COMMENTARY 959.5: Give Yourself the Gift of Gratitude

For some, Thanksgiving is the beginning of a holiday season filled with joy and happiness at the prospect of spending time with family. For others, it’s a sadder time blemished by bad memories or dread. Some people see their lives filled with abundant blessings and find thankfulness easy and natural; others are so pre-occupied with tending to past wounds or … Read More

COMMENTARY 959.4: Thanking Your Parents on Thanksgiving

As we approach Thanksgiving Day, I hope you will think about your parents with your most gentle and generous thoughts and be thankful. Even if you didn’t have ideal parents or a perfect home life, if either or both of your parents are still with you, make an effort to experience and express genuine gratitude. It’s natural to take for granted what … Read More

COMMENTARY 958.3: We Shape Our Own Character

There’s no doubt that our character has a profound effect on our future. What we must remember, however, is not merely how powerful character is in influencing our destiny, but how powerful we are in shaping our own character and, therefore, our own destiny. Character may determine our fate, but character is not determined by fate. It’s a common mistake … Read More

COMMENTARY 957.1: On the Passing of a Loved One

Just a few hours ago, I received a note from one of my oldest and dearest friends that his mom passed away. I was moved by the gracious way he gave the news and described her life and while all the feelings evoked by the news and the way he conveyed it are still enveloping me I want to share … Read More

COMMENTARY 956.2: “If” by Rudyard Kipling

It’s a pity that so many great poems are turned into commercialized clichés because, when we’ve heard something before, we don’t concentrate hard enough to listen to its messages. A good example is the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling. It includes some of the best advice a parent could give a child, including: If you can keep your head when … Read More

COMMENTARY 955.4: Needing Approval More Than Advice

No matter what Gary did, it was never enough to please his father. When he got seven A’s and three B’s, his dad asked about the B’s. When he described the wonderful girl he’d fallen in love with, he got a lecture cautioning that she may be different than he thought. He thought he had a great relationship with his … Read More

COMMENTARY 954.5: The Values Our Kids Learn From Others

Blessed with the opportunities and obligations of raising four young daughters, my wife Anne and I are profoundly aware of the importance of instilling good values that will help them become capable, honorable and happy adults. I think we’re doing a pretty good job, but we know that isn’t enough. Frankly, we’re worried about the values and character of your … Read More

COMMENTARY 954.4: Moral Courage — The Engine of Integrity

Mignon McLaughlin tells us, “People are made of flesh and blood and a miracle fiber called courage.” Courage comes in two forms: physical courage and moral courage. Physical courage is demonstrated by acts of bravery where personal harm is risked to protect others or preserve cherished principles. It’s the kind of courage that wins medals and monuments.Moral courage may seem less … Read More

COMMENTARY 953.5: A Dad Sending His Daughter Off to College

I want to share a slightly edited portion of a letter my friend Scott Raecker wrote to his daughter Emily on sending her off to college: My Dear Emily, My life changed the day we found out that you were on your way. From that moment forward, you have been on my mind and heart – every day. I vividly … Read More

COMMENTARY 953.2: Great Pitcher or Great Hitter? It’s a Matter of Perspective

Does attitude really mean that much? Can you really change the way you experience the world by changing your perspective? Consider this story: When Ron gave his seven-year-old son Nick a ball and bat, Nick wanted to play immediately. Ron said, “Son, baseball is a serious game. You have to practice hard before you can play it.”  The boy went outside … Read More

COMMENTARY 952.5: Parenting Modern Kids in a Modern World

A hit number in the 1960 musical Bye Bye Birdie was a classic parent’s lament starting with, “I don’t know what’s wrong with these kids today! Why can’t they be like we were?” The answer, of course, is they’re just like we were, but many of us aren’t like our parents were. Sometimes that’s good, often it’s not. Every generation of kids coping … Read More

COMMENTARY 952.1: An Uncomfortable Moment of Truth

When my daughters were younger and wanted to spend time with me, I used to take each one on an out-of-town trip for alone time. An especially memorable one was with my youngest daughter Mataya when she was seven. We went to Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. and had a wonderful time touring and talking about American history, the Liberty Bell, … Read More

COMMENTARY 947.5: What I Want My Daughter to Get Out of Sports

Several years ago, when my daughter Carissa was about to enter her first gymnastics competition, I wrote her a letter expressing my hopes and goals for her athletic experience. Here’s a revised version: My Dearest Carissa, I know you’ve worked hard to prepare yourself to compete, and I know how much you want to win. That’s a good goal. You … Read More

COMMENTARY 947.4: If It’s Broken, Try to Fix It

Former President Jimmy Carter was 70 years old when he wrote this poem about his father: This is a pain I mostly hide, But ties of blood or seed endure. And even now I feel inside The hunger for his outstretched hand. A man’s embrace to take me in, The need for just a word of praise. Isn’t it extraordinary … Read More

COMMENTARY 947.2: Emotional Resilience

Despite romanticized myths about the gloriously carefree teenage years, adolescence has always been an emotional battlefield where young people must fight their way through insecurity, depression and anger. For many teens, classrooms, playgrounds and hallways are hostile environments where name-calling, malicious gossip, taunting, and physical bullying regularly threaten their emotional and physical well-being Technology has not made kids meaner but … Read More

