Saturday, March 30, 2013


 As I sit here writing this blog, there is a hive of activity going on outside.

It all started when a large wooden crate arrived at my son's workplace a week ago and once emptied, was immediately collapsed, placed on a trailer and brought home.  It has been sitting under a tarp ever since and 2 young boys are eagerly awaiting its rebuild into their new hut.  Our grandson, aged 7, has already got it planned out using a 3D model on his computer.  His Dad and 'Grandy' are busily creating a small retainer wall to make enough flat space for the hut's foundations.  Mum and 5 year old son are out there painting.  It won't be long before the children will both be helping erect the structure.

We don't often think about the significance of our kids helping us do adult stuff.  However, the reality is our children love using shovels and wheeling barrows, and bringing paint brushes and pails of water to help Dad.  We have pictures of our own son helping Daddy gardening when he was only 2 years old.

There are a number of benefits for kids helping their Dads.  It provides a valuable opportunity for one-on-one conversations.  It teaches kids skills by watching and doing.  It shows them that work with Dad can be fun.  They enjoy the satisfaction of seeing something completed.

I am watching quite a twist in this scenario right now.  Here is Dad helping his grown son with these physical projects.  Over 35 years ago it was the other way round!

Go dig, go build, go paint together.....

Thursday, March 28, 2013


As we are enjoying meeting up with our friends and relatives down here in New Zealand and Australia, food seems to be a very common centerpiece for our conversation.  It got me thinking about the value of table talk.  When else is there time to just sit and talk face to face about your day, to share exciting news, give or receive a word of encouragement or enjoy just good old companionship?  Doesn't it feel great to be asked about your current project, your plans for the holidays/vacation, your job, the movie you just saw, your night out or the cat?  Someone cares!

Statistics have shown that the habit of eating meals at the table even, if only several nights a week, makes a huge positive difference to teen behavior.  Why is that?  I think it is because social conversation around a meal allows kids to share their opinions, talk about their successes and listen to others.  They feel valued. They feel their contribution to the family is special.  These times together also allow parents to quietly observe the mood of their children, and perhaps, through quiet individual discussion later, head off potential issues.

Table talk should be fun and never used as an opportunity for parents to reel off all the negative things their kids have done during the day.  That is not fair because it is an embarrassment to the individual concerned and makes the rest of the family feel very uncomfortable.  Reprimands should be kept to a 'one-on-one' session with the child concerned where the situation can be properly discussed.  Don't be a 'Debbie downer' when it comes to mealtimes with the family.  This is a valuable time, without the TV on, to enjoy your family along with the great meal that has been prepared. 

Bon appetit.

By Sally Burgess

Thursday, March 21, 2013


It is always a treat to come to New Zealand or Australia and see every school child in uniform.  When we were kids living down here in the South Pacific we were always very excited to don our uniform on the first day of the new term (semester).  It gave us a real sense of acceptance and a feeling of belonging to the school.  We never had to think about what we would wear to school each day, only that our uniform was intact and clean.  We even had uniform footwear and swimwear.

There certainly are many advantages to school kids being dressed the same.  Apart from the cost of uniforms in the first place, there is no further expense until they grow out of them or move to another school.  There is no 'one-up-manship' about who is wearing designer this or that and there is no issue over indecent attire.  Uniforms require wearing belts and having the pants worn up on the hips so the saggy pants thing is non-existent.  In the summer time students are required to wear hats to protect them from the sun, and also sun screen when playing outside.  There is a level of tidiness required, no nail polish or makeup.  Everyone is at the same level and treated with the same respect.  Clothing is unlikely to be stolen because everyone's clothes are exactly the same in the first place.  It is more likely that one person will accidentally pick up someone else's hat or jacket by mistake.

Research shows that behavior improves when uniforms are worn. We don't know exactly what it is that improves behavior. However, when kids dress up for a school dance, even students that may cause some problems on a regular school day are usually very well behaved. "Dress for success", I guess, is a powerful motivator in changing one's perspective and attitude.

By Sally Burgess

Friday, March 15, 2013


It is suggested that toddlers need 10-11 hours sleep each night.  If they take naps during the day, then those nap times can be added on top of that.  It is a good idea to allow kids of up to 5-6 years old to at least rest, if not sleep, during the day.

You can often gauge if your toddler is getting enough sleep by his behavior during wake hours.  If he is irritable, has emotional outbursts, rubs his eyes or yawns, then he is ready for a nap.  He just may not be getting enough good quality sleep.  Children who are regularly disturbed during sleep time also display signs of tired behavior.

If you are having issues getting your toddler to bed or ensuring they sleep all night, here are some suggestions:

1) Pre-bedtime routines.  These give the signal to toddlers that it is time to be thinking of sleep.  These routines should include passive activities such as quiet play, bath time, a story read to them and then into bed.  Vigorous activities, stimulating TV, loud noise and the like wind kids up rather than put them into a sleepy frame of mind. There should also be a particular time they are in bed. 

2) Constant calling out or getting out of bed should be discouraged.  If you ensure they have been to the bathroom (older pre-schooler), set them up with their favorite Teddy, a drink nearby (for the older toddler) and the door ajar, there should be no reason for them to want to get out of bed constantly.  This becomes a habit which some parents seem to indulge without realizing it.  Also, a parent lying with a child until they go to sleep can also become an unnecessary habit which can go on for years!

3) Night time fears, night terrors etc.  Fear of the dark can be a real issue with children.  In fact, I would suggest that we have all been afraid of the dark, especially imagining things like monsters under the bed!  So, no spooky night time stories.  Be aware of older siblings scaring younger ones just to tease them.  Watch the TV content.  We soon forget the TV show's very graphic and scary scenes, even on the news.  Having a night light just bright enough to show you where the child is is an excellent idea.  Night terrors sometimes occur, but are often more alarming to the on-looker than the child.  Do not wake the child, but just hold him close to you with the light off.  Soothe them until they settle. 

Some source material: Dr. Alex Bartle, Founder of Sleep Well Clinics

Friday, March 8, 2013


Doesn't it just wear you out when your kids bicker all the time? Why do they do it? Why did we bicker and fight as kids? Bickering seems to be inevitable in our homes, but it doesn't have to be.

Here are some suggestions:

1. Check the general atmosphere in your home. Is it positive or negative most of the time?

2. Observe each child and see if they appear unhappy about things.
3. Spend one-on-one time with that child and find out what is bothering them. The child’s 
attitude might change drastically when they are assured that they are loved and valued.
4. Look at your own conflict management as parents. Do you bicker? You don't have to. There are positive ways to settle differences and stop the negativity.
5. Create a 'non-bickering' rule in your home. Develop a formula to resolve issues and train your kids to follow it.

For example, use "The Three Word Rule."

a) STOP - Take a deep breath.

b) THINK - Is this really worth fighting over? Is bickering and arguing solving the issue? NO
c) ACT Work together to get what you want. It might be as simple as taking turns.

To attain and maintain a peaceful home you need to to make a strong stand against bickering between family members. It causes no useful purpose and often stems from selfishness. Respect is a huge plus in any family and immediately changes the tone.

Bickering is a symptom of a problem that hasn't been resolved or a factor that has had no discussion or consequence applied. Find the root of the problem and deal with it quickly. After all, we all want a happy, peaceful home, don't we?

By Sally Burgess

Monday, March 4, 2013


Every child needs:
1. To have their basic needs met: warmth, food, shelter and clothing and rest.
  • To know they will be fed regularly, so they don't feel hungry.
  • To have their pain soothed quickly.
  • To sleep undisturbed for hours at a time.
  • To not be left alone.  They need to know that someone will be there when they are sad, afraid or need something.
2.  To feel comfort and security.
  • To feel the comfort and security of arms around them, just for hugs or to rock them to sleep.
  • To hear the gentle, loving voice of a mother or father to make them feel loved.
  • To feel the loving touch or the stroke of a hand on their skin to make them feel accepted and cared for.
  • To know they are in a safe, secure environment with the skills to know that to do in case of danger.
  • To feel safe from danger.  To know someone is there to protect them at all times.
  • To enjoy an everyday routine that takes care of their every need.
  • To know adults' expectations and to be taught how to meet them.
  • To experience caring and consistent parenting.
3. To feel valued
  • Once the above needs are met, a child learns to trust those who care for them.
  • To be asked for their opinion or ideas lets them know that what they say and do makes a difference.
  • To be included in adult conversations at times.
  • To be given opportunities to learn as much as they can.  Knowledge creates confidence.
  • To be able to discover and develop their special abilities and passions.
  • To be given responsibilities at home and school.
  • To be given praise and encouragement for work well done.
  • To be corrected in a timely, fair manner.
One of the greatest yet simplest things you can give to a child is your smile - especially when you look right into their eyes when you do.  A smile is a wonderful expression that, without a word, tells them you love and accept them, that you care about what they are saying or doing and that you are happy they belong to you.