Teachers: Back Yourselves!

When it comes to the masters of behaviour modification then you need look no further than those that practice it on the coal face day in and day out. Not one at a time in an office, but 30 at a time in a hot classroom, last period on a Friday!great teacher

There are so many cliches that spring to mind, all of which are way too naff to add here. Simply, it is okay, in fact essential that teachers back their knowledge and experience and get on with it. This post is prompted by 17 years in a classroom, predominantly having a role with students that are struggling with their behaviour. Policy and procedure can all too quickly shunt young ones along a flow chart of ‘escalation’ as directed by policy and procedure. Take for example, one 13 year old student with challenging behaviour. Firstly the classroom teacher would be faced with challenging behaviours and have tried what they can given the time constraints that come with a whole class to supervise. From here it would then work it’s way up through the leadership / pastoral ladder with increasing strategies and quite often discipline. Then, the big guns are brought in. An Education Psychologist will come in and firstly observe the student. This will come with a hefty wait period and the outcome will be a generic report that you have seen many times before, with simply the name changed at the top. Heck, once I saw one and they had even forgotten to change the name. It is at this point the hopeful school staff will read the report in a desperate search for guidance. What happens is with each point the response will be either ‘I knew that’ and ‘I’ve tried that’.

The school can be left with nothing, the family are left with nothing and what invariably happens is the young one slips further down the slope to the muggy depths of the ‘unfixable’ label. A label unfairly allocated.

This is where I return to the teachers and school backing themselves as the experts they are. You are the ones that day in and day out teach classes in excess of 30 teenagers for 7 straight hours, before heading home to plan for the next 7 days and so on. That is 30 wonderfully unique individuals that love your subject to detest it, that are depressed, anxious and stressed, ADHD, ODD and many other acronyms. To the excitable that have sold their Ritalin to a friend to buy a half litre can of energy drink, thus being left with endless energy and an inability to focus or stop shouting ‘Muppet’ across the class. To see a strong teacher do just this is nothing short of magical and masterful. It is a unique position to have, and not one that has possibly been tried by a very well paid behaviour specialist advisor.

The answer, in my opinion, is to utilise the specialists we have in every school. Not even those with a specialist post graduate certificates in the field. The need is simply the time and space to bounce experiences and ideas amongst these professionals towards informing an outcome that will inevitably be specific and relevant to the students, staff and school community.

As soon as you relinquish responsibility and power of the proposed change you disable and undermine your ability to affect change. Fantastic, if an external specialist comes in and facilitates this but just be mindful of the skills, knowledge and resources you bring.

So, back yourself.teacherprofiles-infographic11-2

Sexts, Texts & Selfies by Susan McLean (Review)

No matter how tech savvy we thing we are the reality is technology, devices and the internet and all the ups and downs it brings evolve faster than we can possibly keep up. We also can’t foresee what is going to go viral and cause issues and what is intended to cause issues and falls flat on its backside.

If you have read an earlier post I wrote then you will know where my current thoughts lie on technology use and our kids. Well, this book by Susan McLean is absolutely bang on the money. I have also been fortunate to see her speak a few times now and I’ve never been disappointed yet.

Her advice, guidance and information is based on experience on the ‘coal face’ itself. So, its not some career academic that is telling you what is right and wrong from the comfort of a fancy office. This book is sharing how to keep your children safe in the digital space.

It is full of examples, many confronting, but I would imagine have been diluted to as to not terrify parents completely.

The acronyms at the back are golden as a quick reference to see what on earth these kids are on about.

This book is full of clear and concise guidance on what to do and when. Given its written in Australia 99% of what is inside and the advice offered is relevant to anybody, anywhere on the planet.

I highly recommend this book. I bought a few extra copies that I lend to families I work with and they are never disappointed.

Wellbeing: Don’t Stop Asking Questions!

Do you and all your perfect imperfections!

This post is intended to provoke thought around personal wellbeing and how to start asking the right questions, knowing that the answer is and should be another question..not particularly helpful so far?

