be inspired
PictureLego Bricks by Benjamin Esham
I serve a host of incredible foster parents who master a vast array of skills.  They know more than average parents in their community about things like ADHD, PTSD, ODD, CD and FASD.  They are really like the elite athletes of parenting. 

However, every good coach remembers to bring elite athletes back to practice the fundamentals consistently.  We, as parents, need to be just as well versed with LOL, BFF, TTYL, and even, sadly, YOLO (just for example).  Parents need to practice the seemingly silly skills often and enthusiastically with their children.  Especially when you get stuck in the "disorderlies," these silly skills prove vital.

Here are seven essential skills to get you back in the game:

1) Baking

Haven't you heard?  Baking is magical.  It transforms environments completely.  First of all, it literally warms up your home.  People that feel warmer, feel warmer.  ( I get paid to make these observations.)  

Secondly, it fills your home with the aroma of kindness and security.  A study by researchers at the University of Southern Brittany showed clearly that simply the smell of fresh baked bread makes people kinder to strangers

Thirdly, if you eat the baking, and it happens to be sweet... (I really like GF Banana Bread at the moment, in case you're feeling kinder toward strangers already)  AND you repeat this pleasant experience over and over... You create a sweet spot in the brain that your child can go back to during stressful circumstances.  You build a powerful memory loop that will continue to "self sooth."

2) Lego

The essential skill with no essential skills required.  Anyone can build lego.  Building lego is all about imagination and wonder.  How cool would it be if you could crawl inside your child's dreams and plant positive affirmations that could last a lifetime?  Oh! You can!  By getting on the carpet with them and building lego.

3) Cartoons

Watching cartoons together is an amazing way to find yourself, with your kids, in the same room, laughing.  Walt Disney had this concept nailed and brought it both to his films and to his theme park(s).  Walt described the simple vision, "We believed in our idea - a family park where parents and children could have fun - together." Now, it's never been easier to watch both the current editions of cartoons your kids like, and their counterpart originals that you loved as a kid. 

4) Hot Wheels

Another, get down at your kids level, activity that both meets them where they're at, and lets you reminisce.  Hot Wheels are still Hot Wheels!!  But even better!!! (See YouTube Below) 

5) Sandcastles

Down on the ground at kid's level:  Check.  Honed this skill as a child yourself: Check.  Lasting memories guaranteed:  Check.  

Okay, this seems like a no-brainer.  But then, why do I see so many scenes like this at the beach:  Kids building sandcastles.  Parents sacked out on their towels tanning.  Lost opportunity, people.  Let's get wet and sandy!

6) Fort Building

My 14 year old's ninth grade class did this.  His teacher is clearly brilliant.  All it did was build a sense of community, grow camaraderie, produce teamwork, generate laughter, relieve stress, give kids a sense of control of their environment...  I don't know why you'd bother with this kind of stuff when you could be practicing spelling?!

7) Gaming

I left this one for last.  If your children love gaming, please, for the love of children, find a way to game with them.  Among many parents, a stigma has grown around gaming.  It's often seen as the great time waster, the obstacle to solid career growth, or that thing that keeps kids from going outside.  Look, doing anything to an extreme brings liabilities and cautions to holistic development.  As a parent, you do want to establish limits and guidance to gaming activities.

However, for the most part, I just meet a lot of parents that don't like gaming.  And then all that other stuff becomes a rationale for non-participation.

It all comes down to participation in the life of your child.  Rather than set yourself up as the opposition to your child's passion, find ways to get involved.  Ask questions.  Become a spectator.  Learn the lingo.  Try playing yourself.  Do these things and you make your child feel like the expert they are.  Put them in the position of tour guide, as they take you to a foreign country.  Gaming is really the great frontier for parents engagement with children.

Overall, why are these seven skills essential?  

Any skill that increases proximity between you and your child is essential.  It's actually building proximity that is the essential skill.  But it comes more quickly through many secondary skills, activities, languages, and attitudes that, at times, just seem silly.  Have fun!

Will you help us build the list?  What is your essential skill?

PictureSelf Portrait by Run Jane Fox
The Prevalence of Abuse

In order to become an inspiring place for children to grow up, we must begin to accept and take responsibility for present conditions.

Right now, Canada is too dangerous and abusive an environment for children to develop optimally.

On April 22, the Canadian Medical Association Journal published a study that found more than one-third of Canadians have personally experienced abuse as a child.  One-third!  You can read Sarah Boesveld’s summary of the study in the National Post HERE.

