Free 101 Emotional Fitness Course

I am offering  a free on-line 101 Emotional Fitness Course. Good for all and great for stressed out parents as well as a  great way to model emotional fitness for all.



I believe with both my heart and my head that the more the above skills are promoted,  taught deliberately and as part of every school’s curriculum, the more likely emotional intelligence will rule emotions, and the more people so ruled, the greater hope for peace on earth.

Thank you for all you do, particularly if you liked, commented, or shared this post. Kindness and good manners to do so.




Twenty-Five Seven Good news — another hour has just been added to every 24-hour day (don’t ask us how. We have powers). How do you use those extra sixty minutes?

My answer?  Nothing different. An extra hour would give me  more time to do as I want, but more importantly,  I am content with how I spend my days.  Are you?  If not you definitely need my course.


Go to the EFTI store and browse its offerings for inspirational quotes or exercises. Go there and subscribe to be notified of new additions.


Please rate this material. Doing so helps my ratings.  This is what your stars will mean to me. No stars – Not helpful. One star – Reinforced my knowledge. Two  Stars –  New  information.   Three stars – New useful information; Four stars- Very good.   Five stars – Excellent.

Thank you and stay strong.

Four Skills Needed To Be A Success

What skills lead the good life? Not math, being top dog, having the most toys or winning gold medals  These do not matter. Think about this cartoon.

Dang, this guy's good. (at self defense and peace making.

The cartoon combines two of the skills most reasearch shows about how to walk  life’s road successfully   Read on and you will see my version of these skills.

For those of you who are reading this blog for the first time, my life has been an undocumented experimental lab in figuring out the good life. Not unusual, the same for us all, but knowing mine explains the basis for some of my ideas.

My life has been a bit different from most  mental health professionals for I  lived for twelve years in the trenches. Those twelve years were spent as a foster parent providing short-term care for troubled youth; all were thought to be criminal or otherwise out of control by the courts; all were awaiting a permanent placement. Some went from our home to jail, some back to their families, most on to group homes or residential treatment centers.   We cared for over 300 kids, some for just a few days, others for months.

I had been practicing as a mental health professional for 10 years before becoming a foster parent. My life as a foster parents was my mental health professional PhD.  The main lesson was that if I did not control my feelings, I had no right to expect my foster kids or my two natural sons to control theirs. Hence my interest in emotional intelligence and controlling negative feelings, what I mean by Emotional Fitness.

When we stopped being foster parents, I returned to work as a mental health professional and ended up directing children’s crisis teams in NYC before, during, and after 911. Another experience in a different set of trenches.  Making me  think I have been there and done that more than most gurus and therapists.

Just as I returned to work, Daniel Goleman’s book about Emotional Intelligence hit the best seller list. I found his work appealing and that was when I founded my consulting business Emotional Fitness Training, Inc. (EFTI)  Others informing my work include: Jerome Kagan, Marsha Linehan, James Garbarino, Bessel van der Kolk and Gregory Bateson and a numboer of other postmodernist thinkers. Enough back ground.


We learn skills as we grow. You do not reach the point of reading this blog without having developed many of the skills essential to making it through life.

Most of us learn our major life skills at our parent’s knees and at school.  Few of  us are aware we are learning life skills,  just as our parents and teachers are not aware of all they  teach. I hope  all can become more thoughtful and aware of what has been learned and what is being taught.  That awareness increases our ability to both control our negative feelings and model for others how to do the same.

The four skills below are the ones I think matter most if the people of our world are going to continue to exist and finally come together to bring peace to this earth of ours.

Skill number one: Being able to deal effectively with negative feelings.  Doing so involves self-soothing as well as knowing what is real and what is fantasy or wishful thinking.  Can you calm yourself when a strong emotional or negative thought begin attacking you?  Harder than the gurus’ preach, but possible.  Here is one of my free EFTI Poster Coaches designed to promote self soothing.

Following the Golden Rule matters most.

If you want to teach skills, developmental age and stage need thinking about.  Parents need to start teaching self-soothing skills from birth on; when school starts, coding reality aka critical thinking training starts and can  blossom with guidance when adolescence begins.

