Archive for Healthy Habits

As we are moving into summer, many parents find that they need to ‘tighten’ up the rules at home. Perhaps…the house is getting sloppy, the kids are sleeping in till noon and Mom is working harder and harder, while kids seems to show less respect and do not help out at all

Often new household rules grow out of frustration and exhaustion, as Mom or Dad see the momentum of things heading down the wrong path.

Depending on your family, you may decide you need a rule about picking up your stuff, or a rule about not playing ball in the house. Perhaps it’s a rule about bedtime or getting up in the morning. Hopefully, there are rules about doing a few chores, and staying engaged in some reading and math during the summer.

Rules Establish Structure and Kids Need This

A well implemented set of simple rules establishes a structure and rhythm at home, that actually helps reduce anxiety and calm children. Children need to a have a clear sense that someone is in charge, who knows what to do.

Do they like rules? Do they ask for rules? Of course not!

Most will argue and fight about your rules. That’s their job! When you understand this, then you expect them to complain and argue about your new rules. Ignore this. Do not engage or justify your choices, when it comes to rules about the home.

Simply understand this: Your children cannot know what is good for them. If you let them choose, they will eat pizza every night, never touch a veggie and watch TV or play video games till they fall asleep.

Do not be deceived. Your child’s wishes are a barometer for what they WANT, not what they NEED. Repeatedly following our impulsive wants (i.e., the tendency of most children) will only make us overweight, lazy and, in the end, unhappy.

Most Rules Are Just Wishes: Avoid This Mistake!

The biggest mistake made in setting rules at home is quite common. You get frustrated, decide to change things, and sit the kids down to explain the ‘new rules.’ And then, you expect them to follow the rules.

Your rules are not really rules. This is simply a ‘wish list.’ Why?

Because rules are only wishes, unless they have a consequence attached. In other words, your rules typically mean very little unless you attach consequences WHEN there is a violation of the rule. This is how most children learn new rules, when mom or dad starts to change things at home.

The rule is useless, unless this formula is followed. The truth is that most rules actually make things worse because it causes more bickering and fighting between parents and children. So the bottom line is this: Only set new rules if you are willing to stick consistently to a consequence when the rule is broken! Then, you will see that your children are capable of learning quickly.

Often, I have parents expressing something like this, “My kids should just listen, and follow the rules. What’s wrong with them?” My response is usually along these lines:

Children should not just listen. Instead, get with
reality. Children must be taught to listen and follow the
rules! That’s our job as parents…to learn how to teach effectively!

This is the false thinking that is harming our children, and undermining their future. We cannot just follow the moment of society, and the direction that video games, media forces and fast food are taking us. If we do, our kids will continue to argue and fight for the most convenient, most immediate rewards. These are rarely the most valuable. These rarely teach discipline. They never work our muscles or our minds in productive ways.

Our children need a few rules. Not too many, but the important ones are ESSENTIAL. I cover these in my programs, but for now…please accept the need to teach rules with consequences. And expect the drama and whining and complaints. It’s normal. Just ignore, and carry on!

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Okay. Summer is officially on… and the kids are on summer-time schedule. And yes, it’s been a rush! Hectic and crazy at times. Everyone is ready for a breather.

Here’s the dangerous and often tempting thought process: “Oh, the kids had a tough year. They need a break. We will just take it easy…no chores…go to bed late…get up when they want. No big deal.”

Start Weak…Life Gets Harder!

If you decide to start summer with no structure, and abandon most limits, everything is smooth and sweet. The kids love it. It seems easier and everyone is happy.

At least for a few days! However, as time goes on, weaker limits simply get pushed harder. The kids will want to stay up later and later. They will want more and more video time. They will fight responsibilities more and more. Their disrespect or talking back increases the moment you start to ask them to help out a bit.

This is the nature of things.

Children and adults thrive on structure and limits. Oh yes, we fight it. Kids fight it. But the proof is overwhelming. When we abandon this in favor of weak limits and little structure, life simply gets harder to manage.

Start Strong…Life Gets Easier!

The secret is to go against the tide. Instead of starting off the summer weak, start strong. In the long run, you will have more joy, more fun and more easeful times this summer.

How do you start strong? I’s not too complex. Let’s go over the basics.

• Set clear limits on bedtime (not more than an hour later than school year times)
• Get the kids up at a standard time, regardless of their whining.
• Serve breakfast at a regular time, and don’t adjust.
• Require a few morning chores before video, phone, TV, pool, friends or computer.

