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John Cowan

John Cowan

John has been with The Parenting Place (www.theparentingplace.com) for sixteen years as their senior writer and presenter.  He had various roles working with youth and families prior to that but actually started his working life as a scientist in neurophysiology at Auckland Hospital.  As well as writing and speaking, John is frequently on radio and television, and hosts his own show,  Real Life, on NewstalkZB.

Latest from John Cowan

  • John Cowan - Confident Kids

    If you watch a group of youngsters, you can easily spot the confident ones. They usually have more bruises and Band-Aids – but you can also see their confidence bubbling over in their enthusiasm, friendliness and fun. That early confidence is a strong indicator...

  • John Cowan - Getting out the door

    There used to be a credit card ad on TV where some smarmy young high-flying business exec is on the phone is saying, “You want me to go to Bangkok?” Then he’d pull out his credit card and say, “Sure… I’m packed!” At that stage of my life I would want to hurl things...

  • John Cowan - Don't rob your children

    We need a bigger view of what chores actually are. They are not just a cheap source of labour around the place; they are, in fact, a life-skill training programme. Most parents discover that getting children to do chores does not actually save much time and energy,...

  • John Cowan - Gratitude

    I haven’t tried many mood altering drugs, but surely one of the best has got to be gratitude. Not many things lift my heart more than shifting my focus onto the people and things that are actually good in my life. ‘Gratitude is the Great Attitude’... and  I am...

  • John Cowan - Create a Village

    Out beyond the walls of your home. Society is changing and parents today are far less likely to belong to community groups. Their own parents and grandparents were far more likely to belong to Lions or Rotary, or go to a church or be on the committee at the local...

  • John Cowan - Disagreement

    Today I walked two dogs at the same time; my own dog and one I’m looking after. I felt like I was getting ripped in two. I had a leash in each hand – one would pull this way, one would pull the other.  One would stop, one would strain to go on. Huge differences...

  • John Cowan - Motives

    One of my earliest memories: me, aged four, standing on a work bench in our orchard’s packing shed, smashing the glass out of a window with a hammer. And then my older brother taunting me with great glee that I was going to get a hiding from Dad. (By the way, I...

  • John Cowan - Kids On A Budget

    How can your teenager get money, over and above any pocket money you give them? Let’s rule out secretly selling all your tools on Trademe and other illegal or immoral means… what’s left?  They can work for it at a part time job – which is excellent in so many ways....

  • John Cowan - For Jacinda

    Recently a newspaper reporter asked me what advice I would give Jacinda Adern about her new baby. I felt like saying that my advice would be not to take advice from a newspaper columns but, actually my advice was take advice from everyone. You don’t  actually need...

  • John Cowan - Do it again

    If your child does something the wrong way, get them to do it again the right way. For example, I reckon you should never give in to any request made to you in a whiney grizzly voice, so if they do use that tactic, say, “Pop down to your bedroom and pick up your...

  • John Cowan - Cannibal Kids

    Your toddler went through a lot of grief to get that set of teeth, and now that he has them he wants to use them. They bite. At first it’s probably to ease the discomfort of teething and so they will they gnaw like a beaver on almost anything, like toys, furniture...

  • John Cowan - Sleep Tips

    I don’t want to have a fight with anyone! But if I did want to have a battle, I’d raise the topic of how to get a toddler or small child to go sleep. So many arguments! Even at the mention of this topic some of you are switching to ‘battle mode’, just in case I...

  • John Cowan - Resentment

    My Mum had a nice cat called Tui, and after a while she got another cat called Tom. And Tui suddenly stopped being nice. She became unfriendly and grumpy.  After about a dozen years,Tom died… and Tui became nice again. For her few remaining years, Tui was her old...

  • John Cowan - Driving Lessons

    Getting a driving license in Rarotonga in 1974 was easy. I asked the Police Sergeant and he gave one to me. The only test was answering questions about the well-being of my various Cook Island cousins. Getting a New Zealand drivers’ today is a lot harder and costs...

  • John Cowan - Powerful Peers

    Ian Lillico is an expert on boys; I recall him saying that the groups and peers your son hangs out with at 10 gives a good indication how the rest of their teenage years are going to go. That’s probably true, and probably true for girls as well.  For example, research...

