6 Steps To Respond To Hurtful People

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When someone hurts our feelings, it is hard to see beyond three choices:

  • Have an angry confrontation
  • Say nothing but get even
  • Say nothing and feel bad

Three examples:

  • Bill felt angry at recent actions from his neighborhood HOA board. He fired off an angry email to the president. The president became defensive and forwarded his letter to all other board members. As a result, the HOA saw Bill as unreasonable and his problem continued.
  • Marie, an overworked waitress, felt irritated at a difficult costumer’s demands. She remained sweet to the costumer’s face but spit in their food before bringing it to their table.
  • Sally felt bad when her friends left her out and then posted pictures on Facebook. She didn’t say anything to them but became sad and withdrawn causing her friends to think she was moody.

None of the above choices feel good. If you use angry words, YOU appear to have the problem. Hiding your feelings often leads to hiding your actions such as the waitress spitting in the rude costumer’s food behind their back. If you say nothing and don’t defend yourself, you can end up depressed.

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So how do you respond to mean people?

Dr. Herriot Lerner, best selling author of Dance Of Anger, understands the relationship tight rope. She cites research showing people take in very little information if they sense negative content. They either become defensive or tune out. So if you want to share negative feelings with someone use as few of words as possible and follow her simple formula.

6 Steps

  1. Send a handwritten message in a card, no emails
  2. Start with a positive
  3. Focus on your own feelings not on the offender’s behavior
  4. Speak your perspective or values with dignity and clarity
  5. Invite further connection
  6. Kept it short, don’t over talk

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Katie wanted to let her mother in law know it wasn’t ok to show favoritism to her daughter over her son. She picked out a pleasant Hallmark card and wrote 5 sentences. Katie wrote:

1.“Thank you for all the thoughtful gifts you’ve given our family over the years. (Positive)

2. But I feel bad when Amy receives gifts and Walter does not. (Feelings)

3. I want both my children to be treated as if they matter equally to you. (Values)

4. You are an important person in our family’s life. (Positive)

5. I look forward to seeing you over the holidays.” (Invite further connection)

Katie didn’t hear anything about her card from her mother in law, but during her next visit, she brought lovely gifts for both children and the problem went away. Katie was glad she expressed her feelings and nipped the problem without major contention.

We all struggle when people hurt our feelings. Follow the 6 step formula when you want to keep the friendship and speak up for your feelings. If someone doesn’t respond to your letter, you might want to check out Dr. Lerner’s book, “Why Won’t You Apologize?’ or consider letting the friendship go.


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Other helpful articles: https://utahmentalhealthservices.com/2015/11/10/how-to-fight-fair-with-unfair-people/ 




Relationship Red Flags


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In a great relationship there is RECIPROCITY and the POWER is shared.  Both people’s thoughts, feelings and preferences are important.  But some people are emotionally unhealthy and unable to negotiate relationships in that manner.  

Emotionally unhealthy partners don’t comprehend the concept of MUTUALITY because they need


Here are some questions to determine if your partner uses relationships with POWER OVER:

  1.  How do you as a couple spend spare time?  Are both people’s interests considered?
  2.  Does your partner have a temper?
  3. Are they an aggressive driver? Do they speed? Are they law-abiding?
  4. How does their father treat their mother? Were kindness and consideration modeled in their home?
  5. Is it all about them or do they notice the things, which are important to you?
  6. Do they admit when they are wrong or are they always right?
  7. Do they have frequent criticism of you or others? (constructive criticism is healthy chronic criticism is not.)
  8. Do they make you do things you don’t like to do from ball games to sexual activities?
  9. Did the relationship move very quickly? Did they come on strong? Does it feel too good to be true?  Are they extremely romantic?
  10. Do they tease or joke about your shortcomings?
  11. Do they resent you spending time with family or friends?
  12. Are they controlling with  money?
  13. Do they have long-term healthy relationships with others?
  14. Did they ever bully anyone including a younger brother or sister?
  15. Are they 100% honest or do you catch them stretching the truth to make themselves look better? Would they cheat at card games?
  16. Are they impatient?
  17. What do your family and friends say about them?
  18. How do they treat service workers, animals, or others who are deemed of “lesser value”?

