Back to the future

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In honour of last week being the date that Marty McFly went into the future, we watched the triology of the Back to the Future movies with our kids.

The predictions made with what technology we would have embraced by now were a mixed bag. We don’t have hover boards or flying cars, we do have drone cameras but we certainly don’t have faxes in every room of our house – this technology that was deemed cutting edge in the 1980s is now redundant.

Back in the 1980s, little did they know that we would all walk around with smart phones so that all the information in the world would be available at our fingertips or that we could be in contact with all our cyber friends around the clock.

Our kids are growing up overloaded with information. They will never experience the effort required to complete an assignment by going to the library, finding an encyclopedia and researching information from a book.

I have noticed a correlation between the amount of time our kids spend on technology and a sense of lethargy as well as a decline in their behaviour. A few weeks ago my husband ‘forced’ our son to go for a bike ride with him. Our son whined about wanting to just relax and watch tv and was adamant that he didn’t want to go riding. The more he lay around doing nothing, the more his behaviour deteriorated. Eventually my husband told him that he didn’t have a choice and within a few minutes of them riding together, our son had broken free of his foul mood and was enjoying doing exercise outside in the fresh air.

As much as technology is enriching our lives, it is also trapping us by keeping us glued to screens when we could be doing things that are more productive.

I wonder what technology will be adopted in the next thirty years and whether future generations will adapt to have stooped necks and calloused fingers from continual use of their phones?

What’s your prediction?

(Photo courtesy of kdshutterman, freedigitalphotos.net)

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SILENT DISCIPLINE  

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No parent wants to put on their ‘grumpy parent hat’ when they are out in public. We all wish that our children were angels and that there would be no need to have to discipline their behaviour. Thankfully sometimes a silent glare is worth a thousand words.

There is the quizzical raised eyebrow ‘what do you think you are doing?’ look, the open eye ‘watch out buddy I’m watching you’ look and the heavy frown ‘stop misbehaving’ look. Such subtle looks are often a sufficient form of communication for your children to notice that you are not happy with their behaviour and rectify their actions without you having to verbally discipline them.

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It got me to thinking that with the rise of the use of botox there must be a host of parents out there who can’t rely on this form of silent discipline as their kids wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between an ‘I’m in trouble’ glare to a bored glazed over stare. Maybe we are going to have a generation of parents who will need to start using a form of hand gestures like the “Meet the Fokers” ‘I’m watching you’, the shrug of the shoulders for ‘what are you doing?’ and maybe a good old fashioned wag of the finger for ‘stop it now or else!’ Of course, the other alternative is for these parents to nag and chastise their kids, which would ruin the carefully created image of these parents being young and carefree!

Is it worth having a wrinkle free forehead if you have to sound like a grumpy mum? For the moment at least I will continue to endure having wrinkles so that I can have my arsenal of silent discipline stares!

Picture courtesy of David Castillo Dominici, freedigitalphotos.net

ARMED HOLD-UP

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Last night I watched a ‘60 Minutes’ story on the siege at the Lindt Café in Sydney in December 2014. What struck me was the heroic and brave actions of the younger hostages held in this siege. These uni students, who were part-time workers at the café, were able to make clear decisions in a time of extreme stress and on the whole seem to be coping well in the aftermath.

It reminded me of a time when I was 17, working part-time at the local Pizza Hut. One night after closing the restaurant for trade, two masked gunmen held the staff at gunpoint, whilst our Manager was taken out the back of the restaurant to empty the safe. The older people I was working with were shaking and sobbing, whilst I was trying to memorise the clothes worn by the armed robber who had his gun pointed at me. I then tried to work out his height by counting the number of tiles on the wall behind him. Whilst I was obviously terrified, I kept calm and tried to think as logically as possible, wanting to give the police the most accurate account of events as possible.

Once the thieves left the restaurant, I called my parents to let them know I would be late, telling them I had been ‘held up’. Due to the nuances in the English language my mother took that to mean I had been waylaid, not that I had been actually held up at gunpoint.

