Monthly Archives: April 2018

Biddulph’s 21st Century tips to raising boys

Steve Biddulph has guided generations of parents through the parenting minefield, from dealing with energy-fuelled boys to anxious teens – his name is synonymous with research into the minds of boys.

More than 20 years since his international bestseller Raising Boys hit bookshops, Biddulph has published Raising Boys in the 21st Century this month – adding up-to-date research, insight and tips for parents today.

The added content looks at a range of subjects relevant to boys, including;

  • Gender
  • Brain and hormonal development (including latest testosterone research)
  • Boys and crying
  • Reading and communication
  • Countering the effects of porn

Speaking to ABC’s Night Life presenter Philip Clark last week, Biddulph said the notion of growing a strong, confident boy was always at the forefront of parents minds, but as society has changed over the past 50-100 years so too have parenting styles.

“We still want strong, confident boys growing up – we want strong as in backbone, but we also want heart too,” Biddulph said.

“Right now, the world badly needs good men. Your boy can be one of those who grow up so much better, and help to heal the world. Thank you for joining the boy revolution. As the 21st century rolls on, it’s badly needed. Enjoy your boy, love him well, and set him free to fly in his own special way.” – Steve Biddulph

He said parents of boys were struggling today with the use of social media, technology and the prevalence of accessible porn – none of which were major issues when his original book was published.

“There is a tsunami of pornography, and with social media and the internet in general – there are new problems for parents to tackle,” he said.

He said parents needed to have conversations with their boys as young as eight years of age, as incidental exposure to pornography was happening with access to smartphones and tablets.

“They have to be talking about that… the other part is addiction that is the worry [for older boys], its exposure and prolonged exposure that’s the problem and it starts changing the brain.”

He said parents need to implement measures in an effort to stop this by not allowing devices (smartphones, tablets, computers etc.) in bedrooms.

“It is designed to be addictive… our parents gave us the big sex talk when we reached a certain age, now we have to have the big porn talk – what do we say?”

For the latest research, information and tips to raising boys check out Biddulph’s Raising Boys in the 21st Century – available now.

Building healthy eating habits in boys

Most boys love to eat and when growth spurts are about to hit they manage to ingest seemingly endless supplies of food – but are they getting the right foods and key messages and skills to help them develop healthy eating habits?

A recent study from the University of Adelaide found Australian children watching free-to-air television are being inundated with junk food advertising on a daily basis.

The study, which digitally compiled advertising data from one Adelaide television channel over the course of 2016 (recording 30,000 hours – including 500 hours of advertising), found children were subjected to nearly two and half times more junk food advertising than healthy food at peak child viewing times.

University of Adelaide Associate Professor Lisa Smithers said overall children were exposed to twice as much unhealthy food advertising as healthy food advertising.

“Diet-related problems are the leading cause of disease in Australia, and the World Health Organisation has concluded that food marketing influences the types of foods children prefer to eat, ask their parents for and ultimately consume,” A/Prof. Smithers said.

“Australian health and nutrition experts agree that reducing children’s exposure to junk food ads is an important part of tackling obesity and there is broad public support for stronger regulation of advertising to protect children,” A/Prof. Smithers said.

Learning skills to cook and create healthy, nutritious meals is just as important as understanding what are healthy and unhealthy foods according to a New Zealand research team.

University of Auckland researchers have identified a strong connection between learned cooking in young adulthood and long term benefits to health and nutrition.

Researchers conducted a longitudinal study which tracked perceived adequacy of cooking skills, frequency of home cooking and inclusion of vegetables in main meals – the research was published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behaviour.

Lead author Jennifer Uter said the research highlighted the impact learning cooking skills could have on healthy eating in adulthood.

“However, the impact of developing cooking skills early in life may not be apparent until later in adulthood when individuals have more opportunity and responsibility for meal preparation,” Ms Uter said.

Learning cooking skills in childhood helps children to understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy foods, learn how to cook different foods and gain added maths and literacy skills when working with recipes.

Parents are encouraged to include kids in the kitchen, giving them exposure to cooking processes and different foods.

Creating age-appropriate opportunities for boys to help in the kitchen helps them to develop awareness of good nutrition and can inspire them to try new foods and create their own healthy meals to share with family and friends.

Making the most of reading with kids

Children typically enjoy being read to, and see educational, social and emotional benefits to the practice. But families are busy, and finding time to read aloud can be eaten up by the demands of everyday life.

Reading to your child is one of the most successful ways of instilling a love of reading in them. But in our recent study, more than one-quarter of primary-school-aged respondents claimed they were never read to at home.

Not all parents have been read to themselves as children, so may not have experienced a model they can then follow with their own children. And many adult Australians may be struggling readers themselves.

With this in mind, here are five suggestions that can help make the experience of reading to your children fun, relaxing and educational.

1. Give it all your attention

For many people, the best time to read with their children is at night, once the children are in bed. But if you find your child too cranky and disengaged at this time (or if you are feeling tired yourself), you might want to try reading to them earlier in the day.

Whatever the time, it’s important to give the book and your children all of your attention. Phones and other devices with enabled notifications should be switched off. Everyone should be comfortable, and children should associate time spent being read to with enjoyment.

Where possible, we strongly suggest reading to your child becomes part of the daily routine. The more often children are read to, the more substantial the benefits. Reading to children is both an opportunity to model how the written word sounds and a chance for family bonding.

2. Engage with the story

Children don’t typically enjoy having the story stopped every few seconds for comprehension checking, so we suggest you keep interruptions to a minimum.

But recapping is useful when picking up a book again after a break. If parents let their children provide this recap (“So, where are we up to?”) this also enables informal comprehension checking. Opportunities for prediction are also beneficial (“Wow… what do you think might happen next!”).

Sharing your response to a book and encouraging children’s responses stimulates critical thinking. These techniques and others can enhance learning and comprehension, but they shouldn’t upset the fluidity of the reading experience or turn it into a test.

You can share the task of the reading itself with your children if they want to. This is beneficial for a range of reading skills, such as reading comprehension, word recognition and vocabulary building.

3. There’s no age limit

You can start reading to your child from early infancy to support their developing language abilities, so it’s never too early to start. The skills infants and young children develop through shared reading experiences can set them up for literacy achievement in their subsequent schooling years.

Reading to your children remains important beyond the early years, too, with continuing benefits for literacy development and cognitive skills.

We should read to young people for as long as possible. There is no age where the benefits of being read to completely expire.

Very recent research in the UK found struggling adolescent readers can make remarkable gains on their reading comprehension when books are read to them at school. This is perhaps due to the opportunity for students to enjoy books that are too hard for them to read themselves.

4. Pick a book you both enjoy

We suggest you select a book that interests both you and your child. Reading together is a great opportunity to share your passions while broadening your children’s horizons through making diverse book choices.

Don’t be afraid to start reading chapter books to your children while they are still very young. The age to begin this will vary depending on your child’s attention span, but it’s often possible to begin this with pre-schoolers.

As long as the story isn’t too complex, children love to be taken on an enjoyable journey into books that are too hard for them to read independently. This can also help to extend child’s vocabulary, among other benefits.

It’s a good idea to take your children to the library and model how you choose interesting books for shared reading. Research shows many primary and high school children are easily overwhelmed by choice when they attempt to pick what books to read independently, so helping them with this is a valuable skill.

5. Don’t worry about your style

Not all of us are destined to be award-winning voice actors, and that’s OK. It’s great to use expression and adopt different voices for the characters in a book, but not everyone will feel able to do this.

At multiple points in our research, we’ve come across people who have praised the reading efforts of parents who weren’t confident readers, but who prevailed nonetheless. For example, in our recent paper a respondent described being read to by her mother who struggled with dyslexia. This mother, and many other parents, have inspired a love of reading in their children through their persistence.

Being taken into the virtual reality of story is a memorable, pleasurable experience that stays with us forever. Reading aloud provides parents with a valuable opportunity to slow down, relax and share the wonderful world of books with their children.

Written by Curtin University Education Senior Lecturer Margaret Kristin Merga, Curtin University Literacy Education Senior Lecturer Paul Gardner, Edith Cowan University lecturer Saividi Mat Roni and Murdoch University School of Education Engagement Associate Dean Susan Ledger.

Originally published by the Conversation, access the article here.