I Beg to Differ! Dealing with Discipline Disagreements.

By: Dr. Gregory Popcak

parents arguing over child

Dana and Andrew were at odds.  “We were raised very differently.” Dana explained. “Andrew’s folks were pretty laid back. I came from a very orderly home.”  Andrew chimed in. “Her family’s great–don’t get me wrong–but they’re kind of uptight. Lots of rules. I just think kids oughta be kids.”  Dana interrupted, “You just don’t have any idea what kids really need!”  “Hey!” said Andrew. “All I know is that’s the way I was raised and I turned out OK. You married me, didn’t you?”  Dana looked at me wearily, “See what I mean?”  Sound familiar? If so, you shouldn’t be surprised. Parenting disagreements remain one of the most frequent reasons couples cite for seeking marital counseling.  And there are countless others with similar problems who never get to the counselor’s office. If you and your spouse are ready to leave this old fight behind here are 4 tips to help you get over the hurdle.

1. Leave the cookie cutters in the kitchen.

Parenting is not a cookie cutter process.     In the end, it doesn’t matter what you read in that book, what your neighbors told you, or how your parents did it. Those tips may have worked great for the author’s kids, the neighbor’s kids, or for you as a child, but your child is a unique individual with unique needs who learns–you guessed it–uniquely. For each child you have, be prepared to parent differently, because each child is a different person. Other’s experience and the past can serve as reference points, but the present reality has to trump those rules of thumb. Leave the cookie cutter methods for making cookies.

2. Avoid Academic Arguments.

Many couples engage in academic arguments about “What kids need.”  For example;  “Kids need to have a pet to learn responsibility.” VS. “Kids shouldn’t have pets until they are more responsible.” “Kids need to clean their plates.” VS. “Kids need to be allowed to stop eating  when they want.”  “Kids need play dates for socialization.” VS. “Kids have too many play dates.  They need unstructured time.”  These discussions go no where because they have nothing to do with the reality of your family! Who cares what “kids” need? The real question is what do your children need? Generally speaking, is your child responsible? If so, then why worry about teaching him responsibility? Or, by contrast, if your child is not responsible, then why limit yourself to pets?     Unless you are hoping to prepare your child for a rewarding career in animal husbandry, wouldn’t it be good to focus more on compliance with chores, homework, and volunteering to help around the house regardless of the addition of pets?

Similarly, is your child undernourished? Then by all means, she should be encouraged to clean her plate. But if she is gaining weight and growing, what’s the problem? Likewise, is your child socially inept? If so, by all means, sign him up for more play dates. But if he already works and plays well with others, what are you arguing about?  My point is not to resolve these specific issues or make light of such concerns. My point is that many of the parenting “problems” that husbands and wives argue about have nothing to do with reality. They are not really parenting their children. They are merely arguing about the “best” way to play the parenting role with imaginary children irrespective of the family they actually have.

3. Identify specific goals.

Once you leave behind the false security of cookie-cutter parenting and stop pouring energy into academic arguments about imaginary children, you need a real plan. Don’t ask yourself, “What can we do to get these kids in line?” Ask instead, “What specific things does this child need to learn to be more responsible/respectful/ generous/etc?”          Does little Hedwig have a temper? Don’t just punish the outbursts, teach her what to do instead. Don’t know how? Start by asking yourself, “When Heddy is respectful, why? What is enabling her to be more respectful then? Why is she motivated to behave better? And specifically, what does she do that I like?” Then use these specific motivators and encourage these specific behaviors more often–or build upon what she already does well. Here’s another example. Does little Theophane have a hard time sharing his toys? Don’t just punish the lack of generosity. Recall the times he does share. Ask yourself why. What’s different then? And what skills does Theo need to apply that same behavior to the new situation? I can’t go into much more detail in the space we have, but I offer ample examples of how to do all this in Parenting with Grace: A Catholic Parent Guide to Raising (almost) Perfect Kids. The point is that good behavior does not spontaneously erupt by punishing bad behavior any more than good math skills spontaneously erupt by punishing poor math skills.     Identify what your specific child needs to learn and what motivates that particular child. Then follow it through.

