Some children spend more of their time awake at school than they do in their own homes. That’s a big thing when you’re still growing and learning. It’s a big thing too for parents to entrust their precious ones to others, sometimes strangers, during these vital years. Especially as much of a child’s developing personality and morals can be so easily influenced by those around them.

During the early years of my own children’s education, I worried about the role models they would encounter at school. It concerned me that my hard work instilling good values may be lost if character education wasn’t a priority in the classroom.

Fortunately, these days, educators are more aware of the need to prioritize social and emotional learning at school. They realize the important role that kindness and empathy have in nurturing happiness and self-esteem.

“It’s no secret that kindness sparks kindness. The secret is that kindness takes wings when it is modeled and taught with passion and purpose. When we intentionally help and encourage our students to put kindness into action through their thoughts, words, and deeds, then the world will truly be a gentler, more peaceful place. Simply put, we’ll be better.

Girls holding handsKindness in schools can look like a smile, feel like a hug, sound like a sweet greeting or a sincere compliment. A genuine inquiry about how someone is doing can mean so much. And when we have created that climate of kindness and caring inside our school walls, the natural next step is to take it home to our families, out into our community and then beyond our borders into our global world. And when kindness ripples, prepare to bathe in a tsunami of goodness.”

Barbara Gruener, Counsellor, Westwood-Bales Elementary, Friendswood, Texas, USA read more →

You’ve heard the old saying “it takes a village to raise a child”. When it comes to their education, the same principle should be applied in the form of a positive and proactive partnership between teachers, student and parents.

I’m a huge advocate for clear, open communication between all parties to avoid misunderstandings and unnecessary stress. Good relationships between teachers and parents should be a priority to ensure the best outcome for children.

There are a number of simple things that parents and teachers can do to support one another.

Teachers supporting parents:

Keep parents up to date

Parents who confide in a teacher and don’t receive further feedback on an issue affecting their child can become frustrated and angry. If they’ve made an effort to contact the school, it means they’re genuinely concerned. They need to feel confident their child is being cared for by teachers staying contact and updating them on what’s being done.

Send home a note

Make a special effort to call or send home a note to parents of children who need extra support or are struggling to fit in. A teacher who shares a few kind words about their child’s successes or positive progress will win a parent’s heart in an instant. read more →

As important as it is for parents to encourage, love and support their children, it is just as important that children learn to create this within themselves. It is very empowering for a child to create positive beliefs in themselves so it is much harder for people to tear them down.

Our children are learning behaviours and wiring their brain and this is why affirmations are so effective with youngsters. Positive self-belief developed in childhood will stay with them throughout their life.

We all develop our belief systems about ourselves and the world around us from our environment. Our family and friends, role models, television, magazines and advertising can either be nurturing or damaging.

It is important that we learn to take control of our belief systems and the younger that we learn, the easier it is. It can be as simple as affirming the positive beliefs that we would like to grow up with. Negative beliefs can impact our lives greatly and can be hard to shift as we grow older.

Affirmations are a powerful and holistic way of building a positive mind and happier children.  Nurturing their authentic self and helping them to enjoy the magic of childhood.

Put simply, an affirmation is to affirm to one’s self. Positive words that are absorbed by the mind to create your belief system. Once affirmations are learned, they work by coming to mind when that belief is challenged. If your affirmation is “I am wonderful just the way I am”, and you are told you are stupid, the affirmation will come to mind to remind you of your belief. Instead, you will think, “I’m not stupid, I am wonderful!” Without a positive belief, you may take on the one you just heard and start to believe that you are stupid. The more an affirmation is repeated, positive or negative, the stronger it becomes.

What we think about ourselves, is how we develop 

If we feel we are worthless, we will behave like we are worthless. If we believe that we are special and loved, we will behave like we are special and loved.  read more →

13 years ago I was expecting my first child. It had taken us a while to get pregnant with our first as I had undiagnosed health problems, so we were delighted with the news. We did everything that most first-time parents did, buying equipment as well as baby-proofing everything because that is what good parents do, right?

Our bouncing baby girl arrived and I was a very focused and dedicated parent. Monitoring every aspect of her life and making sure that her every need was attended to. Life went on and we continued to extend the family with 3 more children, all boys. As my family grew in size and age, I began to observe and learn about what was helping them to grow and what was stopping them from growing.

As time went on, I realised that the better and more efficient mother I became, the more often I disadvantaged my children. In an attempt to make sure that my children were happy, healthy, comfortable and safe I was actually preventing them from experiencing all aspects of life. I was undermining their confidence and I was denying them the tools they needed to thrive. Let me explain. read more →

My daughter has been having difficulty with a girl at school. This girl “Mary” became a bit of a stalker and it became quite intense.

