Friday, February 19, 2010


This past week each household in New Zealand received a copy of the National Government's "National Standards ~ Lifting Educational Standards" information sheet. It tells us, "Your child will be regularly tested by their school to reliably measure how they are doing in reading, writing and maths."

Therefore this week's quote is on the subject of READING.

"Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body." Joseph Addison, and English essayist, poet, dramatist and statesman. 1672 - 1719.

No one disputes the fact that children need physical exercise to develop strong, healthy bodies. Although Joseph Addison's quote above was not specifically written in reference to children, he verbalised that reading is the food that builds strong, healthy minds.
Certain physical exercises, sports and games, develop particular muscle groups. Likewise certain types of books develop particular areas in our children's minds and consequently in their lives. If a child's reading diet is totally comics, or science fiction, or gossip-filled teen magazines, or even articles on poverty-releasing justice policies in the majority world, the child will be lop-sided both in their view of the world and in their character development.
Children need to read widely ~ fiction and non-fiction; mystery, imaginative literature and true life literature; all areas of science; travel, culture and people of different philosophies; history of all eras; biographies, famous people; and of course humour and books that are sheer, mad fun... A child needs to read in all areas of life to develop well - mentally, emotionally, creatively and ethically. Reading opens 'windows' into life. Reading should be inspirational for a child. If it isn't then maybe they need to read books in new areas.
You may ask where you can find out about books in all these different areas? Well, start by googling "children's book reading lists". Here are a few sites to start you off -
Consists of 8 reading lists arranged in age groups from preschool - 18 years (sorry about
the side ads for "flat stomachs")
Consists of age group reading lists, boys/girls book lists, classical books in age groups, topic lists
eg animals, educational, growing up, history, and book awarded book lists. All very 'Oprah'.
Sites here in New Zealand -
*,...,Holiday Reading
Whitcoulls kids top 50 books.
I suggest you try your local library first for the books you want.
Another way to encourage a wide range of reading is to take opportunities that are there.
* International sporting events, eg the Winter Olympics ~ borrow books on the Winter Olympics from the library and read them together.
* A current issue in the news ~ read the newspaper articles together.
* Sea creatures found on holiday ~ google them or find library books with photos and information about your creatures.
* Listen to the questions your child asks ~ follow them up by googling or finding answers in
library books. This is the start of research.
You are now demonstrating a growing interest in life through reading. It isn't hard, it doesn't take a lot of time, in fact it is increasingly very enjoyable and pays huge 'dividends' in the life of your child. One writer calls it "elevating or cultivating a child's taste in reading".
Through the media we have had famous sports people model a good attitude to reading books for children to follow. Interest and enthusiasm for reading needs to be modelled so children will be attracted to read for themselves. But as I wrote in an earlier blog - the biggest influence into children's lives is from home - from parents. As parents we need to model reading for our children's sake. We too need to read widely. So, what are you reading at the moment?

"A man (child) practices the art of adventure when he breaks the chain of routine and renews his life through reading new books, travelling to new places, making new friends, taking up new hobbies and adopting new viewpoints." Wilfred Peterson.

So, what are you going to read THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ?

Sunday, February 14, 2010


"A child must have respect from his parents to be himself. This does not, of course, mean no limit-setting or being permissive....It means to encourage a child to think, to be spontaneous, to realize he is a separate person who must assume more and more responsibility for himself." Ross Campbell: How to Really Love Your Child.

