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 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

Make a List: Books that have changed my life

Inspiration 365 Days a YearAs an author, I have a strong belief in the written word. The collection of sounds put together in a unique sequence, creating words, sentences and paragraphs into ideas, has an enormous power for me.

I have been an avid reader from the age of 8. I remember that my neighbor friend and I used to ride our bicycles to the library for more than 45 minutes and could only borrow 3 books for 3 weeks. Reading was my sanctuary. School was tough for me, home was not an easy place and reading allowed me to visit new worlds in my own imagination and immerse myself in them.

I have always found it fascinating that a combination of words could trigger such emotions in people. Sometimes, when I read something that was really scary, I had to remind myself that it was just a story and that if I took the same words and put them in a different combination, their meaning would change completely.

Books were my best friends for many years. As a teenager, I spent about 2-3 hours every day reading. When I read a book late at night, the only thought that encouraged me to let go of the book and go to sleep was “leave something for tomorrow”. Our high school librarian would wait for me every day with a pack of books and say, “Ronit, I think you’ll like these”. Books inspired me to be better, stronger and smarter and to keep moving forward.

I think the understanding in the early years of my life of the power of words has made me the author I am today. When I write, I search for the combination of words that would trigger certain thoughts and feelings. My ultimate goal is to write something that will open the gates of the heart and allow people to find love, connection and happiness.

Read more about how to inspire your life with books

From the Life Coaching Deck: Troublemaker

Girl with labels projected onto herIan’s parents came for coaching about 5 years ago. Ian’s mom, Lou, booked the sessions as a last resort before she divorced his dad. About two months ago, she sent me an email and said, “Hi Ronit, Dave and I renewed our vows last year on an overseas trip. I want you to see Ian. He’s in trouble at school”.

Kids’ coaching is not something that most parents understand, but Lou and Dave, after making a huge change in their own life through coaching, did not need to ask what it was. When I called Lou and asked what she needed and why she wanted Ian to come and see me, she said, “Ronit, I’m not sure how you do what you do, but I need you to do it for Ian. He’s a great kid, but he’s in trouble at school and it’s affecting his self-esteem. It breaks my heart to see him like that. I’ve tried different things, but he is still in trouble. I’m sure if he spends some time with you, he’ll gain some confidence, just like we did”.

Ian was one of the most beautiful 11-year-old boys I had ever seen. In his first session, I went over some assessments to figure out what was making him get in trouble at school. Although he could read high-level books, thought math was easy and schoolwork was not a challenge at all, his grade average was “B”. Not that I think everyone needs to get an “A”, but all my assessments showed he was an “A” student, maybe even one of those smart kids that find school so boring they stir up some trouble to get some attention and make things a bit more interesting.

Read more about why kids get in trouble at school

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

Real Education

Smiling students after graduationWhen I was a kid, my parents valued education and told my sisters and me that getting a good education was the key to having opportunities in life. My mother was a school teacher, so she could help us with homework throughout most of our school years, and my father, well, he was sorry he never got the chance to get more education, so he just gave us the drive.

But when I grew up and had children of my own, I realized that my path had been laid out for me and that I had pursued education without ever stopping to ask my self why. I may have chosen my fields of study, but the thought of traveling, taking a “gap year” to work or even starting a business had never crossed my mind.

If we look at the history of knowledge, we can see that it was once reserved to special people, such as nobles, religious leaders and professional scholars. Later on, getting a “good education” required no entitlement, only money, and over time, education became more and more accessible to everyday people.

Still, the feeling that education gives you and edge and lifts your social standing remained and was transferred from one generation to the next. Knowledge was power, or so everybody thought.

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My School Horror: Untouchable

Girl looking sadSchool was not one of the best periods in my life. I have become a teacher in hope of making a different in the lives of the many children like I was who are not very good in their studies, have few or no friends and struggle.

It is hard for people to imagine this, but for some kids, school is a big struggle for survival. This struggle is carried with them for years to come, even when those kids become parents themselves. When I talk to my clients about the negative beliefs they have about themselves, I discover that many of them were formed in school, when other kids said nasty things that they had no way of overcoming. I understand this very well, because I was the same. It took me a long time get over it and what really helped me was moving from primary school to middle school.

In 1st Grade, I was not a very popular girl. If there was a hierarchy in class, I was at the bottom of it, with 2 other kids that had their own problems. I loved going to school, because my teacher was the angel for me. She was soft and understanding and always treated me nicely, but the other kids never wanted to play with me.

