When my daughter turned eleven, I learned a very interesting thing about discipline from my friend, co-worker and author Sandy Mesmer.  Besides being an author of children’s books and raising the cutest dogs ever (she’s a prize-winning breeder of Silky Terriers), Sandy is an excellent parent consultant, counselor and public speaker on the subject of children and parenting.

At that point, my daughter and I were going through a terrible time.  I mentioned my frustration in this to Sandy.  Children and teens love me, I’ve always worked well with them, and yet here I was at constant odds with my daughter.  Admittedly, I never was a great disciplinarian.  I don’t agree with corporal punishment, as my experience in witnessing it was then in later watching the child turn around and start using the same tactics with others.  Clearly though with my own child, reasoning was not working at this point and despite the rewards and penalties system I used with my son, she was not rallying.  She just did not care enough about the rewards.  I was beside myself.

Sandy listened patiently and then she whipped out a book and in it showed me one little line, “This is what you are missing,” she said.  I looked at this one little line and thought, “really?”  I wasn’t quite sure.  I had to see it for myself.

Basically what this one little line said was that without affinity, no “ethics presence” is possible.  I read up more on this and saw a reference that explained further that without affinity, there can be no control.  OK – this was definitely something I needed to play around with to see for myself.  Frankly, at that point I was so angry with my daughter I really didn’t feel like rewarding her with “play time” with mom.  And in truth my daughter was so angry with me I didn’t think she wanted to spend time with me.  I was convinced that when she did spend time with me she would deliberately sabotage the moments to goad me into an argument.

But you know, the author of this reference was someone I had always found to be trustworthy.  His research when I had tried it in the past always panned out, it always worked.  I’d never seen it otherwise in 30 years.  So OK, I decided to get over myself and to try it.  Sandy was a big help.  She coached me on it.  In doing this, I was able to spot the ways I was at cause in triggering or escalating the upsets between my daughter and I…

That night I went home and decided to get a fun movie of my daughter’s choice to watch.  At first she picked a movie I hated.  So instead of being angry I did as we had drilled and coaxed her to pick something we both would like but something she really wanted to see.  OK, yes she whined at first, but I kept my emotional tone in “interest” (this took a little work on my part I admit), but I did this and surprisingly to me, she calmed down and found something fun for both of us.  We were off to a good start.  During the movie she would talk through the movie, stop it and rewind a particular scene about 3 times.  Did it make me crazy? Well yeah it did, but I reminded myself that the point was not watching the movie.  The point was to raise the affinity between us. So I got less interested in the movie and more interested in my daughter. When she talked through the movie I listened to her instead of shhhhing her.  When she stopped and rewinded the scenes I asked her what about the scene didn’t she get or did she like so much?  In other words, as I had been coached, I shifted my attention to her and not to the movie, towards my goal of increasing affinity with her.  The results: she had a great night with mom and when I asked her to go to bed on time, without an argument she went!  She did – no argument!  She just said, “OK” and went!  It had worked!  Honestly, I have to tell you I was totally prepared to have to return to Sandy to report it hadn’t worked.  I was convinced that even if it had worked with hundreds of other people I would be the one person it would not work with because my situation was “so bad”.  I can’t begin to tell you how excited and happy I was to be so wrong.

Sandy said, “I knew it!  Now make sure the both of you are eating enough protein and getting enough sleep so you are both at your best.”

Now, that I have that under my belt, it is one of the key references I use with parents in handling their situations with their children.

There are several specific technical references on this and all can be found through  Mace-Kingsley Family Center.  All of them are very simple to understand and use… using them is the key!

At Mace-Kingsley we have very highly trained and experienced parent consultants to work with you and to help you drill your particular situation to ensure you get the best results.  After all, happy families results in happy people, happy people results in a happier world.  At Mace-Kingsley Family Center we are all about a happier world!  We welcome your communication.  Contact us any time at 727-442-3922 or [email protected].


Today I would like to write about something that, while it’s the basis of a lot of comedy, is also the distress of a lot of adults/parents.  It is something that comes up frequently.  It is the need for awareness and understanding of how confusing the English language is, especially for a young child.

As adults we talk around our children all the time, we assume that to a great degree they will “get”  what we are saying to them (or around them) based on the context of what we are saying, our facial expressions, and the intonation of our voices.  But in fact, the majority of the words in the English language have many different definitions.  Then there are idioms and phrases and colloquialisms that make communication a truly tricky business.  In fact I have often wondered if the only reason we truly understand anyone is a matter more of telepathy than the words sent and received.

For children this presents a particular problem.  Children often tend to listen and take communication literally.  Parents not understanding this often mistake the child’s confusions for non-compliance, disobedience, lack of caring and disrespect.

Let me give you some graphic examples of this:

Many years ago a friend of mine had a 6 yr old son who was often sent to the principal’s office for behavioral problems.  The parents finally found the source of the problem and got this corrected.  However, after his many chats with the principal the young boy felt he had found a friend and would sometimes go to his friend’s office to chat.  The principal usually allowed this as he had become fond of the boy.  Then one day after 7 months of good behavior the boy’s parents got called into the school as the boy was throwing a tantrum and causing a ruckus.  To make this story shorter, I will cut to the chase here.

The boy’s upset turned out to be that on this particular day when he went to visit his friend, the principal looked up from his paperwork and said, “I can’t see you now,” and sent the boy on his way.

After much discussion and string pulling the boy blurted out,  “But he was lying!  He said he could not see me and he was looking right at me!”

Another source of concern for some parents is a child who wets.  On one particular occasion I checked for all the normal things:  Does the child have difficulty getting his/her pants down in time? Is the potty in question too tall or scary in some way? Does the flushing frighten the child?  Can the child find the bathroom easily?  Can the child turn the light on easily?  Has the child been trained to wipe properly etc.  In cases of potty difficulties it can be any or all of these.  But in some cases (especially girls and women) there is an issue with muscle control.  So my question was:  “What happens when you have to go to the bathroom and you ask to go?” And the child’s answer was that most times she was allowed to go but sometimes she is asked to hold it.  So I asked what did that mean and the answer very sweetly was, “I don’t know.”

In this case I explained to her there was an exercise she could do and that I would get her mom to help her with it.  The mom was called and told about a well-known exercise that women are often referred to in order to help strengthen a weak muscle that can cause leakage.

In each of the cases above you can see it was the literalness of the language that was causing confusion for the child, but the adults didn’t catch it. They became upset, sometimes disciplined the child, much to the dismay of the child.  So just on the off chance that things said around the child might not have been fully understood, here is my suggestion:  when you say things to your child and they are blatantly not complying and this is becoming a source of trouble in your worlds, before you do anything else please stop a minute to have a conversation with your child.  Find out their understanding of what you are asking them to do.  If you are absolutely certain that they have a clear understanding of what you have asked, then fine – go to the next level of giving them more data, discipline, rewards and penalties, whatever is needed.  However, if you find that there is an obvious misunderstanding or no understanding at all, of course patiently and honestly handle the confusion.

At Mace-Kingsley we are well trained in working with children and families.  We are here to help you.  If you find yourself beside yourself when dealing with your children (of any age), please do contact us at 727-442-3922.