I used to write for a fabulous online publication geared towards Caribbean Woman globally. The name of this publication was COCO Magazine. I wrote an article sometime in 2014 about “Raising Confident Girls.’’ At that time I was a mom of one, a mom of one little girl, and was determined to raise her in a way that would provide her with every opportunity. I was determined to not box her into girl colors, even though she went through a very ‘pink is my favorite color’ phase. I was determined to expose her to traditional boy toys, even though she enjoyed playing with her construction toys while wearing her tiara and princess shirt.
I wrote, “For my daughter's third birthday there was a bit of a social experiment that took place in my house. She was given a music set, a princess set, and a construction set. As she keenly played with all three of her new toys, I eagerly watched to see if she gravitated more to one than the other. After a day full of new toy excitement, she enthusiastically announced that her construction set was her favorite gift. I breathed a sigh of relief. I felt like we just had a little success in our household. In a world full of pink and princesses my daughter chose her construction set. It was a proud moment. The truth is that princess usually gets played a few times a week in our household, but I am thankful that somehow my daughter does get that pulling out her tools and playing construction is just as natural as wearing her tiara and fake high heels.”
Fast-forward a few years, and now I am the mom of two boys! In an age of #MeToo, glamorous lives on social media and reality TV and violent video games, how does one raise a well rounded confident child that understands the importance of compassion, kindness and empathy? Also, even though I am from Caribbean decent, I am a very Canadian momma! Being Canadian has very much shaped who I am, and I am raising children in the Caribbean and wanting them to be able to thrive in both their home/local community and as well as abroad in the Western World.
We see lots of debates about whether we should embrace boys playing with dolls, or if pink ends up being their favorite color. We steer boys away from traditional girl toys, activities or colors in fear of it being too ‘feminine’, whereas when we are looking at the development of girls, we encourage them that the world is open to them! As a mom of two boys, this was becoming a growing concern. If my son dresses in pink and wants to play princess, he will likely be judged, whereas if my daughter wears a construction belt, she will likely be praised. This has really caused me to question my thoughts on raising boys vs. raising girls. What should I be exposing my boys to in order for them to thrive? What toys, what activities, what chatter do I want them to hear in order to be able to grow up as responsible well-balanced men?
Thankfully, they have a great role model as a father. They have someone to look up to that provides them with a road map to being a man of integrity laced with compassion and empathy. So this, paired with perhaps the exhaustion of having three young children, has caused me to relax. It has caused me to relax and focus less on choosing the right toys and books and providing them with options that help them to develop their personalities. I hope these choices will provide them with opportunities to build and create while also teach them how to be empathetic, helpful and compassionate individuals.
So this week, we broke into some Christmas presents early. I gave my boys both their very own superheroes with matching capes. As a young child my mother had to send to New York for me to be able to have a doll in my image, and I am so thankful to be able to provide my boys with superheroes of their own in their own image.
I also returned to my original article on Raising Confident Girls and found that the top 5 tips that I provided there are the same tips that I will provide for Raising Confident Boys. Here is my revised top 5 list in which I changed ‘girls’ to ‘boys’ and which reminded me of the importance of these 5 E’s in raising well rounded children.
2019 is right around the corner! Do you have some New Year's Resolutions that you would like to try? Have you had trouble sticking to these resolutions before? Join the club!
The new year provides a new beginning. It's a great time to set goals and make plans, but it's important that you set up a support system to follow through on these goals. What does that support system look like? What if you have no one to partner with you in pushing you along? This isn't uncommon, and often when we set out to achieve goals and fail, it sometimes affects our desire to set other goals.
In Hello 2019, we will discuss a practical approach that you can make work for you. We will explore the hurdles that often cause us to halt, and strategies to be intentional about jumping over them and continuing on your way. You will learn how to include habits and intentions into your day in a way that works for YOU! The tools presented in this session will lay the ground work for success in 2019!
Hello 2019 will take place on January 5 at 2:00pm. The cost is $85 pp and space is limited. Hello 2019 can also be scheduled for groups of 5 or more friends, for couples and as team building sessions. For group rates, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We live in an age where it is so easy to get swept away with the daily demands of life. Staying present in the moment takes great effort. It takes just as much energy to be grateful for these moments. Our brains are hardwired to look out for challenges and threats in our environment. It’s a survival technique that is part of our being. The challenge with this is that it is extremely easy to get caught up in challenges and negativity and miss the special moments. When this happens, life is harder. We spend more time ‘surviving’ then we do ‘thriving.’
