The Blessing of a Skinned Knee by mrsumairsheikh


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                    William Charles McMillan III Lecture Series

                              The Blessing of a
                               Skinned Knee:

                       Raising Self-Reliant, Optimistic
                        Children in a Nervous World

                                    by Dr. Wendy Mogel

                                       October 10, 2006

                                The Grosse Pointe Academy
                                Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan
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                      William Charles McMillan III
                             Lecture Series
                    In 1994, Mr. and Mrs. James T. McMillan II established an
           endowed annual lectureship in memory of their late son, William
           Charles McMillan III. The purpose of their gift is twofold: to honor
           William’s tremendous intellectual curiosity and energetic pursuit of all
           subjects; and to emphasize and promote the importance of elementary
           education by inviting a nationally known speaker to The Grosse Pointe
           Academy each year.
                    William was a student at The Grosse Pointe Academy from
           1973 until 1981 where, receiving love and encouragement, he learned
           to reach beyond his limitations.
                    Although weak physically, William was intellectually gifted
           and his passion for life, his love and concern for all living things, and
           his enthusiastic use of verbal skills changed the lives of those who
           were closest to him and left a lasting impression on all with whom he
           came in contact.
                    Never at a loss for words, he was bursting with impressions,
           questions and insights which came pouring out in a dazzling, dizzying
           torrent. It was rare to have a brief, superficial conversation with
           William. A friend commented, “I sometimes felt like I needed a seat
           belt when William was talking to me, because William would take us
           into outer space, back into primeval history, and then into a universe
           of his own imagining.”
                    William believed that anyone could make a significant and
           lasting impact on the world no matter what one’s age, size or circum-
                    These lectures on elementary education are dedicated to the
           proposition that every child can reach beyond his or her own limita-
           tions, that each child makes the world a better place. It is the goal of
           these lectures to take your mind where it has never been. So, fasten
           your seat belt and get ready to enter the universe of imagining - a gift
           to you from William.

                       © Wendy Mogel and The Grosse Pointe Academy - This material may not be
                   reproduced in whole or in part in any form whatsoever without the written consent of
                              The Grosse Pointe Academy, Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan

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                                April 26, 1995 - Dr. Ernest L. Boyer
                  President, The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching

                                 April 23, 1996 - Dr. David Elkind
                               Professor of Child Study, Tufts University

                                April 22, 1997 - Dr. Thomas Lickona
                     Professor of Education, State University of New York, Cortland

                               January 21, 1998 - Dr. Jane M. Healy
                        Learning Specialist, Educational Consultant and Author

                            March 10, 1999 - Dr. Thomas J. Sergiovanni
                       Lillian Radford Professor of Education and Administration,
                                           Trinity University

                              April 12, 2000 - Dr. William S. Pollack
                              Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychology,
                          Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School

                                  March 7, 2001 - Dr. Mary Pipher
                                Clinical Psychologist, Author, Lecturer,
                               Adjunct Professor, University of Nebraska

                                March 6, 2002 - Dr. Anne Chapman
                                        Author and Consultant

                             March 4, 2003 - Dr. Michael G. Thompson
                                   Psychologist, Consultant, Author

                               March 4, 2004 - Dr. Susan B. Neuman
                             Author, Professor at University of Michigan,
                       Former Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education

                                 October 11, 2005 - Eric Jensen
                          Author and co-founder of the first international
                                  brain-based learning program
                               October 10, 2006 - Dr. Wendy Mogel
                             Clinical Psychologist, Parent Educator, Author

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                               Dr. Wendy Mogel

                   Dr. Wendy Mogel is a clinical psychologist and parent
           educator. Publisher’s Weekly gave her best-selling parenting
           book, The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, a starred review saying,
           “Impassioned, lyrical and eminently practical, this volume is a
           real treasure. In 2006, The New York Times Magazine ran a pro-
           file of her life and work highlighting the crossover success of
           The Blessing of a Skinned Knee in Jewish, Christian and private
           school communities across the country.
                   Dr. Mogel has been a keynote speaker at the annual
           meetings of the National Association of Independent Schools,
           the National Association of Principals of Schools for Girls, the
           Educational Records Bureau, the National Association of
           Episcopal Schools, and the American Camp Association.
                   A graduate of Middlebury College, Dr. Mogel complet-
           ed an internship in psychology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
           She is co-founder of the Los Angeles Association of
           Independent School Counselors and serves on the boards of the
           Center for Early Education and the Counsel for Spiritual and
           Ethical Education, a century old inter-faith organization serving
           private schools. She contributes articles to Independent School
           Magazine, Camping Magazine, and the Jewish Telegraphic
           Agency. In the coming year, Scribner will publish her new book
           about everyday ethics for parents of teenagers: The Blessing of a

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                     The Blessing of a Skinned Knee:
                            Raising Optimistic, Self-Reliant
                             Children in a Nervous World
                                     by Dr. Wendy Mogel

                         I have given a billion talks by now, but this is the first time
               that I have ever been anywhere where they gave away prizes and put
               Hershey Kisses on your seats, which I think everyone should do. So
               I have been very happy today, because whatever you feel about the
               outcome of this election, I am so happy to hear people talking about
               politics instead of worrying about their children. I'll give you an
               example of why I am happy about this.
               I have a colleague who is a college counselor at a very private school,
               and you know this is the time of year when things really heat up in the
               college counselors’ offices. She says she feels tremendously impor-
               tant at this time of year. She says she feels like she has a red phone at
               the white house because when she calls parents, her phone calls get
               returned so incredibly quickly. So the students are deciding where
               they are applying for college and then she calls the parents and talks
               to them. She said she called one family and her call got returned with-
               in seconds. She noticed a funny noise in the background of the phone
               call, it was the father who called her back, and she said, “What is that
                         He said, “It’s fine. I can talk to you. I’m just doing a
               colonoscopy right now.”
                         And she said, “You know, I don’t really feel comfortable con-
               tinuing this conversation.”
                         She also said that another parent said to her (this was a mom),
               “I’m an Oncologist” (this mother) and she said, “It’s amazing to me
               that you have the courage to do the work that you do.”

