Behavior Management

How to Discipline Your Child – Punishment isn’t the Way

By | February 23rd, 2018|Tags: , , , , |

by Amy Mc Creedy

original article can be located on

We want our children to learn from their mistakes and not repeat them. So the natural thought is to send them to the “time out” corner or up to their room to “think about what they’ve done.” Except they don’t. And they’re likely to keep up the same behaviors despite the punishment. So, how do you know how to discipline your child?

Often, we equate the term “discipline” with punishment. But the word “discipline” comes from the Latin word “disciplina,” which means “teaching, learning.” That’s the key to correcting our kids’ behaviors – giving them the tools they need to learn a better behavior. When we discipline in a way meant only to punish and have the child “pay” for their mistake, it doesn’t help our child learn how to make the right choice next time. No one likes being ordered around – punishment can lead to power struggles, and because our kids know this poor behavior gets them attention, they’ll keep doing it.

When it comes to knowing how to discipline your child, we can focus on three key areas: giving them the positive attention they need and crave, taking time for training, and setting limits and sticking to them.

1. Fill the Attention Basket

Kids need attention, plain and simple. If we don’t keep that “attention basket” full of positive attention, kids will seek out any attention they can get – even negative attention. They’ll push our buttons with negative behaviors because to a kid, even negative attention is better than no attention at all. This doesn’t mean you have to be at your child’s side 24-7 – just taking a few minutes a day to spend one-on-one with your child, distraction-free and doing something they want to do, will reap immense rewards in their behavior.

Take 10 minutes once or twice a day with each child playing a game they’ve picked or reading their favorite book. Let the phone ring. Stick the cell phone in the closet. When you fill your children’s attention baskets positively and proactively, your kids will become more cooperative and less likely to seek out attention in negative ways. Life is busy for everyone, and finding extra time in the day may be daunting at first, but think of this as an investment in your relationship with your children and in improving their behavior. When it comes to knowing how to discipline your child, giving them what they need to avoid poor behaviors in the first place can have a great impact.

2. Take Time for Training

As you think about how to discipline your child, it’s important to remember that the word discipline is rooted in meanings of learning and teaching. The best way to discipline your child is to help her make better choices. You can role play the behaviors, using a calm voice. “I’d really like to play with that tractor when you’re done.” “I’d like a snack, please.” Switch roles and pretend you’re the child, and let your little one direct you through making better choices. Be encouraging when they do make the right choices. “I see you worked hard to clean up the playroom all on your own! That’s such a big help. I really appreciate it.” “Thank you for sharing the book with your brother. How kind!”

3. Set Limits and Stick to Them

Kids thrive when they have structure and know their boundaries. Don’t go overboard with hundreds of rules, but focus on what’s most important for your family. Be clear about the ground rules and what happens when someone breaks the rules – make sure that everyone understands the consequences ahead of time and that the discipline is related to the misbehavior. If they forget to put away their dishes after dinner, they have to load and unload the dishwasher. Cleaning their room because they didn’t do their homework isn’t related. Most importantly, be consistent. Follow through every time with the agreed-upon consequence when kids push the rules.

Overall, remember that knowing how to discipline your child is rooted in helping them learn how to make the right choice, not punishment. Be firm and give them the attention, rules, and boundaries they need.

Steps of Self-Healing from Trauma

By | February 9th, 2018|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

We all haven’t faced the easiest of lives. Unfortunately along for the ride are our little ones. As much as we try to protect them, their experience is undeniably different from that of their friends. It isn’t your fault. You might be able to look back and see things you could have done better, but isn’t that true of everyone? You do the best you can with the hand you’re dealt. As a result, your child may start to display some poor coping strategies and behaviors. There are positive methods that you can do that support your child.

The first step is Acceptance. Accept the idea that your child is acting out because they are getting attention. This is true for many if not most people. During times of trauma, it is easy to overlook everyday events. Traumatic experiences take precedence and events like growing up get overlooked. The need for attention is a result. For some people, this may only go on for a short time and long-term behaviors never emerge. For the child who experienced traumatic events over a longer period of time, they may have started to accept the role that is assigned by adults and peers, i.e., troublemaker, class clown, bully…, etc. 

