No Hotdogs or Apple Pie

I am sad to hear that President Trump will be leading those who choose to celebrate Independence Day with a show of tanks and military air might. Instead of hotdogs, baseball and apple pie, we are representing our national pride by proclaiming to the world that our defensive and perhaps aggressive power is up to any challenge. Instead of wrapping our national pride in freedom and democracy, it is being symbolized by our biggest guns and fastest planes. Instead of a celebration to confirm and reassure, it is a message to reinforce the possibility if not the probability of war, a message to promote fear and trepidation. It is a bit like replacing Thanksgiving with a day of preparation.

Unfortunately, Erma Bombeck no longer has it right. Her gentle picture is just not there when the view is through President Trump’s eyes. “You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.”

Why Pay Attention to Me?

Why should your children pay attention to anything you say or tell them?

Stop a second to think about what your first reaction was to the question. For most people, “Because I am the parent” or “Because I am the adult” or some variation on the theme comes to mind.

Both of these answers are reasonable and appropriate. What I want to point out here is that there are several reasons why your children should listen to what you say. It will be helpful for you to think about and understand which reason is operating when you want your children to listen, to pay attention, to accept what you are saying to them or telling them.

Your being clear about why they should pay attention will help them be clear about why they should pay attention this time. There is an additional payoff for you. When you are at work or in other situations where you want people to pay attention to you, being clear in your own mind about why they should pay attention will make it more likely that they will accept you and what you are saying.

Until you get comfortable knowing why you think your child or anyone else should listen to what you say, it will help to stop a second to be clear with your self before saying anything where you expect some action or response from the other person. Give it a try. You may be surprised to see how much difference it makes.

Okay, here we go.
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Test Your Parenting

Diane Loomans once reminisced, “If I had my child to raise all 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’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.”

Being a parent is both satisfying and challenging. Knowing exactly how to handle any situation can be very difficult. Sloan Wilson captured the central issue this way, “The hardest part of raising a child is teaching them to ride bicycles. A shaky child on a bicycle for the first time needs both support and freedom. The realization that this is what the child will always need can hit hard.”

Although being a parent is very complex and will have many twists and turns over the years, knowing how you and your child are doing through the process is less daunting. If the following statements are most always tru for you as a parent, both you and your child are most likely making the journey rather successfully. Before we get to the statements though, there is a point that needs emphasis. Joyce Maynard made the point for us this way when she said, “It’s not only children who grow. Parents do too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours.”

Okay, here we go. Think about each statement and honestly decide if it is true for you. If it is, you and your child are probably doing just fine. If not, you definitely have some work to do and possibly changes to make with your parent relationship with your child.

1. I am reasonable and fair when disciplining my child.

2. I know what my child needs and what is important to him or her.

3. I am able to get my child to cooperate with me.

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Test Your Teen

Young people, like adults, have better days and worse days. Even so, they typically stay toward the middle between better and worse and seldom drift very far toward worse. They have many more up days than down, with the down days being reasonably described as feeling sad or just bummed out.

The point is that as dramatic as youngsters can sometimes be, they do not normally get seriously down or depressed; and when they do, it does not last more than a few days. They rebound fairly quickly.

The same holds for their behavior and adjustment. They keep it between the lines most of the time; and if they get a little out of bounds, it is unusual and temporary.

The following statements describe a well-adjusted young person. Although any youngster is unlikely to fit the descriptions all the time, the descriptions fit most young people most of the time. When a youngster’s behavior or adjustment noticeably deviates from the description, concern is appropriate. If the problem or issue goes on for more than a few days, something is going on that needs appropriate adult intervention. Talk with the young person about your concern. If that does not lead to positive change within a couple of weeks, consider consulting with a professional who has expertise in working with young people. If the problem or issue is more severe or serious, do not wait to initiate your intervention.

1. Is energetic and interested in what is going on around him or her.

2. Feels attractive.

3. Is relaxed and comfortable with himself or herself.

4. Likes himself or herself.

5. Is self-confident.

6. Has a normal appetite and eating habits.

7. Stays away from drugs and alcohol.

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Testing Your Mental Health

1. What do you think it means to have good mental health?

2. What do you do to help your mental health?

3. What do you like about yourself?

4. What helps you feel happy, excited, satisfied? What kinds of people, situations, things help you feel good, help you be emotionally positive?

5. When do you feel unhappy? What kinds of people, situations, or things get you to feeling afraid, angry, sad, confused, or feeling emotionally negative?

6. Sometimes our negative emotions get out of balance and sort of take over. When this happens, we sometimes have problems with our behavior and adjustment. When your emotions get a little out of balance and the negative emotions take over, what kinds of problems does it cause you with your behavior, your adjustment?

7. Our feelings are okay. This includes feeling afraid, angry, or sad. How we deal with our feelings makes a difference, though. How do you deal with it when you feel angry, when you feel afraid, when you feel sad?

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6 Tips for Teams

1. Be cooperative.

This means you work well with others and are there to help as appropriate, when needed.

2. Be loyal.

This means you hang in there with the ups and downs and are supportive of and with others when there is internal or external conflict or criticism.

3. Be caring and concerned.

This means that you stay involved and interested in the successes stresses and challenges of others.

4. Be engaged and sharing.

This means that you regularly talk and interact with others.

5. Be respectful.

This means you listen patiently and carefully whenever others are talking, telling you about something, or trying to express their ideas or feelings.

6. Be trusting.

This means you do not get into blaming, accusing, or threatening others.

Now you know so there you go.