  • John Cowan - The Winning Trifecta

    A Trifecta is when you pick all three winners in a race.  A according to Professor Richie Poulton of the world famous Dunedin Study, there is a ‘trifecta of effective parenting’ : the top three winning factors that will help our kids succeed in every aspect of...

  • John Cowan - Doing it for the Dopamine

    Parents often fret how they can budge their kids off video games and their phones. Factor in the dopamine.  Dopamine is a natural brain chemical. If I solve a problem,  I get a little squirt of dopamine in my brain and I feel good. When I finish a job: more dopamine,...

  • John Cowan - Screen Diet

    In her great book, “The Art of Screen Time: How Your Family Can Balance Digital Media and Real Life” by Anya Kamenetz, she asks the question: Is the that time kids spend on gadgets, games, phones and computers totally toxic, like smoking, which has no safe minimum...

  • John Cowan - Chauffers

    I saw a personalised car plate yesterday,  “SHOFAR” and I honestly thought. “Ah hah! The ram’s horn musical instrument used in the Middle East: the shofar! What an odd thing to have on a number plate”. Then two things clicked in my thick head: the first thing was...

  • John Cowan - Three More Cries

    I like to pass on information that has been well researched and vigorously tested... and then again, I quite like ideas that pop into my head, especially if they worked with our kids! You do the testing – if it works at your place, great, if not, try something...

  • John Cowan - Bullying

    Some kids will be fearful about returning to school because of the dread of being bullied. Here are just a few tips to help. Take complaints of bullying seriously. Often kids won’t tell their parents they are being   bullied because they are ashamed or they are...

  • John Cowan - Difficult Behaviour

    When you are confronted by difficult behaviour, there are a few things to remember.  There are no bad children, just children with bad behaviour. That should be very encouraging because behaviour can be changed! You don’t have to get a new child! The old one will...

  • John Cowan - Loving From a Distance

    If you do live away from your child there is good news. Technology today can help you stay in touch. I’ve talked to a dad who chats and plays games with boys twice a week while they are on the other side of the world, and plenty of families where Grandparents have...

  • John Cowan - Christmas Rituals

    I can give you good parenting tips and discipline techniques but one of the key things to know is that even the best ideas in the world won’t work if a child doesn’t feel plugged into his family and connected to his parents.  And one of the best ways of doing that...

  • John Cowan - Camping

    I remember the  reading that camping holidays were a common factor in families that get on well. Could be. Marvellous relationships were formed in bomb shelters during the war and in prisoner-of-war camps, so camping holidays might well weld families together ...

  • John Cowan - Toddler Sleep

    One of the most debated areas in parenting is the best way to get children to sleep. I’ve heard lots of techniques and I am far too scared of all the strong opinions out there to make a call on which one is the best. But one of the Family Coaches at the Parenting...

  • John Cowan - Parent Vision

    Apparently, Superman has X-ray vision. As a teenage boy, I thought that would be a fantastic super-power to have! But there is another superpower that parents can develop that might be even more useful. It’s called Parent Vision: the ability to look through the...

  • John Cowan - Emotional Journal

    I recently came across an old diary of mine from decades ago. I am not an especially angry person but, wow! … in one entry I really let rip about some people who had treated me badly. I had even drawn a picture of the event.  And that was that. In the pages that...

  • John Cowan - What do we do with our child's tears

    Some of us find it hard to handle our children's tears. The way people show emotion is very much  a personal thing  – some people’s emotions just burst out of them and others are as cool as cucumbers even though they might be boiling inside. It is also cultural:...

  • John Cowan - Playful Parenting

    In an earlier lifetime, I used to be a photographer. Here's a tip, if you want to get some great photos of your kids, get down on their level, where they're at. And if you want to have some great play times with your kids you have to get down on their level as...

  • John Cowan - Sibling Rivalry

    If you have more than one child, I bet you have yelled at your kids, “Be nice to each other!’ Has that phrase ever worked in the history of humankind? Have any children suddenly stopped and thought, “You’re right! I had forgotten to be nice to my brother. Thanks...

  • John Cowan - Self-Praising

    A truck spoke to me once. A sign on the back of a tanker said, “What’s getting in your way is probably you.”  It hit me. The truck didn’t, but the sign did.  You see, I talk to myself all the time. And usually my self-talk is about me:  who I am, what I am, what...

