Throwback Thursday: 10 Positive Parenting Tips

Children are continually learning and evolving, so being constant in your positive parenting techniques will help in shaping and dealing with your child’s behaviour. Here are 10 top tips on how to achieve harmony but also deal with those inevitable lows.

1. Talk and get to know your child

All children are different, so make time to find out what your child’s interests are and what angers him/her. Consider the tone and volume that you use, as this can make a big difference to how much your child listens and respects you.

2. Listen to your child

It’s important to listen to your child whether he/she is worried, angry or happy. If your child doesn’t feel you’re showing due consideration to their anxiety, he/she may act out, rebel or withdraw.

3. Engage in your child’s interests and introduce him/her to new ones

Whether playing, fishing, stamp collecting or engaging in sports, being active in your child’s life in a fun and stimulating way is important to their development.

4. Set boundaries and punish effectively

Children need to know where the boundaries lie before they can keep to them, so when they are testing how far they can go you need to be firm but fair. Ensure that you are constant, and when you punish them, and that you explain why they are being punished, so they will learn for the future. For a young child, placing him/her in the corner for a few minutes can be effective, while older children might be grounded. It’s a good idea to investigate why your child misbehaved before punishing him/her though.

5. Notice and praise good behaviour

Just as important as setting boundaries is rewarding your child when he/she is well behaved.

6. Praise your child’s achievements

Ask your child about their performance and achievements in school, sports, clubs and hobbies, and show your recognition, as this will make them happy and motivated to continue achieving.

7. Build self confidence

As your child grows up they will need to get used to making new friends and dealing with difficult situations. Show your child your love, and try to support your child without getting too involved so that they become more independent. Avoid comparing him/her to your other children as this can reduce confidence further.

8. Understand changes and let them learn from their own mistakes

Your child will inevitably change over time and make mistakes, and there will be difficult times, so do your best to understand and accept these moments. Don’t be afraid to let your child deal with his/her own consequences, as only in this way will they learn from their mistakes.

9. Deal with mistakes and downfalls positively

Your child will probably be as upset as you are, so for the sake of your sanity, your relationship with your child, and you child’s behaviour, try not to be pessimistic in the bad times. It will get better.

10. Look after your health and be optimistic

Your child will react to your behaviour and your attitude towards them, so in order to retain your positive parenting techniques, ensure you are happy with yourself, in good health, and able to set a good example for your child.

What To Do About Your Child’s Nightmares

Do your kids have scary dreams? It can be hard to think up a solution when a screaming, anxious child wakes you up in the middle night, so it helps to have a few strategies ready to both prevent nightmares and to deal with them as they happen.

RELATED: Overcoming Your Children’s Fears

Monitor what your child is reading and watching

A few nights ago my 8-year-old said he wasn’t going to read the book series he was into anymore. As much as he loved the stories, they were scary and he wasn’t sleeping well. Not every child will be as quick to recognise the link between books and nightmares, and not everyone would be willing to give up their favourite pastimes for a good night’s sleep. It’s up to us, parents, to monitor books, TV shows, games and movies, and filter out scary images, stories and ideas as much as possible.

Stick to a bedtime routine

An overtired child is less likely to have a restful sleep. A predictable bedtime routine ensures that your child goes to bed on time, falls asleep quickly and easily, and gets adequate rest.

Take your child’s fears seriously

Sometimes we think that if we treat our child’s fear as unimportant, they will lighten up about it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work this way. If we ignore the fear, the child will feel that she has to deal with it on her own, and she’ll be even more scared and lonely. Instead, take some time to listen to your child describe her nightmare and stay with her until she has calmed down.

Talk about dreams and nightmares

Explain to your child that dreams are a normal occurrence in everyone’s life and sometimes they’re scary. If you’re struggling to explain dreams (how many of us really understand them?), there are great kids’ books that you and your child can read together.

Seek help

It’s very common for children to experience nightmares. According to the Better Health Channel, about a quarter of all children have at least one nightmare every week. Yet, if you’re worried that something is not right, there’s absolutely no need to suffer alone. Talk to your doctor and ask what professional help you can get for your situation.

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Toddler Taming: Does The Naughty Step Work?

Toddlers are at once ridiculously cute and funny, yet frustrating and incredibly hard to tame.

RELATED: Why You Should Say No To Kids’ Gift Registries

I’ve got two-year-old and three-year-old daughters and such is their tantrums, as is the norm for their ages, I swear one day I’m going to wake up with a giant patch of grey in my hair.

Parenting can be an incredibly thankless, confusing and just a plain tough job: you have to be an excellent role model, and incredibly loving and nurturing, plus a good disciplinarian, all at once! So, when it comes to toddler wrangling, does a naughty corner/naughty step/time out – call it what you will – actually work?

I’m in the process of trialling the naughty corner with my feisty and finicky eating three-year-old to mixed results. Is there a secret to this tried and tested parenting technique?

toddlers, toddler taming, discipline, naughty corner

The celebrated ‘naughty step’, made famous by UK reality TV star Jo Frost of Super Nanny fame (pictured), is much-loved by thousands of parents, according to the former nanny. Frost claims the naughty step can dramatically transform children’s behaviour and, even better; it gives exhausted parents a strategy for household peace.

The Naughty Step works best from age three, she says – a naughty mat can be used for littlies prior to this – with the key premise being that when a toddler is placed in a particular calm spot for time out, with no distractions, this gives the naughty, little tyke time to think about what has happened and repent. And consistency is key: Frost advises one minute for each year of his/her age is the perfect length of time.

toddlers, toddler taming, discipline, naughty corner

“Every new rule or discipline technique is difficult at first. Just stay calm, be consistent and remain firm and it will get easier… Eventually!” she has been quoted as saying. Yet even the Super Nanny concedes every child is different and the naughty step doesn’t always work, with her offering solutions to common toddler problems on the official Super Nanny website.

However, Dr Karen Phillip (pictured), who’s one of Australia’s leading family therapists and parenting experts, told me the latest research and thinking on toddler discipline is less punitive and about shaming toddlers, which is bad for their burgeoning self-esteem. Instead, she advocates a “thinking spot” as opposed to the old-school naughty corner/naughty step/time out.

toddlers, toddler taming, discipline, naughty corner

“I don’t like the term ‘naughty corner’ – I much prefer the ‘thinking spot’, because what you’re doing is removing the child to a safe place or spot for a stretch and connecting that behaviour,” Dr Phillip says.

“It depends, of course, on what the child has done as to whether it warrants a thinking spot. If the child has been deliberately wilful and/or hurt their sibling, it may help to isolate them to a safe place so they can think about their behaviour.

“The high emotion of the parent also needs to be considered, for when you have high emotion, rational thinking and logic goes out the window. This is where the thinking spot can also help.”

Dr Phillip also recommends the laundry as a thinking-spot location – once you’ve made it kid-friendly and removed all dangerous objects. “Choose a corner or a room in which your child wouldn’t normally go,” she says, “Remove the child from comfort and don’t place them in their bedrooms and/or shut the door if they’re under seven.”

toddlers, toddler taming, toddler social development

Another key message from Dr Phillip is the importance of teaching children about consequences through choices. “Toddlers don’t have good self-control, but are actually really clever,” she says. “It’s crucial to give a child a choice. Say: ‘I’m asking you not to do that’ when they display silly behaviour and give them a consequence of their action.

“So, ‘I’m asking you to please eat your dinner so you grow healthy and strong’ – use a request, not an instruction or order. Then, tell them that if they don’t eat their dinner they will go to bed with a hungry tummy and not get to read a book they really like.”

Of course, as any mother (or father) of toddlers knows – these little people just love to push the boundaries. “You’ve got to be really firm with toddlers,” Dr Phillip says. “But it’s imperative to make requests, not an instruction or order.”

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What do you think? What method of toddler discipline do you swear by?


Tips For Coping With The Terrible Twos

You’ve just experienced a miraculous transformation. Your sweet little baby has all of a sudden turned into a raging monster who screams, kicks and knocks down everything within reach. Welcome to the terrible twos. If you’re wondering how to cope, here are some tips that will help.

RELATED: Can You Prevent Toddler Tantrums?

It’s not your fault!

We, mums, often tend to look for faults within ourselves where there is none. When my first child started chucking daily tantrums, I analysed every situation to see what I could have done differently, I tried numerous different approaches and nothing worked. As much as I wanted to help him (and myself), not everything was within my power. Our children are learning and experiencing more that they know how to express and it’s a gap that they need to figure out how to close. While dealing with it on a daily basis can be frustrating, the terrible twos are a normal stage of your child’s development. There’s no reason to add guilt to your challenges.

