July 6, 2016
by admin

What do Botox Brow and Emojis Have in Common?

What do Botox Brow and Emojis Have in Common?

It was a common occurrence in my house last year: Child came home from school and at some point, usually at bedtime, shared the latest drama or mean comment from school or social media. And while I like to think I’ve seen a lot and can handle just about anything my kids throw out, I’ll admit that my usual response teetered more towards the stupefied end of the shocked spectrum, nowhere near my vision of a copacetic response.

The truth or faults of the offending parties aside, what really mattered in the moment was the conversation at hand and the most potent influence on that conversation was my response.

Wipe that furrow away

Enter the concept of “Botox brow.” Michelle Icard, author of Middle School Makeover and an insightful speaker and educator, coined the term to guide parents through just such conversations. As Michelle puts it, children can’t read our faces well and misread our expressions of concern (and perhaps shock and stupefaction) as anger. This derails the conversation from the start. No, you don’t have to go out and get Botox to take this approach, although it might give you a head start. It’s a matter of wiping the furrow from your brow and using an empathetic response.

Watch this video, five minutes in to the end, for Michelle’s full explanation.

Michelle Icard describes Botox Brow

One of my children is particularly sensitive and reads anger instantly on my face. It helps to take a moment to smooth out my expression and use an empathetic response as Michelle suggests:

“That must have been hard.”


“I’m sorry she made you feel that way.”


“That doesn’t sound very nice.”

Jumping in to justify the behavior of the offending party rarely works. As Michelle puts it, who wants the other party defended when you’re looking for an affirmation of how you feel?

Text with a smile

These days, face-to-face conversations make up only part of our communications with our children. I text my children from my office during the afternoon and it’s often an exchange of questions, directions, allowances and facts. Yet we all know that text messages often indicate more emotion than was ever intended, simply by the lack of facial expressions that accompany them. In other words, a simple text can come across as perfunctory, stern or angry in its bareness.

Enter the emoji. Kids get emojis. It’s how they add their emotions to bare words. When I started adding one or multiple emojis to my texts, I received happier responses from my children. Sometimes this was in the general mood when I returned home, or a decrease in pestering texts throughout the afternoon.

I now think of emojis like the smooth brow: they replace the misinterpretation of negative emotions with the blank slate of empathy – with plenty of room for a wink or a smile.

January 14, 2015
by admin

How Our Kids Got Their Recess Back

Playful friends

“Did you go outside?”

I ask it every day when the kids get home from school, especially when the temperature’s below 40 degrees. Their answer is usually, “Yes.” No complaints. No whining that they froze their butts off on the playground at recess. Kids like to run around outdoors after sitting in a classroom. It’s the one place where rules, structure and oversight take a backseat to play. This is their brief daily hiatus to just be kids.

Of course, before school I’m the one cajoling them to wear coats, hats and gloves because, “You’ll probably go outside for recess today.”  For a while I wasn’t sure whether the school would keep them cooped up in the cafeteria or send them outside. But after a groundswell of parents put pressure on the school last year, led by one determined and heroic mother, our students spend at least fifteen minutes in the brisk fresh air every day.

It wasn’t easy. The Mom-in-Charge emailed, called, and scheduled meetings with school administrators. She started with the Principal, was kicked down to the Assistant Principal, kicked it back up again and then to the Superintendent. She emailed fellow moms, asked them to email and call, scheduled meetings with the moms, and eventually got her meeting with the school.

The result? A new strange form of indoor recess that I wrote about last year.

But at the start of school this year, Mom-in-Charge started again, reminding all of us that winter would soon come and our children would face four more months without the benefits of playing on their own terms for at least a few minutes every day.

When November came, the kids went outside for recess. They stayed outside in December. Even when it dipped down below 30 degrees. Even when it snowed.

“Mom!” Daughter called when she arrived home after school one day in January. “We were at recess when it started snowing and they didn’t even send us inside!” She was thrilled.

A few days later. “Mom, can I bring snow pants and boots to school tomorrow so I can go outside?”


The school didn’t make a huge announcement about the change. We did receive an email from the Principal reminding us that the children would be going outside for recess if they were dressed properly. Success!

I ran into Mom-In-Charge at a basketball game last week and congratulated her on the results of her efforts. She smiled. “Did you see how much sugar is in the Switch they serve at lunch? We have to do something about that.”

March 30, 2014
by admin

Square Recess


Earlier this winter, my fourth grader made a passing comment about the movies they watched at school during recess.

“Really?” I asked. “You watch movies in school?”

“Yeah, every day.”

That meant every day for four months. It’s been a bad winter with lots of cold, snow and ice but even on milder days, the kids stayed indoors.

Along with movies on the big screen in the cafeteria, there were board games to play and Twister—with a few stories about so-and-so being embarrassed because he was caught underneath so-and-so’s butt. But news of the movies was a shocker. Here I was, calculating the amount of “screen time” my seven and nine-year-olds were consuming each day across their multiple devices and I hadn’t taken into account movies during recess.

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November 20, 2013
by admin

Parent as Curator




Son recently started fourth grade travel basketball. Bye, bye weekends until March. He practices Tuesday and Friday nights and plays games Saturday afternoons and evenings. In his spare time he checks scores for his fantasy basketball league, watches the Knicks and…shoots hoops. Did he sign up for Odyssey of the Mind at school? Nope. An instrument? Nope. Is he rounding out his character with an art or boy scouts? Nope. Is he happy? Yes.

Kids 2.0

Welcome to my kids 2.0. This year we trimmed down, scaled back, and basically, didn’t sign up. It took me the full length of September to quiet the voice in my head that said I was jipping them of opportunity, letting them languish in mediocrity, that they couldn’t compete with their peers in…well, what exactly? And that’s where my voices banged against the brick wall of nonsense that many of us let cloud our thoughts day after day. Nonsense about seizing every opportunity to tiger mother our children into greatness. Nonsense about what we think matters now that won’t matter at all then. And nonsense about falsely believing that what matters to us actually matters to them.

