Teenagers and summer parties....?

It’s the summer - school’s out and parties reign. If you are the parent of teenagers you may be faced with the questions, worries and challenges of allowing your teenagers the freedom to socialise and gain independence, whilst keeping their safety as a top priority.

I read a really heartbreaking post on facebook last week about a dad who’s lost his 19 year old son to a ‘bad’ pill that he took at a concert ( . This was the last thing he’d expected as he had no idea his son would participate in recreational drugs. This leads to the question of how we protect our children from negative influences, the unsuspecting spiking of drinks, the peer pressure. It’s a challenge all parents face - but particularly those with teenagers.

We believe that the skills to navigate teenager years starts a lot earlier. By building blocks of communication, values and beliefs that are embedded in your family and your child from their early years. The rules of thumb of kindness, consistency, consequences and communication. Use these well and wisely throughout childhood and you’ll have a head start on the teenage years.

We love the teachings of Maggie Dent and she speaks in this vlog about how important a teenagers’ temperament is in their navigating the stressors of teenage years:-

On a more practical note here are some tips as your teens head out to parties:-

  1. Make sure you and they have the address of where they are going on their phone and on their body.

  2. Have a ‘safe word’ that they can text you or say for to collect them so that they can save face with their peer group

  3. Make sure they have money for a cab or the uber app on their phone set up

  4. Discuss how to keep safe with them before they leave (keeping the focus on your love and care of them - not ‘rules’) Be sure to mention opening drinks themselves and not accepting anything from strangers.

  5. Talk to other parents and make sure you’re all on the same page about pick up times etc

  6. If they are going to drink alcohol, buy it yourself and have them take it along with them to be sure of what they’re drinking!

  7. Try and download an app that lets you track them eg Life360

  8. Talk talk talk - and be there for your teen

We are here to help. We run workshops that are specifically for parents of teens and how to cope with the stressors of having teenagers - plus how to help your teens cope with their stress and mental health worries! Contact us to find out more.

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Do you spy on your child (ren)?

Huawei has been in the news lately and seems to have got into trouble because some people think they are using their technology to ‘spy’ on people.  Even though the Company totally denies this claim, it has certainly generated a lot of interesting conversations about if it’s true, or even possible!

So, thinking about the concept of  ‘spying’ - who has the right to do this?  As the boss of a Company or a team leader, do you have the right to access any information your employee has created or their correspondence?  What impact would this have on you or the employee? 

As a parent, do you have the right to read your child’s diary or their text messages?  What are the boundaries?  What are the norms and rules?  What impact would this have on your relationship with your child? Can you resist the urge to do this?

In our work with parents,  Åse and I always language this question around the ages of the children and the risks involved.  It can be very controversial but we believe mutual trust is key, so you don’t invade personal space without prior communication and consent (i.e. you don’t ‘spy’).  Rather work with your child to gain access to this communication if you feel it’s important. 

The only time this would change is if you feel there is a significant risk to your child (if they are very depressed or suicidal) and breaking this trust to gain information may in fact be a life-saving action.  There’s also the very real worry about grooming and how this develops.  Breck Bednar  is a real example of this devastating situation. Would this concern justify you spying on your child?

It would be great to hear what you think?  What experiences you’ve had with this and what you can share?  Please comment below if you’d like to join this conversation.


The horrendous 'momo challenge' for kids...

My daughter (who works in child after-care) recently brought to my attention that there is a horrendous ‘momo challenge’ circulating that is hacking children’s online games like Peppa Pig, Fortnite and Youtube.

Primary schools are sending out warnings to parents as the craze seems to have arrived in the UK. Some are calling it a hoax, but hoax or not - if your child sees this is will most definitely be disturbing and potentially dangerous. I was horrified when I saw the video! It promotes self-harm, inflicting harm on others and even suicide in a series of threats to the viewer who has to ‘complete certain tasks otherwise momo will come and hurt them or their families’. The visual guides are extremely real and graphic.

