Parent Job Description: School Advocate

Note: This is the first part in a series on being an advocate for your child in school.


If you’re a parent with a child in school, you’re probably gearing up for the coming months. Ever notice the impact school has on your family and your communication with your child? How are you feeling about the start of school this year? How does your child feel? What about 6 weeks from now?

My grandson just began first grade, and Orion, his wonderful daddy, has already visited Sebastian’s first grade class, and it’s just the first week of school. Sebastian’s new teacher has a Fly-On-The-Wall sign-up sheet so parents can visit the classroom early in the year. This is a great idea.

Orion made some important observations, and he’s going back to help in the classroom and to continue to observe. Knowing what’s happening with Sebastian while he’s at school is important to him.

Every parent needs to know what’s happening in their child’s classroom. Not just what the children are studying but what does it feel like to be in this classroom. Is the teacher genuinely kind? Is your child happy?

In my experience as a teacher and coach to parents and young people, I often see parents go along with the program, trusting the school staff, seeing them as the experts, and trying to implement what they have been directed to do, seldom questioning what is happening.

Even though school staff tell you what they want you to do, it is essential to research and evaluate for yourself and to make your child’s emotional and physical well-being your highest priority. Is your child flourishing at school, struggling, or just getting by?

Every child is born filled with a drive to learn and succeed in life, according to her Inner Brilliance, her inner knowing of what is best for her. What makes her heart sing. Your child is a natural born learner and no amount of ‘teaching’ can ‘teach’ her to learn.

It’s vitally important for parents to know and experience what their child experiences in the classroom for many hours a day, 5 days a week.

Schools are big places and often feel threatening and intimidating to young people of all ages. Children often see themselves as powerless and believe they need to conform and do what teachers tell them. They don’t know how or if they can speak up for themselves.

This is why they need you, their parent, grandparent, or caretaker, to be their advocate, to look out for them and ‘have their back.’ Many educators mean well, yet that doesn’t mean what they are doing or wanting what is best for your child.

It’s your job to pay attention, not in a paranoid, judgmental way, but by being conscious and aware of your child’s school environment.

Here are the three most important things to look for:

1. Does the teacher(s) genuinely like and enjoy young people? Secondly and most important, does she like, admire and appreciate your child? Does she see wonderfulness in him?

As we all know, there are teachers who deeply care about children and enjoy their natural capabilities and brilliance. And there are teachers who only want children to do what they are told and to follow instructions without questioning.

2.Does the teacher create a stimulating learning environment? Is your child curious and eagerly engaged in the classroom activities? Is she is eager to go to school every morning?

Children are hard-wired to succeed and to learn, and they do so with eagerness, joy, and curiosity. Is this how your child participates in his class? When he does his homework? Is he on-fire with learning the material and doing the assignments? Is he eager to tell you what he learned?

If not, this is a red flag the teacher is not creating a learning environment that nurtures your child.

3. Does the teacher create an environment in which your child feels emotionally and physically safe?

This is a big one and so seldom noticed. Bullying is bringing the extreme part of this to everyone’s attention, yet I have observed that school is often emotionally and even physically uncomfortable for children

Remember what it was like for you when you were in school? Did you feel you could be yourself and speak up? Was the teacher someone you deeply trusted and enjoyed? Was it comfortable having to sit still in those wooden chairs and be quiet for long periods of time?

Your child spends many hours in their school environment and is counting on you to be as diligent and selective about what is happening at school as you are at home.

I invite you to be your child’s biggest advocate this year, instead of an extension of the school. 

You are the expert and the one who cares most when it comes to your child.

Adventure to Scotland + Exceptional Summer Camp for Girls

Adventure to Scotland

Several weeks ago I had this conversation with my 6.5-year-old grandson Sebastian…

Me: Sebastian, you know how I sometimes go to other countries and see and do new cool things? Well, I’m going to go traveling again in a few weeks, and I was wondering if you…

Sebastian: Yes! I want to go. I’ve not been to any other state than Colorado, and I want to see more.

Me: Ok. we’ll be going to another country and there will be a long plane flight.

Sebastian: That’s ok. I can hang with it.

And thus began the creation of our 2 – week adventure, which begins tomorrow. There were a few in-between conversations that I’ll share with you later.

