To Build (or Break) a Child’s Spirit

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If you needed to lose weight, what would be most motivating?

You are getting chubby. I’m not buying you any more clothes until you lose weight.


Let’s take a walk after dinner.
I’ll let you make the salad.
I love you just the way you are, exactly as you are.

If you needed to learn how to swim, what would be most motivating?

I don’t want to hear your crying. Get in the water and swim! Don’t be a baby!


I’ll be right by your side.
You can do this. If not today, we’ll try again tomorrow.
I love you just the way you are, exactly as you are.

If you needed to practice better hygiene, what would be most motivating?

What is that awful smell? It’s a wonder you have any friends.


Let’s go to the store and pick out some deodorant.
Your hair smells so good when you wash it. I think you should wash it every day.
I love you just the way you are, exactly as you are.

If your table manners needed improvement, what would be most motivating?

You eat like a pig. I cannot stand to watch you eat. You are disgusting.


I am trying to put down my fork after each bite, I’d like you to join me.
Thank you for chewing with your mouth closed.
I love you just the way you are, exactly as you are.

If you are a bit clumsy and disorganized, what would motivate you to be more responsible?

Can’t you do anything right? You are either losing things or making a mess!


Everyone makes mistakes. That’s how we learn.
It’s no big deal—just get a rag and clean it up.
I love you just the way you are, exactly as you are.

At times in my life I have been overweight, scared to swim, smelly, ill-mannered, and disorganized. During those times, I could have used some encouragement. So when I saw the young boy ordered to get out of the pool because he was scared to swim, I cried with him from behind my sunglasses. I saw the disappointment in the man’s eyes as he looked at his shivering son hugging his knees to his chest. The man really wanted his boy to learn to swim. He thought reprimanding him and ignoring the boy’s cries would motivate him to try harder next time.

At times in my life, I thought this too …

About a little girl and her ukulele,
About a little girl and her frequent messes,
About a little girl and her perpetually slow self,
About a little girl and her inability to ride a bike.

“Play the song again; you’re not trying hard enough.”
“Another spill? Are you serious?”
“How many times do I have to tell you to hurry up?”
“All the other kids have learned to ride their bike. It’s high time you did too.”

With every sharply delivered word, with each disapproving glare, with every disappointed shake of the head, that girl got smaller. Less confident. Less capable. Less shiny. And one day she spoke the words of a defeated soul.

“I just want to be good, Mama,” cried the little girl who once loved to strum her beloved instrument. And now she was placing the instrument at her feet, wondering if she should even be strumming at all.

Over time, my constant critiques and exasperated breaths led her to believe she was no good.

Over time, I’d broken her beautiful spirit—the one that gave her a unique and radiant light.

Motivating? Not so much.

There was a fine line between helpful adult guidance and using my authority to shame and belittle (under the guise of good intentions). As I crossed that line again and again, my child experienced a harsh reality: No matter what she did, it would never be good enough for me; I could never be pleased.

Motivating? Not so much.

The thought of my child growing up with a parent whose love was based on what she did rather than who she was caused an immediate change in me. I stopped being her rigid taskmaster and instead became her loving encourager …

Rather than harping on every single thing my child did wrong, I saved my guidance for serious issues—issues that could be potentially dangerous or life-altering.

Rather than forcing her to master a skill at the same rate as her peers, I assured myself that she would be ready in her own time.

I stopped overreacting to kid mishaps and minor incidents and realized she was better at cleaning up after herself without someone breathing down her neck.

If there was a bad habit that needed changing, I led by example. I invited her to join me in healthy habits. I provided tools (like timers and check-off lists) to empower her to become more prompt and responsible without my assistance.

I celebrated her efforts rather than the outcome and strived to speak three times as many positive words than negative ones.

Under the wing of Loving Encourager for the past several years, I’ve watched my child blossom. Her confidence and self-assurance have grown. She takes risks and when she fails, it’s not the end of the world because she knows she can try again. She knows I will love her regardless of what she does or doesn’t do. She confides in me when she does something wrong. She loves herself “as is” even though she does things a little differently than most.

I wish I’d abandoned the role of demanding taskmaster sooner, but I will not dwell on yesterday. Today matters more.

My hope is that by sharing my own painful regrets and life-changing discoveries, I can help someone else see what I see:

Shame abandons, encouragement believes.

Condemnation paralyzes, compassion frees.

Exasperation quits, patience prevails.

Yelling silences, communication opens up.

Blame hurts, grace heals.

Faultfinding destroys, praise builds.

Rejection loses, unconditional love wins.

If you were a child trying to get through life the best way you know how, what would be most motivating?

I don’t think you’ll ever measure up.


I love you just the way you are, exactly as you are.

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Author note: This post is not advocating the absence of guidance or instruction in our children’s lives. This message is meant to inspire thought about the way we do it—and not just with our children, but also with our spouse, our friends, our relatives, and ourselves. Through ten years experience helping children overcome serious behavioral issues in a classroom setting, I have seen living proof that encouragement builds, heals, and transforms. In my personal life, the mantra LOVE ONLY TODAY has helped me overcome my own inner bully to love myself and my family “as is.” This mantra is now inscribed on a beautiful vintage bracelet available in several options for women, men, and youth.  There are leather and non-leather options available.

If you are looking for guidance on how to create a positive home environment where your loved ones can thrive, please consider my books. HANDS FREE MAMA chronicles my journey from distraction, perfection, and stress to loving, peaceful connection and presence. HANDS FREE LIFE offers nine daily habits that will allow you to respond to yourself and your loved ones with more presence, more peace, and more grace. 

Recommended Resource: In this brilliant article called From Criticism to Support, award-winning author and parenting coach, Sandy Blackard, offers guidance to a member of our Hands Free community who feels as if she has broken her teenage son’s spirit and wants to know how to help him reach his potential without the constant nagging and criticism. Click here to read. 

Thank you for sharing this journey to be the best versions of ourselves we can be, my friends of The Hands Free Revolution.

Books by Rachel Macy Stafford



  1. 1

    Virginia says

    Ahhh! Unconditional love… What a great gift to ANYONE’s heart…
    Thank you for your beautiful words!

    • 2


      THANKS for this article! I was raised in a very verbally abusive family, I hated myself so much that I wanted to die by starving myself to death. I have forgiven my parents because I believe that is how they were raised. I have two Daughters who have watched me self hate myself by saying mean things about myself. I never have put them down because I know 1st hand how horrible it is to feel so bad. I am still trying to love myself and will try harder to set good examples for my girls

  2. 3

    Julie says

    Thank you. I needed to hear this today. I was raised broken. I want to raise my son whole with his amazing spirit intact. This was a great reminder.

    • 4

      Beth says

      Those words just made me cry – I’m 59 and was raised broken too. I broke the cycle with my kids – although I made many mistakes along the way. They now are raising their children better than I did.

      • 5

        Patty says

        With each generation we all do the best we can – and that is a little bit better than how we were raised. I made some of the same mistakes too but learned better along the way. Bless you all!

      • 6


        It made me cry, too. Although I realize that my parents were doing the best they knew with the resources they had at the time, I wish they had been more accepting of me. Likewise, I wish I had been more of this kind of mom to my own kids. At least I get a second chance now with my grandchildren…and I have unlimited chances to re=parent myself. (;-0)

    • 7

      Darcy says

      I was too! I didn’t realize it until my husband and I were talking the other night about our future. I am considering going back to school and he wanted to make sure I was going to follow through and get good grades and finish. I told him I will try, but my efforts probably won’t be good enough. It was in that moment that I realized how much of my life I had been told I wasn’t good enough. In turn, I chose a man who belittled me and made me feel worse about myself. Now, I have a man who I am good enough for and I am still waiting for the day he says I’m not good enough. But, through that realization I can work to not do the same thing to my kids. I will never let them believe they aren’t good enough and they are wonderful just the way they are.

    • 8

      Joy says

      I feel as though our whole generation was raised very critically–it wasn’t my mother’s fault–but it definitely had an impact on me. By the time they realized what had happened, we went completely the other way and started giving trophies to kids just for participating. My kids have told me point blank that they can tell when a teacher is placating them: so I need to make sure that I emphasize the LOVE you the way you are. My parents never realized the critical part of my upbringing–only that I was a damaged teen–then they started to tell me I was ‘so special’ and quickly thereafter I was on paxil 🙂 Hopefully, looking back on our years will give our generation the strength and courage to be to our children the right balance of hope, love and respect.

      • 9

        Caroline says

        Yes, kids know immediately if an adult is not sincere, and they stop listening. You’ve really got to FEEL IT before you say it.

  3. 10

    Kari says

    This message hit home. I had terrible self esteem as a child, and I’m trying so hard to ensure my boys do not. I want to encourage them to try things, and not be afraid of failing. Even as an adult, I often never feel “good enough”. I’m trying, like you said, to slience that inner bully. Thanks for sharing messages that are so important for many of us to hear!

  4. 13

    Jenna says

    Thank you for this inspiration. I have the benefit of a mother who sees and loves me exactly as I am, a wonderful woman who’s love for me as a child, and as an adult, has out-shown all of the criticism, belittling, and faultfinding that my father and his family used in the name of motivation. I am striving to be like my mother when raising my own beautiful child. So thank you, for the inspiration and the reminder. <3

  5. 15

    Jenn says

    My oldest-born is a Firefly. She operates in a completely different manner than me. For years, I yelled, I hurried, I complained, I criticized…. Not because I didn’t love her, but because I mistakenly thought that in order for her to succeed she needed to look and act more like “the norm”. How wrong I was… And how many precious moments I wasted tearing down instead of building up…
    Now she’s 16. She’s unique. She’s confident. She’s beautiful, inside and out. And I’m proud to say, she has a Momma who is changing and has learned what true love really looks and acts like. My sweet girl is nothing like me and she’s exactly who she was meant to be. I’m blessed and honored to be the one to love her just as she is.
    Thank you for sharing. I pray The Lord will continue to bless you with the courage to speak the truth and help lead the way in showing us what it means to love fully and completely, without regrets.

    • 16

      Ann Marie says

      Love your adjective of a firefly….It wasn’t until I was in my 50’s that I am firefly and not the lowly nitwit that struggled so hard to be like everyone else!

  6. 17


    Rachel, as always, behind your important message is a lyrical language that lifts us all, a poetry of the heart that is unparalleled. I marvel not just at your hopefulness and grace, but in your words and the width and breadth of your sentences and phrasing. You are such a poet, a sculptor, a painter of phrases that linger in my heart long after I leave your page.
    I know you must labor lovingly as you craft your posts and that respects both me, the reader, and your children. Your words read like a prayer, a hymn, a song of praise. Thank you…

    • 18

      Debi Powell says

      I echo this comment, 100%. If I were so eloquent I would have said the exact same thing to you, Rachel!

  7. 19

    Amy says

    If I weren’t at work, I would be crying a river right now. So many times I catch myself after the fact that I have been too sharp, too rigid, too much!!!! I want so badly to be a better mom for my boys. They deserve the best, not the one that falls short so often. Thanks for your words. I am going to print this and put it where I can see it. Constantly. To remind me that I do and to tell them that I love them just the way they are!

  8. 21

    Karen says

    I work hard to replace the “disapproving glare” with an “i love you no matter what” look every day. Most days I win, some days I lose. Your wonderful posts really help. Thank you. It is good to know I’m not alone.

  9. 22

    JEB says

    Wow! I made a big mistake 2 weeks ago, one I have made before and vowed not to make again, you just reminded me that I need to apologize and remind my son that I love him so incredibly and that him not striving to be the absolute best at every sport he plays does not impact that love one bit. I can’t wait for him to get home from school so I can remind him and say I am sorry for probably making him feel less than the perfect son for me. Thank you for the reminder and the example. Your children are truly blessed!

  10. 23

    Jen R says

    I am readi g this on my phone as I nurse our 3rd baby, sobbing, because I struggle daily not to be hard on our oldest, age 5. Its as if the first series of comments are straight from my lips. I project my insecurities, fears & sometimes crippling self-doubt onto her and try to make hr what I think she needs to be. She is perfect just as she is and I know I miss moments of love & joy while harping on a spilled drink or a messy playroom. The cleanliness/order of my house are not my legacy, my precious children are but I have so much trouble getting rid of my stupid to do list & embracing my “real” to do list of loving my children. Thank you for having the courage to freely write about your experiences, you give me so much hope.

    • 24

      Melanie says

      I could have written this, down to the last letter. You are not alone, my friend! Thankfully we both found this article! I will try harder too.

    • 25

      Lynn says

      I am currently pregnant with #3 and I am so worried. I try everyday to get rid of that “to do” list and just BE. Just be present, just be with my boys. Some days are great, others are harder. I understand exactly how you feel. The other day I completely blew up at my 5 and 2 year olds because they completely wrecked the basement while I was cleaning the bathrooms. Why did it matter? It didn’t! I work on patience and kindness every day because they deserve it. I will never be perfect, but I love them with such a perfect love that I will never stop trying to be better every day. Good luck to you, we’re all in this together 🙂

    • 26

      Carrie says

      I feel like this is me….to a “t”. Sad. Even as an adult in my mid-30’s, with a child of my own, I still feel like I will never be enough. I have always been the one who somehow has never measured up no matter how hard I try. I never ever wanted to make my daughter feel this way and have been struggling with it a lot lately. Thank you for the excellent post, and for all of you that have replied, letting me know I am not alone in this struggle.

    • 27

      MamaBean says

      I can absolutely relate. I bawled reading this for the same reason. I have been feeling a lot of guilt over it. Glad I came across this and more good moms that struggle too. Here’s to a better tomorrow.

  11. 28

    Cindy says

    I don’t have any children but I can safely say that the premise of this article is 100% true. I’ve waited 37 years to be told by my daddy that he loves me just the way I am. Unfortunately, instead I am constantly reminded that I am not smart enough, pretty enough, thin enough, etc. A great deal of my childhood was spent in tears which then resulted in being called a crybaby. As an adult I can shake my head and remind myself that he’s wrong but the words still hurt, the thought that I’m a disappointment still fills me with shame.

    • 29


      Thank you, Cindy, your words are more powerful than any thing I could ever write. I am so sorry for your pain. Please know you have helped someone else today by sharing exactly how it feels to be rejected by the one who is supposed to love and protect you above all else. I will not forget your words. May you find peace and healing in time, dear one.

      • 30

        Sara says

        Thank you Rachel. I gave up learning to drive at 15 after being ridiculed. At 35 I’m still learning now, encouraged by my extremely loving and patient husband. Trying your best is good enough, and true love cannot be earned but given freely. Every post of yours helps me be a better Mum, more self accepting and able to really love. Thank you.

      • 31

        Cindy says

        Thank you, Rachel. Reading through more of the comments here I’m both crying and healing. As I mentioned I have not been chosen to be a mother but, I just found out that my little brother and his wife are having their first child in January. I have been chosen to love and guide a child thigh not in the way I had originally hoped. My niece or nephew will always know that their aunt loves them unconditionally and wholeheartedly and that they are just as good as everyone else. Even if they bring home a report card with a C in math. I intend to spend the next 6 months praying that my brother will continue to prove he is not cut from the same cloth as our daddy.

    • 32

      Cathy says

      My father had an affair with my young Mum and then went back to his wife & then 3 children, later having another child, leaving my Mum on her own to face her own “you are not good enough” parents with tail between her legs to face “see we told you” “you’re never good enough” she spent her life trying to be enough, without luck…always choosing men who treated her badly. My father was never in my life, and I have spent almost all of my 44 years asking why wasn’t I good enough for you to be my father, even though he parented his other children, it’s crushing and tiring ALL the time. As I have gotten older I am leess hard on myself, I still slip but I hang in there…sometimes that’s enough at times.He’s passed away now, I meet him twice in my life with no “resolution” and no “fix”…I have a wonderful husband now, after a few decades of bad choices & 3 gorgeous beautiful children, I made loads of wrong decisions and yelled lots…but I am making changes and my kids will always know I love them…and I have tried to be open to change and tried to do better as I learn better ways. We are not failures…we are works in progress…if we are always open to do better and be better…we only fail if we don’t try!! Thankyou for your wonderful words/reminders Rachel and hang in there Cindy…your light bulb moment will come! When you realise onlyYOU need to think you are more than enough xo

    • 33

      Carrie says

      Cindy, I just read your comment, and truely thought that I could have written those very words. I just wanted you to know how sorry I am that you went through this too, and that you are not alone. Reading your post helps me remember I am not alone either. {{hugs}}

    • 35

      Marta says

      Reading your words is very powerful as it makes me realize I am not alone. At 26, I’ve given up hope in ever having a healthy, loving relationship with my father and keep having to remind myself that it’s okay. It’s okay. Thank you.

  12. 36

    Emily says

    I agree almost wholeheartedly with your message. My only reason for commenting is for the sake of mamas who might find this message shaming if they have a child like my youngest. While I fully agree with you on not breaking a child’s spirit as a means to get them to do something, I also have a daughter who often needs someone to lovingly push (some might say force) her to do what’s she thinks she doesn’t want to do. By way of example, in swimming lessons she absolutely refused to bob under water. Once I let go of the unrealistic expectation that she would simply decide one day to do it on her own and gave her instructor permission to count to three and dunk under water with her (all the while lovingly holding her in her arms and bobbing with her), my precious and stubborn girl came out of the water smiling and shrieking with joy, “I did it!!!!!!!” Never mind that she was forced…that was exactly what she needed. The key is the lovingly part. I realize that she’s not the “norm” as far as kids today; however, I also know many mamas with children like her who often feel shamed in our current mothering culture for giving their children exactly what they need, which is very different than what other children need. That said, my older daughter is the complete opposite and my approach with her is also opposite in those types of situations.

    My hope is that this makes sense and can be of encouragement that lovingly making some children do what they think they don’t want to do can be the best thing for them.

    • 37

      Suzy says

      I agree with Emily and was thinking the same thing, but didn’t want to admit it for fear people would think I am a bad mother 🙂 I have two children…one needs love and encouragement because she is a pleaser and wants to do what is right. The other needs love and a little bit of force. He is stubborn and extremely confident. I agree that the key is that they both need love, just maybe in different ways. Two different kids and two different spirits that need to be fed in different ways. But I am certain they both know how much they are loved!

      • 38

        Emily says

        Suzy, I’m glad to have vocalized what you know about your children. Sounds like mine are very similar to yours. And knowing that about our children equips us to make the best decisions for them. 🙂

      • 39


        Yes! My oldest 9 yrs son just wants to please Mom, do what is right for a little praise & Love! Would shrivel his spirit if i were to yell at him! He punished himself WAAAY more then i ever have! My 4 yr old daughter is a WILD CHILD! That i struggle daily with!! She’s Very, Very smart, creative, think outside the box, stubborn sneaky little girl! For ex, she cut her hair with scissors so i hid them & told her don’t get your hair again with scissors etc, Mommy only can use scissors etc etc. well she found a pair of toenail clippers & cut her hair! When i got upset she said but Mom you said only No scissors i didn’t get scissors! I promise! So it’s OK

    • 40

      Gretchen says

      I think you are absolutely right – knowing your children, I mean, really taking the time to know your children is the key. No all advice is one size fits all since our children are not one size fits all. My children are so completely different, it amazes me that they have the same genetic make-up. I love them both, but what works for one doesn’t work for the other.

  13. 41


    What I have learned through years of reading parenting books, attending lectures on parenting and actually being a parent every day is that it is incredibly hard to go against the hard wiring we have from our own upbringing. I am reading and implementing “Transforming the Difficult Child – the Nurtured Heart Approach” – right now . It is all about celebrating the positives, no matter how small.

    For example – saying, “You are so angry you could have hit me, but you didnt. That took a lot of self control.” and “I noticed that you threw your trash away, that shows a lot of respect for our household.”

    It is HARD! How sad is it, that is comes so much more easily to just yell and lecture and put down our children, but that is often how we were raised, so we just dont have the vocabulary for anything else.
    I was raised in a house with a LOT of screaming and yelling. When I became a parent I vowed I would not yell at them. I cannot even express what a difficult task this was. My hard wiring told me to yell, to scream, to criticize. But one thing I always told myself has helped me through the years:

    I am hard wiring my children to discipline with love. When they grow up and have children, my HOPE is that they do not have to struggle to not scream at their own kids. When I want to yell and scream at them, I just remember that it is my job to hard wire them with love and kindness. When they have children, maybe it will come naturally to them. That is my hope.

    I am trying to spend less time on my computer, I have even let my blog fall by the wayside and I figure out a balance for myself. I took facebook off my phone, I rarely check it on the computer and I have stopped reading a lot of the blogs I was following, but I look forward to seeing your blog in my email. I feel so connected to everything you have to say. Thank you for the time you put into helping others. You are a gift to the world.

  14. 43

    Christi says

    WOW, I needed to hear this today. I’ve been so, SO frustrated with potty training my 3+ year old. The previous week, she finally got on board w/ the process (after more than one previous attempt) and I was elated. Not sure why my happiness depended on this so much, but I’m sure I internalized our previous potty training attempts more than I should have. Regardless, this weekend, because her schedule was different, so was her ‘success’ at potty training. At one point, I had changed three pullups in less than 10 minutes and I lost it. Again, not sure why I have internalized the success of this so much and have gotten so frustrated, but I have. I need to always remember that my daughter will do almost everything she ever does in her own time – she will almost never allowed herself to be pushed. And I should remember that is a great trait to have. I try so hard to be understanding (as I’m crying now) and need to always work on those things that are my ‘triggers,’ as I can’t encourage her when I’m frustrated. I feel I’ve grown so much as a parent, but still have so much more learning yet to do. Thanks so much for the kind reminders of what patience yields as opposed to yelling/nonacceptance/frustration.

    • 44

      Beka LeMaster says

      I so understand your frustration and the internalizing of your child not potty training “when they should.” There is a sense that if our kids don’t perform on schedule, we, as parents, are failures! I worked for months to potty train my youngest daughter (at 3.5). She was getting ready to go to preschool in the fall and would not potty train. I finally gave up and figured “she probably won’t go to college in a diaper.” Several weeks later, she potty trained with our teenage babysitter in a matter of days. I think if we could let go of the idea that “who we are” as mom’s is defined by how well our children do x,y,z, we would be a lot happier moms with much more confident kids!

      • 45

        Christi says

        Thanks for the response, Beka. The whole process has worn me out so much and feel like it’s been such a waste of time when it continues to not work. I realize this isn’t a great reaction to have, but I have SUCH an issue with wasting my time. I’m not logical about it AT ALL and hate to do it, as we have such precious little of it. I just need to let it go like so many other things. I’ve done well with that recently, but the potty training ups and downs have worn on me like nothing has before. Thanks for your kind words and I’ll try to refocus my priorities on what’s really important.

        • 46

          Sarah says

          Hi Christi, I had the same issue but with night training. My daughter was day time toilet trained in a matter of days, at two and half. She is now five and JUST stopped wearing a night diaper — I went through many nights of frustration and anger and then just decided I was going to “let it go” (in the words of Frozen!!). And we still had issues but one day she announced she was not a baby anymore and just stopped wearing the night diapers. Very different circumstances, I appreciate but I was really feeling upset by the lack of sleep, how old she was (almost four at the time) and the amount of work the sheets were taking!! I was also (if I am honest) embarassed that she wasn’t night trained. I know its tough…

          Hugs to you — you and she can do this!!!

          • 47

            Chrissy says

            My 8-year-old daughter was very slow to use the potty and still wears night pants. The pediatrician keeps telling me not to worry. With her it’s still a power struggle.

          • 48

            SwellSpark says

            My 5 & 8 year olds both wet more often than not, at night. 8 year old doesn’t always get to the toilet in time, during the day too. We put so much pressure on kids to have this area of life sorted prior to school. They’ll get there eventually & with more self esteem if as parents, we allow the natural process to happen.

          • 49

            Meaghan says

            I kept wetting at night until I was almost 18 years old. I saw many specialists, had many tests done and no one ever found a reason why I wasn’t waking up. My wetting just stopped on its own, after none of the possible fixes worked. Luckily my parents were never upset by it and were very patient with me (and the laundry I generated). Just keep a mattress protector on so the mattress doesn’t get ruined and patiently wait it out. Because of my history, I decided to keep my kids in night diapers as long as they were still occasionally wetting. My son is almost 5, no longer wears diapers at night, but still occasionally wets. My daughter is almost 3 and has not wet at night since she was just 2. Every kid is different, and as long as there is no underlying health reason for the wetting, it will probably resolve itself in time. Good luck!

          • 50

            Mum of 4 says

            We just had a no pull up party, my son is 10… After years of underdeveloped bladder, he is healed 🙂 All I ever heard was wow, really. He hadn’t had a sleep over until then for fear of an accident. I didn’t care. Time and patience bring most things you need. You just don’t get to pick when always. Keep shining mammas.

  15. 51

    T Hopkins says

    Tearing down, criticizing, make one wonder, Why bother? But encouragement always gives one strength to do better, to do more. It works.

  16. 52


    It took me almost forty years to grasp my dream (to play the violin). Do not let anyone to tell you where your limits are. We are infinite: the size of our love.
    Thanks for opening minds and hearts, specially of those who care!

  17. 53

    Laura Radano Sass says

    Very compelling! Thank you Hands free mama for reminding me of what truly matters in my life!

  18. 54

    David Karr says

    Thanks for this amazing post. I really appreciate it. My girlfriend and I are merging her 2 boys with my 2 girls into a mini-Brady Bunch and she forwarded this post to me this morning with the added note “This is EXACTLY what I’ve been trying to convey to you!”. We consider it a blessing from God that you wrote this and she read it and forwarded it to me. Thank you for being a blessing in my life without even knowing it. No more broken! The only thing I’m breaking is our family cycle of parent-delivered emotional beat downs to little pea pies. Thanks again.

    • 55


      Thank you so much for letting me know, David. I really struggled with sharing this post, but to know it blessed your family today brings me a lot of peace and hope in my heart. I wish you and your beautiful family all the best.

  19. 56

    Sabrina says

    Being the sole caregiver of my children the everyday demands fall hard on my shoulders some days. I have two beautiful children one of which is my firefly. In this crazy busy world we live in I need to slow down and stop comparing our world to others…. and they need to hear my praises more!!! Thanks for the eye opening words.

  20. 57

    Juliette says

    Oh how you speak precisely the words I needed to hear this morning.
    My dear friend and I were just lamenting our loss of gentleness with ours last night and this morning.
    I am grateful that you are brave enough to share your most intimate challenges and struggles and have successfully replaced the angry words with affirmations, I need to do more of that as well. You are a blessing. Thank you!

  21. 58


    This is so good Rachel! I have had a similar experience with my 11 year old daughter. I am still working on it but it has gotten so much better! The change in her is sort of miraculous and I couldn’t be happier.

  22. 60

    Karen says

    Thank you for posting this. I was raised in a home where I felt I couldn’t do anything right. I looked the wrong way, smelled bad, and couldn’t do anything right. It has been a struggle to become an encourager but it is well worth the struggle. I want my kids to know that they can do things right and when they mess up just learn from their mistake and do better next time.

  23. 61


    This reminds me that when we’re with our children and the tough situations occur stopping to THINK about how we’re responding is important. We should ask ourselves “Is what I’m going to say true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, and kind?”

    Beautiful post. Thanks for sharing.

  24. 62

    JenF says

    44 years of being “motivated” by my parents has left me doubting every move I make. Will it be the right thing? Might this finally please them? I could probably count on one hand (and have fingers left over) the number of times my mother or father have ever told me they were proud of anything I did or accomplished. My darling niece got accepted to the gifted and talented program at school and she was telling me how excited she was. My mother immediately told her not to “brag” because that was very unattractive and no one liked a bragger. Instead of saying “You know, we are all so proud of you. I bet you are a big help to your classmates when they don’t understand something.” We are always taught that talking about our accomplishments was bragging and that we were not to brag. Soon enough, you either decide that no one appreciates you OR that there is no reason to do anything good if you can’t feel good about it or celebrate your accomplishments.
    My mother once wanted me to meet a client of hers who was an accomplished young businessman. It was clear she was trying to set us up. We really enjoyed meeting and we went out to dinner a couple of times before my mother said (in front of me) “You don’t have to date her. I know she’s a loser. You could do so much better.” Then she said she felt really bad for him because he could find someone much cuter and nicer and more attractive.
    I am now really overweight. I guess after years of giving up on everything else, I have finally given up on myself.

    • 63


      Jen, I am so sorry for your pain. I am so sorry your mother never gave you the encouragement and unconditional love every child needs. I can only imagine the hurtful inner dialogue that you hear in your heart and mind. I call it my “inner bully” and it took me a long time to replace it with loving and accepting thoughts like the ones I offer my children. I would love for you to take a look at two posts I wrote. I think when we feel unalone, we are more hopeful. I pray that today is the day you decide not to give up on yourself. I pray today is the first day toward loving yourself “as is” despite your past. You, my friend, are worthy of love and acceptance. The fact that you shared your story so bravely and courageously to help someone else shows what a beautiful, compassionate soul you are. I am sorry your mother does not see it. But I see it. I see it and you are a treasure. Please take a look at these posts and remember, you are not alone. There is hope. There is hope today.
      To Love Yourself “As Is”
      The Bully Too Close to Home

    • 64

      Melissa says

      You are a beautiful soul Jen and you do deserve love! We need to love ourselves first. It is hard to stop the inner bully & you will have bad days! The hardwork is absolutely worth it. Today is your day to begin the path of healing, positive thoughts, and loving yourself! LOVE! That is what I am sending you through this post! May you take that first step and read Rachel’s posts and begin to heal yourself. I have written many letters to the people in my life that made me feel like I didn’t deserve happiness. I never sent them, I shredded them, burnt them or tore them to pieces. It Feels good to get it out onto paper. Jen you are a beautiful person and you deserve love!

  25. 65


    Thank you for this. I just put together in photoshop, a simple reminder with your words:

    Shame abandons, encouragement believes.

    Condemnation paralyzes, compassion frees.

    Exasperation quits, patience prevails.

    Yelling silences, communication opens up.

    Blame hurts, grace heals.

    Faultfinding destroys, praise builds.

    Rejection loses, unconditional love wins.

    I am printing it and placing it in a prominent place where I will see it always. This post reminds me of another article I love by Dan Pearce called, “You Just Broke Your Child. Congratulations”. I agree completely with both of your sentiments. I work hard to praise my children, encourage them, to lead by example. I am not a perfect mother, but I am working toward becoming one and this message will help me toward that end. Thank you.

    • 66


      Deborah, could you share your “reminder” with the rest of us? Just let us know where you post it!

      Jen, you put into words the mantra I was brought up with – “bragging about yourself is bad.” Your comments went straight to my heart. I still struggle so much with loving, accepting, and cherishing myself. I married a man who became abusive on our honeymoon, and left him 25 years later after I’d had enough. I still struggle at work with feelings of inadequacy, and resentment toward co-workers who brag about their accomplishments to the boss.

      I struggle with my adult children who make poor choices. It’s so hard to express that I love them exactly as they are when I know their poor decisions will create hardships for them later on. It’s so hard to accept they are on a different timetable when their behavior mirrors someone who is 5-10 years younger.

      Thank you Rachel and others for the insights you’ve blessed me with.

  26. 67

    Trisha says

    Thank you so much for this. I had a moment recently when I stopped and listened to what I was saying and how I was saying things to my son. He just looked at me and said ‘Do you hear what you are saying Mom? It hurts.’ I made my son feel that way and I was devastated. He is a middle school age boy and I feel like a failure. When did I become so nasty with the words? So mean? I am not going to be mean. I am going to break through this.

  27. 69

    Mrs. Velo says

    Thank you for this post. Have you heard of Conrad Baars, MD, and Anna Terruwe, MD? I think you’ll really appreciate their ideas. Dr. Baars’ daughter, Suzanne has continued their great work.

  28. 71

    Jen Becker says

    I have a 4 yr old and 8 yr old. I find myself making offhanded comments out of frustration that I never realized impacted them so much until last night. My oldest came home from school last week with the dreaded head lice!! So I kept the youngest and her home on Friday to treat them both (and myself) as we lay together at night to read etc. Last night all I wanted to do was sleep in my own bed with my husband (I tend to fall asleep with them :). I was tired from a long Monday and when they asked me to lay down with them I lost my temper and said “don’t you realize you are the reason mommy has head lice too, because you never sleep in your own beds.” They just looked at me with sad little eyes as I walked out of the room to finish cleaning up dinner….about 5 minutes later I found them (together) in one of their beds reading to each other, my oldest looks at me and says “Mommy I am sorry I gave you head lice”. Open up my chest and rip out my heart…..I immediately told them (with hugs and a big ole smile) how sorry I was for saying that terrible thing and that it was not her fault, and that my favorite thing in the world is laying with them at the end of the day, and then said “maybe we can all try to sleep in our own beds tonight until we know all those little boogers are gone ok!!” They lit up and we read books awhile longer. And even though I found them sleeping together this morning (looking completely angelic), I knew that I had changed what could have been a “mommy thinks we are gross” moment into a positive one. It is so easy to forget that their little minds process comments in a completely different way than us “grown ups”! Thank you Rachel for not making me feel alone in this crazy parenting world!!!

    • 72


      Thank you for sharing, Jen. I know we can all relate to saying something we regret in a moment of exasperation and exhaustion. Believe me, head lice brought out one of my worst parenting moments that my child remembered 3 years later. Although it was three years later, I knew it was not too late to say, “I am sorry.” My daughter wrapped her arms around my neck and said, “I forgive you, Mama,” like she couldn’t imagine anything but forgiveness. From that point, my apologies came more freely and more often. This journey is definitely not about perfection. We are learning just as our children are. But as you illustrated in your hopeful story, heartfelt apologies are powerful means of connection and living authentically. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It will help someone today.

  29. 73

    Ronna B says

    Can I just say that you are amazing!?! Thank you so much for sharing your life and your lessons. It reaches so many and although we will never know the number of lives you help… I do know that it is an astounding number!! God bless!

  30. 74

    Stephanie says

    If you have suggestions for potty training, I would appreciate them. I find myself saying negative/shaming things even when I try not to. I’m normally a very constructive mom, but I think when it comes to potty training I have a harder time because I get so stressed about the sanitation issue. Also I have a 2 month old, and I’m trying to get 32-month-old DD ready for preschool next month. The negative stuff is like…

    “Oh, DD, that’s gross! Why did you do that?”
    “No more accidents today, okay?”
    “DD, why didn’t you tell me?”
    “Oh, it’s everywhere!”
    “If you would go in the potty, then you wouldn’t get poop in your vagina.”

    She loves wearing panties, but she doesn’t seem to care that much when she’s soiled them. On the other hand, sometimes I find her in the bathroom emptying her potty, or trying to remove her soiled panties and get cleaned up. I’m having a hard time being consistent with her. I don’t want her in panties if it means I’m cleaning up messes all day, but I feel bad telling her that she has to wear diapers when it makes her feel shamed, or at least less-motivated. I had been using a policy that after two messes she has to wear a diaper until the next day.

    Once in a while I get it right and say, “Let’s plan ahead… do you need to go before we get in the car?” But generally I’m just frustrated with the situation.

    • 75


      Hi Stephanie, I am going to share your question with my colleague, Sandra Blackard. She is an award-winning author of “Say What You See for Parents & Teachers” and parenting/life coach who graciously helps me provide answers to the many reader questions I receive each week. She will respond to you directly on this comment so other people going through the same thing can benefit from your question. Thank you for asking. Potty-training is so very difficult.

      For anyone else going though challenging issues, please know that Sandra has helped many of my readers in very troubling situations over the past year. Anyone can reach out directly to her about issues they are facing and she will correspond with you via email free of charge. Sandra believes it is not too late to change, to heal, to try and mend your broken relationships. I do too. There is hope.
      Sandra, parenting/life coaching:

      • 76



        To start off with, I’m so glad you are aware that normally you are a constructive mom, and that sanitation issues are one of the few things that really stress you out.

        Just so you really get how amazing you are, let’s put this into perspective: You have a 2 month old, which means that you are probably more exhausted than usual from sleep disruption and constant demands on your body, time and energy that come with a new baby. AND you have a 2-year-old who, in addition to the normal struggles of finding her place in the world, is also adjusting to less time and attention from you. AND if you yourself are feeling sad or frustrated over having less time with her, throw that into the mix. AND you have the ongoing challenges of managing a household. AND you’re taking on one of the hardest parenting challenges there is – potty training on a deadline – ALL AT THE SAME TIME!!!

        Now go back and read the “negative stuff” you shared with us. I hope you notice that even at your worst, the focus of your negativity is more about the soiled panties than about your daughter. I can tell that you are already trying to stick to the facts and state the problem rather than attack her. That’s no small accomplishment!

        Since you are not sure whether or not she sees soiled panties as a problem, it makes sense that you would think you needed to teach her that it is a problem, and that you would be inconsistent with the panties or diapers rule. So becoming clear that she likes clean panties can change everything for you both.

        Happily you reported that she is already having some successes, those are the teaching moments and the time to discover and point out what SHE thinks based on what she is doing as in, “You just emptied your potty. You know where that goes! You dumped it, flushed it, and your panties stayed clean and dry, just the way you like them,” or “You are trying to get those soiled panties off and get cleaned up. You like feeling clean, smelling fresh and wearing dry panties.” If her face brightens at those statements, they are true. Pointing them out will help her realize it. Toddlers repeat things they’ve learned, so you will know she’s got it when you hear it coming back from her.

        Since kids learn best from success, structuring more successes is a big part of effective potty training. That’s what you are trying to do when you say things like ” “Let’s plan ahead… do you need to go before we get in the car?” (A quick word on asking questions – especially at 2, her favorite word may be “No!” so it’s better to avoid questions whenever possible, and especially when “no” is not an option. I devote a whole section of my book to alternatives to questions if you want more details.) Instead of asking, you can say things like, “We’re getting in the car. It’s time to try and see if you can pee or poop yet,” then go with her and try, too, so she knows that is just what people do before getting in the car. “Trying” is a boundary you can enforce, but whether or not she actually pees or poops is not.

        When she tries and is able to go, you can say, “You did it! You got all of that out into the potty, right where it goes! Now you know your panties will stay clean and dry in the car!” If she isn’t able to go, and it’s a short ride, you can say, “You tried and there was nothing there yet, so now you know you can make it to ____ with clean panties. You can try again when we get there.” If it’s a long ride, make sure you include enough stops so she can succeed.

        One other thing I want to mention that I suspect you have done already is to explain to children how their bodies work in simple terms like, “Food and drink go in; bodies keep what they need and send the rest back out. What comes out is not food or drink anymore, it’s poop or pee. If it goes back in, it makes us sick. That’s why we are so careful about how we clean it up and throw it away.” Since you have a baby, you can have her help with diaper changes in ways that are OK with you to show her how what goes in relates to what comes out, and help her understand how long that process takes. Keep it simple and focus on the process more than the diaper content.

        In addition, she needs to learn how her body feels when she needs to go so she can pick up the early signals. Based on her BM regularity, you can have her try at times when she is likely to succeed and talk about how her body feels before and after, or when she runs to the potty on her own, talk about how she knew she needed to go. The goal here is to get to the point where you can say, “You listened to your body and knew you needed to go!” which will connect her with the inner guidance she needs to reach her goal of clean panties.

        Now that I’ve introduced the basics of success training, I’d like to give you a few alternative responses for the frustrating moments you shared:

        “Oh, DD, that’s gross! Why did you do that?”
        “Oh, no! You’ve got soiled panties, and you wanted them to stay clean! Show me where the poop goes…” (When she takes you to the potty, acknowledge her for knowing where it goes.)

        “No more accidents today, okay?”
        “You want clean panties the rest of the day. Hmmm. Must be something that will work!” ( Let her help you solve the problem.)

        “DD, why didn’t you tell me?”
        “Your panties are soiled, and you didn’t tell me. You know I don’t like soiled panties, but it’s what you think that matters. It doesn’t seem like you like soiled panties either, so must be some way to clean them up.” (Let her tell you what to do to clean them up, then acknowledge her for knowing how to take care of her panties.)

        “Oh, it’s everywhere!”
        Look at her face and say how she feels about the mess, then add “You didn’t mean for that to happen. Must be some way to clean this up.” (Let her tell you what to do to clean it up, then acknowledge her for knowing not to touch it, or anything else she knows about proper sanitation.)

        “If you would go in the potty, then you wouldn’t get poop in your vagina.”
        “Uh, oh! Some poop got in your vagina. Must be some way to keep that out of there!” (Let her tell you what she knows about using the potty or wiping. Save your teaching about wiping for when she has had a potty success or is helping you with the baby’s diapers.)

        As you can hear, success training is highly connective which would be valuable for both of you at this stressful time. You also might want to check with the preschool about their specific expectations and what assistance they offer with potty training, because even after she learns the basics, full elimination mastery is a long-term process, and you don’t want to add any further stress to your life.

        I hope this will help reduce your frustration. Just know that there is a lot more to potty training than I can cover here including the possibility of future regression if she feels she needs to claim her spot as your baby again. So if you have additional questions please feel free to contact me at my website:

  31. 78

    Laurie Cassidy says

    I was one of the lucky ones. I had a mom ( and a dad) who gave me unconditional love. What a present that is to a child.
    Someone who has your back and who you can share your thoughts with.
    Of course there were times when I sensed their frustration.. Like when my Dad was helping me with fractions.. A concept I just couldn’t get. He was so scary and I was trying so hard to be right and please him, that my mind used to freeze!!
    Amazing how one little thing is still so clear in my mind.. It was almost 50 years ago!

  32. 79

    Tanya says

    Thank you for this post. I try to be an encourager for my two little kiddos, but I am guilty of those types of criticizing comments more often than I like. Thank you for a useful and inspirational reminder. Things like this help me as I continually try to do better.

  33. 80

    kp says

    Beautiful words, and life changing message. I was brought up broken and never good enough. I went fishing with my dad, once. He called me an asshole for tangling my line. I think I was 9? I never went again. Everyone please err on the side of compassion with your kids.

    • 81


      “Everyone, please err on the side of compassion with your kids.” Powerful stuff. I will remember this. Thank you for sharing for painful experience. I have no doubt your story will stick with someone and help a child today.

  34. 82

    Nabila says

    I struggle with the fact that I’m also hard to my Kids when it comes to learning.
    And yes they lose confidence :-(.
    Can I change their feelings by changing my attitude?

    I hope so!

  35. 83

    Linds says

    What a beautiful reminder that love and a positive perspective helps not only your child blossom but you as a parent/person as well.

  36. 84

    Dana says

    I found myself being like this just this morning as I tried to hurry my son along when he was playing ball in his room rather than getting dressed. I became frustrated with “Hey Mommy…. and whatever came afterwards that I didn’t seem to have time for. I told him I didn’t want to hear another word until he was dressed and ready for school. Then I walked away and heard my own words in my head and felt horrible. I went back to him and told him, nothing in the world makes me happier than hearing what he has to say and that I’m truly interested in what is on his mind… but that we’d have a lot more time to chat if he finished up getting ready. He smiled and nodded in the affirmative – making sure I didn’t hear his voice again. I hugged him, kissed him and then heard him giggle when I left the room. Hopefully he wasn’t broken too much in that moment.

  37. 85

    jen greyson says

    Sobbing uncontrollably with snot running down my face.

    But this was my favorite line because it gave me grace I so desperately neede after reading this: I wish I’d abandoned the role of demanding taskmaster sooner, but I will not dwell on yesterday. Today matters more.”

    You are grace. Thank you, Rachel. Thank you.

    • 86


      Hugs, Jen. I am living proof: Today matters more. It is not too late to change. And by the way, I receive many messages from teens and college students who say they would do anything for their parents’ approval and unconditional love even now, despite not getting it in years past. These brave kids assure me that it is not too late for any of us to try and mend our broken relationships. I am blessed to pass it along. Thank you for your brave words.

  38. 87

    Ann says

    Rachel, I started reading your work before my son was born and I am so grateful for your guidance and advice. My mother was a very tough woman (still is). I grew up convinced that she never really loved me. How could she love someone like me? Her harsh and critical words still haunt me because they have become my own inner voice. It is a daily challenge to accept myself “as is” and to convince myself that I am worthy of being loved. I don’t want that for my son and I’m determined that things will change with me. My son will never doubt that he is loved. He will know that I see him, who he really is, and love every ounce of him. Thank you for helping me on my journey!

  39. 88

    Heather Holter says

    I am guilty of this. When every room I go in there is some disgusting mess I am yelling “this house is disgusting, can’t you pick up after yourselves? Humans don’t live this way. I am not your maid.” They tune me out and it keeps happening. Problem is I don’t know how to stop, what to say instead, or how to get them to start doing the stuff. It is a vicious cycle.

    • 89



      Rachel has invited me to respond to some of her readers who request parent coaching. While your comment is not a direct request, you have shared a situation that frustrates many parents. It sounds like you don’t want to be a taskmaster and would love to know how to become a loving encourager like Rachel describes.

      In your statement of the problem, you have actually figured out the three things that need to happen, so I will give you a few suggestions for those.

      HOW TO STOP: Reading Rachel’s posts and her book. I say that not just because she is my friend, but because the key to stopping yourself is SELF-MOTIVATION. Rachel’s gift is putting readers in touch with their true emotions and giving them hope by showing them that what they want is actually possible. That’s probably what motivated you to post a comment in the first place. And when you want something strongly enough and believe it’s possible, you take action.

      WHAT TO SAY INSTEAD: What to say will depend on the children’s ages, why they don’t pick up after themselves, and what your boundaries are. So in order to give examples, I will just make something up. Let’s assume that you have a generally good relationship with your children so on some level they care what you want, their ages are about 4, 7, 10, and they don’t pickup because they know you will do it for them (per your maid comment).

      So instead of “This house is disgusting. I’m not your maid,” say what you want and add a boundary if needed. It might sound like this:

      You: “I love coming into a clean room where I can see the floor and everything is in its place. Then I can relax knowing that we will be able to (read books, play a game, etc) after dinner without having to stop and clean up first. Must be some way for that to happen.”
      Child: “You could clean it up for us now.”
      You: “You know I’ve done that in the past…not any more. I’m making dinner now, so your choices are to leave it where it is now and pick it up after dinner with an annoyed mom standing over you, or pick it up now and do fun things with a relaxed and happy mom the rest of the evening. At dinner I want to hear your ideas for keeping the mess manageable in the future.”

      Instead of “Humans don’t live this way. Can’t you pick up after yourselves?” you might say something like this:

      You: “I know you can pick up after yourself. Must be some other reason that this stuff is still here.”
      Child: “It’s too much for me to do by myself.”
      You: “It is a lot. Must be some way to get this picked up.”
      Child: “You can help me.”
      You: “I can help you this time. Tell me which part you want me to do, and I’ll decide if that’s OK with me or not. While we’re working you can tell me your ideas for how to keep the mess small and easy to pick up from now on.”

      HOW TO GET KIDS TO DO WHAT YOU WANT: Your comment that your kids tune you out suggests that you want a clean house more than they do, so in addition to the clear boundaries I mentioned above, part of what may be needed for them to pick up their things willingly is to want to do it for you. Another part is for them to discover their hidden strengths of orderliness, tidiness and responsibility so that cleaning up becomes a source of personal pride.

      To understand what it would take for them to want to do it for you, ask yourself, “What motivates anyone to do something for someone else?” Generally you need to feel good about yourself to start with, know that you can be helpful, and know that you like being helpful. Knowing that your efforts will be appreciated is the icing on the cake and becomes less important the more you see being helpful as just who you are.

      So for your children to want to do something for you, your work is primarily in strengthening your relationship with each child during the non-frustrating times. You do that with more face time, more hugs, more noticing of what they are doing right, and lots more valuing of what’s important to them. Rachel’s book and posts will give you lots of ideas for this.

      For children to see their hidden strengths, you need to see them first. Children can’t draw on a strength if they don’t know it’s there, so you need to find where each strength is already showing up and point it out to the child as proof.

      For example, you might find orderliness in the way a child keeps one food on his plate from touching another, or even in the frustration a child has when she can’t find something. To point it out you simply say, “You like it to keep each thing on your plate separate. That shows you are orderly,” or “You don’t like it when you can’t find things! You like things to be where they belong.” To look for tidiness, does your child like clean silverware to eat with, or does he hate it when a sibling messes up his stuff? Likewise with responsibility – does your child have a special toy that she keeps safe, is she careful with younger children, does she hate getting into trouble? Helpfulness shows up in many little ways – does your child ever remind you to do something? Does he help with anything, or hate it when someone doesn’t help him? The possibilities for finding hidden strengths are endless.

