Screen Time Contract

For the families out there…

There are some things in the last few years that have worked to bring or keep us vibing together as a family, especially coming into Nolan’s adolescence…

I just saw this agreement in our kitchen [been tucked, peeking out behind our keys for two years reminding us of some agreements] and it sparked me this afternoon to share…

First – before I share about what the photos show here — more communication has worked…and as FUN (to him) as we can make it. Many times inspired by reading the same book or by movies. We make a concerted effort to talk even more these days (they are FUN). We attempt to ask Nolan interesting and more direct questions to keep him engaged vs. simply giving us one-word answers. 

Two – life homework. We started giving him “life homework” years back (maybe 3-4 years ago, he’s 13 now) like cool books he wouldn’t have heard about, podcasts, we started him writing on an intention board each Sunday night or Monday morning, and we learned meditation as a family through TM when he was nine. Life Homework. I feel like that should be capitalized.

Three – this screen time contract. Screenagers Movie dot com has been awesome. We heard of them 2 1/2 years ago and have learned a ton through their newsletter. I would recommend it. We created the contract with their help (added/deleted stuff/used our language) and we re-agreed on it in the same year, in both September and November (I guess we needed some reminders 😉)…

What I really wanted to share to those of you headed into deciding to give your child a phone or allowing them to keep their phone is that as a result of starting with this convo and written agreement, we haven’t had any major issues with phone or technology. I credit it to conversation and taking a lot of the advice ourselves. If they see you doing things differently, they will follow suit.

Since the start of getting a phone, he’s not allowed to use it all the time, nor take it to his room and still now if we are with him, we’ve asked him to please ask us if he can use it. No big deal(s) or arguments — it’s just the way we started and the way we continued.

I’m sure this will shift a bit as he grows, however, it’s shown us so much about our own phone/tech use and how at the end of the day his rules are really our rules, too. We as parents can be the real problem sometimes. We are on our phones doing work, taking photos, doing emails, texting friends or family back…in other words, they see our faces buried into our phones much of the day. Before we set guidelines for them, setting them for the entire family is a good strategy. 

Other than that, simple but consistent and clear rules and a focus on quality time/family enjoyment (much of it focused on *his* teen love language) has also been key to not having phones/tech as an issue.

In fact it was Nolan, annoyed with our own adult phone use a couple years ago, who suggested we buy a lockbox where we lock up phones during family time (we used it for a time and now most of the time we remember, though it’s us, the parents, who fall off the wagon). 

The contract you see two pages of here is four pages long (though long, they really ARE simple rules, I’m sure, too, you could simplify it), but if you’d like the whole thing Screenagers, the site (it’s a documentary, too) has it on their site. The link is in the comments below. 

Four – next on our love him up list is Nolan’s right of passage experience in Arizona which he and Josh will be doing together as Mandel men (I asked if we could fold in a special part with me in it at the end, however, the elder putting it together said it was best to keep it as a male-focused excursion, totally, I get you…). 

These seemingly lost rituals and experiences truly do make an impression and stamp the importance of character and an awareness, not just of the type of man, contributor and human they want to be, but of their connection to the natural, emotional and spiritual world that our city life doesn’t promote as often…

In fact, the entire family will be doing rights of passage this year because even Josh and I feel a need to connect and commit always and again to the above (the natural, emotional and spiritual) because we have so much of everything else — the man-made, the technical and the physical all around us so much more).

I’ll report back once they’ve (and we’ve) completed these experiences and I hope the love and devotion baked into increased conversation between you and maybe even this agreement, if you choose to do one, brings you much family time and togetherness!  

In the end, that’s really all we want…to be closer to our kids and whether they say it or not, it’s one of their deepest wishes too…to feel closer to us…

Make happiness your business by creating your authentic brand…enjoy your business, enjoy your life! 

Life is good,

Michelle Ghilotti
Success Designer, Brand Activator & Social Entrepreneur 

Let’s change to Questioning in Life or Business?

Tired can mean you’re doing it right.

So much is coming and staying fast these days…work I love that needs no overthinking, information about what’s next and how what I call work wants to evolve and with it all questions…

I’m enjoying them. The questions. Even though we may think of them as the enemy, they’re actually lover…

They want you to be sure.

They want you to succeed. 

Ultimately they want you, not to feel attacked by them, but nurtured…a safe space to bump up against, to doubt and to come out with a better sense of who you are and of the future you’ll continue to have with them…

If we didn’t question…if we didn’t have them, we would always stay the same…​


Make happiness your business by creating your authentic brand…enjoy your business, enjoy your life! 

