Dr Rosina McAlpine - Opinion Piece

Current trends in parenting advice

The Festival of Dangerous Ideas held recently at the Sydney Opera House included many interesting local and international speakers discussing a range of controversial topics including: “what can we learn from suicide bombers”; “free-range kids” and “are children worth it?” Having a particular interest in parenting, I attended both parenting talks. I left quite concerned about the current thinking on parenting today.

“America’s worst mom”

I first attended a talk by Lenore Skenazy, dubbed “America’s worst mom” because she let her 9 year old son travel home on the subway on his own with $20, a subway map and change for a pay phone. Lenore shared her “free-range kids” parenting philosophy. While she was very entertaining, her talk centred on sharing exaggerated comical stories about children and parenting as well as ridiculing over-protective ‘helicopter parents’. She did provide some insights into why parents fear for the safety of their children; but unfortunately, I didn’t walk away with many practical parenting ideas.

Speaking with Lenore as she signed my copy of her latest book titled Free-Range Kids she didn’t seem at all like a “bad mom” and her book offers some practical suggestions for parents to help their children become more independent. Nevertheless, I was left with a cartoon image in my mind of children roaming free with chickens on a farm, and feeling quite sure that I need advice on raising a boy not a chicken!

“Are children worth it?”Anne Manne spoke eloquently on the controversial topic “are children worth it?” and asked the audience to consider where we are as a society to even entertain such questions. She discussed research studies which have found that individuals without children generally report they have happier lives than people with children. She went on to talk about inadequate and expensive childcare facilities and how much pressure there is on today’s mothers who need to work, take care of their children as well as their home.

No wonder they report they’re unhappy! In conclusion, Anne pointed out that today’s parents can’t win. Working parents are criticised for not spending enough time with their children and “helicopter parents” are criticised for spending time too much time with their children. I left the talks with two questions. Firstly, how did we end up parenting at the extremes? Secondly, what does it mean to be a parent?

“Parents are really busy, they know they need help with parenting but with the pressures of daily life there is so little time to go to courses and read books. So I’ve done all the hard work and developed the Win Win Parenting Program which empowers parents to help their children develop key life skills. ” Dr Rosina

30 minutes a week for one year, children can develop over 100 life skills. 

In only 30 minutes a week, children can develop over 100 life skills in just one year. That’s achievable even for the busiest parent.

“Imagine how good you would feel as a parent if, when the time came for your children to venture out into the world, they were confident and well equipped with life skills to lead a happy, productive and meaningful life”.

Dr Rosina

Raising a happy healthy child in the 21st Century - CPA Australia

Deborah Tarrant interviews Dr Rosina McAlpine for CPA Australia’s In the Black Magazine. Upon becoming a mother in 2007, Dr Rosina turned to the parenting books for help. Finding a dearth of research-based parenting books and no programs available to help her child develop the key life skills for children, Dr Rosina created the Inspired Children online parenting course where parents can teach their children life skills like resilience, making friends and managing emotions in just 15 minutes at a time. 

Navigating the first day of school - Mix 101.1 FM Melbourne

Mix 101.1 Melbourne. At home a few weeks before school starts practice a regular day in Kindergarten. Children need to practice self regulation and be able to sit in a chair, listen to a story work at their desk. Take the child to school and help orient them to the school: their classroom, playground and toilets. On the first day if your child is crying, try and stay calm and take them to a teacher or a friend and reassure them you’ll be back to pick them up this afternoon. Don’t prolong the agony, leave as soon as you feel they’ll be ok.

Raising can do kids - Herald Sun Article

Published in Herald Sun Saturday, February 19,2011 

PARENTING - Raising can-do kids by Cheryl Critchley

Work demands are denying many parents the opportunity to develop vital life skills in their children, writes Cheryl Critchley

Sadly, many parents are now too busy to parent. I’m not talking about using childcare, but about outsourcing almost anything that involves time and effort, such as birthday parties, exercise and even mental stimulation.

These are the sorts of things we should be doing with our kids, developing our relationship and helping them gain life skills.

But unfortunately, when both parents work full-time, it is easy to pay someone else to organise your party or teach your child art or how to kick a footy.

We’ve had more than our share of McDonald’s birthday parties and bought costumes and food for special days rather than make them together.  A hectic work schedule also meant bike rides and park plays were few and far between. Things have improved since I changed my work situation, but few families can afford a big pay cut to balance their lifestyle. So what do you do?

University educator, researcher and mother Dr Rosina McAlpine believes many parents now sit at the extremes and are either overprotective or take little interest in their child’s development.  McAlpine developed an affordable program helping parents reach that middle ground. Inspired Children uses 15-minute activities twice a week over a year. Children develop skills and personal qualities such as self esteem, resilience, communication, play and creativity.

“Parents and children have such busy lives that I felt 15 minutes two times per week was reasonable and could be achieved,” McAlpine says. 

“The aim of each activity is to introduce a life skill that will continue to be developed through experience and reflection and further activities in the program.”

In one game the parent lets the child win and talks about what it means to lose, be resilient and not achieve what you want in life. The child then loses and talks about how they feel.

“It is all about awareness, experience and role modelling by the parent,” McAlpine says.

“Many parents let their children win every game  - they don't get to experience losing and life is just not like that.” 

McAlpine says many of her tips are common sense strategies all parents can learn but are often too time poor to attend courses or read books
“Everything I include is available in the world to every parent by talking with other mothers, reading books, attending free parenting courses/seminars or surfing the internet,” she says.

In an ideal world all parents would make the time to learn strategies in areas they may be lacking in.  But we know it isn’t that simple and easy to follow programs like this are better than letting things slip.
As Mc Alpine says, we don’t want a generation of young people who can’t do anything for themselves. She sees this all the time as a university teacher. She sees this all the time as a university teacher.

“I’ve been a university lecturer for over 20 years and I can’t tell you how many times I have heard my first year students say things like ... ‘I don’t know how to cook’. ‘I’m sick of living off two minute noodles and takeaway’ … ‘I feel really lonely and depressed’ … (or) ‘I’ve just failed my exam and I’ve never failed anything in my life. I can’t cope’,” she says.

Some parents make excuses for their offspring, such as saying they have so much pressure to succeed at school that they shouldn’t have to do housework. But McAlpine says parenting is about helping children prepare for life. 

“To live a full, happy and balanced life children need to develop key life skills and personal attributes like good self esteem, resilience, communication skills, the ability to set and achieve goals, personal and home cleanliness and an understanding of health, wellbeing  - the list goes on.” 

Building resilience

  • Discourage negative self-talk when something goes wrong like a bad exam result. 
  • Encourage children to look at the positives and move forward.
  • Tell them everyone makes mistakes and we can all learn from them.
  • Role play situations that could go wrong at school, like a toilet accident or teasing and work through coping strategies with them.
  • Teach them life skills such as how to cook and manage money.
  • Develop their social and environmental awareness.
  • Encourage their communication skills, creativity and imagination.

3 Steps to a Happy, Confident Child - Woman's Day

By Dr Rosina McAlpine

Article published in Woman’s Day Magazine, 31 January 2011.

Child development expert Dr Rosina McAlpine shows how to boost your child’s confidence and beat the back-to-school stress.

STEP 1: Use Actions Not Words

How often have you said, “Not now, I’m on the phone” or “I’m too busy”? 
“Most parents are very busy, which adds to the stress of dealing with children,” Dr Rosina McAlpine says. “But how would you feel if someone talked to you that way? It’s important to let your kids know you value their opinions as much as anyone else’s” Instead of hurting your child’s feelings, try these solutions:

On the phone Ask the person to hold, then say to your child “I’m very interested in what you have to say but I can’t talk now. I’ll be off the phone in ten minutes and we’ll talk then.”

When busy “Sorry darling I’m busy doing something for work. Let’s talk about it at dinner.”

When cooking “I can’t talk now because it’s dangerous with a hot stove and I don’t want you to get hurt.”

STEP 2: Focus on the Behaviour Not the Child

Biting. Hitting. Nose picking. Ignoring requests. Children do so many things adults find unacceptable and often our automatic reaction is to say “You’re so naughty” or “You’re so cheeky/rude/bad”. 
“Try focussing on their behaviour rather than them” Says Dr McAlpine. “For example say ‘biting hurts. It is not OK to bite/speak in that tone/be rude’. Children who feel good about themselves are more likely to try new things and are less likely to be defensive or insecure. Regularly telling a child they’re naughty might mean they believe it for life.”

Child development expert Dr Rosina McAlpine shows how to boost your child’s confidence and beat the back-to-school stress.

STEP 3: Teach your child Gratitude

A grateful attitude can reduce depression and make children aware of what is important to their true happiness, research shows. Teach your child to be grateful by:

Keeping a journal Ask them to record the things they love about their life. They can use words, pictures, stickers - whatever they like.

Bedtime thank-you “Invite your child to share who and what they are grateful for. It’s a lovely way to go to sleep” says Dr McAlpine.