What Does the Future Hold for Our Kids?

Hey Matthew song posterIf I gave every parent a peek into the future, most parents would want to know what would become of their children. We dedicate a lot of time, effort and love to get them to a good place and even a glimpse 10 minutes into the future could really help us direct our actions.

Eden had to raise a virtual child in a computer program for a course in psychology. I thought it was great fun. The rumors were that some of the virtual kids in the program had died or had gotten into lots of trouble before they had reached the age of 18, which was the end of the “parenting game”. Eden’s daughter was gorgeous, happy and successful.

I told Eden that her real daughter would be even better, because the choices the program allowed her to choose from were limited to 4 options, when in reality, you typically have many more options.

As Eden “played” the game, I started thinking it was a good learning tool for parents – not 100% realistic and I would not let any computer program or statistical research help me raise my child – but I really thought it was interesting to know how different parenting styles result in different behaviors in children. In a way, I thought the game was the closest thing to predicting your child’s future.

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Accepting vs. Expecting Bad Luck

clip_image004_thumb[3]It has been a little while since I last wrote a post (OK, a long while). Sorry for the extended hiatus. I was recently accepted into an honors degree in Psychology and in order to graduate before I am old and grey, I took on some extra subjects. A lot of study and not a lot of sleep going on, but in any case, I have been bursting with ideas for posts. I thought I would put in a quick one for your reading pleasure. The topic: accepting vs. expecting bad luck.

A friend of mine, Ashleigh, has been having a bit of a hard time. Things have been going a little pear shaped and getting a bit too much for her. Unfortunately for my friend, this is somewhat of a recurring theme in her life. In any case, we chatted one night about life, love and the universe, and Ashleigh decided to justify her predicament by saying that bad periods in life should be expected. Things HAVE to go wrong at some point and we should not be surprised when they do.

Well, I do not know about that. I would be the first person to concede that life is a rollercoaster (especially my life!). It has its ups and downs, and you cannot truly appreciate the good things if nothing bad ever happens. But there is a huge difference between accepting bad things and expecting them.

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Exploring Happiness

Woman looking lost and unhappyHappiness is no doubt an art. If we think of all the happiness artists we know who are able to be happy, they all have something in common. They have some drive that others, who are depressed, do not have.

Our body is a sophisticated machine of chemicals that are working together in a very brilliant way. Even if some parts of the machine are not functioning well, the body can fix itself by sending help. The molecules and the cells function with a drive to go somewhere, to do something. If the parts of the machine stop moving for some reasons, we get sick and eventually die.

Emotionally, people are much the same – they are born with a drive that goes through inhibition. If you do not use some of your emotional functions, you lose them.

Think of babies, fascinated by life. Everything is new to them and they are in the best mindset they will ever be – they are born explorers. What we see on the outside as checking the world around them translates in their brain to many connections and the biggest physical growth of their life. They do it without understanding, without skills and without money – exploring happiness.

Babies find things that make them happy and do them over and over again. They can watch the same movie many times and laugh again and again when Mom makes the same silly sounds.

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Cancer Girl: Lesson in Acceptance

Girl in big pink hatThere is something natural and inspiring about the way young children handle diversity before they are corrupted by media and the heartaches of life. I think there is much we can learn from them about acceptance.

I have been heavily involved in diversity education for years, helping teachers, parents and students learn to accept the differences among people rather than being afraid of those who are different from them. I write programs, run activities and deliver presentations to help them recognize that even behind a person who seems very different there is a human being just like them.

Last month, I saw with my own eyes how this lesson could be taught without lesson plans, without intention, just by letting circumstances unfold and allowing kids to observe.

It was Sunday and our Diversity Tent at the Queensland Multicultural Festival was full of children doing arts and crafts. My daughter Eden (22) came to help me set up early in the morning. When the volunteer who promised to come and help did not show up, my 10-year-old daughter Noff also spent the day with us, helping kids her age and younger draw and paint. We wrote the kids’ names in different languages and they were all very happy and excited to see their names written differently.

