Tips for Raising a Young Child to be CALM, thoughtful and able to focus

by Ginny Trierweiler, Born 4 Brilliance Parent CoachEmi appreciating flowers

I teach parents and educators how to raise children who are Calm, Capable and Confident, at a time when our parenting and education approaches– and child outcomes — are moving further and further in the opposite direction. As we increase approaches to children that involve a lot of underestimating and micromanaging them, our children are becoming less calm, capable, and confident. They are becoming less mature, thoughtful, and goal-directed, less able to concentrate and focus their attention– and more anxious and depressed.  The solutions are simple and clear, but you have to be willing to do things quite differently from others around you and quit underestimating and micromanaging young children.

This is one of a series of articles about how to raise young children to be calm, thoughtful and able to focus their attention. Does it make sense to you that these 3 things go together?  If you think about brain development and executive functions, it does.  We have many parts of our brain that manage automatic reactions. We don’t have to focus our attention to be able to breath or to run from something chasing us. 

Why the Abilities to be Calm, Thoughtful, and Focused are important

We need to be thinking clearly and focusing our attention when we are trying to achieve a goal that takes time and effort.  And this is one area of skills that is becoming more problematic in our world today.  I would venture to suggest that all of us have had the experience of confusion, jumbled thoughts and difficulty concentrating.  When this happens too often, we have difficulty getting things done.

One reason this is problematic is that being unable to achieve our goals can make it difficult to pay our bills.  It can make it difficult to reverse unhealthy behaviors when we need to and that can reduce our enjoyment of life and even the length of our life. If we generally lack the ability to set goals, organize ourselves toward achieving them, and persist until we get there, we will experience more struggles, while having trouble feeling happy and fulfilled in life.  We certainly won’t tend to feel that we are fulfilling our highest potential when we lack the ability to focus to achieve our goals.

Tip #1 for Raising a Child to be Calm, Thoughtful, Focused – Support Focus and Concentration, Let them Work to their Heart’s Content

The first tip is that we ought to support the child’s focus of attention when they are working at something.  That sounds obvious!  However, when I conducted an observational study comparing what adults were doing in environments where young children were unusually mature, calm, thoughtful, and confident, I realized that they were nurturing their calm and focus in ways that we don’t tend to do so throughout society.

Now, I have to apologize for my part in the current state of affairs.  I was one of those child development experts who promoted the idea that, because language is so important, we need to talk to young children almost constantly. This advice came from research showing that upper middle class children were exposed to much more language in the early years than children from lower income households. When researchers followed these children, they found that the lower income children started school way behind in terms of language and other skills influenced by language.  Most concerning was the finding that those children never caught up. And, since language skills and reading were critical to so much other learning, the recommendation developed that adults ought to talk to young children all the time. Adults should narrate their own activities around their child, and they should narrate the child’s activities.

To be sure, there is benefit to recognizing that language development and exposure to articulate and fluent spoken language are very important in the early years. At the same time, let’s apply this knowledge with some sensitivity. Think about times when you are working at something that requires concentration and focus of attention.  How well are you able to get work done or learn something when someone is constantly talking at you?

When you recognize that young children need to concentrate on simple activities like brushing their teeth, putting on socks, or putting away their toys, you start to notice that this incessant talking is distracting.  In fact, young children are so cued in to language that, when we talk, they tend to stop everything and focus on our faces, our mouths.  When we watch what this constant talking does to their ability to focus on something, we begin to realize that it is not always helpful for their development.

Talking is not the only way we interrupt the young child’s concentration, but it is a very common one in these times. Let’s notice when our young child is concentrating on something, even if it involves an infant putting on and taking off their sock over and over. Concentration, focus of attention and repetition are crucial to learning.  Let’s support them. 

Let’s allow the young child work at activities that hold their attention, even if they’re activities we can do mindlessly while we do 3 other things.  When they are hard at work, regardless of what the work is (as long as it’s not destructive), let’s allow them work to their heart’s content!  This involves important brain development, and the development of critically important skills.

When have you seen a young child calmly and thoughtfully focusing on a (non-screen-related) task? How did you support their focus in that moment?

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Raising a Young Child to be Calm, Thoughtful and Able to Focus their Attention– Tip #2

by Dr. Ginny Trierweiler, parent coach

This is one of a series of articles about how to raise young children to be calm, thoughtful and able to focus their attention. There are many times in life that we need to be thinking clearly, calmly, in a focused and goal-directed way.  Without the ability to do this when we need to, it is difficult to build a happy, contributive and successful life.  That’s why we need to be aware and thinking about how to nurture the development of these skills in young children. It is truly unfortunate that our modern approach to raising and educating young children tends to interfere with the development of these abilities.