  • John Cowan - Avoid Overpraising

    Praising children is great – most of us should do it more – but even young children recognise constant praise as manipulative.  They soon learn that it is meaningless flattery. Some children become self-esteem junkies – they get such a high level of praise they...

  • John Cowan - Other Adult Influences

    Occasionally, you might have rough patches in your  relationship with your child, especially during the teenage years.  And it is also very normal for there to be times when your child seems to get on far better with some other adult. It’s very natural to be jealous,...

  • John Cowan - Problem Solving

    When we see our kids spinning over some problem, we usually want to step in and solve it for them. A good alternative isto ask the types of questions that will get them thinking of their own solutions. Be warned – at the start you might get the frustration and...

  • John Cowan - Creating a Museum of Memories

    Give children a legacy of happy memories: a museum of recollections that they can wander through and again and again in later life. It will give them pleasure, but also roots, as they re-interpret their childhood experiences with adult insight. Here are few ideas...

  • John Cowan - Picky Eaters

    I wonder: what would have happened if I’d let my children eat whatever they wanted when they were young? They would have been dead of scurvy before their twelfth birthday.  An exclusive diet of chips, lollies and burgers doesn’t get you very far… probably only...

  • John Cowan - The Success Attitude

    Gidday, I’m John Cowan from the Parenting Place. I’m sure all of us would love to leave our children a farm and squillions of dollars when we croak. Not many of us will be able to do that, but we can all leave them with an awesome attitude that will help them...

  • John Cowan - Whine Time

    Why do kids grizzle and whine? Because it works! Like chicks in a nests that pester and peck until their parent regurgitates worm bits down their throats, kids have learnt that whining gets them what they want.  Do you really want to spend the rest of your parenting...

  • John Cowan - No More Gaps

    My Mum was always a National supporter, and my Dad was Labour. Every three year they would dutifully go to the polls and cancel out each other’s vote. One of the most useful insights about staying together as a couple is, you are not always going to agree about,...

  • John Cowan - The Basics

    Gidday, I’m John Cowan from the Parenting Place One thing that is very apparent after more than twenty years of parent education: there are lots of right ways to bring up kids. I have known families who have done things completely different from how I would done...

  • John Cowan - Motivate Your Child

    Gidday I’m John Cowan from the Parenting Place Praise is a great tool, perhaps the most useful tool that a motivator can use – and all parents should be good motivators. You motivate, not to push but to lift them.  Your praise indicates that you have noticed something...

  • John Cowan - Grand Grandparents

    Being a grandparent can be, should be, wonderful. Having grandparents involved in your kid’s lives can be, should be wonderful too. But over the years I’ve heard niggles from both parents and grandparents – so I know it’s not always Disneyland – but I’ve also seen...

  • John Cowan - Youth Crime

    Hi, I’m John Cowan from the parenting place. On TV1’s Sunday this week they highlighted the problem of increasingly violent dairy robberies being committed by younger and younger children – some of them as young as ten and eleven. Inspector Dave Glossop was asked...

  • John Cowan - Kids Who Bully

    There are two ways to tackle unpleasant behaviour: one is to discourage it with penalties and disapproval; the other way is to encourage better behaviour to replace the bad behaviour. It is not enough to say what not to do - -you need to teach kids what they should...

  • John Cowan - Helping Your Adult Children

    Gidday I’m John Cowan from the Parenting Place Before you had kids you were dinkies: Double Income No-Kid Couples with lots of money and time and freedom. And then you became sitcoms, Single Income Three-Kid Oppressive Mortgage Families. And that’s where a lot...

  • John Cowan - What to do for Mum?

    Mothers Day – another opportunity for us men to show our complete incompetence in gift buying. We all know that our life is being constantly spied on by marketers, collecting data so that businesses can make more dough out of us. It’s not often that we get to...

  • John Cowan - Strong Willed Children

    Hi I’m John Cowan from the Parenting Place Some kids are strong willed, stroppy kids – if you’ve got one, you will know what I’m talking about; if you haven’t – then be very grateful.   If you have a strong willed child, be optimistic! Tricky kids often turn out...

  • John Cowan - Step Up and Butt In

    Gidday. I’m John Cowan from the Parenting Place This is a family tip rather than a parenting tip -  it’s about the way we, as adults, relate to other adults in our family and outside it. My sister has become gravely ill and I flew to be with her. Amongst the...

