MaryangelaOne of my mother’s oft repeated admonishments used to infuriate me: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

Of course, I’m sure I was annoyed because “not nice things” must have been coming from my mouth.

Fast forward some 30 years later, and guess what? I find myself often saying that very same thing to my three daughters who are squabbling among themselves over something very inconsequential or talking negatively about someone else.

Like most parents, I frequently – and subconsciously – repeat the advice that had been doled out by my mom and dad. Other favorites: “Treat others the way you want to be treated,” and “Work it out among yourselves” when my daughters want me to take sides during one of their arguments.

Some years ago, as a young parent reading parenting articles, I remember feeling overwhelmed, wondering how I would be able to say the right things or make the right parenting choices throughout their growing up years. But as time has gone by, I realize that so often the decisions we make or things we say as parents are based on learned behavior. The way in which we were brought up is likely the biggest influence in how we will be as parents to our own children.

If we were raised with love, patience, kindness and respect, we’ll likely model that behavior to our children. On the flip side, if we were raised with yelling, shouting, criticism and rudeness, our behavior will likely reflect those negative qualities.

Bill Callaghan, an Eau Claire businessman who grew up as the ninth of 11 children in a Shorewood family, realized the treasure he had in his positive, praise-filled upbringing and wants to share that successful parenting approach with others. In “Raised With Praise: How My Parents Made Me a Happy Soul,” Callaghan uses humor, stories from his past and present to suggest to readers that the key to raising happy, well-adjusted, kind, compassionate children is to “raise them with praise,” in an environment free from criticism and condemnation.

Sure, that’s easier said than done, but Callaghan’s book offers many concrete examples on how the tone of the parent’s message carries as much weight as the words he or she says.

Callaghan is not a trained author – he’ll be the first to tell you that as a youngster, he hated reading – but he felt compelled to share his message. Calling the book a tribute to his parents, Martha and Coyne Callaghan, he said, “Their approach to raising children is something special and should be shared with the world.”

Callaghan said he’s thankful for his positive outlook on life and believes his parents are responsible for instilling in him the positive approach. And it hasn’t gone unnoticed by others, he said. When a longtime acquaintance introduced him to another person, she said she had never heard Callaghan say something negative about another person.

That’s certainly a good goal for all of us.

Callaghan, 49, who lives with his wife and four children in Eau Claire and teaches religious education at Immaculate Conception Parish, Eau Claire, was in the Milwaukee area in January promoting his book. I interviewed him in the same Shorewood home in which he grew up and found his parenting advice comes from the heart. He feels blessed to have had a wonderful, faith-focused upbringing and wants to share that with others.

Sadly, about two weeks after the interview, his mother, who had been in good health, contracted pneumonia and died on Feb. 3. Yet, Callaghan sees the hand of God in the timing of his book just weeks before her death.

Read about this new author on Pages 6 and 7.

Delivering a similar message on Page 9 is Jim Pankratz. He reminds readers that being available to our children and remembering what is important to them, makes them feel loved and important.

Finally, don’t miss Annemarie Scobey-Polacheck’s column on Page 4. She offers us an update on her family’s journey through the foster parent system and hints that while the family had to give foster daughter, T, up for Lent a few years ago, the story might end happily with a “resurrection.”