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                    Maria knows this. Maria has a summer camp. Do people
           know this? (“Yes, thanks for the plug.”) Catalina Summer Camp is the
           name, and we were together at an American Camping Association
           Conference about a year ago, and the problems that the Camp
           Directors are having is a service called This is a service
           that posts pictures of children having fun at summer camp on the web.
           It is very password protected; no creepy people can look at pictures of
           your child having fun at camp, but the Camp Directors have found that
           parents will spend (they have studied this), up to 7-1/2 minutes look-
           ing at a promotional video tape of a camp, and up to ½ hour a day
           looking at the bunkone web site. Then they call the Camp Director and
           say, “I saw a picture of my daughter at camp and she told me that she
           is having a wonderful time, and we have gotten some letters from her,
           and we have gotten the e-mails that you allowed her to send to us once
           a week, but I noticed when I saw this picture of her that she was walk-
           ing a little bit behind some of the other children. And they were all
           kind of joking and laughing together and she was standing by herself.
           So I am kind of worried that even though she is telling us she is hav-
           ing a wonderful time at camp that maybe she is actually kind of lone-
           ly. So I was wondering if you could check it out to see if she really is
           having the fun that she is telling us she is having.”
                    Another call was from a father who saw a picture of his son,
           and he said, “I notice that every time I see a picture of him, he is wear-
           ing the same shirt, and it’s making me think that maybe he is wearing
           the same pair of underpants. So could you check into that?”
                    There was a Head of School at a school very much like this
           school, a lovely, sane, wholesome, elementary school, and the Head of
           School was leading a prospective parents’ tour of the school. One of
           the parents said to this Head of School, “Do you put streamers in the
           trees at your school for the kindergartners?”
                    And the Head of School looked at this mother in a kind of puz-
           zled way (the same expression that you have on your faces right now),
           and she said, “Why would we do that?”
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                        The mother said, “Well, at another school I visited they put
               streamers in the trees to demonstrate the properties of wind to the
               kindergartners, and I was kind of hoping that if we do choose your
               school for our daughter that you could give us some kind of guarantee
               about streamers.”
                        So this Head of the School looked at the mother, and she
               thought for a minute, and she looked at her again, and she said, “You
               know, we have leaves on the trees at our school and they do kind of
               the same thing so I can’t guarantee you anything about streamers.”
                        This mother, as you could guess at this point, did choose a dif-
               ferent school for her future MIT-bound, Nobel-Laureate, 4-1/2 year
               old daughter!
                        I started to feel, when I noticed all of these things, that all of
               the children, at least on the west side of Los Angeles, in the eyes of
               their parents were either learning disabled, gifted, or both.
                        Do you know what the normal curve looks like? It looks like
               this: Most children, at least in some areas, mine included, fit some-
               where in the middle of the normal curve, and that’s how it got its
               shape. But it feels as though parents are afraid. This is very interest-
               ing with the whole question of giftedness; parents have gifted 3-1/2
               year olds. Parents are afraid that the children might squander a single
               IQ point. So I thought about some phrases from my own childhood
               that we never hear any longer. And those of you who are old enough,
               see if you remember phrases like late bloomer, slow developer, or
               going through a phase. That is what my parents use to say about my
               cousin Alec who liked to strangle me; he’s “going through a phase.”
                        Our children no longer have time to go through any phases. If
               you talk to teachers who teach in private schools, they say that it is
               very difficult to write the report card narrative. (That’s like a little
               paragraph that describes your child). They say that they feel pressure
               to write something that is a cross between a work of lyrical, romantic,
               fiction, and a legal document, and that they can’t be too forthright
               about the children.
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                    So I ask the School Heads, I always say, “Tell me what you
           want me to say to the parents.” And they say, “Please tell the parents
           to stop trying to rescue the children. That independent school is not a
           cruise ship with a destination of graduation and the children never
           having felt a single wave.” They say, “Tell the parents that it is good
           for children to be bored, to be unhappy, to be frustrated, to be angry,
           to be disappointed, to experience longing, to experience heartbreak in
           high school, and to even be cold, or wet, or hungry for more than 1-
           1/2 seconds before they graduate.” They say, “Tell the parents that it
           is good for kids to have a crappy, unenlightened, uninspired fourth
           grade teacher.”
                    (I apologize to any 4th grade teachers who are here but I real-
           ly don’t, because in some ways, this is what parents most need to
           hear). These children are absolutely for sure, when they have a job
           one day, going to have a crappy, unenlightened, uninspired boss. They
           are also highly likely to have a crappy, unenlightened, uninspired
           spouse…at least the first one!
                    We want to prepare them to deal with difficult people. I say
           to parents of middle schoolers, that it is good for girls to have a shal-
           low, bossy, slutty best friend because we are not raising hot house
           flowers. We want to prepare the children to deal with real life. Freud
           defined the goal of hypnoanalysis as the conversion of neurotic mis-
           ery into ordinary unhappiness. In order for that to happen, the students
           and children need to feel some more plain, garden variety, everyday
                    So I sometimes talk about parenting at this moment in history
           as “good parents gone bad.” We have very good intentions but we are
           so devoted that we over-protect these kids, we over-indulge them, we
           over-schedule them, we don’t discipline them enough, we discipline
           them in a sort of half-baked way so we make them feel guilty about
           pleasure, and we are not preparing them for adult life. How did we get

