7 Amazing Parenting Tips from Rudolf and Rose

7 Amazing Parenting Tips from Rudolf and Rose

Last year I went to a baby shower where everyone present was asked to write their one best piece of parenting advice on a piece of paper to give to the mama-to-be. There were about 20 women at the shower. 8 of the slips had the same advice: “Take Rose’s parenting class.”

Rose is something of a legend in our sleepy little town. In her early years in the trenches of motherhood, she found herself with 3 young, rambunctious boys and a rising sense of panic. In her reading, she came across Rudolf Dreikurs’ book “Children: The Challenge”, and found it so helpful that she enlisted other mama friends to read it with her. The word about Rose and Rudolf spread, and some thirty years later I had the tremendous privilege of sitting in Rose’s living room and reading Dreikurs with Rose as she added her annotations and advice to the discussion.

20131028-200635.jpgThe basic premise of Rudolf and Rose’s parenting is this: children want to belong. They want to know they are significant and feel secure in their place in the family. However, sometimes children will pursue misguided behavioral paths to try and achieve a “place”, after all – negative attention is better than no attention. As such, much of Rose and Rudolf’s advice is aimed at cultivating parenting practices which instill a sense of belonging in our children: cooperation and togetherness are the name of the game.

Of course, to find out more you should read Dreikurs. Even though it is at times outdated (e.g. what to do when your children are climbing all over each other in the back seat of the car…. clearly in the days before mandatory safety belts) and even frustratingly 1960’s in its gender roles (describing “Mother” and “Father’s” roles in a way that would have given Gloria Steinem palpitations) – it is an encouraging, wise and deeply helpful book. Especially if you read it with Rose.

Sadly, there is no mail-order Rose to send to desperate parents, but thanks to the glories of the internet, here are just a few of the gems from Rose’s treasure-chest of advise on parenting which I scribbled down in my notebooks:

  • Have fun together as a family
    What people enjoy together brings them together. Make time for games and projects where ALL enjoy the fun. Cultivate a sense of belonging while laughing together, you’ll need it later on.

  • Talk WITH them, not TO them
    Involve your kids in family decisions, whether they are small or big. “If you tell me, I forget. If you show me, I learn. If you involve me, then I understand.”

  • Don’t sweat the small stuff.
    Rose’s rule of thumb was this: “If it doesn’t last more than 5 years, if it doesn’t cost more than 5 dollars, or if it doesn’t hurt more than 5 people… it’s not a big deal.”

  • Don’t do for a child what they can do themselves.
    Wait for them, encourage them, but let them do it.

  • Take time for training
    Set aside time to teach your children skills: how to clear their plates, how to fold a shirt. This need does not disappear with time: in adolescent years, take time to teach them how to drive, have conversations with adults, how to face awkwardness (Rose’s suggested line, which I wrote down in toto for future reference was this: “Sometimes you’ll make mistakes in public places or not know what to do and you’ll feel awkward or embarassed, but that’s okay, and it will pass.” Simple, yet SOLID GOLD, people!)

  • A misbehaving child is a discouraged child
    Our kids often use wrong means (misbehavior) to try and achieve good goals (a sense of belonging). If they are discouraged about who they are or insecure about their place in the family, often that means they will ramp up the only “effective” behavior they know (effective in that it gets their parents’ attention). Rose and Rudolf have much to say on this topic, but they call for compassion on “misbehaving” kids, as well as combining it with a few ace parenting tricks, one of which is…

  • Encourage, encourage, encourage your children.
    Whereas praise refers to general statements about a person (“you’re so smart”), encouragement gives specific statements about a deed (“I see you worked hard at putting ALL the colors into that painting of a rainbow!”) Tell them you love them, you SEE them, you notice their effort and their progress

Skimming through my notes on Driekurs makes me realize how much I need a refresher course with Rose. Her kids are testimony that it is possible to raise teens who have a strong sense of belonging. I want a home like that too. Encourage, encourage, encourage, so that our children will know they belong, belong, belong. Lord, have mercy.

This is post 28 of 31 Days of Belonging. For a complete list of posts, click here.

Where Do Teens Belong?

Our friend Joe has been telling us about teens.

Joe works with teenagers: he loves them, he listens to them, he learns from them and about them. I, on the other hand, am intimidated by teens: I didn’t understand my own teen years, and have been bewilderingly perplexed by the whole adolescence thing most of my life. However, we have three kids who are creeping towards adolescence faster than we realize.

And so, I listen to Joe when he tells me about teens.