      When you point out your children’s strengths, they rise into them and show you more. When you point out faults, they fall into them and show you more. It’s exactly what Rachel’s post on building or breaking a child’s spirit is all about. Strengths leave children feeling good about themselves; faults are self-defeating. Building a child’s spirit takes time and effort, but is vital to reversing the vicious cycle you described.

      If you would like more information on how to connect with children, set clear boundaries, and find strengths, you can find my book, online classes, and me at my website:

  40. 90

    Michele says

    I have been one of your blog stalkers for 9 or so months. Last week I purchased the audio book and have been listening to it in my car and at work. While listening, I can be found crying, cringing, sighing, and laughing.

    Thank you for being vulnerable. Thank you for showing me that I am not the only one who has fallen into these terrible habits that distract me from being fully present in my relationships with my children and spouse. Thank you for reminding me that rigid thinking is harmful. Thank you for reminding me to be gentle with myself. You are right when you say that looking inward is painful. It is brutal.

    This weekend I stopped myself each time I would normally flip on auto-pilot and instead embraced the carefree, impromptu part of me that I so rarely let out these days. My children were delighted (and so was I). They got to spend time with the relaxed and playful me. I got to enjoy their laughter, joy-filled spirits – and unexpectedly intimate discussions.

    None of that would have taken place if I hadn’t started by reading your blog. So, I thank you for gently prodding me to take a chance, to stop beating myself up, to just “BE” with my loved ones. You are an inspiration.

  41. 92

    Jen says

    Your blog is just amazing. I subscribe to them in my inbox and follow you on facebook. Your messages are so uplifting and your honesty is so refreshing. I can relate to almost everything you write about. Every story hits home. I have three boys that I love beyond words but I struggle with so many of the things you write about. Your messages are encouraging, inspiring and honest. They make me feel like I’m not alone and help me focus on the positives. God bless you and please keep writing!

  42. 93


    I am very shy. I have little to no confidence or self-esteem. I over-critique everything I do. Sometimes I feel that I cannot do anything right so I don’t bother to try. I know my parents love me, but I was met with negative responses often times like this and I am sure that is one factor in how I look at myself now. If I am honest, I catch myself responding in a negative and uncompassionate way sometimes, and not only with my little boys. Of course, I love my two boys and my husband with all my heart, but sometimes they can be frustrating. When my baby boy wastes yet ANOTHER jar of baby food as he continues to spit it out–all over everything, when my 3-year-old continues to rinse the soap off of his hands BEFORE rubbing his hands together and covering them in suds, when my dear husband kindly washes the dishes for me but I have to redo many that still have food particles left on them…times like these I struggle the most. I do not want my boys to feel the way I did growing up or how I often do now; I do not want them to not value themselves; I do not want to discourage them from being themselves or being compassionate and sensitive toward others; I want to set the precedent for how they will react to situations with those they love, their future spouses and children, and even strangers. I try to pause…and think, “How will my reaction make these three precious men feel? Will it show them how much I love them? Will it encourage them to keep trying? Or will it make them not want to grow…not want to listen to momma’s advice…not want to keep helping?” I slip up sometimes. I feel terrible. I apologize. And I remind myself that I do “love [them] just the way [they] are, exactly as [they] are.” Thank you so much for the wonderful reminder.

    • 94

      Suzanne says

      All i can say is: Me, too. Even now my very powerful, well-known, successful parents simply seem unable to accept me. I am not powerful, well-known, or successful in those traditional ways, but I have this impact on these two kids of mine. I can learn from others’ mistakes. I could’ve written your response here. All this by way of saying: Don’t give up, and I won’t either…

  43. 96


    Thank you for this reminder. I’m one of those moms who has to work (kinda an outsider to the mommy wars, where the choice for either side is not mine, but I digress)… And I work in a position of authority. I tell people all day long when to get things done and I tell them to move more quickly. I am taskmaster. It’s hard to flip this switch off at home – especially when I value being on time and having things in order. But where adults might find my sterness helpful, it’s clipping the wings of my preschooler. Adults can measure up to and overcome my expectations, but she cannot. So sad. Just the reminder I needed to treat her differently than I would my coworkers – she’s much more valuable to me.

  44. 97

    AM says

    I would love to see what I could have been had my spirit not been darkened.

    It changes you forever, and although you can make improvements and have a happy successful life, as I do now, I somehow feel that I was supposed to be a different person with less inhibitions and happier memories.

    • 98

      AM says

      Just to add to my previous comment – what they say is true.

      The way that you speak to your children becomes their inner voice later on.

      I remember feeling like the little girl in the blog above. As a child, I would sometimes look at pictures of my mom and I when I was a baby -and I would just start sobbing because it looked like my mom loved me so much in those pictures, and I didn’t know what I could do to make her feel that way again. I felt like I couldn’t do anything right and that she was always yelling and stressed. For the most part, I had a very typical and rather happy childhood (at least I think I did!). It’s hard to compare against what you’ve only ever known. But there were also many many many times that I felt like I couldn’t do anything right – except get good grades! I knew that I could do that if I applied myself, so I did.

      In the end, I knew that my mother loved me and that I loved my mother. I wish she was still here, as she passed away when I was only 25 and she was 52. I’ve had to come to peace with all of our imperfections and learn to grow from it 🙂 The unresolved conflict has turned to a certain level of peace.

      Thanks for the wonderful mommy who had the courage to post her experience! You are a truly brave person who is helping to invoke CHANGE! Good job and blessings 🙂

  45. 99

    mandi says

    So very much what I needed to hear today. I have labeled myself as “bad mommy”for a couple weeks now because I am the critical, controlling, type A… And I hate it. This is not who I want to be. I want to empower my girls… Thank you!

  46. 100

    Debbie says

    Your words are life changing. Thank you SO much. I have many of your words and thoughts printed on paper and posted on walls throughout my house, to remind me of what really matters. I am so grateful to you for helping me think these things through so I can move toward being the mom I have always dreamed I could be. I don’t want to repeat history, which was full of yelling, screaming, hating, bullying, shaming, etc.
    I loved what Jenny Johnston said above about us being hard-wired and the struggle to change that hard-wired behavior in us. I just want to my girls to not have to face these struggles with themselves (the inner bullying and self loathing) and their children.
    I am grateful for you and your blog. Thank you for taking the risk of putting yourself out there.

  47. 103

    Priyanka says

    Hi there! I liked your article very much and therefore feel encouraged to ask a question about my kids.
    We have recently moved to a new city. My kids have joined a coaching class. They don’t want to continue there because the teacher speaks very loudly. I have been to the class and think that she is a good teacher except for the fact that she is so loud that kids think she’s yelling at them. If I try to explain to them that she is a good teacher they say you take the teacher’s side. My son, who is 6 yrs of age is constantly crying. Should I discontinue the coaching?

    • 104


      Hi Priyanka, my child had a similar problem with a teacher who spoke in a way that seemed like yelling to my child, although it wasn’t. She got bad stomach aches and did not want to go to something she once loved. I spoke to the teacher in a non-accusatory way. I open and honestly shared what we were experiencing at home and asked if the teacher could think of something we could do to alleviate this problem. At first the teacher was defensive, but soon we saw a change in the way she spoke to all the children, not just my child. A year later, that teacher thanked me for bringing it to her attention. I know not all situations will end this nicely, but I am a big believer in dealing with situations openly and honestly. I also shared with my child about my own experiences and feeling when I had a teacher who spoke gruffly and negatively. I told her it was a hard year for me, but I survived and learned how I would not treat my own students someday. Being around new people with who speak differently than what we are used to at home allows us to know we can overcome something that is not comfortable to us. This is a valuable life lesson that will serve them well in the future.

      Your situation is a little different since it is an elective class. If you don’t see the situation getting any better, I would perhaps finish out the class and then not continue it.

      That is just my two cents.

    • 105

      Enid says

      I’m just a random reader but felt like I could take a stab at your question.

      Maybe you can talk to the teacher in private – perhaps she has a medical problem (like a hearing loss) that causes her to speak loudly? Or maybe she can explain to her class why she needs to talk loudly — maybe she thinks the kids will be rambunctious if she’s quiet — the kids can help prove her wrong.

      If these aren’t an option, and it’s not a necessary class, I would let him drop it.

  48. 107

    JoJo says

    I grew up with a mother like that. I’m 50 and we had the same fight again today, how much I hate her for her overbearing, critical, unsupportive way she brought me up. She maintains she was trying to help me. All she did was destroy my self esteem. I’ve never loved the woman, and I used to wish they’d divorce so I could live with my dad. The bitch is 87 now and we fight constantly. She’s a narcissistic, emotionally manipulative, passive aggressive person who always preferred to believe the worst about me and shoot down everything I wanted to do. She never knew how to pick her battles and now she holds my alleged inheritance over my head. I don’t even want it. I want her out of my life. Having a mother is overrated. That’s why I never had children. I didn’t want to be like her and I didn’t want her destroying my children and criticizing my parenting.

  49. 108

    Butter says

    I am forever grateful to my mother, who was broken until the day she died at age 52 by her own narcisistic mother, for breaking that destructive, hurtful cycle. When I became a mom, I realized more fully just how amazing and strong my mother was for overcoming her hurts, and always loving me simply for being me.

    It is never too late to make changes and be better Mothers!

  50. 109

    Page says

    Do you know the book “Children Learn What They Live?” It will speak to you! “If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn…. If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.”

  51. 110

    Melissa says

    Dear Rachel,
    How amazing that I came across your fb site today. I struggled all my life with acceptance from my mother. I am battled being overweight, put down and criticized most of my life. I will never know what I did wrong or why God placed me in this family. I would not wish “being tolerated” upon anyone. I am now 50 years of age, and was able to confront my ghosts. I am one of seven children and gave my life to Jesus Christ in 1992.
    I am now a mother of 2 girls. I find myself trying to control my oldest daughter. She is an amazing child, but I find myself treating her much like my mother treated me…tolerating her because she is not perfect in my mother’s eyes. I watch my mother and she can hardly bring herself to touch her. She looks at her from a distance and tries to embrace my younger daughter. I see that my mother does not accept her because she is so busy. Looks mean a great deal to my mom. I was always determined to try to become more attractive, but have failed miserably time and time again.
    My littler girls are beautiful. I want them to know I am proud to be their mother . I want to break this cycle of destruction. May The Lord help me to change today.

  52. 112

    Sally says

    I know I have been too critical of my children, but I also am not sure how to stop. I want them to work hard, and do their chores and schoolwork, and without sassing. It frustrates me whenn they are slow as molasses and I want to get the work done quickly so that we can do other things– play board games, sew, go for a hike. I do not yell at my children, and I don’t call them names. But I fear that they hear my displeased voice too often.

    • 113


      Hi Sally,

      I’m a licensed psychologist and Rachel has invited me to respond to some of her readers. I bet every mom can relate to your struggle! It’s frustrating when our kiddos dawdle and sass. We know that they need to learn how to work hard and be respectful and it’s hard to know how to set limits in a nice way when we have all been taught to set limits with shame and fear. Here’s a link to a video that outlines the steps of a therapeutic way to set limits

      Hope this helps!
      Theresa Kellam

  53. 114

    Karen says

    Thank you for the reminder to think about What I say. I try not to fuss and I do my very best not to yell-but even the simplest things we say can break a child’s heart. When in so many cases-the issue your addressing is Not that important. It is so much about presentation. I know that about my son in other aspects of life-I don’t know why it hasn’t dawned on me to apply it to More aspects of his life.
    Thank you again. I love you articles.

  54. 115

    Carey Brown says

    To this day my mother can’t NOT remind me of my past mistakes. She only spent time yelling at me when I did something wrong, but never tried to consistently help me do things right. I have had abandonment issues my whole life as a result, believing all love had a price tag. I stopped having a relationship with my mother last year. And I do not miss her…

  55. 116

    BreAnne says

    Thank you Rachel,

    I am a type A, OCD type of person and I harp on my sweet littles a lot when it comes to moving quickly and cleaning up after themselves… I know I can be pretty strict and harsh at times and reading your post broke my heart… Not because your words were hurtful, but because my words can be… I love my kids more than I could ever explain and my husband and I are Christians just trying to make sure our kids are well behaved, good, honest people but sometimes our motivation can be more hurtful then helpful. I tell my children all the time how loved they are, not just by me but by God. But I need to remember that showing them love in my words and actions is even more motivating… Your post today broke my heart for what breaks theirs and I want to thank you… I purchased your book a few months ago but haven’t had the time to read it yet. I will be making the time now and I will commit myself to motivating my children just as God motivates me… With love, forgiveness, gentleness and grace.
    Thank you, thank you…

    God bless,

    • 117

      Sebastian says

      You just said everything that I thought in reading this article. It is as though we are the same mom, down to buying the book and not having time to read it. I am saying a prayer for us this morning, a prayer that we can do better. I know we want to.

      Another mom just like you,

  56. 118


    I love reading all of your posts – they are kind reminders to us as parents to raise our children with patience, love, support, and so much more. While that sounds easy, stress and life get in the way. I find your blog a refreshing mental cleanse that re-calibrates my parental voice and inner monologue – kind to kids, kind to self, do the best you can, live with love………

  57. 119


    My daughter is 2.5 years old. Thanks for this nudge in the right direction to help guide her, instead of trying to harass her. She is the answer to many, many prayers and I need to remember that no matter what she does, she is a gift to me.

  58. 120

    Misty says

    Your writing always makes me take a step back and take a moment to catch my breath. I recognize so much of myself in your messages, as the tears flow down my cheeks. Thank you for reminding me that it’s never too late to be an encourager instead of a criticizer, to be patient instead of controlling…

  59. 122

    Stacey says

    I am so thankful for your thoughts on all matters of the heart. I just spent a day at the water park with my 6 and 3 year old. I was very excited to be able to play on all the “attractions”. However, it became apparent right off the bat the the rides were very scary to both of my kids. Rather than get upset, belittle and otherwise try to coerce my children into tryin something they were not ready for, I just let it go and enjoyed the day playing on the things they would. It was a very fun day!

  60. 123


    This is such a great post. You get it just write in outlining the two options we have as parents to encourage and get the most out of our children. This post is such a great reminder to breathe and think about those options before we act next time we are in those situations. As always, thank you for the reminder and great reflections.

  61. 124

    Tal says

    Reading this made me realize that maybe that’s how I felt growing up.. and I just now realized that I may be doing this to my own children. Thank you for posting it. I have things to work on now and I feel better knowing that I can change it 🙂

  62. 125

    Erika Bathke says

    Thank you for your article and the wonderful reminders of how to respond lovingly to my children in the moments that are challenging . I am guilty of the negative reactions and I am working on reframing my responses to my children, however, I still struggle with the questions of “How much damage have I already done?” and “How can I fix what I’ve already broken?”

  63. 126

    Lilac says

    Today my daughter was having a tantrum outside the dance class because she didn’t want to go. I felt so guilty as if I was forcing her to go, which I’m not but I stopped her from eating outside the class as we were late and I was rushing her to get ready. However, once I let her eat she was ok and went in although a bit more late.

    With toilet training, I’ve been very bad at it. I keep comparing her to other children and saying she should be ready by now and saying stuff that probably makes her feel bad. She is a lot better but it took me over a year to get there and now I’ve only just started to work on her night time toilet training.

    Reading this has made me realise that I need to be less demanding of her. She will get there even if it takes her longer. I’m going to keep saying more positive things to her.

    Thank you.

  64. 127

    Celeste says

    Thank you so, so much for posting this! I had a particularly rough night with a couple of my children yesterday and we both went to bed angry and with regret for what was said and done. As a parent, I have such good intentions but fatigue and circumstances often get in the way and I try motivating my child in ways that actually diminish his spirit. I have a long way to go but I will keep this in mind today and try to do better. Thank you again for your candor and honesty; I think MOST parents can really relate and appreciate the reminders.

  65. 128

    Becca says

    I’m sitting in my car with tears rolling down my face right now. I’ve done/said many of those to my daughters.

    Thank you for speaking to my heart.

    Now. I have to dry my tears and go pick my oldest (4 1/2) at preschool

  66. 129

    Roberta says

    Beautifully stated! I am reminded of an old (unattributed) quotation, “What you think of me, I think of me. What I think of me, I become.”

  67. 130

    Ashley says

    I cannot even begin to explain how much I needed to read this! As a mother of 3 girls, ages 9, 3 & 5months, I have been struggling daily on how to help my 9 yr old. She is having an extremely difficult time at school, acting out at home etc. She is in process of being tested for attention disorders etc. I am constantly wondering “why is she acting like this”, “what is wrong with her”…reading this forced me to realize that 1 of her biggest problems is ME! There is soo much I wish I would have done different, the yelling, belittling, my lack of patience & so much more but like it said, I am determined not to focus on that part but to start right now, this minute to work on changing all of that, starting with myself. This may be the MOST challenging thing I have ever attempted but that’s OK. It will be a slow & long process but I know in the end, the impact it WILL have on her is going to make it worth the hard work! Thank you so much for sharing your story, it has had more of an impact on myself than anything else ever has, a life changing impact!

  68. 132

    Effected daughter says

    I am currently a 20 year old going through college alone. My parents treated me the way you used to treat your daughter. Growing up like that I never felt like I could please them or be good enough for them to not be ashamed of their daughter. It has lead to lots of problems in my life. That besides physical punishment when I did not please them has made it were I have trust issues with everyone. when ever I start getting close to someone deference begin to go up and I start to push those people away. I have little to no self confidence and have a hard time believing that I can amount to anything. Being at college has made life hard because at this age you start creating strong relationships so pushing everyone away hurts that. Finally discovering people who except me who I am even with the trying to push away and stick by me have helped me to understand that it is not ok to live life feeling these things and many others. While I still deal with these issues and am seeking help to deal with them I have began to grow and change into a more confident woman. I try every minute of everyday to try and show people genuine love and kindness because of these events because I know that people do not always have that in their lives. Now I also know that I am not normal when dealing with these problems my younger brother has turned to hate the world and to not be able to find anything good in it. So I’m asking you to please treat your children with love and let them know that you love them just the way that they are because you never know the effect of what your words may have on your child’s life.

    • 133


      Thank you so much for taking the time to share your experiences to help someone else have insight as to what it feels like to live under parental pressure, criticism, and negativity. I am so sorry for the pain and isolation you have felt and are feeling. I am so thankful to hear you are getting help to deal with these issues. I celebrate your courage and am so inspired that you are still spreading love and kindness despite your past. You are a remarkable young lady and a gift to this world. If you need any further support or guidance, I have two colleagues who help my readers overcome difficult issues free of charge. Feel free to reach out to my brilliant friend, Sandy, who is an author and parenting coach. She has helped many of my readers and I know she would love to help you anytime you feel alone.

  69. 134


    Beautiful as always, my dear friend. The other day, I found myself saying to my husband, “If you want me to like weightlifting with you, all you really have to do is tell me that I’m doing a good job.” Praise is such a powerful motivator, especially since I’m fairly new to lifting and needing to learn so many new things (never easy for a perfectionist)! I know that I want to grow stronger, yet sometimes I shy away from lifting because it feels like I’ll never be ‘good’ at it. But when I hear my husband offer positive feedback, I’m so much more empowered to tackle the next set, the next challenge.

  70. 136

    Heather C. says

    Thank you for this reminder. When I first got pregnant with my now (almost) 3 yr old, I was bound and determined to not raise my son the way I was raised. My father said a lot of hurtful things, and I was a broken little girl. At 28, it still affects me in ways I never imagined. My self confidence. My relationships with other people. I find myself talking to even my husband that way. I don’t want to be the negative parent. I want to encourage my child(ren) to do the best they can and not be a negative influence. I am making a daily conscious effort to not be like my own father. Change the stars if you will.

    Again. Thank you!

  71. 137


    What a beautiful post. Although I want my kids to have good behavior I mostly want them to know that I, and even more so, God, love them just the way they are.

  72. 138


    After 11 years being criticized, among other things, for everything I did, good or bad, I had the god fortune to spend 2.5 years living as an au pair w/ a remarkable mother. She nurtured me, taught me what was normal, recalled me to myself, encouraged me to be myself. She began a process of healing that continues today. Encouragement heals. Criticism tears down.

  73. 139

    Becky says

    I have been reading your blog for months, but have never taken the time to comment. However, I finally felt compelled to let you know how inspiring and uplifting I find your writing. You have a way of making me believe in good! I have a beautiful 17 month old daughter and have determined that I want her to have a better (and happier) childhood than was ever possible for me. It is often hard when pessimism and criticism are what seem to come naturally…my parents’ voices that have become my constant “inner bully” that I can’t seem to change. I think this forces me to work harder to resist making those negative comments and to find a way to encourage and build up rather than tear down. I know how criticism affected my childhood and has always made me feel like I was never good enough, and I still lack confidence to step out of my comfort zone. I don’t want it to be like that for my daughter. I never want to see the light go out of her eyes because I fail to see the good in her.

    I found a poem that I wrote years ago as a teen that I wanted to share. This was written during my “dark days” and I don’t think I’ve ever shown it to anyone, but I think it expresses exactly how criticism can affect a child:

    As thoughts race through my mind,
    I begin to wonder…
    Lord, why am I here…
    What purpose am I serving?…
    Why does it seem as if I can only hurt
    instead of helping?
    I know ultimately that you really do have a purpose for me,
    but there are so many times when it is just beyond my reach.
    I try so hard, and yet I am only criticized
    for the many things I’ve done wrong.
    I cry within myself, and no one can hear me,
    Dear God..WHY?
    I reach for help, but no one understands.
    I long to be myself and yet I hide
    behind a mask that few are ever able to see through.
    Perfection is expected of me,
    but yet I am only a human with hopes, and dreams,
    and wishes like everyone else.
    Why, God, why do they expect so much?

    • 140


      Thank you so much for sharing, Becky. I am so honored you felt this was a safe place to share something you have shared with no one else. I applaud your courage and feel certain you have given someone great insight into their own child or even their own heart. You have helped someone feel less alone. What a tremendous gift. I have no doubt you are a loving mother to your daughter and will not go down the path of negativity. I pray that your inner bully will become quieter and quieter as you embrace your daughter “as is” and also yourself. Many blessings and gratitude to you, friend.

  74. 141


    I really needed this….I struggle with this all the time, because I have a 9yo with behavioral issues. She lies, destroys things, takes things that don’t belong to her…..and I want so much better for her, so I tend to put a lot of negative pressure on her. I realize now how harsh my comments have been. I hope it’s not too late for her. The hygiene part especially hit home, cause I’m constantly fighting her to shower, wear deodorant, wash her hands, etc.

    My other children are much younger (4, 2, 1, and “incoming”), so I need to get this down fast. And I pray that I can undo any hurt I’ve caused my eldest.

  75. 143

    Eve says

    You have spoken directly to my heart. I am a hurried mother who is always correcting and disciplining my 5yr old daughter. It troubles me every night before bed. I hear myself saying, “you are destroying her and breaking her down!” Thank you so much for this message and the guidance. God Bless you, you helped save my relationship with my little girl.

  76. 144

    Juli says

    Your words are always spot on and this time was no different. This time your words struck a chord, not only for how I parent, but also for how I speak to myself – my inner dialogue. I read your words to chip away at the control freak/perfectionist I am trying to quiet. As always, thank you.

  77. 145

    cindy says

    Thank you so much for your encouragement…I struggle daily with males in my family who put me down now that I am the only woman left in our family …I am overweight and have low self esteem issues …I appreciate your post and look forward to purchasing your book….God Bless

  78. 146

    Zoe says

    Every time I read a new post it’s exactly what I needed to hear and be reminded of. Everyday I feel I fail as a parent your words bring me back and encourage me on. Thank you for sharing with all and please keep it going.

  79. 147

    BrokenButRepairable says

    Discovered this post today; just wanted to say thank you for writing it.

    I have a little girl; she’s 4. Gregarious, stubborn, and totally independent. She doesn’t need the negative comments she gets from me, but I still think them (and they’re usually in my dad’s voice).

    Overcoming something that broken (like my childhood) can only make it something beautiful (like my daughter’s); thank you for pointing that out. Dad may be gone, but the words and the broken shards still remain; it’s only now that I’m putting it back together (With a whole bunch of grace from a heavenly Father who doesn’t speak ill of His children.).

