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Social Emotional Learning – Now More Than Ever

Our young people are showing up and leading. Racism, police brutality, attacks on free speech, a global pandemic; They are out front saying enough is enough. We are watching history be made.

This is the point of social emotional learning; people standing in their full humanity, knowing they belong, naming and expressing feelings, asking for help, helping others, taking responsibility, and doing the work to nurture one another in community.

Social emotional learning (SEL) might sound like something we do for kids, and it is, but in large measure, it is about us – the adults. As people who have been shaped by trauma, social emotional learning gives us the tools to heal ourselves. As we engage with our kids, even (and especially) in stressful times, or when we’re not seeing eye-to-eye, we can show up in ways that cultivate empathy, build courage, draw out insight, and validate our child(ren)’s particular genius.

As this tumultuous 2019-2020 school year ends, Sound Discipline staff chose three social emotional learning topics to revisit with tools for learning and growing with your child this summer:  Repair, Contribution and Naming and Understanding Feelings. To help you incorporate those tools into your family, we are revisiting the how-to of Family Meetings.

Repair – Mistakes are a powerful opportunity to learn, especially when parents model and teach how to repair our own mistakes. Unfortunately, many of us learned lessons from our mistakes that were unhelpful, like that we are bad, or that we must be perfect to be loved and accepted. These messages are deeply discouraging, and often make it less likely that we’ll take accountability for our actions. If we want to raise young people who can repair their mistakes, we must model how to make repair with our own mistakes. As we see our society grappling with how to repair the mistakes of systemic racism, these lessons for our kids are even more critical. Begin at home, with your family. Talk about how you might apply the tool of repairing mistakes to our larger community.

How to model apologies with kids, from Sproutable –

Sartori Elementary Practices Repair and Problem Solving –


Contribution – Making contributions to the greater community gives our children a sense of significance…the belief that they matter and that they are capable human beings. Contribution also alleviates feelings of anxiety and builds a sense of resiliency.

As parents we need to remember that to contribute to making change in the world, and even supporting our kids in their efforts, we need to take care of ourselves.  We need to spend time just being with our kids, creating joy and doing activities that fill our own cups. Then we have the stamina to do the work that needs to be done to help create a healthier, more equitable world for our kids to inherit.

Get inspired by these stories of local youth activism –

9 books that teach kids to take action and effect change –

Stage a toy protest, chalk your walk, and other ideas – 5 ways for kids and families to peacefully protest from home, from the Today show –

Contributions kids can make to support Black Lives Matter and to support their communities during COVID-19 shutdowns –


Naming and Understanding Feelings – Like adults, kids experience complex feelings about their lived experiences and about the events they witness or see on the news. As parents, we have a really important role to play to coach our children to name and understand their feelings. In a society that shuns feelings, or where expressing feelings can be unsafe, we can affirm them and support our children to express and channel them appropriately. In this way, we are modeling empathy and compassion for our own and others’ emotions. We are teaching our kids to deal with their feelings in constructive ways.

Make a Feelings Chart with your children’s faces, or other faces, and use it to reflect on how feelings change throughout the day. This video from Sound Discipline shows how to make and use a feelings chart.

7 Ideas for Learning about Feelings, from Sound Discipline –


Family Meetings – Provide structure to help a family come together to practice and use social emotional learning tools like naming and understanding feelings, repairing mistakes and planning contributions. They offer the opportunity for your child to have a voice, which helps build their resiliency, sense of hope and personal advocacy. During these challenging times, those messages make all the difference. If you haven’t tried family meetings before, now is a great time to jump in!

Family meetings generally follow this structure: compliments, planning and problem solving.  When you have identified something to plan or problem solve, then brainstorm solutions (kids often have creative ideas that adults never think about.) Then agree on a next do-able step; be sure and record who will take action and when the action will take place. Remember to pass an object to give everyone equal talk time. These short videos from Sound Discipline explain each component of family meetings –

Consider these activities for your family meetings, based on the 3 social emotional learning tools we recommend:

1) Celebrate the end of the school year: Creating a closure/transition ritual for your family is important to helping kids feel a sense of closure and readies them for what is coming next. Discussion questions: How will we celebrate the end of the school year? What would help us mark the end of the school year and get into our summer routine?  (family celebration, family field day, thanking teachers, creating a graduation book, ceremony, picture, or video).

2) Plan a contribution to your community:  Discussion questions: Do we believe our family can contribute to making the world a better place? What issues are most upsetting or most important to you now? What would you like to help with the most? What are some ideas on how to help?

3) Making and Repairing Mistakes:Discussion questions: What is a mistake you have made in the past or a family mistake we have made? Then pause to celebrate by giving a family cheer or signal to acknowledge the mistake. Did any of those mistakes make anyone feel bad? What kind of apology or repair might make the situation or person feel better?  What are some situations we see outside of our family that would be made better by trying to repair or making an apology and taking action?

Talking to Kids about Racism

Perhaps our most primal parental instinct is to protect our kids.

As they grow from pre-school to elementary to middle and high school, parental protection looks different. When they’re little, we can manage their environment. As they grow older, we have less control and yet we can continue to have influence. It is important, especially when something painful or scary is happening, we can take time to teach and to shape values.

So how do we talk with our kids about racism?

At each stage and age in our kid’s lives, no matter your background or experience there is an opportunity for all parents to have conversations with their children about race. The context will vary, depending on our personal experiences with race and racism. It may be uncomfortable at first, and yet often for some families of color it is not a choice since our children learn about it by confronting racism in their everyday lives.

Here is Sound Discipline’s curated list of tools and resources to help you engage in this conversation. We hope to help you facilitate your child’s sense making and moral development, and to help your whole family determine how you can express your anti-racist values.


Tune in Saturday, June 6 to Coming Together: Standing Up to Racism, A Town Hall for Kids & Families,  hosted by CNN and Sesame Street. You can share your family’s questions beforehand

Check out this webinar “I [STILL] can’t breathe”: Supporting kids of color amid racialized violence – (if it fills they will also show it on Facebook Live)

Stage a toy protest, chalk your walk, and other ideas – 5 ways for kids and families to peacefully protest from home, from the Today show –

Want to Learn More? Articles, Videos, Books

Video: A Black Psychologist’s Guide to Talking With Your Children About Race and Police Violence, from the Root

Talking about Race for Parents and Caregivers, from the National Museum of African American History and Culture –

Talking to Children About Racial Bias, from the American Academy of Pediatrics –

Current Events and How to Discuss Them, with Dr. Kristin Carothers, from Your Teen for Parents –

How to talk to kids about racism: An age-by-age guide, from Today’s Parent –

8 Tips for Talking to Your Child about Racial Injustice, from –

Podcast:  Talking Race with Young Children, from NPR

Video: Helping Your Child Cope with Media Coverage of Community Racial Trauma: Tips for Parents, from the Disaster and Community Crisis Center, University of Missouri –

Books –

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You, by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

Antiracist Baby, by Ibram X. Kendi

Children’s book lists –

31 Children’s books to support conversations on race, racism and resistance, from –

Coretta Scott King Book Award Winners (categorized by children’s ages), from Common Sense Media –

We are living in an unprecedented, stressful time and it makes sense that we are not able to be our best selves…and neither are our kids.  We recently heard this story from a parent in our community – does it resonate with you?

 A parent shared that they thought they were being calm when they told their child, “Since you are going to be home all day, exercise or movement of some sort is going to have to be part of your day.”  The child refused, laying on their bed with their laptop and saying, “I don’t want to move.  I am happy staying right here.” The parent felt a surge of emotion that surprised them, and yelled , “Yes you WILL be moving your body! You are going to stay healthy! You will need to come up with a plan!!!” There was an impasse that left them both angry. The parent began to realize that their elevated emotions over the issue were coming from the worry and fear they were feeling. Their child’s response was likely also about fear. When we are dysregulated by a strong emotion, our brains are not able to function normally. We are unable to make decisions or act with compassion and logic.

At school your child has been learning about how to practice self-regulation. It is a skill that requires practice and makes us more able to be present and deal with stress. Below are some ideas to help parents and children self-regulate.  

Helpful Resources


Ask your children to teach you an SEL skill they know – Ask them to show you “brain in the palm of the hand” and/or a breathing exercise they do at school

Make a video of your child practicing a self-regulation skill and share it with your community or email it to us to share – – Here’s an example –

Family Meetings are structured opportunities for family connection, communication, planning, and problem solving. They are a regular time to sit and share together, and they provide the opportunity for your children to have a voice and for everyone to learn accountability. Family meetings generally follow this structure: compliments, planning, problem solving.

When you first start family meetings, take it slow, and be sure to include your children in the planning and even have them take the lead. In Sound Discipline schools, children are familiar with this format because they have regular classroom meetings at school. Ask your children how classroom meetings work at school and ask them to help the family get started. Start with teaching your family how to give compliments and add the other components in later. Do several meetings that only include compliments and planning a fun activity, before you move into problem solving.

