Letters to the editor – April 20

Good Friday a bit quiet?

Last week, some (Fairfax) newspapers carried an article about “How Good Friday in Australia compares to the rest of the world.”

Saying that, “Good Friday just got slightly more lively in Australia,” referring to the (yawn) AFL football match.

What could be more un-lively than large sweaty men brawling for possession of a ball?

And that, “still the quietest day of the year…Good Friday is no big deal”.

Incorrect. Quietness is a very big deal – a scarce commodity, worth cherishing where it survives.

Quiet minds become full of thoughts – about life, about purpose, about meaning, about God.

Yet, mostly, don’t we avoid quiet, preferring distractions — about food, about feeling good, about kidding ourselves we look good?

ARNOLD JAGO, Nichols Point.

Busy: Lee Castine sent in this photo of plane trees on both sides of a busy Hahndorf main street over the Easter weekend, wondering why Naracoorte's can't be retained.

Busy: Lee Castine sent in this photo of plane trees on both sides of a busy Hahndorf main street over the Easter weekend, wondering why Naracoorte's can't be retained.

Steve Biddulph: 10 things girls need most

How do we raise girls to be strong and free? It actually starts in the toddler years.  

They need encouragement and permission to be adventurous, messy, noisy and physical.  

Fathers are often the key to this - many dads like to take their children into the outdoors, and are much more vigorous in how they play. This is good for a girl who can learn to trust and enjoy her body and what it can do.  

Of course you have to be careful, so some common sense is called for.

The neuroscience is proving something very important - that nature is good for our brains. Your daughter, whatever her age, is a wild creature, and needs to be in the rhythms, textures, seasons and peace of nature.  

An overgrown garden she can build cubbies in, pets she can cuddle and love and big landscapes of beaches and hills to run in. They are all essential to her mental health.   

Kids learn calmness in nature, away from screens and the jangling artificial world. Nothing in nature is saying be thin, be pretty, be rushed. She can find and be herself, happy in her own company, or teaming up with others to build or imagine.  

The clothes and toys we choose are important because they unintentionally may put limits onto her. Don’t dress your toddler in frilly, expensive or fragile clothes. That sends a signal to her that she is there to be looked at.  

Don’t keep telling her how pretty she is, as she will start to think that’s what matters in life. Tell her how kind she is, how strong, how funny, how good a friend, what a good climber she is.   

An occasional princess dress won’t do any harm, but in the main, avoid anywhere the words kids and fashion occur together. Dress her for messiness whenever you can.  

Imagination is better when toys are few, and don’t determine how you play. A big box of wooden blocks is better than “My little clothes shop”.  

In fact, according to Simplicity Parenting author Kim Payne, halving the amount of toys our kids have lying around actually makes it easier for them to play, and learn to focus.  

It also helps not to have TV or radio on where they are playing, as studies show that kids can’t concentrate. In a quiet living room, toddlers make up more stories and act out the conversations between their toys.  

TV and screens are not great for toddlers - a few, well loved and well worn DVDs or regular shows like Playschool that are crafted to suit their brain development, should be the only electronics in toddlers’ lives.   

With a bit of thought, we can focus on keeping little girls feeling strong, active explorers. Girls who don’t give a thought to how they look and see the world as theirs to explore. And that’s the start of making them free.   

Steve Biddulph is the author of Ten Things Girls Need Most

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