Have a routine

Routine makes a toddler’s world more predictable and safe. When your child knows what needs to happen and when, it gives him one less thing to try to figure out and to argue about. It also makes it easier for you to know when your little one is hungry, tired or wants to play.

Take time out for yourself

Even when you have full understanding of what your child is going through, it can be tough to stay calm when your patience is tested day after day. It’s important to step away and spend some time by yourself regularly, then you’ll find much deeper appreciation for your time with your child.

Watch out for the good stuff

The terrible twos are not all terrible. It’s also a magical time when children laugh for no reason, say funny words, do strange things and see us, parents, as their heroes. When you’re starting to lose patience, remember that smile your child gave you when she woke up in the morning or the picture she drew of you (even if it didn’t look like you and it didn’t even look like a human). It’s the good things that fill your heart will love and give you the energy to keep on going.

There’s a saying about parenting that “the days go slow, but the years go fast” and this is certainly true about the terrible twos. It may seem now that you’ll never reach the other side, but you will and you’ll look back at the terrible twos with fondness.

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How To Combat Toddler Fears

It’s no secret that as a mother of a toddler, you’ll have to find superwoman-like mind strength and Mother Teresa-like patience.

RELATED: Rude Toddlers: How To Teach Kids Tact

Small people are a trying bunch; ridiculously cute, but ever-growing and evolving, they can shock and surprise you with new habits, such as toddler fears, just when you think you’ve got them all worked out. A case in point is my three-year-old daughter, who’s suddenly developed an almighty fear of the “big bath.”

You see, my husband and I bathed her and her two-year-old sister together in a small baby bath within our big bath up until only recently, because it was easier to contain two slippery little tykes. But now that they’ve well and truly outgrown it, we’ve upgraded to the adult-size bath and OMG, the tears and the tantrums?! I swear our neighbours must think we’re child abusers. The horror!

toddlers, raising toddlers, parenting advice

It’s the flush-down-the-drain dread that’s got my little one losing her tiny mind. What’s more, no amount of soothing or coaxing seems to help and she’s stubbornly refusing to sit down in the bath each night, all the while screaming like a banshee as if we’re torturing her.

Meanwhile, her two-year-old sister is equally baffled by her odd behaviour and then she works herself up into a frenzy in kind, after witnessing her sibling’s nightly bath-induced meltdowns. It’s like dealing with terrorists, I tell you! And all this is very upsetting at times and far from bloody ideal.

Child health experts say toddler fears are very common, in part due to their ever-evolving imaginations. As they grow, they start to realise they can get hurt and bad things can happen.

toddlers, raising toddlers, parenting advice

Experts say never admonish or belittle your child over his or her immoveable fears. Instead, we parents must dig deep and give our toddlers an ample dose of sympathy. We’re also advised to tell our little ones that it’s OK to have fears and praise any progress he or she makes, no matter how little.

That’s all good and well, but my advice is you may need a glass of wine (or two) afterwards, too. It’s hard to see your child upset and beyond reason, but like all toddler phases – this soon shall pass. At least that’s what my friends tell me!

Common toddler fears

  • The bath
  • Animals
  • Loud noises
  • Doctor visits
  • Santa and other costumed performers
  • Strangers
  • The ocean
  • The dark

What do you think? What are your toddler’s fears?

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Rude Toddlers: How To Teach Kids Tact

Life is certainly never dull when you have toddlers and the unintentionally rude things they say and do ensures both endless hilarity and humiliation galore.

RELATED: 5 Ways To Get Dads Involved In Parenting

I am a proud mum to two little people: 20-month-old and three-year-old daughters. They’re endless fun, and hard work at once, but it’s shopping trips that can leave me especially embarrassed.

Just this week, I had to explain to my eldest why it wasn’t cool to loudly ask me at the supermarket aisle: “Why is the man (a female checkout operator with a crew cut) wearing lipstick?” Shudder!

Then, my one-year-old sufficiently disgraced herself (and me) at a play centre on the weekend by screaming “Mermaid!” every time she laid eyes on a little redhead who did actually closely resemble a mini Ariel in her new obsession: The Little Mermaid.

The poor little redhead was suitably terrified of my tiny banshee, who then exacerbated the situation by chasing her around for hugs. Oh the vast and infinite horror. And the fun didn’t end there: my feisty, little one-year-old then started screaming “Mine!” and pushing others off her favourite animal toy, once redhead and her mum had fled the building.

toddlers, toddler taming, toddler social development

So, how on earth do we teach our toddlers sensitivity and tact? And why does it come naturally to some kids and not others?

Child experts say to gently explain to your toddler how certain involuntarily rude statements and behaviours affect others in the hope they’ll come to understand why it’s socially unacceptable. After all, your little tykes are busy testing out their social and language skills.

In addition, toddlers are also renowned for their total lack of self-control and are yet to fully develop a sense of empathy and understanding that people’s feelings can be hurt by unkind, tactless remarks.

Psychologists call this “theory of mind” which is where children come to realise that other people have thoughts and feelings different to their own.
And the age at which they learn varies greatly, depending on the social maturity of the child.
Daycare, which often gets undue bad press, actually encourages this important development of social skills and empathy towards others as children interact and feelings are inevitably hurt.

toddlers, toddler taming, toddler social development

Another recent clanger, was when my three-year-old asked me, thankfully, within the safety of our own home: “Why is Jacinta (her new kindy teacher) a man?” For the record, Jacinta is most definitely not a man, just a rather voluptuous woman.

So, it seems yet another important and essential parental responsibility is encouraging toddlers to have inquiring minds – my girls ask endless questions, sigh – while also educating them about what’s appropriate conversation and what’s not.

Child experts say not to scold your child for his/her honesty, call him/her rude, or discourage them from speaking their minds. Instead, you could try explaining that words are powerful: they can make people both happy and sad.

I think it’s also, in part, that fun parental lesson about teaching toddlers what constitutes good manners; encouraging kids to be kind and respectful, by example. And like all toddler-related matters, it’ll take every ounce of your patience and tolerance, ladies (at least it does me).

Now, if we can just teach our husbands to similarly always think before they speak…

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Starting Kindergarten: Survival Tips For Parents

If your child is starting kindergarten, you’re probably experiencing an array of emotions right now. Proud that you’ve come so far on your parenting journey. Struggling to let your little one go. Overjoyed that you’ll have all this time to yourself. Sad that you’ll have all this time to yourself…

In addition to your own emotional roller coaster, your child may start behaving strangely. Tears in the morning, tantrums in the afternoon and you begin wondering if you’ve accidentally made a mistake and sent your two-year-old to school. Take heart, this behaviour is completely normal and will pass as your child adjusts. In the meantime, here are some things you can do to make the transition to kindergarten as smooth as possible both for you and for your child.

RELATED: 7 Tips For A Smoother School Run

Allow your child to express her emotions

Your little one is spending her days in a new environment, with a teacher she doesn’t know well yet. Numerous things happen during her time at school that may upset her, excite her or make her uncomfortable, but she doesn’t know how to deal with it all yet. By the end of the day she’s full of new impressions and disappointments. Then she sees you and to her that means safety. She can now relax, be herself and let her emotions flow. Don’t see her behaviour as naughty or annoying. Instead, accept that this is your child’s expression of trust and be her safety island.

Be a role model

This is a big change for yourself, too, so it’s normal to feel anxious. Do what you need to do to take care of your own emotions – have a good cry once your child has been dropped off, talk to a friend, do something nice for yourself and try to have a happy, relaxed attitude about school. Your child will pick up on your feelings, so model what you want to see in her.

Introduce an earlier bedtime

Your child is adjusting to change and she’s also required to work a lot harder than before, so she will be tired. Set up an earlier bed time routine to allow for extra rest. You will probably benefit from an earlier bedtime, too. Nothing helps better with emotions running wild than a good night’s sleep.

Minimise after-school activities

I can tell you from personal experience that there’s nothing quite as frustrating as trying to drag a reluctant 5-year-old to a gymnastics class after school and there’s absolutely no reason why you should have to go through it every week. If your child is feeling more tired and irritable than usual, put swimming and dance lessons on hold for the first term or two. You can always re-enroll in a few months, when your new student is happy and confident at school.

Hopefully, everything will be effortless for you and you won’t need any of my tips for starting kindergarten. But just in case you’re having a hard time, I want you to know that you’re not alone. And that your child (and you) will adjust.

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5 Ways To Get Dads Involved In Parenting

Dads of the twenty first century are now expected to parent children, more than any other time in history. This includes step-dads, separated or divorced dads. While fathers have taken on disciplinary roles in the past, day to day parenting has traditionally been the responsibility of mothers.

