Mama Marlaine
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P20 Talks 2016 Goa – Bank on it!

 

14713787_10209426747092825_8709050072098481346_nKantabai Salunkhe was a working mother of 12 who wanted to open a savings account. The banks in India refused. Why? Because she was only able to save five rupees – or less than one cent – per day. Her account, the banks explained, was not “affordable”.  

Social Entrepreneur Chetna Gala Sinha refused to accept such an explanation. “Why not create a bank that cares more about Kantabai than the bank?” she asked.  This simple reframe resulted in Chetna creating the Mann Deshi Bank – the first bank and business school for rural women in India – and thousands of women starting and expanding small businesses.

Faith in every individual’s capacity to excel in Life Skills when unique starting points are respected and compassionate education embraced is core to Parenting 2.0 advocacy.  For this reason, we were honored to recognize Chetna’s trailblazing work in the financial arena with the 2016 Global Presence Humanitarian Award at P20 Talks 2016 in Goa, India.

P20 Talks is the world’s only professional conference for Life Skills professionals.  Hosted by Parenting 2.0, P20 Talks alternates combined international conferences on varying continents in even years with regional gatherings in odd years. P20 Talks international conferences feature multiple short power presentations by Life Skills professionals structured around the format of Life Skills Report Cards. The goals of P20 Talks reflect those of Parenting 2.0 and its educational non-profit, The Global Presence

  1. Illuminating the role of Life Skills in individuals and the communities they construct thriving.
  2. Unifying and supporting Life Skills educators around the globe.
  3. Promoting a more proactive Life Skills educational process for all persons. 

On behalf of the eight thousand Parenting 2.0 members worldwide, we thank Chetna and everyone participating in P20 Talks 2016 for being the change the world awaits and raising the bar on life skills education in the 21st century. 

 

Ain’t Misbehavin

When my daughter Alexa was in first grade, it was routine for her to collapse on the couch with her backpack after school and report how many “Cards” her classmate Jesse turned that day.

“Cards” were behavioral cards. Each student started the day with a green one. When a child did something the teacher – “Mrs. Steen the Mean Machine” – deemed inappropriate, she turned the card to another color. First offenses earned a yellow card, second orange, third red etc. After turning four cards, the student was “disciplined” by being confined to the classroom during recess.

Jesse happens to be Alexa’s first cousin. She adores him. It distressed her greatly to see him publicly shamed on a daily basis – hence the urgency of her after school reports.

Cards, when conceived, were accurately considered more compassionate than previously employed “three strikes with a switch” strategies. Since they failed to decrease students’ humiliation in the mandatory curriculum of mattering and feeling competent among peers, however, they still struck hearts if not hands.

When a child struggles with math, we say the math is difficult. When a child struggles with self-regulation we say the child is difficult.

Why? Self-regulation is a skill, a skill that benefits from the same educational process of every other skill: an accurate initial assessment of starting point, reasonable steps to success, proactive instruction, commitment to practice over time, praise for incremental progress and faith in capacity for mastery.

Shame retards the educational process. When the human brain experiences fear or stress, oxygen flow to the pre-frontal cortex – the part of the brain where rational thinking occurs – is reduced and stress hormones preparing the body for fast aggressive action are released. The capacity for self-regulation and learning become more difficult, not less. 

In the same manner we don’t consider a first grader learning addition as “misbehaving” and a tenth grader learning calculus as “behaving”, the terms are no more appropriate when a child is learning self-regulation – or any other Life Skill.

Weeks and months passed, Jesse’s “behavior” did not improve. Instead, he grew to accept turning cards and being punished as normal. His classmates learned to judge his whole character and perceive him as a “bad” student rather than respect him as a peer learning a particular skill.

Teachers are not typically educated in means to teach self-regulation, neither are parents. When a child cries while shopping with adults, he is more likely to be lectured or spanked than he is to be respected as learning, overwhelmed, and encouraged.

