…And then I woke up…

Musings of a hostile therapist, writer, and teacher

The Parent Trap — September 20, 2015

The Parent Trap


“Repentant tears wash out the stain of guilt.”

Saint Augustine

We all have insignificant things that we enjoy on earth because they bring us a certain amount of happiness.  For me, one of those things is my love for fountain pens.  I love the way the nib glides on the paper; I love the ritual of filling the pen with the desired ink, and I love the weight of the pen in my hand.

One aspect of fountain pen ownership I’m not keen on is the cleaning of the pen.  I’m extremely lazy about the proper maintenance of my pens.  I don’t do a great of keeping up with a regular cleaning schedule for them, the way I’m told to do by pen experts.  Pens were made to be cleaned.  It’s a necessity in order to keep them functioning properly in the way they were created to function.

People were made to be clean.  Every counselor knows that when we don’t habitually have ourselves cleaned form the sin, guilt, and overall gunk of living in this world, we do one of three things:

  • We repress our guilt and try not to think about it.
  • We enact penance so that we do good deeds in an attempt to balance out our bad deeds, or
  • We change our entire moral base, labeling things good—or at least tolerable—that years ago we would have deemed immoral.

We do the same with our parent guilt.  When we feel guilty for the mistakes that we’ve made, the things that we’ve said, or the prophecy in our heads that we’ve eternally maimed our child for the future, the dysfunctional us, the one that just really wants to be cleaned, is prone to do one of the above things.  We block our faults from our minds, scared to look into the mirror of self-introspection. We spoil our children with treats that are not healthy for them to try to compensate for how we’ve neglected or damaged them.  We think of a million ways in which what we said or the way we responded was warranted.

All we really wanted was a good cleaning.  All we really need is to face the guilt head on, embrace the pain, and repent.  By seeking forgiveness of God and our children, we can make a complete turnaround.  We can drop the guilt and proceed in grace, peace, and joy.  We write so much better when we’re clean.

Who’s to blame: the disturbing case of the “Millennials” and how we can stop it from happening again, Part 2 — August 29, 2015

Who’s to blame: the disturbing case of the “Millennials” and how we can stop it from happening again, Part 2

The well-parented author during a Christmas celebration.
The well-parented author during a Christmas celebration.

Dear young Millennial parents,

A short time ago, I voiced my concern about the style of worship I was encountering in otherwise evangelical Christian circles.  Immediately, I was chastised by a young Christian for criticizing other Christians’ styles of worship.  “We are to be kind and mind our own business,” is a paraphrase of what she had to say.  Love, in her definition was accepting others with open arms no matter what their errors may be because who is to say who is in error and who is not if we are all believers.

Sadly, we have taken our dose of Christian Soma, and we should be nice, never disagreeable.  We are to hug the money changers as they come in the temple, and live in a world where above all, we do not think.

What do we do now?  Is every generation of our Brave New World doomed to speak in sound bites, afraid to be disagreeable in case someone be offended?

While I’m pessimistic overall, I do see a glimmer of hope in some of you Millennial parents.  I wonder if seeing your own lives, you are anxious to not produce the same environment that created the problems you face today.  Many of you want to chuck the parenting styles we “experts” espoused for over a generation.  Here’s what I’m hearing:

  • Many young adult parents are recognizing that their children must fail. They are waking up that the biggest abuse done to them by their parents (and still be done by Gen X parents) is over-parenting and protectiveness.  More secure than my generation was/is, they don’t need to live through their own children.  They have their own lives.
  • Many young adult parents are growing up. They aren’t living in their parents’ basements.  I doubt you will find them at age 45 trying to fit into jeans at Forever 21.
  • Many young adult parents are recognizing that the grades don’t matter as much as what’s learned. They are making commitments to not do science projects for their students, and allow their student to make their own decisions and advocate for themselves.  Many of their students are young at this point.  I pray they keep to this decision.
  • Many young adult parents are recognizing that loving one another does not mean opening one’s arms and hearts to all beliefs. Arguing can be done with kindness.  In fact, debate must happen if we are ever to become a thinking culture again.  Christian love involves knowing when to fight and for what to fight.
  • Many young adult parents are recognizing that technology is merely a tool. It is not (or at least should not be) a lifestyle, a major pillar of education, or the root of a worldview.  It is a tool.  Nothing more, nothing less.
  • Most importantly, many young adult parents are recognizing that it is not all about them. Or their kids. Or whatever the government is willing to give them.

