Category Archives: Personal Responsibility

How to Praise Your Kids

I get a lot of calls from people who say, “I can’t do anything because I don’t have self-esteem.”  My usual response: “b.s.”  I don’t wake up every day and tell myself, “Oh my gosh, I love you.”  It’s when I’ve done something that requires guts, sacrifice, or was extremely valuable to me that I’m proud of myself. 

Ever since the 60s, there has been a lot of psychobabble surrounding self-esteem.  People who buy into the “self-esteem movement” figure that the best way to combat low-esteem in kids is to artificially pump them up by saying things like, “You’re wonderful,” and, “That’s the most beautiful piece of art I’ve ever seen.”  However, this “person praise” does nothing to actually give them higher self-esteem.  You’re only blowing smoke and treating them like animals (“You’re such a good boy/girl” is something I say to my dogs). 

Instead, praise should be directed at a child’s effort.  For example, tell them, “Wow. You really worked hard on that!”  This is what is called “process praise” – you’re commenting on their diligence and persistence.  According to a study from the University of Chicago, kids are more likely to prefer challenging tasks and believe that intelligence and personality can improve with effort than youngsters who simply hear praise directed at them personally.  It sends the message that effort and actions are the sources of success and your approval.  If you’re impressed by their effort, kids will put in more effort.  If you just say, “You’re very good at this,” that’s it – they stay at that level. They won’t try harder because they figure that they have already reached the pinnacle. 

By praising the process, actions, and strategies (e.g. “I’m impressed that you did your best and worked hard to stick with it”), kids try to do better and better to impress you and themselves. And what happens when they impress themselves? Their self-esteem goes up. 

The bottom line: You can’t give your kids self-esteem. They have to earn it in their own minds.  Otherwise, you’re just handing them praise balloons and turning them into narcissists.

How to Cure the Navel-Gazing Epidemic

Narcissism is one of the biggest dangers today, especially with kids.  Parents are doing everything they can to rescue their kids from their own laziness and failures.  They hand out trophies when they lose and tell them they’re wonderful no matter what.  However, the only thing they’re doing is fostering empty self-esteem.
Many people don’t realize there’s a big difference between wanting something and deserving it.  They think, “I deserve something because I want it,” as opposed to, “I deserve something because I earned it.”  And when it comes to self-esteem, their attitude is no different.
A lot of callers come on my show saying that the reason they make bad choices is because they have low self-esteem.  However, they have it backwards: it’s because they make poor choices that they lack esteem for themselves.  Self-respect requires effort.
About six months ago, a Pakistani girl named Malala Yousafzai was shot multiple times by a Taliban gunman on the way home from school because she stood up for women’s education.  She was taken to Britain and a brilliant team of surgeons saved her life.  Her face looks a bit numb and she has a hard time talking, but she can use her arms and walk.  This girl is a hero and inspiration to us all.  Why?  Because she earned it.  She bravely took a public stand in a region where it’s very dangerous to do so.

Self-respect doesn’t just happen by virtue of being born or because you’re breathing – you have to earn it by what you do.  I can’t believe that people actually expect themselves and their children to feel respect for themselves when they haven’t earned it.
So, how can we adjust this narcissistic attitude?

It all starts with the parents.  First off, I think every parent who allows their child to have their own personal, private Facebook or Twitter account is being negligent.  It gives kids a false sense of who they are in the world, and they have only one way to go from there – down and out.  According to a brilliant essay by Dr. Keith Ablow, Facebook introduces kids to a world of fantasy which artificially makes them feel special, mature, powerful, and important.  But ultimately the bubble bursts and the fake autobiography explodes.  They end up depressed and either kill themselves or someone else.

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/01/08/are-raising-generation-deluded-narcissists/?test=latestnews&intcmp=features#ixzz2HV6CQ8Tm

The rule also applies to television and cell phones.  Your kids should barely watch TV and only if you pick out the programs.  They shouldn’t have a cell phone, but if they do, it should be an old-style phone that only allows them to make calls (not text!) in case of an emergency.
In addition, parents need to cease being weenies and start being leaders in their homes.  Women have to stop dumping their kids in institutionalized day care so they can go off and “esteem themselves” by working.  Furthermore, there are too many unhappy and lonely children as a result of divorced parents who are either too bored or too invested in some new guy or gal to be giving and loving.  Not only does it destroy children’s homes, but it also opens the door for pedophiles who prey on neglected, lonely kids with inattentive parents.
Let’s make fewer excuses (e.g. “We’re too busy and tired,” “All the other kids are doing it,” “You can’t control it,” etc.), and parent more.

What I Wish I’d Known in School

Being a kid can be tough, especially when it comes to school.  Here is a list of 10 things most of us wish someone had told us while we were students:

1. The most popular and highest achieving kids in school are NOT always the most successful in the real world.  Success in the academic bubble does not necessarily translate to success in work and real life.  While you’re in school, take heart and stay focused because slow and steady wins the race.

2. Just because you’re not part of the “cool crowd” doesn’t mean you’re not cool or unique.  I remember one time just before Christmas break, I was walking out of a chemistry exam and a guy in my class who rarely spoke to me came up and said, “It must be wonderful to be like you and not get nervous about big tests like this.”  I looked at him and laughed.  I said, “What the heck are you talking about?  I’m a wreck just like everyone else.”  It just goes to show you that not only is perception in the eye of the beholder, but it’s also not always on target.  The reason I seemed composed going into exams was that I developed a “leapfrog focus” (i.e. “When the exam is over, I’m going to see a movie/have hot chocolate/etc.), but that didn’t mean I wasn’t a nervous wreck.  I’m amused at how we can all look at each other and think something is true when it isn’t.  Everyone has feelings, insecurities, ambitions, and dreams that aren’t apparent on the surface.  

3. The smartest, most interesting, and most creative people usually aren’t the most socially comfortable or interested.  It’s the least popular, most focused kids who become the most influential and successful.  They’re the ones thinking day in and day out about the big things they’re going to do with their lives.  So if you’re one of them, don’t worry.  And if you’re not, don’t be mean to them.  You never know who’s going to be signing your paycheck or be in a position to help you down the line.  As they say, nerds rule.

4. Being different is actually good.  In the adolescent and post-adolescent years, there’s a lot of pressure to conform to the group, agree to their rules, and dress, talk, and behave a certain way.  It’s a matter of belonging.  However, even though there’s a lot of pressure to fit in and be like everyone else, you can get to the point where you lose sight of who you are at a time when you’re supposed to be discovering yourself.  Therefore, being like everyone else is in direct conflict with what you really need. 

5. Pursue what you love regardless of what people say. You have to remember that people in school are painfully limited in their perspective on the world.  Whatever it is that you’re really into, that you want to stay up late reading about, or you’re thinking about when you should be focusing on a lecture or studying may be the key to what you build your life and career around.  Don’t ignore your passion. It doesn’t matter if anybody else thinks it’s stupid – it’s your passion.

6. Extracurricular activities and internships are sometimes more important than academics. Interacting with the outside world gives you invaluable experiences.  The more you interact with adults, businesses, community groups and execs, the more comfortable you’ll be networking with them when you need a loan, a job, advice on your career, admission to grad school, etc.  Get outside the bubble of school and build a network.

7. Courses and majors in school do not necessarily correlate to opportunities in the real world.  I laugh at some of the majors colleges have, such as “Women’s Studies” or “Communication Studies.”  What the heck are you going to do with those?!  Some of these degrees simply aren’t pragmatic in the real world.

8. Teachers and professors are not the enemy.  Consider them as mentors and friends.  Talk to them often for advice and counsel.  Ask them for extra help, perspective, or just to go over something again.  When I was a professor, I really appreciated the students who came around and wanted to learn more. 

9. Your parents and family usually have your best interests at heart.  They may not always understand why you do some of the things you do, but give them the benefit of the doubt.  Don’t make life harder on your folks.  The better your relationship is with your parents, the easier life is going to be.  Period.  You need family. 

10.  Life is complicated – get used to it.  Consider all the frustrations you’re going through now as training for the really big stuff later.  Learn to deal with conflict, confusion, challenges, and tackling things you don’t like or understand in school because adulthood is a much more dangerous atmosphere.  Develop the coping skills you’ll need for the rest of your life.  The biggest war is not with your teachers or your parents, but the one you have with yourself over who and what you’re going to be and what you’ll stand for.

Video: Silly, Selfish and Cheated While We Dated

You and your ex-boyfriend are flirting with the idea of getting back together. However, there’s just one problem: before you broke up, you cheated on him and he still doesn’t know. Should you tell him?   Watch:

Read the transcript.

Why You Should Keep Striving in Life

All of us suffer from a phenomenon known as the “end of history illusion”.  Essentially, we tend to underestimate how much we will change in the future.  For example, everyone looks back and thinks, “I can’t believe I did those stupid things”; “I can’t believe I was so wrong/silly/impulsive”; “I can’t believe I really liked that food/hobby/band”; “If I only knew then what I know now…”

Although most people acknowledge that their lives have changed even in the past decade, they generally underestimate the extent to which their personalities and tastes will shift in the future.  We like to concentrate on our present wonderfulness and think that the person we are at the moment is who we’ll be forever.  Yet, change is inevitable and change is constant.  You’re never going to be the person you expect to become for the rest of your life (unless it’s one second before your death).   

However, I think there is an even more important reason why people don’t accept how different they’ll be in the future: “If I am going to change, it implies I’m not so terrific now.”

I choose not to look at it that way.  Instead of seeing yourself as someone with a bunch of flaws to correct, I think it’s a better attitude to consider the changes as opportunities for growth.  You’re expanding your horizons and having new adventures.  As I mentioned on-air, I was a little unhappy about turning 66.  It just seemed old to me.  However, I decided that instead of this being my slide down, it was going to be my slide up.  Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of work with metal and jewelry for my Dr. Laura Designs store.  My motivation is to keep learning how to use new tools and master different techniques (sometimes I drive myself so crazy that I have to close the door of my craft room and watch a movie to get my brain to leave me alone for a minute).  I keep myself in a constant state of learning with my crafts, program, and life in general. 
       
