Majority Rules

People of mixed racesThis post was inspired by Ronit’s diversity education, by our family’s life in several countries around the world, by Eden’s recent foray into academic research, by our many dealings with people of different communication styles, bust mostly by my occasional frustration of being a minority…

Having grown up in one place for 28 years and then moved to another country, Ronit and I had to change many basic assumptions about what everyone knows, how everyone thinks and what everyone expects. It is called Culture Shock. We already knew quite a bit about the United States (I had even been an exchange student there), so the change did not shock us, but boy was it different.

Now imagine going from that to Thailand! Hardly any English, driving on the left, completely different social norms and ethics, hot, humid, rainy, full of mosquitoes… What everyone did in Thailand was very different to what everyone did in Texas.

The thing is, in each one of these places, people who had grown up there and had never been anywhere else could not perceive anything other than what they had been accustomed to. To them, “everyone” was everyone they knew and that was good enough.

Read more about why you should be more accepting

Powerful Suggestions

Woman under hypnosisIf you have ever seen a hypnosis show, you already know how this works, but if you have not, this should be very interesting for you. Either way, after watching a hypnosis performance recently, I think there are important lessons we can all learn from it.

On Ronit’s birthday, we went to a local comedy club. There is nothing happier than laughter and good comedy can really brighten up a birthday night, so there we were. The first act was a very good, but normal, stand up routine. We ate, we laughed and we had a good time.

The second act was called a “Comedy Hypnosis Show”. It started during the break with a multimedia presentation showing swinging watches, spinning spirals and other “street” symbols of hypnosis, along with boasting words about the performer himself and his abilities to deal with the subconscious mind.

“This is going to be cheesy”, I thought, “Maybe the hypnosis is just a gimmick”.

But I was partly wrong. It was only cheesy. The hypnosis was real. And impressive. And quite educational, actually.

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How to Raise Gifted Children: Switch-Finding Rules

Wall power switchTo help your children find their gifts and talents, it is good to find yours first. Children learn best by example and this will make you a role model for being gifted. Here are my simple rules for finding your switch.

Some people think that if they only push a bit harder, what they want will happen. So they punish themselves for not achieving or not doing something they set themselves to do. But it only makes them feel bad about themselves.

Some think that if they have no way back, this will force them to move forward. So they pay the gym in advance to force themselves to go or they ask me to pay for all of their coaching in advance (which I do not accept). But this just puts extra pressure on them to perform.

If you want to help children, never, never, never punish them for not being able to shine. Never push them to the limit in order to force them to do things. Criticism is a bad force that triggers guilt and shame. Every time you criticize, you are taking your kids away from the light. Force and light do not go together.

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Talking Down at Your Kids

Two funny boysI often observe parents as they interact with their children and listen to how they use language and tone of voice. All too often, they “talk down” at their kids, rather than having a conversation with them, and that saddens me.

Think back to a time when somebody talked down at you. Maybe it was your boss, maybe it was your own parents and maybe it was your partner. Not a good feeling, right?

Did you feel any respect? How did you think the other person was perceiving you? Did they treat you as an independent, capable human being or see you only from their own perspective? Were they driven by love or perhaps by fear?

Let’s start with the language.

Many parents ask their kids closed or single-choice questions, like “Did you have a good day today?” “Do you have any homework?” “That was great fun, wasn’t it, honey?” “How about we go shopping first and then you can play?” or “Do you want to use the blue crayon for the sky?”

Read more about how to raise great kids

How to Raise Gifted Children: Find the switch

Flower in a lightbulbIn my parenting workshops, when I talk about ways to find that switch in the kids’ brain and talk about Eden, who is emotionally gifted, and Tsoof, who is musically gifted, I get a feeling that many of the participants believe that they were born gifted. The hardest thing for me to do in the workshop is to convince them that Eden and Tsoof were as ordinary and special as all other kids in the world. Sometimes, when I manage to convince my clients how we did it, they sit there in shock and in silence for a minute and ask, “Do you mean your kids are just regular kids?!”

Yes, I do!

“They are as regular as others and they are as special as others. All kids have the light inside. The only difference between them and others is that their parents dedicate enough energy to finding the switch that turns on the light”.

I believe that the essence of life is finding that switch and turning the light on. This light is where all good feeling resides. Where success can find a home, abundance is on our dinner table constantly and happiness shines in every corner of our being. I consider people lucky if their light is on or if they know where the switch is and they can turn it on at will.

The great thing about that light is that it can be used in dark times and life is full of dark moments.

The best time to find the switch and turn the light on is during childhood, long before the dark ages of our conditioned adulthood, long before we think of ourselves as frustrated and unable. This requires parents to dedicate much of their energy to finding that switch.

Read more about how to have switched on kids

Emotional Credit Line

Old piggy bankNow, perhaps more than ever in our lifetime, things are tough. Money is tight, prices are up, revenues are down, globalization, the Internet and mobile technology change almost everything we know. As a result, pressure is mounting and many parents struggle to cope with it.

In the past week, two things happened that made me think of using buffers or “lines of credit” as a strategy for reducing pressure, both financial and emotional, and keeping ourselves sane, while being better parents for our kids.

