Winning Parenting

Three amazing teenagers. How did that happen?!? Parenting tips from the pleasantly surprised.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

A safe Australia is a values-centred Australia

Individual values shape family values. Family values shape community values. Community values shape cultural values. And cultural values shape the character of a nation. Australia is not the safe place it was a generation or two ago. Due to changes in cultural cohesion, community involvement and family structure; what it means to be Australian is shifting and in the process we are losing focus on our shared values. In short, we are no longer able to articulate what it means to be Australian.

Because values provide the foundational core of culture, The Australia Government is doing everything they can to help us find ourselves. This is why schools have values statements, buddy systems and peer mentoring for the students and programs like Real Schools for teachers and staff. It’s also why schools have chaplains, mentors, councillors and well-being officers.

US President Theodore Roosevelt said, “To educate a person in mind and not morals is to educate a menace to society.” A safe Australia is a values-centred Australia. We know this! Not only do values keep us safe, they play a key role in our happiness, wellbeing and success. But, where do they come from? How do we develop values?

Values are caught not taught. We develop our values by watching and participating with other people. Values transfer from one person to another through relational pathways. The stronger the relationship, the more likely we will embody the values lived out by the other person. For most children, parents are their primary relationships and thus the strongest source for their values. Significant family members are also relational values givers. Those we value most provide most of our values.

As a parent, if we want to raise children with holistic healthy values, we need to know our core values and live by them. To do this, we need to take our own values seriously. Sit down and make a list. What are my core values? Why do I have these values? How do I live by these values and how will I ensure I live by them in the future?

A list of commonly held values is a good place to start. Values specialist Michael Gurian suggests ten moral competencies all humans need: decency, fairness, empathy, self-sacrifice, responsibility, loyalty, duty, service, honesty and honour. Happiness guru Martin Seligman adds humility, self-control, love of learning, industriousness, leadership, caution and playfulness. Parenting experts Linda and Richard Eyre continue the list with courage, peaceability, self-reliance, dependability, respect, love, unselfishness and mercy.

An honest personal values list will have just a handful of values. Although more confronting, reverse engineering your list will give you the most honest results. Instead of picking your values from a list; look at the actions, activities and communities in which you are regularly involved. Why are you involved in these things? Your core-values will likely be at the heart of the reasons why you dedicate time and energy to these things.

Once you’ve generated your list, talk about it. Notice when one of your values is lived-out by one of your children and tell them what you’ve seen in them. Put a name to the actions you want to see. Celebrate your values in action!

One by one, both you and your child will become all you hope to be. And Australia will be better for it!

Parenting Value #1 - Reconciliation

I read an answer on Quora that made me pump my fist and say, “You tell ’em, champ!” The question was about a parent breaking an iPad because a child was addicted to a game. The parent wanted to know if breaking the iPad was overkill… Yeah, seriously.

Anyway, the answer this guy gave made me smile for a week. In short, he said his parents knew tech was the future and encouraged his gaming. They also ensured they spent lots of time doing activities as a family. Then he said, “If my parents would have broken my gaming system, I wouldn’t be working in tech today — where I make five times per year what my parents make combined.”

I’m tired of tech-bashing posts, articles and videos aimed at parents. The reason it bothers me so much is that it blames technology for family problems rather than challenging us to look in the mirror at the real problem. Technology is serving the role of both the babysitter and stable significant other for many kids. It’s not the child’s fault and it’s not tech’s fault. Kids are the victims of family angst. Tech is the fall-guy.

A lack of relationship skills is at fault. Primarily, the skill — or value — of reconciliation. We tell our kids to say sorry when they hurt someone and to forgive people when they apologise, but we often struggle to do this ourselves. Children do what we do, not what we say.

Values are caught not taught. I had a little guy in for a chat this week who I called a ‘silly monkey.’ He laughed and said, “That’s my nickname — Monkey!” And it reminded me of the three monkeys — one covering its eyes, one covering its ears, one covering its mouth. And it reminded me of my Mum shaking her head as I did another crazy thing because my friends did. “Monkey see, monkey do!” she said time and time again. We learn from watching, hearing and repeating what we see others do. We’re just like those silly monkeys!

