Monthly Archives

June 2016

Four Fears that Undermine Good Parenting

By | Parenting | No Comments

whos-in-chargeMany of us, as parents, harbor some unfounded fears that, if left unchecked, can easily get in the way of our attempts to be good parents.

Nice Parent, Mean Parent

Have you ever noticed how often parents speak – even in jest – of being “nice” or “mean” to their children?  “My son wanted  to go to a friend’s house before finishing his homework. Read More

What Would You Do If You Knew You Could Not Fail?

By | Social Values | No Comments

whatwouldyoudo-imgSeveral years ago, I bought my wife a silver bar bearing the question, “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” It was meant to be an inspirational gift. Its message, of course, is quite clear: We tend to avoid challenging projects out of a fear of failure. Failing breeds shame, humiliation and other bad things. If we could only get rid of our fear of failure, who knows what we could accomplish? Read More

Is Vulnerability a Form of Weakness?

By | Social Values | No Comments

Young sad woman - low key portrait

What is your Achilles heel?   According to the ancient Greek myth, the warrior Achilles was destined to die in battle.  His mother, the Goddess Thetis, dipped him in the River Styx, which produced powers of invincibility.   However, in order to dip Achilles into the river, she had to hold him by his heel.   As a result, the heel was unprotected, and Achilles later died in battle from an arrow to his heel.

When we are vulnerable, we are open to being wounded.   And so, in one sense, our vulnerable spot is our weak spot. Read More

What Makes Learning Exciting?

By | Education | No Comments

communicating_science_home_children_experimentingWhat makes learning exciting? The Question. If you start with the question, you can never go wrong. There are three basic steps to the learning process – any learning process. It doesn’t matter whether we are talking about students in a school; the scientists in the laboratory; or the parent and child at the baseball game. It’s all about asking and answering questions. Read More

To Find Happiness in Life, Find the Good in Each Moment

By | About Self Cultivation | No Comments

findthegood1Happiness comes from finding the good in life.  If this is so, how can it be done?  What if things aren’t so good right now?   Does that mean I must resign myself to unhappiness?   How do I know what is good?   Does this mean that I always have to be trying to “do good”?  Does it meant that I can’t seek pleasure, and that I have to sacrifice myself for others?  Not in the least.

Here are three basic ways to cultivate the good in life. Read More

To Teach a Child Something, Offer Moderate Challenge

By | Education | No Comments


We all know what Goldilocks was looking for as she sampled the three bowls of porridge made by Mother Bear: Not too hot, not too cold, but just right.    Like anything, when helping our children adjust to emotional situations, getting it “just right” is easier said than done.  Happily, however, we don’t have to get it “just right” all the time.  Instead, we simply need to get it “just right” most of the time.  Happier still, giving “just the right” emotional guidance is more a matter getting to the “right range” than finding any single fixed point. Read More

How to Get Kids to “Pitch In”

By | Parenting | No Comments


Mom: “Paul, please bring those dishes into the kitchen and put them in the dishwasher.”

Paul:    “They’re not mine.”

Mom: “You live in this house, right?   So you have to pitch in.”

Paul:    “But it’s not my responsibility.”

Mom: “Just do it, Paul.”

Paul:    “Okay, but I don’t see why I have to…”

Sound familiar?   You are not alone.  Read More

Acting Out of Care: Why Self-Interest and Caring for Others are Not Incompatible

By | Parenting, Social Values | No Comments

Moral Identity DevelopmentBecoming a moral person doesn’t have to mean we have to sacrifice ourselves. When we come to identify our life projects around contributing to the good of others, doing the right thing becomes a source of self-satisfaction.

We often think of morality in the negative. We tend to imagine a big finger shaking at us, saying “don’t do this” or “do that”. We tend to think of moral rules as restrictive – as something that constrains our freedom. So, “don’t do that” means “don’t do the thing that you want to because it is bad”; “Do that” means “do this thing that you don’t want to do, but which is good.” Yes, moral rules are sometimes like this. To do the right thing often requires that we do something other than what we might otherwise want to do. Read More

Our Culture of Narcissism: Has it Affected Your Child?

By | Parenting | No Comments


My door is open. A student comes into my office. She walks in and says, “I’d like to drop one of my classes”. I smile, and as welcoming as I can be, I ask, “Do we know each other?”

Another student failed two courses during the previous semester. He had good reasons – a series of serious emergencies had emerged and he couldn’t complete his work. He was too ashamed to talk to his professors about his situation. I urged him to write to them. Knowing that he would likely delay the task, I invited him to email the professor while he was still in my office. He started to write: “hey. I would like to come and talk to you about…” Read More

An Open Letter to Teens (and Parents) About Sex

By | Parenting, Sexuality, Social Values | No Comments


The following is a letter to teenage children about sexuality.  This letter is for all teens, regardless of their age, sexual orientation or political persuasion.  It was written in a spirit that I hope will be seen as free from any particular political agenda, liberal, conservative or otherwise.   My hope is that the values expressed in this letter will be something that many of us can agree upon.  However, if we differ, my hope is that it will at least lead to meaningful conversation.  -MFM.

In our current culture, it is generally assumed that engaging in sexual activity is something that will naturally occur during adolescence.  Read More