4. Know when to get help.

I know that in tip #1 (above) I said that you shouldn’t worry about what all the different “experts” said. You shouldn’t. But sometimes you and your mate are just too close to see the situation clearly. Remember that time the teacher said what a great kid you have? Or the waitress complimented your children on their politeness and you thought, “What kids are these people talking about?”  Avoid both degreed and self-appointed “experts” who spout platitudes about what “all kids need.” But do seek advice from those wise friends, and respected professionals who can help you see your children with fresh eyes and offer you new tools that are tailor to the unique needs of your unique child.

That’s a Wrap.

In short, forget what you think you know about parenting. Instead, you and your mate need to get to know the child you have in front of you right now, build a solid relationship with that child, develop a shared vision of the specific behaviors and values you want to see in your family, and ask yourselves what specific actions or techniques motivate each particular child to demonstrate those values and behaviors. If you’re still finding your house prone to domestic disputes of a disciplinary nature, call your PaxCare Tele-Coach  today and get the solutions to the issues you’re struggling with. Call us and get the skills you need to succeed in all your family and parenting endeavors.

Who Says, “I love you” First? Men or Women?

Chances are, if asked, most people would say that women are more likely to say, “I love you” first in a relationship.  New research challenges this stereotype.  According to Dr. Gary Lewandowski at the Science of Relationships Blog...

In a survey of 171 people, researchers confirmed that most (over 70%) believe women fall in love first and are quicker to say “I love you” compared to men. However, the survey also found that the stereotype is WRONG. In reality, men fell in love more quickly than women and were also the first to say “I love you.”  This is a great example of why research needs to test “common sense” assumptions about relationships.

Harrison, M. A., & Shortall, J. C. (2011). Women and men in love: Who really feels it and says it first?. The Journal of Social Psychology, 151(6), 727-736. doi:10.1080/00224545.2010.522626

I agree with Dr. Lewandowski.  I was the first to say, “I love you” in my relationship with Lisa.  This also tends to be true for most of my friends and, I think, the majority of men seeking a serious relationship.  To be completely honest, I think its time we as Catholics–in particular–did more to challenge the “all men are dogs” trope that our culture peddles.  I think Christians, especially, do a disservice to men when we teach that “being a man” means being an insensitive, sex-obsessed, relationally-impaired idiot. There is much more to masculinity than pop-psych and pop-theology would have most people believe.

You Deplete Me: 5 Ways to Know You’re In a Toxic Relationship

By: Gregory Popcak

dead end

There are some relationships we shouldn’t try to save.   Oddly, sometimes the least healthy relationships are the ones we’re most anxious about letting go!   This article can help you discern whether you’re in a toxic relationship with a poisonous person.

1. It seems like you can’t do anything right — The other person constantly puts you down as not good enough. They mock your  personality, and you feel ashamed most of the time. You only feel pardoned when you take on the traits of the person doing the condemning or judging.

2. Everything is about them and never about you — You have feelings too, but the other person won’t hear them. You’re unable to have a two-sided conversation where your opinion is heard, considered, and respected. Instead of acknowledging your feelings, they battle with you until they get the last word.

3. You find yourself unable to enjoy good moments with this person — Every day brings another challenge. It seems as though they are always raising gripes about you. Their attempt to control your behavior is an attempt to control your  happiness.

4. You’re uncomfortable being yourself around that person — You don’t feel free to speak your mind. You have to put on a different face just to be accepted by that person. You realize you don’t even recognize yourself anymore.

5. You’re not allowed to grow and change — Whenever you aim to grow and improve yourself, the other person responds with mockery and disbelief. There is no encouragement or support for your efforts. Instead, they keep you stuck in old judgments insisting that you will never be any different than you are now.

If you’re experiencing even just one of these signs, check in with yourself to see if the relationship is doing more damage than good.  Click here for a good article on toxic relationships.

For more ideas on effectively dealing with the Toxic People in your life, check out  God Help Me, These People are Driving Me Nuts!   Making Peace with Difficult People

Women Want Romance and Men Want Sex, Right? Not So Fast…

By: Gregory Popcak

romantic couple

It has been a truism in both secular and Christian culture that “women want romance and men want sex” or “women give sex to get love and men give love to get sex.”   I have always HATED these  sentiments because, although I know they ring true for many they have NEVER rung true for me.   I am, personally,  a big fan of love, romance, sex and everything that has to do with marriage and, frankly,  I am more the man for it.   Beyond my personal experience, however, this message has always seemed inconsistent to what Christian men and women  are called to and, as I began learning in college, what the Theology of the Body  asserts  is true for both women and men.

