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A Fresh Start
By Maria Macfarlane

"What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task."  Barack Obama

All of us can take the resolve and promise of the recent historic events in Washington and translate them into reminders of how we can incorporate a reformed dialogue into our daily lives.  As enlightened parents, could it be time to listen more closely, try another method or see things in a different light?  Being a family is a joint venture, with each member having a vested interest in the household's successes.  Everyone should have a voice.  Compassion, understanding and open-mindedness can go a long way in building bridges and mending fences. 

America has been given a fresh start. The ushering in of a new president has evoked an overwhelming sense of optimism and a massive outpouring of hope from around the world.  A shift is happening.  A transformation from the inside out is afoot.  We have all been inspired and called to action.  The common man has been mobilized and challenged to mold himself into a better citizen and, in turn, help change the world.

The people have been invited to participate in the co-creation of a new era... to shed old habits and unhealthy attitudes.  Making informed decisions and embracing innovative ideas, a definite shift in mindset can be felt.  A new conversation has begun; one that combines pragmatic problem solving with qualitative discourse.  Hope springs eternal and the possibilities are endless.  The ability of one man to elicit passion and inspire idealism has raised the consciousness of a powerful country.  The theme of his message is simple. Galvanize the people to do great things.  He has asked a nation to meet a formidable challenge with cooperation, sincerity and hard work.  Following Obama's eloquent directive from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, we can all attempt to do our part to fulfill his noble vision of the future, keeping in mind that the family is the cornerstone of our society and change begins at home.

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Do Your Eyes Light Up?
By Maria Macfarlane


It takes courage to step out and make your mark on the world. In
an egocentric society of narcissistic bravado (check out MTV) and
falsely inflated egos (à la American Idol), parents tread a fine line.
How do we build our children's self-confidence and, at the same time,
teach them how to be realistic about their expectations?

Competition is a fact of life for our kids. Everyone is grappling for
the brass ring, trying to jockey for a position on the crowded
ladder of success. It's common to have to lobby for admittance to
an exclusive preschool, jump through hoops to qualify for the rep
team or undergo nerve-wracking auditions to play in the school band.
The pressures of "making it" and "following your star" can be a daunting
force in a child's life. Without perseverance, hard work and lots of luck
even the most talented person is not guaranteed success.

But somewhere between that initial seed of inspiration and the
ambitious leap of faith to pursue one's dreams the question arises,
"What makes me so special?" When children wonder, "Who am I to
think I can do this," they must draw upon inner strength and security
that has taken you, their parent, many years to nurture.

Maya Angelou asks, "How do you react when your child enters the
room? Do your eyes light up?" All children need to feel special, in
their own right, apart from their accomplishments and accolades.
In our daily routine it is often easy for family members to take each other
for granted. We should never forget how important it is for our
unconditional love to shine through and be seen…every day.
Yes, we can facilitate the attainment of their goals by driving them
to practices, cheering from the stands and proudly extolling their
talents. But what signals do our kids receive from us during the course
of an average day? How negative is our message to them when they
aggravate us or misbehave?

Whether it's a reassuring smile, an affectionate nudge or a big ol' hug,
by openly acknowledging the joy that our children bring into our lives,
we are visibly affirming our love for them. We have the power to
infuse our children with the belief that they can face the challenges that lie
ahead regardless of how pragmatic or grandiose their aspirations may be.
They have so much potential. Even the smallest gesture of approval can do
wonders to validate their sense of self worth. Whether it is in a lab, a boardroom
or on Broadway the world is their stage. So tell them they are special today!
Let them see it in your eyes when they walk through the door!

Let your encouragement inspire them and your love be their stepping-stone
to greatness.

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In My Humble Opinion
By Maria Macfarlane

"True merit, like a river, the deeper it is, the less noise it makes."
Edward Frederick Halifax, English Statesman

As I reflect upon the upcoming first anniversary of my father's death, I am reminded of a conversation I had with the clergyman who gave my dad spiritual guidance in his final days. I will never forget the sincerity in his voice when he told me that, in bravely facing terminal illness and death, my father taught him the "true meaning of humility." He went on to say that knowing my dad was a privilege and it "humbled" him to have been a part of my father's journey, suggesting that we could all learn from his example.

