The strength switch by Lea Waters

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The strength switch offers scientifically grounded solution on on strength based parenting. Human nature sees fault in everything, the same is true for parenting, when our attention is selective we only see our child’s faults. The author Dr Walters saw the same when her child Nick did not park his bicycle at the place told, despite reminders. She noticed this but failed to notice his warm welcoming her home everyday or his neatly putting shoes and lunch box at the right place rather than just throwing away.

However, things did not improve, it was only when she lovingly mentioned her child’s strengths that improvements happened. Strengths are in part genetically determined and some are shaped by the environment. Children genetic ability gets multiplied by repeated efforts and they excel. The lesson here is to give the child an environment which reinforces here genetic strengths.

Neuroscientist E.R Sorrell says that from age of six till adolescence the brain density dramatically increases and it produces more cells than it will ever need. Its natural then to be involved in too many new activities and have chaos.Parents should be relaxed and nudge children to their strengths in this phase.In adolescence these strengths are consolidated. Cells diminish, create neural circuits and consolidate. Hence strengths must be focused even more.

Our attention is 20-30 mins and for a child it is even less, for 3 years it is 3-5 mins. If your child is focusing on a single activity it is likely they are putting natural strengths to use. It is important to praise such kind of concentration. But helpful praise is always specific praise.

Guilt and shaming are common methods of disciplining children. But shaming should be avoided. Guilt can act as a reminder of child’s responsibilities and stimulate empathy and remorsefulness but shame preys on the child very person and makes them feel rejected. If you see your child teasing other kids at school a reminder of occasions she displayed empathy and kindness and expressing disappointment that she did not use those special strengths is a good way to work on improving behaviors.

In all, we need to help work on children strength while being mindful and calm ourselves. This creates an environment to prosper.

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Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting by Noël Janis-Norton: notes

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When we  continue to do things for our children that they could do for themselves, we rob them of opportunities to become self-reliant and confident.

Our main job as parents is to transfer the values, skills and, habits that are important.

The more we try to make children do things our way, the more we annoy our children and cause them to resent us and resist us.

The Five Big Ideas

  • Notice and describe what your child does that pleases use using Descriptive Praise
  • Help your child remember and follow rules and routines using Think-Throughs
  • Helps your child move through their uncomfortable feelings using Reflective Listening
  • Invite your children to cooperate ninety percent of the time, the first time you give an instruction using the Never Ask Twice method
  • Have a child replay a scenario without misbehaving using Action Replays.

Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting Key Concepts

Teaching results in a child knowing how to do something. Training gets a child into the habit of doing something, without you needing to remind them.

Self-reliance is the stepping stone to confidence.

Superlative Praise is vague, exaggerated and ineffective. Descriptive Praise is specific, true and motivating. More, it improves behavior and is easy to grasp. Notice a little thing that your child is doing that is right—or even the smallest step in the right direction. Then, tell your child exactly what you notice and describe the behavior in detail.

When you Descriptively Praise the absence of an annoying behaviour, you’ll soon see less of that behaviour.

Adding ‘qualities’ to your praise helps your child absorb your values.

Focus on planning so that things go right, rather than reacting after things go wrong.

Ask, don’t tell. When your children tell you what they need to do, they are much more likely to remember to do it. But when you tell them, often they’re barely listening.

Special Time. One parent with one child doing something you both enjoy that doesn’t cost money, that’s not in front of a screen, predictable daily, if possible, for at least ten minutes.

Special Time reduces attention-seeking.

Reflective Listening helps defuse your child’s upsets.

Squabbling and telling tales soon lose their appeal when we don’t get involved. Show you care by imagining how they are feeling, and don’t try to solve the problem.

The more we are willing to repeat ourselves, the more times we’ll have to repeat ourselves.

Start behaviour: Your child is not misbehaving but needs to transition to the next activity. Stop behaviour: Your child is doing something wrong or something annoying, and you want her to stop.

Waiting is powerful. It shows intentionality—that you mean what you say.

If consequences on their own were effective, our prisons would be empty.

When you follow through, your children will take what you say more seriously.

You can do action replays for any type of misbehavior, major or minor.

Action replays end all discipline on a positive note.

Taking away a privilege for misbehavior seems unfair to children and generates resentment. Allowing your child to earn a privilege through good behavior is positive and motivating. You’ll see behavior improve sooner than you can imagine.

It’s never too late to guide our children into better mealtime habits.

Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting Summary

The basic premise of Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting is that our main job as parents is to transfer the values, skills and habits that are important.

Over the years, Noël has asked parents from around the globe what values, skills and habits they want their children to develop. Regardless of geographical location, culture, religion or socioeconomic differences, these same five qualities are always mentioned:

Cooperation. Doing what we tell them to do, the first time we tell them, and without a fuss.

Confidence. Knowing and appreciating and using their talents, abilities, and strengths; knowing and accepting and being willing to improve on their weaknesses.

Motivation. The willingness to start, and to keep on doing, all the steps needed to reach a goal, even though they may not enjoy all those steps.

Self-reliance. Doing for themselves everything that they are capable of doing for themselves, rather than expecting or demanding or waiting for someone else to do it for them.

Consideration. Caring about other people’s feelings and understanding how their own actions affect others.

The first of these five foundation habits—cooperation—is the gateway into the other four habits.

Until children are cooperating, they won’t be willing to do things for themselves (self-reliance) or to be polite most of the time (consideration) or to try new things (confidence) or to stick at a task even when it’s difficult (motivation).

It’s our job to teach our children how to do many things, and then, over time and with enough practice, the skills became habits.

The more we try to make children do things our way, the more we annoy our children and cause them to resent us and resist us.

Descriptive Praise

In all her years of working with families, Noël has found Descriptive Praise to be the single most powerful strategy for motivating children to want to cooperate and do their best.

Descriptive Praise means noticing and then specifically describing what your child has done that pleases you.

What is effective for increasing motivation and the willingness to take on challenges is focusing praise on the child’s effort, on what the child has done, not on an ability he can’t control or on the final result. (Carol Dweck discusses this at length in her book, Mindset).