These are just the basics, but it gets you started. Remember this: your strength as a parent stems from how you manage yourself and how you manage the home (particularly the goodies in your home!).

If you manage your emotions poorly (i.e., are reactive and easily upset), you will lose the respect of your children over time. You will see your authority erode, despite your desire to show strength. The critical solution is to keep your calm and have a game plan, rather than believing that yelling or getting upset should get them to listen.

Secondly, the game plan comes in the way that you manage your home, and the goodies the kids really care about. During the summer, there are goodies everywhere: the pool, baseball, soccer, playground, biking, camping, TV, friends, phones, computers, day trips…and the list goes on.

These ‘goodies’ represent leverage. It is critical to manage this leverage every single day! I am often reminding my clients, “Never give up your leverage! It’s your key to sanity.” |

That’s why the day begins with the some structure and chores, before the children can get to their goodies. If they get up, start to play a game, turn on the TV and then you discuss breakfast, you can see it all turns ugly. They are eating in front of a video game, and you can’t get them to pick up their room. This is weak approach, and the summer will get harder!

So instead, start strong and watch the summer eat easier! Keep routines in place, and don’t argue or negotiate about that. And NEVER give up your leverage!

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The Healthy Habit Summer Plan

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The spring rush and end of year craziness is over. Some of you have been just holding on by the ‘skin of your teeth’ to get through it. It was too much to think about adding more to your plate, but now (perhaps) you see a window to grow some responsible habits this summer.

Or for some, you may be concerned that the healthy habits you’ve worked so hard to develop could be lost during the summer. Many children develop the expectation of ‘it’s only play time’ during the summer.

Then, summer comes. Structure and routine can become WAY too flexible. In the short term, this does not appear to be a problem. Within a few weeks however, you will often discover that the more you bend, the farther you will bend next week. Some children will not take advantage of this looseness; many will however!

And the problem is that bad habits begin to form quickly, and these bad habits are hard to change. That’s just reality.

So, what can you do NOW to keep the kids on track so you maintain those good habits, and even build a bit more responsibility during the summer? Rather than ignore this, let’s create a simple, healthy-habit plan for the summer! Here’s how:

1. Choose Reality While You Can. (This Will Protect Your Future Sanity!)

Choosing reality means that you recognize that play is awesome and wonderful for kids. Yet, complete freedom to play continuously without any requirements is not the way the world works. In fact, play is better after we put forth a bit of work to get it. In other words, efforts (or responsibility) actually sweeten the rewards that come with play.

Thus, starting today, build in some daily requirements of ‘effort’ BEFORE the ‘rewards’ and play begin. It’s a simple concept, but it makes all the difference because this formula actually gives you a tremendous amount of leverage and enhances your parental authority.

During the summer, you will actually have more leverage than any other time of the year. Your leverage comes in the form of all the summer fun.

Key Lesson: Never give up your leverage!

How does this work? Don’t let the kids promise you that they will clean their room after they get back from the pool. This is a major mistake. Instead, leverage the daily trip to be pool. In other words, the room is cleaned and their laundry is put away BEFORE anyone leaves for the pool.

2. Don’t bend on structure and routines.

This is about your sanity and your child’s sanity. Most kids fight for less structure, but all do better with more structure. In other words, what kids want is NOT what is good for them.

So stick to your guns on chores and daily routines. Keep bedtimes consistent. Don’t let the kids sleep in till noon and stay up till 3 am playing video games. These are toxic patterns that unfold over the summer and are very difficult to change.

Key Lesson: Bending the limits is easy. Moving them back into place will be painfully hard.

Just stick to the structure and routines you had in place. If your home is lacking in consistent limits, then start today with setting them up.

Getting up at a consistent time, having breakfast, and moving into some small daily chores before the play begins is a perfect way to start the day. This is very hard to do if you haven’t ended the day in a similar way, with making sure bedtimes are regular and lights out at a reasonable time.

These are simple ideas, but they go a long way in making your summer enjoyable because your children will be calmer, more cooperative and better prepared for the fall. Good luck, and enjoy your summer fun!

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Get Started NowPreface:

Greetings. I want to welcome you to a new series of articles, focused first on explaining the fundamentals of  Terrific Parenting.  These are the principles that allow you to build responsibility, nurture optimism and teach your children to enjoy the self-fulfilling rewards of right effort.

After laying out these principles over the weeks ahead, I will then dig into making those principles practical:  In other words, how do we apply these in daily life so that you can build the healthy habits of success in your home.

