Category Archives: Behaviours and Discipline

Getting Prepared to Start School

School days are the best days of your life they say.

Dates are set well in advance for the beginnings and end of the school calendar.  This year is nearly done and you have saved the school date for next year. How can you best prepare little ones for their important first year at school

These practical and simple tips could just make the transition to ‘big school’ a date to remember. Here are twenty top tips to help with starting big school.  It’s physical, emotional, intellectual and confidence building you are in need of so see how many of these tips are ‘do-able’ and start investing some time into your child’s education.  The idea is to try a few at a time or select the ones you feel are appropriate.  When the confidence chart goes up add in a few more of these recommended tips.

Top twenty tips to try to get ready for big school: back to school photo2

  1. Play-dates, arrange to have friends over to play.  Children need to keep up with social interaction.  It is very important to remember school is a very sociable environment.  If you know the children who will be in your child’s class then invite them over to play and keep friendships and socialising active.
  2. Choose the school route and run it a couple of times if it is something new.  Talk about familiar things along the way.  This will be reassuring in the first few weeks of the new year at school.
  3. Get excited about new uniforms and clothes, try the new items on.  Practise dressing in them and being independent with getting dressed.
  4. Encourage responsibility by making a snack in the kitchen, pre-packing a school lunch and then have a pre-school picnic morning in the holidays.  Invite friends and then you are combining a play date and an act of independence.
  5. Make an events calendar and fill it with exciting things to do as a countdown to starting school. Treats and social events as a lead-up to the big day will make the real date seem part of a whole lot of fun to do things..
  6. Make sure your child can recognise their name.  Bring out the school labels for clothing and play a hide and seek game before they go on the clothes.  Show your child where the labels are sewn so it is easy to find the label and identify the item if it gets lost at school.
  7. Teach your child your contact number and your home address.  Mix up number cards and see if your child can pull out the necessary numbers and put them in order.
  8. Make sure your child uses the toilet independently and knows how to ask to use the bathroom in preparation for the school routine.
  9. Games, games, games, you can play as many board games, memory games and counting games as possible.  Games create the positive kind of interaction children enjoy and they set the foundation for so much more at school.  Most of all games encourage taking turns and being a good winner or looser so they have great value in character building.
  10. Books are the best tool for so much learning through their stories and vocabulary.  Books offer the opportunity to discuss and evaluate situations.  Books bring vocabulary to the front of learning and stimulate conversation as well.  
  11. Pictures and drawing them.  There is enormous value in drawing and talking about pictures.  Self- expression is encouraged through drawing.  It is a less threatening medium of communication and especially suited to young children who can scribble and draw as they learn to show what they mean verbally in a picture.
  12. Find opportunities to encourage pre-academic fine motor skills.  Your pre-school teacher will help with the right advice but keeping up with fine motor skills through colouring and cutting is an advantage. Ask what is expected of the child prior to entry into the first big school grade and help with practical opportunities to cut and colour.
  13. Have fun activities round the house and garden to encourage knowledge of numbers, colours, and shapes.  Treasure hunts and scavenger hunts are great fun for this age.
  14. Practise the early morning getting dressed routine.  Get ready to stand at the car or catch the bus. Try this out in the holidays with a timer and try to break records to make it fun.
  15. Discuss different things that can happen at school and how to re-act to them.  Make up some funny stories or find school jokes to help with the process of enjoying school.  
  16. Try some role play or ‘What if scenarios.’  What if a big boy pushes you in the playground?  What if you loose your lunch?    What if you fall and hurt yourself at school?
  17. Practise taking turns and answering questions just like being at school.  Have friends over for a quiz and make sure hands go up for the answer.
  18. Be positive about everything and encourage positive comments about school.  If your school days were not the best days of your life try not to pass on a negative message.
  19. Draw up an independence ‘YES I CAN’ chart.  Make a list of the skills that can be done, talk about them and reaffirm ‘Yes YOU can.
  20. Have a hello and goodbye routine so that the final goodbye is not traumatic but a positive experience for everyone.  If you have tried out these top tips the process should be an easy one.  No doubt there will be struggles but preparation is going to make a difference.

Trying out these tips should give your child a chance to face big school with a smile.

Being prepared is the key to a safe transition to big school.

Quitting or sampling? Do kids have to stick with extracurricular activities?

kids-and-sportsWe’ve all been there: Your child begged you to let her take on a particular activity so you went to the trouble of researching it; finding out where the activity takes place; enrolling; paying for the activity, uniforms and equipment; encouraging your child to practice said activity; taxiing your child to and from the activity each week (sometimes several times a week); even getting involved yourself as a volunteer helper, coach, car pooler, or on washing duty… Yes, you put a lot of effort and money into this so called “dream” but then your child seems to lose interest, doesn’t want to practice, too tired to go to classes, mucks around in class or refuses to participate, and says they want to “quit”.

“Quit” is a loaded word in our society synonymous with giving up, dropping out, not continuing, abandoning, or avoiding. People fear that quitting reflects badly on their character – they are not dependable, they didn’t persevere, they “can’t hack it”, they are weak…So when our kids want to quit something, many parents are confused as to how to manage the situation.

Martin Camiré, a US professor who specializes in sport psychology and positive youth development suggests that it is actually developmentally appropriate and even beneficial for kids to try an activity, then lose interest and want to try something else. Research indicates that children under twelve years should participate in a number of different activities because that is how they learn what they like and what they are good at (and not so good at), and develop different skills. This time in childhood is referred to as the ‘sampling years’.

Children have an innate drive to learn, experiment, be curious, and use trial and error. With these characteristics comes the desire to try many different things. Sometimes when a child tries something new, they love it and want to continue with that activity. More often than not, kids will try something, get a taste of it, feel satisfied that they have found out what it is about, then want to try something different.

To Quit or not to Quit?

There are arguments for and against letting children stop extracurricular activities once they have committed to them. Some appear to be fairly solid in their logic, and other a little more dubious.

to quit or not to quit3


  • Kids are more likely to give things a try and have a positive approach to new activities because they know they can stop if it doesn’t work out/suit them. Children who fear being forced, coerced, or judged into sticking with an activity are less inclined to seek new experiences, and can experience lower self esteem.
  • Kids are encouraged to listen to their inner voice about what feels right for them. This is an important skill to develop so when our children are faced with more challenging issues in life, e.g. drugs, unsafe situations, they are more confident in making choices that feel right for them rather than succumbing to pressure from others.
  • Trying lots of different activities allows a child to choose from a broader range when deciding what they do want to persist with.
  • Trying lots of activities teaches many different skills the child can use in other areas of life.
  • Motivation to do activities comes from the child rather than the parent. Kids are more likely to stick with an activity they like once they find it because it meets their needs, rather than because an adult is making them do it.
  • Ending or leaving an activity or situation that doesn’t fit is a normal part of life. Allowing a child to leave an activity that doesn’t suit them respects the time they spent on that activity (it was not a waste of time), helps the child retain his or her dignity (not shamed for quitting), and also allows the child the opportunity to potentially re-visit that activity at a later time or stage of development.
  • An open, respectful relationship between child and parent is fostered as the parent is focusing on the child’s needs and desires rather than getting caught up in the money spent, the commitment made, or what others think – external standards.

to quit or not to quit2To Quit or not to Quit?


