Bullying in Germany, Part I – Rory Miller

Had a nice conversation with a young mother in Germany. From her perspective, primary schools and kindergartens are becoming more violent and the teachers do nothing. If a victim reports an act of bullying, the victim either gets in trouble or is called a tattletale and shamed for reporting.

Are schools actually more violent?

Two reasons why what you hear may not be what is there:

The first is that reporting on violence does not equal violence. The first time I tracked this, there was a period (and, sorry, can’t be more specific. I’m an old man who’s had a lot of concussions, so it’s better not to trust my memory) anyway, during this period, violent crime dropped by 10%, while reporting on violent crime rose 300%. So people experienced a 10% drop in violence but were exposed to a tripling in the violence they heard about. People felt that crime was skyrocketing and that contributed greatly to the tough-on-crime legislation that followed.

Same with bullying. My kids experienced significantly less physical (and I think verbal) violence and bullying than was common in my time. Bullying has always been endemic, but when reporting on bullying became a fad it sounded like the bullying itself had skyrocketed.

The second factor is that where we set the bar for violence has shifted. The mom I talked to said her son is attacked every other day. Bruises? No. Bloody noses? No. If a push or a threat is considered violence now and it wasn’t when I was a kid, it will look like violence is rising because we throw more things under the label. So caveat lector.

There is a third spoiler, and one that people who use government statistics have to be very wary of. Bureaucracies have become increasingly sophisticated. Many have learned that you can affect the statistics directly. The zero-tolerance policies in US schools mean that the victim who reports an act of violence is also punished for partaking in a violent act. Punish the reporters and the crime won’t get reported. Voila, reported acts of bullying have dropped to almost zero.

Want to eliminate reported rape? Send the victims to jail if they report. Then no one will report and, according to the bureaucracies’ paperwork, the crime will no longer exist.*

Bullying has always existed. It exists in animals. Bullying is not the strong preying on the weak, it is the strong showing their power by toying with the weak. The reason it always happens is because kids, as a rule, have very little power, so when they find some, they revel in it. Affecting the world and expressing power are the same thing. And it feels good. Creating art, or building a bookshelf or finishing an article all feel good and all affect the world. And the same with breaking things. When a kid learns that he can make another child cry, that is power. And it feels good. A lot of socialization is teaching kids not to use that power.

Fighting and bullying.

Fighting first. Being raised rural and blue-collar, fighting was just something boys did. We learned it was fun, we learned that it hurt. It also had consequences. Every family was a little different but there were types of fights you would be praised for (defending your younger sibling from being picked on) and others you would get in trouble for (being a bully and losing***.)

So you learned, over time, what was worth fighting for and how to regulate damage.

Bullying. The strong pick on the weak. But the strongest up through high school were always the adults, the teachers. Stronger, bigger, more experienced (because most of my instructors had also been raised in an environment where fighting was an acceptable, normal skill) the teachers would win. If they saw a fight going too far, they would grab whoever was winning by the scruff of the neck and throw him (usually a him) across the room.

It was a rare expression of adult power, but it had a message: No matter how big or tough you were, there was someone bigger and tougher. Anything you did to your victims could be done to you.

And in that was a huge lesson. Maturity, being adult, was about having power and not using it. At least not using it to dominate others. And there was a smaller lesson as well: There are times when it is fully appropriate to use force, like when stopping people from victimizing others.

This process eventually, for most, grew into a healthy socialization about power and violence. It wasn’t perfect, of course. Diversity means that a one-size-fits-all answer will always be wrong. But this approach had evolved over millennia and worked pretty well

Two expressions from this era: “Why don’t you pick on someone your own size?” “How do you think you would feel if I did to you what you did to him?” Encapsulated that socialization process. This system actually builds empathy.

Conflict Management for Kids – Jose Tadeo

Our job as parents is to prepare our kids to deal with the real world when we are not around.  And a big part of that is conflict management.

As adults, what is it that legally defines our actions as self-defense?  Each city has its own laws, but the gold standard has been that we didn’t have the option to walk away, and our only recourse against bodily injury or death was for us to use violence too.  

Why can’t we use this model for our kids too?  I have.  Furthermore, I have emphasized to my son that articulation is a key component in this.  He must be able to explain that he didn’t have the option to just walk away.