We Are All Made in the Image & Likeness of God

The idea that men primarily want sex and women primarily want romance  casts all men as predators and all women as frigid and suggests that there is something wrong with a woman who enjoys her sexuality or a man who has a romantic soul.   This has always struck me as deeply offensive to the Christian anthropological view.   God is a passionate God who seeks nuptial union with us.    The  Song of Songs demonstrates how God pursues us with an enviable passion.   Our Christian mystical tradition sings of the romantic feelings  God’s love inspires in  both men and women.    We are made in God’s  image and likeness.   It would only be fitting that Christian men and women would be able to respond to each other and to God’s invitation to union with as much joy and fervor  as they are both capable of expressing.   I have no doubt that men and women express their romantic and sexual love in different and complementary ways but it is difficult for me to imagine how a couple can achieve the heights to which they are called by the Sacrament of Matrimony if one partner is forced to drag the other along in sex, romance, or both.   Why would God play such a cruel trick?   The answer, of course, is that he wouldn’t.   Catholic theology has argued this for quite some time now—especially as articulated through the Theology of the Body.   Now science is giving greater weight to those claims.

What the Latest  Research Says…

A recent study  sought to overcome the difficulties that occur from self-report.   When people respond to surveys, they often answer as they think they are supposed to as opposed to how they actually feel.   The researchers thought that men and women would feel pressure to conform to the strong stereotyping that exists around male and female attitudes toward intimate relationships, so they developed a way to get past this bias to ascertain how men and women actually felt about sex and romance.   They used a test that had participants make snap judgments regarding whether to assign various romantic or sexual words/images to the categories of “pleasant” or “unpleasant.”   The design of the study required a quick response that made conscious decision-making difficult if not impossible.     Presumably, this forced respondents to reveal their  first responses before their judgment and bias could kick in.

What they Found

What they found was that while women did have a stronger reaction to romantic stimuli both men and women valued romance highly.   As for preference for sex, the differences did not manifest between the sexes as much as they did between extraverts and introverts.   In general, extroverted males and females have stronger sexual preferences and drives than introverted males or females.   That makes sense, since extraverts are just more comfortable expressing themselves in every aspect of life and sexual attitudes and behavior merely represent a concentrated version of the person’s values, personality and behavior as a whole. See entire article here.

There is obviously more work to be done on teasing out the real vs. false differences between man and woman, but I, for one, am excited about the new direction of the research in the field of sex and romance and I look forward to seeing whether or not the differences between men and women in these areas are dynamic and subtle as I believe they are.   Early reports would suggest that the answer is “yes.”

6 Stages of Recovery for Partners of Sex Addicts

By: Gregory Popcak

ashamed man

The Painful Truth of Addiction

Sex addiction statistics show that 25 million Americans visit cyber-sex sites between 1-10 hours per week. Another 4.7 million in excess of 11 hours per week. (MSNBC/Stanford/Duquesne Study, Washington Times, 1/26/2000). According to Datamonitor, over half of all time spent on the Internet is related to sexual activity, with 30 million people logging on to pornographic Web sites daily. According to some estimates, sex addiction affects about 3-5% of Americans, but that number is also considered to be hopelessly low because it is based upon the number of people who seek treatment, not the probable hundreds of thousands of people who never ever look for help. Of course, this is all terribly devastating to the spouse of the sex addict who is almost always completely surprised by the revelation of the addiction and goes through his or her own stages of healing. There is help though, for people who are ready to heal. Patrick Carnes, who spearheaded most of what we know today about defining and treating sexual addiction, has identified 6 stages of recovery for partners of sex addicts.

6 Stages of Recover

Developing/Pre-discovery—This is where the partner of the sex addict has a sense that something is not right, but she can’t quite put a finger on it. Things aren’t adding up, but she isn’t sure why.