  • Some research suggests that kids who are taught that skills and talents can be developed and grown through hard work and practice, are more confident and happy within themselves.
  • The child may be experiencing a temporary difficulty within the activity and should be supported to work through that difficulty, not give up.
  • Family values on perseverance, “sticking with things”, “not giving up”, and “facing a challenge” may conflict with the idea of ending an activity.
  • Parents want to give their kids every opportunity and some wish that their parents had been able to, or wanted to push them into doing activities or pursuing interests when they were a child, so as parents themselves now, they want to be able to do that for their child.
  • Some parents experienced being forced to participate in an activity as a child by their own parents, and recall that they ended up loving the activity once they persisted with it. These parents don’t want their own kids to miss out on loving an activity because they leave it prematurely.

Change your wording

So what about if we change the wording around quitting? As mentioned previously, “quit” is a word with negative connotations in our society and is associated with alot of undesirable things. But are we really talking about quitting when it comes to our children’s extracurricular activities? Researchers suggest it is beneficial to take a less hard-line stance and differentiate quitting with taking a break, ending an activity, sampling an activity, having a trial, or giving it a go. These words and phrases suggest a less permanent termination of an activity than “quitting” and can leave the door open for a child to resume the activity at a later date or stage of development if they are interested.

kid-pressured-extra-curricular_zpu7pl (1)Tips on quitting with dignity

Rather than catastrophizing our child’s loss of interest in an activity, we can help our child to end an activity with dignity.

  • Josephson (2014) defines quitting as “giving up in the middle of something”. Unless you child is showing great distress at being involved in an activity, it may be worth considering discussing with them how you can support them to complete the activity and then stop it, e.g. rather than walking off the field mid-game, finish the game; or finish the current programme. This would likely include agreeing on an end date so you are both working toward that together.
  • Talk with your child about what they dislike about the activity. It may be something that can be addressed and changed which will then help your child to feel more comfortable with the activity and want to continue. If your child is unable to identify any particular issues, it may be because the activity no longer suits them, at which point it would be appropriate to help your child plan how to end their involvement appropriately (e.g. plan an end date).
  • Let your child pick the activities they want to try. A child is more likely to enjoy something they have chosen rather than something they have been forced to do.
  • Think about how you may be able to help your child have a try at an activity before signing up. Many activities allow a trial period where your child can come and suss out what it’s all about and see if it suits them or not before you have to enrol them in a programme. Or see if there are ways your child can sample the activity outside classes, e.g. go to the ice-skating rink as an outing and see if your child even likes ice skating first, or go to the park and kick the soccer ball around with a few friends. It may be useful to get out a library book or watch an online video about an activity with your child to find out more about it first.


  • Don’t stress too much about it. Remember childhood is a time of experimentation, “sampling” and curiosity. If your child tries an activity and finds they don’t like it, use that as a learning opportunity: Finding out what we don’t enjoy is just as useful as finding out what we do enjoy and where our talents lie. See it as a learning experience for them, rather than a failure
  • Balance organised activities with free play. Kids lives are often over-scheduled with structured activities and they don’t get enough time to just play. Free play is important for kids socialising, being creative and curious, and having a sense of freedom and down time.
  • Consider health. Check if your child is getting enough sleep, eating well (including enough water), and getting opportunities to move physically. When these basic health needs are not being met, children will find it much more difficult to pursue extra activities.
  • Check out the instructor and programme before enrolling. Psychiatrist Martin Camiré says that the adults who lead an organised activity, e.g. coaches or teachers, have a huge influence on the success of that activity. If your child has an instructor who is disorganised, poorly trained, or just lackluster in their involvement, this will impact negatively on your child’s desire to participate in the activity.
  • Consider family values. Help your child plan for and participate in activities that they enjoy and which sit with the family values. If a family value is to see something through to the end, avoid enrolling your kid into every activity they show a passing interest in. Try a few of the above-mentioned tips first such as a trial period, or outings focusing on that activity so your and your child don’t end up in situations that conflict with the family value.

to quit or not to quitTips on quitting with dignity continued

  • Look for trends. If your child repeatedly wants to quit activities, see if there are any similarities in the activities chosen, whether your child wants to stop when faced with challenges, or whether there are other activities he may be more suited to, e.g. music vs sport. Most children will need support through temporary challenges in activities they participate in, but if
    you are concerned seek assistance from coaches, family members or health professionals.
  • Take a break. If an activity is causing stress, tension, tantrums, and battles every time, arrange for your child to take a break from it. If life feels more balanced and harmonious without the activity, then you will know you have made the right decision for you and your child.

Children today have a huge range of extracurricular activities they can choose from that may suit interests in areas of music, sport, creativity, mental stimulation, physical movement, and team work. However, many parents are faced with the experience of their child starting an activity then losing interest or finding they dislike the activity and wanting to “quit”. Experts suggest that childhood is a time of experimentation, trial and error, and curiosity referred to as the “sampling years”. That is, it is developmentally appropriate for children to chop and change between interests in the pursuit of finding activities that they really enjoy and/or are good at. So, rather than getting hung up on our kids “quitting”, it is beneficial to re-frame this phenomena as a natural part of life and learning, and support our kids in ways that help them experience opportunities and make decisions with respect and dignity.


Goldberg, S. (2014). Quitting activities: Choose Dolphin Parent over Tiger Mom. Today’s Parent. Retrieved from:

Josephson, A. (2014). The Difference between Quitting and Ending. Jag Gym Blog. Retireved from

Murphy, L. & Braden, J. (2016). Should you let your kids quit extracurricular activities? Today’s Parent. Retrieved from:

Wolfenstein, L. Dabbling, Digging Deep and Quitting:The Real Costs of Parental Pressure. Life Learning Magazine. Retrieved from:

Boredom is Good For You


Boredom can be good for you (and your children)

“I’m bored” is a phrase most parents dread or at least find quite exasperating to hear.  We live in a society that values business, progress, success, and always striving for more. We’d like to slow down and, at times, do “nothing” but we fear this may be viewed as laziness, or that we will get behind and be even more busy trying to catch up. All of this contributes to the negative perception of boredom and the learned expectation of our children that they should always be on the go or entertained. But research suggests that being bored (in moderation) is actually really good for us, and our kids.

Boredom is defined as wanting to engage in a satisfying activity but being unable to access the required thoughts, feelings or materials to do so. Yes, it is frustrating and an uncomfortable emotion. However, boredom allows and facilitates imagination. Boredom drives us to try something new, come up with ideas, daydream, explore options, and discover personal interests and gifts. Research suggests that letting our minds wander while doing undemanding activities increases our ability to come up with new ideas and solutions to problems. So let’s look at boredom in a bit more detail…


What causes boredom in children?

There are three main situations in which a child will perceive themselves as being bored.

  1. The child loses interest in what he was doing because he is lonely and wants to spend time with someone else (usually the parent).
  2. The child has run out of ideas and stimulation
  3. The child still has ideas and something to do, but they no longer seem appealing.

