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Category Archives: Kid Tips

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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Crackin’ the Whip!

As I’m writing this my kids are doing their laundry.

When you first get divorced; if your time with the kids is divided, it’s very easy to slip into the mode of letting the kids mess up the house while they’re with you and then just straighten up after they leave. But at some point you recognize you’re not doing anyone any favors. Trying to keep up with all of it is near impossible. It is at that point that you suddenly realize you’re doing your kids a disservice. The excuse of “well I want to make
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the most of our time together” doesn’t wash either. We are parents, not butlers and maids. Our job is to teach our children responsibility and how to fend for themselves. If done routinely and done correctly there should be plenty of “fun time” available after everything is done.

And so their mother and I came to an agreement that Saturdays would be for getting the house in order regardless of whose house it was. As the schedule worked out, flag football is on Thursdays, softball games / practices are all on weekdays. So the weekends are wide open. And so; laundry and house cleaning is now part of the Saturday ritual; not unlike it was when I was growing up. Only in this instance the boy is actually expected to contribute. (that one is for my sisters). Each kid is responsible for their own clothes and keeping up with their things.

On the list of chores:

Laundry: No more whining because mom or dad didn’t have the right pair of jeans clean when you wanted them. It’s your responsibility. The washer and dryer are there for the family. Everyone now knows how to use it. Each has a designated time on Saturdays to do theirs. No excuses.

Rooms: With the clothes picked up, the rest of the room can be put back together including the beds.

Dishes: Each person is responsible for their own plate, glass, silverware and one additional item off of the table. They get rinsed and put in the dishwasher (neatly).

Garbage: If the garbage can is full. Empty it.

Additionally; our kids are also learning how to cook and bake. They can make breakfast including scrambled/fried eggs, sausage, pancakes and muffins. They can get their own cereal out if they like, prepare 2014-03-22 14.29.13Mac & Cheese or Rice Cups if they prefer. So long as they clean up their mess afterward. As they get older they are constantly hungry. If you want something outside the routine lunch and dinner mode; have at it.

Some of you may be saying: “Well duh! What took you so long!” But my guess is that there are plenty of you who find yourself continually picking up shoes, cereal bar wrappers, empty Goldfish boxes and water pouches, popsicle sticks etc. Spending an hour every day doing dishes. Trying to make sure each kid’s clothes end up in the right closet after coming out of the dryer. Well. The reality is there simply isn’t enough time as a single parent to do ALL of it. Especially when there are others in the house perfectly capable of doing many of the chores. The larger message here is that they are not visitors to my home or their mother’s home. We are a family and as a family we need to work together to maintain “OUR” homes. This is not a bed and breakfast or a cruise and I am not Julie your Cruise Director.

It takes patience mind you. It’s so much faster to just do it yourself. So be prepared for clothes to be folded differently, dishes to be placed in a different part of the dishwasher, beds to be made haphazardly and so on. The point isn’t for it to be done perfectly. The point is for them to get used to doing it and be a part of the family that takes care of the house. Over time things will get better. Just get them involved. That’s the goal at this point. And for them to recognize just how much effort it takes to do it all.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go get someone to vacuum under the coach cushions.

What type of chore systems do you have at YOUR house? Would love to hear how other dads handle it.

 

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iPhone Hangups

I feel like an old man when I tell my kids, “When I was a kid we didn’t have these fancy smancy ‘iPhones.” We had to turn a big dial with holes in it with our index finger and the phone was connected to the WALL.”

Their response: “You’re totally making that up dad!”

Look, I get it. Technology is wonderful and our ability to connect with people is easier than ever. However, I think sometimes we become slaves to our gadgets and at some point we need to ensure that this doesn’t happen to our kids. Too often our ability to communicate face to face is lost as we find safety in sending a text rather than speaking to a real person. Case in point; kids with phones. The very idea that someone under the age of 16 would have their own phone was a hard pill for me to swallow. But in our efforts to keep up with the Joneses and the influences of society we as parents are now adding to the family budget the expense of our kids having a phone. We use the excuse of “well they need to be able to stay in touch in case something happens.” Which is true. ButImage how much of it is luxury and how much of it is necessity?

