Monthly Archives

May 2011

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Feelings Come First


A Great Idea …

“When children are in the midst of strong emotions, they cannot listen to anyone. They cannot accept advice or consolation or constructive criticism. They want us to understand what is going on inside them, what they are feeling at that particular moment.” (Haim Ginott, child psychologist, in his book, Between Parent and Child, p. 82)

In Other Words …

Our children’s strong emotions send us a clear invitation: Deal with the feelings before worrying about anything else. A child may want a few words of understanding: “Wow! You’re really upset!” or “You’re very disappointed.” Some children may want to have a few minutes to settle down. Some may want to be hugged. The feelings must be dealt with before solutions can be discussed.

How This Applies to You …

The next time your child is angry or upset, deal with the emotions before trying to deal with the problem. Consider how your child likes to be comforted. After the child has calmed down, then you can talk about what happened and discuss what needs to be done to prevent the situation from happening again.

To Find Out More …

For an excellent (and free!) program on parenting, see The Parenting Journey at www.arfamilies.org and if your children are younger than six, check out See the World Through My Eyes.

For more in-depth reading, we recommend Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman or Soft-Spoken Parenting by H. Wallace Goddard.
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Compassion For All


A Great Idea …

“You won’t learn anything by beating yourself up or condemning your partner when either of you makes a mistake … Compassion for yourself means understanding how difficult it is to change old patterns and how much you deserve to change them to get the kind of relationship you’ve always wanted. Compassion for your partner means understanding how difficult it is for him or her to change old patterns and how deserving he or she is to have a closer relationship with you.” (Marriage experts, Patricia Love and Steven Stosny, in their book, How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It, pp. 97-98)

In Other Words …

Sometimes we spend too much time conducting investigations and holding court in our relationships. We worry about who started a problem and who deserves the blame. We can get stuck in blame and recrimination. When mistakes are made in our relationships, we can choose NOT to get stuck. We can choose to offer compassion and forgiveness to ourselves and our partners. We can invite compassion and forgiveness from our partner by apologizing.

How This Applies to You…

The next time one of you blunders in your relationship, take a deep breath and go looking for your compassion. Accept that both of you are human and will inevitably make mistakes. Offer compassion to your partner and ask for forgiveness for your mistakes.

To Find Out More…

For an excellent (and free!) program on marriage, see The Marriage Garden at Arkansas Families. For more in-depth reading, we recommend How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking about It by Patricia Love and Steven Stosny or The Marriage Garden by H. Wallace Goddard and James P. Marshall.

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A Jack of All Trades


A Great Idea …

“Not being everything is smart; not working on everything but rather emphasizing selected strengths is the route to excellence. For many people, this understanding requires a redirection of the doing all and being all to being more by focusing on less and doing a lot of what you do well.” (Donald Clifton and Paula Nelson, experts in finding and developing personal strengths, in their book, Soar With Your Strengths. p. 41)

In Other Words …

Often each of us tries to be a “Jack of all trades,” while forgetting the other half of the phrase: “Master of none.” When we try to be good at everything, we usually end up being excellent at nothing. When we focus on just a few things that align with our natural strengths, we are likely to be both happier and more successful.

How this Applies to You …

What are your greatest strengths? If you’re not sure, go to www.authentichappiness.org and take the VIA Survey of Character Strengths. Once you know your strengths, you can redesign your life to spend less time and energy on tasks outside your strengths and more time on tasks that use your strengths.

To Find Out More …

For excellent (and free!) programs on improving your personal well being, check out The Personal Journey and Managing Stress at www.arfamilies.org.

For more information on improving your strengths, we recommend Soar with Your Strengths by Donald O. Clifton and Paula Nelson, or Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman.
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Reasonable Rules


A Great Idea …

“Changing rules when appropriate shows your child that your rules are grounded in sense, not just based on who’s in charge. This is crucial, because believing that rules are fair and sensible is what gets children to comply with what parents want.” (Psychologist Laurence Steinberg, in his book The 10 Basic Principles of Good Parenting p.78)

In Other Words …

Parents are often caught on the horns of a dilemma. We don’t want to cave in, but we don’t want to be unreasonable. The key to settling this dilemma is for the parent to judge whether the original rule was reasonable. We should not surrender a rule just because a child begs, but when we make a rule or pronounce a punishment in haste and later realize our mistake, it is appropriate to modify our stand.

