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3 Addition Strategies for Mini Mathematicians

3 Addition Strategies for Mini Mathematicians

In preschool and Prep, young children will typically tackle the equation 4+5  by counting out a pile of four counters and another pile of five counters and then adding them all together. In the absence of counters they will use their fingers. In Year 1, they will learn about 10s and units and use base 10 blocks to explore basic mathematical concepts such as addition, subtraction and place value. They will use number lines to help them count on from a given number, and number squares to learn tricks like adding 10 by moving down a line.

base 10 blocks, number line and number square
Base 10 blocks, number line and number square

At some point, however, children will need to make the leap from using visuals/props to using mental arithmetic for basic addition. Here are three maths strategies you can help your child with:

Counting on

Counting on from a given number is generally the first stage in mental arithmetic. When children first learn their numbers, they have to start everything from the number one. If they need to know what comes after 8 they will have to count up from 1 to find out. It is relatively easy for them to add together 3 and 4 because they can hold up three fingers on one hand, four on the other and then count up all the fingers. But once they are tackling, say 6 + 7, they run out of fingers and get stuck.

Using the ‘counting on’ strategy (instead of ‘counting all’), a child will identify the biggest number in a sum as their starting point (5, in the example below) and then ‘count on’ the other number from there (often using their fingers!).

4 + 5

This is why number lines are so useful in school:

using a number line to add 4 + 5

How you can help

  • Play ‘What comes next?’ 
    “Six, seven, eight … what comes next?”
    “Ten, eleven, twelve … what comes next?”
    Play this ‘game’ with your child every now and then to help cement their number sequencing.
  • Which is bigger?
    Help your child identify whether a number is bigger or smaller than another number in day-to-day activities. For example:

    “We need 50 grams of butter… the scales say we have 48 grams. Do we have enough? Which number is bigger, 50 or 48?”

    “That house is number 92 and the house opposite is 89. Which is the biggest number?”

  • Play board games like Snakes and Ladders
    Any game with numbered spaces, like Snakes and Ladders, will help your child recognise ‘which number comes next’. After each roll of the dice, they will need to ‘count on’ to move their counter.

  • Play board games with two dice
    e.g. Monopoly (or speedy Snakes and Ladders with two dice instead of one). This will give your child plenty of opportunity to practise their counting on, as they add the two numbers together.
  • Play with rulers/tape measures
    Seeing numbers ordered consecutively in a line may help your child remember number order and what comes next. An extendable tape measures makes a fun visual tool for practising counting on. Better still, get your child to do the measuring up in real life situations – the length of a room for a new carpet, the width of a greetings card and envelope (is the envelope wide enough for the card to fit in?), your child’s height marked on the side of a door etc.

    “Find me the number 22. Count on three. What number do you get?”

    tape measure


Doubles and near-doubles

5 fingers on the left hand + 5 fingers on the right hand = 10 fingers altogether

2 front legs + 2 back legs = 4 legs on a cow

6 eggs + 6 eggs = 12 eggs

Children are surrounded by doubles in their everyday life so learning 1 + 1 and 2 + 2 etc comes quite easily. Once they know their doubles, they no longer have to think about the equation to solve it; they will automatically know that 77 = 14 without having to count.

When a child knows their doubles well, it is not a big leap to solve sums that are close to doubles, e.g. 4 + 5 is one more than 4 + 4

How you can help

  • Point out doubles to your child in day-to-day life and see if they can find the answer (e.g. seven days in a week – how many days in a fortnight? Four fingers in a KitKat – how many in two KitKats?)
  • Play with Lego: Hunting for the right shape and size pieces can help children learn simple doubles quickly – an ‘eight-er’ piece, for example, has two rows of four studs.  Use numbers as you construct with your child, e.g. “I need a flat yellow piece with two rows of six dots. Twelve dots in total”, “Pass me a grey four-er”.
  • Sing songs about doubles with your child, such as Inchworm, or make up your own. The dafter the better – it makes them more memorable!
  • Read books about doubles, e.g.:

    Minnie's Diner by Dayle Ann Dodds

    “Minnie’s Diner” by Dale Ann Dodds

    The five McFay brothers place their orders at Minnie’s Diner. The second brother orders twice as much as the first brother. The third brother orders double again … and so on until Papa McFay arrives and orders 32 of everything!

    Tow of Everything by Lili Toy Hong

    “Two of Everything” by Lili Toy Hong

    A Chinese folktale about a little old woman and a little old man who find a magic pot that doubles anything you put inside – including the little old man and woman!  


Make 10

Memorising the number combinations that add to 10 gives children more automaticity in their mental arithmetic. Once they recognise that 7+3, 6+4, 5+5, 8+2 and 9+1 equal 10, they will spend less time counting on their fingers; they will ‘know’ these combinations without having to work them out. When a child knows that 8+2 equals 10, it is easy to work out 8+3 or 8+4. Knowing the number bonds that make 10 also removes the need to ‘count on’ in some situations.

How you can help

  • Finger fun
    Let your child use their fingers, since they have 10 of them! When you’re on car journeys or waiting in line, give them a number (e.g. 3) and ask them what they need to add to it to make 10. With their hands held in front of them, they can put down three fingers to see they need seven to make 10. 

    Make 10 with fingers

  • Show them a rainbow
    Follow the rainbow colours to find number combinations that make 10.

    Rainbow to 10
  • Card games
    There are many card games you can play with your child to help them remember number bonds of 10. Here are a couple to get you started:
    1. Memory Game

      Remove the Kings, Queens, Jacks, 10s and Jokers from a pack of playing cards. Aces will count as 1s. Place the remaining cards face down on the table in a grid.

      Each player turns over two cards. If they add up to 10, they get to keep the cards and have another go. If the two cards turned over do not sum to 10, they are returned face down on the table and the next player takes their turn. The player with the most cards at the end wins.

      Make 10 Memory Game

    2. Make 10 Pyramid (a twist on Solitaire)Remove the Kings, Queens, Jacks and Jokers from a pack of playing cards. Aces will count as 1s. Shuffle and deal the first 21 cards into a pyramid, as shown below.

      Make 10 Pyramid 
      The aim of the game is to remove card pairs that add up to 10. (10s can just be removed in play on their own as they already equal 10). BUT, cards may not be removed while there is another card overlapping it. So, at the beginning, only cards on the bottom row can be removed (in this case below, the ace and the nine). Once a card has been removed, the card that it had overlapped can come into play. If there is no combo available to be removed, pick up a card from the remaining pile of cards and place on the pyramid. Continue until all the cards in the pyramid have been removed.


Repetition and real-life-situations are key when helping your young child with maths. Get them to add up their pocket money savings, follow recipes in the kitchen, work out how many settings you’ll need at the table when guests come over. Look out for those everyday opportunities to put their elementary addition skills into practice.

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So Your Child’s a Senior – 10 Ways to Help You Both Survive

So Your Child's a Senior ... How to Help You Both Survive

The memories of that little tyke shyly holding your hand as they started school are over twelve years old! That little treasure has somehow morphed into a moody, opinionated, spotty giant, eating you out of house and home, and wearing a King’s white shirt. Guess what? They need you more than ever.

