Archive for January, 2013

Don’t Spank! It is Lousy Discipline and It Doesn’t Work (and may well cause damage).

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Couples come to me to discuss parenting. A common concern is discipline enforcement:   Father: “My wife keeps telling our children over and over what to do, and often gives up or is slow in enforcing the discipline. I want her to tell the kids something one time and enforce the consequence.  They listen to me cuz they know I’ll spank their behind. Nothing wrong with a little fear.  My preacher says to spank, hit ‘em with the rod like the Bible says.” Mother: “I don’t want you hitting our kids. I think there is a better way. I don’t think that’s what the Bible is all about.  I know I need to be more consistent and I will work on that, but please quit the spanking.”

Enforcing discipline is a parent responsibility.  Hopefully the two mentioned above parents will agree on the expectations they have for their children and what the appropriate discipline is when such expectations are not met. There needs to be a unified and consistent front by the parents.  Kids know how to “divide and conquer”.

Spanking is controversial.  People get real emotional about the practice.  Some say it is cruelty to children.  Spankers say “my daddy spanked me and I turned out okay”.

In a recent study published in the PEDIATRICS JOURNAL the findings concluded that spanking actually makes children more aggressive. Spanking remained a strong predictor of later violent behavior.  The study included 2500 youngsters.  The American Academy of Pediatrics does not endorse spanking under any circumstances. It says that spanking becomes less and less effective with repeated use and makes discipline more difficult as the child outgrows it.

I have witnessed many a confrontation between father and teenage son in my office over the use of physical force.  I’ll never forget the scene where a father told is fifteen year old son, “If you do that again, I’ll beat the s____ out of you”. The son replied, “If you ever touch me again I’ll throw you through the g___ damn window!” An extreme example, yes, but indicative of the hostility that builds up in a child that is hit.

Bottom line, spanking does not work. Oh, yes, it does say you the spanker.  For a very young child it does at first. It instills fear and the young child stops the behavior – while filled with resentment.

You spanker, try smiling and telling your child how much you love him or her as you hit/spank.  Tough to do. I have had many kids say to me that often they would prefer the spanking – “it’s quick and it’s over”- rather than punishments such as being grounded, having a privilege taken away, or not being able to do something that they want to do.

Discipline needs to be appropriate for the age and developmental stage of the child.  The goal is to have the child understand why such and such a behavior is wrong. Riling up negative emotions of fear, hurt and anger do not help with understanding. That is why “time out” is a good discipline practice. It helps the child calm down the felt emotion and begin to understand why the behavior was inappropriate.

I am aware that this research and my explanation will make a limited impact on you devoted spankers, but I wanted to give you the rationale for not doing it and offering alternatives. Pragmatically, spanking just does not work except for the moment for young kids who are fearful.  In time its effect wears off and fear is replaced by anger. And please, don’t try to paint the picture that I believe in coddling kids. On the contrary.

I believe in challenging kids to be the best they can be with high standards and expectations, with both positive and negative consequences depending on their performance. The message to our kids when they were growing up was that we expected them to be high quality people, excellent students, and be successful in the future personally and professionally. They have exceeded our high expectations. The above type disciplines served well in helping them succeed while maintaining a very loving bond with us their parents.

May you be as fortunate!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”     Socrates

Sometimes It’s Too Easy to “Judge a Book (Person) by the Cover”. Started to… Woops

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

You have heard that expression before, have you not?  How is it that you view people?  Do you make a quick determination based on the outside presentation?  Age, race, weight, stature, style, form etc…?

I had an interesting experience the other night that caused me to reflect on this for me personally as well as a seminal idea for an article to share with you.  I have continued my Atlanta practice on Mondays and Tuesdays since moving to Lake Oconee. Monday evenings, after a full day of emotionally draining sessions, I like to unwind with a bite to eat and a cool one or two. Sometimes I have been able to get together with my son or daughter for a “catch up” meal and sharing. Other times I seek out a place to “chill” and watch a sports event and/or the people around me.  I am an avid people watcher!

The place I ended up the other night was a hoot (not  Hooters)! I found it by chance. The destination Sports bar was deserted and a nearby little hole-in-the-wall bar had a jammed parking lot. Thirst and curiosity pulled me in. I entered a world of Karaoke, “American Idol”, contestants, replete with commentary by judges.  First off a man about five foot tall and wide waddled up to the stage to sing – and sing he did! Then came a skinny female, with washed out stringy blonde hair, toting a cigarette, who bounded up on the stage and belted out a powerful song.  If I closed my eyes I would have thought Carrie Underwood was singing; she was that good.  On and on the super wannabees strolled to the stage to present to the judges. All the performers were not as good as those first two – and the judges let them know in true Simon Cowell form.

Through the penetrating smoke I viewed patrons, old and young, ebony and ivory, obviously knowing and supporting each other with claps and hugs. After nursing my Blue Moon through the performances I finally was driven away by tiredness and a lady who ruined one of my favorite songs.

