Willow Face Paint Hoo BookFest

How to get Vouchers/Adverts for your school or charity

Willow Face Paint Hoo BookFest
Cheeky Butterfly

It’s school summer fair season again!  That means I’ve been approached by a LOT of schools in the surrounding area, for either adverts in their brochures or vouchers for their raffles.

Realistically, the vouchers do not really help me with my business.  I don’t get a lot of visibility from them and I don’t get a lot of business.  However, I do like to support the local community; my kids are at a local school, and I’m very aware of how hard the PTA’s work for both the private and state schools.  Sadly at times I do feel a little ‘used’ at times by the schools that approach me (not all, just some), which I suspect makes the PTA’s job even harder.

So I thought I’d write some tips on how to get those much needed adverts or vouchers from local businesses.  Most importantly you are looking to create a relationship with the business; where they know that you don’t just want a voucher from them, you actually care that they gain from it.

  1. If you are asking for raffle tickets, have a simple brochure and list all the small businesses that gave you a voucher with a thank you and their contact details.  Or create a poster that is in a prominent position at the fair if you can’t afford brochures.  The raffle prize will cost the business money to provide the service/product and it takes a lot of return visits from that customer to cover that cost.  So this gives them increased visibility.
  2. Suggest they offer you a raffle ticket for something that can be upgraded; this gives them a chance of covering their costs at least.  For instance, if I offer a 45min massage, someone might upgrade it to 60mins.
  3. If you are asking for adverts, please consider what value for money you are providing in comparison to other local advertising options.  Some schools would like to charge me the same amount to potentially reach 300 parents that I can reach 20,000 people in for a local magazine/newspaper.  They also tell me how many children are in the school, rather than how many families, which can often be about 60% of the original number.
  4. If you are asking for adverts give them plenty of time, a deadline, explain what format you need the advert in (e.g. PDF/Jpeg) and what the dimensions of the advert will be.  Also, send them a complementary version afterwards, to show them that you definitely did do the advert.
  5. Offer them a package where they can have a stall at your fair, offer a raffle prize and advert in your brochure at a reduced rate.
  6. Do some research into the most popular stalls; my heart breaks sometimes for the small businesses sitting their all lonely with products which are just not suitable for that school.
  7. If their business doesn’t really suit a stall at your fair, they could sponsor one of the PTA stalls.  For instance we often have simple games, where the kids win sweets.  These could be sponsored by the business, and reduce the PTA’s cost in return for a sign thanking the business for their sponsorship.
  8. Keep a record of the businesses and the contact person that help you each time.  Then to save you time you can contact them directly each year.
  9. I recommend that you find out if any of your PTA or parents actually use the business – I’m much more likely to give a voucher to a client, than a stranger who contacts me once a year.
  10. Contact the most local businesses first; they are the most likely to gain from supporting you.  Whereas I’m often contacted by schools from a long way away, that probably are too far for me to realistically gain clients.  It’s worth walking up the local high street and making a list of the companies, the person to contact and which ones might be interested.  Once this list is created it can be used each year.
  11. Support the business on social media – send a thank you tweet and message on their Facebook page.  Like their Facebook page and follow them on twitter.  Mention them on your private Facebook profile as well.  All these things help with a small businesses marketing campaign, and helps to reduce their costs.
  12. During the following year, share one or two of their Facebook posts or like them to show that it’s not just at Christmas and the Summer Fair time that you are interested.

I know this probably sounds like a lot of work, and it might be a little late for this year’s fairs (sorry!).  But once you have your list of businesses, it is likely that they will automatically help each year and you’ll only be looking for 1 or 2 extras per annum.  You will stand out as so much more loyal and caring than the other schools, that the business will always be willing to help you where it can.

I’d also recommend other ways of building a relationship with the business:

  1. Invite someone in from them for careers days, and send thank you’s on social media for their time.
  2. Offer them the opportunity to put fliers in the school bags – this can be more successful than an advert in the school brochure and lucrative for the school.
  3. Proactively find out what local businesses the parents work in and specifically target them, as they have greater interest in the school.
  4. If you have railings at school, you could offer for them to make a banner and advertise there every now and again (for a fee of course).
  5. If you do other events during the year, potentially offer for these businesses to sponsor some aspect of it.
  6. For your most reliable and loyal business supporters, you could add a thank you page to the school website.

Please remember that these are small businesses.  Unless they are very lucky, the owners are probably earning as much or less than they would do if working for someone else, and they are much more stressed.  Why on earth in that case do they do it?  Well that’s a question I’m not sure of the answer for!

I really hope this helps in that rather desperate rush to compete with other schools/charities for small business support.



Frustration and anger

Anger – what the hell is it all about?

Frustration and angerI was chatting with Curly headed boy the other day, as he’d been giving us some serious attitude for a few weeks.  He was clearly angry with me, but I couldn’t work out what on earth was the matter.

So I picked one of those evenings – you know the ones when they want to chat lots, and talked him through anger and explained what it is.

The problem with anger, is that most often it comes from us not actually knowing how we are feeling and what has triggered us.  So it often doesn’t achieve what we really need.  By understanding it a bit more, we can make sure that things change.

I thought, maybe the gorgeous Danny Smith would like to chat about it over on Radio Verulam – if you would like to hear us chat about it, then you can listen again for 1 week here (I’m at 5.30-6).


So why do we get angry? …

1) Righteous Anger

This is the good anger.  The one you don’t want to suppress.  The one that will protect you and make you stand up for yourself.

This is all about when you know something isn’t right, it’s not fair, or is unjust.

It’s not always the right answer to compromise and keep the peace.  Especially when we are people pleasers!

It’s also a protective anger – this is the one you would see in me if my ‘mother lion’ got triggered.  It’s the the full on, controlled, ‘don’t mess with me’ anger.


