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

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Laws, Limits and Lessons

Without boundaries life is less fun and often dangerous. Laws provide boundaries in society. We’ve all driven through an intersection when the traffic lights weren’t working. Everyone is on high alert and proceeds with extreme caution. But what if there were no traffic lights, no speed limits and we could drive on whichever side of the road we chose? Sounds like fun to some of us. But in reality, none of us would use the roads for fear of death. The boundaries provided by everyone respecting and obeying road rules allow each of us to regularly get to our destinations safely.  

Healthy families have boundaries, too. Families benefit from clear laws and limits in how we treat each other, respect our property, perform our daily routines and cooperate to get things done. Expecting others to be or do things without establishing laws and limits will lead to frustration and disappointment.

Just as drivers study the road rules, we must learn the laws and limits of our family. And to respect our boundaries, we first need to decide what a safe home looks like and then write laws and limits to create that home. Post them somewhere everyone is likely to see them. The fridge is a good place.

Just like riding in the car with a learner – we parents need to be in teaching mode and expect mistakes from our children. These broken laws and exceeded limits provide opportunities for lessons that can be told again later. We learn through trial and error. When a learner breaks a road rule the adult in the car is responsible – we get the ticket, the fine and the points. Parents who take this approach to raising children create safe environments for learning.

Every story we tell teaches a lesson to those around us. Our words reveal our focus, our purpose and what is important to us. You don’t tell stories about things that bore you. Whether it bothered you or bettered you, the stories you tell teach lessons to those around you.

So, write your family laws, set your family limits and teach your family lessons through the stories you tell about those laws and limits – when they were helpful and when they were difficult. The boundaries we set create the people we become!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

‘right back on’

True or False:

__ The girl who broke her arm falling off the bars goes climbing again before her plaster is even off.

__ The boy who fell off his bike and ended up in hospital is riding again the next day.

If you answered true, you know someone who has confidence. If you ask that boy or girl why they are not scared to go back to the thing that hurt them, they will tell you: “Because that’s my favourite thing to do! I fell and I’m OK. I’m not going to fall again but if I do I’ll be OK next time, too.”

Confidence comes from failure not success. The adage that you must get ‘right back on’ the horse when you fall off is not teaching you to conquer the horse. It’s teaching you to conquer your own fear of falling and build a ‘right back on’ attitude which shapes your self-esteem.

If all you’ve had is success, you’ve never got ‘right back on’. Your skill level and confidence level grow the fastest when you’re in a pattern of falling off and climbing back on.

Does this mean you should let your children fail?

More than that! You should congratulate them when they do. “Mate, you just took your skateboarding to the next level!” “Look at all those red marks, your writing skills are growing by leaps and bounds. Keep writing!” “Honey, of course we want to have her over for another play, you forgave each other!”

Failure combined with getting ‘right back on’ – that’s how we build confidence and resilience in ourselves and in our kids. Our example is the greatest parenting tool we have. We have failed many times to get where we are in life. Tell your ‘right back on’ stories to your kids. Let them know, failure and getting ‘right back on’ is what makes us great!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Secret to a Happy Family

Does your family seem to explode at the seams every time you sit together for a few minutes? Have you seen other families having fun together and wondered how they do it?

Or, perhaps you are one of those families who laugh together and wonder why other families have so much trouble getting along. Did you know you have a secret you can share?

Here’s the secret to having a happy family: Planned time together. Sit around the table every night for dinner and talk about your day. Play the ‘story of your day’ game. See how many details you can each remember.

One consistent difference between families that don’t get along and families that do is a schedule with rules. This schedule and rules will be different in every home. But the primary thing that must be scheduled is regular repeated time together with a purpose. Food and fun is a great purpose!

Planning a weekly game night at home and a monthly family night out is a great next step.

At home: Play board games or other interactive activities like puzzles, craft, building something or reading a book aloud.

On your night out: Go for a walk in the park, or play a sport outside, go 10 pin bowling, laser tag or to a trampoline centre. Be creative – it’s all about learning to laugh together!

Change is not easy. If your family has difficulty spending time together, start slow. Try one meal a week with a planned time and purpose (talking). Make a rule: Everybody listens quietly while others speak and can expect to be treated the same when it is there turn. Once this weekly night is working, step it up to every school night. Then every night.

We all learn by repetition. So, get started and keep going.

Soon you’ll be laughing and loving your time together.


Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Biggest Bully

Bullies hold others down. With their words and with their actions, they tell us what to do and then make us do it.

The biggest bully in most of our lives is not another person. It is a force inside our own minds. For most people, their biggest bully is fear.