Those words have resonated with me, still, after all these months. If we really think about it...the quality / state of being humble is a virtue which we don't hear much about anymore. Egocentricity has become paramount in this "me first," world. Self entitlement, self promotion and self importance are often the norm. It may be to our benefit to discreetly introduce more humility into our lives and to espouse more of an "after you, my friend," approach.

The word, "humility," seems to have taken on a mostly negative connotation in recent years. The humble-ness that I refer to entails acting in a way that shows discretion, enlightenment and open-mindedness. It is the opposite of being motivated by self preservation and the antithesis of forcefully trying to impose one's own point of view.

One of a mother's goals is to set her children on a path that will lead them to personal satisfaction and social happiness.
Administering praise, recognition and encouragement are critical to achieve this. There's a fine line, however, between instilling a healthy confidence and creating a falsely inflated view of who our children are.

Children are naturally self absorbed.
As we mold them to become good, moral human beings we can gradually introduce them to some of the traits associated with humility. We can help them realize that the world is bigger than they are. They don't have to rely on outside stimuli to reinforce their self esteem. We must influence them to establish their own sense of self awareness and assist them in finding where they fit into the grand scheme of things.

To be humble means that you are open to what someone else has to offer.
It does not mean being submissive. If we realistically recognize our own limitations, securely know our place and magnanimously seek the contribution of those around us, we are clearly demonstrating that we value the input of others and are taking a proactive stance in creating an atmosphere of genuine collaboration.

Humility begins at home.
From an early age, we can teach our kids how to be accountable and that their actions and words affect others. Turning a deaf ear to boastful, disrespectful speech only fosters rudeness. Manners go hand in hand with respect and humility. Bragging or teasing is not humble. Neither is excessive pride. After all, isn't the need to overshadow others a reflection of our own insecurities?
How we deal with a child's bad behavior, for example, is critical to what we project to our family. We should be specific, in both our tone and with our words, when identifying exactly what is not acceptable. A "how dare you," mentality does not foster a sense of courtesy towards our fellow man. If we only tell and never ask our children what they need... we are establishing an iron fist mentality. By maintaining our dignity when using discipline, we maintain the dignity of the child.

Small minded individuals put people down and are reluctant to defer to those who either know better or who are in positions of power.
To be humble means it is not beneath you to learn from others. In fact, you appreciate their knowledge and experience. You lack pretence. You see the greatness that exists within all of us and you willingly elevate those around you. Hence, you do not deny your own importance, but affirm the worth of all people.

By acknowledging our own limitations and venturing to seek help as a means to improve, we let our children see that we are not afraid to expose our own humble nature. When confronted with an issue, we can take a less self-centered approach by consciously taking a moment to consider the possibilities and ask, "Can it be....?" We can teach them to graciously acknowledge when kindness is shown by others....In doing so, they positively project some of the focus outward and than back into the community.

Arrogant people have difficulty owning up to their mistakes and are not in the position / frame of mind to learn.
A humble person rightfully admits when they are wrong. They must be grounded in reality and realize that they are part of the greater whole. They have modest values and are not meek... but self-aware. They don't consider themselves to be better than anyone else; therefore they are willing to go more than half way to meet the needs of others. If your child excels in something, have them help a child who is struggling in that field. In other words, actually show them how they can exercise humility. Humble people are secure enough to selflessly share credit and get the job done without hoopla. Ultimately, their attributes will shine through and speak for themselves.

So perhaps all of us can use a little more humility in our lives. It does not imply that you are timid. It is not a sign of weakness. It simply suggests that you have a modest estimate of your own worth and that you can maintain a healthy pride about who you are and what you have achieved. It is a true gift, but not necessarily one that comes naturally. If we lay the groundwork early and gently remind our children of the intrinsic value of believing in their own inner strength..... it will eventually become a way of life. They just might grow up to be kind, self-assured individuals who exude a quiet conviction that speaks volumes about the strength of their character...just like my dad.