mainly music Blog

  • One of mainly music and mainly play’s five core values is celebration. Celebration is dwelling on the enjoyable things in life – noticing the extraordinary in the ordinary. Looking out at the world, it’s easy to get dragged down with all the negativity that is thrown at us – so it does take some effort to stop and celebrate!

    So it is worth it? What is the point of celebration? Well it turns out that celebrating is actually good for us in a number of ways.

    Firstly, celebration allows us to focus on the important things of life – it gives us much needed perspective. Celebrating one another and special events recalibrates us to not lose sight of the important things in life!

    Celebrating also gives us a sense of belonging! Gathering together to celebrate a shared joy bonds us as a group. To belong is a core need we have as people – and we can do it through coming together in celebration.

    Finally – celebration is actually good for your health. Scientists concur that celebrating makes you feel better. It helps your body produce oxytocins and endorphins – natural chemicals which reduce stress, boost your immune system, allow you to achieve more and even live longer!

    Which is all why at mainly music and mainly play we choose to celebrate! Birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas, Easter, babies, children moving on to early childhood education or school, Chinese New Year, Matariki in New Zealand, Naidoc in Australia – there are so many reasons (or excuses!) to stop and celebrate!

    Celebration doesn’t need to involve an all-out party either. Just to stop and recognise is significant. Simple acts of kindness which are acts of love from the heart often have greater impact than bells and frills.

    So let us always find the reason and the room to put celebrations into our lives! It’s good for us!

    From the Bible: “... I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full.”  John 10:10

  • We sat there and listened. The diagnosis: You have a rare tumour in your right eye. It’s a melanoma so you’ll need to also have a full body scan before we treat it.

    At that moment in time, the world doesn’t actually stop, but it slows down a fair bit. One week before, we thought of ourselves as ‘husband and wife, parents, grandparents, and employees’; well one just made redundant, the other working. Now we’re looking at one of us being, ‘a patient’.

    What happens when you’re faced with a situation like this?

    First off, I think you need to have some your thought processes already planned out. Colin Powell, former Secretary of State, used to practice some of his plans, knowing that when he was in a state of crisis, some of the solutions were already laid out, already well-rehearsed.

    In life, I think that’s about having a perspective about the universe and what it owes you. For me, I don’t believe that God’s angry and trying to punish us when bad things happen. That’s not who God is. We, that’s my husband and I, already know this. We’ve been through some hard times before (you can check out my husband’s leg – it looks like he has been bitten by a shark; but it was actually a telecommunication pole that smashed it) and we know that God has remained true to who He is.

    I also think that some events in our lives are purely the result of consequences – when we’ve made a poor decision it’s the outcome. And because the world is broken, stuff just happens.

    I reckon if you haven’t sorted out your thoughts towards how the universe works, you’ll never be aware of God and just how much He loves and cares for you. You’ll think, ‘This shouldn’t be happening to me – to us – to our child.’ But in fact, ‘stuff happens’ to most people at different levels of intensity all over the world.

    If you think pain is evil or should be brushed aside, that’s not right either. You can’t experience health without knowing sickness or pain. You can’t appreciate the harvest until you know drought. You don’t appreciate sun until you’ve been in the rain. Or vice versa!

    Therefore, in the first instance, you have to be comfortable with the bigger picture. For me, I don’t think God owes me. He doesn’t owe me bad health or difficult times because I’ve been bad. I’m not good – no-one is. But bad health and difficult times aren’t things God deals out because I’m not good.

    And He doesn’t owe me good health, good times, and happy moments all the time either. Whether I have a relationship with Him (and I do) or not, God doesn’t owe me a ‘sweet as’ life.

    Secondly, if you hurry through pain, grief or sadness, you’ll find yourself missing the learning. Pain and sorrow have their place. Like I said before, you need to know sickness to appreciate health.

