A Penguin Tale

penguins and chicks

A Penguin Tale

I am currently on maternity leave- I gave birth to my second beautiful daughter just three weeks ago. In honor of her birth, I wanted to post a newsletter that is somewhat unconventional. The message it holds is just as important, if not more so, than the latest news about any vitamin or herb…

The story involves a therapist who is also a collector of “all things penguin”. One afternoon, a prospective patient entered the therapist’s office and, seeing the 300 stuffed penguins of all varieties lining the walls of the office, scoffed: “A doll collector thinks he can help me with my deepest psychological issues?” The therapist decided to explain the story behind his fascination with penguins:

He told of a vacation he had once taken with his young son. One morning during their holiday had been particularly challenging. The young boy had been uncooperative and demanding and the father had become extremely frustrated with his son. That afternoon, the family visited an aquarium together and father and son found themselves captivated by the penguin show. Lucky, the penguin was performing all sorts of wonderful tricks at the command of his trainer. “Incredible,” thought the therapist, “if only I could get my son to perform on command like that”. After the show, the therapist approached the trainer and asked her to reveal her “secret”- how did she get Lucky to perform without an argument or tantrum?

The trainer wisely explained: “Training animals requires that you reward every approximation of the act which you’re trying to teach- no matter how remotely related. If I’m trying to teach a penguin to give a “high five”, I give him a fish every time he so much as raises his flipper an inch”.

So often, we are hard on our children and on ourselves. We demand perfection and we demand it right now. We do not recognize approximations of the actions we’re looking for. We do not reward attempts. We seek faultless execution of our expectations. The story of the penguin teaches us to be a bit more forgiving when it comes to judging ourselves and our children… A raised flipper is a step in the direction of a high five!


Recognize your efforts and those of the loved ones in your life. Praise and reward yourself for trying. When we’re less judgmental and hard on ourselves, we’re far more likely to succeed.


I’m making this my New Year’s Resolution!

Please note: This information is for educational purposes only. Consultation with a licensed health care practitioner is recommended for anyone suffering from a health ailment.


You are free to use the information in this newsletter or pass it on to others, but please keep it intact and credit it to Dr. Leat Kuzniar, ND.

Dr. Leat Kuzniar ND
Dr. Leat Kuzniar ND

Dr. Kuzniar is a board member of the New Jersey Association of Naturopathic Physicians and is also a member of the Gastroenterology Association of Naturopathic Physicians. She currently holds a State of Vermont Naturopathic Physician license (as New Jersey does not yet offer licensing for Naturopathic doctors).