2 thoughts instantly. What is becoming of our world that someone out there takes the time to come up with material like this; and our children are so vulnerable. Although the BBC News reported that ‘The UK Safer Internet Centre told the Guardian that it was "fake news", there are still unofficial copies with footage of "momo" that have been copied so children could end up seeing these unofficial uploads and be exposed to the distressing images’. Knowledge is key and it’s important to know what your children may see.

If you have not heard about this and you have younger or potentially vulnerable children, please do a bit of investigating. Then - most importantly - make sure your children know how dangerous this hack is. TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN. Help them to understand how to say NO to things that don’t sound or feel right.

Childline offer the following advice FOR KIDS: How to say no

1) Say it with confidence: Be assertive. It’s your choice and you don’t have to do something which makes you feel unsafe or uncomfortable.

2) Try not to judge them: By respecting their choices, they should respect yours.

3) Spend time with friends who can say ‘no’: It takes confidence and courage to say no to your friends. Spend time with other friends who also aren’t taking part.

4) Suggest something else to do: If you don’t feel comfortable doing what your friends are doing, suggest something else to do.

With internet safety there is lots we can do:-

Set up parental controls

  • Use ‘Parental controls’ to block upsetting or harmful content

  • they can also control how long and when they’re online, plus stop them downloading apps.

Talk to your children

  • Have regular conversations about what your child is doing online

  • Explore sites and apps together

  • Talk about what personal information they should share online

  • Create a family agreement about what behaviour is appropriate when they are online

Do your research

  • Check through websites your child is using

  • Change privacy settings

  • Turn OFF location sharing

I don’t want to advertise the momo site here - but google it or look at it on youtube so you know what your child may be exposed to.

It’s our responsibility to safeguard our children. Find out what you need to know and get it done.

Take a look at these sites for online safety help:-

Our Pact:

Site recommending apps:



Phones and sleep

So, it’s been in the news lately about the connection between mobile phones and sleep deprivation.

In particular, it’s been concerning children and ensuring they get enough sleep which is a national problem, and was highlighted on the BBC news this morning.

We all need our sleep to function properly and children need it even more in order to allow their brains to develop the way it needs to.

There is lots of data and research as far as sleep goes and it’s being done for a reason; sleep deprivation is affecting people everywhere. It’s not just about individuals and their personal needs, it’s very much about us as a society.

Sleep deprivation affects our ability to function properly including concentrating whilst driving and working. Productivity is affected for both adults and children.

Here are the latest recommendations from

Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously it was 12-18)

  • Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12-15 hours (previously it was 14-15)

  • Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours (previously it was 12-14)

  • Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously it was 11-13)

  • School age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)

  • Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)

  • Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)

  • Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours

  • Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category)

There are a few variables as we do have different needs dependent on fitness levels, weight, health issues etc.

Overall though, we all need to sleep undisturbed to function and allow our brain to rest. This includes leaving phones turned off and preferably away from the bedroom. A child should never have a phone or any electronics in the bedroom as it makes it too easy to be reachable. My daughter was one of them a few years ago, she kept on getting messages from needy friends in the middle of the night and it disturbed her sleep badly. I had to step in and remove it and told her to tell her friends she has the worst mum in the world!

The need to be available 24/7 is creating a society that is unhealthy and stressful. What choices do we have? At what stage do we realise what this is doing to our health?

As parents, we are the adults and decision makers for our children when it comes to knowing what’s best for them. Dare to be the ‘worst parents in the world’ because that comes with being the loving, caring parents we need to be. Boundaries are necessary for a child to learn right from wrong and they will thank you later on!

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Envious or pleased?

I’ve been thinking of trolls on the web and bullies everywhere and wondering what causes their horrendous behaviour.

What makes someone behave in such a way towards others? What do they get out of it?

Self-esteem; Self-esteem is the way people think about themselves, and how worthwhile they feel. Psychologists use the word self-esteem to describe whether someone likes them self or not. ... Someone with low self-esteem might think that they are bad at things and worthless.

Now low self-esteem comes out in many different ways and bullying and trolling is one. This temporary ‘I am better than you, see how I was able to make you feel’ gives a lift and sense of achievement in its warped way.

