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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Parents, Educators! Watch This Great Story (and Take it to Heart)!

It was his first post as school principal. When the soft spoken, mild mannered young man walked in the door to take up his new position, he had no prior experience in running even a "normal" school. And this was no normal school.

Junior High School 22, a hotbed of drugs and violence, was one of the most dangerous spots in New York City. No surprise that it had gone through six principals in two years. And no surprise that the teachers, pupils and parents alike were convinced that the most unlikely new incumbent would be out the door even quicker than his hapless predecessors.

How wrong they were! What were the "secret weapons" that enabled Shimon Warringer to turn the situation around in hardly no time at all? True, one or two things in his personal background proved to be somewhat to his advantage. But above all, this story is a moving testimony to what empathy, warmth and unconditional love, together with a strong, unshakable vision, can achieve.

Watch this video and be moved. And then, don't just move on to your next task for the day and put it out of your mind. Take it to heart. You, too, can make a difference in this world. At least with your own kids.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

How to Build Relationships That Stick: Popular E-Book Now FREE!

As we've asserted repeatedly over the years, the way many people perceive relationships is great for romantic novels, but has little to do with real life.

People enter into serious relationships such as marriage with little preparation or even basic knowledge what to expect. Then, when the inevitable disillusionment sets in, they may be so overcome with doubt that they act and react in inappropriate and self-defeating ways. And of all the forms of human misery, discord in the home is probably the most widespread.

If the above paragraph is even faintly familiar, here's some good news!

After much thought, I've decided to make my e-book: How to Build Relationships That Stick, which has won wide acclaim during the seven years it's been on the market, available free. (In contrast to the way that word is often used in the world of so-called Internet marketing, I mean it literally - no email address collected or other strings attached!) All you have to do is go here and then RIGHT-click on any one of the links on the page to download your free copy.

I must point out that although a part of the book does talk specifically about marriage and intimate relationships, the underlying principles discussed throughout the book apply to all kinds of relationships. This includes interactions between family members (parent-child, siblings, etc), friendships, and even your relationship with business and workplace colleagues and associates.

Above all, I try in this little book to explode the myths that actually kill relationships!

We said that dissension and acrimony in the home must be one of the worst kinds of misery, but the converse is also true: domestic harmony is undoubtedly the most intense form of happiness. Now it's time to put the past behind you. With the right knowledge and the right attitude, you'll not only improve the quality of your life, but also those of your relationship partners!

So what are you waiting for? Download your own copy of How to Build Relationships now!

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Your Marriage Could Be Bad For Your Health

What, marriage is bad for your health? Hardly. Few things can be more health-promoting than a good marriage. But read that headline again. What's going on in your marriage?

To be more specific, marital conflict can be bad for your health. A growing body of research now bears this out, points out Dr Joshua Coleman, prolific contributor to our site (as well as dozens of media outlets around the world) on parenting and family dynamics, in his e-newsletter, The Coleman Report .

Some of the evidence: Ongoing marital conflict appears to worsen the symptoms of women with rheumatoid arthritis and results in elevated blood pressure for both men and women. Marital conflict may also worsen the symptoms of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's Disease and Parkinson's. And more.

But it's not only a question of physical health, and observable physical symptoms are only part of it. Nor is it only the two spouses that suffer. Dr Coleman reminds us that high conflict marriages also interfere with the ability to parent for both genders.

Studies show that fathers are more likely to withdraw from their children and from the parenting role in marriages that are characterized by ongoing conflict. In addition, they may become more negative and intrusive with their children than fathers in satisfactory marriages, or mothers in poor marriages.

Other studies reveal that the mother's feelings about the father can affect how much he stays involved with the kids and how much he enjoys being a Dad. Angry mothers are more likely to try and exclude fathers from child involvement than mothers who aren't angry. Both mothers and fathers are more likely to be depressed in a high conflict marriage.

Dr. Coleman alerts us to some of the most common underlying causes of marital strife. Typically, a combination of several are involved. These include: growing up in a home where there was ongoing marital conflict, outside stressors (such as worry over money, career, in-laws), and inside stressors (such as differences in parenting attitudes, division of household labor, spending habits, differences in sex drive, etc.).

Most telling of all, in most high conflict marriages, one or both spouses have never learned how to communicate.

The bottom line: if the above sounds painfully familiar, get help now! However hopeless the situation may seem to you right now, it doesn't necessarily mean you have only two choices: get divorced or live a life of hell forever. Far from it; you may be pleasantly surprised.

But remaining passive won't help. The longer you procrastinate, the more difficult it may be for professional intervention to succeed. Don't wait to seek outside help to resolve the conflicts and prevent long-term or irreversible damage to your most valuable asset - your marriage.

Act now - for your sake and for the sake of your children

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Monday, November 07, 2005

Are We Listening to our Children?

Almost anyone who's serious about acquiring good interpersonal communication habits will appreciate the value of effective listening skills. Some refer to listening as the most important communication skill of them all.

Of course, this doesn't only apply to adults. Parenting columnist Jodie Lynn points out that teaching kids how to listen is a major challenge in the home as well as in the classroom. Ask any teacher, she says, what their number one complaint is and the reply will surely be the stress associated with the lack of listening skills in their students.

Learning to listen is the other side of the coin of acquiring good verbal skills. And training needs to begin as early as two years of age.

"Michelle, why are you still coloring your face with the red marker?" asked Mrs. Johnson. "we are lining up to go to lunch. Didn't you hear the instructions?"

Well, maybe she did hear after all. But listening isn't quite the same thing, is it?

Without minimizing the pain, Heaven forbid, of parents or teachers whose offspring or young charges conveniently (for the children) turn deaf at just the most inconvenient (for the adults) of times, I'd like to turn the whole problem on it's head.

Instead of asking, are our children listening to us (as timely as such a query may be), let's ask for a change: Are we listening to our children?

Consider this little story. If you have a child of your own like Suzie, would you respond as Suzie's mother did?

Suzie, a third grader, had recently become very negative and cynical. At times, she was uncharacteristically impudent. In short, a hitherto sweet little girl had turned into a sourpuss!

And when her mother would ask how her day at school went, Suzie would just roll her eyes and not answer.

Suzie's mother wondered whether something was cooking at school and decided to investigate. Her hunch was correct. Not that there was any major crisis; just that her Math teacher had come down with the flu and hadn't reported for duty for a few weeks already, and a substitute was standing in for her English teacher who was away on maternity leave.

That day, when Suzie came home, her mother began to chat to her about the situation at school and was careful to show her interest, concern and empathy. "It must be hard for a diligent girl like you not to have your regular teachers. Especially when you like them so much. I feel so bad for you."

Suzie's mother understood something that not every parent understands, basic though it may be. Even though a certain situation may be out of your control and there's not much you can do to alleviate it, your concern acts as a balm on a child's wounded spirit.

Of course, this concern needs to be real, not faked:
"OK, but what are you worrying for? I'm sure it will work out." "You have to understand, you're not the only one in the class." "It was the same in my day, but I never made a fuss of it."

That kind of talk just won't cut it.

Children are small people, so their problems are proportionately small. Small yes, but not trivial. Imagine if someone would say to you: "There are so many problems in the world, this is nothing", on hearing that you've just been laid off from your job!

Your efforts in putting yourself in your child's shoes, your interest and concern - if it's sincere and genuine - is what gives her the impetus to communicate with you.

And that's what you want, isn't it?

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Sunday, April 10, 2005

Eating Disorders - and Family Tensions

In my previous post, we discussed how some social and interpersonal problems are often blamed on "poor communication skills" or the like. Unfortunately, however, people are inclined to confuse cause and result. They fail to distinguish between the symptoms and the disease itself, the outward manifestations and the underlying causes.

Not surprising really, because we all know that uncovering root causes is seldom easy. But of course, that's no excuse for not trying. We have to begin peeling away the surface layer that may be obscuring the reality. And if necessary, keep on peeling, layer after layer, asking ourselves "Why?" with each turn of the knife.

I recently read a poignant and revealing personal testimony of a young woman who during her teenage years had fallen victim to that traumatic and mysterious condition known as anorexia. Of course, nobody had the faintest idea why a highly intelligent youth - product of an affluent, caring and popular family - would want to inflict real pain upon her own body by physically making herself smaller, by starving herself. Even placing her very life in danger.

It just doesn't make sense. Until one starts to probe deeper. And deeper.

The young woman relates that she never felt anything was lacking in her home. Her parents met all her physical needs and tried desperately to fill her emotional needs. But in a home where everybody was expected to be positive and happy all the time, where negative emotions were somehow frowned upon, she had felt, deep down in her childhood soul, invisible. No wonder that by the age of ten she was obese.

The consequences of this were not only physical. Even though she enjoyed a special relationship with her grandmother, each time granny introduced her to someone she would say, "Here's my little fat grandchild." Other family members were hardly more tactful. It all hurt her beyond words, but in a home where conflict was to be avoided like the plague, she was afraid to express her pain.

The next step, a few years later, was perhaps inevitable: "I decided that if I became little, people would have to protect me. They would have to take notice. I wanted to be noticed.." In the end, notwithstanding the terrible price she knew she was paying, our young lady was at last getting all the love, attention and concern she had always craved.

The account I read does not say, but one wonders what was going through the minds of her parents during this heartrending period of crisis. If only... If only...

If only what?

One could speculate that had the girl only managed to communicate her pain and humiliation at her family's thoughtless references to her obesity, the outcome could have been very different. Not certain, but very likely.

But what were the impediments that prevented her from doing that? Why did she have such difficulty in expressing her natural feelings and emotions?

I'll leave a full analysis to you. (And in case you've forgotten, the "comments" button is right below!)

At any rate, we see how far we some times have to probe - with a very good measure of sensitivity, tact and common sense, of course - if we genuinely have the interests of our fellow human beings at heart. And how careful we have to be not to jump to superficial conclusions.

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Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Teenage Suicides: Is Faulty Communication to Blame?

