Why We Love Pointing Fingers at KSTP


You know those questions that cut straight through all the superficial, self-protective, crap and get straight to the heart of the real issue?

That’s the kind of question my professor asked our class several years ago. We were discussing our reactions to a video we watched in which a racially diverse group of people were discussing racism.

There was one cringe-worthy guy on the video whose name I can’t remember, so I’ll call him Paul. Adamant that he wasn’t racist, every word Paul spoke was a sweeping and unfavorable generalization about “those people.” With pride he claimed he was “color blind,” despite others around him saying that their race and culture was a big part of who they were and how they wanted to be seen. When others in the room shared their experiences, his reaction was, “That’s ridiculous.”

One of the professors, a black man, listened with great patience to everyone’s reactions to the video; I hate Paul. Paul is what’s wrong with the world. Paul made me so mad. How can he not see who he is hurting? Why doesn’t Paul shut up and listen? Paul needs to apologize.

The professor asked a poignant question that has stuck with me ever since. In a quiet voice he asked us to consider, “Why is everyone having such a strong reaction to Paul? Why is everyone distancing themselves from Paul as if he is saying things that are far worse than anything you’ve ever thought, felt, believed or said?”

I realized that by slamming Paul, all our rage was focused on him, a person on a video whose mind we’d never have the power to change. It was a lot easier and more fun to highlight how much better we were than Paul and avoid taking responsibility for the ways we were perpetuating racism, the exact thing we were upset with Paul for neglecting to do.

This story parallels the #pointergate scandal (if you don’t know what it is, take a minute now to Google it or read about it here) . I’m frustrated and bewildered by the irresponsible journalism and the implications of #pointergate. I’m amused by the clever pictures of people proudly flashing their pointer fingers in in protest. I’m cheering for KSTP to take ownership for actions.

I’m tempted to join in the public blasting of KSTP, but I hear the patient voice of my professor asking,

“Why is everyone having such a strong reaction to KSTP? Why is everyone distancing themselves from KSTP as if they are saying things that are far worse than anything you’ve ever thought, felt, believed or said?”

I think it’s okay to be outraged about a news story that diminished a person’s entire existence to a cliché racial stereotype. I think it’s good to want KSTP to apologize.

I just wonder if it could be more productive to do ourselves what KSTP doesn’t seem to have the guts to do…

To reflect on stereotypes we are accepting as truth.

To take an honest look at how well we are being inclusive of people who are different.

To notice how we might be unwillingly contributing to systems of oppression.

To apologize to someone who we’ve hurt.


Help Getting Help (for mental health)

On a regular basis, I have friends approach me in private and say something like “I don’t know what to do. My mental health is not good and I don’t know where to go or who to call.”

A few months ago when the world lost one of the greatest comedians of all time to suicide, my social media feeds lit up with admonitions to “get help” and “take mental health seriously” or to “call a suicide prevention hotline.” I agree with all of those and I also know that there is so much secrecy and shame around mental health struggles and treatment that many people don’t know how to get help. I think it is because of a rampant lie that tending to emotional and mental wellbeing is shameful or suggests a moral or spiritual failure. But that is what it is, a lie. The truth is, it takes extraordinary hope, faith, courage, strength, and patience to get help for mental health issues (click to tweet). Neglecting or denying problems does not work for an ear infection, and it doesn’t work for mental health problems.

I can relate to that moment when the only thing you can think to do is type “HELP” into Google. Do I call my doctor? A psychologist? A therapist? A psychiatrist? The national suicide prevention hotline? My mom? What’s this going to cost me? Will they treat me like a crazy person? Will it be as awkward as it is on TV?

A good first step is to take a deep breath.lifesaver

Then ask yourself what kind of help you want to pursue? There are three basic options: medication, talking to someone (therapy/counseling), or both. I will tell you a little about some options, in order from the most medical to the most relational.

Call 911 if you are unable to wait for help. Please.

Call your physician if you just want to try medication for something like anxiety or depression. You will likely get be able to get in and out fast. Keep in mind that the doctor is likely not going to take a lot of time to unearth the source of your problems or get to know all the contributing factors of your personality, experience and relationships. Not because they are bad, it’s just not a major part of their training. It’s like asking your dentist to look at your sore throat. This will cost what your doctor’s visits always costs which you probably already know because there isn’t a stigma attached to seeing a physician.

Call a psychiatrist if you want to try medication but you know your situation is a little more complicated that the average due to allergies, rare diagnosis, side effects to common medications, meds with high potential for abuse, etc. The drawback is it will probably take longer to get into see a psychiatrist, but they have at least a million years of school know a lot about mental health medications. You can expect short appointments (maybe 15 min) to check side effects and adjust dosages if needed. Keep in mind; psychiatrists are highly trained in psychopharmacology, not in creating a healing therapeutic connection. Beware that this avenue may require more patience and money. You can plan on waiting a month or two to get into a psychiatrist and an initial visit is going to cost around $350 without insurance. Insurance should cover it similar to a regular doctor visit.

Call a psychologist if you want a correct diagnosis, a thorough assessment and to talk about your symptoms and your life. Psychologists are typically more focused on the individual’s brain, behavior, and diagnosis and not relationships, strengths, and social influences. Psychologists cannot prescribe medications (nor can any others on this list from here down). Without insurance, this will probably cost around $200 per hour. With insurance, it will cost the same co-pay as your regular office visits.

Call a Licensed Therapist: such as: LPCC (Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor), LMHC (Licensed Mental Health Counselor), LADC (Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor), or LICSW (Licensed Independent Clinical Social worker) if you are interested in at least a master’s level professional counselor. As opposed to psychologists, master’s level therapists’ education was more focused on the actual practice of counseling and not research or assessment. They tend toward a strengths based philosophy and might see diagnoses as a necessary evil for insurance purposes. This is the person to go to if you need fresh perspectives, new coping strategies, chances to share your hurts and dreams, and pursue your version of a life worth living. Without insurance, many sliding fee scales go down to around $30 per hour and full price is usual between $100 and $175/per hour depending on specialty, experience, and education of the therapist. With insurance, you pay your regular co-pay or co-insurance.

I could lump Marriage and Family Therapists in with the previous group, but since this is my biased blog, I will give them their own category. Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT) are trained in family systems. Simply put, people affect and are affected by others. MFT’s observe rules, roles, and patterns in relationships and help people make changes not just to the individual, but to the system. Yes, MFT’s see people individually, but they will likely view you in the context of your relationships. While an individual psychologist might diagnose depression, and look at the brain chemicals, an LMFT might focus more on the dynamics in the family origin, current relationships, and larger systems in play like the dynamics of power, gender or race. This is the best option if you want to bring family members, roommates or significant others into the therapy room because so much of their training is geared toward helping people heal their relationships.

After you decide what treatment approach(es) you want to pursue, call the number on the back of your insurance card and ask who is covered in your network.

If you can’t afford these options and your health insurance isn’t helpful, find a provider ask them about a sliding fee scale or pro-bono options. There might be a graduate intern or pre-licensed professional who is willing to work for free or a reduced rate to get the experience. Most therapists I know won’t turn you away for lack of funds. They will be willing to help you figure something out. In Minnesota if you have medical assistance insurance, your visits are usually 100% covered with an in-network provider.

There is a really good therapist finder on PsychologyToday.com where you can search by provider type, specialty, insurance network, zip code etc.

The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy has a therapist locator as well. This is a great tool if you want to be sure to find an LMFT.

There are so many people who spent years learning and preparing to help you. I know that they would love nothing more than a chance to meet you and hear your story.

Sometimes Sorry IS Enough: On Relationship Repairs

It was six years ago, but I still remember how infuriated the receptionist made me feel.

The recession was at its deepest trough about the time I finished graduate school and after months of searching I landed an interview for my dream job.

I checked in with the receptionist and took a seat. Even though I told her the correct details, she thought I was interviewing for a different position, with a different company in the same building. I sat in the lobby across from that receptionist for not 10, not 20, but 45 minutes, all the while she assured me that the interviewer was held up in a different interview and wasn’t quite ready for me.

Finally when her mistake came to light, she called the correct person and said, “Your interviewee is here.” She didn’t mention how long I had been there. Looking at her desk, she gave a curt nod in my general direction and said, “Sorry for the delay.”

Sorry for the delay?? Really?

Of all people, I understand getting details confused. It was an unfortunate mistake but I’m sure I’ve made worse. What made my blood boil was how she did not take any responsibility for “the delay.”Needless to say, I didn’t get that job.

Contrast that to a more recent experience I had as a customer. Something that should have taken weeks, took months. I was irritated about having to wait so long and I let the person know. He acknowledged my frustration and apologized. An amazing thing happened in that instant- my anger vanished

When someone makes a big mistake, I often hear the old adage, “Sorry isn’t enough.” In my experience, fixing the problem isn’t enough. Sometimes a simple sorry is actually all I want.

Taking ownership for how you have contributed to someone’s pain or inconvenience is not fun. It’s kind of humiliating and goes against human nature to self-protect and self-defend. It’s hard, yet the benefit to relationships is immense.

Not all apologies are created equal. Some are helpful and can repair broken relationships while others have the opposite effect. Here are some common types of apologies:

Non-specific-no-personal-ownership-of-wrong-doing Apologies:

“I’m sorry if anything I did bothered you.”

“I’m sorry for the delay”

It’s-not-me-it’s-you Apologies:

“Sorry if I did something wrong that I wasn’t aware of, but you are the one who…”

“I’m sorry but you gave me no choice.”

Sorry-but-I’m-right Apologies

“I’m sorry, but I had good reason to do what I did.”

“I’m sorry, but this is how I was taught.”

Since-I’m-wrong-about-this-I-must-be-worthless Apologies

“I’m sorry. I guess I can’t be trusted. I should just never try… anything… ever!”

Not-in-my-domain-of-control Apologies

“I’m sorry for his behavior, and that it’s hot outside, and that your car broke, and that I couldn’t help you more.”

*Basic-level apology:

I’m Sorry

*Advanced-level apology:

I’m sorry. I messed up. That must have been hard for you.

*Elite-level Apology:

“I’m sorry that I ________(insert specific mistake). It must have felt _______(insert specific emotion here).

*recommended types

Perhaps, sorry isn’t always enough, but it is a good place to start. And it just might be enough to repair a relational rift.

With my sincerest apologies,


Comment below with your take on/experience with giving or receiving apologies of all types! Is a genuine apology enough for you or would you rather just see a behavior change? I’m curious!

Rethink that Comment About Ferguson-Part 2: 10 tips on How to Validate Others

A couple of days ago I wrote a post about recognizing the impact of our comments about Ferguson, MO. While most of the feedback I received was positive and encouraging, some seemed to miss my point.

The point of the original post was not to debate facts, put anyone down, place blame, or call anyone racist. It was a call to THINK about what others might FEEL when they read your remarks. It was about VALIDATING to the experience of the potential readers of the comments, not shaming the writers of the comments. It was about LISTENING to people’s perspectives who might differ from yours.


As a relational therapist I talk about validation frequently. It is an important relationship skill for used in families, workplaces and especially when talking about controversial topics like what is going on in Ferguson. It occurred to me that I asked people to validate  others without actually explaining how to do it.