If you answered more than half of these questions affirmatively, your relationship shows red flags and potentially emotional and or physical abuse.

You are more likely to experience abuse if:

  • You were abused as a child.  Because of early boundary violations, you likely struggle understanding appropriate boundaries.
  • You are “super agreeable”.  You don’t speak up for your relationship needs and you can be easily manipulated.

A good example of a non-reciprocal relationship is the story, “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein.  If you are a “Giving Tree” you may end up an emotional stump with nothing in return from the taker.

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All forms of abuse whether physical, verbal or sexual always starts with a boundary violation.   All violations start small to test the victim and then gradually accelerate. If you can spot the small violations, most of the time you can prevent the large infractions. (Unless you are a child.)

You may need professional help to get out of a bad relationship and form new healthy ones.  When you are in the Power Under position you believe:

  • I am unlovable
  • I will be abandoned
  • I don’t deserve happiness

Abusers are manipulative and are very good at making you think they now understand and will change OR it is all your fault and if you would change things would improve. Learn to watch their actions and not their words.


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Another resource:  “In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People” by George K. Simon

Another resource: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/03/23/fashion/weddings/marriage-questions.html?mc=aud_dev&mcid=keywee&mccr=dommob&kwp_0=619699Additional relationship posts:



The Magical Word Yet

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Yet is a common English word that when used as a conjunction is equivalent to “but” or “nevertheless”.  It means at a future time, in spite of a preceding event.

A psychiatrist friend of mine named Betty, claimed YET was her favorite word. Betty would tell clients, “I know your story is discouraging and it’s tempting to put a period at the end but what would happen if you told your story then added the word YET?

Inevitably, the clients would smile because the simple three-letter word adds hope.  It means the story is not complete. When discouragement happens it is tempting in the present moment to feel hopeless.  But the simple word YET offers possibilities

  • Bill’s wife died and yet….
  • Bessie dropped flunked out of med school and yet….
  • Florrie never married and yet…..
  • Peter relapsed on drugs and yet…

Did your brain fill in a new possibility to the scenarios above? Did you think of another ending to Bill, Bessie, Florrie and Peter’s story? The “Ghost of YET To Come” in Dicken’s Christmas Carol instilled optimism for Scrooge’s change.  Robert Browning penned hope in the future with, “The best is YET to be.”

Another literary figure, Alice, from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Screen Shot 2017-06-12 at 9.25.54 PM(1865) said, “I almost wish I hadn’t gone down that rabbit hole, and yet and yet it’s rather curious you know, this sort of life! I do wonder what can have happened to me!  

Just like Alice, we may wish we hadn’t gotten ourselves down the rabbit hole but YET there is still time. Your story doesn’t end here. It is rather curious what adventure can be fall you when you look to the future.  When you feel discouraged and you have thoughts such as:

  • I can’t do this
  • This doesn’t work
  • It doesn’t make sense
  • I don’t get it
  • I’m not good at this

Walking through old grave yards in Scotland I came across this headstone inscription:

                         Where, Grave, your sting? And yet—and yet——!”

Whoever placed the Arthur Henry Adams (1872) poem on the love one’s grave believed the future offered possibilities, despite their sorrow and despair in the present. Faith kept them believing And Yet-this new road will someday be the old road too.  (This lovely road stone moniker was found on the Old Town walk in Edinburgh, Scotland.)

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So when you feel you are at the end of your rope, take a deep breath, go for a walk and then use the conjunctive word YET at the end of your negative belief. The word has magical potential.


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Thanks to Dr. McElroy for the “Yet” concept

Additional blog posts with similar concepts:







Mistakes Are Wonderful Opportunities To Learn

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Failure Is Part Of Success

Mistakes are a normal stage of growth. In a recent study two groups of students were taught random words. One group was coached and told, “Mistakes are normal and will be a part of the process. The 2nd group was not given any advice. Not surprisingly, the group in which mistakes were normalized scored better than their peers. Yet too often we are cautious and avoid trying difficult things as if failure were deadly.

