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The Dad Vibe

Your Mom is a lying witch!

I wrote this article in early February while in New Orleans at the Dad 2.0 summit: a gathering of influential dad writers, marketers, speakers, and bloggers.

On the airport shuttle bus to the hotel, I witnessed something that made me sick to my stomach. While most people ride a shuttle bus in awkward silence, the two women in the two seats behind me, with children that were likely eight and five, were anything but silent.

From what I, and everyone on the bus could gather, one of these women was grandma to the kids and the other was mom in conflict with the dad.

Here is a quick snippet of one of the exchanges. While I try not judge or eavesdrop, the entire bus was privy to all of this due to the angry women’s volume and colourful language.

Grandma: "Is that jerk still texting you?"

Mom: "Yes, the piece of s*&# spent that money on his car!"

Grandma: "You gotta teach that a$#hole a lesson, he is so foolish!"

This continued for 20 ‘cringe worthy’ minutes. With every slam on the dad, I felt like I was being stabbed.

Now, I'm not debating or speculating his character or on their relationship, maybe he really is a foolish a--hole that loves his car more than his children.

However, all of this was said in front of the children, HIS children.

As you already know, kids are always listening and watching.

  • They hear your frustrated mutters to yourself.
  • They see you slam your phone after talking to your partner.
  • They hear your side of exasperated phone call, and lean in a little closer when your rants turn into angry whispers.

Even a very young child can sense a venomous tone, body language, and anger.

How will the children begin to process what they are hearing?

"If I'm half mommy and half daddy, and she says daddy is like that, maybe I’m like that too?"

No matter was is said by one parent about their parenting partner, it's like getting slimed in Ghostbusters, some of that negative ‘ick’ will stick to the kids; kids who don't understand the adult situations and end up confused, anxious, and stressed.

Trashing your partner in front of your children will only do harm, serious harm.

Believe me, I know this is sometimes extremely difficult. I survived a painful divorce where many bad choices were made by my former partner, and it would have been easy to vent to the kids.

I know the temptation to fire back something spiteful when you feel that you are just defending yourself to your children against something that the other parent said, such as “I don’t know why Daddy won’t let you play hockey this year…”

It is easy to want justice and your pound of flesh, but remember you can only control YOU and what comes out of YOUR mouth. You can choose not to damage your children even when your spouse is too wrapped up in their own needs to make the same intelligent choice. Emotions can run high during a crisis but no matter what is said or done, you MUST bite your tongue.

If you need to vent, then vent to your support network. Those are adult conversations that need to take place well out of earshot of children. Your support network should not include your kids, even if they are teenagers. As much as they would want to help you, they are not counsellors, they are your children.

If I wasn't so terrified of these women on the bus, perhaps I could have gently reminded them of the damage and stress they were inflicting on the innocent children. At least if I had done that, they would have stopped talking about that dad, and instead talked about this nosy, nervy Canadian boy that had better shut his damn mouth....

Until next time...

 

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R we teaching our children 2 B dumb?

I don’t want to raise ungrateful kids.

I don’t want to raise unhealthy kids.

I don’t want to raise kids with low self-esteem.

And after having dinner last month with internationally renowned children’s singer and advocate Raffi, I realized also I don’t want to raise unintelligent kids either.

Before meeting Raffi, I had no idea about his life without a guitar. But he is a busy man! Aside from still singing and thrilling crowds, he is a huge advocate for children, founding an incredible Centre for Child Honouring: www.childhonouring.org, and even personally challenged Facebook to better protect our children.

But what brought us together was his new book "lightweb/darkweb: Three Reasons To Reform Social Media Be4 It Re-Forms Us". (*a must read for any parent and/or child educator worried about the impacts of the web!)

This book is an intelligent, well-researched, thought-provoking book about the internet, social media and the effects on our children.

The internet has so some many wonderfully positive uses – the ‘lightweb’, but alas, there is also incredible darkness and potential harmful impact to our families – cyber bulling, pornography, enabling predators, etc.

One of biggest revelations I wanted to share from my time with Raffi is that the internet is making my kids dumber. Yes, it’s true. I can see it. Let me explain.

