I have asked before, and am still interested in knowing where you got the “love more” sign in your entryway {see this post but don’t look at it when it’s all gross and brown, scroll down to after I painted it green}. I love it and SO need that reminder in my home right now. Can you please email me or post it on your blog? I would appreciate it so much.

I’ve had many questions about this lately so here you go: I went to Home Depot and had some wood cut to the dimensions I needed, sanded it down, painted it, and then painted the swirly “Love More” letters on it free-hand. After I painted them I used a Sharpie marker to kind of highlight the shadows so the letters look like they stand out a little bit. Then I got a quilt rope thing at Walmart and hot-glued it around the edge to create some dimension.

I have three little ones (barely 4, 2 1/2, and 6 months). My 4-year-old has always been the most obedient, helpful, loving little guy. Lately, though, he is TOTALLY pushing the limits… not responding when I am talking to him, harassing his little sister, yelling at me when I ask him to do something, etc. I’m completely taken by surprise because it came on so suddenly. We’ve never had to have any major discipline system in place because he’s always been so good and easy. Anyway, do you have any suggestions for me?

The first thing that comes to mind when my kids change their behavior suddenly like that is that they are craving more attention. That’s when they need extra snuggling and also maybe some extra “praise/responsibility.” “Praise/responsibility” (let’s call it “P/R” for short) is when you say something like: “Oh my word, I have noticed that you are so good at helping with the baby!” {or something else you really have noticed they do well…emptying the silverware in the dishwasher, clearing their plate after dinner, etc.}. “I don’t know many other kids who can do that as well as you do. I’m feeling like I really need some help from a really big-boy helper. Do you think you could keep the baby happy for a little bit to help me out?” And then when they do, praise them up and down. “Oh that makes me so happy that you can do that so well! You are helping our family so much!” I swear the “P/R” thing works every time. Kids feel so much more secure and happy when they feel they are helping and valued.

To give more praise you could also go with the “talents on the fingertips” route I talked about back here, but be forewarned that your child may become so fascinated with those fingertip letters that she may decide to add her own…
Yeah, that’s after scrubbing for a while the tub…
And yeah, that’s her chin.

She got her legs too.

I think those are “G’s”…do they stand for “good”? OR maybe “gregarious”? Who knows. But I personally think she should have written “T”‘s for body “tatoo” artist. I mean, I think it’s pretty talented to be able to write letters on your chin for crying out loud.

But I digress…

The very, very best thing I can think of in almost any disciplining situation with little kids like this is distraction. It works miracles I tell you. When Lu is pushing the limits I try my darnedest to remember not to let my emotions get in the way and change the subject. I’ll say things like this in a very over-animated voice: “Oh my GOSH Lu, did you remember to tell Dad what you did at school today??” Or “Hey, I have a great idea! We haven’t done a puzzle for a long time, let’s go see if we can find a new one.” Or “I have an important question for you: I’m wondering if you know how to draw a kitty.” You know, stuff like that. I don’t know if it’s just Lucy, but it gets her every time. It sometimes even gets my bigger kids 🙂

The “not letting emotions get in the way” part is the key, because really, it’s only going to give more fuel to the fire to get upset or openly frustrated. I know if a child is yelling at you it’s the toughest thing in the world to keep your cool, but counting to ten helps. Really. And getting mad back doesn’t. Believe me, I’ve tried it 🙂

Also, I wrote a couple weeks ago about how much I love natural consequences, time out, and the 1-2-3 Magic method. They work miracles. (If you haven’t read that “1-2-3 Magic” book click here for more information that will change your life forever. That thing got me through my mothering of toddlers and pre-schoolers like magic 🙂 I still do the 1-2-3- thing with my big kids and it works like a charm).

Which small camera would you recommend:

See the first question in this post.

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  1. You are crazy talented. I LOVE those freehanded letters… they're perfection in carelessness. 😉 I also loved the 1-2-3 Magic when my kids were small. Probably the most helpful parenting book I ever read.