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                        When I was growing up, how many of you, and there is a nice
               range of ages in the room, how many of you when you were growing
               up could play outside on a summer night without any adult knowing
               where you were until dark? (So almost everybody). How many of
               your kids (this is a trick question) can do that? (Where do you live?)
               So I told this story at one school and one mother said when she was
               growing up, one of her favorite things to do was that she and her sis-
               ter would take their pillows and they would make a body-size impres-
               sion under the blanket so it looked like they were still in bed (some
               other people here did that too I can see but you tell me if you did the
               next part).
                        She said, “What we loved to do is take off all of our clothing
               and sit naked on the roof.” She said, “We liked to do this because we
               liked to look at the moon and stars and feel the breeze. And it’s real-
               ly lovely and really dangerous.” And I thought about how quickly the
               social workers would be at our house with so many reasons: The
               height of the roof. The naked children. The fact that they weren’t
               doing homework right at that very second!
                        The media loves to terrify parents. A middle class girl gets
               abducted from her home in the leafy suburbs, and the entire country
               knows about it in seconds. It is an extremely distinctly rare occur-
               rence but if we look at the proportion of time that this kind of parent-
               terrifying news is broadcast on the media, it’s hard to let your child
               walk to the bathroom in a restaurant by themselves, or walk down the
               street until they’re about 17-1/2. They’re sort of in permanent lock
               down, and the problem with that is that then they go off to college and
               they’ve never done anything on their own, and we know what they are
               doing at college these days!
                        So part of what we want them to do is start making cheap mis-
               takes while they are young and getting a little bit of street smarts.
               Another thing we want to do is deprive them a little bit. This is anoth-
               er reason why I am so happy about all the talk about politics because
               a lot of times our children are becoming much better consumers than
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           they are citizens. How many of your kids have more stuff that you had
           when you were growing up? They have fabulous things. I was in the
           music room while I was waiting to come and talk to you and I think
           that the lost and found is in there. If you look at the lost and found in
           any private school or any public school in an affluent part of this coun-
           try, you will find enough stuff by the month of November to provide
           for most of the children in a third world country!
                    I was talking about this at one school where the job of the
           librarian on Friday morning was to try to reunite the lost items with the
           owner of the item. So she would hold them up and try to find out who
           they belonged to. There was one very cagey girl at this school, Jillian,
           who as soon as she saw something she liked would raise her hand.
           This was a kindergartner! She was so smart that she stuffed the stuff
           in her backpack and found a room at home, a closet that her mother
           never looked in, until the end of the year when her mother opened the
           door of this closet and there was all this stuff. The mother marched her
           back to school to make the big confession. The librarian said, “We will
           never find the owners of these items. This would be a very good char-
           ity project for you and Jillian to do.”
                    I think you should donate these things. They can’t find the
           children that own them because they get replaced so quickly that there
           is no sting to leaving them behind.
                    We also see parents who are extremely involved in their chil-
           dren’s daily activity. I was talking to one Englishman about this and
           he said that the rule when he was growing up was that his parents
           would only come to a school play if one of their children had seven
           lines or more. Think about what we see now. You never see a single
           parent with both eyes looking up because we have to preserve the pre-
           sent through the video camera so we can look at it in the future and
           remember the past. But we’re kind of missing the moment of the child
           being in the play. And then the child has the role of playing a bush in
           the winter pageant and she gets an entire bouquet of roses for her con-
           tribution, and you show up with one rose or nothing and your child
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               looks at you like you’ve practically forgotten her name!
                        I was noticing all this stuff in the world, and what I am is what
               I call Jewish on my parents’ side which means that I have two Jewish
               parents but I had no religious education of any kind when I was grow-
               ing up. And I was noticing that all these things in our culture, the
               over-protection, the over-scheduling, and the over-indulgence, and I
               sort of tripped on Judaism. Back then I had a two year old and I took
               her to a High Holiday service with a friend of mine with kind of the
               spirit of a cultural anthropologist. I would see how the Jews of west
               Los Angeles celebrated their ancient holy rite. And the very short ver-
               sion of this story is that I left my practice entirely to study Judaism
               full-time. One of the reasons I did this is that in my practice I started
               to feel like a very highly paid baby-sitter. I was being asked to call
               psychopathology problems that were problems of character and of cul-
               ture, and there was nothing wrong with these children that needed
               mental health services. So I studied Judaism full-time, I came back
               and taught Jewish parenting classes, and I found in traditional reli-
               gious text guidance about raising children at this moment in history
               that was absolutely profound.
                        My two favorite sources of child-rearing wisdom are tradi-
               tional religious text and dog-training books. I’ll talk about the dog
               training books in a minute, but one of the things I read in the Talmud,
               the Babylonian Talmud, is that every parent has an obligation to teach
               their child how to swim. This means cold water, rocks, and finding
               their way. We are raising the children to leave us. We are to stand on
               the shore while they sail away. This is our obligation to them. If we
               keep them like hot house flowers, they will not have to the strength to
               swim away from us. And it starts in very small ways.
                        One school teacher was telling me that at her school they have
               a 4th grade retreat where the kids go away to a wilderness place and
               she said she can always tell exactly which kids will be homesick. She
               said the kids who know where their stuff is in their duffle bag, their lit-
               tle sack that they bring, like their extra socks, their sweatshirts, or even
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           their stuffed animal that they needed to bring on the trip, or their flash-
           light, are the ones who are not homesick. And the kids who don’t
           know where their things are are the ones that are homesick. The rea-
           son is is that the kids who know where their things are have packed
           with a parent and the other children have been packed for. It’s an
           example of devotion and loving and helpfulness that treats the children
           in some ways like they are handicapped royalty. We treat children
           who have never been deprived as though they are entitled to every-
           thing they want. There is a very big difference between what children
           want and need and they don’t know the difference. It’s our job to fig-
           ure that out. We also treat them as though they are not capable of man-
           aging on their own. So I always say to parents, (and so I’ll say it to
           you), George Carlin, on one of his wonderful, I am so old I call it a
           comedy album or a comedy CD called “We’re all Diseased,” says we
           are so preoccupied with child safety. He says, “Whatever happened to
           natural selection? Like it used to be that if a child swallowed seven
           marbles you didn’t necessarily want that child to reproduce.”
                    So a child comes home from school and they are very upset.
           There is a wonderful British term called whinging, and it means a
           combination of whining and complaining. We teach our children to
           whine because they get in the car and we say, “Oh honey, how was
           your day? How is your tummy feeling now compared to the way it
           was feeling this morning? Were those mean girls who haven’t been
           sitting with you at lunch still sitting apart from you even though they
           have been your best friends since your were in pre-K and their moms
           are my friends and this is a nightmare that I can barely live with? And
           how did the math test go? Do you feel that your teacher is sort of get-
           ting you a little more in your learning style or is it still completely over
           your head? How was your day sweetie?”
                    We are teaching them to download misery. We vibrate like
           emotional tuning forks. And again, the intention is very loving. So
           what I always say to parents is when your child has a complaint, we
           want to be compassionate, but we don’t want to solve the problems for
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               them. So you can simply say “Wow,” or “Whoa.” It forces you to take
               a little bit of oxygen in. It gives you a minute to think. It communi-
               cates some compassion but you are not getting on the phone to the
               Head of School, CEO to CEO.
                         And let me tell you about Northern California for a minute.
               Los Angeles has its own problems but I have spent a lot of time in
               Northern California, and it’s really wild there because there are fami-
               lies who have a billion dollars or so. I remember one family where the
               mom was the one driving me to and from the airport (I came for a
               speaking engagement), and she was a physician who was not working.
               She had one child and was staying home with her child. She told me
               that her husband also wasn’t working and he was very involved with
               the parent association at the school. And I thought, oh this is kind of
               sad. How do they pay their bills? She’s not working and he’s out of
               a job. But then it hit me. We were in dot com (.com) country, and this
               family with all these IQ points (think about it…the mom and the dad
               put together), have one project: This little seven year old boy! So it’s
               like when you choose a school. I always say to parents if you look at
               anything with a microscope you are always going to see some flaws
               when you get up close. So these parents didn’t have too much to do
               except look at this seven year old all day and take every sort of tem-
               perature and that was kind of hard for him.
                         This problem happens with mothers who work outside of
               home and mothers who don’t. Because mothers who work outside of
               the home imagine that the other mothers are doing nothing but baking
               phenomenal cookies and working on the science fair project. And if
               you go to an elementary school science fair, you often will see not a
               single trace of child. It’s amazing what you see. You see like a whole,
               working volcano. I used to think that this was because the parents
               were so competitive with each other, but my new theory is that they
               are very hubby-deprived and need the opportunity to work with the
               paper mache, the vinegar, poster paints, and baking soda. So the other
               mothers who are working outside of home imagine that the other
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           mothers are making volcanos all day long. And the mothers who are
           not working outside of home imagine that the mothers who are are
           providing for their children a role model of a woman who is very
           effective in the world and very important so they have to do double
           duty in parenting. Teachers say that if a child comes home with a
           grade of a B- or a C+ (not on a test but just on a quiz), the parent is on
           the phone to the Division Head because obviously this teacher is not
           terribly effective so they have to call the local School Head to see what
           to do about it right away.
                    So I sort of would like us to neglect these children a little bit
           more and also remind them who is boss. This brings me back to the
           dog training books. Does anyone watch the “Dog Whisperer”, Cesar
           Millan’s T.V show? Do watch this show? What is it? Animal Planet
           or National Geographic? It’s the National Geographic channel so do
           watch it if you have it because the guy is a genius. He is a dog train-
           er and he says that basically without strong leadership, without an
           alpha dog, dogs become (now listen to these 2 adjectives, they don’t
           usually go together), dogs become timid and bossy. Think about not
           necessarily your child but possibly a child of someone near to you or
           in your carpool: Timid and bossy. When I was growing up, my par-
           ents would just give us a look and we knew we had to fall in line….just
           a look! We give our kids that look and they say, “Why are you look-
           ing at me that way?”
                    I had these parents of a six year old boy in my practice this fall
           and they sounded so terrified. I don’t see any kids anymore; I’m too
           tired to see any kids, but I do see parents and I talk to them about their
           kids. And I always ask them to bring a photograph so I can see a pic-
           ture of their kid. So they are talking about their six year old boy’s ter-
           rors. They say he is tormenting the younger siblings and the teachers
           are afraid of him. As the parents are describing him he sounds so
           frightening, and then I get to see the picture. I turned the picture
           around and I show it to the parents and I say, “This is the person we
           are talking about? This adorable, little six-year-old who looks like he
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               is six with this kind of smiling, mischievous grin and these cute
               bangs? The person you are describing to me sounds like he has an
               extra “Y” chromosome!”
                        There is something missing in the picture, and what may be
               missing are parents who stop trying to reach consensus with their chil-
               dren. If you try to reach consensus with your child past the age of
               seven, I guarantee you will lose because they are smarter than you are.
               I call them the little attorneys. You present your arguments and then
               they present their argument back. Then you prepare your counter-
               argument, and this can go on all through the day. Your intention is
               very respectful, but you will never win. So what I recommend,
               instead, since children do not need two more tall friends, is that they
               need parents.
                        I will tell you a story of something that happened to me very
               recently. I was visiting a school. I am a trustee at the school. I have
               white hair. I was wearing a skirt. So I was visiting the library, and the
               children were all arranged on these really comfortably, lovely, leather
               couches and there was no seat left for me. So the librarian said to me,
               I think in a kind of hootenanny, friendly style, she said, “Dr. Mogel
               would you like to have a seat on the floor?” And I said, “No.”
                        She was kind of stunned, so she looked around at the kids on
               the really comfy couches, and she said, “Jordon, would you be willing
               to give up your seat so Dr. Mogel can sit down.” And he said, “Sally,
               I really feel so much more relaxed when I sit on the couch.”
                        He had learned that this was not his fault. He had learned that
               the earth continues in its orbit based on his level of relaxation.
                        So she, I am happy to say, didn’t go for this argument, and
               said, “I think you’ll be fine. Take a seat on the floor.” And he did.
                        I recommend that we go back to some ancient practices like
               thinking of “no” as a one-word sentence. And I have a little list of
               ways to do it. So what parents do say to their kids is a really long sen-
               tence. They say, “Henry, would you mind clearing the table now.
               Remember we made that plan where Olivia is going to clear it on
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           William Charles McMillan III Lecture Series

           Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and you can clear it on Tuesday
           and Friday as long as you don’t have a math test. Would it be okay
           honey, bunny, sweetie, lovey bear?”
                    Instead, we can say, “Henry, clear the table now.”
                    Then we can say, when Henry says, “But... but... but... but”
           because remember he is much, much smarter than you are now and our
           IQ is all about declining, and the children’s are going straight up.
           That’s how it works with the grey matter and the frontal lobes. I say
           this to parents. It’s kind of a yucky image, but we kind of carry the
           children’s frontal lobes on our shoulders. That’s the part of the brain
           that is up here, behind the forehead, it contains the executive func-
           tions, planning, organization, persistence, responsibility, and we do
           that for them and they never want to clear the table.
                    So what we can say instead is, (you tell them what you want
           them to do and they start to argue brilliantly), you can say,
           “Nevertheless.” “Regardless.” (These are the beginning of sen-
           tences). “That is not the issue.” “No, and that is final.” “I have
           thought about it and my answer is No.” “I’m not ready for that co-ed
           sleep-over, R-rated movie, night-out in the mall, computer in the room
           with complete and total internet access because you couldn’t possibly
           do your homework without that. I remember saying ‘no’ about this.
           I’m not going to change my mind about this.”
                    And you can say to much younger children, “Eat your dinner,
           or don’t eat your dinner because you’re going to have a chance to eat
           again tomorrow.”
                    Two of the most fun things that I do, and I did this last week,
           is teach parenting classes and I do little workshops for housekeepers,
           nannies, and baby-sitters. You can imagine the fun we have. Oh boy.
           And also for grandparents. One grandparent told me that she was very
           concerned about her daughter because the daughter had offered to buy
           the 3 year old a drum set as a reward for eating a hamburger. We want
           to say “no” to the children without them understanding our reasons so
           that when they are teenagers, they can say “no” to their friends with-
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               out their friends understanding the reason. So that they can say all the
               things I just said to you: “Nevertheless.” “I’m not ready for that.” “I
               thought about it and my answer is ‘no’.” We want them to be able to
               stand their ground and not get seduced into arguments.
                        I also see parents getting their buttons pushed by girls, espe-
               cially the toughest ages for girls which are from the beginning of
               puberty, which can now start at about age eight in many girls, until
               about 17, and that is a really rough period. So the girls know very well
               how to push their parents’ buttons. A mother says to her 13 year old
               daughter, “I don’t feel comfortable having you go to that party and I’m
               not going to allow you to go because I know those parents, and I don’t
               actually trust that they are going to supervise it appropriately.”
                        And the daughter says, “Mom, you are just making all these
               strict, bazaar rules because you have a lot of personal problems and
               everyone we know knows this about you.” Or, “Dad, the reason that
               you won’t let me go to the mall with my friends is that everyone
               knows you weren’t very popular with the babes when you were in
               middle school, and it’s not fair to keep me in solitary confinement.”
               It is their job to try to push your buttons. You don’t have to try to
               argue them out of that. They are masters at this. They are supposed
               to do this. Another thing that parents do is they try the rhetorical ques-
               tion. So anytime you start a question with “Don’t you think,” you are
               already going down the slippery slope. So if we go back to that 13
               year old girl, you might say to her, “Megan, don’t you think those
               jeans ride a little bit low on your hip?”
                        I doubt Megan would then say, “Gee mom, you know, until
               you brought this to my attention I hadn’t realized it. And now I’m
               thinking about a couple of things mom. I’m thinking number one,
               they’re not terribly comfortable. But number two, if I wear these jeans
               out into Altadena Proper, I am going to give our friends and neighbors
               an impression of our family that is so false, because we are really such
               a down to earth and wholesome group. Now that I am thinking about
               the jeans, I’m thinking what I would like to do, and if you don’t mind
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           if I interrupt this conversation just for a moment mom and I’ll be right
           back, I would like to go up to my room and I would like to change into
           the jumper that grandma gave me for Christmas. And thinking of
           grandma, I’m remembering that her bursitis was bothering her, was
           that what it was mom, her bursitis? Would you mind if after I change
           into the jumper that I just put in a little call to see how her health is
           and then maybe I’ll come down stairs and we could make a healthy
           snack for the whole family. I think that my little brother Jake would
           really enjoy having some celery and peanut butter, and maybe some
           tofu sandwiches and I know how to make a really good smoothie.”
           Never. Not in the history of the world did any girl say that. No girl
           will ever say that.
                     And no boy at 10 o’clock on Sunday morning when a parent
           says, “Son, don’t you think you have your face in front of a screen for
           enough hours already today?” No boy will ever say, “Wait a minute,
           let me add it up. If I take the Xbox screen, the Nintendo screen, the
           Game Boy screen, the computer screen, the television screen, I don’t
           know if you consider an Ipod a screen but it does kind of have a little
           screen in it, and I put it all together on a regular computer screen it is
           already 3-1/2 hours and I have only been up for 2. And this math is
           not working which is reminding me I have a test on the multiplication
           tables on Monday morning so dad, if you don’t mind, what I would
           like to do is turn off all of these machines, and would you be willing
           to give me a little time to test me on my 12X’s tables because I’m not
           so sure of them?” No boy ever said that.
                     So what we can do instead is just make the rules and we can
           remember that the 5th commandment, To Honor thy Mother and
           Father, is up there with the big ten for a reason. That the author of the
           commandments recognized it was going to be a tough one to follow.
                     As one mother in one of my audiences said, says to her chil-
           dren, she is a judge, and she says to her children, “I am a judge, I have
           made my ruling, and if you continue to argue with me I will hold you
           in contempt of court.”
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                        I also believe very strongly in making firm, clear rules. These
               rules will vary with every family in this room; there is no appropriate
               set of rules. When you say “no,” mean it, and when you say “yes,” let
               your children enjoy their pleasures. We have a lot of mushy rules so
               the children nag, and nag, and nag, and then we get kind of tired so we
               say, “Okay, go ahead.” And we are begrudging them pleasure. If you
               do this, keep two funds right now. One is the college fund, and the
               other is the therapy fund, because this is exactly the right way to make
               people neurotic. This is how we all became neurotic and we will pass
               this right along to our children. And we would rather, instead of
               spending that money on therapy, you spend it on grandchildren. You
               will not have any grandchildren unless your children see parenthood
               as an enviable and pleasurable occupation; unless they see you enjoy-
               ing the opportunity to raise them. If you’re in a bad mood all the time
               because your rules are so mushy and flexible, this job is not going to
               look like fun.
                        So they ask you to do something that you’ve decided you’re
               going to allow them to do so you can say, “Sure.” “Absolutely.”
               “How great.” “That sounds like fun.” “I’d be glad to give you a ride
               if you need one.” “I’d be happy to.” “Certainly.” “My pleasure.”
               “Absolutely.” That’s 10. Here’s my 11th. “I was wondering will you
               be needing some extra money for the evening?” Or here’s the 12th
               one, “Family Guy, I love Family Guy. Would you mind if I sit and
               watch it with you?” Now this is for much older kids, but you can start
               with Sponge Bob, and move onto the Simpson’s. Pay attention to the
               things they enjoy. One wonderful thing to do with adolescents is to
               listen to their music.
                        We have to have an attitude that we need junky pleasures in
               life because life is really, really hard, but it is also very exhilarating
               and exciting. Kids need to eat some junk food; they need time to goof
               around and accomplish nothing. These kids are so hyper-mature that
               it’s kind of scary. The college deans have secret nicknames for them.
               Have you heard this? They call them teacups and crispies. Can you
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           William Charles McMillan III Lecture Series

