As the parent of teenagers, I have found that knowing a little bit about their internal mechanisms really helps me keep some of their less desirable behaviour in perspective. So, for your amusement and edification, here are a few weird and wonderful facts about teenagers that might explain why they do the things they do….
Teenagers can’t remember future tasks
Teenagers have poor prospective memories which means they are not very good at holding things in their heads to remember to do later. When you nag them, it really does go in one ear and out the other. Teaching teens to use props like timetables, planners and checklists can help get them organised (see Teaching teens self-organisation skills). Continue reading →
There is no magic spell that can change your child’s behaviour. Ultimately, we can only change our own behaviour. Which of these common parenting traps do you find yourself falling into (and what might happen if you did things differently?).
We all want our children to make the most of their education. However, when you watch a teenager diligently putting hours into their revision only to be rewarded with less than remarkable grades or you get increasingly frustrated as you watch your teen fritter away hours on their phone whilst only putting minimal effort into their studies, it’s not easy knowing what to do.
As a parent you feel helpless, frustrated and at a loss about how to help. You know you should be taking a leadership role, showing them how to study effectively so that their education opens doors for them for the rest of their lives. But how do you do it? Continue reading →
Brain-based parenting: The Neuroscience of caregiving for healthy attachment (by Daniel A. Hughes & Jonathan Baylin) tries to do something truly amazing – to explain the chemical and emotional brain mechanisms that interact to create and sustain the loving bond parents feel for our children. That magical bond that makes us love every inch of them, that makes us prioritise our children’s needs over our own and keeps their wellbeing central to our thoughts and fears. And that stops us throwing them out the window when they are at their most annoying and antagonistic. This is magical territory indeed.
This book covers some really crucial topics – like the importance of parents’ emotional self-regulation in parenting effectively and the negative impact of stress on parents’ ability to tune into their children empathetically (and remain the ‘adult in the room’). There are some fascinating insights into the roles of oxytocin and dopamine in building the parent-child relationship and ensuring the parent gets pleasure from it (and therefore wants to engage even more). And a truly wonderful “caregiving formula” comprising playfulness, acceptance, curiosity and empathy to optimise a reciprocal and nurturing parent-child relationship. Continue reading →
Last week I had a frantic call from The Daily Mirror. They had picked up some research on 50 ‘lost’ skills that today’s children are not learning and wanted commentary from a parenting expert. As usual, when it comes to journalism, they needed a response URGENTLY. Please could I come up with a list of the 20 most important life skills children should learn. I had 30 minutes.
The original research had been sponsored by Addis Housewares so was predictably full of domestic tasks such as darning socks and making jam. In my list, I tried to widen this (and make it a bit less gender stereotyped) to include financial management and car/bike maintenance and communication skills. I can’t say it was my most inspired 30 minutes ever but it did get me thinking.
Mulling it over afterwards, what intrigued me was not so much which exact life skills children should learn but how children learn practical life skills and why it is/isn’t happening.
Looking at my own family and friends, it does seem that children are not picking up the same practical skills they would have been equipped with 30 years ago. By the time I was twelve, I could definitely change a plug, make a cup of tea, repair a bike puncture, sew, knit, dust, hoover, grow plants, make an apple crumble and light a fire. I am not sure I could say the same for many of the kids I know (and certainly not for my own). Continue reading →
What is it about teenagers’ bedrooms? It’s like there’s some secret lesson at school that they all attend after which dirty pants, wet towels, half-empty crisp packets and every wearable item from their wardrobe are forever more jumbled in a heap on their bedroom floor. In the space of just a few months, I went from carefully picking my way through strewn Lego pieces to tip-toeing through smelly socks and dirty teaspoons.
Without a doubt, arguing about the untidiness of teenagers’ bedrooms is one of the top complaints I hear from parents of teens (second only to arguing about spending too much time on technology).
But just what level of tidiness is it reasonable for parents to expect? Continue reading →
In terms of child development, the differences between boys and girls are far outweighed by their similarities. All children basically have the same needs regardless of their gender. And yet “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!” is almost always the first piece of information we give (or ask for) about a newborn baby. Socially, gender is a very important fact.
There are different schools of thought as to whether gender differences are hardwired into babies’ brains or are a product of social conditioning. In reality, it’s almost impossible to disentangle whether differences between boys and girls are biological or social because, right from birth, adults treat boys and girls differently. Continue reading →
In most parenting dilemmas, we have a choice about how to respond. Often, the decision boils down to a choice between being a policeman or a coach.
Put crudely, the job of a policemen is to catch people doing things wrong and punish them for it. Whereas a coach is someone who helps you to develop better ways of doing things.
For me, positive parenting is all about spending as much time wearing the coach’s hat as possible. That means catching children being good and encouraging them to do it more often.
Ground rules are a brilliant way of helping children focus on what good looks like and helping them do it more often. If there is a particular behaviour that you want to change, rather than focusing on using consequences to minimise that behaviour, think about introducing a ground rule to maximise the right behaviour. Continue reading →
Reward charts are a fantastic positive parenting tool for encouraging the behaviour you want from your children. Whether it’s helping out around the house, being polite or using the potty, a reward chart is a great option for focusing your child’s mind on the right behaviour and motivating them to do it.
Reward charts work best when the target behaviour is clearly defined, when the rewards are achievable and when your child actually wants the rewards. Breaking habits takes effort – from both you and your child – and reward charts work best when both of you are fully on board.
Here’s a few tips to help you get the maximum effect out of using a reward chart. Continue reading →
Why do children lie? Let’s be honest, all children experiment with lying. It is normal and – although it can be quite shocking for parents – it is not necessarily the start of a slippery slope to immorality and delinquency. Apparently, the average 6 year old lies about once an hour!
But why do children lie?
Although we might feel that we are setting a clear moral example, society’s attitudes towards lying can be a bit confusing for young children. Sometimes lying is ok. In those circumstances we urge our children not to tell the truth – e.g. not saying that someone has a fat bottom (when they have) or not telling someone about a surprise or a present. Continue reading →
Many working parents find that they have less time with their children than they would like. So how can working parents invest their time and energy smartly to make the most of family time and ensure everyone’s needs are met?
When we feel like time with our children is limited, it can create pressure for that time to be 100% fun and enjoyable. Parents who feel guilty about spending time apart from their children can be tempted to give in to whining or complaining (after all, who wants to spend precious family time battling behaviour!). Or, faced with a whirlwind of children’s demands, the accumulated stresses of work can lead us to overreact.
The key to success for time-poor parents is to encourage good behaviour and maintain boundaries using positive strategies that build strong family relationships and help children (and parents) feel good about themselves. Continue reading →
Now, I don’t want to stereotype (other versions of Good Cop Bad Cop parenting are available!) but in my experience the ‘good cop’ in this particular parenting pattern is often the parent who spends the least time with the children.
It’s not hard to see why. When we feel like time with our children is limited, it can create pressure for that time to be 100% enjoyable and conflict-free. After all, who wants to spend precious family time battling with children, especially after a long stressful day at work or a whole week waiting to see them….
As a division of parenting labour, Good Cop Bad Cop parenting might be understandable but it’s not very helpful. Giving in to avoid conflict (and leaving someone else to pick up the pieces) tends to cause more conflict in the long term. Continue reading →
Sibling conflict can really leech the fun out of family time. A day of constant mediation between bickering children sends the best of us running for the wine feeling like a battered referee after an ill-tempered football match rather than the nurturing and wise moral guide we aspire to be. We tie ourselves in knots trying to be even-handed (how do you know who started it?!), desperately garnering wellbeing for all sides, with usually only guilt or despair to show for it.
So what can we do to survive and minimise sibling conflict? Here are my top tips for staying sane and reducing the bickering. Continue reading →
For parents, knowing how our children are getting on at school is very important. Especially if they have just started a new phase or if there have been problems with schoolwork, behaviour or friendships. But what are the best questions to get children to talk about school? Keeping in touch with what’s going on isn’t easy when your key source of information won’t open up…
[Parent] “How was school today?”
[Parent] “What did you do?”
It’s very frustrating and not very illuminating! So if you are stuck in a rut and want to find out something more meaningful about your child’s day, it’s probably time to take a different tack. Continue reading →