My late grandma embodied love and kindness. I found myself quoting Wayne who said, “When you have the choice of being right or wrong, choose kind.” My grandma not only always chose kind, she chose love. She so embodied this concept, that all who knew her lit up when she was around. Here is “Choosing Kindness: Lessons From My Grandmother” on HUFFPOST PARENTS.
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Many gifted individuals suffer from anxiety. Learn the truths behind the myths about this common affliction in my piece (with Lisa Van Gemert, M.Ed.T.) “The Anxiety Myth: 5 Lies We Believe About Anxiety” for the American MENSA Bulletin, February 2016.
“I am inspired daily by the love and kindness of my grandmother and the life and messages of Wayne Dyer. When you have a choice of being right or wrong, choose kind. Lead with kindness and love. Imagine what our world would be like if we all did this.” Read more in my new article on PSYCHOLOGY TODAY “Choosing Kindness.”
It was 1980 in Century City. I was 10 years old waiting in a line that did not seem to end with my grandma (now 104). We waited for two hours to see the Empire Strikes Back. There was a buzz in the air that I couldn’t explain but could feel. It was three years after the world was introduced to the Force, the Jedi, and the evil empire. At last we were in our seats. I don’t remember if there were coming attractions. However, I remember like it was yesterday, the sound of the orchestra moving through my body as the words rolled up the screen and into the galaxy. I read as fast as I could and immediately felt like I was in a land far, far away.
It is 2015 and I am 45. I am in a theater with my adolescent kids who were raised on Star Wars. We watched all six movies together several times. We have put together virtually every Star Wars Lego made. We have “real” light sabers and the Millennium Falcon. We don’t wait in line this time. We order our Star Wars: The Force Awakens tickets online and see the movie a few days after the opening. After what seems like thirty minutes of previews (enough already!), it starts. The orchestra booms, the original font moves through space and I am ten again and every other age I have been since, when I hear the music and think about Yoda, Obi-Wan, Luke, Vader, R2D2, C3PO, Chewy, and Han.
Almost 40 years later, the story of Star Wars is as strong as ever. The messages are timeless. Daily, we are confronted with good and evil. Daily, we have choices with how to live and who and what to follow. And daily, we can accept or ignore we are all connected and there is a force that exists among us. As Obi Wan explains to Luke, “The force is what gives a Jedi his powers. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us and binds the galaxy together.” All too often people and nations are choosing war over peace and hate over love.
I would like to share the wisdom given to us by one of our greatest teachers – Jedi Master Yoda with hopes of ushering in both inner peace and peace among us in the New Year:
“Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.”
Much of our discontent and emotional discomfort comes from attachment to objects and outcomes. When we attach to an outcome, we need things to happen the way we want them to happen so we do not get upset. Rather, we must accept that things will occur as they do. We must learn to be open to what comes and not fear what is to be. When we are open to what is, we feel at peace with what occurs since we do not have preconceived expectations.
“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
Fear is the monster that controls how we think and feel, and ultimately act. Fear makes us avoid life and respond in ways that are not our natural state of being. When we fear others or objects, we often develop an aversion (or hate) towards them as a way to feel in control and powerful. Fear, anger, and hate are strong emotions that keep us from feeling and showing love. We must not let fear control us. We must choose love over fear. With love and kindness comes compassion. With compassion comes peace.
“Named must your fear be before banish it you can.”
We must examine our thoughts and feelings, particularly our fear. Fear is powerful, especially when we don’t understand what we fear. By examining what we fear and why we fear what we do, we can take steps toward our fear. Labeling our fear is the first step of increasing awareness. With increased awareness we can choose to detach from our fear and choose to live with inner peace.
“Difficult to see, always in motion is the future.”
Most of us naturally think about the future which often leads to worry and fear, and takes us away from living in the present. The key to living a purposeful and intentional life resides in the present moment. The past is gone and the future has yet to come. Live in the present and choose your words and actions intentionally.
While the Jedi can feel the force more strongly than others, they do so through training and purposely practicing feeling, noticing, and using the force for good. Everyone can learn to feel and respect the force. It is all around us and it binds us together. We are connected to everything – all living creatures, natural elements, our ancestors, our children, and our future grandchildren and great grandchildren.
In order for us to create a healthy world, we must all commit to using the force for good, and overcoming fear and hate with love. We will all face challenges in 2016 and we can choose the good side of the force while being aware of our connection to everything. As I write in my Darth Vader sweats and Yoda socks, I can feel the force running through me. We can all be Jedi warriors. We can choose to be at one with the Force. We can choose love over hate and fear. We can choose peace within and among each other.
Wishing you a healthy, meaningful, and prosperous new year filled with peace in your mind, body, home, and our galaxy.
May the force be with you…and your family and your children.
This piece first appeared in Huffington Post.
PHOTO CREDIT: Lucas Film
The attacks in Paris and elsewhere are still fresh in our minds. At the urging of other parents, I’ve written and posted a new article on PSYCHOLOGY TODAY “How to help our children deal with the terror of terrorism” — I hope it helps you and your family.
