Enjoy Your Children

Miriam Chachamu

June 30, 2009

21st Century Boys

Categories: Uncategorized — . Posted by Miriam at 9:59 am

 

How can I stop my son from shooting everything that moves? Why is he so obsessed with power? I find his level of energy so draining, not to mention the constant competition between him and his younger sister. It seems that the only way to keep him quiet is to put him in front of the computer or the telly…

I hear these sorts of questions/complaints from parents of boys again and again. Girls seem much easier to manage. But boys… everbody agrees that they are hard work.

Boys were evolved to be active most of the time, I say. Their nature is to learn while they move, not to sit nicely on the carpet and play gently with their little sister. They need exercise, daylight and the company of other men. They also need to be allowed to take risks, and to learn from their mistakes. And it is in their nature to compete and to think in hierarchical terms. Boys need to know what are the rules of the game- including the game of life.  They must also know who is the boss- and it better be you!

If you want to know more about boys nature and how we can all help them to thrive, you may wish to read Sue Palmer new book called 21st Century Boys. She explains it all- backing it up with plenty of stories and with the latest research. And most importantly- the book is very compelling and reads like a novel. If you are struggling to understand your boys, or accept some parts of their personality, this could be the book for you.

May 18, 2009

Creative writing

Categories: Uncategorized — . Posted by Miriam at 10:43 pm

May 5, 2009

Helping children cope with a loss of a loved one

Categories: Uncategorized — . Posted by Miriam at 9:31 pm

A question from a therapist…

 

In my practice I often talk to young people who have not been allowed to attend the funeral of a loved one, which they much regret. I wonder if you would write a little about how people can best support a young person during such a distressing time. I am thinking particularly about pre-teens and teenagers.

 

Thank you for asking about this very sensitive subject…

Losing a loved one when you are a child or teenager is often devastating. Similarly to you, I sometimes talk to adults who had lost a parent or sibling when they were young and feel that they never had a chance to grief properly. So it is important to support children and teenagers through the process of grieving, however difficult this may be for the parents.

The funeral is only one part of the mourning process, and I believe that the decision about whether children or teenagers should attend is personal- there is no one way that fits all families.  In this difficult time, some parents feel that managing their own grief as well as their children’s emotions in what is effectively a public event is more than they can handle. Others see the presence of their children at the funeral as a source of support. So it is best to find a way to deal with the loss where the needs of all family members are taken into account.

Children’s wishes about attending a funeral are important, but the final decision needs to stay with the parents.  When children wish to attend the funeral but parents feel that they may not be able to support them or cope with them, it may be a good idea to ask other people to help. An aunt, a godparent or a close friend are likely to be glad to help, so children can still attend and parents know that their children are well cared for.

There is a lot that family members can do to help children go through the grieving process, whether children attend the funeral or not. Here are some ideas:

A few days after the formal public funeral, parents and any children who did not attend the funeral can have a private ceremony at the cemetery. They can visit the grave and say goodbye without having other people around.

Alternatively, the family can have a small ceremony in their own garden or at home, perhaps plant a tree or some flowers that the deceased liked, or maybe light some candles. The family can also designate a corner in the garden or in their home as a memorial to the person who died.

Parents and children can also collect pictures to make a ‘scrapbook’ with photos, documents or anything that will help remember and appreciate the life that was lost. They can also have a memory box with objects they wish to keep which will remind them of that person.

Some people find that writing a letter to the person who died can also help them heal. They can express in the letter everything they did not have a chance to say when their loved one was alive. They can choose to keep the letter private, or take it with them to the grave.

It is very difficult to cope with death when a child also feels guilt or regret. Children (and teens) may feel that they had part in what happened and see it as their fault.  For example, if they happened to have angry thoughts about the deceased in the past, they may believe that he died as a result of their thinking. No matter what the circumstances, it is important to reassure children that death is a part of the cycle of life and is not their fault.

And other important thing- at such time, children sometimes say things that come across as egotistic or insensitive. For example, when losing a parent, children may be worried about who will pick them up from their swimming class or who will help them with their maths homework. We adults need to understand that this is natural and healthy, and find practical solutions to these everyday issues. It is completely appropriate for children’s developmental stage – even for young teens.

Make sure it is always OK to mention the person who died, but do not push and ask children how they feel. And if children do not talk about the loss, it does not mean that they feel nothing. Just do your best to keep the communication lines open.

