I had an interesting question last night from my 10-year-old daughter Claire. Claire is a blogger and loves asking questions. A trait I admire so much. She was working on a school project and doing a few interviews with me.

She asked me if I had always been this confident and commented on how easy it is for me to get along with people including celebrities.

I thought about it for a while and I gave here the best answer I could with regards to my own personal development.

I was born in Zambia in Southern Africa in a small country town by the feet of the Mpangwe Hills and the Katete River. Katete is a very small vibrant town full of colors and culture, from its traditional ceremonies to the beautiful wildlife parks nearby. I was very fortunate that from a very young age as I was encouraged to explore my world and ask as many questions as I could.

My grandfather was a High Commissioner for Community Development and I watched him as a young girl interact with his people. He treated everyone with respect. read more →

When people, especially strangers, go out of their way to do a good deed for us, it touches our heart. My children and I were sitting in a doctor’s office recently and I was blown away by the kindness of a young boy sitting next to us. He heard me telling my daughter to stop putting her dirty hands in her mouth after she was playing on the floor. This six-year-old boy came over and offered my daughter hand sanitizer. This simple act of kindness and sharing was a moment to cherish that day amongst the stress of a long wait in a loud, crowded waiting room.

Why We Help Others

Why do you help others? Yes, it is the right thing to do. But did you know that it also makes you happier and healthier?

I know it may be a bit selfish to look at how being kind to others is beneficial to us personally, but the recent science surrounding kindness is so fascinating that we can’t ignore it. Plus, it is important for parents to understand why we want to instill kindness in our children so that we can provide all the reasons to them when they question it. read more →

My children are very well behaved. They are well-mannered, obedient, and they ‘do as they are told.’ Great right? I’m not so sure.

I became increasingly aware that my kids were blindly following authority and it bothered me. I don’t want my kids to be drones who plod through life, I want them to be thinkers, feelers and do-ers.

I remember years ago being present at an assembly where a decent, church-going, hard-working council member was speaking. He was telling the children to listen to adults and do what they are asked to do. Major alarm bells sounded off in my brain. I was a young, childless teacher at the time, but had worked with enough foster children to know how dangerous that message can be. Why? Because as much as we hope it doesn’t happen, some adults prey on children. They rely on the fact that we are raising very well-behaved, quiet, obedient children who will not stand up against an authoritative figure.

There was a case in America where a whole fast-food restaurant was tricked by a guy on the phone pretending to be a police officer. There was even a movie (Compliance) made about how he managed to manipulate the staff to such a degree that it lead to the abuse of one of the 18-year-old female workers over many hours. read more →

World Kindness Day is a celebration of what most people consider our species’ best set of qualities: compassion, consideration for others, respect and generosity.

Kindness shouldn’t be limited to any particular gender, race, age group or even species. In fact, showing kindness and compassion to the most vulnerable of our fellow earthlings (i.e. other animals, particularly under human care) is often seen as the most telling sign of a person’s capacity for the traits we hold most sacred. As Gandhi famously said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

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You’ve heard the old saying “it takes a village to raise a child”. When it comes to their education, the same principle should be applied in the form of a positive and proactive partnership between teachers, student and parents.

I’m a huge advocate for clear, open communication between all parties to avoid misunderstandings and unnecessary stress. Good relationships between teachers and parents should be a priority to ensure the best outcome for children.

There are a number of simple things that parents and teachers can do to support one another.

Teachers supporting parents:

Keep parents up to date

Parents who confide in a teacher and don’t receive further feedback on an issue affecting their child can become frustrated and angry. If they’ve made an effort to contact the school, it means they’re genuinely concerned. They need to feel confident their child is being cared for by teachers staying contact and updating them on what’s being done.

Send home a note

Make a special effort to call or send home a note to parents of children who need extra support or are struggling to fit in. A teacher who shares a few kind words about their child’s successes or positive progress will win a parent’s heart in an instant. read more →

As important as it is for parents to encourage, love and support their children, it is just as important that children learn to create this within themselves. It is very empowering for a child to create positive beliefs in themselves so it is much harder for people to tear them down.

Our children are learning behaviours and wiring their brain and this is why affirmations are so effective with youngsters. Positive self-belief developed in childhood will stay with them throughout their life.

We all develop our belief systems about ourselves and the world around us from our environment. Our family and friends, role models, television, magazines and advertising can either be nurturing or damaging.

It is important that we learn to take control of our belief systems and the younger that we learn, the easier it is. It can be as simple as affirming the positive beliefs that we would like to grow up with. Negative beliefs can impact our lives greatly and can be hard to shift as we grow older.

Affirmations are a powerful and holistic way of building a positive mind and happier children.  Nurturing their authentic self and helping them to enjoy the magic of childhood.

Put simply, an affirmation is to affirm to one’s self. Positive words that are absorbed by the mind to create your belief system. Once affirmations are learned, they work by coming to mind when that belief is challenged. If your affirmation is “I am wonderful just the way I am”, and you are told you are stupid, the affirmation will come to mind to remind you of your belief. Instead, you will think, “I’m not stupid, I am wonderful!” Without a positive belief, you may take on the one you just heard and start to believe that you are stupid. The more an affirmation is repeated, positive or negative, the stronger it becomes.

What we think about ourselves, is how we develop 

If we feel we are worthless, we will behave like we are worthless. If we believe that we are special and loved, we will behave like we are special and loved.  read more →

13 years ago I was expecting my first child. It had taken us a while to get pregnant with our first as I had undiagnosed health problems, so we were delighted with the news. We did everything that most first-time parents did, buying equipment as well as baby-proofing everything because that is what good parents do, right?

Our bouncing baby girl arrived and I was a very focused and dedicated parent. Monitoring every aspect of her life and making sure that her every need was attended to. Life went on and we continued to extend the family with 3 more children, all boys. As my family grew in size and age, I began to observe and learn about what was helping them to grow and what was stopping them from growing.

As time went on, I realised that the better and more efficient mother I became, the more often I disadvantaged my children. In an attempt to make sure that my children were happy, healthy, comfortable and safe I was actually preventing them from experiencing all aspects of life. I was undermining their confidence and I was denying them the tools they needed to thrive. Let me explain. read more →

My daughter has been having difficulty with a girl at school. This girl “Mary” became a bit of a stalker and it became quite intense.

It was manageable during school hours, but it was the constancy of exchanges on Instagram that became overwhelming. Relentless messages from Mary accusing my daughter of bad behaviour. Mary snapping a photo of my daughter’s private messages, where she revealed her crush and then showing him. Not cool. In the end, we advised our daughter to block Mary, at which point the girl jumped on to my account. Yikes, it was intense.

A meeting was held at school and the cyber issue was resolved. Several minor incidents occurred thereafter, but nothing that we couldn’t handle.

Then, one day my daughter came home from school furious. We sat down as I listened to the drama that had unfolded this time. Mary had taken a rotten piece of fruit and had thrown it at one of the boys. This particular boy is very shy, a bit of a recluse, an easy target. The fruit hit him. He did not respond and simply continued staring at the floor. My daughter then flew into action (she has a very strong moral compass).

“Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears
of another and feeling with the heart of another.” – Alfred Adler

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The Knit-For Service Club began in 2004 with twenty members and has grown to eighty-plus boys and girls who knit to help others. The first year, we made one patchwork blanket to donate to Harold, the King of the Valentine’s Day Dance, at his retirement home. Since then, we have collectively knit over two dozen blankets and two thousand baby hats for people in need.

The second year, we invited those inaugural club members to keep up their skills by coming back as mentors to the rookie knitters.960x540

In our third year, Save the Children® in Connecticut asked us to join its Caps to the Capital campaign. That visit resulted in our club’s effort to rally the community to help us send 329 handmade caps to developing countries to help reduce the infant mortality rate. Consequently, we were invited that January to deliver a basket of those caps to the White House. Elizabeth, our young Westwood Ambassador, left one of her hats with the First Lady’s chief of staff. When asked how it felt to leave her handiwork with the First Lady, Elizabeth remarked, “It was okay, I suppose. But I really made that hat for a baby.” A project with a purpose. Be still my beating heart.

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When you look back on your childhood, I imagine one thing that comes to mind are particular phrases or saying you heard your parents say on a regular basis. These are most likely the same things they heard from their own parents that have unconsciously become a part of who they are. And chances are, love it or hate it, that you’re also repeating some of the same expressions to your children.

According to Steve Biddulph, the author of “The Secret to Happy Children“, parents may be unknowingly “hypnotizing” their children. He refers to this type of programming as a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy because hearing a particular suggestion over and over makes children believe it enough to make it a reality.

When parents say negative things about their child’s character like, you’re hopeless, you’re so lazy, you’ll never amount to anything, you can’t do that… they’re diluting their child’s belief in themselves.  These type of putdowns are like tiny seeds that accumulate in the mind and when consistently watered, will eventually bloom into a pessimistic outlook on themselves and life.

Steve explains that “whenever we use certain patterns of speech, we reach into the unconscious minds of our children and program them, even though we have no such intention.”

The belief that to be hypnotized, a person had to be in an altered state of mind or trance, is old hat.

These days it’s understood that the mind can be programmed whilst a person is in a normal waking state without them being aware of it happening. It’s called accidental hypnosis because without even realizing it, parents are implanting messages in their child’s mind that can stay with them for a lifetime.

If you’re sighing right now in frustration or disappointment in yourself, you won’t be alone. Accidental hypnosis is a part of everyday life, and most of us do it! read more →

A teacher in New York used the crumpled paper exercise to show her students the last impact that bullying can have. read more →

Critical skills - mindfulness, resilience and focus for children to succeed at school

As a mother of three teenage daughters and an experienced elementary school teacher, I am deeply concerned about our kids. Let me explain. Children today live in a world filled with technology — iPad interaction from birth, social media from pre-teens and access to everything and anything on the Internet from a very young age. Don’t get me wrong, as a teacher I know technology can be an amazing tool for learning. Extraordinary really. What does deeply trouble me, is the negative aspect of child/learner interaction with technology.

I have come back to teaching after four years away. What I found on my return, was many children (dare I say the boys) had a much lower attention span than I had previously experienced in my teaching practice. Where once I had five- and six-year-olds listening and focused for 15 minutes, they were now only engaged for around five minutes. After that period of time, eyes started to roam, feet began to fidget and turning around seems a more entertaining thing to do!

In a time of technology overload, and on-line and off-line societal pressures, I have come to the conclusion that we need to formally teach our children the following:

  1. To be mindful of others and of themselves. That is, to show respect and empathy towards others and to show respect and empathy towards themselves.
  1. To be resilient. That is, we need children to feel confident about themselves and to be able to accept disappointment and even rejection without losing a sense of self. The teaching of resilience goes hand in hand with children learning to be assertive — both about their bodies and their mindset.
  1. To be focused learners. That is, I believe we formally need to teach children in a school environment to focus on a task and to slow their mind down, allowing them to sustain longer concentration.

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