Category Archives: Resources:

Me and My Boyfriend

I’m in my fifties and I’m part of the first generation of parents whose children possibly knew more than we did about technology. Ten years ago, I didn’t believe my daughter when she told me she absolutely had to have MSN. I also didn’t know what it meant. What a difference a decade makes. Now I have an iPhone that takes my heart rate, provides hypnosis when I can’t sleep and among other things, it tells me when I make a wrong turn in my car. My 90 year old mother recently asked me if I was talking on my phone and I replied that I was actually talking to my phone. So Syri has become my new best friend. I count on my phone so much that I call it my boyfriend. So if you hear me say, “I’ll check with my boyfriend, I’m not having an affair, honest.” The truth is, I would rather have my car stolen than lose my phone.

In the last few years, technology has changed so much that I’m not sure where the boundaries are anymore. It amazes me to see how many people are on their phone walking down the street, standing at bus stops (perhaps because their phone is telling them when the next bus is coming) and even when they are having lunch with a friend. Actually, it amazes me when people aren’t on their phones. I especially worry about seeing this when parents are spending time with their kids! Is it interfering with their ability to be present at those times that can be so very special? Is our fixation with these amazing devices giving a message to our kids that they come second? Furthermore I can’t even imagine how to define boundaries around our kid’s use of technology.

Not only can these devices make dinner suggestions, they also make great babysitters.

Recently I was shopping in a mall and went by Mac Makeup. While sitting in a tandem stroller, a two year old was playing on and iPad, behind him his older sister about four, was playing on a smart phone. Mom was getting her make-up done. Thirty minutes later I walked by that same place and nothing had changed. Kids were still staring intensely at their devices and mom was still getting a makeover. I think I would have been tempted to do the same thing when my kids were young. I definitely would have been seduced into using the baby app that stops two month olds from crying as they stare at white moving shapes on a black background. I’d probably downplay concerns about how this might be affecting my child’s new, developing brain.

I try to imagine how I would find balance if I had my boyfriend ten years ago. I’d have to give up my Facebook Scrabble addiction because that is an ongoing pull. If I didn’t, I’d be taking a lot of trips to the smallest room of my house to make my next move. Surely I would make a commitment not to take my smart phone with me when I go to the park or go for walks, but then again, what if there is an emergency? Like, someone posting on Facebook to say that they just had a blueberry muffin straight from the oven. Come to think of it, what if I want to take a picture or a video of the kids and send it on Instagram right away to my mother and my 256 friends.

I think the dinner table is where I would draw the line. No phones at the table! I have to show some discipline with that sexy little friend of mine. Syri-ously. Where are we going with all of this? Oh, we actually don’t know. So what do we know? We know we need to unplug and connect with each other. We know that nature provides us with an ability to get grounded. We know that having nothing to do as kids made us very creative. We also know that nothing could be more important than face time with the people we love, screen free.

To Discipline or Disciple? – Cut it Out!

What is discipline?  One definition is to obtain obedience by using punishment and reward?  If you think that word still fits, you might want to, Cut it Out!  It might be time for a new word or at least a new twist to that word. Another view of discipline is to teach in such a way that encourages self-discipline. In that case the word needs to change to disciple.  To disciple somebody means that we mentor them by modeling respect, self-discipline and maturity: they become our disciple when they want to emulate us.  This requires awareness of our emotional states and the impact they have on our children.  Healthy mentorship also means we have clarity around our own personal boundaries and the boundaries of others.  To disciple also means recognizing that along with how we behave we must be accountable for how we communicate. To Discipline or Deciple?

Words are powerful and we can easily harm our kid’s self-esteem by labeling them, making assumptions or putting them down.  Or even when we praise them for doing something we want rather than encouraging them to develop internal values and goals.   When this happens, our kids lose touch with the ability to learn what we might actually be trying to teach them and more importantly, are derailed from the natural course of development of conscience and responsibility. Likewise, when we don’t actively listen to our children we are role modeling what not to do!  If your kids don’t listen to you start by showing them what listening actually looks like.