The pursuit or exploration of personal wellbeing is big, loud and growing, this is easily seen in the bulging book cases in the ‘Self Help’ sections of most bookstores or the growing industry that is corporate wellness. The pursuit of personal wellbeing when embraced as yet another goal to be dealt to in this fast paced modern way of life is unfortunately fraught with danger. The first step is to define your own unique personal wellbeing, not trying to fit the mould provided by someone else, regardless of how many PhD’s they have or positive testimonials they print on the back of the book. This journey must be original and authentic.boy meditate

‘Finding yourself’ doesn’t necessarily involve a Harley and growing your hair long in the hope that it will bounce with youthful fullness, consistently covering the receding hair line that continues to race with each year away from your face. Neither is it a two year spell of solitude and silence in a Tibetan temple. The beauty however, is that heck it may well be, that is the uniqueness that is the journey of exploring your awareness of self.

Keep doing you in all its perfect imperfection!old man bike

Mental Health: Let it RIP or Perhaps Not!

With the many weird and wonderful experiences that are part and parcel of life, you can’t help but ponder stuff. In my case it’s also professional practice.

Quite often I support and encourage clients to take quite an ‘assertive’ approach to mental health and dealing to the challenges to acknowledge and then take control. That is definitely one way that has proven highly effective for all the clients where we take this approach. But there are ‘horses for courses’ that need to be picked wisely for the best outcome. I still see a time and a place for this style but now I’m pondering quite the opposite.

What if sometimes, for some people, fighting mental health head on is in fact giving it more power than less. You make it front and centre, the be all and end all. The worst thing is you can’t see or hear it, so you are in fact swinging blindly.

I am surrounded by surfers and surf beaches, which is perhaps why approaching stuff like a rip tide, may in fact be a good way to go. For those that don’t know what a rip tide is then perhaps google it. In short (or this will make no sense at all) this one is for kids, which is bang on my level https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJ76XfBVKq0 .  In a wonderful world the tide and waves beautifully all lap towards dry land and return surfers and swimmers to terra firma. A rip tide is a sneaky little beggar that bucks the flow and creates an invisible channel that takes you out to the big blue sea. This takes those not familiar to a rip by surprise. Instinct is to swim like your life depends on it -because it does, I suppose- towards land. As you’d expect a swimmer is no match for the immense awesomeness of the sea. This is what got me thinking. Sometimes by investing all attention and effort into fighting the rip tide (mental health) you are in a battle where there is only ever going to be one winner. The swimmer eventually tires and then is in real bother. For the sake of happy endings and a hop, skip and a jump. Hasselhoff or The Rock pluck you out of the sea and holds you in a safe embrace.

The alternative and the best way to deal with a rip is to stop and as soon as possible take stock and acknowledge that you are in the shite, well rip tide. This being a metaphor for mental health. At each point you keep raising your arm high in the air calling for help. Help being family, friends and better still a trained professional. In the meantime, simply breathe and know that the calmer you are, the clearer you think and in the meantime tap into your coping toolkit and resilience to ‘calm your farm’. If you take it easy and either float out to the back you will eventually come right, you could end up in some pretty dark blue water, which is a tad unsettling, especially if you too were traumatised by jaws and then topped it up with an unhealthy dose of In the Deep. So, this is where tapping into your tool kit comes in. As, you swim across and parallel to the beach you eventually get out of the rip tide and back into the waves that are taking you on a fast track back to dry land. This being a place of relative calm, balance and positive wellbeing.

Finding a good counsellor is all about finding the right fit for you and a style that will work. As a counsellor it can only be a positive to be able to change gears and styles to best meet the needs of the person or people that sit in front of you. So, I’m still pondering when to ‘deal to it’ and when to take stock and swim across and out of a rip tide. Better still I will keep looking at refining the skills and resilience that would enable and empower my clients, friend, family and of course myself to find the right way at the right time.

Strong Relationships Include These!

10 Steps to a Happy Relationship

 (Part Two) … and then keeping them?

Food for thought for any relationship, whether you are starting out or you are living it up a fair few years down the track. Without being cryptic or confusing, I believe what underpins all of these is acknowledging that you are married, or in a relationship with somebody else! Celebrate difference and if you have someone that extends you rather than reflects you then heck you are on an exciting path for sure.

This isn’t a 10 step programme, that if followed to the letter, will guarantee love, laughter and eternal companionship. Everybody, and the journey’s they travel, are so awesomely unique that some will connect and others not. I would expect nothing more or less. Each aims to pose a question and reflection for us individually but also as a couple. It’s based on my experience as a counsellor that backs up or challenges what text books or training has told me. When I have seen or heard these points in action the relationships have been on a stronger footing.

  1. Feel Safe (Honest Communication) – You have got to feel safe in a relationship to get anywhere close to feeling like you want to be intimate, physically and emotionally but also in terms of relational stability. This is through open and honest conversations.  Folk are generally outstanding at the talking part, but god awful at listening. Listening means really taking it on board, not simply waiting for your next opportunity to speak. By listening properly, you will hear clearly and therefore have a fighting chance of discovering and understanding your partners wants, needs and expectations. Think dialogue not monologue!
  2. Drop the perfectionism. Everybody is perfectly imperfect, but certainly not perfect so give yourself and your partner a break. Tone down the ‘all or nothing’ philosophy of relationships. “You didn’t ask me about my presentation today, so you have fallen out of love with me”. Accept who they are as you would hope they do for you, within reason that is.
  3. Getting Physical: Physical touch is key to a significant relationship. Yep, this does include sex, but so much more. Giving a hug, holding hands, a genuine kiss. Oxytocin is released which has heaps of benefits such as feeling closer and even a stronger immune system. That doesn’t mean an early morning taser like attack with your ‘morning glory’ whilst sniggering both childishly and blindly optimistic. Check out the short post I put on for securing a good sex life.
  4. This ties into Love Languages, which I highly recommend you and your partner identify and use on a daily basis. Time, Words, Gifts, Touch, Acts. Look them up and explore yours and your partners, together. What does it look and sound like? I use this for all my significant relationships with my kids, family and wife. When I have taken a breath I turbo load this and do all 5 in a day.
  5. Your partner can’t be your everything and all the time. Respect your and their own interests. I asked a colleague at his retirement what was the secret to a long and happy marriage given he was passing his 50th year. He simply said, he salmon fishes and she loves her drama group. It made perfect sense and yes, I am sure they were understating how they nurtured so many years, of what I would describe as a beautiful relationship, but that was front and centre and he didn’t pause for a second with his answer.
  6. Do fun stuff. If a Kmart dash is the most exotic thing you tend to do on weekends, it’s time for a change. And you don’t need a ton of cash or vacation days. Choose to do something fun together. This could be watching a movie, going for a stroll, trying a new restaurant, date night, anything. Anything new and positive can help boost the happiness in your own relationship. For parents in particular, it’s oh so important to be more than mum and dad. Invest in you time, friend time, lover time and partner time. It’s tough but I see a large number of couples who have teenage kids and state ‘they have drifted apart’. Don’t make excuses, it’ll come back and bite you.
  7. Check and Connect – Reunited and it feels so good. When you and your partner reunite—at the end of a day, when one of you comes back from a trip, or even when you wake up—do something to show your love. When your partner comes home, for example, stop what you are doing (within reason) and devote just a few seconds to being completely present. Give them a hug or kiss, look in their eyes, and ask how they are. Not, all at the same time… it would be weird and awkward. Put down your phone, pause the TV…do whatever you need to focus even just a short amount of time on your partner. You both will feel much more connected.
  8. Be respectful. John Gottman is a pioneer on research about the longevity of marriages. In fact, in a longitudinal study, he was able to predict with 93 percent accuracy which couples would eventually get divorced. He has identified what he refers to as the four horsemen, which are predictors of relationship problems—criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. The quick antidote for these is to simply be respectful. Rather than criticize, openly communicate without criticism. Instead of contempt, express disappointment without eye rolls or passive-aggressive comments. Ditch the defensiveness; it is important to take feedback so you and your relationship can improve. And rather than stonewall, listen to your partner and have a constructive conversation when things are not going as smoothly as you would like. Learn to communicate even your disappointments with respect.
  9. Just ask and LET IT LAND!. This one takes an open mind. Ask your partner, “What is one thing I can do this week to be a better partner to you?” The response may be surprising.  The goal is not to be defensive— “I already do that anyway!” or “Yay, I wish you would do that, too!” Instead, simply absorb what you hear and take steps to implement your partner’s desire (as long as it is within your moral boundaries). This is a great way to meet needs that you may not have even realized your partner had.
  10. Abide by the 5-to-1 rule. While you may think giving your partner a compliment will counter some negative “feedback” you provide, think again. The “magic ratio” is not 1:1, but rather 5:1. This means that in order to have an overall positive feel about your relationship, you need to have at least five positive encounters (actions, statements) for every negative one. The take home? Spend more time telling and showing your partner what you love and appreciate about them, laugh more, and spend more fun time together. When you do, the tough times are easier to get through.

Above all, be hopeful. Relationships, like life, have ups and downs. If you are in a downward slope right now, have faith: Things can get better. Put some time, energy, and love into your relationship. Focus on being the best partner you can be. Get help if you need it. And see the positive in your partner and your relationship.

Communication: Disconnect the Lips and Engage the Ears!

I wrote this last year and it still holds true for me so I have taken a few bits out and put it out there again. Putting this in context I write weekly articles reflecting on a TV show I was involved with as a relationship ‘expert’ in New Zealand.

What is the secret to a successful relationship? It feels like a complete cop out and pretty unoriginal when communication tops the list. Increasingly people on the receiving end are just as disappointed, mainly because they are hoping for a quick and long lasting fix. If I was to say, ‘skip twice on your right foot, once on your left, tap your head and rub your gut anticlockwise, whilst singing wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends (spice girls…I think)’. People would race away in delight, and hopefully a tad confused, because it required minimal effort and investment, and professed immediate results. Better still if I was to tell them they were perfect in every way. The challenges they speak of are solely the problem held by their partner, and this wee exercise is one for their partner to complete and the other to watch. The go to line for breaking up, ‘its not you it’s me’ has long gone, it’s now, ‘ I’m flawless and you’re not’ via Instagram of course.

When I talk about communication I’m not referring to what we say, more how good we are at shutting up and actually listening. We have all become really good at monologues, which means to deliver our message our way. Emotional vocabulary has also increased, but perhaps we get to hear it a lot and even in everyday life, but we don’t get to see it in action. I got to hear a lot how committed, genuine, honest, modest folk were, but I didn’t get to see it as much as I would have liked. Some struggle, however with entering into a dialogue. This is where we listen just as much as we speak and are open to change but also to be changed. The hard thing now is telling the difference between the two, as people have become pretty good at making all the right noises. We hear from most of the individuals stuff along the lines of, ‘when you…, I feel…’ It then becomes a rally of the same exchange, with both feeling they have delivered themselves clearly but the other person is plain ignoring them. Then it becomes a case of winning and losing, which is never going to bode well. We see then someone going for the smash, but not for the point, but to take their opponent out and humiliate them in the process.

You combine a shift from the mouth to the ears with being prepared to open your eyes, then folk may well be pleasantly surprised with what they get to see and hear. On the same note you may even make a more informed decision on who is right or wrong.

I wrote this last year and it still holds true for me so I have taken a few bits out and put it out there again. Putting this in context I write weekly articles reflecting on a TV show I was involved with as a relationship ‘expert’ in New Zealand.

What is the secret to a successful relationship? It feels like a complete cop out and pretty unoriginal when communication tops the list. Increasingly people on the receiving end are just as disappointed, mainly because they are hoping for a quick and long lasting fix. If I was to say, ‘skip twice on your right foot, once on your left, tap your head and rub your gut anticlockwise, whilst singing wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends (spice girls…I think)’. People would race away in delight, and hopefully a tad confused, because it required minimal effort and investment, and professed immediate results. Better still if I was to tell them they were perfect in every way. The challenges they speak of are solely the problem held by their partner, and this wee exercise is one for their partner to complete and the other to watch. The go to line for breaking up, ‘its not you it’s me’ has long gone, it’s now, ‘ I’m flawless and you’re not’ via Instagram of course.

