20 Things Parents Should Never Do!

August 11th, 2017

Yes, here is more advice for parents. Are you a parent who takes parenting seriously and truly wants to learn as much as possible to be able to parent your child(ren) as positively and as successfully as human possible? If so, read on. There may be some perspectives offered that you had not thought of, or perhaps have slipped your mind.

This offering comes via Dr. Daniel Amen, psychiatrist, noted brain imager, and frequent presenter on PBS. I spent a day with him many years ago and came away impressed. He is all about understanding the brain and finding ways to wire it for maximal performance. His suggestions follow, along with my thoughts. This is the NEVER do list

  1. IGNORE THEIR BRAINS: The brain controls everything your child does. If the brain is troubled, particularly in the early learning years, the child will be troubled in later life.
  2. FORGET WHAT IT IS LIKE TO BE A CHILD/TEEN: Remember the challenges and struggles you had as a child. You then will have more empathy, understanding, and patience for your child.
  3. RARELY SPEND QUALITY TIME WITH THEM: If you spend quality time with your child you will have a good relationship. Thus, s/he will emulate your behavior and learn the right way to grow up.
  4. BE A POOR LISTENER: Try to focus in and truly hear your child. S/he will feel valued and respected which helps build self esteem.
  5. CALL YOUR CHILDREN NAMES: If you do call your child negative names s/he will internalize them and live out that descriptor.
  6. BE OVERLY PERMISSIVE: Multiple studies have shown that children that did not have appropriate boundaries and guidelines, with consequences, grow up with more psychological problems.
  7. FAIL TO SUPERVISE THEM: You child’s frontal lobes do not develop fully until the early 20’s. Therefore your vigilance in knowing where they are and what they are doing is paramount.
  8. BE A LOUSY MODEL: If your life style motto is “do as I say, not as I do” you are setting yourself up for frustration. You want to model the behavior that you want your child to emulate.
  9. ONLY NOTICE WHAT THEY DO WRONG: Try to catch your child doing the “right” things. Positive reinforcement will continue to motivate them to do more of these behaviors.
  10. TELL YOUR CHILDREN THEY ARE SMART: Dr. Amen stresses to point out how hard they work. I agree with that but I don’t see the harm in telling children they are smart – if they are. If they are not, then don’t tell a lie!
  11. IGNORE THEIR MENTAL HEALTHY ISSUES: Dr. Amen states that it takes an average of 11 years from the time a child exhibits psychological symptoms til s/he gets evaluated. Don’t miss the signs!
  12. IGNORE YOUR OWN MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES: Look in the mirror. Do you have psychological issues that should be addressed? You want to be the best parent possible, don’t you?
  13. GIVE INTO TANTRUMS OR OTHER BAD BEHAVIORS: If you do you will teach them what you will tolerate. They then will learn what misbehaving they need to do to get what they want.
  14. DIMINISH THE OTHER PARENT: Whether you live together with the other parent or not, do not trash the other. Your child loves each parent and gets distraught hearing either one being negatively talked about.
  15. NEVER GET TO KNOW THEIR FRIENDS: Especially during adolescence, the most influential people in your child life is not YOU, it is his/her peers. Know these friends and their families if possible because they are significantly forming your child.
  16. BE REACTIVE: Have a plan, goals that you set for parenting. Have expectations and consequences, and be consistent. Don’t just fly by the seat of your pants in reactive mode.
  17. DON’T UNDERSTAND NORMAL BEHAVIOR: By knowing what is normal at a given developmental stage you will better recognize when your child does something out of norm so that you can respond appropriately.
  18. TELL KIDS HOW TO THINK: You want to be a good coach, not a dictator. At the appropriate developmental stages you want your children to be curious as they mature into their unique selves.
  19. KEEP KIDS UP TOO LATE: Children need more sleep than most parents realize for optimal brain development and function. Enough sleep is a priority. The growth hormone actually works more effectively while your child is sleeping. Consist bedtimes help.
  20. FEED YOUR CHILD THE STANDARD AMERICAN DIET (SAD): A human’s brain uses 20-30% of the calories that you consume. If you feel your child a fast food diet you will have a child with a fast food mind which is associated with ADHD, depression, and dementia later in life. Feel your child brain healthy food to foster optimal brain development and function.