  80. 148


    Your perspective on encouragement and unconditional love are just beautiful. We need to welcome our children to change and grow, not berate them into wanting to change. Funny strange how I came across this blog tonight, after I spent most of my day writing off and on about how our important controlling our words is toward our children. How intentional we need to be with the words we speak. I’m intentional about how much television she watches, what shows she is allowed to see, what toys she has, what games we play – how can I not be every bit as intentional about the words she hears me say.

  81. 149


    just lovely. makes my heart so happy and grateful for the encouraging reminder! teaching is not doing or deciding for someone…but knowing when to step aside!

  82. 150


    Tears in my eyes- thank you for being honest. Thank you for writing this and for me to read it and feel and understand how awful it must be when I’m speaking to my kids like this. I’m ashamed and you have brought this to light for me and I want to be different. I really want to just hug my kids right now and vow to be a more understanding and positive parent to them. Thank you

  83. 151

    S says

    Beautifully captured. Thank you for being so brave as to share.

    I still can’t play piano- or any other instrument- with any confidence in front of my mother. She has perfect pitch and used to call eagerly from the other room whenever I missed a note while practicing in third and fourth grade. I’m sure she thought she was being helpful, but after a while I would only practice when she wasn’t home. I heard and felt the mistakes without being told I made them, but she never gave me a chance to explain that. When I moved on to band instruments a few years later, I would still only practice when home alone for fear of being corrected. I’m a middle school music teacher in her thirties who still can’t perform in front of her own mother without being absolutely certain that I will mess up or at least receive unsolicited critique. Even when she attends my concerts, the end of the evening is most often met with a rundown of all the things that could have probably gone better. You had better believe I am ultra-vigilant when assessing and correcting my own students… probably to a fault. But I’d rather build my kiddos up than break them down. At this age, it’s really not all that much about the music. It’s about the kids! 🙂 I always keep these experiences in the back of my mind with my own darling 3yo son.

  84. 152


    I love this post so very much. It brought tears to my eyes, my sweet friend. I have been guilty of being one who pushes too hard at times, because my son is so different from me and I have a hard time understanding. This inspires me. xo

  85. 154

    Angela says

    Thank you! This message in particular speaks volumes to me. Sadly as I read through your opening options, I was becoming more and more saddened to realise nearly each one of the non preferred options was my saying. As I continued to read tears welled. I know it. I want to change it. Your words, the way you write, make it easier to digest. More importantly they make my guilt subside as I realise there are others struggling with this. My motivation grows as I know if you can do it, I can do it. I will do it. Thank you. For your blog.. For your book.. For your insight. I am so glad to have discovered you.

  86. 156

    TDK says

    I could have written this very article as the mom and the daughter.
    My heart breaks as I hear myself say the same things, knowing they do not motivate but saying them all the same.
    I want words of encouragement to flow out without thinking but it is like trying to walk the beach against the current. But I can do all things through Christ, I won’t look back in failure but with each new day ask God for the right words or speak no words at all. Thanks for the post, it has touched me, instructed me and reminded me of many things.

  87. 157

    Becca says

    I *DO* make a point to tell my girls, especially after a particularly rough day, that I love always love them, no matter what. For mothers day, the oldest drew a pic of our family and “wrote” I always love you all the time. :’-) at least she’s listening to something I’ve said!

  88. 158

    AJ says

    I’m laying in bed reading this and my heart is so heavy and my eyes are filled with tears. My husband is this exact person you’ve described. I’ve watched him break down our son little by little in the way he treats him. I am hyper aware and try to be overly positive (yet realistic) with our son in hopes of ensuring his self worth. He must ask me 10 times a day if I’m mad. It’s like he walks on eggshells because of my husband. One time I stepped in and called my husband a bully and it shocked him. He knows that he’s short fused with our son but he doesn’t know how to change. Honestly, it’s about to cost him a marriage because I’m not sure how much longer I can stand by and watch my son be torn down. I’ve become so bitter and resentful of my husband because he’s such a crappy Dad. Our son is smart, kind, loving and an amazing gift in our lives. It breaks my heart that my husband doesn’t seem to feel that way and if he does, he’s unable to show it.

    • 159


      Perhaps you could show him this piece I wrote, “The Bully to Close to Home.” I heard from hundreds of dads after that article was published who were able to see what they were doing to their children through this story. I remember one father left work immediately to go home and hold his son and tell him he was so sorry. I hope your husband is open to receiving this message. I hear from teens and college students every day who never had their father’s approval growing up. It has affected them their whole life. They feel worthless and have no confidence. It is not too late for your husband to turn things around. You might be saving his relationship with his son. I wish you all the best.

    • 160


      I keep wondering whether there is a constructive way to show spouses that there is a better way, like the article suggests doing with children. When I was struggling with this, and kept screaming at the children, I felt as though the children must hate me. My husband kept assuring me they loved me, but I didn’t trust him, because all he would point out was my successes, never any constructive criticism. Finally, I decided that if God was a parent He must be able to speak and started listening. He started affirming my desire to parent well, though that desire was not obvious, hidden behind my temper. He asked me what kind of Father I, myself, longed for. I told Him I longed for a Father who would lead me to obey Him because I loved Him, not drive me to obey Him because I was afraid of Him. He asked me what made me think He wasn’t like that. He showed me that the the reason that I was acting the way I was was that I believed I and my children were fundamentally bad and had to be driven to do what was right. He told me that we were actually made in His image, and that with the right nutrition, we would become who we are. He told me I needed to feed them love. He started asking me whether what I was doing was constructive or destructive, whether it was accomplishing what I desired for myself and my children. Now, I am growing, but I notice that my husband is stuck in don’t notice until it gets unbearable, then stomp hard mode. I want to find a way to show him what I have learned without tearing him down. My tendency with my husband is actually his with the children. Ignore until I stomp. The other thing I’ve tried is nagging. But neither works. I realize that I am thinking that the risk of damage to the children is too great to go the slower but steadier way of this article. I have to remember that if myself and my children are made in God’s image, my husband is as well, thus there must be something he is needing in the way of spiritual/emotional nutrition. A friend just told me that when a lawn turns weedy, it does not mean you need to tear up the ground and replant, it means the ground is needing something nutritionally. I was amazed, because that was what God was saying.

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    Silvana says

    Gosh what perfect timing. Just today, a trusted friend told me to toughen up, after I sought her guidance as I navigate my way through a tough time right now. Tough love? Perhaps, but all it did was propel me back to childhood and reminders of not doing anything right. Yes I might need to elevate myself about my current mindset but there are gentle ways of encouraging. To all those who say, “Suck it up” or “toughen up” etc. I say, we all have feelings and words can be like arrows, piercing our beautiful beating hearts. With enough puncture wounds, we all being to die a little, so be kind because being kind, never hurt anyone. 🙂

  90. 164


    Thank you for this amazing article.

    Becareful with the words you pick because it will affect the child mentally.

    As a child, I would always get negative comments and criticism from my mother. I was affected by it to the extend I do not know what am I good at. I was only forced to follow instruction.
    I do have self esteem issues .

    By reading this article, I can differenciate about how to say it and what not to say.

  91. 165

    Jenia says

    I am 31 now, and I’m still afraid – yes, afraid – of being truly creative. I only make things from patterns. I am terrified of anything art-like. The question that keeps running through my mind is “What if I don’t do it well? What if it’s not pretty?” Most of it, I suspect, due to the fact that my mother never encouraged/praised my projects unless they met her standard in every way. I remember being 5 years old and making some sort of mixed medium project for some contest at her office. She left my side for a minute and on coming back discovered I have – on my own initiative – drew some extra birds. I was scolded. She was so upset. And that’s just one instance!
    I’ve been trying to overcome this fear, but it’s hard work.
    Sure hoping I can break the cycle with my little boy! Thanks for your post!

    • 166



      Rachel has invited me to respond to some of her readers. I am inspired by your determination and want to cheer you on in overcoming your fear. You can definitely break the cycle for your little boy and for yourself with some inner work and practice. I hope the thoughts I share here will be helpful for you or another reader who is on the same path.

      It’s hard to shake the voice of an inner-critic that got there early in childhood, but it is possible. One great place to start is by actually answering your own questions: “What if I don’t do it well? What if it’s not pretty?” Your intellectual answer may be, “So what? Nothing will happen except I might waste a few materials,” but that’s not how it feels. It’s your fears, not your intellectual understanding that are stopping you. The way put your intellect back in charge is self-validation.

      It starts by understanding where your fears came from as you are already doing, and there’s more. You need to validate and embrace them for them to pass.

      It helps to understand that a child is absolutely right to be fearful of a parent’s harsh criticism because she depends on that parent for survival, so anything that threatens that connection feels life-threatening – really! Not just unpleasant as it might feel to an adult. That’s why as a child you planted a strong “Danger. Keep out!” sign in your brain to keep you safe from creative risk. You put it there for self-protection. That was you taking care of yourself!

      Now that you are an adult, you have the chance to go back and check the facts. Is my survival really at risk here, or can I take that sign down now that I know I can take care of myself despite the outcome?

      Check with your emotions and see what statement is true for you, then when you feel the fear rising, start with validating the feeling before adding reassurance. Remember to refer to yourself as “you” not “I” so you get the feeling of being a loving observer. This is important because what you are doing is replacing your mother’s harsh voice of criticism with the one you wish you’d heard.

      So depending on how big your fear is you might even start with, “You think you’re going to die!” or whatever level of threat would fit with your feelings, regardless whether it fits with the “facts.” Your feelings don’t care about facts because they’re a reaction to a memory, not a reaction to the present.

      When you recognize that on an emotional level you can’t tell a creative risk from a death risk, your fear of creative risks will suddenly make sense. The relief might actually make you laugh. This is the most important step, because by recognizing what your emotions are reacting to (a death risk, not a creative risk), you are taking the first step to telling the two apart and putting your intellect back in charge.

      When your emotions are truly understood and validated, your intellectual self-validation can be more effective, as in, “You want to do this project well and make it pretty, and you’re not sure it will turn out the way you want.” Coming up with solutions for lowering a creative risk is easy (start with low-risk challenges until you build your confidence, focus on your successes no matter how small, learn from your mistakes, try again to gain mastery, etc.) but you can’t even consider them if an emotional fear of survival is running the show.

      Validating your son’s wishes and concerns with the same loving voice of understanding will help you, too. The more you validate his concerns and point out his successes with phrases like, “You know what you like, and you’re not happy with that. Must be something you can do…” or “That turned out just the way you wanted,” or “You did that your own way. That shows initiative and creativity,” the easier it will be for you to do the same for yourself. All of these things will help you replace your mother’s critical voice with a loving and understanding one and break the cycle for good.


  92. 168

    Amelia says

    Please remember that “broken” is not destroyed. “Broken” can be repaired. If you have used words or behaviors that were too harsh with your children, you can still fix your errors. You can still make a difference and make a change in how they view themselves. Yesterday’s mistakes do not have to define who you are today.

  93. 169

    S says

    Something I once read is not to react to an INCONVENIENCE as if it is a CATASTROPHE.

    I will never forget pushing and scolding my five year old to join his swimming lesson. He absolutely refused to get in the water. I vividly recall how he would not budge his feet and I just kept shaming him, telling him how I was going to tell his father when we got home how he wouldn’t cooperate. My son just hung his head and took the abuse but remained stubborn that he did not want to swim.
    That night he couldn’t fall asleep. Turns out he had an ear infection AND high fever! Poor baby! I will never forgive myself. He is 9 now and probably forgot all about, but I will always remember how deeply ashamed I was for being so hard on him -while he was sick, no less- just because I paid for a stupid lesson and came out to the swim center for it- an inconvenience surely, but hardly an excuse to bully a child. I hope my efforts to remember from then on that children are little people deserving of respect will be penance for that shameful experience.
    Thank you, Macy. You are an angel sent from God.

  94. 170


    I always remember my dad trying to teach me how to dive -not off the board but like a dive from the side to start swimming lengths like they do in competitions – well mine would always turn into belly flops and I would get water up my nose and in my eyes and get in a state but each time he’d hold me up while I got myself together (as I was too short to reach the bottom of the pool in some bits) then encourage me to get back out onto the side and try again.

    I think it was him who encouraged me to get back on my big bike after my brother jumped in front of me and I fell off at the end of our street. I grazed up all my leg and it bled loads.

    And as silly as it sounds I now have my husband who regularly encourages me to do the slightly crazy things. I’m not scared of heights but had a minor freak out when doing a high ropes course on holiday. He changed to go in front of me so that he could then encourage me to keep going. I hated every second of it but had a sense of achievement when I had done it. I hate roller coasters too – I go on once in a while to prove that I still don’t like them. Most of the time he holds my hand on the way round or holds my arm because he knows I’d rather be on the bench at the bottom watching rather than taking part. I hope between us that we will be an encourager for our baby who is due in July.

  95. 171

    Francesca says

    Your words made me I read the first passage of this post, that one about loose weight..My niece , 13 years old, is facing some weight problem and I really want to help her..but I don’t know how.. She was an overweight children, and my sister used to say she was fat, she was a pig… but continued to serve her unhealty food. Then, when sho was 10, she started to have eating disorders. She ate so very little…no candy, no bread, no chocolate..she loosed 10 kg in 3 months….she was so thin that I barely recognize her..Now she is starting to eat again, luckily, but she is going back to old bad abits, such as eat too many desserts, a lot of bread.. I am afraid that she will be overweight again in very little time. And I am worried, not because of her look, but for her soul..I woul like that she understand that loosing weight and eating well is not about beeing beauty, but to be ealthy..but I don’t want to hurt her with the wrong words…what do you suggest?
    (sorry for my english but I write from Italy)..

    • 172


      Hi Francesca, your niece is very blessed to have someone who recognizes that she needs encouragement and also guidance with her weight issues. This sounds very serious and could have long-term effects on her health and emotional well-being. I have two colleagues that help me answer reader questions that fall out of my realm of expertise. I will ask Sandy or Theresa to respond to your question here on the blog so other people can benefit from their response.

      *For anyone else reading who is going through difficult issues, there is help. If you feel like there should be something you can do to turn things around but you don’t know what it is, feel lost, stuck or overwhelmed, contact:

      Sandra & Eva, authors & parenting/life coaching:

      If you feel hopeless like nothing you do will ever work, or if you or your child(ren) are experiencing depression, anxiety, grief, trauma, attention problems, self-inflicted injury, suicidal thoughts, or are simply wishing for healing, contact:

      Theresa, PhD, author, & licensed psychologist:

      My colleagues have helped many of my readers via email over the past year and do not charge.

      • 173


        Hello Francesca,

        As Rachel pointed out, this is a very serious issue with potential long-term consequences. An eating disorder can be life-threatening. Eating disorders are not likely to go away on their own. Treatment is needed. You are in such a difficult position. As an aunt, you don’t have the authority to get your niece the help you know she needs. I’m sure you have urged your sister to find help for your niece. I would recommend that you continue trying to get your sister to understand that she and your niece needs help to turn things around. I also want to emphasize how valuable your understanding and compassion are in this situation. It is so clear from your comment how much you love your niece just the way she is. If it is obvious to me, a stranger, it will surely be obvious to your niece. You understand that your niece is hurting, deeply hurting and simply communicating that understanding to her and offering your comfort to her is one of the most healing gifts any of us can give or receive. Rachel explains that so well in her post “Where Haters Can’t Tread.” Creating a comforting, judgement free, loving and safe place for your niece has probably helped her already more than you know. In studies about children’s resiliency through painful emotional issues, a loving, empathic relationship with at least one person is the best predictor of how the child fairs. My book, “The Parent Survival Guide: From Chaos to Harmony in 10-Weeks or Less” and Sandy’s book “Say What You See for Teachers and Parents” are all about how to guide and comfort children. Both books use a skill called ACT-Limit Setting to teach adults how to help guide children in a loving way. A stands for “Acknowledge the feeling.” C stands for “Communicate the limit” and T stands for “Target the alternative. You can use this with your niece by saying “I know you would like pizza for dinner” (acknowledging the feeling) but, that’s not a healthy choice (communicating the limit), we can make a special chicken salad together, instead! (target the alternative) With this simple skill you can communicate love, understanding and guidance while emphasizing the healthy aspects of food, rather than appearance. I agree with Rachel. Your niece is very blessed to have you in her life. You loving comfort and guidance will impact her more than you realize.

        Theresa Kellam, Ph.D.
        Licensed Psychologist

        • 174

          Francesca says

          Thank you so much for your answers, Rachel and Theresa. I am conforted by your kindly words . It is true, I love my niece as if she were my child, and I will go on standing by her side and trying to make her understand that my love is unconditional, and that I will always be there to confort her. I will surely try to give her some advice to face this ineer monster, and I know what I’m talking about since I suffered the same disorder when I was a teenager.
          In the meanwhile I would try to talk gently with my sister: sho loves so much her daughter, obviusly, but I think she struggles to understand her and that she give to much importance to what other people think.
          Thank you so much, you gave me such a gift with your words.

  96. 175

    nick says

    Thank you, through my tears. Thank you for the child I was and the parent I am trying to be. Thank you for my two amazing and challenging children. Every day I try to do better so they can be … themselves. It’s hard and your story gives me strength.

  97. 176

    Emily says

    Thank you. I had such a horrible day yesterday, I just woke up feeling mean, and my poor kids received the worst of me. I was horribly hard on them, critical and nasty. Thankfully I was able to take a step back and say sorry, and explain to them that they are not the problem. They all three, threw themselves upon me and told me it was okay. Their grace and forgiveness was a balm. Sometimes I think we are just lost in our own shame and sadness, living what was spoken over us, and we find ourselves in a bitter battle, where our own precious kids become the victims of our own self- shame and anger. It’s so hard to break the cycle. It’s comforting to know that other mamas are fighting this battle too. How I long to be the kind of mother you describe in this post. I keep believing that each day is a new day, and that my children will learn through me that it’s okay to be imperfect, to make mistakes, and start again. Thank you again.

  98. 177

    Remaliah says

    Thank you so much Rachel,
    I needed to read this and be reminded of what I’m here to do as a parent and how to guide my precious girls more lovingly instead of being impatient when they mess up because I’m scared they’ll never get there, or that I feel I ‘should’ so that they learn how to do something right. Today was a really tough day for me because it felt like both girls were pushing every limit. They were tired, but I also had several twinges of regret for how I responded to messes (including potty training ones). I really saw a lot of myself in your reponses to your little one in the past. As I have in reading your book. I’m just really thankful for sharing this post and all that you share because it reminds me of what’s more important – loving our children for who they are and not primarily for what they do. Thank you x

  99. 179

    Meggzy says

    This was an eye-opening read for a soon-to-be first time mom. My entire life, my mother criticized me for being overweight (when 90% of that time I was actually an aberage weight for my height). I promised myself that I would never do that to my daughter if I had one. This article helps me think about how I would say things to my child in a positive way. Thank you!

  100. 180


    This is beautiful. Thanks so much for posting your experience. There are no perfect parents but the greatest parents know that and aim to correct their wrong doing and apologize to their kids. Every person no matter what age deserves love and respect, to be treated as we would want them to treat us.

  101. 181

    Kristen says

    This is great. Thank you!!! Sometimes I think I am “teaching” and after I usually feel regret with my sharp words as if I will shock my kids into learning. Thank you!

  102. 182

    Sandra says

    It took me over 50 years to finally realize I was enough. My mom died when I was 14 but the damage was imbedded. Talk about inner conflict it was love/hate, happiness/sadness and many years of therapy. I made a serious effort to raise my children differently. Your examples of negative parenting are quite familiar. I’m now 71 and know I’m Enough.

  103. 184


    Thank you for bringing me back to my childhood. When I was that scared little girl constantly being scrutinized by my mother for being too fat, or by a father who could care less. I see myself being the parent I hoped I wouldn’t become when I was younger; it hurts. Not for me, but my kids.
    Thank you for showing me a different perspective and I plan to go get that book and read it today!!

  104. 185

    Tiffany says

    Shaming kids under the disguise of motivating them is the worst. Those kids feel worthless because it seems like they can never do anything right and this mindset will grow with them and engulf them eventually. I was born in a harsh environment in school and eventually felt useless until proper guidance comes along 8 years late. I felt like I could have achieve so much more when the environment is more forgiving. Even till now I’m still struggling to break free from this toxic mindset that was in built in me when I was way younger. Love and patience is the way to go.

  105. 186

    Mel says

    I was never good in English class. I worked my tail off to scrape by with a C average in that subject. In college, something clicked in one of my classes. I finally received a B+ on one of the reports I wrote. At 19 years old, feeling like I finally accomplished something, I took the report to my mother. She stood there and asked me why it wasn’t an A+. It was like that with everything – sports, school, housework – even my friends. I was constantly yelled at instead of talked to. I do not have children of my own, but I have a niece. I see my sister acting the same way towards my niece as my mother did to my sisters and me. Any advice I can have as to how to talk to my sister about not becoming our mother?

    • 187

      Keri says

      Hi Mel, coming from a difficult relationship with my mom as well, and now having kids of my own, my only advice would be to lovingly remind your sister of certain situations that caused you pain. I’m sure she experienced it as well. Hopefully she will realize what she’s doing and thank you for reminding her.

    • 188



      Rachel has invited me to reply to some of her reader’s questions. Keri suggests reminding your sister lovingly of the pain certain circumstances caused you. She recognizes the motivational value of that awareness. As you know, Rachel does a wonderful job of helping parents see the child’s point of view and helping them strengthen their connections with their children, so I hope you will refer her to Rachel’s book and blog. Reading them has opened many parents eyes and changed their lives.

      But since even offering a suggestion may feel like criticism to your sister if she is sensitive to that, the place to start is acknowledgment of her intentions for your niece. When you point out what she is trying to accomplish with her criticism, she will know you understand and are on her side in accomplishing her goal. That will help her feel safe in sharing with you what she thinks and feels about how her efforts are working. Only if your sister is open to solutions will a suggestion will be helpful.

      Acknowledging your sister’s intentions might sound like this following a moment like you had with your mother, “I can tell you really want her to do her best in school. She brought you a B+ paper, and you knew she could do better, so you said so. I suspect that you want her to feel the pride of doing her best work because you know that inner drive is the best motivator and something she will carry with her for life. Rachel talks about how to bring that out in kids in a way that builds mother-daughter connections. I think you would like it. She has a book and a blog…”

      Acknowledging intentions may be the thing your mother didn’t know how to do. It’s much more effective than pointing out shortcomings because it connects people with their highest goals and affirms who they really are while strengthening relationships at the same time.

      I hope this is helpful in breaking the cycle of criticism in your family.

  106. 189

    Shayne says

    The only thing I want to say is that for most of us it’s not immediately that we can silence our own parents voices in our head and stop repeating them to our children. Though we know we shouldn’t say those hurtful things to our kids, we have to practice and also forgive ourselves when we fail. Im glad that for you it changed you completely and immediately, For others, understand that each day is a new day to start again at being the best parent you can be.

  107. 190

    Jennie Bennett says

    Thank you so much for having the courage to share this wonderful post!!!! I really needed to hear this today and be reminded of the unconditional love I need to show!! I can relate to this post on so many levels of how I myself speak to my children. Thank you, Thank you!! I plan to print out this along with your FB from today to remind me to speak better to my children and build them up not break them down.

  108. 191

    Katie Nordby says

    Sounds a lot like the “Nurtured Heart” approach. As a teacher and a mom, this is a great way to approach children both at school and at home. Check out the “Nurtured Heart” books if you get a chance, they are great!

  109. 193

    Sally says

    My question is, how do you have standards without being critical? I know parents that literally never say ‘no’ to their children, and the children aren’t pleasant to be around. If my child is sassy, that’s not okay. Likewise, destruction of property, intentional or accidental or thoughtlessly (which is most likely) has to have a consequence. I don’t yell. I don’t call names. But I do get frustrated. My kiddos are ages 8 and 10.

