Welcome to the Executive Director of Faith and Community’s Blog page. The aim is to share parenting tips and strategies from time to time. Information shared will come from evidence-based resources which are credible and reliable. As parents, our role will be to adapt some of these tips to our home situations. The St Paul’s community should be a community in which parents and staff collaborate and ensure the students attending the school receive the best holistic education possible so that each student might become the best he or she can be.
Sometimes we get it wrong as parents
Twice a year we have Carnivals, a Swimming Carnival and an Athletics Carnival. The Swimming Carnival took place last week and was a wonderful opportunity for the school to build community spirit. Houses worked hard at developing a theme for the day, wrote their war cries and enjoyed plenty of friendly rivalry, whilst, at the same time, not only celebrating swimming talent, but also seeing other students 'having a go' to earn points for their House.
It is always a pity to hear that some students have deliberately not attended on the day. Of course, some are genuinely ill, but others, with apparent support from parents, choose not to be involved. Some parents seem to believe that an OP at the end of School is what a St Paul's education experience is about. There is no research to support that thinking.
There is, however, plenty of research to support the involvement of students in whole school activities, in moving out of their comfort zones and trying something different, in being involved in team activities (see attached article) and building social relationships with a variety of peers. Such participation builds resilience and, as shared in a Commonwealth of Australia, 2013, Response Ability Factsheet: "Resilience can lead to greater academic achievements, positive relationships and socially appropriate behaviour. It may also reduce our risk of mental health problems and improve our mental health outcomes in the future."
Food for thought :-)
The Helicopter Parent
As a parent myself, I appreciate that one of our greatest challenges is deciding when to advocate on behalf of our children and when to step back and encourage them to communicate with teachers and coaches and learn how to negotiate and communicate with others; when to actually trust the school as well. Parenting expert, Michael Grose, offers some useful tips in the attached article.
Moving beyond resilience-building…….to character development - Michael Grose
“Talent or persistence. Which would you choose for a child?”
I often ask this question at my parenting seminars and the responses are fascinating. Parents naturally want both. Sorry, but that’s not an option.
When pushed most people choose talent over persistence, which in many ways reflects the current thinking around achievement. Intelligence, sporting prowess and ability in whatever it is we value will only get a child or young person so far.
They need more than talent to achieve sustained excellence in anything they do. It is the character traits of hard work combined with their ability to stick at a task and see it through that makes all the difference.
Renee has grit
Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers, described twenty-something American student Renee, who took 22 minutes to work out a complicated math question.
The average student gives up after THREE minutes, preferring to ask for help than work through a problem.
Renee is unusual as she persisted for 22 minutes until she got the solution. The funny thing is, is that she doesn’t describe herself as a good math student. But she is highly successful at Math. Grit rather than pure math talent are her forte.
Cognitive skills by themselves aren’t enough for children to succeed over the long journey. Many recent studies (most notably the work of US-based Angela Duckworth) have found that character not cognitive ability is the single most reliable determinant of how a person’s life will turn out.
These traits include the inclination to persist at a boring task (grit); the ability to delay gratification (self-control) and the tendency to follow through with a plan (conscientiousness), which are invaluable traits at school, in the workplace and in life in general.
Character works as an indicator of success when it’s seen as set of strengths and personality traits rather than personal values such as loyalty, tolerance or forgiveness.
Character is forged under difficulty
The key character traits of grit, self-control and conscientiousness are forged under hardship and duress. This makes our current propensity to over protect and over indulge kids problematic. When kids continually experience easy success we set them up for failure because when they finally face up to difficult situations many lack the capacity to push through the tough times.
Encouraging kids to step out of their comfort zones and take learning and social risks is a massive challenge at the moment. It’s critical that we challenge children and young people to attempt activities where failure is a significant option overcoming set-backs and pushing through difficulties is how character is formed.
Parents can actively promote grit and persistence in kids by making character part of their family’s brand. They can focus on character in conversations. They can share experiences where character paid off for them in their lives. They can discuss how character contributes to excellence and success in every day live including at work, at school and in the sporting field. Character and its many components can become part the family narrative regardless on the age of children.
What do Instagram and Literacy have in common?
Starting the new School Year in the Middle School
I run a brief Survey with my new classes each year, a way of getting to know the students quickly. Many students in my Year 8 classes identified how hard it was transferring from their previous school to St Paul’s in Year 7, leaving friends behind and having to make new friends. Clearly, a number of students have found this really challenging.
I would encourage parents to keep the dialogue flowing about how their child is settling in. If you receive the answer ‘fine’ when you ask how school was that day, change the nature of your questioning so that you receive more than one word answers!
‘Tell me about ….’ ‘What was one of the ………..?’ ‘What are you studying in …..?’ ‘What Clubs and societies does the school offer (can you show me in your Diary) …. Sports? … what are you interested in participating in?” and so on.
Students who become engaged in the life of a school will settle quickly. Stay in touch with the House Tutor and the Head of House but, most important, your child must make the choices with your encouragement in the background.
Keep an eye out for who is making up the new friendship group and watch social media developments (scroll down on this Blog for more tips in this area).
Increasing numbers of indecent “selfies” taken by kids, some of whom are under the age of 10, are being found in the collections of child sex offenders, according to an article in the Sunday Mail on the 24th November.
Detective Senior Sargeant Steve Loth suggested the message for parents is to be aware about what their kids are using, what they’re pushing out and have that conversation with them about the implications.
He said children could also do themselves reputational harm by posting indecent images on social media, because it was searchable and parents needed to be mindful of social media age limits.
Cyber safety expert and former police officer Susan McLean said a UK study earlier this year showed 87 per cent of self-generated sexual images posted online by children and tracked over four months, ended up on porn websites.
And she blames parents.
“Get your head out of the sand,” the CyberSafetySolutions director told parents.
“Stop giving your kids devices that you don’t understand how to use, make sure you set up parent restrictions on them – turn the camera off, you don’t have to have the camera on – and if you can’t manage it, go and buy a $30 Nokia that does nothing and let your child have that.
“We could stamp out a large proportion of this if parents are actively parented.
“Young kids that are getting into trouble online, I don’t blame the kids, I blame the parents 100 per cent.”
Leading child protection campaigner Hetty Johnston said parents were providing a direct line to predators by giving children unfettered access to mobile phones that had internet access.
(Source: Sunday Mail, 24th November 2013)
You might think this is an interesting question. You might think it's a strange question. Well the common link is PARENTS :-)
The incidents of young people making poor choices using Instagram remains a concern for anyone interested in seeing these young people become the best they can be. Parents need to take responsibility for holding dialogues with their children about sites like Instagram. "My child will never get onto a site like that," will be the comment made by a parent often with their head in the sand. These students are comparing websites etc. every day at school and natural curiosity will see students visiting websites they should not be looking at. The best thing we can do is remain a part of their education and journey with them through this world of technology. A helpful article for any parent concerned about what their child could be looking at is attached. Another area of concern is the lack of literacy skills in many of our young people today. Too many parents and others think that technology will be the saviour of our children's education. We need to continually remind ourselves that one of the keys to young people moving forward positively is learning how to create meaningful relationships with others. It is helpful on this journey if they can communicate through the written word. It is helpful if they can read well and use these skills to explore different ideas and themes through the written word. Check out this helpful article.
Children feeling safe
As a parent, you want your child to feel safe and to be safe at school.
The National Safe Schools Framework values the vital role that you play in supporting your child, in connecting and communicating effectively with your child's school, and in building and nurturing positive relationships.
The Safe Schools Hub for Parents provides you with a guide to the Framework, and with information and resources that you may find useful in helping to make your child's school experience a positive and happy one. You can log on at www.safeschoolshub.edu.au
When children are living in two homes
It's tough for both parents and their children when things don't work out and the children end up having to spend time with their parents in different homes.
Michael Grose, Parenting expert, has iuncluded an article in a recent Newsletter which offers some helpful hints to parents in such a situation. The article can be found by clicking here.
Developing resilient children
When we learn how to identify, focus on and name the strengths of our children, we will be playing a hugely important role in their character development. When they hit a bad moment in their lives, they will remember these strengths and, therefore, will be equipped to bounce back from adversity, to keep on keeping on when a part of them wants to give up and so much more.
Parenting expert, Michael Grose, shares an article for parents of Primary and Secondary School students which has some invaluable tips on how to develop resilient children through the use of carefully chosen words. Highly recommended!
Anxiety issues - tips to encourage a positive way forward
I hear a lot about anxiety these days and we see many students battling with this issue as they journey through adolescence. I am attaching an article by Maggie Dent as an encouragement to all parents of children from P-12.
Encouraging Developmental Relationships with Children
I read an interesting article produced by The Search Institute in the USA which focused on the importance of developing healthy relationships. Parenting experts remind us time and time again that we are parents first and foremost. A parent who wants to be their child's 'best friend' is unlikely to be a consistently effective parent. Clearly there is a difference between being a parent and a 'best friend'. Healthy developmental relationships happen when young people and adults actively listen to each other; treat each other with respect, honesty, kindness and empathy; have a shared understanding of their roles and responsibilities within the relationship; respectfully challenge and hold each other accountable; and enjoy their time together. Try these tips for encouraging caring relationships in your child's life.
Be emotionally close: No two parents show love quite the same way. Some shower their kids with lots of hugs, high fives, and kind notes; others are more stoic or reserved. Tap into your own way of showing your kids you care.
Communicate openly and directly: When you speak to your kids, are your messages grounded in love, respect and clarity? Do you ever say one thing and mean another?
Set clear rules/boundaries: The key to reducing everyone's stress and frustration about rules and expectations is to be clear, consistent, reasonable and evolutionary. "Evolutionary" means being responsive to your child's changing developmental needs and what they've demonstrated about their choices.
Give kids chances to help out and serve others: show your kids that they are valued at home by giving them increasing levels of responsibility. Then take it a step further by helping them get engaged in service in the community, whether in the neighbourhood, school or somewhere else.
In the Community
Do teachers, coaches and youth leaders like, respect and treat children fairly? Thank the adults who spend time with your kids. Notice those who make special efforts to be there for your children. These may include teachers, youth leaders, extended family members, neighbours, music instructors, tutors, bus drivers and many other people in your children's lives.
Have you asked adults you respect to watch out for, mentor or spend time with your child? Encourage the adults you know and trust to spend more time with your children. Offer specific invitations for connections based on mutual interests.
(Source: The Search Institute)
Mobile Phones/iPhones - Se#@ing .... for Primary School parents as well
Helping students manage Social Media will be one of the major challenges of educators and parents. In The Link Newsletter Paul Browning has shared strategies the school is using to help educate the students, especially in the Middle and Senior Schools with regard to the effective use of Social Media. Michelle Mitchell has given a couple of talks to parents and will be running a workshop for Heads of Houses soon.
What is particularly concerning is the younger age groups' involvement in social media and the dangers of inappropriate use of this media. A helpful article about this is attached.
A Gala occasion - being involved
There was a wonderful atmosphere at St Paul's last Saturday! Student leaders had done some excellent preparation in ensuring that the Gala Sports Day was a fun time for everyone. There were more students present than I have seen for a long time. They were in good voice, there was entertainment on offer, refreshments to be purchased and many students were accompanied by their parents as well, some of whom were assisting at the various stalls. Seeing so many students actively involved in sport was encouraging.
Contrast this scenario with one where, instead of participating in sport, a student is undertaking part-time work. Sometimes family circumstances warrant a student having to do such part-time work. In many cases at St Paul's this is not the case.
A student was telling me the other day that his parents had said he had to find part-time work, as that was more important than participating in school sport. This youngster was missing sport and, his lack of involvement was possibly contributing to behaviour issues.
Brain research suggests the importance of our students becoming involved in extracurricular activities. They have the rest of their lives to go out and find work. If parents are prepared to make sacrifices and drive their children to matches, to support them from the sidelines and to encourage them to become the best they can be, this will have a spin-off effect on school and family life.
Working through anxiety with children
Parenting expert, Michael Grose, has shared some tips on how to work through anxiety issues with children. It's an encouraging and reassuring article.
We must also beware that, as parents, we don't try and live our dreams through our children, something I have seen happen on a few occasions during my teaching career. This creates great stress and anxiety.
As students move through Senior School and approach Year 12, it is so important that they learn to manage their time well, plan and organize their lives and don't over-commit to the Extracurricular program. Those that fail to heed this advice tend to become very anxious, especially during Terms 2 and 3.
The Digital Age - parents get involved
Almost every week there is a story about a student involved in Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat .... sometimes the comments are inappropriate. There are also inappropriate photos and so one can go on. It is difficult for a school to accept responsibility for students misusing internet sites when much of this behaviour is probably happening out of school hours.
The older the student the smarter they become.
What is important is for parents to keep dialoguing with their children about social media, the law, the consequences if they break the law, but, most important, teach and coach them how to manage social media in a responsible way.
Is your child connected to school?
One of the great challenges faced by so many schools, with St Paul’s being no exception, is to see all students involved at school, coping academically and also involved with the school’s extensive extracurricular program.
If a student starts disengaging from school, they are more at risk of becoming involved in antisocial behaviour. While it is pleasing to hear from researchers that drug participation by adolescents is decreasing, it still remains a concern for all parents.
Michael Grose, Parenting ideas, shares some thoughts in the attached article on drugs.
Involved students are healthy students
At St Paul’s students are encouraged to become involved in the school’s extensive extracurricular program. Indeed, in the Middle and Senior Schools, all students are expected to involve themselves in at least one extracurricular activity each Semester.
As students start finding part-time work, as they reach Year 9 and 10, they start dropping away. As they move into Years 11 and 12 many parents start putting an end to their children’s extracurricular involvement, telling them they need to focus on their academic studies. As a general rule, such parenting is not necessarily in the best interests of the child. It’s more a question of teaching students how to effectively manage their time, allowing ample time for socialising and just chilling out.
It’s the connection with family, friends and the community that is such an important part of their adolescent journey.
Mark Matlock, President of WisdomWorks Ministries and the author of numerous books for teenagers, writes:
“In 2003 the YMCA, Dartmouth Medical School, and the Institute for American Values hosted a symposium of specialists to ask why violence and depression were noticeably increasing among children and adolescents.
Their report, “Hardwired to Connect,” looked at a broad overview of research in various fields, including new understanding coming from the expanding field of neurobiology. What they concluded was nothing short of amazing ……..
The principle finding of this study was that science is increasingly demonstrating that the human person is hardwired to connect. We need close attachments to other people, beginning with mothers and fathers and family and then to the larger community we live in. Also, we are hardwired for meaning, born with a built-in capacity and drive to search for purpose and to reflect on life’s ultimate ends. If these two needs are not met, children cannot be expected to be healthy and develop.
This is quite a statement from a group representing diverse fields of academia! What is more, the study shows that primary nurturing relationships influence early spiritual development, that spirituality significantly influences wellbeing, and that the human brain appears to be organised to ask ultimate questions and seek ultimate answers……
We know most people are searching for truth in some fashion because we engage people in this conversation every day. The need is so real that people will believe the most ridiculous things to have these needs satisfied. Now we have scientific evidence for a biological need to address these issues, and that is significant …..
A big conclusion in the “Hardwired to Connect,” report is the restoration of what the authors call “authoritative community.” Morality, values and faith are passed on through relationships, and the breakdown of community has caused emotional blocks that keep people from receiving truth….
Some of the most significant findings have led to attachment theory. The basis of this theory is that we all need to make secure attachments with others. That begins with our first caretakers – usually our parents – and then includes relationships in the larger community around us. If we can’t make secure attachments, we make insecure ones, and that can negatively impact our emotional health.
These secure and insecure attachments shape the way the brain interprets life and creates meaning. This shaping occurs before the age of two, when our autobiographical memory kicks in – before we are even biologically capable of remembering anything about ourselves! Even though these patterns are formed early in the mind, they can be altered over time, but this is not easy to do….”
St Paul’s promotes a holistic education, the development of the whole child. Building community is a key part of that education journey. Parents are encouraged to in turn encourage their children to be fully involved in the School’s extracurricular program and, as they approach Years 11 and 12, to stay involved, but to cut back their extracurricular commitments to a more manageable load. Heads of House, Tutors and Counsellors can assist students in this process.
The drives to different parts of Brisbane on a Saturday for Sport or for Music or Debating etc. at some other time, while being a demand on our time, are worthwhile in the long run if we want to see our students become the best they can be, happy and healthy with strong family support.
It’s the beginning of the year, holidays are over, many parents will be breathing a sigh of relief now that their children are back at school.Yet, in many households mornings are often chaotic, particularly in households where both parents work or in the homes of sole parents.
Parenting expert, Michael Grose, shares some thoughts and ideas:
Both parents and children generally have a great deal to do to prepare for the day. It is also important that children get to school on time so they can make the most of their learning experiences.
Attention-seekers and dawdlers often find mornings are ideal times to keep their parents busy with them. Many morning difficulties arise due to a lack of understanding of the roles to be performed. Most children, even young ones, are capable of doing their morning tasks without parental interference, yet we so often take those responsibilities away from them.
SOME IDEAS TO GET THE MORNING WORKING FOR YOU
- Establish a clear routine. With your children’s help – work out an order of activities that everyone understands.
- Place the morning activities on a chart or even a photo chart. Charts help younger children and boys who are ‘organisationally challenged’ to go through their routine activities.
- Identify the jobs that you and your children are to do. Children should be able to do routine tasks that directly involve them, such as preparing their cereal, clearing dishes away, dressing, washing themselves and preparing school bags.
- Slow starters can prepare the night before. They can lay their clothes out or just make sure their bag is packed.
- Be aware of possible distractions and get rid of them. Some children become absorbed in television; some spend an eternity carefully choosing their clothes, others dawdle over just finding something clean to wear. Television, if it’s to be watched, can be turned on when children are ready for the day. Clothes can be chosen and laid out the night before.
- Avoid covering for children’s misbehaviour. If you are suffering due to their refusal to cooperate, or because they are moving slowly, then put the responsibility for misbehaviour where it should be – with the children. Stay out of their way in the morning and refuse to be drawn into their arguments or nag them to hurry up. Allow them to experience the consequences of being late to school or even having to dress at school.
The St. Paul's Journey ....
One of the great challenges being at St Paul’s is how to follow a Christian ethos without being branded a die-hard fanatical, judgmental person.
In my RAVE classes time and time again I see how many students struggle with questions about faith; about how to determine what is right and wrong; what values and ethics to base their decisions on; what values and ethics to follow when they are playing sport or are involved in other extracurricular activities; how to manage social media responsibly and with integrity; how to look at global events and learn to understand and appreciate that these events could significantly impact Australian society in a variety of ways ….
I also encounter many members of our community who battle to understand the meaning of ‘forgiveness’ from a Christian perspective. It is hard for people who have no understanding (and who often have closed their mind, or had a personal experience that resulted in them leaving the Church etc.) of the significance of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus to comprehend the meaning of forgiveness. This can result in students being labelled by others, bearing grudges and not allowing other students, who might have done something wrong, to redeem themselves, turn their lives around, make positive changes and make a significantly positive impact on the community.
Of course, when most of us look in the mirror, we are reminded that we are imperfect people doing our best to be responsible citizens with or without the ‘grace of God’ – our free choice.
My wife and I are proud parents of two wonderful children, both now adults and forging their own career paths. They are totally different personalities, thankfully. They grew up in a Christian home and saw Christian values role-modelled by their imperfect parents. Most important, when they made an error of judgment one or other of their parents forgave them and reminded them that they are loved unconditionally. One is active in a Christian community, the other is still journeying through the area of spiritual matters.
