Parents, Stop Saying "OK," OK?

This friendly word is actually counterproductive. Here's why...

Parents, Stop Saying "OK," OK?

How the word Okay is counterproductive to your parenting

In our quest to attach properly, attune deeply, and respect thoroughly, many parents (me included!) have adopted the bad habit of saying, “OK?” when asking a child to do something.

In our minds we are friendly and checking for approval to show our children how much we love and care for them. BUT, in our child’s mind, he or she is thinking, “GREAT! I get veto power,” and are likely to put on the brakes or shout, “NO!”

Our attempt to be friendly by asking, “OK?” is actually counterproductive. Here’s why:

Putting “OK” at the end of an instruction does two unhelpful things. First, it turns that request into a “yes/no” question, which your child can respond “no” to. Second, it gives your child the authority to ignore your instruction.

Our children get a conflicting message when we add this powerful word to the end of instructions. It is very clear when a parent says, “It’s shoes on time! Are we getting to the mudroom on two feet or two hands and one foot?” The child knows exactly what is expected of her. Adding “OK” with an upward voice inflection turns a statement of instruction (which is clear) into a question (which makes it unclear).

If your child hears, “It’s time to go, OK?” or, “Do you want to put your shoes on? OK?” that child will not know what is expected of her. Also, if your child is asked if she wants to put her shoes on, you have nowhere to go if she says, “NO!” You did ask, and she answered.

Are you the leader of your family?

We can give our children a sense of power by giving them a choice between two options that still gets the job done without asking, “OK.” When we do this, we encourage cooperation, get the task we need to get done complete, and reduce power struggles. The tricky balance for many parents is how to retain the leadership role in the family (or shared with your partner) and also give instructions in a friendly way. When we ask, “OK” we are giving too much power to our children, which is likely to later make us frustrated if they decide not to do what we’ve asked.

Breaking the OK habit

In order to stop saying “OK,” remind yourself to form your instructions as friendly statements. Here are three suggestions for getting rid of “OK.”

Count the number of times you say, “OK.”

Be aware of how many times you say this word. Count how many times you catch yourself saying it. Write that word down on a sticky note, put that on the fridge, and try to cut that number down the next day.

You can ask your friend or partner for help to stop saying, “OK.” They can let you know when you’ve done it or you can turn it into a fun game like, “The first person to say ‘OK’ is buying lunch today.”

Use an "It’s __ time. Are you doing that by A or B" instruction.

Instead of saying, “We need to… OK” or “I’d like you to… OK,” try, “It’s (getting in the car) time.” If your child is under the age of four, I do recommend giving your child several warnings that a change in the activity is coming. I call those, “transition signals.

Here are other examples of that one:

“It’s tooth brushing time. Who is brushing them today, Mommy or Daddy?”

“It’s changing time. Are you wearing your pink tights or yellow dress?”

You many notice that I am using an “It’s ___ time” followed by an “either/ or” question. The combination of these two parenting techniques can be very successful at increasing cooperation!

Use "When/ then," "After/ then," or, "First/ then."

The “when/ then” technique and its awesome variations are a very effective way to encourage cooperation in young children. I invite you to read this post where I explain how to use this parenting tool.

Examples of that technique are:

“When your hands are clean, then I know you are ready to eat.”

“After your puzzle is back in it’s away spot, then I know you are ready to play with me.”

“First shoes on, then your favourite song in the car.”

“After you go down the slide two more times, then we know it’s time to go.”

I’d love to know: how many times did you say “OK” today? 20? 100?! Let’s start a Stopping OK support group over on my Facebook page. We can do it!

RELATED: Stop Tantrums - 33 Phrases To Use With Toddlers



12 Vacation-Saving Tips to Reduce Jet Lag in Kids

Doing a long-haul flight? These tips will help get everyone on the right clock.

12 Vacation-Saving Tips to Reduce Jet Lag in Kids


In preparation for an upcoming trip to Italy, I am gathering all the information I can about how to reduce the effects of jet lag on my kids. This will be the first time taking both boys to Europe, so I want to be as prepared as I can. As a parenting educator -and a mom! - I know that tantrums can escalate when kids are tired, so I’m hoping our first few days there are going to be okay!