I was able to give police a clear description of the thieves and then went home, to live my life with as much normality as possible. I kept working at that Pizza Hut for a few months, but found that any time we closed the restaurant I began to feel anxious. Eventually I gave that job away and worked in a boutique, which was both a blessing and a curse. I enjoyed the work, but never had money because I spent all my wages on clothes that I could buy at staff discount!

I haven’t thought much about that armed hold up for a long time, which I guess shows you how resilient kids can be! I now reflect that my eldest daughter is the same age I was when that incident occurred and I fervently hope that none of my kids ever have to experience the stress of wielding to the demands of an irrational thug.

Obviously my experience pales into insignificance in comparison to the hostages in the Lindt Café siege that lasted hours. I just hope they can all move forward with their lives knowing that they did what they had to do in that situation and that they bear no responsibility for the actions of the deranged terrorist who was accountable for the death of two innocent people.

(Photo courtesy of Pong, freedigitalphotos.net)

ON THE SPECTRUM

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Growing up, I never knew about autism or people on ‘the spectrum’. Like many others, my first exposure to autism came from the movie ‘Rain Man’.

In hindsight, when I think back to my school years there were a few kids who were ‘quirky’ and were bullied dreadfully. There was one boy in particular who, upon reflection, was definitely on the autism spectrum. He was a harmless kid who kept mostly to himself. He couldn’t look you in the eyes or have a regular conversation, but he could recite the words to a certain television commercial as if he was reading from the script.

Twenty years ago there didn’t seem to be the awareness of autism that there is now and these autistic boys certainly did not get any special assistance in their schooling.

Of course the symptoms of autism vary widely, but these boys had stereotypical key idicators:

  • They were both socially inept and struggled to form close friendships
  • They took things very literally
  • They had issues with personal space
  • They made repetitive movements (one boy flapped, while the other rocked and gulped air)
  • They each had a special interest that they could recite every fact about.

I once had a discussion with a child psychologist who specializes in autism who made the interesting point that in her opinion, most university lecturers are autistic. They are perfectly suited to this role as they have the ability to focus their energy on one specialized subject and become an authority on that topic. They can lecture to a room of people, without the concern of having a close personal conversation. Her point was that, being autistic doesn’t mean people can’t lead successful and fulfilling lives.

She also discussed the fact that often parents don’t like to acknowledge their child may be on the spectrum purely out of pride. They don’t want the stigma attached to the title of their child being autistic as, regardless of their diagnosis, the child is still the same person. While this is true, the difference is the funding given for assistance for the child to ensure they have a smoother transition through school. If intervention to assist in routine starts when kids are young, they tend to learn and adapt much better than older people. Also, if a child on the autism spectrum has a teacher’s aide to ensure they are being taught in a way that will suit their idiosyncrasies then that child will gain great benefit.

I’m not sure if autism is more prevalent or if it is just better diagnosed, but there definitely seems to be greater awareness of the condition and better access to support networks to assist these people cope with everyday life. I think if kids are aware that another child is autistic, it gives them a chance to empathize with them and understand their behaviour. Hopefully kids can learn to adapt the way they interact with children on the autism spectrum and that these autistic kids are celebrated for their individuality and not subjected to bullying like the boys in my school were.

(Picture courtesy of David Castillo Dominici, freedigitalphotos.net)

BARGAINING TOOL

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For our son’s last birthday we gave him a mini ipad. It was not primarily so he could play games, although he loves doing that (Minecraft is a particular favourite at the moment). It wasn’t to keep up with other kids, as many of his friends have ipads. It was in all honesty so we would have something we could use a bargaining tool. In essence we gave it to him so we can take it off him!

There is no golden rule for what works when disciplining kids. What works for one child won’t work for another or even something that has worked with a child in the past won’t always work in the future! I’ve tried sticker charts, jellybean jars, a chart with $100 where they lose $1 each time they do something wrong, time-out, naughty chair, behaviour star chart app and finally confiscation. All with varied results.

Our son doesn’t mind being put in time-out, he doesn’t really care if he loses stars on his behaviour chart (which equates to money or treats) and in general he doesn’t care if he has toys and possessions confiscated.

He has never been the sort of kid who is particularly attached to things, so in situations where there have to consequences for poor behaviour, he has never cared enough about anything for its confiscation to mean anything to him. In February I confiscated his xbox controller – initially for a week (but he didn’t care); it then became for a month (still his behaviour didn’t change); eventually he lost it until Christmas (at this point he realized the severity of the punishment and gave in).

Sadly, he has just spent money he received for his birthday on Disney Infinity characters he can use on his xbox, except he has no access to his xbox for another few months. Instead, he has to use them like figurines and play with them in the traditional sense, rather than in the interactive electronic way in which they are designed.

We are firm believers of following through on any threats so he will have to wait until December to get back his x-box but in confiscating it for such a long time, it meant we didn’t have any bargaining power left. We came to the realization that we needed a new item that he would love so much that we could use it as a bargaining tool. I’m happy to say that it is working a treat. In the last few weeks he has lost the privilege of using his ipad on several occasions but usually for a few hours or overnight. He adjusts his behaviour and then gets it back at the allotted time. It is starting to work that just the threat of losing his ipad is enough for him to do as he is told. That little Apple device is seriously worth its weight in gold!

I’m sure Steve Jobs expected ipads to be tools for entertainment and business, but little did he know that in our household it would be valued more as a bargaining tool!

What do you use as tools to help when disciplining your kids?

(Photo courtesy of Ambro, freedigitialphotos.net)

WEATHER DEPENDENT  

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Have you ever noticed the difference the weather makes to your kid’s behaviour?

I find on a rainy day they are lethargic and only want to lie around watching television. A bright and sunny day seems to make them keen to get active swimming and running around. It is the windy days that seem to bring out the worst in kids.

On windy days kids seem to be whipped up by the wind. They seem to be full of energy without having anywhere to expel it.

I remember when my kids were in pre-school, one of their teachers confided in me that she dreaded windy days as it affected the kids’ behaviour so much. She said it turned them hyperactive and made them hard to control. Having just had a few days of windy conditions, I think I concur with her judgment. Combining ‘holiday hypos’ and windy weather is a lethal combination – one where kids act like you’ve just handed them a double shot of espresso and told them to go play.

I’ve checked the weather forecast for the next few days and thankfully it is predicting a calming change in my kid’s behaviour – or at least I hope so!

 

Have you noticed a change in your kid’s behaviour that correlates with the weather? Let me know your thoughts.

 

(Image courtesy of digitalart, freedigitialphotos.net)

SOCIAL DISCIPLINING  

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I know all parents have been put in a situation where their child misbehaves whilst they are in a social setting. This leads to the awkward position of deciding how to deal with the child’s behaviour without ruining the whole mood of the event.

If you turn a blind eye to keep the peace, will you be encouraging your child to misbehave when they go out, as they learn they can get away with it? Furthermore, will your friends also think that you let your child run riot without setting boundaries for them? On the other hand, if you choose to discipline your child, will it highlight your child’s poor behaviour whilst putting a dampener on proceedings? Will your friends think you are a tiger mum who can’t relax whilst your kids play?

In short, it sometimes feels like you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t!

As with every element of parenting, I believe the answer lies in your gut feel. Sometimes a glare is enough of a signal to your child that you are aware of what they are doing and that there will be consequences. If a child is in a position where they are hurting another person, then of course you have to intervene and discipline your child. The severity of the child’s behaviour should guide your reaction.

Consistency is also paramount. If you enforce the desired behaviour all the time, your child should learn how to behave and understand the expected outcomes for poor behaviour.

No one wants to socialise with someone whose child is a monster wreaking havoc, but neither do they want to socialise with a person who can’t focus on a conversation because they are constantly interrupting to counsel their child. As parents we need to find a happy medium that works to satisfy our social needs, as well as our child’s.

It is human nature to want to show off the best version of ourselves in front of our friends, so we don’t like to show our ‘disciplinarian parent side’. However, sometimes you need to unmask this side of yourself when socialising to ensure your child doesn’t run riot. Don’t worry if you have to reprimand your child in front of your friends – if they have kids, there is a good chance they have been in your shoes at one point in time!

 

(Image courtesy of vlado, freedigitalphotos.net)

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