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


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

Are We There Yet?

The Baras familyMany parents, when they think of traveling with their kids, immediately hear this whine in their mind, coming from the back seat of the car, “Are we there yet?” I have seen similar scenes in way too many movies too. Being in the car with bored kids is possibly one of the most common fears parents have, which causes many of them to avoid traveling with their children.

How horrible.

Another thing that is now very common is the use of electronic gadgets to pacify kids and keep them occupied on the way to interesting places, because of the fear of what they might do if they get bored. Watching a DVD or listening to music, often each person separately listening with headphones, seem like good ways to “have some peace and quiet”.

Again, how horrible.

Ronit and I have just returned from a week away with our kids. It is now winter in Brisbane, with temperatures below our enjoyment threshold, so we decided to go to Port Douglas, which is in the tropical region of Australia. We were hoping for nice, warm weather. Instead, the sky was overcast, it rained lightly on most days and the temperatures we pretty mild. But we had a ball anyway.

Read more about how to travel with children

Good Old Human Spirit

clip_image003[8]Charlie Chaplin was a very funny man. I remember seeing his movies as a kid and thinking he was hilarious. Only much later, I discovered that Charlie Chaplin’s movies were not comedy, but philosophical and very sharp in their social messages.

One of the greatest and most inspiring speeches he gave, in the movie “The Great Dictator”, was about the human spirit. The movie was done in 1940 and it is amazing to see just how relevant it is to what happens in our society today. Over 70 years later, we still have the same challenges.

I am the Queensland State Director of an organization called Together for Humanity that teaches kids about respect and acceptance and how working together can make a huge difference in the world around us. I have been doing this work for 4 years and feel like I am changing the world one school community at a time.

The only problem in this work is that there is a lot to be done and it requires more parents, more educators and more people who care to make an impact quickly and strongly enough. I believe that we all are all responsible for making this world a better place and that we can win by uniting.

Here is Charlie Chaplin’s video with a powerful modern spin. His speech is below the video.

I hope it will inspire you as much as it inspires me.

Watch this video about humanity and the human spirit

Fathering Adventures

Father and 3 childrenSometimes, the Universe seems to conspire to make us do something. In this case, I think it wants me to write about how important fathers are in the life of their children. We keep focusing on parenting in this blog, but there is a difference between mothering and fathering, which we have not discussed much.

I have a friend who goes on a men’s camp every year. When his boys were young, he went by himself and felt very supported there. As soon as his boys turned 13 and were allowed to go with him, away they went together and spent a great time bonding – singing, dancing, doing physical exercise and watching performances. He has been nagging me to come with him on that camp for a few years now, saying there is something special about the freedom and “safe space” it provides.

So far, I have not gone.

In the past few months, Ronit worked with several boys whose father had died or spent a lot of time away from home. Whenever we talked about them, I kept having the feeling that although they were young (5 to 8 years old), they felt like little men. I felt they saw themselves as somewhat responsible for the wellbeing of their family and had to fill the very large shoes of their absent father.

That was not enough either.

Read more about how to be a great father

Thanks to the Teachers

clip_image004_thumbToday, my son Tsoof had his graduation ceremony and finished Year 12. Wow, it was fast! It did not only feel fast, but it was, because he only celebrated his 16th birthday last month.

In the past three weeks, he has had many awards night, celebrations, final concerts and farewell parties. During those events, Tsoof received many awards for excellence, for leadership, for showmanship, for his contribution to his school, his friends and his community and we felt honored and blessed for his talents, his kindness and his love for what he does.

You seen this in the movies: the parent of the star performing on stage is sits in the crowd, looks around and tells everyone that sits next to them in excitement, “This is my son” Well, this is how we felt at every event. Tsoof is so talented and so famous we introduce ourselves as “Tsoof’s mom/dad/sister” and we were very proud.

At the end-of-year Performing Arts evening, as the winner of the prestigious title “Performing Artist of the Year”, Tsoof opened the night and said, “Good evening. My name is Tsoof. I am a school captain, Vocal Harmony and Wind Symphony captain, a member of the Senior Percussion Ensemble (Mac-cussion), Show Choir and Big Band. Thank you for coming this evening”.

