Sunday, June 17, 2012

It's my party, and I'll cry if I want to

How to keep the tears and tantrums at bay on your child’s birthday
Remember the parties you hosted for your first born child?
Until they reached a certain age, they always involved tears, and for some reason this always surprised me.
I would always ask myself: why is she crying? It’s her birthday... she’s getting all the attention, presents and junk food she wants!
There were tears because someone got the balloon she wanted, because someone else won pass the parcel, because someone else blew out the candles when they weren’t supposed to or just because it was all too much. Attention overload.
Tears and tantrums went hand in hand with fairy bread, balloons and too much sugar.
I’m not the type of parent who serves vegetable crudites and beetroot dip at children’s parties.
I am all for letting kids have a day off from the healthy stuff for a feast of lollies, cupcakes and sausage rolls.
I fully expect them to be on a sugar high all day and I don’t care... it’s their day, and I’ll handle the aftermath.
But for some reason when I was hosting parties for my first born child I never expected the tears that come with birthdays.
Now I’m older and wiser – all that means is that I’ve had another kid and know what comes next.
So for my little one’s second birthday I planned a total non-event.
I’m living in the bush now, so I don’t have the choice of amusement centre, water park, jumping castle hire or Muddies Playground.
It was a simple morning tea for family only.
No lollies, party bags, games or music. Sounds boring doesn’t it?
Well, it was lovely, and there were no tears... well, almost no tears.
Everything was going along beautifully as we had unwrapped presents, threw around a few balloons and ate yummy homemade pastries (thank you Grandma).
Then it was time for the cake so we lit two tiny pink candles, but this completely freaked her out and brought on the tears. 
Although I have given her the nickname of Miss Firecracker (she likes to go off in public places), she is definitely not a pyromaniac.
As soon as Miss Six blew them out, the tears were gone.
Back to playing with her new toys and eating cake. Yay!
It was the most stress-free party I’ve ever hosted, and maybe that’s due to the fact that it involved only one toddler!
So readers, if you’re planning a party for a child under the age of four, be prepared for tears and tantrums from just about every kid there. 
While the kids play like maniacs and the parents mill around hoping someone else will organise the fun for an hour or two, there will always be meltdowns that can turn even the most well planned party into a disaster.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The price of parenting

When did baby teeth become so expensive?
This week my six-year-old daughter asked me one of those questions that are nearly impossible for parents to answer.
The kind that make you “um” and “aah” while searching the empty parts of your brain for some creative genius response that will not only answer the question but leaves the child with no further uncomfortable questions.
She asked: “Why did the Tooth Fairy give Charlie $5 and I only got $1?”
First I have to say “Thanks very much, Charlie’s mum, for inflating the price of baby teeth!”
When I was a child, 20 cents was the standard reward for giving your teeth away.
Then when my daughter lost her first tooth last month I figured that a gold coin is a little more impressive than 20 cents, so $1 was slipped into the little felt pouch that had “Tooth Fairy” embroidered on it, and the tiny tooth went to live in a ring box in the bottom of a drawer.
But it wasn’t the first time my daughter had asked about the tooth fairy. 
Many of her peers had lost teeth already, some more than one, and the going rate for teeth changed day by day from $1 to $5.
Some even got toys as well as cash.
Parents, I implore you... there is no need to reward a lost tooth with a toy. You are only making it harder for the rest of us!
So when the first little wobble occurred within my daughter’s mouth, I prepared myself with a variety of loose change, a little pouch to put the tooth in, and bought a little container of fairy dust featuring a fairy sitting on the lid. 
This fairy dust was to compensate my child every time she asked why she didn’t get as much money as her friends. And so far, it has worked.
It’s sad state when we are trying so hard to keep an imaginary being alive, we will do almost anything (and pay almost anything) to stop our children finding out the truth.
I keep the Tooth Fairy alive in my house because I want to preserve my daughter’s innocence for as long as I can. My parents did this for me, and I treasure those memories of anticipation waiting for a fairy, bunny or jolly fat man in a red suit bearing gifts.
She wasn’t afraid to loose a tooth, and she was grateful for the gifts she received.
I recently read a funny article written by a mother called “I want to meet Everyone, and give them a piece of my mind”.
Everyone, she said, has an influence on her child because almost every day she hears a comment such as this:
“Everyone has an iphone.”
“Everyone has expensive shoes.”
“Everyone is going to the party.”
“Everyone is allowed to dye their hair.”
And so on, and so on.
Peer pressure is a mine field for both children and parents, and the older a child is, the harder it gets.
There is a whole other column I could write about this topic (stay tuned for next week) but instead I ask all parents to consider what messages they are giving their children, and what these message are doing to their wallets.
If the Tooth Fairy gives out $5 cash and toys for one tooth, what’s the next tooth going to cost? Remember there are 20 baby teeth that will fall out and this adds up to $100, plus extra for other gifts. 
To be honest, I’d rather spend that amount on toothpaste than reward my child for one of life’s most repetitive milestones.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Sleep saviours

Needing sleep? Looking for advice? Read on, as I review some of the best baby sleep books on the market
Early in April I wrote about my sleep-deprived state due to a toddler who seemed permanently latched on to my chest and refused to sleep.
Well readers, I’m very happy to report that our house is a completely different place. 
I am no longer being called every hour to attend a crying toddler through the night.
I am no longer breastfeeding whenever she commands it.
I am no longer yelling at my toddler to “Go the @$!& to sleep!” (incidently if you google this one liner with Noni Hazelhurst, you’ll find a very entertaining book reading!)
I am no longer feeling like a zombie in the morning.
And everyone is happy.
It did not happen overnight, and let me tell you that our little one, though sleeping much better, is still a work in progress.
So how did I do it?
Well, I’m a huge advocate of gentle methods to get baby to sleep so you won’t find me writing about controlled crying (partly because I tried it on my first born and was horrified with the results).
A crying child is a child in need, and leaving them to cry to sleep is not responding to that need or solving any sleep problems.
If it’s worked for you, stop reading now, but there will be many parents reading this who are tired. Very, very tired. And they look through bleary eyes at the various baby sleep books wondering which one will work for them. 
If they’re anything like me, they’ll buy the lot. So to save you the trouble, I’m reviewing the top books that will help you get your baby (and you) back to sweet dreams using gentle methods.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Pester power

How to deal with the child that doesn’t stop nagging
Last weekend my family attended a local market which featured a large number of stalls selling baby items, girl’s accessories (hair clips, jewellery, etc) and toys, as well as the general bric-a-brac, antiques, plants, homemade cakes and so on.
Now before we had even got to the first stall on site, my six-year-old asked: “Can you buy me something please Mummy?”
My pitiful response was: “We’ll see”.
I say pitiful because it was all I could think of without using the “n” word, which I tend to use a lot these days with my cheeky toddler who loves nothing more than to eat playdough and draw pictures on the couch with a permanent marker.
But my response was not a lie because if I did spot something nice (and cheap) for my daughter, I would happily buy it for her.
So in we go browsing each stall and the nagging doesn’t stop. 
“Mum, can you buy me something?”
“Mum, can you buy me something?”
“Mum, can you buy me something?”
“What do you want?” I reply, starting to feel agitated.
“I don’t know,” she ponders and points to random objects around us, “How about this? how about that?”
“No,” I say.
We’re standing at a stall selling antiques and I’m looking at knitting books from the 1960s that are sitting next to a Bessemer butter dish and ashtray.
Unless my daughter wants to take up knitting, baking or smoking (God forbid!), there is nothing here of interest to a six-year-old, but she is so keen for me to buy her something, she’ll take whatever she can get.
We continue on through the market and she continues asking me to buy her something. 
I tell her to stop asking, and that if I saw something suitable then I would think about it. But she doesn’t let up, and in the end, I can’t wait to leave and we both go home empty-handed. 
This is a classic case of pester power.
When a child is surrounded by desirable things at their eye level, it can be very hard to understand that pretty, shiny or yummy things are bad for you, or can’t be afforded. Why is Mum saying no when there are so many nice things here?

