How to get your kids to……
Motivate Your Kids to Get Things Done

“Put the dishes away when you’re done.”

            “Don’t take your sister’s toys without asking her first.”

How often do you feel like a broken record?  Between after school activities, homework, video games, soccer practice, and just keeping up with life, getting your kids to do what they’re supposed to do sometimes feel herculean and impossible.  You ask nicely, repeatedly, and nobody does anything until you Jekyll and Hyde into the yelling, mean parent!

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could motivate your kids and get them to do as you say?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula for motivating your children.  What works for one may backfires and turn another into an oppositional defiant beast!   As parents, it’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to be your children’s friend, wanting them to like you, but they depend on you as their first and most important teacher, guide, and motivator!

Some surefire tips to motivate your children:

 1. Recognize

By encouraging them and praising them fairly, consistently and immediately, you utilize the three most important aspects of positive reinforcement (and make your job as a parent much easier.) My previous blog post Junk Food for the Soul discusses the importance of “catch them being good” throughout the day, and not waiting until an external achievement milestone (i.e. winning the spelling bee, scoring xxx on the PSAT) to praise in order to celebrate true effort and progress rather than only the final outcomes.

2. Reward

This one is a no brainer, but what is the difference between rewarding and bribing your child?  Will your kids keep up the good behavior once the reward is faded?

The answer lies in how, when and what you use as rewards.  You’re rewarding not only for good behavior, but to develop your child’s intrinsic motivation. Countless research affirms the importance and superior long-term effectiveness of intrinsic motivation, which is self-motivation—not through external punishment or reward. What’s effective as a reward differs from person to person and influence how successful you’ll be in getting your kids to listen to you or any other goal.

curaJOY has made a fun rewards chart that you can use with your child to track behaviors or goals. You may download a pdf version here.

Consistent

When rewards are consistent, children can easily identify the causal relationship you’re establishing to the desired behavior whereas inconsistent rewarding may lead them to either associating the wrong behavior to the reward or a decreased in motivation.

Example scenario: “If I finish all my homework before 6pm, then mom will allow me to play x minutes of video games after dinner.” But if you allow your child to play video games when you’re too tired to enforce your reward system, then you’ve created extra resistance to getting your kids to doing what you want them to do.

Fair

A fair reward is one that is proportional to the true effort your child put into the task.  When I was getting my daughters to brush their teeth independently long ago, I rewarded them for the behavior daily for 8 months before it became a habit, at which time the behavior no longer needs any external reward. Many families use a reward chart system.  Review the rewards that you’ve set up and see how each reward measure up when you’re comparing them based on the required effort.  Also, choose your rewards carefully.  Just like someone who’s working on losing weight shouldn’t reward themselves with cream and chips when they lose a pound, your rewards should never be an item/behavior you are trying to extinguish.

Timeliness

Rewards are most powerful when they are immediate.  Children elementary school or younger perform better when they receive their earned rewards daily (or even smaller increments like half days, or after every class period depending on the child).  Self-discipline is an inner strength that needs to be developed step by step.

Some ideas for behavior rewards:

  • Letting them select the movie for family movie night.
  • A one-on-one afternoon tea date with you
  • Read an extra bedtime story.
  • Choose a restaurant for the family.

Rewards serve as concrete milestones and help when you’re aiming for bigger goals.

3. Model

Children are like sponges.  They observe your behavior carefully and try to emulate.  Kids who see their parents lose their temper, yelling and cursing when things don’t go their way are being shown that such behavior is acceptable and expected.  They also observe more subtle ways: how you de-stress, problem solve, persevere, learn, spend your time.

It’s important to remember children’s perspectives and explain your actions in a way they can understand.  When my kids were in kindergarten, I heard my daughter tell her teacher, “My mom’s job is shopping,” to which I was dumbfounded because I launched products, placed PR events, landed deals, and shopping is one of my least favorite things! I worked a long-hour, high-stress, long-commute job, and often didn’t see them until dinner.  The highlight of their lives back then was going grocery shopping with mom.   Shopping was the main task they observe me do, so naturally they assumed all I did was shop ☹

4. Consequence

Consequences are very different from punishment. What most parents need to do more of is simply to allow natural consequences to occur.  When your children don’t do the things they’re supposed to do, you determine, with your response, whether they learn how their actions or inactions impact their lives and the lives of others.  If you’re unable to influence the natural consequence, make something away for a short period and explain why you’re doing it and how they can earn it back.

Examples scenario: Your son procrastinated on his project for the science fair, and barely filled up 1/3 of his presentation poster before the fair.  Do you have the heart to let him experience the bad grade, embarrassment, etc. his behavior caused him?

It’s difficult for children to remain motivated when parents remove natural consequences and “take care of everything.”  A rule of thumb that I generally use is compare the benefits of lesson to be learned from the natural consequence to actual risk.  I ask myself “will they suffer irreparable harm from my allowing them to experience this consequence?”

When my daughter forgot her lunch, I decided to let her experience the consequence—a few hours of hunger.  Months later, when she forgot her water bottle and was running the mile under the hot California sun, I promptly delivered her water bottle.   After she got home, I explicitly explained what should have been the natural consequence of her inattention, and why I decided to bail her out (due to the dehydration danger to her respiratory condition.)  We then agreed on a replacement consequence.

Motivating your children isn’t easy. It takes unrelenting commitment to applying all the principles (recognition, reward, model, consequence) we discussed above, and just getting things done for them will often be easier and quicker, which is why parenting is often cited as one of the most difficult jobs!  Feel free to ask me questions or leave a comment below. Your efforts now shape your children’s futures.

p.s. You don’t want to be delivering forgotten lunchboxes when your son/daughter is 30!

