Thursday, April 27, 2017


The news in Tennessee over the last 5 weeks has been rife with the abduction of a 15 year-old high-school student by her 50 year-old forensics teacher.  The whole country got the AMBER alert and this week the breaking news was that they were found in a remote north Californian location where there was no cell phone service to tip off their whereabouts.  The now ex-teacher has been taken into custody and the girl is on her way back to Tennessee as we speak.  This is a huge relief to all concerned.

While listening to the follow up news, there were some interesting pointers that came to light that I thought would be useful to share.


    Predators tend to look for a vulnerable child, one who is often shy and quiet and finds it hard to
    keep friends, one who is a loner.  They befriend that child and, to gain their confidence, give them
    'time and understanding' (something troubled kids in particular cry out for). They encourage the 
    child to talk about their worries and their home life, all the while gaining more and more 
    of a bond so they become more dependent on their 'new friend' than their parents.
    The child becomes desensitized by hugs and hand-holding by the predator. Alarm bells fail to go  
    off immediately as they would if the predator touched them inappropriately.


1.  They become secretive - won't say where they are going or where they have been.  Won't
     tell who their new friend is. They won't say where they get new clothes or new social media
     from.  They might sneak out at night, or say they want to 'sleep over with a friend', but won't say
     who that is.
2.  They may have long, late evening phone calls or computer communications in their bedroom.
3.  They may become tearful, but won't say why.  Perhaps it is because the predator is a family


1.  All kids need to feel they are loved and belong in a caring family relationship.
2.  Parents should be interested in everything their kids are doing, and be totally involved in
     family activities. 
3. We need to talk to our kids about their private parts and they should know what inappropriate
     touching means.They should be told that nobody should touch them in any place that a bathing 
     costume would cover.
4. We need to take every opportunity to educate our kids about the dangers of unhealthy friendships
     and explain in detail what a healthy relationship looks like.  
     For example:
     a) Close friendships should be with kids of similar age.
     b) Friends enjoy healthy fun activities like outdoor sports, becoming proficient in activities like 
         music, golf, fishing etc.  They do not huddle in dark corners watching violent or pornographic 
         videos, drinking alcohol or experimenting with drugs and/or sex. 
5.  Kids should not be allowed the privilege of privacy.  Parents should constantly be watching 
     for anything suspicious. They should encourage siblings to tell parents if they are worried about
     their brother or sister.  
6. They should hand over cell phones and laptops prior to going to their rooms to 
7. We need to make it our business to know all our child's friends and authority figures.  We need to
     visit the school or clubs our kids attend often and unannounced.


Written by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families.



We hear the term ‘positive parenting’ bandied about, but in reality positive parenting seems elusive much of the time. It has been said that around 70% of parent communication towards children is negative, for example, “How many times have I told you not to hit Janey!” “Don’t squeeze Fluffy. You are making his eyes bug out!” “You haven’t cleaned your room properly!” “That’s a half-hearted attempt at setting the table!” or “That’s not washing your hands!” Granted, early childhood is the time when all basic training takes place and, therefore, copious instructions are given.

When we bring our first baby home, we feel very green as parents. We want our child to act perfectly in every way but we end up doing a lot of head scratching while trying to remember how our parents successfully handled us as infants!


Much of the early childhood years is in training our kids for life. The most powerful learning takes place when there is strong role modeling from parents. Then kids need to know what is expected of them. They need to be shown several times what to do and how to do it by the parent working alongside them. Children need time to practice with room for making mistakes or failing. They deserve praise for their efforts as they go, not just for the end result.


Negative parenting arises when we constantly nag our children. A positive directive, said once or twice at the most should be all that is necessary as kids reach 7 and older. When you nag the kids, you become annoying background noise and they know they have ‘x’ number of counts before you will issue a consequence for their lack of action. You can make it positive (assertive) or negative (weak) by the tone you use when asking your child to do something.


  • Give clear instructions.
  • Model the behavior you are looking for.
  • Show them what to do.
  • Give them encouragement as they get it right.
  • Recognize readiness in your child’s ability to follow instructions. Potty training, learning to walk and learning to manage a spoon and fork are perfect examples.
Regarding the example in the first paragraph, the following are better ways of dealing with each scenario. It would have been much more constructive to have said, “Hitting people does not make things better. Tell Janey what you want instead of just hitting her.” “Let me show you how to hold Fluffy so it doesn’t hurt him.” “Watch Sarah set the table and you can do it just like her next time.” “This is how to wash your hands.” “Good job, well done!”


Young parents often feel pressured because their friends’ children are developing at different ages, stages and speeds to theirs. When Jen’s baby is walking before Sue’s baby at the same age, Sue starts to worry. Most parents work when their babies are only months old, thus the infant is being handled by a number of other adults. Their differing expectations as the child reaches understanding can be confusing to a child.


  • A tidy, uncluttered, light and airy environment 
  • Laughter, praise, encouragement. 
  • Projects, sports and/or other activities where the family supports one another. 
  • Clear, well-stated family values that the whole family participate in. 
  • Everyone doing an equal number of chores so they can then go out and have fun. 
  • Parental surveillance of the general mood of the home environment and rooting out any dissatisfaction quickly.
  • Regular family meetings where every member is involved in contributing positively to the  family in general.
We can change from being negative to positive parents by being proactive. Our children will rise to the occasion when they know exactly what is expected of them, when they reach these expectations and are confident they will be affirmed for it.

Written by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families.



It is OK to be angry. Anger is a natural emotion. Anger can be a very positive tool if it moves us to stand up against injustice or wrong. However, when we lose control of our emotions, then anger becomes destructive.
  • We may say things in the heat of the moment that we can’t take back.
  •  We may lash out and physically hurt another person or ourselves.
  • We become a negative example to our children.
  • Kids may become fearful and feel insecure.
  • By lashing out, we make the situation worse instead of better.
  • Unless we learn to control our anger we automatically default into the continued pattern of ‘losing it’.


   1. To be in control. “Nobody is going to challenge my control over the situation.” This person
       will create fear through intimidation (bullying tactics), shouting, getting into someone’s
       face or whatever it takes to make another person back off. “I am in charge!”

   2. Selfishness. The big “I”. It is all I, I, I, and me, me, me. “Nobody is going to tell me what to
      do!” “Don’t you touch me or boss me around!” "I am right and you are wrong!” ”I don’t have
      to do anything you say!” “You’re not my mother!”

   3. Unwillingness or inability to control emotions: Some people have received poor role-modelling 
       from their parents or significant others and have never learned any other way of dealing with
       their anger.


Preventative action:
  1. Recognize your own anger levels and use the measures listed below to better control your

  2. Work out what your anger buttons are and decide whether your reaction is worth the energy
      it causes to become angry.

  3. Create a list of disciplinary consequences for when your children misbehave. This will save
      you from getting angry.

Whenever you feel you are getting to boiling point:
  1. Stop what you are doing or thinking immediately.

  2. Assess the situation.

  3. Count to 25. (Many experts say that a person gets to the peak of their anger in about 19 seconds
      before it starts to diminish. By counting to 25 you should be past the peak and be able to
      think more rationally.)

  4. An alternative is to remove yourself from the situation, cool off, and return only when you
      think you are more rational.

  5. Now, deal with the issue using the list of consequences that you have already created as
      disciplinary measures. Your child has chosen to be disobedient so you are merely applying
      the consequence.

After the episode:
  1. Put things into perspective after your anger has subsided. Say to yourself, “In terms of one day,
      one week or one year, is this thing I am so angry about really worth getting this upset or
      holding onto?

  2. Ask yourself, ‘What could have prevented this situation occurring in the first place?’ Discuss
      the effects of the situation with the other person involved.

  3. Decide together how the situation will be managed next time.

  4. Apologize to the other person for losing your temper and retract any rash words that might
      have been said.


  • “I wish you had never been born!”
  • “You were a mistake!” 
  • "You will never amount to anything."
  • “Why can’t you be smart like your brother?”
  • "Can't you do anything right?"
  • “You are a stupid waste of space!”
  • “Go away! I never want to speak to you or see you again!”
  • “You are a big, fat lazy lump!”
  • “Stupid, dumb idiot!”


When you have recognized your own anger reactions, uncovered what your triggers are AND worked out how to control your emotions:
  • You will be a good model for your children.
  • Your home will be peaceful.
  • Your children will learn to take responsibility for their own actions and their own feelings.
  • They will become self-controlled.
  • They will be great models for their own children in the future. 

Written by Sally and Brian Burgess, Forefront Families


Never in a million years would you imagine that the adorable bundle you held in your arms all those years ago; that one you poured all your hopes and dreams into; that one you spent truck loads of money on, giving them experiences and memories that would enrich their lives; that one you protected and guided in an effort to ensure they would become model adults; that one you did everything in your power to be educated and positioned to succeed, yes, THAT one would one day call you an ‘old fogey’ and not want speak to you. What went wrong?


It is tragic to lose or not to have a strong relationship with your kids. There are many reasons and here are some of them.
  • Teens become moody very easily as their hormones roar into gear. They don’t really understand why they are becoming so cranky, they just know that they seem to get moody and angry when things don’t go their way or when parents say, “NO!” They are also very vulnerable to feeling rejected when their friend or love relationships go south. 

Suggestion: Prepare your kids for adolescence. Explain how their bodies will change and how they will likely react under particular circumstances during teen development. Help them through it rather than always responding negatively. 

  • Teens develop independence and they often butt heads with those who have been authority figures over them thus far. They question everything from your political views, rules of the home, and who’s the boss of them. Arguments ensue and the household vibe becomes negative.

Suggestion: Decisions need to be made as to whether the teen continues to live by the rules and values of the family, or whether it is time for them to taste that independence they are craving for, and learn by themselves. If they choose to leave, encourage contact with help and a listening ear.

  • Parents set impossible expectations. They may say, “If you didn’t win the race, you LOST! 2nd, 3rd, or 5th place means nothing. You failed!” Kids feel defeated, especially if belittling words are spoken over them constantly. They never feel good enough and this gives them a defeated attitude. Comparing one child to another, or forcing them to try to live the dreams you never actually fulfilled at their age is totally unfair for many reasons. Sport, music, academics, dance or rocket scientist for example, may not be their strong suit.