The second step is to be Available. Now its time for the parent(s) to be available and figure out what activities to do together. It could be something as simple as a card game or making dinner together. Don’t just try to be part of their lives…let them be part of yours. I’m not under any assumption that life has changed for you so dramatically that your calendar has opened up. As your child ages, they are more interested in what you do with your time. Things that you wouldn’t think of might appeal to them, i.e., the gym, your friends, your work. The trip to the grocery store could include a quick stop at the ice cream parlor. A long wait at the DMV could be a chance for them to show you their favorite YouTube video. The point is you have to make time even if it overlaps with your busy day.

The third step is Identity. You can’t shake a role assignment that your child has taken on, it is now part of their identity. However, you can add extracurricular activities to their agenda to help them discover different facets of who they are. Provide them with different groups to support a different role opportunity. Leave leaflets around the house and see which one sparks their interest. No point in pressuring them. Try to make it their idea. Some ideas are art, photography, sports, volunteering, coding, dance…, etc. Your child shouldn’t get the idea that you don’t like their identity or that you want to change them.  Remember these steps are taking care to help your relationship and grow as parent and child. Change is inevitable. 

The fourth step is Reward. Communicate with your child and discover some trouble areas. Identify them and write down positive alternatives to replace negative behaviors. Reward when they are completed. Best to identify the poor coping strategies that have been used such as yelling, hitting, ignoring, slamming, lying…, etc. If your child has experienced a lot of trauma it is best for them to experience reward on a more frequent basis until there is a level of trust. (Using a game like Vlinder, is helpful in having some consistency and structure in your reward system.)

The fifth step is Celebrate. Look back at all you have accomplished. Go out to dinner and celebrate that you are working on your relationship and that you have made it all the way through the five steps! Think about how far you have come. Before you started you hadn’t accepted that your child needed attention and you weren’t looking at being available in a way that involved you both opening up your lives to one another. By recognizing your child’s assigned identity you opened up avenues for your child to re-invent themselves. Finally by talking about your child’s problem area’s and rewarding positive behaviors you have reinforced your expectations.

These steps should not take the place of counseling or medical attention if needed. There are different levels of trauma and we all experience them differently. I advocate for families that want to work on their family relationships and provide many tools to help them do so including Vlinder and Consultations.

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Why Writing Thank You Notes Teaches Good Manners

By | January 21st, 2018|Tags: , , , , , , , |

You may or may not advocate handwritten thank you notes in your home; no doubt, you have your reasons either way. Some folks believe the practice is outdated and the idea shouldn’t be forced on unwilling kids. Others were taught when they were young that writing letters of thanks after receiving presents was a polite measure and want their kids to do the same. Perhaps no one is right or wrong, but kids can benefit from expressing their gratitude by writing thank you notes; here’s how.

The act of writing thank you notes make kids think about the thought and care that goes into buying and wrapping the toys and gadgets they receive. The gifts themselves are super-exciting, of course. However, realizing friends and relatives care enough to be thoughtful adds a positive emotional dimension to receiving presents.

There’s more to gratitude than the recognition presents come from someone rather than appearing out of the blue. Studies show the art of being grateful makes people happy; it’s a well-being tool. Once kids tune into gratitude they can use it in all areas of life to boost happiness.

Writing for well-being
Many kids use computers instead of writing words on paper. Nonetheless, research reveals there’s a connection between expressing feelings in written form and well-being. Kids who get used to writing about what’s on their minds, whether to say thanks for gifts or share how they feel about events in a journal, can reduce stress.  If your child finds this type of writing, he or she might continue to write, not only to express gratitude but also for enjoyment and anxiety reduction later in life.

Good manners
Teach your kids good manners and they will thank you somewhere down the road of life. Etiquette is a useful social tool that makes people stand out from the crowd: it helps them forge friendships and make a terrific impression. The habit of being polite gained from writing thank you notes will give them the edge as they mature.

