The Gender Agenda

The Gender Agenda

When a new baby is born one the very first things we ask is

“Is it a boy or a girl?”

When we ask that question what is in our minds? Do we really want to know the biological  details of how this child will physically reproduce when it is older? I suggest not. I don’t think the question is to do with the inny-outy bits that nature has provided. I don’t think it is to do with nurture as in the early stages the food, warmth, love and attachment we offer them is much the same whether they are male or female. In my humble opinion the reason we ask that question is to do with culture:

To read more follow this link to Ali’s Blog: The Gender Agenda

Part of the series ‘Listening to Children, Helping Children Learn’ by Ali McClure Author, Education & Parenting Consultant, Teacher Trainer & Blogger.

Ali McClure, Education and Parenting: Making it Better for Boys…

and so much more!

Ali McClure

Ali McClure is an experienced Parenting and Education Consultant and mother of three children. Her inspirational training works equally well for boys and girls, however her ‘go-to’  book ‘Making it Better for Boys’ has been widely acclaimed by parents, teachers and early years practitioners. She offers training days and consultancy for schools and children’s settings and one to one parent coaching.

If you would like to know more about Ali McClure courses, to book an INSET or Parent Talk for ‘Making it Better for Boys’ or so much more please visit the website:



Behaviour, Consequences and Discipline

Behaviour, Consequences and Discipline

Children’s behaviour…  as parents and carers we all know how this impacts on our lives.

We also know about the consequences of a person’s actions. Many of us think we have a fair grasp of discipline but what does discipline actually mean to you? There are many different definitions but for me the most important aspect of discipline is that discipline goes hand in hand with learning, (just as the disciples in biblical times learned from Jesus.)

I have a question for you… how often, when a child has behaved inappropriately, does the exchange that follows actually take that opportunity to help them to learn. How often does it help the child to question their own behaviour and lay the paths for a more appropriate action next time? I’m not talking about the old fashioned, often harsh, kind of teaching and learning as represented by phrases such as: ‘That’ll teach them’ or ‘He’ll soon learn’. I’m talking about discipline that helps a child to see the consequences of their action, their impact on others and ways that this action may be avoided or amended for a more positive outcome in the future. If we imagine ourselves alongside our child, guiding them and supporting them then our response to their behaviour will be just that. It will be guiding and supporting.

Yes, we do need to be firm and consistent. There are certainly times when ‘no’ has to mean ‘no’ and it is important that children understand, especially where safety is concerned. However, there are also times when it works better to be a little less authoritarian and hold back from being judgemental. We can work with the child to help them reflect on their behaviour and to agree an appropriate consequence.

Wherever possible consequences should be matched to the misdemeanour, after all that’s the way it works in real life; If you break something it is down to you to repair it. If you lose something it is your responsibility to replace it, or to go without, if you make a mess you have to clear it up. On the other hand, if you work hard at something the result can make you and others feel proud and usually leads to positive outcomes. As our children mature, with our help, they learn about these consequences and therefore learn to think a little more and take a little more care before they act. These things may seem like a tall order if your child is still quite young but with caring respectful discipline, over time, this really can happen.

One thing we need to be sure of, especially if we have younger children, is that we are not expecting our child to do something that they are not yet ready for. Just because the other children in the toddler group can pour blackcurrant juice without spilling or most of the children in their class can make a beautiful, home-made card without sticking it to their clothes does not necessarily mean that your child is being disobedient if these things do not fall naturally into their skill set. We need to help youngsters by building in success and praising them when they make steps towards these challenging tasks, however small. We need to avoid the temptation to compare them with others and focus in on celebrating what our child is good at. We most certainly must avoid humiliating them in front of others. All this will help them build greater confidence and self-esteem which in turn will result in their needing to behave in ways that demand our negative attention less frequently.

For happier times together we need to think of:

Realistic…Choose which BEHAVIOURS are important for us to address.

Results…Be sure the CONSEQUENCES are appropriate and linked to the actions.

Respect… In DISCIPLINE, know that every encounter with our child shows respect and is an opportunity to learn, for them and for us!


Ali McClure

Ali McClure is an experienced Parenting and Education Consultant and mother of three children. Her inspirational training works equally well for boys and girls, however her ‘go-to’  book ‘Making it Better for Boys’ has been widely acclaimed by parents, teachers and early years practitioners. She offers training days and consultancy for schools and children’s settings and one to one parent coaching.

Join us for Ali’s lively yet thought-provoking parent talk BEHAVIOUR, CONSEQUENCES AND DISCIPLINE at RALEIGH SCHOOL on 18th October 2017 .