    There’s a Psalm you might know. A psalm is like a song or a poem. In the midst of it, the writer says, ‘Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death’. He doesn’t write ‘run’ or ‘sprint’ … just walk. When you walk, you can look around for the moments and realise you’ve caught a glimpse of God’s light shining and realise He hasn’t dumped you in all this muck. When you walk, you can learn from the experience you are going through.

    Equally, the writer doesn’t say, ‘camp there’. That is, don’t dwell in that sorrow. Don’t let it define you. Don’t stay there and loose perspective. You have to keep moving through pain and through grief.

    God IS a God of love and at times, life’s circumstances can be moments of learning as equally as they can be moments of pure love – as in, you can sense that peace that passes understanding; you can become fully present to the fact that nothing can separate you from God’s love.

    Back to the rare melanoma tumour in Steve’s eye that has a 90% chance of returning in one year. Go figure! While we’re in the midst of all this, I’m not praying fervently for healing. I’m praying for trust. For more trust. Healing would be nice. But actually I trust that God has healing sorted; that He actually knows what’s best. I trust that God loves me and my husband, Steve, more than my brain can fathom, and therefore I can trust He has my back. I may not agree, in human terms, what this looks like versus what ends up being the outcome. But if I trust, I’ll be surprised by the unexpected.

    If I don’t trust, I’m sure I’ll take matters in my own hands. I’ll sort the solution out for myself. Be a sort of god to myself with my own preconceived ideas of what a god should do. I’ll be heaping crap upon the crap we’re going through. I’ll probably not hear His small voice because I’ll be too busy trying to get every medical professional involved as possible. I’ll probably not be surprised by His delicate provisions. I’ll miss Him whispering my name.

    Whether we’ve found ourselves outside of what we thought was a great marriage.
    Whether we’ve been hurt by the fact that we’ve been dumped.
    Whether we’ve never had our own kids.
    Whether one of our kids has died.
    Whether we’ve heard, ‘You have a rare melanoma tumour in your eye’ …

    God is a great God.

    Thoughts by Jo Hood, International CEO of mainly music, who is walking through an interesting time of life with her husband, Steve.

  • My marriage hasn’t always been great. If you’re interested, you can read the story and about what we learned in Love Happened.

    But these days, I have a whole new perspective of how to live a happier life and a more satisfied marriage. If you’re not married but are committed to your partner, I’m pretty sure the same principles apply.

    Thank you

    We have made ourselves more thankful of the little things. Just about every morning, my husband makes the bed. And as often as I get the chance, I say, “Thank you.” I could think, “Nah, that’s too basic.” But I like to not only be grateful, I also like to keep a stance of thankfulness. It spills over into other aspects of life. Thankfulness is something to be practiced to keep it in the flow of life.

    When he’s made dinner, I try and sort the dishes. This time, we thank each other. Not in a soppy Hollywood style. In a genuine, “Thanks for dinner” including something that I liked about it. And I often hear him say, “Thanks for doing the dishes. I could have done that.” But no – he cooked. I can contribute by doing the dishes as often as possible.

    Here’s our idea – catch yourself saying, ‘Thank you’ and really mean it.

    No ‘you do this so I’ll do that’

    Earlier in our marriage, it was easy to think, ‘if I do this, then surely he’ll do that.’ And the ‘that’ was usually something I wanted.'

    Nowadays I like to do ‘this’ just because – just because I love him. No strings attached. This takes a bit more getting used to at first. But then it comes naturally.

    Sometimes I hear people talk about how they’ve gone out and purchased an item because their spouse or partner spent money they didn’t agree to. But that usually hurts twice because the second thing is bought out of spite and it’s often something you can’t afford anyway!

    Here’s our idea – find ways to act out of love for your spouse or partner. Just because you love them.

    I told you that yesterday

    Oh boy – don’t think I’ve got this one sorted. I still catch myself … and it’s usually with a bit of a tone attached. It used to bug me that my husband didn’t remember the things I had told him. If I rewound the tape, it was probably because I talked while he was watching television, playing a game on the computer, or catching up on paperwork. I notice these days he pauses the TV, which I know is a privilege of the system we have.

