Ten Questions to Ask Kids when Report Cards Arrive

I’m going to be honest with you, some parents make a big issue about something that doesn’t really mean anything. The grades kids receive don’t mean they are smart or dumb, hard-working or lazy, or whether you are a good enough parent. Grades are not an indication of good teaching, bad curriculum or a prediction of your child’s success in school or in life.

Have you ever noticed that…. report card

– a “C” grade at one school could be an “A” at another?

– a child could get a “D” during the semester and an “A” in summer school?

– a teenager could graduate high school with a 2.2 but graduate college with a 4.0?

– a teenager with a 4.3 in high school can be on academic probation their first semester of college?

– one teacher thinks your child is a closet genius, another thinks they have a learning disability?

– a child can flunk biology with one teacher and ace it with another?

The only thing the report card offers is feedback on your child’s ability to PLAY at this GAME we call school. I think, if you are choosing to play a game, you might as well learn how to play it well. Ask your kids these ten questions when their report cards come home and squeeze the learning opportunities out of this school year.

  1. How do you feel about your grades? Allow your kids to feel what they feel without trying to change it. If they are happy & proud, say, “I see you feel happy and proud”. If they are disappointed, say “You feel disappointed”. Kids want to feel seen, heard and felt. Refrain from telling them what YOU think, “you should be very proud of this” or “These grades should be higher”. Instead, just tell them how you see them reacting. This is hard but you can do it!
  1. What has this school year taught you about what you love and what you don’t?
  2. What has this school year taught you about your special gifts and talents?
  3. What has this school year taught you about how you best learn and study?
  4. Are there any surprises for you on this report card?
  5. Which grade are you most proud of and why?
  6. How could you make your next school year even better?
  7. What is your plan to get even better at playing this game called “School”?
  8. Is there anything we can do to support you on your goals?
  9. Which of the teacher comments do you appreciate/value the most?

Then, right before you burst out of your skin because you are dying to share YOUR thoughts and opinions, focus on their effort and growth. Instead of talking about grades and report card results that are over and done with and cannot be changed, put your attention on the things they can do more of. “I’m so proud of how hard you worked on your states report”, “I loved hearing about how you participated in class discussions”, “I think it’s so cool how you went outside your comfort zone and signed up for drama class” or “I think it’s wonderful how many good friends you made this year.” “It was fun to see you finding books you enjoyed reading.”

Asking questions like these and commenting on their effort instead of results, will turn your child into a life long learner who learns, studies and grows for the intrinsic value of it. You are modeling for them how to reflect and review their own work in a positive way instead of getting stuck, self-berating, or thinking everything comes easily to them.

Jump on over to my facebook page and let me know how it goes and good luck!


Making chores fun

Summer is almost here and you are up to your eyeballs with end of the year parties, teacher gifts, field trips and celebrations. You are giving a lot of time and energy to your kids and their activities, let’s reverse that and think about how THEY are going to give back to YOU this summer.

Creating a chore chart that works for you and your kids is easy once you recognize how you get in the way. Check out my last blog to make sure there is no negativity coming from Mom that prevents kids from learning, enjoying, gaining valuable life and leadership skills from doing chores.

Follow these seven steps to delegating effectively and joyfully to your kids.