In the first situation, the child is wanting some attention and interaction with another person rather than being genuinely bored. The child is likely to be able to busy herself again once she has had a few minutes with you. If your child is experiencing boredom as described in the latter two situations, never fear, there are several benefits to allowing them to have this experience before helping your child move beyond it.


Benefits of boredom

When our children (or we ourselves) are feeling bored, the tendency is to try to alleviate that state as quickly as possible. It’s all too easy to use an electronic device to consume content or play games whenever we feel a sense of boredom. However, research suggests there are actually benefits to being bored. Boredom:

  • Allows creativity and imagination. Much of what our kids do is scheduled and structured. Our children don’t often get an opportunity to just daydream and let their imagination and ideas flow.
  • Encourages appreciation of the “little things”. When our children are not busy doing scheduled and structured activities, they have the time to look and really notice what’s around them.
  • Promotes empathy. We (and our children) can take the time to put ourselves in others’ shoes rather than getting stuck focusing on our own wants and needs.
  • Encourages exploration and discovery. If the current activity is no longer stimulating for your child, they now have an opportunity to try new things, and find talents they didn’t know they had.
  • Teaches independence. Children can learn to think for themselves rather than being dependent on media and entertainment outlets to tell them what to think about the world around them. Also, instead of following a schedule or adult-led activity, children have the opportunity to initiate their own ideas.
  • Helps with the development of qualities such as curiosity, playfulness, perseverance, observation and concentration – all skills useful in multiple contexts throughout life.
  • Facilitates appreciation and gratitude. When our kids feel bored at times, they can then be more appreciative and grateful of all the times when they are not bored because they have access to opportunities, possessions and relationships that are stimulating.

Boredom, therefore, does not have to be seen as a problem, but rather an opportunity to learn new skills and do something different.


Helping your child with boredom

As parents, we can help our children get the most out of being bored rather than rushing in with ready-made solutions to alleviate boredom. Here are a few ways you can help your child use boredom constructively:

  1. Spend one-on-one time with your child on a regular basis to reduce the situation where your child is saying they are bored to get your attention.
  2. Encourage exploration and discovery in your family. Children are naturally curious and creative so show them that its ok in your family to try new things, to make mistakes, to persue hobbies and interests. The more things your child is interested in (not necessarily participating in) the more things they can explore, daydream about, or just wonder about. Showing an interest in what your child is learning and doing will also encourage them.
  3. Allow children down-time. Don’t feel the need to fill every moment with scheduled activities. Start when your kids are young and allow them the time, space and freedom to entertain themselves.
  4. Teach your child skills they can use in everyday life, whether busy or bored. Basic knowledge such a colours, number and letters can open up a whole world of opportunities and games for young children. Older children who can read will be able to find a book to dive into when bored with other activities. Thinking skills such as questioning, problem solving, planning, and reflecting can help children to either sit with the bored feeling or come up with ideas for something to do.
  5. Help your child make a boredom jar. Ask your child to come up with as many ideas about things they could do when bored as they can. These activities can be indoor or outdoor, quiet or active, creative, honing techniques, learning new things, chores, solo or with others, require materials or not. Provide a jar or other container for your child to place each cut out idea into. Then, whenever your child feels bored and has trouble coming up with an idea, they have a ready-made lucky dip of ideas to choose from.

Young mother and her toddler girl playing together with finger toys

6. Limit technology. We are surrounded by screens and technology, which can be great for entertaining and passing the time, but have been found to dull creative thinking and set kids up to expect to be entertained (“internet-ained”) rather than being able to entertain themselves. Encourage kids to do a few activities off the screens first, and keep the technology for when your child actually does run out of ideas instead of jumping straight in front of a screen before even having a chance to try other things.

7. Help your child set up challenges. You can prompt your child and provide some guidance to get started, e.g. provide materials they may need or suggest they go outside or do a chore, but try to let them figure out which direction to take their ideas without adults structuring the activity for them.

8. Avoid feeding a bored child. It is tempting at times to interpret boredom as hunger, or try to alleviate boredom with eating. Research suggests that humans like to eat to abate boredom because preparing and chewing food is highly stimulating for our senses – the opposite of boredom. However, relying on food to combat boredom can reduce a child’s ability to distinguish genuine hunger from emotional eating.

9. Let them be bored. When your child says they are bored, help them change their mindset about boredom with some gentle encouragement, e.g. “That’s great. Enjoy it and see what amazing things your mind can come up with when you give it the time”. When adults are less negative about boredom, kids can also learn to see it as an opportunity rather than a problem. Creative people throughout history have acknowledged the role that boredom played in the development of their skills. Even major discoveries can occur when bored – take Isaac Newton who was supposedly just sitting under an apple tree when he discovered gravity!!!

So boredom, rather than being the bane of human existence, could very well be what we need to come up with new ideas, step out of our comfort zones, and learn more about ourselves and the world around us. As parents, we can teach our children to embrace periods of boredom, and reassure ourselves that we don’t have to rescue our children from being bored. In fact, unplugging from busy schedules, doing nothing, and letting the mind wander and daydream can be good for all of us.

To Know more on how to handle boredom, you can visit


The Brain, Emotions and Behaviours

The parts of the brain that effect Our Psychology, Emotions and Behaviors

The brain, emotions and behaviours BLOG 1b rational brainThe brain is the most important and complex organ in our bodies. You don’t have to be a brain specialist though to appreciate some of the basics about the brain’s role in emotions and behaviors in both ourselves and our children.

The brain is compartmentalised for our understanding but in reality all the parts work in complex, intertwined ways. The largest section of the brain and closest to the surface is the Cerebrum (suh-REE-bruhm) or Cortex. This is often broken down into lobes or sections of the brain: the frontal lobe, parietal lobe, temporal lobes, and occipital lobe. The frontal lobe is at the front of the head and is responsible for planning, organisation, logical thinking, reasoning, and managing emotions. This is the part you will hear about most regarding the expression and regulation of emotions and behaviors. It is also known as the “higher brain”, “rational brain”, or the “upstairs brain”.

The brain, emotions and behaviours BLOG 1a emotional brainIf we then jump to the centre of the brain, we find some strangely named parts that play a big role in emotions. The Amygdala (uh-MIG-duh-luh) is a group of cells that interprets the emotional meaning of everything that happens to you. If the amygdala interprets something as threatening, it sends messages to another structure called the Hypothalamus (HI-pO-thal-a-mus), which controls the release of hormones into the body to get you ready for a fight-or-flight response. The fight-or-flight response is what happens when our bodies tense up, become more alert, and ready for action to either escape (flight) or defend ourselves (fight). Finally, another structure called the Hippocampus (hip-uh-KAM-pus), organises memories so the amygdala can interpret an event. These three structures are part of what we call the “emotional brain” or “downstairs brain” and activate strong emotions and urges. This part of the brain can over react sometimes (think of a child in a tantrum, or even our own reaction when the kids start fighting with each other) so needs a helping hand from the “rational brain” frontal lobes to settle down.

Ok, now we are familiar with some of the major parts of the brain involved in behaviours and emotions we can look at how they interact with each other and influence behaviors through development, how we can help our kids understand what is happening, and what we can do to help our kids (and ourselves) to better manage behaviors and emotions.

