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Work-at-home mom: take a deep breath and Do Life Different as you allow these devotions for work-at-home moms to fill the vacuum of your needy heart in the chaos of your busy world.
 
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Aug
05

Messed Up is Part of the Plan

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Brad Washburn, Do the Dad Thing bloggerOne of the hats I wear — other than Dad, or Writer Extraordinaire; is Pastor. I am the Life Care (aka ‘Counseling’) Pastor at a mega church in West Virginia.

I usually keep a low Pastor profile; I don’t travel in a bubble-mobile, wear robes, or douse anyone with holy water (exception: vampires), but periodically I get tagged to do something pastorly — like preach. One of those times is coming up, so of course I chose a topic that fits well with Doing the Dad Thing.

I’ll probably start out by telling the congregation a little bit about myself, especially since I’m an introvert and there are about 5000 people that attend the church. Most people don’t know who I am, instead they wonder, ‘who’s that bald guy with a name tag?’

But you, faithful readers, know me pretty well already. You know that I’m a geek and like humor. You know that I have been a work-at-home-dad because my wife has an auto-immune disease. You already know that my goal is that Dads should stick together and collaborate to be great parents and husbands.

I usually am sitting in the audience during the sermon, so I understand the attractiveness to keep it simple (aka ‘short’) so that:

  • We don’t get bored
  • We make it home in time for lunch

So I am going to take that perspective to heart, even with this blog. I have a sermon with only 1 point:

Messed Up is Part of the Plan

I’ll even probably outline the whole sermon so that everyone knows what to expect:

Visit the Lost Son

Memes

Get Metaphysical 

Shameless Plug will also be thrown in

Maybe a fist bump to end

Though every part of the Bible is important, I end up using the Parable (story) of the Lost Son quite a bit, especially regarding parenting.

I’ve tried to be transparent in some of my articles, that I’m not always the best Dad. I make mistakes. Even when my two boys were littler and I felt like I had a pretty good dad system; I was still making mistakes. When we moved from Florida to West Virginia the circumstances with being a Dad became even more difficult. My boys are both now teenagers. Not just teenagers, but they are thoseteenagers that parents talk about dreading — teenagers that have their own opinion, and that try and argue, and that know everything, and that don’t know what they want for their imminent future, and that need a job, but don’t want to work anywhere . . . those teenagers.

Plus when we moved to West Virginia it became apparent that the State Motto is: Drugs.

Seriously though, although any place in the world can have a drug problem, West Virginia is definitely fighting for top spot. We quickly discovered that at public school in WV, you can obtain practically any drug you can imagine.

So being a great dad got considerably difficult. My failure rate of parenting began to climb drastically in the last year or so.

Which brings me to the Parable of the Lost (or Prodigal) son. Jesus told this short story to the people:

Luke 15:11-14

11 “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need.

 

Probably worth interrupting this narrative to point out a very important part of this story.  Not only is this a good short story that really could have happened in ‘real life,’ but it is also a ‘metaphor.’  The father in this story represents THE father.  God.  If the Father of all creation could have a son that made mistakes, a son that ‘messed up,’ then really, as a Dad myself, is it any surprise that my teenagers struggle?  If the greatest Dad in the universe, God, has a kid that becomes impatient, makes horrible decisions, wastes, sins, leaves, — all those things, then it shouldn’t be a mystery that our kids are going to do things like this.

God eagerly watches for us and loves us, and is ready for us to turn around and come back.  We need to be like that kind of parent.  “Messed up” is going to happen (it’s part of the plan), but there is total forgiveness and restoration when you turn to trust Him.

Back to the story . . .

 

Luke 15:15 – 24

15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

I’m probably going to utilize some memes at this point in my sermon. Everyone loves memes. Lately I’ve been seeing some great parenting ones.

[meme slides play – much to everyone’s enjoyment]

But as great as memes are, we need to examine this story a little deeper, because not only is it a metaphor; it’s a metaphor with another metaphor — how metaphysical!