  1. What’s your WHY? Why do you want to have your kids do chores? To develop life skills? Make less work for you? To contribute to the household? If you sense any negativity, “She should know this by now!” “I’m tired of doing all the work around here!” Hold off and clean up your thinking until you can approach it from a positive place.
  1. What’s THEIR why? Your kids aren’t going to value what you value, so give them a good reason to take this on. Money? Free time? A trip to the water park? Take time to discover your child’s currency. It’s ok to have different rewards for different kids. One might value having a lemonade stand, the other a new toy, another Minecraft. My teenager just negotiated six hours in the house by himself as reward for hard work. Feel free to get creative here, nothing is off limits. Your attention can be earned, too!
  1. Create a Chore Chart. Kids love to clearly see what the expectations are and to track progress to their reward. If you want chores to be a positive thing, creating some sort of a chore chart is a must (there’s a reason every primary classroom is filled with these kinds of things). Go to Pinterest and search “chore chart” to see the wide variety of options, ideas and free downloads. Don’t pick something so cute & elaborate you never get around to it. Start simple and make improvements later.
  1. Start with DAILY chores: You can include ANYTHING on the daily list of to-do’s! From making your bed and brushing teeth, to eating your vegetables, playing outside, and putting on sunscreen. Anything you want to remind and reinforce goes on the daily chart. Have some things that are easy wins, and some that are new habits you want to encourage like “read to your sister” or “drink water” the power you have here is awesome, enjoy it! If you ask for so much your kids attitude turns negative, back off, you want to set this up for success.
  1. Include Extra Chores: What skills would you like them to develop and master? The extra chores are those that will take more time from you in the beginning but less time from you at the end. Cleaning bathrooms, washing windows, doing dishes, laundry, cooking, yard work, these chores will require instruction, supervision, praise and support. Imagine teaching your kids, showing them how to succeed, giving them room to make mistakes, all while maintaining a positive attitude. This is your chance to practice YOUR leadership skills and model for them that learning new things can be fun.
  1. Praise & Consistency! You don’t have to keep this chore chart going all year, or even all month. If your kid’s enthusiasm wanes after 2-3 weeks, just go with it! If you start forgetting, losing interest or feeling negative, end it. This is no place for perfectionism but you do want to be consistent for at least two weeks so everyone feels successful and positive. Praise their efforts and their learning, follow-through with rewards and be proud of them and yourself for the accomplishment.
  1. Don’t miss this important step! So much learning happens in the last step and so many adults skip it. Please take time to sit down with your kids, reflect and evaluate. How did it go? What did you like or not like? Were you surprised by anything? What’s your favorite/least favorite chore and why? You can learn SO MUCH about your child’s essence, who they are meant to be, how they best learn, their future career choice, future major, by asking these really important questions. Be listening for patterns: Do they like working inside or outside? Are they detailed oriented or big picture? Do they like to work by themselves or with others? Do they prefer to jump in and figure things out as they go, or do they prefer lots of instruction and all necessary tools ready before beginning? Do they like to rush through lots of tasks or stick with one and do it to completion?

Ask them what could make it better next time? What would make chores easier or more fun? Start again with a new and improved chore chart and renewed enthusiasm.

Chores can be fun, educational, and inspirational if we allow them to be. Good luck, ENJOY and as it says in my kid’s yearbook, H.A.G.S.

Using chores to teach leadership skills

kids complaining about doing chores
Are you teaching your kids to complain about chores?

Summer is coming and it’s time to switch gears from academics to other learning opportunities for kids. What aren’t they getting during the year? How can I use this time to encourage their passions and round out their development? (or, maybe it’s more like “Isn’t May over yet? I can’t wait to stop making their lunches every morning!”)

The most important thing summer provides kids, (besides a more relaxed, happy Mommy), is outdoor, open-ended, self-initiated playtime. This is so key to their creativity and sense of self and well-being with life. But if they are spending more time on-line than off, have them do some chores. Chores are a great way to build competency, confidence, a sense of contribution, life and leadership skills.

During the school year, kids are asked to focus on future, intangible results while sitting still, indoors. Chores offer a great solution. Besides lightening our workload, they give kids real-life skills where they immediately see the results of their efforts. Not only are the results tangible, they require physical exertion and impact their lives right now (something hard to obtain at school). Chores, when done right, can teach kids how to accomplish tasks, how to motivate themselves, how to make things easier or more fun, that there are many ways to express their creativity and to celebrate their effort and achievement.

But here’s the problem: What do you think of when you hear the word “CHORES”?

Hard work, boring, obligatory, tedious, a source of arguments, difficult? The word itself means “a hard or unpleasant task”.

The way WE feel about chores has a direct impact on what our kids gain from the experience.