About half way through the day, a 12-year-old boy came and sat at one of the tables. A gorgeous little girl, who was about 4 years old, wandered over to him and climbed onto one of the seats. The little girl was teeny tiny and did not have any hair. She had a tube taped to her nose with a band-aid. She wrote her name, Joelle, on one of the bookmarks. She was beautiful and it was obvious she was sick and had come straight from hospital for a day of fun at the festival. Everyone looked at her with sadness, feeling a bit uncomfortable. Her brother, who sat next to her, looked up from his coloring and said, “I’m Ashton and this is my sister. She has cancer”.


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Jaap De Nie, rest in peace

Jaap de NieOn Friday, the 30th of September, Gal and I were honored to participate in the funeral of Jaap De Nie, a friend of ours who died at the age of 68 in Holland. The wonders of technology (a digital camera connected to a mobile phone using mobile Internet and broadcasting on a web address) allowed us to sit in our house with his daughter, her husband and their two lovely kids, watch and hear the funeral and say our last goodbyes to this inspiring man, who lived as an example and died as an example.

We were honored to have met him and be inspired by his determination and courage to cheat death and live to see his daughter’s wedding, the birth of his nephews and his two grandchildren and to spend time with them against all odds.

We met Jaap about 7 years ago through his daughter. He was 61 and looked much older. He came from Holland to visit his daughter’s family in Australia. He and his gorgeous 37-year-old third wife, Ali, who was only one year younger than his daughter, were a fascinating couple. We talked for hours, gathering pieces of his life story and being inspired.

10 years earlier, the doctors discovered cancer that had spread throughout his body. They removed some of his organs, he went through chemotherapy and when the doctors could do nothing more, they told him to sort out his things and say his last goodbyes to his loved ones.

But Jaap decided to die skiing in Malaysia (yes, it is possible). Jaap called his two children and asked them to join him for the last weeks of his life. The two kids flew to be with their father, had a great time and nobody died.

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Winners vs. Whiners

If you ask people what success means, some will tell you it is a mindset and others will tell you it involves pure luck. When they lose in a battle, it is mainly because they believe life is all about luck. When they win in the battle of life, it is mainly because they believe they have control of their mindset. There are two kinds of people – those who win in life and those who whine about life. Which one are you?

Cure baby boyLife is full of battles. From the first second we come into this world, we have challenges to conquer. Babies have the most challenges. Without the ability to speak, satisfy their own hunger, take care of a wet or smelly bum or change the temperature, they are fully dependent on others. Yet, although they lack the ability to satisfy their basic needs, they never consider quitting.

With crying as their only tool for communication, they win most of their battles by whining. Unfortunately, this is when they also develop the belief that whining is a good way to get things in life.

Whether this mindset will stay with them for life or change depends on the baby’s social agents, especially the parents. If they consider the crying baby to be a complainer (“What’s wrong? Why are you crying so much? It’s not the end of the world”), he or she will grow up to be a complainer. If they see crying as a form of communication (“Yes, Mommy is here. You’re right. You’re all wet and Mommy needs to change your diaper”), he or she will grow up to be a communicator. When those two babies grow, they will both have the desire to be successful, but one of them will go for it and the other one will complain about not having it.

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Make a List: My Fears

Scary shadow on the wallSome people say that fear is the opposite of love and others say it is the lack of it. Regardless of the exact relationship between fear and love, they are strongly connected. If we want to have lots of happiness and love in our life, we need to make sure fear is not there to spoil the fun.

Fear is like the Devil that casts a shadow on our life. I know many people who are in constant fear. If you ask them what they are afraid of, they are unable to explain. For some, it is just a pressure they cannot identify. For others, it is more specific, but not enough.

Unfortunately, you cannot fight anything you cannot define. If we want to get rid of our fear, we must know what it is first.

As you know, I like the technique of making a list to recognize and change something we do not like. Making a list of 100 fears can help you identify the blockages in your life. If you are unhappy with your achievements in some area and you dig deeply enough, you will find there is some fear associated with achieving more. If there is a destructive pattern in your behavior and you look at it closely, you will see it is rooted in some fear.

I tell my clients that this list is a big part of our action plan. If we want to achieve something, we must clear the way to it of all the things that are blocking us from making progress and fear is always at the source of those blockages.

As you may know from making other lists, writing down is a way for you to recognize what happens in your mind instead of letting it consume you. This is a private list, just for you, so be honest and do not be afraid to face your thoughts and feelings. That is the idea of this list, after all.

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Borrow from Tomorrow

SunriseAs every philosophy will tell you, we live in the present and every decision we make today affects everything that will happen to us for the rest of our lives (and even later, according to some philosophies). This makes decisions difficult, because we are simply surrounded by the present, with its pressures, people and events, sometimes to the point of drowning.

When my oldest nephew turned 18, everyone congratulated him on becoming an adult. When my turn came, this is what I said to him

The main difference between kids and adults is that kids live for today and adults know there is a future. Becoming an adult doesn’t happen when you turn 18. It happens when you decide to take responsibility for your own future

Let’s say you have a leak in your roof. At first, you see some signs of moisture in the ceiling after heavy rains and those signs disappear some time after the rain stops. If you do nothing, you can keep going like this for months, maybe even a couple of years.

Then, the moisture brings in termites or mold or just mixes in with the roof and ceiling material and you start getting the occasional drip. Sure, it is no fun, but a bucket under it can catch the water for a while, maybe until another rainy season blows over.

Eventually, it no longer helps to paint over the moisture spots in the summer and using rags and buckets to capture the water that trickles down from the roof, because the roof just caves in.

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Bullying (34): How to stop parent bullying

This is the last post in the bullying series, at least for a while. Bullying is a big problem in our society and many people agree it is a very important one to solve. I believe that every bully is also a victim, that self-confidence is an antidote to becoming a victim of bullying and that parents hold the key to stopping child-related bullying. Parents can learn to treat themselves and their children with respect and become vital contributors to the anti-bullying movement.

Are you with me?

Here are a few more personal development ideas every parent can use to create a bullying-free family and to help build a society without abuse.

Schedule holidays for rejuvenation

Family vacationBullied people are weak or at least they are perceived as weak by the bully. Many of them are not sure how to handle the situation and express confusion. If the bullying is ongoing, the stress in their life is constant and affects their productivity, effectiveness and performance at work and at home badly. It is no coincidence that there are days off every week and that every person is entitled to a minimum number of holidays every year. It is necessary for us to rejuvenate and “recharge our batteries”.

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Have Faith in Your Children

Anti-bullying t-shirt designRonit always says, “What you focus on grows, so to have more good things in life, we need to focus on the good things we already have and they will grow”. When it comes to parenting, Ronit says we should ignore problems (because there is no such thing as bad attention), wait patiently for our kids to do something good and then jump all over the place and praise them for it.

I am a fixer. I have been a fixer all my life. This means I see problems and things that could work better all the time and immediately come up with clever solutions for them. Waiting patiently for things to work and then praising them does not come naturally for me.

If you are a fixer like me, or if your kids “never do anything good/right” or always “give you a hard time”, this post may really help you.

Always look on the bright side of life
– Monty Python in Life of Brian

Our 9-year-old daughter Noff spends way too much time watching TV, watching video clips on YouTube and playing computer games. Every day, we practically drag her from one of these activities, not kicking, but sometimes crying. Being busy with other things and having other kids in the house, we do not always pay close attention to what she does. As soon as our backs are turned, she sneaks back to watching or playing on the computer.

Our philosophy is that movies portray distorted views of life to kids. Being kids, they might accept these views as reality and adopt some very limiting beliefs about how people should behave. We also think that when you play against the computer, nobody really gets hurt when you win, so most computer games encourage competition, selfish focus, strict result orientation and disregard for others.

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