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Gertrude “Tut” McFarland is Toast of the Town

Gertrude “Tut” McFarland will be honored at this year’s Toast of the Town at The Farm on June 2 at 6 PM. The annual event is presented by the Family Support Council.

A lifelong Dalton resident, McFarland was born to Jim McFarland and Gertrude Manly McFarland on July 19, 1926, at the old Hamilton Memorial hospital, she will celebrate her 90th birthday this summer. She has displayed a lifelong love of theater and dedicated her life to serving others. McFarland has always loved history, even as a little girl.

McFarland has been active with Dalton Little Theatre for almost 60 years and currently serves on its board of trustees. She loves to do story telling, in costume, with local children’s groups and telling historical family tales at Prater’s Mill.

“I enjoy trying to make history come alive for children and young people,” McFarland said.

During the summer of 1947, McFarland studied at the Irving Studio in New York City. She then spent the summer of 1952 working at the Plymouth Drama Festival. Later, she worked at the Barter Theatre of Virginia for three consecutive summers and conducted theater tours in New York City for 10 years.

McFarland graduated from Dalton high school in 1943 and attended LaGrange College. While there, she earned her bachelor of arts in speech and drama. Then, she went off to New York City for the summer.

She taught speech lessons in Dalton Public Schools from 1947 to 1969. She then taught third grade until 1991, when she retired. She loved teaching children.

McFarland’s summers after retirement included traveling to all seven continents and enjoying her “history lessons” throughout the Dalton community. She is involved with Lesche Women’s Club, Georgia’s oldest literary club, where she served as president for four years and serves as historian.  She has been an active member of Pilot Club of Dalton for 56 years, having served as president, vice president, secretary, District Anchor Club chairman and club chaplain.  The Pilot Club is a business and professional service club for women.

McFarland has been an active member of the Whitfield-Murray Historical Society since 1976. She has also served as a board member for Friends of the library, member of Dalton/Murray retired educators and the Dalton Garden Club.  She has volunteered at the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce for 20 years.

McFarland is a lifelong member of the Dalton First United Methodist Church. She joined in 1936, when she was 10 years old. She taught Sunday school for 60 years. She is active in Wesleyan Services Guild and United Methodist Women, serving as devotional presenter.

She has directed many church drama productions, including “White Christmas.” She currently serves as church historian. Her articles on church history can be found in The Daily Citizen.

McFarland is a writer and a painter. Her wisdom, contributions and talents are far-reaching in our community. She has influenced so many through her love of history and learning. She currently lives at Royal Oaks in Dalton, where she remains busy making history.

The Family Support Council is all about the prevention of child abuse by providing educational support programs to children and families in the community. The council is a United Way agency and a charter council of Prevent Child Abuse Georgia. Those interested in attending toast of the town can call the family support council office at 706-272-7919 for reservations.

Darkness 2 Light to host Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Training


Darkness 2 Light will be hosting Stewards of Children, Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Training, on Thursday, March 24th at the Gaston Community Center Room B from 10:00 AM until 12:00 PM.

Authorized Facilitator: Tom Bartley, Ed.S.

Please respond to Tom Bartley,, by Tuesday, March 22.

Darkness 2 Light (D2L) is a national nonprofit organization that provides individuals, organizations, and communities with the tools to protect children from sexual abuse. Using an evidence-informed platform, D2L programs teach adults to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse.

Valentine’s Day Parenting Tips

Since Valentine’s Day is this month, I want to share the following Valentine’s Day parenting tips adapted from the American Academy of Pediatrics. There are 14 tips since February 14th is Valentine’s Day.

