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Oct 062015

Have you ever asked your child to do something as simple as “come to dinner” and all you received in response was a distracted, “I’ll be there in a minute,” or even worse, no response at all? Have you repeated your request several times, with increasing intensity and ended up feeling frustrated and upset? Teaching your children to listen to your requests and follow your instructions takes patience and practice. However, there are several things you can do to help your child listen and comply with your requests.

  1. Communicate effectively when asking your child to do something. Often by simply changing the way you speak to your child, you are able to increase your child’s compliance.
    • Make sure your child is paying attention to you.
      This involves reducing distractions when you give a command. Turn off the TV and/or the computer game before asking the child to do something.
    • Make eye contact with your child when you make the request.
      Moreover, to be completely sure that your child heard and understood the command, have him repeat it back to you.
    • Simplify your requests.
      Don’t ask your child to do too many things at once. Or, break the task down into parts, and write these on a piece of paper for the child to carry with them to help them remember what to do.
    • Apply consequences if the command is not followed.
      Don’t ask your child to do something if you are not willing to follow up and apply a consequence when she does not comply. Mean what you say. Otherwise you are teaching your child that she doesn’t always have to do what you ask.
    • When you want your child to do something, don’t phrase it as a question or a suggestion.
      For example, “Would you pick up your toys?” is not as effective as using a firm, clear voice and saying, “It is time to pick up your toys.”
  1. Work on your relationship. Having a positive relationship with your child is essential to helping your child be a better listener and more compliant.
    • One method of doing this is to spend about 10 minutes with your child at least several times a week engaging in an activity of their choice. Commenting on what they are doing and simply paying attention to them helps your child to feel that you are interested in them. It also provides a time in the day when you are interacting positively with your child. This is very important for those parent-child relationships that involve a high number of negative interactions (e.g., arguing or nagging). This positive attention helps to improve your relationship, and your child’s willingness to listen.
    • Catch them being good. Children get a lot of attention when they are misbehaving. They often receive much less attention when they are “being good.” For example, noticing your child’s positive behavior and saying “Lizzie, I like how you are sitting quietly and playing all by yourself!” rewards your daughter for her good behavior. By attending to your child’s positive behavior, you are increasing the chance that he/she will continue or repeat that behavior. In addition, you are increasing your positive attention, which improves your relationship, and the likeliness that your child will listen to you.
  1. Be a Role Model. Do you ever find yourself checking your phone, or texting someone when your child is talking to you? Do you sometimes engage in other activities when your child is speaking? Children imitate their parents, so it is important to model good listening behavior. The next time your child is trying to tell you something, stop what you are doing, make eye contact, and give your child your full attention when they are talking to you. This shows them that what they have to say is important to you and it models good listening skills.

Many of these strategies take practice and time to create change, but by using some of the techniques mentioned here, you should find that your child not only listens better to what you are saying to them, but is also more likely to follow your directions.

Katie BoggsEducational Psychologist Dr. Katie Boggs provides psycho-educational assessments (for children ages 4-18), individual counseling, and parent education.  She specialises in the treatment of issues including, but not limited to, learning difficulties, depression, anxiety, attention difficulties, grief and loss, social skills, self-esteem, behavior difficulties, stress, and separation/divorce.

Dr. Boggs provides parent guidance on both an individual and group basis, and is a facilitator of the “How to Become a Love and Logic Parent” class. Dr. Boggs has worked as a psycho-educational consultant in Shanghai, China and has worked as a school psychologist in the United States, where she provided psycho-educational services to children (primarily K-8); assisted in the planning, implementation and evaluation of a systemic education reform process (Flexible Service Delivery System); advocated for children and families in the school system, and served as co-chairperson for the Department of Pupil Services.

Dr. Boggs is originally from the U.S. and obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology at Indiana University, her Master’s degree in Educational Psychology at the University of Arizona, and her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology at the University of Minnesota.

