Vacation Like The Elite

By Dr Hans Watson DO


I was about 12 years old when my family took one of my favorite vacations.  The positive impact of that vacation lasted for years.  Without realizing it, this vacation helped me to puget soundlove learning.  It resulted in improved efforts in school, enhanced relationships with family, changed my approach to money management, and increased my willingness to work.  Moreover, the rest of my family had a similar experience. 

You may be wondering what vacation spot left this lasting impression.  Was it a beach in Hawaii, Florida or Mexico?  Was it the mountains or cities of Europe? Was it a trip to Asia, the Middle East or the national parks of Utah?  No, it was a limited budget trip to rainy Ft Lewis Washington to visit an uncle and his family. 

For most, a vacation is just a break from the routine and not something that impacts a young life.  Why was this trip so impactful?  The way my parents prepared was the key.  They recognized the vacation could be a casual environment where learning was fun and still a break from the normal world.

My mom was particularly skilled at inspiring and working with curiosity.  She considered each child’s personality and then watched for opportunities to get each one of us involved in planning and learning.  One example was when I asked how long the drive would be.  Instead of giving a direct answer, she explained that it depended on the skill of the navigator and the route picked.  That answer inspired me to find an atlas and identify the fastest route.  With her help, I learned to judge distance on a map, estimate time of the drive and identify potential rest stops along the way.  Even though a direct answer would have been easier, she would have missed the opportunity to let life teach me the lesson that learning can be fun.  Now, necessity required some questions be answered directly, but whenever possible answers were curiosity inspiring. 

My mom recently indicated that the results were worth the extra efforts.  Instead of asking when we would be there, I was excited for each leg of the drive and watched for cities on our route.  I gave unsolicited progress updates to the entire car, but I was enjoying the long drive and continued my hunger for learning.  Our research extended past the route for driving.  Other siblings used the encyclopedia to learn about cities, landmarks, activities in the Ft Lewis area and more.  The most impressive part was that we didn’t realize that mom and dad were purposely inspiring us to be curious and investigate.

My parents recognized that, if learning was to remain enjoyable, our efforts investigating needed to be rewarded.  They rewarded our efforts by allowing the children to contribute to the plans for transportation, budget and accommodations.  On the drive from Utah to Washington and back they were good sports.  We suggested ways to save money that included sleeping in the van one night, another night all 9 of us in two low budget hotel rooms, and once we even drove through the night (in spite of my father’s current back pains).  Our contributions to the plan influenced dad to keep driving while we ate sandwiches and fruit on the road as a way to “make good time” to the next landmark. 

My parents also rewarded our efforts by allowing us to contribute to the destination itinerary.  We chose some activities that were not typical tourist destinations.  At my request, we toured parts of the base.  Others requested to tour a brewery or go on a picnic.  We were rewarded and allowed to contribute to the plans, but my parents maintained their roles.  They ensured there was an activity for everyone and that activities were reasonable.  This resulted in a fishing adventure in the Puget Sound, visiting the observation deck on the Space Needle and touring a children’s museum.  Throughout the trip we did have a few unhappy moments, but overall everyone remained happy and got along.  Because we each contributed to part of the itinerary, we all bought into the idea that we needed to support other’s events to gain support for our own event.  Overall, we were more engaged on that trip than any other I can remember.

We returned from the vacation and eventually the summer ended but the effects of learning from that trip reached into the school year.  My mom recounted how my little brother was in science and the topic was marine life.  He quickly asked permission and shared his experience catching a shark on our summer vacation.   His knowledge of the Puget Sound allowed this topic to come alive for him and members of the class.  Because he had been casually learning on the trip and was able to bring that knowledge into the classroom, he remained excited with the topic and science in general.  This enthusiasm resulted in the teacher appreciating his efforts and a connection with that teacher was formed.  This connection helped him to stay motivated and continue learning throughout the year.  Similar experiences happened to each family member. 

Today, when I plan a vacation, I often reflect on my life and how blessed I am in my current situation.  I contemplate the opportunities presented to me and always find that a love of learning and education is the key to all success.  I am grateful that my parents used a vacation to casually teach me.  (Not to mention that their approach made the vacation more memorable.)  It helped foster a pattern of lifetime learning that still benefits me daily.

As you plan a vacation this summer, realize that the destination is not the most important tthing.  Your child’s enjoyment on the trip will increase if you make the extra effor to inspire curiosity and learning.  It might be the opportunity of a lifetime.  

Parenting versus Mentoring

Why encouraging a child to find a mentor is actually a gesture of love and sacrifice

Part 2 of 2

By Dr. Hans Watson D.O. President University Excel and 

Tafta Watson, MA Education/Behavioral Disorders


Click here to read part 1 of 2


Many parents indicate that they hope their children enjoy “a little better standard of living” than they did.  As parents, we hope our children will take the good things we demonstrate and improve upon our weaknesses.  We want our children to have the insight necessary to recognize our strengths, avoid our weaknesses, and be able to internalize those lessons.  This insight is something that must be taught. However, it is often only taught by example.  In part 1 of 2 we discussed how parents sometimes unconsciously miss the opportunity to evaluate and overcome these weaknesses.

To address our own shortcomings and then to teach our children to do the same is an important lesson.  Willingness to self-evaluate and change is necessary to succeed in family life, professional life, social life and everywhere else.  This often means recognizing unconscious forces and analyzing whether they need to be changed or embraced.  So how do we do this?


The first step in educating our unconscious mind is to recognize that we have unconscious thoughts and desires.  Then you can evaluate these thoughts one at a time by asking the following questions.  Is it a realistic thought or idea? Is it likely to happen?  Should we keep this thought or change it?  Let’s do this exercise with our example from the last article of getting a mentor for your child.

We can recognize the unconscious thoughts that having a mentor seems to transfer all credit to the mentor.  We can also acknolwledge that getting a mentor unconciously feels like a form of pushing the child out of the home early.  In most cases this is not realistic.  Though our unconscious thoughts indicate such, getting a mentor won’t have the effects we believe.  Our children aren’t going anywhere yet and we as parents aren’t detaching ourselves from the process.  Instead, we will work closely with the mentor and be informed of all activities performed by the mentor.  We are still child's only parents and the mentor is someone who is supporting us.  These negative, unconscious thoughts are not realistic.  Moreover, the worst case scenario of the menor taking the parents place is not likely to happen.   This example shows thoughts that needs to be altered.  In other words, we need to educate our unconscious mind.

After acknowledging and analyzing our unconscious thoughts, we can replace them with more accurate and realistic thoughts.  We can recognize that getting a mentor will be a support to us as parents, not replace us.  We can also understand that getting a mentor will not force our child to leave home prematurely; it will start the process of preparing them to succeed when they do choose to leave.  By replacing our inaccurate thoughts with realistic thoughts, we educate our unconscious mind and empower our children. 

Evaluating unconscious thoughts is an extremely important skill to becoming an elite parent and child.  Equally important is our responsibility as parents to include our children (where appropriate) in the process of analyzing our thoughts and changing them.  Let them see that one of their parent’s strengths is the ability to learn and change.  While failure to learn this lesson will stop anyone from becoming elite; application of this lesson creates more elite individuals, closer families and enables more success than any other lesson learned. 

So challenge your negative unconscious thoughts, start with Step #1.  Help your child get a mentor. 

Like us on Facebook or Follow us on Twitter @universityexcel

Parenting versus Mentoring

Why encouraging a child to find a mentor is actually a gesture of love and sacrifice

Part 1 of 2

By Dr. Hans Watson D.O. President University Excel and 

Tafta Watson, MA Education/Behavioral Disorders


When I am “out and about”, sometimes I meet parents that recognize me as an instructor for University Excel.  While conversing with the parents, I am often told how much their child’s thinking has changed since attending the seminar.  These parents usually indicate their child demonstrates increased goal-directed thinking, actions and even new motivation in other areas.  Often this leads to discussing the college prep plan given during the seminar.  It’s always encouraging as they tell how their child is doing at steps 2 and beyond in the plan.  However, our discussion inevitably return to the first step, ”Finding a Mentor”, as a way to maintain their progress from step 2 and beyond.  (I explain why this is the first step in another blog post). 

Though every parent indicates a desire to help their children complete step 1, many parents struggle to emphasize this step to their children.  Explanations of why range from, “I am happy with my childs current changes” to “I don’t know why we haven’t done that one yet".  Regardless of the reason, many parents find step 1 more difficult to complete than all other steps.  After hearing this a few times, I started to wonder why this step was so difficult.  Then my inner psychotherapist came out.  I spent time analyzing what was going on and realized that blaming the parents would be an incorrect and shallow conclusion.  Let me explain with a few points.

First, parenting is arguably the most difficult job in the world.  Good parenting always requires sacrificing personal comforts, many of your hobbies and most of your income.  Involved parents will work themselves to exhaustion, cry with frustration, second guess themselves and worry.  However, for all the negative and difficult emotions there is nothing more rewarding than seeing a child succeed due to your efforts and sacrifices as a parent.  In most cases, this is the reward parents seek for their efforts. 

leave the nest


Second, a child “leaving the nest to fly on their own” is often one of the scariest situations a parent faces.  Life is difficult and parents understand how quickly life can change because of a single decision.  Parents fear that their children might make the same mistakes that they made as a youth.  This situation is buoyed by the parent's hope that their efforts to teach sound thinking and intelligent actions will prevail in their children.  In many ways, the parents are enduring a curse of having the experiences and insight that come with maturity. 


By combining the prior two points, we see that parents are trying to protect themselves and their children by not finding a mentor.  Let me explain by taking you into the unconscious mind of a parent. 

Read more: Parenting versus Mentoring Part 1