The Critical Voice In Your Head Isn’t Real

You might not have the guts to make mistakes because you are worried about what others think. Ricky Nelson sang in the song, “Garden Party”, “You can’t please everybody so you have to please yourself.”   Unfortunately, we are often trying to please the critic in our head.

When clients are afraid to make mistakes, I ask, “Who is on your bus?”

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The bus is a metaphor for past memories of criticism. Floating around in the back of their head is Aunt Bertie’s opinion on their weaknesses, or Mom’s critical complaints from years gone by. These old messages cast a shadow creating feelings of inadequacy and the fear of failure. How easy is it to maneuver around with a bus load of people?

Fear Of Failure Is A Dream Stomper

What would you do and who would you be, if you weren’t afraid to make a mistake? Who among us would tell a toddler just learning to walk, don’t try, you might fall down? Screen Shot 2017-06-09 at 3.18.18 PMNo, we instead say encouraging things, “Come on, you can do it, don’t give up.”

We need to realize when attempting new things that we are toddlers, we will make mistakes, we fall before we learn to run.

Dr. Jane Nelson author of Positive Discipline says, “Mistakes are wonderful opportunities to learn.” She further states:

It is much easier to take responsibility for a mistake when it is seen as a learning opportunity rather than something to be ashamed of.  If we see mistakes as bad we tend to feel inadequate and discouraged and may become defensive, evasive, judgmental, or critical of others or ourselves. On the other hand, when mistakes are seen as opportunities to learn, recognizing them will seem like an exciting venture. “I wonder what I will learn from this one?”

Mistakes Are Necessary

In the mid 1980’s many financial experts expected Asia to take over the world economy. Companies like Sharp, Sony, Seiko, Panasonic, and Toshiba were dominating their competition but over the last five years, these corporations have continued to decline. Why did this happen? Psychologist, Brad Hall writes, “Asia has not created wealth world wide because of their fear of failure. China’s corporate culture has the emperor model, “Keep your head down, follow instructions and don’t stray into uncharted areas—don’t think, don’t innovate. 

Coercive leadership is common throughout Asia and the training begins in childhood. (Remember Tiger Mother?) For their first 18 years, Chinese youth work under two leaders: their teacher and their mother. Both leaders use a coercive style. Both are highly vigilant of mistakes and teach children to stay inside the box.

We Learn From Failure

Have the courage to be keep trying. It is impossible not to make mistakes.  Dr. S. Thomas Foster, an expert on quality processes, says “ALL processes are subject to random variation.” We must have the courage to be imperfect while striving for perfection in order to learn.

Progress is slow

Many times we get discouraged with mistakes because progress appears non existent.

A seemingly overnight change at La’ie Point State Wayside, Hawaii illustrates this concept.  A large rock  blocked water the flow of the ocean. Slowly, the water pushed against the rock until the rock fell away and an opening occurred. It seemed over night but actually it had been occurring for many, many years.   The slow process was occurring many years before you saw results.

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Success may seem overnight but is a gradual process and it often takes miss steps before success is achieved. Fear of failure, stops creativity and progress because “mistakes are wonderful opportunities to learn.”


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Electronic article, “Where are Asia’s Global Companies?” retrieved 6/23/2017.


Another good article: https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2015/03/25/why-success-sometimes-starts-with-failure/





Ask, Don’t Tell: 23 Questions For A Misbehaving Child

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Why Did You Do That?

No one likes to be challenged about their mistakes.  It is human nature to get defensive and argumentative when questioned. The brain seems to shut down with a “why” question.  For example, can you remember as a child being asked a question like, “Why did you spill the milk?”  Do you remember just staring at your parent blankly because the question seemed to beg the answer, “Because I am an idiot”, and no one wants to give that answer.  Why questions usually are accusative.

Ask, Don’t Tell

It is tempting to teach children by lecturing, but if we take the position of genuine curiosity about your child’s viewpoint; we can create an attitude shift. Look for the HOW and WHY instead of blame and shame. Curiosity Questions help a child process the event and draw their own conclusions. A child learns best by self-discovery.


