Ten Powerful Things to Say to Your Kids

Creating the relationship you want with the most important people in your life. A Blog about the book by Paul Axtell

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Faucets and toilets… learning from Legos

Last year, Cindy and I took a wonderful trip to Tanzania—our first trip to the Africa. We came home with lots of impressions and new perspectives, but one of the most striking was seeing small children watching over goats and cattle far from home. It made us think about trusting our grandchildren with bigger projects when they come to visit and want to help.

So during their most recent visit, our 14- and 10-year-old grandsons replaced the kitchen faucet and the workings of a toilet. They began by laying out all of the new parts and reading the instructions. When I asked how they learned to do this, they said that is how the big Lego sets are done: first, sort out all the parts, and then follow the instructions. What a novel idea!

For me, this was one more time when I confronted the limiting interpretations I have about people I think I know—interpretations about what they like or don’t like; interpretations about what they can or can’t do; interpretations about what they think or believe. It was a good reminder of the perspective that I can’t completely know anyone. When I forget that, a large part of what is possible disappears.

If you watch social media, you’ll occasionally find articles that point out what we should never do for our children, such as choosing their friends or doing their homework or speaking for them when someone is interacting with them. 

Maybe there could be another long list of things that our children are fully capable of doing if we gave them a chance.

Kids want to contribute to the family, and what a terrific combination—learning something new and contributing at the same time!

Thanks for reading,




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Nothing like a jigsaw puzzle

This past week, we had both family members and friends stay overnight. We happened to have a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle laid out on a table. It was a wonderful place for people to drop in, find a few pieces, and then be replaced by someone else. It was also a great place to hang out and just be with each other. Sports are often good for hanging out together, but not every one plays golf or likes the same games. Everyone can do puzzles.

Lots of wonderful things can happen around the puzzle: 

  • Young children can learn about completing difficult things—things that take time, persistence, and patience.
  • People can contribute to you by helping you find a piece.
  • Spending time together creates room for conversation.
  • People can ask for help.
  • Being focused on the puzzle can make difficult conversations less threatening.
  • Everyone can be reminded that technology isn’t needed to enjoy being together

It takes a bit of determination to replace the compelling pull of technology and its novelty. Puzzles are not the right thing to do—just an example of one way to find a time and place where conversation might happen. Where might that be for your family? And perhaps it’s a different time and place for each child. 

There is an answer, though, and with that answer might come some magical conversations.


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Do your kids have a voice?

This morning I had breakfast with Joe and Martha. Joe and I go back a ways. Martha and I just met this morning, and she started the breakfast conversation with this: “I remember when Joe came home from your class and declared we were only going to have one conversation at a time at the dinner table with only one person speaking at a time. It took some fist pounding by Joe, but we got there. And as a result, we found that our fifth daughter had a voice!” 

Sometimes chaotic conversations are wonderful. Other times a slower pace with more attention and listening is what’s needed.

My grandmother, Esther, had one request each Christmas—that for two hours at some time during the holidays, everyone would be in the same room talking. No games, television, or distractions were allowed. Only one person could speak at a time, and the youngest person got to start. And then after that person finished, he or she would pick the next person to speak. Sure, people got excited and jumped in from time to time, but for the most part the talk flowed as intended. Those were conversations everyone in the family remembers fondly, even though it took the iron will of my grandmother to make them happen.

Creating opportunities for children to express themselves doesn’t require fist pounding or an iron will. Giving kids a chance to be heard simply takes slowing down, focusing attention, and being willing to listen.


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You need to share more…

I remember when my kids were about 9 and 10. I began talking with the parents of teenagers about what to expect. “Just you wait,” was a common answer. And this response was often accompanied by a sense of resignation for the loss of relationship and open conversation that these parents were experiencing. Short answers and a decrease in sharing was to be expected.

Fortunately, I also had friends with teenagers who were very open with their parents—certainly not sharing everything, but more than enough to make the parents feel there was a deep connection between them and their teens. 

This contrast triggered my exploration of what I was doing or not doing that might determine how conversations would go in our family. I immediately noticed that I was not responding thoughtfully or powerfully when Jesse or Amy asked me questions. They would ask, “What happened at work today?” “What did you do on your trip? Did you do anything fun?” I realized they were asking because they were truly curious, and I needed to be more thoughtful in my responses.

Our children are interested in us and what we do. They love to know what happens when we are at work or away from home.