Many of us have an attitude of gratitude. We go through our days being thankful for what we have. However, having an active practice of gratitude is even more powerful than an attitude of gratitude. Making your practice central in your daily routine has great benefits. Active practices of gratitude have been found to have a positive effect on our health, happiness, energy and longevity. Who doesn’t want that? Strong physical and mental health are to be cherished and are seen by many as the ‘new wealth.’
As a teen I remember when Oprah began to talk about gratitude journals. She shared with her viewers how life changing writing 5 items of gratitude daily had been for her. In true Oprah style, I believe she may have even given out gratitude journals regularly. Fast forward to my early thirties, I needed a practice that would help to re-shift my thinking. Daily challenges of living on a small island, being an entrepreneur and managing and day to day life was feeling quite overwhelming, and for me to be at my best for my family, friends, students and clients, I knew that I needed to add something to my day to help me ‘reset.’ I began a practice of gratitude approximately 3 years ago. I took a few months break during one of life’s inevitable plot twists, but other than that I have been consistent. It is at the core of my morning routine and keeps me grounded. Each morning I write a list of 10 items of gratitude. They range from being as simple as a good glass of wine, to a non-kid interrupted conversation with my husband, to developmental milestones being reached by my children.
Like other gratitude lovers, I want to share this magic. I first suggested it in one of Learn and Lead’s groups on Facebook – Inspirations Turks and Caicos. As this 2-year-old video showed up on my feed on Friday, I thought…Yes! Let’s do this again!
So, I encourage you to get a journal if you do not have one and start with us this week. Everyday I will post a new reflection question here and on my social media accounts to get you going. This is to set the stage for your own self-directed path of gratitude. For those of you in Providenciales that do not have journals, we now sell journals at Learn and Lead. Feel free to swing by.
An active practice of gratitude sets us up for success. It can have a tremendous impact on your wellbeing and your overall quality of life. It encourages you to look out for the ‘good’ and the ‘positive’ in life. When we begin by doing this intentionally, it takes on a life of its own and before you know it, looking out for the positive moments becomes your way of being.
Don't forget to visit again for days 4-7!
I recently took a trip to Orlando. As a mother of three young children, I don’t get away much! Well, full disclosure, I haven’t gotten away alone for years! So I was full of excitement to be taking a trip to do some learning, personal growth and reflection. The first thing I was looking forward to was the plane ride. For others who have young children, you can fully appreciate what it is like to be able to read if you want, sleep if you want or even have a cocktail!
Being Canadian, the majority of the time that I head out of country, I am usually travelling home to Canada. Now that we can fly directly from Providenciales into Toronto, it has eliminated my need to travel through the United States. Upon reflection, I realized that I had not travelled to or through the United States in years. When I landed in Fort Lauderdale, I was immediately struck by how different things were from when I had last been through the airport. My goal was to clear immigration as fast as possible, re-check my bags, find my connecting gate to Orlando and then enjoy a beverage while reading and waiting for my next flight.
On the contrary, I found myself at every turn realizing how much reading I had to do to get by! This may sound like a silly comment coming from and educator, but I found myself slowing down to process information and ensure that I was going the correct way, answering the electronic kiosk questions appropriately and I noticed that I had a hyper-acuity. This hyper-acuity is natural when you are in new environments and need to navigate. This continued throughout my trip, as I was travelling in to an unknown place and environment.
Through the entire process, I found myself wondering, how do individuals who are illiterate or functionally illiterate travel or move out of their comfort zones? I have a vivid memory as a pre-teen travelling with my mother from a summer vacation in St. Vincent back to Canada and her helping a young gentleman fill out his travel forms. I was struck by this memory, and the thought that it would have been hard then, but imagine how hard it would be now!
So this brings me to a discussion that we rarely have about functional illiteracy. We have a hidden crisis in the Caribbean: that of functional illiteracy. We are not alone in the world with this crisis, as statistics from the United States and the United Kingdom reveal that approximately 1 in 7 adults is functionally illiterate, but the Caribbean is my home and I see the effects of this hidden crisis daily through my work.
Let’s first break down a few terms. Literacy is the ability to read, write, speak, understand and listen in order to be able to communicate effectively and understand your environment. When someone is referred to as ‘illiterate’ they have likely not been taught how to read or write. The term ‘functionally illiterate’ refers to individuals who have been through formal schooling but have an inadequate level of reading and writing skills in order to manage the business of day-to-day life. In other words, individuals who are ‘functionally illiterate’ can read and write at a basic level.
