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.
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.”
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.
If 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.
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?
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.
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
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.
The greatest burdens in life are not those we know, they are those we ignore, those we accept as “normal”. How tragic that human beings in any country need look no further than their children to find the greatest suffering.
Parenting 2.0’s International Backpack Free Friday’s public awareness campaign invites adults everywhere to stop and take a fresh look at children’s foundational health – their mandatory curriculum. Are they well-rested? Hydrated? Fed? What is their stress level? How heavy is their backpack?
An August 2008 WebMd.com article stated that the AAOC (American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgery) says a child shouldn’t carry a backpack that exceeds 15%-20% of their body weight.” It further shared that “A reasonable recommendation is a 10% cutoff weight for bodyweight. This will help reduce the risk of injury related to falls and relieve pain that comes from wearing giant backpacks loaded with school supplies.” With 10% as the more conservative target, here’s a breakdown by body weight for measuring how much your child should be lugging around in his backpack:
Child’s Weight Backpack Weight
50 pounds 5 pounds
75 pounds 7.5 pounds
100 pounds 10 pounds
125 pounds 12.5 pounds
150 pounds 15 pounds
Backpacks, however, are merely the tip of the iceburg – the problem we can see. During classtime – and yes permit me to acknowledge we are speaking about the “fortunate” children on the planet if they are in classrooms – backpacks are typically on the backs of chairs or in lockers. This is when children’s greater suffering continues – suffering that stems from being dehydrated, tired, emotionally stressed and hungry. While initially less obvious, all of these are well-documented to negatively impact every aspect of human functioning.
In my prior role as director of an academic tutoring club, I was shocked at the condition of children arriving for paid tutoring sessions – many parents took better care of their cars.
Where are our priorities? When will we focus attention on children’s readiness to learn rather than simply what they are learning?
Students who falter in school are more likely to embrace lives of crime and end up incarcerated. With incarceration considerably more expensive than school, isn’t it worth every adult taking a broad lens to means for improving children’s odds of educational success?
As the mother of two (now adult) daughters I know well the demands facing those on the front lines raising humanity. Be they parents or teachers, the fact is, they’re busy. Criticsm and complaints don’t inspire human beings to higher performance, they hinder it. Parenting 2.o is committed to lifting the burdens off children and schools by sharing the concept of Life Skills Report Cards year round and supporting adults performing the most important job on earth. Backpack Free Friday is the day we draw broader public attention to our activism and link arms to be the Change the World awaits. Thank you for joining us by sharing news of Backpack Free Friday forward.
Once upon a time, not so very long ago, the word family in the US conjured up a visual of mom, dad and two and a half biological children. Yes the half was always a bit challenging – and good preparation for the definition of “family” today. Ask any person on the street to describe their “family” and you will get a myriad of additional responses: “single parent homes,” “step parents and step children”, “adopted children,” “foster children,” and “same gender parents.”
As complexity increases so too do the challenges. When not properly respected and proactively addressed, family problems become societal problems. No one lives in isolation. If a neighbor’s child struggles and ends up committing a crime, your taxes will be utilized to prosecute that child. Every adult – whether a parent or not – has a role in raising humanity.
Consequently, families today are attracting heightened press and societal attention. Bright lights do not only reveal the problems you seek to find, they expose issues long hidden. “Do as your parents did unto you” and “Children learn what they live” are now revealed as the impossibly, impoverished educational paradigms they have been for decades. Institutions that previously processed human beings like so many crayons in a box – shunning those whose uniqueness challenged their constructs – are cracking. Child abuse, molestation, poverty, human trafficking and starvation, can no longer be written off as “someone else’s problem”.
Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of overcoming. Helen Keller
All of this brings us to the one constant. Regardless ever changing cultural norms and composition, families are universal and remain a primary classroom for children. Their success around the planet is critical to all of us. So thank goodness for the passionate ones, the courageous, the can-do, the caring – people like Rhonda Sciortino. Rhonda endured severe poverty and physical abuse as a child and today teaches others to “Succeed because of what you’ve been through.”
As Rhonda and others who have travelled the journey over centuries have learned – and modern work in neuroscience and trauma now confirm – far from being “forever damaged” human beings are only as limited as their educators. Life skills benefit from the same things as academics: wisdom of third party instructors optimistic of children’s success, practice over years, and appreciation that failure is an essential part of any learning process. Children who take the harder classes in the mandatory curriculum of surviving and communing with others, and have exceptional teachers, end up becoming humanity’s curriculum scholars.
Editor’s Note: This blog is dedicated to the Parenting 2.0 humanitarians that volunteered to serve as Thought Leaders for the Modern Family Panel at P20 Talks 2012: Rhonda Sciortino, Dr. Pilar Placone, Dr. Jeannine Zoppi, Jeff Everage and Diana Sterling. P20 Talks made history by gathering professionals across multiple professional fields and continents to illuminate Life Skills as distinct, foundational skill sets critical to thriving and teachable by third party educators.
