Love, work and police: pronouncing the letter ‘o’.

About Words - Cambridge Dictionaries Online blog

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by Liz Walter

Pronunciation is one of the hardest things to master in English. Today I’m going to look at the letter ‘o’ and concentrate on some common pronunciation errors.

Most students have no problem with the short vowel sound /ɒ/ found in British English in words such as hot, boss and across. (Americans pronounce this as a longer sound /ɑː/.) Students also generally understand how adding an ‘e’ to the end of a word leads to a longer sound /əʊ/ (UK) /oʊ/ (US), for instance hop/hope, not/note.

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One of the parenting’s most challenging opportunities

Often in circumstances where it is necessary for a parent to discipline a child, the parent’s own anger or frustration comes through in lieu of healthy guidance and direction. At these times, we hear words we never thought we’d say coming out of our mouths: “Because I say so!” “If you don’t do it, you are going to be in big trouble!” “Get out of my sight!” “You’re driving me crazy!” Here we are, trying to get our kids to control their actions, and we are feeling out of control ourselves. We need to shift our focus from our over-reactions to our children and to what’s going on that might be causing them to act out. How does a parent shift from being effected negatively by their children to having a positive effect on them?

How to calm down:

Experts recommend that when adults have problems handling their anger toward children, they give themselves a period of time to cool off. Parents can take a “Time Out,” too. By stepping back from the interaction with the child and slowly counting backwards from 20 to zero, the parent can calm down. They can then distract the kid with some other activity, or if he is still upset, they can temporarily leave him in someone else’s hands. Later on, parents can think about why they were so angry and examine the emotions their children triggered in them. By gaining insight into their over-reactions, they can better understand themselves as people and develop as parents.

There is never a circumstance extreme enough to warrant physical discipline of a child. Parents can effectively teach a kid right from wrong without resorting to hitting, spanking, beating or violently shaking the child. Adults who are assertive and powerful in their own lives can effectively stop their children’s annoying behaviors with words.

Discipline and punishment should never be reflective of parents’ mood swings. Parents must be sensitive to the fact that when adults get angry, kids perceive them as big and frightening. When an adult’s anger toward a child gets out of control, the child experiences the intensity of the anger as being life-threatening. At these times of extreme stress, with no other options available for coping with the parental threat, kids react by disconnecting from themselves. This type of disassociation causes the most serious damage to the psyche of a person.

How to discipline a child:

Discipline should not be regarded as a psychological penal system whose purpose is to punish a child for being bad. Discipline should not serve as a form of punishment at all but should operate as a form of teaching. The root word of discipline is “disciple: to follow a leader or role model.” The purpose of discipline is to help teach a child to be the kind of person who likes him/herself, as well as the kind of person that other people, including the parents, like, respect, and enjoy being with. When disciplining children, the focus of the adults should always be on teaching their children. There are several important lessons to teach children when disciplining them.

While disciplining a child, it is very important to make the child aware that the parent is angry at the child’s behavior, not at the child. The parent must make a clear distinction between the child and the child’s behavior. The child must realize that when the parent dislikes a child’s behavior, it does not mean that the parent dislikes the child. By making this important distinction, the parent is conveying that the child is not essentially a bad person. Rather it is his/her behavior, which the child can be change, that is unacceptable.

If children are acting out toward other kids, try to help them put themselves in the other child’s position and see how they made them feel. Help your kids relate to the feelings they would feel if they were in the other child’s position. This will help the child develop emotional intelligence. Just telling kids to say sorry will not teach them to feel remorseful, but thinking about how they would feel does.

When the child responds to the discipline and stops the negative behavior, the sensitive parent responds appropriately to the change in the child’s mood and behavior. The parent’s angry feelings are naturally altered and the parent feels positively toward the child. At this point, it is valuable for the adult to commend the child for responding to the discipline. The child will feel supported and cared for by the parent.

After the child’s negative behavior has been controlled, it is valuable for the parent and child to discuss what happened. It is important for the child to understand why he/she was being disciplined otherwise he/she will learn nothing from the interaction. Both parent and child can have a calm, reasonable conversation about what the child did and why the parent was angry at the behavior. The parent should be friendly and caring in the conversation. He/she should explain what he/she objected to in the child’s behavior. The parent should not harbor any vindictive feelings toward the child. The parent shouldn’t labor the point. Once it is clear that the child understands why he/she was disciplined, the conversation should move on.

