Posted in Kids and Parenting

12 Ways to Parent Differently in 2017

Another year ends and a new one begins. This is the time of the year that brings so much opportunity for change. A new year for many means a new start. The slate is wiped clean. We won’t repeat the bad habits of the past. Plans are made to save more, eat less and put some balance into our lives. At least these are the plans I hear from people around me.

But, if you have children then ask yourself, “What will be different this year?

Will this year bring more of the same for you and your brood, or will you take the opportunity to do some things differently, or even take your parenting up a notch or two this year?” If improvement as a parent is important then consider these 12 ideas that are guaranteed to have you parenting differently in 2017.

1. Let kids out of your sight

Okay, I thought I’d kick off with something controversial. In this current age of anxiety and fear, effective parenting is equated with the constant monitoring of kids behaviour and whereabouts. It starts with parents as a preventative measure for SIDS monitoring babies as they sleep. But the monitoring and supervision of kids intensifies as they get older, with technology (mobile phones and tracking devices) making it almost impossible for kids to fall off their parents’ radar. This constant monitoring coincides with unprecedented high levels of childhood anxiety, which many experts agree, is fed by parents worrying for their children’s safety. Contrary to popular belief Australia is no more dangerous a place than it was when you were growing up, yet we don’t allow kids the same freedoms to explore and wander that we enjoyed as kids. This year free yourself from always knowing what your child is doing. Give them some space to play on their own, explore their neighbourhood and visit friends without you knowing every move they make.

2. Expect them to earn the right

Do your kids constantly remind you that they have rights? Do they tell you that they have right to (pick any of the following and feel free to add to the list): go where they want/use their mobile phone whenever they want/play in the living room without cleaning up? If so, your kids may be growing up with a false sense of entitlement, which is fast becoming a marker of this generation. Make this a year where kids earn the rights that they previously took for granted through hard work, responsible behaviour and being cooperative. Let them earn the right to have something by saving, working for it or simply waiting until they are old enough to appreciate it.

3. Be less worried about what others think of you

It’s human nature to be mindful about what others think of you. Worrying about what others think of our parenting is a massive driver of parenting behaviours. Few parents I know would even countenance taking their young children to pre-school school in a half-dressed state, even though said children were dragging the chain at home, for fear of what other parents would think of them. More’s the pity because in the quest to be perceived as being a ‘good (coping, calm, cool) parent’ in the eyes of others we run the risk of being doormats to our kids. Add to this the fact that many modern parents are quick to judge others, negotiating the politics of parenting can be a nightmare. Best this year to worry less what others think and pursue your own parenting path.

4. Praise effort over results

If comments such as ‘good boy’ and ‘good girl’ trip of your tongue like a nervous tic and your child is over the age of five then I suggest you change parenting tapes and focus more on children’s effort than their results this year. While children under the age of five have difficulty differentiating between who they are and what they do – so if in effect you praise what they do, you also praise them – school-aged kids can differentiate between the two and show a clear preference for effort praise over result praise. “Always do your best” is a great turn of phrase as it focuses your child’s attention on what they do rather than who they are (“You’re clever”) as a strategy for success. So this year your kids should hear less “Good boy/girl” type comments and more “You’re working hard/putting in the effort” type comments from you so they are free to take more risks and they learn that success is more due to effort and strategy than ability alone.

5. Defer more to your partner

If you are in a two parent arrangement then you’ll know only too well that there’s usually tension when two people raise their kids. We come to the task with different parenting experiences and differing expectations. That’s before we factor in how our birth order impacts on how we raise kids. These differences can be draining particularly when one parent is forever saying “Yes” to everything a child asks, while the other always says “No”. You can prevent this by habitually deferring to your partner, particularly when your kids put pester power to the test. Rather than continually responding to children’s requests, say something like, “I’m not sure about that. I’ll check with your father/mother and get back to you.” This year work hard to give your kids the consistency of two partners working from the same songsheet.

6. Set the rules first

Tired of feeling like the family killjoy because you’re always taking kids’ freedoms away? If so, here’s a strategy you’ll love. When you give kids something new (e.g. a mobile phone), or allow them to do new activity (e.g. go to a friend’s house) always put a rule or restriction in place. “You can only use the phone in the living room or kitchen.” “You can go to your friend’s place after school but you need to stay there and don’t go anywhere else.” When kids show they can act responsibly then reward their responsible behaviour by removing the restrictions thereby granting them greater freedom. So this year make sure you put a rule or two in place when kids get or do anything new and be ready to remove them when they do the right thing. Far smarter than taking away freedoms when kids act irresponsibly or excessively because there were no rules in the first place.

7. Ditch the digital (when you are with kids)

If you’re concerned about the amount of time your child spends in front of a media screen then it may be a good idea to look at your own screen habits. A recent US study into technology habits found that on average parents spent half an hour more each day on screen media than their tween or teen children. And perversely, these same parents expressed concerns about their children’s screen use. While most parents are aware of the power of role modelling to influence kids’ behaviour, it appears to be blind spot when it comes to digital media. If you want kids to reduce, or at least bring some balance to their media screen time this year, then consider swapping “Do as I say” with “Do as I do.”

8. Give kids new challenges

Nine-year-old Ella wanted some spending money for her summer holidays. Her parents suggested she think of a way to earn some extra money rather than simply receive a handout. She rose to the challenge, selling plant cuttings taken from her parents garden at a stall outside her home one weekend. She made enough money to supplement her bank account as well as fund her summer spending. It’s easy sometimes to give kids what they want. Better to challenge them to solve their own problems. So this year do more for your kids by doing less and start posing their request as problems for them to solve. Confidence comes from meeting new challenges.

9. When kids can let them do

Do you wake your kids up each morning even though they are capable of telling the time and setting their own alarm? Perhaps you think that getting kids out of bed is a parent’s job. Maybe you think your child couldn’t organise themselves in the morning let alone get themselves out of bed without you reminding them? You may be right. Only you can judge that. This year adopt the “when kids can let them do” principle. Identify the key responsibilities that you are taking away from kids, then gradually hand them over to your kids. I bet they’ll surprise you with how capable they really are.

10. Praise your kids for managing adversity

It’s a parenting truism that what you give attention to expands. Keeping giving attention to kids’ poor behaviour and all you seem to get is poor behaviour. Here’s a challenge. This year set your antennae to notice when kids’ cope with adversity and start praising their factors that contribute to their resilience.

11. Create a fight list

If you always fight with a child or teen over seemingly minor matters then it’s time for a change of strategy. Here’s what to do. Create two lists. One consisting of the issues worth fighting with kids over (e.g you need to be home when you say you will) and the second of things that aren’t worth fighting over (e.g spotless bedrooms). Then over the coming year aim to transfer all the items on the ‘worth fighting over’ list to the ‘not worth fighting over.’

12. Teach them what you know

The art of parenting has its roots in teaching. Mothers and fathers have always passed on their knowledge and skills to their children so that they can learn to function independently in the world. These days kids get skills and knowledge from many sources including teachers, coaches, peers and good old Dr. Google, so much so that a parent can feel redundant. It’s little wonder we do so much for kids. It’s the only way to feel like a parent. This year don’t leave your teaching to chance. Whether it’s cooking a meal; sharing your family’s history or to hammering a nail, look for practical ways rekindle the teacher within. By doing so you’ll be developing kids’ independence and building a stronger relationship as well.

Okay, so how did you go? You may be already doing some of these; some you might have turned your nose up at; and with a bit of luck there would have been some ideas that interested you. Now your challenge is to put two or three of these ideas into practice. Stick at them for at least a month, which is how long it takes for most new behaviours to become habitual. It’s in our habits, not our one-off ideas and strategies, where our real effectiveness as parents lay.

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Posted in Education

4 Essential Life Skills for High Schoolers to Build Before College

It’s finally happening. The moment most parents both dread and look forward to. Their kid is moving out of the house for the first time and heading off to college. You have high hopes for their future (or maybe you don’t). Empty nest syndrome is a powerful thing. Did you raise them well enough? Are they going to starve to death? Eat nothing but pizza? Wear the same pair of underwear for a week straight?

You raised them to the best of your ability and now they will have a chance to get their first taste of life on their own. There are still several key lessons to teach them before they leave to help prepare them for everyday life. As an educator I see students from the beginning of their educational lives all the way up through college. Here are some of the most important tips students need to learn before leaving the nest.

Lesson #1: Taking Care of Money

This is a huge one. Up until now, most teenagers got to spend their money on pretty much whatever they wanted. Whether or not they earned an allowance or worked a part-time job, they still might not grasp the value of a dollar or the importance of saving. Do they know how to maintain a budget? Make sure the bills are paid on time and some put away into savings?

Even more so, do they understand that going to college isn’t free (unless it is) and how they will spend the next ten years of their lives paying back a student loan? The state of the economy? How well their degree will translate to real-world jobs? Do they know how to pinch pennies, like making coffee from home versus that $5 diabetic coma they serve elsewhere?