Dictates and punishment dominate the educational process of Life Skills. The good news is, this can change. It changes when we remove behavioral lenses and put on educational lenses. It changes when we respect every human being at every stage of their life journey as learning and doing the best with their circumstances. It changes when we recognize that struggling children aren’t “bad”, they are struggling. It changes when we cease feigning competency in arenas where we ourselves are not skilled and embrace the wisdom of others. It changes when we commit to change.

Olympians or nuts? That is the question…

Olympics 2014

Viewing close ups of the chins of competitors in the 2014 Skeleton event – a mere two inches above ground as they mimicked human bullets shooting head-first, 90 mph, down ice-paved half-tunnels – even die-hard Winter Olympics fans found themselves asking “Are they nuts?”

And guarantee if you strapped someone from the 18th century in the passenger seat as you drove 80 mph down a freeway, or flew 300 mph 30,000 feet above ground, they would ask the same about you.

Whether someone is deemed as heroic or crazy has little to do with their actions and everything to do with perspective. Perspective permits humans to pin medals on soldiers dropping bombs on villages and label mentally-ill children shooting up classrooms “monsters”. Perspective inspires care and compassion for people with cancer and justifies condemnation and incarceration for those suffering the disease of addiction.

Here’s the catch….unless someone has somehow figured out how to be the exception to all creation, she is always doing the best within her circumstances ….given her capacities and respective challenges.

Admittedly tough to remember when a gun is pointed at your head ….or upon learning a loved one is dead. 

The veil that separates one human being from another is never more seductive than when it appears to protect, nor ever more blinding. 

So where does such knowing leave us? 

Exactly where we are, each of us learning to ride this skeleton of a body we have been given, a skeleton that – with only the rarest exception – is hard-wired to love self and others. Some of us winning Olympic medals, others struggling simply to make it through another day, but each of us appreciative of care, coaching, and encouragement along the way. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Flow of P20

When the stream began trickling for P20 Talks 2012 – the world’s first professional conference for Life Skills Educators – it was several months before our line up of Thought Leaders from multiple continents was confirmed. After announcing plans for P20 Talks 2014 earlier this month, presenter slots were filled within days.

Why the change?

Simple logic would credit the world class charm of our location – Dublin – and the prior success of P20 Talks 2012 in San Diego, California. Or the more than 100 Parenting 2.0 members stepping up to serve as Global Presence Ambassadors in 2013 and the book about our advocacy “Kissing the Mirror” becoming an amazon bestseller. Indeed, P20 professionals alternately cited all of these as factors when signing on.

But the most common reason people credited is logic not easily described. And truth be told I attempted writing about something entirely different this month to avoid the challenge…..

 

You can be courageous or you can be comfortable but you cannot be both. Brene Brown

 

Well… “To hell with comfort” once again..

Nearly every professional volunteering as a Thought Leader at P20 Talks 2014 – as well as those that served as Thought Leaders at P20 Talks 2012 – privately confided to me that they’d felt drawn recently to do “something” more. Not in an ego-based, agenda-driven way, just the opposite. Something simply larger than themselves, something undescribable was calling. One woman said she quite literally felt “pulled,” another described the sensation as “someone pushing her back..”

I get it. I feel the same…….sucked in by something larger than me, something that would be as difficult to resist as breathing….

Something I have come to call the “The Flow of P20.”

The Flow of P20 has a power of its own, an energy greater than the sum of its parts. While some credit me for initiating it – due to my role as founder  – the truth is I am just the same as everyone else, one trickle absorbed and moved along by a larger, loving river of consciousness.

The good news is that when we succumb, when we relinquish the need to take charge and direct, life begins to flow in and support us with equal ease – connections that somehow previously eluded us become everyday occurrences. Long-time host of “Full Power Living,” Ilene Dillon, spoke to the dynamic when she publicly confided the following after signing on for P20 Talks 2014,  “I’ve recently been making friends in Ireland – never before happened in 70 years!”