­Fear tells us we cannot do things. It says horrible things about us inside our heads where no one else can hear. And, when fear really has a hold on us, we start repeating aloud what we’ve been hearing inside.

Fear can feel like a physical force bullying us away from trying something new. Just as some people cannot walk under a spider or lean over a cliff edge, fear causes all of us to avoid risk.

Fear tells us there is no greater enemy than failure. And yet, anyone who has succeeded at anything great will tell you they failed many times before they succeeded. In fact, if you haven’t failed, it’s because you haven’t tried!

The first step to conquering fear is to let your imagination loose. Dream. Dream big. The time you spend dreaming reprograms your mind to think positive thoughts and begins to replace your fearful thoughts. Research the new thing you want to try. Make a plan. Gather the resources, training or helpers you need.

Then jump! Have a go. Take a shot. And when you fail, say alongside Thomas Edison as he tried to make the first lightbulb, “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”

Don’t let fear bully you. The first step is always the hardest one. So, be brave and go for it! Chances are, you’ll succeed far before the 10,000th try!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

E is for Empower

This week we finish exploring the meaning behind my chaplaincy mission statement. I hope these short thoughts have helped you develop a personal parenting mission statement.

Take Time to CARE

Empowerment is a word that demonstrates a small thing – trust. We empower others when we give them authority to act. Leaders that empower the people around them have healthy growing businesses. Parents that empower have maturing confident children.

Trust exists where compassion, attentiveness and reconciliation are taking place. We teach our children to be compassionate when we are inclusive (rather than playing the Us VS Them game) in the way we talk and act. We demonstrate attentiveness when we communicate openly and honestly, building relationships through time in conversation. Children learn the skills of reconciliation when they see the adults in their lives follow the golden rule, make mistakes and heal those broken relationships by admitting their wrongs, asking for forgiveness and offering forgiveness when others apologise to them.

Empowerment happens in trusting places. We empower others by providing a safe place for them to try new things – to fail, to try again and to succeed – without fear of anger, shame or judgement. We empower others when we give them healthy space to try and encouragement to try again.

The only way to learn is to try. Adults unleash the amazing creativity in children when they become a trusted safe place and then empower kids to give it a go. While we cannot control the feelings in our children, we can provide a safe place where feelings of trust, belief and confidence thrive. This is how we empower children.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

R is for Reconcile

This week we continue exploring the meaning behind my chaplaincy mission statement. I hope it helps you develop a personal parenting mission statement.

Take Time to CARE

To reconcile is more than saying sorry. Reconciliation starts with one person feeling sorry and saying so to the person they hurt. But this is only the first step.

The second step of reconciliation is for the person who has been hurt/wronged to accept the apology. Without this step, the problem will most likely recur. Just as it takes two to tangle, it takes two to untangle. Saying “I forgive you” and meaning it is one of the most important wellbeing skills we can learn.

The third step of reconciliation is to talk about what happens next. What needs to change? What will we do next time we feel the way we felt which lead to this problem? How will we interrupt the pattern so it does not escalate into us hurting each other?

The last step of reconciliation is also the most important habit of healthy relationships. When practiced regularly, this step will save you and those around you from a world of hurt. This relationship healing, lifesaving habit, can change the world. In most cultures, there is a maxim about treating others the way you would like to be treated. This “Golden Rule” is taught to children by parents right around the world.

The Golden Rule is so powerful that, if applied regularly, you will rarely need to reconcile. The way I teach this to kids is to say, “Close your eyes. Now imagine the very best thing someone else could say to you today. Now open your eyes. If you went and said that ‘very best thing’ to someone else right now, how do you think it would make them feel?” All kids say, “Good!” And then I challenge them: “So, go say it!”

The Golden Rule: Do to others what you wish they would do to you.

Reconcile: What you do when the Golden Rule is broken.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

A is for Attentive

For the past two weeks and for the next two, we are exploring the meaning behind my chaplaincy mission statement. I hope it helps you develop a personal parenting mission statement.

Take Time to CARE

Paying attention to others is not easy in this busy world. We have a thousand things to do and each of them take our attention off the others. To slow down and focus on just one – even one child – takes a concentrated effort. To dedicate our full attention to something we must believe that one thing is worthwhile. Then we must set it apart in our mind as deserving. Otherwise, busyness will continue to overwhelm us.

We all love to have another person’s full attention. I remember, in primary school, my Dad would come every week to my school at lunchtime on Wednesday. One week he would take me out to lunch. The next week he would take my brother. He could have taken us both together but he knew the value of attention. He took us on special trips, too. He took my brother for a weekend to Michigan to visit the football hall of fame and go to a 49ers game. Another weekend, he took me to a computer show in San Francisco and we came home with some cool tech.