Photo Credit
I have three kids that love their parents and each other. As a family, we regularly laugh together, play board games together, eat together and chat for hours. That said, they love their tech (as do I!) and have been tech-kids since they were in nappies. The oldest coordinated mouse-in-hand to cursor-on-screen when he was just two-years-old. He’s been at it since. Today he’s almost halfway through a Computer Science Degree in which he’s thriving. Boy two is in his first year of a Data Science Degree and thinks it’s awesome. He’s also a WOW legend! Our daughter, a budding florist, strengthens her skills by watching her favourite YouTubers and learns one creative thing after another from Pinterest, Instagram and other social media.

Dad (that’s me) has been a blogger for nearly two decades and a YouTuber (that’s what the kids at school call me! lol) for just over a decade. In just the past year, more than half-a-million people have read/listened to my content. Crazy, eh?

Tech isn’t the problem. It also isn’t the reason my kids are awesome. And, they are awesome!

They got a good start at being great people because their parents choose to suffer and succeed together. We fall. We get up. We apologise. We forgive. We mean it. We learn from our mistakes. We grow stronger. And we do these things privately, publicly and honestly — in front of our kids. They know what stupid mistakes look like. They know what huge belly laughs feel like. They apologise quickly. They forgive eagerly. They move on. Because they’ve seen it work. Loving and lovable people are good at forming and reforming relationships. Relationships are built on the ability to make things right — that’s reconciliation.

To whom do you need to apologise?

Whom do you need to forgive?

Do it. Regularly.

Let the monkeys see it and hear it — and soon they will say it too.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Resilience Reservoirs are Filled by Sharing Your Story-Well


Stories from the story-well of your own life and the lives of others fill your resilience reservoir. The stories you pour into your children’s story-well will be drawn from for the rest of their lives.


Here are four categories of stories about yourself that are guaranteed to help your kids:

Success Stories — Your achievements from childhood, teenage years and adulthood.

Failure Stories — Things you tried, failed and learned from.

Unexpected Surprises — Unplanned things that shaped you. People. Events.

Unexpected Crises — Unfortunate events that shaped you. Accidents. Illness. Loss.


Along with these stories, make sure to include how that event shaped you for better or worse. Stories of both wins and losses are important. They show our kids that real people have real lives, just like them.

Next, expand the circle of influence to include your parents and siblings (your kid’s grandparents, aunts and uncles) and tell the same four kinds of stories from their lives. Better even, ask your extended family to tell the stories from their own perspective. You may want to prepare some key questions based on stories you know your parents and siblings are willing to tell. Prompt them for their stories with a few of your memories.

All the life-stories your children hear flow into their story-well and fill their resilience reservoir. Emotional strength comes from these stories being available when we need them.

Ask your kids to tell their stories, too. Help them to develop positive lessons from the many stories in their lives.

A deep story-well leads to a life of strength, love and joy.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Resilience = Five Significant Adults


Resilience research shows that children develop resilience best when they have a full handful of adults who regularly provide them with emotional support. Each significant adult is someone who can be trusted by the child for mentoring, training and answers to life’s questions. They are adult storytellers in the life of your children.  

In tough times, the greater the variety of adults, children have someone to trust for counsel. Providing your children with a variety of adults – from different walks of life – gives them a wider spectrum of life experience to choose from when seeking a mentor.

Typical significant adults include parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers, chaplains, school staff, coaches, club leaders, church leaders, neighbours, extended family and any other regular adults in your children’s lives. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Best Way to Build Resilience in Your Children



Resilience is the ability to bounce back after a setback.

Some setbacks can be overcome easily, others take time. Why do some people bounce back quickly from an unexpected setback while others seem to get swallowed up?

Heaps of research has been done on what builds resilience. In short, the answer is - the more experience, the more resilience. But here's where things get interesting. It doesn't need to be your own experience. The people around you grow your resilience if you know their stories.

Amazingly, our brains do the same thing with stories we are told as they do with our own experiences. First, we receive the story. Then, we interpret the story. Finally, the interpreted story is stored with hundreds of emotional tags - good, bad, funny, angry, success, failure, happy, sad, lesson learned, random occurrence, etc.

Experience. Relationships. Stories. These three things combine to provide numerous memories of hitting bottom and getting back up. Sometimes quickly. Sometimes slowly. Resilience comes when a person encounters a setback and digs back in their memory - into their story satchel: "Is there a story that relates to this setback?" Our subconscious scans through the tags and says, "Aha! This is like that!" And we begin to make sense of this new struggle. Or, a storyless subconscious sends back, "Nope. Nothing to work with. This is a new low." This is when resilience is hardest.

As parents, it is important to tell stories of both successes and failures. When we share success stories, the point is implied: "I tried, I won!" When we tell struggle stories, the point (resilience) is made in the way we tell the story. It gives little hope to a child to hear, "I failed high school Maths because it was too hard." A resilient telling of the same occasion could be, "I failed high school maths because I was still learning. I had to get some help and practice lots. But then, when the next exam came, I was ready for it!" Or, in my case, I shift the focus (because maths and my brain are from different planets) and say, "Maths is really hard for me. But I love to write. When I was in high school, I did my best on the maths classes I had to take but I took lots of extra English classes because I love writing. I was even the yearbook editor in year 12!"

The important thing is to tell lots of stories. Failure is important. It shows our kids they can make it because we did. Kids who believe their parents are perfect believe their parents expect perfection from them.

Life is not about perfection, it's about connection. Build resilience in your children by blanketing them in story.

Significant Adults: Surround your children with well-storied people. Explain your goal to build resilient kids to these significant adults. Ask them to share stories with your children. Thank them for helping!

Storytelling Parents: Tell your children stories of your own. Your setbacks, struggles and successes will empower them to make wise decisions and to bounce back from whatever life throws at them.

Resilient Kids: Finally challenge your kids to build stories of their own. Overcoming small setbacks gets us ready to overcome big ones later in life.

The best way to build resilience in your kids? Surround them with stories. Their own, yours and the stories of people they love.

Monday, June 4, 2018

change your habits without obsessing about them


Forming Healthy Habits

You can change your habits without obsessing about them by focusing on your environment and rituals. Let me explain.


Habits

Life is all about habits. Both success and failure are formed by our habits. Repetition is the primary way we learn. We become the things we do repetitively — these are our habits.

Growth: We build habits to achieve goals. This is how we get better at anything — try, try, try again. The more we practise, the more our success. How many times has your favourite AFL player kicked a footy? hundreds of thousands of times, no doubt. Likewise: catching, bouncing, passing and running. That’s why they are professionals!

Stagnation: We also form habits of ease or comfort. They make us feel safe. If it makes me happy, I do it. If it relaxes me, I do it. If I do it repeatedly, a habit forms and can be hard to change. Selfish habits can lead to poor relationships or poor health.


Environment

The easiest way to change a bad habit is to form a new one to replace it.
The easiest way to form a new habit is to change your environment.

Take Footy/Xbox for example: If you want to spend more time practising footy skills, spend more time on an oval with friends and a ball. It’s hard to play Xbox or watch TV on an oval. So, spending more time on an oval changes two habits — replacing one with the other — by changing the environment.


Rituals

Another way to successfully change a habit is to combine it with a ritual you enjoy. Time with a friend/partner/child. A trip to the shops. Going out for coffeeDriving.

Use your rituals to build better habits:
What more exercise? Park further from the shops — or walk from home.
Want to read more? Take a book to a coffee house and switch your phone off.
Want to learn something new? Listen to an audiobook while driving.
Want to run/walk regularly? Ask your friend/partner/child to join you.


Change

Mythologist Joseph Campbell is best known for his statement: ‘follow your bliss’ — an invitation taken to heart by many young people seeking life’s purpose. Near the end of his life, Campbell quipped, ‘I wish I’d said follow your blisters.’ He’d learned, as we all do, that our time-worn habits are what shape our greatest attributes.


Most people hate changing habits. Focusing on the habit itself can be overwhelming and disheartening. But, choosing our environment and strengthening our rituals can be fun and will cause habits to fall into place without hardly thinking about them.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Resilience Research Workbook - Free PDF

Resilience studies have shown that the resilience of a child (of any person, actually) can be readily demonstrated through two indicators.

1. How well they know their story and stories about their family
2. How many significant adults they participate with regularly

This booklet combines the 20 questions researchers ask kids to assess their family knowledge and a list of five significant adults and why they are significant. 

When I give this booklet to a student, we spend the session filling in all the answers they know personally. I watch carefully, asking questions as we go along, and at the end of this session I have a strong assessment of their resilience. So far, I have found it to be very accurate to my previous assessment of the student. 

I then send the workbook home with the child to complete with help from their family. This gets the family talking and, in time, will raise the wellbeing and resilience of the child.

The booklet is formatted to print double-sided and fold in half. Please print and use this booklet as you see fit. 

Please feel free to share booklet. In the future, send me an email and let me know how it has helped the children in your life.


Resilience Research Workbook
Free Workbook PDF - USA Spelling



Resilience Research Workbook
This one is the British / Australian version