If we turn into mean-drill-sergeant-mommy, thinking “they should just do what I tell them.” our kids will learn to avoid us AND the chores.

If we think, “It’s easier to just do it myself”, we will raise incompetent kids who wait for others to take care of them.

If we see chores as an opportunity to teach leadership skills that will benefit kids throughout their lives, then we will approach it in a positive way that sets kids up for success.

Think about someone you admire, someone whose example you would follow. What adjectives would you use to describe them? Smart? Trustworthy? Passionate? Confident? Determined? Efficient? Is that how you approach chores with your kids? If so, you’ve got it covered so clean on, my friend.

If you are like the rest of us, your kids either run and hide as soon as you start cleaning to avoid the grumpy commander, or they sit in the same room, barely lifting their feet as you vacuum under them, asking for a snack, never noticing that you are doing all the work.

My next blog will cover the nitty-gritty of creating a successful chore chart. For today, notice your thought that prevents you from successful delegation and imagine what it would look like to delegate from a place of leadership? What would you need to believe in order to….

-teach your kids important life skills?

-trust them to complete the job in a certain time frame?

-allow them to do it their way?

-prepare for imperfection and allow them to make mistakes?

-be enthusiastic about their efforts and accomplishments?


If you wanted to feel efficient, confident, and passionate about chores, what thoughts would be helpful to think?

“I can teach my kids the life skill of task management.”

“I can find a way to make this fun.”

“I like having a clean and efficient home.”

“I’m the most qualified person to teach this to my kids.”

“Teaching my kids that they have the ability to impact their environment is one of the most powerful things I can teach them.”

“It’s good for kids to feel needed by their community.”

“This is a worthwhile place to spend my time and energy.”

“I have a good plan in place, I am prepared for imperfection and resistance.”

“I want my kids to know that what they do matters.”

Show your kids that bossing people around or complaining is not how to get things done. Good leadership always starts with our beliefs and the energy we bring to the task. We can create passion, determination and the results we want, by the thoughts we choose to think. Pick one, and repeat it ten times a day until my next blog. Notice how calm and positive your energy is, how solution oriented you become, and the ideas that can now pop into your mind. This is you, setting yourself up for success.

Is it love or attachment?

It’s hard to love without attachment!

Why is so hard to love somebody without attachment? Real love is free, simple and easy. “I am wonderful. You are wonderful. We are always connected, even when we aren’t together. I wish the best for you wherever you go.”

Attachment feels needy, clingy and desperate. “I only feel good when you are with me. But when you are with me, I need you to say _______ and do ______, in order to feel good.” Buddhists see attachment as the cause of all suffering so why has it got so tangled up with love?

I remember singing “You are my sunshine” to my first born baby changing the words from “Please don’t take my sunshine away.” to “No one will take my sunshine away.” Even that small amount of vulnerability made me nervous. I was attached to my baby, to the outcome I wanted for his life, and I was trying to get control wherever I could find it.

I think the problem is the initial “falling in love” stage. Whether it’s with a partner, your children, or even your job, we love that rush of feel good hormones that makes us feel alive, adored, and unstoppable. It is a high like no other. Seeing ourselves through the eyes of our beloved gives us a glimpse of heaven. Look at how beautiful we are, how adorable, how charming, smart and funny! When that little baby in our arms gazes up at us we get a glimpse of our own divine perfection. When the sun comes up after the eight-hour conversation with our new sweetheart, we get a glimpse of what it’s like to be connected to and have faith in something bigger than ourselves. It’s amazing and we love it so much we don’t want to it go.

emotional hostage situation?

I don’t think we are meant to live in that constant state of bliss (that’s what heaven is for). But I do think we are meant to have a glimpse of what is possible for us.  Despite what the love songs say, it isn’t that person that makes us feel so good. There are many sources of love, connection and feel-good hormones and we get to continually search for it as long as it also feels free from attachment.