Crisis/Decision/Information Gathering—The truth is out now. Phone records or credit card statements or internet histories or other signs have been discovered. There is no denying that there is a real problem here. The partner will respond by trying to micromanage the addict. It won’t work. This is a good time to involve programs like Sexaholics Anonymous.

Shock—A hopelessness can start to set in as the partner realizes that they have been living with a stranger.

Grief/Ambivalence— The partner begins to mourn the old relationship and the lost innocence. This leads to a new honesty and a new willingness to face what is still good and worth saving in the relationship combined with an honest assessment of the work that needs to be done. This can lead the partner to wonder if its worth going on in the relationship.

Repair—Now the partner commits to the work of healing themselves and the relationship. They are learning how to hold their mate accountable without getting sucked into the drama or the con games. The spouse is honestly seeking treatment and working a program. That makes it safe for the couple to begin working on making the marriage healthy.

Growth— A new honesty and authenticity is blooming in the relationship as the couple relates to each other on a level they never have before. There are still a lot of hard conversations ahead, but each talk brings out something new and good to work with. It can be devastating to find that one’s partner is struggling with their sexuality through porn, adultery or other sexual acting out. But there is hope and healing to be found. And it is worth hanging in there.


If you would like more information on working to heal a relationship damaged by sexual addictions, contact your PaxCare Tele-Coach today. Call us to get the support you need in this most difficult situation.

Yelling Makes Parenting Harder, Study Says. (+5 Things To Do Instead)

By: Gregory Popcak

mom yells at teen

The University of Pittsburgh and the University of Michigan recently released the results of a study that showed that yelling at teens actually aggravated problematic behavior rather than extinguishing it.   Likewise, teens who were consistently yelled at had higher incidences of depression, school problems, lying, stealing and fighting than kids who did not experience “harsh verbal punishment.”  Researchers also found that the more parents yelled, the more they felt they needed to yell as the problem behaviors increased creating a vicious cycle of yelling begetting bad behavior which begat more yelling.   Most interestingly, the researchers also  found that a strong parent-child bond  did not  protect children or parents from the negative consequences of yelling  that  I listed  above.  In my experience, parents who yell often feel powerless.   They tend to threaten and have a less effective approach to applying consequences.     Often these parents will lift consequences once they no longer feel angry instead of letting the consequence stay in place until the child has demonstrated not just a change in immediate behavior, but a change of heart.       Here are 5 things parents can do that are more effective than yelling.

1.   Collect the child

When your teen  commits an offense, it is often because they have fallen out of rapport with you.   The result is that they either stop caring about offending you or fail, for some reason, to seek your advice before acting.     The first step in disciplining a child of any age—especially adolescence—is “collecting” him or her.   That is, quietly saying, “Come here.   Let’s talk.”   Followed by some display of physical affection.   Collecting the teen puts him or her in a place where he or she is now willing to hear what you are saying instead of simply reacting defensively to every word that comes out of your mouth.   It can be hard to remember to collect your teen when you’re angry, but this simple step can spell the difference between a compliant cooperative teen and WWIII.   Your choice.

2.   Seek to Understand.

Now that you’ve collected your child and he or  she is more receptive to your guidance, seek to understand  what your son or daughter was thinking when he or she committed the offense.   Don’t interrogate.   Ask, honestly and gently, with a sincere desire to understand your son or daughter’s intention.   Questions like, “What made you decide to do that?”   “What did you hope would happen when you decided to X?”   “What message were you trying to send?”   “What were you trying to accomplish by choosing Y?”   are good places to start.   Don’t accept, “I don’t know” as an answer.   Take a break if you need to, but let your child know that you deserve real answers that will enable you to help him or her do better next time.   And don’t let your kid off the hook until you get those answers.   (As an aside, if your teen consistently refuses to answer your questions or stalls interminably  with “I don’t know.”   That’s a clear sign counseling is probably indicated).

3.   Brainstorm Solutions

Now that you know the intention behind your teen’s behavior, it’s time to come up with other ways your child could meet that need.

*Was the intention behind your teen’s disrespect a flawed attempt at telling you she was angry?   What words should she use next time to convey her message?

*Did your son miss curfew because he lost track of time?   Perhaps he needs to set his phone  alarm in front of you before he goes out for the next few weeks to demonstrate that he will remember when he needs to go.

