Economic impact of the Toothfairy

27 10 2012

Is the Tooth Fairy a good worker? On the one hand, somehow s/he manages to get around the world in an on-demand capacity, usually with little notice. On the other hand, in our house the Tooth Fairy was always pretty slack. Sometimes it took several nights (and repeated reminders from small children) before the Tooth Fairy finally turned up and did the financial deed. Conversations with friends showed that this was in fact a common experience. Apparently the usual excuse is a workload issue – so many children, unexpected tooth loss, etc. But eventually the tooth would be gone and money would be in its place…although the amount of money seemed to vary from house to house.

One of my sons, when aged about 8, decided to take control of the Tooth Fairy transactions. Having lost a molar, he decided that this was worth more money than your average baby tooth. So he wrote a contract on a scrap of paper and determined what he thought was a fair price – $51. Then, in order to enact the contract, he forged the Tooth Fairy’s signature, and left it out for the Tooth Fairy.

The flaw in the logic, of course, was that the Tooth Fairy would of course recognise that the signature was forged. Perhaps he was counting on s/he being very busy and somewhat distracted. Somewhat like his mother, in fact (although I don’t think I am THAT gullible!). Of course there may have been other flaws in the logic.

Now I would like to stress that the going rate for teeth in my house was nowhere near $51. It was more like $2, although there was some upward financial pressure when a substitute Tooth Fairy left $3 out one night – a precedent was set and could not be backed away from. Inflation had hit the exchange rate.

A friend argues very convincingly that the small decisions like Tooth Fairy rates are the basis of inflation in our economy. The argument goes like this.

If the Tooth Fairy starts leaving out more and more money per tooth, then the value of money to the child is devalued and hence pocket money rates have to rise. Small children with additional spending money hit the shops in a big way and canny retailers realise these children have no sense of the value of money, and hence they raise prices or create new and increasingly more crappy products with large price tags attached. If the prices of lollies, toys etc rise, then other food stuffs and household products rise so that parents think that the child’s purchases are still (in some scheme of things) worthwhile. And hey presto, inflation.

So – no pressure, Tooth Fairy – not only do you have to remember to turn up when teeth are laid out, but you need to make some serious decisions about exchange rates. Our economy depends you.

whatever happened to…children’s games

22 01 2012

photo credit Sommer Poquette

Without wanting to sound ancient, today’s children seem unable to entertain themselves without some sort of screen. Or perhaps that is just the children I know, and I am falling victim to hopeless stereotyping. But it seems that the only place that you actually see children running around playing the sorts of games we played when we were young (yes, I know, I sound ancient) is in advertisements for life insurance and mortgages. Both of which are about death.

So here are a few of the games I remember from my childhood which I rarely see played now.

hopscotch – great for balance and coordination

cat’s cradle – a coordination game involving a loop of wool laced around the fingers of both hands to creat patterns

What’s the time, Mr Wolf – participants would sneak up behind the back of Mr Wolf according to the number called out, until Mr Wolf screamed “dinner time” and tried to catch someone before they got back to “home”

All over, Red Rover – another chasing game where participants tried to cross a certain space (for instance a tennis court) without getting caught and being ‘out’

foursquare – very popular at school lunchtime, involved a square court divided into four smaller squares, one child in each square bouncing the ball between each other trying not to get out

skipping – self-explanatory, but do the skipping songs still exist? Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, richman, poorman, beggarman, thief….pepper!

marbles – a craze from year 6 – marbles. Each lunchtime entrepreneurial children would set up marbles for other children to try to knock off and “win”. Unsuccessful marbles were forfeited to the “storekeeper”.

yoyo – I vaguely remember World Yoyo champions travelling from school to school demonstrating various tricks – walk the dog, round the world, and who knows what else. I wonder what happened to them – did their careers take off from there? Is there a transferable skill there?

knucklebones – these were plastic replicas of sheep vertebrae (thought I don’t think we actually knew that at the time) which were flicked and caught from the front to the back of the hand and back again. Favoured those with large flat hands who could flick a large number of knucklebones and hence win.

I Spy – Time honoured classic for dementing parents on long car-trips.

Hide and Seek – another self-explanatory one, and a great way to lose a child for an hour or so and gain some peace and quiet….

piggy in the middle – a three person game where the two on either side toss a ball between them trying to keep it away from the “piggy”. If the piggy manages to get the ball, then the person who threw it exchanges places with them.