When a child is born their brain size is only 25% of what it will be as an adult. The main structures are all there, but the connections between them – the brain wiring – is still very sparse, especially in the upstairs, rational brain (cerebrum). The first five years of life sees over 90 percent of the brain’s growth occurring with the formation of the connections directly linked to a child’s life experiences and emotional interactions with others. What that means is, every time we experience something, our brains form a connection between the cells and structures about memories, emotional reactions, and skill learning. Then, every time we have the same or similar experience, those connections become stronger…we are learning.

How downstairs brain and the upstairs brain

Let’s have another look at the emotional, downstairs brain and the rational, upstairs brain. The downstairs brain is the part of our brain that makes us act without thinking. It has to do this quickly for survival purposes – if you are in a life threatening situation you don’t have time to sit down and draw up a plan of action, you just need to act! Developmentally, this part of the brain is well developed at birth and forms more connections earlier than the upstairs brain because it is responsible for essential tasks such as making sure our needs are met, feeling strong emotions, using instinct to keep us safe, and managing bodily functions.

The brain, emotions and behaviours BLOG 2 - upstairs downstairs brainThe upstairs, rational brain whilst structurally all there (remember the lobes?) is much slower in its development of connections. This part of the brain is highly sophisticated and responsible for problem solving, rational thinking, logic, planning and decision making, organisation, and self-control. All of these things are learnt through repeated experiences. Keeping to the house analogy, the upstairs, rational brain is under major construction for the first few years of life. During adolescence, the upstairs brain gets a remodelling which takes several more years. So the upstairs brain is not fully mature until the mid-twenties!!!!

Continuing with the house analogy of the brain, the upstairs and downstairs are connected by a stairway on which messengers can run up and down sharing information. In our brains, these connections are less obvious but function in a similar manner. We need the downstairs “emotional brain” to be able to inform the upstairs “rational brain” with instincts and reflexes, feelings, and information about our bodily functions such as breathing, temperature, etc. However, we also need messages going from the upstairs brain downstairs so we can moderate and make sense of the information coming from down below.

The brain, emotions and behaviours BLOG 3

So what does all of this mean when we are dealing with emotions and behaviours? Basically, our kids (and some adults) are functioning primarily from the emotional, reactive, downstairs brain – they are going to throw a tantrum because you gave the wrong colour plate, get frustrated with their siblings, be terrified of putting her face under the water at swimming lessons, and melt into a puddle of tears at the slightest scratch on a finger. Their rational, self-controlling, upstairs brain is still learning how to manage these situations, AND the connections (i.e. stairway) between the upper and lower brains is being blocked by emotional overload so very little problem solving and effective decision making can occur.

Having some understanding of the brain and how it affects our emotions and behaviors is useful both for parents and our children. It can be very confusing and scary at times when our kids experience strong emotions and don’t yet know how to predict them, manage them and calm down from them. As parents, knowing there are parts of our children’s brains that are underdeveloped can help us respond to their emotions and behaviors in a way that supports them and helps them build connections in their brains based on positive experiences rather than punishments and disconnection.

One skill of our brains that develops fairly early is the use of imagination, so when talking with kids about the brain, emotions and behaviors, we can get creative. In our last blog we talked about the brain as a “house” with a downstairs (emotional brain) and upstairs (thinking brain) connected by a staircase so messages can be passed between the two. Hazel Harrison (2015) a Clinical Psychologist suggests adding characters within the brain house such as Big Boss Bootsy from downstairs who sounds the alarm when there is a threat and blocks the stairway (called Flipping the lid by Daniel Siegel, 2010) so the upstairs brain characters can’t slow things down while the downstairs characters are working to keep us safe. The upstairs characters meanwhile, work on problem solving, calming down, and making good choices. The brain works best when both upstairs and downstairs work together so we can stay safe and make good choices without overreacting.

The brain, emotions and behaviours BLOG 4Creating Brain characters – A strategy used by child psychologists to help children understand and manage emotions

Help kids come up with their own names for characters in the brain. It doesn’t matter what they are called as long as both you and your child know who you are referring to and what they do (refer to Harrison, 2015 for more ideas). You can share stories about the brain characters and their antics based on real life experiences of both your child and yourself, e.g. “Remember when Big Boss Bootsy took over and made you hit your brother before you even had time to think?” Or “I think Alerting Allie and Big Boss Bootsy made Mummy feel cranky this morning when we were running late for school. Lucky Calming Carl was able to settle things down before they flipped my lid!”

Using the brain house and its character inhabitants helps kids talk about their emotions and related behaviors in a non-judgemental, no blame, fun way because it separates their feelings, thoughts and behaviors from the child. Some parents raise concerns about kids using this as an excuse for their behaviors, and not taking responsibility for their actions. If we jump straight into consequences though, we are trying to reason with the rational (upstairs) brain of our child, whereas they are perceiving our response as a threat and functioning from the emotional (downstairs) brain, with a huge likelihood that the stairway has been blocked and all rational thoughts locked in.

The brain, emotions and behaviours BLOG 5

Teaming up with our kids to manage the brain characters helps our kids to identify when things go wrong, and feel they can talk about them with you in a safe, non-confrontational way. You and your kids can then be calm enough to access the rational brain and work out ways to manage the characters better in future. You can also call on characters to help out, e.g. When we try to problem solve with our child and they just respond with “don’t knows” we can ask them what they think Problem Solving Pete (and upstairs brain character) may suggest.

When our kids are stuck in their downstairs brain, it helps for parents to point that out and name what you think is going on. For example, “You seem really sad that your friend doesn’t want to play with you today”. This is validating your child’s emotions – letting them feel they are understood – so your child doesn’t have to stay stuck with the strong emotions of the downstairs brain. Once your child feels heard, he is more likely to be able to re-open the stairway to the upstairs brain and work with you on problem solving or making choices about the situation.

To know more about behavior and emotions you can visit:


Deak, J. (2010). Your Fantastic Elastic Brain – Stretch it, shape it. Little Pickle Press LLC, Belvedere CA.

Harrison, H (2015). How to teach your kids about the brain.

Schwarz, N( 2016). What anxious and angry kids need to know about their brain.

Siegel, D. & Payne Bryson, T. (2012). The Whole-brain child. Bantam Books, New York.
Sunderland, M (2006). The Science of Parenting. Dorling Kindersley Limited, London.

Harrison, H (2015). How to teach your kids about the brain.

Schwarz, N( 2016). What anxious and angry kids need to know about their brain.

Siegel, D. & Payne Bryson, T. (2012). The Whole-brain child. Bantam Books, New York.

Harrison, H (2015). How to teach your kids about the brain.

Schwarz, N( 2016). What anxious and angry kids need to know about their brain.

Siegel, D. & Payne Bryson, T. (2012). The Whole-brain child. Bantam Books, New York.

Harrison, H (2015). How to teach your kids about the brain.

Schwarz, N( 2016). What anxious and angry kids need to know about their brain.

Siegel, D. & Payne Bryson, T. (2012). The Whole-brain child. Bantam Books, New York.

Harrison, H (2015). How to teach your kids about the brain.

Schwarz, N( 2016). What anxious and angry kids need to know about their brain.

Siegel, D. & Payne Bryson, T. (2012). The Whole-brain child. Bantam Books, New York.

