Wednesday, December 27, 2017


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

                                                              ~ Charles J. Sykes author of Rules for Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everyone has value and everyone needs to know they have value. God doesn’t make ‘junk’. He has got a specific purpose for everyone He has created. Include ‘nerds’ in your friendships so kids can see that you are demonstrating specifically what you believe and want them to do. Learning to tolerate and appreciate other’s differences will help significantly in the workplace. As Bill Gates said, “They might be your boss one day!” “Oh, blessed revenge!” they might say.

Comments written by Sally and Brian Burgess, Forefront Families

Thursday, November 9, 2017


Celebrations come in all shapes and sizes and are most enjoyable, memorable occasions. Celebrations can be collective e.g. a sports team winning a championship or they can be for individuals e.g. birthdays, graduations or personal successes. I wonder what it is that most of us remember about our ‘best birthdays’? Was it the gift we got that we always wanted? Was it the friends who came? Was it the effort that others put into it that made it so special? Was it a total surprise birthday? Was it a trip somewhere?

One thing that will make personal celebration especially meaningful for a person is to celebrate it in a way that is cool for them. I know for a fact that my two children have completely different ideas about celebrations. One child wanted a big 21st birthday with every friend there, while the other didn’t want a 21st birthday at all. One wanted to walk on graduation day and the other didn’t. One cannot stand surprises while the other revels in them. The question should be, “What is going to make this celebration most memorable for this person?”

Many parents feel the pressure of having to be extravagant with their celebrations. This is often fueled by advertising, perceived expectations of others (keeping up with the Joneses) and pressure from indulged children. Our kids tell us that the most memorable times they have had, have been times when we didn’t spend any money at all, or very little. We just had great fun together. I recall a time when we first came to the States. We had absolutely no spare money and my son’s birthday was coming up. I went to the dollar shop and bought a number of silly little plastic gifts and hid them all round the property, creating a treasure hunt. We stood inside the house while our 22 year-old ran around the garden with a funny smile on his face, retrieving all the hidden gifts. We then gave him a lovely birthday cake. He won’t forget that one.

Celebrations create wonderful memories so we should celebrate often. It doesn’t have to be just birthdays and Christmas. There is a saying that everyone needs to have their 15 minutes of fame. I think everyone needs to feel valued all the time. This can be achieved in many ways. We advocate that each person in a family needs to be celebrated regularly (apart from birthdays and Christmas). Once a month each person should be selected to be ‘king’ or ‘queen’ for the day. This means they do not have to do the usual chores and get to choose fun things they would like to do.

People can be celebrated and appreciated daily in a way you may not have thought about. Compliments are a great gift to give one another, yet many people don’t know how to give, let alone receive one. There is a misguided idea that compliments will make a person bigheaded. I bet you never forget the praise you are given! If you love to receive praise, then give praise.

It really is simple. Instead of just saying, “Thank you”, say, “Thank you for taking the time to help me. I really appreciate your kindness.” “I always know the day will go well when you are working with me.” “You did a great job of mowing and tidying the yard. It really looks great.” To receive a compliment you may say, “Thanks so much for telling me you liked my baking. It was a new recipe and I am glad you enjoyed it.” “I am really glad my training session helped you. Thanks for telling me.”

Celebrate life. Celebrate achievement. Celebrate often. Celebrate your wife. Celebrate your husband and give him a call. Celebrate long and for no reason at all!


It is very difficult in this day and age to be totally satisfied with what we have at any given time. This is predominantly brought about by the enormous amount of advertising that hits us from every side – “You should have this.” “You deserve that.” “Upgrade now.” “You are not cool if you don’t wear this.” It is easy to become dissatisfied when we are constantly comparing ourselves with what others have.


When we are surrounded by ‘stuff’ we tend to want more. Just think about it. If we had no stuff, then any stuff would be fabulous. As I look back on the times I have felt overwhelmingly grateful, it has often been in situations where someone has helped me when I could not help myself. Two such occasions spring to mind. We were traveling a long distance trying to reach our destination before dark. We had just updated our car and I must confess I was pretty proud of it. Wandering cows are no respecter of vehicles and our car was almost totaled in a split second. We could have been killed, but God spared us. A friend came to our rescue by lending us his rattling old bomb of a car. Suddenly my perspective about keeping up appearances changed and I was truly touched by his generosity.

There was another time when we were in ‘full time’ Christian ministry raising our own support and had completely run out of money. We had $5 left. I visited a lovely old man whose back yard was bulging with vegetables. I gave him my $5 and he gave me more vegetables than I could carry. I shared them with my neighbor who was in similar dire straits. We were all very blessed by that man’s care of us at that time.


It is not only when people unexpectedly give us money or share their possessions that we need to feel grateful. Didn’t Jesus tell us that the birds of the air don’t think about where their next meal will come from? They are just happy to be alive. When we have a positive attitude towards life, we are more likely to see the goodness around us and be grateful just to be where we are.