Good conversation is like a dance, with one person leading and the other following. This holds true in vibrant relationships, and everyone needs to take a turn at leading. One of the most powerful things you can do to keep your kids talking when they get older is to share with them often when they are young.

When they ask how your day was, do not respond with a short answer. Responding with short answers trains them to do the same when you ask them about school. Let this be your standard response when anyone in your family asks you about your day: “Well, here are a couple of things you might be interested in….” Or, “Thanks for asking. Here is what I did today.”

Don’t hold back. Don’t filter. Tell your kids about the things that went well. The things that didn’t go well. The things you worried about. The things you got excited about. Give them details. Take your time. Add a little storytelling.

Think of it this way: In all relationships that matter to you, if you are invited or asked to speak, you must respond. Of course, you can always ask for some time to relax or get something done first, but be sure to follow up and respond in a thoughtful, interesting way.

This practice of noticing and responding  invitations to converse will pay dividends forever.



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Family agreements

The idea of agreements has been around for a long time. Don Miguel Ruiz made it widely available with this book, The Four Agreements, in which he outlines four paths to personal freedom:

  • Be impeccable with your word.
  • Don’t take anything personally.
  • Don’t make assumptions.
  • Always do your best.

Even earlier, though not described as agreements, there was Robert Fulghum’s All I Really I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, with my favorite, “When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.”

Families and schools put agreements in place to remind us of how we want to interact with each other and with the world, to reduce the difficulties in getting along with each other, and to train younger members of the family about what we value.

Agreements are not rules for which there are consequences. Agreements provide guidance. They can be specific or very broad. They do not lead to punishment—they lead to conversations for clarity and understanding.

Here are some favorites I’ve encountered over the years that relate to children. 

From Pinebrook Elementary School:

  • Show respect of others through your words and actions.
  • Do your best so others can do their best.
  • Keep all arms, legs, and objects to yourself.
  • Accept responsibility for your actions.

This was found by a friend in a large playroom that was gathering place for neighborhood children over the summer:


  1. Keep toys together.
  2. Pick up toys when you are done.
  3. Be nice.
  4. Shair the toys.
  5. Work together.
  6. Listen to the big kids.
  7. Don’t lie.
  8. Use kind words.
  9. Agree.

One of the schools my children went to had two agreements for the students:

  • Be nice.
  • Do the right thing.

When you think about it, that covers a lot of territory. Of course, kids will be kids, so this didn’t mean perfect harmony at all times. But because these agreements were in place, the kids generally knew when they were not acting properly. 

Agreements can have built-in exceptions. A friend, Roger, had two boys, Spencer and Trevor, and a small car. So, they had an agreement to avoid the daily struggle over whose turn it was to ride in the front seat. Odd days, Spencer gets front seat. Even days, Trevor. Except on soccer days, then the person who had the most mud got the back seat! The point is that agreements are intended to address patterns. Think of them as guardrails that have flexibility and can tolerate exceptions.

What agreements might be useful to you and your kids? You want as few as possible, and only the ones that you will discuss when they are not followed.

One option is to identify what each of Ruiz’s agreements would mean within the family. Another option is have a family discussion about agreements and invent your list together.  

And how might you keep these agreements visible where they can remind everyone in the family? Post them on the refrigerator? Discuss at dinner? Buy everyone a bracelet that serves as a reminder of the list?

Keeping agreements visible and reflecting on them periodically as a family helps clarify the family’s expectations for what’s acceptable. And perhaps more valuably, it provides the framework within which to have some wonderful conversations. 

Take care,



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Start tracking your time together

If you want something to happen, begin to track and measure it. The awareness that comes from tracking and measuring is part of being both mindful and intentional. This applies to counting the number of steps we take each day, or the number of fairways hit when we golf, or the number of times we get a family member to talk about something that matters to them.

There are a few basic threads to enhancing relationships—being in the same physical space, doing things together, and talking about things that matter. Each of these can be tracked and measured. I realize it might seem a bit odd to apply an idea from project management to relationships, but the bottom line is that it will work.

Be in the same physical space—We don’t always need to be doing something with our kids to enjoy them and build relationship with them. Watching them at gymnastics or dance or soccer creates connection. Sitting at the same table reading while they do their homework creates connection. Children are always checking to see if we are watching. It matters.