Well, caring parents, do you have all that?  Parental reminders can help keep us on track to do the most important job in the world – raising healthy, safe, successful kids!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”    Socrates.

Why Many Stay At Home Moms Get Depressed And Lose Self Esteem

August 2nd, 2017

Being a Mother is challenging.  One of the many challenges is the decision to be a stay home Mom (SAHM) or go back to work, full or part time. Sometimes there is no decision to be made. The only choice is one or the other. This writing focuses on the stay at home Mom and why so often she becomes depressed and loses her self esteem. To be clear here, there are many Moms who thrive being a stay home Mom. They feel very fortunate to be able to stay home with their children and find many ways to remain happy and feel good about themselves. Our daughter, Brittany, is thriving in this SAHM role and is excited to begin home schooling her oldest who is closing in on six years old.

Quality research published by the American Psychological Association, citing various studies, found that working mothers reported better health and fewer symptoms of depression than stay at home moms. There are many variables involved in such studies, i.e. age, economic status, number of children, age of children, husband presence/support, etc… .

A University of Washington study by Katrina Leupp stated that stay at home moms showed signs of depression more than working moms. These stay at home moms shared these symptoms: withdrawal from people, work, pleasures and activities; spurts of restlessness; sighing, crying, moaning; difficultly getting out of bed; lower activity and energy levels; lack of motivation; weight gain or loss. Their thinking patterns were: inability to make decisions; lack of concentration or focus; self criticism, self blame, self-loathing; pessimism; preoccupation with problems and failures; thoughts of self harm and suicide; sleep deprivation.

Leupp further states that  “the root of the problem could be low self esteem … sometimes staying at home with children isn’t valued as much as other professions.”  Rosenquist, another researcher, echoed this belief by saying our “culture doesn’t value that particular activity. … It doesn’t feel important. It’s pretty boring, and it’s pretty demanding and the tasks are pretty repetitive. … The lack of adult interaction and feelings of isolation can lead to feeling unappreciated.” Rosenquist continues by saying that “when someone has a baby in our culture … they can lose status, income, friends, and the life they knew and were used to.”

Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo, a psychologist and mother of two, talks about the importance of overcoming the social isolation that can lead to feeling sad and resentful. There is a need for adult interaction as “having conversations with children only over the course of the day can be isolating.”

Various suggestions are offered by the researchers. Some would include talking with your partner about your feelings and hopefully getting back valid appreciation for a job well done; having personal alone time;  join a gym/club/organization; forming friendships with other stay at home moms; play groups with others; finding an interest/hobby that you can enjoy while still taking care of the kids.



May this article help focus on the many challenges of being a mom, whether it be the stay at home or working mother. May she get the recognition and support needed to accomplish the goal that every Mom (and Dad) wants for their children – to be safe, healthy, feel loved, happy, and have the opportunity to grow into their full potential. They deserve that opportunity!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates

“The Ten Most Deadly Phrases In A Relationship”! Do You Use Any?

July 21st, 2017

In my practice I spend a lot of time in relationship counseling discussing communication. In an intimate relationship where both individuals are vulnerable and defensive (in most cases), the words that are shared have an awesome affect on the relationship. Brittany Wong recently wrote an article capturing some of the most deadly phrases not to use in communicating with that special someone in your life. I list them and add my commentary.