This is what I am learning: Adolescence (that period between childhood and adulthood), is lengthening. 100 years ago, puberty started later, and people were considered “adult” by the time they were 17 or 18 – ready to marry, work, leave home. They knew who they were, to whom they belonged, and what they were supposed to do.

These days, however, puberty is starting earlier, and experts are saying that adolescence is only really ending towards the end of their 20’s. It is only as people today are staring their 30th birthday down that many begin to know who they are, to whom they belong and what they are supposed to do.


The work of adolescence is to figure those key things out, and in our world teens are having a dreadfully hard time doing so. They are barraged by information and pressured to perform at a level that has never before been expected from teens. But, unlike generations before, they are required to do more and more of this work of “figuring life out” by themselves.

Our world today is characterized by age-specific activities and programs: at school, on the sports field, in church, in camps – we group people by age, and do our best to “meet their age-specific needs” by creating a program “targeted at their ages”. Much of this is done with love and concern for teens’ development and well-being – and even their social comfort in being with their “own”, but Joe is at pains to point this one thing out:

The downside of age-specific activities is that our teens begin to feel unwanted by any other age groups. Rather than feeling nurtured by the programs designed “just for them”, there is a residual feeling of being abandoned by adults, left to their own devices, both literal and figurative.

These issues are complex and there are no doubt many contributing factors underlying why things are the way they are today. Joe is careful not to over-simplify, but surely he is right to point this one thing out: whereas adolescents used to spend the majority of their day around adults, experiencing life and learning alongside adults; these days adolescents spend the majority of their time around other adolescents, experiencing life through a teenage-grid. Thousands of hours of organic lifestyle mentoring and parenting have been traded for specialized skills-training and youth-specific activity.

Perhaps, teens today are learning economics in a class, rather than from an adult who trusts them enough to watch them figure out how to balance a tight household budget.
Perhaps they get YouTube rather than long conversations over dinner.
Perhaps by shielding our teens from tough conversations about death, betrayal, finance and sex (because it isn’t fun, and they shouldn’t have to think about those horrible things at their age),we are doing them a disservice in not allowing them to feel welcome in our adult world of facing challenge, sometimes failing, and having to try again.

I don’t yet have teens, and so I’m still a decade away from having to put this into practice, but Joe’s words as ringing in my ears as I look at the kids in my life. We cannot give up, we need to engage. We need to be present, we need to start the conversation and not give up. No matter what we do or say or plan, we want to communicate to them that they BELONG. They belong at home, they belong with us, they can stick around for the tough times, they can do the tough projects along side us.

And so we say this to our children: We’re going to do to this thing called life TOGETHER. We will not abandon you to your peers to learn about life. We will do our best to make home a safe place for you to be you as you grow up here. We will affirm our love for you, we will welcome your friends. We will not hide our mistakes from you. We will ask for your trust, your forgiveness, your partnership in our family. We will pray together, serve together, learn together, laugh together.

I think Joe is wise. He knows about teens. I so very much want to be wise about teens too, that we may love them better all the way into adulthood. If you think Joe is wise too, perhaps consider how you can tell a teen you love that they belong in your life today?

What If Facebook Makes Me a Better Mom?

Facebook gets a lot of bad rap. It’s a time sucker, they say, and screen time is no substitute for face time. “Liking” a status doesn’t mean we have talked. Social media is a poor substitute for social life, yadda yadda.

I feel the danger of Facebook. I know it is easier to sometimes watch my screen refresh than to watch my kids build towers. Handsfree Mama is quick to point out how social media is making me a worse Mom.

But on most days, with a little responsibility and care taken not to spend too much time on there, I think I’m a better Mom because I’m on Facebook. Not because of Facebook per se, but because online I belong to a community of encouraging, funny, wise friends – who commiserate, advise, cheer and laugh me through this journey.

I spend most of my day in the presence of three small kids, with no adults around. Facebook gives me another adult to share moments of eye-rolling hilarity:


See those ‘likes’ and ‘comments’? They made this stay-at-home mama feel she was in the company of friends. I enjoyed my daughters’ wisecrack more for having laughed with others.

On the days when I fail my attempts to scale Laundry Mountain, Facebook allows me to relish the silliness of my vocation:


On days when we’re quarantined by strep throat and I’m at my wits’s end, Facebook funnels the voice of my resourceful Pinteresty friends right into my kitchen, brimming with great ideas and encouraging words:


My FB community saved that day. And the day after it. And the day after that: with creative ideas and prayers for health and words of encouragement – they send reinforcements of the very best kind.

Facebook has been a lifeline to stay in touch with people I love. It allows me to share proud mommy moments with my family abroad. It has been the means for finding last minute baby-sitters, new homes for less-loved toys and clothes, a reference for a new pediatrician.