Do things together—Make it a practice each week to ask your kids when they want to have some time with you. Ask them when it would work best for them and what they would like to do with your time together. Be willing to do what they want to do. This is not about finding something you both want to do. If it’s video games they want to do with you, then let them teach you how to play. If it’s reading, then read that book for the fortieth time. If they ask to play a board game, say yes.

Talk about things that matter—Ask each family member to talk with you about something that matters to them. Set aside whether or not you are interested in the same thing. You are interested in them—you don’t need to look for something you both love to talk about. When they do talk with you, listen and say just enough to keep them going; don’t take over the conversation with your own thoughts. This conversation is not about you. Listen intently and let them finish. Then—here’s the tough part—wait until they restart. Learn to think of a pause in their speaking as not an end or finishing point. It’s just a pause.

In addition to making time for conversation with each individual in the family, look for opportunities to talk as a family. My grandmother, Esther, had one request each Christmas—that for two hours at some time during the holidays, everyone would be in the same room talking. No games, television or distractions were allowed. Only one person could speak at a time, and the youngest person got to start. And then after that person finished, he or she would pick the next person to speak. Sure, people got excited and jumped in from time to time, but for the most part the conversation flowed as intended. Those were conversations that everyone in the family remembers fondly, even though it took the iron will of my grandmother to make them happen.

Family conversations are a huge part of creating relationships that are vibrant, supportive, and resilient. If family members are able to talk openly, the family unit is strengthened and becomes resilient to the upsets that are going to happen. The place to start is establishing a practice of allowing people to talk and have other members of the family listen intently. While you would like everyone to talk each time, people occasionally need permission to contribute just by listening.

Many families start when their kids are small, but it’s never too late to begin the practice of family conversations. One of my favorite opportunities is around the dinner table, where everyone gets to share by doing a debrief of the day.

 • What was the best part of your day?

 • What did you learn today?

 • What was the hardest part of your day?

 • What did you do for someone else today?

 • Tell me what you like and appreciate about one of your friends?

There are lots of times when you might start a family conversation. After watching a movie, discuss the movie. After a walk through a park, talk about what you saw. 

Set targets and then track and measure

Be intentional about the time and attention you give to each person in your family. Plan for this when you are setting up your schedule for the week.

Set a target for being in the same space with a family member each day.

Set a target for doing something together with some member of the family every other day.

Set a target for listening to each child—fifteen minutes each night for small children and at least three times a week for older children. If they want to talk more often, then set the bar higher. 

Set a target for having at least three family conversations during the week. You’ll have more if you set a target.

Then set up your score card and keep track!


Thanks to Brian Andreas at StoryPeople.com for this wonderful drawing and story!

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Make a difference by just ENJOYING your kids…


“We have to choose to slow down, to actually see the time and space that we are in…. To truly see people and accept them in their priceless moments.”     —Jodi Hills, artist and writer

We were learning machines once—when we were four.

Children are amazing when it comes to learning. They will play for an hour with a cardboard box—often longer than they spend with the toy that came in it. When they get a new idea, they practice it until they can reproduce it anywhere. Open-closed. Up-down. Soft-hard. They are curious, and they love finding something new that they don’t know.

When we were four, we were also focused with a determination that defied distraction. You might be able to deflect my attention momentarily, but if that remote control is what I want, I will get my hands on it.

This keen sense of focus gave us something then that we struggle now to recapture—awareness. At four, we didn’t have much going on in our minds except discovery and play and practicing a new skill or idea. We were very aware, present, and in the moment.

As a parent, there is a profound way in which you can support young children while they are learning—enjoy them.

Simply stop, observe, and wonder at the children in your life. A friend, Alice, just returned from a trip to New Zealand to visit her daughter, Abi. Abi’s instruction for the trip was simple: Look, Observe, Enjoy.

Notice the last word is Enjoy—which is different from assess and judge, correct, reassure, or anything else. Just Enjoy. Because to really enjoy something, you have to go deeper and appreciate it with all its idiosyncrasies and imperfections. Enjoy leads to real appreciation.

If we can step out of the training, correcting, guiding mode with our children and just observe and enjoy them, it will make a difference. Why? Because they will notice that we are watching. They will sense that we are watching with awe and wonder—that we are truly with them in this time, this place, and this moment.

