The Perfectionist Child

9 Jul

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From the Parenting Place

Family coach Jenny Hale explains how to encourage a perfectionist to lower their expectations and simply have a go, rather than being so afraid of failure that they are afraid to even try.

One of the great dreams parents have for their children, is that they will reach their full potential and use their gifts, natural abilities and strengths. So when a child is afraid of taking a risk, uncertain about whether to give something a try, and is devastated when a mistake is made, parents naturally feel concerned because they know life is full of opportunities, and that progress is made when there is a willingness to give things a go.

I meet lots of parents who are concerned about their child’s perfectionist tendencies. These are some of the characteristics that worry them. The perfectionist child:

  • Doesn’t like trying new things
  • Watches on the sideline for ages before attempting to do something
  • Hates to be corrected
  • Is devastated when they get something wrong
  • Often screws up their work in frustration
  • Blames someone else for their mistakes
  • Has incredibly high standards that are self-imposed
  • Under-achieves for fear of failure
  • Is easily embarrassed if in the limelight
  • Puts themselves down unnecessarily
  • Is easily disappointed in life’s events
  • Is very competitive and hates to lose
  • Controls others so they can manage the outcome
  • Procrastinates and finds it difficult to make a decision
  • Is anxious about quite a few things

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The good news is that it is possible to live harmoniously with a perfectionist, and give them some tools for handling life with a different outlook.

Be understanding if you live with a perfectionist. They don’t get along too well with themselves so they really need someone who ‘gets them,’ and is gentle with them. They need you to be on their side. Talking to your child about their temperament helps clarify what is driving them. It also helps them understand what is going on inside their head when they feel cross or anxious.

Openly support the making of mistakes. A perfectionist child often has a perfectionist parent! Be prepared to share your mistakes and let children see that it is normal and acceptable to get things wrong, or do a job that is less than perfect. If you leave something out of a recipe and it’s a flop, let your children see that you are not beating yourself up. In fact, you can laugh at yourself! Celebrate mistakes with a family motto; ‘In our family we make mistakes because that is how you learn.’ It takes the sting out of a mistake if the whole family embraces it.

Children can be inspired by someone else’s story of challenge and triumph. It may be your next door neighbour who has been to nine job interviews without yet landing one, but is not giving up. Research a famous sportsperson or actor who encountered many failures and challenges on the way to success. Let them know that the reason behind the success had as much to do with perseverance and a tolerance for making mistakes, as it did natural talent.

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Encourage your children to see humility as a good attitude. Being able to accept their limitations and acknowledge another’s success, helps a child accommodate their own losses. Humility helps children to be supportive of others when they win or lose. Model phrases such as, “That was a great game of chess you played Thomas, thanks for playing with me.”

Perfectionists need to develop flexible, elastic thinking. You can give your child examples of this in a practical way. Show how a partly deflated ball hits the ground and stays there, but when it is full of air it hits the ground and bounces. This is just what is needed when life gets tough.

If your child gets a lower result on an assignment than was anticipated, explain that instead of losing hope and perspective, flexible thinkers say to themselves, “Not what I wanted, but I bet I can learn something from this and get up and go again”.

Be ready to brainstorm a problem with them so that they learn there is more than one way of doing something. Let’s say they are making a card for a friend’s birthday and you see them begin to ‘lock down’ for a perfect result. Talk them through their options. The focus could be on creating something ‘colourful and crazy’ rather than ‘perfect and neat.’

When perfectionist children learn not to blame themselves or others, it makes starting something a lot easier. Your child will need help to see that getting cross and full of regret for something they did or didn’t do, won’t help them. Instead, teach them to embrace a new thought pattern. Learning that ‘making a start is hard, but it gets easier along the way’ helps facilitate progress.

Perfectionists are often afraid to make a decision because they may regret it and wish they had done something better. Learning to live with our decisions and learn from the consequences is part of life. Nudge them towards making decisions over lots of little things so they get in the habit of living with their choices and dealing with small disappointments along the way.

The flipside of a perfectionist is that they are often very high achievers. They want to do well, and often have an outstanding ability to perform. They can stick at something relentlessly to improve themselves. These children often produce excellent results, and are successful without any need for motivation from parents. Some will be tidy, organised, gifted, disciplined, focused, deep thinkers and extraordinarily capable. Quite a few of them will have leadership qualities that mean they can organise, motivate and bring out the best in others.

The journey for them can be made simpler and kinder if we help them understand that perfectionists have both strengths and shortcomings, and help equip them with the skills and insights to live comfortably with themselves, their standards and their frailty.

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Holiday Fun! Indoor Cubby House

25 Jun

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School holidays: It’s the opportunity to think big about play. Play, not only in sessions, but over days and weeks. Creating play environments, like a cubby house, is a good example because it starts with the building phase, then comes the play phase, and the fun evolves as the children add their own ideas to the mix.

cardboard box cubby house

Now the colder months have set in and air is chilly, creating a play space in a nook in the house or other undercover area is a good idea.  I transformed an empty unused garage in our family home into a simple play space for the children this holidays using cardboard boxes.   The idea is to stimulate the imagination by creating an environment that inspires creativity.  The set-up is quick, cheap and easy and can be extended in many ways.

indoor cubbyhouse -- cardboard box craft

What you need

  • 1 to 5 Boxes (tea-chest size or larger works best)
    – Try asking a department store like Good Guys or Harvey Norman for empty boxes, or you can buy boxes starting from about $3 from self-storage places and stationery stores like Officeworks.  A small investment for many hours of play.
  • Masking or Packing tape
    – I used masking tape because it’s easy to work with and the children can draw/decorate over the top if they like.
  • Crepe Streamers

1. Assemble

To create the dollhouse style cubbyhouse (as pictured above), you will first need to make 2 boxes with pointed roofs.

how to make a cardboard box cubby house

  1. Put the box together and tape to secure
  2. Sit the box with the opening at the top (as you would if you were packing)
  3. Leave the fold-over tops upright for height and tape along the join for strength
  4. Cut out one side panel of the box with large scissors or a Stanley knife This will become the roof.
  5. Use the cut out panel of the box for the roof. Bend in half and tape to the top of the box. (If the box you’re using is smaller than tea-chest size, you may need to use an extra piece of cardboard and tape two even pieces of cardboard together before attaching the roof to the box).

For the reminder of the 3 boxes, repeat the above, however for the roof, cut the panel cardboard to the size of the top of the box, and tape to secure.

2. Decoration

Decorating the boxes is all part of the fun. I wanted to keep this activity relatively mess-free, so went with streamers to add that splash of colour.