Those times of having Dad’s full attention still hold a special spot in my heart. They have formed a lifelong relationship between us. Dad and I are meeting in the outback for a few days of opal mining these next school holidays. I love being with my Dad now because he loved being with me when I was growing up.

When we focus on one person, we can truly listen to them. Research from around the world – both scientific and spiritual – has shown careful listening causes healing. This focused attention giving is called “deep listening” or “compassionate listening” and revolves around one person pouring out their story while the other person soaks it in. There is no need to solve problems or correct misconceptions to be a compassionate listener. All you need to do is listen. And in being heard, the other person begins healing.

Being attentive rescues us from the busyness of life.

Listening is a lost art.

Let’s rediscover it!

Monday, August 14, 2017

C is for Compassion

We are exploring the meaning behind my chaplaincy mission statement. I hope it helps you develop a personal parenting mission statement.

Take Time to CARE

When I ask kids to describe Compassion they usually give me their rendition of the Golden Rule. Society tends to operate as if the Golden Rule is: The one with the gold makes the rules.

But we know, the Golden Rule is: Do to others what you wish they would do to you. This is a very good definition for compassion. Those with healthy emotional intelligence can foresee the way their words and actions will affect others. Compassion is caring about others and recognising that this makes us better people.

To model Compassion to students, I seek first to understand what is causing their emotional pain. Once I understand, I am more able to suggest a solution. If I do not understand the reason for their frustration, anger, sadness, etc – I will give them a strategy to fix a problem they do not have!

In teaching compassion to students, I teach them to write down and memorise three “I am statements.” I am statements are a simplified mission statement. In words suitable for their age, I ask, “What personal value or character strength do you most appreciate in yourself or others?” We make a list of three. Kids almost always put “Kind” first. Everyone wants to be treated kindly and to see themselves as a kind person.

“I am kind” is a fantastic way to internalise Compassion. Once they have established their I am statements We write them on a piece of paper and I encourage the child to read/repeat them every day when they wake up, when they eat meals and when they go to bed. This creates a pattern of repetition that leads to memorisation and soon to integration in their character.

The week after we developed his I am statements, a boy came into my office for a chat. “What are your I am statements?” I asked. He listed them from memory. “Have you had one come to mind when you needed it?” I asked. “Yes!” He laughed, “Yesterday while playing footy. I saw a boy on the other team get a blood nose. I ran over to him and walked him back to his coach. As we were walking I thought, “Hey, I am kind!”

So, there you go! That’s the power of I am statements. They create compassionate and self-aware children. Why not sit down with your kids and let them develop some I am statements today?

Mission Statement: Take Time to CARE

I have learned something about myself over the years. I like change. I like new. I like adventure. I am, in a word creative. Because of this creative nature, I need to set boundaries for myself in everything I do.

When writing a book, if I do not have the goal of a deadline or a word count – I’ll never be finished.

When spending time with my kids, if I do not have a plan I will default to being silly. I need to know what needs to be done, said, achieved – then I’m good to go.

As a chaplain, I’ve worked at nine schools over the years. Based on these experiences, I developed an understanding of what values the role of Chaplaincy required. To help myself remember, I wrote a simple memory device. It helps me stay within my boundaries each day as I serve my schools.

Take Time to CARE” – that’s my chaplaincy mission statement.

Memory Device: “Take time to CARE.”

Compassion  –  Golden Rule

Attentive –  Being heard is the beginning of healing

Reconciliation –  Making things right

Empower  –  A safe place to try

Take Time reminds me to slow down and observe what is going on around me. Today may have special needs. The person I am talking to may have something deeper going on.

CARE reminds me to show: Compassion, Attentiveness, Reconciliation, Empowerment

Having this memory device helps me do my job. In fact, it helps me live a better life!

Do you have a mission statement? What are the values you live by? Remarkably, boundaries created by a clear mission statement become freeing and empowering in time. They let you know who you are, who you are not, and give you permission to say no and encouragement to say yes.

To start, here are a few good questions:
What character traits do I value most in others and want to see in myself?
When do I best demonstrate these values? When do I not?
What do I need to change to always live this way?
Where do I need to focus my attention?
What words define this journey?

Write a statement.