Suggestions: Understand and teach kids that besting personal goals is more important than being the winner. There are some variables that you cannot control, but you can manage a personal best. Find out what excites each child and help them follow their own path to success. 

  • Parents divorce or separate. Often kids feel conflicted and blame one parent for a marriage breakdown. Then there are the parents, who, when this happens, poison their kids minds against the other parent. If indoctrinated enough, children may grow up to hate the non-custodial parent and want nothing to do with them. Some parents have gone through bouts of depression because they lost communication with their children despite many attempts to do so. They have been blocked at every turn through the vengeance of an ex-spouse.

Suggestions: Keep your troubled relationship with your spouse to yourselves and do not utter harsh words in front of the children. Do not try to make your kids take sides or tell them stuff about your relationship that they do not comprehend. It will often make them feel they have to try and fix it which is impossible, or that it is all their fault.

  • Kids are the ‘center of the universe’. Spoiled and demanding, they still want everything to go their own way even into adulthood. If the indulgent parent says ‘no’, after realizing their child has been manipulating them for years, all hell can break loose. They throw a child-like tantrum and refuse to talk to parents, essentially biting off the hand that feeds them.

Suggestions: Babies need lots of attention in the very early years, but from toddlerhood they need to learn to wait, take turns with chores and respect parents’ wishes. They need to understand that they are contributors to family life, not the dictator.

  • Parent causes shame to the family. Examples may be when a parent breaks the law and goes to jail, has an affair or deserts the family. When this happens, it causes deep embarrassment or hurt to the children and they do not know how to deal with it. They may feel betrayed and therefore lose trust and respect for their parent.

Suggestions: Be honest with your child. Own the wrong and accept that the child has every right to feel the way they do. You cannot force reconnection, but you can learn patience and be there for them if and when they reach out to you.

  • Physical, verbal, emotional, social, sexual or substance abuse by a parent will build up huge walls of fear, hatred and unwillingness to communicate. Parents sometimes, when they are out of control, frustrated or angry say terrible things to their kids  Hurtful words cannot be taken back and are never, ever forgotten.

Suggestions: Deal directly with personal issues. Get professional help and/or protection for your children if a partner or relation is causing fear and anxiety. Keep a close eye on each of your children and watch for unusual changes in behavior or avoidance of particular family members. Tell your kids about unacceptable touching and bullying and encourage them to tell you immediately they feel uncomfortable around certain people, no matter who that person is. Ask your children to forgive you for the hurtful things you have said and demonstrate change by speaking and acting kindly towards them. They may not respond immediately because it takes a long time to heal wounds when trust is broken.

  • Parents who work long hours and lose themselves in their business may well find that they eventually have no relationship with their children.

Suggestion: Consider what your greatest contribution should be if you choose to have children. Kids don’t want your money or stuff as much as they want YOU! Forgo the fancy house and all the bells and whistles. By settling for less financially, you gain the love and long term relationship of your kids. Don’t forget – they are the ones who will eventually choose your rest home!!!!

  • Parents are inconsistent, unfair, or negative role models. When kids cannot anticipate the mood or reaction of their parent, when they see favoritism between kids, when they are inconsistent with their consequences or if they are expecting behavior from their kids that they are not demonstrating themselves, kids become frustrated and angry.

Suggestion: Ask yourself, 'What is wrong with this picture?' Ask your kids why they are frustrated. Listen to them when they complain about favoritism and inconsistency. Change your responses, and they will change theirs.
  • Kids are influenced by negative friendships.  For all sorts of reasons, kids can drift into or seek out friendships that influence them more than their home and family do. They can become sullen, dissatisfied, argumentative or choose to disregard their parents values. In this vulnerable state where the teen wants so badly to be accepted by peers, they can be drawn into behaviors and habits that they do not realize will harm them and harm their relationship with their family.

Suggestions: As parents, you are perfectly at liberty to influence their friendships with other kids. It is always a good idea to invite their friends to your home rather than your teen always going elsewhere.  Invite their teen's friend on a short vacation or weekend with you so you can see for yourself what their true colors are.  If the teacher or another parent shows concern regarding your teen's behavior, listen up and handle the situation objectively.  Talk to your teen about what a good friend acts like - someone who is respectful, honest, faithful, thinking of your best interests, not just theirs.  Good friends really care about each other and do not want to see harm come to them.  They are not afraid to tell one another if they think one is displaying negative behaviors.

Life is far too short to be disconnected from your children. Some people say, “But you don’t understand. I feel so deeply wounded because of what they have said or done to me.” To be perfectly blunt, get over yourself. You are the adult who needs to initiate any restorative action. You are the parent and while your child is living under your roof, you cannot afford to allow them to be your 'buddy'. You need to be in charge and role model the behaviors you want your child to exhibit. If you feel your disconnect is too complex seek professional help. Loss of communication does not have to happen in the first place, but if it does, there is always an answer if each one is prepared to cooperate.

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