    What made me more aware of this was the fact that earlier this year, my husband was diagnosed with severe sleep apnoea – in fact he was getting six minutes of sleep every hour and frequently stopped breathing. No wonder he wasn’t remembering everything we talked about or everything anyone talked about. What a difference a CPAP machine has made! It certainly gave me a jolt about not being so harsh and giving some space to my listener.

    Here’s my idea – when the listener forgets, repeat yourself, with no tone; instead with a graceful response.

    Summing it up

    If our most important relationship isn’t working, rather than consider it’s all the other person’s fault, it might be that adding more partnership and less transaction to our interactions could help. If more marriages fail over holiday breaks, then any holiday patch we get to in the year needs extra attention. And if we put these activities into the mix of everyday life, then well find ourselves enjoying the holiday breaks more.

    And if we enjoy our marriage or committed relationship, it stands to reason we’ll be happier and healthier and our kids will love the atmosphere in the home.

    Hope you find these thoughts helpful.
    Written by Jo Hood


  • mainly music is a fun and social time for the whole family – but it’s also much more than that!  There’s  physical, spiritual and educational connection points in what we do.

    Here’s a summary of an article from the Brainwave Trust Aotearoa about how we can help our children develop in a complicated world.

    Why Parents can be Real Super-Heroes!

    You probably don’t need to be told that parents need to have super-powers – just getting through the night sometimes requires super-human strength!

    Superman and Wonder Woman are called upon to Serve, Rescue and Protect.  And while we may not wear a cape (although…you may!) our role as parents also requires us to be the servers, rescuers and protectors in our children’s lives.

    In her article “Our own set of scales:  risk and protective factors”, Sue Younger from the Brainwave Trust Aotearoa describes how we all live with an unique set of scales – with risk factors on one side, and protective factors on the other.  Young children need us to try to minimise their risk factors, and maximise their protective factors.

    Risk factors for young children include poverty, stressed or depressed parents, family conflict or violence and alcohol or drug abuse in the home.

    Some of these things we have little control over – however the good news is that there are protective factors which can even out and counter the risks.

    According to Younger, protective factors for children include:

    • People around you who listen to you.
    • People who talk with you in a positive way, in language you can understand, and who encourage you when you do something good.
    • People who sing to you.
    • People who read to you.
    • People who spend time with you.
    • People who play with you and make you laugh………………and many more!
      Sue Younger, Brainwave Trust Aotearoa

    You really don’t need super powers to be your child’s protector.  But if you are there for them, minimising their risks and maximising their protection – you are indeed the real super hero in their lives.

    To read the full article from Brainwave Trust Aotearoa, click here.

  • mainly music is a fun and social time for the whole family – but it’s also much more than that!  There’s  physical, spiritual and educational connection points in what we do.

    Here’s a summary of some research from the Brainwave Trust Aotearoa about healthy parenting in these moments of connection:

    Backbone Parenting:  Love and Limits!
    We know every child and family situation is different, but if there was one sure recipe for happy, healthy kids it can come down to two key factors:  love and limits.

    First comes Love.  Our first primary job as parents is to love – to love fully and unconditionally.  Caring for a child’s emotional needs is every bit as important as their obvious physical requirements.  You cannot love a child too much – you can not spoil them with too much love.  Love, expressed through physical touch, talking, smiling, singing, dancing, telling stories, mucking about together and just being silly – all builds a strong foundation for a secure, happy child from which they can grow, learn and explore their world.

    “Every bath, every nappy change, and every cuddle are opportunities to help a child feel loved”

    • Keryn O’Neill, Brainwave Trust Aotearoa

    Limits -  providing structure to their world.  Secure on a love foundation, every child needs to have their world constructed with clear and consistent limits.  Your children look to you as their guide to discovering their world – and they are not stifled but rather flourish under firm but fair limits.

    Limits needs to grow with your child – the more they are able to understand, the more we need to explain and help them understand the rules.  When they are younger, boundaries tend to be more physical (preventing our young explorers from hurting themselves); but as they grow boundaries and limits are there to help them learn acceptable and appropriate behaviour.