This model actually prepares him for the real world.  Telling kids to “just tell the teacher” is useless.  Tell the teacher, after the fact, that he was pummeled?  And what about the zero-tolerance policies that many schools have implemented, in which the bullied kid is twice the victim.  First he gets beat up.  Then the school suspends or expels him for getting beat up.  Or what about the parents that take their kids to a martial arts school, but still don’t teach their kids that violence has legal consequences?

Let me share some personal information and experiences.

My son is autistic and as a result has a speech delay that has drawn some bullies. His mother and I have opposing philosophies when it comes to dealing with bullies.  She drilled into him that he was not supposed to fight in school.  And if anyone bothered him, the only thing he was allowed to do was “tell the teacher”.  My son did as his mother instructed when a bully was hitting him, and as a result, my son was limping for a week.

I told my son, “I don’t care if your mother gets mad.  I don’t care if your teacher gets mad.  If someone is hitting you, you need to defend yourself and hit back.  Otherwise, you are going to be injured again.  And don’t worry about getting into trouble, I will be in your corner.”  And I taught my son a few moves he could use in a fight.

Sure enough, next time a bully hit my son, my son hit back. The school attempted to punish my son, but I made an appointment to speak with the school principal.  I told the principal: “You are not out there in the yard to protect my son, the teacher is not out there to protect my son.  I have told my son to walk away from verbal taunts and insults.  But when it comes to physical violence, it is important that he defend himself and prevent injury.  Now you want to punish my son?  That is not acceptable.  What you need to do is keep that bully away from my son, for the bully’s own protection.”

In other words, bullying is not something your children should fight alone.  Parents need to be informed and involved.  Parents are the only real advocates that kids have.  

I have read too many news stories of some kid committing suicide due to bullying.  And my questions have always been: “Where are the parents?  Why didn’t they stop this?”  

Kids can be cruel.  Kids taunt and insult each other all the time.  Kids make fun of each other. Parents have the power to inoculate their kids so that taunts and insults don’t make our kids bleed to death from superficial wounds.


  1.  By showing our kids that we, as parents, love them and that our love and acceptance of them overrides the opinions of the brats and punks our kids meet in school.  
  2. By teaching kids that opinions and insults by other people are powerless unless we give them power.  In other words, teach our kids that some opinions have no value and are of no consequence.  Best thing to do?  Walk away.

I know that a lot of people will think I am a horrible parent for doing this, but I actually had my son watch the first 20 minutes of Full Metal Jacket in which Gunnery Sergeant Hartman verbally decimates the privates.  I asked my son, “Do you see them crying or getting physically hurt because of the insults?”  Of course not.  They are just words.  

Words can’t hurt you if you don’t allow them too.  But physical violence can leave permanent damage.  So you better be able to defend yourself.  And you better have a good reason to defend yourself.  Because defending yourself is only half the battle.  If you don’t want to get into trouble in school, and if you don’t want to end up in prison as an adult, you better be able to articulate that you had no choice but to defend yourself.  And I also told my son that every fight has the potential to lead to death.  I told him about a news story in which two 5th grade girls got into a fight, and one of them died due to the head injuries she sustained.  (here is a link to that story http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/11-year-old-girl-joanna-ramos-dies-fight-grader-boy-article-1.1028760)

Then there are parents that will just pull kids out of a school and transfer them from school to school or home school them.  That is running away from the problem.  How is that kid going to deal with conflict in the workplace when he/ she grows up? It is the awkward kids that get targeted.  Rather than shielding such kids and hiding them, parents need to teach them how to socialize.  Yes, I said it, teaching kids to be social is a self-defense life skill.

In Spanish there is a phrase that says: “El valiente vive hasta que el cobarde quiere.”  I won’t attempt an exact translation, but for the purposes of this article, I will loosely translate it as: A bully lives only so long as the coward allows it.

People treat us the way we condition them to treat us.  We set the boundaries.  That is why thugs will do an interview and test a person’s boundaries before they strike.  Teaching kids to deal with bullies, set boundaries, and be cognizant that violence has serious consequences are things we cannot afford to fail to teach our children.

Rape Prevention: Paedophiles – Kelee Arrowsmith

Rape is one of the most devastating personal traumas one can experience. Many victims feel as if their lives have been shattered and that their psychological and physical privacy has been invaded. The emotional scars last for months or years and sometimes never heal.