Gal, Eden, Noff and I sat the whole night proud as peacocks for being associated with him.

That was his last performance with all his ensembles, where he said goodbye to those who had contributed greatly to growing his talents, enthusiasm and passion for music – his music teachers. Three of them had been his musical mentors and had taught him for eight years, through both primary and high school.

Read more about my thanks for Tsoof’s teachers

Put a Little Love in Your Heart

Little girl hugging a womanLast week, Ronit and I saw a movie that made me think there are some people with no love in their heart. Then, we attended a wedding ceremony that was all about love, and that got me thinking about parents’ role in making the world a more loving place for their children. Since Christmas is coming and we will have a lot more time with our kids, the timing is perfect.

The film we saw was called The Whistleblower. It is a story of an American police officer who works for the United Nations’ peacekeeping forces in Bosnia and uncovers a women trafficking operation. We sat on big, soft cushions on the grass at a park by the Brisbane River, the weather was perfect, the atmosphere was magical, we were happy for the chance to get away for a bit in each other’s company.

Then, the movie started.

The level of brutality shown on the screen by the traffickers towards the women, the complete disregard for the law and the strong violation of every moral system I could think of disturbed me to the core. I had to struggle to keep watching some scenes and felt terrible for poor Ronit who is generally more sensitive than I am.

When we talked about the movie in the car on the way home, we both wondered what would compel anyone to abuse another person in such a way. Our conclusion was that these people had no love in their hearts. Not romantic love. Kindness, compassion, empathy, tenderness, comradery, friendship and understanding towards another human being.

Read more about how to make the world a better place with love

Crazy, Stupid, Love

Scene from Crazy, Stupid, LoveThis is NOT a film review. It is a post on love and romance and marriage and kids and family and parenting. But it is inspired by the fact that Ronit and I watched the movie “Crazy, Stupid, Love” this week and it has been running around in my mind to the point where I just had to write about it.

Steve Carell makes movies that are full of embarrassing moments and this usually turns me off. I see him as the American version of Mr. Bean. I also find his acting melodramatic and externalized and I generally prefer subtle and deep. In this film, he was not only the main character, he was also the producer, which should have had me running in the other direction, except I only found that out in the final credits, and by that time, I already had a lot of respect for him.

If you have not seen Crazy, Stupid, Love, it starts with a marriage breakdown and divorce, continues through the attempted recover of both partners and their children and at the same time, weaves in the generational difference between the old one-partner-from-a-young-age and the new ongoing-partying-and-casual-sex-until-thirty-something.

I came away from the movie with a lot of love in my heart. In the past few days, there is more love in everything I do, more softness, more attention and more respect. I checked the patterns of my life against scenes from the movie and compared myself with the characters in it.

I want to share my discoveries with you.

Read more about Crazy, Stupid, Love

Ritalin: The Easy Way Out of ADHD?

Ritalin: so much easier than parenting

If you are a parent of a child who has been diagnosed or suspected as having ADHD and you are considering putting them on Ritalin, this post is for you! I have written about ADHD in this blog before, hoping to empower parents to take control over the health and wellbeing of their children and making sure their kids do not become a label. I hope today’s story and video will help you make more informed choices about ADHD and Ritalin.

I have been working in the special education field for 25 years. My amazing mentors and teachers warned me that one day, the inflation in the use of drugs to solve academic or behavioral problems like ADD, ADHD, emotional struggles and even tiredness will be so high that my job would be to stay on guard and offer parents alternatives and hope. I took this job description very seriously, but never in my darkest and most pessimistic dreams have I seen it becoming as big or as scary as this.

I am angry and I want to cry from frustration, because we have lost one more child to a form of organized crime. I am writing this post to recover, to remind myself of my job description, to try and save other children from a horrible fate and to offer hope, only this time I need that hope myself.

Read more about what Ritalin does to children with ADHD

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.

Read more about stopping for the sake of your family