In many ways, modern parenting is a marked improvement over past generations. Many parents today are much more involved, supportive, gentle, and engaged in their children’s daily lives.
On the other hand, my wife and I have observed several not-so-good habits of contemporary parenting. They are as follows: Continue reading…
Below is an edited summary of Eric Barker’s excellent list written for TIME Magazine:
- Get happy yourself. How happy you are dramatically affects how happy and successful your kids are. So plan time each week to nurture your own relationships and hobbies.
- Teach kids to build relationships. Encourage them to invest in relationships and perform small acts of kindness to build empathy.
- Expect effort, not perfection. Banging the achievement drum messes kids up. The research is very consistent: praise effort, not natural ability. Continue reading…
Photo credit: Blake Snow
I wholeheartedly agree with Cal physicist Richard Muller’s optimistic and informed answer to this question.
“Global warming does not threaten humans with extermination,” he writes. “In the history of the world, I would say now is the best time to be born. The problem of global warming is minuscule to the dangers faced by my parents when then had me (i.e. world wars, more tyrants, worse civil rights for minorities and women, more violence, poorer health, less economic wealth). We will handle global warming through mitigation and adaptation. Don’t deny your future children their opportunity to enter this wonderful world.”
I don’t think Muller, I, or any other optimists are delusional in that outlook. After all, history is on our side—humans are survivors, tinkerers, and self-improvers.
Statistically we’re collectively better off now than ever before. Read and try to refute this if you don’t believe me. There’s no looming threat suggesting others—only unfounded human fear, old age, or alarmists rooted in emotion (or self interest) rather than fact.
If you disagree with Muller, Louis Armstrong, or Viktor Frankl, you’re wrong.
I’ve done some light reading on time use this summer — invigorating stuff, I know — and came across some insightful observations from John Robinson. He’s spent the last four decades reviewing thousands of “time journals” from people around the world. Continue reading…
Photo: Blake Snow
Last month, my eight year-old daughter subdued me in a remarkable way.
Our dog Harley had just disobeyed orders. As I confronted him, he urinated on our floor for the umpteenth time.
Now, there are a lot of things I dislike about Harley. He pees like a girl. Recoils from house flies. And his nervous system is a little too nervous. But my least favorite thing about Harley is his knack for urinating a few teaspoons at times when I—the perceived “leader” of the pack—order or reprimand him.
It’s called submissive urination and it’s downright annoying for two reasons. First, I’ve had to clean up dog urine, several times a day, even though he’s been house trained for months. Second, I have no idea when to expect it, even though Harley is normally an obedient dog. Continue reading…
There’s a funny saying in journalism. You could publish the biggest exclusive story in the world — a major political scandal, military coup, celebrity scoop, scientific breakthrough, or life-changing event. But it still won’t reach as many people as a cute story about a dog (See also: The AP Guide to News & Feature Writing).
I was reminded of this recently while walking my dog. Although I’ve walked the block many times with my adorable toddlers, one neighbor in particular never took much notice when crossing paths. No biggie. I just thought she was a private but pleasant lady. She’d smile; sometimes wave. We waved back. That was the extent of it for nearly four years.
Until she met Harley. Continue reading…
My sister-in-law challenged our family to a plank-off recently. Person who could plank the longest wins. “I don’t know,” I said. “I can’t stomach those things for 30 seconds.”
Or so I told myself.
Before continuing my story, a quick note: Like any inherently lazy human, there are a lot of exercises I hate doing. But planks are the worst—invented by Satan himself. They’re right up there with Turkish getups, mountain climbers, and wall sits as most uncomfortable for me. So I wasn’t enthused to participate.
“I’m in!” my wife said. My daughter, too, was excited to compete. “I’ll try,” I relented, offending Jedi Masters everywhere. Continue reading…
Excepting more embarrassing personal stuff, here are the changes I hope to make next year:
- I’m gonna speak softly to my kids. I’m loud. With my choice of words and opinions as much as my volume. Children don’t need that extra emotion as they’re figuring out the world. Often times I bark at my kids when they make a mistake or disobey. On a whim recently, I tried something different. Instead of scolding my three year old with a mean face and verbal outburst, I kneeled down, leveled my eyes with hers, softly expressed my disappointment, and encouraged her to change. She lovingly accepted and immediately improved her behavior. After overhearing the exchange, her older sister said, “Dad, I like when you talk to us like that. I feel a warm spirit in the room when you do that.” Then this happened. Then I resolved to speak kindly when disciplining my children from that day forward. Continue reading…
It’s difficult to describe the love/hate relationship of raising humans. This Coca Cola commercial from Argentina does a pretty good job. (Thanks, Bella—via Facebook)
See how my daughter is wearing her socks? I’m the only other person I know that does that, particularly if my ankles get hot.