  110. 194

    Steve O'Rourke says

    This is an amazing article Rachel and really speaks to me with the way I am trying to parent Adia. I grew up in a household that, despite having love and affection, was a very difficult environment due to my mother and I losing my father when I was five months old. She remarried years later to my step dad when I was five and his style of parenting mirrored that of his own parents…very strict and centered around unquestioned authority. Negative reinforcement was automatic to achieve an outcome and while praise did follow good action, the reprimand that followed unfavourable action was exponential in comparison and overshadowed any positivity. There was never any physical abuse, but my mother seemed to assimilate my step dad’s mannerisms and parenting style when he was around and I often found myself resentful of her for it because when he was away on business, she was a completely different person. I felt a deep sense of comfort and relief whenever he was away and I honestly never want my daughter to feel or think that way of me. I sometimes catch myself acting in ways that my stepfather and mother were towards me, and while I take great pride in having a no-spank, positive reinforcement parenting style with Adia that is proving to be undeniably wonderful, I still need to make a conscious effort now and then to not be with my daughter how my parents were with me by remembering how it made me feel. I will be referencing this article often when I need a gentle reminder. Thank you so much Rachel <3.

  111. 195

    Shannon says

    You never fail to write exactly what I need to read at that moment. I am so grateful for your posts. You can never imagine how much I needed to find your blog at the moment I did. I pray someday that I can turn my parenting role around as beautifully as you have done. I wish you’d make a trip to the Twin Cities. I’d be the first one in line to meet you.

  112. 196


    My husband does this with the children and me too.I have told him that he makes us feel as if nothing we do is good enough.He thinks it will make us try harder.It has had the opposite effect.We no longer care.

  113. 197

    Gay T says

    I had a dear Sunday School teacher who lived by ” I love you always, but your behavior right now needs work.” IOW unconditional love. Wish I had done a better job in my daughter’s 10 years at following his example. Praise God that His love is new every morning along with the power and grace to overcome old’habits’ and transform my daughter, self, husband and home.

    Thank you for what makes you a transparent Hands Free Mom!

  114. 198

    Keri says

    When I was growing up I was confonted, shamed and bullied for a weight problem that, as I look back on now, was non-existent. I was in high school and my mom ‘taught’ me that I was fat. I didn’t know it before she started saying things, but after she did I started liking myself less and less, hiding what I ate and feeling shame at her disapproving looks at meal times. I just turned 29 last week and I have struggled with my weight ever since my teens. As a teen, my weight was right where it should have been, but since I was told that I was fat, I didn’t know I had anything to lose. I am now 40 pounds overweight and struggle with an emotional addiction to food. I learned the hard way what not to do with my own children. My daughter will be 4 in a few months and from the first day it has been my mission to be a loving and accepting mother. No one is perfect, but I think I have done a good job so far. I don’t know any other child that comes to a parent and tells them when they’ve done something wrong, but my daughter does because she knows that I won’t be mad, but give her an opportunity to make it right. She confides in me, shares her dreams and fears with me and knows I love her no matter what.

    • 199


      Keri, I think you are beautiful. That you for the blessing you are to your child’s life and the inspiration you are to me. Thank you for taking your pain and using it to be a loving and supportive mother. You overcame something quite significant. You should be very proud. Sending great big hugs & gratitude to you today, beautiful one.

  115. 200


    I am a first time visitor and loved this post. I just needed it today. My child is participating in a contest this weekend and it has been stressful – I want to learn from this post right now and tomorrow will be different with the Lord’s help!

  116. 201

    Tara says

    I try to instill this in my daughter. She expects perfection out of herself. If she can’t do it perfectly the first time she gives up. I keep telling her that everyone makes mistakes and we all learn from them but to think that you can be perfect first time out puts too much pressure on you and you will never be satisfied with what you actually do accomplish. However, nothing seems to work. She gets so frustrated with herself then gets worse at what she’s doing then gets more upset. it’s a viciuos cycle that I don’t know how to stop.

    • 202



      Rachel has invited me to respond to some of her readers who request parent coaching. It’s so hard to know what to do for a child when the pressure she places on herself is internal. It sounds like it is as upsetting for you as it is for her. You want to save her from unnecessary stress, but nothing you say helps. That’s because the things to say that can actually help are counter-intuitive.

      This situation comes up for many parents. I wrote a similar response to Christina’s question about her 12 YO daughter on Rachel’s post The Bully Too Close To Home:

      I don’t know how old your child is, but this modified version applies to all ages. I hope you will find it helpful:

      Something you can start doing right away is validating the child’s need to be perfect, because to a perfectionist child it is extremely important, if not urgent, to be perfect.

      I know it may sound backwards, but from a perfectionist child’s point of view, being told it is OK to mess up, that everyone makes mistakes, you don’t need to stress yourself out, etc, is telling her she is wrong to be herself, even if that is not your intention and everything you say is true, which in fact, it is.

      Here’s why: The automatic human reaction to being told you are wrong is to become defensive and prove that you are right. You are proving it to yourself as much as to the person who told you that you were wrong. What she is subconsciously driven to prove is that being perfect really is important! The more you tell her it’s not, the more she has to dig in her heels. Since it is subconscious, she doesn’t know she is doing it, so the only way to free her from the cycle is to validate how true it is for her that doing things perfectly really is important!

      Validation can make a big difference fast, and allow her to begin to shift into the space of embracing the good things about perfectionism– like the standard of excellence it provides for you without even trying – and leave the self-criticism, stress and frustration behind. Acceptance is the missing element in shifting perfectionism. Once she knows it’s OK to be the way she is (whatever that is), she can naturally start to relax about it.

      Validation is not agreement or encouragement. It is understanding that sounds like this, “You really wanted that to be perfect! You tried so hard and still messed up. You are afraid that everything is ruined. That’s not what you wanted. No wonder you are upset!”

      Validation gives her permission to be who she thinks she needs to be, do what she thinks she needs to do, and feel the way she feels. The rules for validation are: no fixing, no judging (good or bad), no teaching, no questions. When you leave those things out, all that’s left is pure understanding and compassionate listening. Validation is the key to reconnecting with her and helping her reconnect with her loving inner-self.

      If you would like to know more about exactly how to validate children, why, and what to do next, you can read my little book online free from a PC or MAC (not mobile) on my website:

  117. 203


    I wish I had seen this 30 years ago when I was raising my children. I however imitated my mother. I became a stressed out, overwhelmed woman trying to handle everything perfectly and make up for a lack of participation from an alcoholic husband. All while beating myself up for not being good enough to deserve better. I can only hope that the small changes I made are enough to break the cycle. I have many regrets. Thank you for writing this so hopefully more mothers will not have to feel this way.

  118. 204

    J says

    Thank you for this article.
    It made me cry & was a true eye opener. I was reminded that I was also raised broken & have been repeating some of these habits with my 2 1/2 year old. I feel so rushed sometimes, with so much to do and find myself saying “hurry” a lot or “don’t touch that”, “don’t so that”…I’ve raised my voice, given those “disapproving looks” , said “AGAIN?” After a spill or mess. God, I’m truly broken. I don’t want her growing up insecure, unsure if herself….like I did.

    Thank you so much for writing this.

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    You are telling my story. I have been trying to change so my daughter too will blossom into a more confident young lady. She is 10 now and at a crucial time in her life. She questions if she is good enough and my love for her. My heart breaks when I hear this, but I find myself reacting in the same way. It is a personality flaw within myself I am trying to address. I am trying to work on myself so I can be the mom she needs.

    Thank you for this. It makes me feel that I am not alone in this struggle and that overcoming it is possible.

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    Janice says

    I wept when I read this today….not because I have done this to my children, but because my husband does this to me. And sadly, I am seeing the beginnings of it with our little ones. Every day I tell my four year old, “Mommy will always love you no matter what mistakes you make”. And my two year old gets hugs when she gets frustrated or can’t do something she wants. Because I’ll be damned if my husband is going to rob our children of their self concept and self confidence. He will not break their spirit the way he has broken mine.

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    Jessica says

    I’m torn. Just spent an hour with a 3-year old crying to leave soccer class. I didnt let her and alternated between comforting mother- strong voice of encouragement- stern taskmaster. Nothing worked and we both left class shattered. Was it just a tantrum? A power struggle? Should I have let her leave? Or would that be teaching her to quit when things get tough? I never learned how to do anything (sports,etc) because my parents always let me walk away when I wanted.

    • 209


      Hi Jessica, why was your child crying? That would help me to respond if I knew what was troubling her. When my daughter took a gymnastics class at age 4 that she had asked to take, she was scared of certain pieces of equipment. I did not think it was sending the right message for her to quit a class she had asked to take, but I told her I would stand by her at the pieces of equipment she was scared of. Usually I would try the move first, then she would try. It took several months, but eventually she did not need me. In fact, she is 7 now and we were just talking about that last night. She felt good because she accomplished something that scared her, but I was there for encouragement. Sometimes we just sat and watched if the move was too scary for her. I don’t know all the circumstances of your situation, but if she is scared, I would not assure her you will be there. If she needs to sit and watch certain things, I think that would be better than saying she can quit. I would tell say something like, “We have 4 practices left. It cost Mommy money, so we need to finish soccer. I will be with you. You can decide if you want to take this class again or not.”

      • 210

        Jessica says

        Wow, thank you so much for the response! I am still trying to figure out why she has gotten such a bee in her bonnet about the class– she used to love it, had one bad (tired, getting sick) day so I let her leave early, and now she says she doesn’t like it anymore and wants to go home. I’m still trying to get to the real bottom of it, if there really is one and it’s not just a power struggle.

        What makes me feel AWESOME is that, from your response, I really didn’t “fail” as badly as I felt I did today. I went out on the field with her and tried to be encouraging, but at the same time firm that we weren’t leaving– I did bring up that the class cost money so we wouldn’t be going home.

        Thank you for the reassurance. I want so badly to help her feel secure, but I don’t want to raise a quitter (like I was).

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    Beth says

    I just stumbled across this website through fb at the perfect time. I just started counseling again at 53 to help repair the trauma I went through in my life. I am hopeful. I have tried very hard to raise my 3 kids differently than I was raised. I think I did a pretty good job thanks to remembering my past and trying not to repeat it. I have also helped my husband to be a good Daddy to his daughter also by remembering what I longed for from my Dad. Thanks for writing this. How do I receive your posts?

    • 212


      Thank you, Beth. You are an inspiration!

      You can receive my posts by entering your email address where it says: “Subscribe to Posts” on the right side of my blog on a PC. On a phone, you have to scroll all the way to the bottom to see that box.

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    Teresa says

    I feel like we have such a break down in America. We’re so driven by performance and conditional likings of friends and unfortunately sometimes family.
    We should learn to see the beauty in people as the way God made them.
    Why do we think our answers and ideas are better than God’s?

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    I was the child product of a parenting style that was you do as I say, don’t question, don’t have feelings, stop crying about it, suck it up, do it anyway. And I became depressed, lonely, and sucicidal as a teenager. I let young men take advantage of my kindness and use me and I didn’t care about being a good person or doing the right things. My parents’ loved me, but they believe in a very different form of discipline/punishment. I don’t remember a lot of you are great for who you are, but rather, “get your head out of the clouds, stop dreaming, don’t talk so much, you need to loose a few pounds, ext”.

    I don’t ever want my child to feel that he can’t be himself or that his parents understand him the least out of every human in the world. I want him to know that I’m here, I’m listening, I’m on his side ALWAYS as long as he’s not harming himself or anyone else. And I want him to talk to me about anything, question me when he’s old enough and not sure he agrees, and to live his life just being himself.

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    Linda Demos says

    My family fed me too many good things to make me a quiet child who stuttered because my crippled grandmother was bothered by noise. A fat girl is quiet and shy or a bully… I changed my eating habits and used an exercise plan from Campbell Soup including a 33 1/3record. I lost weight and had fun at high school. I married after a few jobs and lost 75# at age 50 with 2 grown sons. I swim well. My family was afraid I ‘ d drown so I had lessons. I didn’t want my son to know I was afraid of the water. His instructor said to hold my nose and to sit on the bottom of the pool. I popped up like a cork and haven’t been scared since. My son thought I’d always swimmed…

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    Glenn says

    I need this so much. I actually cried reading this because I think that I am that criticizing, belittling, evil-eyed parent just taking the life out of three beautiful, wonderful children that–for some reason–think I’m the best daddy in the world. I don’t deserve that kind of [false] recognition. Thank you so much for this article. I hope that I can use it to change who I am as a parent, and who my children are and become.

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    Cassie says

    When my daughter was younger I was the encourager. I was patient and loving with her. Her brother not so much. But with her I was. We were connected and flowed together. She went to 4k at our local public school and she changed and I changed and now I find myself always the condemner not the encourager. Alway pointing out the wrong instead of the right. I keep trying to change things and focus in her positives but I struggle and seem to fall I to old patterns very very easily. Even homeschooling her and trying to work on our relationship still leaves me struggling in that area. I still do it with my son also. I’m sure it’s because I was raised that way so it’s all I know and it doesn’t come naturally to me to be in the positive. I am still working and trying daily to change this. Thank you for this reminder of that. I will save this to read quite regularly.

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    Maria says

    I have never wanted to hear these words more that I need today. Thank you so much for writing such an beautiful article. It is almost as if you wrote it with me in mind.

    I struggle with my three girls (6, 4 &2)… struggle particularly with the 4 year old. It’s almost like I have forgotten how to be patient with her. i have to use last night as a turning point. I just wonder if she feels it and that is why she so troublesome. My 6yo is beginning to look at me differently now when I get cross/angry (I feel so ashamed). I will print this up and have it displayed beside me in the study so I can constantly remind myself that it is what I do and say that will remain with them for life.

    My parents, particularly my father, was always much harder on me than my other siblings (I was the eldest), that I can now see the pattern developing with me. This cycle must stop, I owe it to my girls, my husband and most importantly myself.

    Once again, thank you…. today the sun is shining, the birds are singing and it will be a good day.

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    Enjoyed your post and I think the leading by example and taking their hand to do it with them is very valuable. I posted a short thought and a link back from my site. Good stuff.

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    holly says

    This is very eye opening. I am going to bookmark this so I can reread as needed. I needed to read this article! Thanks for sharing!

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    Kim says

    This is a great article! Yes, I remember the criticism and get frustrated by my own criticism toward my son and husband….it is one day at a time, one moment at a time and taking time to remember what is it we want our children to learn from us and say about us? How I long to be a mom and wife who loves above all else!

    Also, the guitar in the above picture is gorgeous with the beautiful scroll work… is this a stock photo or do you know where this guitar came from, I love it! Kim

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    Anna says

    How you continue to publish is beyond me. Do people actually follow you? Do they recognized the irony of a narcissist’s relentless “hands free” blog? Stop making people feel like they are, or at any time were, crappy parents.

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    Erica says

    Thank you so much for this. I’ve been doing a lot of introspection lately, and this is helping me wade through some feelings. I grew up with a verbally (sometimes physically) abusive stepfather. He tore me down at every turn, and I have recently realized how deeply it effected me. We are Greek, and he always made fun of me when I would mess up a Greek word or phrase, so I became timid and afraid to speak Greek; I didn’t want to look like an idiot. He also made fun of me when I danced, which I just today connected to my inability to really let loose on a dance floor (I LOVE to dance, but I’m afraid of looking stupid). There are so many other things, and he did far worse than criticize my speech and dancing ability, but those just happen to be the things I have been thinking about.

    I’m desperately trying to break the cycle with my own children. It can be a bit scary when I become too critical, and I say something hurtful. I’m working toward gentleness though, and I’m not afraid to ask for forgiveness.

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    Tami says

    Your post came at just the right time! I raised my now 25-year-old son on my own and felt I had to be a “strong”(read critical) parent for him since his dad was not around. I know I pushed him too hard on certain things. We went through some really rough times, and are so blessed to have come through it. I am married now and have a 5-year-old daughter. I swore I would not repeat the errors I made with my son, yet I find myself so quick to lose patience and so quick to criticize. After reading your post I was convicted. I want to raise a happy daughter who loves herself and feels good about herself. Thank you for this timely reminder of the mom I want to be.

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    Nicki says

    I’m so sorry, I am not saying you’re wrong. But god I wish I could stop myself from reading this stuff. Not one of you writers/bloggers have a clue or any insight into the lives of your targeted audience. And you know why? Because every single person’s experience is different, in so many ways it’s inexplicable. I have tried you’re approach – originally without trying or effort , it was natural for me to nurture my child in this manner and I completely agree it’s lovely and preferable. I actually believe that it is instinctual for all of us to love our children in this way. However, as I gradually without preparation became a single mom of four little kids, no approach has worked for all my kids across the board. I’ve been the lovely soft understanding mother that you seem to be and I’ve been pushed to be the ugly flip side when left with no sense of sanity or choice. Or so I felt at the time. I don’t have a problem with what you’ve shared; it’s beautiful and insightful. But I’m tired of reading this stuff in search of some solidarity and ending up leaving either hating you the writer or feeling horrible about myself not just as a mother but as a reader of this onesided “conversation”. Truly sorry, you’ve just shared something beautiful, but I think there are a lot of people who should be spared from reading this as we already feel bad enough about ourselves as it is. And you sharing your lessons that have turned you into the mother of Jesus serve no purpose other than a self serving one. Because no one really knows thy neighbor and we shouldn’t purport to do so.

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    Melanie says

    When I read this, it was like looking in a mirror. Thank you for showing me the bad reflection. My eyes are opened.

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    Me too. I remember when I told my then five year old what I’d read in a book, that God was pleased with her, and she replied, “How can that be true?” Her eyes were haunted. Her eyes and her response tore my heart. I began to listen to what God was saying to me. the things I’d been afraid to trust. He told me that I was trying to build righteousness on a foundation of fear, of punishment and reward. Then he asked me whether those things would be in Heaven. I said no. He asked me what would happen to anything built on it when it was removed. Oh! He told me I needed to build righteousness on a foundation of love. It seems slower, but much more lasting! And watching the eyes lose the haunted look! Praise God!

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    Christin says

    This article is wonderful. I can’t help but think also of the necessity of caring for the self in this way. We need our own grace as moms just as much as, or even more than, our children do. Caring for ourselves in this way makes doing so for our children and all others in our life a much more natural process.

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    And this is why we have blogs. Thank you for this message – it’s exactly what my vulnerable bully mama heart needed to hear.

    I read it aloud to my husband and we talked about our impatient “hurry ups!” and exasperated sighs. And we paused to realize how that would feel to a four year old. You created a space for us to have a conversion we’ve needed to explore together for a long time.

    Thank you.

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    Lesley says

    What a great post! I needed this today. I am THAT parent and I have struggled with such guilt because of it. No more!!! Today I start to build up instead of tear down. I will focus in the positive instead of the negative. Thanks for making me a better parent(hopefully)!!!

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    Mom of 2 boys says

    I grew up in a household of “yelling” & always said, “I’m not going to be like that!” However, that’s what I am exactly… a yeller! I know what I do is wrong & have struggled with trying to change, but always revert back with impatience, in frustration. It seems now that the only time my boys listen is when I’m screaming my head off. I do not want to be this way but feel they have not only been “broken” by almost 11 years of these actions, but “destroyed”. My one son has become the epitome of exactly that… a yeller, completely disrespectful & a bully. There are no problems, yet, at school – just with us & his brother.
    I have completely messed him up & don’t even know how it is possible to turn him around.

    • 234


      Mom of 2 boys, You haven’t ruined your sons. Their hearts are only tangled, not ruined. God told me our hearts are tangled balls, and if we pull the wrong string we only make it tighter. He told me I was pulling the wrong strings first in both myself and my children. He had me learn to rest and trust. He showed me many trees that were leaning over and told me to look at them closely. I saw that they were all leaning because their light source was blocked. He told me we are not doing wrong because we are bad, but rather because we don’t understand His love and grace. We’re leaning seeking the light. Restore the light, and the tree will grow straight again. God said it is who we are, and we’ll be who we are.

      Let me know whether there is anyway I can support you. God has healed me so much from over 20 years of such treatment. I know that He can also heal you and your children. My children are healing as well.

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    Ana says

    Very wise words, I feel the same about encouraging my kids. I hope this message reaches many new parents and parents that need to open not just their eyes but their hearts too…

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    learning to be better says

    My mom told me I’d never be able to pass dental hygiene school with 4 young kids at home and I would be hurting my family rather than helping them by going through with it. Those words and the non support pushed me to not only pass, but make all A’s. But we have NO relationship! Bc all it did was prove to myself that I AM good enough, smart enough, and able to do whatever I put my mind to and I don’t need anyone in my life who could jeopardize that. To be honest, I would have passed regardless of her support but NOW the relationship is damaged!

  144. 238


    My late husband growing up was nicknamed by his parents “Messy Jesse” everyone, everywhere called him that even into adulthood! It became my husbands crutch, brick wall! He was expected to screw up! He had No faith in himself just as his entire family had no faith! The only person that had faith & expected a higher, better from him was me! But After 25+ years of negative talk is actually worth like 75 years! For every negative comment said to a person 20 positive comments are needed to rectify the damage of that 1 bad comment! My late husband died due to drugs he said he was such a loser anyways drugs helped him “feel” better or as i always said not feel at all!! Bullying hurts! But it’s THE WORST when your parents are the ones bullying you!!! I don’t even like sibling rough housing, name calling! I tell my kids we don’t treat each other that way! You take care of your brother or sister because?!: (they answer in a sing song voice) “SHE/HE’S THE ONLY ONE I’VE GOT”

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    rachel says

    so beautiful! Just what I needed to read today after an embarrassing fit over my daughters room last night. thank you

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    Maria says

    Help! This is me. I have reached my breaking point…calling out to God to help. I feel so alone. I can’t do it all. I am so overwhelmed. I have 4 kids(my oldest is 8 and should be helpful but isn’t) and find myself yelling all the time. I have a husband who is gone all the time and not involved when he is home. If I talk to him he is very judgmental and not helpful. I am loosing my mind! I can’t do it kids don’t listen unless I yell. As we speak they are yelling and screaming in the backyard. You say your daughter did a better job without you breathing down her neck..mine don’t. I have one child who is off the wall. Into everything, all the time. I can’t keep up to her I am so exhausted trying. I’ve tried but I can’t see the positive. I turn my back to deal with one mess and another 4 are made. Everybody needs me all the time. We are miserable. We all yell at each other. I spent half the day in tears. I feel like packing up in the middle of the night and leaving. Someone else would be a better mom then me. Nobody knows what I live in. We appear to be the perfect family. I don’t know where to go from here. We have no $ so I can’t afford counseling or any sort of professional help. I know you can’t even help me. I just needed to get it out somewhere.

    • 242


      Maria, I know where you are. God has been pulling me out of where you are. I have five, with the oldest ten. I, too, was yelling all the time, and the only time I would get a response was when I yelled. God told me to let go. I remember Him having me sit down on the wall to wall mess of my daughters’ room to play with them, without saying anything about the mess. He told me that I was trying to build righteousness on a foundation of punishment and rewards, on fear. Then He asked me whether that foundation would be in Heaven. I said no. He asked, Then what will happen to the righteousness you’ve built on it when you remove the foundation? It will collapse. So build righteousness on a foundation of love.

      But I think what you need to know is God’s grace. I told Him once that He must be so disappointed in me because I knew I shouldn’t get angry, but I did anyway. He pointed out that my daughter who was learning to write knew what an A should look like, but couldn’t make a good one yet. He asked me whether I got mad at her for not getting it perfect when she knew what it should look like. Well, no. That really helped me. (Of course, I wasn’t perfectly patient with her in that, but my heart knew I should be.) It has taken me three years of healing, and I still blow up upon occasion, but I have to tell myself that God has the grace to heal the wounds I have caused, and He does.

      Let me know if there is anyway I can support you. By the way, my children have gone from horrendous fighting and quarreling and complaining and only helping when screamed at, to saying yes, mama and jumping up immediately. Not all the time, but more and more frequently.

      • 243



        Rachel has invited me to respond to some of her readers with parenting concerns. When you feel overwhelmed as you did when you wrote your comment, venting is a good way to start. When you vent in writing, you can go back later and look at what you wrote. This jumped out at me, ” I feel so alone. I can’t do it all.”

        What if it’s just true and you can’t do it all on your own? Thinking that you should be able to, or being afraid of what people will think, will keep you from seeking help from your extended family or community. Even if you have no family around, when you start asking for help, you will be amazed at what is available at no cost.

