Listening to your little one so she’ll carry on telling you stuff when she’s big

I remember when my daughter was little she used to chatter on and on and had all manner of important things to tell me – at great length.  I’d listen, but sometimes I felt like I didn’t have the time. I had meals to cook, and work to do, and other children to attend to, and, and, and…

Then one day when she was in full flow I caught myself mentally list-making and I stopped.

Brotherton freeimages

I stopped and I knelt down so that I could be on her level and I asked her to start again, so that I could hear her properly right from the beginning.  She smiled and let out a huge sigh – like I was finally giving her what she’d been trying to get from me – my undivided attention.

Mothers of teens often ask me how to get their daughters to talk to them – and I have a number of suggestions.  Often I write what I most need to hear – and today I want to remind myself (and you) to listen to your daughter when she is little and don’t stop listening to her – even when what she is telling you seems inconsequential or dull.  Don’t stop listening and then she is less likely to stop telling you things as she grows older.  And when she’s older, listen to her even when what she is saying seems trivial.  How you listen when she is telling you the mundane things will determine how willing she is to tell you about more sensitive things.

I remember how my daughter would come to me for a hug and would pull me up with, “No, a full-attention cuddle!” and I knew to drop everything, even drop the busyness inside my own head, and give her all of me.

Children know.  They know if you’re really paying attention.  And they know if you are listening supportively or critically.  So if you really want your daughter to talk to you when she’s a teen, pay really good attention to whatever she has to say to you.

Photo: freeimages by Brotherton


Posted on 15 January 2015
Musings: Parenting girls

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A letter alerting you to your first period!


Wouldn’t it be great if you got a letter delivered to you that gave you notice: “Congratulations!  Your first period is due to start next week on Wednesday at 5:30pm” so you could make sure you’d be home, have pads to hand, and someone to hold your hand or to celebrate with – or a good book to quietly snuggle up with under your duvet?  You’d be prepared.

Seeing blood in your knickers for the first time can be a shock because until now blood has meant pain and that there’s something wrong.  In time your monthly bleed can be a reassurance, your body’s way of showing that everything is right.  It also reminds us that we are special.  Girls and women who are menstruating can nurture life.  Your first period is an important event – and a time to feel proud.

It is quite normal to feel a whole mixture of feelings when it comes – fear, excitement, nervous, unsure, embarrassed, proud, grown up, relief, tearful, happy.  Some girls can’t wait to start, others are more reluctant.  Whether you feel ready or not, it is good to make sure that you are a bit prepared.  Get some pads and carry one in a little purse in your bag.  Talk to older girls or women to find out about what to expect, or read about it.

When you start, if you don’t feel like telling your parents straight away, find someone else to talk to.  You are joining a very large club – of all the girls and woman around the world who bleed monthly.  It is the most natural thing in the world and lots of women remember what it was like to start and would want to support you.

You can have some idea of when your first period will come because it will be roughly two and a half years after the first signs of puberty.  Anytime between eight and sixteen years old is normal and around thirteen is average.  So if you first noticed breast buds at the age of ten, then you’re likely to be around twelve and a half when you have your first bleed.

The first time you may just find dark brown stains in your underwear or it may flow more and be bright red.  We bleed only about two to three tablespoons of blood each month, the rest is lining shed from the uterus, which still only amounts to about a third of a cup (maximum one cup) dribbling out over 3 to 8 days.  Although your period will end up coming monthly, sometimes you can have one and then not another one for a while, and it may take some time before it comes regularly.

You have a number of choices for how to catch the blood – reusable or disposable pads, tampons, and cups or sponges for the more adventurous.  If you are caught out, you can always wrap toilet paper several times around your hand to make an absorbent wad to put in your underwear.

Many girls and women find their monthly bleed to be a good thing, a cleansing, creative time of knowing more clearly how they feel.  Some experience cramping, or moodiness, and need to find out about what to eat and how to take care of themselves to ease this.

So, even without the letter giving you advance warning of your first period, you can still get yourself ready.  Even if what you’d like to reply is, “Actually, Sunday afternoon at 3pm would be better.”  or  “I’d like to postpone to next year.”  think about how you would like to celebrate your first period – it could be a special meal with family, or a gathering of close friends, or a private treat by yourself in your bedroom.  It’s something to feel proud of.

Photo: 123RF by Ragnarocks

Posted on 24 November 2014
Musings: Parenting girls

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Money Matters

Wittaya Puangkingkaew

Do you pay your kids to do housework?  Or homework?

There are so many ways to teach our children about money.  Of course the most powerful lessons come from what they see us doing.  Their observations of how money is spent and saved, controlled and enjoyed, have long-reaching effects on how they will approach money.  If you want to teach good money management, check that yours is good first.

I have heard of so many different systems that work for families:
Some give pocket-money, but some of it must be earned by doing chores.
Some pay extra for exceptional jobs undertaken, mowing lawn, washing car, painting skirting boards etc.
Some give a monthly allowance which must be used to cover all clothing, cosmetic, and entertainment needs.
Some expect their child to take part-time employment to pay for their extras.
Some hand out money to cover expenses as they arise.
Some give pocket-money but it is docked for bad behaviour.
Many do a mixture of some of these.

