How do I get my child to listen??

How do I get my child to listen??

By Tara Cummings, BA, BST-BA

True Change Positive Parenting Solutions

Parents want happy and harmonious homes. So do children in fact. Children often scream and cry to get what they want, but they would prefer not to, just as you would prefer not to have to feel like you’re going crazy! If you find yourself frequently feeling frazzled and just can’t seem to get your children to follow instructions and routines, simple strategies exist to set you on your way to happier times. If you’re not quite at the stage where your child is resisting and protesting, don’t skip reading the rest of this! Setting up for success is the most important approach to parenting. So even if you’re in the midst of chaos or not currently feeling concerned, being prepared to provide effective instructions will make a world of a difference for you. So, let’s dive right in with the following recommendations for effective instruction giving (note: this method is for instructing your child to do something versus stop something):

Step 1 Formulate your approach wisely: Be within close proximity, say your child’s name, get down to his/her level and provide a brief and concise instruction. If it is necessary to provide an explanation, keep it very short. Keep in mind that the more you talk, the more you’re likely to escalate in frustration and the more your child is likely to escalate with avoidance or protesting.

Step 2 Provide warnings: You child deserves to know that a transition is about to happen. You plan your day and therefore have the luxury of knowing what is happening next. Your child doesn’t so when it’s time to move on, make sure that you set up for success by giving warnings. I recommend 2 to 3 warnings. They can either be time warnings or turns. For example: 5 mins, 2 mins and 1 min remaining or 3 turns, 2 turns, 1 turn remaining.

Step 3 Provide choices: Do you feel good when someone tells you what to do without any room for discussion or choice on your part? I’m going to assume you’re answer is a strong no. The same applies for your child. Build choices into your instructions to offer control to your child. When a child feels like they have some say in what is happening next, they are more likely to follow through with your instructions. Choices can be very simple such as “Do you want to wear your red shirt or the blue one?” or “Do you want to do it or do I help?”

Step 4 First-Then statements: Build motivation into your instructions by telling your child the fun thing that is happening next. This means that you should structure your day by having preferred activities follow less preferred or non-preferred activities. When you provide your warnings and the instruction to begin a transition, use a first-then statement. Example: “It’s time to leave the park. First walk to car, then your favorite song!”

Step 5 1-2-follow through: This is the “go” step. You are now ready to begin the transition. 1) State your instruction, wait 5 secs (count in your head). 2) Repeat the exact same instruction, move closer and point in the direction of the task/activity, wait 5 secs. 3) Repeat the exact same instruction while simultaneously prompting your child to go/start. You can prompt them by guiding them forward, hand-over-hand prompting them or showing them the first step of the activity. Example: 1) “It’s time to pick up your toys, then snack.” 2) “It’s time to pick up your toys, then snack” while pointing at the toys. 3) It’s time to pick up your toys, then snack” while taking their hand and moving it forward to pick up the closest toy.

What do you think about these steps? Take the time today to try them out. The more you use these effective instruction giving steps the more success you will have with your child. If you experience kick-back with step 5, stick with it. Always be prepared to follow through. If you’re not willing to stand your ground, don’t give the instruction in the first place!

For more great tips, parenting information or support go to, e-mail or call 613-858-8524.

Tara Cummings is a Behaviour Specialist trained in Applied Behaviour Analysis (the science of behaviour). She provides evidence-based parent coaching, training and behaviour consultation to help parents with challenging

behaviours as well as to help parents develop positive parenting skills. Parents who learn and work with Tara raise happier, healthy children in calm and harmonious homes. Contact Tara to sign up for an e-mail course that includes these steps as well as 29 more daily recommendations and tips to make you an effective parent. Additional support and training is also available.

The Loneliness Of A Miscarriage

On November 13th late at night, I found out I was pregnant with my second baby. After a somewhat long period of trying to conceive, I was beyond elated. Our little Family was growing and my sweet girl was going to be a big sister! That bond that you feel in pregnancy sparked instantly and we were over the moon. On December 21st, it was taken away from us when we found out that our tiny little heart had stopped beating.

