Inner Child

Kill The Monster While It’s Small

A long time ago, I invested in a  weekend with master coach Joseph McClendon, who told a story about infomercial guru Tony Robbins.  Apparently, Robbins enjoys adventure outings with his friends, and took them all to a Fantasy Top Gun school.   Each had a jet (and of course a co-pilot actually doing the real flying) and the idea was that they would dog-fight.   Joe got into the air first, and before Robbins could get his own jet off the ground, Joe dive-bombed him and strafed him into oblivion.
“Why did you do that?”  I asked.

“Kill the monster while it’s small” he replied.

I loved that.

A lot of our negative behaviors have threshold points.  At one point, we can control the urge, and at another, the urge is in control: the anger, fear, hunger, whatever, has us in its grip. Or…our financial problems have yet to spiral out of control. Or the relationship rift is still small enough to yield to honest inquiry.  And then the point comes when we are rageaholics, or scarfing down that Haagan-Daaz quart, or stealing, or beating the hell out of someone, or binge drinking.   If you can break the pattern BEFORE you reach this point, you can maintain control, and possibly even change a habit.
But you must “kill the monster while it is small.”

I’d noticed that before Jason has what we call a “brain fart”–losing control, screaming, throwing things, disobeying etc.–he will make nonsense sounds, distort his posture or move without coordination, make small defiant gestures, and display unreasonable irritation with small things.
You can control your emotions if you control:

Your focus
Your internal monologue
Your physical movement.

One of the strengths of the “Five Minute Miracle” is that it forces you to “check in” on these three things during the day. You will eventually begin to check in automatically: what am I thinking? What’s my focus?   What is my posture and expression?  How am I breathing?
Just noticing these things and knowing what focus, thoughts, posture and breath patterns are optimal, and realizing you can make  conscious decisions that affect how you feel and therefore how you perform, is an incredibly powerful thing.
But could I give this to Jason?   I decided to teach him the concept: “Kill the monster while its small.” To point out to him the precursive behaviors that lead to an eruption.  Breathing. Voice. Posture. Movement.  Ask him what’s going on inside him.  Before he gets upset, are there internal sounds? Images? Muscle tensions? What happens?
After he comes “down” from a tantrum, ask him to describe what was happening inside him.  Did it have color?  Weight? Sound?  Motion? Temperature? Taste?  Smell?  Texture?
A headache thus addressed can often be eliminated (just rotate through the submodalities again and again. Every time you do, you’ll notice the pain diminishing).  Could it work for something like a “brainfart”?  I don’t know.  Worth a try, though.

Jason comes into my office in the morning, every school day. Stands against the wall with his hands at his sides and waits for me to acknowledge him.  When I do he bows. Then he comes and sits in my lap, and we hug.
The next phase has always been breathing–count from one to ten, breathing slowly.  I would hold his hands and watch his eyes, and if his eyes left mine, I squeeze his hand to remind him to get back on point.  A couple of years ago he couldn’t meet my gaze, and now he likes staring contests.
But recently, he has wanted to do headstands in the morning.   Hmmm…breath counting while standing on his head?  Does that give me feedback about his focus? You bet.  And headstands are a “royal” exercise for scholars, writers, etc., a yogic balm with vast respect.  I decided to let him do it, using fingertip pressure to guide his balance.   In a few seconds I can get an excellent fast-and-dirty measure of his health, focus, balance, emotional state and more just by how he does this one exercise, as well as putting him on a path that can lead to real internal control.  I like that.
After he comes down (20-60 seconds or so) we sit cross-legged and hold hands.  I ask him:
“What is your job?”

“To be good”

“Were you good yesterday” (if not, what went wrong?)

“Yes” (Yaaay!)
“What are the laws?”

(And here he recites Musashi’s Nine Principles.  If he had a problem the previous day, it is almost always relatable to one of those principles)
“What are the rules?’

(And here he goes down a list of behavioral rules we’ve evolved to cover problems at school.  These can shift a bit if he masters one)
“What are your goals?”