Preschool, prep, and primary events enjoy a glut of helpers. Parents volunteer for all sorts of events; they read with the strugglers, bake for sales, cheer on the swimmers, join in praise and worship. But High School seems to be a sort of no-go area for parents, with attendance being the exception rather than the norm. This is partly the evolution of the growing-up process as our kiddies become taller than us and apart from us. Senior High School seems even more daunting for parents as peers, teachers, and coaches appear to become more important influencers on our children. Our adult-looking kids seem not to need us like they did. And this is true. And, also, not true.

You don’t need me to tell you the aching need teens have to be independent. While they don’t need you to tuck them in or help clean their teeth, they actually need you in more deep and subtle ways.

Before I list some of the things you can do  ….. a few caveats:

  • You are the world expert on your child. Whether they are four or 14, you is da man.
  • Aside from issues of significant mental or emotional instability, you are the parent, the adult, the provider. Your dependent child is not your equal.
  • Professional diagnoses trump internet guesswork every time.

So, with those out the way, here are some tips for supporting your nearly-adult child do well as a student:

1. Reach out to your child’s teachers

They love it! Getting to know them will help you relax and signal to your child that you are a team.

2. Set reasonable expectations of behaviour

Courtesy, participation, respect, responsibility, etc, are all markers of a well-rounded child. No phones at the table? Fine. No internet after 9pm? OK. No socialising on a school night? Great. As your child develops, negotiation is a privilege commensurate with their demonstrated level of responsibility.

3. Expect to mess up

You will make mistakes. So will your kid. Overlook the silly stuff. Admit when you’re wrong. Shake it off! A big mistake parents of seniors make is to think because your kid looks like an adult (and may drive, work, vote), they have adult coping mechanisms. In reality, they are emotionally in two camps.

4. Begin the conversation about post-school pathways early on

Don’t be duped to automatically assume that you child will, or even should, attend university. Unlike previous generations, university has become a business. Consider the rate of university attendance for today’s students, as opposed to a generation ago. Are kids miraculously smarter? Or is something else going on? Consider what your child likes, what s/he is good at, what kind of person they are.

5. Make sure there is a Plan B in place for your child

And a Plan C, D, E… As many as you like. What will we do when/if…? Not in a catastrophising way, but to reassure your child that nothing is “make or break”. Because it isn’t. Almost nothing is.

6. Diet, exercise, relaxation, leisure, family time…

As applies in your circumstance, make opportunities. Try to eat together without the telly. Make sure you know what they’re eating (for the most part). Be a good example and look after your own well-being.

7. Resist the temptation to advise, unless specifically asked

Never let a chance to be quiet pass by. Older teens like to use trusted adults as sounding-boards. Encourage your teen to develop agency in their own lives.

8. With school-related problems, believe your child but  remember, s/he is a child

Senior students may look like adults but lack adult perspective. It’s a fair amount of work and effort for a teacher to communicate with you about a concern; be assured that it is not done lightly. Of course, mistakes can be made, and your child should witness your graciousness and forgiveness in these times.

9. Your child’s happiness is not your main goal

Your main goal is to deliver to society a balanced, contributing citizen, with biblical values, and a heart for the Lord and His people. You and your child will argue, disagree, fight even. That’s too bad. You are not your child’s friend; get some friends your own age! Your job is to to guide, support, provide, love. And not the squishy love that has no boundaries, but the love that is both a hand up and a walk alongside. You are not alone! King’s is a village full of Christian people who will help support you and your child.

10. Parenting is not a competitor sport

It’s not a sport at all. Twenty years ago, it wasn’t even a verb! If you have more than one child, you already know how different kids are, even raised the same way. It doesn’t matter whether your child is the fastest/smartest/most creative. It matters that they are confident that you have this – on their side, knowing where to find answers, if you don’t have them yourself.


Chances are, you’ll both survive the final years of schooling. You’re not the perfect parent, and your kid isn’t the perfect kid. And that’s why you’re perfect for each other.

“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”
– Proverbs 22: 6

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The Rise of Project Based Learning (PBL)

The Rise of Project Based Learning

Ask most parents about their experience of school and the stories are often quite similar: Their teacher would talk and write on the board; students would listen and take down notes. You’d do exercises from a textbook, take tests, get grades… rinse and repeat. This ‘typical’ classroom is often pictured as one where desks are in rows, a teacher desk is at the front, students all have a textbook and notepad and the teacher begins the class by talking from the front. As the teacher talks, knowledge is assumed to have transferred from the teacher’s head to the students.

Reflecting on life at school, you’d often hear: “How is this relevant to my daily life?”, “When will I use this after school?”, “Why should I learn this?”.

Consequently, many people’s opinion of school is negative, either because of a negative experience with a teacher or simply because of irrelevance. Schooling has continued like this for quite some time. In recent years, dramatic societal shifts have changed whole sectors of the community, yet schooling is no different.

We have the Internet as a global information and communications medium. Add to this the ubiquity of computing devices and teachers are no longer the source of all knowledge in the classroom. Instead, they are now a facilitator of it and a guide in discerning which knowledge is useful and how it can be applied effectively. Social media has also created collaboration by osmosis and this needs to be met head-on in the classroom or we become irrelevant – not because we are behind the times, but because we are not recognising both our changing world and our changing audience.

What is Project Based Learning?

According to Michael McDowell in his book ‘Rigorous PBL by Design’, project-based learning (PBL) can be defined as “a series of complex tasks that include planning and design, problem solving, decision-making, creating artefacts and communicating results” (McDowell, 2017:2).

PBL is characterised by the following:

  • Learning is student-centred.
  • Learning occurs in small groups.
  • A tutor is present as facilitator and guide.
  • Authentic problems are presented at the beginning of the learning sequence.
  • The problems encountered are used as tools to achieve the required knowledge and the problem-solving skills necessary to eventually solve the problem.
  • New information is acquired through self-directed learning.

One of the assumptions we have found hard to break is that PBL is a free-for-all and the teacher lets the students work it all out. The PBL we have invested in requires detailed teacher planning and strategic implementation to allow students the best learning experiences. Scaffolded tasks with integrated formative assessment allow teachers to ascertain where student gaps in learning are and address them throughout the project.

In this way, PBL becomes a rich learning experience for children incorporating some of best learning strategies around.

Why is this approach important for the future?

If we were to go back one hundred years, inventions like electricity and motorised carriages were superseding the age of steam and creating an unknown future.

The cycle is repeating itself again with inventions like the Internet, artificial intelligence and robotics. These aren’t science fiction anymore, they are the current reality and will change our world in as significant a way as the motor car did.

The use of PBL as a methodology for teaching meets these challenges head-on as it focuses on the development of the skills required in an uncertain future.

How will we solve the challenges of robots and artificial intelligence performing low to mid-level jobs? Will we need to be able to collaborate? Will the computer be capable of creative thought or solutions that require unrelated ideas to connect?

What are the benefits?

One of the key highlights of PBL is reflection opportunities for students. Teachers can read student perspectives on their work and discover a growing depth of understanding both throughout the project and afterwards. Benchmarks or checkpoints built into the project allow students to be formatively assessed and problems identified early in the process so that there is achievement developing throughout the course and no surprises where there is no work at the end.

The concept of rubrics for assessment of skills like collaboration and even growth mindset is another great benefit. Generally, rubrics are used for assessing students on a criteria, in this case, a student can be assessed on the right kind of behaviours along a sliding scale. 

Examples of collaboration rubrics
Examples of assessment rubrics

Students are then able to clearly understand what a healthy group environment looks like and can even self-assess these skills, as they are easy to read and understand. In this way, collaboration is more structured and goal-oriented. In the past it’s not been taught as a skill. PBL changes that and helps us build better collaborators.

“It’s much more interactive; it’s not just writing stuff down.”

Other benefits include:

  • More teacher discussion of student learning. Rather than the focus being on ‘what they will teach’, it is shifted to ‘how will the students learn?’.
  • Better scaffolding of tasks so that assumptions like ‘students should know how to work in groups’ becomes ‘what strategies will I implement to help students learn how to work in a group effectively?’.
  • Students’ existing knowledge is identified so that gaps can be targeted and students can pinpoint what they need to know.
  • Students are more active in their learning.
  • More connections with the local community: doctors, town planners, fire department representatives, authors and many more have observed student projects and given real-world feedback.

Year 6 Parliament
Cementing their learnt knowledge of the Parliamentary process, King’s Year 6 students researched, designed and replicated a ‘Parliamentary debate’ with a vote at the end.

What difference has it made to students?

King’s Christian College introduced PBL in 2016, following a visit from a Sydney school that had adopted PBL in their classrooms. The visiting school was not only achieving outstanding HSC results, but middle school students were able to describe what they were learning, articulate clearly why it was important and recognise how it connected with other ideas. In the teaching world, this is nothing short of a miracle. King’s wanted their students to have this type of work ethic and ability to articulate their learning in a meaningful way.

Today, PBL at King’s Christian College can be found throughout the school with a core focus being on the middle years of schooling from Years 5–8. Throughout these year levels you will find classes that are hives of activity. Groups might be discussing how they will solve a challenging driving question like: ‘What would happen if oil ran out tomorrow?’ Others might be participating in a group session where they discuss the team norms that they will agree to abide by. Still others may be checking the project-pacing chart to see where they are up to with completing the project and determining what their next steps might be.

“You feel less pushed around, you get to try things for yourself.”

Since implementing PBL, King’s Christian College has found the turn-around incredible, and the responses to problems that some of the students are coming up with are simply amazing.

Cross-curricular relationships have enriched learning experiences for students. For example, the Science and Industrial Design and Technology departments partnered together to help students with a simple machines assignment. Students had hands-on experience to learn about and create gear systems for their science project.

Kids now come to school with a curiosity and passion for learning that is so exciting to be a part of. Furthermore, previously disengaged students are now much more motivated and taking ownership of their learning.


By Mal Galer, Director of Curriculum Innovation, King’s Christian College. This article was first published in ‘Kids on the Coast‘ magazine on 17 December 2018.

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Speaking the English? Why English Is so Difficult to Learn

Speaking the English? Why English Is so Difficult to Learn

English is the official language of more than 50 countries and the lingua franca of international business, diplomacy, science and technology. Yet it is phenomenally difficult to master…

*        *        *       *        *        *

One of the great things about the King’s community is its openness; folks are pretty friendly. When I was a newbie, I was asked the usual questions about family, where I’d worked previously, how I was settling in – all sorts of things, including where I went to church.This was pretty important to me, as I’d come from interstate and was in the ‘church-shopping’ phase. At any rate, the person asking me the questions at the time, was able to indicate other people in the room and tell me where each worshipped. It’s almost currency here:

“That’s Paul. He and Shelley attend C3 at Currumbin.”

“I think Alison goes to King’s Church here.”

“Donna used to go to Mudgeeraba Uniting but they moved. I think they’re at Highway, now.”

There’s a natural curiosity that we have about others. It makes sense as we live in communities, in families; we work alongside people we may not know outside the workplace. My kids cringe as I investigate the background of almost everyone I meet, especially if there’s a whiff of an accent, any accent, or a name off-the-beaten-Anglo-track. It may be inherent nosiness, or the many years I spent with our indigenous people, to whom moiety is vital for ceremonial and conduct reasons. Whatever the cause, I loves me some prying.

We have a vibrant and growing international community at King’s. It’s just delightful to see students from many cultures, most with the common bond of shared love of Jesus. Even more wonderful are our international students, many of whom board with a host family, and do not travel home until the Christmas break. These young people are embedded in a family, a school, a community, where almost nobody they meet speaks their language. Imagine how hard that would be. Now add on learning English, THEN learning to study in English.

It’s a shame we sometimes use the term “broken English” to describe someone starting the language. We don’t say a toddler is “broken walking” because she is unsteady. I have a dodgy smattering of a few languages but know the embarrassing and public limitations of more complicated conversations than greetings and food orders. To me, someone struggling through spoken English is not only brave, but clever, to be admired. English is a very difficult language to learn as an additional language, only second to Mandarin/Cantonese.

English is hard. Source: imgflip.com

As a native speaker, it’s easy to dismiss or not realise the difficulties of English. Think of homophones like ‘wear’ and ‘where’, or the often-confused apostrophe of possession (it’s versus its). Or the NINE verb tenses. Or the idioms. And let’s not start on implied meanings and jargon.

Like all living things, language changes, it’s organic. Dead languages, like Latin, do not change because they are not in common usage. But, all languages in use change all the time. I now own a dictionary my grandfather had when he was a boy. It does not have the words “spaceship”, “computer”, or “television”. Similarly, words fall out of use all the time. Have you ever heard the word “gruntled” in everyday speaking (the opposite of “disgruntled”)? Or referred to a gullible person as a “sillytonian”? Some archaic words only exist because they are fossilised in sayings or idioms. When do you say “kith” without “kin”, and when is a “shrift” anything but short?

English is not the world’s most-spoken language: three billion Chinese say, “Nǐ hǎo!” But, it is the world’s second language. This can attributed to many things, including the British Empire’s global reach for 400 years, the printing press, colonialism, Christianity, democracy, rock’n’roll, and Hollywood. The ubiquity of international travel, thanks to the jet-engine, make many parts of the world attractive to travellers and hosts alike, often finding English their common tongue.

So, just why is English so hard to learn? Here are the reasons we’ve already suggested:

  • homophones
  • inconsistent punctuation
  • many verb tenses
  • archaic words and phrases
  • idioms and jargon
  • organic changes

We might add to this list:

  • implications and inferences
  • nuance
  • enormous number of synonyms
  • multiple denotations for a single word
  • affixes and infixes

Problematic word order in English. Source: Mark Forsyth
Source: ‘The Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase’ by Mark Forsyth

But, I guess, the question is how did this muddle come about? Why ARE there 10 ways to pronounce the sequence “ough” (cough, rough, plough, through, slough, though, hiccough, thought, thorough, lough)?! Why is the plural of house houses, but the plural of mouse is not mouses? How could anyone keep up with this?

