Click here An article for parents and HSC students alike
People who do well – in their careers, in sports, in exams – aim for peak performance.
They want to be at their best, doing their best. How can you (as a Year 12 student) reach peak performance so that, when you sit your exams, you can be confident you are able to give your best and gain the results you are aiming for?
The best performers tap into positive energy at all levels of the performance pyramid. This pyramid has four levels, and they are all important.
First, even for studying, you must be able to find the energy you need when you need it. That means sticking to a routine of hard work and short breaks to refresh your mind and body. This might be 45 minutes of concentrated study followed by a 10-minute walk or a few minutes doing something you enjoy, before getting back to your work. People who do not establish a routine waste time and energy. Regardless of their talent, they become more vulnerable to frustration, anxiety, and loss of concentration and far more likely to choke under pressure. So, a good examination routine means concentrated study combined with regular exercise, good food, and enough sleep.
The second level is positive emotions. When you feel optimistic and confident, these emotions ignite the energy that drives high performance. Negative emotions like frustration and fear drain your energy and can wreck your performance. Positive emotions reduce your stress but negative emotions increase stress. If you are feeling negative emotions, and we all do at times like examinations, try to act as if you are feeling confident and optimistic because getting rid of negative feelings will help you succeed.
The third level is focus. Keep your mind on your goals and what you need to do to achieve them. Resist being distracted. You will have all summer for everything else you enjoy. For this short but important time in your life, keeping your focus is vital.
The fourth level, which will help with everything else, is to tap into your deepest values and develop a strong sense of purpose. In the face of challenges like examinations, knowing what you stand for and what you value in life is a powerful source of motivation, focus, determination, and resilience.
We need to remind ourselves what is truly important to us so we can find the energy, the focus and the positive attitude that will bring success not only in exams but also in life.
So, there you have it: energy, positive emotions, focus and knowing what you truly want is the foundation for examination success.
Acknowledgment: “The Making of a Corporate Athlete” by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz in Harvard Business Review, January 2001
Parenting best practice, synthesised from research and clinical experience; helps parents reshape kids’ challenging behaviour, create strong family bonds, and guide children toward becoming happy, kind, and responsible adults.
Effective strategies include “Great parents do what they say they are going to do”, “Great parents see that actions speak louder than words”, and “Great parents are transparent about their decision-making process”.
One easy-to-implement tip is replacing the word ‘but’ - which can have negative connotations - with ‘and’, which sounds more agreeable. For instance, instead of saying “That was a good job but you missed out an important part”, you could say “You did a great job and you could consider this part too”.
Another technique is to pivot. This means to use words that get your point across in a more positive way. Pivoting is the art of saying yes instead of no, and meaning the same thing. For instance, “No, we can’t go to the park until after you have a nap” may get a better response if pivoted to “Yes, we can go to the park as soon as you’ve finished your nap”.
It’s best to avoid labels. If your son is reluctant to join an activity, resist commenting to other adults that “He’s just shy”. Acting shyly is a behaviour and not always a permanent characteristic. Your child is listening and could come to think of himself in the manner you’re describing.
Even a positive label should be avoided. By labelling your child clever, they may internalise this as “I am smart/creative/good at sports and I want to stay that way”, which might lead to a reluctance to try new things for fear of failure and no longer being defined by that label.
Great parents focus near and far. Focusing only on the moment and not the long term can create problems. If your daughter typically whines for something at the store and you usually buy it for her, she’ll learn that whining helps her get her way. A short-term solution has created a long-term issue. This is also true of yelling to get your point across. If we habitually yell to get our kids’ attention, we are teaching them to ignore us until we yell and we are also teaching them that yelling is the way to get someone’s attention.
Three questions to ask: “Is what I’m doing something I would be happy to see my kids emulate? Is what I’m doing creating a positive family dynamic? Is what I’m doing solving one problem but creating another?”
For parents with older kids, there is one last tip, titled “Great parents start where they are”. Rather than fretting over past actions, keep in mind that you can only act on what you know, and most parents have been doing the best they can with what they know so far. Thankfully, most kids are both resilient and forgiving; they are more like hardy weeds than delicate flowers.
