Writing Prompts for Kids: Get Their Creative Juices Flowing with One Month of Fun Writing Printable Worksheets

We received my 10-year old son's report card a few days ago.  His teacher's comments reflected lukewarm effort in his writing assignments and lackluster writing, in general. 

Disappointed?  Of course. 

Because I was behind the 8-ball this spring and didn't enroll him in any summer programs, I'm determined to work with him to improve his writing over the break.  I'm not a teacher but I figured that I could at least provide him with the opportunity to write.  At first, I was going to get him a journal and have him write in the journal.  After thinking about it, though, I decided that he probably needed something more structured.  I decided to create printables with interesting topics and fun writing prompts.  It's my hope that these worksheets will get my son thinking, get his creative juices flowing, and keep his brain active this summer.

You in?  If you'd like one month's worth (20 days of worksheets) of fun, engaging, and beautifully designed writing prompt worksheets for free, please opt in below.  Aloha!

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Strengthen Your Mother-Teenage Son Bond: 75 Awesome Ideas for Activities to Do With Your Teen Son

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I'm a mom of a teenage boy, and I can say with certainty that it's really hard to tell how much my son wants me to be involved in his life.  For more insight into how we moms can better understand our teen boys, check out my post "10 Tips: How to Raise a Boy Right".  

Sometimes I'm at a loss as to what to do with my son when we have some unscheduled time together (very rare, but it does happen).  I researched online and found some cool ideas for moms and teen sons to do together.  Like our boys, one size does not fit all, and not all of these ideas will be his cup of tea.  Run the list by him or choose the ones that feel right.  Get going and spend that quality time together!  

Here's 45 ideas from the list:

1.  Go to the movies @ the theater

2.  Hiking

3.  Walk the dog.  Your dog will appreciate the exercise and scenery!  And not to mention you'll get some exercise and fresh air too!

4.  Jogging.  If your teen son is into sports, this is the perfect opportunity for you to exercise together.

4.  Laser Tag

5.  Video Games.  Ask him to teach you how to play his favorite video game.  

6.  Play H-O-R-S-E.  This is always tons of fun!

7.  Plan a Beach Day

8.  Play some old fashioned board games like Monopoly, Battleship, Pictionary, or Jenga.

9.  Go out for some fro-yo or ice cream

10.  Go on a bike ride together

11.  Play card games

12.  Cook a meal together.  Ask him what he'd like to make and go shopping for the ingredients together.

13.  Work on craft project together.  My middle school age son and I worked together to make a "Ping Pong Basketball" stand for his school's Market Day.  Check out the DIY step by step instructions here.

14.  Volunteer together

15.  Browse together at a bookstore

16.  Boogie Boarding

17.  Snorkeling

18.  Take a Day Road Trip.  No itinerary required!  Know where you're going, and just get in the car and go!  Stop to check out whatever looks interesting.  Consult Yelp for attractions along the way.

19.  Bowling 

20.  Mini golf

21.  Go-Kart Racing

22.  Horseback Riding

23.  Paintball

24.  Go to a Concert

25.  Get tickets to a performance at your local High School or Community College

26.  Plan a weekend "staycation".  Book a nearby hotel for the night and hang out at the pool, play hoops, and BBQ.  

27.  Batting Cages

28.  Golf Range

29.  Enter a Fun Run together for charity

30.  Go to a museum

31.  Go on a culinary tour

32.  Book tickets for a walking tour to learn about the history of your town.

33.  Zip Lining

34.  Get tickets for an Escape Room activity.  In our area, you can choose your adventure.  Then, you find clues to earn your way out of the room.  It's challenging but really fun!

35.  Go to a local sporting event.  Catch a high school or college baseball, basketball, or football game.  

36.  Carnival.  If your son doesn't want to ride the rides together, you can walk around and grab some carnival food!

37.  Jet Ski

38.  Star Gazing in the backyard or at Planetarium

39.  Play Tennis

40.  Take a guitar or ukulele class together

41.  Check out the dogs at a Dog Show

42.  Visit an animal shelter

43.  Take surf lessons together

44.  Indoor rock climbing

45.  Perform random acts of kindness together.  For a great article on why kindness matters and for some ideas on how your kids might go about performing random acts of kindness this summer, check out this article by the Thoughtful Parent entitled "Summer Acts of Kindness for Kids: Ideas for Developing Emotional Intelligence".

For more awesome ideas, get the entire list of 75 ideas by signing up below--you'll get six beautiful printable checklists to work your way through the entire list! 

Here's to building a strong bond with your teen son!  If you found this post helpful, or if you know anyone who could benefit from some ideas to bond with their teenage son, please share it with them!  Aloha!

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Help Your Teen Make Some Real Money This Summer: A Quick Start Guide to 10 of the Best Summer Jobs for Teens

10 Best Summer Jobs for Teens

Every February, I'm usually pretty timely about researching summer programs for my kids.  I've enrolled them in art classes, academic summer school, swimming lessons, Hawaiian culture camps, soccer, and sports camps. 

Not this year.  

My oldest son is about to enter high school.  Most of his classmates and friends enrolled in Summer School to get a jump on their high school courses.   We decided to be rebels and didn't sign him up; we felt like he needed a break from the school year grind of getting up early, school, and sports. 

But now, I'm stuck with the question:  what is he going to do all summer long?  We certainly aren't going to allow him to play Fortnite or NBA 2K all day.  I decided to research ways to keep him busy during the summer.  I figured that he could put in some real work and earn some real money, all the while learning money skills and entrepreneurship. 

So, I compiled a list of what I thought was the ten best ways for teens to earn some real money over the summer.  Most are low tech in an effort to get them off their devices, and they all (except one) involve minimal time, set up, and expenses, so they can get started right away. 

Here they are:

1.  Tutoring or Music Lessons

Time to get set up:  Immediate

Monetary Investment:  None, unless your teen wants to buy their own workbooks and study guides.  If so, consider making copies so they don't have to buy multiple workbooks.

There are free resources online, or your child can borrow study guides and age-appropriate books at the local library.  This article from Capterra School Administration has lots of free tutoring online resources:  https://blog.capterra.com/6-free-tutoring-resources-and-tools-you-should-consider/

If your teen will be providing ukulele or guitar instruction, they should have their own instrument.  With piano lessons, they'll probably be working one on one with the student in their home, using their piano.

10 Best Summer Jobs for Teens-tutoring

Skills Required:  An aptitude in the subject your child will be tutoring and lots of patience!

Amount to Charge:  $10- $40 per session.  If we take a number in the middle, say, $25/hour, your child can make $200/month just tutoring 2 children per week!

Additional Information:  The age of the child they'll be tutoring should be considered.  For young children (K-Grade 3), the sessions should be no more than 30 minutes.  For Grades 4-5, sessions can run around 45 minutes.  For Grade 6 and up, the sessions can be longer--60 minutes.  

How Your Child Can Market Their Services:  Have your teen tell all of their friends and their friends' parents.  Tell your child to let their teachers know they're tutoring over the summer.  They can also place a flyer outside the local supermarket or the local elementary school office (ask administration first).  Word of mouth goes a long way.  In my town, we tried to sign up my youngest son for a tutor—she was completely booked and couldn’t take on any new clients.  She never advertised; she got all her clients through word of mouth.


2.  Babysitting

Time to get set up:  Immediate

Monetary Investment:  None. 

Skills Required:  Patience, basic caregiving skills, and a desire to work with children.  Your teen will likely be tasked with preparing meals (the meals will usually be pre-prepped, so they'll have to heat it up and serve it).  They'll have to supervise and play with the kids, bathe them, help with homework, and put them to bed.  

Amount to Charge:   Between $7-10/hour.  For an average parents night out (about 4 hours) you can charge $30-40/job.  If your child found 4 babysitting jobs per month (one per weekend), they’d make $160/month!

Additional Information:  The Red Cross has an excellent resource site:  https://www.redcross.org/take-a-class/babysitting-child-care

How Your Child Can Market Their Services:  Talk to everyone you know that has young children.  Your soccer teammates’ mom, your neighbor, your friends at school.  Get referrals from family and friends.  Have your teen go back and talk to their former teachers (elementary and preschool).  They are the best referrers as they can vouch for your child's character. 


3.  Washing Windows

Time to get set up:  1 day to purchase supplies

Monetary Investment:  Your teen will need some supplies to get started--a squeegee, several sponges, cleaning solution or dishwashing liquid, clean rags (or microfiber cloths), a ladder, and a bucket.  They'll have to buy the following items if you don’t have some that he can use: 

Dishwashing Liquid:  Small bottle of Dawn $1-$2

Distilled White Vinegar (50/50 solution with tap water):  $3 for a gallon jug 

Mr. Bubbles Outdoor Cleaning Solution:  $9

Clean Rags:  Free

Microfiber Cleaning Cloths:  $11.99 for a 12-pack on Amazon 

Squeegee:  $6.99 on Amazon or Telescopic Expandable Squeegee $8.48 on walmart.com

Sponge/Squeegee combo:  $16.97 at Home Depot

Large Sponges:  $5.97 for a three-pack at Home Depot

Step Ladder:  $40-$50 at Home Depot

Bucket:  5-gallon bucket $5 at Home Depot

Total Investment if you need to purchase everything (hopefully you have some of these supplies around the house, so you don’t need to purchase them all):  $95-100.  However, your teen will break even after one job and will have the supplies they need going forward.  If they work one job per week, they’d make $400 a month!  

Skills Required:  Ability to put in some good old-fashioned hard physical labor.

Amount to Charge:  Professional window washers are expensive.  In our area, we won’t pay less than $250.  Your teen can charge anywhere from $100-$150 and they’ll be booked solid in the neighborhood!

Additional Information:  Ensure that your teen knows they should not take a job with potentially dangerous conditions, such as second story windows.  

How Your Child Can Market Their Services:  Everyone needs their exterior windows washed, and no one wants to do it.  Have your teenager walk around the neighborhood and advertise his services.  He should let anyone in his circle know that he's providing these services (parents of teammates or friends).  To make the job really fun, he can enlist the help of a friend and split the profits.


4.  Dog Walker/Pet Sitter

Time to get set up:  None

Monetary Investment:  None, except they'll need some plastic bags to pick up after the dogs.

Skills Required:  The love of dogs.

Amount to Charge:  In our area, dog walkers charge $13-15 for a 30-minute walk.  Check out this awesome website, rover.com, to price services in your local area.  You have to be 18 to apply to be a dog sitter or dog walker on the site, but it’s a great place to price out services.   If your child charges even $10 for a 30 minute walk, they could make some serious cash.  If they found two dogs to walk 2x/week (at $10 per 30 minute walk), they’d make $160 per month for around 12 hours of work!  

10 Best Summer Jobs for Teens-Dog Walker

How Your Child Can Market Their Services:  Ask your local veterinarian and nearby pet stores if you can place a flyer inside their office/store.  Hand out flyers at the local dog park.  Your teen can approach people walking their dogs in the neighborhood.  Tell your teen to let their family and friends know they're providing this service and ask for referrals.


5.  Yard Work/Plant Sitting

Time to get set up:  None

Monetary Investment:  None

Skills Required:  No specialized skills required.

Amount to Charge:  $10-$15/hour to pull weeds, water lawns, etc.  If your teen is comfortable operating a lawnmower and blower, he can charge $30-35/yard (and possibly more), depending on how big the yard is.  If your child only mowed one yard per week, he’d make $120/month.  He could add extra services, such as pulling weeds and watering lawns, and up his game to $160/month or more!

How Your Child Can Market Their Services:  Again, walking around the neighborhood would be an easy way to get started.  A lot of folks are too busy to tend to their yards and would rather pay someone to do it.  Tell your teen to let their friends, teammates, and their parents know!


6.  Car Wash

Time to get set up:  1 day to purchase supplies

Monetary Investment:  They'll need some car wash solution (don’t use homemade solutions for other people’s cars!), some large sponges or a car wash mitt, a bucket, and drying towels or microfiber cloths.  They'll need to buy these items if you don’t have any at home.  They can arrange to borrow a hose if providing mobile services.

Car Wash Solution:  $5-10

Large Sponges or Mitt:  $5.97 for three-pack of sponges at Home Depot or $5-10 for a car wash mitt

Bucket:  $5 for 5-gallon bucket at Home Depot

Drying Towel or Microfiber Cloths:  $11.99 for a 12-pack on Amazon or use old t-shirts (free!)

Poster Board:  $10

Stakes to post your “car wash” sign in your neighborhood

Total Estimated Investment (if you need to purchase all supplies):  $43 

Skills Required:  No specialized skills required to wash a car!

Additional Information:  This is for a simple car wash (exterior only).  If your teen wants to add on interior vacuuming, they can charge a bit more (perhaps $20/car) but they'll need a shop vac.

Amount to Charge:  $15-20 per car.  $25-$30 per SUV/Large trucks.  If your teen washes 5 cars on a Saturday, he could make $100 that day, and more for larger cars!  If he chose to do this twice a month, he’d make $200/month!

