Angst in Anxiety Learn about anxiety, panic and more. 2014-12-01T21:00:12Z Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo <![CDATA[Ethical Parenting: Parent-Child Conflict]]> 2014-12-01T21:00:12Z 2014-12-01T21:00:12Z images“I was a wonderful parent before I had children.” ~ Adele Faber.

I remember when I became a parent. Within the first two years of parenting my child I became aware of this enormous sense of gratitude. My parents had come to visit and on one occasion and I pulled my mother aside. I said, “Thank you.”

She responded, “For What?”

I said, “For not killing any of us children when we were growing up.”

There was never any doubt about my well-being or that of my siblings when growing up. Becoming a parent put me in touch with the incomprehensible responsibility and patience required of this commitment. I often reflect on the wisdom shown by my parents in regards to problem-solving. My father would never tell any of us children what to do, even when we asked for his guidance. My mother adopted the same approach. It was often frustrating. I wanted my parents to take a stand, to tell me the right thing to do, and to declare their view. It almost never happened.

My parents did use discipline when rules were broken. However, conflicts were another matter. My parents taught conflict resolution by way of sitting in the stew long enough for a resolution to occur. They didn’t believe in an easy way out. An easy way is when someone tells you what to do. I figure they were the best instructors for my eventual life path of working as a mental health professional.

There are many models for resolving conflict. I like one of them for its ease of use and applicability to many contexts, such as home, school, work, and among colleagues.

The Eight-Step Model for Resolving Ethical Dilemmas has been written about by many authors. I am not sure who to credit with the original design or premise, but it was used in Celia Fisher’s text titled, Decoding the Ethics Code: A Practical Guide for Psychologists. I will list Dr. Fisher’s steps toward ethical decision-making. We will then look at how they can be applied to parenting.

Step 1: Develop and sustain a professional commitment to doing what is right.

Step 2: Acquire sufficient familiarity wit the APA Ethics Code General Principles and Ethical Standards to be able to anticipate stations that require ethical planning and to identify unanticipated situations that require ethical decision- making.

Step 3: Gather additional facts relevant to the specific ethical situation from professional guidelines, state and federal laws, and organizational policies.

Step 4: Make efforts to understand the perspective of different stakeholders who will be affected by the decision and consult with colleagues.

Step 5: Apply Steps 1 to 4 to generate ethical alternatives and evaluate each alternative in terms of moral theories, General Principle and Ethical Standards, relevant laws and policies, and consequences to stakeholders.

Step 6: Select and implement an ethical course of action.

Step 7: Monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the course of action.

Step 8: Modify and continue to evaluate the ethical plan if  feasible and necessary.

If we then take Dr. Fisher’s steps and apply them to the parenting profession they can be restated in the following manner:

Step 1: As  parents we sustain and make a commitment to do what is right in our family and in relation to our children.

Step 2: Parents familiarize themselves with the Parenting Principles for Ethical Parenting. They make a commitment to understand the principles of Beneficence and Nonmaleficence, Fidelity and Responsibility, Integrity, Justice, and Respect for People’s Rights and Dignity. Parents develop a design for standards that are enforceable. Parents learn the difference between guiding principles and enforceable standards. Punishment is to be avoided in favor of discipline that teaches a desired behavior connected to ethical responsiveness.

Step 3:If a parent child conflict concerns a school problem with a teacher the ethical parent gathers information before marching into accusations or position-taking. If the conflict concerns another child the ethical parent gathers facts.

If the conflict is between you and your child seek to understand what else you need to know.

For example, let’s assume the problem is homework. You want your child to do it before dinner and your child wants to rest after school and do the homework closer to bedtime. There are merits both ways with this potential conflict.

By gathering information you may come to find that children need at least ten hours of sleep to be fully rested most of the time. What is the family orientation to after school-dinner-bedtime? How much time do your have available and how much time is involved in the homework assignment? Consult the board of education on homework. Many states indicate that a teacher cannot give more than twenty minutes of homework per subject per night. Find out what your board of education says on this and if necessary be prepared to advocate on your child’s behalf with the teacher if homework falls outside the recommended parameters.