BULLYING SERIES – How to stop bullying – what you can do about it.

What is bullying?

Many of us have probably experienced bullying in some form, either as a child or in our adult years. Unfortunately, it is also highly likely that our children will experience some form of bullying, or even be involved in bullying behaviour. While we may not be able to protect our children from all bullying, it is important to note that, whilst prevalent, bullying is not a natural part of growing up and it should not be ignored (Elliot, 1997). As parents we can support our children to be aware of bullying, develop the skills to manage difficult situations, and know when and how to ask for help (Markham, 2017).

So what is bullying? Bullying is defined as the (often repeated) use of aggression that is intended to cause harm, distress and/or fear to another person of less power (Berry, 2013; Elliot, 1997; Kids Help Line, 2016). It can take many forms including physical aggression, verbal attacks, damage to property, humiliation, exclusion, spreading rumours, and many more (Cross et al, 2009; Rocker, 2010). Cyber bullying is also becoming more common amongst youth with the constant access to technology. Please note in this blog series we will not be directly focusing on cyber-bullying.

There have been general differences found between genders and bullying behaviour, with boys more likely to be physical in their aggression, and girls more likely to use verbal, emotional, and social means to hurt (Kids Help Line, 2016). Bullying is different to teasing which involves both parties having fun and stops when either person wants it to (Elliot, 1997; SWLSB, na). Bullying is learnt (SWLSB, na). It is deliberate, intended to harm, involves an imbalance of power, and is either repeated or threatened to be repeated (Kids Help Line, 2016; SWLSB, na).

According to Kids Help Line (2016), a national helpline for kids in Australia, bullying is the sixth most common reason children and adolescents seek support. If you are concerned about your child being bullied, or involved in bullying behaviours, contact our psychologists for a free phone consultation on (07) 3062 4535.

How common is bullying in Australia?

Research suggests that one in four children in Australia will experience bullying at some time in their schooling, with the highest incidences being between grades 4 to 9 (Berry, 2013; Cross et al., 2009). These numbers do not include cyber-bullying which is becoming more common also. It is not unusual for kids to be involved in bullying, either as the bully or the bullied, as young as preschool (Markham, 2017).

Boys tend to bully or be bullied by other boys, and likewise for girls. However, research in Australia suggests that one in four girls and one in three boys is bullied by both sexes (Cross, et al., 2009).The type of bullying tends to become more covert and secretive, as children get older, particularly amongst girls, with hurtful teasing being the most common form, followed by hurtful lies being told about them, and exclusion (Cross, et al., 2009).

According to surveys of Australian school children, ten to 15% of children between grades 4 and 9 had bullied other children, and almost half of these kids had been both bullied and engaged in bullying behaviours by grade nine (Cross, et al., 2009). Children noted that the reasons for bullying others was due to differences such as looks, cultural identity, and sexuality (Berry, 2013). However, many children also suggested bullying occurred because the bully didn’t like their peer, found bullying fun, liked to feel powerful and popular (Cross, et al., 2009). So bullying, it seems, is something our children are highly likely to come across during their school years, for reasons that may not be immediately apparent.

Who is involved with bullying?

Three key roles have been identified as playing out in bullying situations (Kids Help Line, 2016; SWLSB, na). Understanding these roles and the behaviours associated with each can help us tackle bullying with our children. The three roles are:

  • The bully
  • The bullied
  • Bystanders

So let’s look first at the child/youth who bullies…

When our child is bullied by others, we question why kids would do such a thing. Unfortunately the reasons are endless, ranging from “it’s fun” through peer pressure to significant mental and emotional difficulties (Elliot, 1997; Kids Help Line, 2016; Markham, 2017).

Research suggests there are general bully types (Collins, 2017; SWLSB, na; Rigby, 2008) such as:

  1. The “lone bully” who wants to control, and exert power over others with little empathy for those they target. They may have a sense of entitlement, or be jealous of their targets and lack a sense of their own self worth.
  2. The “bully-victim” who is someone who has been, or is currently being bullied themselves and is then bullying others. These children/youth may be suffering from their own bullying experiences but then take it out on others to regain a sense of control.
  3. The “bully in a group” who bullies others when their peers are observing because it makes them feel powerful, popular, and superior to those being bullied.

However, there are many children and youth who engage in bullying who do not fit neatly into these types. Bullies can be anyone, even our own children.

Signs your child may be bullying others (Myers, 2011; Raising Children Network, 2011):

  • Your child talks about other people in a negative or aggressive way
  • Your child has toys, money, or other things that don’t belong to him
  • Your child is hot-headed, easily frustrated, impulsive, and/or lacks empathy for others.
  • Your child and/or her friends are obsessed with being popular
  • You child frequently gets into trouble for pushing boundaries, being aggressive, or trying to dominate others.
  • Your child doesn’t have good relationships with people at home and/or has been exposed to violence at home.

These signs do not mean your child is definitely bullying others, but may be worth checking out further. If you are concerned about your child being bullied or engaging in bullying behaviours, you can talk with one of our psychologists on (07) 3062 4077.

The bullied

Anyone can be bullied, however research suggests that some people may be at increased risk of bullying due to perceived differences from those who bully. Such differences include anything from physical differences, ethnic differences, academic or sporting ability (either successful or struggling), being new to the area, sexual orientation, not conforming, or even just being in the wrong place at the wrong time (Kids Help Line, 2016; Storey, et al., 2013; SWLSB, na).

Signs your child may be bullied include (Kids Help Line, 2016; Storey, et al., 2013; SWLSB, na):

  • Being unhappy before or after school. Your child may talk about not liking school or kids there or may seem afraid, withdrawn, or tearful.
  • Finding excuses not to go out of the house, e.g. being sick
  • Having unexplained injuries
  • Having unexplained changes in their behaviour
  • Experiencing sudden difficulties going to sleep, having nightmares, and/or bedwetting.
  • Struggling with schoolwork
  • Lacking friends at school
  • Talking about themselves in negative ways
  • Attempting to hurt or kill themselves.

Children who are bullied can experience significant suffering which affects their social, emotional, and educational development (Cross, et al., 2009; Rocker, 2010) so it is important that our children know where and how to get help. If you are concerned about your child being bullied, you can talk with one of our psychologists on (07) 3062 4077.

The bystanders

In bullying situations, there are usually bystanders. A number of types of bystanders have been identified (Kids Help Line, 2016; Storey et al, 2013):

  1. Those who side with the bully and follow the bullying behaviour.
  2. Those who encourage the bully through cheering, laughing, or “egging on” by don’t actually take part in the bullying.
  3. Those who watch or hear about the bullying and feel they should help the victim but do take action.
  4. Those who don’t accept bullying behaviour and take action to support the bullied.
  5. Those who feel indifferent about the situation – neither taking sides or joining in

If your child has witnessed bullying, they may be experiencing the following:

  • Worry about making the situation worse if they intervene
  • Guilt at not helping the bullied
  • Fear they may be bullied if they speak up
  • Fear they could get hurt if they intervene
  • Feeling powerless and upset about what they witnessed
  • Confusion about what to do in similar situations in the future
  • Anger that they have been put in this situation
  • Feeling pressured to participate in the bullying
  • Justifying their inaction by saying “it was none of my business anyway”

Bystanders play a critical role in bullying situations. Research suggests though that when bystanders intervene (either directly or by seeking help from adults), they can stop the bullying in more than half bullying situations, and within ten seconds (Markham, 2017; Storey, et al., 2013).


