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

Kiss Your Kids

Young children kissingKissing is one of the best tools parents have in their parenting tool kit. Kissing has been known for ages to make miracles, to heal a wound and to get rid of worries and pain, particularly for children.

Would you not want the power to get rid of worries and help ease pain?

The real magic lies in what children think about the kiss. It is the same kiss you get when you are older, but it has somehow lost its magic for many people. Maybe we grownups need to re-adopt our childhood beliefs about kisses and to kiss more.

My family was not a kissing family. I have watched my mom kissing her little grandchildren constantly, which made me think she believed it was appropriate to kiss kids, but not grownups.

This belief seems to be similar in different cultures. One of my clients said to me once that every two to three years, when he meets his dad, who lives overseas, they shake hands.

Gal and I have always kissed each other when we to up in the morning, left home, came back and whenever we had a good time or wanted to make each other feel good.

When I was 27, we visited Gal’s host family in Connecticut (he was an exchange student there in his Junior Year of high school). Sally and Sam were an amazing couple. When they went to bed, they gave us a hug and a kiss as if they had not seen us for a long time, although we had come that same day. When they got up in the morning, they did the same. At first, I thought it was just for the first day of our arrival, but they continued to hug and kiss us every day. I loved it!

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Anorexia: Love Your Body

Model smiling with diet symbolsWomen with Anorexia have issues with their body image and a feeling of helplessness and inability to control their life. The combination of these challenges makes them seek control in any way and not eating seems to them a great way to gain control.

Society around us obviously contributes a lot to the negative body image and self image girls have during childhood, through their teenage years and later on into adulthood. The image of an anorexic teen girl can be misleading. There are also many women are anorexic who need help.

One way of healing is learning to love your body.

Loving your body is giving yourself the permission to feel good physically and it must be done slowly, with love and with patience. If you are a parent or someone who wants to help an anorexic person, just saying, “You need to love your body”, will not make the required difference.

The best idea is to help the anorexic person search for good things – positive thoughts, encouragements, small bits of progress and every little achievement – to help change their perception of their life’s reality.

Read more about loving your body and curing anorexia

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.

Read more about how to have more good luck

Smoking Parents – Smoking Kids

Man and the benefits of stopping to smokeMy dad was a smoker. He was a heavy smoker, consuming 1-2 packs of cigarettes a day. I remember my older sister having many fights with him over this. She complained, he tried to quit for couple of days and then went back to smoking. I did not have an opinion about it. All the men I knew smoked. It seemed natural to me. My mom was a very silent complainer. She never smoked but could not change his mind. In some cultures, smoking is much more acceptable and is a status symbol. It was a manly thing to do.

One day, my dad discovered that my brother, who was 14 years old then, stole his cigarettes and smoked with his friends. My dad was furious and started screaming at him. I was about 11 and I remember us standing there and accepting that my brother did the wrong thing. But then, while he was screaming his head off, my older sister, who was 15 years old at the time, said to my dad, “How can you tell him he can’t smoke and it’s not good for him if you smoke so much yourself?!” (I always admired her guts). The amazing thing was that he stopped screaming and walked furiously out of the house. It was the last day he ever smoked. Unfortunately, my brother still smokes today, even after he had a heart attack at the age of 45.

Parents who smoke hurt their kids, not only by making them passive smokers, but also by setting an example that they can never take back. Do you know how many times since then I have heard my dad asking my brother to stop smoking? Thousands. Unfortunately, he was too late.

In some cultures, smoking is very acceptable and is even a status symbol, “the manly/cool thing to do”. A few years ago, we went to visit my family and my uncles were there, all of them smokers. One of my uncles asked Gal, “Would you like a cigarette?” Gal said, “No, thank you. I don’t smoke”. Then, he asked, “Would you like a beer?” and Gal said “No, thank you. I don’t drink beer”. My uncle looked down at him and said, “You don’t smoke and don’t drink. What kind of a man are you?”

Read more about how to stop your kids from smoking

Overcoming Hurts and Anger

Overcoming hurts and angerIn the past few days, I have been reading a book called Overcoming Hurts & Anger (How to Identify and Cope with Negative Emotions) by psychiatrist Dwight L. Carlson M.D. The book was published in 1981, so it is not hot off the press, and there are many references in it to the Christian Bible, which generally took place sometime before 1981 ;P

Nevertheless, the most important thing about books is how they affect our life and how much useful information we find in them, and this book turns out to be quite useful to me. By writing about it here, I hope to make it useful for you too.

Here’s a quick summary of the key ideas in the book:

  • Anger is the result of unresolved emotions, like frustration, disappointment and rejection. When negative emotions are dealt with, anger does not develop
  • Anger builds up in layers. We are all creatures of habit and relive our patterns every day. Any dysfunctional situation we encounter is likely to take place again and again, each time adding another layer to what the book calls our “unresolved anger fund”
  • Regular tantrums, even violent outbursts involving breaking things, are not the same as resolution. They are a desperate attempt to get attention that may lead to resolution, but they resolve nothing. In fact, as you might expect, they make things worse and even worsen the violent person’s feeling of self-esteem, safety and human connection

Read more about how to overcome your anger

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

Troubled Teens: Terrible Times

Typical teenage boyIn the last three weeks, I gave you a sneak peek into teenagers’ minds. Many parents say to me, “If I only knew what’s happening in their mind…” and I think they have only forgotten what was on their mind when they were teens, or maybe they have forgotten the struggles their friends had during the toughest periods of their life – adolescence.

Here are the last 5 typical teenager thoughts and tips to prevent or eliminate them.

I prefer to be alone

“Thank God they are going away this weekend. I can have the house to myself. I can watch TV as much as I like, play the computer as much as I like and eat whatever I want. Freedom at last!”

What parents can do

When kids reach the teen years, they loves to be on their own sometimes and it is normal and healthy for them to be on their own. Even bringing a babysitter to stay with them (to take care of the other kids, of course) can give them that sense of freedom and it is not a sign of your good or bad parenting.

Having an evening when they can do something different is very attractive to teenagers and as a parent, you need to provide them with opportunities for such time. I remember myself at the age of 15 having the time of my life when my parents were away for the weekend. I did all the same things I did when they were there, but it felt better. On evenings when they went out, we played hide and seek in the dark and I still have wonderful memories of those special days.

Read more about how to handle troubled teens

Troubled Teens: Scary Times

clip_image004_thumb[1]This series is meant to help parents of teens and parents of kids who are turning into teens understand what teenagers think and what they go through as part of this tough period of their life. Each “twisted” thought is followed by something parents can do to help their teenagers and everyone else involved.

As in previous chapters, here are 5 things teens think and feel that scare them and make them act weird, and what you can do about them. I hope it will help you find alternative ways to address the issues and prevent them from keeping those thoughts any longer.

My parents are cruel and weak

“I think my parents are cruel. They hate me. They scream, shout and always tell me I’m wrong. They brought me into the world to torture me. They are weak. How can I trust them when I need help if they are so weak?”

What parents can do

When children are upset, they may think that you are behaving the way you do with the ultimate purpose of hurting them. Many parents mistake discipline for power when in fact, abusing your power and yelling, shouting or telling kids they are wrong are signs of weakness and may cause your children, especially teenagers, not to trust you to support them when they need help. This is because using pressure and force is all about you, not them.

Read more about how to deal with troubled teenagers