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October 31st, 2010

Are you thinking of buying a Nintendo DS for kids this christmas?

 

Nintendo DS

By Ann Magalhaes

By last Autumn almost (or so it seemed!) all the children in my daughter’s class had their own Nintendo DS game.  I had managed to get through the term without buying one, but by the time the holidays started, she was asking for one.  At the same time, at school, she was really struggling with Maths and was really starting to lose her confidence.

The Head Teacher at her school awards a special sticker for good work and extra effort, and my daughter was convinced that she would never receive one for her Maths work.  One day, we had a lovely conversation about belief, and if she didn’t believe she could receive one of these stickers, then she probably wouldn’t.  Then we talked about what would happen if she did believeshe could earn one.  We talked about how believing something wasn’t going to be enough to make it happen.  She knew that belief would need to be combined with some extra work if she were to stand a chance of earning the sticker.  Now, before you think that I’m a pushy Mom, I have to say that I’m not!  My daughter really wanted to earn the sticker, and I decided that as it was Christmas, I would present the extra incentive and get her to earn the DS!

Over the Christmas holidays, she worked every day on Maths – never more than 20 minutes a day – and I could see her ability increasing with each question she worked through.  Sometimes she played math games on the computer, sometimes we made up times tables games using marbles, and we made up fun shopping games to learn more about money.  She knew that if she received the sticker, she would earn the DS.  This was motivating for her! 

The second day back at school, I was waiting for her at the school gates.  A little boy in her class bounded down the stairs and shouted, “S gets a DS now!”  And then, I saw my daughter bounding down the same steps with such a proud smile with a gleaming golden sticker stuck onto her cardigan!!  She had done it!! 

Now it was my turn to fulfill my end of the deal and buy the DS! It arrived in the post by the end of the week, and together we sat down to establish some ground rules for playing with it.  I’m not a huge proponent of excess screen time, so I wanted to make sure she had a clear set of rules, that would be created by her.  We did this by having a conversation about how and when she would use the DS.  She wrote a list of 10 rules, that I then posted in the living room for her to refer to if need be.  Her rules included things like “I will only play with my Nintendo after homework; I will …

We were able to sit down and have a great conversation that left her knowing what was expected of her.  Her list wasn’t a list of DON’Ts.  Her list gave her the knowledge of what she was supposed to do in order to keep playing with her DSi.  The amazing thing is that in the more than one year since buying the DSi, I have never (I’m serious!) NEVER had to take away her DS privileges.  The rules tell her what to do!  The rules are the ‘tough guy’!  She can’t get upset with me because she made up the rules, and she is very aware that the reward for following them is DS time, and the consequence for not following them … you guessed it … missing out on DS time!

A year on, the DS doesn’t come out of the case very often now.  The newest gadget in our home is the iPad … and for kids (of all ages!) … it IS incredible.  We read the latest National Geographic magazines, watch movies, create art, email said art to Grandparents, play maths and spelling games.  I love it just as much as she does. 

I have been most blown away, though, by my daughter’s ability to transfer the rules that she established for the DS onto the iPad.  We never even had a conversation about it.  She just knows that she can’t use it until homework is finished, and that she can use it for 20 minutes during the week, and for as long as she likes on those long airplane rides! 

Clear, positive rules with related rewards and consequences work, and my new discovery was that they are very easily transferrable! Great rules are NOT designed to tell your children what NOT to do.  Rather, they are about empowering your children so THEY KNOW WHAT TO DO, so that ultimately they develop effective habits.  

Want to learn more? Come to our latest wokshop on Children’s use of TV;electronic games and internet:keeping them safe and healthy

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October 17th, 2010

Are you keeping your children safe on the Internet?

Internet safety and children

By Elaine Halligan

As a parent of children in the 21st century you have, I am sure, many fears – maybe worrying about keeping our children safe outside the home? Maybe you have the perception that your child is in danger due to the news stories about child killings and paedophilia. The reality is however that with the introduction of new technologies and social networking sites the risks are possible as great inside our homes as well. “There are places your kids shouldn’t be hanging out in. Dark alleys. Street corners. Websites.” reports J.Kaplan from Fox News last week.

How well versed are you in the use of Facebook; MSN messaging; SMS and Twitter to name just a few? Our role as parents is to educate and we can only do that when we are knowledgeable about the risks involved. Cyber bullying is a real risk and the impact can be devastating, not just for the victim but also for the perpetrator. There are a growing number of girls and boys ( but particularly girls) as early as Year 5 and Year 6 setting up social networking accounts. Are you aware of what your children are doing?