  2. One of the best pieces of advice I got from my mom was these words, "I love you too much to argue." Whenever my 6-year-old (Drama Queen Extraordinaire) starts getting weepy on me (and I can tell it's because she wants attention) I will wrap her in a big hug and just hold her and whisper in her ear, "I love you too much to argue." She will either just cry into my shoulder and then sniffle and feel better, or take a few deep breaths and hug me back. This works really well when she's angry, too. All you need is love! 😉

  3. Here are a couple of questions I've been wondering related to blogging/journaling. Maybe you can address this on a future Friday Q&A:
    You have said that you have always been an avid journal writer. Now that you blog, do you still write in your journal for the more personal stuff? Do your kids read your blog? Do you feel like there are a lot of things you can't share because it is so public? How did you come to peace with the decision to go with your kids' real names and show their faces on your blog (so glad you do…much more natural)? Do you get any creepy stalkers or other weird things happening as a result of that decision? Thanks for letting e pick your brain and for your inspiring blog!

  4. Hi Shawni – Would you consider answering how you went from being very shy to being outgoing (referenced in your family's recent birthday post) in a future Friday Q&A?

    I'm a somewhat longtime reader and this is my first time commenting. Thank you for all your help and advice – especially on parenting.

  5. ok – I have a question for you! 🙂 I have heard you say that you love your kids middle school. Recently, I have been hearing horror stories about my own kids middle school – foul language, prevalent drugs and really inappropriate behavior in the stairwells and on the bus. So my question is this – does your middle school have the same challenges but your kids have found a good crowd and thrive in the midst of such things? Or have you found a school that has a more wholesome atmosphere? We have charter schools here which would have less "bad influence" type problems but also a lot less diversity and sports opportunities etc. Please advise 🙂

  6. I'm curious to know what kind of bag you use to carry around your dslr camera in. Especially when you travel. I'm looking for a camera bag that protects my camera/lenses but looks like a purse more than a camera bag. Can you share what you use to carry it around town with you and what you use when you travel? Thanks!

  7. I've never come across the 1,2 3 magic before today. I have always quietly counted to 10 with mine. With my elder son who is now 26 and my daughter 14, I never got past 5 or 6. People would always ask me 'what happens when you get to 10?' and I would reply 'I don't know, I've never got to 10'. Everyone knows that all kids are different and with my 5 year old I get to 10 all the time!

  8. What a great tools: praise/responsibility/distract! Above all…value. I can’t imagine the patience, hard work, and dedication it takes to be a parent 24/7! Truly…it is a miracle…the work you parents do.

    Permit me to share something I found useful. I am legal “Godfather” to 10 kids. (I regularly send vitamins and health tips to their parents encouraging them to live long lives!) I love spending time with these kids. We are either babysitting or they are staying with us when their folks go out of town. Recurring themes are the emotional outbursts and/or the arguments and fights that arise. It usually ends up with one or two of them coming to me to “referee” an issue…or I observe them becoming angry over a game, a homework problem, or school issue that isn’t going their way. This led me to use a technique I discovered years ago. When a child comes to me angry, worried, frustrated, jealous, or resentful, (etc) in a situation …I keep myself very present and watch that my own emotions are Still while the child is speaking. (Or screeching/yelling…which ever is the case) Once they have finished…I ask them “Who is talking…is it YOU…or is it the anger in you?” Or “Who is speaking right now…is it YOU…or is it the frustration in you?” (Or if they are complaining, “Who is talking right now…is it YOU or is it the worry in you?”) It never fails I am met with wide eyes of surprise…as they relate, “It’s the anger!” Or “It’s the Frustration!” Or “It’s the worry in me!”

    Then I will ask, “Who is in charge…YOU…or the anger in you?” The answer can vary from “The anger/frustration/worry is right now!” to “Glad you mention it…I am now!”

