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Which Way Does Your Parenting Pendulum Swing?

Not uncommon, people who were raised in homes marked by abusive behavior have made a vow to themselves to not behave similarly. Indeed they loathe even imagining themselves acting similarly.

Because of this, some parents actually swing their parenting pendulum too far in the other direction, afraid of being perceived as controlling if seeking to hold their children accountable to expectations.

As such they resort to begging and cajoling as a means to manage behavior only to have it ignored and defied by the child. As the begging and cajoling escalates against the child ignoring and defying, the parent then gets angry. Out of anger, the parent then lashes out and next feels shameful for actually engaging in the behavior they loathe.

This is a terrible conundrum for these very well-intentioned parents.

The challenge is to come to terms with a few things including;

  1. Being in control as the parent is not the same as being controlling. Of course you have to be in control, you are the parent and you must set expectations such as eating meals, bedtimes, cleanliness, homework, etc.;
  2. You cannot have your self-worth determined by the reaction of your child when being directive or establishing boundaries, limits and expectations. Many children will say the parent doesn’t love them, or are mean as a means to get out of a task or expectation. This is just their way of getting what they want and not a true reflection of how they feel about you;
  3. Your are not a bad person for losing it, you just need to learn more effective parenting strategies to effect compliance. Rather than begging or cajoling, there are many other ways to gain compliance to expectations and without having to negotiate everything;
  4. Compliance is not a dirty word; it just means that your kids listen. Just as when the teacher says, “get out your books”, there is no blame or shame connected with the directive and compliance is of course expected.

If you are struggling with managing a child’s behavior, please do seek help. It may be connected to your experience of how you were parented as a child, even though you may not realize it.

Counseling can uncover those hidden unrealized issues and teach new strategies to help you achieve your goal of being a great parent.

I help parents with this regularly.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

An Honourable Mention

If I have done the math right, it seems my mother was born in 1924. She turns 93 June 3rd and is a remarkably active woman.

Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba of Russian Jewish immigrant parents, she taught me from as young as I can remember the value of charity and volunteer work.

Just the other day chatting with her while hunting for garage sales, she was telling me about the first youth groups she mentored. She was 12 years old at the time and the kids she mentored were nine. Needless-to-say, her career in volunteerism started young.

I remember in the mid to late 1960’s her wanting to go to Israel as a delegate of the volunteer organization of which she was a member, then called Pioneer Women, now called Na’amat.

She recounts people asking her how her husband would give permission to go on a 6 week excursion, leaving him with their 3 boys. Thing is, she didn’t ask his permission. It was a given she could go. The only question was sorting out how he would care for us in her absence. It was sorted out. She went. My parents had a beautiful marriage. My dad supported her in all her endeavors.

By about 1970, in addition to her volunteer activity, she opened an antique business with another lovely woman, Kay Burford. Together they literally scoured the countryside looking for treasures. They would go to auctions, estate sales and literally just show up at random farm houses asking if they had anything old. These two were the original “pickers”. They had moxie.

I would be dragged along as a kid, too young to leave alone as the youngest of my brothers. I didn’t much like it then, yet now when together for the weekend, my mom and I happily go on treasure hunts one garage sale at a time.

My mom has outlived two husbands. My natural dad died at 60 years of age. This was devastating for mom. He was a great guy, also active in charitable and volunteer organizations. However, 4 years later she was to meet another man. As lovely a fellow as was my dad, this other fellow may have been even nicer, kinder, if there was such a thing. So mom was twice blessed given her choice in men, as were we her children.

It was only a few years ago, through her volunteer organization that my mom received a certificate from the Government of Ontario for 70 years of continuous volunteer service. I should mention that her group raises funds to support daycare services as well as women’s shelters both in Canada and in Israel.

More recently, she was asked to speak at one of her group’s bigger meetings – coming this October. With a sense of humor she apparently asked the organizers if they knew how old she was. She responded telling them she would be happy to present, assuming she was still around.

My mom, still lives independently, drives locally and takes care of many others. She has organized a small group of women in her condo to keep an eye on each other as well as to socialize and attend recreational events.

For as long as I can remember, I have called my mom by her given name. This is not in disrespect, but a function of my loving relationship with her. Although never equals, there has always been an egalitarian way with her.

Bess, congratulations on your 93rd birthday. I love you now and always.

You are an impressive women and remarkable role model.

Everyone should know.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. It’s because of my mother.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships

When YOUR Truth isn’t THE Truth

We all have them, those things we hold to be true, yet… aren’t.

We call then logical fallacies. Truths that seem to hold water, at least for us, yet upon more public scrutiny, leak like a sieve.

For instance, I am Jewish. I was born to a Jewish mother and looking up to her as an infant, I had the view that the whole world was Jewish. Kind of makes sense. My mother is my whole world.

As I got older, I realized I had two older brothers and a father – all Jewish. My experience of an expanding world seemed to prove, the whole world was Jewish.

I remember my mom putting me in the front seat of the ’56 Chevy. We went to the grocer, dry cleaner, bank and grocery store. In our little neighborhood of Toronto at Bathurst and Wilson all those shop keepers were Jewish. Hence, it was proved yet again, the whole world was Jewish.

Believe it or not, because my elementary school was embedded in the Jewish community, I only ever had one non-Jewish kid in all my classes from Kindergarten to grade 6. You guessed it. It reinforced the whole world was Jewish.

In 1967 though we moved from that part of Toronto to just north of the city, Thornhill.

At that point in time Thornhill was mostly White Anglo Saxon Protestant. I stood out like a sore thumb in middle school. However, from my perspective and given all my experience to date, I was still convinced the whole world was Jewish…. except Thornhill.

Logical fallacy.

It wasn’t until I was in my 20’s did I really come to realize I got it wrong, that the whole world wasn’t Jewish and that in fact, in the scheme of things, Jews were actually a small minority group.

Given I got that wrong, I then wondered what else I got wrong.

It was then I realized that I had written off a whole group of people on the basis of their country of origin, Germany. Make sense if you think about it. I was born post world war two. In my original neighborhood, no self respecting Jew would even drive a German automobile. Who would be caught giving money to the economy of the country that tried to exterminate your people? Of course Germans weren’t to be trusted.

Realizing though that was the basis of prejudice, I did seek to change my thinking and came to realize how culture, ethnicity and faith can influence one’s views of other people. There was actually a whole host of other thoughts and beliefs I also had to address the result of my upbringing and not because my parents sought to cause me to have a biased view, but because how and where and who one grows up with influences how we see the world and then as a result, how we interact within it and with others.

Other experiences also influence logical fallacies.

If one grows up in a home with an alcoholic or abusive parent, one may come to believe everyone has an alcoholic parent or that everyone walks on eggshells or that violence is a way to maintain order and solve problems.

If one grows up with a critical parent, one may believe that low self worth, avoiding standing out or alternatively, having to be a perfectionist are healthy ways to go through life.

Logical fallacies.

We all have them. The only real issue is coming to see them in ourselves and then coming to determine their impact on our relationships, choices and behavior.

The benefit of counseling includes learning about one’s own logical fallacies and how they may undermine our own well being. With that self knowledge, then we are equipped to make better choices for ourselves. We may find the key that unlocks our better potential. We may improve our lot in life, our relationships and the lives of those around us. We may discover why we remain in situations not to our advantage. We may find the real secret to improving our success.

Logical fallacies.

I have since discovered more and more of my own.

What are yours and are they holding you back?

In the clear light of day, are you really making your own decisions or are you merely acting out the scripts of childhood transposed on your adult life beyond your awareness?

Want to be really free? Figure out your logical fallacies.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

To Overcome Adversity

People tell me I am a great public speaker, but I certainly didn’t start out that way.

When I was in grade 10 I took a class in theatre arts. As part of that class, we all had to do a presentation in front of a group of people, indeed, the whole school.

I was paired with a girl and we were to sit on respective stools doing a comedy routine where we spoke directly to the audience. She would talk and then I would talk. I was the straight man to her comedic comments.

After much rehearsal we were on stage looking out onto the student body.

We sat on the little part of the stage directly in front of the audience; the curtain closed behind us; the teacher behind the curtain ready to coach.

She began and was great.

I froze.

The teacher coached me from behind the curtain.

I was still frozen; cold, clammy, scared.

Slowly I began to recite my lines as if reading for the very first time, the teacher feeding me line after line.

Somehow that 5 minute routine seeming like an eternity ended. People actually applauded. I survived.

People think that because I am good at something now that it must have come easily. I have been called “a natural”.

It isn’t true. I had to learn how to speak in front of others.

I had to overcome fear and anxiety that was compounded by a frightful first experience.

The secret to succeeding though is to confront one’s own weaknesses, learn skills and then practice.

Avoidance will not help you achieve anything, be it a relationship, a sport, a talent or a challenging situation. Only by confronting the issues and learning the skills necessary to overcome can you overcome.

When I counsel people I typically offer them things to learn, skills to develop. I advise that the only thing that matters after we meet is that they practice.

Overcoming adversity has less to do with hope or faith and everything to do with practicing new skills, be they how you think or do differently. Practice is key.

You can have all the faith in the world, but in the absence of doing something differently yourself, you will always be at the mercy of the other or your fear.

Need a coach, get a coach.

Mr. Reynolds stood behind that curtain, but I was standing on his shoulders to succeed. He got me through my adversity and had me practice more.

Now I love to present and stand in front of groups of people. I can achieve my goals and so too can you.

