Letter from a Father: A Call to Duty

BTLifesMomentsGeorge Washington is referred to as “The Father of Our Country,” but it’s interesting to note that he never had any children of his own. He married a widow named Martha Custis; she had children. Her grandson was named after his step-grandfather: George Washington Custis. Washington and this boy were close.
G. W. Custis had a daughter named Mary Anna Custis; she married Robert E. Lee. In turn, the Lees named the first of their seven children G. W. Custis Lee. So Washington and Lee were related, but it took their wives to make it happen.
There’s no argument Robert E. Lee was one of the finest generals to ever come out of West Point. His brilliance as a military leader was matched only by his spiritual values, a deep sense of duty and honor, and his role as a husband and father. (His personal involvement in the Civil War was not about slavery; it was about Virginia.)
Here is part of a letter Lee wrote to his son, George  Washington Custis Lee. The boy was away at school. Although this letter was penned over 150 years ago, it contains a father’s message that is timely even today.


… In regard to duty, let me in conclusion to this hasty letter inform you that, nearly a hundred years ago, there was a day of remarkable gloom and darkness. Still known as The Dark Day, it was a day when the light of the sun was slowly extinguished, as if by eclipse.

Quill PenThe legislature of Connecticut was in session. And as the members saw the unexpected and unaccountable darkness coming on, they shared in the general awe and terror. It was supposed by many that the Last Day, The Day of Judgement, had come. Someone in the consternation of the hour moved an adjournment.

Then there arose an old Puritan leader—Davenport of Stamford. He said that, if The Last Day had come, he desired to be found in his place, doing his duty. He therefore moved that candles be brought in so the House could proceed with its duty.

There was quietness in that man’s mind, the quietness of heavenly wisdom and inflexible willingness to obey present duty.

Duty then is the sublimist word in our language. Do your duty in all things, like the old Puritan. You cannot do more; you should never wish to do less. Never let me and your mother ever wear one gray hair for lack of duty on your part.####

History tell us young Custis Lee was faithful and obedient to his father’s call to duty. He rose to the rank of major general in the military of the Confederacy, commanded a full division of the Army of Northern Virginia and, for a time, was an aide-de-camp to President Jefferson Davis. He lived into his 80s during a time when that alone was quite remarkable.


Teaching Children Kindness (Christy Monson)

BTAboutThemHow do we teach children appreciation and compassion? Helping children become empathetic is an ongoing process. The habits we create in childhood will last a lifetime. Are we not all a Work-in-Progress?

CMonsonphotoThe Cookie Jar Incident
James rushed into the house after school.

“Mom, can Tom play?” Tom stood in the door way, waiting.

James hurried to the cookie jar and helped himself to a handful.

Mom entered the kitchen. “Tom is welcome to stay until it’s time for soccer practice.”

She turned to James. “Would you like to offer Tom some cookies?”

“Oh, yeah,” said James. “I forgot.”

Tom got his cookies, and the boys hurried off to play.

A Teaching Moment
Small incidents like this occur in all our homes daily. Mom could just let this incident pass, but it was an important teaching moment for James. Just before bed that night when things were quiet, Mom talked with James about it.

“How do you think Tom felt when you grabbed some cookies and didn’t offer him any?”

James thought a minute. “Umm, not very good.”

“How would you feel if Tom did that to you at his house?”

James hung his head. “Mad that he had cookies, and I didn’t.”

Mom rubbed James’s back. “Good thinking. It’s no fun to watch someone have treats when you don’t get any.”

James smiled.

“What will you do differently next time?” Mom asked.

“Be sure to give some to Tom.”

Family Talk BookMom’s Wise Approach
Notice how Mom taught James a very valuable lesson in caring:

• She handled this situation without attacking or blaming.

• She used open-ended questions (Ones that can’t be answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no.’) to find out if James understood the concept of sharing.

• She praised James for his insight.

• She finished the conversation by asking James what he would do differently next time, helping him to set a behavioral goal to go with the sharing concept.

The BEST Way to Teach Kindness
Mom modeled the behavior she wanted James to learn. She treated him as she would have him treat others. I’m always amazed when I see a parent lecturing a child in a belittling way about love and kindness. What is the meta message Mom and Dad are giving?

Mom may need to have this conversation several times before James really internalizes it. No one paints a masterpiece or gives a musical concert without a lot of practice. Let’s give our children time to grow and become the best they can be—and that takes time and effort.

