Character Corner: Forbearance/Self-Control — musings, quotes, and parenting tips from


Jan’s first son, Anton, is an amicable, even keeled little guy.  In group situations he tends to spend time on the edges observing before he joins in.  As a toddler he was oddly self-controlled.  After a simple explanation or two, he gave up his attempts to explore the china cupboard, the toilet, and other objects that were intriguing but off limits.


Jan’s second son, Lee, caught her by surprise.  He is passionate and impetuous.  He wants what he wants and when he gets thwarted it feels like the whole neighborhood can hear his shrieks.  Jan knows her husband was similar as a child and she loves the way he has channeled his passion into political activism and his graphic design business.  But she is on unfamiliar ground when it comes to parenting Lee.

What is Forbearance?

Forbearance or self-control is the ability to exercise restraint, to stay in balance. It is disciplining yourself to be measured and temperate in your response to trying circumstances. It is being patent and even keeled while enduring hardships. It is having the ability to constrain your own worst impulses and allowing thoughtful, wiser aspects of yourself to govern what you say and do.

Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should. Forbearance protects us against doing harm on impulse in the throes of anger or fear. Since so much of virtue is about finding a balance point between two kinds of excess, forbearance helps to keep us close to the center of our better selves.

Five Quotes to contemplate, discuss and share.

Self-respect is the root of discipline: The sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to oneself.
–Abraham Joshua Heschel

The best way of avenging yourself is not to become like the wrongdoer.
–Marcus Aurelius

Just because something is true doesn’t mean you have to say it.
–Katherine Triandafilou

Anybody can become angry, that is easy; but to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree, and at the right time, and for the right purpose, and in the right way, that is not within everybody’s power, that is not easy.

If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.
–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Bringing it home to your kids

1.    Children begin life lost in their own sensations and desires.  They learn restraint from the outside world and you.  Part of your job is to be their self-control when they have none.

2.    Use words to explain this.  Say, for example, “If you are not able to stop yourself from hitting sister, then I will stop you until you are big enough to stop yourself.”

3.    Think in developmental terms: your child isn’t deficient, but developing.  This perspective says, “It’s ok for you to be where you are at, but not to stay there.”  If you have a growth orientation, your child will pick up your perspective.

4.    Help your child put words on feelings like frustration, anger and disappointment.  The more able they are to express these feelings in words, the less they will need to act on them.

5.    Using your child’s current vocabulary and level of understanding, process blow-outs after they happen (when everybody is calm).  Talk about how your child will handle those situations when they are bigger.  Give them a vision of the target behavior and let them know it will get easier.

Photo by Lars Plougmarin


Character Corner: Honesty — musings, quotes, and parenting tips from


Laura remembers feeling humiliated when, as a child, she was caught in a lie.  But her daughter Julie, age eight, seems almost indifferent when confronted with evidence that she has been dishonest. Last week, for example, Julie went to her friend Anna’s house two doors down without permission.  She turned up home an hour later, saying she had been in the back yard the whole time.


Laura knew otherwise (she had called Anna’s mom), and she asked probing questions. But Julie stuck to the lie.  When finally confronted with the evidence, Julie just screamed that Laura always spied on her and didn’t let her do anything.

What is honesty?

Honesty is saying what we know or suspect to be real, even when we don’t like the consequences. It is also much more.

Because most deception is actually self deception, true honesty requires that we recognize our natural human penchant for fooling ourselves. In particular, honesty requires that we guard against self-serving biases: our tendency to seek confirmation for what we already believe while ignoring contradictory evidence; our tendency to put blame on others and take credit for ourselves; our tendency to think that what is good for us is good for the world and even to make the gods themselves in our own image.

Honesty is a lifetime process of catching ourselves in falsehood and, however reluctantly, turning away from it.

Five Quotes to contemplate, discuss and share.

I am different from Washington; I have a higher, grander standard of principle.  Washington could not lie.  I can lie, but I won’t. 
–Mark Twain

We tell lies when we are afraid… afraid of what we don’t know, afraid of what others will think, afraid of what will be found out about us.  But every time we tell a lie, the thing that we fear grows stronger.
–Tad Williams

We must all beware the very real and understandable human tendency to ignore or subvert facts, and findings of science, that discomfort us for reasons of ideology, politics, religion, or personal taste.   
–William Brody, President of Johns Hopkins

When you stretch the truth, watch out for the snapback. 
–Bill Copeland

The truth needs so little rehearsal. 
–Barbara Kingsolver

Bringing it home to your kids

1.  Rather than focusing on lies, focus on trust, integrity, and self awareness, the virtues you are working to build.

2. Don’t “test” your child’s honesty.  When you know he or she has committed an infraction, simply state what you know to be true rather than probing for a confession.  Then move on to talking about natural and logical consequences or motives and feelings.  Or, if emotions are too heated, suspend the conversation till all can calm down.

