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  • How to Make a Cheap Christmas Tree Look Expensive

    When our kids were very young we only had a 30+ year old hand-me-down Christmas tree. But one year I saved up and bought a beautiful tree in the after Christmas sale, for 60% off. It cost $140 at the time, but I paid it because I expected it to last us for life. Ten years later I went to unpack the Christmas Tree from the garage, (where I'd safely stored it every other year) and inside the box was a descicated rat, stuck to one of the branches... Talk about the nastiest Christmas decoration ever. Seems it had crawled in from the Aussie bush, (which we live next door to,) looking for a warm place during winter. And because it was stored up high in the garage we didn't notice any smell. So I went out to buy another tree, two and a half weeks before Christmas. Anything nice in my price range had long gone. To get something equivalent to what I had was over $700. I settled for a medium sized $80 tree and hoped with time I would be able to replace it. But as it turns out I never did. And now I love my $80 tree just as much as my expensive 'old' tree. So what changed? 1. I found a friend who loves Christmas as much as I do and we decorate each other's Christmas trees. 2. Before we begin, I cover a large plastic crate with Christmas paper, which I put under the tree, making it appear taller. 3. And then we begin to decorate the tree with strips of ribbon (which I purchased on spools from the $2 Shop.) Here we've used three different Christmas coloured ribbons. But you can use any colours to match your decor. 4. We begin at the back of the top of the tree and wind our way down, attaching the ribbon to the tree at 12-15 inch intervals. You can either wind the wire branch over the ribbon to hold it in place, or use a 1/2 green pipe cleaner piece and twist them into place. We've chosen to go diagonally as it's easiest to wind it around the tree. And it makes nice spaces for decorations to fit into. 5. Then we add some holly and the Christmas ornaments in the spaces. N.B. Every year our children received a Christmas ornament from their Nan, and from me as well, so over years we have a collection. Some are super-cheap baubles, and dough figures, while others are unique and more expensive. I always space the most beautiful decorations in eye catching positions on the tree. With the most sentimental in areas of prominence. 6. Finally we add three rows of beads and a tree topper to complete the transformation. You could also add tinsel Now all we need to do, is to hang the Christmas stockings. May your Christmas be a kind one and may the new year be full of good health, loving family, great friendships and fantastic adventures. If you would like some other great ideas for living well on a budget you may be interested in the following link to tips that allowed us to pay our house off in just over half the time plus gave us back years of free time over our working lives. Regards, Deb

  • Five Tips For Thriving At Home With Kids During Self-Isolation

    Bored kids are rarely easy to manage. And if kids are attempting to run the place, self-isolation could be a nightmare, for both kids, and parents alike. But alternatively, self-isolating with kids at home, could be a time when you can build closer relationships and create great memories... If you're smart about it. It could be a bit like going camping and having weeks of wet weather. Not what you planned. But you can still make the best of it and have fun. During this pandemic, rarely being able to leave the house, limits what you can do to break the monotony for your kids. But some of us can relate. I can remember having 25 new preschoolers starting a new year during three weeks of rain. And I knew if I didn't keep them happy and engaged, those who were inclined to be challenging, would be all over me. Because those who tested their parents, were also inclined to test me. So why didn't they? Or if they did, why didn't they continue to do so. Simply put, children got less attention for being difficult. But more importantly, there was so much more in it for them to do the right thing. I always had heaps of interesting things to do, so it was fun to cooperate. I wanted kids to be positive about learning. So I focused on every positive I could about their efforts to learn. e.g. When teaching Year 1 I focused on the best sentence written on their page and explained why that was particularly good. That identified what quality work was. And as a result I got better quality work... For younger kids, it may be as simple as commenting on the best letter formation. E.g. straight backs on letters of equal size. But if you're stuck at home, and there are generally kids screaming and running around the place, it's likely they may not have enough to do. And it can increase the overall levels of stress in a household. But with a little planning, you can turn what is a difficult time, into a positive time. One where you build quality relationships with your family, rather than be saddened by them. Improvements can be made with the introduction of: Simple routines: Kids love predictability. They like to know things like after an activity we wash our hands. Then we have snack break. And after less stimulating activities there will be something more exciting to do. Providing interesting things to do: Kids love to be actively engaged learners. Go to: Things to Do With Kids While Self-Isolating At Home During Pandemic: Boundaries for behaviour: Kids need clear boundaries so they know how to behave. (e.g. using inside voices, using walking feet inside, saying please and thank you. Simple rules keeps the tone of the house calm. And family relationships are better as a result.) Expectations need to be discussed ahead of time. e.g If your child chooses to be difficult, and not complete school tasks, the natural consequences would be they'd miss out on privileges; having to use the time they should have used earlier, to complete work. Noticing the positive: Kids crave attention. You're wise to give it to them for doing the right thing. By noticing the good makes us feel good about ourselves, regardless of how old we are. Our children love to know we see the best in them. Consistent expectations. Kids need to know you're reliable. If you're happy and funny one day, yet losing it the next, it unnerves kids. It makes them more on edge, and the tone of the home overall is more stressful. There is an excellent article on this site called 6 Steps for Improving Behaviour that may help. Go to: This pandemic can provide an opportunity to build positive relationships and happy memories with your children. And it's perfectly fine for you to still expect some time to yourself. The happier your children are, and the better they feel about themselves, the more likely they are to give it to you. Self-isolation at home, may provide you the time to lead your family into more cooperative ways of relating, so your home is a happy one. If you're home schooling remember: You're attempting to create a positive attitude to learning for life. Having your high pressure to complete an activity, may make your kids really negative about learning. And if your child is not behaving well it's okay to say to them. "I'm not being a good parent if I let you think it's okay to behave like that. We both know you're so much better than that... Are you having trouble with something? Can I help you?" There are over 20 articles on behaviour management on Best Parenting that can help you if you're having trouble. Check them out. Fond regards, Deb Arthurs

