to be in the company of your beautiful living rainbow. Please give her a hug from me and tell her to keep on shining her light.

  15. 37


    Thank you for sharing. My boys are quick to respond to warm fuzzies also. This would be a great reminder for me to focus on the positive, and a fun thing for them as well. Hmmmm, I think a trip to the store for some little fuzzy balls will be added to the to-do list for today.
    As I was about to hit the Post button, it came to my mind that perhaps we could do this for our friends as well. Not that we criticize our friends because we are trying to raise them, but because sometimes women have a tendency to fall into the habit of being critical with all of those around them, friends and hubbies too. …. anywho, just a thought.
    Thanks again for sharing this warm fuzzy idea.
    Enjoy your day!

    • 38


      Oh yes, you are definitely on to something there. Striving to look for the positives in our friends, in our spouses, and even in strangers. Wouldn’t it be freeing to just let go of the criticizing altogether? I am so with you and will try very much to expand the warm fuzzy concept. Thank you for the inspiration, friend.

  16. 39

    Kandee says

    Thank you so much for your wonderful blog. It was exactly what I needed to read today. I have been finding myself becoming more and more critical with my kids lately, and then being frustrated that my “helpful comments” do not work, but seem to do the opposite. I needed a reminder of what I know deep down to be true- my kids thrive with positives, not with negatives. I will be giving myself an attitude adjustment immediately!

  17. 40


    I so appreciate your honesty. I have a good cry every time I sit down to read your posts. You are a blessing. Keep doing what you are doing! Time to get me a fuzzy jar!

  18. 41

    Ksren Richardson says

    Thanks for posting this today, I really needed a reality check. This morning started with both my husband and I criticizing our daughter’s fifth grade project. I wish I could go back to bed and start over. I need to learn to let go and let her grow up and do it on her own. It wasn’t as fancy as I would have made it, but I am 48 and she is 10. If I try to look at it from 10 year old eyes, it’s really not that bad. Sure she could have taken a little more time to write in a straight line or line her pictures up before she glued them, but she did her own research, printed her own pictures and laid it out all on her own. I am proud of my little peanut. I think big hugs and ice cream are in order for after school.
    Thanks again for your posts.

    • 42


      Thank you for the heartfelt honesty, Karen. I have been there and we all need these reminders. I love that you noted all the things your daughter did on her own. That takes initiative and confidence. It was hard for me to step back from the school projects, but when I did, that is when I saw my children soar. The finished product was far from perfect, but when you see your child looking at the work she did with HER OWN hands, there is an indescribable pride on her face. I believe this stepping back really helps them in becoming responsible and confident. I really appreciate you sharing your story. I think you will inspire many with it today.

    • 44

      Jo says

      I thought the exact same thing about my 5th graders project. He got an “A”. I am thankful at least his teacher recognizes his amazing abilities and talents 🙂

  19. 45


    This is a wonderful reminder of the power of affirmation. Thank you for your honesty. Have you read any of Brené Brown’s books? She is a shame researcher who writes about living wholeheartedly and moving away from shaming messages.

    • 46


      Thank you, Sharon! Great point. I have read all of Brene’s books and credit Brene for a lot of the “letting go” of perfection I have done on myself which in turn allowed me the same grace for my children. Thank you for mentioning her incredible work. I would highly recommend any of her books to anyone reading today.

  20. 47

    Erin I. says

    I am so encouraged by your posts! I have shared a number of them on Facebook and so many of my friends have talked about how their hearts and minds have been touched by your words. I am working on putting into practice so much of what you have shared!

  21. 48


    I just discovered your blog and love it. This post is particularly helpful, as it’s the opposite of the “Tiger Mom” approach which, though I find fascinating, is just not in my DNA. Good to know that my instinct to praise, rather than criticize, my children is a valid one. Thanks for your warm and good writing.

  22. 49

    Joseph says

    Really love the article. I plan on implementing this.

    I do, however, dislike the title you selected; I think it’s bordering on inappropriate and I chose not to share it on FB for this reason. I know this is a nitpick and possibly overreacting but I thought you might like to know.

      • 51


        I don’t perceive Joseph’s comment as negative, especially given the first two sentences. I think there is a difference between a constructive comment thoughtfully offered and subjecting your children to constant criticism.

    • 52

      Suzanna says

      Are you talking about the title “How to Fill Up a Child”? I don’t see how (in any way) that could be “inappropriate”. I think perhaps you misread it.

  23. 53

    Kesia says

    I found your blog yesterday…it couldn’t have come at a better time. I am so grateful for you and the fact that you share your talents, triumphs, and wisdom through your writing. It is already starting to change my life and makes me tear up quite often. Your insights are the answers to many challenges and prayers I have been yearning to overcome. Thank you so much for sharing your heart!

    • 54


      Wow, Kesia. Messages like this fuel my writing and give me the courage to keep on sharing–the good and the bad. There is so much hope we when reveal the struggles we all face and share the ways we have found to get through them. Thanks for letting me know you are here.

  24. 55

    Beth says

    Love, love, love this idea! It’s so easy to nit pick about things that don’t matter, and I too think that it comes down to what people think of ME. One question…do you let your girls say, “Mom, I did…….can I get a pom pom?” or is it when you notice them doing something that you tell them they can have one?

    • 56


      Hi Beth, thank you for the kind words and the great question. We have a little of both–especially when the girls take initiative and do something I am not expecting–like I mentioned in the post when my daughter cleaned the bathrooms (even the toliets) and came and proudly told me about that. I don’t mind them telling me their actions so they can put a pom-pom in the jar but if a parent feels like this would cause the child to ask incessantly, then she/he might want to have it be the parents noticing the action. I am all about doing whatever works best for each individual family. And you can always modify if something is not working. I try to give my children a voice as much as possible and listen to their ideas. Their ideas are often better than mine! Thanks for the comment.

  25. 57

    Selina Hoover says

    This part of your blog: “I was Noticing the Good, and it was making a huge difference in our day-to-day interactions and my children’s overall wellbeing.”

    That suggestion puts the action/choice on ME to pause, notice and respond in love to my sons. They are 12 and 15 and continue to respond ‘well’ to positive reinforcement! I love the idea of adjusting reward to stuff they like at their ages…bowling, lunch out, trip to sporting goods store, etc. I am very grateful to have found Hands Free Mama…thanks Rachel!

  26. 58

    Rachel says

    This is lovely. We just started the Orange Rhino challenge (or I did I should say) and I think this is a lovely addition to the process as the school year is coming to a close and the summer months begin. I have 2 special needs children – one with ADHD and one with Autism, and will be homeschooling them next year. If you have any other ideas and tips on how to teach special needs kids, that would be awesome since you are experienced in that! Thanks for this article. Love it.

  27. 59


    Our children act as mirrors for ourselves. When we set the example, we shouldn’t be surprised when our children act it out in front of us. By being mindfully present and paying close attention to our children, we will see exactly how they see us. Rachel, when you saw your daughter self-criticizing for not playing the ukelele well enough, that was your moment of mindful presence that reflected your image back to you, changing your approach for the better. How different all of us could be as parents if we were to simply slow down, pay attention on purpose, and see our children for who they really are! As always, thank you for your insight!

  28. 60

    Connie Tendler says

    Loved this post too! My daughters’ school uses the “Bucket Filler” book to promote this in their school. Each classroom has had varying results- but our teacher this year did an awesome job and my 5 year old and her classmates really grabbed onto the concept. It is very similar to the warm fuzzy idea. Basically we have the power to help someone feel better or worse about themselves. We are all carrying a bucket that others either fill or deplete. Her teacher would give them slips of paper when they were “caught” being bucket fillers. At the end of the week she would pick one out to receive a prize. As you can imagine – they all wanted to get as many as they could.

    Her teacher also did the warm fuzzy jar you described…but with glass beads. When they were following instructions, working hard, etc a few beads would move from one jar to the next. When the jar was full they got to have a class party.

    She was/is an amazing teacher and taught all of us so much this year!

    Just had to share those random thoughts! Thanks for the encouragement!!

  29. 61

    danielle says

    i cannot tell you how much i am loving and relating to and learning from each and every post you have made since i discovered your blog. and i sincerely appreciate your true honesty about how hard some of your mistakes and choices have been. thank you thank you thank you!!

  30. 63

    Katherine says

    Thank you so much for confirming what I was feeling already about how I have tried to “help” my daughter but in actuality, only criticized her. This article made my heart ache for how much she just wants to please me. I truly wanted only to help keep her from being teased, learn correctly, etc. but that it’s really my own “people pleasing” problem. Thank you for opening up my eyes!