    Love and Limits:  the two go hand in hand.  They form the backbone of our parenting journey – and it’s not a short trip!  Parenting is often described as a marathon – not a sprint!  And the best possible start for your family begins with both Love and Limits.

    To read the full article from Brainwave Trust Aotearoa, click here.

  • You’ve probably been to a mainly music session that focused on the message of Easter this week, maybe last week, and for some of you, the group might repeat the session after the Easter break.

    Maybe the message of Easter is spinning in your head and you’ve got a few questions.

    Recently I entered into a conversation with a gentleman who I literally bumped into – he was looking for a book to jump off the shelves in a retail store. I was buying one for my cousin from that section, and as the gentleman looked lost, I recommended the book I had read and was buying.

    As I was about to go out the door of the shop, he bumped into me again. This time to show me that my recommendation had been taken up and he had a copy of the leadership book I recommended. It was in this interaction that a discussion about the meaning of Easter took place. I’ll bring you into the discussion which occurred following my explanation of a couple of leadership learnings I had had after reading the book.

    Man: “I think moments like these are magic.”

    Me: “I don’t think of them as magic. I think of them as God moments.”

    Man: “Yes, I do too. Like God is everywhere, in everyone, you know, like in all things.”

    Me: “Well, the God I’m talking about is the One who I know through the life of Jesus.”

    Man: “Oh.” Pause. “Then can I ask you a question?”

    Me: “Sure you can.”

    Man: “I’ve heard Jesus dying on the cross for my sins is a free gift. How does that work?”

    Me: Picking up a Doc McStuffins puzzle box from the display next to where we stood!

    “If I wrap up this gift with nice paper and a beautiful bow and say to you, Here’s a gift for you. And you take it and put it on a shelf. You admire the paper. You admire the beautiful bow. But you never actually open it. Imagine that. Imagine never knowing that I’d given you a Doc McStuffins puzzle. Imagine never having the pleasure of making up that puzzle.
    Well, that’s like Jesus. He’s the free gift from God. Reading about Jesus’ life in the Bible and taking note of what He did and putting it in action helps us understand who God is.
    But if we never read the Bible and if we never pray and talk with God and if we never put His teachings into action and believe in God, we never get to open that gift. Just like the Doc McStuffins puzzle. It’ll sit on the shelf and we’ll never understand who God is and how much He loves us. We can read about Jesus’ life and what He taught in the New Testament section of the Bible.
    The great thing about the Christian faith as opposed to other faith systems is that God has given Jesus as His free gift whereas other faith systems require you to do life better and do actions that are deemed to be good so that you will be liked by that god.”

    Is that how you’ve understood this gift of Easter?
    Will you leave the free gift on the shelf or unwrap it and check out what Jesus did and taught and in doing so, find out who God is?

    If you’d like a copy of the New Testament, that this gentleman agreed he needed to read, talk to your mainly music leader – or send me an email with your address and I’ll arrange a copy for you –

    Jo Hood wrote this posting after her real encounter in a Whitcoulls store (this was not written for a blog – it’s not faux news – it actually happened, despite how random that sounds). One of her favourite New Zealand stores is Whitcoulls and she hasn’t found anything quite like anywhere else in the world.

  • The concept of “attachment” has found its way into much writing and talking about parenting, but what does it mean, and more importantly, how can parents help their child to develop a secure attachment?

    Attachment is the lasting emotional bond that a child forms with a specific person that provides safety, comfort, soothing, and pleasure. Almost all children will develop an attachment but the nature of attachment varies, depending largely upon the care-giving style of their parents. Children who are securely attached are more likely to be resilient under stress, have better relationships, and enter school ready to learn.

    Drawing on attachment research a group of American psychotherapists have developed a user-friendly graphic illustrating the different needs children have of their parents, named the Circle of Security (COS) (Cooper, Hoffman, Marvin & Powell, 1998). The hands represent the parent, and the circle represents the child moving away to explore and coming back when necessary.