Descriptive Praise is about noticing and commenting on exactly what your child has done that is right or just okay, or even what he hasn’t done wrong.

Examples of Descriptive Praise for small steps in the right direction:

You’ve already got your underwear and one sock on! You’re almost halfway dressed.

I told you it was time to clean your teeth, and you took a step towards the sink.  

You put one of your sweet wrappers in the recycling bin.

Start noticing whenever your child is not doing the annoying habit, and Descriptively Praise the absence of that negative behavior.

A useful strategy when your child does something annoying is to wait a few seconds. As soon as your child stops, or even pauses for breath, jump in with Descriptive Praise.

For total positive effect, turn your Descriptive Praise sentences into paragraphs.

Descriptive Praise becomes even more powerful when you can summarise what you have noticed by mentioning a quality.

A useful way to start a Descriptive Praise sentence is with the words, “I notice…” Children perk their ears up when they hear us saying “I notice…” because that’s not the language we generally use when we are correcting or reprimanding. So when we say ‘I notice’ they soon expect to hear something nice about themselves, and it motivates them to listen.

Focus most of your Descriptive Praise on the habits your children haven’t mastered yet.

How to motivate your child so that you see more of the behavior you want and less of the annoying behavior:  

Choose two annoying behaviours you’d like your child to improve, and write them down.

For each behaviour, notice and Descriptively Praise every time your child does it right or just OK or even just a bit better than before.

Notice and mention when your child isn’t doing the annoying behaviour.

Avoid superlatives.

Make a goal of Descriptively Praising some aspect of the improved behaviour at least ten times a day.

Be sure to address your child’s whingey, impatient or disrespectful tone of voice, even if the words he is saying are reasonable.

Preparing for Success

A think-through is a powerful technique for helping our children remember and follow our rules and routines. It maximises the likelihood of your child cooperating by fixing the expectation or rule in his long-term memory.

A think-through is different from a reminder in two important ways: A think-through happens before the misbehavior occurs. In a think-through, your child is the one doing the talking, not you.

Here are the basic think-through steps for helping your child remember and take seriously an existing rule or routine. Instead of waiting until your child breaks or ignores the rule, we need to be proactive and address the issue with a think-through earlier in the day.

Choose a neutral time to do the think-through.

Ask, don’t tell.

Your child answers in detail, telling you what he should do.

Tips for effective think-throughs:

Spend no more than a minute on each think-through.

Do think-throughs with each child separately, even if you want to reinforce the same rule for more than one child.

Remember to Descriptively Praise as your child answers the think-through questions.

An ongoing problem needs an ongoing solution. So be willing to do several think-throughs a day for a week or so, especially if you have a child who is often uncooperative or who has a more inflexible temperament.

Examples of think-through questions:  

When we get home from football practice, what’s the first thing you need to do?  

Where should you put your equipment bag?  

What should you do with your clean clothes?

What do you need to do as soon as you climb into the car?  

Who buckles your car seat?  

Where should your arms be so Daddy and I can buckle you in? 

When can you get out of your car seat?

To prevent problems, do think-throughs about the right way to behave. Do the think-throughs at neutral times, long before anything has had a chance to go wrong.

Having clear rules and expectations is another key aspect of Preparing for Success.

Before you can make a new rule to address a family problem, the first step is to get clear within ourselves exactly what we want the new rule to be.

If you have a partner, you need to become a United Front. You both need to agree about what the rules will be and we call this becoming a United Front.

You can change rules any time you need to.

Using think-throughs to establish a new rule:

Choose a neutral time and sit down with your child for one minute, just as you would when doing a think-through to revive an existing rule.

Start the think-through by saying, “The new rule is…” or words to that effect.

Once you or your partner have stated the new rule, stop talking!

Instead of explaining the reasons for the new rule, respond with, “That’s a good question. Why do you think we’re making this new rule?”

If your child repeats that he doesn’t know the reason for the new rule, ask him to take a guess.

One important way we can Prepare for Success is to put some time, thought and action into preparing our children’s environment.

Having a list or chart that you can point to is an effective way of preparing the environment to help children remember the rules and routines. Visual reminders can keep you from falling into the trap of repeating yourself.

In her seminars, Noël tells parents that there are four things she wants them to never again say to their children. Those four things are: “Come on,” “Hurry up,” “Let’s go,” “We’ll be late.”

Special Time is most effective when it is frequent and predictable and labeled as that so that your child can expect it. One-on-one Special Time helps your child want to cooperate. It also awakens in your child the desire to imitate the positive habits and qualities and values of that parent.

No matter how busy or stressed you are, you need to set aside even ten minutes a day for Special Time with your child.

The most basic aspect of a United Front is not arguing in front of the children.

Whenever there is a new routine or habit you would like your child to develop, there are many crucial questions to ask yourself about the Preparing for Success techniques. Each question refers to a separate technique.

United Front: ‘Do my partner and I agree about what the rule or expectation is?’

Clear rules and expectations: ‘Have I told my child what the rule is?’

‘Are we doing some think-throughs about this every day, asking several “W” questions about this rule and having the child answer in her own words?’

Preparing the environment: ‘How can I make it easier for my child to follow the rule?’

Visual reminders: ‘How can I avoid repeating myself day after day?’

Plan realistically: ‘Am I leaving enough time in the bedtime routine for laying out clothes?’

Special Time: ‘Are we spending frequent, predictable one-on-one time with each child?’

Descriptive Praise: ‘Am I noticing and mentioning every time my child remembers the rule or takes even a small step in the right direction?’

Reflective Listening

Reflective Listening, or empathic listening as it is sometimes called, helps children move through their uncomfortable feelings more quickly and easily, towards acceptance or towards problem-solving.

The Four Steps of Reflective Listening:

Put your own emotions and wishes to one side temporarily.

Stop whatever you’re doing, look at your child and listen.

Imagine what your child is feeling, and reflect that back to your child in words.

Give your child his wishes in fantasy (optional).