In the last post, we shared Tip #1 to raising children to be calm, thoughtful and able to focus their attention.  It was that we ought to support the child’s focus of attention when they are working at something. Let them work to their heart’s content at whatever (constructive) activity holds their interest.

Tip #2 for Raising a Child to be Calm, Thoughtful, and Focused – Increase Calm, Order and Predictability in the Environment, Reduce Clutter and Noise

Have you ever worked in an office that had piles of paper everywhere and frequent pings from your phone and computer telling you about a new message?  I have!  We tend to find it very difficult to concentrate and get projects done in such environments because our train of thought is being repeatedly interrupted.  

Lots of research proves that cluttered environments reduce our ability to concentrate and focus our attention.  This applies to children and adults and it is more impactful than we tend to realize.  In fact, although adults enjoy the early learning environments with myriad colorful toys and posters, children learned much more in very bare environments.  Young children are found to respond very positively, in terms of learning and emotional state, when adults create an orderly environment.

When I worked as head of a school, I attended a very impactful training for school administrators that focused on how to make sure the school administrator was using their time very well, focused on the most important things rather than constantly reacting to the latest “crisis.”  The key was to let the school secretary manage the administrator’s time, papers, emails, so the administrator could spend their time helping teachers do their best work with students.  I learned a lot about ordering and organizing my office to support my best thinking and functioning.

This is a critical area we can manage to support our young child’s learning and development.  We can either support their calm, focus and thinking by helping to order their environment and minimize clutter, or we can make it nearly impossible for them.  

Some Ways we can increase Calm, Order and Predictability in the Environment

  1. Reduce Clutter. I would venture to guess that most homes and learning environments for young children have 50% – 90% more stuff than they need.  Too much stuff causes stress for the child and the adult alike.  If you do nothing else, resolve to change this in your household.  I am a natural clutterer and I work at this all the time because clutter will ruin any sense of calm that exists in your home. too-many-toys-dreamstime_m_25989014
  2. Minimize Noise. I already addressed the issues of talking incessantly.  Similarly, we don’t want to have televisions or radios going all the time if we want to support a calm environment and our child’s ability to think and focus.  A recent study of 43,000 workers found that, in spite of the hope that open office plans would lead to increased morale and productivity from unplanned interactions, they actually caused a degree of noise and distraction that reduced workplace functioning and productivity.  Additional research shows that periods of silence, even just a couple of minutes, support learning and memory. 
  3. Establish predictable routines. This has been erroneously interpreted to mean that we ought to schedule every 15 minutes of the child’s day.  That actually results in constantly interrupting them, which we want to avoid.  Instead, what is beneficial involves things like establishing regular and predictable family routines. Research among Head Start children revealed that, the more regular bedtimes and mealtimes were, the more cooperative, compliant, interested and participatory teachers found children to be.  Set bedtimes can improve children’s sleep, and research suggests that this improves their ability to learn, think, and remember.  Set bedtimes among children going through a divorce were found to be related to better physical health and fewer school absences two years later.
  4. Order the environment to support the child’s ability to order their mind. Have you ever noticed how difficult it can be to get work done in a disorganized area? Maybe you’ve tried to cook dinner and found that the utensils are not in the usual place.  Or the spices were all over the place and this made preparing dinner a more disorganized, time-consuming operation than you hoped.  Research has also shown that the organization of the environment predicts improvements in intelligence scores.  Develop the approach in your home or learning environment of “a place for everything and everything in its place.”  This will massively contribute to the calm of the home (or classroom)!

Observing young children (including toddlers) in a calm, quiet, thoughtfully ordered environment reveals that even very young children can behave with great calm, grace, maturity and courtesy in such environments. When you increase the calm, quiet, predictability and orderliness of the environment, you will greatly help the child to develop their ability to be calm, thoughtful and focused. You will be supporting their executive function development, which will help them to fulfill their potential in life.


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The #1 Tip for Having a Calm, Happy Home with Young Children


You can be the smartest parent on the block and give your child the best developmental opportunities with this one tip—declutter, go minimalist on toys and stuff for your child(ren), and increase the calm in your home overnight!