A great deal of information is available on rape and rapists but the fact is that rape affects the younger generation far more than mature adults. In South Africa, an average of one in three women is raped before the age of twenty five. For this reason, we need to focus our education and prevention efforts on teens and pre-teens.

A large contributing factor is that we teach our children to respect other (especially older) people. This leaves them vulnerable to predators, many of which are family members or friends of the family. These predators don’t randomly choose their victims; they manipulate and test their potential prey thoroughly before making their move. Often, they chose a child or teen who is a loner or has low self esteem and they begin to “groom” them. The predator makes the child feel special by giving them little gifts and telling them secrets and once comfortable that the young person is not telling anyone they will commence the abuse.

The “touching” usually starts as a game so that if it is reported, the perpetrator simply brushes it off as a joke. The relationship becomes important to the child, which strengthens the “no tell” message that they receive from their molester.

Of course, once the young person realizes that they are in a bad situation, the predator has made them feel that they (the victim) are responsible for what has happened, which makes it even more difficult to tell anyone about the abuse.

Grooming is just one of the most common ways in which rape occurs. Once a rapist has found a way to get away with his (or her) crime, he will use the same formula again and again – there is almost never only one victim. If the rapist is found out, the family usually will chose not to expose the crime because of the shame and so the abuser simple picks another victim.

In the case of children and teens, one of the best ways to prevent them from falling prey to an abuser, is to teach your children how to be assertive and set personal boundaries. Strong personal boundaries make it very difficult for a predator. A simple way to teach a young child about personal boundaries is to tell them that we are all the boss of our own bodies and let them know that that they do not always have to accept a hug or a kiss from a relative or friend if it makes them uncomfortable. Assure them that they will not be in trouble if the friend or relative comes to tell on them.

Roll play with your child so that they know exactly what they are going to say and do. Let them know that if anyone tries to touch them in any place that they swimming costumes normally covers, that they are to come and tell you immediately. 

You can also assist by scrutinizing the adults and older children that your child interacts with to make sure that their interaction is appropriate to their “job roll”. For example, a music teacher’s roll is to teach music. It is NOT their job to take your child to the movies or ice skating, remember that these predators look for kids AND adults with weak boundaries.

Instead of trying to find a “one size fits all” way of preventing rape, we need understand the various ways rapes occur and look at our individual vulnerabilities and how to mitigate the risks to which we are exposed.


An Introduction To Child Safety – Kelee Arrowsmith



Not sure how to start talking to your child about Safety? Here is a simple way to start. Let your child draw him/herself and then add their Personal Safety tools. Add as many as you can think of and discuss each one. Remember that YOU are your child’s best safety instructor.


Keeping secrets: No-one is allowed to tell your child to keep secrets. A paedophile will use secrets to try to drive a wedge between you and your child

Personal space: Teach them about personal space by talking about it in different ways. For example when they go to the bathroom, they close the door to create personal space. Mention it whenever they go into some kind of personal space.

Good touching / bad touching: Areas covered by swimming costume (bathing suit) – no one is allowed to touch them there and they should never touch anyone anywhere that is covered by their costume.

No-one has the right to make your child feel uncomfortable:  Paedophiles often start with tickling or playing. Teach your child to walk away and say “don’t do that to me please”.

Safety Password: Next time you talk to your child about safety, come up with a safety password and you can use when someone goes to pick you child up from school, sport, etc.

REMEMBER that simply telling your child is not good enough – you need to tell them regularly and especially important, you need to roll play different scenarios with them

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Conflict Resolution in Families – Vivek Patel

The way we communicate with our children, both in good times and difficult times, sets up a pattern that will follow them most of their lives. So it is in our best interest to communicate with them and deal with conflict in the most effective way possible. Effective both in how we resolve the conflict in the moment, as well as the long term effects that we are creating.

The environment that a child is immersed in as they grow and develop profoundly affects the way they see the world. It informs them about what their place in society is, and how they deserve to be treated by others.

When a moment of conflict occurs between you and your child it can be a source of pain, stress and distancing between the two of you. Or it can be an opportunity for teaching, growth and actually bringing you closer together.

#1 – Re-defining the Role of the Parent

The way it goes is largely dependent upon the perception you have of your role as a parent. It is so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day stresses of life and forget we are responsible for creating a foundation for our children to be successful and happy as they grow into adults.