What other games did you play as a child?

Goal Setting – Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes!

26 12 2011

So it’s that time of year again, when we re-evaluate our lives, decide what isn’t working, or needs to work better and solemnly vow (or sometimes drunkenly vow) to do better in the coming year.

Having just completed an MBA subject called Managing Change (which was fabulous by the way, really interesting and practical), I decided to apply the change models to my New Year’s Resolutions. I am thinking of resolutions in the sense of the types of changes we make to our daily lives rather than a bucket list type of resolution. These are the types of changes that take daily effort – daily decisions to do something differently. And for that reason they are harder to achieve. So my aim is to make the change as easy – and as automatic – as possible.

Now generally, change models more or less cover the same sort of key points. For ease, I will use Kotter’s Change model, because it is relatively succinct and is quite well known amongst change models.

So how can change theory help with setting – and more importantly, achieving, your New Year’s Resolution goals?

Step One. Create Urgency
In organisational change management this is often referred to as the “burning platform”. In your resolutions, you will need to have some compelling reason why this change is needed, and need NOW! If you can’t do that, then you need to either rethink your goal, or develop a burning platform. Often it takes a health scare to motivate people to lose weight / eat healthily / get fit / give up smoking. The only person you need to convince of the urgency is yourself – so keep going until you have your compelling reason.

Step Two: Form a Powerful Coalition
As the Beatles song says “I get by with a little help from my friends”. Your coalition is there to help you achieve your goals, keep you on track and keep motivated. They may be friends – or they may be your personal trainer, a careers coach, a financial planner. It may be your bank, setting up automatic pay deductions into a savings account. Get your team together and set it up so it automatically drives you towards your goals. Make it as easy for yourself as you can.

Step Three: Create a Vision for Change
You need to have a clear vision about what you are heading towards. What is the change you want and where will you be when you have achieved it? This needs to be a vivid, clear compelling picture – in NLP terms, a bright, brightly coloured picture with action and sound and excitement. You need to be able to summon it in your mind and see it as a real picture.

Step Four: Communicate the Vision
In organisational change management, communicating the vision is vitally important – you need to share it effectively to get people on board. For your resolutions, the only person you need to convince is yourself. (If your goal is to change others you might need to rethink how realistic it is.) There are many tricks for keeping your goal in the front of your mind – creative visualisation techniques, meditation, posting key words or photographs of your goals in places where you will see them. Whatever works for you. Make sure it is always there to remind you when you make those daily decisions – what shall I eat today, will I get up early to exercise, shall I spend my savings on this dress…..

Step Five: Remove Obstacles
You know yourself, you know what has prevented you achieving the goal in the past. Your current self needs to safe-guard against your future self’s poor decision making / tiredness / lack of motivation. If you want to lose weight, make sure you are stocked up on food you do want to eat when you are hungry, and the junk food is not around. If you are going to exercise, make sure there is an easily available option that is not going to fall victim to too tired / too cold / too hot / too far / too rainy / etc. If you have a friend or relative who habitually undermines you, work out how you are going to deal with them or avoid them. If your obstacle is time, then make space for your goals – get up 15 minutes earlier, do it in lunchtime or stay up an extra 15 minutes. Plan for the obstacles and make sure they don’t get in the way. Make it as easy on yourself as possible.

Step Six: Create Short-term Wins
Nothing motivates more than success. Too often our goals are BIG goals. Losing 30kgs. Giving up smoking. Saving $20,000. These are great and worthwhile goals, and it is important to have inspiring worthwhile goals. But give yourself a plan – a ladder – to get there. These are the small goals which add up to the big goals. So maybe your first goals is to lose 2kgs in the first week. Or to cut out alcohol entirely. Or to save $200, or $20. Plot out how the small goals add up to the big goals – a chart or a diary can help to keep you on track. And celebrate the little wins, but don’t crucify yourself if you don’t quite make it or you backslide one week. Just refocus on your plan and keep going.

Step Seven: Build on the Change
Celebrate the little wins – but keep it in context. The little win is a win because it is one step in the bigger plan. Don’t let the little win be more important than the big goal, and don’t stop when you achieve the little goal. (And don’t do a George W Bush and declare victory too early.)

