Know someone who is a Helicopter Educator? Parent?

Dear Difference Maker,

When it comes to hovering, I like to refer to what Mr. Rogers has to say about Limits…

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The Helicopter Parent or Teacher
Excerpt from Make a Difference with the Power of Connection

Excessive attention—hovering—is equally destructive and unhealthy for a child’s psychological and emotional development and will guarantee one of two outcomes.

A child who is strong-willed, or has neurological personality wiring that is overt, is more likely to resist and become extremely defiant. A child with a more covert, thoughtful or passive neurological personality may take on a “victim” or “I can’t” behavior.

Excessive attention, repeating directives and constantly checking-in is a put down. It teaches your child to be self-absorbed, instilling the “it’s all about me” world view. Through constant helicopter hovering, trying to know every detail of your child’s life, you are basically saying, “You are incapable of managing your life without me.”

Invasive attention is irritating to a child’s psyche and energetic physiological system. Visualize children growing into competent and capable individuals, and that will benefit them more.

“Hovering like a helicopter” with persistent, pointless and repetitive “Make sure you do this, remember to do that,” aggravates the emotional and psychological health of any child. It will create negative reactions, and lower the child’s self esteem and ability to navigate their world with growing confidence and maturity.



When my son was little, every night at bedtime, I would lie down on the bed with him to read. If there had been a problem that day, this would be the time he would access his feelings and want to talk about it. Largely because of my counseling background, I knew the value of just listening and not fixing.

Rather than tell him what he should do, I simply said, “Let’s both get really quiet and listen to what our inside voice tells us would make this better.” A few minutes later, he would tell me what his inside voice had told him to do to make the situation better. Invariably, what he “heard” was what I “heard” as well.

I knew that the only way my children would ever be safe in the world as they grew up was for them to learn to listen and trust the quiet inside voice, known to most as intuition. But, you say, “What if my children hear a different voice from what I would tell them to do?” Then you simply listen to the child’s reasoning in order to deter mine if it is, in fact, the inside voice or outside voices of society and fear. Intuition, after all, never causes harm to oneself or others.

When my son was eleven, he was headed up the hill on his bicycle to his friend’s house. I told him that because it would be dark soon, I did not want him coming down our hill fast. He was to take it slowly.


After dark, I caught him speeding down the hill and barely making the turn into our yard. When I asked him what was going on for him—that he would not do as I had specifically directed him to do—he said, “My inside voice told me to go fast.”

Was that his intuition or just an excuse? Of course it’s fun to ride down the hill at top speed, but he did that every day, so he understood that this was a special request. I knew he would be coming home after dark and I just felt it would be safer.


Knowing my son, I think he got scared in the dark and felt the need to get home as quickly as he could. Inside voice or fear? Possibly both. Because I was teaching him the importance of listening to his inside voice, I supported his interpretation and didn’t feel it would “teach him a lesson” to take his bicycle privileges away. It paid off in more ways than I can list in this book. All three of our children are world travelers and have the ability to slow themselves down and wait for inner directions and answers.

This is the one thing that gives me ease as a parent when I think of my grown children traveling on the highways and byways of their lives.

And About Consequences!

An educator and parent’s number one job is to foster self-esteem by encouraging age-appropriate dependence while allowing autonomy to develop. Interdependence is a most healthy emotional state which is learned through two-way communication.

Most communication between adults and children is one-way, and that’s why it fails to bring about desired behavior.

If you are having a very difficult time with teen-agers, it’s because you have an attitude, and you are not genuinely extending positive regard or offering a respectful connection.


If you subscribe to the belief that life is going to be a rollercoaster ride when children become teenagers, then that belief is “your attitude,” and you are most definitely programming an expectation that will become a self-fulfilling experience.

If your attitude is anything but compassionate positive regard, it is interfering with any attempt to communicate. You must modify your attitude by re-labeling your limited beliefs about what your experience will be with teenagers. Start connecting with compassion. It’s not easy for teen-agers to be with adults who consistently launch their negative, limiting “attitudes” at them.