The first thing was Eden’s presentation of her research on corporal punishment. You may remember we invited our readers to participate in this research, which examined the links between parents’ disciplinary methods and things like the number of children in the family, age differences, financial situation and more.

When she analyzed parents’ and children’s’ responses to her survey, it occurred to Eden that stress may be a mediator between the various characteristics of each family and the amount of physical punishment used by the parents. Turns out, it is. She found that when parents experience more stress in their life, due to having more kids, having them close together and/or not having enough money to support them, they used less positive reinforcement with their children and were more abusive towards them, both verbally and physically.

Read more about how to reduce financial stress

How to Raise Gifted Children: Let there be light

The first man on the moon (in clay)Last week, I ran two parenting workshops. At each one, I told the parents that I had found an amazing formula for raising gifted children and that my goal for the day was to share this formula, or at least the main parts of it, with them.

Every time I run a workshop, I get puzzled looks and parents ask, “How can you share such a thing with us? Aren’t kids either gifted or not?”

Well, no! Kids are gifted. Period. We just have to help them discover their particular gifts.

Imagine that the brain has switches. Kids are born with all the switches turned on. As they experience life, they learn to specialize, to switch some off and keep some on. It is impossible to have all these switches on all the time, so the mechanism of turning some of them off is very healthy and helps people survive. Can you imagine an expert who specializes in biology, art, history, electricity and music? I did not think so. The idea of specializing is that we narrow down our range interests to allow us to delve more deeply into the things we choose.

The first thing God said in the book of Genesis was, “Let there be light”. Parenting and teaching are kind of like being God, because our job is to do just that – turn on the switches and say, “Let there be light”.

Read more about how to get your kids excited

Attention is Golden

Couple at cocktail partyAs parents, some of the things our kids want to tell us are, well, childish. Although we love them, we are sometimes busy or preoccupied and paying close attention to what happened at the playground is not top of our list. As partners, friends, siblings and descendants, people talk to us about a wide variety of things that matter to them and paying attention can be difficult.

But it is worth the trouble.

When I worked at the National Semiconductors headquarters in Santa Clara, CA, the company provided easy access to great training and one of the courses I took was Active Listening. The instructor was a soft-spoken lady who impressed me as a good listener and someone who knew a great deal about people, and during the course I realized just how poorly I had been listening…

At the end of the class, I left with a list of actions and behaviors that constituted active listening and with the advice that it was important to practice them, but I felt something was missing from those instructions.

Over time, particularly after I trained to be a life coach, I read more about relationships and emotional intelligence and I think I have found an underlying description that unites the techniques and makes the whole thing seem like common sense.

Read more about how to be a good listener

Helicopter Parenting: is it a choice?

clip_image008_thumbHelicopter Parenting is a term used to describe parents who “hover” over their kids and try to control their kids’ choices regarding friends, education, schooling, hobbies career and even partners. The original intention behind the helicopter parenting style is to protect children and to help them get the most out of life by directing them towards what the parents think is right for the child.

Helicopter parenting comes with much love and care for the children, but there is always the risk the parents may become obsessive and create a dependent and helpless attitude in the children by not giving them the opportunities to experience, learn and evolve using their own judgment.

The greatest risk of using this parenting method is that of the parents adopting a form of perfectionism that sends a message to the child that Mom or Dad’s way of doing things is the only right way. Rather than creating a feeling of safety, love and appreciation for the child, perfectionism creates a feeling of inadequacy and fear. In simple words:

Anxious parents raise anxious kids

A new study showed that an over-involved or overprotective parenting style, often referred to as “helicopter mothers”, increases the risk for later anxiety in children. The study, conducted by researchers from the Centre for Emotional Health at Macquarie University, followed 200 children, aged 3-4 years old, and again 5 years after, at the age of 8-9. It also contains observed interactions between mothers and children, as well as mothers’ responses to statements like “I determine whom my child will play with” and “I dress my child even if he/she can do it alone”.

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From the Life Coaching Deck: Troublemaker

Girl with labels projected onto herIan’s parents came for coaching about 5 years ago. Ian’s mom, Lou, booked the sessions as a last resort before she divorced his dad. About two months ago, she sent me an email and said, “Hi Ronit, Dave and I renewed our vows last year on an overseas trip. I want you to see Ian. He’s in trouble at school”.

Kids’ coaching is not something that most parents understand, but Lou and Dave, after making a huge change in their own life through coaching, did not need to ask what it was. When I called Lou and asked what she needed and why she wanted Ian to come and see me, she said, “Ronit, I’m not sure how you do what you do, but I need you to do it for Ian. He’s a great kid, but he’s in trouble at school and it’s affecting his self-esteem. It breaks my heart to see him like that. I’ve tried different things, but he is still in trouble. I’m sure if he spends some time with you, he’ll gain some confidence, just like we did”.

Ian was one of the most beautiful 11-year-old boys I had ever seen. In his first session, I went over some assessments to figure out what was making him get in trouble at school. Although he could read high-level books, thought math was easy and schoolwork was not a challenge at all, his grade average was “B”. Not that I think everyone needs to get an “A”, but all my assessments showed he was an “A” student, maybe even one of those smart kids that find school so boring they stir up some trouble to get some attention and make things a bit more interesting.

Read more about why kids get in trouble at school