The more they have, the less value they place on it. It creates an expectation that they will always have stuff, and this does not prepare them for potentially rough times ahead. By giving them a small amount of money to buy their own toys, they learn to manage their finances and value what they save for. By encouraging them to give some of their toys away on a regular basis it keeps their own play stuff to a minimum, but also teaches them the value in sharing with those who have less than them. It is a wonderful idea to sponsor an overseas child or to have your kids fill a shoe box with gifts to give away to a needy child each Christmas using their pocket money. Teach them to show kindness to needy families by having the kids bake cookies for others or to treat them to the movies. When we do the above we are creating in our children an awareness of the needs of others. You literally have to train your kids not to think about themselves first. Gratitude and generosity are wonderful attributes. Thanksgiving and Christmas are perfect times to demonstrate that we care. Teach your kids how. They deserve it!


In an era of ‘must-haves’, how can we teach our children what it means to be grateful? We believe that a successful family is  God-centered,
                                           Parent- directed
Children need to learn that it is not all about them. Part of being outwardly focused is in being concerned about the needs of others. When we show benevolence by giving our possessions and our time to voluntary organizations, to our neighbors and friends, our kids see first-hand what effect generosity has on others. It also shows them how little it takes to be happy with a few things rather than a lot.

Written by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families

Saturday, November 4, 2017


I found this very interesting information on intelligence other than the usual IQ test that indicates how brainy or not we are.  I am including it with the link in hopes that it might be of as much interest to the rest of you as it was to me.  You will have to use the url below to get links indicated in red.

How smart are you?
Your answer to that question probably depends pretty heavily on your grades in school or, if you've ever taken one, the results of an IQ test. But are those a fair basis to assess a person's mental capabilities?

Everyday language suggests maybe not. We speak of street smarts and EQ, for instance. Both terms suggest that there are abilities that deserve to be considered as forms of intelligence but that fall well beyond the scope of traditional academic measures. Does science go along with common sense in seeing that intelligence and IQ are far from the same thing?

More than you probably imagine. According to Harvard's Howard Gardner, intelligence actually comes in an incredible eight flavors. In a recent video for Big Think the developmental psychologist outlined not just the two kinds of intelligence he believes IQ tests capture -- language and logical (other academics break IQ into different components) -- but also listed another six types of intelligence these tests fail to measure at all.


1. Musical intelligence.

"People say, well, music is a talent. It's not an intelligence. And I say why, if you're good with words, is that an intelligence, but if you're good with tones and rhythms and timbres, it's not. And nobody's ever given me a good answer, which is why it makes sense to talk about musical intelligence," Gardner points out. 

2. Spatial intelligence.

This is the easy grasp of how things lay in space that allows a chess master to win or a surgeon to perform near miracles. It's also "what an airplane pilot or a sea captain would have. How do you find your way around large territory and large space," Gardner notes.

3. Bodily kinesthetic Intelligence

Forget the cliché of the dumb jock. Coordinating your body actually takes a great deal of intelligence -- just not the kind measured by IQ tests. This type of smarts "comes in two flavors. One flavor is the ability to use your whole body to solve problems or to make things, and athletes and dancers would have that kind of bodily kinesthetic intelligence. But another variety is being able to use your hands or other parts of your body to solve problems or make things. A craftsperson would have bodily kinesthetic intelligence" too, according to Gardner.


4. Interpersonal intelligence.

This one seems a bit similar to the popular concept of EQ. "Interpersonal intelligence is how you understand other people, how you motivate them, how you lead them, how you work with them, how you cooperate with them," says Gardner, who adds that it's a particularly important type of intelligence for leaders to have.


5. Intrapersonal intelligence.

Intrapersonal intelligence, or self-knowledge, is both very hard to assess and very important, Gardner says, particularly in today's fast-changing world. "Nowadays, especially in developed society, people lead their own lives. We follow our own careers. We often switch careers. We don't necessarily live at home as we get older. And if you don't have a good understanding of yourself, you are in big trouble," he explains.

6. Naturalist intelligence.

This one is "the capacity to make important, relevant discriminations in the world of nature between one plant and another, between one animal and another. It's the intelligence of the naturalist, the intelligence of Charles Darwin," Gardner says.

And before you argue that you live in Detroit or Manhattan and so have no need for this type of smarts, he adds that "everything we do in the commercial world uses our naturalist intelligence. Why do I buy this jacket rather than another one? This sweater rather than another one?" Those fine distinctions are made by the part of the brain that used to discern a tasty small animal from a poisonous one. "When an old use of a brain center no longer is relevant, it gets hijacked for something new. So we're all using our naturalist intelligence even if we never walk out into the woods," Gardner concludes.