Here’s a way that has helped a lot of parents to stay calmer and more positive: visualize yourself scooping up your anger or worry or disappointment with both hands and placing that uncomfortable emotion at the side of the room. Picturing this can clear your mind. And your feeling will still be there, waiting for you, if you want it back later.

Ask yourself what feeling might be driving your child to do what he’s doing or to say what he’s saying.

Tips for success in Step Three:

Resist the temptation to reassure, reason, justify or lecture. Instead, imagine what your child might be feeling at that moment.

Don’t repeat back exactly what your child has said. Reflective Listening is not about repeating back to the child what she has said to you.

Be tentative. We can never know for sure what someone else is feeling or thinking. So, we need to be quite tentative with most of our Reflective Listening in order for it to be effective.

Giving our children their wishes in fantasy shows that we don’t only care about their behavior. We also care about their feelings.

There is an important difference between children feeling upset and children feeling unhappy.

Here are some effective ways you might phrase a Reflective Listening sentence:  

You look as if you’re feeling…

You seem to be feeling…

You probably feel…

You might be feeling…

You may feel…

It looks like…

Seems like you’re…

It sounds like you’re…

I can see/hear/tell from your face that…

Maybe you’re feeling…

I guess this feels…

I imagine you’re feeling…

It can feel [emotion] when you…

To help a child move beyond the natural human tendency to blame others, we need to make sure that we discipline ourselves so that we ourselves rarely give in to the temptation to blame, accuse, tell off and threaten. We need to lead by example.

Never Ask Twice

The Never Ask Twice method is a simple and effective six-step strategy for getting your children to cooperate ninety percent of the time, the first time you give an instruction and without a fuss.

You can use the Never Ask Twice method whenever you would like your child to stop doing one thing and start doing something else.

Overview of The Six Steps:

Stop what you are doing, go to where your child is, and stand and look at him.

Wait until your child stops what he is doing and looks at you.

Give your child the instruction—clearly, simply and only once.

Ask your child to repeat the instruction back to you – accurately, thoroughly and in his own words.

Stand and wait.

While you are standing and waiting, Descriptively Praise every step in the right direction, no matter how small, and Reflectively Listen to how your child might be feeling.

Give a countdown whenever you sense that your child will resist your instruction.

How to Stop Misbehavior in Its Tracks

If your child asks you, “Why do I have to?” it is rarely a genuine request for information and most likely a diversionary tactic. If your instruction is a sensible one, your child will usually understand why he should do it, or he can easily figure it out for himself.

Keep it friendly. Practise speaking in a low, calm voice, even if you are feeling stressed or annoyed.

Find something to Descriptively Praise. This is often enough to get kids back on track.

Get close. If your child is still misbehaving after you have Descriptively Praised him, immediately stop whatever you are doing and go to where he is and stand close to him. You may find that your close presence, standing, is enough to get your child behaving again.

Give clues. Instead of giving a direct instruction to a child who seems unlikely to comply, you can give a little clue to help your child figure out what to do.

Offer alternatives. When we need to stop our children’s fun, it is often helpful to offer an alternative activity.

Make it a rule for everyone. It can also help if we depersonalise our instruction by stating it as a family rule that applies to all family members.

Empathise. Another effective way to help our children want to cooperate is to show them that we understand how frustrated and annoyed they feel when we interrupt their fun.

Offer limited choices. Give your child an element of choice whenever possible. To simplify your life, limit the choices to two.

Phrase it in the positive. It is far more motivating for children to hear what they should do, phrasing it in the positive, rather than what they should not do.

Model the behaviour you want to see. It also helps if you can show the appropriate behaviour while you are telling them what to do.

Get united. A United Front sends children a clear message that both parents agree about the behaviour expected and that both parents care enough to enforce it.

Always follow through with action. Following through consistently results in our children knowing that we mean what we say.

Rewards and Consequences

Consequences on their own will not motivate children to want to behave well or to remember to behave well.

Following through is all about what we do after a child does something.

The best rewards are those that are easy and quick and cost nothing.

The easiest, quickest and most effective rewards are our positive reactions to every little step in the right direction: our frequent use of Descriptive Praise.

Another easy, quick reward that reinforces the values and skills that we want our children to develop is smiling and hugging.

Here are ten examples of small rewards that work well to motivate children to improve all aspects of a child’s behaviour and schoolwork:  

An extra story or song at bedtime

An extra five minutes of rough-and-tumble with a parent

An outing with a parent without the siblings

Playing a board game with a parent

An extra fifteen minutes of screen time

Choosing the menu for a meal

Trying on Mum’s jewellery or Dad’s ties

An adult activity with a parent, such as baking

Camping out or having a picnic in the garden

Sleeping in the sitting room.

You can use money to reward good behaviour and good work habits.

Noël’s experience has taught her that children and teenagers who have to earn most of the extras in their life become more motivated, more appreciative and more responsible.

Noël’s recommendation is that children need to earn all or most of their pocket money.

If you choose to use pocket money as an incentive, Noël recommends giving the reward daily by marking on a chart each day the amount of money that they have earned, even if you only hand over the money once a week.

Tips for effective Rewards and Consequences

Once your child has earned a reward, it’s hers and you can’t take it away.

It’s important not to let your child choose a reward that requires you to do something for him that is his responsibility, such as setting the table or feeding the cat.

Similarly, a reward shouldn’t let a child get out of doing something you think is important but that she finds uncomfortable, such as music practice or sharing.

Do not expect rewards by themselves to motivate a child who is quite reluctant, impulsive or angry. A reward is a tool, something that makes it somewhat easier for your child to develop the habits of cooperation and self-reliance. Rewards are not a substitute for motivating with Descriptive Praise and Special Time or for minimising and preventing problems by Preparing for Success and Reflective Listening.

When your child does not manage to earn the rewards, make a point of sounding disappointed, rather than angry or blaming. You could say, ‘Oh, what a shame. I was hoping we could have that extra story tonight.’ This is empathetic, not adversarial. It shows you’re on their side, and it’s far more motivating than if you were to say, ‘It’s your own fault, you know, for wasting time by arguing when you should have been getting on with your homework.’

