Category Archives: Character

Teaching Children About Choosing Friends

Every parent frets about their kids having “weird” friends.  At some point, children always seem to gravitate toward some unhealthy, unpleasant, or annoying kid that you don’t like. 

Kids pick their own friends, and who they choose says a lot about their character.  However, they also get drawn into situations where they feel compelled out of fear or threat of isolation to be friends with certain kids.

I remember my son having a bunch of his buddies over once.  When they all left, he came to me and asked, “So, did you like them?”  I told him I particularly liked the ones who could look me square in the eye.  I didn’t say that I disliked anyone in particular.  I just said that I thought the ones who could look me in the eye were more straight, confident, and comfortable kids.  I told him it was just a preference on my end and that he may see other things in them.  Perhaps one of them couldn’t look me in the eye, but they were always there for him when he had a problem.  

If your son or daughter has weird friends, you have to give them little hints like that.  By doing this, you’re not criticizing, condemning, or excommunicating any of their friends.  You’re simply giving feedback.  The minute you start singling out and condemning one kid, your child is going to become best friends with him or her.

Ask your child what they think constitutes a good friend.  Have them to think about what happens at school:

  • Who’s not nice?  Who hurts other kids? 
  • Is anyone bossy?  Does anyone tell your child what and what not to do, or use threats to get them to do things?  Do any of your child’s friends try to make them feel guilty if they don’t get what they want?  
  • Does anyone get jealous or angry if your child spends time with other people?
  • Do any of your child’s friends talk behind their back, laugh at them, or make fun of them?  Do any of them spread rumors about your kid, tell lies, or share stuff they told them in secret?
  • Do any of your child’s friends play rough by hitting, pushing, pinching, kicking, scratching, slapping, or punching? 
  • Do any of your child’s friends ignore them if they haven’t gotten their way?  Do they only pay attention when they want something and ignore your child when he or she has something important to talk about?

Instead of attacking a particular kid, what you should be doing is constantly grooming your child to be thinking about these things and then have them make their own decisions.  Kids choose their own friends, and at some point, parents become secondary to their kid’s friends.  That’s just the way it is.  When you attack your kid’s friends, it’s like pulling the rug out from under them when there’s no floor there.  Instead, you should be more indirect about it and avoid the tug-of-war.  Discuss with them what the qualities and behaviors of an unhealthy friend are.  Keep your voice very low-key, and help them understand that friends do not embarrass each other, put each other down, pressure each other to do bad things, act nicely only when they want something, or reveal information they share in confidence.  Put it back on your child to think about. 

When you see your child in cahoots with a particularly snotty, nasty, or rotten little bugger of a kid, just tell them, “You know, I was a little surprised that when Johnny or Mary said ‘blahbity blah,’ you didn’t stand your ground.  I think standing your ground is a good thing.  Sometimes it may annoy our friends, but there are times when it’s important to stand our ground when we know certain things are right and wrong.  You might think about that for next time.”  So, instead of saying, “That kid’s rotten and I don’t want to see him in the house anymore,” you’re putting it on your child to have strength of conviction.

You can also set limits and boundaries, such as telling your child that he or she can only play with their friend when they are at your house.  In addition, one of the best things you can do is to take the stinger away.  I’ve been suggesting this for years and years and years – especially when kids call saying their friend is being mean.  For example, tell your child that you are going to take them to the zoo and suggest they invite some of their friends, especially the ones you’re having a little trouble with.  While you’re at the zoo, make an alliance with the kids you think are rotten.  You don’t know what’s going on in their homes or what’s making them so difficult, but you can sometimes tame the beasts when you invite them to the beach or ask them to come over for a picnic or a barbecue in the backyard. 

I remember once my parents were concerned about a friend of mine whose nickname was Penny.  I don’t know why they were so concerned about Penny at the time, except that we got into some trouble.  Remember those phony phone calls?  As kids, we’d call up someone, ask them if their refrigerator was running, and then tell them they’d better go catch it.  Or we’d dial a bread company and order a whole bunch of bread to be sent to somebody’s house.  It was pretty terrible – we only thought about the people we were annoying, and we didn’t consider the poor bread company.  I remember my dad sitting me down and saying, “OK let’s talk about what a friend is.  Does a friend have you do things that are bad?”  I responded, “Well, I guess not,” even though at age 9 I thought friends that did bad stuff were pretty fun.  He then went through a list similar to the one I discussed earlier and said, “Now you make up your own mind.” 