Take a look at some interesting facts:

  1. FACEBOOK -  It’s against the terms of service for under 13’s to be on Facebook  and young kids online interacting with older kids places them at risk for content exposure inappropriate for their age. If your child is under 13 and on FACEBOOK they will have lied about their age. So what? Our children learn about values through us, so if one of your values is that you want to trust your child and expect him to tell you the truth, this suddenly becomes an important area. Be a good role model for your kids.
  2. CLUB PENGUIN – reported by CEOP (Child Exploitation Operation) to be the most notorious site for paedophilia– who would have imagined that 5/6 year olds innocently playing games in igloos dressed as fairies may be interacting with predatory adults?
  3. DIGITAL IMPRINT – any photos, comments and content published on a social networking page can be read and copied by other users. If you post something offensive and subsequently delete, the imprint is still there and the chances are someone somewhere will have read and even copied to others.
  4. FURTHER EDUCATION Currently two thirds of UK employment agencies and many University admissions offices trawl social networking sites as part of their candidate evaluation process. Be careful of what your child publishes TODAY online as this may endure for ever on the internet.
  5. BYRON REPORT 2008 – the report discovered children frequently act out of character on the internet. In the absence of usual cues of facial expression and tone of voice, it seems that people (and mainly young people) often alter their moral code perhaps doing and saying things that are out of character. In short people are much more likely to lie, deceive or behave with less inhibition online that face to face.
  6. TEXT MESSAGING – your role as parents is to train your kids in the appropriate ways to send texts: “Ask yourself before you send a text, e-mail, or post — Is the message RIGHT? Read the message to be sure it sounds OK. And imagine if you received it…would it be hurtful or upsetting to you?” Once an inappropriate message is sent, the damage has been done…there is no retraction of words as the evidence is there in black and white for all to see.

The subject is vast …if you want to know more register for our intensive workshop on the whole area of screens and internet safety on:

Wednesday 10th November 10-12.30pm at The Parent Practice in Clapham SW London

How safe is your child or teenager on the computer?

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October 04th, 2010

Do you allow your children to make mistakes?

Allowing your child to make mistakes

By Ann Magalhaes

I remember growing up, when school reports were handed out and I received grades around the 80% mark. I would then call my Dad and tell him the results, feeling pretty good about myself.  His response was inevitably something like: “what happened to the other 20%”.  Now, to my teenage ears, what I heard was “you didn’t do well enough, or you could have done better, or you were lazy and didn’t study enough.”  My enthusiasm, and motivation to try harder deflated faster than a popped balloon!

Years later, I mentioned this to him and he was really surprised that his words had had such an impact on me.  He told that his intention was always about getting me to think about the other 20%, and that in his eyes, I was so capable of achieving 100%.  He only wanted me to look at the gap and to understand what I could have done differently. 

Fast forward 25 years, and I now have my own child, and one of my greatest concerns is that she will also not put in that extra effort.  What I hope for her is that she works hard to do the best that she can, and that she has the confidence to go for things – whether it be academically or extra curricular. 

A few months ago I was reading Mindset, the Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck.  I bought the book after seeing her interviewed by the comedian David Baddiel, who had filmed a documentary about education.  In the show he asked for her opinion about the worst things we can tell our children.  Her response surprised him – and me! She told him that the worst three words we can say to our children are “You’re. So. Clever.”  And don’t we all do it?  ‘Good job, great game, clever girl, atta boy’ Curious, I had Amazon mailing the book to me by the end of the week!   Dweck writes about instilling in our children (and ourselves!) what she calls a growth mindset – believing that intelligence is not innate, but can be developed.  As parents, we need to ensure we’re doing this is by praising the effort and attitude that our kids are putting into their work, sports, musical instrument practices.  It’s about having the curiosity to learn rather than the desire to feel smart; it’s about being able to perceive feedback as contribution rather than criticism; it’s about seeing others as potential collaborators rather than threats.  It makes so much sense! The aspect of growth mindset that I love the most is the focus on trial and error – allowing ourselves the freedom to make mistakes and to learn from them. 

While writing this blog, I was watching some Carol Dweck interviews on Youtube, and spotted a Nike commercial featuring Michael Jordan – quite possibly the best basketball player ever.  He says “I have missed over 9000 shots in my career, I’ve lost almost 300 games; been trusted with the game-winning shot 26 times – and missed.  I failed over and over and over and that is why I succeed”.  One of the most challenging things we face as parents is the ability to let our kids make mistakes.  Perhaps by allowing them the privilege of making mistakes, we also allow them the privilege of figuring things out for themselves, and allowing them to shine!

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