Once you have facts in hand you can discuss with your child the merits of doing homework any number of ways. I know parents whose children get up an hour earlier in the morning to do their homework for the next day.

Step 4: Seek to understand your child’s view. Using the above example make sure you know why your child wants to wait on the homework. Is she tired? Is it too hard? Does your child need some reward of free time before going back to work? Does your child need your help? Seek to understand what influences your child’s preference. Both parents need to seek to be on the same page. Understand the teacher’s expectations. Take into consideration the entire family and allow that knowledge to help guide you in your formulation of how to proceed with conflict resolution.

Step 5: Generate alternative options. What are all the choices that appear available for resolving the conflict? Avoid authoritarian conflict resolution styles, such as, “Do it because I said to do it.” This sends the wrong message to children most of the time.

Make a list of all the possible choices and present this to your child for consideration either verbally, in writing, or both.

Step 6: Choose a plan of action for your parent-child conflict resolution.

Step 7: Monitor the effectiveness of your choice. Seek feedback from your child and other family members.

Step 8: Modify your decision if necessary and continue to reflect and re-evaluate the effectiveness of your choice.

How do you feel this would work in your family?

Thank you and Be Well.

Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo, PhD

Fisher, C. Decoding the Ethics Code: A Practical Guide for Psychologists. Thousand Oaks, CA., Sage Publishing, 2013.


Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo <![CDATA[Ethical Parenting: Respect for People’s Rights and Dignity]]> 2014-11-18T19:20:28Z 2014-11-18T19:20:28Z 769051-Childprotection-1412039792-178-640x480“No social problem is as universal as the oppression of the child…No slave was ever so much the property of his master as the child is of his parent…Never were the rights of man ever so disregarded as in the case of the child.” ~ Maria Montessori.

Principle E asks psychologists to honor the dignity and worth of all people including each person’s right to privacy, confidentiality, and self-determination. This is why we have informed consent. Informed consent means that a client was informed regarding services, risks, benefits, costs, limits of confidentiality, and so forth before they agree to become clients or participants in research.

The ethical parent understands respect, rights, dignity, and self-determination. Let’s take a look at how this applies to parenting.

Every child is really at their parent’s mercy. Sad, but true. Parents can make all manner of decisions in an attempt to produce a certain outcome for their child or a certain kind of child. Ethical parents acknowledge the tremendous responsibility contained within the role of being a parent.

Children are ours to nurture, support, and caretake. They do not belong to us and we do not determine their path in life. At best we are guides with big open arms catching the child on either side in the event of struggles or set backs.

Principle E as applied to parenting asks parents to respect self-determination. Principle E asks parents to honor a child’s autonomy within the family structure, boundaries, and beliefs. This principle also asks that we maintain awareness regarding individual differences in children, and role differences with regard to age, gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, and culture. We also maintain awareness around topics that pertain to religion, sexual orientation, disabilities, language, and socioeconomic status.

Imagine that you adopted a child who is of Korean ancestry. You adopted your daughter at one month of age. Your ethnicity is American and your religion beliefs center around Judaism. Principle E asks that you use sensitivity with your child around her origin. She may want to learn about her culture of origin. She also may prefer not to. Principle E asks us to consider things.

Imagine you have a twelve-year-old girl who is saying she is attracted to girls and not boys. We want to remain open to her gender identity exploration and neither push toward or away. She has her own journey and parents who are parenting with ethics in mind give her space to explore.

Let’s say that you have gone through a divorce and have two boys, ages ten and five. Your former partner decides to re-marry someone from a different race. You may have feelings about your partner, about the divorce, and about the re-marriage. You may also have feelings about your partner marrying someone from a different race. What is the ethical thing to do where the children are concerned? We give children their space to determine what they feel. We don’t contribute to racism or the putting down of any other people. If we judge others children also have a tendency to believe you are also judging them. Ethical parenting asks parents to consider what they say and do and the consequences for others.

In the next blog we will look at how to solve ethical dilemmas involving children and parents by using an eight-step-model of decision-making.

Thank you and Be Well!

Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo, PhD

Photo Credit: Photo was Published in The Express Tribune, September 30th, 2014.

