Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Do This To Let Your INFORMED Voice Be Heard In Our Elections

POLITICS!  Does reading the word make you want to turn and run?

My dear father grew up during the Depression, in very modest circumstances.   He really believed in the need to exercise our rights to vote to influence the course of our nation and he encouraged my sisters and me to do the same.  One of the things he often shared was how he carefully researched every ballot decision before “pulling the lever.”   In the spirit of my father’s passion and belief in the power of one voice, let’s look at a few ways to make the best choice in this season’s elections.

Here are a few things to avoid:

  • Don’t vote for personalities or follow the crowd.  Just because a candidate is popular, doesn’t mean that he or she is the candidate that best supports your views. Candidates sometimes become popular for trite reasons instead of what they’ve done or what they stand for.
  • Don’t avoid voting for the lack of a “good” candidate.  See the rest of my father’s wisdom shared below.
  • Don’t let fear or hate-filled messages make your decision for you.  Go with what your research - from trusted resources - tells you to be true.
  • Don’t let your emotions sweep you away.  If you are feeling so emotional around an issue or a candidate, try to take a step back and bring some research and reason into your decision.
  • Don’t rely on definitions from the opposition.  For example, liberals will try to tell you what conservatives believe and conservatives will try to tell you liberals believe.  People from the “other side” can easily get caught up in looking for reasons to bring down the competition instead of actually looking at all sides of an issue.

Here are some great “Dos” that can help you make a truly informed and well-considered choice:

  • Do take a long-term approach.   Issues like the health of our environment, increasing tax-burdens, and the general health of our nation are complex.  What are we leaving for future generations?  While some ideas may sound good in the short term, what is the projected long-term impact and true cost of such a plan?
  • Do decide the issues that are most important to you.  Most candidates will stand for some things you agree with, and other things that you don’t agree with.  Make a prioritized list of the issues most important to you and then look for candidates that are the best fit with your concerns, values, and beliefs.
  • Do double-check your information.  If you read something from an apparent trusted source that sounds unbelievable, check it out from another reliable source.  A well-educated colleague of mine recently shared a post from a disreputable source that sounded unbelievable.  It turned out to be false and I wonder how much damage was done to upstanding candidates by people accepting the article as true.
  • Do consider the morals and honesty of a candidate.  Character is important!  If this person has often been caught lying on major or minor issues, can he or she really be trusted to lead with integrity?
  • Do look at a candidate’s voting histories.  I will share below three great resources that help you do just that.
  • Do consider candidates that have “walked the walk”, not just “talked the talk”.   Has the candidate actually run a business?  Managed a city or governed a state?  Or do they just give good speeches?  Hard-earned experience helps a leader truly lead.
  • Do ask people you respect why they support whom they support.    Really listen, whether you agree with their choices or not.
  • Do believe that your vote counts and that your voice can make a difference.

Where can you turn to help inform your decisions?  Check out these three great resources:

Project Vote Smart (http://votesmart.org) provides a multitude of information on politicians’ voting records, biography, speeches, positions, ratings and funding. 

BallotPedia (https://ballotpedia.org) has a wealth of information on politics and elections at all levels of government. It’s a great resource for researching presidential candidates.

The League of Women Voters (http://lwv.org) is a great nonpartisan organization that researches and summarizes things for you so you can make a more informed decision before voting. 

This publication from the League of Women Voters is a great tool to help you prepare for the upcoming presidential election:  “How to Judge a Candidate” http://lwv.org/content/how-judge-candidate  

And finally, here is a bit more wisdom from my dear father.  Many years ago, he told me, “Sometimes after all your research and thought, you find you don’t really agree with the stance of any candidate for a position. In that situation, you end up deciding who you most need to vote against in order to best support your stance.” 

We need your informed voice in helping chart the course of our nation! Do your research, think long and hard, and let your voice be heard!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Help Your Child Master This Skill for Success in Life - Part 2