Reference: Reischer, Erica. (2016). What Great Parents Do: 75 Simple Strategies for Raising Kids Who Thrive. Penguin Books.
My colleague Michele Chevalley Hedge (http://ahealthyview.com/) writes extensively about family health, wellbeing and nutrition. Michele is also an outstanding speaker, speaking widely to many audiences across Australia and internationally. I think she has much to offer in this vital space and I encourage our parents to visit her website and engage with the resources and opportunities.
More recently she wrote about the value of regular exercise, intelligence and mental acuity, with brain benefits for young kids, adults and all the way up to grandparents. Please find her article below.
If you want to help boost your child’s IQ, get better grades, and work more efficiently – the answer is to fit in some regular exercise!
The following research is important for your children and you to note1
· Primary-school students who exercise approximately 40 minutes per day have increased their IQ score by an average of 4 points.
· Year six students who are fit score around 30% higher than average students, and less fit students around 20% below the average.
There are over 100 studies in the Journal of Applied Physiology, that reveal that both aerobic and resistance training help maintain cognitive function as we age. Anyone with Alzheimer’s in the family should take heed!
The question is – how to get our kids hooked on exercise?
The way our kids are hooked on Facebook, videos, computer games and the lot is becoming scary! Getting them hooked on exercise is a gift that will last forever. Allow your children to choose a sport that appeals to them so they are inclined to do it naturally. The tip is to get them interested early and keep it fun. Gym, dance, netball, rugby, cricket, swimming, it doesn’t matter – as long as your child is moving and not inside a stuffy room with no air and light.
Ideally you and your children should be engaged in some type of activity every day for approximately 30-60 minutes. Try and include incidental activity in your day such as walking to and from school, or walking to and from the bus stop. If you cannot fit some form of exercise into your life, you need to reassess how much you value your brain and your body. Being a good role model delivers a quiet, naturally positive flow-on effect to your children.
One last thing to remember…
You cannot exercise your way out of a bad diet. Too many adults and children will consume sugar laden smoothies, yogurt parfaits, sugar loaded sport drinks or soft drinks after sport. This is sabotaging the exercise benefits of a healthy mind and body.
Reference: Michele Chevalley Hedge (http://ahealthyview.com/)
Young people are often criticized for having poor manners; not having the same manners as the builders (1925-1945) or the boomers (1946-1964). It is a criticism levelled particularly at generations after Gen Y – born after 1980. I have always believed that it is parents and grandparents responsibility to teach children manners, insisting on good manners, and modeling good manners. It is the school’s responsibility to support and reinforce the teaching of manners through appropriate school values and standards. Whoever accepts responsibility for instilling good manners in children and young people; it has to be taught and modelled.
The blame for the demise of good manners is often (conveniently) placed firmly and squarely, front and centre on electronic devices. Because of students’ constant heads-down focus on their electronic devices, it’s often hard for them to learn to interact appropriately with other people. They are more comfortable texting or sending an e-mail to communicate than offering a firm handshake or a warm smile. To prepare students for interviews and the modern workplace, not to mention their personal relationships, they need to be taught the skills of interacting with others. We all play a vital role.
An acronym for this is S.P.E.C.I.A.L. (Adam Dovico in Phi Delta Kappan, November 2016)
These elements make a young person/adult come across as confident and professional. They need practice, so they become natural. It’s good to start at an early age teaching children to introduce themselves, start a conversation, look people in the eye and answer politely. By senior school, students should be able to start a good conversation with a stranger and mingle in a crowd.
How can adults help, parents, and teachers? These strategies can be applied at home and other social situations outside of the home.
Reference - www.principalsdigests.co.nz. Newsletter, Volume 23, Number 4
Some readers might recall my Blog from May last year titled, 'At what age do you let your child have a sip of alcohol?’ It is a sociocultural factor which concerns me. Experts continue to delve into the debate, and I was delighted to read a study by the UNSW that looks more deeply into the challenges; which is worth taking the time to read. I hope you find it interesting.
