F i v e s o m e

F i v e s o m e

Monday, August 31, 2015

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Social Emotional Learning = Character Building

It was my turn to give a small talk yesterday to a group of moms about teaching virtues to our children. To prepare, I went back to my notes on a talk on virtues that I heard at our kids' school a couple of years ago, where a non Christian speaker who gave the talk, mentioned how much easier it was to teach Social and Emotional Learning in Christian schools than in any other school, because these schools made an emphasis on teaching virtues.  

"Social and Emotional Learning", she said,"... is the process through which children and adults acquire the knowledge, attitudes and skills they need to recognize and manage their emotions, demonstrate caring and concern for others, establish positive relationships, make responsible decisions, and handle challenging situations constructively"

I call that: character building.

The virtues needed to build character are: friendship, teamwork, honesty, responsibility, problem solving, respect, kindness, fairness, self-control and compassion. 

The speaker at our school went on to mention that teaching and reenforcing these virtues to school children have had the following positive effects in the short term:
  • Improved class attendance
  • Positive attitude towards learning
  • Less children expelled from school
  • Up to 14 percentile point improvement on standardized tests
  • 11% higher GPAs
  • Improved team work and participation
  • Better concentration, among many others.
All these empirical and anecdotical results make perfect sense; they show that if you practice raising kids focusing your teaching objectives towards improving good habits and virtues, our children will have a solid foundation to live cheerful, successful lives and help others while doing it.

This is a daily effort and a life-long undertaking. Let's keep on doing it! Good luck!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Living the Virtue of Poverty

We just finished packing and sending 130 backpacks that we have collected as donations for poor school children in Venezuela. They are part of an ongoing project (Instagram: #donatubultoytulonchera) to provide young poor children with school supplies. It is great to see the many generous people in South Florida that have helped.

Living the virtue of Poverty has nothing to do with living in poverty. It means using everything we own with care, not throwing away things that are no longer trendy or are just old. It means sewing buttons on shirts, repairing shoes, instead of throwing them in the trash.

Coming from South America, where many things tend to be scarce, perhaps practicing this virtue is easier than in the US:  the land of abundance, where it is so easy to buy new stuff that we may or may not need.  It is no wonder that the US is the most generous country in the world in absolute terms when it comes to donations, but we can do much better. We can teach our children (and remind them constantly) to take care and repair what they own, making sure that they don't throw away what they can donate to the most needy.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tell your children: "Set Your Goals, Visualize a Path"

Recently I had an encounter with a group of 17 and 18 year old boys and we were talking about college acceptance, prom, what to do with their free time and what did they look for in a college, when suddenly I asked them: What are your goals in the short and long term, in life, for your intellect, for your spirit and for your body?

This is something they should be contemplating since they are 14 years old - yes, that young and even younger- when they are still living at home and have some parental guidance.

It is a great exercise to picture themselves in 5 years, in 15 years, in 50 years; have them picture their perfect wife/husband,  what attributes would they like her/him to have, have them ask themselves how they would like to be remembered when they die. This might look a bit morbid to some,  but these are defying and defining questions.  It is important to plant that seed of what do they want to do with their life and have them visualize their path. They should know that it is no longer mom's or dad's decision and that it needs a lot of preparation to get where they think they may go.

Examples are: 
5 year goal: Graduate from high school or graduate from College in 4 years. 
10 year goal: Work productively, be an entrepeneur or some kind of social work goals like founding a charitable organization to help build schools in Latin America, for instance.
15 year goal: get married and have my own family and children if possible. 
And so on and on...

This will give our youngsters something to aim for; aim for success, aim for happiness, aim to leave a legacy, to be somebody. Only by guiding them from their early teens in the direction they choose, we will help them focus in more depth, thinking constructively into the future instead of only looking only for immediate gratification and not thinking seriously about their future. 

Hopefully, they will keep growing spiritually and intellectually. Good luck!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

How to make work/life balance work / ¿Cómo abordar el equilibrio vida-trabajo con equilibrio?

Nigel Marsh - How to make work/life balance work: priceless TED Talk on this very crucial subject for all parents. Don't miss it!