  • Tone is important, interest and caring and be conveyed through your voice
  • Slow down when you ask the questions, it will calm you and the listener
  • Don’t ask the questions when you are upset
  • Inquire from your heart
  • Ask only one question and then sit back and quietly listen

 Curiosity Questions:

  1. How do you feel about what happened? (Listen)
  2. Are you satisfied with the way you handled the problem? (Listen)
  3. You’ve told me what your friend think is right, I am curious to hear what you think is right/good? (Listen)
  4. How did this experience feel in your gut? (Listen)
  5. I am interested in your ideas, how you saw the situation and what you expected to accomplish? (Listen)
  6. Sounds like you have put some thought into this, I would like to hear what things you have considered? (Listen)
  7. You’ve got some pretty strong feelings about this; what is that like for you and how are you handling it? (Listen)
  8. What are your thoughts/feelings about the situation? (Listen)
  9. I’m interested in your ideas, what are you thinking? (Listen)
  10. I think you are right, that it would be easier AND I’m wondering what would be meaningful or valuable to you? (Listen)
  11. Did it go the way you had hoped or planned, how do you feel about that? (Listen)
  12. It sounds like you are getting a lot of ideas and opinions from other people; I would love to know what is important to you? (Listen)
  13. You matter to me and what you think and feel matters—what seems right (or good) to you? (Listen)
  14. I trust you, what decision seems right to you? (Listen)
  15. I believe in you, how would you like to proceed? (Listen)
  16. I can see why you made that choice, it makes sense to me; I’m not sure that it matches your values; how do you feel since making that decision? (Listen)
  17. I love you and I am concerned about what is going on; I am hoping you will think about it some more. (Listen)
  18. You are loved by me and God, no matter what but I am worried about how things are going—how are you? (Listen)
  19. What was our agreement or family rule regarding this behavior/situation? (Listen)
  20. Is there anything else I don’t understand? (Listen)
  21. What have you learned from this? What would you do differently next time? (Listen)
  22. You are my son/daughter and that will never change; you will always have a place in our family; can you feel our love and acceptance? (Listen)
  23. How can I help? (Listen)

Curiosity may have killed the cat but it will promote kind respectful relationships and a life time of self-management skills for your child.  Keep practicing, gentle inquiring questions improve all relationships not just in parent child situations.

Camille Foster/801.472.7134/ 1fosterconnect@gmail.com

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(Thanks to Dr. Jane Nelson for the curiosity question concept.)




Beauty From The Inside Out

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Do you find yourself doubting your beauty? A recent Dove documentary shows an artist sketching with his back to women as they describe themselves. After first completion of the first sketch the artist draws the women as an acquaintance describes them. The second rendering is strikingly more attractive than the first; participants recognize they see themselves far more negatively than others.  They are more beautiful than they think.

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My great grandmother, Nora Ellen (1862-1945) was a large woman with big hands and somewhat masculine features. When referring to her appearance, she good naturally quoted Ogden Nash’s popular limerick:

I am not good looking, by gar,
Others are handsomer far,
But my face I don’t mind it
For I am behind it;
It’s the fellow in front that I jar.”

What Is Behind Your Face?

How do you feel about your self? Are you constantly worried about what the fellow in front thinks?

Susan Tanner, who served as president of a young women organization wrote,Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 8.53.36 PM

“I remember well the insecurities I felt as a teenager with a bad case of acne. I tried to care for my skin properly. My parents helped me get medical attention. For years I even went without eating chocolate and all the greasy fast foods around which teens often socialize, but with no obvious healing consequences. It was difficult for me at that time to fully appreciate this body, which was giving me so much grief. But over and over again my good mother said to me, “You must do everything you can to make your appearance pleasing, but the minute you walk out the door, forget yourself and start concentrating on others.”  Susan learned to forget the outside appearance and focus on others.

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Carole King, the most successful female songwriter of the latter half of the 20th century, describes her experience in writing the song, “Beautiful.” Carole never had much confidence in herself and her appearance. Early in her career, she let others sing her songs and take the spotlight. One day, she was sitting on a subway in New York and realized that how she felt about others reflected how she was feeling about herself. The song came to her in an instant and didn’t contain the usual rhyming and stanzas..

The chorus of the song “Beautiful”:

Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 9.03.13 PMYou’ve got to get up every morning With a smile in your face
And show the world all the love in your heart
The people gonna treat you better
You’re gonna find, yes you will
That you’re beautiful as you feel

A current successful Broadway musical, entitled, “Beautiful” describes King’s life struggles and eventual success.