Therefore, for the functionally illiterate, everyday tasks beyond a basic level, can present real problems. They may have difficulty following written directions, reading signs or labels, filling out forms and writing emails or reports. For parents, this presents a further challenge, as they will have difficulty helping their children. We also know that a child’s level of literacy is strongly linked to the level of literacy of their parents.
Literacy is a touchy subject. It is personal. Individuals are often reluctant to ask for help when they struggle in this area. Individuals also learn how to do a marvelous job of compensating in order to avoid embarrassment, frustration and shame. The thing is, being functionally illiterate makes it difficult to thrive. When opportunity comes knocking and doors are opened, it makes it difficult to walk through them with confidence if you struggle with literacy. Opportunity brings an element of uncertainty and when we pair that with low literacy confidence, we find individuals that feel ‘stuck.’ This feeling can not only have effects on an individual’s self-esteem, but also on how they see the world and react to it.
Whether it is a family member, a business colleague, a church sister or brother or someone that you just happen to encounter, if you decide that you want to support an individual that you sense may be functionally illiterate, there are a few important points to keep in mind.
1. Let go of judgment. There are a host of reasons why an individual may have literacy challenges. When we are speaking the language of judgement and misconceptions, we often end up adding shame into the equation. Individuals do not thrive when they are shamed.
2. Show compassion. Literacy is an extremely personal thing. In order for an individual to move past frustration, and in some cases embarrassment, they need to be in a safe space that allows them to thrive. Being functionally illiterate is often not the fault of the individual. In many cases they have been through a system that has failed them, or had a challenge and did not have someone with the skills to help guide them in order to overcome that challenge.
3. Observe. Take time to observe the areas that they excel in and the areas that they are struggling in. What systems can be put into place to help them excel while using teachable moments to help them improve the level of their literacy.
4. Have hope. Functional illiteracy can be overcome at any age. It is not a life sentence that needs to be managed. There is help.
5. Be Patient. Although functional illiteracy can be overcome at any age, it is a process that takes time. Patience will be important on the part of the student as well as their support system. Overcoming functional illiteracy involves filling in gaps by learning, processing, retaining and applying information. This cycle takes practice, time and commitment.
If you want to support someone in improving their literacy skills and you aren't sure where to start, feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
A Child's Life began in 2008 in partnership with Radio Turks and Caicos as a way to stimulate the positive parenting and teaching discussion in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Although we have taken a few breaks her and there, we believe it is a very important discussion and happy that we continue to be a part of it. If you have a topic that you would like to hear explored on A Child's Life, email Yolande at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As a mom and an educator I am constantly looking for new ways to help my children and students develop in order to be able to tackle our ever changing world. The reality is each generation has been and will continue to be exposed to different challenges.
Although we often hear the overly used cliché, “When I was your age…” denoting the lecture that is imminent about how tough things were, we often don’t take into account that there are many ways in which things have gotten tougher over time.
Our children are exposed to many things that we were not exposed to as children. Twenty years ago we may have been worried about the images that were being presented through racy television shows, and the glamorization of certain lifestyles through their lyrical content. Today, not only do parents have to worry about the racy television shows that have become the reality shows, but also the influence of technology through the use of social media. Our children only physically leave school at 3 p.m. because they often remain connected to their peers 24/7 through the use of computers, tablets and smart phones.
The reality is technology is going to keep evolving and reality shows are going to continue glamorizing lifestyles that we would prefer our children not feel are the norm. So what can we do about this as parents? We can try our best to make them as resilient as possible and give them the tools they need in order to navigate through any environment within which they find themselves.
So what does a resilient child look like to you? In my eyes a resilient child is motivated, self-assured, assertive, confident, aware of their environment, happy and empathetic. These character traits are like padded walls that we can provide our children with in the hope that they will be ever present when they are making choices. Children and teens will at some point or another make choices that do not seem too smart. This is part of growing up, but as a parent, we want to do your best to build the traits that are going to help them to be resilient in their environment, so that when we are not there, they are confident in making the right decisions for themselves, or recovering when they have not made the best choice for themselves.