Given the power to make up your own mind, you tend to do the right thing.  You don’t believe me?  If you’ve got kids who always squabble over who has the biggest piece of cake, pie, or whatever, next time let one of them cut it and the other one pick the slice he or she wants.  It’s amazing how the pieces all of a sudden come out even.

Feeling Envious or Jealous?

People get jealousy and envy mixed up a lot.  Let me give you a thumbnail sketch of each:

Envy is the emotion you get when you want something that someone else has.  It’s a two-person thing: there’s you and the person you’re envious of.   You could want beauty, wealth, socioeconomic status…whatever.  Envy is wishing and wanting. 

A good example of envy can be seen in Snow White.  The evil queen envies how pretty and sweet her stepdaughter is and does the whole “mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?” routine.  The film also portrays one of two types of envy.  There is malicious envy (i.e. Snow White’s evil stepmother), and then there’s sort of everyday benign envy.  When you are maliciously envious, you become vicious and try to hurt other people by trying to take things away from them.  If you are feeling just benign envy, you are looking at other people and thinking, “Wow, I wish I had that,” or “I wish I could do that.”  It’s more motivating than destructive.

Jealousy, on the other hand, is a three-person thing.  It’s the emotion you get when you fear that someone or something is going to be taken away from you by someone else.    

Jealousy was the main theme of the movie, Gladiator.  Caesar’s son was very angry with Russell Crowe’s character because his dad admired this soldier guy more.  So the son killed his dad, took over his position, killed the wife and kid of Russell Crowe’s character, and put him in “gladiator hell” because Daddy – just like in the “Cain and Abel” story – loved one of them more.  

Envy and jealousy affect everyone’s life.  I think, statistically speaking, we’re envious infinitely more than we are jealous.  However, what really matters is what we do when we feel jealousy or envy: How do we experience it?  How do we cope with it?

I have always rejoiced when someone who I perceive as having earned something has success.  I have a tough time not resenting people who get things they haven’t earned.  That, personally, is my struggle.  But it’s not in my nature to do something evil to them because of it.  I don’t wish to give into “the dark side.” 

Here’s what you can do the next time you are feeling jealous or envious.  Let’s say that one of your coworkers gets a promotion and you don’t feel like they deserve it.  Or maybe you’re jealous that your spouse gets to be the breadwinner and you have to parent, or vice versa.  Well, you can either say, “Oh gee, I wish I had ‘x’,” and spend your time being miserable, or you can be motivated by it.  You have to choose between misery and motivation. 

Ultimately, you have to put your I.Q. over your emotions.  I talk about that dichotomy on my program on a daily basis.  Emotions are irrational and powerful, and they can only be combated with your brain.  You have to realize that although you may be 100 percent correct about something being unfair, there is not a damned thing you can do about it.  You can tear yourself up or tear them down, but either way, you won’t be acting like the kind of person someone else would envy.  Instead, use it as motivation to turn yourself into the kind of person everybody envies. 

No matter if it is envy or jealousy you’re consumed by, it’s going to be difficult for you to enjoy others’ success if you continue to dwell on it.  And furthermore, nobody’s going to envy you if you’re a bitter, frustrated, ugly, angry person.

Sexualizing Our Kids

The problem with exposing kids to sex has far more to do with trivialization and objectification than simply encouraging kids to do it.  It has to do with what kids are taught about human connection. 

Feminists are always saying that it doesn’t matter how a woman dresses.  Well, actually it does.  It sends both gals and guys a message.  When a woman dresses provocatively, it basically tells the universe that it is the best she has to offer.  Sure her body may be beautiful, but you have to realize that for guys, the beauty of a woman’s body eclipses her inner beauty (especially with all the movies out there that are geared towards teenage boys and celebrate guys sleeping around).

