Family Enrichment
Seeds of Greatness: Roots & Wings  (10 Courses. 1st course free)
Featuring Dr. MaryAnn Rosenthal, best-selling author of  “Be a Parent, Not a Pushover.”

Course 1 – Knowing Yourself – Positive Self-Awareness

Please listen to the audio file first in each section as it contains greater detail than the written text. Then follow the instructions, if any, at then end of each lesson.

Lesson 1:  Looking in the Mirror

Lesson 1 Audio:

Text Summary:

To understand other adults takes intelligence, openness, and experience. To understand our children takes patience, empathy, and effort. To know ourselves takes introspection, honesty, and wisdom, and is one of the key roots in effective parenting.

One of the most important elements of success is positive self-awareness. Positive Self-Awareness is the ability to step back from the canvas of life and take a good look at yourself as you relate to your environmental, physical and mental worlds. It is the ability to accept yourself as a unique, changing, imperfect, and growing individual. It is the ability to recognize your potential as well as your limitations, and prejudices. It is a vital attribute for an effective parent or leader. And the earlier you can nurture this attribute in your children and others who look to you for guidance, the more they will view their glasses as half-full and filling, rather than half-empty and leaking; and the more they will view the world as offering abundance and opportunity, instead of scarcity and apprehension.

Self-awareness is also self-assessment, which is the ability to see your strengths and weaknesses clearly. It is knowing what you have to offer and recognizing that time and effort will be necessary for top achievement. Winners can look in the mirror and see what lies behind their own eyes. You’re a winner when what you think, how you feel, and what you do all fit together.

An Empathy Check-Up

Developing the skill of empathy is critical in becoming a good parent and leader. Empathy is the awareness of and sensitivity to the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of others. It is seeing life through other persons’ eyes—experiencing their pain, curiosity, hopes, and fears. It is watching marathon runners at the 20-mile-mark and feeling your own legs ache. You can feel empathy with anyone—whether that person is your child or a senior citizen; someone from another country, or simply someone with a different point of view. Instead of being quick to criticize or judge other people, try to see the situation through their eyes. How do they feel? What are they afraid of? What concerns them most? An Empathy Check-Up on yourself involves changing places with someone else:

  • If I were my husband or wife, how would I feel about having a partner like me? Would I think I was supportive? Independent? Compassionate? An equal partner?
  • If I were my child, how would I feel about having a parent like me? Would I think I was patient? Encouraging? Positive? Supportive? Nonjudgmental?
  • How would it feel to be an immigrant who has just arrived in America? Would I feel isolated? Unsure of whom to trust? Challenged? Optimistic?
  • How does the world appear through the eyes of a small child? Big? Confusing? Exciting? Scary? Fun?

Activity:  Child report card

Journal these questions:  1. Can you adapt easily to change? Think of some examples of how you faced change recently.  2. Do little things bother you? What kind? When? Try to identify what the little things are, and what you can do about them. 3. What effective coping skills are you teaching your children by example?

Roots Course 1
Lesson 2:  Knowing Your Children

Lesson 2 audio:

Knowing Your Children

To understand how our children think and reason at different age periods in their development, let’s review four generally recognized levels of mental development. The first state is the sensory motor period. From birth to about two years of age, babies take in their environment through sensory motor channels. They feel, they see, they smell and listen to the sounds objects make in order to explore them. And as we all have observed, they taste everything they possibly can put into their mouths. As they receive new information about their world, their mental structures change in order to store, to relate, and to use new in- formation. Infants learn that objects out of sight still exist. They become more aware of their ability to cause things to happen. They first watch objects, then reach for them, and then search for them when they’re hidden from sight.

The second stage is called the preoperational thought period. From about two to seven years of age, children can classify objects, but they have difficulty in understanding that an object can have more than one property or function. For example, it’s difficult for young children to think they can live in Dallas and be in Texas at the same time. As your children grow from ages two to seven, be patient with their one—way thinking. Don’t stifle their creativity by correcting their impressions all the time. Show them examples of how and why things work.

The third stage is called the concrete operation period. From about 7 to 11 or 12, they can define, compare, contrast, find other examples, and deal with the whole and its parts. But, they are better able to think in terms of concrete ideas rather than abstract concepts. During this period they can engage in family conferences and apply and understand rules that have been set for social situations. This means that you can reason with children from about seven years of age and older.

