Wednesday, December 10, 2014


There is probably nothing more annoying than being around people who sulk.  Yes, it is true.  Sulking is not just a child behavior, we see it everywhere.  I must admit that I have sulked a time or two when I couldn’t get what I wanted.  And that is about the root of the problem, right there.  People often resort to sulking because things are NOT going their way. Yes, I, I, I; me, me, me!)

Never a grumpier person could you meet than a sulker.  Their face is completely devoid of expression or they are scowling.  They refuse to speak to whomever ‘crossed’ them and they suck the life out of the atmosphere by their frosty silence, thus causing discomfort all around them.  Silence can be just as controlling and powerful as shouting or physical attack.

From an objective point of view, all that negativism is using up a powerful lot of energy.   Research shows that it takes many, many more muscles to create a scowl than it does to smile.  It is worth observing people walking along the street sometimes to see how many glum faces there are around.

1.  Look at ourselves and ask the burning question.  Do we sulk?  If we do then we have to
     consider a more effective way of dealing with our negative feelings so we can teach our
     kids to do the same.  We can’t always have a win/win outcome.  Things are not always
     going to go our way and if they are, then they are certainly not going someone's way.
     When it comes down to it, does it really matter in the long run who wins?  We don’t always
     have to be right.

2. We need to look carefully at our kids' general behavior.  Do they always want the biggest and
    best toy, the biggest slice of cake, or to be first in the line for ice cream?  Of course they do.  It
    is natural.  However not everyone can have the biggest and best.  Children need to learn to take
    turns, to share and to do things that will please others rather than be self-serving all the time.

3. Is sulking an unusual behavior for this child?   If so, then perhaps there is something going on
    that really needs to be addressed.  Are they troubled or afraid?  It is important to explore
    possible causes, rather than just jump on the exhibiting behavior.

4. Ask the child directly why they are sulking.  If they won’t say and you are confident there
    is nothing sinister going on then you can say that a grumpy face is not going to get them what
    they want.  Explain your behavioral expectations and boundaries for their behavior.  If it
    continues you can remove them from the room until they are willing to express themselves
    respectfully. You can choose to ignore the sour face, but praise them when they do behave as
    you expect.

It is a very important lesson to learn that it is not all about ‘me’.  Jesus was right when He made it clear that we are here to serve others and not just our own needs.  We all need to learn how to channel our frustration effectively without reverting to pouting, grumbling or throwing a tantrum.  Sulking is
not acceptable at any age.

Written by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families LLC


It is very exciting to welcome a new baby into the home.  Older brothers and sisters have been waiting in anticipation as they see their mother's figure change shape and see the baby scans.  They have no idea how that new little member of the family will alter their lives for ever.

Many siblings are very comfortable with a new baby in the home.  If they have been included in baby discussions, have had some input into buying baby clothes, or helped to decorate the nursery and/or helping choose a name than they feel they have some stake in the life of their new brother or sister.

Things don't always go as planned, though.  Single children can easily become jealous of the time taken away from them by their mother.  There is a great deal of literature out there to assist you with older children being eased into sharing their parents with a new baby.

When I saw this photo of a friend's grandchildren I was touched by it and also with the words included alongside the picture.  "Our big boy can't get enough of our little boy.  Touching, cuddling and leaning on him."  This family has three children.  These two are the oldest and youngest and there is a little girl in between.  Obviously the four year old boy in the picture feels very comfortable with two younger siblings.  How does this happen? 

It is a fragile time for all concerned when the new baby arrives.  Here are some suggestions  that may ensure the whole family bonds quickly.  
1. Encourage older siblings to hold the baby when they want to - especially as soon after the
    baby is born.

2. Let the older kids help look after baby where possible e.g. dress, bath, feed and rock the baby.
    Let them push the stroller, sing, chat and read to baby.  It is good that they develop some  
    responsibility towards their new sibling, but not so great that it becomes a burden to them.

3. Let them know how much you appreciate their love and care towards their new sister/brother.

4. Include the older ones in cuddle times with baby so they don't feel left out.

5. Even though it is difficult, ensure that older children get some one-on-one time with you.  
    Dad would be a great help in observing your older kids' behavior, and keeping up a healthy 
    dialogue with them so they can express their feelings about the new addition.

Written by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families LLC


We have often been asked about the difference between our New Zealand and American Christmas.  Well, the season is about as different as chalk from cheese, actually.

When we lived in New Zealand and received Christmas cards depicting piles of snow, we never really thought about it because of the whole Santa and North Pole thing.  However, the reality struck hard when we moved up here to the USA, and felt the bitter cold and at times struggled through snow on Christmas Day.  You see, in New Zealand and Australia, Christmas marks the beginning of the summer break.  It is hot down there.  It is very hard to imagine, but when you have lived in the opposite season all your life, you don't even think about it.

We notice that here in the USA, people tend to go all out with festive decorations.  Not only is there a Christmas tree in the living room, but often in other rooms in the house also.  My friend, Nancy, has no less than 12 decorated trees throughout her home.  Up here people also add many other decorations inside the house such as nut crackers, tinsel streamers and festive center table decorations.  Perhaps, because of the cold weather, being indoors to enjoy the decorations makes it worthwhile taking the trouble to create a festive home interior.  Houses and lawns often get decked out with all manner of lights and objects such as reindeer, snowmen and the nativity scene.  Some people even decorate themselves by wearing bells on their ears and on their socks.  Christmas sweaters adorn many a woman with festive scenes on the front.  Many people here wear red during the days leading up to Christmas and on Christmas day.

'Down under' as we call the South Pacific, we do not tend to be so decoratively-minded for a number of reasons.  This may be somewhat dictated to by our weather.  It doesn't get dark until later at night so lights all over the outside of the house do not show up in the early evening.  Perhaps because of our more conservative culture or maybe the hot weather, we are not inclined to decorate ourselves in Christmas attire. 