The answer is nowhere near as complicated as the language itself. The simple answer is that English has many parents; that is, English words are formed in many ways. Let’s look at these, according to Bill Bryson, author of ‘The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way’:

  1. Words are created by error: (“buttonhole” from “button-hold”, “shamefaced” from “shamefast”).
  2. Words are adopted from other languages: (“shampoo” from India, “ketchup” from China).
  3. Words spring from nowhere: (“jaw”, “dog”, “jam”, “big”, niblick”, “sound bites”, and “gloomy” are just a few of the dozens of words that have no etymological roots or were created by writers).
  4. Words change meaning over time: “Garble” originally meant “to sort out”, “tell” meant “to count”  – think bank teller, “nice” (coined in 1290) meant “foolish” but had myriad meanings over the next 500 years, from “wanton” to “extravagant” to “thin”. Only in 1769, did it come to mean “pleasant and agreeable” as we understand, today.
  5. Words are formed by adding and subtracting: Affixes and infixes make words flexible by changing parts of speech (“sincere” to “sincerity”) and creating opposites (“happy”/”unhappy”). Some words exist as truncated versions of the original (“lab”, “gym, “exam”). Still others exist by speakers fusing two words (“airport” , “lighthouse”, “flowerpot”).

This mixed parentage leads to rules having many exceptions. That’s where the difficulty lies.  Let’s take a common example. The standard English plural of “octopus” is “octopuses”. However, the word “octopus” comes from Greek, and the Greek plural form is “octopodes”. Modern usage of “octopodes” is so infrequent that many people mistakenly create the erroneous plural form octopi, formed according to rules for Latin plurals. Many English words have Greek or Latin roots (etymology) but these have become almost interchangeable in common usage.

Another prickly example arises over the plural of “cactus” because its original plural form, “cacti”, derives from Latin, and native English speakers are drawn to “cactuses”, which adheres to the standard ruling for forming plurals (adding “es” after “s” finish). Both “cactuses” and “cacti” are acceptable. Of note, “cacti” is the more common plural because, as we said earlier, language is organic and changes with use.

So, the next time you hear someone struggling with English, be patient. After all, you were born with the advantage of hearing English since you were born. Remember: someone who is bilingual has already mastered one language. How about you?

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Helicopter, Lawn-mower, Contractor and Other Parenting Fails

helicopter, lawn-mower, contractor and other parenting fails

What’s your parenting style? Do you hover, push, coerce, outsource, micro-manage, motivate, let go or just hope for the best?

*        *        *       *        *        *

We’re the first to admit that parenting is an exhausting, largely thankless task. We know. We know the ‘Net is full of contrary advice, and kiddie pick-up points are full of other parents doing it way better than you. We know. Been there, got the T-shirt.

But there are obvious pitfalls to avoid. Are you lurking near one? Read our parenting profiles below to find out. (Obviously, if you have a serious concern about any parenting issue, please seek professional advice – we at King’s can help.)

The Helicopter

This is the parent who hovers nearby to protect her darling from harm and disappointment.

Helicopter Parent

This might be you, if:

  • absolutely everything in your house is child-proof
  • you write a lot of notes to the teacher, explaining the “specialness” of your child
  • you do their homework/assignments
  • you are a maid in your own house, picking up, cleaning, etc, without your child performing age-appropriate chores
  • you fight their battles
  • you need to be in constant contact with your child, including ringing and/or texting them at school

Catchphrase:

“I wonder if twice the medication is twice as good?”

Why this is unhelpful

Children need to learn to cope in the big world, as appropriate to their age. Hovering nearby robs them of opportunities to grow in confidence and competence.

The Lawn-Mower (or Snowplough, in colder climes)

This is the mum or dad who pushes all obstacles from their child’s path, believing it’s only the world slowing down their brilliant child.

This might be you, if:

  • you bring non-essential forgotten items to school for them (we don’t mean their Epipen!)
  • you blame their teacher for poor grades
  • you push to have them included in activities beyond their level
  • you speak for them, even in their presence
  • you charge up to the school at any hint of a social problem (all problems are “bullying” and your child is always in the right)
  • you lobby the school for your child to receive a prize at Awards Night

Catchphrase:

“I’ve finished that draft research for our essay.”

Why this is unhelpful

A person who does not experience failure cannot cope with its inevitability. Lawn-mowered kids run the risk of becoming over-dependent and not understanding that actions have consequences. This is because they lack agency in their own lives.

The Contractor

Becoming more popular as exhausted and over-committed parents use screens as nannies, this is the parent who’s in it for the fun parts only and is happy to offload the tiresome and tedious to paid professionals.

outsourced parenting

This might be you, if:

  • your child’s life is a series of ‘appointments’; they have no “free time”
  • you are proud of your toddler’s competence on your SmartPhone
  • cash is king: paying private school fees equals a decent grade for your child
  • you require the school to discipline/advise your child on non-school matters
  • “growing up with your kids” is your parenting motto
  • your kid has the latest and greatest stuff but no time with you

Catchphrase:

“I must schedule some time with Junior, this week.”

Why this is unhelpful

Going through the ups and downs of growing up is a bonding experience. Employing necessary help is fine; just make sure your kids have secure boundaries and your emotional presence.

The ‘Cool’ Parent

Of all of the parents described here, the ‘cool’ parent is the bane of other parents. He is the low-bar dad who allows his son to consistently skip his homework; she is the mum who buys make-up for her 12 year old. They are constantly cited by other kids as the gold-standard.

This might be you, if:

  • you denigrate the importance of education, the church, family values, etc, in front of your child
  • you’d be happy enough to provide alcohol (or worse) for your older teen’s party
  • you laugh off discipline breaches; after all, “boys will be boys”
  • you don’t follow through with consequences
  • you take more than a passing interest in teen trends (you’re ‘Friends’ with your kid’s friends on social media)
  • you’re planning matching tattoos for your child’s 16th birthday

Catchphrase:

“Can’t wait to get wasted with you at Schoolies, Dude.”

Why this is unhelpful

As the experienced adult, you are responsible for setting boundaries for your child. While being ‘cool’ might make you feel good in the moment, it’s unhelpful for your child, who needs the surety of reasonable limits and consequences.

The Free-Range Parent

This is the parent too lazy/busy/slack to be “hands-on” with their children’s lives, citing that kids need freedom. While there is a deal of truth that kids need to test their own limits, it is the parent’s job to help them manage the risks.

This might be you, if:

  • you make no enquiries about your child’s whereabouts or companions
  • you allow your child unfettered access to the Internet
  • you want to head-butt the parents who talk about how anti-contact sports they are
  • you’re frequently very late to fetch your kids from events and excursions
  • friends have stopped inviting you to their house because your unrestrained toddler terrifies their dog and breaks their stuff

Catchphrase:

“You can only get up if you’ve fallen.”

Why this is unhelpful

We know that parenting is this tricky balance between your child’s independence and common-sense safety. Your child must know that your judgement is sound and he is secure following your advice. You are your child’s safe place.

The Tiger Parent

Here’s the dad who values academic achievement above all else,  the mum who micro-manages her daughter’s ballet ‘career’. Emphasising that almost anything is possible with hard work is a good lesson for all parents and their children to absorb but these drill-sergeants are prepared to sacrifice almost anything for their kid’s public glory.

tiger

This might be you, if:

  • an A grade is barely acceptable
  • you set your child’s goals
  • you have eliminated any distractions from your child’s life (ie anything outside of what goals you have set)
  • anything that can’t be ‘graded’ is a waste of time
  • your family’s life is minutely scheduled
  • any ‘failure’ on your child’s part is a result of not enough effort, spirit, work; lack of talent, ability, or interest is not a consideration

Catchphrase:

“I will cancel Christmas if you don’t ace the Physics test.”

