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SOS! You Need to Parent on the Same Page… But How?

Amanda Houle

It’s no secret that marriage is hard work -- not to mention parenting. Considering the national divorce rate, which hovers between 40-50%, depending on your source, too many of us aren’t up to the task. A big part of that problem comes from parenting, specifically, the failure to parent on the same page. What am I talking about? Well, do you ever feel like you’re the bad cop while your partner gets to be the good cop? Exhausting, isn’t it? Or maybe your partner is the disciplinarian and you find yourself walking on eggshells around kids who know they’ve got your number.

 

Whatever the situation, attempting to parent from two different pages or positions, is downright impossible; certainly not sustainable for the long run. Unless you want to bow out of the race entirely (please don’t), take a look at the following 4 Pillars of Parenting with a Punch. Let me help you get on the same page and empower your parenting efforts...

Understanding the 4 Pillars of Parenting with a Punch

What does it mean to parent with a punch? It means empowerment. It means backing up your decisions and actions with confidence and clarity in your judgment. But the strength required to strike the right impact isn’t always easy to muster… especially with a partner. A quick check of my Google analytics shows that “parenting on the same page” is the number one search of my site.

 

No wonder so many of you are calling for reinforcements, and here they are… 

Pillar #1: Effective Communication with Your Partner and Children

First and foremost, your family was founded on the relationship between you and your partner. The way you communicate, address, and engage one another will translate to your children. Believe me, they are watching and they aren’t missing much. You need to master effective communication between the two of you in order to foster clear and kind communication between yourselves and your children. Communicate with kindness and keep the focus on listening before speaking. The inability to listen can result in obstacles to critical messages ever reaching you. Open ears, open heart, closed mouth… that’s the rule until the floor is yours and you feel in command of the message you wish to send.

Pillar #2: Own It!

Own what, exactly? Everything! Own your energy, your mindset, and your behavior. Listen, in this life there are few things we can really control. But, those three - energy, mindset, behavior - are well within your remit. Do not blame, but look inward and assess your role, your actions, and your outset before looking to those around you.

Pillar #3: There is No “I” in Team

I know -- total cliche, but totally true. You cannot focus on you when you’re trying to tend to your team. Granted, you are integral to your team, but you, alone, are not the team. In order to parent on the same page, you have to share a page. Attempting to flip back and forth between disparate pages only closes the book and kills communication. As frustrating as that is, consider the consequences experienced by your children. Take a moment (or as long as it takes) between you and your partner. Get your heads together and figure out what the focus is for your family. And be flexible! That focus can, and will, change over time. After all, your kids are growing up and the challenges with every milestone will vary. You need to be able to bob and weave together, according to the same playbook, specifically, the same page of said playbook.

Pillar #4 - Draw a Different Line in the Sand

Discipline is an important, useful component of parenting. Where would we be without it? It’s the recourse to the bad decision or questionable choice made by our children. As many of you already know, but for those who don’t, my definition and style of discipline hinges on expectations, rather than reprimands. I believe that clear expectations, rather than reactionary punishments, are what best set children up for success.

 

No matter your personal definition or style, too many of us rely on discipline as a destination, not an ongoing journey. In other words, we discipline via decisive action, but often miss the educational component required to really make a lasting impact. Does your child understand why he or she is being punished? Do they know why the behavior is problematic? Do they really? Or are you just assuming that these interactions are clear and impactful?

 

Too many partners value different disciplinary styles, which can lead to confusion.. Of course, if you and your partner are confused, how clear do you think your kids feel about what’s going on around them? Children thrive on predictability with respect to routine and response. Variations in response between partners can be damaging and, ultimately, sets kids up for failure because they aren’t confident in the rules of the game.

The Bottom Line.

The healthier and happier you are as a couple, the better chances your children have of emulating your behavior. Children pick up your energy and will take what they know as they grow older. In order to set them up for success, it’s imperative that you and your partner acknowledge your value systems and share the same principles of parenting.

 

Children need to see you working together as a team in order to feel safe and secure following your lead.

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Busy Begets Better Parenting

Amanda Houle

As the saying goes, “hindsight is 50/50.” Bearing that in mind, one of my recent podcasts should have simply been titled, “Let’s Talk About Sex.” Cue Salt n’ Peppa, Marvin Gaye, whatever gets you in the mood, but in all seriousness, when it comes to effective parenting and optimizing the well-being of our family units, it’s time to get down and dirty.

 

The problem, of course, is that honest discourse about intercourse is still practically taboo. We all have questions, concerns, and challenges, but few of us are able to own and operate the functions of our sex lives. Ultimately, the real shame comes from our inability to navigate the conversation alone, as well as with those around us. Open dialogue about sex, masturbation, orgasms, etc., has the powerful potential to connect us with our authentic selves and our partners. Shame-faced silence results in tension and trouble that spills over into the larger family dynamic. Sound familiar?

