Pulling A Rabbit From My Hat

November 13th, 2012 admin Posted in Uncategorized No Comments »

When I was a doctoral student at Virginia Tech, I was doing my dissertation project on the use of marriage and family therapy models in business organization’s leadership and management training. I worked with leaders from industries ranging from hospitals to circus’s. We worked intensively together to educate, train, and coach them on real situations for weeks at a time. There were incredible results, which made for a very exciting project.

One of the professors on my committee, Harold Kurstedt, is a brilliant management systems engineer. He also taught parts of the training. He would often press me on how I did what I did in coaching. I told him it was a mix of several therapy models and my own personal style. I didn’t know how to explain it, much less teach someone else how to do it. After three workshops, he came up to me, handed me a sheet of paper with a diagram, and said “Here’s your model.” He had captured Solution Focused Coaching.

Though Harold was a great mentor, I worried that he expected me to work magic on the stage, particularly when he took me to Virginia’s Forum for Excellence to teach a group of 300 people. He wanted me to ask for a volunteer from the audience, have them share a personal or professional struggle, and come to a magical ending. The volunteer should feel empowered with a clear solution and exude enthusiastic confidence. Oh yes, and I had 15 minutes to do it in. I had only done this in therapy settings, or in small groups with trainees I knew well from hours of personal interviews and coaching. I was so sick with nerves that I didn’t sleep the entire night before.

That day, as the presentation got underway, Harold turned the time over to me to demonstrate Solution Focused Leadership and Coaching. I said a silent prayer for a homerun issue. An engineer from India raised his hand first. Just great. What if I couldn’t understand his heavy accent or his engineering projects, much less truly help him come up with a solution. Fortunately, prayers are answered. He and his wife were building a new home and their relationship was suffering as they fought over decisions constantly.

In a nutshell, I used the model, which includes keys like:

1. I listened without interrupting.
2. I was curious about his strengths and how he had solved problems in the past.
3. I explored exceptions to the problem story.
4. I focused on solutions, not the problem.
5. I was affirming.
6. I summarized what I had heard.
7. I kept whittling things down until together, we came up with a doable plan
He was ecstatic and couldn’t wait to get home and implement the plan. He was sure things were going to be different this time. People in the audience crowded us afterwards, wondering if the engineer had been a plant because it worked out “too perfectly.”

The point of my story is that this wasn’t magic. I wasn’t exceptionally brilliant. Simply put, there are powerful, true principles in communicating effectively. If you put real effort (and it takes effort) into learning them, you will experience greater ease and satisfaction in any realm of your life. If you have tried, but still can’t apply them consistently or effectively, get someone else to apply them for you. Find a trusted teacher, a coach, a clergy member, or a therapist to help. It sure beats trying to sludge through problems in the same old ways, expecting better results, and being consistently disappointed.

Every other month, Notes From Home will pull ideas from our extensive parent curriculum on the Family Bridge to teach principles of good parenting. We hope you enjoy learning and being reminded of solid and successful principles as much as we at Homeward Bound do.

To Your Family’s Happiness!

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“What Were You Like Dad?”

April 26th, 2012 admin Posted in Uncategorized No Comments »

Saturday morning I woke my 16-year-old son Talmage earlier than he had hoped, and asked him if he would go with me to work on our church’s welfare farm. In his usual easygoing manner he agreed without argument, but was quiet for our 20-minute drive to the farm. We were just two of a small group of men, and a few boys drug along by their dads, volunteering to help clear a new plot of land of rocks in preparation for spring planting of corn.

Talmage listened to the stories of our group as we joked about our younger years and expressed concern on the state of the next generation of boys to enter adulthood. He quietly worked and listened as we heaped seemingly unending quantities of rocks into piles.

As we made our way toward another section of the field strewn with thousands of rocks that needed our attention, Talmage said, “Dad could you tell me a story of when you were younger and you got into trouble being mischievous?” I of course denied everything with a smile so that he knew not to believe me. “What do you mean? I’ve never gotten into trouble!” “Dad, I’ve heard a couple stories so I know that you did.” he said with his own smile.

In that moment, I sensed that my son might have been looking for evidence that his own dad was more like him than I let on. Talmage wasn’t asking simply to be entertained with fun stories. He wanted to affirm that he was normal, that he was still “on track” to turn out just fine even though he didn’t love working like we men seemed to.

I’ve heard it said that expecting a 21 year old to be independent today is like expecting a 13 year old to take care of himself a couple of generations ago. All I can say is…really? Are we raising kids that unprepared? Is this delayed adulthood completely fine and we have nothing to worry about?

Well, I believe that we do have reason to be concerned about our boys and young men. I believe that there are far too many boys delaying responsibility for far too long, growing up confident in their video gaming skills, but scared and insecure when it comes to the prospects of needing to fend for themselves and eventually a family.

Societal factors are certainly playing a role; I acknowledge that. Marriage rates are going down. Age of first marriage is going up and being put off longer. Boomerang children are becoming the norm instead of an anomaly, and we have a new stage of development that we’ve never had before called “Emerging Adulthood”. It seems that there is no clear event now at which a boy moves from dependence and childhood, to independence and adulthood. Adulthood just kind of “emerges”.