Your ankles get hot? Yeah, my ankles get hot.
The complexing thing about this behavior, however, is that I haven’t “half socked” in years, certainly not since my daughter was old enough to notice. “Where did you learn to do that??!!” I asked in amazement the first time I witnessed her doing it. “I don’t know,” she shrugged. “Why?” I followed up. “Because my feet were hot.”
Maybe my daughter did observe me doing it and followed suit. Maybe she saw some other weirdo do it and mimicked them. I don’t doubt other explanations.
But maybe, just maybe, my daughter did it because her genetics told her to. Maybe, just maybe, human offspring remember select quirks that having nothing to do with evolution and everything to do with social continuity.
As a father, it was an exhilarating connection that I imagine gets better with age.
“I don’t mean to alarm you, but she may have brain cancer.”
That’s the scariest thing I’ve ever heard as a parent. Uttered to me by a confused pediatrician after failing to diagnose my two year-old daughter for the umpteenth time, the sentence dashed my hopes and struck fear in me like no other.
It started like this. Two weeks prior, my daughter began vomiting in her sleep. Curiously, she would upchuck like clockwork — three hours after bed. After a few days, she begin dropping weight. Her eyes sunk in. She looked sicker than any of my children had before. Continue reading…
Build character, not intelligence. That’s the gist of what parents, educators, and society should do to help children succeed, argues Paul Tough in his new book.
Many of Tough’s “findings” are obvious, mind you. More scientific validation of common sense than childrearing enlightenment, at least for balanced parents.
Nevertheless, Tough succeeds in synthesizing some important focal points for raising upstanding kids. Here they are, with my added commentary:
- Let children fail. It’s tempting to want to force a child to learn from yours and other’s mistakes. Life doesn’t work that way. You should certainly own up to your mistakes while showing them others’ and hope the child listens. But you must respect a child’s right to fail. It’s the only way they’ll feel the full experience of life. Let them own their failures as much as society lets them own (if not coddles) their victories. And let them know that failure is not who they are, it’s just something they do en route to winning. Continue reading…
With a little help from her mother and I, our second child learned to ride a bike last week.
As she darted ahead of me into the horizon, I thought to myself, “She’s beautiful. The world is in good hands. This little gipper is gonna be alright.”
That all changes in teenage years, I’m told. But I’ll be damned if I’m not going to fight for her innocence as long as I can, then treat her like an adult as soon as she is mentally able. (I’ll be on my best guardian behavior, world—I swear it.)
But I digress. The experience reminded me of other sappy moments that have defined my short stint as a father. The first time your child smiles at you or says your name. Their first wobbly steps, subsequent hard fall, and immediate resolve in getting back up. The first time they excitedly greet you at the door. The first time you read a book in their class or celebrate an award they won on their own merit without any prodding or helicoptering by you.
Their first dance recital. The look on their face when they solve basic math. The first time they read a book, let loose on the dance floor, or help a younger sibling or child without being asked. The time my toddler son grabbed a twig to mimic my fishing the Provo River.
The list goes on. And I don’t even have a child older than eight, or a boy older than two. I can only imagine what wonderful things they’ll do as the years go on. I can only imagine how young at heart they’ll keep me.
For any parents in the room, what are your favorite childhood milestones?
See also: 10 reasons my Dad is awesome
Six years ago, I wrote about 10 things that scare me. Since then, I’ve overcome many of those fears and have adopted new ones, so I think it’s time I updated my list. Here it is: 10 things that intimidate or otherwise worry me at this point in my life:
- Writing a book. Thanks to blogging and an insatiable curiosity, I’m a self-made writer. Since 2005, I’ve written tens of thousands of posts. I’ve also written hundreds of 800-6000 word feature stories, and thousands of pages of special reports, columns, product reviews, opinion pieces and analysis. And yet, writing a 10 chapter book seems so daunting to me. Go figure. It’s probably because the required focus conflicts with my ADA more than a writing project that typically lasts no more than a half day to a couple of weeks. Nevertheless, it’s my biggest professional fear. Continue reading…
Rachel Stafford recently shared some awesome tips on how to neglect your children. Here are some of my favorites:
- Keep your phone turned on at all times of the day. Allow the rings, beeps, and buzzes to interrupt your child midsentence; always let the caller take priority. Continue reading…
As a father of six years, I finally had my first “Holy crap, my child is going to be smarter than me!” moment.