And while we’re teaching our kids, let’s evaluate our own lives. Is there room for improvement? Remind yourself to be kind when you remind your children. ###

Visit Christy’s website [link] for more information on her books, free downloads on helping children through divorce, death and tragedy, and other pertinent information for helping children become the best the can be.
To access Christy’s radio-style interviews and articles on The Changing Behavior Network, use the search box on the right, entering “Christy Monson.”


Healing the Father Wound (Guest: Keith Zafren)

BTRadioIntAn autographed copy of Keith Zafren’s book, How to be a Great Dad: No Matter What Kind of Dad You Had, will be given away June 18th in a drawing from the Support Forum membership.


The Father Wound is a powerful and descriptive concept; it’s all too real to many. It represents the emotional damage done to an individual by a male parent. Intentionally inflicted or not, a Father Wound can run deep and stay there, robbing one of much joy and purpose in life.

KZafrenphotoFather Wounds can be blatant and obvious, as with a father that is consistently absent, abusive, compulsive or addicted. In other cases, Father Wounds are more subtle, as in the case of a father that is physically present but emotionally absent, harsh, judgmental or critical, or the father that had difficulty showing support and expressing affection to his children. It’s very possible the father in this instance was himself wounded as a child.

Too often, wounded individuals feel they are to blame for the hurts they suffer. Consequently, the Father Wound is buried and covered over, but it doesn’t go away. These folks then become at risk for wounding their own children.

KZafrenBookHere’s the good news: Father Wounds CAN be healed. Our guest on this program, Keith Zafren, author and founder of The Great Dads Project, understands the Father Wound all too well; he experienced it. But Keith also experienced the healing of the Father Wound, and he graciously shares his research, findings and practices regarding intervention. He will walk us through the steps and processes involved in getting to a point of peace and purpose, a place where hurts of the past no longer hinder one’s present.

Keith is a Jack Canfield certified Success Skills Trainer and the author of the award-winning book, How to Be a Great Dad: No Matter What Kind of Father You Had. Through his years of work as a pastor, as a founding board member and fatherhood trainer for the Prison Entrepreneurship Program, and, as mentioned, founder of The Great Dads Project, Keith has touched the lives of thousands. ( 32:05    )



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How You Can Learn to Create Structure for Your Teen with Behavioral Disorder

BTAboutThemTeens that have behavioral disorders need structure from parents in order to reduce bad behavior and maximize positive behavior. However, many parents don’t know how to create structure that really has an effect. Frustrated parents that feel they are just punishing their teenagers all the time, with no real results, need to learn successful methods on creating structures for teens with behavioral disorders.

Behavioral disorders in teens are common, with conditions like oppositional defiant disorder, attention deficit hyperactive disorder, reactive attachment disorder and conduct disorder topping the list. While more boys than girls seem to develop behavioral disorders, parents of all troubled teens should learn the signs and symptoms of behavioral disorders in order to create an appropriate plan to deal with them.

How You Can Learn To Create Structure For Your Teen With Behavioral Disorder

What follows are five steps that you can follow to successfully create a structured environment. (For a detailed and very informative infographic, CLICK HERE)

1. Recognize and reward good behavior. Rather than become a parent who is constantly critical and always punishing, make sure you recognize when your teen does something right or contributes positively in some way. Rather than tangible rewards, use praise, recognition and increased responsibilities to highlight the good behavior.

2. Set up a routine. Children and teens thrive on stability and predictability, so setting up a home routine that is consistent, calm and reliable will help a lot. Getting up and going to bed at a set time is a good start, starting homework at a certain time, and assigning chores to be completed on certain days, are all good examples. Children and teens with chaotic lives are less likely to be able to control themselves and their behaviors, so you can help a lot by setting up the household schedule to keep everyone on track.

3. Create a list of consequences. Together with your teen, create a list of consequences for bad behavior. Do this in a calm moment when both of you are not emotional. Allow your teen to help create the list and come up with some of the consequences. For example, missing the designated curfew without calling will result in the loss of the teen’s cell phone for a week. Setting up the house rules and the consequences of breaking them will get both parent and teen on the same page and everyone will know what to expect.

4. Find stress relievers. Teens deal with a lot of stress. When they don’t have a healthy outlet, sometimes that stress results in bad behavior. Whether its hobbies, recreation, entertainment, sports or exercise, you can encourage your teen to participate in activities that relieve stress and boost self-esteem.

5. Provide unconditional love. Rebellious teens frequently test the boundaries of parental approval and constantly wonder what it would take for their parents to stop loving them. Extreme bad behavior can cause a lot of tension between parents and teens, but expressing love in all circumstances can help teens feel the security and support they need in their daily lives.