  • What I'd Do Differently

    If I had my time over again, I'd spend more time dancing and singing. I'd dance while I did the housework. And I'd sing all sorts of songs for the pure joy of it: from Nessum Dorma to I'm Just a Love Machine. I'd spend less time worrying about all my past mistakes. It's my mistakes that helped make me who I am. I'd make peace with them, thank them for what they taught me... And I'd let them go. When I'm old, I'd know I'll still feel the same inside, as when I was young. It helps me see my innocence. I'd take more photos of how wonderful each day is. I'd spend more time living in 'this moment.' Life is important and simply living can be wonderful. I'd get out in nature every day. And if I was thinking about doing something new or different, I'd think why not today. I'd spend more time with people who raise me up. And I'd care less about what other people think. Because I'd know, they're likely not thinking of me much at all. I'd know I was replaceable to any employer. And that my kids will grow up too so I need my own passions in life I'd trust myself more and follow my instincts . I'd spend less time sitting on the edges of life and I'd give myself permission to jump in with both feet. I'd cultivate my ability to public speak, and engage in small talk. But I'd also take a breath before speaking, knowing I don't have to have an opinion on everything. Sometimes silence says it perfectly. With relationships I'd follow my heart. But I'd know to take my brain along for the ride. And while I'd still be kind, I wouldn't be a pushover. I'd create my own retirement plan independent of any partner. Looking out for me is my responsibility. I'd be comfortable to know that not everyone is going to like me and I'm okay with that. I'd spend much less energy on it. At last I'd make friends with my mirror. I'm so much more than how I look. And I wouldn't look into my rear view mirror again, except for the beautiful view. I'd worry less about getting old... Getting old is fine, it's getting boring that's the problem. For 6 Tips I use on Saving Money click on the photo link of the two women shopping. Good Luck to You, Deb

  • How Do Kids Feel: Australia is Burning

    In addition to the Aussie fire crisis our kids may also be being exposed to a media storm of epic proportions. And why can this be an issue for children? As just one example: I can remember how terrified a well-adjusted and happy little boy named 'Jim' became, for what appeared to be, no apparent reason. Jim knew us, had settled well. Yet when his mum was ready to leave for work, he became absolutely frantic. I was deeply concerned by the change, because it was marked. I sat with him and played. And while we played he chatted. I didn't probe. I just let the conversation evolve and progress around the issue. When I eventually asked him if something had happened to make him sad he was surprised. It turned out he was really happy at preschool. But he didn't want his mum to go to work. His exact words were "...because mum works in a high building. And planes fly into high buildings.' I was stunned. And for the first time I saw the horror of 9/11 through a child's eyes. How many times were children exposed to images of planes flying into tall buildings. Likely twenty, thirty, fifty, maybe a hundred. Over years, maybe even more. I recall in just one news broadcast, the same disturbing footage being shown repeatedly from different angles: many promos, multiple images & repeated recaps. Yet again, Australian children are being exposed to repeated trauma, vicariously. But this time it's much closer to home: The Australian bush fire crisis. Children watch their parent's faces fill with concern, as they listen to yet another T.V. update. Australia is burning. It's been on every news channel since late September. And again I wonder just how many traumatic images Australian children have been exposed to. They may have seen or heard about: koalas being burnt and trying to escape, someone's dad dying while fighting a fire, midday looking like midnight, a funeral of another dad who died fighting a fire, exploding gas tanks, upturned fire trucks, streets of shops turned to blackened skeletons and twisted metal, volleys of embers hurled towards firefighters, fire tornadoes, people crying night after night after night after they've lost their homes to fire. And walls and walls and walls of flames and black billowing smoke that blocks out the sun. It's distressing for many adults to watch. Many of our elderly are frightened. And I really hope parents limit their children's exposure to some of the disturbing coverage being aired at the moment. And take the time to reassure their children. Something to consider is, children who watch these broadcasts know they have little or no ability to do anything to stop the fires. As a result they can feel scared. Powerless. And sadly, even anxious. Children can tell their parents are worried. But based on what I did last time, (with the children who were concerned by 9/11,) I found it's possible to help them feel less empowered and still feel hope. I began by talking to the whole school assembly and explained that regardless of what happens in life we have the capacity to work within our own circle of influence to make it better. We discussed the concept of paying it forward and doing something good and not expecting anything in return. For example: Most of the children knew there had been people who hijacked planes and flew them into buildings. But I explained that children had their own power, not to be like them. They could choose instead to be be kind, thoughtful and helpful. We talked about the things all of us could do to make our world a better place. Kids embraced the concept. Many told me about their good deeds over months. Some of the classes recorded their kind acts. And through this, the children felt a little more positive and less powerless. They focused on what they could do, one small act at a time, to make things better again. Is it possible, by embracing kindness and doing something active about it, this could also help our children deal with this bush fire crisis without feeling overwhelmed? Initially children could: give pocket money to welfare agencies and animal welfare agencies help at a charity distribution centre. Even young children like to help sort items write a letter of thanks to their local fire fighters, police, ambulance personnel turn off electrical appliances they're not using (such as the T.V.) so more power is available, because the system could be under stress And I'm sure you have many more ideas. But long term children might choose to address some of the climate change issues which are bothering many of them: They could: start a bottle drive, and donate the money from recycled bottles to the RFS use refillable drink bottles to take their own water rather than buying bottled drinks be the person to remember the reusable bags at the supermarket rather than buying new ones not use straws give some of their good quality toys they've outgrown to charity, rather than leave them unused (if they're with you,) they could pick up pieces of plastic they find in the environment e.g. while walking along the beach, or through the park, etc NOTE: You will need to educate your child about the dangers of glass, needles and other unsafe items and supervise them to ensure their safety contact their local sustainable neighbourhood group to see if they might create an awareness campaign in their community walk to school rather than drive, or alternatively use public transport instead of the family vehicle create a dialogue with you about what your family is actively doing to help prevent climate change and to help look after our earth recycle things they use (lunch packaging, gift packaging, etc) You'll likely be able to think of many other things your child can do to make them feel more hopeful and in control of their future again. Perhaps it may have a bigger positive impact, if they see those they respect (their parents, teachers, coaches, etc) leading by example. This disaster needs all Australians to work together. All we can do as individuals, is work within our own circles of influence. And encourage others to do the same. It's often not until some time later, when a child starts to exhibit depression, or anxiety symptoms, that the cumulative effect of stress may be realized. My hope is to make you aware of what can be going on, so you can inspire hope. This in turn may prevent your child feeling less empowered about their future. You might like to check out: Setting Up Teenagers to Succeed. Just click on the image of the boy on the skateboard. Regards Deb Disclaimer: Jim is not the real name of the student concerned. All views and advice are written from the perspective of what worked for me. This does not mean that it will necessarily work for you or your children. If you have concerns about your child experiencing levels of depression or anxiety consult your medical practitioner.