 Ali’s work inspires and empowers those who care about children, emphasising enjoyment and positive relationships for their learning and future.  

Thriving children? Starting school?  CILLA to the rescue!

Thriving children? Starting school? CILLA to the rescue!

At last it is the summer holidays. We have come out of the exam season and the long wait for results is finally over. This year, for many reasons, I have been pondering what helps our children to have success and smiles rather than stress and low self-esteem.

I was beyond proud last month when I was able to be present at my eldest son’s graduation.  It was partly a relief that all the blood, sweat and tears had been worthwhile but it was also recognition that, at least some of our strategies as parents had helped him on his way.

Building in Success

I have long held the belief that building in success for our child (something we all strive to do) is founded on firm foundations. For a number of years now I have been sharing one of my favourite acronyms with parents and educators, that is:


Look past the gender bias that the name suggests as this CILLA can be male or female, young or old. What this person does is simple …they care, and more than that- they show they care on a regular basis. Within human bounds, they are always available to the child, both emotionally and to turn to whether the waves are rough or the waters are still. Sometimes warmth, sometimes a rock, sometimes a sounding board, sometimes a lighthouse in a storm.

What does C.I.L.L.A. stand for?

It stands for:

Continuity of



                        Learning and



The most intrepid explorers have a back-up team.

There are times when we all think we can ‘do it alone’ but even the most intrepid explorers have a back-up team; they may not be visible but they are there in the background- quiet, unsung and reliable. This is the kind of continuity our children need from the age of two to twenty, beyond that and before it. We all need someone in our lives that are stable and certain- someone we can turn to.

In life we need things to be constant, consistent- provide us with boundaries that make us feel secure. We need somewhere that we can call home, with someone we can rely on.

I recently had the privilege of meeting with Karen McCluskey, a wonderful woman who works with and fights the cause of prisoners. One of the main things many of these people lack in their lives is stability- a person to turn to- who has ‘got his back’ as my wise God-daughter calls it.

In life we go through many ups and downs but what helps us through them is continuity, consistency, a person you feel confident to confide in (I had never made the link between these two words before!)

The heart of the matter

This heart shaped diagram can help us unpick how we can help and support children when things are challenging:



The people Karen meets are often diving- they have fallen off the support structure of society and are living life on their own air tanks; we need to address this and find ways of giving these people support- moving them up from the depths towards the light and air at the surface. There is very little human contact and what there is may be less than supportive!

In my heart diagram, the next level up is surviving- there is some support there- just enough to keep them going but more is needed and this, I fear is where we fall down in our education systems and  as parents  in our busy lives.

Could do better!

Children have form tutors, class teachers, key workers but- do all these people truly understand the responsibility of the relationship role, not just the expectations of education? This is an area where our school report often reads ‘Could do better’

As we go into a new school year we need to reflect on what really makes the difference. By having stronger relationships and more one to one time with a tutor, home-school link worker or mentor a child can move up from surviving to striving. Here they feel supported to begin to drive forward themselves; on the heart picture for a child who is striving there is a greater connection between the child and the mentor. This empowers the child to begin to take some risks or to feel supported when they put in the effort that will help them be successful. They begin to become resilient and are more able to bounce back from the bumps that may come their way.

The top of the heart shape shows us why this metaphor is so powerful. When a child is thriving, that support is still there but the child is empowered to need it less often. They are able to weather the storm and hopefully come back to share those successes with their CILLA.

Bear this in mind this autumn term when you are helping your children settle and that CILLA could well be you.

Dedicated to Alistair Mitchell- with heartfelt thanks.

Ali’s work ‘transforms practice, transforms lives’

You lucky people can hear her speak at Childcare Expo in September and take away not just practical tips and advice but a real depth to enable you to challenge your own practice.

​You will leave invigorated and be able to empower all your staff to really ‘Make it Better for Boys’ and for girls alike. If you simply cannot wait then Ali would love to hear about how she can help match your training needs at




This is a stick- well that’s pretty obvious but if I invited you to imagine a stick, would it have been this very one?

It might have been similar but it could not possibly have been this particular one. This stick is unique. It has twists and turns. It has formed in response to the ways of the world that it has grown up in. There are millions of sticks in this world but every single one is unique. Why a stick? This is a stick that my son picked up on a walk today. It was a lovely sunny day and we were both relaxed. There were no pressures, nothing to ​​rush back for. There were just the two of us (if you don’t count the dog!) and we simply walked… and we talked. In fact he talked more than he has done in a long time.

​I have three sons and each of them is different. I have learned that for one of my sons long car journeys are when he talks to me, for another it is when we are cooking together.

Every child connects in a different way but some seem to grab out attention more than others- you know the ones!