We are providing resources to help you get started with family meetings and hope they will make a positive difference for your family during this unplanned time of school closures. Establishing this routine now can create stronger relationships, build problem solving skills and create a structure for getting family work done and solving other challenges in the future.

Helpful Resources


1) Ask your child to tell you about some of the important parts of a classroom meeting. See below for some ideas for what to ask them about. What do they do at school and how can they help create a way to make it work at home?

  • Talking object – What do they pass around to let people know whose turn it is to talk? What will your family use for a talking object?
  • Agenda – How do they keep track of problems to solve at school? What might work for recording family problems?
  • What is the structure and process for giving compliments?
  • Leave ‘em Laughing is a fun transition activity to end the meeting…what are their favorites from school? Could your family try it?

2) Plan and hold your first family meeting – to start off, just practice compliments and plan a fun activity.

During this time of ‘stay home, stay healthy,’ many of us are spending lots of time at home with our families and loved ones. But with all this togetherness, are we actually feeling more connected to one another?

How do we grow a sense of connection and why is it important?

We learn who we are in the context of our connections to other people. Connections change the way our brain grows neurons which, in turn, influences the way we interpret and respond to the world around us. Families are our first relationships. Building that sense of connection in your family can be difficult – particularly in the current climate of stress and uncertainty. Taking time to improve your connection with your children is the most important way to foster resilience in them for the rest of their lives.

This week we are providing resources and activities below to help you build connections within your family. The bright side of this current situation is that with a few helpful tools, we can become more connected to one another which will help us all to be more resilient in the long term.

Helpful resources

Connect before Correct – Children learn best when they feel connected. Try these phrases like these when addressing behavior:
“I see that you are really angry right now, but it is not okay to hit your brother.”
“I love you, and the answer is ‘no’.”

Help your child develop a vocabulary to describe their feelings –

Family Meetings –
Set aside a consistent time to connect as a family.
Practice compliments
– To build connection.

– The Harvard Center for the Developing Child describes connection and supportive relationships as the most important factor in building resilience in children –

Sound Discipline blog article ‘Building Connection’ –


Parents, know that it doesn’t have to be a “perfect” day to be a good day. By aiming for one connection activity each day, memories and relationships are strengthened. Let your child choose an activity they would like to try.

Concentration hand clap game – A simple game for kids or kids and adults.

This is the game👏👏👏of concentration👏👏👏No repeats👏👏👏or hesitations👏👏👏I’ll go first
👏👏👏You’ll go second👏👏👏Category is👏👏👏(Fill in Blank)

Build a fort – A parent describes fort building with kids: My kids went through an indoor fort building phase when they were in early elementary school, using sheets, blankets and sleeping bags to create forts and ‘underground cities.’ Flashlights were used in the dark recesses of these blanket caves where books could be read and games could be played. Once in a while, I joined them, careful to arrive as a builder, taking directions from the on-site ‘supervisors.’ Together we draped sheets over the back of the couch and onto a chair and across a table. Once, when the fort incorporated the dinner table, the whole family ate under the table with flashlights. My kids still talk about that dinner, many years later.

Make a gratitude

Grab a few fallen twigs and arrange them in a jar. Use sand or rocks to help stabilize them. Have your children cut out some leaf-shaped pieces of paper, punch a hole in one end, and attach a small loop of string. Keep the leaves in a jar beside the tree along with a pen or crayon. Have your children write something they are grateful for on a leaf and hang it on a twig branch. You can write on multiple leaves at once, or slowly build your tree, adding one gratitude leaf each day. It is beautiful to watch the tree “bloom” as your thoughts of gratitude grow!

Connecting questions

Ask each family member to answer an interesting or fun question, such as:

“If you were an animal, which one would you be? And why?”
“Who is someone you admire? What do you admire about them?”
“If you could give an imaginary gift to each member of my family (something they’d really like), what would it be? And why?”

You can also use connecting questions to check-in on how people are doing, or how they are handling challenges:

“What have been one highlight and one challenge of the last week for you?”
“When you feel stressed out, what is the best thing someone can do for you?”
“What was the best day of the past week for you? Why?”


With statewide school closures, kids have lost their main ‘job’ – going to school and learning in a classroom. That loss of feeling belonging, significance and community can have a big impact on their moods and behavior, which you are probably experiencing at home. While now may not feel like the right time to add a bunch of new chores to their routine, figuring out ways for them to contribute to the family and at home and possibly to the broader community can be helpful. Being encouraged to offer skills that make a difference at home allows a child to understand that they are an important part of the universe…not the center of the universe.