It’s so exciting to see a positive result!


I began showing signs of a miscarriage on the Wednesday morning before Christmas, which was also only one day after we shared the good news with our parents. It began as mild spotting and slowly increased to become the colour red that every woman fears terribly during pregnancy. We waited a long and painful two days for a very unsympathetic doctor to tell us that the little flicker of a heartbeat that we’d come to know and love, was no longer viable. The doctors instructions for what was to follow felt so clinical and cold; as if he was sharing directions to the nearest gas station, not something devastating. We all of a sudden felt like we were being ushered out of the bed we were occupying in the ER.


Although I knew inside that we had experienced a loss, my brain began to try and rationalize how the ultrasound could have been wrong; it started to play tricks on me and tell me that someone somewhere, had made a critical mistake. Denial. Next came the guilt. What did I do that caused this? Was that steak I ate too pink? I know I avoided lunch meat but am I sure that goat cheese was pasteurized? Maybe it’s because I drank coffee or took that Zantac when my heartburn was so bad…I never took Zantac in my first pregnancy. It has to be because I’m still breast feeding my toddler. Didn’t I read somewhere that breastfeeding can cause miscarriage? The walls felt like they were closing in on me and as I was rapidly transitioning through the different stages of grief, my heart quite literally, felt like it was breaking.


Some doctors say 50% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. Some say 25% and some say one in five. I have personally known six women in the month of December who’ve gone through it, so why did it feel like the loneliest thing on the planet to experience? Perhaps it’s because it all happened before I had the chance to publicly announce it, so the masses didn’t know what we’d lost. Maybe it’s because it felt like in some way, my body had failed me. Maybe it’s because there’s a certain level of guilt associated with the experience, that no one else could possibly understand. Whatever the case, it felt like my life paused and I was totally unsure of which direction to turn. So many medical professional made feeble attempts at support by using the common dictums such as “Its Gods will” or “Everything happens for a reason” or “you already have one child so at least you know you can have another”, but none of these added any comfort or made any sense, in fact, it was probably the opposite. I just wanted to be left alone as I knew that the only person who could understand my grief, was myself.  While I now realize they all had good intentions, there was nothing that anyone could say, to make any sense of why this was happening to me.


If it had been any other time of year, I would have been granted the opportunity to grieve quietly and for as long as I wanted, but it was three days before Christmas, and I’m a mom to a toddler which for me meant that I had to try my best for “the show to go on”. But how do you celebrate what’s supposed to be the happiest time of year, when you have a broken heart? The traditions and events that can add so much joy and meaning to the season were punctuated with painful reminders that the tiny person we loved will never be here with us. In so many ways I wished that I could find a quiet place to hide until January 2nd.


Despite everything, I ended up having a wonderful Christmas Day surrounded by my loving family and for the first time since we received our news, I actually felt happy again (which unfortunately brought back the guilt). I want other mamas to know, that it’s always ok not to be OK. But just as it’s OK to grieve for as long as you want, it is also OK to smile and enjoy the good things happening in your life. It doesn’t mean that you’re not mindful of the baby you lost. If this should ever be you, please try not to let yourself feel guilty for taking your mind off things and living your life. Grief comes in waves and when you experience any kind of loss, although it may feel like you’ll never smile again, happiness WILL slowly make its way back into your life. There will be moments where the grief feels overwhelming, almost like an actual wave washes over you and you’re fighting to stay above the water, but that wave passes and you can and will once again see the beauty in all that’s around you.

