Parents, Teachers, Do You Trust Your Children? What Does it Mean to Trust a Child?

“I Want to be Trusted.”

When Katie was growing up, every once in a while she would blurt out an emphatic, “I want to be trusted.” She would always say it with an intensity that was a little startling, as if she were mad at not feeling trusted, or profoundly afraid that she would not be, or terrified, herself, that she was not trustworthy. Perhaps it was an emotional outburst in anticipation of a scary decision she was about to make. Continue reading

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Gettin In (or not): What is College Admission Really all about?

Message to a teenager who was accepted at her second choice school and is anxiously waiting for word from her first choice:

Sorry for your nail-biting time. You are a great girl and will land on your feet like a cat–as you always do. Congratulations on your A’s and B’s this year. Continue reading

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Authority, Discipline, Punishment, and 4 Rules for Getting Good Kids

The Secret of Raising Good Kids (Hint: Don’t Think Bad)

Judy Stone, one of the all-time great teachers, and I were in charge of 48 seventh and eighth graders for their lunch/recess period one day in March several years ago. Judy called us all together and said: “There are three rules: no running, no throwing balls and no jumping off the stage.” (We were in an old, newly acquired parish hall that had not yet been fitted out for children.) For 45 minutes there was no bad behavior, but we spent the rest of our time together adjudicating whether what we had just observed was “running” or a fast walk, “jumping” or a giant step. Was that projectile that went flying past us a “ball” or a wad of duct tape? Continue reading

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Punishment, Power and Discipline: How not to be an Authority with Kids.

Walking through Target yesterday I heard childish laughter, caught a glimpse of a girl darting around a corner somewhere in the “Electronics” isle, and heard a very angry male voice: “Come here. Come here right now.”

The girlish laughter continued unabated. Five minutes later, over in “Pain Relief” I saw the same girl followed by a man with a beard in his fifties pushing a nearly full cart and heard the same harsh: “Stop that. Come back here.” I was close enough to see his red face.

When I stopped for aspirin, he walked past me down the isle in pursuit Continue reading

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Parenting toward Happiness

“I Just Want Him to be Happy”

Several years ago the mother of a 5th and 2nd grader came in to talk. She was in the early stages of a divorce and was having a lot of trouble with fifth grader John. About fifteen minutes into her descriptions of unpleasant incidents she said with tears just behind her eyes: “I only want him to be happy.”

“That is probably not a realistic objective right now,” I said.

It was the right thing to say. It was understandable that John was unhappy, and he had a perfect right to be unhappy. His parents were going through a divorce, for heaven’s sake.

But my statement has general validity, too. Continue reading

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