How Your Child Can Market Their Services:  Have your teen go door to door to solicit your neighbors.  They could also set up a large sign on the main thoroughfare in your neighborhood, advertising their car wash for the day.  (You can work with your child to schedule a set date and time.  I like this idea better than having a sign advertising car wash services with their phone # to call, as you probably don’t want your child to be going over to unknown people’s houses.)  


7.  Sports: Referee/Umpire/Caddy

Time to get Set up:  Your child will need to prepare in advance if this is something they want to do during the summer.  They'll need to pass the certification exams and have the proper gear in order to referee their first game.

Additional Information:  Several of my friend’s kids referee soccer games.  Your teen will need to inquire with the individual leagues to see if they pay their referees and umpires, and to find out what the process is to go about getting certified.  In community (recreational) sports, the referees are generally unpaid volunteers.  

Skills Required:  A love of the game, knowledge of the rules, usually an official certification or passing an exam, and a thick skin (parents of players can be vocal and borderline abusive to game officials).

Monetary Investment:  They'll need to take the certification exams (if applicable), for which there may be a fee.  Also, once they pass the exam, they'll need to get uniforms and gear.

Soccer:  flags (this may be supplied by the league.  If not, they’re around $17 on Amazon, cards (red/yellow) $3-5, roster cards (this may be supplied by the league), a whistle $5, and a stopwatch ($15-20).  Any kind of simple digital watch will do, as long as it has the stopwatch function.

Basketball:  Whistle $5 and referee uniform

Baseball:  An umpire indicator/“clicker” (to count the balls/strikes) $5 on Amazon, and a plate brush $7 on Amazon.  In addition, if you’re the ump behind the plate, you’ll need special gear such as the face mask (Wilson Dyna-Lite mask on Amazon $51) and chest protector (Champion Sports $57 on Amazon (price varies by size).

The pay (Baseball/Soccer/Basketball):  the pay can be quite good.  In our area, you can get paid $25 to referee a U8 soccer game, and the pay goes up from there.  Some leagues pay up to $60-70 per game in the upper divisions.  A baseball umpire can earn $25-50/game.  A basketball referee’s starting pay is usually in the $15-20/range.  

How Your Child Can Market Their Services (Baseball/Basketball/Soccer):  Once your teen has passed the exams and obtained the necessary certification, they should put your name on a list at the respective clubs and leagues.  Also, have your child speak with the Head Referee of the organization to be sure they know your teen wants to officiate in their league.  

Golf:  They'll need to abide by the Club’s dress code and will need towels to clean clubs and golf balls.

The pay (Golf):  A golf caddy can make around $100-$120 for 18 holes, and sometimes they'll get tips on top of that.  Not too shabby for a day’s work!  If your child worked every weekend, they could stand to earn $400 a month!

How Your Child Can Market Themselves as a Golf Caddy:  Your teen should approach the manager at the local golf course to ask if they can assist hobby or amateur golfers.  If you know an avid golfer who knows the management at the local golf course, have your teen ask for an introduction.


8.  Camp Counselor/Summer Program Counselor

What's Involved:  Teen camp counselors help with planning and leading campers.  If your teen has knowledge or skills in sports, art, or wilderness/camping, they may be able to get a teaching job at camp.

Time to get set up:  This one is an exception to the jobs on this list that take little to no time to get set up.  Camps begin hiring in the winter months (November and December in the year prior to summer).  So, if your child is interested in becoming a camp counselor, they'll need to begin their search and apply for jobs well in advance.  They'll also need time to gather references to put on their application.

Monetary Investment:  Generally none.  However, many applications are taken online so they'll need access to a computer and internet connection to apply.  

Skills Required:  They'll be tasked with caring for and looking after young campers, so your teen must be patient and willing to work with kids.  It’s probably a good idea to know first aid.  Babysitting, volunteering, and coaching experience can help to bolster your teen's application.

The pay:  Around $300/week for a day camp.  Pay will depend on the specific camp you are hired at.  The pay is good, but remember….this is for working all day, every day, and will be a commitment!

How Your Child Can Market Themselves for a Camp Counselor Job:  Search for local camps in your area and reach out to the camp director for information.  Do research and apply online on camp-specific websites such as CampJobs.com, CampChannel.com, and CampPage.com.  Also,  CoolWorks.com is a great site for summer job listings.    Reach out directly to local camps.  Contact your local YMCA.


9.  Online Surveys

What's Involved:  Your teen signs up to complete surveys online for compensation.  This is a legitimate way for your teen to earn money, but the pay is low and it will take some time to earn enough money to get a PayPal gift card.  Sign up with caution and with the full knowledge that your child may be on their laptop or phone a lot more than you’d like if they are doing surveys.

Time to get set up:  You’ll need to register on the survey site.  Registration takes a minute.

Monetary Investment:  All of the sites I’ve listed below are free to join and register.   They’ll need a computer (laptop or desktop…I’m not sure if these sites work on mobile) and an internet connection.

Additional Information:  Many of the survey sites compensate participants with gift cards, with no option to earn cash.  The ones I’ve listed here allow you to cash out via PayPal or check.  My 14-year old son signed up for the two below.

1.  Slice The Pie (www.slicethepie.com).  This site pays teens for reviewing music, fashion, commercials, and accessories.  Your teen can earn cash, deposited into a PayPal account (minimum $10 earnings).  After registering and filling out some demographic information, my son opted to review music.  You need to listen to at least 90 seconds of the song before submitting a review.  My son listened to a song (which he instantly disliked).  He wrote a paragraph about his thoughts and a pop-up window appeared, advising him that he earned….$0.01 for the review.  

He tried it again.  He wrote a review for another song and earned….$0.01 for it.  He wrote a few sentences the second time and was told he couldn’t submit the review because it was too short.  It took him a while to think of what to write to make the review long enough to submit.  

My Honest Take:  It seemed hardly worth it to submit a review for a penny.  It’s not very motivating for someone to continue submitting reviews for a penny.  I'm not sure--perhaps you earn more after establishing some credibility on the site, but I think there are better ways to earn cash over the summer.  That being said, this is a legitimate way to make a few bucks from the convenience of your home, with zero upfront investment.  And you can “work” as much or as little as you want.

2.  Swagbucks. (www.swagbucks.com). My son signed up and was immediately asked to verify his e-mail address to earn 5 Swagbucks.  He was then taken to a home page where he could select from two different surveys to complete; a 3-minute survey for 5 Swagbucks, or a 20-minute survey for 80 Swagbucks.   

How it works:  You trade in your Swagbucks for gift cards and cash via PayPal.  To give you an idea of the redemption criteria, a PayPal $25 payment requires 2,500 Swagbucks.  You can earn a Playstation Gift Card, iTunes gift card, Target, Amazon, and Wal-Mart $10 gift card for 1,000 Swagbucks.  

The Swagbucks system makes it confusing and difficult to figure out how long it’ll take you to make $25 cash to be deposited into your PayPal account.  But fear not, I tried to simplify it so you can evaluate whether it's worth it for your teen to go this route.

When he signed up on the site, my son was offered a 20-minute survey to earn 80 Swagbucks.  Based on that formula, it’ll take 625 minutes to reach the 2,500 points to get a $25 PayPal gift card.  This breaks down to 10.41 hours.  10.41 hours to earn $25? 

My Honest Take:   Like Slice The Pie, I think there are better (and more profitable) ways for your teen to earn money over the summer.  However, it's a legit way to earn some money online, in the comfort of your own home.

If your teen is interested in doing surveys, here are a few other survey sites that look professional (we did not sign up for these so I don’t have any personal experience with them):

Branded Surveys:  www.brandedsurveys.com

Mind Field Online:  www.mindfieldonline.com

MySurvey (16 and older):  www.mysurvey.com


10.  Reselling on eBay

Time to get set up:  Minimum of one day to get set up, and possibly longer if your teen needs to source items to sell from outside your home.

Monetary Investment:  You (parent) must sign up for an account on eBay.  Your teen can’t open their own account as eBay members must be at least 18 years old.  The account is free to open.  They’ll need to be able to access eBay, either on mobile or desktop/laptop computer, and they'll need an internet connection.  

Your child will also need items to sell.  This doesn’t need to cost anything—your teen can look around the house for new and unopened toys, used toys in good condition, DVDs, video games, new or used clothing, shoes, and accessories.  This should give them enough to start with.   Also, your teen will need to know in advance how they'll be shipping the items, and gather the appropriate supplies (packing tape, tissue paper, mailing envelopes, boxes and a postage scale).

Your child's upfront investment will be the cost of goods to sell plus the supplies needed to ship the items after they sell.  

What They Get Paid:  Depends on what they're selling.  There is a “final value fee” assessed for each item they sell.  For most items, it’s 10% of the price of the item + shipping.

How Your Child Can Market Their Items on eBay:  Set up shop on eBay, list the items, and wait until it sells!  The beauty of eBay is they have a built-in audience of millions of shoppers (171 million, to be exact), ready to buy.  If the items your teen lists for sale are desirable and are priced right, it WILL sell.

I hope you found this post helpful, and I sincerely hope it's useful to you and your teenager.  If you have any other great summer job ideas for teens, please let me know!  Pin this post to your Pinterest boards, or share it with a friend on Facebook. 



50 of the Best (and Fun!) Questions To Start a Conversation With Your Teen Boy

50 Questions Moms Should Ask Teen Boy

Teen Boys.  They're moody, smelly, and silent.  But they're also funny, smart, quirky, and silly.  And we love them.  But sometimes, we feel as though we can't reach them through their wall of silence (and their earphones and headphones).  And we miss that closeness. 

If you haven't already read my post on supporting our boys through adolescence and how to strengthen the mother-teen boy and father-teen boy relationship, click here.

My 14-year old plays baseball.  His school season was about to wrap up, and I decided that I wanted to memorialize the season in some way.  I decided to make a video of the season, complete with video interviews of the boys.  I set up a schedule to interview two boys per day after practice and e-mailed all of them with the schedule (with their parent's permission, of course).  

I thought long and hard about what I wanted to "get" from them.  I didn't want to ask the usual "what do you have to say about this season?" or "do you have anything you want to say to your parents, the coaches, or your teammates?".

I dug up a bunch of baseball-related questions.  For you baseball moms, the questions I asked were:

When does a batter get a "Golden Sombrero"?  This one was hilarious, I got footage of several players saying "What is that?", "Is this a joke"?  LOL.  (Answer:  4 strikeouts in the same game)

When a batter hits below .200, he is known to be below what?  Most didn't know the answer to this one.  (Answer:  The Mendoza Line)

What does "cheese" mean in baseball?  This was another funny one....I got all sorts of responses.  (Answer:  an overpowering fastball)

What are 7 ways to reach first base?  (Answer:  hit, error, walk, fielder's choice, hit by pitch, dropped third strike, defensive interference)

The four baseball questions provided great entertainment, both in the video and for me, personally, while filming them!  I also asked each player to pick a teammate's name out of a jar and told them to tell me something about that player (a trait, a memory, a funny story, etc).  It was a ton of fun to see them talk about their friends and teammates.  Most importantly, though, I wanted to infuse their personality into the video.  I'd see the boys only in passing, at practices and games, but never had the opportunity to talk with them one on one.  And I know many of the parents felt the same way!

So I combed through a ton of stuff online for questions to ask them.  Then, I compiled a list of 50 questions that I felt were appropriate (and "cool") for a teen boy.  I made sure they were pretty open-ended to get them talking and to avoid the short, one word answers.  I printed the questions, cut them up and asked each player to randomly pick one from a jar.  I can tell you from experience that these questions are GREAT for getting interesting, insightful, and sometimes hilarious answers from teen boys. 

For the end of season video, I put in snippets of the boys reading the questions aloud along with their answer.  The video was a hit!!!  Not only did the parents enjoy the video, but the boys had a blast watching their teammates on film.  (Fun fact: the boys loved to gather together and watch me interview their teammates.  Although I called only two boys to interview per day, I would sometimes have a whole bunch of them, curious and wanting to see their teammates squirm a bit.)

It was a ton of work but it was SO. MUCH. FUN.

I'm passing the 50 questions over to you so that you don't have to pore over websites to find good conversation starters.  I've done the heavy lifting for you!  I've listed 30 of the questions below.  If you'd like to get the entire list of 50 questions in a beautiful, colorful, 5-page PDF printable format, please opt-in below.  If not, refer to this post and get started.  Prep your son by telling him you have some fun questions to ask him and go for it during your commute or at the dinner table!