Initial reactions from your child or youth when confronted with their bullying behaviours may include denial, justification, minimising the event, crying, anger or blaming the victim (SWLSB, na). The goals of addressing the behaviour with your child are to convey the seriousness of bullying, let the child know it will not be tolerated, encourage your child to take responsibility for his/her actions, and help your child to find other options for behaviour in the future. This needs to be done respectfully and not with the aim of shaming and humiliating child.

  1. Acknowledge that your child is involved in bullying behaviour.
  2. Talk with you child away from others – let them know what you know and ask them to tell you their side of the story. Listen to their perspective, and also be prepared to calmly present the evidence and facts.
  3. Share your concern about the seriousness of bullying and the possible effect on others. Even if this current incident doesn’t seem like a big deal, addressing it as serious now will reduce the chances of the child engaging in similar (potentially more serious) behaviours in future. Ask your child to share what they think they did that was not ok and why. Help your child to identify their part and the ramifications themselves (or with some help) rather than lecturing them.
  4. Firmly insist that the bullying behaviour stops
  5. Problem solve with your child – discuss why the bullying occurred, what they may be able to do to make amends, and what they could do instead in future situations.
  6. Work with other adults, e.g. teachers, as required to address the bullying issue.
  7. Be a good role model for your children and adolescents by being respectful of others around you.


Bullying behaviour can be quite complex to address as it is often surrounded by secrecy, shame, and fear. However, adults can help children, both when they are exposed to bullying and proactively by supporting young people to recognise bullying behaviours, feel more empowered to manage difficult situations, not tolerate bullying behaviours, and be confident that they can ask for help and receive it when needed. (Storey et al, 2013).

The bullied

Children and youth who are bullied often feel they are somehow to blame for the behaviours toward them. The aim of helping children in this situation is both focusing on the current situation, and building skills to prevent further victimisation. Friends tend to be the first choice when seeking help for bullying, but parents and school staff were also sought out (CROSS ET AL).

Whilst addressing bullying behaviour when it happens is essential, adults can also be proactive and help our children with prevention skills such as recognising bullying behaviours, knowing how to manage such situations, and knowing who to ask for help should it be needed (EYES ON BULLYING TOOLKIT)

Let’s look at how adults can help children and youth who find themselves in the bullied role:

Let your kids know you care and remain approachable. (KHL)


  1. Ask directly – kids often don’t want to or are afraid or ashamed to tell about being bullied (Elliot)
  2. Regularly talk to your child about their school life and about any emerging issues.
  3. Encourage them to talk about any bullying they may be experiencing
  4. Remain calm if they disclose they are being bullied
  5. Believe what your child is telling you and explore how they may be emotionally reacting to the bullying.
  6. Recognise that this is an important issue for them
  7. Tell them that bullying is not acceptable and that it’s not their fault
  8. Help the child or young person understand the power dynamic involved in bullying. Discuss ways to stop giving the bully power, for example, walking or turning away from the bully
  9. Reassure them that you will help to stop the bullying from continuing
  10. Find out what, when and where it happened and if anyone was present. Contact the school and make sure the teacher is aware of the problem and work out with them how to stop the bullying
  11. If the school has no policy on bullying, suggest they need to consider developing one
  12. Discuss with the child any experiences you may have had about being bullied and how you overcame this issue
  13. Boost your child’s confidence by encouraging them to join activities they are good at eg. sport, art, music
  14. Try to get support from other parents who have faced similar problems. (KHL)


  1. You are not responsible for a bully’s behavior. It’s not your fault.
  2. Don’t respond to bullies by giving in, getting upset, or fighting back—this will encourage them. Instead, stay calm and be assertive.
  3. Sometimes the best response is no response—just walk away.
  4. Get help from a trusted adult. Adults can help you figure out new ways to respond the next time someone bullies you.

Providing children who are bullied with specific options for responding and an action plan will help them feel less anxious and fearful, and more confident to take action to stop the bullying.(TOOLKIT)

One of the most significant factors which is common to children that both bully and fall victim to bullying, is a reported lack of significant connection and positive feelings towards their school, teachers and peers. Having meaningful and supportive relationships with others in the school appears to build children’s resilience and ability to cope, even when difficulties occur within their school-based relationships.

  1. Friendships play an integral part in bullying experiences. We know that bullies derive reinforcement through onlookers who do not act to stop their bullying behaviour and that children who have at least one meaningful, reciprocated friendship are less likely to be bullied. Selecting, making and maintaining friendships is a skill that needs to be modelled and supported in children, teaching them basic skills such as how to start a conversation through to more complex skills of managing peer conflict and using humour in peer relationships.. (Berry)

School policies that increase the consequences of overt bullying without increasing the consequences of covert bullying unintentionally create fertile ground for the emergence of covert bullying.

Strategies such as supervising students during lunch breaks were seen as more effective amongst primary school staff, whereas secondary staff were slightly more likely to rate strategies incorporating the school health services or the school behaviour management/pastoral care committee as more effective.

Qualitative data from students suggested a variety of actions that they believe teachers could take to reduce covert bullying including helping young people to talk more with their parents and other trusted adults about these issues using strategies such as classroom meetings, an anonymous ‘worry box’, and separating different age groups of students during break times.


Bullying not only affects the bullied and the bully. Almost all incidents of bullying are witnessed by someone and these bystanders also play a significant role in addressing bullying.

Let’s look at how adults can help children and youth who find themselves in the bystander role:


Helping children learn how to help their friends if they see they are being bullied is essential to promote bystander intervention, with strategies such as seeking a teachers support and telling the bully that they are being mean and need to stop, commonly used strategies at the Clinic. (Berry)

Bystanders can stop bullying by helping the bullied, gaining support from other bystanders, or getting help from adults. (TOOLKIT)

1.Your involvement makes a difference.

2.Don’t just stand by and watch quietly.

3.Stand up for the person being bullied. If you feel safe, tell the bully to stop. Use phrases such as “Stop teasing!” “Don’t fight!” “Leave him alone!” and “It’s not funny!”

4.Don’t join in. Don’t laugh at the victim or participate in the teasing, harassing, or fighting. This encourages the bully to continue and can make the situation worse.

5.Help the victim walk away. A victim may be too afraid to leave on his or her own, but will do so with the help of a friend.

6.Encourage other bystanders to help the victim. Tell them not to join in the bullying.

  1. Get help from a trusted adult. Report the bullying.
  2. Afterward, tell the victim you feel bad about what happened. Encourage victims to talk to an adult, and offer to go with them.
  3. Include the victim in activities. Be a good friend. (TOOLKIT)

If your child is a bystander and/or a witness:

  1. If your child is a bystander and/or a witness:
    Discuss with your child about the ways they can make a difference (eg. helping the victim or reporting the bullying to the teacher or school authority)

Partner with the victim and remove her from danger – Go stand with the victim physically, turn the victim away from the bully and walk her off in the other direction — towards adult help. Say “You look upset” or “I’ve been looking for you”or “The teacher sent me to find you.”

