Ronit Celebrating Diversity by Challenging Teachers’ Cultural Thinking

Teacher and elementary classroom

As teachers, we like to think of ourselves as very open-minded. We model this attitude and believe that open-minded teachers can raise open-minded students and when the mind is open, the possibilities are endless. Together with our students’ parents, we are the most important social agents in our society. Our best tool is to believe and be true to what we want to create. If we want to raise a whole generation of open-minded kids who are accepting, appreciating and celebrating diversity, we must first be living proof of what we want to teach and be able to ‘walk the talk’.

The first time I questioned my own open-mindedness was long before I became a teacher. I was 16 years old, and Israel and Egypt signed their famous peace contract. To start the official ‘relationship’ between the two countries, it was decided to send selected youth from both sides to meet each other. As a very ‘open-minded’ teen, I was chosen to be part of this unique delegation.

The Egyptian teens came to visit us in Israel. We had a great time together and one evening, the Israeli teens decided to visit the Egyptian teens in their room to see what they were doing. We knocked on the door and they were very happy to see us. They welcomed us in and we sat in one of the rooms and just watched them. We were completely shocked.

Why shocked? you might ask.

Because they acted like… teens. Same as us. They were listening to the same music we were listening to, their boys ‘hit on girls’, just like ours did, and their girls responded in exactly the same coy way as ours did. I vividly remember the question that popped into my head ‘What were you expecting?’

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I’m Always Late for a Very Important Date!

Series of clocks getting fainter

Time is a precious resource. Some say it is the only resource we have. Have you ever missed something important because you came just a bit late? This happens to a lot of people, and sometimes too many times. The outcome can be very problematic.

There are some people I know who are always late. They are rushed, don’t think clearly and are in a total state of chaos. Many kids grow up in such households and learn to be the same when they grow up. Parents who are always late raise kids who do not value their own time and miss many opportunities.

Being late from time to time is very natural. It is a good idea not to be in a total state of panic for being late by one second. It happens. We are only humans. The thing is, what you generally do becomes a habit. After three meetings that you turned up to, late or on time, gives you a label: punctual or always late!

People who are labeled as always late are not necessarily always late, but the attitude towards them is more negative. Can you think of a person you know who is always late? Your level of trust in them goes down. Things are harder for them as well! If they need to start every interaction by apologizing for being late, they are put in an inferior position right from the start.

All in all, being always late is not good for anyone. It creates negative attitudes towards you, which is not something any parent wants for their child.

Here are some tips to make sure you are not an “always late” person and you are not raising the “always late” kids.

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Top 7 Things Parents Struggle With

A family lying on top of each other

I recently did an interview for a radio station about parenting. They wanted to know what were the top things parents struggle with. I have seen hundreds of parents over the last 28 years. If I had to list every struggle, the list would never end – parenting is hard! So, I figured the best thing to do would be to group challenges by category.

Parents today struggle with seven main things. Not surprisingly, parents today struggle with roughly the same things their parents struggled with in the past. Today, they just give it a different name, maybe to feel a bit more modern or advanced. Same struggle, different shape.

Parents need to take on a management role as soon as they have kids. Unfortunately, not everyone is a good manager and parents often struggle with it. If they were lucky enough to learn if from their own parents, cool! If not, they may struggle with it as a parent. Unfortunately, people spend more than 16 years of their lives in educational institutions that are obsessed about teaching them to manage their homework but not any other part of their lives.

School does not teach us to manage our time, our emotions, our friends or relationships, our physical body, our money or a budget. So it is no surprise that people struggle with it in their teens and then they struggle with it as adults raising kids. They then can’t teach their children how to manage any off these things either, because no one can teach what they don’t know.

Here are the 7 main challenges parents experience.

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Character Traits: Swapping the Bad for the Good

Kids showing signs with good character traits

In the previous post about bad character traits, I gave an exercise to examine the bad traits parents and kids have. In this post, I will focus more on the good character traits and how to make sure they are “watered” well and kept alive.

Here is the list of good character traits again:

Letter A: Active, Adaptable, Adventurous, Agreeable, Appreciative, Articulate, Athletic, Ambitions, Artistic, Aesthetic

Letter B: Balanced, Brilliant, Brave

Letter C: Calm, Capable, Caring, Charismatic, Charming, Cheerful, Careful, Clean, Clever, Colorful, Compassionate, Confident, Conscientious, Considerate, Consistent, Contemplative, Cooperative, Courageous, Courteous, Creative, Curious, Crafty,

Letter D: Daring, Decisive, Dedicated, Deep, Discreet, Dramatic, Dynamic

This post is part 8 of 8 in the series Helping Kids Build Character

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Teen Life Sucks (or Does it?)

The words life sucks made out of rope

Sometimes, when I talk to teens, they tell me that teen life sucks.

It is sad to hear them say that at a time in their lives that is supposed to be wonderful, interesting and exciting. The teenage years are when they form their identity and it is sad to hear that they came to the conclusion that teen life sucks.

It is sad because if they believe it sucks, they are more likely to feel that it sucks. If they think teen life sucks, their subconscious will create a self-fulfilling prophecy, and their life will actually “suck”. It is not the thought that makes it true, it is that subconsciously, the thought will lead to action that will make it true. Whatever you believe, this is your reality.

I love those Buddhist quotes and there is one in which the Buddha said it perfectly, “Wherever you go, there you are”

My motto is that in life, you get what you focus on. If you get up in the morning and you focus on what sucks, you will get exactly that, life that sucks!

Teen life is complicated and involves many aspects. Yes, there are components that do not work the way we want them to. Sometimes, they work to our advantage and sometimes they do not. It is still a far cry from considering teen life as sucking completely.