  1. “You never do the dishes. You always just leave them there.” There are two mistakes here. One is the use of “never” and “always”. Don’t use those words. Be specific and situational. Second, this criticism sets up a prosecutor-defendant relationship that usually escalates a negative encounter. I could go on and on as to how to best deal with this issue and those similar to it.
  2. “You sound exactly like your mother.” Boy, there’s one that works – not! Do not introduce others into your particular issue, especially Momma. Stick with the concern at hand and not add fuel to the fire by such additions.
  3. “You think you’re better than everyone else!” Mind reading is a no no. Do not pretend that you know what the other is thinking or feeling. Instead address the issue, or issues, that lead you to that conclusion.
  4. “Do I look like I’ve put on weight?” Don’t go there with this grenade. What is the asked spouse to say in this situation? The person knows s/he has put on weight and is looking for a confirmation that all is well. The only safe response here is, “you look great to me” – and then go wash out your mouth with soap!
  5. “Have you put on a few pounds?” Note that here again weight is a point of discussion. This usually is a dangerous topic between lovers. This unconstructive criticism is hurtful and only makes the recipient of such a comment feel bad and defensive and will probably lead to an emotional withdrawal.
  6. “You’re a horrible parent, breadwinner, lover … .” This may be the worst. You are going for the jugular here. Such cruel sweeping generalizations serve no purpose except speeding up the exit road to divorce court. If you have a specific issue with one of these areas, or others, address the particular concern in a kind manner and work to resolve this negative perception.
  7. “Ugh, I hate when you do that.” (Said in front of family and friends). This passive aggressive put down of your spouse is despicable. If you have a concern about something your spouse does, say it respectfully and privately. Also, when you do it in front of others you are making a fool of yourself and will be negatively talked about behind your back.
  8. “I barely know him – he’s just someone I work with.” I disagree on this one. If you have a short term crush on someone, you do not need to speak about it to your spouse. Don’t downplay it or own it. Just get over it and focus on continuing to build a solid trusting relationship with your spouse.
  9. “You shouldn’t feel this way.” This is one of my favorite phrases to eliminate. Never “should on” another, especially telling someone what to feel. Feelings just arrive. You don’t choose to feel something.
  10. “Don’t wait up for me.” This should be a rare exception. Sharing the last minutes of your day in bed with your spouse is a wonderful bonding way to end your day.


Well, Respected Reader, do you agree that these are the most “deadly phrases” not to use in a relationship? If not, what would you add or delete? I would add name calling and a few others to the list.

Think before you speak. Everything you think and feel does not need to come out of your mouth. Be respectful. Relationships thrive better that way!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”    Socrates

Having Kids Can Ruin A Relationship – Unless .. “

July 14th, 2017

Most couples who commit to a life together want children. Little do they know that for many of them their relationship will get worse once they become a family. Research is quite conclusive in demonstrating this disappointing fact. Comparing couples with and without children, researchers found that the rate of decline in relationship satisfaction is nearly twice as steep for couples who have children than for childless couples. In the event that a pregnancy is unplanned, the parents experience even greater negative impacts on their relationship.

A further surprising statistic is that even as the marital satisfaction of new parents declines, the likelihood of them divorcing also declines. So, having children may make you miserable, but you’ll be miserable together!

Worse still, this decrease in marital satisfaction likely leads to a change in general happiness because the biggest predictor of overall life satisfaction is one’s satisfaction with their spouse. This certainly is distressing especially since so many young couples think that having children will bring them closer together or at least will not lead to marital distress.

The arrival of a child changes marital dynamics. Parents often become more distant and businesslike with each other as they attend to the details of parenting. Mundane basics like keeping kids fed, bathed, clothed and other parental responsibilities take energy time and resolve. Stress and exhaustion become normative. Sexual intimacy usually declines. Parents stop saying and doing the little things that please their spouses

The above conclusions are based on the research of Dr. Matthew D. Johnson. These findings can be found in depth in his book “Great Myths Of Intimate Relationships: Dating, Sex, And Marriage.” Research verifies that the relationship burden of having children is present regardless of marital status, gender orientation, or level of income.

Johnson continues by saying that the consequences of the relationship strain can be serious. Marital stress is associated with many serious physical health problems as well as symptoms of depression and other mental health problems. He suggests couples therapy as the most effective way of treating these overriding concerns.

However, these conclusions need not be true for certain couples that know how, and practice, certain things that will lead to greater marital satisfaction after the birth of a child. Let me list a few things that can ensure marital happiness. Sherry and I have practiced these things and have had a wonderful marriage over the past 38 years together. Our adult children have become wonderful human beings, now happily married, and having children of their own.

  1. Put your marriage first: let each other know consistently that s/he is the most important person and priority in your life.
  2. Communicate well, including finding compromises that both of you can live with.
  3. Have a game plan for raising your children. Decide on expectations and consequences.
  4. Be consistent. Consistency breeds trust.
  5. Continue to have things to look forward to. This helps getting through the tough times.