 

Is there a solution?

 

Well, there’s no one-size fits all solution for any one person, couple, or family. However, what I have for your consideration is five quick tips to take your conversation from taboo to topic #1.

Tip #1 - Own the Obvious

Yes, let’s just acknowledge the naked elephant in the room. Talking about sex, for most of us, is uncomfortable. The reasons for this are vast, but often rooted in some sort of shame surrounding what is simply a natural part of life. Pleasure is our birthright. So, go ahead and blush for a hot minute, but then get to the nitty-gritty of what is and isn’t working in your sex life. If necessary, rehearse what you want to say to your partner alone until you can do so with calm confidence.

 

Why?

 

Because the relationship between you and your partner is the foundation of your family. Need I explain the threat posed by cracks in a foundation?

Tip #2 - What Do You Want?

Before you can make any progress with this candid conversation, you have to isolate what it is that you want from your relationship. Understand your role in this partnership; in other words, keep the blame game out of it. Begin your conversation with “I” statements. For example, “I think it’s important that we have a rich and vibrant sex life;” “I think we deserve to have more sex on a regular basis,” or “I think we should talk about how to make our sex life a priority.”

 

If you must address a concern with your partner, leverage the “sandwich technique.” Start with something positive, even if that is just a desire, ie., “I want the fire that we used to have.” This is far better than saying, “You never initiate sex anymore.” No one responds well to attack, especially not when the subject is already a sensitive one. From that initial positive tone, you can illustrate a negative experience or example, but make it clear that you are only doing so to demonstrate your point. Once that point is made, slap the lid on that sandwich with something encouraging and hopeful. 

Tip #3 - Communicate, Don’t Control

Even if you have to practice what you want to say beforehand, do not come to the table with an agenda. Your goal here should not be to control the conversation, but to communicate effectively -- with kindness -- about what is at stake. Acknowledge that these are awkward topics, which might result in uncomfortable or uneasy feelings.

 

Unfortunately, hurt feelings might be inevitable. No one likes to be criticized, no matter how gently, particularly about bedroom performance. Acknowledge any potential for bruised egos and be clear that the intention is not to injure. Ladies, we know we tend to talk more. Make a concerted effort to practice listening and avoid interrupting or overriding your partner’s chance to express what he or she is feeling. Doing so kills the conversation and challenges future communication. Think of a snowball gaining in size… stop it while it’s only a few little flakes.

Tip #4 - Hone in on Your Homeground

What built your relationship in the first place? What values, aspirations, and guidance do you embrace for your family? If you can hone in on your homeground, you can celebrate your strengths, acknowledge your weaknesses, and make the shared choice to move forward, happily and confident in your ability to prioritize your relationship, while parenting effectively. After all, the best thing you can do for your kids is to model a solid and happy relationship. Your family began as a couple. Putting your relationship first is not selfish, but smart for the sake of your growing family.

 

Part of that process involves protecting that homebase. How so?

 

Keep it simple and consider the basics. Have you and your partner set clear boundaries with respect to your shared space relative to your children? In other words, does your door lock securely? Are you children taught to respect locked doors by knocking before entering? Are you co-sleeping with your children? If so, have you imagined a timeline for when they will embrace their own sleeping environments? In the meantime, how and when do you address your own needs?

 

Your ability to answer these questions and establish the boundaries necessary to protecting your private relationship will prove crucial to how authentically, soulfully, and happily you present to your children.

Tip #5 - Good Work is Often Work-in-Progress

Listen, no one masters this overnight.

 

Any balancing act takes skill, determination, and perseverance. No sooner have you figured out how to parent one child while protecting and prioritizing your relationship with your partner, that you find out you’re expecting your second. The one thing all kids have in common is their ability to highlight the differences between you and your partner and to bring things into focus that you might otherwise want to look past or beyond.

 

Banish the blinders. Be clear-sighted, confident that you can take on these challenges, and, in times of struggle, communicate the need for help; first, with your partner and then, if need be, with available support from a professional.

 

The bottom line?

 

Getting busy begets better parenting because it benefits you and your partner. Shore up any cracks in your foundation by getting the support to strengthen your home from the ground up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Managing Sibling Harmony The Right Way

Amanda Houle

Managing Sibling Harmony The Right Way

Featured in Mama Goose https://mommagoose.com/sibling-harmony-is-manageable-with-the-right-tools/

February 26, 2018 Leave a Comment

Author: Amanda Houle, Parenting Strategist

| Sibling harmony is manageable with the right tools

Sibling harmony can be really tough to manage for many families. With the right mindset, tools, and strategies to set your children up for success you can succeed. Modeling for them, teaching children kindness, and the importance of getting along with your sibling is the recipe for a harmonious home with less fighting.

