Monday, November 28, 2011

First dusting

The hills around Perth have experienced their first dusting of snow this week - which lasted a few days and then melted. So far down here close to sea-level, we have had none. This is a far-cry from this weekend a year ago, when we experienced the unusual 'Thundersnow', and everything was lost under a thick blanket of white, powdery ice.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Book Notes: How To Get Your Kids Through Church Without Them Ending Up Hating God by Rob Parsons


The title of Rob Parsons book "How to get your kids through church without them ending up hating God" was eye-catching enough in its own right to make me pick up this latest work from the whimsical Welshman. Let's be honest though - while the title speaks directly and powerfully to so many Christian parents' experience - that this title is even thought of, is a deep, profound and awful tragedy. So many of us find that when the church is good, it can be really, really good - like very little else in fact. Of course, it can be lame and useless, or just irrelevant too (as can each of our contribution to its life, I might add!). The fact is though, that Christian parents draw a significant distinction between church and faith; which means that when church either disappoints or bores, we ride the storm because faith remains. Things for kids, as Parsons explains, are much more complicated however. While we would wish for our kids to have a positive experience of church which would help them to kindle a faith of their own - Parsons pitches his book towards situations where the church is being part of the problem, not the solution. Into situations such as these, the chairman of Care for the Family pours his deceptively simple sounding wisdom.

Highlights in the book include his warnings against trying to compress our children into our mould - that is compressing them on secondary issues. He warns against over-busyness of parents who don't invest in an adequate relationship with their kids in easy times, so that the children can turn to them on a meaningful level in more difficult periods. He also challenges parents to live out what they say they believe - as hypocrisy is a faith killer for kids! He advises parents to be very guarded about how they speak about the church or about other people, especially when young ears are listening, pointing out that destructive cynicism is a highly contagious disease. Chapters on judgementalism, hypocrisy, cynicism and overfamiliarity are contrasted with the positive material on 'creating a sense of Belonging'. The only reason he ever advocates for jumping ship and joining another fellowship - is if the church to which you belong is not creating a sense of belonging and place for the kids and teenagers!

The final chapters are all entitled, "Get Them Ready for......" and are about preparing children for realities of a hard world, which requires robust, rather then sentimental faith. Disappointment with themselves, with others and with God will come - says Parsons, and the wise parent will not paint an unrealistically rosy picture of the life of faith, for reality to then shipwreck. Instead, he urges us to talk with our children about our failures, sins, disappointments and experiences - and how we have walked with God through such times. Likewise - he warns Christian parents against ghetto-ing children, and not exposing them to the real world. Finally he tells us to do all we can to impart a positive vision of the Christian life to which they can aspire, and which they can explore for themselves. A young believer will be healthy and happy in their faith, not of they are driven by a fear of the world which becomes a long string of 'thou shalt nots' - but when they gain a sense of calling from God to achieve something in this world for Him. So we should actively expose our children to the positive work of organisations doing great work in areas such as combating people-trafficking, or disaster-relief; he says.

This is a really easy book to read, in which Parsons' many insights are littered with nicely observed anecdotes. It is written with genuine spiritual, pastoral concern to see young people emotionally and spiritually thrive. Helpfully too, it is not guilt and law-driven; but gently gracious, in encouraging us parents to do the best for the children we have. While it is easy-reading, there is a lot to chew-on here. Most immediately challenging is the reminder that the greatest thing which will go towards shaping our children's character, is not what we try and impress on them, nor the values which we espouse; but that which they see us modelling in the course of everyday life, over almost two decades of parenting.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tweak

I got an e-mail the other day from someone who had been helping me with some camera stuff, that said, "hopefully you're not one of these photo realism blokes that doesn't tweak to suit......" Here's the answer...

"The Parenting Children Course", Week Four "Teaching Healthy Relationships"

Week four on "The Parenting Children Course" was probably the hardest session we have done so far, the one we have found most challenging and stretching. The discussion times were more difficult than previous weeks as a result - with some longer 'pauses for thought' as we contemplated how to respond to the material.

The course can be run over 5 longer evenings or 10 short-sessions. I've heard that evening courses tend to run with the five; but daytime courses being run in conjunction with parent & toddler groups or coffee mornings, tend to do the 10 shorter sessions. We are moving though it at the 5 - longer-sessions rate; but the DVD is arranged in two halves to facilitate running it either way.