As we discussed in last week's blog post, a key concept to help our children to master is that of delayed gratification. This is the ability to put off or resist an immediate reward in order to gain a larger reward later. Helping our sons and daughters learn this important skill can set them up for greater success and satisfaction in life.
Lets look at several simple ways we can teach our children how to delay gratification:
·     Play Impulse Control Games- When our kids are young, an easy way to teach and practice delayed gratification is by playing impulse control games like “Simon Says”, “Red Light / Green Light”, or “Follow the Leader”.
·     Teach About Feelings vs. Behaviors- Help children control their impulses by helping them learn the difference between feelings and behaviors. For example, if your young child throws or hits things when he or she gets angry, you could explain that although he or she is feeling mad, it is not okay to act out because of that anger. Understanding the difference between feelings and behaviors will help your child better control impulses.
·      Practice Problem Solving Skills- Problem solving skills are essential to delayed gratification.  Help your child learn how to think about the pros and cons to decisions before he or she acts. For smaller decisions, kids can mentally think or talk about the pros and cons of a decision. However, for larger decisions, encourage your child to make a list of the pros and cons of each option he or she is considering.
·      Provide Clear and Consistent Rules and Expectations- Keeping clear and consistent family rules and expectations as your children are growing allows them to gain firsthand experience of the impact of the choices they make. They can use that experience and apply it to decisions outside of the home, learning their actions have consequences and that some decisions are better than others.
·      Model Delayed Gratification- One of the best ways to teach your children how to delay gratification is to model it. Let your son or daughter see you put off an immediate reward for a later, longer lasting one, and talk about it with him or her.  If, for example, your family loves to eat sweets, you might model to your children that you choose to have a nice dessert once or twice a week, rather than eating candy daily.   By waiting to eat your dessert and talking about your reasons for doing it, you model healthier eating habits and a willingness to delay gratification in your life.

Delayed gratification is a very important skill for children of all ages to master. When kids are young, the consequences of impulsive decisions are usually fairly small.  As children grow, the consequences of their decisions are much greater. Many young people, for example, look forward to graduating from high school, but dread moving on to college or technical training.  The reward for those extra years of schooling is greater financial security and more control over many aspects of one’s life.  Watch for ways to help your children learn the power of delayed gratification for making better decisions in life.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Help Your Child Master This Skill for Success in Life

As parents, we desire to help our children grow to be relatively happy and able to easily provide for themselves in adulthood.  One of the keys to both comes through helping our children master is the skill of delayed gratification. In a nutshell, delayed gratification is the ability to put off or resist a small temptation now, in order to gain a larger reward later. For example, a teenager faced with choice of hanging out with friends or studying for a math test the next day would be practicing delayed gratification by choosing to study now and hang out with friends after taking the test. Helping our kids to learn the value of delaying gratification can set them up to be more successful later in life, as numerous studies have demonstrated.

Psychologist Dr. Walter Mischel performed a now famous study on delayed gratification in the 1960s. His test was simple. Children were brought one at a time into an empty room save for a table with marshmallows. The instructor told each child that he would be leaving the room for a few moments and the child could eat one marshmallow while he was away, but if he or she waited until he returned, the child could eat two marshmallows. Not surprisingly, many of the children chose not to wait and ate their marshmallow before the instructor returned. However, several children were able to delay their gratification and receive the two marshmallows. Dr. Mischel followed that group of children for about 50 years after the experiment, examining how the ability to delay gratification affected many aspects of their lives. He found that the children who were able to delay gratification had lower BMIs as adults, less addiction rates, higher SAT scores, and even a lower rate of divorce.  Dr. Mischel also noted that the children who showed great self-control were “more able to sustain effort and deal with frustration” when pursuing their goals.

This study greatly illustrates the importance of teaching children how to have self-control and delay gratification. As parents, there are many simple ways we can teach and model to our children how to delay gratification.  We will look at ways to do this in next week’s blog.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Tough Choices Can Lower Stress and Head Off Crises in Your Family

My husband and I have spent decades working hard in our careers, raising our wonderful children and volunteering. We recently made the decision to move to our dream home, a beautiful place just outside of Boerne Texas, with scenic acreage and lots of wildlife. As you might imagine, a lot goes into getting a house ready to sell, searching for and buying a new home, and the actual move from one house to another. In order to make this dream come true, I made the decision to put my business on hold for the last several weeks.  Only then could I focus on making the move as low-stress and smooth as possible.

We all have many demands on our time and energy in our roles as parent, spouse, employee or student, and more. Occasionally, a family need will come up that requires a huge amount of both. Unless you have any reserves of time and energy, you will either find yourself in a crisis or having to make some tough choices about what to put on hold to address the issue at hand.

Being clear on your priorities and being willing to shift time and energy spent elsewhere to your family’s more pressing needs can help you head off crises in a very busy life. When you do this with the utmost love and respect for your family, you’re making sure that they remain a top priority in your life.

What choices have you made in your life to put your family first in times of need?