Thursday, September 23, 2010

Creativity and Sports

Creativity is important in every aspect of our lives. We simply have to know HOW to tap into it and WHERE to apply it in order to maximize our results. The one question I had never thought of caught me by surprise recently when a morning show TV host asked me WHY we should want to tap into our creativity. “Hmm,” I thought …. “Is she kidding?” Nope … she was serious, and she brought up a great point from a perspective which I had never acknowledged.

We all know I’m a ‘right brainer.’ I involve some level of creativity to everything I do. You could say I ‘stand out from the norm.’ As a result, it never crossed my mind that someone would be puzzled by the thought of applying creativity to their daily life.

My lovely host gave an example of an accountant who is ‘formula-oriented’ and might wonder WHY they would want to look at things differently. For them, two plus two always equals four. My immediate on-camera response was, “Sure, but so does three plus one!” Why would anyone want to limit their thinking when alternatives can broaden our horizons and lead to fun stuff? Although invaluable in certain situations, a laser-focus can really hinder us.

You see, I like to make everything fun … hey, it’s one of the perks of being eternally stuck in fourth grade and writing for children! However, I use it in almost every aspect of my life. Yes, it gets me in trouble sometimes (harmless trouble) but those moments are outweighed by the joy it interjects into my life.

For example, my anchor book, “Color My World” is a huge success. We made it to the Best-Seller list within 18 months, and my book tour was an awesome experience. However, while I was on the road doing book signings, workshops, radio and TV shows around the country, I was approached by several parents who said that they learned so much while they were watching me work with their kids.

Before I knew it, I was doing corporate workshops and seminars for adults. Now, I could have ignored those leads because “I work with children; I write children’s books; my products are not geared toward adults.” However, my audience told me what they wanted, I designed programs specifically for adults, and now I’m enjoying the fruits of a different labor. If I had written off the opportunity because I was laser-focused on my main mission I would be missing the rewards I’m currently reaping.

So how does this apply to kids and sports?
Well, first I feel it is important to remember that we should be enjoying the things we do with our kids … even if it is an intense and serious issue to them … in fact, I should say ESPECIALLY if it is an intense and serious issue to them! Isn’t it our job to help our kids enjoy life while they figure out where they want to go and how to get there?

With that said, whether your kids are playing sports for the fun and social aspects or if they are aiming to be the world’s next Olympic star, we’ve got to teach them to enjoy the journey. That journey includes surprises along the way … those alternate routes can be just as rewarding as the original journey, if not more so.

How do we transfer that to our kid’s sport training? Don't over think the situation. Go with our gut, and be compassionate. This is not brain surgery, but the key is to get a good blend of intellect (technical information) and emotion (experience and compassion). Once we have a fair balance between the ‘nuts-n-bolts’ angle and the personal side, the rest should fall into place.

Think about how you might help a new recruit tackle something at your office. You’d most likely share the research and analytical information with them, and probably feel inspired to take them under your wing and help them succeed. So often we approach co-workers with more patience and compassion than we extend to our family members. Try talking to your child as though they were a young recruit at work.

While offering technical advice, give some positive input and try to see the situation through their eyes. They want to learn from you, but more importantly, they want your support and acceptance as well. I’ll bet your kid is no different than that new office recruit.

Helping our kids learn to play a sport can be difficult … or it can be easy. We simply have to make the choice upfront.

Choosing to make it easy is … well, easy. Often times the question we must ask ourselves is, “Do we want drama or results?” Chances are that we are going to get the drama no matter. After all, we are dealing with our kids, right? Well, the good news is that we can direct the drama to work in our favor in the form of positive energy instead of draining negative drama if we focus on results.

First, we have to identify the forms of drama; there is good drama and bad drama. Focusing on what is wrong will obviously lead to bad negative energy and will most often result in more of what is wrong, beginning the downward spiral to tantrums, fights, and perhaps dropping out of the sport altogether.

Focusing on what is going well typically leads to a more willing participant and better results which begin the climb to the top. Sometimes ‘the top’ can mean the best of the best, and sometimes it can simply mean the best that your child can be. Either way, it harnesses the energy, delivers more fun and becomes more productive for you, your child, and ultimately the team.

This sets the tone for many of life’s ensuing endeavors on and off the field. Isn’t that what kids’ sports are all about? I believe the goal is to prepare them for life as well as a potential career in sports.

Here are examples of negative and positive approaches:

A negative approach can be as innocent as telling your son or daughter that s/he is standing in the ‘wrong’ position. While a more positive approach which uses the same amount of time and energy can have a much better end result. This could be something as simple as showing them the ‘right’ position in which they should be standing. Suddenly, instead of criticizing and turning the situation into a negative battle, you are focused on the positive side, the solution.

Think about when your child first learned to walk. As their little legs clamored across the room and your heart sank at the thought of watching them fall onto the corner of the coffee table. A natural response might have been to yell, “Don’t fall!” However, those ‘innocent’ and well-intended words merely put the idea of falling into their head and the next thing you saw unravel was the scene you had played out in your head and wanted to avoid.

Now, since we have the ability to recreate that scene in an instant replay, we’ll choose your words more carefully. Instead of planting a negative thought, you tell your child, “Be careful!” Chances are, the kid’s mind will take that command seriously and the scene will play out safely. Of course, those wobbly, newly-discovered legs still are not graceful, but they’re more likely to successfully carry your child safely to the other side of the room!

It is the same in sport training. Positive reinforcement goes further and more smoothly. Just keep in mind that practice is not limited to the sport or the child … it is also important for parents to practice. Practice how to reframe your thoughts and directions in a more positive way, and chances are, you will see more positive results.

On that note … remember the positive reinforcement after the swing, hit or miss. “Good hit, great swing, nice try, fun game!” A little goes a long way.

Just like employees, our kids crave the simplest acknowledgment. That is truly a reward in and of itself which can propel them to their next great move! Look, it doesn’t happen often for us, but doesn’t it feel good to creatively outsmart your kid?!


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Setting Homework Standards

Today I’m sharing some creative tips on how to set the homework tone for the rest of the school year, now … BEFORE it becomes a problem.

School is back in session. Most parents I talk to are happy about that except for one thing … they seem to dread homework almost as much as their kids!

When you hear the word 'HOMEWORK' does scary-movie-music play in your head? ... If so, listen-up~

OK, here’s the deal … homework time does NOT have to feel like tax time!

There are a few things you can do to nip this in the bud … I’m going to cut right to the chase here …

I’ve got ONE SECRET WEAPON that works for almost anything when dealing with our kids:

Let them share in the decision-making process.

Here’s how:

Give them some control, let them know that their opinion matters and that you trust their judgment.
• Of course, we typically have to steer them toward the right decision, but they don’t have to know that.
• You might also want to be prepared to negotiate a little because you KNOW they will have their own ideas … although this might be frustrating, it really shows good independent thinking skills, and if you are prepared for it, you can still maintain control.
• You really enter the ‘danger zone’ when you are not prepared!

Here are 3 things that will help make this school year run a little smoother:
1. Decide on homework time TOGETHER
2. Choose a homework spot TOGETHER
3. Gather tools to help make homework successful TOGETHER

Notice that one key element there … TOGETHER!

• Instead of demanding that homework be done at a specific time, talk it over with your son or daughter and get their input … give 2 or 3 choices:
o Right after school, right before dinner, right before bed

• Perhaps you can also give them 2 or 3 places from which to choose:
o In bedroom, at kitchen table, on family room floor

• Talk out the pluses and minuses of each … together

• Gather tools to make it easier:
o Laptop, lap-desk, pens/pencils, erasers, protractor, calculator, clip-on book-light, snack(!) … doesn’t food make everything better?

• Talk about how it trains their brain to get into ‘homework mode’ so that they understand the importance of consistency.

• This might also be a good time to discuss the importance of certain ‘brain foods’ and how they help the thinking process: Foods high in Omega 3; certain veggies like cauliflower and broccoli, nuts and seeds, raspberries…

These tips made a huge difference in my son's attitude toward homework time, and as a result, made a more peaceful time for all of us!

Believe me, a little planning can truly be the difference between success and failure this year! ... for everyone in your home~

Ahh! ... Isn't that better?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Transitioning kids from summer fun to a school year structure does not have to be difficult!

With the anticipation of a new school year comes the rites of passage that go along with stepping up a grade, or walking into a new class or school, or perhaps even starting school for the first time ever. So often, we focus on the ceremony of shopping for a new wardrobe, backpack, binders and markers, but we forget that we should spend some time acclimating our kids' minds for the classroom environment.

This doesn't mean we should hold mock school sessions at home for a month prior to the first day of school; we can ease their minds into 'school mode' without them even realizing it. You simply have to prepare a little and before you know it, you'll be slipping lessons into your everyday functions and passing them off as mere fun! Isn't it a delicious thought to be able to fool your kids into learning something? Well, it might be way easier than you thought possible.

The three most important things to remember are:

1. Make it fun!
2. Make it Fun!!
3. Make it FUN!!!

The fourth thing … dab their baby toe in first ... ease them back in ~ and yes, MAKE IT FUN!

Below are some quirky yet entertaining brain exercises for every age group.

Young kids:

* A trip to the ice cream stand(!) … or their favorite restaurant! … Woo-Hoo! … hold on, there is one caveat: everyone must only use their non-dominant hand (if you are right-handed, you must eat with your left hand and vice-versa).

* Folks at your neighboring tables might think you are nuts; however, those with kids will thank you when you explain what you are doing.

*Benefit: This is a great exercise to engage both sides of the brain to get them working together.


* Of course, most tweens will also enjoy a trip to the ice cream stand or their favorite restaurant to eat with their non-dominant hand. However, we might need something a bit more challenging at this age level.

* If that is the case, play some fun word games with them to get their brain juices flowing. For instance, have them try to say their name backwards, then have them spell it backwards. Still using their name as the template for brain engaging fun, challenge them to hold an entire conversation over dinner while beginning every sentence with a word that begins with the first letter of their first name. For example, Debbie must try to begin every sentence with a word that starts with the letter ‘D’ … Do you understand what I mean? Did you try it yet? Don’t knock it till you try it. Difficult, huh?

* Benefit: Nurtures creativity and independent thinking skills.

Teens/Young Adults:

* This one might take a little homework on your part; however, like most activities involving our kids, the older they are, the more involved it typically becomes. Focus on something that your child is really into … music, reading, sports, etc. Research the newest/latest happenings which revolve around that particular subject and start asking them questions about it. For instance, if your kid loves baseball, identify his/her favorite players, ask them to recite their stats (RBI’s, ERA’s, number of home-runs) for the current season; if they are not a rookie, how do their current stats measure up to last season? What is their team’s current record; wins, losses, ties, and placement in the league. Quiz them on these stats. Same for music; pick a favorite singer or band, and their newest album; name all the songs on the CD; which were hits? Do they know their placement on the charts?

*Benefit: Gently wakes up the sleepy-summer brain, and gets your kid thinking again.

These might seem like rather ‘mindless’ exercises; however, the goal is to get creative juices flowing to encourage their own individual learning styles. There is no better way to do that than to appeal to them with something that lights up their eyes, and to do so in a comfortable environment. Remember, you’ve got to keep their head in the game, or it won’t do any good.

Although there are many benefits to each of the examples above, the byproduct is that you will be spending top-quality time with your child. Keep in mind that free creative playtime is a great way to learn what is in your kid’s head and heart, no matter how old they are! ... BONUS!