The last period of development is the stage of formal operations, beginning usually at about 12 years of age, but sometimes  as early as 11. From this point on, children normally have developed the capacity to think in abstract terms. They’re able to visualize or forecast results and consequences. They can say with meaning, “If I do this, then that is likely to happen.” The reason it’s important for us parents to understand the stage theory of child development is so that we can anticipate and accept the normal mistakes children make in their reasoning. Children cannot deal with abstract ideas very well. They can’t project themselves into future circumstances clearly. Small children will think, when you speak of the world as a whole, that you mean the world has a hole in it. Their classification is simple and singular.

Children’s Learning Styles

Another important aspect of self-awareness between you and your children, no matter what their current ages, is to determine the sensory learning styles of each. For example, the visual learners understand and remember best what they see with their eyes. The auditory learners need to hear and verbalize in order to comprehend. The kinesthetic learners need to involve touch and movement in the processing of new concepts, and to learn by doing. While most of us use all three systems for learning, usually one is more finely tuned than the others and exerts more influence upon our learning.

Auditory learners work well with clear, verbal explanations. They should use audio recordings teaching aids. You can read aloud to them and they can read out loud to themselves to internalize lessons or goals. They also do well when the teacher is presenting orally, and they also, later, can listen to books on MP3s or streaming audios from websites. 

Visual learners read early, because in primary school, reading is a visual activity. Visual learners work well with videos, graphics, visual computer presentations and with lists, charts, and assignment notebooks. Usually they like a neat, orderly environment and enjoy working alone. They need to limit their television and Internet time and learn to develop their listening and verbal communication skills.

Kinesthetic learners need multi-sensory, interactive programs. Chalkboards, interactive computer teaching aids, and role playing are the best tools for the kinesthetic learners. As we mentioned earlier, all of these styles have some overlap because we  all use hearing, seeing, and doing, even though one appears to be strongest. Keep these styles in mind no matter how old your children are, as you continue to give them roots and wings. 

In our seminars throughout the world, we talk about dusting off your own childhood in order to see whether the “adult   you” is headed in the right direction. This process also will make you much more aware of your children’s early demonstration of talents.

A series of remarkable studies by British behavioral scientists over a twenty-eight-year period is very relevant here. In the first study, a collection of seven-year-old children was interviewed in depth about their likes and dislikes, their outlooks and opin- ions, their vision of their personal futures. What did they most like doing? What did they want to do as grown-ups? The inter- views were filmed and shown on the BBC, the object of this exercise being to track childhood attitudes into adulthood.

That first study was entitled Seven-Up. Seven years later, a documentary of new interviews with the same children—now adolescents—was called 14-Up. This was followed by 21-Up, 28-Up, and most recently, 35-Up, when the subjects were well into what they had done and would be doing with most of their lives. This extensive study confirmed that what we love and do well as children continues as our latent or manifested talent as adults.

Surprisingly—or predictably, for those of us who work in human motivation—all the subjects eventually engaged in a profession or pursuit related to the interests they had had when they were seven through fourteen years of age. Although most had strayed from those interests during adolescence and early adulthood—in some cases, going in entirely different directions—virtually all found their way back toward their childhood impulses, even if only in their hobbies, by the age of thirty-five.

So an excellent exercise is to spend a weekend with the key members of your family and dust off all of your childhood memories. Let yourself go. Remember what you really wanted to do as a child. Remember what you loved to do at ages seven through fourteen. And observe your own children at play and during their after school activities. By watching what they enjoy doing most, you may be witness to talents and careers beginning to blossom.

Next comes an assessment of natural gifts. After twenty-five years of observation, we’re still surprised by how few people try to make a connection between what they’re good at and what they “do.” In addition to your own observations, we strongly recommend that you take a natural gifts test and that your family members do too, regardless of their ages; although the best time for children to take natural gift tests is in middle school or high school as they get serious about elective subjects and college decisions.

Many years ago, Johnson O’Connor, a Harvard graduate in philosophy, realized that happy, productive, achieving, pace- setting leaders, professionals, craftsmen, and artists were generally engaged in work for which they had natural ability. This prompted O’Connor to devise a battery of tests for measuring ability—a battery still used by the Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation. Johnson O’Connor and his colleagues identified nineteen of these traits, and no doubt there are more. Each year thousands of our seminar participants inquire about the non-profit Johnson O’Connor testing centers. Many follow through to take the aptitude tests, whose substantial cost is well worth the investment because they can give excellent leads to individual potential.