COMMENTARY 945.2: A Perfect Game

In Echoes of the Maggid, Rabbi Paysach Krohn tells a story of a young boy with severe learning disabilities named Shaya who was walking past a park with his father when he saw a group of boys playing baseball. He asked his dad if he thought they’d let him play. Although Shaya couldn’t even hold a bat properly, his father … Read More

COMMENTARY 945.1: Granddaddy’s Gift

Years ago, a Southern woman was in one of my workshops. When asked to tell a story that impacted her character, she described an incident when she was 5. She was at her grandfather’s house all dressed up in a white dress with a crinoline and new gloves, proud as she could be. Her granddaddy told her she could go … Read More

COMMENTARY 943.1: Justin’s Introduction to Candor

When my son Justin was in high school, I went to an open house to meet his teachers. I was taken aback when one teacher casually mentioned that she had disciplined my son for cheating on a homework assignment. I asked my son why he hadn’t told me about this incident. “You didn’t ask,” he said. To say the least, … Read More

COMMENTARY 942.3: Parents Are Teachers First

When John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach, referred to the last game he “ever taught,” he was asked about this phrasing. He said simply that a coach is first and foremost a teacher who should not only improve his players’ athletic skills, but also help them become better people. And he was a superb teacher whose lasting influence is reflected … Read More

COMMENTARY 942.2: Trust Is More Important Than Truth

A study titled “Parenting by Lying” reveals that most parents lie to their children, even though they tell their kids lying is wrong. The parents surveyed said they didn’t feel guilty because their lies were intended to accomplish legitimate parental goals such as getting a child to stop crying or protecting a child from feeling bad or sad. Reviewing the … Read More

COMMENTARY 941.4: The Best Dad

Years ago I heard a story of a dad named Paul who gave his young son a small chalkboard to practice writing on. One evening his son called out from the bedroom, “Dad, how do you spell best?” Paul answered him. Moments later, the boy hollered, “How do you spell kid?” Finally he asked, “How do you spell ever?” When … Read More

COMMENTARY 941.3: The Blue Stone and the White Lie

This story is about a truth-versus-caring ethical dilemma I once had. I think I did the right thing but I keep wondering if there was a better way. I was putting my two-year-old to bed when Abrielle, who was four, came screaming down the hall in a panic. Samara, the five-and-a-half-year-old, was right behind her equally terrified. “I swallowed a … Read More

COMMENTARY 941.2: Advice About Teens

Here are three suggestions for the parents of young teens, all learned through my own mistakes: First, remember, with emerging demands for independence, worries about peer acceptance, pressures of school and extra-curricular activities and a continuous search for self-identity, adolescents are on a physical and emotional roller coaster. Like every generation before them (including yours), young teens are often arrogant … Read More

COMMENTARY 940.1: The Ethics of Gay Rights and Same-Sex Marriage

(This is one of those commentaries that evokes passionate response and, sadly, a few people will disagree so strongly that they decide to cut me out of their lives by cancelling their newsletter subscription or putting me on the “block sender” list. I realize the issue of same-sex marriage is only one aspect of the much broader issue of how … Read More

COMMENTARY 937.3 : What I’ve Learned: The Perspective From 13-Year-Olds

A few years ago I got a note from Sam Rangel, an eighth-grade teacher in Corona, California. He distributed some of my commentaries on “What I’ve Learned” to his students and asked them to write down what they’d learned over the past year or in their lives. Here’s the world of growing wisdom from the 13-year-old perspective: * I’ve learned … Read More

COMMENTARY 937.2: Clichés and Milestones

One of the things I hate most about clichés is that whenever I experience milestone experiences, I have to admit they are true. There’s nothing unique or original about my feelings except that they are mine. So, when I witnessed my daughter Samara turn 18, my mind and heart flooded with trite and corny thoughts and emotions: “Where did the … Read More

COMMENTARY 937.1: Middle School Commencement

When I was asked to deliver the commencement address at my nephew Jaren’s middle school graduation, I worried more than normal. After all, 14- and 15-year-olds are especially tough. First, they’re subject to torrential hormonal surges that can generate vast mood and personality swings. They can be wonderfully agreeable and fun to be with one moment, then sullen and argumentative the … Read More

COMMENTARY 936.5: Wisdom in 20 Words or Fewer: Part One

Since my children were small, I launched their day with the invocation to “be good, have fun and learn.” I hope they remember that mantra, but when my daughter Samara began her independent life as a college freshman 3,000 miles away, I thought a more detailed set of maxims was needed. So I assembled a collection of concise (20 words or fewer) … Read More

COMMENTARY 936.3: We Expect More of Adults

Although 11-year-old Mark wasn’t much of an athlete, his dad urged him to play youth baseball. Mark liked to play, but he was hurt by the remarks of teammates and spectators whenever he struck out or dropped a ball. Just before the fourth game of the season, Mark told his dad he didn’t want to go. “I’m no good,” he … Read More

COMMENTARY 935.3: Appreciating a Parent’s Love

While window-shopping in New York City, I saw an old gold watch that reminded me of one my father gave me when I graduated from college. It had been engraved with the simple inscription “Love, Dad.” But it was stolen during a burglary years ago, and I hadn’t thought much of it or the inscription since. I always knew my … Read More