Tag Archives: parenting

Fighting “Right Now”

My son came up to me yesterday afternoon and asked to be taken to the store to get a new cap gun.  He and his stepbrothers have been playing with those old revolver-style cap guns…you know, the kind with the red ring of caps with about a 50 percent success rate.cap-gun

I asked what was wrong with the ones they had, and he said they did not work quite as well as they could, so he wanted to get new ones – immediately.

We did not go to get new cap guns, and the boys continued playing Quick Draw McGraw and other made up games in the back yard.  They had plenty of fun with what they had.

So, I wondered what made him feel the need to stop playing, go to the store, spend money, and buy new cap guns as soon as the current arsenal did not perform perfectly.

I suppose I have contributed to his attitude.  Thinking back, I have become impatient and impulsive with purchases.  He has watched me hop in the car, drive to Best Buy, and get something I wanted (whether I needed it immediately or not).

Maybe the culture of immediate gratification has contributed.  Fast food is not fast enough.  Amazon Prime delivery is great…but when they do same-day deliver, it is even better.

So, his request yesterday got me thinking about how to temper this need for immediate gratification.

You may have your own strategies for this, but two ideas came to mind:

  1. Express gratitude.  If you get into the habit (and Thanksgiving is a perfect excuse to begin this practice) of writing down a couple things you are grateful for, you shift your thinking and get into the habit of seeing what you have rather than what you want.  Researchers have looked at the practice of gratitude and find neurological benefits.  This article is one of many you can find on the subject.
  2. Make a list and a plan for what you want and how you will get it.  Empower your kids by encouraging them to make a “want” list (which can also be helpful come time to pick out a birthday gift).  But, ask them to prioritize their wants and ask them to come up with a plan about how they will get what they want.  It may involve…heaven forbid…saving up money.  It may involve doing extra chores.  But it will certainly involve waiting and anticipating.

How do you train your kids to be patient?  Do you model patience or immediate gratification?

You Can Pick Your Nose And You Can Pick Your Friends

My son does not have problems making friends.  He can quickly adapt to new social settings and engage with kids of various ages with relative ease.

He falls into the “extrovert” category.

So, my challenge as a parent is to help him navigate his relationships and focus on those which are the most positive and do not lead to trouble.  And in his last “pre-teen” year, the importance of helping him exercise judgement in this arena becomes even more critical as his independence increases.

Photo Credit: HA! Designs - Artbyheather Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: HA! Designs – Artbyheather Flickr via Compfight cc

Think about your kids and their friends.  Are there some friends who make your kids hyper and abandon good judgement?  Are there some friends who bring out your kids’ creativity?  Are there some friends who have shared brokenness at home and can be a reminder to your kids that they are not alone?

It seems a key to helping them internally process this (rather than simply lecturing them) is to help them know themselves and have a solid grasp of their identity.  I’ve used the line “your behavior is a reflection on me” a time or two, but I do not think it has the same impact as asking them how they view themselves, how they want others to view them, what kind of work ethic they want to develop, and how they treat adults and members of the opposite sex.

Then, in a completely agnostic way, ask them how they and others view specific friends.  Let them do their own processing and do not do it for them.  Do not correct them, just ask questions.

“How does Johnny treat the teachers and lunchroom monitors?”

“How does Jane act around her parents?  Does she talk back?”

“Does Sally play well on teams or does she distract others?”

At twelve, my son has a good sense of himself, but often comes into conflict with wanting to pal around with the “fun” crowd who draw him closer to the line than he knows he should go.  Those who regularly say the words he is not allowed to say at home.  Those who do not respect their parents, but are very funny and have the best jokes.

You and I have friends in many different categories.  We know the ones we need to limit and those who make us better people – knowledge derived from mistakes and experience.  We need to give our kids the tools and grounding in who they are/want to be early so they make fewer mistakes.

Does your kid have a good friend who both you and they know are not always the best influence?  How do you handle the situation?

Full-Time Dad Update

For everything there is a season, and this blog has entered a new one.

Photo Credit: kuddlyteddybear2004 via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: kuddlyteddybear2004 via Compfight cc

Since my first post nearly two years ago, I have shared my experience as a full-time single dad, and you have journeyed with me all the way through re-marriage and blending a family.  What a journey it has been!

With some additional responsibilities on the personal and professional front, I have decided to try changing the frequency of my blog posts from weekly to monthly.  This, too, may be for a season.  We’ll see.

I want to thank each one of you who has consistently read this blog, who has encouraged me, who has commented and shared their experiences.  It has enriched my life and made me a better father.

And isn’t it all about becoming better dads?

In the meantime, do not hesitate to reach out to me at contact@ftdad.org with your comments, suggestions for new posts, and anything else you may want to share.

I look forward to hearing from you and to seeing you in a month or so.

