Friday, June 27, 2014

Proudly Hosting Nigel Latta

Say Nigel Latta to any parent in New Zealand, and they'll smile. We all love the common-sense approach to parenting this renowned psychologist offers in his books and, even more famously, in his TV appearances. You just have to be intrigued by anything called "The Politically Incorrect Parenting Show". The contents won't disappoint. It lets you off the hook when your parenting style is human instead of textbook. It tells you it's ok to discipline your kids if they don't want to do their homework. It's a parent's best friend.

Here is an excerpt from the book "Politically Incorrect Parenting: Before Your Kids Drive You Crazy, Read This!" about the art of communication (reprinted here with the author's permission):

The effective use of punctuation underlies all good parenting. In fact, I would say that there are some types of punctuation that have no place at all in parent-teenager communication.

Perhaps the worst offender is the humble comma. This simple punctuation device is responsible for more conflict between parents and their teenage children than any other. Whilst it might seem extreme, my advice would be to declare your home a comma-free zone. The comma will only bring trouble, and if you are wise you will have none of it. The rule of thumb is that anything which comes after the comma is nagging. Anything after a comma is simply going on about things.

The full-stop, on the other hand, is your friend. The full-stop can prevent many arguments. It can be used liberally with little fear. Question marks are a little like salt, in that a little salt is usually helpful, whereas a lot of salt ruins just about every meal. Salt and question marks should both be used in moderation. In general, you will want to deploy a fill-stop as soon as you can. If you have a choice between a comma and a full-stop, always go for the latter.

Mothers tend to have far more difficulty with this basic (…). Commas come naturally to mothers that they are often unable to tell when they are using them. Mothers also take more convincing about the need to limit the use of question marks. Mothers often thing the best follow-up for one question mark is another question mark. Fathers are more full-stop oriented.”
Bad Punctuation:

“No, you can’t go to your friends place tonight, and before you ask me why, let me tell you, because if you were to speak a little more nicely to me and your father, and show us just a modicum of common courtesy, then I might have let you go, but you’re the one who decided to be rude, so you’re the one who can stay home, and if you want someone to blame for that, then don’t blame me, because I’m not the one who doesn’t think about anyone else in this family, although you probably don’t even notice the fact that I do lots of things for you that I never get any thanks for, like your washing, and cooking all the meals, and keeping this place clean, and ….”
How to fix that:
“No, you can’t go to your friend’s place tonight.”

Here's that link to the book again: "Politically Incorrect Parenting".
And here's Nigel's website.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Open Days at School

An open day is when a school or kindy allows members of the public to go in and see what happens there. They are usually pretty formal, with speeches from the principal and the Board, and with chosen pupils showing the guests around the school.

It’s the school’s sales pitch and they’ll present themselves in the best light possible. Still, you can deduce the school's priorities from what is missing, or what they discuss at length, for example, an emphasis on iPads as a learning tool, or no mention of parental involvement.

Typically, parents choose a school or preschool based on a combination of three things:
·        analysing information contained in ERO reports and marketing materials;
·        word of mouth;
·        a gut response during a visit to the school.

You can search online and study the brochures, but they won’t convey the atmosphere of the school. Once you have a shortlist of schools you’re interested in, it makes sense to come in and get a feel for the place, see the students’ projects, talk to the families, ask questions.

Every parent will have their own list of priorities and questions. Here are starter-lists to get you rolling.

·        How do the students treat one another?
·        How does the school deal with bullying?
·        Are the students’ toilets fresh-smelling? Is there soap in the soap dispenser?
·        How good are the facilities and clubs your child may be interested in using (sport, art, library, woodwork workshop, kitchen)? Do they include beginners? Do they have B teams for sport?
·        Does the school celebrate personal achievement?
·        Ask the teachers why they chose to work at this school and whether they would send their own child there. Look for enthusiasm, a caring attitude and a real love of teaching.

Write down your feelings and observations as soon as possible - it’s easy to forget your first impressions when you have more than one school on your list.

Include your child - their instincts are as important as yours. No matter how great a school looks and what a fantastic reputation it has, if your child hates it, it’s not the right match.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Lessons In Thinking

Who's the villain in The Sleeping Beauty story? Why, the evil witch who wasn't invited to the christening, of course. Right? Except... why wasn't she invited? And how does a magical creature become evil? And is evil just a matter of perspective?

These are the kinds of questions asked by the latest Disney blockbuster, Maleficent. The movie offers us more than 97 minutes of high-tech visual entertainment - it teaches us to think, to question assumptions, urban legends and things we've always taken for granted.

This message is also conveyed in the latest bestseller, Think Like A Freak. The authors encourage problem-solvers to challenge the status quo, to turn assumptions upside down, to think small (thinking big may make things too difficult), to ask the wrong questions, to investigate like a child.

People whose working style has a preference for variety and global thinking probably do a lot of questioning assumptions anyway. Do you? Find out what your working style is - today.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

What To Read To Your Preschooler

Our readers often ask what books to read to children who've outgrown tactile picture books but are not quite ready for chapter books. Here are our recommendations:
  • The Maisy series with its striking colours so adored by preschoolers worldwide
  • Julia Donaldson's Gruffalo (if that one's too scary for your sensitive 3-year old, try other books by this author: Room On The Broom, Monkey Puzzle, The Snail And The Whale)
  • The Cat In The Hat
  • The Little Yellow Digger
  • Charlie and Lola books 
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar
  • Goodnight, Moon (and Goodnight, iPad!)
  • The Story Of Ferdinand
  • Baby Bumble and the Sock Pirates
  • Tiger and the Temper Tantrum
  • Rumble in the Jungle
Go to the bookstore with your children and let them choose. Sometimes you'll be surprised: "This book, really?" - but go ahead and buy it anyway. This not only teaches the love of books, but also decision-making and having your choice respected.

If your preschooler doesn't want to sit still when listening to the book, let them act out the plot or just hop and and down while you read. The child's learning style probably demands being in motion while concentrating, and this permission to move about will come in handy when your child needs to memorise work for exams later on in life.