  31. 64

    Celeste says

    I absolutely LOVE your message (and honesty)! With summer beginning I have a lot of things that I want to work on as a mother to make it more enjoyable for our family. This is a fantastic idea – I can’t wait to go out and buy these little fuzzies and get this started! Thank you! Thank you!!!

  32. 65

    Beth says

    Your posts always make me tear up. They are so helpful and really make me as a parent stop and think about some things from a different perspective. I’m sure that people are having better relationships with their children because of the amazing words you write. Thank you!

  33. 66

    Kayla says

    At times I feel the same way , and wouldnt always “Fill my children up”. However, this is a great idea & I plan to try it. Thanks!

  34. 67

    Amy says

    I absolutely love your posts as I can relate and learn from the guidance you give.
    Parenting is not easy… and as mothers we are always worried about what the next mother will think of our parenting methods.
    I have learned to choose my battles… not to sweat the small stuff… but to also make time for the little things…
    It actually reminds me of a quote I love…

    We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today.
    — Stacia Tauscher–

  35. 68

    Courtney says

    I love the fact that you are not doing the ‘noticing’ and giving of the pompoms, rather the girls themselves have to be aware of their actions. I am planning to use this for my girls this summer. Thanks for the inspiration!

  36. 69

    Jean V. Dubois says

    We have long since raised our girls and are enjoying our grandgirls but I work as a guardian ad litem in family court and almost every day I am talking to children who are enmeshed in family dysfunction and so often they have come to believe that they simply don’t matter. Opportunities to notice the good they do and the miracles they are go unobserved because the parents are mired in their own pain. “Notice the Good” is going to become part of my discussion with the parents. And BTW it isn’t a bad motto for husband and wife too.

    • 70

      Alexandra says

      I was thinking the same thing myself! I’m pretty good (I think) at noticing the good in my kids but I need to be better about noticing the good in my husband, especially when both of us are tired and snappy from parenting two small and energetic boys.

  37. 72

    Kobie says

    I love this idea….I read a book recently that my son had read at school. It was a similar concept about “filling a bucket”. He will sometimes ask me “Mom does that fill your bucket” or “did that take out of your bucket” . I love this concept and love that it enables one to do simple non commercial things for people….
    I wish I had a world size pom pom to fill your bucket Rachel!!!!!!

    Love you very very very much!!!!


  38. 76

    Karina says

    I have worked with children with behavioural and learning needs for well over 10 years. I am always unbelievably patient and positive at work but am dismayed to admit that I don’t consistently give the same to be own children. I remember writing a story as a child and proudly showing that story to my dad. Instead of noticing the efforts and pride of a little girl he berated me for making so many spelling mistakes. It broke my heart. He didn’t do it because he was a bad parent but because he wanted me to spell correctly (an important skill). Similarly I would describe my mother as hyper critical and easy to disappoint, even now. The difference between them and I is that I KNOW how I should do it and it should not be with my child’s esteem or self worth as the collateral. Thank you for this reminder of how to be the mum I want to be and not to be so concerned with raising good kids that I fail to notice that I already have great kids.

  39. 77

    Lloyd Neale says

    How blessed your family is to have a loving and caring mother & wife like you! And all your readers continue to grow and mature in their walk in life because of your written words and powerful messages. As a former teacher and school administrator I am continually in awe of the impact teachers have on the lives of child.
    I am reminded of one of my favorite saying, “A bell is no bell until you ring it. The love in your heart wasn’t put there to stay. Love isn’t love until you give it away.” You continue to be a ray of sunshine in God’s beautiful world!

  40. 78

    Dawnette says

    I was just telling my husband several days ago that “I wonder where I’d be today if the messages in my childhood were different.” My mother and grandmother, through their love for me, spent quite a bit of time criticizing me and my choices and my “talents” as perceived by them. When I wanted to try out for the volleyball team as a freshman in high school, I was told that I was “not really athletic,” so I didn’t try out. Upon trying something creative (drawing, painting, etc.), I was told that I was “not artistic in THAT way.” My mother had a fear of being fat (phobia, really), so she would constantly tell me that I was gaining weight, present me with new fad diets, and tease me with such ditties as, “tubby tubby two-by-four, can’t fit through the kitchen door,” I have no doubt that this was done with love, and they thought they were doing the best for me. What it did was cause my husband YEARS of affirmation and hard work at building up my self-esteem. Today I sell handcrafted items, have run a marathon, many half-marathons, ridden many century rides, completed one triathlon, work as a personal trainer, and am genuinely interested in all things athletic. So we go back to the original question, “Where would I be today if I’d had affirmation instead of criticism?”

