Don’t Be Shameless! Why Good People Feel Shame

by Michael F. Mascolo, Ph.D. We tend to have ambivalent feelings about shame.  On the one hand, no one likes shame.  Shame among the most painful emotions we can experience.   We tend to think that shame is a harmful emotion.  As a result, many parents try to protect their children from feelings of shame.  Shame is painful that we even shy away from talking about it.   On the other hand, shame is a moral emotion.   Feelings of shame help shape the moral behavior of children and adults.   Our … [Read more...]

How to Challenge a Child

We all know what Goldilocks was looking for as she sampled the three bowls of porridge made by Mother Bear: Not too hot, not too cold, but just right.    Like anything, when helping our children adjust to emotional situations, getting it “just right” is easier said than done.  Happily, however, we don’t have to get it “just right” all the time.  Instead, we simply need to get it “just right” most of the time.  Happier still, giving “just the right” emotional guidance is more a matter getting to … [Read more...]

Vulnerability is a Necessary Part of Development

Three-year-old Betsy is playing with her toys in the middle of the living room.  The doorbell rings.   Bob from next door has come by to show off his new Chihuahua.   Betsy’s mom lets Bob in, and the little dog begins to run toward Betsy.  Betsy shrieks in fear.  Betsy’s mom immediately picks her up to protect her from the harmless but boisterous puppy. Children are vulnerable beings.  When infants come into the world, they are entirely dependent upon their caregivers.   Their emotions are … [Read more...]

Is Vulnerability a Form of Weakness?

by Michael F. Mascolo, Ph.D. What is your Achilles heel?   According to the ancient Greek myth, the warrior Achilles was destined to die in battle.  His mother, the Goddess Thetis, dipped him in the River Styx, which produced powers of invincibility.   However, in order to dip Achilles into the river, she had to hold him by his heel.   As a result, the heel was unprotected, and Achilles later died in battle from an arrow to his heel. When we are vulnerable, we are open to being wounded.   … [Read more...]

An Open Letter to Teens (and Parents) About Sex

By Michael F. Mascolo, Ph.D. The following is a letter to teenage children about sexuality.  This letter is for all teens, regardless of their age, sexual orientation or political persuasion.  It was written in a spirit that I hope will be seen as free from any particular political agenda, liberal, conservative or otherwise.   My hope is that the values expressed in this letter will be something that many of us can agree upon.  However, if we differ, my hope is that it will at least lead to … [Read more...]

The Circle of Virtues: How to Cultivate Character Your Child

We all want our children to be moral.  However, in a society made up of so many different groups of people, who gets to define what is moral?  Whose morality?  Whose values? At first blush, this seems like a difficult question.  That is because there really is diversity when it comes to values and virtues.  People and social groups differ.  And we need to find ways to respect these differences.   But this is where the conversation should start, not where it should end.  The mere fact that we … [Read more...]

How to be Happy

If you ask people what they strive for in life, many people will say that they wish to be happy.   Of course, this makes good sense.  But what do we mean by happiness?   And how can we attain it?  The answers to these questions are not so clear. So we want to be happy.   How can we make this happen?    One way to live a happy life is by continuously asking ourselves what I like to call “The Most Important Question”.  What is that question? “Is what I am doing good?” This is an easy … [Read more...]

Find the Good in Each Moment

So, if happiness means finding that which is good in life, how can this be done?   What if things aren’t so good right now?   Does that mean I must resign myself to unhappiness?   How do I know what is good?   Does this mean that I always have to be trying to “do good”?  Does it meant that I can’t seek pleasure, and that I have to sacrifice myself for others? Not in the least. Here are three basic ways to cultivate that which is good in life. 1.  Find what is good in the present … [Read more...]

Our Culture of Narcissism: Has it Affected Your Child?

by Michael F. Mascolo, Ph.D. My door is open. A student comes into my office. She walks in and says, “I’d like to drop one of my classes”. I smile, and as welcoming as I can be, I ask, “Do we know each other?” Another student failed two courses during the previous semester. He had good reasons – a series of serious emergencies had emerged and he couldn’t complete his work. He was too ashamed to talk to his professors about his situation. I urged him to write to them. Knowing that he would … [Read more...]

What Makes Learning Exciting?

What makes learning exciting? The Question. If you start with the question, you can never go wrong. There are three basic steps to the learning process – any learning process. It doesn’t matter whether we are talking about students in a school; the scientists in the laboratory; or the parent and child at the baseball game. It’s all about asking and answering questions. Step 1: The Question It all starts with the question. Ask questions. Then ask more questions. And then, perhaps, consider … [Read more...]