1. Lay a section of tape (as long as the width of the box) on a flat surface with the sticky side up.  Rip off streamers (to the height of the box) and place one end of each streamer evenly spaced along the tape. Once full, press the tape into the top back corner of the inside of the box and reinforce with another layer of tape over the top.

how to make a cardboard box cubby house

2. Using another piece of tape, secure the streamers to the bottom corner inside the back of the box.  It doesn’t have to look perfect as you can add a cushion or small blanket to the bottom of the box.

cardboard box cubby

3. For the upper level boxes, I used the streamers in the opening between the roof and the box. To do this, simply tape sections of streamers from the roof to the back of the box.

cardboard box cubby

Other decoration ideas

Decorate the box however you like! Below are more ideas:

  • Coloured masking tape
  • Texters/drawings
  • Paint
  • Stickers
  • Stencils
  • Stick photos to make a collage wall inside the box
  • Cut outs from magazines
  • Washi tape
  • Cut out windows on either side of the box
  • Glue on gems or shells

3. Set up

Stack three flat-top boxes at the bottom and the two pointed boxes at the top.  This gives it a dollhouse look. The top section can be used for light objects like stuffed toys, dolls or Lego; it’s a lovely height for standing play too. The bottom section fits a sitting child.

dollhouse cardboard box

Tip: Placing the boxes up against a wall is a good idea so children can lean back and read a book.

read in a cardboard boxWearing: owl print tee, snuggly warm leggings, faux fur zip front sweat

Another set up idea: Beach hut style

Google ‘beach hut’ together before you start for inspiration. Create 5 pointed roof houses and line up in beach hut style. Lay a yellow sheet /blanket (you could look for one at a second-hand shop) or piece of material in front to mimic sand and then do the same with another layer of blue material for the sea.  Add a few towels, shells, buckets and sea inspired books.

4. Add

To make the area inviting and cosy, add:

  • Cushions or a small blanket to the bottom of each box
  • Books
  • A rug, floor cushions and a few throw blankets

5. Play & Create

The morning after creating this space, I woke to hear the kids happily playing. I found them, still in their flannelette PJs, sitting in the cubbyhouse, eating breakfast with tea towels on the ground and mini umbrellas in their cereal bowls.  I almost scolded them for not being at the table, then I saw how much effort they put into the set up and what fun they were having.  Since then, boxes have been moved, toys added, pillows stacked and picnics eaten.  All good stuff. And it all started with a few boxes.

cardboard box cubbyhouseWearing: long sleeve graphic batwing top, floral skinny leg jeans, bows and hearts necklace, tangerine double bow boots, mock leather button front jacket

pumpkin patch kidsWearing: stripe long sleeve top, skinny fit stretch cords, mock leather fur collar jacket

More indoor cubbyhouse ideas

  • Place a sheet over a table and cushions underneath
  • Put a sheet between two separated sofas
  • Tie even lengths of crepe streamers around a hula hoop and suspend from a hook in the ceiling to create a colour bubble
  • Stack pillows and cushions and create an indoor obstacle course
  • Hang streamers in a door way
  • Criss-cross red streamers along a hallway to create a spy lazer challenge
  • Create a comfy reading corner by scattering pillows and placing a box of books nearby

Another Cardboard Box Idea

Create a Cardboard Box Road and City

About Kelly

Kelly BurstowKelly loves life at both ends of the spectrum: wearing high heel shoes one day and hiking boots the next; sipping tea out of a pretty cup and slurping hot coffee from a camping mug. She enjoys stopping for a quiet moment to feel the wind on her face and adventuring at every opportunity with her family. Her blog, Be A Fun Mum, is all about loving the little moments in life and celebrating these. Kelly lives in Brisbane, Australia with her husband, four children and pet bird.

 

The Power of Praise- John Cowan investigates

29 May

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Confused by whether or not praise is good for your children?

Psychologists fight, but it is a very dull sport to watch. They fire volleys of academic papers at each other before slinking back to their universities and clinics. The dull bit is that you cannot tell who has won. One current raging battle is about praising children.

Some say praise is great and some say it is just manipulation that turns kids into spineless ‘pleasers’. I’ve wandered through the smoke and noise of the battle field (i.e. I have done some pretty intense Googling) to find out what the two camps are on about. Both sides have got their heavy duty PhDs and their research and they both sound very plausible, so how could anyone choose who is right? Well, I can. Of course, I could be wrong, but I am assuming you probably won’t be able to prove it!

I had always thought that praise was great. “Praise is the fastest route to change” is a quote I saw years ago, not in a parenting book but in a management manual. It went on to say that praise works faster than nagging, threats and bribes in changing behaviour to the desired outcome. I took that advice to heart and it has been one of my staple beliefs about how to raise children. I’ve used it at home with my own kids and taught it in courses and seminars. I always found it creates a very agreeable atmosphere in the home as well as ‘doing the trick’ of shaping their behaviour.

One of the things I especially liked about praise as a parenting tool is that it encourages us to seek out and focus on children’s positive behaviour rather than just discovering their misbehaviour and criticising it. I suspect parents possess an innate super-sense to spot mischief, even through solid walls. (Surely some psychologist could get a grant to research this). Most parents seem to be able to stare at a closed bedroom door and tell, just by the mere silence emanating from it, that their children must be up to something on the other side! With a little effort, that same ability can be tweaked to spot their good behaviour and not just their bad.

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When you focus on the positive it is amazing how much you actually like your children more: even if it did not budge behaviour one iota, it at least feels like you have got nicer kids.  But it does change behaviour – even the critics of praise concede that – and that is actually one of the key objections critics have of praise: it is controlling. “Praise is a verbal reward, often doled out in an effort to change someone’s behaviour, typically someone with less power”, writes education expert, Alfie Kohn. “More to the point, it’s likely to be experienced as controlling regardless of the praiser’s intention. Praise is a pat on the head, ‘pat’ being short for ‘patronizing’”, he says in an article called Five Reasons to Storp Saying “Good Job”1Professor Rheta DeVries of the University of Northern Iowa calls it ‘sugar-coated control’: basically it is behaviourism, an attempt to manipulate people like lab-rats with rewards and punishments. It assumes that all the behaviour is due to the reward; it ignores the feelings and values and other motives that might be involved.

In two books, ‘Punished by Rewards’ and ‘Unconditional Parenting’, Kohn unpacks some of his other objections. He thinks it creates “praise junkies who are constantly looking for approval and who depend on other people for their self esteem. It makes them afraid of losing that constant stream of feedback.

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Research by Mary Budd Rowe in Florida found that when students were highly praised by their teachers they were a lot less confident about giving answers in class, less likely to share ideas, backed down quickly if challenged by an adult and gave up on difficult tasks – it seemed that whenever there was a chance that they might jeopardise getting a “well done!” from the teacher, they weren’t prepared to take that risk. Like a drug, they get used to a regular high dose of praise; when praise is withheld it really feels like a punishment. I recall Dr Sylvia Rimm, when she visited New Zealand many years ago, talking about why bright kids often fail in higher education. Throughout their early school years they received high levels of praise – they got honoured as ‘top-of-the-class’ and their work was held up in front of others. But as they move up into high school and university, they get streamed in amongst other bright kids. They are no longer the top of the pile; they are just one of many similarly-smart students. They may still be getting a reasonable amount of good feedback, but nothing like the rate of praise they received when they were the star of their primary classroom, the big fish in the little school pond. The drop feels awful, and many kids give up making the effort that keeps them achieving.