How to make a baby

13 steps to getting a positive pregnancy test
When you and your partner make the decision to try for a baby, it can be an exciting (and let’s be honest, very enjoyable) time.
But the fun can very often turn into frustration when month after month you are still not pregnant.
If you’re ready to become a parent, or if you’re finding it hard to fall pregnant, there are a number of steps you can take to improve your chances of getting that positive test.
1. Start taking folate (folic acid) every day as this has been proven to help your baby’s brain and spinal cord develop properly right from the moment of conception.
You can also eat a healthy diet that includes folate such as fortified breads, breakfast cereals, beans, leafy green vegetables and orange juice, and it wouldn’t hurt to take a multivitamin each day as well.
2. The next thing you can do is get a checkup with your GP. 
Your doctor can evaluate your health and identify any risks in your health and lifestyle that may affect your pregnancy.
It’s also worthwhile visiting your dentist for a checkup and routine clean, but if there’s any chance you may be pregnant then wait until after your baby is born to have dental x-rays.
3. Eating a healthy diet and controlling your weight will ensure you start your pregnancy on the right track. 
Eat from the five food groups: fruits, vegetables, proteins (chicken, fish, red meat and beans), grains and dairy products. Avoid foods high in fat and sugar.
Keep your intake of caffeine at a minimum, remembering that it can be found in not just coffee but also soft drinks and medications.
Avoid unpasteurised milk products, as well as unsafe foods such as raw meat and fish which could be contaminated.
4. Stop smoking and avoid passive smoke. This is a no-brainer as it is common knowledge that smoking can greatly harm an unborn baby and increase their risk of SIDS. If you need help to quit, be sure to ask your GP for advice.
5. Stop drinking alcohol. Although you may enjoy a glass of wine or two at night, drinking alcohol can make it harder for you to get pregnant, and drinking during pregnancy can cause lifelong problems for your baby such as heart defects, developmental problems and fetal alcohol syndrome.

Make-believe mates

When your child has an imaginary friend, the best thing you can do is go with the flow
Your toddler has a new best friend who is always ready to play, shares their love of Thomas the Tank Engine and never demands special food or toys, or does not have to be picked up and taken home. 
In fact your toddler’s best friend is a figment of their imagination and could change over time into a magical being or a favourite animal.
Many children aged between three and five develop imaginary friends though they sometimes don’t outgrow them until they are at school, sometimes right up to seven years of age.
Imaginary friends give children a way to express their feelings, explore relationships and practice their social skills.
About two out of three children will have an imaginary friend at some stage so it’s very common part of a child’s development and nothing for parents to be concerned about.
However, that doesn’t stop parents from worrying about whether they need more stimulation, or more social skills, or whether they should discourage the imaginary friend or play along. 
Having an imaginary friend is not a sign that your child is lonely (which may be of particular concern if they are an only child), but a sign that they are exceptionally creative and imaginative.
According to one study, children with imaginary friends tended to be better at seeing things from other people’s perspective.
Another study undertaken at La Trobe University by the School of Psychological Sciences found that children with imaginary friends performed better on a test of communication skills than those without, and use more complex language.
Children who have imaginary friends engage in lots of pretend play and this has long been recognised as beneficial in their development.
Imaginary friends serve many purposes.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Risky business

Teenagers can become addicted to gambling, particularly if they are exposed to it in the home
If we think of a gambler, we might conjure up an image of a bloke who spends his days at the TAB, or a granny putting her pension through a pokie machine.
But there are many different types of gamblers (as there are many ways to gamble) and not surprisingly, it is having an impact on our children.
A report early last year by the Australian Psychological Society found that 60 per cent of teenagers (13 to 17 years) revealed that they have gambled at least once a year.
The report showed that exposure to gambling by adults in the household, particularly fathers, increases the risk that children will develop gambling problems later in life.
“All the time they are reminded of the opportunity to gamble and this awareness, in addition to opportunities like at poker machines or betting at the TAB, can pose risks for young people,” co-author Associate Professor Paul Delfabbro said.
Prof Delfabbro said that even common pastimes such as card games could normalise gambling.
“All the evidence shows that we do what our parents do, and if kids are learning casino-style card games that teach them how to gamble, they will repeat that behaviour elsewhere.”
Teens have a lot of opportunities to gamble – many of which parents are unaware of.
Boys have at least twice the risk of developing gambling problems compared to girls, and the most common forms of gambling are card games and instant lottery tickets, but then many children will move onto more serious types of gambling in older adolescence.
Gambling in childhood increases the risk of having a gambling problem as an adult.
The internet exposes children to gambling well before they are 18 and even legally allowed to gamble, and with more than 3000 online gambling websites worldwide, there are plenty of opportunities to gamble.
Teenagers can also gamble without money on phone and Facebook apps, and would you believe that there are more than 100 video games rated as suitable for children that have gambling themes.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Mind your language

Forget washing their mouths out with soap, there are easier ways to stop your child from swearing
I know a grandmother who regularly babysits her grandkids and she has always said: “There’s no such word as ‘bored’ in my house.”
Initially I took this to mean that she provides lots of amazing activities for the kids, but what she explained is that the minute a child says “I’m bored”, she replies, “There’s no such word” and encourages them to find something to do.
This got me thinking about other words that we don’t like our children saying.
In our house we discourage our children from saying words such as “hate”, “stupid”, “dumb” or other insulting words or phrases.
Then there’s minor swear words such as “damn”, and the big ones such as the f-bomb.
Every child at some point will probably let one slip, so here’s some tips on how to treat a foul mouth before reaching for the soap.
Young children under school age often swear because they’re exploring language, and often don’t realise they are doing something wrong.
Quite often toddlers are simply repeating a word they’ve heard an adult say.
Older kids are more likely to have heard it at school or on television.
For young ones, the best thing you can do is ignore it, especially if they are trying to seek attention.
The more you make a big deal out of it, the more exciting it is for the child.
If they continue to swear you can take the opportunity to teach them about swearing by saying “We don’t use words that upset people”.
You don’t need to give them explanations about swear words as they are too young to understand some of the concepts associated with them. It’s enough to say “That’s not a nice word”.
In cases where swearing becomes so bad that you can’t ignore it, then it’s time to take action.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Walking dummy

What do you do when a baby relies on you to get them to sleep?
As I type this I am struggling to keep my eyes open.
I’ve been held hostage by a child who won’t sleep, and it’s now going on weeks since I last had more than three hours rest in one stretch.
I’m struggling to think of interesting articles to write about, so it’s only natural that I devote this column to the screamer of the night.
She’s adorable, she really is. But last night I actually yelled “Shut up!” at a 22-month-old. I lost it and left her crying, which in turn woke her older sister and my husband (who has his own sleep issues for example, if there’s a cricket outside our bedroom window, he’s got to go and kill it because he can’t sleep with the constant chirping). 
Anyway, back to the screamer.
I have countless books on getting kids to sleep, and after trying numerous methods on my firstborn, I thought I’d be able to figure it out much easier with the second one. Surely I can be a baby whisperer, too?
But night after night, she wakes, she cries, she calls out “Mummmmmeeeeee!”
It wasn’t always this way. Once we moved her from the cot into a big bed back in January, she started sleeping 10 hours straight, but for no apparent reason, she’s waking up again, and more than once a night.
The worst thing is that most nights I give in and let her sleep however she wants: in my arms, rocking from side to side, stroking her face and back, or snuggled up into my armpit as I end up sleeping in her bed squashed against the bed rail.
However, the way she most prefers to get back to sleep is if I breastfeed her.
Yes, you read that right – I’m still breastfeeding!
Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be feeding a toddler in the night, but here I am – a walking dummy. 
Breastfeeding gives her such comfort that it’s like a little magic switch that turns my screamer into a peaceful angel.
I feel privileged to have succeeded in breastfeeding for this long, but I also feel like I have fallen into a trap, or as the old wives would say “made a rod for my own back”.
She’s using me as her way to settle back to sleep. Instead of a blanket or teddy, I’m her comfort, her warm, safe place to close her eyes and drift into dream land.
A part of me thought she would grow out of this on her own, and another part of me didn’t want to let go of those special midnight moments that we have shared together for so long.
But the bags under my eyes are growing and my boobs have seen better days.
So parents, if you’re feeling like a zombie like me, perhaps some of the tips below will give you some much needed shut-eye.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Let fate decide

Choosing the sex of your baby stirs up many ethical questions
Imagine you are about to have your third child. You’ve already got two daughters, and are really hoping for a son.
Would you consider finding out the sex of your child in the early weeks so that you could abort the pregnancy if the fetus is another girl?
While the majority of Australians say no, for some families the answer is yes.
Sex selection is the attempt to control the sex of your children to achieve a desired gender.
It can be accomplished in several ways, both pre- and post-implantation of an embryo, and it is often called “family balancing”.
While there are a number of unproved methods of gender selection, such as sperm sorting and the timing of intercourse, the most common method is preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) in which embryos are created outside the womb and can then be tested for genetic disorders and gender. This is the only method which has 100 per cent accuracy.
In Australia, it is illegal to use this technology for sex selection purposes other than for medical reasons. 
The use of PGD in this country is allowed only in cases where parents suffer serious genetic diseases that can be passed to children of one gender.
However, this means that dozens of Australians travel to Thailand and the US each year and spend thousands of dollars to choose the sex of their children.
A study undertaken in 2010 by the University of Melbourne found that 69 per cent of people surveyed disapproved the use of IVF for sex selection, with the disapproval rate increasing to 80 per cent for sex-selective abortions.
Headed by Dr Rebecca Kippen, the study analysed responses from more than 2500 people.
“Opposition to these technologies was grounded in three major concerns: the potential for distorted sex ratios; that sex selection can be an expression of gender bias; and a concern about ‘designer infants’ being created, when parents should be happy with a healthy baby,” she said.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Ticking clock

When is the right age to have a baby?
A friend of mine turned 43 this week and her words to me that day have inspired this week’s column.
She said: “I don’t feel 43 because my kids make me feel young. I feel as young as any other mother who has young kids.”
I’m several years younger than her, but we both felt the same: kids do make you feel young.
But this made me wonder, what is the right age to have children?
Statistically for most women it is between the ages of 25 to 34.
Surveys around the world have shown that most women in their mid to late 20s feel like they are ready to take on a new role as they are more likely to have established themselves in their career and financially.
This completely rules out the ticking biological clock which is supposed to start ringing in the teenage years when we are the most fertile and less likely to miscarriage.
But the clock doesn’t stop ringing until we conceive, so for many women, hitting the snooze button until we are financially comfortable with a career is the preferred option.
What we do know about our bodies tells us a lot about our biological clocks.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Reason to quit

If you’re struggling to quit smoking, take a look at your kids and consider their health and wellbeing
We all know that smoking kills, but there’s a lot you probably don’t know about what smoking does to children.
First of all, smoking while pregnant presents huge risks to both the mother and the unborn baby.
There’s an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy, placental complications such as placenta previa, placental abruption, stillbirth, miscarriage and severe bleeding.
Smoking slows down fetal growth, nearly doubles a woman’s risk of having a baby with low birth weight, increases the risk of premature birth, birth defects such as cleft lip or cleft palate.
Even after your baby is born, there is an increased risk of SIDS, learning disabilities, asthma, ear infections, tonsillitis, respiratory illnesses and behavioural problems.
Nursing mothers who smoke pass harmful chemicals through their breastmilk to their babies and on rare occasions cause diarrhea and vomiting.
Children are especially vulnerable to the effects of secondhand smoke which in itself contains more than 4000 chemicals.
Since children are still physically developing, they have higher breathing rates than adults and have little control over their indoor environments.
Children exposed to high levels of secondhand smoke run the greatest risk of experiencing damaging health effects.
Exposure to secondhand smoke decreases lung efficiency and impairs lung function, increases the severity of asthma, aggravates sinusitis, rhinitis, cystic fibrosis and chronic respiratory problems. 
Even more shocking is the research that found nicotine in the blood system and urine of children whose parents smoke.
As well as the physical health effects smoking can have on children, there are also enormous psychological effects at work.

Taming toddler tastebuds

How you can shape your child’s eating habits right from their first mouthful
This week my eldest child turned six years old and I felt a little nostalgic, but also very proud.
I felt like I had reached another milestone – that we had survived the baby and toddler years, and now have an independent child under our roof.
Sure, I’ve still got a very long way to go in parenting years, especially when I look at my confident and happy six-year-old and then to my very dependent and clingy toddler.
One of the big differences I see between them is at the dinner table. 
I’ve learned a lot about what to feed my eldest daughter, but I’m still somewhat figuring out the little one who loves nothing more than to scream black and blue for a banana but as soon as it is peeled, wants nothing to do with it.
So, if you have a toddler or you are just starting solids with your little one, here’s some great tips I have found to help you along the way.
First of all, if your child isn’t eating, you have to determine if there are any other reasons why.
Have they been ill, tired, attention-seeking or teething? Even a runny nose picked up at playgroup can affect their eating.
There are many factors that can be an influence, including their growth pattern. Children’s needs vary depending on their growth rate and level of physical activity.
Three things to remember are that children will eat when they are hungry, no healthy child has ever starved to death from refusing food, and no single food is essential to a child’s diet – substitutes for refused food can be easily found.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Testing times

The routine pregnancy tests that are important for you and your baby
As a mum of two, I can clearly remember each time I discovered I was pregnant. 
The little test showing a positive result fills your heart with an incredible joy, excitement, sometimes fear, sometimes anxiety, but an overwhelming feeling that your life will never be the same again.
That test is also the first of many tests that will take place during your pregnancy that are important for your health and the health of your baby.
The aim of all of these tests is to identify any potential or existing health concerns before any obvious physical signs are present as early treatments can help prevent or minimise the effects of a condition.
Some tests are essential components of your regular pregnancy visits with your caregiver (midwife, obstetrician or GP), such as blood pressure, feeling your belly and estimating the fundal height, and listening to your baby’s heartbeat.
While other tests may be required to be sent to pathology for examination such as blood tests, vaginal swabs or urine tests.
Some tests are used only for women in certain circumstances, and you can decide to decline having the test if you so wish.
Blood tests are not much fun, but are vital during pregnancy.
First of all, it is important for your caregiver to have a formal, written report stating what your blood group is in case you require a blood transfusion at any stage during the pregnancy or after birth, due to excessive bleeding or haemorrhage.

W is for Web

The Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) in Brisbane may well be a long way from the Far North, but discovering many of the art works is just a click away.
Head to the Children’s Art Centre on the QAG website and you’ll find lots of information about current and upcoming exhibitions, as well as a games section – and this is where the fun starts!
Kids can learn about Andy Warhol while playing an amusing guessing game; draw like Matisse; laugh at the surrealist newspaper articles; and fill a room with coloured dots just like artist Yayoi Kusama.
But the best interractive game is Pip & Pop’s We Miss You Magic Land!
In the GOMA gallery, this is a series of large scale fantasy worlds created from intricate layers of fluorescent-coloured sugar.
Audiences encounter a magical forest filled with strange flowers, vines, mushrooms and animals; a cosmic universe condensed into a darkened room with twinkly stars; and a volcanic lake with crystals and pools (pictured above).
It is truly magical, and best of all, it is also on the web. The online game is so enchanting, I found myself playing for ages, delighting in all the little details.
If you have little girls in your house, they will absolutely love it!

Lives cut short

For boys born with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, playing ball would be a dream come true
Imagine your baby son learning to sit up, crawl and take his first steps.
It’s milestones like these that parents remember forever, but for some parents it’s a joy short-lived as their son is headed for a life in a wheelchair due to muscular dystrophy.
Muscular dystrophy is a neuromuscular, genetic disorder which results in the progressive deterioration of muscle strength and function.
The most common form in childhood is Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), and it’s the number one genetic killer of boys in the world.
Next week is Duchenne Awareness Week, so I hope today’s column raises your awareness and perhaps inspires you to help in some way.
DMD occurs when there is a mistake in the gene responsible for producing dystrophin, the protein that maintains the structure of our muscle membrane. 
“Genetic” does not mean it is confined to certain family trees.
In more than a third of cases, the genetic mutation happens spontaneously, without any previous family history.
DMD affects one in every 3500 boys around the world.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Are you a good sport?

Good sporting parents support their little athletes in positive ways, not through bad behaviour
With school starting back this week, soon there will be plenty of sporting clubs holding sign-on days.
And just as I wrote last week about how I encourage all children to learn music, I also encourage them to participate in sport.
Sport gives children so many benefits from learning about teamwork and discipline, regular exercise, sportsmanship and having fun.
You may remember in the news last month about former Labor leader Mark Latham’s outburst at his child’s swimming teacher, Bev Waugh (the mother of cricketers Steve and Mark).
Mrs Waugh, aged 65, runs a free government swimming program that aims to teach a broad range of skills with an emphasis on water safety.
On the second day of the program Mr Latham, however, verbally attacked Mrs Waugh in an intimidating manner, saying his two children had learned nothing.
The incident has since been reported to the Department of Education, though I doubt it will go any further.
Just what Mr Latham thought he could achieve by intimidating his child’s coach is beyond me.
But this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to bad sporting parents.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Music matters

Why every child should learn to read music and play an instrument
As children across the Far North prepare to return to school next week, I thought that instead of writing a cliched column about the first day of school, I would write about something close to my heart that is often overlooked by many parents in regards to their child’s education – and that is, music education.
There are multiple reasons why I believe music should be a part of every child’s education, and this involves learning an instrument, not just singing the national anthem at school assembly. 
Children who learn music have high self-esteem, high cognitive competence, and generally outperform non-music students in reading and maths. These differences become greater the longer the students participate in music.
This then has a flow on affect as high performing students contribute positively to the school environment.
Music is also a wonderful and meaningful way to integrate different cultural attributes into a curriculum.
Music instills positive attitudes, a positive self-image, a desire to achieve excellence, an ability to set goals, co-operation, teamwork and self-discipline.
In other words, children who learn music achieve greater success at school, and this will carry on into their adult life so that they have more chance at success in society and their chosen career.
Many studies have shown that music study actively contributes to brain development, so music does make kids smarter.
Children raised in cultures rich with music tend to develop learning and communication skills more quickly than other children.
Unfortunately, not every child has the opportunity to learn to play an instrument, and therefore learn to read music, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have music education.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A is for App

Is it really necessary for kids to have the latest gadget instead of an old-fashioned toy?
Every week I see a new one advertised and I wonder if my kids are missing out.
I wonder if I’m missing out. 
Google them and there are Top 10 lists of the must-have ones and they target everyone from toddlers to doctors.
That’s right, I’m talking about apps. 
The App Store is full of programs from recipes, music, news, games, educational resources and much more.
There are even apps that can monitor your child’s use of the internet and block them from accessing adult and other inappropriate sites.
I must have missed the memo that said smart (and affluent) parents were now giving children expensive technology as gifts instead of dolls, cars, bikes and board games.
I believe it’s a luxury to have the latest gadget, especially when I don’t see a need for it.
For instance, I have an ancient mobile phone that has no bells or whistles, because I don’t see a need for all the other stuff that comes with an expensive iPhone.
But there’s the catch: I don’t really know what I’m missing out on, and I feel like I’m being left behind because everyone else has one.
I have seen three-year-olds flipping through photos, watching YouTube and playing games on their parents iPhones and it amazes me that this is a generation that will never know a world without ubiquitous handheld and networked technology.
In the same way Sesame Street helped to teach me letters and numbers, apps are teaching a new generation but there’s one big difference.
Instead of sitting down passively watching the box, children using an app have to use fine motor skills to move things around, figure out puzzles, and hopefully learn something new.
And it must be helping as schools around the world are embracing the technology.
I’m using flash cards with my kids, but will they be more keen to learn if the flashcard is on a shiny gadget?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Fancy feet

If you’ve got a toddler with pigeon toes, flat feet or some other foot condition, it may go away on its own, but sometimes treatment is needed
My youngest daughter is almost 19 months old, but for the past few months I’ve noticed that the way she walks is different to her older sister.
She started walking at around 13 months of age, but it’s clear now that she walks pigeon-toed, also called intoeing.
So I’ve spent many hours reading about feet and I’ll try to condense it here for you as a quick guide to common foot problems in children.
The foot is quite a complex structure of 26 bones and 35 joints, and a baby’s foot is padded with fat and is highly flexible.
Foot conditions that your child may exhibit in their first years of life are flat feet, clubfoot, walking on their toes, feet turning outwards or inwards, bowlegs and knock-knees.
Clubfoot is a birth defect that is often hereditary. 
The ankle of the foot is turned to the side and is usually smaller or shorter than the normal foot, although it can also occur in both feet.
Left untreated it can lead to disability, pain and trouble walking, so it must be treated with methods such as stretching, casting, special shoes, braces or if these don’t work, surgery may be required.
Bowleggedness is an exaggerated bending outward of the legs from the knees down that can be inherited.
It is commonly seen in babies and most often corrects itself as the child grows.
If it has not improved after the child turns two, it may be a sign of a larger problem such as rickets or Blount’s disease.
Rickets is a bone growth problem usually caused by a lack of vitamin D or calcium, and is much less common today than in the past.
Blount’s disease causes an abnormal growth at the top of the tibia bone by the knee joint. It can appear suddenly and it’s cause is unknown, but to correct the problem the child may need bracing or surgery.
If bowleggedness occurs on only one side, or gets progressively worse, you should take your child to the doctor to rule out any serious problems.
Between the ages of three and six, many children show a moderate tendency toward knock-knees as the body goes through natural alignment shift.
Treatment is not usually required as legs tend to straighten on their own, but if one side is more pronounced than another, then see your doctor for advice.
Most toddlers are flat-footed when they first start to walk, or they tend to turn their feet inwards because of poor muscle tone or weak ligaments. 
Often this is simply a result of being cramped up in the uterus for so long.