2) Anger with someone else

Ironically we can often be angry with someone else, but get triggered by someone who isn’t actually anything to do with it.  They do something minor and then get it in the neck because we are so angry with the other person.

Sadly the person that we are angry with are often less intimidating and easier to take our anger out on as well, so we find someone who is less threatening that the real person we are angry with.

This is one of the reasons why it is so important to know why we are angry, because it’s not fair to be angry with the kids just because our boss is causing us trouble.  Or even worse in the case of a divorce, it’s not right to be angry with the kids when it’s got nasty between the parents.


3) Overwhelmed anger

This is when there is something else that has stressed you so much, that suddenly you flip at the slightest thing.  Stuff that would normally not bother you, that you can deal with, suddenly is too much.  It’s often nothing to do with the person who we are actually with.

This is something us Mum’s are terribly prone to doing – we get tired, overwhelmed and stressed, and then at the end of a long day find ourselves shouting at the kids and threatening them with something really over the top.

Kids are good at this too – if mine get angry, I will first check to see if they are hungry, thirsty, tired or need fresh air.  Then I look to see if they are over stressed for some reason.  The thing is that they are kids – I can’t expect them to manage their emotions, so if they are in one of these states I am much more cautious with my punishments.

Did you know that teenagers literally have all the wires (technical term!) not work in their heads properly?  They can’t recognise expressions as well as a toddler.  Hence they jump to conclusions and get grumpy at the simplest of things.  I used to find Reiki really helps them – it’s amazing how they can express themselves afterwards.  Anything where they get some relaxing downtime will help them come back to themselves.  (Plus food, drink, sunshine and sleep of course!).

The ideal here is to put our hands up and say ‘sorry’ – after all we all make mistakes and everyone gets tired and grumpy.


4) Not saying what we think anger

How often have you been angry with someone because they’ve done or not done something?  But did you tell them?  Or did you let it boil inside?

This encourages us to think that other people are to blame for how we are feeling.  But the question is are they?  Or is it purely our inability to deal with them?  I’m not talking about serious and obviously wrong behaviour that would trigger No1 – I’m talking about us all seeing the world slightly differently.


The key to this is to say something in a gentle and factual way (check out my post on teaching people how to treat you) BEFORE it becomes a problem.

This is often really difficult, because we ignore the first signs of small irritation or discomfort, and only take notice when it’s bigger.  So if you’ve waited too long, try to step aside, write down the facts and then have a chat with the person on neutral ground.


5) Pretending we aren’t angry

This is technically ‘not angry’, but we are angry, we just pretend we aren’t.

This is when people do those passive aggressive posts on Facebook.  Or make sarcastic digs that are meant to be ‘funny’.

It can also make us into bully’s (check out my posts on bullying – I just got picked as one of the top websites worldwide by an Anti Bullying website).


6) Serious anger issues

Then there are times when it’s not that simple, when the anger is too frequent and starts to control us.  When it means that we are aggressive, scary, violent, and it starts to affect our relationships.

If you have this sort of anger, then first check with your Doctor, as you might have a physical problem, that is causing it.  If it’s not physical then they should be able to get you help from someone specialised in anger issues.

It can even have physical effects:

  • Nausea
  • Increased thirst
  • Changes in thought patterns
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Tremors
  • Fever
  • Addiction

Depression or Post Traumatic Stress disorder can make us angry instead of seeming down (check out my top books for depression).


No emotion is ‘bad’.  The question is ‘Do you let it rule you, or do you use it where it will help you?



8 Top Tips For Having Wonderful Summer Holidays With The Kids On A Budget


Here are my Top Tips for finding things to do in the holidays to keep those kids of yours busy without breaking the bank!


1) The Library

There is a summer challenge every year.  This year is the ‘Creepy House Challenge‘ where the kids read 6 books by the end of the summer holidays and they get loads of encouragment from the librarians with stickers and the chance to tell them about each book.

This is a great activity.  It’s Free.  It takes time going to the library.  You can do it when it rains!  Plus it’s a gentle way of keeping them going on reading.


2) Forests

I’m an ambassador for The Forestry Commission and love Wendover Forest.  They have a Forest Fairy Tale activity going on at the moment, which is a great way of getting our kids involved in being outside.

Take a picnic, make dens, let their imagination run free!


3) Festivals

I LOVE going to small or family festivals.  I’m off to Folk by the oak this weekend and Folk Stock in September.  Check out my top tips for first timers.

Take your own food and drink to keep the cost down and give the kids a purse with their money in it so that they understand there is a limit and can choose what they would like to do, but that it’s not an endless supply.


4) Simple Things are good for the kids

Don’t worry about a lack of money, it’s good for the kids to enjoy the simple things in life.

Don’t try to fill all their time, it’s good for them to get a little bored, or to learn to occupy themselves (although you may need to give them a bit of direction or make it easy for them to think about it).


5) How to keep the house together and yourself from going crazy

Check out my Top 7 Tips For the Summer Holidays , with ideas on how to keep the kids occupied and help the house to survive!


6) When You Are Exhausted

Read these top tips for cheap games to play when you are tired:  so that when you are exhausted, or if you get sick, you have some simple things that take little energy for you to do, or that they will be happy doing over and over.

Take some time out.  Swap with another mum.  Ask relatives to give you a day off.  Or pop the kids into a day’s camp if you can afford it.  You’ll come back revitalised and fun to be with, so it’s a win-win for the whole family!


7) Don’t Do Things You Can’t Afford

Don’t put yourself in debt in order to survive the holidays.  Your kids don’t need that.  A simple rule of thumb is that if it’s going to take you more than 3 months to pay off (i.e. a season), then you can’t afford it.

They won’t be ruined forever if they don’t get to go to Disney World or an adventure park.  Look at the free things available instead like museums or community events.