           guess? So the teacups are so over-protected. The whole time they
           were growing up they were being carted off to the tutors, and to vio-
           lin lessons, and to Kumar and math, and to the best schools, and to the
           SAT prep. Then they get to college and they have a difficult room-
           mate, or they have to do their laundry, or they have to figure out their
           schedule, or get into a class they aren’t easily able to get in, or they get
           in a bad mood. We don’t give children an opportunity to learn how to
           manage their own moods because we get in there so fast to try to jolly
           them out of it or try to do a little psychological spin on the pain. Life
           is full of pain. So they get to college and they have some troubles and
           they don’t know how to handle it, except in two ways. There are real-
           ly quick ways to feel better at college. There was a cartoon in the New
           Yorker today. I didn’t get it and my daughter had to explain it to me.
           This is what happens when your kids get older. When they are really,
           really little they don’t get any of the New Yorker cartoons. Then they
           get one or two of them. Then they get all of them, and now they
           explain them to me. I am very, very grateful. There were three of
           them I didn’t get. One was a bunch of adults with a bottle of wine and
           a syphon and a long tube. I had no idea what it was. My daughter said
           that’s what they use for Beer Pong. That’s what they do in college.
           They feel bad and can immediately make it go away. You can make it
           go away in a couple of ways: With alcohol and drugs, with dramatic,
           troubled relationships, or with extreme workaholism, and that’s what
           we say on college campuses. You talk to any college mental health
           person and they will talk to you about self-injury, and I hate to tell par-
           ents who have very young children about this but it is good to know
           because it helps you prepare to protect your children from the fragili-
           ty and the pressure.
                     Do you know about self-injury, especially in girls, and boys
           now too? They cut themselves. And these kids are not suicidal. Most
           of them are not in the least, and some of them are not even clinically,
           depressed. They cut themselves to feel relief of the pressure because
           they feel so much pressure to be perfect.
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                         The crispies are simply burned out from the academic load
               they have been carrying since they were in preschool. When I was in
               kindergarten, this is what we did: We learned 10 songs, we learned to
               get along with our neighbor, and we made ashtrays for our parents. I
               don’t think they do that anymore! One 6th grade teacher told me he
               was worried that our kids were going to file the largest class action suit
               against us. He said they are going to sue us for stealing their child-
               hoods. And one 2nd grader (and this was so poignant), she said to me,
               “I’m so worried about 3rd grade; I’ve heard it’s a killer.” This tiny,
               tiny little person!
                         So we want them to have some down time. We have a lot of
               type A parents and type B clothing (this is something else you see in
               Northern California a lot but you also see it here). We act kind of
               casual about our kid’s achievement and our kid’s, I call it “transcript
               real estate,” and I think of parents as “transcript pimps” sometimes.
               But again, the intention is very good. We read US News and World
               Report, and this is the largest selling magazine in history, and I believe
               the issue that ranks the colleges sells more than the Sport’s Illustrated
               Swimsuit issue. We read that and we imagine that there are only 10
               colleges in the whole country and so many kids, but in fact there are
               200 colleges that would be a good fit for your child and at least 50 that
               would be a wonderful fit if they are ready to go. And they will be
               ready to go if we don’t over protect them, over schedule them, and
               over indulge them.
                         So one way to do that is to protect ourselves. The Harvard
               Admissions Director, Marlyn McGrath Lewis describes some of the
               incoming students as resembling dazed survivors of some bewildering
               life-long boot camp. And I thought about this when I was at a school
               in the Midwest where some of the upper school students had acciden-
               tally made a porno movie staring themselves. It really, really was an
               accident, and since it happened at that school it has happened at a lot
               of other schools around the country. There were some kids fooling
               around at a party, and there were some other kids who had a video
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           William Charles McMillan III Lecture Series

