Parent Guide to Coping with Stress

By Leah Davies, M.Ed.

Before parents can help guide their children to cope well with their problems, parents must first take time to care for themselves. The following are ways parents can take control of their lives and manage their own stress.

  • Accept yourself as an imperfect human being.
  • Believe that you have value and that you can make a contribution to humanity.
  • Accept responsibility for yourself and your behavior.
  • Exercise.
  • Eat well-balanced meals.
  • Get enough rest.
  • Avoid using tobacco, alcohol or other drugs.
  • Cultivate a hopeful attitude by saying encouraging things to yourself.
  • Develop effective communication skills.
  • Foster a sense of humor.
  • Seek out and maintain at least one close personal friend.
  • Make a list of things that you enjoy doing that are good for you.
  • Arrange to do one a day.


  • Write down how you see yourself one year, five years, or ten years from now.
  • Share your ideas and goals with someone you trust.


  • Write down at least three of your worries.
  • Rank order your list by their importance in your life.
  • By each worry write ACCEPT, CHANGE, or REJECT.
  • For each worry decide what your first step will be toward accepting, changing or rejecting it.
  • Carry out the steps you listed.



Used by permission of the author, Leah Davies, and selected from the Kelly Bear website []

Parent Guide to Perfectionism in Children

By Leah Davies, M.Ed.

Children who have perfectionist tendencies exhibit a continuum of behaviors. On one end of the spectrum are children who take pleasure from doing difficult tasks, setting high standards for themselves, and putting forth the necessary energy for high achievement. On the other end of the continuum are those children who are unable to glean satisfaction from their efforts due to their preset, unrealistic goals. Since mistakes are unacceptable to them, perfectionism provides these students with little pleasure and much self-reproach.

Perfectionism appears to result from a combination of inborn tendencies and environmental factors. These can include excessive praise or demands from parents, teachers or trainers, observation of adults modeling perfectionist tendencies, and from parental love being conditional upon the child`s exemplary achievement. Extreme perfectionism has been linked to performance and social anxiety, eating disorders, migraine headaches, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, and suicide.

Some characteristics of children who are extreme perfectionists:

  • having exceptionally high expectations for themselves;
  • being self-critical, self-conscious and easily embarrassed;
  • having strong feelings of inadequacy and low self-confidence;
  • exhibiting persistent anxiety about making mistakes;
  • being highly sensitive to criticism;
  • procrastinating and avoiding stressful situations or difficult tasks;
  • being emotionally guarded and socially inhibited;
  • having a tendency to be critical of others;
  • exhibiting difficulty making decisions and prioritizing tasks;
  • experiencing headaches or other physical ailments when they perform below the expectations of themselves or others.

Gifted children, who are accustomed to excelling, are often perfectionists. Problems occur if they refuse to attempt a new assignment or do not complete their work because it may not be done flawlessly. The result is gifted children who are underachievers. These students are also susceptible to burn-out if they attempt to display exemplary performance in every academic discipline. See: Gifted Children

Parents may help children who exhibit extreme perfectionism in the following ways:

  1. Provide unconditional caring and support.
  2. Provide a calm, uncluttered, and structured environment.
  3. Avoid comparing children.
  4. Give specific praise. See: Effective Praise.
  5. Avoid using words such as brilliant, genius, and perfect.
  6. Use listening and other communication skills.
  7. Acknowledge without judgment children’s negative emotions such as frustration, anxiety, sadness and fear.
  8. Ask children to keep a journal expressing their thoughts and feelings.
  9. Help them understand that it is impossible to complete every task without making mistakes.
  10. Encourage high standards, but explain that there is a difference between perfectionism and quality work.
  11. Involve them in setting realistic standards for themselves.
  12. Let them know that even if they fail at something, they are loved.
  13. Challenge their belief if they call themselves a failure, and provide a more rational evaluation.
  14. Help them prioritize tasks and break down assignments or projects into manageable parts.
  15. Teach them to revise, start again, and learn from their errors.
  16. For those who procrastinate, change the goal from perfection to completion.
  17. Provide support if they perform at a lower level than expected.
  18. Help them learn coping skills such as positive “self-talk.” See: Encouraging Thoughts
  19. Encourage the use of self-control skills. See: The Essential Skill of Self-Control
  20. Promote relaxation techniques such as listening to soothing music, counting slowly, taking deep breaths, participating in a hobby, walking, reading or something else that helps calm them.
  21. Read biographies together of successful people who overcame failure, persevered and achieved greatness; for example, Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, and Helen Keller.
  22. Help them understand that saying disparaging things about themselves is detrimental to their well-being.
  23. Create opportunities for success that will enhance their self-confidence.
  24. Encourage constructive peer interaction through various activities.
  25. Have them practice saying kind comments to others.
  26. Meet with their teachers to promote a cooperative relationship.
  27. Admit to making your own mistakes.
  28. Model perseverance when faced with a difficult task.
  29. Use constructive coping skills when dealing with disappointments.
  30. Examine your competitiveness and, when necessary, decrease your emphasis on winning.

