Father’s Day Dreams

Father’s Day is Sunday in the US which has me thinking about dads and parenting.  It’s great for parents to be involved in their kid’s lives (it’s what they’re supposed to be doing); to expose them to what’s in the world, help them learn how to navigate interpersonal interactions, share your childhood stories and travels with them, and be active in their education. I wish more dads were active in their kid’s lives, having conversations with them and doing things with them and going to their school events and other activities. There’s also nothing wrong with substitute dads (uncles, friends etc.) being a male role model in a child’s life as well.

What came to mind as I was thinking about parenting and Father’s Day is the idea that parents have dreams for their kids. I think it’s great when parents have dreams and goals for their kids. Parents who have dreams and goals for their kids are consistently more active in their lives, inspire their kids to be more motivated, and inspire their kids to dream dreams too. The issue comes in if parents have dreams for their kids but they are so focused on the child attaining their (the parent’s) dream that there’s no other option or openness for their lives.

It may be that they decide they love the dreams you have for them and they feel inspired to see them through to fruition. But more often than not, the dreams you have for your child, as specific as they are (i.e. a football player, a runway model, a doctor etc.), only act as a foundational inspiration and starting point for them.  The good news is, the lessons they learn through the exposure you give them regarding your dream for their lives (i.e. practices and movies and events and books and lectures) helps shape them and give them tools and knowledge to use in their future, a future they dream up for themselves.  There’s nothing wrong with them having a dream that’s different from your dream for them, as long as everyone is working together to dream dreams that make each other’s lives and the world better.

So this Father’s Day I do encourage you to dream big dreams for your children, and to share those dreams with them. Then take the time to ask what their dreams are and how you can help them explore and/or fulfill those dreams.

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A New Plan for Parenting?

I’m always interested in how parents raise their children, how children grow up, how our past influences how we raise children and what the future might look like for our children and grandchildren. I recently read an article about Dutch families and what one parent found when she looked into studies that supposedly Dutch children were happier than any other in the world. The article doesn’t share anything surprising or odd, but it emphasizes some things we know are important but don’t always place a lot of priority on.

The Dutch have a serious focus on making sure babies get lots of regular sleep. They also spend a lot of time at home. They also spend a lot of time with both parents during the day, and breakfast is a priority for everyone to attend. As they get older, school is seen as important but not near the priority we place on it here in the US. Finally, all-weather biking is encouraged as both a means of transportation as well as an opportunity to develop resilience.

Grades don’t really mean a lot, no one asks me how many A’s I did or didn’t get in history or any other class. I can’t say that I feel my horizons were expanded by my education, but I did feel that the times with my extended family as well as the road trips we took were helpful to my upbringing. Another article helps bring home the point of exactly how smart the Dutch are with their parenting, because this article emphasizes the importance of community, teaching your kids to care, prioritizing service and purpose, all things this author-mother taught her 3 daughters who are heads of well-known businesses or highly successful.

Maybe it’s time we take a step back and rethink not only how much we’re trying to do with our children, but also ourselves. Is your day so crammed full that you don’t have a moment to care or help your community? When was the last time your whole family sat down together for a meal?  This week I encourage you to think before you book another something in your life or your kid’s lives, is it really necessary or just something you’re planning because you think it’s what you’re supposed to do?

Celebrating Moms Who Live and Love

With Mother’s Day just a few hours away I wanted to share a quote with you from Mahatma Gandhi that I feel really speaks to the best that moms can be:

“Where there is love there is life.”

We’ve talked in the past about moms that are that because of biology only, that they have no influence on their offspring after they were born or their influence was so negative that as soon as possible the child (adult) has no more contact with her. That’s not the mom I want to talk about today. I want to talk about the best moms, the moms that we have fond memories of, that helped shape us, helped inspire us, and have taught us valuable lessons that help us live and thrive. It’s these moms that I want to celebrate and thank today.

Moms aren’t perfect, no one is, but moms teach us something that can help us see beyond the mistakes and learn to forgive in most situations; that something is love. When we learn to love the world opens up to us. It gives us the strength to forgive others, to be the better person, to choose relationships that are good for us, to do our best raising the next generation (and caring for the world that we leave them).

There are lots of different ways you can live, different experiences we can have during our lives. What matters most is that we choose to live and love above all else. I believe if we choose life (for ourselves, others and the planet we share) and love everything else will work itself out and we’ll be happier and healthier. I’m thankful for the moms who live love day in and day out, who helped us get to this point in our lives. I encourage you to give back to a mom you love this Mother’s Day.

Chores with the Family

With Mother’s Day just about a week away I was thinking about gifts that kids give moms and one of those gifts is often coupons for chores or activities that moms like to have done but kids aren’t always so thrilled about. I did that for a couple of Father’s Days but I don’t remember them really being used so I must not have picked the right things to offer. Regardless, the whole line of thinking led into a conversation with my partner about kids doing chores (and parents doing chores as well). We got to talking about appropriate ages for various chores and appropriate chores for kids but it all boils down to one question: what are you teaching your kids?

I totally believe it’s essential to let kids be kids and have lots of playtime and opportunities to be creative. You’re only a kid once and some of the play and creativity are essential for helping to shape and educate kids. But I also believe that it’s important to teach kids about responsibility, and one of the ways to do that is chores.

Chores can include all manner of things from laundry to garbage to homework to cleaning and cleaning up. You can get really creative with it or just keep it simple and straightforward. I think it’s good to expose your kids to all manner of chores so they can know how to deal with those responsibilities as they get older, but you should not disregard a child’s request to do one set of chores over another (I always hated making my bed and still do but don’t mind most other chores). Most kids can help with chores whether it’s something as simple as setting the table or picking up toys and putting them in a bin.

I think part of the issue is that we as adults haven’t done as good of a job as we could showing our interest in chores or at least our willingness to take care of them. I’m not suggesting that I’m going to enjoy making the bed anytime soon, but I’ll do it because I know it matters to my partner. So maybe it’s not that your kids dislike chores, just that you haven’t framed it right for them yet, or helped them see how it makes them part of the team of your family.

So what fun (chore) activities are you going to do this weekend with your family?

Time for Explanations

Explanations are tough. There are many funny stories and explanations that people have come up with for kids with regards to the typically titled ‘birds and the bees’ discussion, but that’s only one of the many things that parents have to explain to their kids throughout their lifetimes. Sometimes those discussions are hard when they have to talk about things like Alzheimer’s or violent/racial incidents. Others are just part of the course of life like sex and Santa. There’s definitely a wrong way to have discussions, one of the worst things can be refusing to have any discussion at all.

One of the hardest things is not having a good explanation, there are some things that you just can’t explain, and some things that the truth is very hard to accept or believe. A really simple example would be some of those cop/investigation shows where they get to the end of the investigation and it seems like 3 random things happened and as a result someone’s dead. It sounds kind of logical, but at the same time really doesn’t seem like it, and it’s even harder to accept that that’s actually something that happened in real life.

But explanations are important to us, regardless of the age we are. We like knowing how things work, how they’re connected or what leads/led to what. Explanations are great because so often we’re able to get one, with as much investigating as we’ve done over the years and as connected as we are in this day and age thanks to technology. But as I said, sometimes the explanation doesn’t make sense. Sometimes you can investigate further and find out how it does make sense, but other times you’re left at a loss and unable to make heads or tails of it.

In the case of the extreme flooding parts of the world have seen over the past year, several serious shooting incidents including the one in Christchurch a day or so ago, there really isn’t a good answer to give your children, or yourself. Sometimes bad things just happen. So in response you can teach your kids to be smarter, more caring, more considerate and to always do the research. You can’t protect those you love from harm, but you can give them the tools to make the world a better place, and give them the best chance possible to have a life filled with less hurt and loss.

Women of the Future

Yesterday was International Women’s Day, today I thought I’d share a few thoughts on raising a women in 2019 and beyond, and what that might look like, and how we can support the future generation of women in being the best they can be.

Encourage them to explore their passions, but not be completely ignorant. So if your girls want to play with dolls, they should. If they want to build with Legos, they should. If they want to cook, they should. So while you should let them choose their passion, that doesn’t mean you should skip teaching them the skills of cleaning, planning, organizing, finances, healing, using tools, cooking and anything else that will help them with the things they need to be adults. I grew up at a time when Home EC wasn’t really a thing, that we were leaving some of those shop-type classes that taught people skills that everyone should really have some awareness of that helps us become more rounded individuals culturally. It’s about helping them be as educated and well-rounded as they can be.