Finally, after the child has been disciplined, the adult should reassure the child that he/she is not bad. A child should never go away from a disciplinary interaction feeling that he/she is a bad person. Parents should be affectionate with the child. They should tell the child that he/she is a good kid. Parents should explain to children that it is never appropriate to hate one’s self for wrong-doing: Why hate yourself? It isn’t you that is being criticized. It is your behavior and that can be changed!! Therefore, the appropriate reaction to discipline or criticism is obvious and simple: change your behavior in the future.

How to help a child change their negative behavior:

For many parents, the disciplinary process ends when the negative behavior ends. However, these parents are stopping short and missing out on a valuable part of the disciplinary interaction between adult and child. At this point, parents have the opportunity to teach their child the most. Therefore, this can be the most beneficial and constructive time for child.

Once the child realizes that he/she can change the behavior being criticized, the parents can help the child plan how to go about changing it. Now that the episode is over, the parent and child can discuss the incident with compassion and objectivity. They can review what happened leading up to the child’s misbehavior as well as the misbehavior itself. Together they can lay out a plan for a different course of action when similar situations occur in the future.

At this point, it is important for the parent to explain to the child that there is a difference between feelings and actions. There are no restrictions on what a person feels. People have the right to whatever feelings they have. There are no bad feelings, no unacceptable feelings, no hurtful feelings. However, people are responsible for their actions. People do not have the right to act freely when their actions hurt themselves or other people.

Therefore, when a parent and child are planning a different course of action for the child’s behavior, it is best for them to address the child’s feelings and actions separately. First, they must freely explore the child’s feelings and emotions. Then they must focus on controlling the child’s actions.

Exploring feelings:

The parent and child can begin by reviewing the incidents and emotions that led up to the negative behavior. Parents should encourage children to be as specific as possible about their feelings. When a child speaks of feeling bad or angry or sad, ask what did that feel like? Did you feel frustrated, humiliated, provoked, misunderstood, paranoid, or jealous? Why do you think you felt that way? Have you had those feelings before? Often? Do they typically precede your negative behavior?

Parents can ask children to describe the feelings they were having while they were misbehaving. Again, parents should encourage children to be specific. Suggest that children say everything that comes to mind. Remind them that all feelings are acceptable. The parent can ask the child what he/she thinks of the feelings and reactions he/she had. In hindsight, do they seem like reasonable reactions to a reasonable situation? Do they seem like over-reactions? Do they remind you of other reactions you have had? Do they seem like reactions that really had to do with another situation? With another relationship? With another time in your life?

Planning Actions:

As the parent and child review the feelings and reactions that activated the child’s misbehavior, they can pinpoint the emotional triggers to be on the look-out for. In the future, by spotting these emotional triggers early, the child can choose not to act on the feelings, thereby heading off the negative behavior before it erupts.

When children examine how they felt when they were misbehaving, they develop an objective point-of-view about themselves and their anger that they can refer back to if they find themselves behaving badly again. They can be reminded by the parent, “Remember, this is what you talked about not wanting to do again. Remember what you said about yourself in this type of situation when we talked?” Or they can remind themselves, “Oh, no. How did I get in this situation again? What was it I wanted to remember when this happened again?” These questions encourage children to step back and think, and not to just lose themselves in their emotional reactions and negative behavior.

The parent who shows a child how to change a negative behavior has moved beyond merely serving as a disciplinarian for the child. This parent has formed an alliance with the child and they are now on the same side, working together to change a behavior and improve the quality of the child’s life. In teaching the child how to control negative behavior, the parent is teaching the child one of life’s most valuable skills: self-control.

To be resilient, face tragedy with humour and flexibility

To be resilient, face tragedy with humour and flexibility

People who are resilient tend to be flexible – flexible in the way that they think about challenges, and flexible in the way that they react emotionally to stress. They are not wedded to a specific style of coping. Instead, they shift from one coping strategy to another depending upon the circumstances. Many are able to accept what they cannot change; to learn from failure; to use emotions such as grief and anger to fuel compassion and courage; and to search for opportunity and meaning in adversity.

As the American entrepreneur and motivational speaker Pete Koerner observes: ‘Life=change. If you’re changing anyway, why not change for the better? Better or worse are your only choices; you can’t stay where you are forever.’

As a young man, Jerry White was a Judaic Studies major at Brown University in Rhode Island. He had a particular interest in the teachings of Jesus Christ, so in 1984 during his junior year he chose to study in Israel. He was hiking with two friends in the Golan Heights when an explosion knocked him off his feet. Blood poured from his leg, the skin was shredded and charred, and splinters of bone were covered with dirt and blood. ‘Where’s my foot?’ he screamed. As he lay injured, his friends removed their own shirts, wrapped one over Jerry’s stump, and tied a makeshift tourniquet around the injured leg. Ultimately, an Israeli man from a nearby kibbutz came to their aid.

White went on to co-found the International Landmine Survivors Network (since renamed Survivor Corps). Thirteen years after he lost his foot in Israel, he was among a coalition of activists awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in honour of their work on the international campaign to ban landmines.

How did White progress from victim to ‘super-survivor’? He answers these questions in five steps in his book, I Will Not Be Broken (2008): 1) face facts: accept what has happened; 2) choose life: live for the future, not in the past; 3) reach out: connect with other survivors; 4) get moving: set goals and take action; and 5) give back: service and acts of kindness empower the survivor to be an asset rather than a victim.

White’s story is an example of what numerous researchers have found. As Donald Campbell, professor emeritus at the US Military Academy at West Point, and colleagues have found, ‘Rather than seeing themselves as victims of a terrible and mindless fate, resilient people and groups devise ways to frame their misfortune in a more personally understandable way, and this serves to protect them from being overwhelmed by difficulties in the present.’

An important component of cognitive flexibility is accepting the reality of our situation, even if that situation is frightening or painful. To remain effectively engaged in problem-oriented and goal-directed coping, we must keep our eyes ‘wide open’, and acknowledge, rather than ignore, potential roadblocks. Avoidance and denial are generally counterproductive mechanisms that can help people for a while, but ultimately stand in the way of growth, interfering with the ability to actively solve problems.

In the scientific literature, acceptance has been cited as a key ingredient in the ability to tolerate highly stressful situations. This has been cited among survivors of extreme environmental hardship and threats to life, among highly successful learning-disabled adults, and among individuals with a variety of medical and mental disorders. In a survey of individuals shortly after the terrorist attacks on the United States of 11 September 2001, researchers found reduced levels of post-traumatic stress symptoms in those who accepted the situation. In a study of mothers whose children had life-threatening cancer and were undergoing bone transplants, those who accepted the situation reported fewer symptoms of depression.

Another ingredient of resilience is the ability to reappraise a situation – a skill called cognitive reappraisal. Several years ago, while conducting a study on the psychological and neurobiological consequences of the Holocaust, a colleague asked an elderly survivor of the Nazi concentration camps if she had ever dreamed about her experience. ‘Oh yes,’ the woman replied. ‘I’ve never stopped dreaming about those times. I just had a dream the other night.’

Our colleague replied: ‘My goodness, it must be horrible to still have those nightmares after all those years.’

‘Oh no,’ the woman said. ‘It’s OK. It’s OK because when I awaken, I know that I’m here and not there.’

Positive reappraisal requires us to find alternative positive meaning for neutral or negative events, situations and/or beliefs. In reviewing an extensive scientific literature on cognitive strategies to regulate emotion, the psychologists Allison Troy and Iris Mauss at the University of Denver propose that positive cognitive reappraisal fosters resilience through its effect on negative emotions. More specifically, reappraising the meaning of a stressful event as less negative or more positive changes emotional reactions to the event and results in a more adaptive and resilient response.

We can take cues from those around us to help us interpret (or reinterpret) our own experiences in a more positive light. For example, in the workplace, a manager or supervisor might point out the positive aspects of an adverse situation or event, providing employees with cognitive and emotional tools to view the adversity as a challenge.

Resilience demands the emotional stability to handle failure, what the late US Navy vice-admiral James Stockdale referred to as the ‘ability to meet personal defeat with neither the defect of emotional paralysis and withdrawal, nor the excess lashing-out at scapegoats or inventing escapist solutions’. In our experience, people who are resilient generally meet failure head-on and use it as an opportunity to learn and to self-correct.

Recent research on coping has shown that successful adaptation depends less on which specific strategies people adopt than on whether they are applying coping strategies flexibly depending on the nature of the stressor. Sometimes it is wise to accept and tolerate a situation, while at other times it is best to change it. Similarly, emotion theorists argue that expression of emotion is not necessarily better than suppression. What helps people to cope is having the ability to express or suppress emotions in accordance with the demands of a given situation.

Humour helps, too. In his book Man’s Search for Meaning (1946), Viktor Frankl refers to humour as ‘another of the soul’s weapons in the fight for self-preservation. It is well-known that humour, more than anything else in the human make-up, can afford an aloofness and an ability to rise above any situation, even if only for a few seconds.’

Like other positive emotions, humour tends to broaden one’s focus of attention and thereby foster exploration, creativity and flexibility in thinking. Humour can also serve as a tool to help us face our fears. It provides distance and perspective, but does so without denying pain or fear. It manages to present the positive and negative wrapped into one package. As the Frankl scholar Ann Graber puts it, humour combines ‘optimism with a realistic look at the tragic’. Without Pollyanna-like optimism, humour can actively confront, proactively reframe, and at times transform the tragic.

In sum, people who are resilient tend to be flexible; they know when to accept that which cannot be changed and how to positively reframe life’s challenges and failures; they use humour to reframe the tragic and that which is frightening; and they regulate their emotions, sometimes suppressing feelings and at other times expressing them. Resilience requires creativity and flexibility: the creativity to explore multiple viewpoints and the flexibility to embrace a positive but realistic assessment – or reassessment – of a challenging situation.

Observant or blissfully unaware? (Noticing and not noticing things)

About Words - Cambridge Dictionaries Online blog

Besim Mazhiqi / Moment / Getty Images

by Kate Woodford

Are you observant? (Do you usually notice what’s happening around you?) This week we’re thinking about words and phrases in this area.

A really useful word is the verb spot. If you spot something or someone that interests you, you notice them, often when you are trying to see them: I spotted Tom in the crowd. / Police spotted him leaving the building.

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Getting the hang of it (Words and phrases for getting used to things)

About Words - Cambridge Dictionaries Online blog

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by Kate Woodford

Getting used to things is a part of life. We all deal with situations, tasks or tools that are new to us. At first, they may seem difficult or strange. With time or practice, they become familiar and normal.  In this blog, we look at the language for expressing this idea.

Starting with single words, if you familiarize yourself with something that you don’t know about, you intentionally learn about it, usually to prepare for something: I need to familiarize myself with the new software. If you acclimatize, you become familiar with different weather or surroundings so that you are able to deal with them: More time will be needed for the troops to acclimatize to the desert conditions.

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Are you a glass-half-full person? (Everyday Idioms)

About Words - Cambridge Dictionaries Online blog

by Kate Woodford
A reader of this blog recently asked for a post on idioms that are used in everyday English. This seemed like a reasonable request. After all, if you are going to make the effort to learn a set of English idioms, you want those idioms to be useful. The question, then, was how to decide which idioms to write about. There are a great number of idioms in the English language, but some are rarely used. In the end, I decided to keep an idioms diary for a week, and make a note of any idioms that I heard people use in conversation. From this set of idioms, I chose a few that I considered to be common in contemporary, conversational English and have presented them here.

Early in the week, a radio presenter told his colleague that she was ‘opening up a can of…

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Do you have what it takes? (Everyday idioms in newspapers)

About Words - Cambridge Dictionaries Online blog

by Kate Woodford​
As part of an occasional series on the subject of common idioms, we recently posted a blog which featured the idioms which we heard in spoken English during the course of a week. This week, we’re taking a different approach, picking out the idioms used in a range of national newspapers that were published on the same day. As with the previous post, we have only included the most frequent idioms – in other words, the sort of phrases that you are likely to hear or read nowadays.

One newspaper reports that a politician has criticized doctors as a group, claiming that they do not understand how their patients suffer when they wait a long time to be treated. Doctors, the politician complains, are ‘out of touch’.  To be out of touch is to not have the most recent information about a subject or a…

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