Sometimes life can throw a curveball at us that can really catch us off guard. What seemed a perfectly normal day in the surgery suddenly took an unusual and very defining turn for me.  Suddenly all I thought was straight-forward and simple deserted me.  The mat was pulled from underneath me and I found myself on the floor scrambling to regain my footing.

I was in scientific mode explaining to this very upset mum about how to improve her 5 year old son’s dental health.  He had been brought to me in pain and many of his baby teeth were decaying.  I was explaining about the role sugar had to play in the problem and how it’s possible to make some changes.

The mother suddenly turned on the little boy, scolding him and giving out about what was happening saying things like ‘I told you about this’ and ‘how many times did I tell you’ and ‘I hope you are listening to the dentist’

Watching this child sink into the chair overwhelmed with shame and guilt while the tears streamed down his face completely broke me.   What was intended as useful information with the potential to bring positive change had become a mortal blow to the inherent self-worth of the child. Memories of my childhood flooded back with the feelings of uselessness as my mother angrily scolded with threats of punishment. I wished I had not spoken.  It was clear to me that information (notwithstanding it was scientifically based) of itself was not an answer.  In fact, information in this case had become part of the problem.  

Though the mum was undoubtedly well intentioned, her approach to solving the problem was the very reason the problem existed and served only to make the problem worse.  It was in fact, the exact opposite of what could ever work.

I realised that instant that shame and guilt were the diseases and that the cavities merely the biological expressions of these diseases.  The ‘dis-eased’ and bitter feelings of the child’s inner emotional status and the craving for ease and sweetness was the core of the behaviour and therefore the real cause of the cavities.  The child craved the sweetness of love and the diet became the substitute for what was missing.



The need for love is the core of the human condition and that unmet need is the key to growth, mental health, emotional health, and physical health, and yes, the mouth is included in that as are all the other parts of the body.  Love is therefore the core of health and happiness and the source.  Our so called ‘bad habits’ are merely pointers to the parts of us that need our love. When we condemn our habits, we condemn our fears, our anxiety, and stress.  By making the habits ‘wrong’, we actually reinforce and cement the habits in place.

Prominent Psychology expert Carl Rogers once said,

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

I find this to be true not just for ourselves as we aim to change habits but also for our children, spouses, and even friends.

When we see a habit that is not serving us, a better approach is to look more deeply and ask “What is that habit asking for?”

Surely we can bring gentleness and sweetness to ourselves and our children, so that we do not seek refuge in food, drink or other habits?  You see – all these harmful habits, eating sweets, comfort eating, sucking the thumb, or smoking – are all there because there’s a core need which is unmet.  



The habit is asking FOR something.  Instead of yelling at our kids to just, “Stop!” sucking the thumb, can we take a step back and study our children a bit more? What is sucking the thumb doing for my child?  If the lack (unmet need) is security, then provide that security until the habit dissolves. What we need to remember here is is the key to dissolving habit.

Focus on the habit and the habit gets stronger while the child disappears – or –

Focus on the child and the child gets stronger while the habit disappears.  

The habit is nothing, but the child is precious beyond words.

For a more detailed explanation please check out my book ‘Something To Chew On: A Mouth Map To Health’.  You can purchase the book from the link to the top right of this post.

Can love and gentleness really help improve your health?  

Yes, it absolutely can.  It is, in fact, the only way to health and happiness!  Understanding and wisdom are both aspects of love and knowledge and information can only be used safely when love and wisdom point the way.  That was the lesson for me in meeting this mother and son and I am grateful to them for showing me this deep truth.



My message is simply that change cannot happen in the presence of criticism or condemnation.  Acceptance, understanding and wisdom (all aspects of love) are the essential conditions for using information and knowledge safely to bring about positive change.

With gentleness, kindness, loving ourselves and others exactly where we are, we can dissolve habits that negatively affect our mental, emotional and physical health.

Now that we’ve set a good foundation, we can get into more detail about how we all can take control of the creation of our health, and beautifully and gracefully give our children the gift that we have received.

Stay tuned for more posts from me. There is plenty more to come!

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