How to plant the seeds of self-esteem

Yesterday, I played with my daughter on our terrace. It was quite cold, but in the afternoons, when it is a clear sky, this place gets warm and cosy from all the sunlight invading this corner of the house. We chased each other around the little red house that we have now put in the middle. I was the meat eater, and she was the environmental activist. We laughed a lot. At one moment she wanted to climb her little red house. And she did it in 10 seconds.
I said to her: “You did it!”
My wife noticed that from the kitchen and came saying to her: “It is dangerous, please get down”. At my end, I said: “For me it’s ok. I know that this is something easy for you. But mommy can’t handle this now. Please listen to her. I promise that we go together to the climbing gym tomorrow.”
“Climbing gym?..” She did not precisely understand what that is, but she said “Ok!”.

And next morning there we are, for the first time, in front of the gym.
I let her chosen the wall that she considered comfortable to climb. After few steps, she said that it’s enough.

“You did it!” I said. “Every day you can do more and more new adventures. You like trying new things. This means you are courageous.”
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How about you: how do you plant your seeds?

Don’t Be Always The Chief in Your Family. Be Also the Follower.

– Alex, my child, is not ok in his new class. My boy Karl is so scared of something. I meet him after school, around 4 pm, he is all sweat, and his skin smells like a wet chicken. I can hear his steps from far away, clap-clap, clap-clap, and when he sees me, he runs faster in my lap and hugs me. He does not talk about school with me.
And yesterday, oh yesterday, it was a mess. Karl started to scream and cry, and he knocked on the ground when I met him. I asked him: what’s going on? I did not know what to do, I held him in my arms, and I just said let’s go and buy some delicious ice cream. With the ice cream, all went well, but he did not want to talk about what happened in that day at school.
When my friend stopped, I asked her:
– What else did you do?
– I tried to explain to him how we should behave when other people are around us, and I told him what to do: to pick his stuff from the ground, clean himself and to be quieter.
Foto Emanuel Scutaru

Foto credit Emanuel Scutaru


I had this rule

I had this rule, and maybe you struggle with it also, that I must civilise the child. And this rule said to me that I should control the child’s behaviour. That means, I tell the child what to do, and after that, I expect obedience. I thought about my beginnings as a parent when I used to believe that the child needs to do what the parent want because the child is in a position of knowing less and not having good judgment. And it is my view that must prevail. This rule put me in the awkward situation of trying to control someone else’s behaviour. Perhaps you think it is relatively easy. It’s not so difficult with elephants or with horses, but with kids, it might be a challenge. Not only with children, but also with adults it did not work. With my loving wife, it never worked, neither with my brother nor with my co-workers when I served as a project manager.


The friendly conversation from the beginning was for me an illustration of a situation when the child is completely detached from his mother and wants to do anything to capture her care, her attention. I think you also noticed, that when kids feel detached, they do not respond well at all, they misbehave, they complain a lot.


The way that the brain works remarkable is when we feel close and attached especially to the loved ones. The sense of connection satisfies the emotional, social centre of our mind and then allows us to access our short term memory. Makes it possible to play and make good decisions about what we try to do. Shorter said: it allows us thinking. So thinking depends on feeling close and connected. If you’re wondering why sometimes your child sometimes does not hear you at all, this is why. If you’re wondering why your child is always answering to your question “How was school today?” with “Fine”, this is why. And that’s because children’s first language is not verbal. Eye contact, touching, smiling and hugs and play first and after that answers will come.


When children go to kindergarten or school, they leave home generally feeling close and connected at least to one parent. But by the time when got back from school, they are distressed, confused and detached from us. That means totally “unplugged” from his parents. That is because, in many schools, teachers do not have too much time to connect with all kids.


Now the smart teachers know that children who feel disconnected do not respond well to the class and are not good at learning new things. And also they can cause lots of difficulties: break class materials, require a lot of attention from the teacher and do not cooperate with other kids. But when the child connects with the teacher, sensational thinks happen: they make real progress in the class, they work better in cooperation with other kids, and they are learning lots of new things. And then, the parent asks himself: When did my child learn so many new things?


Stories from Switzerland

Here in Switzerland, I loved a habit from the moment I saw it. I’m talking about those minutes when my girl and her colleagues enter the kindergarten. That is because at the entrance all the teachers from the class are waiting for the kids and shake hands and have eye contact with every single one of them. Of course only if the child agrees. My girl, for example, did not accept it from the beginning.
But that moment when the child is entering in the class, and the teacher touches and makes the eye contact has a great value.


