Longest-Running Study of Human Development in the World

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For the past 70 years, scientists in Britain have been studying thousands of children through their lives to find out why some end up happy and healthy while others struggle. It’s the longest-running study of human development in the world, and it’s produced some of the best-studied people on the planet while changing the way we live, learn and parent. Reviewing this remarkable research, science journalist Helen Pearson shares some important findings and simple truths about life and good parenting.

Portrayals of Girls

Two Ways To Deal With Negative Emotions

Negative EmotionsA big part of coping with life is having a flexible reaction to the ups and downs. Now, a study which will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, finds that people choose to respond differently depending on how intense an emotion is. When confronted with high-intensity negative emotions, they tend to choose to turn their attention away, but with something lower-intensity, they tend to think it over and neutralize the feeling that way.

Emotions are useful—for example, fear tells your body to get ready to escape or fight in a dangerous situation. But emotions can also become problematic – for example, for people with depression who can’t stop thinking about negative thoughts, says Gal Sheppes of Stanford University, who cowrote the study with Stanford colleagues Gaurav Suri and James J. Gross, and Susanne Scheibe of the University of Groningen. “Luckily, our emotions can be adjusted in various ways,” he says.Read More »

Tip: If You Don’t Get A Miracle, Why Not Become One?

By Robert A. Rohm Ph.D.
Personality Insights, Inc.

From time to time I read the story of Helen Keller’s life because it is such an inspiration to me.  In fact, whenever I think life is hard, all I have to do is review her story and then I realize that I have never really even come close to having a problem!

You may have read Helen Keller’s autobiography, The Story of My Life.  Or, you may be familiar with the movie, Miracle Worker, starring Ann Bancroft and Patty Duke.  Miss Bancroft played the part of Anne Sullivan, the teacher who taught the blind and deaf Helen Keller how to communicate.  Patty Duke, who played Helen, won an Oscar for her performance in that great 1962 screenplay.  Although the play has been produced many times on both stage and film, in my opinion the 1962 production was the best.  It is timeless in its message for both young and old, alike. My own grandchildren have been fascinated when watching it and learning from the struggles of the life and times of Helen Keller.Read More »

What to Do About Lying

Source: Dr. Phelan’s Blog (ParentMagic)

What to Do About Lying
A primary rule for parents when dealing with lying is don’t badger or corner children! Imagine you give a child the third degree about whether or not he has homework. He denies it six times and finally, after your seventh question, he admits that he has some. What has happened? By this time, of course, you are furious. More important, however, you also have given your child six times to practice lying! You may think to yourself, “Sooner or later he’ll realize he can’t fool me and he’ll give up.” Wrong. Many children will continue to take the easy way out: they will simply attempt to become better liars.

Either You Know the Truth or You Don’t
Look at it this way: you either know the truth or you don’t. If you don’t know what is going on, ask once and don’t badger. It’s a good idea here not to ask “impulsively”. Many kids simply respond back impulsively. They lie, but their real desire is just to end the conversation, get rid of you, and stay out of trouble.

If you are going to ask, you might say something like, “I want you to tell me the story of what happened, but not right now. Think about it a while and we’ll talk in fifteen minutes.” If he tells you the story and you find out later that the child lied, punish him for whatever the offense was as well as for the lie. No lectures or tantrums. Deal with the problem and try to fix things—as much as you can— so that lying does not seem necessary to the child.

If you do know what has happened, tell him what you know and deal with it. If he has done something wrong that you know about, simply punish him reasonably for that and end the conversation with, “I’m sure you’ll do better next time.”

Keep Your Perspective
Some parents still prefer to ask a child what happened—even when they already know what it was. This is OK if you do it right. You should say something like, “I got a call from the school today about an incident at lunch. I’m going to ask you to tell me the story, but not right now. I want you to think about it for a while, and then when you’re ready you can tell me, but remember I already pretty much know what happened.”

Lying is not good, but it certainly isn’t the end of the world either. It happens from time to time. It doesn’t mean that your kids don’t love you or that they are bound to grow up to become professional criminals. Over the years, however, frequent emotional overreactions on your part —combined with badgering and cornering— can produce an Accomplished Liar.

Want to use these articles in your newsletter or on your website? Email your requests to: custcare@parentmagic.com
© ParentMagic Inc. 800 Roosevelt Rd., Glen Ellyn, IL. 60137

20 Activities to do With Your Kids Other Than Watch TV

Almost half of kids spend at least two hours a day watching TV. While this may sound harmless enough, numerous studies have come out showing that TV is definitely taking its toll on American children.

UPDATE: When I first posted this (8 years ago in 2010) TV still mattered. Now the cell phone is the mind-sucking device that plagues parents. This article is still valid, though.