So this is the greater logic, uncommonly explored or acknowledged while it may presently be: When human beings step out selflessly in service to their fellow man, life miraculously steps in to support them in exponential measure.

Thank you Parenting 2.0 for this phenomenal education!

Editor’s note: P20 Talks 2014 will be held in Dublin, Ireland Sept 14th-16th. Early registration begins May 1st. Discounted hotel rates will accompany early registration.

 

Mandela, colonoscopies and torch bearers – yes really..

Every human being ever born arrives hard-wired with two assignments – thriving and communing optimally with others.  Free will does not mean you choose these assignments, merely the amount of suffering you and others endure until you acquire better skills.

People who excel in this Mandatory Curriculum are our Curriculum Scholars.  Nelson Mandela, who made the great transition at the age of 95 on Dec 5th, 2013, is one of humanity’s finest.  Mandela not only thrived personally despite obstacles that would have left others disillusioned and embittered, he empowered millions of others to thrive also.

My eldest daughter, Ari Cover, emailed me a photo of her swearing in as a lawyer in the state of California on the same day Mandela passed. The reminder that new Curriculum Scholars begin their humble journeys daily comforted me as I contemplated the capacity for others to carry Mandela’s torch forward.

A few days later I underwent a highly recommended diagnostic procedure. Emotion imprints memory so if you’ve ever had a colonoscopy, no further description regarding the setting for what I will share next is necessary. If not, picture yourself in a hospital bed; needles and wires taped to multiple points on your skin, hospital “blues” covering about as much of your backside as a baby’s bib, and dozens of glowing people bustling about with smiling faces – because, after all, they engage in this extreme level of human care dozens of times daily.

In discussing prior hospital visits with one luminous nurse, Jenna, she shared with me that she was the mother of twins.  Without my prompting, she added that one of her sons had a higher than average aptitude for reading, the other below average.  Her anxiety about this single skill being purported to determine her sons’ adult success – understandable given the US constructs prisons based on third grade reading levels – grated against her higher intelligence. 

I applauded her intuition and reassured her that, “Human beings Mandatory Curriculum – more important than reading – is feeling competent among and engaged with peers. Prioritizing this, throughout every educational process independent individual learning curves, delivers success.”  Jenna’s eyes sparkled with unintended tears and she replied, with a renewed fire burning in her voice, “I would love to get a group of people together to discuss this.”

Not only was Jenna wholly unaware of my day job as Founder of Parenting 2.0 – supporting more than 3500 members in over 65 countries doing precisely that daily  – she was also unaware of my feeling that I was flailing in my role as torch bearer.

For our second annual professional conference, P20 Talks 2013, over 100 Ambassadors were invited to organize regional gatherings. I’d signed on to host one in my new city of Corvallis, Oregon. Yet here it was mid-December and – thanks to the combination of attending other’s events, record freezing regional temps, icy roads and snow – I’d yet to do so. 

I often coach others in the importance of keeping the faith even when all odds seem against you.  “Human beings are not the exception to all creation”, I remind them, “it is a benevolent universe and it will support you in surprising ways when you step out in faith and serve others.”  Indeed it does.  Indeed it does.

We’ve Got Spirit How Bout You?

Spirit is one of the foundational items on the Life Skills Report Card, located under the top category of Personal Care. Popular while it is to equate the term spirit with religion or cheerleading – I included it on the Life Skills Report Card to represent energy. When people’s energy levels are low we describe them as “dispirited”, when they are high we call them” inspired”.

Factor in the ways human health and happiness improves when people live highly inspired lives and it is easy to agree that human beings are hard-wired to be inspired.  As with other foundational Life Skills, like interpersonal communication and safety, free will does not mean we get to choose the class – merely the amount of misery we endure until we improve our competency levels.

So how do we empower children with tools for excelling in this critical life skill arena of spirit? What skills did you learn? Who were your teachers? Who are they today?

