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.

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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’.

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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 →

The best time to pause and take a moment to
breathe is when life is most frantic!

– Lisa Currie

It began as any other ordinary day, but in the end I would never view M&Ms the same way again.

We had finished our hustle and bustle through the Saturday mall traffic and I was bagged. Two kiddies under 6 in toe always make for an eventful shopping adventure. I vaguely recall the days when I could whip into a store and purchase a dozen items in less than 10 minutes. Now getting a pack of gum takes a monumental amount of time, with all the bathroom stops, people gazing, and general ‘squirrel’ attention-span dilemmas.

Busting, or rather grunting, our way through the ever-shockingly heavy glass doors, I catch a glimpse of the car in the distance and a sense of freedom finds me. “If I can just get there and sit for a moment, I’ll be fine,” crosses my mind. I can tell Liam of 6 and Nathaniel of 4 are feelin’ it too, because the whining is just beginning to peak.

We make it, barely it seems, and the boys scramble up and in. I strap littlest man into the 5-point space seat and make my way to home plate behind the wheel. “Safe!” read more →

Mindfulness is a meditative practice that involves learning to pay attention to the present moment with an attitude of openness and kindness.

If there was a way to potentially help kids pay better attention, exercise more generosity and kindness with their peers, perform better in school, and be more aware of themselves and others, would you try it?

There is increasing recognition of how social, emotional and cognitive functioning are intermingled; that kids may have difficulty in school when emotional challenges arise which in turn impacts learning.

Can you imagine how it could shift the climate of our schools, our community, our world, if cultivating these qualities was at the forefront of education? read more →

What is the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy?

Have you ever been asked to do a task – maybe you were starting a new job – and you believed before you started that you wouldn’t be good at it? Maybe you thought to yourself, ‘I am not going to be able to do this,’ only to try it out and realize that your fears were correct? This is known as a self-fulfilling prophecy. A sociologist named Robert K. Merton created this term in 1948 to describe ‘a false definition of the situation evoking a new behavior which makes the originally false conception come true.’ In other words, the prediction we make at the start of something affects our behavior in such a way that we make that prediction happen.

Since studying it for my BA, The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy (SFP) has become a concept that frames my entire life. It is the way that I understand the world. It feeds in to the way that I react with myself and others. It’s the important concept that changed my thinking forever. It is the premise that the way that we think of ourselves, and the way that others think of us moulds us. It is vitally important because it can directly affect the way that we experience the world.

If I believe that I can, then I can. If I believe that you can, it helps you to believe it too. read more →

Pet ownership can teach kids many important values and
build positive character traits like giving, empathy and kindness. 

One of the overlooked opportunities of pet ownership, particularly if it is the right pet, is teaching our children how to care for something dependent on them. Kids can learn the art of kindness and compassion through caring for another creature and putting its needs first. The attachment to a pet is also incredibly important for developing empathy in older children.

At What Age Should Pets be Introduced?

In younger kids there are some benefits to emotional intelligence and pet ownership, however the reality is that kids under 10 years of age can’t really be responsible enough to manage the day to day care of their pet. Piaget, the developmental psychologist proposed that the concrete operational stage between 6-12 years is the time when kids start to become less egocentric and are able to see outside their own needs. It is generally assumed that introducing kids and pets any earlier than 6 years is therefore probably not necessarily going to teach kindness and empathy. The period of greatest attachment to pets appears to be amongst 9-10 year olds. Of course the health benefits of pet ownership tend to come at any age, particularly in relation to allergies. read more →

Your vision will become clear when you look within

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“Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t).”

– James Baraz

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Over the Easter holidays, I found myself sitting in the car with my two nieces, aged 4 and 10. We were driving down the country roads, windows open, sitting quietly – which was fairly incredible in itself as they’re noisy little munchkins and normally chatter for England.

The little one is a bright button of a thing – completely open and readable like a book, full of energy and a brilliant sense of the ridiculous. She’ll probably rule the world one day and then you’ll all be wearing tutus for breakfast, just wait and see.

The older one is not quite so simple. I think of her as a searcher. She’s always reading people, reading situations, gauging her response. The world is already a confusing place for her, and it can be heart-wrenching to watch her trying to navigate through it. read more →

Children are the most important work

The best things in life are free!

Memorable days with your child needn’t cost the earth and often hold a lot more value when you use a little imagination and are prepared to step out of your comfort zone.

Here are 7 ways you can connect with your child, honor their unique self-expression and strengthen the parent-child bond without spending any money.

1. Let them dress you up and style your hair.

And if that’s not your thing, then they there’s always a massage, giving dad a shave or painting mom’s nails!

This exercise offers both parent and child the opportunity to tap into each other’s experience. Parents are reminded how it feels to have their hair yanked while being brushed or told what is and isn’t acceptable to wear. Children discover that taking care of others requires patience and kindness.

This activity allows us to reconnect with empathy and invites us to slow down and be fully present.

2. Play restaurant and make a menu or write a recipe book.

This is a wonderful opportunity to develop natural reading and math skills. Perhaps you have some special family recipes you can make together or pop in a home made recipe book. Use the internet to search for new healthy, yummy recipes to cook for your loved ones. Who knows, they may even become the new family favorites! read more →