When I did not come to school, it was very hard for my teacher to get one of the kids to come over and give me the homework (although some kids lived in my neighborhood). In the morning, when we had to stand in pairs in front of the classroom door, I was always left at the end and the child that had to give me his hand did this it in disgust. Although my teacher was very kind to me, I was always alone. Every year, until the end of primary school, when the end of year came and my class gave a performance, I stood at the back, holding a sign or something, by myself.

Was I maybe just not a friendly girl?

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Parents are Failing Exams

Girl doing homeworkExams have been a big part of schooling for ages and I think they will be here for years to come, yet every year that goes by, I am more convinced they defeat the purpose they were created for. Teachers use exams to measure the kids’ success, which is OK, but they forget that the kids’ success is mainly related to how successful they were at teaching their subjects.

I am extremely upset with the way exams are conducted. My own children, Eden, Tsoof and Noff, vary greatly in age. They have studied in many places around the world with different teachers and in different school systems, and I have encountered this problem everywhere, so no matter where you live, this post is for you, because parents have the power to change it.

The reason I am extremely upset is that one of my students, a gorgeous girl who came for an assessment, was about to finish 7th Grade and go to 8th Grade, but could not read at 3rd Grade level and was doing very poorly in class. When I did her assessment, I was convinced I was wrong and made some mistake, but she could not read a short paragraph of instructions and failed at 3rd Grade comprehension level.

Now, I have a question for you. What is the point of having tests if a girl is allowed to move from one grade to the next without recognizing she has a problem and without giving her any help?! Her mother was very, very angry. She had sent her precious daughter to private schools from the first day of schooling, her school had complained during the previous year about her daughter’s behavior, but no one ever thought of saying anything about her poor academic achievements, never mind her enormous frustration.

The poor girl had been overlooked for nearly 5 years!

Read more about what parents must do with exams

My School Horror: Lazy Kids

Asa Butterfield - HugoA few weeks ago, I starting writing about horror stories that happen at school when teachers are not aware of how their actions affect the children and when they do not know what is happening in kids’ lives outside of school. The teacher in today’s story is kind, loves her students and does an amazingly great job under tough circumstances, but despite her best intentions, something went horribly wrong.

While my previous post was about events that happened 38 years ago (you can calculate my age now), this event took place just recently at a school nearby.

Sharon was a 6th Grade teacher and tried very hard to make Josh participate in class activities. Josh was just a lazy kid. He did not do his homework, he was rude and violent towards other kids and was a typical troublemaker. Every day he was absent from school was a great day. She tried giving him tasks, helped him and did all the regular behavior management things to get him interested and engaged, but nothing worked. When she thought she had exhausted all her options, she decided to call his home and tell Josh’s parents about his behavior. His parents said, “Thank you for letting us know. We’ll talk to Josh and make sure he never causes any more trouble at school”.

The following day, Josh came to class and was very quiet. It was a summer day, but he was wearing a long-sleeved jumper. Sharon felt something was wrong with that and asked him to stay with her after class. She asked him about the jumper. At first, he said he was a bit cold in the morning, but eventually, she asked him to take off his shirt, just for a second.

Read more about how to help kids learn better

Troubled Teens: Confusing Years

Teen girl posingIn the past, people thought that teens’ behavior during the teenage years was directly connected to physical changes they start to experience at the age of 12, which makes them feel strange with their body changes and confuses them. Today, the approach is that adolescence is a more gradual process that starts with the first time children want to try doing things on their own, sometime as early as the age of 3.

If teenagers seem confused to you, it is mainly because they have reached a point in their life when they need to define who they are, what they think, what they like or hate, what their beliefs are and what they wants to be later on in life. These thoughts are tough. I know many adults who have not reached that self-definition yet, so this is not easy for a 12-year-old to do, although they are expected to have some clue about it.

Around the age of 10, beliefs that were part of children’s identity are shattered and they need to put the pieces together to survive emotionally. Kids with high emotional intelligence can do that, but most cannot, so they have to ask for help from those who unintentionally create the problem – their parents or their teachers.

This series will give you a sneak peek into teens’ confused brain and help you understand why it is so hard do be a teenager. I still remember my adolescence, I am raising my second teen, the third one is reaching puberty soon and I have worked with lots of teenagers in the last 25 years, so this list is quite reliable.

Read more about how to raise happy teens