The goal of discipline is not so much punishment as it is to give the child the guidance, tools, and support he or she needs to succeed next time and the time after that.    Whenever possible, treat misbehavior as a learning experience more than a failure of character.    If you can go into disciplining your teen with the attitude that it is your job   to figure out how to improve future  compliance as opposed to merely demonstrating your frustration with them, you will be on the right track.

4.   Apply Consequences Appropriately.

Additional consequences are not always necessary but when they are, make sure they are not time-limited but behavior-limited.   For instance grounding a teen  ”for a week” usually means that the teen will wait out his week and then return to business as usual—bad behavior included.   That’s a waste of time and energy.  Instead, tell your son, “Because you came home late again, even after we talked about setting your phone alarm, you are grounded for at least a week. During that time you will show me that you are able to remember what I ask of you by doing chores without being reminded.   We will review your progress at the end of the week.   If you have been consistently thoughtful and attentive to our expectations, you will be released from grounding.   If not, you will be given another week of grounding to continue practicing being thoughtful and attentive.   And so on, and so on, until I see that you are trustworthy.”  See the difference?   With the latter arrangement, the teen’s behavioral change and change of heart is the key to his freedom, not the mere passage of time.

5.   Revisit and Revise the Plan as Necessary.

Adolescence is complicated.   New situations arise all the time that make old solutions obsolete.   If a plan you developed with your teen stops working, don’t get exasperated.     Repeat the steps above and develop a new plan that take into account the changed circumstances.   Teens will behave if they know that 1) you are committed to helping them succeed and 2) you are committed to helping them get whatever they think they need in the most godly and efficient way possible.   By contrast teens will misbehave when they feel like they can’t win and/or if they see you as an obstacle to getting their needs met.   Using the steps I’ve outlined here works better than yelling because it gets you and your kid on the same side of solving the problem and has you working together to develop a plan for future success instead of competing to see who can make the other more miserable.

For more ideas on how to raise godly teens, check out  Parenting with Grace:   A Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising (almost) Perfect Kids. (2nd Ed.   revised and expanded)  or, if you need some personal support to help you get your relationship with your teens in order, contact your PaxCare Tele-Coach today. If necessary, we can refer you to the  a faithful Catholic therapist who can get your family life back on track. Call us to get the support and skills you need!

Marriage Enemy #1

By: Gregory Popcak

comfrot zone

When Comfort Eclipses Love

People often ask me what the biggest problem affecting marriages is.   They usually expect me to say something like, “poor communication”, “infidelity”, “drugs and alcohol” and the like.  All of these are important problems, of course and they are, unfortunately, common.   But they are not the most common  or even the most serious problem undermining marriages in my estimation.   In fact, the real problem is what often causes all of these other issues.   So, what is the most common marriage problem couples present with?   Namely; it is that husbands and wives tend to love their own comfort zones and preferences more than they love each other.  There isn’t anything wrong with having preferences and wants.   In fact, respecting  each other’s preferences and desires  is key to a healthy relationship.   The problem is a matter of degree. Inevitably, our desires and preferences conflict from time to time.   The healthy couple learns a dance that enables them to be sufficiently  generous and accommodating  in their day to day interactions—even when they are  being asked to step outside their comfort  zones—that they each don’t  mind when the other occasionally needs a break from  the self-donation that represents the norm.

By contrast, the less happy couple tends to double-down when one perceives that his or her comfort zone is being threatened. Instead of looking for ways to take care of each other, they get selfish and try to push what they want without regard for how it makes the other feel.  Dr Scott Stanley has a great example of this in his description of a couple’s conversation he witnessed:

Long-term love and commitment–and definitely marriage–require long-term, consistent sacrifices one for another. Sure, there are times when we don’t sacrifice (too many of them in most marriages). But I wondered if this incident was part of a pattern. I hope not. If it is a pattern, and they stay together, she’s in for more cold times ahead.

He also describes the antidote to the problem. You can find his entire article here.


For more ideas to make your marriage great, check out  For Better…FOREVER!   A Catholic Guide to Lifelong Marriage.  To find get immediate help with any issues regarding your marriage, call your PaxCare Tele-Coach today and get the skills you need to succeed!