By trolling and bullying a person has a purpose and thinks others might think they are clever. It’s all about how others perceive them, that is what makes them feel that temporary feeling of ‘good’ about themselves. Not for long though but once they started this behaviour, it’s hard to stop even when they know it’s wrong. Then the justifications start, ‘he deserves it’, ‘she asked for it’ , ‘they are scum’ etc. Because if it’s not justified, they are the ones who are wrong…

It’s a sad way of getting acknowledgement but if a person doesn’t get it anywhere else, that will do.

There is always a reason behind a persons behaviour and this is about significance and love; the need to be seen. When someone is a bully, they need help and support, just like the victims. I don’t condone this behaviour at all but I do feel sad for someone who inflicts this on someone else as inherently, we all want to be loved and significant.

The ability to feel genuinely pleased and happy for someone else is not something that always just happens. Most of us can have twinges of envy and ‘why not me’ thoughts. However, how far we allow those thoughts to go is a different matter. This is where we have a choice and can push away the negativity and think; ‘why not them?!’ ‘My turn might just come, good for you!!’.

Gratitude and contribution are two things that will make us feel good about our lot in life. No matter how difficult something might be, there will a silver lining somewhere. We just have to find it.


Is the world different now?

Sunday was Holocaust Memorial Day, on which we remembered the millions of people murdered by the Nazis, and in the genocides since in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

Most of us know about this and spare a thought every now and then. What a horrendous thing to happen…

How different is the world today? Could this happen again in Europe??

I do wonder at times and it makes me sad to think how narrow minded and easily persuaded us humans are. Some more than others but generally most of us can get convinced of something that feels wrong to start with.

How can this be avoided? What do we need to stay strong in our beliefs and remain decent, caring human beings?

One thing I know is that parents have a massive influence on their children whether they like it or not. The way we bring our children up, show and teach them our values that influences them immensely.

By being role models, showing rather than saying, we teach our kids right from wrong.

This does not stop just because they become teenagers and don’t want to listen. It’s our job and responsibility to continue to be present and pay attention to what are children are doing, who they hang out with and who they ‘meet’ online.

  • Be a parent, not a friend.

  • Set boundaries and enforce them.

  • Be empathic to their problems.

  • Support the kids and listen without judging.

  • Again, be a ROLE MODEL.

We can if we try, and they are worth it!


Connection and LinkedIn

Connections are all around us. To me connection is a positive word. It means I have a link with someone that, generally speaking, is a good one.

Some connections remain for a long time and others are shorter. They all have their purpose and that’s OK.

How do we connect with people today? It used to be mainly through school, friends, work or family.

Today’s connections are made in all sorts of ways. Social media, chat rooms, dating sites etc. LinkedIn is one.

I would like to know more about people I connect with, but how do I do it? At what stage does contacting someone via message or email become a nuisance? What is the LinkedIn etiquette?

We are all on LinkedIn for a reason. Why else would we make the effort to be on here otherwise?

I am here to connect with people and hopefully meet them to see who they are and what they do. My livelihood depends on making connections to get work. Being a small independent business is difficult but I love what we do. Making a difference to someone is a rewarding place to be. Even if only one person that attends a workshop learns and changes something in a positive way, it’s worth it.

What do other small companies do to get business? I know this is relevant to a lot of people!

Suggestions and thoughts are welcome!!

Please reply either in comments on LinkedIn or e-mail:


Are we present? The impact our phones have on our lives.

I have been noticing more and more how many people sit, whilst with others, on their phones while half listening to what the others are saying. 

The impact this has on a person is not to be underestimated. How does it feel not to be listened to? How does it feel to not be important enough to get the attention from the other person?

On top of that, it can be seen as rude and dismissive to use your phone when you are with others. Think before reaching for it! Can it wait?

This might sound melodramatic but it does have an effect on more people than we might think. Children in particular feel this in a subconscious way and their reaction can often be to play up and be 'naughty'. At least they get some attention even if it's for a bad reason...