Handwritten thank you notes are just one way your kids can show appreciation for gifts. Nevertheless, putting gratitude down on paper rather than using another method is beneficial since doing so teaches them life lessons you won’t want them to miss.

Original Post can be found on Child Development Institute

Article was written by  

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The Safety Parent

By | January 3rd, 2018|Tags: , , , , , , |

A long time ago I had a scary conversation about child predators and how to keep our children safe. The talk progressed sharing fear-based stories heard on the news, internet and via word of mouth. We naturally helped each other as each tale got more difficult to fathom. It followed with good parenting advice on how to prepare children for such a potentially horrible world. What hit me later is that I don’t want my kids to grow up fearful. I want to instill confidence.

At the time my own fears were getting in the way. The avoidance method was in full effect. Around the same time, my oldest son had an interaction with two separate men at the grocery store. One made him very uncomfortable so he stayed clear. Another was a homeless man and they shared a special interaction. One that I would have robbed him of had I been around. I’m proud of him and I don’t have advice on how to make it safer. It was time to review how I parent, the rules of safety, and make decisions that have long-term benefits for my children.

When I think of what I want my children to be I think of words like outgoing, adventuresome, kind, brave, intelligent, and confident. I don’t think of weary or even aware. There is a question that looms over my assertion. How do you keep your children safe?

The best I can do is feed their intelligence by watching the news and discussing stories as needed. As a family, we work on confidence and self-esteem with self-defense or martial arts. We inspire adventure with travel, imagination, and books. I have had to come to peace with the fact that as ready as I think I am, there is always the unknown that I am not prepared for.

There are many strategies that can be used to nurture a personality trait. As the parent, you decide which actions you take, even when if it is no action there are outcomes. If you read my blogs, you know that I am a proponent of parenting with intention. I proffer that after reading this you look at what you want for your kids with regard to their safety and decide if your actions are helping or hurting them get where they need to be.

The biggest lesson in this part of the journey was learning that I have to continue to work on my own fears. Fear is a strong emotion and impacts the decision-making process in a profound way. Children look to us for our strength and guidance. Making sure that I have enough energy saved up to offer what is needed is my goal, my mission, my work.

Thank you for reading. There is more available at Come visit to learn more about what Breakthrough, LLC has to offer. We invite feedback. This is a great place to start a conversation.


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Vlinder Elf Tips

By | December 12th, 2017|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

It’s that time of year when parents get a couple of extra hands to keep an on eye on things. I’m talking about the elves. I appreciate using the little guys and gals to help bring some order into the home. There are a few things to keep in mind to make sure that this is helping your quest to maintain long term change and not adding additional stressors to your kiddos. It’s a nice break having Santa’s naughty and nice list as a motivator but since we know you aren’t going to send a present back to the North Pole we need to keep it real.

Some children are more prone to anxiety than others. You are feeding that by suggesting that they may not get the gifts if they don’t perform. Careful how much power you give the elves and remember not to put into jeopardy that which will not be taken away. This tradition is meant to be fun.

Using the elves to create order in your home is a type of reward system. Depending on when the elves show up at your house, the reward takes a long time to get there. One way to manage this is by setting up other forms of positive reinforcement. Rewards are not always presents and candy. Some ideas are sitting at the table with mom or dad to write a letter to a loved one, special one on one time or tons of kudos and high fives! Be clear why the reward has been earned if you want to see it repeated.

Finally, if you use your elf for behavior management then please remember that they, the elves, also “see” the positive behavior. Allow your kiddos time to reflect on the positive reports that the elves will be reporting to Santa.  Personal pride goes a long way.

If you have any questions or suggestions for today’s entry please contact us on our website, We love visitors and invite you take a look around while you are there. If you would like to sign up for our free newsletter there is a form provided on the home page. Happy Holidays!

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Vlinder Reward Cards

By | December 5th, 2017|Tags: , , , , , |

Happy Holidays,

November was the month of gratitude. Now December is our chance to give back! Our gift to you is a set of Vlinder Reward Cards. All you have to pay is shipping.