Do remember 30 to 50% of all populations seem unable to think abstractly – what is meant by critical thinking.  Not a politically correct idea, but useful to keep in mind as a professional and parent.

Skill number two: Getting along with other people. Which is why manners matter. Intellectual gifts matter, but many studies show how you get along with other people matters much more.

Manners are essentially about getting along by respecting others. Manners also involve teaching kindness; kindness builds empathy which is another key  emotional intelligence skill.

As the cartoon demonstrates, however, good manners need to go hand in hand with  being strong able to defend yourself; bullies see manners and kindness as weaknesses and  take advantage. So as part of my advice about manners to parents and others always suggests karate training.

My youngest son was skinny and looked as if he could be easily bullied. He was also basically a kind and caring kid. He started karate training at the age six. By the time he was ten, he could put down teen age bullies twice his size. I am so glad his father talked me into letting him get karate lessons.

The best combination of manners and self-defense are found with the Peace Dojos. What is a Peace Dojo? A karate master who teaches conflict resolution which is an important part of manners.

I further suggest parents make such training a family affair as it promotes family fun and bonding in addition to improving everyone’s physial fitness.

Skill number three: Realistic expectations. Media and the happiness gurus promise too much too quickly; at least in terms of the sound bytes they put out. No one can meet all their dreams as the  “Just Do It”  rants suggest.

As a mental health professional I love SMART GOALS. They bring reality to dreams. Kids can start learning about goals once you start them on a token reward system. Here’s another of EFTI’s free poster coaches about how to set SMART Goals.

smart goals

Skill number four: Making peace with evil and other bad things that happen. This begins with a realistic awareness that where you get in life depends  as the song notes “A little bit of luck.”

Few professionals factor luck into the equation of what makes people who they are. One of the reasons Jerome Kagan, retired Harvard researcher is my top guru is he honors luck or chance. He once listed it as one of eight factors that determine who we are and how we behave.

Curious about the other seven factors? Ordered according to age and stage: Genes; birth order; who you think you are like or want to be like; what parents do; social competencies, size of community you grew up in; historical era you were most influenced by. Chance was number eight on his list.

Making peace with the fact that bad things happen essentially involves how one makes sense of good and evil. I am interested in Post Modern thought except when it throws out useful knowledge. Happens more often than one would hope. An example? Many atheist friends who claim the post modern title do not see any value in religion. Runs against the millions who find a religious explanation for life’s ups and downs useful. Do not get me wrong, “I hate hateful theology.” But reality demands honoring good theology as well. Deconstructing or taking apart both matters.

I have been a wandering agnostic most of my life. As a teenager raised by agnostic parents, I was angry I had not been baptized and had to take that on myself as a teen ager when I decided to join my friends at the local Presbyterian Church. When that church proved to be lacking in “Christianity” for a number of reasons and I had a Philosophy Professor who called himself a Quaker Buddhist Jew, I became a Quaker. Then I married a Jew and I converted for a third and I think final time. What appeals to me most about Judaism are three things:  the lack of proselytizing, the edict to act to repair the universe, and Torah study which when  diligently pursued is an exercise in critical thinking. Two rabbi’s, one parsha, equal ten interpretations.

Anyway, Kagan also notes throughout most of his work, that we need to make sense of things and the explanations we create drive our behavior. His ideas about meaning making are supported by James Garbarino, Robert Coles, and Bruce Perry’s work and research which is  based on their experience with trauma victims.  My experiences as a foster parent and a therapist agree with the insights of those cited above.

STAY Strong

I believe with both my heart and my head that the more the above skills are promoted,  taught deliberately and as part of every school’s curriculum, the more likely emotional intelligence will rule emotions, and the more people so ruled, the greater hope for peace on earth.

A blog business update.  I am going to merge my two blogs in the months to come. Then there will be four or five posts a week focused on Emotional Fitness Training. Some will be more focused on Emotional Fitness Tips everyone can use; but contain information for parents.  A few will be devoted to parenting or teaching, but also be useful to the general public.

As I age, I need focus more intently on my dreams. Only feeling the need to post on one blog will help with that and help  me stay strong.