“The playroom was the bane of my existence… I didn’t enjoy motherhood,” Bentonville, Arkansas, mom Allie Casazza said. “I didn’t enjoy [my kids]. They were a bother to me.” One day, Casazza had enough. She gave nearly every toy in the house away. Not as a punishment, but for the good of the family. That one action “saved my motherhood, my marriage,” she said. Literally overnight, she said, things in her home changed. “I had been so resentful of my husband, telling him, ‘you have no idea what I go through all day,’ but after the toys were gone I immediately felt lighter. I had so much less stress,” she said. Genevieve Shaw Brown, (2016). This mom threw out her toys and got her life back. September 27, 2016,

Clutter is disorienting. I don’t say this to make you feel guilty. I am naturally a clutter-bug.  In fact, I just had to do major filing and reorganization in my office because it became totally nonfunctional.  Next, for the bedroom closet!

These days, most of our children in the Western world have too much stuff.  It is disorienting when a child has to search for a toy that they want.  Think about what happens to your brain when you go to add something to your shopping list on your phone.  If you’re like me, you pick up the phone with that intention, but there are so many apps calling your name, you end up checking what the notifications are on Facebook.  An hour later, you remember you were heading to the grocery store and realize that was the reason you picked up your phone– you never meant to check Facebook at all!  How many times per week (or per day) does this happen?  Do you sometimes feel like you in constant reaction mode and just not in charge of your time anymore?

The same dynamic is at play when a child approaches their “toy box” (or your version of that area in your home).  They may go to the toy box knowing that they want to play.  However, once they start taking things out to look for what they want, they become distracted and forget what they were doing in the first place. Pretty soon, they’ve taken everything out of it and haven’t found anything that stands out as novel and interesting.

When they have too much stuff, their attentional systems become overwhelmed and, at the same time, they are still bored.  In this way, having too many toys interferes with their learning and development. 

Research shows that children and adults alike are less able to focus and learn in cluttered environments.  Cluttering your home with toys is likely to add a sense of chaos and unease for everyone. Parents, especially Moms, often tell me that the clutter and the need to be constantly picking up the children’s things makes them feel stressed most of the time they’re at home. This is not right!

 Three steps to minimize clutter.

  1. Throw it out!  Give most of the child’s toys away. Make a big deal out of decluttering. You could do this with some of your closets first and show them how great it is—how much lighter it feels, how much easier it is to find things.
  2. Get a system!  Establish and maintain an orderly method for putting things away that aren’t being used. You can use bins and separate them so that there is a bin for shoes, a bin for toys, a bin for their plates, cups and eating utensils.  It may seem to you that it would be difficult to have young children put their things away consistently but it works very well to start this in the early years, because it turns out that toddlers are very interested in categorizing and organizing things and will happily participate in keeping their environment orderly.  A place for everything, and everything in its place.
  3. Limit the stuff coming in!  Keep things from getting out of hand again. Limit the amount of stuff you bring in.  Limit all gift-giving at holidays and birthdays to a small number, like 4—total—from parents, relatives, friends, etc. Here is a rule one family found that worked: one thing they want; one thing they need; one thing they’ll wear; one thing they’ll read. What is a good rule for your family?

If you want to have a calm household that is a haven for everyone, minimizing clutter is one of the best ways you can achieve this. So, as you approach the holiday season, think about minimizing the number of gifts (aka the amount of stuff) you bring into your home. Reject the consumerism of the season and invest in experiences together instead. Your whole family will be glad you did!  And please share how you did it!

Support your child’s learning and development.

Protect them from attention deficit problems.

Declutter the environment.

Posted in early childhood, family, parenting, Toddlers, young children | 3 Comments

Parent’s Guide to Talking about Elections with Young Children

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Parent’s Guide to Talking about Elections with Young Children

by Dr. Ginny Trierweiler, the Born 4 Brilliance Parent Coach

It’s now 2 weeks to Election Day.  Doesn’t it feel as though this Presidential campaign has been interminable and exhausting?  Teachers have been sharing concerns about how the increase in coarse talk and addressed the level of stress and anxiety associated with this election in ways I’ve never seen them do before. And I heard a preacher recently telling parents to quit expressing their worries about all this so openly, saying “you’re scaring the children!”

Some of my parent coaching clients have asked for a guide to talking about elections with young children so here are some guidelines.

Scenario A:  My young child hasn’t asked any questions—she’s only 2 years old! But, she looks wide-eyed and worried when we talk about the candidates while watching an ad or a debate on television. How should we talk about this with her?

You have noticed that your toddler seems worried about this when you talk about it. One thing you can do is talk calmly about the worried feelings she is observing, and then reassure her. For a 2 year old, parents are practically all-powerful beings, so if the parents are afraid, maybe the world is about to end!  You could say, “Your Daddy and I are talking about the upcoming Presidential election and we are a little worried about it. But it’s all going to be okay. Everyone is safe.”

