Framing and Parenting NO

Have you encountered parents who don’t say “NO!” to their children? I vividly remember a mother of a 4-year-old girl pulling me aside and telling me that “we” don’t say no or anything negative to our daughter. I had hosted a treasure hunt with a dozen other children at my house, and this child wasn’t actually invited (she was a guest of a guest). Taken aback, this was the first time I had ever heard of this type of parenting. It took me a few minutes to grasp the concept and try to understand how I could have a conversation without using the “no” word with the little girl, while leading a group of children on a treasure hunt.

This parenting concept is interesting because I have been learning about “framing” conversations to ensure that your message is clear. Check out Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate by George Lakoff. I try to avoid using negative words and phrases to create a positive experience. For instance, when I hear “No problem,” my gut response is to brace for something awful until I realize it’s a double negative (which is a positive) and all things are good. So instead, I say, “That’s great! Or, my pleasure!” so my words feel good as they are received.

I guess my point is about how some pushy parents demand that others refrain from using the “no” word. It’s one thing to choose your parenting style; it’s another to expect others to do the same when dealing with your child. In this case, lead by example. When others use the “no” word, talk to your child so they learn how people communicate differently.

More about Susan Tatsui-D'Arcy: 2019 California Mother of the Year

As we announced earlier, Susan Tatsui-D'Arcy has been pronounced 2019 California Mother of the Year by American Mothers, Inc.  We're very excited about this, so we're sharing more content from the official announcement.  Today's content comes from her page on, which you can find here.

More about Susan

Susan Tatsui-D’Arcy was born and raised in Southern California and currently lives in Santa Cruz, California. After her first child was born, Susan set up a preschool so she could spend more time with her daughter and provide engaging activities for her. She invited other children to join to create a stimulating and social environment. Realizing that no existing school met the standards she wanted for her children, she opened an elementary school for accelerated students that expanded with her children as they advanced each year. When her daughters were in middle school, Susan created ProjectMERIT to inspire teens to find their niches and pursue independent projects and then expanded Merit Academy to include high school and college advisory. Susan has written eleven books on parenting, education & time management. Susan is the CEO and founder of Merit Academy and Merit Educational Consultants. For fun, Susan skis, ATVs, and manages her aquaponics garden and permaculture fruit orchard.  

What is your favorite memory as a mother?

My favorite memory as a mother was reading aloud the 1500-page biographies that I wrote about my daughters to each of them. I recently completed this 15-year project and bound their biographies in 7 volumes. I read passages from the biographies to them while we were driving on a road trip. We laughed because they hadn’t heard many of the stories. They were intrigued to see many of their personality traits started when they were very young. Sharing these stories and photos with my girls is one of my favorite memories; I hope they share them with their future families.

 What is the craziest thing one of your kids has done?

My 14 year old daughter wanted to make alcohol fuel from rotten veggies so she asked me if she could buy the materials to make it. I gave her my credit card and she ordered the parts online. A few days later, I received a phone call from the FBI inquiring about my purchases of parts to build a 5,000-gallon still! I put them on hold, so I could talk to my daughter. She had decided to build a big still so she could make enough fuel for the year! Luckily, the FBI had a sense of humor!

What was your biggest misconception about being a mom?

I thought that once I figured out the parenting thing when my girls were toddlers, I’d know how to handle all of the future stages of development. Nope! It seemed that as soon as I figured out how to deal with tantrums, hurt feelings, and fairness, they inevitably would present me with something unexpected — sending me back to square one, again! Being a mom is one of the most challenging — and wonderful — things I’ve done!

Throughout the coming year, Susan will speak to mothers across California about two of her passions: Setting up free child care for mothers, and guiding students to do projects that will help them get into top colleges, while solving regional and international problems. 

Susan will be honored at the California Mother of the Year® gala in La Cañada Flintridge on April 13th where she'll talk about her plans to speak to moms at multiple events via many different media platforms throughout the year. 

Susan is also a nominee for the National Mother of the Year® award, which will be announced in Washington D.C. on April 30th.  

Link to Mother of the Year Announcement:

More about American Mothers, Inc

The California Chapter of American Mothers Inc. is an inter-faith, non-political, non-profit organization which recognizes and supports the important role of motherhood with service and education.  American Mothers Inc. is a nonprofit organization founded by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s mother Sara Delano Roosevelt in 1935, and it has been honoring Mothers of the Year in all 50 states every year since. Many outstanding individuals throughout America have also served as officers, leaders, supporters and award recipients of this organization such as First Lady Mamie Eisenhower, Congresswoman Lindy Boggs, and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

What's an Elephant Mom?

This was a new mother label for me… An Elephant Mom? At first I thought it was a joke about a mom who never lost her baby weight, but no, an Elephant Mom is a real thing - she's an Indian mother who allows her very young babies to be completely unbridled.

The Elephant Mom doesn’t discipline or even raise her voice to a child before his 5th birthday. These children never have time-outs and they can sleep with their parents in their bed without question.  When they cry, someone always consoles them immediately.

