Vision Therapy is Messy

In his book Messy: How to be Creative and Resilient in a Tidy-Minded World, Tim Harford provides examples of how extreme organization and structure, reduced diversity, and oversimplification makes things easier but constrain and compromise outcomes.

Vision is complex and each person’s combinations of problems and circumstances is unique. Vision doesn’t function in isolation. It is represented in more areas of the brain than any other sense. It is involved in almost everything we do. How we see the world is an integral part of who we are. It follows that enhancing essential visual functions;

-eye alignment and movement,


-object perception, spatial perception, and guidance of movement

is messy and complex and that it is naïve to think that therapy is not influenced by the patient’s mindset, age, conflicts, and prior experiences.

All of this must be taken into consideration to treat patients. Computerized programs cannot do this but they can be useful to stimulate attention and motivation. It also requires more than a list of techniques. Doctors and therapists need to be ready and able to modify plans to match the patient’s current visual abilities. Optometric vision therapy is provided by doctors and therapists with specialty qualifications. Certified doctors are Fellows in the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (FCOVD). Certified therapists earn the title, Certified Optometric Vision Therapists (COVT). The College of Optometrists in Vision Development is the certifying body for this specialty.

Relationships between providers, patients, and their families are integral to the success of all healthcare, especially incremental care. Atul Gawande wrote about one of thirteen centers for treating patients with cystic fibrosis in the US in his book Better. One center had much better outcomes than all of the others even though the centers all followed the same protocol. The difference was that the director in one center got to know his patients personally. The better understanding and communication that resulted from these personal relationships fostered improved compliance. Atul Gawande also addresses this in his article on The Heroism of Incremental Care.

Therapy is an interplay between treatment and assessment as the patient progresses. The doctor and therapist continue to learn about patients from the way each patient responds. Dwight D. Eisenhower stated in reference to war that “Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” This also applies to other complex, messy situations.

Vision therapy is not easy and can be frustrating. Plasticity in Sensory Systems makes therapy possible. While neuroplasticity declines with age, it continues throughout life. Motivation can recruit surprising amounts of plasticity.  The Power of Habit balances our ability to change. Habit enables us to function without consciously thinking through everything we do, which is not possible, but it can also cause us to err when conditions change. Therapy develops new visual habits.  Focused rehearsal under a variety of circumstances facilitates supplanting existing habits with new skills and makes them more automatic than the dysfunctional patterns that they are replacing.

Optometric vision therapy takes advantage of neuroplasticity and the messiness in our visual system to make change possible. Therapy creates new visual patterns to be more efficient, more comfortable, and less taxing. Patients must achieve this for themselves, but appropriate feedback at the right time can be powerful, which is why doctors and therapists are indispensable in this process. Daniel Coyne provides example which demonstrate this in The Talent Code as does Norman Doidge in The Brain that Changes Itself. Humans are endowed with amazing abilities to learn and to adapt.

Mapping the Wilds of Mortality and Fatherhood

The Inward Empire

Christian Donlan


Christian Donlan becomes a father at the same time that he develops multiple sclerosis. The power of the book is his ability to express his feelings, especially about his disease. While his particular disease is MS, there are commonalities of symptoms and reactions to other, non-curable neurologic diseases. His reactions and his writing make the book an intriguing read. The following passages are those that I either found particularly interesting or I was struck by the communication.

An idea of where the illness stops and I begin is often problematic.

I would argue that neurological diseases are ultimately an attack on individuality.

“The Disembodied Lady” (a case description from Oliver Sacks) exists within the strange spook country of proprioception, the means – along with vision and the balance organs of the vestibular system – by which the body creates a sense of itself in space. Proprioception is a deeply physical business, and yet, it’s simultaneously a largely intangible one. It is not just the brain’s idea of where the body is from moment to moment. It is part of what makes a person’s physical experiences feel real and personal in the first place.

A proprioceptive deficit is therefore an intellectual deficit: it means that the messages being sent back to the brain are not being properly understood.

Proprioception is a guiding hand so deft and considerate that you might never come close to spotting it, and this is the tragedy of the body’s most elegant systems. You only learn how clever they are when the break – and when it becomes a matter of how clever they once were.

