Tag Archives: Present Moment Parenting

Centering Prayer CLP Day 1

I’ve decided to take another step in my journey into contemplative practice.  Several months ago I purchased year one of the Contemplative Life Program from Contemplative Outreach.

I’ve experienced a lot of benefits from Centering Prayer in the past, both for drawing closer to God and managing the stress. I thought I’d share a couple practical benefits I’ve experienced since starting the 40 day immersion journey (part of the Contemplative Life Program).

First, there’s a time in the evening after Cullen gets up from his nap and before dinner, bath and bedtime when the boys are pretty crazy. I’m prepared for this, and try to be intentional about my response. Sometimes I’m more successfully than others. Yesterday I noticed a new level of control, patience, humor, and grace with the boys.

Second, this week we’ve had a perfect storm of events between getting ready for visits with extended family, preparing for pre-K graduation, jobs for both parents, and my wife’s VERY busy week with the National Lutheran Choir and Chorus America. There were several times when I was surprised by my level of composure, grace, and presence with everyone in times of stress.

When I say I was “surprised by my level…” I’m not taking credit, but rather noticing how the added time in prayer helped me carry that presence into my life and be a better dad and husband.

Many people who practice meditation report the same kinds of results, and there are certainly many similarities between meditation and centering prayer. There are also some important difference, but more on that in another post.


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Boys, Kindergarten, & ADHD

Barry MacDonald started a buzz when he published his summer Boy Smarts News on the topic of boy’s development and if the start of kindergarten should be delayed for boys to give them a more equal start. The response about that topic came back strongly that it really depended on the individual boy. No big surprise there, but what grew out of it was a surprising discussion about ADHD diagnosis and boys who start kindergarten early.

Teachers and staff are stretched very thin and don’t often have the resources needed to adequately assess the educational needs of children. Very few have had adequate training in holistic, effective, positive behavior guidance. Without this, it’s difficult or impossible to address the normal and often challenging behaviors of children.

ADHD has become the “go to” diagnosis for boys when there’s a challenge in classrooms, daycares, and school-age care programs. However, misdiagnosis often has tragic consequences. Karen Elkins, a consultant to parents of children suspected of having learning or behavioral problems, has this sto say: “Too often children who can’t keep up or exhibit disruptive behavior become loosely labeled  with ADHD or some other behavior or learning disability. Sadly, once kids get labeled this way, it’s often very difficult to get them un-labeled. over time, unless core issues are addressed, these children suffer and get left behind.” This doesn’t even mention the unknown and possibly very negative long-term effects of stimulant medication for children. Karen recommends that parents seek a thorough assessment to understand root causes before jumping to conclusions or solutions. Often ADHD diagnosis can be very subjective, especially when teachers are comparing children in the same classroom or learning environment.

But is all of this fuss just an attempt to get more press attention? Is it really much ado about nothing? Not according to Todd Elder of Michigan State University who did research that clearly shows that ADHD misdiagnosis is more common for children who are younger than their kindergarten classmates. This study takes care to avoid downplaying the existence or significance of legitimate ADHD in children, but indicates that similar students have significantly different ADHD diagnosis rates depending on when their birthday falls in relation to the school year. Elders study is soon to be published in the Journal of Health Economics. A pre-publidshed version is available to read online on the website. There’s also an article about it in the Vancouver Sun Times: One in five kids possibly misdiagnosed: study.

The behavior guidance techniques that I coach parents and educators in at Fiddlehouse are very effective at helping kids with ADHD as well as many other diagnosed and undiagnosed challenges. In fact, many children who were well on the way to an ADHD diagnosis no longer displayed the behaviors that got them there after parents and educators used the techniques that I teach. Be sure to get in touch if you would like to talk more about anything in this posting: or 651-274-0031.

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Posted by on September 18, 2010 in Present Moment Parenting


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Downloading positives with extended family

Over the last month, my boys got to spend a lot of time with their cousins at the family cabins. There was fun and games in abundance as well as all the foibles and fumbles that happen when families get together for extended periods of time. Even slightly differing values around parenting and guidance approaches can make for interesting dynamics.

If things are getting a little crazy and you’re feeling the need to intervene but don’t want to make things worse by correcting another parent’s children, there is something you can do that almost always has a positive effect. Begin to download positives into the situation using “When you _______ I feel _______ because” as a script.

Here are some examples:

  • “I really appreciated it, Jeff, when you were careful to with the little kids during that game. It made them feel safe and they had a lot more fun.”

You can say this to Jeff even if it would be good for him to be a little more gentle, because it will help reinforce in him his prosocial skills.

  • “Jane, it was nice of you to give your older cousins a break. It helps them have more energy to play with you later when you give them a little space.”
  • “Steve, it made Buddy feel really special when you took special time to do that activity with him. Thanks a lot.”

It’s important to download the positives especially when things are getting tense. It helps to refocus the situation and bring a breath of fresh air. Grab the smallest possible positive thing you can find and maximize it. Sometimes we need to “create” a positive by mentioning one that isn’t quite manifesting yet. It’s amazing how powerful this can be at transforming situations.