Don’t do something you might regret

Regret is the worst emotion to base your decisions on. Regret is negative reinforcement. It is self-loathing and destructive.

Why do we often parrot the advice of “Don’t do something you might regret?” On the surface, it seems a message made to encourage caution, but it could be structured without the worry and pessimism.

Why not: “Do something you’ll be proud of.”

Or “Do something you would respect someone else for doing.” This places emphasis on allowing your values to drive your choices, rather than letting anxiety control your actions.

It is impossible to completely avoid regret—whether it comes through criticism, personal disappointment, or an undesirable outcome, the potential for regret is the cost of entry for progress.

Why not make decisions based on being the kind of person you want to be, and on the kind of impact you want to have—if regret comes, you needn’t worry whether or not you did the “right” thing, you’ll know the outcome was simply the result of things not turning out like you expected.

In racing, they say that your car goes where your eyes go. The driver who cannot tear his eyes away from the wall as he spins out of control will meet that wall.

―Garth Stein, The Art of Racing in the Rain

It could be said that trying to avoid regret is a way we internalize “looking at the wall”—becoming so focused on avoidance that we end up hitting it head on in another way: by having regrets about the things we didn’t do.

And those are often the worst regrets of all.

Chasing Meaning vs. Avoiding Discomfort

Stanford psychologist Dr. Kelly McGonigal gave an interesting talk last year that became one of TED’s most viewed videos of all time.

She highlights that the stress that follows uncertainty (and risk) isn’t always something we should avoid, as long as the effort is bringing meaning to our lives.

The research she covered showed that those who experienced an ample amount of stress had an increased risk of dying, but only when they personally believed that stress was having a profoundly negative impact on their health. Strangely, those who had the lowest risk of death were the subjects with lots of stress, but who did not view the stress as harmful—their risk was even lower than those subjects with low-stress.

Do you think people who are able to handle stress well live their lives around “avoiding regret,” or by trying to do things they’ll be proud of?

Perhaps the stress for these subjects was coming from activities that also brought a lot of meaning to their lives; where, despite the hassles, they “wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

The only time “Don’t do something you might regret” is relevant advice is when you are addressing stupidity, like if a friend thinks it would be funny to stick their hand in a snapping turtle’s terrarium (looking at you, Steve).

But how you view the potential for regret, stress, and uncertainty matters when it comes to decisions that are somewhat risky, but not stupid.

Starting a business is risky, but it is not stupid. Taking six months to publish your own book is risky, but it is not stupid. Quitting your current job to pursue a better career is risky, but it is not stupid.

All of those decisions could end with poor outcomes—but in order to make your life better, sometimes you have to risk making it worse. Strategic risk-taking makes all the difference.

This is the crux of why I believe the phrase “Don’t do something you might regret” can poison one’s thinking, if you aren’t careful.

It gives the presence of stress and the potential for regret too much importance, making assumptions that the hassle to follow nearly always outweighs the good that could come from doing something meaningful.

Be cautious with how you use it.

Chasing meaning is better for your health than trying to avoid discomfort. Go after what it is that creates meaning in your life, and then trust yourself to handle what follows.

—Dr. Kelly McGonigal

Who are you, really? Discovering Your Authentic Self-Image

Your self-image is the way you view yourself, and by which you interact with the world.  You might view yourself as a parent, student, friend, high-achiever, slow learner. But you’re more than your grades, weight, gender, and age. You’re more than your parents’ opinion.

You’re a unique person with nuances that are unique to you!

When who you are aligns with what you do, you feel free and able to become the best version of you. But many of us view ourselves as one way and live another, and it’s understandable.  Human being are social creatures.  We want to wear the “cool” sneakers, have the latest hot gadgets. We want the acceptance and recognition of others.  Tweens and teens, especially, are more prone to peer pressure and herd mentality. This Wall Street Journal article exams the reasons.   Act like you matter because you do.    Authentic people act honestly and congruently to their true self.

The benefits of an authentic self-image are enormous: success, self-esteem, respect, and inner peace.

Those who act against their values, beliefs, and attitudes suffer from more anxiety, guilt, and shame. It might seem easier to live up to the expectations of others in the short-term, but the long-term costs are significant.

Follow these steps to discover and live with your authentic self-image:

  1. Identify your core values. An authentic self-image is one that is aligned with your values, and those values often are not immediately obvious. By discovering your values, you’ll gain an understanding of what is important to you. Once you know your values, you can build a self-image and life that are more meaningful and enjoyable.
  • Make a list of your values. Create a long list and include everything that you think applies to you. Then, reduce your list to the ten values that are most important to you. You might struggle to narrow your list to just ten, but ten values are plenty. Follow the two steps below to make discovering your core values easier. In case you need some inspirations, here is a short list of values to get you started, or you may refer to this long list of 200+ values.

        The Good

  • Start with experiences that made you feel good in the moment, and still feel good now.
    • What was going in at the time?
    • What values did you adopt during those experiences?

       The Bad

  • Reverse gear now and think of times when you felt very frustrated, sad or angry.
  • What values got violated or suppressed in those times?
  1. Determine if you have any conflicts. For example, you might say that adventure and freedom are two of your most important values, but what if you also strongly favor responsibility and security? Those values could be in conflict and create cognitive dissonance, which builds stress and decrease your performance.
  • When you’re faced with an inner conflict, you’re likely to shut down and do nothing. If you’ve ever been paralyzed while making a decision, it’s possible your values were in conflict.
  • Do you have any values listed that aren’t really priorities for you? We often carry around perspectives instilled by our parents, communities, friends. Take the time to determine your values for yourself. Carefully examine what society says you should value and compare them against what truly matters to you.
  1. Create an action plan for each value. Your action plan doesn’t need to the be all end all. Starting with small steps is fine if you’re consistent.  As you progress, you can always add to or modify your action plan.
  2. Make a list of activities you enjoy that are in alignment with your values. For example, if generosity is a priority, you could find an enjoyable way to spend your time helping others. If health is a value you cherish, you could join a soccer team or start a jogging routine. Find your favorite sport and participate.
  3. Reflect at the end of each day.  Take some time to remember when you were able to live according to your values and self-image, and don’t skip those moments when doing so was challenging.

