Winning Parenting

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

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Finding a High School

If you are like my wife and I were when our kids were in Primary School, you are thinking about what High School they will attend. It’s always in the back of your mind because you want the best for them. We sat down together and came up with some tips (in hindsight!) for you. Hope they help!

1. Look for a school that matches your child. If you need specialist help – look carefully. If you need advanced learning specialists – look carefully. Most schools focus on one end of the learning spectrum.

2. Start Early, if you are looking for a particular type of school. If you have certain needs, start applying in grade four or before.

3. Look for social cues. Are they big on clubs? Would your kids be into that?

4. Look for extras. What extras do they offer? Extra curricula, camps, international trips? Are these things within your budget? Are you willing to sacrifice for them?

5. Look for scholarships. Apply for any need or skill based scholarship that matches your child.

6. If you want to go to the nearest state school (as our two boys do) don’t worry too much about applying ahead of time. They are required to take nearby residents.

7. Listen to your kids. They may know what they want. Two of ours did (Maths/Music). One is an “all rounder” (as his brother calls him) and excels anywhere because he sets his own expectations – very high!

8. Finally, it’s more about who your child is than what school they attend. Show them how to be bold and stand up for others. Reward them for asking good questions. Challenge them to have a go, even if they fail. Kids like this lead the pack!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

You go, Supermum!

I am guilty of poor multi-tasking. One day some time ago, my mobile phone rang while I was driving my kids to school. I took my eyes off the road for the briefest moment—a moment that is now burned into my mind—and smashed into the back end of a BMW. I've been told many times that men can't multi-task. But that doesn't mean I can't try, right?

My wife, research has shown, is three times more likely to successfully multi-task than I am. We have three children, all of whom she has carried, birthed and nursed. Due to child in triplicate she has received three doses of various oestrogen strains to her brain that I have not received. I feel compelled to cry out with my kids, “That's not fair!”

I'll tell you how unfair it is. Just staring at the face of her own baby gives a mother a rush of endorphins. How's that for unfair? I have to climb a mountain or build a rocket-ship to get the same buzz she gets from playing goo-goo. Not fair!

Skills that were beneficial in hunt-and-gather societies of the past are still useful to mothers in the modern family. Propelling herself out of bed at the slightest whimper, exiting deep sleep and entering the darkness of night, today's mum weaves her way through unlit hallways, deftly missing couches, tables and random toys underfoot, and arrives at the source of that whimper in record time.

But, if you think that's fast—just watch a mum when their inquisitive toddler picks up a bug from the ground and prepares to eat it. Five times faster than your average virgin, mum saves the day! She vaults fences and knocks aside grown men in her single-minded goal to kill the enemy. The bug is unceremoniously squashed. The child is startled for a moment and then all returns to normal. That is until the next time the world needs Supermum.

While many mothers may feel their kids are killing them, having children has been shown to slow the ageing process. A combination of the hormones of pregnancy and the busy life of raising children floods the brain with all it needs to stay young!

Because of the hormonal gifts given to them through child birth and breast-feeding mums have better memory skills, learning abilities and longevity. So, Mums, because of your choice to have a raise great kids you will live longer, wiser and more interesting lives.

You deserve it! Thanks Mum, for all you do. Keep up the great work!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Hey Dad!

It's been said that “a man's work is from sun to sun, but a mother's work is never done.”

Many fathers have stretched the time they work from before and until after the sun makes its journey through the sky.

A young boy, after watching his father leave one morning, asked his mother, “Where does Dad go when he leaves every day?” His mother explained that his father had a job where he got paid for his time. The little boy ran to his room and returned with a handful of coins. He laid them out on the table, saying, “Mum, how much of Dad's time will this buy me?”

Fathers who spend time with their children bring untold blessing into the lives of those youngsters. But, like mothers, there are benefits to the male brain that result from spending time with their kids.

One research program studied marmoset monkeys and found that the male monkeys who were fathers (marmoset fathers help raise the babies) were faster and more accurate at finding containers with food in them. In human homes, the more time a father spends in the house, the less likely he is to be told, “It's behind the milk.” I have become so suspicious of the milk in our fridge that I have been known to check behind the milk before asking if anyone has seen my socks.

In all seriousness, dads, we've got a lot to answer for. We shouldn't be grunting, “I brought you into this world and I'll take you out” unless we are willing to spend time loving and being loved by our children.

Dad, your kids need you. They need you in their lives when they are living it – at home and engaged when they are awake and active. Dads, when we spend time with our kids we give them a good start in life. Your example as a father, a husband and grown man will help them become all they can be.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Building Creative Literacy

As adults, we need not loose the wonder and awe a child enjoys each day as they experience new things. Unfortunately, it’s often seen as part of ‘growing up’ to stop exercising this ability to find novel reasons and new purposes for things around us. And yet, adults who retain an active imagination excel in business, art, teaching and more.

While literacy is the ability read, write and do arithmetic; creative literacy is a skill set that allows you to imaginatively interpret the world around you and draw conclusions about what is (or could be) going on. Creative literacy is useful for anyone creating or planning something new. Without creativity in life, every day merges into the next and becomes one long adventure in missing the point.

Be creative.

Model creativity in your life - on the table, in the kitchen, it the car, on the lawn, in the shops!

Foster creativity in your children. No child is born without a sense of wonder about the world. Keep that adventurous spirit alive by having new experiences daily.

Walk a different way, go to new places, try different food. My kids used to think it was like going to Disneyland when we did a “walk-bus-train” ride from home into the city, because it was such a rare thing. New is good. Old is good. Same is… boring!

Provide open-ended play opportunities - like a blank sheet of paper and a box of crayons, or a trip to the shops where you follow them around, or play dough, or letting them ‘read’ you a book. You recognise these things because they are what kids want to do naturally.

Creative adults are often seen as having a ‘gift’ in their ability to create art, music, stories or any other new thing. It’s not a gift, it’s creative literacy. You could call it childhood retained. It’s being a person who hasn’t lost their sense of wonder and has kept the ability to see things that aren’t there - yet.

Make these holidays a time of creativity and playfulness. Increase the creative literacy of your children by providing unique opportunities. Do something new. Go somewhere different. Most importantly, have fun!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Mistakes Make You Great!

Mistakes make successful people in the real world. When we are in school, making mistakes often means we failed. If we want to create successful adults out of our children, we need to encourage mistakes! This is done by focusing on the journey rather than the destination.

Getting kids to process their mistakes and keep working is not easy. Yet, every mistake our kids make provides an opportunity for growth, learning and a new level of maturity.

As parents, how do we create successful people who keep trying and making mistakes boldly so they keep learning and growing?  The answer is fairly simple but applying it is hard work: We need to encourage the process rather than the result.

What does that look like?

Instead of saying, “Good Job! That’s a great drawing!” you could say, “Your drawing is really taking shape! What are you going to add next?”

Rather than saying, “Oops. You’ve dropped some egg shell in the batter!” you could say, “Wow! That batter is almost ready. What are you going to do about that eggshell?”

The goal in process parenting is to recognise we are not finished yet. We are making great people and every drawing, every project, every walk, every shopping trip, every shoe tying, everything! – is a step toward the eternally repeated goal of saying, “I’m constantly amazed by you. What are you going to do next?”

Saturday, August 27, 2016

An Imagination Rich Life

A healthy mind is an actively creative one. The ability to create something new takes a wide collection of experiences. Whether we are creating a new dish in the kitchen, writing a new story, building a tree fort, creating a presentation, or telling a joke – we are only as creative as the combined total of our previous experiences and learning.

Our brain takes everything we have done, heard, read, learned and experienced and creates new things from the montage of our past. So, the best thing to do with your holiday time, for the mental, social and spiritual development of your children, is to engage in a wide spectrum of activities. Go to new places, old favourites, visit friends, meet new people, participate in traditions, gather with family, spend time learning about new things – reading, watching, listening – and then talk about it!

Talking about our experiences locks them into our memory. Ask your kids to ‘tell the story of your day’ each night as you tuck them into bed. Ask questions to help them go into detail. As they tell the story, they reframe it in a way that gives it meaning to them. At the end of the week, ask them to tell the story of their week. You’ll be surprised at the editing that has taken place, making it more meaningful. Don’t correct their story. Just listen and ask more questions. At the end of the school holidays, ask to hear ‘the story of your holiday’. It will help them make meaning of it all by choosing favourites, exploring difficulties and making sense of the various events.

A creative person is a successful person. Creativity comes from an active imagination. Each time we tell our story, we create something new by connecting new material with old memories. The human brain remembers by reconstructing, which means that each time we ‘remember’ something we are rebuilding it from what we knew and what we know now. The creative retellings of the past that come from our children (and ourselves!) prove that the imaginative parts of our brain are working.

While it is important to tell the truth, it is also very important, for our emotional wellbeing, to be able to reframe things that happen to us. This skill, learned by ‘telling your story’ in childhood will benefit your children for a lifetime.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Learning Stories

 Today was a good day for stories.

My favourite thing about life is stories. I love to tell stories. I love to listen to stories. There is no greater teacher than stories. They get in our heads and change our hearts.

Story 1: As I returned to school today with my Monday cornucopia from Second Bite I was told the same story by at least five different kids. “We heard about what happened to you in the Staff Carpark!” I asked each one to tell me what they had heard (repeating a story is the best way to learn it!) and they told me about the toddler that had run behind my car as I was backing out after school one-day last week. They told me I was scared. I nodded agreeing with them. They told me that I slammed the brake and no one was hurt. No one except my racing heart! Then they told me during assembly the deputy principal had told the story of “normally happy Dave” and how he was “very scared” last week. Yes, I was!

Now, every student in the school knows they should walk on the footpath not in the carpark behind the cars. And every parent also knows because kids are great tellers of stories they know to be true!

Story 2: Occasionally, as a professional storyteller, I get the chance to tell stories to children in schools around Australia. This afternoon, I shared 45 minutes of stories with kids in a Kindergarten in Melbourne. When I am presenting a story set, I like to start with a dreamtime story to honour Australia’s aboriginal ancestors. The book bag that holds all my storybooks has a lovely piece of Aboriginal Art covering it which I show to the kids and ask, “Who knows what kind of art this is?” Today I got the best answer, ever. A boy no more than four years old shouted, “Australian Art!”

I stopped, humbled. I was looking for another word and yet this one was better. The boy was right. This is the way children today see Australia. “Yes!” I said, “I like that! You are right. This is Australian Art and I would like to start today with a story about the first Australians – a story from the time before time when Australia was just beginning. A story from the dreamtime!”

There’s power in stories. They show us who we are and who we are becoming.

And when kids tell them to us we know we are learning!