  41. 79

    Heather says

    I just started following your blog, and I’m so glad I did. I start my new job as a full-time SAHM next week. I know it will be challenging at times and this is a great reminder that positive reinforcement goes a long way. I’m going to kick it off w/this pompom tactic! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  42. 80


    Wonderful post! My daughter is still a baby, but I hope do use this with her in the future. Kind and encouraging words are so powerful and crucial to our development and self-esteem.

  43. 81

    Karen says

    Perfect timing! Thank you Rachel. I am so excited to spend the summer with my children but I’ve been a little nervous too. I want nothing more than to teach my children to see the goodness within themselves and all those they meet. We’re familiar with filling buckets but I love the idea of warm fuzzys and recognizing when it’s time to make it reappear. Enjoy your summer!

  44. 82

    Sarah-Anne says

    Thank you, thank you for your words. I noticed tonight I kept snapping at my sweet boys, yet it wasn’t urging them to move faster. I know this! And I see how well and cheerfully and happily they respond when I speak with kindness and a gentle loving tone!! But I guess I was feeling drained, and resorted to snapping. I am encouraged by what you shared, as I will make a point to “notice the Good” and I am looking forward to starting a warm fuzzy jar for each of my boys. I know all of us will greatly appreciate it and benefit from it. Thank you.

  45. 83

    Carol says

    I’ve only just started getting your posts after being recommended by a friend on facebook. For whatever it’s worth, I just wanted to let you know (with tears of gratitude) that you are helping me be more of the mother I always wanted to be xo

  46. 85

    Larissa says

    Loved your post! It reminds me of the nurtured heart approach. Have you heard of it? It talks a lot about noticing the positives as well.

  47. 86

    Amanda says

    I’ll echo what so many have already said – thanks for sharing this; we all need the reminder to praise our children and speak encouraging words into their lives. I need to be reminded that it is my own selfish heart that motivates my negative/critical comments. I think I starry with good intentions but I can offer the same “advice” in two ways. For example: I can’t believe you’ve lost your shoes AGAIN – how many times have I told you to put them on the shoe shelf? Now we’re going to be late AGAIN. (OR) I’ll help you look for your shoes because we really need to leave in order to be on time, but next time, please try to remember to put your shoes away in the shoe shelf, okay? The problem is I find it easy to be critical and harsh and I have to guard against letting that become my default response. So THANK YOU again for being transparent and sharing your heart!

  48. 87

    Carolyn Vandeweert says

    I loved your article, very inspiring! Do you have any ideas for fun activities to do with children over the summer days at home. My little girl is just turning 6 and I love this idea and was hoping you had more to come! Or, maybe advice on a website or blog I could visit…

  49. 89


    I used a “Mr. Negative Pig” for a while in our family. Every time one of us said something negative “I can’t do this”, etc, we had to put a penny in the clear piggy bank. It worked well, but I love your idea, because it focuses on the positive!! I don’t have as much patience as I used to have (I blame my age!), and I think I nitpick too much, so this would help me focus on the good. Thank you for the great idea! I Love that photo of your girls.

  50. 90


    Once again, you have given me something very important to consider when speaking to my children. I have four kids – my oldest is 9, and my youngest just turned a year old – let’s just say the last year has been a real blow to my patience. Ever since I read your piece on yelling, I’ve really been trying to take a breath before I respond (or react). It has been quite the challenge because there is a lot of sibling bickering around here that just drives me up a wall. Perhaps your warm fuzzy jar idea will help. Thank you again for a very thoughtful post.

  51. 91

    Stacey says

    I’m in tears as I read this post. I want to read it again and again and again. My oldest, a Kindergartner struggles with ADD and ADHD as I do, and I am realizing that through a fear of “not fixing him”, and a frustration of adding the things he loses to the things I lose, my additude toward him has been entirely too negative. It breaks my heart. But it also gives me hope. I love your fuzzy jar idea because it is one that I can manage – or rather my three kids can be responsible for managing. Not only can I see its effectiveness, but it doesn’t come with the weighty feeling that this is one-more-thing-I-should-do-for-my-children-but-wont-be-able-to-stick-to.