According to my research and chats with seasoned parent travellers, here are 12 tips to reducing the effects of jet lag in kids:

Know which flight direction is harder to adapt to

Flying from West to East over many time zones takes more time to adjust to: bodies find it harder to manage a shorter day than a longer one. We are flying east from North America to Italy so I’m hoping that after about three days we’ll be on local time.

When we fly back to North America, we’ll likely be getting up very, very early (4am) so I won’t be scheduling anything for us to do the week we get back.

Plan accommodations for needed recovery time

See if it is possible to have two different sleeping areas, particularly if you have a baby. We travelled with a one year-old to France several years ago and found it very hard to all be in the same room. It isn’t much fun having the lights out in a single hotel room at 6pm in Paris!

Select flights that help reduce jet lag

Direct and overnight flights are good so you can arrive into daylight and don’t have to deal with keeping your young child entertained during the long flight.

Children are pretty adept at sleeping anywhere so sleeping on a plane is often okay. We bring a stuffed toy that doubles as a pillow and my big scarf, which is a great blanket. I’ll probably be bringing earplugs for this flight! Thankfully Air Transat flies directly from Toronto to Rome so we chose their flight at 9pm that gets in at noon the follow day. Fingers crossed we’ll get off that flight feeling reasonably well.

Schedule in jet lag time

It’s best not to hit the ground running when you land after a long trip. Let the first few days include some down time and rest. Save visits to the major sites and ones that require lots of walking for a few days into your trip.

After we land into Rome, we need to get ourselves to the train station and onto a train to Grosseto in Tuscany. As we’ll be freshly off an overnight flight, I’m hoping we’ll have the energy we need to get onto that train, where we’ll have just over an hour to chill out before getting to our final destination.

We are spending a week at a Mom and child(ren) camp in Tuscany called Me And Mom In Tuscany so I decided it would be best to head straight there and save the sightseeing days to Florence and Rome for afterward. My hope is that we’ll acclimatize at the single location for a week, and then be ready to hit the streets of Rome. Here is a picture from the kid's camp at Me & Mom:

Change the time on your watch to the destination time the moment you take off

The mind is a powerful thing, and telling yourself you are already there helps your body start adjusting sooner. It might seem like semantics, but people swear it words wonders!

Spend lots of time outside

Daylight will help your body get onto your destination’s clock faster. Even if you are very tired, take the kids out for a walk. The interesting sights will keep you all awake.

Reduce naps

It takes less time to adjust to a new time zone when naps are reduced. If your child doesn’t usually have naps, try to keep him or her awake throughout the day. If you child is not handling the tiredness well, keep the nap nice and short.

Eat according to your new time zone

Jet lag isn’t just about being tired; it’s also about getting your stomach on the right time zone. One of the things that can wake you and your children too early when you change zones is hunger. If your body is expecting a meal in the middle of the night, it might wake you up. Try eating something before you go to bed to prevent this from happening. Make sure there is food handy if someone wakes up hungry in the middle of the night.

Eat well! Find healthy food to ensure everyone is fuelled properly. I am planning to take Ziploc bags in my day bag to hold snacks from vendors or meal leftovers.

Stick to your routines

Try to recreate your bedtime or getting out the door routine as much as is possible. Bring along your child’s sleeping buddies to snuggle with and give your kids a bath or shower if they are used to that. It even helps just to use the same kind of language like, “It’s out-the-door time in ten minutes, what jobs do we need to get done?”

Use blackout blinds

If part of your adjustment to a new time zone means that you will feel awake during the night or very early in the morning, get a portable blackout blind to keep the room as dark as possible. We use the Gro-anywhere blind because it is easy to use on a temporary basis.

If your child does wake up very early and can’t fall back asleep, try getting him or her to lay down for a little bit longer. Sometimes drawing long lines from the crown of the head down over the forehead and nose will help a child relax.

If sleep isn’t happening, try eating then going back to sleep

If your child isn’t able to stay in bed and wants to get up at 3am, try having a big breakfast, maybe a bit of playtime, and going back to bed.

Take good care of yourself

Keep yourself as hydrated as fed as possible. You will certainly be better able to take care of your children if you are feeling okay.