Katelyn and Ryan* were 16 when they fell head over heals in love for the first time. Their love was passionate, intimate, and deep. For the first time, Katelyn felt deeply cared for and adored. All her problems melted away when her new boyfriend was around. But after a few months, Ryan started to get on Katelyn’s nerves. He wasn’t saying or doing the right things and she got scared of losing him. Not only were her old feelings of anger and disappointment creeping back in, but new feelings of abandonment and vulnerability were taking over. She started getting jealous of anything he did without her. She felt desperate, clingy, and out of control. He loved her and tried to do everything she asked but it was never enough. What started out as love was turning into an emotional hostage situation. Katelyn started threatening suicide and even though Ryan loved her deeply, nothing he did ever seemed to be enough. Instead of feeling alive, adored and unstoppable, he felt imprisoned and confined. Ryan realized her emotional neediness was not something he was trained to help her with so together they went to see a counselor. As Katelyn learned to heal the feelings of abandonment she felt when her father moved out, she was free to love without attachment.

Catherine* was overjoyed the day her son was born. Holding him in her arms made her feel fulfilled, connected and absolute joy. As he grew older, the love, adoration and affection he showered on his Mama made her feel like the most beautiful person on the planet. When he turned 12, things started to change. He started rolling his eyes when she spoke and criticized everything she said. Catherine’s thoughts and opinions were discounted and every time she argued with her husband, her son took his side. This deep, long lasting love affair she had with her son was fading away and she had nothing to replace it with. He was the baby of the family! Instead of finding ways to fill that void herself, she started clinging to her son. She wasn’t ready to let go of those feelings of connection and love she enjoyed for all those years. The tighter she held on, the more he pushed away. It wasn’t until she could quiet her own self-critical voice and find other sources of joy, that he was able to come back and love his Mama without feeling her attachment tentacles.

Love is not what we hear in movies, “You complete me.” or in song lyrics, “I can’t live, if living is without you.” Love is expansive and free. Attachment feels needy and desperate.

So if you find yourself in attachment instead of love, try switching from, “I need you to make me happy.” to one of the following statements:

“I feel joyful and full of life, and I love sharing my life with you.”

“I love being with you when you feel like being with me.”

“Our love will always keep us connected, no matter where you are.”

“I see your imperfections and I love you anyway. I see my imperfections and I love and accept myself as I am.”

Want to learn more about loving without attachment? Schedule a free discovery session with Torie by clicking here or purchase a package of sessions and we’ll get to work.

*All names and identifying details have been changed. 

Ten reasons why teens rebel.

Ten reasons why teens rebel against us.

 1. It’s developmentally appropriate – To a teenager, obeying Mom feels like being a child and they are trying to figure out what it means to be grown up. Most kids still want cuddles and nurturing when they are sick, but they’ve got this developing pre-frontal cortex that they want to practice using, and that means lots of arguing, criticizing and pointing out our flaws. Kids rebel in order to separate from parents, develop their brain and find their own, grown up voice.

2. They know what we are going to say before you say it. – Our children have been listening to us talk for over a decade and our voice is well ingrained in their brain. They know what we are going to say before we do!  They know how we want them to dress, walk, talk, study, do their hair and where to put their shoes. Let’s face it, WE’RE BORING! Want your teens attention? Surprise them. Compliment them in a way you never have before. Tell them your opinion on oral sex, the global economy or the new scuba diving class you just signed up for.

3. They need more freedom – Too many rules and expectations, stress, or even just a strong family culture, can make a kid rebel in order to gain freedom and explore their own identity. Teens need time away from parental closeness and the stresses of life so they can relax and learn listen to their own voice.  Once they have some space, they may end up making good decisions that they can own and be proud of, rather than to fulfill someone else’s expectation. Encourage teens to ask for what they want.  If they say, “I just want a break!” help them find healthy ways to chill out and relax (nature, exercise, and music can be great, just make sure it is purely for fun, with no agenda). If they want more opportunity to express themselves, guide teens toward positive challenges they can get excited about (getting a job, redecorating their room, planting a garden) where they can develop their own determination & judgment.teen boy lighting cigarette