Effective communication is not about a set of skills and something that you “do”.  It is a way of “being” and having an awareness of boundaries.  What issue belongs to who?  Do I really have to fix this person’s feelings?  Are they responsible for how I feel and do I blame them?  Do I allow myself to project my own fearful thoughts onto them?  When we can get clear with the deeper part of communication then the skills come to us easily.    Allow yourself to have well intentioned, messy communication.  If the skill takes over, we lose our connection because we are in our head.

So keep learning and growing yourself.  Somebody needs to disciple our children!


We are proud to announce that videos of lectures from the 8-week course, SideStepping the Power Struggle, are now available!

An example section, “Heart of Discipline” is available below, as several small sub-sections via low resolution YouTube videos.

For Purchase

I Gotta Be Me DVD

          – includes high quality videos for each of the following topics: $19.99
    1. Temperament
    2. Activity Level
    3. Distractibility
    4. Persistence
    5. Approach/Withdrawal
    6. Adaptability
    7. Emotional Intensity
    8. Regularity
    9. Threshold to Stimuli
    10. Mood

Click on the PayPal link below to order your DVD

    Other chapters coming soon

Free Low Resolution (YouTube) Videos – Heart of Discipline


Ask Alison Articles

Articles by Allison Rees

Cut It Out Articles

The “Cut It Out” articles by Dr. Allison Rees are short, weekly one page articles that you can print and stick up on the fridge!

Recommended Reading

On General Parenting

sidestepping-frontLIFE Seminars first book published in 2007 and entitled “Sidestepping the Power Struggle” contains everything you need to know about your children’s individual temperaments, their stage of development, “normal” and abnormal child behavior at each age, and what events can trigger difficult child behaviors.

It teaches you how to help children take responsibility for their own lives as they mature, and how to help them mature into ethical and competent human beings. It discusses effective and ineffective discipline techniques. If you read and practice everything recommended in this book, it will not only empower you to become a more effective parent, but also enrich the lives of those who matter most. Visit ourbooks and videos page to purchase this book.

On Specific Topics in more depth

unconditional-parenting.gif children-the-challenge.gifIn addition to his book, many renowned books like these form most of the reference material behind the topics discussed in LIFE Seminars. They provide an excellent source for further reading on any given parenting topic.

LIFE Seminars is pleased to have partnered with, to provide you with a convenient way to browse and purchase these excellent books using an amazon based online store. Help LIFE Seminars keep costs down for courses, workshops and other material by purchasing your books through this method, as we make a small (4%) profit from most online purchases.

Here is our list of book references, arranged by topic (you may click on the topic to view all the books in the topic area in more detail):

General Parenting
MILLER, Alison & REES, Allison: Sidestepping the Power Struggle. LIFE Seminars (2007)
MILLER, Alison & REES, Allison: The Parent-Child Connection. LIFE Seminars (2008, in press)

Child Development

AMES, Louise B. & ILG, Frances – have a series of books for various ages

CAPLAN, Frank. The First Twelve Months of Life. Bantam Books (1978)
The Second Twelve Months of Life. Bantam (1982)

LEACH, Penelope. Your Baby and Child: From Birth to Age Five Dorling
Kindersley (2003)


BAYARD, R.T. How to Deal with Your Acting-up Teenager. Evans (1986)

SNYDERMAN, Nancy. Girl in the Mirror (Raising Teen Girls) Hyperion (2002)

Boys and Girls

AYERS, Lauren. Teenage Girls: A Parent’s Survival Manual. Crossroad (1994)

GURIAN, Michael. A Fine Young Man. (Raising Boys) Tarcher/Putnam (1998)

MACKOFF, Barbara. Growing a Girl. Dell (1996)


HICKLING, Meg. Speaking of Sex. Northstone (1996)

HINDMAN, Jan & NOVAK, Tom. A Very Touching Book. Alexandria Associates (1998)


CHESS, Stella & THOMAS, Alexander. Know Your Child. Basic Books (1987)

KURCINKA, Mary. Raising Your Spirited Child. Harper Perennial (1991)

MARTIN, Heather. A Parent’s Guide to Overcoming and Preventing Shyness
from Infancy to Adulthood. McGraw-Hill, 1981

TURECKI, Stanley. The Difficult Child. Bantam (2000)

ZIMBARDO, Philip. The Shy Child. Dolphin (1982)

Parent-Child Attachment

BOWLBY, John. A Secure Base: Parent-Child Attachment and Healthy Human
Development. Basic Books (1988)

KAREN, Robert. Becoming Attached: First Relationships and How They Shape
Our Capacity to Love. Oxford University Press (1994)


BRIGGS, Dorothy C. Your Child’s Self-Esteem Main Street (1975)

McKAY, Matthew, FANNING, Patrick. Self-Esteem New Harbinger Publications (2000)

MALLINGER, Allan E. & DeWYZE, Jeannette. Too Perfect: When Being in
Control Gets Out of Control. Fawcett Columbine (1992).