  • John Cowan - Do Internet Filters Work?

    I am willing to be proved wrong, but I am seldom happy about it. For example, for years I have been recommending that parents put some type of internet filtering software on their computers at home to protect their children from nasty stuff on the internet. It...

  • John Cowan - Work

    Work is such a powerfully good thing in most people’s lives and it’s something we should get our kids hooked on as soon as we can. Work gets you from ‘wanting’ to ‘having’. It makes you feel good about yourself, and raises your esteem in the eyes of others. The...

  • John Cowan - Side Line Parenting

    Gidday, I’m John Cowan from the Parenting Place I’d like to pay a tribute to a special bunch of parents – it’s big bunch and super bunch – the parents that turn out to support their kids sports. When you are standing there with your toes freezing in your gum boots,...

  • John Cowan - Embarrassing Parents

    Millions of people have now viewed a particular BBC live news interview with Professor Robert Kelly but I am certain the vast majority have no idea what he is talking about. I have watched it myself several times and still haven’t a clue – because, as he witters...

  • John Cowan - Two meals

    Gidday, I’m John Cowan from the Parenting place.Years ago, I was a youth worker dealing with at-risk and troubled teenagers. I thought it would be a good idea to take a couple of them to have a meal with my parents, who were the kindest, friendliest people you...

  • John Cowan - Sophie Pascoe’s Family

    Last night I spoke with Sophie Pascoe – nine Paralympic swimming gold medals, six silver, an amazing athlete and a wonderful person. And what a story. A big part of that story is the terrible accident at two years of age which took one leg and so scarred the other...

  • John Cowan - The Last Time

    G’dday, I’m John Cowan from the Parenting Place I walk my dog every morning. This morning I saw a man walking up the street towards me, while his young son skipped and played in front of him on the way to school. He reminded of another man I used to see often....

  • John Cowan - Good Parenting isn't Harsh Parenting

    Strict, harsh parenting seems to get great results. You say jump and they jump. But good research shows that kids are also more likely to jump out of school, jump the rails and jump into bed with others at a young age. A just-published study called the Maryland...

  • John Cowan - Your kids: are they rhubarb or beans?

    For a long time I thought that parents shaped their children. I believed that we coached and mentored and disciplined them into the adults they eventually become. I now wonder if that is correct. I look at my three adult children: they are so totally different!...

  • John Cowan - Don't oversell school

    Gidday I’m John Cowan from theParentingPlace.com, I am no doctor but I am predicting an epidemic of tummy aches in the first week of February. I know I always got one on the first day of school after the holidays.  School is probably a lot nicer now than it was...

  • John Cowan - Give your face

    I sometimes get a fright when I am using my phone or iPad. If the screen goes blank, I see my reflection in the glass looking back at me. They say that by my age you have the face you deserve – I must have been very, very bad. I have been blessed with one of those...

  • John Cowan - inconvenient and impractical Christmas

    Wishing you an inconvenient and impractical ChristmasAs the Christmas shopping frenzy gets wilder and wilder I like to go to a mall, find a good parking space, and then sit in my car with my reversing lights on, watching the cars stopping and waiting and waiting...

  • John Cowan - Your gang

    A woman I know told me about an amazing asset she had as she was growing up – her parents’ gang. Her Mum and Dad had a great bunch of friends. Every summer they would all take their caravans away to a beach and camp together, and she said that those times were...

  • John Cowan - Five tips for tech-savvy parents

    “Do” works better than ‘Stop!” If you are worried a child is spending too much time on screens, one of the best ‘antidotes’ is to add to their activities, rather than saying ‘Stop!’ Dilute the amount of gadget time with extra sports, activities, games, chores,...

  • John Cowan - Take control of Christmas

    We often get overstuffed on Christmas day, but sometimes the day itself gets overstuffed as well. Too much travel, too much preparation, too many meals – where did the fun go? Anything you can do to reduce stress in your life will be a benefit to your relationships...

  • John Cowan - Political Kids

    Hi I’m John Cowan from the Parenting Place. I am not sure what my political heritage is because Mum always voted National and Dad was a Labour supporter, and every three years they would conscientiously head off to the polling booths and respectfully cancel out...

