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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100 Tips for a Happy and Healthy Life

Three grown children on the beach

Everyone wants to have either a happy and healthy life or a healthy and happy life, in these orders. I think of happiness as a very inclusive concept: I want to be happy with my health, happy with my relationships, happy with my family, happy with my work, happy with money, happy with friends, happy with my art, happy with my friendships, happy with the direction I take in life and happy with an endless list of other things.

Here is one of my top tips for a happy and healthy life. Take the tips that resonate with you, feel free to change any of them to make them fit your style and your life, or add new ones if there are some that are not applicable to you.

If you have 100 tips and you follow one every day, your life will quickly become both happier and healthier.

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Know Your Partner: Beliefs & Attitudes


To continue our “Know Your Partner” series, I want to share questions about attitudes and beliefs with you this week. It is hard to admit, but many of our beliefs and attitudes are part of our identities and can be the cause of relationship breakup or relationship build up. They are extremely important and somehow a bit sensitive.

The important thing is to find out which of these beliefs or attitudes are “musts” – those things that you are not willing to compromise on. For example, Gal and I do not share the same political opinion or even religious beliefs but this has never been a conflict between us.

The idea behind these questions is to find out what we think we “must” have and what our partner thinks they “must” have. Agreements will be easier to keep once we know and make a conscious decision to accept our partner rather than ignore their musts.

The attitudes and belief we will discuss are about culture, race, ethnicity, difference, truth and law, politics and community, media and religion.

This post is part 6 of 8 in the series Know Your Partner

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The Value of Community


When I was growing up, there was a strong sense of community in everything. The people in my parents’ generation told stories of small places, where they knew everyone and did most things in a group of peers of families. Today, most people live in big cities, many live away from their hometown and family. Many people move every few years. Community is a luxury.

During the Easter break, we watched the movie Canvas with the kids. It tells the story of a family in which the mother has Schizophrenia. The father works as a builder for a rich jerk who buys speedboats and cars, but pays him too little too late, so they do not have enough money for medicine, which their basic health insurance refuses to cover.

The film shows how being poor and sick can have negative effects on your life and spin it out of control so quickly that it is super hard to recover. Because people expect certain behavior from adults, the mother creates a scene, which gets them thrown out of public places, like restaurants. Business owners may empathize with someone who sees imaginary people, but they still have a business to run.

The boy, being young, cannot truly understand what is happening to his mother. Unfortunately, neither can his schoolmates, who bully him for it. Also unfortunately, the father is a simple man who struggles to get by and lacks the emotional tools to help his son relax and cope with the mother’s strangeness and absence, let alone the additional social burden he has to endure.

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Good Old Human Spirit


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.

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State of the Union


As a parent, a life coach, a business consultant and a former corporate employee and manager, I have become increasingly concerned about morals. Until recently, I read or heard about people doing things that seem obviously wrong to do, and wondered how they could bring themselves to do them.

Now, I believe I know some of the reasons. Better yet, perhaps these reasons can lead us all towards a solution.

Almost invariably, you turn on the news or read the papers and find out about somebody who was caught scheming, embezzling or downright cheating. These people seem to have no regard for other people’s wellbeing, possessions or money. Sometimes, people are killed over what seems like a minor conflict, because the killer values something else – their wallet, their leather jacket or their girlfriend – over their life.

In response to Ronit’s posts on bullying, many readers have shared stories of workplace bullies who abuse their position, physical size or some weakness of their co-workers in ways that hurt them and ruins morale and productivity. Do these people follow a different value system to the rest of us? Given the rise of bullying, probably not.

So what is going on in the world? Has everybody gone mad? Is there nobody who still does the right things?

In his great book, Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely presents a conflict between two modes of living: the “social norm” and the “market norm”.

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Make a list: Ways to be kind

In 1991, Allan Luks (former executive director of The Institute for the Advancement of Health and executive director of the Big Brothers and Big Sisters program in New York City) documented a study about kindness in a book called “The healing power of doing good: The health and spiritual benefits of helping others”.

In a survey he conducted among 3,000 people of all ages from 20 organizations around the USA, he found clearly that “Helping contributes to the maintenance of good health and it can diminish the effect of diseases and disorders both serious and minor, psychological and physical”. So there you have it – if you want to be happy and healthy, help others!

In his research, Luks found that helping others and being kind resulted in a sharp reduction of stress and increased the release of endorphins (the body’s natural feel-good drugs). Over 90% of participants in his research reported that regular volunteering lowered their stress level and contributed to their health and wellbeing.

This post is part 18 of 36 in the series Make a List

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The Motivational Speaker

After two years of blogging on parenting and many years of working with parents, after 6 years of coaching and many years of turning kids into super powers, Ronit Baras is going on stage!

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Happy Birthday to Family Matters (poll)

Two years ago, we launched the “Family Matters” website. Wow, when I look back, I realize so many things have happened since. Now, we have 438 posts (all original material from our own experience with our own kids), and lots and lots of comments. We are very proud and happy to be making a difference in so many families’ lives.

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55 Ways to Save the Environment and Make a Difference


After hearing many people talk about the movie “An Inconvenient Truth”, we decided to rent it from the video library. We watched it with the kids and they were very surprised to see the world drying up right in front of their eyes. I was not sure that it would have such a great impact on them, because, as kids, I thought they would be too preoccupied with school, friends and fun. Well, watching it was not fun at all, but I was very surprised when “Earth Hour” was announced and the kids wanted to take part in it. They did not complain, they did not talk about computers or watching a movie, they did not even say anything when we suggested taking a shower in the dark.

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