Wednesday, April 16th11.9°C
The Dad Vibe

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:, 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? 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…


To find out or not to find out?

Last year was awesome. My Dad Vibe ‘tribe’ continues to grow and I want to quickly thank all of you for your support and sharing. How exciting to have an article go viral.

I’m hoping 2014 will be even bigger. One thing is for sure, my family will be larger as we welcome, in late May, our first child into our big, beautiful, blended family. If you follow me, you know our blended family began almost three years ago with the careful and intentionally slow introduction of our children: the two Williams and the one Jacqueline. Soon they will have a little brother or sister to call their own.

I am very excited to be a dad again, more excited than I expected. I was a fumbling inexperienced rookie all those years ago, but now I feel like Michael Jordan, coming back out of retirement for one last dance. I have written articles to new dads and now I get to walk the talk again and I can’t wait.

As we eagerly await our newest arrival (who we have convinced the boys will also be named William if it’s a boy, “cuz its only fair!”), we have so many fun decisions to make. Highest priority is the baby’s name while the lowest for me is what colour to paint the nursery.

Photo: Contributed

The biggest question we are asked is, “Are you going to find out if it’s a boy or girl?” We are really not sure and flip-flop daily.

I am on the fence on finding out if we are having a little girl or a little boy. I am looking for your input to help in our decision making.

If we find out, then I will surely miss people’s cockamamie theories as to how certain they are of the gender. From the Chinese art of swinging a necklace over an open palm or naked belly to the awesome, “Oh, it’s a boy, you are carrying high!” or “Oh it’s a girl for sure, you look wider from behind" (only females can get away with that one!).

If we do find out early, I will miss episodes like the impish grocery store bag lady putting her hands on Jan’s belly and declaring to the rest of the line-up that it’s a GIRL, “Look how low she is carrying in her hips!”

When discussing this dilemma on the playground, a wise mom told me whatever feels right to the couple is what is right. If they want to find out, find out. If not, then don’t. Simple. I think she is right, it’s totally personal and whatever you do, do it for you because you know some Facebook jerk won’t like your decision anyway.

We mentioned to our kids that at our next ultrasound in two weeks, they might be able to look and see if it’s a boy or girl.

“How can you they tell Dad? The baby is so small!”

“Well, they will look for a penis!”

Well, that was it, the boys were giddy for the next 20 minutes talking about baby penises (is this where it starts?). Then dear Jacqueline, the diplomat who always seeks harmony and wants things to be fair, decided it would be great if they saw a penis AND a vagina to which we quickly shouted “NO!” that would not be best case scenario.

With so few true surprises in the world today, the fun side of me really wants to wait and find out on the day of our baby’s first breath (I also like waiting until Christmas day to open gifts, not this Christmas Eve crap). I would love to make that excited delivery room declaration, “It’s a BOY!!” or “It looks like a GIRL!” We could delight in the reactions of the kids, the joy, the shock, and tears would all be awesome! But times have changed. We don’t have to wait to find out anymore. I will not be pacing and handing out cigars in the waiting room. We have the technology NOW.

Why shouldn’t we use it? Kids today, when given a school research project, don’t have to trudge to the library and steal the reference books anymore, so why shouldn’t we use these new wonderful detecting tools? We can still have that excited moment of discovery AND also time to bond with the idea of our new baby being a daughter or a son. I think we would both feel more connected and the upcoming baby would become even more real!

I wonder if the older siblings would benefit from knowing if they have a little ‘brother’ or ‘sister’ now (so they can get over any disappointment if they wanted the other gender long before that baby arrives). Our children are 8, 6, and 5 so they get it but does knowing the gender make the whole experience a little more concrete for them?

There are practical reasons too like all our friends that have truckloads of baby clothes that they are dying to unload on you. As for the baby name dilemma, it would be nice to cut out half of the possibilities, although I was kinda liking the “catch-all utility” names like Pat, Chris, and Terry.

We are going to find out sooner or later, the secret will be revealed. If we can’t both decide, maybe just one of us could find out and fight to keep the secret?

Could the whimsical, surprise-loving parent be kept in the dark while the practical, organized-planning (OCD) parent find out early? (that is the same parent that tore open corners of Christmas presents weeks before Christmas and then taped them back up).

Either way, we are going to be surprised in a medical setting and there will be tears, screaming, and joy! Will it be in two weeks from now or four months earlier?

There is no right or wrong… what would/did you do?

Read more The Dad Vibe articles


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 – 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]



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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