Saying No to Micro-Managing: What it Looks Like (for me)

In these posts — The Epic Job of Organising My Family & Organising Kids for School — I talked about saying no to micro-managing.  The fact is, I like micro-managing.  It means I know where everything is, where everyone is at and I RULE MY WORLD AND EVERYONE ANSWERS TO ME! No, I’m not a control freak.  Who wants to know?

Not wanting to micro-manage and not micro-managing are two different things. In the past, I used to micro-manage, a lot, and this is what happened: I became a huge nag, I got stressed about trying to manage absolutely everything and I used to take over if things were not done quick enough (or to my liking).  In my experience, micro-managing doesn’t work, well not for our family anyway.

For me, it’s been a process of letting go, and discovering that — surprise, surprise — everything doesn’t fall apart if I’m not on top of it.  And even if it does, I’ve learned to accept that a degree of chaos is part of our busy family life.  True, family life does not fit as nicely in a box, but oh, it’s so liberating NOT having to control everything. And it’s exhilarating to see my children blossom, mature and grow, within boundaries, yes, but with freedom within the boundaries.

Below are some of the ways I say no to micro-managing in our home life.

1. Jobs vs Systems

I manage the house in a certain way because it suits me and my family.  I am conscious though, that my children are not me, and when they are adults, they may like to choose to do things differently.   With this in mind, I aim to teach my kids to think about systems rather than jobs because systems take in many factors including situation and personal preference.

Here’s an example: Our hired DVDs were getting lost with our regular DVD collection, and so I put it to the kids to think about a system to ensure this didn’t happen anymore.  My daughter decided to mark a plastic box movies and this has become the dedicated spot for DVDs to return to the video shop and books to the library. It works!

saying no to micro managing

Another example is how I organise the plastic plates and cups. I keep them in plastic containers so it’s easy for the children to both unstack the dishwasher and get their own breakfast and drinks. You can read more about it here: Organised Chaos.

saying no to micro managing

2.  Freedom within Boundaries

Children need boundaries to feel safe and secure. The tricky thing is to know where to put them. The idea of freedom within boundaries is to allow the child to work out their own system (and make mistakes!) within a certain framework. For example, I usually fold my children’s washing but I don’t put it away for them. Instead I say: “Here’s your clean washing. I’d like it put away by the end of the day please.” If they don’t, I tighten the boundaries until they can show me they can work within them and move the framework as they mature. More responsibility equals more freedom.

3. Responsibility

I want to give my children responsibility, and privileges to match, but in order for this to work, there needs to be some room for consequence for actions. Let’s take homework for example.  With my older children (now 10 and 12), I can’t stay on top of their homework or nag them to get it done.  I am happy to help, but not manage. In the case they don’t bring their homework back to school or it’s left uncompleted, they might be in trouble at school.  That’s sad for them but it’s a consequence for their action. Yes, I could totally micro-manage their homework and this may save them from getting into trouble but this won’t help them in the long term.

What I WOULD manage and act on, is if my kids didn’t care about being in trouble at school.  I see that as a parenting issue and the thing I would work on rather than managing homework for them.

4. Siblings

My kids are different and although I have general expectations for all my children, there are ways I like to parent individually too.  My eldest daughter is quite messy but she doesn’t hoard.  My second daughter is neater but likes to keep everything.   When it comes to their rooms, I expect different things of them. I don’t pressure my eldest daughter to be like her sister and vice versa.  I do expect my kids to clean their rooms but I allow for personality and this is reflected in my expectations.

5. Play

Educational games are wonderful but I truly believe children learn best when they are playing imaginative games with the space to create.  I help set up creative play opportunities, like this one, and then allow my children the space to play.  I also provide many opportunities for my children to play in wide open spaces.

saying no to micro managing

6. Not taking over

I like things to be done quickly, and so it’s struggle, a choice, to wait when my children are struggling or take time doing a tasks, like getting their shoes on or opening a jar lid.  If help is needed I have learned to take the time to show them rather than do it for them.  The key is to allow (much more) time to do things.

7. Tough times

After the Queensland floods in 2011, family life was pretty tough for a while.  When things are a little shaky at home, I find it necessary for me say, “I am mum,” and call the shots until things settle again at home.  I think there are particular times when more control is necessary.

8. We are a team

I want our family to be a team, where two things happen: everyone takes a little responsibility for running the house and  individuals can contribute their own ideas to how we do things at home.  This is a work in progress.

I am the manager of home life but not the micro-manager.  Saying no to micro-managing is a choice for me, and I can say it’s a very good thing for our family life.