 “We’ve got spirit yes we do, we’ve got spirit how bout you?”

During my “oh so cool” high school years, chanting this popular cheerleading phrase held about as much attraction for me as singing nursery rhymes.  As one of five sisters growing up in the era of feminism, I simply did not get the double standard of all-girl cheer squads cheering for all-boy athletic teams. Then God, in all her wisdom, gave me two daughters – one became a competitive gymnast and Captain for her high school cheer squad.  The T-shirt she wore read:

“Athletes lift weights, cheerleaders lift athletes.”

Me of little faith. The mistake I made in high school was thinking female cheerleaders had the short end of the stick in the equation. Today, I know that encouraging others to persevere during times of struggle is even more personally inspiring than having others encourage me.

Today, I not only applaud cheerleaders singing their spirit song, I also possess deeper appreciation for the wisdom of my childhood nursery rhymes and sing them too.

 “Love is like a magic penny, hold it fast and you won’t have any.  Spend it and you’ll have so many, they’ll roll all over the floor.”

Who needs sleep?

Before I was a mother, I fell completely for the idyllic picture television commercials provide of parents rocking infants for pleasure. Once I had my own baby, however, I learned the true Hollywood story. New parents rock babies because they are sleep deprived and teetering on the boundaries of sanity.

Google the word “exhausted” and you will very likely find a photo of a tear-faced, screaming toddler and a parent ready to take a hostage.

One night, when my eldest daughter was two, I boarded a red-eye flight from Seattle to DC believing that – being night time – she would sleep peacefully. Unfortunately, the plane departed later than scheduled and, having passed her routine bedtime, she spent the first hour kicking and crying instead. When a man on the flight hollered at me “Shut that baby up,” I glared back at him and asked – in a tone that made Dirty Harry’s “Make my day” delivery sound like Doris Day – “She’s two, what’s your excuse?” 

Thank goodness airport security searched passengers for “all possible weapons” before boarding.

I would like to say that episode was sufficient for elevating the status of sleep on my personal list of priorities. The truth, however, is that it took the birth of my second daughter – and a short visit to a mental hospital – for me to truly get the message that sleep matters much.

Desiring to spare my daughters the pains of my own steep learning curve, I mandated “no electronics – only reading” – after 7:pm when they started grade school. Since the Harry Potter series had yet to be written, this actually served well for getting them to sleep on time. So while fellow parents debated means to get their children to rise and shine each morning, my girls simply woke on their own. 

The discrepancy between my personal education in sleep deprivation and knowledge levels of fellow parents revealed itself most glaringly during their high school years and climaxed with an event called Grad Night. Popular in schools throughout the US, parent organized Grad Night celebrations aim to provide an alternative option to private parties and reduce death and injuries caused by underage drinking and driving. Grad Nights are typically all-night events and students are mandated to remain on campus till morning.

At my daughters’ school, I learned, students not only drove themselves to the event, they also drove themselves home.

Despite years of popularity and concern for teen safety, no one had ever made anyone aware that not sleeping for 24 hours impairs the functionality of the brain almost as much as two shots of alcohol. Fortunately God, in all her wisdom, spared my daughter the embarrassment of “mom” enlightening everyone by screaming from the school rooftop and graced me simply with the invitation to serve as Grad Night Chair. The year was 2005 and students have been required to be dropped off, and picked-up, from Grad-Night every year since.

Editors Note: Huge hugs to all the Sleep Coaches and Consultants educating individuals and families on the importance of sleep from the rooftops of Parenting 2.0. Special thanks to Michelle Winters who attended our P20 Talks 2013 Washington DC event and graciously lent her company logo to this month’s post.