Successful implementation of structure in the home can really reduce stress for parents and help teens gain better control over their behaviors and impulses. When there are set guidelines for both parents and teens, home life will be a lot smoother and teens will be better able to transition successfully through adolescence.###

This article is provided courtesy of the Liahona Academy.



Can Our Children Carry on the Family Values? (Dr. Daniel Trussell)

BTAboutThemWhile most parents don’t expect that their children will become carbon copies of their parents, they likely want their children to live “the good life,” one full of integrity, honor and justice.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThoughtful parents put a great deal of effort into instilling their own values, attitudes and a solid moral framework for their children to take into young adulthood. But how do parents know they are really “getting through” and that their children will embrace similar values, attitudes and an ethical frame of reference to pass on to their own children?

Children who can easily articulate the values that belong to the family and who have had these values reinforced through action over words tend to fare better in living out these values as they leave home and go out into a world full of competing choices.

DTrussellResearch suggests that children who are taught age appropriate self-determination (as defined by Deci and Ryan as supporting one’s natural or intrinsic tendencies to behave in effective and healthy ways) are better equipped to understand why a family has certain attitudes toward family attitudes and values around justice, family loyalty and respect, the role of the individual in community, social, school and work life, health and wellness goals, spiritual or religious affiliation and other values the family has honored over generations.
Likewise, teaching your child to think critically can strongly reinforce similar values in him or her. As the youngster becomes more independent in the world, this tool will serve them well.

Engaging with your child not just about what your values are, but why you find them important and the natural consequences of violating them, improves adoption of the values you think your child will need to carry into adult life.
Piaget and developmental psychology expects that children are typically unable to perform functional critical thinking before around the age of eleven. Fully independent reasoning, judgment and prudence are exhibited around 25 to 30 years of age. Nonetheless, it is never too early to explain why you have rules, values and attitudes, and to explore with your child a way to manifest those values.

Both self-determination and critical thinking are building blocks toward helping to establish your child’s desire to not only embrace the values you find important but to act upon their own value system to pass on to the next generation. ###

Daniel Trussell, Ph.D., MBA, LPC, NCC, CPCS is author of The How Families Flourish Workbook and How Families Flourish. He is a certified Professional Counselor supervisor and conducts training for both professionals and families in incorporating the findings from positive psychology into daily life. He can be reached at drdanieltrussell@gmail.com. [website]



Calming Our Kids, One Meal at a Time (Guest: Trudy Scott)





Research now clearly states and continually reinforces the connection between dietary deficiencies and issues of mood and behavior in children and teens. The good news is that, in many of these cases, changes in diet and eating habits can relieve characteristics like anxiety, depression, frustration and outbursts of anger. (This is not to infer that all emotional and behavioral diagnoses stem from dietary concerns, but it is one of the easiest and quickest places to start positive changes.)

Trudy Scott, the guest on this program, brings us hope and encouragement based on her findings, her experience, and the hard evidence of cutting-edge research. She takes us through nine steps toward healthier and happier young people starting with the foods and minerals we serve them.

Trudy is an established food-mood expert, a Certified Nutritionist, and author of the popular book, The Anti-anxiety Food Solution. She is the immediate past President of the National Association of Nutrition Professionals, and she serves as Special Advisor to that organization.

Trudy’s informative website is www.antianxietyfoodsolution.com (25:19)

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Words of Wisdom, Indeed (A Quote from Stephen Covey)

BTAboutThemWhy do we go the extra mile with the youngster that challenges us at every turn? Author Stephen Covey has insight into an answer with this quote from his bestseller, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.


As a teacher, as well as a parent, I have found that the key to the ninety-nine is one, particularly the one that is testing the patience and the good humor of the many. It is the love and discipline of the one student, the one child, that communicates the love for the others. It’s how you treat the one that reveals how you regard the ninety-nine, because everyone is ultimately a one. ###



Turbulent Times: Discussing Them with Your Children (Dr. James Sutton)


If you have questions or suggestions regarding how we can best help our children through difficult events and circumstances, please share them on the SUPPORT FORUM.


My child worries excessively. All the bad news on television and other media keeps her upset constantly. Just this past week she asked her father to buy a Geiger counter so we could see if our home was radioactive. What should we say and do to help her calm down a bit?


Jim415smThis is an excellent and timely question. Some children (and adults) are more sensitive to events and circumstances than others. It’s a safe bet, however, that trouble, threat and difficulty aren’t going to go away, so it helps to soothe and fortify our children when and where we can.