Authenticity improves our self-esteem and overall happiness, but it takes practice, and isn’t without deliberate effort.  Be bold enough to choose the person you want to become and live accordingly. The benefits are enormous. What are your values?

The Ultimate Habit Tracker Guide: Why and How to Track Your Habits

by James Clear 

This article includes an excerpt from Atomic Habits, my New York Times bestselling book.

If you want to stick with a habit for good, one simple and effective thing you can do is keep a habit tracker.

Here’s why:

Elite performers will often measure, quantify, and track their progress in various ways. Each little measurement provides feedback. It offers a signal of whether they are making progress or need to change course.

Gabrielle Hamilton, a chef in New York City, provides a good example. During an interview with the New York Times, she said, “The one thing I see that consistently separates the chef from the home cook is that we taste everything, all the time, before we commit it to the dish, right down to the grains of salt. We slurp shot glasses of olive oil and aerate them in our mouths as if it were a wine we were trying to know. We taste the lamb, the fish, the butter, the milk before we use it… we chew salt to see how we like it in our teeth, on our tongues, and to know its flavor, its salinity.” 1

For the chef, tasting the ingredients tells them whether they are making progress toward their desired end goal. It provides the immediate feedback they need to get the recipe just right.

Like a chef improving a recipe through trial and error, we often improve our habits through trial and error. If one approach doesn’t deliver the desired effect, then we adjust—like a chef tweaking the amount of an ingredient.

However, there is an important difference between getting feedback while cooking a meal and getting feedback while building a habit. When it comes to building a habit, feedback is often delayed. It’s easy to taste an ingredient or to watch bread rise in the oven. But it can be difficult to visualize the progress you are making with your habits. Perhaps you’ve been running for a month, but you still don’t see a change in your body. Or maybe you managed to meditate for 16 straight days, but you still feel stressed and anxious at work. 2

Habit formation is a long race. It often takes time for the desired results to appear. And while you are waiting for the long-term rewards of your efforts to accumulate, you need a reason to stick with it in the short-term. You need some immediate feedback that shows you are on the right path.

And this is where a habit tracker can help.

The Habit Tracker: What It Is and How It Works

A habit tracker is a simple way to measure whether you did a habit.

The most basic format is to get a calendar and cross off each day you stick with your routine. For example, if you meditate on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, each of those dates gets an X. As time rolls by, the calendar becomes a record of your habit streak.

To make this process as easy as possible, I created the Habit Journal, which includes 12 habit tracker templates—one for each month. All you have to do is add your habit and start crossing off the days.

Placing an X on each day is the classic look. I prefer something a little more design-oriented, so I shade in the cells on my habit tracker. You could also use checkmarks or fill your habit tracker with dots.

No matter what design you choose, the key point is your habit tracker provides immediate evidence that you completed your habit. It’s a signal that you are making progress. Of course, that’s not all it does…

Habit tracking is powerful for three reasons.

  1. It creates a visual cue that can remind you to act.
  2. It is motivating to see the progress you are making. You don’t want to break your streak.
  3. It feels satisfying to record your success in the moment.

Let’s break down each one.

Benefit #1: A habit tracker reminds you to act.

Habit tracking naturally builds a series of visual cues. When you look at the calendar and see your streak, you’ll be reminded to act again.

Research has shown that people who track their progress on goals like losing weight, quitting smoking, and lowering blood pressure are all more likely to improve than those who don’t. One study of more than sixteen hundred people found that those who kept a daily food log lost twice as much weight as those who did not. A habit tracker is a simple way to log your behavior, and the mere act of tracking a behavior can spark the urge to change it.

Habit tracking also keeps you honest. Most of us think we act better than we do. Measurement offers one way to overcome our blindness to our own behavior and notice what’s really going on each day. When the evidence is right in front of you, you’re less likely to lie to yourself.

Benefit #2: A habit tracker motivates you to continue.

The most effective form of motivation is progress. When we get a signal that we are moving forward, we become more motivated to continue down that path. In this way, habit tracking can have an addictive effect on motivation. Each small win feeds your desire.

This can be particularly powerful on a bad day. When you’re feeling down, it’s easy to forget about all the progress you have already made. Habit tracking provides visual proof of your hard work—a subtle reminder of how far you’ve come. Plus, the empty square you see each morning can motivate you to get started because you don’t want to lose your progress by breaking your streak.

Benefit #3: A habit tracker provides immediate satisfaction.

Finally, tracking feels rewarding. It is satisfying to cross an item off your to-do list, to complete an entry in your workout log, or to mark an X on the calendar. It feels good to watch your results grow and if it feels good, then you’re more likely to endure.

Habit tracking also helps keep your eye on the ball: you’re focused on the process rather than the result. You’re not fixated on getting six-pack abs, you’re just trying to keep the streak alive and become the type of person who doesn’t miss workouts.

Habit Tracker Ideas

Alright, those benefits sound great, but it’s not necessary to fill your habit tracker with every habit that makes up your day. In fact, if you’re already sticking to a habit, then it seems like extra work to me to track it as well. So what should you measure in your habit tracker?

Habit tracking can help kickstart a new habit or keep you on track with behaviors that you tend to forget or let slide when things get busy.