What about kids who are not such high achievers? They simply dislike the idea of being judged. “The most notable feature of a positive judgment isn’t that it’s positive, but that it’s a judgment. And people, including kids, don’t like being judged,” says Kohn.

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Praise might even take the pleasure and interest out of doing things. If you practice the piano, there is an ‘intrinsic’ reward: music! You can actually play the piano! But what if you practice the piano to get stickers on a reward chart or some other award or treat? Those are ‘extrinsic’ rewards. “What happens when you get older and don’t get stars?” asks Paul Raeburn in Psychology Today. “Do you lose interest in practising when you’ve lost extrinsic rewards that you’ve become accustomed to? The research suggests that you do.” He continues, “We praise drawings or spelling papers because we want our kids to continue to work hard and to do good work … But what we really want to teach our children is that they should do good work because of the satisfaction it provides, not to earn praise from parents or teachers. I’ve often wondered why so few Americans read books—serious novels and nonfiction. Could it be because  we were so conditioned to getting A’s for reading Melvile or Hawthorne that there is no joy left in reading them for the pleasure and enlightenment they provide? I can’t cite research to answer that question, but I think it’s a good guess.”

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What if that also applies to moral behaviour? What happens if kids learn to be kind and generous and caring simply because it attracts the positive attention of adults? Does the good behaviour stop when the rewards do? Alarmingly, yes! Or so some research seems to suggest. Joan Grusec in Toronto noted that children who were praised for generosity became less generous in the playground (when they weren’t being praised by the teacher) than kids who were not. Generosity became a means of getting praise from adults and not just something that felt good to do.

So, have Kohn and crew convinced me to shelve praise as a parenting tool? No … but their evidence does suggest ways in which we modify our use of praise.

First of all, I do believe that it is right for parents to shape children’s behaviour. It’s not manipulation, it’s parenting. We have the benefit of decades of experience, we have learnt that things like manners, respect, generosity and cooperation actually work very well. It is not a matter of wanting to control or impose our wills on children, it is the firm belief that the most loving thing to do for children is to help them learn to behave ‘well’: it is the the best thing for them and society.

Secondly, I do take very seriously Kohn’s points about intrinsic versus extrinsic rewards, but I think that a praise and reward system can still have a place. External rewards, like praise and star charts, are great ways to start behaviour moving in a new direction, but it is not ideal for maintaining it. The trick is to help the child  realise the real value or pleasure of what they are doing. You might start off by praising them for cleaning their bedroom, but you move on to saying things like, “It must be really nice having a room that is so tidy and you can find everything”; “I feel good every time I go in your room – I bet you do too, it’s so nice and tidy.” You are moving from an external reward to an internal reward, teaching them to reward themselves. You move from, “Good on you for doing your homework” to “Once you get the hang of it, isn’t science fascinating!” – you are connecting them to the intrinsic reward of knowledge rather than simply getting approval for work done.

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We should also beware of empty praise and excessive praise. Children soon pick up on the fact that this is meaningless and manipulative. When Farmer Hoggett says, “That’ll do, pig” at the end of the movie Babe, it is powerful not because it is part of a torrent of praise but for the very opposite. Those few words from a taciturn man  poke volumes, and the pig (and audience) melted.

And finally, there is a huge difference between ‘person’ praise and ‘process’ praise. A team led by Elizabeth Gundersen at The University of Chicago have been doing a long term project. They filmed parents interacting with their children, in their own homes. They did it when the children were one, then two and again at three. Five years later, they tested the now eight-year-old children, measuring all sorts of behaviours. How those children were praised, when they were little, seemed to have a big effect. Some parents praised their kids with things like “You’re a clever kid”, “You’re tall”, “You’re pretty”: this is called ‘person praise’: compliments for who and what they were: their intelligence, skill, looks, height – things they have no control over. Other kids were praised for their effort and their actions – that’s called ‘process praise’ – and those kids at eight enjoyed challenging tasks, they could overcome setbacks and believed that hard work can improve intelligence and personality.

Person praise locks kids into thinking you are what you are – if they don’t do well, they think that’s just the way I am, but process praise gives kids the exciting belief that they can change and get better. “These findings suggest that improving the quality of early parental praise may help children develop the belief that their future success is in their own hands,” said Gunderson.

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So, go ahead and be generous with praise – just be sure it is not empty, manipulative and taking away a child’s real motivation. Praise them for their efforts and actions, rather than their looks and intelligence. Some may worry our children will depend too much on our approval, but I doubt there are few things nicer to have in the back of our heads than the idea that our Mum and Dad are proud of us.

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The Strong-willed Child

13 May

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Some children seem to be naturally compliant, while others fight every issue.

Jenny Hale explains what motivates your strong-willed child and how to make the most of their strength and potential.

If you are lucky enough to be a parent of a strong-willed child, at times you will feel blessed, because you love their decisiveness, their confidence, their sense of justice and their ability to stand alone and believe in themselves!

At other times you will feel exhausted, powerless, bullied, guilty and overwhelmed; in fact, you will probably feel that you are being punished for the hard time you gave your own parents! Fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree, and you usually don’t have to look further than a mirror to find the source of your child’s iron will.

Welcome to the world of raising a child with strength, gutsiness and an exceptional amount of determination.

When the parents of a strong-willed child come for a coaching session with me, I tell them they will need to do an ‘advanced’ parenting course. I say this in fun, but the reality is that parents of such strong children need every tool in the box and the flexibility to choose which tool for which time.

Strong-willed children are not naturally compliant. They are not wired to blend in, to cooperate, to adjust or to see a situation from another angle. They want to win, they often seek out fights and they don’t know how to back down easily. They have an enormous need for respect. Sometimes they don’t even get on with themselves!

If parents take the child’s behaviour personally and decide that their child is out to make their life a misery, war will be declared and there won’t really be any winners. Understanding these children is the first step in working with them, and the key insight is that they are just ‘wired’ differently – they were born this way! Both parents will agree that it was evident very early on, and many mothers will say they even had an inkling when they were carrying this baby!

Strong-willed children learn where your ‘buttons’ are and will push them mercilessly. They will jump on the ‘tender spots’ so that parents end up doing and saying what they don’t want to do. For example: a five-year-old might discover that if she defies her mother and refuses to leave the playground, she gets a very interesting reaction. The mother feels powerless, ashamed, alone and bewildered, and those strong emotions prompt behaviour that matches the five-year-old’s. Lots of threats, warnings, shouting, bribing and emotion. The dance begins: children of this ilk dig their toes in and will match their parent, emotion for emotion.