The Father is God, and he represents how God loves His child and accepts him with open-arms redemption.

But the son in this story also represents people that mess up by being impetuous, and leaving, and sin, and disrespect, and bad decisions . . . yes, that’s right: Us.

It’s a metaphor for me and for you as we relate to God as our heavenly father. We mess up and do all these things; sometimes even daily.

So, wait a minute Brad — I get it. We are all messed up. Our kids are messed up and make poor decisions and we should be Godly parents. AND we adults are messed up and make poor decisions too. Greatest sermon ever so far.

What are we supposed to do with this? Read More→

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Jun
17

Unconditional Positive Regard

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Brad Washburn, Do the Dad Thing bloggerSometimes people will ask me how I am effective as a counselor.  I wish they would ask with wide-eyed wonder, or awe, or with groveling and pawning like Wayne & Garth in Wayne’s World.

(Yes, I know some of you reading this have not seen the comedy classic of Wayne’s World.  If you watch it in response to this reference, e-mail me your personal review of the movie)

It would be nice if people came up and gushed:  “I heard that you were a ROCK STAR Counselor!  How do you do it?!”

But honestly, usually people don’t grovel or shout or throw roses . . .  they just want to know how to effectively help people when they share their problems.

There are several tricks that almost everyone could do that would ‘dupe’ even the most savvy person into thinking that you are a great counselor.  Here are two:

  1.  Listen (actively)
  2. Periodically prompt people to “Tell me more about that.”

Do those things well and you could pass yourself off as a counselor in the top 20% of counselors.  I’ll explain.   When you listen to people you are giving them a great gift.  You are helping them express themselves and work through issues in their own way.  You are ratifying their experience and showing them that they are important.  In counseling, we add the term “active” to show that listening isn’t just silently hearing a person; an “active listener” will stay engaged, periodically repeat what the other person said, share affirmations, and ask questions that are open.

Distressed person:  So, I was at Starbucks getting a drink.  I overheard a movie spoiler, and I was so startled, that I accidentally spilled my latte.

Active Listener:  Oh, my!  [nods head to indicate encouragement to continue]

Distressed Person:   I had just put in creamer, and hadn’t put the lid on yet.  Some of it splatted on my jeans!  It was a disaster!

Active Listener:  So, you put in creamer and it spilled on your jeans while the lid was off?  Wow, that was a disaster.

Distressed Person:  [Begins crying in anguish]

Active Listener:  Please tell me more about how you felt when this happened.

. . .  and . . . scene

That’s a ridiculous example of using the first two counseling skills in a way that would have someone think you are an actual ROCK STAR Counselor.  People love to feel like they are heard, and important.  I’ve seen people blossom and brighten, become a warm and engaging person, just by someone actively listening to them. Read More→

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May
28

MOPS is Going to the Dogs

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Brad Washburn, Do the Dad Thing bloggerI got fired by MOPS.

The local Mothers OPreschoolers group that meets at our church asked me to speak this week about technology regarding kids.  Then, I was told that a local female psychologist asked to speak on the topic this week . . . so I got bumped.

I was replaced by a female.  Gender discrimination is REAL people.

This is just online kidding.  They were really nice about it and I understand that I am, in fact, a dude.  I have a great respect for the MOPS organization. After our first son was born, we moved to a new area.  My wife was in a new community with no real family connection. She was depressed. The local MOPS group gave her hope.  They gave her connection. They gave her a reason to take a shower and put on pants each week.

Anyway, I had prepared a whole talk on technology for kids, so I really don’t want it to go to waste; so you guys get to be the MOPS group today — and the information is definitely good for Dads too (technology doesn’t just apply to Moms).

I was going to start out the talk highlighting the overall negative reputation of kids having technology — but my goal isn’t to land there.  We can gripe and complain, and lock our kids away in Amish communes, but technology is a reality that we have to face. But here are some of the negative statistics related to kids and ‘screen time.’

