Friday, June 8, 2018


 How often have you felt totally inadequate by not being able to achieve in areas that others do?

When I was young there were some studies and activities I knew I was good at but some definitely not. Unfortunately, as we all know, some skills are given more credit by the school system and by society than others, for example math and science as opposed to art, metal or woodwork, cooking, sewing and/or music.  

We know there are some occupations that require a massive amount of learning, resulting in huge salaries and a great deal of prestige.  We are thankful for their skill when we need it.  However, if a surgeon's car breaks down in the middle of a snow storm, who will he call?  Who will he be eternally grateful to see show up to deal with his issue? The guy driving the tow truck and the guy who knows how to fix his Bentley.
My husband just retired from the school system after 52 years since he started teaching.  As the years have gone by he has become increasingly frustrated by the fact that manual skills such as woodwork, metal work, cooking and motor mechanics have been taken out of the syllabus and PE, music and art are in rotation, giving children less time in these classes.  They are not seen as having enough value in society to warrant spending so much time in them.  What is the result?  There is now a shortage of manual skills in the workplace.

There is a serious message here about how our children feel about themselves.  

We need to:
  • Give value to all skills.
  • Expose our kids to all kinds of activities to see where they shine.
  • Ensure they are following their dreams and not yours.
  • Appreciate and encourage differences between family members.
  • Ensure they have every opportunity to be the very best they can be in whatever is 'their thing'.
In saying all of the above, we do need to ensure our kids be proficient enough in all basic skills e.g. math, writing and social sciences to get by in the world they live in. 

Never allow yourself or your kids to feel inferior because you/they 'failed' something. If they need to have that skill, get them extra help.  Give yourself and your kids a big thumbs up for what you do excel in and compliment all those you know in their area of expertise.  It gives them and their specialty more value.

So what if a fish can't climb a tree?  It just needs to find the right environment and it's off.

Written by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families

Wednesday, May 16, 2018


                                 Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.

                                                              ~ Charles J. Sykes author of Rules for Life

This is the eleventh blog Sally or I will write based on a series of 11 life rules for teens written by Charles Sykes and referred to by Bill Gates, the Microsoft billionaire.  

What is a nerd? The dictionary says a ‘nerd’ is …’a foolish, inept, or unattractive person; a person who is single-minded or accomplished in scientific or technical pursuits but socially inept; or a stupid, irritating, ineffectual person.‘ Clearly a ‘nerd’ does not fit into the mold that society deems normal but why should they become a target just because they are different? From the beginning of time, it seems people are picked on because they are not like everyone else.


 Our society does not value education as highly as many other countries do. In the case of the scholarly student, an intelligent child who may have poor social skills, other students can be so cruel to them. The ‘nerd‘ has often not found it easy relating to others or been interested in the more social and physical recreational pursuits. When coupled with our set of values that say you have value if you are good-looking, athletic, moneyed, and social a ‘nerd’ may stand out like a sore thumb.

I would suggest that envy may not be the basis of harassment as some people would declare. Our kids often see ‘nerds’ as targets for ridicule rather than people to be jealous of. In my 40 plus years of being a teacher and school administrator I have seen ‘nerds’ being picked on and so many able children deliberately not trying for high grades because they don’t want to be mocked by their peers.

I am sure we can all think of times past when we have been singled out, have felt desperately lonely or have ‘died an inner death’ from not being accepted. Kids want friends beyond all else and what their friends think often dictates how they act – all in the name of acceptance.


We need to teach our children to celebrate differences, and not try to push everyone around them into some imaginary mold. Over the last few years we have been horrified by school shootings. Kids just explode with a torrent of aggression for no apparent reason. It has been found that they have usually been harboring resentment over some injustice in their lives and the results are unspeakable.

If we hear our child ridiculing another child, then this must stop. Don’t let them start being mean-mouthed. Teach them about respect and what respect looks like. For example, being respectful means being kind and saying only kind things about others including our brothers and sisters.

Everyone has value and everyone needs to know they have value. God doesn’t make ‘junk’. He has got a specific purpose for everyone He has created. Include ‘nerds’ in your friendships so kids can see that you are demonstrating specifically what you believe and want them to do.

Learning to tolerate and appreciate other’s differences will help significantly in the workplace. As Bill Gates said, “They might be your boss one day!” “Oh, blessed revenge!” they might say.

Comments written by Sally and Brian Burgess, Forefront Families


                            'Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to 
                                                leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.'

                                                                                  ~ Charles J. Sykes author of Rules for Life

This is the tenth blog Sally or I have written based on a series of 11 life rules for teens written by Charles Sykes and referred to by Bill Gates, the Microsoft billionaire. 

It is difficult to conceive the difference that has occurred over the last 70 years in our society. 70 years ago people were so involved in the act of making ends meet and providing a good life for the family that they didn’t have time to sit and relax in coffee shops. Nor did they have the amount of time to put into leisure pursuits as we do today. My grandfather worked in a coal mine and in those days there seemed to be far more hard physical work done than now where so much of our work is automated.

Think of the Walton family and how they gathered around the radio in the evenings under candlelight. I still remember doing the same thing at our house in New Zealand. We did not initially have electricity and had to see by lantern light at night. What a great quality of life we had back then though! We made our own fun, created our own games, made rope swings tied to tree branches and, most importantly, we spent time talking to one another. As kids we had fantastic imaginations.


So what has happened to people’s imaginations today? I can tell you what has happened. Our misguided choices have robbed us of personal conversation, of vivid imaginations and we suffer from the near-disappearance of our own family values. Television and the movies have created the new norm for our society. Our personal moral and ethical codes have been shot to pieces by the sheer volume of the ‘anything goes’ messaging that spews off the screen. Parents have a real battle on their hands trying to instill and keep strong family values when kids’ TV and movie heroes are saying the opposite. Kids get the idea that all the junk they see on TV IS REAL LIFE. They become numbed to the horrors of tragedy and the verbal and emotional abuse they see on the screen. With both parents working, the TV becomes the babysitter that is too often not monitored.


With such a huge paradigm shift through the years, teens may get the idea that work revolves around their own lives rather than the other way round. You have heard of the saying, “ I work to live, rather than live to work?” In the old days there was barely any time given for workers to eat their lunch let alone stop for coffee breaks. These days most businesses have their own coffee makers and it is normal to head for the coffee machine first thing in the morning and also at regular intervals during the day. I am constantly amazed at the waste of time I see in the workplace as people stand around chattering instead of keeping to their delegated breaks.


I can’t help but think that the credit card has also been the undoing of our society today. As long as they have somewhere to get money from, people will do what they want rather than what is necessary to stay out of debt - e.g. the 40-hour week. Borrowing money for vehicles, computers, and clothing has become the norm. Everyone lives off their card and kids often live off their parents.

This was never the real world although I am afraid to say it has become so. Teens need to learn to become accountable for their own ethical, moral and financial lives and we, as parents, are charged with the responsibility of training our teens to do so. We need to stand against what is being dictated by the TV and movies so our kids have a richer experience and will pass these values onto their children.


We need to protect their imaginations by ensuring they play together instead of ogling the box or playing with hand-held devices. Restrict their cell phone access and encourage them to spend face-to-face time with their friends. Show them the value in an honest day’s work for honest pay.

Children learn reality and develop their work ethic by observing us and listening to our teachings about life. It should not come from the unreal view of life portrayed by television. Let’s raise our kids to reach the potential and purpose God implanted in them even before they were born. There is no place for young adults who approach their life and work with mediocrity.

Comments written by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families

Tuesday, February 20, 2018


Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few employers are 
interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.

                                                                ~ Charles J. Sykes author of Rules for Life

This is the ninth blog Sally or I have written based on a series of 11 life rules for teens written by Charles Sykes and referred to by Bill Gates, the Microsoft billionaire. 

I am intrigued with the current trend where teens finishing high school or college want to ‘take a year off to do their own thing or find themselves’. I don’t understand this mentality at all. On reflection, in ‘our day’ we paid our own college tuition and the minute college was over, we couldn’t wait to get to work to recoup our funds. Granted, back then, jobs were a lot easier to find than they are now, but we HAD to find work. Nobody ever dreamed of taking time off just for a breather.

So, from whence does the notion of ‘taking time off for a rest’ come? There is something to be said for having to pay your own way. Here in the United States many parents start their kids’ college funds almost from the time the children are born. Since fees are so high now, many parents consider it is necessary to be saving for their children’s college expenses from those early times! Right now there is an advertisement on TV by Gerber baby foods. They have a college fund program running beginning at infancy.

When children have been in school for upwards of twenty years, their parents have usually been taking care of their kids’ physical and financial needs to the point where the young person is not having to develop any responsibility. They get the idea that there is a money tree out there that just keeps giving. The kids are shielded from the tough realities of life. They haven’t had to work, so they are not mature enough to realize that no work means no money.

Then there are those young people who refuse to work at anything they are not passionate about. They would rather do nothing than toil away at something that didn’t suit them. Where does this mentality come from? I suggest it comes from early parent training or lack thereof. When kids take no part in household chores or are allowed to avoid the chores they don’t like, they get the idea they can do the same thing throughout life. When parents bail kids out of trouble or financial difficulty, the kids think their boss will protect and spoil them just like their parents have done.

There is something to be said for the ‘school of hard knocks’. For every action, or lack thereof, there is a consequence. Making wise choices brings positive responses. Making poor choices, being picky, not studying and expecting to be rescued all the time will eventually leave a young person sitting on the bench.

We, as parents, must train our kids to take responsibility for their choices from their earliest years. We need to show them what hard work yields. They need to know that a forty-hour week is a normal expectation and that taking time off (apart from vacation time) should only come about when they have the money to cover it.

The more time teens have on their hands, the more likely they are to become introspective – to start feeling sorry for themselves – to feel dissatisfied with life and start whining and saying, “It’s not fair.” Studying and working hard yields job satisfaction and often a higher income in the long run.

It is not the school or employer’s job to turn our children into responsible, productive members of adult society. It is our responsibility and it starts from their pre-school years.

Comments by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families


Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.
                                                                                    ~ Charles J. Sykes author of Rules for Life

This is the eighth blog Sally or I will write based on a series of 11 life rules for teens written by Charles Sykes and referred to by Bill Gates, the Microsoft billionaire.

What a shock it was to discover this very thing in our school system when we moved to America nearly 18 years ago. I was employed to set up an alternative school for students who had committed zero tolerance infringements so they could continue their education for a year, but not in the regular public schools. Extra credit questions, Summer school, an after-school makeup for students having too many absences or tardies. I wasn’t used to this. In every other country I know of, if you fail you fail and you get over it.

Our two children went immediately to College on their arrival. A few weeks into his study I asked our son how he had done that day. His reply floored us. “I got 110 out of one hundred.” I asked him how he could possibly get 110. He told us that he had ‘aced’ the main test and that there was an extra credit question worth 10% as well, and he had aced that. We sort of snickered at this incredulous situation. I then began to learn that failure here was a ‘No, no!’

“We can’t afford to let children fail. It might hurt their self-esteem!” Self-esteem has been so overrated! How precious are we to think we can, or should, shield our children from failure. The brightest and biggest Biblical characters all failed miserably at some time through their lives. Most of the world’s renowned leaders, inventors and entrepreneurs failed many times in their lives before becoming great. In New Zealand, when I was in High School, the last three years had national exams set by the Department of Education. Only 50% were allowed to pass to keep the standards high. They scaled the results up or down to attain this percentage. My two brothers and I worked very hard, but we all failed one of those sets of exams and had to do the whole year over again. It hurt at the time, but we got over it. We all ended up with degrees and have all been school principals!

Life is not like we experience in our school systems here. Life is tough and you usually have only one shot at things. So why do we give our kids false hope and not prepare them for the real world? We have become far too soft and pamper our children. Many employers tell me that the young people they hire today are poorly equipped for employment and they give up so easily. They are not used to high expectations. Focus is pitiful. Poor work ethic is rife and we wonder why our economy is in such poor shape (apart from the political reasons!).

Let us, as parents, raise our kids to be equipped for reality, not fantasy. Teach what it means to fail and how to recover from the experience. Look up stories on the Internet about the lives of Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Winston Churchill and J.K. Rowling. You will find they all failed many times before achieving greatness. At the same time demonstrate tenacity, focus and courage in your own life. These three character qualities and a positive work ethic are learned when your children see them operate in your life.

Failure is an opportunity to learn from our mistakes. You only fail if you quit trying to reach your vision or goal. We owe it to our children to demonstrate that hard work, being smart and making wise choices will equip us to succeed in life. The Apostle Paul puts it this way in Philippians 4:13-14 “Brothers and sisters, I know that I have not yet reached the goal, but there is one thing I always do. Forgetting the past and straining toward what is ahead, I keep trying to reach the goal and get the prize for which God has called me through Christ to the life above.”

Comments by Brian Burgess, Forefront Families

Friday, February 16, 2018


'Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got
that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about
how cool you thought you are. So before you save the rain forest from the
parasites of your parent's generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.'
                                                               ~ Charles J. Sykes author of Rules for Life

This is the seventh blog Sally or I have written based on a series of 11 life rules written by Charles Sykes and referred to by Bill Gates, the Microsoft billionaire. 

If you have the most amazing teenagers that you are so proud of share this with them so you can have a good laugh together. If you can relate to this rule because your children are like Bill Gates’ description above then share this article with them and discuss how things need to change.

We parents can become very boring due to the responsibilities of life and routines we become accustomed to. When we are raising children our lives are so motivated by our kids’ needs that we spend nearly half our lives pandering to their every whim and fancy. That’s if you have allowed your children to be the center of their universe. What do you usually get at the end of that? …entitled kids who believe they should get everything they want and for you to wait on them hand and foot. They go on to believe that you will let them come and stay at home for free if they lose their job or make no effort to secure one.

In their adulthood they believe the Government owes them a living and that bosses are sucking everybody dry. It never crosses their mind that taxpayers are paying for them to be lazy and that bosses have taken many risks. They have gone to a lot of expense to ensure others can make a living from their business.

When you finally get tired of the parasite that is living within your walls, you try toughening up, but it’s often too late. You have become a monster in their eyes. “How could you be so cold as to tell me that I have to have employment within another month? I thought you loved me?” So, the emotional blackmail is applied and at this point many parents give in.

The problem is that parents like this should have taught responsibility to their toddlers. Children who are allowed to be the center of the universe grow to believe that they don’t have to do anything and things will just come to them. I have met so many enabling parents who admit that they have done this. One lady even said to me that she believed she needed to let kids be kids and that they would have plenty of work to do in the future, so for now, nothing. Oh, dear! What a harvest of whining, disrespect and trips to the Principal’s Office there’ll be in the future! As for the pain that she will have to endure, she will have to wear that one. Her kids will disrespect her and all other authority they encounter. I have seen it happen so many times. The parent says, “Where did I go wrong?”

Young person, your parents are not your slaves. Their job is to shape you to fit into the adult world and the work environment so that you can make a great living and contribute to society. You should be shaped to make a difference in the world. You are cool when you know how to cook, wash your clothes, know how to iron them, keep your room and the house clean and tidy, mow the lawns and do things even without being asked. Now, that is super cool!

If you find your parents boring thank them for all they have done for you and encourage them to have times for themselves. Relieve them of stress by not causing any, and be the young person that others look at and say, “I wish my kids were like you!”

Comments by Brian Burgess, Forefront Families


              'If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes,
                                                                     learn from them.'

                                                                      ~ Charles J. Sykes author of Rules for Life

This is the sixth blog Sally or I have written based on a series of 11 life rules written by Charles Sykes and referred to by Bill Gates, the Microsoft billionaire.

This message addresses the need to take responsibility for our own actions. Lack of accountability is one of the worst traits in our society today. The first thought in many people’s mind when something goes wrong is, “That wasn’t my fault”, or “Who is responsible for this terrible thing that has happened to me?” The scenario can be almost anything. Here are some of the most common blame game responses. “I can’t help the way I am. My parents were the same.” “If the City had fixed this hole in the road I would not have stepped into it and sprained my ankle.” “I didn’t pass the test because the teacher didn’t tell me what was in the exam.” “The Devil made me do it!”


We are encouraged by advertisements on TV to sue drug and other companies for our misfortune. We are encouraged to go bankrupt rather than see the lack of wisdom that often gets us there. Many times we find ourselves saying, “It is the Government’s fault, the school’s fault, the company’s fault, the church’s fault or the club’s fault.” Don’t we realize that by blaming an entity we are accusing nobody in particular – just ‘them’? A school, a church, or a club is made up of individuals, none of whom have the right to make an executive decision on issues. Throwing the blame at a faceless group is a futile attempt to shrug off our responsibilities. Wouldn’t it be more useful to join a committee and actively try to make changes that would benefit the community?


Sadly, the sense of personal entitlement is taking over. Our thoughts tend to be all about ourselves and not about those who are also suffering as a result of our poor judgments.

When I break something in a store, do I take it to the counter and offer to pay for it? When my child’s teacher tells me that my child is disrespectful to authority, do I take responsibility for his behavior or blame the school for not teaching him good manners? We cannot expect our children to take responsibility for his actions if we do not.


Our strongest core family values need to include honesty and accountability. We can teach our children to take responsibility for their own actions by making clear our expectations and applying consequences for unacceptable behavior. They need to know that blaming someone else is not the appropriate response. It may be that someone else was at fault, but it is important to discuss the situation to see if there was anything your child could have done that would have resulted in a different outcome. Discussing situations after the event is a valuable way of helping our kids make wise decisions to prevent negative stuff happening in the future.

We all make mistakes, but it is a wise person who learns from them, thus avoiding repeats of the same scenario.

 Rules for Life are written by Charles J. Sykes
Comments by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families