Parenting a strong-willed child is the biggest invitation to grow that you will ever have. When parents learn how to disarm their strong feelings, take stock of the situation and calm down, parenting strongwilled children will be much easier.

Your style has got to be robust. Children respond to adults who have calmness and composure. If you remain pleasant and firm under fire, the messages you send are, “I am in the control seat. Everything is okay here. Your needs will be met but I will not be pushed or bullied”. This settles children down. They learn they are not so powerful that they can disconcert the big people in their world, and their world feels a lot safer because of that. For example, if mum refuses to give 7-year-old Bryce another round of ice-cream, he may try some other avenues to get her to change her mind. He may accuse her of being a mean and horrible mother, he may yell and cry, he may pursue her around the house – but if she is pleasant, resolute and calm, eventually he realises, “My Mum is firm, she is strong and she does what she says she will do.” Deep down, he appreciates that – but it is VERY deep down, so don’t expect him to express it!

Once children have settled the most important question – who is the leader in the family? – they can get on with being a child, and parents can get on with enjoying them.

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Positive action suggestions

Just remember: strong-willed children like to throw out regular tests to see if you will still remain calm and robust.

Let them learn by the mistakes they make. Strong-willed children don’t like being told what they should do and what they did wrong. It takes away some of their need for power and dignity. It may be tempting to over-explain all the instructions on how to make a cake to your ten-year-old, and to constantly check up on them and micromanage them each step of the way, but if we do they either lose interest or rebel. Wherever you can, let them run with their idea. If the cake does not turn out well, try very hard not to say, “Well I told you that would happen if you didn’t measure the flour properly!” These kids will learn a lesson all on their own from the consequences, and they will learn it well.

Invite them to solve problems. Strong-willed children thrive on exercising their brains with problem solving. They want a friend to come to play, but today won’t be convenient: invite them to work out a day that does work for everyone

Give them choices. They enjoy the dignity of being asked to choose which option they prefer.“Would you like the blue cup or the red cup?” “Would you like a ride to bed on my back or on my feet?” “Will you be sitting nicely with us at the table or are you going to choose to play on your own in your room?” Choices engage a child’s thinking and allows them some freedom which they need to thrive.

Rehearse areas that are difficult. Strong-willed children often have problems finishing an activity they have been enjoying. They can be overwhelmed with disappointment and upset at the sense of injustice that parents were stopping them before they felt they had finished.

Before they play at a friend’s house, or you take them to a favourite park, rehearse what they need to do and say when it is time to leave. It might sound like this: “Talia, when I say that it is time to leave the park, you need to say, “Yes, okay Dad. Thanks for the lovely time I have had.” These children need a script to replace their original one of, “I don’t want to leave! I haven’t finished yet!”

Use a rule as your reference point. Strong-willed children are very sensitive to discrimination. If you were to say, “James! Stop throwing the blocks around!” he may feel that you are saying that just to ‘get’ at him. However, if you said, “James, we use blocks for building with – that’s our rule,” James can separate himself from the command and see it as a stable family rule.

Maintain regular routines and rituals. These children absolutely need daily rituals like a bed time story, a back rub, a song you sing in the car and a special plate you use for their afternoon tea. These pleasant, positive interactions are the things that will shape their personality, and so they shouldn’t be withdrawn as a penalty for misbehaviour. These patterns of loving interaction are predictable, comforting and remind them that your love for them is unconditional: their behaviour cannot push you away. Strong-willed children do seem to sabotage the good times available to them and test parents’ resolve and unconditional love. Special events need to be maintained. Strong-willed children need to see that their parent will still take them out for a special one-on-one date on Saturday morning, regardless of whether they got a great report at school or a terrible one, behaved perfectly or was a perfect terror all week. Of course there will be other incentives and penalties, but they shouldn’t impinge on these regular interactions that are not given as rewards or taken away as punishments. That is because these children need to be loved unconditionally.

Reserve some energy to be playful. Ther is a trick with these children – they can be disarmed easily! They love us to be funny, to use a silly voice, to pretend we are them, to make inanimate objects like the toothbrush talk – anything that is not too serious or stern. Strong-willed children often seem to be simmering, building up steam for a fight; but when we hold the toothbrush and the toothbrush starts to talk – the fight goes out of them. They smile – and parents and children stay on the same team. Of course, this creative playfulness takes some energy – energy that is in short supply because strong-willed children are so exhausting – but fighting takes energy, too, and playing is much more fun!

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Potholes to avoid

There are some things parents do that can make things a whole lot harder. See if there are any of these that you can drop from your repertoire.

Stop the lectures. Strong-willed children never get lectures! When you go over the same ground and tell them one more time what you think, why you think it, how disappointed you are, what they should remember, what you did when you were their age – you are probably just adding fuel for some more drama. Lectures are not going to work. The only advantage is they might calm adults down, but a lecture is ineffective in teaching a child what to do next time.

Refrain from using ‘fighting words’. How dare you speak to me like that! There are no more treats for you until you learn some respect!” Fight invites fight. A strong-willed child hearing these words is likely to think, “I don’t care about the treats, I just must win!” Often, they can’t even remember what the fight is about, they just know there is one and they must not lose. By contrast, ‘Thinking-words’ create much more engagement. “As soon as you can speak respectfully to me, I will be happy to stay in the room and listen to you.”

Avoid the harsh, shrill tones! Our tone of voice communicates so much more than our words. When a parent’s voice is tense, high, loud or screechy – children react. The ‘stir’ in our voice creates stir in them! Whatever tone of voice parents use will be echoed back to us so it is worth speaking pleasantly as much as possible.

Avoid too much control. Strong-willed children need generous doses of the ‘hands off’ approach. They want to hear, “You will be fine. Just come and get me if you need some help.” Instead, they tend to get lots of organising, monitoring, judging, fixing, mentioning, improving and evaluating! They feel like they can’t breathe! Giving them morecontrol tells them they are capable and have got what it takes. Do try to step back: leave the bed they made bumpy because they are still learning, don’t speak for them when someone asks them a question, or let them choose something to wear that you may not like. A good place to start: ask their opinion and then listening to it without opposing it with your own ideas.

Do not threaten! Theats send a clear signal to a strong-willed child. The message is, “My parents are losing control! They feel powerless and are using threats of punishment as a last resort! They have run out of options and are hoping that the threat will frighten me… well, they have picked the wrong kid to try that on!” Kids need to know, up front, what consequences will happen if they do certain things. Then they need to be given the consequence with certainty and confidence, and without anger or fluster. They do not need to be harsh or cruel, just logical and consistent.

Be careful about what they hear you say! Speaking positively about your child works magnificently… but the opposite is also true: if they hear you express negative opinions of them, then that can have a devastating effect on their self esteem. Never underestimate how much your kids pick up from your conversations with other people, even if they seem to be attending to something else. They will hear and absorb. If the message they are hearing is that they are a nuisance, a bad child, wearing you down, difficult or unmanageable – they will feed off that and live up to the words.