  • John Cowan - A Procrastinators Guide To Exams

    Traitors lurk in the basement of my brain.  My subconscious is supposed to be on my side but honestly, there are bits of me down there in my sub-cortex that work against me all the time. Ancient insecurities and primitive fears that steal my enthusiasm and confidence. ...

  • John Cowan - Pass Mark

    I got asked to do the eulogy at an elderly uncle’s funeral. I said lots of nice things about him – that’s what you’re supposed to do when they’re dead – but as I was finishing saying what a good bloke he was one of his sons bellowed, “No he wasn’t he was a grumpy...

  • John Cowan - Discipline Should Never Be A Surprise

    Communication is a huge part of good discipline. It means that kids understand what is expected of them and why. Discipline should never be a surprise – kids should never find themselves in trouble because they broke some rule that they didn’t even know about –...

  • John Cowan - Liar Liar

    Little fibs can lead to bigger fibs, and may eventually lead to habitual dishonesty (and even politics), so it’s best to nip lying in the bud. A good starting point with any undesirable behaviour is always to ask yourself, “What is the payoff for this behaviour?”...

  • John Cowan - Plan B

    Many parents work, and to do this we need to arrange childcare, which is often expensive and inconvenient, but we do it. You make plans and then, if you really want to reduce your stress and anxiety, you make back up plans as well. Many working parents spend a...

  • John Cowan - Calm Creates Calm

    Some mysteries are not that deep. If a parent asks in a grizzly voice, “Why is my child always whining?” you don’t need a PhD in psychology to work out an answer.  We train our children, first and foremost, with our example. This is certainly true when it comes...

  • John Cowan - Smoking

    This might be an odd parenting tip but I want to speak about smoking. It is a parenting issue because most smokers start as children, and half of those who do will die from it. Around the world about 100,000 children will have their first cigarette today, and about...

  • John Cowan - Car Time

    I am an Aucklander, so I live in a car. Not in the homeless sense – my genuine sympathy to those that do – but I recently did depressing calculations about how many hours of my life I have spent commuting on Auckland’s clogged roads. It is years! Not all of it...

  • John Cowan - New Zealand Family Life

    Some new research* wraps figures around a trend we’ve seen for a long time in our work at the Parenting Place. Dr Judith Sligo and fellow researchers looked at 209 fifteen year-olds born to parents in the world famous Dunedin study. Only 26% lived with both biological...

  • John Cowan - Teenage Pong

    It is a fascinating experience watching your children grow and transform from children into teenagers. Wonderful to watch, but sometimes not so nice to smell. How do you let your son know he smells like a billy goat without offending him? Here’s a cunning line:...

  • John Cowan - Assertiveness

    You might think it is great to have kids who do what they are told.  That is okay when it is us who is telling them what to do. It’s not so good when it is their mates who are giving the instructions and our kids don’t know how to stand up to them. Kids need to...

  • John Cowan - Science

    I have been very interested in the results of a very long term study that has been going on for more than more fifty years. The study is called ‘My Life’ and I am the only subject of that study. Why am I like I am? And the thing that interests me particularly at...

  • John Cowan - Keep The Big Picture

    Having a bad patch with your child’s behaviour? Take a step back and get the wider view. A great phrase to remember is. “A child who feels right, acts right”. All children throw up a bit of spontaneous mischief but if you are getting consistently unpleasant, difficult...

  • John Cowan - The Anger Rules

    You’d think the first rule would be “Don’t get angry”  but that is just not possible. Anger will happen, but it’s the way kids learn to handle it as a child that will determine so much about how successful their lives will be. These rules are useful mainly because...

  • John Cowan - The Whitewater-Rafting Years

    Some years ago some lunatics offered to take me white-water rafting. Testosterone poisoning afflicts males in strange ways, and so even though every sensible neurone in my brain yelled “NO!”, my hormone-blighted tongue mumbled  “yes” . My job was to kneel in the...

  • John Cowan - Man-Up And Do It For Your Kids

    An old joke: A little girl asked her grandmother, “Grandma, can you make a noise like a frog?” “Why do you ask that, Honey?” “Because Daddy says we can all go to Disneyland when you croak.” It might sometimes seem like the best thing we could do for our kids...

  • John Cowan - Should You Share Your Children?

    As an inveterate show-off, I love social media. I Tweet, I Instagram, and I am an embarrassingly profligate Facebooker. But if I was a parent with young children, I would pause a little before posting pictures on social media. Posting is as permanent as a tattoo...