The main issue with this massive shift in societal roles and expectations is lack of experience, knowledge and guidance. This is because many fathers of previous generations neglected critical aspects of parenting. For many, they just didn’t know how.

RELATED: The Ultimate Parenting Tip… Consistency

As a result today’s dads who want to be more involved in parenting, may lack the knowledge, skills or confidence. They won’t admit it, but many haven’t had sufficient exposure to effective role models. They are learning parenting skills from sources like the internet, other dads and their child’s mother.

This is why encouraging fathers to parent children is so vital. Not only in satisfaction raising them but to educate fathers of the future. Mothers need to play a pivotal role in achieving this. Particularly if they are going to make an impact on generations of parents who surpass them. The question is how?

Relinquish control

Mothers have an innate way of hovering over their offspring regardless of their age. This is an enormous responsibility, especially in the infancy stage and one which can and should be shared. Offering responsibilities to fathers will lighten the load and encourage involvement.

While most fathers would be happy for this to occur, it’s mothers who have stunted progress. The key here is for mothers to relinquish control. (Easier said than done!) It doesn’t matter if things aren’t done the same or if parenting styles aren’t exact. As long as both parents remain consistent children learn to adapt. This is a valuable life lesson which enables kids to adapt to different situations as they get older. Much like they do when they have multiple teachers at school.

Building confidence

It’s very easy to pick someone else’s parenting efforts to pieces, especially in the heat of the moment when kids play up. Ridiculing parenting efforts will only encourage fathers to doubt themselves and withdraw. The aim is to encourage, provide support, grow and learn together. This builds confidence in both parents.

When positive parenting efforts or changes occur, use praise and provide more opportunities for fathers to use their new skills. Remember, the only way to improve and gain confidence is to practice.


Talk about your parenting experiences and issues often. I can’t stress this enough. This will provide an opportunity to become a united front. Kids need to know what their behavioural expectations are from both parents. If given the opportunity, they will divide and conquer to get their way. This applies from toddler to adult so you may as well start as soon as possible.

If they manage to divide you it will cause enormous strain on your family. As parents, set consistent boundaries together and most importantly enforce them. Communicating is the only way you can make this work, regardless of whether you are parenting together or apart. Separated parents have a much higher chance of being manipulated by kids to get their way. Communicate with your child’s father / step-father and make it a priority.

Remember not to attack but voice concerns if you have them. To avoid attacking start sentences with “I” instead of “you”, followed by the behaviour. Address the behaviour, not the individual. For example; “I feel uncomfortable when you…”. Instead of “You make me uncomfortable when you…”. Parenting can be a touchy subject, so be mindful of how you say what’s on your mind.

Alone time

It’s really important that fathers get alone time to bond with their kids. Separated parents often argue about this. Unless a child is in immediate danger, fathers should have private access to their kids. It’s all about what’s best for them, not how you feel personally about your ex. The children love you both, so keep negative parenting opinions to yourself.

If you are a partnered parent avoid pushing alone time opportunities upon fathers who need time out. Be fair and possibly create a schedule so both parents have parenting time alone. Also encourage fathers to take the kids away from home. Initially a park outing might be enough. Use gradual exposure to build confidence.

Fathers who have little exposure to their children alone in public are often quite timid about the idea. It’s generally a confidence thing. Plus the thought of anything going wrong and needing to report back to the mother is terrifying. Don’t laugh, because this is a viable rationale, especially for step-dads.

Give fathers time to learn

Finally, provide time for growth. Some fathers are intimidated by the responsibility, the actual size of babies or small children and above all making mistakes. Encourage them, provide opportunity and guidance, praise their efforts and above all be patient.

If you think it would be helpful find a local parenting group. Some are offered especially for fathers and some can be done together. They can be very helpful in educating both mothers and fathers adapt to their twenty first century parenting roles. Take a look at your local council website for options.

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Restaurant Wars: Child-Free Dining Is Not The Answer

Fun fact: the proverb “children should be seen and not heard” actually dates back to the 15th century when it was a medieval saying specifically aimed at young women, who were expected to keep quiet. Well, in the dying stages of 2014, I say, f*** that.

RELATED: How To Eat Out With Kids – And Enjoy Your Meal

The proverb is offensive in all its forms and meanings; we do our children (not to mention young women!) a great disservice by treating them like second-class citizens not worthy of our time, attention and company.

And so to the ugly child-free dining debate: I was recently shocked to find a local café, brimming with what my three-year-old lovingly calls “fancy Nancy” style furnishings and gifts (after the popular children’s books), also had a large, obnoxious: “All kids must be seated and noise kept to a minimum” sign at great odds with its welcoming, girlie surrounds.

And while this café wasn’t outright banning kids, its churlish sign certainly did put a dampener on my dining experience.

child-free dining, eating out, parenting

It’s rogue, irresponsible parents to blame for unruly kids in restaurants, not the kids themselves; I reckon most little people are inherently good-natured and eager to please, just like my cute, little three-year-old, whose excellent manners put many adults to shame.

She happily and quietly chatted away to me, firmly seated, while enjoying her babyccino, and even flipped through a women’s magazine, just as I did. Meanwhile, groups of adults at tables nearby made much more noise than she did.

Why ban kids from restaurants, or make parents of small children feel unwelcome and uncomfortable with rude, repellent signs? Here’s a big heads-up to café owners/restaurateurs and childless couples or singles: we once walked among you – it ain’t easy being shut up at home with small people – where’s the empathy?

Wouldn’t it be kinder, not to mention more profitable, to welcome tired, harassed parents (and their offspring) rather than shame them? And from my experience, and I do so love dining out – I’ve seen very few instances of naughty, rowdy kids actually running amok in cafes/restaurants, but far more instances of adults behaving badly. Where are the rude, bullshit signs for that, too? “Any adults caught speaking loudly and drunkenly will be asked to leave.” Now, I’d like to see that.

Not all little kids are badly behaved arseholes! What’s more, parents need to be able to teach their little ones good manners, social etiquette and sensitivity to other people’s needs and personal space in public, free from the mean-spirited “tut-tutting” brigade. How else can they learn how to respect their fellow diners and what’s right from wrong?

child-free dining, eating out, parenting
However, I do think parents with small kids need to exercise a bit of common sense when it comes to dining out with littlies, especially at night. Go early, well before the rush hour, and your little person’s own in-built “cactus-hour” tantrum-time – maybe even ask the restaurant to give you a quiet, more private table, away from other diners. And if an inconsolable toddler tantrum ensues, apologise and abort.

I much prefer dining out with my toddlers during the day, rather than at night (hello, date night!), but working parents sometimes find themselves in unavoidable situations and I’d like to think a restaurant would make my little people feel comfortable if necessary. And I love that my little girl has learnt to handle herself well in any environment or social setting (I’m still working on the one-year-old), and I’ll damn-well continue to take her to any restaurant or café I please.


What do you think? Is child-free dining the Antichrist or a necessary evil?

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Shared Care Tips For Separated Parents

Millions of separated or divorced couples share care of their kids. For many of these people the kids are the only reason there continues to be a connection. Yes, it would be easier to remove them from your life, but if a parent wants to be involved in the care of their child and is capable of doing so, personality differences or your past relationship baggage should not hinder this. You both need to find a way through your emotions to make it happen.

Negotiation of shared care over school holidays, special events like birthdays and Christmas, can be an opportunity for yet another heated argument. Rather than needing each negotiation to be heard before the courts or witnessed by mediators, you both really need to find a positive way to keep the peace, specifically for your children. If either parent can’t get past this, the damage you are both doing to your children may be irreversible. Therefore, we have some tips for you to keep in mind when dealing with your ex.

Tip 1: It’s not about you and it’s not about your ex. It’s all about the kids you have both created and doing what’s best for them. It’s that simple.

Tip 2: Make any negotiations like a business transaction. Keep emotions out of the decision making process.

Tip 3: Be fair and open to compromise.

Tip 4: Don’t abuse, argue with, belittle or put down your ex to their face or in front of your children. Your children are a combination of the two of you and therefore they feel like you are also attacking them or don’t like aspects of them. If you need to vent, do so well away from your children so they don’t overhear you.

Tip 5: The kids love you both, so you need to let them in their own way. If they want to give something to the other parent or be with them, encourage it. If children have a healthy relationship with both their parents, they are far more likely to be able to have healthy relationships when they get older.

Tip 6:You are role modelling their future relationships. Always be aware of this and provide positive role modelling.

Tip 7: Find a way to negotiate with your ex for shared care. Many people send simple text messages like “Picking the kids up at 6pm Friday and I will bring them back at 6pm Sunday night.” It’s all facts with no emotion.

