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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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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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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.

7 Steps To A Happier Family – by Andrea Stringer

6 Mar

from Parenting Magazine http://www.theparentingplace.com/

To me, the phrase Happy Families brings to mind a cheesy board game, matching sweaters and cups of hot chocolate. Too-cute kids gaze adoringly at their wise and capable parents who deal with everything calmly and most certainly never raise their voices. If you suspect this is what I want to help you achieve, please let me reassure you! What I want to write about is families like my own, and the ones that I coach. Families with flaws, quirks, and issues – in other words, inhabitants of the real world. When parents come to see a Family Coach, one of the most common goals they voice is for everyone to be happier. But it’s incredible how difficult such a simple sounding goal can be to achieve. When things are going right, however, I think the following seven elements are usually in place.

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A hierarchy of power, with the parents at the top, sometimes seems like a terribly old-fashioned idea. But, in a happy family everyone knows exactly where they stand and they’re comfortable with it. These days most people prefer that the children have some say over family matters, are listened to, and their feelings are truly heard. I couldn’t agree more. The problem with this philosophy is that parents sometimes lose their footing as they scramble to make sure the kids are getting the respect they deserve.

Parents have got to be willing to wear their authority, a kind but a firm authority, from time to time. When we get too focussed on the goal of short-term happiness (eg. giving in, backing down or withholding reasonable discipline), then the issue of who is really in charge will be repeatedly tested – even more so if you have one or more determined or argumentative child in your brood.

The great thing about everyone knowing their place is that we can relax. We don’t need to apologise for taking charge, we don’t need the continual wrestle for control that can seriously compromise a family’s happiness.

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A common argument in the debate around teasing and bullying is that we don’t want our children to grow up thinking everyone has to be nice to them, all the time. Of course we don’t want our kids to be so defenceless that they crumble at the first insult. This might be why a fair amount of name-calling and unkind behaviour is allowed to go on in families, mostly between siblings but also between parents and children. Parents could be forgiven for thinking that family is a safe place for a bit of ribbing and learning to cope with jibes. I think that up to a certain point this is true. Recent research conducted in New Zealand however, indicates that the teasing that hurts the most comes from the ones we’re closest to, our family.

Families who are unhappy have often let this one slip away on them without even realising. Often in the face of bigger interpersonal issues, words such as stupid or idiot can fly under the radar. You don’t like hearing it, but you let it go because it’s the least of your worries. But how we talk to one another, is one of the biggest determinants of a close and loving family feeling, and it is so worth the effort to make your family a put-down free zone. It takes vigilance and consistency. Sometimes it will feel as though you’re making a big deal about something that might not matter much, but creating a family environment where people feel safe from emotional harm really does matter.

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When everyone is too busy, or too focussed on simply getting through the day, it seems that one of the first things we drop is the family sense of humour. It’s such a shame that we tend to treat fun, laughter, and adventure as luxuries which we’d get around to if only we could. The truth is that all of these things keep body, soul and spirit healthy, bring family members closer together and help them feel better about each other, themselves, and life in general.

If you haven’t had a good laugh together lately, ask yourself why, and what you can do about it. There might be a game or movie that always sees everyone dissolve into fits of giggles. If there is, then do it regularly! The irony of course is that you need this stuff most when you feel like it least. But trust me, when the kids are getting up your nose and they’re the last people in the world you feel like spending time with – do something fun together. Go somewhere you’ve never been, even in your own neighbourhood. Try hard to see and point out the humour in the silly, mundane, or annoying parts of life. This won’t always be the easy option, of course, it’s usually much easier to stay serious and grumpy. That’s why you have to decide to make an investment in the happiness bank of your family.

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steps to a happier family-10People in happy families, as a general rule, know the importance of flexibility. It’s really heartbreaking to meet with parents who might be absolutely desperate to have things at home be different, and yet they can’t or won’t admit they could look at the problem from another angle or adjust their own behaviour.

There is hope for the control freaks among us, if only we can get comfortable with the fact that we won’t always have the right answer first time. We also have to be willing to adjust an expectation we had of our child, partner, or ourselves. It’s amazing how far our disappointment can take us when we feel a family member is not behaving or coping at the level we expect them to. In the face of repeated evidence to the contrary, we’ll complain to anyone who’ll listen “He KNOWS how to do this!”, or “She KNEW better than to behave like that!”. A flexible thinker stops and reassesses, and also gives the people they love the benefit of the doubt. “If you knew how, you’d be doing it already, so how can I help you learn this?”.

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I think all families probably struggle to connect at times due to the pressures of time, work, and activity overload. On top of that, as children get older their personalities will take them in very different directions. They might prefer different kinds of jokes, books, movies, or one will play every sport going while the other might want to draw all day. If we’re constantly in different spheres, perhaps with Mum and Dad tag-teaming to make sure everyone gets where they need to go, then where is the sense of family?

Happy families build in an atmosphere of mutual support for everyone by making a deliberate choice to be actively interested in each other. Saturday morning soccer might bore you rigid but you need to be there at least some of the time. And if you can’t be there, ask questions afterwards that show your child a curiosity for their world. Your little introvert might seem so happy in the corner immersed in their books, but if you went over and asked what they were reading, and which character was their favourite, and if you could borrow it to have a read yourself, they’ll be (quietly) over the moon. At the very least, family meal times can be used to reconnect, ask questions, and catch up on everything you’ve missed.