My Son On Instagram – An Update

Before he left for his summer visitation with my ex, he asked to join the world of Instagram.  I addressed it in this post.

Photo Credit: Visual Content via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Visual Content via Compfight cc

Fast forward to the end of summer, he appeared to use the social media app fairly well, but when he returned home, I noticed the frequency with which he checked his account.  And I thought I was bad on Facebook.

We had a discussion about his use of the app, and he could not seem to curtail his use.  So, we stepped in for him.

Enter Disney’s Circle.

Remember, we have four boys between 11-15 in our blended household.  Between those four boys and the two adults, we have way too many iOS devices.  And since my wife and I cannot reasonably monitor all screen time, we enlisted some help from the Circle.

So far, the little device we plugged into our router has been great.  Expect more on this technology and associated issues in future posts.

Suffice to say, my son and I have discussed reasonable use of Instagram and he and I, together, decided to use Circle to limit his daily use to 15 minutes.  After his 15 minutes is up, I get a notification and his app quits working.  Pretty cool.

So, while he used the app appropriately, he also overused it.  And it also opened up a conversation for us to have about social media and how easy it is to lose yourself scrolling through other peoples’ lives.

I want to make sure he remembers to fully live his own.

Have you utilized any technology to help monitor electronics use at your home?  If so, how has it helped?  If not, why not?

FLASHBACK – Sex, Drugs, Violence and Dirty Words

In one week, my son will return from his summer visitation with my ex.  For the next couple weeks, I will post some of my favorite posts and then resume with new content.

In the meantime, please do me two favors: 1) please forward a link to ftdad.org to any of your friends who you think would benefit, and 2) please send an email to contact@ftdad.org if you have any topic suggestions – I’m always anxious to hear from readers and get input.

Enjoy the end of summer…

My son and I sat down to watch a classic movie with a PG rating – Beetlejuice.  

Photo Credit: Muotoilla * via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Muotoilla * via Compfight cc

I had fond memories of the 1988 movie – the Tim Burtonesque feel, the comic genius of Michael Keaton, and the Banana Boat Song.  And it was not even a PG-13 film like Iron Man or The Avengers – both of which he saw and I had no problem with.

I had forgotten a few critical scenes, words, and concepts my son might not have been ready to take in.  I had forgotten a PG rating in the 1980s could be just this side of an R rating.  Watching it again, I wonder if Beetlejuice should have been rated PG-13.

I began talking with other dads about this.  There was the one who showed his son The Bad News Bears having forgotten about the amount of language and drinking in that PG film.

We have also talked about our tendency, especially with our boys, to afford more leniency with violence than we do sex and nudity.  How can we show them Braveheart and The Patriot because of the overarching story and message and turn our heads at the brutality, violence and blood?

I have another friend who will allow for a moderate level of violence in the media his son consumes, but draws the line when the story involves the mistreatment and disrespect of women.  But even those story lines can provide great opportunity for conversation about the consequences of being a jerk toward women.

So, what is the right answer?  Do we let the Motion Picture Association of America decide what our kids can watch based on their age and MPAA guidelines?  Do we say “no” to everything with adult content?  Do we shelter our kids as long as we can?

I do not have all the answers and, frankly, have quite a few questions.

Even if I censor the content at home, my son still goes to school, still visits friends (with older siblings), still rides in the car and sees billboards for local adult boutiques and Captain Morgan Rum.

I want to hear what you think, but here is my attempt to develop some boundaries:

  • Stay engaged in your kids’ lives and know what media they consume.  This seems like the first, logical step.  Ignorance is not bliss.
  • Educate yourself on the content they want to consume.  I routinely use sites like IMDBKids-In-Mind, and Common Sense Media to get reviews and recommendations about the content my son consumes.  He usually knows which films I will say “no” to, but often I need more information – especially if I have not seen it before and want a sense about what he will see.  Some of the sites even give you topics to discuss following the movie.
  • They probably know what you watch, so do not be surprised if they think the same content is OK for them.  In the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do category, our kids take cues from us, so if you do not want them watching horror movies, you may want to reconsider your Friday the 13th movie marathon.  They can see the “recently watched” shows on Netflix just like you can.
  • Engage in the discussion with your kids.   I remember watching a movie called Phantasm at a friend’s house when I was in late elementary or early junior high.  For whatever reason, I could barely go get the mail in broad daylight for several days after seeing it.  I was just waiting for the Tall Man to jump out from behind a tree or show up behind me when I looked in a mirror.  I have told my son about that experience, and it may have tempered his desire to watch a horror movie…for the time being.  Be honest about why you set boundaries on the movies they watch and let it be a conversation, not just a lecture.

What limits have you set on movie/TV content for your kids?  How do you approach the subject with them?

