Archive for March, 2012

Do Your Best!

March 29, 2012

     Today’s blog contains more questions than answers, and it’s done deliberately so that you’ll seize the opportunity to ‘weigh in’ on this so that all of us might learn. 

     I read some comments in one of those ‘advice’ columns that set me to thinking about a parenting habit that probably affects all of us in some way.  From the column:  “My mother continually told my siblings and me to ‘ . . not get your hopes up . . ‘.  . . . All that discouragement made us all afraid to try things, taught us to expect defeat and disaster when we did try, and set us up for a lifetime of anticipating troubles that sometimes occcurred, but sometimes did not.”

     Well, let’s take a closer look at this one little piece of advice that many parents are delivering to many children even as we speak.  What if the US hockey players in the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, NY had followed that advice and played with that in their minds?  We would never have heard of the ‘Miracle on Ice’!  (The US team, amateur and collegiate players led by Herb Brooks defeated a heavily favored Soviet team.)  What if Phil Mickelson’s mother had said, “ . . don’t get your hopes up . .” before he defeated Fred Couples and Tiger Woods?  What if Tim Tebow’s mother had said, “ . . . don’t get your hopes up . . “ before he led the Broncos to a win over the Miami Dolphins and a place in the playoffs?  What if the players for the St. Louis Cardinals had heard a significant person say, “ . . don’t get your hopes up . .” before they defeated every team in their march to the pennant last year?  What if someone had spoken to David in his battle against Goliath?

     I’ll bet you get the idea – saying ‘. . don’t get your hopes up . . ‘ may work against potential success for those over whom you have influence.  We all want our children to succeed, and we want them to do well in all their endeavors.  That being true, why would anyone want to ‘. . poison the well. . ‘, so to speak by placing this mental image in the participants’ minds?  

     So, out goes that statement:  “ . . don’t get your hopes up . .”, and in comes a variety of other mental images:  1) Always do your best!!  To give less than 100% will not help you succeed.  2) When you win, be a gracious winner!!  I’m suspicious this lesson needs more emphasis today than even.  3) If you should be behind when time runs out, be an accepting loser!!  We don’t want ‘good losers’ (they’re going to lose, and lose and lose), we want losers who are not complaining, not seeking excuses, not whining; and we want losers who say to themselves, “Wait until next time!”  4) What did you learn today?  This makes every ‘test’ a worthwhile experience every ‘contest’ a learning experience.  Using this approach, I think, will help you raise confident children who are productive and capable.  

What do you think?  Are you ready to make this your approach to encouraging kids?


A Good School

March 22, 2012

So, I’ve been critical of the quality and the number of tests we’re giving today’s students and have even suggested that we’re not testing the important things kids need to succeed in the ‘real world’.  I (and many others) have not been successful in convincing anyone in a position to change the current system (our government right now is adding more threat and less common sense to an already silly system), so I’ve come across something which might help the people in Power Positions appreciate what they’re requiring of our kids.  So, let’s turn the tables and ask our leaders – especially those who have an idea that their tests will improve education – to take this little test.  I think we can agree that writing and speaking are both skills necessary for politicians and other leaders to remain successful, and we can do whatever we can to make writing easier and more efficient.  This little exercise is as silly as the tests we’re now giving to our kids and has an added advantage of having people actually smile at their own inability to rapidly figure out what the words are conveying:


In the first year, “s” will replace the soft “c”. 

Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with

joy.  The hard “c” will be dropped in favor of the

“k”. This should klear up konfusion, and keyboards kan

have one less letter.

     There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond

year when the troublesome “ph” will be replaced with

the “f”. This will make words like fotograf 20%


     In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling

kan be expekted to reach the stage where more

komplikated changes are possible.  Governments will

enkourage the removal of double letters which have

always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil

agre that the horibl mes of the silent “e” in the

languag is disgrasful and it should go away.

     By the 4th yer peopl wil be reseptiv to steps such as

replasing “th” with “z” and “w” with “v”.

     During ze fifz yer, ze unesesary “o” kan be dropd from

vords kontaining “ou” and after ziz fifz yer, ve vil

hav a reil sensibl riten styl.   Zer vil be no mor

trubl or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi tu

understand ech oza. Ze drem of a united urop vil

finali kum tru.

     If zis mad yu smil, pleas pas it on to oza pepl.