“In a world where the pace of life is becoming ever faster, we need things to remind us of what life is really all about. To remind us of the meaning of friendship, of the uniqueness of each individual. We need something to give us back our time. Time to reflect. Time to read. Time to write letters. Time to travel. Or simply look at a picture, at the scenery, at a child. Time for beauty, for feelings. Time for the things that really matter.”     —Montblanc advertisement

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Am I in trouble?

We all hate to disappoint or upset people who look up to us—especially our children. The point of this post is to remind us that we can create unwanted reactions in others without realizing it.

A colleague varied his normal routine at home recently. Normally Rich devotes the time from when he gets home until his children go to bed to his family. This includes reading to his youngest daughter just before she goes to sleep. After she’s in bed, Rich often gets some work done in preparation for his next day at the office.

One evening, Rich had something pressing to get done, so he grabbed a quick bite to eat and then headed to a quiet spot to work on his computer. Two hours later, he went to his daughter’s room for the bedtime reading.

She greeted him with, “Am I in trouble, Daddy?”

“Of course not! What makes you think you are in trouble?”

“You didn’t talk to me when you came home from work.”

Our attention, our time, and our conversations matter to our kids. In the hectic pace of our lives, we can take our kids for granted and not interact with them in a meaningful way. And they will notice! 

One of the wonderful things about small children is that they tell us what they are thinking and feeling. Others in the family may not.

One option is to check in with every single family member each evening.

“How are you doing?”

“Everything okay?”

“Anything you want to chat about or ask?”

Anything you are excited about that you want to share?”

Even if they don’t have anything, they will know you asked, and that will make a difference to them.

The best inheritance a parent can give his children is a few minutes of his time each day.” 

— O. A. Battista, Canadian-American author

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I told you so…just don’t say it.

My perspective on raising kids is based in surrounding them with a set of conversations that enable them to believe in themselves and have a sense of how to be great in the world.

Today, let’s highlight one conversation that we just need to hit the delete button on each time we’re tempted to say it: 

     “I told you so.”     

Just don’t say it. You do not want to go there.

There is simply no value in making that statement. In fact, there’s real harm in it: It discounts the other person and creates a disconnect in your relationship. And more importantly, if you don’t say it, the conversation has a chance to go someplace new! 

A young man shared this story after we talked about “I told you so” in class.

Last night my fiancée was driving and took a wrong turn… For the first time ever, I didn’t say anything. I didn’t correct her. Usually I straighten her out in a heartbeat, and then we are off to the races, repeating an argument we have way too often.

Last night I didn’t say a thing, and here’s how the conversation went:

Fiancée: I just think I made another wrong turn. 

Me: It’s okay, we’ll get there.

Fiancée: Should I have taken the other turn? 

Me: Well, might have worked better if we had. But no harm, we can get there from here. Actually, we can get there from anywhere!

It was wonderful and so simple!

When you make someone wrong, they are likely to take it personally and no longer be available to input or clear thinking. When we get defensive, we lose our sense of perspective.  

A few other candidates for automatic delete would be these:

     Why did you do that?  

     What were you thinking?

     How many times do I have to tell you?

Go gently out there,


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Can girls play in the major leagues?

Last year, Cindy and I attended a Cardinals baseball game in St. Louis. Just in front of us sat a father with his young kids, a girl and a boy. The girl, who was probably about five, had her baseball hat and her glove, ready for anything.

At one point, the following conversation took place:

   Girl: “Daddy, can girls play in the major leagues?”

   Dad: “No, they don’t let them.”

   Girl: “Why not?”

   Boy: “Because they’ll cry if they get hit by a ball.”

And that was the end of the conversation.

This is obviously a tough question to answer. On one hand, there is a certain reality to what is possible in life. On the other, kids need to dream and think life is almost endless in what might be possible for them.

Later, Cindy and I discussed how that father might have answered his daughter—ways that would allow her to hold onto her dreams, not only about baseball, but more importantly about what she might do in life.

I don’t know this father or the girl or their family, so I can’t know what the best response would have been. But it’s less about a perfect response and more about noticing the conversation that just began.

I would hope that father could thoughtfully reply in a way that might open up the future rather than close it down—even in a small way. And even if he doesn’t answer in an empowering way in the moment, he could remember the exchange later and reopen the conversation. His daughter’s question could become a starting point for a conversation that might go back and forth for awhile, deepening their connection and understanding of one another.

If you notice the question and are thoughtful about your response, I trust your reply will be supportive and useful.

How would you have answered her?