What is it about phones and how they have infiltrated our lives in such a massive way? How did we manage before?? To think we managed to meet friends out somewhere and travel without a phone is hard to understand in today’s instant and 24/7 society. The expectation to be reachable alI the time is both positive and negative. It is very convenient to be able to reach someone and check mails etc whilst out and about. But, what choices do we really have? Do we really need to have it with us at all times? To spend an evening with friends and family without phones is more unusual than usual. It makes me sad to think the youngsters of today will most likely never know what it is to be properly present with friends. I have yet to see a group of young people hang without someone busy on their phone. I know I sound like an old biddy and that we need to move with the times but there is no way that communication via apps will ever be as good as face to face. To read someone’s body language, tone of voice and use of words are skills that are important in life. I do hope we can help our youngsters to understand and learn this.

I am as guilty as most of us to feel dependent and when I left my phone in a shop by mistake recently, the panic I felt was immediate. However, having realised this I am now starting to make small changes. I'll have my phone on silent without any buzzing several times a day and at night. I leave home without it if we go out for an evening. (not all the time but small steps...) 

It is an addiction and like other addictions, we can be weaned off it and get more in control of it than the other way around. Have a think about your own phone needs. How does it impact your life? Your family's? Friends? What can you do differently? 

To be present with another person is to be there, listening, noticing and converse because we want to or need to do so. Having a device next to you tends to get in the way. 

Enjoy your next phone free conversation! It's amazing what we can learn.



Presenteeism...what's the cost?

Have you come across this word 'presenteeism' and not been entirely sure what it means?  We all know about absenteeism, but today presenteeism is a real problem and cost to Companies.

Absenteeism –   The practice of regularly staying away from work (or school) without good reason (high levels of absenteeism caused by low job motivation).

Presenteeism – The practice of coming to work despite illness, injury, anxiety etc, often resulting in reduced productivity.  The practice of working longer hours at a job than needed, often as a result of insecurity about that job.

An article in the Sunday Times by Karen Higginbottom (Nov 2017) referred to a CIPD survey done in 2017 where 72% of organisations observed presenteeism.  They found an alarming increase in both the prevalence of presenteeism and the related cost to organisations.  Statistics are now stating that the costs of health-related presenteeism far outweighs absenteeism.

One of the reasons that we are talking about presenteeism is its link to employee wellbeing.  It is often associated with companies who have a culture of working long hours or very demanding industries.  Added to this is job insecurity; worrying about letting a team down; concerns about work records and HR performance reports.  One of the biggest concerns is that very often senior leadership or management are demonstrating these work habits making it seem to be the expected norm for all employees.  This leadership attitude of ‘I can cope with anything and work best under stress and extremely long hours’ filters down and creates unrealistic expectations in the organisation.

But there is hope.  Many organisations are now working hard to create a wellbeing strategy to develop a culture of acceptance and realism in order to combat presenteeism.  This includes allowing individuals in an organisation to feel in control and autonomous in their roles.  Giving them a chance to voice issues and concerns to their team leader and creating a more flexible and open working environment.

The goal?  To create a positive culture where hopefully presenteeism will be the unpopular choice and will be the exception rather than the norm.

So.  If any of this has resonated with you.  Time to take a look at how you work, when you work and what you are achieving.  Or maybe simply – time to talk to someone about how you are feeling at work.

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Conflict and courage

I've been working with a few different clients recently who are going through tough times at work. The common denominator is relationships with managers and work colleagues. They are finding it hard to fit in and to feel accepted by others and struggling because of it.

What can be done when this is going on? How can a person help themselves and what do we expect from management?

What we have discussed in our sessions is their own mindset and reactions in various situations. What have they become aware of? What choice do they have? 

A bully will keep on going when their victim reacts to them in a way that feeds their sense control. The feeling of being powerful is then reinforced and they will continue.

The subtle changes in our own reaction to a bully can be really effective. It's kind of like a tennis match where a ball is smashed only to be caught and not returned straight away. If we hold on to the ball and lobb it back in a nice, friendly way, the smashing becomes less fun.

By replying in a disarming way like "I'm sorry you feel that way" or " Goodness, I didn't mean to...." or similar, the person doesn't get ammunition to continue to be nasty. 

Acceptance of differences in the workplace is so important as we come from different countries, backgrounds and situations. We don't tend to know what is going on in someone else's life and why they are difficult to deal with at times. It can explain a behaviour even if it doesn't make it OK. 

As far as managing staff and the treatment of each other in the workplace, the company needs to provide training and make sure the managers are vigilant, understanding and empathic to staff that 'dare' to bring any issues to the table. It is hard to have to do this and no one does this lightly. To be heard and seen is vital.

When someone speaks up, others tend to follow or at least respond and say 'me too'. 

Be courageous, speak up and stand tall!





Gaming epidemic amongst kids and adults...

The gaming that a lot of our kids do has been worrying me for a long time. As always there are different views, mainly from the gaming industry who happily dispute any problems that are associated with them and their games.

To me it is common sense that allowing young children access to games that are 'suitable' for 15 and 18+ will have an impact. There is a reason that these age restriction are in place. Having said that, there is a serious addiction problem with adults too so be aware that as parents, we are our kids role models!!!

Here are some of the main points:

It may interfere with sleep. Getting enough sleep can be challenging enough for busy kids. They often have homework and after-school activities crammed into their weekdays and extracurricular activities and sports on weekends. Sleep deprivation is one of the main concerns we are tackling today. Mental health problems are closely connected to this.

It may cut into family time or personal interaction. When we are using technology such as computers, games, and TV, we are not interacting with one another. Since finding good quality time can be difficult for many families, allowing technology to cut into those moments is something parents may want to prevent as much as possible. 

While it can be fun to have a family movie night or play a video game together, the fact is that screen time means less face-to-face interaction time.

It may encourage short attention span. Studies have shown that too much screen time may be associated with attention problems. Video games were the primary focus though the researchers do state that any electronic media may have similar effects.

It may interfere with schoolwork. Children who watch a lot of TV are more likely to have lower grades and read fewer books. Further, research has shown that cutting down kids' screen time may improve kids' health and grades.

It may lead to less physical activity. More screen time has been associated with reduced physical activity and a higher risk of obesity in kids.

It may expose kids to too much advertising and inappropriate content. Many television shows and commercials depict sexuality and violence as well as stereotypes or drug and alcohol use. Many commercials also promote junk food and toys in powerful and alluring ways that are designed to get kids to want these items.

5 Ways to Limit Technology

Admittedly, it is easy to simply turn on the TV or let your kids play a video game when they complain about being bored. However, there are many options when it comes to finding alternative forms of entertainment. Letting kids use technology with limits can be achieved if you keep some of these key tips in mind.

  • Do not put a TV in your child’s room. Having a TV in the bedroom has been linked to a number of problems including lower test scores, sleeping problems, and obesity.
  • Turn it off. When the kids are not watching a specific program, turn off the television. Keep it off during mealtimes and especially when they are studying or doing homework.
  • Help your child choose a video game or a show. The best way to know what your child is watching or playing is by helping her pick out a show or a game. When picking out a family film or game, read the reviews, watch previews, or ask other parents. Above all, know your child and trust your own instincts on what is appropriate.
  • Limit his screen time. Whether it’s one hour of TV and video games a day or a couple of hours a week, limit the amount of time your child spends with technology. More importantly, be committed and stick to those times you set.

I know there is a lot of pressure on parents in today's society but we do have a choice to have kids or not. We have to look out and do the best we can, who else will?

Enjoy each others company, go out in nature, play games without screens, cook, sing and create!

They are worth it.



Are you a helicopter parent?

There is a lot of writing about mollycoddling and helicopter parenting in the media. The impact of this way of parenting is not only on the families themselves but everyone else around them.

The schools are affected in a detrimental way as many children do not like the fact that they are just one in a group and not no 1. This causes them to act in a way to get attention and mostly in a bad way. Bad attention is better than no attention.

How can we help parents to understand that by overprotecting, paving the way and not saying NO to their children, they are creating insecure, low self esteemed, demanding little people who don't understand what acceptable behaviour is? 

Here is a great article by Amy Brown who is an associate professor of child public health at Swansea University. It's a well written article and sums up everything I want to say. Please read!


The stress of being on call 24/7…

For those who have made the commitment to professions or work that requires them to be on call 24/7 – we salute you!  This type of work situation will require extreme willpower – and some clever coping skills.

Work out some boundaries

You can be on call and still ‘stretch’ the cord that attaches you to work.  When you’re ‘on call’ you need to be available, but this doesn’t mean you have to be physically working.  So remember:-

  • You're allowed to disconnect sometimes, even when you're on call. As long as your team knows you are taking 30 mins out to have dinner with the family or you’ll be offline for a short time – they’ll cope.  Let them break the curfew for an extreme emergency only and make contact with them again as soon as your time-out is over.

  • You're allowed to sleep. From a certain time, you should only receive emergency phone calls and not emails.  You should be able to rest and still be contactable.

  • On call has certain procedures, and these must change when you’re off duty. This is essential to keep your sanity and also to ensure your team remains efficient. Make sure everyone knows what constitutes an emergency wake-up or call and what can wait until morning.  Make sure you hand over to the next one on call at the end of your shift and then let the issues you were dealing with go.  Don’t worry about situations that are now the responsibility of another team member.

  •  Fiercely defend your personal time. When you're not on call, try to focus on your personal time and don’t be available for work.  Depending on the level of your responsibility, you will be there for emergencies, but otherwise – it’s personal time!  Turn of work-related emails and alerts and allow yourself downtime.

  • Try to synchronise on-call and off-duty with your family commitments and needs.

Technology can reinforce your boundaries

If you lack the willpower to ignore emails and alerts – turn your technology off!  There are lots of apps and tools that will help you – find them and use them! For eg:-

  •  Use ‘do not disturb’ features on your iPhone or use the app ‘sanity’.
  • Stop work-related notifications or adjust the time to differ between on-call and off-duty notifications. Check out ‘Pushover’ webapp to gain more control.
  • Make sure you filter mail and even use auto-response to differentiate responses for emergency or non-emergency emails.
  • Keep your family asleep if you’re on call at night.  Use vibrate or even a watch/bracelet notification system to minimise disruption to the rest of the family.

Remember, your health is so important.  Take care of yourself and ask for help if you feel your stress levels rising or you arent’ coping with the on-call demands.



To be strict or not be, is that the question?

It doesn't have to be one or the other. Being strict is not what we used to associate with that word. Thankfully, the days of beatings and emotional punishments (should) are over in most families. We are now much more aware of the impact these kinds of punishments have on the emotional wellbeing of our children.

However, this does not mean that we shouldn't be strict at all. There is a happy in between and this is the goal.

Setting boundaries and rules are necessary in order for children to learn right from wrong and understand why these are vital in our society. Instant gratification will eventually turn into rages and tantrums when the child doesn't get what they want immediately. Who likes a spoiled brat at their house, school or club of some kind? 

We are first and foremost our children's parents and this comes with responsibility to discipline (latin = to teach) them and show them what it is to be a decent human being.

By staying calm and sticking to your rules most of the time, our kids learn and accept that this is how the world works. Bad behaviour has consequences and can be avoided.

We are not doing them any favours by allowing everything and not learning. 

Loving equals caring, setting boundaries and showing without being walk over. Life will be much easier for all of us!! 

Enjoy family life!


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What’s with all the angry kids?

Another great read from one of my favourite authors, Maggie Dent. 

I can only agree with Maggies discoveries working with families. I too, have noticed increased problems with anger and violence in schools. Why is that? What is happening to our children? 

I can't but help to suspect lack of physical activity, outdoor play and too much gaming and screen time has had a massive impact on our society. Be aware and have boundaries, it does make a difference.

This article was originally published at Essential Kids.

As an author and parenting educator I chat to lots of parents and teachers, and I frequently get messages of concern. In the past few years, I’ve noticed an ever-increasing theme: our kids seem to be getting angrier — especially after school.

That may be a generalisation and one that is not based on peer-reviewed data. However, how to cope with angry children is a common conversation topic on and offline for parents everywhere. In fact, my most-viewed video blog on YouTube is entitled “Angry Kids”.

Anger is also something we’re seeing in our schools, with reports in recent years of a “soaring” rise in classroom violence among 4- to 6-year-olds! This is something we normally expect during adolescence. And we are not always talking here about kids displaying anger and frustration due to trauma from abuse, deprivation or abandonment, sensory processing challenges, or psychological disorders such as ODD, ADHD and those who have ASD. So what’s going on?

Firstly, we need to acknowledge that anger is not the problem. It is a symptom of a deeper problem.

We know children do not have a well-developed pre frontal cortex, or “upstairs brain”, which we as adults (well most of us) are able to access to regulate our feelings, see situations from a wider perspective, have a degree of empathy, impulse control and the ability to delay gratification.

As we grow through childhood we grow not just in our ability to pass tests and developmental milestones, but in our emotional and social intelligence to better manage ourselves in lots of different situations.
With consistent, loving care and guidance from grown-ups we can learn ways to express our sadness, frustrations, disappointments and impatience without hurting ourselves, others or the property around us.

In today’s world thanks to the pressures of both the National Curriculum and NAPLAN it seems our young children have been reduced to sources of data and ‘brains on seats’ at school. Apparently the sooner we have them writing sentences, reading and getting busy with formalised learning, the better. I’ve heard of 4-years-olds getting homework, 7-year-olds with two hours of homework and a big increase in boys being suspended and expelled in the early years because of ‘inappropriate behaviour’. No wonder some of these kids are so angry or, rather, frustrated.

We have removed the high-quality, play based learning in much early years education and we have certainly demonised playtime in many primary schools by shortening recess and lunchtimes — in the mistaken belief this will make our kids smarter.

Herein lies a big part of the problem.

Grown-ups are stealing our children’s right to play — their right to have a childhood where they have autonomy and freedom to explore, to do, climb, to dig, to make, to pretend and to build all their competences not just their academic ones.

So what can parents do about it?

Fuel the brain

Like us, if children have not had enough sleep, water and good food, they will become irritable. Get them drinking water, avoid too much sugar (especially at breakfast and in lunchboxes) — and ensure a good night’s sleep.

Prioritise play

Without lots of real play, preferably outside (not virtual), even our smartest kids can struggle with making mistakes, losing and not getting what they want! Even more children struggle with self-regulation of their states of arousal, their ability to pay attention and often they are so physically passive, their nervous system simply builds up tension that can spill over into angry outbursts!

Make sure you prioritise play in your children’s day, especially outside play — stop at the park on the way home from school, hit the beach or just hang in the yard and let them have some completely unstructured play. Yes you might have to join in!

Monitor screen use

We tend to focus a lot on how much screen time our kids are having (as well we should). Pay attention also to what your kids are watching. Some cartoons teach our children how to be mean and nasty by using name-calling, put downs and exclusions.

Be present and listen

A huge part of helping kids through anger is listening to them talk about the feelings underneath. We live in a busy, chaotic world where parents often work long hours and children have to compete with technology for their parents’ attention. Ensure you spend time with your children, so they feel secure and that you are really there for them.

Celebrate the square peg

Feeling misunderstood is a huge source of frustration. Every child is one of a kind. Treating children the same without respecting individual needs, is really disrespectful and unhelpful. I can remember being compared to my well-behaved calm, quiet sister and it sure made me mad! Square pegs are not meant to fit into round holes — we need some square holes too.

Teach and model calm

Reducing stress makes a huge difference in our children’s lives. Take the time to calm your home and show your children how to calm themselves when they feel angry.

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Who's the boss ?

Have you got a ‘terrible tyrant’ at home?  Do you feel like your toddler or teen rules the roost?

Try to think of your home like a workplace and engage your brain to support your parenting style to create a work space that works for you.

A lovely term to describe this is, ‘Parenting up without patronising’.

It all comes down to your approach to discipline – or your lack thereof!  Every parent will know that if you let your child do something once, they’ll do it again.  It’s about management and discipline.  Work out what lines you won’t cross, and stick to them!  No matter how distressing the behavioural objections from your child.

Here are some strategies: -

Stay calm. If your ‘young boss’ is throwing a tantrum don’t get caught up in it.  It’s not a negotiation.  Be the adult and stay calm.

Anticipate problems. Children like routine; they want to know what to expect and when.  You’ll avoid a lot of problems if you give a heads-up to potential conflicts.

Use Humour.  As the adult, you have the advantage of great vocabulary, experience and being able to see the bigger picture.  Keep a sense of humour and you’ll be amazed at how it can diffuse a tense situation. With teens though, be careful not to patronise or belittle with sarcastic humour!

Give choices. Stay away from yes or no questions.  Give choices between 2 desirable options (i.e. the green top or the red top – rather than a top or no top)

Praise.  Counter negativity with positivity.  Trust us…it works!

Model good behaviour. Manage up by example. Take an honest look at your own behaviour to ensure you’re not a terribly boss too!

Keep it brief. Young kids have the attention span of…slightly longer than flies. Especially with teens – keep it short and simple – no lectures!

Give the full picture. As often as possible give reasons for your decisions.  Age appropriate of course – but a simple ‘no’ with no reason is a red flag to most kids.

Set boundaries. Know what you’re willing to tolerate - and get involved when you need to.  Don’t say ‘later’ or ‘when dad gets home’.  Deal with things as they happen.


Are we crippling our children?

I read a very interesting article recently that featured in Forbes Leadership about the ‘Crippling Parenting Behaviours That Keep Children From Growing Into Leaders’.  Here are some of the key points.

1.    We don’t let our children experience risk

We spend our lives warning our children about danger and protecting them from possible harm.  We are so health and safety conscious that we often prevent our children from learning how to cope with pain, emotion or risk – essential adult skills.

2.    We rescue too quickly

Life skills that we had to learn 30 years ago are now just a touch of a button away and many children are not learning how to basic problem solve.  Don’t keep rescuing them or parenting for the short-term; think about your long term goals to equip your children with adult skills.  So, the next time your child leave his sports bag at home, don’t rush it up to school, let them problem solve their way out of the problem.

 3.    Don’t over-praise

Praise is great – but it must have value.  If you ‘rave’ about each and everything your child does, your praise will soon lose its value and not mean as much. Especially if it’s always about ‘trophy’s and success’.  They will also start to notice that only mum and dad are singing my praises and this could affect their self-esteem and they become ‘conditioned’ to expect continuous praise.  Use praise wisely and carefully and not always in connection with outcomes – something praise behaviour and kindness and manners too!

 4.    Guilt is not a good leader

Your child doesn’t have to love you every single minute.  Saying ‘no’ or ‘not now’ and teaching them delayed gratification are essential skills.   Don’t use material rewards continuously and it is OK for one child to receive something over another – that happens in life too!

Some final tips:-

1.         Allow them to attempt things that stretch them and even let them fail.

2.         Discuss the consequences if they don’t achieve certain goals

3.         Get them to do projects that require patience, so they learn to delay gratification.

4.         Teach them that life is about choices and trade-offs; they can’t do everything.

5.         Celebrate all the progress they make on their childhood journey

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Resisting rest? Why?

There seems to be a resistance to rest amongst today's busy parents. Why is that?

Our lives are so full-on in todays society and I wonder what choices do we actually have?

Do the kids have to have activities every day? Do the parents have to entertain and occupy the kids most of the time? What are we teaching them by doing this? Who actually benefits in the long run?

Having down time and enough rest is instrumental to our health. Without it our immune systems are compromised which can lead to illnesses and generally feeling unwell. 

Sleep deprivation is a modern day health issue that affects many adults and children. The impact on work and school is immense and we need to take charge of this. 

Having boundaries and no electronics in the bedroom after a certain time is a start. Routines during school time is also important. Research shows that the children who sleep properly every night also perform better at school as well as adults who sleep their 7-8 hours per night also perform better at work. Our brains need the rest to take onboard what has been learnt and experienced that day. We say 'I need to sleep on it' about some decisions and there is a good reason for that. 

What do we need to make it ok to have down time for no reason other then just feeling like it? Having a cuppa and a conversation is a great way to relax together or on your own.

Enjoy each others company and just be. That is a treat!