On a daily basis sibling harmony can make or break a parent’s sanity. Parents constantly ask how can I make it so they get along? First of all, it’s important to note that you have to let them learn how to work through their problems on their own without stepping in every single time! This approach teaches children to be independent, learn how to use their voice to advocate for themselves, and communicate more effectively their feelings. I suggest having a conversation with your children about the importance of having a close relationship with their siblings as they will be the only ones around to share childhood memories with especially when their parents are no longer around.

Adopting the mindset that you can’t fix or make children get along the easier it is. You can instill boundaries, expectations, and house rules. For example, talking disrespectfully or hitting is not an option. Model for children to use their words to communicate how they feel in replace of inappropriate behavior. “ I am upset that you won’t share right now.”

You are not alone when it comes to expecting sibling harmony. I’m here to tell you it is possible! Do you find yourself always reprimanding your youngest or is it your oldest for instigating fights? Are you in the same room often when they are fighting? Children often will retaliate if their sibling says or does something they do not like and often hear from parents that they don’t know exactly what happened as they weren’t there. It is important to learn the full story and hear from each child.

 Tips/Tricks to encourage Sibling Harmony: (Age appropriate)

  • Speak with each child to learn their version of the story (if you don’t it isn’t a teaching moment as next time 1 child could feel targeted and get mad at their sibling)
  • NO taking sides so they each validated
  • Have each child speak 1 thing that they feel they did wrong to take ownership for their actions
  • Ask your children what they could try and do better next time (ex; tell my brother I don’t like it when he does x or y.
  • Give reminders when they are playing nicely
  • Be specific when it comes to setting rules in stating exactly what it is you DO want not want you don’t want
  • Give an opportunity for each child to choose what they want to do so they each get time to do something they enjoy (only if this is an option)
  • Let your children fight their own battles

Author: Amanda Houle, Parenting Strategist, Parenting With A Punch

Amanda hails from Brooklyn, NY back to the Greater Boston area. She has a Dual Masters degree in Special and General Elementary Education with a specialization in Early Childhood and an undergraduate degree in Psychology. Her niche is working with families with children ages 2-6 years old. Amanda gets so much joy from teaching families how to learn to enjoy their parenting journey. Amanda loves yoga, coffee, and is training for her first half-marathon!

Winter Fun

Amanda Houle

The northeast during the winter months can make you feel stuck and forced to stay inside especially if you are not a snowbird like me! I get it, believe me. There is such a thing as seasonal affective disorder typically caused by less exposure to vitamin D and of course even more so when you live in a location that gets tons and tons of snow lasting up to 4-5 months every winter. No wonder. Bring children into the mix and it’s a completely different ball game.

 

Do you feel stuck when you have little ones running you exhausted into the ground during the winter months feeling like you have nothing to do? Guess what! I am here to tell you it is completely OK for your children to be bored. These are the moments they are able to tap into their creativity energy so allow them. I see and hear often from parents that they feel guilty for not always wanting to play with their children so what do they do? You pretty much give them an I-pad, a  computer, a tablet, maybe even your cell phones, and they wind up being on for hours. I understand you need a break!

 

Here is the good news. Children do not need you to play with them 24/7. Actually, 20 minutes is usually plenty before they are no longer interested in playing with you anyways so you don’t need to bother feeling guilty or throwing an electronic device at them. I invite you to commit a minimum of 20 minutes a day and maybe some evenings you can’t give 20 minutes and that’s OK. These long winter days stuck in the house there is so may things you can do.

 

Create a visual checklist broken down into 30-60 minute increments and include mommy/daddy and me time in there with different categories catered to your family’s interests. For example: art time, (stick to crayons if you don’t want to take out paint or scissors and have them draw a snowman or decorate a winter theme. Include music for a dance party. These are usually the best and if you make this as 1 of the first activities it may tire them out quick! I have dance parties as often as I can with children and it works. Take it from experience. J Maybe not for an hour unless of course your trying to fit in exercise for yourself! Make a fort and here’s the trick- if your worried about a mess then I suggest you have ground rules before you begin letting the children know that if they make a mess, they are required to clean up after themselves. They learn to clean up in preschool and daycare so if they do it there they can be taught at home. It is that simple. Incorporate mommy and daddy free time as well and communicate that it’s time to play independently. I highly suggest setting timers on your phone as you can lose track of time very easily especially if your kiddos have trouble listening. Quiet time is also a great suggestion as they do need to learn to quiet their body’s and mind as well. If it works for you to not have a schedule then GREAT. Some other tips: Free play, (anything they “want”) sensory activities such as kinetic sand, playdoh, shaving cream in the sink, tubby time, beans in a bucket. Sensory activities is huge especially on a day they may not be as active as it stimulates the nervous system and promotes connectivity to feeling calm and relaxed.