Confront your fear, learn skills, practice.

Get better, do better. Be great.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

Turn Off the Damn Phone When…

In recent years I have been on a tear to bring to parents’ attention the consequences of parental distraction.

There is a lot of concern about video games and kids with smart phones. Lost in the discussion is the parent who caught between the cry of the child and the ring or vibration of the smart phone, opts for the quick view to the smart phone first.

Imagine your are feeding your infant. Phone is in hand. The alert comes in. Instead of the infant seeing the loving adoring face of the parent, the parent is distracted and looks at the phone.  The infant is then confronted by the look of consternation or at the very least, no look at all, as the parent is taken away -if only momentarily, by a challenging message. What is the infant’s experience of this… time and time again.

Imagine your toddler sitting trying to get accustomed to the potty and at the moment of pooping, the parent looks way to view a tweet. In a contest between poop and tweet, tweet wins. What is the toddler’s experience of this… time and time again.

Imagine cajoling your preschooler to eat their peas and concentrate on dinner when you yourself are busy checking messages. What is the preschooler’s experience of this… time and time again.

Imagine arguing with your school-age child about their screen time or video games when you yourself in knee-jerk reaction keep glancing at your phone with every beep. What is the school-aged child’s experience of this… time and time again.

No wonder fidget toy’s have taken off in popularity. We are training a whole generation of kids to think we the adults are unavailable, that they matter less than an incoming alert, that they are left to their own devices to idle their time, that they have no one to rely upon when in distress. I would need to fidget too!

We all want what’s best for our kids. What is best is our undivided attention, particularity at those moments where our lives are meant to intersect.

  • Turn the damn phone right off when feeding the infant.
  • Turn the damn phone right off when toilet training.
  • Turn the damn phone right off when sharing a meal together.
  • Turn the damn phone right off when helping your child with homework.
  • Turn the damn phone right off when attending their extra-curricular activity.
  • Turn the damn phone right off when attending a special event.
  • Turn the damn phone right off when getting ready for bed.

As for your intimate relationship, turn the damn phone right off when seeking to talk with each other; sharing a meal together; making love – yes, turn the damn phone off when making love.  You can let your intimate partner feel they are more your priority too. Imagine that on your relationship.

Forget vibrate mode. Vibrate mode is for phone addicts who can’t live without the fix of receiving the notification. Deal with your own anxiety of missing a notification and prioritize your relationship be it with your child or partner, over the incoming alert.

Oh, I hear you… You need to leave it on just in case….

However, if you want to raise mentally healthy kids, start by being present.

Be present with your eyes, your ears, your heart, your soul and your spirit – your entire self. Nothing screams I Love You more than your undivided attention. Lose the distraction. Be present.

Childhood anxiety and behavioral concerns are rising rapidly in children and until parent begin to see the connection between their availability at critical moments those issues will continue to rise.

The best inoculation and prescription for child development is parental presence.

Cut the distraction. Turn off the damn phone.

Turn on to your child.


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I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

Surviving the Most Difficult of Separated Parents

I learned yesterday of yet another well regarded colleague who practiced Parenting Coordination who was sued by a disgruntled parent. He no longer provides this important service as a result.

For those who don’t know, the Parenting Coordinator helps separated parents resolve conflict regarding the care and decision making of their children.  The role has several functions including: educator; coach; problem solver; and mediator. Where those functions are unsuccessful in resolving the dispute, then the Parenting Coordinator may function as arbitrator – the final decision maker.  Parenting Coordination is a service provided to those separated parents whose issues over the care of their children is regarded as “high conflict”.

Features of a high conflict separation include: hardball litigators; court involvement; police involvement; child protection involvement; children frequently in crisis or presenting with mental health or behavioral issues as a result; cross allegations of parental alienation or mistreatment; spurious claims of untoward behavior; drug or alcohol abuse; and at least one person with a mental health disorder – usually a personality disorder either of the narcissistic type or borderline type.

At least one person drives the conflict, is unable to see or take responsibility for their own contribution to distress and projects all manner of blame upon the other parent or anyone else for that matter who they view as acting contrary to their wants. These persons are also referred to as possessing a “high conflict personality“.

Not all of the above features are seen in every case, but there is usually a constellation of those features.

Service providers are at risk when working with these parents as the service provider becomes the next target of blame when the one parent doesn’t get their way.

The service provider can be vilified, sued or complained against to licensing bodies. In fact, complaints in this context constitute the greatest number of complaints to licensing bodies.

Virtually all of my colleagues who have practiced extensively in this area have gone through some form of hell with such clients. I too have had to suffer the vicious attacks to my credibility and even livelihood by very disgruntled separated parents unsatisfied with not getting their way.

A report was written in 2009 by prominent practitioners in Ontario, Canada. It is entitled, Discussion Paper For Legal Reform Protecting The Integrity Of Family Law Litigation: Preventing Vexatious Complaints Against Assessors.  The report addresses the challenge of working with high conflict separated parents as it applies to custody and access assessments. The same is applicable to those who provide Parenting Coordination:

As a result, those who are willing and able to conduct these assessments are dwindling. This exodus of available and qualified assessors is a significant problem facing family law lawyers and the courts in Ontario and, most importantly, children and their families who are left at risk. Legal costs increase, families endure stressfully long wait-times and children suffer while their parents remain in tense custodial limbo due to excessive delays caused by a dearth in available assessors.

Even many of the authors of the report, all well respected lawyers, professors, academics and psychologists and social workers have been vilified, even for statements made in their report.

Sadly, there are limited protections for us who would provide these services. We cannot even so much as put clauses in our service contracts to limit a parent’s ability to sue or take us to our licensing body as odd as that may sound. As such, they can say whatever they want to whoever they want and indeed even band together to attack a common service provider by making common and contrived complaints to licensing bodies.

I can tell you that as a result of practicing in this area, when parents are engaged with us, even if there are these nasty things going on, the children do better during the period of our involvement. Court appearances are down, police involvement is down, child protection issues are down. However, at some point one parent gets frustrated when they no longer perceive themselves as “winning” or get angry when they are unable to truly trash the other parent during our period of involvement. Thus the service eventually breaks down. Not always, but on occasion.

This happens on occasion enough to make this service dangerous for the service provider. Hence we stop and when we stop, believe it or not, the agitating parent celebrates. But stop we must for our own sanity and safety.

Happily, my colleague won the case, but will not assume the risks of practicing in this area anymore. Similarly, I have withdrawn from this area of practice too.

If you are in a high conflict separation, my heart goes out to you and your children.

Even though I and many of my colleagues will not act in the capacity of parenting coordinator or like myself, will not provide services that may include our involvement at court, many of us still provide other services that are of value.

Perhaps the most notable service we can provide in this situation is the separation or divorce coach. In this capacity we can offer support and strategies to better manage and handle life tethered to a difficult person. We cannot make the person go away or magically turn a disturbing person into a gentle soul, but we may be able to help you cope better, assert a stronger boundary and disengage to some degree further from the often daily battles that ensue. Helping you cope and manage better not only helps you, but by extension your children too. It helps you bring a calmer and more balanced version of yourself to the care of your children.

Surround yourself with good and positive people and keep doing positive things in your life. Your personal survival is key for your children’s well being, just as mine is key and enabled by my concentration now on peacemaking activities and supporting parents be the best version of themselves.

We all must survive and living with or working with such challenging people can kill you or make you stronger. I have seen both happen. Choose to be stronger.

I know the people I serve appreciate it of me and your children will appreciate it of you.

Be strong in the face of adversity.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.

 

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

Sled Dogs

My mother says that if there is such as thing as reincarnation, she wants to come back as a French poodle in a Jewish home. After seeing a screening of the documentary Sled Dogs last night, she sure wouldn’t want to come back as one of those.

In the intersect of full disclosure, Sled Dogs, the documentary, is produced and directed by my cousin, Fern Levitt.

Fern, a renowned documentary film maker was introduced to the life of sled dogs in 2010 when she and her husband enjoyed a sled dog ride near Algonquin Park in Ontario, Canada. With a love of animals she asked to visit the dogs off work.

She was appalled.

“It was this field of blue plastic barrels with these dogs all on chains. It was getting toward spring so it was muddy and it was dirty, and the dogs were running in circles. I couldn’t believe my eyes,” Ms. Levitt said. “I thought: My God, what did I do? What did I just participate in?”

Their living conditions were deplorable and right then and there she adopted her first sled dog.

She investigated and learned that this was not an anomaly, that there were other companies in the sled dog industry that treated the dogs deplorably – as a commodity and not a living creature.

Her documentary takes the viewer though several sled dog operations in Canada and the US.

Most notably is her coverage of the Iditarod – the 1,000 mile sled dog race in Alaska.

Her film is graphic and exposes the underbelly of an industry that is akin to the circus with it’s dancing bears and tethered elephants.

Like sausages, you may like how they taste, but you surely don’t want to see how they’re made.

The documentary raises one’s ire, but perhaps no more so than the dog sled operators and one of the main characters in the documentary. These folks were actually at the screening  unbeknownst to Fern Levitt who was also there to answer questions.

I was worried she wouldn’t get out alive.

She did, but will future sled dogs?

When you get a chance, look for the documentary. Decide for yourself.

Which would you rather come back as, a French poodle in a Jewish home, or a sled dog in the sledding industry?

Sled dogs. Want a taste? Here’s the trailer:

 Sled Dogs airs May 31st on the Documentary Channel.
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I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.