The first half of session 4 focuses on our behaviour, attitude and actions as parents, and the way in which our practical example is hugely significant in the shaping of our children. There is a strong emphasis on listening to children, and developing an interest in their world, even if the things which delight them seem silly to us. "Active" or "Empathetic" listening is encouraged here, just as it forms such an important part of The Marriage Course. Things such as eye-contact, allowing them to express negative or critical emotions, or even anger are stressed - along with the technique of "reflecting back" which is such a critical element of deep listening. So far, so good - but then a stumbling block. The first exercise involved an element of role-play - the mere suggestion of which was enough to send a shiver round the group! A long discussion ensued in which there was a lot of reluctance to break into two's for the exercise. Eventually one member bravely said, "we can't say we've evaluated the course unless we've tried it" - so with a deep breath we did. It didn't last long, it has to be said - but it did lead to some useful discussion in the two's three's we were in.

Part two contained a lot of useful material about the use and abuse of anger - as it is displayed by three groups of people (i) toddlers (ii) older children and (iii) us - the parents! Toddler tantrums were addressed first, with a range of useful tactics discussed by both experts and parents. We've all been in the supermarket with a raging inconsolable little-one, concerned both with the plight of the distressed infant - and the embarrassment of appearing to be a failing-parent in front of the watching world. The tactics for coping with toddler-angst were as wise as the sense of camaraderie amongst fellow-sufferers engendered was emboldening. Personally, we looked back at the toddler years through the rose-tinted spectacles of nostalgia!

The anger of older children was looked at secondly. Here the emphasis was on allowing a child to express their feelings, but within the limits of permissible expression. Some children are not allowed to express negative or critical thoughts at all - and this extreme they said was damaging. The other extreme, allowing children to shout, swear, criticise the other parent, slam doors or hit siblings, is obviously unacceptable too - and must be met with sanctions. This though, can often be a result of the child perceiving that they are not listened to. The balance is to allow EXPRESSION but not AGGRESSION; while not imposing SUPPRESSION. Again in our own parenting we reflected on this and the fact that my wife and I both get this wrong sometimes but in different and opposite ways. This section - which hit right on the age of our children, was a helpful and useful reminder of the balance we should be aiming to achieve.

Children's rage is often not well articulated - which means that an angry child might yell at a sibling about a minor incident, when the real source of their stress is a problem at school, for example. The interviews with parents on the DVD were particularly insightful about this as they talked about the different ways in which their various children talk about their thoughts and reveal the sources of anger. This was thought-provoking stuff.

The session ended with an extremely searching and hard-hitting look at the behaviour which we as parents model to our children. If we have fits of rage, in which we lose control - this will determine our children's attitude to rage, and far outweigh any words we say to the contrary. The point here though - is not to attempt to dupe our children into thinking we are perfect; (that facade would be short-lived!) but modelling to them how fallen, far-from-perfect people maintain healthy relationships. That is, by admitting fault, saying sorry to one another, forgiving and moving on. While we cannot model perfection to our kids - we can model handling our imperfections in this way. We will also have to apologise to the children when we wrong them too. If we can manage all these things we will set them a useful example for later life, as they chose and develop and maintain relationships of their own.

So much to think about here...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ben Challum

Even on a generally dreary day in the Scottish Hills - there's something to see. Like many other people I was fooled by the wonderful weather predictions; and enthusiastically made my way to the hills to enjoy the promised temperature inversion and "superb visibility". Of course, what we actually got was traditional Scottish cloud, and icy winds. Any disappointment I felt about the weather was offset by moments such as that (sort-of) captured above - just magic!
I took the 'trade-route' up Challum's southern flanks above Kirkton Farm, skirting the farmhouse on the West Highland Way, passing the site of an ancient priory and two graveyards, before crossing the railway line into open country. Much of the ascent is fairly featureless, and is criss-crossed by fences which need to be climbed over. Some of the route up is marked by a row of fenceposts, with rusting strands of wire tangled around them
Earlier this year I blogged about the demise of my old walking boots. Today, my new boots were given a baptism, not so much of fire, but of mud! This photo (snapped with my phone), is of me and my new boots, out for our first proper date; at the summit of a Munro.
The summit of Ben Challum, wide, expansive, glorious views ........ not!