Be wise with your use of “NO”. When strong-willed children hear the word ‘no’, they often interpret it as ‘NEVER!’ Maybe the parent has just said ‘no’ to having a friend around to play, and they wail “I NEVER get to have a friend to play!!” Be firm and remind them, “No for this time, but not for every time. Let’s plan a time when a friend can come.”

And now for a word of comfort

Strong-willed children bring delight to parents, family and teachers alike. Their strength is inspiring. They don’t need approval from others to make good decisions. They can become wonderful, contributing citizens. And if you are the parent of one, your journey will be easier if you work with the grain and let your strong-willed child regularly know you are very fond of them!

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Mother’s Day: Photo Bookmark

7 May

photo bookmark for mother's dayEach year to celebrate Mother’s Day, I turn  a photo of the kids into a gift for the grandparents.  I’m sure these hilarious hanging photo bookmarks will produce a smile.

Photo craft is a winner for Mother’s Day because it’s personal, significant and special.  The photo bookmark delivers on all those things, plus they are useful and fun too.  Give as a gift, post to family who live far away or use as a gift tag to decorate a present.

While much of this project needs to be done by an adult, it’s fun to get children involved in the photoshoot so it becomes a family activity (and kids love seeing the finished product — it is pretty cool).

Materials

Craft Board

Craft Knife (or Stanley Knife)

Scissors

Photo paper

Small Tassel (available from craft and discount stores)

Permanent Marker

Laminator sheet / Laminator (optional)

Camera / Printer

1. Take a photograph

Capturing the photo for this project is part of the fun. Below are a few tips to keep in mind:

a) Keep the body in proportion

Hold the camera directly in front of the subject so the body is in proportion.  This usually means you’ll have to crouch down on your knees.

 tips for taking photos

b) Poses

You want to give the illusion of movement.   Below are some ideas on how to bring that element to the picture:

  • Lean on a wall or chair (in my picture, I had my daughter sit on our rock wall with her legs dangling down)
  • Stand on tiptoes
  • Stand on one leg and lean to one side
  • Make funny faces
  • Lean in different directions
  • Jump (if you have a camera with a quick shutter speed)
  • Look up
  • Try one hand in the air…or two!
  • Look into the direction of the intended movement (I did this with my picture)
  • Set the scene with instruction like, “Pretend you’re hanging off a rope?” and have the camera ready to capture the action.

Mother's Day Craft -- photo bookmark

2. Format

  • Crop the photo around the subject and then insert into a program like Microsoft Word/Publisher.
  • Adjust the size (by dragging the corner of the picture) so the photograph is approximately half an A4 size (portrait) in height.
  • Fit as many photographs on an A4 page as will allow.
  • Keep in mind, from the top of the hands to the bottom of the feet is how long the bookmark will be.  If you do find the size is too big/small after printing, it’s easy to readjust and reprint.  (Check by holding the picture up against the cover of an average book).

mother's day craft -- photo bookmark

3. Print

Print the document on A4 Photo Paper.

4. Cut

This part of the project is a little time-consuming but not difficult.  I used both small scissors and a craft knife.

  • First, carefully cut around the body of the subject (avoiding the tricky parts) using scissors.
  • Then, use the craft knife on a board to finish it off.

Mother's Day Craft -- photo bookmark

5. Laminate (optional)

For best results, laminate the cut-out photograph to prevent breakage.  Once finished, cut an oval or rectangle shape around the photo using scissors.

If you don’t have a laminator, stick the cut-out photograph on a piece of white photo paper with glue and cut around the image into a bookmark shape.

6. String

  • Make a small hole near the hands (carefully, using a sharp pair of scissors or craft knife).
  • Feed the tassel through the hole.
  • Secure the tassel by threading the end part through the loop and tighten.

Mother's Day Craft -- photo bookmark

Mother's Day Craft -- photo bookmark

7. Date

Date the back and add a message using a permanent marker.

Mother's Day Craft -- photo bookmark

Done!

They look fantastic! Hilarious!  The photo part of the bookmark sits inside the book, marking the place between reading, and the tassel hangs outside looking all pretty-pretty.

Mother's Day Craft -- photo bookmark

About Kelly

Kelly BurstowKelly loves life at both ends of the spectrum: wearing high heel shoes one day and hiking boots the next; sipping tea out of a pretty cup and slurping hot coffee from a camping mug. She enjoys stopping for a quiet moment to feel the wind on her face and adventuring at every opportunity with her family. Her blog, Be A Fun Mum, is all about loving the little moments in life and celebrating these. Kelly lives in Brisbane, Australia with her husband, four children and pet bird.

A Paper Poppy for ANZAC Day

23 Apr

anzac day poppy craft for kids

ANZAC Day is one of Australia and New Zealand’s most important national days encompassing nationhood, love and loss, and the gratitude and honor given to our servicemen and women.   The poppy has increasingly become a symbol for ANZAC Day, and one that children can easily relate to (read more about the significance of the poppy here).

I believe in the importance of teaching  my children about the history of our country and its people, so my husband and I made a point of visiting the War Memorial Museum in Canberra (Australia) on one of our road trips.  I didn’t expect the flood of emotions that ran through me when I saw The Roll of Honour with my own eyes. Thousands of poppies lined the walls filled with too many names to count, and I felt overwhelmed by the immense loss.

It’s good to remember, and we take the time to do this particularly on ANZAC Day.  A simple paper poppy is one way to mark this important occasion with kids.

poppy canberra war memorial

Make a Paper Poppy

Materials

2 x Red cupcake cases

Green bamboo craft rods or paddle pop stick/green straw (available from craft and discount stores)

Permanent marker (or black texter)

Craft Glue

Instructions

ancaz day craft kids paper poppy

1. Turn the two cupcake cases inside out.

2. Cut a wavy edge — in about 1 cm — around the first cupcake case.

3. Cut a wavy edge — in about 0.5 cm — around the second cupcake cases.

4. Draw a black centre inside the smaller cupcake case.

5. Glue the smaller cupcake case inside the larger one.

6. Glue the flower on to the bamboo rod (or paddle pop stick).

7. Make many and display in a vase or cup.

Tip: To ensure the paper poppies stand apart, use shredded paper or small pebbles in the base of the cup and arrange the flowers to your liking.

Our paper poppies are sitting bright and tall in the kitchen.

Lest We Forget.

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About Kelly

_DSC0490 (2)Kelly loves life at both ends of the spectrum: wearing high heel shoes one day and hiking boots the next; sipping tea out of a pretty cup and slurping hot coffee from a camping mug. She enjoys stopping for a quiet moment to feel the wind on her face and adventuring at every opportunity with her family. Her blog, Be A Fun Mum, is all about loving the little moments in life and celebrating these. Kelly lives in Brisbane, Australia with her husband, four children and pet bird.

our latest fashion looks – now in stores!

