Archive for June, 2013

Lessons from being ‘naughty’

June 29, 2013

Little Jimmy Dickens, who is still alive today, I think, and 92 years old, was a regular for many years on the Grand Ole Opry!  He was four feet eleven inches tall and that earned him the word ‘little’ as people addressed him or introduced him on the Opry shows.  He sang this song and I’ve heard it many times – even sang along on occasion.
    I know there must be some kids somewhere who never did anything a bit naughty in those growing up years as they moved from year to year, from group to group, and from place to place.  I’m also quite confident that most young people at some time in their lives have been naughty.  And, at this advanced age, I know that the importance of a warm, loving and transparent relationship between parents and their kids can serve both well in helping kids move into adulthood with memories of those little transgressions, the lessons they taught, and the knowledge that they too, when they become parents, will need to work through those kinds of things with their own children.
    So, let’s take a short walk through these times to see if there might be a few lessons here for us all.  The lyrics:
My pappy used to tan my hide, Out behind the barn
He taught me to be dignified, Out behind the barn
But when he took that strap to me, and turned me down across his knee
He sure did hurt my dignity, Out behind the barn.

(So, this spanking issue will go on for many more generations and people will argue on each side its value and its detriment.  I don’t think I’d use spanking, now, as a control technique, as it may teach my children that it’s OK for ‘big’ people to ‘hit’ little people – I wouldn’t want to run that risk.  That doesn’t make my position right and all opposing views wrong.)

I got my education, Out behind the barn
Passed each examination, Out behind the barn
And i’m not foolin’ no siree
But it almost made a wreck of me, Out behind the barn.

(I am a firm believer in parents’ obligations to provide pathways for learning for their children – and that they do the controlling of inappropriate behavior in a loving way.  I would not want my children to grow up thinking those intersections in life containing conflict and/or disagreements would make a wreck of the kids, but rather that the parents would, could and should handle these moments in such a way that the children can learn how we resolve differences and keep our lives within appropriate boundaries.  I’m confident that our children learn to respect others and themselves when they are given a chance to learn from their mistakes and know that those mistakes in no way are determinants in what they will become – with their dignity intact.)

I smoked my first cigarette, Out behind the barn
And that’s one day I won’t forget, Out behind the barn
I got so sick, you should’ve seen, How that tobacco turned me green
I almost died from nicotine, Out behind the barn.

(The literal interpretation of this verse has little meaning to me – I have never taken even one puff off a cigarette.  I have listened to many of my friends while growing up describe their ‘first’ experience with this smoking – something which for some would become a very troublesome addiction – and many of them at some point learned the lesson that this is really a nasty habit and need not become a part of our behavior.)

I met a pretty girl one day, Out behind the barn
She wanted me to stay and play, Out behind the barn
She taught me how to kiss and pet, And that’s a game I won’t forget
Cause we still play the same game yet, Out behind the barn.

(In America this whole business of establishing and maintaining permanent relationships with the opposite sex (or with the same sex in some cases) is laden with potholes.  As time has passed and I’ve observed many changes in this dating, courtship, marriage process, and, I’m going to continue to advocate the traditional mores surrounding this process for those over whom I have any influence.  At the same time, I really want to respect the views and beliefs of those whose values differ from mine.  While I realize that there is really no such thing as a ‘test-of-time”,  I also know that as time passes, we’ll have multiple opportunities to examine and re-examine new methods in sexual and relationship areas).  

I wish I could go again, Out behind the barn
And do some things I did then, Out behind the barn
Now you think it ain’t no fun, To be a poor old farmers son
You just don’t know what all I’ve done, Out behind the barn.

Finally, I think we have all had private places where we had a chance to test our wings as we moved forth into new times-of-our-lives.  I, personally, will always be grateful for the influence of my grandmother who I’m sure didn’t approve of all the things I did (figuratively: Out behind the barn),  and through that loving relationship and openness I think she did me many favors and directed my life gently into many successes.  I’ll be forever grateful to her and to all who kept my eyes fixed on positive goals – and there have been many!


Be True To Yourself

June 19, 2013

    Professional coach, Betty Mahalik sends out in her communications, a brief note about the importance of “Know Thyself” in our own lives.  She makes the case that unless we know ourselves our professional and personal effectiveness can be severely damaged.  Betty suggests that we could ask ourselves simple questions, and answer them honestly, as we move to know ourselves better.  Three of the questions she poses for her clients are:  “1) What are your values?, 2) What do you fear?, and 3) How do you think you’re coming across to others?” She does go on to add the phrase spoken by Polonius in Hamlet – ‘To thine own self be true.’  Could it be that this second phrase dictates that we do not deceive ourselves – that we do not mis-represent ourselves?  
    I have met people (all of us have) who mis-represent themselves over and over again. Rather than putting forth an accurate and true picture of themselves, these people choose to state the most negative things about themselves and we are left to wonder if they really mean those things or if instead they might be trying to manipulate our response to them.  We hear someone say, “I’m just too fat!”  How are we to interpret that and how shall we respond?  Is it possible that this person would have us say, “Oh, you’re not too fat!”  Or, “I just can never get things right!”  Really?  Never?  Or, “I’ve always had trouble meeting people!”  Hmmm!  Am I to agree with you?  I’m sure you get the picture – what do we gain by frequently (or all the time) putting ourselves down in these ways?  This pattern of self-depreciating can result in our being judged dishonest, unaware, manipulative, and/or unsure of ourselves.  This pattern might also affect people near us to wonder what we are to make of this self-destructive talk.  And, it may be that those around us know that what we’re proclaiming about ourselves simply is not the truth – that in fact, the other is not ‘. . too fat.’, or does not continually get things wrong, or actually functions very well in situations where meeting others is necessary.  By serving as your own judge, jury, and executioner, you might be inviting failure, or worse – isolation from people you want to be near.  And, your predictions may become self-fulfilling prophecies – you may become what you believe.  Is it possible that we are often harder on ourselves than others would be on us?
    Now, if any of that sounds like you, some change could help you become more effective in all of your life’s elements.  What if, for example, we could start by being more kind to ourselves?  This does not assert that you must over-state your strengths and positive aspects – just ‘Know Yourself’ and ‘To Yourself be True’.  Leslie Michele who posted a blog on changing from being overly negative to realistically positive suggests this as a starting place and I agree with her invitation:  “Could you start now?  Right now.  It is never too late! I challenge you to make a list of all of the super awesome things about yourself! Have fun with it, and remember “Know Thyself”  and “To thine own self be true”.
    Once again, I leave you  with the Nike slogan:  JUST DO IT!

On Sharing

June 6, 2013

   Some thoughts on teaching our children to share.  I’m suspicious that all parents at some time – especially during those very early years – become fearful that they are raising a very selfish and inconsiderate child – a child who resists or simply refuses to share.  And, so we parents often enter the fray by making our youngsters share with others not realizing that there are many issues involved here – some having little to do with selfishness, greediness, disobedience, or just plain stubbornness.  From a wonderful article by the publishers of ‘Growing Child’ comes this little toddler’s creed – you may have seen it before:
       “If I want it, it’s mine.
       If I give it to you and change my mind later, it’s mine.
       If I can take it away from you, it’s mine.
       If I had it a little while ago, it’s mine.
       If it’s mine, it will never belong to anybody else, no matter what.
       If we are building something together, all the pieces are mine.
       If it looks just like mine, it’s mine.”
    Sound familiar?  Have you sometimes worked to force your child to share so that they’ll take this into their tomorrows and become ‘the good child’?  Have you wondered if yours is the only child who does not learn sharing early-on?  Could it be that in your attempts to force a child to share, you may be doing more harm than good for/to your child?

    Dr. William Sears has offered many ways to teach your child to share, and I’d like to present some of them with just a word or two from Dr. Sears which he uses to support his position on these processes – (http:11 Ways to Teach Your Child to Share:  Ask Dr. Sears):

1) Selfishness comes before sharing:  ‘Mine’ is one of the first words a very young child uses and this attachment to things as well as people is an important element, necessary for becoming an emotionally healthy person.  The one year old has difficulty sharing her mommy – the two year old – sharing a special toy.

2) When to expect a child to share:  Dr. Sears hints that we needn’t expect sharing much before age three and maybe for several years after that.  And, even after four or five years, expect selective sharing.  Dr. Sears states:  “The child is no more likely to share her treasured teddy or tattered blanket than you would share your wedding ring or that heirloom shawl your mother gave you.”

