223: Will you TELL a younger person something desirable, or undesirable?

It saddens me to hear adults sharing stories about how unsuccessful the youth are today. The other day I listened to an hour-long show where adults discussed how unsuccessful the youth have become and they debated possible explanations. According to these adults (and many other adults, I may add), too many of the youth today are undisciplined; disrespectful toward people and things; lack perseverance; are lazy; do not want to think; are impatient; need instant gratification; and lack good communication skills, meaning they can’t write or speak properly.

I’m not here to agree or disagree with these observations. I am wondering how the youth became so unsuccessful? Certainly there are many youth who are amazing!! There are many of them who have self control, are respectful, etc.

The whole conversation makes me wonder why so many of the youth have learned to display such negative traits that now others label the entire generation this way? The youth today were not born being undisciplined, disrespectful, lazy, etc. It matters who has been there in life to TELL them how to act and be. People learn successful behaviors, and they learn unsuccessful ones.

Below is a list of the unsuccessful traits the adults mentioned above, compared to an opposite more desirable (or beneficial) trait.

Limiting trait More desirable trait
Undisciplined Disciplined (self-control)
Disrespectful Respectful
Lacks perseverance Willing to persevere
Lazy Hardworking
Does not want to think Learner and Problem solver
Impatient Has patience
Poor communicator Effective communicator

In more than two decades of studying adult-children interactions, I have never experienced a child, even a teenager or a 20-year-old, who thinks “I am disrespectful toward people and things,” “I lack perseverance”, etc. They may believe and state: “Why should I show respect to someone who does not show it to me?”; “If I wait long enough, someone else will do it for me,” etc. The  youth can clearly justify why they say and do whatever it is they are communicating. From the younger person’s point of view, there are valid reasons for thinking and interacting the way they do. Much of their rationale is based on the experiences they’ve accumulated so far in life. Isn’t that also true about you?

If adults want a younger person to become disciplined, respectful, willing to persevere, hardworking, etc., someone must be there to TELL them about these character traits. The adult noticing these limited behaviors is the perfect person to teach, encourage, listen, and love the younger person to change and become stronger.  To clearly TELL the younger person means to interact and point out as well as celebrate the positive, more beneficial, trait.

When the youth in your life are being disrespectful or impatient, you can use this as an opportunity to help the adult-in-the-making develop a more favorable trait. For example, when a young child is impatient, you can put him or her in your lap, do whatever it is together, show the child patience.

For the older child who is disrespectful, you can model respectful interactions by being respectful, kindly asking the child to share why he or she thinks that behavior is appropriate. Hear the explanation and challenge or correct the child to consider a better response. Together the two of you can figure this out in a respectful manner. Together you can build a better way to be.

In summary, the youth in your life need you to show them patience and respect, or whatever behavior you want the child to exhibit. Be a role model and demonstrate the trait or behavior, especially in those moments the younger person is exhibiting a less desirable trait. Give the moment to TELL the desired behavior. Teach it, Encourage it, Listen for it, and Love it!

Today aim to be a positive role model during at least one interaction with a younger person. Explicitly model at least one of the positive traits: self control (disciplined), respect, patience, perseverance, or effective communication. Avoid interacting and expressing any of the less desirable traits, especially when a younger person is watching. Today, aim to #TELLforGood.


About the author of this post:  Denise Forrest, Ph.D.

Denise is a mother of three grown children and has been a teacher to thousands of students.  She is the creator of the TELL message and Founder of TELL Our Children, Inc. Denise also serves K-12 schools as a consultant focusing on mathematics education and instructional decisions for student learning (TELL for student learning). You can contact her by emailing denise@tellourchildren.org.

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222: Feeding the youth unhealthy food? How about unhealthy thoughts?

Is it not true that our bodies grow weaker if we consistently feed it unhealthy foods? If we feed our bodies trash, aren’t the chances slim that we become stronger and healthier? Isn’t this also true in relationships? If you continuously speak unhealthy, or trashy, with someone, the relationship you have with that person cannot possibly heal and grow stronger.

Now think about this…

Our youth are seeing, hearing, and experiencing a lot of trash these days. Think about some of the Hollywood movies, music, video games, television, social media, or Internet material children are fed on a daily basis. How can they grow stronger unless they see, hear, and experience healthier ideas? This is one of the fundamental reason why TELL Our Children is promoting the TELL message. We want more adults to begin noticing and practicing TELLing our youth better ideas. There is a lot of trash out there in the world, much more than when many of us were growing up.