I have to be optimistic with you.  Wake up, and redirect from being the lowest generation of modern times.  Leave that to Generation X.  We mastered it.

With warmest regards and deepest regrets,

A Member of Generation X

Who’s to blame: the disturbing case of the “Millennials” and how we can stop it from happening again, Part 1 — August 15, 2015

Who’s to blame: the disturbing case of the “Millennials” and how we can stop it from happening again, Part 1


What I am about to discuss are the ideas that make me fall on my knees daily and say, “Dear God forgive me for my part in causing the downfall of our culture.”

This article, and the one that follows, is more about late Baby Boomers’ and Generation X’s parenting than about the Millennials.  The posting of this article marks the beginning of my twenty-ninth year of working with students and parents in teaching, counseling, administration, public speaking, and consulting.  Although no one announced it at the time, in 1987 I was beginning a career as a member of Generation X when the group now called the Millennials was being born.  Members of the group have been my clients, students, friends, employees, and children. This is the group that has been parented by my generation and those at the end of the generation before me.  This is the group that has grown up with technology that I never guessed would be possible in my lifetime.  This is the group that many, including myself, have maligned for being entitled, self-absorbed, egotistical, demanding, and just plain ol’ too big for their britches.  They have been accused of seeking out increasingly liberal ideas cut into sound bites and resisting the move from adolescence to adulthood.  But that’s not all of who they are.  They can also be hesitant to accept statements at face value and extremely loyal. They don’t hold back any punches.  More and more, I tend to believe that my generation and our parenting has contributed to this generation’s characteristics.  Where we have acted at all, we have affected them in a negative way; where we have ignored them, we’ve made them stronger people.  We failed.

I want first to address three major caveats:

  1. I know that any time we talk about an entire group of people, we are generalizing. If you were born between the mid 1980’s and the early 2000’s, you may have nothing in common with your generation.  When I read Douglas Coupland’s Generation X: Tale for an Accelerated Culture, I thought, “This is so like me. Kinda.”  I didn’t identify with the stereotypes completely. However, I do think there are advantages in exploring trends, even if those trends are not microscopically descriptive.  Viewing from a distance can help us see the bends in the road.
  2. No one can blame any parent for the life they have been dealt. That’s not the reason for my writing this article.  As the clip above illustrates, adults are responsible for themselves.  I’m against the victim mentality.  I’m pointing out what I see as the state of affairs and how I think we can stop it from happening again.
  3. Most importantly, this article is not based on research. Yes, I am pontificating.  My experience is with suburban, American Caucasian, African American, bi-racial, and Hispanic young people and their families. While trying to be fair, I cannot be unbiased.  Sorry, Fox News, it’s not possible. We all have our biases.  I’m basing this on what I’ve seen changing.

The parents of the Millennials, the late Baby Boomers and Gen Xers,  took the economy, job market, and societal pillars, balled them up in a mangled ball, and tossed them to the Millennials.  Now, that they have not performed as we would like, we scold them when we were the ones who fostered the good, the bad, and the ugly in what they now are.  What are the seeds, what manure did we give them, and how have they grown today?  Here are just a few pieces of the stereotype.

  • They are entitled, sniveling brats. We fed them constantly with assertions that success was not based on character or action; it was simply based on being. We gave them awards for participation so that everyone would be happy.  We and a purple dinosaur taught them that fair equals equality, and that love alone will cure all problems, and that they should raise their voices and demand what is owed to them.  We forced them to make decisions on everything from their clothing styles to the school they go to at ages when they could not possibly no what is good for them.  We demanded that everyone be “relevant” to them and constantly changed church, school, and home so that messages to them are accepted and palatable instead of expecting them to adapt to the world around them. Reading became tedious and worship became fun. (You remember when Jesus asked us to be fun, don’t you?) Now we complain about the starting salary our twenty-two year old interviewee demands, and whine that he/she expects the world to revolve around them.