My question to you in busy early years setting is: Do you listen to the little voice?

Do you go to where that child is comfortable, where he is playing, investigating or just watching?

Do you spend time without a camera, without an iPad, without a clipboard?

Are you able to leave your leaky roof and lost keys behind in order to be positive and present for him, for him alone?

Can he see that you have ‘pressed the pause button’ of all the expectations you have to meet and you are now calm, warm and open to what he wants to say?

Can he see that you are not just physically available but also emotionally available?

This is when the magic happens- when he is in his comfort zone- when you discover what makes him shine and what makes him shrivel.

What Makes Him Shine and What Makes Him Shrivel?

We complain that children don’t communicate these days but have we thought what we could do to make ourselves available to listen?

Just like the stick, every child is individual. Let’s listen well and let them know that their voice is heard, their voice is valued.

Listen to the little voice and you will truly discover how to help every child to learn.








Watch out for Ali’s next blog ‘Being sensitive to their story’.


Ali’s work ‘transforms practice, transforms lives’

You lucky people can hear her speak at Childcare Expo in September and take away not just practical tips and advice but a real depth to enable you to challenge your own practice.

​You will leave invigorated and be able to empower all your staff to really ‘Make it Better for Boys’ and for girls alike. If you simply cannot wait then Ali would love to hear about how she can help match your training needs at



When my boys have all left home- this is what I shall miss…

I walked into the bathroom today to be met by this amazing geometric wall of bulk- buy loo rolls. It took me by surprise, it made me smile, it made me think and … it spoke so much about my son.

Sam is currently going though, perhaps the most gruelling set of exams I have ever witnessed. His life is controlled to the very minute by revision schedules, crammer sessions, exams themselves and yet more study. I woke him on the weekend to be met with venom. ‘Mother! Sleep is the one thing in my life I still have some control over and you have just ruined it!’ He is fifteen years old and going through GCSEs. Mothers and mornings are never popular.

Children, and especially boys, need to feel they have some choice, some control. In situations where life is stressful or over-ordered this can cause anxiety and an innate need to take back some control. This is at any age or stage of their life, from two to their twenties and beyond.I am thrilled that, one way Sam takes control is by cooking: choosing, buying and combining the most delicious ingredients and taking control of his time, his creation and most wonderfully- our supper.

But back in the bathroom (don’t panic!), he felt the need to take control of the stockpile of toilet rolls. My ‘making the house look lovely’ system is to store the toilet rolls in a pretty, wicker basket adorned with pine cones from our family holidays. Sam’s preferred method is to build a wall, but not a conventional one, oh no, a diagonally patterned wall, a precariously balanced wall, a wall that was a challenge to build, that appealed to his mathematical brain and gave him a sense of achievement.


Boys need to feel like they are in control.  (The TV remote is testament to this!). They need to have order and structure in their lives to help them feel safe and secure, however within this each boy needs to feel like he is in charge of something, he has a choice, he can do at least some things his own way.

If he is doing something in a different way to the way you  had planned, try to be less rigid:

  1. STOP– Don’t dive in and correct him, pause, see what he is doing- it may work better for him, after all we are all individuals who function and learn in different ways

THINK– Do you need to channel him to your way or does his way work?

ACT– If it is important that a task is done in a certain way, such as putting things where he can find them in the morning, then, respectfully redirect him, explain in just a few positive words why this system works .

‘We put the shoes by the door so they are easy to find when we want to go out’

Otherwise, we may decide to take no action if none is needed- this is a real skill if you are a parent or educator who feels they need to be in charge!

REFLECT– Look back and see if the way you handled this situation worked well. Whether it did or it didn’t, bank the lessons you learned from it. Use this wisdom to inform the future balance of providing structure, routines and boundaries versus allowing him to investigate, solve problems and overcome difficulties for himself. This helps him feel like he has some control and is also a fantastic tool to support self-regulation.

  1. Rather than telling him to do something, give him two positive choices and ask which he will do first:  ‘Will you clean out the rabbit first or pack your swimming kit?
  2. Let him have some time each day to be creative, to be relaxed, to be free…

Time to walk, play, exercise or just be is an essential antidote to the throbbing theme park- style busyness which dominates our childrens’ young lives today.

The lesson I have learnt from the control tower of toilet rolls is…

to stop being so controlling, to let my son feel as if he has control of at least some aspects of his daily life, at this stressful exam time and into the future.

I will be leaving Sam’s wonder wall of toilet rolls- you can check it out next time you pay a visit.

If you would like to know more about Ali’s courses, to book an INSET or Parent Talk for Making it Better for Boys or so much more visit her website at