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

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Are We There Yet?

The Baras familyMany parents, when they think of traveling with their kids, immediately hear this whine in their mind, coming from the back seat of the car, “Are we there yet?” I have seen similar scenes in way too many movies too. Being in the car with bored kids is possibly one of the most common fears parents have, which causes many of them to avoid traveling with their children.

How horrible.

Another thing that is now very common is the use of electronic gadgets to pacify kids and keep them occupied on the way to interesting places, because of the fear of what they might do if they get bored. Watching a DVD or listening to music, often each person separately listening with headphones, seem like good ways to “have some peace and quiet”.

Again, how horrible.

Ronit and I have just returned from a week away with our kids. It is now winter in Brisbane, with temperatures below our enjoyment threshold, so we decided to go to Port Douglas, which is in the tropical region of Australia. We were hoping for nice, warm weather. Instead, the sky was overcast, it rained lightly on most days and the temperatures we pretty mild. But we had a ball anyway.

Read more about how to travel with children

Anorexia: Healing through Creativity

SingerCreativity and self-expression are wonderful ways to recover from an eating disorder. Not eating and overeating are ways to control your life. Creativity happens when there is full control and can even be a form of meditation.

When I was young, I had many throat infections. My mom’s solution was always to take me to the doctor and give me antibiotics. This was a major part of my life for about 10 years. I took antibiotics about 6 months every year as a kid. It freaks me out to think about it now. When I grew up and learned more about the connection between physical problems and emotional states, I discovered that my throat infections could have been a result of being unable to express myself. Funnily enough, when I started writing at the age of 14, they disappeared.

I also learned that self-expression can be a cure, so since then, whenever my throat starts playing up and I have that familiar dry tingle threatening to flare, I sing! I turn the music on at full volume, or do it in the car, and sing! It does magic. One day and the infection is gone.

Using art for self-expression is a wonderful way to regain control over your life. You are on your own, creating what is in your mind. No criticism, no expected outcomes, just you and your creative flow, so you can feel how your body obeys your commands.

In any creative form, there is a sense of freedom that anorexic people desperately need. They have the freedom to try new things, the freedom to make mistakes, the freedom to express themselves, the freedom from rules and boundaries – basically, the freedom to be themselves.

Also, immersing ourselves in creative art can work as a great distraction from thinking about the emotional challenges that take over otherwise. Anorexic people continually think about their “distorted body”, about food and about their problems. Keeping busy and doing something creative is like putting a sign on the door saying “time out” from thinking and hopefully those thoughts will never come back.

People are different and find different forms of self-expression, but all of them are wonderful and can help in healing and recovering from anorexia or other eating disorders.

Read more about how to heal yourself from anorexia

Happiness is in the Right Brain

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The intuitive mind is a sacred gift. The rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift
– Albert Einstein

Happiness depends a lot on which side of the brain we use. If you feel under pressure, your brain is telling you that you have been using your left brain to its maximum capacity.

85% of the time, we function using our left brain. We make sense of things, think of sequences, analyze language and meaning, interpret information and communication and absorb new facts from all around us. Although these functions are necessary to our life, the left side of our brain has its limits and uses pressure to signal that we need to let go and switch to using our right brain.

The left hemisphere of our brain functions like a sequential receiver and processor, while the right hemisphere is in charge of our imagination, sleep (dreams), memory, intuition and all of our creative functions. We absorb with the left side and create with our right side. The brain is like battery – the right side charges it and the left side uses the energy and empties it. Our goal is always keep our mental battery charged.

In our fast-moving world with way too much information, our brain reaches this point of pressure very often. This is when the brain pushes the “red alert” button and says “Enough! No more information. No more analyzing. No more thinking and no more talking!” If we ignore this signal, the sounds of the red alert and danger increase until we collapse or fall asleep from exhaustion.

Read more about how to have a happier life

Unlocking Creativity

Messy toddlerI believe that all people have some creativity in them. It may not be the same form of creativity and it may not be the same level, but we all have the capacity to create.

Creativity is the art of making something new and original. We can expose our kids to making things from a very early stage and that will boost their self-confidence and their flexibility. The good thing about being creative is that it helps when you need to solve problems. Creative people are better problem solvers, because they are able to take a solution from one area of life and apply it in another area.