Controlling and modifying their behaviour is not the main goal in parenting. That is an old school idea that was created when children were supposed to be “seen and not heard”. Kids were property; they were not generally seen as precious little humans. Let alone brilliant spiritual beings.

This created an authoritative model of parenting where the kids had to obey the parent, be quiet, act respectful and not get in the way. They certainly didn’t have an equal voice in the family.

Re-defining the role of the parent as a guide, an educator, a foundation builder and a source of inspiration brings a whole new view to the family dynamic and by extension on how to deal with conflicts.

If You Don’t Control Them, They’ll Control You

The common view on how to deal with an argument is that as the parent you have to win this argument or at least not allow your child to control you.

If they win the argument, or if you soften your position and allow them to dominate then they will get the idea that they can control you anytime they want. Be firm, be consistent and make sure they know who is in charge.

I profoundly disagree with this perspective.

Your Family Is a Community

The way we structure family should be after our ideal concept of community.

Do you feel like you have a concept of an ideal community?

Well I highly advise it. It is something worth thinking about because it forces you to create a philosophy of how you want to live with yourself and other people. If you can work at creating the conditions in your family that match the concept of your ideal community then you will soon find amazing transformation happening in your home.

You will find a greater joy and harmony in your family than you ever imagined.

And it won’t be an accident, it won’t be because your individual personalities just happened to get along. It will be because of the work you and your family do in order to coexist in harmony and in the upliftment of each other.

Conflict Resolution Is Vital To Community

Part of any really solid community is their ability to deal with conflict.

Conflict, disagreement and arguments can lead to growth or it can lead to destruction.

When two people have a disagreement, the way they deal with that disagreement makes a huge difference in their relationship. It also affects everyone else in the community.

Even when we have a disagreement about something as small as doing dishes or the arrangement of furniture in your bedroom or picking up your socks from the floor, it’s not really about those things.

There are always deeper levels to each issue.

There are always things under the surface that make situations difficult.

If we pay attention to them and work with them intelligently,

they can also make situations glorious!

Looking Beneath the Surface

The thing is how much attention do we pay to what is going on beneath the surface of things?

This is really where we must focus our attention if we want to learn to deal with conflicts with our kids and in our families effectively.

It may not be natural for us to always be looking under the surface when we are dealing with people. And yet this is a vital skill to develop. For when we are dealing with the surface we can only have an effect upon the surface. But if we look to the core, we can affect the core.

And this is one of the key elements in effective and long-lasting conflict resolution.

To get at the core of things.

If we keep practicing looking deeper we can make it a habit.

When this happens you will no longer be instantly affected by impending conflict with your kids. You will see the issues that are brewing and address them with love. This will often stop a conflict before it has time to begin.

#2 – Laying a Foundation

One of the things I am suggesting is to create an environment conducive to peaceful conflict resolution from the beginning. This will cause you to have minimal conflict in your family, and be prepared to deal with it well when it does occur. This work is done before any arguments even happen.

In fact it is often the work you do together between any moments of conflict that sets up how things go when conflict does arise. I would call this laying down a foundation.

A Communication Foundation

A Relational Foundation

A Practical Foundation

Once these different foundations are laid, when a difficult time does come around there is something in place to deal with it, to buffer it.

Create a Love Buffer

In chemistry a buffer is a solution that resists change when an acid is poured into it. If you pour hydrochloric acid into water it becomes very acidic. If you pour hydrochloric acid into a buffer solution the buffer absorbs the acid, not allowing it to make the water acidic. When the acid is poured in, it does have an immediate effect, but the buffer soon absorbs it and the long term effect is very small.

Creating a buffer in your family is much the same thing. If you have a consistent habit of treating each other well, building trust, listening and respecting each other and if your kids feel real confidence in you then you have created a Buffer. When  the acid of conflict is poured into the solution of your family, this buffer of love you have will absorb it and it will have very little long term effect.

This means that you cannot take any moment for granted because every interaction you have is affecting how you will deal with difficult situations in the future. Paying deep attention becomes standard operating procedure.

#3 – Building Trust

So far we have looked at re-defining the role of the parent. Seeing conflict as an opportunity for learning, growth and the enhancement of your relationship with your kid.