·         Tweens spend less time outside than prisoners

–Kids spend twice as long playing on screens as they do playing outside.

–3-in-4 kids spend less than 60 minutes playing outside each day.

–1-in-5 kids don’t play outside at all on a typical day.

–3-in-4 parents said their kids often refuse to play games without some form of technology.

  • Teens are expressing higher rates of depression and loneliness the more time they spend on their phones, despite claims by 81 percent of teens that phones make them “feel” more connected.
  • There is mounting evidence linking screen time to with obesity.

So . . .  Technology = Bad. –But I’m not going to beat that drum.   Instead I’m going to prompt you to ask yourselves, ‘Have you ever met at kid that didn’t interact with technology?’  That’s right; think about it for a moment. A kid that didn’t know about technology would be a social outcast and pariah among their peers.

Social interaction and peer pressure aren’t a great reason to embrace technology.  However, I could give statistics on how there is a benefit to different forms of tech and educational value on a worldwide scale is available to all genders and socioeconomic groups . . . but my main argument is that technology is a reality that is not going away.

I think the way you treat technology related to your kids is important.  This might call for an analogy . . .

Let’s imagine that your family adopted a wild timber wolf from the forests of Yellowstone.  Food has been scarce in the area, so the wolf comes to you already malnourished and hungry. It needs to be kept in your house until the environment improves.

Yikes! What would you do?  Well, you’d need a plan.

And that’s pretty much the summary of all my technology advice for your family; make a plan and make a goal.

Just like having a wolf in your home, safety would be the number one priority.  For media and technology use, this is no different. Internet safety is a popular topic and there are lots of good ideas to google.

Instead of safety, I’m going to focus on training your wolf (i.e. technology) so that it’s well-behaved and works for you.

Read More→

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May
01

The Inner Parent Voice

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Brad Washburn, Do the Dad Thing bloggerPrepare to be metaphysical!

Sometimes adults will come in for marriage counseling or to work on an individual issue.  I’ll quickly figure out that their ‘backstory’ includes some really horrible or absent parents; and as a result, they have some . . . ‘issues.’  I’ve had guys come in with low self-esteem, and women come in with fears and anxiety, and husbands that don’t know how to treat ladies and ladies that have no confidence – or any variation of such.

Many times part of the solution is to develop that inner parenting voice.   That voice to parent themselves in the attributes they missed growing up.

Now here’s where I throw in the metaphysical:

In session I’ll ask people to imagine:

Imagine that we are going to adopt a kid and raise it to have great self-esteem.  What will you do so that this imaginary kid will have great self-esteem?  How can you get your spouse (if applicable) to help you?

So, then the person starts brainstorming on how to help this little fictional kid develop self-esteem.    Then, of course I turn around all those great ideas as something the person can do to themselves to develop great self-esteem.

The idea is that all of us have a little child version of ourselves inside us.  Many times it’s what gives us our passion and motivation.  This little person, this younger version of you, sometimes needs some inner parenting talk.

If I had a kid that needed some encouragement, I’d start out telling them how important they are to God – that if you were the ONLY person left on Earth, Jesus would still die for you.  That God considered each of us, and planned our whole lives before we were even born.  That we are “Fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).

Then I’d tell them how much they mean to me, and how their identity isn’t based on success, but that they have learned a lot in life and the only failure is when you quit trying.

I’d point out their successes and how they’ve learned from their failures, and that the failures are never that bad.

. . .  and that’s all great stuff that our inner selves need to hear too.

Not just that, but I’d do some things for any fictional child that needed encouragement.  I’d send them to bed a little early one night so that they catch up on sleep when they were sleep deprived.  I’d limit their use of electronics to give their mind and their eyes a break.  I’d take that kid out for a walk outside in nature so that they could clear their head.   I’d play their favorite music, I’d lay out their special underwear, and I’d buy them a drink at the local gas station.

. . . and that’s all great stuff that our inner selves need to experience also.

