About Jenn Bernert

Jenn Bernert (LMHC) is a veteran parent coach and licensed therapist in the State of Washington (LH60169801). She holds a Master’s Degree in Psychology from Saybrook University (Graduate School of Psychology) in San Francisco, CA., and a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Sciences from Western Washington University. Jenn has been providing adults, families, children and agencies parent coaching, therapy, counseling, organizational leadership and advocacy for 10 years.

Parenting Tips for the Holidays

IMG_1910My best friend recently told me that she’d been invited to a Hanukkah party where all guests are required to bring one gift for each child in attendance. She’s anticipating about 20 children, which means that each child will go home with 20 presents! This got me thinking about the challenges that sometimes come with parenting during a time where consumerism is rampant and strongly encouraged. And while us adults are the ones with the means to make these purchases, your children are not protected from the advertising and cultural messages that encourage them to want things ‘shiny and new.’ Whatever holiday you celebrate this time of year, it’s most likely that what your child associates with these winter traditions is….receiving presents.

So, how do you handle the badgering from your children, the tug on your coat every 5 minutes during holiday shopping to ask you to buy them something they see? How do you handle the “I want it!” melt-downs? Or the two page long Christmas lists? Here a list of a few parenting tips to keep you sane and to keep your child’s badgering to a minimum.

1.     Prepare your children for the gift-giving season with some clear guidelines/expectations. Let them know if you want them to give you a gift list of items they like, or whether you’ll be keeping track yourself of things they ask for. If you want them to make a list, tell them how long that list can be (no more than 10 items, for example).  If you take them shopping for holiday gifts, be clear about your expectations. “I know you may see things that you want while we’re shopping, and we won’t be buying any of those things today. Today we’re shopping grandpa and aunt Sue.” “You can look at things you like, but I’m not buying you anything today.” Or “If you see something you like, we can add it to your gift list, but we won’t be purchasing anything today.”

2.     If you know your child will demand you buy them things while shopping and that this will cause a headache, try to make arrangements so they aren’t shopping WITH you. Do your shopping on-line. Or leave the children at home with a spouse or sitter or friend while you shop. This will decrease opportunities for your child to see new things that they want and harass you.

3.     Be prepared for your child asking you for things. Telling your child that you won’t tolerate them asking probably won’t work. Determine a response and stay consistent:

 “I can see you really like that toy, and we’re not going to buy that today.”

 “I’ve already purchased your gifts, and I’m not able to get you more.”

 “We can’t afford to make extra or un-planned purchases today.”

 Or you can just ignore the request or redirect your child to something else. This can sometimes be just as effective as a verbal response.

 If your child doesn’t respond to ignoring, try to validate their interest (“Yes, that is a cool toy”) and then repeat as many times as you need to that you won’t be buying it.

 If your child does have a tantrum in the store, leave the store immediately. You want to minimize the attention they get for the behavior. Sit in the car with them for a cool-down period and return to the store only IF you feel they are calm and believe they won’t tantrum again. If they don’t calm down, you may have to cut your losses, go home, and make plans to shop on your own at a later time.

4.     Engage your child in finding gifts or making gifts for others. If your child is focusing on what to give to someone else, they are thinking less about themselves and what they want. If you’re shopping together, ask them to help you pick out a gift for a relative or friend. Your child will enjoy being allowed to give input and will be les bored while shopping. If you have any creative inclinations, make time during the week to help your child make gifts. There are lots of easy projects for all ages online or in library books to get your child’s creative juices flowing. Your child can feel proud that they made something to give to family and friends.

 5.     Develop a tradition around giving/recycling used items to those in need. In my family, the day after Christmas (Boxing Day) is a day where each of us fills a box with toys/clothes we no longer want or need and we donate the items to a charitable organization. Mom and Dad participating too, with their own box, will encourage your child to fill theirs too.