Get help – Bullies love an audience. Get the other kids on your side by waving them over to you, yelling, “We need your help.”  Confront the bully: “You’re being mean.”  Then walk away: “C’mon, let’s go!” (AHA PArenting)

  1. Let them know that you’ll support them should they decide to step forward
    3. Give examples of how helpful bystanders have shown courage and made a difference in real-life bullying situations.[16]ls, making it difficult to understand their involvement in bullying. (KHL)
    * Difference between telling and tattling


How to stop bullying  – When YOU see or hear bullying…

  1. Intervene immediately. When you do nothing, you send the message that bullying is acceptable. If you ignore or minimize the problem, victims will not believe that adults understand or care, or that they can help. If you don’t intervene, children won’t either.
  2. Intervene even if you’re not sure it’s bullying. Observing children’s actions, words, body language, and facial expressions will help you determine if bullying is occurring. Even if it’s not, aggressive behaviors need to be stopped.
  3. Stand between or near the victim and the bully, separating them if necessary, so as to stop the bullying behaviors. Describe the behavior you observed and why it is unacceptable. 4.Respond firmly and appropriately. Remain calm, but convey the seriousness of the situation. Announce that the bullying must stop.
  4. Get help if needed. If the bully is using physical force, or there is more than one bully, you may need to find another adult to help keep children safe and protect yourself.
  5. Do not respond aggressively. Using aggressive behavior sends the wrong message that this is a good way to solve problems. It may also prompt a bully or a bystander to increase his or her bullying behavior or become aggressive toward you.
  6. Avoid lecturing the bully in front of his or her peers. Your goal is to end the behavior, not humiliate or shame the bully. Rather than serving as a deterrent, lecturing and scolding often provide the bully with attention that he or she finds rewarding.
  7. Don’t impose immediate consequences. Allow yourself time to consider the incident and obtain any clarifying information—then decide the best course of action.
  8. Don’t ask children to “work things out” for themselves. Bullying is different from an argument or conflict; it involves a power imbalance that requires adult intervention.
  9. Give praise and show appreciation to helpful bystanders. Children who try to help the victim or stop the bully are key to bullying prevention.
  10. Stick around. Remain in the area until you are sure the behavior has stopped. (TOOLKIT)



Berry, K. (2013). Bullying in primary school. Quirky Kid. Retrieved from:

Cross, D., Shaw, T., Hearn, L., Epstein, M., Monks, H., Lester, L., & Thomas, L. (2009). Australian Covert Bullying Prevalence Study (ACBPS). Child Health Promotion Research Centre, Edith Cowan University, Perth. Retrieved from:

Elliot, M. (1997).  101 ways to deal with bullying. Hodder & Stoughton, London.

Kids Help Line (2016). Dealing With School Related Bullying: An overview for parents. Kids Help Line. Retrieved from:

Markham, L. (2017). 11 ways to empower your child against bullying. Aha!Parenting. Retrieved from:

SWLSB – Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board (n.a.). The bully, the bullied, and the bystander: based on the work of Barbara Coloroso. Retrieved from:


Rocker, L (2010). Bullying. Quirky Kid. Retrieved from:


Berry, K. (2013). Bullying in primary school. Quirky Kid. Retrieved from:

Cross, D., Shaw, T., Hearn, L., Epstein, M., Monks, H., Lester, L., & Thomas, L. (2009). Australian Covert Bullying Prevalence Study (ACBPS). Child Health Promotion Research Centre, Edith Cowan University, Perth. Retrieved from:

Markham, L. (2017). 11 ways to empower your child against bullying. Aha!Parenting. Retrieved from:

 Kids Help Line (2016). Dealing With School Related Bullying: An overview for parents. Kids Help Line. Retrieved from:

Markham, L. (2017). 11 ways to empower your child against bullying. Aha!Parenting. Retrieved from:

Storey, K. Slaby, R., Adler, M., Minotti, J., & Katz, R. (2013). Eyes on bullying toolkit. USA: Education Development Center. Retrieved from:

SWLSB – Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board (n.a.). The bully, the bullied, and the bystander: based on the work of Barbara Coloroso. Retrieved from:


Collins, A. (2017) What you really need to know about bullying and its lifelong effects. Retreived from:

Elliot, M. (1997).  101 ways to deal with bullying. London: Hodder & Stoughton.

Kids Help Line (2016). Dealing With School Related Bullying: An overview for parents. Kids Help Line. Retrieved from:

Markham, L. (2017). 11 ways to empower your child against bullying. Aha!Parenting. Retrieved from:

Myers, W. (2011). 7 Signs That Your Kid’s a Bully. Retrieved from:

SWLSB – Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board (n.a.). The bully, the bullied, and the bystander: based on the work of Barbara Coloroso. Retrieved from:

Raising Children Network (2011). Your child bullying others. Retrieved from:

Rigby, K. (2008). Children and bullying: How parents and educators can reduce bullying at school. Malden: Blackwell/Wiley.

Cross, D., Shaw, T., Hearn, L., Epstein, M., Monks, H., Lester, L., & Thomas, L. (2009). Australian Covert Bullying Prevalence Study (ACBPS). Child Health Promotion Research Centre, Edith Cowan University, Perth. Retrieved from:

Kids Help Line (2016). Dealing With School Related Bullying: An overview for parents. Kids Help Line. Retrieved from:

Storey, K. Slaby, R., Adler, M., Minotti, J., & Katz, R. (2013). Eyes on bullying toolkit. USA: Education Development Center. Retrieved from:

SWLSB – Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board (n.a.). The bully, the bullied, and the bystander: based on the work of Barbara Coloroso. Retrieved from:

Rocker, L (2010). Bullying. Quirky Kid. Retrieved from:


Kids Help Line (2016). Dealing With School Related Bullying: An overview for parents. Kids Help Line. Retrieved from:

Storey, K. Slaby, R., Adler, M., Minotti, J., & Katz, R. (2013). Eyes on bullying toolkit. USA: Education Development Center. Retrieved from:

SWLSB – Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board (n.a.). The bully, the bullied, and the bystander: based on the work of Barbara Coloroso. Retrieved from:

Managing Tantrums

tantrums-and-meltdownsTantrums are an inevitable occurrence with toddlers but they are not usually a sign of poor parenting, spoilt children, or bad behaviour. They are an important part of growing up and show us that our child has wants and needs of his own.

The first thing to keep in mind is that a toddler in the midst of a tantrum is not rational. They have very limited capacity for problem solving at this point and any attempt to engage in reasoning will probably just trigger further tears and screams.

It can be helpful to tap into your own feelings about the situation to give you a hint about how to manage the tantrum.

If you are feeling frustrated or annoyed with your child’s behaviour he is probably having an “angry” tantrum and you both need some space to calm down. Let him have his rant in a safe way, but limit the attention you give him. Remove eye contact, turn away, and don’t speak to your child. Every now and then, you can turn back to your child and tell him you are ready to help him when he is ready to calm down.