Communication breakdown is blamed for a multitude of sins in commerce, industry, government and even sporting circles. Using various news items culled from news media to illustrate her case, my colleague Helen Wilkie warns us that the symptoms should never be confused with the disease. Another site contributor, Tom Terez, makes the same point and drives it home with some very funny imaginary conversations.

What applies in business and the workplace applies in other environments, especially within the family unit.

In my last post, I wrote about difficulties some parents have in persuading their children not to smoke. It's very easy to ascribe such situations, where the older generation feels it just can't get through to the younger and the younger feels much the same way about the older, to "communication problems". That's not entirely wrong, but with every malady, physical or social, you have symptoms, and you have the underlying causes.

And we must be careful not to confuse the two.

I've seen a number of news items recently, particularly from Asian countries, about the increasing incidence of suicides by teenagers who believed they had let their parents down by performing poorly in important school examinations. Some reports specifically quoted the bereaved parents as saying that had they only known what their distraught sons or daughters were thinking, they would have taken pains to reassure them. This led local powers-that-be to propose urgent training courses for both teens and their parents in communication skills.

That's a praiseworthy objective. But are we merely talking about imparting some kind of technical skill? Why are the parties not communicating with each other? Because they don't know how? Are we sure we're not confusing cause and result?

I'll try to throw some light on these questions in my next post, by analyzing a case study relating to an emotion-driven - and sometimes fatal - disease that is sadly becoming far too common among today's youngsters.

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Thursday, March 31, 2005

Smoking: How to Get Teens to Lay Off

I was about to settle down to write something on the communication problems of teenagers in distress, when I came across a revealing news report of recent research somewhat relevant to my topic. It concerned teens and attempts by their parents to get them to quit smoking. So this post will serve as an introduction to the next one.

In a joint project of journalism faculty members at the Universities of Missouri-Columbia and Kansas, the researchers asked youngsters questions on their knowledge of and attitudes towards smoking, and the type of communication they've had with their parents about it.

In short, they found that when parents "lecture" their offspring about the dangers of smoking without, in turn, attentively listening to what the kids have to say about it, their efforts may well be futile and and liable to backfire. In other words, one-sided communication just doesn't do the trick.

The researchers suggested that open discussions, especially if they that are part of a multiperson strategy would do a better job of deterring youth from smoking. Parents' first step should be to ask their children what they think of smoking and listen to their responses. Then, and only then, should mom and dad explain why their youngsters' perceptions or assumptions may be faulty or incomplete.

Over 20 years ago two erudite ladies wrote a runaway bestseller whose title says it all: How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk. The simple fact is that nobody, no matter how old or how young, likes to be lectured to. But there are ways of doing things to accomplish your objectives.

On the subject of improving your communication with your teenagers, you'll find this article on our site helpful.

Go to next post->

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Sunday, March 06, 2005

Blame it on the schools? It's the family, stupid!

If you're familiar with my writings, you'll know that I'm a strong believer in the traditional family as the cornerstone and very foundation of any healthy, stable and progressive society.

See, for example, my article If Marriage Is Dead, We're All Dead, which is basically a rant against the conclusions of a so-called "research" study a few years ago, published in a very respectable scholarly journal, that fathers are wholly dispensable to the functioning of a well-balanced family unit.

In this context, I was intrigued by a recent piece by Nicole Gelinas in the New York Post which an acquaintance forwarded to me last week.

Apparently, people have been complaining in New York state that the powers-that-be haven't been allocating enough money for education. A group of activists have been fighting in the courts for ten years to wring more money from the state government for the public schools in New York City

But Gelinas points out that far too many kids in the city come to school handicapped by a significant deficit of another kind - one that can neither be measured in or fixed by dollars.

"All the money in the world," she writes, "can't negate the stubborn fact that schools must work with the raw material they've got: the children."

In other words, too many of the kids are coming from dysfunctional, fractured and warped family backgrounds filled with stress and strife. By the time they get into the school system, educators already find themselves at a severe disadvantage. Their young charges are no longer the pliable vessels they should be to receive the wisdom and instruction their teachers desire to impart to them.

Apparently, "little kids come to school with anger-management problems so deep-seated that, at ages 9 and 10, they're already dangers to themselves and others. Pregnant teachers must insert themselves into vicious fights between pint-sized children....Other kids are prematurely burnt out or acutely, clinically depressed..."

According to the writer, local public-school teachers are adamant that lots of their kids are smart and creative, but they live "in noisy, polluted apartments where its impossible to grow or think amid a cacophony of honking horns and blaring music. Further, "the kids must deal with their mothers' and grandmothers' endless parade of new boyfriends, new apartments and new jobs." Apparently, single moms still head more than one-third of New York City's households.

And we can be pretty sure, unfortunately, that this kind of tragedy is hardly confined to New York City or the U.S. The phenomenon is widespread in many countries.

Healthy kids from healthy backgrounds shouldn't have problems learning how to read or do basic math. As always, the Family is King!

For the poor and underprivileged, a little money never hurts.

But if we want to be parents, we have to exert ourselves to give our wonderful offspring what all the state funding, indeed all the money in the world, can't buy.


On the topic of our responsibilities as parents, you might find this read on the site of value: When 'Everybody Does It' Comes Back to Haunt You.

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