These are just my thoughts- I hope it helps.

April 20, 2009

Parent question: My son hates maths… what do I do?

Categories: Uncategorized — . Posted by Miriam at 11:29 am

My nine-year-old son is struggling with his maths homework. He is much better with writing, especially creative writing, and has great imagination. But he already decided that he is useless at maths and thinks he is stupid. We end up arguing about his maths homework every day. What do I do?

It seems that your son is willing to do the homework that he is able to do with reasonable effort – I wonder whether the maths homework he is given is too difficult for him right now. In order to progress you need to do two things- the first is to create a homework routine and the second to help him with his maths in a way that will make him feel good about himself.
Creating a routine around homework is the best way to avoid endless arguments! Establish a home rule for all children that fun activities such as electronic games or TV start only after homework is completed. When you do this, pleasurable activities become a reward for work. This rule solves the never-ending problem of trying to scrape your children off their favourite screens to do their homework.
For a rule like this to work, you need to discuss it with your partner, if you have one, and agree a strategy between you. Children usually do not like this home rule at first, but if parents stay determined and keep their cool they usually accept it. Children need routines – it helps them do the right thing. You can explain to your child that he will be able to enjoy his favourite activity with your blessing and no interference once he finishes what he has to do.
Your second task is to support your child with his maths, and this will take some effort. Short of taking him to a good tutor (which can be a good solution if you are not a math lover or have no patience for all this), I don’t know how this can be done by remote control! The following plan, devised by Noel Janis-Norton of the New Learning Centre, requires time and commitment from parents but, once parents become used to it, everyone benefits. Many families have used it successfully already. If you choose to take this on, you will need to explain to your son in advance what will happen, and be prepared to deal with some initials moans.
1. Preparation: Ask your son to show you what he is meant to be working on and explain to you what he needs to do. If he is not sure, ask him to show you the parts he does understands and can do, and then help him to understand how to continue. If he can do nothing on his homework page the work is probably too hard for him, and you will need to go back a step or two. There is no point in offering your son too many ‘hints’ or giving him the answers – this will make him feel inadequate, while at the same time give the teacher the impression that he can do more than he can. At the end of this preparation your child should know how to go about solving the questions. If you cannot achieve this, discuss this with his teacher sooner rather than later. If your child can tell you how he needs to progress he is ready for the next stage.
2. Independent work: Your son does the homework on his own, while you are busy doing something else. If you have more than one child, this could be the perfect time to prepare the next one for his homework.
3. Review: Once the work is completed, have a careful look, and make at least two positive comments about the work, even if it is not up to standard yet. Your praise needs to be detailed and specific – show that you are pleased with the correct answers and comment positively on presentation. Then point out just one mistake that you wish your child to correct. There is no point in making your child feel bad about things that are going to be too difficult to correct. It is much more important to take a long-term view and get him to improve gradually. When you have finished, get your child to say what he likes about his work and single out one little thing he might wish to correct.
4. Minor corrections: Your child corrects the homework accordingly (remember, he only has two small improvements to make.)
Once the homework is complete, your son will be free to enjoy the activities he likes. Ask the school how long they expect your child to work at home, and make sure he does not work for much longer. It is not good for children to study too long, and it may give the school the wrong impression about your child’s abilities. If homework is not complete, you can explain to the teacher why.
Be honest- acknowledge to your son that you know that maths is hard for him and that this is not fun right now! No point in trying to gloss over things. But also promise that maths is just one subject and remind him that there are plenty of other things he is good at. Praise his willingness to make an effort – we all have things we struggle with and with the effort we can overcome difficulties. So can he!
If you wish to know more about dealing with academic challenges, I highly recommend Noel Janis-Norton’s excellent book Could Do Better… How Parents Can Help Their Children Succeed in School (Barrington-Stoke, 2005).

March 6, 2009

Why do children ask why?

Categories: Uncategorized — . Posted by Miriam at 9:07 am

 

Sometimes they are just curious. This is our opportunity to teach them new things. At other times, they are troubled by something. This is our chance to help them deal with whatever is bothering them. I will write more about these kinds of ‘whys’ in the future.

This post is concerned with another type of ‘why’- the type that masquerades as a request for information, but in fact is a negotiation technique. Or delaying tactic.  Or a distraction. And often it works.

‘Can you please pick up your coat off the floor?’

‘Why?’

