Why did the Grinch Steal Christmas? A Psychological Analysis

This holiday season as I watched “The Grinch who Stole Christmas” I began to think about what made the Grinch so “grinchy”?  Several questions came to mind. Why was his heart two sizes too small?  Surely he wasn’t born that way, right? What’s his problem with the Whos down in Whoville?  What is it about the Christmas festivities and the “noise, noise, noise” that sets the Grinch’s teeth on edge?    Further, what allowed his heart to “grow three sizes that day”? Let’s start at the beginning. The basic psychological assumption that we are born “tabula rasa” says that we become
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Categories: Childhood Disorders, Children, Holidays, Mental Health, and Personal Growth.

Marriage & Family Conversation Starters

Finding ways to connect in our marriages and with our children can be challenging. There’s no sense bemoaning the “busy lifestyle” of the modern family: it is what it is.  What we have to do is make the most of every opportunity to maintain and build our relationships.  This takes, time, togetherness, and talking.  The talking part seems to be the hardest.  For instance, how much time do you spend together with your family in the car, but nobody is talking to each other?  Instead, everyone is staring at their phones, talking on their phones, or they have earbuds in
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Categories: Children, Family, and Marriage.

Four Tips for School Success

The lyrics from a song by The Hives say it all: They say our summer vacation has come to an end And we simply have no more holidays to spend They say “No more barefoot, no playing around the pool” They say now it’s time for us to “Go back to school.” The inevitable has happened, and it is time to get into school mode again.  There is usually a little excitement with “Back to School” shopping for school supplies but the reality is that school is about more than new pencils and backpacks.  The daily work of learning has
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Categories: Children and School.

What is Self Esteem?

Self-esteem has gotten a bad rap lately. Some people wonder if kids can have too much self-esteem.  I think it depends on what people mean by “self-esteem.”  If people understand self-esteem to mean that we are all winners all the time and therefore are entitled to praise and adoration no matter what, then YES children can have too much self-esteem.  This kind of unrealistic message creates a sense of entitlement in children that they should be given privileges, praise, and awards for just existing.  The end result of this will be children who lack self-respect, self-discipline, and motivation. To me,
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Categories: Children, Mental Health, and Personal Growth.

The Cell Phone Contract for Parents and their Kids

The Cell Phone Parent-Child Contract The majority of the U.S. population has smartphones now, and more kids know how to work smartphones than know how to tie their own shoes according to TheAtlantic.com.   We’ve entered a new era, parents!  It’s an era in which parents must step up and hold their children accountable for the privilege and responsibility of either using your smartphone, or owning their own smartphone.  According to recent surveys, 40% of U.S. teens own their own iPhone! To address the issues brought about by teens with smartphones, a mother recently developed the following “service contract” with her
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Categories: Children, Family, Managing Media, and Parenting.

Blending Families #2

I recently worked with a couple that is a good example of the challenges faced in blended families.  This couple, married about 2 years now, each brought two children into the marriage.  His two children (ages 8 and 10) were only there every other weekend and one evening during the week.  Her children of about the same age were always with them as their father was “out of the picture.”  The wife in this marriage accuses her husband of lacking commitment to her and her kids, explaining that every time his children were there “he virtually ignores me and my
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Categories: Children, Divorce, Family, Marriage, Parenting, and Transitions / Change.

Blending Families #1

A reader has asked me to write an article about “blending families.”  In all the years that I’ve written this column I was surprised that I haven’t covered this topic before.  This is an important topic, because currently the U.S. Census indicates that approximately one third of children today are living in blended families. Studies of family structures children in the U.S. are currently living in suggests that a little less than half of all children are growing up in nuclear families.  About 30% of children are living in blended families, and that leaves about 20% of children living in
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Categories: Children, Divorce, Family, Marriage, Parenting, and Transitions / Change.

Effective Co-Parenting

I’ve worked with several families that bring in their child because he or she is not adjusting well to the parents’ divorce.  Most often, the child is doing fine in reality and the parents are the ones who aren’t adjusting well!  Just because the parents have divorced doesn’t mean they don’t have to get along.  They actually have to get along better now than they ever have before – for the sake of the children!  Here is a simple guideline for parents who are having a difficult time talking to each other about their co-parenting relationship.  This is a practical
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Categories: Children, Divorce, Parenting, and Transitions / Change.

Summer: Give Your Kids Some Free Time!

Summertime is upon us.  With summer comes a relaxing of the schedule – more time to lollygag and slow down the pace of life.  At least it used to be that way!  When I was a kid, I rode my bike all over town.  I spent days at the city pool.  Some days I was bored out of my mind, though.  Now that you’re a parent, do you see your kids lollygagging through summer the way you did as a kid?  Probably not. There is a growing trend in middle-class America towards structured activities and programs for children; from sports
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Categories: Children, Family, Managing Media, Mental Health, and Parenting.

Teenagers: Some Parenting Tips

Teens have a developmental stage all their own.  Its called “Identity vs. Role Confusion.”  The main challenge at this stage of life is developing their sense of self, and therefore they are asking the question “who am I?” At the same time, the parents will find themselves asking “who is this kid?”  As a teen, or the parent of a teen, if you find yourself asking these questions – its NORMAL.  In this normal stage, teens will try on behaviors and attitudes like they try on pants and shirts.  Some of the behaviors and attitudes can be quite alarming, and
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Categories: Children, Family, Parenting, and Transitions / Change.