  • Six Tips I Use to Save

    If you're like many people, saving is really hard... Some of us are so busy in our working and family lives that we have little opportunity to enjoy ourselves. So we go for the instant fix of spending money. While some advertising is blatant and we know we're being targeted, some of it's much more subtle. It can even make us feel inadequate without their product. We can be bombarded by advertising. Think about it: home renovation shows, gardening shows, cooking shows, online images and click bait. But can continual spending on small items, make our larger, more important goals less likely to be achieved? I found out when I reduced my frivolous spending early in life, it made a huge difference to my financial situation. Have you ever wondered if you really wanted to save, what strategies could you use that would work? I've listed below some ideas that have stopped money slipping through my fingers. Some of them may work for you, if you adapt them to your situation. 1. Pay Yourself First: How would you go if rather than saving what's left over at the end of every pay, you instead paid yourself first, and saved say 20% of your pay. 10% of into superannuation so you can't touch it. And the other 10% for a large goal: maybe saving for a house deposit, an expensive holiday, a new car, etc. Then you live on the rest. 2. Five Cups for Fun: Working out a budget and dividing an income up into five sections according to the priority rating system below: a) Superannuation b). Bills and Commitments c). Necessary Consumables (fuel, food, essential items, etc) d). Savings for Larger Goal e). Disposable Income (treats, entertainment, eating out, new clothing, etc) Ranked in that priority order means savings come ahead of disposable income. Using jars/ envelopes/ separate no fee accounts can be a way of ensuring each section remains independent. A budget is great to inform what is available to put into each category. It might take a few weeks to save up, so you need to factor this in to cover bills. ​ ​This was one of my son's ideas and it works really well because it gives an added incentive to save. But it also makes him feel better about spending money on himself for a treat because he knows other areas of his life are being taken care of. 3. The Snow Ball: Paying off my smallest loans first. For example: I pay off my credit card at the end of every month. The next priority after that was when we had a higher interest car loan. When it was paid off I concentrated on my housing loan. And if I had my housing loan divided into a larger fixed interest component and a smaller variable component I'd pay the smaller amount off first, then when that was paid off, I'd use the extra money to pay off the larger one. 4. Having a No Spend Month: Other than absolute necessities such as bills and basic foods I don't spend any money. Ideas we've used as a family: Walk or ride to work, pack lunch from home, invite friends over after dinner rather than go out, stop drinking alcohol for a month, meet at the park for a sausage sizzle, don't go to a shopping centre for a month so I'm not tempted, etc. If you do this you'll likely be amazed at how much money you spend on things like cups of coffee, takeaways, etc. It may even encourage you to start a savings plan when you realize you can do it. 5. Asking for the best price on any item I buy: I don't assume online means cheaper. I've been amazed on expensive items when I front up in a shop I can often get the price reduced to between half to three quarters of the marked retail price. e.g. I can recall I went shopping to buy a ring on behalf of one of our mates for his wife. I shopped around and ended up getting it for just over half the retail price, saving him over $1500. He was wrapped. I've done the same for my son when he was buying a juicer. By asking for the best price I saved him over $180. Just this Christmas past I saved $60 for the exact same item a company had online for $159 by going into the store and asking for the best price. Because I'm always pleasant to shop assistants (even if they can't negotiate) if they can help me get a good deal, they usually do. And sometimes they'll know about an even better option I'm unaware of. 6. Not spending a pink one. This was one on my girlfriend's ideas and before she knew it she'd saved $625. The concept is, every time you get a five dollar note you put it aside and save it for a Large Goal. Because I know how bad I was with money when I was young I know if my husband could encourage someone like me to save, I think anyone can do it. Best of Luck With It. regards, Deb Disclaimer: This article is generic in nature and is written from the perspective of what worked for me. It does not mean that it will necessarily work for you. For financial advice specific to your situation, go to an authorized financial planner or accountant.

  • Extreme Parenting And Good Intentions

    Part of becoming a parent means that you're going to be feeling guilty, at least part of the time, no matter how good you are. You might accidentally tread on your child's finger, or leave their favourite toy at the supermarket. Or even drive home, and forget to pick them up from daycare. You may do much worse. Usually parents want the best for their children and their long term motives for them are good. But there are some bad parenting mistakes parents who have good intentions can make if they don't have balance in their parenting styles. Protection, correction, organization and freedom are great parenting attributes. But if any one of these attributes are the dominant parenting style the results can become damaging. So let's look at the motive behind the mistakes first: FEAR: Anyone who has ever had a child, is afraid that something bad could happen to them. But with some of the parenting styles I've highlighted below, fear can be the over-riding factor. And the consequences can be serious. 1. The Helicopter Parent: I want to protect my child from everything bad in the world. This is the parent that will swoop in to make sure that their child's world is SAFE. They will hover, making all roads smooth, ensuring their child cannot be hurt in any way. In an extreme, they wouldn't for example let a child jump around outside in case they fall over. Or they may not let them go to a birthday party in case they're exposed to junk food, germs or potential child predators. And this hovering can extend to protect their children from any emotional falls as well. CONSEQUENCE: The child's world becomes very small. They get little or no opportunity to explore and develop confidence. Or develop any resilience. 2. The Take Charge Manipulator: If I'm in control nothing will go wrong. This is the parent that can't help taking control. They're the one who makes the children's beds for them because the children can't do it well enough. Or they answer questions directed to their children. They make all decisions: what movies to see, what clothing to buy, what foods will be eaten. Even solving problems for their child... without ever being asked. CONSEQUENCE: The child gets little opportunity to make decisions and develop confidence. If this style is dominant the child can end up incapable of making decisions because they can become afraid to. They don't get the opportunity to develop confidence, to risk take, to develop resilience and to feel good about a decision well made. 3. The Perfectionist: If my child makes a mistake it can ruin their life and they have to learn to be vigilant. This is the parent who has a discerning eye. They're quick to notice any error. And they feel it's important to share this information with his or her children, so they don't make a mistake. CONSEQUENCE: While every child needs guidance, having a critical eye watching over every they do can be devastating to a child's confidence. And at an extreme, it erodes the relationship because the child feels they can't do anything right. They often give up... What's the point of trying if someone is only going to find fault. 4. The Free Range Parent: Often feels it's difficult (or unnecessary) to set many rules or boundaries assuming it'll all work out in the long run. These parents often want to be a friend to their child and may even fear rejection if they try to parent their kids. This parenting style tends to be hands off. And although their child gets by, with good luck most of the time, sometimes this isn't the case. And it can be a disaster. CONSEQUENCE: The child may be a little wilder than peers, have difficulty with limits, including schooling. Some other kids may not be allowed to play with them. Yet, if you mixed the positive aspects of all of these styles together, in a balanced way, you would likely have a style suitable to successfully parent children? By mixing the concern and the ability to foresee risk from the helicopter-parent, the organizational skill of the take-charge-manipulator, the ability to notice detail and set high standards from the perfectionist, and the easy going friendship of the freedom loving free-range-parent, it's possible to create a much more balanced and successful parenting style. It's great that parents look out for their children, organize some structure in their kids lives, identify important areas that can affect long term health and well being, encourage high standards yet still provide the freedom for children to flourish. Best of luck to you. regards Deb For more parenting ideas go to: Disclaimer: Best Parenting Advice provides some examples of what worked for me and you are welcome to use them as you see fit but you do so at your own risk. This site does not guarantee that information suggested will work in every instance or with every child.

