There is no “right” way to parent. We are all different people with different circumstances and different challenges. However, research shows that there are certain parenting methods and strategies that can either prevent or at least minimize our problems with our children. (For specific information related to attachment and parenting, see “Tips for those parenting a child with an attachment disorder” under  Attachment).

According to Dan Siegel, a respected child psychiatrist, and Mary Hartzell, an early childhood and parent educator for over 40 years, successful parenting is based on internal understanding and interpersonal connection. The “anchor points” to the relationship between parent and child include “mindfulness, lifelong learning, response flexibility, mindsight and joyful living.”


Being mindful means being in the present moment. There is an intentional awareness when we practice mindfulness. As parents, this allows us to connect with our children in the current moment and attune to their needs. When we are present and attuned to our children, we can be understanding and respectful of their state of mind, and we can see a situation from our child’s point of view. Being present in the moment also means being aware of our own internal state and seeing the situation from our own point of view. Our emotional awareness allows us to stay in touch with the current reality. We can then respond to our child with understanding and compassion rather than with a knee-jerk reaction due to our personal unresolved issues.

Lifelong Learning

As a parent, we have the option of growing in our relationships by examining the issues left unresolved from our own childhood. If our attitude about examining our past and current life is negative, parenting will also be less satisfying and seen as a chore we have to do. If we consider our parenting challenges as an opportunity to learn about ourselves, we view parenting in a more positive light.

Response Flexibility

For parents, being flexible rather than reflexive in the heat of the moment is a challenge. Response flexibility refers to the ability to “delay gratification” and control our impulsive behaviors. Instead of reacting without thinking, we allow ourselves time to consider and make choices about our parental decisions. For example, counting to ten or taking some deep breaths give us time to move out of the emotional side of our brain and into the reasoning and logical side. This is also what happens when we take “a minute to think.” By modeling flexibility in this way, our children also learn response flexibility.


Mindsight is a term coined by Dr. Siegel that refers to “the ability to perceive our own minds and the minds of others.” It allows us to “focus on the thoughts, feelings, perceptions, sensations, memories, beliefs, attitudes, and intentions of others as well as of ourselves.” Instead of judging a situation by the superficial actions of our child, a parent seeks to learn and respond to the root of the behavior. Parents are able to do this by picking up on the signals their child relays in these instances. Those signals include more than verbal messages. Individuals, including children, also communicate nonverbally, through eye contact, facial expression, tone of voice, gestures, touch, posture, and the timing and intensity of their response. By using mindsight and “seeing” the minds of their child via all of these signals, a parent can better respond with compasson and understanding.

 Joyful Living

To develop a positive “sense of self” a child must be enjoyed and and valued. Children are not problems to be managed. Children provide parents with an opportunity to slow down and see the world with a new perspective. When parents connect with their children they teach them but also learn from them.

(This information was adapted from the book Parenting from the Inside Out by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Mary Hartzell, M.Ed.)

Boundaries and Consequences

Some of the most challenging behaviors I have seen in my practice are engaged in by children who have endured some type of trauma in their lives. I have found this to be especially true in the cases of foster and/or adopted children with whom I have had the pleasure to work. Often, parents reactions are driven by their emotions when dealing with these children. Since these children are particularly sensitive and vulnerable, I wanted to share some do’s and don’ts for disciplining children with early trauma and attachment wounds.

The “don’ts”

  • Lecturing
  • Yelling
  • Sarcasm
  • Shaming
  • Escalating Punishments/Consequences
  • Spanking

The “do’s”

  • Stay emotionally attuned
  • Stay calm
  • Find ways to connect
  • “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff”
  • Provide a structured, predictable, safe environment
  • Set up simple rewards systems
  • Give choices when possible
  • Use collaborative problem-solving

(This is adapted from the book Integrative Parenting by Debra Wesselmann, Cathy Schweitzer and Stefanie Armstrong)

The information included is a very, very brief summary about positive ways to parent. If you are interested in developing your parenting skills or if you are facing some parenting challenges, please contact me at 484-213-3616 to set up an appointment.


42 Henley Road
Wynnewood, PA 19096
(484) 213-3616

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