Found: a Generation of Children, in Need of Hope

February 13th, 2008

Her eyes were turned low and her shoulders slumped, as she listened to another lecture. “You’re not worth it. All the things we do for you and you just keep slacking off; under performing and making us look ridiculous to our friends. Why can’t you just be normal and do your work as we want you to?”  She looked at the floor, the only place where she could look without seeing the anger, the disappointment of her dad. “We should send you to a hard line boarding school; they would know what to do with the likes of you. If this goes on, you’ll be as worthless as an adult as you are now. How are we going to survive with a generation like yours? No guts, no brains and with everyone out there after us, our wealth and our jobs this country is going to ruins! Get out of my face!”
She looked at the door and walked away, quickly, but not too fast, as it would anger him even more. She went up to her room, tears finally streaming over her face. She had done her best, worked at all hours and still didn’t get the scores her dad wanted. She was almost happy to get to her room. She fell on her bed, her face in her pillow. What on earth was she to do? She obviously wasn’t good enough for anything if her dad was right. She turned off the light and stared at the ceiling for a long time, finally falling asleep, wondering whether parents who were more positive about their kids existed.

We now have a generation of children and youth growing up with everyone around them expressing that they have to fear people, the world, to fear their future, to fear that others will come and harm them, take their jobs. They learn to look at what they do, what they choose, with those fears in mind. Does that simulate confidence, trust and excitement about life, the world? Of course it doesn’t.
Fear is a strong emotion and politicians have used it to get re-elected for a decade now, trying to show us how everyone should be mistrusted, how military power is needed to hang onto what we have in a world filled with bad guys. It was not true then, as we know now, and it sure doesn’t help our children now to build confidence, excitement for a world interconnected, interdependent as never before.

We need to create hope for our children and we need to do it now. Hope for a future, hope for the world, for human kind and for their individual potential. We need to teach them to see the good in themselves, in their neighbors at home and in their neighbors on the other side of the world. Their neighbors do live everywhere, with the internet and instant communication, with jobs and services performed globally, products coming from all over the world. This generation needs us to focus on giving them hope. Hope is what unites us, what brings out the best in people. We remember world leaders who gave us hope fondly and a lot more than those who lived in fear. Don’t you think your children will remember you in the same way when you give them that crucial ingredient of a positive future, of hope for themselves and for human kind? 

Parenting Tips: How can you do this, step by step and in your everyday life? It doesn’t matter whether you are a parent, legal guardian, foster parent or grandparent, you can do very concrete things to help your child, your grand child to hope.
1. Change your words to be positive. From ‘don’t do this’ to ‘please do that’. From ‘you can’t’ to ‘what you can do is this or this’. The brain is positive focused and it has been shown to skip words as do not. When you say ‘Don’t forget’ the brain primarily registers ‘forget’! So change it to remember and aim for what you want to happen instead of what you didn’t want to happen. Or better put, to what you HOPE will happen.
2. Focus you child on what they want to be, on what they can be, on their dreams, sense of adventure, fantasies and desires. On what they hope will happen. The world becomes a magic place again that way.
3. Show them where they are now, in skills, ability and knowledge and show them a step by step path to success. In small steps so they can achieve success, create and build more hope. 
4. Teach them to see the good in people, in situations, however different the people or under pressure they may be. It doesn’t matter from what country, with what religion, what color or gender people come. We all need hope. We all want to live a happy and rich life. The boy in a gang in L.A. or Mumbai wants it as much as the woman with AIDS in Africa or in a war in Afghanistan. So do the man and his little son working in sweatshops in India or China. With hope we have a common path, a shared destination.

Most of all, it starts with you. With you seeing all this yourself. In you, in others, in situations you encounter. Be kind to yourself and allow yourself hope over fear, a smile over a frown and to see positive potential in all around you. It will brighten your days and I assure you, those of your children too.

How busy are you?

October 19th, 2007

Finding balance can be a tough job as a parent.

Here  the fall season is very much filled with taking kids to clubs, lessons and more.
Parents juggle their work, home and personal life with driving kids all over the place.

Maybe we are too busy?

Boredom, doing nothing, has gone out of style.
Which is not all together a good thing.
Being bored, having nothing to entertain yourself (and no, the TV and computer are not part of doing nothing) can be a source of unexpected joy.

When kids of all ages (including you and me) get down to nothing, relax into it, we find new creativity, new thoughts and new activities we haven’t explored. Or not for a while.

I like drawing and painting, a hobby I developed, somewhat, later in life.
It is one of those things where my tea or coffee gets cold, because I forgot all about it.
I often just don’t seem to take enough time “to do nothing” to actually get to it.

Because our unexpected joys, new found fun, need some space.
Some space to be heard, seen and acted on. Before we actually get to it.

It is the same with your children.
When we book every school night, all weekend full of activities, when will they relax into doing nothing?
They become people that need constant stimulation from the outside to have fun, enjoy.
Instead of finding joy, creativity and fun on the inside.

So if your kids come to you wanting to be entertained, kept busy, think carefully before you jump and become the entertainment organizer.
Find a balance between giving them opportunities to do things in clubs and stimulating them to do stuff all by themselves, and without technology.

You might find that they enjoy reading, playing with stuff in their room or - as they are older - start to write, develope a hobby, a passion you hadn’t seen before.

We are all overstimulated.
Bringing the noise, the activity down, can be a good thing for our health and well being in the long run.
Because when we can find joy, fun and entertainment in ourselves, we will feel calmer, are less needy and better rested.
Better prepared, equipped to deal with the pressures of all that outside stimulation.
And when you can entertain yourself, you are rich in many ways.
Ways that don’t cost money, driving time or keeping up with others.
Ways you can teach your children.

By giving them the chance to be bored and learn to enjoy it!
Yes, after a while, of course.

Try it, you may like it!



How to find happiness in every day, do you teach your children that?

October 4th, 2007

Is happiness important to you?

If you are like the vast majority of parents, you would say “yes”.

And even more, it is likely that when asked
“What is most important to you for your children as they grow up?” you would say “Happiness”

Albert Einstein said:
“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”

Do we focus on that when we raise our kids?
Do you?

We often are running around and are so buzy, that truly focusing on teaching our children and teens to be happy, to do what they love, falls short.
Even when we do, it can be while we urge them to “get ready quickly, we’re late” as we drive them to their club or lessons for something they enjoy.

As parents, being tired, running around and feeling like you are being lived, “scheduled to extinction” as an individual isn’t rare.
If you recognize that, you are probably not taking enough time to do what YOU love, for your happiness either.

We are our children’s primary teacher and role model.
Being happy, taking time for balance, for joy combined with a dedicated effort to excel at what you love.

Do you do that?

There are simple ways to create more time, more joy in your day we often forget as we run around.

1. Stop yourself for a second and take a deep breath.
Whatever you will do next, think about it in this way: “I am going to do this, because it is important to me. I will do it with love for myself and my life.”
If you can’t say that, you may want to reconsider doing what you thought you were going to do. Or for the next time you are planning to.

Take your life and yourself seriously.
Live with love and a sense of self driven direction.
When breathing that into anything you do, even out of duty, it will give more happiness and joy. For you as well as for others.

2. When you are running around, simply slow down to a step slower, a bit less rushed. It will not take more time and if it would, probably a minute. Feeling more relaxed, you will enjoy it more and it will decrease moments of potential conflicts with your kids.

I often find that when I run to get somewhere, I am the only one who thought “that one minute” was important and my increased stress became a waste of my own energy. And if it involves getting our daughter somewhere, I am nicer to her too, when I relax a little!

3. When you slow down that little bit, you can have more eye for what is around you. For the smile you would miss, for the question your child asks, the frown you would have overlooked.

That little bit of extra space can create moments of great joy, if you let it.
And then that one minute becomes really important.

Think about it! Didn’t Albert Einstein create a happy productive life?

Love yourself a little and be a happier role model for your children.


Wouter van der Hall, author of The Parent Program is a Parent and Happiness coach.

The parent special for (phone) coaching (100% satisfaction guaranteed) of one session for $ 75 (value $ 150) will end November 30th.

Sessions are as long as they need to be and focused on giving you the tools to create more joy, freedom and happiness in your parenting and life in general.

Would you like to experience that?

Contact wouter at or visit the coaching page at


Parenting workshop

For parents in BC.

Wouter will hold a workshop in Armstrong on October 15th at Armstrong Elementary School (7-8.30PM) with as topics: an introduction to The Parent Program and tips for active listening and more easy conflict resolution with your kids (and others!).


Have fun,



Listening to your body?

September 24th, 2007

When is sick sick enough to let your child stay home from school?
It can be a challenge to figure out whether your child has a desire to simply stay home, read a book, be pampered or is getting sick!

Our daughter has provided us with many lessons over the years, but this one is very clear.
At times I thought that she was well enough to go to school, or it wasn’t all that convenient for us to have to arrange things so she could be home..and it didn’t look all that bad…
Well, we’d be shown our error pretty quickly.
later that day she would phone from school, needed to be picked up and for sure was sick for a few days at least.

She simply listened to her body, something we taught her to do.
And she is always right.
It is us adults who don’t always want to believe her.
Tough it out, you can go to work with a cold, a starting flu, can’t you?

For us adults it is often an attitude we pay for later in life with illness or ailments because we neglected to listen to our bodies for so long.

I  had a back problem for many years.
Every year I put out my back at least once and pretty bad too.
Had to crawl to the bathroom on hands and knees, could get up for a week or so.
With massage therapy, painkillers, musscle relaxants.
And yes, a week to ten days of laying low, reading, sleeping, being cared for.

It got to the point where I “went down” for ten days more than once a year.
And my wife wasn’t happy with that. Having to catch everything behind me and care for me as well, while I read, slept and rejuvenated.

I tried to figure it out and realized that I didn’t allow myself to take time for myself enough to rest, enjoy and recharge. My back made sure I did. And who can feel guilty laying there like that?

Once I had figured out that my back was giving me - undeniable- signals that I wasn’t taking care of me, that my balance was out of whack too much, I changed.

1. I changed my thoughts.
I told myself that I would never need to put out my back again. (Instead of havig a weak back that goes out every once in a while) 
2. I changed my practice.
I do my exercises regularly aimed not at my back alone but at my whole body. Yes at tiems it takes quite more discipline than I would want to have!
3. I listen to my body.
I started to look for signs that I was either doing things that were not good for my back or getting stressed out.
4. I take my body’s signals seriously.
I take days off, relax and do nothing and deal with the ingrained thought patterns of guilt when they come up. Just recognizing that my trained thoughts need to be replaced with once that help me find and keep a more healthy balance.

It is now almost 4 years since I put out my back.
Yes, it is a source of information for sure and sensetive at times.
But I listen better when the signals come.
And I haven’t been forced to lay on my back and do nothing again.
Now I take the time to do that without pain en fully enjoying it .

And my wife is happy that I do.
I prevent myself from forcing her to pick up my pieces, my neglected balance.
And that is better for all of us.

Listening to your body helps.
Are you listening?

And are you teaching your child to listen and take the signals of their body seriously?
Parenting can be difficult. When illness isn’t handy right now or we hear our mother’s voice in the back of our mind with a different way. And especially in overcoming our old ways of thinking that made us “tough” but neglected parts of our health we need to look at.
Listen to your children.
They may have a valuable lesson for you too.
Our daughter certainly had for me.

Our daughter certainly had for me.

The Three Things you can do to make Every Day a Good Day!

September 19th, 2007
Can parenting be exhausting, nerve wrecking, challenging and a drain on every other aspect of your life?
Yes it can.

Parenting can also be rewarding, exciting, fun, a source of great learning and a means of staying young, energized and happy. We as parents are trained by media, politicians, TV, experts, to fear, to feel anxious and to worry. Is that really necessary?

I don’t think so. I sat in a hall with 20,000 others one time, listening to the Dalai Lama. He was asked a question about illness and how to address the uncertainty, worry. His answer was simple and reflected on whether you have control over things in your life.

“If you can’t do anything about, if your doctors can not do anything about it, there is no sense in worrying. If you can do something about it or your doctors can, there is no need to worry either.”

It is the same with parenting. We have been so trained to see danger, fear, worry and protect. It has shifted us from seeing childhood as that wonderful time to childhood being a time for parents to worry until the kids leave home (and then worry some more). Childhood is a time of exploration, fantasy, laughter and joy, learning and finding the great talent, the special you inside. Of experimenting with boundaries and skills, capacities.

I would like to offer you three ways in which you can bring back more sense of joy into your days as a parent. So every day can be a good day.

1. Every day think about things you like, love about your child as you get up and as you go to sleep. It will frame your day in this delight of seeing the wonderful in your child.

2. Focus your attention on what good and great, fun and exciting you would like to happen today for your child and help them create it. Even small things, when focused on the fun, the adventure feel different to all.

3. Take time every day to realize what you are grateful for. Celebrate successes, however small. BY seeing what you are grateful for, your - and your child’s- successes you will feel happier, more confident and better able to deal with life as it comes at you.

This approach is a proven way of increasing joy in your life.
Your brain sees more of what you focus on. You attract more of what you focus on.
It takes a bit of practice, but wouldn’t that be worth it?
To look at your children, every day, to reflect as you feel asleep and know:
Today was a good day. And so will be tomorrow.

Wouter van der Hall is the author of The Parent Program and a Parent Coach. will give you easy access to positive parenting attitudes, tools and skills.

The Parent Program is a 15 minute a day email/web based parenting program. You will feel more relaxed, confident and competent as you deal with parenting issues. 24/7 accessible at home and anywhere, so in your time, pace and comfort. To help you become the great parent you can be.

Back to school mania

September 5th, 2007

Hello all.
Well, summer has flown by, especially with my wife’s dad having a stroke and like many of you with older parents, we are running back and forth.
Trying to be there as much as we can, taking “care turns”.
But, he’s well off with his mental capacity fairly good, although it makes him overestimate what he really can at times.

And then all of a sudden it is back to school mania!

This week millions of children and youth go back to school.

For many it has become a stressful event, instead of a fun reunion with their friends after summer.

What can we do to decrease the stress of this back to school mania?

1. Know your child.

Be aware of whether they look forward to seeing certain people, are afraid of bullies, have anxieties about how others will react, whether they will fit in and more.

2. Give them perspective.

As you know, when you are right in the middle of something you often don’t see the big picture. It is the same with your child and youth.

They can focus on what is stressful or choose to look at what may turn out to be fun. And it is one part, a few days of life, even if it seems very important right now, and they will get through.

3. Offer support.

Be available. To let them talk, express what they look forward to as much as what they may be concerned about.

4. Show them ways to get help if needed. Whether it is adults at school, counselors, friends and/or yourself, talk about how important it is to share your concerns if anything happens that bugs them. Children often feel they have to get through this by themselves, don’t see a way out or don’t want to worry their parents. Open the doors for them, to you, to others, so they can share what they need to as quickly as possible.

5. Take it easy yourself this week, so you can truly see, hear and support them when they get back from school.

Ask them questions (without bombarding them) and let them talk.

6. Be ready for some stress reactions like getting angry quickly, withdrawing, unstoppable restlessness, tears.

By being prepared yourself, by making sure you are as relaxed as possible, you can help them through this first day.

And ask for at least one fun thing that happened as well, so they can see that there is light in their school day as well!

Take care and have fun,


Family, a precious gift or a horror for life?

July 20th, 2007

Family, sometimes you wonder who came up with that idea!
If you look around, siblings who get along really well are far outnumbered by the ones who don’t.
Some of us really get along with our parents, if we see or know them at all.
Many of us have small or big issues, coming from our relationship with our parents. Issues we deal with on a daily basis.

It isn’t much like the wonderful picture we all get presented about family.

“Family, the group of people who live harmony from the day the parents met, to the day we all pass over in peace”

For most of us it is a lot more complicated than that. So if you are the exception, enjoy it!!

So how can we make sense of all the complex relationships, issues and scars that come with family?

Depending on the culture you live in or come from, family is the core, a big or small group , a tight knit or widely dispersed group.But in all cultures family is important, even the ones where children are raised by the community, where the community is family.

Family, whether your own and/or your adopted one, is the base where you learn about life.It is where you learn to trust or mistrust, feel safe and confident or threatened and incompetent.Whether we like it or not, that also counts for our parents.They come with their own luggage into that relationship that makes them into your parents.

It is amazing how much responsibility nature has given to inexperienced young people: Raise our children! One of the most complex tasks we can have in life. And we’re thrown into it knowing little about what to expect, how to avoid old mistakes. About how to actually create harmony and a place where young ones learn to trust, love and feel confident.It is a recipe for repeating patterns, either good ones or dysfunctional ones.

So what happens?We leave our family life with a diploma in the crash course of life, presented by inexperienced teachers with their own issues, our parents.

Can you avoid, change, overcome the deep roots, the issues of the family you are embedded in?

Yes you can.

We have many teachers in life. Our family members are only part of a small group.We can give them more credit, more power, more influence than others.

Or we can decide not to.

It is your choice.

In everything you do, your past plays a part. The more aware you are of that, the easier it becomes to change it. You can choose to make your parent’s, your sibling’s comments, ideas important or not.You can choose to do as before or change.

How can you do that?1. Pick one thing you would like to change. 2. Think about how you would like it to be. Feel how you would feel if that worked well.3. Practice with how you would like it to be. First in your head, then with others you feel comfortable with, then with the people who challenge you most.4. Be kind and loving to yourself as you fall and get up: it is a process, not an event. It is a lot easier to fall back into old ways than to create new ones.5. When you feel judgment about yourself, by others or yourself, re-focus on how you want it to be. Just remember that you don’t have to do it in any way others tell you. It is your life, your responsibility.6. Declare yourself a student in life, determined to learn to achieve your goal. 7. Celebrate your successes and pick a new one to tackle!

Family, it can be a great teaching ground for life.Become a loving, caring student of life and you will increase the chance that you will create a better home for your children too.

So we create more homes that are now the exception, homes where children grow up learning to trust, feeling safe and confident.

I know you can. It is up to you to choose to do it.


Parenting is a life long relationship

June 12th, 2007

I am off to Holland.
My dad has just turned 90, so we’re going to enjoy a few weeks in the Netherlands (with a side trip to Paris of course).

My dad was a late starter as a parent, he became a father for the first time when he was 34.
That is 56 years ago!
He has been a dad a lot longer than he was a child at home or a young guy doing his own thing.

And you would think that parenting is easy after all those years.
Not always so.
We are a stubborn bunch in my family and those moods come and go in waves.
My parents still deal with all of that to this day!

It shows that when you are young, when your kids are small, you are really investing in your life long relationship as a parent and child.
By finding ways to accept each other and to communicate so you each can hear and understand without blowing up, you are investing in joy that may come many years later.

Parenting, guiding, giving advice, setting boundaries isn’t just about today, or when they are home.
It is investing in your child’s future and in your future relationship.

I met a professor once, who was struggling with some of his son’s behaviors and how he wouldn’t listen. 
I urged him to keep at it, setting the example and telling the reasons why.
I said “You may be surprised when you see him in ten or fiteen years and what he actually does then.”

He suddenly smiled and then burst out into laughter. “I was a rebel in my youth” he said.
“I didn’t do anything my parents told me. And if my mother would see me now! I am doing exactly as she told me then!”

We both chuckled, because it isn’t much different for me. My closet, my room is more organized now than ever in my teen years, and I do the laundry, put it away too.

Parenting is a life long adventure. And by investing now, maybe against some stormy weather at times, you increase the chances of having a great relationship for those many years after they have left home.

Have fun while I’m off to my birth city of Amsterdam, wandering over the markets, the canals and simply sitting on a terrace, sipping my coffee as the crowds wander by in their many different outfits, haird styles and much more.

Talk soon,





Happiness is a learnable skill

June 1st, 2007

Dear Parents,

Happiness is a learnable skill.

I was asked “what I did” and it suddenly dawned on me:

I teach you how to be happy.

And how to teach your children that too.

By giving you the attitudes, the tools and helping you master them in your own home. With your family.

What is The Happiness Skill?

It is “being able to create good out of any situation for others and yourself”.

Wouldn’t that make you feel happy, happier?

And wouldn’t it be great when we all teach our children that?

You have the attitudes, the tools and processes to help you become happier, to master The Happiness Skill.

It is up to you to invest that little bit of time every day in happiness.

In your and your children’s happiness.

And with it, many people around you will feel better too.

Because being around happy people is infectious.

Like laughter.

On days that you don’t feel great, don’t want to do anything, just do these two things, they can just take a few minutes of silence, but they may shift your day dramatically. To being happier, to being happy.

1. Think of something you like in your children.

2. Think of what you are grateful for, ever so small or big.

And those feelings, those thoughts will carry your load and make your day a bit lighter.

On regular days do one in the morning and one before you go to sleep and your days and nights will be better.

So you can teach your children, step by step, day by day, too.

Time for reflection

May 22nd, 2007

Hello dear parents!

I have been running around as you know, from PTA conference to PAC conference to school council conference.

It is just one of those things. We try to find a balance in our home, my wife gone two of the weekends around mine. 
Which meant that our daughter had one on one time with either of us over the last 6 weeks! 
She doesn’t mind too much, somehow we both (as parents) are more relaxed when the other parent isn’t around. Nothing to think about in terms of I wish she/he would do that. Its all yours when the other parent is gone.
Still nothing compared to being a single parent though. What a balancing act that is!
Try three kids, all clubs, lessons and more to keep track of, earn an income and be more than the single parent (like wanting a life for yourself!)
I admire you all!

Here it is time for reflection.

The first full year of The Parent Program is complete. Some challenges are dealt with, others keep bugging you and me.
The feedback from parents is great and I will take all that to work on over the summer.
One of the ideas was to give you a break in between somewhere, so you can catch up, relax a little and let things sink in.
I will also slightly change the format to make it easier to go through.

I have been asked to put it all on audio too for people who love to listen those many hours in the van!
And many more ideas and suggestions I am taking into consideration!

My dad turned 90 today. That sure gives food for thought. Not only the celebrations, which are going really well I hear. (We’ll be going over to Holland in a few weeks when school’s out, so we can all go.) A life long of parenting, being a parent, that is for sure. But also the many goodbyes with people falling away around you, when you get that high up in age.
He’s not ready to go yet, that is for sure!
Happily enjoying champagne, croissants for breakfast and more!

And that is a good thing!
Enjoy life and your kids,






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