Proprioception was my introduction to the world of neurological disarray. I suspect that proprioception is an ideal introduction: a gentle indicator that there is always a level of mediation between the world and our experience of it.

It is hard to spot the things that happen when your brain starts to go wrong, because your brain is the last thing that is going to be able to tell you about it.

That is memory. Remembering something is an act of destruction, covered up by an almost instantaneous act of creation.

The problem for me was largely mechanical. The likely culprits were not the visual processing pathways leading to the occipital lobe, which houses the visual cortex, but rather the nerves that supply the muscles which operate the eyes like pulleys. My eyes were no longer perfectly aligned, and this meant that the images the visual cortex was trying to put together had ceased to overlap as cleanly as they usually did. My perceptions were becoming harder to mesh.

It is not that my eyes were exhausted. It’s more that there was an angry congestion building somewhere behind them, in the parts of the brain that had to deal with the chaos my eyes were suddenly delivering. So much trouble, and all this from a shift in one eye – a shift, most likely less that a millimeter. A shift so tiny that my eyeballs, viewed in the Ikea bathroom mirrors, seemed perfectly normal as they tracked up and down, from right to left.

Elsewhere, it seemed that my ability to deal with the subtext was diminished. In the evenings, or if I was particularly tired, I found that I could no longer peer beneath the surface of what people were saying as easily as I had before. I was stuck in the literal.

Some symptoms are part of what I feared at first and then forgot to fear – that MS could be such a wonderful, powerful all-purpose excuse I might invoke it a little too often.

Be the Parent, Please

Naomi Schaefer Riley

Be the Parent, Please is about controlling children’s use of technology. While the author expresses a variety of concerns, this blog will be limited to the effects of technology on education. Technology has made many aspects of our lives easier, faster, and more efficient. There are useful applications of technology in education, but educators and parents can be misled into believing that technology will make all learning easier and faster. Ironically, acclimation to the ease of technology can make those things that require sustained time and effort seem even slower, further challenging students’ perseverance for tasks such as deep reading and writing.


While the effects of the changes in communication are debated, it is agreed that profound changes have taken place from the trivial to the Presidential. Technology has reduced face-to-face time and the use of the telephone. This can be more convenient, but it also eliminates important components of communication which may impoverish the message and make it more difficult to reach a consensus. Technology has changed how we spend our time and it has further confused the distinction between what is important and what is just immediate. “So much of our job as parents is helping kids to keep the events of their lives in perspective.”

Thank you for shopping face down

Adults need to be responsible for themselves, but they also need to remember that they are role models, more in what they do than in what they say. In speaking with parents about their child, it is sometimes obvious that they are being distracted by the device in their hand. When I send a child out of my room to talk with their parents, parents often hand them a device to keep them occupied. Perhaps time to think would be better than just being occupied to avoid possible boredom. The importance of time to think is easily overlooked.


Technology can be so insidious (everyone is doing it) that we may not realize that much of the use of technology is done by choice. Time is our most limited resource. What are we not doing when we are engaged with social media? Spending our time is like spending our money. It shows what we really value, not what we say that we value. When we look back at our day and week, are we pleased with how we have invested our time? Does it match our goals? Have we enhanced our life and the lives of those who are important to us? Are we attending to our health and wellness? Are we the role model that we intend to be?

If children and adolescents are always occupied, how do they learn who they are? How do they develop the patience and resilience that will be required for difficult tasks and challenging times? Technology fosters the illusion that everything is immediate and easy. “Devices are replacing actual human interaction while making us believe we are more connected to others.”


Although technology has the potential to expand vicarious experience, most uses tend to narrow perspective and focus on the self and there is a limit to the understanding that is possible to obtain without experience. It used to be that the photographer was rarely in the picture and we would wonder about people who promoted pictures of themselves. Now people take and post multiple pictures of themselves daily.


In the past, children would sometimes have a comic book or other book in their desk and it was recognized that the presence of this distraction interfered with their learning. School now is using the device which contains their distractions from their work. Even those who do not peek into today’s version of the comic book will be distracted by it.

The development of networks of people with similar interests is natural. Electronic networks, however, provide even more isolation from other views than networks of the past. In a world that is becoming increasingly international, fostering increased bias, perceived exceptionalism, and anger will be detrimental.