In Atomic Habits, I recommend using the Two-Minute Rule, which suggests you scale your habits down until they take two minutes or less to perform. You can track whatever habits you want in your habit tracker, but I recommend starting with these super small habits to make sure that you are at least showing up in a small way each day. I’ll share some examples below and break them out by daily, weekly, and monthly habits.

Common daily habits to track:

  • journal 1 sentence
  • read 1 page
  • meditate 1 minute
  • do 1 push up
  • stretch for 1 minute
  • write 1 thing I’m grateful for
  • make your bed
  • wake up by [TIME]
  • go to bed by [TIME]
  • take a shower
  • floss teeth
  • weigh myself
  • take medication
  • take vitamins/supplements
  • play [INSTRUMENT] for 1 minute
  • contact 1 potential client
  • prioritize to-do list
  • say “I love you” at least once
  • put all dishes put away
  • take a walk outside
  • call mom
  • walk the dog

Notice that most items on this list can be completed in two minutes or less. Make your habits so easy that you can stick to them even on the hard days.

For something to become truly habitual, you need to repeat it frequently. As a result, most habits are daily. But it can also be helpful to use a habit tracker for various weekly or monthly routines. These behaviors won’t become “automatic” like tying your shoes or brushing your teeth, but a habit tracker can remind you to complete them nonetheless.

Common weekly habits to track:

  • publish blog post
  • vacuum
  • take out trash/recycling
  • do the laundry
  • water the plants
  • tidy up your bedroom
  • write a thank you note

Monthly habits:

  • review finances
  • transfer money to savings account
  • pay off credit cards
  • pay bills
  • deep clean the house

You can also use a habit tracker to simply count how often you do something. For example, if you want to keep track of how many days you travel for work each month.

Other ideas:

  • days spent traveling
  • conduct weekly review
  • conduct monthly review

Finally, you can use a habit tracker to measure what you don’t do. I call these “habits of avoidance” (that is, behaviors you are trying to avoid).

Habits of avoidance:

  • no alcohol
  • no Netflix
  • no online purchases
  • no soda
  • no sugar
  • no caffeine
  • no smoking

Again, the Habit Journal offers a proven template and the fastest way to create your habit tracker. No need to spend an hour drawing your own grid. Just write your habits down and you’re ready to go.

How to Get in the Habit of Using Your Habit Tracker

Despite all of the benefits, a habit tracker is not something that makes sense in every situation or for every person. Many people resist the idea of tracking and measuring. It can feel like a burden because it forces you into two habits: the habit you’re trying to build and the habit of tracking it. That said, nearly anyone can benefit from habit tracking in one form or another—even if it’s only temporary.

What can we do to make habit tracking easier?

First, manual tracking should be limited to your most important habits. It is better to consistently track one habit than to sporadically track ten. I tend to keep my habit tracker simple and limit it to my three or four most important habits.

Second, record each measurement immediately after the habit occurs. The completion of the habit is the cue to write it down. (This is a twist on the “habit stacking” approach I discuss in Chapter 5 of Atomic Habits.) 3

Here’s the basic formula: After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [TRACK MY HABIT].

For example:

  • After I hang up the phone from a sales call, I will mark the “call 1 potential client” column.
  • After I finish meditating, I will fill the “meditate for 1 minute” column.
  • After I put my plate in the dishwasher, I will complete the “put all dishes away” column.

Basically, what we are talking about here is getting in the habit of using your habit tracker. These little rules help you remember to pick up your habit tracker and mark off another accomplishment.

How to Recover Quickly When Your Habits Break Down

Finally, I want to discuss what to do when you fall off the wagon.

Every habit streak ends at some point. Perfection is not possible. Before long, an emergency will pop up—you get sick or you have to travel for work or your family needs a little more of your time. Whenever this happens to me, I try to remind myself of a simple rule:

Never miss twice.

If I miss one day, I try to get back into it as quickly as possible. Missing one workout happens, but I’m not going to miss two in a row. Maybe I’ll eat an entire pizza, but I’ll follow it up with a healthy meal. As soon as one streak ends, I get started on the next one. I can’t be perfect, but I can avoid the second mistake.

Generally speaking, the first mistake is never the one that ruins you. It is the spiral of repeated mistakes that follows. As I write in Atomic Habits, “Missing once is an accident. Missing twice is the start of a new habit.”

Too often, we fall into an all-or-nothing cycle with our habits. The problem is not slipping up; the problem is thinking that if you can’t do something perfectly, then you shouldn’t do it at all.

Sure, a perfectly filled-in habit tracker looks beautiful and you should strive to achieve it whenever possible. But life is messy. In the long run, what matters is that you find a way to get back on track.

How Long Do I Need to Track My Habits?

One of the most common questions I get is “How long does it take to build a habit?”

You’ll see all kinds of answers: 21 days, 30 days, 100 days. One popular answer right now is 66 days because there was one study that found that, on average, it took 66 days to build a habit. However, even within that study the range was quite wide depending on the difficulty of the habit.

I find that people are really trying to get at something else when they ask, “How long does it take to build a habit?” What they often mean is, “How long until it’s easy? How long until I don’t have to put much effort in anymore?”

Look, all habits get easier with practice. But this line of questioning ignores the real purpose of building better habits in the first place.

How long does it take? The honest answer is: forever. Because once you stop doing it, it is no longer a habit.

A habit is a lifestyle to be lived, not a finish line to be crossed. You are looking to make small, sustainable changes you can stick with for years. And a habit tracker is one tool in your toolbox on the road to behavior change. It is an effective way to prove to visualize your progress and motivate you to show up again tomorrow.

This article is an excerpt from Chapter 16 of my New York Times bestselling book Atomic Habits. Read more here.

Footnotes
    1. The Wonder of Three Ingredients,” New York Times, March 23, 2017.
    2. Sure, there are some habits that lend themselves to more immediate signs of progress. Even if you haven’t hit retirement yet, you can still watch your savings grow with each deposit. And while your book manuscript may need more work, you can see the word count increasing after each writing session. But even in these cases, it can be helpful to have a simple way to take stock of where you stand.
    3. As I mentioned in Atomic Habits, I use the term habit stacking to refer to linking a new habit to an old one. For this idea, I give credit to BJ Fogg. In his work, Fogg uses the term anchoring to describe this approach because your old habit acts as an “anchor” that keeps the new one in place. No matter what term you prefer, I believe it is a very effective strategy. You can learn more about Fogg’s work and his Tiny Habits Method at https://www.tinyhabits.com.

Don’t just talk a big game. Make it happen.

Imagine it was 1848, and you found the biggest gold mine, and told everyone about it. You were right—the motherload of gold was there, but you never carry through and took any action. Instead of living the rest of your life covered in gold, you watched people who heard about your discovery do the hard work and carry off with the gold.

Good ideas pave the grounds of startup cemetery and failed new year resolutions. Dreams and ideas are wonderful, but they have no value and can sometimes seem to be only figments of our imagination if we don’t take action. The real magic is in making them happen.

[wpdiscuz-feedback id=”xxdyw5vf56″ question=”Do you have your own tips for making habits stick?” opened=”0″]But is there really magic? [/wpdiscuz-feedback]

Successful implementation makes dreams come true, it isn’t very complicated (not to say that it’s not hard).

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be covering a 12-step process to making it happen. This process works for any goal—wealth, parenting goals, behavior change, weight loss, you name it.

These 12 steps put your success on autopilot. If you’re doing the right things each day, good things happen.

Step 1: Practice Consistency
Consistency doesn’t guarantee results, but it multiplies your effort and accelerate results. When you first start doing anything, it’s awkward and you want to quit to put an end to that mild discomfort. But if you stop, it’ll always be awkward and hard. When you’re consistent, whether it’s with math practice, public speaking, working out, taking StrengthBuilder, you build muscle memory and reduce internal resistance,

Consistency takes practice, and it builds your faith in yourself and discipline, which is a requirement for success in any area. What you do consistently, everyday matters more than what you plan to accomplish.

What about my goals, you ask? I’m going to get to goal setting in a future post. Setting a goal that is right for you and attainable is very important, but it’s what most people already love to do. It’s fun and oh-so-tempting to chase the next great idea, shop for goals and jump from one thing to the next Chasing keeps you busy which our brains often perceived as productive, but it doesn’t get you to the finish line. We start with consistency or self-discipline because it is a prerequisite for any goal you choose.

The Mini Consistency Challenge:

Consistency takes discipline, and both are strengths that you can intentionally build and fortify Practice first on a goal that is realistic to make it easier for you to follow this process before tackling more difficult ones.

1. Assess and Measure your progress.
Performance experts say that “When you measure something, the thing you measure changes.” Just by monitoring your progress, you’re likely to see more improvement. Whether it’s a chore or a goal, you can use a tracker to monitor it—it’s proof that what you’re working on is important.

This is why our StrengthBuilder programs have assessment questions discreetly built into the game portion six or seven times throughout the program.

2. Support Your Journey
Set reminders of your goal for yourself in places and times when you’re likely to see them. Leave notes, signs, and any other type of reminder to ensure you remember to take action each day. In my house, we have reminders on whiteboards, calendars, Amazon Alexa devices. I’ve tried different reward charts, responsibility apps for years with my kids to get new habits to stick. Many of them failed because as a parent who’s supervising the system, I wasn’t consistent!

The Coming of Mad Dash

Almost every night, I would drag myself to get my kids to put their stuff away, prepare for the next day. It was repetitive and exhausting for me. Nothing worked until I laid out our “Mad Dash” plan where I schedule our speakers to play a Mad Dash music list for exactly 15 minutes at the exact same time everyday where everyone drops what they’re doing and starts cleaning like “mad” until the music is over.

Set Up For Success
The saying “an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure” is so true. Discipline is difficult, so do anything you can to limit temptations. When you’re assessing your progress, make sure to investigate where problems tend to occur. Are you distracted by the TV or internet? If so, do your work where these distractions aren’t present. Are you less likely to be compliant in the evenings? Then, get your work done in the morning.

In the beginning, there would be days when a movie or game on their iPad would tempt them to skip Mad Dash. To problem solve and set up for success, we started to schedule our family movie night to end before our Mad Dash time. Going a step further, I scheduled for wifi to be turned off during Mad Dash time. It made being disciplined about our family Mad Dash much easier when my kids didn’t have to resist Netflix. I simply took that option away.

Many cite a Maltz study that it takes 21 days to form a habit. James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, talks about the different research and there is sufficient evidence that it may take as long as 254 days to securely form a new habit. This is why all of curaJOY’s programs are deeply discounted for children who sign up for an entire year. Learning new skills, forming new habits are hard and they take time. It’s human nature to fall off track, so having a support system to spot it and remediate is critical.

p.s. We had Flo Rida’s My House playing in our Mad Dash playlist for more than a year before finally switching it out, and even years later, I feel the urge the “mad dash” and vacuum every time I hear the song.