Real smiles on Christmas night… something I didn’t think would be possible


Miscarriage can be an amazingly difficult thing to talk about, but the more I have shared my story, the more other women are beginning to admit (almost shyly) that they too, have experienced this type of loss. The common denominator between them all is that after the ice is broken, each woman almost seems relieved to talk about it. I want you, my friends and family to know that I am someone you can talk to if you lose a baby or know someone who does. I am an open book with the details of my story and I never want any woman to feel ashamed in asking me about it, or sharing their story with me. Imagine a world in which there was only understanding and support, where a woman didn’t have to feel ashamed and she could grieve for her baby with the love and support she needed instead of suffering in silence. A world where people don’t feel that they need to make an excuse for terrible things. Sometimes, things are just really shitty, and we should be able to hold someone’s hand and simply say “I’m here for you, in any way you need. And when you’re ready to talk about this, I’ll be here to listen”.
To my sisters (and brothers) out there, I am always here to listen to your story. Thank you for reading mine.

After 17 days of my body trying to go through the process “naturally” I ended up in the hospital where the doctors had to perform a Dilation and Curettage. It was the last thing in the world that I wanted, but I was so relieved for it all to be over.  Doctor McCoubrey and the team at the Montfort were extremely kind, compassionate and wonderful.

Edit to add: There were so many people who were so supportive, kind, thoughtful and helpful during this process. Those who sent flowers, brought gifts, helped with Finley, called, texted and sat and let me cry. You know who you are and I want to be sure that you know how very much I appreciate you and how grateful I am to have been blessed with your friendship. I will never forget those acts of kindness during such a dark period. It also so happens, that in the 17 days I was going through this, I became even closer with my spouse.  In my experience, there was a little bit of sunshine at the end of the storm.

If you have suffered a loss, or know someone who has, I can always be reached by email at for support and am also a proud distributer of the Butterfly Box. Please feel free to message me any time.

Play, Learn and Explore At My Gym Ottawa

This Fall our six week Mini Movers group was incredibly fortunate to be hosted by My Gym Ottawa. Nestled in the suburbs of Barrhaven sits this amazing space where babies, toddlers and children alike can run, play, learn and explore. Recently, a friend and I were invited to bring our daughters (18 & 20 months) to sample their Tiny Tykes/Waddlers class and I am so glad we did! Not only is this a great place for drop in free-play, but the classes offer educational components in a safe and exciting setting, perfect for curious little ones and parents alike.

The Space

My Gym features a soft, padded floor which makes learning basic gymnastics skills that much safer for your little one. The first thing I noticed upon entering the facility was the cleanliness. The play structures are made of wood and you can tell by looking at them that they’re impeccably maintained; all of the high quality equipment looks brand new. 

Their play structures are also taken apart and redesigned every two weeks which promises a unique experience for the child that visits often. This is a feature that can also be customizable to those renting the space for a birthday party.

The space features a rock climbing wall, play structure and slide, ball pit, various gymnastics obstacles, an area that features six detachable swings, specifically for babies and toddlers; a feature that my little one was thrilled about! It also boasts a very clean restroom facility complete with complimentary diapers, wipes and a diaper genie (if you’re anything like me and always forget to restock your diaper bag, this feature comes in VERY handy).

My Gym is bright, spacious and clean. It is the perfect size for children to run around and burn off some steam, while not being so big that the parent can lose sight of their little one.

The Classes

My Gym engages infants 6 weeks of age to children 11 years of age with fun and captivating physical/cognitive activities, music, songs and free play. Their classes are designed to help your child grow confidence and strength in a non-competitive and supportive atmosphere.

The teachers create a fun filled hour full of age appropriate activities where children will learn new skills, make new friends and have an amazing experience each week.

The (Tiny Tykes) class we participated in began with circle time and songs to get the little ones up and energized. Throughout the hour the little ones stretched, danced, and exercised their problem solving skills. After the opening circle time, we were sent for some free-play as the teacher set up various obstacles. When we regrouped, the first skill was to have our toddler do a supported back flip. My little one wasn’t overly keen on trying this and I loved the way the teacher both encouraged her, but also accepted that she wasn’t into it and supported her by offering a modified skill to try. Other skills included climbing through the different levels of a flat ladder, into a foam circle in the middle and jumping from a mat into a hula hoop — all the skills promoted strength building, coordination and spacial awareness.