Research Validates Parent-Directed Treatments For Kids’ Anxiety

By: Gregory Popcak

anxious young girl

Parents often contact the me  for help in addressing their children’s anxiety.   Whether phobias, separation anxiety, school related social anxiety or other anxiety related problems of childhood, our first  approach is to work with the parents to teach them to help their children directly.   I and my therapists teach parents techniques to use with their children.   The parents report the results and we teach them the next steps.  We have two reasons for taking that approach.   First, we take seriously the Church’s assertion that parents are their children’s primary educators.   We think that, whenever possible, children should be able to turn to their parents for whatever help they need.   Our role as counselors  should be  to empower parents  not replace them.

Let Yourself Help Them

Second, children, generally speaking find therapy to be stigmatizing.   My whole background is in family therapy.   So many kids come to therapy feeling like their being punished for something or afraid that seeing a counselor means they are “crazy.”   A good therapist can get through this but, I think, the best therapists can avoid it altogether whenever possible.  If the parent-directed approach doesn’t work, sometimes we have to step in and work more directly with the child.   But we find that this is not the norm.  When we initially explain our approach, many parents worry that it won’t work.   That perhaps they aren’t up to what we’re asking them to do.   What if they do it wrong?   We assure them that the vast majority of parents are more than able to help their children—with appropriate support—through most anxiety issues.   Our experience bears this out, but now, parents don’t have to take our word for it. (Note:  Cognitive behavioral therapy [CBT] “is a form of treatment that focuses on examining the relationships between thoughts, feelings and behaviors.” Source: www.NAMI.org)

Children with an anxiety disorder who receive cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) via their parents are three times more likely to recover from their anxiety, compared to children who received no treatment, according to a new study by the University of Reading.

The study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, focused on 64 families with children, between the ages of 7 and 12, who suffer from an anxiety disorder.  

For eight weeks, parents were given brief weekly sessions on how to use CBT with their child.

Mental disorders are becoming increasingly common among children, with approximately 20 percent  of children suffering from significant symptoms of anxiety and between 5 percent and 10 percent of children meeting diagnostic criteria for an anxiety disorder.

Children with anxiety disorders may have problems socializing with their peers, lack confidence in trying new things, and may underachieve at school and risk social exclusion. Childhood anxiety is also known to be a risk for development of future problems, including depression, substance and alcohol abuse, and poorer physical health.

“We studied 194 children who had a variety of diagnoses, including generalized anxiety disorder, social phobia, separation anxiety disorder, panic disorder/agoraphobia and specific phobia,” said lead study author Dr. Kerstin Thirlwall.

The researchers found that the children who received cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) via their parents are three times more likely to recover from their anxiety, compared to children who received no treatment.  

Read more here.

Let Us Help You  

For more information on effective parenting and Christian approaches to dealing with anxiety, check out  Parenting with Grace  (see the chapter titled, “Boo!   Dealing with Childhood Fears”)   and  God Help Me, This Stress is Driving Me Crazy!    For further assistance, call your PaxCare Tele-Coach today  for more information on working with a faithful, professional, Catholic counselor in getting your child the help he or she needs.

Parenting with the Theology of the Body in Mind: What’s the Best Way to Teach Generosity?

By: PaxCare Staff

happy kids!

Parenting with the  Theology of the Body  in mind means, at least in part, looking for ways to both model and encourage the kind of self-donative generosity (that generosity that comes from serving others with all one’s heart, mind, and bodily strength) that enables family life to feel like the gift it is meant to be.  In order to accomplish this, parents often give kids extra, material, rewards (privileges, stickers, etc.) for making good relationship choices like taking turns and sharing.   As noted in  Parenting with Grace  by Greg and Lisa Popcak, anecdotal evidence suggests that these kinds of rewards can backfire by making kids behave well or make good choices only for rewards.   That is, this approach to parenting takes kids’ focus off of people and relationships and, instead, makes them focus on what they’re going to get out of being good.   That’s why the authors recommend more relationally-based consequences and rewards  (physical affection, genuine praise, family time, etc.) as opposed to material consequences and rewards (star charts, stickers, privileges).   New research further backs up these recommendations:

Getting kids to share their toys is a never-ending battle, and compelling them to do so never seems to help. New research suggests that allowing children to make a choice to sacrifice their own toys in order to share with someone else makes them share more in the future. The new findings are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.  These experiments, conducted by psychological scientists Nadia Chernyak and Tamar Kushnir of Cornell University, suggest that sharing when given a difficult choice leads children to see themselves in a new, more beneficent light. Perceiving themselves as people who like to share makes them more likely to act in a prosocial manner in the future.  Previous research has shown that this idea–as described by the over-justification effect–explains why rewarding children for sharing can backfire. Children come to perceive themselves as people who don’t like to share since they had to be rewarded for doing so. Because they don’t view themselves as “sharers” they are less likely to share in the future.  Chernyak and Kushnir were interested in finding out whether freely chosen sacrifice might have the opposite effect on kids’ willingness to share.  “Making difficult choices allows children to infer something important about themselves: In making choices that aren’t necessarily easy, children might be able to infer their own prosociality.”  

Read more here.

For more information and healthy relational discipline techniques, check out  Parenting with Grace: The Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising (almost) Perfect Kids.

Science Supports Theology of the Body: Your Happiness Type is Expressed in Your Genes

By: Gregory Popcak

human gene

The  Theology of the Body  tells us that  each  person  was  made for self donation (the making of one’s self a gift to others) and if we do this, we will be truly happy.  It further tells us that when we treat others, or ourselves, as  objects of pleasure, we break down spiritually and emotionally  because we are acting in a manner that is inconsistent with God’s plan and our design. This sounds like a  lovely religious speculation,  but what if it was physiologically true as well?

This week, researchers at UCLA  demonstrated that the  type  of happiness you pursue in life effect your overall well-being on a genetic level:

A good state of mind – that is, your happiness – affects your genes, scientists say…What they found is that different types of happiness have surprisingly different effects on the human genome…”What this study tells us is that doing good and feeling good have very different effects on the human genome, even though they generate similar levels of positive emotion,”…”Apparently, the human genome is much more sensitive to different ways of achieving happiness than are conscious minds.”

Read the entire article here.

That is not to say that the level of happiness you experience is genetic, but rather  the kinds  of happiness you seek in life actually effect you on a genetic level.  Researchers discovered that people who, as a matter of habit, chase after “hedonic happiness” ( pleasure that comes from partying, sex, overeating, drinking, etc.) show physical evidence of gene expression that resulted in higher inflammatory response and the lower production of anti-viral and antibodies in their immune cells.   This response is similar to the physiological response  of depressed or exhausted individuals.

By contrast, people who pursue, as a matter of habit, “eudaimonic happiness”   (happiness that comes from pursuing the greater good) show physical evidence of gene expression that resulted in less inflammation and a stronger immune response (i.e., higher production of antiviral and antibodies in their immune cells). This particular pattern of gene expression is associated with better physical well-being and overall good health.  The truly surprising thing was that both groups claimed to feel good.   Both groups claimed to be happy and well,  but only the people who habitually pursued the greater good experienced   the good health—all  the way down to the genetic level—  that ought to accompany their happiness.

In the words of the researchers…

And while those with eudaimonic well-being showed favorable gene-expression profiles in their immune cells and those with hedonic well-being showed an adverse gene-expression profile, “people with high levels of hedonic well-being didn’t feel any worse than those with high levels of eudaimonic well-being,” Cole said. “Both seemed to have the same high levels of positive emotion. However, their genomes were responding very differently even though their emotional states were similarly positive.  
St Thomas Aquinas talked about the “two books” that reveal truth; the “books” of nature and revelation.    Something that is true in one “book”  cannot be contradicted by the other.   Faith and reason should go together.   That’s why I’m so excited when  I can point to studies that show the clear link between these two sources of truth.   Pope John Paul II proposed the Theology  of the Body as a vision for how we are to live, but living according to that vision is  only good if it can be shown to  help us  achieve our potential as human persons—as he claims it should.    Research like this demonstrates that  JPII’s claims hold  up  not just to theological debate, but scientific investigation as well.    The Theology of the Body is not just theological speculation.   It’s assertions, particularly the idea that we can only discover God’s plan for our lives and true happiness by making a generous gift of ourselves and living in mutually self-donative relationships, are true on every level, including—as you might expect for a theology of the  body—the physical level.