As a divorced parent, I know I like being able to communicate with my kids when they’re with their mother. I know their mom feels the same way. And I most definitely believe it helps the kids knowing they’re able to stay connected with both of us at all times. So when a little text comes to me from “Favorite Daughter” saying, “I LOVE YOU DADDY,” you know I reply immediately, “I love you too!” so that she knows I’m there whenever she needs me.

But there is a danger here if the kids are given carte blanche with their new gadget. If left to themselves, they will bury their faces in that damn screen and be lost for hours. At one point the only way I could get my oldest child down for dinner was to send her a text letting her know it was on the table. I also noticed an attitude emerging as she was texting continuously for days with her friends rather than communicating with her family. She would hole herself up in her room and just disappear for hours. Even if you’re communicating with others, if you’re physically by yourself, to me you’re still very much alone.

And so we made some changes. Now when she gets home from school she is given an hour with the phone. When she uses that hour, is completely up to her, but it’s one hour and nothing more. Now, this was just implemented recently so the jury is still deliberating the effectiveness, but I will tell you so far it seems to be working. She has handed the phone over upon entering the house each day and used her hour at the very end of the day. So far she has been hanging out with her siblings and me watching TV, doing homework downstairs, shooting baskets in the driveway and just chasing her brother and sister around the house. She has been more respectful to everyone and much more willing to go with the flow.

Is this all due to the new rule? Hard to tell, but I personally think it’s two pronged. First, she’s pulled away from the glow of the phone. Second, I’m basically telling her I want to hang out with her. She needs to feel that. 2014-02-22 14.59.41-1Letting her be by herself I think tells her just the opposite. I remember one day I told my oldest daughter that I didn’t like that she was spending so much time alone in her room. She said, “Hey I asked you if you wanted to go throw the softball around and you said you were busy.” Ouch. She had me there. What could I say? Opportunity lost.

I think it speaks to a child’s need for limits, their desire for us to set them and that if we don’t make a point of engaging them, something else will. They need us to structure their lives to some degree and teach them a basic rule that my kids here on a daily basis; “All things in moderation.” They also need human contact and if we don’t give it to them they’ll find a way to get it even if it’s through a piece of metal. A phone is indeed a luxury and in my opinion can be a dangerous one. I mean, come on, how many of us ‘adults’ have lost an hour playing Words With Friends or some mindless other game on our smart phone? Imagine that distraction in a kid’s hand. So if you see your kid’s face buried in that little screen don’t hesitate to consider some guidelines. Stop and recognize that looking through that window for extended periods of time cannot be healthy.

Bottom line: “FaceTime” is cool … “Face to Face” time is better.

 

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Extended School Hours!

The last (we hope) arctic blast of the 2014 winter closed our schools Monday and Tuesday of this week. With all signs pointing to school kicking back into gear tomorrow I informed the kids that I’d received an important update from their principle. I told them they were extending school hours tomorrow to make up for the lost time.

“Dad’s kidding,” my middle child said. “Really I said?” Then I pulled out my phone and acted as if I were reading the e-mail.

It says, “To make up for the past two days, we will be adding a second lunch and extending classes until 7:30 pm both Wednesday and Thursday of this week. Parents should also include a third snack for all elementaryScreenshot 2014-03-04 21.28.18 students as well as an extra drink. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, but felt it would be better to make up the time now rather than jeopardize our spring break later this month.” 

“That’s SO NOT FAIR!” “Are you KIDDING ME?!” “NO, NOT GONNA DO IT!”

“Hey,” I said, “would you rather miss spring break?” 

“FINE!” Was the last thing I heard. 

I went about cleaning up the kitchen after dinner and getting the kids to take their showers, etc. Just a normal wrapping up of the day. I’d thought they had caught on or that they’d at least ask again if I was kidding. But then, as I was tucking my nine-year-old in for the night she said, “I can’t believe I have to stay at school until 7:30 tomorrow.” 

“I was just kidding sweetheart,” I said. 

“REALLY? Yea!!!” 

Annnnnndddd … scene.

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2014 in Kid Tips

 

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