‘Family’ is an important word in the St Paul’s community. Thanks to the Mums who have been meeting regularly each week during term time to pray for the St Paul’s community this year. We have seen prayers answered in unexpected ways – often the way God works, isn’t it?
For me the key question remains: who is in control? Do I have to be in control of my life and all that goes on? Do I surrender control of my life to God and do my level best to follow Him, knowing that He has a plan for my life, something that is well documented in the Scriptures? Obviously I have chosen the second option or I would be unlikely to be sitting in this role at St Paul’s.
A boy in one of my Year 9 RAVE classes wrote the following recently: “The biggest obstacle to accepting my Christian faith was cold, hard proof that He was alive. After a considerable amount of thinking and learning, I’ve come to the conclusion that we don’t need to see to believe. There is more good than bad to come out of the World and God has greater plans for us.”
Two key words, ‘thinking’ and ‘learning’. Through our Service Learning program, attendance at Chapel and Riverside Services, ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day services, RAVE classes, the servant leadership program and lots more, St Paul’s students are encouraged to search for answers to the meaning of life. Parents are encouraged to join their children on their journey of discovering the meaning of life with open minds ...
Words of hope and encouragement from that young man in Year 9 reminded me why I enjoy the challenge of my job at St Paul’s.
Teamwork – the way to build positive family relationships
Parents face a lot of pressure in their daily lives, yet they are the most obvious role models to their children. I recall a number of years ago, during my days as a Headmaster, I called in a divorced couple, as their 12 year old son was exhibiting serious antisocial behaviour issues. After less than 10 minutes this couple were literally ranting and raving at each other in my office. I pointed out to them that, if this is what their son was observing, what chance did he have of understanding what the development of positive, meaningful relationships was all about? I have often wondered how that young man, now an adult, has turned out. Some really encouraging tips to build a positive family team environment are attached
Cyberbullying is a topic that requires ongoing discussion between children and parents, between students and teachers and between students themselves. We hear a lot about this through what is posted on Facebook. The attached
is a user-friendly set of tips which parents could discuss with age appropriate children.
What’s happening to our Girls and Boys?
A number of our Heads of House attended a Conference in Brisbane CBD. They were looking at topics which focused on boys and girls and many came away a bit gobsmacked at some of the information that was shared, a reminder of the impact the Digital Age is having on not only our students, but also their families. The attached
document contains some important thoughts, ideas and opinions collated by the Heads of House.
I remember, while on duty in the grounds at a school at which I was the Head a few years ago, hearing some quite revolting profanities being uttered. I turned around in shock to find a Year 3 or 4 boy had uttered these words. I asked him how he had come to hear words like these and his response was quite simply, ‘at home’. As a student I went through a stage of swearing quite a lot. One day a younger student, who did not appreciate my swearing, challenged me to stop. If I stopped by the end of the following week, he would donate $5.00 to charity. That was a lot of money in those days. If I swore, I would have to pay. The verbal agreement depended on honesty. I did not swear that week and have never sworn again. I have thanked that peer, now a good friend, on a number of occasions for curing me of a thoroughly bad habit. If every sportsman and woman who was caught swearing on TV was fined $5000, all donations going to charity, many disadvantaged people could be assisted! How important it is for our young people to have adult role models.
It Isn't Easy Being a Parent...
Parenting can be difficult and unpleasant. Most parents experience moments (or months, or years) of feeling overwhelmed. There’s a lot of information out there about what we “should” do to raise “good” kids.
In reality, there are no surefire methods for ensuring we and our children will be happy, healthy, and successful, but there is plenty of research and anecdotal evidence showing that parents can make a significant, positive difference through a number of simple approaches.
Since the 1950s, Search Institute (USA) researchers have studied the effects of various influences in young people’s lives. They’ve found that the 40 Developmental Assets clearly relate to good things — like doing well in school, serving others, engaging in the community, and forming healthy habits. These assets are incorporated into much of the Leadership, Employability S
Last modified on
06 March 2014 at