In addition to the rewards that your child knows in advance are available, it is also motivating for you to occasionally surprise her with rewards that she was not expecting. This achieves two purposes. First, it helps her to see herself in a new light, as a person who can delight and impress the parent. It also models a generous, giving attitude, which she will, over time, absorb and imitate.

It’s important not to use food as a reward. Food is too emotive an issue, too linked with love and acceptance. It’s much better not to tie food to anything that has to do with approval or disapproval.

An action replay consists of you and your child replaying the scenario, but this time he does the right thing straight away, without any misbehavior or fuss.

Do action replays after any misbehavior, large or small, to give your child practice at doing the right thing.

Another effective consequence is what Noël calls sitting apart. Sitting apart is similar in some ways to a time-out, but is much more manageable.

What is the same about sitting apart and a time-out is that your child has to stay sitting in one place. His freedom of movement is temporarily curtailed. What is different between sitting apart and a time-out is that the sitting apart happens in the same room where you are.

Sitting apart is an effective consequence because children do not want to have to stay in one place.

The usual guideline is a minute for each year of the child’s age.

If the misbehavior for which you want to do a sitting apart happens in public, you can wait and do the sitting apart as soon as you get home. Or you can take your child to the car temporarily, and do the sitting apart right there.

If your young child keeps getting up from whichever part of the room you have designated as the sitting apart place, keep putting her back immediately and Descriptively Praise her a lot whenever she stays there, even for a few seconds.

Once your child has completed the sitting apart by sitting quietly until the timer goes ding, he has to tell you in his own words and in a full sentence why you gave him a sitting apart.

Remember to Descriptively Praise something about his reply.

If after the timer goes ding, your child is still so angry that he is not yet willing to speak sensibly or to do the action replay properly, just set the timer for another minute or two of sitting apart.

Getting Ready in The Mornings

If your child frequently makes a fuss about what to wear, have a rule that clothes need to be chosen and laid out the night before.

Children who are able to dress themselves need to dress themselves, every single day, even when you are in a hurry and even when they are whingeing about it.

Everyone has to be completely dressed, hair brushed, beds made, pets fed, pajamas put away and school bags near the door before breakfast is served.

No screen time before school.

Children’s breakfasts need to be healthy.

Together, do everything you possibly can the evening before.

Give everyone more time in the morning by waking the family up ten to twenty minutes earlier.


Invite everyone to help before and after meals.

All family members who are at home need to sit together for the meal, even if they are not hungry.

Everyone comes to the table as soon as they are called.

Start the meal with a short ritual, maybe giving thanks.

No one can start eating until the whole family is at the table and until a parent has said everyone may begin.

Avoid screen time, toys, books, mobile phones or earphones at the table.

Serve everyone the same meal.

Wipe your fingers and your mouth on your napkin.

Only ask for seconds when you’ve finished everything on your plate.

Ask for something to be passed to you, instead of reaching across someone.

Sit up straight with your legs down, and elbows off the table.

Children stay at the table until excused by an adult.

Avoid a rule about children finishing everything on their plate.

Offer children a healthy snack between breakfast and lunch and another between lunch and dinner.

To help children eat more healthily, avoid keeping foods that are not good for them.

Make sure there is always a napkin at each table setting to train children not to wipe their mouths on their sleeves.

Serve children small portions.

Give children cutlery that is the right size for them so it is easy to use.

Provide children with chairs that are the right size and the right height.

Plan your day realistically so the family has enough time to enjoy each meal without feeling rushed

Any child who is hungry will eat her fill in fifteen minutes. Do not drag out mealtimes.

Start each meal for all family members with a First Plate, on which you will put tiny amounts of five to eight different foods that your child has been known to eat on occasion but does not like. The amount of each food needs to be so tiny (for example a quarter of a pea) that it has no discernible taste! Only after your child has eaten everything on his First Plate will you then give him his second plate, which is a smallish amount of whatever you have made for dinner that your child does like.

Sibling Relationships

Make a rule for yourself that when one child comes to you complaining about the other, you will stay out of it.

Give your children, especially boys, many opportunities to play-fight.

Give your older child a few special privileges.

Have each of the children play alone for some time every day (not in front of a screen), even when a sibling is home.

If you are worried about a child’s safety, move in close.

If you are not worried about safety, stay out of their conflict, even if one of the children is crying or complaining.

Instead of intervening, find something to Descriptively Praise.

Have a ‘squabbling place’.

Screen Time

Birth to three years old: Screens aren’t recommended. Three to eight years old: Up to half an hour a day in front of a screen. From eight years old through to adulthood: One hour daily of leisure screen time (except on special occasions, eg. going to the cinema or watching a football match on television).

Allow leisure screen use only on certain days.

Have children earn screen time.

Have children ask first before switching on a screen.

Limit screen time during playdates at your house.

Prohibit screens on school day mornings.

Avoid screens on short car journeys.

Prohibit screen time during meals.

Turn off screens without a fuss today to earn tomorrow’s screen time.

Require children to get plenty of exercise.

Be clear about exactly what will happen when the time limit for screens is almost up.


Have a sacred homework time every day (except Sundays).

On non-school days, set the homework time for early in the day to make sure it happens.

Only allow your child to spend the amount of time on homework that the school recommends.

Do homework when fresh.

Work before play.

Build in realistic breaks.

To prevent overload, make a rule that your child has an active break (not in front of a screen) every fifteen to thirty minutes, depending on his current ability to concentrate on academic work. Decide in advance when your child can have breaks.

Worst first.

Teach and train children to do their best.

Give your child high-quality fuel to do high-quality work.

Eliminate distractions.

Supervise the use of computers for homework and projects.

To help children get the maximum benefit from their homework, divide each homework task into three distinct stages:

Help your child think about how to do the task well so that he will learn whatever there is to be learned from the activity. Even for simple pieces of work, ask your child to tell you exactly what he needs to do and how and where and why. Ask leading questions to guide him to think carefully about any aspects of the task that he may be unaware of or that he tends to overlook.

Let your child does his homework, without any help.