We have looked at creating an atmosphere of respect, communication, trust and love with each other in your normal interactions, day to day. Setting a foundation for dealing with conflict when it does occur.

Another aspect of dealing with conflict in the family is building trust. I know I mentioned it earlier as part of creating the foundation, but it’s so important that it needs its own section.

Believing in the good intentions of the other makes a huge difference to how open we are to resolving a conflict. Most kids and teenagers that I know do not inherently trust their parents to have good intentions. It takes a lot of work to make this a reality.

Traditional Parenting Does Not Inspire Trust From Our Kids

This should not come as a surprise to you if you think about it at all. If you spend a lot of time with somebody and you feel that there is a good chance they will block your desires or that they will try to control your decisions, your actions and your freedom, it is hard to really trust their intentions.

So when faced with this person telling you they want to resolve the conflict

it’s very likely the average teenager will instead think:

“They want to talk to me so they can get their way.”

“They want to talk to me so that I will see that I’m wrong.”

“They want to talk to me so that they can express their disapproval.”

or on the more extreme end

“They want to give me a consequence or punishment.”

But regardless of how extreme or how gentle is the control, the control is the point. The kid who experiences this, and most of us went through that ourselves, loses a certain trust in their parents intentions. And to be honest this lack of trust isn’t completely unfounded.

Becoming Trustable Is a Priority

So one of the major pieces of work we have to do is to live our lives in such a way that we are very trustable to our kids. We want to create a condition so that when we say we want to resolve a conflict their response is,

“Oh that means I’m going to be okay.”

We want them to feel that when you say you’re going to resolve a conflict that they know they will feel uplifted by that experience, that they can trust you to take their needs into account being as important, if not more important than your own.

How different this is from the traditional expression of conflict in the family. If they can trust you with these things they can relax into the process of conflict resolution. They can relax in the process of developing relationship with you. They can relax even into their own negative feelings so that they don’t explode, but have a healthy and safe place to be expressed.

When we can acknowledge and feel safe with our feelings that’s when we can really get into the heart of conflict.

Create An Atmosphere Of Trust

It is up to the parents to create that atmosphere of trust for their kids.Our kids naturally want to trust us and they want to be trustable. It’s us that have learned manipulation as survival method over the years.

Then we pass that on to our kids…

“Thank you very much for the gift mom and dad. I appreciate it!”

Let Go of Manipulation and Control

The only way not to pass along the idea of manipulation to our kids is to not manipulate our kids. That doesn’t sound like a very complicated concept and yet you would think I was speaking a foreign language a lot of the time when I share this idea with other people.

It seems really insane to people to share responsibility, to share authority, to share ownership and to share respect with their kids. Sharing respect means it has to be earned (by you) not expected.

Expected respect is no respect at all.

How Trustable Can You Be?

So that’s number 3 – being trustable. Proving that you’re trustable. Demonstrating that you are trustable over and over and over. Demonstrate it in the most difficult of situations and the most tense moments.

When your own emotions are boiling over, ready to explode can you demonstrate how trustable you are to your child? Can you rise above the very things that are trying to control you and have been all your life? They were implanted into you when you were a child and now the wounds of your own childhood are inhibiting you from being open, free and trusting with your own child.

Parenting is a Hero’s Journey

It is like a hero’s journey. Honestly parenting is a hero’s journey because we have to overcome all of our history to be fully present, accepting, open and loving with our children now.

#4 – Relational Well-Being

We have been talking about being trustable. We will now look at the wider implications of that.

Being trustable is one aspect of the larger concept of relational well-being.

Relational well-being is caring for the health of your relationship between you and your child. Of course we care about our relationship in general, but we don’t always base our decisions on how it will affect that relationship.

We are more likely to base them on behaviours, manners, rules and (if we’re honest) our own emotional response.

And yet the way we relate to our kids, the love, respect, safety and freedom, as well as the trust we develop, affects how open they will be to our guidance and influence. This means making the relationship between you and your child a major priority in your parenting decisions.

Look For Every Opportunity To Deepen Your Relationship

When you have a priority of developing your relationship with your kid then a lot of things that we’re used to doing have to change. The key is to make all your day to day interactions relationship focused rather than task or obedience focused.

