Monthly Archives: November 2016

Is your son talking to you?

Is life easier with teenage boys? Or is it that they just make it seem that way? The old adage that boys are harder to raise as children but a breeze as teens when compared to girls is one that “experienced” parents before us love to impart on unsuspecting new parents and those with pre-teens, with boys and girls alike.

But is it true or is it a case of boys not liking/wanting to talk about their problems and parental “cluelessness” about his problems making him seem “easier” to manage when compared to teenage girls who are happy to explain in detail problems at hand and spark up at parents who don’t understand the issue.

Author and researcher Rosalind Wiseman says parents often make the mistake of believing if a boy doesn’t talk about any problems he is experiencing then he must not have any.

“..we don’t give them a language for talking about their worries and experiences like we do with girls. And we really don’t think enough about what our culture – and ourselves by extension – demands and expects of boys and how it frames their emotional lives, decision-making, self-esteem, and social competence,” Ms Wiseman writes in her book Masterminds and Wingmen.

“When we do notice boys, it’s usually because they’re somehow failing or they’re acting out in ways that appear thoughtless, reckless, disrespectful, threatening, or frightening,” she writes.

She says resulting adolescent male behaviour is seemingly detached and disengaged in relationships – a “slacker” type persona.

Parents reactions can be problematic when teenage boys have this attitude where nothing seems to worry them – including school work, home life and everything else in between.

“…we usually dance between two extremes: getting angry with them because they’re unfocused and ‘lazy’ or dismissing the problem as ‘typical boy behaviour’ i.e. not anything that needs to be addressed.”

Australian psychologist Andrew Greenfield told the Huffington Post in a recent interview there was a divide between teens not necessarily wanting to communicate with their parents and parents “definitely” wanting to.

“I’m all about the fact communication is certainly important for teenagers. It needs to happen. But there also needs to be a right time and right mood…parents can maybe be a little more mindful in having respect for the teenager – respect works both ways,” he said.

He said parents needed to choose the “right time” to try to discuss problems with their teenagers, using activities to diffuse the situation and make it feel less threatening for the child who is facing the problem rather than a face-to-face talk at the dinner table. If this did not work he suggested engaging the help of a trusted third-party – an uncle, friend or grandparent for instance.

He said a big issue parents faced was trying to be a friend to their teenager when they needed a parent instead.

“… a parent trying to be their teenager’s best friend – there’s nothing wrong with being a friend but first and foremost you are a parent and you have to act like one.. in saying that, you want to let your teenager know they can talk to you unconditionally about anything.”

“It doesn’t mean you are going to be enthusiastic about what they say to you, or that there won’t be consequences, but they do need to know they can talk to you about any issue that’s affecting them. Make sure the child knows that they can communicate about whatever it is they want to in an appropriate way, and that you’re willing to listen and have those lines of communication open.”







Taking risk vital in child’s play

Childhood is all about taking risks – how high, how long and how far can you go? But the question beckons, how do children get the chance to take educated risks in today’s world when concerned parents are worried about injuries, predators and other dangerous situations?

Resilience expert (who prefers to refer to herself as a “well-informed educator” and mother of four boys) Maggie Dent told ABC radio this week parents were the number one educators of  children and asked did they model risk taking to their kids?

She said it was the norm in generations past for children to do certain things, from riding their bikes across the neighbourhood to jumping off monkey bars so high they seemingly flew to the ground.

But, today, parents were more wary of risks, such as more traffic on the roads and a perception largely promoted by the media that children were targets for potential predators when moving around the neighbourhood without an adult.

“There are definitely more parents working and therefore less parents in the neighbourhood looking out for kids today,” Ms Dent said.

She said fear of litigation also reduced the ability for kids to take educated risk – as old-style monkey bars and wooden see-saws were now perceived as too much of a safety risk and have been replaced by “plastic-fantastic” with safety measures employed to reduce injury risk.

The third reason Ms Dent gave was the rise of the digital age and parents subsequently thinking children were safer online “because they know where they are” compared to out in the “real world” without supervision. Lastly, she said the schoolification of childhood could also be blamed – less outside free play not allowing children the opportunity to take risks.

“Are kids inherent risk takers – if we let them be in an environment and interact with it they have their switch in their mind that tells them where their level is. If we tell them it’s too high or scary that messes with their own risk assessment.”

She said playgrounds could be tricky environments for parents to know how far to let children explore and climb. Nature playgrounds enabled toddlers and children the chance to test their innate risk levels, climbing to the levels they judged were safe for them without worrying about injuries or falls.

However, new playgrounds designed for the 0-5 age group which included high play equipment without safety barriers were risky for toddlers who have no depth perception or sense of risk of falling and hurting themselves from these high platforms. She said parents needed to be aware of the balance between letting kids explore and play and managing their safety.

What is the risk of our children not having risk – what are the risk benefits in the playgrounds?

