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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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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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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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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Positive Character Traits for Children: Watering with Weed Killer

magnets of emotions stuck on a forehead

The previous Character Traits posts focused on what parents should say to instill positive character traits in their kids. Character traits are like plants or trees that grow over time – all they need is for parents to plant good beliefs as seeds and provide reinforcement as water. Unfortunately, some parents use weed killer as water. This ensures this plant will never grow big and strong and even makes room for some nasty “bad” plants to grow.

It is amazing how the seeds of character sown in childhood can have a long-term impact. Some of my grown up clients (aged 25 to 65) are being held back by some very old and poisonous trees that creep into everything they do. It is as if there is a space in the brain dedicated for each good trait. As soon as the area has been poisoned by weed killer, nothing good can grow there. If a person feels fundamentally inadequate, this becomes part of their identity. If anything were to suggest that they are adequate, they will subconsciously resist with all their might. The subconscious minds is a tricky thing and it takes time and courage to access and heal.

This post is part 4 of 8 in the series Helping Kids Build Character

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Developing Good Character Traits for Children: H to Z

Little boy smiling in the sunshine

Good character traits are what every parent wants for their kids. We all know and believe that this can set them up for good, healthy, successful and happy lives. If we let go of the belief that character is something we are born with, something that is carved in stone, we realize that we, as parents, have the power to instill positive character in our kids.

We can give our kids those traits that they are going to need to run a happy and successful life, by instilling strong beliefs that support and build these good character traits.

In the last chapter, I gave examples of good character traits from A to G and what beliefs will support them. Here are the H- Z (well, H to W at least) traits and the beliefs that will support them.

This post is part 3 of 8 in the series Helping Kids Build Character

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Healthy and Powerful Character Traits for Children: A to G

Parent watering a child

This saying is as true for grownups as it is true for kids. We are what we think. If you want to know who your kids are, ask them what they think of themselves. Whether they think they are smart or not, happy or not, friendly or not, they are always right.

If you want to build their character, you need to instill character-building thoughts in their minds. Their thoughts become words, their words become thoughts, and their thoughts become actions. These actions become habits that become their character. Their character determines their destiny.

As I said in the previous chapter, a belief is like a seed, if you repeat the belief over and over again, it is like watering the seed. When the child hears the belief expressed enough times, the seed develops strong roots and becomes a conviction, like, “I am a very responsible kid”. The child stops thinking of it as a behavior and it becomes a character trait, a personal quality that they possess, “I am a very responsible kid”.

Here are examples of thoughts that will help build your kids’ character. If he/she adopts these thoughts/beliefs, they will turn into character of time. It is important to talk to kids about their character, what it means to them and what it means to you. Give them examples of times when they have shown a particular trait in a nice way and how it helped them in life. If you cannot find examples from their life, give examples from your own life, when you showed this trait and how it helped you in life. This will make it is easier for them to adopt the trait.

This post is part 2 of 8 in the series Helping Kids Build Character

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Helping Kids Build Healthy and Powerful Character Traits

Little girl with a doll

Many parents talk to me about their kids’ character traits and behavior. “He is a stubborn kid. He was always stubborn” or “She is a nag. She nagged from the first day she came home”. I wonder how much of what these parents are describing is real character (permanent and unchangeable) and how much of it we can change.

All kids are born with their unique character, a personality. This becomes really obvious when you have your second child. You realize that some of how they behave is just something they are born with. You notice that they have a certain character from the very first day you spend with them.

Unfortunately, not all character traits are wonderful and great. How they develop later on in life depends mainly on how we view these traits and how we react to them. For example, many parents treat their kids’ behavior as a result of a character trait. Since character is solid and fixed, they thing this behavior cannot be changed.

This post is part 1 of 8 in the series Helping Kids Build Character

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