“Howard Gardner and Kate Davis write, ‘Individuals generate new ideas by reflecting on the world that surrounds them. Reflection requires attention and time (counter intuitive as it may initially seem, boredom has long been a powerful stimulator of the imagination), two things that are hard to come by in today’s media-saturated world.’”

“Larry Cuban, Stanford University education professor, has been looking at the question of technology in the classroom for three decades. He tells me, ‘I can say pretty categorically that there is no evidence that the use of devices and software will improve academic achievement of students.’” “Multiple experiments have shown that readers simply do not gain the same level of comprehension reading on a screen that they do on a page.”

Many argue that you do not have to learn things that you can look up quickly. This is true if you are looking up a name or specific date which you have forgotten, but you cannot solve problems if you have not assimilated the relevant information. Problem solving requires considering multiple pieces of information simultaneously. This is more than data. We need to develop and use working memory to handle these challenges.

As I questioned in a recent blog, Reflections on Electronics, what is it that children need to learn that they can learn as well or better electronically; respect, manners, delayed gratification, socialization, family values, reading body language, physical wellness? “It is one of the little remarked ironies of our age that childhood obesity has skyrocketed at the same time as kids’ participation in organized sport has reached its zenith.” Devices further reduce the time that children have for unstructured play.

One of life’s responsibilities that technology has not made easier is parenting.


Vision and Learning: A Guide for Parents and Professionals

The Blessing of a Skinned Knee

Not ALL Screen Time IS Equal: Reflections and Perspectives on the Use of Electronics

Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? by Jean M. Twenge

The Power of Play

The Intuitive Parent

Stephen Camarata

Stephen Camarata defines intuitive parenting as “focusing on your child, enjoying the moment, and reacting naturally to whatever your baby is doing.” This may sound simplistic and naïve, but we now have research to support our intuitions. Human children have been learning what is important in their lives this way for millions of years. Explicit instruction is much less effective especially for young children and does not address the whole brain including the emotional and social components. Learning what is interactive and relevant is more likely to be retained and more likely to be applied to problem-solving. Through knowing our children, interactive learning takes into consideration who they are and their interests and abilities at that moment. “Because this interactive process is automatic and ubiquitous, it is all too easy to overlook how powerful and amazing Mother Nature’s instruction manual really is.”


Intuitive parenting has been undermined by the pressure of accelerated curriculums, by the pressure that parents feel who have less quality time to spend with their children, by concerns for their children’s futures in this very competitive world, by mass marketing of technology, and by peer pressure. It is difficult to resist the wave of acceptance that sooner is better and that more is better. “Schemes to accelerate learning do not produce long-lasting improvements in intelligence but do have long-lasting negative consequences, especially in the form of reducing a child’s motivation to learn independently, and reducing self-confidence.” Additionally, if we devote half of the school day to try to get children to read in kindergarten instead of waiting until they are ready, the children are missing out on the important experiences and interactions which have had to be removed to make more time for reading drills. This opportunity cost is overlooked. “As important as intelligence is, it is becoming increasingly clear that other skills, such as faith in one’s own abilities (confidence), the ability to overcome setbacks (resilience), and stick-to-itiveness (persistence) are also extremely important determinants of whether children will ultimately succeed in life.”


“National testing data show that children in kindergarten in 1961 had much higher reading comprehension rates by the time they reached high school than children have today, even though there were no “preliteracy” lessons and formal reading instruction was not initiated until second grade. Further, while young children were expected to recite fewer facts, they were expected to understand concepts thoroughly. And children were not permitted to progress in school until they had mastered the core knowledge the next learning steps were founded on.”

“In a nutshell, there are two primary difficulties parents must address in modern education: 1) an increasingly irrational, accelerated curriculum that pressures children to learn material – and parents to teach it – long before their developing minds are ready; and 2) a one-size-fits-all assembly-line process based on age level rather than ability level.”