The Small Blessings That Speak Truth

I wish I thought to take a picture of all the rubbish that came home in my children’s bags on the last day of school. It was epic!  Think this picture below times at least 100.  This is just the remnants; the stuff that was salvageable.

the little things that count

School is finished and I managed to get through the last couple of weeks.  I didn’t get through gracefully, but the dreaded weeks are behind me.  When there are rough patches in family life, I often feel alone. I wonder if there is something wrong with me. The kids bicker more than usual. My temper is stretched. I’m exhausted. The house becomes a dumping ground as we frantically try to do the everything that needs to be done, and be at all the places we need to be. This means things aren’t organised at home, and I don’t know where I’m at. I can’t find things and the house runs in a hickelty-pickelty fashion. I feel down, and am unable to think clearly.  I wrote about this, and was surprised, and so very encouraged by the lovely responses I received. Parenting can be quite a lonely journey at times. And yet we do share so many of the same experiences, so I have discovered once again.

I feel more like myself again.

There is a little story I want to share.  It has a little to do with the odious task of unpacking school bags, and a lot to do with listening for the stillness of truth amongst the noise.

The small blessings that speak truth…

I watched my girls walk through the gate, and under the fiery poinsettia tree that provided a carpet of red-orange on the grass.  They were walking slow, turning to each other in comfortable conversation.  I never fail to feel a sense of pride at the evidence of their relationship and what good friends they are. It was the last day of school and I was glad of it.  My two eldest girls were still 20 metres away when I wound down the window of the car.

“You DID IT! You finished school for the year! Congratulations!!” I didn’t care who overheard me.

I watched the smiles creep on their faces. As they came closer, I noticed their swollen backpacks and a sense of dread filled me at inevitable: the job of sorting through the contents. Some of my prior exuberance leaked out of me like an injured balloon fading fast. More stuff to deal with. More rubbish. More things to find a home for. I get so sick of stuff sometimes.

Later at home, I found the usual in the backpacks: broken pencils, rotten fruit, pens without lids, 6 erasers (2 from the start of the year and another 4 so called ‘replacements’ I was commissioned to buy), empty glue sticks, small containers I had been looking for all year, 4 teaspoons, 1 fork, books, paper, paper, and more paper.

As I sorted through the items, I came across a self portrait and profile written by my then 7-year-old daughter.

little things that matterYou know, it’s these little things that are like a burst of light through the storm clouds. It’s the redemption in the chaos, when I feel I’m doing everything wrong. It’s the moment in the big picture.

I looked through another bag and found a Portrait of Dad by my 5-year-old daughter (Prep). It’s encouraging to know the effort to visit my husband with the kids on many a long weekend when he is working, is important, it matters, and it impacts on the children in a positive way.

I love the details in this picture.

The surgeon’s hat. The glasses he wears when he is operating. The two pockets either side of the scrubs.

dad by my prep daughter 2011


I love the words.

My favourite thing about Dad is: “Because he takes me to the unit at his work and gives me yummy food, and he makes silly jokes.”

I flicked through some of the intact books to see snippets of our family life filter through. What I saw made me happy.

the little things

I was rather astounded by the artwork and felt grateful for the teacher’s efforts and my daughter’s obvious progress.

aboriginal painting prep daughter 2011

I watched a DVD filled with images of my 10-year-old. In it I see how much she has achieved and matured over the year.

When I’m in the valley, it feels like I’m stuck; there’s a mountain to climb at every turn.  Yet God reminds me of all these little blessings that put everything in perspective. Although the sound echoes loud in the valley as it bounces around and surrounds me, it’s often the quiet, still, and small things that speak truth.

Valleys exist. Waves happen. The rain comes.

But then…

The grass is green. The sun is bright. The flowers sing.

It’s the combination of these contrasts that make life so rich; so beautiful.

It’s the moments that make up the big picture.

It’s the small, quiet blessings that speak truth.

I’m listening.

I Didn’t Expect My Kids to Be My Heroes

my children are my heros

There’s a narrow window of time when I am the hero to my children. I’m the one they look up to and the one they adore. This window of time: it’s the trust in my new baby’s eyes; it’s in the very first smile; it’s in the moment I discovered little feet in my high heel shoes.

I guess this is expected when I am their world. I hope my children always have cause to look up to me but the hero factor does change as other people influence their life. I’m glad of this, and I don’t hold onto that hero cape for longer than the window allows. Embrace every season.

What I didn’t expect is that my children would be my heroes. As I watch them grow and learn through the scrapes and bruises of life, I can’t help but feel admiration for their spirit.

They are beautiful.

They delight in living.

They are seekers of truth.

They are quick to forgive.

They love unconditionally.

They hope wholeheartedly.

They believe without seeing.

They don’t judge, but accept.

They see beauty everywhere.

They embrace new challenges.

They see the important things clearly.

They are not afraid to show how they feel.

They find enjoyment in the simple things of life.

They are brave but are willing to ask for help when they need it.

In so many ways, I want to be just like them. My children are my heroes.

Be Anchored by the Big Picture; Live in the Moment

I don’t want moments  to fly by with without me noticing them. That’s what the Love the Moment Challenges are all about.  I’ve seen life change very quickly, and so moments are all we all have really.  I would love our family to be free to embrace moments but are neither controlled by them or in contrast, trapped by the big picture.

I’ve been thinking about moments recently, and I see three main ways they can play out in our family life; I’m striving for number 3. Yes, I’m writing an entire post about moments. HA!

1. Big Picture Controls the Moments

I don’t want our family to be narrow minded and confined so much by the big picture, that moments are trapped, and pre -determined in a way.

live in the moment

2. Big Picture is defined by the moments

Neither do I want moments to rule our life so moments are blurred as they funnel  into something of a big picture. To me, this means many of the moments get lost.

living in the moment

3. Moments are anchored by the big picture

Below is how I see the moments play out in our family life. They are anchored by faith, value, love and what we believe for our family. There is still freedom of movement but there is no risk the moments will be lost. The moments are both their own entity and part of a larger in the moment

I think way too much, don’t I? I know, I know. My mind is always whirring with images and concepts and I love putting it all together to make sense of it all. For me, it’s like the creative process: you start with everything , explore it and slowly it all becomes clear.

Be Anchored by the Big Picture; Live in the Moment


A Special Mother-Moment

After a hard week, it takes just one special moment to reinforce what a privilege it is to be a mother. You know those moment that take your breath away?

Let me back track a little. My two older girls started training in Rhee Tae Kwon Do before I did. After watching for a few lessons, I wondered why I wasn’t doing it with them. Rhee Tae Kwon Do is a wonderful family sport so I thought it might be a fun thing for us to do together. I asked the trainer if I was way too old to start. HA! He said no, so the next lesson, I was right beside my girls learning along with them. It’s become special thing for us to do every week (plus it’s a great way to fit a bit of exercise into my week).

This particular lesson, the adults were lined up along one side of the hall and the children were standing opposite. My eldest daughter was my sparring (fighting) partner. We faced each other and she looked up to me and smiled. I mouthed the words, “I love you,” and smiled back. We are totally supposed to be serious but she had such a sparkle in her eye this night. After a few minutes of sparring, the instructor asked the children if they were a little scared of the adults. I figured the instructor’s motive for this question was to ensure the kids have the ability to protect themselves from adults if they needed to. This is really important, and it’s great the instructor trains the kids how to react in to many situations. All the kids answered “Yes” to the question. Until it came to my daughter.

“No,” she said.

The instructor asked why (because adults can kick pretty hard you know).

“Because she’s my mum and I trust her. I know she would never hurt me.”

It wasn’t so much what she said but the way she said it. It was like she couldn’t possibly fathom the concept of being afraid of me, and I almost cried at the trust in her eyes. Her big blue eyes, the colour of sapphires, sparkled with honour. That trust makes me feel fearful and incredibly privileged at the same time.

I will always strive and be worthy of the trust I saw in her eyes in that moment.

Have you had any special mother-moments recently?

Other Post

Terrible Mother Moment

A Squeaky Wheel

be a fun mum


Jolly pram.


My feet hit the ground, falling in rhythm with the repetive screech of the pram wheel as I walked the short path to pick up my school children.

I walked fast, as I like to do. Just up ahead, I saw a small grandma with a neat white bob, strolling beside a happy looking girl wearing red and white check pants. If I wasn’t on such a get-to-school-and-back mission, I might have paused at the pair because they represented the joy you see in an illustrated children’s book.

As I neared, the little girl jumped close to her grandmother’s leg, hearing the (REEEK!) sound of the pram wheel behind her.

“It needs some oil,” I said in way of explanation as I came along side the duo. I felt I needed to apolgise for the terrible sound coming from the contraption.

“I’m sure it’s the last thing on your list of things to.” The grandmother gave me a kind smile.

I was rather surprised at her empathic response. I often brace for some sort of judgement.

“It’s not hard to do, but I just put up with it because it seems right down on the list of priorities right now.” I gave a short laugh.

“Of course! Yes, absolutely.”

I continued past the joyful pair and walked fast up the hill, my legs pumping hard.

“Who was that Mum?” It was the first time my son spoke since we left home. His question reflected the kind words the white-bobbed lady spoke, and I’m sure he wondered if she was a friend.

“Just a lady. Maybe walking to the school like we are. She was nice, wasn’t she?”

Such a short conversation. And in many ways, an unnecessary one. However, I can tell you, her true empathy, non-judgemental words and face of kindness, made a difference to my afternoon. There was no look of annoyance or cold silence. Just kindness. Pure, simple kindness.

When was the last time I said something unnecessary but kind?

When was the last time I smiled at a stranger?

When was the last time I exercised empathy for those around me?

When was the last time I lived joy, so obviously?

Someone’s Grandma probably wouldn’t think anything of the conversation, but right now I’m writing it on my blog. You never know who you may touch; just a few words can make someone’s day a little lighter.

Kindness is contagious.

And sometimes I am my own squeaky wheel…

Has a small kindness made a difference to your day?

Do you often expect judgement for you actions as a mum?

Other Confessions

The Things You Do For Your Kids

I Feel Crappy Today

Do You Argue In front of The Kids

Playing With Kids (a confession)

My Daughter Insulted Me, And it Made Me Happy

I Don’t Want to Give My Kids Advice

 I don’t want to give my kids advice, I want to impart wisdom.

wisdom is a gift that keeps on giving


 a proposal for an appropriate course of action


ability to apply knowledge or experience or understanding or common sense and insight

Many will give my children’s advice as they mature — doctors, dentists, teachers, friends, colleagues — but as a mother, I want to be different because I know and love them unconditionally.

I want to offer my children something more than advice. I want to give them the gift of wisdom.  I aim to impart insight based on my knowledge of them and unconditional love of who they are.   I hope this will enable my children to make good choices for themselves, long after the wisdom is given. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.

I don’t want to say, “You should do this.”

I want to say, “What do you think?”

I don’t want to say, “Believe this.”

I want to say, “What is truth?”

I don’t want to say, “Behave like this.”

I want to say, “Do right.”

In the small things, and the big things, I aim to give wisdom, not advice.

I often fall into the trap of advising my kids because it’s easier and usually black and white. It’s there, and then it’s gone.

However, the complex shades of wisdom are an investment built over time and take a great deal of energy, thought and love.

Like a painting starts with shades, so I hope wisdom gives my children an individual map to work on which is grounded by knowledge and love. 

As colour is built on the shades to reveal a picture, so I hope my children will add colour and shape to their own life as they live.

blossom tree painting

Then, as a mother, I can stand back with excitment to admire the ever-evolving picture I see.

What I see won’t be my work. But my love.

What I see won’t be what I picked. But what I sowed.

What I see won’t be a destination. But a journey.

What I see will be beautiful. Individual. Unique.

And a surprise.

I’m sure of it.

Wisdom is a gift that keeps on giving.

Other Relevant Post

Bloom Where You Are Planted

On Being Fallible & Giving My Kids the Chance to Shine

I have realised I don’t have to be everything to my kids in order for them to thrive. Actually, trying to be everything can do quite the opposite, I believe. In my many, many moments of weakness, I see how capable my children are.

I absolutely adore this picture of my amazing kids shining.

Allowing Kids to Shine

When I’m sick…

From a curled up position on the couch, the house still ticks away. Sure, not as efficiently or as well as I may like, but things still happen. My daughter makes cheese toast for dinner. My son brings me water and I love the proud look on his face. The other girls rush around  making me comfortable with pillows. When I’m sick, it reaffirms to me the importance of not always being a total crazy control freak in charge of absolutely everything in the home.

When I’m tired…

When I’m tired, I slow down from my fast forward normal. It’s a good thing for me sometimes. When I’m tired, I don’t be the hero but focus on the simple things like chillin’ with my kids and watching them smile. This post is a perfect example: I Feel Crappy Today.

When I’m premenstrual…

I get majorly feral when I’m pre-menstral. I know I’m being feral but it’s like I’m watching myself from above but can’t stop the crankiness (or eating all the carbs in the house). It happens 2-3 days every month. Every. Single. Month. I have decided to be honest with my kids about it. With my pre-teen girls, I explain to them that I’m getting my period (which is something we have talked about before). The younger kids don’t notice so much; I don’t go into details with them.

The key for me is to ensure the children know why I’m cranky (age relevant) and that it has nothing to do with them; that is, they are not the reason for my crankiness. I hope by being open about normal stuff, it will be just that: normal. I don’t want to spring a “big talk” on my kids or give them the token book without tricklings of information beforehand. I’d rather talk about things as they happen so over time, the education is there along with the real life connection. I say something like this, and I say it every single time I’m premenstrual and feel it’s affecting the family (believe me, I do try to ensure it doesn’t affect them but usually fail):

“Sorry I’m so cranky Beautifuls. I’m getting my period again. I’m totally fine and please know that I’m not annoyed at you, or cranky at you. I’m just not at my best.”

This usually opens up the opportunity for the children to ask questions which helps me gauge what information to give them. Some might assert that  you should protect children from these sorts of negative issues but these issues are life, and whether I like it or not, they affect the family. For my pre-teen girls, the issues will far too soon, be their own. I can either feel guilty for being cranky before my period (because I’ve accepted that I surely will be) or use it as an opportunity to share with my kids, to help them understand what positive tools they can use when they feel down and educate them about normal stuff.

When I’m me…

I’m not great at routine. I mean, I’m okay with the broad outline of the day — breakfast, morning school jobs, afternoon jobs, washing hands after toilet, dinner — but fixed routine and organisation I don’t sustain well. I’m more of a creative dreamer and am liable to be caught up in the moment so dinner is late. That’s me. That’s me not trying to be the mum I’m not. Of course, there’s good and bad about my personality and how it plays out in my parenting, but I have noticed that my children are unique, and develop their own sense of how they like to do things anyway. Take my two eldest for instance: Number 1 is more like me and yet Number 2 is always super organised and has her own special routine, despite me being the type of person I am. I’ve discovered it’s more important for my kids to feel secure about who they are at home rather than me enforcing my own personality values on them. My imperfection hasn’t majorly damaged my kids (I don’t think!).

How it affects our relationship

Being fallible (and honest about it) has brought depth to the relationship I have with my children. People are often shocked at how deeply my kids share with me, especially as my girls get older as there’s an expectation they will lie to me. Below are re-occuring instances where I have seen a genuine openness and honesty between the children and I.

Previous posts:

In life:
  • Our entire family is honest when we are not having a good day or feel anxious about something. Green Brain (happy) and Red Brain (anxious) we affectionately name it.
  • I had a discussion with the Principal of our school about an issue my daughter raised with me. He was shocked that my daughter was so open with me, and actually rang later to tell me how wonderful it was. I feel privileged that my kids are willing to share with me. It was lovely to have the reinforcement that I’m not totally ruining my kids. HA!

I strive to be the best Mum I can be, and at the end of the day, the best I can be is not about being perfect all the time but creating a loving environment where my children have the opportunity to shine. And they do. Bless them!

It’s Okay — Be Fallible: Give Kids the Chance to Shine

My Daughter Insulted Me, And it Made Me Happy

“Mum, can you come lie on my bed for a little while before I go to sleep? I just want to chat for a minute.” It was my 10-year old daughter calling.

I have to admit, I was tired, had just finished putting the children to bed, and I didn’t feel like dragging out bedtime; I was absolutely desperate looking forward to some quiet moments to myself! However, I talked myself into it thought: this is an opportunity to chat with my pre-teen daughter and I need to capture it.

I climbed up the stairs of her loft bed and lay down on my stomach with my feet resting on the loft stairs.

loft bed for children

“What do you want to talk about babe?”

“School isn’t great. I know we have talked about this before but in this new school, I haven’t been able to make many friends.”

“I know beautiful. We’re working on it aren’t we. And we will keep working through it together. You know you are always accepted and loved here at home. We are thinking about some different options for next year if we can get you into another school, considering everything that has been going on at this school.”

I didn’t think it would be a viable option for our family but I thought I would see what my daughter thought about this: “Do you want to be home schooled?”

My daugther looked at me from where she was sitting in the corner of bed, surrounded by stuffed toys. “No. I mean, I think it would be really great to be with you more, but I want to be educated. No offense Mum, but you’re not the greatest teacher.”

I laughed and laughed.

“True. I’m pretty shocking when it comes with helping with homework hey.”

She giggled.

We talked a little more then I climbed down the stairs of her bed and shut the door behind me. The conversation left me with a big smile on my face.

I loved that my daughter felt free to speak truth. It wasn’t an insult because there was no disrespect in her voice when she told me that I wasn’t a very good teacher. It’s a fact I’m quite aware of. I’m more of an inspirer than a teacher.

I was excited because this is one of the values I am striving for in my family: the freedom to love and to be loved for who you are, shortcomings and all.

This is an example of how the post Don’t Try and Be The Mum You’re Not comes into play. I’m always going to be the mum who is better at doing things with my kids and inspiring them, rather than being the patient teacher who can explain things in an easy to understand way. That doesn’t mean I don’t try and excercise patience and learn how to be a better teacher, but I am who I am. And you know what? My kids know this about me, and love me anyway!

I want us to be a family who are not afraid of truth, discussion and different points of view.

I also want my kids to be confident in who they are and have the freedom to express their personality. My daughter is starting to develop her own fashion style and it makes me so happy.

{Flossie Style}

flossie style

Isn’t it wonderful to be surrounded by people who accept you for who you are, and yet still encourage you to challenge yourself? This is so much of what family means to me. Truth. Truth in love.

Don’t Try and Be the Mum You’re Not

She’s so organised and seems to be able to keep her house beautifully neat.

She’s so hospitable and is always comfortable for people to visit her home.

She always looks amazing. I don’t know how she does it.

She’s so creative and thinks of cool things to do.

She’s so active and takes her kids everywhere.

She’s always so patient, gentle and kind. I’ve never heard her raise her voice.

She’s funny and makes everyone around her laugh.

She bakes and cooks everything from scratch.

If I look for generalisations, I’ll surely find them. When I do find them, I see the many things I’m not as a mum (but would like to be). It’s easy to fall into the trap of worrying I’m not giving my children all they need because I can’t be all the things I see in others.

Some of the many many things I am definitely not

I’m not a very good cook.

I don’t sew, and am not very crafty.

I’m not patient when helping with homework.

I’m not a great housewife.

Some of the things I am

I love doing adventurous and new things with my kids.

I think outside the box and find ways to creatively solve problems.

I’m energetic and love exploring with my kids.

I’m happy to sit down on the grass with white jeans so I can get close to the flowers. That’s the sort of mum I am.

Be the mum you are

There are a lot of things that I’m not — and that’s okay. There are a lot of things that I am — and I celebrate it. I embrace the Mum I am, and this has given me freedom to just be with my kids, without worrying they are missing out because I don’t often bake with them. It also helps me to step outside of my comfort zone, and investigate different approaches as I parent because I don’t waste energy on trying to be something I’m not. I want to walk beside my kids as we journey through life together, rather than constantly veering off the path trying to catch the birds that are best left in the sky. There will be other people who cross my children’s life path that will also share with them in their own special way. I don’t need to be everything for my kids, I need to love them, be there for them, encourage them and be myself with them. I believe it’s a beautiful thing to share yourself, and live life along side your child.

Being a Fun Mum to me is about accepting weakness, embracing essence, and enjoying moments as they happen.

Don’t waste energy on trying to be the Mum you’re not.

Be happy with you who are.

Celebrate diversity in others.

Share what you have.


Be the beautiful mum you are.

That’s all.

be the mum you are

Other Confessions

How to be a fun mum

When your good isn’t good enough

Playing with my Kids (a confession)

The (not so serious) Serious Word

Captain-von-Trapp-whistleCaptain Von Trapp from Sound of Music was on to something when he used a whistle to give instructions to his children.  Gathering my children together to go somewhere can take me a good part of 10 minutes, and sometimes longer!  So I use a special word to call the kids. It’s kind of a game but it works a treat when I need to give my children instruction before we head out somewhere.

Here is the word:


Yes, report. And this is how I use it. Say our family is going out for the day, and I need to brief the children about what to bring, for example:

 “Get your shoes on.”

“You’ll need to bring a jumper and hat.” 

“Don’t forget your drink bottle.”

“Make sure your hair is brushed.” 

Well, I call out, “Report! Report!”  And all my children come running to me like a shot, all the while saying, “Report! Report!”  When they get to me, they stand straight like soldiers with their chins in the air and hands behind their back.

It’s a game, and the kids think it’s hilarious, but it’s proven to be a fantastic way to get them all standing quietly for a moment so I can brief them. They key to this being a success is to not overuse it; only when something important needs to be said.

I’ll let you in on a secret: I do whistle to call my kids too. I learned a cracker-loud finger whistle when I lived in Papua New Guinea as a child and it has served me well ever since. 

I like to provide opportunities for my children to play in large, unstructured places, like on the beach, out in the country or on a bush walk or hike.  When we are out in these large spaces, where the kids may not be able to hear me, I whistle loud and the kids know to come running back to me. Yes indeed: Captain Von Trapp was on to something.

Do you have any tips on calling and briefing kids?


Words as Concepts

Words As Concepts

words as concepts

It wasn’t exactly intentional, but over time, I noticed my use of certain words to describe concepts with the children. It’s interesting to see how the repetitive use of these words/concepts have come full circle and now the kids encourage me with the same.

I say things like:

“use your imagination”

“find something creative to do”

“you made a discovery”

“go on an adventure”

“choose to be happy”

“let’s hope for something”


Definition: form a mental image of something that is not present or that is not the case

Imagination is wonderful thing!  And children do it so well! I believe imagination is the step before creation.  It’s the ability to think outside the box and has enormous potential as a problem solving tool.  I often find myself affirming this sort of behaviour in my children, and rather than saying, “That’s good,” I say, “WOW, you’re using your imagination!”


Definition: make or cause to be or to become

“Find something creative to do” is a phrase I use often.  It may be when the kids have watched television for a while or if they are feeling bored. I guess what I’m trying to encourage is the ability for my children to create their own fun without the need for constant entertainment.  There is usually always something fun to discover, no matter where you are.


Definition: a productive insight

Discoveries are everywhere. Many of the love the moment challenges have led to wonderful learning experiences for the children and I! Discovery for me is about being aware of what is around me and the attitude of  constantly growing and learning. This is something I want to teach my children.


Definition: an exciting undertaking

My son often comes up to me and says, “I’m going on an adventure.” True: it may be hiding behind trees in the backyard, but the excitement is there!  Our family loves adventure, and we use the word when we are doing something exciting, like 4Wheel Driving on the beach, hiking, visiting a theme park or even just taking a different road home. “Let’s go on an adventure today!” Bring. It. On.


Definition: contentment

There’s a lot of noise about happiness these days.  I think happiness is  less about doing what you want and more about choosing to be content with what you have. It’s the way you look at a situation. I also see happiness as a consequence, not a goal; a natural consequence of carving a life of value is that feeling of satisfaction. That is part of the reason why I have the “Pollyanna” in the ingredients of a Fun Mum.  When my kids are all “poor me” I encourage them to make a choice to be happy. To be content, to look at things differently, to carve out a life of significance and satisfaction, even when things don’t turn out the way they expect.


Definition: to be optimistic, and the general feeling that some desire will be fulfilled

Hope. Having something to look forward to is a coping mechanism I often use.  When I have a hard week ahead, or a weekend without my husband, I plan something special in the future so I can look forward to it.  This works with the children too. Just this morning, my daughter had something hard to face at school. I gave her $2 to spend at the tuck-shop (a rarity for her). It wasn’t bribery, it was hope! I  thought having something for her to look forward to would help her face the day with a little more hope.

Words. Words are wonderful! And I love how their meaning have become concepts for our family to enjoy.

  • It thrills me when my children call me to look at their game: “Mum! Come look! We used our imagination!”
  • I laugh when my children, in a forbearing tone say, “Yeah Mum, we know: Find something creative to do.” And then later I find an amazing construction craft out of packing tape and recycled boxes.
  • I feel privileged to watch my children discover the wonder around them and they encourage me to do the same.
  • I love how the children embrace adventure with open arms, and how having them with me makes me look for adventure in all sorts of places.
  • I feel proud when my children make the decision to be happy, regardless of the situation.
  • And hope. There’s always hope. And if it’s not obvious, I invent it; for me and for my kids.

I love these words, and what they mean to me:

Imagine . Create . Discover . Adventure . Happy . Hope

Oh, and I like the word brilliant too.

What words do you love?


How to Be A Fun Mum

Ingredients of a Fun Mum

Treat Your Kids Without Spoiling Them

treat your kids without spoiling them

It’s a balance: treating your kids without spoiling them. I love doing all kinds of special things for my children.  In saying that, I DO NOT want my children to become spoilt brats. Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory comes to mind when I think of the words spoilt brat.  You know the song: “I want today, I want tomorrow; it’s my bar of chocolate, give it to me now.”

A Veruca Salt is not what I hope for my children but, oh, I do love lavishing all kinds of good things on my kids. So, how do I find the balance? Not sure but I’ve jotted some thinkings down.

1. Don’t Ask Me

This is a conversation I have with my children: Mum and Dad love buying you things and we are always looking for ways to give you a good time.  When we are out at the shop, or anywhere else, I don’t want you to ask for lollies, toys or food.  Firstly, this takes a lot of the enjoyment out of the giving for Mum and Dad.  Secondly, if we don’t buy you things there’s a good reason.

Note: This is a general rule about shopping, outings and such. It’s not a blanket never-ask-for-anything rule.

2. Show me

When we are out and about, the children often show me things they love — I like that.  It helps me understand them a little more when they share with me what they love. My nine year old will say, “Oh look Mum, that’s just my style.” There’s a difference between showing and asking.

3. Money doesn’t grow on trees

It’s a cliché and there is a good point to it. I want my children to understand that money needs to be earned and taken care of; yet not loved.  I would rather teach them to make their own bricks than lay down the road for them.

4. A grateful heart

Just today, I went out with my sister and our children for morning tea. I didn’t want to be out late in the afternoon because I had to organise for school tomorrow.  Now, our children got scheming, as cousins do.  My kids were desperate to go back to their cousins house to have a swim.  I said that I had a busy afternoon and we probably couldn’t fit it in.  The “Yes Mum” attitude prompted me to put the effort in to drop by my sisters house on the way home to give the children a 30 minute swim.  I’m always looking for a grateful heart in my children (and Mums can’t be fooled; it has to be real).  When it is real, all kinds of wonderful things happen.

5. Emotions

When things don’t happen the way my children want or expect, it can be disappointing.  I acknowledge things can be sad and I don’t discourage the emotion.  What I do discourage is the “It’s not fair” and “Mum doesn’t care” attitude. Be disappointed, yes; be ungrateful, no.

6.  Too much honey

That last piece of chocolate never tastes quite as good as the first, does it?  Too many special activities or food makes the special things not so special anymore — and that’s sad.

7. Go all out

When I can spoil the kids without thought of balance — I do!  On special occasions like Christmas, family holidays and birthdays I go all out and just spoil the kids rotten.

Much effort goes into loving the children and this includes giving them a wonderful childhood filled with all kinds of goodness.  In weak moments, the loving goodness can turn into a reactive pacify-the-child mentality.  That’s when I go back to the drawing board and reestablish the act of loving but not spoiling.

What do you think about spoiling and finding the balance?

Be A Fun Mum Links

Siblings: Friends for Life

Parenting Siblings: Is it Fair?

Childishness or Foolishness

Choose Which Hill to Die On: The Terrible Twos

I Have Three Crushes

Three Gates: Words of Wisdom

Hands Behind Back

Personality: Heads and Tails

Parenting and Personality

This is a guest post from Eleanor Formaggio from Parent with Potential in response to this question: How do you raise a child according to their personality?

Wow, what a great question, and to put this in words was incredibly difficult. I do know raising my children according to personality has made parenting more enjoyable and rewarding.  Parenting is more enjoyable because I parent according to their personality — which means less time wasted doing things that don’t work, and more rewarding because I can be creative in my parenting.  My philosophy is when a child’s emotional needs are met, they feel loved unconditionally so are less concerned about being disciplined or rewarded differently. 

How do I raise my children according to their personality?  It’s easier to start young, but never to late to start.  That’s why I developed The Preschooler Personality Rating Scale that can be used from age two. Most personality traits in young children are quite easy to see in the way they speak, words they use and how they behave.  These behaviours are identified and, rather than boxing a child in, allows the parent to put behaviour in context.

Children will go through a few personality changes and may start to develop more strongly in certain areas.  Personality is not set in stone and is constantly being refined by our environment, expectations of others and consequence.

“My children, who have been raised according to their personality, are developing a strong sense of who they are and that is based on the acceptance  and acknowledgement they have received.” -Eleanor Formaggio

It comes down to being able to identify who a child is: their traits and behaviour. This gives an insight into their perception of the world, their thinking and the motivations behind their behaviour.  As a parent this knowledge is invaluable and I have seen many a parent nod and looked shocked when I describe their child, simply by the behaviour they have told me.

Finally, the easiest way to explain how I parent according to personality is to tell you what I’ve learnt from my own experiences.

*  I don’t treat my children the same. They are individuals and I respect each child for their talents, interests, abilities, strengths and weaknesses.

*  I understand my children respond differently to the consequences I choose for them, so sometimes I adapt my consequence to a more appropriate and effective one for each child.

*  I develop myself by adapting to my children’s needs. They are the child and I am the parent; for example, I am not a naturally “touchy feely” person, so I initiate and institute “cuddle” days because that is what my child needs. 

*  I need to model the behaviour or alternative trait I expect to see in my children because they don’t know any other way.

*  I need to help my children develop skills they don’t have, and this is not a negative, it’s an opportunity to help them understand who they are and what they can achieve.

 Eleanor Formaggio developed The Preschooler Personality™ Kit in 2005 and uses personality knowledge to parent her own children ages 8, 7 and 2. Eleanor is the founder of Parent with Potential which specialises in child behaviour and personality.  For personality products for parents visit Parent with Potential.

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Note from Kelly:  Parenting by personality is like saying this to a child: I love you for who you are and see all you can be. I was raised this way by my own parents and it made me feel loved, secure and special.

What do you think about parenting by personality?

External Links

Parent with Potential

Be A Fun Mum Links

Parenting Siblings: Is it fair?

Siblings: Friends for Life

Personality: Heads and Tails

The Anxious Child: Red Brain, Green Brain