 

 

The Emperor’s Clothes Circa 2000

Emperors ClothesIf you were fortunate to learn to read as a child, The Emperor’s New Clothes is likely one story you remember. Hans Christian Andersen’s 1800’s adaptation tells of a vain King who falls prey to swindlers that create a robe they describe as “invisible to stupid and incompetent people.” Pride and fear prevent the King and other adults from acknowledging that the fabric – in fact – does not exist. Only when His Royal Highness marches in a public procession, does a small child declare “He isn’t wearing anything.”

Suffice to say, a fairy tale about an Emperor strutting around naked has a way of sticking in a kid’s memory. The elements of a fearful populace and an arrogant ruler are also tragically accurately descriptive of governing bodies not simply past but also present.

What shocks me most today, as swaddled, dead babies blanket hospital floors in Syria, terrorists shoot shoppers at a Nairobi mall, and the United States ticks off Cinderella hours to a governmental shut down, is the blind eye human beings around the planet continue to turn to reality. 

You cannot solve a problem with the same thinking that created it.

Albert Einstein   

Conflict resolution is the one skill every person needs throughout their lives – more times than they will dress themselves.

So how do we prepare children and teens to excel in this critical arena?

Role modeling.  

Despite ample evidence confirming that this educational method – consistently cited as the high bar of performance in parenting – perpetuates systemic problems rather than alleviates them, we turn a blind eye to the facts, parade in the robes of vanity, and sell the – so porous as to be wholly vacuous – “fabric of society” to  generation upon generation.

The good news, as the voice of the child in The Emperor’s Clothes so beautifully illuminates, is we do not need to be either the most powerful or the most numerous to effect change. We simply need to be courageous and state the truth publicly and plainly. Doing so is the commitment of Parenting 2.0.

Editor’s Note: This blog is dedicated to the more than 100 Global Presence Ambassadors promoting a new paradigm for Life Skills Education by hosting regional gatherings around the planet for P20 Talks 2013.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P20 Talks 2013 We too have a dream

Last month I violated one of the most sacred tenants of bloggers – consistency. I failed to post a blog for July entirely. Hindsight being twenty-twenty, I can chastise myself for maintaining an end of the month posting schedule, or credit the unanticipated surprises and demands of transitioning from a home in California to a cabin in Oregon.

But the truth, if I am completely honest, is something far more chronic.  The truth is I am enormously – indeed spiritually – conflicted every single time I compose a blog.

Not for lack of something to say.  As everyone who knows me personally will be happy to confirm, I am intensely passionate engaging in two-way conversation regarding the importance of humanity embracing a more proactive educational process for Life Skills.  I am conflicted because I am brutally aware that, by blogging, I am adding to the avalanche of unidirectional information that assaults individuals daily – the avalanche that, mere survival mandates, human beings respond to with a deaf ear.

As I shared in my introduction to P20 Talks 2012 – “Life Skills Educators market themselves primarily independently. And what happens with that is it is like going to the symphony and having every instrument play its own song. People aren’t going to the symphony. Parents aren’t listening. Critical resources are getting buried, life-altering resources.”

I write today not because I am no longer pained, but because I am pained more deeply.  I am pained by news headlines that celebrate the fifty-year anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have A  Dream” speech alongside discussions of chemical attacks and international warfare.  I am pained by the fact that an even greater war, fought not on streets or battle fields but within homes, delivers epic silent suffering and death daily.

The day will come, when after harnessing space, the winds, the tides and gravitation we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world we shall have discovered fire.” Pierre Teillard de Chardin

I write today out of gratitude for the Thought Leaders that travelled from multiple continents to San Diego, California one year ago for P20 Talks 2012 – the first ever professional conference for Life Skills Educators – and the more than 100 Global Presence Ambassadors hosting regional gatherings around the globe for P20 Talks 2013.

I write today, because we too have a dream..a dream of a time when human beings everywhere embrace third party wisdom for the skills necessary to succeed in the mandatory curriculum of communing with others. A dream of a time when children learn not merely the three R’s, reading, writing, and arithmetic but also the three C’s, concern, compassion and conflict resolution.