Guide your child to improve his attention to detail, his thoroughness, his editing and his proofreading skills.

Tidying Up and Looking After Belongings

Have five minutes of tidying-up time before dinner.

Put away any toy or game, art project, etc. that has been taken out before beginning the next activity.

Have a rule where any toys or clothes left lying around the house will be removed by the parent and need to be earned back.

With your child, sort through his belongings, and weed out all the unnecessary duplicates, as well as all the outgrown or broken equipment, books, games and toys.

Remove from your child’s room all the toys and equipment that can’t easily be put away.

Designate a specific, easily accessible place for all your child’s belongings.

For a child who seems to be disorganised and distractible by temperament, take a photograph of each part of her room after it has been tidied to your satisfaction.

Keep enticing or potentially messy games up high.

Household Chores

Set aside the same time every day (straight after dinner works best for most families) when all family members spend ten or fifteen minutes together doing some household task.

Offer your child two choices so she doesn’t feel bossed about.

For particularly unpopular tasks, require only five or ten minutes at first.

Let children take it in turns to do certain tasks.

All day long, whatever household task you are involved in, think about which parts of the task you could start teaching your child to do.

Take advantage of the times when your child wants you to play with her. Develop a routine where first she helps you with a part of what you’re doing; then you play with her.

Playing Independently

Designate a place where your child will play on her own.

Help your children make a list of activities they might enjoy doing independently.

Lead by example—enjoy your own pursuits.

Bedtimes and Sleep

Decide with your partner what the right bedtime should be for your children, and make this the rule.

Allow older children and teenagers to read or draw in bed if they are not yet tired, but only if they are in bed at the time you have set.

Have flexibility on non-school nights.

Allow older children and teenagers to stay up a maximum of one hour later than their usual bedtime, and for younger children a maximum of half an hour later.

Stagger bedtimes so that younger children are getting to bed earlier so they get the rest they need.

Limit snacks after dinner is over including milk.

If your child feels attached to a special blanket or cuddly toy, make sure that it always stays on the bed and that he is not allowed to carry it around.

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The Opposite Of Spoiled Summary

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The Opposite Of Spoiled shows you how to raise financially conscious children, who learn the value of money early on by leading an open dialogue about money, giving them responsibility and teaching them patience.

We really, really, need it. Personally, I think I’ve turned out alright for my current age in how I deal with money, my parents have done a decent job. One thing that took me way too long though, is understanding how hard it is to earn money and that the earlier you start doing it, the better.

This book will help you prevent that with your own children, among other things. I’m very troubled to see how financially illiterate my generation is. Most of my fellow millennials think it’s perfectly fine to take however much money you have for the month, and, at the end of it, have none left.

In their defense, a lot of that battle was lost in their childhood, when their parents never talked about money and showered them with gifts. So let’s make sure you and I do a better job with our own children.

Here are 3 lessons from The Opposite of Spoiled:

  • There are four things that can spoil a kid, most of which don’t have to do with money.
  • Don’t sweep the topic of money under the rug and always answer honestly.
  • Let your kids earn their own money as soon as they can.

Ready to raise financially literate children? Let’s make them the opposite of spoiled!

Lesson 1: Of the four things that spoil kids, most aren’t about money.

What’s the most annoying thing about young people and teenagers today? Come on, you can say it, I won’t be mad. Would you say it’s that they’re stupid? Disrespectful? Egoistic? The most common answer to that question wraps up all of them into one: they’re spoiled.

In our minds, the word “spoiled” is almost directly connected with the word “money,” but Ron Lieber says the two actually have fairly little to do with one another.

Here are the four factors that spoil kids:

Having no chores, tasks, or responsibility to other people.

Having no rules to follow or guidelines and schedules to stick to.

Being given way too much attention by their parents.

Having many material possessions.

Just that last one is about money. If you think about these in your own childhood, you’ll quickly see why you have the financial habits you have now.

Personally, I had to re-fill the water in our house, make my own bed, vacuum my own room and some other basic things. I was punished (but not heavily) for breaking rules, learned how to entertain myself (I’m an introvert anyways), but did have lots of material possessions. I think that got me about 60% of the way there – what I had to learn later was that it takes time and patience to earn the money to buy something you want.

So how can you avoid these with your own children?

Lesson 2: Never make money a taboo topic, always lead an honest, open dialogue about it with your kids.

First of all by not sweeping the topic of money under the rug altogether. One of the great things of doing something online is that it teaches you the value of transparency. I wouldn’t mind sharing any of the financial details of my life, in fact, I often have.

At the very least, you should be open and honest about it to your children. When they ask you how much you earn, don’t say “enough,” because you’re embarrassed or scared they might talk to their friends about it. Instead, ask them why they want to know – maybe they’re afraid you’ll move houses or want to buy something for a friend in need.

Just give honest answers and start a discussion about money with them. And since children often can’t grasp the magnitude of numbers, don’t stop there. Show them how much things cost, like your electricity bill or monthly car payment, and ask them what they think of financial decisions you’re about to make.

An especially helpful exercise is to ask your kids to guess the value of something you’re about to buy and give them the correct answer. This’ll help them get a grip on numbers and categorize prices.

Lesson 3: Teach your kids the value of earning money by letting them take a job.

Hundred years ago life as a child was pretty shitty. The second you were old enough to hold things, you had to put your arms to use, help on the farm, around the house, or worse, work grueling hours in a factory.

But today we’ve ended up at the other extreme, where helicopter parents try to protect their kids from the real world for as long as possible, thus setting them up to fail miserably when the bubble bursts.

The one thing I wished my parents had forced me to do is to get a job as a kid. It would’ve taught me how hard it is to earn money a lot earlier. My sister worked as a waitress for six months after graduating high school – and already she’s started to be much more conscious about how she spends her money.

Apart from the hard skills they learn from the job itself, working also teaches kids communication skills, reliability and responsibility. Plus they won’t waste their hard-earned money, taking the pressure off you to provide for them. Who knows, once they start to catch on, they might even want to pay for themselves and be able to help pay for things you could never afford to buy them on your own.