Tip 8: Some people find the change over an extreme issue. There are a few options you can organise:

  • Both of you have a mutual family member pick up and drop off
  • Changeover in the car park of the local police station
  • Changeover somewhere with security cameras
  • If the children are old enough, stay in your cars and let the children swap vehicles

Tip 9: Remember above all else, to keep your emotions in check. If you feel baited; walk away, hang up; whatever. Don’t be the one to bait or look for that argument, either. Instead of making it as difficult as possible for the other parent, make this as easy as possible for your kids.

Tip 10: Every decision you both make should be about your children. If your ex doesn’t get that, no amount of arguing is going to change it. Be polite, do what’s right and ignore their bad behavior. If they are looking for a bite and you don’t give it to them, they will eventually stop and get on board with doing what’s right for the sake of the kids.

If they don’t change, understand that you can’t alter their behavior. (This may be why you separated?!) Don’t argue about it. The kids will see what’s happening and everything will take care of itself as they get older. They will know that you have tried your best and put them first above all else.

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Attack Of The Mummy Guilt: Is Daycare Really Bad For Kids?

Breaking news: yet another study says daycare is bad for kids and working mothers all over our great nation get a serious attack of the guilts, again. This time, the recent study is from the University of Adelaide’s School of Population Health, but the message is a recurring one: if you put your child in daycare, you are a bad, bad mummy.

Related: Should Daycare Centres Have Zero Tolerance To Violent Kids

I’m being highly sarcastic of course – many, many women (and men) have to work out of sheer economic necessity, so daycare isn’t a choice, it’s an essential. And even if you don’t work, but are juggling other small kids or – gasp – just want some kid-free time to yourself, you selfish heathen, you – daycare performs a vitally important role in our society.

In addition, if you’re lucky enough to a) find a good daycare centre you can afford and b) a good daycare centre that has vacancies to begin with – this in itself feels like a major miracle and something to be grateful and happy about.

But no – along comes another set of uni researchers who seem hell bent on making parents, particularly working mums, feel bad about their choices. Well, I’m calling bullshit on this study!

It claims a link between children in daycare centres and behavioural problems. The study revealed that in a study of 3200 children in all types of childcare, by the time the kids were four, the children were more likely to be hyperactive, disruptive and aggressive.

As to why this is, PhD student Angela Gialamas – who contributed to the study – has said it’s due to a lack of consistency of care as daycare kids are moved around from room-to-room as they get older.

This study received much press, so good work, University of Adelaide! Round of applause. And my fave quote goes to the aforementioned Angela Gialamas who said: “The last thing we want to do is make parents feel guilty about childcare”. Too bloody late, Angela?!

daycare, working mums, uni study

You see, what a lot of news outlets didn’t focus on was that the same study showed that when daycare kiddies eventually head off to school they were found to be happier, less clingy and less likely to be depressed. Win, win, win!

What’s more – child psychologists say the No.1 predictor of how a child turns out is parents. Not daycare, but parents – providing a safe, loving and nurturing environment for your child which allows him/her to thrive.

In addition, daycare unquestionably teaches kids good social skills and resilience, and how to adapt to structure and routines. From personal experience, our three-year-old daughter’s language skills and socialisation has improved greatly since she started attending daycare twice weekly from the age of two. And, even better, like a great, big soothing balm for my working mummy guilt, she bloody loves going to daycare and has made many firm friends there.

So, enough of these stupid, unhelpful studies – if university researchers really want to help kids, start with their stressed mothers! Why aren’t there more university studies hitting the headlines about how we as a society can better support new mothers? Or, what about one on why bringing up a baby always, always becomes a woman’s job? Or, better still, let’s get uni research boffins really scratching their heads over how best to support women returning to the workforce – gasp – after having had children?!

What do you think?

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Teaching Your Kids To Be On Time

Being on time is a helpful habit to have. In future it can help your kids start both their work and personal relationships on the right foot. Right now it can save you lots of stress. I don’t know about you, but nothing tests my parenting calm as much as running late and trying to get my kids to hurry up. Of course, when kids are very young it’s up to us to make sure they’re ready by a certain time, but we can start teaching them habits and skills early on that will make it easier for them (and for us!) later.

RELATED: 7 Tips For A Smoother School Run

Get organised in advance

Do you always leave everything until the last moment and then spend precious minutes looking for your keys, phone and your kids’ shoes? That’s my default way of being. I’d still happily do exactly that if now I didn’t have triple the amount of stuff to prepare for any outing and if I didn’t have three pairs of little eyes watching me and learning. It pays to put some effort in to get everything ready beforehand and encourage your kids to help you. Before you know it, they’ll be doing it all by themselves.

Give your kids some responsibility

Kids love acting grown up and independent. Even if your children can’t tell the time yet, you can explain that when the handle reaches a certain position, they’ll need to finish their breakfast or start getting dressed. Then ask them to watch the clock for you and tell you when it’s time. In case they forget (which they will), gently prompt them, but without completely taking over the task, for example, “I wonder when it’ll be time to put our shoes on…” Older kids can try figuring out how long it takes them to do each task and what time they’d need to wake up to make sure they’re ready.

Engage your kids’ imagination

When you talk about why being on time is important, don’t turn it into a monologue. Before you offer answers, invite your kids to imagine what they’d be missing out on if they were late for school, to a party or a play date. Their imaginations will paint vivid pictures for them and they’ll want to get there quickly.

Teaching kids about time can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be an arduous task. Be lighthearted about it and turn it into a game, and all of you can have lots of fun with it.

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How To Deal With Toddler Separation Anxiety

When it happens for the first time, separation anxiety can be cute and make you feel special. You can see that your baby wants you and you only, and your heart melts. But by the time your baby turns into a toddler, it has long become tiring and frustrating. You hate to see your toddler upset, but you have to work, run errands or simply take time out for yourself. Here are some ways to deal with separation anxiety gently, so that you can make time apart as easy as possible both for yourself and your child.

RELATED: How To Survive The Day Care Drop-off

Let your toddler get familiar with the caregiver

It’s completely normal that your toddler doesn’t want to stay with strangers and you wouldn’t want it any other way. Whenever possible, choose a caregiver the child knows well or allow time for them to get to know each other before you go. If your toddler is starting day care, come in a couple of times beforehand, so that your child gets familiar both with the caregivers and the new space where she’ll be spending her time.

Talk to your toddler about what’s happening

Explain to her that you’re leaving and tell her when you’re going to be back. Your toddler doesn’t understand the concept of time, so to give her an idea how long you’re going to be away for, tell her what’s going to happen in the meantime. For example, “You’ll play with Grandma, have lunch, then you’ll have a nap and I’ll be back”.

Say ‘Goodbye’

It can be tempting to sneak out while your child is occupied and avoid the tears, but don’t do it. Next time she’ll be watching you like a hawk and you’ll have a harder time separating. More importantly, you’ll be breaking her trust. Her world will look unsafe and unpredictable  – one moment mummy is there, the next moment she’s gone.

Stay calm

Allow your child to express her feelings and don’t give in to the temptation to show anger, irritation or that you’re upset, too. By staying calm and loving, you’re showing your child that you’re accepting her just the way she is, both of you are safe and everything is ok.

Gradually increase the time away

If you can, start small to get your child more comfortable and reassure her that you always come back. If your toddler is starting day care, have a few short days and pick her up early. As she relaxes, you can increase the time you spend away without causing more anxiety.

Leave a comfort object

Toddlers can take great comfort in a favourite toy, blanket or something that reminds them of you – a scarf or a shirt.

Give lots of attention when you return

Your toddler will running low on love by the end of her time without you and she’ll need her love cup refilled. Read a book together, do some craft or something else your child loves to do and give lots of cuddles.

As difficult as it may be, your toddler’s separation anxiety is a normal part of her development and she will outgrow it eventually.

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Raising Empathetic Kids

People often say that kids are selfish and I don’t believe it. I see my 21-month-old giving her siblings a cuddle when they cry. Even at her young age she has some understanding what others are experiencing and she’s trying to help. When she’s not kind and considerate, it’s not because she’s selfish. She either can’t relate to the other person’s experience or she may be hungry, hurt or upset herself, which is distracting her from what’s going on around her.

The seed of empathy is already there, but it’s our job as parents to nurture this quality so that our children can grow into caring adults. Here are some practical ways to do this.

Teach children to recognise their emotions

Help them notice when they’re feeling angry, sad, frustrated, happy or peaceful. Put words to the emotions and encourage them to talk about what they’re feeling. Talk about emotions that you can find in books they’re reading or movies they’re watching. Ask questions like ‘How does this character feel?’