Grit matters when a child is learning to read, even in poor South African schools

Grit matters when a child is learning to read, even in poor South African schools

Focusing on socio-emotional skills such as grit may help more children succeed in school. School quality is important in determining children’s success at school. But individual characteristics of the child also play a role. In particular, researchers and teachers are starting to pay more attention to the part that social and emotional skills play in academic success. These are also known as character skills or soft skills. This interest in the “softer” side of learning stems from a movement in economics. It looks for statistical evidence of the importance of soft skills in a number of domains, including the labour market and even marriage. One question this research hasn’t answered yet is whether social and emotional skills also matter in contexts where resources are severely lacking. It’s known from high-income countries that these skills are important for student achievement. But are they important in schools that don’t have basic instructional materials, or when a child’s teacher lacks content knowledge and pedagogical skill? Is there a benefit to having these skills when there’s limited time and opportunity to learn in the school day? I set out to answer these questions, looking specifically at the skill of grit: perseverance and passion for long-term goals . I examined the association between grit and reading achievement among 2,300 pupils in poorly resourced South African schools. South Africa’s reading achievement is notoriously poor. The 2016 round of the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study showed that 78% of Grade 4 children could not read . When children at this level can’t read, they can’t learn anything in the curriculum . My study is the first to estimate the relationship between grit and reading among primary school learners in an African context. I found that grit was the strongest predictor of reading achievement, regardless of […]

How to Build Confidence in Young Children

Confidence is vital to your child’s future development. Increasing self-esteem and confidence in a child will directly affect their happiness, health, and success. Confident children are better equipped to deal with life’s difficulties and have more trust in their own capabilities.

Children develop confidence because of their own accomplishments. Kids with higher self-esteem and confidence are more likely to try their best, explore new activities, cope with their mistakes and have better social skills. As a parent, it’s only natural that you want to see your child thrive—and confidence is the greatest gift you can give your child. Here are a few ways you can help build confidence in your child.

Practice Positive Praising

We often engage in negative self-talk. Praise your kids to show them that you’re proud of them. Avoid result-based praise, such as only praising them when they get an A on a test. Also try to avoid praising qualities they can’t control, such as being smart or athletic. Instead, admire their effort and attitude. Compliment them on the amount of energy they put into a project, their progress, and how they approach it. This will encourage your children to put more effort into things and work toward their goals, paving a pathway to success.

However, don’t overpraise your child. If your child knows that they did badly in something, your compliments will just seem fake to them. Instead, motivate them by admiring their effort, and encourage them to not give up.

Image Alt-text: A father teaching his son how to ride a bike

Be A Role Model

Children mimic their parents. Their brains are like sponges—they absorb everything in their environment. That’s why it’s important to be a good role model for them. When they see you take on your tasks with a positive attitude, they’ll be likely to mimic your optimistic behavior. Put effort into your tasks such as cleaning, cooking, quit the complaining, and watch your child do the same.

Encourage Curiosity

Even though an endless stream of your curious child’s questions can get exhausting, it should be encouraged. Asking questions is a helpful exercise for your child’s development since it boosts their curiosity and learning skills. Try to answer all your child’s questions, even if it gets a little annoying—it’ll do wonders for their self-esteem and development.

Allow your child to explore new activities. Don’t put their entire focus on activities that they’re already good at—encourage them to expand their horizons. When your kids attain new skills, it’ll help them feel more confident in themselves, and develop a positive attitude. Allow your children to fail instead of protecting them at all times since it’ll encourage them to put in greater effort and perseverance in their tasks.

Build confidence in your children by allowing them to explore activities on their own. curaJOY’s immersive programs help in developing emotional and social skills in children. Our programs not only boost confidence and social development but also problem-solving skills in young children. Our immersive games can also help in managing worry and anxiety for kids, and help children gain fluency in both English and Mandarin.

Contact us for more info.

How do the Multilingual Immersions work? Can my child play in both languages at the same time?

curaJOY’s Multilingual Immersions are best suited for language learners with at least an intermediate understanding of the foreign language who wish for true fluency. There are no vocabulary flashcards or similar basic skill building instructions. A good question to ask is whether your child would understand at least half of the content if they were spoken to in that foreign language.

When there is a noticeable difference in language fluency between English and Mandarin, we suggest starting in the language that your child is more comfortable with to achieve adoption of the program, especially the first 6 scenes. The Strength Assessment Report that is included with your purchase is unique, personalized based on your child’s gameplay data from the first six scenes of whichever language they play. (Children may even choose to play scene 1 in Mandarin, 2 in English, scene 3 in Mandarin and so on.)

After the initial Strength Assessment Report, curaJOY partners with you on your child’s growth journey and provide valuable insights on your child’s progress throughout the game, with detailed analysis on their strengths and weaknesses.

Do I have to sign a contract or commit to a long membership?

No, there is no long-term commitment. We want to make our programs assessible to as many families as possible. However you should keep in mind that the full value of curaJOY’s programs are in their unique three-prong approach. Parents receive a personalized and valid Strength Assessment Report for their child after he/she has completed the first six scenes of our StrengthBuilders or Multilingual Immersions. The StrengthBuilder Roadmap at the conclusion of our programs contains detailed evaluations of your child, with insightful progress report and our expert’s recommendations.

Positive Medicine

By Kathi Norman –

Tadpole in hand

By the time I turned ten years old, I had taken up residence on my concrete driveway with my microscope and dissecting kit dicing out many a lifeless frog’s anatomy. Sometimes it was a tadpole or a toad who received the post-mortem autopsy. The internet was not available, so I used my family’s Collier’s Encyclopedia to identify various structures and to understand what organs, vessels, and tissue underlie skin. One day a neighbor boy was skinning a squirrel. I asked him to dissect out the brain, not knowing that there was a hard bone called the skull that stood in the way of my anatomy lesson. He obliged, and in his attempt to show the neighborhood anatomist a squirrel brain, he ended up cutting his own thumb so badly it required stitches. I took advantage of his open wound to study the muscles of the thumb and shiny white tendinous sheaths.