3. Preschoolers frequently blend fantasy and reality.  Rather than treating this as a lie, label it imagination:  “Wouldn’t it be nice if that were true?”  “That would be so fun!”  You can turn it into a game with an even wilder story of your own.

4. All cultures sanction “white lies.”  Don’t expect perfect self disclosure from your children any more than you do from yourself.  If you want honesty about things that matter though, do make trust a core family value.

5. Model a balanced pragmatic approach to personal faults.  Perfectionism is the enemy of honest self appraisal.

6. Acknowledge how difficult honesty can be at times.  Reward honesty with respect.  Partner with your child in problem solving to rebuild trust.

photo by justonlysteve

Character Corner: Humor — musings, quotes, and parenting tips from


At age 8, Helen was stubborn.  Any criticism was met with a defensive retort and she needed the last word in every argument.  Her mother Gena was not looking forward to adolescence.  To her surprise, things got easier rather than harder as Helen entered her teen years.  The big difference?  Helen developed a wry sense of humor and learned to turn it on herself.


What is humor?

Humor is the ability to laugh at ourselves and our world– to brighten any situation or conversation by finding the light, quirky dimensions. Humor helps us to forgive or to admit our own errors. It diffuses conflict. It makes hard times less heavy. When we cultivate humor, we are letting go of other emotions: bitterness, resentment, or anger.

Like nothing else can, humor allows us see things in a new light: the foolishness of our preoccupations, our hypocrisies and inconsistencies, our tendency to see ourselves as the center of the universe. Used wrongly humor can be cruel or distancing. But in the service of other virtues, humor brings us together and helps us grow.

Five Quotes to contemplate, discuss and share.

Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not; a sence of humor to console him for what he is.
–Francis Bacon

We are able to laugh when we achieve detachment, if for only a moment.
–May Sarton

You can’t stay mad at someone who makes you laugh.
–Jay Leno

People don’t like to be lectured to, but if you can make them laugh, their defenses come down, and for the time being they’ve accepted whatever truth is embedded in your humor.
–Paul Krassner

There are two kinds of humor. One kind that makes us chuckle about our foibles and our shared humanity — like what Garrison Keillor does. The other kind holds people up to public contempt and ridicule — that’s what I do. Satire is traditionally the weapon of the powerless against the powerful. I only aim at the powerful. When satire is aimed at the powerless, it is not only cruel — it’s vulgar.
–Molly Ivins

Bringing it home to your kids

1.  Teach your child early to laugh at minor fiascos.  Not all of them will be funny, but some will.   Turn an exasperating situation into a game or contest:  Who can find the silliest thing about this situation?

2. Talk about “being ready” to laugh.  Often we have to get past our initial flash flood of irritation before we can laugh at ourselves or the world around us.  Help your child learn to read the cues.

3.  Laugh at yourself.

4.  Time your teasing. Teasing can be mean, but it can also nudge us to look at ourselves.  When it works, teasing feels like it connects rather than distances the people involved.

5.   Cultivate humor at the dinner table.  File away quirky anecdotes in your memory during the day so that you can tell the stories later.

Photo by c.a. muller

Character Corner: Moderation– musings, quotes, and parenting tips from


Marlies, at age thirty-two, has a hard time liking her body.  She has struggled over the years with cycles of binge eating and dieting.  Finally, a few years before her kids were born she settled into an uneasy equilibrium.  Her truce with herself means that she doesn’t buy sweets and otherwise tries not to think about dietary issues or her body shape too much.  Annalise, age 6 and Rachel, age 4 are healthy and active and have been quite content with whole grain cereals and fruit for dessert.


But Annalise is starting to have play dates at homes with other rules.  The first time she asked for Cocoa-puffs in the grocery store, Marlies felt a surge of panic.  She doesn’t want the stuff around, but she also doesn’t want to give it extra mystique by forbidding it.  How can she teach her kids moderation when she still wrestles with it herself?
What is moderation?

Moderation is a specific kind of balance. It means recognizing that too much of any good thing is bad. Many qualities, resources or activities can serve the health and well-being of humans or the web of life we call home. But even a virtue when pursued to excess crowds out other virtues and causes harm. When we practice moderation we seek to find the balance between insufficiency and excess.