Scenario B: My young child has noticed all the talk about the presidential campaign and politics and has been asking questions. He’s too young to understand our system of government. How should we answer his questions?

  • What is “voting?” Voting is a way for a group to make decisions. You can share an example, such as “When we order pizza, we all vote on what toppings to have. We get the ones that most of us agree on.” That may be all he wants to know!
  • What is the President? The President is an important leader in our country who makes agreements with other countries and chooses people for government jobs. Personally, I would also say a little bit about how the President is not a monarch or dictator. There are other important groups that work with the President to lead our country, such as our Senators and Representatives and the judges on the Supreme Court. A young child won’t understand all of this but it may be worth stating anyway. When they hear it later in school, it will be familiar.
  • Can I vote? In our country, a person has to be 18 years old to vote; you can vote for President when you’re 18 years old.

Scenario C:  My children are 3, 5 and 7 and they have heard derogatory words about women and minorities that I don’t even want them to know about.  I feel like I want to provide calm guidance to them, but it makes me so mad!  What should I do?

This is an opportunity for you to talk about values  for how to treat other people.  Talk about how people sometimes use mean and ugly words to hurt or try to control other people, and it’s not okay.  It’s never okay to grab someone. It’s scary and upsetting.  You don’t ever have to let anyone grab you and I never want to hear that you grabbed someone else.  OR  Calling names to hurt people is not okay.  That’s not how we want to be talked to and that’s not how talk to people.  We’re not that kind of people. We’re the kind of people who care about others and treat them with kindness and respect.

Engage them in dialogue. It wouldn’t benefit anyone for your young child to parrot your choice for President and argue it with other young children on the playground. However, you can use “teachable moments” like these to help them develop critical thinking abilities that will help them make good decisions, including choosing the best leaders, when they grow up.

Questions like these may be helpful:

  • If your child is talking about the election, you can ask them what they have noticed about it. Then, just listen. You can discover if they have some misconceptions that you can clear up and you can discover if they have some fears or worries that you can reassure them about.
  • When your child says they like something, ask them “What do you like about it?” Just wait and hear out their reasons. You can reflect it back, i.e. “You like Thomas the Train because he can do it.” It doesn’t matter what they say. You are helping them think through their reasons for liking something. I bet you can think of many life circumstances in which thinking through their reasons for liking something or someone could be beneficial for them.
  • Similarly, if your child says “I don’t like him (or her),” you can help by asking them to articulate their thoughts and feelings on the matter. “What don’t you like about him?” You can reflect it back, i.e. “You don’t like him because he seems mean. I think I can see what you’re talking about there. It is harder to like someone when they seem mean.”
  • Ask “What was your favorite part about this book (or the trip to the zoo today)?”

You’re helping them articulate their thoughts, reactions and preferences. By accepting them, and not trying to make them think, react and like the same things you do, you’re also communicating that you value your young child as an individual with their own heart, mind and soul. And that is a precious gift indeed.

What have you done to help your child understand what’s going on this election season?

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7 Secrets to Having a Calm, Happy Home with a Young Child

by Dr. Ginny Trierweiler, BCC, Born 4 Brilliance Coach

I can’t put my 14 month old down at all without him crying and throwing a fit. I need a break!  What can I do??

I feel like I am constantly cleaning up—diapers, toys all over. It’s as if nothing stays clean and orderly for more than a few minutes. I want to enjoy my toddler, but I find I resent her because of the constant mess in my home.

My almost 3 year old will not stop hurting people. He hits, throws toys, pulls hair, kicks pushes, and bites. I have tried everything I can think of to help him stop. He can state the rule “we don’t hit,” but he doesn’t seem to care! NOTHING SEEMS TO WORK. I’m so discouraged, and it’s really straining on my relationship with my son.

Toddlers and young children can be so cuddly and funny and adorable but they can also really shatter our calm! Can we ever have a peaceful, calm, happy home again??

Below are 7 tips for living a calm and happy life with one or more toddlers or young children.

