We moved into a new house when our children were young. Our son Keith was an angelic child who never caused any trouble, so we gave him a room at the end of the hall. We put the rowdier boys in the rooms closer to us. Years later, I found out that Keith thought we’d put him far away from us because we didn’t love him as much. When even your best intentions can go wrong, it is hard to know how to make decisions.

One way to start making decisions is by asking what effect your actions might have on the children. What would a loving mother do in your situation? If you never had a loving mother it might be difficult for you to know how a loving mother would act. In that case, think of role models who could take the loving mother's place. Ask yourself, "What would ______ do now?" Some choices might be Jesus, Buddha, Moses, Abraham, Mother Teresa, Joan of Arc, Mohammed, Confucius, Gandhi.

I sometimes look to those figures for guidance but I have also found two less renowned role models who work well for me: Don Quixote and Lassie.

Don Quixote reminds me what happens when you decide to view the world through loving eyes…. Don Quixote's love transforms the downtrodden prostitute Aldonza into the lovely lady Dulcinea. I use him when transformation is in order….

Lassie, my other role model, knows how to act tough without actually resorting to force. Lassie helps me remember that it is perfectly acceptable to defend yourself with a growl. A good growl often averts the need to bite anyone….

If none of your role models provide the answer, then it is time to go within and ask yourself, "What would make me happy?" In other words, let your feelings guide you…. When I ask, What will make you happy?, I mean What way of loving others feels right for you? Choose a way of loving that makes you happy, and your efforts will be play rather than work.

Lastly, if nothing has helped you decide, go ask a child. Children know what they need, and more surprisingly, they know what we need. Adults think. Kids respond with their feelings.

Bernie S. Siegel in Prescriptions for Living