The greatest barrier to moderation is our very human tendency to label entities as good or bad in absolute terms rather than weighing them as a part of a greater, complex whole.
Five Quotes to contemplate, discuss and share.

Moderation is the silken thread running through the pearl chain of all virtues.–Joseph Hall
The higher the rank I attain, the more humbly I behave.  The greater my power, the less I exercise it.  The richer my wealth, the more I give away.   —Sun Shu Ao – Zhou Dynasty – China
Exactness and neatness in moderation is a virtue, but carried to extremes narrows the mind.–Francois de Salignac Fenelon
A little of what you fancy does you good.–Marie Lloyd
The only thing worse for a child than getting everything his heart desires is getting nothing his heart desires.–Unknown

Bringing it home to your kids:
1.  You don’t have to have your life perfectly in balance to be a good role model for your children.  Your decisions and actions speak for you, even when you feel shaky and tentative.   All the same, if parenting opens up old issues for you, it may help to seek counseling or support.
2.  Abstinence education has a bad track record.  Set your sights on responsibility and balance.  Within reason, try not to react—even with an eyeroll– to snacks and treats that other parents provide outside of your home.  That is not where your children’s habits are being established.
3.  Get creative.  One family I know buys “accent cereal” occasionally – a few Fruit Loops to go on top of the Oatios.
4.  Don’t be afraid to say no.  Billions of dollars are spent annually marketing to children, and you are not the only one hearing, “Everyone else has a Wi (or a candy drawer, or silly bands –or whatever the latest fad may be.)  If you talk with other parents, you’ll often learn that other families are feeling the same reluctance you are.
5.  Talk about balance or moderation as a family value.  Create a mindset of “different kinds of good” instead of a world modeled on willpower and temptations.

Photo by Pink Sherbet Photography

Character Corner: Objectivity– musings, quotes, and parenting tips from

2538946198_973605161dOphelia takes care of her neighbor Anne’s four-year-old son Joey along with her own son Brian, also four.  The two boys squabble a lot, and sometimes their fights get physical. Yesterday Brian came screaming into her room with scratch marks bleeding on his face and Joey hot on his heels.  Joey was yelling that Brian hit him first, and both boys were still hitting each other.


Ophelia was shocked by her urge to shove Joey away.  It was all she could do to maintain a façade of evenhandedness.  Ophelia knows full well that Brian may have started it, but her momma- bear reaction was so intense that it almost didn’t matter.  And yet she realizes that if she is going to help Brian see his role in the fights she somehow has to reclaim her own sense of objectivity.

What is Objectivity?

Objectivity means being able to assess what is real without being biased by self-interest, tribalism, agenda, ideology, or emotion. We think of objectivity as being particularly important in the work of scientists and judges, but in reality it is of value in any role that involves decision making. Without objectivity fairness and accuracy suffer, and far too easily we end up doing harm when we are trying to do good.

When we demonstrate an ability to be objective, other people seek our opinions, particularly in conflict situations. Our objectivity becomes a community resource.

Five Quotes to Contemplate and Share.

*If a book be false in its facts, disprove them; if false in its reasoning, refute it. But for God’s sake, let us freely hear both sides if we choose. –Thomas Jefferson

*Hear one side and you will be in the dark; hear both sides and all will be clear.—Thomas Chandler Haliburton

*Objectivity cannot be equated with mental blankness; rather, objectivity resides in recognizing your preferences and then subjecting them to especially harsh scrutiny — and also in a willingness to revise or abandon your theories when the tests fail (as they usually do).–Steven Jay Gould

*The scientific method is simply what we know about how not to fool ourselves.–Unknown

*Friends are helpful not only because they will listen to us, but because they will laugh at us; Through them we learn a little objectivity, a little modesty, a little courtesy; We learn the rules of life and become better players of the game.–Will Durant
Bringing it home to your kids:

1.  When your child is getting hurt physically or emotionally, it is often tempting to jump into the fray on their side.  But this robs them of critical conflict resolution skills.  Do what you need to do to establish safety, but then do what you need to do to calm yourself down.  How can you help your child to analyze the situation? What can he or she do differently next time?
2.  Talk about your biases, rather than pretending you have none.  Let your kids know when you’re feeling “too upset to be fair”, and give yourself time-out when you need it.
3.  Teach your children that all of us have blind spots—and that we all tend to see the world through a self-serving lens.  Humility and insight about this universal human frailty is one of the great gifts you can give them.
4.  Don’t let your kids get into “he said/she said” disputes about who is at fault in the heat of the moment.  Think about some intervening ritual between the quarrel and the discussion – like everyone has to drink a glass of water before each person tells their tale.
5.  Not all stories are created equal, and not all participants in a dispute are equally at fault.  Don’t be afraid to make your best judgment calls even knowing that sometimes you’ll get it wrong.  And don’t be afraid to apologize afterwards when it becomes clear that you’ve misjudged a situation.