  1. First, give yourself a break!  There is far too much pressure on parents these days to do too much, give too much, make it all about the child, and never let them misbehave or be noisy in public.  It’s ridiculous.  Parents are giving much more time and stuff to their children these days and still feeling like they’re not doing enough.  You don’t need that pressure!
  2. Realize that babies are born with the right stuff to develop empathy and care about other people.  Although, when they’re going through the hitting and biting stage, it may not seem like it!  They need time and experience to develop those skills. Focus on helping their development and giving them constructive limits rather than controlling their behavior. 
  3. Model empathy and talk about feelings, a lot.  When you’re reading, pose questions like “What do you think the girl is feeling?  Why do you think the boy did that?”  Label their feelings, without judging or trying to control their feelings. When we have words that capture what we’re feeling, it doesn’t make us feel out of control. This will also help them develop their empathy skills.
  4. Separate feelings from behavior. In stressful situations, try to separate feelings from behaviors in your own mind. All feelings can be understood, but not all behaviors are okay. Let them know there are boundaries. Boundaries help children feel safe. Denying their feelings, or trying to distract them out of their feelings, may interfere with their learning and development and it may come across as uncaring or disrespectful.  Even angry and frustrated feelings are okay, and it can help to name them. “You really wanted that, and it’s so frustrating to have to wait your turn.”  This can really start to help them calm down. Name their feelings without judging them.  However, that does not mean you allow discourteous or destructive behavior.
  5. Set limits. Young children are counting on us to take charge and keep everyone safe.  Set rules that are reasonable in our community, such as “we don’t hit,” “food is for eating and we eat sitting at the table,” and “we throw the ball outside, not in the house.” Once they have found the boundaries, they can proactively learn and develop without anxiety. You want them to practice managing themselves, but do not let them hit. DO take charge of their little bodies if they are harming themselves, others or objects in the environment.  “I won’t let you hit.  I am taking you away from that situation now.”  This is not about punishment; it’s about setting and reinforcing a boundary and it’s about your child’s learning.
  6. Focus on the long-range, the child’s learning and development, more than on changing their behavior in the moment. As a child psychologist, I often encouraged parents to distract their children from whatever they were focused on that the parents didn’t like. I now see that that can be a helpful get-through-this-moment trick, but it is not always best for helping the child’s development. It’s not so important that your child is instantly appeased and you can stop their upset in under 10 seconds. It’s more important that they are building always-greater social and emotional intelligence skills.
  7. It’s not about what other people think or say! Try to keep any worry about other people’s judgments out of it all. People expect way too much containment and quiet with young children. It’s not fair and it’s not helpful! There’s a big difference between A) a child behaving in an entitled and discourteous manner when they are old enough to know better and B) a young child who is barely starting to develop the social and emotional skills to handle a trip to the grocery store at the end of the day.

Parents of teens and young adults often tell me they wish they had set clear general boundaries and stayed firm with them, rather than letting the child win through whining. They wish they hadn’t jumped in to help so much because their children are not very resilient or able to tolerate difficulties. If you can put yourself in the shoes of you, 20 years from now, that may give you the perspective to do what’s most helpful now.   

Next week, I will share more on one specific, super-valuable tip for minimizing stress in a household with a young child.  Hint:  it will also help you save money on birthday and Christmas presents!

For more on how to give your child more opportunity to develop their social and emotional intelligence, check out the book “Let Me Do It Myself! Secrets to Raising a Capable, Confident & Considerate Toddler,” available on Amazon.


Get in touch! or 720-443-5056

Posted in Babies, Child Development, early childhood, emotional intelligence, family, Montessori, parenting, Toddlers, young children | Leave a comment

Is Bullying a Normal and Inevitable Part of Childhood?

“9 year old West Virginia boy commits suicide due to bullying.”

This is a parent’s worst nightmare. And bullying appears to be on the rise in the United States at this time. Teachers describe an increase in bullying based on racial, ethnic and religious differences and increased fear and anxiety among children of color ( Many people are worried about our children growing up in this country at this time, whether they are more likely to be bullied or to bully others.

How can we inoculate our children against this kind of thing? The first thing we can do is create an environment that is nurturing and supportive of everyone. Bullying occurs in the kind of environment where people experience a zero-sum game—in order for me to win, everyone else must lose.

As the director of a Montessori school for young children, I had the opportunity to witness every day how kind and considerate children can be toward each other. In an environment where cooperation, consideration and mutual respect were the norm, children did not engage in bullying. Because it was so different from what I saw in other environments, I dedicated time every week to open-minded observation of children and adults in this environment, to learn what could be causing this difference. Now I help parents and educators learn the keys to raising caring, considerate, thinking children. There are many ways our typical modern schools contribute to bullying behavior but, aside from choosing a different school environment “What can parents do?” 

Parenting style is proven to make a difference in a child’s risk for bullying. The same parenting style that is proven to produce a variety of positive child outcomes is proven to protect children from being bullies or being victimized by bullies. This parenting style is called “authoritative” and it is characterized by high expectations or demands and high responsiveness and support. Parenting this way has been repeatedly proven to produce the best child outcomes and to foster the best relationship between parent and child.

