Handy Family Tips: How to Peel Avocado

Special peeler for avocadoI love avocado. Always have. And I am very happy that my kids love avocado as well. I love avocado, but do you know what I do not like? Waste, clutter and buying products that only fit one specific purpose (well, that is a kind of waste).

A few weeks ago, I spent a week running workshops at a conference in the north of the country. The conference organizers booked for me into a serviced apartment, because they thought I would be more comfortable making my own food. Since I worked most of the day, I hardly had time to cook for myself, but in the evening and at night, when I felt hungry, I could make myself simple, yet tasty, things to eat.

When I checked what was in the apartment’s kitchen drawers and the cupboards, it hit me that everything was so organized. I compared it to my own kitchen cupboards and drawers. Ouch! That hurt!

No, they did not have all the utensils I had at home, but I could manage with everything just fine.

Read more about how to peel avocado old style


Mother: The Best Job in the World

Ronit Baras and the Be Happy in LIFE familyMother’s Day is just around the corner and many things happened to me in the last month that made me wonder about the hardest thing I have ever done, the most important thing and the best thing of all.

I have done a lot in my life. Luckily, although some things were incredibly challenging, my life has been very rewarding overall. I am the kind of person who goes to work and it does not feel like a work, more like serving a purpose. I am an educator in every cell of my body. I teach parents how to be the best they can be and how to raise happy kids by being happy themselves and I have changed the lives of thousands of children. Still, the best of all my talent, I have given to my own children: Eden, Tsoof and Noff. Being their mother always seems to bring out the best in me.

All this wondering started when one of my clients had a daughter. She had given up her career and the search for a partner and with her mother’s help, she had gone through the journey of having a child on her own. I saw a photo of them and it reminded me of the first day I met my daughter Eden, my happy thought. Her birth was the birth of many new feelings and since then, I have been a different person. A better one, I think.

Then, Gal was talking on Skype with a man who wanted to do business with him. I was working next to him when they had a very serious discussion about web developers. The other man talked about “them” as being a bunch of stupid people who could not see that working with him would make them part of a network similar to Facebook or the companies owned by Richard Branson. After a while, Gal felt uncomfortable with all the judgment and asked him, “Do you have kids?” The man hesitated and said, “No”. Gal tried to say to him politely that when people have children, they think twice before giving their time to someone they do not know in exchange for promises. This made me think about the feeling I had when Eden was born – pure joy and happiness, hope and excitement, mixed with a heavy burden of responsibility. Kids cannot be sent back to the manufacturer for a warranty replacement! You can only truly understand this when you have your first child.

Read the rest of my Mother’s Day post…

Kids’ Declaration of Independence: The Choice Muscle

Happy toddlersAs hard as it is for parents to imagine, one day, their baby is going to sign their own declaration, leave home and be independent. Kids strive for independence from the age of 1½ to 2 years old, when you try to dress them and they say, “No, no, me”, and keep trying to do things themselves.

Much like many countries around the world, kids can get their independence after war and “bloodshed” or after signing a “peace treaty” with the society around them. And much like the independence of countries is mainly the result of what their leaders do, with kids, it is a mainly the result of what their parents do.

Do you feel it is a heavy responsibility? Well, it is! But if you think deeply about it, you will find that power goes hand in hand with responsibility. Parents have lots of power in leading their kids to design their declaration of independence and sign it.

The confusion between chores and independence

If you talk to most parents (when they are calm), they will tell you that independence is very important. Yet when I ask them how if they teach independence, they talk about chores. My mom did the same. She said, “If you do the dishes from the age of 10, when you live in your own home, you will be able to do the dishes”. We told her, “No, Mom. If I wash the dishes from the age of 10, by the time I am grown up, I will hate and resent it so much I will avoid washing the dishes”.

Even though my mom did not think that fun and motivation had anything to do with the kind of grownups we would become, she still wanted us to be independent. I think that much like many other parents, she confused doing chores with independence.

Read more about how to raise independent kids

Handy Family Tips: Laundry day

Washing piled highUnless you are raising celebrities that wear underwear once and make money from selling them to the highest bidder and unless you have a maid that allows your kids to put their clothes in the laundry basket and find it all ironed in the closet, you are a normal parent who must do the dirty job of washing the laundry. Luckily for us, we do not have to do it by hand and we have washers, dryers and chemicals that make life easier, although I may not appreciate the luxury of it because I hate washing or, I should say, I hate the thought of washing.

I do not know why, but for years, I hated doing the laundry. When Eden was born, I was amazed how many clothes a tiny baby could change. When the kids started going to school, with the need to have their uniform clean for school, I hated it even more. I think I always had this feeling that I was constantly washing clothes. No, I did not have to do it by hand or spin the washing machine by hand, but it sure felt like it. If you hate laundry too, this tip is for you.

Read more about how to make washing easy

Parents Doing Business

Happy familyI had my first business at the age of 25. I finished my Special Education studies and opened an Early Childhood Center that became a very successful business within a short time. I was a mother and a wife and had a mortgage, a car and a personal loan for my business.

If you hear parents tell you that kids are an obstacle for them, I can tell you that having kids is a bad excuse for not doing business. When the kids grow up and leave the house, they will be left with their excuses. So when they have to explain why they have never done what they have always wanted to do, they will start saying, “It’s too late now”, which is just another excuse.

If you are thinking of starting a business and will need to juggle business and family, it is a good idea to discover what you will have to do to succeed at it. Some people are not cut out to own and operate a business. Others do not know how to balance a home and a business. Managing your business, your home and your parenting well requires some skills and attitudes that will determine the success of your business, the quality of your family life and even your health.

Unlike people who do not have kids, business parents risk a lot more than their own time and money. They risk their relationships with their partners and with their kids, as well as the quality of preparation their kids get for life. You go into business because you want a better life for your kids, not to destroy your relationship with your kids, so do it right!