One thing that was really important for Braden and I over the 4th of July weekend was to take regular father-son breaks. For us, these were imaginary hunting trips with his toy bow and arrow. It gave him a break from the competition with his cousins for attention and status. When he came back from his safaris, he got to tell his uncles about the animals he had bagged. Great fun for both of us.


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Play Ideas from Minute to Win It

I’d never watched Minute to Win It before today, but when I did I was thrilled with some of the great family play ideas I saw. One game I saw today was for a player to dip his nose in a spot of Vaseline and then pick-up cotton balls with the the tip of their nose and move six of them to another bowl without using their hands. Another game was to strap an empty Kleenex box on (using a belt) and put six or eight ping pong balls in it. The player has to get all of them out without using their hands.

We all know that one of the greatest things a family can do together is play. If you’re short on ideas, take a minute to watch the show or look at the show’s website for a great idea. If you’ve got kids who are reluctant to participate, let them watch the show, pick the game, and prep it for the family.

Have Fun!


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Real Boys or War Against Boys?

This turned into kind of a long book review, so I’m going to give a quick summary at the beginning. You only have to read the whole thing if you want all the details.

I’ve been reading two books:

  1. Real Boys by William Pollack
  2. The War Against Boys by Christina Hoff-Sommer

Pollack says many boys are sad, lonely, and confused because society tells us we should treat them like little men and raise them through a toughening process. This drives their true emotions underground and forces them to put on a tough, cheerful and confident mask, which ends up being very harmful. Only when we understand what boys are really experiencing can we help them learn to deal with issues.

Hoff-Sommers says that boys want to be tough and confident and treated like little men and that the real problem is that society is trying to raise boys to be like girls. If we would just let them be boys they would be better off. She identifies a systematic agenda to make education and child-rearing a form of non-surgical castration that is harmful to boys.

I think there’s truth in both books. I’ve seen first hand trends in parenting and education that are harmful to boys, but I think the answer looks much more like Pollack’s approach than Hoff-Sommer’s. Read on if you want to hear more.

Hoff-Sommer begins by presenting a pretty convincing argument. Her sources are very credible, and main point is that some of the more radical feminist leaders are promoting programs and policies that don’t simply stop at furthering the cause of girls and women. The go beyond promoting equality and the ability of girls and women to live and work up to their full potential. In fact, these “misguided feminists” (her words, not mine) actively demean, disadvantage, and discriminate against boys and just about anything that smell of masculinity or testosterone. They knowingly and unknowingly endorse practices, opinions, and perspectives that overtly and covertly harm boys. She explains that while the original motives of some in this movement were very good, it has developed into something that is contrary to the original positive intention. Rather than lifting up girls, they are putting down boys.

In Real Boys, William Pollack uses his own clinical experience and solid research to identify and address what he sees as a negative “myth of boyhood” in our culture that requires boys to detach from their caregivers and their feelings in order to be tough or what society would label a “real boy.” This disconnection results in repressed/unprocessed feelings, stunted emotional development, and sometimes psychological disorders. Pollack has treated boys who have been violent, bullies or antisocial in other ways as well as boys who are depressed and suicidal. In most of the cases he has discovered boys who are in distress emotionally and whose pain could be traced back to early trauma with toxic beliefs about what boys are supposed to be like. He goes further and says that while only some boys may exhibit pathological consequences, most boys suffer from the negative consequences of the myths of boyhood.

The conflict between these two books is that Hoff-Sommers argues that we need to stop trying to make boys act more like girls. If we do, then boys will be better off. As a culture, we don’t need to put up with boys acting inappropriately to girls, women, and each other, but we do need to let them relate to work, play, learning, and life in ways that are consistent with their biology. There’s nothing wrong with being stereotypically male. She thinks that people like Pollack are most likely trying to make boys be something that males naturally are not.

Pollack, on the other hand, would say that it’s great for boys to be authentically male, but that our society has developed an incorrect idea of what that is. To raise healthy, real boys, according to Pollack, we need to allow boys to develop the emotional intelligence that they are born with and express it with an authentically masculine style. There’s no need to force them to be artificially tough, jaded, cocky or chauvinistic.

To sum up, it is good that Hoff-Sommers raises awareness about some very scary, radical trends in feminist social activism (PLEASE NOTE, I AM NOT OPPOSED FEMINISM. RADICALISM IN GENERAL TENDS TO HAVE LESS THAN POSITIVE RESULTS, REGARDLESS OF HOW GOOD ITS FOUNDATION MIGHT BE) and education that are directly harmful to boys and indirectly harmful to girls as well. We shouldn’t stifle boy’s energy, creativity, and personhood to make classrooms more manageable, playgrounds “softer,” backyards quieter, or sports less competitive. For girls to achieve, they don’t need society to squash boys. This line of thinking maintains a low opinion of both boys and girls.

However, Pollack provides a much better path forward. Real boys are not destined to repeat a stereotypical “boys will be boys” pattern of behavior and repression. We can raise our sons to be true to themselves as well as authentic, healthy men by fostering emotional intelligence and debunking cultural myths of boyhood in a way that embraces all the wildness and wonder that naturally comes boys.

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Posted by on May 3, 2010 in Book Reviews


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