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! 🙂

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.

Play Dough ‘Ignited’ My Granddaughter!

I had the most wonderful experience with 3.5-year-old Madison yesterday that filled us both with such joy. In an email I received from The Artful Parent blog, I was reminded how much kids love play dough. Madi and I hadn’t played with it before, so I decided to make some with her.

After a pretty uneventful process of making it (she kept asking if she could taste it, remembering all the yummy things we have made previously!), we dumped all of it on a plastic tablecloth on the living room rug. Within moments, she began making a big, fat pancake with all of the dough and then folding it, every minute becoming more vibrant and animated.

Then she got the idea she’d like to cut it and ran into the kitchen to get ‘her knife,’ which cuts almost nothing but play dough. Together we made fudge and marshmallows, all of which had to be fed to her baby.

The entire time she was breathing more heavily than usual and sharing how much fun she was having. There was an intensity, a confidence, a certainty, a positive power I don’t think I’ve ever seen in her before, and she is not usually a cautious, held-back girl. She was passionately  ‘on fire’ and I was blown away.

Later when we got in the car, she told me, “Grandma, you are the most wonderful grandma I ever saw.” Said with heart-felt appreciation. The play dough was the perfect thing at the perfect time. I can hardly wait to play with her again!

Nurturing children’s Inner Brilliance is the most impactful, joyful gift we can give children, whether it looks like cutting play dough together, listening to their concerns or wants, or setting limits. When we focus on supporting our kids’ Inner Brilliance, we are on-track to bring out the very best in them.

If this is a priority for you also, I invite you to attend my FRE^E annual ‘Nurture Your Family Virtual Retreat’ where you’ll have the opportunity to explore ways you can nurture your child’s Inner Brilliance and create truly joyous relationships with him /her.

We’ll meet via a phone conference line and our three calls will be recorded.  By registering, you’ll be able to  get the recordings shortly after the retreat and listen and do the exercises at a convenient time for you.

Click here to find out more and to sign up.

Feel free to share this anyone whom you feel might be interested. Thanks so much for spreading the word!!

I’m sure you’ve had a similar, magical experience with a child.  Would you please share it with us ?

Back to Basics

When Doug and I were ending our fun, relaxing adventure in Vietnam several weeks ago, I looked forward to easing back into our life in California. No push, simply enjoying.

But this was not to be. A series of unexpected events – getting sick from the food on the flight home, complications purchasing the ranch where we board our horses, and a very sick, much-loved kitty – all combined to make for a hugely stressful, painful time for me. I am just now beginning to get my feet under me and in a stronger, more joyous way.

During those overwhelming days, I discovered a lot about myself, my beliefs and fears, and how I live my life, some that were not so fun to look at. The bottom line is I have chosen to get back to basics, to what’s really important to me, and to lay an even more solid foundation for myself.

You see, what really matters most to me is to have fun, be happy, live true to who I am, and to deeply enjoy and cherish the much-loved people in my life.

Losing our precious Momma Kat brought me to my knees and taught me so much. During her lifetime, she chose to move from being a feral cat who barely let us see her, to having kittens in our tack room at the ranch, to her living contentedly in our home with us. Our time together was filled with powerful, heart-touching memories.

Yet there were too many times I took her for granted, didn’t pet her as much as we both wanted, didn’t make the time. And now she’s gone…no more second chances or tomorrows. Makes my heart hurt.

I spent many loving, heart-fulfilling hours with her during the last 11 years and especially during those last few weeks as she purred contentedly . Now I’m learning to accept the missed opportunities and to treasure our memories and time shared. What a precious kitty she was!

I don’t want to repeat this pattern again! Throughout the years, I’ve done this too many times, suddenly losing someone dear to me and feeling I didn’t enjoy and love them enough while they were still here.

I am a creative person. I love imagining and creating fun experiences. I love all the wondrousness of life! Yet, too often, those joyous ‘to do’s’ become ‘have to’s’, the joy gone, and I’m not present with my loved ones as much as I truly want.

I observe most of us go through life believing there will be a tomorrow. That our wonderful son, daughter, partner, parent, ourselves, will still be here tomorrow. Just as they are today.

But life doesn’t work like that. None us truly know what the next moment will bring. We anesthetize ourselves to this reality by ignoring it, assuming someone, a way of life will still be there when we awaken the next day.

I’m taking an honest look at my life. What matters most to me. Who and what would I most miss or regret if it were gone in the next breath?

At the top of my list are my happiness and  my wonderful family, including our kitty Cassie and our horses Destiny and Echo, and I’m making these a full-on priority.

It’s so easy to be busy. To fill our lives, our children’s lives, our partners lives with things to do and people to see. It’s so easy to take loved ones for granted, to tolerate things and situations we don’t really enjoy or that diminish our aliveness, to get caught in unwanted patterns that repeat over and over.

We thought . . . life by analogy was a journey, was a pilgrimage, which had a serious purpose at the end. And the thing was to get to that end. Success, or whatever it is, or maybe heaven after you’re dead. But we missed the point the whole way along. It was a musical thing, and you were supposed to sing, or to dance, while the music was being played. – Alan Watts

I invite you to join me in ‘singing and dancing while the music plays. and asking the really important questions.

What matters most to you?  Whom do you want to love and treasure more? What are you going to do differently to live your life more fully?