One of the most Loving Words you can Say to a Child


A few weeks ago my six-year old son was hitting a baseball in the front yard with his grandfather and out of nowhere asked the following question.

“Grandpa, do you care about me?”

My dad was stunned, and replied, “Of course! I love you very much!”

“I know you love me,” my son said. “But do you care about me?”

His Grandpa assured him that, yes, he cared for him deeply.

Later, when we were alone, I asked my son why he asked the question.
His reply was eye opening.

“Grandpa let’s me do whatever I want. He never says “no” to me.”

On some level, my son equated a lack of discipline for a child with a lack of care. And in a way, he may be on to something…

Children are searching for boundaries. They want them, they need them, and they look to us to define them. Grandpa wasn’t being a bad relative, but by letting my son do whatever he wished (within reason), he was sending mixed signals to a child who is looking for guidance.

Tonyo Melendez and I often meet parents who are at a loss for how to deal with their kids. They feel they’ve tried everything and their only option left is to let their children do whatever they want and learn from their own mistakes. While this rarely works, it may also tell the child that they’re not cared for, even when this is clearly not the case.

In our Learning is M.A.G.I.C. Parental Workshop (entitled Parenting is M.A.G.I.C.) we strive to give parents strategies that, when implemented, communicate a parent’s love for their children through action. It’s easy to say, “I love you” or “I care about you”, but how do we manifest these feelings in a tangible way?

With boundaries.

With demonstrable actions.

With what we say “no” to.

Remember, Parenting is…

Making an example
Asking questions
Giving unconditionally
Involving yourself
Communicating your love each day


Tonyo Melendez writes:

I have no idea what it is. Do you? Everybody uses the word as if they know what it is. Everybody senses that the word has positive connotations. “He’s got potential!” and “She’s got a lot of potential!” people say. But the truth is that potential is nothing. It’s like talent. “He’s so talented!” “She’s got lots of talent!” As if just having it makes it a fait accompli -which it does not. At least talent shows in some raw form, early in people’s lives. If you have a talent for singing, for example, you usually start displaying it as a kid. But potential is a vague thing. Everybody knows what it is, and no one knows exactly what it is.

This is so because potential is nothing, unless you do something about it. If you have the potential to be a great teacher, you have to work at it to become one. It’s not magic. You don’t snap your fingers and voilá! There it is. It is hard work. You have to develop potential. You have to learn how to turn potential into a skill, or art, or craft. Learning how to maximize your potential takes time, dedication, and tenacity.

Paul Newman, the great American actor, used to say he got angry at the many actors he had worked with who had tremendous potential because most of them did not realize that potential. They did not live up to their vaunted potential. Give me an actor with less potential and more dedication, he would say.

If you are blessed with potential, it is your duty to fulfill it. It is a crime to waste one’s potential. It was given to you to be used. You must develop that potential and use it for your own betterment and hopefully, the betterment of society as well. Learning this lesson may take a lifetime. Hopefully, it will not.

At Learning is M.A.G.I.C., we like to think of potential as a group of things; a child may be intelligent, talented, funny, and generous. That is a lot of potential. Now, that child has to be encouraged to fulfill that potential; she has to use her intelligence by studying, develop her talents by spending the time it requires to make that talent flourish, she has to learn to use her sense of humor to foster strong relationships with family, friends, and teachers, and she must practice generosity by helping others without expecting a reward in return. This child is fulfilling her potential and becoming an outstanding member of society.

All of us have potential. Few of us live up to it.
I say, let’s all be all we can be!



Life is a quest to find oneself, It is a quest to find the answer to this question: Why am I in this world? Some, the lucky ones, find this answer early in their lives. Some find the answer much later. And others never find it. This is sad, if not tragic. A life adrift is a wasted life. It is imperative to find our core; our raison d’etre, for it gives our life direction and purpose.

Athletes, of necessity, find themselves quickly. A tennis player, for example, cannot wait until the age of thirty to figure this out. Their profession demands early definition of goals. An athlete receives feedback as to the validity of his or her choice early in life; either she is successful or she is not. If she is, then a myriad of choices are presented to her that lead to further success later in life. The confidence that comes with fame, fortune, and triumph often transfer positively to the athlete’s later years.

Most of us must find ourselves as we go. It may take years before it happens, if it happens at all. But finding ourselves we must. And the sooner we do this the better, so that we can live a productive life. A life that not only fulfills that person but that also contributes to the society at large.

Doubt is usually the culprit. Doubt undermines our ability to make choices as to what it is we are supposed to be doing with our existence. We hesitate and vacillate. Choice demands trust, belief and faith. These three can overcome doubt and thus give us a chance to find the answer we seek.

Fight doubt. Trust yourself. Go with your instincts. Give yourself a chance. Dare! A fearless life is worth living. Let’s not allow doubt to stop us from fulfilling our dreams and ourselves.

Erasers Too?