Let Them Eat Dirt

Reclaiming Childhood:Letting Children Be Children in Our Achievement Oriented Society

The End of Average

The Collapse of Parenting

Leonard Sax

Books about parenting are proliferating as parenting is becoming more challenging. While we can’t read ourselves into being better parents, information from reasonable authorities can be helpful. Leonard Sax is a pediatrician and a psychologist. Reviews of two of his prior books have appeared on our blog Boys Adrift ( )  and Girls on the Edge ( Some of the following links are factual. Some sound like maxims that were written by Benjamin Franklin. If they arouse your curiosity, I recommend that you read the book.


Scholars generally agree that the purpose of our species’ prolonged childhood and adolescence is enculturation: the process of acquiring all the skills and knowledge and mastering all the customs and behaviors required for competency in the culture in which you live. It means learning how people get along with one another in that culture. Thirty years ago, kindergarten and first grade in American schools were all about “socialization”, as it was then called. Since kindergarten and first grade are now more academic, parents need to be more responsible for their children’s enculturation.

cultural differ

Parental authority is primarily about a scale of value. Strong parental authority means that parents matter more than same-age peers.

Celebration of the new over the old translates into celebration of the young over the old, of young people over old people.

If your relationship with your child is governed by your own desire to be loved by him or her, the odds are good that you will not achieve even that objective.

Healthy foods have given way to less healthy foods and beverages in the diet of the average American kid. When parents are unequivocally in charge, then the parents decide what is for supper and their kids either eat what is offered or they go hungry. New evidence suggest that allowing kids to have on-demand access to food may be one factor promoting obesity, independent of the total number of calories consumed. Ad lib feeding throughout the day appears to disrupt circadian rhythms, interfering with normal metabolism and disturbing the balance of hormones that regulate appetite. Kids who have never been hungry will grow up to be heavier; yet psychologically they are likely to be more fragile. They haven’t learned to master their own needs.


In 1969, 41% of American kids either walked or rode their bikes to school. By 2001, that proportion had dropped to 31%.

In the past 15 years, researchers have recognized that getting less sleep at night appears to lead to being overweight and obesity. This effect appears to be more pronounced for children and teenagers than it is for adults.


            In 2013, he American Academy of Pediatrics released new recommendations for the use of media by children and teenagers. Among other recommendations, the pediatricians advised that there be no screens in the bedroom: no TVs, no mobile phones, no computers or tablets. They didn’t say that kids should not use the devices. They said that those devices should not be in the bedroom. The bedroom should be for sleeping.

            The job of the parent is to teach self-control. To explain what is and is not acceptable. To establish boundaries and enforce consequences.

Gisella and Ben reading

There was a fortyfold increase in the diagnosis of bipolar disorder among American children and teenagers between 1994 and 2003. Many clinicians find it easier to tell parents that their child has a brain-based disorder than to suggest changes in their parenting. For every one child in England diagnosed with bipolar disorder, 73 children in the United States received the diagnosis.

The sleep-deprived child will have trouble paying attention, not because he has ADHD but because he is sleep-deprived. Sleep deprivation mimics ADHD almost perfectly. Stimulant medications work because they are powerful stimulants and compensate for sleep deprivation. Because of electronics, parents have to be more assertive of their authority than in previous decades. In 2013, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention released their figures on the proportion of American children who have been diagnosed with ADHD. Across the entire United States, nearly 20% of American boys and 10% of American girls age 14 to 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD. Why is ADHD so much more common in the United States than it was 30 or 40 years ago? And why is it so much more common today in the United States than elsewhere? My answer is “the medicalization of misbehavior”. Instead of correcting our kids’ misbehavior, we American parents today are more likely to medicate our kids in hopes of fixing behavior problems with a pill.

VLUU L100, M100  / Samsung L100, M100

Teaching self-control is one of the first tasks of the parent and the teacher. A child’s self-control at age 11 or 14 is a good predictor of the child’s health and happiness 20 years later, when the child is in their 30s. A psychiatric diagnosis should be a reason for parents to become more involved, more engaged, more devoted to teaching self-control. But I have observed firsthand how the prescribing of psychiatric medication often shifts responsibility away from the child and the family to the prescribing physician. When the teacher and parents exercise their authority, most students will develop better habits and show greater self-control, because the teacher and parents require it, because they expect it, and because the student really cares what they think.

family meal

Kids who had more meals with their parents were less likely to have “internalizing problems” such as feeling sad, anxious, or lonely. They were less likely to have “externalizing problems” such as fighting, skipping school, stealing, etc. They were more likely to help others and to report feeling satisfied with their own lives. Across North America today, both in the United States and in Canada, I find many parents who believe that their kid’s participation in sports, or dance, or some other extracurricular activity is more important than time spent with the family, sitting around the table. I think that those parents are mistaken. The family should be a higher priority.