 Thank you for all you do, particularly if you liked, commented, or shared this post. Kindness and good manners to do so.



DAILY PROMPT New Dawn. How often do you get to (or have to) be awake for sunrise? Tell us about what happened the last time you were up so early (or late…)

My post is more about the sunrise of peace, I would like to see shedding its light in all hearts than an actual sunrise.  I do wake up before the sun off and on; I also sleep in off and on. Both benefits of retirement.


Browse the EFTI store for a free downloads of emotional fitness tips, exercises, quotes all designed to improve your #emotionalintelligence. The poster coaches are best used printed up in color on card stock and then posted where seen often and serving as you personal staying strong, emotional fitness  coach.

If you down-load some of our poster coaches, please think about make a donation, via a tip. We are not for profit but only because we make no profit, not because we are tax deductible and allowed to accept donations.  Tips  are our way of asking for help.


This is an extension of a yesterday’s EFTI post in which I talked about my personal struggle with dysgraphia. I promised parents a bit more today.

Not if you have dygraphia.

Not if you have dysgraphia. Moreover, that is what makes this little known learning disability hurt so much. The sufferer only knows when criticized and or his or her brain decides to show the error.

The simplest way to tell you all about this learning disability is to quote the experts.  You can go here to read about what the National Center for Learning Disabilities says about dysgraphia, but I will also quote what I think is  most important here:

Dysgraphia is a learning disability that affects writing, which requires a complex set of motor and information processing skills. Dysgraphia makes the act of writing difficult. It can lead to problems with spelling, poor handwriting and putting thoughts on paper. People with dysgraphia can have trouble organizing letters, numbers and words on a line or page. This can result partly from:

Visual-spatial difficulties: trouble processing what the eye sees

Language processing difficulty: trouble processing and making sense of what the ear hears

As with all learning disabilities (LD), dysgraphia is a lifelong challenge, although how it manifests may change over time. A student with this disorder can benefit from specific accommodations in the learning environment. Extra practice learning the skills required to be an accomplished writer can also help.

What Are the Warning Signs of Dysgraphia?

Just having bad handwriting doesn’t mean a person has dysgraphia. Since dysgraphia is a processing disorder, difficulties can change throughout a lifetime. However since writing is a developmental process—children learn the motor skills needed to write, while learning the thinking skills needed to communicate on paper—difficulties can also overlap.

Dysgraphia: Warning Signs By Age

Young Children

Trouble With:

Tight, awkward pencil grip and body position

Avoiding writing or drawing tasks

Trouble forming letter shapes

Inconsistent spacing between letters or words

Poor understanding of uppercase and lowercase letters

Inability to write or draw in a line or within margins

Tiring quickly while writing

School-Age Children

Trouble With:

Illegible handwriting

Mixture of cursive and print writing

Saying words out loud while writing

Concentrating so hard on writing that comprehension of what’s written is missed

Trouble thinking of words to write

Omitting or not finishing words in sentences

Teenagers and Adults

Trouble With:

Trouble organizing thoughts on paper

Trouble keeping track of thoughts already written down

Difficulty with syntax structure and grammar

Large gap between written ideas and understanding demonstrated through speech

What Strategies Can Help?

There are many ways to help a person with dysgraphia achieve success. Generally strategies fall into three main categories:

Accommodations: providing alternatives to written expression

Modifications: changing expectations or tasks to minimize or avoid the area of weakness

Remediation: providing instruction for improving handwriting and writing skills

Each type of strategy should be considered when planning instruction and support. A person with dysgraphia will benefit from help from both specialists and those who are closest to the person. Finding the most beneficial type of support is a process of trying different ideas and openly exchanging thoughts on what works best.

Although teachers and employers are required by law to make “reasonable accommodations” for individuals with learning disabilities, they may not be aware of how to help. Speak to them about dysgraphia and explain the challenges faced as a result of this learning disability.

Here are examples of how to teach individuals with dysgraphia to overcome some of their difficulties with written expression.

Early Writers

Be patient and positive, encourage practice and praise effort. Becoming a good writer takes time and practice.

Use paper with raised lines for a sensory guide to staying within the lines.

Try different pens and pencils to find one that’s most comfortable.