    • What if I own Vlinder? You can have a second set for yourself or share with a friend!
    • What will I do with cards if I don’t have a game? There are two things you can do!
          1. Purchase the Vlinder Task Sheets. We will make sure you get a set of instructions!
          2. Gain access to the Interactive Task Sheet app. This makes your Vlinder experience 100% customizable! Plus you never have to worry about where to get your refills!
    • Can I transfer my gift to a friend? Just tell us where to send the cards and we will make sure that they get there.

However you choose to use the Reward Cards, they are yours free of charge

Our goal at Breakthrough is to make a difference in the homes of families just like yours. 

To qualify for your Vlinder Reward Cards all you have to do is sign up for the newsletter by the end of December. The instructions will follow.

Happy Holidays!

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Confidence is Key

By | November 28th, 2017|Tags: , |

I was recently asked what parents should do to encourage leadership skills. Coming from a family of leaders I think back to see which text book answers apply. What I found is that it is rare to find a tip that is not equally good for a “leader” and a “follower,” or “chiefs” and “Indians” like we used to say. I would like to remind my audience that both play an important role in life situations. Society would dictate that leaders are superior. But since I know that every good team needs different strengths I suggest that confidence plays a stronger part.

Society has a way of stratifying and labeling kids. It can come with a negative connotation. Sometimes they change their appearance, friends, or social activities and successfully alter how they are seen, but more often than not they get stuck. The jock, the nerd, the preppy…

I go back to the question of how to build a leader. Again the idea of building confidence resonates with me. The parent who originally asked the question wasn’t necessarily asking because she wanted her daughter to run for student counsel. The conversation that preceded the question was about friends and peer pressure. There was an element of fear that she wouldn’t be there to help her daughter make the right choices. Leaders make wrong choices every day. Simply being a strong leader won’t be the deciding factor as to which path a child will take. A person with a strong set of values and confidence, leaders and followers alike, have my vote.

So, how do you build confidence in a child? Self-worth is the corner stone in your child’s existence. It begins when they are infants. As they grow older they gain independence and responsibility. The more they get, the more confidence they build. Good communication, positive reinforcement and a positive role model will show what is expected of them. One of my favorite quotes is by Hain Ginott. He says “If you want your children to improve, let them overhear the nice things you say about them to others!” What a confidence boost! 

Whether your child is a leader or a follower, understand the importance of their role. Society can’t complete tasks without both of them! If your child wants some leadership training, ask why. Perhaps it is to become the next President of Student Council. But if it is to build their self-esteem then you are barking up the wrong tree!

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Where Did Vlinder Come From

By | September 29th, 2017|Tags: , , , , |

A question I get asked a lot is how I came up with Vlinder. Was it something I played as a child or did I discover it while I was over seas. No…the answer is it is a compilation of a number of things over my career. One thing I like about social service is I am in an element that is easy to learn from others. That is what inspired me to create Vlinder. Picking and choosing the best pieces was the easy part of creating Vlinder.

My background is in Sociology. I believe in the concept that characteristics are developed and maintained within a society or social group rather than existing inherently. That thought should empower you to affect change in your child. This is the first lesson in Vlinder. Change is inevitable because your world is ever-changing. You can impact what it looks like.

In the late 90’s, when I worked first in prison and then with at-risk youth teaching life skills, I took lessons in team building, communication, stress and anger management, motivation and value recognition. You will find each of them interwoven in the game.

In 2006 when I first started having children I began to realize that there is a difference utilizing a program in theory vs. in practicum. I realize that sounds silly since my child was just a baby, but I realized that some of the expectations that I had for others, no longer applied to myself. The lessons themselves were still valid, but the application seemed unrealistic. It was like giving someone the tools without the instruction booklet.

I got another job working with youth and learned the importance of teaching expectations and most important recognizing growth. It wasn’t the first time that I appreciated this practice. It was, however the first time I had see it on such a large scale without the use of another “parenting style”.