Sometimes we think that helping at home is a burden for kids, or that they’ll be resistant to helping out, so we try to do everything ourselves….and end up frustrated and exhausted.  Allowing kids to think about ways they would like to contribute can give them a voice and a sense of control in their world. Brainstorming a list of all the family work together and allowing each child to choose a couple of jobs to complete each week is a great way to get started.

Though kids may push back at first, especially older kids, it is worth taking the time to involve them in helping at home, and also out in the community if you can find safe ways to do so.

Helpful resources

Take Time for Training from the Positive Discipline Association – Be mindful of when you ask your children to help out at home, they probably need some help getting started. Try this training approach that involves 4 steps –

  • Your kid watches you do the activity
  • Your kid helps you
  • You help your kid
  • You watch your kid to the activity themselves

Family Chores from the Positive Discipline Association –

Sound Discipline Blog Contributions Create Capable, Competent Kids

Sound Discipline Family Meetings videos – Family Meetings are a huge help in creating connection within your family and figuring out ways for all family members to contribute. See all our Family Meeting videos on YouTube –
Getting Started –
Compliments –
Planning Family Fun –
Agendas – & sample agenda



Make a “Wheel of Choice” aka Job Wheel
Make a pie chart, with 6-8 pieces that have ideas or options for what do around the house. A child can spin the wheel or the spinner, or simply look at the chart and pick the idea that works for them.

Letting your child take the lead, brainstorm ideas together for what should go on the pie chart. Write down the ideas or options with just a few words, and draw a simple picture to illustrate idea. Ideas might include watering plants, taking care of pets, cleaning a communal room, emptying the dishwasher. Then practice, role play, and take some time for training for each one.

Use it to let kids choose their daily contribution. Kids spin the wheel to choose their contribution for the day.

This video from Sproutable explains creating a Wheel of Choice aka job wheel –

Community scavenger hunts – Is your community doing community scavenger hunts? Some places are putting teddy bears or stuffed animals in their windows for children to find on walks. Can your child choose a few objects to post in your windows?

Collect food or make a family donation to your local food bank or other organization that is supporting families during this time.



Learning from and Repairing Mistakes


As parents, we feel a lot of pressure to do things ‘right’ all the time. That’s not possible.  

According to the latest brain science, mistakes are powerful learning cues for adults as well as children. Because of school closures, we are parenting around the clock. In many cases, we’ve stepped into the role of our child’s teacher. We’re wearing so many hats, mistakes are inevitable.

As parents, we may think we shouldn’t apologize to children. We may even have been raised that way – our parents never apologized to us! We might be unaccustomed to being vulnerable enough to admit we made a mistake to anyone, let alone our children. It takes courage. But anyone can learn how.

We learn by admitting our mistakes. Doing so models a valuable life skill and builds connection, trust, and confidence. It makes our kids more resilient!

But how do we do it? Owning up to being wrong is more than saying “I’m sorry.” It’s committing to do better next time. Here are the four Rs of RECOVERY from a mistake:

Before making a repair, it’s important to take time to return to calm. Depending on the mistake, this can take a few minutes. Breathe, walk. For more ways self-regulate, check out our Self-Regulation Tool Kit cards –

Recognize and take Responsibility:
Notice that you have made a mistake and take responsibility for it. “I understand that I blew it…I made a mistake.”

Apologize for blowing it. Tell your child that you wish you’d handled the situation differently. “I am sorry. I wish I’d handled that differently.” Be brief; avoid giving explanations.

Resolve (RE-SOLVE):
Commit to finding a better solution and to doing it differently next time. “Let’s come up with a solution together. I want to do better next time.” 


Celebrate mistakes as a family: Encourage every member of the family to notice their mistakes, and then pause to celebrate – you can make up a family cheer, or a special signal to acknowledge the mistake.

At the dinner table or any time you are together, try this connection moment: Make a list of family mistakes – and how people apologized or fixed the mistakes. For example, forgetting to bring something on vacation, burning or ruining a meal, accidentally letting a pet out, sibling arguments that later turned out to be silly…Sometimes family stories can be the best learning moments.

Helpful resources

Short Articles
Repair is a Powerful Tool for Learning and Connection

Mistakes are Wonderful Opportunities to Learn –

The R’s of Recovery

The 3 Parts of an Effective Apology – from the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkley –

Videos and Books
How to model an apology for a young child – from Sproutable

Sound Discipline Family Meeting Videos – A series of videos to help families start consistent family meetings. This playlist includes: Getting Started, Compliments, Planning Family Fun, Agendas & Rituals, and Problem Solving.