First thing is to be honest with yourself: what and how do you speak and act around the youth in your life? Do you talk trash or healthier ideas? Speaking trash is not just putting them down or using poor language. It’s more about the quality of your interactions, the ideas and feelings you share with them. Are the feelings and ideas healthy? Do your interactions cause your relationship to grow stronger and heal internal wounds? Allow the younger person to mature thoughts, become wiser? Or, is it more trash for the child to process?

Are you TELLing the youth in your life beneficial, healthier ideas? Everyday, what and how do you




Love….. healthy living and learning?

Challenge yourself today. At some point aim to have one interaction where you can intentionally say to yourself ‘I am feeding this younger person a positive and healthy idea for living and learning’. And then continue the challenge tomorrow, one day at a time, one interaction at a time.

The unhealthy trash will always be there for the youth today. You can either add to it or empower the younger person to see, hear, and experience stronger, more beneficial and healthier ideas. Start today; aim to intentionally TELL the youth in your life a healthy and beneficial idea. Then aim again to do this tomorrow, and the next day….. #TELLforGood

About the author of this post:  Denise Forrest, Ph.D.

Denise is a mother of three grown children and has been a teacher to thousands of students.  She is the creator of the TELL message and Founder of TELL Our Children, Inc. Denise also serves K-12 schools as a consultant focusing on mathematics education and instructional decisions for student learning (TELL for student learning). You can contact her by emailing denise@tellforgood.com or denise@tellourchildren.org.

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221: Agreeing to disagree isn’t good enough

Something I have noticed lately is a tendency to ignore rather than discuss difficult situations. So many of us worry about saying the right thing the right way so that we don’t cause conflict or drama. We want the other person to not be upset with us, or reject us. So, for the time being, we believe it’s best to avoid the difficult interaction. We do nothing about the situation or we might walk away saying, “Let’s agree to disagree.”

The more I study interactions and the TELL message, I realize avoidance is actually false logic. Bringing up a difficult situation with someone does not have to imply conflict and drama. Nor does it imply rejection or the other person being upset.

Actually, not bringing up important, difficult disagreements with those closest to you is what may eventually cause conflict and drama in life. If the disagreement is about a behavior that is not benefiting each of your life stories or not benefiting your relationship, it is better to talk about this sooner than later. Learning to TELL better in such moments may not be easy in the short run but worthwhile for the long run. Relationships grow deeper when you can lovingly discuss disagreements.

Having a conversation when there is a disagreement is seldom easy. It requires being bold. It requires focusing on accurate and reliable facts. It requires empathic listening in order to hear the other person’s point of view and bringing out the relevant facts. It requires being able to affirm the common points of view and narrowing in on the actual disagreement. Discussing a disagreement takes courage.


Disagreements become emotional, and that is what complicates matters. We tend to ignore facts and speak emotionally in our pain. We allow our anger, frustration, disappointment, or hurt to be the center of words and actions. When we ignore disagreements, do not talk about disagreements sooner, the emotions definitely build up.

On the other hand, disagreements are how people and ideas grow – for better or worse. Relationships and situations grow when disagreements are resolved. When people discuss facts and have a desire to make the story better, that is how the experience can cause the relationship and situation to become better. When the disagreement remains a conflict, the relationship and situation suffer for the time being.

The other day, I was talking with a friend about having disagreements, and he added, “Well, don’t both people have to agree to resolve the disagreement? What if I want to resolve and the other person just continues to focus on the disagreement?”

It certainly is much easier to interact when both people want to resolve a disagreement; however, your words and actions become even more critical in situations where a person remains in conflict, remains in the disagreement. In those moments, you can be the catalyst toward a resolution by asking questions, by becoming curious to hear the other person’s thoughts behind the disagreement. “Why do you think that?”; “How do you know that?” If it is personal, “How would you like me to respond?” In other words, the manner you handle such interactions can be the difference.  You can be the reason the disagreement has a chance to move toward resolution. At a minimum, you can be the reason the interaction doesn’t grow more negative.

It’s not easy to have these interactions. We all have a tendency to react to the words we hear, the actions we see – especially when the experience stirs emotions. This will continue to be difficult for you unless you start developing the habit to TELL in such situations.