The tests are broken down into categories:

       Personality determines if a person is objective—best suited for working with others—or subjective and more suited for specialized individual work. Roughly three-quarters of the more than 700,000 clients tested in eighty-some years have revealed objective personalities.

       Graphoria identifies clerical ability and ability to deal with figures and symbols—abilities necessary for performing bookkeeping, editing, and secretarial tasks at high levels of speed and efficiency. Graphoria is usually also a good indicator of how well a person will do in school.

       Ideaphoria measures creative imagination and the ability to express ideas, which is needed in fields such as sales, advertising, teaching, public relations, and journalism.

       Structural visualization tests the ability to visualize solids and think in three dimensions. This aptitude, often possessed by concrete thinkers who do less well with abstract thinking, is critical for engineers, mechanics, and architects.

       Inductive reasoning, which helps form logical conclusions from fragmented facts, is important for lawyers, researchers, diagnostic physicians, writers, and critics—all of whom must be able to move quickly from the particular to the general, perceiving patterns—and the big picture—from a collection of details.

       Analytical reasoning is necessary for writers, editors, computer programmers, and others who must organize concepts and ideas into classifications and/or sequences.

        Finger dexterity is needed for all forms of manual or mechanical work, including word processing. It is also important for creative arts such as sculpting and piano playing.

       Tweezers dexterity is the skill in handling small tools with precision, which is vital for professions such as surgery, watchmaking, and assembling microchips. Surprisingly, there is little correlation between this skill and finger dexterity.

       Observation, the ability to take careful notice, is tested by showing examinees a photograph of a number of objects, then asking them to identify the slight changes in ten more photos of the same objects. Valuable for artists and painters, keen powers of observation are especially useful for researchers and investigators of all kinds, as in the study of microscopic slides.

       Design memory, the ability to remember designs of all kinds, is extremely helpful for everyone who works with plans or blue- prints as well as in art.

Tonal memory is the ability to remember and reproduce sounds.

Pitch discrimination differentiates musical tones. Rhythm memory measures rhythm timing.

Timbre discrimination measures the ability to distinguish sounds of the same pitch and volume.

       Number memory, the ability to store many things in the mind at the same time, is useful in professions such as the law, medicine, and scholarship—that require summoning quantities of facts and information on which to base judgments, diagnoses, or determinations.

        Numerical reasoning, an aptitude for identifying relationships among sets of numbers, is most helpful in bookkeeping, accounting, computer programming, and actuarial work.

       Silograms measure the ability to learn unfamiliar words and languages. Vital for translators, this skill is also important for speech teachers, language teachers, and persons doing written translation work.

       Foresight is the ability to keep the mind on a distant goal and visualize paths and obstacles. Market research analysts, sales fore- casters, political scientists, diplomats, politicians, and corporate leaders are among the many who need foresight.

       Color perception, the ability to distinguish colors, is obviously essential for fashion designing, multimedia graphic artists, painting, interior decorating, and advertising—and for all professions and crafts involving art and layout functions.=

Most people tested by the Johnson O’Connor Foundation have three to five strong aptitudes; few have more than seven. In some of his earliest tests, Johnson O’Connor found a distinct correlation between vocabulary and career success. O’Connor consultants now stress the continuing importance of vocabulary. “The aptitudes point which direction a person should go,” concludes an O’Connor Foundation research paper, “[and] the vocabulary level predicts how far a person will go in his or her chosen career.” Another way to say this is that limited vocabulary and feeble ability to communicate keep many people with excellent abilities of other kinds from developing them.

Confirming the much-publicized fall in college entrance test scores of recent years, Foundation records show that the vocabulary skills of eighteen-year-olds declined dramatically during the past 50 years. The good news is that vocabulary, far more than any of the basic, natural aptitudes, can be improved with effort and discipline. the difference between an excellent and a mediocre vocabulary is only 3,500 words. One of the most important pieces of advice you can absolutely depend upon is the critical need for you to read to your infants, read with your toddlers and pre-adolescents and foster a family dedication to reading as one of most enriching family activities. The people who read the most, are the most successful, regardless of their occupations.