Practice writing letters and numbers in the air with big arm movements to improve motor memory of these important shapes. Also practice letters and numbers with smaller hand or finger motions.

Encourage proper grip, posture and paper positioning for writing. It’s important to reinforce this early as it’s difficult for students to unlearn bad habits later on.

Use multi-sensory techniques for learning letters, shapes and numbers. For example, speaking through motor sequences, such as “b” is “big stick down, circle away from my body.”

Introduce a word processor on a computer early; however do not eliminate handwriting for the child. While typing can make it easier to write by alleviating the frustration of forming letters, handwriting is a vital part of a person’s ability to function in the world.

Young Students

Encourage practice through low-stress opportunities for writing. This might include writing letters or in a diary, making household lists, or keeping track of sports teams.

Allow use of print or cursive—whichever is more comfortable.

Use large graph paper for math calculation to keep columns and rows organized.

Allow extra time for writing assignments.

Begin writing assignments creatively with drawing, or speaking ideas into a tape recorder.

Alternate focus of writing assignments—put the emphasis on some for neatness and spelling, others for grammar or organization of ideas.

Explicitly teach different types of writing—expository and personal essays, short stories, poems, etc.

Do not judge timed assignments on neatness and spelling.

Have students proofread work after a delay—it’s easier to see mistakes after a break.

Help students create a checklist for editing work—spelling, neatness, grammar, syntax, clear progression of ideas, etc.

Encourage use of a spell checker—speaking spell checkers are available for handwritten work.

Reduce amount of copying; instead, focus on writing original answers and ideas.

Have student complete tasks in small steps instead of all at once.

Find alternative means of assessing knowledge, such as oral reports or visual projects.

Teenagers and Adults

Many of these tips can be used by all age groups. It is never too early or too late to reinforce the skills needed to be a good writer.

Provide tape recorders to supplement note taking and to prepare for writing assignments.

Create a step-by-step plan that breaks writing assignments into small tasks (see below).

When organizing writing projects, create a list of keywords that will be useful.

Provide clear, constructive feedback on the quality of work, explaining both the strengths and weaknesses of the project, commenting on the structure as well as the information that is included.

Use assistive technology such as voice-activated software if the mechanical aspects of writing remain a major hurdle.

 For more on dysgraphia, check out these 10 dysgraphia resources.

Parenting thoughts and tips

All children want to do well in what matters to the adults in their world.  That means all children are motivated to succeed in school. Just look at the kids lined up to go to kindergarten or the first grade and 99% of them will have happy faces.

Fast forward and with every year more and more kids will not be eager.  Easy to understand.

Why because hope is dying and school is becoming more and more painful.

As Mark Twain says, “The cat, having sat upon a hot stove lid, will not sit upon a hot stove lid again. But he won’t sit upon a cold stove lid, either”

When it comes to children, all try lots longer than cats to figure out how to avoid pain. The younger the child, the more  s/he will keep trying to figure out how to please adults.  Hope of good results is part of the young child’s make up.  But in time what the expert calls “Learned Helplessness” set in.

In addition to dsygraphia, I suffer from dyscalculia.  That means trouble with math.  That is where learned helplessness has its hold on me.  I don’t do any math.  I’d rather trust the bank’s accounting than mine. No way I can balance books and even calculators do not help. Nine times out of ten, I punch in the wrong numbers. Hate when I have to punch in a telephone number or any other number beyond four digits. Four I can manage. Anyway onward with dysgraphia. I am less hopeless about my dysgraphia. Probably for a number of  reasons.

One, for as long as I can remember I wanted to be a writer. My father was a newspaper reporter and also published his own weekly newspaper.  I adored him and that meant I wanted to do what he did.

Then as explained previously, many teachers saw not the mistakes but my content which was apparently in their eyes was worthier than many others students.  Also testing was not so mandatory.

I had a mother who pushed trying and worried less about success or  mistakes.

The computer’s spell and grammar check made becoming a writer possible.

I do not have dyslexia and I loved to read and am a fast reader. As the pundits about writing say, if you want to write: “Read, read, read, and read some more.” I still read two or three books a week in addition to all the reading I do on-line.