Women who tend to objectify themselves are more likely to have eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression, and they are more prone to being sexual risk-takers.  If women are going to represent themselves as sex objects, then there will be no equality between males and females. 

I get so many calls from parents concerned about their kids being out of control and acting like they are adults in committed relationships.  Their kids are shacking up because they’re still rebelling and don’t want to follow the rules.  This behavior is dominating our society, and for parents, it’s like being up against Goliath. 

So, what can we do?

Parents have to spend a lot more time being invested and involved with their kids. Stop with the divorces and working 17 jobs.  Realize that if you are going to have kids, you have a huge responsibility ahead of you.  Parents should praise kids’ intellectual, creative, and athletic abilities, but value their effort, hard work, and character over achievements.  Character is far more important than looks or personal accomplishments.  In short, parents really need to recommit to being parents. 

And remember, if you don’t put the time, effort, and caring in to your kids, somebody else will.  Do you want it to be you or their buddies and the media?

Is Chivalry Dead?

Are men chivalrous anymore? 

The answer is largely “no.”  The reason: women’s behavior.

“Chivalry is a quaint word dating back to the days of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, referring to gentlemanly behavior towards women.  We think of Sir Walter Raleigh gallantly spreading his cape down on a street so Queen Elizabeth of England could walk across a puddle without getting her feet caked in mud. Over the centuries it manifested itself in such common courtesy as opening the door and letting a woman enter before you, pulling the chair out so the man’s date could sit down, or helping a woman take off her coat.

It’s hard to believe now, but in the early 1960s John and Jackie Kennedy era, chivalry was a huge part of our culture, along with men wearing suits and hats to baseball games and women wearing gloves, hats and mink stoles. Then the whirlwind of women’s liberation swept over the land the next three decades.”

Now first off, I want to make it perfectly clear that I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with women having equal opportunities.  If they have the ability, then the opportunity should not be closed to them.  That goes for everything – gender, race…whatever.  If you have the ability, you should not be denied the opportunity.  That’s basic civil rights, and I am very big on that.   All I’m saying is that women shouldn’t automatically have the opportunity just because they are females.  For example, if a certain number of push-ups is required for a particular job, then the number of push-ups that male and female applicants have to complete should be the same.  If a woman can’t do what a man can do physically, then she can’t be a firefighter.  You can’t have quotas for things just because it seems fair.  We promise equal opportunity in our country, not equal outcome.  I mean it’s silly – should you really be allowed to get a job just because you want it?! 
 
And it’s this feminist attitude that has made respect and admiration between men and women take a nosedive.  Women’s studies programs teach women that when men act graciously, they are attempting to control them and keep them down.  They encourage women to be hostile, become major ball-busters, and think they can have babies without men because kids don’t need a daddy.  If you listen to them, they say just about every woman is beaten, raped, and cheated out of everything (just read Who Stole Feminism by Christina Hoff Sommers if you think I’m nuts).  And when these women dress like pigs, talk like pigs, and act like pigs, it is a little demoralizing for men to put them on a pedestal, take them out on dates, and treat them like they’re special.  Think about it.  Chivalry has to do with respect, and we don’t see women behaving with much dignity when they hook up and have multiple sexual partners.
   
Although chivalry is dead, there are still nice guys out there who would act chivalrously, but they simply don’t know what the hell women want.  Today’s men are very frustrated and scared because they accept women’s equality, but they are afraid that if they act romantically, they will come across as sexist and offensive.  I don’t blame them.  I mean it’s just the stupidest stuff that makes women angry with men.   

For example, when I was just starting to date boys, my dad was very clear with me: “If a fellow opens his car door, then go out on the date with him.  If he doesn’t open the car door, turn around and come back inside the house.  Don’t have a conversation about it, don’t argue, and don’t demand anything.  Just say thank you very much and wave goodbye.”  However, if a guy tries to open a door for a woman today, she tells him, “No, I can open it myself.” 