        In her follow-up post to this one, Rachel shared my contact information and my colleague’s, Dr. Theresa Kellam and the links to our books. Theresa’s book sounds like it was written just for you: “The Parent Survival Guide: From Chaos to Harmony in 10 Weeks or Less.” You can find the links here:

        Theresa is a licensed psychologist with a wonderfully loving manner. I suggest you contact her. Not only can she provide valuable initial counseling at no charge, but she can probably help you figure out where to look for the kind of long-term resources you need to turn your situation around and sustain it in a more balanced manner.

        Meanwhile, check to see where your expectations are coming from. Most of the time they are coming from within more than from external pressure. If self-criticism is driving the show, you can do something about it as Rachel frequently discusses in her posts like this one that I hope you read:

        You said you have tried to see the positive and can’t. When you are trying to put out wild fires, it is awfully hard to appreciate the wonder of the spark that started them. You can only appreciate a spark when you have confidence that it won’t get out of control.

        In parenting, that confidence comes from 3 important skills: relationship-building; boundary-setting; and bringing out children’s inner strengths (like self-control, responsibility, self-motivation, and many more) so they can control themselves and take the burden off of you. My book, SAY WHAT YOU SEE for Parents and Teachers, teaches all three of these skills, but they can’t be learned during a fire. Talking to a psychologist like Theresa can help you start at the start – taking care of you.

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    Thanks for sharing. What you said touched my heart! Since I entered adulthood over a decade ago, I have been developing my loving encourager side of me.

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    I needed this message today! No sooner had I finished reading this than my three year old daughter spilled her cup of crackers alllllll over the floor. Five minutes later her one year old brother did the same thing. And, I kid you not, two minutes later their two year old sister spilled hers. Gravity is working overtime but I didn’t explode or shame like I do too often. Thank you!

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    rose says

    This article made me cry … the put down words were all i ever heard from my mother …

    From the moment i was born i disappointed my mother, she had had two small baby boys that were perfect and she wanted the perfect wee girl to match, i arrived late, fat, and with a faulty smile. She fixed the fat thing … made sure i was restricted food right from the beginning …to the point that had some family concerned … but the hardest part for me was the smile … every time i smiled about anything, she would rub my face trying to ‘correct’ my lopsided smile… so in the end i stopped smiling.. it was easier. by the time i was a teenager, i hid from others, hid my face, and dared not eat in case i got fatter. I weighed 33kgs when i was sixteen, was hospitalised with malnutrition and it was also discovered that i had had a stroke when i was born and this explained my smile and my general clumsiness that was produced by a weakened right hand side. But to my mother it was still my fault, i was not perfect.I left home as soon as possible, fell into several abusive relationships, got ill, then started painting … finally finding my peace, in my art and while i paint i became free, no one could see me, i could be true to myself… finally free from the insults, the comments, the put downs and people loved my work… finally i had something that was mine, my confidence grew… I have since run marathons, modeled, became an architect and an artist, married with two wonderful kids and the most loving husband, i have reclaimed my body as my own… though struggle every time mother visits …. and i count the days until she leaves(which saddens me, i wish we could be friends) I still look for my mothers approval and i know its not there … i don’t think i will ever measure up to her perfect ideal and when i am alone, i often begin to crumble, i stop believing in me…
    Just because your child does not do something the way you hoped does not mean you have to point these thing out. My son often gets tired and cant keep up with other kids, but he’s trying his best his way and i still cheer him on, cuddle him when the tears come and find him alternatives to try if he would like…
    The only rule in our house is be respectful … to yourself, to others and to the planet. …and this rule applies to all of us .

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    abby says

    Thank you, i needed to read this. I know I am impatient. My child is young and I am looking for all of the positive guidance I can find as my partner and I didn’t have great role models. I stop and think before I speak but sometimes I need help with the words.

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    Sherri says

    I’m 38 and still get told on a regular basis I’m not good enough because I’m not a mini-me. Have to wear a helmet just to keep from getting a concussion from beating my head on the wall!! It’s so hard to stop wanting blessings instead of curses, space instead of shelter. And yes, I’ve drawn the boundary and put my foot down repeatedly. But it means nothing.

    Thank you for encouraging others to reevaluate their methods. It really has a lasting affect farther than you realize. If I should be blessed to have kids, I hope I have the courage to be as transparent with them.

  152. 249

    Jason says

    Thank you for this article. I did not realize, until I read this, that I was pushing my daughter the same way my father pushed me (never smart enough, never said things right, everything had to be criticized, never just heard, “Hey, great job son”). I have realized that even though I love my little darlin’ more than words can say, my actions were saying that she wasn’t measuring up. Thankfully she is still very young and I can change how I treat her. I don’t want her to ever doubt for a second, throughout her entire life, that Daddy loves her. Again, thank you for sharing.

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    I was the little girl. At 37, I still bear some wounds and some scars from not measuring up and not feeling loved. These words are absolutely vital for us as we raise our daughters (and sons).

  154. 252

    James says

    One of my friends on FaceBook linked me to this page. I was quite surprised to read this and hear how you changed your parenting methods for the better. Not because you were forced to change by intervention from CWS but because you actually saw that you had made a mistake and wanted to change. So many people are unwilling to see that they are wrong even when everyone else is telling them to change. They will either continue down that destructive path or change only because they are legally required to do so. And being legally required is not true change. I grew up with an abusive mother and even though CWS got involved and forced her to change, I knew the change wasn’t real. She couldn’t hurt me anymore physically but I knew from her words that she wanted to. She’d always yell out whenever I got in trouble that if the law hadn’t of gotten involved she’d be beating my ass. The one example I can remember, me and my brother were hit if we didn’t clean our rooms, if we didn’t clean fast enough for her, or if we didn’t put everything away in exactly the right place. Not only that but if there was even one thing out of place she would empty out our toy boxes and make us start from scratch. It’s no wander we never wanted to clean our rooms, it took weeks to get anything done with that kind of negative motivation. Things don’t need to be perfect, just up off the floor so it’s not a hazard. It doesn’t matter how fast we clean as long as it gets done. Who cares if we stop every once in a while to play with our toys, that’s what they’re for right? She never understood, and still doesn’t understand that if she hadn’t of treated us that way everything would of been cleaned. Maybe not perfectly or as quickly as she would like but anything would of been better than not at all. It actually got to the point were I was telling her, if you want it done your way then do it yourself. Another such example is the fact that a year after I was born my mom had a miscarriage. I found out about this around the same time CWS got involved and rather than hitting me one time she told me about this miscarriage she had and that it was my fault because she had to take care of me. She literally accused me of murdering my younger sibling when I was only a year old. All she did was switch from hurting me physically to hurting me psychologically. There are other such examples I could use that have accumulated over the years and lead to my multiple suicide attempts, not speaking to her, and thinking of her as “that bitch who’s married to my father” rather than “the woman who gave birth to me.” I can’t even think of her as the woman that gave me life because instead I see her as the woman who drove me to attempting suicide. My dad is the total opposite, and the only reason I am still alive. I never had that teenage rebellion phase with my dad. Despite the fact that he worked as a custodian at my high school, some how I knew that I should be at least embarrassed by him but I didn’t care. He was a loving supportive father who always reworded good behavior rather than punishing bad. The strictest punishment I can ever remember getting from him, was having to clean up my own mess after drawing on the walls or having my toys taken away. He managed to teach me to be a good person without ever laying a hand on me or making me feel like I shouldn’t even exist. The only problem is that I have had so many negative influences in my life that it out weighs the one good I have ever had. When I was a kid I thought my mom was the worst of them, but I have seen others who are just as bad if not worse who don’t even realize they’re doing horrible things to their children. It makes me think back to those times when I was a child and how horrible I felt. I’ve done my best to try and change things for the better but these idiots are too set in their ways to ever change. It’s like trying to talk to a brick wall. In my 28 years, you are the first and really the only parent I have seen to truly change from that dominating dictator to an understanding and loving person. And I didn’t even have anything to do with it. You managed to do that all on your own. Why can’t more people be like you? Why can’t other people figure out on their own that threats of violence are actually discouraging not motivating? Why is it even when the law gets involved and tells them that they still have difficulty understanding this very simple concept? I think I’d have better luck trying to teach math to a donkey than getting parents to treat their children better. Except I really don’t care weather a donkey can do math, I just really don’t want anyone else to have to go threw the crap I went threw. Sorry this is kind of a long rant but maybe, for once, it’ll help someone else change like you did.

    • 253

      Steve says

      While I did not have a physically or verbally abusive childhood, mine was rough as well James. My father passed away when I was only several month months old and my mother remarried when I was five to my stepfather. He grew up in a very authoritarian home and worked in a corporate office environment where he was in charge of purchasing and administration. He more often than not “brought his work home with him” and the family home was run much the same. Whatever was asked of me (or in many instances my mother) was to be followed without question. Talking back and/or not listening the first time being asked was unacceptable and almost always met with some form of discipline i.e. verbally yelling, taking things away from me, grounding, etc. My childhood was so regimented growing up that I would be grounded if I came home so much as one minute late. If I didn’t cut my meat during supper to a size which he felt was a safely adequate for me to eat, I would be yelled at and/or grounded. If I didn’t sit up straight at the table, grounding or yelling was again the norm all the way up to being given a chair without a back on it (which he removed).

      My stepdad was quite happy to enroll me in soccer and baseball and most of all his favourite sport…golf. I was given whatever equipment I needed and my parents were happy to support me in my golfing endeavours until, like the other sports I tried, I found just weren’t “me” and I didn’t want to participate anymore. When I took up skateboarding (during a time when skateboarders were viewed as the proverbial degenerates and lepers of society) it was met with general disapproval and ill support from them. At one point when I broke my hand skateboarding, they grounded me from it and forbid me to continue, so I would skate in the garage with my cast until they got home and then rush inside the house and shower so they didn’t know.

      One time during a family get together, friends of my stepdad came to visit and everyone got into the beer and wine. My stepdad asked me to do something and like any child, I didn’t listen right away the very first time. His friend named Wayne called me over, pulled me close by my arm and questioned me if I heard what my stepdad had said to me. I remember the crazed look in his eyes so vividly as if it happened yesterday. I replied to him that yes I did hear him and no sooner had I responded, my stepdad’s friend took a full seated swing and smacked me open palm across the face and said “Thank you Steve”. I ran to my room and my Mom came rushing up when she realized what had happened. I huddled in paralyzed fear in the corner between the closest and my dresser and didn’t come down again for the rest of the evening. I do remember looking out through my parent’s bedroom window which gave a clear view of the backyard and I could see my stepdad and his friend drinking beer and playing horseshoes. My mother was uncontrollably livid and Wayne’s wife did her best to console her. My mother told me that she tore into him and he was never allowed back to their house again.

      I have many more stories like that where I lived in fear of my stepdad (and oftens times my mom as well when he was around because she unfortunately was too submissive in his presence and followed suit with his parenting and disciplinary style) and grew up hating him and wishing ill fate upon him. I have two sisters who were born from my stepdad and mother (one has Down’s Syndrome) and my oldest sister was always favoured in his eyes (even though she was the “problem child” growing up) and got away with things that he would have long since killed me for if I did. She is the one who has succeeded at everything she’s tried through school and employment, and I feel like the “black sheep” and grew up with a crippling sense of inadequacy where I have always felt like I don’t measure up.

      Life has changed for everyone and while there have been obvious changes now that everyone is an adult. He still has a very condescending persona with a dry sense of humour and shows little emotion outside of laughter and anger. I have never seen him cry, even at his own mother’s funeral, and I think a lot of the emotional and mental anguish I experience today has been a compounding of all my childhood experiences on top of never having a true father-son relationship with m stepdad. It was more of a business partnership at best, and I truly wonder often what it would have been like for me if my Dad had not left my Mom and I so early.

      I know I’m just a stranger on a computer somewhere in Canada here, and you don’t know me from a stranger who walks past you on the street. However, from one rough childhood recipient to another, I truly hope you are able to find solace with your demons my friend. I continue to struggle with mine to this day and I find it difficult on my own to deal with what I have been through, so I cannot even begin to imagine what it must be like for you.

        • 255

          Steve O'Rourke says

          Thank you for your kind words Rachel <3. I don't want to paint a grim picture with my words here, and my childhood was not void of love and affection from my parents. I definitely appreciate all they did for us during a time (80's and early-90's) when the economy and mortgage market was scary and making ends meet was difficult even with the best of efforts. However it all did not come without costs growing up well into my adulthood and one of those being the absence of a close, loving and nurturing father-son relationship with my step dad. I grew up resenting him and the position he was trying to fill. My Oma and Opa would talk so highly of my Dad and how he was so loving and caring and giving not only to them, my Mom and myself as a baby, but also to everyone he knew. I truly believed that my childhood growing up would have been so much more enjoyable and filled with love, yet at the end of it all I know I would not be who I am or where I am today without those experiences. They have shaped the kind of person I became and continually strive to be not only for myself but also as a parent to Adia and a parental figure to Adia's sister.

  155. 256

    Dennis in Japan says

    Sounds like many adults have the role of a sports coach vs the role of a parent mixed up.

    Coaches roles are for bringing out the best in a person, and parents roles are for soothing the pains the coaches bring out.

    Seems like many parents are too cheap to hire a coach or to purchase a book on how to coach.

  156. 258

    Mark says

    As a father of 2 beautiful girls (ages 5 and 3) and an 8 year old son this was awesome. I will be using that line every day. I love you just the way you are. Exactly as you are. So empowering. Thank you.

  157. 259

    Joanna says

    Thank you so much for this article. This is definitely something I needed to be reminded of.

  158. 260

    VEDGE says

    After reading this article ,it made me realize how I was raised with a broken spirit and has a adult I continue to do it to myself. I also realized with great sorrow that I am doing the same to my 3 children ages 12,12, and 10. I want to be the encourager and nurturing mother but I let the hassles of motherhood and work overcome me with stress. I have began reading the Handsfree book this week and hope to get insight and change my ways for the sake of my children. If anyone like to help me in this journey, I would appreciate the support and mentoring

    • 261


      Dear Vedge, there is hope & there is help. I am blessed to have two colleagues with the credentials and expertise to help people overcome challenging family issues. Over the past year, Sandy and Theresa have helped many readers of my blog free of charge. Just use the contact information below to reach out to them directly. It is not too late to change, heal, or try to mend broken relationships. There is hope, friend.

      If you feel like there should be something you can do to turn things around but you don’t know what it is, feel lost, stuck or overwhelmed, contact:

      Sandra, parenting/life coaching:

      If you feel hopeless like nothing you do will ever work, or if you or your child(ren) are experiencing depression, anxiety, grief, trauma, attention problems, self-inflicted injury, suicidal thoughts, or are simply wishing for healing, contact:

      Theresa, PhD, licensed psychologist:

        • 263


          I receive many notes from readers who let me know how much it helped to talk to Sandy or Theresa. They give you exact words and actions to take to improve whatever challenges you face. I am so glad you reached out. I see great promise in your future.

  159. 264

    Suzanne says

    Thank you. And thank you to the comment-ers. I have a Post It on the inside of my medicine chest that says, simply, Build Them Up! I think I need more of those around the house, because it is so easy to forget, especially in the TYPE A milieu in which i live…I think if more people took this tack in raising children, our world would be a better place–fewer addictions, suicides, mental illnesses, prisons…I really believe that.

  160. 265

    Jennifer says

    I cried throughout this article. I was raised this way and am now a happier adult by distancing myself completely from the person who did this to me my entire life. Because of that, thinking that’s what’s normal in a parent/child relationship, I’ve had to make a lot of changes within myself. Good changes. I often wonder what was it in me that made him hate me so much, because when I look at my children and observe their day to day activities, I just want to squeeze them tight and tell them how amazing they are… Just by being them. They make my heart so full! Thank you for sharing this information.

  161. 266

    Sue Pittman says

    Your post of May 20 is so good. I am going through my church on a mission to the Apache & Navajo women near McNary, AZ, and I would like your permission to print this post to share with them. I will be teaching on “Loving Those Who Disappoint You.”

  162. 268

    Nila says

    This is very encouraging. Not just to be this way to our children, but other adults and ourselves. We should always encourage each other. Today would be such a better place if we all did this!!!!! Thanks for sharing.

  163. 269

    Olivia says

    I am pregnant with our second child, and I have had a miserable 1st trimester. I work full-time, and the hubby works a state away during the week, which means I have a lot of the home and child care to do alone 5/7th of the time. My 3yo started acting out at school this week, and I am sure it is because I have been less than my usual loving self toward him. I needed this reminder that he needs unconditional love no matter what I have going on, and that he can heal from the short time I’ve slacked–as long as I return to my more balanced ways of loving him. THANK YOU!

  164. 271

    Kelly says

    Wow… I should have read this earlier in the week. Now I am here about to leave work, reading this, and on the verge of tears. You explained what I did to my 4 year old yesterday. She cleaned up her mess in the bathroom, and I reprimanded her for not calling for help. Why? Because I didn’t want “bad germs” all over her and the bathroom. I was harsh explaining and showing her how to wash her hands properly. Then after that I calmed down. A few moments later, she would not eat her dinner. It sat there in front of her and she would not take a bite. My husband tried as did I. I was surprisingly the calm and rational one this time. I offered her milk so she won’t go to bed hungry. She was refusing, but then agreed. As I was getting it ready for her, I turned with the gallon in my hands and almost tripped over her. I was upset and told her to “MOVE! I don’t want to fall”. She ran crying to her father. Afterwards, I realized she was running to me to give me a hug. What heart wrenching guilt. I felt like such an awful mother. I don’t know what it is at times, that I get so inpatient and mean. I think that she should know better and expect more from her. I forget that she’s 4 years old. I did apologize to her after, but it doesn’t take away the moment.

    • 272



      Rachel has invited me to reply to some of her readers with parenting concerns. Heart wrenching guilt is one of the worst feelings a mother can have. Two incidents like that back to back, can really make you doubt yourself.

      I hope you read Rachel’s post on the inner bully: because not only will it reassure you that you are not alone, but it explains where your harsh judgments come from. You judge yourself the same way you judge your daughter, which is probably the same way you were judged as a child. It’s all in your statement, ” I think that she should know better and expect more from her.” That’s what your inner-bully is always saying to you. It’s judging, pushing and telling you that you are never good enough. That kind of internal pressure would make anyone impatient and mean.

      You said that you made a point to apologize, and that is definitely an important step. For an apology to be most effective, make sure that you stress that you know her intentions are always good, and you just can’t see them when you are angry. Stress that the anger is your problem, not hers. If there is any teaching to do (like her asking for help or checking to see if your hands are full), save that for later, separate from the apology, at a time when she no longer feels defensive and can actually participate in problem-solving with you. That will help a great deal, and there is still more you can do.

      There is a way to effectively “take away the moment” as you wished you could do. You can play out the scenarios with your daughter again, but this time as games so she can release any remaining tension, regain her confidence and reaffirm her connection with you. Dr. Lawrence Cohen’s classic, Playful Parenting, provides many examples of using simple games therapeutically. You can find his book and more on his website:

      For example, to replay the hug incident, you can tell her, “That probably felt really bad when you ran to me for a hug, and I yelled at you. Let’s play the ‘Angry Mommy’ game.” Let her be the Angry Mommy, and you be her. You can have her pretend to hold a container of milk, and you run up to her for a hug. When she pretends to get angry, use a stage whisper and ask, “What do I do?” Often at this point kids will tell you to cry and run away or do whatever they do, so whatever she tells you to do, do it in an -exaggerated, silly way. If she laughs and wants to do it again and again, it’s the right game. If not modify it and “follow the giggles,” as Dr. Cohen says.

      When she feels empowered enough, she will probably ask to switch roles and want to defeat the Angry Mommy. Keep the play within the boundary of pretend (no hurting anybody), then every time she uses pretend aggression to defeat you, have Angry Mommy get bigger and stronger, and every time she uses love weapons like kisses and hugs (name them something funny) or magic phrases like “Please help” or “May I” Angry Mommy starts to melt away and Loving Mommy starts to emerge. The push and pull between Angry Mommy and Loving Mommy should also look silly and will probably be another source of giggles for you both, because it gives playful form to something she and you are grappling with in real life.

      With a strong commitment and the right tools you can break the cycle of judgment and criticism as Rachel has done. Reading Rachel’s book and blog posts will keep you inspired and motivated. If you want more simple parenting tools or new ways to respond to your daughter, my book is a great resource. You can read the online version free from a PC or MAC (not mobile) on my website here:

  165. 273

    Jean says

    This is sooo true. Such good advice for Moms and Dads with kids of all ages.Words are powerful. Words spoken can be more harmful than any weapon. Remember the childhood verse “sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me”……………………in 1872 they thought this was a way to help kids who were being tease/bullied to ignore it………………..but words live on. I wish I had learned before raising my children, but it’s never to late to change what and how you speak to your children or loved ones . Thankfully I now know that what I tell myself by using positive words and meditating on what God says about me can dround out the negatives.

  166. 274

    Tatiana Cyrile says

    Thank you for taking your time in sharing your experience. We all need this reminder like daily vitamins because we all have our thresholds for our patience especially when we are tired.

  167. 275


    This is an excellent article. I had a tough childhood that culminated in a nervous breakdown when I was in 4th grade because I had people doing many of the bad things you mention here. I never had positive support. Never. I am trying very hard to do better with my own kids. It’s easy to get caught up in our adult world and forget about how little kids interpret things.

    Parents need to be gentle with themselves, too. We all make mistakes. Shake it off and move on and be happy for your kids. My mom learned the hard way that she was being too hard on me, but then she would dwell on how she was an awful mother. It made me feel guilty and sad. I just wanted a happy mom.

  168. 276

    Sally says

    Thank you so much for the reply to my honest question. I have watched your link more than once, and I think I’m getting it about the ACT. My college degree never prepared me for parenthood!

    I just watched this, and thought it dovetailed well with this post and the discussion. I don’t agree entirely with it’s message, but thought it had quite a few good points.

    I would love to hear and learn more suggestions for how to connect with children, and how to maintain boundaries and expectations without being too critical. My boy, age 11, cut down a bush in the front yard the other day. I had said ‘You may not cut it down while I am resting.’ He took that to mean: ‘You may cut it down once I’m up from my nap.’ It was due to be removed in a couple months, but I wasn’t ready for it to leave. I didn’t yell; I almost never do. When I am too critical, it’s not in harsh words or yelling, but still I do it. He cried when he realized that he had misunderstood me. I told him it wasn’t a big deal, but that I would like him to listen better. He often ‘hears’ incorrectly, and it’s not his ears. That gets frustrating. I want to do other things besides homeschool, cook, and do laundry. I want to go to the park, or do art or other things, and relax, but there is never time when they dawdle at schoolwork, or take 30 minutes to put on shoes. That’s when I get frustrated.

    Thank you all for this discussion. And thanks to those who have shared dissenting opinions– that makes the discussion real and interesting.

    • 277



      Theresa is one of my colleagues, and I’m glad you got to watch the video she recommended in her reply to you above: (I included the link in case another reader wants to find it.)

      Rachel also invited me to pop in and support her readers when I have a parenting tip to add. I hope this one is useful for you.

      In your reply to Theresa, you mentioned you would like your son to be a better listener. Confusions like the one about cutting the bushes are clearly frustrating for you both. That he cried even though you stayed calm says that he really wants to do things right and is probably trying to be the best listener he can be.

      The thing is that he probably already is the best listener he can be for this reason: at least through age 12, children really do take things literally while we as adults recognize unspoken meanings. Confusions like this will happen less and less over the coming years as his brain develops it’s full capacity for abstract thought.

      At 11 he is in a period of transition, where he will sometimes understand the deeper meaning of things and sometimes not. That’s why kids his age are often fascinated with jokes and double-meanings – the idea that one thing could mean something else is new to them and quite funny. The off and on aspect of this phase, and the fact that other kids his age may transition at different rates, is also why you are surprised when you assume he will understand something, and he doesn’t. It’s a tricky time for you both.

      What you can do is help him realize that these confusions are natural at his age. If he comes to believe that they mean there is something wrong with him, it will be hard for him to trust himself later when his new abilities are in place.

      So when a confusion arises it’s important for you to help him see how it was an honest mistake. For example, in the bush incident, he heard you perfectly and really did follow your instructions “literally” by not cutting it down while you were resting. When he sees how the misunderstanding makes sense, be sure to acknowledge him for how quickly he recognizes the deeper meaning when you point it out.

      In boundary-setting, an easy way to reduce confusion is to tell children what they CAN DO, not just what they can’t. You saw that in Theresa’s ACT video. In the case of your bush, even a literal child would not confuse, “You may cut it down in a couple of months,” with “You may cut it down once I’m up from my nap” as he did with the negative statement.

      Since you said you would love more suggestions on how to connect with children and maintain boundaries without being critical, you might like my little book “SAY WHAT YOU SEE for Parents and Teachers.” Rachel refers readers to it frequently. You can read the online version free from a PC or MAC (not mobile) at my website: If I can be of further help, please let me know. You can contact me there.

  169. 278


    Nice work, Rachel! I would love for Nicki, who posted on May 21, to know that there are positive approaches that can be used with kids across the board, no matter how challenging they are. True, all kids are different. But there are positive techniques that work. Parents don’t have to feel as though they’ve failed . . . it’s never too late to abandon old “default” technologies that aren’t working. There are practical behavior-change tactics that WORK. Keep up the good work Rachel. And Nicki, you too. Please look up a local BCBA if you have a child who is ultra-challenging. They really can help.

  170. 279


    Gracias por su artículo

    Voy a compartirlo, pero antes les envío la versión en español para que lo lean mis paisanos de habla hispana.


    Dios los bendiga

    God bless

    This is your article in spanish

    Para construir (o destruir) el espiritu de un niño

    Si necesitas perder peso, ¿qué sería más motivador?

    a. Estás gordo. Yo no voy a comprarte ropa hasta que bajes.
    b. Caminemos después de cenar.
    c. Dejaré de hacer la ensalada.
    d. Me gusta tu forma de ser y exactamente como eres.

    Si necesitas aprender a nadar, ¿qué sería más motivador?
    a. No quiero oírte llorar. ¡Métete al agua y nada! ¡No seas un bebé!
    b. Aquí estaré a tu lado.
    c. Tú puedes hacerlo. Si no es hoy, lo intentas mañana.
    d. Me gusta tu forma de ser y exactamente como eres.

    Si necesitas practicar más de higiene, ¿qué sería más motivador?
    a. ¿Qué es ese olor horrible? Es un milagro que tengas amigos.
    b. Vamos a la tienda y escoges algún desodorante.
    c. Tu cabello huele tan bien cuando lo lavas. Pienso que deberías hacerlo todos los días.
    d. Me gusta tu forma de ser y exactamente como eres.

    Si tus modales en la mesa necesitan mejorar, que sería más motivador?
    a. Comes como un cerdo. No puedo soportar verte comer. Eres un asco.
    b. Trato de poner mi tenedor después de cada bocado, me gustaría que me acompañaras.
    c. Gracias por masticar con la boca cerrada.
    d. Me gusta tu forma de ser y exactamente como eres.

    Si eres un poco torpe y desorganizado, ¿qué te motivaría a ser más responsable?
    a. ¿No puedes hacer nada bien? ¡Pierdes las cosas o haces un lío!
    b. Todos cometemos errores. Así es como aprendemos.
    c. No es gran cosa –toma un trapo y limpia.
    d. Me gusta tu forma de ser y exactamente como eres.
    A veces en mi vida he tenido sobrepeso, miedo a nadar, maloliente, mal educado , y desorganizado. En esos momentos, podría haber usado algo de aliento. Así que cuando vi al joven solicitar salirse de la piscina porque tenía miedo de nadar, lloré con él desde atrás de mis gafas de sol. Vi la decepción en los ojos del hombre mientras miraba a su hijo con escalofríos abrazando sus rodillas al pecho. El hombre realmente quería que su niño aprendiera a nadar. Pensó reprenderlo e ignorar el llanto del chico motivarlo a esforzarse más la próxima vez.

    A veces en mi vida , pensé esto también …

    Acerca de una niña y su ukelele ,
    Acerca de una niña y sus desastres frecuentes ,
    Acerca de una niña y su auto perpetua lentitud,
    Acerca de una niña y su incapacidad para andar en bicicleta.
    “Toca de nuevo; no estás esforzándote lo suficiente”.
    “¿Otro derrame? ¿En serio? ”
    “¿Cuántas veces tengo que decirte que te apures?”
    “Todos los otros niños han aprendido a montar su bicicleta. Ya es hora de que tú lo hagas también” .

    Con cada palabra brusca, con cada mirada de desaprobación, con cada movimiento de decepción con la cabeza, esa chica se hizo más pequeña. Menos confiada. Menos capaz. Menos brillante. Y un día ella hablo las palabras de un alma derrotada.

    “Sólo quiero estar bien, mamá”, gritó la niña que una vez amó a rasguear su amado instrumento. Y ahora ella estaba colocando el instrumento a sus pies, preguntándose si aún debía rasguearlo en absoluto.

    Con el tiempo, mis críticas constantes y respiraciones exasperadas la llevaron a creer que no era bueno.

    Con el tiempo, había roto su espíritu hermoso, el que le dio una luz única y radiante.

    ¿Motivación? No tanto.

    Había una línea muy fina entre la orientación útil de adultos y usar mi autoridad para avergonzar y menospreciar (bajo el disfraz de las buenas intenciones). Al cruzar esa línea una y otra vez, mi niño experimentó una dura realidad: no importa lo que ella hiciera, nunca sería lo suficientemente bueno para mí; nunca podría estar satisfecho.

    ¿Motivación? No tanto.

    La idea de que mi hijo creciera con un padre cuyo amor se basa en lo que hizo en vez de quien fue causó un cambio inmediato en mí. Dejé de ser su capataz y al instante se convirtió en su amante animador…

    En lugar de insistir en cada cosa que mi hijo hizo mal, yo guarde mi orientación a asuntos graves, asuntos que podrían ser potencialmente peligrosos o que alteren su vida.

    En lugar de obligarla a dominar una habilidad al mismo ritmo que sus compañeros, me aseguré a mí mismo que iba a estar listo en su propio tiempo.

    Dejé de reaccionar exageradamente a pequeños accidentes e incidentes menores y me di cuenta que era mejor que lo limpiara después ella misma sin que alguien respirara sobre su cuello.

    Si había un mal hábito que necesitaba cambiar, le daba ejemplo. La invité a unirse a mí en los hábitos saludables. Proporcioné herramientas (como temporizadores y listas de cumplimientos) para fortalecerla a ser más rápida y responsable, sin mi ayuda.

    Celebré sus esfuerzos en lugar de los resultados y me esforcé por hablar tres veces más palabras positivas que negativas.

    Bajo las alas de promover amor por los años pasados severos, he visto florecer a mi pequeña. Su confianza y seguridad en sí mismo han crecido. Ella toma riesgos y cuando no lo logra, no es el fin del mundo, porque sabe que puede volver a intentarlo. Ella sabe que yo la amaré, independientemente de lo que hace o deje de hacer. Ella confía en mí cuando hace algo mal. Ella ama a sí misma “como es” a pesar de que hace las cosas un poco diferentes que la mayoría.

    Ojalá hubiera abandonado el papel de capataz exigente antes, pero no voy a detenerme en ayer. Hoy es más importante.

    Mi esperanza es que al compartir mis propios remordimientos dolorosos y descubrimientos que cambian la vida, puedo ayudar a alguien más a ver lo que veo:

    • Con la vergüenza se abandona, y con el ánimo se cree.
    • Reprobar paraliza, compadecer libera.
    • Gritar silencia, comunicar da apertura.
    • La exasperación se cierra, la paciencia prevalece.
    • Achacar duele, agraciar cura.
    • La crítica destruye, alabar construye.
    • Rechazar pierde, amor incondicional gana.

    Si usted fuera un niño tratando de tener en la vida la mejor manera de saber cómo, ¿qué sería más motivador?

    No creo que estés a la altura.
    Me gusta tu forma de ser y exactamente como eres

  171. 280

    AJ says

    This article really dredged up my past and showed it to me on a silver platter. I identify with every bit of this and all I ever wanted to do was please my father. I have struggled for years with self hate and am surprised it hasn’t consumed me altogether. There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t wish I was gone from this world. I am forever not good enough and refuse to pass this curse on to future generations by having children of my own. Growing up under such conditions has warped me to no end and I am ruined. I accept and embrace the loneliness that has taken root in my soul like a glowing ball of light because it gives me something that I know will never leave me.

    • 281


      My heart hurts to read your message, AJ. I am sorry for the pain you have lived with and come to accept as part of your life. I truly believe that you can find your way out of the darkness–that you can learn to silence that hate talk that breaks you down each day. It will not happen over night, but it can happen. I feel like you have already taken your first step out of that darkness by bravely sharing how you feel. That had to be incredibly hard to type those words, but someone reading this is now feeling less alone because of you. Thank you for that. I call that stepping into the light of realness to show your scars. We we see each others’ scars, we love each other more. I would really like to get you some help today, friend. I am blessed to have two colleagues with the credentials and expertise to help people overcome challenging life situations. Over the past year, Sandy and Theresa have helped many readers of my blog free of charge. You can use the contact information below to reach out to them directly. It is not too late to love yourself. Today is a new day. There is hope.

      If you feel like there should be something you can do to turn things around but you don’t know what it is, feel lost, stuck or overwhelmed, contact:

      Sandra, life coaching:

      If you feel hopeless like nothing you do will ever work or are experiencing depression, anxiety, grief, trauma, attention problems, self-inflicted injury, suicidal thoughts, or are simply wishing for healing, contact:

      Theresa, PhD, licensed psychologist:

      Thank you for your willingness to openly share how criticism has negatively impacted your life. You have changed someone’s life today. Sending you peace and well wishes that you can take your second step today and tell yourself, “I am worthy.” You are worthy of love and happiness.

      • 282



        I’m the coach Rachel mentioned. I would like to add my voice to hers and encourage you to contact Theresa. Her loving acceptance will feel like balm to your soul.

        I know you said you are ruined, but you also said several things that tell me you are still searching for self-acceptance and love:

        1. Your statement that “There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t wish I was gone from this world,” also means that not a day goes by without you choosing to stay. The driving force behind that choice maybe invisible to you, but it’s what is lighting your way.

        2. The fact that you have found self-acceptance and even comfort in your loneliness like a “glowing ball of light” demonstrates a powerful intention to embrace yourself just as you are.

        Those two things point to a powerful inner strength that no degree of self-hate has been able to extinguish. Something in you knows who you really are. Talking to Theresa, or someone like her, can help you bring out more of the real you that your father couldn’t see. I hope you will reach out and contact her.

        • 283

          AJ says

          Thank you Sandra and thanks for referring me to Theresa. I’ll see about dropping her a note soon. I appreciate you.

      • 284

        AJ says

        Thank you, Rachel, for such a kind followup response. Probably the nicest thing anyone has done for me in years. I especially appreciate the resource contacts and will consider contacting Sandra who reached out to me as well and thank you again for caring.

  172. 285


    My sister in law told me about your site, and it took me a couple of days to get here. So glad I did. Needed to read this post TODAY. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  173. 286

    Chelsea says

    Man o Man, trying to get through reading this blog without crying or hating myself is extremely hard! I hate to say it but I am this way with my daughter who is only 4, I expect so much of her because she is 4 and very advanced for her age. I am so proud that she can write her letters, write her name, knows her colors, and knows how to read some words. I expect so much of her because she has shown me that she can indeed buckle her car seat without help, and she can get dressed on her own before I am even ready to go to work, and she can brush her hair and teeth and on days when she decides that she DOESN’T want to do any of that it makes me angry because I know she can do it! I shouldn’t allow this to affect our mornings or daily routines but it does and instead of assisting her I yell, I have taken this blog to heart. I will NOT yell anymore, or tell her come on I know your not a baby you can do it, you have done it before, I will help her from now on and talk sweet to her because yelling gets us no where and only makes my child and I sad and upset.

    • 287

      Steve says

      While I do not wish to come across as finding comfort in someone else’s troubling circumstances, it has been such an eye opener to read Rachel’s words both here and in her book, and I can relate your words to my own experiences Chelsea. I found myself in many moments like that with my own daughter. Homework struggles when the clock is ticking well past bedtime, the morning routine where now and then it seems as if my daughter’s sense of urgency is inversely proportionate to my own, as well as other moments where I have find myself with a degree of expectation that is higher than her already well-above-normal level of independence and self-soothing. Recently in hurried moment while trying to finish her homework before bed, she became visibly frustrated with her analog clock reading homework. It was getting late and I didn’t want to simply pack it up without finishing. She had a sad look on her face as I kept having to explain the same few things to her over and over again, and when I noticed her eyes starting to glass over and the wringing of her hands, I knew she had reached her breaking point. I gently asked her what was wrong and if she was okay, and her face grimacing with sadness and the outpouring of tears told me she wasn’t. It took some reassurance but I finally extracted from her that she was having trouble with it and thought I would be upset with her if she couldn’t understand it. It took everything I had not to cry myself as I held her for a few moments and told her it was okay. I explained to her that everyone has moments where they don’t understand things, even her Daddy, and that it is an important part of learning. I reassured her that one day she would understand her clock homework and everything will be okay. Thankfully she went to bed smiling that night but it was definitely a very harsh wake up call for me. I can count on both hands the amount of times I have ever truly yelled at my daughter for anything (it honestly makes me feel like a monster) and though up to that moment I knew I had made a lot of progress in my father-daughter relationship with her since discovering Rachel’s website and book, it showed me I still had a lot of work ahead of me outside of putting down my phone and closing the laptop.

  174. 288

    Nina says

    Wow! This article was amazing. Brought me to tears. I have no children of my own but I grew up in a home where nothing i did was ever good enough. As the first born child, a lot of pressure was put on me to set an example and I have done my best to do this. There was always a “I’m proud of you, I love you but..” What came after that “but” destroyed me. I still struggle to get my parents’ approval as I go through life. Even a “I’m here for you if you want to talk” would mean the world to me.
    I hope and pray that when I have kids of my own I will show them an undeniable force of love and understanding and allow them to be who they truly are and not who I want them to be.

    Thank you again. *wipes tears and moves on to next post* 🙂

  175. 289

    Sarahlynn says

    I read this and it broke my heart. Although I have always strived to be a good Mom there are many times when I think back that my approach was not what I wish it would have been. I gave this article to my 17 year old daughter (who I have apologized to numerous times) after I read it because I was hoping it would be another way to show her that I understand my methods were not always good. After reading it she brought it back to me and as she was handing it to me she kissed me and said, “You were always a good Mom, and I know you did your best!” I Love Her Sooo Much!!!

  176. 290


    I was born 50+ yrs ago, married with 3 children, 10 yrs later started a new relationship with a high school sweetheart n 10 yrs later married again n added 1 more child.
    Many yrs have come n gone n I’ve heard many parents say that “with my kids, I’m doing things differently” …
    Been on the demanding perfection ride, the cool mama ride only to continue the search for a positive balance, to this day.
    With our growing family, adding marriages and grandchildren to the mix I c them “doing things differently” too. For the better mind u n I’m very proud of them!
    My contribution to their lives over the yrs has, in my words been: I’ve taught u what NOT to do in a lot of areas.
    My kids r all grown now n I’m proud of each n every one of them in their own ways n I pray they know how much I love them!
    Mostly though I hope I won’t hear them say “if I could go bk n do things differently – I WOULD”
    I’ve put them through hell over the yrs n they each have their stories. Some break my heart n a few that I shed tears of joy n that’s when I tell myself That I must have done something good on those occasions.

  177. 292


    Wish I could say such sweet words! Your blog is really an eye-opener for me. These are things I always knew but you have reiterated them in an inspiring way. Knowing is just one part which is incomplete until fulfilled. Are you always able to say such words to your kids? Just curious…

  178. 293


    I am so happy I found you. I was raised this way; and am raising my children this way; but we live in a very wealthy, competitive town, and I don’t see many other people practicing this kind of parenting. It’s quite the opposite. I struggle everyday to remain steadfast and carve out a slow life amidst this “race to nowhere” and definitely see the positive results. I am so glad to know you are out there fighting this good fight for this new generation. I will pass this on. What a beautiful force for good you are. Thank you!

  179. 294

    kelly says

    Thank yo u so much for this. I was raised beating down compared to my sister and belittled.I have realized that lately I am doing the same to my children. I needed to read this at this time just start changing the way I talk to my sons.I realize I am just doing what was done to me But that broke me and I don’t want to do that to my children. thank you

  180. 295

    Jonathan says

    What a joke! LOL! Yes, let’s give every kid a trophy for “participating!” And in school, let’s do away with marks. Every kid gets an A for being enrolled in school. After all, it’s not good for a kid’s self esteem, nor is it fair for those kids who study 4-5 hours each day after school to get high marks, while those kids who go home and throw their book bag in the corner and play video games all afternoon get low marks.

    Yes, this is certainly the way to teach our kids how to live in the real world! In fact, this is why our country is falling behind the rest of the world and we are becoming a 2nd world country when it comes to education. The rule needs to be, you compete with your peers and if you come out ahead, you get rewarded. If you fall behind, you get reprimanded, suspended or worse. We don’t need to raise a generation of spoiled brats who think that just showing up is enough to win the same trophy as the kid who scored 5 goals during the game. Pathetic!

  181. 298

    ami says

    Hi I cant believe but its a sign of above…tht I stumbled on to this website via a fb shared link. Two issues that have been bothering me since some times are my constant yelling at my 5 yr old and the fact tht I keep telling him things in a negative way. Both things I dont like to do but seemed like there is no other way out cos his mistakes simply seemed to be on some kind of repeat mode. Two articles tht may change my life Rachel n my kid’s too. Thank you in advance cos I know I will be changing my behaviour today itself. I totally beleive now tht if u r lost n u need a way out really really bad…god sends some way out for sure…it takes times maybe becos he us trying to get us the best way out…I thank god for getting to this site and thank you for writing so well. Hope u hv a good move n I get to see you someday.

  182. 301

    Candace Allen says

    This is so good!!!! I find myself. Belittling my little ones and just wanting them to get things faster. And the funny thing is my mom was this way. Always saying hurtful and discouraging things. I promised myself I would never be this way to my children. I can’t wait to put this in action. This is a must read more everyone who has children or any love ones. Just think how healthy our relationships would be if we took the negative away and just loved and encouraged each other! Thanks for sharing!

  183. 302

    Delphine says

    I am bawling… it’s not the first time I’ve lost it over your posts.

    I am who you used to be, to my spectacular (though he’d probably never believe I think this) 4 1/2 year old son. I also have a 17 month old baby girl. I don’t want to be this way, I haven’t wanted to be this way for almost a year now, and yet in the moment the same crap comes out.

    How? How did you do it?

    • 303

      Jen says

      I know exactly what you are saying. I have a 5 1/2, 3, and 16 month old. And, I struggle every day fighting the patterns I grew up with.

      I dont know if you trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, but for me, that is the first place I had to start. He loves you, and your children more than we can EVER fully grasp.

      Second, BABY steps! Take each moment as it comes. Cheer yourself and him and then forgive yourself and him for the mistakes and move on. tell him you love him. Hug him. The things that seem so important, think about them. Are they? Really?

      As I pondered these things last night, I happened to pull up a video of my now 16 month old, who was then toothless and still oohing and goohing like a babe. Where did that time go? What was I so busy doing? This time that we have to pour into them is so short, and soon we will be old and grey wondering where they are and what they are doing.
      I want to build strong relationships with my babies so they WANT to come home and see me, so they want me to help them when they bring their first baby home and cant figure out how to nurse or when they bring their third baby home and cant seem to get keep their toddler busy or get dinner on the table.
      Will be praying for you and everyone else on here. Parenting is one of the greatest gifts God gives us and it is certainly hard, but what is that saying about worthwhile things?

  184. 304

    Jen says

    As I read through all the comments, I thought this song might be a blessing to many of the parents out there as it was to me and still is each time I hear it.
    The Broken Beautiful by Ellie Holcomb. It is well worth looking up on youtube.

  185. 306

    Katia says

    Thanks for sharing this with us. I constantly need to work on myself to be a better parent. This is very helpful because I do find myself being very demanding on my son and it breaks my heart when I see him sleeping and I remembered I had glared at him earlier that day because he was jumping. Its no doubt that parenting its one of the toughest jobs. I want the best for my kids but I need to pearn how to motivate and encourage them instead of demanding too much! I will print out this post and keep it close to me before going to bed and waking up. That way it can be a reminder of what I need to see in my children before I get upset.

  186. 307


    Thank you for sharing this today. I cried as I read it. This is our first year homeschooling our 3 and 5 year old children. My 5yr old is Autistic, and was being bullied by her peers, so we are working on rebuilding her self-esteem. One day, not my finest day, I scolded her for not trying at her schoolwork, and told her we needed a break. She went to the couch, started crying and said: “I a smart girl, I good.” My heart broke, I held her and cried with her. I apologized and told her why I was wrong, and that mommy should have done better. I assured her that I was always proud of her, and that she was one of the smartest girls I know. In the end it was better, but it was a painful lesson. I pray I never make her feel that way again.

    • 308


      Thank you for your honesty, Dorothy. We can all relate to saying something we regret. I appreciate how you handled it and for using that experience as a learning tool for the future. I know you helped someone else by sharing your story today. You are a good mom, dear one. Thank you.

  187. 309

    Brandi says

    A beautiful reminder…to start over…and to acknowledge second chances, for all if us. Thank you! Blessings to you and your family in 2015!

  188. 311


    A beautifully written reminder to consider your words and entire attitude towards your children and generally towards others. I always try and build others and nurture Thanks for sharing

  189. 312

    Andrea Johnson says

    That little girl who kept getting smaller and smaller was me. And as hard as I try not to, I often parent the way I was parented. Thank you for sharing this with us, for letting us know that you struggle too, and for offering words of encouragement to help us change our ways. Thank you.

  190. 314

    Jennifer says

    This share was one the reasons I became a loyal listener. It saved my little girl and gave me the peace of loving a little heart that’s learning through all the moments.
    Starting the new year with this brave reminder is perfectly timed. Thank you , Rachel!

  191. 317

    kdhesmer says

    If only we could apply your wisdom in all human relationships – not just with our children. The world would be a much more peaceful, loving, understanding, and accepting place.
    “Shame abandons, encouragement believes. Condemnation paralyzes, compassion frees. Exasperation quits, patience prevails. Yelling silences, communication opens up. Blame hurts, grace heals. Faultfinding destroys, praise builds. Rejection loses, unconditional love wins.”
    Brilliant. Thank you.

  192. 318

    Emily/Momma of 2 says

    I needed this today. I have a 2 year old and a 10 month old, both girls! They are the light of our life. Lately, my two year old has grown to be a very aggressive, tantrum-filled, child. I tend to react more harshly than I ever mean to. She is a beautiful, smart, insightful girl. Do you have any suggestions to getting through these so called terrible two-s? This post was beautiful- truly hits home for some many. Thank you for being so brave to write it!

  193. 320

    Michail E.Lynch says

    My outlook in life is the same as my blood type (B positive) and I try to instill that in everyone around me but especially my daughter’s I a try to always respond to everything in a positive light after all we are only humans and yet God see ‘s fit to forgive us when we mess up are we better than Him? I think not.

  194. 321

    Antoinette Mares says

    My father has a planck (sorry no sure about that spelling) on his wall that reads Children learn what they are taught then it goes on to say if an adult or a person does this that that child will learn that. Its really good actually. However after all the years I have from a young age peered up to that planck until the age of now looking straight at the words; as I am now going to be 50 I often wondered if he himself ever read it. Our realationship is strained now and as much as I wanted children I have none. Its hard to say how I myself would have been as a mother and I often watch from afar as my friends or family have parented wondering why oh why so criticle and negative with there children. I told myself when I grew up I wouldnt make the same mistakes with my children. Guess I will never know. But this is a great reminder in all aspects of life to be kinder with people and build them up as oppossed to break them down with criticism and hopefully your inner spirit and theirs can learn to sore in those accomplisments. Thank you for this….as I still hurt over my past and deal with my pain trying to over come my fears of… I cant do that or Im not good enough; this is a reminder it wasnt ever me …. it was just someone not knowing how to love me the way I needed to be loved. xoxo A <3

  195. 322

    Christi L. says

    There are so many comments that maybe what I am saying has been expressed before. Pardon me if so…
    This is a wonderful way to rethink how to speak to our children.

    But sometimes, when we are harsh or impatient, it is because we are also saying those things to ourselves.

