Tag Archives: life lesson

Effectively Bribing Your Kids (For Their Own Good)

Photo Credit: laurenaweiner via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: laurenaweiner via Compfight cc

Two dollar bills, novelties themselves, seem to do the trick.

A few weeks ago I discussed using the Leadership Design Group’s eight dimensions of life as a baseline for finding balance in my life.  As I have pursued improvement in these dimensions, I find myself wondering how to get my son (and stepsons) thinking about how they develop and mature.

Not one of the four boys in my home even shave yet, so I do not expect any of them to sit down with books by Dale Carnegie, Seth Godin, or Marcus Buckingham.  Your home may have older kids who might read those types of books, but I suspect not.

So what can we, as dads, do to help them take a more holistic view of their lives and their development?

First, we can model it for them.  They see us trying to eat well, get some exercise, study, write, read, engage in healthy relationships, and laugh a lot.  They also see us struggle to eat well, get some exercise, study, write…well, you get the idea.  Bottom line: we talk about being lifetime learners and becoming better even though we do not always get it right or stay disciplined (sometimes we just want to watch a movie).

Second, we can bribe them.  And it might just work.

For the past few years, I have kept all my notes in a series of Moleskine journals.  I do not “journal” on a consistent basis, but I do keep notes/thoughts/observations/ideas in my journals.  It occurred to me I could help the kids start a journaling habit while encouraging them to consume some quality content, not just Minecraft videos on YouTube and The Maze Runner book series.

So, I made a few kid-friendly modifications to the descriptions for LDG’s eight dimensions, printed them out, and taped them into the front cover of their own personal journals.  Then, we all sat down and I explained the concept of our lives having multiple dimensions and how we need to pay attention to all aspects of our lives as we grow and mature.

Then came the bribe.

I told them they did not have to do this at all, but if any of them wanted to pick out one of the eight dimensions and let me pick out a book, article, or video for them to consume, I would pay them $2 to do it and write down a few sentences in their journal about it.  As an added bonus, I would discuss the content and their observations about it at no charge.

The results have been mixed.

The two 10-year-olds seem kind of excited to learn something new and get paid to do it.

Just yesterday, my youngest stepson asked about putting money in the bank.  So, I told him we could parle this conversation into a journal entry.  Together we watched a short video on compounding interest, we discussed it, he asked several questions, and then wrote down a few sentences about what he learned.  And he did not hesitate to take “Jefferson” out of my hands.

Only one of the boys has not taken me up on the offer, but he just sat in on the compounding interest lesson, so he may not be far off.

The idea of being able to pick out lessons, stories, or videos (TED talks can be very effective…especially with older kids) from sources you trust is only eclipsed by the ability to generate a positive conversation between you and your kids while letting an “expert” be the one to provide the lesson/lecture.  It gives you the opportunity to agree with a trusted figure rather than lecture.

We all know how much kids like lectures from parents.

I would love your feedback about this idea, and I would also appreciate suggestions about great content for kids related to their growth and development.

Life Lessons From Saturday Morning TV

What television show you loved as a kid did not quite live up to the memory when you saw it one night on TV Land?

I have had this experience – especially some of the old Sid and Marty Krofft shows from Saturday morning. What could possibly go wrong with Ruth Buzzi and Jim Nabors as robots piloting a flying saucer? (Yes, I’m that old).

When I was about seven, one show really captured my imagination and provided source material for hours and hours of play with my friends and me. The story involved another boy who stumbled across a secret and was given the power of six immortals – Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles and Mercury. The show was SHAZAM! I not only watched the show, but had the comic books as well.photo-3

Fast forward nearly 40 years and I heard the studio released the show on DVD.

I ordered the series on DVD in 2014 hoping to share a little of my childhood with my son. The package arrived and it only took a moment to look at the jacket art to know this show would probably not age well.

With some trepidation, I put in the first disc, called in my son, and pressed play.

What shocked me was how much he engaged with the show. Yes, he chuckled at some of the “special effects” and did not always understand the cultural references from the early 1970s when the show was filmed, but the stories went deeper.

Today’s superhero movies have amazing special effects, compelling super villains, A-list actors, and reams of source material to draw stories from.

But my son seemed to connect with SHAZAM! because the hero, Captain Marvel, did not fight super villains, but instead interacted with everyday people (mostly kids and teens) facing everyday issues like peer pressure, bullying, not fitting in, and the occasional car thief.

The show addressed issues and questions my son had either asked or could imagine himself asking. The show sparked conversation about why people do bad things and how to make better choices.

We do not have the same conversations after today’s superhero blockbusters – we talk about the big battle scenes or the funny lines.

But following those 25 minute episodes of SHAZAM!, we had some good talks about making good choices, how we treat friends and family, and the consequences of telling what seems like a small, white lie.