11 Apr

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For our Girls – Uptown Girls

Girls follow their hearts with an inspired collection straight off the streets of London. High voltage colours clash, hounds tooth is big and girls can pick and mix from a collage of texture and prints. We’re loving the array of long coats – toggle front, blazer-style and double-breasted perfect over super skinny coloured jeans or print leggings and a rara skirt.

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For our Boys – Rock Rules

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Guys will shout out loud for this fun, rock-inspired collection. A fashion playlist of go-anywhere gear in the latest indie-inspired shades and hip prints.

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There’s a big choice in tops, from raglan tees and polos to mock hoodies with the supporting acts of super stretchy skinny jeans in all the latest colours. We’re loving the latest shirts from mini check to elbow patches – so cool! Note to self, a star cannot be seen without the season must-have baseball or flannel shirt jacket or chunky fairisle cardigan. Rock on.

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 see & shop more @ pumpkinpatchkids.com

Easter Arts & Crafts: Three (Mess Free!) Egg Decorating Ideas

19 Mar

Hi all

We are pleased to introduce our first, our one and only Mum-Blogger Kelly Burstow. Kelly is our super cool Arts & Crafts expert and we are looking forward to sharing more of her fun activities with you.

Three (Mess Free!) Egg Decorating Ideas

Children remember.  Perhaps not always the particulars, but they do remember the fun and joy surrounding significant celebrations like Easter.  When I think back on my own childhood around Easter-time, it’s filled with memories of family fun, leaves of colour falling to the ground, stories of religious significance and peeling pretty foil off solid eggs of chocolate.

I’m sharing potential memory makers today in the form of decorated eggs.  It’s not just craft.  These quick, simple and mess free egg decorating ideas can be instruments for family fun this Easter period, whether it’s taking pretty eggs on an outdoor picnic, decorating the house with the warmth of wool eggs or doing a backyard egg and spoon race.

Temporary Tattoo Egg

The end result is fan-tastic!

Decorate Easter Eggs

Materials

Temporary Tattoos

Boiled Egg

Wet washer

Scissors

Instructions

decorating easter egg with temporary tattoo

1. Cut the tattoo to size.  Keep in mind the tattoo will need to be small enough to fit on the front of an egg.

2. Peel off the protective clear layer on top of the tattoo.

3. Press the tattoo face down on to the egg.

4. Carefully place a wet washer over the back of the tattoo and hold firm for about 10 seconds. Then gently press the washer down over the entire area to transfer the tattoo on the egg shell.

5. Remove the wet backing paper and you’re done!

–> Tip! Lunchbox Fun

My children loved finding this surprise in their lunchbox: tinned corn, apple muffin, cheese sandwich on brown bread, grapes and…pretty Easter Boiled Egg!

decorating easter eggs

Wool Easter Eggs

Easter usually signals the start of the cooler months.  There’s something comforting and rustic about using wool as decoration in the home. Warmth.

Wool Easter Egg

Materials

Plastic Egg (available at craft and discount stores)

Double sided tape

Wool

Instructions

wool Easter egg instructions

1. Work vertically on the egg using strips of double-sided tape until the entire egg is covered.

2. Starting from the tip of the egg, wind the wool around and around. Continue until the entire egg is covered.

3. Double sided tape will hold the wool nicely if the eggs won’t be handled often, or alternatively, use craft glue instead of the double-sided tape for a more permanent option.

–> Tip! Table Decoration

Three or four of these wool eggs in a bowl look adorable in the middle of a table.  Try white wool eggs in a brown woven basket/bowl.

To find out how to turn the wool egg into a cute chicken, visit my post here: Wool Easter Egg Chicken

Permanent Marker or Crayon Eggs

Decorating Easter Eggs with Permanent Marker

Materials

Permanent Marker or crayons

Boiled eggs

Instructions

1. Decorate the egg however you like!

–> Tip! Egg & Spoon Game

Play an egg and spoon race with the colourful eggs in the backyard!

Keeping and Storing

Hard boiled eggs (to eat) need to need to stored in the refrigerator (and shouldn’t be out of the fridge for more than two hours).  If kept in their shells, the eggs will keep in the fridge for a week.

If you don’t plan on eating the decorated hard boiled eggs, display them somewhere in the house at room temperature for a few days before throwing out.

About Kelly

_DSC0490 (2)Kelly loves life at both ends of the spectrum: wearing high heel shoes one day and hiking boots the next; sipping tea out of a pretty cup and slurping hot coffee from a camping mug. She enjoys stopping for a quiet moment to feel the wind on her face and adventuring at every opportunity with her family. Her blog, Be A Fun Mum, is all about loving the little moments in life and celebrating these. Kelly lives in Brisbane, Australia with her husband, four children and pet bird.

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Top Of The Class – back to school essentials & fashion for everyday!

10 Jan

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Fashion & Beauty ideas by Tracy Davis

5 Dec

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Hi there, my name is Tracy Davis. As well as working in the magazine industry for almost 20 years as a fashion and beauty editor, I’ve spent the past 13 years as a mum to my three daughters, Mia (13), and twins Cate and Sophia (11). Each season I look forward to posting my thoughts on a selection of new clothing from Pumpkin Patch – how they look, feel and fit on my girls, as well as sharing some of my favourite beauty tips for mums-on-the-go. Enjoy.

photo 4 (1)Dresses are the cornerstone of any girl’s summer wardrobe and in our house it’s tradition to get a new one (me included!) to wear on Christmas Eve. I know I should have kept them under wraps, but I couldn’t resist letting the girls have their dresses early this year just so we could show you. So on went the dresses, and in went the Justin Bieber Christmas CD, as the girls set about decorating our Christmas tree – a special occasion made even more exciting with a dreamy new dress to wear.
It would be impossible to choose a favourite feature of Cate’s gorgeous tropical number – from the patent pink skinny belt, to the cross-over detail in the back, to the pleated, full skirt with all-important twirl factor – it’s everything a little girl could wish for in a dress.
For classic simplicity, there’s nothing more summery and fresh than a white cotton dress and Sophia’s tiered broderie- anglaise dress is a delightful example. With its comfy elasticated bodice and adjustable straps I think it will look equally pretty worn as a tunic with leggings when it gets too short for her to wear as a dress.
And how adorable is Mia’s lady-like shift dress? Apart from being bang on trend with its lacy overlay, the cute rounded, peter-pan collar sweetens it up just enough for a young teen, and aqua just happens to be her all-time favourite colour.