Also at the beginning of a summer holiday, I noticed something amazing at a teacher in a public kindergarten. When she was saying goodbye and wishing a happy holiday, she asked every of his students if they want a hug. Other kids from other groups were just staring at this sensational teacher hugging her students, like at a magic theatre play. And that’s because other teachers just shake hands and said goodbye.


New habit

Starting with these two actions, you can instantly design a daily exercise. With your spouse or your partner or your child shake hands or hug and then for one minute share a prolonged gaze into each other’s eyes. Start from today to implement this habit and miracles will happen.


What works well and why

After working one on one with people and in corporations with teams and being married for almost ten years and serving kids for more than two decades, I have made most of the mistakes you can make — numerous times. As a result, I have begun to see certain activities what works well with kids. And these are my two practices that work amazing.


Use quick connectors

1) When you meet your child:

– Touch each other gently, make eye-contact, and share a gaze into each other’s eyes.
– Smile and be as happy as possible that you see your child. You should not forget that your body language says more than you think.
– Smile and even laugh or do a funny, quick trick. That’s for showing that you are well, in a good mood and playful.
If you can’t do one or more actions from above, then try to talk to someone about how was for you to meet your parents when you were young. I can be that person but is not mandatory. You can simply do it with a friend who is available for 15 minutes, just for you, only to listen to you.


For example, when my girl sees me after several hours in the kindergarten, we are both yelling (She is yelling daddy, and I’m screaming her name.), we are running in each other’s arms, we are smiling and hugging and I’m kissing her all over her head. After that, I try to look into her eyes.


In case your kid is older, you will probably say:

“For us, this is not going to work. If I touch, smile and be playful my child will not say miracles happen to mum, it will say that is something wrong with me.”

No problem if your child is older. This easy approach also works for you. I recommend to you to bring yourself near your child, stand there and just be there. Do not talk too much, do not ask too many questions! And you will see that the talking will start from your child side. And at that moment do not judge and do not give pieces of advice! If you are going to do that, you are going to break the bridge built between the two of you. Just listen! Just be there!
Also for improving your relationship with your spouse you can read the first three statements from point 1) and replace “child” with “husband” or “wife”. And write me a comment to tell me what you felt.


2) Start a connection sprint and follow the tiny leader

What does this mean? It means to do an activity that the child wants to do for a definite period.
Start with: “I will do whatever you want for X minutes.”
What for? Also for making the connection parent-child meaningful and powerful, for your child to begin to open up and talk.
Things work this way: You, as a parent, should listen more. Bring yourself, stand there and accept your child exactly as he/she is. Even if the child is crying, you should only listen. No punishments, no rewards just listen.
I fully understand you if you can’t listen to your child when is crying or is yelling, or hits you or is having a tantrum. I started to read and learn more about these issues because I faced all of them. I requested help and received help. If you need support, or you need somebody to listen to you, just search for assistance. When someone listens to you, you simply start to view some aspect of your life in a different light.
I will give a short example of me making one quick connection sprint of 12 minutes with my daughter.

My daughter: Do you want to play with me?
Me: Yes, after dinner. We can do whatever you want for 12 minutes.
My daughter: Yuppie!

And she kindly chooses first to fly the plane and be the stewardess and serve me some quinoa with vegetables. I was also the pilot and the only passenger. And after that, I was her patient at the dentist. And she was the practitioner. And she repaired a couple of my teeth with only a wood stick. After those 12 minutes had passed, we went quickly through the night routine, with my girl riding on my back and me pretending to search for the bathroom. Every laugh is a quick connector and brings a good sleep.
I know how it is to be in a rush. No time for anything. But if you start to use these connection sprints, everybody in the family will be happier.


For the older kids, you should not announce the connection sprint. You are just there and stay close say as few as it is possible. You can also use active listening. About active listening I’m going to write another article.



Without connecting with our kids, we do not know what’s going on in their lives. Without understanding what is going on in your child’s life, you can’t help in any circumstances.
If you do not listen to your child when he\she is saying wrong things, you send a message that you love your child conditionally: that means you turn up the affection when is good, withhold affection when is not. You can ask yourself: Is my child testing me to see if I love him?
If you are reasoning a lot when he is upset, give directions, give bribes just to forget the upset, the message is the same. In the child’s mind, one question is repeated: I am not worth loving?
Loving you child only when he\she behaves well, can cause a lot of stress to your kid. Recent studies have shown that later on in adulthood, severe health issues like alcohol addiction, asthma, bruxism, or autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or multiple sclerosis are triggered among other factors by early childhood experiences of conditional love.
Parents should not forget that when the child behaviour is awkward, the child mostly needs love, attention and affection.