In a world where I seldom get to talk to friends for long enough to find out what they’re reading and thinking, Facebook is a medium where friends post articles that keep me afloat as a Mommy: things that remind me we’re not alone, pieces with tips on colicky babies, posts that remind me that breastfeeding needs to be encouraged.

In an insular world where the immediate needs of my children often eclipse the urgent needs of justice, broader-minded friends on FB post links to articles that remind me to pray, to think, to give, to show mercy.

I believe I am a better Mommy because of the community of wise and wonderful people whose presence online is a representation of their presence in my life. Their thoughts, links, comments and prayers shape and encourage me in the long days of parenting.

Being a Mom can be lonely work. I sometimes need to be heard. I sometimes need to listen. Facebook brings a listening ear and words of perspective, council, reflection and humor from every corner of my world right into my living room – and I’m thankful for the “village”. We help each other keep things in perspective.


A wise man once said that there was a time for every activity under heaven. A time to gather sticks, and a time to scatter them. A time to mourn and to dance.

I think when it comes to Mommying, for me there’s a time for both: a time to switch off the screens and look my children in the eye and snuggle and read books and play baseball. But there’s also time for that community of friends whose company and counsel is virtually indispensible. And yes, pun intended.


Three cheers for the sisterhood.
Three cheers for sharing life.
And three cheers for Facebook, if you ask me.

This post is day 25 of my 31 Days of Belonging writing challenge – another crazy community of bloggers I electively BELONG to 🙂 For a complete list of posts (with my favorites marked), click here.

There’s Rooibos in my Soul

Part of me will always belong in South Africa.

I’m in my tenth year away, but the smell of a steaming pot of rooibos tea can cross those ten thousand miles in an instant. To the land of charm and Mrs Balls chutney and street vendors selling “peeeeechez, just five rrend-a-beg”. To howzits and hauw’s and hala kahles. To now nows and just nows.

I love my life in California, but when we step off the plane and begin our drive on the left hand side of the road, remembering again to keep an eye out for careening mini-bus taxis, there’s a sense of belonging that comes rushing back as quickly as my original South African accent.

I take in the shanty houses: corrugated iron roofs held down with rocks, yet sporting satellite dishes. I watch for cows and teenagers on the side of the highway, knowing that either of those might venture across at any moment. I know these things without having to think. Like rusty fingers pressed into the service of Chopin after a decade away from classical piano, my mental muscle-memory is called into service along the Cape Town freeway, if not a little slowly.

I buy government loaf white bread hot from the neighborhood Spar. I count out the change without worrying that I will get the combination of coins wrong to make the right amount. In ten years, I still can’t count nickels and dimes properly, but rands and cents make sense to me.

I hear birds. Oh, the birds!

I hear languages: eleven official and funagalo to boot.

I smell trees and cars and poverty and fear and joy.

I don’t live in South Africa anymore. When people abroad ask “what’s South Africa like?” I have to say that I don’t know. Ten years is a long time to be gone. Things change. I know who the president is (more’s the pity), but not much else. My fingers have been taking pulses elsewhere for some time now.

But despite the gap of 3670 days and 16,994 kilometers between my Californian present and my Capetonian past, when I look up at Devil’s Peak and feel the South-Easter stir,



I still feel I belong.


That there is Devil’s peak, the western peak of Table Mountain. My alma mater is the rose-colored building on its slopes. This picture does not do it justice… Especially at sunset. This schmaltzy post is day 24 of 31 days of belonging a writing challenge for the month of October. For a complete list of posts, click here.

Divorced: Now Where Do I Belong? – guest post

I am honored today to welcome author/speaker Elisabeth Klein Corcoran. I met Elisabeth through the Redbud Writers Guild, and have been moved to tears more than once by her writing. Elisabeth’s new book, Unraveling: Holding on to Your Faith through the End of a Christian Marriage (Abingdon) was released on October 1.


For almost two decades, I knew what I was and where I fit. I was a wife and I fit pretty much anywhere, because our world and the Church seem to be pervaded by a couples’ culture.

I could even go somewhere alone, because I knew that I was part of a twosome and that I would be going back home to another who was waiting for me.

But some horrible things happened and some awful things were said and some choices that I never would’ve guessed were made and I found myself shocked and ending my marriage after almost twenty years.

I wasn’t shocked because our marriage had been idyllic and this all came out of nowhere. I was shocked because I had thought, somewhere deep down, that I would always, always be married; always, always be a part of this couple.

And then I wasn’t.

And then I was alone.

