Teaching Kids To Be Good People

As I did in my last post, I’m going to reference something wonderful somebody else said. 

Is that lazy? 

If it is, I don’t care. There are certain people writing and talking about ‘parenting issues’ who have truly influenced my thinking. They give me hope and inspire me to be the best Dad I can be. So I’m going to shout their names and their wisdom from the top of whatever mountain I can (this lowly blog will have to suffice for now).

The thinker/writer I’m shouting about this time is Annie Fox. I’m currently reading her book Teaching Kids To Be Good People (see how that’s not ‘..To Get Accepted at Harvard’, or ‘..To Be The Most Popular’; it’s, ‘..To Be Good People‘). There’s a wonderful bit in there (one of many) where Annie offers her theory about why it’s difficult to ask for what we need (emotionally):

Babies are irresistibly cute so adults fall hard and take good care of them. Once they’ve gotten their sweet baby hooks into our hearts, they are experts at expressing their physical and emotional needs, nonverbally. As our children grow, our conversations with them center mostly on the physical aspects of life: Sweetheart, are you hungry? Do you want something to drink? Is it nap time? Why don’t you put on a sweater? As a result, asking for tangible stuff is very easy for kids: Dad, I need a ride. Mom, I need you to sign this. I need a new phone. I need money.

Because most parents don’t teach kids about expressing emotional needs, teens rarely say: I need a hug. I need to share this exciting news! I need you to listen. I need you to tell me the truth. I need help.

The passage reminded me of an observation I’ve made. It seems to me that many of us- parents, grandparents, friends- make a big deal about the littlest sibling, but maybe not as much about the older brother or sister. On one hand, this makes perfect sense; the ways we interact with a 4-yr. old and a 10-yr. old are obviously going to differ. But I’m always hyper-sensitive to it, and I find myself making an effort to divert some attention to my older daughter if things get too focused on her younger sister for a prolonged period of time. 

I wonder if we feel that, as they age and gain some independence, kids require less and less of our loving warmth.. that we can ease up on attending to their emotional requirements in the same way we no longer cut up their food into bite-sized chunks.

Can we? Should we?


Judging Behavior Is NOT The Same As Judging Others


“I want to make very clear this is not about judging others, but rather this is about interpreting and thinking critically about cultural messages to determine if they align with our family’s values.”

— Melissa Wardy, PigtailPals


Looking for an easy way to dismiss somebody and/or their idea, without expending any mental effort whatsoever?

Try this: When somebody offers a critique of an action/behavior/mindset that they’ve observed, immediately declare that they are being.. (whispers).. j_dgmental (so abhorrent is the word, I dare not even complete it in this post, lest I be.. ahem). What these defenders of stuff-so-prevelent-it-needs-no-defense are confused about is the distinction between j_dging a behavior, and j_dging a person. If I j_dge you, I assign myself the authority to determine your guilt or innocence, your worth as an individual. If I j_dge your actions, or even your mindset regarding a particular issue, I’m making an assessment of just that. That assessment will be based on my values, beliefs, perception, and hopefully some acquired knowledge and life experience as well. This not a bad thing. It is in fact, necessary to make our way in the world.

If we throw out all j_dgment, and all critical/analytical thought, how do we teach our children anything?

On Being Six In A Sea of Sexy Dolls

Stinkin Thinkin #1: Empowerment (in the Feminist sense)

Now, it’s true: I have a penis.​

So, no matter that I have two daughters that I’d lay down my life for, no matter that I can proclaim​ with complete honesty that I’ve been nuts for women since around 2nd grade, no matter how enlightened I may- at least occasionally- consider myself.. I’m still fated to see the world primarily through Man Lenses*.

​That being the case, I accept the fact that when it comes to my female counterpart, there will be some things I will struggle to understand. But I’m willing to learn. 

Lately I keep running into this term: Empowerment. ​I’m finding it used in the context of feminism, liberation, etc. The latest example is in this video blog by Melissa A. Fabello, posted on the fabulous missrepresentation.org. Please do take the time to check this out; I think Melissa makes some great points here. She is in fact, my immediate hero for speaking this:

“What I am opposed to is not using your all-powerful critical thinking skills to analyze what you’re enjoying and what effect it might have on society..”

As far as I’m concerned, we could really just end there and do quite nicely. Yes people- THINK.​

But moving along, Melissa seems to be questioning whether some of the things that are portrayed as empowering women, actually are. I wonder about that too.​

​Now again, I’m not a woman, so maybe I can’t understand. And it’s not my fight, right? ​Only maybe it is. I have a mother. I have a wife. I think I mentioned I have these two daughters. I have a stake in this.​

I desperately want empowerment – as it’s used in this context – to stand for something greater than, “the freedom to act as stupidly as men have acted for thousands of years”. ​​

*These aren’t always all bad, contrary to the image trending in current media portrayals. It could be a great thing actually, if we could all get our crap together and update the way boys are socialized.