“You can’t underestimate the importance of a sense of freedom for kids – autonomy where  they get the freedom  to rough and tumble play, explore a patch of nature without us right there… we need to give them opportunities to engage and navigate without us hovering.”

She said WA schools were leading the way in some respects letting students climb trees and slide down banks and play in natural settings.

“Some kids don’t get to spend a lot of time in nature at the moment so this gives them an opportunity to experience it.”


Finding the right part-time job for teens

Most kids are hungry for independence in the teenage years and the time they’re fourteen-going-on-fifteen is when the seeds of ‘job hunting’ are well and truly planted. But while most search for jobs at fast food chains or supermarkets, those workplaces become a competitive hotspot for that age group.

That’s when it’s a good idea to look at the independent businesses in your local area. International keynote speaker on motivation, leadership and culture, Rowdy McLean, told The Huffington Post Australia teens need to cast a wide net.

“The newsagent, ice cream shop. juice bar, coffee shop, service station, garden centre, or even the professional service firms, such as lawyers and accountants. Then be so good that they offer you more opportunities and they’d happily recommend you to someone else. Build that strong work ethic and attitude from day one,” McLean said.

It’s wise for parents to make their teens aware of the level of commitment required for a job and how it will impact their lifestyle: in good ways and bad.

“They need to explore the real reasons behind the desire to get a job and consider how that might impact on their studies, social interaction and recreational activities. It’s important that parents ensure that their child will be working in a safe environment,” McLean said.

“They need to make sure their child is being treated fairly. Its always good for the parent to build a relationship with the employer so they can participate in conversations about their childs’ work, their behaviour, attitude and skills.”

“Parents should also ensure their teen approaches work in the right manner. Show up on time every time, be well presented, show a desire to learn.”

Michael McQueen told HuffPost Australia retail and hospitality are great industries for teenagers to start their working life.

“Recognise that the transition into work will likely be a challenging one. Your teen may be stretched and even stressed by the demands of a workplace.”

“In the first few months, don’t be surprised if there are tears or moments of anxiety. Be an encouraging voice but resist the parental urge to rescue or solve the problems. These challenges experiences can be painful to witness in someone we love but they are a vital part of building resilience. Stepping into to rescue will only rob your son or daughter of the learning experience.”

Another tip for teens is to think about what they love and find a job related to something they’re passionate. For example if your child loves playing golf, he could apply for work as a caddy.

McQueen said it would be fantastic for a teen to get a job in the field they wish to explore, but that is a luxury few enjoy in their first jobs.

“Be content to do work that you aren’t passionate about because starting at the bottom builds character and can knock off some hard edges in ways that will serve you well later in life. If you are one of the lucky few who can work in an area you are interested in and passionate about, be very grateful,” McQueen said.

Original article published by the Huffington Post, available here.

By Libby-Jane Charleston





Boys skipping the story and lagging behind

Boys can be as imaginative as the literary classics when it comes to making excuses as to why they don’t want to or can’t be bothered reading much other than social media and magazines.

Yet, new major research out of the UK recently suggests boys are lagging behind girls in reading because they have a tendency to skim read texts, skipping ahead without reading word for word, and fail to challenge themselves with harder books.

University of Dundee educational and social research professor Keith Topping, lead author of the research, said in one of two research projects he completed on the topic boys of all ages tended to miss sections of pages or missed pages completely which was a trait not seen as often in girls involved in the study.

His second study focused on whether reading fiction or non-fiction made any difference to the technique and level of reading by boys. Prof. Topping said it could be argued that boys were generally less likely to read story books compared to girls which was why girls were perceived to be “better” readers than boys.

“But we looked at non-fiction and fiction reading and we found that, although it was true that boys tended to choose non-fiction more than girls, particularly at secondary level, they still didn’t read better than girls.”

“They were choosing non-fiction but they were not reading it as thoroughly and correctly as girls reading non-fiction.”

He said the results of the two research projects were hard to explain further.

“It’s a bit of a mystery. Interestingly, socioeconomic status was not related… it is not a big influence – not an influence in any shape or form.”

“There is a need to feed back to boys what is going on here. Boys may be assuming ‘Oh, I like to read nonfiction. Oh, I like to read magazines. Oh, I like websites or the instructions to video games’. But this study shows that they aren’t any better at that than they are at reading fiction.”

21st Century Boys author Sue Palmer says boys are less enthusiastic readers because of their brain development.

She blames testosterone – accelerating right brain growth which makes boys more interested in movement, space and overview.

So, stimulating the left brain could be the key to helping boys reduce the lag in their reading development.

Researchers say male role models are integral to encouraging boys to read, showing boys how interesting and entertaining reading can be.

Families and schools can also play a part offering boys appropriately challenging books to read which cater to their individual interests, scaffolding their reading abilities.