The idea is that your words have the power to create. What are you creating for your child with your words? 
— Paul Axtell, Ten Powerful Things to Say to Your Kids

PS: The comment about crying is not something I want to address here, but the father’s lack of response might suggest to his daughter that he agrees with his son. This is a wake-up call to watch all family conversations more closely.

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Have we forgotten what it’s like to be small?

Recently a mother shared this comment from her son: “Mom, I’m not a kid anymore. Kids have single-digit birthdays!”  

Which left me wondering about whether we have forgotten what it is like to be small and to feel like we have no voice.

Have we forgotten what it’s like:

  • to be pulled by the arm faster than our legs can go?
  • to be left so far behind we get scared we can’t catch up?
  • to be waiting for the reaction to what we’ve done…a reaction we know will come?
  • to be sent to bed even though our favorite cousins can stay up later?
  • to get socks when we wanted legos?


  • to try over and over to get someone’s attention and not be noticed?
  • to have something we want to say and not be heard?

One of the loneliest places in life is to have no voice. Being heard is part of belonging, of being included. We will never be able to meet every child’s wishes or demands, nor should we. But we can listen. We can hear each and every question, comment, idea, or concern they voice. We can hear and let them know we understand, that they were heard.

That is doable, and it would be remarkable.



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Being human…and taking responsibility

For a long time I thought I had these flaws—things about myself that weren’t consistent with the person I wanted to be. 

I would say nasty things to my kids. I would have judgmental thoughts about others. Even worse, I would say them. I’d lie to my boss about having something done. I’d exaggerate my accomplishments to someone. You get the picture. Best I stop before you think I’m a bad person. 

Then I discovered that this isn’t necessarily limited to me. It’s about being human. Barry Lopez, in Crossing Open Ground, says it beautifully. He’s describing his experience of an ancient intaglio, a sculpture of a horse in stones on the desert floor.

“I spotted a stone tool at my feet. I stared at it a long while, more in awe than disbelief, before reaching out to pick it up. I turned it over in my left palm and took it between my fingers to feel its cutting edge. It is always difficult, especially with something so portable, to rechannel the desire to steal.”

With that sentence, Lopez became more than a gifted author for me. One of the things we admire about people is the ability to be vulnerable—to not have it all together all the time—to admit mistakes—to be human.

If I could raise my kids over, one thing I would do differently is to find many ways to share with them about my mistakes—I’d want them to get that it’s OK to be human.

Of course, it’s also important to realize that being human is not a free pass for poor choices. I once saw a sign at a church: “To be human explains so much but excuses so little.” To be great, one does really have to be responsible for it all.

So the point here isn’t to let ourselves off the hook for bad behavior. The point is to stop beating ourselves up. Tearing up our self-esteem doesn’t add value. Feeling guilty doesn’t, either. Noticing, acknowledging, and moving forward to be our better selves can make all the difference.


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Paul Axtell is the author of the award-winning Ten Powerful Things to Say to Your Kids: Creating the Relationship You Want with the Most Important People in Your Life, named Best Parenting Book of 2012. 

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Nineteen Things I Love About You…

Learn to communicate so your players feel more capable, valuable, and loved. You must see capability when there is no evidence…see value when evidence is to the contrary…and see what’s loveable even when it’s hard to find.  —
Tim Gallwey (paraphrased)

It is easy to come up with things that we like about our kids. And every once in a while, it’s useful and fun to push the boundaries of our awareness by stretching to come up with more than just a few.

I love going for 19 when I think about things for which I might acknowledge Cindy, our kids, and the grandkids. Something magical seems to occur for me around 12 or 13, when I need to dig deeper, reflect further, and find new words to express what I like about someone I love.

Here are some examples:

I love…

  • the way you look out for your sisters
  • your willingness to express yourself when asked
  • the way you think
  • that you notice friends who might be feeling left out

If you play with this idea, two things will happen. First, you will begin to notice more things about each of your children that you appreciate. Second, you will remain in touch with how great they are, which helps keep any problems you have with them in perspective.

And here’s another reason: If you give them your list, they will be able to reread it whenever they are in need of a hug!

On our website you’ll find several designs for cards that you can download for free and use to give your kids a perpetual hug.  


“We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”  –e. e. cummings

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This was originally posted last year, and it’s a message that bears repeating! 


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Five Ways to Enhance Your Child’s Self-Confidence

Self-confidence is described as the aggregate set of thoughts that we have about ourselves. 