From Interest To Understanding

Nothing grates on a dad’s ears like the words “I’m bored.”  My parents are quick to remind me I said those same words to them when I was a kid, but something tells me I did not use them as frequently as kids today.  Accurate or not, I choose to believe it.

So, when my son proactively told me he wanted to take up Jiu-Jitsu when he returns from visitation with his mom this summer, I could not have been happier.  Now, if he ever says, “I’m bored,” I can encourage him to practice for an activity he chose to do rather than just tell him to “read a book” or that “only boring people are bored” (which was quite an unhelpful thing to have been told when I was a child).

For years, I have encouraged him to pursue one of the martial arts, but he never showed interest. I always believed he would benefit from the discipline and methodical process associated with any of them.  Patience has never been one of his strong suits, and perfecting the basics of a art form before moving on to more advanced maneuvers seems like a valuable lesson as he hits his pre-teen years.  Further, those lessons coming from someone other than dad might be helpful at this stage.

Photo Credit: Christian Kaden via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Christian Kaden via Compfight cc

Even better, we have a Jiu-Jitsu dojo within biking distance from our house, so he can begin to spread his wings and learn responsibility along with his new activity.

Now comes the point in the story where I have not successfully gotten my son to dig deeper before beginning.

My son expressed a desire to someday be an MMA fighter as his rationale for studying Jiu-Jitsu.  He’s 11, so I get it.  And, if by chance he wants to be a competitive martial artist and has the aptitude, something like MMA could become a reality.

So, instead of lecturing him on the dangers of The Octagon, I decided to have him dig deeper into the philosophy of Jiu-Jitsu.  Where did it originate?  Are there different styles and how are they different?  Who practices Jiu-Jitsu best in the world?  What is the underlying philosophy of this martial art?

I had a few other questions in my text message to him explaining what I wanted him to do…how to move from interest to gaining some basic understanding before starting something new.

So far, I have received a short text in response to this line of questioning:  “A guy named Henry Okasaki”.  Presumably, he’s the greatest of all time.

I will encourage him to continue his research and tell me about it, but in the meantime, I need to do my own research so I can better guide him in this new interest.

What activities have your kids engaged in where you did not know much about it?  Have you found learning background before starting a new activity makes the experience better?

When Custody Handoffs Go Wrong

My son was booked on a flight home from visitation with his mom this past Friday.

After a series of unrelated texts, I realized my son was not enroute and on a layover, but was instead still at his mom’s house.  Packed and ready to go.

Photo Credit: Frank Spee via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Frank Spee via Compfight cc

My ex apologized for the oversight (looking at the departure time from the layover city instead of origination city) and I started the rebooking process.

Fortunately, American Airlines quickly rebooked him for the following day and I did not have to pay any additional fees.  He arrived safely on Saturday evening.

How would you have reacted in this situation?  What would you have texted or emailed to your ex?

Within moments of finding out my son would not be home Friday evening, I cycled through several emotions, but once I caught my breath, the logical side of me kicked in and I went into problem-solving mode.  How do I explain this to the airline?  Will I need to use more miles/pay a fee?  What if he cannot get home until Sunday or Monday with all the holiday travel?

The emotional response quickly gave way to problem-solving.

Unless your ex habitually violates custody agreements (in which case you should reach out to your parenting coordinator, lawyer, therapist…whoever can help remedy the behavior), it is best to go through your emotional response before unloading on your ex.  Doing so would only add to the stress for you and your kid.

For the occasional hiccup, remember parenting (and co-parenting) is a marathon and showing some flexibility will diffuse a bad situation rather than escalate it.

Again, if your ex has a habit of doing this or does so with malice or no remorse, I would recommend seeking outside counsel to correct the behavior rather than go it alone and risking an emotional escalation with no custodial resolution.

Has your ex accidentally or deliberately violated your custody agreement?  What have you found to be the best way to approach these situations?

Buying Christmas Gifts For Your Ex

My son and I braved Toys R Us, Best Buy, Target, and PetSmart this past weekend.  Our mission…to buy presents for grandparents, cousins, stepbrothers, and pick up a few things for the puppies.

My son will spend Christmas with me this year.  He departs on December 26 to visit his mom for one week.  It occurred to me I should help him out with finding something for his mom…my ex.

Photo Credit: RagingWhisper via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: RagingWhisper via Compfight cc

I asked my son if he wanted to shop for his mom so he would have a gift when he arrived.  He said he would think about it and he might just go with his grandparents to shop when he arrived.

Upon further reflection and discussion, he and I will go, probably today or tomorrow, to get something for her so he has a wrapped gift when he lands.  He may also get something for his half-sister so he can come bearing gifts.

Even though I have not bought a gift directly for my ex since 2008 (the year before we separated), it seems healthy to facilitate gifts for her with my son.

Granted, he will not buy her diamond earrings or an iWatch, but even something small lets him know I value the relationship between him and his mom.

Giving is greater than grudges.