How do you bring up a child to "assume more and more responsibility for himself"? The first sentence in this week's quote is the place to start. "A child must have respect from his parents to be himself." Children need to know their parents have confidence in them and trust them. Being trusted and taking responsibility for one's self are connected, one produces the other.
Many teenagers today in all cultures of the western world are growing up without going through this process. They do not have parents who trust them and in turn are not growing up to be responsible or take responsibility for themselves. Being responsible is the outworking of taking responsibility for one's self. Maybe you as an adult feel you missed out on this experience in your childhood.
A child who does not know, feel or believe their parents trust or have confidence in them, is likely to take on some of the following patterns.
* Ignore parent instructions in teenage years. This often causes parents to be more insistent or demanding of their children, and if the pattern doesn't alter, results in huge divisions between child and parent. It can even lead onto more serious problems.
* Live secretive lives, accomplishing what they know their parents disapprove of. This results in an increasing deterioration of the child/parent relationship, and increasing resistance to listen to parents. This second habit occurs because the child's success builds up a block against seeing any need for following the wishes of parents. Teenagers can then cut themselves loose from the family, often prematurely claiming an unhealthy independence.
* Stay "tied" to their parents. Even as young adults they can feel they need parental clearance on things they should decide about themselves. These people are failing to live in their own world.
* Enter adulthood with poor life skills, a lack of confidence in themselves, rarely able to establish or develop relationships with people around them.
Some parents are fearful as their children grow into teenagers. In their minds they re-live their own pasts when they were teens. If fear takes control, parents can become possessive or dictatorial in the attempt of preventing their children from making the same mistakes.
Being trusted by parents is essential because it is the way a child learns to become responsible, firstly for himself and then in his community.
How then does a parent start trusting their child? Children learn to be responsible for themselves by being shown how to do a task, eventually taking ownership for it, and through practice it becomes automatic. Being human there will regularly be times of complaint. This in itself is another topic for another time.
* a 2 year old putting away certain toys.
* a 3 year old helping set the table.
* a 4 year old washing up the cutlery.
* a 6 year old making coffee.
* an 8 year old writing down detailed phone messages.
* a 10 - 12 year old cooking a simple meal.
* a 14 year old mowing the lawn.
* a 15 year old being responsible to do their own laundry.
* a new licensed driver navigating themselves across the city.
You may need to teach the skill first and then be "around" and eventually you will be able to ease out. The responsibility is to stretch or challenge them (therefore the skill should be just outside their abilities), not be viewed as a bore by the child.
It is important to remember that they are learning responsibility and will make mistakes. But by making mistakes young and learning the consequences of these mistakes, they are equipped to handle the next greater responsibility. Through these experiences, it is highly likely that a child will move into adulthood being more responsibile.
As we give such responsibility to our children, we demonstrate that we trust them. They in turn learn skills and grow in self confidence. Watching all this, we as parents go on to trust them in more demanding areas of life.
What do you think?
THIS WEEK WITH THE KIDS demonstrate you TRUST your child by teaching them a skill, and start on the road to creating a more responsible child.

After putting up this post, I realized I had not addressed the situation of parents with adult children. I think that even at this stage a change for the better is possible.
As for a young child, the parent with adult children must start by thinking about the first sentence in the quote above.
The solution for parents with adult children is found in working together on something - BBQing the meat together, setting up for a party together, making food together... It's not simply being together as in shopping together, being at the beach together... It needs to be a situation where THE ADULT CHILD HAS FULL DECISION POWER - they can make the salad however they wish, set up the party tables to their own liking... So it must be an area you are WILLING TO GIVE THEM FULL REIGN. They may of course ask your opinion... but you need to tell them you fully trust their judgement, or know they have lots of flair in that area...go right ahead...
If you find this all extremely difficult, think on your adult child as your most talented, respected friend. You would willingly hand over the job to them, praise them, telling them how you never could have coped without them.... So treat your adult child in the same way.
Hopefully your first attempt will be a great success and you will quickly be trying to figure out how to get them involved with you on something else - soon.

Friday, February 5, 2010


"It takes a whole village to raise a child" African Proverb ???

Here are some similar sayings from different cultures - "A single hand cannot bring up a child", "One hand cannot hold a baby".
When I was Googling to find where this week's quote came from I first found that it was claimed as an old African proverb, but quickly found most writers who had researched the quote's background, were not sure if its origin was African at all.

One of these writers, made the following comment.
"I grew up in Detroit, Michigan. In my neighbourhood the houses were side-by-side along a city block. Our block was a 'village' when I was growing up. Old Mr Johnson, who lived across the street monitored our activities throughout the day while my single-parent mother worked. If we got too rowdy, Mr Johnson would get us in line from his front porch. We knew we were loved and protected. How do we re-embrace that aspect of community that makes us feel loved and protected, in the twenty-first century?..."

Another writer said, ..."did someone miss a point? African culture does not begin with the individual....but with the group. The group exists, therefore I am. This proverb was not made up, it is a reality."

A third writer thought the "village" today was the family, and another made the statement that it "did not refer to a large group of unrelated strangers, but a small group."

Regardless of where the phrase came from, I think there are some stimulating points it provokes us to think about.
The two words "whole village" speaks of a varied group of people - different occupations
- different ages and generations, parents, along with grandparants, aunties and uncles, sisters and brothers, friends.

A village of the past, held similar attitudes, values, beliefs... they were connected. This is what bound the village together. There was an automatic responsibility they felt to be part of the lives of village children. The first writer mentioned this when he spoke about growing up in Detroit.

I have always found the saying "it take a whole village to raise a child" extremely attractive. I think that as people, both my husband and I have lots of gifts that are worth handing on to our kids, but there are many areas of life that neither of us know much about. We need our neighbours, respected friends as well as our extended families, to have imput into the lives of our children.

The first writer I quoted asked an excellent question. "How do we re-embrace that aspect of community that makes us feel loved and protected, in the twenty-first century?" He isn't complaining, waiting for someone to solve a problem for him. He realizes that we need to "re-embrace"= go back to practicing things as they were done in the past, in the "village".
As the last writer I quoted said, we don't need "unrelated strangers" putting in extensive time with our kids, they need to be connected with people who have similar attitudes to us.
The second writer has a point too. Maybe we have missed the point - our eyes have become fixed on the child, their needs, their future.... and in doing this we have lost our perspective, lost seeing the importance of the "village" or community of which they are part.

I hope you have some ideas from reading this of what you can do THIS WEEK WITH THE KIDS to connect them into your "village". You could also take up the challenging perspective of making them aware of their "village" and less mindful of themselves.

Monday, February 1, 2010


"Play is the most important aspect of a young child's life....educational experts and early childhood specialists have discovered that play is learning, and even more, that play is one of the most effective kinds of learning known...Play is the natural way a child learns. It is the way he learns to concentrate, to exercise his imagination, to try out ideas, to practice grown-up behaviour, to develop a sense of control over his world... When children are born, they are graced with an insatiable sense of curiosity. They want to touch, smell, taste, see and hear everything. They want to talk, they want to imitate other people, they want to explore... In a home where discovery is discouraged, children often learn how not to learn, a tragic outcome. In homes where early explorations are encouraged, the minds and personalities of children grow and develop the potential that is each child's legacy."
Merry Archard from the Introduction in LEARNING THROUGH PLAY: Jean Marzollo and Janice Lloyd.

I hope this photo beside the quote is confusing to you. After looking through dozens of pages on Google Images on topics to do with children playing, I was appauled to find the majority were of children playing with technology or on equipment or with parents directing the play proceedings.
It made me see there was a big need of this weeks blog.
Kids play on computers, kids play on bikes or skateboards, play on playground equipment, play cards, play soccer, play with playdough, play CDs, play Pictionary, play Play Stations, play watching Sky TV, play going to the mall, play going to movies, play at the beach.... But is this 'play'? What IS play anyway? Opinions will differ as to if all or any of the above list are actually 'play', as my trip on Google Images showed me.
This week's quote tells us that play can involve any of our senses and is based around curiosity and a "want to explore" or "discover", leading to develop the potential of children's "minds and personalities".
This sort of play needs time, space, privacy and freedom for a child to design their own play - free choice play. This is different to games or parent directed/parent setup play. Free choice play is just that, the child chooses what and how to play, then plays without interference or directions from adults.
If they are young children they need space, lots of free time, to be outside, to be able to make noise, make mess and access to simple everyday things to play with.
If they are older children they need most of the above plus privacy from intruding adults and interested support to help with quarrels or an idea on how to solve a problem and encourage it all to stay happy and fun.
Of course some food always helps! Then at the end of the play time, children need a loving parent to bring them back into reality, giving them aid to packup.
What is the benefit of "free choice play"? The sentence highlighted in the quote, gives some answers. I would add that free choice play gives confidence in self and develops decision-making skills. Another wonderful thing learned through free choice play, which is a dying trait in children, is the ability to entertain oneself and happily be quiet on one's own, giving space to think. So many teenagers and adults live rushing from event to event, have constant noise and action, frantically shovelling more 'things' into the day. They have forgotten how to STOP and be quiet.
How about TV, DVDs, computers, technology games? They ARE here to stay, but a rich diet of these with their extravagant output of visual and auditory stimulus, only shuts down a child's imagination. It's all done for them and there's nothing left to imagine.
Time to dream and imagination development is crucial for children, maybe more so today than in the past. Ken Robinson in his book "THE ELEMENT" speaks of the unknown career fields of the future and says that children need to be well trained and in-touch with their imagination side of their mind to make the most of their future.