Talk about your own feelings

If your child sees you sad or angry, it’s very easy to say, ‘I’m ok’ and put a fake smile on. I’ve done it more than once myself, it’s my natural instinct to protect my children from negative emotions. They can learn more about emotions and empathy, if you let them in on your feelings instead. Of course, I’m not suggesting that you put the weight of your problems onto your children’s shoulders. Just a short answer about how you’re feeling and why is sufficient. Not only it’ll be a good teaching moment, it’ll also deepen your connection with your children and help clear any doubts they may have that your bad mood could be related to something they’ve done.

Relate other people’s emotions to your children’s experience

To us it may be obvious that if someone hits us and it hurts, it must mean that when we hit someone else we will hurt them. A young child hasn’t necessarily developed the same ability to recognise patterns. That’s why it’s important to not just say ‘no’ to hitting or encourage your child to say ‘thank you’, but also explain why and how your child’s actions will affect others. Look for examples from their own lives to give them so that they can understand or return to the conversation when an example comes up.

Model empathy

It seems obvious, doesn’t it? Yet, I had to add being a role model, because it is so easy to lose our empathy for our children when they’re pushing our buttons. Often we’re quick to jump to conclusions and label our kids’ behaviour as ‘bad’, without trying to understand it first.

Modelling empathy applies to positive situations, too. Have you ever dismissed your child’s excitement about something they’ve achieved only because you were too absorbed in your own stuff? It happens to me almost daily! And it only takes a few seconds to give them your full attention, share their joy and then return to what you were doing.

Be patient

As you can see from the above examples, no one is perfectly empathetic all the time, not even us, parents. Don’t expect it from your children either. Be prepared to repeat yourself again and again, and be there for them when they make mistakes.

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By Tatiana Apostolova

How To Stay Calm When Your Kids Push Your Buttons

Before I had kids I often imagined how I’d always be able to stay calm and I’d never say any of the angry things my mum said to me when I was a child. It shows how little I knew about parenting back then. It may be easy to keep your cool when you’re lying by the pool after a full night’s sleep, fantasising what it would be like to be a mum. Reality, when sleep and lying by the pool have long become faint memories, is a whole different matter.

Your children will inevitably push your buttons and you will feel angry, lost and frustrated. In those moments painful feelings cloud our good judgment and effective behaviour options become difficult to see. What helps is to have a plan and a few tricks up your sleeve ahead of time, so when those situations arise you know what to do. Here are some of the tools I use when my kids are driving me crazy.

Take a few deep breaths

Unless someone is in danger, there’s no reason why you should react immediately and not wait for a few seconds. Give yourself the space to think and remember some techniques you can use to reconnect with your children on a deeper level.

See the world from your children’s point of view

Depending on your mood and your child’s personality this can be easy or it can be a real challenge. One of my children’s personalities is very similar to mine and seeing the world as he’d see it can be effortless. All I need to do is look through the eyes of the younger me. My other two children are very different and imagining what the world looks like requires some flights of fantasy. It helps to practice seeing through your children’s eyes when you’re feeling happy. It’s fascinating what you learn about them and it becomes easier when you’re not at your best.

Imagine your children as a babies

When you’re about to snap, bring up the image of your children as tiny babies, when they were helpless, vulnerable and entirely dependent on you. Usually just bringing up the image makes my eyes teary and I feel a big surge of love that helps me make a better decisions. On some level my children are still my babies and always will be.

Pretend that someone’s watching

It’s not the most comfortable thing to admit, but most of us are less likely to react with anger if we’re in public. Does that mean that what strangers think is more important to us than our kids (a scary thought)? Of course not, but good behaviour in public has been drilled into us to the point of becoming automatic, so we instinctively lower our voices and put on polite smiles. You can use this to defuse the situation when you’re at home simply by pretending that you have an audience.

Practice on yourself

Even with all the preparation you can get, there’ll still be times when you stuff up and go off at your kids. And you probably make bad decisions now and then in other areas in your life, too. Be gentle with yourself and give yourself the love and compassion you’d like to give to your children. We all make mistakes – forgive, learn from them and move on.

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By Tatiana Apostolova

How To Eat Out With Kids – And Enjoy Your Meal

My husband and I used to love eating out before we had kids. All we had to do was show up and enjoy our conversation. Someone else would cook our food, serve it beautifully and do all the washing up afterwards. Kids complicated things a bit. We’d plan for a lovely, relaxing evening and we’d get crying children, who run around and throw their food on the ground. Both my husband and I would be feeling exhausted by the end of the night, vowing to never do it again. But then we’d do it again anyway. And again. We tried different approaches and eventually, we worked out some ways to make dining out enjoyable even with kids.

Have realistic expectations

Kids are not going sit still and quiet while you’re having an adult conversation. They’ll move around, play, talk, sing, laugh and demand your attention (if they don’t, they’re probably not feeling that well). Instead of trying to control their behaviour and get frustrated when you fail, know that you kids are perfectly fine just the way they are and plan for it.

Choose your timing

Opt for an early or late lunch, or early dinner, when there aren’t many people at the restaurant. It’s good to encourage appropriate manners as best as you can, but if the kids are noisy, crawl under the tables and walk around, at quiet times they can do so without disturbing the other visitors. You’ll also get quicker service and avoid boredom that comes with waiting.

Choose your location

Our favourite restaurant has a play area with a gate that children can’t open by themselves. They love playing there and we can concentrate on our meals and each other without worrying that the kids will wander off. Unfortunately, it’s rare to come across this type of setup, but there are many places with a small play section and a few toys for the kids.

Choose your food

Study the menu in advance and make sure that the restaurant offers something that your children will like. While you can bring kids’ snacks with you, eating food from home takes away from the excitement of going out. You’d be able to keep the children’s interest longer if they get to ‘choose’ their own food. Then there’s an element of surprise when the meals come out. Even if it’s the same food the children always eat, when it’s served differently, it seems different.

Give them attention

Children will often do crazy things to get our attention, so offering attention before things get out of hand is always a good strategy. Show interest in their activities, help them with their meal and involve them in the conversation.

Finally, don’t let one or two bad experiences (which will inevitably happen) discourage you. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with giving up dining out for the time being, but if it’s something that brings you joy, it’s worth persisting. Next time choose a different restaurant or different time, bring a different toy. Experiment to find what works for you and your family.

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By Tatiana Apostolova

10 Tips to Stimulate Your Child’s Brain

A child’s brain is like a very active sponge that is constantly developing and adapting. This process is something we need to take advantage of in the best way possible. It’s imperative that we find new and interesting activities or techniques to stimulate our child’s mind. This will ensure that their brains are kept healthy whilst allowing them to tap into their inner creativity and imagination, a combination that will help them excel later on in life.

Nutritional Medicine Practitioner and Educator Warren Maginn offers 10 tips and techniques to support your child’s brain health and wellbeing.

1. Encourage exploration and play
A child needs to be allowed to explore the world and engage in the beauty of discovery, investigation and experimentation. Whether it’s examining flowers in the garden or hiking up a mountain, building a sand castle or swimming in the ocean, these activities allow your child to think and to discover new ideas and places, all the while stimulating their senses.

2. Board games and puzzles
Board games and puzzles are not only educational, but also an ideal way to stimulate a child’s imagination. They allow your child to think and identify new ways to solve problems, and they help to develop fine motor skills. The great part about these kinds of activities is that children have so much fun, they learn in a completely effortless way.

3. Take your child on day trips
Turn your child into a culture geek and they will be forever grateful. Weekly excursions to a museum, art gallery or aquarium are extremely informative and mentally stimulating. These places contain so much movement, history, colour and mystery, they keep a child excited, alert and wanting more.

4. Healthy food means a healthy brain
As much as your child may fight you for presenting them with funny looking veggies for dinner, it’s important that you include healthy foods in their diet. The vitamins and nutrients found in vegetables play a vital role in the healthy development of a child’s brain and body. Try incorporating nutritious foods into your child’s diet from day one, and it will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives.

5. Incorporate omega 3 supplements into your child’s diet.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an omega-3 essential fatty acid that helps support brain and visual development and function, especially during prenatal development, in growing babies and in children. DHA is required for optimal health but cannot be produced by the body, so it must be obtained through diet or supplements. DHA is found in cold-water fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, lake trout, and sardines. High quality, purified fish and algae oils are also safe, effective sources of DHA.

6. Exercise and hobbies
There is an abundance of research on the relation between exercise and healthy cognitive functioning in children. Whether your child plays soccer, goes swimming or even has piano classes, involvement in some kind of extra-curricular activity after school is something that will enhance memory, concentration, behaviour and academic achievement.