 

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before improving the world. Anne Frank

 

 

No More Bullies

Stick Figure Family

What is the point of education? To prepare children to thrive in a diverse world? To ignite their unique passions and empower them to support others in thriving? What top three skills do human beings need to succeed? Is interpersonal communication on the list? What about conflict resolution? 
 
If there is one arena where the disparity between the educational processes of academics and Life Skills is most glaring it is interpersonal communication skills. For math developed countries regularly provide children trained educators, multiple age-appropriate resources, and opportunities to expand their competency levels over years. For conflict resolution –  by contrast – children are called names (bullies, mean girls, ADD) ostracized, disciplined, and incarcerated. Why?
 
What does placing thirty children with diverse interpersonal skill levels in a classroom,  mandating they “get along,” then shaming and punishing them when they struggle communicate about adult respect for interpersonal communication?

What avoidable pains are suffered by children and adults in homes around the planet daily? What does employee conflict cost companies and societies? What do prisoners cost taxpayers? What human potential is thwarted due to our failure to prioritize this critical Life Skill?
  
Although societies wholesale ignore teaching children the skills necessary to avoid conflict in grade school, they regularly prepare adults to respond to conflict: psychologists, therapists, doctors, lawyers, law enforcement, military etc.

Isn’t this a bit like telling people to jump in the cockpit of 747’s absent instruction then cleaning up crash sites?

 

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking that created them. Einstein

 

 What is needed to effect substantive social change? Parenting 2.0 provides a top ten list for a paradigm shift, we welcome also your suggestions.
  
1/ Respect human hard-wiring. Unless someone is the exception to all of creation, they are hard-wired to thrive – they are always doing the best within their circumstances given their abilities. 

2/ Acknowledge the mandatory curriculum every child faces – feeling they “matter” and having friends.

3/ Prioritize teaching children the skills necessary for success in the arena of interpersonal communications from pre-school to graduation.

4/ Appreciate every stage of the learning curve equally. Just as we don’t call a first grader learning addition “bad” and a tenth grader learning calculus “good”, the terms are no more appropriate in the arena of interpersonal communication and conflict resolution.

5/ Celebrate diversity. Humanity, like all of creation, is magnificently diverse. Human beings have different brains, different temperaments, different sensitivities. Rather than disparaging these differences – acknowledge and celebrate them. Learn from others rather than mandating or feigning homogeneity.

6/ Embrace humility. We would not call a mechanic that could not tell us what is under the hood of our car an expert. Human beings are still learning what is under their human hoods. Discoveries of the human brain alone in recent years have proved many things once understood as fact to be wholly false.  Until we can construct a human being from scratch in a lab, let us remain humble and curious during the discovery process rather than all-knowing and self-righteous.

7/ Express gratitude. Instead of teaching children to always want more, teach them gratitude. Millions of human beings struggled for today’s children to enjoy the blessings they do – millions more still lack basics like food and water.  Express gratitude, pay it forward. 

8/ Heed your Human GPS. Every living thing has a God given inner GPS. Instead of teaching children merely to listen to the instructions  of others, teach them also to listen to their human GPS – they are equipped with one for a reason.

9/ Applaud failure. Failure is a sign someone is trying something new. Trying new things is courageous. To applaud success and decry failure is to celebrate the cake and disparage the farmer. 

10/ Love. Human beings thrive when loved, brains work better, health is enhanced. Let’s acknowledge the value of love and respect its power and supremacy on the list of human needs when teaching the three R’s.

Editor’s note: This blog is dedicated to the Parenting 2.0 humanitarians that graciously served as Thought Leaders for the No More Bullies panel at P20 Talks 2012: Devin Hughes, Dr. Donna Volpitta, Dr. Samantha Madhosingh, Dr. Deborah Gilboa, Catherine Mattice and Dione Becker. P20 Talks 2012 was the first professional conference to recognize Life Skills as distinct foundational skill sets teachable by third party educators.

 

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