  • They are lazy, and would rather mooch off their parents than forge their own careers and lives. We have bulldozed over every teacher that held them accountable, bought them everything we could possibly afford with the lie that “I want them to have what I didn’t have at that age” when it was actually our parental guilt that we were assuaging. We allowed them to “find themselves” on our dime, and then we complain to our peers when they move back into our basements at thirty.


  • They have the attention spans of ants and are tied to their technology in an addictive way. Not having incorporated ideas about technology into our theological and psychological worldviews, we became amazed and addicted to the changes that caught us off guard. We shared the fascination with our children and found that technology makes a wonderful and inexpensive babysitter.  In front of a screen, their minds were programmed to accept thoughts in small colorful bits.  We sent them off to school, telling the teachers to please find more entertaining, mesmerizing and “relevant” forms of teaching.  Then we texted them in school to make sure that they were not lacking in anything they may have wanted, illustrating that we were just as fascinated by our technology as they were and that we adored them so much we lived vicariously through them.


  • They are not drawn to a meaningful worldview, but have followed the Pied Piper of entertainment off the theological/philosophical cliff. In short, they can’t think argumentatively.  We introduced our children to technology at an age before they had adequately formulated language skills because government schooling told us this was an important life skill, more important than the antiquated strengths of debate and reasoning. We failed to articulate the connection between popular culture and worldview, demonstrating a passive view of life. We cared more about our families’ financial gains than we did about what our families believed. In other views we taught them that it is the what that matters more than the why.


  • They stand up to hypocrisy, and won’t take a person’s statements at face value. It is a wonderful characteristic that they have.  I love them for it.  But it was caused by what we didn’t do right.  They don’t stand for hypocrisy because we showed it to them their entire lives.  We taught them that sin is simply mistake, that our contradictions are covered by easy grace, and that children are too naïve to realize when adults have it all mixed up.  Now we applaud them for their desire to right wrongs unless the wrong is us.

What can we do?  Will the late Gen Xer and the Millennial raise a generation that is more of the same?  We’ll discuss that next time.  For now the blog is so long that no one has the attention span to finish it.

The Time I was a Butterfly — February 4, 2015

The Time I was a Butterfly


I was bullied in kindergarten on my first day.  When I went to the playground at recess, I was approached by Maria (kinda not her real name) who told me that the class had chosen a new game.  She was a very tall girl, and I was a very small boy so I listened with quite a bit of respect.  “We’re playing Indians and butterfly,” she told me with what appeared to be the entire class behind her.  “You mean, ‘cowboys and Indians?'” I asked.  [Forgive my not using the term “Native Americans.” It was 1970.] No, she told me.  I was the butterfly–on hindsight probably a reflection of my slight, one might say “waifish”, frame–and the class was made up of the Indians.  Indians loved to hunt butterflies, so the job was for them to catch me.

I’m not sure what would have happened if they actually caught me, but because I was so skinny I made a fairly fast runner, and recess was over before they got me.  In the car at pickup my mother asked how my day had been. I told her my story in my usual dramatic way, and she listened.  She didn’t dwell on the event.  She moved on with questions about what I did in the classroom: the coloring, the writing lessons.

The next day she picked me up after the insect hunt.  She had a Golden Book for me.   It was a book on Native American culture entitled simply “Indians.”  “I talked to your father before we bought this.  We figured that maybe if you study up on how to be an Indian, you won’t be a butterfly anymore.” After having the book read to me that night, I took my new found knowledge to Maria.  “You’re not doing it right,” I said to her.  “Indians don’t chase butterflies.  In fact, they used to hunt big animals like buffalo.  I don’t look like a buffalo.”  Maria and members of my class learned an important lesson which many of them took with them through thirteen years of being my colleague at that school: Jeff gets really boring after he does his research.  They chose to walk away and play kickball.

Was I bullied?  I’d say yes if you go by the Google definition as, “use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force him or her to do what one wants.”  They never hurt me, and I really believe they could have, that angry five year old mob.  However, they used the power of numbers to intimidate me into being their entertainment.  This incident was the beginning of many bullying incidents far worse than being chased around the playground.  Most of these I kept secret, not wanting to admit male weakness to even my parents.  The fear I learned was funneled into a self-deprecating humor, and eventually was dealt with to some degree (nothing ever goes away for good, right?) when I studied to be a therapist.