In the USA it might be turkey, ham, or pork roast, cranberry chutney, congealed salad, cooked green bean salad, cornbread, chocolate pie, and coconut cake depending on where you live.  Note these are all basically winter foods.  In New Zealand and Australia, we are more inclined to eat lamb roast or chops, ham or chicken, baked vegetables and cold salads.  We might even eat a completely cold meal at the beach.  Many families have an outside meal for Christmas based around their BBQ.  You know ("Shrimp on the Barbie"and all that!)  Because our countries were settled mainly by Great Britain, we often eat boiled Christmas pudding with custard and whipped cream which is a winter dessert, but we are just as likely to eat Pavlova (see below) which is whipped egg whites made into a meringue, cooked and stacked with fruit and whipped cream.  This is an any time of the year dessert, but very popular at Christmas.

                                          Pavlova (meringue with fruit and whipped cream)

After our Christmas lunch we often go to the beach to have a swim.  In the USA people have Christmas Day off, but then go back to work until New Year's Day when they have one day off and then straight back into the work year.  That was a real shock to us because between Christmas and New Year, in New Zealand and Australia, we pretty much shut down for 10 days.  We always have the day after Christmas (Boxing Day) off and also the day after New Year as statutory holidays.  Because it is summer and the kids are out of school until the beginning of February, many families take this as their holiday time away.  Some families have Christmas Day at the beach or will certainly leave for their holidays on Boxing Day.

Christmas traditions are hemispheres apart.  It has taken us 20 years to get used to 'Christmas' coming and going with barely enough time to catch a breath, especially as it is very soon after the Thanksgiving celebrations.  Christmas is one day here compared to at least 10 days of fun in the sun.  You ask about the difference?  Yes, we all celebrate with the same fervor, but our cultures and our weather dictate the difference.

                      This is my brother Jon's home in Australia.  He doesn't care about the
                    summer season, he just likes expressing his creativity at Christmas time!

Written by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families LLC

Thursday, November 6, 2014


It is the hardest thing in the world sometimes to have your kids listen and do as you ask them THE FIRST TIME.
Is it impossible?  No!

Why don't my kids listen to me?

  • They are concentrating on something else and, therefore, are not aware you are talking to them.
  • They know that you will ask many times before you really mean business.
  • They have a hearing difficulty.
  • They choose not to do as you say which is straight disobedience.
  • Know that you will only carry out a threat occasionally, so they hope you will give up and do it yourself.

How do I train my kids to LISTEN and OBEY? 

a) Check and see what they are doing, and, if they are absorbed, wait till they have finished what they
    are doing before you ask them to do something.
b) Tell them that in 10 minutes they must stop what they are doing and clean up/put their toys away
    or whatever.
c) Once you know you have their attention, tell them that you will ask only once and if they do not
    do as you ask there will be a consequence.  Tell them what that consequence will be.  Carry it out.
d) If you think they may have a genuine hearing problem, get their ears checked.

DO NOT PLEAD.    This gives the impression that they have an option when they don't.
DO NOT NAG.        This tells them they have as much time as they want to do as you say.
DO NOT SHOUT.    This only tells them that they can shout also when they want something.
                                  Allowing yourself to get angry only leads to regret.  You cannot take back
                                  words spoken in anger.
BE CONSISTENT.   Your kids feel secure when you say what you mean and mean what you say!
                                  They want to know your response will be the same every time.  Both parents'
                                  expectations need to be the same.

Written by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families LLC


We often feel defeated in our parenting efforts, particularly when it comes to our teens.  We do the very best we know how, but sometimes our kids just don’t turn out as we hoped and prayed they would.  If we were only given a second, third and fourth chance to ‘do it right’!  However, in the process of raising our kids things can go wrong. Often hurtful things are said, blame is thrown around and sometimes we even feel that bridges with our children have been irrevocably burned.

When it comes down to it, what we want is a ‘win/win’ situation where we, as well as our teens, are satisfied with each other's performance.  I heard a great talk the other night on how to achieve the ‘win/win’ situation without compromise.

Our speakers explained that both sides CAN win when they ask each other, “What will make this a win situation for you?”  Then act on it.  I heard a great illustration on this subject once.  Two kids were fighting over an orange.   Their mother got so sick of them arguing that she took the orange off them without asking what they each wanted. One wanted the orange, and the other the peel.  There was a ‘win/win’ sitting right there, but neither asked the question, “What will make this a win for you?”

As kids reach their teens they hit a period when muscles are flexed and heads are butted.  While we expect our teens to use their brains, we are often not willing to give up control.  While our family's instilled values should remain the same, the application we set for our small children needs to be adjusted somewhat as our kids reach their teens. 


  • Much parent/teen conflict would be avoided if we were to keep a healthy communication going with our kids.  Yes, they will be influenced by their peers, but if we train them to follow our expectations, give them boundaries along with explaining the reasons why we set these, we are much more likely to gain their cooperation and retain their respect.
  • Teens do not want parents as friends.  They want them to be parents, to be there to give them sound advice, to guide them through rough times, help them make wise choices, rather than constantly chastise them for poor decisions.
  • Kids want parents to be appropriate role models and to prepare them for all the possible scenarios they may face through their teen and adult years.  I tell parents that their kids have bunches of grapes in their heads. Each grape has the answer to a decision they need to make.  If we do not place the information they need inside each of those ‘grapes’ prior to a ‘particular circumstance, children will default to whatever their peers are doing or whatever feels good at the time.
  • Kids want your unconditional love and care, your training and advice, your trust, your protection and your leadership.  They do not want broken fences and burned bridges.


What to do:

If you feel there is a rift in your relationship with your teen, it is never too late to mend the fence.  Even if you feel your child is at fault, YOU make the first move to reestablish a healthy relationship.  Approach them with an open and forgiving mindset.   Ask them what would make a ‘win’ situation for them in your relationship.  Explain what will make a ‘win’ for you.  You need each other.  Your future grandchildren will need you in their lives.

Written by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families LLC


Recently I watched a sit-com. The scenario was as follows:

A divorced mother was saving up to pay for an overseas school trip her younger daughter wanted to go on.  At the same time her elder daughter confessed to skipping university classes during the year and wanted to go to summer school to catch up.  The mother had a fit because she had paid for the College classes her older daughter skipped and was now in a quandary about how she was going to get the money together for both her children to fulfill their wishes.

In my mind it was a ‘no-brainer’, but guess what happened?  Mother gave the older daughter the money to finish her classes and the younger daughter missed out on the trip!

What is wrong with this picture?  What was that mother thinking?  Daughter number one had been personally irresponsible as well as disrespectful in regards to her mother’s money and trust.  She should have been told to save up for her own summer school tuition.  Instead, she happily took the money that was meant for her sister without thinking twice about the fact that she was preventing her going on the trip.

Why do we rescue our kids? 

Is it because:
  • We have the misguided belief that our children are perfect and therefore right?  
  • We are afraid that our kids' behavior reflects on our ability to parent effectively?
  • We believe that we are being unfairly treated or discriminated against for some reason?
  • We want to shield our kids from the consequences of their making poor decisions?
  • Our parents rescued us and we are just following their poor role modeling?

My husband is astonished at how many parents come to the school and make excuses for their children’s behavior. They will back up their children’s lies even when the evidence is there on school security cameras.

 How does our rescuing affect our kids?

When parents rant at teachers in front of their children in support of their behavior it is really saying, “This is how you deal with anyone who upsets you, especially authority figures." Our society is filled with individuals who say,  "It wasn’t my fault!”
Rescuing teaches kids not to face responsibility for their own actions.
Shielding kids constantly does not prepare them for the real world.  They have to learn to be respectful, truthful and accountable or they will constantly find excuses to continue to behave selfishly.  They need to learn that just because something doesn't suit them, they can't just quit.  They also need to understand and appreciate how their behavior affects others.

 It is hard being a parent and watching our children learn hard lessons.  However, we are not doing them any favors if we keep shielding them from the harsh realities of life.

How do we stop rescuing our kids?

In the immortal words of Bob Newhart, "JUST STOP IT!"

  • Give your kids clear behavioral expectations.
  • Praise them for meeting those expectations.
  • Tell them the consequences of not conforming to your expectations.
  • Follow through with the consequences.
  • Believe the teachers when they say your child is not behaving appropriately at school.

Written by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families LLC


Our lives today are being driven by aggressive advertizing.  We just get that new gadget, toy or hand held device and within 5 minutes there is a newer model, thus making us feel dissatisfied with the 'old' one.  We can't afford the expense, but we are sucked into the idea that we must keep up.  What to do, what to do?

What happened to being grateful for a few things?  As soon as parents start a sentence with, "Well in our day....", our kids roll their eyes, groan and say, "Yes, well this is our day and I want the latest xxxxx."  At what point can we say we are content?  What does contentment look like?  Can we be content while striving to reach our goals in life? Is contentment a choice?  How can we teach our kids to be content?

What does 'being content' mean?

Contentment means ‘to be happy and satisfied with one’s situation’, or to ‘accept and be at peace with the way things are'.  So simple, yet often very difficult to achieve, especially during hard economic times!

A contented person is peaceful and calm.  They do not complain about what they haven't got, but rather, make the most of what they do have.  They have a positive outlook on life and make the most of negative situations.  Their security is based on being satisfied with whom they are rather than measure their 'worth' on what they possess.

Does being content mean that we can’t be competitive or strive to meet goals?  No!  There is nothing wrong with being driven to achieve.  When we set short as well as long term goals with rewards for meeting each step, then we don't become dissatisfied with our lack of performance or progress.  Our satisfaction comes from meeting each step. It is only when we compare ourselves and our possessions with others that we feel discontent.

Contentment is a choice.

It is having the ‘attitude of gratitude’.  You choose to be happy, frustrated, angry or envious.  When you
look at your friends you tend to be drawn to the ones who are content and will find yourself wishing
you could be like them.

     The old hymn, “It is well with my soul”, has been buzzing through my mind today and I looked up
     the story behind it.  Horatio Spafford, a wealthy Chicago Lawyer, lost a son to Scarlet Fever, then
     lost all his investment properties in the great Chicago fire.  Distressed, he decided to take his wife
     and four daughters to England for a break but, at the last minute, was unable to travel with them.
     The boat went down sparing only his wife.  He caught the next vessel to be with her and as they
     passed the mark where his children had perished he wrote the words to that famous hymn. What a
     truly amazing example of being content!  He deliberately chose not to go to the depths of despair,
     but to declare through the words of these lyrics, that his soul was at peace.

 How do I teach my kids to be content?

It is very difficult when the latest designer clothing, toys and gimmicks are being thrown at our kids
from wherever they look.

Here are some suggestions:

a) Simplify your own lifestyle by giving away or selling what you don’t really need.  Encourage
    your kids to do the same.  There is a tremendous thrill in giving.
b) Give your kids a certain amount of pocket money and let them decide what to invest their
    money in.
c) Cut down kids' TV viewing and encourage imaginary play using old boxes, sheets and by
    making a play hut outside.  Spend time with your kids doing things that don't cost money
    e.g. going to the beach, taking a hike, playing, bicycling, going for a picnic or exploring.
d) Focus on blessing others rather than gathering more and more stuff at home.  One idea is to
    sponsor a child from a third world country to make your kids aware of how much a little
    makes these children happy.

Contentment is an important family value to pursue.   It promotes happiness and peace.  It discourages fear, insecurity, constant striving and frustration.  It’s worth spending the time and effort to experience the peace that comes with contentment.

Written by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families LLC

Friday, October 17, 2014


We are living in an age now where there seem to be more blended families than original ones.  By 'blended', I am referring to reconstituted or second marriages or partnerships involving children from either or both parties.  I am from a blended family.  My parents divorced when I was a toddler and my brother was 4 years old.  My father did not remarry for 10 years, but when he did, there were three children to the second marriage.  Suddenly our Dad was not just 'ours' anymore.

It is no easy thing, being part of a blended family.  Insecurity amongst the children is just one major factor.  So, how can we better prepare ourselves and our kids for a smooth transition to a new family structure?


Studies show that it takes up to 7 years on average for a new family to be totally integrated.

An instant rapport with stepchildren does not happen quickly.  As a step-parent, you cannot expect
children to call you ‘mom’ or ‘dad’ immediately.  In fact, it may never happen.  Sometimes children have been previously told negative things about their 'to be' step-parent, and this makes a relationship difficult to establish.  Genuine affection and commitment only comes when trust and respect are built up between all family members.


Kids of blended families need to feel they are being treated fairly and are valued by the step-parent.  There is already likely to be a high level of anxiety and insecurity felt by the children, so reassurance is the most important aspect to get across.

Kids need:

a) Clear expectations within the new family unit (strong family values as well as
    boundaries); the same rules for all.
b) Fair discipline from their own parent.
c) Structure and routine so they know what is happening, at least most of the time.
d) Incentives to do well.  Kids always respond better to praise rather than reprimand.
e) Individual quality time.  Initially with their own parent, but eventually with both
    parents.  This is a time for kids to talk about how they are feeling within the new
    family unit.  It is a time for parents to assure their own child that they are loved
    just as much as they were before, but that you are sharing your love with the other
    parent which is important for your relationship-building as part of the new family


Each child is having to fit into a different structure and age order.  Your youngest may not be the baby of the family anymore. If you have more children, then your first children need to feel they are part of the new family identity.

Create a new family shield
that represents each of you.  Agree on a motto and let the kids design and draw the new shield. This way they can literally see that they are an important part of the new family.

Written by Sally Burgess
Forefront Families LLC


I heard this statement from a teacher recently.

                               "Kids who feel loved at home, come to school to learn.
                                     Those who don't, come to school to be loved."

It is a very sad thing that the rules for teachers have had to be changed over the years.  Decades ago teachers thought nothing of giving kids a big hug.  Now, all this is frowned upon and teachers are discouraged from doing this.

Gone are the days of Mayberry and Walton's Mountain where there was always someone available at home to listen to kids' stories when they came in from school, to feed them fresh baked cookies and milk, and to kiss them better for the slightest hurt.  We have become so busy with both parents working, shuttling kids from football practice to piano lessons and the like, that in the rush, a good old hug can get unintentionally left out of the equation.

What does a hug do for you?  I can tell you what it does for me.  It tells me that someone cares enough to reach into my personal space and not only touch me, but expend some good energy, putting their arms around me and giving me a really good squeeze.  It bridges a gap.  It touches my heart because, facing one another, chest to chest, our hearts really are beating together.  Brief hugs are just snatches at closeness.  They are not the same as a long, chin over the shoulder, back patting kind of hug.

What does it require to give a meaningful hug?  It requires a decision to actively show affection towards another person.  It means allowing someone into your personal space, making you more vulnerable. It requires time - a long, meaningful hug rather than an automatic half pie, slap on the back kind of hug.

Some people are really good huggers!  Some don't like being hugged.  Perhaps they have never been in such close proximity to another person or maybe they have had a negative experience where trust has been breached during a hug.  They may have come from a family where openly-affectionate behavior was not regularly observed.  I had a friend who was an 'A-frame hugger'.  She was never comfortable being 'that' close to another person, so she only let arms and shoulders touch.  Since we were very good friends we hugged her so many times that she eventually reciprocated and enjoys the closeness now.

Hugs and cuddles say so much more than words.  The human touch is most missed when people lose their spouse.  Our kids need to feel our loving touch much more than we realize.  It gives them a feeling of security knowing they are valued, accepted and cared for.

Be an everyday hugger.

Written by Sally Burgess
Forefront Families LLC

Friday, September 26, 2014


Stand back and take a good look at your kids and their activities.

Now, for those over 40 years of age, think back to what you were doing as kids.  What is the most noticeable difference between then and now?

Way back in the day when I was a very little kid, TV hadn’t yet been invented!  Imagine that!
We made our own fun playing with our friends, riding bikes and horses, making huts,  swimming at the beach or in the creek, climbing trees and catching, cooking and eating eels.  Every Sunday afternoon we went with our parents to visit our relations.  We communicated with one another face to face.  We always sat round the table and ate home-cooked meals and had plenty of lively discussions as we ate.  We had to share bedrooms.  There was only one car per family and, because relations and friends seemed to spend more time with each other, we were a closely knit community.

OK, now take a giant leap forward to 2014.

What do we commonly see?  Kids amusing themselves in a much more sedentary and silent manner.  They have handheld games, sit in front of their computers or TV playing games and texting or talking to their friends on cell phones.  Meals, often not home-cooked, are eaten in front of TV, in relays, with little opportunity for family conversation.  Work patterns and pace of life have created a huge gap in face-to-face conversation.  Parents often bring work home and have little or no time for their kids or they are doing two jobs to try and make ends meet.  Kids tend to become physically isolated from each other and from their parents because their bedrooms have become their own ‘play stations’ equipped with their own TV, computer and phone.  Physical contact is not necessary in order to communicate.  Both kids and parents have slipped into separate worlds.

How can we bridge the gap?

1. Take a long, hard look at your family dynamics.  What is everyone preoccupied with?  Make
    time every day when technology is put away and you can talk, parents included.
2. Create things in common e.g. family activities to develop a sense of belonging and security.
3. Give time to each family member so they feel cared for, needed, loved and appreciated.
4. Bring life’s experiences, maturity and wisdom into our conversations.  Our kids need to know
    how we deal with stuff and that they can do the same.
5. Value input from children.  They are wise beyond their years many times.

The techno trap is just as much a problem with adults as it is with children.  Be the ones to
show the example.  Stop!  PUT IT AWAY.  Eyeball them.  Give one another the benefit of your attention.  The gap will soon disappear when we encourage face-to-face conversation.

Written by Sally Burgess
Forefront Families LLC


There is a tribe in Africa that has a very beautiful custom.  When one of the members makes a mistake, the entire
tribe surrounds him/her and for two days, they speak of the great things that member has done. 

It is their belief that humans are good at heart and that we all seek security, love, peace and happiness.  However, in this pursuit, we sometimes make mistakes and when that happens, the tribe unites to reconnect that member with his/her real nature.  

This tribe's greeting is "SAWUBONO, or I value you.  I respect you.  You are important to me."  
The reply is SIKHONA or "so I exist for you."

What a wonderful way of dealing with wrong choices we make in life!  Wouldn't we all love to be acknowledged as an essentially great person who just made a wrong decision?  So often we are shown no mercy by others who make equally as many mistakes themselves.  Preferably, with effective parenting, we can learn how to make wise choices, but we must be allowed to learn by our mistakes.  Many people become emotionally paralyzed because they are so fearful of ever trying a particular activity again.  How different it feels when an understanding boss, parent or friend will say, "Let me help you through this so you will know how to do this successfully next time."

Can we be that person?

Comment by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families LLC

Source: Found on Facebook with the following acknowledgement underneath: 

Read more in Spanish

Thank you Renato Accioly for sharing and thank you Kenneth James DuPlooy for sharing your knowledge about the Ndebele people - with Kenny J Miyagi, Jose Monteiro, David Kalikiano Perry and Renato Accioly

Monday, September 15, 2014


It is always disturbing to read, see or experience the result of uncontrolled anger.  As the story of the Blade Runner unravels on TV we see how an incredibly successful athlete, hero worshiped by so many, has a major anger issue that has resulted in the death of another person.  We read regularly about professional sportsmen who lose their tempers and assault others.  Where does it all stem from?

Everybody in the entire universe gets angry.  It is a legitimate emotion just as are laughter, excitement and sadness.  When we become angry at injustice, it spurs us to do something to make conditions better for ourselves and/or for others.  As parents, we can very easily become angry when we feel our child is being unfairly treated or bullied.  That is a natural protective emotion.  It is the way we respond to our anger that makes the difference. 

When I see a person, such as the Blade Runner, in the dock awaiting sentence, I can't help thinking, 'How could this situation have been averted'?  This guy has inspired the whole world by his courage and success, yet has a history of uncontrolled anger from childhood.  What could the parents have done to ensure their child had learned how to control his anger?'

Here are some questions we may ask ourselves:

1. Do I control my own anger?
2. Do my kids see me 'losing it'?
3. Do I forgive others and move on?
4. Do I ask my kids' forgiveness when I have treated them unfairly? 
5. Do I respond quickly and effectively when my child has anger issues?
6. Is my home a peaceful place?

Here are some questions we may ask regarding our children:

1. Are my kids afraid of me?
2. Are my kids still throwing tantrums at school age?
3. Do my kids get so frustrated by me that they get to the point where
     they just boil over?
4. Do my kids know how to forgive and not hold grudges?
5. Do my kids manage their anger so that it dissolves quickly?
6. Are communication lines such that my kids feel safe to share their
     feelings with me?

It is imperative that we learn how to channel our own anger in a positive way.  It is also imperative that our children also learn how to manage their anger.  Their first role model is you and me.  There is no shame in getting professional help for ourselves and for our kids.

Sadly, jails are full of angry people who have not been shown, or have not learned, how to positively channel their anger from their early years.

Written by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families  LLC

Sunday, September 7, 2014



I had a great experience this week. The public elementary school where I do part-time counseling had a Grandparents' Day for the second year in a row. Last year around 600 visitors came to be with their grandchildren. This year around 700 grandparents came, and they came not only from our State, but from distant States, too. We had to split the occasion into 2 different sessions to accommodate the numbers.

On arrival they were ushered into the gym where the students led everyone with the National Anthem followed by the Pledge of Allegiance. A guest speaker challenged grandparents and children alike to be team workers and for grandparents to give their grandies time and great memories. They were then dispatched to the classrooms where coffee and doughnuts were served as the teachers and children interacted. You should have seen the smile on the grandparents' faces when they left.

Why am I telling you this? Our school was a Reward School for the 4th year in a row, meaning it was in the top 5% in the State Assessments and it was the top school in reading. Why? Parent involvement. Whenever we have a school event just about every parent turns up.

Currently, Finland has the best education system in the world. When asked why, one of the answers given was parent involvement. Become fully involved in your child's education prior to school, during the school years and at home. Parent involvement is the answer to school and personal success.

Written by:
Brian Burgess
Forefront Families LLC

Saturday, September 6, 2014


 It is has been often stated that a person is judged successful if they are either one or more of the following:

     a) Good looking
     b) Wealthy
     c) Athletic
     d) Intelligent

Being good looking is something we have little control over.  We also know that when we get to know a person, outward beauty may be only skin deep.  Inner beauty, or the lack of it, should be what defines the person.

Wealth may be inherited or it may be of a person's own making.  If a person is wise with his/her wealth then we can say they are successful in business, in their investment choices or wise in their spending.

Receiving excellent grades could indicate that a person was genetically fortunate or that by hard work and dedication reached their goals.  How many people have we known that have found study a cakewalk without the hard work and we 'hate' that about them?

Being a great athlete is certainly something to be admired.  You can't simply be gifted.  You have to put in the hard grind of becoming ultimately fit along with having the capability of being a quick thinker within the game/sport.

I have to say that, unfortunately, all of the attributes above in some way indicate success in our society.  But, are these people fundamentally happy?  Happiness not guaranteed.  Could they be relying on their abilities or activities to make them so?  Possibly.

Could happiness in itself be an indicator of success?  I think so.  When we are happy within ourselves we feel peace and contentment.  Confidence comes when we know we have done our best, but that doesn't mean we are always the winner or the best.  Happiness, contentment and resulting satisfaction come from doing our best and enjoying the rest, not being pretentious or hiding behind innate or genetic gifts to prove our worth. 

Should we try to be the very best we can be?  Should we try hard to reach our potential?  Absolutely!  But, when it comes down to it we cannot afford to rely on looks, wealth, intelligence and athleticism to be our only measure of success.  All these things can be taken away from us in an instant or over time.  The true person is who we are when all these props have gone.

What really stands the test of time are our inner qualities - integrity, loyalty, honesty, trustworthiness, respectfulness, forgiveness, obedience and charity.  When others see the joy and peace these attributes bring to us they may well redefine their  definition of success.  It doesn't have to rely on prowess, or being gifted.  Anyone can be successful with the right mindset.

Long lasting 'success' is a legacy that can be passed down through the generations and we, the parents, can initiate and maintain that within our families.

Written by Sally Burgess
Forefront Families LLC

Monday, August 25, 2014


I must confess that when our kids were growing up we hardly ever used 'time out' as a corrective action.  It wasn't even thought of those days as a consequence.  Our parents spanked us when we were disobedient and we just followed suit with our own kids.  A good swat on the behind usually did the trick back then.  Of course spanking a child is no longer advocated and in some countries such as New Zealand, it is now against the law.  I do agree that spanking should not be used unless all other options have been exhausted and, of course, we do need to heed the law.
Time out is a great option because it provides the opportunity for both the parent and the child to calm down and for the child to think about what they did that got them there!  Some kids throw a fit in 'time out' because they can't have their way, but this is part of learning to obey authority.  It is a lesson they will have to learn for the rest of their lives, so it's better to get their temper under control early.

I am amazed at how well 'time out' works with my own grandchildren, even the two year-old.  The parent will say, do you want a 'time out'?  The child then chooses whether to continue the disobedient path and, if so, the parent will say, "Go to your room and sit on your chair' and they just go and sit there.  They will not move until told they can get up.  Imagine that!  It really is a great thing to watch.

Some parents give up when their child will not stay on the 'time out' chair.  It is just a matter of persistence.  Put them on the chair and if they get off, just put them back on it without comment or display of anger.  If it happens a second time say with a firm voice, "Stay on your chair until I say you can get off!"  If you give in then they know exactly what it will take to get out of the consequence and you will have ten times the effort ahead of you to make them do as they are told. 

You might think that 'time out' does not work if you are not in your own home.  I have included two photos as examples of 'time out' being administered in the most unusual of places.  Granted it might not have quite the same effect, but the child is being taken away from their play and that counts for something.

I know that some corrective actions work on some kids and not on others.  Time out will work for most young children if you persist.  If the negative behavior continues, it may be because they do not connect the bad behavior with sitting on a time out chair.  It may be because the parent doesn't sit them there long enough (one minute for year of age is a good gauge) or insist they stay there.  If you have persisted with time out and it doesn't correct the behavior then there are other options.

There is always something that will cause a child to think twice before continuing to be disobedient. Of course, time out as such will not work for older kids but,

Here are some suggestions.
a) Withdrawing privileges.
b) Extra chores like cleaning out a closet or washing the car - chores beyond their
    normal responsibilities.
c) Removing favorite toys or electronic devices for a period.
d) Apologizing to you or to any other person affected by their behavior
    (with an explanation).
e) Restoring what might have been messed up or broken.
f) Grounding if the child is older.

Avoid using as behavioral consequences things that you want your children to learn. Like, don't get them to vacuum a room as that is a common chore that you want them to master as a life-skill. The main points are to act quickly to correct behavior, and always be persistent and consistent.

I couldn't resist adding this picture of our grandson in timeout with Daddy at the mall.  I don't think he was getting the message that this was serious business although he was taken away from the play area!

 Written by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families LLC

Friday, August 15, 2014


Didn't you just love to swing when you were a kid?  Somehow when you are sailing into the air, fantasies form in your head and you imagine all kinds of supposedly impossible adventures.  There is really nothing quite like it!  Even big kids and parents love to get on the swing every now and again and relive those cherished thoughts and memories.

So, why do we love to swing?  Perhaps it is that great feeling of weightlessness.  There is nothing tying you down.  Perhaps that swing is associated with all the playful, carefree things you loved to do when you had no responsibilities or restrictions on your life?

Let's think for a moment about those things that restrict us.  Is it the voice in your head saying, 'No, you can't do that because it is too hard, it is too expensive, you have never done it before or you saw someone try it once and they got hurt'?  When I was young I told Dad that I would like to go to University.  He said, "We aren't that kind of people in our family!"  My immediate thought was, 'Just watch me!'  I could have just believed him and given up on the idea, but I am very pleased something made me override that voice.

When I was at University I learned about Erikson's psychosocial stages of development through life and clearly remember the 8th and last stage.  He stated that you can either look back on your life with integrity or despair.  I decided then and there that I would never allow myself to look back with disappointment due to lost opportunities just because I listened to my own thoughts, self doubt or negative comments from others.

As parents we need to seriously look at our own lives.  Will we look back with integrity, or despair?  Are we already planting seeds of doubt or fear into our kids' heads which would discourage them from trying anything outside their comfort zone, or ours?

We all know the motto, 'You can do anything or be anything you want to be.'  Sometimes we want to protect our kids from trying to do something we know, or think, they can't possibly do.  Should that stop them from trying?  The worst doesn't have to be failure.  It could easily lead into something they have not thought of before, so we need to encourage them to reach that place rather than wallow in disappointment.  When we protect them from failure they may never really discover their true talent, interest or gifting.

The most amazing thing is that sometimes the seemingly impossible, does happen!  Don't we want that to be our experience and that of our kids?  It is never too late to make positive changes in our lives.  Try it!

Written by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families LLC
Photo source: Scott Crain - with my sincere thanks.

Sunday, August 10, 2014



                     "Thank goodness I have a teenager who knows it all so I don't have to use my
                                        knowledge, shaped by life experience, to make decisions.
                                                             Whew! They've got it covered."
                                                            - source Facebook status shuffle

Why do teens think they know it all?  The answer may lay in the fact that they are being influenced by many other groups of people as they grow up.  People who do not think like we do, who shed a different light on things, who think contrary to the information our kids have grown up with.  It can be quite an 'awakening' for them, but somewhat disturbing to us.

What are they thinking?  Do our teens begin to view us as 'stick in the mud, fuddy duddies'?  Do they consider us behind the times?  Is societal pressure taking over our carefully crafted and instilled family principles?  Are we losing our kids to a more influential world?


1.  We need to have constant involvement in our kids' lives.  That means we show active interest
     in what they do and who their friends are.  We spend one-on-one time with them.  We encourage
     them to talk through their differences in thinking and discuss the issues calmly without either side
     becoming argumentative. 

 2. Our kids need to know the reasons why we adhere to particular principles within the family.
     We should expect that they will eventually question our thinking.  It is all part of learning to stand
     on their own feet, to mature and take responsibility for their own actions.  When our values make
     sense they will usually want to continue to follow them even if they do initially question them.

3. We need to accept that some of our experiences in life have not resulted in our dealing effectively
     with similar circumstances and our kids can teach us a better way.  Sometimes we are wrong.

Sometimes our kids do know more than us.  We should all remain in a state of constant learning.

Written by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families LLC

Saturday, August 2, 2014


                     "I went to the movies today with my Granddaughter, Rose. We saw 'How To 
                     Train Your Dragon 2'.  She laughed out loud so much. It was neat just to sit 
                     beside this little girl and watch her total rapture in the movie. We shared 2 
                     bags of popcorn and it was one of my best '1 hour and 30 minutes' I have 
                     had in a very long time.

                     When we walked out of the theater she asked, "What shall we do now Poppy?"

                     It's a neat feeling when you get it right - a number one."

                                                                        -  Craig Robertson, proud grandfather, New Zealand

What a great story!  It really is a thrill to make a difference in the lives of our grandchildren.   And the best thing is that our grandchildren speak into our lives just as much.  They love us unconditionally.  They speak unguarded truth to us - something an adult is much more reticent to do. 
What a tonic it is when we see their faces light up at the sight of us!

Our grandchildren grow up so quickly.  Make the most of all those precious moments and take lots of pics.

Written by Sally Burgess

Saturday, July 26, 2014


It is back to school time after the summer vacation break in the Northern Hemisphere.  In some countries like New Zealand and Australia, children begin school the day they turn 5 years old and that, of course,  can be any time of the year.

Our 5 year-old grandson is starting in a new school next week and it will mean finding new friends and having a new teacher.  How can we prepare our little ones for such a new experience in their lives?Here are some suggestions.


1. Prepare yourself.
    a) Think through the scenario of not having little Stefan or Susie at home during any week days.
    b) Decide on some things to look forward to because you have more free time. It could be work, 
        rest, recreational activity, study, a hobby or volunteer work just to name a few ideas.

2. Prepare your child for a new school.
    a) Take him/her shopping for school supplies, a uniform or new clothing.
    b) Explain that he will be in a new class with (probably) all new kids.
    c) Create a structured home routine if you haven't already.  That should include early nights, wind
        down time for after school and time for you to help with school homework and assignments.
    d) If your child will be catching the school bus, then take them to the bus stop some days before
         they start so they can see other kids getting on and off (if it is part way through a semester).
         Assure them that you will be there to pick them up.  If it's the beginning of the school year
         you will have to show them how to board the bus.  Hopefully they may know at least one
         older child at that stop who can look out for them.
    e) If you are driving them to school don't hold up the traffic by feeling that you have to see them
        enter the school's front door before driving off.  There are always staff members out there to
        ensure  that happens and other moms and dads who are eagerly waiting to drop their children off
        might get somewhat agitated!
    f) Ensure they are fully potty trained, that they can tie their own shoe laces and that they
        fully know to use their manners.  

3. Prepare other siblings.
    a) Talk to younger brothers or sisters about their older sibling going to school.  They will no doubt
         wonder where their playmate is.  They may not realize until school starts where big brother/
         sister has gone, but be aware that the younger child/children may feel lonely missing the older
    b) Make sure these preschool children have fun activities to do to take their minds off missing their


    a) Talk with their teacher and let him/her know of any special needs or concerns you have
         about your child.
    b) Ask the teacher if they support parent contact by email and use this to keep up with the
        play.  Remember, too, that the teacher will more than likely have more than 20 other
        parents to communicate with and teachers don't need to be overloaded with emails.  
    c) Learn from the teacher what her/his expectations are of your child AND of you.
    d) As time goes by ask the teacher what your child's strengths are and where they most
        need help.
    e) Be prepared to be as involved with the school as time will allow you.

I know, as parents, we feel our child is too young to be out of our influence and protection,
so there is a tendency to coddle or baby them.  This is the period of time to let go a little and
help them mature.  They now have definitely left the baby stage.

Happy days.

Written by Sally and Brian Burgess, Forefront Families

Sunday, July 13, 2014


Yesterday I heard our middle-aged tour guide here in France talking about the local education system and how students at around 14 years old are required to take particular exams.  The results dictate their career future from that point on.  Those who pass can go on to higher education in fields rewarded by good salaries.  Those who do not pass are delegated manual tasks such as restoration of old buildings, furniture etc.  Naturally the students become very afraid of these exams because she said there was no opportunity to retake them.
In the process of giving us this information our guide used her own family as an illustration.  She said, "My daughter never did a jot of homework in her whole school life and now there is no hope for her securing a well paid future."  I was astonished for two reasons.  One was that she said there are no second chances offered by the school system for making up for failed examinations and secondly, that she never indicated any parental responsibility for her daughter's lack in fulfilling school requirements, as in doing or handing in any homework!


A child's attitude towards school work is most influenced by parents especially in the early years.  

1.  If your children see how interested you, as a parent, are in learning new things - whether it 
     be taking adult courses, looking up subjects of interest on the computer or at the library,
     and they see your enjoyment in achievement, then they will see the value in continual
2. If you tell a child (in jest) that you only went to school to eat your lunch and play
    with your friends this might well negatively influence your child's view of the importance
    of learning.
3. If you tell your child you only did enough work to scrape through exams and that you
    turned out 'all right', that does not take into consideration the many skilled jobs that are
    now being offered and that those with high grades are going to be chosen first in this work

Up to a point.  Initially a parent is responsible for instilling positive attitudes towards learning and school.  Parents need to gently guide their child's educational growth through positive affirmation and setting effective guidelines for study.  They will need to help their child steadily acquire knowledge and establish firm routines.  Providing a suitable place to complete their homework is necessary.

The transition from parent directed study to the child taking ownership for their own progress and success in education probably will differ according to the child's maturation and how long the parents have held on to controlling this part of their child's life.  Create high but realistic expectations and your child will rise to them.  When they feel like they are a stake holder, and the results are due to their attitude and work habits, the child will be hard to stop.

Does this mean that you can then abdicate from the responsibility for your child's education?  Not at all!  Once all these things above are in place you can then adopt the role of encourager, referee, and guide.  You need to make adjustments according to the results your child attains.  Please remember that your child should always be encouraged to do THEIR best, because they can't always be THE best.

Written by Sally and Brian Burgess

Friday, July 4, 2014


I well remember the time that I first found out I was pregnant. I was sooooo excited!  As I passed the 12 week mark that little person inside started fluttering around and it didn't seem long after that there seemed to be a gymnastics class going on in there.  All the while I daydreamed about what motherhood would be like and who and what this little person would grow up to be.  I had no idea whether I was having a girl or boy, but I was sure he/she would be everything we could ever wish for.

Perhaps what we want for our children is not necessarily what they want!  We sometimes try to map out their lives to include the things we didn't achieve.  Of course, we don't realize that we are doing our best to influence them until one day, when they feel brave enough, they say, "No, I don't want to do that!  I want to do this!"  That may come as quite a shock.  We spend all our effort and often quite some money thinking we are doing them a favor when, in fact, they may not be good at that thing, have no interest in that activity or they just plain want to do something else!

How do we resist the temptation of trying to live our lives vicariously through our kids?  
We need to:
  • Understand and appreciate that they are little individuals with their own skills and desires.  
  • Stop and look at what they gravitate towards; what they seem interested in.
  • Encourage them to try something and stick to it for a given period of time and not give up.
  • Set high expectations, but not impossible ones.
  • Let them be kids and just enjoy their early lives.
 "The irony of parenting is that children turn our molds upside down. They come out wired in ways we never anticipated. Our job is to figure out their inherent, God-ordained bent and train them in that direction. Forcing our dreams on them won't work. Only when we see them for who they are can we impact their life powerfully."

Quote supplied by:

Author, columnist, and blogger at

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


A young Mom decided it was time to teach her 4 and 2 year old boys how to greet people.  She said, "Hello.  My name is Susie. What is your name?" She held out her hand to shake her two year old's hand.   He said, "Hello. My name is Nakey (naked) Boy!"

Our 8 year old grandson was sitting quietly in a cafe contemplating the delicious food he was eating.  He said solemnly, "I think I am falling in love with this pie!"

4 year old's prayer. "Dear Jesus, God bless Mommy, Daddy (and other family members).  God bless Spiderman, Batman, Superman and Ironman!!!"

Our son, aged around 3 years old, was looking at a beautiful rainbow after the rain.  He said, "You're a clever boy, God!"

Every parent in history could tell you some of the hilarious or amazing things their kids have said or done.  We remember some and, unfortunately, we forget many.


When my first child was born I wrote in an exercise book all the words he could say in his toddler years, along with some of the hilarious things he said.  I kept those notes and eventually gave them to him.  He was very glad that I did and so was I.  All of that early history would have been lost in my memory with busyness of life.

These days I see on face book many a funny or exciting thing that my friends' grand kids have said.  However, FB entries get buried within hours and who wants to scroll  down further and further to find them?  Give it a day and they are gone.
When my daughter was born I forgot to even take a picture of her until she was 6 weeks old!  I have never lived that one down.  I also never got around to writing down those funny things she said and the words she could say at particular stages. Put it down to multitasking!

It is much MUCH easier these days to keep records of your children's achievements in pictures.  All you have to do is whip your smartphone out and take a pic.  (In our day it was the old Brownie camera with a film that tended to stay in the camera for a year until you got round to  having it developed). The only problem with digital pictures is that you rarely ever get them printed off.  What is going to happen in future generations.  Where will all those digi-pics end up?  Honestly nothing beats the old Granny brag book that you can scoop out of your 'hold all' purse and poke under the nose of anyone who is even half interested your precious cherubs!

The written word and the printed picture is our link through the ages.  Don't rely on FB to tell it all.

Written by Sally Burgess

Sunday, June 22, 2014



Some time ago I had to make an emergency trip home to New Zealand because my brother passed away unexpectedly. He was a father of three and grandfather of two. His daughter and her family, who were living with them at that time, had gone to Europe on vacation for 6 weeks and they, like me, had to make an emergency trip home. The grandchildren were four and two-years-old.  They flew in from Singapore and drove immediately to Grandpa’s home. As it happened, Grandpa was lying in an open casket at the house which is a common custom in New Zealand.


I wondered how the parents would break it to them. I thought the children would freak out when they saw Grandpa lying 'asleep' there in that big box in the middle of the living area. I spoke to a family member and suggested that until they were able to understand what had happened to Grandpa, that perhaps the casket could be covered with a light cloth. I also thought they would become fearful when they saw their Mommy and Daddy so obviously distraught. Was I wrong on both counts!

They looked at Grandpa and were not the least bit afraid. Grandpa looked as though he was sleeping. Their mom was able to tell them that Grandpa was with Jesus in Heaven and that they wouldn’t see him at home any more. They accepted it. They attended the funeral so they could see what happened to Grandpa. I am sure there were many conversations that followed, but I was totally impressed by the way the parents handled the situation in the midst of their own grief.


We don’t realize that even little children understand more about death than we give them credit for. We talk to them about how and why birds, animals and insects die and where they go. They hear about death in fairy tales and see it on TV programs. They are not always emotionally attached or get the concept that they will never see that person or little creature again. It is not until they have formed a real bond with a now-departed person, that they grasp and feel a sense of loss. These little grandchildren had no idea really that they would never see Grandpa again.


The following depends on the age and curiosity of the child.

1) Talk to your kids about the circle of life.
     Take the opportunity with an insect, bird or animal to explain that we will
     not live for ever, that we are born, hopefully have a great life and that when we are
     old or our body wears out we die. We can use stories on the news or actual instances
     of sick young people we know, to explain that people can die at any time because of
     illness or accident. Tell them that when a person dies they are buried in a big box
     in the ground and they stay there. Tell them that friends and relations go and visit
     them and put flowers and other things on their grave because they want to remember
     the person. You can even point out a cemetery as you pass it so they have a picture in
     their mind and can see where dead people go.

2) Explain the emotion of death.
    We find it so hard to talk about the death of loved ones because we are afraid to let our
     own feelings show, and we think this is not a good thing for our kids to see. When
     we don’t communicate our sorrow and explain to kids what is happening they can
     become anxious, because their parent is obviously distressed. Tell them that it is OK
     to cry and that adults cry because they are sad that they will not see their loved one for
     a long time.

3) Be specific.
     When a family member such as a grandparent becomes ill to the point that they are
     very likely to die, if you think it would be appropriate, say to your kids, "One day
     soon Grandpa will go to sleep and not wake up."  Be prepared for the questions, "Where
     has Grandpa gone?"  If you are a person of faith you can talk about the destination of the
     person's spirit.  Their next question might well be, "Are you going to die?" They do
     need assurance on that score.

4) If you don't know all the answers to kids' questions, get help.
    Do some research. Accept that we don’t always have all the answers. Take your
    kids to the library, ask the school counselor to speak to them about death and grief, or go to
    the Internet for resources e.g.


Teach your kids to value life by showing them how to take care of themselves, to be protective
of others and gentle and kind with animals, insects and plants e.g. Teach them that it is cruel to
capture an insect in a bottle and just let it die there purely because they want to observe it
and then forget about the creature.

If you or your child has been through a sad loss and are not progressing through the
grief process, then professional help is readily available.

Written by Sally Burgess