My Gym classes are curriculum based, but do not have a set beginning and ending point so children are welcome to join at any time.


In order to take advantage of My Gym Ottawa, families must purchase a lifetime membership for a one-time fee of $75. This gives you access to the classes and drop in play as well as special discounts on Birthday Parties and special events. The membership can also travel with you as My Gym is a Global franchise.

Special Events

In addition to My Gym’s classes, they also offer Birthday Parties, Practice and Play (drop-in play), Summer, March Break and PD Day camps.They also offer the unique Parent’s Night Out, where Friday nights from 5:30-8:30 pm, parents can enjoy a night out while their children are having a great time running, climbing, playing and eating pizza! Finally, My Gym also offers their Mobile Program where they bring the gym to you! This is a great feature if you are a day care/child care provider looking for something new.

I feel very fortunate to have partnered with such a supportive establishment whose goal is To create an environment where all children of all abilities feel loved and supported so that their self-esteem and confidence can flourish.

If you’re in the Barrhaven area (or not), this place is a must on your list of activities with the little ones.










Military Mommas

Free Workshop for women with military partners who have young children…

Feelings of isolation can increase with the cold weather, especially when you are newly posted, or alone when your partner is away. Come together with other military partners to share in a safe space. Focus of this workshop will be supporting children and self care for moms. Meet other moms in your area who live the life of a military family. All moms will leave with some great swag, some new friendships and more energy after sharing, reflecting and relating to others.

Children under 3 are welcome to attend, and activities will be provided.

Click “Register Today” to reserve your spot! Workshops are listed at the bottom of the page

Connecting on The Past: Creating Hope for the Future

Moms in Orleans!

Please join us for a morning that aims to celebrate the unique experiences and share the challenges of being a mom of a child who is on the Autism Spectrum. Let’s come together and support one another on this journey! No diagnosis required.

Children are welcome and sensory bins will be provided for play

Focus is on Orleans mamas with children 5 and under, but feel free to email and discuss special considerations:)

See you soon!

Please click “Register Today” to reserve your spot!

Permission to Seek Help

I was so excited to meet Dee Gemme, a warrior herself and Postpartum Depression advocate here in our community. I waited in our front room, with my list of questions, anticipating her arrival. I wanted to soak up all the information I could about helping new parents in our community who experience this. I hoped that she could share the warning signs, from a first person perspective, so I had a more personal understanding of this; versus the checklists and articles that were my basis of familiarity. I had an agenda, and blanks to fill in. But what I was able to gather from this woman, this warrior, that sat in my living room with me was far more meaningful than a statistic or help tip.

Dee refused to sit on the couch, and preferred to sit on the floor playing with my 7 month babe while we spoke. She was open, and real and raw as she talked to me as if I were an old friend. There was no sugar coating, there was no sensationalizing. Dee said it how it was. We spoke of how it felt to have a baby and have the whole world around you tell you how happy you should feel. How on top of feeling the worst you have ever felt, and behaving in ways that were nowhere close to who you are, you also feel immense guilt for not feeling how everyone tells you, you should. We all celebrate babies, and having them. We coo and smile when we see them, and offer congrats to new moms. Countless times, both Dee and I had been approached by perfect strangers who wanted to make sure we remembered to value every moment. For these are the best of our lives they all say. But sometimes they are far from it. That is part of what makes people that experience this feel even more alone then they already do.