30 Tips for Better Personal Relationships

1. Be Accepting

This means you are okay with me as is, with no interest in trying to change me.

2. Be Affectionate

This means you find opportunities to be warm and close with me.

3. Be Ambitious

This means you are always on the outlook for chances to improve our lives.

4. Be Assertive

This means you speak up about what you want and need.

5. Be Attractive

This means you work to be someone I want to be with and do things with.

6. Be Considerate

This means you care about my feelings, interests and needs.

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Change Is a Process — not an event

I think we all know that things are constantly changing, whether or not we are paying attention to the changes. It may seem that everything is the same today as they were yesterday, but they aren’t. Even if we don’t notice, nothing is quite the same today as it was yesterday. Things change, people change, circumstances change, and we change too.

What this fact of life and living demonstrates is that change is a process and not an event. The outcome may appear to be spontaneous but never is. Fortunately, we can usually understand what happened if we stop to consider it carefully. Even if we don’t understand, we know that the change was a result of a process that is just not clear to us.

At times, we decide that we are not satisfied with the status quo and want things or circumstances to change. The change we want may be for us, our family, a specific relationship, our work team, our company or other organization, our community, or within any context where we think change is desirable or necessary. That is when we consider initiating the change process. We know we don’t like how things currently are, and we have a notion about how we would like them to be. Getting from where things are now to how we want them to be is an example of the change process that is always chugging away. For this change though, we intend to be the change agent.

Whenever you intend to be the change agent, there are twelve questions you should ask and answer before initiating the change process that leads to the change you want; and the bigger or more important the change is for you and for others, the more critical it is for you to ask and answer the twelve questions.

Here are the twelve questions. Answer each “Yes,” or “No,” in relation to the change process you intend to initiate. For these questions, “yes” is only “Yes” if you are quite sure. If not, the answer is “NO,” until you are sure.

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True Enough?

“The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple.” — Oscar Wilde

Suppose Wilde is right, pure and simple. It follows that his proposition is likely not pure and definitely not simple. Truth has many forms and many faces, some of which are persisting and some of which are temporary, some of which are obvious and some of which are subtle, some of which are certain and some of which only might be true, are probably true, or are (as the physicists like to say) “approximately true.” Most of the time, one can comfortably deal with the world without thinking about the nature of truth or about the actual validity of most truths. It works out fine to proceed on a “true enough” basis.

Ice is cold and fire is hot. Your car is still where you parked it. The directions you get from MapQuest.com will get you where you want to go. Eat too much and you will get fat. If you need help, you can count on your best friend. The important quandary usually isn’t about truth or whether true enough is good enough. Rather, it’s who can you believe; who speaks the truth?

To answer the, “Who can you believe?” question, it’s necessary to introduce “integrity” into the mix. The question is, “Who are people of integrity?” because they are the only people you can or should trust. Samuel Johnson said, “Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.” The take home point is to be sure you only seek truth from people who are clearly knowledgeable, people who know what they are talking about. For example, don’t get legal advice from your brother-in-law, unless he happens to be an experienced attorney.

Perhaps more critical than from whom you seek the truth is your capacity to evaluate the truth you receive. Know that it’s seldom pure or simple. Deciding whether it’s true enough is up to you. Key to this is correctly assessing the integrity of the person from whom you receive the truth. That to is neither pure nor simple; but there is one, essential prerequisite to assessing the integrity of others. You must yourself be a person of integrity.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.” You are the final judge of the integrity of those from whom you seek the truth. John D. MacDonald likely hit the nail on the head when he said, “Integrity is not a conditional word. It doesn’t blow in the wind or change with the weather. It is your inner image of yourself, and if you look in there and see a man who won’t cheat, then you know he never will.” MacDonald also could have said that if you look in there and see a man of integrity, you are looking at a man who probably knows integrity when he sees it, in himself or in those whose truth is true enough.

Now you know so there you go.

Be the Change We Wish to See

The idea that excellence is a product of training isn’t surprising. Athletes, musicians, and those who achieve preeminence in other areas requiring superior personal performance are well-aware of the necessity and value of continuous training. The point that may not be as obvious is that training and habituation are prerequisites for areas of excellence beyond developing physical skills and individual talents. They are necessary for emotional excellence, moral excellence, interpersonal excellence, as well as intellectual excellence. The point that may be even less obvious is as Aristotle said, “Training and habituation are prerequisite to virtue. People have the capacity to be virtuous but become virtuous people only through training and habitually acting rightly. One becomes virtuous by acting virtuously.”

How does one act virtuously? Cicero advised, “It is our special duty, that if anyone needs our help, we should give him such help to the utmost of our power.” Confucius said, “To be able to practice five things everywhere under heaven constitutes perfect virtue… gravity, generosity of soul, sincerity, earnestness, and kindness.” Although how one practices “gravity” is less than obvious, the other four requirements need no explanation. John Wesley was even clearer when he said, “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.” Now that leaves little room for doubt or negotiation.

The message has not changed over the millennia. Dante said, “He who sees a need and waits to be asked for help is as unkind as if he had refused it.” Gandhi said, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” Is virtue the path to personal joy and fulfillment? Probably not. George Bernard Shaw said, “Just do what must be done. This may not be happiness, but it is greatness.” Why? As George Eliot put it, “Our deeds determine us as much as we determine our deeds.” Remember Aristotle’s message, “We are what we repeatedly do.” The choice is to habitually act rightly or to act wrongly. At that level, it’s not much of a choice. The key is remembering that acting virtuously is an essential part of one’s ongoing excellence training.

Now you know so there you go.