Healthy and Unhealthy Families

BRADSHAW, John. Bradshaw on the Family. HCI (1990)
Healing the Shame that Binds You. HCI (1998)

KHAVARI, Khalil & Sue. Creating a Successful Family. 1989

MILLER, Alice. The Drama of The Gifted Child. Basic Books (1996)
For Your Own Good. Farrar, Straus & Giroux (1990)
Thou Shalt Not Be Aware. Farrar, Straus & Giroux (1998)

MISSILDINE, W. Hugh. Your Inner Child Of The Past. Fireside (1991)

NORTHRUP, Christiane. Mother-Daughter Wisdom. Bantam (2005)

Boundaries in Families

CLOUD, Henry & TOWNSEND, John. Boundaries with Kids. Zondervan (1998)

KATHERINE, ANNE. Boundaries: Where You End and I Begin. Fireside (1993)

RICHO, David. How To Be An Adult. Paulist Press (1991)
How To Be An Adult in Relationships. Shambhala (2002)

LERNER, Harriet. The Dance of Anger. Harper (1997)
The Dance of Fear. Perennial (2005)
The Dance of Intimacy. Perennial (1990)

HALPERN, Howard M. Cutting Loose: An Adult’s Guide to Coming to Terms with your Parents. Fireside (1990)

PAUL, Jordan & Margaret. Do I Have To Give Up Me To Be Loved By You?
Hazelden (2002)
Do I Have To Give Up Me To Be Loved By My Kids?
Berkley (1995)


GOTTMAN, John. Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child. Simon & Shuster (1998)

GREENSPAN, Stanley and Nancy. First Feelings: Milestones in the Emotional Development of Your Baby and Child from Birth to Age Four. Viking Penguin (1985)

GOLEMAN, Daniel. Emotional Intelligence. Bantam (1997)

LENCIONI, Patrick M., BRADBERRY, Travis & GREAVES, Jean. The Emotional
Intelligence Quick Book: Everything You Need to Know to Put Your EQ to Work. Fireside (2003)

McKAY, Matthew & FANNING, Patrick. When Anger Hurts Your Kids. New Harbinger Publications (1996)
McKAY, Matthew, ROGERS, Peter D. & McKAY, Judith. When Anger Hurts:
Quieting the Storm Within. New Harbinger (1989)

Children and Stress

HAZEN, Barbara Shook. Why Did Grandpa Die? Western Publishing Co. (1988)
(for children)

KERSEY, Katharine. Helping Your Child Handle Stress. Berkley (1986)

MONAHON, Cynthia. Children and Trauma: A Parent’s Guide to Helping
Children Heal. Lexington (1993).

SAUNDERS, Antoinette & REMSBERG, Bonnie. The Stress-Proof Child: How
To Recognize Symptoms of Stress in Your Child and What You Should Do About It. New American Library (1986).

Parent-Child Communication

COVEY, Stephen. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Free Press

FABER, Adele & MAZLISH, Elaine. How To Talk So Kids Will Listen &
Listen So Kids Will Talk. Harper Resource (1999)

GINOTT, Haim. Between Parent and Child. Three Rivers (2003)

GORDON, Thomas. Parent Effectiveness Training. Three Rivers (2003)

ROSENBERG, Marshall. Nonviolent Communication. Puddledancer (1999)

TANNEN, Deborah. That’s Not What I Meant: How Conversational Style Makes
or Breaks Relationships. Ballantine (1986)
You Just Don’t Understand: Men and Women in Conversation.
Ballantine (1990)


BETTELHEIM, Bruno. A Good Enough Parent. Knopf (1987)

COLOROSO, Barbara. Kids Are Worth It. Quill Press (1995)

CRARY, Elizabeth. Pick Up Your Socks. Parenting Press (1990)

