Category Archives: Behavior

Get With The Program(mer)

It is never lost on me, that each of my children are hardwired very differently. Each has their own way of approaching things and each their own interests. Sometimes these overlap, but more often than not, each has a unique set of triggers in just about every aspect of their personality.

If one of our jobs as parents is to help our kids find their passion and create a series of goals to motivate them, the first task is to recognize what it is that gets their motor running. Notice I said, “their” motor, not yours. That’s the hard part, as more often than not, what’s enticing and interesting to your kids is completely foreign to you as a dad (or mom). Or we attempt to push our own interests on them,Screenshot 2014-09-17 10.57.43 primarily because it’s easier and admittedly, who wouldn’t want their kid to show an interest in what they do. But in my house, unless you’re Beyonce’, Peyton Manning or Tom Ford, you’ll typically get a “ho hum.”

Currently, I have a fashion designer, a singer and apparently a video game developer living under my roof. It would be easy to roll your eyes and say, “sure honey, you can be a singer.” But truthfully both my fashion diva and songstress have proven to maintain a strong interest for an extended period of time in both interests. Enough so that both their mom and I are looking at ways to support the interests while giving them a well rounded understanding of both the creative and business side of their pursuits. Which leads us to the last one on the list; the video game developer.  We’ve been waiting for him to find a “calling” of sorts and it’s a somewhat new discovery that basically came about by having to answer the simple question, “Dad, how do you make a video game?”

Now, ask me how to make a music video or a bologna sandwich and I’m your guy. How to make a video game? No idea. My initial reaction was “Well, you study hard in school and go to college to learn how.” Seemed reasonable enough. The answer went over like a Flappy Bird hitting a giant lead pole as my son proclaimed, “But I want to make it NOW!” I then mentioned something about having to learn how to write “code” and escaped to the kitchen to make dinner.

My son returned about fifteen minutes later with an entire page of code he’d written in his own computer language. Obviously, this idea wasn’t going to go away any time soon.

So after I put the kids to bed I started searching on line and low and behold, there are a TON of ways for kids to learn computer programming and development. What appears to be at the top of the list is, a site that features Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates along with a plethora of other computer scientists, programmers and developers all eager to help us all (not just the kids) understand computer programming. There is even a lesson on how to build your own version of Flappy Bird. This morning I showed it to my son and he went bananas. And when he’s not on the site, I’ll be the first to admit, I’m on it learning a thing or two myself.

What really gets your kid’s mojo working? Do you know? What have you done to encourage it or maybe discourage it? Would love to hear your experiences in the comments section below.


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The Dangers of Texting and Parenting

Look, I get it; keeping up with the Jones’ isn’t easy. The influences of friends and their parents can make it nearly impossible to stick to your guns at times when making decisions about what’s appropriate for our own kids. Case in point: cell phones. As the father of three pre-teens I can honestly say that the discussion about when they could have a phone was a long and arduous one. Eventually we saw that the positives outweighed the negatives and honestly, phones are a valuable tool onteens_sexting_issues many levels when it comes to kids. That said, I also believe that they should be treated with the respect you’d give any tool whether that tool be a wrench, saw, or blow torch. While there are indeed many positives to your child having a phone, keep in mind that just as you wouldn’t hand your kid a cookie sheet and an oven mitt without lessons and safety measures squarely in place, I don’t think you should just hand your kid a phone and say, “Have fun sweetheart!”

The problem is that we assume that our kids are well versed in communicating with their peers and that their use of texting is going to be harmless. The reality is that a pre-teen really has no idea how to communicate. They don’t understand how words bite. They have no clue how to control the power of their verbal exchanges and through texting feel no restraint in trying to one up each other. They’re also not equipped to understand that they may be reading something the wrong way and shouldn’t take everything personally. Let’s face it, we as adults have issues with that fact and we’ve been here a lot longer. They also tend to change friends every two weeks. They may be “besties” today and not worried about it, but that text they send about someone will most likely come back to haunt them in a month or two.

Enter you the parent. Remember, you’re in charge. You set the parameters. So first, do not let them put a password on their phone that you don’t know. If they do. Take it away from therm. I also think it’s your responsibility to occasionally go through their texts and monitor their communications. This is not snooping or going through their journal. This is about teaching them the proper way to electronically communicate. The only bummer part is you can’t really give them a warning because they’ll just delete texts they don’t want you to see. But keep in mind, you don’t have to be mean about it. Just set the tone and the ground rules. Set the boundaries. As you read things, take notes as you see potential issues, concerns and then “calmly” discuss these things with them. Not in a judgmental way, but in an educational way. This will NOT be easy. You will likely want to react to some of the things you read immediately. Don’t. Stop, take it in. Relax and then sit down with them and explain why some of the things they’re saying may be construed as hurtful, dangerous, rude, etc. Remind them that everything they’re doing at this point of their life, from the 1926540-Mclothes they wear, to the way they communicate, is basically developing their brand and how the world perceives them. Let them know that you’re there to teach them and help them.