  52. 92

    PamJWM says

    What I think I see happening in my family is that they would compare their jars and one child would end up feeling badly about having fewer pompoms, and possibly even steal pompoms from her sister’s jar, or throw hers during a meltdown (she’s on the autism spectrum). Could I do a family jar? Do you have any other ideas for keeping competition out of it?

    • 93


      Hi Pam, this is an excellent point and question! Yes, a family jar would work beautifully. When I taught first grade, we had a classroom jar. Children were just as eager to try to help fill the jar for a class reward/special activity as they were with individual jars. The children really cooperated and tried to do as many “helping” behaviors as possible to fill it. We had our jar for the whole school year and it was one of the best school years I ever had. Thanks for bringing up this great point.

  53. 94

    Nicolla Mayfield says

    Something I have learnt, I didn’t teach my son how to express everything in his heart and mind. For years my 2 teens have fought and hated each other. I freely admit I’m high strung and high maintenance and can’t cope with teenage tantrums. I always said keep yr 2 cents to yourself and stay away from each other, keep the peace. I did encourage them to express themselves: yelling at the top of their lungs, singing in the supermarket (joyfully full of life, not annoying anyone). But .. I didn’t want to hear the arguments. Now my beautiful son doesn’t know how to express his sadness and frustration and is depressed, suffering silently while it boils inside. We need to teach kids esp young men how to express themselves in a healthy way, to listen to them and take in everything they need to say. I thought I always did but I was ‘editing’ what I wanted to hear.

    • 95

      Dee says

      I hear your sadness. Thank you for sharing that. I think it was important to share. I have a 7yo son.

  54. 98


    Great post, Rachel. I love the idea of “Hands-Free” especially as I’m just about to get my first iphone 🙂 I vow to not fall into the trap of never looking up. thanks for the reminder!

  55. 99


    I found you from your post at momastery.com. I am a new mama – my daughter is almost 1 1/2 and the words you write speak to my soul. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and beautiful words with us. I am thrilled to have found you!

  56. 101


    I love this post. After a year-long deployment cycle, I find myself tired and exhausted and being much more critical. I need to spend more time “looking for the good”. Thank you so much for this reminder! I needed it!

  57. 102

    Cathy says

    What a fabulous idea! I am new to your blog too & find your honesty so refreshing & inspiring to other parents! My kids are older 19, nearly 16 & 13 1/2 so I am not sure yet how to make this work for us..note I said yet…hhmm…
    My main & first goal is to stop the negative talk from my oldest 2 to my youngest, she is a little different from her sister & brother & she is like one other parent described her child as her “living rainbow” this sums up my baby girl perfectly…I finally accepted her dress style as all hers & that’s perfect for her, a year or 2 ago & this is so much better for both of us!!
    But back to my goal…how can I redirect their negative comments to her, it seems to be the only type of comments they make to her??
    Thanks! for your wonderful blog & stories, Thanks for giving me a goal today other than getting the housework done lol, keep up your wonderful work 😀

  58. 103

    Jo says

    I found you last night by following Glennon. I read your post on her blog and cried, then read this one and had hope. I had one of “those nights” last night. I wanted to have fun with my kids and there were just, well, ungrateful and then I was mad and then it all went to you know where. I bought poms today and 4 little jars and stickers to put names on them. My two boys each have a jar and so do me and my hubby. I showed them to the boys unsure of how they would respond–one is starting middle school in the fall and the other one is well, “resistant” at times 🙂 They were both excited immediately and in the last five minutes, have put at least one “fuzzy” into everyone’s jar. Wow, all I can say is wow. And thank you. Great idea!

    • 104


      Jo, I am so grateful you are here and how kind of you to tell me the impact of my post! I will be smiling all day thinking of your families four little jars sitting side-by-side. I hope they continue to bring a new atmosphere to the house. Thank you for joining me on this journey. I am grateful to Glennon for all the kind people she brought to my blog!

  59. 105

    Tanya Offerdahl says

    Wonderful ideas and post…you always hit the mark with your words and wisdom. Such beautiful daughters, you can see their inside beauty as well- displayed in their laughter and smiles:)

  60. 106

    Susan says

    Thank you so much for your post and your entire blog. I am a new teacher and teach preschool special education. Your posts are so powerful and inspiring and I’ll be using your ideas and remembering your words! Thanks times 1000!

