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Give Them Loving Eye Contact

Friday, May 6th, 2016

As parents living in a fast paced society, it is so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life, concern ourselves with all the chores that need to be done and give what little time we have left to our children.

“Quality time” means different things to different people. Giving just five minutes ‘quality time’ to children isn’t the answer and doesn’t go very far in meeting children’s needs. All children need real time from their parents, not just to make them feel special, however, also a natural part of the nurturing, development, secure relationship building, guidance and supportive processes that parents need to provide.

Recently, I took some downtime, which also allowed me to immerse myself in to some chores around the house. Taking this downtime made me wonder how on earth I manage my busy schedule, a home and make time for the children. It’s a case of prioritising. And no I don’t always get it right! However, it’s about having the focus to make your children a priority in your life because no one else will do this for you, unless of course you have a nanny that takes care of their practical needs, but this in no way replaces the love and attention that children need and deserve from their own parents. Time flies by so quickly these days that before you know it, your children have reached the age of 16 and able to make some of their own decisions which includes leaving the family home.

Children and young people need to know that you love them and they need to see and experience this behaviourally rather than just auditory, i.e. what you say. That is, you need to show your children that you love them, and not just tell them!

So how do you give your children focused attention?



Big and small, old and young, they all still need to be hugged. And they are still your children irrespective of how old they are. Hugging your children is so much easier when they are young children. Hugging your teenagers, on the other hand, is an art in itself. This is one of those occasions where you need to tread carefully as your teens go through an interesting, challenging, frustrating and confusing phase in their lives. Make it easier for both of you by following your teens lead. For instance, not hugging them in front of their friends unless they instigate it, nor outside of school.

Don’t make the mistake, however, of thinking that your children do not need a hug. We all do! Don’t you just feel so much better, connected and loved when someone gives you a hug? Just because your teenager is not approaching you for a hug, does not mean that they do not need one. They will be following your lead and it takes courage to take the first step, especially if there is an element of hostility between you.

Also, be willing to say sorry and apologise to your teen if you need to. It’s amazing how many barriers that the word ‘sorry’ can break down, don’t you think?

An alternative to hugging your teen, depending on how receptive they are to your hugs, is a simple touch or pat on the head, shoulders, knees, or back will suffice to show your teen that you love them. This can even be done as you walk past them, which might get a few grunts a long the way from you teen, but don’t let up on physical contact.

One parent that I have recently worked with as part of my Easy Tiger Parent System™, said that she had no problems hugging and being playful with her 3 year old. However, she only hugs her 10 year old at bedtime.

Whilst her 10 year old might not be moaning or saying anything about not being hugged at other times, she will be very aware that her sibling is getting a lot more hugs and her parents attention that she is and, at a psychological level and to make sense of it, may blame herself for her parents not hugging her as much.

I appreciate some parents may find hugging difficult especially if they were not shown affection by their parents as a child. I fell into that category too, however, I made the decision that it would be different for my children.



Give your children eye contact when you are communicating with them. It sounds such a simple thing to do, yet it is so easy to be so busy whilst talking to your children that you focus on what you are busy doing that you don’t realise that you are not making eye contact. I’ve done it too. What do we say to our children when we are talking to them and they are looking every where else but at us? That’s right! ‘Look at me when I am talking to you’. And where do they get that behaviour from? That’s right, probably you.

Additionally, give your children loving eye contact generally and not just give
them eye contact when you are telling them off.


All children need boundaries and discipline which, as responsible parents, we provide them with for a healthy, balanced and positive childhood.

Boundaries are necessary guidelines to help your children to manage and self regulate themselves and their environment. Children and young people who are not given boundaries lose self control and look to their peers to plug the gap and fill that need. Even young people who argue vehemently about boundaries and restrictions, need boundaries and in the long run, will be grateful for them being in place and enforced.

I recently heard of a young person who was in tears because her parents didn’t give her any boundaries to guide her growth and development. She is wishing they had. And yes, it is a fine line between giving children and young people too much latitude and being too restrictive.

Having sound values that you are clear about as a parent and shared with the family, in line with your goals for your family, will help you to identify where you stand regarding boundaries. I appreciate that for some people whose own childhood experiences may prove to be challenging and perhaps cast doubts on their ability to identify clear values and therefore healthy boundaries. To them I would say simply make them up! Having some boundaries is better than having none at all. As time goes on, monitor, review and adjust them to what feels or looks just right for you.

Sometimes our parents’ values don’t always serve our purpose as adults and parents in our own right. So take control of your life and do your own thing. Do what feels right for your family.

Loving discipline helps children and young people to learn about what is right or wrong and to develop responsibility and accountability for their actions. This is in the form of natural consequences of their behaviour and not necessarily punishment for their behaviour. I have to say that it took me a while to get clear about the difference between consequences and punishment, I guess because I only ever had punishment as a child. So an example of a natural consequence is when one of my sons left his blazer at school because it had a rip in it and expecting that it would just be replaced. He had a shock when I told him that he had to replace the blazer using his own money. As apposed to punishing him by maybe grounding him say for a week. There is no direct correlation here with what he has done, and potentially the punishment could cause confusion.

Other healthy options of consequences can take many forms e.g. applying restrictions to teenager’s movements, whether this means being sent to their room or prevented from going out for days or a week. Clearly the discipline needs to be age related.

Whilst being a parent can be a thankless ‘job’ at the best of times, we owe it to our children to do everything possible to create secure relationships with them. That could well involve doing what we need to do to develop ourselves to make it happen.

Go and enjoy hugging your children, giving them loving eye contact and loving discipline.



5 Top Ways To Help Students Who Self Harm At Christmas

Thursday, December 10th, 2015

Christmas is generally a time for joy, giving, receiving and thinking of others. For some people however, Christmas brings about fear, trepidation and anxiety.

As schools are about to break up for the festive season, some pupils in particular may be filled with dread and the thought of having to take time out with their families; namely pupils who self harm. Some schools may already begin to see signs of structural attachment to the school or attachment to members of staff in the form of increased self harming as the end of term approaches and are looking for self harm help.

Self Harm Help

Courtesy of


How Do You Manage The Situation?

Other than self harm training for teachers, there are some things that schools can do to help pupils to prepare for and do during the Christmas break.

These could include:

  1. Helping the pupil to Create An Action Plan.

The Action Plan could take any form that is likely to be the most beneficial for the pupil. For instance, an Action Plan that helps them to create a routine of things they will do over the break to keep themselves focused, busy, stimulated or just happy.  For example, going along with or making the most of the family visits; creating a routine for their day that they are likely to stick to; making things and being creative and possibly gifting it to others; socialising with friends; helping to cook or offer to cook during the festive season!


  • A Crisis Plan Of Action.  This is a Plan that can be created specifically in relation to the self injurious behaviour. It could include who they could reach out to in the midst of a crisis, and where they could get help and support from. This could be a particular family member, Samaritans (opened on Christmas Day!), or ChildLine.


  • Prevention Plan of Action.  This is a Plan that is focused on helping them to consider avoiding certain things, situations or people (where possible) that are likely to be a trigger for their self harming, or fall into situations that they may feel uncomfortable with. It also includes the action steps that they will take to prevent the above happening and who they could call on to support them in implementing the Plan.

2.   Doing One Thing Differently. 

Doing something differently can help to get people out of certain situations where they feel stuck or is a situation that is a stagnant status quo. In practice this could look like this – saying hello/greeting others that they wouldn’t normally speak to; styling their hair differently; a different form of exercise; trying a different cuisine that they wouldn’t normally eat. Doing one thing differently each week (or day), will help them to change the energy around them, the status quo and possibly their outlook on life.

Self Harm Help

Courtesy of Youtube – Self Harm Help

3.  Contribute. 

Find a way that they can give to others in a healthy way. Contribution and giving not only makes the recipient feel good but it also generates a feel good factor in the person giving. There are always charity organisations looking for more help at Christmas to help those in need. For instance, Salvation Army, Childrens’ Hospices, or Anthony Robbins Foundation/Basket Brigade which also operates in the UK and delivers food baskets/hampers at Christmas to families in need.


4. Help them to Reframe and to see a Different or wider Picture of Themselves.

In addition to self harm training courses, teachers can help pupils to see a different or wider picture of themselves.

This is where you could help them to challenge unhelpful or negative belief patterns about themselves and to help them identify a time in their life when they were being or doing the opposite of their limiting or negative thoughts. What is the opposite of that negative thought?