What impresses me the most in reflection was my parents’ reaction to the event.  They chose not to go to the teacher, not to stress over my unhappiness, not to panic at the label their son might be receiving.  They chose to teach me that education would provide me with alternative courses of action, and that I could prepare myself to be a self advocate.  The lesson was clear.  I didn’t understand it as “you have to change to be what they want you to be.” I learned it as “you must adapt yourself instead of expecting society to adapt to you.”

Charles Murray in an interesting short article questions if bullying can actually teach the bullied important life skills.  I don’t believe my parents’ decision not to get too involved is fitting in every situation.  In my profession, I hear of stories all the time in which kids kill themselves instead of facing the constant abuse of power hungry peers. Parents have a tough job, and sometimes they have to advocate for their children when the child has been emotionally or physically battered to the extent that they can’t advocate for him/herself.  In my parenting life, I’ve had to go in for the dreaded principal conference over bullying done toward my child.  But I’ve also witnessed my child become stronger and work her hardest to befriend the bully.  Her efforts were amazingly successful.

I also see bullying in the behaviors of parents and adults.  Anytime we use our power to intimidate or try to show intimidation, we’re teaching our kids that bullying may be necessary.  Anytime we use our power in parenting as an idle threat instead of using our firmness as a directive tool, we are showing them that bullying is at sometimes necessary.  And when we teach our kids that they are too weak to stand up to the bully, we are teaching them to be victims forever.

Adaptation — December 17, 2014



I was an impatient child, a fact that doesn’t surprise anyone who knows me now.  Putting jigsaw puzzles together was enormous challenge for me.  I would start optimistically by separating out all of the straight-edged pieces that would create the outside border.  Sooner or later, however, I would hit a piece for which I could not find a place. No, I mean that literally.  I would take the piece, put it where I wanted it to go, and hit it, hard with my fist, trying to press it into its chosen space. My mother was not so impressed with my skill.  She had an undying patience for things like water coloring, sewing, or putting together puzzles.  She finally tried to discourage me from beginning the puzzles since she knew they would only lead to my frustration.

My mother was cruel in other areas too.  In June of 1979, I learned that my private school had initiated a summer reading program.  The work was not mandatory.  Any reading and reporting would result in extra credit.  I complained to my parents.  I was outraged.  The summer was MY time, and no one had any business telling me how to use it.  My mother was less enthusiastic with my proposed boycott.  “You’re going into high school.  You may need the extra credit.”  I did summer reading.

She had a way of being sweetly direct.  When I suggested that I would one day be a medical doctor, she observed that medical school would be difficult for someone that didn’t even have the initiative to rake the leaves in the driveway.  (It was sweet in the tone she used to say it.  Southern women can do this, bless their hearts.)

These days I don’t meet many mothers  like mine.  I realize that I’m prejudice, but it is rare to find a mother who says to an administrator or teacher, “What can my child do to fit the requirements you have developed?” Most ask, “What are you going to do to change and meet the needs of my child?”  This is a logical step to take in a society in which government school in general convinces us that every child is owed an experience with A’s, affirmations, and adaptations that the school makes for the child.  I’m not against educational modifications for students that are not planning for post-secondary education; and I’m definitely not against accommodations for students with learning differences.

What is not in the best interest of the student is an expectation that the child does not need to adapt to his educational system because the system will adapt to him/her.  I recently read an article  discussing the process of acquiring accommodations for learning disabilities on the college level.  The author cited that many times the student with needs for these accommodations were shocked that they would not receive modifications to curriculum in the same way that they did when they were in his/her government school.

Imagine carrying this student expectation into the workforce.  Instead of saying, “What can I do to contribute to your companies?” the question becomes: “What are you going to do adapt to me and my work style?”  Millennials are becoming a stereotyped group already because of the reputation that they are entitled and expect immediate successes. Our parenting/coddling is creating a generation that not only fails in employment so that they have to return home to their parents, but that fails in relationships in which they focus on their rights and the partner’s responsibilities.

Once upon a time, people looked with respect on education.  Hard work was praised, and grades were real.  Wealth was applauded because it meant that someone at some time had worked hard. Then we started pounding the puzzle to make it accept the piece.