APA Code of Ethics 2014








Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo <![CDATA[Ethics in Parenting: Justice]]> 2014-11-14T19:34:40Z 2014-11-14T19:34:40Z  

scales-of-justice-and-child1“In matters of truth and justice, there is no difference between large and small problems, for issues concerning the treatment of people are all the same.” ~ Albert Einstein.


The fourth principle in the APA Code of Ethics concerns justice. We can apply this principle to ethics in parenting. How does justice apply to ethical parenting? Let’s take a look.Principle D or Justice asks that all professionals in the field of psychology to treat people fairly. This means all people have the same access to treatment and the benefits of the knowledge we hold in the field of psychology. We don’t discriminate and offer some people one thing and another person something of a lesser quality. Psychologists also guard against judgments and bias and any other kind of prejudice that could lead to unfair or unjust administration of services to others.

In parenting justice means we treat all our children fairly. We don’t give love or consideration to one child and shun another. We do the best we can to spread compassion and love throughout all the lives we caretake. Justice means we work to problem solve when a child has special needs. Special needs can be learning disabilities, developmental disabilities, or mental health problems. Special needs can apply to the withdrawn child, the child who is more passive, or the child who is more verbose and aggressive. We seek to obtain assistance for their problems or an understanding as to how to assist. We don’t want to bury our head in the sand and we don’t justify reasons why help may cost to much or be too hard to obtain. There is always a way to obtain what you need. Yes it does often take some work. Work is what we agree to do when we choose to be parents.

When interfacing with other children, their families, schools, and those in our communities we strive to use justice or fairness in our interactions with others outside of our family. Everyone deserves the right to be treated fairly, justly, and provided with the same opportunities for health and well being, for education, and for pursuit of goals and dreams.

We teach justice to our children by biting our tongue when the urge to condemn another is felt. Everything we say and do becomes a lesson for our children. Children are not without their own compass and many children will not follow in their parent’s footsteps. We want to give children an example to follow. The choice will be theirs. As is often said in AA meetings where amends are concerned, “We have a responsibility for the effort, not the outcome.”

We teach justice through our own fair application of our time and energy. We give to others and to our self. It is easy to find a way to love what we do with our jobs and our time shared with others.

We teach justice to our children by taking our time with hard topics and taking the time to hear our children’s thoughts on these topics. Some of these things include: poverty, illness, the death penalty, the unfairness shown in world events, genocide, human rights, etc. We cannot always change things that exist in the world, but we can help our children create a dialogue about these things. We can create dialogue that sustains justice and fairness for self and others.

In the next blog on ethics in parenting we will look at Principle E: Respect for People’s Rights and Dignity.

Thank you and Be Well!

Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo, PhD


Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo <![CDATA[Ethical Parenting: Integrity in Parenting]]> 2014-11-12T19:50:36Z 2014-11-12T19:50:36Z integrity-code“The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home.” ~ Confucius.

This is the third blog on an Ethical Code of Conduct for Parents in a series on Ethical Parenting. In this blog we will look at Principle C: Integrity. When we look at integrity in the practice of psychology we are talking about honesty, keeping promises, and adhering to accuracy in our practice with clients of any kind. We work with clinical clients, research participants, and those with whom we offer our skills of consultation or academic guidance.

Parents need to operate with integrity as well.Integrity in parenting orients around honesty, promise-keeping, and being accurate about what we say. We want to avoid using the role and authority as a parent figure as our rationale for choices or positions. Instead, it is best to operate with integrity. Integrity asks that we think about our own bias, judgments, and prejudice. Integrity asks that we fact check our data before telling children about others or about our world. There is nothing wrong with telling a child you don’t know or telling your child there are many views and perspectives on the answer they seek.

Children tend to hold parents high on a pedestal like a king and queen of their world. This is fine and it actually brings a sense of trust and safety to the child. During the life-span of a child we want to descend from the throne, in the presence of our children, and show our humanity. We want to show integrity. This means we don’t have the answer to everything. It means we likely have the answer to very little. Our job is to teach children to be critical-thinkers. Our job is to teach children how to arrive at answers by way of thinking imbued with integrity.