Finally, my life as a foster parent and therapist caught the eye of sales minded editors. I had something to say from a unique position.  Lucky me and luck does play a part in all successes.

Learned Helplessness did not rule me in terms of writing as it did with my math problems.

Read this carefully: Once a child decides nothing s/he can do will get good grades or compliments or even an internal “I got it right” message, the desire to keep trying decays and eventually dies.

The harder it is for the child to do what is asked, the more quickly the will to try fades. Then all sorts of diversionary strategies take over: withdrawal, clowning, running away, drawing negative attention to yourself, and aggressiveness are among the most common.

Jerome Kagan, human behavior guru sees the above strategies as ways to deal with the pain of uncertainty or not knowing and hence not feeling in control of yourself or the world.  He believes this almost as painful as unmet survival needs.

In my work with children, I saw three stages to reaching the decision that nothing you could do made a difference in meeting yours, another’s, or life’s  demands.

  • Stage one: Hoping and trying. Thinking as the pundits say, if you keep trying you will get there.
  • Stage two: Doubting you can “just do it”  but still a bit hopeful but doubt and feelings of shame start to intrude.  Trying becomes more and more painful if success is not part of the mix.
  • Stage three: Absolutely certain you will not succeed. Despair and anger set in as well as the need to defend yourself from the pain of failure. That leads to the strategies listed above.

This struggle with meeting societal or parental demands takes many forms.  I first spotted it when dealing with Good Kids Doing Bad Things.  Then the struggle was between being a good kid and a bad kid.  I think at least one of the kids engineering the Columbine killings had decided he was all bad, so doing the worse he could do became possible.

We all face that struggle for we all have thoughts and desires that lead to bad as well as god behavior.  Many of us gravitate toward religion to help us stay on what our hearts know is the right track. Most of us succeed, but when we hear about a fallen priest, preacher or rabbi, I think, s/he was trying to be good, but needed more help.

Back to tips about learning disabilities.

Parenting tip one: When a child begins avoiding school or homework with any strategy described above, worry.  Worry, but take the time to see if the problem is consistent and is eroding both school efforts and peace in the home.

parenting tip two: While taking the time to do the above, learn a bit about learning disabilities in general.

Parenting tip three: If the signs of a disorder last consistently for six weeks, talk to some experts. Make your child’s teacher one; make a trusted physician another, find some parent who have been there and done that. All will probably have different views.

Parenting tip four:  Be prepared for disagreement and easy assurances all is right particular when talking to relatives and friends about your worries but also from the professional. Often such assurances are valid, but also often they reflect the human need to be kind.

Parenting tip five: Get the child’s view of what is going on.  As children often think they are to blame for all and every problem in the world.  This makes it hard for them to share openly about concerns, so go slow.  In fact, a child or a teen make talk more openly with someone besides a parent.  An aunt or uncle might be an ally in your quest to learn what the child is feeling. Don’t forget youth leaders, advocates, or similar folk.

Parenting tip six: Think of finding a good  therapist or other source of support for you and the child.  Start with you and think carefully about what a good therapist means.  I think it means someone with knowledge I do not possess, who can relate to me and my needs, sets a clear contract using SMART goals, measures outcomes and  is not doctrinaire but has a wide variety of tools to help at his or her command.

Parent advocates were mentioned earlier as were youth advocates.  These can be extremely helpful, but also not helpful.

Parenting tip seven: Related to finding helpers that help.  You must be your own and your child’s best advocate. That means two things. Experimenting and keeping tabs on what is working and what isn’t working. Setting some SMART Goals is the way to do this .

Parenting tip eight: Be patient.  Nothing is going to happen quickly and that is okay. Children are resilient and usually  move forward with their lives despite  problems.  That does not rule out trying to help, good help always helps and improves things better and faster than no help.

Parenting tip nine: Remember the five to one rule; five good experiences as a balancing force for every bad experience.  With my own sons, I refused to get them tutoring over the summer. Almost got me reported for educational neglect, However, the only time each son was truly happy was when school was out and I could not bear taking that away from them.

This also means making the most of what the kids do well and want to do.

Parenting tip ten: Strengthen yours and your child’s self-soothing skills. 