I have our first 3 nights in Edinburgh booked and the last night before we fly home. The rest we are going to create together as we go. I have no idea how he’ll adjust to this kind of trip, what’s going to catch our eye and call us to stay another day.

I’ve got a basic itinerary planned based on what we both want to see. High on the list are castles, armour and weapons, Stones of Callanish, and a 5000-year-old Neolithic settlement on the Orkney Islands. High Adventure — my favorite kind.

I am thrilled to share this with him. Of course, Mommy and Daddy will miss him – and he them. I so appreciate and admire Orion and Nichola’s ability to set aside their own desires for themselves and to support Sebastian to have an amazing, life-changing experience.

I’d love to have you follow our adventures on Facebook. Click here to friend me on FB

Exceptional Camp for Girls

My friend and colleague Aby Ryan is the inspiration and founder of Athena Camps, a summer camp program in San Jose and Los Altos, designed to empower and build confidence in girls, ages 6 to 11 through self-expression and personal connections. Through successful experiences with sports and authentic creative expression, the girls flourish.

A program has to meet very high standards for me to recommend it. I have participated in a camp closing activity and helped with training the college-age coaches who work with the girls. I enthusiastically recommend Athena Camps to all parents who are passionate about nurturing their daughter’s Inner Brilliance.

I promise you and your cherished daughter will love it! I am so impressed with what Aby has created.

Click here to find out more about Athena Camps.

Happy trails!

Celebrating Inner Brilliance!

PS. Please forgive any typos. I’m in the middle of getting last-minute things done! 🙂

What’s the Big Deal about Toothpaste?

(as seen through the eyes of our 6-year-old grandson Sebastian)

Connie and Doug, aka Grandma and Grandpa, are really cool grandparents. They give me lots of freedom to do what I want, they care about me, and they don’t make a big deal out of a lot of things…spilling things, breaking things, not saying “please” or “excuse me” when I burp.

But there’s one thing, until recently, that has bugged them that I don’t understand. You see, I’m a capable, curious boy, and I like discovering how to do things. I’ve watched Mommy and Daddy and my grandparents put toothpaste on a toothbrush ever since I was little, and recently I’ve decided I’d like to know how to do it myself.

It doesn’t look that hard – point the toothpaste toward my brush, squeeze the tube, until the toothpaste comes out, and goes onto the brush. Easy peasy!

The thing is, I always seem to squeeze it too hard and LOTS of paste comes out, way too much, and it makes a mess. Then Connie and Doug get upset and tell me I’ve used too much.

I know it’s too much. I tell them I’m sorry, but I can tell they’re kinda upset. I feel bad. They’re relaxed about lots of stuff, but I figure it’s only toothpaste. Is it really that big a deal? How else am I going to learn if I don’t get to try it?

Last night was different. Connie told Doug she would help me with my toothpaste, but I’d already decided to stop trying. I told her, “No. You can do it.” But she insisted and told me she knew I could do it.

She started by making me slow down a bit so she could show me how to squeeze the tube a little bit and then handed the toothbrush to me so I could do it. I was amazed at how easy it was and how I only have to squeeze the tube a tiny bit.

Grandma Connie doesn’t like to get mad or be upset with me. I know she wants me to be happy. I think she figured out it’s only toothpaste, and I’m way more important than that.

I’m growing up and want to do new things. I just need a chance to learn. Every time I’m told ‘no’ or been yelled at or gotten into trouble, I feel bad about me. I feel a little smaller and less capable, and I feel more alone.

You know, I’m a pretty sensitive kid, even though I try not to show it. I’m happy most of the time, speak up about what I want, and try new things easily.

Little things, like toothpaste, can make a big difference.


What are the situations and the ways in which your child of any age wants to stretch and grow, to try something new? Are you giving him space to make mistakes and learn on his own, or are you focused on making him act the be the way you think he should?

If you’d like to continue this conversation, I invite you to join “Our Children’s Inner Brilliance Community”, where we explore ways to nurture our children’s and our own Inner Brilliance.

Click here to find out more and to join.

Are You Saying “No” Too Often?

