“The best way to keep our children in check over the summer (or any time) with regard to rules, is to follow the rules ourselves.”

Dear Apprehensive,

Enjoying a relaxed atmosphere combined with rules and routines is certainly the way to go with your family in the summer. Let us first define what a healthy, relaxed, and enjoyable atmosphere looks like. Some people think that relaxed means being free to indulge in all of our wishes. That couldn’t be further from the truth, because rules and guidelines are actually designed to safeguard us and allow maximal growth as human beings (which ultimately brings the most happiness).

Now that we know what an unhealthy relaxed atmosphere looks like, how can we clearly define a healthy one? A healthy relaxed environment is one where people feel comfortable, are celebrated for who they are, and happiness is felt in the air. In order to give this to our children, we have to bring ourselves to a place where we truly celebrate every child exactly as they are. This does not mean we celebrate every behavior. We want to send a message that we embrace our children with an open heart and show them that we choose happiness in our day to day lives. This doesn’t mean that we will always be in a great mood, but it does mean that when we are not in a great mood, we are aware that it is just a mood, and know that it will pass, and bring us back to our true natural state of happiness.

Now for the rules and routine part. You are right in giving that much importance. I reiterate the rules are designed to protect us physically, spiritually, and emotionally. We can all imagine what a house, city, or government without rules would look like. The best way to keep our children in check over the summer (or any time) with regard to rules is to follow the rules ourselves. If we value children going to sleep at a healthy bedtime, are we showing them that we have created a healthy bedtime for ourselves? If you want your children to see that it is important to be nice to their friends in camp, let them see you going out of your way to call someone less socially privileged than you to chat and make her feel important. Children copy what they see. When we notice our children behaving in certain undesirable ways, we need to examine our own behaviors and see if they have been learning these things from us.
If they have, there is no need to worry because we have the gift of free will in every moment. That means that we can decide to change whatever we have been poorly modeling at any moment in time. It’s actually very nice for children to watch their parents act in a humble way, and say, “I am trying my best to do things differently from now on.” It models to children how to admit mistakes and move on. I hope that this was helpful, and I am sure that you will create an excellent balance of fun and rules for your children this summer. Lots of luck!


Dear Tammy,

As the summer is approaching,
I am nervous about how to go about having a fun, relaxed atmosphere with my children, while balancing the need for following rules and routines. My kids are between the ages of 9 and 17, and they look forward to “chilling out” in the summer, as most children do.
Do you have any good ideas?


A Bit Apprehensive

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By Tammy Sassoon, M.s.ed
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Love =
Attention + Affection

Love consists of two factors: attention and affection. Parents must offer both in order to produce healthy feelings of love in children. When you give proper attention and affection, you provide children with a strong foundation, which helps them to foster healthy relationships throughout their lives.

What is Attention?

Attention is being both sensitive and responsive to a child’s needs. The needs can range from a child needing to reach something on a high shelf, to needing to have his or her feelings validated, to being fed when hungry. If the child feels that when he or sheneeds something the parent or teacher takes that need seriously, then he knows that he will receive the proper attention and ultimately feels loved.

What is Affection?

Affection is the physical and emotional warmth we give to our children. It is the most powerful way we communicate our love. Hug and kiss your children for as long as they feel comfortable with it. If your children have reached an age where they are uncomfortable with you hugging and kissing them, find other ways to fulfill their human need for affection. Give them high fives, play-wrestle, put your arm around them, etc. Remember, children who get healthy doses of affection are able to give love more readily to others.

How Will Your Children Benefit  from Love?

Feeling loved decreases opposition. Children who feel loved are far more likely to listen to their parents. Think back to when you were a child. You responded to teachers that you felt warm feelings towards, and didn’t respond to teachers who did not make you feel loved. When I speak to children about being compassionate, I start off my conversation by asking them if they remember something really nice that a teacher once said to them. Most children are excited about sharing something positive that a teacher said to them. After a child shares the episode, I ask, “How many years ago was that?” Then the child says, “One, three, four, ten, etc.” I then ask that same child what he ate for lunch last Tuesday. He usually laughs and says, “I don’t remember!” Then Icounter with, “Aha, you remember when a teacher did something kind to you four years ago, but you can’t remember what you ate last Tuesday.”

Then I continue to ask the child if he or she remembers a time when a teacher said something not so nice to him or her. Usually the child will make a face and nod. I then ask how many years ago it happened. Again, they answer with, “A year ago,” or “Three years ago,” etc. I proceed to ask them if they remember what they wore last Monday. Of course no one remembers. It is at that point that I explain to the student the everlasting effects of being kind and compassionate. 

I go on to tell them that our souls are wired for kindness and giving, and that is why our souls remember acts of love and acts of non-love, but do not remember petty things like lunches and outfits, even if they were eaten or worn more recently. You can do this mental exercise yourself. Think of teachers who made you feel loved or unloved, and think of how motivated you were with each one.

The Greatest Teacher

Fortunately, I am acquainted with a lot of excellent teachers.  But there is one particular teacher who stands out in my mind as being known for her amazing classroom management skills. Even when she taught the most difficult children, she has always managed to motivate them to listen. I heard all about her and wanted to learn her secret to getting these difficult children to cooperate. So I sat in the back of her class a few times.

Her secret was simple, yet profound. This brilliant teacher runs her entire class on love. She makes each child feel like ten million dollars. She smiles at them, sending them a message that she is happy to see them. She also leaves personal notes on their desks, hugs them, and plays board games with them during recess. They love her back, so they listen to her.

Human Beings Were Created to Love

Love makes a strong impression. Children remember the times they received love and the times when they did not.  Even as an adult, I am sure that it’s easier for you to cooperate with people who make you feel like they like you.

Homework: Think back to who your favorite teacher was, and decide what he or she did to convey messages of true concern for you. Copy that style of communication with your own kids at least oncea day.

Tammy Sassoon is a behavioral therapist and parenting coach. She gives live workshops as well as “train by phone” telecourses to teachers, principals, therapists, and parents, in order to help them gain compliance from even the most oppositi onal children. She can be contacted through her website,

By Tammy Sassoon
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