By giving young children the freedom to play and be free, Elephant Moms believe that it is her job to nurture, protect, and encourage her children. They believe that it is their job to protect their children from pain because they’ll have plenty of pain and suffering to deal with when they grow up. Why make a 4-year old child tie his shoes when he’ll have the rest of his life to tie his own shoes?

While infants and toddlers need the Elephant Mom’s devotion, preschool-aged children can benefit from learning how to communicate and share with other kids and adults, which requires understanding rules and adhering to socially-acceptable behavior. Children like to know what is expected of them and if there are no rules, they may act out to see when an older child or adult will step in to stop their behavior. There is a place for Elephant Moms in early child development, but certainly not all the way up to age 5.


VIDEO: Joel I. Bullard II's TEDxMeritAcademy Talk

In August, Merit Academy hosted TEDxMeritAcademy at the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz.

Joel I. Bullard II was a featured speaker, and his TEDx Talk is embedded below.

“How Identifying Bad Breath Can Save Your Life”
Did you know that the smell of your breath can be a precursor to diseases or conditions of your body? It can also guide you with your own oral health. By paying attention to these signs, you can use the particular scent that is given off as an indicator to what specific disease or condition is within the human body. Joel will help you rethink your oral hygiene and change your life!

About Joel I. Bullard II: oel just completed his undergraduate college career majoring in Biology at Oakwood University. During undergraduate college, Joel worked as an anatomy and physiology lab assistant and as a dental assistant with a general dentist, an orthodontist, and an oral and maxillofacial surgeon. Joel is preparing to enter dental school and looks forward to a career in dentistry.



We all want our children to be happy and to have good friends. With busy after-school schedules, we may miss signs of bullying from classmates, teammates, or neighbors. That’s understandable. But what used to take weeks or months to spread amongst their peers, now takes mere seconds on social media. And kids today don’t have friends that they hang out with as soon as they’re home from school.  They spend most of their after-school hours by themselves in their bedrooms. So the signs are easy to miss.

Strike up conversations while driving in the car. Kids feel less threatened when they don’t have to give eye contact; and you’ll have them as a captive audience so they’ll be more inclined to talk. Ask questions that require dialog and not yes-or-no responses. Sometimes telling them something about yourself demonstrates that it’s a safe place to share.

Check their social media interactions. Yes, you are the parent, and you are entitled to know what is going on in their lives until they turn 18. You’ll be privy to who they are talking to, how they are treated, and how they treat others. Unless there is something alarming going on, use this information to monitor their moods and behavior but don’t tell them that you are snooping. If they are in danger, ask them to tell you about the situation and reach out to authorities to get support, if needed.

Granted, kids have off days just as we do. Puberty can turn a sweet child into an obnoxious terror, and that is normal. But pay attention to signs and patterns in their behavior. Your parenting instinct is usually right, so ask questions and snoop around. If they’re harboring fear because someone is threatening them, your love and support can save them. You may need to talk to teachers or school officials, law enforcement, or community members. You may even need to step in to remove your child from the danger by changing schools or even moving to a different neighborhood. It’s our job as parents to be there for them – even when they shun us.


How Cheaters Ruin Incoming Classes

This college admissions scandal is just the tip of the iceberg. In the next few weeks and months, coaches, college advisors, admissions officers, proctors, parents and students will be charged and prosecuted for illegally and unethically opening the doors to admitting unqualified and undeserving students to the most elite colleges in the country. Maybe there’s a silver lining here: While this unconscionable news swept the nation, maybe we should change the college admissions rubric to focus on academic merit.

When colleges admit athletes with substandard GPAs, it lowers the caliber of the incoming freshmen class. It also opens the door to fraudulent actions like claiming to be the MVP of a sport – even when the student doesn’t even play the sport.

When colleges give preferential treatment to legacies (students whose parents are alumni with deep pockets), it brings entitlement and lowers the quality of the student body.

When colleges consider SAT or ACT scores, it entices parents and students to cheat. Some get accommodations that allow for 50% to 100% more time on the exams claiming that their children have learning disabilities when they don’t. Others pay someone to take the SATs/ACTs posing as their children. And now, prosecutors claim that some proctors have actually changed the answer sheets for students to guarantee a higher score on the exams.

Colleges are under pressure to reconsider their admissions rubrics. So what do they really want? They want students who are interesting, curious, and innovative. I find that students who do projects learn important skills and lessons that will help them thrive in college and career. It’s no longer necessary to play 3 sports, several instruments, and start 10 clubs – besides this would be a ridiculous time commitment that often interferes with grades and time to explore ideas.

I hope that this despicable charade of entitlement shines new light on what college is, and should be, all about: a place to cultivate ideas and explore career options with fellow students who were accepted based on their true merit, not on how much money their parents paid to cheat the system.

College Admissions Scandal

Desperate parents busted for paying up to $6.5 million to "guarantee admission" for their children to elite colleges. 33 parents have been charged in Massachusetts alone.