    Interested in more? Download the full article including the graphic from The Brainwave Trust  - CLICK HERE

    To develop a secure attachment, children require their parents to fulfil two key roles. First, (on the top half of the circle) the parent’s role is to be a secure base from which the child can move away and explore their world. For a baby this may be subtle, looking away from mum as something catches their interest, for a toddler with new-found mobility, it may be more obvious! This is an important role as it is through exploration that a child’s learning occurs. Children are more likely to explore when they feel safe and look to their parents for cues that it is OK.

    Being emotionally available to our children is necessary, just being physically present is not enough and even very young children will spot the difference, as adults do. For example, imagine how different it feels to talk to your partner who is really ‘with’ you compared with when they are listening - while watching TV!

    It can be helpful to consider what lies behind our children’s approaches to us. For example, asking for help with a task like putting on their socks may be more about seeking emotional support than actually requiring our help. Recognising this helps parents to respond more effectively to their child’s needs.

    Maybe you have found sufficient help from this short portion of the article. We’d recommend you check it out completely by referring to the downloadable resource.

    Written by: Keryn O’Neill, MA PGCertEdPsych
    Brainwave Trust Senior Researcher
    Published in the newsletter of Brainwave Trust 2016. First published in June 2010.

    Used by permission in partnership with Brainwave Trust.

    For more information about the brain –

  • Recovering from an Earthquake or anything that's given you a BIG fright

    1. Be Gentle on Yourself and lower your expectations of what you can achieve. During an event like this you use your adrenalin to get through. Just like a credit card where you use additional resources, the bill still needs to be paid. It is as things settle down you may feel very tired and struggle to concentrate. Nothing is wrong, your body just needs to pay back the emotional-physical debt it incurred. Rest more, take time out and do what replenishes you.

    2. Retrain your 'crisis' response. When you the face danger of an earthquake the 'crisis centre' of your brain remembers it and remains on high alert for anything that seems similar. 'Something similar' can then cause the same intense response. This is why a mild aftershock will feel like the big one. Notice your stress response; don't stress the stress. Take slow, deep breaths to calm your body. Reassure your brain like you might a young child, "Thanks, adrenal gland, I don't need the adrenalin, nothing is wrong." Consistently doing this will help in your emotional recovery

    3. Relax and find sleep again. When your body is stressed and you're on high alert it is difficult to relax and hard to sleep. This breathing technique can help move you from stressed to relaxed. It's 5-5-5-5. Sit or lie comfortably. Breathe in through your nose for the count of 5 (till your lungs are at full capacity), hold your breath for the count of 5, breathe out through your mouth slowly to the count of 5 (until fully exhaled). Do this 5 times.

    This helpful insight was written and published by Richard Black and the Strength to Strength team. For more helpful insights & tools head to

  • Are you expecting too much from your toddler?

    Take a deep breath and read Miriam McCaleb's words of wisdom on how to parent a willfull two year old.

    What gives? What makes us think it's acceptable to label two year olds as "terrible"? "The terrible Twos" is a common phrase used to describe our divine children as they negotiate the rocky path of toddlerhood. Just when toddlers need their adults to be at our most compassionate, understanding and helpful, we turn on them with our language and expectations. Within their earshot, these groovy toddlers are described as "terrible".

    If i knew i was being described as a "Tragic Thirty-something" rapidly approaching my "Foul Forties", i would be highly likely to lay my most awful behaviour on you. Really, you wanna see terrible? I'll give you tragic! You aint seen foul like i can deliver it....

    We've certainly moved on from thinking it's okay to use such terms when describing gender, ethnicity or ability. So why is it socially acceptable for two year olds?

    Rise up, dear readers and join me in a campaign to say "NO!" to using this unfortunate moniker. Yes, friends, beware the power of the fulfilling prophecy.

    Bye bye baby, hello toddler

    Let's explore some of the developmental tasks of children as they near the age of two, and how we as adults need to adjust our expectations. After all, when we know what is going on for children during toddlerhood, we have no need to label their behaviour "terrible".

    Toddlerhood can emerge as a shock to many parents. You've adjusted to the needs of infancy, you have been brave and giving as you negotiated sleepless nights, sore boobs, and the constant aroma of baby vomit. But along with the challenges, you've enjoyed the rewards of parenting a baby: the admiring gazes of folks on the street, the convenience of the non-mobile infant (still in the same spot where you left him, 10 minutes later!) and the glorious baby grins and giggles. Seemingly all of a sudden, this portable and somewhat malleable baby is replaced by a toddler, determined to practise his newfound walking (running, and climbing) skills, a toddler with his own ideas about where to go next and what he would rather be doing, wearing or eating. This shift must be met with a shift in your skills, or conflict will arise.

    Dr Ron Lally, one the founders of the Program for Infant/Toddler Care, a research-based training organisation in California, talks about the tension that occurs when adults continue using the same skills that were successful in caring for a young baby when they're engaged with an older infant or toddler.

    He explains that the main development task of a very young infant is to experience security and that the ultimate caregiving style for a very young infant is modelled on a warm, bosomy grandmother. Calm, gentle, sensitive love delivered by an attuned and nurturing adult with tons of time to snuggle. Perfect!

    But as that little baby grows into a mobile infant, the envelope of the cost embrace becomes more of a part-time residence. The main developmental task of the mobile infant is exploration, and a child of this age (who has made the cognitive leap that "mummy ends and i begin") has a ton of work to do in figuring out how his body works. He must learn to roll, commando-crawl, rock on hands and knees, pick things up with a pincer grasp, stand up, walk and climb. Huge work!

    Step up, coach

    Now that the middle infant has started to walk, he is, by definition, a toddler. And toddlers have a whole new world to negotiate. They've mastered much of their physical work, and they're moving into a complex world of understanding relationships, emotions and identity. ("Me! Mine! I do it!") This learning is profound and important, and Dr Lally uses the analogy of a coach to describe the type of skill set that will serve a toddler well.

    The coach is encouraging, clear and patient. The coach recoginises that some skills will need to be practised over and again, without becoming frustrated. A skilled coach wont become angry or take it personally when they receive messages, "I need your help. No, go away! I can do this on my own! Actually, hey, i really do need your help!" recognising that the need for support ebbs and flows when negotiating new skills - sometimes within moments.

    No need to get mad about it - it's not naughtiness or willfullness, its just how it is. Sue Gerhardt repeats this language in her excellent book Why Love Matters. She talks about the role of a skilled adult as an "emotion coach". Our toddlers need us to identify what they seem to be experiencing, to weave it with some empathy, and to avoid judgment of their emotion.

    A threatening toddler storm in the supermarket checkout can be responded to with something like: "Oh, I Know! All of those chocolates look so interesting and it's hard when you can't have what you want, eh? Looks like you're mad about that! Oh well .... sorry, babe, no chocolate today."

    This is quite a different message to, "Stop being silly. You don't need chocolate. Stop it!"

    The limit is the same (I'm not buying a chocolate bar), but while the first response acknowledges that human desires and emotions are normal (and lets be honest, whose not tempted by the beautifully wrapped treats?), the second serves to add an unhelpful layer of shame to the mix (It's silly to feel like that). When we are honest with ourselves, we realise that it's entirely reasonable to feel discomfort when faced with the yearning for something desirable that we cannot have. New car, anyone? Coveting another pair of impractical shoes or beautiful handbag? Yes, it's hard when we can't have what we want.

    Local parent educator and university lecturer Nathan Mikaere-Wallis has another terrific analogy when talking about supporting children through this time. He talks about a child's need for an emotional apprenticeship. Just as the master mechanic wouldn't mock the junior for not yet knowing how to manage a blown carburetter, wise adults know we must share our experiences, to avoid abandoning children in the complex world of emotion.

    Recipe for brain development

    Exploring the work of Dr Bruce Perry, a Texas-based neuroscientist, author and child psychiatrist, gives us another lens through which to view this idea. Dr Perry developed what's known as the neuro-sequential model, a fantastic tool for understanding the way our brains develop. The neuro-sequential model demonstrates that toddlers are working with an incomplete brain. Their brains have a way to go before being totally organised. Is it any wonder they need our help?

    This model teaches us a hierarchical nature of brain growth and function. Dr Perry uses the analogy of a layer cake: The bottom layer must be firm and cooked so other layers can rest upon it.

    We now know that our brain uses a foundation of simple functions and later develops more complex functions. The first region of our brain to develop is the brain stem, focusing on survival functions, for example: breathing.

    Next, the neuro-sequential model teaches us that toddlers do huge work to develop control over their bodies, as they wire up a region known as their mid-brain. Then, the "layer" of the limbic system is developed, and this is the home of emotion.

    Anyone hanging out with toddlers will recognise that they often feel deep emotions, and they move from one to another for reasons that may seem illogical to adults. Most grown-ups have access to a region of the brain known as the cortex, which enables logic to override an emotional response. Research indicates we don't fully wire up our cortexes until we're in our mid-20s. So, to expect a two year old to "calm down" just because you say so is unreasonable.

    Toddlers have an emotional brain, but they don't yet have a logical brain. Robust cortical growth happens most readily when it rests upon a strong foundation. This can't happen when the "layers" of the "cake" that sit underneath have raw cake batter in the middle.

    It is arguable, then, that the best way to ensure a healthy wiring (and perfect bake time) for the limbic system is to engage emotionally with toddlers as they do the work of learning about feelings.

    Imagine your 20-month-old wants to wear the green T-shirt and it's wet on the washing line. He's disappointed, maybe sad. Perhaps a tantrum is looming. While it's great if you take the time to talk with him about the wet fabric and the fact that he'll get cold if he wears it now, he will not be able to hear your logical messages and explanations while he's in the midst of his emotional reaction.

    Instead, start with his emotion. "Oh, I can see your face looking really sad about that. Are you disappointed about the T-shirt being wet? Because you really love that T-shirt, don't you? But do you know what, honey? It's all wet! It was dirty, so I washed it, and now it has to get dry before you can wear it again."

    See - all those logical explanations are in there too, but we must begin by allowing, acknowledging and explaining the emotion. Over time, children become more skilled at recognising the emotions that pass like clouds across their consciousness ("Yes, I'm angry!"). Knowing what they are, as well as having been coached about how to manage them, is essential in learning to regulate them - to calm oneself down.

    Understanding tantrums

    Speaking of regulating emotions, let's take a moment to talk specifically about tantrums. Tantrums are usually a result of a child not having yet learned to deal with their powerful emotions in more of a socially acceptable way. They are not usually about naughtiness or manipulation - remember, these children don't yet have much of a logical brain, so they're not able to plan, plot or control their parents.

    Most tantrums are what author and child psychotherapist Margot Sunderland calls a "distress tantrum", and these children should be thought of as having the words "I need to be soothed" or "Help me to handle this" printed across their beings. These children need empathy, language to describe their feelings and perhaps some distraction.

    The minority of tantrums are described by Sunderland in The Science of Parenting, as "Little Nero" tantrums. A child having a Little Nero tantrum is usually older, there are no tears or stress chemicals in his brain and body. Only a minority of tantrums are about manipulation. This is the child who needs clear limits and a calm, firm parent.

    Which brings us to the final point. In order to be the sort of parent our children need us to be, we must strive for calm, warm, consistent parenting. This is very hard to do when we are stressed ourselves. Our buttons are pushed much more easily when we're tired, when we haven't learned to process our own emotions, or if we just need a snack.

    So just as you're practising kindness and acceptance of those toddlers (the Terrific, Tantalising Toddlerific Twos), practise a little kindness and acceptance of yourself, too.

    Miriam McCaleb has been working with children for 20 years. She reckons the coolest among them are toddlers. The last decade has seen Miriam concentrate on teaching the adults in children's lives (who are also cool) and in caring for her whanau (the best of the lot!).  She works with the Brainwave Trust, blogs at and this February delightedly welcomed a new baby. 

     Special thanks to OHbaby! magazine for providing us with the content of this piece.

    Republished with permission –

  • Conflict is common to all of us. The problem is we often struggle to handle it well. To be fair, we all know how to handle it badly, and we do so on a regular basis.  We can fall into the trap of getting aggressive or we can just try to avoid it all. At one level conflict is simply the disagreement of ideas; what makes it harder are the meaning and emotions we load it up with. Some people avoid conflict, saying they want to keep the peace, which isn’t actually true, they just want to avoid conflict. You often have to go through to conflict to get to real peace. To resolve conflict well, here are four steps to apply.

    1. Own your zone.
      One thing that all people in conflict have in common is they are very aware of what the other person is doing wrong. As they focus on this, the relationship stalls. Before addressing another person's behaviour first make sure you've tidied up your side of the fence. Own your emotions, your reactions, your interpretation, rather than blaming others for what you're feeling, assuming and the way you are behaving. It is easy to fall into a ‘reactive’ mindset rather than a ‘responsive’ one. People with a ‘reactive’ mindset do three things: [1] they blame the other person for how they feel; [2] they then justify any reaction they make; and [3] they wait for the other person to change, or at least apologise. People with a ‘responsive’ mindset however, do the opposite: [1] they take responsibility for how they feel; [2] they then take responsibility for how they react; and [3] they initiate to address the issue.
    1. Know your need.
      Often conflict is the clash between two people's solutions or preferences that seem mutually exclusive. However, if you peel back their preferences you discover what is actually important to a person; what they are valuing or needing. Usually what each person is valuing or needing is equally fine.  It is here that you can brainstorm together how both can be upheld – you become a team rather than competitors. Or you can negotiate as to what you require to be ok with accepting the other person’s preferences, or equally what would they require to be ok with accepting yours.
    1. Address the person.
      As obvious as that sounds, we will often talk to everyone else except the person we have the problem with; or we clam up and say nothing at all. Often people play the conversation through in their minds and conclude that saying something won't work. They never let the other person into the conversation. When we do this we stall ourselves. We need to play our part, which is to address the person, say what we need to say, and let their response be their responsibility.
    1. And finally, communicate constructively.
      Learn how to speak the truth in a respectful way. Some people are all ‘truth’ but there is no respect in the way they are speaking; they just let the person have it. Others are so focused on being loving and respectful that they never say what they really mean. When you speak, do so from a soft heart, speaking calmly, clearly, using “I” and focus on the behaviour rather than attacking the person. One helpful pattern to use is:

    I appreciate…
    I don't appreciate…
    I would appreciate...

    For example: “I appreciate that you have been working hard. What I am struggling with is the way you arrive late each night and I really need your support. What I would appreciate is if you could do whatever it takes to be here on time. That would mean a lot to me.”

    Resolving conflict well empowers your life and deepens your relationships. Why settle for anything less?

    Richard Black
    Strength to Strength


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Vulnerable Communities
Prison families
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Vulnerable Communities
Each week, Session Facilitators take mainly music sessions into a community-based holistic program or a Government facility.
Where sessions contribute to the connection between parent and child.
Where smiles and delight are increased and where joy is found.

A part of a initiative we lovingly call 'Vulnerable Communities'. To find out more head to our 'Vulnerable communities' page under the 'Who We Are' tab.

Prison families
Pregnant and behind bars, Amy faced doing time for crime. Inside, with her baby, Amy attends mainly music sessions. The joy she shares with her child and the attachment activities she participates in will set baby up with a secure foundation. It’s a short window of opportunity to make change.
Local communities
Many mainly music groups are situated in communities where life is tough. Low statistics for children participating in early childhood education make mainly music a valued contribution to the life of a child. The educational engagement prepares children for school.
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