Why this is unhelpful

Tiger-parenting is conditional love, or it seems that way. In the end, your child’s success should be a product of them exercising their natural talents and interests. While external motivation is encouraging, intrinsic motivation is what keeps us going through the difficult times.

The Emotional Leech

While our babies need constant physical and emotional love and tending, this naturally changes as baby grows more independent. Some parents are so clinging to their child that the child is suffocated by the emotional needs of the parent. Of course, there are cases of illness and/or disability, but the parent is the nurturer of the child, not the reverse. It may well be a form of emotional blackmail.

This might be you, if:

  • you frequently allow/require your child to miss school because you’re having a bad day or you just want company
  • you cite their need to tend you as an excuse for missed deadlines
  • you “overshare” age-inappropriate personal information with your child
  • you have faked or exaggerated an illness to alter someone’s behaviour toward you (emotional blackmail)
  • you have used money or similar to alter someone’s behaviour toward you (bribery)
  • you feel lost and anxious without constant contact with your child

Catchphrase:

“You complete me.”

Why this is unhelpful

Our children should not ever doubt our ability to provide for their needs. Any needs of adults should be, for the most part, met by other adults. Please reach out before you’re struggling.

The Tinkerbell

Teachers and coaches all over the country know this parent. These are the ones who insist their sweetie can do anything they put their mind to, even if it flies in the face of repeated contrary evidence. These parents are supported by the mistaken mantra recited in the media that so-and-so was successful because she believed in herself. While it’s essential to be optimistic and positive, sometimes, we just have to go with the data.

Powered by Fairy Dust

This might be you, if:

  • you make wild predictions of success based on no evidence: “I believe Johnny will come first in this test!” after no additional study and a record of very average grades in this subject
  • you secretly (or not secretly) believe your child is better than the other kids
  • you often think the teacher/coach is not giving your child enough individual attention
  • you’re dictating the destination without the map: you’re a cheer-leader with no game-plan
  •  it’s really all about you, about fulfilling something about yourself

Catchphrase:

“I believe you can fly, Icarus!”

Why this is unhelpful

It’s unhelpful because it’s not true. We all have limits to our potential, mostly out of our control. Children who’ve been raised on this mantra may turn any failure inward, blaming themselves. It may also encourage unethical conduct. Encourage your child in a number of areas, always emphasising effort over talent or results.

The Dolphin

This parenting style is the happy medium between extremes. According to Dr Shimi Kang, the dolphin parent remembers the POD acronym: P(play), O(others), D(downtime). Dolphin parents rely on their intuition and seek help when it’s needed.

Dolphin Parent

This might be you, if:

  • you allow your child increased autonomy as she grows
  • your discipline is a reasonable consequence of action
  • you don’t do for your child (most) anything he can do for himself
  • within your child you cultivate intrinsic motivation and discipline
  • you are a good (not perfect) role-model for your kids, aiming for balance and purpose
  • when your child fails, you use the experience as a gentle guide

Catchphrase:

“I trust my own judgement, and I trust my child.”

Why this is helpful

This approach aims for age-appropriate balance: authoritative and firm but flexible and encouraging. Teaching kids the value of independence (with you as a shrinking safety-net) develops self-confidence, creativity, and the ability to adapt. This is also the most difficult of all the parenting styles because it is relational – it relies on collaboration between the parent and child.


Ultimately, if your parenting is about you, your ego, your needs, then maybe you could do with a reset. All of us veer off-track. Cut yourself some slack. Parenting is an ebb and flow of closeness and growing with your child. It’s the relationship that counts.

“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”
– Proverbs 22: 6

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Help Angry Boys Manage Their Emotions

Help Angry Boys Manage Their Emotions

Increasingly, boys are becoming angry, aggressive and violent. News reports of young men committing acts of violence against each other in the streets is an increasing occurrence. More and more, acts of physical aggression and violence are played out in schoolyards across the country and they involve boys on most occasions.

So what’s behind this aggressive behaviour?

Boys Education expert Ian Lillico believes that much of the aggression that plays out at home and at school stems from a denial of boys’ feelings. When you close a boy down and don’t give voice to their emotional life and don’t teach them how to recognise and manage their emotions, then when they are placed in emotionally-charged situations, or situations where they can’t talk their way out of they’ll act out, often demonstratively. Girls, on the other hand, who are denied an emotional voice will act in or internalise their distress so they may experience eating disorders and depression, whereas boys’ outward aggression can harm others.

So how can you help boys voice their emotions safely and in healthy ways so they don’t act out angrily, aggressively and violently? Here are some ideas:

Help them get their bad feelings out

Healthy environments for boys operate under the following maxim: “There is nothing so bad a boy can’t talk about it, but there are actions that are unacceptable.” For a start don’t accept a ‘boys will be boys’ mentality. While boys may have more of a propensity to resolve conflict physically, as parents and teachers we need to do all in our power to help them express emotions verbally and in other socially acceptable ways. That can get a little tricky, particularly when their comments to a sibling or friend can become personal. It’s better for a boy to say to a sibling when he is angry with them, “I don’t like you” than to hit them, which they may feel like doing. It’s better still if he can articulate feelings behind the behaviour rather than the person. “I don’t like it when you take my things, because it’s just not fair!”

Sometimes boys need help to give voice to their bad feelings. This may mean sitting with them when they are angry and helping them calm down, then helping them articulate what it is they are angry about. When there is long-term bad blood involving a boy at home you may have to sit with both children and give them a chance to voice their thoughts about the other in a controlled way.

Sometimes you need to sit down with both of them to clear the air. Make sure you sit both children down opposite each other. Give both kids a chance to have their say about the behaviour of their sibling. Say something like: “Sam, I notice every time your sister says something you get angry and say awful things to her.” “Jessica, you always seem to be arguing with your brother. Is there a reason for this?” Then ask them what they’d like to change about the other; what they’d like the other to do or not do. You’ll often hear comments such as: “I’d just like you to stop calling me ‘stupid’. I hate it when you do that. I really hate it.”

Give them space and silence to process

Parenting educator Maggie Dent says that boys need quiet spaces to help sort out their thoughts. Some boys, like wind-up toys, just keeping going until they run out of puff. They have two switches – fast and off. These boys benefit from some space and silence too. They just can’t stand too much of it.

Encourage downtime so they can relax

According to Maggie Dent, boys’ constant activity can be stressful as the heightened cortisone levels, from being in the go-go-go state, can create serious problems with anxiety and later fear based mental health problems. Constant activity can also cause sleep deprivation as winding those bodies and busy heads down for sleep is not easy. That makes relaxation and downtime essential for boys. They become highly wired when they’re overloaded with activity meaning that they can easily act out rather than chill out when they are under stress. Put relaxation activity on their daily routine.

Encourage them to let off steam in healthy ways

If aggressive behaviour continues then consider scheduling regular time for boys to let off steam. Boys are more likely to let off steam when they are outside – whether in organised activities or simply exploring the natural environment or their neighbourhood, and when involved with some type of activity with others. Playing outside also helps boys sleep which is important when we’re talking about helping them manage anger and aggression. Those boys who have a tendency toward anger and aggressive behaviour generally have poor sleep habits as well. Lack of sleep leads to irritability and increased difficulty managing your emotions.

Letting off steam

Check their environment for modelled aggression

Many boys are susceptible to copying aggressive behaviours that they are exposed to. It’s important then that the males in their lives can model healthy emotional expression for their boys to see. If the males close to them are constantly angry and aggressive (either physically or verbally) then this not only shows the way but gives them permission to be the same way. Also keep a check on the videos they watch, the digital games they play and the books that they read. While not all boys will be adversely influenced by the content of the images, games and text they are exposed to there is no doubt that some boys are more susceptible than others to aggression displayed in their environment – particularly when it’s displayed by heroes and those they look up to and admire.

Coach boys to respond slowly

Fortunately, most boys will respond well to a parent, teacher or coach who is willing to assist them to better self-manage and be better communicators. It helps that they know that you care for them and that you treat them respectfully. Encourage the boy in your life to think before he acts. That may be easier said than done as many boys are hard-wired for reflexive action, rather than reflection. That doesn’t mean that they can’t stop and think, just that it may require some practice. Here’s a strategy to try: Encourage a boy to temporarily step away from a source of stress or a situation that makes him angry. Moving away needs to become his default mechanism. Then he should take some big belly breaths to engage his parasympathetic system that enables him to relax, which is essential if he is going to reflect rather than react to his emotions.

Many boys respond to think language

A boy may scoff if you ask him how he feels. This reaction is maybe because he may feel uncomfortable talking about his emotions. Also talking about emotions may not be the done thing in his peer group. As an entry into his emotional world you will have more success asking him what he thinks about something. “What do you think about missing the team?” “Awful. I hate it. The coach doesn’t like me.” His response will in all likelihood be on an emotional level, which is what you want.

Emotional self-management begins will adult validation. Let him know it’s normal and okay to feel angry, annoyed or let down. Help him verbalise his emotions and look for ways to put a gap between his feelings of anger and taking action. The longer the gap the less likely he is to be aggressive in his response.


This article was reproduced with kind permission from Parenting Ideas.


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Momo – Myth or Menace?

Momo - Myth or Menace?

A hoax? Fake news? Urban legend? How did social media, worried parents, playground gossip, the police and even Kim Kardashian help this disturbing online myth snowball out of all proportion?

*        *        *       *        *        *

King’s was part of it too.

Last week the staff room was awash with stories of the creepy ‘Momo’ figure who appeared in children’s YouTube videos, encouraging kids to harm themselves and threatening to hurt their parents if they did not obey. Someone knew someone who knew someone else whose daughter had been to see a psychologist, she was so disturbed by it. Another had seen screen shots of a decapitated Peppa Pig lying in a pool of blood and another had heard that even Paw Patrol was not immune, with ‘Momo’ hacking in to insert scenes of puppy torture in otherwise innocuous children’s videos. Several staff members had seen Facebook posts from concerned friends, warning them ‘Momo’ was encouraging children to suicide. 

Our amazing Student Wellbeing team were hot on the trail, researching parent help videos, seeking professional guidance and looking at ways to advise, warn and protect King’s families. Posts went out on King’s Facebook page and Compass. The response was huge.

Then the backlash came.

In the UK, the BBC recanted its reporting of the ‘Momo Challenge’, apologising for perpetuating what now appears to be ‘fake news’. Many news agencies followed suit. Children’s charities warned that publicising such stories was doing more harm than good and starting unnecessary hysteria and fear in vulnerable young people. YouTube denied receiving any evidence or videos promoting the ‘Momo Game’. Yet many people remained convinced: Momo was real, Momo was dangerous and Momo was threatening the mental health and physical wellbeing of our children.

What is going on here?

What is Momo? Timeline of an urban legend:

If you’re lucky enough to have missed the recent Momo mania, you may not have come across this attractive lady, associated with the threats and the fear:

momo-close-up

Hardly surprising that this sinister image, attached to social media warnings, should catch the attention and imagination of so many.

The bird-footed, boggle-eyed demon-woman is actually a sculpture called ‘Mother Bird’, created by Japanese artist, Keisuka Aisaura, from special effects company, Link Factory. It was displayed in the Vanilla Gallery, Tokyo, Japan in 2016 as part of a horror-themed exhibition.

Keisuka Aisaura and Bird Mother
Artist Keisuka Aisaura and his eerie creation, ‘Bird Mother’

It’s a striking, disturbing image. And people photographed it … as you might expect. People posted and shared the image on social media … as you might expect. On the 25th and 26th August 2016 alone, three separate Instagram posts of the image generated tens of thousands of ‘likes’ and comments from around the world.

Momo on InstagramEarly Instagram posts of ‘Bird Mother’

The images spread across the internet and picked up some lively back stories and legends, predominantly in Spanish-speaking countries. The first wave of creepy urban myth associated with the ‘Momo’ image involved a mysterious WhatsApp phone number which, when contacted, challenged the caller to a series of challenges – starting with watching specific movies, moving on to self-harm and ultimately suicide. The ‘Momo Challenge’ (sounding suspiciously similar to an earlier ‘Blue Whale Challenge‘ phenomenon) was probably a hoax but captured the imagination of enough people to generate a wave of YouTube videos reporting on or ‘investigating’ it, including “Exploring the Momo Situation” uploaded by YouTuber ReignBot on 11th July 2018, which generated 96,000 views in 24 hours.

Suicide link?

On 25th July, 2018, the Buenos Aires Times, in Argentina, reported that police were investigating the suicide of a 12-year-old girl and a potential link to a WhatsApp ‘Momo game’. While no link was ever established by the investigating authorities, the dots were joined by media companies around the world, including Fox News in the US and countless UK tabloids, raising its profile and sewing the seeds for moral panic.

February 2019: A busy month for Momo

The second wave of Momo hysteria appears to have begun in the UK. This time Momo had got nasty and was allegedly targeting innocent preschoolers. 

There is some confusion over the initial source. The Manchester Evening News (England) ran a story about the ‘Momo Challenge’ on 20th February 2019, following a report by a woman in Bolton who had posted her concerns on a community Facebook page. These concerns were based on stories her child had heard circulating in the school playground but they were significantly ‘hyped up’ by the Manchester-based newspaper.

Up in Scotland, around the same time, ‘The Herald’, reported that an Edinburgh mother had been shown a disturbing Momo image on her phone by her eight-year-old son who claimed he had heard her telling him to take a knife from the kitchen and put it to his neck. 

Four national UK national newspapers took up the Momo story, followed by an article on the BBC website based on a police report from Northern Ireland; this claimed that the Momo challenge “conceals itself within other harmless-looking games or videos played by children, and when   downloaded it asks the user to communicate with ‘Momo’ via popular messaging applications such as WhatsApp”. No evidence was found to back up these claims. The Daily Mirror (UK) published an article claiming that 130 Russian teenagers had committed suicide as a result of the Momo craze … but then retracted it.

Too late.

