Saturday, April 30, 2011

Help! I need questions for an advice column!

I just found out that I am going to be writing a family communication advice column on! I'm very grateful for the opportunity.

But now the real work begins. I was wondering, could anyone that reads this blog send me a question or two that they have about family communication? I need to generate some articles for a weekly column.

If so, you could respond to this post or email it to me at A sample question and answer can be found at You can also find it on my personal website,

Thank you so much in advance to anyone who is willing to send in a question!

The very brief entertainment career

My children enjoyed a very brief entertainment career. They were in and out faster than a lobster in hot water.

Jeff and I were introduced to the idea when a scout approached us at the mall and said, "Your daughters are beautiful. Have you considered getting them into modeling and acting?" After the second time in two weeks, we decided to explore the opportunity.

We took our children to acting lessons. We got them an agent. And we started going to auditions. While Jake and Maia had talent (several agents wanted to book them) they were completely uninterested in going to auditions. So, I focused on Lizzy. Lizzy got her first (and last) job as a model in the Hannah Anderson fall catalog.

Next, I took Hailey to a call back (the producers had seen her picture and liked her). But when I walked into the room, I was the only Caucasian person there and found out that they were actually looking for a black baby. They had thought from Hailey's picture that she was African American!

I was somewhat annoyed that the four-hour drive was totally wasted but decided to go up again for an audition for a Cheerios commercial. Lizzy, I thought, would be a good candidate. After all, she had enjoyed the Hannah Anderson photo shoot.

We walked into the waiting room, and Lizzy was excited. We practiced her lines, which she executed flawlessly. But when we walked into the audition room, Lizzy panicked. "This isn't the right room!" she said nervously. She hid behind my legs and refused to come out. The interviewer excused us, and we decided to try one more time. But she was stubborn--and by this time, she was having none of it. She put on her famous pout and stood like a marble statue while I tried everything I could think of to get her to perform. Threats ("I'll make you take a nap when we get home"), bribes ("I'll buy you a toy"), excitement ("Isn't this so fun!"), and even guilt ("Mommy drove all the way up here and will be so sad if you don't do this") were useless. In the end, I hung my head, defeated. And we drove home.

On the way home, I called the agent. "I'm sorry, we won't be able to do this, anymore," was my lame explanation. But as I finished the drive home, I started to feel a weight lift off my chest.

I had given the kids the opportunity to be part of the entertainment field, and they weren't interested. Done. I had found out that the kids weren't meant to be in the field. Done. And life had just become a lot simpler. Done.

Without Lizzy's stubbornness, I would still be trekking up to Los Angeles every week for another boring audition. I guess there are some benefits to her stubborn streak--given to her by both her mom and dad!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

"I Changed My Mind"

Jenny and Lizzy are taking swimming lessons at the public pool on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Lizzy is potty trained, but Jenny is not.

Before I put Jenny in the pool (with plastic pants and a swim diaper), I told her, "Jenny, don't go to the bathroom in the pool."

"Okay, Mommy," was the response.

The swimming lesson went, well, swimmingly. And when it was over, I attempted to have a bonding moment with my two-year-old. I scooped up Jenny into my arms and said, "Jenny, great job! I'm so proud of you!"

All of a sudden, I felt a warm gush running down the entire length of my body. Jeff, who was watching the scene, commented: "I think she peed on you."

"Did you pee on me, Jenny?" I asked.

She innocently replied, "No." But then she thought about it for a second, smiled mischievously, and said, "I changed my mind."

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Communication Column?

This week, I found out that I have a potential opportunity to be the family communication columnist for a cool website (I'll let you know what it is if it works out!). I just submitted this sample column to be considered. What do you think? Likes? Dislikes?

Dear Amy,

Lately, my son has been having a problem with bullying at school. A group of children have targeted him at recess and have been calling him names like “tiny” and “shrimp,” which makes him feel really bad. Is there anything I can tell my son to help him feel better or change the situation? --Perplexed

Dear Perplexed,

If your child is the victim of severe bullying, then you may need to intervene on his behalf. But if he can shift his perspective enough to handle the situation on his own, he will gain confidence and self-esteem that he is capable of successfully handling difficult life experience. An abundance of research continues to show that people who view life from positive perspectives are happier, more successful, and live longer.

Here are a few things to try:

1. Consider the Source. Sometimes, bullies target weaker children because they feel powerless in other aspects of their lives. Maybe there is contention at home. Maybe they have overbearing or controlling parents. Maybe they are not receiving the attention they need at home. Or maybe they have Asperger syndrome or ADHD and simply can’t control themselves. Reminding your son that the problem lies with the bully, not with him, can help to give him perspective.

2. Remind Your Son that He Is Special. Bullies target specific children for a specific reason. Sometimes it’s because the bully feels threatened in some way. Is your son more intelligent, a better artist, more popular, or better looking? Your son is being victimized for a reason, and it is quite likely that he is special in some way that threatens the bully.