Tonyo Melendez writes:

What’s happening to America? Years ago, I bought my first brand new American car. It came with a three-year warranty and it took me three years to pay it off. Then the car began to have problems. I told a friend of mine about it and he said, “It’s planned obsolescence.”
“What do you mean planned obsolescence?”
“The manufacturers build the car in such a way that it starts to break down just about the time you have finished paying for it.”
“You’re kidding?!”
“No, that’s what they do to get you to buy another new car.”
“But, that’s dishonest. This is America; the land of the good guys.”
“Not only that. Other manufacturers, seeing how well the car makers were doing, began building obsolescence in their products too.”
“Isn’t that a crime?”
“Apparently not. I don’t see anybody going to jail for it.”
“In Latin America, when I was a child, if you bought a bed, for example, you expected it to last a lifetime.”
“It used to be so here. But as you can see, things are changing.”

Things have changed for sure – for the worst.

Take erasers, for example. The makers of pencils purposely give you a bad eraser with your pencil. Either it is too soft and it breaks off, or it is too hard, which is why it doesn’t erase well. What it does very well is – it smudges. This the erasers do very well. So, what do you do? You go buy a box of erasers that do erase well. You put an eraser around the eraser that comes with your pencil and, voila! You have an eraser that works very well. Which makes you wonder: if they can make a good eraser, how come they don’t put a good one on the pencil to begin with?

There’s the rub.
They do it to force you to buy a box of erasers. This way, the manufacturers add millions of dollars to their coffers. Pretty good, huh? Everybody’s happy. Especially the manufacturers, right? It’s the American Way.

Well, no. Millions upon millions of dollars selling erasers to the unsuspecting public is not good enough for them. Now, they build obsolescence in the eraser that goes around the bad eraser they give you with your pencil. They make the hole of the eraser too small, and/or the eraser too soft so that after a couple of days, the base of the eraser breaks. You try to live with this for a while, since you just got the new eraser to solve the problem of the bad eraser. Something in you tells you that you have to hang in there with the new eraser. I think it’s a matter of pride. You already feel bad that you bought a pencil with a bad eraser and thought you had made up for the mistake by getting the new eraser. Your ego gets in the way. You can’t possibly make two mistakes with one little eraser. You’re not that dumb.

Actually, you are dumber.

You now try to come up with ways to make the eraser work. You might even tape it around the original bad eraser in hopes that that will do the trick. But it won’t. The new eraser will rip more and more and fall and fall off the pencil, time and time again. Now you are spending your time finding the eraser. Every time it falls, it seems to roll under impossible places to get to – if you can find it all. It usually falls off in the middle of your writing something really wonderful. You were so excited about your writing that in your haste to get this wonderful idea down, you made a mistake and had to use the eraser. And off course, it fell off. This should be called Genius Obsolescence. If only they could use their genius to create something that works! But that’s not the American Way, is it? No, that’s the Japanese Way. Which is why Americans are buying Toyotas instead of Chevys.

I ask the students of America to stop buying pencils until the manufacturers have the decency to put a good eraser on their pencils. As we know they can.

What do you think? Shall we?

Let’s hit them where it hurts – their profits!

“Where To Start?”

The following is a letter posted on the Huffington Post in response to a powerful article written by Kamala Lopez.  (Click on her name to read the original article.)


“Dear Kamala,

Where to start?

The problem you describe so well is extremely complex. I have been involved in it for twelve years. I continue to fight in my own way with the new company I have founded with Ruben Padilla called Learning is M.A.G.I.C.

Where to start?

I think your article underscores the complexity of the problem and in doing so it implies that there is not one answer. It is going to take a lot of work, by a lot of people, for a long time.

I think the root of the program is bad parenting. Hispanics keep crossing the border because they can’t find work in their own land. Parents from this group alone create and exacerbate the problem you so eloquently explained in your article. They don’t mean to, but they do.


Education, or the lack of it. Most of those who make it across have little or no education. The only thing they know about parenting is what they learned from their parents, who learned it from their parents, who learned it from their parents, ad infinitum. Their parental skills, if you can call them that, are at least a century old. You can’t teach a 21st century child with 19th century methods. Parents like these are perpetuating the mistakes of their great, great grandparents.

We try to address this point in our Parenting is M.A.G.I.C. program. There is a lot to do and even those who want to do it are not getting support from the districts, city, state, and the federal government. This is a question of money as well as a question of will. Even before the economy turned sour, programs like mine were not supported. Now, it is even worse.

Where to start?

I ask the question a third time because there are so many aspects to this problem: The school system, the parents, the teachers, the politicians, the geopolitical situation, the state, national and world economy, immigration, racism, history, poverty, greed – it goes on. I’m glad you wrote about it as there are many who are not aware of the depth of the problem. If they know about it, it is in some abstract way; a way of keeping it at arms length.

You are a filmmaker. I am trying to make my films. It’s a difficult and frustrating task, but film is one way to help solve the problem by exposing it in a dramatic yet entertaining way (if a subject matter such as this can be entertaining) in order to reach an audience who would rather watch “Dumb and Dumber.” How do you get funding for a film like that? How do you get it distributed, and how do you get the audience to come see it? And, once they have seen it, how do you provoke them into action?

It seems to me the world is becoming more and more selfish. People don’t want to know about these problems, let alone get involved. So I go back to the original question.

Where to start?


Tonyo Melendez
Founder & Executive Director
Learning is M.A.G.I.C.”

The World’s Last Blog about Michael Jackson


A quick check on Google shows that there are currently over two hundred and forty million entries for Michael Jackson on the internet.

But before the numbers dwindle to less than two hundred million, I want to add just one more in the form of this blog entry.

During the media frenzy of the last couple of weeks it occurred to me that despite his obvious personal problems, Michael Jackson professionally embodied each of our M.A.G.I.C. acronym components beautifully.

Making a plan – Nearly every step that Michael took from the age of 5 was carefully mapped out, orchestrated, rehearsed, fine tuned, rehearsed again, and performed to very exacting, high standards.  He was widely considered the best at what he did, and forethought was his road map.

Acting without fear – When he hit the stage, Michael Jackson epitomized confidence.  If, during a performance, he was ever nervous or afraid, he never showed it.  As a result, millions of admirers around the world boosted their own self confidence by emulating the superstar whenever they took to the dance floor.

Growing as a person – In our academic program, students are encouraged to grow through the act of sharing.  Ideas, experiences, thoughts and opinions are expressed with others and contribute to awareness and bonding.  Michael Jackson grew as a person by expressing himself with very personal lyrics and the occasional interview.  He continued to search for new ways to share his talents with the world.

Imagining without limits – When Michael Jackson first performed his signature Moonwalk on television in 1983, millions of people were delighted at this “new” stretch of imagination.  In reality, this dance move has it’s roots as far back as 1932, when it was known as the “backslide” and was performed by Cab Calloway.  But Michael did what anybody can (and should) do: he imagined without limits and discovered how effective a fifty-year old move could work with modern music.  What areas in your life are just waiting for you to tap your imagination and go beyond all limits?

Commitment to excellence – (From Wikipedia) He was known as the King of Pop, was twice inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, garnered multiple Guinness World Records (including the Most Successful Entertainer of All Time), won thirteen Grammy awards, had 13 number one singles, was responsible for the (still) best selling album of all time, and was a central part of popular culture for four decades.  If that’s not a commitment to excellence, I don’t know what is…

And now, sadly, he’s gone.  But somewhere out in the world, on this very day, exists a person who, utilizing each component of the M.A.G.I.C. acronym, has the potential to do even more.

Is it you?



Hope is what we all need to have – always. Especially now. Hope gives strength. Hope makes persistence possible. Hope keeps us from giving up. Hope makes us feel good. Hope is more than an idea, it’s an emotion; an emotion that keeps us going even when all logic tells us to stop. As long as we have hope we have a chance to achieve, to conquer, to overcome. A world without hope is a sad world to live in. Hope soothes one’s wounds. Better yet, hope heals. In times such as these, hope is a necessity.

Hope is a child, because children, whether they know it or not, are hope. Because children are made of hope, they give their parents, their friends, and the world at large, hope. Have hope everyday; drink it and it shall reward you. Feel it, and it will keep you alive. Never give up hope and hope will never give up on you. I am saying this for you, and for me.

Let us hope.

The Blog is up and running!


It was two years ago that Tonyo Melendez and I founded Learning is M.A.G.I.C. Although we both started this company with decades of teaching experience in various subjects, we knew that this endeavor would provide the greatest potential to truly making an impact with students. Thankfully, we’re still here and growing. We’ve trained over twenty teachers and have had programs in three school districts in and around Los Angeles. To date, we’ve reached thousands of students, and continue to spread our tenets of what learning (and life!) should be: Making a plan, Acting without fear, Growing as a person, Imagining without limits, and Commitment to excellence! Our website, (don’t forget the hyphens!) is now live and we can’t wait for you to visit us, look around, and experience the M.A.G.I.C.

This blog will be updated regularly with anything related to school arts programs, both in school and after school, new developments in teaching, fun observations, stories, helpful strategies to use at home or in the classroom, tips on teaching from Tonyo Melendez or myself, anecdotes, quips, jokes, motivational quotations (our own “Secrets of the Day”), whatever we can think of to keep you entertained, learning, and growing.

As always, we invite comments, questions, advice, anything you deem necessary to help us learn and improve. And in return, we promise valuable information that can help you at home, in the classroom, and in life.

We currently offer four different programs on our site, with more already in development. Hopefully, you’ll find something new and exciting with every visit. Photos, videos, blog, you name it! We’re adapting to the digital age and making ourselves known worldwide!

So thank you for joining us. We look forward to a long, happy relationship!

Ruben Padilla – Founder & Artistic Director – Learning is M.A.G.I.C.