I had the opportunity to chat with travel expert, Evelyn Hannon of Journeywoman, who assured me that children are quite resilient and will probably adjust faster to the new time zones than the adults. I’m going to believe her and put my energy into point number twelve: I know that if I’m doing okay, my kids will, too. Do you have some long-haul flights tips to add? Please put those in the comments below or over on my Facebook page

Sponsored by Me and Mom in Tuscany: for more information, please visit their website at  www.meandmomintuscany.com.

Taking a vacation this summer? See our Travel Tips for Flying with Kids


Bravery of the Band: Spirit of the West

The band comes together to help John Mann through his early-onset Alzheimer's

Bravery of the Band: Spirit of the West


This morning I woke up not knowing I would end the night dancing like no one is watching only a few feet away from the band, Spirit Of The West.

My husband sent an urgent message in the middle of the afternoon letting me know that the band was playing tonight in a small venue in our city (London, Ontario). We assumed it was a cover band, perhaps “Spirit Of The Undiscovered West” and were absolutely shocked to discover the real band was about to play here.

Our shock was predicated by news back in September, 2014 that front man John Mann was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. We didn’t expect the band to be playing again, certainly not in our hometown.

With no forewarning in our city’s media, the members of Spirit Of The West arrived here to play one show in front of a sparse, incredibly happy crowd of Londonites. Just before the band took to the stage, we estimated that about one hundred patrons were eagerly waiting for the band to arrive. We couldn’t believe that such an iconic band was playing to such little fan-fare.

Before the band members took their places, we guessed that they were practicing before their big show Saturday, June 6th in Massey Hall. I discovered that a documentary is being made of the band, with footage being taken at this upcoming show.

As the Spirit Of The West band walked onto the stage, the crowd cheered in excited anticipation. I was both ridiculously excited to see them in such close proximity, but also curious to see how Mann would do. I have been to several Spirit Of The West shows over the last twenty years. I vividly remember the last one when they opened for Great Big Sea to a crowd of thousands. Riveted by John Mann’s words, I laughed about “an erection on a horse,” while he explained the importance of the moment on his honeymoon in Venice when he spotted a horse statue. 

Photo: Dockrell Photography

Tonight, Geoffrey Kelly told us about Mann’s honeymoon while Mann smiled, looking at the ground. John Mann, usually full of stories with a guitar strapped around him, appeared to have given that role to the rest of the band. Kelly strummed the acoustic guitar, and introduced the songs while Mann looked carefully at his iPad.

Photo: Dockrell Photography

I have to say it was quite shocking to see Mann reading the lyrics off the iPad attached to the stand right by his microphone rather than strumming wildly on his guitar as he jumped around the stage. There were breaks in his singing where he danced energetically around the stage, which reminded us of the love of music he must have.

As the band went through their repertoire of anthemic tunes, the crowd happily danced and cheered along with them. The support for Mann by his band members was so obvious. I wish I could say that he didn’t miss a beat, but there were forgotten tunes, missed notes, and jumbled words. That didn’t matter. The band metaphorically held Mann’s hand as he sang with full voice into his microphone.

Photo: Dockrell Photography

There were moments when Kelly jumped in, singing into his microphone to remind Mann of where he was. I wish I could hear what the band members were thinking. From where I stood (only a few feet away), I could see five men holding their friend up for dear life. In those instants when Mann stepped back from the microphone with a confused look on his face, shaking his head, I wished he could hear me shouting words of encouragement. John Mann is incredibly brave!

Looking around the crowd, there were only happy people dancing and singing along. When the band started, “Home For A Rest,” those few people in attendance went absolutely wild. In between jumping, I looked up at Mann who was staring squarely at his screen, his right hand clutching his stomach—I was both joyful and heartbroken. I imagined this would be the last time I’d experience that song and that band in person.

As the last song was sung, we hugged each other and made our way to the door. We all felt we had experienced an important moment in Canadian music history. If you are able to get to Massey Hall in Toronto on Saturday, I strongly suggest you do. I recommend you do so not only to experience one of the best bands in Canada, but also to send the band, and particularly John Mann your love and support.

Photo: Andrea Nair