By taking an interest in your child’s world, you teach them to take an interest in yours, building a sense of mutual care and concern that keeps both kids and parents happy.

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In a happy family people are allowed to make mistakes. I think this is one that is easy to get right on paper. We say all the right things, but what is the emotional atmosphere like when someone gets it wrong? Body language and facial expression will say so much more than the words. There is a fine balance to be struck between having high expectations and encouraging children to do their best, and a level of perfectionism that attracts shame and guilt when expected standards aren’t met. The most powerful way to send a healthy message is in how we treat ourselves and our partners when we stuff up. Is forgiveness and acceptance of human error regularly practised?

It seems to me that children will often struggle to move forward and change their behaviour while they feel their parents’ disappointment laying heavy over them. It’s not just children who need to know they’re ‘OK’ before they can begin to act differently, we all feel safer, happier, and more secure when we know that we’re accepted just as we are, warts and all.

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Have you ever heard the suggestion that we should basically live in bikinis because we will never be as young or in such good shape as we are RIGHT NOW? Well, I’m not sure about that, but if you haven’t looked through some family photo albums recently, do it soon, because there’s no better reminder that your children will never be as young again as they are RIGHT NOW. We toil so hard to work, clean, improve our homes, and prepare for the future – that magical time when everything will finally be as we’ve been planning for it to be. We’ll have the free time to see people, do things, and have all that elusive fun we’ve been preparing for.

If we don’t fully appreciate that we are actually IN what are potentially the best moments of our lives, right now, then we will always be one step behind the full happiness that family life has to offer. Some people call it living in the moment. I don’t recommend doing it constantly or you’d wander from room to room experiencing everything so intensely that you’d never get out of your pyjamas. But do make sure that every day you stop at least once and abandon yourself to the enjoyment of dancing, playing a game, even having a simple conversation with your children, and with your partner. Because of course, these are the moments that create your family’s happiness, but if we don’t notice it happening, then we miss it.

Maybe one or more of these steps has reminded you of something you’d like to work on. I hope so because going over them has made me want to work harder at all seven! Do remember we’re real people, though. No family (that I’ve met anyway) is happy all of the time, and they shouldn’t worry if they’re not. We do the best we can. And that’s often good enough for a happy family.

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Family Meal Times

25 Feb

from Parenting Magazine http://www.theparentingplace.com/

Eating together as a family has the potential to be one of your best activities and one that reaps some pretty good rewards.

Meal times have become harder to arrange and there are lots of other pressures competing for your time and focus. However, there really isn’t much else that can compete in terms of value and benefits.

Research from both nutritionists and family life professionals shows families who eat together more than four times a week, reap these benefits:
• More nutritious meals and knowledge of basic cooking skills
• Opportunities to practice social skills and table manners
• Improved family communication
• A greater sense of community and family values
• Stronger family traditions

Children who eat regularly at home:
• Are less likely to smoke, use drugs or alcohol
• Perform better in school
• Have a lower rate of teen pregnancy
• Are less likely to develop weight problems

A University of Michigan study showed family meal time was the single strongest predictor of better achievement scores and fewer behaviour problems.
Some families would argue that having a meal together is not a lot of fun, but there are certain ingredients that foster fun and closeness. Create an atmosphere that is warm and friendly. Your family will test the value of the mealtime on how it ‘felt’ and how much it was enjoyed.

Keys to help make this time memorable;
• Create ‘buy in’ by sometimes letting the children help choose what to have for dinner, prepare part of the meal and set the table.gp_family_meal_times.pdf
• Set some easy to keep rules for mealtimes such as: the child who set the table gets to choose where to sit. Adopt Monday as the special day to focus on manners. Eg. We stay seated on our bottoms, we don’t talk with food in our mouths, and we ask before we get down from the table.
• Every meal needs a start. Some families take turns in who wants to say grace and other families begin the meal with a thank you to the cook. Everyone should be seated before you start.
• Each member should practice saying something positive about the meal. Children may naturally dislike some foods and they can learn to share this respectfully, not rudely.
• Opportunities to talk are essential. Some families play ‘The highs and lows of the day’ where each person talks about the best part and the worst part of the day. To keep this flowing – use the pepper shaker and move it around to each person. Another great way to create a fun atmosphere is to use ‘Talk Triggers’ and have a special box in the table that these unique questions can sit in. Everyone gets to pick one random trigger and answer the question.
• Have certain times when there are candles on the table, when you use the special dinner set, have menus made, put on a favourite CD, and a vase of flowers on the table.
• If someone cannot be present at the first course, wait and all eat dessert together. If it is difficult to arrange dinner time, make a special event out of morning tea, afternoon tea or supper.
• Have times of celebration. You might focus on a school achievement, sporting success, completion of a task, area of effort, or willingness to give something a go. The ‘Red Plate’ can be awarded at times like this and the recipient gets to eat off this plate. Some children find it hard to accept the disappointment of not getting the accolade. This is a wonderful opportunity to coach your children to remember, “When something good happens to someone else be glad for them, not sad for yourself”. Mums and Dads should also be awarded ‘The Red Plate’ when they have done well at something!

Studies show that one of the positives about eating with the television off is that children eat healthier meals.

If the television is off, and phones are not invited to the meal, you are more likely to reach a greater level of communication.

gp_family_meal_times.pdf

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