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How to Speak So Young People Will Listen

How to Speak So Young People Will Listen

If you find that your young person’s eyes glaze over the minute you start to talk to them, then don’t despair. Sometimes all it takes is a small change to encourage your young person to listen to what you have to say.

1. Tell them what you’ll do

Control is a big issue for young people. Threaten their need for control by telling them what to do and you risk them tuning out. Let them feel that they are calling the shots by focusing on your behaviour rather than telling them what to do. Instead of ordering “Clean your room now!” say “I only go into bedrooms that are neat and tidy”. The shift in language is small but the impact can be significant as your young person is making the decision about their behaviour.

2. Bring others into the act

If your son or daughter is more likely to listen to other adults than you, consider looking use these favoured adults as leverage when holding important conversations. “I think Jai’s dad would tell you that you need to be careful going to a party in that part of town.” Referencing admired adults is a great way to get around a young person’s natural defensiveness and their suspicion that their parents exist only to spoil their fun.

3. Slow communication down

If your son or daughter is adept using the tightest possible timeframe to get your permission, then develop the habit of buying yourself some time. A young person who asks you just before heading off to school if they can go to a party that night, usually knows intuitively that quick decisions will usually be made in their favour.

If you feel that you’ve been verbally ambushed by your young person, slow the conversation down rather than reply straight away, e.g. “I need to think about that. I’ll get back to you after school.” Add a time factor rather than letting your child force you to make a snap decision.

4. Avoid making eye contact to get cooperation

This strategy is anti-intuitive as we’ve been trained to make eye contact when we speak to others. However making eye contact with a young person while telling them to go to bed is challenging them to either argue or ignore you. Better to use as few words as possible –“Erica, it’s bed-time” – and look away while you’re speaking, indicating that you’re not willing to engage in verbal banter.

5. Put that finger away

Nothing invokes a verbal fight quite like an adult pointing a finger at a young person in an effort to get some cooperation. Finger-pointing cuts straight through to your young person’s reptilian brain, inviting them to fight or flee. If you point to the bin indicating it’s their turn to clean it, use an open palm. It’s a non-threatening way for you to get your message across.

Adolescence is a volatile age when a wrong look or word can turn them against the messenger. Choose your words and your non-verbals carefully so that your young person will listen to the message rather than tune out due to clumsy delivery.

This article was reproduced with kind permission from Parenting Ideas.

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10 Fun Card Games for Mental Maths

10 Great Games for Mental Maths

Who’s for a quick game of cards?

Card games help reinforce maths strategies learnt at school  in a fun and informal way. They let children learn from experience, develop ‘mathematical fluency’ and improve memory and confidence.

Here are 10 great games to play with your children to sharpen up their primary maths skills …

1. Evens

Maths skills:
  • Recognising odd and even numbers 
No. players: 1


Remove all face cards, leaving a deck of 40 cards. Aces count as 1s. Deal all cards out face-up in one long horizontal row.

To play: 

The aim of this solo game is to use up all cards. Remove any adjacent cards that add up to an even number.



Play the same way but removing adjacent cards that add up to an odd number.

2. Add and double

Maths skills:
  • Basic addition (numbers up to 10)
  • Two times table
No. players: 2


Remove all face cards and divide into two piles. Give one pile to each player. Aces count as 1s.

To play: 

Players turn over the card from the top of their pile simultaneously and place in the centre of the table.

The first to add the numbers together, double them and shout out the answer wins that round and gets to keep both cards. The winner is the player with most cards at the end.

Example: Players turn over a 3 and a 5

3 + 5 = 8

8 x 2  =  16

The player who shouts out ‘16’ first wins that round.

3. Indian Poker

Maths skills:
  • Place value
  • Probability
  • Maths vocabulary: ‘higher,’ ‘lower,’ ‘middle’
No. players: 2 or 3

Indian Poker


Use all 52 cards. Aces are low (=1). Players will also need an equal number of counters/matchsticks to act as ‘poker chips’

To play:

The dealer gives each player one card face down. Without looking at the card, each player holds it against their forehead so that only the other players can see what it is and puts two of their chips into a ‘kitty’ in the middle of the table (three chips each if there are three players).

Each player has to decide (guess) whether their own card value is bigger or smaller than those of the other player(s). [If there are three players, they decide whether their own card is ‘bigger’, ‘smaller’ or ‘in the middle’ of the other players’ cards]. So, for example, if one player is holding a 3 of Clubs and the other the Queen of Diamonds, the third player might guess that their own card is ‘in the middle’ of those two.

Players then look at their own cards and the one who named their card’s status correctly (highest, lowest or middle) collects the chips from the kitty. If more than one player was correct, the chips are divided. (If they cannot be divided equally, the remaining chip is left over in the kitty for the next round).

After chips are collected, the deck is shuffled and re-dealt for the next round.

4. First to 35

Maths skills:
No. players: 2-4


Deal out a full deck of 52 cards evenly, face down. Aces count as 1s, Jacks as 11s, Queens as 12s and Kings as 13s

To play: 

The first player turns over a card and places it in the middle of the table, e.g. Queen (12). The next player turns over a card and places it on top of this, adding the two card values together, e.g. player two places a 3 card on top of the Queen so the running total becomes 15. Continue in this way until a player places a card on top that makes a total of 35 or more. This player gets to take all the cards in the pile. The winner is the player with the most cards at the end of the game.