(And here he has had two goals, including enjoying reading.   I ask if he accomplished them the day before.  If not, what went wrong? If so, great!)
And here I added a new one: “Kill the monster while it’s small.”
This has only been a part of his routine for a couple of weeks.   Every time he’s had a blow-up I’ve asked him about the precursive sensations, sounds, movements, and thoughts.
We recently changed his after-school routine so that he has to do his reading BEFORE he playstations or goes to the skate park. He hates that, but I’ve held my ground.
He gets to take 60-90 minutes off after school before reading, and had some REAL problems with not being allowed to do his favorite things during that time.    Three days ago he got VERY angry, defiant, stormed off up to his “boy cave” stomping his feet.  It looked bad.
Fifteen minutes later I went up to check on him, and he was looking at Ipad videoes.  Looked up at me kind of sheepishly, and quietly said:  “I killed the monster while it was small.”
Moments like that make this whole “Dad” thing soooooo much more fun.



(p.s.–what “monsters” do you have in your own life?  How can you “kill them while they are small”?  Can you think of ways this applies to larger life or social issues?)

Who would your perfect self be?

The path to awakening includes the question: “who would I have been, but for the damage I’ve taken in life?”    Stress that your body and mind can handle actually triggers growth.  Excessive stress (known as “strain”) causes breakdown.  The trick is to expose yourself to stress but not go over that line more often than you can adapt to.


How do you know?   Well, the Russian statement on it is that as long as you have proper posture, smooth breathing and relaxed musculature the stress is not interpreted as “strain” by your organism.  Thus the efficiency and effectiveness of disciplines like yoga and martial arts for transforming human beings.


And what are the symptoms of strain?    Especially strain that hit you during your developmental period?  (Prior to puberty is absolutely atomic. But prior to adulthood–being self-supporting–is overall critical).


Well, I offer the following notion.  In a “primitive” human hunter-gatherer tribal situation, (how we evolved) the typical tribe member:


  1. contributed to the community.   Was a healthy cell in the “body human”.   Hunting, gathering, mending, caring for children, cooking, cleaning, building, etc.  Everyone pulled together.
  2. Mated, raised a family or contributed to the raising of families
  3. Possessed the physical dynamism capable of running, carrying, hunting, avoiding predators, etc.   Eat too much?  You slow down and become less capable of hunting, gathering, and moving in general. The problem was self-correcting.  Look at a herd of animals.  There is no huge variation of fat/skinny.   All share the stress and rewards.


How does this relate to our world?  IMHO, transferring these basic ideas to our world, I propose that for 99% of us this means:


  1. The capacity to create goods and services we exchange with our communities such that they see and appreciate our value, and reward us with money.    This might be maintaining social infrastructure, providing resources, healing, or interpreting reality through art.  The capacity to handle your finances and save a percentage (at least 10% is a standard advice) of every paycheck.
  2. Finding love and bonded relationships that last long enough that we COULD have raised a family within it.  We don’t need every human being to reproduce.  But we DO need every human being to make the world a better place for children. There is no “zero” point.  Either you contribute to that safety, or you detract from it.  There are countless ways to do this, but choose your side.
  3. Being healthy enough to work hard all week and party on the weekend.   You would find your own body attractive by your standards.  A healthy, sensual physical animal.


I suggest to you that if you don’t have all three of these things, it represents damage.  Conflicting instructions.   Negative values imparted by family or society.  Fear.  Trauma.  Abuse.


In other words, just as you can detect the presence of an invisible planet by looking at the perturbations of the orbits we CAN see, if you have damage in one or more of these arenas, it is reasonable to suspect that there are negative factors pulling at you, often unconscious.  The ego will try to say “no!   I’m fine” because it is not real, and when you make real change, it dies and is reborn.   And “everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.”


I cannot prove that the above is “true.”  I can say that if not, it is the most useful lie I’ve ever seen.  How can you heal?   Start with loving yourself, and move from there to creating an avatar representing your child self, and stream the love there.   Accept the pain and grief of being what the rest of humanity is: flawed, imperfect, magnificent in potential.  Love enough to release guilt, blame and shame.  Use the ANCIENT CHILD, or another program of inner work.  Or just do the work, and surround yourself with friends and family with whom you can honestly share your struggle.


Let’s make 2015 the very best year ever.  We’re all alone in this, together.




Truth, once known, changes everything


I can’t emphasize enough how important it is not to “de-construct” the elements of the Ancient Child/Morning Ritual.   The effect is an emergent property of

  1. Affirmations, goals and emotional cascades choreographed WITH MOTION.
  2. The “Ancient Child” meditation MP3 (to be used at least once per week).


The “voices in your head” will scream bloody murder when you say something like “every day in every way I’m getting better and better.”  (a suggested affirmation.  However, any statement that represents forward progress will work).


“No you’re not!  What b.s.!   Who do you think you are..?”  are typical comments.


But what if you’re power walking while you say it, again and again? What if you’re doing joint mobility drills?  Five Tibetans?  Martial arts kata?  Then the conversation is different:


“Every day in every way I’m getting better and better!”

“No, you’re not!”

“Ummm…excuse me, Self, but I appear to actually be moving my butt. This is a real improvement from this time last month, and yeah, I’m improving.”


“What b.s.”

“What’s b.s. is someone who won’t factor in actual behaviors happening right in front of your @#$$ eyes!”


“Who do you think you are?”

“I’m the person improving himself while the rest of the neighborhood is sleeping, dickwad.”


Oh, the fun you’ll have.  The point is that if you are in the PROCESS of improving yourself, even in a small way, you earn the right to tell the voice in your head to shut the @#$$ up, at least for those fifteen minutes.  And that can be the beginning of something wonderful!


It’s hard to deny something that’s happening right in front of you.  Possible, yes.   But I’ll settle for forcing the demons in my head to be illogical, conflicted, dishonest, irrational, and inconsistent.    That’s the beginning of disempowering them altogether.  Make a single positive change and anchor it into your physical experience, and it becomes the bedrock of other change.  Try it.  Thirty days from now, you’ll KNOW it is true…and truth, once known, changes everything.



One key to waking up is…getting enough sleep!

“Best sleep I’ve had in three years”


The first Youtube video for the ANCIENT CHILD 30-DAY challenge is up!  I intend to “unpack” these videos (congrats to the wonderful WENDY GRACE, who was the very first to have the courage to share her experiences!) and help you understand what is going on.


To change a habit pattern, you need to:

1)Identify the habit to be changed

2) Identify what you want to change it to

3) Raise your energy level

4) Practice the new program

5) Fail successfully

6) Start over again.


If you have not, consciously or unconsciously incorporated these steps, you are probably “stuck.”   Conversely, if you want to get out of your “rut”, just employ these steps.


And how do you increase your energy?  Well, one critical step is to improve the quality of your rest.   Fifty to Seventy

million Americans complain of poor sleep, and if your butt is dragging, you might not need to look any further than this single factor.


What are the things that influence sleep?

  1. hour you go to bed
  2. life stress
  3. substance abuse
  4. muscle tension
  5. fear
  6. negative experience encoded in the body
  7. inability to “turn the mind off”


The Ancient Child program understands that you MUST have quality sleep if you are to recover from mental, emotional, or physical stress.  Without quality rest, you break down.  If you get quality sleep, you build up.   On one level, it’s just that simple.



Steven Barnes

(and by the way, until Midnight January 1st, when you order the ANCIENT CHILD I’ll send you a FREE download of the entire FIREDANCE TAI CHI video, [recorded 25 years ago.  That mustache!] with your order.  Tai Chi is my personal favorite movement to use with my “”morning ritual” and if you’re one of the thousands I’ve taught over the years, this is your chance to learn one of the world’s great health systems!)

The Best Month of Your Life

“I haven’t been this happy, felt this productive or confident in over a decade”–Wendy Grace

I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to hear feedback like this about your work.  THAT’S the ticket.  Do you know when you are happy?  When you feel you are flowing in your life, being where you need to be, doing what you need to do, heading in the direction of growth, love, health, and contribution.  Just doing your “morning ritual” (physical motion combined with powerful affirmations built around the “Secret Formula”: GOALS X FAITH X DAILY ACTIONS X GRATITUDE = RESULTS) will change your life.  Do this for thirty days, twenty minutes a day, and the “mere” doing of it will create massive momentum.  Want faster change?  Spend an hour of exercise (walking, or joint mobility is just fine!  “Five Tibetans”?  You’re my kinda person!) but MOVE.  FEEL.  THINK.   The evil voices in your head will have to shut the #$%% up once they see that one of your goals (and you should have four: career, emotions/relationship, body, and finances), the physical, is being addressed as you speak.  It is hard to deny something that you are experiencing.

Please, do yourself a favor: get started.  And if you want to drive your change faster, use the ANCIENT CHILD 30-DAY PROGRAM.



It ain’t what you don’t know…

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” – Mark Twain


My favorite thing about creating a new tool is watching people actually applying it in their lives.  This allows me to judge efficiency and effectiveness, and to see what I need to add to the package, or adjust in its presentation.   Got this note yesterday on the ANCIENT CHILD 30-DAY PROGRAM:

Hi Steven,


Last night I listened to the Ancient Child mp3 for the first time and thought it was something that would take a while to “sink in.”


Today I had an out-of-proportion reaction to a minor event–I was told about someone I know losing something-like a model airplane, a toy. I was near tears, my chest constricted, I wanted to be comforted. Became deeply depressed. So I decided to freewrite. After about half a page, as I let my thoughts flow through my fingers I wondered if last night’s meditation had anything to do with it. As soon as I addressed the Ancient Child, I found myself asking her how I could make her feel better, even if I should buy her a replacement (I mentally had her lose her toy). To my utter, utter surprise, she wrote back that it was all fine. She loved the time we spent playing and she was so glad I loved her!


If this is the kind of thing we should be expecting, perhaps you could give students some ideas of how to process what comes up. I always write to find my center and access my creativity (I’m a poet) so I had something to go to. But if I didn’t have this, I wouldn’t have know what to do.


Thanks for everything.




Ruth is dead-on accurate about such emotions arising.  This is why journaling, meditation, and therapy are perfect adjuncts to the “Ancient Child” practice.   Those who are in therapy should share the AC with their therapist, and let them know precisely what they are doing.   I’ve worked in conjunction with medical professionals on this account many times.    There are several “safety rails” built into the practice, and it is hugely “generative.”


However, what “Ruth” describes: writing a letter from your “child” self to your “adult” self, is a primary exercise.   One can make it even more powerful by writing with their non-dominant hand (if right-handed, right the letter with your left.)  Write as fast as you can.


Your intention is to strip away conflicting, disempowering or false belief patterns and values, replacing them with those you would have adopted if you had had conscious control over such things as a child.  Healing and personal evolution is less a matter of “learning” things than it is “unlearning” things that ain’t true.


When you remove the shadows, or learn the lessons from the negative experiences (learning the lesson allows you to release the fear) what remains is love for yourself.   Here’s the trick: that sense of love is EXACTLY what you have sought your entire life.  Nothing you have ever done has been anything other than an attempt to regain that sense of wholeness, connectedness, safety and joy.  EVERYTHING has been “merely” an attempt to recreate…that.


When you give yourself the gift of love, then instead of accomplishing and striving so that you can experience joy…you joyfully accomplish and strive.   Precisely, exactly, reverse the typical syntax.   Trust the evolutionary power within human beings: we were born to grow and reveal our true selves.


The fear people have is that, at the core, they are something corrupt, ugly, sinful.  That if they dive deep within themselves, they will learn that those who hurt, abused, ignored, betrayed or otherwise damaged them were justified in doing so.


THIS is why beginning with love…and then embracing your “child”…and then connecting with your higher wisdom is so amazingly healing and powerful.  If you have no serious issues on this level, you will “race” through this portion, and refine your sense of connection to reach higher levels of energy, aliveness, joy and creativity.  But if there IS a blockage or disconnect…there is a chance that you have never experienced the simple joy of being, of emotional integration.  And in that case, the Ancient Child practice will seem miraculous.



NOTE:  SPECIAL CHRISTMAS PRESENT!   Until Midnight, Christmas Day, I’m including, as a FREE extra, the complete F.E.A.R. course with your Ancient Child purchase!  All negative emotions are some version of fear.  Master this emotion, and what remains in your life is love and joy.   If you, or someone you know has this issue, PLEASE don’t miss this opportunity.

Treat children kindly: childhood abuse and neglect lasts a lifetime.

(FRIDAY, JANUARY 24, 2014)

Out of the Cradle…

“OUT of the cradle endlessly rocking,
Out of the mocking-bird’s throat, the musical shuttle,
Out of the Ninth-month midnight,
Over the sterile sands, and the fields beyond,
where the child, leaving his bed, wander’d alone,
bare-headed, barefoot…” — Walt Whitman
This is important enough that I wanted to share it again.  The traumas (or nurturance) we receive in childhood can affect us for a lifetime: aligning our values, limiting our dreams, degrading or elevating our self-worth, literally grooving our brains with pain or pleasure, contorting our bodies with trapped emotion…
Such simple reasons why I’ve been willing to sacrifice anything for my children. Twice, I’ve walked away from the career I loved, because there was something more important: Nicki.  Jason.
I see myself in them, that is all.  I feel the connection, that is all.  I know how badly, achingly badly, it hurt when my father was not there to raise me.
My mother and father divorced when I was about…what?  Five?  Six?   I’m not sure.  I do know that I have no memory of playing ball with him, or wrestling, him helping me with my homework, or attending a school play, or anything like that.  And that, for reasons I did not discover for another fifty years, he was never there for me afterward.
I was so hungry for that energy.  Being raised by my mother and my sister Joyce, I certainly had the love I needed, but not the…force.  The Yang.  The ability to respond.   When other boys bullied me, pushed against me, I just wilted.
So hungry that little boy I was.  So desperate not just to understand what it was to be male, but for a male to be willing to love me enough to teach me.
Despite the fact that she had been a professional model, mom didn’t date much that I recall.    And for all I know I was a part of that.  I remember one day when I was perhaps seven, when one of her few beaus was at the house, sitting on the couch, and I curled up on a chair behind the couch like a little kitten or puppy.  Trying to be as cute and adorable as I could be.
Won’t you be my Daddy..? Everything inside me screamed.  Am I so ugly, so stupid, such a twisted thing that no one wants to be my Daddy..?
What a hole in my heart.  One it took another twenty years just to BEGIN to fill.  One I’ll never pass on to my children.
Every day I deal with clients or students who are dealing with the consequences of a childhood of abuse, neglect, abandonment, or scrambled input.   Obesity, addictions, cutting, bulimia, abusive relationships, anger issues, PTSD and attendant stress/strain related disorders…it is killing people
And can offer two basic pieces of advice:
1) Heal your own heart, and heal the relationship between the “child” and “adult” parts of your personality.  The Ancient Child meditation was initially created for this mighty purpose.
2) Find a child to care for.   Re-commit to your own children. Reach out to a niece or nephew, join Big Brothers or Big Sisters, adopt.  Get out of yourself to heal yourself.
It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.

Children love. Adults worry.

FRIDAY, JULY 13, 2012
Jason’s Lesson #4: We Are Surrounded By Love

It seems that we make friends more and more slowly as we age. But Jason…wow. Set an eight-year old in a group of other eight year olds, and he will make friends almost instantly.

A.C. Gilbert was a renaissance man. Inventor, Olympic athlete, philanthropist, magician, and puzzle expert. I had some of his magic sets, and a train set, when I was a kid, but had no idea he held world records for pole vaulting and punching bag displays (as a kid, yet! He traveled with a carnival as the “Kid World Champion”) and convinced a congressional committee during WW2 that play was essential to the development of healthy kids. Apparently, he brought some of his toys to this group of hard-line military guys, and within an hour they were all on the floor playing with them, remembering their childhoods.

Well, Gilbert gifted Salem Oregon with a Discovery Village, and it is terrific, one of the best “playlands” I’ve ever seen, with dozens of little nooks where kids can play, explore, learn, build…wow. My friend Jonna Hayden told me about it, and we had a fabulous day there. Jason spent twenty minutes getting a “feel” for it…and then dove in. I either played and explored with him, or sat back and played Plants Versus Zombies on my iPad while he ran with new friends. Friends. He made them everywhere, and they were like long-lost BFFs or cousins from the cradle. Amazing. I found myself sneaking around, watching him. Watching them. Their affection, excitement, joy in discovery was amazing, and infectious. He gave himself completely to the relationships, nurtured them for hours, and when it was time to go, walked away without regret.

Damn. How does that compare to the way we behave as adults? How many of us can still open our hearts like that? I suspect we hold back, fearing the grief and loss when they walk away.

What a loss. How much joy are we missing with an attitude like that? Life is just too short.

We are surrounded by love. By potential friends, companions, mentors, students, lovers, supporters. Children are little marvels.

For writers: what can you create that reflects the difference between adult and child attitudes toward friendship?

For Diamond Hour followers: can you make a commitment to spending five minutes being more open and friendly than usual? Treating one person as if they might be important to you five years from now? Or conversely, give love and support without asking or expecting anything ever in return?

A question: what would you need to live with a more open, expectant heart? How can you do this safely?

Answer that question, and you’ve opened the door to another world.


Never forget that rest is as important as work

What Jason taught me on my Summer Vacation #2

#2: Some days you just won’t get anything done. Relax and enjoy it.

We inhale, we exhale. We wake, we sleep. Life is cycles, an inescapable truth we struggle mightily to escape.

Recreation means “re-creation,” and yet vacations, down-time and so on are often labeled “mere fun” rather than “essential time for laying fallow.” Early in human agricultural history, farmers learned to rotate crops–and leave a patch of field unplowed, unseeded. Let the soil “rest.”

On my recent trip to Cali, I had intentions of writing every day, researching, conducting interviews, and more. Everyone has a battle-plan until the first punch hits ’em. Then it’s just a matter of who you are, in the crunch.

In the crunch, I’m a dad. My concern morning to night was Jason’s well being, his happiness. I knew that would be true when we drove back to Glendora to have dinner with our former neighbors, the wonderful Nambu family. As he began to recognize landmarks, it was as if his face and mood and body language shifted. “I’m home!” he said, happy in a way I hadn’t seen from him in months.

He was home. He had such a great evening, so alive and…well, it was as if some pale, heavy syrup had been poured out of his body. And right then, all my plans disappeared. My only function would be to make sure he had that experience every day, as often as possible. So every day became a process of asking what the healthiest, happiest, most nourishing experiences for my boy. Knowing that I was actually serving myself by serving him.

So we stayed up late, and got up late. Sampled local roadside cookies in Grant’s Pass, and shot zombies out of the window in some nameless stretch of land near Ojai. Lunched in Santa Barbara and ran on the beach in Playa Del Ray. Work was a distant memory.

I watched my heart at play.

Sometimes, all we can do is relax and enjoy it. And do you know what?

At times, that is the most precious thing in the world.

1) For writers: If you’ve established a writing schedule, deliberately take a week off from it. Journal your thoughts, emotional reactions and observations…about your enforced “vacation” from writing.

2) Diamond Hour followers. Turbo-charging a single hour every day can be head-bending work. Take a few days off from that discipline, and just watch the world around you. Again, journal ideas for increasing efficiency by gaining clarity as to your true values and priorities.

3) Think And Grow Rich. Take a few days off and observe the way you move through the world. When you are aligned properly, life “glides” around you, like water parting for the powerful, coordinated motions of a shark. There is effort, yes, but there is also a sense of support for your efforts, if you are engaged in work and play that is consistent with your values. Seek this sense of “effortless effort.”

Real children can teach you a lot about your “inner child”.


Ten Things Jason Taught Me On My Summer Vacation

Promised to share some of the thoughts I had on the road with Jason for 2 1/2 weeks up and down California and Oregon. Trust me–they ranged over the full spectrum of my life and teaching, and I suspect that that trip will form a line of demarcation in my life.

1) Let your children teach you. They are only children once, but they have a clarity about their emotions that adults obscure. Spending days cooped up in a car or a hotel room with my son, I was sensitive to his every mood and need. But one thing I really picked up on was the fact that he feels first and thinks second. He has an emotion, and then tries to find the logic to justify it. For instance: he feels like having an ice cream. Pure emotional response to a sweet urge.

He asks, and I say “no.” Immediately , he begins to ask “why.” And every reason I come up with, he either ignores or tries to use to leverage me into saying yes. “But you said I should eat more protein!”


“Well, popsicles have milk in them, and milk has protein…” or: “It’s hot and you said I should stay cool…” or: “You said I should drink a lot of water, and popsicles are made of water…” or: “I just want to see if they have any new flavors. You said I should try new things…”

Oh, it was a monkey circus in that car. I loved it. But I asked myself: how far do we really come from this stage?

Do we really advance beyond it at all?

How often are arguments between adults based on emotion, but cloaked in logic?

Political discussions, and discussions of religion seem especially vulnerable to this. Logic on the outside, pure emotion at the core. Understand what the emotion is, and address it directly, and the rest of the argument will often quiet or dissolve, even if the arguer doesn’t know why its happened.

How did this work? “Dad, I want a popsicle.” “And I want you to do your math flash cards. Tell you what: do twenty of them, and you can have a popsicle.” “Aw, Dad! Why do I have to wait?” “That’s the offer. It’s okay with me if you don’t have the popsicle. But you’re doing the flash cards regardless. Your choice.” “Twenty cards is too many!” “Twenty One.” “Twenty One! How about twenty?” “Twenty two.”

Ah. And now we’re having a totally different discussion. Did you catch the shift? What he REALLY wanted to know was what he had to do to get a popsicle. Once the conditions were basically established, we could argue and enjoy ourselves.

But at the core of that, was the question “am I safe? Do you hear me? Are you engaged with me in the process of helping me grow up? Do you care how I feel?”

THOSE fears run deep. Popsicles are a momentary symptom, a way of testing whether he has power, whether I care, in other words… will he survive long enough to be big and strong enough to care for himself.

The answer: yep. You’re gonna survive. And you’re gonna be huge, and dangerous, and sweet, and smart.

But meanwhile, kid, forty-two divided by seven equals what..?