Serious Play


35th Anniversary Edition of The Winning Family

Big news! Book Launch!

More than a book on parenting, The Winning Family: Where No One 

Has to Lose (Uplift Press) focuses on the personal development of parents along with the development of their children, shaping families characterized by joy and satisfaction, not manipulation and guilt. Mothering Magazine called this book “uniquely inspiring and non-guilt-provoking,” and one reader called it, “better than years of therapy.” In this new edition for the next generation, my voice and experience come to the fore.

The Winning Family: Where No One Has to Lose

paperback ISBN: 9781647045470 / $16.95
ebook ISBN: 9781647045463 / $4.95
FREE eBook excerpts

Order at Indiebound, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon 

Kristen (Baumgardner) Caven, this year’s CWC Writer in Residence at Joaquin Miller Park, educates, entertains, and inspires her audiences with an extraordinary offering of books, presentations, performances, and events. The author of seven books, several plays, and an award winning cartoon collection, she applies positive psychology to her work strengthening communities through uplifting artistic expressions.


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Walkin’ with Joaquin

I #amwriting in the Oakland Hills, keeping the California Writers Club alive and well in its birthplace, Joaquin Miller Park. I’m working on a book about the poet based on my song,  and blogging about the history and happenings in this local happy place.

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Mills is Dead. Long Live Mills.

In spite of the uplifting statements of Northeastern University in Oakland about gender and racial equality, they need to be accountable for their actions in destroying a minority serving historic women’s college.

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I’m working on the 4th edition of The Winning Family with my mom, the famous Dr. Louise Hart. The last time we approached a publisher to bring it back into print, we ended up writing The Bullying Antidote!  The message is the same: raising children with positive parenting (we invented that term) is the best prevention for all types of social harm.

“Toxic Speech”

excerpt from “Cutural Barriers to Self-Esteem” in

The Winning Family
35th Anniversary edition

Harsh language is rarely studied in psychology or sociology, but anyone who has a negative work or family environment will agree it’s a problem. When swearing feels normal, people are more easily abusive to each other, defensive, and contemptuous. When I was young, I rarely heard foul language. Now it’s in music, in movies, in video games and in everyday speech. We are constantly exposed to offensive language, racial slurs, gender slurs, and aggressive speech. It leaks into our workplaces, friendships, and families.

Very few psychologists are looking at the connection between common language habits and mental/emotional health, but the ones who do notice a real problem with men’s culture, where insults like ‘man up’, ‘grow a pair’, ‘don’t be such a girl’ reinforce damaging, toxic stereotypes. ‘Do yourself a favor,’ ‘get over yourself,’ and ‘f— that’ may feel very natural to say but are examples of violent speech. Harsh language often goes along with “The Four Horsemen” identified by the John Gottman Institute for Relationships: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling.

In 1996, the Speaker of the House released a memo with a list of words that his party should start using to attack their political opponents. Trolling came next, with anonymous commenters saying the ugliest things to and about politicians (which later were discovered to be paid trolls and even bots), and ugly, aggressive language became common on all social media. Name-calling, lying, and expressing hurt through aggression have become normalized. Divisive language demonized sections of the population. Some politicians and media still use toxic rhetoric that shows they believe certain people are more entitled to human rights than others, and it’s okay to do harm. In arenas that are supposed to uphold our highest values, this has been a serious problem that hurts kids in many ways. After the 2016 election, for example, bullying incidents on schoolyards rose sharply.

In The Bullying Antidote, we call this “casual cruelty.” The problem with toxic language is that it’s disorienting. It’s easy to forget there are real people involved, and that people get hurt. Negativity lowers self-esteem. Negative talk adds to negative self-talk, which leads to negative feelings and negative behavior.

It’s no wonder so many people are struggling with their mental health. We need to look forward to, and create, better days. Once we can see that toxic speech is a cultural problem, we can better protect ourselves and our families. Here are some tips:

• Look for the good intentions in stupid behavior, and acknowledge them. • Listen to how your children talk about themselves. Negative statements, such as “I’m so dumb” or “I never do anything right,” let you know what they are repeating over and over again to themselves.

• Start a “swear jar” and add a dollar anytime you get caught using bad words. Let your kids help clean up the language in your family. Hold each other accountable for negativity.

• Look for the good qualities in yourself and in your kids. Ask them to tell you what they like about themselves. Sit down with them and encourage them to talk about how they’re special. Get them to start learning to think positively about themselves. Parents and teachers alike report that kids love doing this, and their self-esteem increases instantly.

• Establish a rule that every negative statement is to be countered with two positive statements. This will help you become aware of how you talk to yourself—and about others—and will flip the focus to the positive. My mom, when she realized how difficult we had it with the toxic speech outside and inside our heads, introduced “The Eleventh Commandment: Thou shalt not speak harshly of thyself or others.

The book will be released next April. Subscribe to blog, Museletter, or Uplift Press for announcements.