5. Continue Or Start A New Hobby

Getting and staying occupied by doing a hobby that is enjoyable and helps them to feel good about themselves and that is JUST for them!


Enlist their parents’ help in following through with the relevant Action Plan or ask them to share their plans with their parents, if and where possible.


As with anything new, reassure them that some things take time to get used to and that it is Very OK to make mistakes or mess up whilst getting used to their new Plan(s).  Taking one step at a time is the key to consistency.

It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way…  

Friday, November 6th, 2015

Mental health challenges in children and young people are on the increase and are posing huge problems for them, adults and the society as a whole. Families and schools alike, are now feeling the impact of this surge of mental health crisis. Something needs to give and changes must be made in order to safeguard children and young people’s future and as the next generation. And the change must start with us, adults!

Children want adults to take the lead and guide them even if they act totally contrary to this statement. They need guidance, including clear, consistent boundaries.

The child or pupil needs to know what they are supposed to do and wants guidance in order to be able to do it. Yes they are likely to react adversely at first when attempts to change their behaviour, routine, habits and patterns but that is partly due to the uncertainty of being thrown into unfamiliar territories of calmness, boundaries, assertion and discipline. It could also be due to a sense of confusion during the transition stages and lack of guidance. However, with consistent, firm, calm, gentle, loving, caring and reassuring action and guidance from the parent or teacher. The child or pupil may begin to see the benefits that the changes may bring. Trust is also a key issue for many children and young people.

In order to achieve any of the above, the teacher or parent must first know and understand what the problem is or underlying issues that needs to be fixed to bring about a change. The other key thing is that a more positive outcome is more likely if the parent or teacher first make changes within themselves in order to gain the results that they desire with and for the child or pupil. For instance, if you are someone who panics and/or show disgust at the sight of a self injury, it is really important that how you manage yourself and your emotions is changed, in order to gain any buy-in from the child or pupil.

When the man is right, the world will be right too.” Dennis Kimbro & Napoleon Hill

Children and young people respond to their environment. Fix the environment, and that will go along way to helping them to be in a more balanced emotional state, unless there are medical reasons which provide contra-indications.

Their behaviour is generally indicative of the underlying issues that they are attempting to grapple with or solve in some way.


Be The Change That You Want To See

Positive or new examples within the school environment might look like this:

ü      No labelling of any pupil

ü      Positive messages and focus reinforced at the start of each day for EVERY pupil

ü      Congruent verbal and non-verbal messages from staff/teachers and the school environment

ü      Lead by example


Positive or new examples within the home environment might look like this:

ü      Shared and reinforced boundaries, irrespective of the children and young people’s age

ü      Consistent habits/routines e.g. morning, home time, bedtime

ü      Consistent discipline

ü      Family fun


Positive or new examples within society might look like this:

Media see and treat people as OK (and a human being) irrespective of race, colour, creed, gender, sexuality, weight, size, etc.

“Be the change that you want to see”. Ghandi


So How Do You Do That?

As a parent or teacher, take control of the situation by taking control of you first and your emotions. If you want the children to be calm, you must first show and demonstrate calmness within. Shouting at them and telling them to calm down brings about the opposite affect!  Be calm and they naturally become calm. React and they will react. Respond consistently and they will begin to respond. Take the lead, or lead by example with consistent, firm, calm, gentle, loving, caring and reassuring action and guidance.

In Summary:

  • Ÿ         Anger and aggression begets anger and aggression!
  • Ÿ         Negative projections on children and young people results in negative reactions and behaviour on their part, towards you and others!
  • Ÿ         Model the response that you want to see
  • Ÿ         If you want calmness, be calm
  • Ÿ         If you want trust, demonstrate trust
  • Ÿ         If you want respect, demonstrate respect.


How teachers and parents manage their interaction with children and young people can go a long way in assisting children and young people to manage and regulate their own emotions. Given the gamut of challenges that young people face today, adults leading by example is only one aspect of helping children and young people to reduce their mental health challenges, but nevertheless a very important and significant aspect.

Sometimes as adults, we all need a little helping hand of support and/or guidance to uncover or discover the stumbling blocks that are getting in the way of being the person/teacher/parent that we want to be.


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