parenting questions

We've answered the most common questions from parents.

My child puts himself down and it breaks my heart.

A child's self put-downs can be heart-breaking for a parent, but it's important that you be strong and challenge them. "That's a put-down and there's no need for it" is the type of response you can make.

Children who constantly put themselves down are often discouraged. If this is the case make sure he receives plenty of first class encouragement to help him think "I'm okay as I am."

Some children will put themselves down to lower the expectations of others or to avoid activities. If this is the case - and your gut reaction will tell you - then make sure their behaviour doesn't work. Keep your expectations realistic and don't let them get out of doing an activity, even if they just make a decent attempt.

Some children who put themselves down are perfectionists. They are excpeptionally hard on themselves and avoid doing activities because they won't be perfect. Help them understand mistakes are central to learning and that their fear of failure is understandable but essentially unhealthy.

Some kids put themselves down because it's a behaviour they've learned from home. Do a self-check and make sure you model healthy responses to experiences of difficulty such as persistence, effort  and optimistic thinking.

Find out more

The art of encouragement


5 cures for kids’ catastrophising


My child takes things that don't belong to him. How do I curb his sticky fingers?

A lesson that benefits children is that trust gets them a long way, and stealing makes it very hard for others to trust them. If a child steals determine if it is a pattern or a one-off incident.

If your child is a pre-schooler explain that it is wrong, and that others are hurt, annoyed or upset by it. It's important that your child return the item, and that they apologise or pay for it.

School-aged children generally know that stealing is wrong and need to practise restitution (i.e. return or pay back the item) and apologise. Discuss how stealing violates the issue of trust.

Teenaged children sometimes steal for the thrill or excitement that it brings; to fit in with peers or as a form of rebellion against tight control.

Some also steal due to peer pressure. Have an appropriate conversation about trust, peer pressure or other issues you've highlighted; practise restitution and avoid over-reacting.

Sometimes stealing can reflect other problems and can be a call for help. Find out if there are underlying problems and address these.

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Purposeful behaviour

Ask what? not why? when kids act up

How do I get my child to stop being defiant and answering back?

Backchat and defiance go hand-in-hand. Behind most conflict between kids and parents are the deeper issues of Power (I’m the boss of you!), Position ( I’m your parent!) and Prestige (What will others think of me if I let you get away with this?).  Last-wordedness and comeback lines threaten our position, our prestige and they are about power. Most parents respond to impulsively to backchat with anger or with defiant words, which encourages more defiance. The key is to remove yourself from the power play. Here are some ideas:

1. Avoid responding to backchat verbally, instead move away. Nonchalence defeats a power play.

2. Tell your child what you will do, rather then what he should do.

3. Use 'I-messages" if you want to communicate how you feel. E.g "When you talk to me like that I feel hurt....."


More information

Purposeful behaviour - video and download

Raising well behaved kids - eguide

The language of cooperation poster

How do I help my child cope with peer pressure?
As children become adolescents the more influence peers have on their thinking, attitudes, values and behaviour.  For a young person, resisting peer influence can mean isolation or instant ostracism, so it sometimes takes great strength of will to refuse to follow the crowd. Here are some ideas to help:
  • Help children and teens say no and save face and maintain their status.
  • Encourage your people to gain some thinking time when they feel uncomfortable with a peer’s request.
  • Encourage them to think through the consequences of decisions.
  • Discuss the impact of peer pressure and that it makes them feel unsafe.
  • Allow your kids to hold opinions different to your own so that they don’t always feel they have to please others.
Find out more
How do I discipline my child without smacking?


It’s good to see you want to leave smacking out of your parenting toolkit.  Generally family discipline should fit in with the discipline methods used in schools and child care centres. Here are some alternatives:
  • Avoid your first impulse to smack. Walk away or do something different if you can.
  • For very young children try distraction, diversion or move them to a different area.
  • Use alternatives such as time-out or a thinking spot to get some calm or change the situation.
  • Use behavioural consequences to teach more responsible behaviours.
  • Reinforce their good behaviours verbally, with a smile or a hug.

Find out more

Getting cooperation from kids

Raising 'Make me' kids

How much should I push a child to continue an activity they want to drop out of?

It's difficult to know whether to push a child or not to pursue an activity, particularly when they have talent. It's natural for a parent to want to develop a talent. These guidelines may help:

  • Activities shouldn't adversely impact on a child's mental health and wellbeing.
  • Sometimes doing things they don't want to do are good for kids.
  • Kids should finish what they started - so see out a course or a sports season.
  • Dropping out can become an habitual avoidance strategy.
  • Help kids make a considered choice, not an impulsive decision.

Find out more

How much should parents push children

My child is a perfectionist. What approach do I take?

Living with perfectionists is hard work. You need to take perfectionists seriously but also help them to develop the 'courage to be imperfect'. Here are some quick tips:

  • encourage rather then praise
  • help them feel comfortable with mistakes and errors
  • perfectionists like to feel superior. Shift their motivation to doing better, not being superior
  • help them work out what's worth full effort, and what's not
  • don't let them avoid jobs they are not good at
  • get them to make a start- this overcomes their procrastination


Find out more

Read Children who worry

Watch Encouragement V Praise

Download Bring out your child's confidence eguide

My child is often anxious and fearful. How can I help?
Many children have fears that surface at various times in their lives. Some are developmental, some triggered by an event and some learned from others. Try these ideas to help your child cope with fears:
1. Help your child distinguish between caution and fear. 
2. Affirm their fears but don’t let them stop him or her from being brave. 
3. Reassure them with the truth that you can’t guarantee their safety, but there are steps to take to reduce the likelihood of harm. 
4. Kids take solace in action so teach them some skills to cope. 
5. Confidence is catching so show your confidence in your child’s ability to deal with their fears. 
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How do I help my child make and keep friends?
Developing and maintaining friendships is a dynamic process. It comes naturally to some children, but others can be coached to be more social.
  • Teach social skills such as how to start up a conversation, how to be a good winner and loser, and how to hold the interest of others during a conversation. 
  • Provide opportunities for your child to have friends at your place after school or on weekends so that friendships can develop.  
  • Encourage your child to participate in out-of-school activities or groups that may provide opportunities to meet new people away from the peer groups at school. Friendships formed through shared interests are often very strong.
  • Limit the time spent in solitary activities if your child appears to have few friends. Be humane and kind but don’t be afraid to insist children mix with others of their own age.
  • Expose your child to a variety of different children to help them find like-minded souls.

Find out more

Helping kids make friends

Social skills for children

My kids make feel guilty all the time. What can I do?

Children are good at putting their responsibilities on to their parents, and squeezing their parents' guilt glands. Many parents also feel guilty for getting their kids to help. Try this approach:

Make children responsible for their own behaviours

Make helping part of your family culture

Ignore children's attempts to make you feel guilty

Benchmark your parenting with other parents

Remember you job is to make yourself resundant from your children

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Why hot buttons work & what to do