When I talk about communication I’m not referring to what we say, more how good we are at shutting up and actually listening. We have all become really good at monologues, which means to deliver our message our way. Emotional vocabulary has also increased, but perhaps we get to hear it a lot and even in everyday life, but we don’t get to see it in action. I got to hear a lot how committed, genuine, honest, modest folk were, but I didn’t get to see it as much as I would have liked. Some struggle, however with entering into a dialogue. This is where we listen just as much as we speak and are open to change but also to be changed. The hard thing now is telling the difference between the two, as people have become pretty good at making all the right noises. We hear from most of the individuals stuff along the lines of, ‘when you…, I feel…’ It then becomes a rally of the same exchange, with both feeling they have delivered themselves clearly but the other person is plain ignoring them. Then it becomes a case of winning and losing, which is never going to bode well. We see then someone going for the smash, but not for the point, but to take their opponent out and humiliate them in the process.

You combine a shift from the mouth to the ears with being prepared to open your eyes, then folk may well be pleasantly surprised with what they get to see and hear. On the same note you may even make a more informed decision on who is right or wrong.

Passion Pushing or Sharing the Goodness

Lighting the fire and watching it grow or lighting the fire and pumping it as hard as you can to make it grow big and now, until you smother the spark completely.

Now, this post is close to my heart and one that has entertained me quite a bit in only the last couple of weeks. I am quite competitive and have always competed in a number of sports from bottom to top levels. Wanting to share this goodness with my own boy we entered and took part in the X-Race in Devonport- amazing experience and a heck of an event.

race pic

My intentions were well and truly sharing the goodness, the realty perhaps stepped out of that ‘best intentions’ once or twice. I realised I may have been going at a tangent really only at the end of the event. I should have however really picked up on my passion pushing from when we pulled into the car park. First of all I became anxious, as other families and parents were already there and warming up, not to mention all in matching shirts. So, locking the doors as my mother in law was only half out the car I had managed to get my son out of his car seat, and 200 yards away to secure our position in the queue for our shirts. I was then quite upset that the rest of my family hadn’t also acknowledged the urgency of the situation and significance of the event and continued to WALK! We secured our shirts and began warming up. We were 2 hours from the start, my son is 3 and it was a fun family event.

I was not alone however, when I looked around to size other families up my judging glares were met by other overly passion pushing parents sizing us up. The ridiculousness of the whole situation did not pass me by, but i then joined the masses of other parents who were making their children ‘walk the course’ looking for any short cuts. The fact that the race was 5 mins long and was completed along with your parent didn’t seem to matter, the fact that i was actually talking tactics with my 3 year old who continued to play with his new yo yo should have been a red flag, but it wasn’t. When my boy got on all fours beside me instead of jumping on my back for the horsey station of the race should have been a whimsical magic moment, rather than the astonishment that he would do such a thing and cost us valuable seconds!!! Perhaps it should have been the moment when I realised I was running, holding his hand and his feet weren’t actually touching the ground. Maybe even when i made him sprint finish to secure another position.

Recently we had the WeetBix Tryathlon for the thousands of young children to embrace an active lifestyle. What I got to see were the masses of families in the weeks leading up to the event doing exactly what I had done, and they were racing around with a map in hand and some very unimpressed looking  children. What hit home was two clear groups of people. I am going to describe them as passion pushers and those that were sharing the goodness, one type has a better chance of engaging the child than the other.

The simplest way to describe both the challenge and the solution is through what I saw and now do. The passion and spark is introduced by the parent (or AN Other), it is then supported from behind and not dragged from the front. The biggest smile and therefore evidence of strongest connection to whatever they are doing is on those that are racing off in the front with their parents or loved one desperately trying to keep up. The sure fire way to put our young one’s off something that could be so good for them is when we a dragging them kicking and screaming from the front. You certainly don’t see so many smiles from these young ones.

So, perhaps we introduce, then feed off their energy and there pace rather than settin
g the pace ourselves. Like with any race or activity if the pace is to much too soon we crash. We all need to be mindful of interpreting ‘supportive’ and ‘encouraging’ to meet our own needs and expectations over the needs and wants of our young one’s.

MTB