DREIKURS, Rudolf. Children: The Challenge. Fitzhenry & Whiteside (1964)

Values and Empathy

DOSICK, Wayne D. Golden Rules: The Ten Ethical Values Parents Need to Teach Their Children. HarperCollins (1995)

UNELL, Barbara & WYCKOFF, Jerry. 20 Teachable Virtues: Practical Ways to
Pass on Lessons of Virtue. Berkley (1995)


BAYARD, Robert.T. How to Deal With Your Acting-up Teenager. Evans & Co
(1986) Repeat from Teen section

DODSON, Fitzhugh. How To Parent. (1978)

GREENE, Ross. The Explosive Child. Quill (2001)

LEMAN, Kevin. Making Children Mind, without Losing Yours. Revell (2000)

WYCKOFF, Jerry & UNELL, Barbara. Discipline without Shouting or Spanking. Meadowbrook (1984)


Here are just a few of the  handouts used in LIFE Seminars courses:

  1. Basic traits
  2. Anger
  3. Practice for side stepping the power struggle
  4. Communication
  5. Limits
  6. Preschoolers
  7. ADD
  8. Helping with your childs homework
  9. Maturity
  10. Meal time blues
  11. Teens
  12. Triggers

The Greeting Ritual

How do we connect with our teens when we barely see them because they’re so busy with their teenage social lives?  We stockpile all kinds of questions, concerns and reminders, and we blurt them out whenever we have the chance, as we see our kids in passing. Gordon Neufeld and other psychologists and educators promote the idea of “connecting before directing”, suggesting that we can’t actually guide our children unless we have a relationship with them.  This is also the basis of our approach in LIFE Seminars.

Dr. Yurgelun-Todd discovered a scientific reason for developing a connection with our kids.  She monitored the brains of adult and teen volunteers while they were asked to discern the emotion in a series of pictures of frightened faces.  While all the adults identified the emotion of fear correctly, most of the teenagers saw the faces as angry.  When examining the brain scans, Todd found that the teenagers were using a different part of their brain from the adults when reading images.  Adults processed these images with the prefrontal cortex, the rational part of the brain; teens processed them with the amygdala, the instinctual, emotional part of the brain that is linked to primal feelings such as fear and rage. These emotions can trigger a “fight, flight or freeze” reaction.

So imagine what goes on when there is tension in the parent/child relationship and the only windows of time together are when we pick our kids up in the car or wake them up in the morning.  What is the teen’s experience? They see our face, which might look concerned or afraid, but they see anger. They hear our concerns as complaints.  Now they’re in that defensive position where they don’t care what we think or say, they only want to protect themselves.  This can be overwhelming for the teen, and they really can’t help this, it is immaturity of the brain combined with hormones!

Connecting with Teenagers

When parenting my teens, I felt the need to put together this information about the brain with what I know about the need for connection.  I devoted myself to something I called “The Greeting Ritual”.  Whenever I made contact with one of my kids, either when they came home from work or school or when I picked them up in the car, I would refrain from asking questions, complaining or talking about anything that could be seen as negative for ten minutes.  I would be positive or neutral.  I lovingly unplugged from my agenda to guide, direct and reform my kids.

My first experience was picking my very social 16-year-old daughter up at a friend’s just a little later on a Friday night than I would have liked.  I wasn’t sure whether I could stop myself from saying something that would be taken the wrong way because just about everything in our relationship was at that stage.  I decided to stuff bubble gum in my mouth, actually two pieces of Hubba Bubba, the big stuff.  I then made sure that I had something interesting playing on my car stereo, a little Frank Zappa which seemed like a good distraction.  I was armed and ready for the greeting ritual.

I will always remember that look my daughter had when she’d walk toward the car, kind of sour, cold and ready to do battle.  The first time was tough because Frank led her to stick her IPOD in both ears.  But hey, we didn’t talk and I looked happy, that was a shift.  That worked really well for her.  After a few days I noticed that she looked different walking to the car.  She didn’t have that look of dread and actually seemed more relaxed.  I soon noticed that if I just stayed neutral and pleasant, she would start to talk about her concerns regarding school.  That gave me a chance to listen and support her without taking over.   If I did have something to say, it seemed to be better received once we had that initial connection.

