STOP! For Your Kids’ Sake

Scott StrattenAs parents, we often claim that whatever we do, we do for our kids and, as far as our awareness goes, that is true. But parents are human, which means our decision-making involves mostly emotional reasoning and subconscious values, beliefs and needs, which our mind cleverly re-dresses as calculated choices.

Sometimes, life hands us a rare opportunity to become aware of our choices of lifestyle. These are typically unpleasant, but they still get the job done. Ronit and I have written before about our own baby losses and about our friend’s near-death experience.

I want to share with you a talk given by Scott Stratten at TEDx.

In his post 25 Things You Didn’t Know About Me, one of the most important things on the list is “My girlfriend and son were in a car accident December ’07 while I was at my Nanny’s (aka Grandmother) funeral. He walked away unscathed, she lives in constant pain and has partial brain damage and it kills me every day that I can’t fix it or I can’t go punch the woman in the mouth who ran the red light”.

I have been following him for a while and find him inspiring in many respects, but this video really hit a spot for me and I hope it will for you too. My son and I watched the video together and it made us choke.

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While I Was Sleeping

Father and daughterWhen it first came out, I read Dad’s post While You Were Sleeping and it really struck a chord in me. I have read it about 7 times now and it still makes me feel all warm and fuzzy in the amazing knowledge that “my daddy loves me”. I decided then that I was going to write something that he could read and maybe see that this little bear cub feels his love and his good intentions, even while I sleep. And maybe if I could convince reader parents that we kids feel your love and we love you back, I will have done my good deed for today.

I am the oldest of the children in my family and I have learnt through time and experience that my parents are not all knowing or all able. I know that they are sometimes sad, angry, frustrated or disappointed. I know that they work hard sometimes, that they need help or they are a bit stressed. But although I know they are not invincible, they are still my cocoon. No matter how old I get (and I seem to be getting older every year), I still go to them for support. I go to them for advice, for help and most of all, for comfort. They are still my pillars of strength and my source of love.

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Bullying (2): Scary Statistics

Teen bullyingBullying has become a problem in our society. As I promised in the first chapter of the bullying series, I will share with you today the facts and figures about bullying and they are very scary. But I am not writing this to scare you, just to create awareness to this epidemic of violence in our society. I also believe that parents and educators, who are the majority of the readers of this site, have the power to change it.

Bullying research

I have spent a long time reviewing information about bullying, much of it on various government sites, so where the source is not mentioned below, some government agency has publicly confirmed it.

  • A study done in 2007 on a group of 6th Graders found that 89% of kids had experienced some form of bullying and 59% of the students had participated in some form of bullying

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Kids in Power Prison (2): The great debate

clip_image002[4]This is part 2, where you will find out what happened at the camp when I gave the group of student leaders power over their friends.

Boys vs. girls, late group vs. those who came on time, punishment vs. forgiveness. The hot debate lasted for a whole hour, but in the end, did the children pass the power test?

It was scary for me to see how easy it was to fire them up, divide them and move them towards forgetting where they were, who they were and what was important for them. Many of them just surrendered to the feeling of power and control, but not all.

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Kids in Power Prison (1): The prison experiment

clip_image002[3]Two months ago, I took a group of kids to a leadership camp for two days. During these two days, we wanted to teach kids to recognize their abilities and take the role of leadership with responsibility.

The kids were awesome, chosen student leaders in Grade 7, which is the last year of primary school here in Queensland, Australia. They came from 5 schools and had been school captains for more than 7 months. As part of their role, they needed to set an example to other kids and help solve relationship problems among the students at their school. They were chosen because they were smart kids, sensitive and with a high sense of justice. According to their principal and teachers, most of them had passed many tests to become leaders, but they were not ready for the test I had for them – The Power Test.

Before I tell you what happened at the camp, I want to tell you about a famous experiment in psychology, the Prison Experiment, which was the inspiration for my character test. I learned a lot from this experiment and even more from running it myself with a group of young kids. I hope you will feel the same.

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Give and take

BubbleSometimes, I want to achieve something and I think I know how to achieve it, but when I ask someone else for their opinion or help, they just say, “You can’t do that”. I find this very frustrating.

Let me explain.

When I see a goal and a way to get it, my mind has something to hold on to. I can look at my vision from different angles, improve it and work with it, but it is there.

As soon as the other person rejects my idea, it is as if a bubble popped in my mind and left nothing. I then have no way of getting what I wanted. The other person has taken my vision away.

And that stinks.

Here is an example.

Read more about how to resolve conflicts

I Believe in You (4): The letters

Kids reading lettersThis is the last post in a series about a leadership camp activity where I asked parents to write their kids a letter of confidence, trust and encouragement and a promise to be there for them always.

I ran this camp for 2 years in a row. Each time, there were about 30 students from 5 different schools. This leadership camp was run by an organization for which I am the QLD State Coordinator, called Together for Humanity. In this camp, we wanted the kids to recognize their strengths, develop their leadership skills, identify their support structure and learn how to take a social stand in their school, community and one day, in leading social change.

First, I wrote about what happened when I asked the parents to write a letter to their kids. Then, I wrote about what happened to the kids when they opened their letters and how hard it was for them to believe they had been genuinely written by their parents. Last week, I wrote about how the kids confused being proud – recognizing and sharing your strengths and achievements – with bragging – being arrogant and full of yourself, and how 12 hours and a letter helped me take them to a different place.

Today, I want to show you some of the letters parents wrote to their kids. I have left them intact, other than names and other personal details. These parents only had my sample letter to help them with ideas, but I hope you will be in a better position after reading more letters and knowing how kids responded and how meaningful it was for each of them to receive such a letter.

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Good Parenting is Easy

Happy parents and babyGo online any day, open your email inbox, read the papers or turn on the television and you are sure to find heaps of parenting advice, all claiming to teach you good parenting. Since you are here, even this blog is full of ideas, stories and tips on how to be the best parent you can be for your kids.

The downside of having so much information and possibly conflicting views on the same issues is that it can quickly become confusing and give you the impression that being a good parent is really hard. In fact, maybe it is so hard you are never going to be good at parenting.

Nonsense.

Good parenting is easy.

Read more about how to be a good parent

I believe in you (3): Being Proud

Happy kidsDuring the camp, I noticed the kids did not display a sense of pride in themselves. They talked freely about being proud of a team they admired in sport, but had quite a different attitude towards being proud of themselves, their family or their class.

I discovered the difficulty of the “pride” feeling at a very early stage, when I asked each of the kids to introduce themselves and then to tell the group something about themselves they were proud of. Everyone, kids and adults, looked at me in surprise.

Recognizing my own feelings is the basic level of emotional intelligence, so I thought that when we address leadership, recognizing things I am good at as a starter would be a good way for the kids to start appreciating their strengths. I was not surprised to see how much easier it was for kids (and grownups) to talk about things they were not proud of, as if they had practiced those so much they came to them naturally.

Most of the kids struggled with the idea of being proud. I pushed them by giving an example. I said, “I’m Ronit (we were still getting to know one another) and I’m very proud of myself for organizing this camp”. Some shy kids said hesitantly they were proud of themselves for having been chosen to be in this camp, but most of them said they did not know what to say. They used words like “boasting” and “bragging”, being “full of themselves” and “arrogant” as the reasons they could not find anything they were proud of.

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I Believe in You (2): The kids

BelieveAfter a full day of me challenging the way they think and manage themselves, the kids were relaxing at dinner and we heard laughs and discussions from tables all around. In came the girl from the office, holding envelopes in her hand. “You’ve got mail”, she said and the kids rushed from their tables to mine and wondered who she was talking to.

I held up each envelope, acting as surprised as they were, and said, “Oh, this is for Jack … and this is for Amy” and gave each one of them their letter. Among the kids’ letters, I got a letter from Gal, Derek, the principal who had organized the camp with me and attended the camp, got a letter from his wife and so did Ahmad, the other presenter.

At first, there was an excited buzz around the room, but as soon as the letters were opened, there was total silence. The kids left my table and each found a corner to read their letters. Some of them seemed to be crying. For about 10 minutes, no one said anything.

Then, the kids started looking at each other, trying to figure out what others were going through. We, the adults, also read our letters, which were given to us sealed by our partners.

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