Relationships Articles

Is Your Student “Pumped Up,” or “Deflated”?

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

PTown New Years Weekend 2011 027Last 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.


I’ve Told My Kid 1000 Times!!!

Friday, November 16th, 2012

Why don’t kids take our good advice? Why don’t they do the things we suggest, things that would obviously help them?

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.

  • He knows this stuff already.
  • Her teachers repeated this over and over all last year.
  • I’ve already told him a thousand times!!!

Emotional Infidelity and the Limits of Attention

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

…it is possible to process at most 126 bits of information per second…It is out of this [limited amount of available attention] that everything in our life must come – every thought, memory, feeling, or action…[and] in reality it does not go that far.

-Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow, pg 29

Two PsychCentral bloggers have written recently about emotional infidelity, and I want to throw in  my own two cents.

Like Beth, there was a time in my past when I was involved with a lovely and lovable man who insisted on maintaining close “friendships” with other women, including several of his exes.

And that’s a good thing, right?


How Might Differing Value Systems Impact Your Relationship?

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

There was a time in my life when I lived in the South and I dated a military man, a decorated Special Operations soldier, a guy with tons of what I still consider “the right stuff.”

Joe was super-smart, responsible, kind, scrupulously honest, family-oriented, conscientious, and like me, more focused on doing valuable work than on making tons of money.

The relationship itself, however, was stupefyingly difficult, for reasons Joe and I struggled to figure out.


Lessons From the Empty Room

Saturday, March 17th, 2012

The critical person enters the room, feeling irritable…and he scans the room, looking for something or someone to point to as the cause of his irritability.

I’m paraphrasing John Gottman from a wonderful 3-minute YouTube clip entitled The Best Predictor of Divorce.

I think it’s instructive to the critical person to enter the room…and find it empty. What will he do with his irritable feelings now?

Perhaps he’ll fill it right away with another lover, or with material objects. Perhaps she’ll clutter it with work or other busy-making activities.

But what if the critical person simply sits in the empty room and experiences the irritability? What might he learn about himself? Perhaps she’ll find that her feelings aren’t deadly and that, in fact, she is fine just the way she is.

And doesn’t this go for all of us? Spending some stretch of time alone, with no other person to affix our moods to and no external factors to blame for the way we feel…what might that teach us about our worries?…our melancholy?…and our happiness?

 


Can Too Much Choice Be a Bad Thing?

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

I haven’t been blogging a lot lately, and the main reason is because I stare at that blank computer screen and I’ve got SO MUCH to say, I can’t decide what to write about first.

I’m like a mule stuck between at least twenty intriguing potential-subject haystacks, paralyzed by the sheer number of interesting things I’ve been reading and discussing, all of which I long to express in print.

None of which is happening.

It’s wonderful to have variety and selection. Who doesn’t enjoy freedom and flexibility and a cornucopia of options? Who doesn’t thrill to a banquet spread before them?

In fact,  too much choice can be absolutely stultifying.

I see this in my students all the time. I live and work in one of the most affluent areas of the country, and the kids I tutor have every sort of choice. We all believe these kids “should” be grateful for all their privileges, yet often they are paralyzed by them.

What to wear? What sports to play? What friends to hang out with? What to do with one’s free time? What music to listen to?…and, of course, those truly terrifying questions:


The Learning Method That Really Works

Saturday, February 4th, 2012

Whether it’s learning to play the piano, to ace algebra, or to be a better friend, parent, or partner, the path to mastery is the same:

PRACTICE

And not just any kind of practice; what’s required is rigorous, highly-focused drill that targets precisely those skills in which one is most deficient.

This is called deliberate practice, and it’s the stuff that changes brains for the better.


A Small, Good Resolution: Stop Lying (Even the “White” Lies)

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

[On Saturdays my topic of focus is A Small, Good Thing, inspired by one of my favorite Raymond Carver stories.]

A big part of my identity is rooted in thinking of myself as a kind, caring, gentle and optimistic person…one who says supportive, positive things…a Tigger, not an Eeyore.

I’m uncomfortable saying anything that might come across as negative or unnice.  I hate the thought of hurting someone’s feelings or having them get angry at me.


The Easiest Way to Spread Holiday Cheer

Saturday, December 3rd, 2011

[On Saturdays my topic of focus is A Small, Good Thing, inspired by one of my favorite Raymond Carver stories.]

My career as a tutor takes me from one house to another, and at this time of year I’m availed of the special treat of seeing so many folks’ holiday decorations.

I’ve learned to always stop and take a moment to enjoy and admire and comment. People put so much work into decorating, and those ornaments and displays often carry deep meaning for their proud owners.


If You Can’t Say Anything Nice

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

I wrote about my dad yesterday, and today I’m thinking about my mother.

She was very fond of this old-timey saying:

If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.

I know, I know…pure Pollyanna

but those words actually sank in.


 

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