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 →
There’s no doubt that if you want to boost children’s reading skills the best thing you can do is to encourage them to read. Lots and lots. But not all children are quick to discover a love of books and many children (especially boys) go through periods when reading books just doesn’t float their boat (see Books to make boys love reading!).
When pushing your child to read books is more painful than pulling teeth, it’s time to find some new ideas to engage them in reading! Books are not the only way to boost children’s reading skills and inspire them with a love of words and stories.
Here’s 20 ways parents can help boost children’s reading skills that don’t involve them actually reading books: Continue reading →
Homework is a common struggle for all parents. Every school night at desks, computers and kitchen tables across the country, weary parents pitch into battle over what homework needs to be done, when, how, and how good is good enough? Homework fights can really sour those precious few hours with our children between work and bed.
If homework fights are ruining your evenings, here are my top tips for taking the heat out of homework:
Introducing a new partner to your children can be daunting: there are life-changing implications for all involved. But it is a bridge that more and more parents and children (and new partners) have to cross.
It doesn’t help that fairy tales are full of wicked step-mothers and the TV is peppered with abusive step-fathers. Talk to a room full of parents and you will hear a wide range of experiences, from heart-warming accounts of blended families that have brought love and value to every family member’s life, to long-term estrangements, rifts and rejection.
When it comes to introducing a new partner to your children, there is no guaranteed way to ensure a smooth ride. But follow these tips and the chances of it working out will be greatly increased. Continue reading →
My four-year-old son wakes up at night and comes into our room. I’ve tried taking him back to his own bed but he just comes back again. If I let him sleep in our bed he wriggles and keeps me awake. My work is suffering, I’m utterly exhausted and desperate for him to sleep through the night! What can I do?
It’s hard to focus at work and enjoy life’s challenges when bedtime battles leave you drained. Lack of sleep can make children tearful, relationships tetchy and spreadsheets incomprehensible. The good news is – if you want to – this is a battle you can win.
All children have periods of restlessness at night. The goal is for your child to roll over and put himself back to sleep without seeking your help. So make sure you incentivise this behaviour. Continue reading →
Last week, one of the mums I was working with repeatedly burst into tears as she described her 8-year-old’s low self-esteem. He was reluctant to try anything new, gave up easily in the face of failure and struggled with friendships. She could already see him falling behind his potential and was scared for his future. As a mum, she felt utterly powerless in the face of his relentless negative thinking and no amount of praise or encouragement (or anything else) seemed to make any difference. It is an all too common story.
The Optimistic Child is a book which will give hope to parents of children with poor self-esteem.
Right from the start it makes crystal clear the links between pessimistic thinking and low self-esteem and it is packed with practical exercises for parents to use to recognise and tackle their child’s negative habits of mind. It is immensely readable, cogent, inspiring and practical. And most importantly, because it views pessimistic thinking as a ‘learned helplessness’ it offers the possibility that new ways of thinking can be taught. Continue reading →
“He’s got toddler OCD” is a phrase I’ve heard countless times from parents of 2 and 3 year-olds. Sometimes said with a laugh, sometimes with real concern. My response? “Excellent!”
Why “excellent”? Well, in crude terms, repeated actions are the foundation of abstract thinking. A toddler who is obsessively moving toy cars from one place to another (to the exclusion of all other children or activities) is well on the way to building an advanced conceptual model of the world. Frustrating for his parents (and for any other child who wants to play with those cars) but usually simply a sign of intellectual development.
Young children don’t learn about the world by sitting back and contemplating it – their brain structures simply haven’t developed to do that. Young children learn about the world through physical and sensory experiences: touching, tasting, throwing, jumping, and climbing into things. Continue reading →