  • John Cowan - You’re Not That Bad!

    Many Mums and Dads I meet are too quick to write themselves off as useless. Maybe their teenagers have done a few dumb things, or their kids are giving them the silent treatment, or they see their children with habits and character flaws that really disappoint...

  • John Cowan - Eating

    “Eat everything on your plate” is a great way to train your children to ignore their natural appetite. Sadly many of us no longer recognise subtle signals from our stomach: we pass straight from ‘hunger’ to ‘excess’ without ever noticing the point of ‘enough’....

  • John Cowan - Grace and Gratitude

    Gidday, I’m John Cowan. We at the Parenting Place tries to boost every part of family life and that includes providing support for relationship between couples. Being in a long term relationship gives you lots of opportunities to discover annoying things about...

  • John Cowan - That’s Rude!

    Honestly, it’s not your fault! Children seem to have a natural fascination with toilets, bodily functions and nudity. It develops through the early school years - and it usually intersects with their growing sense of humour. Part of it is ‘proto-sexual’ behaviour,...

  • John Cowan - Loving Your Teenager

    Some people reckon teenagers are God’s punishment on parents for enjoying sex too much. I’m not sure I agree, but adolescents can be challenging. Here are a few tips for getting along a bit better.  Is there something positive about your teenager?  Why not roll...

  • John Cowan - Feel, Think, Act

    Immature behaviour is when someone acts on an emotion without thinking. They go straight from feeling to acting. They feel angry, and so they lash out and hit. They want a toy, and they just snatch from another child. They feel hungry, so they just take food straight...

  • John Cowan - Big Rocks First

    I heard about a group of business students being addressed by an expert on time-management. He pulled out a big glass jar and set it on a table and then filled it with rocks. He asked this group of bright-eyed, bushy-tailed over-achievers, “Is this jar full?” Everyone...

  • John Cowan - Borrowing Your Eyes

    When my kids were little they always tried to snatch my glasses to play with - sometimes they got really bent.  Your kids might not be going for you specs, but they  do want to borrow your eyeballs. Children try to look at themselves through their parents’ eyes....

  • John Cowan - Sexual Consent Laws

    Recently Judge Louis Bidois discharged five young Opotiki men without conviction after they had pleaded guilty to having sex with girls under the age of sixteen. John Cowan from The Parenting Place comments: I expect the age-of-consent law with its stiff penalties...

  • John Cowan - Get Away From Your Kids

    Imagine that I've got this tank inside of me - if you could see me you would probably imagine that I've got quite a huge tank inside of me - but this is an emotional tank.  It gets filled up by fun and encouraging stuff, and drained out by tiredness and put downs...

  • John Cowan - Long Weekend Activities

    Long weekends roll around very occasionally and, too often, they are over before we realise it. Could I urge you, if you are a parent, to plan to do some things that will build new exhibits in your child’s museum of memories. I am a bloke, so my list might be a...

  • John Cowan - Physical Activity  Needs

    When I go home, there will be three great friends waiting for me – my fridge, my TV and the sofa. “Come on in, have something to eat, sit for a while, blob out.”  I admit, I enjoy their company more than just a little.  I love those friends… so I am truly shocked...

  • John Cowan - Walking To School

    I think it is great if kids walk to school. By far the greatest risk is not from predators, it is traffic. So, before you let your kids walk to school alone,  make sure they know basic pedestrian skills and, especially, that they know  how to cross the road safely....

  • John Cowan - Deferred Gratification

    A researcher did a fascinating experiment*. He gave children a marshmallow. He put it in front of them and said they could eat it now if they wanted to. But he said that if they could wait until he returned, without eating the first marshmallow, then they could...

  • John Cowan - Do The Hard Thing

    My current motto is, “Do the Hard Thing”. I have written that phrase with a marker pen on my office wall.  That way, I see it often and it is encouraging me to do a very hard thing I have been putting off for years, which is re-doing the wall paper in my office…...

  • John Cowan - School Bag Packed

    I guess you checked what went into your kids’ school bags, for the first couple of days of the new term anyway, anyway: their lunch, stationery, bus money, books and so on.  As well as packing their school bags, pack some things into their hearts as well, things...

  • John Cowan - How Do l Help My Angry Child?