Decades of research on parenting styles have repeatedly demonstrated that strict, authoritarian parenting contributes to poor outcomes for children. This style of parenting is characterized by high demands but low support and responsiveness. Children raised in this style of parenting are prone to low self-esteem, tend to have difficulty in social situations, and are often rebellious outside of the eyes of authority figures. This style of parenting is also more likely to produce a child who ends up being bullied or bullying others. (

As a child psychologist, I worked with quite a few families in which one or both parents were strict, harsh and unbending with their children. It was not surprising to me that these children experienced more bullying by others; accustomed to being bullied at home, they were just repeating their experience of being bottom of the heap. Neither was it surprising that children of unresponsive, authoritarian parents were both more aggressive and bullying; they were just doing what they observed their parents to do. To them, the world is a zero-sum game, and they look for environments where they can have the greater power, because it’s certainly not at home.

Now, I work as a parent coach, which is more a partner supporting the parents’ goals. I work with conscious parents who are dedicated to their ongoing growth and development. They tend to be educated and thoughtful and are a joy to work with! This kind of parent loves and enjoys their child and seeks positive interactions with their child. Their worries for their children’s safety are often overblown, which can lead to unduly restricting their children’s activities but, otherwise, they have no interest in being overly controlling with their children.

When parents like this lack information about child development, these open-hearted attitudes may translate to a permissive, indulgent parenting style. If the child throws food, they may identify with the playful aspect of this behavior, subsequently failing to teach their child that throwing food is not okay. Unfortunately, this does not have positive effects for the child’s growth and development.

Permissive, indulgent parenting fails to support the child’s best development and these loving parents are so sad and puzzled when their beautiful baby grows into an immature, demanding child who is difficult to live with and does not get along well with others.  Although there is no shortage of love in these children’s lives, the lack of limits and expectations leaves a child insecure and self-centered, with poor self-control, poor internal motivation and weak social skills.

Maybe it’s not surprising that children raised in this permissive style are also more likely to bully or be bullied as well. They are not accustomed to being held to any standards or being told “no.” When they interact in the real world, with limits and expectations everywhere, they don’t know how to handle it. They tend to react with anger, depression, or both.

That’s why I help parents develop a middle-of-the-road, authoritative parenting style, an approach that is neither harsh nor permissive. They learn how to provide helpful limits and expectations while following their natural inclinations to be responsive and supportive of their children. This authoritative parenting approach –with high expectations and high responsiveness– produces healthier, happier children. (However, be warned that switching from a permissive, indulgent parenting style to authoritative parenting style is challenging and I recommend you get support through such a transition!)

When you strive to be authoritative with your child, with support and demands, limits and responsiveness, you nurture the child’s healthy development and help prevent bullying from being a part of your child’s life. Refuse to go along with the idea that bullying is simply to be expected and establish different norms in your home or learning environment.

Model fairness and consideration. Always remember that your child will learn a lot about dealing with social situations by observing how you handle them. Model courage and speak up when you see someone being mistreated. This will help your child learn not to tolerate bullying.

A final tip:  give your child lots of opportunities to interact with people of all ages.  They learn a lot by playing with older children that they can’t learn if we limit that interaction.  And older children learn to be kind and caring by interacting with younger children in ways they can’t learn it by being told to be nice.

How do you nurture a sense of fair play, considerate behavior and courage in the young child or children you care for?

by Ginny Trierweiler, Ph.D., High Regard Parent Coach

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Posted in Babies, Child Development, childhood, early childhood, emotional intelligence, family, Montessori, parenting, Toddlers, young children | Tagged | 2 Comments

Happy Birthday– and thank you!– Dr. Maria Montessori

162by Ginny Trierweiler, Ph.D.

I have been fascinated with the potential of young children since I was a young child and I have enjoyed studying early child development in great depth for decades now. But it’s only in the past 10 or so years that I discovered Dr. Maria Montessori’s approach and realized how gravely we have been underestimating young children.

I knew I needed to learn more about Dr. Montessori’s approach after I visited an authentic Montessori early education program and witnessed amazingly mature, capable, confident young children directing their own learning.  I had studied child development for over 20 years at that point, yet I had no idea such young children could be so capable!  I observed children in those classrooms to learn the keys to cultivating great development in young children.

And I studied Dr. Montessori’s teachings. They challenged some long-held assumptions. 