           camera. They made this movie and they showed it in the locker room
           at the gym, and it was a huge scandal in this small city, and I had the
           privilege of meeting with parents to talk about what to do about this,
           and I did not have a clue.
                    So I talked about the carpool lane rules. And the reason I
           talked about the carpool lane rules is every school in the whole coun-
           try has a problem getting parents to follow the carpool lane drop off
           and pick up rules. This is true. And the Head of the National
           Association of Independent Schools did me a favor and queried the
           Head of School and had everybody send me their carpool lane chas-
           tisement letters. And the letters are fantastic and I promise to get back
           to the porno movie in just a second. The letters really range from very
           moving, sermons about if you want your children to follow the rules
           at home they need to see you following the rules. Some of the schools
           have parking lots with a big signs that say “No Left Turn,” one after
           another. Churches and Synagogs too. And one after the other parents
           make the left turn. What happen to the commandments? What’s the
           reason you take them to Sunday School? Why are we bothering?
           There we go, breaking the rules.
                    So I said to these parents, “Follow the carpool lane rule, and
           when you pick your child up at the end of the day, do not be talking on
           the cellphone when they get in the car.” This is actually a very holy
           moment. These are two souls reunited after being parted. And I am
           not suggesting interviewing them for pain and asking them all the
           troubles of the day, but it is a very special moment. And you are show-
           ing your child the dignity of this sacred reunion.
                    And the reason I was talking about that is because I didn’t
           know what else to say, but also because I wanted to talk about digni-
           ty, integrity, and the sanctity of relationships. So I did ask the parents
           to think about their own sex lives, and I absolutely didn’t expect any-
           one to say anything. I just said think about it for a couple minutes, and
           one mother immediately, instantly, raised her hand. And since I didn’t
           have any lecture planned or any intervention scheme for this school in
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                                                        The Grosse Pointe Academy