Sometimes looking at “What not to do” can be a good way of learning “what to do” when it comes to validation. John Doe submitted the following invalidating comment. Warning: while it’s a great example for learning about validation, it may be offensive:

beccjoy, you have a good heart, but and it’s a big but, the reality is you are part of the problem. You are making excuses for behavior that is not acceptable. It must stink to be pulled over for being black. Hassled for walking down the street. But you know what? Many,  many blacks have suffered that indignity went to school, got a good job, and bought the house next door. Oh yea the guys in Fergusun would call them Uncle Tom’s .The problem is in the black community. Only they can fix it. X% of population. Y% of children born out of wedlock. Abortion % way above any other. Crime same. If you say these things you’re shot down. Until the black community faces their own problems this will keep going on. By you and others making excuses, talking about “slavery” (150 yrs ago) It will never fix. The victim mentality only perpetuates. White privilege is the biggest joke I’ve ever heard. That’s just more white guilt from self loathing whites. The worse part is the rest of America is fed up. I’ve been blogging 5 yrs and I have my finger on the pulse, and I’ve never seen the comments all over be so negative and nasty. You reap what you sow. Good luck, I hope you find an answer. I really do.

-John Doe

I have identified 10 rules to keep in mind if you want to have productive conversations.

The Rules of Validation

  1. Acknowledge the parts of what the other person is saying that you agree with or find helpful. Don’t get caught up in a small detail that you disagree with while ignoring the greater point.
  2. Replace the word “but” with “and.” The word “but” negates the positive thing you just said. An example from family therapy I hear often is “I love you but…” which usually doesn’t end in the person feeling loved. Try the word “and” instead.
  3. Avoid accusations and name calling. These things often lead to defensiveness and defensiveness kills conversations and often relationships.
  4. Stay on topic. If you are responding to someone, respond to the actual content of what they said or wrote without bringing up other related topics.
  5. Avoid an argumentative tone. Have you ever been in an argument with a person you actually agree with? An argumentative tone can create unnecessary fights.
  6. Speak for yourself. An easy way to do this is to start your sentence with the word “I” rather than “you” or “they.”
  7. Don’t belittle others, or their causes, even if you don’t care about them or the cause.
  8. Don’t pass the buck. It is easy to identify what other people should do or change, although it isn’t usually effective. Take ownership and responsibility for what is in your control to change.
  9. Be specific about encouragement. If you have something nice to say, it is more likely to believed and taken to heart if you are specific.
  10. Validate everyone. People and their stories deserve to be heard, valued, acknowledged, and believed. It doesn’t matter if you think they are bad, wrong, lesser, whiny or anything else. They deserve to be validated no matter what.

Below I apply these rules to Mr. Doe’s comment, line by line:

beccjoy, you have a good heart,     Thanks (rule 1)

but and it’s a big but,     The word “but” negates the earlier positive comment  (rule 2).

the reality is you are part of the problem.     Accusations, true or not, tend to put people on the defensive. Defensiveness makes people less likely to listen to your message (rule 3).

You are making excuses for behavior that is not acceptable.     Try to keep the content focused on what the other person actually said. This comment was a reply to my original post, which didn’t mention unacceptable behaviors, nor give excuses for them (rule 4).

It must stink to be pulled over for being black. Hassled for walking down the street. But     again, the word “but” negates an attempt to be empathetic about these experiences (rule 2).

you know what? Many,  many blacks have suffered that indignity went to school, got a good job, and bought the house next door.     I’m glad he noticed that multitudes of people have overcome unfathomable oppression (rule 1) and (rule 2) I don’t think the argumentative tone is necessary (rule 5).

Oh yea the guys in Fergusun would call them Uncle Tom’s.     The point of my post was making sure our comments validate others and are considerate of how comments might be perceived. This remark does neither, and is a little off topic. If Mr. Doe lives in Ferguson, or is friends with a lot of the guys there, then, this comment would make more sense (rules 4 & 6).

The problem is in the black community. Only they can fix it.     If everyone points to someone else as the problem, rather than taking ownership for our part, change will not occur. A more helpful response would be to model taking personal responsibility and asking for others to follow suit (rules 3 & 8).

X% of population. Y% of children born out of wedlock. Abortion % way above any other. Crime same. (I have taken the numbers out and replaced them with X and Y because I question their accuracy and relevancy).     My original post, said nothing about these statistics. I said, “Let’s listen and respond better” and it seems your reply is, “No, we shouldn’t listen to them because of their bad behavior.” A validating response would not try to build a case against a people group. They are people who deserve to be heard and valued no matter what (rules 4 & 10). 