Life lessons and good management of money now will lead to a more prepared adult by the time they graduate college.

Lesson #2: Staying Safe

Whether we’re willing to accept it or not, college campuses can be rife with negative influences. College rape culture is a real thing. Underage drinking and partying WILL happen. You’ve done your best to protect your child while living under your roof, but now they will have to make their own decisions and peer pressure will be tough to overcome.

Before sending your kids away to college, make sure they know about the dangers of partying, where the security offices are, and a plan of action for any scenario that might pop up.

Lesson #3: Getting Around

There are a few basic essentials that everyone needs to know. This is especially true with life on a college campus. Does your child know how to change a tire? This is a simple lesson they should know the moment they get a set of wheels, yet, a lot of today’s teens and young adults have never changed one.

Is there public or college-sponsored transportation they can take? Do they know where the parking lots are in relation to their classes? Where to shop for food? The sooner they become familiar with these basics, the easier life on their own will be.

The Groza Learning Center is outside Los Angeles and many of our students are familiar with local transportation, including riding public buses. If your child is going to college in a city with a different type of public transportation, take a trip with them and learn which lines go to and from the college.

Lesson #4: Shopping and Cooking

Living on fast food and take-out is EXPENSIVE, and can be bad for your health. One of the top skills everyone should know is how to cook for themselves. Kids can be too used to home-cooked meals, but once they move out, family meals will be few and far between. The basics will do, but while you’re showing them, keep in mind the types of food they’ll most likely be eating while in a dorm.

Alternatively, teach them how to follow sales, clip coupons, and the basics of shopping for their own food. They’ll thank you for it later in life.

At the end of the day, it’s our responsibility to ensure our kids are fully prepared for life on their own. It will be a difficult adjustment for a lot of them, but that’s okay. The more prepared they are, the easier it will be.

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Posted in Games and Activities

How Children Can Benefit Greatly From Video Games

Giving your child the tools they need to succeed in life can sometimes be a daunting ask. With an abundance of options, and technology changing the way in which we navigate through life, children have an overwhelm array of options to help them grow and learn. In fact, one of the most prevalent forms of entertainment and education for children is video games. Unlike other tactics that might take time to integrate with your children, or that they may simply dislike, video games pair the entertainment factor with the benefits of learning perfectly. Find out more about how video games can be beneficial for kids and see how this often negatively-viewed form of entertainment can actually improve your child’s life.

Inspire Healthy Competition

The truth is that not every child is athletic. As a result, those that aren’t particularly good at sports don’t have the same opportunity to express their competitive urges in the same way. Video games give these children an outlet to enjoy the competitive side of sportsmanship in a way that is comfortable for them. They can learn to win and lose, all while striving to do better. Competing is an important part of adulthood, and knowing how to navigate competition is an important facet of everyday life.

Helps Them Make Friends

A common misconception about video games is that they provoke antisocial lifestyles and behaviors. In fact, the opposite is true, especially for children. Video games give children the opportunity to spend time with friends and mingle with like-minded kids. Just like great bingo sites such as,, which provide fans of bingo with communities where they can socialize and play the game they love, children too can mimic this kind of dynamic by gathering groups of friends for a fun night of video game playing.

Improves Problem-Solving Skills

Video games have become sophisticated, both in storylines and in gameplay. This requires a keen ability to problem solve and navigate one’s way around the intricacies of elaborate worlds. Playing video games can improve a child’s ability to assess problems and come up with efficient plans-of-action. Essentially, video games help children make decisions and encourage them to take responsibility for their actions, which is a useful skill to have well into adulthood. It also improves the rate at which they can assess a problem, as video games move quickly and decisions need to be made fast.

Encourages Healthy Parent-Child Relationships

Today’s video games have evolved greatly from some of the earlier games of decades ago. These games entail elaborate stories, advanced graphics and gameplays which test the mind and challenge the player. As a result, most of these games are appropriate for both children and adults. In fact, when engaging with their parents over a session of video game playing, children will experience the necessary bonding to ensure healthy relationships. Video games can bridge the gap between old and young seamlessly, so that both can relate on common grounds and enjoy each other’s company.

Video games can be used for good when it comes to improving the way today’s youth grows and learns. Unlike popular belief, which often paints a negative picture for video games and those that play them, we find that the results of playing these games can provide children with the skills they need to lead healthy lives. Consider these benefits when allowing your children to enjoy a leisurely night of playing video games. You might find that the skills they acquire will help them with their studies, improve their social lives and, enhance how you enjoy your free-time with them.

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