Saturday, April 30, 2011

Dr. Michael Thompson: Experiences in Boyhood

With the help of Thomas Matlack of The Good Men Project and Michael Hall of Strong Fathers, Strong Families, we have been talking a lot about raising boys in the 21st century.  Today we turn to psychologist, school consultant and author Dr. Michael Thompson for his insightful look into how we can do our best to raise sensitive, masculine, well balanced boys.  Is education serving our them? How is it suppressing their masculinity? Do we take gender differences into consideration when we structure academics?Please share your thoughts.
You may know Dr. Thompson from his New York Times best selling book and documentary "Raising Cain". He is also author of "It's A Boy!" and "Homesick and Happy", as well as five other books. You can read more about his work here.

What innate tendencies are being lost as we suppress masculinity in education and in parenting that would naturally allow boys to become healthy, happy fathers and providers for their families? 
All over the world, boys play hunt-and-chase games and they wrestle.  Many people call this “aggressive” or “violent play,” but I disagree.  It isn’t meant to hurt or do harm.  Boys are wired for “rough-and-tumble play” and for certain kinds of dominance behaviors; other boys understand that most of that is not bullying.

How would a boy develop a sense of confidence  if their education were less structured by the academic community?
A majority of boys seem to learn through experience, not through being told or trying to follow rules.  They develop both skills and confidence by recovering from their own mistakes.  The question is:  do their parents have enough trust in boy development to let them take some risks and make some mistakes?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Thomas Matlack: Balancing

Thomas Matlack of The Good Men Project joins us for a final discussion about how a child can find balance between the obligation he/she has to grow, achieve and learn for personal aspirations and a commitment to the wider community.  Balance is something we all have a hard time finding and in a culture that pushes us all to indulge and focus on ourselves, how do we teach our children the careful balance between doing for themselves and doing for others? How do we teach our children to find their identity in these rough waters? 
In two earlier posts Mr. Matlack discussed developing humility and how a young man can use his inner compass to guide his life.
Mr. Matlack co-founded The Good Men Project in 2008 and since then has appeared on national and local television and has traveled the country promoting a new kind of conversation about manhood, one that pushes men to think deeply about what they believe and how they define themselves in the twenty first century. 

What do believe is the balance between a child’s obligations to himself and the obligation he has to the community to learn, grow and become an active, productive member of society?
I don't see these obligations as being in competition with one another.  As social animals we are all individuals in a community.  As boys and men, we need to grow into our own identity but that identity is crafted in large part by how we treat the people around us, ultimately as sons, fathers, husbands and in the work place.  A key is to be the same person in each role whether out in the world, with our family at home, or alone.  So many men get in trouble by compartmentalizing and in essence living double lives.  One definition of being a "good" man is simply to live a life sticking to a single identity, a single core set of values and attributes as a boy and then man. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Every Mother Counts

I had the pleasure of joining the #Moms4Moms Twitter party recently and discuss the right every woman in the world has for a safe and healthy birthing experience. I have to admit, it was one of my first Twitter parties. How amazing to be able to sit in my pjs, on my couch, with my mud mask covering my face and talk with insightful women about life changing issues. Now that is multitasking! I loved the whole conversation. Before the party started I had the pleasure of speaking with Holly Pavlika of Big Fuel and Mom-entum about the Moms4Moms movement.
Women hold a lot of power in our society. It is time we realize how powerful we really are to make the social change we know is important and relevant to our families. We know how to help children and families achieve. What are we waiting for?"Inspired by Christy Turlington and her mission to spread the word about this critical issue, we hope to help drive awareness and action through the power of Moms and our digital relationships", says Ms. Pavlika. Read on to hear more about how women are making waves of change for one another.

In this day and age when so much of what we contemplate during the day is focused on information we are fed from the main stream media, how do we break the cycle of mind numbing news that fills our world and reach towards movements, like Moms4Moms, that puts us in touch with an inspiration to help other parents?
I think the key is relationships. And that's why I love social media. When you've built a community and engaged with them in a human, honest and relevant way, that trust enables you to get out messages that break the cycle.