This month’s Notes From Home is on boys and the challenges they face in the world today. I hope you will find inspiration in the sound advice and research reported here. As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts.

To Your Family’s Happiness!

Tim Thayne, Ph.D.
Homeward Bound

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“My Kid’s a Bump on a Log”

January 26th, 2012 admin Posted in Uncategorized No Comments »

“Unmotivated” has got to be one of the top 5 descriptors we hear from parents when telling us about their struggling teen.

It turns out that motivating our kids, and helping them learn self-motivation, is one of the great tasks of parenthood.  We all know that there is a lot riding on our children acquiring as much of this magic dust as possible.

As with so many of the other disciplines and qualities we hope our kids develop, it’s easy as a parent to notice only the reverse of these qualities.  Laziness, dishonesty, or disrespect assaults and insults us.  We can’t miss them.  However, it’s a lot more difficult to notice the quiet and more tentative acts of initiative, honesty, and kindness.  Just because we haven’t noticed great motivation in our kids, doesn’t mean that the seeds aren’t waiting for the right conditions to spring forth.

So how do we encourage motivation in our kids?  Again, as in just about everything else in life, a balanced approach is usually best.  Let me share three examples of how parents haven’t done it right.

First:  I worked with a young man who really enjoyed tennis.  His father was a very successful business man and recognized the fact that his son was motivated around the game.  Dad was thrilled.  He knew that self motivation was a key ingredient to his own success.  The father decided that since his son had some self motivation and natural ability, he would oversee things to ensure that he was spending the time required to become great.  He hired a personal tennis coach, sent him to summer camps, and entered him in tournaments.  Sounds good right?  Well, in this case the father effectively commandeered the boy’s passion and made it his own.  Unfortunately, the tactics backfired and it wasn’t long before the boy despised tennis and wanted nothing to do with it.  This parent was way too “Hands on”.

Second:  I’ve also seen another approach, sometimes used by me honestly.  When you see disturbing signs of apathy or laziness, you wrongfully assume that if you push, you’ll find more of the motivation you are looking for in the child.  So you point out the fact that your son sleeps too late on weekends, is constantly leaving home too late to avoid being tardy at school and that he never pick up his clothes from his bedroom floor without being nagged.  Now, instead of feeling motivated to change those things, our teens resist change and the label “lazy” or “unmotivated” seems to fit more than ever.  This type of parents is too “Hands On” as well.

Third:  This strategy is used by parents who recognize their teen’s passion and work to facilitate it.  As the teen spends more and more time in one area of life, the parent removes any obstacles to running with the dream.  When we are too accommodating of an interest or gift, teens may choose to ignore the less desirable skills of life, i.e. grades, chores, respectful behavior, etc.  In an effort to be supportive, parents inadvertently teach teens that it’s ALL about their interests.  Over time, the teen starts to feel that he has no obligation to things that don’t interest him.  This is a good thing run amok. It’s too ‘Hands Off.”

In watching my own kids I have seen major lacks in motivation, and then surprising feats in discipline.  As you well know, every child is different, has different interests, and gets up for different things.  Your challenge, Mom and Dad, is to help them become aware of what is exciting to them.  As an adult and a student of your child’s gifts, you are best qualified to show them new ways to utilize their energy around that motivator.  You will also have to be the bad guy and remind them that they can’t toss the rest of their life in pursuit of that goal.

To Family Happiness!


Tim Thayne, Ph.D.


Homeward Bound

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Relax, Take a Deep Breath, and…

April 12th, 2011 admin Posted in Uncategorized 7 Comments »

Parents of teens will often enter adolescence fearing it as a painful and scary period that they will need to grit their teeth through to survive.  They have heard the horror stories, they have witnessed some pretty rough stuff with their own eyes, and they are ready to do the “death march” through it until the teen is launched.

Let me share an interesting experience I had with relaxing a little, so that you can appreciate the exhilarating experience of parenting your teen.

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All That “Mom Guilt”

February 24th, 2011 admin Posted in Uncategorized No Comments »

Last Saturday my nine year old daughter made her first batch of hot cereal for the family. As she stirred the cup of Cream of Wheat into the boiling water on the stove, she called out “This is going to be so good!  I can’t wait to eat this cereal…Yum!”

Sitting next to each other at the counter, she kept watching for my reaction as I took the first bite.  “Wow this is great!  Especially for your first time ever making it” I said.  And I wasn’t lying.  She had made a delicious breakfast that not only tasted good, but induced wonderful memories of my mother making the same creamy white cereal for me when I was in grade school.