Giving children alcohol doubles their chances of still drinking a year later (UNSW)
Children and teens who are given alcohol by their parents are much more likely to be drinking full serves of alcohol by age 15 or 16, but less likely to binge drink, according to a UNSW study which followed nearly 2,000 children and their parents over four years from Year 7 onwards. The study was prompted by widespread interest in the ‘European model’ of introducing children to alcohol, whereby children are offered sips of alcohol by their parents from a young age, a practise some people believe to be protective of later harmful drinking.
"There is a body of research indicating that the adolescent brain is still developing well into the early 20's and alcohol may interfere with optimum development," said Professor Richard Mattick, a Principal NHMRC Research Fellow at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre. "But also we know that parents want to do the right thing by their children, and there has been anecdotal evidence that children introduced to alcohol by their parents, as is common in some European cultures, may be less likely to develop problems with alcohol.” "Unfortunately there are very few well-designed studies out there that can offer definitive advice to parents; our study was designed to address this gap," he said.
Mattick and colleagues from universities in Perth and Tasmania recruited 1,927 adolescents from schools in Sydney, Perth and Tasmania and followed them over a four-year period measuring their consumption of whole drinks, their binge drinking (more than four drinks on any occasion) and the source of supply of alcohol – parent, peers or other adults. One parent for each child was also surveyed annually as part of the study, with the questionnaires being sent separately to avoid bias.
A number of other factors that earlier studies have found are associated with adolescent drinking (e.g. family alcohol use, family structure, family conflict, and individual personality traits, such as anxiety, negative thinking and aggressive behaviours) were taken into account in the results analysis.
Adjusting for these factors, parental supply at any point in the study was associated with a doubling of the likelihood that the teens would be drinking full serves of alcohol when followed up a year later. Getting alcohol from other sources, such as peers or other adults, also doubled the chance of the adolescents drinking full serves a year later.
But the significant and surprising difference between those who received alcohol from their parents and those who got it themselves from other sources was the quantity of alcohol consumed and the frequency of harmful binge drinking, defined as consuming more than four drinks on a single occasion. Those children who got alcohol from sources other than their parents were three times more likely to binge drink. As well as being less likely to binge, the adolescents given alcohol by their parents also typically drank less on any drinking occasion than those supplied by their peers or others.
The personality traits of the child also impacted on how influential parental supply was to future drinking patterns. Those children who show personality traits such as aggression and truanting were likely to obtain alcohol whether their parents supplied it or not. As well and independent of parental supply, the study found that certain family and peer factors reduced the odds of drinking, such as parental monitoring, consistent parenting, being religious and peer disapproval of drinking and smoking. Children were more likely to drink and to binge drink when their peers drank and when they displayed behaviours such as aggression.
Professor Mattick said the results painted a nuanced and complex picture for parents. “On the one hand parents who supply alcohol to their children may be relieved that they are significantly less likely to engage in harmful behaviour, such as binge drinking, compared with those who obtain alcohol from other sources, probably as they are drinking more in front of their parents, so drink less on a given occasion” he said. “However, given that children supplied alcohol by their parents were twice as likely to be drinking full serves a year later as their peers who were not given alcohol by their parents, the results suggest that parents who supply alcohol, even with the best intentions, are likely to accelerate their child’s drinking and be laying down the potential for future harms.”
"There may be later harms that are not yet evident, and we are aware that early initiation of drinking is strongly associated with later alcohol use problems in adulthood – delay is the best strategy."
Professor Mattick also cautioned parents against assuming that because parental supply is likely to reduce binge drinking that they are protecting their children by supplying alcohol.
“Because of the effects of early alcohol consumption on the developing adolescent, and the risk of other unwanted outcomes (trauma, accident, fights, unwanted sexual activity) the message to parents should be to delay drinking as long as possible. They may also be giving a permissive message to children which may be setting them on a path to early drinking that might otherwise be avoided.”
Source: The University of New South Wales, National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, https://ndarc.med.unsw.edu.au/news/giving-children-alcohol-doubles-their-chances-still-drinking-year-later-unsw-study-teens-and
In this blog I wanted to share an article by Glen Gerreyn, taken from his website - http://thehopefullinstitute.com/dont-tell-your-children-to-play-it-safe
I share this because it does resonate with my own views about ensuring our children are aspirational and pursuing careers/interests that they are passionate about. This is quite different from star-gazing or dreaming, without purpose. I hope you enjoy the article as much I did...
I recently visited a school whose academic results are some of the best in the state. When chatting to teachers over lunch, it was explained to me many of the parents within their school community tell their children, “They can pursue whatever they like at University, as long as it is Medicine, Accountancy or Law.” Of course not every parent from this particular school wants this, but it’s a commonly held notion large enough to warrant a mention.
From my experience speaking in over five hundred schools I would concur with this belief. There does exist a substantial amount of parents whom for whatever reason, believe certain careers are more worthy to pursue than others. They deem these options as the finest and safest routes for their children to earn an appropriate income and provide proper status for their families.
Yet in 2016, in this ecosphere of opportunity and era of abundance, where we compete on a level playing field in so many diverse ways, we must address why many still hold out-dated views and expectations for the pathways to success for their children.
The speed of change, the rise of technology, the increase in exponential growth divisions and the move from local to global thinking means our thinking must begin to align with this very different epoch.
Our current cohort of young people is the first generation in history to see the world’s first billionaire author in J.K Rowling. Together we have witnessed the rise of the world’s first billionaire talk show host in Oprah Winfrey, the world’s original social media platform founder in Mark Zuckerberg and the first tycoon app creator, in Evan Spiegel, who at 24 is the youngest ever billionaire thanks to ‘Snapchat’. I have the pleasure of knowing a fashion blogger who today earns more than most surgeons. Seven years ago she sat in one of my Day of Hope seminars and attributes the birth and action of her dream to that very day. Despite all this, archaic mindsets of ‘safe’ careers still flourish in our society.
A young person today with a smartphone has hardware and software built into that device which would have cost their parents $1,000,000 in the 1980’s. Think about the access young people have to video conferencing capabilities, HD video cameras, GPS and voice memos, smartphone watch displays every available time zone, calendars, productivity tools, music players, word processors, encyclopedias and access to millions of people via social media channels. With the click of a button libraries of thousands of free books and catalogues of free music are on hand. Young people today have a $1,000,000 in their pocket which can enable them to build a ‘start up’, create a following or begin a movement of change. Young people today are living in an age of lavishness of choice and technology.
Thousands of years ago only Kings and Queens, Emperors and Pharaohs were the ones who were large and in charge and had the ability to lead and act on behalf of others. Hundreds of years ago it was the Industrialists who prospered. But today literally anyone in an old dusty garage or from their bedroom still displaying Superman or Elsa sheets, can build a platform that transforms communities around the world.
Recently I was invited to participate on a popular TV show and the question put to the panel was “Should you tell your kids they can be whatever they want?” The other panel members said a resounding “No!” “You shouldn’t tell your kids they can be whatever they want because of the hurt or disappointment they will feel if they fail”. My take was somewhat different. I believe failure is not the worst thing that can happen to you. Something we need to teach our kids (and ourselves) that failure is not fatal. We have to stop acting like it is. The worst thing that can happen to us is boredom because we settle for mediocrity. This is what we need to teach our kids.
Sadly people play it safe, miss opportunities to live out their passions and end up bored and discontent adults. I truly believe life is hard. Whether you pursue your dream or not, you will encounter seasons of loss, disruption, and pain. Would you agree? So with that thinking, since life is going to be hard anyway, why not spend your days pursuing and encouraging others to do those things they are truly passionate about, those things that will add verve, energy and flow to their world. Let’s leave Medicine, Accountancy and Law to those with the intuitive gifts to heal, reconcile and defend. Life is too short to act out of fear or because others told you to.
Footnote: Glen Gerreyn has been working with staff and students of HVGS for nearly a decade. He is one of Australia’s most outstanding speakers and writers on a wide range of vital issues for young people. Follow Glen, you will be pleased you did, http://glengerreyn.com/
The teenage years are an ‘interesting' time for parents, teenagers, and their siblings. I suggest that the following advice, presented in an article written by Christie Harvison and published in Essential Kids online (http://www.essentialkids.com.au/), in May 16, 2016, will go a long way to help all involved enjoy the special time. This is an abridged version of a much longer article.
The Secret to Raising Great Teenagers
The first thing that I will tell you is to disbelieve the myth that teenagers are sullen, angry creatures who slam doors and hate their parents. Some do that, but the overwhelming majority do not. Every one of my kids' friends are just as happy, and have as much fun, as my kids, so I know it's not just us.
Teenagers are incredible. They are funny, smart, eager to please, and up for just about anything as long as food is involved. They have the most generous hearts and want desperately to be loved and validated. They are quirky and messy and have the best sense of 5 pm.
So, here is my list of "rules" for raising teens. These are the secrets we have found to be successful.
1. Love them fiercely
Love everything about them, even the annoying stuff. Love them for their actions and their intentions. Let them know in word and deed how much you adore them, daily. Love their wrinkled shirts, their bad handwriting, and pimpled cheeks. Love their scattered brains and long limbs. All these seemingly insignificant details are an amazing, magical process at work. It's like being witness to the miracle of a diamond mid-formation. All this imperfection is going to one day yield a responsible, serious adult. A loving husband and father. Or a wonderful wife and mother. It's a privilege to be witness to such glorious growth.
See your teenagers as a privilege, don't see them as a burden. They're more perceptive than you can imagine. How you feel about them will be no secret. So just love 'em.
2. Listen and pay attention
When they walk in the door after school, you have a precious few minutes when they will divulge the secrets of their day with you. Be excited to see them. Put down the smart phone. Don't waste this time making dinner or taking a phone call. Look them in the eye and hear what they are saying. Make their victories your victories. Be empathetic. It is really hard to navigate high school. Don't offer advice at this time unless they ask for it. Don't lecture, just listen. It makes them feel important and valued. We all need to feel that way.
3. Say yes more than you say no
The world is forever going to tell them no. For the rest of their lives, they will be swimming in a stormy sea with wave after wave of "you're not good enough" and "you can't do this" crashing down on their heads. If nothing else, I want to be the opposite voice in their lives for as long as I can. I want to instil in them the belief that they are not limited, and they can do anything if they're willing to work hard enough for it. I want to be the yes, you can, in their lives. I want them to leave my house every day feeling invincible.
4. Say no often (enough)
You need to say no to experiences and situations that will set your child up for harm or unhappiness. Don't let them go to the parties where they will be forced to make a choice about alcohol at age 16 in front of their peers. Don't let them stay out until three in the morning. Be the parent. Set up rules for their safety, both physical and moral. You would think this rule goes without saying, but we have known a shockingly large number of parents who don't.
5. Feed them, a lot
And not only them but their friends too. Their bodies are growing and developing at an astonishing rate and need fuel to do so — most of which they prefer to be loaded with processed sugar and hydrogenated-something-or-others. When their friends know your pantry is stocked to the gills with treats, they will beg your kid to hang out at your place. This allows you to not only meet and know their friends but to keep an eye on your teen as well.
6. Don't sweat the small stuff
When living with teenagers, it can be so easy to see the backpack dropped in the middle of the living room as laziness. Or the bedroom scattered with dirty clothes as irresponsible. Instead, and before you open your mouth to yell at them, put yourself in their shoes. Find out about their day first. Maybe they are feeling beaten down, and they just need to unwind for a minute and tell you about it. Ignore the mess for a bit and put your arms around that big, sweaty kid and give him a hug. Talk to him about his world. Find out what he did, wants to do, and dreams of doing. Then, and only then, ask him to pick it up and put it away.
That being said, do I completely ignore the state of my boys' bedrooms all the time? No, I do not. But I pick my battles, and I pick the appropriate time to fight them. Once every four or five days or so, I tell them their bedrooms need to be picked up. The weekend is a good time for that. Which they do happily because it's not the running loop of a nagging mum. They know when I ask, it needs to be done.
7. Stand back and watch the magic happen
If you let them, these glorious creatures will open their hearts and love you more fiercely than you could possibly imagine. They are brilliant, capable, strong spirits who bring with them a flurry of happiness. They are hilarious and clever. They are thoughtful and sensitive. They want us to adore them. They need us to adore them. They love deeply and are keenly in touch with the feelings of others.
They are just about the greatest gift God gave to parents.
