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?”

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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.

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How to Change Habits: Habit Types and How they Form

How Churchill might have looked as a childLife coaching is the science of exploring which small habitual changes can make the biggest impact on people’s life. Habits are stronger than reason and for a person to be on the winning side of life. He or she needs to strengthen good habits, break bad ones, think up new ones that will create happiness, health and success and do them repeatedly until they become second nature and are done without effort. Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit” and I agree.

We meet habits in the first days of our lives. I remember coming home with Eden from the hospital after her birth. I had spent 10 days with a huge infection, high fever and without being able to breastfeed. Everyone, including the doctors and the nurses, said I would no longer have breast milk. I wanted to breastfeed very much and I was so disappointed with the birth experience that ended up in a cesarean that I was determined to succeed. Eden took breast milk with no problems at all and because she had been fed from a bottle every 4 hours for 10 days in the hospital, she had developed a habit and was happy breastfeeding every 4 hours.

Parents have the ability to develop many habits in their children. The younger the kids are when they develop their habits, the stronger and more natural they are to them. When people ask me about my own children’s success, I say that they have a “success habits”. I see “being healthy” as a habit, “being talented” as a habit and “being friendly” as a habit. The list of the habits we can instill in our children is endless.

Read more about how bad habits are created

Misdiagnosing Learning Difficulties in the Early Years

Book: Frames of Mind - Howard GardnerTeachers and educators (myself included) believe in the power of our vision to make a difference in the lives of students. We think that if we start early, we will guarantee their success in the future. The risky part in education is reducing our evaluation methods to using statistics and making false assumptions about what is normal and what is not.

The official introduction of those assumptions occurred in 1904, when the psychologist Alfred Binet was asked by the French government to develop a test that would identify students with learning difficulties that required special help at school. The original request meant to cater better for students who needed help, but it gave birth to the test that later distorted education systems everywhere – the IQ Test.

The Education System Sees the Future

Based on the IQ test, students were positioned in a single, permanent place on the famous “bell curve” and that determined their potential for life. Shortly after its creation, the IQ test turned into the “crystal ball” of the education system. Children took the test and their future was decided. The IQ test took over the education system. Instead of being a helping teachers teach and helping students learn, it turned into an evaluation system that focused on formal scores and taught kids to pass tests.

Read more about diagnosing learning difficulties incorrectly in kindergarten

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

Little girl enjoying a mirrorRaising kids with confidence has been my goal ever since I started studying education. It was funny to discover along the way that teaching my kids knowledge was not going to make them successful and happy in life. At first, I was a bit disappointed to discover this, but as I have chosen to focus on the role of the most important agents – parents and teachers – in raising happy, confident, successful, healthy and friendly kids, I kept searching for ways that work.

I have 3 kids of my own and they are everything a parent can dream of. They are “the full package”. One of my friends told me that if she did not know them, she would think I was making them up. Almost every person who meets my kids asks us, “How did you do it?” Modestly, we say we were lucky, and we were. I am convinced that some things were just lucky, but no one wants to know about your luck, because luck is not something you can bring into your life. So these people say, “Come on, Ronit, tell us how you did it”.

I think I am using this parenting blog to say how I did it. As of today, there are 911 posts (is this a sign?) explaining how 3 kids in big differences in age, each born in a different place in the world, who each went through many changes in their life, can all be their parents’ bliss.

Today, I want to share with you a very easy trick to raise such kids. I call it “the mirror trick”.

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The Perfect Child: How to help perfectionist kids

Prefectly messy boy with scruffy dogI have clients who are perfectionists and they know they are perfectionists. They have been to some form of counseling or have seen psychologists and they claim that things have become worse since they discovered their perfectionism. The label “Perfectionist” has allowed them to justify their behavior and that has increased the friction in their relationships even more.

Most of them came for life coaching when they reached rock bottom in their relationship due to their high demands when their wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend, friends, work colleagues or even boss said, “Get lost!” and kicked them out of the relationship or left them.