One caveat though: you can’t just pay your kids for doing chores. These are necessary tasks everyone has to do – you don’t get paid for them either. That’d teach them to look for financial incentives in the wrong places.

My personal take-aways

As I said above, I really think we need this book today more than ever. Whether you have kids already or not, this’ll help set them up for a successful financial life – an absolutely crucial skill!

Why We Love Summary

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Why We Love delivers a scientific explanation for love, shows you how it developed historically and evolutionarily, tells you what we’re all attracted to and where we differ, and of course gives you actionable advice to deal with both the exciting, successful romance in your life, as well as its sometimes inevitable fallout.

Isn’t it funny? Love is one of, if not the most crucial part of a happy life, yet we learn nothing about it in school, aren’t taught anything about it in college (unless you study biology or anthropology, maybe), and hardly pick up a book to teach ourselves – love books don’t perform nearly as well as other self-help books.

Today, we’ll change that. You’ll learn something from the most referenced scholar in the love department. Her name is Dr. Helen Fisher and she’s been researching what makes us fall in and out of love for 40+ years.

Why We Love explains the most complex thing in the world from a biological, historical, evolutionary and of course practical standpoint, making it one of the prime books on love.

Here are 3 lessons to help you win the race for romance:

Love is a chemical thing, mostly based on three hormones.

We’re all attracted to mystery, symmetry and difference.

You have your own unique love map, which helps you find your ideal partner.

Dying for some dopamine? Let’s boot the love system!

Lesson 1: Three hormones are responsible for the majority of your love feelings.

For centuries people have sought the source of love. People have looked to the stars, magic powers and mystical oracles, but for a few decades we’ve known what’s really behind the most complex feeling of them all: chemistry.

Depending on which neurotransmitters and hormones are released in your brain in certain situations, you experience love – or not.

Helen Fisher has identified three primary neurotransmitters, which make you fall in love: dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine.

You’re probably familiar with dopamine – it’s what makes you happy. When you’re waiting in line at the coffee shop and your favorite song comes on in the radio, which suddenly makes you tap your foot and hum along, that’s dopamine at work. It’s one of the most powerful mood changers, as it controls your attention, motivation and has addictive capacities. In fact, the response your body shows when you’re with the one you love is not that different from taking a drug like cocaine – no wonder love drives us crazy, huh?

Norepinephrine makes you feel thrilled, excited and constantly “on”. You know, those butterflies in your stomach or when you can hear your heart beating in your chest. It’s also what causes you sleepless nights and makes you lose your appetite (I remember falling so hard for a girl once, that I ate almost nothing for a week – my family thought I was sick haha).

Serotonin then completes the bunch as it makes you feel restless, so you pace back and forth in your room, while your beloved does the same in your head, as you can’t stop thinking about them. However, when this happens your level of serotonin aren’t higher, they’re lower than usual.

Lesson 2: We’re all attracted to people who are mysterious, different and visually symmetric.

So what triggers the release of these three hormones? Three things we’re all attracted to, no matter our gender or personal preferences, are mystery, difference and symmetry.

Here’s why:

Mystery triggers your curiosity and ancient instincts to maximize variety in your life (just as with food), because experiencing something new always releases dopamine.

Difference makes sure our offspring stays healthy, as mixing DNAs with a big difference creates a healthier, more balanced DNA in our children, which puts them at less risk of getting sick.

Symmetry speaks to the eye, because when we look at symmetric bodies and faces, which are considered to be more beautiful, more dopamine is released in our brain.

But in the end, we don’t all go for the same types of people, so where do we differ in our quest for love?

Lesson 3: You have your own unique love map, which helps you find your ideal partner.

Helen Fisher calls it a love map. It’s a set of characteristics, both physical and non-physical, like eye color, hair style, height, pitch of voice, kindness, motivation, and so on.

Combined, these make up your ultimate partner, the person you find most attractive. This love map is developed over time and it gets more and more refined as you get older and learn more about yourself and how you love. It unconsciously guides you, for example when you enter a crowded room, and instinctively tells you who you’re attracted to and who not.

Your love map is absolutely unique to you, and no two people have the same, which was found when observing identical twins. Even though they usually have very similar values and interests, their tastes in love are often completely different.

Note: As a fun exercise, try to write down everything you think is on your love map. You’ll be surprised at how specific the idea of your perfect partner is, that you have in your head already. It’s good to get these things out and become aware of what you’re looking for.

My personal take-aways

This book doesn’t break love down to an exact science, and that’s a good thing. It educates you. It expands your knowledge in love and once you close it and put it down, that slowly seeps in. I believe this book has a very strong, but subtle power to influence your unconscious in a way that’ll make you behave more aligned with your love map.

No one learns enough about love, I’d actually suggest this to you before a whole bunch of other books on success, productivity, or finance.

Why Is Sex Fun Summary

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Why Is Sex Fun takes a humorous look at the evolution of human sex life, explaining why the way we behave sexually is often odd, but necessary for our survival.

This was an impulse read. I read the title and thought to myself: “Yeah, why IS sex fun?”, so I clicked. Only now did I find out that this book was written by Jared Diamond, who’s also author of the famous Guns, Germs and Steel.

Here are the 3 fun things I learned:

  • Your dog would think the way you have sex is super weird.
  • Concealed ovulation developed so we stay monogamous.
  • Menopause helps women live longer.

Now let’s have some fun!

Lesson 1: Your dog thinks your sex life is super weird.

Compared to thirty million other animal species, we really are the “odd one out”. If your dog could talk, he’d probably pull you aside and tell you to get your sex life straight.

“How can you just randomly have sex on any day of the month? Even if the woman has just had her period. That’s gross!

And when you finally do get her pregnant, you STILL keep having sex. What’s that about?

Honestly, I don’t get any of this.

But the part that weirds me out the most is why you can’t just have sex in public, like any normal animal would do. What’s with all the dimmed lights, closed blinds, and secrecy?

I’m just glad I didn’t see you leave your socks on!”

Okay, that last part I made up. But even just comparing us to the 4,300 other mammal species on earth, these are still valid questions from your dog.