Encourage them to have friends, teachers and role models of both genders. I think it’s important that we’re all able to have healthy relationships with all types of people, that we’re able to start up and have polite conversation with just about anyone we meet, for girls to see what healthy romantic relationships look like, how to be successful in all areas of life, and how to protect themselves whether we’re talking a violent guy/girl on the street or a cutthroat boardroom executive. Girls/women can’t learn that from just women alone, it has to be a team effort.

Finally, I would encourage you to teach them to love. Men are capable of love, but there’s something that’s inherently female about love. We’re able to add that softness and vulnerability that men often have trouble reaching and sharing. Women have been taught through experiences and from others that maybe love isn’t a great thing, but I’d argue that it’s one of the most important things in the world. So along with all the skills, experiences, abilities and opportunities, I would encourage you to expose your girl to love and the amazing impact and benefit that love can have on an individual and on the world we share.

Women can and should be celebrated every day, we play a big part in contributing to the future of the world, and with happier, healthier, more courageous, more educated women, the future will be a better place for all of us. What are you celebrating about women today?

Raising Kids to Do The Right Thing

This week there was an incredible story in the news about a girl who wrote a note to someone whose car was damaged by a bus that fled the scene. It was incredible because accidents happen every day, and all too often there’s not any way to get compensation for the damage because you don’t know who was involved. But thanks to this girl and her note, the driver is able to get his car repaired by the bus company.

I was really impressed by this story because it said something important to me about how at least some of this next generation is being raised. The fact that this girl wanted to write a note and return to the scene with it says that someone taught her that sometimes something as simple as telling the truth can make all the difference in the world. She didn’t have to write the note, she didn’t have to get involved, and she wasn’t involved in causing the accident and wasn’t even on the bus. She just happened to be passing by, was familiar with the bus and knew that someone would be upset when they got back to their car.

Her good deed also speaks to the importance of being aware of what’s going on around you, and the skill of giving attention to detail that seems to be a dying art. Knowing the small detail like the bus number, something not everyone would know, meant she could not only give the car owner the story, but also the details that would help him get the situation resolved.

There are lots of things that parents try to teach their kids today, especially about navigating this rapidly changing and technologically advanced world and all the people we share it with.  But this girl and the story shows that it’s not always about the new and advanced, something as simple as a hand written note, the truth, and a willingness to speak up are all that this girl needed to save the day.   This girl’s story gives me hope that parents and teachers are imparting to at least some of the kids how to help others.

Are you teaching your kids to do the right thing?  This holiday season is a great time to remember and support the community you live in and the people you share it with.  So whether it’s volunteering at a food bank, donating to a coat drive, donating toys, or just saying “thank you” even the kids can help make someone’s holiday season special.

Teaching Thanksgiving

One of our greatest responsibilities is to teach the next generation. Yes, that’s something that their parents and school teachers should take the primary role of, but to an extent it’s something we all have a responsibility to do. How do the rest of us teach them, the kids who aren’t our own? We teach them by being responsible, by how we treat them and their parents if we interact with them, by using manners when speaking with them, by how we drive, and in countless other ways that they’re exposed to or may hear about. In some of these situations the kids may not see us, but our actions will have a direct impact on their parents, for example if we’re a bad driver, or the words we have for their parents that hurt or stress them will trickle down to impact the kids.

The other side of that is true too: that when we do something kind, considerate or generous we can teach kids too. These types of interaction teach kids that not everyone is mean or angry, that there are supportive communities throughout the world, and that not everything about life is stressful or challenging. Even when we’re not in a situation to remember or be reminded of the kids someone has, just about everyone has a family and your words and actions can impact them, so it’s always smart to think before you act or speak, or just choose to do the right thing and treat others with respect all the time.

As a parent it is important to teach your kids how to handle life’s challenges absolutely. There are families around the US who aren’t going to be in their homes this Thanksgiving because of the mess nature has handed them from water or fire damage and destruction. But you also have to teach them that life is so much more than that. There are manners to use, relationships to build, people and pets to love, things to learn, goals to achieve, victories to create, dreams to realize, and blessings to celebrate.

How do you teach them to be thankful? Thanksgiving is a great opportunity because it’s a day that we often share what we’re thankful for.  In addition to teaching your kids manners and to recognize and appreciate blessings, you can have a thankfulness jar that you all add slips of paper to on a regular basis throughout the year to reinforce giving thanks and then read them on Thanksgiving or throughout the year when you all need a bit of encouragement.  You can go around the dinner or homework table each week and share what you’re all thankful for.  You can make a point of giving thanks before bed or sharing what you’re thankful for.

Will you teach your kids about giving thanks this Thanksgiving?

Choose Your Responsibility

As we finish out this month over the weekend I wanted to share one more thought on the topic of responsibilities, this time with an eye to kids. Part of our job as adults is to teach our kids about responsibility so that when they’re adults they can handle the pressures that life (work, family, relationship, health etc.) puts on them as they grow up and become adults.

There are a variety of ways we can teach responsibilities, like talking about ours and helping kids understand why we do things. Traditionally chores have also been used to help teach responsibilities, and they’re a great way of having your kids participate in caring for the house and themselves, and can also help teach financial responsibility and management if you attach a monetary reward to completed chores.

Part of teaching them responsibilities is teaching them how to use the power that comes along with them, and giving them the opportunity to make choices for themselves.  One of the ways you can do this is by giving them options (that really aren’t options) to give them some control and power over their choices.  For example when they have to pick a snack after school you can give them a selection (at least 3 options) of fruits, vegetables and other healthy options to choose from.  If they have homework to do and need to shower before bed you can give them the choice of which they do first or if they do some of the work and then shower and then finish the work.

Yes, some of these choices/options means that you have to be prepared to have a little more variety in your life, for instance buying more options at the food store, but it gives them the ability to make some decisions and you to de-escalate a situation that could be much more difficult to resolve or handle if you just made the decisions for them.

What are your tips for teaching kids responsibilities?

Making Life Safer and More Peaceful for the Next Generation

The words “back to school” are echoing around the country. For some school is a welcome time, for others there’s a lot of apprehension. Both parents and kids can struggle with back to school time, and one of the challenges that has been increasingly becoming a greater point of concern is the safety issue. Whether from outside sources or inside sources violence and bullying has been increasingly on people’s radars. But it’s not exclusive to schools, as you may know, violence and threats can happen anywhere and at any time, whether an orchestrated attack or driving incident that happen between two parties that have zero connection, or a natural disaster that is more serious than anticipated.

Safe is a term that we throw around but aren’t always able to follow through on. Why? Because there are too many variables to be able to fully anticipate all potential dangers. The best way to be safe though is with planning and honesty. The first thing I think as adults we need to do is be willing to admit that there are dangers around, and not to be oblivious to them. This is a first step that not everyone takes, because who really wants to think about this stuff?

The next step is to be honest about some of the potential things that could go wrong and outline some kind of plan for them. While you don’t have to have precise steps that should be taken in the event of certain things happening, it’s a good idea to at least have things outlined as to financials and last wishes and even online account information so that in the event of something bad happening your wishes and information are made known. You should also have an emergency fund (and specify what that fund can be used for) that can cover expenses for 6 months or more. You should also have at least one discussion with the family about these things so that everyone is at least aware of where the information is, what plans are if something happens and who the contact people are outside of the family should something happen.

Of course the third step is to be smart about how you live. That doesn’t mean that you don’t take some risks or don’t have any fun, but it means that you don’t drive recklessly, you don’t do drugs, you get help from a therapist or counselor if you’re struggling with anger or hurt or depression or something else, and generally think before acting in life.  Your better habits will teach your kids to have better habits as well.

No family ever likes to think about the dark side of life, but it’s a reality. If you want your family to be safer, do what you can to make it more likely that you’re all protected. But even though safe isn’t a guarantee, a greater sense of peace can be a reality if you take the time and effort to do a little planning. What are you doing to make the world a little more peaceful, and hopefully safer, for the next generation?