7. Teach your child another language
It has been said that bilingual children are smarter than those who speak just one language, because speaking two requires using different parts of the brain. If you don’t know another language this is actually a fantastic opportunity for you to learn one with your child, even just a little. It can enhance general communication skills, as well as help your child see the world from a new perspective.

8. Discipline
Everyone has different parenting skills, but this doesn’t mean that all discipline should go out the window. Setting limits is actually a way of teaching and when your child has done something that you disapprove of, it’s important to tell them why it was wrong, but in a positive way. In doing so, you stimulate their sense of boundaries and control, which is a necessary tool for guidance later on in life.

9. Read and sing to your child
Singing and reading to your child allows for them to participate in something engaging, fun and stimulating while developing their brain at the same time. While singing entertains your child and enhances their linguistic skills, reading improves their attention spans and sets them up for academic achievement later on in life.

10. Socialise your child
Make an effort and take every opportunity within your community to include your child in birthday parties and after school play dates, because social skills are valuable at every stage of life.  Spending time with other children will teach your child about forming friendships, other personality types and ultimately, empathy and compassion for people.

What activities or techniques have your children responded to positively?

For information visit

Online Safety and Cyber-Bullying Tips For Parents

With our kids glued to their laptops (or smartphones, or tablets…), it’s hard for parents to know exactly what they’re doing online.

Even more troubling, recent statistics from Telstra show that 52% of young people regret posts they have made online, and 82% did not realise the long-term impact of their posts. And now that the new school year has started, the challenge for parents to protect their kids from cyber bullying has never been more important.

Telstra’s Manager of Cyber Safety, Shelly Gorr, said that today’s culture of online sharing has changed society’s notions of privacy forever and that it is important to equip children with tools and advice to participate in the digital world safely.

“Ongoing conversations with your children about cyber safety essentials such as when to share personal information online, handling approaches from cyberbullies and applying social network privacy settings could avoid a lot of regret in the future,” said Ms Gorr.

Rosie Thomas, the cofounder of anti-bullying and leadership organisation Project Rockit, said the Telstra research shows that children heading into the schoolyard armed with digital devices should be empowered to stand up for themselves and others online.

“Social media and the internet is an awesome place for breaking down social barriers and harnessing people power to do the right thing. We need to give young people the tools to make the most of everything the internet offers, including the strength to stand up and be leaders in both the online and offline worlds,” said Ms Thomas.

Here’s how to deal with online safety and cyber-buylling without alienating your kids:

1. Talk with your kids about their digital lives and let your children know you’re always there for them.

2. Protect personal information – teach your children how to turn on privacy settings.

3. Encourage children to ‘think before they click’, to think about content and the consequences of posting it.

4. Be an offline supporter. Encourage kids to have some screen-free time each day and turn off devices at bedtime.

5. Teach kids to treat others the same way they’d like to be treated online and be zero-tolerant to rude or mean online behaviour.

6. Don’t just talk about the right thing to do; be a role model with your own digital habits.

Have you spoken to your kids about online safety and cyber-bullying? 

How to Encourage Kids to Love Their School Lunch

Did you know only one third of 8-14 year olds pack their lunch box every day? A recent study found those who pack their lunch only occasionally are less likely to eat everything in their lunch box than those packing lunch every day – and may be subsequently missing out on critical nutrients and energy.

Experts agree that getting children involved in packing wholesome, nutrient-rich lunch boxes is one of the most important things a parent can provide for their child. Kids are capable of packing their lunches from around the age of 8 or 9, so why not encourage them to get in the kitchen and pack a lunch with your help?

Accredited practising dietitian Kate Di Prima shares her best tip for parents to make lunch box packing easy for their kids.

1. Timing is key!
Encourage kids to prepare as much as they can the night before to avoid the crazy rush in the morning.

2. Provide a sturdy lunch box
Look for a lunch box which has space for 4-5 containers or compartments. Use this as an opportunity to teach your child to ‘reduce, reuse, and recycle’ for our environment.

3. Pre-cut fruit, veggies and cheese
Then wrap in plastic wrap or store in containers in the fridge. This will prevent the need for kids to use sharp knives in the kitchen.

4. Plan dinner meals
They can be used for lunch box leftovers the next day e.g.  A barbecue beef meal on Sunday night provides great Monday lunch leftovers for easy sandwich / wrap fillings that kids will  love.

5. Colour code food items
This will help correspond with recess and lunch breaks. Eating the right combinations of foods can help with energy, concentration and stamina. Use red stickers for recess and green for lunch.

Do your kids pack their own lunch?

Tips for Travelling with Kids this Holiday Season

Planning a relaxing holiday with the kids this summer? You’ve probably been looking forward to it all year…and dreading it at the same time! Will the kids behave? Will they be bored? Will I be able to enjoy myself?

Travelling with children can turn a holiday into a stressful nightmare. According to a recent survey compiled by Tourism Australia, almost 50% of Australian families take family road trips over the holidays. Long car journeys with tired and cranky children fighting in the backseat or a fun restaurant visit turned crazy tantrum can raise stress levels and take the fun out of family time.

Karen Phillip, parent and family counsellor and author of Who Runs Your House – The Kids or You? knows the difficulties of travelling with children and shares her tips to keep the kids happy and your holiday blissful.

1. Have activities
Activities and planning are needed to keep children occupied and calm during travel times and restaurant visits. Relying on a DVD or tablet to keep young children entertained on a long journey is usually doomed to fail unless it is mixed with other activities and regular short breaks.

“Make sure you have age appropriate activities, like colouring books or tablets available during a long journey, but make sure to interrupt their activities at a suitable time to talk and play a game with them. For long journeys in the car regular stops are needed to give the children a chance to burn some energy and run around, kick a ball or play in a park on the way,” says Karen.

2. Keep them informed 
The best way to start a long journey is to let the children know the journey might take a long time. A child’s concept of time may vary depending on their age, and a young child might understand time better in relation to something they know e.g. “the same time you are at school every day.”

3. Reward good behaviour
Karen advocates rewards for the well behaved children. Rewards can be anything from being able to choose the bed or room they sleep in when arriving at the destination, or receiving a treat when they stop for lunch, while the child that is misbehaving only receives a basic sandwich. “If the plan was to stop at McDonalds, let them know that if they are behaving you will stop at McDonalds, but if they are loud or misbehave the stop will be somewhere less fun the parents choose”.

4. Learn how to eat out
When it comes to eating at restaurants, the training starts at home. Karen believes that all children need to learn as early as possible how to sit at a table, to sit on a chair properly, use cutlery appropriately and wait for their meals to be served. “If children learn this basic concepts, dinner out isn’t a painful experience. I do however recommend parents ensure they have an arsenal of quiet activities such as books and games to entertain the child if they are having dinner with other adults,” says Karen.

Karen’s advice is, if a child’s behaviour escalates or they throw a tantrum at the table, remove them from the area and use the two choices method as explained in the book. “If a child continues to misbehave, let them know they will miss out on something special, like a planned holiday activity”, Karen says. “Once this happens they know a consequence will take place, and they will usually think twice next time”.

For more information on Karen Phillip and her new book visit

What are your top tips for travelling with children?

Happy Mother Happy Child

A couple of years ago I began my own Happiness Project. I would do what makes me happy. I would still have to work, but keep my bills low and drive a car I’ve been told looks like I bought it from a drug dealer. I didn’t care. I was doing an exegesis on the art of being happy and staying there.

“I would just take drugs, have sex all the time and eat a lot”, a lawyer friend told me.

“Okay. But would that really make you happy?” I asked, meaningfully.

“Yes. That would really make me happy,” he said.

My Happiness Project was more craft-based. I would paint for the first time since high school. Learn to cook Indonesian. Buy summer dresses. Lift weights. Talk about happiness like a stock investment I was watching.

“That’s sounds pretty indulgent to me,” one mother snapped.

“Unbearable to listen to, actually,” another mother said.

“You just have to do what excites you!” I said, again.

“I’d like to put my children into state care. Then go travel for two years and pick them up afterwards,” one mum joked. “That would make me really happy.”

“Okay. Is there any way you can be happy without doing that?” I asked.

“I suppose I could give them to my mother.”

Another mother said, “I would quit my job and stay home with my children. That would make me happy.” I would think about those mothers who stayed home and were going bat shit crazy…“You might not want to do that.”

I don’t think women want it all – they just want to be happy with what they’re doing. Most parents put their child in front of the television from time to time and when they see them zonked out in front of it, feel guilty and turn it off. They pull out the building blocks, their faces set in a grim mask. “Let’s play building blocks,” the parents mutter. “No, no, no. I don’t want to play building blocks!” the child says, because that’s what children say and also, their play partner looks like they want to kill themselves. “Fine!” the parent says and knocks over the blocks with their hand.