Step Eight: Anchor the Changes in Corporate Culture
So you’ve made the changes and are well on the way to achieving the goal? Great. The next step to making it easy is to make it part of your normal life. Don’t think of it as a diet – it is now the normal way you eat (that’s why crash diets don’t work long-term). It’s not a fitness fad – you now exercise every day. You now meditate when you get up every morning. Integrate the changes into your normal routine and they will become less effort.

What tricks do you have to stay motivated and achieve your goals?

Want more on how to stay the course with your New Year’s Resolutions? This post is part of a series on goal-setting. Others are below:
Goodbye to old (bad) habits
It’s about the JOURNEY (as well as the goal)
The Harvard Business School Study…or urban internet myths
Being accountable

Reasons to have children

17 12 2011

photo credit stevendepolo

A spot of humour for the beginning of the school holidays…it’s good for my sanity, so they say!

Yes, the little darlings. Adorable. What would we do without them?

Sometimes you need reminded why you thought having children was a good idea at the time (other than the alcohol). So here are a few reminders to keep you focussed in the tough times.

1. It’s good to have someone about whom you know more than they do. (This does wear off as they get older.)

2. It’s good to have someone who knows less about the entire world than you do. Note: as they get older the things you know that they don’t will become less relevant. Enjoy it while it lasts.

3. Surely your genetic heritage should be part of the future of the world? (Please complete a full psychology testing / personality profile before answering this one.)

4. There is also a fair chance your children will be compatible blood donors (particularly if you pick your partner based on blood type). It is good to have portable donor/s available at all times.

5. One day you might need a kidney transplant or bone marrow transplant. Your children are a 50% genetic match.

6. All of those dreams you had that were too hard, unrealistic / never came true? You can now work them out through your children, giving them the full benefit of your hard-won wisdom and drive at the same time. They will appreciate this.

7. When the world won’t listen to you, usually your children will. Even when you are talking complete drivel.

8. Given that child labour is illegal, it is important to have a ready source of children whom you can teach “chores” and “responsibility”.

9. Children are a great excuse to do silly things, fun things – watch parades, visit theme parks, ride on swings and flying foxes.

10. Children are a great excuse to have all the best toys in the house… XBox, Playstation etc

11. Your parents tend to like the idea of being grandparents. Your cute children could get you back in your parents’ good books – if only because they enjoy watching you go through what they went through with you.

Disclaimer: The author would like to declare that this in no way reflects upon her own relationship with her children.

Life would be so much easier if……

15 12 2011

It’s almost time to start thinking about those New Year’s Resolutions again. I love goal-setting. I actually do it four times a year, not just annually. I have specific dates for the reviews: My birthday (March), End of Financial Year, Halloween, and of course New Year’s Eve. For those of you not into goal setting that probably seems a little obsessive, but it works for me. Any longer and I lose motivation, any shorter and I can’t actually achieve anything noticeable in the time period.

I have achieved a number of goals over the years: saving money, getting a new job, investment, study etc. However, there are some that seem to come up every time and never seem to really get anywhere. And I know all the tricks about phrasing them in the positive (you don’t lose weight, you gain fitness), making sure they are specific, measurable, and have a timeline attached to them. Developing baby-steps and plans to sit behind each goal. Keeping them written somewhere obvious so you need to keep reading them adn reminding yourself. Yes, yes, done all that.

But I’m guessing some of these might plague you as well. So here are some of my “wish list”, should a Fairy Godmother come flying by….. If these things could come true, life would be so much easier (and I would be achieving those stubbornly resistant goals).

If only……

photo credit Charlie Brewer

1. Buying a book counted as having read it (and you absorbed all the knowledge through osmosis). Particularly educational literature.

photo credit Adactio

2. Buying diet food counted as having dieted.

photo credit Magnus D

3. Signing up for the gym counted as having done the workouts. Ditto for buying the exercise equipment, clothes and running shoes.

phto credit: all day I dream

4. Printing the journal article counted as having read and absorbed the information (for study purposes)

phot credit getzzy photography

5. Buying the clothes and/or makeup counted as becoming the model in the advert for the clothes

Unfortunately life doesn’t work like that. SIGH! Off to diet, exercise and read now.

I am sure there will be a posting about goals setting coming along shortly, so please pop back if you are interested, or sign up to get updates delivered by email.

No batteries required!

7 12 2011

photo credit Saaleha

My children are approaching teenagerhood and increasingly over the last few years, their Christmas and birthday wish lists have been populated by the latest electronic gadgets. On the other hand, there really isn’t anything they want for. They are well fed, well clothed and have the basic sporting and other equipment, so anything they are going to want is very much in the discretionary realm. It actually becomes difficult to find something for them that isn’t either wasting money, or supplementing their already advanced screens-addiction. Unfortunately they are well past the age when they are more interested in playing with the box it came in than the present itself.

However I remember when they were young I read a list of basic developmental toys for children. Playtime is learning time for small children, and the toys and equipment they need for this basic development is generally not very expensive and easily accessed. And no batteries required!

1. Building blocks. Children love to build things, see how things fit together, or just generally learn about gravity. One of the best games for very small children is for the parent or caregiver to build a tower and then the child knocks it over, scattering blocks everywhere. Hysterical fun that can be played over and over again! Great for fine (building) and gross (knocking over) motor skills as well as logic.

2. Dress-up clothes. These do not have to be costumes. Hand-me downs and unwanted clean clothing from parents are fine, but particularly hats, sunglasses, shoes and anything a bit showy. If you really don’t have anything, second-hand stores often have a range of clothing and accessories at reasonable prices. Children like to learn about other people by play-acting them – and some of the stereotypes can be hilarious, particularly if it is you they are acting out!

3. Books. There is evidence that shows that the number of books in a household influences the literacy level of the child. Now that is probably at least in part because a house with a lot of books means parents are literate and value reading, and probably read in front of the child.

4. Musical instrument. Yes, I know, shudder. As if they aren’t loud enough already. Who hasn’t been tormented by the toddler with a toy drum banging and banging for hours on end? But a variety of toy musical instruments can teach a child cause and effect, rhythm, and can help them learn to tune in to different sounds and pitches, and a range of other things. That’s why they like them! This can be simple as a rattle or shaker, a toy recorder, a toy drum or toy piano.

5. Bath toys. Learning confidence in water and learning to work with water (pouring, filling up cups, squirting) can aid with fine motor skills, sensory perceptions and an understanding of the properties of liquids. They are also enormous fun and a great way to distract them while you get them clean.

photo credit Steven Depolo

6. Puzzles. This can range from nesting cups, to fitting shapes blocks into corresponding holes,to jigsaw puzzles (appropriate for age). This teaches fine motor skills, spatial awareness and logic. Many of these things are available from second-hand toy shops.

7. Dolls & stuffed animals. Important for play-acting. Children often work out social relationships and interactions by play-acting them. Access to dolls and stuffed toys to “people” the action is important. Be careful of second-hand stuffed toys, they can be a haven for disease (pre-sucked and pre-chewed!)

8. Cars and balls. Teach children about motion and prediction. (The famous experiment of rolling a toy car behind a piece of cardboard and watching as the baby moves its eyes to the other side of the cardboard waiting for the car to re-emerge). Also great for gross and fine motor skills.

9. Ride-ons. Ranging from little plastic ride-ons to bikes, dependent on age and skill level. Good for gross motor skills, strength, fitness, balance and coordination. Also great fun, but make sure they are wearing helmets as soon as they graduate to a bike.

10. Arts and crafts. Can be as simple as paints or coloured pencils, and paper. The stationary department of your local store is always a great place to find things to keep children occupied and entertained, while they practice their fine motor skills, planning and creating, and maybe come up with a masterpiece for you!

Bonus! Well I wanted a list of ten, but I have suddenly remembered another favourite from childhood – bubbles! Who can forget the excited shrieks of the child who sees bubbles for the first time? A simple bubble loop and washing up liquid can create enormous fun, so long as you (or the child) have the puff to keep them going! try to do it outdoors though – that bubble mix goes somewhere when the bubbles pop, and when you have a sticky dirty mess on the floor you will know where that somewhere is!

(I’ll add my usual disclaimer – I am not a child development expert, the information presented here should be considered as pointers only, and I encourage you to do your own research if you want to know more about child development.)