Listen, twelve-year-olds are going to do and say stupid things. It’s what they do. It’s up to you to guide them and teach them the proper way to discuss things with their friends. Most important, in my opinion, is to teach them how to avoid being sucked into the drama that is their world. To just walk away from negative discussions, name calling, finger pointing, and rumors. Popularity at their age is such a big deal. It’s so easy for them to lose focus and perspective and get pulled into the BS. As parents I believe it’s up to us to monitor their progress and guide them properly, putting time limits on usage and monitoring their use as well. Because leaving them to their own accord can have costly ramifications.

It’s so easy to just let em’ go and say, “Oh isn’t that cute how social they are.” Well, it’s not cute. The drama that is the twelve-year-old is epic and the last thing you want is for your kid to get wrapped up in it. The things you find will shock you from time to time. But just remember. This is why you need to be there to monitor this kind of thing. Left on their own they WILL dig very deep holes and honestly, they need you there to help them. Again, not to judge, but to educate. At the same time you’ll gain valuable insight into their world and what they’re up against, which I’ll tell you, is scary. But what’s scary is turning a blind eye to it and adopting the “ignorance is bliss” approach. I’ll quickly add that teaching them to put limits on their usage now may very well save their life later. I’m convinced that part of the reason texting and driving is such a huge problem now is that texting becomes a habit. We grow accustomed to immediate gratification and simply find it difficult to go five minutes without checking our messages. Teaching them to put it down now will help them appreciate the value of putting it down later.

My point here, is that they’re still young. They don’t know. And there’s a LOT going on that you likely have no clue about. So, help them find a clue and perhaps discover a few yourself. Let them know you’re watching and that you care enough to help them learn how to present themselves and treat themselves with respect. Their going to make mistakes no matter what you do. The least we can do is help them minimize the risk.


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Why Every Man Should Have a Daughter

I was raised by a remarkable woman. In addition, I grew up with four equally brilliant older sisters. And yet. Despite that fact, I knew very little about women when I entered my marriage. I was a blithering idiot when it came to understanding the female of our species and made remarkable errors in1656173_10152167021502908_421350704_n judgement because of that fact. They are likely errors most men make when attempting to understand and react to a woman’s thoughts, actions or needs. Yet they were still made by a man who clearly had no clue when it came to fully appreciating what it meant to live with a woman despite having grown up with several of them.

Enter my daughters.

As I’ve witnessed my girls grow and mature I have gained remarkable insights that I otherwise probably would have never known. To see first hand the development of the female mind is something great documentaries and scientific studies are made of. I often watch in awe and bewilderment as they navigate through relationships, friendships, insecurities, school struggles, body development, understanding the world and finding their purpose.

One thing I did learn from my ex-wife, (or attempted to learn anyway), was to sometimes just shut up and listen. It is a skill I often use while having a late night tea with my daughters. It is during these moments that I sit there on the verge of breaking out into desperate cold sweats of anxiety as they divulge their view on the world around them. There are times I’m tempted to open my mouth, but find the strength to just sit and take it all in; blown away at the perspective I’m being offered and the information I’m being trusted with.

Through this process I have begun to view women very differently. Perhaps it’s because I know that I myself am still very much defined by the kid I was many moons ago. So I believe it’s fair to assume that most people, women included, continue to react to the world in the same way they did as children; all of this despite 1185934_10151773292737908_2109251665_nour experiences, knowledge and education. We have, in most cases, matured and learned how to handle things more “adult like.” However, the root of who we are continues to be and always will be based on the foundation we laid as children.

To witness first hand the building of that foundation and to see how the mind of a young child, in particular that of a young woman, processes information is without question the most life changing experience a man can have. It is, in my humble opinion, a blessing to be given this opportunity to take it all in. And I urge any man who has a daughter to pay very close attention. I also encourage you to stop, just when you’re about to open your mouth in judgement and distain, to just shut up and listen. Observe, watch and learn. You will be scared. You will be terrified by some of what you see and hear. You may very well be rocked to your very soul. You may be tempted to run or perhaps yell, “STOP! You can’t be serious!!!” But fight these urges and just listen. I mean, REALLY listen. For there are insights hidden within the murky waters that is their language. Unfortunately there is no “Rosetta Stone – Women” to teach you this language. So if your daughter is willing to open up to you … remember it is a gift. One to be treated as such. And I promise you, you will be a better man for it.

I still do not profess to understand women. Neh; quite the contrary. I make mistakes and continue to hear things wrong, react wrong and mis-read. But that’s the point. We’re not supposed to necessarily understand. Rather, if I’ve learned anything these past several years watching my children grow, it’s that our purpose is not to understand, but rather simply accept and support. For we will not change them. We will not turn them into what we want. We can only be there to help them become the best “them” they can be.


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In This Corner!