If I were skeptical . . . and I actually am quite skeptical; I’d wonder how an adult is supposed to come up with a great inner parent voice when they’ve had horrible parents growing up.  That is a good question. Read More→

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Mar
08

Teenagers – the brain thang

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Brad Washburn, Do the Dad Thing bloggerWhen my kids were little, we used to make fun of the disrespectful, lazy, reprobate teenagers that frequented the neighborhood. We’d see them riding their bike the wrong way in traffic, saying bad words, or damaging property. I’d look at my boys, shake my head disapprovingly, and say, “Teenagers.”

Soon they started doing it too. When a group of drunk teens tried to pull an alligator out of the sewer in front of our house (hey, it was Florida), one of my kids looked and me and said, “teenagers, right dad?”

Right.

Except now I have two teenagers.

We live in West Virginia now, so there are less alligators, but there is still property to damage, bad decisions to make, and lots and lots of drugs (drugs are West Virginia’s state bird).

My wife and I commiserate a lot about our two teens. “How did this happen?” we frequently ask each other. We are good parents. I even write a parenting blog.

There are many factors involved in teenagers turning into teenagers. We might explore some of them in a future article. But today I’m going to share one fact that helps my wife and I deal with the times when we see our kids making immature or poorly conceived decisions:

Their brains are not done developing.

I’ve heard about it on TV before, how teens make impulsive decisions because of their prefrontal cortex still developing. On a CSI drama, one character remarked that they don’t finish brain development until age 25ish.

25? Is that really true!?!

Yes, in this case television didn’t let us down. The front of teenagers’ brains, the part where they make logical, informed decisions, is still developing. So instead of using it, they default to the part of the brain called the amygdala (try spelling that for a spelling bee). The amygdala is the part of the brain that reacts with instinct, aggression, and emotion. So teenagers are primarily using a brain that has them make poorly conceived, emotional decisions; usually impulsively.

So, my wife and I have to enjoy this state of unformed brain development for a few more years. Sometimes we talk about the Bible and how teenagers were already living on their own, frequently married, and working in full-time occupations. We lament that times have changed. Just trying to imagine our boys out living in their own house, being responsible for a wife or finances, and holding down a job, is a thought that is both scary and pleasant.

We’d love it if they faced some of the challenges that they think they can manage. But at the same time we don’t want them to make life-altering disaster decisions. But also at the same time we are tired of their attitude.

We can see why teenage kids of Bible times were out on their own; because they knew everything!

Sometimes when i feel like a bad parent, I read the parable of the Prodigal Son from the Bible. Here is a clip from it in case you are unfamiliar.

(Luke 15:11 – 24 NIV Bible) “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

Reading this story gives me hope. My teens will probably make bad decisions, but I will watch out for them and provide a forgiving and accepting home base and family for them when they start to think reasonably again.

Or, in other words, they are going to make dumb decisions while they are teens and their brains are still developing. We dads will be there for them when they start using their developed brains.

This also gives me two pieces of advice that I think apply to all parents, especially Dads:

Don’t judge harshly: the Prodigal Son parable above is a metaphor for us (the kid in the story) and God (the father in the story) — if God is the BEST parent and unruly teenage kids (us) still make bad decisions . .

Which means don’t be too hard on yourself
Which also means don’t be too hard on other parents either — I’ve seen way too many parents with kids that used to ‘walk on water’ when they were younger and now have turned into little demon harlots. It’s sad when parents feel that they are all alone because they don’t want to admit that their kid isn’t perfect.
Give them grace through relationship: I did and said some horrible things when I was a teen. Some of it, as an adult, I am ashamed of. I suggest that you decide right now that you will love your kids — even teens — and accept them as people no matter what they say or do. Because it gets hard.

I heard a kid recently. . a kid that may or may not be the fruit of my loins . . say that he wanted to graduate high school, try lots of drugs, live with his female manager at the fast-food job, and make enough money to drink and have fun on weekends.