If you say these things you’re shot down.     Perhaps metaphorically, but literally, I don’t t think you have to worry about that. Following rule #3 might lead to more productive conversations and less feeling “shot down.”

Until the black community faces their own prms this will keep going on.     A validating response does not offer simple solutions to complex problems for other people to fix (rules 7 & 8).

By you and others making excuses, talking about “slavery” (150 yrs ago) It will never fix.     A validating response would not put the word slavery in quotation marks, as if it didn’t really exist, and it would stay on point. I made no mention of slavery in my original post (rules 3, 4, 7 & 8)

The victim mentality only perpetuates.     Someone who is trying to validate another human being’s perspectives notices a difference between “playing a victim” and being a victim (rules 3 & 7).

White privilege is the biggest joke I’ve ever heard.     A validating response doesn’t belittle something that is a big deal to others (rule 7).

That’s just more white guilt from self loathing whites.     Empathizing, taking ownership, listening, and validating other people’s stories is not the same as self-loathing. Using negative labels like “self-loathing whites” may make some people feel defensive (rule 3).

The worse part is the rest of America is fed up.     Validators speak on their own behalf. It’s okay to feel fed up, but “the rest of America” can express their own feelings (rule 6).

I’ve been blogging 5 yrs and I have my finger on the pulse, and I’ve never seen the comments all over be so negative and nasty. You reap what you sow (no comment).

Good luck, I hope you find an answer. I really do     Validating responses might include well wishes like this, but being specific is more powerful. Since I didn’t pose a question, I’m not sure what he is hoping for me (rules 4 & 9).

-John Doe

It is possible to validate someone without agreeing with them or condoning their behavior. Here’s my example:

To John Doe (and others who have made similar comments),

While your comment offends and distresses me, I want to acknowledge that you are an important person with a valid perspective. I’m sure that if I knew more about your experiences, personality and relationships, I would have a greater understanding for why you think the way you do. You seem to be a person who likes to identify and solve problems and that is admirable. Thanks for having the boldness to speak up, even though we disagree with each other. I realize and respect that you might not have known what I meant by “validating others” so you can’t be blamed for breaking all of the rules. Now that you know, I hope you will realize the great power your words have to help or harm others. I regret that you are missing out on the many strengths the black community has to offer.


Your voice is needed in this conversation. Validating comments are welcome below.

Note: If I receive comments below that are invalidating to me, I will publish them, but if they are invalidating to people of color, I’m not going to allow them here.

You might want to rethink that comment you are about to post about Ferguson, MO

I, like you, am heartbroken about what happened to Michael Brown, and what’s happened to so many others. I have read the posts, watched the videos, and prayed for justice and peace. It is so sickening that it’s hard to sleep. I have so much to learn about how I should even think about these tragedies and I am choosing to listen rather than express my opinions about most of this issue.

The part I do feel I understand well enough to speak to is the invalidating commentary by my fellow white people.

People of privilege, aka white people, aka my friends and family,

I know you might think your comments are harmless, or maybe you think it is fun to debate or “play the devil’s advocate,” but please keep in mind that in a land not so far away, people…teenagers even, are actually dying over this.

You might mean well but many your comments have the distinct flavor of someone who is not willing to listen and entertain the thought that perhaps it really is “that bad.”  At best, you are coming off as ignorant, at worst, racist.

By saying, “you do not have all of the facts” we are essentially saying “I don’t believe that you are smart enough to know what is happening right in front of your face.”

By saying, “this isn’t a race issue” we are saying “I know more than black people about what it feels like to be black.”

By saying, “I’m sad about this too but…” we are saying that there is really an ending to this sentence that rectifies a mother losing a child.

By saying, “let’s see what the autopsy says” we are saying, “I need a white doctor to tell me what really happened because I’m not going to believe the eye witness accounts of a bunch of black kids.”

By posing a hypothetical scenario about a white victim being shot without cause, you are just confused.