All I can say is if you’re a guy and a woman behaves obnoxiously like that on a date, just let her open the door herself.  In fact leave her there.  Tell her she can call a cab herself too because she’s equally competent to do that.  If a woman acts in an ungracious way, dump her.  Don’t waste your time, money, and effort on her.  If you go out of your way to be chivalrous, kind, and thoughtful, and she doesn’t behave in a way that shows she respects, admires, and appreciates it, she’s not a woman – she’s just a female. 

It makes a man feel good to be protecting and taking care of a woman, and it should make a woman feel good to know that a man is being respectful and thoughtful of her.  If I walk into an elevator and a man lets me walk in first, I turn around and say, “Thank you very much.”  Most of the time they look utterly surprised to get the compliment. 

We’ve lost something beautiful and it’s something so essential in a love relationship.  If you treat your husband like he’s a man, you’ll get more manly behavior.  If you treat your wife like she’s a woman, you will get more womanly behavior.  The polarity between men and women actually means something despite what social trends say.  I don’t care how big of a feminist you are – we are still hardwired. 

Women should expect men to provide, protect, nurture, and love them.  If they don’t want to allow that, they are going to miss out on a lot.

My Blunt, No-Nonsense Answers

Dr. Rodger Dean Duncan is widely known in the business world as an expert in the strategic management of change.  To name only a few, his client list includes American Airlines, IBM, eBay, Federal Reserve Bank and presidential cabinet officers in two White House administrations.  Dr. Duncan recently asked me to comment on personal responsibility, ethics, values, and moralities of today.  You can read my interview at his website: DoctorDuncan.com

Married with Friends of the Opposite Sex

If you are in an intimate, marital relationship, you need to be sensitive and appropriate when it comes to friends of the opposite sex because it’s a very complex and delicate situation. 

The most important issue you should be concerned about is the safety, comfort, and trust of your spouse.  Too many times on my program, I hear from people who care more about their friend than their spouse.  To me that’s a dead giveaway that the friendship line has been crossed, whether you’ve been naked with the person of the opposite gender or not.

I want to discuss some ways you and your spouse can be protective of each other, but still have friends of the opposite sex:

What does it look like?  If you are getting together for a drink with someone who is on the verge of leaving a relationship, lost their spouse, lost their boyfriend or girlfriend, or is known to fool around, it’s inappropriate.  Plain and simple.  You’re only fibbing if you say, “Well, I’m just trying to be helpful and solicitous.”   Especially if your spouse says they don’t want you to be helpful and solicitous to somebody in that situation and you argue that point, it means you’re interested.  Just have the person go see a counselor, a member of the clergy, or family.  Your marriage is always supposed to come first.

Be careful of that little “edgy” sexual tension.  If either one of you is feeling a little horny about the other, or if you’re touching, talking, or acting a little suggestive, seductive, or over-the-line cutesy toward each other, it needs to be over.  If your relationship with a friend in any way makes you question or stress about your boundaries and limitations (which every relationship does at some point), you could be led toward temptation, which will change everything in your universe forever.

You should always make sure you introduce all your friends to your spouse.  Have them over for dinner or a barbeque.  Have them be familiar with the family, and have everything be on the up-and-up and open.  Full disclosure makes it clear to everybody that it’s a friendship – solo time is where the problems start.

You need to socialize with others who are also in committed relationships.   People tend to hang with people who share their same values, more or less.  So, if couples are friendly with each other and everybody has clarity, then everyone is sharing the same values.  Your wife can go with your friend’s husband and do archery while you go do a mini-marathon with his wife.  As long as it’s all on the up-and-up and everybody is sharing the same values, that’s the important thing.

Be careful about using the words “sweetie” and “honey.”  “Sweetie” and “honey” should be saved for your spouse and should not be used on a friend.  Use the person’s name when talking to or about them, and save the lovey-dovey stuff for your spouse.

Give your partner power.  In addition to honesty and openness, you have to be willing to give your partner power.  If your spouse is really uncomfortable about a particular outside relationship, I recommend you honor that and make the appropriate adjustments.  However, if your spouse just freaks out at anybody with the opposite genitals, then that’s an insecurity that has to be dealt with, probably by a professional.