    Sometimes you can spot the anger bubbling up – you can see a fight brewing between siblings or your’re noticing thunderous looks on their face – and you might be able to head it off and prevent it boiling up into a full rage. A distraction can work well: “Hey,...

  • John Cowan - Anxious Kids

    Some kids get anxious about going to the dentist or a party or starting at a new school. That’s fair enough – those situations are a bit scary.  That type of anxiety is dealt with by giving them more information, and by big people in the their world – like you...

  • John Cowan - Who Is That Child?

    For a long time I thought that parents shaped their children.  I believed that we coached and mentored and disciplined them into the adults they eventually become. I now wonder if that is correct.  I look at my three adult children: they are so totally different!...

  • John Cowan - Kids Fatten Up Over Summer

    In a century, the monarch will be William and Kate’s little boy, King George, and he will be 102 years old. I expect he will spend a long time every day sending out 100th birthday cards to his elderly subjects. The chances are, your children will get one from him....

  • John Cowan - Camping With Children

    It is amazing how vivid my memories are of camping as a child. And it was real camping, off the grid in a yen by ten canvas tent... The taste of insect repellent  The smell of long forgotten lumps of bait in fishing bags.  The glee at watching moths singe...

  • John Cowan - Merry Step-Christmas

    I like Christmas, but it can be stressful. And it can be particularly stressful if you share the care of your kids with an ex-partner. On Christmas Day, 1914, Allied and German soldiers stopped fighting, climbed out of their trenches and exchanged greetings, small...

  • John Cowan - Exam Pressure

    Is your child a procrastinator? Use a two-pronged approach. Firstly, realise that procrastination often stems from anxiety. Lend them your perspective: exams measure only how well they can do an exam, not their worth as a person. Let them know that exams are important...

  • John Cowan - Gratitude the Great Attitude

    I don’t want to depress you any more than you already are, but it seems our brains are wired for negativity. Brains are set up to spot bad news far more than good news, and if we do hear bad news we tend to stay in a negative frame of mind and it can be hard to...

  • John Cowan - Weddings and Funerals

    People often wonder if it is appropriate to have children at weddings and funerals. Straight up I want to say that well behaved kids will probably be welcome anywhere, but how do you teach them to behave appropriately? The late Queen Mother, when asked the most...

  • John Cowan - Your Home Is Bugged

    You home is bugged: two microphones and two cameras per child. They are watching us, listening to everything, especially the things we say about them, and it impacts them.  If they overhear us expressing doubt about their ability (saying, “He won’t be able to do...

  • John Cowan - School Holidays

    “Yay! School holidays!” said no parent, ever, unless they were also a teacher and could get a break themselves. Here’s a few tips to make holidays less expensive, less stressful and more than a marathon session of video games: Get them to plan ahead – “What...

  • John Cowan - Busy Kids

    Busy kids do better than kids with too little to do, especially if they get in volved in things that where they are developing skills and mixing with positive peers and good adult role models. Early experience in a wide range of activities helps identifies where...

  • John Cowan - Rules without Relationships

    I like slogans, phrases that can stick in your head, and a key one for discipline is: “Rules without relationship leads to rebellion.” If kids don’t like and respect you, it is so much harder to make your rules and boundaries work. This is maybe why some step-parents...

  • John Cowan - Leaving Well

    If you do your job well as a parent your children will leave home. And you probably won’t like it. I talked about the so called “Empty Nest Syndrome” to a group of men and some of them cried when they described how much they missed their kids. There are a couple...

  • John Cowan - Partner First

    If you are parenting on your own, I want to assure you that you can raise perfectly sound, healthy, happy kids. You’d be the first to admit there are extra challenges with having to do so much more on your own but you can do a great job of parenting.  However,...

  • John Cowan - Practical Fairness

    Nothing fuels fights between siblings like favouritism, but in our effort to avoid favouritism we might fall into the ‘fairness trap’. Some parents are thrown into a dilemma at birthdays where they have to buy presents for siblings as well as the birthday person....

  • John Cowan - How to Love Your Teenager

    It is easy enough to love babies. Even when they’re puking down the back of your shirt, they are inherently lovable. But they grow… it can be a lot harder to love adolescents.I’ve seen it on numerous wild-life programmes – the young wildebeest or bear cub or gosling...

