141: Weak or strong, depends on the message you TELL

How often to do you reflect on your weaknesses? By weakness I mean a muddled area in your life. A place where you are unsure or confused, something that causes you to stop and think, “How could I be better at this?” or “I believe I should be better at this.” What is your policy toward your weakness? Do you even have a policy?

Do you idly settle for your weakness? Do you say, “This is the way it is, and there is nothing I can do but accept myself like this and make the best of it”? Do you just ignore it and say, “Whatever”? Do you just get upset? What is your approach? What is  your attitude? What is your philosophy?

One of the reasons for thinking about tell-able messages is to allow you to overcome weaknesses and become stronger. In these moments, you can have a policy to start thinking about a message that you will teach, encourage, listen, and love stronger.

Not only does this allow you to become stronger and better in this particular muddled area in life, it allows you to tell others who struggle with similar weaknesses.  You will have a tell-able message for someone else seeking to overcome this. You help yourself and others to become stronger.  In these moments, don’t just tell yourself something, tell yourself something beneficial.


Focus: Teach, Encourage, Listen, LoveTags: #, #, #, #, #, #

140: TELL using your creative imagination!

This week, a teacher reminded me of a poem I shared as part of a professional development workshop. I copied the poem in this post because of the telling message it reflects. As you read it, imagine the messages being communicated to the little boy. Imagine yourself as the little boy and imagine yourself as the teacher.


Once a little boy went to school.
He was quite a little boy.
And it was quite a big school.
But when the little boy
Found that he could go to his room
By walking right in from the door outside,
He was happy.
And the school did not seem
Quite so big any more.

One morning,
When the little boy had been in school a while,
The teacher said:
“Today we are going to make a picture.”
“Good!” thought the little boy.
He liked to make pictures.
He could make all kinds:
Lions and tigers,
Chickens and cows,
Trains and boats –
And he took out his box of crayons
And began to draw.


But the teacher said:
“Wait! It is not time to begin!”
And she waited until everyone looked ready.

“Now,” said the teacher,
“We are going to make flowers.”
“Good!” thought the little boy,
He liked to make flowers,
And he began to make beautiful ones
With his pink and orange and blue crayons.

But the teacher said,
“Wait! And I will show you how.”
And she drew a flower on the blackboard.
It was red, with a green stem.
“There,” said the teacher.
“Now you may begin.”

The little boy looked at the teacher’s flower.
Then he looked at his own flower,
He liked his flower better than the teacher’s.
But he did not say this,
He just turned his paper over
And made a flower like the teacher’s.
It was red, with a green stem.

On another day,
When the little boy had opened
The door from the outside all by himself,
The teacher said,
“Today we are going to make something with clay.”
“Good!” thought the boy.
He liked clay.

He could make all kinds of things with clay:
Snakes and snowmen,
Elephants and mice,
Cars and trucks –
And he began to pull and pinch
His ball of clay.

But the teacher said,
“Wait! And I will show you how.”
And she showed everyone how to make
One deep dish.
“There,” said the teacher.
“Now you may begin.”

The little boy looked at the teacher’s dish
Then he looked at his own.
He liked his dishes better than the teacher’s
But he did not say this,
He just rolled his clay into a big ball again,
And made a dish like the teacher’s.
It was a deep dish.

And pretty soon
The little boy learned to wait
And to watch,
And to make things just like the teacher.
And pretty soon
He didn’t make things of his own anymore.
Then it happened
That the little boy and his family
Moved to another house,
In another city,
And the little boy
Had to go to another school.

This school was even bigger
Than the other one,
And there was no door from the outside
Into his room.
He had to go up some big steps,
And walk down a long hall
To get to his room.

And the very first day
He was there, the teacher said,
“Today we are going to make a picture.”

“Good!” thought the little boy,
And he waited for the teacher
To tell him what to do
But the teacher didn’t say anything.
She just walked around the room.

When she came to the little boy,
She said, “Don’t you want to make a picture?”
“Yes,” said the little boy.
“What are we going to make?”
“I don’t know until you make it,” said the teacher.
“How shall I make it?” asked the little boy.
“Why, any way you like,” said the teacher.
“And any color?” asked the little boy.
“Any color,” said the teacher,
“If everyone made the same picture,
And used the same colors,
How would I know who made what,
“And which was which?”
“I don’t know,” said the little boy.
And he began to draw a flower.
It was red, with a green stem.

~ Helen E. Buckley

One of the main messages of this poem is the impact of interactions with children – especially when it comes to imagination and creativity. There is a tendency to want children to hear, respond, and obey. At school and at home, the message too often is, “do as you are told to do.”

The hear, respond, and obey interactions do not allow children the freedom to have thoughts and choices. Instead, the children are trained to behave and think a certain way. The way the adult wants them to.

I believe we can agree there are moments where the hear, respond, and obey interaction is appropriate. For example, when it comes to a child’s safety or to enforce rules of the house or classroom. However, when we want children to learn, they need freedom to think, create, and make choices. They need their imagination engaged.

Can you see how children begin just doing things because they were told to do so; can you see how they resort to drawing red flowers with green stems like The Little Boy?

Today, give a child the freedom to create and choose. Again and again. Think twice about asking a child to merely hear, respond, and obey. Instead, use your imagination and figure out a message that inspires them to think, to be creative, allow for new possibilities, to choose, to learn, to grow. … The message you imagine to inspire this child may also inspire you!

Imagine that.

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139: ‘Fixing’ human behavior doesn’t work – learn to TELL better

When we feel unsure or not good enough, the tendency is to try and fix it. People want to fix themselves and others by searching for a how-to resource or giving others how-to directions.

Daily, I witness school administrators trying to fix teachers, and teachers trying to fix students. Parents trying to fix children, especially teenagers. Friends and family trying to fix each other and themselves.

Yet human behavior is not fixed. Behavior is learned. You fix an object to make it better, but fixing people’s behavior does not necessarily make them better. Actually, fixing human behavior tends to fail most of the time!

Fixing doesn’t consider an individual’s unique strengths and weaknesses – these are assumed by the fixer. Fixing doesn’t consider whether the individual has the resources to do the how-to – these also are assumed by the fixer. Fixing is one way, not the only way, possibly not the best way – but it is assumed it is by the fixer. Just because the fixer knows what human behavior worked in one situation or possibly two or more, this does not mean the fix is the only way for all. More than likely it is not.

The impulse is to fix because we want immediate action and results; however, most situations cannot be immediately fixed. There’s a reason the problem exists. The majority of problems are a consequence of the human behavior. The individuals have limited ideas and decisions, as well as limited resources. Fixing does not tend to consider these variables.

Problem situations are resolved when individuals become part of the solution. When individuals have a chance to contribute their thoughts – their strengths and limitations; when they have a chance to consider the knowledge, time, and energy resources for this particular situation. In other words, when key stakeholders have opportunities to teach one another, encourage one another, and listen to one another – and these interactions are done in a loving manner – that’s when problems get resolved and human thoughts and behavior are renewed.

Human behavior is not fixed. We are not objects.

We have unique strengths and we have limitations that need strengthening. We have unique resources. We have opinions. We behave a certain way because of these variables.

Create opportunities to teach one another, encourage one another, and listen to one another; and do these interactions in a loving manner. Tell and learn ways to contribute and benefit from a problem situation. Get stronger and better, not fixed.

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138: Confront conflict with BOLDNESS to TELL a better story

In the previous Show & TELL post, 137, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree?”, I brought up how children learn from their primary caregivers throughout childhood. They learn how to communicate and relate to others, as well as form many character traits during these precious years.  Life stories are being created, for better or worse.  Your relationship with that child is being strengthened, or weakened. It matters how you and a child consistently interact. It matters what you say; what you hear; how  you feel; how they feel.

