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Archive for January, 2010

The most successful teams I have seen, from sports to the workplace to philanthropic groups, are ones on which every participant is working with others doing what each does best.  The teams that I watch fail are those where everyone is trying to be the star and no on wants to play a supporting role.  I was in 3rd grade PE class when I learned that winning was important to everyone.  Not being very coordinated and, quite frankly, caring more about friends than winning or losing, I was never first choice for any teams.  I remember being so very confused that people I thought were friends were choosing others for their team because they had a better chance of winning.  In sixth grade I realized that I was not in the “smartest” class, only the “second smartest” in my grade and I was too young to realize that in my case, changing classes meant going from the top of second to the bottom of first.

To this day I have a problem with competition.  Yes, I realize that competition can push us to be better, give us something to strive for etc., but we are assuming that without competition we would turn into lumps.  Instead, I suggest that in fostering competition we are encouraging a society where there is a hierarchy of abilities instead of a society that recognizes each person for what they are good at. 

More times than not I see children as young as four years old, sad, depressed, angry (note none of these are positive emotions) because they weren’t the best at one or two activities.

Let’s imagine for a minute that instead of competing for one or two coveted spots on a team or in school, each child was recognized for what they are good at.  That every child’s unique contributions to the world were cherished.  Do we really think that under those circumstances our corporate, social and financial worlds would do anything but thrive?  Not to mention what the spirit of collaboration could do for world peace.

I see parents pushing their children earlier and earlier in sports, academics, dance, art….trying to secure a “top spot” in their child’s future.  I also see a lot of kids suffering from anxiety, depression, and stress disorders in elementary and middle school.  It’s not too late to change our world.  Here are a few ways to help foster collaboration and bringing out your child’s unique talents.

1)  Let your child try lots of sports, art and social activities before deciding on which one they excel at.  Don’t tell them how they are doing, praise them for trying and let them tell you how the activity makes them feel.  It is OK to do something just because it’s fun.

2) Do household projects as a family letting each person choose the part of the activity they will enjoy most.  Then talk about how quickly the project got finished and what each person enjoyed most about it.

3)  If you have multiple children, let the kids help each other with difficult homework problems or projects.  Letting them help each other not only lets each child shine, but it teaches the children that one person (the parent) doesn’t have to be great at everything!

4)  Ask for help and let your children see you do that.  In acknowledging that you are not an expert at everything, you open the doors for your children to know it’s OK to do the same.

5)  Let your children see you share your talents with others.  They will then want to share their gifts as well.

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One of the most used tools for punishing a child’s behavior in the last decade has been the “Time Out.”  Companies capitalized on products geared to assist parents with this consequence creating tools that range from Time Out Timers to  Time Out Chairs.  I’m a fan of Time Out myself.  It’s a great way for everyone to regroup, reset and recharge.  But if a child sits in Time Out and stews about the punishment or is uncertain about what they did to land themselves there the Time Out is really ineffective, and more times than not the child will end up right back in the Time Out seat.

This consequence is much more useful if the child has an opportunity to get in touch with what they are feeling and then get to a calmer more centered place.  A child that leaves Time Out calm and balanced is a child that will interact with his surroundings more successfully.

Here are a few tips for getting the most out of a Time Out.

1) Choose a time out spot in your home and make it peaceful — Maybe at a window that overlooks the garden or in a space that removed from household noise.  It should also be comfortable enough that the child can relax, for example a chair is preferrable to standing.

2) Play some happy music in Time Out.  Not something that is distracting, but this is a good time to use something like Baby Mozart’s Relax, Daydream and Draw CD.

3) Encourage deep breathing in the Time Out space.  This may mean sitting with your child the first few times and breathing with them so that they understand this is part of the Time Out process.  Deep breathing encourages the physical and emotional levels of the body to relax.  Only once these levels are relaxed can anyone process what’s going on around them.  You are much more likely to get your child to understand their actions once they are calm.

4)  If the child is angry, have them count to ten.  This process helps them refocus their energy and helps to move them out of such a negative space.

5)  Just before they leave their Time Out space ask them to tell you  something they love about themselves.  This reestablishes the idea that consequences do not define them, and they will be in their heart which opens them up to better interactions with everyone.   (Remember ideally it’s 1 minute of Time Out for every year of the child’s age.  A 2-year-old can sit for 2 minutes)

6) My only DON’T suggestion is directly for the parents or caregivers.  Do not end a Time Out asking the child if they know what they did wrong.  This only serves to inject more negative energy into the process at the exact moment that we are asking them to go back to playing or listening to instructions.  We are setting ourselves up for disaster when we do this.  Instead, it is appropriate to tell the child why they are going to Time Out when it is issued, or if the child is older, to ask them why they think they are being sent to Time Out.

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I don’t believe in making resolutions at the beginning of  the year for two reasons.  First, I feel like most resolutions come from a place of wanting to correct something I was doing wrong (eating too much, not working out enough, not making enough money, etc.) and I’d rather leave self-judgement out of the picture.  Second, I’m a new person everyday.  If I only make resolutions in January, I am assuming I will know who I am, what I will have accomplished and what I want for the next twelve months.  This is not possible. 

So at the start of every month I make a list of intentions.  These are things that I’d like to do, experience or accomplish.    My intentions are always positive and always lead me to a new phase in my journey instead of trying to correct an old behavior or pattern.  I encourage my children to do the same.  We talk about our intentions, sometimes on a daily basis.  We encourage and support one another in our intentions and we celebrate the successful completion of someone’s intentions.

Here are a few ways to help get the ball rolling in your home.  Set some positive intentions just for the next 2 weeks and see how profoundly your life changes.

1)  Get a notebook or journal for everyone in your family to write their intentions down.  Writing them out helps you remember what is important to you and it let’s you modify your intentions according to how you shift and change.  You can even get a great online journal from www.plumjournals.com if you prefer using a computer.

2) Talk about your intentions regularly.  At breakfast each morning go around the table asking each person what their intentions for the day are and be sure to share your own. Talking about the intention makes it real and you get the support of people who love you.  You are also modeling for your children how to live with intention.

3) Create a vision board with your children.  Take a piece of poster board and glue words, pictures and sayings on it that support your visions and intentions.  Vision boards can, and should, be updated regularly as you accomplish what is already on it and set new intentions.

4)  Participate in a community, either in person or online, that helps support your vision.  You and your children can get accounts on a website like www.intent.com and post your intentions daily, weekly or monthly.

Have fun, and my you experience all of your heart’s intentions this year!

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