Having worked with countless moms through Mommy Connections, I have met my fair share of moms who have been open with the hard parts of having a new baby. By about class 4 or 5, the moms start to become more real, and take their game faces off. They shift from discussions about what ingredients are in their home made baby food to some of the tougher stuff. It is good, and heals the spirit, and is why I do what I do. What I wanted to know was how to differentiate the hard parts of being a new parent with something that requires more consideration and professional help the way that PPD does. I asked her how she knew, and how people she worked with knew that it was time to go get help. She told me the issue is not that people are unclear about knowing when help is needed, and that everyone who has been through it does. The issue is that parents are scared to seek help. Having PPD is scary and dark, and it is unavoidable to confront it and realize it is impacting your life. Intrusive thoughts become a regular part of the day, and with them come more shame and guilt. Dee described feeling paranoid and unsure of every part of herself and her surroundings. It is different then the terribly hard moments that come with being a new mom and giving up your freedom, independence, body and daily shower. Both are hard but having PPD feels impossible. With PPD, professional help is needed as soon as possible, and returning to your path is in reach. But first permission to go get help is needed. People have to feel safe and ready.

I wanted to know how to help bust down the stigma that causes people to feel scared to reach out. How to encourage people to go seek help when it is evident they are not coping. I realized by the end of the discussion with Dee that it was not about asking the right questions, to new parents that may be at risk or show signs of PPD. It was about listening. Creating this safe space for new parents to feel safe to share and be real could happen at a class, or a coffee shop, a playgroup or at the grocery store. It means connecting and sharing in that same way that Dee came into my home. We spoke free of judgment, full of care, and really listened to one another.

Moms often feel immense pressure to live up to an ideal and do it all, and it can somehow feel like a failure when we just can not keep it up. We all have hard times and brutal mornings and sleepless nights, but we spend so much energy putting our best foot forward. There is so much pressure to be the perfect parent, and with all  the articles, books and opinions out there, there is enough information to both find a parenting method that feels right while simultaneously exploding our brains. It is not more information we need sometimes, it is a different kind of help that is needed. If we mindfully  connect and form a true community, where it is really ok to ask for help, we will pull more people out of the darkness. Where we are kind to one another, and to ourselves. We can stop pretending to feel okay when we do not. Just expressing your own feelings will help others feel safe to express theirs. This is far from a game, so we should all remove our game faces and be real.

Dee reminded me that we can not do even part of what we expect from ourselves as parents until we make sure that we are okay. For some people that means running, others know they need a kid free hour when possible to just sit in silence and others find comfort in getting outdoors. Whatever you need to do, do it. When times are difficult, do it more if you can. Know that if you do have PPD, a run will likely not “solve it” and what may be helpful may be the last thing you are able or willing to do. Your regular coping mechanisms may prove ineffective. You will know when it is important to seek help. At that 6 week check at your doctor, where they ask you if you are okay, be real. Women fear consequence if they voice how they are feeling. They fear losing their children, or causing more harm then they feel they have already. They are scared to tell their doctor, their mom or their friend. It seems like one more thing to deal with on an already overflowing plate. It can be daunting, but the health of the entire family unit will shift positively once professional help is accessed. I was moved by hearing Dee speak of the reasons she was happy she had reached out for professional help on her journey.

Getting help for her PPD allowed Dee to find her normal again, to start living. She was able to reconnect with her daughter and husband, something that her illness was preventing while she experienced the most difficult portion prior to help. She spoke about feeling so proud of herself for taking the step to seek help from her doctor, and about the negative symptoms lifting within only a couple weeks. She is now responsible for hosting Climb Out Of The Darkness here in Ottawa, a huge annual walk for those who are healing or have healed from PPD. Dee told me about feeling stronger than she ever had having lived this, that she was humbled by the experience. The only sad part for her was the two years she had missed connecting and cuddling and being right there with her family instead of being consumed by it all. She was sad when she spoke of the lost time, but without saying the words, I can tell that she values every moment with her incredible daughter now. Even more than she may have had she never become a warrior.

Please contact your family doctor or seek immediate medical attention if you are ready to seek help and Climb out of the Darkness.

Please visit the link to find out more about Postpartum Progress; which is where proceeds from Climb out of the Darkness go:

Mission & Values

Interested in getting involved with peer to peer support? Please send me a message, Dee and I have some future plans to support parents in our community with PPD.


Dee and her amazing daughter, Savannah