Then I scooped up a large, hard lump of cereal that had not been stirred in properly as it was being cooked.  My breakfast bliss with my daughter was disturbed with feelings of shame.  You see, along with the nice memories were the memories of times Mom hadn’t gotten everything just right.  In the rush to get 8 kids out the door for school, mom’s inattention sometimes produced clumps of cereal.  I would flatly refuse to eat it.  Even after she offered other options for breakfast, I’d chose to go to school hungry.  I remember consciously trying to make my mom feel bad.  Not because I didn’t love her (she was the center of my world still), but because I knew that Mom would feel guilty and then do whatever she could to make it up to me in some way.  I didn’t realize this then, but I admit now, that in some ways I was entitled and manipulative. Read the rest of this entry »

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Write Away

January 21st, 2011 admin Posted in Uncategorized 2 Comments »

What do you call it when you are trying to write something and you can’t find the words, or even know how to start the process?  Oh yeah…it’s writer’s block.  I have experienced years of this.  My beliefs around me putting pen to paper were terribly restrictive, and sometimes they still are.  Instead of writer’s block, I felt inflicted with “Non-writer’s, writer’s block” and that’s even worse!

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but my relationship with Roxanne became serious just in time for her to feel highly invested in me graduating from college.  That meant she could help me with the last obstacle–my senior paper.   Humbly I asked for her help and fortunately she did help…a lot.

But things are changing!
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Share..and Change is More Probable

January 6th, 2011 admin Posted in Uncategorized 2 Comments »

Hello Friends,

I remember last year when 2010 rolled around.  Initially I found it awkward to write the year or to even say it.  It took several weeks before saying 2010 didn’t leave me feeling tongue tied.

Conversely, Twenty Eleven just rolled off the tongue on January 1st.  Is that a sign this is going to be a better year or maybe a better decade?!  Or is it simply because saying “twenty…” is a habit now and credit is due to Twenty Ten for paving the way.

Awkward, unnatural and clumsy are all descriptors of how we feel as we try something new or improve something about ourselves.  That’s why most of us need a compelling driver for a particular goal.  I’ve come to realize that anything (and I do mean anything) worth while, will be difficult and require discipline, motivation and patience to achieve. Read the rest of this entry »

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Guest Post From Roxanne: Fabulous Gifts: Hollywood’s Gifts Guru Reveals the Secret to Giving the Perfect Present

December 24th, 2010 admin Posted in Uncategorized No Comments »

There’s a familiar scene in movies where the corporate big-wig commands the attentive secretary, armed with her notepad and pencil, “Oh yes, and pick something up for my wife’s birthday will you?  You know what she’d like.”  Have you seen that movie too?  How cool is that?  Having someone take the anxiety and gifting mind-block out of presents?  What a dream.

Though the title of the book seems a little over the top, who doesn’t want to be let in on  expert secrets?  Mr. Fary is the founder and president of a gifting company in LA.  He has been in charge of providing gift baskets for events like the Grammy’s, MTV awards, Kids’ Choice awards, etc.  Most of the Hollywood elite have received a gift picked out by him, or had him choose gifts for them to give.  He IS the secretary lady from that movie scene!

One thing that I love about this book is that the first part of the book includes what he calls the Meyers-Briggs assessment for gifting.  A little test for you to use in gathering data about the person you are giving to, to decide if they fit into one of eight different categories. Of course this is by no means meant to pigeonhole, but to be used as a guide. Read the rest of this entry »

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Three Gifts to Transform Your Relationships

December 16th, 2010 admin Posted in Uncategorized 2 Comments »

The other day I was getting worked on by my “Structural Integrationist” – a fancy name for massage therapist, but I like it because it sounds like real work being done, and not just pampering.  We were comparing facets of our respective professions and found that in both cases having a good relationship with those you are working on, or with, was vital to success.  In other words you have to like your clients.  Otherwise, we agreed, it will not matter what stroke you use as a massage therapist, or what technique you use as a Marriage and Family Therapist, the client will feel you don’t care for them and the work you do will not deeply transform anything for the better.

Believe it or not, the same is true for parents and their kids.  You have to like them to be any good for them.  This month we have focused our Ezine on the topic of gift giving, but I want to tell you about 3 gifts you can give that have the power to turn your relationship with your teen 180 degrees around.

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Guest Post from Roxanne: Everyday Letters for All Occasions

December 11th, 2010 admin Posted in Uncategorized 1 Comment »

Have you ever shrugged off the impression to write someone a note because you don’t know what to say? Perhaps you tell yourself that a letter isn’t a grand enough representation of how you feel. Maybe you’d rather just shoot off a quick e-mail than hunt for stationary, a stamp, their address, and the postman. I admit, I’m guilty.

In our materialistic, gadgety, gaudy world, we feel like there needs to be some clever–if not quality–gift attached to a note of gratitude. We feel like we need to dress up the written words with something they’ll REALLY appreciate. Rubbish. As my mom says, these notes can become “Little jewels tucked in your apron pocket, that you pull out and admire over and over.”

So how do you write one of these jewels? I have wanted a book on this subject for years, and this article gave me permission to finally purchase one. Everyday Letters for All Occasions is perfect. Not only does Mr. Maguire tell you how to write an effective letter, he gives you over 200 sample letters to use for crafting your originals. He talks about when and why writing letters can be more appropriate than a phone call or personal visit. From invitations, to thank you’s, to notes of congratulations and complaints, his language and personality are spot on. I write for a living, and people in my office ask me to craft notes all the time. This book is my new secret weapon! Read the rest of this entry »

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