Saying “No” is so easy. It can roll off our tongue so effortlessly and smoothly, we seldom notice we said it. In fact, research shows parents say “No” dramatically more times every day than they say “Yes.”

Hint: If you think this isn’t you, you might want to ask your kiddos what they think about it. 🙂

One of the things that makes ‘no’ so automatic is that it seems like the easier choice. Whatever your child wants or doesn’t want, you probably have a preference about it. It’s amazing what our creative, free-spirited young people can come up with that had never crossed our minds and that don’t seem like such a great idea to us.

There are so many ways in which we say “No” to our children. The most obvious is when they want that toy or the pair of jeans we don’t want to buy.

But there are other ways even more impactful to our children’s Inner Brilliance. We don’t like their angry or hurt feelings, or their observations about their teacher or another child, or their mono-chromatic painting. Then we tell them what we think in subtle, and not so subtle, sometimes manipulative ways.

You may feel these “no’s” are simply part of parenting since it is so commonplace. After all, isn’t it your job as a parent to guide your child?

I’ve found, however, that the more frequently we repeat these ‘no’s”, we unknowingly lessen a child’s Inner Brilliance – her self-confidence, happiness, innocence, and her connection to herself.

Plus if the “no’s” come with frustration, annoyance or judgment from you, the message and the ‘ouch factor’ are even deeper.

What to Do

The first and most important step is to become aware of all the “no’s” you say in the form of your words, tone of voice, a look, a touch, or in your attitude. You child reads them all. You might even want to write them down for a day, or 2 or 3 hours, and see what you discover.

Then, choose one place you want to begin saying “Yes.” Perhaps this means taking a deep breath and letting your child speak his mind even when you disagree or it makes you uncomfortable. Or perhaps you find a way to say, “Yes” so you can make what your child wants work for you also.

This is the time to pause before you speak. Or if you miss that window, think about it afterwards and go to your child and say, “I’ve been thinking about it, and I’ve changed my mind. Can we make this work?…”

The simple step of saying “Yes” to your child in every way you can – without compromising yourself – brightens your child’s and your Inner Brilliance. This brightens your life and that of everyone around you.


What are the situations and the ways in which you are saying ‘No” to a much-loved child in your life? What are the ways you’d like to say “Yes” more?

If you’d like to continue this conversation, I invite you to join “Our Children’s Inner Brilliance Community”, where we explore ways to nurture our children’s and our own Inner Brilliance.

Click here to find out more and to join.

Don’t Bail on Yourself and Your Child’s Unique Inner Brilliance!

You’re busy. I”d have to have my eyes closed not to see that. There’s feeding, clothing, cleaning, getting your kids out the door in the morning and to be at night, arranging play dates, showing up for sports events, managing the hurts and bumps of life.

Add to this taking care of yourself, which includes all of the above plus your career, staying healthy and in shape, your friends, your parents on both sides, time with your partner, taking care of your home.

I’m sure I left some things out here, but it’s easy to see why you’re often exhausted at the end of the day. These things seem to take all the bandwidth you have.

Yet there are some Big Picture Essentials not listed above: you and your child’s happiness and joy, the emotional connection you have with each of your children, your child’s self-confidence, social skills, her comfort in her own skin, his courage, compassion, and unique Inner Brilliance.

These provide the emotional environment and foundation, in which everything else happens.

When do you find time for these? If you’re like most parents, you keep meaning to get to them, to take some time to reflect and make some needed changes while days and weeks pass by unnoticed.

I believe these Big Picture Essentials are the most important place for us as parents and grandparents to keep our focus. They need to be our highest priority.

You know you’ll get your kids fed and you’ll make it out the door. It’s these Essentials that determine whether you do so joyously and easily or whether it’s a conflict or struggle.

If you’re ready to show up for these Big Picture Essentials, I invite you to be a part of my FR^EE  ‘Nurture Your Family Virtual Retreat’ this Saturday, February 15.

It’s only a two hour process with a short call at the beginning of each hour, in which I share information and exercises for you to do  the remainder of the hour. ..Two hours and you will have spent quality time with yourself, reflecting on what really matters for yourself and your family.

Of course, if you can’t be on the calls live, I will email you the audio links afterward.

We’d love to have you join us!

Click here to find out more and register.