4.  They need less freedom – If your toddler acted up to get attention, chances are your teen will, too.  Sometimes rebelling is a cry for help, a teens way of saying, “I’m out of control and I don’t know how to reign myself back in.”  Listen carefully to the words they say and take them as truth, “I can’t do this anymore.” or “Everybody hates me” are not just hormones talking, they are telling you what they believe.  When your teen needs help, so do you.  Even if you have your PhD in adolescent development, you still are too close to the situation and you need an outsider’s perspective and expertise.

5.  Blame it on the hormones – Raging hormones during the adolescent years cause teenagers to make rash decisions and act impulsively.  Not only are their brains incapable of predicting the consequences of their actions but the hormones cause them to act in surprising ways. If you or anyone in your family struggled with post partum depression or anxiety, hypoglycemia, PMS, adrenal fatigue, thyroid issues, be on the lookout for hormonal issues in your teen. To get help, see an endocrinologist, naturopath or read books by Dr. Shames to understand more about hormonal fluctuations.

6.  You worry too much – Nothing will make a teenager ignore you more than listening to you “express your concerns”.   Worry teaches teens that we are impossible to please, we don’t know what we are talking about and they should stop listening to us. With sensitive kids, worrying teaches them that the world is a scary place and they should be afraid.  As parents, we don’t get to choose what they grow scared of.  Teens might decide to be afraid of getting fat, or someone not liking them, or getting a B in Science.  Overcoming worry is an inside job.  Asking your child to change their behavior so you can stop worrying is a short term option and won’t really get you what you want, which is to relax and stop worrying.

7.  The social pressures are starting younger – It used to be that sex, drugs and alcohol were issues 17-18 year olds had to deal with.  Now 13-14 year olds are having to develop the ability to resist peer pressure and make healthy choices. It’s a tall order for an age that is wired to want acceptance by their peers.  This is the reason that in my Time for The Talk class for 9-12 year olds and my Girls Leadership Camp for 12-14 year olds, I focus a lot on resisting peer pressure, making good decisions, and critically analyzing media messages.

Why do teenagers rebel?8.  Your teen is an experiential learner – Some kids are great observers.  They love watching other people and gain amazing insights without having to participate. And then there are our experiential learners. These kids aren’t learning unless they are actively participating. Some teens try on personalities, like they try on new outfits, jumping from one trend to the next, figuring out who they are, out loud. If this is your kid, don’t judge a book by his cover and we promise not to judge YOU for what your child looks like! Stay tuned in to the essence of who she is, it might not match the clothes she is wearing.

9.  Your rebellious teen is later-born – Frank Sulloway in his book “Born to Rebel” discovered that later-born children are more likely to rebel than older-born children. The babies of the family probably received fewer expectations, less identity with the parents, and more attention for being cute and funny. When these babies grow into teens they feel more free and want to differentiate themselves, not only from Mom and Dad, but from older siblings as well.

10.  Your teen is too good! – Delayed adolescence can happen at any time for a teen (especially a first-born or only child) who always aims to please and does all the “right” things.  Before going off to college or another pending separation, many teens initiate more dramatic rebellion in order to develop the necessary skills they will need to make it on their own.  When it comes to making changes that are good for us, many of us still rebel against our own internalized authority.  Trying to eat less sugar? How old do you feel when you sneak those cookies late at night? I tried to put together a writing schedule for my blog and heard my own inner rebel saying, “Don’t tell me what to do. I’ll do what I want, when I want!”  Minimize rebellion by owning your choices and decisions.

Do you have a 12-14 year old daughter and live near Walnut Creek, CA?  Registration opens soon for Girls Leadership Day Camp called “Getting What You Want.”  Email Torie (at) LifeCoachingforParents (dot) com, to get on the interest list.  Camps start in July, read more about it here. 

girls summer day camp
“Getting What You Want” Summer Camp