    Then I will say, “Yes! That’s right…the anger is talking right now.” (Allowing this to sink in)

    It takes some creative ways to approach this next part. I will then ask them WHERE the emotion is… kids usually point to their stomach or heart or head. As we go through these steps…I ask them to stop…and observe the emotion in their stomach…heart…or head…and just watch it inside…then to say out loud, “I am experience a lot of anger/frustration/jealousy/worry feelings (or thoughts) right now…and that’s OK!” (Allowing this to sink in) Next I will say: “Now…do this…ONLY watch where it is located within your being…Can you see it clearly? Good! Allow yourself to be COMPLETELY OK (over dramatize the “completely OK” words) that there is anger/frustration/worry in you right now.” (TOTAL acceptance of what they are experiencing)

  9. (Sometimes I have to go back to a previous step)
    Then I say…”Since YOU are in charge now…(because at this point they are quiet and Still as they observe their emotion) REALLY pay attention to WHERE the emotion is inside of you…then… watch it and visualize opening your heart/head/chest, like you would your arms…and LET GO…and ALLOW the anger to leave like a…” (Use a concept they can visualize…like a balloon…or water…or wind) (This is my favorite part) Ask them: “Where is the anger now?” The answers vary: “It melted away…from my stomach…down to my toes…into the ground!” or “It has lifted out the top of my head into the sky!” or my favorite response: “It just fizzled away and got quiet…and I can’t hear it anymore. There is silence in my chest…and the happy me is back!”

    Like anything…it takes practice of asking these simple questions (going back to step one or two as needed) and teaching them to “stay awake and watchful” when emotions arise. The key …as the adult…is being SO present (as Shawni so beautiful puts it “Love More”) you are able to be “Still” enough to realize what is going on. By practice they become better at observing the emotional process that is generated by the physical brain and body…and their ability to see emotions for what they are…Tools… which are for our use to “Be” in this world. (Once they get this down…then…I ask them to observe how this SAME thing is happening within siblings or schoolmates…really anyone. (And spouses…I use this with my other half…especially in traffic jams…asking: “Who is talking here…is it You…or the Road Rage in you?” Which is always met with a laugh…and amazingly…a diffusion of the traffic frustration.) Once kids realize this…they see how to accept that brother or sister or schoolmate with the realization that: They aren’t speaking…their anger…or worry…or frustration is. It is an exercise in Love with everyone you meet.

    After doing this for sometime…I now just have to ask the question, “Who is talking right now?” to one of these kids…and their energy changes. What a different world we would live in…if children realized early on…they…are not their emotions

  10. I was thinking of you as I was sitting in church, this past Sunday. I was watching the family in front of me, two parents and 5 kids (ages: 4yrs – 15yrs.) The parents were sitting on the ends of the pew, with all the kids in between them. I know you've mentioned how Dave is your #1, but did you sit next to him in church when the kids were younger? Do you sit next to him now? (when he's not traveling, of course) I felt so terrible for the Mom who had to do all the work of watching the two youngest kids. Meanwhile the Dad sat contently & unphased, listening to the speakers.

  11. I have a 4-year-old who has recently started acting out because he has a new baby sister. I read this post this morning, and tried the praise/responsibility thing a few times today. It TOTALLY worked! Thanks!

  12. I have a question…I notice you have very light wood floors. They do look beautiful, but I'm wondering how you like them? Is that light color easy to keep clean, or does it show dirt and dust quickly because they are so light?

  13. Thanks for the tip on 1,2,3 magic! I supervise 40 kids K-6 every day, and we have some tough kids. I have been looking for a book to loan out to some parents, as well as get tips for myself. At your suggestion, I bought 1,2,3 Magic today, and am 1/2 way though. Can't wait to share with my staff and some of the parents from my program!!

  14. I'm a new follower and I love your blog!! Anyway I have a question… In the "Gatherer" post, you say that you USED to want to be the house where all the kids and their friends gather, but you've changed your outlook on this. I was just wondering what made you change my mind. Thanks 🙂

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