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In the News

The Parent Practice is regularly invited to give parenting tips and guidance to the press and television about many aspects of parenting in today's world. The Parent Practice specialises in those everyday parenting issues which every family faces and has come up with tried and tested strategies for dealing with them. The Parent Practice is a leading voice on parenting matters in the UK and beyond.


For all press enquiries, please contact Elaine Halligan on 0208 673 3444 or email The Parent Practice.

Here are a wide range of press articles and TV appearance to which we have contributed over the last few years.

Teatime tantrums and bolshie bedtimes - dealing with family hotspots

By Caroline Haigh, Families Magazine, Nov 2006

How hard can it be to get a couple of kids up and ready for school by 8.30am? Surely it’s just a question of waking them up, getting them dressed and then having a harmonious breakfast together before donning coats and shoes and skipping out the door? I wish this were the case. The usual scenario is not so serene – most kids like to play the second they open their eyes so even getting clothes on can feel like a hour in the gym after you’ve chased them up and down the corridor socks in hand. Then of course encouraging kids to eat breakfast can be like negotiating a peace deal. Most mums have probably shouted, threatened and punished the kids before feeling exhausted and wracked with guilt and its only 8am.

There are certain moments in daily family life that are far more stressful then others – these are known as Family Hotspots. Mornings tend to be chief culprits but bedtimes and mealtimes can cause similar angst when children just seem to know exactly what to do to get a reaction from mum and dad. In the evenings, kids seem turn into the Duracell bunny at exactly the moment when mum is longing for a bath and a glass of wine. Mealtimes, on the other hand, can disintegrate into complete chaos as one child throws food, the other won’t sit still and another thinks he’s superman and informs you that superheroes don’t eat chicken!

So, what is the solution? How can you ensure that you have fun family meals without tempers fraying or leave the house on time with no arguments? Well, help is at hand from the team at The Parent Practice where I recently attended a workshop. Based in Clapham, this excellent company runs informative and friendly courses that teach parents practical and usable skills to transform family life. Mums and dads can learn how to be in charge and help their kids be more cooperative, confident and motivated.

When dealing with Family Hotspots The Parent Practice urge mums and dads to be very clear about what behaviour they want to see from their children and then ask them to ensure the expectations are realistic for their ages. There is no point expecting a two-year-old to be able to eat with a knife and fork without making a mess, for example. Once standards are established then parents must put up a united front and be consistent with any new rules set in place.

One of the best ways to ensure your children accept any new rules is to get them involved in the process. Sit them down and ask them what they think the rules are at mealtimes, bedtimes or when you have most problems. Depending on their age, you could get them to write the list – this can be as detailed as you like including such things as ‘sit facing forwards at meals, use a fork, ask to get down when finished’ and so on. This method makes the kids feel involved (rather than just informed) and means the new rules have more clarity and consistency and the kids are more committed to them. It also reminds parents of the huge number of small things for which a child can be praised. Once the list is drawn up, get the kids to decorate it and then pop it on the fridge – like a star or tick chart. Here everyone can see it and it can become something positive (won’t always seem fun )– Daddy can come home and say “lets see how many ticks / stars we have all got today”. If you make the list very detailed including simple things such as sitting on your chair, kids can rack up a lot of ticks in one go. This is turn will make children feel pleased with themselves and more motivated to improve. So, even if the meal has seemed chaotic you will still be able to notice the good things: “well done for sitting so straight and still on your chair today” for example even if there is food is on the floor!

This kind of praise is known as ‘descriptive praise’ and it is an extremely effective way to motivate your kids to do the right thing. It is based around the idea that when parents notice and mention any small improvement in their kids’ behaviour rather than always focusing on the negative or what the child didn’t do children behave better. How often do you find yourself saying ‘don’t throw food’ or ‘stop tipping your chair’ or ‘you never go to bed on time’ – all maybe true, but won’t motivate a child to improve. The other day, my little one suddenly threw all her pudding on the floor and I of course immediately shouted and said what a mess she’d made which then made her shout and cry and made me feel guilty. In fact, while I was gossiping to my friend she had been sitting quietly for a good 20 minutes eating up her main course without a fuss but the only thing I reacted too was the bad behaviour. Using descriptive praise I could have said something like “you have been such a good girl sitting quietly and eating up your meal, If you have had enough just ask mummy if you can get down”.

If you have a child that just will not go to bed at night despite endless pleas and bribes try setting up some new rules. Ask them what it is they need to do before bedtime – they will probably list such things as cleaning their teeth, going to the loo, getting into bed and so on. You can then add such things as just one book and then being quiet or staying in bed. If the child calls out after five minutes, rather than getting annoyed that they have disregarded one of the rules focus on what they are doing right – for example, “well done for staying in bed and not complaining when we had just one story, that is very grown up of you. I know you want mummy to stay longer”. To reinforce the bedtime rule you will probably need to go back in frequently for the first few nights but focus on the positive things and the progress they are making.

Star charts can also be fantastic and kids tend to love them especially if covered in colourful stickers. Stars can be sufficient reward in themselves especially if accompanied by lots of praise or you might establish how many stars makes a reward – for example six stars in a day results in a story read by torchlight or 15 stars over the week means a trip to the café for breakfast. (Younger children can’t wait too long for a reward.)Try to make the rewards simple and non-material such as cooking some biscuits, an extra book at bedtime or lots of bubbles at bathtime.

In order to have the desired effect, descriptive praise really needs to be used liberally and consistently. It can often feel like you are being a bit over the top, but it does work and children respond fabulously well – they often can’t understand why mummy is being so nice and not shouting so much!

Another simple factor to bear in mind when dealing with hotspots is the time factor. Firstly ensure you have allowed enough time to get everything ready because kids hate being rushed and often go into reverse if sergeant major mummy is constantly commanding “come on, come on”!

Also, remember that kids have very different agendas to you. You may have a detailed minute-by-minute schedule planned but they are unaware of it, so when you announce supper is ready this minute they will know doubt protest. It helps if you talk through in advance what needs to happen. For example, go through the morning routine, “once we get up and have said good morning, what do you need to do?”Ask questions to prompt the answers ‘wash my face, get dressed, make bed and come down to breakfast’. This way you are involving them in the process. For example, “after breakfast what do we need to get ready for school?” More often than not, when kids say what they have to do they are more likely to do it.

If your little one wants to play with soldiers rather than get dressed it is not because he is trying to make your life difficult. He would just rather play soldiers. He is having a problem with having to stop playing; he is not being a problem specifically to annoy you. Wouldn’t you rather read your magazine than cook supper? And if someone suddenly grabbed your magazine and demanded “I want supper now” would that motivate you to actually get to the cooker? I doubt it and I certainly hope not!

So, if you have had enough of the morning mayhem, stress-filled suppers and nocturnal kids at bedtime, just give these ideas from The Parent Practice a go… I will be amazed if they don’t work.

The Parent Practice’s Top Ten Tips for Dealing with Family Hot Spots Allow more time – saves you being stressed by the clock.

  • Establish rules and stick to them
  • Involve the kids in setting rules
  • Morning Mayhem? Do as much as possible the night before.
  • Ask the children what needs to be done in advance
  • Brainstorm with the kids for strategies for dealing with difficult situations
  • Make written or fun pictorial routines for those difficult times
  • Ensure good things follow chores – stories after clearing up toys for example.
  • Give time warnings before something is going to happen.
  • Praise the kids as they are doing something – show their behaviour matters to you.

Contact The ParentPractice, UK based providers of positive parenting courses to improve your parenting skills.

How Can I get my 13-year-old son to do his homework rather than play computer Games?

By Melissa Hood, Sunday Express, Mar 2005. (Response to readers question)

You’ve probably noticed that what doesn’t work is to criticise, nag and lecture and then threaten and/or bribe. Parents generally point out what’s wrong with their children’s behaviour in the hope that they will change and do the right thing. Unfortunately nobody is motivated by criticism and this thirteen year old needs to be motivated. Parents can help a teenager feel more motivated by noticing and pointing out anything he is doing which is a step in the right direction and empathising with him for not wanting to do his homework. Eg “You really hate doing your homework and would much rather be on your new computer game. I really appreciate that you’ve remembered your homework diary and you’ve recorded your homework in it. Those are good organisational skills.” Parents also need to have a rule that homework gets done and the reward will be the computer game. Until the homework is done there is no computer game. Sometimes this may involve removing the computer (or at least the fuse) for a while.

Contact The ParentPractice, UK based providers of positive parenting courses to improve your parenting skills.

Homework Headache?

By T&L Magazine, Jan 2005

Camilla McGill & Melissa Hood who run The Parent Practice give advice on getting children into good study habits.
Children generally don’t want to do homework for a reason; they’d rather be doing something else that’s more fun or they may find the work is difficult for or unchallenging. Imagine how your child is feeling and put it into words so that they feel heard and are less likely to be resistant. Follow the steps below o help your children get into good study habits.