By saying, “it’s a lot better these days than it used to be” we are not acknowledging the current pain that racism causes.

By blaming the victim, we are- well, blaming a victim.

By saying, “this discussion doesn’t really apply to me,” we are saying black people are not as human as you.

As shameful as it is, I understand it. Who wants to face the fact that a black teen got shot by a white police officer for no apparent reason? Not I. Who wants to admit in their hearts that this is not an isolated incident? I’d rather grasp at some hope that the world is just. I’d rather turn away and make-believe that racism is dead, because I have that option. It is much more pleasant to think of the atrocities unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri as some big misinterpretation of the facts than to really listen and believe that people of color actually might know what they are experiencing.

So, for what it’s worth:

To the people of color;

I’m sorry. I’m sorry you’ve had to be so loud to get our attention. I’m sorry that another beautiful adolescent had to die to make us notice that you are oppressed. I’m sorry that no one is listening. I’m sorry that no one believes your experiences. I’m sorry that this is still happening. I’m sorry for the ignorant, invalidating, and racist comments you’ve had to deal with on top of everything else. I’m sorry that I’ve turned a blind eye to your struggle. I hear you, I believe you, I stand with you for justice. You deserve way better.


#Validateothersorkeepquiet #Whatifitisthatbad

A Guide to Giving Gifts to 0-3 year olds (and staying friends with their parents)

At times I feel like I live in a giant toy box.

A real photo of my kids’ toys!

I can’t even get to the bathroom without going on a safari through Lego jungle, being confronted by a talking doll and getting stuck in a traffic jam of multi-colored cars. Then, there are no guarantees the bathroom will be free of obstacles.

When all the stars align: I’m home from work, kids are BOTH sleeping, I have enough energy, I have enough time, I’m in the right mood, nothing else is more urgent (ie, almost never), I go through the house and organize all the kid stuff. Sometimes it takes hours. Then…when the kids wake up, faster than you can say “futility” my house relapses to its former state.

Less than 4 years ago I had no idea what to get little kids for gifts. My friends were probably cursing my name as they scraped (and scraped and scraped) the stickers I gave their baby off some heirloom piece of furniture.

Many of the gifts my kids receive are not age – appropriate. Save your money and your friendships… follow these guidelines for giving gifts to kids age 0-3!

1. No puzzles or toys with lots of small pieces. Giving a baby or a toddler a puzzle is like saying to their parents, “I know you have a lot to do, but why don’t you add picking up and assembling 100 pieces from 10 different puzzles several times a day? Kids this age just dump them, wait until you pick it up, and dump them again. This goes for pretty much everything with lots of little pieces …wait until they are older.

2. Choose Medium Sized Gifts: I’ve already discussed the issues with small pieces. Huge toys are almost as problematic, especially in a small house. It’s like asking someone if you can store your boat in their living room, and then expecting a thank you note. Aim for the size of a classic teddy bear.

3. Avoid Loud Toys. Imagine a baby or two crying… add a dog barking, a toddler Pandora station in the background and probably a phone ringing. Okay, now imagine a very cheerful voice singing “The wheels on the bus go… The wheels on the bus go round and… The wheels on the bus go round and round….”  because they never just push the button once. I’m getting a migraine just thinking about it. Then the batteries start to fade, and the cheerful voice gets a little spooky. I have had the spooky-voice-version of wheels on the bus in my head for about 3 years.

4. Books. Board books are best, as most babies love the sound and sense of accomplishment that comes from tearing paper pages. Little ones especially love looking at pictures of big baby faces. Too many words are lost on them, but colorful, detailed pictures and concise stories can offer hours of imaginative fun and learning.

5. No Stickers. They won’t stay put on skin (where my daughter wants them to stay) but they stay a little too well on furniture. Have you ever washed a stickered shirt? I promise, that shirt will never be the same. And the dumb things lose their stickiness if you rearrange them on your clothes too many times… causing all sorts of weeping and gnashing of teeth.