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Kids’ Personality Traits: How to Change Them with Awareness

Happy little boy and girl

If our children are like a garden, we the parents are the gardeners. If you have a garden at home, you know that when you take care of your garden, it looks beautiful and has lots of flowers and grows healthy nutritious fruits. If you neglect your garden or worse, water it with weed killer, no flowers or fruits will grow. Our kids are the same. If kids are the garden, and kids’ personality traits are the plants, we need to water them with great love and care and remember that their early years are critical.

Think about it this way: if wanted to have a big plant of tomatoes, you would water it with water and use fertilizer that that supports healthy tomato growth. It is the same with kids and their traits. If you wanted your child to grow kindness like you would grow a tomato, you need to water with support, not a weed killer, to help it grow. It’s a simple rule and a simple process.

One thing people are often uncomfortable about is saying their child’s personality has “traits”. If you are not 100% comfortable with calling it traits, call it a behavior that is constant or that appears more often than not. I, for example, am not 100% comfortable calling it a trait. That is because I don’t believe a child who is being stubborn on several occasion means that they are stubborn as a personality trait. It is a behavior he/she has learned in some way. If we learn it, we can always un-learn it, or learn a new or opposite trait. This time, I cannot say the process of un-learning is simple. It is definitely possible, but not always easy and simple.

This post is part 7 of 8 in the series Helping Kids Build Character

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Teen Sex: Not Allowed!

Young couple

Recently, I saw a client who was very concerned about her teen daughter getting closer to a boy she was spending time with. She suspected they were having sex. She was completely panicked about it and started preventing her daughter from seeing her boyfriend. Her daughter was 16 years old and had been seeing this boy for over a year. I asked my client why she was worried and she didn’t really know how to answer. In her mind, teen sex was out of the question. Teens should not have sex and that’s it.

My client had many issues with sex that she never had a chance to discuss with anyone in her life, not even her husband. It was one of those things she never believed she would ever discuss with anyone. It was private, done behind closed doors, quietly, so no one would hear or know. Especially not the kids.

I told her about a story I wrote. It was about a group of teens discussing the topic of parents having sex. One of them discovered, by accident, that his parents were having sex and the story is about how they deal with this “discovery” as a group. I wrote this book (to be published yet) after listening to my then 15 year old daughter and her friends having this same discussion: do parents have sex? I was very proud of my daughter, who was the one saying, “of course they do”. Most of the other kids felt sick just imagining it.

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How to Destroy Good Character Traits for Children: G-Z

Respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship

In the previous chapter of the character traits series, I explained about the beliefs we try to instill in our kids. We need to focus on encouraging the characters we want our children to have, not try to prevent the characters we don’t want them to have. If good character traits are like plants, the fear that your child will develop a bad character is like watering the plant with weed killer. The character will never grow. For good character to grow and flourish, we need to water it and give it nutritious and healthy fertilizer.

In the last chapter, we listed traits from A to F, that we want our kids to have. We talked about some of the major weed killers that prevent these good character traits from growing. This chapter will cover the traits from G to Z.

Generous – “Don’t be a sucker”, “People will take advantage of you”, “Why would you waste your time on that?”, “What will you get from helping them?”, “If you do things for people for free, they’ll expect you to do it for free forever”.

Gentle – Aggressive behavior and the use of force, threats and harsh discipline will prevent kids from developing gentleness as a trait. Saying things like, “Stop being a girl (for a boy)”, “I am make the rules. You do what I tell you or else…”.

Grateful – “You are ungrateful”, “It is not worth doing anything for you”, “I do things for you and you do not appreciate it”, “You need to beg me to do that”, “I am ashamed of you”, “I will help you only if you do what I tell you to do”.

This post is part 6 of 8 in the series Helping Kids Build Character

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Do Parents Let Their Kids Play Violent Video Games?

Blame video games

Recently, I received a question from a mother who said her teenage kids wanted to watch violent video games and they claimed other parents allowed their kids to do so. They thought she was just being mean and ignorant of what was happening in the world. “I do not like the idea of them playing violent and sexist video games but I feel helpless”. Her idea was to design a questionnaire for parents and see if her teenagers were right. She asked me what I think of her idea. Here is what I wrote to her:

Your experience is quite normal and it is wonderful to read that there are people like you still out there, advocating for children to be engaging in healthy activities!

Feel free to set the rules in your house. Your teen is a teen. He does not set the rules. You do! He is welcome to make different rules in his house!

You don’t need a questionnaire to back up what you already know is right. You can be the captain of your own family ship, regardless of what other parents do.

Kids cannot buy their own games, computers, iPhones, etc. You have a lot more power than you think! I have clients who found amazing result when they put their kids on a technology diet for a week. Their kids were suddenly like new! If they can’t use your credit card and don’t know your PayPal password, you have nothing to worry about.

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How to Destroy Good Character Traits for Children: A to F

Little girls dressed as snow white

In the last chapter, of the Helping Kids Build Character Series, I explained the nature of watering with weed killer. There are certain things we do as parents that prevent good character traits from developing.

If you want to encourage good character traits in your children, there are some important things you should do differently.

Here is a list of good character traits that will not develop in the presence of bad beliefs (“weed killers”). Read them. If there are phrases on the list that you recognize in yourself, try removing them from your day to day speech. See if you can replace them with more positive phrases.

Over the years, I have worked with many parents who succeeded in changing the seeds they were planting, from poisonous communication and planting helpful beliefs. Being a parent can be a burden and a blessing. If you were the one who watered your child’s character with weed killer (rather than nutritious water), only you have the power to change it.

Parents have an amazing power. I have seen many kids and coached many people about beliefs. Working with parents has always been the best solution because me telling a kid “your parents love you” is meaningless compared to a parent saying “I love you”.

This post is part 5 of 8 in the series Helping Kids Build Character

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