Make the game strategic rather than a game of chance: Play as above but deal just seven cards to each player. Allow players to see their own cards (holding them in a fan towards themselves). Each player then gets to select which card they play on their turn. The aim of this variation is to make exactly 35 (not more than 35). The winner of each round gets to keep the cards (not to be used again in the game) and all players are dealt cards from the remaining pack so that they always start each round with seven cards.

5. Lucky 25

Maths skills:
  • Mental addition – adding to 25
No. players: 2+

Lucky 25


Remove Jokers and place all 52 cards face down in a grid on the table. Aces count as 1s, Jacks as 11s, Queens as 12s and Kings as 13s.

To play: 

Players take turns to flip over three cards. If the card values add up to 25 (eg King + 4 + 8 = 25), they get to keep all three cards and have another go. If not, they turn the cards back face down and the next player takes their turn. The player with the most cards at the end wins.

6. Speedy Sorting

Maths skills:
No. players: 2+


Remove Jokers. Aces count as 1s, Jacks as 11s, Queens as 12s and Kings as 13s. Deal five cards face down to each player.

To play: 

Simultaneously, players turn their cards over and race to put them in order from the highest value to the lowest, eg Queen, ten, three, Ace. The first one correct is the winner and gets all the cards. The player with the most cards at the end wins.

7. Subtraction War

Maths skills:
  • Subtraction (and addition)
No. players: 2


Use all 52 cards.  Divide into two piles and give one to each player. Cards in pile are face down. Aces are low (=1). Jacks = 11, Queens = 12, Kings = 13

To play:

Both players turn over the first two cards in their pack and place in front of them. They subtract the smaller number from the bigger. The player with the biggest difference wins all the cards in that round. If both players’ subtraction makes the same number (eg one player has a King and a 10 and the other has a 9 and a 6, they will both have a difference of 3), the players then add the value of their two cards together. The player with the highest sum then wins the cards. If both players have turned exactly the same value cards (which make the same difference and sum), the cards are left in the middle to be won in the next round.

8. Guess My Number

Maths skills:
  • Multiplication
  • Maths vocabulary (e.g. ‘bigger’, ‘even’ , ‘square, ‘divisible by’ etc.)
No. players: 2+


Use all 52 cards and place in single pile, face down. Aces are low (=1). Jacks = 11, Queens = 12, Kings = 13

To play:

Player 1 picks up the first two cards on the pile and multiplies them together (eg Jack x 8 = 88), without the other players seeing. The other players have to ask yes/no questions to find out what the product might be. E.g. is it bigger than 20, divisible by 5, is it a prime number, is it an odd number etc.

Guess that number!

9. Target

Maths skill:
  • Multiplication, division, addition, subtraction
  • Logic
No. players: 2+



Use a well-shuffled pack of 52 cards and place in single pile, face down. Aces are low (=1). Jacks = 11, Queens = 12, Kings = 13. Pen and paper for each player (optional).

To play:

The aim of the game is to add, subtract, multiple and/or divide numbers to reach a target number.

Any player turns over the first two cards from the pile and multiplies them together (eg 3 of Hearts x 7 of Clubs = 21). This is the target number players will try to reach.

The next four cards in the pile are turned over and placed in front of the players.

Players race to be the first to reach the target number by combining any of the four number cards mathematically to reach the target number. NB each of the four cards may only be ‘used’ once in calculations.

Example: If the four number cards were Ace (1), 6, 10 and Queen (12) and the target number was 21, a player might reach it thus:

12 (Queen) + 10 – 1 (Ace) = 21


12 ÷ 6 x 10 + 1

If no players can reach the target number, the player closest to the target number wins.

10. What’s My Number?

Maths skill:
  • Addition and subtraction
  • Problem solving
No. players: 3 (plus one ‘facilitator’)


What's My Number?


Remove the picture cards from a pack, shuffle the pack well and place in a single pile, face down. Aces are low (=1)

In each round of the game, one of the four players sits ‘out of play’ and acts as the ‘facilitator‘ – adding the initial numbers and checking the answers. This is a good role for a parent. Otherwise, the role of facilitator may be rotated between the four players, swapping over in each round of play.

To play:

Three players pick up a card up from the pile (without looking at it) and hold it up against their forehead facing outwards so  that all the other players can see their card and they can see everyone else’s card … but not their own.

The ‘facilitator’ (or fourth player), adds up the value of the three players’ individual cards (eg 2 + 4 + 7 would equal 13) and tells the other players the total.

The three players race to calculate and shout out the value of their own card. (They do this by adding the other two players’ cards together and subtracting that number from the total number calculated by the moderator.) The first player to shout out their own number correctly wins all three cards.

Example: If a player sees that the other two players’ numbers are a 7 and an 8 and the total is 21, they can work out their own number by adding 7 and 8 together (=15) and subtracting that number from 21  – their card will be a 6.


Make it harder by including Jacks (=11), Queens (=12) and Kings (=13). 

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Convince Me!

Convince Me!

Kids of all ages are excellent at wearing down the resistance of a parent who denies permission for them to go somewhere due to lack of safety or suitability concerns. Unfortunately many kids use annoying methods such as:

– repetition (Can I go? Can I go? Can I go?);
– questioning (Why can’t I go?);
– guilt (You never let me go anywhere!);
– nagging (Can I, can I, can I go, pleeease!) and
– whining (Ahhh! Whyyy Caaan’t I gooo!)

Often we are so tired that we give just to gain some peace, which makes pester power a useful strategy as kids achieve what they want.

One way to avoid this obnoxious pestering is to ask them to convince you that they are responsible enough, old (read mature) enough or aware enough to be allowed to go somewhere.