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May 8, 2013
by admin

Parenting in the Right Gear


On a recent spring day, I pulled out my bicycle for the first ride of the season.  I rode frequently before my kids were born and I’ve been easing back into it now that they’re getting older. But while the old adage that riding a bicycle comes back to you as soon as you start up again, the ability to ride smoothly, at your best possible cadence, takes some experience. We live in a hilly town and adeptly maneuvering the gears can make the difference between an exhilarating or frustrating ride. Perhaps the same holds true for parenting.

Let me explain. A hybrid bicycle has three large front gears and nine smaller rear gears. Until recently, I focused my attention on the small gears, believing that if I switched between them often, I’d find the right one for a given hill. But I struggled up smaller slopes thinking, I have twenty-seven gears at my disposal – this should be easier!

The truth was, I needed to get in the right large gear first and then manipulate the smaller gears. Getting in the right larger gear mattered more on challenging hills. In other words, if I wasn’t in the right large gear, it didn’t matter how many small gears I tried, the hill would be harder to climb.

The same could be said for parenting my children. If one of my large gears is off, it doesn’t matter how many little things I try, everything is harder.

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March 28, 2013
by admin

Top 10 Tips for Visiting Disney World with Kids Ages 5-10

"Celebrate a Dream Come True" Parade gets Magic Kingdom guests into the celebratory spirit with party-filled procession

Planning a trip to Walt Disney World Resort in Florida? If you’re traveling with children, read these ten essential tips for making your trip a success.

Traveling to Walt Disney World means fun for kids and lots of planning for their parents to make the most of this enormous, iconic and crowded resort. But a first time visit can be daunting. I recently took nine-year-old Son and six-year-old Daughter in late-February. While it wasn’t the official school vacation week, it was plenty crowded and warranted expert planning ahead of time.

Since I booked our first trip to Disney only three weeks beforehand, I had to scramble to determine the best approach for a three-day adventure. Suffice it to say, more advance planning is the best way to go. However, I’ve assembled ten tips and some down and dirty advice to help families traveling to Disney for their first time.

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March 7, 2013
by admin

Chuck the Chore Charts


Most parents have tried chore charts as a means to wrangle cooperation from their kids. I bet, at some point, you may have assembled all those little wooden magnets with cute icons representing chores that you hope your kids will be inspired to do partly because of the cute icons. And then the little round buggers end up on the ground where the dog eats them or the kids eat them or they get all messed up and the kids fight over who put what where and after three days of madness about the mechanics of the chore chart, you give up and return to begging, pleading, bribing and threats. That was my experience, more or less, along with forays into white boards that Velcro onto the refrigerator, hanging wall charts, and good old copy paper with categories hand drawn with magic marker.

The result? We, okay I, always lost interest in maintaining the chore chart after about three days. And while it typically takes three days to break or start a new habit with kids, the adage doesn’t seem to apply to chore charts. The reason is because chore charts are more about the chart and less about the chores.

So, here are the three practices that have worked for our family instead of chore charts. We’ve discovered them by trial and error but each has reaped more rewards than a daily tally of tasks completed. They also straddle personal responsibility chores such as brushing teeth and making beds and broader household chores that elementary school and older children start to take on.

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January 28, 2013
by heather

Drive Parenting


Getting our kids to do their chores or other necessary tasks and behavior is a constant battle in our house. We’ve tried incentives (really good ones), threats, and the “do this before that” approach. It all takes energy and planning on our part and lots of cooperation from them. And guess what? I don’t always have energy and there are times when I don’t actually plan (yes, Husband, not many but a few).

But what if the rewards we’re offering won’t work for some chores and behavior just because? Why do some incentives work some of the time and not others? What if we’re approaching this whole thing the wrong way because the rewards we think motivate kids actually don’t motivate them all?

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January 7, 2013
by admin
1 Comment

Mom’s Fear: A Missing Child

It happened at a super Target attached to the mall. Son (8), Daughter (6) and I had finished browsing the baseball cards and toys on the lower level, taken a quick tour of the shoe department on the upper level, and were about to check out. Son was buying basketball cards with his savings and as we approached an open cashier, Daughter looked at the eye-catching candy and magazines in another empty checkout aisle. It was early afternoon on a Sunday and the store was pretty empty. While Son retrieved a $20 bill from his wallet and struggled to fit the change back in, I asked the young cashier for directions to the Foot Locker in the mall.

“Turn right when you get into the mall,” he explained. “Then you’ll see a place that looks like a – no, it has a – oh, wait, it’s a hair place, turn left and it’s on the left before the food court.”

“Okay, thanks.”

I turned around to get Daughter from the empty cashier lane where I’d just seen her. She was gone. I scanned the other checkout lanes, nothing. I walked down towards the big doors to the parking lot, nothing. We were next to Ladies clothing, handbags, and eyeglasses. I checked them quickly; no Daughter. There weren’t any toys or “girlie things” on the floor to beckon her. Where had she gone?

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December 17, 2012
by admin

Blessed Are The Children

There but for the grace of God go I.

I’ve breathed that saying over and over since the Newtown tragedy on Friday – in a town only a few miles from us. When I was a child my mother said it in an attempt to explain the unexplainable: how it seems at times that only the slimmest parcels of grace spare us from the tragedy visited upon others. I never understood this phrase more than now.

Like you, I sent my children, one a first grader, to school this morning with a tender hug and a heavy heart. I don’t have much wisdom to offer but will share three sources of comfort I found yesterday.

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