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

Never Mind Why

image_thumbOften, particularly when things do not go our way, we ask, “Why?” Why did something happen to us, why did someone say something hurtful to us, why a friend was late, why our boss looks so upset and why life is not fair?

If you stop for a second, close your eyes and say to yourself, “Why? Why? Why?” you will quickly feel the misery creeping up on you and your energy sinking. Asking why brings you down. It is because this question is about the past, about something you did not understand and in most cases, you can never truly understand anyway.

The thing is you do not have to understand everything in order to live a productive and happy life. What you really have to do is decide what to do about it. So a better question is, “Now what?”

Sigmund Freud was one of the most important figures in the field of psychology and the creator of Psychoanalysis. For many years, all around the world, psychologists and psychiatrists spent their time trying to discover why their patients thought and behaved the way they did. Treatments were very long, which made them expensive and thus not available to everyone. They were often very painful emotionally, which made people stop them after a while.

Then Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) came along and provided quick ways to recover from issues, boost confidence and otherwise improve people’s emotional state without long and painful treatments. NLP does not dwell on the reasons. Instead, it quickly identifies where the person is, where they want to be, and then “reprograms” their thought patters to achieve that.

Read more about why you should stop asking “Why?”

Literacy, Numeracy, Emotionacy

Rat in trap next to warning signIf you have a school-aged child, even in Prep (or whatever you call the year before First Grade), you probably already know all about Literacy and Numeracy. Education systems seem to be so focused on teaching kids to read, write and work with numbers they cut Music classes, Art teaching positions and other “non-essential” subjects and put enormous pressure on children with standardized literacy and numeracy tests.

In Australia, there is now something called NAPLAN – National Assessment Program for Literacy and Numeracy, officially described like this: “Every year, all students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 are assessed on the same days using national tests in Reading, Writing, Language Conventions (Spelling, Grammar and Punctuation) and Numeracy”.

This means that absolutely NOTHING else matters to most of the teachers and parents of students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9. After having quite a bit of fun in Prep and Years 1 and 2, the poor kids in Year 3 are taught things by the book, tested every week, deprived of play time, music, art, sport and extracurricular activities and subjected to constant pressure to perform. State Education ministers go nuts from it, so Department of Education executives go nuts from it, so principals go nuts from it, so teachers go nuts from it, so students go nuts from it.

The same thing happens all over again 2, 4 and 6 years later.

And that is really bad.

Because learning should be fun and because all that stress actually blocks learning.

Read more about how to truly improve literacy and numeracy

Ronit’s Parenting Bible: School

School festivalKids’ schooling is one of the biggest parts of every parent’s bible. Out of their life at home, about 70% is associated with school in some way – homework assignments, report cards, extracurricular activities, meetings with teachers and more.

My schooling was a nightmare for my parents. I was not a good student (to put it mildly) and my parents really suffered for it. I was not very good in my academic studies, I had social problems, I had behavior problems and the whole school experience was very painful for me.

However, after being kicked out of school after 10th grade for failing too many subjects, I became a good student and won a scholarship for excellence. I then realized that my parents could not have made life easier for me, because they had no rules about school to guide them. They wanted me (and my siblings) to go to school because this is what everyone did and because in their mind, not having education pre-destined you to a life of sweeping streets and collecting garbage.

My personal experience contributed much to my parenting bible. As I went through college, the rules and commandments about school and studies became much clearer.

I am particularly proud of my school commandments and of having kids whose schooling is one continuous ecstasy. Yes, their schooling was not a regular one, because they lived in different places around the world, learned in special programs (some of which I ran myself), skipped grades and did other extraordinary things. But this is what schooling is for me and I am happy and proud that my schooling commandments brought my kids to think of their schooling as the best thing that has ever happened to them.

I have over 1,000 rules related to school and studying. I will share 10 commandments with you today and I hope they will give you inspiration.

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Every Child Knows

Couple shoutingEvery parent knows that dealing with other human beings is not always smooth. We find ourselves interacting with different people all the time, with a wide variety of communication styles, values, beliefs and perspectives. That diversity can cause all kinds of misunderstandings, awkward moments and sometimes even serious friction.

Yet much of the time, most people operate under the assumption that “every child knows” what they know, that what seems clear and simple to them is as clear and simple to others. In fact, it is not the differences between us and the other people that create the friction, it is our expectation that they can see our point of view.

The TV series Lie to Me has brought the interpretation of facial expressions and body language into our living room, but unless you have developed these skills with a lot of supervised practice, it is likely that you can read what someone else is feeling correctly as often as not. If your partner walks in the door looking upset, are they sorry they are late, did they have a flat tire, did they get fired or did they just step in something unpleasant? It is hard to tell.

Here is an example.

John gets fires from work. He is so upset he cannot speak and decides to wait until the kids have gone to bed before sharing the bad news with Betty. Not knowing what has happened, Betty casually asks him if he can pick something up on his way back from work tomorrow.

John explodes.

Betty has no idea what just happened.

Read more about how to avoid relationship conflicts

In My Opinion

Father and little daughterAs a parent, you must have found yourself facing a stubborn child who will just not do what you ask of them. No matter what you want – clean your room, do your homework, stop nagging me to go home – kids sometimes seem to insist on doing the exact opposite.

If that is not enough, your partner may suddenly have strange notions of what should be done and how it should be done with money, around the house, in the yard or on vacation. You find yourself wondering if they have “lost the plot” and if you are the only person who can see things clearly.

These sorts of clashes can be very unpleasant and distressing. They also have the nasty habit of escalating to scary proportions very quickly. Whatever you do to make the other side “get it already”, they grow more persistent, until both sides start throwing hurtful comments, calling each other names and absolutely fuming.

Well, I am here to offer another way of looking at things, which is likely to help. But first, a couple of stories.

The Experiment

Last week, Ronit and I watched a movie called The Experiment. It is loosely based on Stanford University’s prison experiment, but instead of students, a group of adults who really need money are promised $1,000 a day for a “perfectly safe” 14-day experiment. They are taken to an isolated warehouse (the real experiment was in a campus basement), where they are divided into Guards and Prisoners. The guards are given simple rules and told to respond “commensurately”, which means “in proportion to the offense”, and never to use violence. In the “guard” room, there is a red light that will come on if the experiment has to be terminated.

Read more about how to never fight with your kids

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.

Read more about acceptance

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.

Read more about acceptance

From the Life Coaching Deck (3): Hyperactive Kids

Hyperactive boyOver many years of work, I have seen many kids whose parents claimed they had ADD (Attention Deficit disorder) and/or ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder) and wanted to know what I thought about giving them Ritalin.

Luckily, I am not a doctor and I do not need to prescribe medication to kids, but when parents want my opinion, I usually say, “Try as many other things as you can before you consider Ritalin”.

In fact, this happened to me again recently.

Luke is a 6-year-old boy who came to see me because he was diagnosed with (are you sitting down?) ADD, ADHD, autism, Asperger Syndrome, ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder) and OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). The doctor was pushing the parents hard to put him on Ritalin, but his mom did not like the idea. She changed his diet and said there was a significant improvement at first, but felt that after 6 months of a strict diet, the effects had worn off and he was becoming more agitated and getting into trouble at school again.

Read more about how to treat hyperactive kids without medicine