Read more about how to be a good business parent

Ronit’s Parenting Bible: Gender

Girls in a theme park rideWe live in a society with many stereotypes regarding boys and girls, men and women. Unfortunately, I believe that these stereotypes are not good for our society and that they are a big obstacle to social justice.

I was a discriminated as a girl. I was one of four girls in a family with one son who was considered “the prince”. As funny as it may seem, he was considered the prince by my mom and not by my dad. The boys in the neighborhood did not want me to play soccer with them, until I took a group of girls with me to challenge them in a soccer match and we won. Once, when I wanted to learn ballet, my mom said no dance school would accept me because I was bruised all over from playing soccer and fighting with the boys on the street. I certainly did not live in a place with a lot of gender equity. There were things that boys did and things that girls did and I did not like it one bit.

When I designed my parenting bible, after studying about the psychological development of babies and our social gender trap, I made a decision (I think a brave decision) to raise my kids to respect the other gender and to think they are free to be whatever they want to be without being confined to what boys or girls are expected to do. Acceptance and freethinking starts from a very early age and I am very happy that my kids never talked about “boy germs” or “girl germs” and they are all proud and happy with their gender.

I have to say that I have learned from my dad many of my gender-related bible commandments. He was an awesome role model for social justice and gender equity. He cooked, cleaned, took care of us as babies and later on as kids, when my mom left home very early in the morning. My dad helped us with homework and was (still is) a very arty-crafty man who enjoyed doing woodwork, jewelry, cross-stitching and silk paintings and scarves. Whenever my mom gave my brother exemptions from cleaning, dishwashing or doing laundry, my dad always said my brother must do his fair share.

When I had time to think about gender equity, I used my dad as a role model and decided to add to my bible some do’s and don’ts that will help me raise kids who think their gender was not a way to be superior or inferior.

Read more about how to teach your children gender equality

Who’s in Charge, Anyway?

Girl cryingBack in the olden days, kids were punished, flogged and told off by their parents for “misbehaving” or “having no discipline”. The definitions of proper behavior and good discipline were very clear to the parents and everybody else in their community, so they felt justified in applying whatever pressure to control their children and get them back “in line”.

But we no longer live in the olden days.

Nowadays, formal manners and other phony requirements glide off our children like cooking oil off a Teflon pan. As soon as parents start using force to inspire some specific behavior, action or result, modern kids realize they have leverage over their parents in a game of control and power. Moreover, as soon as they are old enough, they get so good at this game, many parents have zero chance of getting what they want and can only go backwards.

Let’s say your kids have a royal mess in their room and you want them to clean it up (or stop watching TV or get off the Internet or whatever). You ask, you ask again, you say it louder, you yell at the top of your voice, you add ultimatums and threats, you hiss, you fume, but nothing works. Promising a reward for doing what you want makes it even worse, because the price keeps going up and still nothing changes.

Read more about how to control your kids’ behavior

Handy Family Tips (9): Glass jars

Glass storage jarsIn the last few years, I discovered that glass containers were cheaper than plastic or metal ones. If I buy tomato paste in a glass jar, it costs almost half the price of buying it in tubes, sachets or sealed plastic tubs, so I decided to start recycling glass the way I had recycled plastic. It is even easier to remove the labels from glass containers, because they can stand heat and I they are dishwasher safe.

So I wash them, take the label off and use them to store things in my cupboards. One clear advantage of glass containers is that you can easily see what is inside them.

If you buy the same product regularly, after a short time, you can have a whole set of glass jars. For example, we use one kind of mayonnaise, so now our cupboard jars look like a set.

Basically, everything I buy in a large quantity, I transfer to a glass jar, because it is easier to manage. When I buy a bag of something, as soon as I open it, I transfer it to a glass container – I like to see in the container and it saves me having to deal with many bags and clips.

Read more about how to organize your home

Raising Grownups

Funny babyParents often see themselves as “raising children”.

Not true.

Parents are actually raising future grownups and this is an important distinction, because grownups are independent, hopefully self-sufficient humans, whereas children are rather dependent and undeveloped beings who need continuous care and attention.

So in essence, no matter what we do today, we should do it with the final creation in mind – our future son or daughter when they are ready to say goodbye and beyond.

Will they be healthy and able to care for themselves so they can stay healthy?

Will they have the knowledge they need to not only survive in the world but also succeed?

Will they have the strength of character to do well and be happy?

But daily life is quite different for most parents. In most homes, parents are busy people and when they interact with their kids, it is often to do with housekeeping, cleaning up their messy rooms, getting off the computer or getting ready to go somewhere in a hurry. Most of the communication between parents and their children is aimed at right now (“Come here”, “Stop making noise”, “Clean your room” or “Let’s go”) and sometimes at the recent past (“Why did you…”, “If only you had…” or “You should have…”).

Read more about how to raise your children to be great grownups…

Handy Family Tip (7): Smelly bins

Rubbish binsI hate it when we are ready to take the rubbish bin outside and it drips. Yuck! I remember when we lived in the USA and there were garbage disposers (insinkerators) everywhere, I never had that problem. Oh, how I loved it. Without the garbage disposer, I have a feeling our home is a garbage production facility, exactly like the animals thought in the movie “The Hedge”. We have so much trash it is not funny.

Rubbish is not something people talk about much, but in a business course, the instructor once asked us what would happen if for one week, one week only, the cleaners (or garbage collectors) did not come to work?

It is different when we talk about a family, but in a sense, a family is like a small business, so what happens if one day, the cleaners do not show up for work or when the bin is overloaded?

Smelly bins are something I really hate and over the years, I have tried many things to overcome the smell.

Read more about how to handle smelly bins