Photo by: Teeny

Character Corner: Openness– musings, quotes, and parenting tips from


Orleana has always said that she wants her kids, Peter and Edwin, to be curious open minded citizens of the world.  Even though they are only three and five, she exposes them to the rich diversity of our human heritage.  She brings home folktales and real life stories from other countries.  She takes the boys to cultural festivals and ethnic restaurants and has enrolled them in an economically diverse preschool.

But there’s one thing Orleana herself isn’t open minded about:  her own background.  She grew up among Christian fundamentalists and is an outspoken critic of her old beliefs.  Not long ago, she overheard Peter saying to Edwin, “Christians are bad.”  Orleana stopped in her tracks.  Ouch.  In reality, her own perspective is much more nuanced and complex, but what is she modeling for her kids?


What is openness?

Openness means keeping our minds and hearts available for new experiences, ideas, and relationships. It means working to move beyond the boundaries of the familiar, in particular the walls that can be erected by tribe and tradition.

Openness and curiosity are two of the primary conditions for discovery. Openness feels risky, because it means venturing onto unfamiliar ground, but can also be full of unexpected delights. When we are open, we notice that life is constantly presenting us with new information and opportunities for growth.

Five Quotes to contemplate, discuss and share.

Begin challenging your own assumptions. Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in awhile, or the light won’t come in.
–Alan Alda
Truth springs from an argument among friends.
In the case of good books, the point is not how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you.
—Mortimer Adler
I live my life in widening circles that reach out across the world. I may not complete this last one but I give myself to it.
–Rainer Maria Rilke
Personally I’m always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught.
–Winston Churchill
Bringing it home to your kids
1.  Have new food night once/week:  include one food item that none of you have tasted.  It can be something small like some spiced nuts or an unfamiliar fruit to sample.  Make a game out of everyone taking at least one bite.
2.  Welcome an unfamiliar family into your home every so often for dinner:  a new neighbor or colleague or a volunteer at your child’s school.  Eating together is a powerful and ancient form of breaking down boundaries and creating community.
3.  Balance “stranger danger” messages with friendly encounters in your neighborhood.  Ask a question or offer a compliment in the grocery line.  Get to know a cashier over time.  Doorbell for a cause you care about, and take your child along.
4.  Discover other cultures together.  Check out books about children whose lives are very different from your own.  Once your children can read start renting family-friendly foreign films.
5.  At times when you are feeling a bit judgmental about religion or politics or whatever pushes your buttons, remember that your opinions loom larger than life in the minds of your children. Better and worse become good and bad. Two people who simply disagree can be seen by a child as one good person and one bad.  Thoughtful conversations (and frank disclosure of your own biases) can help your kids to grow beyond such caricatures.

Photo by: Claudio Palomo

Character Corner: Orderliness– musings, quotes, and parenting tips from


Oscar and Janet have been trying for years to find the right balance in their housekeeping. Janet’s mother had a hoarding disorder, and clutter drives her nuts.  When she gets home from a long day in her family practice clinic, she wants to walk into a place that feels put together and serene.

Oscar gets six-year-old Janie off to school every morning, and then is home all day with their 4-year-old twins.  Although he’s sympathetic to Janet’s need to have “a place for everything and everything in its place,” he doesn’t mind when things pile up a bit, and in fact that is his natural tendency.  He scrambles to get the breakfast and lunch dishes cleared away before he goes to pick up Janie from her school.

For Janet’s sake he hastily picks up the biggest kid projects and shoves things into closets before she gets home.  Last week Janie’s teacher pulled him aside and said that Janie was losing her homework work and pencils a little too often. She gestured at a desk with crumpled papers sticking out and suggested that Oscar might be able to help Janie with organizational skills.  Guiltily, Oscar wondered if the last minute scramble wasn’t working so well.