If this sounds like a long list of intelligences, then be warned -- even more may be on the way. In the complete video, Gardner goes on to note their are two other possible intelligences that he is currently investigating.

The bottom line? If you've been thinking of your mental horsepower solely in terms of high school report cards or a single number from an IQ test, you're probably selling yourself short. And if you're focusing your energies only on boosting your book learning, you may be wasting efforts that could be better focused on other strengths.

Do you recognize any of these six additional intelligences in yourself?

There is a great deal to think about in the above article by


Sally Burgess, Forefront Families


Every parent has one or many of those days when everything, but everything goes wrong!  You feel yourself becoming unraveled yet the waves keep coming in, piling one on top of the other.  If only we could run and hide somewhere for an hour, or better still, RUN AWAY!


a) Have a plan for the day.  Make sure you give yourself enough time to do everything on your list
    including receiving unexpected phone calls that soak up time.
b) Expect that things will go to plan, but run a scenario or two on what to do if xxx goes wrong.
c) Let those involved in your plans know times, places and expectations e.g. I will pick you up at
    9.30 a.m. outside your house and don't forget to bring .....
d) If you are taking a child make sure he is fed, watered, changed and that you have enough supplies
    to last the outing.
e) If your child is old enough to understand, explain your expectations to them e.g. "We are going to
    buy groceries but I am not buying you a .... today. " "We are going to Aunt Peggy's place for lunch
    and I would like you to sit up like a big boy/girl at the table and not to ask her for a present."
f) Make sure you have enough gas in the car, enough money in your purse, you are   wearing matching shoes and that you have your car keys.    
 g) Stick to your plan.


a) Stop and take deep breaths.  Ask yourself, 'Is anyone bleeding'? If the answer is 'No', as it most
    often is, then decide which of the things you scheduled for the day can be done tomorrow or at a
    later date.
b) If your child is crying, ask yourself - is he tired, hungry or become totally over-stimulated?  If so,
    then stop, give him what he needs and see if he settles.  If not, you have pushed him beyond his
    endurance.  Go home.
c) If the person you were meeting makes you late, do NOT make allowances next time and do not
    accept lame excuses like, "Oh, I am always late." Tell them you are on a time limit so, if they wish
    to come with you again, kindly be on time.


a) If everything worked to plan, congratulate yourself.  Well done!  Thank those who helped it all go
    smoothly. By thanking them, you are letting them know they have helped you meet your
b) Understand you are not solely in control of your day.  Anything can happen and it usually does.
    If you find YOU have a time commitment issue, then deal with it and don't get mad with others
    because you have let yourself down.  If necessary, get help so you manage your time more

Sanity is a most valuable thing.  So do all you can to preserve it!!


I couldn’t help notice in our Mothers’ Day church service in May a 14 year-old boy being affectionate to his mom as the pastor spoke in superlatives about mothers. After the service I went up to the boy and told him to never give up on showing affection to his parents. He and his dad both smiled in acknowledgement. “Even if your mother brings something to you at school, be prepared to hug her in front of your friends,” I said to yet more smiles.



Affection is essential to the development of any human being. Everyone in the world needs the outward show of affection - children and adults, boys and girls all desire to be held, patted, kissed, hugged or spoken to in an affectionate way and often. It makes them feel valued and secure, knowing that someone not only says they care, but demonstrates it.   

It could be an arm around a grieving soul, a pat on the back or a ruffle of the hair for a job well done, high fives, the gentle hold of another person's hand, a handshake of recognition and respect, a kiss on the cheek, a good bear hug...they all say more than words could ever tell. 

During the ‘Cold War’ in Eastern Europe many parents couldn’t afford to keep some of their children. These children were often sent to orphanages where the staff was usually told to look after the children’s basic needs only. They were not to offer affection as that might create bonds that were too hard to break. The results were shocking. When Communism in Eastern Europe fell and news got out about the orphanages, journalists photographed and wrote about the affection-starved children. The children rocked back and forth, could hardly speak and their eyes showed little or no expression.


a) Maybe the parents, or one of them, grew up in an affection-sterile home. We had a friend like
    that. Hugging her was reminiscent of trying to hug an ironing board. She was just plain
    uncomfortable in such close proximity to another, and even now she finds the close proximity of
    a hug very uncomfortable and we have been good friends for years.

b) Some dads who raised a ‘daddy’s girl’, sometimes back off showing affection to their daughters
    once they reach puberty for fear of being accused of molestation. This fear is real, but
    unnecessary. Sure, some of the things you used to do like tickling and smooching would have to
    be curtailed, but hugging, holding, quick kissing and affectionate words should never cease.

c) Some think it is sissy to show affection.  It goes along with 'boys don't cry' and 'sticks and stones
    may break my bones, but names will never hurt me!'  We all know those sayings just stifle the
    need to show emotion under difficult circumstances.

d) In the case of someone we do not know well, we may need to ask permission to hug or touch
    them.  I have never found one who refused such an offer, but it is appropriate to ask first.