8) Don’t Feel Guilty About Working

It’s a fact of life, some of us have to work full or part-time during the holidays.  I’m particularly aware of this as things are going to be really busy this summer with the preparations for my new Salon and Spa as it opens in October.

With the time that you have, be present with them.  Create Memories.  Have fun.


What are your top tips?  (Feel free to add your blog post if you have written one, I don’t mind people adding links).



Small stay calm and content

Guest Post – Ten Tips On How To Be A Great Dad

Small stay calm and content
Small stay calm and content

A guest post for father’s day:

Cat Williams is a relationship counsellor who qualified with the renowned UK charity, Relate, in 2007. She is also a British army wife and mother of two.  ‘Stay Calm and Content’ is her newly released book.  It was suggested by her clients and explains the ‘secret’ behind staying calm and content, no matter what life throws at you.  It is available via her site or on Amazon.

I don’t often take guest posts, but Cat and I have chatted on twitter and our blogs for a bit, and as I write ‘for mums’ rather than Dads, I thought that her post was a great idea.  I’d like to also mention a post over at Spencer’s about the furor about TV Dad’s putting real life Dads in a bad light.  I so agree with what he wrote, but didn’t write it because I’m a mum!

So over to Cat …..


Tricky For Dads

As a relationship counsellor I have come across many couples who, as well as struggling in their couple relationship, are also struggling in their relationship with their children.  It is often fathers in particular who find it difficult to build a close relationship with their children, or who find that relationship difficult to maintain as their children grow up.

Here are my thoughts and ‘tips’ on what it means to be a great Dad, and to build a great relationship.


Feeling Listened To

The main thing to remember is that children of any age (and their parents) want to feel listened to, understood, respected, and loved.  The key word here is feel, we might know we love our children, but if they don’t feel it then that love is almost pointless from their point of view.

(update from Lisa: Check out this post on how to make them feel listened to)

A good dad realises the great power and influence he has over his child’s self-esteem (a combination of self-confidence and self-worth), and that his child also influences how he feels about himself as a father.

(Update from Lisa: Check out this post on how to get your kids to do what you need them to do)

“fear makes strangers of people who should be friends” – Shirley MacLaine

If we (whether adult or child) feel unloved, disrespected, or not good enough in some way, then this is a threat to our well-being, and therefore our brain triggers our physiological ‘fight or flight’ response.  Our heart beats faster, we feel twitchy, or our stomach feels unsettled, and we describe this as feeling ‘negative emotions’ such as anger, annoyance, stress or fear.

If we are unaware that threats to our self-esteem cause our negative emotions, then we will also be unaware that our subsequent actions are attempts to protect or repair our self-esteem. We feel defensive and we do what makes ourselves feel better in some way; maybe criticise or judge each other and end up arguing, or stop speaking to one another, and then both think “I don’t know how it got like this, why can’t we get along?”

‘Tell me how a person judges his or her self-esteem and I will tell you how that person operates at work, in love, in sex, in parenting, in every important aspect of existence – and how high he or she is likely to rise. The reputation you have with yourself – your self-esteem – is the single most important factor for a fulfilling life.’ – Nathanial Branden

Children are usually fully aware of their parent’s expectations, and whether they are considered ‘good enough’.  Many of us go through life feeling in the shadow of an ambitious father or mother; or aiming to live up to our parents’ investment of hope, time, and money.  We usually have a natural desire to please our parents, if we can, and it may bring us happiness to achieve what they want for us, but what if we realise one-day that we cannot achieve our parents’ expectations, or that we want something different?


Ten Top Tips


The big hairy northern one
What is Daddy wearing?

1) Your Expectations

Look at where your expectations for your child come from; your parents, friends, ‘society’?  How do you define ‘happy’ and ‘successful’?  Why do you define them that way?

2) Ask them 

Ask your child how they define happy and successful, and whether they are achieving what they would like for themselves.

3) Accept them as they are 

Help your child with their self-esteem and self-belief by accepting them as they are; asking for and listening carefully to their feelings and opinions; and encouraging them to find their own way of achieving their goals.

4) Your Own Self-Esteem

Set a good example by working on your own self-esteem; make time for things which will help you to feel confident and positive about yourself as a parent e.g. exercise, time with loved ones, enjoying a hobby etc.

5) Quality Time 

Make it a priority to find positive ways to spend time with your son or daughter, doing something they, or you both, enjoy.

6) Their Friends 

Show your child that you accept and value their friends, boyfriend, girlfriend, partner, children, etc by being open-minded and getting to know these people as individuals. Even if you don’t like your child’s friends, for example, there is a reason why your child does; these friends will be helping your child’s self esteem in some way.

7) Cut The Criticism 

Give encouragement and praise to yourself, and others, rather than being critical.  We all behave in ways which make sense to us as individuals at the time, this doesn’t justify ‘negative’ behaviour, but it does explain it. It has been said that ‘children need love most when they deserve it least’, and this is true, showing understanding and giving encouragement is much more effective than being critical.

Praise is like sunshine to the human spirit;  we cannot flower and grow without it – Jess Lair.

8) Show them your love 

Tell and show your children, partner and family that you love them. This is the most likely way that you will receive the same in return.  Find out from www.5lovelanguages.com what makes each of you feel most loved, and then act on it.

(Update from Lisa: here is a post about the 5 languages of love)

9) Mentoring 

Be a role model: speak daily about your thoughts, fears, frustrations, and weaknesses.  Demonstrating the self-confidence to speak openly about your own feelings, to apologise for your mistakes, and to listen to the feelings of others, even if they are different from yours, will help to build understanding, respect, love, and a positive relationship.

“How sad that man would base an entire civilization on the principle of paternity, upon legal ownership and presumed responsibility for children, and then never really get to know their sons and daughters very well” – Phyllis Chesler.


Don’t forget to have fun!  Most of us parents are probably too serious a lot of the time.  Try to see the world through the eyes of your children, everything can feel new, interesting and fun if we approach it the right way, take every opportunity to try new things, laugh, giggle, and find the joy in every day life, even when it seems an up hill struggle.


What do you think about Cat’s tips?

Have you read my post on ‘How to be a good mum‘?  It takes a slightly different tack.



Tap shoes

What’s the point to an after school club – I get it at last!

After school clubs – we often worry about them.

Have we chosen the right one?  Too few?  Too many?  Do kids really need them?

If they aren’t going to become ‘good at it’ do they really need to do one?

Do we need to supplement what they learn at school, with more stuff to learn from an early age?

Do we need to fit in lots, or a few?

Do we need to run around like mad crazy creatures every day of the week to get our kids the best ‘opportunities’ possible?

Well after this weekend I definitely got the point.


Boys at dance classes

Tap shoes
Tap shoes

I’ve always been a fan of after school clubs for giving and outside influence and confidence.  But I’ve also been pretty lazy – I’m not into running around like a crazy creature or teaching my kids mandarin, so we’ve tried a few things out over the last few years.

Curly headed boy has been going to street dance for a while.  But a year ago after switching to the local state primary school, he started at Excel Performing Arts.  We quickly added tap lessons too.

Why?  I’m not sure really.  He loves dancing.  It’s more creative and free than gymnastics, and I thought it’s good for a boy to be able to dance.

Tap was more hard core though, and I had wondered whether he would be able to keep it going.  I could see how much it improved his timing.  But there had been a few times when a lot of persuasion was required to get back in the car and head off to his class.

The last few weekends and a large percentage of this half-term were then filled with practicing for a show.  I was getting very nervous.  What if it was awful?  What if something went wrong and he was devastated?  I duly bought tickets for each night, so that someone would be there just incase and got the Grandparents to cover one of the 3 shows.


Show time

OMG was the show wonderful.  I cried, laughed,and had shivers go up my spine.

The little ones were so cute.  The big ones were so talented and there are definitely a couple with the skills to go on further.

But most importantly the show showed me THE REASON.

Everyone is included, tall, short, skinny, gawky, tubby, plain as well as the talented and pretty.  There was no ‘social divide’ – middle class and working class (personally I hate those titles) had all sent their kids to the classes.

All the kids were worth watching. Every parent would have been amazed by what their child achieved.  And together they made an amazing show.

But when you see the older kids, you see the plainer, taller, shorter, skinnier, gawkier, tubbier ones have transformed.  They have a confidence and grace that they wouldn’t have been given elsewhere.  That’s the point.

It’s a HUGE achievement to be on stage.  To sing.  To dance.  To work together.  No wonder their confidence grows, especially as week in week out they are doing exercises that teach them rhythm, posture and grace.


Maybe not all teachers are the same

Little Girl Dancing In Her First Ballet shoes
First Ballet Shoes

I’m not sure that this would happen in all dance/drama schools.  I remember my ballet teacher making it clear I was never going to be the right shape for ballet.  I was heart broken and stopped going to tap too (which I preferred).  A few years later my best friend was told she had grown too tall.  It took me years and pole dancing lessons to realise that dancing can be purely for fun (that’s a another story!).

I’m sure Sam and Steve would push any student with talent, but what’s most important is that they see what they can do for all the kids.  They’ve never said this, but you can tell by looking at the kids and that they haven’t subtly ‘pruned’ them.  It wouldn’t take much; just a comment here or there.  And this is what made the show so great to me.

Steve is pretty famous himself, so he knows what they need to do to succeed, but most of all he’s enjoying the ability to give something back.  (Here I have to admit rather embarrassingly to not watching enough TV to have a clue about who he was when I met him – note to self, watch more TV!).

Little Dimples was copying the little ballet dancers while watching and will be starting baby ballet with Sam next week.  So next year I’ll be watching two of my children in the show, and I can’t wait – but need to buy more tissues (I’m a wuss!).

I have no idea if my kids are talented dancers/singers/actors.  And I’m not going to worry about it.  I’m going to encourage them to do something they both love purely for the joy of it.


And I’m going to do more stuff purely for the fun of it, even if I’m not good at it.


Which one to choose?

So if you are wondering what class to put your kids into here are some tips …

  • remember that the arts are good for the soul – everyone needs a bit in their life
  • dance and gymnastics are what I call ‘body, mind and soul’ exercises, because they combine all aspects of ourselves in one
  • the ‘proper’ gymnastics class we went to was very repetitive – they have to drill the same thing over and over and over again
  • don’t worry about what they will do when they grow up, just pick something they enjoy
  • boy’s who can dance will be cool when they grow up
  • girls love to feel pretty and graceful, but some of us need a little help in getting there
  • if you are in any way local to me, pick something Excel does because I think they are fab! (although most classes are at Bowmansgreen school, the kids are from many schools).
  • unless your kids are naturally academic, I don’t think that they need extra classes in primary school to learn something else.
  • it’s just as fun to go swimming with the family when they are very young, don’t panic about classes if they are difficult to fit into your routine.  Plus the week long immersion classes can make great progress instead.


Most of all, do what suits you, your family and your kids.

Pick for the JOY of it.

Don’t pick because you are worried they will miss out.

Don’t pick for their future career.

Don’t add too many – leave time for chilling, homework and playdates.

Ironically the Big Hairy Northern one and I are helping to set up an after school club for Woodcraft Folk from September.  Now I know ‘the point’ I can only hope to do as good a job as Steve and Sam.  But if we do any dancing/drama at any point, I’ll be getting them in!  In fact that gives me an idea ……

What a your favourite after school clubs?

Which ones did you try that didn’t work?


A scary monster!

Can a book festival really be fun? Does it encourage kids to read?

Beast Quest Monster
What a Beast!

Is a book festival fun?

I was worried.

My kids are used to going to festivals.  So turning up at a ‘book festival’ were they going to be severely disappointed?

Our first stop was to Beast Quest.  Very quickly my worries were calmed.  A crazy magician guy introduced the concept (I had no idea what it was all about), read a bit (very funny!), and then they played a beast quest version of bingo (chaos!).  Finally they all designed a new monster with Justin Bieber hair and every possible other ‘evil’ quality available.

Here is the monster that they created:

Curly Headed Boy is now very into the books and also the new ones ‘Sea Quest’ as the hero has the same name as him.


Authors we saw:

Helen Dennis – Curly Headed Boy adored her and we have therefore got a pile of her ‘Secret Breakers’ books.  Clearly she knows how to relate to kids in real life as well as in her books.

Jeff Norton – is now CHB’s new hero because having turned up early to the talk he got to talk to him lots beforehand.  His Metawars books really appealed to CHB’s very philosophical ‘what if’ nature as well e.g. What if we could upload ourselves into computers?  It covers some really modern problems/concepts and shows why we need new books sometimes, despite the old classics still being wonderful.

Jackie Morris – wasn’t very engaging for the kids to be honest.  Perhaps a little too ‘into her art’ and out of touch with the kids.  But her artwork and books are beautiful, especially for a child like Curly Headed Boy who is quite into nature or spirituality.


Jonathon Meres – ‘World of Norm’ – who wrote the fab guest post on my blog.

David Melling ‘Hugable Douglas’ – who wrote the cutest guest post on my friend’s blog and therefore we had to by his book which is a firm favourite.

Lauren Child (Charlie and Lola) and Cressida Cowell (How to train your dragon) – one mum felt that it was really only useful for grown ups, but a mum with older children loved this talk, which was the big seller for the day.


Does it encourage reading?

I’m surprised.  It’s a resounding YES.  Even in Little Dimples (3yo).

Curly Headed Boy has been tackling much thicker books all on his own, even Meta Wars, which to be honest I think is aimed at much older kids (he is 7).  He has definitely suddenly moved onto books that are centimetres thick rather than just 20 pages.

It cost us a fortune!

Curly Headed boy insisted on buying any books related to the authors he had met.  Plus I LOVE books, and there were some gorgeous ones there that I’d never noticed on our more recent trips to book shops.

We definitely have years worth of books – so I see it as an investment *cough*

Here are my finds:

East of the sun
East of the sun
Wild Child

Jackie Morris’s ‘East of the Sun, West of the Moon’ – it’s taking some time to get CHB to read this, but as it has a distinct hint towards the natural world or magical fantasy ideas, I know he will love it.  He just needs to get over the fact that he didn’t bond with Jackie herself.

Jeanne Willis and Lorna Freytag ‘Wild Child’ – you can see from the picture how gorgeous this book is!  It is truly gorgeous, can’t recommend it enough.

Lauren Child ‘I will not go to sleep’ – Little Dimples (3) adores this, and I will definitely be buying more.  Having an older brother and the relationship being similar means that she totally relates to it.  CHB loves it too – but don’t tell anyone!

Only down points

Willow Face Paint Hoo BookFest
Cheeky Butterfly

Facepainting – if you are going to have it with hundreds of kids, have more than ONE slow person, or only offer small quick options.  A great alternative is to have a face painting station where the kids and parents can do it themselves.  I queued with an INCREDIBLY patient Little Dimples (3yo) for must have been 45 minutes for the blinking face painting!  Hence I missed Helen Norris totally, which was a shame as Jeff Norton was on when Little Dimples needed a nap, so I missed him too.

More signs needed – parents with children do get easily confused and easily stressed.  I didn’t actually find the walled garden until I left because I followed a sign that said ‘EXIT’ – it actually meant exit from the walled garden.  Apparently I missed great cakes and tea in there.

There was a lull point, which I think was arranged to coincide with lunch and give people a chance to wander around.  But actually for people who had arrived later it meant that they got a bit bored.

The toilets ran out of tissue – the normal issue with festival toilets, but daft for just a one day event.

There weren’t enough toilets – very difficult for an event with lots of young children hopping round, desperate for a pee.

Directions at Luton hoo hotel entrance would have been great to send us further down the road.


Would I go again?


Would I pay for tickets myself (I went on press tickets) – Yes!



How To Talk So Your Kids WIll Listen

The importance of encouraging our children to be their ‘own people’

How To Talk So Your Kids WIll Listen
Will this book help us?

This is my review of Chapter 4 of ‘How to Talk so kids listen’ about ‘encouraging autonomy’.

This is an interesting chapter for me after Curly Headed Boy asked me a few months ago “when are you ever going to let me out on my own”.  As a 13yr old boy was killed on the crossing near school at Christmas my answer was very nearly “never ever ever ever”.

But despite that I’ve always been very keen on not over-helping him so that he can gain confidence in himself and learn from his own mistakes.

I’m very aware that a person who grows up dependent on another ends up feeling helpless, worthless, resentful, frustrated and angry.

Plus that being and overly supportive parent often creates a child who is an easy mark for bullies at school (not the only reason, but one of them).

In the book they recommend:

1) Letting the child make choices (clothes are a good example of that)

2) Showing respect for your child’s struggle (i.e. don’t rescue them, give them tips)

3) Don’t ask too many questions

4) Don’t rush to answer questions (e.g. ask ‘what do you think’)

5) Encourage them to use sources outside the home (i.e. other people/children or the internet)

6) Don’t take away hope


The only one I take issue with is ‘Don’t ask too many questions’.  A few more questions from my parents would have shown that I was bullied from 4-17 at school, and that I made decisions based on assumptions that were wrong.

For example I didn’t do French/German for A level because I thought it meant I would HAVE to travel and that my responsibility was to care for my elderly parents (both rubbish ideas).

I think it’s more about asking when they are in the mood e.g. at dinner time or bedtime (CHB becomes a very talkative little boy at bedtime; funny that!).

I’m not sure that answering without taking away hope is wise when CHB makes plans to become a werewolf either; but I did what they suggested and just asked him to talk about it, rather than saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’

Perhaps some reality is important to stop our kids becoming X Factor rejects.  But I get what they mean; after all anything is possible.

We have had a REALLY interesting conversation in the last 2 weeks though.  CHB asked me “Daddy doesn’t believe in werewolves, does that mean I can’t believe in them?”.  I’m so glad he asked, as I was able to explain that there will always be things that our loved ones don’t agree with and THAT IS OK.

Funnily enough we repeated the conversation about Skylanders the other day as he had spent some of his birthday money on one.  I explained that Daddy totally understood and agreed with the idea, but that I was worried that he would wish he had saved it for something else as he has a few now.  But that just because I wasn’t keen, didn’t mean he shouldn’t spend his OWN money on it.


Other tips they have are:

1) Let them own their own bodies (i.e. stop fussy over them)

2) Stay out of the Minutiae of a Child’s life (i.e. get off their back)

3) Don’t talk about them infront of them

4) Let them answer for themselves

5) Show respect for your child’s eventual readiness (i.e. explain that everything comes with time)

6) Watch out for too many ‘Nos’


Instead of No try:

1) Give information (see previous reviews)

2) Accept feelings (see previous)

3) Describe the problem (see previous)

4) Substitue a ‘yes’ (i.e. when it will be possible)

5) Give yourself time to think

I don’t think that this chapter is as ground breaking as the others, but maybe it’s just much more basic about stuff that we often forget.  What do you think?

I wonder how I will do in a few months time when the whole summer conversation happens again, and CHB wants to play outside without us watching.


Here are my reviews of the other chapters:

Ch1: The importance of not disagreeing with their feelings

Ch2: Tips on getting kids to do what we want

Ch3: What to do when punishment or more discipline isn’t working 

Why I started reading the book. 


How To Talk So Your Kids WIll Listen

What on earth to do when increasing the discipline isn’t helping?

How To Talk So Your Kids WIll Listen
Will this book help us?

So I’m onto the ‘important’ chapter of ‘How to Talk So Kids Listen’, which is ‘Alternatives to punishment’.

This is the chapter that got me interested, because as I said, Curly Headed Boy turning 7 has been tricky.  Initially we succumbed to the fear that we hadn’t been clear enough with him and he ‘should be learning to behave by now’ etc etc.  But that just increased the anger, defiance and overall shouting levels in the house.

I’m not a fan of smacking, although sorely tempted!  We hadn’t really used ‘time out’ much apart from as purely a calming down mechanism.  We had associated ‘treats’ like TV, computer, chocolate snack etc to good behaviour that has to be earned.  But we’d started to have to ‘take away’ things when we couldn’t get through to CHB and we seemed to just not be getting through to him at all.

So far chapter 1 about stopping disagreeing with our kids feelings and chapter 2 on how to get them to do what we want, has made a big difference in my relationship with both kids.

Alternatives To Punishment

The idea seems to be instead of being a doormat or being too punitive, finding a way to be assertive and fair.

Here is what they suggest:

1) Point out ways to be helpful: i.e. what you want them to do, rather than what you don’t want them to do

2) Express your disapproval without being mean: i.e. don’t use the word ‘you’ (see previous chapter reviews)

3) State your expectations: what you want them to be doing

4) Show the child how to make amends: e.g. clear up the mess

5) Offer a choice: e.g. behave nicely or I split you two up (dinner time!)

6) Take action: i.e. don’t just threaten, do something about it and follow through

7) Allow the child to experience the consequences of their misbehaviour: e.g. because you were so naughty on the dog walk yesterday, I’m not bringing you today


I’m less convinced about ‘offering a choice’.  I remember an epic tantrum from Little Dimples when I explained she could either go in the pushchair or hold my hand as we were on a busy St Albans street.  She proceeded to throw herself on the pavement and scream for what felt like an hour, whilst I was powerless to do anything and apart from stand there as people with disapproving stares walked by.  I’d forgotten there was that THIRD option; create mayhem!  Obviously it’s only going to work where they don’t think of that clever 3rd option.

I like No7; so often punishments are totally unconnected from the misbehaviour.  It makes sense for the child to understand consequences of their actions, rather than punishment.

I know from personal family experience that use of the cane at school did not stop a child from being naughty; it’s more that the child looked on it like an excuse to do it again, because they could be ‘absolved’ by the caning.  Did you know that a large percentage of parents who use physical punishment, find the children turning on them when they are big enough?

My parents were much older than most and very strict with me.  I’m not sure that being well behaved out of fear is the way to go either.  If possible, I would prefer that our kids behaved well because they respect and love us; with only a dash of fear ;o)

From my training I know that ‘sorry’ doesn’t mean ‘I’m gutted I did it, I won’t do it again’, it more likely means either ‘I’m gutted I was caught’.  I teach my kids to say ‘sorry’ because society expects it, but I also know that it means very little.


Problem Solving

For more complicated problems they suggest a Problem solving approach.

1) Talk about your child’s feelings (see chapter 1)

2) Talk about your feelings and needs (see chapter 2)

3) Brainstorm together to find a mutually agreeable solution by ..

4) Writing down ALL ideas without evaluating first

5) Then agreeing on which suggestions you like/dislike and which you plan to follow through on

6) Don’t permit the child to blame or accuse you or anyone else at any point

Remember to chose a time that works for both of you to discuss it; there is no point trying when either CHB or LD are in a mood.

I really liked this statement “I’m not interesting in blaming anyone for what happened in the past. I am interested in seeing an improvement in the future”; I’m really sure that taking responsibility for their part in how their lives turns out is a REALLY important thing for our kids to learn for a healthy future.  Responsibility is very different from blame; it’s something that we can do something about.

Now this one I haven’t tried yet, so it will be interesting to see how it works, especially as it’s meant to help with problems between siblings.  At the moment it seems that if the Big Hairy Northern One and I happen to both be busy doing chores, the kids will ALWAYS kick off.


Have you been trying out the ideas in my summaries over the past few weeks?  I’d love to know if it has made a difference for you and if you’ve bought the book now?

Don’t forget to add a link in the comments if you have reviewed this book too.

Next week is ‘encouraging autonomy’; no problem of that with Little Dimples!


Here are my reviews of the other chapters:

Ch1: The importance of not disagreeing with their feelings

Ch2: Tips on getting kids to do what we want

Ch4: Encouraging independence in our children

Why I started reading the book. 


How To Talk So Your Kids WIll Listen

Tips on getting our kids to do what we want/need them to do

How To Talk So Your Kids WIll Listen
Will this book help us?


So here are are onto Chapter 2 of ‘How to Talk so kids will listen’; ‘Engaging Cooperation’.


With a 7yo Curly Headed Boy and soon to be 3yo Little Dimples, life has become a little shouty of late and we were looking for some alternative options, as being stricter wasn’t cutting it.  So I decided to read, review and test out some books on my blog and last week was Ch1 of this fab book.

By now the kids are meant to be feeling more listened to, and therefore be opening up to us.  They will also be better at finding their own solutions to their problems.  (I’ll let you know how we are finding it at the end of the reviews in a few weeks).


Engaging Cooperation

i.e. getting the little blighters to do what you want them to do!

Two naughty children
Ready to cause chaos!

Traditionally we apparently tend to use the following tactics:

1) Blaming and accusing e.g. ‘How many times do we have to tell you not to wind up your sister when she is tired, are you just looking for trouble’; yep we are guilty of this one and there is way too much blame going on in this house.  It’s like a viscious circle.

2) Name Calling e.g. ‘How stupid can you be to do that again’; this I had a lot of as a child and really hate it as anyone who tries it on my kids quickly finds out.

3) Threats e.g. ‘If you keep doing that we will take away your toys’.  We’ve been trying the threat thing and it basically doesn’t work for us at all.

4) Commands e.g. ‘Hurry up and put your clothes away right now!’; we tend to be pretty polite in this house, but once it’s been asked once I get irritated, that’s for sure.

5) Lecturing and Moralising; basically a long description on why they shouldn’t do stuff that would bore anyone to tears.

6) Warnings e.g. ‘Be careful’ repeated over and over, which is an easy trap to fall into.

7) Martyrdom statement e.g. ‘Will you stop all that noise, you are giving me a headache!’.  I have to be really careful of this and that the kids don’t think my Fibromyalgia is there fault.

8) Comparisons e.g. ‘Your 3yo sister has better table manners than you’.  We aren’t too bad at this one luckily, but it is tempting!

9) Sarcasm: looking over at a certain Northern hairy one for no apparent reason ;o)

10) Prophecy e.g. ‘Those cats are not going to be your friend if you keep chasing them Little Dimples’.  Actually, the cats seem to be pretty forgiving, especially for a treat.



Getting our kids to do their chores
Hoover that floor child!

So here are the tips they give for what to do instead, I must admit some of them are great, time saving, and really easy to do.

1) Describe what you see or describe the problem e.g. ‘Your Pyjamas are on the floor’.

2) Give information: e.g. ‘If they aren’t put in the washing basket they miss getting washed’.

3) Say it with a word: e.g. ‘PJ’s’; THIS TIP IS PURE GENIOUS!!!

4) Describe what you feel: ‘I feel unappreciated sometimes when it seems that clean clothes are taken for granted’.  This one is tricky because we need to avoid the word ‘you’ in order for it to not be blaming or accusing e.g. “When you leave your PJ’s all over the floor I feel unappreciated, will you never learn?”.

5) Write a note: e.g.on a yellow sticky on the wall by the basket (I have got monster HUGE yellow stickies!).


In Summary

We’ve had a quick play with these ideas, but will focus on them a lot more this week, my favourite’s so far are (1) and (3).  I think that for us the most difficult is changing from being polite and then getting angry, to being more direct and talking about how we feel before we blow up.

They have a good tip about the word ‘Please’; funnily enough I’ve been saying to the big Hairy Northern one that he says please a lot to the kids when asking them to do something.  I suggested to say ‘please’ first time only.  They say not to use it at all, because when we think we’ve taken the time to be polite and the kids still ignore us, it leads to us feeling more angry.  They suggest you just use it for the simple little things like ‘Please pass the ketchup’.

Another tip is to make sure that the request is suitable for the kids age, reasonable and that we give them the flexibility as to when and how to do it.  It can be easy to want them to do something or not do something just because we are tired and grumpy, than for any real reason.

They also remind us to be really careful of the word ‘You’, which I talked about a lot in my old post about ‘do we teach people how to treat you‘ that you might want to read for more ideas on how to describe how you feel.  Remember, you aren’t trying to be constantly patient and calm; it’s fine to be angry, just not to use words that will hurt our kids and make them shrink.

A huge thing for us to change is the use of Curly Headed Boy’s name, which tends to end up a bit like this: ‘Oh Maaaaaaaaaaaax’; I realised we might be over using it when Little Dimples started copying us.  They always say not to use a dogs name when telling it off, I reckon that must be the same for kids


Have you read this book?

I’d love to hear what you think.  Or other books you think I could review?

If you’ve written a blog post about this book, let me know in the comments and I will put a link to it in my final review.


