Greatness comes in many forms and is quite subjective depending on an individual’s age and abilities. For a child overcoming anxiety, greatness may be winning a public speaking competition or finding the courage to confront a new fear. For others, greatness may reveal itself through academic or sporting achievements, kindness, creativity or thoughtful leadership. In any case, discovering one’s unique strengths or passions is easier with the help of a caring coach, an attentive teacher, or a dedicated parent.
According to a recent survey of Australian students in Year 4 to 12, parents and teachers are the greatest influencers of a student’s sense of satisfaction and fulfillment (State of Victoria, Dept of Education and Training, 2017). Therefore, it is essential for parents and teachers to give sound advice on the subject of achieving greatness as defined by the child.
Leadership expert, Robert Kaplan (2013), developed a roadmap for reaching potential. In brief, he suggests greatness is achieved when we know our strengths, take the initiative and connect our daily actions to a clearly defined goal. For most children, defining a goal is easy but taking the initiative to make it happen is usually dependent on the adults around them. That’s where we come in!
Here’s what you can do:
Foster their self-belief. For example, if you know a child who aspires to be a professional soccer player, help them find a great coach or coaching clinic. For those with more left-of-centre skills outside the areas of sporting or academia, keep an open mind to the activities available that might help push their strengths to new levels. Show them that you believe in them and make it happen!
Research together. Show young people how to take the initiative by helping them to research and connect with experts in their field of interest. A child with a passion for making robots would be forever empowered if you showed them how to contact the Head Inventor at Battlebots. Imagine if they said yes to a Skype call?
Use a wide-angle lens. Think broadly when it comes to inspiring young people. Be proactive and organise a range of guests to visit your school to spark an interest in every child. These could include artists, refugees, adventurers or someone with a “diffability” who is pursuing a passion. You never know when inspiration will strike!
Set an example. Take on a challenge of your own and you will inspire others to do the same. Show some initiative and take steps on a daily basis to reach your goal. Share your journey’s highs and lows with the young people around you and make haste towards your destination.
Work together. Challenges aren’t meant to be simple, but staying focused on the task at hand is easier when those around you are doing the same. Achieve greatness among your classmates, family or friends and your success will be even sweeter!
Our online Performance Psychology program Power Up! has been specially created for kids who want to push their performance skills to the next level. Power Up! gives them the power to: build self-confidence, cope with the pressures of competition, overcome self-doubt and negative self-talk, set goals and make plans to achieve them and maximise performance in any chosen field.
Kaplan, R.S. (2013) What You’re Really Meant to Do: A Roadmap for Reaching your Unique Potential.Ebook. HBR.
Right School-Right Place (2017) State of Victoria. Department of Education and Training (Vic).
We all recognise the benefits of reading. At the Quirky Kid Clinic, we’ve put our pens to paper and compiled a list of all the subtle social, emotional and language boosts a simple ‘bedtime story’ can have. We also prepared a step-by-step guide on how to build a healthy and manageable reading routine for your family!
The Benefits of Reading
Reading is a bonding experience. Reading with your child helps to nurture your relationship with them. It’s an opportunity to spend exclusive time together without distractions or external pressures. Richardson et al. (2015) found that reading with your child helps them to feel more secure and bonded with their parent as well as helps children absorb new information faster.
Reading builds language skills. Children who are exposed to a great volume of rich language are given a head start academically and develop stronger language skills (Fernald, Marchman, & Weisleder, 2013). This ultimately impacts not only their learning and cognitive development, but also positively influences a child’s communication skills.
Reading builds coping skills. Setting aside time to read with you child provides a regular forum to contemplate and work through challenges. Reading, looking at pictures and pointing things out provides an opportunity for your child to express themselves as they relate to the characters in the story. This promotes healthy relationships and provides positive ideas and ways to express oneself. For example, a child transitioning to school may benefit from reading a story about another child starting school as walking through the experience in someone else’s shoes can help normalise their own feelings, understand their experiences and build up a set of coping strategies for these experiences.