If you like this post share it with another.  That is practicing deliberate kindness which is an  easy Emotional Fitness Exercise .

As always, thank you for your support.




Word Press  Aug 11, 2014 Daily Prompt   New Wrinkles: You wake up one day and realize you’re ten years older than you were the previous night. Beyond the initial shock, how does this development change your life plans?

How does this fit in with todays Parents Are People Too blog. In ten years the worries of today will be old hat. For many parents age and stage bring their own rewards and challenges.  Maybe you wake up having missed the perils of a disgruntled teens or in time to enjoy a wedding or to find you have some wonderful grandchildren.  When it comes for to the future, plan for what you can and then hope for the best.


smart goals


One of my foster kids taught me that not all want hugs and that hugs can hurt. She was pretty, almost sixteen, and had been much abused. She hated hugs.

I think she had been made to have sex with men as part of a ring of child abusers. We were often not told  our kids histories.  something I  preferred, gave all of us a clean start.

The first time I spontaneously reached out to hug her, she froze.  I can still feel her pain.  That experience taught me to always ask, “Can I have a hug?” I also learned to be aware that some say “Yes” when they mean “No.”

I found this  article unclear on the promise of the title: How to Comfort a Family Member – Families Who Don’t Hug – A daughter was seeking comfort but didn’t get what she wanted, which she said was just a hug.

The article was designed to get families to hug more often, but never made the point that hugs are not always wanted.

When I am upset, I don’t want hugs. If I am complaining about something, I usually don’t even want advice.  I want to be listened to and maybe a tiny bit of sympathy, but often the best thing to do when I am upset is listening and nodding your head.

Once my ranting is  winding down, an encouraging sentence  might help, but the best is to ask, “What do you need from me to help?”

Often the answer is “nothing.”

That generally means I want to be left alone to quiet myself.  When that is the case, a hug hurts, just as all hugs hurt my sexually abused foster child.  Why.  The body gets tense and edgy when strong feelings are aroused. A hug feels bad.

The other side of the coin came during my practice as a  therapist.  My boss commanded me not to hug.  I chose to disobey.  How when a kid is hurling themselves at you can you not hug?

There does come a time when most kids who loved hugs as a young child, no longer want to be hugged. Be attuned to this and don’t insist. The reasons are many and complex, mainly having to do with growing awareness of sexual feelings.

Parenting advice and tips

First parenting tip: If someone clearly wants a hug, do your best to be open to that.  If you aren’t, acknowledge that you aren’t a very good hugger.  “We didn’t do that in my family, so I am still trying to learn” might work.

Second parenting tip: When you want to give a hug, always ask first and make it clear you expect to honor their feelings.

Third parenting tip: Do not tell you children to hug or kiss someone even a grand parent.  Cannot get most parents to do that, even my own kids ask that of their kids. So I make a separate deal with my grandchildren as soon as they are able to talk. If I ask for a hug or a kiss or their parents insist I get one,they are free to say “No.”

I let them slap me five or  give them a quick kiss or a top of the head kiss. Doing so gives them control over their body and I think that matters.


Thank you for all you do, enjoy and be grateful for all you have been given, practice kindness, like, share or comment. Sharing is caring.



This post does not relate to this today Aug 6, 2014 DAILY PROMPT Writer’s Block Party. When was the last time you experienced writer’s block? What do you think brought it about — and how did you dig your way out of it?

While I describe figuring out how to get and give hugs, the fact is that applies to just about everything.  You have to know when there is problem, sort out how it is a problem, develop strategies and persist.

Here’s how that applies to writing.  I rarely have trouble writing.  When I can’t more ahead on one thing I am working on, I move on to something else.  Happy about that.

But finishing something on my own, is a big problem.  They say re-writing is essential and I re-write and re-write and re-write and after a certain point stuff starts getting worse not better.  Partly this is related to having dysgraphia and every time I re-write I do catch mistakes. It is a problem because it keeps me from getting stuff out there.

But I do persist. I blog four times a week and do the Daily Prompts to force myself  to finish somethings, not when perfect, but when good enough.  But also because I doing something and finishing it gives me a boost.



image by defies