Common Myths about Kids’ Learning and Success

Adolescent in graduation gown

Sometimes, kids’ worst obstacles are their own parents’ misconceptions about kids’ learning and success. As a teacher, I have seen many kids struggle on a daily basis to meet the extremely high and unrealistic expectations their parents set for them. These high expectations for children usually go hand in hand with expectations parents set for themselves.

Such extreme standards bring pressure, tension, pain, depression and a great feeling of inadequacy, both for the parents, and the child. Unfortunately, children carry this feeling with them into adulthood, and raise their own kids using the same misconceptions.

Here are some common myths I have heard over the years, about what will bring success and facilitate kids’ learning.

Myth #1: Kids’s learning is improved by pain and punishment

It is true that humans over time have learned through cause and effect. They improve and evolve by seeing the consequences of their actions.

However, using punishment as a teaching tool does not make children learn what you think (not even if you call it “consequences”). They learn to be afraid and to avoid the punishment. The lesson you were trying to teach them is completely lost. This is because the need to avoid pain is stronger than almost anything and they will do whatever they can to avoid it.

The more painful the punishment, the less they will learn of what you are actually trying to teach them.

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Life According to the Native American Code of Ethics

Native American Elder

Through my work in diversity education over the past 7 years, I have taken part in many debates and conversations about religion, ethics, morals, values, and our role as parents and educators in instilling them in our children. Many people see conflicts between the different ethnic groups, religious groups, tribes and cultures. Personally, the more closely I look at it, the more I understand that these different groups have more commonalities than differences.

In life, you get what you focus on. If you focus on differences, you will see the conflict between cultures. If you focus on commonalities, you will see similarities and how we are all connected.

Recently, I had a chance to read the Native American Code of Ethics. This code has survived for thousands of years. This is probably one of the oldest cultural codes that still exist today. There is evidence that the indigenous American people migrated from Siberia over 11,000 years ago. Yes, 11,000 years ago! Can you imagine how long that is?!

To put it in perspective, Judaism is about 5,000 years old, Buddhism is about 2,500 years old, Christianity is about 2,000 years old, and Islam is about 1,500 years old. Meanwhile, the Native American tradition goes back 11,000 years. Fortunately, if you go deep into each of these belief systems, you will find very similar codes of ethics.

My work in personal development is in the service of all these codes of ethics. I believe that regardless of which one we follow, if each and every one of us strives to live by them, to the best of our ability, we will have a better world. Striving is the most important part. Eventually, if you keep going in the right direction, you will get there.

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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

Sweet little girl with her doll

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?)

Baby toes

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

Personality traits

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

A golden link in a silver chain

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

Mum, you plant the seeds...

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

Love. the seed that produces the fruit of the spirit.

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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