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 2 in the series Helping Kids Build Character

Language Acquisition: Do Young children Need a Second Language?

Language Books

For years, people have been researching the acquisition of languages. One aspect mentioned in some of this research is the distinction between Primary (“mother tongue”) and Secondary language. I believe this distinction is essential for maximizing the power of learning another language.

Primary and secondary languages are stored in different places in the brain and through a different process. First, second and third primary languages are learned by creating patterns from a load of seemingly random information, while secondary languages are learned by using the primary languages as reference and building a “translation net” to map the secondary language back to them.

Experts still argue about the critical age for forming primary languages, but they all estimate it to end between the ages of 7 and 12. This leaves the early childhood educators to deal with this important channel of education in the most critical age – the early years.

From the Life Coaching Deck: If-then Parenting Style

Here

Ashley was a very successful woman. She was brilliant and smart. She had been in a very solid and stable relationship with her husband of 12 years before they decided to have their daughter Mira.

When Mira was born, Ashley was 39, with a booming and successful business that took her away from home 2-3 days a week. Her husband Daryl decided he would take over the responsibilities of caring for Mira. He changed jobs and started working from home. Ashley continued to travel 2-3 days a week.

This seemed like a good arrangement in the beginning but the gap between Ashley and Daryl increased and they often had arguments about the best parenting style for Mira.

I met them both when Mira was 1 year old. At first, I thought they wanted to do the parenting program with me. After a while, I realized each of them was trying to convince me that their parenting style was the better one and that I should tell their partner this.

This post is part 1 of 11 in the series From the Life Coaching Deck

Doing No More Than the Average in Education

Most people put in 25%, great people put in 50% and the few amazing people put in 100%

Last week, my kids were guests at a primary school assembly at a school which was not their own school (Tsoof is in his fourth year at university and Noff is in Grade 9). At dinner, they shared their experience with us.

“The deputy principal”, Noff said in shock, “Told the kids they would be getting report cards soon and that if they got a ‘C’ they should be very happy, because ‘C’ meant they were at the average level expected for their grade”. Tsoof joined Noff in her surprise, not believing they had heard this coming from a deputy principal. I was proud of them for rejecting the idea that getting a ‘C’ or the average score expected of them was something to be happy about.

Tsoof said, “How can you expect kids to aim higher if you tell them that a ‘C’ is what they should aim for?”

Noff said, “They think they’re helping their students feel better about getting a ‘C’, but it only makes them give up on doing better” (she is just 13 years old).

Gal and I sat in front of them feeling very proud of our kids for saying that the average is never a good enough aim.

Conflict Resolution in the Family

Definition of an argument

Every family has fights. Even in the most wonderful family, people fight sometimes. Fights can be between the parents, between parents and kid and between kids themselves. Fight create conflict and can damage the delicate fabric of relationships. However, if you come out of the other side of the fight stronger, it can in fact strengthen the bond between family members. This is why conflict resolution in the family is so important.

If you are a parent and you have fights in your family, rest assures you are perfectly normal. The science of fights and conflicts is easy to learn and master. Once you learn the tricks, life can be much easier. It does not mean there will never again be fights in your family, but it does mean you will have less fights and you will be able to bounce back from them faster and come out stronger.

Teachers can usually manage fights in the classroom much better than parents do at home. This is mainly because they have learned some tools to prevent fights and ways to manage conflicts if it does arise. What this means is that you might notice some kids fight more at home than at school. This is more to do with the person “running the show” rather than the kid themselves.

Attachment Theory: Attachment Styles in Relationships and Marriages

Family walking through a park

So far, we’ve covered how attachment styles affect babies and individuals, but what about attachment styles in relationships and marriages?

Have you ever heard the theory that we pick partners who are similar to our parents? I have wondered about this over the years. My life partner, Gal is similar to my dad in some ways and totally different in many other ways. He is also similar to my mom in some ways and totally different to her in many other ways. I find it hard to either confirm or deny the theory.

While it is hard to decide if this theory works based on personal attributes, attachment theory claims that in some strange way we relate and attach to our partners and in a way that matches the attachment style that was created between us and our caregivers in those first years of our lives.