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I’m hoping that we are going to talk, but this is not happening

A couple of days ago, I met with one of my clients. It was a beautiful day, with rain and a few clouds coming and going, but with a brilliant sun shining brightly.
She was wearing long black trousers and a blue blouse. She had her long blonde hair loose, around her shoulders.
I asked her whether she wanted coffee or green tea, but she declined saying that she just wanted to start talking immediately. The reason why she wanted us to meet was that she had been feeling lonely. 
Her husband has been neglecting her for some time, actually, since their first child was born. Usually, when he comes home from the office, he kisses her and goes directly to play with the child. After dinner, the parents play with the child for a while, before giving him a bath and putting him to bed. When she is out of the junior’s room, he prepares himself for sleep or reads, and, most nights, they go to sleep without exchanging a word.  And this has lasted for more than a year now.

“- I’m almost all day alone with my child at home, and I hope that we will talk at least for a couple of minutes, but this does not happen.”

I just listened to her, and listened, and she started to cry quietly.
Looking at that woman in front of me, I remembered about a study I had recently read. A study called “The Harvard Study of Adult Development”, which tracked the lives of 724 men, for 75 years. Yes, 75 years. Year after year, these men were asked, “about their work, their home lives, their health, and of course asking all along the way without knowing how their life stories were going to turn out.”  The grand conclusion of this study was that: “Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.” That means that the persons that are still alive now after 75 years are the ones that have had good relationships with the close ones.
I’ve learned three valuable lessons about relationships from this study.

1) “…social connections are really good for us, and that loneliness kills.
It turns out that people who are more socially connected to family, to friends, to community, are happier, they’re physically healthier, and they live longer than people who are less well connected. And the experience of loneliness turns out to be toxic. People who are more isolated than they want to be from others find that they are less happy, their health declines earlier in midlife, their brain functioning declines sooner and they live shorter lives than people who are not lonely.”

Good life

I know that you, like me, use lots of applications on your phone and computer, which allow you to stay connected with the loved ones and friends: Messenger, WhatsApp, Viber, Skype, Hangouts, iMessages. Indeed, I have all of them installed. But you also need to spend time “outside” with friends, with new people, with other parents, to talk and share moments of your life. And if you also have a friend who wants from time to time to exchange some 121 listening for 10 or 20 minutes, is magnificent. We do not live in the same small little village with the people that we grew up with anymore. Having hundreds of friends on the phone or Facebook, it does not prevent you from feeling lonelier and lonelier.

2) Conflicting relationships are bad for us and unhealthy. Bad relationships with relatives, parents, brothers or sisters, high-conflict marriages can cause severe health problems.

So maintain healthy relationships by sustaining communication. Ask yourself all the time:
– Why do we communicate?
The answer is:
– To feel good and make the other feel good.
For example, the men from the study who had healthy relationships at the age of 50 were the ones who were the healthiest at the age of 80.  Good friends of mine have from time to time misunderstandings, like my wife and me also, maybe you have it from time to time, but with an invitation to emotional safety, you can pass all. What I learned from my friends is that, when they start to yell, one of them stops and says:

– “Wait a minute, we’re getting into one of those things, we’re getting into one of those spirals. I was just trying to reach for you, but I think maybe I started wrong. Maybe I’m not doing it right. I think maybe you heard criticism. I don’t want to hurt your feelings. And I don’t want to push you away. Can we start that again? Can we start that again in a way we can feel safe? That’s because I want to talk to you right now.”

Dr Sue Johnson – clinical psychologist, Author “Love Sense

That is an invitation to emotional safety and communication.
Nothing grows people like love.

3) Good, close relationships protect our brain and memories stay sharper longer.

What do you mean to protect our brain?
I will give you as an example a couple that I know well with a marriage of over 30 years. My wife and I visit them yearly, and, while we are there, suddenly they start fighting for everything. They fight about the table arrangements, about the food; they talk together at the same time. After that, they both start to yell at each other and next, we run to the door to leave. And they calm down, but the “battle” continues silently. You would say that this relationship can’t last more than a year, but the secret here is that they can count on each other every day. Especially in times of need. When one of them is sick, they are together, and their love is bigger than ever. When somebody or something hurts one of them, the other one is there to protect. They know that, no matter what, the other one is there for him or her.
So, the study discovered that being in a secure relationship with another person helps a lot to prevent an occurrence of earlier memory decline.
And yes, for any couple, the marriage doesn’t have to be smooth all the time but is important to know that you can count on each other.
Here are the lessons for all of us learned from the story from the beginning:
– If you are a home-staying parent, you should connect with other people during the day, in the evening or at the weekend;
– Do activities that you like with the child.
I know that there are not too many that you can do when the kid is small, and he/she wants all your attention, but for example go to a gym that provides childcare care or do gymnastics with your child.
– Sleep well!
Be aware that women need more sleep than men. If you don’t have a quiet place in your house where you can rest, find one.
– Maintain a healthy relationship with your spouse by sustaining communication;
You didn’t start right…, apply the invitation to emotional safety.
– Hug! at least for 20 seconds when saying “Hi” and “Goodbye”.
– Don’t forget that the stress one faces all by oneself is entirely different from the stress experienced when one has the support of someone else.

Good life is built with good relationships. Good relationships keep us happier and healthier.

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Why you should not punish your child and how to build a unique relation with him

Although many people may know me; they don’t know my recent full story. I reckon I should start writing it.
I will begin today by shortly telling you, some things about how I changed homes. My daughter, my wife and I, moved to Switzerland in June 2014. We had here a nice summer with lots of discoveries. I stayed home with my girl from the beginning, and we shared together lots of single moments.
During the first six months here, all my family visited us: our parents and my wife’s sister with her husband. Exception made one family member, who did not visit us till November 2015. He is my only brother. I’m the oldest. The age difference between us being of 11 years.
Two months ago one of his best friends moved in Zürich, and suddenly he announced me that he would visit us too, at the end of fall.

“Great! I said. He is not coming for me, but at least, I will spend some time with him, and I will have the opportunity to know him better.”

He arrived on his bike in a beautiful day of November. I put on hold all my ongoing projects in that period, and I only tried to answer to my emails so as to spend as much time together as we could. We cycled together, went hiking together, went along with my daughter at kindergarten, cooked together, went to the pool for a swim together, and we went for city sightseeing in Zug with my daughter. At the end of the week, on a cold sunny Saturday, we went to Zurich and Sunday on an excellent boat tour on the beautiful Luzern lake. My wife and I tried to make for him, those days here, a memorable vacation.
And, as long my girl was in the kindergarten, (my wife being home only in the evening as she is working full time), we had the opportunity to talk, more than we had spoken in the previous six years.
I will tell you now, how on one of those days when we were only the two of us, he began to share some thoughts:

“Once when I was in the 3rd grade, it was winter then, snow outside, cold and silence. And you were at college then. I remember that I did my homework quickly, and you checked it, as you were home that evening, and you were so proud that I finished so quickly and precisely. My thought was only to get out from my small room and go into the living room to watch TV. Then, you tried to show me something new. On a new, big notebook, you showed me something that was supposed to be doing at school one or two years from then on. You showed me nicely two times what to do, with examples, and everything, and after that, you passed me an exercise to solve it by myself. And I said:
– NO, NO, NO this is not my homework! And after that, you started to hit me on the head, in the nape and saying “You can do it!”. I said, “NO” again and you hit me again and again. And after that, you left the room furiously. “

On hearing this story, I remembered about my fights with my little brother. Fights during which was the only one who was hitting, as he was so small then to fight back. He was the one who watched me silently with anger in his eyes, but all the time stubborn. Tears came to my eyes. But I couldn’t let them go. Because now, in front of me, there was a taller and stronger man than I was at his age. He now was laughing and said to me this story with a smile on his face. Our parents never spanked us, but all my life other kids beat me at different ages between 10-17. So I become also a bully. I was living than with the fear that my little brother would suffer as I had suffered. My intention was to make him stronger and able to protect himself. Because now I am a father, and I improve my parenting skills all the time, I realised what big mistakes I made then with him. But I learned from Luise Hay to be gentle with myself. Because I did the best I could with the knowledge and understanding that I had. I wanted now to hold in my arms that eight years old boy from the story. But now no words could change anything. I also know that my younger brother was never beaten by others because he had not a stronger, but a bigger brother. An elder brother that I missed so much in my childhood.
You could imagine that I was trying to ask him to study more that night because he had potential, but his idea at that age was only to finish his homework quickly to do what he enjoyed. Math wasn’t a joy. It was only a school punishment. He did his math homework because he was afraid of the consequences of a bad grade. Now he hates math.
I promise that I will tell you more about homework and why are not suitable for school children in another article.
In a way, I consider myself lucky because I applied all the principles of the traditional parenting at an early age, with my brother. I always looked for solutions to improve my relationship with him, and I think I succeeded. But when my first child was born I knew from the beginning that the practices that I had applied till then with my brother, are not sufficient. And I had to find the ones that work well.
What was the problem with what I wanted to teach my brother?
I did not ask for his intentions. I didn’t know what he wished to do that night, and I wanted to enforce my will. Did I succeed to teach him new mathematical theories or everything new? NO.

Today I will give you my first guidelines to follow to improve your relationship with your children and not to raise kids that when they see you, they have only fear in their eyes.
  • Listen to your child needs and don’t judge

It was so simple for me to say to my brother:

“Hi! I noticed that you finished quickly. What do you want to do tonight? Do you want me to show you a new math way to solve harder exercises quicker?”

And then just to listen to the boy. Would this make a difference in our current one to one relationship?

It wasn’t easy for me and him to start talking again. Especially for him, I think. As for so many years, I did not listen to him but only judge him.

  • Don’t punish! Because you will have angry kids at home.

15 years ago, my brother couldn’t stop me. He was small and weak then. With his clenched teeth, he was saying NO and even if I continue for hours hitting him, I couldn’t convince him to do what I wanted. I do remember that at that age, around 18-year-old, my age, I stopped hitting him and didn’t spend so much time with him afterwards. His anger was deeper and bigger and with this method I never had results. But I made this mistake with my little brother. Myself being a victim of other bullies I become in the end one. I’m writing this for you but I’m also writing for him, and I hope that he realised that I made these mistakes when I was very young.

luise hay gentle

  • Don’t punish! Because you will offer a model for using the power.

At the last parents meeting at the kindergarten where my daughter goes for German classes, called “Deutsch macht spass” one of the teachers, had some reasons to said something surprisingly to me:

“- Stop being aggressive home with your children. We here, know which parents are punishing or beating their kids at home. Stop doing that!”

I said then in my mind: “Really? You know that?”.

Yes indeed, I answered myself two hours later home: The child is following at the kindergarten the education and the behaviour from home.

For example, that child can say anytime:

“Give me your toy otherwise I will push you! I am bigger than you!”

Why? Because a child knows this behaviour from a parent who used the force against him. Even verbally. Punishments are teaching the child that can pass effortlessly through life by using the power over those how are smaller or weaker.

For you to know that I’m not inventing the wheel, from a list of 20 studies that I know of the years 1957 – 2004 (majority from the United States), I picked one and here it is a chart from this discipline study.

Straus, Murray A. Beating the Devil Out of Them: Corporal Punishment in American Families and Its Effects on Children. 2nd ed. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 2001.

  • Don’t punish! Because the empathy you want to grow in your child, will die forever

A 10 years old boy, Paul, watches his favourite cartoons in the saloon. It’s 6 pm, and his three years old sister, Sofia, plays alone. She wants to play together a little bit. She goes to him and asks for a play date, with the “Here I’m leaving” game in her arms. He says “no.” She is trying again. He is saying “no” again. She comes now with “Animals and their babies” game and, this time, she presses all the buttons on the remote control till the TV is turned off. The boy pushes his sister, and she fell, and she starts crying deafeningly. Their mommy has almost finished preparing rice noodles with vegetables and Tamari sauce for dinner. She comes in a big rush. She sees the girl down and takes her in her arms. The girl starts talking through her tears and she points her brother. The boy tries to explain, but his mother sends him away. Now the boy is alone in his room. Do you think that he is thinking now in his room if her sister stopped crying or at her mother and their dinner, or he is thinking only of himself or maybe how to revenge on his sister?

I know that I will never try to convince my kids to do anything by punishing them. Don’t imagine that now I am the perfect father, and I am the perfect example for my daughter. No. I don’t want to create this image. I struggle with all the challenges that all the parents like you are struggling. These days, for example, I’m struggling with yelling. And by meeting other parents who are facing the same problems like mine, I started to say to myself that I’m not so bad as a parent, but a normal one.
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