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Here they are: (hopefully these will get your teen thinking and can lead to a deeper conversation--or at the very least bring some laughter to the car or table):

1.  What is a superstition that you have?

2.  If you could have a super power, what would it be? Why?

3.  What advice would you give to younger kids about middle school?

4.  If you were going to bury a time capsule, what would you put in it?

5.  What is the craziest thing you've ever done?

6.  If you could eat one food for the rest of your life what would it be? 

7.  What is your dream job?

8.  If you could make up a brand-new school subject, what would it be?

9.  Make up a new holiday. What are the traditions for your new holiday?

10.  What is one thing you don't know how to do, but wish you did?

11.  If you could trade places with anyone for a day, who would it be?

12.  Create a new cereal flavor and tell me about it.

13.  What is something you think that kids understand, but adults do not?

14.  Do you like how old you are in now or do you wish you were older or younger?

15.  If you could be famous for one thing, what would it be?

16.  If you won $1000, what would you do with it?

17.  What is something you're obsessed with?

18.  What is the best and worst thing about school?

19.  What three words best describe you?

20.  If you started a business, what type of business would it be?

21.  What is the strangest dream you've ever had? 

22.  What is the most annoying habit someone can have?

23.  If you could learn the answer to one question about your future, what would it be?

24.  What is the silliest fear you have?

25.  What weird or useless talent do you have?

26.  If you had a personal mascot, what would it be?

27.  You find a remote that can rewind, fast-forward, stop and start time. What do you do with it?

28.  Would you rather be able to teleport anywhere or be able to read minds?

29.  Who would be the worst person to be stuck in an elevator with?

30.  If you had three wishes, what would it be?

I hope you have fun with these questions and I sincerely hope that it helps to strengthen your relationship with your teen son!   Again, if you'd like a copy of five beautiful printable worksheets with all 50 of the questions, please opt in below.  Enjoy!


Some questions are my own.  Others were sourced from:

1.  Merrill, Mark.  "The Best Conversation Starters for Teenagers".  www.markmerrill.com.  http://www.markmerrill.com/the-best-conversation-starters-for-teenagers/  Web.  Accessed 10 May 2018.

2.  "250 Quality Conversation Starters". www.conversationstartersworld.com https://conversationstartersworld.com/250-conversation-starters/ . Web.  Accessed 10 May 2018.

How Intrinsic Motivation Can Help You Raise Self-Motivated Kids

We are all well-meaning parents, and we want to raise our kids to be the best they can be.  As a result, sometimes we resort to bribing them.  At school and at the gym and field, I hear variations of these statements all the time:

“If you hit a home run, we’ll buy you Halo 5”
“We’ll give you $50 for every “A” you get in school”
“If we have a good parent-teacher conference with your teacher, we’ll plan that party for you”

Heck, I’m guilty of bribing my kids too.  And sometimes it works!  But something inside me knows there’s a problem with this approach.  Is this a short term bandaid without any long term benefit?  Is there a better way to motivate our kids to push themselves to reach their potential in school, in their extra curricular activities, and in life?

Enter intrinsic motivation.

What is intrinsic motivation?

A good definition of intrinsic motivation is “an energizing of behavior that comes from within an individual, out of will and interest for the activity at hand.  No external rewards are required to incite the intrinsically motivated person into action.  The reward is the behavior itself.” (1)

Said another way, intrinsic motivation is something that comes from inside a person.  No bribes needed here.

What is the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation?

Business Dictionary defines extrinsic motivation as, “drive to action that springs from outside influences instead of from one's own feelings.” (2)

Extrinsic rewards are the bribes we talked about earlier.  If someone is extrinsically motivated, their willingness to put forth effort into an activity is guided by something outside of the person, for example, a monetary reward or gift.  This is the opposite of intrinsic motivation, where the reward is in the enjoyment of the process or behavior.  

How Extrinsic Rewards Affect Our Drive to Perform

The research outlined in Daniel Pink’s book “Drive” is fascinating.  It flies in the face of everything we believe to be true.  At work, we think bigger sales commissions are motivating.  At home, we think incentivizing our kids with virtual bucks for their favorite video game makes sense.  

Drive by Daniel pink

However, one of the foremost researchers in the area of motivation, Dr. Edward Deci, found that “reward effects reported in 128 experiments lead to the conclusion that tangible rewards tend to have a substantially negative effect on intrinsic motivation.” (3)

Pink outlines how our beliefs regarding the factors that motivate people were developed back when the work we did was concrete and followed a specific and strict set of rules.  There wasn’t room for any creativity, and the tasks were usually boring and uninteresting.  (Think factory line workers e.g. “Laverne and Shirley”).

To incentivize workers to maximize production of these routine and boring tasks, companies began rewarding employees for their production.   Quotas were set, and monetary rewards were given for meeting or exceeding the quotas.  This “industrial-era” view of how we go about our work persists today, although we live in a much different world. 

For these types of tasks, monetary (or extrinsic) rewards work well.  Daniel Pink says, “For routine tasks, which aren’t very interesting and don’t demand much creative thinking, rewards can provide a small motivational booster shot without the harmful side effects.” (4). 

The research seems to confirm this conclusion.  Psychologist Dan Ariely conducted a study of motivation in India.  Participants were offered three levels of rewards in exchange for completing tasks at varying levels.  These tasks weren’t routine; they involved higher order thinking and creativity.  The incentives ranged from one day’s pay, two weeks pay, and five months pay.  Guess what they found?  The group offered the largest reward did worse in 8 of the 9 tasks the researchers measured.  Their conclusion:  higher incentives led to worse performance for non-routine problems requiring creative solutions.

In his book “Payoff”, Ariely outlines a study he did regarding the effectiveness of large bonuses.  He said, “One of our main findings was that when the bonus size became very large, performance decreased dramatically.” (5). He went on to say, “adding money to the equation can backfire and make people less driven.” (6)  The results of his studies show that we are driven by more than monetary compensation for the work we do.

Payoff book.jpg

Why does this happen?  Read on.

How Extrinsic Rewards Affect Creativity and Altruism

In his book “Drive”, Daniel Pink outlines a study where participants were tasked with solving a problem where they needed to find a way to affix a candle to the wall.  To accomplish this, they were given a candle, tray, a book of matches, and tacks, and were timed to see how long it took them.  The researchers split the groups into two; one group that wasn’t incentivized, and the other incentivized based on how fast they could solve the problem.  They found that offering the external reward caused myopia and hampered creativity because “rewards, by their very nature, narrow our focus” and causes us to see only what’s in front of us rather than what’s off in the distance. (7)

In yet another experiment, researchers studied female blood donors in Sweden.  They divided women who were interested in giving blood into three groups; in the first group the donation was voluntary, the second group would receive about $7 in compensation for their donation, and the third group would receive about $5 with an option to donate it to a children’s cancer center.  The researchers found that paying people decreased the number of potential donors who decided to give blood, and surmised that “it tainted an altruistic act and “crowded out” the intrinsic desire to do something good.” (8) 

In addition, Pink states that giving external rewards is addictive and creates a precedent.  First, attaching a reward to a task automatically casts it as undesirable.  If you offer too small of a reward, people won’t do it, and if you offer something that entices them to actually do the task, you’ll have to offer the reward over and over again.

Stated another way:  “A contingent reward makes an agent expect it whenever a similar task is faced, which in turn compel the principal to use rewards over and over again.  And before long, the existing reward may no longer suffice.  It will quickly feel less like a bonus and more like the status quo—which then forces the principal to offer larger rewards to achieve the same effect.” (9) 

To summarize, external rewards can hamper performance and the drive to achieve better results, dull creativity, curb our intrinsic desire to “do good”, narrow our horizons from broad thinking to just what’s in front of us, and can be addictive.

Main Idea:  Although it seems counterintuitive, extrinsic rewards can have the opposite of it’s intended effect.  

How Intrinsic Motivation Can Help Our Kids at School and in Life

As we discussed earlier, our familiar reward and incentive system was developed when the work we did was routine, dull, and involved following a strict set of rules to completion. 

Fast forward to life today.  The factory type routine work that our grandparents did is now increasingly automated.  For example, Costco has a pizza making “mechanical saucing machine” that applies the sauce so that it spreads the tomato sauce base all over the pizza crust, enabling Costco to prepare a massive amount of pizzas per day.  McDonalds and Wendy’s have self-serve kiosks. (10) 

As you might imagine, routine tasks will be increasingly automated in the future.  And since robots will be doing the routine stuff, the work our kids will be called upon to do will be novel, complex, and will require higher order thinking and creativity.

Research done by Harvard Business School’s Teresa Amabile found that “intrinsic motivation is conducive to creativity; controlling extrinsic motivation is detrimental to creativity.” (11)   And researchers are finding that people are not motivated solely “or even mainly by external incentives” (12) 

When I was growing up, we learned from textbooks and by rote memorization.  Today, experts agree that our kids need to develop “soft” skills and character traits (such as creative thinking and curiosity) in addition to cognitive skills such as problem-solving, critical analysis, the attainment of core subject knowledge, and strong early literacy and numeracy”.  They’ll need to learn how to learn, be resilient and work “collaboratively, independently and creatively.” (13) 

P21, the Partnership for 21st Century Learning, is an organization comprised of teachers, education experts, and business leaders.  Together, they developed the “21st-century student outcomes”; the “skills, knowledge and expertise students should master to succeed in work and life in the 21st century”. (14) 

In summary, here are the “21st Century Student Outcomes”:

1. Content Knowledge includes the core subjects including language arts, world languages, arts, math, economics, science, geography, history, and government. 
2. Learning and Innovation Skills: Creativity and Innovation, Critical Thinking and Problem Solving, Communication, Collaboration* 
3. Information, Media, and Technology Skills: citizens and workers must be able to create, evaluate, and effectively utilize information, media, and technology.
4. Life and Career Skills: Today's students need to develop thinking skills, content knowledge, and social and emotional competencies to navigate complex life and work environments.
*emphasis added by me

Main Idea:  Two of the most important skills our kids need to succeed in their lifetimes will be their ability to learn how to learn and think creatively, both of which can be developed and nurtured through intrinsic motivation.  Unlike external motivators, which tend to snuff out creativity and narrow our focus, intrinsic motivation allows us to think big-picture and to find creative solutions.


The Three Components of Intrinsic Motivation


There are three factors required for intrinsic motivation.  The most critical component of intrinsic motivation is autonomy.  (15)  According to motivation researchers Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, “Autonomous motivation involves behaving with a full sense of volition and choice, whereas controlled motivation involves behaving with the experience of pressure and demand toward specific outcomes that comes from forces perceived to be external to the self.” (16)  

Practically speaking, what does autonomy mean?  It means you are acting with choice.  To help, use the test of the 3 T’s:  Task, Time, and Technique. (17)  We can ask ourselves whether or not our kids have choices over what type of tasks to do, when to do it, and how to do it.  

The reason autonomy is so important to motivation is that whereas “control leads to compliance, autonomy leads to engagement.” (18) 


The second element of intrinsic motivation is mastery.  Mastery is defined (per dictionary.com) as “comprehensive knowledge or skill in a subject or accomplishment.” In the book “Drive”, mastery is also defined as “the desire to get better at something that matters”. (19)

Mastery involves persevering through setbacks and failures to achieve long term goals.  Malcolm Gladwell’s research says it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill.  Psychologist Anders Ericcson studied expert performance and established the “deliberate practice” rule; that one must intensely practice over a long period of time to become a master.  “Mastery—of sports, music, business—requires effort (difficult, painful, excruciating, all-consuming effort) over a long time (not a week or a month, but a decade)”.  (20) Moreover, “A key tenet of deliberate practice is that it's generally not enjoyable.” (21)  

So, in order to truly master something, you must press on and do the hard stuff; the stuff no one else wants to do when you don’t feel like doing it.  Mastery is a test of true tenacity—it doesn’t happen overnight.  

Mastery goes hand in hand with the growth mindset; you must believe you have the ability to learn and grow toward mastering the task.  If you have a fixed mindset, wherein you believe that you’re born with a certain level of smarts or ability, you won’t spend the time and effort that is required.  Why bother?  You weren’t born with that skill set anyway.

With respect to our kids, re-frame mastery as “competence”.  In her book, “Self Motivated Kids”, Damara Simmons states, “all children long for the feeling of competence.  This means the ability to successfully accomplish a task.  Feeling competent in their abilities is a psychological and emotional need felt at their very core.” (22) 


Finally, the last element of intrinsic motivation is purpose.  It’s the “why” behind the actions.  Does what you do have deep meaning and significance?  Does it contribute to a greater good?  Do you understand why you’re being asked to do something? 

When people don’t know why they’re being asked to do something, or if they don’t understand how they fit into the big picture, motivation declines.

Main Idea:  the three components of intrinsic motivation are autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

8 Ways To Develop Self-Motivated Kids

8 Ways To Help Develop Intrinsic Motivation In Our Kids

Let’s be real.  Believing that we can instill intrinsic motivation in all areas of life with our kids is unrealistic.  If they’re simply not interested in band or soccer, no amount of autonomy, mastery, and purpose is going to change that.  (It might make it less painful, though.)

But let’s say there is something that your child is interested in.  How can we use the research to nurture intrinsic motivation in our kids so that they flourish in that area?  Read on and pick a strategy that feels right and try it on for size.

1.  Give Kids Options and Choices

Ask yourself if you’re allowing your child to be self-directed and if he has choices over how to perform tasks, how to utilize his time and the technique he uses to complete his tasks (the 3 T’s discussed above).  Are you coming up with the ideas for his group project and then micromanaging their progress?  Do you hover over his work and frequently force him to make changes to his assignments?  Are you selecting the courses he’s taking?

Instead, step back and see if there’s room to give your child some autonomy over his choices.  For a tween or teenager, ask him to set his own goals and outline his roadmap as to how he’s going to get there.  I’ll never forget an interview I heard on NPR with Howard Schultz, the founder of Starbucks.  Although I can’t recall the exact specifics, I remember him saying that his mother would always ask him “what is your plan?” (for his upcoming tests, projects, etc).  She didn’t dictate the time he needed to spend studying, or how he studied.  Instead, she forced him to think about his goals and formulate his own plan.  

As you might imagine, it’s much easier get buy-in when your child has options and is an integral part of the planning process.

2.  Nurture Their Interests and Provide Opportunities for Exploration

Once they’ve made their choices, help to support and nurture their interests and creativity.  In the TV show “Project Runway”, the participants are given a theme, and then they’re set free to design their garment, choose their materials, construct the garment and model it in a way that reflects their style.  

Allow your kids to flex their creative muscle by setting aside a “Project Runway” type day for them to work on a project of their choosing.  Help them to brainstorm and gather materials prior, so they can dive right in on their scheduled day.  Let them showcase their completed project the next day and discuss with them the lessons they learned along the way.

Several large corporations, including 3M and Google, allow their employees these creative work days, and it has resulted in some of their best ideas!

3.  Have Kids Set Their Own Goals And Evaluate Their Accomplishments

We tend to focus on grades and report cards.  For good reason—there’s typically only one scheduled parent-teacher conference per school year, so the report card is all we’ve got.  But grades are what Daniel Pink calls “performance goals”.  A performance goal focuses solely on the end result (grades).  Instead, incorporate “learning goals” into your evaluation of your child’s progress.  A learning goal focuses on the process of learning and improving as opposed to the results or outcome.

A learning goal sounds like this:  “I’ll be reading novels from the Young Adult Newberry Award Book List” this summer.   Or, “I'll learn to speak some basic Japanese phrases by the time we go to Japan this Spring Break.”   At the beginning of the school year, work with your child to identify their top few learning goals for the year in the subjects that really interest them.

Then, have your child create their own “DIY report card”.  (23)  At the end of each semester, have them write a few paragraphs reviewing their progress toward their learning goals.  They should evaluate what they did well, and identify where they need some additional work to move toward their goals.  

Once they’ve completed their review, compare their report card with the school’s report card.  Let the school’s report card be the starting point for a conversation with your child, along with their DIY Report Card. 

4.  Give Them Their Own Money—But Don’t Use Extrinsic Rewards for Chores

Daniel Pink states that giving children an allowance teaches them how to manage their own money and gives our kids autonomy over how they spend their money.  The caveat:  don’t tie the allowance to doing chores.  Help them to understand the “why” (i.e. purpose) underlying the chores; that chores are done for the benefit of the family and that family members need to help each other out. 

If you pay kids for doing chores, it teaches them the only reason to do the task (clean the bathroom, washing the dishes, taking out the trash) is to get paid to do it. (24)             

5.  Praise Effort and Process, Not Intelligence and Results

Based on Carol Dweck’s research on the growth mindset, Pink concurs that parents should praise a child’s effort, not their intelligence.  With a focus on the effort involved in the process of learning, “students don’t have to feel that they’re already good at something in order to hang in and keep trying. After all, their goal is to learn, not to prove they’re smart.” (25) 

Focus on the process; the love of learning and improving versus strictly the results (grades or athletic achievements).  Also, focus on being specific and providing useful information to our kids about what they’ve done.  Don’t give fake praise.  Be genuine.

6.  Celebrate Their Accomplishments

In his book “Payoff”, Dan Ariely states that as human beings, we are all driven by “intangible, emotional forces:  the need to be recognized and to feel ownership, to feel a sense of accomplishment, to find the security of a long-term commitment and a sense of shared purpose.” (26)

Celebrate your kids’ accomplishments as they work toward their learning goals.  This type of positive reinforcement from a parent is priceless and goes a long way in motivating your child.
7.  Help Kids Develop Mastery (Competence)

One of the best ways to foster competence in a child is to help him learn and master new skills. Damara Simmons states one of the best ways to do this is to use a strategy called “elbow parenting”, where your child is learning and doing the task along with you. (27)  For younger children, do a task together, like preparing a sandwich or washing the car.  

Self Motivated Kids book.jpg

For older children, model the behavior that helps to develop expertise.  For example, talk to your kid about accepting the invitation to present a lesson in front of your entire department at work.  This shows them how you are working on mastering presentation skills by stepping outside your comfort zone.  Talk to him about putting in your application for a big promotion where you’re up against some pretty tough competition, thereby showing off your growth mindset.

8.  Help Kids Discover Their Purpose

Let’s help our kids with big-picture thinking.  Help them to understand:  Why are they learning something?  How does it pertain to the world they live in?  Why is what they’re doing important?  

One of the best ways to do this is to have them use their skills in real life.  By showing them how it relates to the real world, they may see the bigger picture.  If they’re learning Chinese, take them to Chinatown so they can practice speaking their new language.  The benefits are twofold: it’ll help to foster a global perspective and help them learn their new language!  Also, give kids an opportunity to teach something they’re enthusiastic about.  Teaching is one of the best ways to help them truly master what they’re learning.  Ask your child to teach you some basic coding, or have him tutor a struggling classmate.

Help your child change his mindset about the tasks before him.  Ask him to think about how his actions contribute to a larger good. For example, if the subject is science, explain how he can connect learning science to optimizing his nutrition and conditioning for the sports he’s involved in.  Then, show him how he can use the lessons learned to achieve a higher purpose:  to help his friends and family eat right, exercise and lead healthier and longer lives.

So, there you have it.  I hope this post gave you some food for thought about how using external rewards can fail to provide the motivation you’re hoping to develop in your child (and what to do instead).  If you found this post helpful, please share it with friends on Facebook or pin it to your Pinterest boards.  And don’t forget to sign up below to get more parenting resources (in our awesome resource library) and to be notified when new articles are published!  

Until the next time….


(1) Michigan State University; https://msu.edu/~dwong/StudentWorkArchive/...RIP/Webber-IntrinsicMotivation.htm

(2) http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/extrinsic-motivation.html

(3)  Pink, Daniel H. "Drive The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.  Riverhead Books. 2009.  p. 37.  Also:  (4) 60, (7) 42, 55, (8) 47, (9) 53, (11) 29, (12) 27, (15) 88, (16) 88, (17) 92, (18) 108, (19) 109, (20) 122, (23) 188, (24) 188, (25) 120.

(5) Ariely, Dan. “Payoff:  The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations”.  Simon & Schuster, 2016.  p. 58.  Also:  (6) 67, (26) 101.

(10). Hanbury, Mary.  “Costco’s mesmerizing, pizza-making robot is an ominous sign for American retail jobs”.  Business Insider.   http://www.businessinsider.com/costco-pizza-sauce-robot-2018-4.  Accessed 30 April 2018.

(13) Siraj, Iram.  “Teaching kids 21st-century skills early will help prepare them for their future”. The Conversation. www.theconversation.com/teaching-kids-21st-century-skills-early-will-help-prepare-them-for-their-future-87179.  Accessed 27 April 2018.

(14). P21 Partnership for 21st Century Learning.  http://www.p21.org/our-work/p21-framework.  Accessed 27 April 2018.

(21). Lebowitz, Shana.  “A top psychologist says there's only one way to become the best in your field — but not everyone agrees”.  Business Insider.  http://www.businessinsider.com/anders-ericsson-how-to-become-an-expert-at-anything-2016-6.  Accessed 30 April 2018.

(22). Simmons, Damara. “Self Motivated Kids”.  p. 523. Also:  (27) 558.

Your Roadmap + 10 Tips: How To Raise A Boy Right (and Keep Your Teen Boy Emotionally Healthy)

We all want to raise our boys right.  “Right” is subjective, though; we might all have different ideas of what that means.  Here’s what it means to me (perhaps we have some common ground here):  I want my boys to be physically healthy.  I want to give my kids the resources to learn and to be resourceful and resilient.  I want to raise polite and respectful kids.  And I want them to be emotionally healthy.  To me, this means the ability to maintain healthy relationships and to feel and express the rainbow of emotions…to truly live a full and rich life. 

I worry about the emotional health of my boys.  They’re both growing up so fast (my oldest son is 14 and my youngest is 10).   I have so many questions as my teenager is racing toward adulthood.  How can I get a better understanding of what he’s going through so that I can best support him?  How can I ensure that he knows that we love and support him?  How can I encourage him to express his feelings and not hold them back?

I read a book called “Raising Cain:  Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys” by Dan Kindlon, Ph.D. and Michael Thompson, Ph.D.  In their introduction, the authors write, “We want to help people who love boys—their parents, teachers, and mentors—to see past the opaque surface of boys’ lives to their inner lives.  Their joy and their struggles.  We want you—our reader—to understand the ways boys suffer and what causes them emotional pain.  It is vital that parents and teachers not take boys at face value, even though they sometimes insist, furiously, that we do so.”  And I was hooked.

Raising Cain Book.jpg

If you’re a parent of an adolescent boy who would like a roadmap of how to raise your son to be emotionally healthy, consider this book your starting point.  

Let me tell you what I learned.

How Culture Teaches Us How To Raise A Boy To Be A Man

First, let’s examine how our culture shapes what it means to “be a man”.   This is important because our culture influences the way we interact with our sons, the way our boys interact with one another, and how they feel on the “inside”.  

In our society, boys are supposed to be strong and confident.  Because of this, we believe that boys aren’t emotional, sensitive, or needy.  Our boys learn that masculine emotions, such as anger and aggression are okay, while other emotions, (especially fear) are hidden and silenced.  They learn that stereotypical feminine traits, such as “tenderness, empathy, compassion and any show of emotional vulnerability” aren’t to be freely expressed. (1)

I remember picking up my oldest son from school when he was in the 4th grade.  It was his birthday—he had turned 8 that day.  I was so excited to hear about his special day, but it was obvious that he was upset.  I asked him to tell me what happened and what he was feeling, but all he could do was sit there, looking sad, and say “nothing’.  It took him a while to finally open up and tell me what had happened—his favorite teacher had gotten impatient with him about something that another student was to blame and raised her voice at him.  He was deeply hurt because he loved this teacher and her approval was important to him.  Yet, he was reluctant to express his sadness and hurt.  This is real life for a boy.  From an early age, they struggle to open up and talk about their feelings.  

Many boys don’t understand their feelings and have trouble expressing their emotions because society tells them that they are stoic, strong, and silent.  To cope with and downplay their emotions, boys use “shields of various forms to keep others away: irritability, sarcasm, nonchalance, stoicism, and others.” (2)  

“A boy lives in a narrowly defined world of developing masculinity in which everything he does or thinks is judged on the basis of the strength or weakness it represents; you are either strong and worthwhile, or weak and worthless.”

From:  "Raising Cain:  Protecting The Emotional Life of Boys"  (Introduction, p. xii)

At it’s simplest, boys must always appear strong and in control, and must never appear weak, emotional, or vulnerable.  As a result, boys learn to downplay, hide, or silence their fears, sadness, and vulnerability.  

But all of this doesn’t mean that a boy doesn’t experience strong feelings.  He does.  He just has trouble expressing them.

So how can we help our boys out of their emotional straightjacket?

1.  Recognize the cultural stereotypes that our boys are raised in and how this causes boys to shut down their societally unacceptable (“feminine”) emotions.  

2.  If you know something is troubling your son, don’t brush it off (even if he urges you to).   Spend the time and effort to find out what the issue is and what they’re feeling.

3.  Give him permission to experience and express the full spectrum of human emotions.  Allow him to be open about his feelings.

4.  Be respectful of his feelings.


How Harsh Discipline Can Backfire With Boys

There is a correlation between harsher discipline and children’s physical misbehavior (as opposed to talking back).  Because boys are generally more active and physical, they are on the receiving end of a more severe disciplinary style. (3).  This, coupled with the fact that we believe we have to “toughen up” our boys, cause us to use power, fear, and intimidation as disciplinary tactics.  Do these tactics work?

It might seem to work.  But the authors caution that success with this approach is short-term and has a greater likelihood of backfiring. (4)  The end result is that boys subjected to this type of discipline learn to make decisions based on external forces; what their parents or teachers expect. They don’t learn to use their internal compass as a guide. 

When our boys do something we don’t like, we react angrily because we’re upset.  But we’re also trying to teach them a lesson.  We are angry and therefore, don’t do it again, because what you did was dangerous, stupid, etc.  Remember, though, that to our kids, we are larger than life.  So when we react with intense anger, our boys are more likely to remember the emotional nuances of the moment:  how your face looked like when you were yelling, the power of your anger, where he was, and how he felt. (5)  And that’s not necessarily what we had intended; it isn’t the fear that we want them to remember, it’s the lesson.

The takeaway:  If you typically use anger and fear as disciplinary tactics, realize that your son will remember the fury far more than the reason you were upset in the first place.  Reflect upon your disciplinary style and make adjustments if they’re unduly harsh.

What can we do?

1.  Use consistent, clear and firm discipline.  

2.  Demonstrate compassion while disciplining.

3.  Model the desired behavior in your interactions with others.

4.  Engage your son in the discussion as opposed to reacting with anger. 

“Good discipline engages a child, encourages contact instead of isolation, draws him into the discussion instead of sending him away.  It involves the boy as consultant.”  

From:  "Raising Cain:  Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys" (6)


How Fathers Can Bond With Their Teenage Sons:  Improving Father-Son Relationships

4 Ways Fathers Can Bond With Their Teenage Son

It probably goes without saying that a father’s involvement in his son’s life is important.  In fact, the book cites research that the father’s role in child care was most influential in developing a boys’ emotional education and empathy. (7)

In early childhood, fathers will engage with their young sons in a much different way than mothers.  Fathers are usually more active, playful, and rougher than the mother.  Fathers rejoice!  Your active style of parenting has proven to be extremely important in building a strong father-son relationship.

However, when things don’t go to plan or if boys misbehave, fathers should be mindful of unrelenting criticism of their young son and shouldn’t withhold praise as punishment.  The authors state that doing so causes deep wounds that last well into adulthood. (8)

“In the early years, when they are rank beginners at so much, their father’s opinion of them carries enormous weight.” 

And, therefore:

“A boy wants a father who thinks he is fantastic—one who knows that he is still little and cannot do everything well but loves him anyway.” 

Both quotes from:  "Raising Cain:  Protecting The Emotional Life of Boys" (9)

In middle childhood, boys are watching and absorbing their fathers’ interactions with others, how he resolves conflict and conducts himself as a partner at home and at work.  Because our boys learn from observing, fathers should try to be the model of manhood they want their son to become.

Because his father’s approval is so important, a boy will seek his father’s advice.  Instead of only doling out advice or talking about his adult opinions, a father should consider and respect his son’s opinions and feelings as well.  If boys are made to feel like they don’t matter, they won’t share their feelings with their fathers.  Sadly, this is all too common.  Of all the close relationships in a boy’s life, research shows he is least likely to share his life with his father. (10) 

The takeaway here—start showing your adolescent son respect for his opinions as it may encourage him to share his life with you and bring you closer together.

To drive this point home, the authors outlined a study of 300 corporate male executives and managers.  They were asked about the single thing they would change about their childhood relationship with their fathers.  The most common response?  They wished they had been closer to their fathers growing up, and they wished their fathers had expressed more emotion and feelings. (11)

The takeaway:  a boy’s withdrawal in the teen years causes many fathers to believe their sons don’t want their love or attention. There is nothing further from the truth; boys still need and want their father’s attention, approval, and love.  

What can fathers do to strengthen their relationship with their teenage sons?

1.  Celebrate your son’s individual accomplishments.  Celebrate him for who he is, not how he measures up to others.  Don’t push him to compete in something for you.  Tell him that he’s fabulous just as he is. 

“More fathers need to communicate more often to their all-too-flawed sons the simple message that they are loved and valued.” 

From:  "Raising Cain:  Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys" (12)

2.  As your son gets older, ask for his opinion, and listen to what he has to say.  Try not to judge his teenage boy feelings and opinions through your adult lens.  Validate his opinions instead.   If all you do is voice your own opinions, he’ll feel like he doesn’t matter and he’ll be less likely to share his life with you.

3.  Model emotionally healthy male friendships.  Encourage your son to have friends, maintain close friendships, and model positive conflict resolution in your own relationships.

4.  Do ordinary, everyday things together.  Go for regular haircuts and create a ritual out of weekly trips to the Farmer’s Market.  Do some gardening together.  Give the dog a bath and clean out the fish tank.  Play H-O-R-S-E.  These can be the building blocks for a strong father-son relationship that can survive the ups and downs of growing up.

5.  Recognize that a strong father-son relationship probably will look wildly different from a strong mother-son relationship.  


Improving Teenage Boys' Relationship With Their Mothers:  Don't Mistake Distance for Rejection

How to Improve the Mother-Teenage Son Relationship Infographic

In early childhood, being a mom to a boy is pretty simple and straightforward.  We comfort them, read to them and cuddle with them.  We do their laundry, dress them, pack their lunches and see them off to school.  But it gets more complicated they grow up.  They seem to not need us as much—which makes it tough to figure out where we fit into their lives.  

As moms, we have to remember that boys are different.  Keep this in mind when you think about how you communicate with your son.  Realize and accept that communication with your son is very different from your conversations and interactions with your BFFs or your mom.Here’s what happens:  as a boy gets older, “he will still look to his mother for love and acceptance, but he will distance himself from her when he feels the need for autonomy or to assert his “boyness” (13).

This behavior is confusing to moms.  Some mothers believe that their son’s distance and desire for independence mean they don’t need or want love and nurturing.  They take it as rejection.  This is a mistake.  In fact, “A boy never loses his need to be understood and loved by his mother.” (14) 

Despite his distance, your son still wants and needs the nurturing touch and expressions of love from his mother. (15)  Don’t stop trying to create physical closeness with your adolescent son.  Just realize that the physical expression of caring and nurturing will look a lot different for a teen boy as opposed to when they were little.  As moms, our job is to figure out what that is.

What can mothers do to strengthen their relationship with their teenage sons?

1.  Accept the high energy levels and physicality of boys.  Give your son safe places to express it.

2.  At each milestone in the boy’s life (such as toddlerhood, entering Kindergarten, hitting puberty, and then graduating from high school and leaving home), a mother must adjust her parenting style, in order for her son to feel that she has confidence in his ability to handle new experiences.  Let him stand on his own as he experiences new things. Don’t try to insulate him from all failure.  

3.  Provide him with emotional support by simply listening and sharing his emotions.  Express confidence in him, and support him as he solves his problems.

4.  Determine how and when physical closeness is appropriate for your son.  Remember that he still wants and needs the physical closeness but may never say anything about it.

5.  Try to view the world through your son’s lens and not your own. 

When we see a mother and son in a synchronous relationship, we see a mother willing to look upon child rearing as a practice—and willing to try to view the world through her son’s eyes in order to understand his needs.” 

From:  "Raising Cain:  Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys" (16) 

6.  Support your son’s friendships and accept the fact that they will look very different from your female relationships. 

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We love our boys.  They’re smart and funny, active and physical.  And they’re capable of experiencing mighty feelings and emotions.  Let’s help them grow and develop academically, physically, and emotionally.

Here’s what they need from us to develop and protect their emotional health:

1.  Teach your son to understand and recognize the emotions inside himself and others.   Talk about your own emotions.  Help him to develop empathy and compassion by caring for pets, children, the elderly or disabled.

2.  Teach boys that there are many ways to be a man.  Celebrate the differences.  Let him know there are so many ways for him to be a man--not just the strong, unflinching, stoic, superhero male stereotype.

3.  Listen without judgment to your son’s opinions and feelings.  Don't discount his opinions.  Honor his feelings. 

4.  Consult and problem solve with him.  Don't simply dictate what you think the solution to his problem is.

5.  Communicate with him in a “boy” way.  Be direct and specific.  Don’t be disappointed with brief responses.

6.  Use firm, clear, and compassionate discipline which allows him to build character.   This helps him develop his inner conscience to guide him in his decision making.

7.  Recognize that while boys pull away due to their need for independence, they still need an emotional connection with you.  Don’t mistake their withdrawal for lack of caring or rejection.

8.  Be patient.  It may take some time to draw a boy out and to persuade him that it’s safe to be emotionally transparent.

9.  Create a safe and protected space where there is no judgment and no pressure; a space or place where our boys are given permission to express all of their emotions.

10.  Create your safe space by using a familiar ritual.  This could be commuting to school and practices and games, riding bikes around the neighborhood, hiking, going grocery shopping, playing basketball, or working in the yard.  Find something familiar and make it your own. 

10 Tips :  How to Raise a Boy Right Infographic

I’ll leave you with one final quote from the authors:

“Our boys are going to grow up to be many sizes, to possess many skills, and to do a wide variety of things.  We must not disregard their many offerings; we must not make them feel that they do not measure up, that we disdain their contributions.  We have to ask a lot of them, morally and spiritually, and we have to support them in their efforts to please us.  And if they try to please us, we must communicate to them that they are not a disappointment to us.  The only thing that will make growing up psychologically safe for our sons is for them to know that we value them and that we love them, and that we have every confidence that they will grow naturally into good men.” 

From:  "Raising Cain:  Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys" (17)


If you found this post moving or helpful in some way, please pin it to your Pinterest Boards or share it on Facebook.  Please sign up for our resource library (below) for more parenting resources and encourage your friends to do so as well.  

Until the next time....aloha.



Kindlon, Dan, Ph.D. and Thompson, Michael Ph.D. Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys.  New York:  Ballantine Books.  1999:  (1) p. 79, (2) p. 154, (3) p. 55, (4) p. 62, (5) p. 64, (6) p. 70, (7) p. 100, (8) p. 112, (9) p. 103, (10) p. 106, (11) p. 100, (12) p. 112, (13) (14) p. 117, (15) p. 129-130, (16) p. 138, (17) p. 258


If You're Doing These Two Things, Your Child May Quit Playing Sports—Plus The One Thing You Should Be Doing Instead

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If your child quits playing sports, he or she will have zero chance of playing competitively and making their high school team (or beyond).  They’ll miss the opportunity of being part of a team and learning important life skills and values like teamwork, sportsmanship, resiliency, effort, attitude, respect, and tenacity.  And they’ll miss out on the bonding—the brotherhood or sisterhood that develop from being part of a team with a shared goal.  And for those talented kids, losing motivation and burning out mean they won’t have the opportunity to compete at the college level.

How many kids are quitting sports?  If your child is in middle school, you probably realize it’s a lot.  The numbers confirm this:

70% of kids will quit playing sports by the time they’re 13.

Why do kids quit playing sports?  There are many factors at play here.  They might have had coaches that emphasized winning at all costs, they may have sat on the bench for way too many innings, or they may not have been invited to join a travel team that all their friends were on.  They might have been cut from their middle school team.  And some kids just lose interest and some get injured.  

In his TED Talk called “Changing the Game in Youth Sports”, John O’Sullivan cited a study done by the University of Michigan on 30,000 kids.  When asked why they quit playing sports, all of the above reasons were mentioned.  But the #1 reason was….”it’s just not fun anymore”.

A lot of our kids’ sports experiences are controlled by others and outside factors.  But are there things we can do, as parents, to foster the enjoyment of playing sports?  After all, if our kids enjoy playing sports, they’ll be more likely to stick with it longer. 

The short answer is yes—there are things we can do (and shouldn’t do) that are completely within our control as parents!



We are well-intentioned parents, for sure.  But the research is telling us that some of the things we do with good intentions are actually detrimental to our kids.  First up:  micromanaging our kids’ performance and coaching from the sideline. 

Coaching our kids from the sideline seems like a good idea.  We feel that they need instruction and support.  Humor me here and try this—imagine what it would feel like if someone was constantly shouting out instructions as you tried to do something.  Imagine that you had been taking salsa lessons, and it was the day of the performance.  You are up on stage, ready to dance, and just as the music begins, you hear your instructor yelling out, “Get ready!  Head down!  Back straight!  Look up!  Faster!  Your rhythm is off!”  Distracting, right?  

What would you have liked to happen in that scenario?  You probably would have preferred your instructor to just leave you be, so you could dance your heart out to the best of your ability at that time. 

Now imagine what your child experiences when he’s up to bat.  He steps up to the plate.  He sees the pitcher.  He’s getting into the zone when he hears:

Coach:  Relax!  

Parent:  You can do it!  

Coach:  Wait for your pitch!  

Teammate’s Parent:  Be a hitter!  

Parent:  Why did you swing at that one—it was in the dirt!  

Coach:  Level swing!  

Teammate’s Parent:  You’ve got this!

Parent:  You’re out in front!

How can your kid concentrate at the plate with all of that being yelled at him?  

I was searching for something about the mental game in baseball when I came across Mike Matheny’s “Manifesto”.  Matheny is the current General Manager of the Saint Louis Cardinals (Major League Baseball).  He was a former MLB catcher and a multiple Gold Glove winner.  When he decided to coach his son’s Little League team, he wrote a letter to the parents.  In it, he wrote:

I believe that the biggest role of the parent is to be a silent source of encouragement. I think if you ask most boys what they would want their parents to do during the game; they would say “NOTHING”. Once again, this is ALL about the boys. I believe that a little league parent feels that they must participate with loud cheering and “Come on, let’s go, you can do it”, which just adds more pressure to the kids. I will be putting plenty of pressure on these boys to play the game the right way with class, and respect, and they will put too much pressure on themselves and each other already. You as parents need to be the silent, constant, source of support.

Mike Matheny knows a thing or two about playing at a competitive level.  But when I read his letter, I thought surely he did not mean that parents could not support their kids by yelling out positive words of encouragement or positive cheering.  So I decided to ask my kids.  I sat them both down; they were 12 and 8 at the time.  I asked them, “When you’re up to bat, and we yell positive stuff like, Be a hitter!  Or You can do this!  Is that distracting?”  And both, in unison, and without a moment’s hesitation, said: “YES, MOM!”.

That gave me pause.  After all, the last thing I was trying to do was be a distraction to my kids.  In our exuberance to develop our kids to perform at their best, we feel the need to coach, cajole, criticize, and on the positive side, yell encouragement from the sidelines.  This was a lesson learned for me.  Now, I try to remember this when at my kids’ games (although I admit I’m not always successful).  At your child’s next game, think about how your child feels and try to be a “silent supporter” to them.  Not only will they appreciate your support, but they may actually perform better!



Bruce Brown and Rob Miller are longtime coaches who now run the consulting firm Proactive Coaching LLC.  They performed an informal survey of hundreds of college athletes, spanning over three decades.  In their survey, they asked the athletes, “What is your worst memory of playing youth sports?”  

Their answer:  “The car ride home with my parents.”

This stopped me in my tracks.  After all, my wish as a parent is to build a lifetime of happy memories with my kids.  It’s certainly not to be the cause of bad memories for them.  

For many of us, the car ride home seems like the most natural time and place to deconstruct the game.  I admit that I’m 100% guilty of this.  And to be honest, even knowing this, I still struggle with this a bit.  It’s hard.  Keep in mind that when you get into the game analysis so soon after the game (in the car); critiquing, criticizing, and scolding your kid—this actually makes them feel terrible.  It can make them feel as though their worthiness is tied to their game performance.

If your child wants to discuss the game, by all means, go ahead and dive in.  But if not, give them some space and simply talk about something else (homework, lunch, etc).  We have the power to make the car ride home a welcome respite from the pressures of performance, instead of something that our kids dread.

To sum up, the post-game analysis on the car ride home is the worst memory of playing sports for many athletes.  Will it be for your child as well?



With so much talk about how the love of sports is being drained from our kids, is there a way to keep the joy IN sports?  In the same study, Bruce Brown and Rob Miller asked the same college-level athletes, “What is your best memory of playing sports?”.

Overwhelmingly, their best memory was when they heard six words from their parents:

“I love to watch you play”.

It’s beautiful and uncomplicated.  They just want to hear that we love to watch them play.  So, if you do nothing else—if you just simply can’t refrain from the after-game critique in the car or coaching from the sideline, just be sure to tell your child “I love to watch you play”.

Because you do love to watch them play.  You make every effort to attend all of their games, and take intense pride in watching them out there on the field or on the court.  But do you actually tell them?  I think that sometimes we take it for granted.  We think they automatically know this—given the sacrifices we make in getting them signed up, taking them to practices, clinics, conditioning, and games and the money we spend on uniforms, equipment, and travel.

It’s simple.  You can do this immediately and it costs nothing.  Be sure to say those six words to your child before his next game-- tell him that you’re looking forward to his game simply because you love to watch him play.  

To conclude, here’s the two things you should stop doing if you want to encourage the love of sports in your child:

  1. Don’t coach or yell from the sideline.  Be a silent supporter of your child.
  2. Don’t talk about the game in the car after the game unless your child wants to.

And…if nothing else, be sure to tell your child, “I love to watch you play”.

I hope you found this post moving or useful in some way.  Please share it with your friends on Facebook, your fellow Team Parents, or pin it to your Pinterest boards.  And, and if you’re interested in suggestions on how to talk to your kid about sports to encourage a growth mindset, read about it here.  Together, let’s encourage their love of the game and watch our kids blossom into fine young adults and athletes.  

Until the next time…Aloha!








2017 MLB World Series: Los Angeles Dodgers Gift Guide


My youngest son (9 years old) is a big Dodger fan.  As you would imagine, he is unbelievably happy that his team is in the World Series, especially because they just missed it last year.  You know what he'll be doing on Tuesday after school when the Dodgers face the Astros at home for Game #1.

How can we show our Dodger spirit and pride?  I've found a few items that any Dodgers fan will love (all year round), but especially now on the eve of the World Series.  I hope you enjoy this gift guide! 

Side Note:  If you're interested in gift guides for teenage boys who are sports fanatics, see it here, and if you are looking for ideas for stylish planners and accessories, find it here.


Dodger Blue Gift Guide


Here's the goods:

1.  Show your Dodger Pride with a cap in neutral, heather gray.  Men's Los Angeles Dodgers New Era Heather Gray 2017 National League Champions Locker Room 39THIRTY Flex Hat; $31.99 at mlbshop.com.

2.  Justin Turner has been on fire this post season.  Show your support in an officially licensed "Turner" jersey:  Men's Los Angeles Dodgers Justin Turner Majestic Royal 2017 World Series Bound Cool Base Player Jersey:  $134.99 at mlbshop.com.


3.  Stay cool with a Nike Dri-Fit shirt.  Nike Men's Los Angeles Dodgers Legend Team Issue T-Shirt 1.7; $35 at macys.com.

4.  Just because you can't sport a t-shirt to work doesn't mean you can't show off your Dodger pride.  Sport this watch that is professional enough for work but casual enough to wear to the game:  MLB Men's Game Time MLB Letterman Sports Watch:  $59.95 at target.com.

5.  A windbreaker with a high collar and flip-up hood, this men's jacket features a full zipper in front, and a back zipper pocket. '47 Brand Men's Los Angeles Dodgers React Jacket:  $60 at macys.com.

6.  What could be better than Star Wars and the Dodgers?  Show your Team spirit with this long-sleeve tee with Yoda and "Win You Must" across the front.  Men's Los Angeles Dodgers Fanatics Branded Royal 2017 Postseason Star Wars Win You Must Long Sleeve T-Shirt:  $34.99 at mlbshop.com.  


7.  My teenaged son claims that Stance is an uber cool brand among boys his age.  If you're a Kershaw fan, you'll love these.  Clayton Kershaw MLB Future Legends Socks:  $18.00 at stance.com.


8.  Ladies, there's no reason for you to have to wear baggy, shapeless fan gear borrowed from your significant other.  Wear this v-neck t-shirt to show Cody Bellinger you're a super fan.  Women's Los Angeles Dodgers Cody Bellinger Fanatics Branded Royal 2017 National League Champions Name & Number T-Shirt:  $31.99 at mlbshop.com.

9.  Keep your beverage of choice cold if you're watching the game from your living room.  Memory Company Los Angeles Dodgers 32oz Stainless Steel Keeper:  $29.99 at macys.com.

10.  The final pick:  a women's v-neck t-shirt in Dodger blue.  I love v-necks, I think they're so flattering as opposed to the standard crew neck.  Women's Los Angeles Dodgers Majestic Royal 2017 World Series Bound T-Shirt:  $27.99 at mlbshop.com.

Thanks for staying with me until the end!  If you liked this guide, please share it or re-pin it to your Pinterest Boards.  And, if you want to get on the list for future gift guides, please sign up below!  

2017 Gift Guide: 25 Best Planners and Accessories

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When I was researching products for my organizational system (the one I implemented this year), I came across awesome options for planners and some really cute accessories!  It was tough to choose which ones to get.  And then, just recently, one of my friends told me that she was planning to “get organized” for 2018.  So, this gift guide was born!  

I’ve rounded up a bunch of functional and stylish planners and accessories for that person in your life that is getting (or staying) organized (and that might even be you!)

If you'd like a peek into my simple and easy-to-implement organizational system, please take 10 minutes to watch a short video about it here.


1.  A nice sized (7" x9.5") planner featuring one day per page.   Beautiful to look at with a pretty, blush pink cover with black, white and gold splatters.  2018 Luxe Page-A-Day Splatter Planner (12 months: January-December 2018):  $49.95 at papersource.com.

2.  A planner that's nice to look at with a simple, intuitive layout.  Features thick, 70 lb. pure white Mohawk Via paper, and one page per day.  This planner contains space for schedules, to-do's, notes and meals, full month views, and hourly schedules from 6 am to 9 pm.  Measures a convenient 7" x 9":  Emily Ley Paper 2018 Calendar Weekly Simplified Planner (shown in "Happy Stripe"):  $48.00 on Amazon.com.

3.  This 17-month 8" x 10" planner features a beautiful light blue leatherette cover with the whimsical saying "let me pencil you in" in gold letters.  2017-2018 Pencil You In Planner:  $34.95 at papersource.com.

4.  Rifle Paper Company makes the most beautiful planners.  This planner features a 17 month calendar, a hard cover, and an interior pocket for stashing important papers.  You won't mind pulling this out at your meeting to jot down notes:  Rifle Paper Company 17 Month Agenda 2018 (Spiral Planner) in Lively Floral:  $34.00 at Amazon.com.

5.  A funny cover that'll have you smiling before that first cup of coffee.  A no-frills weekly planner that measures 5" x 7":  2018 Coffee Weekly Planner; $12.99 at papyrusonline.com.

6.  A fabulous, hard bound, cloth cover planner in coral with gold foil lettering.  In a petite size (5 1/4" x 7 3/4") that's perfect for stashing in your handbag.  A great choice for a stylish, portable planner at a reasonable price:  Rifle Paper Company 12-Month Coral Tabbed Agenda:  $30.00 at nordstrom.com.

7.  A gorgeous, sophisticated planner in navy with gold accents.  Measures 8 7/8" x 6 3/4" and features interior pockets.  Lilly Pulitzer 17 month Large Agenda 2017-2018 (August 2017-December 2018 and shown in "Flamenco Navy"):  $30.00 at Amazon.com.

8.  If your focus is on tracking stuff on your to-do list, this is the perfect planner for you.  You can track your most important tasks by week, break them down by day, and then review your progress in the weekly review.  This is a highly rated planner on Amazon; it's garnered 4.7 out of 5 stars over 328 reviews:  Intelligent Change Productivity Planner-Daily Planner-Non Dated 5" x 8":  $24.99 at Amazon.com.


9.  The Erin Condren Company allows you to completely personalize your "Life Planner".  Choose the cover design style and page layout.  The planner pictured below is one that I personalized on the website:  Custom Quote Life Planner:  $65.00 at erincondren.com.


10.  A cute planner/agenda that includes yearly, weekly and monthly views along with color coded month tabs to keep things easily accessible.  From the creator's own description, this planner includes:  

  • the cutest sticker pages of all time

  • awesome artwork throughout

  • a bunch of super fun holidays

  • extra notes pages

  • fun weekend to-dos

  • so many compliments

How could you resist?  ban.do 17-Month Medium Agenda-No Bad Days:  $28.00 at macys.com.

11.  A chic planner in bright pink and gold lettering with the saying "she's always running fashionably late".  Features monthly and weekly spreads, as well as a section for contacts and pages to jot down notes and ideas and a lay-flat design:  Kate Spade New York Medium 17-Month Agenda:  $30.00 at nordstrom.com.

12.  This is a fabulous, luxe gift for that special person when cost is not a consideration.  I read about this and was intrigued; the Moleskine brand has created their "Smart Writing System" that will transfer the stuff you write down in their planner into your digital device!  Amazing!  The planner is made with special paper that works in conjunction with their Smart Pen (all part of their "Smart Writing System").  The planner itself is not expensive:  Moleskine Smart Planner: $29.95 at us.moleskine.com.  However, for the planner to work with your digital device, it will require the Moleskine Smart Writing System:  $199.00 at Amazon.com.


13.  A minimalistic planner with French flair and classic style.  The planner is dateless so you can start whenever you want!  This set, available on Amazon.com, comes with an AZHOA brand mechanical pencil and 5-color post-it flags:  Mon Journal Diary Set including AHZOA Pencil and AHZOA 5 Colors post-it flags:  $20.99 on Amazon.com.


14.  A beautiful linen cover planner in a small, hand held 5.25" x 7.7" size.  Matches whatever color handbag you're carrying--it's available in neutral gray and beige:  2018 Ardium Fabric Journal:  $37.95 at mochithings.com.


15.  I saved the best for last!  I've been through many planners, and finally settled on the Self Journal (I'm on my second journal).  It incorporates all of the stuff I wanted into one planner (thank you to the creators of this journal!).  It includes a 90 day plan, which you break down into action steps.  There's also a monthly calendar, and a two page spread dedicated to each day.   Each journal contains enough pages for 90 days, and is undated, so you can start at any time.  You can skip days, say, if you're not feeling well enough to journal, or you forgot to pack it on your vacation.  It comes with a simple, classy, fabric cover:  Self Journal (available in November):  $31.99 at bestself.co/products/self-journal.  



1.  I love this chic pencil case by Kate Spade.  With my organizational system, I use old-school pencils and tote around a pencil case to keep them sharp.  This one comes with two pencils, a ruler, an eraser, and a pencil sharpener:   what do you say pencil case:  $24.00 at nordstrom.com.


2.  I love novelty pencils.  I know you can buy the basic yellow ones at Wal-Mart for, like, $2, but why, when you can get these instead?  A set of 6 colored pencils (the barrel is colored, but the lead is the standard HB) with cute sayings topped with a black eraser:  Vibe Squad Pencil Set:  $9.95 at papyrusonline.com.


3.  A pencil tin that protects your pencil tips from breaking in your tote bag (I like my pencils really sharp, so I need a hard pencil case as opposed to a fabric one).  This one sports a vintage bicycle design and comes with 10 pencils (five of each design) and a sharpener:  Cavallini Vintage Bicycles Pencil Tin:  $12.95 at papersource.com.

4.  You may as well have fun while you're writing!  Uber cute pencil set:  ban.do Compliment Pencil Set-Assorted Set of 10:  $10.00 at shopbop.com.

5.  Spice up your planner entries with bright colors!  Ultra smooth pens write like a dream and available in bold, vibrant hues.  They're perfect for drawing and doodling in your planner:  ban.do x Uchida le pen 6-Pack-Rainbow:  $15.00 at bando.com.

6.  These pens are too cute for words.  Who wouldn't fall in love with these?  C-Pioneer 4pcs Rabbit Gel Ink Rollerball Pens:  $4.99 at Amazon.com.


7.  A gorgeous pen that you won't mind pulling out of your handbag:  A white/gold pen in a polka-dot pattern with black ink. Packaged in a striped gift box, perfect for gift giving:  Kate Spade New York Gold Dots Ballpoint Pen:  $25.20 at shopbop.com.


8.  OK, I promise this is my last pick for a writing instrument.  But who can resist a cute kitty peeking out of a box?  The cat is the eraser and the pencil is a standard #2:  Cat in Box Pencil:  $2.95 at papersource.com.


9.  These eraser toppers are 1000x cuter than those standard pink, boring ones.  They're so cute I'm not sure I'd actually erase stuff with it!  Comes in a 24-pack with 8 different baby animal designs (calf, piglet, dragon, mouse, kitten, colt, chick and ram):  Wee Ones Eraser Topper:  $7.55 at raymondgeddes.com.


10.  I know, I know, a pencil sharpener seems so....boring.  But trust me on this one.  My son came home from his first day of school in 5th grade raving about this pencil sharpener.  He insisted I buy one, and I don't regret it.  There is no comparison--other pencil sharpeners simply don't sharpen as precisely as this one (did I mention I like my pencils really sharp?) . And the reviews don't lie; 4.3 stars out of 5 on Amazon across 810 reviews:  Carl Angel 5 Pencil Sharpener:  $16.42 on Amazon.com.

That's it, folks!  Thank you for reading all the way to the end.  If you found this post helpful, please share it! 

And...if you happen to be looking for gift ideas for teenage boys who love sports, check out my gift guide here.

Happy Holidays!

2017 Gift Guide: 25 Best Gifts for Teen Boy Sports Fanatics (No Video Games!)

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Teenage boys...they're so difficult to buy gifts for.  Many times, we'll end up getting a gift card because they're so finicky! 

I did the research for you and rounded up 25 of the best gifts for any teenage boy sports fanatic.  Find a variety of gifts at all price points (but all gifts are under $100).  Each one of these picks was approved by my very own 14-year old Teenager!  And the best part...there are no video games in this gift guide!

Stocking Stuffers ($10 and under)

1.  Keep their ID's where they won't lose it:  around their neck!  Oakley Printed Lanyard:  $10 on Oakley.com.

2.  My son gave his seal of approval for this Fidget Spinner.  Anything to keep them off their electronics!  Chicago Cubs Logo Three-Way Fidget Spinner; $6.99 on MLBshop.com.

3.  Although it seems as though they're on their computers or phones 24/7, they still occasionally need pencils and pens to write stuff down.  Keep their writing implements on hand and organized with this Oregon Ducks Fabric Pencil Pouch:  $4.99 on Shop.GoDucks.com.

4.  These lightweight drawstring backpacks are perfect for bringing a few essentials on outings with friends.  Roomy enough to fit their wallet, some snacks, sunglasses, and their phone.  They're boys....they really don't have much else!  Choose from their favorite NFL team:  New York Giants Big Logo Drawstring Backpack; $9.99 on NFLshop.com.

5.  A practical stocking stuffer that's as cool as pens can get.  At school, they can show off their favorite football team with these NFL 5-Pack Retractable Click Pens; $5.97 on Amazon.com.


1.   Know a teen boy with Beats?  Your basketball fan or player can personalize their Beats with this basketball skin (this is for the decal only, not for the actual headphones):  WraptorSkinz Basketball Decal Style Skin for Genuine Beats Solo HD Headphones; $23.34 on Amazon.com.

2.  If you're around any teen boy who plays sports, you'll know that stylish socks are a must.  My son says these socks by Stance are "swag":  City Gym Warriors; $18 on Stance.com.

3.  They get really hungry after school.  Put their snacks (a.k.a. "second lunch") in this sporty lunch tote from Nike:  Jordan All World Lunch Tote Bag; $24.97 on Store.Nike.com.

4.  For the pickup game after the real game (and after it gets dark at the park), they can kick around with this glow-in-the-dark soccer ball:  Tangle NightBall Glow in the Dark Light Up LED Soccer Ball-Large; $19.99 on Amazon.com.

5.  OK, this may not be a "sporty" gift, but I thought it was a cool "teen boy" gift, especially because the Angry Birds velcro wallet my son has isn't cutting it.  This one is stylish and compact:  Herschel Raven Wallet; $24.99 at Herschel.com.

6.  This will win our Gift Guide's Award for the most practical teen gift.  No more frustrating calls to your son that go directly to voice mail because his phone is dead:  Jackery Mini 3350mAh Portable Charger-External Battery Pack, Premium Aluminum Power Bank, Portable iPhone Charger for iPhone 7, 6s, Galaxy S7, Galaxy S6; $12.99 on Amazon.com.

7.  A fun addition to any boy's room!  When my son saw this, he said "I NEED this for my trash!":  Document Dunk - The Trashcan Basketball Hoop; $25.00 on Amazon.com.

8.  My son and his friends live in slides.  They wear them to school, to the movies with friends, and they change into them after their games.  Reviewers love this slide and say it's super comfortable:  Nike Benassi Mens Slide; $25 on Store.Nike.com.

9.  A glow-in-the dark football is a no-brainer.  Keep them off their phones and active at the park after the sun goes down:  Tangle NightBall Glow in the Dark Light Up LED Football-Large; $19.99 on Amazon.com.

Under $50

1.  This is one of the coolest gifts I've purchased for my son's friends.  Choose from any NFL Team and customize the t-shirt with your favorite player's name:  Men's Denver Broncos NFL Pro Line Navy Personalized Name & Number Logo T-Shirt; $37.99 at NFLshop.com.

2.  My kids love this indoor mini hoop and ball (fits over the door) but beware...you may be hearing the sound of the ball bouncing on the floor.  Continuously.  But it's almost guaranteed to be a favorite; it's got 3,820 reviews on Amazon with 4.5 stars:  SKLZ Pro Mini Basketball Hoop W/ Ball. 18”x12” Shatterproof Backboard; $19.99 on Amazon.com.  Note:  This is listed in the "Under $50" category because it was priced at $25.99 forever, until the price went down by $5 at the time of this post.

3.  Stylish yet sporty:  a NBA x Nike ringer tee emblazoned with your basketball fan's favorite team: Men's Oklahoma City Thunder Nike Navy Basketball Fan T-Shirt; $44.99 on Store.nba.com.

4.  They're thirsty.  They're rushing to class, playing basketball at lunch, and then carted off to sports practices.  Keep them hydrated with a customized Hydro Flask in their favorite colors.  The one shown below is a 20 oz. wide mouth Hydroflask in mint with a kiwi boot and lemon strap; $42 on Myhydro.hydroflask.com.

5.  My son's teammates bring a portable speaker on their school bus.  It pumps them up before their games!  And now, they can take it with them to the pool and beach!  Gift him with this small, portable, waterproof speaker that reviewers say is "loud for it's size".  It's garnered awesome reviews:  4.5 stars over 683 ratings on Amazon:  JBL Clip 2 Waterproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker (Black); $49.95 on Amazon.com.

6.  For your teen waterman, get him this cool lookin' wetsuit dry bag.  Now he won't need to roll up his wetsuit in his towel and get your car wet:  Quiksilver Sea Stash 35L Large Sealable Wetsuit Dry Bag; $45 on Quiksilver.com.

7.  For your baseball fan, jazz up his desk area and get him this cool keyboard for those times he isn't on his laptop:  San Francisco Giants Wood Print Wireless USB Keyboard; $49.99 on MLBshop.com.

8.  Most of them have a laptop AND a desktop (sigh).  Give him this MLB x Herschel laptop sleeve to protect his laptop:  Anchor Sleeve; $39.99 at Herschel.com.


$100 and Under

1.  They are rough on their stuff.  But we'll cut them some slack because they carry a ton of books in their backpacks!  Give them this super cool looking, quality backpack that can withstand the wear and tear of a teen boy (my son has an Oakley backpack and it's very high quality):  Oakley Holbrook 20L LX Coated Backpack; $95.00 at Oakley.com.

2.  Converse is one of those iconic brands that never go out of style.  These Converse x Nike NBA shoes are super cool, he'll love you for it:  Converse Chuck SE Houston Rockets Franchise High Top; $90 on Nike.com.

3.  When their friends come over, they need somewhere to sit.  This comfy bean bag is a sporty addition to. any teenage boys' room:  Green Bay Packers Bean Bag Chair;  $64.99 on NFLshop.com.

If you liked this gift guide, check out my Gift Guide for the 25 Best Planners and Accessories for that person in your life that is getting (or staying) organized in 2018!  Check it out here.

Thanks!  Pin it to your Boards or share it if you found it helpful!  

DIY PROJECT: Ping Pong Basketball

At my son's school, they learned about entrepreneurship.  They had a "Market Day" where the students could make or create a product and charge for it.  They earned money in their class currency, which was redeemable for gift cards donated by the families.  

Many of the students brought food (always a good seller), but my son wanted to do something different, so we decided to offer a service:  a Ping-Pong basketball game!  Credit goes to Holly Lefevre at 504 Main for the idea!  Find her original tutorial here:  http://www.504main.com/2015/09/diy-ping-pong-basketball-game.html .  We followed her DIY instructions and created our own game.  Here's our masterpiece:



Here are some simple instructions:


1.  Poster Board (Elmer's Tri-Fold Foam Display Board, white, 28" x 40" x 3/16")

2.  Mod-Podge (we used the matte one)

3.  Aleene's Turbo Tacky Glue 

4.  Paintbrushes (inexpensive ones we found in the craft aisle at Wal-Mart)

5.  5 Pudding cups (emptied and washed...kids liked this part)

6.  Ping Pong balls (Found at Wal-Mart)

7.  Scissors

8.  Xacto Knife (We couldn't find an Xacto so we used a box cutter)

9.  Quarter (optional)

10.  Washi Tape (or any kind of decorative tape 3/8" wide)

11.  3 sheets of colored paper (we used blue, green, and orange)

12.  5 sheets of 9" x 12" black construction paper 

13.  Picture of a scoreboard (found by googling "basketball game scoreboard")

14.  Picture of a basketball game audience (found by googling "basketball game audience")




1.  Cut four sheets of the black construction paper into strips of 4" x 12".  Easiest way:  cut off a strip of 1" off the long side of the paper.  This will leave you with a sheet of paper that is 8" x 12".  Then, fold and cut in half the long way, and you'll have two strips of paper; each measuring 4" x 12".  You should have (8) strips.

2.  With the remaining sheet of black construction paper, cut out the backboard of each basket using this template from Holly Lefevre at 504 Main.  You'll need 5 backboards.  


3.  Cut out the accent strips with your three sheets of colored paper.  Use whatever color combination you want.  Each strip measures approximately 1" x 5 1/4".  We used two green strips, one orange strip, and two blue strips.

4.  Print and cut out the basketball scoreboard.

5.  Print several copies of the picture of the basketball audience.  You'll need enough copies to cover the poster board; we used 12 sheets.

6.  Using the Xacto Knife, carefully cut out the bottoms of the pudding cups.

7.  Decorate each pudding cup with 2 strips of washi tape by winding it around the cup.

8.  Optional:  Using the quarter, cut out 5 circles.  This can be used to apply on top of the washi tape on each basket to show the number of points for each basket. 



1.  Glue the small, colored paper strips near the bottom of each of the 5 black backboards.


2.  Pour out some Mod-Podge in a disposable container.  We used a small, foam, disposable bowl.  Get out your paintbrush.


3.  Place the audience pictures and the 4" x 12" black construction paper strips on the poster board.  The black strips are the borders along the top and bottom of the display board.  They'll need to be overlapping.  You can place the audience pictures either on top of or underneath the black borders (overlapping them as well).  We layered them in columns of 3.  


4.  Once you're satisfied with the look and placement, glue them on.  Be sure to glue both the back and front side of the strips and pictures with the Mod-Podge.  This will seal them in.  


5.  You may need (or want) to go over the entire poster board with another coat of Mod-Podge.


6.  Once dry, glue on the scoreboard and the 5 back boards.


7.  Then, place a large dollop of the Aleene's Tacky Glue on the backs of each pudding cup basket and place on each backboard.  


You're done!!!!  

Note:  504 Main's original tutorial includes a base.  We did not use the base and found that using the Elmer's Display Board was sturdy enough.  Also, if you place it against a wall it should be fine (unless, of course, they are launching the ping pong balls against it....lol) . But, of course, the base would make this project much sturdier.

Growth Mindset for Kids: Help Them To Reach Their Full Potential In School and Sports

If you’ve had a chance to read my prior posts, you’ll know that I read the book “Mindset” in an effort to help my kids with their mental game in baseball.  As a result, you’ll find that a lot of the examples I write about relate to baseball.  If you have a child that plays baseball, you’ll really appreciate this!  If not, the examples can all be easily translated to school or other sports.

