Archive for the ‘Essential Parenting Tools’ Category

Hello, Again

December 21, 2011

Being the winter’s solstice, it seems a propitious day to offer up my “good-enough” parenting book, Privilege of Parenting, and to unveil my new blog home with much thanks to Sarah Fite (and for the book cover design as well).

One of my favorite psychologists, D.W. Winnicott, coined the term “good-enough mother,” intuitively arguing against the possibility, or efficacy, of perfection in parenting—assuring us that “good-enough” will help kids grow and thrive just fine.  This is probably true for all of life, the value of the middle path—trying our best for excellence, but not perfection.

While I wish I could offer up a better book, a magical book that could mean all things to all people and magically transform parenting into song and dance and sugar the way Mary Poppins rolls, I hope my book shall suffice to serve as a “hello” to anyone who sincerely wants to talk about parenting and work together for the good of all our collective children.

I also wish the book were shorter, but I simply couldn’t find the time to make it any more concise.

So, in a spirit of love and gratitude, I wish all who come across these words good cheer, encouragement through dark nights of the soul and fellowship in neurosis—in the service of all our kids.  If it takes a village, let’s be the village people.

Namaste, BD


Don’t Sniff Don’t Smell: When Kids Hate On Parents

October 26, 2011

How might thinking about Gaddafi’s lurid death help us to be better parents?

Collective rage and murder wrought upon a crazed dictator pulled from a sewage drain wearing gold pants and packing a solid gold gun, while bizarre on the one hand, also illustrates an important dynamic in human consciousness:  idealization and devaluation.

Whether plotting a coup or parenting a toddler or a teen, the relationship between idealization and devaluation is infallible:  idealization masks secret devaluation; devaluation masks secret idealization.

Teens, for example, often exhibit know-it-all contempt and pseudo-independence (if they are safe enough to swagger), but they eventually tame it down and transition from rebel-with-an-allowance to worker bee in the collective hive, that is if we have a hive worth working for.

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Relinquishing Resentment

October 5, 2011

While we’ve been attending to fear and how it inhibits parenting and lives well lived, it’s worth keeping in mind the relationship between fear and anger—and anger’s brooding distant cousin:  resentment.

When we feel scared we may run away, freeze up or go into fight mode.  This marks the workings of our primitive brain.  Thus fear and threat are generally the root causes of anger.

When we are scared of things that do not truly pose a dire threat to us (but make us feel, and react, as if our very lives are threatened), or when we are scared that things may happen which in truth have already happened (like being, or feeling like we were, abandoned as children and thus chronically fearing abandonment) we move into the more neurotic realms of functioning, or perhaps dysfunctioning.

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August 31, 2011

Greetings.  Now that we’re in that back to school time of year, I thought we might take a moment to consider the concept of courage, especially as it relates to parenting.

In a sense, courage is the antidote to fear, or at least the opposite of succumbing to fear, and thus it is a “virtue” we want to cultivate in the service of better parenting (and lives more richly lived).

Courage is defined as, “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.”

I might expand this definition to suggest that “the quality of mind and spirit” that does the trick is love; thus courage is love in the face of fear.

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Parenting Manifesto

June 19, 2010

The true history of all society is the history of parenting.

Parents have always seemed to be in charge, but every generation has faced a revolution of children growing up and taking charge—only to be usurped by the next generation.

To end the entrenched strife of anxious children and unhappy parents caregivers must see that they are as much child as parent—and that parenting (i.e. caring for others and the world) is enlightened Self-interest that sets us free via an expanded consciousness.

Thus a parenting attitude brings feelings of harmony, community and more widespread stability and well-being.

In order to liberate parenting from the yoke of experts and materialist exploitation of insecurity about the most important job any of us ever do, and which we so deeply yearn to get right, caregivers must unite in a common consciousness that sees all children as all of our collective children.

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Paying loving attention to attachment

June 2, 2010

Lindsey at A Design So Vast wrote a recent post, “There is something holy in authentic presence,” that got me thinking about attachment.

Lindsey’s post is about the intense power that authentic presence has on people, as evidenced by artist Marina Abramovic who has a piece going at Museum of Modern Art in New York right now.  The “art” or “performance” or whatever one might call an authentic human sitting and giving full attention to whoever cares to sit across from her at a table in a taped off square in a busy museum space.