And then I didn’t know what I was or where I fit anymore.

And it was lonely. And I was sad. And I felt lost.

We had spent the entirety of our fragile marriage in one church community and they walked us through our reconciliation attempt and then released me to legally separate. To say I am grateful for what my church leadership did for me, my marriage, my then-husband and our children is not even scratching the surface. They covered over us. They fought for us. And then, through all of our tears, they released me.

But then, something shifted. In them? In me? I have no idea. But I found myself sick to my stomach and on the verge of tears for the better part of six months every single time I drove into my church parking lot, now husband-less, and letting the tears fall on my way home.

I had always been a Mrs. there, someone’s other half. But I found myself feeling more divorced within the walls of my church community than I did anywhere else in my life. I knew I was divorcing, but I felt even more divorcing there. And when that other half was no longer by my side, I wanted to hide and cry and run away and not be seen.

I just couldn’t do it anymore. The place that had surrounded me and supported me no longer felt like my second home, and so, despite that I was already in the throes of grief over my marriage, I then left my other love – my church.

I wish I had answers for this. Who did this to me? Was it something someone said? Was it a look? Was it the perceived whispers and imagined shunning? Or was it one hundred percent me and my shame and my humiliation and my grieving? Or was it all of these elements swirled together and so much more that I may never fully understand? I don’t know.

But I know that I walked into a church down the street and heard the pastor say on my very first night to the entire gathering, “I don’t care what your baggage is…you are welcome here…you are welcome here…you are welcome here…{pointing to person after person after person}…you are welcome here.” And tears fell down my cheeks as my soul let out a sigh of relief, of homecoming. Of belonging.

20131020-135135.jpgElisabeth’s book Unraveling: Hanging Onto Faith Through the End of a Christian Marriage is available on Amazon. Visit her online at http://www.elisabethcorcoran.com or https://www.facebook.com/ElisabethKleinCorcoran. She is the moderator of two private Facebook groups: one for women in difficult Christian marriages, and one for Christian women who are separated or divorced. Email her at elisabethkcorcoran@gmail.com if interested in joining.

This post is part of the 31 Days of Belonging Series, and I am grateful to Elisabeth for sharing her story as part of it. For a complete list of posts, please click here.

The gift of the forgotten commandment

In Sunday School I learned the 10 commandments, but really there were only 9.

Honor God, yes. No idols. No cussin’, lying’, murderin’, adultery, disobeyin’ or wanting-what-she’s-got. But that one about the Sabbath? Skip that. We aren’t legalistic about Sundays.

The Sabbath got thrown in the same basket as prohibitions against shellfish, bacon and mixed cloth: Jewish artefacts left at the cross; and there it remained for the first two decades of my walk with God.

Then someone began talking about the radical idea that God had given the commandments to teach Israel a path of life and blessing. Instead of the me-focused social order of human rights, God gave an others-focused social order of human responsibility. The loving obligation to refrain from stealing did the same job as protecting the right to property, except it was better.

Laws for blessing, not burden.

Honor your Mother and Father that it may go well with you

And so, too, my view on the Sabbath has changed. I now understand that Sabbath does not mean Sunday, or even the more authentic Saturday. It means a designated time to rest, and God’s injunction that we should rest is meant to bless us, not burden us.

We are not ruled by the Sabbath, we are graced by it.

We do not belong to the Sabbath, it belongs to us.

And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. – Mark 2:27.

So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. – Hebrews 4:9

I wish you the gift of God’s rest today. May you slow down enough to let Him fill your cup and lead you beside a stream of quiet water.

The mind that comes to rest is tended
In ways that it cannot intend:
Is borne, preserved, and comprehended
By what it cannot comprehend.

Your Sabbath, Lord, thus keeps us by
Your will, not ours. And it is fit
Our only choice should be to die
Into that rest, or out of it.

Wendell Berry (1934-)

20131019-202949.jpgThis post is day 20 of 31 Days of Belonging. For a full list of posts, click here.

One question to ask if you’re wondering “should I buy this?”

One question to ask if you're wondering_One of the big challenges for me as a believer, living in the world that I do, is trying to figure out how to manage the stuff we own. Words like stewardship, financial planning, wisdom, investment, generosity, living debt-free and justice are all bandied around within the Christian community when the topic of money is raised.


Often, I feel that “wise counsel” about money gives very contradictory advice. Should we “give generously to those who are hungry now, and trust God for the future?”, or should we “invest wisely for the future so as to not be a burden on our children?”

(This article has been updated and posted at Propel Sophia – head on over to read the rest!)

photo credit: reluctant femme.com