A mentor of mine once said that most unresolved issues either lie with money, sex or power; so it is worth giving some attention to what you are consciously or unconsciously teaching your child about these things.

Who has control over the money in your home?  Who spends it?  Who manages saving?  Who earns it?  How is money managed?  Is it kept private or spoken about?  Is the family living within their means?  Is there enough money?  Is money fun, worrying, appreciated, scarce?  The answers to these questions will tell you something about what you are teaching your children about money.

Society, peers, and advertising all create expectations but home sets a powerful example.  You can live in a materialistic culture and still raise children who treasure what they have, who do not expend energy constantly yearning for more, who do their chores without needing to be paid because it contributes to family life, who have their pocket money assured no matter what their behaviour, and who have an understanding of what their family is able to afford.

There are studies showing that paying children demotivates them.  And evidence which demonstrates that punishing children demotivates them.  And research that supports the idea that strong, respectful, communicative relationships between parent (or mentor) and child are what gives a child the strongest sense of their self-worth and motivation to be all that they can be.

And remember, most fond childhood memories arise from you spending time with your child, not money.

Photo: 123RF by Wittaya-Puangkingkaew
Posted on 8 November 2014
Musings: Parenting girls, Parenting teenagers
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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Exam Pressure

The exams results are out!  Tribulation and tragedy abound.


I worry for our children.

When did we start to think that this was a good way to educate?  Focussing so completely on exams, all teaching geared specifically for taking these exams, limiting learning to a narrow curriculum, and judging everyone on how well they test during a few days at the end of it all.

It seems to me to be an education that does not serve our children.

I look at our education system and I don’t see a vibrant, exciting, learning environment.  I see children stressed by exam pressure.  Teens forced to rise earlier than is naturally healthy for them. Children having to sit for hour upon hour, studying a series of seemingly unrelated subjects, required to switch their attention from subject to subject every hour.

One exams fits all, tests all. Because we don’t trust our teachers, what they must teach is prescribed; because we don’t trust our schools, they too are tested and ranked against one another; students are coached for exam success with little leeway to explore their own interests; and despite all the research that demonstrates how much we are failing our children, we persist.  Testing everyone to tell us how well we are doing.

We are teaching them:

*  Fear.  If you don’t do as we say, you will fail – in exams and in life.
*  Compete against each other – you will be ranked against your peers.
*  Don’t collaborate – we call that cheating.
*  Everything stands and falls on how able you are to regurgitate what you know in a ninety minute period in several months time.

We are impressed when we hear a child demonstrate their knowledge by spouting facts

How does this prepare our children for adult life?

What I wish for my children is simply this:

To want to learn.
To know how they learn best.
To have confidence in their ability to learn.
To have enough free time for their own learning.

This is an approach that will serve them well

I do not want them to acquire facts and jump through hoops out of fear.

I want them to work together, using all the resources available to find information, asking guidance from experts, and helping each other.

I want them to be able to welcome mistakes as part of the learning process.

I want their own assessment of their progress to matter more than any others’ assessment.

Then I feel they are preparing well for the world that they live in and their adult life to come.

Photo: 123RF by Vladimir Voronin
Posted on 18 August 2014
Musings: Parenting girls

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Trusted teen

What if you could really trust that your teen was going to turn out all right?
How would your life be different?  And hers?

How many stressful conversations would be avoided if you weren’t trying to alter the behaviour of your teen?
How much better would your relationship be then?
Might that not have a more positive impact on your child than telling them what to do (however subtly)?

With all the best intentions in the world, can you be sure that your attempts to influence your teen will lead to the best outcome?  Can you be sure?

Ozkan Deligoz copy

How might your teen see herself differently if you had faith in their ability to make the right choices (even though they might not be your right choices)?
Think of the many adults that you know who have horrendous tales of their teen years, but who have made fulfilling lives for themselves as adults – and maybe not in spite of their adolescent experiences but because of them.
How many adults do you know who were ‘good teens’ but are not happy adults.

So can you be sure that what you think is right for your child, is what is right?

Notice when your advice to your teen is driven by fear – fear that she won’t make her own right choices, fear that she won’t know what is best for her, fear that she’ll do something regrettable.
Do you want your child to live as a fear-based adult?  Do you want her to be limited that way?

Do you trust her to want the best for herself?  Are you sure that what drives her decision-making is not as good as what drives your decisions for her?
Would you having faith in her maybe encourage her to take responsibility for herself?

Children do want the best for themselves – even when it doesn’t look like it.

If you feel irritated with me while reading this, because what do I know about your situation, then you’ll be having the same response that I have when I read this kind of stuff.  But, do you know, it works!  I resist it, every time, and it makes me cross while I read it, but if I let it affect how I think, then it makes a difference.  My relationship with my teen softens.  Conflict disappears.  And I don’t wake and worry.


Photo: 123RF by Ozkan Deligoz

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Posted on 10 July 2014
Musings: Parenting girls, Parenting teenagers
Tags: , , ,

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