Person after person eventually ends up in tears, profoundly moved by Marina’s authentic and unflinching presence to them.  The photos of these people’s faces are fantastic—with tears coming down their eyes, each one is so extraordinarily beautiful, and in a way rather different from features and symmetry and instead revealing the universal beauty of the soul when it has a chance to shine from within the body.

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May 3, 2010

A recent Marketplace interview by Tess Vigeland of Matthew Syed, who wrote a book called Bounce seemed worth blogging about.  The main take-away:  perseverance is way more important than talent.

Syed was the U.K.’s top-ranked table tennis player, and the fact that a number of his mates from the same street also ended up as top players got Syed thinking down some Malcolm Galdwellesque directions to ponder what makes for excellence.

The short answer:  practice, practice, practice.  Agreeing with Gladwell’s notions of an activity requiring the magic number of 10,000 hours of dedicated practice for one to achieve mastery, Syed also draws from recent research to support the importance of praising kids for their hard work rather than for their talent.  While there is certainly room for debate about whether Forest Gump sawing away on the violin for ten-k hours will make him into Mozart, it certainly would seem to make for a better world than if he did those same hours on a violent video game.

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Dr. Evil’s Guest Blog

April 1, 2010

Some readers have suggested that I can be a little too peace and love, a little unrealistic in all this “Isn’t life wonderful?  Aren’t kids beautiful?” talk.  And so while I like to think that I’ve somehow earned my optimism, even I feel like I might be starting to gag on it sometimes.

As T.S. Eliot suggests, “April is the cruelest month,” and so it seems a good time to invite my old Shadowy friend, and sometimes colleague, Dr. Evil to present today’s guest blog:


Hi, I’m Dr. Evil and I don’t much care to thank soft-spoken Bruce for bothering me with this stupid task for his pathetically crunchy readers, but since he asked, I’ll tell you what I really think, which is more than you get from most people, even from most villains, really.

These are my key parenting tips:

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True Grit and Great Teachers

March 3, 2010

When the progress of children is measured, it turns out that the particular school they attend may often be less important than the specific teacher that they get.  A great teacher can move kids academically ahead by multiple years in a single school year, while a mediocre teacher may cause equally able kids to lose ground.

An article in The Atlantic by Amanda Ripley, “What Makes A Great Teacher?” outlined some interesting factors that seem to predict who will make a great teacher… and this strongly predicts how much kids will learn and grow in any given classroom.

While the article is well worth reading, particularly in helping us frame how to think about fixing our largely broken educational system, I wanted to give the highlights so that parents can better advocate for their own kids, and ultimately for all our children, to receive the optimal educations that they deserve.

I know that readers of this blog range from private school, to public school, special needs schools, charter schools and home-schooling, so whether we are directly teaching, helping with homework or trying to find a way to talk to a school administrator about a disappointing teacher, the gathering trend on what seems to make for a great teacher appears to distill down to seven key qualities:

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Why you won’t hear much about wellness

February 15, 2010

There is mounting evidence that deep breathing (the essence of mindfulness meditation and the underpinning of yoga) is an effective treatment for anxiety, depression and a host of other issues.

Yet who is going to spread the word on this?  Sure, I’m blogging about it in my little obscure corner of the collective—and I encourage you to pencil in five minutes of steady, deep, calm breathing and put it at the top, not the bottom, of your to-do list.  This is one of the most powerful things you can do toward being your best Self as a parent, and in facilitating your own happiness.  You don’t need another book about it; just breathe.

As for why you’re unlikely to hear much about this any time soon:  there’s simply no money in wellness, not in America anyway—not in the way corporate America defines money.  Sure one can make a modest living as a holistic healer, a homeopath, a yoga teacher… but these services cost a tiny fraction of what western medicine charges for so-called healing that is based on waiting until you’re really sick and then “attacking” the illness.

Happiness is subversive.  Wellness is subversive.  Well and happy people will not buy things they don’t need, they won’t flock to doctors with their heart disease and diabetes and other chronic after-effects of toxic lives and environments… and the whole machine would start to fall apart if there were enough happily well people.

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