For those of you who have followed Terrific Parenting, you may have noticed a pause in my writing.  This was due primarily to health related challenges.  I have been humbled , and have a much greater daily appreciation for the gift of vitality, energy and just simply … feeling good!  I aspire to add more  tools for building appreciation, happiness and optimism into my writings, and will create a separate series later this spring on these topics.

As my health is now back on track, I begin this series by outlining the first of 12 principles to be revealed in the weeks ahead.  These posts will expand upon the content I am creating for The Saratogian.

Terrific Parenting:  New Beginnings

 I am pleased to be writing again.  In honor of this somewhat new beginning, I will start with a series of articles that cover the fundamental principles that build optimism, responsibility and success in your home.  These principles stand at the core of how we have influence and build healthy habits in our home.  Let’s begin:

Principle 1:  Parenting Clarity Is Parenting Power.

This principle is about the importance of having a clear, undiluted focus for your family and for your parenting approach.  Too often in today’s world, we can become bombarded with different messages of how to parent, what to think about and what to focus on.  Included in these various messages are often the opinions of those with relatively little exposure outside their own home or family.  With the world of blogging and Facebook, everyone has a voice.  Individual expression and creativity are allowed to prosper in this model, and the future is exciting.

However, not every voice that offers guidance should be valued equally.  Too many voices causes confusion.  Too many ideas means that you keep changing direction, and trying new things…before the more proven, data-based approaches have been exhausted.

As I begin this series, I will encourage what we might call a “consolidation” of parenting ideas and strategies.  By this I simply mean, that the wide majority of the behavioral research on parenting, as well as most parenting books can be boiled down to about twelve basic ideas that you need to know.

Of these basic ideas, many are made more complex than they need be.  My goal here is to keep it simple, and to keep it real.

So, what do I suggest you do with all those books?  Those Parenting magazines?  The good advice others, like me, promote on the Internet.

I suggest something profoundly simple:  TEST.

TEST IT.  Be willing to honestly put the idea or strategy to the test.  If it works, great.  If not, discard it.

How long do you test?  Weeks, not months…if the strategy is built on proven principles.

If you are reading or practicing a set of proven parenting principles, you shouldn’t have to keep fighting or struggling over and over with your kids.  You shouldn’t have to make things more and more complex, feeling like you are constantly adjusting to a new a set of conditions.  This is a sign that you are off track.  If you are using the tools that make parenting work more easily, then three major things should happen quickly:

1.  You should feel relief, NOT confusion. 

If you have confusion, you have too many ideas floating around in your head 🙂  Okay, honestly…that’s true for most of us.  But when it comes to parenting…too many ideas will result in a failure to take action… RIGHT when you need to take action.

You get overwhelmed, and then hesitate.  When you hesitate, your children see this.  They see your uncertainty…your not knowing what to do next.    This means…

2.  You should know how to respond to your kids, immediately….regardless of what they throw at you.

Okay, not 100% of the time… but 98% of the time… a good game plan should eliminate your confusion.  You know what to do, and you do it without pause.  This then lets you see…

3.  Changes should happened quickly, when you have the right parenting tools.

Rather than months or years, change should happen in days or weeks (for most parenting struggles).  Contrary to much of what you read, children are remarkably resilient and they respond with remarkable adaptability to a clear and consistent game plan.  They will learn to drop bad habits quickly, and adopt healthy habits rapidly…once you have clarity.

In a few days, I will cover principle two.  Can you guess what single factor most quickly destroys the best parenting practice, and actually lays the seed for bigger failure.  Perhaps you already guessed it.  If not, I will cover this Wednesday.

For now, consider making life simpler.  Put most of those books in the closet for now.  Take a break.

And turn to those principles that actually have proven that they work.  BY proven, I mean that there is a noticeable movement toward positive, productive and responsible behavior.  Your child has learned to handle their emotions better.  You are working less…and they are working more… at their happiness.  These would all be pointers to successful strategies worth keeping.

If you want more immediate guidance, I always encourage you to check out more information on

For now, take care…

and Be Well…
Randy Cale, PhD



Cyber-bullying and Teens

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I just wrote an article for a local publication, and thought you might be interested. It’s about the disturbing trend toward cyber-bullying. It’s especially prevalent with the 12-15 year old teenage girls.

Teens More Frequently Bullied Online

When socializing on the Internet, many teens are exposed to “cyber-bullies.” Cyber bullying occurs when highly negative or abusive language is used, or there are threats of violence or assault. Over the past five years, researchers have seen a 50% increase in the amount of cyber bullying that teenagers experience.

