Everyone Can Be a Hero

clip_image004[3]_thumbWe often focus so much on what kids do not do well that we do not give them any chance to excel, to shine and to be heroes. This is the story of how a class of special education “troublemakers” proved that everyone can be a hero.

Last month, I traveled to North QLD to work with over 1,000 students on a special project I run here in Australia, called Together for Humanity. I was running all the workshops with my colleague, Imam Ahmad Abu Ghazaleh. We worked 14 hours each day and saw many different groups of high school students and teachers, but I want to share with you my experience with one class in particular.

It was the middle of the day and we were getting ready to run our “Community Building”, in which “Making a Difference” is a key message. A group of 28 Grade-8 students arrived with 5 teachers (two men) and their head-of-department herself.

At first, we did not know why so many teachers were needed and why they looked so worried while the students were settling down, until one teacher approached us and said, “This is the worst class in the school”.

Ahmad and I smiled. The head-of-department, who had organized those two full days of workshops and seemed an amazingly relaxed person, told us, “I’ve brought all the teachers to help you out. This is our special education class. They are challenging”.

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What Happens When You Fight

Couple arguingHave you ever wondered what happens to your kids when you fight with your partner? Have you ever asked them?

Well, I did today and I was surprised and it got me thinking.

My 15-year-old son Tsoof is now on holidays, so he and I go for a walk around the neighborhood together in the morning. He sometimes brings his guitar and we sing, much to the enjoyment of passersby, but other times, we talk. Today, he brought his guitar, but we talked anyway…

At first, I asked Tsoof, “When you and your friends talk about how annoying your parents are, what do you say?”

“Nothing”, he said, “I don’t think you’re annoying”.

“Isn’t there anything we do that bugs you in some way? After all, we’re not perfect”, I asked.

“Well, I really feel bad when you fight”, he admitted, “It makes me want to disappear”.

OK, OK, so the big secret is out. Life coaches or not, Ronit and I are sometimes under pressure too and when that happens, we argue, as we did recently, with our unfortunate kids being present. Being from a culture in which expressing how you feel might involve raising your voice and making theatrical gestures (to help emphasize your point), we dominated the family scene, which apparently troubled our kids.

Read more about how to avoid/end arguments

Beautiful Kids vs. Brutal Honesty

Smart little kidLast week, I ran 3 parenting workshops and there was one topic that came up over and over again – the truth about your kids. While I was describing research, education methods, philosophy and personal development techniques to raise happy and successful kids, some people were very concerned about telling kids the truth.

I find the concept of “the truth” very problematic and the seed of many difficulties in life. Every small problem in life just makes this seed grow poisonous roots of inadequacy, self-doubt and fear.

At the workshop, I talked about the importance of raising kids to think they are capable, talented, smart, friendly, flexible, courageous, wise, trustworthy, etc (the list can be adapted to each parent’s needs) so they will have good beliefs about themselves, their skills and their abilities. I always say that overcoming kids’ learning difficulties is easier than overcoming their belief that something is wrong with them and that therefore, it is parents’ job to make sure their kids have positive, empowered beliefs about themselves.

The parents and I examined beliefs that are very good for kids to have. Let me ask you, if your son thinks he is smart, is that good for him or not? If your daughter thinks she is friendly, is it good for her or not? If your kids think they are good siblings, is it good for them or not?

Is it good for the parents too?

Well, apparently, for some people it is not good. To them, the truth is more important.

Read more about kids and beliefs

Success is Showing Up

Alarm clockI am a very busy person. I plan every day ahead. I know exactly how long it takes me to get from one place to another and I know how much time I am going to spend in any one place – at work, at university, at home, with friends, at dinner and on the bus. It is not because I need to feel a sense of control (maybe just a tiny bit), but in order for me to be able to squeeze in all of the things I want to achieve in a day, I need to be well organized.

I love being with friends and can accommodate almost any arrangement given enough time. I am always happy to rearrange my schedule to meet friends and spend some quality time. I also live at home with my parents and it is only fair that I share my plans with them so they can plan accordingly.

My timetable is pretty full almost four weeks in advance, so in order for me to make plans with friends, I need to know when and where we are meeting at least a few days beforehand. It helps me with my own sense of organization and allows me to be able to plan my time.

In the last couple of years, I have added more things to my schedule and my need for concrete plans seems to have become greater. A few of my friends have even commented on it, saying I needed to “live a little” or “be in the moment” or plain “don’t be so needy” when I have insisted on a definite time.

This got me thinking that maybe I was taking my time management a little bit too far. Maybe I need to be a little less uptight. Not everyone is as busy as I am and not everyone needs to be as organized as me, so I decided to cut everyone some slack.

Read more about the value of good time management

Bullying (2): Scary Statistics

Teen bullyingBullying has become a problem in our society. As I promised in the first chapter of the bullying series, I will share with you today the facts and figures about bullying and they are very scary. But I am not writing this to scare you, just to create awareness to this epidemic of violence in our society. I also believe that parents and educators, who are the majority of the readers of this site, have the power to change it.

Bullying research

I have spent a long time reviewing information about bullying, much of it on various government sites, so where the source is not mentioned below, some government agency has publicly confirmed it.