photo (1)More than just shorts and tees, I love that these pieces are practical enough to let the girls have some serious playtime, yet the clever little detailing like the soft shoulder ruffles, ruched sleeves, and pretty broderie-anglaise straps ensure a feminine, girly feel.
I’m all about keeping little girls as little girls for as long as possible, so I’ve been cringing at the selection of VERY SHORT shorts I’ve been seeing around – however these ones totally get my seal of approval. In particular, Mia was delighted with her floral printed denim shorts – they’ve got a frayed hem, and just the right amount of coverage. I’m so impressed with the designers at Urban Angel –they really get that awkward middle ground where girls’ clothing can start to look a bit too adult and really inappropriate. Plus these shorts still have the fantastic bonus of an adjustable waist. I honestly don’t know how I would have dressed my girls over the years without this much-loved feature – a signature of Pumpkin Patch clothing.

photo 1 The girls had a great time hitting the beach in their new swimwear. Cate swooned over her darling gingham swimsuit – obviously it indulges her obsession for anything pink and ruffled. Tankini-style swimwear is a brilliant invention for Sophia’s athletic nature and this nautical striped one is fresh and sporty, while Mia’s tropical printed one-piece is perfect for boogie-boarding and catching waves in.
We live at the beach and the girls are lucky enough to have good friends in the neighbourhood with pools so between the saltwater and chlorine, our togs gets pretty thrashed. I’ve always found that any swimwear we’ve had from Pumpkin Patch truly lasts the distance though. The kids end up growing out of them rather than wearing them out. A clear sign that practical and pretty, doesn’t mean a compromise in quality!

BEAUTY 101: GET SUMMERISED
I know that being a busy mum can take a toll on your beauty routine, so I’d like to share a few of my favourite Summer-time beauty secrets with you that you’ll easily be able to squeeze into your day …
Multi-task your skincare: These days we’re lucky enough to be able to choose from a wonderful range of products from tinted moisturisers to BB Creams that not only combine powerful anti-aging ingredients with broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection, but actually make our skin look fantastic too. Get into the habit of putting one on every morning after cleansing.
Choose a healthy glow: I’m all for safe, sunless tanning – and the only way to get it is to fake it. Some self-tanners can be tricky and time-consuming to apply so for a simple, speedy option, opt for a gradual tanner. It’s the best way to get a subtle, even, tan – Just apply for a few days until you get the desired amount of colour. Easy.
Show off those legs: The formula for smooth gorgeous legs is easy – exfoliate and moisturise. Do this every day and you’ll really notice a difference in skin tone and softness. No time? No problem – invest in a bottle of moisturising body oil and apply to damp skin in the shower. Hop out and simply pat dry.
Easy holiday hair: Here’s an easy, breezy trick I’ve learnt for a casual summer hair style that works while you sleep. Apply your favourite styling product to the mid-length and ends of damp hair, then put hair into two simple plaits. In the morning take plaits out and loosen with your fingers for cascading summer-waves. Apply a little more product if needed to tame any frizz and boost shine.
I’d love to hear your favourite time-saving beauty tip?

how to talk so kids will listen, and listen so kids will talk – by John Cowan

29 Nov

from Parenting Magazine www.theparentingplace.com

It’s one thing to talk to your children – it’s another to have a receptive audience. John Cowan gets some tips from the experts on being heard and learning to listen.

There are heaps of parenting books. Most have got some good ideas, but there are very few that you enjoy coming back to. Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish wrote such a book: “How To Talk So Kids Will Listen…And Listen So Kids Will Talk.”  I recently reread it, and was amazed at how much of what I had read a decade ago had ‘stuck’. So I realised much of what I believe and teach about parenting came from this book – some of the ideas are so ingrained I honestly thought I had made them up myself!

So here are a few tips on communication. I know they originally came from Faber and Mazlish, but I should warn you that these ideas are coloured and distorted from having spent 10 years fermenting in my brain.

Helping children deal with their feelings

A key concept of the book is based on Dr William Sear’s idea: “A child who feels right, acts right!” Behaviour is a symptom of something going on inside. All kids will occasionally throw up the odd bit of mischief, but if you are enduring persistent, unpleasant, uncooperative behaviour, that child is not feeling well. A child who feels ‘right’ doesn’t need to resort to whiney, aggressive ‘racket behaviour or passive-aggressive sabotage to get their needs met. So how do we help them feel right? One way is to accept their feelings, rather than trying to convince them that they are NOT feeling what they know very well that they ARE feeling.

“You can’t be tired!”

“It’s cold! Keep it on.”

“That didn’t hurt.”

“I’m not interested in your excuses.”

“You don’t look sick to me.”

The overall message we give is, ‘don’t trust your own perceptions – trust mine’. It leads to frustration and arguments. It certainly doesn’t make a child feel loved and accepted. A better response is empathy: feeling what they are feeling. And this is where Faber and Mazlish are brilliant: they don’t just tell you do something (“Be empathetic!”) , they walk you through the process, and use little cartoon examples to show right and wrong was to tackle the issues they raise. So they unpack empathy into three steps: Listen closely, acknowledge their feelings and give their feeling a name. Now, let’s unpack that unpacking:

Listening. We automatically hear the noises our children make but actually listen in a way that is really empathetic takes effort and skill.

 First, actually show that you are listening: lean in, make eye contact and have an appropriate expression. Remove distractions – your kids will never believe you are taking them seriously if you are clicking through channels or scanning a magazine (even a parenting magazine!) while they are talking to you. If they want to talk at an inconvenient time, rather than just saying, “Not now”, make an actual appointment: “I can’t stop at the moment, but I want to hear what you’ve got to say. I’ll come inside after the Fire Brigade have finished and you can tell me then.”

The real heart of empathy is acknowledging their feelings. Language is sometimes inadequate: sympathetic Oooohs and Mmmms are often far more eloquent ways to express that we feel what they’re feeling. Sometimes you might not need any words or sounds at all: closeness and empathy may be enough.

Our body language should say the same thing our words do: if we stand rigid and aloof, it sends a message that we don’t really care. It’s not that complicated, really! Feel the feeling and the body will follow.

Then, give the feeling a name :

“That sounds frustrating.”

“You must have been embarrassed”.

“How confusing.”

Repeat back to them what you understand them to be saying, but don’t be a parrot. Reflect the feelings, but don’t amplify them: “You must be really really REALLY mad!!!”

The aim is to let them know that you hear them, you empathise with their feelings, but you don’t necessarily have to agree with their perceptions of how things are. For example, you can sympathise with their feeling that things are unfair at home, but you don’t need to agree that things are actually unfair. And you don’t have to agree with their negative self labels (“So you’re really fat and ugly.”)

Of course, it is not just our children who have emotions – we have them as well, and sometimes our feelings will be upset when we hear our children express their emotions. What if they say they don’t like their Grandmother, or they hate their bike or they feel the teachers humiliate them? The instinctive reaction is to try to minimise or contradict or criticise their emotion. Wind back your own emotional response: all feelings can be accepted… but not all actions are permitted. They can be upset or angry – that’s permitted – but they cannot hit or damage things or use behaviour that is not permitted.

