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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The Art of Letting Go: Fear

Girl hiding behind balloonIn the next chapters of The Art of Letting Go, I will present a list of attachments. Letting them go is guaranteed to make your life easier and happier. Each example will include some activities and I promise that paying attention and doing the exercises will produce results. Also, I will add some inspirational quotes about each kind of attachment. You can use these quotes to remind yourself it is best to get these attachments out of your system, because they only bring disappointment, sadness and grief. So acknowledge them and let them go!

Fears are educated into us, and can, if we wish, be educated out
– Karl Augustus Menninger

Fear is a belief that something will turn out badly in the future. When people are afraid, they go in their mind to the future and imagine a negative outcome. Many people are attached to their beliefs because they think that being afraid of something will reduce the chances of it happening or even guarantee it will not happen. In a sense, they are trying to control the future. In fact, nobody can do that. We were not born fortunetellers and maybe for a reason. There is no need to try and do it in our mind, so just let go of the desire to do it.

Being afraid is only natural. We have instincts that trigger fear to protect us from danger. Unfortunately, while those instincts were meant to protect us from threats to our survival, many of us today consider discomfort and stress as dangerous enough to trigger a “fight or flight” response. When we are afraid, we react as if we are in danger and our reaction is not proportional. After all, we will not die if things do not turn out the way we want them to or when someone is not happy with what we are doing.

Read more about how to let go of fear

Attention is Golden

Couple at cocktail partyAs parents, some of the things our kids want to tell us are, well, childish. Although we love them, we are sometimes busy or preoccupied and paying close attention to what happened at the playground is not top of our list. As partners, friends, siblings and descendants, people talk to us about a wide variety of things that matter to them and paying attention can be difficult.

But it is worth the trouble.

When I worked at the National Semiconductors headquarters in Santa Clara, CA, the company provided easy access to great training and one of the courses I took was Active Listening. The instructor was a soft-spoken lady who impressed me as a good listener and someone who knew a great deal about people, and during the course I realized just how poorly I had been listening…

At the end of the class, I left with a list of actions and behaviors that constituted active listening and with the advice that it was important to practice them, but I felt something was missing from those instructions.

Over time, particularly after I trained to be a life coach, I read more about relationships and emotional intelligence and I think I have found an underlying description that unites the techniques and makes the whole thing seem like common sense.

Read more about how to be a good listener

Helicopter Parenting: is it a choice?

clip_image008_thumbHelicopter Parenting is a term used to describe parents who “hover” over their kids and try to control their kids’ choices regarding friends, education, schooling, hobbies career and even partners. The original intention behind the helicopter parenting style is to protect children and to help them get the most out of life by directing them towards what the parents think is right for the child.

Helicopter parenting comes with much love and care for the children, but there is always the risk the parents may become obsessive and create a dependent and helpless attitude in the children by not giving them the opportunities to experience, learn and evolve using their own judgment.

The greatest risk of using this parenting method is that of the parents adopting a form of perfectionism that sends a message to the child that Mom or Dad’s way of doing things is the only right way. Rather than creating a feeling of safety, love and appreciation for the child, perfectionism creates a feeling of inadequacy and fear. In simple words:

Anxious parents raise anxious kids

A new study showed that an over-involved or overprotective parenting style, often referred to as “helicopter mothers”, increases the risk for later anxiety in children. The study, conducted by researchers from the Centre for Emotional Health at Macquarie University, followed 200 children, aged 3-4 years old, and again 5 years after, at the age of 8-9. It also contains observed interactions between mothers and children, as well as mothers’ responses to statements like “I determine whom my child will play with” and “I dress my child even if he/she can do it alone”.

Read more about helicopter mothers

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?”

Make a List: Inspiring People

The Dalai LamaInspiration is contagious. It is the act of giving without the intention of giving that touches people at their core and helps them move forward towards being better, stronger people.

When I take stock of my life, my behavior, my attitude, beliefs and feelings, I often discover that other people have contributed greatly to who I am. When people have contributed in a bad way, I say that because of them or something that happened with them, I got stuck in a bad place in my life. In a sense, I am blaming them for being part of my life. When they have contributed in a good way, I say they have inspired me or encouraged me to reach where I am now. I am grateful and happy that they have been part of my journey.

My mom and dad influenced me in different ways, because they were totally different people. As a kid, I had lots of criticism towards them. When I started my personal growth experience at the age of 16 (lucky me, I was young), I changed the question from “How did they screw up my life?” to “How did each of them inspire me?” It is amazing how many great answers I have received.

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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

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

What Does Being a Parent Mean to You?

clip_image004_thumbHave you ever wondered what being a parent means to you? Besides being biologically driven by your survival instincts. Besides being put on a familiar and safe social path. Have you ever really stopped to think why you have chosen to bring children into this world and what would happen if you had not been a parent at all?

I know a woman who had her first child when she was 41. She had to go through medical torments and spend a lot of money to have them, but she wanted them with everything she had and now, she feels complete. Still, she cannot describe why.

Last night, Ronit and I watched an Australian film called Not Suitable for Children, a story of Johan, a young party animal, who find out he is about to lose his fertility and embarks on a crazy mission to have a child. Being generally reckless, it seems odd to everyone around him that he wants to be a parent so much, but bit by bit, we find out.

We thought the movie was beautiful. It was well played, well produced, and despite the expected direction of the plot, managed to deliver a few surprises and include several side topics into the mix, such as the single 40-year-old woman and the lesbian couple.

There is one point where Jonah is asked why he is so desperate to have a child, even though he knows he is too young and has no steady partner. He says something like, “Just before my mum died, she told me she was OK with it, because she had my sister and me and we made her happy. I want that too”.

Read more about the meaning of parenting

How to Change Habits: Servants or Masters

Good habits create a good lifeIn a very chaotic lifestyle of high stress and too many changes, we depend a lot on our habits, because they give us certainty. Without the certainty of habits, our life would be full of fear.

Imagine getting up in the morning, not knowing if there is food in the refrigerator, or sending your kids to school, not knowing if they will come back, or leaving your home in the morning, not knowing if it will be there when you return.

Certainty is essential for our emotional survival. When we have the confidence that things will happen the way we expect them to, we can stop worrying and struggling. We are more relaxed and therefore think better and get better outcomes. To create certainty, we develop habits that allow us not to think and re-think everything we do. Habits are automatic rules of behavior that help us feel safe.

However, habits can heal us or kill us.

Read more about how you can change your habits