Nigel Marsh - ¿Cómo abordar el equilibrio vida-trabajo con equilibrio? Vean esta charla, tan importante para todos los padres. No se la pierdan!

In English with Spanish subtitles.
En inglés con subtítulos en español.

Friday, December 5, 2014

25 Things People With 5+ Siblings Know to be True

The eldest of our five found this amazing list and we want to share it with all of our readers. It is the most comprehensive, funny and accurate list we have ever seen... enjoy!
25 Things People With 5+ Siblings Know to be True

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

How to Get Your Children to Want to do Their Homework and Other Thoughts on Willpower

Many years ago, when our now much older children where around 4 or 5 years old, I took several courses on how to motivate our children to have will power and to be proactive, but I was not aware then of how important this would be in their lives. Now that our daughter is living by herself and studying away in college, she has to wake up early in the morning without anyone telling her to do so, she has to go to school with a ride or in a bus, because she has no car, she has to do the work in school, she has to cook and clean up after herself - she is on her own, and she is thriving. 

This is a result of years of training, training her on the correct use of her freedom, training her will power, training her to overcome difficulties, it was not something that was achieved from one day to the next.

We are all subject to intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation is the one that moves us to do things because we will have an external reward like a trophy, public recognition, money, etc. This kind of motivation usually requires us to be supervised, to have someone around to tell us to do something. When things get done this way, it gives us satisfaction but not joy, moves us to do things at the beginning, but after we receive the reward it may not necessarily make us happy. It doesn't help us mature. 

With intrinsic motivation the reward is in the achievement itself, because we did the right thing, we overcame a particular difficulty, etc. and this kind of reward is different, it gives us joy, makes us a better person, helps us grow and mature and gets us closer to God.

Every decision passes through intelligence and willpower, first you think about what you need to do, what your options are, the consequences of each option and then is the willpower that will make you do things. Just like our intelligence, willpower needs to be trained too

Our job as parents is to help our children by making an effort to train their willpower by helping them overcome laziness and short cuts in life: waking up everyday at the same time - living that heroic minute of waking up right away without giving it much thought- always being on time, learning how to wait for their turn, to be patient for the rewards of the efforts, to be strong, to have courage... it is an ongoing natural process that takes most of their childhood. 

Focus on mentoring your children so they can find the intrinsic motivation when doing every task.  It could be fixing their room, doing homework, getting home on time, not doing drugs. 

Train them from a young age: 
- 3 year old toddlers can be tremendously happy just putting their dad shoes inside the closet.
- 6 year old children will feel proud of themselves when picking up their plates from the table as well as those of the rest of the people at the table.
- 11 year old preteens can feel happy when helping a friend in school with their homework, especially if they notice themselves that their friend is struggling and needs help.

Always remind them that they should not need a policeman watching over them to do the right thing; to always act facing God, not out of fear, but out of love. Tell them to be truthful with themselves: they will know in their hearts if they put in their greatest effort in completing the task, finishing their whole homework, cleaning up their room, etc.

In the beginning, they will need our supervision and our help, but after a while (years that go by too fast!) they should be able to do well on their own and feel great about themselves. Good luck!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Family First - Always!

Author Tomás Melendo, gave the opening speech at the "Family as a Social Paradigm"Congress in Europe back in 2008. In his speech entitled "Family, Primordial Place of Happiness" he, very interestingly, rejected the idea that the family is the cell of the society.  His argument was that the cell is a part of an organism and is subordinated to it, so the wellness of the organism is above the priorities of the cell and the the family then, by that logic, is subordinated to society. 

For Mr. Melendo, the family has its own sovereignty and it can't be subordinated to any other association;  it is the other way around: society should be subordinated to the well-being of the family. He also posed the idea that if each person is not considered as an absolute value, then there is no reason to prevent its extinction. If the dignity of each person does not come first, then he could care less if the society turns into a chaos.

The family is fundamental and it has to be defended and supported because it provides happiness. If a family approaches what it is supposed to be, something that depends 99.9% on each member of the family - each one of us-  then it will always provide happiness to its members.  Think about it, the change begins within me, within my family, acting responsibly, improving myself with education, instilling good virtues and values to provoke a change in the world.  Family first!