This post is part 6 of 6 in the series Attachment Theory

Be Kind Like Socrates: Triple Filter Test

Statue of Socrates - we can learn from him how to be kind

If there is a trait I want my kids to have, it is kindness. Being kind to others brings more kindness to your world. I want my kids to feel that they are surrounded by kind people.

Unfortunately, they are not always surrounded by kind people. At least not as I would like. It is frustrating because I can’t choose who they hang out with. When they were 5 or 6 years old, I could monitor their surroundings (even then it was not 100% of the time) but the more I wanted them to experience the world, the more I had to let go of this desire to control whether they hang around kind people or not.

My youngest daughter is now 13 years old and she is experiencing lots of the not-so-kind things her friends say about each other. There is a constant struggle for popularity and power through gossip and talking about each other behind backs. We as parents think this is the opposite of kindness and we don’t want our daughter to be part of it.

Talking about other people who are not present is not always bad. Our family rule is to only say nice things about others and “if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything”. The more brutal version is “when you have nothing good to say, shut up!”.

Socrates had a very logical way to tackle the same problem. He called it the Triple Filter Test. Here is a nice story that explains Socrates way of deciding whether to talk or not talk about others behind their back.

Attachment Theory: Secure and Insecure Attachment in Teenagers

Grinning teen

Babies’ relationships with their parents in the first years of life has a significant impact on their future relationship. As babies, the attachment they have to their parents will become a blue print of their attitude towards themselves and others. During that period, they create a “navigating map” and use it until they become teenagers. In teen years, which are considered to be between 11 to 25, teens renew this map and the relationship between them and their parents becomes even more important for their future relationship.

For parents, this is the perfect opportunity to fix any problems in the relationship. For example, amending insecure attachment or making an already slightly secure attachment more secure. This is our second and the last one.

Like in early childhood, a secure attachment in teenagers is characterized by the ability to seek comfort from a meaningful figure when they are going through difficulties. It is also measured by how fast and how easily they are comforted and able to get them back on track, enjoying life and being available to absorb new experiences.

This post is part 5 of 6 in the series Attachment Theory

Attachment Theory: Secure and Insecure Attachment in Adult Life

Family sitting near a pond

Secure and insecure attachment styles in babies produce different life styles in adults. Researchers have found that the relationship between babies and their parents (mainly moms) has a direct impact on their self-esteem and relationships as they grow older. Children who have a secure attachment will be more independent, have healthy connections with others, show higher emotional intelligence, perform better at school and have strong, steady relationships as adults.

If the world we live in is full of stress (which it is), then children with secure attachment will experience less depression and anxiety as adults, because they can manage their feelings better.

Through verbal and non-verbal communication, the relationship between parents and their babies in that first year of life gives the child a map with which to navigate the world and their experiences. This bond between parent and child during this critical time will shape their future relationship, teach them ways to calm themselves, manage stress, build their resilience and teach them how to find happiness and success in life.

I have often heard that babies only need to be fed, put to sleep, and changed in order to grow healthy. In fact, it is how we feed them and the way we put them to sleep or change and bath them that shapes the formation of attachment. It teaches them how life works and how they should behave.

This post is part 4 of 6 in the series Attachment Theory

Attachment Theory: Insecure Attachment Style

Baby with insecure attachment style

What Causes Insecure Attachment Between Parents and Babies?

The attachment between babies and their parents in those first few years of life becomes the blue print for the child’s future relationships. Insecure attachment style happens when parents cannot give their child the feeling of security that he or she needs. Usually, this happens completely unintentionally.

There are several causes for insecure attachment. Here is a list of reason. Each of them on their own, or in combination can interfere with a healthy bond and secure attachment.

Separation from the primary caregiver – One of the main reasons for this separation is if the baby is sick. Premature or sick babies often stay intensive care, where their main caregiver cannot care for them. This can result in challenges in developing secure attachment. In other cases, sickness in the mother will prevent her from attending to her baby and can result in separation and insecure attachment. Other reasons may include divorce, death of the main caregiver or being given up for adoption.

Inconsistency by the primary caregiver – Having a consistent caregivers is essential to developing healthy and secure attachment. If a child changes caregivers often, either at home (e.g. nannies) or in day care, this may results in feeling insecure. This is one of the biggest reasons why we should aim for consistency in a child’s first year of development.

This post is part 3 of 6 in the series Attachment Theory