The next few posts explore my mission statement. Perhaps it will help you develop yours!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Learning the Language of Life

A friend of mine who blogs about her ‘sitcom life’ recently posted a story about her seven-year-old son.
One day, the boy blurted out a comment, thinking out loud. “When I grow up and have kids, I'm not going to teach them the entire English language.
Smiling to herself, his Mum asked him to explain.
“I'm not teaching them words like ‘But I don't want to...’ and ‘Why do I have to...’ That way they won't argue with me.”
His Mum nodded and kept listening.
“I'll just teach them positive words that help them obey without fuss.
Keeping a straight face, His Mum tried not to give away the thousand-and-one questions racing through her mind.
After a pause, the grade-one-boy asked, “Don't you think that's an excellent idea?”
“Yes. Definitely!” His Mum said, “And what are you going to do when they learn how to put their own words into phrases and they argue anyway?”
In the conversation below the post, one parent said she tried this very thing. It worked until the baby was 22 months old. I can imagine that was the first time the toddler said, “No!”
Our children learn from watching us. They will learn all the words and phrases we use. So, rather than using a limited vocabulary – we choose our words carefully. This leads to children who pause to consider their words – Just like Mum and Dad do.
And when things don’t work out that way, and we say something we wish we hadn’t, our children learn to admit they did the wrong thing and say they are sorry for hurting others.
Parenting is learned on the job. It is hard work. There are rough patches and painful moments. And at times, like in the above conversation, parenting is rewarding as we realise our children are processing the tough decisions - right from wrong, kind from hurtful – and deciding who they want to be in the future. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Think - Feel - Do

Are you a Thinker, Feeler or Doer? When you make decisions, you lead with one of the three. We all do. The other two areas are involved as well, but our preference leads the way. 

The best decision-making starts with knowing yourself. Understanding why your kids do what they do, comes from knowing how they make decisions. 

Thinkers love time to consider the options. 

Feelers thrive when given space to express themselves. 

Doers need to be active to relate the best to others. 

Which are you? Which is each one of your children?

Imagine a Doer dragging a Feeler to an activity to motivate them; or a Thinker using words to explain something to a Doer; or a Feeler asking a Thinker to ‘just listen’… You’re smiling. I know why! We all Think – Feel – Do right past each other nearly every day. Imagine if the Doers learned to slow down, the Feelers learned to analyse options, and the Thinkers learned to get their hands dirty.

It can happen. As we parents model the ability of stepping out of our comfort zone - to relate to our spouses, extended family, friends and children – our kids will see and copy us. Kids learn how to deal with things outside of their normal processing patterns when they see it done by significant adults.

For some “just do it” works great. For others “Take time to care” motivates. And for others “Think it through” rings true. Learning to relate to each kind of thinker will help us be the best parents possible.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

A Respect Full Home

We all want our children to show respect to others. The best place to learn this is at home from the people they spend the most time with – you!

Here are some strategies for building your home into a place of respect.

Respect yourself. You are a marvellous person! Me believing this about you will not get you nearly as far as you believing it of yourself. Each of us is uniquely beautiful in many ways. Value yourself and your kids will feel this self-respect and emulate it.

Respect them. Display awards and trophies the kids have earned. Have a display wall where the children’s achievements are presented for all to see. Showing you are proud of them helps them to be proud of themselves and others.

Respect space. Have established space that ‘belongs’ to each person. Have shared space. When in shared space, respect the needs and wishes of others in that space. When entering private space, ask permission. Respect the space you are in. Children will feel and follow your lead. Talk about the various kinds of space in your home and how our interaction in that space shows respect.

Speak well. Speak well of your kids to them and to others in front of them. Say kind things about them in private and in public. In short, be truly proud of your kids and it will come out in your language. Talk them up!

Listen well. When a child speaks positively about themselves, notice and affirm them. When they speak negatively about themselves, notice and help with kind words. Ask clarifying questions: “What happened?” “Who was involved?” “Where were you in this?” Listen. Ask healing questions: “What are some positives?” “What will you do next?”

Start over. Nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes. Always talk about moments of disrespect and agree to start over – respecting each person by respecting ourselves. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


Having regular chores is great for developing responsibility. Sometimes getting kids to actually do their chores can be more of a chore than the chores themselves. So, what can we do to inspire chore success?

Competition. Create some playful competitions that result in a variety of rewards. Base the games around accomplishing the tasks needing to be done.

Scavenger Hunt. For the littles, give them a prize for collecting a certain number of toys. For the bigs, hide a few toys in hard to find places and reward them when the specially hidden toys are added to the rest of collection.

Crank up the music. While everyone does their list of chores, turn up the family’s favourite playlist and enjoy some bop-bop-bopping along with your cleaning.

Shopping list. Let one of the kids control the shopping list. They can give the others (you included) items to gather. Tell the list manager to tick off the items when they are delivered to the trolley.

Make it fun! We’ve all heard it – I’m bored! Keeping the boredom to a minimum is the key to accomplishing tasks, chores and routines.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Love Them Hard

As I scrolled through Facebook, I saw a picture of a past workmate who went through a messy divorce which, necessarily, sent the father of their children away. All revealed, he’d left years before. As she stared into the distance, a slogan shouted from her shirt: “Find your tribe. Love them hard.”

I could feel her pain.

Finding our tribe isn’t always easy. But one thing is sure: our children are fellow tribe members. They are ours and we are theirs. Love them hard.

As we age, we mature. Maturity shapes how we build relationships. Good ones. Bad ones. They work because we work on them. Each relationship formed and nurtured grows our tribe. But love isn’t always enough. There are people who do horribly selfish things and fracture their family, leaving a great rift through the landscape of our tribe as they storm out. Unfortunately, maturity doesn’t always come with age. Sometimes age comes alone.

As these damaged destructive people torpedo their way out of our tribe, our children need us. Time is the great healer. Give them time and give them your time. Love them hard.

Some of us – knock on wood – have happy marriages. We have found our tribe and are building strength upon strength. Mistakes will be made. Forgiveness between spouses shows our children that healing is possible. Spouses are people too. Love them hard.

Our children learn how to face life by watching us. Life is all about relationships.

Find your tribe.
Love them hard.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Respectful Kids

We all love to hear other people say wonderful things about our children. 

“Your son is such a gentleman! He helped my boy on the playground today.”

“Your daughter is so thoughtful. She said the nicest thing to my girl today!”

“Your children play together so nicely! How do you do it?”

Children who act in these ways are products of choice not chance. Compassion, respect and honesty are produced in a home of integrity. Just as the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, a child resembles the people with whom they live.

The life of integrity starts at home with a firm foundation of values and expectations. A home of integrity is a place of love and trust. This means we parents treat others (partner, children, neighbours, extended family, the driver in the car that just cut us off, etc.) with kindness. Our words and actions become the words and actions of our children.

Children that treat siblings and classmates with compassion have seen their parents be kind to others.

Students who are trustworthy have been trusted by their parents with age appropriate responsibilities. They have also witnessed their parents trust others and be trusted by others. 

Home is where we learn our values. If we want compassionate, honest, respectful kids we must provide a home where these values are demonstrated daily. 

People of integrity are the product of a lifetime.

Sunday, April 23, 2017


The personal ability to set and enforce boundaries is one of the most important life skills. Learn it in childhood and we are set for success!

Protecting a child from consequences arising from their own actions sets them up for immaturity in adulthood. Actions lead to consequences. This is a reality that will never fail. Therefore, the earlier we internalise it, the better off we are.

To teach our children boundary setting skills we need to setup learning experiences for them. One of the most strategic ways to set the stage for learning personal boundaries is to declare and demonstrate that actions have consequences. Be clear and consistent.

So, how do we teach our children to set boundaries? By demonstrating that actions have consequences in their daily lives. If you child learns that leaving their lunch at home means they will not be eating until they return home, they learn to remember their lunch. This is an obvious consequence. Tomorrow’s lunch will be dutifully packed in tomorrow’s school bag!

Positive reinforcement is also very effective. Setting up an “Action/Consequence” sheet on the fridge with tasks/treasures listed in the two columns will help your child gain an understanding of self-directed behaviour. Actions result in consequences. Clean room/TV Time … Dishes away/dinner choice … homework done/friend invite … Set the Action/Consequences and then watch your child take to self-directed behaviour like a fish to water.

Each tomorrow that follows a consequence from my own action is a new day of self-determined behaviour. This is where personal boundaries and self-control come from.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Family Time

The best memories of childhood come from the family time spent together doing meaningful and enjoyable things. Many families today are so busy they have little time to relax and have fun together. 

Time together is something you make not something you find! Decide today to make time for family togetherness. This time can be carved out by making household chores into an interactive activity – a game or competition with points – to spend time together while doing things that need doing. 

Another thing we can all benefit from is making a conscious decision to slow down and cut back – and to expect the same from your kids. We are all too busy. ‘Busy’ is the worst four letter word I know. Believe it or not, current research is showing that procrastination is good for your brain! So, “Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?” 

Eat together at least three meals a week. Some families can do mornings, some evenings. Choose the meals that are most possible for the entire family and set them apart as table time. Only people come to the table. No technology. Just faces and hands. Then talk!

To really step things up, set a night aside for games at the table. Remember, only faces and hands at the table – no phones, iPads, etc. Playing card games or board games for an hour a week as an entire family can help reveal and refine character strengths and weaknesses. A weekly character check-up is a good thing!

As a family reward, after a month of successful table time. watch a movie together on the TV. Allow all the tech and toys. Make some popcorn. And just relax – as a family!