In case you think these conditions are exaggerated, the study identifies and itemizes the various forms of physical abuse, sexual abuse, and exposure to domestic violence.  Conditions really are this bad.  We can, essentially, show you the bruises.

In case you think these conditions are a blip, Boesveld pulls comparative numbers from similar studies completed over the past 25 years.  We didn’t get here overnight.  We’ve been like this for too long.

I keep writing “we” because the prevalence of abuse is too high for us to depersonalize the problem.  When it’s one in three, I don’t want find myself having coffee with two friends, talking about child abuse like its merely some societal dilemma.

It’s personal.

It’s me and you.  We have to change.  We can grow.

I can do things today to make Canada the best place in the world for a child to grow.

Would you join me?

A Personal Response

Here are four ways we can personally respond to the prevalence of child abuse:

1)  We can evaluate and work on self.

How has childhood trauma affected me?  Is past pain in me producing present pain in others?  Who do I need to share my story with?  Who can I ask for help?

We can answer these question honestly, find direction, and grow personally.

2)  We can serve someone.

If a child came from a dangerous, abusive environment, into our care, how would we treat them?  Would we serve them with kindness?  Would we protect them from discrimination?  Would we show them value?  Would we speak positively of them?  Would we be patient with them?

We can serve the people we interact with as if their lives have been affected by childhood trauma.  Because, of course, they probably have been.

3)  We can become trauma informed.

The human services sector is growing increasingly aware of and responsive to the pervasive influence of trauma on human development.  Mirroring a perspective of resilience, a clear perspective of the impacts of trauma on resilience is crucial to seeing and serving people well.

In the coming weeks, on the blog, we’ll highlight some of the important conditions, definitions, effects, and connections related to childhood trauma.  If we begin to look at our community as a field hospital for victims of trauma, we can begin to do business differently.  We can become trauma informed in our parenting, teaching, serving and leading.

4)  We can be relationship inspired.

Ultimately, this is what we are all about.  

It’s our vision to grow a world of inspiring relationships.  We’re here to serve you and learn together how to cultivate better relationships.  

Healthier relationships prevent trauma and increase protection.  Better relationships heal the effects of abuse and break the cycle.  Mature relationships create safe environments for children to grow.

We can, personally, learn how to grow inspiring relationships and take responsibility for the prevalence of child abuse in Canada.

What would you like to learn next?

Picture小名 by Lawrence Wang
Style is a distinctive way of being.

You experience style with your senses.  You see it.  You taste it.  You feel it.  You hear it.

Learning happens through all of the senses.  Learning takes place in experience.

A theory of learning proposed by psychologist David Kolb was given the name experiential learning.  It is defined as “the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience.  Knowledge results from the combinations of grasping and transforming experience.”

Kolb identified more clearly what learners have always known intuitively.  Experience blends thought processes with actions with interactions with environment to make impressions.  Learning takes place in experience.

Therefore, style makes a difference.  Style delivers distinctive experiences.

Style matters because it always makes an impression.

We’ve got to be aware of our style, even intentional about our style because it is always making an impression on the people we serve.

Whether leading, managing, parenting, caregiving, acting or painting…  our style makes an impression.

At Relationship Inspired, we take style seriously because we know how powerfully it affects the unique learners that we serve.  We clearly identify 4 style characteristics that we intentionally weave into our learning environments.  We know they’ll make an impact often more deeply than the content we deliver.  At Relationship Inspired, we are:

Curious  -  Before any content is served, curiosity must be stoked.  Belittling curiosity would be like throwing more logs on a fire unlit.  Nobel Prize winner Aaron Klug puts it powerfully, “Human curiosity, the urge to know, is a powerful force and is perhaps the best secret weapon of all in the struggle to unravel the workings of the natural world.”  Sir Ken Robinson also says it well, “Imagination is the source of all human achievement.”  

Enthusiastic  -  It’s our responsibility to bring energy to our learning environment.  Enthusiasm is about producing energy, interest, and, ultimately, enjoyment.  Learning that lasts is learning that is enjoyed.  We’ll take Norman Vincent Peale’s lead, “If you have zest and enthusiasm you attract zest and enthusiasm.  Life does give back in kind.”

Innovative  -  Why would we want to look at the same content from the same perspective, over and over again?  We’re no Einsteins, but… “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” - Albert Einstein.  It’s our duty to ask new questions and find different vantage points, so that we can experience fresh innovation together.  It’s exciting.

Engaging  -  We must learn together.  Discoveries that change the course of history rarely happen alone.  At Relationship Inspired, we are passionate about, well, being inspired in the context of great relationships.  We can’t wait to grow alongside remarkable people.  Our learning environments will always reflect that.

That’s our style:  Curious, enthusiastic, innovative, and engaging!

We’re convinced style makes a difference because it leaves the lasting impression.

What kind of impression do you want to make on those you take responsibility for?

What’s your style?

Picture"we grow into the light" by Rudolf Getel
Relationship Inspired exists to grow a world of inspiring relationships.  We endeavor to make that happen by delivering world class learning experiences for leaders and caregivers.

But why?  Why are we delivering content this way?

Here are the 3 primary beliefs at Relationship Inspired:

1)  Development is always about better relationships.

Our perspective on learning and development has been profoundly influenced by the work of Dr. Gordon Neufeld.  His book, Hold On To Your Kids:  Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers, has become our textbook on child development.  Dr. Neufeld displays the panorama of factors that most influence human development.  Of all the influencing factors, he reveals the decisive factor being strong, healthy, attachment relationships.  Whether it is children at their youngest and most vulnerable, or adults who are still maturing, the critical factor is always relationships.  We believe development is always about better relationships.

2)  Everyone has potential to grow.

Not the potential to grow.  We're not into forcing growth, by exploiting potential.  
Not some potential to grow.  We don't have a limited view of personal potential.

Everyone has potential.  We look at potential as something everyone already has.  It's who you are.  We're just discovering it together!

I used to have a negative view on potential.  I guess I heard, too many times, comments like, "That boy could have potential."  Every comment that referred to potential seemed to focus on something I didn't have.  Potential was something I was supposed to reach for.  I never had a feeling, deep inside, that I would ever get there.

Ridiculous!  Potential isn't something you're reaching for.  It's something you already have.  It's you!  And you are growing!

Our formative influence on understanding potential is Sir Ken Robinson, author of The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything.  Sir Robinson is an international adviser on education and learning.  His perspectives on creativity, imagination, and personal development put an enduring emphasis on discovery.  We believe that everyone has potential to grow, and we are passionate about discovering it.

3)  Better relationships grow more potential.

Our third and final, foundational belief simply integrates the first two!

Just like the empowering internet sensation IFTTT ("if this then that"), we produce world class learning with one simple recipe:

If (the best context for development is)
          then     (relationship based learning will naturally grow)
              MORE POTENTIAL!

Therefore, even before we are trauma informed, complex needs focused, culturally competent, and socially inclusive...  we always begin at relationship based.  We believe that cultivating better relationships will always result in growing more potential!

So, let's grow a world of inspiring relationships!

How can we help you?

Picture"Rainbow Planet - HDR" by Nicolas Raymond
I cannot think of one significant achievement I have made in my life that did not grow out of an inspiring relationship.  Not one.

I hit a home run in my very last at-bat in Little League.


I would have never experienced that moment without my best friend, Aaron Jackson, inviting me to play, and being patient enough with a beginner to have me be on his team.  Aaron was able to invite me because his dad, Dave (er, Mr. Jackson), was the coach.  Mr. Jackson taught me every fundamental baseball skill.  Mr. Jackson wouldn't have been coach that year if it weren't for his friend & neighbor, Mr. Bastian, agreeing to coach a little league team together.  Mr. Bastian made a lot of things possible for a lot of kids in our village because he was the Principal of our Elementary School.

Growing up in a village was the perfect backdrop for me to learn that every possibility is tied into relationships.

What are your dreams?

The possibility of your dreams realization is built on goals.  The execution of those goals is built on skills.  The resilience necessary to adopt new skills is built on confidence.  The confidence, resilience, skills, and possibilities in order to experience your dreams grows out of...  relationships.

Relationship Inspired Learning & Development is founded with the vision to:  GROW A WORLD OF INSPIRING RELATIONSHIPS.

I am personally compelled by this vision because I believe that one person experiencing his or her potential is the most beautiful sight this life has to offer.  It's motivating to see someone perform at his best.  It's encouraging to see someone expressing herself fully and completely.  Personal potential is beautiful, and it grows naturally out of inspiring relationships.

I am committed to empowering leaders & caregivers to cultivate better relationships and grow more potential with the people they serve.

Let's get started!

How can I serve you?