For years, the internet, social media, television, and video games have been accused of many faults; shortening attention spans, over stimulating us, under stimulating us, causing sedentary unhealthy lifestyles/“fat kids”, and creating a need for instant gratification. But is it making us all dumber? How could access to so much information make us dumb?

The internet and social media encourages shallow thinking. We skim the article, get what we need, and never go deeper. Similar to a comparison of McDonald’s Fast Food vs. Momma’s home cooked meal; which one will sustain you longer? We are always in a hurry! The skills of critical thinking, logic, problem solving never develop in a fast food mentality.

Yet, our kids are surrounded by all this technology. “Screen time”, the buzzword of our era, is a reality of many families. “Too Much, Too Soon, and Too fast” is the best way to sum up how I feel.

Studies have proven that as screen time increases, happiness decreases. Kids must unplug and get outside, interacting with each other and our environment. Too many kids suffer from what author Richard Louv calls a “nature-deficit disorder”.

They don’t play until the streetlights come on anymore, they play until their device is dead and needs recharging.

While its unlikely that we can go “all-Amish” and totally disconnect from screens and the Web, but as Raffi points out, “If we change the beginning of the story, we change the whole story!”

But how much screen time is too much? What is acceptable? Studies show kids between 8-18 years of age spend over 7.5 hours a day in front of a screen.

Could you reduce the screen time to less than two hours a day as many experts suggest? Remember, for a bit of perspective, some parents spend less than 7 MINUTES a day in meaningful dialogue with their children!

Babies shouldn’t be in front of Baby Einstein on the TV or iPads. They should be in front our faces! That is FACE-TIME!

Let’s stop the screen time insanity!

For one month, try unplugging technology and plugging into your children lives! Spring is here, let’s all get outside and play.

If I want to raise intelligent kids, I need to be a present parent – there is NO APP for that!

 

p.s.  My dinner with Raffi was definitely memorable for the many insights I learned from this great man, but also when he decided to sing, "Baby Beluga" to our unborn child!

Until next time…



You better than your Dad?

Of course you are right? You are more evolved that your dad – he was more “hands off”, harder to reach, more authoritarian than nurturer.

You are more connected and involved with your kids, but are you really a better dad?

How do we define that? “Better Dad”? If a ‘better dad’ equals “more involved dad”, then we had better define “Involved” and just who do we measure you against?

If you measure your own parenting skills versus your own father, then it’s a slam dunk. You win. The fact that you know the name of your kid’s school may make you more involved than your dad. Your dad didn’t know all the characters from your favourite movie or the kind of pizza toppings you like. So you are awesome – you know all the stuff and lots more fun facts about your kids.

But wait a sec Tarzan, stop beating that chest. All dads today are more involved than dads 40 years ago. The criteria to win the “Father of Year” mug isn’t just provider and protector anymore – that is the absolute bare minimum now.

So if your own dad isn’t the benchmark, do you judge yourself against other awesome dads? What do they do vs. what do you do? How valid is that?

Perhaps you could ask your spouse? Would she provide an unbiased account of your true parenting skills? Maybe… or might your own relationship dynamic taint or blur those lines?

Maybe the best people to report on your father skills are your own kids. But then again, they don’t know any different… you are what you are.

No, I think the only person that can really measure you is YOU. Honest, authentic you.

So putting aside the stressful constraints of time, life, and career, are you a good, involved father?

Before going to the Dad 2.0 Summit last month in New Orleans, I would not have had a great tool to measure you. But now I do and I hope you never forget it. How do you rank?

 

9 Dimensions of Father Involvement

  1. Discipline and teaching responsibility – setting and enforcing rules, boundaries, and expectations.
  2. School encouragement – encouraging success through hard work and homework.
  3. Giving support to the mother – providing support, respect, and cooperating with parenting partner.
  4. Providing resources for children – providing basic needs (food, shelter, etc) and accepting financial responsibilities for raising your children.
  5. Reading and homework support – encouraging good study habits, reading to younger children, and helping older children with homework.
  6. Time and talking together – spending quality time listening and talking with (not at) your children. Being truly present.
  7. Encouragement and affection – physical affection (hugs, cuddles) and encouraging good choices.
  8. Develop kids' talents – recognizing the strengths of your child – encouraging development of talents and abilities for the future.
  9. Attentiveness – being involved in daily routines of life and also attending events your children are involved in.

How many dimensions out of 9 do you dominate? Please add your results to the comments below… is there anything missing from the list?

This list gave me some things to work on and some new areas to focus my energy. If participation equals location plus motivation, then I need to make more time in my busy schedule to be truly present in their lives.

Sometimes dads just need to know the skills. Cultural differences may impact but largely, all kids need the same things and at the root, all kids need affirmation from their fathers (or the person filling that role {uncle, step dad}).

We need to continue building a culture of great dads. This “Involved Dads” movement will continue to grow and change the landscape for our children and their children’s children.

Since you read this all the way through to the end, I will bet my last dollar that you are a better dad than your own dad! Continue being that hero to your kids! You Rock!

Until next time…
 

Questions, comments, future column ideas?

http://tinyurl.com/Facebook-Dad-Vibe or [email protected]

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My kid needs to suffer...

As parents, our natural born instinct is to protect and shelter our children from pain, harm, or any negative consequences.

However, to grow and thrive, they need to suffer setbacks and failures to learn, and prepare for life.

So the question shouldn’t be IF we should let our kids experience negative things, but WHEN. Tenacity doesn’t just arrive on its own. As our kids get older, we need to ease the lid off the pain box and let a little out.

Am I making you uncomfortable suggesting ‘your beloved child’ and ‘suffering’ in the same sentence? Good. Then you need to hear this.

As odd and arrogant as it may sound, I choose to view my children as leaders; people that may one day change the world. So believing this, I know I need to expose them to adversity and challenge to build character, and increase critical thinking and problem solving skills.

We cannot candy-coat life and bubble-wrap our kids against all hurt and pain. We cannot helicopter over them either or be “Snow Plough” parents (the parent that stays out front of their kids, ploughing the path clear, constantly eliminating obstacles to ensure “pain free” success). These kids quickly learn to rely on others and never think for themselves.

If your child tries out for the high school soccer team and doesn’t make the team, let it be. Let them suffer. Of course, there should be hugs, compassion and consoling but let the setback linger.

Don’t creep the coach on Facebook, triangulate the coordinates of his home and be waiting in the shadows of his garage, with a flashlight under your chin, to ‘suggest’ that he ‘reconfigure’ his soccer line-up to include your kid.

For Luke Skywalker to become a Jedi he needed to endure pain and suffering and so does your little Jedi.

If we prevent and remove opportunities for growth, then we will raise *‘unresilient’ kids (*not sure if this is a word, but whatever the opposite of resilient is - didn’t think ‘helpless wimpy suckhole’ was appropriate). As a dad, one of my major roles is to encourage safe risk taking.

Kids that are rescued will still wait to be rescued as adults because it’s easier. They have never had to fight through and learn from adversity.

Resiliency is not a gift to being given but a trait that is born and built from repeated failure.

Both my sons take break dancing. At the end of each class, the kids have ‘break battles’, trading sweet moves with the crowd picking the winner.

The bubble wrapped/helicopter/snowplough parent in me wanted to talk to the instructor and suggest that all kids should dance and win.

But then I snapped back to this wonderful reality. I realized the power of my boys LOSING the battle. They work harder on their moves, dig a little deeper, discover their determination, and want to win next time.

I am not advocating pain and suffering for our kids, but when the wonderful gift of failure arrives, open it carefully and look for the teachable lesson.

In the words of the prophet Chumbawamba, “I may get knocked down, but I get up again!”

Until next time…



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About the Author

Jeff Hay… is a Kelowna based writer, motivational speaker, parenting coach, and father of three. Along with writing for Castanet, Jeff also writes for the Huffington Post, the Good Men Project, and the National Fatherhood Initiative in the United States.  When he is not playing his favourite role of “DAD”, Jeff is speaking throughout Canada as a popular parenting educator and working on his website – www.thedadvibe.com and his parenting book for Dads, “Wait Till Your Father Gets Home!” Jeff dedicates his life’s work to improving the well-being of children by increasing the proportion of children growing up with involved, responsible, and committed fathers.

E-mail Jeff your thoughts or questions anytime at [email protected]

 




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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.


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