Feb 012015

Positive Parenting is an approach to parenting that emphasises the importance of communication and seeks to avoid power struggles.  Parent educator Jailan Heidar writes about this approach for Passionate Parenting:

The question I get asked a lot is when do I start practicing positive parenting with my child? Most of the parents I meet in my workshops are there because they’ve already started experiencing challenging situations with their little ones that they’d like to find solutions for. I often hear comments like, “Oh I wish I had done that earlier!”, or “That’s very easy, I could have done that!‘ and parents wondering when and how they could have started on the path of positive parenting with their child.

I’ve just had my own little boy 5 months ago and have also found myself thinking a lot about including my positive parenting practices with him every day. I’ve found that it’s incredibly valuable to start getting myself in the habit early on even if it seems too early. Here are some of the tips I often advise parents to start practicing with their babies and which I am also getting myself into the daily habit of using.

  • Give your child space to be independent: we often fall into the trap of continuously entertaining babies and then wonder why as toddlers they can’t seem to play on their own. Like everything else these skills develop early on in life and your baby will actually benefit from some independent play time. It’s OK to leave your baby on her playmat with some toys or a baby mobile to learn to play on her own and self-explore. Make sure you keep her within eyesight so that she is reassured and that you respond to her if she starts fussing. Sometimes all she might need is simply a different toy. If she’s still fussing sometimes the solution can be no toys at all and just quiet self-exploration. This is a great time for her to discover how her hands and feet taste and how her body works together! Being able to happily and contently self-entertain is a wonderful, lifelong skill you are helping your child develop.
  • Set up an appropriate environment early on: One of the most frequent questions I get from parents is how they can avoid saying ‘No’. One of the simple yet effective things you can do is to minimize the situations where you will have to use ‘No’. Start by setting up a baby-friendly environment: remove any interesting objects that your baby shouldn’t be touching (grandma’s old vase), offer an easy alternative by keeping your baby’s toys and other household items she can play with within her reach and use redirection instead of saying ‘No’ to redirect her to a more appropriate activity. For example “The phone is not for playing. Here, you can use your toy phone instead”. As your baby grows older you can start bringing back items as she starts developing more impulse control.
  • Talk to your baby: It can be difficult to talk to a baby who doesn’t yet talk back or doesn’t yet understand your every word but it’s important to get into that habit early on. Babies develop their receptive language skills long before they can express themselves verbally, so it’s a good chance for you to start talking to your baby from birth. Use simple words for daily recurring events like changing her diaper, bath time or feeding. Instead of distracting her, try saying “we’re almost done” if she gets fussy while getting her dressed, and then talk about which hands, feet etc. are left. Letting her know that you’re “all done” before taking her out of the bath can help you avoid having a screaming baby who thought she still had a few more minutes left in the bath. With repetition, she’ll learn that the words are associated to the event and she’ll know what to expect. This can help you both deal with challenging situations in a non-stressful way. As she grows older, you’ll both develop good communication together based on experiences when she knows you notice, acknowledge, and respond to her signals and she will learn to wait for your response and communicate back.
  • Set routines and rules early on: Routines and rules don’t mean being strict – it’s simply another way of letting baby know what to expect from you and her surroundings. One of the simplest routines is having a ‘wake-feed-play-repeat’ layout for the day which adjusts itself as your baby grows. Parents of toddlers often have problems with bedtime routine so setting one for your baby can be helpful for both of you as she grows older. Try having a ‘dinner-bath-story-bedtime’ routine. Its understandable that there will occasionally be night when you’ll need to skip one step. In our home we decided to always try to have storytime right before bed, so even if our little boy doesn’t have a bath or we are out he still gets his story while in his sleeping bag and then goes to bed. As your baby grows older you can adapt, change and add things to your routine that suit you both. Maybe your baby will need more time to play in the bath to help her go to bed easily or maybe she’ll want five stories read to her instead. These are things you can explore together as she grows.
  • Knowing what to expect of your baby My husband found that being aware of baby’s developmental stages and knowing in advance what baby will go through was very helpful for him. Knowing what your baby is developmentally capable of can help you respond to your baby more positively when things get stressful, as well as avoid comparisons with other children’s development. Knowing what your child is capable of can also help you have realistic expectations of her with issues like self-soothing, sleeping through the night and separation anxiety. Staying one step ahead of her development as she grows older will help you deal more calmly with common issues like toddler tantrums, night terrors and potty training, instead of feeling anxious about it.
  • Take care of yourself: This is one of the most overlooked aspects of being a parent yet it’s one of the most important! If you aren’t rested enough, are feeling anxious or are still dealing with the baby blues it can be extremely difficult to even think about being positive when things are stressful with your baby. Taking care of yourself is crucial for both of you. Try to communicate with your partner about your feelings and needs. Let go of the feeling that everything needs to be perfect – we are not Super-moms. It’s OK if the dishes aren’t done for the day or the laundry piles up a bit, if that means getting some rest. If you can afford it, consider hiring some help so you don’t have to think about what needs to get done around the house and you can just focus on yourself and your baby. Do take the help of family members or friends when offered, if it will help you relax. It’s also important for your child to learn that Mama is a person with needs of her own as well and sometimes needs time for herself.I hope these tips help you feel more relaxed about including positive parenting practices in your day with your little one.

Jailan Heidar

Jailan Heidar runs Early Years Parenting, has a Master’s of Science in Child and Family Studies from Leiden University and is a certified Early Childhood Educator from University of California in Los Angeles. Originally from Cairo, Egypt, Jailan and her husband moved to Amsterdam in 2008. Her career involves hands-on experience working with young children both in preschool and home settings. Along with providing workshops for parents and educators, she is currently a PhD candidate at Leiden University’s Institute for Child and Family Studies. Jailan also contributes articles on parenting topics to parenting websites in both Egypt and the Netherlands.

Nov 062014

Your child’s body and their sexual feelings, curiosity, and behaviour should be a source of joy and of pride, contributing to a healthy self-esteem and eventually to a meaningful and loving partnership.  But all too often feelings of confusion, anxiety, and embarrassment are uppermost.  Even in families who try to promote a healthy body image and positive attitude towards sexuality, uncomfortable feelings still persist. Why is that?  Chances are, it is rooted in the mixed messages children receive almost from birth about their bodies and about sexuality.

On the one hand, commodifiction and commercialization of bodies is everywhere – from the scantily-clad lingerie models on the life-size bus-stop advertising poster, to the twerking derrierres of pop-stars, to the tiny waisted yet voluptuous ‘fashion’ dolls in the toy stores with their eye-makeup and pouty lips.  On the other hand, sex and sexuality is still a hush-hush, taboo subject, and often for good reason.  Couples keep the sexual side of their relationship private to preserve the intimacy and specialness of their bond.  And adults are rightly protective of providing too much information too early to children at the risk of creating anxiety with details their children are not yet developmentally ready to handle.  And then there’s the notion of the “innocence” of children that supposedly needs guarding.  Into the void, without information and without validation for their curiosity, creep confusion, embarrassment, fear, and a vague sense of shame – feeling things they are not “supposed” to feel or curiosity about questions they are not ‘supposed’  to ask.

Parents inadvertently place responsibility on their children’s shoulders when they say “If there’s anything you want to know or need to ask, you can always ask me anything”.  In life, any of us often don’t know what it is that we don’t know, and often don’t know when we’ve been misinformed about something and believe a modern myth to be factual.  So your kids won’t necessarily know what to ask, and can carry around some pretty strange ideas that they’ve just heard in passing.  Secondly, if the subject is slightly embarrassing or uncomfortable, putting the less-informed and more vulnerable person in the relationship (i.e. your child) in charge about when and what should be discussed might mean the subject never comes up.  And finally, as parents we have more than just biological information and cold scientific facts to share:  we have our own experiences, our insights, our lessons leaned, our values and morals to share.

There is a middle way – talking to teens, and even to kids, about sex in a way that is measured, positive, and developmentally appropriate and that makes them feel accepted and empowered to make good decisions.  This is not “one big talk” half-way through puberty.  Many, many very short exchanges over the years – even a sentence or two here and there – builds up a set of knowledge and a set of values that goes along with it.  It starts in babyhood when we give real names to all our body parts – from elbow to ankle to penis.  It continues when we empower toddlers to give hugs and kisses when and to whom they want – not pressuring them to kiss Grandma or Opa if they feel too shy right now.  This teaches them that it is their body and they have the right to say ‘no’, even if it does hurt the other’s feelings: this sows the first seeds of the notion of consent.  By age eight it is time to talk about how bodies change and how children’s bodies slowly come to look more like adult bodies.  And of course, as soon as a child is old enough to ask where babies come from, they are old enough to know the (simplified) truth.

Practicing talking in gentle, simple and comfortable ways about sex may take practice.  If this subject was ‘taboo’ in your own home growing up, it may be hard to not be overcome with embarrassment.  See if you can discuss with your partner your own puberty experiences, for example, or discuss with a friend over coffee your ideas about teen-agers having sex, without any jokes and exaggerations.  Try to use clear, specific but gentle and positive, even joyful, language.  Even a little practice can help prevent feeling tongue-tied when you speak to your child.  Your comfort level will put them at ease and will increase the chances that they will, indeed, come to you with questions.

Katherine FortierKatherine Fortier is a Child and Educational Psychologist in a busy private practice within the Archipel Counselling Psychology and Family Services centre in The Hague. A mother of three, she moved from Canada to The Netherlands in 1997 and took on the direction of Passionate Parenting in January 2013 from founder Soul Robertson.

Professionally, Katherine provides psychological assessments, parent guidance, and child and adolescent psychotherapy for international children but is also enthusiastic about positive prevention and well-being promotion and in that spirit has become a popular speaker for Passionate Parenting on a variety of subjects from Raising Confident Children to Sibling Rivalry and more.

Sep 302014

Expatriate children often deal with a laundry-list of stress factors that are associated with the dynamic lifestyle that they live. The initial move brings a lot of disruption – the packing and unpacking, the saying goodbye to loved ones, the travel itself which often includes different time zones, etc. Parents often breathe a sigh of relief once the physical move has been made, yet the difficult process of adjustment usually lasts several weeks –or months. During this period, as they adapt to a new school and new culture, expat kids might feel as if they are out of their comfort zone, with no firm ground to stand on.

However, despite the many challenges associated with the expatriate lifestyle, expat kids can – and do – thrive. In fact, they are uniquely qualified for leadership positions in society due to their vast experiences from living in different environments, their exposure to diverse thinking styles and their capacity for resilience. That said, the road to success is not always easy, especially when that difficult thing we call “stress” creeps in.

Stress gets in the way of learning.

Professionals working with children see that the stressful adjustment process expat kids face can have an immensely negative impact on learning. One of the reasons that stress impedes learning is that the automatic, physiological reactions that take over in response to stress inhibit executive functioning skills in the brain – things like concentration, memory, creativity, and logical thinking. When these skills are negatively impacted, the capacity for learning can be diminished.

Stress harms the body.

In addition to stress impacting the learning process, it also can negatively affect the body. In fact, many researchers are now suggesting that the physiological reaction that occurs in response to stress plays a huge part in the development of illnesses, such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Therefore, one could argue that stress is the biggest health concern western societies are currently facing.

Our risk.

Society is missing out if we do not make efforts to counteract the negative impacts of stress on our youth, especially within the expat population. If we are not able to help manage stress, we risk the possibility that expat kids will become crippled by it and therefore unable to fulfill their leadership capabilities. If this happens, we all lose.

There is good news!

It is 2014 and – voila! – research is showing that we are able to enhance the ability for children to cope with stress effectively, and in the process of doing so help them to build skills that allow them to have greater compassion for themselves and for those around them. How? Drum roll… Mindfulness.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to the present moment using mind-body awareness techniques such as breathing, movement, and meditation.

The Mindfulness in Schools Project, a UK based organization that teaches mindfulness to school age children and teens, describes mindfulness in the following way:

Mindfulness involves learning to direct our attention to our experience as it unfolds, moment by moment, with an open-minded curiosity and acceptance. Rather than worrying about what has happened or might happen, it trains us to respond skillfully to whatever is happening right now, be that good or bad.”

Mindfulness teaches individuals to focus on the present moment by shifting their attention inward, with kindness. Many kids today are quite externally focused – think about all of the electronic distractions our children are exposed to, such as mobile devices, internet games, social media, etc. Research shows however, that we can teach kids to look the other way around – although it does require practice – and there are tremendous benefits for doing so.

In the process of turning inward, kids who practice mindfulness build increased capacities for empathy and openness. And it gets even better! Bodies of research looking at the impact of teaching mindfulness to kids are showing positive impacts on emotional well-being, learning, and physical health. Neuroscientists are literally able to see how practicing mindfulness changes the physiological reactions to stress. Kids who have participated in mindfulness programs have shown significant decreases in depression, anxiety, ADHD, aggression, oppositional behaviors, and sleep difficulties. They have also shown improvements in concentration abilities, memory, self-awareness, optimism and positive emotions.

And you don’t have to take my word for it.

It seems that everyone is getting on board the mindfulness movement these days. In the UK, the Mindfulness in Schools Project is at the forefront of educating teachers so that mindfulness can become part of mainstream day-to-day curriculum in schools. Globally, there are numerous publications sharing information about the positive impact of mindfulness – The Guardian, The Huffington Post, The New York Times, and Time Magazine (who called it “The Mindful Revolution”) to name a few.

And guess what? Mindfulness is not just for individuals wanting to learn how to manage stress. Government agencies, military personnel, corporations and famous athletes have started using mindfulness practices in the work-place as a way to enhance fulfillment and performance, and as well as a means for decreasing stress.

This is B-I-G.

Is it the golden ticket for expat kids?

Although mindfulness research is suggesting positive results for both children and adults, and indeed this is an exciting time within the mindfulness movement, mindfulness is by no means a panacea for all the ills of the world. We cannot promise that mindfulness will eliminate stress, because that is neither realistic nor the point. Stress is an inevitable part of being human and expatriate life certainly can be stressful. Yet mindfulness can give expat kids an effective tool to cope with the inevitable stressors and thereby enjoy a fuller, more satisfying life.

If something could possibly help kids become better equipped to effectively contribute their unique insights and experiences to society at large, then we cannot really afford to not join the “revolution,” can we?


Kate Berger

Kate Berger is a Child and Adolescent Psychologist and certified .b Mindfulness instructor, specializing in working with expatriate children and their families.

Kate is actively involved in networking within the expatriate community as a way to spread awareness about the benefits of mindfulness for kids and teens. She strongly believes that practicing mindfulness is a way to create stronger connections with those around us, and the greater community.

For more information about the research mentioned here, or with questions or comments, please contact Kate directly: or see

For more information about Mindfulness in Schools Project, please visit:

Sep 062014

Many consider chiropractic therapy as an excellent form of complementary health care for both adults and children. Every day we see many adults in our practice who suffer from a wide range of postural problems, old sports injuries, whiplash injuries, and the effect of physical and emotional stress on their bodies. Every day we emphasize the importance of taking care of our physical bodies because they’re the only ones we will have in our lifetimes. It doesn’t matter what age you are, it’s never too late to start to take better care of yourself.

What many people don’t consider is that starting earlier in life with treating existing problems, or even doing prevention therapy, can not only keep problems from getting worse in the future, but also from keeping them from starting in the first place. It can help prevent one from having chronic pain in adulthood, as well as limitations or disabilities later in life.

According to Peter Fysh, author of Chiropractic Care for the Pediatric Patient, the birth process alone is one of the most traumatic journeys a person makes in their lifetime. When you consider the length of some labors, the tools that are sometimes used to extract a child, and the magnitude of internal compressive forces on a baby’s head and neck, you can start to understand that these forces combine and can cause the tiny developing vertebrae to become displaced. It’s not unusual that babies can go on to develop a host of different problems as children and teenagers, problems that don’t often arise over night, but rather stemming from a single, big event earlier in one’s life.

If you follow a child throughout it’s life, beginning from the day they entered the world, you can begin to see how traumas, both big and small, can occur throughout their lives. These can start to accumulate and lead to pain complaints or manifest in other ways, such as ADHD, allergies, or decreased immune function. From the time they are pushed through the birth canal to taking their first steps, from falling off their bikes to enduring various sports injuries, there are plenty of opportunities where vertebrae can become misaligned or restricted in motion. It’s not necessarily detrimental if it happens to one vertebra, nor will a child likely complain of pain as a result of this, but the cumulative effects of one or multiple misaligned vertebrae is what can lead to future problems. Like links in a chain, if one vertebra’s motion becomes restricted or if it becomes misaligned, the neighboring vertebrae will take up its slack. This causes an increased workload to the other areas of the spine, which added up over time, begins to create compensation problems in the spine and surrounding muscles.

As with dentistry, children who receive regular chiropractic care can have a head start on preventing the little problems from becoming big ones. In general, aligned, freely-moving vertebrae allow your spinal column and nervous system to function optimally, instead of having crooked, stuck vertebrae that can cause nerve irritation and impingement and lead to a nervous system that functions less than optimally. When your nervous system is sending signals throughout your body in a compromised state, it affects how effectively other body systems work (organs, muscles, glands, etc.), which is even more important in the growth and developmental stages of a child’s life.

If your child can learn and develop good habits early in their lives, they are already ahead of the game. If there’s one thing we can learn from treating adult complaints, like posture-related problems, it’s the fact that a lot of these things can be prevented if you have the right help along the way. For children and their developing spines, this prevention can make a huge difference in terms of function and quality of life in adulthood. By improving the function of the nervous system through chiropractic treatments, and engaging the child in certain exercises that can strengthen specific areas of the brain, chiropractors not only treat children for pain complaints, but also for things like ADHD, asthmatic complaints, recurrent ear infections, or bedwetting naturally, reducing or possibly stopping the need for medications to be required.

We all want what’s best for our children, including giving them the tools they need to lead fulfilling, happy, and healthy lives, and no parent wants their children to inherit their back or postural problems. It is therefore important to lead by example, displaying healthy habits and correct posture as a parent, because kids learn and absorb their behavior from their surroundings, both good habits and bad. Teach your children about the importance of spinal health and bring awareness to their postures. Regular chiropractic care should be considered an essential part of this development process by performing preventative therapy, helping to teach healthy habits for the future (posture exercises, choosing a backpack, etc.), and by checking at appropriate times for things like scoliosis or other developmental problems. Consider chiropractic care for your children and start your child on the right health path.

Ceci Wong-Passionate ParentingCeci Wong has been practicing chiropractic since 2004. She has attended multiple seminars on specific diagnosis and therapy techniques for pediatric patients, and is currently studying to attain a Diplomate in Pediatric Chiropractic from the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association. Her interest in treating children continues to grow from years of positive treatment results and experiences in practice, as well as a personal interest in having children of her own.

Ceci is originally from the United States and has lived in the Netherlands for 6.5 years. She co-owns and operates Chiropractie Noordzee with her life and business partner, and speaks English, Dutch, and Mandarin Chinese.