  • A study done in 2007 on a group of 6th Graders found that 89% of kids had experienced some form of bullying and 59% of the students had participated in some form of bullying

Read more about bullying

Give and take

BubbleSometimes, I want to achieve something and I think I know how to achieve it, but when I ask someone else for their opinion or help, they just say, “You can’t do that”. I find this very frustrating.

Let me explain.

When I see a goal and a way to get it, my mind has something to hold on to. I can look at my vision from different angles, improve it and work with it, but it is there.

As soon as the other person rejects my idea, it is as if a bubble popped in my mind and left nothing. I then have no way of getting what I wanted. The other person has taken my vision away.

And that stinks.

Here is an example.

Read more about how to resolve conflicts

Acceptance (3)

Serenity prayer This is the second part of a series of posts about acceptance through the story of Mel, a fascinating client of mine. To know a bit about Mel and how this story started, read Monday’s post, Acceptance (1). For a description of Mel’s views on life that made her miserable, read Wednesday’s post, Acceptance (2).

Today, I would like to introduce a solution, a cure, a way out of this endless search for the right and only-sensible thing to do, to think or to be. If you are like Mel in some way, I hope this will help you find peace, just as she did. If you know others like Mel, I hope you will share this series of posts with them so they may find their own peace.

The first step toward change is awareness.
The second step is acceptance
– Nathaniel Branden

Every time Mel left, I wrote my reflections on the session, as I always do after a session. In the Strategies section, I wrote, “Teach acceptance”. For me, acceptance was a peaceful place, where I acknowledge things around me without resistance (every time I think of the word “resistance”, I remember The Borg from Star Trek saying, “Resistance is futile”. Sometimes it is useless and ends only in sorrow).

Mel thought acceptance was a form of giving up. “Do you accept wars?” she asked me (she knew how to press my buttons).

I said, “I do. I acknowledge the fact that there are wars. It does not mean I am happy about them, but they are part of life”.

Read more about acceptance

Acceptance (2)

image[3]This is the second part of a series of posts about acceptance through the story of Mel, a fascinating client of mine. To know a bit about Mel and how this story started, read Monday’s post, Acceptance (1).

Mel thought there was such a thing as Ultimate Justice that all people must follow. She had a very strict concept of Right and Wrong. Fairness was always examined from her point of view and her point of view was the center of the universe. Mel never thought fairness was relative and influenced by culture or upbringing.

When I described to her how the Thai people charged tourists and locals differently at temples or for food, she could not understand how that could be fair. When I gave her an example of a clash between different people’s definition of fairness, she had a “system failure” in her mind.

I remember myself writing protest poems at the age of 14. My notion of fairness was very clear and naïve then. When I was 27, my youngest sister came back from a trip to India and showed me her journal, where she had written, “Is it fair to make your child blind so he can be a better beggar and bring home more money to feed the whole family?” I experience that same “system failure” about fairness at the age of 27, when I tried to answer that question. My immediate reply was, “No, of course it’s not fair!”

But as I thought about it some more, I realized it is not that simple and there is no single right way of doing things. I was already a mother and I was pregnant, which made this realization more difficult, but I understood one big lesson about acceptance: what is fair for one is not necessary fair for another. There is no ultimate fairness. Fairness is totally subjective and we cannot judge others for having a different definition of fairness to ours.

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Acceptance (1)

All seasons are beautiful fo the person who carries happiness within I chose to tell you about Mel because she was generally miserable. On the surface, she ticked all the boxes of a wonderful life – she was a college profession, she had the cutest kids and she loved them very much, she was married and loved her husband deeply and she was financially secure. Yet, nothing made her happy – thoughts were her allies, but she found people most unreasonable. She was unhappy with the way they behaved and kept saying they did not make any sense.
Although I am not convinced there is a formula for being happy, I think there is formula for being miserable. Mel had that formula and lived by it every day of her life. Through clients like Mel, I have seen how the mind can create this suffering. As a very smart, curious person, Mel had some beliefs, thoughts and ideas that made her miserable and caused her to think she did not understand the world and could not make sense of it. What Mel missed was the understanding of acceptance. She confused acceptance with having low standards, with compromising on mediocrity and with giving up.

Mel was an amazingly smart woman, but she could not understand why others did not understand what she did. She did not understand why people did things that hurt others. She did not know how to relate to people without knowing their motives. She did not understand emotional (she called them “illogical”) decisions. When I told her that I never make logical decisions, because I am kinesthetic, she looked at me shocked. “What else is there?” she asked.

For me, 6 things summed up Mel’s thoughts and ideas and contributed to her self-torture.

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Karate Kidding

clip_image002[3]Of course we took the kids to The Karate Kid. We are not parents who deprive our kids from being exposed to popular culture. We had seen all the prequels, it had Jackie Chan, action, Will Smith’s son and a glimpse of China. What could be better? Besides, we thought it would make a good ending for their school break and something we could all enjoy together.

But for me, The Karate Kid was a total let down. Sure, I saw the old Mister Miyagi movies when I was younger, but that would not explain some of the things that bothered me. Maybe I will just start listing them and you will see why.

The movie is called “Karate Kid”, implying the Japanese martial art, yet it is set in China and shows Kung Fu, the Chinese martial art. If I found either Karate or Kung Fu to be an important part of my life and my tradition, I would feel offended by this, even if I fully understood the marketing incentive. I guess if the main market is made up of Americans, who cares about those other billion and a half people?

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