Tag Archives: mums

The Perfectionist Child

9 Jul

PM48_perfectionist child-2.jpg

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

PM48_perfectionist child-1.jpg

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.

PM48_perfectionist child-3.jpg

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.

PP_Logo_round_E_grey425- for websites

The Power of Praise- John Cowan investigates

29 May

 pm53_ThePowerOfPraise-1.jpg     

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.

pm53_ThePowerOfPraise-7.jpg

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.

pm53_ThePowerOfPraise-2.jpg

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.

pm53_ThePowerOfPraise-3.jpg

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.”

 pm53_ThePowerOfPraise-5.jpg

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.

pm53_ThePowerOfPraise-4.jpg

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.

pm53_ThePowerOfPraise-6.jpg

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.

PP_Logo_round_E_grey425- for websitestpp-youtube

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.

steps to a happier family-2

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.

steps to a happier family-3

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.

steps to a happier family-4

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.

steps to a happier family-5

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?”.

steps to a happier family-6

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.

steps to a happier family-7

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.

steps to a happier family-9

steps to a happier family-8

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.

PP_Logo_round_E_grey425- for websitestpp-youtube

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

PP_Logo_round_E_grey425- for websitestpp-youtube

The Boys’ Club

12 Dec

from Parenting Magazine www.theparentingplace.com

John Cowan on boys, what makes them tick, and what they need to learn and grow.

I have had very little experience of being a girl, but I have been a boy for a long time, and so I thought I would share a few scattered insights into what I have discovered to be particularly useful about myself and my fellow boys. By the way, don’t be deceived by the receding hairlines and business shirts: you don’t have to peel back many layers of your typical bloke before you discover there is still a boy inside. Things that peel back those layers include motorbikes, flames, sport and I’ll end the list here as my wife will be reading this.

pm51_BoysClubPages-1

I have already dropped into using stereotypes, and some stereotypes are just plain wrong, especially the ones based on Tom Sawyer and beer commercials. An article on boys has to deal with generalities and features common to many boys, but it may not describe your lad at all well. Boys are different from girls, definitely; but boys are also very different from each other, and should be encouraged to be. Sometimes parents (Dads especially?) see masculine stereotypes as being some sort of code for our boys, something they have to follow to be true men: don’t show emotion, winning fights proves your masculinity, work hard, protect women etc. etc. Not all negative, but probably not all that helpful. Stereotypes can be descriptive, but they shouldn’t be prescriptive.

.One of the stereotypes is that boys are basically cavemen. They may pong at times and have feral manners, they might fight and do reckless dangerous things, but don’t assume that boys are insensitive, empty headed and only have three basic emotions: mad, glad and sad. Parents sometimes confuse an inability to communicate with nothing to communicate. Girls are definitely streets ahead of boys, communication-wise: they acquire language earlier and maintain that advantage. They have a much better vocabulary whereas boys like me are just, yunno, thingy. There is a lot going on in their heads, but they have neither the words to describe it nor a repertoire of behaviours to express it appropriately. A boy might feel confused, alienated, conflicted, passionate … and yet it all might look like anger to an observer. A boy might appear distressed but be unable to tell you why – but there’s the clue right in front of you: he appears upset. Read your boy’s body language and demeanour. The way he walks, the set of shoulders, the clouds that cross his expression: these are seldom meaningless. He might not be able to make the right words, and he might not be ready to absorb many of your words yet either, so use the same non-verbal language he is using: use your closeness, your hugs and you accepting expression to communicate your care and concern.

There are other clues about his internal world as well. For example, you can deduce a lot about how he thinks about himself by the friends he chooses to hang out with. His self-esteem determines whom he gravitates towards. If your boy tends to hang out with confident boys who are full of drive, then that is how he sees himself; likewise, if he tends to associate more with boys who retire to the background, that could be an insight into his self-esteem as well.

Some lines of questioning may lock boys up even more. “Why?” questions are particularly useless. “Why did you go on the internet when I told you not to?” “Why did you hit your brother?” The right answer to questions like that is, of course, “Dunno”. Similarly, asking a boy how he feels is likely to be fruitless. Instead, parenting guru Michael Grose suggests asking them what they think instead. Ask a boy for his opinion about something and you will usually get some pretty clear insights into what he is feeling.

 pm51_BoysClubPages-text1What motivated me as a boy? The same thing as every other boy – a desperate desire to be liked and approved of. When a boy has a cheering team (even if it only has one person in it) he does so much better. He will notice that you came to his school concert, and even though he never seems to look at you from the stage, he will notice if you listened to every piece or got bored and read emails on your phone. It is an incredible tonic knowing that he matters to you and you take an interest in him, but don’t expect him to know how to express that. In fact he might even act embarrassed by you afterwards as you are exiting with all the other parents and kids, and tell you off for taking too many pictures or clapping too loudly. Many boys are conflicted: they love to be honoured by you but hate to stand out in any way as different from their mates. I remember at least two parents mentioning how their boys were doing really well at school, until they received some prize or recognition at an assembly. They were so embarrassed their performance fell right back. “It’s cool to be a fool” is still part of the culture for many boys.