Children are in “learning mode” during most of their childhood. They try things, fail and learn and this grows their confidence. We all want to have creative children, so when they are not, before we start with the Genetics mantra (“He’s not a creative child. Some people are born with it and some aren’t”), we should examine our parenting style and how it locks or unlocks this creativity. Yes, there are people who are born with high creative potential, but I tend to think they need to be stimulated enough to actually reach a high level of creativity.

I think parents hold the keys to their children’s creativity. No matter how genetically creative your child is, you can help them be more creative. Your attitude will determine if your children keep trying or label themselves as “not good with those things”, which is worse than not being able to create.

Over the last 25 years, I have worked with thousands of children that talk about their ability to create in a bad way. You might think, “Well, maybe they discovered they were just not very creative”, and I say”

You cannot discover you are just not good at creating. You can only be blocked from discovering that you are.

Read more about how to develop creativity in kids

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.

Read more about parenting rules about school

Approval Trap (4): How to get yourself out

clip_image002If you have followed the activity in the previous post, you probably understand that it is impossible to be totally free from needing approval. Again, do not blame yourself or others for this mindset, because you always do the best you can and your parents always did the best they could. But now that you know how dangerous approval can be to live with, you cannot afford to pass it on to your children, because doing what was done to you is not longer the best you can do.

To change, we need to make a conscious decision to change!

If you need some help in motivating yourself to change, think of how much pain you have endured over the years while seeking others’ approval and about how much more heartache and pain you will have to endure through in a year, 5 years and 10 years if you do nothing.

Think how cruel you will be to your kids by continuing this cycle. My mentor life coach did this trick to me when I faced a difficult change. He said to me, “Would you want Eden to be like this?” and I understood that I managed to live with the pain as a survival mechanism, but I could not live with the pain of being a role model to my daughter and making her suffer for it. I made the change immediately!

The good news is that you can minimize several approval-seeking behaviors at once by developing a single skill. For example, if many of your approval-seeking behaviors are due to lack of significance, working on your sense of uniqueness and learning to feel special will reduce or even eliminate about a third of the behaviors mentioned.

Read more about how to get out of the approval trap

Approval Trap (3): Approval-Seeking Behavior

Man in circus cageThe first step of getting out of any emotional trap is recognizing that you are caged by a mindset that blocks you from being happy and fulfilled – that you are the one giving others power over your life.

People in the approval trap have some common character traits, all related to fear (is there anything besides love and fear?). They lack significance, have low self-esteem and use attention-seeking behavior to gain more significance, although that cannot remove the fear or raise their self-esteem.

Trapped individuals have the idea that to be highly thought of by some important others, they need to stick out, gain superiority by making others feel inferior, pretend to be someone they are not or, in other cases, never take risks to avoid conflict and judgment.

Everyone is trapped somehow, but it is the magnitude of the problem that matters. Use the list of approval-seeking behaviors below to discover if you are trapped or not and how deep are you in the trap of approval.

Give each item a rating from 0 to 10 (0 means you never do it and 10 means you do it all the time). My suggestion is to focus on those you gave high scores, indicating you have that behavior and the next post will give great tips to change that and get yourself out of the trap.

Read more about the approval trap

Approval Trap (2): Are you trapped?

Drug addictWe define our identity through our communication with the people around us. We experience things and get feedback that directs us towards a desired, productive and agreeable behavior. Even the words we use require some form of agreement. For example, if I started writing here in another language, you would leave the website and even get a bit angry at me, because we do not have an agreement that I can write to you in a different language.

It is not easy to recognize when external approval becomes a kind of social trap. In fact, many people reject the idea by saying that we cannot really live without approval. If you feel you cannot live without approval, it must be right for you!

The fact we consider encouragement as approval is not a real problem. There is no person on Earth that does not enjoy it and feel good about it. The problem appears when we are sucked into an approval power game, because it is addictive and turns approval into a need for us.

Wanting to be loved, accepted, part of a group, approved or a source of pride for someone are all natural feelings that help us succeed in life, but when we cannot succeed (or function) without them, we are trapped. It happens slowly, like putting a frog in hot water and heating the water slowly, so the frog cannot feel it is being cooked slowly up to its death.

Read more about how to regain control of your life