A recent study into ‘Academic Achievement in NSW Independent Schools’ shows that students in NSW Independent schools participating in the OECD’s Program of International Student Assessment (PISA) achieve results that rank them among the best-performing school systems in the World. The results placed students from NSW independent schools alongside students from top Asian countries and Finland, which are frequently cited as benchmarks in international student assessments. (see table below)
The study shows that NSW Independent school students scored significantly higher than the national and state average in the PISA assessments in mathematical literacy.
The study also revealed that socioeconomic status and family background only accounted for a small part of the variation even though most people believe this to be a major factor. Even when adjusted for socioeconomic status, the differences in achievement were still significant. These differences are related to the quality of education provided in independent schools across NSW.
The outcomes prove that high performance is linked, above all, with quality teaching and leadership and that the higher achievement of students in Independent schools is directly associated with strong teacher-student relations, a good disciplinary climate, effective classroom management and a sense of belonging.
While there are many influences on achievement the evidence suggests that students at independent schools benefit from:
Chair of the AISNSW Institute, Bill Daniels (OAM), said: “The strong performance of students in Independent schools across a range of measures is often dismissed as being the result of wealth. This ignores the fact that two-thirds of Independent schools in NSW have a socioeconomic score in the lower half of the SES scale. The research shows that it is parents’ education levels and the value they place on education, along with school and teacher quality that are the strongest defining factors.”
As the Principal of an independent school in NSW, I am immensely proud of these results and achievements and particularly how well they reflect on our schools. I take this opportunity to thank all parents who have chosen HVGS as the school for their children and affirm the investment they are making in your child’s education. Well done!
Exposure of children to online pornography – whether by accident or design – is of increasing concern to the community and was the subject of a recent federal parliamentary inquiry.
As the Principal of HVGS I informed that inquiry through our national Association, AHISA. As a school we are already proactive in protecting our students from the potential harm of pornography. But we cannot manage this scourge alone. I firmly believe that our Governments, particularly the Federal Government can do so much more. This isn’t an article for government bashing, but the authority, control and power to do something that makes a significant difference is at the hands of Government.
We limit the possibility of accidental or deliberate exposure to inappropriate websites through multiple strategies, including the application of internet filters and banning mobile phone use during school hours. We have an ‘Acceptable Use’ agreement with students governing students’ access to the school’s online environment and we monitor student internet activities on all digital devices used in class. If an incident is reported or there is a cause for concern, we will check student’s personal devices.
Our school directly educates students about issues relating to pornography, including its potential to distort students’ understanding of intimacy and the nature of sexual relationships. We have held information evenings, with guest speakers for parents. And occasionally I will write in the newsletter about related matters of concern. We will also advise parents if their child is discovered accessing pornography at school or if the school becomes aware of an outside-of-school issue.
We have children in our care for about one-third of their day, we need help to combat this menace. The ease of access to online pornography and other inappropriate material by students and the potential for harmful effects are issues that we take very seriously and working hard to counter, but we need ‘the whole village’ to help.
The increasing expectation of parents that they will be able to contact their children throughout the school day via their mobile phones makes the difficulty of monitoring students’ mobile devices even that much harder; because kids have them on their person all of the time. We find it hard to establish and sustain adequate safeguards when digital technologies are evolving so rapidly.
Access to online pornography is just one part of the problem that I see playing out in our schools. The increase in ‘sexting’ and, more generally, the early sexualisation of children are issues that I see affecting the welfare of students. I have asked politicians to strengthen the classifications of films, television programs, magazines and video/computer games and have them tightened, especially for the G, PG and M ratings, and codes of practice for advertising, television programming and children’s magazines and merchandise to be strengthened. I have been less than impressed with responses from the appropriate Ministers to these requests.
Australian Communications and Media Authority data show that as at June 2015 86% of Australia’s teenagers had home broadband access and 80 per cent used a smartphone. When so many young Australians potentially have 24/7 access to the cyber world, schools cannot be the only line of defence in maintaining children’s cyber safety. Parents and governments must play their part, too.
I thank the Association of Heads of Independent Schools for sharing their submission to the Senate Inquiry and giving permission for Principals to share the content with our school communities.