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How to set boundaries with children

I start a new job today ūüôā

One where I feel I can offer the most of my knowledge and skills…

I’ll be helping parents who have kids that struggle with feeling safe so they have learned strategies to deal with the adults in their lives… Like demanding closeness and punishing you if you don’t give it… Or just remain distant despite all of your efforts to show they are loved… Acting out, refusing to listen, ignoring your requests or directions and exploding unexpectedly (such as at bedtime or bath time).

These kids have learned these strategies even before these parents have come along… They are in the out of home foster care system.

For most of us, we are able to set boundaries and children listen and respect them, but when the child’s boundaries are ignored or there is no boundaries for them to understand so the world seems constantly unsafe and crazy, then we, as a society need to help them learn how to be in this world and co-exist with everyone else. Otherwise they grow up and struggle, have PTSD, anxiety, depression and loads of physical health problems. Childhood trauma is not only linked to mental and physical health problems but also crime. There would not be many instances of a person incarcerated who was not treated appallingly as a child. So foster carers do an important preventative role not only for the child but for society. [click to continue…]

What Attachment Parenting is and isn’t really about

I read yet another article that lamented about the perils of breast feeding on demand and co-sleeping with your toddler and was titled, when attachment parenting goes wrong (or something like that). ¬†When I read these articles I get really sad and frustrated that yet again we seem to be promoting what is and isn’t attachment parenting and on top of that, it has a funny sensation of judgement and parent shaming… Depending on the slant of the article, you’re either an idiot for doing this or not… And yet attachment really doesn’t have anything to do with breast feeding on demand, baby carrying or co-sleeping OR even dropping everything upon the demand of the child. ¬†In fact, you can do all of this and still create a child that has an insecure attachment to the parent! [click to continue…]

A conversation about death


WARNING – This post involves death and talks about my personal experience in detail, so if the subject makes you nervous, perhaps read something else on my blog.

Andrew Denton is someone I have admired for a long time because of his interview style (if you want to watch empathy in action just watch his interviews) but my admiration has gone up tenfold for taking this subject on. ¬†Andrew has gone on a journey to find if there is an answer to how we can have a better death for people who are suffering incurable diseases and conditions where quality of life is no longer an option. ¬† He’s looking for a better way to help those suffering from terminal illness to end their life. ¬†Listen to him through this conversation with Richard Fidler.

My sister was diagnosed in 2009 with breast cancer and by that time, it had spread to her liver and in her hip bone. ¬†Christina was the brainy one of the family… The eldest of 4 daughters… She had 6 languages conquered and could do mathematics to the level of an actuary, so she knew very quickly what the probability of her survival was. ¬†She used that brain to research and scour every science journal and research paper and refused treatments she knew were not of benefit to her, based on probability and the science, knowing she had a death sentence and aimed for quality of life instead. ¬†So she got 5 years more out of life instead of the 6 months they gave her to live when first diagnosed… And they were mostly good years too! ¬†Not full of pain or discomfort or endless chemo or radiation treatments. ¬†She cleaned up her diet, moved to the Gold Coast to bask in the sun and exercised and got happy. ¬†She lived her life by her terms and not her doctors (or her families). ¬†But she always knew the clock was ticking. ¬†She also knew that death could be painful and distressing… ¬†She fixated on that a lot and who could blame her. ¬†She had very robust conversations with her doctors and everyone who would listen about it.

I can remember the phone conversation clearly… ¬†The first time she told me she was going to take her own life. ¬†I think we spoke for about and hour and it was confronting. ¬†I had once attended a suicide prevention workshop that helped prepare me for clients who may express suicidal thoughts, but this was different.¬† Christina was not depressed, she was not irrational… She was being very rational. ¬†She didn’t want someone else to decide how she should die. ¬†She didn’t want the indignity of having her partner or family wipe her bum or clean up her vomit or watch her fade into a painful puddle on the bed. ¬†She wanted out before it got to that stage. She made me swear to secrecy and I honoured that.

Christina was a complex woman. ¬†Highly intelligent, also on the ASD spectrum and had a tough time filtering her words so in the end it shouldn’t have been a surprise to me that she’d talk her plan of euthanasia through with everyone and I mean EVERYONE she came in contact with. ¬†So much of her life choices and situation was broadcast so why would this have been any different?!

In the last year of her life when things started to get hairy, I spent time with her and sat with her during doctors visits and treatments (that she finally agreed to) and I could see that every medical person that came in contact with her could totally admire her for her obvious intelligence and ability to speak technical medical lingo (most thought she was a doctor) and then she would blurt out her plans to end it and I’d see their discomfort and need to shut her down. ¬†Most didn’t want to entertain her conversation around euthanasia. ¬†Some encouraged and understood her decision but didn’t or couldn’t be seen to encourage it in public.¬† They told her to keep it quiet, but she couldn’t, she processed her thoughts, tested her theories with everyone around her. ¬†She had oncologists in two cities and GP’s sending her to psychologists to treat her for depression only to be given a clean mental bill of health. ¬†She was not depressed. ¬†She was very logical and rational. ¬†Even the psychologists could see that.

Most people, even in the business of terminal illness, couldn’t entertain the conversation so they just wanted her to go away or be quiet about it. ¬†Just not have the conversation at all.

But Christina was not like that.

She made you think about it.

Her lack of filter and rational thought made you realise… Hey this situation is not right.

Why should she NOT have control over when and how she died?

Why should she suffer pain and lack of dignity when there were options to help her avoid that?

She was also so enraged with the association of religion to her inevitable death… Many of the hospice and hospitals that specialize in cancer treatments are run by religious organisations that advocate against euthanasia. ¬†She was frustrated that a religion, she didn’t even believe in, had control over the way she died. ¬†That she would have to suffer because of their beliefs really pushed her to find an alternative solution.

So she did.

She scammed a couple of her doctors and got a lethal cocktail of drugs she knew would cause an easy death but she was concerned that she may get these doctors into trouble. ¬†She had a huge amount of compassion for others… Even when I encouraged her to think about her own needs (yes at this point I was totally supporting her rational decision) she couldn’t bring herself to potentially affect their careers.

So she had an alternative plan… She went to a Euthanasia meeting put on by Dr Philip Nitschke and purchased a gas cylinder and instructions on how to use it.

Now, let me make this clear to all who do not know how this is done…¬† AND THIS IS¬† DISTRESSING TO KNOW…

This kit requires the owner to, by themselves, construct a sealed plastic bag that encloses the entire head, doesn’t allow any air flow and just allows for a tube to go into the bag in which you release this gas that makes you got to sleep quickly and then stops you breathing. ¬†Can you imagine that for a moment?

You have to do this alone.

You have to construct it yourself, because you don’t want to implicate your partner, family or friends in your death because it’s illegal to help someone die. ¬†So it has to be done by your hand.

You have to insist your love ones not be there when you put that bag on.

You have to stick a bag on your head…

You have to connect the gas and turn on the tap.

You have to die alone… Unassisted and looking through plastic.

When I asked Christina, because I knew she would know the answer, how many people actually go through with this? ¬†She said, compared to how many people buy the kit?… Not many.

I could understand why.¬† If you’re not depressed, then everything in your mind is trying to keep you from doing what was being asked of you.

I asked her if she thought she could go through with it… She said she didn’t know.

Fast forward to her going down hill quickly…. She was in the hospital for liver problems… Her abdomen was swelling up… She looked 9 months pregnant and had to have her stomach cavity drained regularly to relieve the pressure. Her liver was failing. She was uncomfortable, in pain and over hospital visits.¬† She was now spending more time in hospitals and with doctors and less time actually living.

She wanted it over.  Quality of life was now almost non existent.

I could see her fight was gone.

It was a roller coaster ride for her and those supporting her.

She was ready and determined to end it now.

She had a plan and we were all to go along with it.

I wanted to be there for her but she said no, she didn’t want either me or her husband implicated with her death. ¬†I said it was OK if she couldn’t do it, that we’d go to plan C if that was the case.

I spent a horrible morning with my other sister waiting… Just waiting for her husband to show up (part of the plan was to have him with us on some pretense of returning a book and having a cup of tea)… I mowed my healthy sisters lawn. ¬†We kept our other sister and mother in the dark, not wanting to stress them out anymore than they already were.

We waited, we cleaned the house and finally I got a phone call from Christina. ¬†I didn’t even ask, I just said, “It’s OK, we’ll just go to the next plan”. ¬†I couldn’t blame her for not doing it… I couldn’t have done that by myself either.¬† It seemed so cruel to me that she had to do it alone.

For every scary distressing, challenging moment in my life I had the option of having supportive family around. ¬†I could see how inhumane this whole experience was for her and all of us. ¬†It just wasn’t fair.

I had no choice but to engage with the hospice and we had her examined and admitted.  The nurse who came to assess her at home believed she had weeks to live and not days as Christina thought.  She was wrong.  Christina died 7 days later pumped to her eyeballs of drugs and alone in a room early in the morning.  While we all had been with her as much as possible, we were not able to stay over night and she was consequently alone when she passed away.

I was in bed at my sisters place when I felt her presence. ¬†It was actually the smell of her breath that came into the room and then left. ¬†I thought it was odd, because it was so distinctly her smell. ¬†Then my sister walked in not 10 minutes later having received the call from Christina’s husband that she was gone. ¬†I was relieved for her and incredibly sad too.

Anyone who has witnessed a love one deteriorate from illness or an incurable disease will know the pain of watching that person go through pain and disappear before their eyes. ¬† The pain and helplessness of not being able to truly help them other than walk along side until you cannot anymore… Those last steps in death they must take alone.

I had a beautiful dog who developed cancer and we gave him all our love and attention and when the time came, when he couldn’t get up and play anymore, we called the vet and he came and put him into a deep sleep in our lounge room and then administered the heart stopping drug. ¬†We were all there telling him it was OK, that we loved him and he died looking into our loving eyes being stroked.

I could do that for my dog but not my sister.

That’s why we need this conversation. ¬†That’s why we need to change the way we legislate how we deal with incurable conditions that rob all quality of life.

It needs to be a personal decision not tied to any form of religion. ¬†Not everyone believes in it and they shouldn’t be forced to die by rules they don’t agreed to or believe in.

It can be regulated.  It can be humane.  It should be a personal decision.

She had a right to a better death


The pain of growing up

No one can accurately prepare you for children… For the birthing experience or the change in your relationship with yourself and your partner after that baby has entered your life. ¬†However, you do grow with it… It is a change that is suddenly there and cannot be avoided once it’s happened and most of us just go with the flow and try and work it out as we go along. ¬†We get into a rhythm that is comforting if not always full of sleep or very many peaceful moments.¬† Life with children is both rewarding and challenging!

At each stage of our children’s growth we think to ourselves, if only this stage wasn’t so hard …

If only this baby would let me sleep a bit longer…

If only I had more hands, time, help and space to myself…

If only I could have a night off to go out and party like I use to or not want to go to sleep the moment I do get a night off…

If only they would just eat what I gave them!

If only they would stop growing so fast out of their clothes/shoes…

If only they didn’t tell the teacher off or hit that little girl in the play ground…

If only they didn’t grow up so fast!… How can it be time for high school?!

If only they’d listen to me and avoided that friend… disappointing score…bad school report…

If only they would try instead of giving up…

If only they didn’t want to give up on their music lessons… drama class… soccer team… that I put them in to help develop them..

If only they didn’t hang around that mean kid…

If only they thought better of themselves that they didn’t do xyz ….

If only I didn’t have to drive them around everywhere…

If only they would slow down in our driving lessons!

If only they didn’t stress too much/too little about that exam…

If only they didn’t work so little/so hard!

There are so many “if only” moments even for children that seem to relatively breeze through life. ¬†However, all of these pale in comparison to the single most painful and unprepared moment in your child’s life… [click to continue…]

I’ve got your back… Creating strong relationships

The concept of “I’ve got your back” has come up regularly in client sessions, especially couples work, because we want to know our partner supports us, is loyal to us and will stand by us when we are vulnerable and facing a challenge with a friend, collegues or family dispute. ¬†That doesn’t necessarily mean you take their side but that you take the time to listen to their views, empathise with them and support them to see the bigger picture and find leverage and solutions.

This also needs to be applied to your growing children. ¬†When a child begins to branch out and find their tribe, discover their own values and become a thoughtful individual, then we also need to change tact and support that growth by not enforcing our views on them but encouraging creative and thoughtful thinking. ¬†We need creative thinkers in this world and not blind followers that can’t see the bigger picture.

We can model values, we can discuss views, consequences of views, ¬†but it’s important to allow our partners and children to come to their own conclusions. ¬†To encourage individuality we do need to act as consultants because Tweens and teenagers often fall into the trap of following the crowd (who ever they are hanging around with). ¬†So if you are disturbed by some of their views, you need to have the kind of relationship that supports challenging their thinking without making them turn their backs on you… You need to be open to listening to both sides, to have their back no matter what. [click to continue…]

Food for toddlers and what to avoid

Last year I did this great podcast with Monique (the Nourished Psychologist) where we covered what to avoid for when choosing food for toddlers or even older.

The toddler years are crucial when it comes to food because not only are you formulating their palate but their brain is rapidly growing and requires all the right nutrients to help it along.¬† In the podcast we cover 5 foods (some of them are groups) and why it’s good to avoid them.¬† Many of these foods cause problems in the digestion system and it’s because of that and the fact that we take 25% of our daily food intake to power our brain, that we need to be careful.

Did you know that food can:

  • Affect your emotions?¬† Many people don’t have physical reactions but emotional reactions.¬† So some foods can create anxiety, depression and contribute to children melting down.
  • Create inflammation in your body?¬† Sore joints are one thing, but include inflammation in your organs and even your skin (i.e eczema, allergies) not to mention your brain (fuzzy thoughts, inability to listen or comprehend).
  • Disrupt sleep or create problems going to sleep?¬† The thing that keeps your child awake at night, gives them nightmares or has them crawling into your bed night after night may actually be food.

If you’re wondering what to buy, (when planning food for toddlers / older children) and have any of the above problems, you may want to listen to this podcast for yourself.¬† This one is free!

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Taming your Toddler or the Terrible Twos…

It’s a hideous headline, I know!¬† But unfortunately both the “Taming your Toddler” and “Terrible Twos” terms were coined by previous parenting authors as a way of connecting to frustrated parents and this was prior to understanding how a toddler’s brain works.

So we need to think differently, because we have new information AND we need to change the way we look at our children because of that.¬† We also need to avoid labels for our children, they do more harm that good.¬† Instead I’ll help you understand what stage of development they are going through and for that you need to dive into the world of neuroscientist Daniel Siegal.

This is why I did a whole webinar on this subject… It’s easier to listen to, (I’ve also given you the written theory too).¬† It’s called Ready to decode your toddler?¬† In it, I cover how the brain works and how to tell if your toddler is doing what they should be doing at their age.¬† We rename it from “Terrible Two’s” to something much more indicative of what is going on.

I also give you some specific ways to manage challenging toddler moments (which are normal by the way!!!).¬† It’s really our response that causes problems.¬† So I give you some strategies to help you through them too, so you get more good times and less struggle.

I also help you with a step by step process to follow to set healthy boundaries that leaves both of you still connected, feeling loved and without the struggles.

Sound good?

It’s worth the $20 AUD investment (which covers my webinar software).

To grab the replay and the step by step process … here it is

  • The original price was $30, for the replay it's now just $20!
    Price: $ 20.00

I have to stop watching ‘Making a Murderer’ – which shows clearly why children lie!

I took a break from work over the Christmas period and switched onto a documentary called Making of a Murder on Netflix.¬† Here’s the over view of this series…

Netflix’s Making a Murderer ‚ÄĒ a bleak, somber true crime documentary that consists mainly of courtroom footage ‚ÄĒ has become an unexpected sensation. The series, which traces the story of Wisconsinite Steven Avery, uses Avery’s case as a lens to examine the American legal system as a whole. Avery was convicted of a vicious sexual assault in 1985 but exonerated after nearly two decades in prison, when DNA evidence cleared him of the crime and led to the conviction of someone else. However, in 2005, just a couple of years after Avery’s 2003 release, he was the last person to see photographer Teresa Halbach alive ‚ÄĒ and evidence seemed to suggest he killed her. Avery went to trial in 2007, was convicted of Halbach’s murder, and has been in prison ever since.

Source and interesting article: Netflix’s Making a Murderer: the directors explain what many have missed about the series – Vox

It’s not that it’s seems so fantastical as to how the case unfolded but the treatment of the individuals accused that shocked me, especially the 16 year old nephew who is co-accused of doing murder.

I couldn’t watch what happened to him… right on camera… with even experts in collecting confessions expressing concerns over how he was questioned and the form of his so called confession.

This is a young man… with an IQ of 69 (that’s really low) who clearly did not know what the impact of his words were… He just didn’t have the intellectual capacity to comprehend and did what he was told.¬† He was lying to stop the adults from interrogating him.

He’s been programmed since birth to do what he was told…

His survival mechanism kicked in and he did what he thought he needed to do to get out of the situation… he complied.

He lied.

He guessed many times until he got out what they wanted him to say and in the end… he even wrote and drew pictures with the interrogators/investigators telling him what to do.

So after hours of relentless coercion and pressure and obvious confusion, he repeated back what the interrogators wanted him to and not what he knew was his truth.¬† He tried to speak and write his truth but was shut down…

Called a liar and threatened with his mom being really angry with him for telling a lie (which of course was a lie, his mom didn’t have anything to do with the law enforcement and this child had no protection from these determined adults).

And it made me wonder…

Just how blind can we as adults be? [click to continue…]

Fear based parenting… it’s damaging to you both

Fear based parenting drives you to be controlling, to pull the reins in, to be that “proactive” parent who’s making sure their toddler/child/teen isn’t going to grow into a drug addict or drunk like your mother/father/grandarent/brother/sister did.  It’s attaching another person’s story to your child that looks at what’s happened in the past or a worry about the future.  It completely ignores the present moment, the child and their needs.  It pushes you to take control in a way that disconnects you from your child.  It leaves you doubting yourself and worrying about what’s going to happen next.  

Will it get worse?  Will they be more angry at you?   Manipulative or defiant?  Yes, they will.  Your controlling is creating that.  Your anger pushes them away.

 You’re missing the cause of the behaviour and instead treating the symptom.  So your child’s need is still unmet, still ignored, because you haven’t liked how they’ve gone about getting it.  As you continue to treat their behaviour as sign of future problems or worse, a personal attack on you and everything you’re trying to do for them, you continue to miss out on finding the real reason why they are behaving this way.  As you continue to use power to control or defeatism /victimisation as a way to manipulate them into your idea of what they should be, you shut them down and create a place of distrust between the two of you.  You resent them, they resent you. 

This esculates for a number of years as you try to mold them and then, come teen or tween years, they begin to lie more elaborately and hide their behaviour from you… 

until one day… 

you get the biggest shock of your life…..  

Your child either lashes out at you or someone else or themselves (self harm) or worse, they get themselves into a situation that you have no control over, no strategy to avoid it, and they are hurt badly.

If you’re on this bandwagon, I hope that you read this and stop.  If you’re that controlling and fearful parent, who maybe sees the worst in their child, or imagines because your child acts or has mannerisms of another family member (who has anger, drug, alcohol or other issues) that your child will too… then stop.  

Stop controling behaviour and start connecting to your child.

Parenting programs that focus on behaviour modification are based in fear.  Fear that they child is out of control and needs to be reined in.  They focus on the behaviour and not the child and don’t strengthen the connection..  Unfortunately this form of parenting/behaviour management has been encouraged for years and it’s wrong.  

Even the child protection services know that now.  Recently I met about 50 of them at a training intensive and they told me that there is a swing away from behaviour management because it damages the relationship even further and creates a manipulative, angry and avoidant child.

We need to focus on the child, the present moment and build connection.  It’s only through connection, seeking to understand their needs, that we can help the child learn natural consequences and ways to meet their needs that work for the whole family.  It’s also a way for you to truly see and appreciate your child as an individual and not a mini you/other parent/other relative.  It’s a way for you to appreciate their strengths and not focus on your fears around their potential flaws.

When you’re in connection with your child you don’t take their behaviour as a personal attack, you see it as a way to seek what they want and an opportunity to teach them about relationships, empathy and problem solving.  When your child is in overwhelm, you can remain connected and help them to calm down instead of isolating them in time out.  You can help them regulate their emotions because you are right there with them and being calm, kind and yet stronger and wiser.  You’re being the adult, the parent and the teacher.

Initially it may take some time and loads of unlearning and some learning more effective strategies to help you.  It will also take self awareness to notice when you fall back into fear based parenting.  The more awareness, the more conscious efforts to understand their needs, your needs and how to meet them, the easier this job of parenting becomes.  You will find your family dynamic will change, flow naturally and support and connection will be used daily, minimising the out bursts, meltdowns and push backs.  Your children will want to naturally help you, without coercion.  They will come to understand you more and even empathise with you when you need it.

You just need to get past your fear.  

Fear of change…

Fear of the lack of control (which was always an illusion)…

When you’re ready, you can learn how to do this…

Become a conscious parent

Understand a child’s need

Understand how to lead, model and teach them how to be in this world.

It’s so satisfying, loving and amazing when you’re in that space.  Trust me, I’ve tried both…. I’m not going back to controlling… ever! 


All emotions are just a call to action…

The are also unconscious, part of our emotional brain, and drive you to meet a need.

You can’t talk your way out of an emotional need, because the emotional brain hijacks you.

It’s easy to meet that need when you’re in a good mood.

It’s harder when the negative emotions overwhelm you or your child…

What are the drivers behind your negative emotions?

anger emotionsAnger and rage is a way of protecting yourself and rises when there is a threat to getting what you want (think tantrum). [click to continue…]