In the previous post on perfectionism, I wrote about ways to assess whether you or your children are perfectionists. In this chapter, I will give you some tips to help perfectionists. If you want to use them to help a child, remember that your goal is to plant those thoughts into your child’s mind or create circumstances that will help them overcome the fear that is associated with things not happening exactly the way they want them to.

I hope these tips will help you help your perfectionist child and if you need the help yourself, translate them into adult vocabulary and your own circumstances and make perfectionism a period in your life, not a lifestyle.

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The Perfect Child: Is your kid a perfectionist?

Love can't be perfectAs a life coach promoting happiness, I find myself talking a lot about perfectionism as an obstacle on the way to a happy life. After researching the science of happiness and seeing thousands of clients, including many parents and children, I can tell you that happiness and perfectionism cannot live in the same body. They are like the good and the bad wolves living in your body and when you feed one, the other one starves.

The problem with perfectionism is not only that perfectionists are not happy but also that those who are close to them are not happy either because of it.

Many grownup perfectionists started out as perfectionist kids. In my kids’ assessments, I can tell if a child has a tendency towards perfectionism from age 3. Most people believe this cannot be helped. Some kids are born perfectionists and that is that, but I think this attitude makes our life much harder, because repeating this mantra guarantees there is nothing we can do about it.

Much like any other “disease”, perfectionism can be cured and the best time to do it is during early childhood, before the child develops strong behavior patterns that are hard to change.

I also believe that the best people to cure child perfectionism are parents, because their love for their child will help them overcome the resistance.

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Predictably Happy Kids

Little baskeball playerAs parents, we are supposed to do what is best for our kids. One of the biggest choices we all need to make is how to develop our kids when they too young to choose for themselves. Obviously, without being able to see into their future, this could be a case of the blind leading the blind.

But maybe it does not have to be.

In the past few days, I have been reading an excellent book called Predictably Irrational by Professor Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist at MIT. In one of the chapters, he describes experiments that show humans are so sensitive to loss they do everything they can to avoid losing even things they could have, but do not actually have. One of these things, he says, is options.

In his description, he give parents’ decision-making about their children’s development as an example of how irrationally expensive it is to keep our kids’ options open. If you do the math, he says, you see that spreading the family resources over 4 different activities each week, say ballet, piano, art and karate, means your child makes 1 unit of progress in each of them every week, as opposed to choosing just one activity, say piano, which would allow the child to make 4 units of progress every week and become really good at it.

I was tempted to agree, and this post was almost about how much his point made sense, but then Eden and I went for our morning walk (it is so great she starts late on Wednesdays) and reviewed her life, the lives of Tsoof and Noff and those of other kids we know, and my view of this issue changed completely.

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Wonders of Creation

Admiring mother and daughterAre your kids the most precious, amazing and wonderful things in the world?

If you are not sure, keep reading.

Parents, like most people, often view the world in absolute terms – “This is pretty”, “This is wrong”, “This smells good” or “How rude!” Naturally, the way they view their children is similar. They break each child down into separate properties, such as looks, math skills, strength and manners, and assign a rating or a score to each one of these important aspects in each child.

The result is disappointing more often than not, simply because nobody is perfect in every way, let alone kids, who undergo big changes and have not mastered every rule in their parents’ book. This is particularly apparent during the teenage years, when even calm and obedient children turn into full-sized, defiant and opinionated creatures. Many parents of teenagers are so focused on what their sons and daughters are not doing (right) they have a hard time remembering how they behaved last year, when they were still in primary school.

But your kids are the most precious, amazing and wonderful things in the world.

Really.

First, consider the odds of any of them being born at all. Out of thousands of potential partners in your life, you have chosen only one to have each child with. That child would not be the same if you had chosen anybody else.

Out of hundreds of eggs and billions of sperm, only one sperm combined with one egg to produce each child. The odds of having that particular child with those particular physical traits and basic character make winning the lottery seem like a sure thing.

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