 

Now, for all my snowbirds and will do my best to encourage all the non-wintery individuals as well, get your butt outside even in the winter months. Yes, especially in the snowstorms! I spent at least 25 minutes outside shoveling, yes but also spent some time running around with my dog as he loves the snow, making snow angels, and chasing him in the yard. Do you know how freeing that feels? Children need to feel that feeling well, quite honesty daily and for some a few times a day so I invite you to get outside, build a snowman, make snow angels, and frolic. Once you get dressed you are half way there and once outside you will thank yourself for seeing those bright eyed smiles in the wintery mix.

Cheers to a snowy and happy 2018 Winter!

Amanda MS Ed., Ed

Founder of Parenting With a Punch 

New Years 2018

Amanda Houle

I love New Years Eve and enjoy relaxing on New Years Day taking the time to be reflect. I strongly feel that we can make changes at any time and the New Year does not have to be the end all be all to solidify a resolution. It is fun to look back at the year you had, the good, the bad, and be able to find gratitude for all the lessons. This is when you can truly reflect and take ownership for all that you would like to achieve. Whether it be lose weight, get a new job, move up the ladder, spend more time with friends, have more sex, 1 thing is certain when YOU focus on yourself everything else typically falls into place. Yes- this means if your yelling more than talking with your spouse and at your children, learning to recognize your triggers will support you in creating the change. Is communication a struggle in your relationships? I have invested in so many ventures this past year from joining B-School an online business program which allowed me to up-level in my business, to improve my closest relationships because I said YES to growth. Change is hard. It isn't supposed to be easy but if we looked at it through the lens of a place of introspection then we would have a lot more healthier and happier families. That is my biggest goal to contribute to raising confident, successful, happy, independent, strong children. 

Let today be the day you decide to take control of the present moment and prepare your family for a thriving marriage and healthy relationships with your children where they want to share and come to you without fear of being judged years down the line and now! 

Make the investment and your world will forever be changed. 

With love,

Amanda Founder of Parenting with a Punch and Host of Parenting with a Punch show

 

Holiday Traditions and New Beginnings

Amanda Houle

Family Traditions and New Beginnings

This time of year continues to represent new beginnings and forces us to ask ourselves- what will your new years resolution be? New Years has been an old tradition for decades and I’m here to tell you especially during the holiday season when your forced to be around family that you may not typically care to see that at any time in your life YOU can decide for yourself right now I am going to create change. I want a new beginning! You do not have to wait until New Years day to set your new intention in motion.

 

Holiday traditions

The holiday season is upon is. Parents scramble around shopping last minute and trying to plan family parties and celebrations together all the while forgetting to breathe and enjoy the moment. This joyous season only comes once a year. Take a step back and remember what your traditions were as a child. If you celebrate Christmas did you leave out cookies and carrots for both Santa and the reindeer? Maybe an advent calendar? These are some of my most memorable moments growing up. Or if you celebrate Hanukah, did you light the candles daily together as a family? Did you open one gift daily or all on the 8th day? Maybe you didn’t have a family tradition. It is never too late to begin one, leave memories for your children and to pass down generations.

My wish for you this holiday season is to breathe, connect, and enjoy it with family. I challenge you to the minute you walk into your family’s home collect all cell phonesincluding the children and have conversations. Ask questions. Also spend time with both family and friends

 

“It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start.”

-Mother Teresa

 

It doesn’t have to be pure chaos and fighting with family if you choose not to engage. I strongly suggest setting those boundaries beforehand. It is normal to have different vales than your extended family. To avoid less fighting have that 5-10 minute conversation prior and I promise you will be glad you did. What are your family values? If they are not “set in stone” have a family meeting 1 evening during dinner and write them out together. Have you ever asked yourself your non-negotiables? For both yourself and for your partner/children?

 

Year 2018

 What is your intention for the new year? Do you solidify what you would like to implement now or do you wait until January 1st? Taking care of yourself before you take care of others is pertinent for your overall mental and emotional health which is why I suggest start NOW! New year symbolizes new beginnings but who is to say any day of the year could be a new beginning.

 

 Behavior tips

For holiday parties and starting new routines:

1)      Have FUN! Especially when behaviors arise such as crying or throwing a tantrum. Redirect and let it go.

2)      Follow through with your word ALWAYS so people know what to expect especially your children!

3)      Go around the table during meal time at your holiday function and give a compliment to each and every family member sitting at the table, have fun and everyone take turns!

4)      Set expectations prior to the party. Simple and concrete directions go a long way. Have your children repeat them to you to ensure they understand.

5)      Create a social story explaining what will happen at the party and who will be there for children that may struggle with transitions and experience anxiety.

 

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!