If parents don’t come first, then kids become fragile. Children and teenagers need unconditional love and acceptance today no less than they did 30 or 50 years ago. But they cannot get unconditional love and acceptance from their peers or from a report card. That’s one reason why there has been an explosion in the prevalence of anxiety and depression among American teenagers, as they frantically try to secure their attachment to other teens, as they try to gain unconditional love and acceptance from sources that are unable to provide it.


You have to teach your child your values rather than allowing him or her to adopt by default the values promoted by contemporary American culture.

Failure comes to all of us. The willingness to fail, and then to move on with no loss of enthusiasm, is a mark of character. The opposite of fragility.

The best predictor of happiness and overall life satisfaction roughly 20 years later is not IQ, grade point average, openness to new ideas, or friendliness. It is self-control. One of the most essential duties as a parent is to teach conscientious to your child.

Part of the task of the parent is, and always has been, educating desire: teaching your child to desire and enjoy things that are higher than cotton candy. It’s a challenge to raise a child in opposition to the culture in which you live.

What do you need to teach your child? My answer: the first job of the American parent has to be to teach humility. Humility simply means being as interested in other people as you are in yourself. It means that when you meet new people, you try to learn something about them before going off on a spiel about how incredible your current project is. The culture of self-esteem leads to a culture of resentment. Taking appropriate risks requires courage, first and foremost. Again, many parents confuse self-esteem with courage, just as some parents tend to confuse humility with timidity and cowardice. To be courageous means that you recognize the risks and your own limitations, but you find the resolve to move forward anyhow. As you mature into adulthood – and certainly when you become a parent – you realize that the world is, and should be, bigger than you.


By exempting your child from all chores you are sending the message, “Your time is too valuable to be spent on menial tasks,” which easily morphs into the unintended message “You are too important to do menial tasks”. Social media, as those media are actually used by children and teenagers, are all about self-promotion.

Cramming a child’s life full of activities with little time for reflection sends the unintended message: what you do is more important than who you are.

The primary purpose of education should be to prepare for life, not for more school.

How to Raise an Adult

Raising our children is one of life’s most important responsibilities. The title of this book, by Julie Lythcott-Haims, reminds us that the goal of raising children is for the children to become adults. Adolescence is prolonged due to higher education but in many cases adolescence is further prolonged when parents, who have done so much for their children along the way, don’t let go.


Children require varying degrees of protection depending on who they are, their age, and the circumstances. But children cannot develop without having appropriate responsibilities, taking pleasure in their successes and learning how to deal with their failures. They must interact with others without adult supervision to develop social skills. They can’t develop life skills when others do things for them. They can’t learn to solve problems without dealing with problems on their own.

The world is not safe, has never been safe, and never will be. Since children cannot always be protected, an important role of parents is to prepare children to make judgments and to accept challenges while controlling the environment so the risks are within the child’s current abilities and the consequences of failure are limited. At times the children will be frightened and the parents will be frightened but fear cannot be eliminated. Children can only learn to manage fear and learn their developing abilities through experience. Meeting challenges requires planning and organization, monitoring the outcomes and facing the consequences of what was done or not done. It is natural for parents to not want to let go. If parents help, children can often accomplish more, but the accomplishment will not be theirs with all that comes from doing it on their own.

Parents have many influences and pressures on them. There are many ways of raising children which vary across cultures and over time. Differing from what others are doing can be difficult. What do we value and what would we like our adult children to value? How is success measured? Grades in school and accomplishments in sports and other fields often receive disproportionate attention compared with character, caring, cooperation, resilience, self-efficacy, and acceptance of others. Can we tell when what we are doing for our children is more for ourselves than it is for them?