It helped when my husband bought into this idea as well.  I remember him walking through the front door late at night with my daughter. I expected a wave of negative energy but instead, they were laughing, she said goodnight and that was it.  Peering over my bifocals from my book I asked him why they were so cheerful.  “The greeting ritual” was his response.  “I felt like lecturing her about not calling earlier but I didn’t say anything.  Before I knew it she told me about her night and how she and her friend stayed with another friend until she got safely on the bus.  How could I get mad about that?”

I also focused on this when my son would come home from work.  I was concerned about him and knew he was struggling but my anxiety was only interfering with his confidence.  I avoided the questions about his day and gave him a chance to unwind and relax.  This was really about me harnessing my own anxiety and becoming less intrusive both with my son and my daughter.  It was a practical way to put relationship first and it seemed to build up some trust for both of the kids. That little bit of conscious connection helped them feel calm and helped me to practice some self-restraint.  It gave all of us an opportunity to have a little calmness during times that felt a little strained.  This was a small, manageable shift in behavior that led to steady positive changes in our relationships.

So – the essence of the greeting ritual is greeting our teenage kids pleasantly rather than overwhelming them with questions and advice when we have a chance to see them.  Try it – it can make a huge difference in our relationship with them.

Is this Normal?

As a Parent Educator I am often asked the question “Is this normal?” Apparently we didn’t act the same way our children are acting today. Is this really true or have our parents just got terrible memories? I really feel for parents who have someone breathing down their necks making judgments about their kid’s behaviour. It might be their own parents, a childless sibling, a store clerk or even a teacher. As parents we can feel vulnerable enough without having to defend our children’s behavior and our parenting skills. I too was the perfect parent before I had kids and perhaps I will be again when they move out on their own.

If we don’t understand behavior we tend to magnify it making it much worse than it really is. We my even label our children as being spoiled or a problem. We might assume that they have intentions to test us or make our lives miserable. When we go there with our thinking we tend to overreact. Studies have indicated that these kinds of trigger thoughts fuel parental anger. When we understand our child’s behavior we can counter damaging thoughts with more accurate ones like “This is normal for this age, he isn’t trying to test me.” or “My toddler is going through an aggressive stage right now but it doesn’t mean he is a bully” Or “I can handle this, we will get through it”. Instead of “This is too much, I can’t take this anymore”. Watch what you think about your kid’s behavior, it will effect yours!

We need to stop praising children for acting like adults and embrace the need for kids to be egocentric and think of themselves. When we ask kids to use their words we need to understand that children often don’t understand their feelings and while using your words is a wonderful goal, it takes years to develop that kind of insight and maturity. Can you imagine your three year old coming up to you and saying “Mom, Dad, I’m tired and I’m feeling anxious about the arrival of my new sibling”. Wouldn’t that be wild? For children, behavior is communication: biting, whining, hitting, spitting, pinching and screaming are a toddler’s way of saying I’m frustrated, upset, bored, hurt, tired and so on.

So what is normal? Twelve-month-old babies can be very clingy. Toddlers bite and pinch and I wish I had a quarter for every parent that asks me why his or her two or three year old still wakes up several times through the night. Many children aren’t toilet trained until four. Four year olds tell tall tales and take things that don’t belong to them while perhaps calling you a “butt head”. School aged children can be cruel to others and exclude friends one day only to be best buddies the next. They are still trying to work out the complexities of relationships and resolving conflict. Many pre-teens experience anxiety and have difficulty getting to sleep at night, and so on. These are all very common issues that I hear about on a regular basis.

In our parenting courses light bulbs go on for parents when they share their stories in small groups with other parents who have kids the same age. They are often telling slightly different versions of a similar behavior in their children. Parents start to realize that they aren’t the only ones and that their kids are on track. Nobody said it would be a cakewalk but actually now that I think about it, nobody said anything to prepare me. Maybe there is wisdom to that!

I spend a lot of time reassuring parents that their children are on track. In my early years as an educator I used to feel pressured to come up with answers to help parents deal with “that pesky behavior”. I used to be intimidated when a parent would yell out, “I don’t care if it is normal, what do I do with it”? Now, seasoned through the years, I can say with confidence that how we think about our children will effect our behavior significantly and that is the behavior we can work on – our own.