It was manageable during school hours, but it was the constancy of exchanges on Instagram that became overwhelming. Relentless messages from Mary accusing my daughter of bad behaviour. Mary snapping a photo of my daughter’s private messages, where she revealed her crush and then showing him. Not cool. In the end, we advised our daughter to block Mary, at which point the girl jumped on to my account. Yikes, it was intense.

A meeting was held at school and the cyber issue was resolved. Several minor incidents occurred thereafter, but nothing that we couldn’t handle.

Then, one day my daughter came home from school furious. We sat down as I listened to the drama that had unfolded this time. Mary had taken a rotten piece of fruit and had thrown it at one of the boys. This particular boy is very shy, a bit of a recluse, an easy target. The fruit hit him. He did not respond and simply continued staring at the floor. My daughter then flew into action (she has a very strong moral compass).

“Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears
of another and feeling with the heart of another.” – Alfred Adler

read more →

The Knit-For Service Club began in 2004 with twenty members and has grown to eighty-plus boys and girls who knit to help others. The first year, we made one patchwork blanket to donate to Harold, the King of the Valentine’s Day Dance, at his retirement home. Since then, we have collectively knit over two dozen blankets and two thousand baby hats for people in need.

The second year, we invited those inaugural club members to keep up their skills by coming back as mentors to the rookie knitters.960x540

In our third year, Save the Children® in Connecticut asked us to join its Caps to the Capital campaign. That visit resulted in our club’s effort to rally the community to help us send 329 handmade caps to developing countries to help reduce the infant mortality rate. Consequently, we were invited that January to deliver a basket of those caps to the White House. Elizabeth, our young Westwood Ambassador, left one of her hats with the First Lady’s chief of staff. When asked how it felt to leave her handiwork with the First Lady, Elizabeth remarked, “It was okay, I suppose. But I really made that hat for a baby.” A project with a purpose. Be still my beating heart.

read more →

When you look back on your childhood, I imagine one thing that comes to mind are particular phrases or saying you heard your parents say on a regular basis. These are most likely the same things they heard from their own parents that have unconsciously become a part of who they are. And chances are, love it or hate it, that you’re also repeating some of the same expressions to your children.

According to Steve Biddulph, the author of “The Secret to Happy Children“, parents may be unknowingly “hypnotizing” their children. He refers to this type of programming as a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy because hearing a particular suggestion over and over makes children believe it enough to make it reality.

When parents say negative things about their child’s character like, you’re hopeless, you’re so lazy, you’ll never amount to anything, you can’t do that… they’re diluting their child’s belief in themselves.  These type of putdowns are like tiny seeds that accumulate in the mind and when consistently watered, will eventually bloom into a pessimistic outlook on themselves and life.

Steve explains that “whenever we use certain patterns of speech, we reach into the unconscious minds of our children and program them, even though we have no such intention.”

The belief that to be hypnotized, a person had to be in an altered state of mind or trance, is old hat.

These days it’s understood that the mind can be programmed whilst a person is in a normal waking state without them being aware of it happening. It’s called accidental hypnosis because without even realizing it, parents are implanting messages in their child’s mind that can stay with them for a lifetime.

If you’re sighing right now in frustration or disappointment in yourself, you won’t be alone. Accidental hypnosis is a part of everyday life, and most of us do it! read more →

A teacher in New York used the crumpled paper exercise to show her students the last impact that bullying can have. read more →

As a mother of three teenage daughters and an experienced elementary school teacher, I am deeply concerned about our kids. Let me explain. Children today live in a world filled with technology — ipad interaction from birth, social media from pre-teens and access to everything and anything on the Internet from a very young age. Don’t get me wrong, as a teacher I know technology can be an amazing tool for learning. Extraordinary really. What does deeply trouble me, is the negative aspect of child/learner interaction with technology.

I have come back to teaching after four years away. What I found on my return, was many children (dare I say the boys) had a much lower attention span than I had previously experienced in my teaching practice. Where once I had five- and six-year-olds listening and focused for 15 minutes, they were now only engaged for around five minutes. After that period of time, eyes started to roam, feet began to fidget and turning around seem a more entertaining thing to do!

In a time of technology overload, and on-line and off-line societal pressures, I have come to the conclusion that we need to formally teach our children the following:

  1. To be mindful of others and of themselves. That is, to show respect and empathy towards others and to show respect and empathy towards themselves.
  1. To be resilient. That is, we need children to feel confident about themselves and to be able to accept disappointment and even rejection without losing a sense of self. The teaching of resilience goes hand in hand with children learning to be assertive — both about their bodies and their mindset.
  1. To be focused learners. That is, I believe we formally need to teach children in a school environment to focus on a task and to slow their mind down, allowing them to sustain longer concentration.

read more →

We teach our children water safety and road safety — it is equally important to teach our children ‘body safety’ from a very young age. As both a teacher and a mother, I strongly recommend to all parents that ‘body safety’ become a normal part of your parenting conversation. The sexual abuse of children has no social boundaries, and providing children with body safety skills both empowers them with knowledge of what is good and bad touch, and teaches simple but effective assertiveness — a crucial life skill.

The statistics of 1 in 3 girls and I in 6 boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday is truly frightening, and as many experts point out, this statistic only reflects reported cases. Also, 93% of children WILL know their perpetrator. The community’s focus has so often been on ‘stranger danger’ — however, the reality is, the perpetrator will most likely be someone in the child’s immediate family circle and a person they know and trust.

To assist parents and educators, here is a summary of the KEY Body Safety Skills every parent/educator should teach their child. Please note, these skills can be taught gradually and in daily conversations as your child grows.

Body Safety Skills

  • As soon as your child begins to talk and is aware of their body parts, begin to name them correctly, e.g. toes, nose, eyes, etc. Children should also know the correct names for their genitals from a young age. Try not to use ‘pet names’. This way, if a child is touched inappropriately, they can clearly state to you or a trusted adult where they have been touched.
  • Teach your child that their penis, vagina, bottom, breasts and nipples are called their ‘private parts’ and that these are their body parts that go under their swimsuit. Note: a child’s mouth is also known as a ‘private zone’.
  • Teach your child that no-one has the right to touch or ask to see their private parts, and if someone does, they must tell you or a trusted adult or older teenager straightaway. Reinforce that they must keep on telling until they are believed. (Statistics tell us that a child will need to tell three people before they are believed.) As your child becomes older (3+) help them to identify five people they could tell. These people are part of their ‘network’.

read more →

My message to kids who bully other kids is:
You know it’s wrong! What’s really going on? Try not to make somebody else’s life miserable because you are.

– Joe Nichols

Let me begin by saying that I detest the ‘Bully,’ label. Bully is a loaded word. It provokes an emotional reaction of some kind to any person that you mention it to. From outrage to fear, everyone has an opinion. Bully Vs Victim, simple right? I disagree.

For me, this is not simple. Varying levels of light and shade must be considered if we are going to be successful in helping to reduce incidents of nastiness in schools. For a child to carry the label of bully is akin to a prison sentence that will haunt them for his or her school career with little chance of parole. To have the bully label surgically thrust upon you implies that it is a fundamental part of the person that you are, it’s who people are therefore expecting you to be. What a burden for a child to carry. To say that a child is displaying bullying behaviour is so much more positive because behaviours can easily be changed and disposed of so it gives everyone involved hope for change.

I am one of these really irritating people who holds the belief that there is good in 99% of the population and often in places that we are not expecting. My mission in life has always been to try and identify with people and find common-ground. I love words and believe that good quality communication, partnered with love and an attempt at understanding, can help to ease any situation. As a parent to four beautiful babies, I have found this to be extremely challenging at times, as I will explain. read more →

42% of kids report having been the victim of some form of cyberbullying reports Family Internet Safety Advocate, Sue Scheff. In the past decade, parents and educators have become increasingly aware of this staggering statistic, and bullying prevention programs have been written in response. But there’s a fault in these programs.

 

Saying STOP Is Difficult To Do

This is the crux of the problem. We tell our kids that being a bystander is just as bad as being the bully and that they should stand up to cyberbullying, but we don’t teach them how to do this. And the truth is that this is very, very hard to do—as an adult and as a kid.

My Own Brush With Cyberbullying

I’m a freelance writer so last year, after my twelfth wedding anniversary, I wrote a neat and tidy article, “12 Things Happily Married Women Know.” The comments that came in on it weren’t about marriage, they were about my weight and how fat I looked in my wedding dress. I was devastated. It took me months to move past this sadness and get to a place where I could call out my cyberbullies and stand up for myself. When I did, it was in a second article, “I Wrote An Article About Marriage And All Anyone Noticed Is That I’m Fat.” In it, I said two simple things: don’t talk about other people’s bodies and let’s be kinder to each other online. That article went viral and from it, I landed a book deal for a book on how to teach our kids to be kind online. Some days I call this “just desserts.” Other days I call it, “taking lemons and making lemonade.” read more →