The Power of Showing Up – Dr. Daniel Siegel and Dr. Tina Faye Bryson encourage us to embrace the mistakes we make. The process of being present with our kids, solving problems and making a repair, can bring us closer.




Even with the joy and closeness of family during the stay at home order, we all have moments when being cooped up takes its toll – especially for siblings. Even if our kids are cooperative and getting along most of the time, what sticks out to us is sometimes the fighting, the meanness, the tears, the stress. 

It’s even harder right now because adults are more stressed, and our kids pick up on that. It is harder to give each other grace.

Sibling conflict is not new to stay-at-home order times. Even before school closures there were probably moments of sibling conflict in your family. Sibling conflict is a normal and even healthy part family life. As parents we can coach our children through it in ways that teach crucial life skills such as: 

  • How to listen;
  • How to stand up for yourself;
  • When to walk away;
  • How to ask for and receive repair (apologies).

The goal is not to be conflict free, but to have the tools to deal with it respectfully as it arises.

Where to begin? This week we are offering some ideas about how to help your children manage their relationships with each other by helping them grow their skills. You can be the coach, not the referee, and your children can reap the many benefits of having siblings.

Try starting with this short video describing a great tip for managing sibling conflict –

This Thursday, April 30 at 7pm, join us for our live Parent Support Network virtual gathering focused sibling relationships and conflict. Ask questions and leave with new approaches, greater confidence, and hope! RSVP required to receive the Zoom link. We look forward to seeing you there!


Dealing with sibling jealousy or conflict? Try the ‘Candle Story’, a popular Positive Discipline, which can be used to teach older siblings that parents have enough love to go around when a new baby comes, and that can also be helpful in other sibling circumstances. –

Help your kids create a ‘Wheel of Choice’ with problem solving options to use when they have conflict –


Curious to Learn More? Articles, Videos, Books

Short Articles

Putting Kids in the Same Boat, from Positive Disicipline –

Conflict resolution for 5-and-unders, from Sproutable –

Bugs and Wishes – a useful tool in the classroom and how to use at home, from Sarina Natkin Parenting –


Don’t Attack the Attacker, from Sound Discipline –

‘Bugs and Wishes’ for Sibling conflict, from Sproutable –

Use Family Meetings to solve problems, from Sound Discipline –


Siblings without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too – Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish –


gratitude and appreciation

Right now, many parents are busy beyond what we could have imagined before school closures. Or maybe we have too much downtime. Whatever our situation, one thing that we all share is concern and anxiety about the well-being of loved ones and about the uncertainty of the future.  In the midst of this enormous shift, it is easy to lose sight of what we have to be grateful for.

Gratitude is about more than saying “thank you.” Gratitude significantly boosts our sense of wellbeing – studies prove that it doesn’t just make us feel better, it actually lowers overall stress, and boosts our sense of self-worth. In families, making a group practice of gratitude spreads those positive impacts to our whole family.

This week, Sound Discipline shares ideas and resources that we hope will encourage you to embrace a family gratitude practice.  A good place to start with our kids is to think about how to show appreciation to a teacher!

The week of May 4-8 is Teacher Appreciation Week. This is a great opportunity to decide together how to appreciate your children’s teachers. Here are a few ideas:

Make a video of your child expressing what they love and miss about their teacher or classroom to upload and send to their teacher. Use these prompts if you’re having trouble getting started:

  • Thank you, (Teacher’s Name), for ____________________________________________ .
  • (Teacher’s Name) made a big difference in my life by _______________________________________ .
  • Thanks to (Teacher’s Name), I’m now able to __________________________________________ .

Send a handmade letter or a drawing created by your child. Words of gratitude about what they miss or love about their teacher or classroom are powerful. A note of appreciation from you — about the ways your child learned or grew in their classroom are powerful.  If you know your teacher’s address, send it by snail mail! If you don’t know, take a photo of the note or the drawing and send it as an email attachment or a text.

Additional Gratitude Activities

Start a gratitude journal. You can have one for the family or one for each member of your family. Each day think of 3 things you are grateful for. Write or draw those ideas in the journal.  Find a regular time each week to talk about what’s in the journal and what we’re grateful for.

Make a Gratitude Tree. Grab a few fallen twigs and arrange them in a jar. Use sand or rocks to help stabilize them. Have your children cut out some leaf-shaped pieces of paper, punch a hole in one end, and attach a small loop of string. Keep the leaves in a jar beside the tree along with a pen or crayon. Have your children write something they are grateful for on a leaf and hang it on a twig branch. You can write on multiple leaves at once, or slowly build your tree, adding one gratitude leaf each day.  It is beautiful to watch the tree “bloom” as your thoughts of gratitude grow!