  • The Two Secrets of Successful Parenting

    So you've got a new baby. And like many parents, you want everything in their life to be wonderful for them. But did you realize you have the capacity to greatly increase the chances of them having the wonderful life you hope for? Have you ever wondered how some parents manage to successfully raise kids while others appear to do similar things but the results are much less favourable. Is it possible child success could be reduced to two foundational decisions made by parents early in a child's life that guide and support all future parenting decisions? I believe two things make the biggest positive differences to a child's chance of life success: ​ ​1. Beginning with the End in Mind: Now you may  be wondering, but what does 'beginning with the end in mind' actually mean in practice? How can I know how my kids are going to turn out, what they're going to want, even what their skill set or interests will be. And I don't control fate... Simply put, it means the many qualities you ideally want your child to possess as an adult. For example: Have you ever thought or discussed, the qualities you'd like your adult children to have? Or do you assume it'll all work out okay without planning? Perhaps something to consider is, you probably know the things you don't want your child to be... For example: You might not want your child to grow up to be obese, drug dependent, or in gaol, so you might look for opposite qualities such as healthy, resilient and honest. ​ This can be an interesting conversation to have with a partner because you may have differing weightings to the same qualities. I found the more vivid you can make your goals, the better chances for achievement because all future actions reinforce this decision. And the Second Major Consideration is: 2. Providing a quality learning environment from birth. There are many ways of providing quality learning experiences but the most meaningful with the greatest long-lasting effects will be those you provide in your home before your children ever sets foot in any formal learning environment such as a preschool or school. During my lengthy career in education I've met four year olds who growled to communicate, through to others who were capable of conversing about complex concepts like space, and at four had an extensive vocabulary and general knowledge. The difference in ability and subsequent trajectory for success between these two examples, is marked and the difference between them usually only increased. Some ideas you may find worth investigating for your child are: The value of exposure to early text and the development of listening skills. Try How to help develop a love of reading. Try Excellent Children's Books. Try How to develop a 'Love of Learning' Try I refer you also to for additional ideas can greatly increase your child's overall chances of life success. This website provides practical ideas and best parenting advice to help you raise happy children into successful adults by someone who's done it... It encompasses time saving, money saving and sanity saving ideas that all help to support busy families and children to flourish. Basically it's what good teachers know to do with their own children. I hope you find it useful. regards Deb

  • Are You Scared of Your Teenager

    Is interacting with your teenager like walking through a mine field and you never know what will set them off? And you sometimes feel they're only nice when they want something from you. Are you even wondering what you ever did to deserve their behaviour and maybe how you can get back some control. And do you miss the younger child that used to love and adore you. You're not alone. There are a multitude of parents who are struggling to parent their teenagers. Some feel their teenagers are entitled, disrespectful and impossible to parent. Others are afraid they're losing them to poor behaviour, bad friendship choices, potential alcohol and drug abuse and bad life choices. And some parents are just plain afraid of their children. If you can relate to some of what I'm saying here are some suggestions. I think a great place to start is to examine with your child what is a right and what is a privilege in life. Rights are things like: food, water, a safe environment, clothing, love and respect. Privileges are things like phones, video games, T.V. or streaming programmes, designer or fashion clothes, makeup, take away foods, eating out, movies, concerts, holidays, etc. Considering that your teenagers often rely upon you for many of their privileges, this gives you some bargaining power if you put strategies in place to use them. For example: Does your child expect you to supply a phone, pay for calls and internet and then treat you with disrespect if you ask them to put their phone away for meal times. Does that make sense to you? Would your child see that as fair if the roles were reversed? Instead of giving your child a phone as a right, explain that it's a privilege and it will be treated as a privilege. The phone remains your property and there will be rules and expectations governing its use by your teenager. Some suggested rules could be for example: The phone (which you purchased and made available for your teenager to use) can only be used between 8:00 in the morning until school commences and after school until 8:30 at night. Homework must be kept completed and if phone usage impinges upon schoolwork, the hours of available phone usage will be reduced. This also ensures quality sleep. Phones passwords are to be made available to parents and for young teenagers parents need to be able to check phones periodically to ensure they're happy with the way they're being used. Phones need to be turned off during meal times. Parents need to model this behavior too as teenagers are quick to spot hypocrisy. Usage costs are expected to be kept below what you agree they should be. My husband and I use Amaysim for $10 a month. And if it's good enough for the adults of the family and teenagers want the privileges of being an adult... Discuss there are codes of behaviour for phone usage. Swearing, online bullying or sexting are things that will not be tolerated and will result in immediate loss of phone privileges. This could be for a minimum of one week but for online bullying or sexting it could be much longer. The reinstatement of privileges would also require parent monitoring. (For example: I was talking to a parent whose 14 year old son was sexting. After removing phone privileges for a time he now has to voluntarily turn over his phone to his parents whenever they ask to check it. Either that or not use it at all.) Remember by law you have to maintain your teenagers rights, but privileges are a bonus. The other concept is if your teenagers want all the rights of being an adult, with that comes with the responsibility of being an adult. For example: If they tell you they have the right to do whatever they want (the rights of an adult,) let them do their own washing, cooking, ironing, transport, etc (the reality of being an adult.) And let them earn their own money to do it with. Let them experience what it's really like to be an adult. Scenario One: Your child doesn't value their belongings (or your belongings) and they often lose or break things or demand upgrades. Possible Solution: Let teenagers experience natural consequences. If they lose something or break something let them experience what it's like not to have it. And when they tell you about their loss or breakage, expecting you to replace it, instead say something like: 'I hate when things like that happen,' or 'Bummer' or ' That's annoying for you.' And then walk away. Don't jump in to create a solution for them. Let them experience the loss and solve the problem they've created themselves or experience what it's like to continue to go without. For example, even though you've asked him not to your son often leaves his expensive guitar on his bed in the sun all day when he heads off to school. One day he leaves his window open. It rains and the guitar gets wet, warping the neck. He needs the guitar for a school concert. What do you do? If he directly asks you for help to replace it you might assist him, but there will be conditions attached (similar to what I provided above) and it needs to be clearly stated that said item will not be replaced by you again. An alternative could be he could earn the money for the replacement by completing chores. Or you could buy a second hand one and let him earn the money at a part-time job to get the standard of guitar he previously had. When something is earned the value is greater. Scenario Two: Your child yells or screams until they get what they want. If they don't get what they want their behaviour gets progressively worse. Some may even swear at you or even get in your face attempting to intimidate you. Possible Solution: Both parents get on the same page and work together as a team, even if there is family separation. Teenagers can be quick to spot 'the gap' and will exploit it if there's an opportunity. IMPORTANT: When there's no issue as a family, discuss the type of family you would like to have. Explain that each person in the family has responsibilities to ensure that the family functions well and supports each other. Explain to your child that you are attempting to be the best parent you can be for them. By allowing them to yell and scream you are not doing your job properly. Own any ways you've contributed to the lack of disrespect between you and your teenager. And revisit this over and over to see how you're going. And it's an expectation that all people in the family will be respectful, including parents. Model the type of behaviours you would like your children to exhibit. Choose kindness with your teenager where ever possible. Explain that you want to be good parents and from time to time you may need to say no if you think something is dangerous or age inappropriate. But you explain that you will always try to be fair. And be fair. Notice all of the positive things they do. Reward good behaviour. Teenagers want to know what's in it for them if they do the right thing. Make praise specific. E.g. You remembered to put your phone away at dinner time today without being reminded. Thank you for doing your bit to help us all get along better. Behaviour can be difficult to change. Its like a rut in the road. You mightn't get it the first time, or second time but don't give up. If you continue to do the same things it will become habitual. TROUBLESHOOTING TOOL KIT: If your child starts to get a little disrespectful nip it in the bud by just stopping and waiting for them to adjust their tone. If that's too subtle say something calm like: 'Please watch your tone. We agreed to be respectful.' Or 'I didn't think you were talking to me. We're respectful with each other.' If they seem cross with you or out of sorts you could ask: 'Have I done something to upset you,' or 'Is there something wrong?' Often this is an opportunity to learn something that's bothering them. You can postpone a difficult decision until later saying 'I need to think about it.' If they continue to pressure you say 'If I have to decide now, it'll have to be ' No.' If they still persist or begin to raise their voice ask them straight 'Are you trying to bully/ intimidate me? Most kids don't like to be called out for being a bully even those who are engaging in being bullies. Yet if that still doesn't pull them up, and they continue to escalate their behaviour, you need to begin to draw the line in the sand. I suggest you hold up your hand as a warning. That means they need to stop or they will begin to lose privileges. If they don't stop, shake your head, turn and walk away from them. They can't argue in a vacuum. If they still persist at this point turn back towards them, lower your voice a little and calmly say. 'If you continue you're choosing to lose privileges.' And if they persist ensure that the privileges they lose will really matter to them. You can begin by saying something like 'Last warning or no T.V for a week. Again if they persist 'Would you like to make it two?' If this is a regular event you may need to get your partner onside and discuss the reduction of privileges further. You can ground teenagers, take away phone privileges, remove makeup or video games you have purchased, remove their fashion clothes, or many other items and/or events that you've given them as privileges. As an adult if you aren't willing to work for things, or look after your things you have, no one will do it for you. You either do it for yourself or miss out. Bullying others as an adult can have serious consequences. Both of these points are valuable lessons for teenagers to learn early. And once you put consequences in place, you and your partner have to follow them through, every time, so don't choose natural consequences that are so great you will never follow them through. Make the consequences a natural one where ever possible/ Change is never easy. But even mountains can be climbed one step at a time. Your child is worth your best effort. Good Luck With It Deb For more parenting ideas go to: Disclaimer: Best Parenting Advice provides some examples of what worked for me and you are welcome to use them as you see fit but you do so at your own risk. This site does not guarantee that information suggested will work in every instance or with every child.