3) Don’t force a child to share: Through various play situations, we would prefer our children to learn that ‘ .. life runs more smoothly if they share.’  (Dr. Sears)

4) Model generosity:  Share with your children – let them see you share with others – invite them into sharing situations.  We must never forget that children learn from us even when we think they’re not paying attention to us.

5) Play games which incorporate sharing:  Kids will probably learn more from a game-type activity than from all of our lectures put together.  About games, Dr. Sears advises:  “Consider the character traits that are fostered during a simple game: humor, fairness, honesty, generosity, concentration, flexibility, obedience to rules, sensitivity, and the all-American value of competitiveness. And, sorry to say, unhealthy traits such as selfishness, jealousy, lying, and cheating can also be experienced through play. Expect play time to reflect how life is to be lived, and tolerate only principled play.”

6) Plan ahead: When we know that a ‘non-sharing’ time lies ahead, plan some strategy to avoid the non-sharing: for example, have a guest bring some of his or her toys to your house, have your child take some of his/her toys to the other’s house.

7) Protect your child’s interests:  If a child has one favorite toy that won’t be shared, help your child to have it despite others’ attempts to take it away.

8) Give your child opportunities to share:  Once again from Sears: “To encourage sharing, Janet gave four-year-old Benjamin a whole cookie with the request, ‘Please give some of the cookie to Robin.”  He broke off a piece and gave it to her.”  

    Be aware that as you behave, so also will your children behave – you are one of the first and one of the most important influences on your developing child.  How do you rank in the area of ‘SHARING’?

A Glimpse of our Worries

June 1, 2013

    Think with me on ‘worrying’!  We all worry, it’s a natural response to situations which come our way and over which we believe we have no control and these situations can possibly be harmful to us in some way.  The dictionary offers this definition: “. . to torment oneself with or suffer from disturbing thoughts; to fret”.  So in the course of our living we worry about:  our health, our loved ones, our money woes, our employment situation, our marriage, our singleness, our appearance, our weight, our age, safety in our home, the weather (storms), – – – I could go on and on, but part of this exercise is to invite you into this discussion – so, what worries you?  

    Let’s start our examination of ‘worry’ and the consequences of worrying too much or over trivial things.  1) Worry is a choice we make.  Look again at the definition – ‘to torment oneself’.  Yes, we choose to do this to ourselves.  If that be the truth, and, I think it is the truth, we can refuse to ‘torment‘ ourselves, can’t we?  2) “Disturbing thoughts”.  So, we need to check these thoughts out.  A sound of voices somewhere nearby can produce disturbing thoughts for anyone who is familiar with worry.  And, when we check it out, learn that the sounds are coming from our neighbor’s home across the way, we put ‘disturbing thoughts’ into proper perspective.  3) Fret.  We all know someone who is forever in a state of ‘fretting’ – someone who is forever expressing (much to our dismay) worries, annoyances, discontents or the like.  We’d like say to them:  “Fretting about the lost opportunity isn’t going to help.”

    Many of us seem to search out things to worry about and in searching we most often find them.  ‘My children could be kidnapped!’  ‘My plane could crash!’  ‘I could choke on these peanuts!’ and many other worries can fill our thoughts each day.  And, much of what we worry about, never ever happens!

    So, a crash course in ridding your life of worry:  1) Check it out.  How many of the thousands of flights that take off every day – EVERY DAY – actually crash?  How many people die each day eating peanuts or popcorn?   2) Be prepared.  We can prepare ourselves and those who depend on us for their own mental health and comfort.  My son, Chris, at age five walked one mile to school and back every day in Southern Minnesota where the weather is not always our friend.  We prepared him in many ways – and one of those ways was to always refuse to ride with anyone – that’s right, ANYONE.  The driver of the car may look like someone you know – always say ‘No, Thank you’ and walk on home.  One day my stepmother was coming to our house, spotted my son walking along, and stopped to give him a lift.  She offered this invitation:  “I’m your grandmother!”  Chris told her ‘No, Thank You.  You might just look like my grandmother’ and he walked on home!  3) And, finally, take all sensible steps to insure you’re free from worrying by doing the ‘common sense things.

    Leo Buscaglia offers this for us:  “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”