6. Sizes and Seasons. If you want your little friend to actually get to wear the cute outfit you bought, be mindful of the size and the season. If you are buying clothing for a 3 month old baby in June (say, in Minnesota)… don’t get a tank top and shorts in the 9 month size. When that baby is ready for 9 month clothing, it’s going to be -20◦F.

7. Go Green… or orange Our oldest child is a girl. We were blessed with many lovely pink and purple gifts. Our second child (who didn’t get all the showers and fanfare as the second born) is a boy. He is a boy who has a lot of pink sparkly toys and gear, including a bib that reads, “SISTER.”


8. Go Green…as in recycle. Save the earth, buy an outfit from the thrift store for a $1.00! The previous owner probably grew out of it before he could wear it anyway because guideline #6 was not headed.

9. Give Experiences. A pass to the zoo or the museum or even a McDonald’s gift certificate will get those kids (and their caregivers) out of the house and having some fun.

I hope that helps! What about you? What are your favorite/ least favorite items for 0-3 year old. Join the conversation below!

Peace (amidst clutter and chaos),

p.s. after I wrote this, and before I published it, I came across this provocative article about avoiding too many toys for a different reason than I outlined above, and this helpful blog post about how to properly visit a newborn. All great points!

Don’t teach your baby to sign more. No More!

I usually stand silently by while babies and parents throw tantrums over the sign language sign for the word “more.” But I can’t take anyMORE.

For whatever reason, people are obsessed with teaching this particular sign. They teach it to their own kids, to my kids, and to their dogs (probably).

Teaching preverbal babies to use some sign language is great when done well. It can strengthen the neurological pathways of language helping your kids to become more verbal when they are ready to speak. You can’t put your fingers in your baby’s mouth and help form verbal words, but you can hold their hands and manually prompt signed words.

Just don’t teach them to sign “more.”

I know, I know. But it’s so cute! Those little stubby fingers gathered together like two little ducks kissing.

Just don’t do it. All that stuff I said about sign language helping kids become more verbal, does not apply to the sign for “more.” Babies just learn that if they want something, anything, all they have to do is sign “more.”  I’ve seen various versions of the following scenarios unfold time and time again, and yet it’s still America’s favorite sign.

Scenario #1:

Baby: starts crying.

Parent: What do you want?

Baby: (signs) more

Parent: More what?

Baby: is frustrated. I’m using your stupid sign and you still don’t know what I want. Tantrum ensues.

Parent: Use your words, what do you want?

Baby: (speaks) More!

If the baby can say the word, they shouldn’t need to sign it. And it’s still a mystery what this baby wants.


Scenario #2

Baby: starts crying.

Parent: What do you want?

Baby: (signs) more

Tantrum ensues. After 10 minutes of questioning it is finally discovered that baby wants to jump (or at least she does now).

“More jump???” Just teach them the sign for jump! The word “more” in this case is inaccurate and useless.


Scenario #3:

Parent: Feeds baby cheerios

Baby: (signs) more

Parent: Gives baby more cheerios

It turns out he wants a drink. (Tantrum ensues). Too bad he doesn’t know the sign for milk!

Do you want your kid to know just one word that gets them whatever they want? That’s hardly helping their language or communication skills. And in the land of so much excess, do you really want the one word they know to be a demand form of the word “MORE”?

Tips for less tantrums and more functional language:

-Teach your baby specific signs for 5 to 10 things they like the best (ex: milk, bear, pacifier, hug, tickle, swing, up). Until they master these signs, forget about having them sign things like “more, please, thank you” which are fairly meaningless words to a baby.

-Don’t prompt your baby to sign for something unless it’s clear they really want it or the association between the word and the sign will be weak.

-Give it to them after they sign it once (even with help). If you make them sign it 5 times and have it perfect before reinforcing it, it won’t be worth the effort and kids will just go ahead and cry… or just sign “more” if they want something.

-Once the child can say the word, the sign is no longer necessary.

Happy Signing! If you have any tips or experiences of your own, please feel free to comment below!