Granted, I knew she was on to something when she started playing complex bass and treble clef chords on the piano — not to mention her ability to read music (I can only play by ear, and even then it’s only to poke around). I also like how she questions and shows an interest in almost anything.
But last week she reached a tipping point. I had gotten a new mixer (pictured) for Christmas. I was mixing some music and she immediately gravitated towards the mix deck. “You wanna try?” I asked.
She looked up with a beaming smile and nodding head.
I then proceeded to teach her about beat matching, BPM syncing, cross fading, pitch bends, and killing the bass of incoming songs to produce seamless transitions. After a little instruction, and help from Virtual DJs track visualizer, she blended her first mix: Deadmau5 + Rhiana.
I was blown away. I stepped out of the room to gloat to her mother, and while I was away she managed her second song blend. Lindsey and I just laughed, we were so impressed. A six-year old beat matching pop songs in the other room.
Look, I don’t expect nor particularly want Sadie to become a DJ. And she was only demonstrating initial interest; having fun doing something daddy does. But in that moment, I had a parental epiphany. I realized that I want to teach her everything I know (including art, science, writing, math, athletics, music, the whole she-bang) for as long as she’ll listen. Then she can combine the adopted disciplines learned from her mother and I and couple them with ones she discovers on her own to create something entirely new.
Now that’s what I call a mash-up.
My dad won’t like me for repeating this on the intertubes, but it’s too good not to.
Growing up, my old man would regularly sneak off to his tiny toilet room to get away from his loud wife and six, know-it-all children. It was one of those “bathroom within a bathroom” type deals where the toilet had its own lockable door—you know, for added privacy and to keep the fumes from offending a significant other using the sinks, bath, or shower.
Funny thing is, that toilet room would have been claustrophobic for an undersized gnome. While sitting on the toilet, small children could have (and regularly did) touch opposing side walls with ease. It couldn’t have been longer than six feet.
Nevertheless, my dad would retreat there for what seemed like hours, reading Rand-McNally maps or whatever almanac or resource books he left in there. It was his sole sanctuary, that is until he took over the entire second floor after the kids left home.
As a stunning teenager, I remember thinking something like this: “Dude bought this big ole house and everything in it, and yet the only space he has to himself is a 6×3′ toilet room.”
Now, as the children have begun overrunning my own house, I have found myself in similar situations. Granted, I have it better than he did. I enjoy a private home office that is only occasionally open to the kids for impromptu dance sessions (since my desktop doubles as the house’s best hi-fi). And my “toilet room” is much larger than his.
But I still stay in the bathroom longer than I should. The only difference is instead of Rand-McNallys, an iPad comes with me.
(Note: I defer all flagging concerns to George Costanza)
Since first subscribing to the daily paper this summer, I’ve been exposed to more Dear Abby columns than a 1950s trophy wife. The last one I read was horribly political, so I decided to guide the advice-seeker myself. Here goes:
Dear Smooth Harold: My husband wanted to postpone having children until we were more financially secure. But I really wanted a baby, so he agreed, though only after I promised to return to work once the baby was born. That was a year ago. We now have a wonderful 2-month-old, and since “Avery” cam along, I realize how important it is for me to be at home with her. My husband disagrees. he says we need my salary in order to meet our financial obligations, and he is angry and upset that I won’t return to work. But I think there’s nothing as important as the nurturing a mother give her child. Who’s right?—R.F., Southern California
Dear R.F.: Why on Earth would you ask me, a complete stranger, such an important question without knowing my background first? I could be a baby-snatcher for all you know, or completely against everything you believe in! But alas, perhaps you’re at your wits end and have no one to confide in. If that’s the case and you don’t feel comfortable anonymously researching different opinions online or posting to a message board, then I’ll indulge you. And I assure you I’m neither a baby-snatcher nor a posturing moral hypocrite. Continue reading…
I didn’t think anyone could be more headstrong than my second child. The pictured cutie with Gene Wilder hair—my third—proved me wrong.
“No!” she answers without fail, even if it’s something she wants. She does it so often, I often mutter under my breath, “Don’t tell me no. I’m your father.”
It’s futile. I realize this. But it’s a coping mechanism.
Someday, however, I’d really like to speak my mind. “Stop telling me what to do!” I’ll say with authority. “I’m bigger than you!”
She’ll then look up to me with bright eyes—her face about to break into a cry. And I’ll cave.
How can something so small—a tenth of my weight, even— wield so much power?