In many homes in America there are affection-starved children who are deprived of so many things that make up a healthy personality. Research shows that such children look elsewhere for affection if they don’t get it at home. Many equate sex with affection and that may lead to promiscuity. For many boys it can lead to joining gangs where a different form of affection and loyalty is exhibited.

Affection is absolutely free. Affection is God-given (God so loved the world) and needs to be part of our behavior if we value wholeness. If we have come from an dis-affectionate background it is still possible to practice being affectionate. You need it and your children desire it and deserve it!

Showing affection can transform your whole home environment and tells your children in a tangible way they are loved.

Written by Brian and Sally Burgess, Forefront Families


Anger is a normal, healthy emotion. It is only when it causes detrimental outbursts that it becomes a problem. Tantrums in teens are usually the result of not having learned how to successfully manage anger and frustration while in early childhood. There are many reasons why teens become frustrated and ‘boil over’. Many times it is because they can’t get their own way, but the cause may also relate to a number of other factors. When a child sees a parent losing his/her temper by lashing out, slamming doors, using bad language and throwing things they think this is normal and repeat what they see.

Teen tantrums may also stem from over-controlling parents, being treated unfairly, inconsistent parenting, impossibly high expectations, or repeated put-downs making the teen feel worthless. It may be due to the negative influence of friends. Frustration also comes from not coping at school, being stressed out or from physical conditions such as being in pain. There are many, many children who are angry because of home break-ups.


If your child is throwing uncontrollable tantrums -

a) Consider the causes before just jumping in with some disciplinary measure. Ask yourself a
    few hard questions. Do you have an anger management problem? If so, admit it, own it and
    get some professional help - fast.
b) Are you and your spouse on the same page regarding your family values? Have you agreed
    on AND explained and demonstrated to your children what respect and self-control should
    look like in your home?
c) Have you taught your children how to recognize their frustration early and self regulate their
    own anger?
d) Are you favoring one child over another or putting them down.
e) Are you trying to live your life vicariously through theirs - putting unfair expectations on them?
f) Are you monitoring the atmosphere in the home to look for early signs of frustration in your
g) Is your home a safe and calm place?

If the answer is ‘no’ to any of the above questions, then adjust your parenting behaviors and gauge the results. If necessary, get help.


At a time when your child is NOT angry, ask him/her why they lose their temper. You might be surprised at their response. They need to know they can talk to you without fearing consequences. If they will not tell you, then encourage them to talk to the school counselor or another trusted adult.

Teach your child or get help to show them how to recognize the signs of anger and how to deal with it. If the cause is a marriage break-up, then you all need to attend counseling sessions to deal with the grief and move forward.


a) Do not retaliate. You cannot fight fire with fire as this only escalates the situation.
b) If your children are angry at each other, then separate them and deal with the matter when, and
    only when, they have cooled off.
c) If your child is angry with you, then act calm and exercise self-control. If necessary, turn and
    walk out of the room. Count a slow 25. When they are ready to talk, get them to start at the
    beginning and only allow one to talk at a time - no interruptions. You will often find that they
    are angry about something completely different than you thought and that you or another child
    did or said was just the last straw.
d) Explain how this situation could have been averted.
e) Tell the child how you expect them to behave next time and praise your children when you see
     them managing their anger well. Parents, encourage each other when you see that your own
     behavior is changing your kid’s negative responses.

NOTE: If all your attempts are failing to make a difference then get professional help.

Explain to your child that their whole life will be dictated by how they manage their emotions. It will affect their relationships with others, their careers, their play as well as their children’s lives. Anger is a positive emotion when directed appropriately.

Written by Brian Burgess, Forefront Families

Monday, September 18, 2017



Is it true that some are born to lead while others are destined to follow? Can we instill leadership skills into all of our children? These are interesting questions to ponder. The first statement is true. Some people are born with the personality traits and gifts that give them the aptitude to lead without trying too hard. It would be a sad and crazy world indeed, though, if we had all leaders and no followers.

                                           You can’t be a leader if nobody is following.

There are those who like to manage or influence other people and those who would rather follow instructions and just do the work. No matter which category a person falls into, it is imperative that we learn the kind of leadership skills that will encourage others to follow AND protect ourselves from blindly following a negative path.


    * Being a great role model
    * Knowing right from wrong
    * Making wise choices
    * Accepting responsibility for our own actions
    * Respecting authority
    * Forgiving and motivating others
    * Putting others’ needs before our own
    * Trusting others


Firstly, we need to realize that leadership is a training process. It is not merely a trait that you have or don’t have that needs some honing up during the teenage years. From infancy children begin to learn right from wrong as parents explain and train their children how to meet their expectations. God has placed in everyone a sense of knowing right from wrong. Isn’t it amazing that we never have to teach children to be bad, but we do have to teach them how to be good! Consistency in training along with praise for getting it right and good modeling develops this quality.