  1. Have a set time and place to do homework. Have snacks and some energetic activity beforehand. Screens (TV, playstation etc) should wait until later as they reduce brain activity. Make sure this is a clear rule with a consequence.
  2. Make sure the work place is uncluttered and as distraction-free as possible.
  3. ‘Worst first’. While energy levels are higher tackle the more difficult subject.
  4. Have your child talk through the tasks in detail before they even pick up a pen.. If you feel your child hasn’t understood something ask questions to clarify, so that they are using their own brains rather than you supplying the answers.
  5. Let him work independently but be around to praise – for getting on with it and concentrating. When a task is finished praise your child descriptively and specifically for whatever has been done right or is an improvement.
  6. You need to notice content and structure as well as presentation and ask questions about the work to show your interest. Praise your child’s answers. “Wow, you really know a lot about how the heart works.”
  7. Get the child to make some improvements to their work and correct their own mistakes. A child will be more willing to make improvements if they have had a lot of praise first. Let them know that everyone can and needs to improve all the time.

Remember study can be incorporated into everyday life. When you read to your child at bedtime ask them comprehension and vocabulary questions about the story. Practice mental arithmetic when out shopping or cooking together. Talk about the things they’re learning so they can see you are interested – it will encourage their interest.

Contact The ParentPractice - parenting advice on getting children into good study habits.

What is all this about Parenting Skills Classes?

By Melissa Hood, SW Magazine Jan 2005

If we want to improve our fitness, we go to the gym and get a personal trainer. If we are suffering with back problems we might take a course in Pilates. Golf coaches are available for those who want to improve their technique… so why not go to parenting skills classes? The Parent Practice “calmer, easier, happier parenting” courses are a practical way to improve the atmosphere at home and help children become more cooperative and confident. They have a number of courses on offer to suit parents, teachers and nannies.

Parents’ frustrations often revolve around “morning mayhem”, “homework horrors” or “bedtime battles”. Emma, who came to parenting skills classes at the centre in Thurleigh Road, said that she had decided that mornings were so gruesome that it was time to do things more positively. She frequently found herself losing her temper in the morning, shouting, nagging and threatening her two children (4 and 6 years) and felt awful about it once she dropped them at school. Emma said it was a huge relief during the classes to hear from other parents the stresses they experienced as well. She was advised to draw up a detailed chart listing all the jobs that the children needed to do in the mornings and each task completed earned a tick or a star. Her class leader encouraged focus on praising the children specifically for what they had achieved rather than criticising them for being slow or forgetful. The changes Emma put in place made a huge difference in the atmosphere at home. The children became happier and more motivated, they had more time to eat breakfast calmly and Emma continued to praise them on the way to school, leaving them at the school gate feeling happy and good about themselves. Her daughter Charlotte said one day “Mummy, you are much nicer these days because you went to school to learn how to shout less!”

Claire first came to a workshop run at a local school (Honeywell School) called “Positive Discipline, what to do when your child says ‘No’”. Claire was sceptical at first that the positive approach discussed during the workshop could work with her son (7 years old) who was demanding, defiant, and prone to temper tantrums. She decided to try something new the next evening, “Joe, thank you for coming to the table when I called you and sitting down straight away”. Joe looked at her suspiciously… “I also noticed that you remembered to bring home your reading book, that’s great”. Instead of encountering whining and demanding Claire noticed Joe’s mood was noticeably improved. He even asked if she would play a game with him rather than skulking off to watch TV!

The Parent Practice’s top ten parenting tips for improving relationships with your children:

  • Praise each of your children specifically. Instead of “well done” or “good boy” say “You hung up your coat, without being asked, that’s very responsible.” Notice and pay attention to the tiny little good things.
  • Don’t criticise, scold or point out to your children what they’re doing wrong –it will not motivate them to improve.
  • When you’re asking your children to do something get them to repeat back what it is you’ve just asked.
  • Encourage your children to talk to you by really listening, that is without doing anything else at the same time.
  • Children’s poor behaviour is almost always caused by an emotion, hunger, tiredness or the need for attention.
  • When things go wrong don’t make a drama of it but require your child to make amends and think through how to prevent that behaviour arising again.
  • Apologise for your own mistakes and let your child see how you clean them up.
  • Think through effective, proportionate and relevant consequences ahead of time so you don’t end up making threats that you’re not prepared to follow through.
  • Use non-material rewards like extra stories, bubble bath, playing a game or video night with popcorn and make sure your child knows specifically how they earned the reward. “You were so quick getting out of the bath that we have time for two stories now”

Contact The ParentPractice, UK based providers of positive parenting courses to improve your parenting skills.

Getting into Independent Secondary Schools and Improving Study Skills.

By Melissa Hood, Familes SW Oct 2004

Choosing a secondary school for your child is especially difficult since the entry is almost invariably selective and sometimes very oversubscribed.


Parents will look at many factors in determining whether a particular school is right for their child including how academic the school is and whether or not their child will be able to manage what’s expected of the pupils. There is little point in cramming for entrance exams if the child is then going to be struggling to keep up once in the school.

Assuming the ‘fit’ of the child with the school is right how can parents prepare their kids for entrance exams without adding to the pressure the process inevitably carries?
Parents can be helping their children get into good study habits long before the exams are imminent and they can also help build up their children’s confidence which is just as important to success in exams.

Getting children into good study habits

What doesn’t work is to lecture, nag or criticise children about doing their homework or revision. This is a trap that is very easy to fall into as parents are usually anxious about their children doing well. To help children do their homework or revision follow these steps:

  • Children don’t want to do homework because: they’d rather be doing something else that’s more fun, the work is difficult for them or unchallenging, they are not interested in the subject or can’t see the point of it, they are tired or hungry or they are distracted. Listen to your children’s feelings and empathise. A child who feels understood is less resistant.
  • Have a set time and place to do homework. Make sure that snacks, drinks and some energetic activity has taken place beforehand. Agree break times before work commences. Screens (TV, video, playstation, gameboys etc) should wait until after homework as they reduce brain activity. You will need to make sure this is a clear rule with a consequence.
  • Make sure the work place is uncluttered and as distraction-free as possible.
  • ‘Worst first’. While energy levels are higher tackle the more difficult subject.
  • Have your child talk through what he has to do in detail before he even picks up a pen. That way he is more likely to get it right when he starts. If you feel he hasn’t understood something ask him questions to clarify it so that he is using his own brain rather than you supplying the answers. If he seems to be stuck break it down into small steps. Praise him for his attitude to his work, for not complaining and for taking guesses.
  • Let him work independently but be around to begin with to praise him (make the intervals of unsupervised work longer over time). Praise for getting on with it, for not making a fuss, for not fiddling with things (if these are things your child sometimes does), for concentrating.
  • When he’s finished a task praise him descriptively and specifically for whatever he has done right or whatever is an improvement. “You’ve written a whole page.” “There are eight sentences here and seven of them have capital letters.” You need to notice content and structure as well as presentation and ask him questions about his work to show your interest. Praise his answers. “Wow, you really know a lot about how the heart works.”
  • Get him to make some improvements to his work or correct his mistakes. He will be more willing to make improvements if he has had a lot of praise first. Let him know that everyone can and needs to improve all the time.
  • Much revision involves remembering facts as well as how to apply them. Some rote learning is inevitable. Mind maps, index cards, fun tables or language tapes can all help but you will still need to lavish the praise on if your child is to be motivated.

Some revision can be incorporated into everyday life. When you read to your child at bedtime ask them comprehension and vocabulary questions about the story. Get him to practice mental arithmetic when out shopping or cooking. Talk about the things he’s learning about so he can see you are interested – it will encourage his interest.

Contact The ParentPractice, UK based providers of positive parenting courses to improve your parenting skills.

Happy Families

By a Mother at Honeywell School, Sting Magazine, July 2004.

Last spring Honeywell Infants school hosted two parenting workshops. They were organised by Jane Neal and run by The Parent Practice. We thought it would be interesting to hear from a family who has attended not only the workshops but also the parenting classes.

Mothers view:
To say it was illuminating was an understatement. I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived at the infants hall. There were about 60 or 70- parents already there, no doubt as curious as me. Using a mixture of lecture-style teaching and interactive discussion Camilla McGill and Melissa Hood explained their approach to parenting and how easy it is to unintentionally make life harder for oneself as a parent. They described the sort of relationships within the family that I wanted but felt only existed some of the time.

But surely, I hear you say incredulously, you don’t learn how to parent – it’s something you know how to do instinctively. Most of what they raised is not rocket science or revelatory, but common sense and practical. I was so taken by the prospect of turning my relationships with my children around that I virtually signed up for a course of evening classes there and then.

Some weeks later my husband and I attended our first class. The classes varied – not all other parents were present at the same sessions and everyone has different issues that they were facing. They were challenging – changing one’s behaviours is never easy – but also immensely supportive and instructive. Whilst before I felt my relationships with my children were becoming increasingly negative and more about discipline (which was becoming less and less effective), both my husband and I now feel we are on a positive, upward spiral. Each week we were given a particular task, specific to each family – which we then were asked to report back on. This had the effect of making us take time to apply what we had discussed before we forgot it. I can’t deny it was hard work!

We still have friction points, and no doubt will continue to face new issues. We sometimes slip back into old ways but now have much more open, positive relationships with all our children. We both feel much more confident in our ability to deal with the challenges that face us as parents.

Child’s view: At first it was awful. There was too much change. I found it really difficult. Things were worse and I was battling against myself. After a few months things settled down and I found myself much closer to, and having less arguments with, my parents. They still have their moments, but generally we get on fine. Though I feel it is not all due to the parenting classes, as I have grown older and more mature.

Contact The ParentPractice, UK based providers of positive parenting courses to improve your parenting skills.

 
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