The experience got me to thinking.  As I observed the various people, was I too quick to judge and categorize these people on first appearance or was I open to see the person, the courage, and the talent that emerged on stage.  I saw a sense of connection by the people who clearly had a sense of community and caring amongst themselves.

In my profession I have the privilege of seeing beyond the surface person who presents his or her self to the community at large. In most every case, despite the sometimes disappointing behaviors of the person, I am able to see the core human being – one who is special, sensitive, and searching – like all of humanity.

Every person has a public persona which may or may not reflect the private core being underneath.  Sometimes an individual cannot present well the authentic self. It would be a mistake for the viewer of such a person to lock him or her into a stereotype and categorize such a person as being this or that – all because the viewer cannot truly see the person hidden.

What I am reminding myself and asking you to consider is “don’t judge a book (person) by its cover”. Each of us is special and has a particular gift to bring to this world. Those “American Idol” wannabees surely outclassed me in courage (You couldn’t get me on stage to sing a song with the voice I have been cursed with). And some of them had real talent.

I’m glad I stumbled (not literally) into this little showplace of Americana.  It was a good reminder of a value I try to live by – look for and see the whole person.  Hope you do that on a regular basis.  If not you can join me at the next smoky bar audition – and maybe you can take the stage!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”

Is Your Eating a “Healthy Slice of Life”?

Friday, January 25th, 2013

This article is about the mental and physical health component of responsible eating and taking control of what you put into your mouth.  “You are what you eat!”

Do you sometimes, or often, struggle to take a healthy control of your eating?  Eat too much?  Binge?  Eat the “wrong” foods?  Obsess over your weight? Bulimic/Anorexic? Resigned to being fat? What might be some of the psychological reasons that you are challenged in such an essential part of your daily existence?

Susan Biali, M.D., states that she “was obsessed with dieting and calorie-counting, which turned into compulsive eating and a powerful addiction to sugary fatty goods in my 20’s and 30’s – even though I had both a medical degree and a degree in Dietetics (Human Nutrition). It takes more than knowledge to develop a healthy approach to eating”.  Since then Dr. Biali has studied “the roots of compulsive eating patterns.”  She lists “five reasons why you can’t control your eating”.  Any of these fit you, Respected Reader?

  1. YOU CAN’T TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HUNGER AND APPETITE: Before you eat, do you ask yourself if you are really hungry? Where is the urge to eat coming from – your stomach or your mind? Can you tell the difference? Will something healthy suffice?
  2. YOU LET YOUR MOOD PUSH YOU TOWARDS FOOD: The next time you reach for something too sweet, salty or fatty, ask yourself what you are feeling. Are you sad, bored, or stressed?
  3. AT THE SUPERMARKET, YOU LET YOURSELF BUY THINGS THAT SABOTAGE YOU: Make a pact with yourself not to buy problem foods when you are out shopping for groceries.
  4. YOU DON’T PAY ATTENTION WHEN YOU HIT FULL:Eat slowly and continue to monitor yourself to see if you are getting full.  Then quit!
  5. YOU DON’T GET ENOUGH SLEEP:If you get less than seven hours sleep a night your brain actually starts producing appetite-stimulating hormones, and you’ll feel hungrier throughout the day.  Lack of sleep also affects your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar and can make you susceptible to diabetes.

Okay, now that you have gotten tips on you to control your eating habits, let’s turn to learning how to eat healthily. It is one thing to not eat the “wrong” things or eat too much. It is another challenge to eat the “right” things that help you to be maximally healthy – physically, emotionally, and mentally.

Personally, besides my wife who does a great job of managing our diet, I am particularly inspired, motivated, and directed toward healthy eating by a person who is very special to me. She is a certified Fitness Instructor and certified Life Style and Weight Management Consultant.  She also is a expert health and food blogger. The special person is our daughter, Brittany, whose web site of inspiration and knowledge is  AHEALTHYSLICEOFLIFE.COM. (Get the title tie in?).  Brittany has thousands of people reading her blog because it is filled with information, humor, and pictures to motivate healthy eating. I invite you to take a daily peek at her web site and see if you can benefit from such a daily dose.  Many people in my practice have begun to do so and report positive results in their eating and overall life style habits. May you also benefit!

Bon appétit!

Are You Able to Truly Love Yourself? Need to!

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

Of all the relationships in the world that exist the one that is the most important for you is the one with yourself. You are brought into this world to become all that you can be, to develop every ounce of your potential.  Your caretakers hopefully have given you a solid core on which to build, but it is the task of every adult to be responsible for full development — physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, and socially.  No one is here to take care of  you, no one owes you anything.  This is not an argument for extreme rugged individualism. There is no question that we can reach our full potential only while connected to other supportive people in our life.

If you do not love yourself you have nothing to give to others. (“You can’t give what you don’t have”)  Each of us has the Spirit of Love within us that empowers us to value ourselves, have high self esteem, and grow into a loving contributing human being.  Personal self love is a prerequisite before you can develop a healthy friendship or romantic relationship.  Self love is not to be equated with being solipsistic, selfish, and self absorbed.  For these people they are the be all and end all.  A truly loving person loves him/her self and shares that love with others

How do you know if you love yourself?  First, you might want to look at ways that you are not being your best self.  Some of those characteristics and behaviors might be:


  1. Eating disorders. 2.  Drug and alcohol misuse.  3.  Tobacco use.  4.  Being in unhealthy relationships. 5.  Depression or frenetic activity.  6.  Excessive spending.  7.  Limited productivity or excessive workaholism 8.Judgmental and critical of others.  9.  Not forgiving of self or others. 10. Pornography involvement


Needless to say no person is perfect and no person totally loves him/her self.  Personal growth is a work in progress. Such reality should not deter, however, your quest to be the best person you can be. People that love themselves act out from their inner core, their loving spirit or intuition.  They are free to be themselves.  Their motto is “What you think of me is none of my business”.  They do not need the approval of others to feel adequate.  They enjoy acceptance like anyone else, but they do not bend and contort themselves in every conceivable shape to get the praise of the crowd.  They are not excessive “pleasers”. Nor are they “controllers”, who always need to be right, in control, in the spotlight.

An interesting exercise in developing genuine self love is to write on a piece of paper all the things that you like or value about yourself.  Share this list with someone who cares and ask him or her to do the same.  You will experience a flow of positive feelings/energy that moves you forward to a greater ability to connect with yourself and with others. Self awareness of what is “right” and good in you is the first step in positive self-love. Seeing these same qualities in another person is an indicator that you are improving in this vital area of healthy living.

Did You, Will You, Do Your “Due Diligence” Before Marriage? It Can Save Heartbreak Long Term!

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

I see couples regularly who feel like they are “in love” and are thinking about getting married.  They are doing their “due diligence”. Such a term generally means a voluntary investigation of a person or business which you want to know more about, particularly if you are thinking of acquiring such an entity.  The investigation process either reassures the person that this would be a good choice or more thought/action is necessary before the final step of acquisition.

Since not enough couples take advantage of such a process I thought I would give an overview of factors involved with a couple doing “due diligence” with me.  (Feel free to cut this article out and send it on to anybody you know who may be thinking of leaping into the married state)  For those of you already married, it may be interesting to see what goes into researching factors that affect the probability of a success in a marriage.

When I meet with a couple I begin with them telling me how they have fallen “in love” – how they met, how long they have dated, when they contemplate being married.

After that the process begins:

1. What do you really like about your fiancee?

2. How do your 10Qs match up?  (Each person is asked to write the 10 qualities desired in the ideal partner, in priority order; and then write 10 qualities that are special about his/her self, in priority order, that s/he brings to the potential mate.)  This is a fascinating exercise that generates a lot of discussion.

3. What are things that bother you about your fiancée- things that you wish were different? Are alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, pornography, betting, eating, shopping a concern?

4. What are some of the typical issues or concerns that have arisen during your dating period?

5. Discuss the family that raised you.  Do the FAHG list in depth and discuss it individually with the therapist? What was your Father like?  Mother?  Step parent?

Did your parents have a good marriage?  What were the positives?  Negatives?  Would each of you want a marriage like your parents? How different?

6. What issues are you particularly sensitive to as a result of growing up in your family of origin?  How would you have changed your upbringing?  Do you have any particular wounds as a result of your family experience?  How close are you to each of your parents, step parents, siblings?

7. What is your previous dating/marriage history? (discussed individually) Any pattern?

8. How well do you communicate?  Any issues there?  When there is a thorny issue to discuss, what typically happens?   Who is the more aggressive?  Who is the more passive?

9. How do you resolve conflict?  Do you re-connect well when there has been a major disagreement.  Who usually initiates?  Who is the slowest to come around?

10. Does either person “fight dirty”?  How? Does either person bring up the past?

11. Are either/both of you able to forgive and move on?

12. Have you had in depth discussions about money, sex, children, parenting, spirituality, the kind of wedding you want, life style, career plans?  Are there any potential “deal breakers” present that are not being addressed?

This outline gives you a sense of how I assist loving couples do their “due diligence”.   As a result of this process some couples postpone their wedding, realizing they are not quite ready for the next step.  Some couples break up as they recognize certain things about themselves that don’t fit well for long term happiness.  Those that break up often bring back their next candidate for a “due diligence” examination.

This is some of the most important work that I do because it is preventative and educational.  Hopefully, it stifles a couple from going forward, having a poor marriage, and bringing an innocent child into the world to be emotionally hurt.  Also, it educates a couple and helps them grow individually and as a couple, thus more capable of marriage success.

I wish each couple contemplating marriage would do their “due diligence”.  Hopefully what is written here will be enlightening and helpful!


“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates