Majority Rules

People of mixed racesThis post was inspired by Ronit’s diversity education, by our family’s life in several countries around the world, by Eden’s recent foray into academic research, by our many dealings with people of different communication styles, bust mostly by my occasional frustration of being a minority…

Having grown up in one place for 28 years and then moved to another country, Ronit and I had to change many basic assumptions about what everyone knows, how everyone thinks and what everyone expects. It is called Culture Shock. We already knew quite a bit about the United States (I had even been an exchange student there), so the change did not shock us, but boy was it different.

Now imagine going from that to Thailand! Hardly any English, driving on the left, completely different social norms and ethics, hot, humid, rainy, full of mosquitoes… What everyone did in Thailand was very different to what everyone did in Texas.

The thing is, in each one of these places, people who had grown up there and had never been anywhere else could not perceive anything other than what they had been accustomed to. To them, “everyone” was everyone they knew and that was good enough.

Read more about why you should be more accepting

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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.

Read more about how to help your kids have a bright future

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.

Read more about education for the real world

International Parenting Survey

Smiling family of five

Parenting is very important to me. It is so important that I have been spending many hours of my time to write over 1,000 articles to help parents raise happy, successful, friendly, smart, talented, sensitive, adventurous, courageous, loving children. The number of readers in this blog indicates that these articles help many parents do the most important job in their life – being a successful parent and raising successful, happy children.

Recently, I received a request to promote an international parenting research, conducted by the University of QLD, which aims to discover parents’ thoughts about their kids, their ideal parenting philosophy, their actual parenting style, the services and support available to them and those they need to improve their parenting.

I am very happy to promote this research. I have gone in myself and completed the survey and I believe the results will highlight the importance of parenting programs and the need to help parents with a very important task.

If you are one of the thousands of parents who have participated in the Happy Parents Raise Happy Kids program, remember to add it to the list of programs you are familiar with when you do the survey.

Read more about a new international parenting survey

Fathering Goodness

Father and son having fun Since this is a parenting blog with a focus on personal development, we normally post tips and advice that parents can use to improve their own lives and the life of their children. But today’s post will be a bit different.

Today, I want to tell you about some things that happened to me with my own kids and to appeal to both mothers and fathers to do the best you can to raise your children in balance and harmony, including giving them enough time with their father.

This week, we watched the movie “Brave”. I cried at the end (I will not spoil it for you). After the movie, it occurred to me that scenes in which parents and children realize how important they are to each other (sometimes when it is too late) make me cry every time. Maybe this is part of my inspiration for today.

Our family has lived in a good number of places around the world and has visited many others. In all of them, fathers mostly go to work in the morning, leaving their children with their mothers, and come back in the evening tired, stressed, preoccupied and unaware of what their family has gone through during the day.

This used to be my life too. For 15 years, I worked for large companies, spent long hours commuting, stayed late at work “just to finish something on time” and even traveled on business. Among our friends, I actually spent the least amount of time on the road or at work and the most amount of time at home, but for the most part, I was “missing in action” as far as my family was concerned.

Read more about why kids should spend time with their dad

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

My Kid Wants a Tattoo: How to Prevent

clip_image005_thumbLucky me, I have 3 kids who are 23, 16 and 10 years old and they have never asked to get a tattoo. If you also believe your kids will never be able to predict what the future holds for them and would like to reduce the chances they will ask to get a tattoo, here is what I have done and I hope it will give you some ideas.

  1. If you see a beautiful tattoo and you like it, say right in front of your kids that you think it is beautiful. Make sure you separate the beauty from the act of burning the skin. You do not want them to think you are old in your mindset and do not understand anything about beauty.
  2. Let your kids express themselves. If they want to start putting makeup early, let them do it. Noff has had her own makeup kit since the age of 3. She used to go to daycare with her face full of lipstick (even as eye shadow). Makeup can be cleaned with soap, not with a knife.
  3. Allow your kids to enjoy face painting everywhere they go. Learn how to do face painting yourself and do it from time to time. Each time their face is painted, ask them if they would like to have it for the rest of their life. Ignore the answer. You are only planting the question in their head.

Read more about how to stop your teen getting a tattoo

My Kid Wants a Tattoo: Short-term Thinking

Tattoo of a heart with initialsI love tattoos. As a visual person, I find a lot of beauty in tattoos. I think tattoos are a form of art. I can find many justifications for having a tattoo. Much like most women (and some men) use makeup to make themselves look pretty, I can understand having a tattoo to look pretty. Although today, I will not get any piercing to damage my body, I can still remember that when I was younger, I decided to have a second piercing in one of my ears (my ears had each been pierced once by our neighbor when I was about 7 or 8 years old).

Still, I have to say it scares me to think of my kids getting a tattoo. I imagine their soft skin that I bathed and touched being damaged and it really frightens me to think that people damage their skin to look pretty.

Tattoos are a very sensitive topic. If you ask every person that wants to carve their skin and damage their body beyond repair on their motives, they will always say, “I like it!” or “It’s beautiful”, and I believe them. Some tattoos are amazingly beautiful. What I do not understand is having a beautiful tattoo that you cannot enjoy, because you put them on your neck or on your back and you cannot see them.

The problem with kids wanting a tattoo is that kids cannot imagine the future. They cannot imagine a time when their dazzling tattoo will become a problem. Unlike piercing in your ears, your nose or even your tongue, which you can hide by taking the jewelry out when you go to an interview or a tiny braid in your hair that you can cut off just before your wedding, tattoos are permanent and you cannot just make them disappear.

Read more about how to stop children from getting a tattoo