When I look at your site I see the staggering statistics associated with maternal care. It is clear the power mothers have when they are working together as a unit to make change. How can the mom at home folding the laundry today recognize her potential to help other moms?
I'm a great believer it's the small things that add up to the large. Obama did it with micro-donations and his campaign. It's the voices of a million Moms joining together that can make change. Two cell phones in a single location in Rwanda could change the lives of the Moms there. So a Mom doing laundry can have an impact. And has made it easy through Hope Phones– nothing to do other than drop the phones in the postage paid box they supply.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Thomas Matlack: Building Humility

Today we are once again joined by Thomas Matlack of the Good Men Project. Recently I had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Matlack about the importance of building humility amongst kids. It isn't a character trait often discussed in education reform conversations, but the emotional well being of our children should be at the top of the priority list. After all, without a well balanced emotional outlook in life, their physical achievements will not hold proper significance.
We dedicate a lot of time in our child rearing culture to building self esteem, but how much time is too much time to spend heaping praise onto a child? In a culture that wants everyone to be a winner and receive a trophy, a star or a pat on the back, how do we teach our children the benefits of working hard and earning praise?  Unnecessary praise of kids stunts their emotional development and they transform into adults that can't clearly understand their actual strengths and weaknesses. Allowing a child to be too much the focus of attention doesn't allow humility to blossom. How can parents and teachers find balance between praise, fostering a sense of community and an honest picture of personal success for each student? How can we begin this acceptance of our children and how can we teach them to accept their limitations? Read on to hear about Mr. Matlack's personal experience with fostering humility with his sons.
Mr. Matlack co-founded The Good Men Project in 2008 and since then has appeared on national and local television and has traveled the country promoting a new kind of conversation about manhood, one that pushes men to think deeply about what they believe and how they define themselves in the twenty first century. 

How does a boy find humility when parent spends too much time building self esteem?

My own experience of ego is that it is based on fear.  All these guys (myself included by the way) going around beating their chests all puffed up is really about fearing that we are not good enough, won't measure up.  Ego is a very fragile shell that is easily cracked.  Underneath is terror.  I see this in my 15 year old son who is the most upbeat, charismatic boy with plenty of swagger.  Just one well placed sentence, often unintentional on my part, can reduce him to tears.  

So how do you cultivate humility?  Through love.  And teaching your boys that they are perfect just the way they are.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Who's Helping Kids Achieve?

Here is a short list of a few inspiring and innovative things I saw on the internet this week. If you have something you would like featured next week, please share in the comments section and I will check it out!

  • This inspirational video from Student's First pushes educators, parents and students to open an honest and clear dialogue about what is happening in education right now.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Thomas Matlack: Finding the Inner Compass

Let Children Achieve is honored to be joined by Thomas Matlack, co-founder of The Good Men Project. Mr. Matlack started The Good Men Project in 2008 and since then has appeared on national and local television and has traveled the country promoting a new kind of conversation about manhood, one that pushes men to think deeply about what they believe and how they define themselves in the twenty first century. The Good Men Project Magazine offers innovative conversations for people who enjoy thinking critically about social roles and strive to contribute positively to the world.  Over the next few posts, Mr. Matlack will share with us a few thoughts about raising boys, being a dad and how a man can raise a son to achieve in a world that many times is working against him.

In a society where young men are continuously looking for external role models and find very few, what would you say is the best method for young men to employ to begin to look inwards and use their own inner strengths as a compass in life?

My experience with this is there is no need to "begin."  Boys, at least the ones I have been around, intuitively know how to be strong and good in their own special way.  It's the rest of us who tell them to grow up, be different, be like some adult man we put up on a pedestal.  

One of the most amazing things is to watch my 6 year-old's mind as he figures out the world himself.  It's like a flower opening for the first time.  He is asking the questions and coming up with the answers in one long breath of air.  Sometimes he just lays on my chest while we are watching a game and talks.  I try to talk too but really it is his monologue, his manhood ripening before my very eyes.  

Monday, April 11, 2011

What does a Can Do attitude do for you?

Recently I was introduced to the company Can Do Kids. It was started by two Can Do moms, Deborah Luster and Chris Elders in order help kids identify their goals and aid them in achieving their dreams using the powerful tool of a Can Do attitude.  As it says on their site, their mission is to "Inspire kids – young and old – to reach their full potential, and remind them that they can do anything!"
What I like about Can Do Kids is their strong committment to creating an atmosphere of achievement. They haven't drawn lines around WHAT should be achieved, rather they are encouraging parents, communities and kids to embrace personal achievement in all it's forms.
How can we bring a Can Do attitude to classrooms across the country?  We have allowed one definition of acadmeic success to define a crumbling educational system for too long. We must begin to make room for achievement outside of the traditional pass/fail testing environment.
How do we begin to do this?
 New models of assessment need to be brought to classrooms for teachers and students.  The exchange of ideas needs to be included as an important part of education. Encouraging these things will naturally foster a Can Do attitude.
In short, if we help children pursue their life passions, whatever they may be, and give our students tools so they can have a Can Do attitude, we will have kids who are happy, innovative and ultimately benefiting our society.  We are all tied to the success and failing of our students. If we do not create an atmosphere in which students achieve, they will not grow to be adults that achieve. If the child cannot identity their dream, how does that child grow to be an adult that can?
As Dr. Kwame Brown of Move Theory stated in an earlier post on this site,

"We must begin to understand children as sentient beings who think for themselves and simply need guidance...."

Thursday, April 7, 2011

ROR: Return on Relationships in Education

In the last post I was honored to speak with Ted Rubin about his take on what it means for our children to achieve in life and how parents, schools and communities support that achievement.
As mentioned, Mr. Rubin is the creator of the term Return on Relationships (ROR) ROR is a powerful tool in social media and with his vast experience in social networking, media and marketing Mr. Rubin is sharing with the world how we can all do a better job of using these powerful tools to market our products.  I have only dabbled with its use, but I already see a huge improvement in how well I can connect with others to promote the cause of educational transformation.
After doing my own experimenting, I realized that ROR is exactly what is needed in the education community today. Below is a breakdown from Mr. Rubin's website. In brackets you will see how I relabeled the columns in order to apply to education.
Perhaps our educational community needs a taste of Mr. Rubin's powerful tool in order to understand that students are the customer and must be treated and served with the utmost respect, dignity and care. They deserve a product that works well and provides an excellent education.  Just like any business, if this isn't provided the customer is likely to be disgruntled and demand better. In marketing a solid relationship must be built between entrepreneur and customer and this determines the success of the company. In a similar way how well we build relationships with students and the quality of education we provide now will determine our future success as a society,
Advertising [Teaching to Tests] Building Relationships [Developing Whole Child]
  1. Telling
  2. Starts with “me” (the brand, the product, the service)
  3. Focuses on “what can you give me?
  4. Goal:  instant impact
  5. Where’s the money?
  1. Listening, hearing, empathizing, asking,
  2. Starts with “you” (the customer’s needs, wants, interests and expectations)
  3. Focuses on “how can I serve you?
  4. Goal: ongoing engagement
  5. Who are the people?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Straight Talk with Ted Rubin

Achievement expresses itself  in as many unique forms as there are students. If we remove achievement from its current cookie cutter test definition, how do we define it? Leaving the comfort of this mold behind is probably the hardest step in transforming our educational system and yet, it is an absolute necessity.  Achievement can be best described through personal experiences and definitions. If we manifest a definition for ourselves and can successfully fulfill that ideal, we have achieved success. Our role as educators is not to create this definition for students, but rather give students the tools to create and spark a dream they would like to achieve and then help them reach that goal. In turn that personal goal and personal success is not isolated to the individual, but is intimately connected to the achievements of the whole society.
Today we are very fortunate to be joined by Ted Rubin .  Mr. Rubin is a leading social marketing strategist and is the creator of the term ROR, Return on Relationship, a concept he believes is the cornerstone for building a multi-million member base, like the one he built for e.l.f. Cosmetics as the Chief Marketing Officer between 2008 and 2010, and the one being built for the new updated launch of OpenSky.
The best we can hope to offer the world is not what we say to our children, but how we act as a role model to them as we express our own dreams.  Today we have the good fortune of glimpsing Mr. Rubin's personal experience with achieving his own goals as a parent and role model.

1. What inspires you to move beyond the limitations and obstacles of being a divorced parent in a culture traditionally designed for shared parenthood?
The love of my children and a desire to not only be a part of their lives, but to have influence on how they think, reason, and develop. It is challenging due to roadblocks that can easily be put in place by the custodial parent, but I made a decision long ago to put one foot in front of the other, every day, and never give up. 

2. How do you define the of responsibility of parents, schools and communities in raising a child?
I feel, above all others, it is the responsibility of the parents to raise their children. Parents can get involved and do their best to influence their community and schools, but ultimately it is their job to instill the importance of education, values, discipline, and responsibility for oneself.

3. What role does being a playful parent have in building academic confidence and achievement in a child?
Playing with your children, participating at their level, teaching by example, and making certain to allow them the time and opportunity to have fun is so very important. In addition, allowing your children to freely play with others, without the parents hovering over them, is fast becoming non-existent, and we are raising our children without socializing and problem solving skills. Let them play and you will be amazed at what they learn, how they develop and who they become.