Integrity in parenting also involves avoiding deception. There are times when deception may be warranted. Integrity asks that we weigh the consequences of engaging in deception. If we do engage in deception we have a responsibility to attempt to correct any harm that resulted from that deception.

Imagine a child who is acting out being told by a parent that they are going to be given away to an orphanage if they don’t start behaving. This is a rather dated variety of a threat, but one that is still used by overwhelmed parents as a form of deception and threat. If we follow the ethical principles of parenting we need to remember Principle A asks that we do no harm, Principle B asks that we remain faithful and keep our promises, and Principle C asks that we continue to be honest and accurate with our children. Any threats are in direct opposition to an ethical model of parenting.

It is fine to teach children about your beliefs as parents. This is the beginning basis to any moral code. However, there are many beliefs in the world and children will become better critical thinkers when they are encouraged to think.

We will be looking at Principle D in the next blog. Principle D is concerned with Justice.

Thank you and be well.

Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo, PhD

Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo <![CDATA[Ethical Parenting: Principles]]> 2014-11-11T16:58:40Z 2014-11-11T16:58:40Z parents“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” ~ Benjamin Franklin.

This is the second post in a series on parenting and an ethical code for parents and children. In the November 10th post we discussed parenting stress and angst. I introduced a code of ethics for parents and Principle A: Beneficence and Nonmaleficence. Principle A is about doing no harm and choosing to find and do the right thing.

Principle B in the ethical code of conduct is called Fidelity and Responsibility. For parents this too is an important principle. It refers to things such as keeping promises, being trustworthy, following through, and learning as much as you can about your job as a parent. It means you take your parenting profession seriously. As a parent you strive to operate at a high standard. You don’t cheat, lie, blame others for your shortcomings, and you model moral and ethical behavior all the time.

This sounds like a hard order to fill doesn’t it? It is. Parenting is the hardest job you will ever choose.

Principle B asks parents to not do harm to other parents in terms of exploiting, lying, cheating, blaming, or other behaviors that would interfere with trust between parents. You might be wondering why there needs to be a bond of trust between and among parents. Think about it. We do not live, parent, thrive, or prosper alone. We need others. We need others who are in the same profession to be mindful. Parents all share the same profession and each parent has ethical responsibilities with their children, but also in relation to other parents. Remember, our children also learn by watching what we do in relation to others.

Principle B goes so far as to suggest that we take care with our morality as well. We don’t engage in conflict with others or multiple role relationships. What this means is that we avoid things like sleeping with your son’s teacher or undermining another parent in any way. These are challenges, but they speak to ethics, doing the right thing, and avoiding harm.

We can’t speak out of both sides of our mouths and say that others are morally bankrupt. We need to strive to keep our own side of the fence clean, tidy, and also accessible.

In this second principle we are asked to be mindful, honest, honorable, trustworthy, fair-minded, and aware of the ways we can harm others. We are asked to choose to do the right thing and to show our children the right thing by what we choose.

Imagine the confusion in a child when you tell them to be honest and not to cheat or lie and then you do their homework for them. You just lied and cheated. Imagine your child comes home after being hit by a classmate and you speak badly about the child’s parents. You just engaged in doing harm by undermining another parent. I know parents do this all the time. It is time to consider the consequences of these small actions. Small actions often lead to very large consequences.

More on the principles in the parenting code of ethics in the next blog.


Thank you and be well.

Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo, PhD

Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo <![CDATA[Ethical Code of Conduct………….For Parents and Children]]> 2014-11-10T22:24:13Z 2014-11-10T22:24:13Z ethics-and-decision-making“More inhumanity (to man) has been done by man himself than any other of nature’s causes.” ~ Sameul von Pufendorf, 1673.

Do you ever feel you need a compass or a set of tools to help you navigate through the issues that arise every day as a parent? If so, you are not alone. Parents worry, they fret, they despair, they cry, scream, and yell loudly. Most parents feel alone when it comes to knowing what the right thing is to do.Just how do we come to know what is right? Does choosing right mean something else is wrong? We do best when we don’t divide the world or our thinking into good or bad, right or wrong, or any other human maneuver that separates us from others and creates a state of Us versus Them. This type of thinking accounts for wars and creates excuses for violence.