Setting boundaries and issuing consequences guides a child to learn obedience and to respect authority. By crossing the set boundaries, they are making the choice to take the consequences. The parent is merely carrying out the penalty the child knew would occur, thus teaching them to take responsibility for their own actions.

Making wise choices is learned through positive role-modeling by parents, open communication between child and parent and support when negative choices are made - thus alleviating a similar result next time. Not every decision needs pondered thought. It depends on how it will affect them or others. Parents need to explain the kind of steps that will help produce a positive outcome. How important is this choice to me? Is my decision going to affect anyone else? Is this decision going to alter the course of my career or long term goals?

Making wise choices is all about thinking of the consequences before we act. Too many times we make choices by not doing anything or by being sucked into a negative activity without thinking. Effective leaders are not trapped into holding grudges. By forgiving others, we become free to focus clearly on what is ahead. By working as part of a team we learn to trust others. There is no need to clamber for the glory.

We need to instill leadership qualities into the followers as well as the natural leaders from an early age so that our children make a positive imprint on the world around them. The world needs leaders who can inspire others and lead them on to greatness.

Whether a leader or a follower, our job is to be diligent, committed and obedient.  We all need to understand that a leader is always answerable to someone higher.  That means leaders are also

Written by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families


Whoever said, "THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS FAILURE",  has lost touch with the planet earth!


Of course there IS such a thing as failure. It is in the dictionary and it means ‘non-performance of something due or expected’. You can’t gloss over the word and call it something else just because society thinks it is a dirty word. If you refuse to accept the word ‘failure’ you are basically saying that you will not accept that you did not meet the criteria, did not make the grade, or did not meet your expectations. That is life, so get over it!

Not admitting failure is senseless and a product of our indulgent culture. It just means we are not allowing ourselves to learn from the experience and not teaching our children how to deal with  meeting the requirements – whatever they are.

When we were in high school in New Zealand we had to pass a State-wide set of exams the last two years. Only 50% were allowed to pass so that meant an automatic 50% failure rate. It made us work very hard and we all knew that if we didn’t make it, we had to repeat the whole school year again. I repeated one year! My husband, Brian, repeated a year. His two brothers repeated a year. This is reality – the real world. It didn’t really hurt us, although of course we were very disappointed in our own performances. It dented our pride and we wasted a year that we could have been earning. Strangely enough it did us all good because we all ended up going to University, attaining degrees and moving on to great careers.

If we don’t learn early that there are consequences for not meeting expectations, then we will never make it in the adult work world. We will always be making excuses that it was someone else’s fault. No it isn’t. When we put in the hard yards we can enjoy the results.

Now, there are times when we have little choice over whether we win or lose. We can train vigorously for a race, but we cannot guarantee we will be the winner. It is wrong for parents to give kids the message that if you are not the winner, YOU FAILED. That is NOT true! We should not compare ourselves with others, but check ourselves against our own performance. If we are beating our own times, then we are achieving.


a) Accept that there is such a word. Call it what it is.
b) Acknowledge the disappointment, but show your kids how failing this time doesn’t mean
    failing every time. Help your kids learn from the experience and show them how to improve their
    chances next time. Help them set goals for improvement and reward the small steps.
c) Don't shy away from expecting great things from your kids. They love meeting your expectations
    as long as you show them how.
d) Celebrate success, but also celebrate effort.
e) Be a great role model. Be a parent that is pushing the envelope. When you don't succeed as
    expected, talk to your kids about it and show them what you are doing to succeed next time.
e) Do not accept defeat. Our young grandsons' motto is 'Never Give Up!'

Written by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families



As we grow older it seems that there is less and less respect in the world. I find myself saying, “I would never have spoken to my father like that when I was a kid.” Along with lack of respect there seems to be a general lack of healthy fear. I do not think we should be frightened of our parents or of those in authority, but respect for others and fear of the consequences should stop us from making negative choices.


They place little or no value in themselves or in other people.
They may have come from a disrespectful home environment.


To instill respect in our children we need to understand the meaning of respect. Respect is demonstrated by holding high regard for authority, position, possessions and living things, and also by being courteous. We can train our kids to be respectful from the time they are toddlers and we need to continue to train them right up until they leave home. It is an ongoing process. The simplest way to develop respect in your kids is to decide what ‘respect’ will look like in your home. Here are some suggestions:

Respect in this home means that:
a) We are obedient to our parents and those in authority over us.
b) We do not interrupt others.
c) We do not fight with one another or take others’ stuff without asking.
d) When we borrow others’ stuff we look after it as if it were our own, give it back
     when we said we would and return it in as good condition as we received it.
e) We speak kindly to one another and will not raise our voices in anger.
f) We tell the truth and keep our promises.
f) We respect our grandparents by visiting them or calling them regularly.
g) We thank people for doing kind things for us.
h) We take care of our pets and the environment.


We expect our kids to be respectful, but respect is a fragile thing. It is lost when we disappoint our kids by being poor examples. If we shout at them, speak disparaging words to them, break our word, or ignore them, they have nothing to respect in us as parents.

We have to learn to say, “Sorry” for critical words said in haste or if we administered inappropriate discipline. We need to admit we make mistakes sometimes and ask for forgiveness from our spouse and our kids. If we can identify what being respected feels like to us, then we will know what our kids need. If they respect us, we can be fairly confident that they will also respect others.

Written by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families



Keeping secrets can be fun and they can be lethal.  I think we know the difference.
I love surprises and often find myself telling those in the know, not to tell anyone until the surprise is sprung.  My daughter hatched this great idea of surprising her husband for his 50th birthday.  She worked on it for a whole year, terrified the whole time that somehow he would find out before the big day.  It involved getting video messages from his school friends, university friends and the like.  About nine months before the event she asked me what we were doing on the weekend of ....  I said, "I don't know, Kristee. What ARE we doing that long distance ahead?"  She then asked me if seven of Tim's friends could take over our house for the weekend.  Of course we agreed and we spent that weekend staying at our neighbor's house. 

It was such a fun time. On the day, after the videos were shown of people who wished they could be there, but were unable to do so, they all quietly materialized from their hiding spot and gave him the fright of his life.  Now that is a fantastic surprise!


What about secrets within the family?  Those that start off with,
a) 'Don't tell Mom and Dad where I am going, that I smoke pot, that I have been sneaking the
     liquor out of the cabinet, that I smoke....'
b) 'Don't you dare tell anyone what goes on in this house.'
c) 'I know Mom/Dad has a new boy/girlfriend and I can't say anything.'
d) 'The next door neighbor has been touching me where I know he shouldn't, but my family
     and theirs are good friends and I can't tell anyone because they wouldn't believe me.
e) 'I am afraid of Uncle Sid, or the baby sitter.'
f) 'I am afraid of the dark, but everyone calls me a 'scaredy-cat'.'


From experience, I know what a terrible thing it is to be very afraid of someone, yet not know it
is OK to tell someone.  My parents wondered why I would cry often for no reason and I didn't even know why myself, but now I look back and realize the root of it. Those were the days when no-one talked about, or made kids aware of, this thing called child-molestation.


1. Are we aware of our child's psychological health?  Are they acting differently than usual ... quiet,
    moody, tearful or aggressive? Are their school grades suffering?
2. Are we aware of our child's friendships, who they talk to on social media, or whether they are  
    becoming secretive?
3. Are we aware of how much or little time we are actually spending with our children to notice
    mood or behavioral changes?


Talk to your children about good and bad secrets.  Explain the difference.  Encourage your children to talk about things that worry them and explain that they will not get into trouble with you if they talk an issue through with you, because, while you teach them strong values and you show them the right way, home needs to be a soft place for them to land.  They have to be allowed to make mistakes.  (How many times have you said to yourself, 'I won't do THAT again!')

If they don't feel like they can talk to you, then encourage them to talk to someone they trust even if it is not an immediate family member.

We must teach them the difference between OK and NOT OK 'touching'.  We must teach them how to live safely and how to avoid dangers.  We need to put them through a course of self-defense.  We must teach them emergency exercises, safe places to hide, how to call 911, people they should contact and their phone numbers, etc.

Our children are our greatest responsibility.  We must protect them at all cost.

Written by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families

Sunday, August 20, 2017


I wonder if we really grasp the significance of two-way conversations with our kids? Much of our time is spent talking at them rather than enjoying their contributions and seeking out their opinions. Maybe it is because we spend so much of the early training years telling them what to do, we don’t realize the point at which our kids begin to think for themselves, and have valuable input into our conversations.

The best way to get kids to talk to you is to create time for it to happen. Kids will know they are really being listened to when we stop what we are doing, sit down, eyeball them, and act like we have nothing else to do. Kids always know when we are not really listening. It has something to do with the lack of enthusiastic response like ‘ah-huh!’ My daughter says to me, “Mom, I know you are thinking about something else. What did I just say?” Fortunately I can always repeat what she just said, but I have to admit that my brain is often multi-tasking and I am not giving her my full attention.

When we don’t listen, kids can feel like we don’t care and may give up talking to us. They will often go elsewhere for that sympathetic ear they need. The sympathetic ear may not always be attached to someone we would want our child to have a relationship with. If we don’t listen, we lose valuable opportunities to guide them and, unfortunately, in some instances they will close us out.