There are times when I get so mad I could just spit. And no matter how much I try to acknowledge my frustration with the situation (or person), no matter how much I tell myself to just take a breath; I remain remarkably agitated and irritable. Deep down I know that in another day or so. And I know I’ll be fine and see things more clearly in a few hours. But it’s still so hard to just brush it off. Especially when you feel you’re beingimages-1 misrepresented.

I think part of the problem when you’re divorced is that you don’t always have a couple of key ingredients necessary for diffusing the situation. First, in all likelihood, you’re reacting to either something the kids repeated that could very well be incorrect or misquoted and your ex is not there to defend themselves. Second, in not being a part of the other person’s day to day anymore, it’s impossible to fully comprehend the full extent of your ex was experiencing at the time. You’re likely basing your anger on past experiences and allowing it to amplify itself without the ability to compare apples to apples or have a completely clear view of the full context.

So, there you sit, talking to yourself, getting steamed and most assuredly making a mountain out of what is probably a mole hill. And even if it’s not, what’s the point of getting upset? Are you going to be able to change much? Prove a point maybe? Is it even worth the energy? Probably not.

Being divorced is going to be filled with moments where you feel trapped within the confines of a relationship
Unknownthat doesn’t exist. They are shadows of a relationship actually. And when you box with a shadow, you’ll never
be able to land a punch. You’ll just waste your energy chasing a floating figure. And honestly, our imaginations can REALLY embellish things when we get like this.

So take the gloves off. Find something positive to focus on and move on. Is it easy? Hell no. But it’s easier and healthier than trying to forge a battle that can’t be won. Regardless of who is right or wrong (and you may very well be wrong my friend), you will always see things differently and rarely if ever convince the other party that you’re right. You will remember the past differently, you will see each point differently, and your conscience will do everything it can to protect your ego at the other person’s expense. And let me tell you it just isn’t worth the effort. And seriously, if it were feasible to enlighten each other you probably wouldn’t be divorced in the first place.

So do yourself, your ex and your kids a favor. Let it go and put your energy toward something more productive, like mashing some potatoes for dinner.




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Get It Right The Third Time!

Would you expect your nine-year-old to start playing a Chopin concerto perfectly on the piano the first time? How many hours of practicing would you expect him/her to need in order to get it right? And yet how often do we get upset with our kids when they don’t act correctly or follow directions the first time?

My recent push to have the kids do the dishes together after dinner made me stop and recognize how important it is to provide them with opportunities to practice not just what they do but how they do it and whoIT-simple-mistakes they do it with. Our first go around was rough. (Boy … was it rough). Each kid wanted to lead. Or should I say, didn’t want the others to lead. Perhaps their goal was for me to give up on the entire idea and just say, “fine, you guys go play and I’ll clean up.” But by the ninth or tenth time they started to get into a rhythm. They started to figure out that either way it was going to happen, so they may as well make it fun. And they did. They each made mistakes (I have a picture of a very soapy floor to prove it). But learned to help each other work through the mistakes rather than point fingers.

How many soccer games did your child play before they started to figure out how to pass rather than go after the ball with everyone else on the field?

I’m grooming my oldest for baby sitting the other two; giving her opportunities to watch them for five, ten, fifteen minutes at a time. The first few times it’s resulted in a revolt due to a lack of communication and lack of understanding of how everyone needs to work together. But what a tremendous learning experience for every single one of them, including me. After each instance we sit down and discuss what worked and what didn’t. Hopefully over time, they’ll each learn the best way to respond to each other to ensure an enjoyable experience.

Even something as simple as the morning routine, i.e. getting ready for school, getting dressed, fed, out the door on time; has taken a long time to nail down. Oh sure, you can try to get things together the night before. mistakesBut kids change their minds or forget socks. Or neglect to inform you of a form that needs to be filled out, waiting until you’re closing the door. Learning how to work together and pace yourself properly and work through the stress of the morning rush takes practice.

But how many times do we throw up our arms and give up when it doesn’t work the first time? “I knew this would happen!” “I knew this was a mistake!” “What were you thinking?!” “Why did I think I could trust you?!” “Obviously you’re not ready for this kind of thing!” So easy to just spew the negative and make our kids feel like incompetent idiots isn’t it?

I, like you, struggle with providing them emotional room to grow and learn. To build their confidence through the fine art of screwing up. How difficult it is to encourage our kids to make mistakes and teach them that being wrong is OK and simply part of the process. Especially when it directly affects our own routine or deadlines. But keep in mind that even Einstein knew the power of making mistakes. I believe he’s quoted as saying, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

Yes it typically means a lot of cleaning up, or buying a “new one.” But I believe there is a cost to progress, both financially and emotionally. I always tell my kids, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.” I mean that in terms of both a project and the day itself. If we can lay our head on the pillow high-fiving each other, regardless of any arguments or lapses in judgement that took place, then it was a good day. If we can rest knowing we learned something from our mistakes and that we’re better prepared for the next time, then it was indeed a success.

Bottom line; the goal shouldn’t be to get it right the first time. The goal should be to learn how to do it differently until you get it right.


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