 6.     Adopt a family during the holiday season. This is an opportunity to educate your child about there being many children who don’t have the luxury of gifts during the holiday season. Find a family to adopt and have your child help you shop for the gifts you’ll be giving to them. It’s always fun to adopt a family with child(ren) who are similar ages to your child(ren) as your child may have lots of ideas for what they might like.

 Finally, “The Dont’s”

 1.     Don’t engage your child in a discussion about whether that’s a good toy to like or ask for. If they like it, they like it. You don’t have to like it too.

 2.     Don’t argue with them about why you aren’t buying them something. If you ignore, or just repeat yourself, they won’t have anything to argue with you about.

 3.     Don’t give in. If you can’t afford to buy something for your child or don’t want to buy something, you don’t need to just because your child is asking. Your child has the right to ask, and you have the right to say ‘no.’


Keeping one step ahead of your child who is a step ahead of you.

Every parent has felt it. You are being run-ragged and out-paced by someone half your size with twice your stamina. They’ve pestered you till you’ve given in to their every desire. They have more determination and persistence than you thought was possible and they aren’t taking no for an answer. When you’re tired and a few steps behind, it seems like you’re losing every battle. Part of what makes parenting so wonderful and challenging is that kids are SMART. They may have fewer words than you but they are observing the world like a hawk. Even before they can talk, they know how to get your attention and get what they want. Here are some tips for keeping pace with your smarty-pants, while also teaching your child some important life lessions — how to get attention the right way and how to trust your leadership.

1. Anticipate what they want. If you pay attention, you can figure out pretty quickly what your kid tends to want or ask for the most (whether it’s juice, a story, a cartoon). Use these little treats as incentives and ask for some things that you would like in return. Try saying things like “we can cuddle up and read that story you love…when you pick up your toys”. Or, “you can have the juice box…if you can make it through the grocery store without pulling items off the shelf.” Use your psychic parenting skills to offer them these treats before they think to ask. You’ll be happier that you are thinking ahead and getting some needs met, and your child will feel pleased to get what they want with less begging.

2. Be a leader. If you lead, they will follow. Your kids want to be near you most of all, so use this to your advantage. You want to leave the house and they are kicking and screaming? Start walking out – they will follow you.

3. Talk less. Your explaining and lecturing and arguing is a one way ticket to losing steam and giving in. The fewer words you use the stronger your position and the better able your child is to understand what you need and want.  Your child will debate you all day if you let them and it takes two to argue. If you want to tell them ‘why’ you need or want them to do something, that’s fine but keep it one sentence long and end the conversation – walk away if you need to. If they want to have the last word, let ’em. You’re still sticking to what you said and they can’t argue if you aren’t talking.

4. Be a broken record. As I said above, it takes two to argue. You make your point, they make their point, you tell them they’re wrong, they tell you you’re wrong, and around and around you go. Talking less is key. And if you feel the urge to talk or 5 minutes has passed and your child is still digging in their heels, repeat yourself. Don’t try to rationalize with your child – they will reason back. Don’t try to persuade them to do the right thing – that will leave them feeling manipulated and robbed of their free will. Just repeat what you need or want from them. Be a broken record, calmly repeat yourself…your child will get the message. They can’t talk or yell their way out of it.

Jenn Bernert, MA, LMHC  *  jenn@jennanddavid.org   *  206.707.1247

Expealidocious Blog: Redifining “Normal:” Un-Knowing

You are inundated with the cultural message that you “should” Know. You should know what you want to be when you grow up. You should know who you are. You should know how to be a good parent. In our culture, a state of knowing is directly associated with high esteem. Knowing means you are smart, capable, credible, an expert. And yet there is a problem with drawing this conclusion…. Not knowing comes to mean you are dumb, you aren’t capable enough to figure it out, and people have nothing to learn from you. You may have felt this way before – “I don’t know, but that person over there knows, so there must be something wrong with me.” Let’s challenge that assumption – Is it true that not knowing means there is something wrong with you? No, this is absolutely not true. Being in a state of un-knowing is a typical state that most people find themselves in much of the time. Take a minute to think about it. Tally up the times you knew versus the times you weren’t sure you knew …

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