At this point I had three children. I made a point not to bring my work home. I didn’t for a number of years, until that fateful day that my own children’s behavior put me over the edge and I realized that I wasn’t utilizing my skills at home. That “aha” moment was the biggest lesson that my children have given me.

I was reminded of the inspiration I had early in my career and how unattainable it felt after having children of my own. Now that my children were of an age when they needed direction I had a chance to make a change.

There are no chapters to read, no questionnaires to fill out, no exercises to complete. Vlinder is an experience for the whole family to benefit from. The beauty of it is that you can personalize it so that it is already part of your routine!

I hope this answers the question. Keep them coming!

For those of you that are just joining us, welcome. There is more at

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Why Does Vlinder Work? Behavior Management

By | September 2nd, 2017|Tags: , , , , , , , |

Good question! Something that I, as the creator, should be able to explain to you.

For those that have never read my blogs…Vlinder is a behavior management game or program that uses positive reinforcement to reward clearly set expectations. For more information visit the website.

This is not about how to play or even how it works…this is about WHY it works. The ABC’s of behavior management rests on three aspects: antecedents, behaviors and consequences. Antecedents are events that occur before behaviors present themselves. If a child doesn’t have a good meal, didn’t get enough sleep, and got news that they weren’t going to their friends house then those are the antecedents to the temper tantrum that followed. The tantrum is the behavior that you are trying to discourage. Parents generally have a built in consequence for poor behaviors which can be anything from avoidance to a time-out or even worse.

Taking this example and using Vlinder means that you set the expectations before the antecedents have a chance to impact behavior. Clearly the child is in no shape for a play date. Expectations are set for what is reasonable for them to achieve the goal either later in that day or the next day. What can they do to earn this time? Have a rest or eat more breakfast? Complete some of their morning responsibilities. Note that in this example they are not losing their playdate…they are working towards it. You have gotten the same result without a tantrum.

That is the simple explanation of why Vlinder works. We looked at the ABC’s of behavior management and we took control at “A” (antecedents).

There are times of the day that are typically more stressful than others. If you use Vlinder to structure time you will be amazed at how much smoother time will play out. Not only will you have more cooperation but you will have more time for yourself as your players know what they have to do…as their expectations have already been laid out for them.

As with any behavior management program, results will vary. I am the first to admit that the first couple of times that you try this new approach it can be confusing for your child and a tantrum may still follow. Habits are hard to break. As they come to see that you follow through with your promises they will begin to work hard. Stay positive as you see them trying. When they question just acknowledge that this is not earning their “stamps” (part of the game) to go to their play date.

For more parenting tips or information on using positive reinforcement visit my website at!

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Take 5

By | August 22nd, 2017|Tags: , , , , , , |

Today I’m here to help you be more mindful the next time you are angry with your child and trying to give a lesson in the moment. The problem is that we are tunnel visioned when we are angry and less rational. Why is that a problem? Your child is learning more then one lesson from you during this interaction.

First they are learning how to communicate. They may not yell at you, but they may start yelling at their siblings to express their anger. They may point their finger, ignore whats being said, shake their head, any number of mannerisms that you portray. Kids model what they see. If you want to raise a child who is respectful to loved ones, even during argument, best to cool down before preceding with the lesson. 

Second they are learning about respect. My husband tells our sons they have to respect him because he is their father. In the same conversation we teach them that respect is earned. It is a confusing message. I make every effort not to correct my husband in front of our children, so the only way that I can make sure that I am earning their respect in my conversations with them is to be sure that I am heard and then listen back.

Finally they are learning about consistency. If you allow yourself the time to think about your course of action then you are allowing yourself time to be consistent with your parenting.

It’s easy to fly off the hook when you get angry and yell at your child for something they’ve done. Im just asking for you to stop and think for a moment.  You’re providing more than one lesson in the moments following an event than you may think. It’s worth a five minute breather, to collect your thoughts, get a sip of water and then tackle the problem.

For more parenting tips or information on using positive reinforcement visit my website at!

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