Here are some times, places, and opportunities we have found that stimulate two-way conversations with our kids. When kids first come home from school they often like to just sit quietly and unwind. Let them do that for 10 minutes or so. If you are home, then chat with them over a snack with the TV off. It’s a great time for kids to recount the day’s events.

Eating at the family table together is the perfect time to support and encourage one another by sharing accomplishments and concerns. The family table needs to be positive and not a time to deal with disciplinary matters. Even if a child is misbehaving at the table the parent needs only to quietly remove the child so the rest of the family can enjoy positive table talk. If you make dinnertime a place for listening to one another, then you will find kids won’t want to miss out on this regular event. As mentioned in a previous article, by sitting at the family table for meals, without the TV on, kids are far less likely to get into trouble. Why is this? I believe it is because by sharing together, individuals feel they have value. They talk about issues and how to handle them. They know they have the support of the family.

There are many other opportunities to listen to your kids. Take them out, one by one on a date – a special time with a parent. Do what they want to do and talk about what they want to talk about. Make it quantity and quality time. Going to the movies, the library, a ball game, or watching TV together are good for building positive relationships. However, if you want to have fruitful conversations make sure you pick activities where you can talk. Go to the park. Go to a cafĂ© or other eating establishment. Sit down by a lake, a river, or the beach. Go fishing. Walk a hiking track. Talk about serious and frivolous things. Let the kids express themselves. You need to know what they are thinking, and as they get into their later teens accept that they may see things differently than you do.

The important thing is to ground them in strong family values so that when others present them with opinions that differ from their own, their family values will help them to make wise responses.

Written by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families

Saturday, August 19, 2017



When I look back on my own childhood, some wonderful memories come to mind. I come from New Zealand, a country surrounded by sea. I have great recollections of summers at the beach, of playing in the sand, getting sunburned to a frazzle and of swimming in the creeks. Although I come from a broken home, I still have great memories of the people who came into my life and shared their love and leadership with me.


What is it that tips the balance towards good or negative memories in our childhood? One thing I am eternally grateful for is that, although my Dad could have done so, he never made one negative remark about my mother who left the family when I was 14 months old. He had every opportunity to do so, but he shielded my brother and me from his grief, which allowed our childhood memories to be happy ones. The mind is a wonderful thing when it comes to forgetting certain events. Mothers tend to forget their labors between pregnancies, until the very first pain of the next labor. Then they think, “Oh, no! Whose bright idea was it to have another baby?” Why do they forget this negative experience? Because the long lasting reward far outweighs the short period of discomfort that preceded it.

When you look back on your own childhood experience, what comes to your mind? Do you immediately think of happy times such as family vacations, laughter, adventures, and achievements? Or do you only recall sadness, regret, and negative family experiences? What do you think your parents could have done to make your memories more positive?


Now you are parents and you have the responsibility for creating happy memories for your kids. Here are some suggestions. Involve yourself in your kids’ lives.

a) Find out what they are interested in and encourage them to follow their dreams (not yours).
b) Encourage excellence without creating so much pressure that the activity becomes a drag.
c) Let your kids (within reason) choose some fun or vacation activities.
d) Do fun things as a family. They love you to be with them and playing with them.
e) Make sure that within your weekly plan you set aside special time with each child.
    “What family plan?” I hear some of you say. Well, that is another thing that will help your
     family achieve more. Instead of lurching from one circumstance to the next, claim the time and
     make schedules. This will teach your kids to be planners and be goal-orientated.
f) Make sure you and your kids have plenty of positive friends.
g) Check the atmosphere in your home and insist on positive communication. Praise one another.
     We humans always respond positively to encouragement.
h) Encourage your kids to read so they exercise their imaginations. Knowledge is a powerful and
    stimulating tool.
i) Let your kids play in the dirt. There is nothing like a good old mud or water fight.
j) Show your kids how to keep a journal of vacations and everyday experiences. Take plenty of
    photos. These are great methods of recording memories.

Life is short. We don’t get to practice. This is it. We can choose to create great memories for ourselves, and our kids. Let’s do what Nike says, “Just do it!”


Friends of ours looked great at church and when meeting them informally. Our perception of this couple was shattered one evening when we were invited to supper at their home. Now wouldn’t you think that people would care enough not to tarnish their image in front of friends? Not so! Before we got very far into the meal the husband started taunting his wife abusively. The abuse increased to the point that we didn’t know where to look. We almost had to pinch ourselves to make sure this wasn’t a nightmare. Their young children sat silent and bewildered at the table. If this was the sort of behavior when visitors were around, we wondered what it was like normally?

We were so embarrassed we decided we needed to get out of their home quickly so we made our excuses and left. We were shell-shocked! A few days later the wife called and asked us if we could take her and the children to the railway station to get away from their abusive husband and father. The marriage soon broke up and both moved on with their own lives.

Knowing what we do now, we know that this husband was the son of a construction mogul. He’d been spoiled all his life and had never been required to take personal responsibility for his own words and actions.

Another couple with teenage children we knew looked the well-balanced and happy family at church, but behind closed doors there were two types of dysfunction - the tyrant and the indulgent parent. Both tyranny and indulgence are forms of abuse. One was a complete controller and the other went completely the other way, we thought, in an effort to soften the abuse of the other. The result? The kids didn't know where they stood. Even after counseling from us the abuse continued. Tyranny wears no smile. The tyrant uses deception to hide their fetish to be in control. Tyranny has an end product for those in the family…rebellion and divorce.


1. Hopes and dreams are dashed.
2. Trust becomes non-existent.
3. Emotional development is arrested. Minds are scared and scarred by the harsh, thoughtless
    words and actions being hurled around.
4. Self-esteem is shattered and the abused often believe they must be the cause of the problems.
5. Isolation occurs when outsiders are discouraged from visiting or feel too uncomfortable doing so.
6. Family members are often sworn to secrecy about what is happening within the home.
7. Those who are abused become withdrawn and, as soon as they can, flee the coup.
8. Children often fail at school because they are so stressed about their home situation.  They are
    in survival mode much of the time.
9. This poor role-modeling causes some children to believe that it is OK to treat others this way.


1. If you or your children feel unsafe at home, get professional help.
2. If you feel frustrated and cannot control your negative emotions, seek professional help.

Hurting those you love by being abusive is totally unacceptable. Angry words are never forgotten.  Children should never be placed in a situation where they have no way of avoiding abusive situations.

                            Sticks and stones DO break our bones and names DO hurt us.

Sunday, August 6, 2017


OK, so we can’t help it. We mothers always want to protect our kids, even when they are in their teens. We’re just like hens with our chickens. In fact, I often still call my 39 and 37 year old children, ‘chickens’. We can be downright embarrassing sometimes. When my preteens came home from school with some tale of how they were wrongly treated, I only needed to say, “Do you want me to march down to the school with my purple umbrella?” They would yell, “No, no! Don’t come down to school, Mom! Please don’t come to school!!!!”

So, when should we take our hands off and allow our kids to become exposed to the bumps life inevitably brings? The simple answer would be, when we have prepared them for every scenario they are likely to face. But is that a reality? We can never really know the extent of what they will encounter. Life is one long training camp. We only get one shot at it. We don’t always get time to practice and sometimes we only get one try at the prize. That makes parenting a really responsible job!

We teach our kids how to do many things through their early years. It takes time and during the process we hold their hand, hold on to the bike seat or the back of the cart until they can do it alone. What jubilation there is when they succeed without falling over! Teaching our kids independence is a bittersweet activity. We want them to fly solo, but in doing so, they are telling us they don’t need us. So we hang on longer than we need to, just to stay connected and in many cases to feel needed.

Perhaps we hold on because we don’t want them to get hurt. After all, we know life is not fair and we know how it feels to fail. We know we will not always be the winner, get picked for the team or get chosen for the job. We know that when we make poor decisions there will be consequences. But, that is life. Our children will face these situations whether we are there to pick up the pieces or not. So, is hovering over them or ‘smothering them instead of mothering them’ going to prepare them for what every person in the world faces at some time or another? I say, no.


a) Teach them how to perform tasks and how to perform them safely.
b) Teach them our values and how and why these values form our character.
c) Coach them how to make wise decisions and choices.
d) Praise them for their successes.
e) Have consequences in place for non-compliance.
f) Endeavor to be great role models.
g) Be fair, consistent and equal with our love and attention to each child.
h) Teach them right from wrong.
i) Teach them how to take responsibility for their own words and actions.
j) Stand close by and dust them off when plans do not turn out as expected.
k) Try to focus on their efforts rather than just their results.

Through these processes we are teaching our children strong principles so that, even though a particular scenario may not be exactly the same as one we have taught, they will still be able to work out what to do, especially if we are not there for advice.


a) Stand up for our child when the child is actually wrong.
b) Protect our child from failure and all possible hurt.
c) Give our child everything they want so they are never disappointed.
d) Create unreasonable expectations (e.g. my child is an A+ student), if they are actually incapable
     academically of producing such a high grade.

We don’t have to be cruel to be kind, but we do have to prepare our kids while we have them at home so they are well-prepared for their future. There is nothing wrong in being there when they fall, but they must feel some of the pain. We do need to help our children evaluate the situation so they can get the desired outcome next time around. And, even if the outcome was inevitable (because life is not always fair), we need to teach them not to dwell in the land of what ‘shoulda-coulda’ happened, but how to move on.

Written by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families