What is orderliness?
Orderliness is having a sense of where things belong and how they relate to each other, and keeping them organized accordingly. When there is a place for everything and everything in its place, then we are able to think and work efficiently. We are also more able to work collaboratively –to share tools and space with others.
To be orderly, we also must have a sense of priorities, of what is most important and what we must let go. We can only put our lives in order if our priorities are clear.
In this sense, orderliness is not so much an external habit as a quality of our mental life. It means that we seek to understand how things relate to each other–their similarities and differences, the cause and effect relationships that connect them, and how these relate to our own values and aspirations.
Five Quotes to contemplate, discuss and share
There are uncountable hours lost each year in the workplace because of disorganization. But people mix up cleaning with organizing. Being clean is a visual thing, but being organized is being able to find things when you need them.
–Julie Mahan
If you can organize your kitchen, you can organize your life.
–Louis Parrish
No institution can possibly survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it. It must be organized in such a way as to be able to get along under a leadership composed of average human beings.
–Peter F. Drucker
We have, instead (of soot and dirt), disorganization. We have this proliferation of goods. It’s the disease of the time.
—Cheryl Mendelson
Electricity is really just organized lightning.
–George Carlin
Organize your life around your dreams – and watch them come true.
Bringing it home to your kids
1.  Establish tidying rituals.  Kids are able to put things back as soon as they are able to get them out, and cleaning up is actually easier when it’s an every-time habit.  You might notice that your child’s preschool has a “clean up song” that you can use at home as well.  My daughter is seventeen, and when I asked her recently about her preschool clean up song, she sang it.
2.  Differentiate private and public or shared spaces.  A private space can be as small as a drawer or as large as a bedroom.  Teach yourself to let go and let your kids control their private spaces and at the same time insist that they not leave clutter that affects other people.
3.  Do clean-up tasks together until they are well established.  Any task can be more fun if it includes conversation and good company.
4. Every so often, roll up your sleeves and help your children to organize their sports and hobby equipment or schoolwork.  Talk about what they use where, how they can remember where they put things, and what looks pleasing to them.  Help them come up with filing systems.   Learning how to sift and sort is an acquired skill.
5. If your kids are old enough, have an occasional family check-in about managing their “stuff.”  Remember, the purpose of being organized is so that we can be more efficient and effective in activities we care about.  The bottom line question is:  Is it working for you?  Is it working for other people?

Photo by: dangerismycat

Character Corner: Compassion – musings, quotes, and parenting tips from


What is compassion?

Tommy is only two, but when his little neighbor Annie bonked her head and began to cry, he began to cry too.  Then he offered her the shabby stuffed sheep he often carries around.


Compassion is that mysterious capacity within each of us that makes it possible for the suffering that is neither our own nor of our concern, to affect us as though it were. Compassion does not acknowledge the artificial social, economic, and religious barriers we place between ourselves and others. It acknowledges the common cry of human longings, aspirations, and tragedies. When a reflex reaction causes us to help a stranger, with no motivation other than that person is in need or maybe in peril of his life, our compassion is in action.

Five Quotes to contemplate discuss and share.

(To print a quote as a small poster, click on the quote, which will take you to the Wisdom Commons, then click the print button after the quote.)

Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way. –Martin Luther King Jr., civil-rights leader (1929-1968)

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.
Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama

Baruch merachem al haaretz Baruch merachem al habriot :  Blessed be the One who has compassion upon the earth. Blessed be the one who has compassion upon the creatures. 
– Judaism, author unknown

Treat every person with kindness and respect, even those who are rude to you. Remember that you show compassion to others not because of who they are but because of who you are. 
Andrew T. Somers

Great opportunities to help others seldom come, but small ones surround us every day.
– Sally Koch

Bringing it home to your kids

1.    Teach ‘perspective talking’ by labeling another person’s feelings for your child.  Say something like, “I wonder why she did that?”or “She must be feeling really frustrated right now.” Or “I wonder what the teacher was thinking?”

2.    Tell your child about something you did this week to help another person when your child wasn’t there.

3.    Enlist your child in helping or comforting a smaller child or pet.

4.    In an age-appropriate way and without overburdening them, put words on your own anxieties, hopes, frustrations and satisfactions, so your children can see you as a person, not just a caregiver.

5.    Involve your child in compassionate action – whether helping a preschool teacher put things away or serving in a soup kitchen.

Photo credit:

Character Corner: Balance — weekly musings, quotes, and parenting tips from


Twelve-year-old Annie gets straight A’s– at a cost.  She hurries away from the table after dinner, misses out on time with friends, and finishes each week exhausted.  Her parents love her work ethic and curiosity, but they think a different balance would make her happier in the long run.


What is Balance?