 Boys love the respect and favour of older guys and men. This can be great: if they are good role models and mentors, your boys will ‘download the software’ to be a good man from them. I think that it is great that most boys stay in school until they are 18 to get a good education, but it does delay the time when they meet and work alongside older men until much later in their lives. Their world is full of similarly-aged peers and I think it is delaying the maturation and character development of our young men. My recommendation is that you engineer opportunities for your boys to interact with good men. As a young teenager, I can remember when my Dad took me away on a fishing trip with his mates. I thought they were a bit of a boring bunch of old guys, but I did feel so grown up going away with the men, and grateful that my Dad gave me that experience.  Involve them in the communities you interact with. Take them to your workplace. Get them involved in sports, social and hobby clubs. Have parties at your place and, instead of letting them hide on their Playstation, get them involved taking around refreshments and food. Draw them into conversations with your friends and ask their opinions.

Be clear on this, too: older males can have powerfully negative influence on your young boys as well. Older boys are a common feature in younger boys being introduced to drugs and alcohol, porn and other mischief. Sometimes the boys most vulnerable to negative influences are boys who have difficulty fitting in with their peers, and will do anything to be accepted. A huge part of parenting is shepherding the influences in our kids’ lives and keeping our supervision and instincts switched on.

That desire to be liked has been linked to why boys underperform at school. A simple and not surprising fact is that teachers prefer girls. Of course there are many teachers who love teaching boys but, on average, both male and female teachers would rather have girls in the class – neater work, quieter, more cooperative … who could blame them? Dr Bonny Hartley’s research in the UK showed that boys believed their teachers thought they were ‘dumber’ than girls, and came to believe it about themselves as well. If a boy picks up he is not liked by a teacher, the feeling is likely to be reciprocated. Australian educator Ian Lillicoe sees this as vital: “If a girl doesn’t like her teacher, she can still can get around her teacher to get to the subject; but for boys, if they hate the teacher, they’ll hate the subject.” As psychologist Steve Biddulph says, “Boys learn teachers and not subject.”

What kinds of teachers bring out the best in boys? According to Lillicoe:

  1. Boys love teachers with a sense of humour.
  2. They hate it when teachers aren’t fair, such as punishing a group for one child’s wrongdoing.
  3. They love it when teachers love their subject. Ian Lillicoe mentioned he had a maths teacher at high school who used to weep at a beautiful maths solution. They thought he was nuts, but five boys in his class became maths teachers, including himself.
  4. Boys love to hear stories.pm51_BoysClubPages-text2

I was one of four boys (and one girl), and my wife and I have two boys (and one girl). I’ve put both of those girls in parentheses because the boys feel safer that way. It is my opinion (unpolluted by anything like research evidence) that girls who grow up surrounded by boys seem to be remarkably resilient and somewhat daunting to their brothers. That’s a key point: boys are more comfortable with other boys. As a toddler, a boy is probably just as happy playing with girls as boys, but from about four years of age, when the testosterone really comes on stream, his preference is very clear. He will still play with girls, but only if there are no boys to play with. Both boys and girls form samesex gangs, but boys defend the boundaries of their gangs more ferociously. It has to be a remarkable girl who can join in with a boy gang, and a boy who defects to play with girls risks severe mocking. I remember in our primary school playground we would lock arms and walk around in a row recruiting other boys to play, singing “Who-wants-to-play, cowboys-and-Indians, but-no- girls.” I’m sure that type of chauvinism would be banned in the playground now (cowboys and Indians is probably too racist and violent by today’s standards as well), but the preference for same sex company remains, peaking at about eight years of age. At puberty, their attitude to girls changes; in fact, it is amazing how quickly they go from being afraid of girl germs, to actually being at risk of catching them. But even though they are now fascinated by and attracted to girls, most males will be at their most relaxed in the company of other blokes.

Boys definitely do better with male teachers. The reasons might be quite simple: as well as tolerating boy restlessness and noisiness better, male teachers speak more loudly, more slowly and with fewer words than their female colleagues, which suits the slower auditory processing of boys. Are single sex schools (or single sex-classrooms) better for boys? For some boys, they are undoubtedly better off.

pm51_BoysClubPages-4A four-year long Cambridge university study found that single-sex class-rooms (even with co-ed schools) were remarkably effective in boosting boys’ performance, particularly in English and foreign languages. “We don’t just do war poems and Macbeth, we do Wordsworth too. It’s a challenge, in a way, which Mr J sets us to show the girls we’re capable of doing it, but I couldn’t talk about these things if there were girls there!” (Interestingly, a same-sex scenario produced a similar improvement for girls studying maths and science). A case sometimes made against single sex schools is that the resulting ‘macho’ culture is very hard on boys who do not fit the normal ‘boy’ stereotype, for example, boys who are not keen on sport. If this still happens, I think it is more likely to be the result of the school culture rather than boy culture. The Cambridge study showed that gender-atypical boys actually fared better in a same sex class or school: “These ‘nonmacho’ boys told us – without exception – that they felt at ease and comfortable, that they did not experience bullying or aggressive behaviour from other boys, and that they were not intimidated by the atmosphere in all-boys’ classes.”

Maybe a single-sex school isn’t an option for you, or one you reject for the reasonable reason that you want your boy to learn how to interact with girls in a more normal context. But if your boy is struggling academically, do consider hiring a male (maybe a senior student) as coach in the subjects he is struggling in.

 

 

on boys, what makes them tick, and what they need to learn and grow.

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!

 

%d bloggers like this: