Tuesday, April 29, 2014


2 Free e-Booklets titled "How To Keep Your Sanity While Managing Teens" and "The Greatness of Grand-parenting" available for a limited time. Click here to download them.

Sunday, April 27, 2014



Jenny's son was getting married and she had arranged for the ring bearer and flower girls to come to a practice at her home.  The mother of the bride's three-year-old grandson, Jason, was to be the ring bearer.  From the time they arrived for the practice Jason was on the run. It was a disaster!

First he grabbed an ornate decorative net from inside the house and tried to catch the fish in the fishpond.  Jenny wrestled the net off him and told him not to go near the fish.   He took no notice of her and teetered on the loose rocks surrounding the pond until Jenny pulled him back.  He immediately climbed on top of a glass table on the patio and she had to take him down before he fell off or the glass broke underneath him, possibly leading to serious injury.

Into the house he flew and, half way up the stairs he climbed into a nook where he proceeded to pound on its stained glass window.  Jenny pulled him out.  He ran into Jenny’s bedroom, climbed up on the bed and began to jump on it with his dirty shoes on.  He went down the stairs, shot into the garage and climbed up a tall ladder that was leaning against the wall.  Jenny got him down, but he immediately started climbing another ladder.  She repeated the process.  Then, before she could stop him, she found him swinging on the side mirror of her car – the one that she had just paid $365 to repair. What was Jason's grandmother doing all this time?  Absolutely nothing!  She completely ignored his behavior.

Jenny was beside herself as well as exhausted.  She was already finding working with the bride’s mother difficult.   It made it worse when the grandmother made no attempt to follow this child, control his behavior or apply any consequences.


Here are some suggestions:
1.  Watch to see what behavior the child exhibits and if the parent (caregiver) is paying appropriate
2.  Explain to the parent that you have a cat that scares easily, that the stairs lead to the loft or a hot
     tub, that your home is not kid friendly and that you don't want the child to be in any danger.  You
     can show the parent these dangers so they are more aware of them and will more likely watch
     their child.
3. If the child starts running around unmonitored, approach the parent e.g. “Excuse me, Marion, but
    Jason took a net from in the house and was trying to scoop our fish out of the pond.   I don’t want
    him to scare the fish or fall in the water.  I would really appreciate it if you would watch him.
    Thank you.”
4. If the behavior continues and the parent continues to be inattentive, you have to make a stand.
    This is your home, your stuff and you do not want to compromise it or the child's safety.  Say,
    "Marion, I am afraid for Jason's safety as well as our furniture, fish, cat etc.  Please keep him
    with you or hold onto him if necessary."
5. Make conditions for further visits.  Say, "If you are going to bring Jason with you, this is what
    I need to make it a great visit for all of us.  Please bring him some toys to play with and watch
    him at all times.  I know all kids are inquisitive, but I am afraid our home is not kid friendly.

You will usually find that the parent or guardian will do as you ask and be more attentive to what the child is doing when they understand your expectations.  However, some people just don't get the whole 'respect for others' thing, in which case you have to be straight with them.  Nobody wants an unruly child around and they will need to be taught boundaries and they will have to meet your expectations.  Otherwise, consequences will be applied.

Isn’t it such a pleasure to have well-behaved children come to your home?  Reinforce their positive behavior and tell them how much you really appreciate how respectful they are and congratulate the parents for doing such a great job.

Written by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families

Friday, April 25, 2014



{The following comments are derived from my own observation and knowledge gained as a school classroom teacher and school administrator over 40 years in two countries.}

1. It has become ‘uncool’ for boys to do well in school. It is regarded as a feminine thing to excel in
    class. I found, as a school administrator, that boys generally felt that they would rather be a sports’
    professional and that it was only girls who were studious. Boys who were brave enough to want
    to succeed educationally were often mocked and called ‘gay’ or ‘girls’.

2. Increasing ‘fatherlessness’ affects boys’ attitude and response to education. When there was a father
    in the family the son’s school attendance was higher, and they were more likely to go on to College
    than boys who had no father figure.

3. Lack of encouragement. It has been observed that a father who is involved in his son’ education
    leads to his son’s success. Too often a father will willingly attend a son's sporting event but is loathe
    to attend a PTA meeting, thus promoting the attitude that sport has more value than schooling.  

 Following World War 2 girls lagged way behind boys in their education, especially in math and science. Girls were not expected to succeed in business or College. They were to find fulfillment in being a good wife, mother, a teacher, secretary, or nurse.

Times have changed. There are now more women than men going to College, more women being trained as doctors, as lawyers, and for many other professions. Over the last two decades, according to research, boys seem to have put more stock on athletic prowess than on education.

There is no easy solution. We have a societal problem with so much family dissolution. We cannot force fathers to stay with their family, but unless male mentors are available to provide positive input and encourage their sons in school, our boys will continue to suffer. As a society we have to turn the tide of boys believing that athletics is the only way to a life of success. Unfortunately, offers of huge amounts of money entices boys to believe that they can be just like their sports heroes.

1. Some nations have turned towards experimenting with single-gender classrooms and single
    gender schools as an answer to the problem and it is showing very positive results! A large amount
    of energy is so often directed towards impressing the other gender that the learning process is
    impaired. In single-gender classes and schools students claim to be more focused, and academic
    results are positively better. 

    When boys are in the same class as girls, the girls will tend to be quiet and not offer opinions.
    I observed dominating boys throwing derisive comments at girls in class. Some girls would give it
    right back, while others reeled and said no more. Several States are experimenting with this
    major issue and Federal permission has been granted for school systems to carry out trials.

2. Recognize that boys and girls learn differently. Boys are far more kinesthetic and ‘hands-on’ than
    girls. They don’t like sitting still.

3. Understand that the IQ should not be based purely on academic achievement, but also on manual
    skills, musical and other abilities.  Unfortunately, many schools have dropped non-academic
    classes such as woodwork, motor mechanics, sewing and music classes, thus implying they are of
    less value.

We need to do for boys what society did for girls decades ago to raise their educational standard. Maybe we can save our boys.

Written by Brian Burgess

Monday, April 14, 2014


Some time ago I was trying to solve a problem and mentioned it to my adult son.  He said, "Mom, just think outside the box."  In other words, look at it from a completely different angle.  It is a great thing when your kids teach you something!  It made me realize I had been approaching my problem solving by attacking the problem itself rather than jumping to the outside and taking a completely different perspective.

When our kids are small we tell them our expectations, praise them when they meet them and issue consequences when they don't.  If we only ever do that until they are out on their own, they will never learn to work through and successfully solve their own problems.  Instead, they will go with their subjective gut feeling and react with the first thing that comes to mind e.g. lash out, avoid the issue or give up.  Problem solving is an essential life skill kids need to have mastered well before they leave home.

Around 10-11 years of age is the recognized time for kids to start reasoning.  Piaget, a great educationist of the past century, researched and found that a child starts to reason around eleven years of age.  I have reason to believe that it could be a little younger this century, but I'm just surmising.  Rather than solve a child's problem for him, show him how to work through it by looking at alternative solutions and choosing the best.  It reminds me of the old saying, "Don't give a man a fish, teach him how to fish."


As a parent:

a) Set the example by being an effective role model in reasoning something through.
b) Encourage creative thinking e.g. solve puzzles, brainstorm, or play games such as
c) On occasional wet days or on vacation pose a few problems you want your 10 years +
    children to solve and praise them when they come at the answer from a different
    angle.  Don't be satisfied with just one answer, get them to probe even further. 
    Of course, you will be critically thinking, too.
d) Resist the temptation to protect your kids from negative consequences.  Don't coddle
    them or they will feel that they don't have to think for themselves.  You have done it all
    for them!

    Together with your children:

    a) Identify the issue, then offer three or four alternatives and potential consequences.  Help
        them choose the best alternative.  Evaluate the decision once in place and change tack if
        necessary towards a more successful conclusion.

    b) As they become more confident, get them to define the issue, suggest alternatives and
        potential consequences and then merely guide them through the best option.

        Note: When looking at alternative solutions, remember to think outside the box.
        For example, if Johnny is having an issue with Freddie at school being unkind or rude to him,
        suggest he think about what might be going on in Freddie's life right now.  The solution might
        not be to tackle Freddie outright, but to offer friendship.

        Another example might be: Susan is being pressured by her friends to go on a new extreme
        diet with them.  The diet is controversial and some girls have become obsessed with it and
        many have fallen prey to eating disorders.  Open up a discussion and let her see how she might
        approach her friends with a different angle.  She might say that 'stick skinny' is not healthy and
        she loves her figure with it's adequate body mass and well-muscled proportions.

    c) Allow kids to brainstorm without commenting on their initial ideas.  If their comments seem odd
        to you ask later what they meant by that and don't criticize the comment or they might clam up. 
        Just allow the ideas to flow first without comment.  Be sure you write down all the brainstorming
        comments before getting them to examine each idea.

    d) Allow mistakes in judgment to be made at first and keep the experience light and fun or they might
        not want to try the brainstorming/critical thinking exercise again.

    There are a great number of resources on the Internet for helping kids problem solve.  I just wish I had
    learned years ago to get answers to problems by thinking completely outside the box.

    Suggested resource:

    Written by Sally and Brian Burgess, Forefront Families LLC

    Friday, April 4, 2014


    Two weeks ago I stayed with my cousin Helen in beautiful Tasmania, Australia. All around the walls of her home were huge framed photographs of breathtaking landscapes, incredible bird life and spectacular sunrises. All of these photographs were taken by Helen’s husband David Jamrozik.

    Images capture scenery, family, events and exciting adventures that we experience and these ‘moments in time’ create memories down through the centuries. Wow!

    Our brains are like a huge hard drive that stores our visual images. It also turns the things we hear, such as stories we read, into visual images. It would be wonderful if our brains were stocked full of positive images. Unfortunately, life is not like that. We see and hear things that are sad, stressful and make us feel afraid. I can remember as a very small child, hearing on the radio about war in Chile. I had no idea where Chile was, what the fighting was about or whether I was in any personal danger. I just recall being very frightened. Until I was assured there was no fighting anywhere near the bottom of the world where I lived, I could not calm down, and I still remember it to this day.

    Negative memories do not automatically go in the trash or spam file in our brain. For that reason we need to protect our kids' minds from unnecessary negative and/or traumatic input.

    I imagine my brain as a blank canvas. What goes onto the canvas stays there. No matter how hard I try to paint over negative input, it will not go away. Our kids' minds are the same.

    As parents, we need to be our kids’ 'mind guardians' when it comes to the images they store. Consider this research statement:

    “Over the past 30 years there has been extensive research on the relationship between televised violence and violent behavior among youth. Longitudinal, cross-sectional, and experimental studies have all confirmed this correlation…… In one recent study it was demonstrated that 15% of music videos contain interpersonal violence.” Eugene V Beresin, M.D.

    Here are some suggestions when it comes to managing media input.

    a) Carefully monitor what they are watching intentionally or unintentionally
        on TV. The evening news, for example, can even be scary.

    b) Vet the movies, video games and music videos they watch and play. Violent
         cartoons and video games have become the norm and we do not know how
         they are affecting our kids. Yelling, “I am going to kill you,” as they play
         imaginary combative games may be tossed aside as 'normal' play, but in my
         opinion, it is disturbing.

    c) Watch for the ‘fear factor’ in children. If they seem to be afraid, encourage
         them to talk about it. Don’t dismiss their fears as ‘silly’ or think they will just
         grow out of it. Not all kids want to be scared out of their wits by spooky stories
         at Halloween or at any other time. Inciting fear is not a game.

    My husband just related that a parent at the school he works at let their eight-year-old child watch ’12 Years a Slave’. My husband saw that movie two weeks ago and said it was an R-rated movie because of violence, nudity and sexual content. It was certainly not a movie for a child to watch. How brainless can some parents be?

    Our thoughts and actions are strongly influenced by our stored images. If these images are positive and wholesome then we will automatically interpret circumstances in a positive manner thus endorsing the value of respect, care and love for one another. 

    (Photograph kindly loaned by David Jamrozik)
    This photograph is of a Tasmanian blue wren. When they are very young they are a gray color but as they mature they develop this beautiful blue plumage. We want our children to develop into confident, happy young adults, unencumbered by negative junk that they can't forget.

    Written by Sally Burgess