“Cleanliness is next to Godliness, Welcome to the Gates of Hell.” This was the sign Mitzi Weinman’s father placed on her bedroom door when she was a young teen. Can you relate?
Poll any audience on the top five aggravations of parents and keeping clothing, school and sports supplies organized will most assuredly make the list.
Why? Because parents never learned how to be inspiring educators.
Learning organizational skills often falls under the instructional umbrella of behavior rather than education. This sets up the cycle where – instead of parents acknowledging they may in fact be unskilled themselves – they feign competency and then punish children for “misbehaving” when performance doesn’t match expectations.
Modern brain research has revealed that which fires together, wires together. When negative thoughts and emotions accompany a task, stress hormones pour in and children’s mental and physical capacities decrease. Because these events happen simultaneously, they are more likely to repeat. In other words, parents might as well be teaching children how not to be organized when they lecture, discipline and punish.
Here’s the good news – Organization skills benefit from the same practices of every other skill:
Parents around the planet spend hundreds – even thousands – of dollars each year for sports and music coaches, but rarely contemplate investing in an organizational coach. How transforming might it be for a teen who struggles keeping track of homework to be coached by an organizational expert instead of being berated by his parents or sent to a therapist?
Who becomes an organizational expert? People like Mitzi Weinman. Why? Because they have compassion for those who find the learning curve challenging. They also know first-hand the value of instruction by a qualified coach and appreciate just how life-altering competency in critical life skills arenas – like organization – can be.
Editor’s Note: This blog is dedicated to the Parenting 2.0 humanitarians that volunteered to serve as Thought Leaders for the Organizational Panel at P20 Talks 2012: Mitzi Weinman, Dr. Shirin Sherkat, Deborah King, Sherlyn Pang Luedtke, Dr. Yvonne Sum and Roya Kravetz. P20 Talks made history by gathering professionals across multiple professional fields and continents to illuminate Life Skills as distinct foundational skill sets teachable by third party educators.
What was the last thing that troubled you? Was it a disagreement with a colleague or a loved one – a child perhaps? Where did you learn communication skills? Who were your teachers? You were taught reading and history in school but were you also taught interpersonal communication skills? Did you ever contemplate your role in making history?
Rest assured you are. Every exchange with fellow human beings – whether disagreeing with someone at the office, disciplining your child or fighting with your spouse – contributes in thousands of ways to the larger story of humanity. Central to every interaction – business or personal – is communication.
How do people learn this critical Life Skill? From communication experts? Conflict resolution classes? Not usually. They learn from role modeling.
Why is it human beings enthusiastically embrace quality education from third party educators for everything from soccer to science, yet accept children simply learning what they live when it comes to interpersonal communication? What price does humanity pay for its failure to better appreciate this critical Life Skill?
Adults do, of course, routinely prepare millions of people to respond to crises in the communications arena – doctors, lawyers, law enforcement, military. Isn’t this about as logical as telling people to jump in the cockpit of 747’s absent quality instruction then cleaning up crash sites?
When couples struggle in relationships they are encouraged to attend “therapy.” Therapy comes from the word “remedial” meaning “to restore”. If you break a leg you attend therapy to restore your motor abilities. If you suffer a stroke, you attend therapy to restore cognitive abilities.
What couple attending therapy to learn quality communication skills ever enjoyed what anyone would define as highly competent ones? They are not restoring anything, they are learning it for the very first time. Shame is a lousy ingredient in any educational process.
If we can construct rockets that deliver people to the moon, might we also construct more dynamic means for empowering every individual with the skills necessary for success in the mandatory curriculum of communing with others?
How might the world change if instead of having “child care centers “ around the planet we respected these same facilities as Communication 101 Centers? How might school children blossom when we affirm for them the many ways people communicate – verbal and non-verbal – and their capacity to expand upon parents’ teachings? How might divorce rates decrease when these same children become adults and create their own families?
Options for change are as vast as the universe when we take the first small step of acknowledging the centrality of communication in every avenue of human interaction and advocate a more proactive educational process. Doing so will constitute one giant leap for mankind.
Editor’s Note: In 2012, Parenting 2.0 members made history by gathering professionals across multiple disciplines and continents for P20 Talks. P20 Talks was the first professional conference to recognize Life Skills as distinct, critical skill sets teachable by third party educators. Thought Leaders for P20 Talks 2012 Communication 101 panel included: Dr. Rosina McAlpine, Dr. Raelynn Maloney, Dr. Yvonne Sum, Melissa Pazen, Mark Romero, and Susie Walton.