Is it wrong to be thinking bad thoughts?

By Nathan Chua

I can’t remember the last time I was going to write an article, that I felt will be too long for a single blog post. This is a topic that many of my clients find to be surprising and liberating.

I often meet people who have trouble with their thoughts. Many of us imbibe what we had been taught to fear in childhood. This is what psychoanalyst Erich Fromm referred to as our authoritarian conscience, as opposed to our humanistic conscience. We may think it is our own conscience dictating what is right and wrong to us, but it is actually the voices of people in our past still ringing in our minds.

Here’s an example from another psychoanalyst, Nancy McWilliams:

“When one of my daughters was a preschooler, a nursery-school teacher promulgated the idea that virtue involved “thinking good thoughts and doing good deeds.”  This troubled her.  She was much relieved when I commented that I disagreed with her teacher and felt that thinking bad thoughts was a lot of fun, especially when one could do good deeds in spite of those thoughts.”

I often self-disclose to my clients about what this quote means to me. I tell them how many jeepney, bus and taxi drivers I have assaulted in my mind. What we confuse most of the time is that we do three things every moment. We think, we feel and we do. Most of the time we do as we think or feel. We become our thoughts and feelings. It is important that we separate the three activities. What we feel or think does not make up who we are. It is what we do that matters in the end.

Emotions are not bad. They spur us into action. Our anger helps us defend ourselves against predators and abusers. Our fear and shame tell us to stay away from harmful situations. Our guilt stirs us towards doing better in the future. Our sadness helps us say goodbye to people or things, that were not meant to be forever.

Let me end this post with a quote from the champion of unconditional positive regard, Carl Rogers:

The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I change. I believe that I have learned this from my clients as well as within my own experience – that we cannot move away from what we are, until we thoroughly accept what we are. Then change seems to come about almost unnoticed.

How to Raise Great Kids – Video Blog

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Why do teens rebel?

This presentation contains images that were used under a Creative Commons License. Click here to see the full list of images and attributions:

Why do teenagers rebel?

By Nathan Chua

Some of the biggest parenting challenges come during the teen years.  I often see parents come to me wondering whatever happened to their sweet little child.  They have become strangers now.  Ultimately there is one thing to blame for all of this, which many parents don’t quite realize that easily.  Kids grow up!

Yes, like knowing that we have a cancer that we would much rather not, realizing that our kids are no longer going to treat us like we are the center of their world, can be disheartening news for some of us.  I think it comes to what parents understand about growing up.  Much of the pattern parents follow in raising kids comes from the way they were themselves raised.  I often feel much gratification from seeing parents who come for help, and see how they can start to break this pattern of raising kids that can affect several generations to come.  Please note that I am not talking here about perfection.  Every set of parents, or parent, or guardian, would have some holes to plug.  No pressure here.

The first step to creating better relationships with our teenaged kids begins with understanding what it is like to be at this stage of the kids’ lives.

Here are some things we should know about the teen years:

No longer a child, but not yet an adult

Here’s where most of the difficulty lies.  Parents don’t know or don’t remember what the biggest struggles were when they were teens themselves.  If there was one word that can sum up the crux of the conflicts, they all arise out of the clash in the way the child and the parents interpret the word, “Freedom.”

These are the years where the leash can be lengthened.  Parents would have to learn how to balance between their children’s safety and their need to have as much fun as they can.


One of the most difficult things to talk about is…I can’t even say it.  Okay, okay, sex.  Parents are often unaware of the way they unconsciously suppress their kids’ growing urge to pair with others of their age.  It becomes even more difficult for parents who may be uncomfortable with children who display homosexual preferences in their teen years.

This is the time for parents to face up to the reality that topics of this nature are no longer avoidable.  Trying to control sexual behavior can often backfire because the more kids are made to see that something is forbidden, the more curious they become.  Remember whatever information you withhold, they are more than likely to get it somewhere else that you may not like, and later on, may even regret.  Not talking about it with the kids, does not make the urges to have sex go away.


This last factor is the most difficult, especially for parents who have no clue about just how their behaviors and attitudes affect their children.  Parents are often rattled by the sudden loss of connection they have with their kids.  They no longer prefer the safety and warmth they used to find in the company of their parents at their favorite mall.  Suddenly, there is competition with other teenagers who want to hang out in more exciting places.

One thing that most parents like to see to feel that their kids still connect with them, is for them to follow every piece of advice they give.  Sadly, many parents derive their sense of achievement in raising their kids by how much they see themselves in their children.  Sometimes parents do this unconsciously with their pent-up anger against their own caretakers in the past.

If there was again another word that can describe what our teenagers would love to get from parents at this stage, it is “Listen.”  Of course, the obvious objection to this is, many parents believe that they have tried to listen but have so far been unsuccessful.  The bad news is, “Not all listening is created equal.”  The good news is, there is a right way to listen, and it can be learned.

Kids want to connect with their parents.  It is just up to the parents to learn how that can happen in their children’s own unique way of connecting.