NONE OF THAT IS OK! However, there is still brain development occurring (thank God!) and I’m pretty sure most of that was said out of shock-value anyway. I hope.

Teenagers.

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Feb
04

Absolutes, Absolutely

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Brad Washburn, Do the Dad Thing bloggerIf I haven’t mentioned before that I’m a geek, this article will surely prove it.

I’d like to start out by mentioning one of my great Star Wars quotes from the Bible.

“From the Bible,” you ask?  Yes.  And it has a great implication for Dads – especially as your kids enter middle and high school.

Some of you still aren’t convinced that Star Wars quotes the Bible.  If you’d like to stop reading right now and leave a comment as your guess what it is; then do it.  It’s the only way people will believe you if you’re geeky enough to get it right.

That was your chance.

Here’s what Jesus said (in Matthew 12:30):

30 “Whoever is not with me is against me, andwhoever does not gather with me scatters.

It’s a pretty plain, direct statement.  Some might even consider it a statement of absolute.  There is no grey area.  You’re either for Jesus, or you are against him . . .  and if you’re against him then you’re going to lose.

Here’s the quote from Star Wars Revenge of the Sith:

Anakin Skywalker: If you’re not with me, then you’re my enemy.

Obi-Wan Kenobi: Only a Sith deals in absolutes. I will do what I must.

Anakin Skywalker: You will try.

So, obviously the director was trying to make some sort of statement . . . probably against God.  But that’s Hollywood.

My concern as a Dad is that there are many venues for our kids where absolutes are shunned.  If I went to the local high school and said, “There are only two genders.” There would be drama.  Same thing if I made the statement, “3rd trimester abortion is murder.”  Or “You have to believe in Jesus’ atoning sacrifice for your sins in order to go to heaven.”  Or “Homosexuality is a sin.”

Any one of those statements at a public school would get my kids disciplined or ostracized.  Same thing if they were said in a social setting – there would be an immediate issue with some people.  Unfortunately, even at many churches there would be the same level of drama if any of the above statements were said; especially from the pulpit.

The good thing is, very few people need to go around publically stating absolutes.  But, as Dads, we really need to make sure that our kids know the truth and know that there isn’t a grey area with most things God says in the Bible.

Much of our society has become a dichotomy (two parts) of people groups; the loud, and the quietly virtuous.  It pretty clear that there is a lot of stigma against absolute virtue from the media these days.  So I wouldn’t ever post on Facebook:  “Sex outside of marriage is wrong.” because my feed would immediately erupt in drama.  So, like most people, I share truth with people that aren’t going to turn into a Darth Vader when they hear an absolute.

Your kids are those people.  We’re not raising Dark Lords of the Sith (for you non-geeks, that means ‘villains’).  We want to make sure that our kids know right from wrong; they need to know the absolutes.  And of course we’ll temper the knowledge with how to live according to the truth . . . and how to avoid drama along the way. Read More→

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Jan
14

How to be the Favorite

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I was the favorite once.  Then I wasn’t. Then I was!  But then . . .

There is some, of what I will affectionately call ‘loose,’ science on birth order and affinity toward a certain parent.  In general, firstborn kids are more ‘like’ (have personality affinity toward) the Mom.  Second-born share a preponderance of personality traits with Dad.  Generally they even resemble (have more physical characteristics in common) these respective parents; first-born will get a lot of, “you look just like your mother,” etc.

Subsequent kids are a crap-shoot on looks and personality.

But this is all lumped into “loose” science.  Which means that it happens a lot, but, there is not a lot of empirical data to birth order ‘psychology.’

Here’s a fact though that you can count on: kids go through stages of closeness and affinity with either parent as they grow up.

I was the ‘cat’s meow’ for a while

My wife stepped in as ‘the bomb’ at some point.

Then I was the ‘wizard’

My wife took over as the ‘awesome-blossom’ . . . 