In order to raise a resilient child, it is important to take the time to do so! Don’t assume that your child is going to learn all these skills by him or herself. Skills are called skills because they can be learned and they are not necessarily character traits with which you are born. Many of these skills are picked up through our environment. Children learn from the people around them. Children sense happiness, they sense confidence, and they sense empathy. A child with a parent that shows empathy towards others will likely do the same. This points to the fact that parents must remember that they are always being watched. For this reason, it is important to think of what a resilient child looks like to you and ensure that the example that you are setting as an adult exemplifies these qualities.
Raising a resilient child involves the understanding of the importance of the following three areas:
1. Build the Self: Ask yourself how you are working to help your child become self-aware. Being self-aware is an important part of building self-confidence. In order for our children to feel confident in themselves they need to be given the opportunity to explore to find their strengths and what drives them.
2. Build the Family Unit: With the hustle and bustle of everyday life it is easy to cut out the family time. Building a strong family unit is an important part of the puzzle. Although your child may not come and share all their challenges within the unit, having a strong family unit at home will make it more likely that they will, and will also provide them with the tools they need in order to tackle every day challenges.
3. Build the Immediate Environment: There are many things within our children's environments which we cannot control. However, there are some aspects in which we have a say. Take stock of your child's immediate environment. Expose them to the types of activities, people and experiences that you believe will help to build their character.
Our children are constantly making decisions. Some are good, and some of them make us question what is going on in their little heads. As they get older, they learn, grow, explore and take risks along the way. It is so interesting to hear how they reason their way through life and through a process of self awareness and discovery.
This morning I had a precious yet out of the blue moment with my daughter. She had to take a story to school and chose Marvelous Me by Lisa Bullard. In preparation, I asked her to describe the book to me. She shared that it was about confidence and embracing who you are. She then said, “Mom, it’s like a can of soda pop.” Now this one threw me for a loop and I needed clarification for this one.
“Well, mom, if you open a can of soda and you don’t drink it or share it with someone, no one gets to have the goodness inside. So you have to drink the soda and share the soda leaving it in the fridge, open, it will just go flat and all the goodness is gone. It gets lost!”
I sat their stunned. Absolutely in shock. It was one of those rewarding parenting moments where you realize something has stuck. Sometimes parenting feels as though you are constantly throwing wet spaghetti at the wall and hoping it will stick! This morning, I thought, it’s sticking!”
This authentic moment opened the door for us to talk about whether others really get to see the people we are on the inside. We acknowledged that it isn’t always easy to be yourself at school or in other community environments, and that once we get older, it becomes easier to be ‘who we are’ no matter where we are. In the meantime, it’s important to have safe places and people with whom you can always be who are, without fear of judgment.
This highlighted for me, the timely reminder to see our children for who they are. All three of my children have wildly different personalities. How about your children? Helping them develop and embrace who they authentically are, doesn’t always come naturally, especially if qualities exist that aren’t in line with the expectations of a given environment.
Being willing to embrace and empower them as who they are will increase their confidence and give them the tools they need as they continue to grow and be seen within their own right in our world.
Here are my top 5 ways to support your child’s personality development.
1. Know what energizes them. Does your child appear to be more introverted or extraverted? Beyond this personality category giving us clues as to activities they will find fun and thrive in, these personality traits also let us know what energizes them.
2. Avoid labels. Allow your child’s personality to develop without labelling its perceived elements. When we label elements openly and verbally with them, they begin to think it is ‘who they are’ even if they aren’t.
3. Avoid comparisons. It is easy to compare siblings, or even compare your child to the way you were as a child. Allow them to develop in their own right, and not in anyone else shadow.
4. Encourage curiosity through play. Play is important beyond the early childhood years. Make opportunities for free time where children can play, be curious, and build on their interests.
5. Create a safe and judgement free environment. It’s important that your child has a place to take off his or her armour. School, whether primary or secondary, is full of social dynamics that they are learning to work through. Make your home a space that does not require a filter. Allow them to be who they are.
We have all met that dynamic and charismatic person that enters a room and commands your attention.. They are unforgettable. The ease in which they converse and network, and the positive energy which they emit beckon success. What do we call that? Is it charm? Is it being a good communicator? Is it that they have mastered how to make body language work for them? It is all of that. It’s their interpersonal skills.
As a soft skills trainer, I help my clients work on the glue. The glue, or soft skills, are what keep everything together. Your resume or your grades may get you an interview, but what is it that gets you the job? What sets you apart from other candidates, and once you get the job, what is it that helps you to keep the job? What helps you to be dynamic at making people feel at ease and appreciated in your presence. It’s your soft skills : your ability to understand yourself, human behavior, and how to make your personality work for the environment that you are in. Interpersonal skills are just this. Interpersonal skills are the everyday communication skills that we use when interacting with others.
Strong interpersonal skills add not only to professional success but also personal success. If you want to improve your interactions with others, the first step is a combination of self-awareness and an understanding of interpersonal skills. Firstly, being clear about who you authentically are is the first step to genuine communication. No one likes to feel as thought hey are having ‘fake’ interactions. We all want to converse whether personally or professionally with people we feel are ‘real’ or ‘genuine.’
This is an important desire to keep in mind when communicating. We then have to take stock of the way we communicate and interact both verbally and non-verbally. We have to make sure that the verbal and non-verbal messages that we are sending are in line with the impression of ourselves that we want to give. When one has an understanding of the power of interpersonal skills and how to make them work for their personality, it puts them in a league of their own.
Here are my top 5 reasons to be intentional about developing your interpersonal skills.
1. Powerful first impressions. Having an understanding of interpersonal skills makes you a powerful connector. First impressions have much to do with initial connection.
2. Understanding the difference between listening and hearing. Individuals with strong interpersonal skills are powerful listeners. Their listening skills set them apart.
3. The influence of non-verbal communication. One’s non-verbal communication doesn’t only have an impression on the person that you are interacting with, but it also has an impression on you as well.
4. Comfort with small talk. Small talk can be daunting. Individuals with strong interpersonal skills understand the levels of conversation and know how to move conversation along.
5. Influencing skills. Interpersonal skills are a big puzzle piece when it comes to influencing others, negotiating, and helping others understand your perspectives.
If you would like to learn more about the power that comes with understanding interpersonal skills and ways to use these skills to compliment your personality, join me on September 13thfor a half day workshop on Interpersonal Skills!
Interpersonal Skills training is also available on a private and group basis year round.
Our kids are back in school! Many parents, including myself, are happy to have their children back with their teachers and having their teachers guide their academic progress. Although I am an educator myself, I look forward to having someone else direct the academics of my children, so that I can focus on being mom.
As I have mentioned before though, parents are the first and only consistent teachers that their children will have. It is so important that we remember this and that we are intentional about the learning environments that we create in our homes. So even though our children have returned to school and they will soon have their nightly homework and their projects back in full swing, remember the power of the learning that happens in their daily home environments, and that learning is not necessarily driven by curriculum.
When our homes are environments that welcome learning as safe, fun and exciting, there are increased opportunities for learning. Our children become questioners. They become critical thinkers. They become explorers. They become comfortable taking risks and pushing the limits. When parents are intentional about having an environment that promotes inquisitiveness, diversity of experiences and they themselves understand that the work of childhood is to grow not only academically, but also emotionally, socially and physically… children thrive.
So as you prepare where your children will sit to do their homework, put some thought into the home learning that you want them to do: the learning that goes beyond their homework and their projects, and the learning environment that you direct. A child’s learning environment is not about the stuff that mom and dad can buy, but it is about the energy in the home and the vision that parents have for the overall development of their children.
Here are my top 5 ways to set up a dynamic learning environment.
1. Have a vision. Ask yourself what is important to your child’s learning process. How do you want to see them develop emotionally, socially, academically and physically? Keep this in mind as you are developing your current space.
2. Be intentional. When you are organizing the your space for your children, be sure to know your ‘why?’ If you are buying any materials, make sure you answer the ‘why?’ What is the purpose? If you are changing around furniture…what is the purpose? When you have a clear vision for your learning space it is a lot easy to make intentional choice.
3. Understand the value of play. Play is often highlighted as the work of childhood. Play is essential for a child’s overall development; play is a strong root of learning and it helps to develop a child’s creativity, problem solving skills and inquisitive nature.
4. Add to the positive environment with your joyful presence. Often as parents we can fall into the roll of task master, especially with evening homework. Find times where you can play with your child in their environment and allow them to direct it. Be there to support their learning, whether it’s through dress up, a board game, or crafting.
5. Notice their curiosity. Whether your child has taken an interest in coding or crafting, notice their interests and build on them in positive ways. At school the learning path is usually dictated by curriculum objectives. At home, you have the power to encourage your children to follow and build on what excites them. The best learning occurs when your child is excited about what he or she is learning.