Whether you look at chimpanzees, wolves, lions, bears, birds, beavers, squirrels or kangaroos – they all mate only when the female is fertile, they do so wherever they want, and immediately stop having sex as soon as the female is pregnant.

Who’s the weirdo now?

Lesson 2: Concealed ovulation is what made us monogamous.

This was a big lightbulb moment for me. The reason we randomly have sex is we simply don’t know when a woman is fertile.

Unlike other mammals, women show no obvious, exterior signs that they are fertile. Baboons can spot fertility from miles away (they are the ones with the red bums), deer make sounds to signal they’re ready and fish can pair their sperm and eggs any time, since they fertilize externally.

Diamond argues that concealed ovulation developed in order to promote monogamy. A man who leaves a woman shortly after sex might potentially put his offspring in danger, in case she’s pregnant.

Furthermore, since we can have sex any time, the desire to immediately find other fertile females becomes weaker. And even if males were to take off right after sex, they wouldn’t know how to spot, new fertile females anyway.

This is likely designed by evolution to keep us together, protect our children, and help them grow up.

So yeah, monogamy is what’s up!

Lesson 3: Menopause helps women live longer lives.

The less fertile you are, the longer you live.


Shocker, right? But it makes sense. Keeping up fertility in the form of cells, sperm and going through the reproduction cycle over and over again costs the body a lot of precious resources.

Studies have found that male worms, who suffer from a mutation which causes them to produce less sperm, live longer.

The same is true for females, which is why menopause, the natural transition women go through around age 50 to become infertile, helps them live longer.

Even the most cared for zoo apes hardly live beyond 60 (Gregoire, the oldest chimp ever, died at age 66), yet the average life expectancy for women is 81 years.

Menopause helps women’s bodies remain in better condition for longer. Just think of the dangers and problems that come with being pregnant at age 39 vs. 28, for example.

This limit on fertility also helps women spend more of their energy towards their own development and the education of their children. In this way, fewer births have lead to a higher survival rate.

Imagine how important this was thousands of years ago, when the only source of knowledge were other people – the elders lived long enough to passed on everything they knew to their children and grandchildren, which ultimately let us evolve so fast.

My personal take-aways

For this book reading a summary was perfect. It’s a book I would never have bought, and this way I got to learn 3 cool things about a field I usually don’t occupy myself with a lot – biology.

My biggest aha-moment was in lesson 2, who could’ve guessed we came up with hidden ovulation on purpose, so to speak?

The dog story in the beginning was fun, in the book Diamond actually writes from the perspective of a dog, which I tried myself at here, so I believe the book will be a fun read as well.

The Botany Of Desire Summary

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The Botany Of Desire describes how, contrary to popular belief, we might not be using plants as much as plants use us, by getting humans to ensure their survival, thanks to appealing to our desires for beauty, sweetness, intoxication and control.

Michael Pollan writes great books about food. He’s incredibly thorough in his research and never fails to tell interesting stories, in which he wraps up and embeds the important points he wants to get across to the reader.

His most popular book is The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which has been showered with praise for its critical depiction of how the industrial revolution has changed the way we eat. In Defense of Food then shows us how to go back to more natural ways.

But The Botany of Desire is different. Published in 2001, it’s one of his oldest books, and it proposes a very intriguing idea: that plants use and control us as much as we use and control them.

Here are 3 lessons that will change how you look at plants forever:

  • Plants use humans and animals because they can’t move.
  • The apple used its sweetness and one particular guy tospread itself all across America.
  • Our brain contains a place that’s specifically designed torespond to cannabis.

Wanna know how the apple got its “green” card? Sure, here we go!

Lesson 1: What if plants use you to spread their seeds? They might do so because they can’t move on their own.

The story we’re always told in school is the one of the birds and the bees, explaining how plants depend on bees to spread their pollen, and offer their nectar in exchange. It’s always a story of the “poor plants,” who can’t survive on their own and always need others to help.

This makes it natural for us to think of plants like objects and humans and animals like subjects. We’re the active ones, we “do” stuff, and if we don’t choose to include plants in our plan, well, they get left out.

But what if the plants are in charge? What if they’re the subjects, getting us to do stuff for them?

If you think about it, the only reason that makes us think of plants as helpless creatures is that they can’t move on their own. Fine, so they can’t go anywhere and replicate, but if that’s the only handicap they have, then all they have to do to overcome it is get others to come to them and do it for them.

And boy, are they doing a great job. By producing things that speak to our basic desires, specifically those for sweetness, beauty, intoxication and control, they might really be the ones controlling us.

Let’s look a sweetness and intoxication in particular.

Lesson 2: By being sweet the apple got one particular guy to spread it all across America.

When you visit the US, apples abound. The east coast has an entire apple industry, with many popular tourist activities being apple picking, learning how to make apple cider, and of course visiting apple farms.

It might come as a shock to you then that there’s only one kind of apple native to North America: the crabapple, and it’s barely edible. Being most noteworthy for giving its name to a Simpsons character, you might now ask: “Well, where do all the apples come from then?”

As it turns out, one man is largely responsible for America’s “appleness”, and that man’s name is Johnny Appleseed. Really named John Chapman, he got his nickname for contributing to the growth of millions of apple trees across 1,200 all throughout the country from 1800 to 1845.

European settlers had tried to introduce the apples they brought with them to America for decades, but they were unsuited for the new climate. Johnny realized that every apple’s seeds contain a different set of genes, so by simply planting a lot of them, eventually some would flourish. He traveled wherever America would expand next to, planting new trees and helping the new settlers abide by the government’s rule that 50 apple or pear trees had to be planted on new land.

Of course, if Johnny and the people hadn’t loved apples, none of this would’ve worked. But by being a cheap, sweet, nourishing food in a time when sweet foods were rare and sugar was a luxury, the apple got Johnny to spread itself all across an entire continent.

Lesson 3: There’s a place in our brains that’s specifically designed to respond to THC, the substance in marijuana.