By now, well-intentioned and worried parents and schools had already begun their campaign on social media, alerting others about this dangerous, insidious enemy. Momo, they warned, was now ‘invading’ young children’s videos on YouTube, showing Peppa Pig drinking bleach and attacking Daddy Pig with knives. Screen shots, purportedly from these videos, were ‘helpfully’ included in social media posts, adding to the general outrage and alarm. Warnings were reposted and retweeted. Tweets by Twitter users @BreeDaAuraGod_ in the UK and Wander Maximoff in the US, containing a creepy Momo pic, were retweeted over 30,000 times in a 24 hour period.

Celebrity influencer Kim Kardashian jumped on the bandwagon, broadcasting her fears to her 129 million Instagram followers:

Kim Kardashian's Instagram post

So is there any truth in it?

Probably not. Yes, you can search on YouTube and find dozens of videos dedicated to ‘Momo’ – discussing its validity, showing alleged ‘clips’ from hacked videos, investigating the claims .. but no-one appears to have any real ‘proof’ of a Momo challenge. Copy-cat videos with creative editing, third-hand reports and malicious posts by trolls stirring up the general hysteria have all added to the mix.

“But I’ve seen the screen shots,” anxious parents say, “I’ve seen the clips”.

I’ve seen them as well … they were frequently included in panicky parent posts on Facebook by way of illustration … but who knows who manufactured them or where they came from? 

Warped versions of children’s videos (including the aforementioned Peppa Pig atrocities) were widely reported in the media last year, without any connection to a Momo challenge and before most of us had even heard of the scary bird lady. Screen shots from these clips are now doing the rounds as they embellish the Momo myth but they have different origins.

Sadly, there will always be people who upload images and videos designed to scare others. The Momo challenge may be fake news … but who knows what online nasties lurk around the corner? As parents, it is our job to be vigilant about what our children access online. Inappropriate content can take all shapes and forms and parents are their children’s primary content filter.

Tips for parents

  • Keep electronic devices out of the bedroom. Encourage internet use in a ‘public’ part of the house where you can see what’s going on. This doesn’t mean hovering at your child’s shoulder but be aware of what your children are watching online (check browsing history, if necessary).
  • Avoid using the internet as an ‘electronic babysitter’.
  • Keep communication channels open with your child.  Show interest in what they enjoy online. Instill a culture of ‘Nothing is so bad that you can’t tell me about it and I will support and help you through it’.
  • If your child tells you they’ve encountered the Momo Challenge or something worse, ask them if they experienced it firsthand or was it something someone else had posted or copied and passed on. If they have personally experienced something threatening or disturbing online, get them to show you. Take screen shots. Report it. Just don’t post it to 500 of your closest friends via Facebook!

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What’s in a Name?

What's in a Name?

Recent internet buzz is that parents across the English-speaking world are starting to call their baby daughters “Khaleesi” after a character from the all-conquering Game of Thrones books and TV series by George RR Martin. This has me wondering about the influence of pop-culture on children’s names.

This is not a new phenomenon, of course. Religious communities have always named their children after spiritual and scriptural heroes. Many, many Muslim boys are  called “Mohammed”, for example. In our own faith tradition, biblical names are very popular for their strength and cultural capital. But, the emergence of names from less salubrious sources seems to be growing.

My brother, now a middle-aged man, may be the only “Jarrod” of his generation. Mum so loved the Big Valley character from the 1960’s series, she defied family tradition (though his middle name followed norms). There are many Jarrods around now (with a variety of spellings) but almost none from 1967. My own son is named for my favourite (Irish) Hollywood tough guy.

I guess it’s a playful trend. Of course, the ‘danger’ is that pop culture moves very fast. While GoT is wildly popular at the moment, it’s hard to imagine it being a conversation piece even in three years’ time. Not that that’s a disadvantage but it does anchor the child in a distinct slice of history. Remember the surge of Wendys after Peter Pan? Or the Dianas born in 1981? And I’m betting “Dylan” (as a first name) didn’t exist outside of the Celts much before Bob.

A couple of recent examples for girls include “Ariel” (from  Disney’s adaptation of The Little Mermaid), “Bella” (from Disney’s adaptation of Beauty and the Beast and Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight franchise), and “Elle” (a perfect storm of Elle McPherson and the Legally Blonde trilogy). Mr Timberlake of boy-band, NSYNC, sparked a “Justin” surge in the late 1990s. Other boys’ names experienced a birth or resurgence because of TV or movies. “Luke” was a steady contender until the Star Wars franchise made it a favourite. Let’s not forget “Leonardo” (Titanic), and “Noah” (ER, and The Notebook).

Of course, the reverse is also true. Do you know an “Ethel” or “Betty” under sixty? Even the once-popular “Sandra” is taking a nose-dive. And “Kylie”. What about “Cecil”? Or “Percy”? Where’s “Merle”? You’ll not hear them called from the playground. Some names seem to be classic, which bucks the trendy schtick and makes me consider just how is a classic made? Think “Anna”, “Jane”, “Elizabeth”. What about “William”, “Charlie”, “Benjamin”? They seem to have always been popular, even as some slide into reliable, middle-name status. Or the back half of a dreaded hyphen.

Pacemakers, like royalty and celebrities have mixed influence. There was a collective rolling of eyes in 2002, when Michael Jackson named his son Prince Michael Jackson II” (nickname “Blanket”) when we wondered who was Prince Michael Jackson I? There was no visible moniker splash after the births of Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie (now eighth and ninth in British royal succession, respectively) were born. Few have followed “Apple” (Martin/Paltrow), “Dweezil” (Zappa/Sloatman), or “Huckleberry”(Grylls/Knight). It’s unlikely you’ll hear the names “Poppy”, “Daisy”, “Petal”, “Buddy” and “River” together outside of the Oliver household.

Curiously, some names are acceptably unisex, often with nods to spelling variations. “Taylor”, “Courtney”, “Blake”, and “Cameron” are obvious modern examples, but what of “Alex”, “Jordan”, “Jessie”, or “Francis”, all quite traditional?

Some countries, like Denmark, insist parents use names from a set register. Other countries, such as Iceland, require that names fit grammatically in the language. For Germans, a child’s name must clearly signal gender. In China, the name must use only simplified Chinese characters in order to read by a scanner. In the Australian state of Victoria, only 38 characters may be used (including spaces) for the entire registered name. Most countries, though, simply require that names not cause offense or embarrassment. So, those parents (all true) wishing to name their child “Satan”, “Hitler”, “Monkey”, “Pluto”, “Aryan Nation”, or “Metallica” were all sadly disappointed by their birth registry offices. Perhaps they were still affected by the birthing gas?

Whether we’re conscious of it or not, naming our kids is very rarely the decision of an individual. No parent is an island, to borrow from Donne, as the winds of fashion, heritage, history, and familial expectation blow. For something that is truly ours but came from someone else, we use all the time but which never wears out, we often hear but rarely say, there really is much in a name.

Related Links

Baby Names Australia 2018
This McCrindle report lists the 100 most popular Australian boys and girls names and outlines current and historical naming trends.

Decade Name Generator
What would your name have been 10, 50, 100 years ago? If your name was the 56th most popular girls name in the year of your birth, what would your equivalent name have been at the turn of the 19th century?  This fun online tool, published by Time magazine, is based on American data but provides a fascinating snapshot of popular taste over time.