You Are Beautiful As You Feel

Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 4.57.26 PMYour body language can affect how others see us and influence how we see ourselves. Social scientist, Amy Cuddy has researched the impact of “power posing.” Cuddy states, “Standing in a posture of confidence can makes us more confident even when we don’t feel confident.” Cuddy recommends the “Wonder Woman” pose for maximum effect.

How Do We Keep A Smile In Our Face?

Give compliments. Compliments are a double blessing because both the giver and the receiver receive a positive emotional bounce. We add to each other’s storehouse of self-esteem by giving sincere, well-deserved commendation. Research shows compliments are as psychologically as rewarding as getting cash.

The more we compliment, the happier we are.

In Proverbs 16:24 says, “Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.”

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Great grandma, Nora Ellen may not be remembered for her good looks but her 30 year correspondence was recently donated to a national university collection. The letters contain family and daily routine of the Ream family ranch in Dingle, Idaho and provide insight into 19th century Western life. Many of the letters are love notes from her husband, Will, who loved her dearly.

Because Nora Ellen had sense of humor and saw beyond herself, we have a lasting legacy.  YOU ARE MORE BEAUTIFUL THAN YOU THINK!

(Nora Ellen and family are pictured on the right.  The Victorian Home in the photo was built by her husband and sons and is on the Historical Register. )

Camille Foster/801.472.7134/ 1fosterconnect@gmail.com

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(Thanks to the Sherwood Hills ladies for their help and insights which contributed to the article.)

More on Wonder Woman Posing:


















17 Tips To Help Your Child Regulate Their Emotions

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Self Control

When a child is out of control, parents get controlling. But this reaction does not teach your child self- regulation. In the long term, an over control style can trigger resentment or rebellion in the child and does not create an internal locus of control.

The 1960’s Stanford Marshmallow Experiment has been the gold standard for impulse control.

The original experiment offered young kids a marshmallow but if they could wait 15 minutes they would be rewarded with a second treat.  Children who could hold out for a 2nd treat went on to lead productive lives. The apparent conclusion seemed if you could teach a child self control, they would be successful.

Stress Alters Impulse Control

According to the book, Self Reg by Stuart Shanker professor at York University and former president of the Council of Early Childhood Development, “If the child is hungry, tired or over stimulated, you can change the results of the marshmallow test.”

There is a difference from stress behavior and misbehavior. What are the signals when your child suffers from stress behavior?

Cars come equipped with dashboard messages to tell them when their engines are hot, fluids are low or gas is running out. We need to learn how to monitor our internal dashboards when stress occurs.

The emotional engine is working too hard if the child is:

  • Chronically irritated
  • Can’t calm down
  • Constantly anxious

Inadvertently, in our attempt to gain co operation, we can push children to their stress point and the result is often shut down; the engine is off. Children who seem to lack motivation are chronically hypo-aroused.

Ask yourself, “Why now?” Is your child:

  • Hungry?
  • Tired?
  • Clothing Texture?
  • Temperature?
  • Lighting?
  • Noise?
  • Too busy of a schedule?
  • Bored?

Cope by teaching how to Self Regulate:

  1. Read the signs and reframe the behavior
  2. Identify the stressors
  3. Reduce the stress
  4. Become aware when you’re overstressed
  5. Figure out what helps you calm, rest and recover.


1. Deep Breathing

Older Children: Breath deeply like Darth Vader

Younger ones: Pretend you are blowing out birthday candles. Deep breathing can shift brain activity from a negative bias to a positive one.

Read this out loud teach your child breathing techniques:

There is a path from your nose to lungs. Underneath your lungs is a big muscle that draws the fresh air in and pushes the stale air out. Your ribs are around the lungs to protect them; they expand and contract with each breath. When we breathe in, we get a burst of energy that makes us alert. When we breathe out we feel calm.  

Can you feel the cool breath inside your nose as you inhale and the warm breathe inside your mouth as you exhale? Can you feel your lungs filling up like a balloon?

Take 10 slow deep breaths.