  • Setting Teenagers Up to Succeed

    Would you like to have a great relationship with your teenagers and help them through to a happy and successful adulthood. Despite all the negativity hype, it is possible. I've listed below some ideas that worked to help me through the teenage years. And some may work for you. I started these strategies early, rather than waiting until problems arose. Catch your teenager being good. Encourage them, notice their improvements, tell them you're proud of them. Tell them they're turning into the wonderful young adult you always knew they'd be. So often as busy parents we only comment on the things that we want improved. Our children need a hair cut, their bedroom's untidy, they haven't started a homework assignment, they're forever on the phone, etc. But we can take for granted the fact they've got their homework in on time for the last three weeks, they help out by picking up a younger sibling after school, they stack the dishwasher, help prepare dinner sometimes, etc. What you notice you get more of. Give an unexpected reward or privilege for a job well done and be specific about why. Your teenager learns, if they do the right thing, you notice and appreciate it. It could be something as simple as having friends over for a sleep over, or taking them to a movie, or buying something they've wanted for a while. It can be something you were thinking of doing anyway. Something thoughtful supporting their interests, or a book by their favourite author, can make them feel like you understand them. Always speak to your child respectfully. If you treat your child like they are a valued guest in your home, they are more likely to do the same to you in return. If they're ever disrespectful with you, pull them up with something like... 'That's not like you. Is something wrong? Or 'You're better than that.' Encourage and support your child to be involved in some type of activity that makes them feel good about themselves (and ideally builds their fitness, confidence and self-esteem.) That could be playing in a team sport. Or maybe maintaining an individual activity like dancing, cross-fit training or surfing. But it could also be playing an instrument, drawing, or learning a new skill. Try to make it something they choose themselves and can succeed at. Ensure your teen has access to quality friends at school. And also in their areas of interest. Limit access to friends you feel are bad choices. Because most teenagers can't drive until you teach them, until you do, this can give you some ability to screen friends. You don't have to ever say their choice of a particular friend is bad. That's likely to make them defensive. But you can make it easier to access the friends you consider are good friends to have. Discuss what makes a good friend while they're young. Encourage them to have a number of friendship groups. That way they have a large group of friends to move between. And in case they ever need them. Teenagers become like the people they spend the most time with. Have a working relationship with the parents of your teenagers closest friends. This gives you insight into what values your teenager's friend's family has. It also prevents teens playing parents off against one another. E.g. Saying they're sleeping over at friends, when they're not. Or attending unsupervised parties. It's often surprising when you say that you're concerned about your teenager going to a party, or going on a camping trip, or going out at night, another parent may be feeling the same way. And even if you're more strict than another parents, it can encourage them to think of implications they may not have thought of. And it's more likely to result in middle ground being found between you than if you hadn't shared your thoughts. Even if the other parent is very permissive, you're better off knowing about it. Then you can factor it in, if your child wants to stay overnight, or attend a party there. Do things together with your teenagers that keep the channels of communication open. And if they come to you...Listen. With some boys doing things alongside them is less confronting than facing them: e.g. building something, doing the gardening together, or helping with a school assignment. Going on a camping holiday, or a hike, when there are less distractions, can be a fun relaxing time. Even helping your teen with a challenging task, may build credit points with them, that can help preserve your relationship through more difficult times. Encourage your teenager to get a part-time job, ideally up to around ten hours a week. Nothing teaches the value of money like earning their own. My youngest son went from wondering why I wasn't willing to spend lots of money on games for him to saying 'I'm not buying that. I had to work three hours of my life for that.' And because he earned the money to buy the things he wanted himself, he appreciated them and looked after them. Discuss expectations ahead of time and when there's no issue. That way your teenager knows exactly what they're allowed to do. And is less likely to challenge you if they've done something wrong. Let your child negotiate with you prior to decisions being made. But once you say no to a request, regardless of how badly your teenager behaves, don't change your mind. Really think about it before you say 'No,' to a teenagers request. Ask the many questions you need to, before you give an answer. And if you can allow it, say 'Yes.' But if you think the activity is too risky, stick to your decision. Explain... 'I feel I'm not being a good parent if I let you do this at your age. And you know I try to be the best parent I can for you. If you choose to do this once your older, that'll be up to you, and I'll respect your decision. I can understand that you're disappointed... Is there another activity that you know would be more acceptable to us you might like to do instead?' HINTS Don't get into an argument. Arguing gives away your power and erodes your relationship. If your child is upset and reactive, be the adult. Take a breath before you respond. Lower your tone of voice rather than raise it. Repeat instructions, in the same tone of voice, a few times if necessary, until they follow them. Follow up with natural consequences if you need to. When interacting with your teenager ask yourself... Is this what a good parent would do? Is this building my child, or diminishing him or her? Another thing to remember, if you feel like losing your temper is... Will what I'm saying bring us closer, or drive us further apart. Don't hit a mozzie with a fly swat. Keep your responses calm and measured. If consequences need to be followed up, be clinical and administer them when you're not angry. And both parents need to be involved where ever possible. There are things you don't ever say to children For example: Don't say things that are hurtful... ever. Avoid negative words that are personal, permanent and pervasive. Words like ' You are a selfish/mean/fat/ugly ...... You always have to ruin everything,' tear at the very core of your child. If you're angry say 'I can't talk about this with you right now.' And don't talk about it till you've calmed down. The key to success is your relationship. If you're kind, fair and have fun with your teenager, any disharmony should be short lived. If you're predictable, reliable and responsible, your teenager learns they can trust you. Consistency is the key. Remember, you're trying to raise independent, responsible adults. So treat your teenagers as though that's what they're becoming. Happy Parenting, Deb For more ideas go to Creating Strength Based Kids. Click on the image below Disclaimer: Best Parenting Advice provides some examples of what worked for me and you are welcome to use them as you see fit but you do so at your own risk. This site does not guarantee that information suggested will work in every instance or with every child.