If you are feeling sorry for your child, and wanting to comfort her, she is probably experiencing a “distress” tantrum and will need your help to calm down. A firm hug can help your little one feel loved despite her overwhelmingly emotions. Show your child that you are not frightened by her emotions and are able to help her calm them.

Remember, too, that toddlers have big feelings and small vocabularies. They have not yet managed to find the words to describe how they feel so it can be reassuring if you are able to do this for them. Calmly naming the feeling, e.g. “you feel frustrated because….”, will encourage your little one to use words to express himself in the future, and help him feel understood.

Lastly, try to avoid power struggles with your toddler. Remember that your child is trying to be assertive so, once everyone has calmed down alittle, you can acknowledge the assertiveness while still sticking to your boundary.

Toilet training tips here…

The Challenging Toddler

All toddlers have their fair share of difficult behaviour. Parenting a toddler is by no means an easy task and takes a daily dose of patience. Some toddlers, however, seem to shout louder, tantrum more, run faster, and climb higher than others.

Managing the challenging toddler becomes paramount to parent sanity. It is better to strategically manage the situation than to constantly be running from one potential catastrophe to the next. 

Adorable 3 year old boy covered in bright paint.

  • Toddlers are better at managing situations that are predictable and have clear boundaries. You may find that your little one acts out a bit more when he is feeling insecure. Prepare him for what is happening from one moment to the next by discussing how the day will run. It can help to have a chart with pictures of daily activities to complement your words. Try not to overload the day. Prepare your toddler also for what behaviours are expected of him, e.g. when going to the shops. Setting the boundaries and explaining the expectations beforehand helps your toddler understand what is happening and how to behave.
  • Consistency is probably one of your strongest tactics – parents who are consistent in their expectations and responses tend to be more effective in instilling boundaries with their toddlers. Make sure that you stick to the ground rules you have laid out for your toddler, and if you have to implement a consequence, follow through and stick to it.
  • Children are more willing to follow adult instructions when they feel a strong positive connection with that adult. Give lots of cuddles and spend time together every day in a safe environment where you don’t have to say “no” too much. Allow your child to take the lead in her play with you and give her your undivided attention.
  • Lastly, learn to read your toddler’s cues and identify when she is feeling tired, hungry or overstimulated. Help her calm down by toning things down a bit – dimming the lights, having a warm bath, reading a story. It also helps to lower your own voice as this requires that she quieten down in order to hear you. Remember that overstimulated and tired toddlers are often a force to be reckoned with so managing these trigger early will often work in your favour.


Read on for more parenting tips…

Raising EQ in my Toddler

eqParenting a child is about providing situations where your child can develop self esteem, confidence, problem solving skills, and intelligence. It is also about giving them opportunities to become self aware and develop emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence really means having an awareness of self, empathy for others, and an ability to regulate your own emotions. But just how do we help our toddlers accomplish this?

Toddlers are notorious for their tantrums. They are emotional and live in the moment. If something upsets them, they will let you know. Loudly. And very often they are unable to calm themselves down. Parents can often feel at a loss as to what to do next. We then try to distract, or pacify, but this does not help build emotional intelligence and the ability to regulate their emotions.

Here are a few quick tips on building emotional intelligence in young children:

  • Identify the feelings: The key here is to listen to your child and feedback what you are hearing and seeing . Give them the words they require for the feelings they are having. For example, “You are really frustrated that we had to leave the park…” Whilst you are not changing the situation, you are helping your toddler feel he has been heard and understood.
  • Remain calm. Despite the chaos that reigns, your remaining calm will show them that their emotions cannot hurt you or themselves. Remaining calm also models the kind of behaviour you want from them in the future.
  • Have, and demonstrate empathy for your child. Try to understand what this must feel like for him and why he may be acting out the way he is. Validate his experience and then model the desired outcome for him. Show him how he can respond in future that may generate a different outcome.
  • Above all, be consistent in your approach to your child. When you are predictable and consistent, you are also a safe place from which to explore his emotions.

Managing Discipline of my Toddler

400_8_top_discipline_mistakesIf you have ever been in a power struggle with a toddler you will know that there are seldom any winners. Both you and your child are exhausted and upset by the end of it. All of us need a certain element of control in our lives, and kids don’t get much of that. Discipline is more about teaching and guiding your child in their behaviours rather than the imposition of your will over theirs. So, when disciplining your toddler, try to balance boundaries and rules with some basic choices and you will find those power struggles settle pretty quickly.

Managing toddler behaviour means strategically setting you both up to succeed and having a consistently firm approach when the boundaries are overstepped. For examples, when going shopping, plan the shopping trip for after a nap and after your toddler has eaten something healthy . That way you won’t have an over-tired, over-stimulated child who is hungry and wanting everything in sight. Should your little one, despite your best efforts, throw a tantrum in the shopping centre, be prepared to leave things as they are and promptly walk out with her to go sit in the car where she can calm down.

This sort of strategic behaviour management can easily be generalised to most situations. The aim is to pre-empt where the problem lies and take steps to overcome it. Allow your child to feel as if she is making some of the decisions, whilst you set the parameters of those decisions. Make sure the rules and expectations are clear and your toddler is aware of them. When they are broken respond swiftly, and firmly but keep it brief! Often the best response is to end the current activity and remove your toddler to a space where they can calm down, making it clear that the behaviour is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in that space.

Once you have helped your toddler identify what behaviours are not appropriate, set up opportunities for them to do the “right” thing. They may need some more guidance from you with this. When your toddler demonstrates behaviours you do want, make sure you point it out to them and acknowledge their efforts. This will increase their desire to do the appropriate behaviours next time.


Read on for more toddler parenting ideas…

Fostering Self Esteem

good-self-esteemWe all want our children to grow up having a healthy self-esteem. Many parents try to foster self-esteem by telling their children, repeatedly, how beautiful they are, how clever they are, or how proud they are of their achievements. While these things certainly leave your child feeling good about themselves temporarily, it can create a problem when they don’t quite achieve what you (or they) had expected. Humans do not necessarily develop a sense of self-worth and healthy self-esteem from being told they are clever.

Children will develop healthy self esteem when they feel completely accepted and validated.

Parents need to validate their children’s feelings and experiences to allow the child to feel accepted and understood. A child is then less likely to feel afraid of their own feelings or behaviour and will develop a secure sense of self.

When parents focus on the child’s efforts as well as their achievements they are also able to foster a healthy self-esteem. When you praise your child’s effort you give them the opportunity to feel proud of themselves despite the outcome. No-one can achieve perfectly every time and we don’t want a child’s self-esteem to flail when they don’t come out on top. Allow your child the opportunity to make mistakes. Show him how to learn from those mistakes, and that he is accepted and loved even when he is not perfect.

Encourage your child to set her own goals. Many parents try to sway their children in the direction they want them to go. Allowing your child to set her own goals not only respects her autonomy, but also gives her the opportunity to work towards goals that are important to her. You child is more likely to achieve goals she has set for herself and, so too, experience the sense of pride and achievement in meeting those goals.

Children are deeply affected by their parents words. Watch what you say and how you say it. Never use words that are belittling, and when correcting, make sure you correct the behaviour and not the person. Your praise will carry more weight than praise from others so use encouraging words and praise often. It goes a long way towards fostering self esteem.


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