Here’s an example:

“Amelia, I’m not sure that I should allow you to take the train into the city with friends. I’m worried that it might not be safe. Convince me that you can do so safely.”

This response puts the onus back on the child or young person to think to counter your concerns. Listen carefully to their response as it will indicate whether they really have considered your concerns and are aware of the depth or range of potential difficulties.

Simplistic responses don’t cut it

If they respond with simplistic comments such as; “I’ll be okay”, “we’ll stick together” and “I won’t do anything stupid” then they are probably unaware or unprepared for contingencies that may arise.

However if they provide a response with more depth, they may demonstrate their readiness. An example for this might be “I know you are worried that we might get picked on by older kids on the train. That worries me too. We’ll make sure we pick a carriage with plenty of adults and if kids hop on that look like they’ll give us a hard time, we’ll get off at the next station.”

Minimising risk

Answers such as the above show they understand your concerns and also that they have some strategies in mind to minimise risk. As a parent we’d like to remove risk from our kids’ lives but this is unrealistic. As kids grow up their world rapidly expands taking them further away from the safe confines of home, and exposing them to new and potentially risky situations and people. Our hope is that our kids are able to avoid or counter the risk as much as humanly possible. One way of assessing this is asking them to convince you that they are responsible, old enough and possess sufficient awareness to go into new situations and places.

“Convince me!” may well be the smartest two words you’ll ever use as a parent. It may stop pester-power in its tracks and at the same time induce your child or young person to think ahead and better prepare for spreading their wings when you don’t feel they are quite ready.

This blog was reproduced with kind permission from


Teaching Boys to Respect Women

Teaching Boys to Respect Women

Recent events and current statistics highlight that, as a nation, we have a serious problem when it comes to domestic violence. While there’s no easy solution, together we can do our part to stop violence against women. If you’re a parent or guardian, you can play an important role. Most studies show that a boy’s disrespect towards girls generally begins in childhood.

Disrespect shows in small behavioural ways that can often be ignored or go unnoticed. These behaviours include teasing, put-downs, verbal bullying and harassment. We can break the cycle by teaching our children to be respectful and caring toward all genders from a young age.

Start the conversation about respect early

Start by responding to your child calmly when they are disrespectful to others. The following three-step communication approach can be used from early childhood through to teen years. Let’s put it into practice.

If a boy is making fun of his sister or a female friend:


Respond calmly rather than react, asking him to stop the teasing. It’s handy to have a phrase you can rely on when under pressure. For instance, “Stop please. That’s a personal put down. We don’t use put downs in this family.”


Invite your son to see the behaviour through the eyes of his sister. ‘How do you think your sister/friend feels right now?’


Provide options such as ignoring his sister or friend if she’s annoying him or providing an appropriate social script he can use to communicate his thoughts such as, “I find it annoying when you don’t share the computer”.

The acronym SEE (stop, empathise, educate) will help you remember these steps.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint

When it comes to gaining academic knowledge and learning skills, parents know it takes years of consistent effort from childhood through to adolescence. In the same way, parents can take a long-term approach to teaching life skills such as respecting women, beginning right from toddler to teen.

Resources you can use

The Stop it at the Start campaign provides parents, family members and others with information and practical resources to self-reflect, and talk to boys and girls aged 10-17 about being respectful and caring. You can find videos, guides and other resources to help you have conversations with your children on the campaign website

There is so much we can do in families to develop healthy attitudes toward women. Through modelling and teaching we can change entrenched attitudes and behaviours and put an end to the cycle of violence against women.

This article was reproduced with the kind permission of Parenting Ideas


Should I Make My Child Tidy Their Bedroom?

Should I Make My Child Tidy Their Bedroom?

“It’s my room. I like it that way!”.

Fed up of nagging and battles over messy bedrooms? Should parents take a step back and give kids autonomy over their own space? Or is this setting them up for disaster later in life?

*        *        *       *        *        *

Among the wet towels, lolly wrappers and discarded laundry, lurks the toast crusts, mouldy coffee cups and last week’s lost homework. ‘Floordrobe’ would be a euphemism for your teen’s bedroom floor.

They missed the memo from Marie Kondo!

If the adage “tidy space, tidy mind” holds true, you hate to imagine the tangled mess of your child’s mental state. How will they hold down a job, manage their time or build meaningful relationships if they can’t even keep on top of their own bedroom?

“It’s the lack of respect that gets me,” says my friend K about her daughter. “It’s the defiance – like she’s deliberately challenging my authority when she refuses to tidy her room. It’s like she’s stamping her little mark of control over ‘her’ territory.”

K is half right; a teenager’s personal space is one of the few areas over which they feel they have control. It’s their ‘safe place’,  their haven. But it’s not really about respect (or lack thereof). Teens have a very different set of priorities.

The brain goes through a complete overhaul between early adolescence (around age 10) and the early twenties.

“A certain amount of mayhem is necessary, so tolerance is required,” says Janey Downshire, teenage counsellor and co-author of Teenagers Translated‘. “Their rooms are their spaces. You can set boundaries elsewhere in the house, because that is family space. There is no point nagging them – it won’t change anything and may become a battleground. Don’t impose your systems on them, they should be working all this out themselves. They have a lot to think about at their age. Finding time and mental space for a tidy room isn’t a priority.”

I have a 21-year-old nephew who is a domestic dream around the house when he stays with us; he will vacuum, mop floors, cook, tidy up and help with housework without being asked. Yet his own room (our spare room) is a toxic disaster zone during his stay.

I had friends at university who wallowed happily in disarray during their late teens but became positively OCD with their uncluttered minimalism in their thirties.

