BEST AGE  

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The other day I was pondering when are your kids at their ideal age? I know we love them dearly at all stages and every age is unique but I came to the conclusion the best age is when they are seven!

At seven they are finally able to be rid of those bulky, restrictive car seats that harbour a treasure trove of things from lego pieces, to Barbie shoes to enough crumbs to do a schnitzel dinner. Finally you’re free from the restriction of having to always ensure that if they travel with a friend that they have a spare car seat or alternatively go through the motions of undoing copious amounts of straps to pass over your kid’s seat to reveal a whole new array of items such as sultanas, stray fries and old happy meal toys, hiding underneath. I can’t tell you what a relief it is to not have to deal with car seats again!

Furthermore, by seven, kids are a little independent – they can shower themselves, dress themselves and are skilled in the art of turning on the television in the morning, leaving you to doze (as best you can with the TV blaring) until a reasonable hour. They can ride a bike, swing on a swing without needing to be pushed and can play independently with friends. Parenting just becomes that bit easier.

At seven, they are also not too independent, which means they are too young to let their social lives ruin yours. They just come along with the family to friend’s houses, can be taken to a restaurant and are equally as happy to have a family night in! Once they become teenagers, they develop their own social lives, which inhibits yours, as you are their taxi service.

Homework is also great when they are seven. It’s usually just one sheet they get at the start of the week that needs to be returned at the end of the week, as opposed to high school where homework is a nightly chore. You also don’t need to refresh your quadratic equation and trigonometry skills when they are seven (just a hint – you will by the time they are in high school, so you might want to start studying now!).

One final thing that is great when they are seven is that they are usually missing teeth which leaves them with goofy smiles and a cute lisp whenever they have to say their age (how ironic this stage of life happens when they are ssssix and sssseven).

It’s funny that when they are little you can’t wait for them to grow up and when they are older, you wish you could turn back the clock. I don’t think I truly appreciated my kids being seven at the time, but with hindsight I realise that seven is the golden age!

What age do you think was your kid’s best age?

(Photo courtesy of stockimages, freedigitalphotos.net)

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SCHOOL WORK ETHIC

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I have watched all my kids address their homework and study needs in differing ways. One of my kids has always left her homework until the night before it is due, believing she works better under pressure, whilst another does her homework and assignments as soon as they are given. The job gets done either way, however when they reach more senior years of schooling, leaving things to the death knock brings about unnecessary stress and under preparedness.

I try to suggest (okay I nag) my kids to do revision of the work they have learnt that day so that the information sinks in. Then when exams rear their ugly heads, it’s not so daunting to have to revise months worth of work. Similarly, I recommend that they chip away at an assignment as soon as it is received, so the end result is more thorough and therefore scores higher.

Although the school and I try to drum into the kids this form of study work ethic, it seems to me that a child’s nature is the over-riding factor in the way they approach work. In my experience, the kids who have always been crammers remain to work that way and the methodical plodders continue that way too.

As a parent, how much should you interfere with your kid’s study? After all, the only one that is affected by their preparedness or lack thereof is your child. Should they be left to sink or swim? Having said that, as a parent you really want to see your child reach their highest potential, so I’m sure there wouldn’t be too many parents that don’t encourage their kids to study and work hard.

It’s a fine balance between being an inspiring and supportive parent versus creating conflict that may stress out an already frazzled kid.

As with everything in life, finding that balance is the key! What are your thoughts?

(Photo courtesy of stockimages, freedigitalphotos.net)

MERRY CHRISTMAS

As I sit watching Christmas carols on television, awaiting my munchkins to go to sleep (which takes much longer on Xmas eve than any other night due to the excitement of the imminent visit from Santa) I wanted to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their support this year and to wish you and your family all the best for a very happy Christmas.
I have just returned from a holiday with my extended family which is why I have been AWOL for the last two weeks. You really can’t put a price on the value of seeing kids interacting daily with their cousins and similarly grandparents with their grandkids. I will be absent again for a few weeks as I spend quality family time with my kids and husband over the Christmas break. I hope you also have the opportunity to enjoy fun times with your family over the coming week.
As bed time draws near I know it won’t be long before the visit from the jolly man in the red suit – I just hope our puppy has left carrots for the reindeers – she was enjoying snacking on them when the kids put them out earlier!
Merry Christmas and all the best for a happy New Year!

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ARTWORK ARCHIVING

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From early on in a child’s life, every parent is faced with the situation where their child proudly presents them with copious amounts of ‘artwork’ (by which I mean random scribbles on a page or paint splattered across cardboard) for them to admire and cherish.