Deborah Yurgelun-Todd is the director of neuropsychology and cognitive neuro-imaging at McLean Hospital in Belmont, MA. Her recent work suggests that teens’ brains actually work differently than adults’ when processing emotional information from external stimuli.

In a recent study of mapping differences between brains of adults and teens, Todd put teenage and adult volunteers into an MRI and monitored how their brains responded to a series of pictures. The results were surprising. When she examined their brain scans, Todd found that the teenagers were using a different part of their brain when viewing the images.


There was an age-dependent or age-related change between the ages of eleven and seventeen, with the most dramatic difference being in the early teen years. One aspect of the scientists’ work has been to look at the frontal part of the brain, which has been known to underlie thought, anticipation, planning and goal-directed behavior. They studied the relationship of this part to the more inferior, or lower part, of the brain, which has been associated with gut responses.

The frontal lobe, the executive region that was studied, is not always functioning fully in teenagers. That would suggest that teenagers aren’t thinking through the consequences of their behaviors. Now this explains so much!

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One of the implications of this work is that, in relationship to emotional information, the teenager’s brain may be responding more with gut reaction—impulsive behavior—than with an executive or measured, thoughtful response.

Realize that, if teenagers are not fully developed in thinking through consequences of their behavior, then younger children certainly are not either.

Shaming children into behaving does not teach them to use their judgment, but rather teaches them that they are incompetent, incapable, irresponsible and inept.

This actually induces more of the unproductive behavior, because at” the unwanted behaviors instead of using the language of positive reinforcement, expectation, directives and choices.

Frontal lobe development research now helps us understand how a compassionate response— activating the frontal lobe—to an emotionally upsetting situation soothes problematic behaviors quickly.

This also explains why making desired behavior about the “consequences,” rather than teaching choice-making and skill acquisition, does not teach them a lesson!

Repeatedly threatening harsh consequences will never instill the skill acquisition you want to see children and teenagers growing into.

To read more about Deborah Yurgelun-Todd’s research findings, go to:

The teenage brain responds more with gut reaction than with a measured, thoughtful response.

So what do you do with children or teenagers who are out of control, causing harm to themselves or others?

Do this:


• Give ongoing acknowledgment, positive regard and behavior-affirming attention.

• Make a connection—use two-way communication about behavioral expectations.

• Offer choices, stating best case scenario preferences. Ask the child what he “thinks.”

• Role-play when needed to empower and teach a new skill. Ask the child what she “prefers.”

• Re-label. Suspend your fear and judgment.

• Teach them in very clear terms how they can prove themselves to grow more trust.

Research indicates that, by the time a child is five years old, he hears the word “No” over 40,000 times and “Yes” only 5,000 times.



Certainly there are times when the answer must be unequivocally “No,” but as the adult, I’ve found those times to be the exceptions not the rule. With our own children, we used the following two phrases to eliminate overusing the word “No.”

In conclusion for today: When we get in touch with our attitudes, beliefs and resistances about any challenging situation we may be dealing with, we, ourselves, will be transformed.

And when we are personally transformed, we set new energy in motion that will instantaneously affect the lives of those whom we touch.

Reaching out …
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PS … To Make A Positive Difference by becoming a TurnAround Specialist, check out my Make A Difference with the Power of Acknowledgment UTrain Program and my Academic Success 101 Faculty & Staff and/or Self Paced Online Course for professionals and parents.

[Own Your Life Wed] Make It Happen ’19-’20

Dear Difference Maker,

I’m going to be straight with you today about what really needs to happen to make things better and make it happen now.

The stories in this week’s blog beautifully illustrate how anyone can make a positive difference that has an exponential reach and it only requires something as simple as a preference. What if acknowledgment really could make it completely better in an instant?  It’s my hope you are intrigued enough to take a hot second to find out!

Reaching out …
0000 mary-3

Make It So ’19-’20:  Acknowledgment Works!
Excerpt from Make A Difference Power of Acknowledgment UTrain Curriculum  

Recently I spoke at an association who is at the forefront of creating and sustaining innovative and intellectually challenging schools.  

But before I get into what happened, let me preface this by saying that I’ve traveled the country speaking to over 20,000 people in a two year period.  I received evaluations at the end of every day and so I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback over the years about my audience engagement.  

I’m not telling you this to impress you but to give you a frame of reference about what I am going to share.   Advanced as we are technologically we are still inclined to approach the problematic areas in our schools today from a place of waiting on someone else to fix it.  The #1 issue being the social-emotional problems that need to be, must be, solved beginning with the adults in charge – that is if you want to see those test scores go up.

Back to my experience with an organization whose mission statement is to be the forefront of change in schools.

I opened with one of my most engaging activities to get audience involvement right away. It is something I do deliberately to get a feel for what they already know so I don’t take them down a road they’ve already traveled.

As an educator, I always have a Plan A, B, C etc. depending on what an audience reveals about themselves within the first 10 minutes of our time together.

This activity is designed to get people to think beyond their current situations into the future they’d like to find long term solutions for.   In fact Step 2 of this process is to identify “How they’s prefer that it be” within each of the problematic areas they’ve already identified in Step 1.

When we got to this question, “How would you prefer that it be?” it was like looking at deer in the headlight.  No one raised their hand with a preference.  I encouraged them to reach for it in their minds.  I instructed them to think beyond what they thought was possible or realistic and get to the heart of what they’d really like to see happen in education.

Tick-tock-tick-tock.  Nothing. I waited much longer than I normally would need to with a business or entrepreneurial group.

Finally a young woman with really bright eyes raised her hand and said how she’d prefer that it be in one of the identified problem areas.  Excellent!  We wrote it up on the board.

Next, a more mature woman who was a Principal, offered her preference.  Excellent.  It went up on the board.  Silence.  I leaned in and waited for it.  Then a middle aged man offered his.  Again, an excellent preference which I was able to segue into the next Step with.

My point in sharing this with you today is to address a limiting paradigm in education that is pervasive – even with 75 of the most innovative teachers in the United States attending my session – and that is our willingness to wait on someone else to tell us what we should be doing and how.

The big problem with this paradigm is that rarely does it spark real, life changing action.  People walk out the door and do things exactly the way they have been because they were not part of the collective solution gathering, goal setting, step building experience.

It is because of this old paradigm that I designed a series of UTrain Programs. They are DIYDO IT YOURSELF programs that can help any one who really wants to be making a difference.  Any one who is done waiting on someone else to fix things that is.

I designed it with YOU in mind. The one I’m featuring today is an easy to follow and implement. It has a straightforward step-by-step “flexible” curriculum that will help you uplift and unify the community you are feeling the most strife in.

YOU CAN DO THIS!  I’ve done all the heavy lifting and now all that is needed is people who care enough to just do it.

If you are like me, then you get really antsy waiting on others to step up do something that will make things better.

Now, you don’t have to wait on the powers that be to help people feel better so they can do better.  You don’t have to sit by and let things escalate any more than they already are. Dig into your own entrepreneurial spirit and DO IT YOURSELF.

Because it’s that time of year when leaders are thinking about their THEME for the fall and winter seasons just ahead, today I’d like to do something I haven’t done before and that is lay out what a 12 month Make A Difference YEAR can look like with just doing 2 a Quarter:

August:  Kick off In-Service with your top tier leaders setting the theme of Making A Difference with the Power of Acknowledgment Movie and I Make A Difference Ceremony.  Your leaders then take the session you just did with them out to their people and they take this session out to their people, etc…

September:  Make A Difference with the Power of Connecting Personality Styles.
October:  Make A Difference with the Power of Owning Your Greatness.

November:  Make A Difference with the Power of Compassion with the Teddy Stallard Story:  both in English and in Española.
December:  Make A Difference with the Power of Positive Self-Talk.

January:  Make A Difference with the Power of the Simple Gesture.
February:  Make A Difference with the Power of the Made Up Mind.

March: Make A Difference with the Power of Your Dreams in Action.
April:  Make A Difference with the Power of Making Your Own Luck.