Surveys of teens Internet behavior reveal some disturbing trends.

Typically, cyber-bullies represent no real threat. In the wide majority of circumstances, this takes the form of ugly comments about looks or friendships or boyfriends. For most, this has relatively little consequence. However, some teenagers are deeply bothered by the conversations they experience.

Teen discussions online often use harsh language.

If you allow your teenager to chat freely on the Internet, without monitoring their conversations, it is likely that you are missing a very disturbing trend. Absent any parental limitations, teenagers often end up using harsh, and profane language. In my parent coaching practice, I see more and more examples of teenagers whose parents do not model such language, and the adolescent does not use such language at home. However, on the Internet, they become “one of the crowd” and ultimately end up using very abusive and ugly language.

Internet chat rooms become very personalized.

Another growing trend is for chat and instant messaging (IM) sessions to take on a highly personalized quality. As if no one is watching, teens (and particularly teenage girls) will open up and share the most intimate thoughts and feelings. In doing so however, they then open themselves up for ridicule and attack. These can get very ugly. Many parents are appalled when they discover the true nature of the dialogue that goes on in their homes!

The teenagers who are most vulnerable are the newbies, who are not particularly Internet savvy.

When new to the Internet chat world, adolescents are often not prepared for the harsh language they experience. Many feel traumatized, and deeply hurt, by how quickly conversations deteriorate into personal attacks.

Those who are quite savvy, and who use the Internet frequently for socializing, express fewer incidents of cyber-bullying behavior. This appears to be the result of learning not to take the conversations personally. However, very few parents would view these discussions as healthy.

What can parents do?

1.) Use parental controls on your browser. Then monitor. Monitor. Monitor.

Most parents will affirm that they do monitor their child’s activities. However, your teenager is likely much more savvy than you are. It is not enough to occasionally walk by and look over their shoulder. You need to make sure the parental controls are always activated. You don’t need to know more about computers, but you must know more about monitoring the computer than they do!
2.) Purchase “ghostware” to know what your teenager is doing when you aren’t looking.

It is relatively easy to install software on your computer that will allow you to monitor what your teenager is doing. Unfortunately, you may be able to trust your teenager, but you can’t trust everyone that they are meeting online. It is essential to carefully monitor communications, to ensure that your teenager is following guidelines that you can support. This also gives you a tool for keeping track of their language, and the quality of the exchanges. You can see every keystroke made when they are online, or writing an email.

They won’t like it…but…the Internet is the gateway to the entire world…the good and the bad. In my opinion, it is fair game to warn your teenager that this is not a confidential form of communication, and that you will be watching over their shoulders. They don’t need to know exactly how you are doing this. You just need to keep an eye on things, and have integrity by letting them know you will be watching.

3.) Keep the computer in a central area of the home.

There is a growing trend for teenagers to have a computer in their bedroom. With several teenagers in the home, this makes monitoring computer usage difficult.

It is much easier if you establish a ground rule that requires the computer to be within eyesight. In this way, your presence serves as a significant deterrent to behavior and conversations that you would not approve of.

4.) Establish clear consequences for violating your guidelines.

Establish guidelines about the kind of language that you approve of. Also, make it clear that your teenager is not to have their profile on websites such as or Furthermore, make it clear what types of websites are off limits for them, such as sights containing adult language and content.

Once you have established these guidelines, then make sure that your teenager understands that there will be a consequence for violating the guidelines. If you make clear that they’ll lose the computer for a week, and then follow through with that consequence, your teenager will learn to honor the guidelines that you put into place.

If you follow these simple principles, I think that you’ll find that you can keep a handle on your teenager, and make sure that they are not a victim of cyber-bullies, or other negative influences online.

About Dr Cale

During the past 23 years, in working with hundreds of families, I began to realize that many parents, just like you, were showing up in my office well-educated—but getting poor results. They had been to therapy, they had read the books and even attended other training programs—yet their children were still not listening, not doing homework and not cooperating.

I discovered that many of these parents were parenting with false ideas about how to predictable and reliably shape and change their children’s behavior. As a result, I began to develop ideas about the core behavior change principles…and how to turn each of these into specific parenting solutions. As long as I was able to stay true to these principles, the most challenging problems quickly faded away.

My purpose with this program is to give you access to the strategies that come from these core principles. By practicing and following through with the techniques in this program, you will be able to transform any set of negative behavior patterns in your home. Your kids will be happier and more responsible. They will quickly learn to be respectful, cooperative and helpful around the house. Tantrums, whining, complaining and negativity will be a thing of the past.