Posts Tagged ‘sensitivity’


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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Drift off and smell the jasmine

March 21, 2010

We can wake up and smell the coffee, and we can stop and smell the roses but this time of year in Los Angeles always enchants me with the seductive perfume of night blooming jasmine.

I had never smelled anything like jasmine growing up in Chicago.  There, lilacs, roses and geraniums rose above a palate of cut grass and wet leaves; but in March it was often still the smell of melting dirty snow and fog rolling in off the lake.

Smells are so powerful, and emotional.  Scent triggers memory, attraction and repulsion.  We have smells that take us right back to childhood, a hint of perfume that reminds us of a past romance—or of an old aunt.

We all have our personal labyrinths of smell—those that bring to mind love, sorrow, freedom, fun and of course parenting.  So many things can be analyzed, defined, packaged and marketed, but beyond all that, smell is deeply personal and so vivid a part of life.

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Red Flags

February 25, 2010

Years ago, when Andy and I had a meeting with our child’s preschool teachers, I remember sitting around the little table meant for Playdough and snack-time and the preschool director saying something about certain behaviors being “red flags.”

I had walked in expecting to hear something like, “his crayon scribbles are really creative” or “he really likes hanging on the climbing structure.”  To be honest, to this day I can’t really recall what the “red flag” was a “red flag” for, just that there was a “red flag,” and that this made me feel woozy, and sad, and worried, and inadequate.

A red flag that made my inner Ferdinand just want to sit and smell the flowers; a red flag that made me swoon with fears about having already messed up my kid, maybe by being a therapist, maybe by giving bad genes.  I’ve worked with so many parents by now that I’m more calm to know that we almost ALL seem to have these worries to some degree or other.

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Orchid Children

November 23, 2009

A recent Atlantic article by David Dobbs on the “Science of Success,” offers a wealth of insights on parenting kids with highly sensitive genes—or at least genes that put them at risk for depression, ADHD and the like.  While rough and tumble kids might be likened to dandelions, which can grow in any old crack in the sidewalk, kids with potentially problematic genetic proclivities are compared to orchids—delicate beings that need the special care of a greenhouse in order to thrive.  The bad news is that if we mess up, or fail to engage and attune with these “orchid children,” they can have serious problems with school, life and mental health, however if we get it right, these kids can be truly exceptional—even more gifted than kids with what we would have thought were “better” genes.  For the article see:

As sometimes happens with science, men come running out of the lab shouting “Eureka!” about things practically every experienced mom could have already told you—only she’s been too busy taking care of the kids to spend thirty years watching monkey moms raise (and sometimes fail) their children.  Just as the world was actually round even before it was a science newsflash, folk wisdom has long known that orchid kids are potential superstars if they get the right parenting.

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As parents we need to do windows

October 1, 2009

paris windowIf we don’t learn better, we humans tend to be ego-centric (i.e. believing that others think, feel and experience the world the way we do).  A great example of this is getting someone the perfect present… only to be crushed to see that they don’t appreciate it, don’t see why it’s so great.

If we think about our children as having sensory windows, we can ask ourselves, “which windows are most open to receiving the world?”  If you consider a particular child, and then ask yourself if they take things in better through their ears of their eyes, you already gain a clue in how to best teach them.  Some kids need to touch things and have a hands-on sort of learning, while others are more cerebral—hanging back, watching, thinking things through before they jump in and experience them.

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August 19, 2009

Dad and sonsWhen I was three or four-years-old I remember my parents pulling up to a stoplight and a man with a bad limp crossing in front of the car.  I became very concerned and asked what was wrong with that person.  My parents told me that he was crippled, and when, in answer to my questions they told me honestly that he would not get better I felt overcome with sadness and began to cry.

And I remember my parents’ discomfort at my tears, and that odd feeling that I could not understand as a child where they were both laughing and empathic.  I thought that they were laughing at the lame man’s plight, and it made me feel lonely and misunderstood.  Looking back, there were also hints of contempt from my dad whenever I showed sensitivity—not, I realize now, because my father was a lug, but because he too was sensitive and had already learned that sensitivity did not go over very well in a man’s world.

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