The need to understand the human condition guided me into the practice of medicine as a physician assistant. Quickly though I realized that patients needed more than medicine. They needed hope, forgiveness, meaning, purpose, and above all, a hefty improvement in optimism. At the same time, I witnessed an incongruity in provider happiness. It was obvious that some physicians were much happier than others. But what was the difference and how could someone so accomplished not be perfectly happy? This article will take us through a brief history of medicine and how positive health emerged from positive psychology eventually leading to the concept of positive medicine. The story provides insight to why medicine has been resistant to embracing positive psychology.

Respiratory Therapist in the ICU

Forging Ahead

By 25 years old, I was caring for patients in intensive care units (ICU) weaving myself through IV lines, feeding tubes, cardiac wires, and the ventilator tubing of very sick people. Medicine is my calling. In a single shift, I could go into and out of flow (moments of intense focus and great concentration) many times. But it has always been clear that medicine needed more. As I honed my medical skills, my thoughts returned often to how to improve the general well-being of patients. I witnessed the profuse occurrence of unhappy medical providers worsening.

Those that practice medicine are known to be dismissive of new ideas and concepts not well researched. Many times, they are dismissive even with well researched new ideas and concepts. I knew that what I would bring to the medical table would need to be evidence-based and scientific. Even so, moving medicine to focus on the provider’s benefit has been much harder than I expected.

History of Medicine

There is no easy answer for how or when medicine originated. It is suspected that early Homo Sapiens were able to reason logically, suggesting that they must have experimented with nature in order to see how it could benefit them. For example, prehistoric man might have used berries, herbs, or roots, testing by trial and error to see if they were advantageous.

Hippocrates, known to most as The Father of Medicine, was born in Kos, Greece in 406 BC. Hippocrates prescribed modifications in lifestyle such as diet and exercise to treat diseases such as diabetes. His approach resembles what is now called lifestyle medicine. However, medicine had been around for over two thousand years before his birth.

Statuette of Imhotep in Louvre

In Ancient Egypt, medicine existed dating back to the days of Imhotep, the Vizier of Djoser during the 27th century B.C. Sir William Osler, known as the Father of Modern Medicine, noted that Imhotep was the true Father of Medicine. The ancient Egyptians were known to explore more natural causes of disease shirking prior concepts of magic in medical practice. Imhotep is credited with describing over 200 diseases and their treatment.

William Osler, a Canadian born internist, is known for revolutionizing medical education by taking it out of the classroom to the patient’s bedside. Osler took every chance he could during his early years in medicine to do an autopsy. His research was conducted chiefly in the postmortem room. Based on a coin toss, Osler chose to occupy the chair of clinical medicine at the University of Pennsylvania from 1884 to 1888, then went on to be instrumental in the creation of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Many events and discoveries affected the history and progress of medicine. In 1910, The Flexner Report, a book length report about the need for revamping and centralizing medical institutions, resulted in the establishment of the biomedical model as the gold standard for medical training. Schools would enact higher admission and graduation standards and adhere strictly to mainstream science in teaching and research.

Kathi Norman, Founder of Positive Medicine

What is Positive Medicine?

At one time, physicians and others frequently and comfortably referred to the art of medicine. Positive Medicine is the science of positive psychology in relation to the practice of medicine artfully used. The goal is optimal health, both of patients and physicians including both physical vitality and psychological well-being.

Positive psychology studies and builds what makes life most worth living.

Positive health followed positive psychology. In 2007, Martin Seligman was asked by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the leading American medical research funder, to explore factors that influence health. Admiring the work done by Seligman on mental health through positive psychology, the funder asked him to address the question, “What is physical health?” Positive health was born. Positive health uses robust research to identify health assets by finding factors that predict health and illness beyond conventional risk factors. Positive health is in line with the World Health Organization description of health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

Many researchers were brought together to begin empirically studying

  • Biological health assets, such as appropriate cholesterol levels, high heart rate variability, and cardiorespiratory fitness
  • Subjective health assets, such as positive emotions, life satisfaction, hope, optimism, and a clear sense of meaning and purpose
  • Functional health assets, such as warm relationships with friends and family, a strong marriage, meaningful work, activities in a social community and the ability to fulfill work, family and social roles

Positive Medicine arising from the confluence of Positive Health, Positive Psychology, and the Practice of Medicine

Positive psychology came to my attention long before I started my MAPP degree in 2016 and has not left my side since then. Positive psychology is evidence-based. As I knew it would, positive psychology has had a slow start infiltrating medicine mostly because of it is hard to gain the buy-in of the medical providers. In the last year though, there has been an explosion in sprouting wellness programs in medical institutions. Medical education is paying attention, and preventative medicine is finally taking off.

In 1944, Dr. Burwell, the Dean at Harvard Medical School said in an address to students, “Half of what we are going to teach you is wrong, and half of it is right. Our problem is that we don’t know which half is which.” Medicine is both an art and a science. The art of medicine is the skill of listening and adapting evidence-based medicine to individuals. The communal and cultural influences that distort the ethos of medical practice are complex. It is time for medicine and positive psychology to marry, which I believe will help us circle back to the art as well as the science of healing.

Positive medicine is an approach to wellness in which medical professionals use the science of positive psychology in medical practice for both themselves and their patients. Studies have revealed that not only are physical, mental, and social well-being important components for total health, but they are tightly interrelated. The evidence also shows that a happy, engaged, and fulfilling psychological and social life is not just a consequence of good health. It leads people to live a healthy and long life. Medical providers, patients and their families need positive medicine.
 