Self Esteem: a followup of a discussion I’ve skirted around before — August 27, 2014

Self Esteem: a followup of a discussion I’ve skirted around before


I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God,to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. Romans 12:1-3

Our current ideas of self-esteem are fairly new.  In the 1950’s and 60’s psychologists/counselors such as Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers dealt with the idea of esteeming oneself in an attempt to foster personal reliance and, in Rogers’ case, a bond between the therapist and patient.  The problem for both the existentialist at the time and the Christian community was that there doesn’t seem to much worth esteeming in human beings.  As a species, we have shown ourselves to be capable of some atrocious things, and have established ourselves as pretty much rotten to the core.

What do we do with the passage from Romans printed above?  Is self-love necessary before we love others as many modern evangelists  television pastors personalities would have us believe?  If our children do not have self-esteem, won’t they stop doing anything productive, cut themselves, become promiscuous and drop out of school?  I’m not asking these questions with my normal snarkiness; these are tough things we have to think through as parents.  The weightiness of this concern keeps us awake at night.  

In my practice/administration, I’ve seen Christian parents do some rather extreme things to keep their children from feeling bad about themselves.  Some of these decisions produced great results.  Others, in my opinion, were hastily made.  But here’s the philosophical and theological stinking point:  If we are Christians, we are called to recognize the total wretchedness of our human condition.  Christ did not come to redeem us because we deserved, because we were worth it, or to give our lives purpose.  The Bible teaches that He died to pay the price (the KJV calls it propitiation) of our horrible, nasty, death inducing natures because ultimately, the sacrifice brings Him, the only Good, glory.

The response of the Christian? To present him/herself as a living sacrifice.  Mirroring the Christ sacrifice, the human sacrifice involves killing our wills. Taking up our crosses and following Christ (Matthew 16:24) involves a  mental shift as our minds are renewed.  It involves us not seeing every experience as relating to ourselves.  Instead of self-esteem, it requires self-forgetfulness. The Christian mind sees everyone as equal. We’re all depraved.  We’re all in capable of good.  We all pretty much stink.  

The beauty in this paradox is that it doesn’t create minds that are defeated.  It creates servants who will give other people grace when they fail and forgiveness when they offend.  Amazingly, this radical paradigm shift allows us to see ourselves as recreated.  We are only strong because of the Spirit inside of us, and because of that Spirit we have respect not only for ourselves, but for other people as well.  If I bring nothing to the table, I have nothing to be taken by someone else.

Graciously, we are able to give ourselves the same forgiveness, the same understanding we give others.  We don’t cut other people; we shouldn’t cut ourselves.  We don’t tear down ourselves with rumors; we shouldn’t do it to others.  The equality of our states opens us up to more acceptance than any quest for esteem ever could.  

This One’s Going to Get Me in Trouble — March 26, 2014

This One’s Going to Get Me in Trouble


The end of the school year is quickly approaching, and many students and their families give gifts to the administration to say thank you for the year. (If you don’t, I’m not suggesting you should.  I’m simply reporting the way it is).  While Starbuck’s gift cards are nice, there are a few gifts that we find priceless.  Let me emphasize that: PRICELESS.  Here are a few gifts any principal will enjoy.  One size fits most.

1. Bringing concerns to the teacher instead of immediately to the teacher’s principal.  If the principal is experienced, he/she WON’T meet with you until you’ve met with the teacher first.  Why?  Keeping his staff functioning smoothly means that he keeps them feeling supported.  If the teacher is not brought into the conflict, the principal is undermining his/her own staff. You don’t want a leader in the school that won’t support his/her own staff. The best businesses are the ones who make their workplaces enjoyable places in which to work. The most productive business owners understand that supported employees provide the best customer service.

2. Taking the teacher along when conflict needs to go to the principalNothing is smarmier than be nice to a teacher and then to cut him/her down in front of the teacher’s boss.  If you have nothing to hide, pull everything out in the open. Also,  when you go to the principal without the teacher, the principal will inform the teacher of the complaint anyway.  That’s just the way it’s done. Staff doesn’t keep secrets from staff.  You might as well be seen as an out-in-the-open type of person.

3. Expressing a concern right away.  Hearing that someone has stewed over an issue all year because he/she “didn’t want to bother any one” saddens me.  If we are to be effective, we have to hear what we’re doing wrong.  We as administrators do care what parents think, and we want to live without conflict as much as possible.  The team approach is the only effective model of education.