 

‘Please tidy up your room’

‘Why? I don’t mind the mess and it is MY room’

 

‘Can you help me clear the table?’

‘Why do you always ask  ME? Why don’t you ask HER?’

 

Usually, when parents hear a ‘why’ they explain their reasons. And sure enough, another ‘why’ follows. And another one. And yet another one after that. After a few attempts, the exhausted parent either gives in or demands obedience: ‘You will do it because I say so!’

Nine times out of ten your children know the answers to their why questions. They know because you explained your reasons many times before. I have yet to see a child thanking his parents for the information and rushing to do what he is asked.

So instead of replying to the whys, you can ask questions of your own. And you may end up having a conversation like the one I had with my teenager niece, who was walking skilfully with her two long shoelaces undone, flying from one side to the other.

‘Inbal, could you please tie your shoelaces?

‘Why?’

‘Are you asking because you want to know my reasons or because you want to tell me that don’t want to do it?’

‘I don’t want to do it’.

‘So why are you asking me why then?’

‘I like to argue’.

 

Next time your kids ask this kind of ‘why’, try asking them the same question. You may get an interesting reply – I’d love to hear what it is.

 

January 21, 2009

Muffin or cake?

Categories: Uncategorized — . Posted by Miriam at 7:42 pm

One gloomy winter day I realised that, instead of concentrating on my work, I was developing far too close a relationship with the contents of my fridge. So I collected my papers, left my laptop behind and headed to the café in my local branch of Borders.

Some mums were sitting on the sofas, chatting and sipping their frappuccinos while their kids were happily playing nearby. An ideal setting for preparing a talk about raising boys, I thought.

‘WAAA! WAAA!’

I turned my head to see a little boy, perhaps five years old, wailing and clutching his leg. ‘Mummy, Mummy!’ he cried.

‘Let me have a look,’ said Mum. ‘Where does it hurt?’

‘Here! Here!’ he sobbed.

‘It’s nothing. There is nothing there,’ said Mum.

‘Waa!  Waa! It hurts! Waa!’

‘Don’t cry, the bang wasn’t nearly as loud as it was last time you bumped your leg on something.’

‘I want Daddy! Daddy!’ the boy shouted.

‘Daddy is at work. Would you like a muffin or a cake?’

‘Daddy! Daddy!’ he cried, even louder.

‘Daddy is at work,’ repeated Mum in an increasingly annoyed voice. ‘Muffin or cake?’

Mum took hold of the crying boy’s hand, and they both headed for the food counter. A few minutes later he was sitting quietly, biting into a huge chocolate cookie.

I’m sure Mum meant well.  When she said that it was nothing, she probably meant to reassure – no blood, no broken bones… Maybe she wanted to remind her son that he had overcome even worse incidents… Or perhaps it was hard for her to hear her son crying, and she felt embarrassed because people were watching her. This is all understandable. But whatever her reasons, Mum ended up denying her son’s feelings. And, instead of giving affection, she offered food as comfort. Crying is a normal, healthy response to pain. The boy probably needed some old fashioned kiss-it-better, with a hug and a few words of sympathy. When we ignore or deny our children’s pain, they cry and shout even more to show us that they hurt. When we comfort them and acknowledge how they feel, we help them to calm down.

December 18, 2008

A short story devoted to parents whose children find schoolwork hard

Categories: Uncategorized — . Posted by Miriam at 2:14 pm

An honoured guest was invited to hand out prizes at an end of school ceremony. The hall was full with pupils, their parents and teachers. They were all cheering as each winner was approaching the stage.

‘The first prise for English goes to…’ A young girl approaches the stage hesitantly.
‘And the first prise for physics…’ A skinny boy shakes the guest’s hand, to the cheers of the crowd.
‘The prize for excellence across the board goes without any questions to….’ And a happy, confident girl comes forward.
And so it went on and on, with a parade of proud youngsters being congratulated and handed impressive looking books.

Once all was quiet again, the guest approached the head teacher and asked:
‘You have been around for a while, haven’t you? And you must have seen many school reunions.’
‘Yes’, confirmed the headmaster’, Indeed I have.’
‘I was curious to know what happens to all the kids who don’t win any prizes. The ones who never come top at things. What happens to them?’
‘Oh, these kids…’ The head teacher paused. ‘The kids who don’t win any prises usually end up managing the ones who do’.

November 30, 2008

Mum’s day sung in three minutes…

Categories: Uncategorized — . Posted by Miriam at 9:53 pm

 

Hilarious mum’s song… Enjoy!