Curious to Learn More? Articles, Videos, Books

Short Articles

Gratitude is Not a Forced Thank you, from Sarina Behar Natkin –

Want to Raise Happy Kids? Teach Gratitude, from Sproutable –

How Gratitude can Help You Through Hard Times, from the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley –


Notice-Think-Feel-Do!, from the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley –

Practicing Gratitude (and 10 things I’m grateful for), from Rocket Kids –

Practicing Compliments and Appreciation as part of Family Meetings, from Sound Discipline

Brené Brown, on the relationship between joy and gratitude –


The Gift of An Ordinary Day – Katrina Kenison

The Thankful Book – Todd Parr

Find these and other recommended books on our website

Kindness and Firmness

It was all going so well – your children were having fun, feeling loved and happy – but whoops, dishes were left on the couch, chores are undone, and someone just said something really rude to Gramma.  Did you let your boundaries or family agreements slip? Sometimes it seems like we are on a perpetual teeter totter trying to balance being kind and firm.

We want our kids to have fun, feel cared about and be happy, so we are kind until it feels like they are getting out of control and a little bit crazy …and then we desperately need them to follow the rules, be respectful, and do their work, so we get firm. The back and forth is exhausting!

In the words of Positive Discipline, we talk about “getting out of the dance.”

Starting with yourself, do what it takes to steady yourself and return to calm. Try some of these activities – – or do another activity you know helps you self-regulate, like stepping outside and going for a walk . Once you are calm, try the below suggestions for modeling firmness and kindness.


Model Firmness:

“I” Statements: Say what you need and make requests, starting with “I”. You might say, “I need you to clean up your art supplies,” rather than “you need to clean up your art supplies.”

‘Connect Before Correct’:  Connect with your child by crouching down to their level, and using a touch, your eyes, or making a guess at how they are feeling. Connecting sends the message “I see you, I value you.” After connecting, offer correction or direction. You might say, “Wow. I think that is the biggest tower I have seen you build!  How did you get it so high? It is 5:00 now. What has to happen before dinner?  Yes, you are right…clean up time!


Model Kindness: 

Help a neighbor:  Write a thank you note. Give compliments. Make a donation.  Acts of kindness demonstrate four our kids and give them a chance to practice what it means to be kind.

Be kind to yourself:  What one thing can you do each day just for you? Prioritize that and make it happen– just like you would prioritize an activity for your child. It is a great model for your kids and will allow you to show up as your best self.

Spend 15 minutes of scheduled one-on-one time every day: Children need to feel a sense of deep connection with parents and caregivers, especially now. Find a time and a place where you can fully engage in play or conversation led by your child. Let your child guide what you do together. Try it for 10 days in a row and see what happens!


Kindness & Firmness Activities

The importance of AND: Try these phrases when you need to be firm with your children:

  • I love you, AND the answer is NO.
  • I know you don’t want to stop playing Minecraft, AND it is time for ______________ .
  • I know you would rather watch TV than do your homework, AND homework needs to be done first.
  • You don’t want to brush your teeth, AND we’ll do it together. Want to race?
  • I know you don’t want to mow the lawn, AND what was our agreement?
  • You don’t want to go to bed, AND it is bedtime. Do you want one story or two stories as soon as your jammies are on?

Adapted from


Want to Learn More? Articles, Videos, Books

Try Kindness and Firmness at the Same Time, Sound Discipline blog –

“I Need a Hug”, from Jane Nelsen,

Kind and Firm Parenting for Teens, from Melanie Miller, School Counselor

Connect Before Correct, from Kelly Pfeiffer, Positive Discipline Lead Trainer,

Connect Before Correct for children with ADHD, from Honestly ADHD,

Understanding Stress Behaviors in Children, Facebook Live Interview with Sound Discipline Sahara Pirie with important information about connection,

Q&A: When Children are Disrespectful, lots of great tips on connection and firmness from Sproutable,

By Dan Siegel – No Drama Discipline & The Whole Brain Child, available at


Find more Sound Discipline resources here:
Subscribe to our Educator and Parent newsletters –

Inspired Learning

Hey parents! Does it feel like a lot is on your plate? In addition to juggling jobs, 24/7 parenting, and other responsibilities, in the era of COVID 19 we are also on-line-learning tech support, electronic assignment submission monitor, virtual classroom parent volunteer, and teacher email tracker. That’s A LOT of jobs.

In the back of our minds, maybe we’re anxious — will our kids be ready for the next grade level? Take a breath, grab a cup of tea, and take a minute for inspiration.