Worry and concern are nothing new. When our parents and grandparents were young, they worried that the Japanese would attack the west coast. In fact, there was conjecture that an attack could reach as far as Chicago. Then, after the Korean Conflict, we focused on the Russians and the atomic bomb. I can still remember the A-bomb drills in elementary school. (Does anyone remember the slogan, “When you see the flash, DUCK and COVER!”) Businesses selling family fallout shelters you could bury in your back yard seemed to spring up overnight. From earthquakes and runaway nuclear reactors to idiots bringing guns to school and using them, trouble and threat stoke enough fear to upset anyone.

We can’t shelter and shield our children from every shred of news they encounter, nor should we. But we can offer them clarification and support.

Here are a few suggestions in response to this mother’s timely and concern-laden question.

— Always remember, kids personalize EVERYTHING. That’s just the way they are. When a child expresses empathy for the children victimized by the earthquakes, tsunamis and nuclear threats, a deeper message could well be, “What if that had happened to ME?” Although their benevolence and concerns for others are genuine, their more troubled thoughts are often much closer to home.

— Don’t minimize their worries or their feelings. Saying, “Now don’t you worry about that!” doesn’t make worry go away. Often it only causes a child to feel foolish for experiencing a valid emotion: fear. It’s better to say something like, “I understand your concern; can I help you with that?”

tsunami— Clarify the facts. When kids don’t have good facts, they make up their own, and they’re usually more dismal than the truth. A child growing up in Kansas might fret about tornados, but she can be shown how a tsunami isn’t very likely at all, or how thousands of miles of ocean protect us pretty well from the reactor problems in northern Japan. (It would help to let her reinforce this conclusion by showing her a globe or a world map.)

— Offer soothing and support through family rituals. Hug them more, touch them often and keep a dialog open. I can still remember warmly my parents or my grandmother sitting with me as I said my bedtime prayers. Those were special moments; they made (and still make) a difference.

— Suggest how they might help. Doing something no only helps others, but it offers a sense of control over worry and concern. A child could be encouraged to collect aluminum cans with proceeds going to Red Cross assistance in recovery. Better yet, the youngster could get friends involved, adding to the effort.

CD(Back in the days of the A-bomb scare, my father was a Civil Defense Block Warden. He went to meetings, attended first-aid classes and stayed prepared, just in case. I can’t tell you how many “pretend” head injuries and broken arms my sister and I sustained for the cause. Bottom line: Dad felt better when he could DO something. It’s the same with our children.)

— Remain observant. Note any changes in eating or sleeping patterns, or continuing signs of excessive stress or anxiety. Note also if the child has more difficulty than usual handling everyday frustration. Monitor performance and grades at school, also.

— Seek assistance, if needed. Although a child’s parents should a first-line resource for help and comforting, it’s possible the parents could feel overwhelmed in the effort. Input from others, such as the school counselor or a family’s pastor, could prove helpful. ###

Psychologist Dr. James Sutton is the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network.


Traumatic Incident Reduction in Children (Guest: Marian K. Volkman)

BTRadioIntIn my part of the country (Texas) recent rains and flooding have inflicted trauma on many individuals and families. Here’s an earlier interview I did with Marian Volkman, Certified Trauma Specialist; it addresses ways to address traumatic experiences as they affect children. If you’d care to interact with others on this topic, we welcome you to join The Changing Behavior Network SUPPORT FORUM. –JDS


MVolkmanphotoTraumatic experiences can seriously affect a person and his or her ability to function and adapt in just about all aspects of life. Traumatized children often struggle a great deal because of their difficulty in communicating what troubles them.

Fortunately, there are ways of helping a traumatized child reach a state of emotional healing, realized to the degree and point that the effects of tramatizing circumstances and events no longer trouble them. It is gratifying to observe this sort of change in a child, change that can be both empowering and permanent.

cover_1162Marian K. Volkman, our guest on this program, brings her experience and expertise to share with us how positive outcomes with a traumatized child can be accomplished. Marian, a Certified Trauma Specialist, has been using Applied Metapsychology and a therapeutic approach called Trauma Incident Reduction (TIR) since the 80s. In fact, she has taught TIR techniques all over the world. She is the editor of a collection of best practices of TIR with children, a book entitled, Children and Traumatic Incident Reduction: Creative and Cognitive Approaches. (26:20)


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Why Failure is a Good Thing (Mehdi Toozhy)

BTAboutThemLife teaches us that in every mistake we learn a lesson. Failure is a step to success because every mistake teaches us something. Failure is not a loss, but a mindset.