Note: None of this is medical advice, the below is purely informational. Be sure to follow your local laws and consult a professional before using marijuana, even if it’s legal where you live.

How do you think humans discovered that cannabis could make you high? I mean, it’s not like someone just walked up to a plant, looked at it and thought: “Hey, let’s dry this, roll it up, light it on fire and inhale the smoke, that should be a great idea!”

Pollan says that chances are we saw someone else being high near the plants and thus deduced that they could alter our state of consciousness. That “someone” was a bird. Yup, pigeons love to snack some cannabis.

Of course a long time went by between that and the late 1800s, when marijuana started becoming popular as a recreational drug. Until the mid 1930s, doctors even prescribed cannabis as a painkiller. But by 1937, the possession of marijuana was made illegal in the US, as the government felt it wasn’t researched well enough.

Throughout the 20th century, several surprising discoveries were made:

The psychoactive substance that causes the “high” is called THC – delta-9-tetrahyrdocannabinol.

Our brain has receptors, specifically designed to react to THC, just like it has receptors for serotonin and endorphins, for example.

Our brain also manufactures its own version of THC, a cannabinoid called anandamide.

We still don’t know everything about cannabis, but the fact that our brains are designed to deal with it alone reveals how powerfully the plant uses its capacity to intoxicate to control us.

My personal take-aways

The only complaint I have about this book is that the title is misleading. I had it sit in my library of blinks for a while, thinking it had something to do with how plants influence sex, for example explaining aphrodisiacs. This was a total surprise, and a great one. A very powerful exercise in first principles thinking.

Labor Of Love Summary

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Labor Of Love Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: Labor of Love illustrates the history of modern dating as we know it, starting from its origins in the late 1800s all the way to the dating websites and apps we know today.

Read in: 4 minutes

Favorite quote from the author:

Labor Of Love Summary

There’s always something to complain about when looking at the current state of dating. Maybe you didn’t want an arranged marriage in 1884. Some will have thought it sucked you had to make lots of money to be attractive in the 1920s. And not everyone was happy with the whole “free love” thing in the 60s.

But the fact of the matter is: Dating is going to be what it’s going to be. Whatever era you’re alive in, you’re just gonna have to deal with it and find your way anyway.

As I’ve been making an effort to bring back some of the long-lost old-time courtship and chivalry to dating myself (no thanks to Tinder), I thought learning more about the history of relationships made sense. Moira Weigel, a PhD candidate at Yale has written just the book for it. It’s called Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating.

Here are my 3 favorite takeaways:

When women started moving to cities during the Industrial Revolution, dating as we know it first began.

There’s a reason you think it’s important what people wear, and it dates back about 100 years.

Netflix ‘n’ chill isn’t new. It goes back to the 50s.

Whatever you’re trying to master, it always pays to learn about a field’s history. Dating is no different, so let’s go!

Lesson 1: Dating was invented when women started moving to cities.

Out of all things, the one you’d least expect to yield a big influence over dating is probably economics. Yet, without some economic developments, we wouldn’t even be dating at all. The Industrial Revolution with its shift towards big factories and lots of manual labor required a lot of workers in one place. The factories huddled together, creating infrastructure around them and big cities were born.

Women moving to the city worked mostly as:

Factory workers.

Sales personnel.

House servants.

Before then, relationships were in the hands of parents and relatives, the matchmakers of the 19th century. But now, both men and women were out of the house, independent and had a chance to meet one another.

Because few people could afford spending money on entertainment like a night at the theater or a restaurant, let alone big apartments that weren’t crowded with 7-8 people, most dating was done in public: people snuck away some quiet, romantic time in parks or dark alleyways.

The wealthier middle class “called” on each other instead. Men knocked at a woman’s door, a servant would take the name and if the lady was interested, the two would spend some quality time with each other – under strict supervision, of course!

Lesson 2: Consumption became a central part of dating in the 1920s – and it still is today.

The second group from above set up the next big shift in dating. It’s the reason dating sites like OkCupid ask for your brand preferences before your personality traits and why Tinder thrives on judging people’s looks. The women working as sales reps in shops in the early 1900s, so-called shopgirls, infused dating with a big chunk of consumption.

Here’s how:

Since only rich people could afford to shop, working in a shop was a good way to meet a rich man and turn him into a rich husband. But how do you convince someone who’s three standard deviations away on the social status ladder to go out with you?

You show him you’ve got the same level of class as the women he’s used to dating. The shopgirls soon mimicked rich women so perfectly in their behavior and exclusive taste that it was hard to tell the difference between who was shopping in a store, and who was working there.

This new model of judging people based upon their taste and consumer preferences stuck, and it still influences us today: we check what kind of movies, brands and artists people like on Facebook, and a big part of first impressions is how people dress, including what the label says.

Lesson 3: Today’s hookup culture started all the way back in the 50s.

Being a parent in the 1950s wasn’t a lot of fun, I imagine. All you knew dating was for is finding a spouse and now your children start telling you they’re “going steady” with their latest girlfriend or boyfriend.

While technically, going steady meant dating, it also meant there was a decent chance you’d sleep with each other – or at the very least wouldn’t stop at kissing and hugging.

The younger generation saw this as a ritual for coming of age, much more than a lifetime commitment to a single-person and so premarital sex became more and more accepted. By the mid-50s, going steady was such a huge trend that children tried it as early as 11 years old!

Of course parents were worried a lot about this. They weren’t familiar with the idea and afraid their children would just sleep around. The institution of marriage wasn’t really hurt in the end, but a significant portion of people who married in the 50s later admitted they had done more than hug and kiss potential partners before finally settling down. A study that proves this is the 20-year Kelly Longitudinal study.

So no, “Netflix and chill” isn’t exactly new 😉

My personal take-aways

If anything, this makes me reminisce of the “good old times.” Sometimes I feel like I was born too late. Courtship, chivalry, I wish these came more natural to us. You’re an outsider when you practice them. In fact, you’re often laughed at. But it doesn’t matter. I believe in a world where we treat each other nicely and with respect, so that’s what I’m gonna do.

Love people, use things. Not the other way around.

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