Life is good,

Michelle Ghilotti
Success Designer, Brand Activator & Social Entrepreneur 

Holidays are Hard (how I handle it)

When I started tickling Nolan years ago and he’d laugh uncontrollably, I’d ease up on the tickling, then as I started up again, I would tell him, through my own laughter now, that love hurts, tickle tickle tickle tickle tickle tickle (he’s always had a wicked sense of humor, so he thought it was funny).

Years later, I still tickle him like that (and every now and again still say that) and we both continue to think it’s funny. Because it’s true.

It can and it does. But that’s not a bad thing. It’s a natural thing, the real and honest thing and when we’re real and honest, there is no wrong.

I feel enormously blessed staring out at my Mom’s two statues in my garden (here’s one) while blasting the music I told you I couldn’t do a choreographed dance to last week when I shared that basketball video of Nolan and me (the light hamstring strain is almost healed).

During another holiday season where it might feel easy to continue to feel the discomfort in the new normals and breaks in what once was our “Club G” family tradition, I keep allowing the effortlessness of joy that seeps through the human spirit (it’s all parts naturally spirited).

I’m grateful for all the freaking gifts of these last five years that have come unwrapped, real and raw, the kind that helps to further appreciate and stay tickling a child as one example) because we know life, purpose and meaning ALL live right there in that moment and in that soul.

A not-so-secret to joy = treating the person in front of you as if they’re the very person you’ve lost. How would you en-JOY or share with them if you had one last day together? Find the someone nearest you and give it all to them.

I’m thankful for the kinds of gift(s) that *make* us slow down so that staring into the garden is not just another idea from a mindfulness magazine, podcast or book, but a way of your precious mind/body/spirit FULL life.

For anyone who is missing a loved one this holiday season (or who doesn’t feel up for what it feels everyone else seems up for right now) for any reason —

Because of a disagreement
A break up
A death
A health scare or challenge 
Physical distance 
or other…you’re not alone.

May you see and feel loved by everyone and everything directly to the left and right (or right in the middle of what feels like and is a vast space to fill).

There is much for us there and there’s still much of you to give or receive. Give someone a hand or outstretch yours so we can give to you. One of these, giving or receiving, is where your greatest healing and reconnection to joy begins and never ends —

You are beloved.


Make happiness your business by creating your authentic brand…enjoy your business, enjoy your life! 

Life is good,

Michelle Ghilotti
Success Designer, Brand Activator & Social Entrepreneur 

Building Something That Moves & Affects People

Meet Kristine Carlson and Susan Burton.

These two brilliant women met in such a unique way at the last Greater Good Party. It was our fourth party in Los Angeles after returning from hosting in San Francisco and New York (with amazing co-hosts Trevor Henley & Thea Vaughan).

After Kristine both made us laugh and touched our hearts with her story, Susan, a Purpose Prize Winner in 2012, shared her story of starting A New Way of Life Re-Entry Project (and an entirely new life) where she and her team help to empower, organize and mobilize formerly incarcerated people as advocates for social change and personal transformation (it’s incredible work and her book is Becoming Ms. Burton). 

As all who speak at GGP do (authors, artists, activists, creatives, poets, corporate execs, relationship, and emotional intelligence experts, singers, painters, actors, actresses, healers etc. alike), she shared her story of finding purpose/of it finding her after spending her own time in jail for drugs after losing her young son in an accident.

She was midway through sharing when she turned to Kristine, seated in the front row, and let her know that her late husband’s Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff books had brought her tremendous peace while she was in jail [when I asked each of them to speak, I obviously had no idea].

The hug that followed was all parts human and tender and was/is a beautiful example of the magic and of the unexpected at each GGP regardless of where we do them. 

GGP LA: The next is this Sunday! Our biggest yet and talks by five presenters/storytellers around the theme, this time, of story, specifically, “We are all part of a greater story.”

GGP AUSTIN: Coming February 23rd with co-hosts Amanda Russell & Matt Calhoun!

The Greater Good Party: breathing life to optimistic endeavor…

every day for the opportunity, alongside the generous souls who come to share, to spark individuals, families, couples, and communities to take their passion project (likely a LONG time on the back burner of their lives), to the front burner. 

Because the world is awaiting our move; our movements…

What movement are you going to make a move on?! Maybe finally or for the first time OR continue to make a commitment to?

And remember one important thing: Your building of something that moves and affects people will come in how moved YOU are in the creation of it. What are you most ecstatic about making a part of your legacy?

Make happiness your business by creating your authentic brand…enjoy your business, enjoy your life! 

Life is good,

Michelle Ghilotti
Success Designer, Brand Activator & Social Entrepreneur