  61. 107

    Charity says

    This morning I bit my, “Did you even brush your (unbrushed but pretty hair that’s back in a hairband with a flower clip to decorate it) hair this morning?” comment back before it escaped, and I had the orange-white-green background of your blog in my head when I did it. 😉

    Incidentally, my girl has taken the lead getting herself and her 3-year-old brother (she is *6*) get ready in the morning, helping me hold on to my job, since their daddy flew to Heaven the day after Thanksgiving.

    Glad I found your blog. Helps. Thanks. 😉

    • 108


      Charity, you have touched my soul! I am honored that my blog is a little beacon of light for you and your precious ones right now. The fact you are showing up and making these efforts with your children despite all that you are going through speaks volumes as to the kind of woman and mother you are. I hope you can feel the love and admiration coming at you today from me. Please come here anytime you need a word of encouragement. I am grateful to share this journey with you. XO

      P.S. My 6 year old rocks the exact same hairstyle! Gotta love it.

  62. 109

    Amy says

    I love this! I read this, and found myself nodding in understanding, “warm fuzzies, a huh”. We were taught about warm fuzzies and cold pricklies in New Zealand at primary school. Wonderful idea, wonderful blog. Thanks for your inspiration x

  63. 110


    I know there are no miracle cures, but we can always use more tools, right? This is great. I bought the pom poms yesterday but hadn’t introduced them yet, then my 9 year old did his 6 year old sister a favor while I was cooking dinner. I pulled out the jar and showed them to him, and he put one in. His eagerness (and self-reporting) led to five pom poms in the next fifteen minutes, so I’m going with “someone else needs to notice your deed” for now. But the thing that touched me the most was when I offered the kids ice water, because it was such a hot day, and he said, “Mama, where is your jar? That was a nice thing you just did.”

    We adopted our two children just under a year ago. I have been horrified by some of my behavior as a parent. So glad to have found this blog, Orange Rhino, and Creative With Kids’ parenting and anger section. I am on day three of my renewal of purpose. Thank you for your wealth of thoughtful essays and creative ideas.

    • 111


      Wendy, I am SO thrilled to read this hopeful story! This is the best gift to know that something I shared has helped someone else or their children. Thank your for taking the time to tell me. I love that your child recognized your own positive actions. That is powerful!!!

  64. 112

    Yolanda says

    Thank you so much!
    I needed a new idea to encourage cooperative group work.
    I’m going to use Warm & Fuzzy jars at each table in my classroom this fall.

  65. 113

    Judy Clark says

    Beautiful post. I wish I’d had you in my life when I was a young Momma, but I see lots of opportunities for using your heartwarming approach with my husband and beloved grandchildren. I am pleased to note that I have learned about your blog from a beautiful young mother I know and love. She and all your other young followers will make such a powerful difference in the lives of generations to come. Thank you.

  66. 114

    Patrice K says

    After reading this I thought it is such a great idea I wanted to do it with my daughter. When I brought it up to her I could not believe the smile she got. She said, “just like my kindergarten teacher did!” What a great idea. Thanks for sharing. Again. And again. And again …

  67. 116

    Cathy M says

    I am so delighted to read this: I couldn’t for the life of me remember where I got the idea from but I’m sure it must have been you! We have been doing this for a while now too. My kids are 2.5 and nearly 6 – we have one jar that we all add to, and when it’s full we do a special family thing, like go to the beach, or (this time Miss 6 has requested) the Art Gallery. With the kids the age they are, it’s nice for it to be a collaborative family effort. Mr 2.5 has earned warm fuzzies for helping to hang washing on the clothes rack, and tidying toys. Miss 6 earned a whopping 10 the day she decided to spend over an hour cleaning the play room!

  68. 118

    Amy says

    It’s hard to admit bad things about yourself, but this article is ALL me. So critical of my children’s every move. Do this, don’t do that, stop arguing, what are you doing, stop that. I’ve repeated the last few conversations with my kids in my head and I can hear these same phrases over and over. I am running to the kitchen right now and emptying out some jars in my fridge right now……..THANK YOU!!!

