Dr. Ulrich's Writings


Childhood is for practicing

One of the most valuable pieces of advice I give to any family that I work with is this: childhood is for practicing.

When our children struggle behaviorally or emotionally it is because they need more practice handling that situation, that thought, that emotion. Our job as adults is to help them learn how to handle it and how to gain the skills to navigate these situations in the future. Their dysregulation, their out of control behavior, is due to them not having the skill to manage in that moment.

Under this lens our job is always to help them practice handling it. Not to distract them away from it, not to appease them, and certainly not to punish them for not having the skills.

Everyday, try to focus your parenting, or your interactions with children, on helping them practice LIFE. Only through practice will our children gain the skills needed to live in the crazy, chaotic, unstable, and often hard, world we live in.


What do you want for your child?

Most parents I talk to want their children to grow up to be independent, strong and self confident.

Unfortunately, our parenting practices can hinder the development of these skills and traits.

We want our kids to think for themselves and not follow others blindly.

Yet, we give our children little practice in developing these skills as they grow. 

We tell them how to dress, when to speak, how to behave, how to feel, what to learn, what crafts or activities they are going to do. We don't give them space to express frustration or disagreement with us.

We want our children to be able to handle situations on their own.

Yet, we rarely give them space to fail, to tackle a task or activity without directions, to allow them to engage in activities without pre-described rules, to navigate the world without us right there watching.

We want our children to be self confident.

Yet, we tell them their emotions are not important or valid, we dismiss their feelings about "small things," we teach them that we always know better and know more, and that if they don't fit within the confines of social norms or school expectations that they can't be successful.

If we want our children to grow up to be independent and self confident, we have to let them PRACTICE these skills throughout their entire life.

Let your child have freedom with their body- what they wear, how they style their hair, even some of their grooming habits. Instead of forcing what you feel is right, educate them about why it's important they care about these things and then let them choose. Highlight consequences to let them learn about their choices. But- give them independence.

Let your child engage in self directed activities that don't involve instructions, directions, rules. Tell them that the outcome doesn't matter; that what matters is their effort, their persistence, and their practicing. Don't care how the craft came out, how many goals they scored, what the grade was- care that they try and practice.

Let your child have freedom to express all their emotions- even the negatives ones. Even the negative ones toward you! Teach them how their feelings can impact others, including you, but let them have those feelings.

Take the time to let your child practice the skills you want them to have when they are older.

Children who are taught compliance, conformity, and "respect" above all else turn into adults who are compliant, passive, conform to norms, and defer to authority above all else.

What do you want for your child?


Practicing Emotions

If children are not able to experience emotions around their family, how are they supposed to learn how to handle them?

Do you let your child feel cranky? Irritiable? Angry? Frustrated? Disappointed? 

If we can't tolerate these emotions in our children, our children will never be able to tolerate these emotions in themselves.