Can you feel your worry lessen as we do the breathing?

2. Name it and Tame it:

Teach your child how to describe feelings their feelings. Research shows if you describe and talk about your emotions, it lessons the emotion in your body.  Read more here:

3. Visualize:Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 3.11.48 PM

Place glitter in a jar to represent angry feelings. As you watch the glitter slowly drop to the bottom of the jar, let of the angry feelings. You can also use a snow globe.

Another method: Ask, what color are your angry feelings? Can pick a crayon and draw them? Can you change them to blue? Research shows coloring in color books also reduces stress.

4. Distract:

Notice something in your immediate surrounds, here and now to take thoughts to another direction.

5. Change Body Temperature:

Take a bath, play in the sprinklers or eat a popsicle.

6. Avoid blue spectrum devices:

Especially avoid I pads or computers before bedtime, they ramp up brain activity. Video games are junk food for the brain. Even though the children sit quietly, their brains are highly activated.

7. Calm Yourself:

Children pick up on our feelings of stress—mirror neurons; we need to calm ourselves down. Phone a friend, walk away, drink water, count to 10, etc.

8. Teach CALM:

There is a difference between calm and quiet. A child can be quiet but have surging beta waves, which is a sign of arousal; but when a child is calm, we see slow and rhythmic waves, which is a sign of deep relaxation.


Here are some suggestions:

  • a calm down box
  • Pillows,
  • stuffed animals,
  • books,
  • soft music

9. Change Routine to Play for a few moments—let them move:

We tell kids who aren’t concentrating, “Sit still, stop fidgeting, be quiet, pay attention. But in many cases, we should be saying, “Move around, fidget some more, hum to yourself, close your eyes. They have a developmental need to move!

Red light, green light is a good game to help them learn to pay attention and practice large muscle control.

10. Be aware of overstimulation:

Slow your speech, your conversations, and interactions especially when you give instructions—one piece of information at a time. Scheduling too many activities stresses children. Kids need tons of “down time”. Give them play time, quiet time and rest time and children’s behavior often improves dramatically.

11. Reduce the intensity of stimuli:

Loud sounds or bright lights may produce alarm in your child. Too many children in a small area can stress you as well as your child.

12. Teach Child to Recognize Internal Stress:

Help your child recognize when a game or activity helps them release tension and feel calmer. (Do you feel stiff like a robot or relaxed like a rag doll now?)

13. Let them have Safe Place:

Every child needs a nest or a burrow to feel safe, a “positive time out.” (I hid underneath my parent’s bed as a child.)

14. Let them Yell!

A recent study reveals that yelling when we are physically hurt can actually interrupt pain messages being sent to the brain. Yelling releases tension.

15. Look at age appropriate guidelines, avoid unrealistic expectations:

Ever say to your kid, “Don’t throw that!” and they just throw it anyway? Research suggests that the brain regions involved in self-control are immature at birth and don’t fully mature until the end of adolescence. (More on child development here)

For example, 56% of parents felt that children under the age of 3 should be able to resist the desire to do something forbidden, whereas most children don’t master this skill until age about age 4. Realizing kids can’t always manage impulses because their brains aren’t fully developed can inspire gentler reactions to their behavior.

Children can concentrate for the amount of minutes they are in age.

16. Revere Nature:

Reconnecting to the simplicity and beauty of nature is calming to our souls, take walks, smell the breeze, plant gardens, and do yard work together.

17. Practice:

Impulse control is a muscle that grows stronger the more you use it. Train your child to do jobs around the house. Keep encouraging them to try. Developing self-control is a long, slow process.



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Camille Foster/801.472.7134/ 1fosterconnect@gmail.com

“Like” my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/UtahMentalHealthServices

Helpful Children’s Book:

Moody Cow Meditates, by Kerry Lee MacLean ,  Mean Soup by Betsy Everitt 

Additional Sources:










Grit: The 4 Letter Word For Success


What is the single most important quality for success?

Turns out the answer may be a simple four-letter word called GRIT.