Balance recognizes that many good things in life are good only in moderation. There really can be too much of something wonderful. In fact, many vices are simply virtues taken to excess. When an interest, affection, or endeavor becomes utterly consuming, it doesn’t allow room for other kinds of goodness.

Implicit in the concept of balance is the notion that two very different things are true at once, and both must be heeded. Simply illustrated, we need to work, and we need to play. We need to give out, and we need to replenish. We need to go wild, and we need to be calm. Each of us is prone to fall out of balance in our own way. How do you model balance for your children?

Five Quotes to contemplate, discuss and share.


Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.
–Lin Yutang

Almost every wise saying has an opposite one, no less wise, to balance it.
–George Santayana

The rules for parents are but three… Love, Limit, and Let them be.
– Elaine M. War

There are some things that should not be forgotten, but that should not always be remembered.

For everything there is a season.….a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; … a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing.
–Bible, Ecclesiastes 3:1-5


Bringing it home to your kids

1. Introduce your child to the classical concept of “The Golden Mean”, the balance point between two extremes.

2. Tell your child, in words appropriate to their age, about something you did this week in the service of life balance.

3. Bake a favorite recipe together, and talk about the parallel between combining the right amounts of ingredients in baking and in life.

4. Involve your child in deciding how a weekend will get balanced.  What are the competing priorities?  Chores?  Homework?  Playfulness?  Community?

5. Find a calm opportunity to talk with your child about media time  — what they get out of it, what “other kinds of good” are on hold during media time, how hard it can be to set limits, what a goodbalance might be based on your family values. Then you be the parent and hold them to it.

photo credit

Character Corner: Acceptance — weekly musings, quotes, and parenting tips from


Ten year old Janie discovered a lump on her guinea pig, Panda.   She showed her mother, Ann, and they took the guinea pig to the vet, who told them that it might or might not be cancer and that surgery would cost $600.

Back at home, Ann said, “We will do our best to make sure that Panda isn’t suffering.  But in our family-values $600 should be spent in other ways.”

Janie cried and offered to earn the money herself.  “No,” said Ann again, “I know you love her and you would try, but that is too much money for you to earn in a few months.  We will take good care of Panda, and if she starts losing weight or looking ill then we will know it is time to put her to sleep.”

Janie cried again, and then curled up on her bed with a book.  A little while later, she went to find her Ann.  “I’m going to give Panda extra lettuce and weigh her every day,” she said.

What is Acceptance?

Acceptance means embracing what is, rather than wishing for what is not. When we accept difficult, even painful realities, we are able to discover whatever positive feelings and experiences may be possible in that situation. We find ourselves more at peace and able to experience life more deeply. Even so, acceptance must be guided by discernment – learning how to tell the difference between what we can change and what we cannot.

As parents we often want ourselves (and our children) to be more than we can be.  Acceptance of our limits and theirs helps us to be patient and to avoid hurtful kinds of criticism or judgment. By accepting faults we become more able to trust and celebrate strengths. Paradoxically, acceptance often leads to growth because it creates a safe space for insight and understanding.

Five Quotes to Contemplate, Post and Discuss.

The store was closed so I went home and hugged what I own.
–Brooks Palmer

Though you may not be able to change it, you can handle an ugly situation beautifully.
–Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan

To live in this world you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.
–Mary Oliver

We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.
– Joseph Campbell

Change is inevitable, except from vending machines.

Bringing it home to your kids

  1. How do you come to terms with disappointments and limitations?  Show your child how to put words on the acceptance process by musing out loud:  I wish this was different, but . . . .
  2. When you need to say no, be clear in your own mind whether there is room for negotiation.  Your children can’t begin the process of acceptance till they have figured out whether they have the power to change your mind.
  3. Help your kids to reframe their disappointments – to look at the possibilities that remain open to them; to figure out what they have the power to create moving forward. Often our children don’t need us to fix difficult situations; they need us to coach them through their own process of acceptance and problem solving.
  4. 4. Since one of life’s biggest challenges is accepting death, establish rituals around the death of pets. Think of this as an opportunity to prepare your child for other losses.  Even in middle school my daughters asked to read, Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children, (a picture book that honors the cycle of life) as part of the tribute to their companion animals.
  5. 5. Cultivate a “go with the flow” family mindset.  Think kayaking:  You don’t have to be in control of the current; in fact, you can’t be.  In life, your children will need to paddle hard sometimes to keep from swamping.  Mostly, though, they will get richness and joy from being open and curious, wherever the current of their own capabilities and opportunities takes them.

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