This is a very subjective way of saying (/hoping) that your teenager’s squalid sleeping quarters are not an accurate indication of their future behaviour [although I am familiar with adults who continue to experience difficulty picking up socks from the bedroom floor … a cheeky nod to my husband there].

Source: Mum Central, Facebook
Spotted on Facebook (Mum Central)

When should you let your child take responsibility for their own room?

When you are certain they know how to clean and tidy. Hopefully, this is something you’ve been teaching them since preschool. If not, or if your teenager still genuinely doesn’t how to dust or change a doona cover, make sure you get them up to speed before allowing them autonomy over their bedroom.

When should you intervene?

When the state of their bedroom affects the whole family – we’re talking stench, mould and infestation here.

Tips for long-suffering parents

  • Agree on some standards – eg empty the bin regularly, no food in the bedroom, clean room weekly.
  • Teach your child to differentiate between untidy and unsanitary. Embrace the chaos but insist on a reasonable level of cleanliness.
  • Encourage your child to open the windows regularly and let the fresh air circulate. Give them an air-freshener.
  • Don’t tidy up after your child. Sometimes it’s not until kids suffer the consequences of living in their self-styled pigpen that they appreciate the importance of structure and order.
  • Try using choices and questions rather than nagging so that your child feels they have some control in negotiations, eg “We’re missing some plates. Do you have any under your bed?”, “Were you hoping to have something to wear tomorrow or are you happy to go with the wet uniform lying underneath that towel?”, “Would you like some help?”
  • Give your teen more responsibility. This should include:
    • Responsibility for their own washing. Don’t go in to retrieve their laundry – it’s their fault if their favourite top is crumpled for a party or if they have to wear a smelly sports kit.
    • Responsibility for shared spaces and chores – they should be expected to contribute to the cleaning of the rest of the house.
    • Responsibility over room decor and storage solutions. Teenagers have too much ‘stuff’ these days. Encourage them to declutter, throw away and/or donate to the op shop. Take them to Ikea and let them choose containers, shelves and drawer sorters for stationery, socks, makeup etc.

Boys shoes organised! Source:


  • Ban ‘mess creep’ – insist that your child’s mess and debris doesn’t extend into the rest of the house.
  • If you can afford a cleaner, you can ask your child to tidy their room and clear all floors and surfaces once a week so that the cleaner can do their job! It’s less personal, and often easier, to get your teen to tidy for a third party than to do so because you asked; they won’t feel like they’re ‘losing face’ or giving in.

Of course, there may come a time when your teen’s room has got so out of control, they just don’t know where to start. The thought of tackling the mountains of mess may seem so overwhelming that it causes them anxiety. In these situations, it’s best to offer to help. Find a quiet couple of hours at the weekend, get your child to put on some loud music and blitz that room together. You never know, they might even enjoy it!

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Balancing Extra-Curricular Activities

Balancing Extra-Curricular Activities

Over-scheduled kids, exhausted parents, no family time? Feel like you’re constantly trying to be in three places at once, chauffeuring children to clubs, training and rehearsals?

How much time should kids spend on extra-curricular activities? And how can families stay on top of it all?

There are so many benefits to pursuing hobbies and interests outside of the classroom – discipline, skill building, health and fitness, perseverance, friendships and social skills, to name a few. While our children are busy at their dance/karate/soccer clubs, they are staying off their screens … and we can stay longer at work. With so many great (and often free) outside-school-hours opportunities at King’s, why wouldn’t we want our children to take advantage of them?

Research shows that active kids do better in life and that participation in a sport or hobby is good for a child’s emotional well-being.

So what’s the problem?

soccer kids
Research shows that active kids do better in life

According to the elaborately named UK study, ‘The helping, the fixtures, the kits, the gear, the gum shields, the food, the snacks, the waiting, the rain, the car rides … ’: social class, parenting and children’s organised activities

  • 88% of the children in the study took part in extra-curricular activities four to five days a week
  • Nearly 60% of the above were doing more than one activity an evening

While this research focused on British children, it’s fair to say the situation is not that different in Australia. Kids aren’t just going to Scouts on a Tuesday night or playing soccer on a Saturday morning. They are enrolled in multiple activities each week. In families with more than one child (i.e. the majority), siblings often get taken along to wait for their brother/sister. As a consequence, children can find themselves outside the home after school every night, even if they’re not taking part.

Participation in too many extra-curricular activities can take its toll on time, family life and even a child’s mental health.  The busyness of constant training, travelling, practice, rehearsals and highly organised childhoods can result in exhausted parents, stressed kids and families who never spend time together. 

Warning signs that your child is doing too much

  • They’re exhausted. There are dark circles under their eyes. They keep dozing off at the wrong times. They can’t get out of bed in the morning.
  • Fitting in homework is a struggle.
  • Their schoolwork is going downhill.
  • They only have one free night a week.
  • They resist practice (kids usually enjoy practising things they love).
  • They are reluctant to attend an activity or continually find reasons not to go.
  • They seem positively joyful when an activity is cancelled.
  • They are stressed and overwhelmed.
  • You feel stressed and overwhelmed, facilitating everyone’s activities.
  • You feel like you’re always in the car taxiing children around.
  • There is not enough spare time for family/friends/downtime.
  • You are no longer eating as a family – meals are eaten in ‘shifts’, everyone eating at different times between their various engagements.

What children really need

  • Exercise
  • Sleep (early training before school and activities that end late at night can take their toll)
  • Play
  • Time with friends
  • Family time
  • Homework/study
  • Relaxation and downtime – listening to music, watching TV
  • Boredom – daydreaming, nothingness, staring at the ceiling

Extra-curricular pursuits provide some of the above. However, unstructured play, exploration and simply ‘hanging out’ with friends is equally important. Time to unwind and do nothing is just as crucial to a young person’s development as physical and mental activity. An over-scheduled lifestyle makes this impossible.

Enjoying time with friends
Time to hang out with friends is important

Managing the juggle

So, how much is too much? How do you manage those busy schedules, keep on top of schoolwork and maintain a healthy family life? When do you say enough’s enough and start pruning?

Depends on the child. Depends on the family. Depends on the season.

A caveat: It is impossible to be prescriptive about how much extra-curricular activity is too much. There are too many many variables, including:

  • age and temperament of the child;
  • availability of parents (or grandparents) to ferry children around;
  • number of children in family;
  • work and school commitments;
  • time and duration of activities;
  • cost;
  • impact on family life.

There will also be periods where your children may be required to dedicate more time than usual to an activity, e.g. final rehearsals for a school play, the run-up to a music exam or participation in a specific carnival or event.

However, here are some useful tips and to help you manage the juggle and restore a little sanity to family life:

1. Reassess and evaluate

  • Do an activity audit – what is necessary and what is not?
  • Look at the signs – are your children exhausted, resisting practice or simply lacking joy? Which activities energise and motivate them?
  • If you were to cancel all your children’s out-of-school activities, which one would they beg you to keep?
  • Ask your children why they want to do their activities: Because they feel obliged? Because their friends do it? Because they want to excel? Friendships and priorities change. The impetus for pursuing an interest may no longer be relevant.
  • Look at your family life – how is the extra-curricular load impacting it and what could be dropped to improve it? What would you all do together if you had an extra night free each week?

2. Be choosy and streamline

  • Prioritise the quality of an activity, rather than the time spent on it. This might mean enrolling your child in a fun Saturday morning club instead of a competitive league requiring three nights’ training a week. Or one-on-one tuition for an hour instead of group tuition for two hours.
  • Make use of free activities run by schools, churches and community groups to ease the financial burden. King’s offers many no or low-cost activities to its students before and after school, including choir, athletics training, drama (school musical/theatrical productions) and group tutoring.
  • Use free or ‘trial’ lessons before making any commitments. Suggest your child tries an activity for a term before making plans for the rest of the year.
  • Consider variety – early specialism or focus on a single activity can be damaging (and boring!).
    • Differentiate: Try activities that are not pursued at school.
    • Encourage sports diversity to reduce the chance of overuse injuries (even professional athletes practise other sports).
    • Be seasonal: Could your children do different activities in the winter and summer months – e.g. trampolining lessons in winter and soccer in summer – rather than cramming everything in to the same season?

3. Stay organised and schedule

Schedules are key. However, working out the logistics of when children need to be at different locations, how they are going to be transported and where meals and homework fit in shouldn’t require military precision! If something looks too complicated or impossible, it probably is.

  • Put up a family planner  in the house for everyone to see so that no-one gets caught out.
  • Use electronic diaries/scheduling apps, where appropriate. (We use GameDay to keep on top of my son’s basketball match schedules). Make use of automatic reminders and notifications.
  • Schedule in breaks and downtime (important!).
  • Have bags and sports kits packed and ready to go.
  • Prepare grab-packs of healthy snacks for kids to take with them.

4. Prioritise schoolwork and assignments

Talk to your child’s teachers for advice and guidance if things are getting out of hand.

5. Use ‘hidden’ time

For example:

  • Use lunch breaks for library study at school.
  • Practice musical instrument before breakfast.
  • Listen to your child read while cooking dinner.
  • Practise times tables aloud in the car.

6. Share lifts / car pool with other parents

Older children may be able to use public transport, walk or cycle to activities.

7. Give your child more responsibility for their chosen activities

If your child is eager to pursue their interests and needs your support to make them possible, they should be expected to help with the logistics.

Depending on their age, this might include:

  • ensuring they are prepared and ready to go on time;
  • packing and cleaning their own sports kit;
  • preparing their own snacks;
  • taking responsibility for practice, rather than waiting to be nagged or reminded;
  • making sure their homework and chores are done in time;
  • helping around the house to free up your time.

You’ll soon discover how important their hobbies are to them (or not).

8. Take a break

… for a week, a month … or a season. Enjoy a fallow period. Use the space to rest and re-evaluate what is really important to your children and your family. School holidays are ideal for this so resist the temptation to over-schedule the school breaks with coding camps, dance workshops, sports intensives etc.

How do you manage the juggle of school, activities and family life? What advice would you give?Share your views in the comments section below.

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Home Alone – A Parent’s Guide

Home Alone - a Parent's Guide

Twelve. It’s a glorious age of independence and new opportunities. In Queensland, 12 is the age your child can legally be left home unsupervised, walk to the shops on their own or take the bike to the beach without their parents in tow. Babysitters and after school care may no longer be required. You can’t send your child to school in an Uber yet – they need to be 18 for that – but you can start to shift more responsibility to your child: Send them off to Coles to do the weekly shop and pick them up afterwards; leave them to do their homework while you take their sibling to soccer club; let them walk to the library to return their books on their own etc… 

… But would you?

For parents who have spent 12 years ensuring their children are supervised, cared for and protected – i.e. most of us – this can be a giant leap. And just because your child has reached the golden age of liberation, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are ready to take advantage of it.

It is, however, an important part of growing up and something you should be working towards. Being able to leave your child at home unattended for short periods of time can help grow their confidence, teach them to problem-solve and build self-sufficiency. 

Things to consider before leaving your child home alone

Maturity of your child

  • Is your child a risk-taker or rule-breaker or are they generally obedient?
  • Are they nervous, anxious or frightened when left alone?
  • Can they make sensible decisions and cope with the unexpected?

Readiness of your child

  • Do they know what to do in an emergency?
  • Do they know how everything works in the house, e.g. locks, alarms, phone?
  • Do they feel they’re ready to be left alone? Some kids can’t wait. Others may need a little more time.

Safety of house and neighbourhood

  • Are your smoke alarms in working order?
  • Are there any obvious danger hazards in your home or garden?
  • Do you live in a remote area or are there helpful neighbours nearby?

How long they will be left on their own

 12 is not the age to leave your child alone while you take off on a weekend break!

  • How long do you think your child will cope on their own before they get bored, distressed, worried etc?
  • Is there anything specific they will need to do while you’re out, eg feed themselves, shower, put themselves to bed? Are you comfortable with this?

What about siblings?

The law is fuzzy about younger siblings. The Queensland Criminal Code, section 364a, stipulates that a parent who leaves a child under 12 “for an unreasonable time without making reasonable provision for the supervision and care of the child during that time, commits a misdemeanor”. Can a child of 12 provide “reasonable provision”? It depends on the maturity of the child and the length of time you are absent, of course, but it’s best to err on the side of caution. Being able to look after oneself is a whole different ball game to caring for someone else. And what if they argue or fight?

And friends?

Friends from school or friends from the neighbourhood who call round to play – should you let them stay in the house with your child while you’re out? On one hand, having company may be reassuring for a nervous child. On the other … do you really want to take responsibility for someone else’s child should something happen in your absence?

Tips for parents

Build up gradually

Start by leaving your child alone for 10 minutes while you pop out on an errand or visit a neighbour. Leave them for an hour while you do a supermarket shop. Don’t just disappear for an afternoon until you know that your child has the experience and confidence to deal with it.

Use routine

It may be helpful to introduce regular times in the week when your child is expected to fend for themselves, e.g. on Tuesdays when you take their younger sibling to sports practice or Saturday mornings when you do the family shop.

Give them a task

Going out for an hour? Assign your child job or two to get on with in your absence, eg complete homework, set the table for dinner, sort the laundry. This will give a bored or anxious child some focus.

Be clear

Make sure your child knows:

  1. Where you are going.
  2. How long you expect to be out.
  3. How they can get hold of you should they need to.

Set some ground rules

Ensure your child knows what they are allowed to do and what is expected of them.

For example, are they allowed to cook, answer the phone, open the door if someone knocks, or swim in the pool when you’re out? Are they permitted to use electronic devices or go on the internet?

If more than one child is being left alone, establish who is in charge.

Be prepared

Make sure your child knows who to call for help. Is there a neighbour they can run to? Do they have all the phone numbers they may need?

Check that your child knows what to do in an emergency. Go over possible scenarios with them – eg if there is a fire, get out of the house immediately and ring 000 from a neighbour’s house. If the dog goes missing, don’t run off looking for it. Stay at home and wait till I return. If you’ve lost your key when you get home, use the emergency one in the plant pot or wait for me next door.

Consider writing up an emergency plan so that your child has something to refer to.

Check that everything is working properly in your house, e.g. alarms, locks, phones etc.

Check in

Out for a while? Give them a call to see how they’re doing. Ask a neighbour to pop by to check they’re okay. 

Don’t discount babysitters

Just because your child is comfortable being home alone for an hour or two, it doesn’t mean they will cope (or you will trust them to behave) for a whole afternoon. Continue to make use of trusted adults to supervise and look after your adolescent kids where appropriate, eg when you are out late or when they need feeding. Maybe Grandma could come over for part of the period you are away or they could have dinner at a neighbour’s.

Related Blogs:


6 Nightmare Habits That Ruin Teenagers’ Sleep

6 Nighmare Habits That Ruin Teenagers' Sleep

Many teenagers today are sleep deprived. They should be getting between nine and 10 hours sleep each night, yet most get only seven or eight hours. Some get less.

Sleep deprivation is akin to jet lag. It causes young people not to function at their optimum. It can be the cause of poor behaviour, mental health problems and low functioning in the classroom.

Sleep maximises the brain growth that occurs during adolescence. It also consolidates learning. Sleep research has shown that when a young person is asleep, the brain practises what it has learned during the day. So sufficient sleep consolidates past learning as well as keeping a young person fresh to maximise their future learning.

Sleep experts stress that while adults may not have control over biology we can assist young people to establish good sleep patterns. The first step is to eradicate some of their bad habits, starting with the following:

1. Being glued to a digital screen

The digital devices a young person uses to roam through cyberspace are as addictive as cocaine, with similar arousal effects as well. The blue light emitted by mobile devices stimulates the brain into keeping kids awake well into the night.

Tip: Get your kids away from digital devices at least 90 minutes before bedtime.

2. Doing homework in bed

The brain associates activity with location. When young people are at their desks in school it’s easy to get into study mode. They associate learning and productive activity with their classroom and its furnishings. The same principle applies at home. If they fire up their laptops and work while on their beds, it is hard for them to mentally switch off from their schoolwork when the light finally goes out.

Tip: Keep homework out of bedrooms. If they must work in their rooms, confine study to a desk.

3. Spending all day indoors

Moping around the house is a huge part of the adolescent experience. However, spending all day away from natural light is shown to lead to anxiety and depression, which are both causes and symptoms of lack of sleep. Put a cap on moping about and encourage them to go outside – take a walk, meet a mate, do an errand.