               trouble I did call on her. And she said, “Dr. Mogel, are you kidding?”
               She said, “We are so tired. We cart this scholar princess around from
               their SAT prep, to their games, to their rehearsals, to their practices,
               and we fall asleep catatonically at 9 p.m.” And the room was absolute-
               ly silent, sort of like this one right now, and I did not know what to say
               so I sort of just looked out into the audience and I noticed some of the
               dads subtly elbowing the moms. And I continued to look and I saw
               some of the moms elbowing the dads back a little bit harder, and I
               thought, “Wow, this is really interesting!” What was being communi-
               cated in that room at that moment was a crisis in pleasure in parents’
               lives. And that these young people had done something so reckless
               and careless and without dignity because they didn’t see pleasure and
               dignity and the specialness of growing up modeled at home.
                        So what I said to the parents is one thing that you can think
               about doing about this, and you know the Chinese symbol for crisis is
               the same as opportunity, (I don’t even know if that is true but people
               always say that all the time so I said that then), and I thought about
               how if we go out into the world and we pick up the children in the car-
               pool, and instead of interviewing them about every single moment of
               their day, you tell them something that happened in your day. You tell
               them something that you saw that was beautiful, something that
               moved you, something that was funny, something that was shocking,
               or a problem that you are having. And then be cautious about this one,
               I don’t want you to say to your child, “I’m thinking about the divorce
               but I’m not really sure.” That’s not the kind of problem we want to
               share with them. You could say though, “Someone at my office’s
               father died, and I’m trying to think about the best way to let him know
               how sad he must feel. And I am wondering if I should send him a
               card, or flowers, or should I go to the funeral, because I’m not part of
               the family.” Take these moments of teaching about the deeper things
               in life.
                        Benjamin Spock in the latest edition of Baby and Child Care
               says we live in a totally upside down child center world. It is in some-
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           William Charles McMillan III Lecture Series