Dr. Angela Duckworth studied first year candidates at West Point Academy to see if qualities needed for school success could be determined prior to admission. Acceptance to West Point is vigorous; you need excellent grades, leadership skills and a congressional recommendation. 10,000 candidates apply for the honor and only 4,000 get recommendations. It can be argued that one has already proven grit before class begins. However despite a rigorous acceptance policy, a certain percentage drop out every year.

Duckworth was hired to quantify character traits by candidates with successful West Point completion. Her research showed it wasn’t IQ, social support, economic status, talent or life experiences—all attributes usually a seen as success markers. But it was students who scored high on the “grit” scale.

What Is Grit?

Merriam Webster dictionary defines it as “firmness of character; indomitable spirit.” Duckworth also adds, “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.


In a classic movie, “True Grit”, (1969) A 14 year old girl hires John Wayne ‘s character, Rooster Cogburn, to go after her father’s killer. She hires the aging US Marshall because she believes he has “true grit.” Wayne says, “True grit is making a decision and standing by it, doing what must be done.”  (Spoiler alert ****He does get his man and avenge the wrongful murder.)

The Finnish people say sisu, which loosely translated means, “reach into your gut and figure out a way to do it.”


Even if we aren’t Finnish, we can teach the attitude of sisu. Lindsay, a young mother reported,

“After circling the parking lot at least five times looking for a parking spot, I muttered, ‘I give up’…. to which a little voice piped up from the backseat, ‘Mom! Gibsons never GIVE UP!’


The Gibson Family had incorporated a family culture of grit.

Gritty people dig deep and stick with tasks year after year. They have the passion and determination to work at their goals like a marathon and not a sprint.  They have courage, resilience and character.

How Do You Build Grit?

Grit is the rate with which you increase your talent with effort. It requires a growth mind-set. We have to be willing to fail and start over again with lessons learned.

Grit requires:

  • Deliberate practice
  • Intentional problem solving
  • Feedback
  • Measuring
  • Evaluation

As the Kaizen business model for quality emphasizes continuous improvement, the Grit process requires constantly asking, “What can I refine here?” You have to be open to criticism and willing to work at daily improvement. You can’t get hung up on perfection but work consistently for excellence.

Gritty people love what they do; they don’t feel controlled or compelled to do it. They have the “I’ll show you response.” Grit is like a muscle that grows with effort. You can improve your grit quotient and you can teach through example.

Camille Foster/801.472.7134/ 1fosterconnect@gmail.com

“Like” my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/UtahMentalHealthServices

Thanks to Lindsey Gibson for sharing her parking lot story and allowing me permission to share it!

Additional Sources:


5 Characteristics of Grit:


Angela Duckworth Ted talk


Also helpful is the research on marshmallows and children.  Read more here: https://utahmentalhealthservices.com/2014/10/10/happy-child-happy-parents-building-self-esteem-in-your-child-part/

What Scrooge Teaches Us About Anxiety

“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.
– Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol


A Christmas Carol was first published in London in December 1843. The beloved story tells of Ebenezer Scrooge, a bitter old miser, who is transformed to generous gregarious gentleman after his former associate, Marley, shows him 3 ghostly visitations—the Ghost of Christmas Past, Present and The Ghost of Yet to Come.

Marley’s ghost who is forever cursed to wander the earth dragging heavy chains, crafted by a life time of greed and selfishness. Marley says:

“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard…” 


The Ghost of Christmas Past takes Scrooge to scenes of Scrooge’s childhood where he was innocence and kind but then moves forward showing him neglecting his fiancée Belle. When Belle realizes Scrooge will never love her as much as he loves money, she ends their relationship.  Scrooge is forced to see her see her happy without him with her large close family on a recent Christmas Eve.

Ghost Marley wishes Scrooge to understand our past cannot be changed. But there is hope in the future with the visit of the Ghost Of Yet To Come.

“Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,” said Scrooge. “But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change.”

The Ghost Of Yet To Come

Scrooge decides to change; he awakens the following morning, filled with joy, love and generosity in his heart. He remembers his over-worked employee, Bob Cratchit with a turkey and pay raise. He becomes a 2nd father to his crippled son, Tiny Tim and our model today of the spirit of Christmas.

How Do We Have A Scrooge Epiphany and learn the lesson of past, present and future?