Today, or the next time you are in a disagreement, bring to mind thoughts such as ‘resolution’, ‘curiosity’, ‘listen’, ‘patience’…. it might just turn the conversation around into a good TELLing moment! #TELLforGood

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220: Walking in someone’s shoes… helps or hurts?

Last week, I wrote about a situation where I disagreed with someone dear to me. I talked about why I should have taken the time to walk in her shoes – and how I wished she would have walked in my shoes. I related this to the phrase,”Never judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.” This was post #218 if you have a desire to go back and read it.

Today, I was talking with this same friend, and as I was leaving I mentioned the idea about walking in each other’s shoes.

She commented, “That’s my problem, I am so busy trying to help others by walking in their shoes. I don’t walk in my OWN shoes enough.” Then she continued, “Do you think that’s because I don’t want to deal with things in my own life? It’s easier to walk in their shoes than my own?”

My immediate thought… “What is she TELLing me?” Does she really think she was walking in my shoes the other day?

It sure didn’t feel like it… Instead of judging and responding, I decided to be still and ponder.

Besides, as I mentioned, I was walking out the door at the time. Now, I can’t help but think deeper about this as I write this blog.

Through the years of studying interactions, I have noticed the pattern of trying to help others progress or helping others move toward success. “I’ll do whatever I can think is possible to help them create a better life. I’ve tried this…. I’ve tried that…. I’ll do whatever I can just for them…”

Does whatever you’re doing help? How does the person respond? What message are you really TELLing this person?

One the one hand, it’s admirable to have a desire to help others be better; I believe we all should have that desire! Yet, is this really what they are doing? Are they really helping the other person? I decided to go back to the quote.

The saying “Never judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes” does not mean you take your shoes off and you control the steps ahead. When you do that, you are walking in their shoes, but not really. You’ve just borrowed the shoes for a moment.

For example, I love to borrow shoes from mom when I visit her. She has many; I have few. She buys cool shoes, I buy practical ones. But, she wears a 6 1/2 shoe, I wear a 7. Because of our size difference, some of the sandals fit, but not all; certainly none of the closed-toe shoes fit comfortably. In other words, some shoes I can walk in, others no way! They hurt!

If the size and style fits in the moment, the walk may be okay, but if it is not a good fit, the walk is painful!

If the message you are sharing fits the other person, they may agree and the walk together may be okay. They may even appreciate your advice. But if your ideas do not fit with theirs, or they are not willing to listen, the result is pain.  It may still feel like you are helping, but to the other person it feels like judgment because you are not really walking in their shoes – you borrowed their shoes for the moment.

Walking a mile in their shoes really means walking the journey together. You are walking with them in their shoes, not for them. It means letting them be a part of the steps ahead, not you taking over and controlling their steps. You allow others to evaluate what is acceptable and unacceptable. You allow the person walking beside you to have a thought in the next step.

“Never judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes” has a deeper meaning than the majority of people ever consider.

Today, think about how you walk a mile in someone’s shoes. Do you borrow their shoes and still do the walking by yourself, or do you walk with them in their shoes? Do you walk and listen to them; do you allow them to share thoughts and feelings on the walk? Does your walk and talk teach, encourage, and love others to decide which step is needed to move forward? It’s not until we walk with them, in their shoes, that we begin to better understand and help one another.

My friend’s full statement today was “That’s my problem, I am so busy trying to help others by walking in their shoes. I don’t walk in my shoes enough.” Then she continued, “Do you think that’s because I don’t want to deal with things in my own life? It’s easier to walk in their shoes than my own?”

Her latter comment I am still contemplating – and need to talk further with her about this — maybe you’ll be reading about that in another blog! In the mean time… #TELLforGood.


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219: It is worth arguing over?

I’ve been focused on disagreements lately … We all have these interactions every day if you think about it. The question is more about how we interact when we disagree with someone. In that moment, we TELL for better, or worse. The goal is #TELLforGood. That is, teach, encourage, listen, and love for good – not to hurt relationships and situations.

I was running the other day, and I heard two people screaming at each other, using one foul word after another. My first thought was a public domestic dispute, but the closer I got to the scene I witnessed a man and woman yelling about how awful of a driver the other one was, “Who in their right mind would ever give you a driver’s license!” followed by a series of angry profanity.