“I see that we want everything to be good and comfortable for our children. But that isn’t the reality of the world that we are preparing them for.” p. 74

“No one can give another person life skills. Each of us has to acquire them by doing the work of life. On our own.” p. 80


“Executive function is our ability to determine which goal-directed actions to carry out and when, and is a skill set lacking in many kids with ADD/ADHD. A 2014 study from the University of Colorado-Bolder concluded, ‘The more time that children spent in less-structured activities, the better their self-directed executive functioning. The opposite was true of structured activities, which predicted poorer self-directed executive functioning.’ “ p. 90


“A shift in focus toward who a kid is and what a kid can do as opposed to who they aren‘t and what they can’t do is sorely needed in our communities and in our homes.” P. 216

The contents of this book are based on research and the author’s experiences as a parent and as the dean of freshmen and undergraduate advising at Stanford University for ten years.

The Parents We Mean to Be How Well-Intentioned Adults Undermine Children’s Moral and Emotional Development

Richard Weissbourd

The topic of this book is the importance of morality in raising children. I cannot remember reading a book that caused me to stop reading to reflect so often. Richard Weissbourd is a Harvard professor, but while the book has research documentation, it is practical, not theoretical. Excerpts will dilute the feelings stimulated by the book but they present the author’s key concepts as briefly as is possible….

What I am acutely aware matters most as a parent is not whether my wife and I are “perfect role models or how much we talk about values, but the hundreds of ways – as living, breathing, imperfect human beings – we influence our children in the complex, messy relationships we have with them day to day. P. 2


What has clearly been hardest for my wife and me – and for every parent we know – is being vigilant about these things when we have been stressed or depleted or outright depressed. What is fundamentally being challenged at these times are our moral qualities and maturity – including our ability to manage our flaws – qualities that can’t be feigned. The reason many children in this country continually lack vital moral qualities is that we have failed to come to grips with the fundamental reality that we bring our selves to the project of raising a moral child. That makes being a parent or mentor a profound moral test, and learning to raise children well a profound moral achievement. Pp. 3 – 4


The issue isn’t moral literacy; it’s moral motivation. There is one capacity in particular that is at the heart of such motivation – appreciation, the capacity to know and value others, including those different in background and perspective. Appreciation brakes destructive impulses. P. 6

Almost all great literature concerns moral questions, for morality cannot be extracted from that which moves us, from our emotions. Pp. 10 -11


While many different emotions can shape children’s moral development, there are two painful emotions that are especially troubling; shame, an acute feeling of unworthiness and embarrassment, and the fear of disapproval and isolation. P. 12


Guilt is the self-reproach we experience when we violate an inner standard – when we cheat on a spouse, undercut a colleague, fail to report a crime. When guilt is serious we feel the need to atone; until the wrong is set right the world can feel on hold and out of joint. A path to correct this state usually presents itself – guilt insists on and often reveals solutions. Shame, in these respects, is not so easy. One is usually not ashamed about a deed, about what one has done, but about who one is, and especially by the perception that our defects have been exposed and are seen by a real or imagined audience. P. 14


Research shows that punishments are most effective when they are substantial but not severe. Severe punishments can focus children on the unfairness of the pusishment and the negative qualities of the adult administering it, distracting them from any moral message or information that the punishment contains. Pp. 29 – 30

When parents are unwilling to withstand their children’s anger in the service of promoting a valued moral quality in their child, they fail to communicate many critical messages: that there are higher values than being well-liked; that their children are capable of withstanding their disapproval; and that they themselves, the people that their child is supposed to idealize and internalize are capable of withstanding anger and disdain. P. 31

Adults must engage teens in developing principles and moral commitments that are larger than the approval or disapproval of their peers and larger than themselves. This capacity is vital both to children’s morality and to their psychological health. Pp. 34 – 35

Children need adults who require them to be helpful, whether it’s caring for a younger sibling, getting groceries for a neighbor, or performing routine household chores. Requiring children to be helpful not only builds caring skills but makes attending to others reflexive. P. 39

Every generation of parents has a child-raising mission, and this generation’s is happiness. Many of us slip into habits in the name of promoting happiness – such as regularly monitoring and seeking to adjust our children’s moods, organizing our lives too much around our children, and praising them too frequently – that are likely to make children not only less moral, but ironically, less happy. Pp. 40 – 41


Part and parcel of this intense focus on happiness is another trend. In the last thirty years, Americans have become intoxicated with the power of self-esteem. P. 43

Often we as parents don’t convey to our children that they have obligations to small communities like a sports team or a school choir or a dance troupe. P. 45

When parents place their children’s happiness above their awareness of others, children are cheated out of social and moral skills that are key to at least certain kinds of lasting well-being. These children are not being prepared for the other-centeredness that’s fundamental to long-term, healthy relationships, to being a good spouse, parent, friend, or mentor. “Those are only happy,” John Stuart Mill wrote, “who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness.” P. 46

When we get in the habit of doing small things to make our children’s lives easier we run the risk of making our children more fragile, entitled, and self-occupied. P. 50

There are qualities that are likely to promote enduring well-being and key moral qualities – qualities that tend to drift off our radar – that should be the main focus of our parenting. These qualities include the ability to balance and coordinate our needs with others, to be reflective and self-critical – to fairly and generously assess our behavior – to receive feedback constructively, and to change our behavior based on our own and other’s assessments. These qualities also include the ability to manage destructive feelings. It is these capacities that enable children and adults to appreciate others despite conflicts of interest and differences in perspective, to adhere to important principles and to engage in sturdy, meaningful relationships and endeavors which create self-worth. These are the ingredients of what we call maturity, and they reflect the strength and integrity of the self. It’s important to remember here that self-esteem and the strength or maturity of the self are quite different.

The self becomes stronger and more mature less by being praised than by being known.

Children come to be reflective and self-critical chiefly when we encourage their self-observations and when we model for them honest self-reflection.

When we demonstrate a capacity to change a troubling behavior as a result of our self-reflections, or as a result of feedback, we model a vital aspect of maturity.

Among the many ways that children learn to deal with difficult feelings such as frustration and anger is when we model the appropriate expression of these emotions and don’t let our own frustration and anger corrode our relationships with our children. pp. 57 -58

If we are concerned about our children’s morality, we ought to be thinking carefully about their humanity. I am speaking of the experience of deep vitality, meaning, and compassion generated by an awareness that we are distinct expressions of common roots across time and space, that we are intimately and intricately connected to other human beings, both living and dead. P. 59

As parents we always need to ask ourselves: What will the next generation of parents seek to embrace and change about our parenting? P. 96

As parents and mentors, it’s vital to see ourselves not as static role models but as imperfect human beings, continually developing, in our dynamic relationships with our children, our own moral and mentoring capacities. “There is nothing noble in being superior to someone else,” the civil rights leader Whitney Young said. “The only real nobility is in being superior to your former self.” P. 102

Children ought to observe what our great dramatists have sought to teach since ancient times: that moral clarity is often painfully dug out of the mud of many conflicting interests and truths, that moral action is often a matter of doggedly wrestling with our flaws and demons. P. 114

The American public schools were conceived not solely as an engine of academic success. They were intended chiefly to cultivate in children a certain ideal of character. Public schools were charged with responsibility for taking waves of poor urban and immigrant children and molding them into responsible, upright citizens. P. 116


One of the most common complaints of my graduate students is that their courses greatly hone their ability to view critically – to trash – seemingly valuable initiatives, but do little to cultivate in them a sense of possibility. P. 168                

As parents and mentors we need to help young people work through their disillusionment as they come to learn more about the world in all its stubborn complexity, so that they don’t swing from wide-eyed idealism to dark pessimism. P. 172

American’s fears about rising waves of immigrant children (about one in five children now live in an immigrant family, and that percentage is rising at a rapid rate) run flat in the face of an astonishing fact. Even though large numbers of immigrants arrive impoverished, first-generation immigrant children, across almost every immigrant group, are, on average, faring better than their American-born counterparts on almost every school, health, mental health, and moral measure. P. 179 It would help many other families, for instance, to emphasize perseverance in the face of adversity, to praise less and to communicate instead that good behavior is to be expected, to emphasize group goals as well as individual achievements, to guide children in developing a more nuanced understanding about when to listen and comply and when to resist, to help children appreciate others despite their flaws, and to place a higher premium on respect for authority. P. 192