For example, saying no to your kids on a regular basis is damaging to your relationship. Every time we say no to our kids it pushes them just a little farther away. It lets them know that we believe we have authority over them. As parents we can get so used to saying no that it becomes a habit.

If we can monitor how often we say no, and only say it when it’s really necessary then our kids feel we really support and accept them. The more we create an atmosphere of YES the more they will feel our respect rather than our authority.

An Attitude Of Authority Creates Distance Between You

How can one have a free and open relationship with somebody who has authority over them? There are always going to be bits of ourselves held back. I realize that in life there we always keep pieces of ourselves from others, but in the closest relationships there is lot less held back. I believe this is a desirable state to have with your kids, that they feel they can really be themselves with you.

So I encourage you to start to make a habit out of saying yes. I have written an article about the difficulties and benefits of saying yes. I recommend when you finish this article popping over there and reading that one on my blog because a lot of questions about saying yes are answered in that article.

But generally I want to encourage you to look for all the times that you can say yes to your kid that aren’t going to kill you or them. There’s always a reason to say no, but if we resist the temptation we can bring a transformation to our families.

I’ll give you a really good example:

Your kid comes to you and says “I don’t want to brush my teeth tonight, is that okay?”

How can you reasonably say yes to something like that?

They have to take care of their teeth. It has to become a habit. If we say yes then two days and three days and five days will go by and they won’t brush their teeth. It’s going to cost me money if anything happens to their teeth. So there are lots of good reasons to say no.

When we put our relationship with our children as a priority, the difficulty is all those other reasons have to become a secondary priority. All of them.

This is what I mean when I say it is very difficult.

If your kid comes to you and says I don’t want to brush my teeth and anything else is a priority before your relationship you can say “No you gotta brush your teeth.”

Your Response Changes When Your Focus In On Relationship

But if your focus, your priority is on your relationship then you need to say “Yes, it’s okay.”

Because they’re asking for autonomy over their own bodies.

They are asking for you to trust them and to believe in their decisions.

And if you say “NO, you don’t have autonomy over your body. NO, you don’t have that freedom and you don’t have my trust.” then there is significant damage done to how they view you and how free they can be with you.

When I was a kid there were times I didn’t want to brush my teeth and my parents always made me. So just stop asking them. I would go to the bathroom and fake brush. I knew they would check up on me so I would wet my tooth brush and smear toothpaste on my mouth so I would smell of it. And I didn’t brush my teeth. There were times weeks would go by and I wouldn’t brush my teeth.

Freedom Teaches Lessons And Creates Responsibility

It would have been better to have given autonomy over my body and at the same time taught me about the importance of brushing my teeth. Include acknowledging and accepting that there are times I didn’t want to brush my teeth, I wouldn’t have gone weeks without brushing my teeth. I would have missed the occasional day.

It is because I never learned those lessons, because I didn’t develop the ability to self-monitor, and because I was rebelling against the imposition on my freedom that caused me to not brush my teeth for so long.

True freedom, true independence and true respect can only be created in an atmosphere of freedom. So look for all the ways you can create this atmosphere of freedom in your family.

One of the primary ways is to become yes focused. When you are looking for ways to say yes and opportunities to say yes then your mindset changes, their mind set changes and the whole energy in your family will change.

Just to be clear, because it always comes up when I talk about saying yes, it’s a good thing to say no when your child is about to eat poison, run into a busy street, touch a hot stove or any number of Danger situations. It’s also sometimes necessary to say no when unavoidable scheduling issues arise. Like you have to get to work or you’ll lose your job.

It’s just that these moments are in the vast minority of our total interactions.

The rest of the time there are so many opportunities to say yes.

I hope these ideas will be helpful to you.

I honestly suggest trying them, even if they’re very different from how you already parent.

Try them for a short while and see if any results come.

Conscious Conflict Resolution Brings A Family Together

Wouldn’t it be lovely to reduce the amount of arguments that you have?

Wouldn’t it be lovely if moments of conflict brought you closer to your kids?

Wouldn’t be lovely to be best friends with your kids and they respected you and trusted your wisdom? That sounds like a pretty damn good combination to me.

I invite you to come and read more about these kinds of positive, involved, life skills and relationship building ideas that I call conscious parenting on my blog. I am sure you can find something meaningful to you. www.meaningfulideas.com

I wish you all the best on your parenting journey.