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July 12th, 2017

Top Tips for an appreciative Summer

The Summer Holidays have started, and there is much to look forward to! 

The absence of the school routine means you have an opportunity to not be a slave to the clock, and there is time to meet up with family and friends, and do the things you enjoy with your children. For some children who experience school as competitive and pressured, and somewhere they don’t feel particularly successful, a break is great news. It’s also good for introverts to have some respite.

The lack of scheduling in the long school holidays can bring its own problems for some but it also provides a perfect opportunity to take time to focus on getting your children established in some good habits. Parents in our classes have been asking us about pocket money recently. What a great time to teach your children how to manage money as well as values about giving and receiving. Many families will take holidays somewhere other than home and there may be money being spent on meals out and holiday activities. This summer you could focus on teaching your children to appreciate what they have.

So many parents we coach complain they are sick and tired of kids asking for things; “why don’t they value what they have”? “Why are they always asking for more?” It can be hard to be clear and firm and consistent with kids and to not succumb to pester power. It can be so difficult to say NO when faced with your children telling you "you're the best mum in the world. I love you so much - thanks for buying me that game." 

Managing money is a life skill and needs to be taught. We give our kids swimming lessons in order to keep them safe in water; we don't throw them in the deep end and expect them to swim. And the same principle needs to be applied to ensuring they are safe with money and know how to budget and how to be canny consumers and savvy savers, if they are going to cope in adult life. 

We recommend the following approach to money: 

  • Start giving your children small amounts of pocket money whilst at primary school. This sends a very powerful message that you trust them and feel they can be responsible with managing money. Allow them to choose how to spend the money instead of buying them treats on a whim. 
  • Set up 3 jars: saving, spending and sharing – you may decide what proportion goes into each one or leave that up to your child. Having your children wait and save teaches delayed gratification. If they’re saving in a bank account they may even earn interest and learn about compounding. 
  • Give older children an allowance and have them monitor and be responsible for their mobile phone usage. 
  • Do talk to your children about the powerful consumer messages the media world employs to entice you to buy goods. Discuss with older children the role of advertising and the manipulation involved. Most kids don’t like the idea of being conned by the conglomerates. 
  • Children can make contributions to the family according to their age and ability. We usually underestimate what they can do or can be learning to do. Having set chores to do (especially if these are not just about looking after their own things) gives them the sense that they are part of the family and have a role to play and helps them appreciate what is done for them. Don’t give pocket money in exchange for these tasks. 
  • Having said that it is great to encourage them to realise that money is earnt by effort. Older kids could get a weekend job or offer babysitting or lawn mowing services and younger ones may earn money by doing jobs beyond their normal chores –maybe by washing the car or watering the garden. Any opportunity that enables them to see that we have to work hard to get what we have is a valuable life lesson. 

Help your child become more appreciative by:

  • Modelling appreciation of things and people. Say thank you of course but also talk about being grateful for what you have and the people in your lives. “I love the way Daddy always checks with me if I need anything when he’s going up to the shops –that’s really thoughtful” “When you asked me if I was missing my mum and dad who are so far away I felt really cherished.” “I love the way Auntie Sally makes my favourite dessert when we go there for Sunday lunch. That makes me feel very cared for.” “This is my special watch that used to belong to Papa. I think of him when I wear it and I take very good care of it so I will always have it to remember him by.”
  • Noticing when the children are appreciative and commenting on it “When you say thank you for the dinner I made I feel really appreciated.” “I love it when you say thank you for driving you to Kim’s house. Not only is it polite but it makes me feel that you don’t just take the things I do for you for granted.”
  • Appreciate what they do with Descriptive Praise. “I really love it when you do what Daddy asks you to do quickly. Now we have time for two stories! “That’s sensible that you’ve put all the lids back on your felt pens. That way they won’t dry out.” Or drop a thank you note into a lunch box or school bag or on their bedside table or pillow for them to find. Or maybe a text message for an older child.
  • Have them earn privileges or treats rather than getting things just because they are alive. E.g. screen time is earned when responsibilities have been carried out.
  • Hold them accountable for breakages/losses If kids help pay from their own money (savings or earnings) for lost library books, toys and phones, windows broken by their balls, or paint-filled brushes left to dry out, they learn a valuable lesson about valuing what they have and what others have leant them, rather than assuming someone else will simply ‘buy another’. This should never be done in an angry or blaming way.
  • Create gratitude rituals. Many families have a Golden Book in which they record Descriptive Praises for their child each evening. You can extend this to include more general things for which you are grateful or have a different book for it. You could develop a practice of sharing with your child each evening 3 things which made you happy that day. It doesn’t have to be something very significant –it may be that you loved how big and yellow the moon looked this evening.
  • Encourage them to donate toys to a local hospital, or give to the old folks’ homes in the form of a baked cake etc. Let them know about the charities you support. Maybe choose some as a whole family.

Have a wonderful summer and come back refreshed to begin the new school year. Is this the time for you to book onto one of our courses, face to face or online?

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June 28th, 2017

Summer in the Digital Jungle

Roll on the summer holidays! No nagging about homework, longer days to play in the garden and no being a slave to the timetable!

But are you worried about your children spending too long on screens and using them as a digital babysitter?An English summer usually has at least a scattering of light showers when indoor activities may be required.

You may be wondering:

“How much screen time should my children be having?” and

“How do I control my children’s screen usage?”

Crucially managing screens should not be about coercion and control - that can only lead to long term problems. The answer lies in connection and communication.

If you think about keeping your kids safe around a swimming pool you can protect them from falling in by putting up fences and setting alarms and using padlocks and banning them from going near, but the most important thing to do is TO TEACH THEM HOW TO SWIM.

The same is true for screen safety. The more we demonise screens and nag and shout and blame and criticise the children and forbid and take away and threaten, the more children will push back and become sneaky. We need to remember that screens have great benefits but that children do need limits and boundaries around their use as well. We also need to remember that when we control we do so to teach them self-control. You will need to employ technological protections so have all the filters and passwords you need but don’t forget to educate your children to be safe and kind online as well. They can get around your external controls so you need to cultivate internal values.

Here are some top tips to helping you find your way through the digital jungle this summer: 

  1. THINK . Begin with the end in mind. What is the ultimate destination? To encourage children to be in charge of technology and use it responsibly, instead of technology being in charge of them. 
  1. DECIDE. You need to decide WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHO AND HOW MUCH. 
  • How much time? We know that when parents set limits on media consumption, children consume less than those without limits. The consensus amongst professionals is no screens before age 2 but after that it gets a bit vague with many experts now being less concerned about amount than type of use. But it’s also about what else you need to do first - eat, sleep, play or practice.
  • When can they play or surf or game? This depends on your family activities but not during the hour before bedtime as screen usage interferes with sleep.
  • What sites/apps? Watch out for the parental guidance certificates. If we are not ready for our children to smoke, drink or drive why would we think they are ready to use Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto which are rated 18? Refer to media sites like commonsensemedia.com
  • Where? Do keep internet enabled devices in a common place where you can monitor them. And have a DROP ZONE where the devices can stay and recharge when they are not being used and always out of the bedroom at night. 
  1. Include the children rather than imposing the rules from on high! Including them shows you are interested in their views. It is respectful to seek their opinion. It works best with children over 8 if you outline what your values are and acknowledge what they would like at the outset. Then ask how you can accommodate both sets of needs. They will probably have some good ideas. They won’t like all the rules –empathise with that and reiterate why you need to have them. 
  1. WRITE IT DOWN. I guarantee you will forget the rules and by writing them down it depersonalises them. Then you have a contract, with both sides needing to respect and abide by it. 
  1. KEEP IT POSITIVE. Don’t have negatively-phrased rules such as “no mobiles upstairs” or “no gaming after 7pm” but rather “mobiles are used downstairs” and “you can game after homework and before 7pm.” 
  1. FOLLOW THROUGH. Often we start by thinking of what we should do when they mess up! But really we should be deciding what to do when they get it right. Adults rarely notice when children get things right. Comment when they follow the screen rules. The positive consequence of following the rules is earning the right to use screens again. 
  1. MODEL GOOD HABITS . Be aware that if your own phone is surgically attached to your hip 24/7 and you are making calls at the dinner table, and taking your phone to bed, it can be hard for the children to accept your rules. You need to model your own values.

 

 

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February 12th, 2017

Six Steps to a Successful Skiing Holiday

Children love snow and they love being active. So the family skiing holiday is a guaranteed winner, surely?!  Not always. Although a skiing holiday with children has great potential for physical fun and family bonding, it also has the potential for frustration and disappointment…. So here are Six Steps to a Successful Ski Holiday this year

(1) BE REALISTIC

A family skiing holiday is NOT the same as pre-children! We may dream about hours on the slopes, relaxing over lunch or in the sauna, but children have different requirements and agendas. Some children may be able to adapt to change of routines, but others will struggle. Less adaptable children may be feeling out of their depth in a new environment, with different language, different food, and a new level of tiredness, let alone other physical effects of altitude, dehydration, chapped lips, sore legs, blisters…..

Your child is not trying to ruin your holiday – she’s not BEING a problem, she’s HAVING a problem. Can you anticipate which bits might be trickier for your child and plan ahead to help her?

(2) BE FLEXIBLE

You want to maximise your time on the slopes but consider whether you also have other priorities for the week together than improving your own technique? If this is a rare opportunity to spend time with your child away from school, in the fresh air, without 4G or wifi, make the most of it!

We want our children to be competent and safe on the slopes, and we also want them to enjoy skiing holidays. Spend some time with them doing the more childish snow activities at a more childish pace – it will be good for you too!

(3) BE PREPARED

You will inevitably spend time preparing practically - collecting kit together, booking lift passes, hiring equipment etc. You can also prepare on another level. What areas may cause problems, or have been tricky in the past for your child? Typical hot spots are putting on boots, carrying skiis, using the chair or button lift, settling into ski school….. Or arguments about who sits where on the train or plane…..

Rather than hoping that nothing goes wrong, prepare with a Family Ski Meeting, and discuss together possible challenges. Encourage the children to contribute solutions - they can be quite ingenious!

(4) GET PHYSICAL

Some of the challenges of skiing with children involve struggling with helmets, lift passes, chapsticks, goggles, under time pressure or in the cold or heat. Before you go practice beforehand at home. Help them practice putting their own coat and gloves on, decide which pocket has the emergency smarties and tissues, and have some fun pretending to get on a sofa chair lift, bringing the imaginary bar down, or waiting at the top or bottom of a slope until everyone is together, playing a snow-themed word game to keep the mood up!

(5) LISTEN

Obviously the plan is to have fun, but children will also feel tired, worried, confused, anxious, unsure, incapable, hesitant, frustrated, vulnerable, embarrassed, uneasy, discouraged, disappointed….. It doesn’t mean they’re ungrateful! When we try to change how a child feels – by dismissing or belittling or ignoring the emotions, or reassuring them, the unacknowledged and unresolved emotions continue to swirl around and eventually burst out into behaviour.

Connect with how your child feels, and help them re-direct what they do.

Rather than: “Don’t worry about how high up we are, these lifts are perfectly safe.”

Try:  “It can feel scary to be up so high, we’re not used to it. Where shall we look?”

Rather than: “everyone is tired, but no-one else is complaining.”

Try: “I hear how tired you feel, I bet your legs feel really heavy…. wouldn’t it be nice if we could just snap our fingers and find ourselves tucked up in bed?!”