Have your ever wondered what you would see if Marley’s Ghost visited you? Do you have past mistakes you refuse to change? Do you withhold generosity from others ignoring their suffering? Are you a workaholic not seeing joy in the present?

Clients suffering from anxiety are challenged to shift their thoughts from the future and stay in the present moment, which is a good temporary strategy. But you also need forward planning in order in ensure the best outcome.

The reality, as Scrooge learned, is you have to keep all three—the past, present and future in mind to avoid a life of regrets.

You need to stay in the past long enough to recognize mistakes, the future forecasts the outcome, but power is in the present moment; the power is now.  As T.S. Monson said,

The Past is behind, learn from it.  

The future is ahead, prepare for it.

The Present is here, live in it.

Honor Christmas in your heart. Recognize the lessons of all your ghosts. Here is my favorite Christmas quote:

This year, mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust. Write a letter. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Forgo a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Apologize. Try to understand. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Be kind. Be gentle. Laugh a little more. Express your gratitude. Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love and then speak it again.”   –Howard Hunter


Camille Foster, LCSW

Contact Me: 801.472.7134/ 1fosterconnect@gmail.com

Here is an interesting interview with famous quarterback, Steve Young where he talks about his struggle with anxiety (6.50 on the moniker).  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pc3n8pcOqXk

Please “like” my Facebook page: www.face.com/utahmentalhealthservices

See also my post about living in the present moment: https://utahmentalhealthservices.com/2013/09/25/give-yourself-a-present-by-living-in-the-present-how-staying-in-the-here-and-now-moment-frees-you-from-anxiety-and-depression/





How the Science Of Empathy Turns Presidential Elections



The recent loss of Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid will certainly be the subject of numerous data analysis studies for many years. Why the country turned down the female in the Clinton pair is an interesting question likely layered with multiple causations.

Two Ionic Catchphrases

But as a daily observer of human behavior there is one factor that stands out to me; the philosophies contained in the phrase “the basket of deplorables” uttered by Hillary and the iconic phrase from Bill Clinton, “I feel your pain.” Both expressions caught on and inadvertently defined the candidate.



Bill was an upstart politician in the early 90’s, one of many Democrats trying to unseat the Republican president, George H.W. Bush. After recent triumphant in the Gulf War, George was riding a large wave of popularity and many believed his re-election was unstoppable.

While heckled on the campaign trail, Bill responded with his now iconic phrase, “I feel your pain.” He repeated the phrase again while accepting the democratic nomination. And during the debate between George H., he turned the momentum by convincing the audience, he did feel their pain. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ta_SFvgbrlY.


In contrast, Hillary had a lifetime of tireless public service. Few apply for a job with a better resume. But in the exhaustion of the fall campaign at a fundraiser in New York, she stated, “You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it.”screen-shot-2016-11-20-at-1-55-24-pm

Her apology was even less convincing; she agreed her percentages were off but states, “I understand your outrage, but I’m unmoved by it. If the basket fits…”

In a brief 32 words, Hillary managed to portray herself as arrogant, aloof and completely unable to see Trump supporter’s viewpoint—she lacked empathy.

Empathy Connects People

Consistently in my practice, I see the advantages of empathy. People don’t need to agree but they bond when they feel understood. They become angry when misunderstood or mocked.

When you empathize with me, or “feel my pain,” my sense of identity is connected to yours. As a result, I feel greater in some way and less alone. I may well, as a result, also start to empathize more with you, feel greater compassion and create as George H.W. Bush said, “kinder, more gentle world.”

A recent study in the CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) showed that clinicians who showed empathy to patients improved their motivation to stick to treatment plans and lowered malpractice complaints and improved heath outcomes.

Social psychologist Dacher Keltner, takes this idea further in Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life. In it, he explores Darwin’s little-known work on human emotions and argues that survival is not based on the fittest but on who among us is the kindest.

What do we take from this in our personal lives?

Listen to others—truly feel their pain. Don’t marginalize those with who you disagree. Empathy is not only vital in presidential races but in communities and families as well. Be kind.



Camille Curtis Foster, LCSW

1fosterconnect@gmail.com 801.472.7134

Please “Like” my Facebook page:


Check out Provo’s mayor’s call for more civility in government: