Tag Archives: teach

How To Tackle Tough Subjects With Your Kids

Last night, dinner conversation turned to the recent terrorist attacks in Paris.

We had seven people at the table with four under 14 and three between 40-60.  Perspectives varied based on snippets from the news, political views, emotional reactions, and forming views based on respected opinions.

Photo Credit: Zed The Dragon via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Zed The Dragon via Compfight cc

I could not help but think about other difficult conversations.  Especially those between me and my son about the divorce.  It reminded me how important our job as dads is in helping our kids formulate opinions, inform their perspectives, and take on an attitude of learning.

Here are a few helpful guidelines:

  • Only answer questions they ask.  My son’s therapist, when asked about good tactics to discuss the birds and the bees, instructed me to answer questions honestly and to only answer the questions asked.  In other words, if asked if babies grow in mommy’s stomach, just answer the specific question and do not begin to tell them how the baby got there.  Keep an open, honest dialogue going with your kids so they will be willing to ask you questions as they come up.  Do not overwhelm them with details and information they likely cannot process anyway.  You may find yourself taking conversations a step further, but rely on common sense and age-appropriateness.
  • Allow them to own their emotions.  If your kids express fear of a terrorist attack or sorrow about the loss of a parent through divorce or death or deployment, affirm their feelings.  Find ways to help them process those by telling about a time where you felt the same thing. If they feel heard with respect to their emotional reaction, they will probably be more open to the rational/logical follow up you may want to share with them.  I remember the fear I felt in the 80s during the height of the Cold War – as unlikely as nuclear war may have been, I went to bed many nights afraid of Russia attacking the US.  I can now tell my son about the value of recognizing fear but not allowing it to paralyze me.
  • Encourage learning.  This may not work quite as well with respect to the three D’s (divorce, death, and deployment), but when it comes to world events or “monsters in the closet”, find ways to help your kids learn more and help them inform their reactions and feelings.  I remember being very scared of monsters as a young boy.  I checked out a book from the library at my elementary school about monster movies which demystified them.  I saw the transformations of the actors by makeup artists and while I still had some fear, I knew Bela Lugosi and Lon Cheney, Jr. were the ones scaring me…not the real thing.

As our kids get older, the conversations get more interesting, engaging, and often more complex.  Consider what voice you want to have with your kids and how you will ensure to be part of their conversations.

What difficult conversation have you had with your kids?  What lessons did you learn from it?

FLASHBACK – One Big Mistake Single Dads Make

My son and I just got back from a long weekend of turkey hunting (turns out it was not a weekend of turkey killing, but awesome nonetheless).  More new content next week, but in honor of a full weekend great times and a few mistakes here and there, I thought I would pull this one up out of the archive.  


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?

Develop Your Kid’s Practical Intelligence

My college roommate and I visited Florence, Italy in the summer of 1990.  After spending one month in London with nearly 200 students from our college, we took the opportunity to do a little sightseeing before heading home.

In the days before cell phones, we purchased phone cards (still used in many parts of the world) to use with pay phones to call home.  In Florence, I checked in with my parents to let them know where we were.

Photo Credit: Despotes via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Despotes via Compfight cc

My mom had some information for me as well.  My LSAT score came in.

She read me the score, and I began to formulate Plan B for my life.  Law school would still be possible, but not very likely.

Looking back at the ebb and flow of my career, I do not regret missing law school one bit.  I did not carry the debt and did not have to work in a meat-grinding law firm to pay it off.

The LSAT, like my SAT to get into college, proved I did not excel at taking tests.  Despite my deficiencies in test taking, I have managed to have a solid professional career.

I do not know if my son will excel at taking tests.  In our educational system, standardized tests continue to set the benchmark (do not get me started) for advancement, graduation, college and graduate school.

But what about helping students develop practical intelligence?  Why do we teach to tests, but not take the time to teach kids how to balance a checkbook?

You and I need to teach the practical.

Photo Credit: Despotes via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Despotes via Compfight cc

You and I need to teach life skills necessary for them to function and to flourish.

You and I need to prepare our kids for the real world.

If you have read this blog for any period of time, you will know I really respect the work Dr. Tim Elmore does.  I recommend you read this article about replacing entitlement with ownership and developing life skills.  Once again, Dr. Elmore nails it!