If your kid plays baseball, do you wonder what’s goes through his mind while at the plate? While pitching?  If he strikes out does he hang his head?  Then, on his next at-bat, does he start swinging at high pitches and then takes the pitches right down the middle?  If he walks a player, does he mentally crumble and then every pitch after that is wild or in the dirt?

The mental game, in my opinion, is the most elusive component of the game.  You can watch loads of YouTube videos and send your kid to private hitting lessons.  But if he's got a destructive mindset at the plate, on the mound or in the field, private lessons and physical training isn’t going to help him.

What’s your child’s mindset like?  Does he only want to participate in the activities he’s good at?  Does he lose interest if something is challenging or unfamiliar?  Does he resist trying something new because he might fail at it?  Does he get easily defeated when he doesn’t show immediate aptitude for something?  If you’re nodding your head, your kid may be living with the fixed mindset.

Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset

In case you didn’t have a chance to read my earlier posts, here’s a short recap:   the fixed mindset is believing that you’re born with a fixed level of smarts and abilities and that this really can’t be changed.  The growth mindset is the belief that your abilities can be shaped by hard work, effort, and attitude.

You’re a Natural

My son dislikes defensive practice.  He only wants to practice hitting.  Why?  He’s a better hitter than a defensive player and as a result, he’s always been praised for his hitting.  But he lacked the same enthusiasm for fielding.  Could it be because he thought he’d be seen as a failure if he had to actually work hard at practicing to be a better fielder?  Was this the fixed mindset at work?  

I recognized the fixed mindset in my son, and myself.  Without realizing it, I’ve delivered these fixed mindset messages to my kids:

“You’re lucky you’re good in math and don’t have to study.”

“You’re a naturally good test taker.”

“That kid is a genius.”

“Mike has a naturally good swing.”

“Some kids are natural athletes.”

Notice the above messages focus on natural ability and reinforce the belief that you are born athletic and/or smart. None of the above statements consider effort or hard work.

It’s all about the Results

Let's evaluate some other statements I've made, and the hidden messages behind them:

Me:  “You had only one hit out of three at bats today.”

What my son heard:  Why did you strike out twice?  You’re not a hitter.


Me:  “Why didn’t you get an “A” in History?

What he heard:  Smart students get “A”s. You're not one of them.


Me:  “You missed that easy ground ball today.”

What he heard:  How could you mess up that routine play?  You suck at defense.


In the three statements above, the focus is solely on the outcome/results and how it measures them.  Folks with the fixed mindset believe they're always being judged by their successes or failures. To them, failure doesn't mean they failed at something.  Sadly, it's internalized as “I am a failure”.

In short, the fixed mindset is limiting.  It's judgmental.  Your child can't realize their full potential if they aren’t willing to reach for the stars (a goal outside their comfort zone), are unwilling to work hard to get there, and are fearful of failing. 


Success is based on Personal Improvement

Here’s another example.  Amanda Beaman is a State Champion distance runner that attends ‘Iolani School here in Hawaii. She trained with the varsity squad as an eighth-grader. As a freshman, she placed 6th in the State, and has won the ILH Championships in her sophomore and junior years.  Earlier this year, she won the 3,000-meter race at the State Championships.

But Beaman wasn't always the fastest.  In fact, in the 7th grade, she joined the cross-country team.  There were four groups, with Group A having the fastest runners, and D with the slowest.  She started at the back of Group D.  

Here’s what she told Stanley Lee of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, “I definitely think that I just try to improve every race.”  She continued on, “I go into each race thinking that this is setting the basis for improvement for next week.  I probably have more bad races, bad workouts than I do good ones.  When I do have the good ones, it’s very rewarding.  I run for that feeling of accomplishment.”4

She also said, "I think you just have to not focus too much on your competition.  I used to get caught up in: She's beating me, she's ahead of me and I'm usually ahead of her. I think ultimately you're racing the clock and racing yourself, and your competitors are there to push you to run faster times."4

This is the growth mindset at work here.  She has had more bad races and workouts than good, but that doesn't stop her.  She continues to train and work hard.  She showed an unfailing work ethic to get herself to where she is.  She measures success by improving week after week.  And she's learned to use her competition to challenge herself to better her own performance.  

Growth Mindset for Students

I read an article about a 17-year old young man named Moshe Kai Cavalin.  Moshe studied trigonometry at age seven, graduated from community college at age 11, and earned a B.A. in math from UCLA by 15.  He’s published two books and is currently working with NASA to develop surveillance technology for airplanes and drones.

Most people would say “He’s a genius”, which is the fixed mindset message about being born with a certain level of intelligence.  Daniel Judge, Professor of Mathematics at East Los Angeles College, who taught Moshe for two years, said: "I think most people just think he's a genius, they believe it just comes naturally.  He actually worked harder than, I think, any other student I've ever had."5

So, yes, Moshe is off the charts smart.  But he also worked harder than anyone else.

He wasn’t handicapped by the fixed mindset that would have discouraged him from working hard.  He didn’t just rely on his natural born intelligence.

Let’s listen to what Moshe had to say about his upbringing: “My case isn't that special. It's just a combination of parenting and motivation and inspiration.”  He continued on, “I tend to not compare myself that often to other people.  I just try to do the best I can.”5

Lesson #1: The messages we send to our kids can help to motivate them to achieve great things.

Lesson #2: Growth mindset = striving to be the best version of yourself.

So how can we improve the way we communicate with our kids to encourage the growth mindset?  

How to Teach The Growth Mindset

Have a Discussion With Your Child

First, have a discussion with your child.  Explain the growth mindset.  Tell him that you want him to be the best version of himself and that the growth mindset will help him to grow and improve.  Explain to him that in the past you’ve emphasized results such as grades, and in sports, the # of hits, # of errors, etc..  Explain that this will change.  

Explain that the focus is now on effort, hard work, and improvement to his own game.  Explain that although your emphasis will change, you’ll still express disappointment if he doesn’t show effort.  

Mistakes will happen but explain to them that they shouldn’t be afraid of negative consequences if they’re working hard.  For example, tell them that you won’t get upset if they miss a fly ball in the outfield, as long as they were 1) mentally in the game and 2) moving at the crack of the bat/first step back/getting a good jump on the ball.  But you’ll still be on him if he was daydreaming and took his first step in.

Reassure them that failure is not to be feared.  When discussing this with our kids, we’ve explained that failure is simply feedback on the way to getting it right; that it’s a necessary part of their journey toward success.  Help them to reframe their thinking about failure.  Talk to your child about your own struggles and failures, and what you did to overcome them.  Teach by example.

“Failure is only a temporary change in direction to set you straight for your next success.”

-Denis Waitley


Give Honest and Constructive Feedback

Now let’s look at how we can change our words to reflect our new approach to measuring success.  This will require you to be intentional about the way you communicate with your child.

Fostering the growth mindset doesn’t involve false praise or praising a child’s natural talents.  In the book “Mindset”, Dr. Carol Dweck reported that in their study of hundreds of children they discovered that “praising children’s intelligence harms their motivation and it harms their performance.”2  She explained, “the minute they hit a snag, their confidence goes out the window and their motivation hits rock bottom.”  She stated that praising children’s brains or talent doesn’t give them permanent confidence.  In fact, it does the opposite.  “It makes children doubt themselves as soon as anything is hard or anything goes wrong.” 


Instead, we need to work on giving honest and constructive feedback.  We’ve all heard the term “constructive feedback”, but what exactly does it mean?  Here’s a great definition:

“Constructive feedback is a tool that is used to build things up, not break things down.  It lets the other person know that you are on their side”.1 

As a parent, your role is to help develop and shape your child to be the best version of themselves.  The operative word is “build”, which means that you are working together, not against each other.  On the opposite end is using fear or intimidation to get results.  This method “breaks things down” and undermines your child’s self-confidence, self-image, and worthiness.  With a healthy dose of fixed mindset messages delivered in a negative way, our kids learn to doubt their ability to improve.

So ask yourself:  Am I giving feedback in a way that fosters learning?  Or is this feedback destructive and deflating to a child?  Am I on his side and building him up, or breaking him down?

Here are some helpful guidelines about constructive feedback:

  1. If you can’t think of a constructive purpose for giving feedback, don’t give it at all.

  2. Focus on description rather than judgment. Describe the behavior by reporting what has happened, instead of judging the behavior.

  3. Focus on behavior rather than the person. Refer to what the player does as opposed to what he is. To help you do this, focus on using adverbs, which describe action, rather than adjectives, which describe qualities. For example, “You weren’t getting your glove down today”, as opposed to “You looked crappy at 2nd base today”.

  4. Be aware of feedback overload. Pick a few things to work on and move on. Tomorrow is a new day.

After giving constructive feedback, remember to express support for your child.  Don’t forget this part!


Growth Mindset Advice for Parents

Let’s go back to some of the things we’ve said to our kids in the past.  And let’s see how we might re-word our feedback to be constructive.

What we’ve said:  “You were only one for three today.”

What he heard:  “I’m not a good hitter.”

Why it’s bad:  Focuses on the outcome and measurable results only.  Today’s game and today’s batting average defines him as a player.

What’s better:     “You didn’t swing at pitches in the dirt today.  That’s a great start”.  

Why is this better?:  Shows appreciation for improvement from his last at-bat.  Is specific, action-oriented, and doesn’t focus on the person.

Whats better:  “I saw you relaxing your hands at the plate today.” 

Why is this better?:  Shows he’s listening and trying new techniques learned at practice.

What’s better:  “I like how you ran it out to first when you popped up”. 

Why is this better?:  Shows “never give up” attitude.  Didn’t give up and jog when popping up.

What’s better:  “You didn’t get upset at the umpire today for the ball in the dirt that he called a strike.”

Why is this better:  He’s learning to take responsibility for his own decisions at the plate, and isn’t placing blame on others.

Then, you can start a discussion about how becoming a better hitter is a process.  He isn’t being judged on his performance in one game, and he isn’t being judged as a person.  His actions are the subject of the constructive feedback.


What we’ve said:  “I can’t believe you missed that routine ground ball today.”

What he heard:  “I suck at defense.”

Why it’s bad:  Judgmental.  Focuses on that one play as if that one play defines him as a player.

What’s better:  “I saw you getting better jumps today.”

Why is this better:  Focuses on improvement.  Action oriented and not an attack on him as a person.

What’s better:  “I saw you hustling to get in front of the ball today.”

Why is this better:  Shows improvement and executing on what is being taught at practice.

What’s better:  “I saw you getting ready on each play today.”
Why this is better:  Shows appreciation for improvement on mental focus from the past game, where he might have been kicking the dirt, standing straight up, glove under the arm, daydreaming, etc.

What’s better:  “You called out the play today.”

Why this is better:  Shows he is focusing on the game, knows the count and is demonstrating leadership 

Then, you can begin a discussion about his defense, and how he’s improving as a defensive player, but he’ll need to work on seeing the ball into his glove and work on his focus and knowledge of the game.

Praise what they did well and where they showed improvement and effort, while still being honest about the areas that they need to work on.  And if there were mistakes made, remember to focus on the action as opposed to reflecting on them as a person.  And don’t worry!  You’re still allowed to celebrate your kids’ successes; just be sure to tie their success to effort and hard work as opposed to innate ability. +

When we stress the virtues of hard work, perseverance, effort, and attitude, we are emphasizing the point that our intelligence and abilities are NOT fixed and can always be changed.  So, in short, emphasizing those values demonstrate to our kids that we can always work hard at becoming better at whatever it is we are doing.

Let’s recap the things we can do to begin living with the growth mindset:

  1. Change your own thinking to the growth mindset

  2. Explain the growth mindset to your child

  3. Be intentional when communicating with your child; give honest and constructive feedback

I hope this has given you some food for thought, as well as some actionable strategies that you can use today!  If you found this post helpful, please share it with friends on Facebook or pin it to your Pinterest boards.  

Until next time....



1.  Dweck, Carol.  Mindset The New Psychology of Success. New York:  Ballantine Books, 2006.  Print.  p. 4.

2. Dweck, Carol.  Mindset The New Psychology of Success. New York:  Ballantine Books, 2006.  Print.  p. 4.

3.  Dweck, Carol.  Mindset The New Psychology of Success. New York:  Ballantine Books, 2006.  Print.  p. 99.

4.  Lee, Stanley.  (2015, September 15).  Leader of the Pack.  Retrieved November 11, 2015 from: http://www.pressreader.com/usa/honolulu-star-advertiser/20150915/282613146567705/TextView

5.  Binkley, Collin.  (2015, November 2).  2 Degrees, flies planes, author, works at NASA.  His Age? 17.  Retrieved November 11, 2015, from: http://www.staradvertiser.com/news/breaking/20151102_2_degrees_flies_planes_author_works_at_NASA_His_age_17.html?id=339335021

6.  Constructive feedback definition found at:  https://www.cabrillo.edu/services/jobs/pdfs/giving-feedback.pdf (web)

7.  5. Barker, Eric. time.com.  "How to Make Sure Your Kids Have 'Grit', Backed by Research".  Web.  22 March 2016.