  69. 119

    Megan says

    Thank you so much for this article!!!! I saw a friend post it on fb just a bit ago! YOu have no idea how much I needed this right now!!!!! My husband and I have been going through some tough times now, and I sense it in our children:( My daughter made a comment last night that made my heart hurt more than ever!!!!! Words that I never thought could/would come out of her sweet mouth! but they were words I needed to hear! Thank you so much!!! This is being started today in our home:):)

  70. 120

    Alicia Van Straten says

    I have never left a comment before on anything so this is very much out of my norm and a little nerve wracking… (although not sure why). Thank you so much for this post, couldn’t have been better timing! I LOVE your blog and posts, they always speak volumes to me! I cried while reading this as I am that guilt wracked working mom that always feels like I’m not doing enough, not being there enough, always having to get things done and plan, plan, plan. Our mornings are always crazy with my 7 year old son and 4 year old daughter. I work full time and do the drop off in the am and pick up in the pm along with dinners and baseballs and dance classes like millions of other moms. Hubby is super supportive but just works longer hours and my job is “more flexible”. This morning in particular was crazy, had to ask my son at least 7 times to brush his teeth, 4 times to put on his shoes, and my daughter fought me on every level to get dressed and get in the van. Oh, and our dog ran away (we found him quickly)… I literally ran with the kids into our daycare so my son could catch his shuttle to get him to school on time.

    I get into work feeling exhausted and horrible because I feel like I send them off in such a hurried and negative way with constant nagging! Yuck, and then more mommy guilt! I love this idea, I’m starting it this weekend and hopefully it will help all of us just enjoying the good moments. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    • 121


      Thank you, Alicia. I hope it brings positivity to your day/summer and helps ease some of the pressure you are experiencing. You might find some of the suggestions I provided in my latest post for having a “live more/love more summer” beneficial as well. http://www.handsfreemama.com/2014/06/02/a-live-morelove-more-summer-getting-back-to-what-matters-most/. Please remember to build yourself up just as you are trying to do for your children. My inner bully and the guilty thoughts I said to myself really impacted how I treated my family. Once I began offering myself grace and reminding myself I am doing the best I can under a stressful circumstance, I began to see more positives in my life, in my family, and in myself. I wish you all the best, my friend.

  71. 122

    Ramela says

    Rachel! You have no idea how much I LOVE your posts and how deeply they resonate with me! Thank you for allowing God to use you as an instrument of love in this world.
    I am going to implement these jars this summer – thanks! It reminds me of a book my kids and I adore (Have You Filled a Bucket Today?)- and now we have a tangible way to make it happen. Thank you so much! Thank you!!!


  72. 124

    Mac Sherbert says

    I enjoyed reading this. Somehow I knew before I got to the end you were a special education teacher…(takes one to know one!)

    I love the note at the bottom about not taking the Pom poms out of the jar for bad behavior. It so important for children to know that their good is not destroyed by one bad choice. So many times children become discouraged because something they worked hard for, took pride in and gained confidence in is destroyed when it’s taken away the first time they make a mistake.

    • 125


      Thank you for the supportive words and beautifully articulated reasoning for not taking away something that has been earned. Above all, THANK YOU for the important, life-changing, spirit-building work you do!

  73. 126

    Elizabeth P. says

    I have to say thank you for this. I have a daughter who is a toddler. We praise her all the time. I have noticed that the more we do so the better reaction. She actually picks up her toys because we applaud her and clap our hands, and say what a good job she did. She gets excited to do it. I hope I can encourage her through her life no matter what is going on. For I never had that encouragement very much myself growing up. I want her to have as much as possible, and just be able to love on her completely.

  74. 127


    Thank you so much for the reminder. It is sad that I often treat my family differently to other people, instead of looking for the good in them too. I will try this with my family, if just to remind myself they they are wonderful too. 🙂

  75. 128


    These comments are a real eye opener because it shows that it is so human and so easy to find the negative but hard work to think and see and act on the good points.
    Great article and thank you for writing . …as to being a special needs teacher , it takes a special kind of person to do so . I worked with disabled and intellectually impaired vulnerable adults, but my daughters said that they could never do so….indeed showing that it takes all sorts of people to make the world work.
    A grandmother from Sydney, Australia

  76. 129

    tzvia says

    I love this idea. I hope to buy some pom poms this week and start my own “warm and fuzzy” jar. Thank you so much for the inspiration.

  77. 130


    I love this because I too tend to lean toward helpful criticism. We used to use dried beans, but a warm fuzzy jar sounds nicer. My children even asked a few days ago if we could do the jars again for summer! Why, yes we can was my response. Thanks for the reminder and kind nudge.