Every year I start thinking that this will be the one in which I really get into the mountains and walk well over 20 Munros. Today has almost certainly been the last one of the year - and my total for 2011 stands at a miserly 8. As the light from the sun dropped below the skyline (it was only mid-afternoon!), I turned round and looked back up the path towards Ben Challum. Tracks like this have a drawing power that is all their own, which seem to engage the eye and then lure the senses. I can't wait to get out again! Actually, I am quite achy after my exertions today, knees, back, joints and muscles al protesting about their working conditions. I think I need to reward it with a hot bath and a fine dram.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"The Parenting Children Course - Week Three": Discipline & Boundaries!

Last night we completed the third week of "The Parenting Children Course". While the previous weeks had focused largely on the happy and positive side of parenting (expressing love, setting aside adequate time etc) - this week we looked at the necessary but less enjoyable task of setting and keeping boundaries. One aspect that got us all thinking and talking was the concept of making sure that we are 'authoritative parents'. That is not to say 'authoritarian' - which is something quite different, as we saw in the following diagrams, based on the book 'Toxic Childhood'.

The first diagram (taken from the course manual) suggests that we can plot our parenting style on a graph of two axes, representing "warmth" (ie love, affection, closeness, fun, time and emotional connectedness) and the other "firmness" (ie the extent to which rules we set, imposed and re-enforced with punishments).

We then thought about the implications of different combinations of these attributes/failings. We first thought about a home in which there was no warmth, love, affection - but equally no setting of boundaries of acceptable behaviour. This they described as "Negligent Parenting". In this bottom-right quadrant, the parent is either too busy, or incapable of either meeting the child's emotional need for love, or its developmental need for understanding right and wrong. This is disastrous.

The top-right corner was then considered. In this quarter of the chart, parents are warm, generous, devoted and caring - but do not ever discipline their children. The children are either considered to be incapable of wrongdoing, or the parent is simply scared to say "no" when required. These children are spoilt - with serious implications for their future happiness and success in relationships.

At the bottom left, the "authoritarian parent" makes the opposite error to the indulgent parent. In this model, rules are set firmly and transgressions punished severely. There is little scope for independent judgement or beginning to take responsibility for making good choices by the child. The child is forced to behave in accordance with the parents code of behaviour, but there is no sense of closeness, love, affection or warmth. Fun is certainly not on the agenda.

The right balance is found in the top-left quadrant on the diagram, which is labelled "Authoritative Parenting". In this model, the parent seeks both to develop a warm relationship with the child in which skills such as the " love languages for children", discussed last week are used deliberately and intentionally to make children feel loved, accepted, and valued. However - along with that (and not in any sense in tension with it!) this love goes hand-in-hand with the kind of positive disciplining which makes children feel secure.

My wife and I were fascinated to realise the extent to which, while we strive for this balance, when tired, stressed, busy, or overwhelmed by three children, we can each slip into a dangerous imbalance. Our personalities mean that we would each naturally get pulled in a different direction, and become imbalanced in different ways!
We spent a long time thinking about and discussing the different methods of maintaining standards, imparting a sense of right and wrong, and re-enforcing the boundaries we have set. It was really interesting to speak to other parents about the different things they have used; systems of warnings, red/yellow cards, star-charts, withdrawal of privileges and working towards defined rewards - to inculcate the ability to make good choices. Obviously the need for consistent application of these is vital - and difficult; and requires long-term application for results to be seen.

Once again, this has given us loads to think about and some really important adjustments to make. On The Marriage Course, we discovered that sometimes our 'default settings' weren't helpful, and that taking a step back in order to think things through to make changes -is a hugely constructive exercise. It is proving to be the case with the Parenting Course too.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Lins Honeyman & Friends - Live at Dunbarney


For Perthshire singer/songwriter Lins Honeyman, Saturday evening was something of a homecoming. When he led his band of friends and musical collaborators on stage at Dunbarney Church Hall, he was performing just along the road from his home village of Forgandenny. Amongst the capacity crowd were several people from the area who have known Honeyman for decades. But alongside that geographical homecoming, Saturday also saw a musical returning; Honeyman led the band back to his musical roots, which burrow down deeply into the Blues & Spirituals of African-America.
The evening began with the music of Bruce Cameron and then Paul Becher. While both these guys are basically solo acoustic guitar/voice acts, their two sets could not have stood in greater contrast. Cameron's studied intensity sought to convey the thoughtful poetry of his spiritual lyrics, alongside his intricate guitar work. Becher on the other hand engaged the crowd in singing-along with him as he attacked the likes of Pinball Wizard and American Pie.
After an interval with food served(!), Lins Honeyman and friends took to the stage; opening up the second half of the evening with a rip-roaring version of Johnny Cash's Fulsom Prison Blues. It was good to hear Lins performing in the context a full band again, after some smaller-scale events recently. Blues gigs can sometimes dissipate into jams which can either work brilliantly, or completely flop - but which are inevitably too long! This certainly was not the case on Saturday, when Les Dalziel (keys, organ, double-bass), Lins Honeyman (guitars, mandolin, dobra, keys), Jon Assheton (drums & percussion), Bryn Rees (electric bass), and Andrew McCully (electric guitars) - showed how hard they had worked together to nail their performances pretty darn tightly. Sound-man Gilbert Spiers managed to produce an admirable sound-mix, in a size and shape room which must have created a few issues to overcome!



















To an audible "oh yes" of approval Lins announced that their second song would be drawn from the catalogue of the great Ray Charles - an uptempo blues called "Unchain My Heart". Like Ray Charles who I think saved his very finest performances for his pure Blues work, this band just seem at home in that musical landscape, the Hammond organ being unleashed in a way that no doubt Charles himself would have approved.

Lins' self-penned number "Charles Atlas where are you now?", provided a nice little study on the difference that a band can make to a performance. While recent solo performances of this song have been good, the presence of the band enabled him to crank this track up to a completely different level. This was most notably the case during the funky guitar solo/break, in which Lins and drummer John Ashetton sparked off each other, whilst exchanging appreciative grins. "Where can I find my peace?" found Honeyman in pensive, reflective mood - a true lament in the tradition of the Psalms. Anyone who remembers Clapton's famous "unplugged" album will remember "Hey-Hey", which came next, although the band were careful to correctly credit it to Big Bill Broonzy.

The first of two so-called "Negro-Spirituals" followed, "Oh Mary Don't You Weep". The sacred was swiftly followed by the profane and a rocking version of "Money: That's What I Want". Honeyman mused that "I want your money" wasn't a sentiment he subscribed to, without any apparent sense of irony that he was saying this to a paying audience! Thankfully I restrained my urge to heckle at that point. The second ancient 'Spiritual' was "I want Jesus to Walk with me", a haunting song, with deep words - sung and performed with real conviction by the band.

Elvis' Lawdy Miss Clawdy lightened the mood and facilitated some entertaining soloing from McCully, Honeyman and Dalziel. It was multi-instrumentalist Dalziel who was responsible for a new jazzier arrangement of Honeyman's version of the 23rd Psalm. Tight, edgy, fascinating and neatly executed, this was the musical highlight of the evening for me; and you can't fault the lyrics either! "Stranger Blues" brought proceedings to a conclusion, giving Lins a chance to play some good Blues harmonica.

Someone then mistakenly turned the house-lights on full - suggesting that no encore would be offered. Thankfully several people (including my wife) wanted their money's worth, and called for another track, so Lins returned and led the crowd in a singalong of "It must be love".

I am privileged to know the guys in this band, and to have such talented people amongst my friends. They also have an appreciation and respect for the history of the music they play - and are not embarrassed to play a Blind Willie Johnson song from 1926, if that is what they want to do. The only slightly negative aspects were the rather reserved crowd, who I felt significantly under-appreciated the band, and the absence of soulful vocalist Morna Young. Her collaborations with Honeyman on the African-American spirituals are something special. This was though a terrific night's entertainment, which could easily have graced a far more illustrious venue than a country church hall.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Tay - Perth

A walk in to town to buy some food for the family meal, earlier this week. Rather than walk along by the main road, I took the riverside path. The low-light made the whole Tay look like an oil-painting, while close up, the water powered over the causeway to the island. Click on the images to see them properly.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Boom & Flash!

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Berries

Woah, Phil - I see what you mean about that depth of field thing....

Watersilk

Down by the riverside..

4 Ways to help The Persecuted Church


This week along with thousands of others, our church has marked the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. However, we are called to accompany our prayers with action. In fact, successful action is always built on prayer. Prayerful action on behalf of the persecuted church can be highly effective. Here are 4 suggestions of ways in which you can get involved. These can be used by individuals, families, housegroups, or amongst friends.


1) Pray for a persecuted church leader and then send them a Christmas card to assure them that they haven’t been forgotten. Details of how to do this, and a downloadable directory of addresses are here: http://goo.gl/lmpQy


2) Sign a petition to pressure Western governments to raise human rights issues in their dealings with countries where abuses occur. The “No Way Out” petition for religious freedom in Egypt is online here: http://goo.gl/L9EOU


3) Write a campaigning letter to someone responsible for mistreatment of Christians. In many cases, officials lack the courage to enforce the freedoms which their country’s law provides for freedom of worship. Letters can embolden them to act justly. Follow this link for details of how to write to the Mayor of Bogor, Indonesia, urging him to allow the re-opening of church-premises there. http://goo.gl/eopRn


4) Send a gift to support to Christians suffering for their faith. Specific gifts are available for purchase online and include: (i) a day of provision for refugee children in Burma for £5, (ii) a day of training in documenting human rights abuses for the churches in Columbia, for £5, (iii) pay for a phone call to be made to an illegally imprisoned Cuban pastor for £15, (iv) pay for Christmas cards to be sent to 40 widows of murdered pastors in Columbia for £10. Follow the link http://goo.gl/Cf15p


Dr Garcia Paneque was held in Cuban jails for many years, during which he was featured in Christian Solidarity Worldwide’s letter-writing campaigns. Now in exile in Spain he writes: "You cannot imagine the value of a postcard sent to someone in my situation, and thanks to God, it’s like a message from a Father who never abandons his children, not even in the worst of moments. This is how the postcards, sent from the UK, made me feel." This is valuable work.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

In the Park

South Inch, Perth

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Tree in the Park


Edinburgh Road

A street in Perth

Book Notes: Raven's Gate by Anthony Horowitz

Our family have been big fans of Anthony Horowitz for a long time. I remember reading all the brilliant Alex Rider series (If you don't know - think a reluctant schoolboy James Bond) with my boys before they were old enough to read them themselves. We loved the way in which the main protagonist bravely fought evil, but was also slightly cynical and questioning towards the government and secret agents who controlled him. The action scenes are fast and gripping, the characters nicely drawn and the villains worthy of great Bond-films.

Having finished the last Alex Rider we moved on and bought this, the first in a new series of five books. The hero in the "Power of Five", Matt Freeman shares a lot in common with Alex Rider, an orphan, who didn't chose his role as super-hero, but is vulnerable despite his amazing abilities. In the characters and relationships, and vivid action scenes, Horowitz has clearly re-worked the winning Ryder formula for this series.

The differences between the two series though are enormous. Alex Ryder inhabits a world of villains, organised criminals, corrupt politicians and double-crossing assassins. Matt Freeman's battles take place in the context of demons, devils, evil-rituals, ancient curses and dark forces. Much of this is good suspense-filled storytelling, with secret societies and bizarre inexplicable events taking place. However, the end of this book becomes very dark and sinister indeed. While Horowitz never deliberately seeks to blur the lines between good and evil, and we always left with the hope that good will triumph - the details of Black Sabbaths, Satanic Masses, and human sacrifices were actually quite disturbing. I would imagine that many a sensitive child could be terrified by the mental images found in this book - I certainly won't be reading it next to my kids. I don't know what Horowitz own spiritual beliefs are; my guess is that doesn't believe in supernatural or personal evil - but knows how to write well and evoke moods powerfully. However, I do believe in such things, which would make me even more reticent to let my kids start this new series.

Overall - I was disappointed. I was really looking forward to another rip-roaring adventure, rather than such a disturbing display of the sinister.

۞۞

Ceiling...

I'm sure it didn't used to look like this.....

The "Parenting Children Course" (week 2)

Last night we completed the second week of Alpha's new "Parenting Children Course." While week-one had a lot of introductory material, in week 2 the course really felt as if it got going. We learnt a lot last night, and were really made to think, but came away encouraged to try and continue to improve what we do for our three.

Session two is based on Gary Chapman's ideas about "Love Languages"; which feature so usefully on The Marriage Course. The essence of his book is that love is communicated in five ways, (words, time, touch, presents, and kind actions) but that each person responds to these in differently. So, while one person may respond deeply to verbal affirmation, the same words may leave another person unmoved. In marriage it is often noted that people usually marry someone quite different to themselves, which means that to communicate love to them effectively requires them to discover, learn, and practice their spouse's 'language'. The obvious example is a person who grew up in a very austere "stiff-upper-lip" family, but finds themselves married to a person who needs verbal affirmation. They will have an awkward embarrassment to overcome in order to communicate love effectively to their spouse - but it is a skill that can be learnt. Incidentally the converse also applies, someone bombarding their spouse with verbal affirmation when they are married to someone whose primary language is time or touch, won't communicate love, merely irritate.

While the concept of "Love Languages" was something we had previously thought about in terms of marriage - we had never previously taken those ideas and related them to parenting. Chapman himself teamed up with noted child development expert Ross Campbell, to write a follow-up to his "Love Languages" book, entitled, "The 5 Love Languages for Children". Last night's DVD gave a really useful summary of what it means to children to experience love in all five of these ways.

The following discussion time was interesting too. The questions asked us to think about what we valued most about the parenting we had received when we were young, (it was amazing how high a % of the parents present said, "time"). Then we were asked to consider our own children and think about what really makes them happy. It was interesting to note that our three children (while they need all five things), are quite different when it comes to what they need most. We realised that we have been far too reactive in this area and not pro-active enough at all, which means that we have got some practical things to implement immediately. One example is that we identified that one of our children has a particular need to have some one-on-one parent-child time every week. I think this will be important for us.

Week one of the Parenting Course was met with a mixed response from our kids. They liked the idea of a family night, but were not so enamoured with the organised limits on TV/PC time that were introduced. It will be interesting to see what they make of week 2, as while (I hope) they will grow in their sense of being loved and valued by us, there was also a section on sharing household chores and getting the children to take on age-appropriate responsibilities!

Next week we go to look at discipline/setting boundaries...

Monday, November 07, 2011

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The Parenting Children Course (week 1)

Having previously gained a huge amount by doing Alpha's "Marriage Course", we we intrigued when the same folks published some parenting materials. We had a brief taster of the course at a conference at our church last month - and were impressed by what we saw, so impressed in fact that we bought the DVDs that day and resolved to try out the course. It's taken a few weeks longer than we had anticipated, but we have managed to assemble a small group of other parents - and we met for the first time last week and ran through week one of the five-session course.

The evening began with a DVD, on which authors/presenters Nicky and Sila Lee introduced the course, and prompted us to think about some of the key issues involved in parenting 0-11 year olds. Their presentation was a mixture of their own experiences and research into child development, but was regularly interspersed with filmed clips from various experts - as well as interviews with both parents and children.


On the first week we were challenged about several aspects of the way in which we do parenting. These included time priorities in terms of our interaction with each of the children; the benefits of 'family time' and positive routines, as well as the recommended limits on the amount of TV/PC/Wii (etc) time that are appropriate for different age-groups. Research about minimum sleep requirements at different stages was also mentioned. Along with this there was some good stuff about the priority of modelling good relationships, especially between parents; coupled with the need to keep a united front and consistent line in keeping boundaries for behaviour. The thing which really grabbed our attention though was the suggestion that we consider keeping the long view in mind at all times, in terms of the kind of person we hope our child will be when he/she is an adult, and how they will remember our home in 20 years time. This was welded to the very searching assertion that the most powerful factor in shaping our children's values, is not our words, but their long-term observation of our characters and behaviour!

The Parenting Course DVD's are much more directive in their tone than the Marriage Course DVDs (despite being written and presented by the same people). The Marriage DVDs are pitched more in the language of 'which solution here will work for your marriage' (etc), while on the Parenting stuff the tone is more, 'all the research shows that exceeding these limits for TV consumption is bad for your child', for example.

Like the Marriage Course, there is also the opportunity to discuss the issues raised in the DVDs, using questions found in the course manual. Unlike the Marriage Course in which discussion is strictly private and takes place only between spouses - there is some group discussion on the parenting course. This was great, as it was fascinating to listen to other parents who are facing similar challenges - as well as to contrast experiences too.

Next week we go on to think about 'meeting our children's needs', followed by some stuff of boundaries and discipline the following week. We're looking forward to it - but first we have some "homework" to do - implementing some of the lessons from week one!