Reading is relaxing. iPads, TVs, phones, computer games; it is often impossible to compete with the whizzing, whirring, distracting nature of these devices. Finding time in your day to sit down with your child is a crucial opportunity for quiet reflection and mindfulness. Think of it as a way of “tuning in” as opposed to “tuning out”.
Reading teaches empathy. Being able to share and understand the feelings of others is a skill crucial to building our social relationships. A study out of Cambridge University (Nikolajeva, 2013) found that reading books about fictional characters can provide excellent training for young people in developing and practising empathy. Through reading, a child experiences the feelings of another person in different situations, which helps them develop an understanding of how they feel and think. These skills, when nurtured, help the child to show empathy in real life situations.
So, we now know the benefits, but how can we put this into practice? Here are some pointers that our Psychologists here at Quirky Kid recommend for people looking to transition storytime from a rare occasion to an unmissable part of their daily routine.
Building your Reading Routine
Timing is crucial. Set reading time to about 30 minutes before the child’s bedtime. Recommended time for a reading session is between 10 and 30 uninterrupted minutes depending on your child’s age and attention span, but follow your child’s interests.
Get comfy. Make sure your reading space is comfortable and that your child can see, hear and respond easily. Limit the distractions available around you.
Be prepared. For kids who have trouble sitting still, provide things to keep their little hands busy. Providing paper and crayons to draw with or toys to look at can help, whilst still listening to the story.
If you don’t like it, ditch it. Select a captivating text that will keep both you and your child engaged. Don’t insist on reading something that you or your child are not enjoying. Everyone tastes are different after all!
Encourage discussion at every turn. Start with the cover: what do they think the book will be about? At each page: what do they think might happen next? After the book: what happened here? So many lessons can be learned from these mini-recaps!
Let them try. If your child has begun school, help them to sound out words phonetically and occasionally point to some sight words that they may recognise.
Don’t try to compete. Very few children, given the choice of watching cartoons, playing games or reading a book, are going to choose books – at least, not until they’ve developed a love of reading. Set a cut-off time for technology and give the child the choice of hearing a story or reading aloud.
Make it fun. Be as animated as you can whilst reading. This will add to the enjoyment and imagination that goes along with reading, especially for the younger children. Adjust your pace, tone and volume to the story.
Fostering a positive reading environment in the home can provide many benefits for you, your child and your family. Reading with your child not only develops their language and literacy skills, but also helps them develop many foundational skills that will support them throughout their life, including resilience and empathy skills. Setting aside thirty minutes a day to make storytime a regular and enjoyable part of your family routine is one of the best and most valuable times to raise a reader and connect with your child.
We have had the privilege of working with some amazing adolescents over the years, and as a team, we have noticed how creative, connected and educated many of our youth are.
More adolescents are walking through our doors armed with ideas on where they want to head in life, with strong ideals of managing a future work-life balance, being productive with their time and helping others along the way. Our youth are at an age where they are masters of digital communication and used to working in collaborative, team-based contexts where multitasking and connecting through social media has just become the day to day norm – they are young entrepreneurs.
At the Quirky Kid Clinic, we are committed to harnessing the strengths of those we see in the clinic, and often we are talking with families about how to develop the entrepreneurial skills of our youth who are growing up and responding to their world of connectivity, creativity and innovation.
Here are five tips to foster entrepreneurial skills in your adolescent:
1 – Build Resilience
Becoming a young entrepreneur by its nature requires a great deal of resilience. To have the courage to try out something new and manage setbacks and failures in the process requires the strength of character.
Building resilience in children starts from an early age, with children learning how to delay gratification around the preschool years. This ability to understand and feel comfortable with situations in which rewards take time and effort is one of the first building blocks for resilience in our children.
While resilience skills typically develop with age and social interactions, resilience can be fostered and directly taught. Some helpful ways of promoting resilience amongst our adolescents include:
helping them develop problem-solving skills,
ensuring they feel socially connected with peers and their community and embracing their differences.
With adolescence comes a desire to be independent and providing age appropriate independence with clear and consistent limits helps adolescents develop resilience. Eric Greitens (2015), author and Rhodes Scholar wrote:
“Entrepreneurs jump on the wild roller coaster ride of life where the tracks haven’t yet been fully built. They’d have it no other way. They’re happy that way — with the wind in their hair.”
and being resilient is a necessary quality to develop and manage the ride ahead.
2 – Harness Creativity and Personal Experiences
All too often, we as parents and carers can focus on developing compliant children. It comes with the territory of helping our children conform to rules in school, manage their time and activities and be part of a happily functioning family system. Sometimes we can lose sight of just being a kid and the creative and unique ways our children often see the world.
Entrepreneurs need to be creative, seeing opportunity where others have not and taking risks where others don’t dare. Bearing in mind your child’s interests, passions and creative outlets can really help foster their positioning to become entrepreneurs. Take the time yourself to be interested in your child and schedule plenty of time for them to fill with their own interests. Utilising and reframing personal experiences can also be valuable.
Take Bridgette Veneris, the 10-year old Melbourne girl who won the littleBIGidea competition for her invention of an easy-to-use adhesive bandage dispenser (Charpentier-Andre, 2016). Bridgette utilised her experiences while in a hospital recovering from leukaemia to develop a sticky bandage that was quicker and easier to peel off. Ideas and inventions can come from unexpected places, even negative experiences, with the right support and interest.
3 – Develop a Growth Mindset
Children are becoming increasingly exposed to the concept that our abilities and capabilities are not fixed but rather, malleable and changeable.
This growth mindset is becoming part of our children’s language in the educational setting. Children are learning to swap their “I can’t do it” attitude for the “I can’t do it yet, but with effort and support I can!” mindset. Recent advances in neuroscience indicate that our brain has an amazing ability to change in response to situations, attitudes and support.
Parents and carers are positioned to support children’s development of this growth mindset. Entrepreneurs succeed with a growth mindset – they need to be flexible on the start-up roller coaster ride, learn from experiences and attribute failures to things that they can change. Parents can foster a growth mindset in their adolescents by encouraging them to problem solve issues that arise, take a flexible approach with failures and embrace the learning process involved, encourage taking a leap of faith with ideas and praising effort, persistence and self-reflection. Companies such as Google, Apple, Disney and Amazon are known for fostering a culture of curiosity, innovation and risk taking and valuing the growth-mindset of their employees.
4 – Call in the Community
Helping your child connect with those around them that have similar interests as well as complimentary skills will help position them for success in making their ideas not only a reality but a sustainable one. Entrepreneurs not only need great ideas, but they also need to be able to bring ideas to fruition and ensure the scalability and longevity of their enterprises, and having a team around them to provide backing, guidance and reflection is important.
Building a team and support network around your adolescent is an essential ingredient for the making of an entrepreneur. Some ways parents can help is by providing their adolescent with guidance, particularly on their experiences with running a business and managing success and failure, helping their adolescent link in with an appropriate mentor and fostering a network of like-minded adolescents. Adolescents need to know their parents have their backs, even in times of challenge and failure.
5 – Provide Guidance around the Practicalities
To become an entrepreneur requires knowledge around the logistics of how a business works, from understanding how to set up a bank account all the way to the knowing about the commercial guidelines and laws surrounding your business idea and model.
Parents and carers can share their business experiences and facilitate the growth of financial literacy by stepping their adolescent through the processes of setting up bank accounts and navigating business structures. It can be helpful to call on mentors or link your child into courses that may be helpful for their business, e.g.,. Commercial law or coding courses. Of course, parents and carers are also positioned well to help their adolescent understand and learn about self-care and balancing the demands of what comes with becoming an entrepreneur with those of being a child.
Our youth are growing up in an environment which is thriving on connectivity, creativity, and innovation, which for many adolescents, provides a perfect base from which to encourage their strengths and foster their entrepreneurial skills.
Do you want to help your child excel in their field?
Here at Quirky Kid, we run a program to do just this, and it’s called Power Up! Run both at clinics and as a unique online program, Power Up! takes all the essential psychological techniques used by elite performers and makes them accessible to children through the teaching of Performance Psychology.
Imagine a child who keeps a perfectly neat desk in class, a super tidy room at home, spends afternoons ensuring their homework is meticulous and correct and who expects the very best of themselves at all times. What could possibly be awry here you ask?
Well, at the Quirky Kid Clinic, we know how important it is to foster the hopes and aspirations of children and awaken and strengthen a desire for children to strive to be their best, however, we know that for some children, this desire can become an all-encompassing, all-consuming striving for flawlessness, which can become a difficult load for children to carry (Hibbard & Walton, 2014).
Perfectionism, characterised by the setting very high, even impossible, standards for oneself and becoming self-critical if these standards are not reached, is a common feature of many of the children we see at our clinic. While it is well established that many children can manage perfectionistic characteristics adaptively to help them stay motivated, organised and on task to meet high personal standards, perfectionism can also lead to high levels of avoidance, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and exaggerated reactions to mistakes, all of which can interfere with a child’s functioning (Gnilka, Ashby & Nobel, 2012). We frequently see perfectionism getting in the way of a child participating in class, being able to complete assignments and homework, having a go at new activities and gaining pleasure from social and sporting activities.
How perfectionism in children starts?
A common question we are asked is where does children’s perfectionism come from? The research is quite mixed when talking about the developmental roots of perfectionism. It appears that a child’s early experiences play a role, such as the messages children receive and hear about success, achievement, and failure. For example, children with highly critical parents and who seem to perceive their parents as expecting them to be perfect, show a greater likelihood of showing perfectionistic traits (Hibbard & Walton, 2014). Additionally, we know the temperament of a child also plays an important role, with children who are highly sensitive and prone to anxiety, becoming more likely to express perfectionism.
Features of perfectionism in children?
One of the hallmark features of children who are perfectionistic is the distorted and rigid ways in which they tend think (Fletcher & Neumeister, 2012). Perfectionistic children commonly think they must adhere to meeting impossibly high standards (eg. “I must get 90% in my exam, I must make sure I am the best in my class”). They may also overgeneralise when they fail (“this bad mark means I’ll never do well”), display black and white thinking (“if I make an error, I will be a complete failure”) and focus on the negatives while discounting the positives (“I messed up every ball in that game, I played terribly”). These distorted thinking patterns act like filters, such that these children tend to see the world quite differently to their peers, honing in on information and experiences that confirm underlying fears that their best efforts will never be good enough and filtering out more positive experiences. This can fuel self-critical beliefs and exacerbate avoidance behaviours as children become more unsure of themselves over time.
So, how can we best support our children who appear to be setting impossibly high standards for themselves?
Take care of yourself: Setting high standards for ourselves, whether it be in our parenting, career or sporting achievements can have a multitude of benefits for children, however, be mindful of the pitfalls. Are we constantly frustrated? are we constantly comparing rather than focusing on our unique capabilities? are we avoiding things for fear of failure? Children learn greatly about developing resilience, perseverance, enjoyment of a challenge and their own strengths and weaknesses from watching us as parents set goals, shift the goal posts and cope when things don’t quite go to plan. Showing your children a ‘have a go’ attitude and the enjoyment and learning that it brings will help them navigate and cope with their own challenges in life (Greblo & Bratko, 2014).
Support High Achievers early on: It is important to support high achiever early on with the right messages, instructions and education. With this in mind, The Quirky Kid Clinic has published a unique online program calledPower Up: Using Performance Psychology to do your best. This rich and engaging online program covers key areas of performance to assist children and young people aged 10 to 16 to perform at their best. See http://powerup.quirkykid.com.au
Seek additional assistance from your school counsellor or psychologist: There can be times when perfectionism can really get in the way of your child’s ability to function at school and home. If your child is avoiding things for a fear of failure or making a mistake and is showing exaggerated reactions and changes which may signal anxiety or depression, it is recommended you seek further opinion from your school counsellor or psychologist.
Focus on coping skills: Help your child develop positive coping strategies for managing their fears and worries about achievement. Two practical strategies to help your child are breaking down goals and developing a problem solving approach (Gnilka et al., 2012). Often, children avoid tasks like homework or writing in their books, speaking out in front of classmates and playing in team sports because the task at hand appears so daunting and thus is avoided altogether. Help your child break their goals down into more achievable goals, like completing smaller amounts of homework at more regular intervals for example. Helping children problem solve is also important. We know problem solving capabilities are learnt, and, important to the development of children’s resilience-skills. Help children define the ‘problem’ they have and explore and test out possible solutions. Over time, children will be better equipped to confront problems and hurdles with greater flexibility and be better able to generate a range of possible solutions rather than feeling overwhelmed as soon as an issue is presented.
Challenge distorted and unhelpful thinking styles: One of the central factors which appears to perpetuate the anxiety and avoidance so frequently associated with perfectionistic children is the distorted and unhelpful ways in which they think. What is often frustrating for parents, teachers and coaches, is that perfectionistic children rarely have experiences in which, given attempt and effort, they fail. Helping children develop more helpful and realistic self-talk is the key. Some key questions to ask children are: what evidence do they have for their fear or negative thought being true? What is helpful about their negative thought and what is unhelpful about it? What is the worst that could happen if their feared outcome occurred and how terrible is this on a scale of life events? What could be more realistic and helpful to say to themselves? Challenging children’s cognitive distortions and replacing them with more realistic and helpful self talk is central to children understanding and knowing they are not defined by their mark or mistake and realising how unhelpful rigid patterns of thinking can be (Fletcher & Neumeister, 2012). Great activities are also covered on the Power Up Program
Set the scene: Set the language in your household and with your child’s school and interest groups, to demonstrate to your child that mistakes are ok, everyone makes them and having your best go is more important than the outcome. Where appropriate, talk openly about your own mistakes and encourage teachers and coaches to do the same. Model making mistakes and your own coping reactions in response. Discuss with your child the positives which come from making mistakes and focus on the positives of situations that were gained despite of, or in light of, a mistake. Encourage enjoyment of activities and make this a focus with your child. Set limits on things which need to be limited, such as how long your child spends on their homework, and use words of encouragement for effort.
Find a positive role model: Find a healthy role-model for your child, a person who can take an interest in your child’s hobbies and skills and who can strengthen the language of ‘effort over success’ , ‘everyone makes mistakes’ and the ‘have a go’ attitude with your child.
Foster a ‘growth mindset’: Recently, there was a very good article published in the New Scientist about how to raise successful children and core to the article was the idea that we need to foster a ‘growth mindset’ with our children. In essence, we need to move away from thinking in rigid and fixed ways about our talents, intelligence and personalities (eg. “I am no good at sport”, “I can’t change this”) to a flexible mindset focused on the possibilities of growth, benefits of effort and development through perseverance and support. For our children who are perfectionistic, this can help children move from “I can’t” or “I will never” to “I will have a go”, with this effort and attempt being praised from the sidelines to see these children not only fulfill their potential in their focus area, but also branch out to find meaning and joy in activities and pursuits which aren’t being done perfectly.
Fletcher, K. & Neumeister, K. (2012). Research on Perfectionism and Achievement Motivation: Implications for Gifted Students. Psychology in the Schools, 49 (7), 668-677.
Gnilka, P., Ashby, J. & Noble, C. (2012). Multidimensional Perfectionism and Anxiety: Differences Among Individuals With Perfectionism and Tests of a Coping-Mediation Model. Journal of Counseling & Development, 90, 427-436.
Greblo, Z. & Bratko, D. (2014). Parents’ perfectionism and its relation to child rearing behaviours. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 55 (2), 180-185.
Hibbard, D. & Walton, G. (2014). Exploring the Development of Perfectionism: The Influence of Parenting Style and Gender. Social Behavior and Personality, 42 (2), 269-278.
New Scientist (2014), March Issue. The Secret of Success by Michael Bond.
How many times do you have to ask your fourteen year old to get started on their homework?
How many funky old sandwiches have you retrieved from the bottom of your ten year olds’ school bag?
Has your preschooler ever been ready to leave when you are?
Organising your kids can be trying but helping them to develop these skills for themselves will make your life and theirs much easier. As with all aspects of parenting, our expectations of our children need to be developmentally appropriate (most four year olds have trouble sitting down to read a story the first time they are asked, let alone ticking off items on a to do list) but that doesn’t mean we can’t help our children to develop good habits early on.
Routines and Time Management
To start instilling organisational skills in kids early on (and to help keep all members of the household stay sane), establish simple household routines and stick to them. For example,
in the morning we eat our breakfast, brush our teeth and then get dressed;
in the afternoon we unpack our lunch box as soon as we walk in the door and then eat a healthy snack together.
For important routines like the morning rush and bedtime, you can even use fun visuals to help your child stay on track without constant reminders from you. Make a step-by-step checklist with pictures for each “to do”, for extra fun, stick these pictures to a poster with velcro and let your child peel each step off as it is completed.
If you are organised, they will be too, children learn through watching others around them. Maybe not quite as well organised as you are, but it will help! Organise yourself with the little things so that they don’t pile up, for example, as soon as a permission slip comes home – read it, sign it and put it back in their bag – job done! In this way you can lead by example and then compliment this by talking about time management. Use calendars, family planners, white boards or pin boards around the house and collaborate as a family on organisation. Using a weekly schedule which includes things like school, homework and extracurricular activities, will keep the family on track. Including “down time” and time with friends on the schedule will help to teach your child about balance.
Some Tricks of the Trade
Different strategies will work in different families but here are a few tried and true techniques to help your child to develop organisational skills:
Break down big projects or assignments into small, manageable chunks. Once this has been achieved, encourage your child to plan out when and how they will complete each “chunk”. This is also helpful for procrastinators as it takes away the feeling of being overwhelmed by an insurmountable task. Provide regular praise for having a go and completing plans.
Make it a game! There are lots of ways to improve organisation that can actually be fun. “Beat The Buzzer” is a great way to get things moving in the morning.
Help your child prioritise. Improve homework focus by encouraging your child to work out what needs to be done and turn it into a checklist. Crossing out or ticking off items on the list will be both rewarding and motivating.
Allocate places in the house for important activities like studying. This cuts down on time wasted looking for materials and will help them to mentally click into “homework mode”.
Use timers for anything that needs to be time limited, such as computer and TV time. This is also great to promote sharing and turn taking in activities in which everyone wants equal time.
Colour code books according to subject and match these with timetables and other relevant materials. This will help your child to find what they need quickly and remember where they need to be or what they should be doing.
Putting it into Practice
Talk about the new ideas you are introducing to help them become more organised and why this is important. Make sure that they feel involved in planning and timetabling so that they don’t feel that this is just another set of rules that are being imposed upon them. This will also be important in helping them to develop the skills for themselves rather than having you do it for them.
When you catch your child demonstrating good organisational skills (eg. being ready to leave on time, following a step in the new routine) provide them with some specific and meaningful praise about what a great effort they are putting in (eg. “thank you Ella for putting on your shoes and taking your bag to the car so we could be on time for school today. You are very good at that”).
Introduce new strategies one at a time and provide plenty of rewards and praise along the way. Remember that teaching kids to be organised can be fun and with a little creativity, the possibilities are endless!
Hannan, Tim. Learning Disorders in Children: Recent advances in research and practice. InPsych, December 2013