 

References
Cameron, I. A., & Pimlott, N. (2015). Art of medicine. Canadian Family Physician Medecin de Famille Canadien, 61(9), 739–740.

Park, N., Peterson, C., Szvarca, D., Vander Molen, R. J., Kim, E. S., & Collon, K. (2014). Positive psychology and physical health: Research and applications. American journal of lifestyle medicine, 10(3), 200–206. doi:10.1177/1559827614550277

Stahnisch, F. W., & Verhoef, M. (2012). The Flexner report of 1910 and its impact on complementary and alternative medicine and psychiatry in North America in the 20th century. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine. eCAM, Article ID 647896. doi:10.1155/2012/647896

Image credits
Tadpole in hand courtesy of usfs_pnwrs from Flickr via Compfight with Creative commons licensecc
Respiratory Therapist in the ICU By Rcp.basheer – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 — in Wikimedia
Statuette of Imhotep in the Louvre from Wikimedia

This article first appeared on Positive Psychology News. To see the original article, click here. To comment on this article, click here.

Dr. Kathi Norman, MAPP ’17, is a physician assistant, international speaker, and founder of Positive Medicine. Her passion is the marriage of medicine and positive health including both sustaining the well-being of health-care providers and developing optimism and other positive health traits in her patients. Kathi has studied healthcare law, global medicine and healthcare administration completing her doctorate in medical science. Website. LinkedIn Profile. Kathi’s articles for Positive Psychology News are here.

The Constant of Change

“The grass is not greener on the other side. It’s greener where you water it.” I really like this quote.  It’s human nature to complain, and not appreciate things until we lose them.  When we complain, we are not living in the moment.  Whatever situation you’re in, know what you have and make the most out of it. (Because you never know, things could get worse 😉No.  Seriously, complaining just ends up dooming yourself and making you feel bad.  Why would you to suffer even more?) When I was in the corporate world, I complained frequently about inefficiencies, ineptitudes, and bureaucracy.  I intentionally founded curaJOY to be a mostly self-funded venture so that I can easily shape our reality, to change the male dominated workplace, prove that women can be mothers can successful professionals, fair and merit based incentive system rather than seniority and connections.  It didn’t take months before I started missing those tedious SOPs, team members whom I previously thought were mediocre and my trusty executive assistants as I struggle to do everything myself, and that’s when I realized there’s no “perfect” company.  There is only a working progress and constantly changing adjustment to achieve your goals.

Applying this spirit of change to parenthood, I see many dysfunctional families where parents abuse/neglect/traumatize their children, and those kids grow up without processing their experiences, mindlessly passing on the same patterns onto their children.  Maybe your mom stood with a whip, forcing you to play the piano when you were young. [wpdiscuz-feedback id=”4nq39y8a5b” question=”What kind of parent did you intent on being?” opened=”0″]When you became a parent, should also follow suit, and demand a strict piano practice schedule from your kids or vow to be polar opposite and completely eliminate that horrible experience of music practice?[/wpdiscuz-feedback]

It’s important to examine your past and clearly distinguish your emotions from the facts. Was it piano that you disliked?  Was it your mom? Or was it just the way your mom asked you to practice?  Examining your past requires you to distinguish facts from emotions, and the more you learn about yourself, the more you’re about the create the life you want.

As parents, we all want the best for our kids, protect them from harm and see joy on their faces, but parents don’t live forever and we always can’t be with our kids 24/7.  But we can teach them values, positive thinking, resilience, how to stand up for themselves, love for learning, identify people who would make good friends.  The greatest gift parents can give children are intangible and timeless.

Junk Food for Your Soul

My daughter painted this the summer she finished fourth grade. While she is a very gifted artist, she didn’t paint this on her own–she had way too much help with this piece at a department store art studio in Taiwan where art teachers help children replicate master pieces.

Our social media post this week talked about affording kids the opportunity to fail, and how making everything convenient and easy for our kids is fast (junk) food for their character development. Perhaps you’re thinking, “Why be such a killjoy? You should just let your daughter enjoy the satisfaction of having painted such a beautiful piece of work.” And I do. We hang this piece up in a non-prominent spot in our home. More front and center on our walls are her imperfect artwork–pieces she created entirely on her own, pieces that look like they were painted by a kid.

It doesn’t take more than a stroll through elementary school science fairs around the WORLD to know how many parents feel compelled to enhance their children’s work. Parents want to feel proud of their kids, and want their children to feel proud of themselves. But all the well-intentioned help can set children up for unattainable and unrealistic expectations of themselves or worse assumptions (i.e what they made on their own was not good enough and needed to be replaced) which leads to repeated disappointment and hinders self-esteem.

Back to the original story, my daughter stopped painting at home after that piece. I know her perfectionism, and understand her logic. She doesn’t want to paint when she knows she can’t do it as well as she “did” in fourth grade. That department store art class unintentionally created a fear of failure which stunted her growth as an artist.

Society praises what it can easily see superficially. As parents, you have the power to see inside your child’s soul, so it is even more important that we praise our children’s intangibles–their effort, progress, motivation. “Catch them being good” is a directive that therapists often give parents.

[wpdiscuz-feedback id=”ipjg7xug1m” question=”When was the last time you acknowledged your child doing something well this well?” opened=”0″]It is human nature to notice what’s wrong rather than right. So make a conscious commitment to notice and acknowledge good behaviors as they occur throughout the day[/wpdiscuz-feedback].

While you’re at it, I challenge you to go one step further and “catch yourself being good.” For example, you deserve a pat on the back for wanting to be a better parent and reading my blog 😉 Celebrate your own effort and progress rather than just the end-results, and your children will learn from your example.

My daughter picked up drawing again. This was from a blank piece of paper and ALL by herself!

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