How This Applies to You …

Examine the rules in your home. Do they make sense? If so, stand by them. Be sure that your children learn that rules matter, but when you have made a dumb rule, don’t be afraid to amend it.

To Find Out More …

For an excellent (and free!) program on parenting, see The Parenting Journey at www.arfamilies.org and if your children are younger than six, check out See the World Through My Eyes.

For more in depth reading on parenting, we recommend The 10 Basic Principles of Good Parenting by Laurence Steinberg or Soft-spoken Parenting by H. Wallace Goddard.

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Imprisoned By Your Emotions


A Great Idea …

“Emotions, left to themselves, will dissipate…Expressed and dwelt upon, though, emotions multiply and imprison you in a vicious cycle of dealing fruitlessly with past wrongs.”

(Psychologist Martin E. P. Seligman in his book, Authentic Happiness, p. 70)

In Other Words …

The old advice about emotions just happens to be wrong. When people tell you to get your feelings out or they’ll blow up, don’t believe them. Many irritations can be pushed into a dark closet and will disappear over time. In contrast, when we vent our emotions, they often grow to monstrous proportions. We turn a minor irritation into a world war. For example, when we’re tired we often feel compelled to spout some complaint. If instead we set aside the irritation and wait until we’re more peaceful, we’re more likely to have a productive discussion.\

How this Applies to You …

The next time someone does something that hurts or frustrates you, don’t dwell on it. Don’t pile on reasons to be mad. Set it aside. Find something more pleasant to think about. By letting go of these negative emotions you will find it much easier to forgive and reconcile.

To Find Out More …

For excellent (and free!) programs on improving your personal well being, check out The Personal Journey and Managing Stress at www.arfamilies.org.

For in-depth reading, we recommend Authentic Happiness by Martin E.P. Seligman or Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert
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Automated Irritation


A Great Idea …

“So many heartaches could be prevented if couples gave each other the benefit of the doubt or simply paused to get more information. When you have a strong reaction to an everyday event your first response should be: ‘Hold on, let me listen and hear [my partner’s] side.'”(Marriage experts, Patricia Love and Steven Stosny, in their book, How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It. p. 126)

In Other Words …

We all jump to conclusions at times. We all react to a partner’s words or actions as if they were a personal attack.  This tendency in human reacting leaves us thinking the worst of our partners. Then we say or do things that irritate them. The fight is on. If we would only hit the pause button when we’re irritated! If we would take the time to understand our partner’s point of view, we could save both ourselves and our partners a lot of pain. We might even find common ground and mutual appreciation.

How This Applies to You…

Next time your partner irritates you, stop yourself. Don’t react. Take a moment to understand why your partner said or did what he/she did. Rather than argue or accuse, try to find out more about your partner’s point of view. Try to understand AND show compassion.

To Find Out More…

For an excellent (and free!) program on marriage, see The Marriage Garden at Arkansas Families.

For more in-depth reading, we recommend How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking about It by Patricia Love and Steven Stosny or The Marriage Garden by H. Wallace Goddard and James P. Marshall
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Navigating Life’s Journey


For years I have collected excellent quotes from the great books by the world’s leading family scholars. Recently we started a program to share those quotes. Every week we create a message in each of three subject areas: personal development, marriage, and parenting. We take one of the great quotes in each area and combine it with a brief discussion and a short application. The messages are deliberately short so you can read them quickly during your busy day. We will start posting those messages here at www.DrWally.org. You can also sign up to receive Navigating Life’s Journey e-mails in your inbox by going to www.arfamilies.org, clicking on Family Life and following the link to Navigating Life’s Journey.

We hope you will find these messages useful.