As you picture one of today’s leaders and politicians wrestling with such a change in reading/writing, imagine asking relevant questions about whether or not such an activity would help in creating and maintaining a  ‘good’ school.  I read a piece sent to me by Denise which asked questions one must ask/answer to determine whether or not this is a good school.  I’ve copied this from the article by Molly McCloskey:


For example, a good school asks and can provide evidence that:

  • The school’s health education curriculum and instruction support and reinforce the health and well-being of each student by addressing the physical, mental, emotional, and social dimensions of health.
  • The school teaches, models, and provides opportunities to practice social-emotional skills, including effective listening, conflict resolution, problem solving, personal reflection and responsibility, and ethical decision making.
  • The school offers a range of opportunities for students to contribute to and learn within the community at large, including service learning, internships, apprenticeships, and volunteer projects.
  • The school personalizes learning, including the flexible use of time and scheduling to meet academic and social goals for each student.
  • Each student in the school has access to challenging, comprehensive curriculum in all content areas.
  • The school’s professional development plan reflects emphasis on and implementation of a whole child approach to education, is individualized to meet staff needs, and is coordinated with ongoing school improvement efforts.

When a school can provide evidence that these statements are true consistently and sustainably, then it is most assuredly a good school and nothing else matters.

Let’s begin to ask the question:  “Does the current high-stress low-learning testing program effectively meet these criterion?”

If I Had My Child To Raise Over Again!

March 15, 2012

If I had my child to raise over again

I’d build self-esteem first and the house later

I’d finger paint more and point the finger less

I would do less correcting and more connecting

I’d take my eyes off my watch and watch with my eyes

I would care to know less and know to care more

I’d take more hikes and fly more kites

I’d stop playing serious and seriously play

I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars

I’d do more hugging and less tugging

I’d see the oak tree in the acorn more often

I would be firm less often and affirm much more

I’d model less about the love of power

And, more about the power of love.

Diane Loomans

With parenting – as with many other things in our lives – there is no such thing as a ‘do-over’!  We get one chance and one chance only with each child, and since that is a reality, we need to come as close to ‘just-right’ as we can with each of our children.  So, with that as our backdrop, now we turn to the next point to consider in raising children.  Those who have the most information about raising children are those whose children have pretty much grown and left home to establish lives of their own.  And, those who don’t have children might not totally understand the words, thoughts, and reality of the above piece.  So once again, I’d send forth many – probably too many for one sitting – thoughts to consider when we have our children growing in our midst.

     *I had never realized that building the house could take time and energy away from building feelings of self-esteem in our children.  I do know that children gain self-esteem only by ‘doing’, not by listening, or reading, or anything else, just DOING something.

     *Young parents might need to hear this a thousand times:  ‘Take your eyes off your watch and watch with your eyes’.  Yes, children want you to watch them as well as to watch over them. 

     *Can we really ‘see’ the oak tree in the acorn?  Do you know, young parents, that your words, your advice, your example, your encouragement mean a lot to your children?  Are you aware that you are the most influential person in your child’s life?

     *Can I say it again, and again – we need more of the ‘power of love’ and less about the love of ‘power’ (or money, or new cars, or nice clothing, or more trips, or a new house)?  

And, as a minor departure from the piece written and posted by Diane Loomans, let me repeat what you’ve heard me say many times:  The greatest gift you can give your children is the gift of confidence in their own abilities.  This begins with significant people in the child’s life attenting to (paying attention to) things the child does well, and then continues as we assist the child to know that “ .  .  .  .  . no matter what, I’ll make it through this and come out on top on the other end.  .  .  “.  

An Attitude of Gratitude

March 9, 2012

This morning’s sermon addressed the importance of being grateful for all the gifts we’ve been given, rather than living a life filled with despair as we think of all the things we do not have.  As is his style, Max used a homely illustration to inform  people that they have a choice in how they are going to live in this world.  He was late coming into Dallas hoping to catch the last flight bound for San Antonio.  As he spoke to the clerk, he would learn that all of the coach seats were gone, but there remained in First Class one seat, and the clerk offered to give it to him.  He boarded the plane and sat in that large comfortable seat with plenty of leg room grateful for the kindness of the clerk who put him in this position.  Right across the aisle from him there sat a man who was not one bit happy – the plane was late, he wanted two pillows and was given only one, he had paid extra for these extra things and wasn’t getting them – he was, in short, cranky!  So, Max continued, “Here we were, two men on the same flight going to the same place at the same time, and even though the flight was delayed, they would be home tonight.  One of us was very grateful for the gift of the seat on the plane, the other was unhappy as he found much to complain about.”  

 Now isn’t that about the reality of our world – that we can choose to respond to any event by being grateful for what we have or ‘cranky’ for the things we do not receive?  Can we all learn to say “Thank you” more often and to complain less?  Is it possible for all of us to develop an Attitude of Gratitude in all things?  


Catherine Oehlman ( this in a recent blog: 

“When I started my career as a teacher a poster near my classroom read, ‘Let your attitude be one of gratitude.’  I’m not sure whether the reminder was for the students or for the teachers!  No matter what age we are, it is oh-so-easy to grumble about what we don’t have, instead of being grateful for the abundance we do have.  Here are five suggestions for growing an attitude of gratitude in your family. 

1) Lead by example:  Our kids are looking to us all the time.  They notice the things we say, and the things we neglect to say.  If as parents we constantly complain, we cannot possibly expect our children to do otherwise.

2) Teach manners:  I don’t think manners are old fashioned and they are still expected in most social settings.  ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ are often amongst the first words we teach our kids, for good reason.  It’s important that as adults we use manners ourselves when speaking to children.  “Please don’t leave your shoes on the floor!”  “Thank you for putting your shoes away.”

3) Create good habits:  A habit is defined as an ‘acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it becomes almost involuntary’.  One habit that has become almost involuntary in our home is saying thank you to whoever has cooked dinner before asking to leave the table.  (Let me interject a thought of mine here:  This statement contains two habits – both desirable:  1. thanks to the cook and 2. ‘may I be excused from the table?’) My kids might not always like the meal in front of them, but I still want them to be grateful for the food they have!

4) Count blessings:  Some of us are glass half full people, while others have to lookhard to find the positives in life.  Your kids may need a little help to see how rich they really are.  A great activity with preschoolers is to count toys.  How many dolls/trucks/books/etc do they have?  (This works for parents too!)  Someone else will always have more toys but we still have more than we need.

5) See the big picture:…At an age appropriate level, I want my kids to understand the bigger picture of the world we live in.  Beyond being grateful for what they have, I want them to make a difference to those who have less.

We all need to realize that an grateful attitude doesn’t happen overnight  nor is it something we can decree and it exists in our families.  The development of this attitude takes years to place in the behaviors of our kids and it’s done one day at a time.  So, the time to start is now and it’s never too late to begin!  

Good luck!! 

Raising Perfect Children

March 1, 2012

   Over the years I’ve been pleased, honored and fascinated by the words people use to introduce me to various groups of people.  Back in Minneapolis years ago, I was to speak in a quite contemporary Catholic Church and would be introduced by a wonderful priest Father Dan Eagen!  This is a man who was not familiar to me, and as I entered the church well ahead of the appointed time, I saw someone at the alter lighting candles, straightening things, and in general ‘cleaning up’.  He was dressed in blue-jeans and a T-shirt.  Turns out this was Father Dan!  The topic for this Sunday morning was: ‘Parenting: An Important Responsibility!’  Paraphrasing what Father Eagen said to his congregants:  “Of course, you all have a secret for raising perfect children.  Would you please take a moment now, turn to people to your left and right and share the essence of what you believe is the KEY to your work as a parent?”  And, the people gathered in the sanctuary, accustomed to this priest’s processes, turned and the whole church buzzed with the sharing.  When he returned to the podium, Father Eagen said, “Now today we have someone with us who has worked with parenting for years . . Jim Kern.”  Now isn’t that a wonderful introduction. 

This morning as I returned from New Braunfels with my Ollie by my side and thinking of the short visit by Paul (my Colorado resident), a phone conversation with my Jamie (a resident, for now, in San Francisco), and a lunch yesterday with Katie and Josh (living in San Antonio), I wondered to myself what ‘secrets’ you would have shared had you been in that congregation all these years ago.  Think about that and drop me a note on what you think would help us all work more successfully with our most important resource, our children.  I’d really like to hear from you as you think about this and I’d be willing to share in future blogs some of the secrets you’ve sent along. 

So that you an relax and not point out an entire ‘curriculum’ for Raising Perfect Children let me share with you the kind of down-to-earth secret you might have that would be useful to us all.  Take a moment and go back to your own childhood remembering the ‘secrets’ of parenting that might have been used by the adults in your life that brought you to become the wonderful person you are now (I’d wager that none of these was written out or even discussed):  1) Neglect the kids so they can explore their worlds:  I know that during the summer days, especially, my parents didn’t have a clue where I was from about 8:30 in the morning until sunset.  And, when we visited relatives in unfamiliar places, my parents enjoyed the adult company as we explored many unfamiliar (and sometimes dangerous) areas and experienced many fascinating things.  2) Smoke regularly in confined areas where there are children:  My father, may he RIP, smoked one cigarette after another and the six of us kids huddled in the back seat of the car with the windows closed ingesting all of that second-hand smoke.  3) Spank the kids when they did anything not approved by parents:  My mother used a yard stick on each of us from time to time.  She could run from the kitchen through the door into the dining room, reach up over her head without missing one stride, pick the yard stick off the top of the door frame and have us in hand before we got out the front door all of seven steps from that point where she took the stick in hand.

You know, I may have even run with scissors from time to time! 

What are your secret pieces of advice?