I’ve babysat dozens of children and so I’m not allowed to kick the building blocks through the air, but I feel the same way sometimes. Mothers of our generation have been told to sit down and engage with their children. I can’t remember a single instance of my mother doing that or any mother I knew growing up, but we want to be better than they were. Building blocks. Fantasising, as you lay one block on another, about spending two years in Bali. Of course it would be a scandal if you just took off, but you could invent a story about a nervous breakdown or a job promotion. In Bali. Do people still have nervous breakdowns, you wonder? Did they ever exist or was that a brilliant excuse for a holiday? Might have to be more specific to really pull it off these days. “I’m having a bi-polar break, with episodic depression and suicidal ideation…In Bali.”

Our mothers solved the problem of ‘productive play’ by having more children. We weren’t really playing so much as throwing blocks at each other and crying, but our mothers got a break. It takes one pediatrician to announce the damage to a child’s synapses if they don’t get productive play and parents are back on the living room floor, death mask on. Everybody wants to do what is best for their child, but I think the form is wrong and by form I mean the structure of families in single-unit housing and community safety fears and its attendant isolation. Either one or both parents are working and they come home to be with their children, alone. It’s the aloneness of the experience that wears on mothers.

When I grew up, I was in and out of other people’s houses along the street and playing with their kids. We ran along alleyways and fought with each other and danced on each others beds and went home when it got dark. We knew who lived in the creepy house and we never went in there. We had our own lives. Recently, a parent told me they let their very mature seven year old play outside on the footpath, as long as he doesn’t leave the block. He is regularly brought home by a startled neighbour, like a dog who got out of the yard again.

Living in L.A., I’ve observed that picking children up at a Californian primary school involves sitting in a line of cars, colour-coded placard on the windshield with the child’s name and ten teachers in headsets feeding information about who has arrived. Teachers are running between cars, “Sam Smith! Sam Smith!” they bark into the walkie talkie. Sam Smith gets led by another teacher into the holding pen. Another adult walks him over to the car. I look at the banks of vehicles and think about the loss of productivity in the hour it takes to pick a child up from school. And the tedium of it. Is the alternative too horrifying…letting them walk home alone? What will be the effect of this loss of autonomy? No one wants to be the parent who takes the risk to find out. We are the first generation of parents who grew up knowing the high rates of sexual abuse. One in three women. One in five men. How do we find a way to keep our children safe without cloistering them with our fear?

When you’re a kid walking with a gang and you’ve all got time to burn, it’s terrifying and exhilarating. You are learning how other kids live and which Dad is strict and whose brother’s a dick and which Mum is crazy. We were learning to trust our instincts. Standing outside the creepy house, one kid will knock on the door and everyone does a runner. It was our neighbourhood and we were known. We didn’t have to think about being happy, we were living.

Vivienne Walshe is an Australian playwright and screenwriter. Her plays have been highly awarded and published by Currency Press. As an actress she appeared on The Secret Life of Us and many other television shows and performed in plays at the Melbourne Theatre company, Sydney Theatre company and Queensland Theatre company. 

How to Prepare for Schoolies for Parents and School Leavers

As Year 12’s begin the countdown to their end of year celebrations, schoolies travel expert Jot Lynas says now is the time for parents to take an active role in their teen’s holiday planning and preparation to ensure they have a safe and fun experience.

As CEO of Unleashed Travel, which offers chaperoned experiences at a designated ‘schoolies only’ destinations, Jot has extensive experience in ensuring students maximise fun during schoolies and minimise the potential dangers. “With some simple preventive measures, parents can ensure their teen’s trip is as enjoyable as it safe, and at the same time ease their own worries. I always encourage open dialogue between parents and teens as the very first place to begin,” he says.

With nearly 10,000 schoolies trips organised by Unleashed Travel, Jot shares his expertise to help both parents and school leavers make the most of the experience.

Tips for parents

1.         Do your research: Google everything possible about the resort and travel provider that your teen has booked with. If you see any red flags, chat to your child about these concerns as a priority. Don’t forget to give a solution to any issue you raise as this is what you child will need to call upon if the time arises.

2.         Confirm your trust: While you may have your doubts, confirming to your teen that you know they’re responsible and that you have high expectations of them will encourage them to try and keep this trust. Speaking openly and warmly will allow you to reach this place, rather than nagging, or enforcing your rules and expectations.

3.         Talk to other parents: Remember that your teen is travelling with a group of friends, that means there are other parents in the same boat. Make the time to chat to these parents, find out if they’re on the same page as you and if they’ve also prepared their child. By all parents giving the same safety message you’re increasing the chances of the group listening.

4.         Plan activities for you: The last thing you should be doing is sitting around wondering what your child is up to – it will drive you insane. Schedule a catch up with friends, plan to see a movie, or get out do something that you love. Either way make the most of your new-found free time!

5.         Schedule updates: This is the chance for your teen to be independent so hounding them with phone calls every day won’t be received well. Communication doesn’t have to be via phone call – a text when they arrive followed by one scheduled quick chat midweek is enough. If you don’t hear from them on at the nominated time, then its ok to call and check all is ok.

Tips for school leavers

1.       Make copies of everything: Getting caught up in having fun can make you careless with your belongings. Make copies of your passport, insurance policy, travel documents and credit card numbers and store a copy electronically e.g. in your email account, plus leave a copy with your parents. If something goes wrong, this ten minute step with save you significant time and possibly money.

2.       Don’t leave anything out: Be honest and upfront with your parents about where you’re staying, who you’re going with and what you’ll be doing when you get there. The more information you can provide the more trust they’ll have in you.

3.       Heading overseas? Know the rules: Some rules that don’t apply in Australia might be enforced in other countries, so make sure you are clued up on the law. What may seem like a minor issue to you may result in a huge penalty or even jail overseas, so don’t take any risks.

4.       Ask about any payment ‘add-ons’ upfront: If your resort advises there are additional costs ask for them to be stipulated upfront. Also beware of in room services, these can really add up at the end of the holiday. If you’re planning specific activities, source costs before you go and ensure these funds are set aside from your spending money.

5.       Assess everything for risks: Be smart. If you’re venturing into unknown territory, take a minute to assess if it feels right. If there’s any doubt in your mind, don’t risk going ahead. Voice your opinions with your friends too. And always tell at least one person where you’re going and when you plan to be back. Remember when travelling, you not only have to look out for yourself but also each other!

Are your kids going to schoolies? Share your experiences in the comments!

Motherhood in Moderation

Things to do: Heat leftovers, pester, kick washing machine, serve leftovers, lecture kids about gratitude and starving children, bath kids, shout at kids, take deep breaths, find peas in teapot, shout again, cry, group hug, re-light fire, bribe kids to bed, threaten kids with tech ban, watch trash TV and surf web, buy bodycon dress online, kick self, do 50 squats, resolve to be happy-fun-cool mum, go to sleep.

But in the morning someone’s wee’d all over the loo seat, there’s no milk and all resolve is dissolved. Happy-fun-cool doesn’t get a look in when cross-naggy-daggy gazes back at you from the mirror.

Motherhood does make me cross. Shouty cross. I love my little ferals to distraction and I think they are relatively good kids, but they do irritate the bejesus out of me. I know, children are supposed to be noisy and messy and smelly and intrusive; but their sapling status makes these traits only slightly less annoying.

But what aggravates me even more is the large pile of expectation that sits on the shoulders of mothers next to the large pile of washing; expectation of what we are supposed to be doing with said irritating ferals.

“Milly just loves the minted quinoa salad I put in her lunch box, oh and she’s doing so well at violin – three’s never too young. Did I tell you Finley’s already recognising flash cards?” Says some Smarmy Marmy at the park. I want to rush home, book a tutor, a piano teacher and a footy coach and wallpaper the house in words from the magic 200.

So it seems that motherhood makes me cross and insecure. I question pretty much everything I do in relation to my children. Should I try controlled crying?  Should I keep breastfeeding? Should I be showing them the dead budgie and a doco about famine? Should I let them go or should I watch them? Should I structure them or let them find their own fun? Should I call a penis a penis or a doodle? Should I stop shoulding all over everyone?

And then there’s all the literature, self-help stuff, research and articles that plops more questions into mum’s worry pot. Oh look, here’s one telling me that drinking alcohol whilst pregnant causes learning deficits. And if your baby doesn’t crawl she will be crap at maths. Teach them about privacy and money and jazz and ovaries and the evils of sugar and the joys of nature. Give them space, give them boundaries, give them opportunities but don’t push them, be patient, be honest but don’t tell them you tried pot, be organised but don’t rush, plan ahead but stay in the moment, take time for yourself.

