Is there anything more painful than watching your child suffer? But when we shield our kids from the lumps Life dishes out, we rob them of the critical growing-up experiences that will make them into strong, brave, confident adults later.
These are the simplest pieces of wisdom in this whole collection, and they are amazingly powerful.
Oh, how I wish I could relive those days in my 20’s, 30’s, 40’s (days?…actually years) of chronic weariness, when I was heroically trying to “do it all” and muddling through on way too little sleep.
Love may seem magical, whimsical, steered by the forces of fate, timing and chemistry…but, in fact, love thrives when people behave well towards one another and withers when they treat one another badly. (Duh!!)
For one thing, due to our limited powers of attention (see Day One) we never get the whole story to begin with. Then, every time we recall an event our minds edit and interpret and embellish, like a fish story.
And we do an especially inaccurate job on emotionally loaded events; we freight those memories with so much emotional baggage that they become personal fairy tales more than actual recollections.
People use words as weapons, to defend themselves. It is common for people to attack with anger when they are afraid and to become insulting when they are hurt or jealous. -Dr. Shirley Glass
When we are anxious or angry we can’t think straight. This means we ought to avoid taking action or having heavy conversations while immersed in these mood states.
The emotions of fear and anger trigger our internal fight-or-flight mechanism, which sends epinephrine (adrenalin) gushing through our bloodstream. Our heart races, our blood pressure shoots up, our platelets ready themselves to clot in case we are injured…and our higher-level thinking skills shut down. After all, it doesn’t take a lot of brainpower to run from a saber-toothed tiger.
Last week I wrote about the demonstrably positive effects of longer-term studying. Kids who begin studying several days before a test and who study consistently and to the point of mastery get high grades.
This seems like a no-brainer, right? So why don’t more kids do it?
One reason is that fear and anxiety hamper people’s ability to think straight and organize themselves. (We talk a lot about executive function issues in kids, but these are problems all people of all ages experience)
As part of his research with couples, John Gottman attached heart monitors to his subjects, and he discovered that when people become emotionally agitated, their systems “flood” with adrenaline and their heart rates elevate. A heart rate above 95 beats per minute signals that a person’s listening, planning and reasoning skills have broken down.
Last month, my own daughter was getting ready to take the LSAT (the law school entrance exam), so I tried a few practice LSAT sections myself…and, guess what?
I found them stunningly, amazingly difficult! And, I made TONS of mistakes!
For example, on my first reading passage, I answered the eight questions, and got SIX of them wrong!!!
This was an excellent experience for me, because I felt something I’ve lost touch with: I felt a sinking, dizzying fear of this difficult material.
Why don’t they listen to us?
Along with academic tutoring and test preparation, I teach study skills: how to study for a biology test, how to write a term paper, how to learn vocabulary words.
Parents are eager for these lessons, and also jaded.
Does this sound unrealistic? Impossible?
When my kids were growing up, we had a big house with an acre of lawn and an in-ground swimming pool. We enjoyed the space and made good use of the pool. Even so, that big spread was a lot to afford and a lot take care of.
I spent a lot of stressful hours, many of them sleepless early-morning ones, fretting over maintenance issues and bills. Paying the cleaning lady, the lawn guy and the pool guy meant I had to work more hours. Letting those folks go and doing the work myself meant spending tons of time doing chores I did not enjoy and couldn’t keep up with.
As if jolted by a cattle prod, my highly sensitive companion rears in her seat and wails. Ooooooohhhh Nooooooooo!!!! She trembles and her eyes well up.
Meanwhile, I just keep on driving. I’d been deep in our conversation, and the meaning of that inert, furry heap in the center of the roadway hasn’t yet registered in me.
So by now we’ve driven right past the dog and quite a distance beyond, and I still haven’t said a word or even slowed down, and my friend is choking on tears.
We’re easily a quarter of a mile away when I mutter We need to go back.
I turn the car around and return to where the dog still lies, and I pull over and step out and look both ways before walking out and dragging the dog’s body to the curb.