  • John Cowan - Everyday Rituals

    I want to talk about rituals – but I’m not going to be sacrificing chickens and dancing around dressed in robes or war paint – it’s not that type of ritual. The rituals I mean are the little habits in your home that happen often. They take so much hassle out of...

  • John Cowan - Tough conversations

    It takes some courage to address issues with teens – topics like alcohol or love and sex. Lot’s of parents would rather avoid those conversations and just trust television and the internet  and their mates will  do the job for them.   Yes, your kids will get lots...

  • John Cowan - Plants and children

    Plants hate me. They hiss at me as I walk past them… the ones that are still alive, anyway. When I look at the jungle I laughingly call a garden I don’t know whether to try and weed it or charge people $2 a head for a wilderness nature ramble. Whatever the opposite...

  • John Cowan - More than school

    I was talking this morning on the phone to a friend in China. He mentioned that high school students there start school at 8 in the morning and finish at 9:30 at night. On three out of four weekends they will do remedial classes, and they work hard on studies during...

  • John Cowan - Flaring Emotions

    Emotions bounce around all the time in most homes. A sob here, some angry words there... it’s all very normal. But then, occasionally, the emotions go through the roof!  Screaming, wild eyes, intense anger... and sometimes some very scared parents wondering what...

  • John Cowan - What Works?

    Here’s some figures to remember: 40, 30, 15, 15.  They add up to a hundred. Research on family therapy shows only 15% of the benefit comes from the actual therapy. Another 15% comes from clients actually believing that the programme was going to work and do them...

  • John Cowan - Get a Haircut

    Sixteen-year-old Lucan Battison was suspended from Hastings' St John's College because his hair was too long. Now his parents are going to the High Court for a judicial review of that decision. There has been a lot of opinion voiced on this already in media but...

  • John Cowan - My hammer

    The abuse and violence in New Zealand  homes is horrifying. The findings of the Glenn Inquiry released this week repeatedly says today’s abusers were yesterday’s victims and the problems are ingrained and cyclic. When all you have is hammer, every problem looks...

  • John Cowan - Every Child Can Learn

    I stayed with friends in Mataura and their tiny daughter pulled out a tiny violin and started to play. I really thought she was too young to be forced to do a hard thing like learn the violin, but she really played well and she also seemed to enjoy it. This was...

  • John Cowan - Go to everything

    Some parenting stuff is easy and fun, and some can be very, very hard, and what I am going to suggest today is in that hard category. The advice is, go to everything your kids do. My wife and I have sat through hours and hours of tuneless droning concerts, weird...

  • John Cowan - Step Parents

    Divorce is such a common feature in our society that you can even get a ‘Divorcee Barbie’ doll for our little girls ... it comes with half of Ken’s stuff. That’s not true but it is true that many kids live in families that are re-combinations:  blending families,...

  • John Cowan - Invest in Teachers

    Maybe, if we’d had a few more dollars in the pot, we would have sent our kids to a private school but, quite honestly, our three kids got a fantastic education at our local state schools. There’s lots of things parents can do to help kids have a good school experience...

  • John Cowan - Consistency

    I know some parents wonder whether they are being strict enough in their discipline. They wonder whether they should have more rules and back them up with stiffer penalties and punishments. I actually think that what many parents need instead is to be more consistent....

  • John Cowan - Your Children are Not Your Enemy

    I guess many in the West are wondering, is Russia still a potential enemy? I don’t know, but I do know that your child is not your enemy. You don’t need the big threats and the big sticks, because you are not in a war. That child that has just sworn at your wife,...

  • John Cowan - How not to get sued by your child

    In the news last week, 18 year old Rachel Canning was suing her parents [1]. It is tempting to just roll our eyes and say, “Only in America!” but the issues in this case would resonate with thousands of Kiwi parents. The news has painted the whole affair in black...

  • John Cowan - Fear of the Dark

    Imagination is a wonderful thing... except when you are three years old in a dark room and you can hear something scraping against the window. If the sun were shining, even a toddler would work out that it was just a branch moving in the wind but, after dark, and...

  • John Cowan - Is it stress?

    There can be lots of things wrong in family life. You can be arguing and having lots of fights with your spouse or your kids. You can be feeling low and unloved. Maybe the kids are uncooperative and moody and getting into trouble. Lots of different problems but...

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