When Father's Day is an annual performance review

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We don’t do anything special for Fathers or Mother’s day beyond a sleep in and maybe a nicely cooked meal. My daughter however, has swallowed the Kool-aid of special day celebrations and was upset that she would be away on camp for Father’s Day. Last minute improvisation on her part – a re-gifting of a pack of chocolates and some Post-it notes – made this great summary of why she has a great dad.

I love it – a combination of loving the boring things as well as the special stuff and some improvement suggestions along the line of an annual fathering performance review.

Reasons you’re a great dad:

  • You deal with my packing dramas (there had been a meltdown just prior about everything not fitting in the bag)

  • You plan all the holidays

  • You love adventures

  • You buy me food

  • You always have time for me

  • You are enthusiastic about the things I hate (e.g. tests)

  • You watch ‘The 100’ with me even though you don’t know what’s going on

  • You always make me laugh when I’m upset

  • You introduced me to my childhood movies

  • You help me with my homework

  • You don’t make stupid dad jokes

  • You make me smile

Areas for improvement

  • Stop judging me for my overpacking

  • Stop only deciding to watch something based on Rotten Tomatoes ratings

  • Stop booking flights so early in the morning

  • Stop telling me to ‘suck it up princess’

  • Get better at understanding how they teach maths these days

Boredom is not nirvana for teenagers

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Wikipedia defines boredom as an emotional or psychological state experienced when an individual is left without anything in particular to do, is not interested in his or her surroundings, or feels that a day or period is dull or tedious.

If you type ‘boredom and kids’ into Google you are hit with a series of articles about why boredom is essential to the development of creative thinking and problem solving.

Here is a quote that comes up a lot:

‘Children need to sit in their own boredom for the world to become quiet enough that they can hear themselves’– Dr Vanessa Lapointe

Or you see quotes like this:

‘Boredom is magical’

‘Boredom is the elixir of creativity and passion’

‘Boredom is the pathway to drive and ambition’

Perhaps this is more relevant for younger kids and I completely agree that creative play is really important.  However, I don’t think claiming that boredom should be a target state for teenagers makes sense, and it doesn’t resonate with my recollection of what it felt like to be bored as a teenager, or what I observe in my teenagers.

For me boredom meant lying around after school either watching TV or scrounging food from the kitchen. My boredom didn’t propel me to do anything like build a fort in the backyard, practice my guitar or take up a creative pursuit. My love of earning money, and the various jobs I managed to get was the thing that got me to snap out of my boredom vortex.

Obviously, the world my teenagers exist in is very different from my experience, but we shouldn’t assume that because they are spending time gaming or watching videos that they aren’t bored as well. Taking screens away when they are hanging out at home is an option, but I don’t believe it would create a situation where the kids started creative play/thinking.

My view is the best thing you can do to get teenagers thinking creatively is to get them – and you - outside physical or mental comfort zones once in a while.  We are all guilty of sticking to comfortable routines but when we push outside of them good things usually (!) happen. How about taking turns to design a day / weekend / holiday activity with both parties agreeing to do whatever the other one nominates? You might just find yourself having to ride a horse along a beach or participating in a flash mob.

We have taken the approach of family members taking turns to choose where we go on holiday. Because of that rule we are about to head off to Madagascar (daughters choice) which I am sure will be challenging in lots of ways but it’s also exciting. There will be many things that won’t go smoothly but you tend not to remember the stuff that goes to plan so much.

My message is that boredom at home isn’t some sort of target state you should be aiming for as a long-term strategy – get out and do some stuff and see where things take you.

This link has lots of ideas for things to do – some lame, some great! Enjoy


Sport: why participation is more important than gold medals


You could be excused for missing the recent release of the Sport 2030 report, by Sport Australia. In brief it says that high performance sport (read gold medals) has become an arms race AUS can’t maintain, and that there will be much more focus on increasing participation rates of kids in sport and other general physical activity.

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This seems sensible to me.  Kids aren’t doing enough exercise despite evidence that active kids do better at school and an active youth means you are more likely to remain healthy and fit throughout life. Sport, particularly team sports promote inclusion and teach resilience, teamwork, perseverance as well as the life lessons gained by both winning and losing.

Sport also plays a role in driving social change. It’s been great to see the rise in women’s and para-sport which has helped change community perceptions.

So, if participation is the objective, how do we make it happen? This is an even bigger challenge for girls who have lower sports team participation rates, which declines even more as they get older.

Research shows the most important thing to girls in team sports is having fun, not winning. So, what do they define as ‘fun’ vs ‘not-fun'


As a parent I have definitely guilty of some of the things in the NOT FUN category but I am working on it. I can’t seem to stop the running commentary while the basketball game is on, but it’s becoming a quieter conversation with myself not the world. One the way home I just chat about the world, while my son zones out feeling exhausted and probably thinking about the game a bit too!

If your girl is looking to join a team it would be worth finding one that values FUN. These are the sort of things I would be looking for: are there any players she knows, do other kids enjoy playing, is it local, and what’s the philosophy of the club/coach. Also ask yourself how you can help support them and the team in keeping it FUN, rather than assume it’s someone else’s job to do so. Research shows that beyond FUN the best determinant of a kid staying at a sport is when their parents are involved.

A few of these videos might be worth a look, showing what kids hate about parent behaviour during and after a game.







Why I want my son to keep going with his gaming!

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Last week if you asked me what one of my biggest parenting mistakes was, my answer would have been buying a PS4 for my son.  

That was until a few days ago when I attended a school information session by Andrew Kinch from Game Aware. I think there were a few hundred other parents of high school kids (99% boys!) there to listen to a session titled “Video Games: the blurry line between passion and addiction”.  

From the small talk in the foyer beforehand most parents thought that their kids were gaming “too much” and were hoping for some ideas on how to reduce the “addiction”. My son has had a PS4 for almost two years (he is 15), so we are relatively late to the world of gaming. I went in with the view that it’s a big distraction in an already busy schedule. In particular, I think it becomes too easy for him to exist in the virtual world and reduces his likelihood to arrange interactions with his mates in the real world.

The session was a real eye opener and I think most people would have come out of it with a different perspective. Here are a few stats that stood out to me:

  • 97% of homes with children have video games
  • 67% of Australians play video games
  • Studies show a small (~1 hour/day) amount of gaming is fine, or can even have a beneficial effect, and at 12 hours/week he still views gaming as a HOBBY
  • 2.5 hours/day is the average gaming time for 15-24 y.o. boys
  • The 18 hours per week this translates into isn’t considered addiction, but it definitely  impacts the ability to fit other things into life in a ‘balanced’ way
  • Gaming disorder is about to be listed as a mental health disorder by the World Health Organisation, but the rate this occurs at is very low (~10%)

Despite the above there are a number of positives that need to be recognised about gaming. Firstly, any adult who has tried to play one of the games with millions (I exaggerate) of buttons on the controller will understand that it requires a lot of skill and concentration. Also many of these games have now built in a social component where friends (or strangers!) collaborate in the game or, even better, can play side by side in someone’s house.

He stressed that, similarly to social media, parents need to understand the games and WHY their child enjoys playing them rather than dismissing it as a waste of time. Ideally they would learn to play so they can appreciate the skill and tactics involved. I have tried to do multi-play Call of Duty with my son in the past but I can’t seem to do anything except shoot myself in the foot. This session inspired me to give it another go and spend some time walking in my sons shoes (or perhaps a better analogy is walking in his combat outfit with my assault rifle at the ready?).

Overall, I came out of the session thinking that my sons gaming is a hobby, not an addiction. I need to respect it as a valid interest whilst encouraging him to do lots of other things like basketball, rock climbing, guitar and school - in other words find a middle ground that we can both be happy with.

So tonight I tried to relive my youth. He introduced me to the recent version of DOOM. Much has changed and I still can’t use the controller. Life was easier when it was just arrow keys and the space bar. I was slaughtered in less than a minute but with some very patient coaching from him I have at least worked out how to walk around the first room and aim my gun. Watch out world!

P.S. If you think your child is gaming too much there is a simple quiz on the home page of www.gameaware.com.au


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