In order to guide children parents need to have a working compass of their own. They need to have navigation tools that work. Most of the parents I have known in my clinical practice struggle with the compass and the tools. They get lost and try something new.  The may re-invent their parenting style on a weekly basis. Their children get confused. Matters are not remedied by the host of parenting books out there that would guide you this way or that way. The problem with most parenting books is that they espouse one way of parenting. How absurd. There are dozens of ways to parent and parent well.

Psychologists, counselors, social workers, psychological researchers, professors, and many others who work in the field of psychology are familiar with the American Psychological Association’s Code of Ethics. The APA Code of Ethics is the compass for mental health professionals. Within this very long code of ethics are contained five main principles and many dozens of principles. I teach ethics at a university and I found myself wondering about applying the code of ethics psychologists use every day to parenting.

Here are my thoughts on this.

The five main principles in the APA Code of Ethics address the general behavior and expectations of the professional in the field of psychology. This includes the psychologist in clinical practice, as a researcher, as a professor, a consultant, or as a mentor of students in the field.

The first Principle is known as Principle A: Beneficence and Nonmaleficence. This principle speaks to the concept of doing no harm and always attempting to do the right thing. It means that we search for the right thing in the situation at hand and avoid any harmful choices or behaviors where others who are in our care are concerned.

In parenting I propose we look at Principle A as an opportunity and as permission to choose the right thing. This may not always be the trendy thing or the thing that your mother, friend, neighbor, or your children’s parents are doing. The right thing often requires taking a little time and avoiding impulsive, reactive, or angry choices. With Principle A we settle down and make a decision to do the right thing and the right thing is that which avoids harm coming to your child.

How do we know when we have harmed a child or our children? There are many signs of harm being done. A child who cries, cannot sleep, has trouble concentrating, is overly anxious, or appears disinterested or depressed may have been harmed. We may not have done things that make a child show these signs, but our parenting does effect our children. At the very least we can show a child that we will do the best thing. The best thing is to come to fully understand the conflict that has been presented.

We will look at all of the principles in this blog series and we will also look at the steps involved in solving a conflict with a child. The problem-solving process does work and it does create a sense of well-being in the parent when a parent know they are doing something correct and based on being mindful.

I advocate keeping your parenting style and adopting a code of ethics for your style and your beliefs. You don’t need to follow another’s style, but a compass may help you feel more confident.

More on the principles in the next blog.


Thank you all and be well!

Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo, PhD

American Psychological Association Code of Ethics,….

Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo <![CDATA[The Overly Anxious Child]]> 2014-04-30T19:56:47Z 2014-04-30T19:56:47Z worriedchild“Worry is the thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.” ~ Arthur Somers Roche.

Many adults wonder what children have to worry about. After all, they have all their basic needs met by others in the majority of circumstances. That said, the chief referral reason for child therapy revolves around a host of behaviors, symptoms, and interactions that will inevitably come to be diagnosed at Overanxious Disorder of Childhood. This same disorder is called Generalized Anxiety Disorder when applied to adults.

Let’s take a look at the symptoms of the overly anxious child and some of the presenting problems that may indicate this is going on.

Symptoms of the Overly Anxious Child:

Excessive anxiety or worry.

Difficulties controlling the anxiety or worry.

Restlessness, feeling keyed up or on edge. A state of fear without a precipitating event.

A state of being easily tired or fatigued.

Difficulty concentrating. Ones mind going blank. Inability to focus.

Irritability including anger.

Muscle tension, tenseness.

Sleep disturbances. Reported difficulties going to sleep, staying asleep, or obtaining restful sleep.

So what’s the big deal about having anxiety?

Anxiety robs a child of peace, joy, fun, and a childhood. Children who worry don’t have the luxury of engaging in the here and now except for moments stolen back from the state of anxiety present much of the time. Children who worry report unhappiness, dread concerning the future, and a constant sense that the next bad thing is about to happen. Some of these children will have panic states where they have trouble breathing or catching their breath, a rapid heart beat, and they easily cry, shout, or act out with anger due to the inability to hold all of this inside.