There is power in what we do … and what we don’t do.

Something I have noticed in my life is a tendency to ignore rather than discuss difficult situations. I worry about saying the right thing because I don’t want to cause conflict or drama. I don’t want the other person to be upset with me, or reject me because of what I have to say. It’s difficult to interact when you’re in a disagreement. So, for the time being, my thought is to avoid, do nothing about the situation.

The more I reflect on the tell message, the more I realize avoidance is a false logic. Bringing up a difficult situation with someone I care about does not have to imply conflict and drama. Neither does it imply rejection or always cause another person to be upset. Actually, not bringing up important, difficult disagreements with those closest to you is what will eventually cause conflict and drama in life. If it is a behavior that is not benefiting their life story or your relationship, it is better to talk about it. I’m learning to tell better in such moments.

I’m learning how to express disagreement with people and situations in loving ways. I ask:

How can I be firm, accurate, and honest?

How can I affirm the good points; what are the good points?

What are the facts; do I have the facts; is the disagreement factual?

Be bold.

board-939244_1280Then something I’ve realized is how important it is to follow up after the confrontation. Always be gentle after being firm.  Like a friend of mine said the other day, “I learn the most from those who don’t take my crap and can talk to me about it in kind ways!”

Confront others by being firm and bold; affirm all you see that is good; be accurate and honest; know the facts; follow up after the confrontation; and be gentle after being firm.

Children, and many adults, can benefit when confronted with limiting behavior. We all benefit when someone talks through confrontations with us.  Show & TELL Blog #003 started with:

When you think better, you know and live better.

To think better means you consider possibilities that allow the moment to be better. You don’t just react in the moment with the first thoughts that come to mind.

It shares a story about an interaction between a father and son, the Jason story. The father confronts his son about telling a lie. The father wanted to discipline right away; however, instead he chose to be firm and bold, affirm the good in his son, be accurate and honest, and know the facts. I don’t know whether the father followed up after the confrontation. I do know it was a conversation that benefited both the father and son.


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137: The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree?

The way you treat people and communicate today is how you learned to do so during your childhood years, for the most part. Depending on how people interacted with you day by day, your life story was being lived and created. That’s all you can know.

As early as elementary school, I hear educators say, “Well, the apple doesn’t fall from the tree,” meaning this child speaks and acts much like the behavior learned at home.  I’ve also heard neighbors say this about the “trouble child” down the street. Now, usually this phrase implies a negative stance, not something you would want said about you and the child in your life!

What if we considered the flip side of this phrase – “the apple doesn’t fall from the tree” – meaning instead of negative behavior, a child speaks and acts in honest, truthful, respectful ways just like they experience at home. This is the positive perception of “the apple doesn’t far from the tree.”

In the newly completed blog series on telling better stories, we talked about how loving interactions are key to TELL (Teach, Encourage, Listen, and Love) a better life story. This was the focus of posts #120 #132, and it was summarized in Post #134.  When children consistently experience unloving interactions at home, well, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Meaning since they are experiencing unloving interactions at home, they will interact in unloving ways outside of the home.

However, when children consistently experience loving interactions at home, that too becomes how they relate and communicate with others. That apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, either.Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 10.33.31 AM

The interactions we have with children matter. They are learning about communicating and relationships in this critical time in childhood. They are also learning about other character traits depending on the messages they hear from caregivers in childhood.

In one of the first posts, #102, I shared how we must give it in order for the youth to get it. In particular, if we want children to become hardworking, trusting, kind, someone who doesn’t give up, confident, joyful, and other positive traits, we can do them a big favor and allow these ideas to be part of their life story in childhood. Interacting in loving ways allows them to learn that it matters how you communicate and relate to others. In childhood, a mindset and skillset is developed based on the interactions experienced, the stories we live by. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree — but you can choose whether the “apple” interacts in loving or unloving ways.



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