           way like worshiping idols. We put these children up on a pedestal and
           they feel the scrutiny. If you can, instead, and this makes your life eas-
           ier in many ways, let a lot of it go, make some really clear rules, be
           very consistent about those rules, and talk to the children about the
           pleasure that happened in your day. Very small things are good
           enough. Let them hear you, instead of praising them, praising anoth-
           er adult. Talk to them and let them hear you say how beautiful your
           spouse looks because we’re not airbrushed. The images these children
           are exposed to are lies. No human being looks like that and that’s why
           these girls just keep getting skinnier and skinnier. So let them hear
           you talk about the beauty of a real human being who is not airbrushed.
           Praise your ex spouse by saying “he or she is really good in algebra so
           let’s get them on the phone and see if we can get you some help.” Let
           them hear about people you admire. We live in a world of so much
           criticism, and scandal, and fear, and demoralization. So if they can see
           your life as something you enjoy and adulthood as a pleasurable act,
           you are making an investment in being a grandparent.
           I leave you with two thoughts. One is from a great Rabbi who said,
           “If you truly wish your daughter to study Torah,” (you bet he didn’t
           say ‘your daughter’ but I take the freedom to change it), “study it in
           her presence; and she will follow your example; otherwise, she will
           not, herself, study Torah; she will simply instruct her children to do
                     The other saying is, and I don’t know where it came from but
           it is so beautiful and when I heard it I always remembered it, you can
           think of your child as a seed that came in a packet without a label. And
           you can’t tell in what season they will bloom. You can’t tell what kind
           of flower you’re going to get. Your job is to just pull the biggest weeds
           and stand back and wait to see whom you’ve been given. They are
           likely to do very well in life, even without any streamers in the trees!
           Thank you very much.

Wendy Mogel book:THOMPSONbook.qxd 1/7/2010 10:50 AM Page 25

                         The Grosse Pointe Academy is an independent,
                      coeducational day school serving children in early
                      school through grade eight. A Grosse Pointe
                      Academy education emphasizes the value of each
                      child and the growth of that child. We provide an
                      education of the highest quality in the pursuit of
                      academic excellence, the arts and athletics. We
                      impart to our students an education which is
                      sound in moral and ethical formation. Our outlook
                      is Christian and our heritage is Catholic. The
                      Academy respects all cultures and religious beliefs.
                      Incorporated as a non-profit institution, the
                      Academy is directed by a Board of Trustees work-
                      ing together to serve the Southeastern Michigan

                171 Lake Shore Road Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan 48236   (313) 886-1221
Wendy Mogel book:THOMPSONbook.qxd 1/7/2010 10:50 AM Page 26

                   William Charles McMillan III

                     William was a student at The Grosse Pointe Academy from
            1973 until 1981 where, receiving love and encouragement, he learned
            to reach beyond his limitations.
                     Although weak physically, William was intellectually gifted
            and his passion for life, his love and concern for all living things, and
            his enthusiastic use of verbal skills changed the lives of those who
            were closest to him and left a lasting impression on all with whom he
            came in contact.
                     Never at a loss for words, he was bursting with impressions,
            questions and insights which came pouring out in a dazzling, dizzying
            torrent. It was rare to have a brief, superficial conversation with
            William. A friend commented, “I sometimes felt like I needed a seat
            belt when William was talking to me, because William would take us
            into outer space, back into primeval history, and then into a universe
            of his own imagining.”
                     William believed that anyone could make a significant and
            lasting impact on the world no matter what one’s age, size or circum-
                     These lectures on elementary education are dedicated to the
            proposition that every child can reach beyond his or her own limita-
            tion, that each child makes the world a better place. It is the goal of
            these lectures to take your mind where it has never been. So, fasten
            your seat belt and get ready to enter the universe of imagining - a gift
            to you from William.


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