Children often try to explain their anxiety and worry to their parents. Most children and teens tell me their parents simply don’t understand. Parents tell their children it is a state of mind. They are told there is nothing to feel anxious about. Parents get angry at their child’s report of anxiety and often parents dismiss it all as an exercise in child drama making.

Anxiety is real, palpable, and it feels, to the child or teen, as though one more thing will cause you to implode or explode. Anxious children don’t want to disappoint others. Often they are the family peace-keepers or mediators. They take on more than they can handle and seldom complain until that dreaded anxiety peaks.

If a parents want to intimately understand anxiety they do need to look a bit differently at their child. What do you really see? Is Johnny biting his lower lip. Is Joy biting her nails? Does Sara have trouble telling her teacher she doesn’t have time to do one more club? Is Brian working so hard in baseball and track that he is falling behind on his math and he stays up until midnight working on it? Look at what your children say and do. Then begin to ask questions.

Some good questions can take the form of some of the following examples:

How are you feeling today?

When I saw you studying last night it felt like you were worried about something, were you?

In soccer practice last night you blew up at George. That’s not typical for you. Are you worrying about something?

Watch how your child eats, sleeps, and eliminates. Do they rest? Or, is it go, go, go.

Try for a relationship of emotional honesty.

Take care and be well.

Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo, PhD

Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo <![CDATA[When Children Remember 9/11/2001]]> 2014-03-03T15:50:51Z 2014-03-03T15:50:51Z neverforget911“Memory is the diary that we all carry about with us.” ~ Oscar Wilde.

We don’t need to worry about forgetting. We have a part of the brain whose job it is to secure all information for future use.I work with children of all ages.

I was on the air with a radio program when the 9/11 terrorist attacks took place. My clinical practice would involve hour after hour of upset parents, confused children, frightened children, and a pervasive sense of doom being communicated by many.

One little boy said, “Ms. Nanette I don’t understand. I saw this newspaper at Kilroy’s grocery store. On the front was that Osama man. Someone had drawn an X through his face and below it said, ‘Wanted Dead or Alive.’ Why would someone draw an X through his face? Why would someone want him dead?”

To work with children is to meet them where they are. We suspend all judgment and feelings and help them with the task at hand. They decide on the task and any good counselor knows this.

Fast forward to 2011. I was working with a teen who was very bright. He had some social awkwardness issues and some family problems thrown in on the side. He also had considerable anger issues and would every now and again find himself in a rage, especially with one of his parents. He was sixteen and he loved coming to counseling.

I asked him if he remembered the 9/11 event. He did. He relayed a detailed story of where he was when the news hit the television. He remembered not understanding why anyone would want to hurt people, hijack a plane, and kill others. He also remembered this being the first time he didn’t feel safe and protected. It was the first time he felt vulnerable. It was his first conscious acknowledgement that his parents couldn’t protect him from everything. He was afraid, he began to worry, and he would become highly anxious. In time he questioned why he should finish high school, go to college, or do anything at all. Why do all that when we can be destroyed at the whim of another?

When bad things happen in the world it affects everyone. We often don’t know just what the effect is, because people stop asking about an event. One event is simply followed by another and another until the pile of events is so deep it is almost unthinkable to try to dig under it all to discover an insight or a clue.

We remember all things, both good and bad. What I mean by memory is the collective accumulation that takes place in our brains of all things that have taken place since the brain began to function all on its own. This includes all the data associated with sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell.

We know that the development of a human brain happens in stages. A five-year-old brain is different than a twenty-year-old brain. Skill sets begin to develop early on. We cannot expect an eleven-year-old to be able to do things a parent can. Some things can be done; whereas other things cannot.

Our brains record everything for future use. If a child witnessed the recorded events on television of terrorist attacks in New York they have recorded a visual memory, an auditory memory of the sounds recorded or the commentators voice, and the way it felt emotionally at the time. All the while the child is taking in the reactions and words and behaviors of others concerning the event. This includes peers, teachers, parents, and unknown people on the television.

Things that hurt, cause pain or distress, and are unthinkable acts are remembered through a stronger connection in the brain. This doesn’t mean it  is more important than mother’s hugs or grandmother’s apple pie. Hurt and pain signal danger and this danger creates a state of arousal. The state of arousal is first felt as anxiety. Anxiety is a type of fear. Anxiety is most often defined as the fear of something that hasn’t yet happened. Or, the fear that something that has happened will happen again. Or, the fear that other like-kind things may indeed happen in due time.

I haven’t conducted a formal study on the subject, but I work with kids and have for many years. I feel there is a connection between anxiety and trauma. The trauma can be personal or general. It really doesn’t seem to matter. All children who were alive and in possession of declarative language skills at the time of 9/11 do remember being stunned, or afraid, and they remember losing their innocence. Loss of innocence is this context refers to being made to view the world as potentially unsafe.

Eventually all children or teens discover the world as unsafe. People do kill and they do harm one another. People are also kind, sympathetic, empathic, and helpful. We remember the bad stuff, because we are afraid of it. How do we help children to cope with a part of the world that likely won’t change during their lifetimes?

Whether the trauma is more societal or up close and personal we need to have discussions with children about the collective, which is their memory and their life. We need to be unafraid to bring up events, such as 9/11, Aunt Clara’s death, or when mother was hospitalized for a year. We want them to be able to talk about death, pain, and being afraid. Something positive happens when children are no longer afraid to talk about being anxious and frightened by people or the world.

Children need to talk about the bullies at school and they need to be able to talk to you, the parent, about what you say about that. The problem with terrorists, or bullies, or abusive family members rests outside the child. The problem, created by another, has now become the child’s problem. How do we help?

More on this in the next blog.

Take care and be well!

Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo, PhD

Understanding Loss and Grief
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Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo <![CDATA[Paying Kids For Good Grades?]]> 2014-02-05T18:54:45Z 2014-02-05T18:54:45Z paying-kids-for-good-grades-630x432“A student asked his Zen master how long it would take to reach enlightenment.  “Ten years,” the master said.  But, the student persisted, what if he studied very hard?  “Then 20 years,” the master responded.  Surprised, the student asked how long it would take if he worked very, very hard and became the most dedicated student in the Ashram.  “In that case, 30 years,” the master replied.  His explanation:  “If you have one eye on how close you are to achieving your goal, that leaves only one eye for your task.” ~ From Alfie Kohn, A Case Against Grades.

This topic has surfaced off and on in recent years. Many parents want their children to evidence success at any cost. Let’s look at some of the issues.As the quote at the beginning of this blog suggests, we have two eyes and if only one is focused on the goal we are less likely to achieve that goal.

Is paying for grades like keeping one eye on the goal? Just what is the goal? This is where I believe the dialogue begins.

Do grades equal success? Can a student with poor grades still succeed? We all know the answer to this. Grades are a measure of how well one performed on a certain set of tasks. Grades do not measure intelligence or even grasp of subject matter. They measure how well a student did with a set of questions designed to measure knowledge on a subject.

Teachers I know debate among themselves about the merits of reinforcement, reward, and instilling motivation in young people. Many seasoned teaching professionals do not like the use of paying money for grades to motivate. Others think it is a good idea and related to the way life is. If you do well you get paid more. Hmm. I am not sure about that.

In my clinical practice this issue comes up a good deal. Parents have viewed the various sites on the Internet that report in on the debate. There are many sites if you Google, Paying For Grades.

As a reminder, some of the most important jobs there are, such as teaching, are among those professions where a college educated person will not see financial rewards. Some of the highest paying jobs don’t require any education at all, such as those children and adults in the entertainment industry. There is a huge disparity between economic gain and the efforts or skill sets used to obtain it.

I think there is the issue of parenting and an issue regarding education. For me, parenting leads and is the most important influence for children and teens. What are we saying to children when we reward with money or attempt to motivate with money? I would rather explore what the low, failing, or less than perfect grades are about. I would also rather explore the expectations that good grades equal later success in life.

I help the parents who see me concerning their children to focus in on maintaining a good relationship and communication with their children. I prefer that parents not become afraid that not enough A’s means their child won’t succeed. A happy, well-adjusted, flexible, and emotionally intelligent child will do well in life if their goal is to do well in life. Some of the happiest people I know are not wealthy at all. Some of the most sad are those with considerable wealth.

Instead of communicating that somehow you are in charge of grades by paying you son or daughter, how about having a conversation about grades with your child? Do they want A’s and what does this mean? Do they feel OK about having C’s? Does the occasional D hurt anything? I think we want to communicate to children that we are there to help. What do they want? If they want an A, but it feels too hard to accomplish, why is this so? Can you, the parent, be of help? What would that help look like.

I support letting our children decide who they are going to be. I also support making sure that we know they are making the decision and that it isn’t about feeling they can’t or that if they only had a little help they could do better.

The trend over the past fifteen plus years has been for parents to do their children’s homework, their science fair projects, and many of their child’s papers. This instills inadequacy and fear. A child will grow to learn they are unable to respond to what is expected and fear will set in. It is better to let children experience failure as children and grow, decide, and learn from that. We want children to take responsibility for what happens. A parent is not responsible for a child’s successes. A parent, at best, is there for big arms of support around the child and for support provided by way of wisdom, guidance, ethics, and morality.

So, the next time your child asks for money for grades you might want to think about it. I am reminded of a custom a friend of mine told me about. In the Mormon Church (according to my Mormon friend) birthdays are celebrated in two ways. The child’s birth is celebrated by gift-giving to the child and the child is expected to give the mother a gift. It is because of the mother that the child has a birthday. So, with grades, wouldn’t it be interesting that the mother or father be given a gift every time the child feels he or she succeeded in a way that matters for the child. It would be a thank you, an acknowledgment that no one goes it alone, and an act of gratitude, which never hurts in the big picture.


Be well and take care,

Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo, PhD


Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo <![CDATA[What Makes A Happy New Year]]> 2014-01-06T17:09:48Z 2014-01-06T17:09:48Z happy-new-year-2014-hd-wallpapers-4“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice.” ~ T.S. Eliot.

A new year has just turned the corner. Many people in my clinical practice have voiced hope that 2014 will be an improvement over 2013. This last year was difficult for many. There were deaths, divorces, cancer diagnoses, financial problems, temporary setbacks, and major issues to address for many.Think about what 2013 was for you. Make a list with headings such as health, employment, finances, relationships, legal issues, spiritual satisfaction, parenting concerns, loved ones, partners, extended family, and life in general. Where did you take a hit? Where were there highlights? What did you learn from your life events, losses, and grief?

For the coming year of 2014 it may be helpful to look at what people look for in a new year. What was it that made 2013 so unsavory and bitter? Here is my short list of things I have heard people say since October 2013.

Hopes for a New Year

A happy home life including partners and children.

Less stress at home.

No surprises being hurled in from beyond. No sudden death, no sudden illness, and no sudden accidents or assaults.

Better self-esteem. Being able to feel good about who you are and to accept both your strengths and challenges without apology.

Getting out of debt one credit card at a time.

Getting into that career one step at a time.

Working on relationships one conflict at a time.

Trying something new or doing something usual in an unusual way.

Helping others create more balance or peace in their lives.

Taking that dream into action.

Being the best person you can be to self and others.

Look at all the possible things you can do to improve your life and the lives of others. We are all in this lifetime together. I believe in each of us striving for our goals and I believe in helping others do the same. Some of us have that extra energy and happily share it with others.

Top List of Children’s/Teen’s Hopes for The New Year:

That mommy and daddy are happy.

That we always have enough food to eat.

For mommy to be well. For daddy to be well.

For mommy and daddy to love me.

For mommy and daddy to come back.

That daddy stops drinking.

That grandma lives a very long time, because I need her. She makes life make sense.

That the bully on the playground moves to some where else.

That I live long enough to know what my dreams for life are all about.

I hope the future will not disappoint me. I want to be someone special someday.

I hope all the grandparents will live a long time because they are wiser than parents.

I wish that in 2014 I figure out what I want to do with my life.

I wish all of you a very Happy New Year. May you be able to fashion wishes, dreams, hopes, desires, and the manner in which they can be manifest.


All the best,

Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo, PhD

Understanding Loss and Grief
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