  78. 131

    Stacie W. says

    Wow … I have been praying for a way to make my life different. To stop screaming at my kids. As I sat in the doctor’s office today, I saw an article in Good Housekeeping about the book Hands Free Mama … when you told the story about the rice spilling on the floor and the look on your daughter’s face and that being any eye opening moment … it brought me to tears. You were “me” …. my daughters are afraid of me because of my yelling and constant need for perfection … I am ordering your book today and am implementing the warm/fuzzy jar this weekend. I found you for a reason…thank you for your words of wisdom and for speaking in a way that I would “hear” you … I needed it … and my children will thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  79. 132

    Michelle says

    I love this idea, and I’m going to use it slightly differently… see, we are blending a family, and lately there has been some sniping or using an impatient or unkind tone with each other. I want to encourage kindness and cooperation, so I’m going to adapt this idea to our ‘tweens to encourage and challenge them to be intentionally nice to each other.

  80. 136

    RivkyMusic says

    Love this idea! Since I don’t currently own any jars at home and would like to purchase them… what size would you recommend?I have a two preschoolers and a pre-teen at home. Thank you!

  81. 137

    Loretta says

    Of course, when there driving at 55 and the traffic starts to back up, it’s time to declare “Break! Break!” and save the warm fuzzies for later! 🙂

    I try very hard to give positive affirmations, but the reality of life means that sometimes we need to tell the truth in love.

  82. 138


    As a kindergarten teacher for 12 years, I completely agree with the need to verbally acknowledge and praise children -CONSTANTLY – for their positive character traits; adding a visual reminder only helps reinforce the acknowledgement! Because I had such bad experiences with other reinforcement techniques used in schools (student of the month programs that isolate one child, failing to acknowledge any others; treat boxes; caught being kind cards; etc), however, I wanted to play up how “good” my own children were by providing them with opportunities to “be” good as often as possible, instead. I started this practice when my daughter was 3. Each month, we’d do something different like deliver valentines to the elderly, clean up local parks, or recycle shoes to create jobs in third world countries. After one year, it was obvious that teaching my daughter how to help others out in the community was inspiring her to help me out at home! I’ve since left the classroom to offer these monthly activities as a subscription-based service, called Good Mail Challenges (children receive the monthly mailers via snail mail). I’d love to send you and your girls a free subscription, if you’re interested? Learn more at GivingFamilies.com and let me know if you’re interested in receiving a subscription; thanks for a great post!

  83. 140

    Rachel says

    My husband and I do this with each other, only instead of fuzzy balls, we acknowledge what the other has done with a kiss. It has really helped me to do more and notice more of what he does because either way I win – I get kisses!

  84. 141

    Taylor says

    We do this at our house and call it the “Good Job Jar.” We just have one jar that the kids work to fill together. When it’s full, they get to go to Chuck E. Cheese. They’re excited about that, I’m excited to see more cooperation, more kindness and less arguing.

    • 143

      Renee' says

      Thank you so much for this great idea! I am living overseas and am helping a friend, a single mom with two children, one soon-to-be 12 who is struggling with attitude, doing what he needs to do, etc. I have been thinking of ways to reinforce when he is on track, being joyful and a happy member of the family. I too am a former teacher and being reminded of old tricks that worked wonders. I can’t wait to share this idea with both mom and son. Now, only to find some of those little pom-poms! (I guess we could make some too!)

  85. 145

    Renee' says

    By the way, would you mind if I have this article translated into Russian? I have several friends who are young moms who would be blessed by this. 🙂

  86. 146


    Great reminders. Just a question, would you mind sharing the organization method that the teacher taught your daughter? I struggle, as a teacher, to help a few of my students keep organized.


  1. […] HandsFreeMama on a GREAT way to encourage kindness and cooperation and general HAPPINESS at home. I don’t think I need to say much more about why this resonates for me, short of, I am de-cluttering our lovely entry built-in, and I think some pom-pom jars would look mighty cute there. […]

  2. […] Rachel at Hands Free Mama.  As a new mum, I’ve been looking out for people who seem to know what the heck they are doing.  Rachel writes posts that make me weep.  She’s that good.  Her philosophy is to get out of all those daily distractions that stop us from really connecting with our kids.  Check out this post on When you Listen to a Child, and How to Fill Up a Child. […]

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