Christmas Traditions

7 12 2011

home-made Christmas pine cones

As a former POM raised and living in Australia, I find Christmas a little disconcerting. The family tradition was very much the northern hemisphere “snow, crackling fire and rich comfort food”, but this doesn’t seem to sit well in a hot Australian Christmas.

On the other hand, the traditional Aussie Christmas barbecue or seafood dishes also don’t seem to fit for me. BBQ seems a little too casual, and I am the world’s pickiest seafood eater (there are so many things I don’t eat) so seafood doesn’t seem to work for us either. Cooking seafood also terrifies me – so easy to overcook, it doesn’t go with a cooking style that involves a glass or two of wine being consumed during the process.

My extended family is now scattered across the continent so a large family Christmas is out of the question. But I am keen to develop some traditions for my children, so they can look back on Christmases and remember fondly. So here is my list of the good, the bad and the ugly of Christmas at my house.

The Good

– It’s stone fruit season! Satsuma plums and fresh cherries. YUM! Father Christmas always brought Satsuma plums to put in the stocking when I was young. (We had a plum tree in the backyard, so I suspect he was being very thrifty!)

– Phone calls from relatives across the continent. So much better than the major family arguments in person. Fifteen minutes of being nice to inappropriate uncle Bob (names changed to protect the guilty) is so much better than watching him gradually unwind over the course of a day and a six-pack or two and say things we will all regret. It also solves the faction problems – the aunts who haven’t spoken to each other for near on three decades can be easily dealt with separately.

– I have two special Christmas recipes. They are Christmas recipes because they are so yummy that if I made them during the year I would be the size of a bus. Yoyo biscuits (similar to Melting Moments but I have a particularly good recipe) and Chocolate Fudge. So good I get requests for them from neighbours and family.

– Mince Pies! YUM! We start buying Mince Pies as soon as they arrive in the shops (shortly after Easter, it would seem) and the children take them in their school lunches, we heat them and have them with custard for dessert, or just much them as a portable snack. I used to stock up when they were on sale after Christmas and freeze them, but I think everyone else has got into this act as the supermarkets seem to run out quite quickly. (I would include a photo of some mince pies here but they have been eaten. You will have to imagine them yourselves.)

The Bad

– Christmas lists. Now the children are heading into teenager-hood, the Christmas wish lists are getting longer – and each item seems to be electronic and therefore by definition, expensive. Clearly they have been raised in a consumer culture and have taken to it like ducks to water. The nagging starts – well it would seem the nagging starts about January.

We hope you get lots of pressies

– What to have for Christmas lunch? This is particularly an issue if we are having guests. How can I manage to present something delicious, attractive and appropriate for the season (and the pressure has been ramped up since Master Chef set a higher bar for amateur chefs!) And warm and on-time for whenever we decide to sit down for lunch. And preferably without having to spend the entire morning in the kitchen preparing and cooking. Are they expecting a Turkey? Will a turkey roll suffice or does this look pragmatic and not really entering into the spirit of the season? Do they know I don’t eat ham and therefore won’t be cooking one either? This year our neighbour has kindly invited us for lunch so I can concentrate on hors d’oeuvre, cheeses, dips and crackers, and desserts. These are all my strong suits.

The Ugly

– An increasingly bedraggled Christmas Tree, with tangled tinsel, the occasional ornament lost to the dog (they look like balls being dangled in front of his face – why wouldn’t he bite them and run off with them). The children decorate the tree so there is a glut of decorations in the middle of the tree, the top has a lot of tinsel that has been tossed in the general direction, and the bottom is naked (at least in part to discourage the dog). It is also a tree that you should look at from one side only – decorations are at the front, not around the back or sides.

– The consumeristic Christmas wish list could probably sit here as well as in the “bad” list.

– Family who can’t decide until the last minute whose house the think they might grace for Christmas Day. If you’ve been invited, say yes or no. Don’t hang out to see where you get the best offer, it is insulting to us all.

– Family who insist on inviting the ex-wife to everything. No, I don’t particularly want to spend every Christmas for the rest of my life making small talk with his ex. Move on people, it’s been over two decades.

And yes, I know. First World Problems.

Merry Christmas!

What are your Christmas traditions?

Feeling like you want something more uplifting after my traditional Christmas whinge? Try Mt Barker Christmas Pageant or St Nicholas comes to Hahndorf.