Here are my reviews of the other chapters:

Ch1: The importance of not disagreeing with their feelings

Ch3: What to do when punishment or more discipline isn’t working 

Ch4: Encouraging independence in our children

Why I started reading the book. 



How To Talk So Your Kids WIll Listen

Do we have a bad habit of confusing our kids so they don’t know what they are feeling?

How To Talk So Your Kids WIll Listen
Will this book help us?

The first book in my long list I’m going to review is:

How to Talk so your kids will Listen and Listen to kids will talk‘ by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.

To help me, I’m going to do an in depth review of each chapter, and then at the end of the 6-12 weeks it takes, I’ll write up how we did (if it’s good enough and worth keeping going of course!).  Hopefully that will be helpful to you guys too?

There are Six Steps:

1) Helping Children Deal with their feelings

2) Engaging Cooperation

3) Alternatives To Punishment

4) Encouraging Autonomy

5) Praise

6) Freeing Children From Playing Roles

7) Putting It All Together

My first reaction on reading it was that it feels like a brilliant book, although I have some reservations, after all is it really possible to NOT punish a child?  After all, surely consequences are important?  Plus, what happens when they grow up and suddenly go to prison (OK, slightly extreme worry there!).

I can’t believe I didn’t know about it before though as it’s been around for 30yrs; is it like some extremely well kept secret?


Three important things to remember when reading it:

They don’t expect you to be able to do these all the time; they themselves were human and know that we are too.

The objective is to make sure our children aren’t damaged by our words

It’s NOT about being calm all the time; in fact expressing how you FEEL is important, just not blaming or accusing them for it.


Although they say to read each chapter and do the exercises before moving on, I disagree.  Read the whole thing, then go back and do it step by step.  They have added extra bits after each decade and they are really interesting, plus they give added ideas on how to implement it and clear up misunderstandings.


So onto my review of chapter 1:


1) Helping Children Deal With Their Feelings

This chapter I totally LOVE.

They talk about the fact that we keep telling the kids that they DON’T feel like xyz, which must have a big effect on their ability to know themselves as they get older and deal with their emotions.

For example:

Curly Headed Boy: ‘I hate her’ (talking about his sister Little Dimples).

Me: ‘Of course you don’t, you love her’


Thinking about it, I think I’ve been told for years how to think and feel.  In fact I’m sometimes a bit confused about who I really am.

The other day the Big Hairy Northern One and I had an argument and at one point he said ‘that’s not what you are angry about, it’s something else’ and I totally flipped (see, we are a totally normal couple).  I now understand how come; because he was doing exactly what they talk about here and I hate second guessing myself; don’t we all?


Even when we don’t disagree with how they feel, apparently we try too hard to help them, rather than let them find their own solution.

They suggest that instead we try just listening and saying ‘mmmm’,  and show that we understand how they feel instead.  Apparently, they will often find their own solutions?

There are 8 options that we apparently tend to take:

1. Denial of feelings: ‘you don’t need to be so upset with her’

2. Philosophical: ‘sisters are like that’

3. Advice: ‘Maybe if you didn’t ignore her, she wouldn’t hit you’

4. Questions: ‘What do you think caused her to hit you?’

5. Defence of the other person: ‘I can see why she hit you’

6. Pity: ‘Oh dear, it must be awful to have a sister.’

7. Amateur Psychoanalysist: ‘Has it ever occured to you that you aren’t angry with her, but yourself?’

8. Empathetic Response: ‘It must be frustrating to have your little sister always wanting your attention when you are busy.’

They are suggesting that we should go for No 8 and be empathetic, just feeding back that we understand how they feel.

I do see what they mean that when we are being ‘helpful’ it’s not always so useful.  Being an agony aunt type of person I’ve definitely tried all the options they suggest are less helpful.  But, I’m not so sure that they will find their own solutions; that maybe because I have a tendency to ‘advise’ ouch!

I don’t quite agree with them on this, maybe if (8) doesn’t allow them to find their own solution, I would still use 2-7; but I’m definitely avoiding (1) as much as possible from now on, and only resorting to using the others after trying to use an empathetic response.  Yep, I’m definitely ‘feeling some resistance’ to this one!


So to help with their feelings we are apparently meant to:

1) Listen with full attention (i.e. put the phone down)

2) Acknowledge their feelings e.g. ‘mmmm’

3) Give the feelings a name e.g. ‘You are feeling angry and frustrated?’

4) Give them their wishes in fantasy if it’s about something they can’t have (do a bit of make believe ‘I wish I could send her to the moon for you to have a break for a bit!’).


They do appreciate that we can’t just go along with our kids hitting each other etc!  In that case they suggest empathising and then limiting their actions e.g. ‘I can see how angry you got with her, tell her what you want with your words, rather than pushing her’.

Remember it’s empathising, not agreeing with, so it’s not me agreeing with him disliking her.

If the kids say something horrid like ‘I hate you’, you don’t have to just sit there and take it, you can still say ‘I didn’t like hearing that, if you’re angry tell me in another way so that I can help’.

It also has a great tip of letting kids draw their feelings, especially young ones, or kids that have problems with dealing with their emotions.

I’ve briefly tried it so far and I can definitely say that:

It fails when I’m tired!

It worked amazingly on the ‘about to kick off the biggest tantrum known to mankind on way to school run’ with Little Dimples.

It some times works between the kids to stop it look like I favour one or the other.

It’s great to know that it’s not my job to make my kids happy; especially as I know they can’t be happy all the time, so it would be an impossible task.

It’s definitely worth spending some more effort on.


I’ll let you know more at the end of the 6 weeks (or more if it takes longer; you know what life is like!).

In the mean time I’d love to know if you have done a review of this book or what you think about it?


Here are my reviews of the other chapters:

Ch2: Tips on getting kids to do what we want

Ch3: What to do when punishment or more discipline isn’t working 

Ch4: Encouraging independence in our children

Why I started reading the book.