Quick Navigation
Social media
Contact information
Address

Crown Buildings, Bancyfelin, Carmarthen, SA33 5ND,
United Kingdom

Email

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Phone

+44 (0) 1267 211345

Fax

+44 (0) 1267 211882

Elaine Halligan

Elaine Halligan is a director at The Parent Practice and has been a parenting specialist since 2006, helping parents raise competent and confident children through parenting classes, private coaching and keynote speaking in schools and corporate settings both in the UK and overseas. She is frequently quoted in the broadsheet press and regularly appears on Sky News, BBC world news and BBC local radio. Her mission is to help parents find the holy grail of parenting: keeping calm and bringing out the best in their children.


Connect with Elaine

https://www.theparentpractice.com/

Publications by Elaine Halligan

My Child’s Different

Elaine Halligan’s My Child’s Different: The lessons learned…

Author Blog

What does Socrates have in common with your children?

Well, Socrates, the Greek philosopher and educator who lived about 400BCE, was renowned for his love of questions. Perhaps Socrates’ main contribution to Western thought was the development of the Socratic method of enquiry, a process by which questions are asked to help a person examine ideas and find answers for themselves. It is used in teaching and in therapy and can be very usefully employed in parenting.

Socrates also said “To know, is to know that you know nothing. That is the meaning of true knowledge.” That is something that will ring true for many of us and is a great starting position for a parent to take! Instead of delivering pearls of wisdom to our children we can ask questions to help them think and discover for themselves.

We can use questions to

  • shift the focuswhen something has gone wrong we can ask non-judgmental questions to help children reflect on what happened, how they felt, how others were affected, what they could do to make things better, how they could behave differently next time and what support they need.
  • guide enquiry –“So it seems that you’re worried that if you go to that party with Emily that Georgie will feel left out. It seems that you care about Georgie’s feelings. Is that right?”
  • examine beliefs“Do you think Tom deliberately threw the ball at you to hurt you or is his aim not that accurate?”
  • connect with our children –“If you were making a movie who would be the main character and what would he do?”
  • stimulate creativity“You haven’t given up on this problem. What solutions have you considered? Do you know anywhere you can look for the answers you need?”
  • challenge them – “I love the way you’ve left a finger space between each word. And your letters are a bit bigger than last time. That makes it easy to read. What will you do next time to make it even better?
  • provoke thought and test assumptions“What makes you say Hannah doesn’t like you? Is it because she didn’t reply to your message? Can you think of any other reason why she might not have replied?”
  • encourage kids –“I think you can do it if you practice. What do you think?” “How proud are you of yourself right now?” 

We can also use questions to:

  • set up for success. Before a challenging event (everyday things like homework or leaving a play date/park or rare events like a visit to a prospective school or getting vaccinations) ask kids what they need to do (you want detail) and what obstacles might get in the way, how they might feel about it and what they can do to deal with those challenges/feelings. “I know it makes you worried when you face new things for the first time. So when we go to the gym class you might think you don’t want to join in, even though you love gymnastics. I won’t force you to do anything that really bothers you but what can you do to help you feel safer?... Would you like to get there a bit early so we can watch some of the class before yours? Or do you have any other ideas? You’re a person who likes to check things out first. You’re very careful. That’s great so long as you don’t miss out on things you’d enjoy.” Our questions can help the children make the connections and get to the answers themselves. This is a really effective way to empower them and encourage them to think for themselves.
  • bolster self-esteem. When parents ask kids for their opinions, ideas and solutions it makes them feel their contributions are valued. 
  • avoid nagging. Instead of telling your kids what to do, ask them what they should be doing (nicely). It is far more likely to happen if it comes out of their mouths than when we tell them what to do (again). It reduces their sense of being controlled which can lead to resistance and rebellion. 
  • promote the development of morality. You can pose (hypothetical) questions to your children in the form what would you do if…? Your aim is to engage them in thinking, not to fish for information or to judge. Examples from my book, Real Parenting for Real Kids:
  • What would you do if Dad told you to clean up your toys but you were having fun? You don't want to stop playing.
  • You're practising on your skateboard in the house and break Mum’s new ornament. She hears the crash and comes running to see what happened. If you tell the truth, you know you will be in trouble. What will you do?
  • A boy is hanging out with friends when they start teasing a quiet kid, taking his things and calling him names. If he sticks up for him, the group could turn on him. He starts to slip away, but someone throws him the boy's bag. What should he do? 

Some questions to avoid:

  • Those that dwell on what has happened in the past –instead look forward
  • Judgment –questions are better when there is no ‘right’ answer. ‘Why’ questions can produce excuses and attempts to blame others or just reach a dead end.
    • Why did you hit Jamie?
    • Why did you fail the test?
    • Why didn’t you invite him over?
    • Why didn’t you leave your muddy shoes outside?
  • Questions that are really opinions or sarcasm or rhetorical questions e.g. do you think money grows on trees?
  • Closed questions. These are questions that require a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer and may stop the conversation. We all know these questions and their answers.

Parent

Child

How was your day?

Fine

What did you have for lunch?

I forget

Did you have football practice?

Yes

What did you learn today?

Nothing

!!!!

 

Open questions are ones that stimulate conversations and make kids think and explore possibilities. Examples are “If you had a day where you could do anything what would you do?” “I had a tough day at work. Tell me about your day at school.” Instead of “Why did you hit your brother?” say “I see your brother is crying. Tell me about it.” 

There are lots of commercially available conversation starter cards such as table topics. I recommend that, if you haven’t already, you go out and get some and enjoy some great conversations and ask lot of questions these holidays. Above all, be curious.

Read Blog

Will you be giving your child’s teacher an end of year gift?

I was meant to be interviewed on BBC Radio Suffolk this morning about gifts for teachers but that didn’t happen because the football got prioritised and they ran out of time! Imagine! But of course I had been thinking about gifts for teachers and thought some of you might be thinking of said purchases too so here are my thoughts on the subject.

Some of you may be the super-organised types who took care of this weeks ago. We hate you already. But assuming you haven’t (since you’re reading this) what are the problems with gifts for teachers?

• It can get really expensive, especially if you’ve got more than one child of primary school age.
• It’s a real effort to think of something novel and takes time to go trawling round gift shops or websites.
• Teachers end up with multiple mugs with ‘World’s best teacher’ on them or candles or chocolates or other things they don’t really need or want and we all have enough stuff.
• It ends up being the parent’s effort, not the child’s.

So what’s the solution?

Some parents will group together and pool resources of time and money to purchase something meaningful for a teacher. This is a nice idea but doesn’t really solve the problem of input from the children unless you brainstorm with them.

What does a teacher really want as a gift? Well s/he might really look forward to a nice bottle of something at the end of the year but most of all he or she really wants to be appreciated. We all like to be appreciated.

So how can your child show his or her appreciation? It has to be their effort and it has to be sincere. It might feel like a lot of your effort to get them to think about how to show their appreciation but you will be teaching them a lot about how to be thoughtful.

I would start by asking them what they like about their teacher. Maybe complete the sentence I like it when…. I like it when you read us a story at the end of the day and use lots of different voices. I like it when you give me stickers for good effort. I like the way you smile. The more detail the better. Your child may never have really thought about what he likes about his teacher.

I can hear some cynics asking what if my child doesn’t actually like their teacher all that much? Well why are you buying a gift? Is it just because that’s what everyone does? Has it become an exercise in hypocrisy or one of diplomacy? Do you genuinely think that your child should express gratitude to his teacher? Do you need to help your child see the positive sides to his teacher?

Asking questions will make it more of the child’s effort and will teach them valuable lessons about thinking deeply and practice at appreciating people –an essential social skill. The more perceptive amongst you may recognise Descriptive Praise here.

If for example your daughter says her teacher is boring don’t dismiss that but teach her to see another perspective by asking (without sarcasm) if her teacher is calm? Does she think carefully about things? If your son says his teacher is mean, ask him what makes him say that. Acknowledge any feelings of injustice that your child may have experienced first and then delve deeper to see if he can find any qualities to acknowledge his teacher for. This needs to be sincere. It’s no good mentioning kindness if your child thinks his teacher is cross and shouts all the time. You may need to ask lots of questions to draw this out.

When you’ve got a few positive characteristics decide how you’re going to record them. This may depend on the age of your child. Some ideas (in ascending order of effort, parental involvement and expense):

• Draw a picture of the teacher or of the teacher and child
• Make a word drawing using the qualities mentioned when brainstorming with them
• Make a card
• Get a kit to design your own mug with a drawing of the teacher or the qualities words on it. They come with appropriate indelible pens and sometimes need to be fired in the oven.
• Go to a pottery studio where you design your own plate, mug or bowl.

I was at the Festival of Education hosted by Wellington College the week before last and was really struck by how many of the talks and stands related to teacher burnout. Our teachers do a vital job and we need to support them to stay in the profession and maintain their enthusiasm to nurture our children’s thinking.

Teachers don’t go into teaching necessarily looking for appreciation. Most of them do it because they have a vocation to bring out the best in your children. I hope you had some really good teachers in your childhood. If you did you will remember. Everyone remembers a good teacher but we don’t always think to tell them that we appreciate them at the time.

When my middle son was in primary school I used to dread it when his teacher asked to speak to me because I always assumed (with some justification) that she would tell me something negative about him. But teachers often have the same experience of dreading talking to a parent as they expect to be criticised.

Let’s make sure we let teachers know that both parents and children value them, but it doesn’t need to be through expensive gifts.

Read Blog


Video