A Must-Read For Dads With Daughters

Calling all fellow Dads with daughters out there..​

If you haven’t already, please check out Dr. Meg Meeker‘s ​excellent book Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know.

I read a lot of books, and lately, for some strange reason, a lot of parenting books, many of which may be quite rewarding but don’t make it on my ‘must-own’ list- that subset of books that are so chock full of fantastic insight that one read doesn’t do them justice. This book is one of those I need to keep on my shelf (or in my Kindle) because I know I will be returning to it again and again over the course of the years I have with my girls.​

I think there is much in this book that we as Dads already know in our hearts; it is good to hear it validated by a professional who is ‘out in the field’ dealing with these issues as they impact the lives of her patients​. So, if you’re like me and you tend to require evidence to back up your gut feelings- here it is.

If like me, you’ve ever wondered who buys a thong for their 4-yr. old, now you know

Question: ​What’s worse than a culture that produces media and marketing forces whose life mission appears to be promoting the idea that- as a woman, your primary value is as a sexual object? 

Answer: A culture in which ​some parents are complicit in instilling that idea in the minds of their own daughters.

When you check out the video at the link below, you’ll see what I mean. Thank you Becoming SuperMommy for the heartfelt and insightful writing in your post.

More questions.. Are the parents and the other adults responsible for teaching the routine and then putting on this performance misguided enough to believe this is.. what.. cute? Do they think it’s OK precisely because the girls are so young (so they can’t grasp the greater context)? I’m no genius, but I’m pretty sure these little girls will grow to become big girls. I wonder what their answer will be when each one asks herself, Who am I? What do I have to offer? 

I understand the video is a couple years old now, but ​it’s the first time I’ve seen it:


The Incredible Dr. Pol

We don’t watch much TV.​ Honestly, most of it seems like crap to me. 

There are exceptions. I’ve been a Curb Your Enthusiasm junkie since the first episode. My wife is quite fond of Storage Wars. Together, we’ve both become transfixed by The Walking Dead (Hey AMC- Did you piss off Frank Darabont? That seems ill-advised.) 

When it comes to family-friendly fare, most of the time we watch movies we own, or movies on Netflix. Lately though – because my oldest daughter has a real connection with animals and nature – we’ve started looking at what Animal Planet, NatGeo and the like have to offer. By accident I think, we happened to see an ad for NatGeo WILD’s The Incredible Dr. Pol.

My girl loves animals, and while of course I want her to follow her heart and I’ll support whatever she chooses to do with her life so long as it’s legal and moral and who am I kidding she’s only nine and she’s got a lot of changing and growing to do anyway, OK yes- I do think it would be really cool if she grows up to be a vet (Note to self: you’re not saving enough for tuition, and you should’ve started years ago). 

So we’re recording Dr. Pol now, and we’ll see how it plays. From what I’ve seen so far, I’m impressed. This is reality TV I can embrace, and do so without needing to take a shower afterwards. Thank you, programming honchos at NatGeo WILD.​

Behind The Times, Or Ahead Of The Curve

Our family finally watched the fourth Harry Potter movie the other day. Actually, it was the first viewing for my daughter and I, but I think my wife first watched it not long after it was released in 2005. She’s been a constant fan of the books, and she was more excited about watching the films than I was at the time. I’ve since learned to appreciate the series, and I’m enjoying following the story arc and experiencing each movie in the series along with our oldest daughter.

Our coming late to this party was deliberate. We decided some time ago that we weren’t going to expose our eldest to all of the available HP movies in quick succession, but instead ‘spread them out’ over time. Our reasoning for this was based on a couple things.

1 – My wife had read the books and was of the opinion that the series generally gets more intense, more ‘adult’ with each installment. She felt some of the more intense situations- including the demise of some main characters- was best left for..later.

2 – We think it’s OK for kids to wait to experience some things. If next-to-nothing is left for later, what is there to look forward to? Where are the milestones? It’s OK to slow down, to anticipate. There’s no need to rush.

While we did get a bit of push-back on occasion, it was pretty minor;  usually amounting to a valiant-but-ultimately-futile effort to tread the well-worn path of “but _____ is my age and (s)he’s already seen all of them”. At which point we would explain that different families do things different ways. We also reminded her that even though it sometimes feels like ‘everybody else’ is doing that thing you’re not allowed to, that’s really not true; we could both think of other kids who hadn’t yet seen all of the movies. Some kids her age had only been allowed to see the first and or second; some families we knew did not watch them at all. 

I understand opinions around this topic (every topic?) vary widely and are clearly subjective. Generally, we think the culture seems hell-bent on snuffing out the ‘innocence of childhood’ as quickly as it can. I’m for extending that period of time as long as I can.

They have the rest of their lives to be grown-ups.

There’s no need to rush.