November 21, 2008

Parent’s question: My 11-year old daughter plays the violin. How do I get her to participate in music activities at school, rather than just hang out with her friends?

Categories: Uncategorized — . Posted by Miriam at 9:11 am

First, I would like to congratulate your daughter for having good friends! Many don’t, and this makes them very miserable indeed.

What may seem to us like a useless waste of time is often far from it. By spending time together, children and teens learn and practise many valuable social skills – how to have a conversation, how to negotiate and compromise, how to win and lose graciously, how to share and be kind, what kind of jokes make people laugh, what behaviours get on people’s nerves, etc. Their happiness and success in the future will be directly linked to their ability get on with people – bosses, colleagues, friends and future partners. And hanging out with their friends in their tweens is their practice ground.

Furthermore, your daughter is busy with the developmental challenge of establishing her identity and her place in the world. Pre-teen children constantly ask themselves: Who am I? Am I normal? Do I belong? And they can only answer these questions positively if they have at least one good friend who accepts them and likes them for who they are – and preferably more than just the one friend. So being with friends is much more important than many of us parents realise.

Show your daughter that you appreciate her popularity, so that she doesn’t think you disapprove of such an important part of her life. This will create good will, and help her be more open to listening to the other things you have to say.

All that said, activities such as sports or music are indeed very valuable. I can give you some ideas about encouraging your daughter to take part, although none is guaranteed to work. All of us parents need to accept that we can influence and direct our children, but ultimately we have no control over what they choose to do. We can motivate them, but we can’t force them, without damaging our relationships with them.

The best way to motivate someone is to link whatever it is that you wish them to do to their own wants and needs. And, since your daughter is so sociable, your way to influence her may be to get her to meet new friends through musical activities.

First, you need to get some information from her. Are any of her friends already taking part in the school orchestra or band? Maybe you can encourage her to go along with one of them? Even if none does, there may be other ‘cool’ kids already there. Perhaps your daughter would like the opportunity to meet them? Or maybe another one of her friends is thinking of joining, and they could do this together. It can be much more fun to join a new activity if you are not alone.

Are there other young people in your social circle that are taking part in musical activity? A recommendation from a slightly older cousin or the son of a family friend can do wonders. Children of this age are much more likely to get inspired by their peers than by us.

Are there any celebrities that your daughter admires, such as favourite actors or singers? They might well have studied music in their youth, which helped them to become who they are today. Will your daughter be willing to make an effort too?

You could also help her see that musical activities will help her make friends easily wherever she goes, as a teenager, student and even as adult. If you play the violin to a reasonable standard, you can always find an orchestra or a band to join. It is almost guaranteed that you will easily be able to meet people who have similar interests to yours. So you do something fun and get new friends at the same time.

Does your daughter have any dreams or goals? Maybe she wants to be a teacher, an actor, TV presenter or just be an interesting person? You can easily show her how music can help. However, it is important that you talk about her dreams, not your own expectations of her. Otherwise this may be perceived as pressure, and she may be tempted to rebel.

Lastly – most children who play instruments love taking part in musical activities. Could there have been any reason for her not to? Perhaps she doesn’t like the teacher, or she fell out with one of the children who participates? It is worth checking with her.

And of course – I’m sure you are doing this anyway – show interest in the activities you value, attend any concerts, listen to her practise and compliment her for effort and participation as well as for achievements.
Good luck!

November 17, 2008

Recharging your child’s batteries

Categories: Uncategorized — . Posted by Miriam at 11:28 am

Here is a lovely idea from a Mum whose five-year-old son didn’t want her to leave his bedroom at night…

‘My son is into technology and science, so one night when he didn’t want me to leave his bedroom I had an idea. “I’m going to recharge your battery!” I said. “You need to hug me with all your strength, however you like, for as long as you need until you are fully charged.” And so he did. He hugged me really strongly, like a little monkey, and unsurprisingly he soon got tired and went to bed. I checked whether he was fully charged, so that the charge would last for the whole night. He was.

When he got up in the morning, he asked for a recharge. I suggested that if anything bad happened at school, he could remember to take power from his battery. I promised to recharge it whenever he asked. So now we “charge his battery” from time to time. We both love it, and it puts both of us in a better mood – we make sure that his battery never runs flat!’

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Copyright 2008 Miriam Chachamu