Wait a minute, how do I stay in the moment if I’m busy being organised and getting the kids off to jazz class and on nature rambles and reading to them and teaching them about compost and worms whilst getting worms and nits out of them?

Help! I haven’t even got to sleep or washing or cooking or having a social life or a good credit rating or a bit of a hobby. Or a bit of nookie.

Here’s my theory: I would be less cross and insecure if we just go back to that oldie-goodie bit of advice: Everything in Moderation.

Everything, including bed bugs and Cheezels. Some days are good mum days where patience and reading and crazy trampoline jumping are things we can do. Other days we are all hurry up, go watch telly and what, jump? but you ruined my pelvic floor and I’ll wee my knickers.

Because if I’m honest (because it’s the best policy according to me when I lecture the children) I can’t be the good mum who makes chores fun and plays charades to stimulate imaginations all of the time. Not even a lot of the time. I know those amazing mums are out there and hats off to them but I’m not one of them. Maybe we all need to fess up and feel ok about our moderate (dodgy) parenting practices.

Here you go, I’ll start – I have been known to rely on telly and I do let them watch Horrible Histories because it has history in the title. I do shove them out the door with a packet of Chupa Chups so I can sweep the floor and check Facebook. I will do a small rain dance the night before an early soccer game and I can’t stand craft with children who can’t make tasteful collage choices. Oh and I rejoice in nutritionally negative two minute noodles.

Mistakes should be made in moderation too. Mistakes make for memorable lessons; they make things interesting and characterful and real.

In fact the only things that shouldn’t be moderated are love and laughter. I know, vomity gestures all ‘round but it’s true. As long as they’re loved and they know so, we should be able to get away with a bit of dodgmongery in the mothering stakes. And every single person benefits from a good dose of daily silly.

So, things to do: hug kids, tell them I think they’re lovely, kick washing machine, shout, kiss banged knee, boil pot for noodles, trip over dog, swear, impersonate an orang-utan, laugh, laugh again…

What is your favourite piece of parenting advice? Tell us in the comments!

Teaching Teenagers Cyber Safety

Today’s teens live their struggles, mood swings and relationship crushes under the glare of their social media connections. Teen popularity contests have extended beyond lunchtime gatherings and now include online ‘likes’, questions and comments. When all of your friends are on Facebook and run question sessions, could you miss out on these ways of communicating with your peers? Having no access to social media poses a fate worst that death for most teens – isolation, at a time they are the most desperate to fit in and be accepted.

As a parent, you want to protect your children from the risks of being online. You hear enough stories of online sexual predators, cyber bullying and teen suicides to warrant blocking some websites until your kids are at least 21. Unfortunately, bubble wrap is not a long term solution, for any scary stage of their lives. You need to equip your kids with the skills to become great adults, but that’s a delicate balancing act with their still immature teen brains. So, what’s the answer? Here are some strategies for keeping your teens safe online.

Age appropriate
The minimum age for an account on Ask.FM or Facebook is 13, but no proof of age is required. Within minutes of creating a fake email account, your kids can be signed up to social media too. At 13, you’d never let a stranger take photos of them or ask them questions, so enforce this online too. If it’s not appropriate for them in real life, it’s not appropriate online either.

Parental controls
You’d be careful about what movies they watched, so parental control settings are an effective way of blocking some of the stronger objectionable materials online. Start with any settings built-in to their computer, phone or tablet and add third-party software if you think it’s needed. Some parental controls can even block websites etc on a time schedule, so they can get in some online homework time before being distracted by Facebook.

Facebook privacy settings are different for 13-17-year-olds and change to standard adult settings once they turn 18. As confusing as they seem, it’s important to familiarise yourself with the privacy settings in any of your child’s social media accounts, ensuring they are set as tightly as possible. Because it’s not your account, the privacy laws will prevent you from getting Facebook to delete inappropriate photos of your child. On their smartphones, try the AVG PrivacyFix app which will make setting change recommendations in plain English. For younger teens, know their account passwords to reinforce that online access is a privilege, not a right and it’s still your job to know what’s going on in their lives.

My house, my online rules
When they get a social media account, set some house rules. These can include: real life friends & family only as connections online, no posting personal details (including school name, home suburb etc), parents are friend connections too. Set consequences for breaking the rules and spot-check them occasionally.  To retain some form of family time and to curb any online obsession, set a curfew for electronic devices prior to bedtime (including the parents’ phones too!) and don’t allow technology to be charged in bedrooms. It’s better for them to have a cheap alarm clock than to find out they were on Facebook at 1am.

Educate yourself
Don’t put cyber safety in the too hard basket. There are numerous resources online to help parents and teens with cyber safety and cyber bulling. Do some searching and see what you can find. Check with your local school for any resources they use or any presentations you could attend. As technology evolves, parents need to keep up with the latest trends, research and advice. Share what you’ve learnt with other parents and involve your school if you pick up on concerning chatter within your child’s peer group.

The points above still seem very controlling but with young teenagers they still need a high level of protection. As they get older, they are going to want more freedom and control of their own, so you have to keep the lines of communication open. Talk to your teen about what’s going on it their world. Talk to them about teen suicide headlines. Talk about what they’ve seen and heard online. This will be the hardest thing in this article to achieve, as teenagers are not always known for disclosing every detail of their lives. But it’s also the most important.

Talking gives you the opportunity for ‘how would you handle that’ discussions.  It reinforces that you do have their back when they are feeling hurt or upset by something they read or saw online. It helps you sow into their lives positive words that they are good enough, they are valuable, they are unique and that they are unconditionally loved.  The sad, common truth in the latest cyber bullying suicides is that the parents had no idea their kids were being subjected to online. Don’t let your parental guard down for the sake of their privacy.

How do you tach your teenage kids about cyber safety?

Sonia Cuff blogs about technology at Off the Cuff.

Teaching Your Kids Cyber Safety

Can somebody please update the parenting handbook? We could drown in advice about breastfeeding and toddler tantrums, but our children face a new challenge that was unheard of when we were kids – the Internet. This is one topic that you can’t run to Grandma for advice on and you didn’t face when you were growing up either.

You only have to look around a shopping centre, café or swimming lesson to see toddlers on iPhones and iPads. Sorry, you’re not going to be able to ignore this one. Cyber safety will definitely have to be added to your parenting prowess. So, where do you start?

Firstly, take advantage of the ‘parental controls’ or restrictions on your device, usually found under ‘Settings’. Here you can set a PIN and disable apps, turn off in-app purchases, block explicit material and enforce movie ratings. Also look at cyber safety apps like Mobicip or install a filter like CyberSafe247 on your home Internet connection (which will protect all devices on your home Internet).

Fortunately, pre-schoolers think that parents know everything and they are comfortable coming to you with questions. Yes, every single question that they can think of. Take advantage of this by being involved in what they are doing on your phone or iPad. Ask them to show you what they’ve been watching or playing. Unfortunately it’s all too easy for them to watch Dora the Explorer on YouTube and then click a link to find Dora exploring something that she shouldn’t be. Let them know it’s ok to talk to you if they see something weird.

As they get older and their literacy skills improve, their school may promote educational websites and apps for homework practice. When signing them up for an account on a website, create a separate, free email account (like Hotmail or Gmail) that’s not related to their real name and use that. Make sure you know all the account logins and passwords for any website that your child visits, and if they change the password without telling you, let them know there will be consequences!

For young teens, this is perfectly acceptable to enforce with their Facebook login too. Don’t step back on your supervision and compromise their safety because they wanted some privacy. If it’s not acceptable for you to see or read, they shouldn’t be putting it online. Keep the computer where you can see the screen when they are using it.

Often their first exposure to an online community is a site like Club Penguin, where they can interact with other kids. It’s important to reinforce that those other kids are just like the ones that sit next to you in class and that the same house rules need to apply. These include not being mean and not using rude words.

Now is also a good time to introduce the concept that because you can’t actually see those other people, you don’t really know who they are.  By this stage, children should be familiar with ‘stranger danger’ messages. Remind them that you wouldn’t tell a stranger where you live, so you shouldn’t give out your address, phone number, school or password online either. Tell them that if they ever get asked for that information, it’s ok to not reply and to go and get mum or dad. Watch out for signs that something isn’t right, for instance, they don’t want to go online again or they are unusually quiet after being on the computer.

Unfortunately, the lure of the Internet doesn’t wait until children have good sense and life experience. So instead of blocking all access until they are 21, capitalise on the opportunity to teach them good internet habits while they are young. Before you know it, they’ll be facing puberty, Facebook and SnapChat!

Sonia Cuff blogs about technology at Off the Cuff.

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