The book also gives techniques for getting cooperation. I particularly like the way that these methods train children to think and act without needing to be told. These may work in isolation, or you may use several of them in combination.

Describe the issue. Say what you see . It is so much better when they learn to see problems that need to be solved rather than just wait for commands to obey.

“The water is getting to the top of the bath.”

“I see the dog is waiting by the door.”

“There are dirty plates on the table.”

Give information. These might be the rules of your family or just facts about food, hygiene, safety etc. Again, it is encouraging children to think and motivate themselves to action rather just always waiting for orders.

“Apple cores go in the bin.”

“Milk goes sour when it’s left out.”

“Hands are for helping not hitting.”

“It would be helpful to put the plates on the table.”

Say it with a word. Some of us make the mistake of thinking that nagging really works; what it really does is train a child not to act until they have been asked multiple times. Use fewer words with more effectiveness.

“Pyjamas.”

“Your lunch.”

“The dog.”

Personally, I reckon your real goal should be to have the ability to give instructions by ‘eye-brow semaphore’: a flick of the eyes towards what needs to be done combined with an authoritative twitch of the eyebrow!

Talk about your feelings. It’s great when we learn about empathy, but our children need to be trained in it too. They especially need to know that their actions impact your feelings.

“I don’t like to be shoved.”

“Ants bother me.”

“I get frustrated when you talk over me.”

“I object to being spoken to roughly”

Write a note. For those of us who are addicted to nagging, maybe writing notes will help wean us off the habit. A Post It note stuck to their mirror will nag all day for you. In our home, we often use texts, even room to room. Children and teens seem to be unable to ignore texts, whereas they can tune out a parents voice very easily.

“Homework done?”

“Ssh… we’re having a snooze.”

“These need to be put away.”

“Chores.”

“How to Talk So Kids will Listen” is not a magic wand, but it is one of the few tools parents can get that comes close to it!

 

7 reasons parents are doing better than ever – by John Cowan

12 Nov

from Parenting Magazine www.theparentingplace.com

Are parents doing a better job than they were a few years ago? Well EVERYONE KNOWS children today are spoilt, over fed, disobedient, dumbed down, spend too much time on the internet and not enough time doing home work… and of course they all take drugs. So it follows parents today are appalling, a fact quickly confirmed by the majority of in-laws. Actually, I would argue that there are good reasons to believe you are a better parent than many of the parents a generation ago. It’s not hard to find examples of parents doing an appalling job and too many struggle with poverty and other problems but, in general, I think the current crop of parents are great. Here are my reasons:

      1. For a start, you are reading this. Thousands of parents read this and other parenting magazines or browse parenting articles online. Chances are you own parenting books (selected from hundreds of titles available) and you have probably been toparenting courses. I would safely wager you consciously up-skill yourself as a parent far more than your parents’ generation, simply because they never had the opportunity. When I started with The Parenting Place (then called Parenting with Confidence) in the midnineties, we were practically the only parenting organisation on the block. Resources were scarce: we imported books, magazines and speakers from overseas. Parenting education was something a school might occasionally attempt to put on, and these events were usually attended by about three parents, usually the mothers of the best behaved kids in the school.

      2. The second thing I would say in defence of modern parents is that Dads are taking their role more seriously. “WHICH men!?” you might snort derisively. Okay, my gender has a long way to go – Mums are still shouldering the lioness’s share of the parenting burden – but at least we are now feeling guilty about it. They are less shackled by stale masculine stereotypes and are conscious that they need to be involved with their kids. I’ve often met new dads who are quick to show off their prowess at looking after their infant. As the years have gone on I am delighted to see the proportion of men attending our events increase, and our Fathers’ Breakfasts are full of men earnestly wanting to do better.

      3. When I was a kid we rode in the back of utes, never wore helmets on bikes, played unsupervised around creeks and railway lines and had a hearty disregard for hygiene and safety. It was a great childhood… at least for those of us who survived it. Of course, most of us survived just fine, but the statistics definitely show that some didn’t; it was a more dangerous world for children back then. Actually, there are still far too many accidents. Compared with Australian children, our kids are twice as likely to die from injuries and three times as likely as children in England and Wales. If today is an average day, ten kiwi kids will suffer moderate to severe injuries and one child dies from injuries every five days(1). But that rate is a half of what it was in the early nineties(2) and less than a quarter of the rate in my childhood. Well done parents! When it comes to child abuse, the rates are far higher than decades ago, but I think this might in part reflect that it is tolerated less and is reported more

      4. Parents today think more about parenting and have a more sophisticated approach to parenting problems. I cannot cite any research on this but I have had a ringside seat in observing family life over many years, and I am impressed by the competence and knowledge of modern parents. When I was young, there were only two types of bread – white and brown – and only two types of child behaviour – good and naughty. Many in my era were just labelled naughty or stupid, and were whacked and punished, when in fact they may well have had ADHD, learning problems or psychological issues. Parents are much more prepared to look for reasons for behaviour, and to seek solutions apart from punishment. And when they go looking, they can find all sorts of help: school counsellors, psychologists, support agencies and parenting courses. Parents today benefit from the input of hundreds of professionals and dozens of agencies, and I believe they are making a huge difference

     5. I think kids are getting a better education today and parents can take some of the credit. Parents get more involved in education, volunteering and taking an interest. Parents are prepared to support children in their education longer, provide more resources and access extra coaching. Some would say that modern education has been dumbed down, and find old exam papers to show how much more advanced students were in the past. But they are not comparing apples with apples. There were around 1000 pupils in my high school back in the seventies. About half of them left in the fifth form (Year 11); there were only 17 students in the whole seventh form (year 13). Yes, the average senior student was probably better educated and doing more advanced work in my day, simply because all but the most academic had already been weeded out

       6. Parents have always loved their kids – I don’t doubt that for a moment. But it is lovely seeing a generation of parents who don’t mind showing it. “I love you” was something we saw American parents saying to their kids on TV programmes; in good old New Zealand we were a little more reserved, and saved stuff like that for our death beds. As I say, I am not implying that modern parents love their kids more, but I think they are definitely better at showing it.

      7. Parents are older today. I know, we are all older than we were yesterday, but what I mean is that couples are often delaying having children. The median age of first-time mothers has risen from 23 years old in the seventies to nearly 31 in recent years. Compared with young couples who leap straight into procreation, older parents tend to have more money, a bit more maturity and a relationship that has already been road-tested for a few years before subjecting it to the stress of parenthood. Families are also smaller, and though I’m not convinced it makes a huge difference, it probably means there is more to go around.

Please don’t use this article as grounds to boast to your parents that you are a better parent than they were (even if it is true!), but I hope you feel encouraged.

1 Source ACC.
2 http://www.nzchildren.co.nz/hospital_admissions.16 Parenting Spring 2012 php#Footnote_1

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