  1. Children should be separated into single age groupings to learn.”  That was how it had always been, right?  Actually, no.  That’s how it’s been in much of my country in my times, but it’s actually an anomaly and it’s not best for child development.
  2. “Children potty-train around 3 years old”– right?  WRONG.  60 years ago, the average age children were able to use the toilet independently and be dry (at least during that day) was 1 year old. We are seeing a major delay in development in that area now, and it’s not because our children are born less intelligent.
  3. “Biting, hitting, screaming and tantrums are all normal behaviors for toddlers.”  Not exactly.  In the Montessori school, some of these behaviors occurred at times, but at MUCH lower rates than in other settings. Observing in the Montessori school, I found young children to be confident and self-directed.  They were helpful and considerate.  They exhibited grace and courtesy at mealtime.  How was this possible?

How was Dr. Montessori able to come up with amazingly on-point approaches to educating young children and bringing out the best in them?   A big part of the answer to this question is that she used the scientific method.  In other words, she actually observed young children to see what they were interested in and how they behaved under various circumstances.

Unlike other educational approaches, Montessori education developed out of observation of children.  This is why it works so much better than other educational approaches which were made up in someone’s head or office.

So Happy Birthday Dr. Maria Montessori (August 31)!  On behalf of children, THANK YOU for paying attention! _________________________________________

In honor of Dr. Montessori’s birthday, grab a free copy of my book “Let Me Do It Myself!  Secrets to Raising a Capable, Confident & Considerate Toddler” on Kindle August 29 New cover op 2– 31, 2016.


Posted in Child Development, early childhood, Montessori, parenting, young children | Leave a comment

Is “benign neglect” best for kids?

New cover op 2Which is better for kids — Helping Them as Much as Possible or “Benign Neglect?”

by Ginny Trierweiler, Ph.D.


Recently, I was visiting a woman at a nursing home and saw in her room a Reader’s Digest article titled “5 Lessons People Learn Too Late.”  I was intrigued and wanted to see what they identified as the 5 lessons we learn too late, so I could think about whether we could learn them earlier!

I was particularly interested in the fact that one of the 5 Lessons people learn too late is “Don’t Overparent.” The article quotes Hara Estroff Marano who argues that “a huge distrust in society’s institutions… pushes people to over-parent.  Parents also lack trust in children’s desire to be competent and don’t accept that nature will influence the course of development.” 

This was one of our big insights when my colleague and I studied unusually mature, thriving young children (infants to 5 and 6 years old) in a Montessori school.  When we studied that environment to understand why these young children appeared so much more capable, confident and considerate than most young children, we identified 8 inter-related keys that distinguished the capable, confident, self-motivated young children from other young children their age.  And one key discovery was that the adults there demonstrated great respect for the native intelligence and natural learning drives of the young children.  Understanding the young children differently, they behaved differently and allowed the young children to guide their own learning to a great degree.

Note: letting young children direct much of their own learning did not mean letting them behave like ruffians!  Failing to educate young children about we behave in our culture is going too far with neglect!  A fork is for eating food, not throwing or playing with.  It’s okay to pet or pat the dog, but trying to mount or ride the dog is not okay.

The Reader’s Digest article argues that “benign neglect is good for kids.”  More and more youth are experiencing depression and anxiety, and developing an unhealthy level of narcissism.  Michelle Givertz of California State University has studied hundreds of parent-youth pairs and found that over-parenting leads to depression-prone, aimless kids (and ultimately, adults) who lack the ability to achieve goals. Parental over-involvement is also associated with entitlement, Givertz says. Kids who are used to getting everything they need without exerting any effort may think, I’m entitled to everything, but I don’t have the abilities to achieve what I want.”  Insecure and entitled– yikes!  Who wants to raise the next Donald Trump?!

In our Montessori school, we discovered that over-parenting starts in the early years, and it seems to hold children back from developing key skills they would develop quite naturally, if allowed. Teachers who taught the class of 3 – 6 year olds greatly preferred getting students who had already been in Montessori classrooms in infancy and toddler ages, because those children still possessed intact natural learning drives. Many of the children coming to the school at 3 years old directly from the community were exhibiting delayed development. They tended to be immature and passive and it took them quite some time to get back to their normal state of natural curiosity and productive activity.

After seeing what a difference these insights made for child development, I sure changed my approach to young children!  I no longer rush to “save” a young child from falling when they’re working at walking.  I no longer make a loud exclamation “oh no!” when they spill or make a mistake.  I have learned to trust in the young child’s capability to cope with challenges.  I let them experience frustration and disappointment and show trust that they can handle it.  I understand that my job as an adult, whether parent or teacher or aunt or adult on the playground, is not to “serve” children, but is to help kids become confident and self-sufficient.

How can we help more adults learn this lesson before it’s too late, before their children become immature, passive, and entitled? 


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What can a child become GREAT at?

by Ginny Trierweiler, Ph.D., Parent Coach

New cover op 2When Manuel arrived at preschool at 3 years old, he was already identified with speech delays and considered to be on a path toward school failure. Fortunately, his teachers noticed his fascination with geography and maps and they followed his lead.  They nurtured his interest, putting out new maps as soon as he finished one. 

His  passion for maps caused him to develop his language–  he was excited to communicate about it!  He also learned various math concepts and developed his fine motor skills through working at maps.  By the time he left that school two years later to go into kindergarten, he was identified as gifted and talented.  It was very fortunate for him that his teachers knew how to follow and nurture his interests!

Many people would think 3 years old is too young to pursue an interest.  But it made a world of difference for Manuel. 

What can your child become GREAT at?  Something they are interested in!

This is because we ALL work harder at something that interests us. Think about something that you worked at for a long time, developing greater and greater skill.  It’s a good bet that you kept working at it because it interested you.

None of us can become great at everything. But we have the potential to become great at something we spend a lot of time working at. Research proves that children and adults alike work harder and persist more at tasks that they choose. 

Persistent work results in greater skill development, and we are more likely to work persistently at something that interests us.  How it works in our brains is that the connections we need to do something we do repeatedly become stronger and faster, and we get better at those activities, while the connections for things we don’t enjoy or do as often become weaker and slower. 

How many children never discover their talents?  How many adults do you know who never find work that truly utilizes their talents?  I believe this occurs, partly, because we are generally not encouraged to pursue our passionate interests. 

We can make this go differently for the young children in our lives!  How?

Don’t feel you have to guide or manage the young child all the time.  It’s too easy for us to inadvertently lead them away from their interests and thwart their initiative.

Observe them, quietly and without judgment, to learn their interests.  Slow down and notice what the child is naturally drawn to.  What holds their attention? (I don’t include screens here because they are both captivating and disorganizing to the young child’s brain.)

What do YOU do to nurture the young child’s potential?

Posted in Babies, Child Development, parenting, Toddlers, young children | 6 Comments

Avoid “Spoiling” a Young Child — excerpt from book

by Ginny Trierweiler, Ph.D., High Regard Parent Coach

A friend with a new baby called me recently saying her friends were telling her to ignore her 3 month old baby when she put him to bed and he cried.  It felt wrong to her to let him  cry and cry without going in to check on him or comfort him.  She was right!

All the experts agree– you can’t “spoil” a baby by being too responsive.  But you can spoil a toddler, young child (or teen!) by giving in to their every demand.  It helps to be compassionate with them when they’re frustrated, upset, or emotionally overwhelmed.  But you do them no favors when you react as though their every whim is your command.

It’s important to have boundaries and limits.  For example, unless you want your child to become a fussy eater with a narrow diet, don’t feed them completely different, on-demand meals.  Present them with a variety of foods, at least some of which they are likely to enjoy.  Don’t worry whether they eat it or not.  They go through stages in which different smells and textures seem unpalatable. 

Don’t worry that they will starve!  It really is a mistake to start feeding them whatever they demand to eat whenever they request it.  You will not be doing your best job as a parent or caregiver if you follow that too-common approach.

If you’re like me, you will feel some impulses to save your child from their unpleasant feelings.  You likely want to save yourself from any potential impending tantrums, too.  But one of the reasons so many children tantrum as toddlers, and continue to be whiny and demanding as young children (and immature teens and adults!) is that they fail to have the opportunities to develop the ability to manage frustrations.

It’s okay that your child sometimes experiences unpleasant emotions, such as sadness, frustration, and anger.  It’s all part of being human.  It’s  not necessary– or even possible– for a person to be happy at every moment. Everyone needs to learn to cope with frustration if they’re going to become happy, successful people in the world.  The only way to learn is to practice.

Don’t allow yourself to feel responsible for saving your child from unpleasant feelings like frustration.  Keep in mind that it is your job as a parent to help them mature into healthy human beings, not to keep them constantly appeased.   The people who live fulfilling lives,  no matter what happens in the course of life, are the people who develop the skills and habits for living a fulfilling life.  That includes the skills for managing a variety of experiences and emotions, including unpleasant emotions. 

Help your child develop emotional self-management skills, and avoid spoiling them, by letting them experience difficult feelings and practice coping with them.  Don’t worry that your toddler or young child isn’t very good at this– it takes time to develop these skills.

New cover op 2

My book about toddlers is available on Amazon in Kindle or paperback.  If you purchase the paperback through Ginny Trierweiler Consulting, I will send you an autographed copy.


Posted in Child Development, early childhood, Toddlers | Leave a comment