4. Refraining from grumbling to other parents.  Take concerns with the school to people who can actually make changes. Other parents can’t help you.  Their ideas will usually not work for your child.  Their interactions with a teacher will never be yours.  They can’t offer a way to control the situation.  Don’t let other parents determine what you think of a teacher.

Side note: The natural laws which work in the real world usually don’t work in the world of education.  Why?  Dealing with students is a matter of principle.  Most people in education (I wish I could say all) love children. Here is their secret:  they love their kids a jillion times more than they love you–and be thankful of that.  They are not in the classroom to make you happy.  They are there to do the best with your kids.  If you think that’s bad, let me ask you this:  would you want somebody teaching your child that wanted to please another parent of a student in the class more than they wanted to do what is right for your child?

5. Telling the school when good things happen.  I’ve asked my faculty to make me aware of good attributes in students so that I can compliment them.  On an average day, I hear about ten complaints a day.  Sometimes parent, sometimes student, sometimes staff. What I LOVE hearing are the compliments.  When they come, we all beam.

Educators in this country were never paid well.  These days they are not respected either.  However, it IS an exhausting job, albeit one that is extremely fulfilling.  When we look for ways to show harmony to each other, we benefit the one that really matters: the student.

The Beauty of Daughters — February 2, 2014

The Beauty of Daughters


I’m writing this from the Starbucks near my daughter’s dance class where I wait for her to finish practice. Having dedicated a post on sons, it’s only fair that I chat a bit about the only gender I know personally from rearing–girls. 

I recently read the great article published by Dr. Carol Langlois entitled, “Fathers, Daughter, and Learning Self-Esteem” (http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/01/05/fathers-daughters-learning-self-esteem).  She writes that daughters look to fathers for validation in forming their self-images and states that “if not dealt with, these issues will consistently resurface well into adulthood. We will continually play out our role from childhood if we don’t see and correct the negative patterns. Dads, encourage your daughters at a young age to try new things, cheer them on, allow them to make mistakes. Offer advice when asked, look her in the eyes when talking to her, be patient when teaching new things and lend a supportive shoulder for her to cry on.”

When my daughter was born, I made a decision to keep a photo album of pictures of the two of us, one taken each year as she (we?) grew.  Some years are missing, and I now want to fill them in from my wife’s photo collection.  Those were years I simply forgot about the photo album.  I lost sight of the goal while getting caught up in the day to day.

As a father I am ashamed at all the times that I haven’t provided the validation for my daughter of which Dr. Langlois speaks.  Personally, I think my daughter is amazing.  She’s talented, smart, and dedicated to what she believes.  She cares about the underdog, and is anxious to use her creativity.  I don’t show her my admiration and pride nearly enough. She is beautiful inside and out. How often my own mental health and busyness have gotten in the way.

The difficult thing from a father’s point of view is that our current generation focuses less on cultivating a child’s character, and more on making a child a “little buddy” for our deprived inner child.  When we don’t personally identify with the more feminine aspects of girl-dom, fathers disengage.  To say that the relationship that our daughters have with us affects every relationship she will have with every male in her life after us, and even God, is not an overstatement. 

Our goal should not be to recreate her in our image, but to reaffirm the person she is becoming.  Unlike the relationships with our wives, who compliment us, the relationship with our daughters is one of grounding.  Before she even realizes that her foundation should be in God, we serve as her footing as she takes risks.  We’re to be the stability.  If we’re to be the first of God that she sees, we have to be nonjudging, compassionate, firm, but fair.  If our relationships with our wives are to be based on Christ’s love for the church, the relationships to our daughters needs to be based on God the father’s love for his children.  Too often our day-to-day gets in the way.

I’m glad God doesn’t get too busy with his work to edify me.  He never forgets.


Praise Him? — January 11, 2014

Praise Him?



Everyone likes a “good job” stamp, but there seems to be evidence that a gold sticker for the sake of making a child feel good, may not accomplish the intended goal.