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Why You Shouldn’t Skip the Parent Teacher Interview

Why You Shouldn't Skip the Parent Teacher Interview

So your child’s doing just fine at school: No problems with grades or homework, seems happy with their friends, no complaints from any of the teaching staff. Do you really need to attend that parent teacher meeting?

Or maybe your child hates school, is always in trouble and you just can’t face seeing their teacher to hear all about it … Again!

And who has time for this anyway? Busy parents, busy lives – the amount of diary jiggling and organisation required to make that 10-minute chat happen just doesn’t seem worth it, right?

Wrong!

Here are seven reasons why you should prioritise that appointment:

It can help you see the bigger picture

The parent teacher interview gives parents a better overview of their child’s development at school – academically, socially, emotionally and physically. It helps them understand how their child is progressing, whether they are on target, what their strengths and weaknesses are and where they are heading. If you ever find yourself wondering, ‘Is my child normal?’, ‘How much homework should they be doing?’, ‘Do they mix well with other kids?’ or ‘Why do they never eat their packed lunch on Thursdays?’, this is your chance to get some answers.

It helps the teacher understand your child

Teachers can get a better handle on your child’s personality and disposition by listening to what you have to say about them: What does your child feel strongly about? What do they enjoy doing in their free time? What makes them laugh? What stresses them out? Who do they hang out with? This can really help teachers connect the dots and understand what motivates your child and why they might struggle in certain areas, eg collaborative work or organisation skills. 

If something difficult is going on at home that may be affecting your child’s performance or happiness at school (e.g. birth of a new sibling, separation, mental illness), this is a good time to let the teacher know.

It gives the parents a window into the classroom

My children often behave differently at school. One is quieter and more reserved in class while the other is a chatty clown yet calm and conscientious at home. I would never know this had I not spoken to their teachers.

Your child’s teacher should be able to provide valuable feedback on how your child interacts with others, their approach to work, attitude and happiness at school. This can be quite an eye-opener!

It helps nip problems in the bud

If the teacher has concerns about your child’s learning, behaviour or emotional wellbeing, they can discuss suitable interventions and solutions with you, before things escalate.

You can get help, support and advice

Worried that your child is falling behind in class or not reaching their potential? Your child’s teacher is best placed to recognise if your child needs extra learning support or extending and pushing further. An interview allows teachers to discuss this with parents and recommend resources and a plan of action. They will have information about tutoring, extension programs, student wellbeing programs and extra-curricular activities to share, as well as a wealth of professional experience to draw from.

It gives the teacher the opportunity to praise and highlight strengths

Some parents wrongly assume that the purpose of the parent teacher conference is to identify all the things their child is doing wrong. While the meeting does allow a teacher to flag areas of concern, it can also be a platform for appreciation. The teacher will want to tell you about your child’s accomplishments and qualities – e.g. their academic wins, resilience, helpfulness, sense of humour or skill at devising imaginative games at playtime. Don’t miss the opportunity to discover all the amazing things your child is doing at school.

It builds a partnership and gives you an ally

Your child’s teacher wants to work with you to help your child succeed. A face-to-face discussion can help you both agree on shared goals and strategies to benefit your child. According to the Australian Government Department of Education and Training,

“Research has shown that when schools and families work together, children do better, stay in school longer, are more engaged with their school work, go to school more regularly, behave better, and have better social skills.”


Parent teacher interviews can be enlightening, entertaining, therapeutic and encouraging. (I have had teachers pray for my child, pass me a box of tissues at an emotional moment, chuckle at my child’s misadventures and plot with me over ways to motivate my children.) The parent teacher interview may be brief but it is never a waste of time.

If you are unable to make your allocated parent teacher meeting, or if 10-15 minutes is simply not long enough, contact your child’s teacher to arrange an appointment at another time.

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How to Tell Relatives, Babysitters, Teachers and Even Your Spouse Your Screen Time Rules

How to Tell Relatives, Babysitters, Teachers and Even Your Spouse Your Screen Time Rules

You wouldn’t send your kid to a sleepover without telling the parents about your kid’s allergies or bedtime bugaboos. Why not use the same logic with screen time rules?

We know it’s hard to do. It can feel like you’re being judgmental or don’t trust the other person to take good care of your child. But if you have strong preferences about what and when your child consumes media, you need to speak up even when you’re not around to supervise. Each situation calls for a different strategy. (And don’t forget to empower kids to talk to caregivers about what they are and aren’t comfortable watching, playing, or reading.)

Here are some suggestions for expressing your wishes to babysitters, friends, and relatives:

Daycare or After-School Program

  • Assess the situation. If you have a choice of daycare or after-school programs, ask the director about his or her stance on media use before you sign up. Say: “Do kids ever watch TV or play video games during the day?” But if you find out after the fact that your kids are consuming more media than you’d like – or you don’t like what they’re watching or playing – it’s time for a talk…
  • Be respectful but clear. Ask: “What’s your policy on TV/movie/etc. use when the kids are in your care?”
  • Find a solution that works for you. Try something like: “I’m not comfortable with my kids watching that much TV. What alternatives can we come up with?” If you still don’t get what you want, you can band together with other parents to present a unified front … or change caregivers.

The Babysitter

  • Check in. Your kids might love the teenage babysitter who brings candy and lets them play on her iPhone, but when it comes to your house and your kids, it’s important to speak up for what you expect. Besides, if she wants more babysitting gigs, it’s helpful for her to know where you stand on everything from bedtime to posting pictures of your kids online.
  • Be specific about what is and isn’t OK: “I don’t want them watching any TV at all, but they can play 30 minutes of video games before dinner.” Or prepare them for the challenges you think they’ll face: “My daughter will probably ask you to read Goosebumps before bed, but please ask her to choose a different book instead. I don’t want her to have nightmares.”
  • Consider putting a checklist of dos and don’ts on the fridge. 

Relatives

  • Be clear. Uncle Bob may love your kids but have no clue that Red Dead Redemption isn’t your idea of age-appropriate gaming. And how about the aunt whose taste in books leans toward the romantic? Help relatives (and yourself) by speaking up about your media rules. Say: “We’re only watching G-rated movies in our house right now.” Or: “I liked the book you got for Danny last year. He’s probably ready for the next in the series.”
  • Do damage control. If your sister tries to be cheeky and buys your daughter a “How to Flirt” book, explain to your daughter that you’ll have to keep it until she’s older, even if she gives you the stink eye.

Your Spouse

  • Stay flexible. You may have had a great plan for how and when your toddler could watch TV or play with the iPad, but as she gets older, new choices open up.
  • Compromise. You have to agree on some basics so you can present a united front to the kids. Often one parent is more lax, and this can really irk the more restrictive partner. Hopefully you can work out something you both can live with. Just make sure to have this conversation behind closed doors. Try: “I’d like to start eating dinner at the table instead of in front of the TV. How do you feel about that?”
  • Fix mistakes. If one spouse breaks the agreement, hash out the issue after the kids are in bed. “We agreed the kids weren’t ready for PG-13 movies. I’m upset that you took them to see Alita: Battle Angel after we’d made that agreement. How can we talk to the kids about this change to our rules?”

This blog was written by Sierra Filucci of Common Sense Media. Common Sense Media is a great resource for parents navigating their way through the digital world. It provides tips and information for parents (like this blog post) as well as reviews of movies, games and much more.


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