May:  Make A Difference with the Power of Goal Setting.
June:  Make A Difference with the Power of Peace Today.

July:  Make A Difference with the Power of Giving Back.

=> Each Session has it’s own movie, discussion and building community (team) activities all laid out for you step by step.

=> You don’t even have to prepare ahead of time (I would but that’s just me).

=> You open up the designated Lesson and play the movie and follow directions.

=> When time has run out, you wrap it up and save back whatever you haven’t used for another In-service when you need it.

No Program Police!

Now, let’s say for example you want to Kick-Off your Make A Difference Year with the Teddy Stallard Story Movie instead of the Acknowledgment Movie.

Then you get to decide!  Move it up into your first Session and go ahead and launch.

Then you can move the Acknowledgment Movie back to September which will coincide with National Suicide Prevention Month. This movie is a true story about how a very simple and heartfelt Acknowledgment Ceremony caused the actions of one teacher to dramatically altered the life a business man and his 14-year old son.

YES!  You Can Do This …


Click here to see how you can make it so!

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Hello, fellow PTA Members, School Faculty and Staff,

As the former PTA President of Ford Middle School in Allen, Texas and the initiator of the “Make A Difference Week” concept two years ago, I can tell you the activities during this week altered the energy in the school, as random acts of kindness filled the halls and expressions of appreciation and acknowledgement were the priority.

The inspirational videos (one of which was Mary’s Acknowledgment Movie ) that the students silently watched with emotion, made a huge impact, and the stories related directly to the activities that were asked of the students throughout the week.

I have observed troubled students transformed from the power of “Make A Difference Week” as they came to life by the simplest acknowledgement of their good nature from their teachers.

The purpose of this week is to demonstrate to the students new ways of making a difference in our world. These next generations are our future leaders, and the world is greatly depending on them to create a more peaceful coexistence for humanity. It’s crucial for kids to understand the important role they play in the world, and it’s up to us to remind them. “Make A Difference Week” is a fun-filled week that encourages students to be the “highest vision they have of themselves,” to bring out the good in others, and to practice the power of acknowledgement, appreciation and kindness.

One week can truly make the difference in our world by impacting the lives of our children, as we empower them to be the positive role models and community heroes for the generations that follow.

Now this amazing, nationally-recognized educator – Mary Robinson Reynolds – has taken “Make A Difference Week” to the next level.

I highly recommend her Make A Difference with the Power of Acknowledgment Week Program for the upcoming year as a way to create a tradition in building a caring and compassionate community of young adults in your school.

Please pass this email along to your Programs chairpersons.

Angel Carlton
PTA President, Ford M.S., Allen, TX

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The activities can be adapted to a One-Day, a Week a Month or a YEAR-long Program. For the greatest impact, the Month-long model offers one week of daily activities followed by 3 weeks of weekly activity-based learning. The Year long program is as described above. In all of the variations, this program will help each student develop a strong Sense of “self” and “purpose,” and provide the motivation for developing positive Life Skills.

Is today the day that you just own it and get out there and do it?


530677_10151333084944909_1120763158_nMaster’s in Educational Psychology Counseling and Development K-12 from the University of Nebraska; demonstrated expertise with every imaginable label awarded childhood behaviors, physical attributes and learning styles. This includes: Youth At-Risk, Substance Abuse, EBD, Suicide Prevention, GT, ADD, Special Ed, i.e. Intensity, Academic and Behavioral. Extensive experience teaching educators the key to “connecting” with students and adults based on their attitudinal energy, labels and expressed (as well as non-verbal) expectations.

PS … Do-It-Yourself with UTrain OR bring me in to speak and train for your team! Questions? Just call me. Heart Publishing 603-997-1908

PPS … Let’s not forget that if you have been feeling like there’s something more that you want to do, you can take this program beyond where you currently work by becoming a Certified Make A Difference Facilitator.  For those who feel the pull to make a difference and a living at this, I will give you 1:1 time every step a long the way.

Heart Publishing, the Pacific Northwest