This week we take up the theme of “Inspired Learning,” a term coined by Zaretta Hammond, a national education consultant and author of Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain. Recently, a number of Sound Discipline facilitators attended Ms. Hammond’s Inspired Learning workshop. Here are just a few of the gems that inspired us and that, we hope, inspire you too.

You’ve probably heard this before; as parents, we are our child’s first teacher. This was true before the pandemic, but now, more than ever, we are actually our child’s teacher! As overwhelming as this is – and it is overwhelming – our greatest asset as parents is our strong relationship with our child. More than anyone, we understand intimately how our children approach learning, and what it takes for them to thrive.

Academic rigor is important. But, as Hammond emphasizes, when we approach teaching from the standpoint of pushing students, and when education becomes about conforming to a single approach, it does not spark the parts of the brain that support actual integration of the subject matter. The job of a teacher, then, is to be a coach — to see the child as capable, to ask questions that reinforce that child’s intrinsic competence, and that build confidence. Our job is to help our child “carry the cognitive load.”

What is that? In the traditional school model, the teacher is the teacher — the source of knowledge and learning. The student is the empty vessel whose job is to receive what teachers are delivering. In this mode, the teacher carries the cognitive load of figuring out how to get a kid to learn. The child is a passive participant. This approach does not encourage the child to take responsibility for their own learning. Children lose confidence in their abilities. Worse, learning is not relevant to the cultures and specific lived experience of the diversity of students.

Parents have a unique opportunity through daily life and play to help our children translate learning – math, language arts, social studies, science – to our children’s lived experience and cultural context. Learning can happen everywhere and with everything.

Here are some ideas to try with your child.

Use Curiosity Questions and conversations to spark learning connections:

  • Why do you think this is important?
  • How is this like something you already know about or know how to do?
  • What is interesting to you about this?
  • What might make it more interesting to you?

Increase Word Awareness:

  • Find and expand ways to say a word. Example: “Cook” = Bake, grill, steam sauté, roast, fry, toast. Collect those words by having your child write them on posters, in a book, on a paper chain, in a journal etc.
  • Encourage word games like Scrabble, Taboo, Balderdash, Banana-grams and others
  • Write limericks, haiku other simple poetry forms, or hip-hop lyrics
  • If your child encounters a word they don’t know, encourage them to “collect” it and learn about it. Keep the words in a word book. Check out The Word Collector by Peter Reynolds.

Connect to interests:

  • What are your child’s strengths? What are their passions? Superheroes? Trains? Nature? Use these as a jumping off points to talk and explore. What do they want to know?  How can they find the answers to their questions?  When kids are choosing what to learn it leads to self-motivated learning.
  • Take a walk in your neighborhood. Ask, “What is interesting to you? Why is it interesting to you? What are other things you want to know about? What else are you wondering about it?”

Invite your child to research a topic:

  • Point your child to tools – videos, web sites, TED Talks, books — and strategies to investigate topics that connect with their questions. Videos like this, for example:  Underwater Astonishments
  • Make “learning posters” that list questions the child has, their guesses at the potential answers and then the results of what they have discovered through their research.
  • Choose someone to interview. What questions are they curious about? Help set up a zoom call or phone conversation.
  • Ask your child to teach a topic they researched at the kitchen table.

Create Opportunities to Reflect on Learning

  • Watch a show or movie together, or read a book, then ask, “What was surprising?”
  • Complete this sentence “I used to think____________, now I think___________.”
  • Share learning with someone (friend, teacher, grandparent) through phone call video, podcast.
  • Doodle, draw, take photos, write a poem, build something using found objects – Support them to make something that builds on what they learned


Inspired by this topic? Check out these articles, videos, books

Understanding and Naming Feelings and Emotions

Like adults, kids experience complex feelings. They get frustrated, excited, nervous, sad, jealous, frightened, worried, angry, and embarrassed. Without the chance to go to school and participate in their normal activities, they are missing out on the usual outlets for working through feelings.

That displacement – from work, from friends, family, and activities – means we are all experiencing emotions that are bigger and more intense than usual, and missing out on places, people, and routines that gave us the chance to work through feelings.

Kids often don’t have words for feeling. Instead they communicate feelings in other ways – by acting them out in physical, inappropriate, or problematic ways.

We learn how to express feelings through social interactions and relationships — especially with the most important people in our lives – for kids, those important people are parents and caregivers.

As parents, we have a really important role to play to coach our children to name and understand their feelings. In a society that shuns feelings, or where expressing feelings can be unsafe, we can affirm them and support our children to express and channel them appropriately. In this way, we are modeling empathy and compassion for our own and others’ emotions. We are teaching our kids to deal with their feelings in constructive ways.