A recent study conducted by Ohio State University has concluded that inflated praise of children with low self-esteem may actually make the self-esteem of the child worse (http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/270769.php). The conclusion is that students show higher signs of anxiety related to low self-esteem because they feel a higher need to always perform at the level being praised.  This finding flies in the face of some parents and educators who have felt that what children need is praise and more praise even if the adult is less than impressed and the child could do better. This is NOT a proposal for the banishment of praise from conversations with young people.  The study covered only excessive praise. The lead author of the study states, “If you tell a child with low self-esteem that they did incredibly well, they may think they always need to do incredibly well.”

So how should we praise our children?  I believe the first thing we have to do is toss the term “self-esteem,” a psychological descriptor that didn’t exist in public discussion until the 1950’s.  Although the definition of self-esteem is subjective, the literal definition conveys esteeming oneself, a practice that results in adults that show an immediate need for gratification and an impatience with the needs of others. 

What would happen if we used a more Biblical set of terms for how we should feel about ourselves? Paul states in Romans 12:3, “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” 

Each time the Bible speaks of loving our neighbor as ourselves, it assumes that loving oneself is a natural situation for human beings.  We are normally wired for self-preservation, and in our fallen state, a great deal of self-centeredness, both positive and negative.  But Paul seems to be warning against esteeming ourselves.  If we think of ourselves with the same respect that we have for others, we won’t think of ourselves more highly than we ought. We will be sober, or serious, minded in our perception of ourselves.  We will love ourselves at the same level we love others.

This perspective demands that we encourage each other, including our children, in ways that are positive, yet not overwhelming.  Children will build self-respect and confidence when they have success.  Praise based on success will be much more effective in building up a child’s confidence than praise for the sake of praise.  Failures should not be either praised or used to berate, but should be accepted.  Children, and adults, need to appreciate the usefulness of failure as a mentor.  Successes should be celebrated.  Children are smart.  They realize when the praise is sincere. 

How to Emasculate Young Men — November 17, 2013

How to Emasculate Young Men


Our society is a paradox.  In a time in which the majority pays good money to look young, our culture works hard creating a feeling of inferiority in those who are actually young.  And while those who work with young men bemoan the loss of strong male role models, many columnists are recognizing the fact that our young men are being emasculated in mass (http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-06-20/32-facts-show-how-men-are-being-systematically-emasculated-america-today).

How do we do that?  I’ve watched many families struggle with rearing young men.   Except for the truly psychotic, no one thinks, “I think I’m going to work really hard to mess up my kid and limit his future options.”  All of them want to do their bests.  Here’s the problems I see.  Below are the top ten unintentional actions I’ve seen weaken the young men in their development.  Consider these a formula for failure.

  1. Make all decisions for him.  When he refuses to make life choices, don’t let him fail.  Take action for him. After all, he can live with you for as long as he wants.
  2. Allow him to make all decisions.  Let him choose where he goes to school.  Let him choose what the rules of the house should be.  Let him decide what to eat before dinner.  Let him choose his own belief system with no intervention from you. Teach him that he is so special that no one else really matters.
  3. Don’t let him deal with teachers directly.  Go in and argue on his behalf.  Let him realize that he should have no fear of authority and that authority is against him.  Always believe his side of the story in a conflict.  Don’t show him possible errors in his logic, or flaws in his character.
  4. Expect him to tell you everything that is hurting and upsetting him.  If he says he doesn’t want to talk about it, keep hounding him until he doesn’t want to ever share anything with you again.  Ignore the fact that we men, with our weak corpus callosums, take longer to figure out what’s bugging us.  Don’t give space.  See #5.
  5. Don’t allow him to have space to grow.  Talk to him constantly.  Demand that he tells you every aspect of their day. Go into his room regularly and search through his things.
  6. Never look into what he’s doing.  Never ask to see his texts or watch who his friends are.  He can think through this alone.
  7. Let your life revolve around him.  This will increase his dependence on you (refer to #1 and get the basement ready).  It will also give you an increased sense of being needed, and that feels good.
  8. Mother should spend double the amount of time with him than Father to totally emasculate him.  This will teach him that the female problem solving dynamic is the only problem solving dynamic and that if he uses male problem solving tactics, he’s wrong.
  9. Never allow him to change his mind.  If he doesn’t like something today, don’t teach him to hang in there and honor commitment.  He needs to learn at a young age that others should react to him.
  10. Skip praying for him.  You have a lot on your plate.  Parenting is hard.  Let the folks at school do the rearing.  That’s what they get paid for.