Tip: A minimum of one hour outside a day helps keep insomnia at bay.

4. Sleeping in late on weekends

The sleep–wake cycle for teenagers is delayed by up to two hours. That is, they get sleepy later and wake later than when they were children. In most teens, melatonin – which makes them sleepy – is secreted around 11 pm. Cortisol, the chemical that wakes them up, is secreted at 8.15 am for many. So the adolescent brain wants to be asleep just when most them need to be waking up to go to school. Many teenagers catch up on this lost sleep on the weekend. However, if your teen is sleeping in until midday on weekends then his whole sleep cycle is being thrown out of whack.

Tip: Keep sleep-ins to no more than an hour longer than normal to keep the sleep clock operating on a regular basis.

5. Talking on their mobile phones

A mobile is an extension of the person for most teens. Unfortunately, there’s no getting away from the fact that mobile phones may be harming our health. One study ( found that radiation thrown off by mobile phones can seriously throw off sleep in heavy phone users. The study found that regular mobile phone users reported more headaches, took longer to fall asleep and had difficulty experiencing a deep sleep.

Tip: Encourage young people to limit the length of their calls and place a moratorium on mobile use 90 minutes before bedtime.

6. Consuming caffeine and other stimulants

It’s a familiar story. It’s seven o’clock in the evening and your teenager hasn’t started a big assignment that’s due the next day. Needing to stay awake for the big job ahead, she drinks a coffee or a caffeinated soft drink or two to keep her adrenaline high. Consuming caffeine in any form after dinner is like throwing a wrecking ball through regular sleep patterns. The brain needs to calm down rather than be artificially stimulated if sleep is to occur.

Tip: Confine caffeinated drinks to mornings to minimise their impact on sleep.

* * *

According to beyondblue, one in seven teenagers experiences a mental health disorder. Many experts agree that if they were to choose just one strategy to improve young people’s wellbeing it would be to increase the quality and quantity of sleep that teenagers have. That’s how important sleep is to a young person’s wellbeing.

This article was reproduced with kind permission from Parenting Ideas.



My Best Work Experience Advice? Humility

My Best Work Experience Advice? Humility

Early in my career, I was given two separate (and unsolicited) pieces of advice: The first was to learn the job of the person immediately above me if I wanted to progress fast. The second was to ‘perfect’ a spectacularly bad cup of tea if asked to make one for my superiors. 

“Make it extra milky or cold … or add half a teaspoon of salt so it tastes ‘wrong’ but not detectably salty,” I was advised. “If they know you can’t make a decent cuppa, they won’t make you do it again.”

‘Show no flair for the menial jobs,’ was the implication, ‘lest that’s all you’re given’.

I have seen many students embrace this philosophy during their work experience placements. I’ve clocked the roll of the eyes and incredulous expressions when asked to perform a simple errand or mundane task that’s ‘beneath’ their perceived value. I’ve watched their bored, ‘go-slow’ approach to jobs “that any monkey could do” while simultaneously displaying a disturbing lack of initiative or common sense (“The photocopier’s run out of paper,” shrugged one young man to explain why he’d sat looking at his phone for the last 15 minutes … in a storeroom full of photocopier paper).

And then I’ve seen the positive, helpful kids: The ones who smile and look you in the eye, who complete monotonous tasks efficiently and offer to do more; the ones who watch quietly and ask questions; the ones who volunteer to do the coffee run and use the opportunity to say hello and introduce themselves to other members of staff; the ones who aren’t afraid to serve! 

Which would you employ?

The truth is, finding useful, meaningful work to occupy students on work experience can be challenging for managers in a busy work environment. The teenagers entering their workplace for a week may well be smart and talented and world-changing … but they currently lack the experience and skill set specific to that company. Health and safety regulations, specialist training requirements and legal restrictions may further limit the practical tasks a student volunteer is able to perform.

Some students see work experience as an opportunity to stand out and be noticed but, in many ways, the opposite is true; managers want kids who can fit in with minimal fuss – young adults who are useful rather than a drain on time and resources. Hard-working and motivated students who are happy to ‘muck in’ and get along with everyone will make a better impression than those bent on innovating new strategies to revolutionise the workplace.

Tips for students

There is nothing worse than students reporting for duty who clearly know nothing about the industry or company they are volunteering their services in.  Check out the website of the company you will be working for. Get on LinkedIn and view the profiles of people who work there – especially the person to whom you will report. Read and digest any information the company has sent you in advance. If you’re well researched, you’re more likely to be able to hit the ground running when you start your work placement.

  • Watch your social media feeds

It is highly likely that your temporary employer will be checking you out as well! Make sure you haven’t anything published on Insta or Facebook that they will find inappropriate. Posting “Dad got me a week at this poxy company to get me off school for a bit. Look forward to seeing what I can grab from their stationery cupboard” will not be well received!

Will your job require closed in shoes and long hair tied back? Are you required to wear business clothes, ‘smart casual’ (tricky one!) or overalls? If you are at all unsure about the dress code, ring the company up in advance and ask.

  • Aim to arrive early on your first day

Punctuality is great – but if you arrive exactly on time only to discover that the main entrance or reception is in a separate block or around the other side of the building, you will be … er … late. Hopefully you will have confirmed exactly where and to whom you will report in advance of your placement. If something does go wrong on your journey to work, make sure you call your line manager and keep them informed.

  • Be positive and helpful, even if the work is boring

Smile, be friendly and make eye contact. Work quietly and efficiently. Ask how you can help. Volunteer to fetch/carry/tidy up/sort. Look keen.

