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

Who Knows?

Little dog, big dogMotivation can be external or internal. That is, a person can be prompted, encouraged or coerced to do something by somebody else, or they can do it for their own reasons.

Kids, being so young and dependent, begin their life by mimicking their parents and other carers and by following their instructions. “Those big, loving, all-knowing creatures that take care of me must be right, so it’s best to be guided by them”, they reason.

This quickly develops into obedience, even when following the instructions might cause discomfort to the child. “It’s a small price to pay for the big person’s love and besides, maybe the big person is right and this is good for me?”

I find with my kids that their principals, teachers, coaches and other instructors tend to encourage conformity and submission to authority and I have to deal with it sometimes and help them strengthen their internal motivation. You will recognize this has happened to your children when they start talking about getting away with things, instead of whether or not those things should be done in the first place.

Read more about kids’ motivation

Low-Tech Games

Kids playing video gamesAs hard as it is to admit, computer games have made our kids quicker thinkers and given them great satisfaction for hours have not been a good substitute for face-to-face social interaction and physical make-believe games.

Social skills are a very important part of our personal development and from a very early stage, make-believe and dressing up are our ways of growing emotionally in a safe way. While computer games are limited by the availability of technology, the make-believe and dress-up games are only limited by the players’ imagination.

Last week, our 15-years-old son Tsoof went to a party. It was an 60’s party and just before he left, he went into the loft, took out the costume suitcase and looked for inspiration to dress up. Eventually, he found some hippie-looking clothes that made him happy.

Later that night, Gal and I went to bring him back from the party, which was in a beautiful garden at his friend’s house. It was just lovely to see a group of 15- and 16-year-old teens all dressed up in hippie clothes, singing with a guitar, couples hugging and kissing and you know what? We felt good! Really good!

Read more about encouraging your kids to use their imagination

Bullying (3): What is NOT Bullying?

Man bullying childWhen talking about bullying, it is very important for parents (and teachers and kids) to understand what bullying is not. Many times, a single act or behavior is out of proportion, but it is not considered bullying.

Some people think that bullying is any aggressive behavior and although such behaviors are a source of concern and need attention, it is important to separate them from bullying. As I said in the first chapter of the bullying series, bullying is recurring and deliberate abuse of power.

It is not easy for kids to understand the difference between a deliberate act and an accidental one, but it surprises me that many grownups also talk about things people do to them as if they were done intentionally to hurt them. Such perception is very dangerous, because every minor act of conflict, done without any intention to harm, can escalate and become a big conflict.

Much like in any communication, whether it is verbal or not, there are two sides involved. Bullying is a form of communication and depends not only on the giver but also on the receiver. For an incident to be considered bullying, the aggressor must want to hurt someone and the victim must perceive the incident as a deliberate act of abuse.

It is very important for the victim to know what bullying is not to make sure that when things seem hurtful, they will not fall immediately into the category of bullying, because the way to overcome bullying is different from the way to overcome other hurtful acts.

Read more about bullying

While I Was Sleeping

Father and daughterWhen it first came out, I read Dad’s post While You Were Sleeping and it really struck a chord in me. I have read it about 7 times now and it still makes me feel all warm and fuzzy in the amazing knowledge that “my daddy loves me”. I decided then that I was going to write something that he could read and maybe see that this little bear cub feels his love and his good intentions, even while I sleep. And maybe if I could convince reader parents that we kids feel your love and we love you back, I will have done my good deed for today.

I am the oldest of the children in my family and I have learnt through time and experience that my parents are not all knowing or all able. I know that they are sometimes sad, angry, frustrated or disappointed. I know that they work hard sometimes, that they need help or they are a bit stressed. But although I know they are not invincible, they are still my cocoon. No matter how old I get (and I seem to be getting older every year), I still go to them for support. I go to them for advice, for help and most of all, for comfort. They are still my pillars of strength and my source of love.

Read more about kids’ love for their parents

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

Stubborn Kids

Kid making a faceI know a lot about stubborn kids, because I was famous for being stubborn as a child myself. Only later in life, when I studied education, I realized that people call their kids “stubborn” when they themselves do not give up and follow their kids’ instructions or rules. That made me think that

In order for a child to be stubborn and insist on doing something, you need to have an adult that insist on doing something else

I learned this amazing thing from a young kid who was about 2 years old at the time (he is 22 years old now). Let me tell you, learning it from a kid is much more humiliating than learning it from other adults, so I hope you will be able to learn it from reading this if you do not want to have to suffer the humiliation of “losing to a rug”.

Read more about how to deal with stubborn kids

How to Study for Tests (2): Teachers’ Clues

Final exam paperIn 2008, I wrote the post How to study for tests, which contained important tips and advice on preparing and taking exams at school. That post covered 11 tips. Since then, I have had a chance to talk to many teachers about tip number 3 – highlight the important things – and I want to give some ideas on how to get the teacher to help you (your kids) do that.

Generally speaking, teachers really want their students to succeed. I know there are still teachers out there who consider teaching as some form of competition with their students, but they are the minority and we do not want to give them a stage here, so let’s just ignore them. I still believe teachers want their students to succeed, because after all, students’ success is proof the teacher has done a good job.

Teaching kids to notice the clues is very easy. You tell them that a class is like a challenging puzzle and they must solve the puzzle during exams. The challenge during the whole term is to find the pieces needed for the exam. Every test question is a piece of the puzzle. We need kids to listen carefully to the teachers, because they give clues about the pieces.

Read more about how to study for exams

Five Minutes Past the End of Your Nose

College graduationNowadays, I am faced with deadlines almost on a daily basis for my university studies and at my job. This brings on considerations such as what to do first and when to get started. I also have many opportunities to go out and forget about all the things I have to do. There are great things on TV, lots of friends to chat to, parties to attend and books to read. I could really forget about assignments and deadlines and just go out. Going on from Dad’s earlier post Do it NOW, I want to chat to you about the value of planning ahead, of thinking five minutes down the track and the importance of this for children (and teens and young adults).

There was a wonderful saying in the classic 60s movie Mary Poppins. It goes something like this:

Sometimes a person, through no fault of his own, can’t see past the end of his nose

Of course, Mary Poppins was referring to the fact that people sometimes don’t accept things that aren’t part of their world. But this saying is always associated in my mind with the fact that sometimes children can’t fathom that while they get what they want right now, there are consequences to their decision.

Read more about how to teach your kids responsibility

"Yes" parenting

Angry little girlParenting can be really challenging at times. Any parent will tell you that sometimes the challenge is so big they feel out of control – not control over your kids, but control over your reactions to what your kids do or do not do. After all, you are the “captain” and it is your job to run the “ship”.

The discussion about discipline covers many topics – the rights of the parents, the strictness of the discipline, the collaboration between parents (or lack thereof), the alignment of values between home and school (or lack thereof) – the list of philosophical discussions is very long. I have found out through my workshops that parents have only that much ability to discuss the philosophical issues of parenting and most of the time, they just ask, “Ronit, what can I actually do?”

In the first years of my work with parents, I worried about that. I said to myself that without understanding the philosophy behind things, they would not be able to manage the next challenge, but I was wrong, because parents can be awesome even if they cannot explain their theories and even if they do not have a deep understanding of the human mind. Some things just make sense to them and if they try them and they work, they just continue doing them successfully.

Today, I want to talk about a parenting technique that has worked for me like magic. It has helped me a lot not to get into arguments with my kids or with the kids I have coached.

I learned this technique from my dad – not from him being a role model of it, but from him being a role model of the opposite…

Read more about positive parenting