Mehdi ToozhyThis past winter snow and ice covered my neighborhood. When I took my daily walks, I inevitably ended up slipping and was a laughing matter for few onlookers. I learned from this and the next day I got an anti-slip bracelet for my boots. Now I can take longer walks and go on icier trails.

Failure is etched in our mind as a negative thing. It is like looking at the coin and only seeing one side. The truth is humanity could not have achieved progress without the benefit of failure.

From a Motor to an Empire
To understand why failure is a good thing, we must first change our attitude toward it. Putting emotion aside, failure is the opportunity to gather valuable information in order to make the next attempt successful.

An example is Japanese businessman Soichiro Honda. He was a Japanese engineer, industrialist, and the founder of Honda automobile and motorcycle industry. He famously declared:

Success represents the 1 percent of your work which results from the 99 percent that is called failure.


He started in a woodworking shop. He failed many times on his journey to develop this multinational business. His initial project was working on devising a motor for the bicycle. This motor eventually led to the creation of the Honda motor. Every failure brought him closer to his goal. His attitude toward failure can teach us success is an outcome of repeated failure.

What Nature Teaches Us
Next, how does nature teach us about failure? Lions, the king of the animal kingdom, repeatedly fail. Studies have shown that most hunting attempts of the lion end up in failure. It has been observed that when hunting as a team, only 4 out 10 hunts end in success.

To become an expert in your own field one needs to consider failure as part of education or evolution. Niels Bohr, one of world greatest physicist declared his view on failure:

An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made in a narrow field.


Pushing the Boundaries
In our world, we push the boundaries by building new structures, machines, reaching further into space and pushing the limits of science. There will be failures that lead to changes and improvements. In the future, super-fast computers will help us to become more efficient in learning from failures and we will bounce back faster after being knocked down.

Here are two simple steps to make your failure into success:

1. A Positive Attitude: When faced with a failure, step back and take a note of the reasons behind the failure.

2. Persistence: Find a role model and remind yourself your role model faced similar situations but kept trying. Positive thoughts are fuel for your mind.

Failure Shapes Success
So how did how failure shape (and continues to shape) our world in a positive way?

FlemingPenicillin, the wonder medicine, was discovered by Sir Alexander Fleming. He was attempting to find a cure for other diseases, and through failures he discovered a fungus that was dissolving the surrounding bacteria. This fungus was the start of penicillin.

As with the discovery of penicillin, when a person fails in one area, it may lead to success in another area.

During my first year at University in Denmark, I failed to perform well in math and physics. I wondered about my next semester and the tougher challenges ahead.

Then I practiced a subconscious problem solving technique. That is to train my subconscious to do the problem solving. One can do this by going for a walk, taking a shower or watering the lawn. If one gets away from the problem, a solution can come quicker. I managed to master this technique and I scored perfect marks in many challenging subjects.

How can failure impact us? According to a study published in the Journal of Motivation and Emotion, failure can result in feelings of inferiority, fear of trying and lowering confidence. It is important to recognize these elements so they can be addressed. Failure impacts each person differently but the principle is the same.

What I do with my kids to remove fear of failure is to encourage them to try. For example, when my son fails to draw an animal on the paper, I tell him to look at the painting and see if it resembles any other animal. This helps to build his self-confidence and he is willing to try again. We managed to encourage by:

1. Persistence

2. Creativity

3. Self-Confidence

When your child fails, approach it with a constructive attitude. The Journal of Motivation and Emotion has proven that sad feelings from a difficult experience last longer than a pleasant and happy experience.

This knowledge requires parents to be mindful of support and encouragement that is needed to help their child out of the sad zone. Show your children examples in nature and emphasize the importance of persistence skills as key ingredients in going from failure to success. Examples are all around us. We need to learn how to see them.

Steps for Addressing Failure
The next time you see failure in your life or in your child’s life, consider the following steps.

1. Relax and take a deep breath.

2. Go to a quiet area and think what you can learn from this failure.

3. How can you takes lesson from this failure and apply to the next step.

4. Be a big-picture thinker and remind yourself now you are one step closer to getting things right.

Remember failure is simply part of natural human development. Every atom is from collapsed stars that failed to support their weight under immense gravitational force.

So relax and enjoy your journey toward success. ###

Mehdi Toozhy is a graduate of Oxford University and the renowned co-author of a scientific research paper published in the Journal of Sound and Vibration. He placed in the top 5 percent of students while studying at the Danish Technical University and achieved 100 percent in many of his challenging technical subjects. His proven study techniques, covered in his book, Keys to Success at School and Beyond, have helped many students worldwide to achieve success. For more information, go to www.MehdiToozhy.com.