Here are some ideas you can try on to support the social emotional development of your child.



Make a Feelings Chart with your children’s faces, or other faces, and use it to reflect on how feelings change throughout the day.  This video from Sound Discipline shows how to make and use a feelings chart. 

How to Make a Feeling Wheel with Kids, from Sproutable –

Feeling Faces Game, from Sesame Street in Communities –


Want to Learn More? Articles, Videos, Books

7 Ideas for Learning about Feelings, from Sound Discipline –

Feelings, the first foreign language I learned as a parent, from Sproutable –

Understanding Your Emotions for Teens, from Nemours Health Foundation,

Emotion Coaching: One of the Most Important Parenting Practices in the History of the Universe, from Christine Carter of the Greater Good Science Center –

Helping Kids Identify and Express Feelings, from Kids Help Line,

The Science Behind Why Naming Our Feelings Makes Us Feel Better

Name it to Tame it, with LaVar Burton from Reading Rainbow,

Name it to Tame it, from Dr. Dan Siegel –

“Name that Emotion” with Murray, from Sesame Street –

The Whole Brain Child by Daniel Siegel

Llama Llama Mad at Mama by Anna Dewdney

The Way I Feel by Janan Cain

How are you Peeling? By Saxton Frayman

Sometimes I’m Bombaloo by Rachel Vail

Find these and other recommended books at

Fostering Resilience

Resilience means that in the face of adversity or challenges we can still thrive. As parents, helping our children to build resilience is like saving money. Small things can be learning opportunities that pay off for a lifetime. Right now, helping children learn skills that build resilience means they get better and better at overcoming obstacles. No matter what challenges arise, they can enjoy life.

Step one? Focus on your relationship with your children. Even in stressful times, help children know that they matter. This means connecting with them often. It means listening, validating their feelings, and acknowledging when something is uncertain or scary.

Here are some practices that build resilience that you can add to your daily routine with your family:

Share Stories

We all have stories of resilience. Though we may not recognize it, these stories are like vitamins and minerals. They are a source of strength. Share your stories or those of extended family or friends — real life examples of how people got through hard things. You can also lift up stories of resilience from real-world people, movies, or book characters.

Practice Problem Solving

Invite your child to help you solve a problem you are having. When you have challenges at home or your child is having an issue at school or with a friend, use curiosity questions to get to the bottom of the situation.

  • What are different ways of approaching this problem?
  • How might someone else handle it?
  • Who could I/you ask for help with the first steps?

Create Routines

Progress not perfection! We have a lot on our plates. Building routines, even small things, helps build resilience: Good sleep, nutrition, exercise, and self-regulation.

Resilience does not pop up overnight. Children often see failure or adversity as the end of the world. It’s hard to watch our kids struggle. Resist the urge to solve the problem for you child. When our children have chances to deal with challenging situations and stress, when they are supported by caring, connected adults, they build resilience.


Resilience Resources and Activities

Build self-regulation skills – Try a few activities from the Sound Disciple self-regulation card pack.

Build a cool down space or basket with your child – Written instructions with suggested cool down space ingredients – Campbell Hill Elementary 3rd Grade Teacher Kristin Shimizu’s video instructions for helping students create calm down baskets

Encourage your child to journal – Tips for teaching resilience and grade level appropriate free downloadable journals.

Create a routine chart with your child
Each day should contain space for learning, movement, contribution to the family and fun

Want to Learn More? Articles, Videos, Books

What is Resilience? from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University

Tips for Parents – Building Your Children’s Resilience! from Devereux Center for Resilient Children –

Building Resilience Kids During the Pandemic, from Connecticut Children’s –

How to Build Resilience in Kids, from Newsy –

Teaching Your Kids About Resilience, from a middle school counselor –

A Lesson On Resilience, from The Learning Lab –

3 Art Therapy Activities to Boost Resilience, from –  

Brains: Journey to Resilience, from Alberta Family Wellness –

Dr. Dan Siegel: What Hearing ‘Yes’ Does to your Child’s Brain –

Stress and Anxiety Tool Kit, from –

The Power of Showing Up, by Dan Siegel & Tina Payne Bryson

The Yes Brain: Help Your Child be More Resilient, Independent and Creative, by Dan Siegel & Tina Payne Bryson

Jared’s Cool Out Space, by Dr. Jane Nelsen

The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-term Effects of Childhood Adversity, by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris

These and other recommended books are available at


Find more Sound Discipline resources here:
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