  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions…

… particularly if you’re unclear about what you have been asked to do. Find out what people enjoy about working there. What are their biggest challenges? What was their career route to their current position? What advice would they give to someone working in that industry?

But don’t ask questions for the sake of it. If you’ve researched the company you’re working for (see ‘Do your homework’ above), you shouldn’t need to ask dopey questions like, “Do you have any other offices?” or “Who are your main customers?”. 

That first piece of advice I was given at the beginning of my career, about learning the job of the person directly above me? It was a really good one. Work experience provides a great opportunity to observe and see how people perform their roles, interact with others and manage their time.

Even if all you learnt during your period of work experience was how to fill the stapler and take telephone messages, be courteous and send a thank you letter or email to your line manager at the end of your placement.

Oh … and if you are asked to make a cup of tea, make a really good one and serve with a smile!


Parenting Habits All Parents Should Stop

Parenting Habits All Parents Should Stop

Even the best parents make mistakes. Generally it’s better to focus on the positives – what you should be doing as a parent – than fixate on where you are messing up. However, sometimes it helps to be reminded of some of the behaviours we should stop or do less of, if we are to raise autonomous, emotionally-smart citizens of the future.

Michael Grose, parenting educator and founder of Parenting Ideas,  outlines some of the biggest offenders below:

Doing too much

Kids need to learn to fend for themselves and stand on their own two feet. Independence is the aim for parents. Learn to delegate.

Winning arguments

The need to win arguments and prove that you are right harms relationships and creates fertile ground for conflict. Focus on the things that matter.

Expecting too little

Expectations are tricky. Too high and kids can give up. Too low and kids will meet them. Pitch them at their own abilities and their developmental age.

Speaking when angry

Speaking tends to be a default mechanism regardless of your emotional state. When you’re angry kids don’t listen. They pick up your venom but not your words. Choose the time and the place to speak to kids.

Failing to give proper recognition

It’s easy to take children’s good behaviour and their contributions to the family for granted. The behaviours you focus on expand so catch kids doing the right thing.

Playing favourites

Children usually know who’s the favoured or preferred child in their family. Your discipline and expectations give this away. Share the parenting with others so you share the favouritism.

Letting kids drop out of the family

In small families most children have their own bedroom, which means isolation is easy to achieve. Teenagers, in particular, tend to prefer their own company rather than the company of peers and parents. Put rituals in place and make sure everyone turns up to meal-time.

Taking the easy way out

It’s a quirk of modern life that as parents get busier with work and other things there is a tremendous temptation to avoid arguments by giving into kids. Hang in there when you know it’s the right thing to do.

Judging yourself too harshly

Parents are generally hard markers of themselves. Kids are more forgiving of their parents’ blunders than their parents. Parent your family as if it’s a large one.

Solving too many problems

It’s tempting to try to solve our children’s problems rather than leave some for them to solve. A forgotten school lunch is a child’s problem not a parent’s problem. Pose problems for kids rather than solve them.

Confusing helping for responsibility

We all love it when our children help at home, but this shouldn’t be confused with taking responsibility. A child who gets himself up in the morning is learning to take responsibility. If you want a child to be responsible give him real responsibility.

Telling kids everything will be OK when they are anxious

It’s human nature to reassure your children when they are worried or anxious that everything will be OK. This however is not always true and reassurance leads to dependence. Validate your child’s worries so that they feel understood. Kids need to hear “I get it” rather than “Get over it”.

Taking yourself too seriously

There is a lot of gravitas placed on parents’ behaviours and on modelling that can weigh you down and take the joy from being a parent. Take time to enjoy the little things in family life.

Parenting the individual

Small family parenting is almost always an individual endeavour. It’s worth remembering that sibling relationships (if children have siblings) can be just as influential as the parent-child relationship. It will almost certainly outlast the parent-child relationship. Lead the group, manage the child.

Refusal to express regret

Sometimes parents can work themselves into a tight corner after they’ve said something out of anger or desperation. One parent I know cancelled Christmas out of desperation and refused to admit she was wrong. Sometimes you need to acknowledge your mistakes and start over again.

Failing to use communication processes

Establish communication processes and communication places well in advance of when you really need them. For example if you are about to talk to your children about sexuality and relationships, what process do you use? Where will you hold that conversation?

Neglecting your own wellbeing

Many families operate under a child-first mentality, which places a lot of pressure and stress on parents. We happily drive kids to their leisure activities at the expense of our own. Carve out some time for your own interests and leisure pursuits.

Giving feedback at the wrong time

Timing is everything when you give kids feedback. If you give negative feedback immediately after an event or action, you risk discouraging them. Use ‘just in time prompts’ to remind them how to do something. Pick your timing when you give feedback.

Clinging to the past

The ghosts from the past are strong indeed causing us to put some of our problems onto our children. The problems we may have experienced growing up won’t necessarily be shared by our children. Re-tune your parenting antennae to your child’s life and away from yours.

Believing everything your children say

As loving parents we want to trust our children and believe everything they tell us. Children are faulty observers and frequently only see one side of an issue. Help children process what happens to them and see issues from every side.

After reviewing this list, for those of you who still aren’t sure what to stop, there is one bad habit that takes precedence over all of the others. According to Michael Grose, the number one parenting problem is doing too much for your kids.


This blog was reproduced with kind permission from Parenting Ideas.

Further Reading:

Spoonfed Generation by Michael Grose

“Spoonfed Generation – How to Raise Independent Children” – Michael Grose

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