You have a few options with the way you handle this artwork:

  • You can admire it and place it on the fridge with all the other ‘artwork’ you have received, which leaves to you having to timidly open and close your fridge to avoid dislodging the masterpieces.
  • You can file it away somewhere safe, such as an archive box for keepsakes. You just have to make sure you have enough storage room for at least 10 years of artwork.
  • You can frame and display the best work and then file the rest in that special round file (aka the bin).
  • You can photograph it and then eventually print a book of your child’s artwork. This leaves you free to share the love, by passing on the original artwork to those nice garbage men who come visit each week.
  • You can use the artwork as personally designed cards and wrapping for family gifts.
  • You can give them to proud grandparents, aunts and uncles so that if they choose to throw it away, at least it is on their conscience and not yours!

With my first born, I was so proud of her first attempts at artwork that I kept every little drawing, finger painting and craft item she made at home, pre-school, playgroup etc. My plan was to give her this box of keepsakes once she left home. After several years and several boxes of artwork, we moved house. Prior to the move I opened up the boxes to review the artwork and came to realization that she was no Picasso and that neither of us was ever going to do anything with the boxes other than let them sit on a shelf collecting dust. I made the executive decision to throw them away to de-clutter. The important thing was the excitement at the time and the attention I gave her for her achievement – not the actual physical ‘artworks’.

We are lucky that our children’s school does a lovely portfolio of their work throughout the year, so at the end of the year we get a sample of their work stored in a handy folder that the kids can keep and review in years to come. That frees us up to dispose of other artwork, unless it of a particularly high standard.

What do you do with your children’s artwork? Feel free to share, so I can let other parents know strategies for dealing with their budding artist’s catalogue of work.

(Image courtesy of hinnamsaisuy, freedigitalphotos.net)

A SUGGESTION FOR SANTA

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I would like to suggest to the jolly man in the red velvet suit who brings joy to children all around the world, that he really needs to send out a manual to all parents so they understand the way he operates.

We all know he is magical in the way he manages to deliver presents all over the world in one single night, but realistically, with varying time zones he really gets just shy of 48 hours to complete this task!

What parents need to know are a few key things:
a) Do you need to leave food for reindeers, if so what do they prefer?

In my household we always leave out carrots for the reindeers and occasionally magic oats with red and green glitter.

b) What food should be left for Santa?

We always leave a sweet treat and a glass of milk, although I know plenty of people leave out an alcoholic beverage, but do we really want to encourage Santa to drink drive?

c) Where should Santa stockings/sacks be left?

I know traditionally they are left hanging on the mantelpiece of the fireplace near the snow encrusted windows, but as we live in Australia and we don’t have a fireplace, not to mention any hint of snow in the middle of Summer, we leave the sacks on our children’s beds.

There always seems to be confusion amongst kids (and parents for that fact) as to why Santa leaves lots of gifts for some kids and a single present for others. My kids always wonder why Santa gives them trinkets, whilst he leaves trampolines and bikes for other kids. I just tell my children that obviously those other kids are much better behaved than them 😉

It would be great if Santa were to have a standard set of rules to alleviate the confusion at this time of year, as it may help in reducing the number of ‘Is Santa real?’ type questions that seem to plague many parents at Christmas. For the record, I always assume the ‘If you don’t believe, you don’t receive,’ mantra and it seems whilst ever my kids are receiving gifts they are happy to believe (or at least make me believe that they believe!)

Ho ho hoping you have a Merry Christmas and that you made it onto the nice list this year!

(Picture courtesy of stockimages, 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)

SICK DAY

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The eternal struggle as a parent is to decipher when your child is sick and should stay home for the day or if they are just feigning illness to get a day off school.

I’ve had times where I’ve given my child the benefit of the doubt to stay home and after a few hours they have suddenly perked up, having a complete recovery (usually mid way through the day when they know it isn’t worth taking them to school for the remainder of the day).

On the flip side, I’ve had times when I’ve been sure that my child is faking and sent them to school, only to receive a call from the school to advise me that my child is sick and needs to be collected.

I have a few criteria that I use to make my decision as to whether they should stay home:

  • Has a temperature
  • Has been up through the previous night
  • Is showing obvious signs of illness
  • Is willing to take pain medication (if needed)
  • Is willing to stay in bed or do educational work

I don’t accept tears as an indicator, as I have a few accomplished actors who can cry on cue – very convincingly I might add! If my child meets most of the above qualifying points then I figure they must be sick or at the very least, they are willing to commit to having an extremely boring day.

I don’t let my kids watch TV if they are home ‘sick’ as I believe that if they can sit quietly and watch television then they can sit quietly and listen to their teacher.

As I’m writing this I have master nine sitting in bed reading. He assures me he is too ill to go to school and given the fact that he scared the living daylights out of me when he tapped me on the shoulder to wake me at 3am to tell me his nose was running, I’ve decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. I just hope he has a quick recovery so tomorrow I can catch up on all the things I was going to do today!

Has your child ever fooled you into giving them a ‘sick day’?

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