It’s also important to accept that you’re never going to be perfect.  When I’m filing a piece of metal, it seems like a never-ending process.  I do my best to file away all the tiny imperfections, but no matter how much I file, it’s never going to be perfect on a molecular level.  However, I don’t stop trying – I just accept that it won’t be perfect.  Striving for perfection without accepting that there isn’t any is neurotic.

I think that’s the best mentality to have in life: accept that you’ll never be perfect, but keep putting your best effort forward.  We will all die one day and we still won’t be perfect.  However, instead of sliding down the ladder because we feel like it’s no use, we need to keep going up.  As long as there are still steps on that ladder, we need to climb them.

Stop Putting Off Your Procrastination Problem

The definition of procrastination is putting off something that was planned or scheduled.  Statistics indicate that most people procrastinate.  At least 20 percent of the population calls themselves chronic procrastinators, and according to some researchers, procrastination has more than quadrupled in the last 30 years. 

I think that more and more people have become accustomed to procrastination in recent years for the same reasons that fewer men are going to college and fewer young adults are becoming autonomous – very little is expected of them anymore.

When we were in the era of responsibility, obligations were taken seriously.  Very few people procrastinated because there were consequences for doing so.  However, people today are hardly ever held accountable for anything, especially teens and young adults.  It used to be that if you had an 8-to-4 job, you arrived at your desk at 8 ready to work; you weren’t stumbling through the door at 9.  A lot of young people don’t get that, and then wonder why they are having such a tough time getting jobs.  It’s not just because of the economy – there is simply a lack of respect for young adults in the business world today because they lack commitment, work ethic, diligence, focus, and pride in what they do.

In addition, advances in technology have come at the cost of reducing many people’s effectiveness.   Between the TV, Facebook, and the latest Blackberrys and iPads, technology is providing people with constant distractions.  And with more lazy, unmotivated people sitting around drooling into screens, it’s no wonder that the procrastination statistics keep going up. 

Another contributing factor is that there isn’t a whole lot of parenting going on anymore.  Fewer and fewer kids are spending time with Mommy and Daddy at the dinner table discussing their day.  Chalk it up to divorce or no parent staying at home, but the outcome is the same: kids get away with murder and there’s no hell to pay.  Parents are failing to teach their kids about obligations and responsibilities.  A hundred years ago, kids got up at 5 a.m. and did a whole heck of a lot of stuff before they went to school.  Nowadays, I have parents calling me up complaining about how they can’t get their kids to get dressed in the morning.  It’s ridiculous. 

As you can see, people are not born procrastinators; they are formed to be that way.  And sadly, when they become chronic procrastinators, the results can be dire.  They often experience financial failure or end up dying younger than they should because they don’t bother to go get tests.

If you have a problem with procrastination, here’s what to do:

People procrastinate for all kinds of reasons, but more often than not, I think procrastination is a kind of passive aggressive behavior: “Screw you!” “I don’t have to!” “I don’t want to!”  “I don’t feel like it!”  So, if you really want to change, stop being hostile and start acting like a responsible person.

Don’t overthink what you have to do or make things too complicated – just get started.  It’s funny how something you were initially dreading can all of sudden become easier once you start it.  If you want an example of this, just listen to some of the people who call in to my program.  They may start off extremely nervous, but once they start talking, all their hesitation goes away.   

If you feel overwhelmed by a big project, break it up into smaller chunks.  Start with the hardest part first and then take a step back.  You’ll likely find that once you’ve finished each smaller task, the bigger project isn’t as difficult as you feared.

If you don’t have the right skills to complete a project, do some research or call someone to help you.  YouTube, for example, has a million useful little videos of people explaining how to do all kinds of stuff.  I learned how to drill certain jewelry pieces I’ve worked on from watching YouTube videos.

If you don’t have the right tools, find out where you can buy or borrow them.

Set realistic goals.  What can you realistically do given your abilities?  Ask someone to help pace you.

If you’re easily distracted by clutter, your phone, or your friends, then block out time dedicated to working on what you need to get done.  I rarely have my cell phone on me.  It certainly frustrates a lot of people who want to get a hold of me at that precise moment, but when I want to sit and deal with something, I cut out the distractions.  One of the things you must do in life is prioritize.  Do what needs to be done first, not what you wish to do.  Always remind yourself of what the highest priority is.
 
If you are a perfectionist (as I tend to be), you need to learn to control your impulse to be perfect.  I remember reading about one culture which purposefully put one tiny mistake in everything they made.  I thought that was so clever – what you do doesn’t always have to be perfect to be an expression of you.

Lastly, if you are afraid of failing or taking responsibility, you need to remember that the greatest failure is sitting there like a lump of protoplasm and not trying.  Failing is an inevitable part of trying, but failing is not an endpoint – not trying is.  Failure is at least a step forward toward success.

Getting yourself organized and putting a stop to your procrastination is pretty simple.  Set a reasonable goal, give yourself a time frame, dump the excuses, and figure out a way to hold yourself accountable. In short, just make it happen.