I hear DC Comics will make a movie adaptation to be released in 2019 starring The Rock as the super villain (of sorts), Black Adam. Whether or not the movie ever happens, I expect the green screen effects will blow us all away, but I wonder if the story will connect with those important questions our kids ask about everyday life.

What show from your childhood have you shared with your kids? What was the reaction? What source material do you use to assist you in teaching your kids moral tales (Aesop’s Fables and the like)?

“Ts” Of Single Fatherhood – Teach

Photo Credit: anastasia_vito via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: anastasia_vito via Compfight cc

Do your friends always seem to somehow teach their kid a life lesson about something like “finding margin in life” while they were both changing the oil in the family minivan and some oil overflows?  I often miss those teachable moments with my son, and I admittedly cannot change the oil in my SUV.

Those teachable moments seem to escape me when I am:

  • Distracted
  • Disconnected
  • Exhausted
  • Exasperated

In fact, most teaching suffers under the above conditions.  It suffers because we miss opportunities.  It suffers because our kids learn from our distraction, disconnection, exhaustion, and exasperation — they learn from us and become like us.

I became a full-time single father when my son was six.  Sons naturally learn from their fathers at all ages, but at six, he was particularly interested in what I had to say and how I acted.  I know he closely observed me and wanted to help in the kitchen, exercise with kettlebells, and go trail riding.  He seemed to want to learn things I did around the house and for recreation much more than he wanted to learn spelling or math at school.

As he aged, his interest in what I did and how I did it increased.  As did his observation about how I spoke, what words I used, how I let life affect my mood, and how I spoke about the divorce and his mom.

Our kids pay very close attention all all we say and do.  So, if the grind of work, laundry, cooking, cleaning, dating, homework, finances, and dealing with our exes leads us to become easily distracted and disconnected from our kids or exhausted and exasperated by our kids, we need to stop and assess the situation and make some changes.

Each one of us faces different daily challenges, but we all teach our kids about life in the midst of them.  How can we avoid missing those teachable moments or modeling less-than-desirable traits?  These practices have helped me:

Take care of yourself.  Eat well, get some exercise, play, and get plenty of sleep.  This will do wonders for your mental state and your ability to stay focused and positive.  One of my favorite lifestyle books is “The Primal Blueprint” by Mark Sisson.  I’ve been reading his blog, Mark’s Daily Apple, for a number of years and find his approach to diet and fitness to be spot on.  I highly recommend it…and your kids will love his emphasis on play.  Some of the best teachable moments come when we play games and get away from electronics (which we are just as or more addicted to as our kids).  Plus, teaching our kids to care for themselves and their health will pay dividends well into the future.

Read.  I received a degree in English literature in college and used to read voraciously.  Now, when I get into bed and open a book, I barely make it past a few pages before falling asleep.  I set a goal to read more consistently in 2015 for several reasons.  First, I enjoy reading all sorts of books.  I have not read enough fiction and miss a good story.  Second, reading keeps the mind sharp and makes us better teachers.  Most leaders in business, politics and culture read consistently.  Even picking a few blogs on topics of interest to read every day will sharpen the mind and broaden the materials you can draw from to teach your kids.  Plus, they’ll see you read and may even mimic you.

Include your kids.  The more you invite your kids into your chores and routine, the more opportunity you will have to speak into their lives and teach them both the practical and the conceptual.  Sometimes we get things done more quickly when the kids have their noses pressed up against the iPad…and that is OK sometimes.  But how much more opportunity would you have to connect with your kids and teach life lessons when they join you in the garage, the kitchen, or the yard?

What is the best “teachable moment” you have had with your kids?


One Big Mistake Single Dads Make

There was the time my son watched 2 straight hours of Ultimate Spider-Man while my fingers pecked away at emails and a memo for a client.

There was the time I forgot about his spelling test the next day and I did not review the words with him.

Stop and think about the times you wish you could hit the redo button with your kids.

Did any involve something you said to them?  Did you exact too harsh a punishment without explanation?  Let them get too close to danger?  Did you mIss an opportunity to have a teachable moment?

All of those might resonate with you (or will resonate one of these days), so what do we do about them?

Live, learn and let go.

We make a big mistake by worrying about our parental missteps and holding on to them.  We must recognize we will stumble and fall as parents, but we can pick ourselves up and learn from those failures.

Maybe the guilt associated with our kids not having a mom around most or all of the time eats at us and magnifies our mistakes.  Maybe our drive as providers kicks in to overdrive as single dads (along with hyper-criticism of our performance).

Whatever your mistakes, learn from them and become a better dad.  Kids can forgive and, based on what my son told me, understand we do not get it right every time.

What was a mistake you made and what was your lesson-learned?