By telling your son that he is being bullied because he is special and the bully is jealous, you can help your child shift his perspective from viewing himself as a powerless victim to being a special, important person—a place of power.

3. Cultivate sympathy, not Fear. Telling your child that the bully is jealous will have another important effect on your son’s perspective and the way he handles the situation. Bullies rely on fear of their victims to feel powerful. So framing the bully as a jealous, insecure child will help your child feel sympathy rather than fear for the bully. The emotion of pity comes from a place of power and security. It also fosters the desire to resolve conflict and will help your child treat this problem as a non-issue.

My son, Jacob, was the victim of some mild bullying last year. A boy (whom we will call Jonas) started targeting Jacob and took every opportunity to criticize him at school. Jake came home discouraged one day, saying that Jonas was calling him names and being generally difficult. Our conversation went something like this:

“So, Jake, do you have any idea why Jonas is being mean to you?”

“No. [Silence while he was thinking.] Well, he used to be best friends with Cole, and now I’m best friends with him.”

“So, do you think he is a little bit jealous of you?”

“Jealous?” [Clearly, this had never occurred to him before.]

“Yes, it would be hard to compete with someone as cool as you.”

“But we can all be friends.”

“Maybe he feels like you don’t like him. Is there anything you can do to help fix that? Maybe invite him over or try to play with him at school?”

“Yes, I could invite him to play with us.”

Then Jake hopped out of the car and went to school. About a month later, Jake was listing his best friends. Guess who was on his “A” list? Jonas. Now, I realize that every situation is different, and Jonas could easily have been one of those people who simply didn’t like my son. But by framing Jonas as an insecure child, Jacob felt powerful enough to reach out and form a new friendship.

Good luck, Perplexed! Your son is lucky to have a mother who cares so deeply. I’m rooting for you.

Dr. Amy Osmond Cook received her Ph.D. in communication at the University of Utah. She teaches communication and negotiation classes at Arizona State University.

As the mother of five children, Amy frequently has the chance to practice her negotiation skills and is convinced that children are the toughest negotiators in the world. She is the author or editor of numerous books; and her latest, Negotiate That! Negotiating with your Children without Losing Your Mind, will be published in Spring 2012.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Belle and Ariel

Yesterday, I took Lizzy, Jenny, and Hailey to the mall to play. Lizzy and Jenny were delighted to be part of the "Imagination Parade." Can you tell who is Belle and who is Ariel?

While Hailey didn't get to participate in the parade, she seemed to be having fun. This is the best picture we've been able to take so far!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Maia's Family Night

Maia is my Family Night guru. We try to have family nights on Monday night, which includes some type of spiritual thought or lesson. Lately, Jeff and I have turned that duty over to Maia for three reasons: (1) She likes to do it;(2) she lets the little girls help her plan; and (3) she does a good job! But even Maia grows weary of planning lessons.

Last Monday, Maia planned a family night on "developing your talents." She started in telling the parable of the talents. Then she said, "We all have talents. One talent is doing your homework. Like about Mars." Then, without any further transition, she started to read her homework--the entire page!

Here's what we learned from Maia (word for word).

Facts About Mars
By Maia Bingham

1. Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun in the Solar System.
2. The planet is named after the Roman god of war, Mars.
3. It is often described as the "Red Planet .
4. Mars is a terrestrial planet with a thin atmosphere.
5. The rotational period and seasonal cycles of Mars are likewise similar to those of Earth.
6. The tilt that produces the seasons.
7. The first flyby of Mars occurred in 1965.
8. A lander directly sampled water ice on July 31, 2008.
9. Mars has two moons, Phobos and Deimos, which are small and irregularly shaped.
10.Mars can easily be seen from Earth with the naked eye.

Who knew you could learn so much from your children on Family Night?

You Felt My Feelings!

Today, Jenny DIDN'T want me to chase her around the playground. Usually, she begs and pleads all day long to "Get ME! Get ME!" I will then halfheartedly chase her around the house while balancing the baby in one arm and the phone in the other.

But today, Jenny was otherwise occupied and apparently only likes to play the "Get ME" game when it's her idea. When I tried to initiate it, she screamed in annoyance, folded her arms, and said, "You Felt my Feelings!"

"I hurt your feelings?" I replied.

"Yes. You Felt My Feelings."

Jake's AWESOME day!

This week has been a big week for everyone!

Jake had THE BEST day on Thursday! First, he came home with a stellar report card. Then his guitar teacher wanted to spend extra time with him because he's doing really well. Then his swim coach promoted him to the higher swim team--all in one day! It's days like this that keep both him and the taxi driver (that's me) going!

You can tell Jake is getting older because his sense of humor is changing. Lately, he's been into doing "Chuck Norris" jokes. Here's one:

"Not only does Chuck Norris know the last digit of pi, he has also counted to infinity . . . twice."

I'll try to upload a video of him telling Chuck Norris jokes tomorrow. But tonight I am beat! Got to go to bed!