For instance, a study in the April 2004 journal Pediatrics found that every added hour of watching TV increased a child’s odds of having attention problems at age 7 by about 10 percent. Those who watched for three hours a day between the ages of 1 and 3 were 30 percent more likely to have attention trouble at age 7 than those viewing no TV.

The notion that kids watch far too much TV is a no-brainer, literally. My strong recommendation is to minimize TV watching to no more than a few hours per WEEK, as a short attention span is only the beginning of the problem with TV. Here are some of the other negatives of kids watching TV:Read More »

Avoid The Talk‐Persuade‐Argue‐Yell‐Hit Syndrome

Source: ParentMagic Newsletter, Jan 2010

Many adults enter parenthood with visions of “picture perfect” children. They imagine a warm and loving home, as well as respectful and polite kids, all eagerly doing whatever is asked with only an occasional explanation from Mom or Dad.

As a veteran parent, you know this is not reality. But many parents have the idea that kids are just smaller versions of adults: reasonable and unselfish. This is the “Little Adult Assumption.” Moms and Dads who embrace this myth often prefer the “modern method” of discipline—talking and reasoning. Unfortunately, many times words and reasons alone prove unsuccessful. Sometimes they have no impact at all, and then parent and child fall into the trap known as the Talk‐Persuade‐Argue‐Yell‐Hit Syndrome.

This tragic sequence results from the very best of parental intentions. Your child is doing something you don’t like. You tell her to stop. She continues her misbehavior, so you try persuading her to see things your way. When persuasion fails, you start arguing. When arguing is not successful, you yell. Yelling fails, so—feeling there is nothing left to do— some parents turn to hitting. The two biggest parenting mistakes—too much talking and too much emotion—trigger the Talk‐Persuade‐Argue‐Yell‐Hit Syndrome.

Read More »

Do Kids Really Want Limits?

Source: ParentMagic Newsletter, Dec 2009

This idea that children really want limits isn’t completely true. It is true, of course, that in the long run youngsters are more comfortable in a house where parents have clear, reasonable rules and enforce them consistently and fairly. Under these circumstances the kids are better off whether or not they realize the connection between their parents’ behavior and their own well being. In such a home, in addition to feeling cozy, warm and comfortable, children are also developing the critical skill of frustration tolerance.

Frustration tolerance is the ability to put up with discomfort or pain now in order to achieve some more important future objective. It’s a beautiful evening and I would like to trash this math homework, but I’d also like to get at least a B in the course. I’d like to slug my brother, but I don’t want to upset my mother and be grounded. I’d like another piece of lemon meringue pie, but I don’t want to get fat. Successful adults learned high frustration tolerance (HFT) when they were kids.

Many unsuccessful adults, however, still show significant amounts of low frustration tolerance (LFT). They can’t wait, so they run the yellow light. They purchase three new, unnecessary DVDs when their credit card is already overloaded. They watch the new show on TV instead of going to the gym to workout. LFT may be one of the fastest routes to failure as an adult.


Kids are just kids, so naturally they start out at the LFT point. At any one moment, children want what they want, and they can be angry and disappointed if they don’t get it. Kids do not welcome or enjoy adult‐imposed limits. As a result, youngsters’ frustration frequently leads to trouble with parents in the form of testing and manipulation.

But learning to tolerate—with a little parental assistance—both limits and frustration is a normal and necessary part of growing up. Over the years, most children learn and internalize three important lessons about frustration. First of all, not getting what you want is a regular occurrence in life; you will drive yourself crazy if you overreact to everything that goes wrong. Second, being frustrated is not the end of the world; the feeling always passes. And third, getting better and better at enduring as well as managing life’s disappointments PAYS BIG DIVIDENDS.

Keep that in mind next time you have to say “No” to your kids.


ParentMagic Newsletter
ParentMagic Inc
800 Roosevelt Rd
Glen Ellyn IL 60137


What does it take to raise competent, good‐natured children who can feel a healthy respect for themselves? Research has shown over and over that good parenting involves two basic components. One will not surprise you, but the other one may catch you off guard.

We are very aware today that children are born with different personalities and temperaments that are not created by their parents. Nevertheless, parents do make a big difference, and here in the United States we need to get back on track regarding what children’s self‐esteem is really all about.

What are the two parenting ingredients that make for good self‐esteem? First, good parents are warm and sensitive to a child’s needs. They understand their child’s positive as well as negative feelings. They are comforting in times of crisis and pain, as well as appreciative in times of triumph and accomplishment. They are supportive of a child’s individuality and encourage his or her growing independence.”

That’s no big news flash.


What we often overlook, though, is that good parents are also demanding. They clearly communicate high—but not unrealistic—expectations for their children’s behavior. Good behavior and achievements are appreciated and reinforced when they occur. When the kids act up, on the other hand, Mom and Dad respond with firm limits, but not with fits of temper or righteous indignation. After a child makes a mistake, the parents’ message is, ‘I’m sure you’ll do better next time.'”

Parents whose child‐rearing philosophy involves both warmth and “demandingness” tend to produce competent children. There are of course no guarantees, but their kids will have a better chance of becoming more self-reliant, self-controlled and happier. They will have a better chance of being accepted and well liked by their peers, and of having a sense of belonging.

Sometimes, though, parents have blinders on. We’re so busy, we don’t have time—or take the time—to do some of the things that will really foster self-esteem. Such as what? Such as helping our children develop social skills and academic and physical competence. Your kids’ self-esteem is ultimately going to be earned or not earned in the real world—not in a fantasy world.


The demanding part of the parenting equation implies not only that parents ask more of their kids, but also that parents ask more of themselves. We often follow the misguided belief that self-esteem and creativity are both higher when children can ‘do their own thing’ and when they are not exposed to external limits imposed by adults.

On the contrary, kids feel better about themselves and perform better, creatively and otherwise, when they learn the boundaries for reasonable behavior. The world has all kinds of limits and rules, and parents are the ones who introduce children to life’s boundaries. “How parents establish rules and set limits—or fail to set limits—has a tremendous effect on the self‐esteem of a child. Your kids may not like all the rules and regulations you must teach them, but if they don’t recognize and work within these constraints, they will get hurt badly.

However, not all self-esteem building strategies involve unpleasant or hard work. One of the best “tactics” for encouraging healthy self-respect in children is fun. We need to take time with our kids. Keep in mind that one-on-one time having fun together is one of the most potent self-esteem builders. That’s one parent with one child. Kids really like having a parent all to themselves.

What is the quickest and easiest way to learn a warm and demanding parenting approach? The program, 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12, embodies what warm and demanding parenting is all about. 1-2-3 Magic’s three parenting steps, Controlling Obnoxious Behavior, Encouraging Good Behavior, and Strengthening Your Relationship With Your Child, require that parents be supportive and nurturing while at the same time they are expecting constructive behavior as well as hard work from their kids.


Healthy self-esteem is based on four elements:

1. Good relationships with other people
2. Competence in work and self-management
3. Physical skills and caring for one’s body
4. Character: courage, effort, following the rules and concern for others

Guilt vs Anger Problem

Source: ParentMagic Newsletter

A very common and very upsetting problem arises in the course of many relationships, such as husband/wife or parent/child. It occurs when one person offers another person the choice of feeling angry or feeling guilty. This problem then involves an interaction between two testing tactics: Intimidation and Martyrdom.

Here’s how it goes: 13 year old Kristina walks into the room where her father is busy watching his favorite football team. With an innocent question, Kristina offers her father the choice of whether he wants to be angry or guilty:

“Dad, can you drive me to Jenny’s?”
“Kristina, that’s clear across town.”
“It will only take forty minutes.”
“You know, you pick the worst times to ask me for rides.”
“Your stupid football’s more important, huh?”
“Why the heck can’t you ever plan ahead?”
“You never do anything with me anyway.”
“OK, OK. Let’s move before the darn game is over.”
“No, hate to ruin your day. Thanks anyway—I’ll just stay home!”

When his daughter asks him for a ride, Dad can either take her, or feel resentful, or he can refuse, and feel guilty. The choice is clear; what to do isn’t.


Whatever the reason, you often wind up with two people sort of jockeying for position, trying to take the angry position and at the same time put the other person in the guilty role. When Dad says, “You pick the worst times…,” or, “OK, OK. Let’s move before the game is over,” he is saying, “I’ll be angry and you be guilty.” But Kristina isn’t about to stand for this so she comes back with, “Your stupid football is more important,” and “I’ll just stay home.” She, in other words, is now saying, “No way buster I’ll be angry, you be guilty.” If she does stay home, she may become the official winner of this match: she can be angry and Dad will feel guilty.

You’re probably thinking. “This sounds pretty stupid.” It is, but it happens a lot. Isn’t there a more rational solution than two people trying to guilt each other to death? Certainly it would be better to negotiate (or to plan ahead). Perhaps Dad could have responded by saying, “I can take you if you can hold on till halftime,” or something like that.

If you are the parent on the receiving end of a spontaneous request like the one above, or in some other situation that might involve this kind of jockeying, your best bet is to say “No”, or make a reasonable counter offer. Then—if your child is still unhappy—live with the guilt if you have to, and avoid coming back with intimidation to eradicate your discomfort.