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