Although the aptitude tests have been given to children as young as nine, they are probably most effective, as we said earlier, when middle or high school students are making college or career choices. They are also important to anyone considering a career or industry shift. The earlier you can discover your natural gifts the better—but it’s never too late.

It would be irresponsible to suggest that aptitude tests, alone, should determine career choice. Natural abilities, acquired skills, imitation of role models, youthful experience—all those factors are involved, together, of course, with circumstance. Our major decisions often hinge heavily on family considerations, particularly financial realities, at pivotal ages. Still, it’s hard to be rational or wise about developing our lives without taking conscious steps to discover our natural abilities—and as early as possible. Even if we decide to pursue our gifts as hobbies and diversions, that promises less futility than if we ignore them entirely.

Many of our frustrations lie deep within us. We can’t explain them even to our loved ones; we can only say, “I don’t know why I feel I’m wasting my life, but I do.” Exhaustive testing demonstrates again and again that we all have talents. How much more satisfied and fulfilled we feel when we’re able to express them creatively and regularly! 

To end this appeal on a practical note, we’ll mention that the Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation is based in New York City and has offices in many other cities. You can get the information from our website. (The Ball Foundation, a non-profit foundation in Chicago, also has an online test of similar natural talents.)

Action Activity: What natural talents have you observed in your own child (children)?  What does he, she, or they like to do most in school and after school?

 Roots Course 1 – Knowing Yourself  (Positive Self-Awareness)
Lesson 3: Your Parenting Style

Lesson 3 audio:

Text Summary:

We believe it’s that overall style or pattern of action—rather than a specific decision—that will most affect a child’s behavior.

Generally, psychologists have found that there are two main components of parenting styles. One is responsiveness, or how much independence you’re willing to grant. The other, for lack of a better word, is demandingness, how much strict obedience you require. How much obedience parents demand, how much freedom they grant, and how these two behaviors mesh go a long way toward defining the parents’ style.

These parenting styles fall into generally accepted four broad categories. Though different researchers give different names to them, the styles usually are said to be:

Authoritarian, Authoritative, Permissive, and Uninvolved.


Authoritarian parents are very strict and controlling. They have a strong sense of justice and of the need for obedience.  They’re big believers in clearly stated rules. If their kids don’t “see the light” (behave as ordered), then those kids will “feel the heat” (be punished). Such parents take a dim view of being challenged. Give-and-take with their children is discouraged. Thus, these parents are highly demanding but not very responsive.

Researchers believe children of authoritarian parents tend to be timid, have lower self-esteem, lack spontaneity, and rely to an unusual degree on the voice of authority.


While retaining authority and control, these parents are warmer and more communicative than Authoritarian parents. Authoritative parents seek a balance between the children’s desire for independence and the parents’ desire to be listened to. These parents are demanding and responsive. They’re assertive but not intrusive or restrictive. They want their children to be assertive as well as socially responsible and self-regulated as well as cooperative.

The best-adjusted children, researchers have found, often have parents with an Authoritative style. Both the Authoritarian and the Authoritative parents have high expectations for their children, but the Authoritative parent encourages more freedom of expression. So the child more likely develops a sense of independence. Such kids tend to develop into more competent adults than children brought up in the other styles.


Permissive parents, while often warm and accepting, make few demands on their children. They’re lenient, avoid confrontation, and allow considerable self-regulation. They may worry about thwarting the child’s creativity and sense of self. They’re much more responsive than they are demanding. Sometimes the Permissive style is based on confusion. The parents are so out of touch with the pre-adolescent and adolescent world that the best they can do is to try to be a pal to their child. So they tend to give their kids what they ask for and hope that they are loved for their accommodating style.

Other Permissive parents want to compensate for what they themselves lacked as children. Perhaps they grew up in poverty and/or had parents who were overly strict. So as a result, seeing themselves as an ally to their child, these parents bend over backwards to give the child both the freedom and the material goods they lacked. Yet other Permissive parents act conditionally. They view the maturing child as a mini-adult and give him or her what he or she wants, provided the child satisfies certain parental demands. Making good grades, for example, may be linked to freedom and material benefits.

Or, at its most lax extreme, permissiveness may take the form of indifference. The parents are just too busy, poor, troubled, or self-involved to exert much control. They may give material goods and freedom in return for the child’s implicit promise not to demand much from the parent.


The uninvolved parent demands almost nothing and gives almost nothing in return, except near-absolute freedom. This style is low in both demandingness and responsiveness. At its worst, it can verge into neglect. How would these parenting styles work in practice? For example, a teen wants to go with a bunch of friends on a weekend outing to Mexico where, the parent suspects, wild partying is on the agenda because of younger drinking-age requirements there.

An Authoritarian parent might say: “No way! And if I ever catch you going down there without my OK, you’ll be in big trouble.”

An Authoritative parent may respond: “No, I don’t want you to go down there right now with your friends. But let’s you and I go down soon, though, and check it out. If it looks OK, maybe you can go later with your buddies.”

A Permissive parent would say: “Sure, go and have fun, but be careful.”

An Uninvolved parent may reply: “Whatever.”

Parenting style has been found to predict child well-being in a number of areas, including social skills, academic performance, and the degree of problem behavior. The Authoritarian, Permissive, and Uninvolved styles can carry a high cost. Children of Authoritarian parents, for example, may do well in school and not engage in problem behavior, but they tend to have poorer social skills, lower self-esteem, and higher levels of depression. They may grow up to be highly anxious people who don’t realize their full potential because, figuratively speaking, they’re always looking over their shoulder for that overly-demanding parent.

The children of Permissive parents may come to feel entitled to privileges and material goods. If the parents try to regain control, the older child probably will perceive that effort to be a power struggle. He or she may fight back in dangerous  ways, including sexual rebellion, unsavory associates, or substance abuse. Thus, they’re more likely to be involved in problem behavior and perform less well in school, though they have higher self-esteem, better social skills, and lower levels of depression than Authoritarian children.

And Uninvolved parents, of course, can sow a lifetime of havoc by their indifference or inability to deal with their children. Authoritative parenting, which balances clear, high parental demands with emotional responsiveness and recognition of the child’s need for autonomy, is one of the most consistent predictors of social competence. Thus, the child of Authoritative parents typically does well in school, develops good social skills, and avoids problem behaviors.

Studies show that the benefits of Authoritative parenting and the disadvantages of Uninvolved parenting are evident as early as the pre-school years and continue throughout adolescence and into early adulthood. A recent study of 1,000 teens, for in- stance, by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) evaluated a “hands-on” (roughly equivalent to the Authoritarian or Authoritative styles) approach versus a “hands-off ” (akin to the Permissive or Uninvolved styles) approach  to parenting and found that teens living with “hands-on” parents are at only 25% of  the risk for drug abuse than those living  in “hands-off ” households.

Similarly, 47% of teens in “hands-on” households reported having an excellent relationship with their fathers and 57% an excellent relationship with their mothers. By contrast, 13% of teens with “hands-off ” parents reported an excellent relationship with their fathers and 24% with their mothers. “Moms and dads should be parents to their children, not pals,” said Joseph Califano Jr., former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare (and president of CASA) in summing up the study. “Mothers and fathers who are parents rather than pals can greatly reduce the risk of their children smoking, drinking, and using drugs.”

Which Style are You?

Probably every parent uses some combination of these styles, depending on the issue and their own experiences. But in most cases, one style predominates. So you might want to do some thinking about your style as suggested in the Parenting Style Assessment that is an integral part of this program.

The good news is that most parents and children have a basic reservoir of caring for one another and that can help you over the rough spots. Most adolescents can acknowledge that there are legitimate areas of their lives over which their parents can and should exercise control. And most parents want their kids to have enough freedom to develop into emotionally healthy, self-reliant individuals.

Here’s what we suggest: In one of your calmer moments, sit down with your child or each of your children, if they can understand choices and consequences, and talk as frankly as you can about why you make the rules and decisions that you do. If need be, explain how you were raised and why the rules that your parents created did or didn’t work in your life. State your love for your child, of course, but also the reasons for your decisions. Don’t just arbitrarily set boundaries because “that’s the way it is” or because “I’m the grownup and you’re the kid.”

Talk about what those areas are and the extent of your desired influence. Get their response. How much control do they believe they should have? How much freedom do they want or feel they need? Where are the sticking points? If this sounds like negotiation, that’s because it is. And that’s how adults and soon-to-be adults should chart their differences and come up with workable solutions. In fact, not only should you discuss the present situation but also how power will be divided in the future. What you’ll want to aim for is the gradual extension of authority to the child as a teenager, preparing for a future on his or her own. In this way, your kids will develop decision-making skills while still under your protection.

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