Acknowledging how they feel does NOT condone any negative behaviour. It DOES mean we stay connected and we help them learn to manage their emotions so the behaviour can improve.

(6) ACKNOWLEDGE EFFORT AND IMPROVEMENT

Encourage them to repeat particular behaviours by descriptively praising them.

Notice any effort they make, and any improvement. Recognise any coping strategy they try, and acknowledge them for being brave, resilient, flexible, persistent, determined, also for paying attention, remembering, being organised or helpful and for not complaining (too much!)

“You are hardly complaining at all about the cold.

I know you’re not sure that skiing is really your thing but you’re trying to do the snow plough just the way your teacher showed you. I saw that you were really paying attention while he was talking. Then you watched carefully while he showed you and you had a go. I love that you’re willing to try – it shows a wonderfully positive attitude!

 “When the instructor asked you to wait for the little ones to go first on the magic carpet you stepped back. That was patient because I could see you really wanted to have another go. You are getting good at following instructions and controlling your impulses.

“I noticed you got all your kit together last night and remembered where to put it all. That made this morning easier!”

 “I like that you are being so responsible about your helmet. It’s tricky to do the strap but you’re persevering with it.”

Avoid comparing siblings on the slopes or encouraging competition. Instead focus on their individual effort and listen to any frustration about mixed abilities.

 “I love the way you pick yourself up and brush off the snow and just get straight back to trying your hardest”

“I can see those parallel turns getting closer and closer together each time you come down the slope, keeping working on them like this and soon they will get easier!”

“It’s hard for you, Jack flies down the slopes and you want to be as fast as him.”

“When Sally gets scared and we all have to stop, you feel frustrated with her because you want to keep going.”

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July 04th, 2016

It’s NOT about the shoes!

I find myself thinking about the first day back at school, even though the summer has yet to begin. 

My teenagers will still need some help and ‘encouragement’ in September to get themselves organised, but it will be easier than it has been before. We’re used to it, after all. 

So I am not thinking so much about the next first day back but more about all the first days that have come before. What have I learned over the last decade? 

I am a self-confessed planner. Being organised makes me feel better, as if it proves I am doing the best job I can. 

And for the last ten summers, I have focused on the practical details of the first day at school, including the Big Shoe Dilemma. 

Do I go early, and avoid the queues and get it done, but risk their feet growing over the holidays? Or indeed, as once happened, getting the right shoes, only to lose them altogether by the time September arrived! 

Or do I go later, and risk the mad scrum and the possibility they will have to turn up in the ‘wrong’ shoes because the ones they wanted, or needed, are not available in their size? 

I have spent many hours of my summer working out the ‘right’ way to name socks, lunch boxes, pants, etc. 

And after a decade of first days back, I get it. It was never about the shoes or any of the other practical stuff. And it was not something that I suddenly turned my hand to in mid-August. 

It’s not about their external world, although of course this matters. The wrong lunch box can send your child into a spin, and the whole “where to put the name-tapes” also matters if you want to (1) keep a track of things and (2) have a hyper-sensitive child who really can feel every stitch and wrinkle. 

It is about their internal world.  Our children’s success, or otherwise, at school depends on what they carry inside, not on the outside. 

What does it really take to do well at school? 

Yes, you need shoes and pencils, and a water bottle. There is a whole lot to be said for being punctual and prepared. And I still believe in tidiness and hope, one day, my sons will voluntarily use a hairbrush. And, yes, it’s also a bit about knowing your numbers and letters. 

More than anything it’s about knowing how to listen, how to co-operate, how to wait, how to focus and keep going when things get tricky, how to make things interesting, how to read other people and communicate. This is what helps children do their best at school. 

And we can help them develop these valuable skills day in, day out, by paying attention to all the little steps they take in the right direction. Because none of these things come naturally to small people! 

So this summer, I am not stressing about nametapes or shoes. I am going to keep my eye on the end goal and focus on their internal world – I want to notice every time they listen, wait, help, co-operate, plan and problem-solve, and make suggestions and show initiative. And I will say something to them about how it is appreciated and valued.  

And, as teenagers, they have most of the practical stuff ‘sorted’ and sometimes their growing competence can mean I feel they don’t need me any more. 

Is my work done? Of course not! And quite honestly I never want it to be! Helping my sons understand and manage their inner world is something I can do for a while yet. Oh, and I also need to teach them to iron! 

What advice would you have for parents of children going back to school in September? How can they use the holidays to prepare? 

Juliet Richards, facilitator at The Parent Practice

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July 10th, 2013

How to Combat School Break Boredom - Before it Sets In

Things to do lists

Guest blog by Kelly Peitrangeli of  myprojectme.com

“I’m bored.” “I don’t know what to do.”   Sound familiar?

Inevitable words out of the mouths of children during the school break.

It’s great to organise outings and social get togethers, but don’t feel you have schedule their every move. Children need the time and space to transition from busy school life to laid back summer break. It’s ok to feel a bit bored, they just have to learn to overcome it.

A few summers ago I pre-empted the cries of boredom by getting my kids to create a Not Bored Board. It worked a treat and they do it every year now.

Here’s how:

•    Grab a notebook. Get your child brainstorming and writing down ideas to do at home.

•    Divide it into sections: Things to do alone  – read, puzzles, art, lego, play solitaire, listen to music, build a fort, take photos or videos. Things to do with siblings – board/card games, make believe / dressing up, trains, cars, dolls, outdoor games and sports, singing, dancing, choreographing a show, hide & seek. Things to do with you – games, sewing, arts and crafts, cooking/baking. They can rummage through the toy cupboard for more ideas.

•    Next, give them a big piece of poster board to turn their brainstorm session into an art project. They can write, draw, clip photos from magazines or print from the internet.

•    Proudly hang the Not Bored Board and refer them to it whenever they’re stuck for what to do.

Top tip: The most effective time to do this is before school breaks up, when they’re still fantasising about how great all of that free time will be!

A bored child really struggles to think of anything to do and your suggestions never seem to appeal. Get them to create their board before they’re bored and the ideas come fast and furious.

While they are off occupying themselves, use the time to get your own things done and to have a little “me time”. You’ll have more energy and patience on long summer days when you get small breaks from the kiddie action.

Reward your children for periods of entertaining themselves by having quality time with you afterwards. Be fully present and engaged with them during your time together. No checking emails, taking phone calls or prepping dinner. They will soon learn that by occupying themselves for a while each day, they will have your undivided attention later. Good for them – and you.

Happy Summer!

Kelly Pietrangeli is passionate about helping mothers quickly identify where things could be better in life – and taking action. As a busy mother herself with two musical boys and a DJ husband, life is anything but quiet. She overcame her early struggles with motherhood by taking courses with The Parent Practice and has evolved into the happy mama she is today. Kelly is excited to launch www.myprojectme.com on September 17, 2013. In the meantime, check out the Project Me for Busy Mothers Facebook page:  Facebook.com/myprojectme

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July 18th, 2012

Things to do on Rainy Days

Boy baking cakes

As the schools empty and our homes fill with tired children, many parents are relishing the opportunity of a break from the school routine, and yet we’re also looking at the weather forecasts and wondering how on earth we’re going to fill the next 1,000 hours or so until term starts again!

The joy of doing nothing

At the beginning of the holidays, it can be a relief for children to have some time to do the things that matter to them, and even simply to be able to choose what they do after weeks of being told what, where, how and when.  Of course, it’s a universal parenting truth that most of the things that they want to do involve noise and mess, but it’s in playing that children learn and discover so much about themselves and the world.  After the constant stimulation and organisation of the school term, it’s no bad thing to find yourself with nothing to do, and no ideas either. It’s in moments of solitude and idleness that we often discover what truly interests us, and who we really are.  As far as possible, let them play.

The joy of doing something

On the other hand, with so little practice of finding their own amusement, it probably won’t be long before they’re asking “I’m bored, what can I do?”.  When we’re busy (somehow school holidays don’t seem to make much difference to the amount of things parents have to do) and it’s raining again, it’s so tempting to give in to the easy option of screens.  This summer there will be some inspiring and fascinating TV opportunities with the Olympic coverage. (At the last Olympics we had the TV on pretty much all day every day and saw an amazing range of sports and memorably courageous wins and losses.). There are also some valuable websites which encourage creativity (FIND SOME EXAMPLES LIKE STICK MAN or learn to type).

And what else is there? According to a recent survey by npower, 87% of children can’t repair a puncture, 83% can’t tie a reef knot, 81% can’t read a map and 78% can’t build a camp fire or put up a tent. (They can pretty much all work a DVD players, log onto the internet, use a games console and work sky plus!). How about taking some time during the holidays to put this right? If it can’t be done outdoors, there’s plenty to be done inside the home – it may sound strange, but most children love the challenge of learning to make a cup of tea, iron a shirt, cook an omelette…..

There are also many things children can do indoors with relatively little equipment or supervision – although they will love any of these activities all the more if you’re involved.  As the holidays start, set some time aside to sit down together and come up with a list of all the things they would like to do – think of all those things they keep asking and you keep saying no, not now, later, another time….. (Making a den and not having to clear it away is always top of the list in our home!) No idea is too whacky, too silly, too dull, too anything. All ideas get recorded and then you can move on to deciding what to do when. As far as possible, let the children lead this process. It’s fine to put some parameters in place – about what might work when and where and with whom – but try to let them have ownership of their own time and enjoyment.

And just in case it’s not so easy to get started with this list, here is TPP’s Top Tips for a Rainy Summer…..

Make an indoor camp – snuggle up with duvets and books

Make a treasure trail – using hand or foot prints, or clues

Hopscotch – use numbers or shapes or colours

Movie night – get in character, costume, themed food

Rain sticks – use paper towel tubes, and decorate and fill with pebbles, pasta or rice and make the rain go away!

Hide and seek and sardines

Dance party – invite friends for a dance-off

Charades – songs, films, books

Indoor obstacle course – finish before they’re too tired to help clear up

Toy safari – hide toy animals around the house and seek them out

Fashion show – choose outfits and music and do the cat-walk

Sink or swim – find out what sinks or swims

Make a movie – write a script, make costumes and create scenery

Photography project – choose a theme, and make an album

Book club – everyone chooses their favourite book and reads out their best bits

Robot Mummy or Daddy – they get to order you around (for a short while!)

Grow seeds – mustard and cress on loo roll, sunflowers or even tomatoes or strawberries in pots

Family Band – just have to decide who is the conductor!

Listen to songs in foreign languages (opera is great for this) and make up alternative words – we had Pavarotti extolling the virtues of squashed tomatoes and kids in convulsions

Take photos at strange angles around the house – and guess where they are

Indoor picnics – under the table, behind the sofa, in the den….

Paper airplanes – all sorts of designs to see which one flies furthest

Make a rock family – paint faces and create characters that you can then make up stories with

Edible necklaces – from pasta or cheerios or sweets

Paper bag piñata – fill with little surprises (doesn’t have to be edible)

Make ice-cubes – you can colour them with food colouring, or add little flowers (or worse) to them

Hand puppets – from old socks (finally a use for the orphan socks!) with silly faces and voices

Magic cups – three cups, one marble, put it under one of the cups and move the cups around and guess where it’s gone

Make a mobile – with a stretched out wire hanger, and decorate it

What’s missing – lay out items, memorise them, then take one away….

Family Tree – make a family tree and discover some stories about their ancestors (the funnier the better!)

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