It amazes me how complete strangers can get into such heated discussions. People who have never met. People who have no clue what the other person is going through that moment, or earlier that day, or ever; and yet, they judge each other as guilty and unacceptable. The whole exchange is about proving the guilty and unacceptable verdict.

Apparently, both were driving in the neighborhood – a two-lane road. The woman passed the man thinking he was going to turn right onto a street, but he changed his mind. Simple misunderstanding on her part, I thought. He obviously did not see it that way.

The yelling continued “Where do you live?”; “I’m not letting you know where I live, you’re crazy, who knows what you’ll do to me.”; “Me crazy, you’re the crazy one, you #@%$#!” on and on.

I shook my head and asked why? Why would two complete strangers carry on an argument like this?

Is it because they are truly upset over what just happened? Did they feel threatened, attacked, or devalued by how the other person is driving? Or was one or both of them upset to begin with and were they using this opportunity to unload the built up anger? In other words, were they using the stranger as an emotional punching bag to release tension?

As an outsider, I thought the whole interaction was unnecessary and did not make sense. I wondered how many others were listening to this exchange. I decided to turn around and head the other way, best to avoid this exchange all together. This was none of my business!

As I continued to run, I could not help but think more about the heated and hurtful exchange.  Why do people argue like that – and is it any different when it’s a stranger or someone you are close to? Why do people feel they have permission to be so hurtful to another? Is it habit?

If you’re reading on to get an answer… well, I am not sure! But, I do know this. When you use hurtful words, you hurt the relationship… and yourself. You are TELLing the person one of the following messages:

I expect you to see and do things my way, or I will hurt you with words and/or actions.

It is your fault I cannot control my words and actions; you are the reason I had to use those words and/or actions.

I will do whatever I want regardless of how it affects you.

There may be many other messages being communicated in heated arguments like the one I witnessed that day – as well as the ones I have personally experienced in life. Let’s accept that arguments, even heated arguments, happen in everyone’s life at some point in time. The key is to pay attention and realize the messages you are TELLing about yourself in those moments.

You are teaching a message about who you are in the situation and relationship. You are also encouraging, listening, and loving a message – for better or worse. Become mindful of the messages you are giving to others, and maybe one day we all will become better at sharing our thoughts and feelings, even when we are hurting. Or at least, we may be less hurtful to one another.

From this day forward, let’s work on refusing to engage in hurtful interactions. Let’s refuse to interact with cursing and quick-tempered words which lead to rebellion and destruction. Think before speaking, seek to TELL for good. #TELLforGood



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218: Walk a mile in their shoes to TELL better

Have you heard the saying, “Never judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes”?

That phrase hit home for me the other day when I got into a disagreement with someone very dear to me. Neither one of us took a step in the other’s shoes. Instead, we walked and stomped our own shoes!

On the one hand, I felt I should know and do better. On the other hand, this became an opportunity to know more and do better in the future. When there is a disagreement, the messages we teach, encourage, listen and love matter a great deal. The words we speak really do matter. We TELL to make the situation better, or worse.

When we experience a disagreement with someone, it is critical to take our own shoes off and walk in their shoes – at least a few steps. Walk with them and listen to their reasoning. Become curious about the steps they are taking. Why is that? What do you mean? Do you think…? How can I help?

Too often, we are quick to judge and react accordingly.  We judge acceptable or unacceptable – and then we speak with the verdict in mind. We speak using only our own point of view.

How different would it be if we stopped and wondered where are they coming from? What is his or her story? What facts are being used to support the words being spoken and felt? I needed to walk a few steps in her shoes instead of solely walking and stomping my own shoes….

If only I would have thought about this when I was in that disagreement the other day. Maybe the exchange would not have focused on judging one another and defending ourselves. Maybe we would have been able to TELL each other better.

The way I see it now is I did not walk in her shoes, nor did she walk in mine. The heated exchange did not teach, encourage, listen, and love a positive message in the moment. I realize now I need to go back and do better. Relationships grow stronger when we TELL beneficial messages to one another over the long run.

The truth is, we never fully understand another person’s point of view; however, we can aim to understand better by walking in their shoes. Today, become more curious. Take your shoes off and walk some steps in someone’s shoes…  #TELLforGood



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