    What if… We told OURSELVES that we love us just the way we are. When we need to lose weight, do we encourage ourselves or berate ourself? Do we take our own joy away from learning a new skill by comparing to someone else.

    A natural consequence of building our self is building up our children. If we are critical of ourself, we will critique our daughters. If we learn to accept and love ourself, we will love and accept others.

    So please take the words of this blogger and write them on the hearts of your children. And then take the time to write them on your own heart as well.

  196. 325

    Ann Koontz says

    Thank you so much for this beautifully written post. I am 66years old, finally learning to ignore the negative voices from the past. Out of ignorance, I made the same mistakes with my daughter, coming to my senses when she was in her twenties. I begged her forgiveness, and she graciously forgave. However, I can still see some wounds. She has a tendency to be hard on herself. I never stop trying to build her up, but I have to live with seeing her in pain. Young mothers, please listen to this lovely lady Sarah. Giving in to the (understandable) frustrations of child raising isn’t worth the guilt and heartache that will never go away. Thank you, Sarah, for this much-needed message.

  197. 326

    Beth says

    What a great post! Wish there were nicer looking non leather bracelet options available. I would love one, but want something a little less casual looking.

  198. 327

    littlepinkdaisy says

    Unfortunately, my mom and I have fights about this. I need to get over the fact that she will never get it. But at age 44 it still hurts to talk to her because she always has a way of making me feel bad. Negative to the core and never thinking that expressing loving you as you are matters. And when she does stop to enjoy time together, she emanates a slimy feeling relating to energy vampirism. Manipulative and conniving, she is overbearing and bad for my psyche. Sadly, I do love her dearly, I just have a really hard time being near her, talking to her or spending any time with her at all and have learned to live basically without her in my life, which is very sad. Periodically growing up, I have had very motherly friends that acted as a surrogate mother for the one I lacked. My mom usually took the side of those who bullied me, and/or were jealous of me and teased/tortured me. She still tries to pick out my clothes for me, and even hands out my personal cell phone number to relatives I haven’t seen in 30 years while I’m on vacation with my family trying to relax and do nothing. Seriously, mom, do I tell you what to do while you are on vacation, and make you wear things you don’t like? Can a 70 year old woman have so little respect as to not realize that her child’s life is not an extension of her own wishes? Can she not use me for one day in some scheme to make herself seem cool? She must be a very empty and bankrupt vessel to think that her family’s life’s purpose was to make her shine. She must have a very low self esteem. As much as I love her, I cannot let her in my life because I am trying to heal myself and she only drags me down once again. I can only part with knowledge that I love her and forget the bad and go ahead and live my life making my own decisions, wearing what I like, socializing with whom I want, spending my time doing what I want, etc. It is as if she never existed much. Another thing she has done is for the last 30 years has made promises she never follows through on, is late just about everywhere she goes, won’t work a real job, and just keeps waiting for the pie in the sky to come sailing in. Poor as a door mouse, she never remembers birthdays, or calls to just see how I’m doing which honestly at age 44 I am over it, but it would have been nice while I was still in my teens. You think I’m kidding, I’m not. This is my life for real.

      • 329

        Mum of 4 says

        I’m sorry for you. Healthy boundaries and firm no is needed. You may need to treat your mom as you would your own child or a stranger. Would you let your own child or a stranger treat you that way? She doesn’t get a free pass because she gave birth to you. Sadly, your mom was probably treated the same way or does have some other issue. I wish you strength, and courage. I hope the best for you. Keep your head high, even if that means walking past her. People don’t realize what they have until it is gone. A relationship builds, even at 44. Don’t let her tear you down, get up, walk on and go SHINE today 🙂

  199. 332

    Sylvia says

    Thank you for this good article. So glad to know that I am not alone in this. I was raised really broken. Her daily cursing and swearing, names calling, threaten to kill me, bad mouthing me (she’s so convincing, people believed her), stood me up/blame me for the mistake of others and a lot more. She has ever failed to tell me regularly that my existence is a mistake that I was convinced at one point of time. I was so ready to “go”. Sitting alone at the church, a priest approached me, listened and communicated with me. He gave me HOPE. That was the first time in my life, I felt someone actually love and appreciate me as me. Since 2001. I’ve made changes in my live, emotionally. I admit it wasn’t an easy ride, made a few mistakes, met real and fake friends along the way. I’ve made good progress in my live spiritually and emotionally. I’ve learned that: peace comes from ourselves not from others, when people take you for granted, stop wasting time with them. Being alone is better than being with the wrong company. I’ve moved on and achieved a few of my childhood dreams. She’s more stunt than surprised by my achievements. Still nothing good can come from her mouth. It doesn’t hurt me anymore because emotionally, she is no longer related to me. The hurtful sharp words, the threats, the curses defines her, not me! The truth is always beautiful. I am thankful I have something to look forward to; the little hope from the priest. A priceless gift from God.

  200. 333

    momma2kandl says

    Thank you so much!! i needed this!! I catch myself in a cycle of harping on my 4 year and yelling because i feel like that is the only way to get through to her because she is so stubborn. I always feel like my kids need to act a certain way, because i dont want them to end up disrespectful, selfish, and irresponsible like my husbands teenagers, and my family constantly complains about my kids behavior because they are not robots like they would like them to be. I grew up with alot of negativity and meanness. I now notice i have alot of self hate and never feel good enough. I pretty much everyday feel like a horrible mom, like i am doing it all wrong, i want my girls to grow up happy and feeling loved and supported and with amazing spirits! But I always feel so stressed and like my kids dont get enough of the good from me. That has to change now!!!

  201. 334

    Anila says

    Hi, this article is wonderful as it can portrait, groom up , Wakeup any mother to gain her self esteem … A great discription with stunning words

  202. 335

    Tracy says

    Mommas love your babies. It is the most important part of your life. It is natural if you don’t let other things get in your way. They will love you and learn at the same time learn to love others. Encourage effort, and they will do the most amazing things. Be confident, and they will adopt your strength. Try new things, go out on a limb, dance for them. They will follow and learn. Hug them, and they will hug you. Do things with them now, even though you may feel like you have forever. It is true that they grow up so quickly. You cannot get that time back, and it unfortunately can be cut short. Enjoy motherhood, you have the chance to empower love, greatness, kindness, friendship, and so many more positive traits.

  203. 336

    Forrest Phelps-Cook says

    I don’t remember the words, but I remember the feelings. I was fat. You can see in photos of me as a child, I was trying to “hide” my fat. The interesting thing is: I WASN’T fat. I was a very active child; athletic and on the go. But I wasn’t SKINNY. For all of my adult life I have felt “fat”. Most of the time I really wasn’t. It was only after I quit smoking that I really packed on the pounds and am now fighting to lose them, but food holds me hostage. In fact, my dad told me this summer that I was so fat he is ashamed to be seen with me (he also told me I was fat when I was a size 10). So here I sit at the age of 65, still suffering from the words from my childhood: You are fat.

    This is a poem I wrote (directed at my dad):


    Sometimes your children will not tell
    with tears or angered cries
    of wounds inflicted carelessly
    or pain they feel inside.
    So if you truly love them,
    if to them you’d give all,
    then choose your words as Soloman
    for you can’t ere recall
    a Hurting Word spoke out in haste
    that scarred their heart and soul;
    You can’t return with sorrows’ tears
    their self esteem you stole.

    © Forrest Phelps-Cook

  204. 337

    Mrs. Curtis says

    Thank You for this…I struggle daily with this urge to control the stupid little things at my childrens expense. Reading this seems to calm me. I’m going to start everyday by reading this in hopes that it will guide me.

  205. 339

    Sylvia says

    I am so glad I’m not the only one that feels this way! For years growing up I had to endure my step mothers cruel put downs. Even today as a grown woman, and after all my successful accomplishments, she’s still not satisfied with me! In return, she always has something negative to say. It is very hard growing up this way. Ironically, I am somewhat glad because It has made me a more loving parent to my own kids.

  206. 341

    Rachel says

    How can anyone speak to a child to shame them. The thought of speaking many of the negative examples you gave just pains me! I understand getting upset even yelling but shaming a child is so much different! If I ever heard any of my brothers or sisters or my parents speak like that to a child I would pull them aside & talk with them. I would be so upset I guess I can only be grateful that I did’t experience my parents treating me like that. I guess it would be easier to speak that way if that’s the only example a person’s had. I do appreciate your honesty! You make it sound like parents speaking to their children like this is so common and if it is that’s so sad! It reminds me of children bullying each other in schools but how much more painful for it to come from a parent! There should be a no tolerance level in ourselves or anyone to treat children like that in our society but what can be done when so much is done behind closed doors. 🙁

  207. 342

    JenniferW says

    Oh, just thank you thank you thank you. I needed this piece of guidance right now, more than ever. I want to be better so they know they are more than enough. This breaks my heart today. Thank you.

  208. 343

    Marj Desius says

    I would LOVE to meet you Rachell. Iam from Haiti. Iam planning on a trip there this year for a motivational and empowerment forum for youth and women. I would love to translate your post into kreyol to share there. How do I contact you?

  209. 345

    Molly says

    Thank you, I needed this today! Had a little bit of a rough day with my son today. Not the roughest, we’ve had worse, but one of those days where you feel like they’re doing one thing wrong after another – and in the back of your mind, you realize it’s probably 99% the way you’re reacting to it, but sometimes it’s hard to flip the switch and change. I was probably halfway through your post when I went in his room, gave him a big hug, made sure he knows that I love him so much, and told him I was sorry we had a rough day, but we would do better tomorrow.

  210. 346

    Upeksha Wijayasooriya. says

    What a wonderful woman you to think that way, act that way and to share that way. It is amazingly touching. I’m not a mom who always screams over my kids.. yet feel guilty of some incidents. Feels like… I WANNA CHANGE.. AND LOVE THEM MORE..!!Thanks Again.. God Bless You..!!

  211. 347

    Bev says

    oh how wonderful this is!!!!
    There is absolutely nothing that helps a child than positive affirmation!!
    What a great site for anyone to see different ways to talk and encourage children in many different ways.
    I really want to see more of this wonderful site!!!

  212. 348

    Shalie says

    Can you teach me how to do this, I think this is exactly what I need! This is how I grew up in my house and I honestly have no idea how to be any different.
    Thank you

  213. 350

    Melody says

    I agree wholeheartedly that the goal shouldn’t be to break a child’s spirit. But there is such a thing as “healthy shame”. There are some instances I want my children to feel ashamed and they need to feel ashamed otherwise how would they learn anything? When a child speaks ugly to hurt someone’s feelings they should know you are ashamed of their actions and they should feel shame themselves. This is healthy shame. All shame is not bad shame. If a child feels shame when they sin then they are learning conviction and need to be taught to seek forgiveness. We as parents need to teach healthy shame instead of just showing that we are ok with everything around us because we are trying to be loving. We should not want to crush our kids spirits of course but it’s ok for children to feel an appropriate amount of shame.

  214. 351

    shelby says

    This really touched my heart beings I have a 3 ur old little girl that is going thru a time of making messes and not listening to her daddy and I, and not doing what is asked of her. After reading this I’m going to try this in every way and hope with the positive encouraging words I speak not only will she know I’m not just her mommy but I’m her friend who just wants the best for her and for her to always try her best but even if she fails at something I’m not going to love her any less cuz its not what she does that makes me love her its her the person she is and the person she will forever be , I love her because she’s my little girl!!!

  215. 352

    Aimee says

    This brought me to tears. Ive been thinking all night of the right words to share with my husband to help him understand this concept. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I was just having this conversation with my husband tonight who can be so critical under the guise of “constructive criticism” with our children. He learned it from his parents and isn’t willing to change right now. I tried to explain how we all develop differently and at our own pace. That our kids need to hear from us that we believe in them and they have amazing abilities. We all have different strengths and that is what makes us each unique. We need to be supportive and build our children up amd not tear them down. They will get it enough in this world. I remind our children everyday that they are loved just exactly as they are. Sadly my husband still thinks I’m wrong. All I can do is voice my opinion to him and then do my best to reassure my children that they are wonderful and amazing! Beautifully written.

    • 353


      Please don’t give up, Aimee. Please keep voicing your belief and share the positive effects you see and experience when you use POSITIVE reinforcement with your children. I have many readers who share how, as adults, their father’s critical words have stayed with them and affected them their entire life. I am so thankful you see the importance of building your children up and I am so thankful you are in their lives!

  216. 356

    Linda Tari G. says

    This piece struck my heart more than other blogs I’ve read surrounding this topic. It hit the nail on the head as it addressed being raised broken and in turn raising our children broken. I don’t want to parent the way I am parenting right now, but I get so frustrated AND angry when my 5 yr old son seems to not listen, or care, or even like me. This coupled with my 2 yr old girl constantly pleading and crying for my undivided attention as I try to deal with a difficult 5 yr old is often a lot to deal with day-in, day-out. My son constantly calls for his dad and prefers him handling any interaction I try to have with him because of the constant yelling he gets from me when it turns sour; and understandably so. I just don’t know how to turn myself off when I get so frustrated. Teaching him ANYTHING is a nightmare. From blowing his nose (which he is still unable to do), to getting dressed, to writing his alphabet letters. It is all a nightmare, and to make matters worse, I do have depression and I constantly feel like a failure.

    So, I get it. I get this article. I just don’t know how to make things better. I’ve tried, but by day 2 I usually have already raised my voice. And a couple more frustrating mishaps later, I blow up yelling and screaming all over again! I feel as if this is a perpetual cycle and the damage has been done. And with no real way to fix this, 20 years from now, my son will be at the end of another blog very similar to this leaving his comment about how I raised him broken!

    • 357


      Thank you for sharing your story, your struggles, your frustrations so openly and honestly. I believe the truths you have shared here are the first step in making change, and change IS POSSIBLE. I have a list that I have shared with many readers of my blog that contain helpful strategies and resources for choosing a peaceful response in times of stress, challenge, and overwhelm. I would love for you to email me so I can send it to you. I also have two highly skilled colleagues who are trained to help people in situations just like you have described. Sandy and Theresa have helped MANY readers of my blog find their way out of troubling situations. I can share those contacts with you, as well. * Please note this offer is available to anyone who is seeking more help in this area. Just email me at:

  217. 358

    Amy says

    thank you. I’ve read this 3 times and plan on re-reading at least weekly until this becomes second nature. Thanks for being brave enough to share this, I’m sure it has made a difference in so many lives!

  218. 359

    Colleen says

    I was abused as a child and not having any eye contact with people and having people turn against me when I try to tell people about the way I was treated growing up. I never had many friends growing up and I come from a dysfunctional family and an abusive sister who pulled my hair by the roots and giving me bald spots and telling me the police were going to come an put me away. She does the same thing she did to me as she is doing to her own son. She also said if I ever have children, she was going to remove them from my custody because she knows people at the social service offices near my house. From this day I will never tell my own family I suffered a miscarriage about 15 years ago and if I did they would be cold hearted and never ever hugged me when I got upset.

  219. 361

    Holly Cooper says

    I’m glad you realized how your words were affecting your child and changed your behavior to help her become a confident, spirited young lady. Too often, I also hear parents belittling and berating their children and I never know if I should say something (in terms of helping and/or alternative methods) because I don’t like conflict or stress.

    There have been times where I wish I could show parents that what they are doing and/or saying is to their child’s detriment, not well-being. Thank you for bringing awareness to this issue and for stepping back to observe what was happening and fixing it. :]

  220. 362

    Alicia says

    Thank you so much for opening yourself up and sharing this!!!! I cried as I read through it, prayed and can hardly type through the tears. I grew up with a broken spirit and it’s never healed, and in turn I find myself doing the same sometimes to my own children! I do not want that for them. I am determined to build them up and let them know they are loved not just by my words but by my actions and parenting as well. I plan to print off your list asap and will post in on my wall so I can be reminded constantly to LOVE them.

  221. 363

    Anonymous says

    If only I had read this sooner, I would not have had to spend thousands on therapy for my children. I hope my children’s children will benefit from this advice.

  222. 364


    “There was a fine line between helpful adult guidance and using my authority to shame and belittle (under the guise of good intentions).”

    The above quote is the critical point for me. All of our kids are different and have different capabilities for dealing with pressure. We often feel guilty about pushing too much or too little because of what other parents are doing. We know our own kids and need to make our own judgement about where that line is. We owe it to our kids to help them achieve their full potential but need to be confident in ourselves that we can find the best way to support them.

  223. 366

    Mindy says

    I’ve read your post about the comparison of a child who is like a firefly versus a butterfly. Now I can’t find it 🙁
    Could you please let me know the title or send me a link to that post?
    Thank you so much!

  224. 368

    Marion Décanis says

    Ouaw !!!!!

    I speak French, so I’m not sure to understand every words but I love this text !
    Just because it’s the thing I try to do with my twins since a few months…
    And you’re right, it changes everything !!!!
    I’m really happy to know another Mom ,from another place, is like me !!!
    Thank you sooooooooooo much !!!!

  225. 369

    allie says

    I have a 17 year old son and I think I have broken his spirit. I don’t remember ever saying you’re this or that or you’re not this or not that. But I know I have yelled a lot and have lost my patience one too many times, even left the house like I was going to leave and never come back. I have said

    “You’re gaining weight, I don’t want you to end up overweight like me enough of the soda, stop eating late at night, you’re putting weight on. We all need to stop eating junk” – Is that a bad way to say it???

    “Change your clothes up a little bit, wear some khaki’s or something, you’re always in a T-shirt and jean shorts, the shirts start to look stretched out and you look unkept, put a nice button up short sleeve on”

    “Do you ever listen to what I tell you I only tell you for your own good, because you don’t listen, I told you to be here at 8 here it is 9:30. You’re out on the street it’s dark out you’ll get jumped or have a stolen phone, then I’m not buying a new one because it’ll be your fault”

    My son has ADHD and he has been a very difficult child to raise. There have been very few good moments shared. He is strong willed, very defiant, and has been since he was small. When he was little there were times when it took hours to get ready to get out of the house. He fought to get a bath, to get his clothes on, fought to get to bed, brush his teeth. I find myself screaming or yelling now because he still goes to bed without brushing or will get up on Saturday eat, shower and go out without brushing. His teeth aren’t bad but his breath is atrocious. Is it wrong to tell them they have bad breath? I feel like I’ve fought with him most of his life. I don’t know how either of us has survived. 🙁

    • 370


      Allie, Rachel has invited me to respond to some of her readers with parenting concerns.

      Your love of your son is evident in your frustration over feeling unable to help him stay healthy, happy and safe. There is nothing more painful than to sit by and watch your child on what appears to be a downhill slide, and look back and see that you’ve felt that way for years. The way he manages himself is not what you wished for him and you are probably worried about his future.

      Remind yourself that he is only 17, and still has lots of time to grow up and learn things for himself. He will begin to solve his own problems quickest if you can hold back and not fix them for him. Lost phone will be his problem as long as you don’t replace it (just as you said, but be compassionate about his distress over losing it, not mad); bad breath will be his problem when and if his friends care; etc.

      Also remind yourself, that you can only help if he wants what you are offering. At his age, if you want him to do things he doesn’t want to do, your help will feel like nagging and will create distance and resistance between you.

      Rachel’s post gives you many ways to say things differently. Find out what he wants first and try her suggestions so you can be on his side when you help. If you start with little things that he wants that are also OK with you and help with those, you will begin to rebuild your connection. Rachel’s suggestion from another post,“How can I help,” is one of my favorites:

      Also this caught my eye. You asked if it’s wrong to tell your son he has bad breath or bad to point out other problems. You can start to change your relationship with him most quickly if you leave behind the idea that what he does or what you do is right, wrong, good or bad. Those are judgments. The only thing that matters is whether or not the things you each say and do WORK TO ACHIEVE THE GOALS YOU DESIRE. If not, change what you say and do.

      Try describing what you see instead of criticizing. For example try, “Your socks are on the floor,” instead of, “Pick those up,” so he is the one who come up with the solution of picking them up. Stick to your boundaries and house rules, but leave out all suggestions unless you know what he wants and your suggestions will feel like help.

      He’s 17. You can’t make him do anything. He can’t make you do anything. He has his goals, you have yours, and on the highest plane of relationship, they overlap. You both want to feel good about each other when you are together; you both want to give respect and get respect back, and love and feel loved back. If what you both are doing does not help you reach those goals, stop and try something different until it does.

      That’s very much like Rachel’s guidance to wait, take a breath, and “choose love.” If you don’t know how to do that inside your boundaries, you can work with a counselor. It’s not too late to turn around your relationship with your son and create the relationship you long for.

      I hope this helps.

      Sandy Blackard

  226. 371

    Kate says

    This post brought me to tears, brought insight, brought me light and brought me
    determination to change. Thank you more than you know.

  227. 372

    Carol Beatty says

    School teachers and school administrators should read this article as well. They, too, can break a child’s spirit through negative comments and negative treatment, and this is usually done in front of peers. I have seen this first-hand with my own child.

  228. 373

    Greg says

    Encourage a child and watch them grow! Discourage a child by tearing them down and watch them wither and die.
    I hear people say how their children never call or come to visit. They just don’t understand why. This is very sad.
    I am one of those children that never calls or comes to visit. I entered the military right out of high school went through basic training, got off the plane to go home, but never went home. Found others to live with and not once did anyone wonder where I was or consider to come looking for me. Why didn’t I go home? I had nothing to go home to. I could do nothing right, I was criticized almost daily, blamed for things I did not do, expected to do things I was not able to. Emotionally, I left home at a very early age. By the emotional abuse I was put through, I was forced to grow up very quickly. I started working outside the home at the age of eight, just to get away form the emotional beatings.
    If I can give just a little bit of advise; Don’t ever force your children to grow up quickly, don’t give them a reason to leave home. If you do you will never get to enjoy our grandchildren.

  229. 375


    Thank you for sharing from your personal experiences, many of us parents can take what you have taught us and spur our children on even more ! Many people will be blessed by your post!

  230. 376

    Natalie says

    I’m crying as I’m reading this. Those harsh words and comments are exactly what I said to my son. Last night I could tell that I was breaking his spirit, and decided that nothing is more important. Today was a new day, and I am only going to use positive and encouraging words. Thanks for the reminder.

  231. 377

    yvonne says

    I used the phrase “I love you exactly as you are ” today. Then I read side by side with my middle child before both of us folded laundry together. Thanks for giving me the words I needed to help me express love to my discouraged little man.

  232. 378

    nutan says

    Hi Rechal,

    thank you….. thank you very very much………
    each of your post touched my heart and make me cry like anything………. i m a proud mother of two daughters 7 and 2 years, juggling my carrier as a hospital administrator. I don’t know how i have became an admin at home too. I m sure my daughters dont love me more then they afraid of me. i really really love them but helpless to express them my feeling….. by reading your posts i feel i m in a position now to start changing myself………. please guide me

  233. 380

    Claire says

    Thank you Rachel, I don’t know if you read down to the 406th comment…. I need help drafting these words for my discouraged reader. He interprets “love you just the way you are” as “you don’t need to try”. I am doing my best – he turns them all around to support an avoidance of the pain of learning. I would really appreciate your help. Loving your Work! Claire

  234. 381


    Hi Claire – thank you for the thoughtful comment & for wanting to use the most “soul-building” words for your son! I recently wrote: “This confirmed my role in my daughter’s pain and struggle; it is not to rescue, minimize, or abandon my child during her time of need, but instead to listen, support, encourage, and believe in her ability to overcome.” You can read the whole post here which I think you will find helpful to your situation: I think the key words for your son might be something like, “I know this difficult, but I believe in you,” or “I KNOW you can do this.” And when you see him putting forth effort (no matter how small) or overcoming frustration and trying, notice that. “That tricky word thought it was going to stump you but you kept trying until you GOT IT!” My colleague Sandy Blackard of the Language of Listening is a master at affirming children. You might consider downloading her free little handbook that has a wealth of wording you might want to use. You can also reach out to her on her contact page. She helps many Hands Free Mama readers and is a true inspiration. Free Kindle App for Sandy’s book is here –


  1. […] Our words as parents have an enormous impact on our children. With every carefully delivered word, with each disapproving glare, with every encouraging hug, we have the power to make our kids feel smaller or stronger. Less confident or more capable. It’s an enormous challenge but also an incredible opportunity. Take some time today to read Hands Free Momma Rachel May Stafford’s great advice for parents about building your child’s spirit here. […]

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