As we professionals / educators / therapists / parents navigate the #gifted and #2e worlds for our children and students, we must not forget the twice-exceptional adults. Read Dr. Dan Peters’ interview with Summit Center colleague Dr. Paula Wilkes on “The Twice-Exceptional Adult” in this post for PSYCHOLOGY TODAY.
Our kids are not learning how to handle disappointment and that a primary parenting goal should be helping our kids learn to handle adversity and the inevitable disappointment of life. Welcome to over-parenting. Read more about “When Overparenting Goes Too Far” in Dr. Dan Peters’ post for PSYCHOLOGY TODAY.
This piece originally appeared on Psychology Today. My colleagues at Summit Center can help you learn more about your child’s learning strengths plus any potential issues, and can help you find an alternative learning environment if needed.
I am sitting with a small group of students who are describing their school experiences. They are talking about worry, fear and anxiety (aka “The Worry Monster”). They are saying…
“I got nervous when I had to take timed tests. I could never finish.”
“I was always in trouble for talking.”
“I was bullied. The class bully only picked on me. I don’t know why.”
“I felt different from everyone else.”
“Why did I need to show our work and do things over and over if I knew the answer?!”
This is the first day at a small new school – The Reid Day School (RDS) in Southern California. RDS was founded by Dr. Lisa Reid who was inspired by her experience working at Bridges Academy. RDS was named in honor of Lisa’s father, Martin Reid. On the wall in the lobby is a picture of Martin with his quoted belief, “Finding the best, empowering them, and then getting out of the way.” This is the guiding principal for RDS students and their highly skilled and compassionate educational team.
The students at RDS are considered twice exceptional or “2e” which represents their abilities on both ends of the bell curve. They are all gifted (very smart), highly gifted in fact, and also have learning and processing challenges that impact their ability to learn in a traditional, and even most, non-traditional and progressive environments. They may have dyslexia (trouble reading and spelling), dysgraphia (trouble with copying and writing), auditory processing and visual processing challenges, sensory processing difficulties, ADHD, and/or be on the highest end of the autistic spectrum (previously called Aspergers Syndrome). You all know these people – Albert Einstein, Helen Keller, Thomas Edison, Temple Grandin, Richard Branson, and the list goes on. They, and the others like them, had predominately miserable school experiences. Yet, many, if lucky, also had one educator, mentor, coach, or family member who got them, inspired them, and found a way to teach them in a manner that they were able to learn – and eventually change the world.
Bridges Academy was the first school program developed to explicitly recognize the strengths and complex nature of twice exceptional students. The school continues to set the standard for true teaching, meeting 2e students where they are, realizing the tremendous potential within them and providing a nurturing and understanding, yet challenging environment so that they can reach it. The biggest disservice we do to our 2e children is underestimating their vast ability. Reid had what she describes as a “very fortunate opportunity” to work there. She references her time there as an “eye opening and overwhelmingly positive experience ” that changed her perspective as a gifted educator and inspired her to expand educational advocacy and support for the needs of twice-exceptional students in Orange County.
Changing the world is not the goal of educating these 2e students at RDS or the other similar schools that exist. The first goal is to provide a learning environment where these kids feel safe in order for them to be able to learn. Many come to school with their amygdala (fear center of the brain) on overdrive. They are on high alert for threat – whether it come from other students, teachers, and/or administrators and are ready to protect themselves at any moment by hiding, avoiding, or exhibiting big emotions or meltdowns. How can a child learn if their emotional brain is always on and they can’t access their thinking and learning brain?
The tragedy is that these are bright and creative kids who are out of the box thinkers who love to learn. So what has RDS and the few other schools like them done? They provide a safe environment for learning, with skilled and compassionate educators who differentiate the learning towards the student’s ability level in a way that they can learn. It’s not rocket science. Or is it?
Standards driven curriculum, an over focus on benchmarks, and even the latest Common Core makes it hard for these kids to show what they know in a way that emphasizes learning over production and output. Gifted kids are sensitive to their surroundings and have high personal standards (also known as perfectionism). When they can’t produce what they feel they should or are expected to, they often become overwhelmed and anxious, resulting in feeling dumb, bad, and worthless.
The solution: A learning environment that understands kids have strengths and weaknesses; a learning environment that differentiates for advanced abilities while simultaneously accommodating weaknesses; a learning environment that understands that there are many ways to teach and show mastery; a learning environment that values creative problem solving and individualism; a learning environment that provides opportunity for intellectual engagement, exploration, and confidence as a learner and person.
I watched kids who have charts filled with difficult experiences and descriptions of big emotions smiling, laughing, engaging, and dancing (just for fun). And they were learning.
“Finding the best, empowering them, and then getting out of the way.” Lisa Reid and the Reid Day School are doing it. I applaud them and the other schools out there who are doing the same—especially outside the box.
This article references two schools for twice-exceptional students in Southern California. In Northern California, schools for 2e students include DaVinci Center in Alameda, Big Minds in Pinole, and McNaught School in San Jose.