Certainly there are other factors that help a couple have a satisfying marriage while also enjoying the wonderful times possible while raising children. This list is a good beginning.

What’s most important is whether you have chosen the right mate to share life with and that both of you are on the same page as to having children or not. Too often people wake up and discover that they should not have married the person that they did. And, having children further complicated the poor choice. The result is marital misery and children that did not get good parenting.  Choose wisely and timely!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”     Socrates

Twelve Lessons You Learn Or Regret Forever!

July 3rd, 2017

John J. Stathas, Ph.D., LMFT

I bring a particular philosophical perspective to life. It begins with the challenge to be the best person I can be, to develop my talents to their fullest extent. I want to experience all that life can possibly present. I want to give back. I want to live in such a way that I have no regrets. To live this life I try to continually learn about what it takes to “max out” on the short journey that I have in this world. I truly believe the Socratic statement that “the unexamined life is not worth living”.

That said, I recently read an article that fit nicely into the perspective above. The article is entitled “12 Lessons You Learn Or Regret Forever”. It was written by Dr. Travis Bradberry. You can understand why the title caught my attention – and, hopefully, catches yours, Respected Reader. The intent of the article is to assist the reader to be successful. The “Lessons” follow, with added commentary by this writer.

  1. CONFIDENCE MUST COME FIRST: It takes confidence to reach new challenges. People who are fearful or insecure tend to stay within their comfort zones. But comfort zones do not expand on their own. Self doubt stifles.
  2. YOU’RE LIVING THE LIFE YOU CREATED: You are not a victim of circumstance. Don’t play the victim card. You can create the future you want. It is up to you to overcome where you are stuck and any obstacles in your way.
  3. BEING BUSY DOES NOT EQUAL BEING PRODUCTIVE: Success does not come from sheer movement and activity. It comes from focus on goals, time management, and prioritized efforts.
  4. YOU’RE ONLY AS GOOD AS THOSE YOU ASSOCIATE WITH: This is a big one. You need to associate with those people who inspire you, people who make you want to be better. Shed those people who drag you down in any shape or form.
  5. DON’T SAY YES UNLESS YOU REALLY WANT TO: Saying no is a challenge for many people pleasers. Stick to your guns, your plan, your direction. Be able to say no to that which interferes with your goal.
  6. SQUASH YOUR NEGATIVE SELF TALK: Negative self talk is self defeating. If you are not your own champion you become less capable of bringing out your best to a situation. Pessimists tend to do this to themselves. Optimists are their own cheerleaders. “Go self!”
  7. AVOID ASKING “WHAT IF?”: “What if” throws fuel on the fire of stress and worry, which are detrimental to reaching your goals. Focus on realistic achievable goals without the detour of “what if”.
  8. SCHEDULE EXERCISE AND SLEEP: Productive lives use good time management based on priorities.  First exercise: exercise lowers stress and gives more energy to reach goals. Doing this regularly leads to more self confidence and more competence socially, academically, and job performance. Sleep is necessary to get rid of toxic proteins in the brain which impair your ability to think clearly. It helps the brain reconfigure for optimal
  9. SEEK OUT SMALL VICTORIES: Small victories build new androgen receptors in the areas of the brain responsible for reward and motivation. Thus, confidence increases and eagerness to take on new challenges builds.
  10. DON’T SEEK PERFECTION: Perfection does not exist. If you choose it for a goal you will continually be disappointed and have a sense of failure. Thus, your confidence, and will to go after it, will dwindle. When you miss the mark, say to yourself one of my favorite sayings, “I don’t lose (fail), I learn!”
  11. FOCUS ON SOLUTIONS: Be positive and be pragmatic searching for solutions that work. Doing this creates a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions and better performance.
  12. FORGIVE YOURSELF: When you get down on yourself and don’t forgive yourself for mistakes made, you allow negative thinking and emotions to continue to affect your capacity for excellence. Self esteem and confidence diminish. You owe yourself more. Love yourself and the ability to forgive yourself increases.

I hope the above “lessons” speak to you, remind you, and increase your ability to live them out with some degree of consistency. It is worth the effort!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates