Reflecting on Connecting....

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My new umbrella....
My son (3 yrs) had been asking for his own umbrella for three or four months. I put off buying one and let him use mine when we picked up his brothers from school and it was raining. Finally, I bought one, it was on sale (of course) and it had been raining for two weeks (yes the rain did stop after I bought it) nonetheless he was so proud of his new umbrella.

I watched him that afternoon as he walked – no, ran up to school and as soon as some girls (around his age) arrived with their umbrellas, he rushed up to them shouting out proudly “me got me umbrella”. The girls stared. They did not understand what the excitement was about but he continued “me got me umbrella” and tried to stand around close to the group so they would include him. They didn’t – he wasn’t put off but it did make me think about his behaviour. How he behaved is a crucial element of what makes us human, it is not as obvious in adults but there nonetheless.

While most adults don’t parade a new umbrella... the need to feel socially included, accepted and valued is a human one. It doesn’t necessarily mean we want others continued approval but we do want to connect.
Just a few minutes on Facebook and you will find groups or pages for almost anything you want to. These pages or groups offer us that common interest and we all have something we can relate to. Perhaps, a holiday destination, a band you like, a place you’ve lived, a church, or an interest in wine, parenting or toys, being a parent of a newborn or preschool age child or school age child or teenager or young adult there are these groups we belong to in life, being a professional. People who share common experiences or passions or interests and these are the things that our inclusion and belonging is founded on.

I’ve made some special friendships this past year and mostly through connecting with people via Facebook. I love doing what I do at home and for families. I have found myself in good company with like minded people. People who cherish their families, their children, their marriages or relationships. People who want to reach their potential and discover what they can accomplish personally and with their children. It’s in connecting that we find what our values are – and more about who we are – by who we choose to associate with and who it is that will allow us, drive us and celebrate with us on our journey. A huge thank you to all of you... friends, followers, fans – whatever you are called it doesn’t matter – you are a Parent with Potential and we look forward to another year of shared experiences.
What do you share in common with others and pages you associate with?

Making praise work:

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Children are motivated by parental acceptance and approval which has been linked with good self-esteem. The most common way of displaying our acceptance and approval is through praise. Praise and encouragement often leads to more positive behaviour and in this article explores how to avoid the pitfalls of too much praise.

Make praise specific: Does your child know how they have pleased you? Try to notice specific improvements your child is making and comment on those, focus on what or how they have done something. Instead of saying a broad statement like “ good job” elaborate by saying what you noticed “I noticed how you shared your toys today with _____________” “you got dressed all by yourself – that’s great”.

Provide praise that encourages the potential for the child to talk about the experience of what they have done “You looked so happy when you were dancing on the stage” this allows them to think about their feelings and analyse their own efforts.

Also being aware that some children don’t like praise to be given publicly, so if you have a child who is more gentle in nature or quiet, he/she may benefit from more individual praise.

If your child is constantly looking for your approval, acknowledgement or praise for everything they do, make or create - here are some strategies to allow children to develop their self-acknowledgement skills:

Try to lead into the praise with a question: This will hopefully get them to think more consciously, for themselves, about what they have achieved and give you an idea of what to praise them for if it is appropriate. Your child calls you to see what they have created - You reply
“Oh I see you’ve built ______________ out of lego, what do you like most about it?” “Which part of your picture do you like best?”

Help children to develop their own sense of satisfaction and self-acknowledgement, hopefully they can draw on that experience in the future when faced with the same situation. “How did it feel when you did that?”

Comments are always welcome so leave them here.

Learning at home... Rethinking Praise...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Yesterday my son, on the way to school, was talking about a boy in his class and my son made the statement that “M* in my class is really smart”. Interesting my son doesn’t use the word “smart” but I asked him “what makes M* smart?” and my son replied, “because he says he is. Oh and he can do his times tables really fast.”

I took a deep breath as I realised what my son lacks is the belief in himself . He is popular, friendly has a great sense of humour and doesn’t have a bad self esteem or lack confidence but – he doesn’t believe in himself. I have done everything I have been told to do, praise him when he does something good, encourage his strengths, commend him when he is proud of something he has made or wants to show me, but what I have not seen, until now, is how this has limited his overall belief in himself.

Perhaps it is not enough to stay focused on what my child can do and rather I should be broadening the scope of praise. Obviously this other child’s parent’s have their child believing that he is smart while my son knows what his limitations are and despite his capability - will this limit his overall expectations of himself? I don’t think he is going to be able to expect more of himself if I cannot get him to believe he “can” in all things.

In my attempts to make my son ‘well rounded’ and wanting to motivate my child in areas that aren’t quite his natural ability- does this make him feel stupid? Does this make him feel inferior?

I was touched by this quote, found on a friend’s page yesterday and given the discussion I had had with my son earlier in the day it seemed to all make sense. ‎"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."-Albert Einstein.

So, I’ll be changing the way I speak to my son for a while and perhaps permanently – I will start to praise him for who he is, I will find words that give him more ‘power’. I’m starting to think that perhaps individual praise for only certain things is too limiting. Should we be praising the ‘whole’ child? Perhaps praising is incorrect- perhaps it should just be believing in what you want to see and allowing them (our children) the opportunity to believe it too.

Imagination and language are powerful human resources. May these resources not be limited by our capacities to believe in ourselves.

Changing... Adapting...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Change happens, sometimes we have a choice and we choose to make change happen and sometimes change is somewhat ‘forced’ upon us.
We have three choices, deny it, resist it or go with it - with the eventual result being to adapt to it.

A few things to remember about change and adapting to change is that we will all handle change differently. Some of us will be able to go with the flow, others of us may wait and watch while the change happens. Some of us want to be involved in the change and try to organise how the change will happen and plan for the change. Others once again may feel the stress of the change and it may ‘numb’ us into doing nothing. All these are our ways of dealing with change. None of these responses are wrong – they are individual.

If you are considering change or considering changing something, there is only one thing that assists in our adapting to change and that is consciously making the decision. If you are ambivalent about the change, then it will hinder the ‘adapting’. If the change is forced on you, then attempt to ‘own’ it, you may be resistant at first but by opening yourself to the change you can plan and be involved in the change, thus strengthening yourself and allowing yourself the opportunity for growth.

Most people can look back over the years and identify a time and place at which their lives changed significantly. Whether by accident or design, these are the moments when, because of a readiness within us and a collaboration with events occurring around us, we are forced to seriously reappraise ourselves and the conditions under which we live and to make certain choices that will affect the rest of our lives. - Frederick F. Flack

The Rollercoaster

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Life with children is like a rollercoaster ride, once we decide to have children, we need to buckle ourselves in and depending on what you think of rollercoasters –go with it, , enjoy it or scream through it.
Some days with my children, the rollercoaster is a gentle ride , other days I’m pulled from side to side and sometimes it’s like I’m pushed to the edge and higher and higher waiting for the downhill rush.
There are emotions that come with being on a rollercoaster, fear, excitement, sometimes relief and sometimes joy, the feeling when it’s over that “oh, that wasn’t so bad” and sometimes we even choose “let’s do it again”.
What part of the rollercoaster are you on? Rollercoaster rides are exciting and thrilling, scary and sometimes after a full day it can be tiring but life would be boring without them!

A little lesson I learnt about boys again.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Don’t repeat something that may be embarrassing for a boy.
Whatever their age – this is a lesson l will bear this in mind as my sons get older.

My 9yo was at a father and son camp over the weekend and my 8 yo was asking when is his brother coming back. “Mum come play with me.”, “When are they getting back?”, “What time will they be here?”.

Well on my son’s return they were watching television and I sat next to them and casually said to my oldest son – “Hey, your brother kept asking for you – he must have missed you!”
My 8yo son quickly interjected –“I was only asking when he’d come home so I could kick him on his butt”.... mmm. I kept quiet – my oldest son and I shared a knowing smile. In that moment I learnt quickly that although I interpreted correctly – I should not have let on to his brother how he feels. Hopefully, it won’t stop him sharing things in the future but I will be more considerate because my son wants to be perceived as “macho” not “emo” and some things/feelings are embarrassing for some boys.

They have played beautifully (another mummy word - don't tell the boys) this week. Does absence make the heart grow fonder... I wonder?

A Testing Time

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

After another rush to the emergency department again, it’s clear that what ‘my child has..’ is not going away anytime soon and it is going to be a part of our lives for the next few years. Anything as simple as a cold or virus could mean a hospital stay for my 3yo. During this most recent, thankfully, shorter stay –I thought I would reflect on some things I am learning going through this testing time.
In hospital, hours can seem like minutes or they can seem like days. The majority of the time I spent crying, this could probably be attributed to the lack of sleep and the feeling of helplessness and fear of not knowing and not being able to control what is happening.

I am also grieving the ‘normality’, the simplicity and order of things as they were, just 5 weeks ago, is now gone. Life during this testing time is going to be a daily battle, a constant concern and at times a real juggling act with my two older children.
It is the sense of responsibility that weighs heavily and it is in this testing time that I have to learn through and from experience. I have to somehow, according to my doctor, be able to predict how my son is going to be in the next 12 hours – like a weatherman I guess. However, with no instruments and no previous experience or training. Only my instincts which currently aren’t “in tune” as well as I would like them to be, a little overloaded by emotions and met with only bits of information that don’t quite all fit together yet. There is no program to follow, no security and at times it feels out of my control. Feels?, it is out of my control.

So far I am learning:

Lesson 1: I have to take one day at a time – not planning too far ahead because I don’t know if something will come up unexpectedly.

Lesson 2: Expect the unexpected, expect that not everything is going to go according to plan or how I would like it to be.

Lesson 3: It’s ok to feel uncertain and unsure, I am learning as I go and hopefully and thankfully I have supportive people around me.

Lesson 4: Take offers of help, very important and make contingency plans, this I can control.

Lesson 5: Continue to look for positives – yes I have worries but I have faith too and that is where strength, resolution and wisdom comes from.

Your child has....

Monday, October 11, 2010

These are three words no parent wants to hear.
Your child has ..... before anything else is just frightening, shocking and at times even saddening. Yes, it could also be positive but most often it is used in situations that aren’t.

What my child has, is not life threatening, fortunately, and it is treatable. Our parental instincts are to protect our children and we want them to grow up and old and happy and be all they can be. It was difficult to hear “Your child has...” and not think of the worst case or think I could have done something to prevent this or what will I do now.

My first reaction was based on preconceived ideas, things I’d heard or seen on television. It has taken some time and encouragement from hospital staff and my husband to put what my child has into real perspective and allow my child to resume some of the ‘normal’ things he was doing before, without constantly asking him “are you ok?”, “can you breath?”,“should you be doing that?” . Hopefully with some more education and information seeking on my part, and talking about it with others, which has been very reassuring, over time this will become "my child only has..".
On a side note, I do find talking with others very encouraging and hearing how they have dealt with a similar experience is helpful - especially when I don't know what to expect or look for. It is by raising our own circumstance that we find others who have been there before us and alot of the time we are not the first to experience something.

My thoughts are with all parents whose children need some special care and attention. I’d love to hear how you deal with it?

The difference between boys and girls

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

This is becoming more evident and real for me since I am the only female in a family of 5.

On Sunday night we went out as a family to dinner, the table number stand had a pivot base and stood up about 10 cms with a clip at the top. Just before dessert, I started moving the top and turning it, then handing it over to my son (age 7), I said “here you go, why don’t you drive this like a car?” (as it looked like a gear lever to me). My son’s eyes lit up, “No, it’s a plane and it shoots”, there he sat turning the top and making shooting sounds, while I sat amazed and enchanted by his imagination which is obviously totally different to mine.

A similar thing had happened two weeks ago. I walked into my children’s playroom to find their whiteboard filled with words, written in neat columns. I thought to myself, wow, my boys have been hard at work learning and how great it was they found another use for the whiteboard. I remarked to my boys, “I see there a list of words on the whiteboard, that’s great work, fantastic, which of you wrote them?” My eldest son (age 9) says, “G* did that.” G* is a friend from school, a girl, who had come to play the day before. Mmm, backtrack mum, “Oh that’s great", I responded. Well the list lasted four days before being wiped clean by my boys and making way for swirls, pictures and the occasional ‘hangman’ game.

So these are my most recent examples of how boys and girls differ and that it’s okay to accept your child for who they are and relish what their imagination conjures up.

Parenting by Personality

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Temperament is a set of in-born traits that a child is born with. Temperament is influenced by genetic and environmental factors and as the child grows up their personality develops and becomes distinctive to that individual. The family and broader environment shape a child’s personality. Personality traits determine how a child interacts with others around them and how they learn about the world around them. Traits appear to remain constant from birth, however traits can be modified through experiences. The personality contains characteristics that are not “good” or “bad” but enduring traits that exist and develop as a child grows and interacts in the world.

A child’s personality can influence the interactions he or she has with others. It may also contribute to how the child is treated by others. It is possible that with the right approach and through education and development certain type of risks associated with some personality traits can be minimised. Personality traits may become apparent through a child’s behaviour and actions. As parents, if we want to modify our child’s instinctive way of being, we need to know early on and what their natural tendencies may be, so we can assist them to tailor their behaviour and traits.

What do you as a parent gain by understanding your child’s personality:

Parents can avoid blaming themselves for issues that may be normal for their child’s personality. Some children are louder or more boisterous than others. Some children are more cuddly or more clingy than others and some are more comfortable with routine or sleep more readily than others.

Parents can know how their child responds to certain situations, you will be able to anticipate and then prepare your child for a situation more efficiently.

Parents can parent proactively not reactively. You will know what your child thinks and what their personality needs are and how to use this knowledge to apply parenting strategies specifically to suit the characteristics or traits of your child’s personality. No more guessing about what your child needs or thinks.

Parents may be able to identify and accept that some behaviour traits are ‘normal’ for their individual child and that certain traits may not be pathological or require treatment.
Parents can understand and appreciate their child more fully and feel more effective as a parent and more in control.

Parents and children with awareness and acceptance of the role personality plays avoid ‘personality conflicts’. Children enjoy a greater sense of who they are and what their potential is when their personality needs are met. Parents can build their child’s self-esteem and encourage them to live true to themselves and less likely to be influenced by others.

Proactive or Reactive Parenting

Friday, September 3, 2010

Most of us plan everything. We are raised to plan. Our homework, our career, our study, our wedding, our work, even planning for our child’s birth and then we become a parent and almost everything we knew and planned goes out the window.

Parenting is like nothing we have experienced before: no excuses, no sick days and limited time out to think or make notes. No remote control or off/reset button when things aren’t ‘working’ properly. No manual or perhaps on the other hand too much information and we get numbed by what is right or wrong.
We become reactive as parents and start questioning ourselves. Our values, our approach, our upbringing and our abilities or potential and effectiveness.

Can we parent proactively? How do we parent proactively? In order to become ‘proactive’ as a parent you need to trust your maternal /parental instincts. It is very uncommon to find a parent who would not want the best for their child and do whatever it takes to provide that.

Parenting ‘proactively’ allows you to foresee issues and hopefully put together a plan of action for when that occurs, it may be a simple plan like, needing to buy a gate to keep a child safe or a floor mat so your child doesn’t mess when they start feeding themselves. It is knowing a hungry child may become angry or throw a tantrum and being prepared to deal with that issue as it arises. Parenting “proactively” is being aware of and trying to prevent a problem or deal effectively with a problem that could escalate.

A child under three months is very demanding, in the sense that they are very dependent on you to meet their basic needs of comfort and food. This is a time when you may be more “reactive” in your parenting. Reacting to their cries, to supply their need. Being reactive in this time is appropriate and your child learns that you are their source of safety and supply. I think it is at this time that we can get stuck in a ‘reaction’ phase. However, as the child gets older, a ‘proactive’ approach will make parenting less stressful and more enjoyable.

Parenting “proactively” means you -
• Are willing to try new things - because parenting involves learning on the job. Something we fortunately don’t need a degree for - but we do need to try and try again until something works. My son throws tantrums and as he is getting older and I’m getting wiser... or perhaps just practice makes perfect. Ignoring seems to be working best also sometimes he just needs “space” to deal with the emotions he is feeling at the time. I’ve learnt sometimes that simply saying ”mmm”or “it’s okay that you feel sad or upset”, given some time he eventually comes out with “Mum, I’m sorry for.....” what a day that was! It happens more regularly now and he is learning to accept what he is feeling and what is appropriate or not when dealing with intense emotions.
• Are flexible – routines are helpful but some things cannot be planned for and with children even small things like getting in our out of the car are going to take ten minutes longer.
• Know your child – you observe how your child behaves, identify “who” they are – so you know when something happens that is out of place or out of character, so you can follow this up with them.
• Know what you want - what are the important things for you or your family and what can you let go.
• Your children know what you want – you have expressed clearly, perhaps in steps and reminded them what outcome you would like to see or expect.
• Are prepared to hand over and accept responsibility.

A tantrum... now what?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Tantrums, they can cause feelings of helplesslessness, fearfulness, anxiety, a feeling of being overwhelmed and even anger. That is just what the parents may be experiencing.
What do they mean for the child?

In order to properly deal with a tantrum, it is important that you as a parent remain in control and become aware of how you feel when your child is acting out. By being aware of your emotions you will become more prepared to handle situations including tantrums your child displays.
Being aware of your feelings when your child is acting out is important so you know what limits you have and where to draw the boundary for or with your child. Some parenting feelings may include feeling annoyed, irritated, manipulated, hurt, angry, frustrated, inadequate or even pity for the child. These feelings may also depend on whether your child is carrying out a specific type of tantrum, ie. The “helpless” tantrum, the “demonstrative” tantrum or the “silent” tantrum.

Some tantrums will require you to move toward your child to console them, other tantrums will require you to ignore your child but how do you know when to do what. Margot Sunderland, author of The Science of Parenting, describes tantrums that may be controlling or manipulating and other tantrums that may be emotionally fuelled. How to identify what is happening in a tantrum:

Is your child crying tears when the tantrum occurs? Yes No
Is your child arguing back or verbalise his/her demands when you say “no”? Yes No

• If your child is crying tears and unable to verbalise his/her demands, your child may be having an emotionally fuelled tantrum.

• If your child has no tears, can argue or make demands or verbalise during a tantrum it may be a controlling or manipulating tantrum.

Strategies to handle a tantrum:
• Be aware of how you feel.
• Don’t belittle or humiliate your child when they are having a tantrum. If your child is experiencing a ‘demonstrative’ tantrum he/she should ‘lose’ with dignity and pay attention to him/her immediately after they calm down. You are the adult and not in competition with your child.
• If your child is young and you can identify that the situation is difficult for him/her to understand and he/she may be feeling strong emotional response to a situation it is okay to provide comfort. It is impossible to reason with a young child and even more so when they are at the height of a tantrum.
• By ignoring the tantrum you will be less likely to give in.
• With an older child feedback what you saw happen or what you think the child’s emotional state was.

Why tantrums happen:
Some triggers for tantrums involve hunger, tiredness, tension, understimulation or boredom. Emotional triggers involve feelings such as frustration, disappointment or loss. Children may not have words to express their frustration so empathise with them and reflect back what you see.

Types of tantrums:

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I have tried to group types of tantrums, every child throws tantrums although most children differ in how the tantrum is carried out. Tantrums are a great way for parents to teach their children social skills and how to deal with underlying emotions including disappointment, rage, frustration or fear.

We know the “demonstrative” tantrum. The “give me what I want” tantrum that peaks at times when a child cannot get what they want. As children get older this tantrum may also include a threat of a tantrum, “give it to me or else...”.

The “helpless” tantrum this is less common but a tantrum nonetheless, children who “cry” in the hopes that a parent will do something for them or ‘rescue’ them, “I can’t do it myself”. It is not helping the child to rescue them or assist them everytime they give up. An example may be when they have misplaced something, perhaps a toy, a shoe, and when nobody wants to help them look for it, they cry and cry.

The “silent” tantrum, the child who intentionally sulks or stays away from you when things don’t go his/her way. This child may internalise what they feel and although it is a quiet tantrum and may go largely unnoticed it is important to follow up and ‘check-in’ with your child or discuss the issue later on when he/she is comfortable to talk.

ADD/ADHD or Personality?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Article by Eleanor Formaggio, January 2009

Up to 78 percent of four to seventeen year olds in the United States have ADD/ADHD, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Whilst this is alarming, many children with ADD/ADHD do not get diagnosed. Some of these children will go on to be adults without the diagnoses or label of ADD/ADHD and adjust their behaviour naturally. Not all inattention or hyperactivity is linked with ADD/ADHD and some behaviours can be modified without the need for medication.

Some personality characteristics fall well within the scope for ADD/ADHD and through understanding personality, behaviour can be better understood.
When considering a child's need for an assessment of ADD/ADHD, especially a child of preschool age, many factors need to be looked at.
Factors which are relevant to a preschooler or young child's behaviour may include:
The child's age and the child's developmental stage. These may assist in assessing more accurately whether the behaviour is within the range for their age and development.
What affect this behaviour may have, whether it is 'a phase', a habit or a possible long term problem.
External contributing factors may include:
Relationships with their siblings and parents, the time of day the behaviour is carried out, diet or sleep. These also need to be considered when looking at child behaviour.

To find solutions to behaviour, a personality assessment may be helpful. A child's temperament, whether he/she is introverted or extraverted, calm or active may be evident from birth. Personality can be identified and assessed in a child as young as two to three years of age. By understanding a child's personality type and their unique makeup of needs, motivation and thoughts, behaviour modification strategies and solutions can be tailored to ensure results. Solutions can concentrate on the child as an individual and the child in the family setting.

If you want to know more about our parent support using tailored strategies or want to find out more about our unique Preschooler Personality Kit, see our website or email us

That’s not fair! Or is it?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What does it mean to treat a child fairly? Does it mean equally? Does it mean the punishments must be the same for all the children in your household, ie. Timeout or taking away toys.

I raised this once at a workshop that I conducted and a mother was shocked that I do not punish or reward my children in the same way. One parent immediately remarked that her children would complain that this was “unfair”.
My children do not realise the difference, perhaps because I have done this from an early age with them and perhaps also because the punishment or reward suits their personality style so they don’t even notice because their foundational needs are met.

I discovered early on, that my one child responded well to time out but only in his bedroom and it served more as a time for him to calm down and reflect on his own behaviour rather than a punishment. Why is this? I noticed that he is energetic and very quick to act sometimes without realising the consequences of his actions. By putting him in timeout it was so he could learn to ‘think’ about consequences and actions. He also responded to instant rewards. He had no patience to wait 10 days.
For my other child – the idea of timeout doesn’t really have an impact as he is a sulker and if in trouble tends to stay away from us intentionally until he is ready to talk or discuss the real issue. So with him it normally entails some ‘shock’ factor to get him motivated to change his ways like letting him know someone else, like his teacher or someone else he respects, will know about it. He does like to please and this usually gets him to change his behaviour or make a better choice quite quickly. He also responds to money as a reward and doesn’t mind saving his money to buy something of value.

Rewards or discipline we choose should teach a lesson and lead to new behaviour – if this is not happening then we need to look at our approach.

As these examples may demonstrate, a one size fits all approach does not work and once we know what our children’s needs are we can parent with more freedom and choice whilst still having a positive effect. What are your thoughts?

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