  • 15 Tips to Combat Writers Block

    So the blank page is staring at you. What can you do? Here are some original ideas I use. 1. Pick a favourite verb. Write it down. Examine how it makes you feel. Build around it to help create a first sentence. One of my favourite verbs is drift. But there are many, many other great verbs. I love the peaceful feeling 'drift' evokes in me so I've used it as an example. 'The sound of saxophone drifts lazy with jazz through our neighbour's window and entices us out of bed and into the street.' Taken from 'Sunday,' Copyright Deborah Arthurs. 2019 Some other verbs I like are: ease, ooze, smear, flutter, scrunch, beam, trudge, saunter, launch, leer, gobble, scamper, scratch, scuttle, etc. The stronger the verbs, the better. 2. Choose a 'B' word to get started. Before, behind, beside, below, beneath, beyond, etc. Once I get my first sentence down I'm on my way. For example: 'Beyond the shadows, the world opens one eye. Like a gigantic shimmering pearl it quivers, fragments, then shatters. Rays of eerie light unspool down to me, beckoning me, "Come climbing." I stare upward through my cold, clear watery lens and wonder... "Are they looking for me?"' Taken from Recluse Bay... A View to Die For Published under pseudonym Anne D. Arthurs. 2018 3. Choose a word that can be both a noun or a verb and use it as a noun... but make it behave like a verb. Some verb/nouns could be: kiss, kick, leap, scream, shiver, slap, etc. My example: Shiver: 'A shiver crept under the door, across the floor, up my leg to the small of my back, where it lived for the next three-and-a-half months. On some days it was satisfied just to breath its icy breath, on the back of my neck. But on other days, it bit into my spine and hips, like a bear trap.' Copyright Deborah Arthurs. 2019 4. Recall the smell of someone and describe them. This example is by a mother describing her four year old daughter, Rosie. "She smelled of fruit salad and toast, and tasted of smeared honey." Taken from Recluse Bay, Published under pseudonym Anne D. Arthurs. 2018 5. Use a verb as an adjective and build a story around it. For example: "Across a screeching sky they flew in ominous formation." Taken from Justice Takes Flight, Published by Deborah Arthurs. 2017 6. Try viewing your story from a different perspective and add a paragraph or two of fine detail: 'Shrouds of decaying vegetation and algae embrace me in gloom. And while I have no company, I’m never alone. The constant crackle of the bottom feeders see to that. My body has become a home for a variety of tiny shellfish, worms, crayfish, crabs and a kaleidoscope of hungry fish. And while they flit between my bones I lie in the ooze imagining the conga lines of women entering my front door, all feigning sympathy yet veiling scheming hearts. The neighbourhood casserole ladies will be circling like sharks, smelling my blood in the water... ' Taken from Recluse Bay, Published under pseudonym Anne D. Arthurs. 2018 7. Alternate, a big picture view, with a personal view 'My liberators spirit me upwards through clear moonlit water, like a queen on a pyre, towards the surface. It’s the chicken wire that keeps my bones together...' Also taken from Recluse Bay, Published under pseudonym Anne D. Arthurs. 2018 Assuming you've gotten this far and none of the techniques above have worked we'll move away from the computer. You will need a note pad and pen/ pencil. 8. Go somewhere outdoors where you can watch people move (preferably not a shopping centre.) I find a great place to go is a promenade near a beach. I sit at a table, have a coffee, and watch from somewhere I can see people of all ages walking, running, sitting, surfing, swimming and talking. And I also get to view their many facial expressions which give insight into their internal dialogue. I aim to record three points that indicate what a character could be like. For example below: 'She bobbed along, mid-riff firm, ponytail flying.' Copyright Deborah Arthurs 2019 Some assumptions: Young, healthy, female, capable, doing what she wants, heading somewhere. 9. Try making your verbs really strong, and unusual if possible. Build a picture of a character around your verb and use the rule of threes to drive home your point. For example: "He oozed along the pathway. A slug in a suit. A skid mark on our societal sidewalk, for the naive to slip upon. " Copyright Deborah Arthurs 2019 10. Go somewhere beautiful, take off as many of your clothes as socially acceptable and see, hear, touch, smell and taste the environment around you. Record it in vivid detail. For example: Kayaking at Sunrise. 'One lone gull heralds the day... and disappears into the darkness of heath. My paddle stilled, I drift on a tide of liquid glass. The air is warm, still, heavy with salt. It tastes luscious. Raw. Of freedom. Excerpt from Dawn Dancers. Copyright Deborah Arthurs 2016 11. Play with words, expanding upon your detail, making it increasingly fanciful. 'Etchings of trees erupt into swoops of silvery sopranos. A sea-mist waltzes with eucalypts, flashing alabaster legs beneath chartreuse ball dresses.' Excerpt from Dawn Dancers. Copyright Deborah Arthurs 2016 12. Eat something that you don't usually eat, and if practical don't use utensils. Savour the moment, taking particular care to notice the smells, taste, touch, sound and appearance. Record them. For example: I love eating sun-warmed raspberries straight from the vine and feeling the sun on my back. Absorbing the warmth from within and from the outside. Or eating a mango without a spoon and feeling the juice run off my chin, as I strip the flesh back from the seed with my teeth. Feel the food give way to your force and record any sensations. 13. Get onto some form of public transport bus, train, ferry and use commuters as models to help you to develop believable, if somewhat unusual, characters. The advantage of public transport is, you'll come into contact with a range of people you might normally cross the road to avoid. Describe them in detail. For example, this is a tiny excerpt from a story of a train trip entitled: 'Hostages to Verbal Ebola.' (To be honest, I couldn't have made this trip up. And I haven't included the dialogue in the following example because it was too obscene, but it gave me incredible insight into the motivations of the characters, their lack of education, their high-risk lifestyle and their criminal proclivities. And it was fascinating to watch... as long as we all remained unscathed observers.) 'Facing commuters, and lounging just below the Quiet Carriage sign, a pair-of-twenty-somethings have arrogated the last four seats. One is steroid-enhanced and blonde; the other mousey, shifty; weasel-like. Both are tattooed. Six foot. Criminal. They’re wearing t-shirts, shorts, thongs... although the larger is better dressed. He has cold Nazi-blue eyes and a fashionable three-day-growth. I nickname him ‘Whacker,’ his brawler’s face, is chiselled contempt. In contrast, Weasel looks hunted. His eyes dart about, rat-like, as he fidgets. He has a permanent leer and appears to be the intellectual inferior of the two. Their duffel bag, back-pack, and feet commandeer the remaining two seats. A woman abandons us, lurches to the adjoining carriage. A man in a red and navy checked shirt snaffles her seat and opens his lap top... ...Whacker nods in time, as his music gangsters up in cadenced obscenity. A middle-aged woman vaults from her seat. Charges down the aisle on bullfighter-red stilettos. Her crisp corporate suit rustles, like battledress, as she hurtles past us. She halts. Snorts. Glares. Shakes her sagging jowls; perfume sweeping about her, like a power cape. The two eye her … Still. Ice. Dangerously thin. “Well.” Corporate Suit cracks the air; leaning in. “This is a quiet carriage. See …” She stabs at the sign above their heads with her red pointed nail. “You shouldn’t be making any noise. So turn that filth off. You're a disgrace.” Her eyes narrow, then blaze, at Whacker’s inaction. “Now!” she shrieks. Whacker stares unblinking; mouth ugly. Silent... Too silent. Checked Shirt shifts in his seat; shoves his lap top to the side. Clenches his jaw. I put my hand on my husband’s leg and it’s rigid. Ready...' Copyright 'Hostages to Verbal Ebola.' Deborah Arthurs 2018 14. Record the finest details of movements which indicate the character's real feelings and motivations. For example: He smiles, flicks his thumbnail with his forefinger, and blinks an over-long blink. His eyes flash for the briefest of seconds; so fast, I almost miss it. 'So how can I be of service?' he smiles again. But this time the smile does not extend to his eyes. 'The Concierge,' Copyright. Deborah Arthurs 2019 15. Invite your muse for a 'cuppa' and step back. Provide a word, or three. Sit. And see what he or she comes up with. Explore seeing the world through a different lens. Be comfortable in the knowledge that many stories are told through you. If you let your muse take over, you might be surprised at how easily the story flows. Happy writing, Deb Disclaimer: Best Parenting Advice provides some examples of what worked for me and you are welcome to use them as you see fit but you do so at your own risk. This site does not guarantee that information suggested will work in every instance.