We dads should seize this great opportunity to help our kids grow and mature.  We naturally instruct and guide our kids with practical, how-to advice.  This list demonstrates just a few of the ways I have tried to develop practical intelligence with my 10-year-old son:

  • Opening doors for others…especially women
  • Making good food choices
  • Shaking hands and having good eye contact
  • Separating laundry
  • Cooking and using spices
  • Making the bed and basic cleaning around the house
  • Saving money and spending money
  • Being polite and respectful

This aspect of fatherhood excites me because the possibilities are endless and limitless.  Certain practical intelligence skills require your kids to hit a certain age, but overall we can instill life skills from an early age forward.

Best of all, I am certain you are already doing it…just take a moment to list what you have already taught, and then make a list of your next lessons.

When did you have a blast teaching your kids a particular life skill?  Which life skill is next on your list to teach?

Laundry Sucks

Strolling through the house, I see one black sock, inside out, peeking out from underneath the couch.  Its mate rests underneath the TV remote across the room.

Two pair of gym shorts, both clean enough to wear again, sit in a pile on the bathroom floor.

I will not even waste words on what the floor of his closet looks like.

Photo Credit: darksock2004 via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: darksock2004 via Compfight cc

As the dutiful dad, I used to walk through the house, pick up his clothes (he was pretty young), throw them all in the laundry basket, and wash them whether they needed it or not.  The path of least resistance.

It did not take long for a primal instinct to rise up from within.  I hated doing laundry and I had to change the paradigm.  I spent too much of my time finding socks, hanging school uniform shirts, soaking dirty pants, and washing all of them.  Not to mention my own clothes.

This single dad took a new approach to laundry.

  1. Get rid of the front loader/HE washer.  I admit front loader washing machines look cool.  They save on water.  They use less energy.  But, for me, they made doing laundry more frustrating due to the long wash cycles.  I have owned both and found the top loader to better fit my needs.  You can do more laundry, more quickly with a top loader.
  2. Work out your laundry schedule.  Depending on how many kids you have, you might face a small mountain of laundry each and every day.  Maybe you have school uniforms or work uniforms needing constant laundering.  You might enjoy spending your entire Saturday doing laundry and chores around the house.  Maybe you just want to do three or four smaller loads on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday.  Maybe your electric utility plan dictates when you do your laundry.  Maybe you go to a laundromat and do your entire week’s worth of laundry in just a few hours.  Whatever the case, like your financial budget, figure out your typical needs, establish a schedule, and stick to it as best you can.
  3. Photo Credit: Chiew Pang via Compfight cc

    Photo Credit: Chiew Pang via Compfight cc

    Teach your kids how to care for clothes.  Take the time to teach your kids, from an early age, how to determine when clothes should go into the dirty bin or when they could be worn again.  Boys typically resonate with the sniff test, so give it try.  Instruct them to turn their clothes…especially socks…right-side-out before putting in the dirty laundry bin.  Remind them it takes water and time to do laundry, so they need to be respectful of how many times they change clothes unnecessarily during the day.

  4. Have an extra set of sheets/mattress pad.  You never know what might happen at night from bed wetting to vomit to Spot jumping on it after running through the mud.  In those cases, having an extra set of sheets can save you from an unexpected visit to the laundry room.
  5. Wash towels and rugs separately.  Once I washed the bathroom rug with some regular clothes.  I spent the following spring taking little white balls of cotton off of all the clothes.  I think they call them pills, and they are bitter.
  6. Bring your kids into the experience.  If said with the right tone of voice and right attitude, you can invite your kids to help you do laundry.  Maybe it becomes an over-and-above chore in exchange for a few extra minutes of electronics time.  They should learn the basics of laundering, folding, hanging, and putting in drawers.  Maybe it will encourage them to think and be more responsible with their clothes.

So, am I the only one who hates laundry?  Any tips you can share?

“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?


Single Fatherhood And The Letter “T”

This past week will stand out in my memory.  Had a great time with my son on Veterans Day, went on a business trip with a favorite client, saw many old friends, made new friends, and got engaged on Saturday.

So, technically, I will not qualify as a full-time dad much longer.  But this blog will continue as long as I can provide content of value to you.  Plus, every post seems to help me (and some married dads) parent a little better – remind me of some things forgotten or neglected.

Photo Credit: B Tal via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: B Tal via Compfight cc

Reserving the right to interrupt the upcoming series should something pertinent come along, I plan to take the next several weeks to address what I call the T’s of single fatherhood.  Yes, they can apply to all fathers, but we face some unique challenges and have some incredible opportunities I would like to explore with respect to these words:

  • Time
  • Touch
  • Teach
  • Train
  • Talk
  • Truth
  • Trust
  • Therapy
  • Thank
  • Thrive
  • Transform
  • Tailor

I look forward to a great conversation ahead – please join me.

Do you have a suggested “T” word to add to this list?