Children who suffer from extreme perfectionism need assistance from the adults in their lives. They may also need help from a professional therapist. The goal would be to reduce their perfectionists tendencies to the point of having them become an asset rather than a liability.



Used by permission of the author, Leah Davies, and selected from the Kelly Bear website []

52 Character Building Thoughts for Children

By Leah Davies, M.Ed.

The following quotes may be used in a variety of ways by both teachers and counselors. One idea is for a thought to be posted, read, and discussed at the beginning of each week. It could then be read daily with the students. At the end of the week ask them what they learned or how the thought applied to their lives or activities during the week. Have the children give written or oral examples, or have them draw a picture to illustrate their ideas.

    1. How I look is not as important as how I act.


    1. I treat others the way I want them to treat me.


    1. I am a good sport; I follow the rules, take turns and play fair.


    1. It is okay to laugh at funny things, but not to laugh at others.


    1. I do not gossip; if I cannot say anything helpful, I do not say anything at all.


    1. When I am sad, I help myself feel better by thinking of things that are good in my life.


    1. In order to have friends, I must act in a kind way.


    1. I believe that I am someone who can do important things.


    1. What I say and how I say it tells others the kind of person I am.


    1. I appreciate my family, my teachers, and my school.


    1. I treat everyone with respect.


    1. When I listen, I show others that I care about them.


    1. I am being a good citizen when I volunteer to help others.


    1. I think for myself and make smart choices that are good for me.


    1. Each day offers a new start to do my best.


    1. I try to understand what my friends are feeling.


    1. Everyone makes mistakes, so instead of getting angry with myself, I try to do better.


    1. I do not give up; I keep trying until I can do my work.


    1. Sharing with others makes me feel good and makes them feel good too.


    1. I work out my problems without hurting myself or others.


    1. I am being polite when I wait for my turn and say please and thank you.


    1. When I smile at people, they usually smile back.


    1. I encourage my friends to do their best.


    1. My values guide me to do what is right.


    1. I am honest; I do not cheat or steal.


    1. When I am angry, I use self-control and do not hurt others.


    1. I am being creative when I dance, draw, paint or write a poem or story.


    1. I say, "No!" to things that could hurt my body like tobacco and alcohol.


    1. When I do what I say I will do, I am being responsible.


    1. I am grateful for what I have, so I share with others.


    1. I try to learn something new each day.


    1. When things do not go my way, I stop and think of what I can do to make them better.


    1. I do not make fun of other children because I don't know what their life is like.


    1. I feel successful when I do my best.


    1. Everyone has good and bad feelings.


    1. I take care of myself by eating healthy food, exercising and getting enough rest.


    1. I am being punctual when I am on time and do not keep people waiting.


    1. When I cooperate with others, I get more done.


    1. I follow the rules and try to make my school a better place.


    1. I like to get to know children who are different from me.


    1. Since I tell the truth, my friends trust me.


    1. I look for what is good in others and I say what I like about them.


    1. I buy only what I need and I save my money.


    1. When I use my time wisely, there is usually enough time to do what I want to do.


    1. I think before I act; how I act affects how others treat me.


    1. Using manners helps me keep my friends.


    1. I have courage to stand up for children who are teased.


    1. Before I do something, I ask myself, "Is it safe?"


    1. I am me -- I do not try to be like someone else.


    1. I care about living things on earth so I recycle and do not litter.


    1. When I write down what I think and feel, I learn about myself.


  1. I plan ahead and think about what I want to do when I grow up.



Used by permission of the author, Leah Davies, and selected from the Kelly Bear website [], 2/05


20 Ways to Foster Values in Children

By Leah Davies, M.Ed.

"There are little eyes upon you and they're watching night and day.
There are little ears that quickly take in every word you say.
There are little hands all eager to do everything you do.
And a little child who's dreaming of the day he'll be like you."

     -- author unknown

What are values and why do we need them?
They are cherished beliefs and standards for right and wrong. They provide direction and meaning to life. Values inspire constructive behavior.

What values do you consider most important?
The following is a starting place for creating your own list of values:
compassion, generosity, helpfulness, wisdom, forgiveness, courtesy, punctuality, thriftiness, truthfulness, self-respect, obedience, patience, responsibility, dependability, cooperation, honesty, fairness, kindness, tolerance, humility, self-discipline, loyalty, courage, self-assurance, sportsmanship, gratitude, creativity, joyfulness, motivation, perseverance, faithfulness, knowledge, respectfulness...

How can you instill values in your child?

  1. Read and discuss stories that support your beliefs.
  2. Monitor your child's media exposure that can undermine parental influence and the development of moral standards for behavior.
  3. Share your approval when praiseworthy behavior is portrayed in the media and/or in real life, and discuss your displeasure when corrupt behavior is displayed.
  4. Comment on your child's admirable conduct. For example, "Johnny, you were being dependable when you fed the dog without being reminded." "When you helped Mrs. Jones pick up sticks in her yard, you were doing a good deed and showing her you cared."
  5. Name your own commendable actions. For example, "I was honest when I told the clerk she had given me too much change." "I recycle items because we need to do our part to protect the environment."
  6. Be polite and considerate toward others.
  7. Do what you say you will do.
  8. Share your time, talents and possessions.
  9. Set goals and complete difficult tasks.
  10. Display warmth, support, encouragement, and consistency toward your child.
  11. Set high but reasonable standards for your child's behavior.
  12. Listen respectfully to your child's ideas and feelings.
  13. Answer your child's questions.
  14. Offer your child choices.
  15. Take time to have fun with your child. For example, play games, read, pretend, look at family photos, share dreams, attend events, participate in sports or hobbies, or volunteer for worthy causes.
  16. Agree on family rules and live by them. For example, the television is off during family meals; we are kind to each other; we do not use profanity.
  17. Divide chores and work together on family projects.
  18. Participate in religious activities and/or be faithful to religious or moral beliefs.
  19. Consider how your family spends its time and money by asking yourself, "In my child's eyes, what does my family value most?"
  20. Remember that your child will adopt the values you demonstrate daily.


Used by permission of the author, Leah Davies, and selected from the Kelly Bear website []

Emotional Intelligence: An Essential Component of Education

By Leah Davies, M.Ed.

Why do people with high Intelligence Quotients (IQs) sometimes fail and those of modest IQs often do surprisingly well? In his book Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman concludes that our view of human intelligence is far too narrow.* He stresses that a high score on an IQ test does not guarantee future success or determine a child's ability to be self-disciplined, motivated, or display enthusiasm for life. He postulated that in recent years we have experienced a degeneration of "emotional literacy" across racial and class boundaries, and that the results have been an increase in cynicism, social pathology, violence, and suicide. Goleman believes that society has overemphasized IQ to the neglect of emotional skills such as empathy, responsibility, persistence, impulse control, and caring. However, he stated these attributes can be taught.

According to Goleman, childhood is "a special window of opportunity for shaping children's emotional habits." We must help children recognize and understand their emotions and the emotions of others. If children learn to persevere and accept mistakes as a natural part of learning, they will be better able to control themselves and handle their frustrations in positive ways. Since children need emotional training to grow into productive, satisfied adults, he urges educators and parents to integrate their emotional and rational minds which are two basically different ways of knowing. Goleman states that promoting EQ (emotional intelligence) in children is vital to the safety and civility in our society.

How can we fulfill our responsibility to assist children in becoming emotionally literate?

  1. Increase SELF-AWARENESS by using materials that help children identify their feelings, build a feelings vocabulary, and recognize links between feelings, thoughts, and actions. Help them assess their strengths and weaknesses and thus develop a realistic view of themselves.
  2. Teach students to MANAGE THEIR EMOTIONS. It is normal to have mood swings, but children need to know that they have the power to cope with negative feelings in constructive ways. They can respond to put-downs and adverse situations by using "self-talk." For example, "Something bad must have happened to Tommy today because he doesn't usually say mean things," instead of thinking, "I hate Tommy and I'm never going to play with him again." Other methods of dealing with negative emotions are to write down your feelings, count slowly, breathe deeply, love a pet, tell someone what happened, sing, read, or draw.
  3. Call attention to NORMS FOR ACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOR in our society and help children see themselves as contributing members. Increase their social interaction skills by stressing the importance of empathy. Teach them to acknowledge and appreciate differences in others' feelings and perspectives.
  4. Teach them to CONTROL THEIR NEGATIVE IMPULSES through self-regulation. Help students think about their feelings and behavior and evaluate their choices before acting. Provide opportunities for them to delay gratification and to practice using refusal skills when appropriate. Emphasize that the choices they make today will determine the kind of future they will have.
  5. Help children DEVELOP LISTENING AND COMMUNICATION SKILLS. Increase children's awareness of nonverbal communication including tone of voice, gestures, facial expressions, and eye contact. Train them to be good listeners and to express their ideas and emotions clearly and effectively. Teach problem solving, stress management, and negotiation skills. Help children learn to be assertive rather than aggressive or passive.
  6. Challenge children to MOTIVATE THEMSELVES, set clear goals, and develop a hopeful, optimistic attitude. Encourage self-confidence, zeal, patience, and require students to take responsibility for their actions.
  7. INVOLVE PARENTS as much as possible, so that they will be encouraged to model emotionally healthy behavior in the home.
  8. Since the children are looking to you for guidance on how people in our society live, NURTURE YOUR OWN EQ. Strive to be empathic, self-disciplined, enthusiastic, tolerant, and compassionate.

    *Goleman, Daniel. (1995), Emotional Intelligence, New York: Bantam Books.




Used by permission of the author, Leah Davies, and selected from the Kelly Bear website []. 10/200

Encouraging Thoughts

By Leah Davies, M.Ed.

Encouragement means to stimulate initiative and positive actions. Teachers, counselors, and parents are asked to encourage children to do their best by acknowledging their efforts and strengths. However, when children do not feel good about themselves or their situation, they need to be reminded of ways they can encourage themselves and each other.

Ask your students for examples of thoughts that help them feel better when they are unhappy. Explain that helpful thoughts are called positive "self-talk" and that adults often use this as a way to cope with their problems. List the children's ideas on the board.

Some examples are:

  •   I am a good person no matter what anyone does or says.
  •   It is okay to make mistakes because everyone does.
  •   I do not give up; I keep trying.
  •   I think about what is good in my life.
  •   Everyone feels good and bad, now and then.
  •   I can do it!
  •   Money cannot buy happiness.
  •   How I act is more important than how I look.
  •   I am lovable.
  •   When I smile, I feel better.
  •   I can do many things well.
  •   I cannot control what grown-ups do.
  •   I am unique, one of a kind.
  •   When I feel sad, I think of things I like about myself.
  •   Each new day brings a chance to do better.
  •   I think about my choices and then choose what is best for me.
  •   I will change what I can and accept what I cannot change.
  •   I treat others the way I want to be treated.
  •   I cannot change my family; I can only change myself.
  •   What I learn today will help me in the future.

After making an extensive list, have the children choose a sentence that is meaningful to them. Ask the students to make a picture or poster featuring their saying complete with illustrations. Have them prominently sign their creation. Then divide into small groups or pairs and have the children discuss their work. Caution the students to be respectful of each other's ideas. Display the results in the classroom or in the hall to challenge ALL children to use positive "self-talk" that will encourage them to do their best.


Used by permission of the author, Leah Davies, and selected from the Kelly Bear website []. 2/02

The 8 “L’s” of Parenting

By Leah Davies, M.Ed.

  1. LOVE your child. For your child to be successful, he or she must feel valued. Your gentle touches, smiles and hugs communicate love. Giving your undivided attention, especially at the end of each day, demonstrates caring.
  2. LOOK for the good in your child and make specific comments on what he or she does well. You must believe in your child's worth before he or she can believe it. If you want your child to have self-confidence and motivation, watch for positive behaviors and comment on them.
  3. LISTEN, without judgment, to your child express his or her thoughts and feelings. If you do not listen, your child may attempt to gain your attention by misbehaving.
  4. LAUGH with your child, not at him or her. Demonstrate a sense of humor as you cope with life's difficulties. Laugh and play together.
  5. LABOR diligently and with pride so that your child will want to work hard, persevere and do his or her best.
  6. LEARN new information. It is fine to say, I don't know, but then add that you both can find out together. Take the time to read and thus instill a love of learning. On car trips play word games, read or listen to books on tape.
  7. LEAVE the television and other media off. Many programs and video games desensitize your child towards violence and contribute to fearfulness and aggression. Place computers in central locations to monitor internet use.
  8. LIVE life to its fullest. Take pleasure in little things like an ice cream cone, a beautiful day or the enthusiasm of your child. Read, pretend, dance, sing, take walks, play games, have pleasant meals, look at photos, share dreams, and enjoy each other.

Remember: Your child will most likely adopt the attitudes and habits you demonstrate daily.


  Used by permission of the author, Leah Davies, and selected from the Kelly Bear website []. 7/04