  • 3 Things That Make a Huge Difference to Your Child's Education and They Cost You Nothing

    1. Put in the time when your children are little. You have a small window of opportunity to use to set your children up for success. And surprisingly this time occurs before they ever set foot in formal schooling. Spending time talking with them improves their ability to speak, listen and comprehend. Reading to them to increases their vocabulary and therefore their comprehension. Playing with them helps ensure you have positive credits in your love bank account. (Think about how you're inclined to be co-operative with those who are kind to you, fun to be around and want to spend time with you.) And if you model that learning is fun your child will be more likely to see learning as an integral part of life . Its surprising how many learning opportunities you can link to everyday activities through play. e.g. The yellow carriage fell off when you reached the straight piece of track. What about if we tried putting it at the front, rather than at the back? I wonder how many carriages we can add to our train altogether. It can be as simple as drawing attention to the fact that your child's socks match the red carriage. For specific ideas for linking learning to everyday activities go to the following link below: 2. Be positive about your child's education Education can provide a positive life chance if you best support it. I found those parents who were positive about all aspects of their children's education, including their teachers, had a much higher chance of having children who valued learning. One little thing I observed over years of watching children, who were engaged learners, and those who weren't... Those parents who were critical of teachers in front of their children, often had children who valued learning less. If you think about it, it doesn't take Einstein to work out if the Seller of Education: "The Teacher," is rubbished is front of children, what the teacher has to say, (the product they're selling:) "Education" becomes tarnished, by default. Children are quick to spot mixed messages. 3. As your children grow up, watch out who they hang around with and ensure that their peer group also see education as important. ​To be honest, as my children grew up, I never worried about them getting into trouble with those who were succeeding in life, I worried about them getting into trouble with those who weren't. And you don't have to be obvious by criticising your children's friends. That's likely to create a wedge between you and your child. Something simple you can do is make it easier for them to spend time with positive influences rather than negative ones. For example: Get them involved in a sport rather than have them hanging at a mate's place playing video games. Invite friends over to play and include their parents where possible. This provides an opportunity to help maintain some control as your children get older. If you can discuss with other parents ahead of time what are reasonable levels of freedom you're less likely to have your children play one parent against the other. Something to consider is: Nowadays children are so socially connected to one another, if they don't like what you're saying, they can just go and stay elsewhere at a mate's. Try and ensure the mates, and their families, share similar values to you. For more parenting ideas go to: Disclaimer: Best Parenting Advice provides some examples of what worked for me and you are welcome to use them as you see fit but you do so at your own risk. This site does not guarantee that information suggested will work in every instance or with every child.

  • I Don't Know What I Want

    If you were going on an important journey and never coming back, who would you take with you? Would you plan out every single aspect and cram your journey with experiences afraid you might miss out on something, or would you just let it happen? And would you set off in sturdy practical shoes, thongs, bare feet or even stilettos? Would you take a GPS, a map or just assume you’ll eventually get there? Would you take the most direct route, the scenic way or the path less travelled? What would be most important for you? I know while some of us have the Edmund Hillary’s of the world with us, others will have people, who just by their nature, will make our journeys more difficult. And if that’s the case, as it is for many of us, sometimes we have to plan so these people don’t hijack our journeys completely. I've learned we can encourage people, who might otherwise be disinterested in co-operating, if we can describe where we're going so vividly, they'll buy into it. Families who have shared visions have a much greater chance of getting where they want to be than those who don’t, because each person can see there's something in it for them for co-operating. Some of you may even think, ‘I’m not really sure where I want to go, what I want to be, what I want out of life. There are so many choices. I might make the wrong one. And I definitely can’t know what my children will want, when I don't even know what I want myself.’ But I would like you to consider, making no choice or no plan, is 'your choice.' Likely, if you have no plan, you'll end up where fate, or others, determine you'll be. And if you don’t plan for your children, unfortunately so will they. If you’re really unsure where to start, perhaps if you look at the things you don’t want for your children’s life, and plan to do the opposite. For example: Would any of you choose for your children to end up in prison? Or die at the age of thirty six from a heart attack (as a dear friend of mine did.) Or end up living on the street? Or be morbidly obese, mentally ill or unemployable? Even those who’ve been incarcerated, or experienced trauma, usually want better for their children. You'll likely have a whole list of things you don’t want, in both yours, and your children’s future. And if you know what they are... you can plan to avoid them? I learned, if we break our lives into smaller chunks, such as health, education, financial situation, location, opportunities, interests, quality of life and relationships, we have starting points that we can build upon. And if we start with one aspect at a time it’s manageable. Are you getting closer to what you'd like your life to be like? Or are you getting further away from it. For some ideas on planning go to the link: And over coming weeks I'll be looking at the areas above in more detail starting with education. Disclaimer: Best Parenting Advice provides some examples of what worked for me and you are welcome to use them as you see fit but you do so at your own risk. This site does not guarantee that information suggested will work in every instance or with every child.

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