What it all boils down to is that all the choices you make have to be in the best interest of your marriage first.  Otherwise, you’re not being nice, and it’s all going to come back to bite you.

My Opinion About the Shootings in Colorado

I know everyone’s glued to the news right now trying to figure out what piece of information they can get out of the “Batman” movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado to keep themselves safe in the future.  However, the fact is there isn’t any. 

You could say, “Well, since children were killed and injured, perhaps the parents shouldn’t have brought children to a movie theater at midnight in the summer (much less a 6-year-old) to see a PG-13 movie.”  But that’s not fair.  They’re not in the slightest way responsible for what happened.  They should have the right to take their kids to a movie if they want to (even if it has a PG-13 rating).  You could argue, “It sounds like the shooter put some tape on the lock to the emergency exit to get into the theater and somebody should have noticed it and prevented this from happening.”  But seriously, who looks for tape on door locks?  The first thing you’d think is that some kids had wanted to sneak into the movie, and if they were already inside and saw the movie, why would they try to sneak in again? 

“What about checking people before they went into the theater?”  But tear gas, guns…who imagines that?  Interestingly enough, a lot of people thought this was a fun thing the theater did for the “Batman” movie.        

And of course somebody already said to me, “Oh my god, how crazy is he?”   To people like that, I can only shake my head.  Crazy is talking to lampposts.  Crazy is seeing elephants that are pink.  Crazy has to do with hallucinations, delusions, and the like. This guy is not crazy.  He’s just evil.  He planned out everything beautifully.  He was totally prepared with guns, a bulletproof vest, and canisters of tear gas.  I mean he even picked The Dark Knight Rises at midnight.  This was drama.

I’m sure he’s going to get some defense attorney who’s going to argue that he was molested by his mother’s cousin’s uncle’s grandpa, and when he got to this age, he just felt compelled to kill people.  I mean just ridiculous crap.

But in my opinion: he enjoyed every moment. 

When you think back to things like the Bataan Death March, Pol Pot in Cambodia, the concentration camps in Germany, Russia massacring millions of people, and the wholesale murdering of innocent people in Syria, Egypt, and Africa, all of these tragedies were orchestrated by evil people – people who enjoyed it.  If you’re a German soldier throwing a baby up in the air and using it for target practice, or lining up children and mowing them down, that’s not insane, that’s just plain evil.  A lot of you want to think these people are crazy because then you can fix them with a pill or therapy.  But people like Charles Manson and all his little buddies, they weren’t crazy.  They weren’t disconnected from reality at all.  Instead, they wanted to change reality into something for them to feel more powerful, special, and connected.  That’s not crazy.

A lot of you don’t want to accept that there is evil.  One of the reasons the world has gotten so dangerous is that the level of sociopathy has increased dramatically.  Today, we’re surrounded by heroism for bad guys.  I mean when I grew up, everything I saw on TV or in the movies was the good guy wearing a white hat, the bad buy wearing a black hat, and the bad guy always got it in the end.  I didn’t grow up seeing all these gangster rap videos with females gyrating all over the place and guys calling for people’s deaths, hating women, and hurting people.  I just didn’t grow up seeing that as entertainment.  When I grew up there was right and wrong, right won, and you took care of wrong – you didn’t just stand by. 

So, when I look at this horrible tragedy, the lesson learned is not about parents taking their kids to a PG-13 movie late at night or tape on a lock.  The main thing to learn from this is that we need to keep our eyes open, and get involved if we think someone is a problem.  Bring them to the attention of the police or FBI.  I ask people all the time on my program, “This has been going on how long?  Children have been at risk how long?  Who has called Child Protective Services?  Who has called the police?, etc.”  And do you know what answer I normally get?: “I haven’t told anybody.  I didn’t want to get anybody mad.”  Stop worrying about upsetting people.  Bad people need to be “cut off at the pass.”

For all you folks who choose to stand by and don’t do anything because you don’t want to upset your family, know that you’re also perpetrators.  No, in fact, you’re worse.  You’re cowards.