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Kids are like cows

Kids are like cows

In the last month I have told this analogy 5 times now….  I’ve used it since my first child was born.  It’s been one of my reminders when I think things are crazy.

I have translated it into my classrooms and since a great conversation over sandwiches with friends, I now know that it is very useful in relationships as well.

So here it goes.  PS, if your cows don’t do this, it’s ok, the ones I saw did, my analogy comes from the ones I saw.  Cows are different; kids are different.  Analogy still works.

Kids are like cows.

Everyday when the rancher puts his cows out to pasture, the first thing they do is to walk the perimeter of the fence. They push against the fencing to make sure the fence is stable. They walk all the way around to make sure everything is in the same place.  Once they feel secure within their boundaries, they happily graze in the middle of the pasture. Or wherever makes them happy to graze that day, I don’t know, maybe they like the southeast side, not the middle.

But it’s the same every day.  They walk the fence every day because everyday they need the sense of security, the “today we will be safe, because yesterday all the boundaries were just like this and yesterday we were safe” feeling.  And they are content and happy to graze along once that has been established.




If there is a weak spot in the fence, they will push on it. The fear of what can come in worries them.  A rancher can tell if there’s a weak spot because a group of cows will be mooing away and pushing on it.  The rancher needs to shore up the spot; give it a little extra strength because those cows are going to remember for a while, that spot was weak, and they’ll push a little harder there until they are sure it is strong and safe.

If a cow gets out of a weak spot; if a cow gets loose, that’s bad.  We like to think, being the freedom loving adults we are, that there’s a happy little cow, all free and full of “let’s get out of here”.  But the truth is the rancher knows that a loose cow is one of the most dangerous.  They spook easily.  They’ll charge.  They are in fright or flight because they don’t where they are, where home is, what is out there to get them.  Nothing is familiar and they are scared not happy.  The rancher has to be very careful until the cow is caught and tethered and led back to the corral.

Kids are the same. They require boundaries.  Rules and stability are necessary for happy children.  Boundaries are security.  The stability that boundaries give creates a sense of safety that children need in order to do all the other growing and learning they need to do.  Their minds can focus on learning instead of what might happen next.  And every day they are going to walk the fence to make sure that it’s stable; that it remains the same strong perimeter within which they can thrive.  Every day they are going to test that the boundaries remain the same and remain strong.

Kids who don’t have that safety are constantly testing, constantly pushing on the weak spots.  It’s a fear of the unknown that causes that pushing.  They are trying to figure out at what point the boundary is stable.  When there are no rules, or the rules change, or the consequences change, or it’s not followed through with, those are weak spots.  Those things aren’t built right.  That’s the ranchers/ adults problem, not the cows/kids.

Kids that get out of a weak spot aren’t happy out there.  They spook easily.  They don’t even realize they are in fright or flight, they just know that there is a lot of unknown happening.

The children aren’t bad children for testing, we are not doing a good job of adult-ing if there is excessive testing happening.  That means we’ve created a weak spot.  It doesn’t matter if you “tell” a child something 50 times today.  If you aren’t following through, if you aren’t leading by example, if you haven’t done the adult part, the child can’t learn it because it isn’t safe to learn it.

They learn by what they observe, not by what they are told.  Any teacher can tell you that they can explain what to do very, very carefully, with explicit detail and instruction- but if they don’t demonstrate before giving out the materials, at least 2/3 of the class will do it wrong.  Every time.  Boundaries and consequences have to be demonstrated and adhered to in order to work and stop any pushing.

My daughter got upset with me one night.  She wanted to stay out later than her 10pm curfew.  I wasn’t backing down.  She told me, “all the kids will think I’m lame.”   “So,”  I told her, “blame it on me.  They all know I’m strict.  I can take the hit on this one.  It’s ok.”

They don’t want to look like they are happy in their pasture, that’s ok.  They still appreciate the safety more than they like to bellyache about the confines of it.  They’ll be happier adults.  And frankly, that’s our job – to help them become good, happy, productive, thinking, self-motivated, honest adults.

Does that mean more work for us?  You better freaking believe it.  We took on the job of raising these guys, we don’t get to half ass it.  I never left the house without the knowledge that I may not complete the task I left for.  If one of them misbehaved, we went home, period.  Not after I finished the errand, right then.  I didn’t get to finish a movie or two.  They had to eat leftovers, again, because we didn’t get to finish our shopping.  Did I have to miss my TV shows once in a while, before dvr even?  Yep.  And I knew I had to do it without being angry.  I can’t be angry that I am keeping my boundaries strong.  I can’t be angry that they are testing.  That’s their world we’re shaping, all of us.  What their personal pasture looks like when they are adults comes as much from what they choose to test as how strong I’ve kept their safety net.

Am I a perfect mom? No. I’ve screwed up lots of stuff, but as I meander through my life and try to sort out what I could have done differently, what lessons I didn’t learn the way I should have; I also have to see the things I did right.  Perfect mom, no.  Great mom?


I did far more good than bad, and very literally because I reminded myself all the time that kids are like cows.

And through the wonderful sandwich conversation, adults are also like cows.  But that is for another post.  I will give you the new theme that came from it though:

Boundaries: the NICE thing to do

UPDATE KAZAKHSTAN:  We should know more in the next week.  That is the best I have for now.


Posted by on 16/10/2015 in Uncategorized


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Stupid Phrases for People in Crisis

This is a wonderful piece.



  1. God will never give you more than you can handle. While some may believe it is theologically correct, depending on your definitions, it is singularly unhelpful to the person who is neck-deep in a crisis, trying to swim against a Tsunami. A wonderful phrase recently came from Support for Special Needs. They suggest changing this from “God will never give you more than you can handle” to “Let me come over and help you do some laundry.” This strikes me as even more theologically correct.
  2. It gets better. Yes, yes it does. But right then, it’s not better.And before it gets better, it may get way worse.
  3. When God shuts a door, he opens a window.Maybe, but maybe not. Maybe he just shuts a door. Maybe there is no window. There was no window for Job. There was a cosmic battle that raged as he sat in distress. There…

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Posted by on 11/10/2015 in Uncategorized


7 Things Successful Leaders Ignore

Source: 7 Things Successful Leaders Ignore

As always, I love the advice this wonderful man gives.  Leaders are not always a boss.  Moms and Dads are leaders.  Big sisters and brothers, and aunts and uncles, and neighbors are leaders.  Teachers are leaders.

Sometimes we forget that we are supposed to be leading, and not making, not pushing, not coercing, not begging.  And we need to teach our children not to be the “I told you so’s and the insulters.

I find these examples very good for all aspects of leadership, not just in the workplace.

Thanks again Dan for great insight!

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Posted by on 08/09/2015 in Uncategorized


I don’t break

I don’t break

I still don’t break.

Sven still has my painting and I will probably never see it again, but my theme remains solid, my art is my life, I don’t break.

Mariflies's Blog

The first night

20130926_175202 The second night, adding shading where I want the pheonix to be

20130926_213744 part 3 starting the pheonix

20130926_213857 4

20130926_223610 5 adding in gold

20130927_190612 6 a little more

20130929_093115 8 orange?? maybe not

20130928_011441 7 a little fuller

20131001_232135 9 toning down the orange

20130929_103700 10 body detail

20131002_174215 11 add in the face

20131013_114300 12 hmmmmm the face of the pheonix needs more…..

20131026_185610 13 there we go

20131004_000247 14 the face

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Posted by on 01/09/2015 in Uncategorized


In a henna place

Not sure why, but my distractability has produced these…





So there they are. Enjoy.

Peace and love everyone

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Posted by on 14/08/2015 in Uncategorized


It bit me on the chin

So I’m rerunning this one. As I prep for a new place, I am remembering one night early into my time in Taiwan. I wrote this at something like 3am. The moment felt so good I had to write about it right then!
I hope you enjoy reading about that night as much as I enjoy remembering it.

Mariflies's Blog

English: A mosquito sucking blood from a human... English: A mosquito sucking blood from a human host. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My nightly mosquito hunt genuinely pissed me off last night/ this morning!  I knew I’d seen one but I couldn’t find it.  I hunted for an hour.

Then I said, “well maybe I’m just being paranoid”, and sat down to write my Ode to Dan and Kenny.  I am sincerely grateful for how my experiences at TEFL WWP helped me get through this week at school!

Just as I was finishing the last few remarks, the back of my neck started hurting.  Not too unusual for my neck.  I rubbed it a little, finished my post and rubbed it again because it had begun hurting more.  I felt a weird lump and went to look in the mirror.

Sure enough, there in the back of my neck were twomosquito bites swelling up across the back of my…

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Posted by on 13/08/2015 in Uncategorized


A work in progress

Working through the stuff means I need a release.  Painting makes me happy.

It was my dad’s birthday yesterday.  I got started a little late, but better late than never, on his birthday gift; a combo of end of trail and dragons, two of his favorite things.




And a couple beautiful sunset pictures from after birthday dinner.



Life is bigger, it’s bigger than you and you are not me.
Oh no I’ve said too much, I haven’t said enough.
Words of wisdom.
Let em sink in.


Posted by on 07/08/2015 in Uncategorized


Domestic Violence is Not a Men’s Issue But Not for the Reason You Think

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Posted by on 30/07/2015 in Uncategorized


I may

Not be able to change everything tomorrow.


I can’t change anything tomorrow if I don’t start today.

Let’s begin then shall we?


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Posted by on 22/07/2015 in Uncategorized


Lovin the weekend work

I’ve been in Montana for a month.  I’ve done a lot of healing and growing.
More specifics another time.

Today I’m grateful for all the people that came and got their face painted.  My resources to go back to teaching are coming together.

It’s been a good day.  Here’s a small sampling from this morning.  By the afternoon I was so busy there wasn’t time for photos. 

I really love being around positive people. 














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Posted by on 19/07/2015 in Uncategorized

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