  • Use plenty of positive words with your child. Make eye contact.
  • Respond promptly and lovingly to your child’s physical and emotional needs, and banish put-downs from your parenting vocabulary.
  • Make an extra effort to set a good example at home and in public. Use words like “I’m sorry,” “please,” and “thank you.”
  • When your child is angry, argumentative or in a bad mood, give him a hug, cuddle, pat, secret sign, or other gesture of affection he favors.
  • Use non-violent forms of discipline. Parents should begin instituting both rewards and restrictions many years before adolescence to prevent trouble during the teenage years. Once youngsters reach adolescence, allowing them to break important rules constantly without being disciplined only encourages more rule violations.
  • Make plans to spend half a day alone with your young child or teen doing something she enjoys.
  • Mark family game nights on your calendar so the entire family can be together. Put a different family member’s name under each date, and have that person choose the game or activity for that evening.
  • Owning a pet can make children, and especially those with chronic illnesses and disabilities, feel better by stimulating physical activity, enhancing their overall attitude, and offering constant companionship.
  • One of the best ways to familiarize your child with good food choices is to encourage him to cook with you. Let him get involved in the entire process, from planning the menus to shopping for ingredients to the actual food preparation and its serving.
  • As your child grows up, she’ll spend most of her time developing and refining a variety of skills and abilities in all areas of her life. You should help her as much as possible by encouraging her and providing the equipment and instruction she needs.
  • Your child’s health depends significantly on the care and guidance you offer during his early years. By taking your child to the doctor regularly for consultations, keeping him safe from accidents, providing a nutritious diet, and encouraging exercise throughout childhood, you help protect and strengthen his body.
  • Regardless of whether you actively try to pass on your values and beliefs to your child, she is bound to absorb some of them just by living with you. She’ll notice how disciplined you are in your work, how deeply you hold your beliefs and whether you practice what you preach.
  • One of your most important gifts as a parent is to help your child develop self-esteem. Your child needs your steady support and encouragement to discover his strengths. He needs you to believe in him as he learns to believe in himself. Loving him, spending time with him, listening to him, and praising his accomplishments are all part of this process.
  • Say, “I love you” a lot to children of all ages and especially at unexpected times! And remember a loving touch can also say “I love you.” A pat on the back, a hug, or a high-five will add meaning to your verbal expressions of love. So will a slight squeeze of the shoulder or a kiss.

New Year’s Resolutions for Kids

It’s still not too late for new year’s resolutions. The following healthy New Year’s resolutions for kids are from the American Academy of Pediatrics.


  • I will clean up my toys and put them where they belong.
  • I will brush my teeth twice a day, and wash my hands after going to the bathroom and before eating.
  • I won’t tease dogs or other pets – even friendly ones. I will avoid being bitten by keeping my fingers and face away from their mouths.
  • I will talk with my parent or a trusted adult when I need help, or when I’m scared.
  • I will be nice to other kids who need a friend or who look sad or lonely.

Kids, 5 to 12 years old

  • I will drink reduced-fat milk and water every day, and drink soda and fruit drinks only at special times.
  • I will put on sunscreen before I go outdoors on bright, sunny days. I will try to stay in the shade whenever possible and wear a hat and sunglasses, especially when I’m playing sports.
  • I will try to find a sport (like basketball or soccer) or an activity (like playing tag, jumping rope, dancing or riding my bike) that I like and do it at least three times a week!
  • I will always wear a helmet when riding a bike.
  • I will wear my seat belt every time I get in a car. I’ll sit in the back seat and use a booster seat until I am tall enough to use a lap/shoulder seat belt.
  • I’ll be friendly to kids who may have a hard time making friends by asking them to join activities such as sports or games.
  • I will never encourage or even watch bullying, and will join with others in telling bullies to stop.
  • I’ll never give out private information such as my name, home address, school name or telephone number on the Internet. Also, I’ll never send a picture of myself to someone I chat with on the computer without asking my parent if it is okay.
  • I will try to talk with my parent or a trusted adult when I have a problem or feel stressed.
  • I promise to follow our household rules for videogames, TV, and internet use.

Kids, 13 years old and older

  • I will try to eat two servings of fruit and two servings of vegetables every day, and I will drink sodas only at special times.
  • I will take care of my body through physical activity and eating the right types and amounts of foods.
  • I will choose non-violent television shows and video games, and I will spend only one to two hours each day – at the most – on these activities. I promise to follow our household rules for videogames and internet use.
  • I will help out in my community – through giving some of my time to help others, working with community groups or by joining a group that helps people in need.
  • When I feel angry or stressed out, I will take a break and find helpful ways to deal with the stress, such as exercising, reading, writing in a journal or talking about my problem with a parent or friend.
  • When faced with a difficult decision, I will talk about my choices with an adult whom I can trust.
  • When I notice my friends are struggling, being bullied or making risky choices, I will talk with a trusted adult and attempt to find a way that I can help them.
  • I will be careful about whom I choose to date, and always treat the other person with respect and without forcing them to do something or using violence. I will expect to be treated the same way in return.
  • I will resist peer pressure to try tobacco-cigarettes, drugs, or alcohol.
  • I agree not to use a cell phone or text message while driving and to always use a seat belt.

Parents, resolve to go over these resolutions with your kids and help them remember to practice them.

Give Presence Not Presents

Christmas is fast approaching, and some parents may be concerned about their family’s financial situation, and the money problems they may be experiencing this holiday season. This column is adapted from an article by Thomas Haller and Chick Moorman, parenting experts. I have used it before and have been asked to use it again.

The giving of gifts during the holiday season is an honored tradition. However, if you are wondering what gifts to give if you have to “tighten your money belt,” then
maybe the answer lies in the gifts that are given. Be honest with your children about your financial situation in a non-frightening way. But you can give them what they really want from you: presence, not presents. All children spell love T-I-M-E. What we parents can give to our children is our attention, our availability, our closeness, and our time.

Are you being fully present with your children? Can you let go of your worries about money? Can you suspend your agenda to focus on theirs? Can you learn to be there for and with your children?

Consider the following suggestions as a way to give the most important present this holiday season, your presence.

1. Be there regardless of what you are doing. The holiday season requires an added measure of balancing kids’ schedules, visiting family, and cooking as well as keeping up the regular requirements of work, laundry, cleaning, everyday cooking, etc. When feeling pulled in several directions, many parents turn to multitasking. Avoid the urge to multitask and strive to stay focused on the moment at hand. When you sit with your children, whether it’s to play a game, read a book, or just talk, give them your undivided attention.

2. Make a “be” choice. How you choose to “be” affects whatever you choose to “do.” When you are with your children, choose to be interested in what they are interested in. Choose to be happy that you have the time to focus on their needs and wants. Choose to be excited about the time you have with them. Even when misbehavior occurs in your children, choose to be glad that you have the opportunity to help them learn a new behavior or a new way to communicate a desire or express a feeling.

3. Focus on listening rather than telling. Children spend a great portion of their day following directions: pick up your clothes, make your bed, sit down, be quiet, go play, chew with your mouth closed, stop picking on your brother, hang up your coat, brush your teeth. To kids, the list of commands seems endless. Remember, children have valuable things to say too. Many times parents get so focused on telling that they forget to listen. Value your children’s opinions. Allow them opportunities to vent. Embrace their points of view. Invite suggestions. Listen to their voices.

4. Connect physically. Touch is a powerful way to communicate “I love you.” Get close and touch your children’s heart with a warm embrace or a gentle squeeze of the shoulder. Snuggle under a blanket and read together. Go for a walk and hold hands. Wrestle on the living room floor. Dispense hugs, smiles, winks, and an occasional high five.

5. Connect emotionally. Feelings are always more important than things. Create an environment where it is safe to be emotional. Encourage the expression of feelings. Allow your feelings to extend to your children as you share traditions, reflect on holidays past, and gather as a family. Demonstrate empathy, compassion and understanding.

6. Unplug from the electronic world. The television, computer, video games, and other electronic gadgets have the potential to create a disconnect from personal interaction. Stand up, walk away from the TV, and go shoot baskets, skip rope, go for a walk, read a book, play a board game or card game, or ride bikes with your child. While riding in the car, tell your children a story about the day they were born, relate a favorite holiday memory, sing, or play 20 questions.

7. Play by the kids’ rules. Play with your children at their level. Make mud pies, jump in rain puddles, roll down a hill, spray whipped cream on the kitchen table and join in the creation of artistic designs, and then eat them! Cover the driveway in sidewalk chalk. Let your children take the lead and change the rules of a game if they want. Know that play, no matter how childish or silly it may appear, is an investment in connecting with your children. Play regularly with your kids, and remember that the reason for play is to play, not to win.

Make a commitment this holiday season to give the best gift you can give by being present in your child’s life. Be active and interactive on a daily basis with your children. Be the parent God called you to be. Give your presence, not presents!

Thanksgiving Thanks

This is a column I have used the last few Thanksgivings; and I always have many people who ask me to re-run it, so here it is.  Millions of parents will pause this Thanksgiving to do what the day was created for – to give thanks for the many blessings that exist in their lives. Turkey, pumpkin pie, and especially the presence of loved ones surely will receive their fair share of gratitude. Parents will also give thanks for their children’s health, their own health, and the health of their other loved ones and friends. The abundance provided to us in this country, our freedoms, the opportunities for meaningful work, and the laughter of children will be acknowledged with thanks by loving parents as they thank God for their many blessings. Indeed, this traditional holiday does call for the traditional thank-you’s. But what if your appreciation this year took on a new look? What if the blessings you counted included situations that aren’t usually regarded as helpful, useful or valuable?  Consider the following. 

Why not be thankful that your child is behind his grade level in reading ability? This struggling reader is giving you the opportunity to read to him regularly at night. This evening ritual will help build connectedness between you and your child while at the same time modeling your love for the printed word. Great literature like The Little Engine That Could or Make Way for Ducklings can be shared as you simultaneously bond with your child. This opportunity can be an incredible blessing. Appreciate it.

Why not be thankful that your daughter’s soccer team lost their last game? It is important that your children have experiences of both winning and losing. By losing, children have the opportunity to learn to handle defeat and bounce back the next time. With your help, they can learn that winning or losing is not the measure of who and what they are as human beings. They can learn they are more than the score. They can learn that it’s effort, energy, and playing up to potential with good sportsmanship that defines a winner, not the scoreboard. Appreciate the opportunity the loss brings and be grateful for it. 

Why not be thankful that your teenager received a speeding ticked for going 45 mph in a 25 mph speed zone? Getting a ticket is not necessarily a bad thing…not if your teen learns from it and slows down her driving. If she takes personal responsibility, pays the ticket, and is more cautious about her driving, the ticket may well save her life or the life of someone else in the future. Bless the ticket and give thanks for its blessings.

Why not be thankful that your 8-year-old shoplifted in the grocery store? This is the perfect time to teach your child about shoplifting. Better now than when he helps himself to someone else’s car when he is 18. Teach him how to make amends. Teach him what to say as he returns the candy bars to the storeowner. Help him learn to articulate what he learned and what he intends to do differently next time. Bless this perfect time to teach lessons about taking things that don’t belong to you. Be grateful for the opportunity.

Why not be thankful that your youngsters track mud and sand into the garage and house? The next time you stand in the garage furiously sweeping sand and wishing that your children were better behaved; quietly remind yourself that one day you’ll wish you had sand to sweep out of the garage. Love the mud. Love the sand. Be grateful for the signs of the presence of children in your life.

Why not be thankful for sibling rivalry? “He got more than I did” and “It isn’t fair” are common childhood refrains. Hitting, poking and teasing your sister are typical childhood behaviors. Bless these opportunities to help your children learn how to get along with each other. Use them as times to teach interpersonal skills and the importance of touching each other gently. Sibling rivalry can be a signal that your children need lessons on how to interact positively with each other. Bless their unskillful way of asking for help. Be grateful that you recognize it and help them grow in working and playing cooperatively.

Why not be thankful that you got to stay home with a sick child last week? You didn’t have to stay home. You got to stay home. You didn’t have to take him to the doctor. You got to take him to the doctor. You got to make sure he received the health care he needed. You got to show him you care enough to drive all over town to the doctors, the pharmacists, and back home again. You got to be with your child while he was sick. Not everyone gets to be with their children when they are sick. If you did, chalk it up as a blessing. Celebrate it.

Why not be thankful that your adolescent asked you about oral sex? This is a great sign. It means your child trusts you enough to talk to you about sex. It means she is not getting all her sex knowledge from the street. It means you have been taking your role as sex educator in your family seriously and that you have moved beyond “the talk” to having an ongoing, honest conversation about the important subject of sex. Congratulate yourself. It is a blessing that you are willing to fulfill that role for your child and that she is responding to it positively. Give thanks.

Why not be thankful that your 22-year-old has moved out of your home? Did you really want to raise a 30-year-old Nintendo player who sits around your house all day sucking up Coke and pizza? Hardly! Your goal was to raise a responsible, caring, confident child who would move away from home when the time was right for her. You have been successful. Pat yourself on the back. Yes, it would nice if she had chosen to spend this Thanksgiving with you rather than with her boyfriend’s parents…but maybe next year. This year give thanks. Your child is a responsible adult. That is a blessing.

Why not give thanks that your child is spilling milk, talking with his mouth full, wiping his hands on his new pants, refusing to eat his vegetables, and interrupting his grandmother at the dinner table? It means you have more work to do as a parent. It means your job is not yet done. This is a blessing. You are still needed to help your child learn to pour milk more carefully, improve his table manners, learn to eat nutritiously, and show respect for elders. Give thanks for these opportunities.

Why not be thankful for your special-needs child? Do you have a child with ADHD? Is your son autistic or dyslexic? Does your daughter have Down’s syndrome? Is your child facing a serious health challenge? Your children are in your life for a reason. Perhaps God sent them to help you learn patience, understanding, or commitment. Perhaps they are here to teach your family about tolerance, acceptance of differences, or unconditional love. Their presence is a blessing. Be thankful for the contribution they are making to the world and to your family.

This holiday season remember that parenting is a ministry. It is a sacred role that you are being called upon to perform. Give thanks that you have been called. Give thanks that you are willing to step forward and accept that call. Appreciate that you are being shown the way. Celebrate yourself and your contribution to healing the planet by helping your children evolve into the people they were meant to be. Give thanks that you are up to the task.

This column is from an article written by Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller, the authors of The 10 Commitments: Parenting with Purpose. They are two of the country’s foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. They publish a free monthly e-zine for parents. To sign up for it or obtain more information about how you can better meet your parenting needs, visit their websites: or


With the holidays coming, we will all be under a lot of stress. Also, if you are a parent nowadays, your “to do” list is never ending; and your idea of relaxing is checking Facebook every 10 minutes when you’re waiting in the carpool line.

But think about this: all the stress you carry around on a daily basis can affect your kids. A recent study found that stress is contagious between children and their parents. A child as young as one mirrors its mother’s bodily stress responses, such as increased heart rate.

And a study published in Pediatric Obesity found that parental stress is linked to weight gain in young children. Furthermore, a recent survey by the American Psychological Association found that 20% of children have chronic stress.

But it’s not hopeless. Children are very perceptive, so if you deal with your stress appropriately, they’ll realize that stress is something they can deal with too. Here are some suggestions from an article in Kids’ Health by Colleen Oakley.

Think positively. When you find yourself thinking something negative, replace it with affirmation. For example, rather than say, “I hope I’m not getting sick,” say, “I am healthy and well.” Shutting out negative thoughts can reduce stress. You can teach this technique to your kids as well.

Don’t wait. Most of us know good stress reducing techniques, such as eating healthy, exercising, and taking time for ourselves, but we often wait until we’re stressed to do them. Work on stress reduction every day, even when things are easy. That way, you’ll create a pattern of healthy coping mechanisms.

Unplug. Recent studies link social media use to stress levels. Try a self-imposed technology break. Limit screen time for yourself as well as your kids. Pick a cutoff, maybe 7:30 every night, after which you won’t check your phone or email. You may be surprised at how much more relaxed you feel when you are unplugged.

The following behaviors in your children may be signs of a child with chronic stress:
1. Does your child have more meltdowns than usual?
2. Do you notice an increase in fatigue, irritability, headaches and stomachaches?
3. Is your child sleeping poorly or waking up from night terrors?
4. Is your child acting angry?

All of the above plus your instinct can be signs of stress overload.
If you think your child may be overstressed, the book Stress-Free Kids: A Parent’s Guide to Helping Build Self-Esteem, Manage Stress, and Reduce Anxiety in Children by Lori Lite might help.

Fighting Fears

This month brings a lot of spooky activities as Halloween approaches. There are many ways to experience the magic of this holiday as a family, such as by sharing stories, attending community events, listening to spooky music, and reading mystery and scary books together. Sharing a few age-appropriate thrills and chills can a fun experience.

For some children, though, being scared is nothing to laugh about. Some children have heightened anxiety about a wide range of perceived threats ranging from animals to insects, characters in costumes, and things they believe lurk in the dark.

A certain amount of caution is healthy and normal for children. But parents should help kids confront unreasonable fears so they don’t grow bigger and scarier. Here are some ways to do it.

Respect feelings. Dismissing kids’ concerns isn’t the answer. Fear feels uncomfortable. Your child’s heart is racing, and he or she wants to escape to safety. Be your child’s ally and accept her anxiety. If she isn’t ready yet to pet a dog or sleep without a nightlight, don’t push it.

Search for the words. Kids can’t always express what scares them, especially when the body’s fear response is energizing them to fight or flee. Help your child identify specific concerns using age-appropriate words. Ask “What is it about the dog that worries you?” or “What might happen when the lights are off?” Defining the fear will help you combat it. You can’t devise monster-slaying strategies if you don’t know the enemy.

Find understanding. Fear festers when the imagination runs wild. The more your child learns about the feared situation, the less powerful his imaginary thoughts will be. Hold hands while you check the closet for monsters. Read about snakes or spiders together. Knowledge is power.

Stand up to fear. Encourage your child to argue against frightening thoughts or to repeat a calming phrase such as “I am fast and strong. Monsters can’t catch me!” Talking back to fear, either out loud or in your head, shrinks scary thoughts. One parent recalls how her son was sure there were creatures under the bed and in the closet. “We put a sign on the door that read ‘Monsters KEEP OUT’ and they obeyed,” she says.

Take baby steps. “The best way to face a fear is a little at a time, from a safe distance,” says author and family therapist H. Norman Wright. For example, help your child face a fear of heights by imagining the scary situation first. Then, move on to climbing a low structure, followed by a taller one, and so on. Give high-fives as kids conquer each challenge.

Be there. Kids need to know you’ll stick with them when they face their fears. If your child’s fears and anxiety are truly crippling, you might consider getting help from counsellor, therapist, or other child development expert.

This column is adapted from an article by Heidi Smith Luedtke, PhD.


When Harvard University’s Making Caring Common Project released their report, “The Children We Mean to Raise: The Real Messages Adults Are Sending About Values,” the study found that many kids value academic achievement and individual happiness over caring for others. In the report, the authors explained that the children’s values reflected what they believe the adults in their lives value.
We live in an age in which we are more and more connected by technology, but this connectedness doesn’t seem “to be translating to genuine concern for the world and one another.” Research from the University of Michigan has shown that college kids today are nearly 40% less empathetic than they were 30 to 40 years ago.
In the wake of these disturbing study results, the Making Caring Common Project and the Ashoka Empathy Initiative created a set of recommendations for teaching empathy to children.
Empathy goes beyond being able to see another person’s point of view, according to Rick Weissbourd, the co-director of the Making Caring Common Project. He points out that sales people, politicians, actors and marketers are able to do this kind of “perspective-taking” in pursuit of their professional goals. Con men and women use this ability to manipulate their victims for personal gain. In order to be truly empathetic, children need to learn more than simple perspective-taking; they need to know how to value, respect and understand another person’s views, even when they don’t agree with them. Empathy, Mr. Weissbourd argues, is a function of both compassion and of seeing from another person’s perspective; and it is the key to preventing bullying and other forms of cruelty and discrimination.
To that end, the project offers these five suggestions for developing empathy in children:
1. Empathize with your child and model how to feel compassion for others.
Kids develop these qualities by watching us and experiencing our empathy for them. When we show that we truly know our children by understanding and reacting to their emotional needs, exhibiting interest and involvement in their lives, and respecting their personalities, they feel valued. Children who feel valued are more likely to value others and demonstrate respect for their needs. When we treat other people like they matter, our kids notice, and are more likely to emulate our acts of caring and compassion.
2. Make caring for others a priority and set high ethical expectations.
Kids need to know that we are not simply paying lip service to empathy, that we show caring and compassion in our everyday lives. Rather than say, “The most important thing is that you are happy,” try: “The most important thing is that you’re kind and that you are happy.” Prioritize caring when you talk about others, and help your child understand that the world does not revolve around them or their needs.
3. Provide opportunities for children to practice.
Empathy, like other emotional skills, requires repetition to become second nature. Hold family meetings and involve kids by challenging them to listen to and respect others’ perspectives. Ask children about conflicts at school and help them reflect on their classmates’ experiences. If another child is unpopular or having social problems, talk about how that child may be feeling about the situation, and ask your child how he or she may be able help.
4. Expand your child’s circle of concern.
It’s not hard for kids to empathize with their immediate family and close friends, but it can be a real challenge to understand and feel for people outside of that circle. You can help your child expand their circle by “zooming in and zooming out”; listening carefully to a particular person and then pulling back to take in multiple perspectives. Encourage your child to talk about and speculate on the feelings of people who are particularly vulnerable or in need. Talk about how those people could be helped and comforted.
5. Help children develop self-control and manage feelings effectively.
Even when kids feel empathy for others, societal pressures and prejudices can block their ability to express their concern. When kids are angry with each other over a perceived slight, for example, it can be a real challenge for them to engage their sense of empathy. Encourage kids to name those stereotypes and prejudices, and to talk about their anger, envy, shame and other negative emotions. Model conflict resolution and anger management in your own actions, and let your kids see you work through challenging feelings in your own life.
Educators will tell you that a classroom full of empathetic kids simply runs more smoothly than one filled with even the happiest group of self-serving children. Similarly, family life is more harmonious when siblings are able feel for each other and put the needs of others ahead of individual happiness. If a classroom or a family full of caring children makes for a more peaceful and cooperative learning environment, just imagine what we could accomplish in a world populated by such children.
This column was adapted from an article by Jessica Lahey, an educator, writer, and speaker. She writes about parenting and education.

Talking About School

The school year is now in “full swing.” So think about the school-related dialog you engage in with your children about school throughout the school year. To make those conversations more meaningful, gather increased information, encourage and nurture self-responsibility, and build positive relationships with your children, consider the following do’s and don’ts.

Do listen, listen, listen. When your child begins talking about school, put down what you were doing, resist the urge to multitask, turn and face your child, give strong eye contact, lean forward, and pay attention. Let your body language communicate “I am here for you. I am present. I care what you have to say, I am interested.”

Don’t judge what your children are saying. The instant you judge with “That’s a good/bad idea,” “How could you have done that?” “You should have done this . . .” you are inviting an abrupt end to the conversation. Judging sends a “Big Me/Little You” message. A judge by definition is above the person being judged. Children do not like being in that position and will give you less information in the future.

Don’t say “I was bad in math, too.” First of all, this statement announces that you agree that your child is bad in math. Your child is not bad in math. She is simply learning fractions slowly right now. Second, this sentence invites her to view her math ability as hereditary. This can quickly transfer into a dead-end belief: “Being bad in math runs in the family.”

Do invite goal setting. Help your child set goals for the year, week, or even the day on occasion. Also show them that when they have a goal, it requires action steps to reach it. For instance, if their goal is to learn their multiplication tables, what do they need to do to get there? 1. Make flash cards. 2. Practice with 2’s and 3’s by myself. 3. Have someone else practice with me. 4. Do a timed practice test. 4. Move on to the 4’s and 5’s. And so on.

Don’t ask “Do you have any homework?” This question is often the first words out of a parent’s mouth when they greet their children after school. “It’s good to see you. Hope you had a great day” is a more inviting, nurturing greeting. Then a little later, you can ask about homework.

Do praise effort over intelligence. When parents predominately praise intelligence, as in “You’re so smart. You have a great brain there,” children come to see intelligence as a fixed commodity. They think people are smart or not and there is not much anyone can do about it. Through effort, intelligence can be increased. To praise effort, say, “You worked on that Spanish until you learned to use all of the 15 color words,” or “You sure are working hard on that term paper/book report/science project. Looks like you’re going to have it done on time.”

Do invite your children to share what they have learned with you. “How about teaching me how to do that?” “Is there something you learned in school today that I might not know? I’d like to hear about it.” The fastest way to lock in learning is to teach a concept or skill to someone else. Have your children move their learning into their long-term memory by teaching it to you.

Do ask questions that require more than a one-word answer. “How was school today?” is going to get you the often-spoken “Fine.” “If you could change one thing about today, what would it be?” will likely be the start of a meaningful conversation. “Tell me about the most interesting/surprising/humorous thing that happened today” will invite your children to enter into an expanded dialog.

Do not say “If you get in trouble at school, you’ll be in trouble at home, too.” Having this conversation before inappropriate behavior has occurred sends the silent message that you expect inappropriate behavior to occur. In addition, it is applying double jeopardy. If your child is held accountable by the school personnel, you do not need to pile on extra consequences.

Do not say “This year will be a lot harder than last year” or “That’s going to be a tough class.” Sending ominous warnings creates an expectation of harder and tougher in your child’s mind. Do you really want your child going into the new school year thinking the class/grade/teacher will be hard? If it is hard, they will figure that out soon enough.

Do inquire “How did you choose to BE today?” instead of “What did you DO today?” Over time, this question helps children understand that they do indeed choose how to BE. They become conscious that their attitude and demeanor are controllable, and that they, themselves, are the controller.

Pick a couple of these suggestions to implement this week. You will know which ones.

This column was adapted fro an article by Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller, two of the world’s foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. Their websites are: or