We pick up these thoughts when we are small. Certainly we add other thoughts over the years, but that initial set is still likely to be hanging around and influencing our actions and choices in life. 

What ten thoughts do you have about yourself? 

Here are a few of mine:

  • I like to figure things out.
  • I can’t dance.
  • I don’t say as much as other people do.
  • I’m scared of people. 
  • I’m good at playing cards and other games.

Where did these thoughts come from?  

With some reflection, you’ll be able to identify why you have these thoughts about yourself. For example, if I look at my list:

  • I loved chess and Sherlock Holmes when I was a kid.
  • I remember feeling awkward dancing in elementary school.
  • My mother frequently described me to others as being shy.
  • Our family avoided confrontation at all costs.
  • I got to play cards with adults when I was very young.

You might note that I’ve replaced the “shy” label with “not speaking as often as others,” which is what is actually so. We can change these thoughts and stories about ourselves if we are willing to identify them and update the ones that don’t serve us well.

But life is definitely easier if we have a positive set of thoughts about ourselves from the beginning. 

Here are my five suggestions for how you might enhance your children’s natural self-confidence. These specific suggestions are less important than simply being conscious and intentional about your interactions with your children. Still, it’s useful to know where to start.

  1. Since words shape how we think, be very conscious of what attributes or characteristics you ascribe to your kids. Delete the limiting comments and keep identifying new, positive attributes. Comments said in anger or frustration are especially memorable, so do find a way not to say things in haste.
  2. Converse with your kids often in a thoughtful way so they develop their ability to talk with anyone. Whenever they talk, slow down and devote yourself to what they are saying.
  3. Ask them, “What do you think?” often so they both get a chance to express themselves and to learn from your attention that you value what they think. Whenever possible, let their thinking visibly influence your actions.
  4. Teach them how to do as many things as you can. With your supervision, they can replace smoke alarm batteries, cook from recipes, build birdhouses, or balance checkbooks long before you think they might be able to handle it.
  5. Play games with them. 

 I like number five because games were a part of my upbringing, and  some new research says there is a correlation between playing games and success.

“Play is one of the most cognitively stimulating things a child can do,” Megan McClelland, an early-childhood-development researcher at Oregon State University, told the New York Times recently.

The article concludes: “It turns out that a child’s ability at age 4 to pay attention and complete a task, the very skills learned in game play, were the greatest predictors of whether he or she finished college by age 25.” (see the full article here)

There you go. Good luck, and thanks for reading.



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I got a shorter leash!

I expect you’ve learned by now that immediate, in-the-moment reactions aren’t always the most useful. My kids certainly taught me that I sometimes needed a little time, a little distance, or a different perspective before I responded.

Some old sayings that suggest this wisdom has been around a long time:

  • Count to ten.
  • Walk around the block.
  • Sleep on it.

I learned this lesson in a positive way once while out running. As I approached a woman who was walking her dog, I saw that the dog was on a long leash. I moved off the sidewalk onto the grass as I passed them.

It wasn’t enough.

Before I knew it, the dog had a hold on my arm and was snarling and growling. Fortunately, it quickly lost its grasp and my arm came free. 

Once I was away from the dog, several things occurred to me to say to the woman, but none of them were very nice. So I just kept running. 

The next day I was out running again, and sure enough, up ahead was the same woman walking her dog. I had about half a block to consider what, if anything, to say to her. I realized it was up to me. I decided to take care of her, so I said, “What a great day to be out!” She just beamed back.

Two days later, I saw her again, but she was on the other side of the street. When she saw me, she smiled, waved, and yelled, “I got a shorter leash!” 

So now I have a new friend and a story that reminds me not to react in the moment in a way I might later regret, but rather to wait until I can respond in a way that works.

It’s easy to have a wonderful response when we see something coming. When we get caught off-guard, it is much more difficult. So when something happens at home, plan in advance how you might buy yourself some time to think before you speak. Here are a few ideas:

    “Okay, let’s discuss this tomorrow.”

    “Hmmm, I’m not sure what to say right now. Give me an hour.”

    “I hear what you are saying. I’d like to think about this before I respond.”

One of my favorite dialogues from Calvin & Hobbes also highlights this point:

Calvin: Sometimes when I’m talking, my words can’t keep up with my thoughts. I wonder why we think faster than we speak?

Hobbes: Probably so we can think twice.