I thought Americans played by the book when it came to college admissions strategies. Afterall, I am a private college advisor, and I work with hundreds of families every year. Sure, parents and students are anxious and fairly clueless about how to stand out amongst their peers, but they're game to roll up their sleeves to get a head start. Many parents are willing to write checks to ensure that their kids get help with test prep, essays, and projects -- all ethical and legal, but I've never before seen blatant CHEATING by parents, students, coaches, and college advisors here in the United States. 

Today, federal authorities in Boston announced indictments of dozens of people who allegedly used fake "athletic talent" to get into elite colleges. Apparently, these conspiracies involved racketeering, wire fraud, and more. Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin (actresses) are being charged along with coaches, other parents, and proctors who administered SAT/ACT exams. Loughlin allegedly paid $500,000 to have her 2 daughters designated as recruits for the University of Southern California crew team -- even though they never participated in crew. A UPenn coach is being indicted for allegedly accepting $74,000 in cash for recruiting a basketball player who didn't play basketball for UPenn.

So far, Stanford, Georgetown, Yale, University of Southern California, and Wake Forest are named in this investigation. This scandal involves non-athletes who claim to be #1 in a sport and have created photos of themselves (using photo-editing software) winning games. Parents have paid others to take the SAT/ACT in their places and criminal proctors to change students' answers after they've taken the tests.

Do these parents really believe that they're doing their children a favor by getting them into these elite colleges? When they enter as freshmen, they're going to fail classes because they have neither the skills nor the drive to pass the classes amongst students who got in on their own merit. Not all of these students know that their parents have cheated the system to get them in, but for those who do know, that lack of a vote of confidence is sure to wreak mental havoc when they realize that their parents didn't believe in them. For every one of the students who got in because they cheated, there are really qualified students who didn't get in. I hope these students are expelled and all involved in this scandal go to jail. This disgusting behavior has no place in higher education.

So how do you get into top colleges? I advise my students to do a project. It demonstrates the students' interests, passions, and drive more than playing sports/instruments, participating in clubs, or taking dozens of AP classes does. If your child isn't the valedictorian, a project will speak volumes about how your child will succeed in college. 


79 Cents on the Dollar for Martha Washington!

One of my male students Nathan Decena – a teen at the time – painted the image below to portray how women are short changed (no pun intended) in the workforce.

Look closer and you’ll notice that instead of George Washington’s face, he painted Martha Washington (George’s wife). Instead of “1” he painted “.79” because women make 79 cents on the dollar that men make.

I love it when men step up for women to show their support. He will be launching his website DollasDotCom where you can purchase this image on beach towels, mugs, t-shirts, and more!

Professor Bribes Students to Sleep

We all know that we function better on a good night’s sleep. So why do college students cram during finals – often getting just 5 hours (or less) sleep per night to get in those few extra hours of studying? Most incorrectly believe that staying up late will give them the time they need to comprehend more data to improve their test scores.

To challenge this belief, Michael Scullin, director at Baylor’s Sleep Neuroscience and Cognition Lab, gave students extra credit points on his final exam if they slept for at least 8 hours per night during finals week.  Wearing Fitbit-type devices to detect sleeping patterns, the 24 students who got the extra sleep outperformed their classmates who crammed and stayed up until the wee hours of the morning during finals week.

Surprise, surprise.

With better memory, mood, and health, students found that their brains worked better while taking the exams. In other words, spending ridiculous hours studying material with sleep deprivation doesn’t produce better grades.  It’s not the quantity of time spent studying but the quality of time. With a rejuvenated brain and body after a good night’s sleep (minimum 8 hours), students can read questions with more comprehension and answer them with better clarity.

Students will need to establish a healthy sleep culture to accommodate socializing with friends, watching YouTube videos and playing games, and studying for exams.  Perhaps creating a routine that includes 8 hours of sleep that creates this balance will give students the sleep they need with blocks of time for studying and friends.


Susan Tatsui-D'Arcy Selected as 2019 California Mother of the Year!

We're proud to announce that Susan Tatsui-D'Arcy has been selected to be the 2019 California Mother of the Year® by American Mothers, Inc. This nonprofit organization was started by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s mother Sara Delano Roosevelt back in 1935, and it has been honoring Mothers of the Year in all 50 states every year since. Many outstanding individuals throughout America have also served as officers, leaders, supporters and award recipients of this organization such as First Lady Mamie Eisenhower, Congresswoman Lindy Boggs, and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

With Susan's platform, she will speak to mothers about two of her passions: Setting up free child care for mothers, and guiding students to do projects that will help them get into top colleges, while solving regional and international problems.

Susan will be honored at the California Mother of the Year® gala in Southern California on April 13th where she'll talk about her plans to speak to moms at multiple events across many different media platforms throughout the year.

Susan is also a nominee for the National Mother of the Year® award, which will be announced in Washington D.C. on April 30th.  If you have suggestions for outreach that Susan can do as California's 2019 Mother of the Year®, please email her at Here's a link to the American Mother's formal announcement!