Many times I had flexibility to be home with the kids when they were little.  We did some fun things, and I was also ‘the disciplinarian.’  So you’d think that I’d be at the top of their favorites.  But, the truth is – don’t get offended until you read further – kids were created to have both parents.  So my boys missed their ‘mom time’ and were super-excited to have interaction with her when she was home.

If you’re a single parent though, this concept on how to be their favorite is especially important.   It’s not loose science that kids need parents.  In fact, kids will subconsciously seek out what they ‘need’ from parenting.  I’ll explain:

Society is built around children growing up to be successful members of the populace, so there are objectives that kids need to learn.  If they aren’t getting a skill, then they have to find it someplace.  So kids will gravitate subconsciously toward ‘parents’ modeling or offering the skills they need.

Example:  You might be a total introvert with no viable social skills (commenting on the Do the Dad Thing Blog might be the pinnacle of your social interaction).  But kids need to learn how to interact socially, so they might parrot the used car salesman they see on TV, or mimic the next door neighbor talking with their hand motions to the mailperson, etc.

So don’t worry if your kids have a favorite outside of you, or model someone else they see, or idolize an attribute in someone that is not exactly idol-worthy.  They are following the natural desire to grab the skills they need from the surrounding world.  This becomes more and more pronounced as your kids grow up and our accumulated set of skills gets more and more limited for their growth.  I.e.  I used to be the favorite to help my boys with math, but as they entered high school, suddenly my skills were sorely lacking. . .

–Warning– most sexual abuse is committed by family members or extended family; especially, for some reason, by uncles and aunts. So make sure there is adequate supervision and safety protocols for kids spending time with other adults.

The good news is, no matter the outside influence and modeled skills, your children always have the desire and need to find their ‘home’ favorite in a parent (yes, even if you are secondary care giver adoptive parent or foster parent).  The concept of ‘home’ and ‘family’ is core to people, and  children will always treasure the link they have with you as their safe place for understanding and acceptance. Read More→

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Jan
03

All the Memories they Forgot

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Of all my blog articles, this one might be my MOST CONTROVERSIAL.

This one could get me fired from CWAHM, or banned from the Internet, or cause me to receive death threats.

But, at some level I’m a truth-telling journalist and I must be true to the facts. So, here we go:

Your kids will forget Disney.

Gulp. There it was. Let the onslaught of hate begin. To make it worse, I’m also going to include every other cute and meaningful activity that you did with your kids when they were little. They won’t remember any of it.

There are scores of older, experienced Dads reading this and they are all solemnly nodding their heads in agreement. As if to say, “You said it brother. Better you getting the death threats, than me. But you’re right, they won’t remember any of it.”

If they were brave enough, or could be interviewed with their faces obscured and their voices disguised, then one of them might elaborate. “I asked my teenage daughter if she remembered the giant birthday party at Chuck-E-Cheese when she was 6 . . . all she remembered was a joke her uncle told on the way there. It wasn’t even funny.”

And it’s that way with all the large, expensive, and elaborate things that parents do for their younger children. Just the other day, someone asked me advice on what to do with their family on a Disney vacation. I didn’t say it – it’s easier to passive-aggressively write about it online – but my advice would be ‘to save your money and build a blanket fort.’

I know from experience; we had taken our two boys many times to Disney when they were little, and you know what? The best thing they remember is riding in the Monorail and stopping for hamburgers on the way home.

Same thing with the giant birthday party we had for them with a dinosaur theme where we invited half the neighborhood? No recollection. The community Easter Egg hunt? Nope. The Christmas party where they could pet a real reindeer? No recollection.

There is a redeeming point to this scandalous article. Two points actually:

1.) Kids remember things that are positive emotional closeness to you. Memories are encoded (stored) with emotion — usually through positive love/closeness emotion or terrible/scary emotion. Most events for kids are big, unknown, and confusing; a sense of positive chaotic wonder doesn’t encode memories. So if you do go to Disney or some other big event, don’t get so caught up in all the chaos of planning and executing the day that you forget to have closeness with your child. If driving, parking, planning, cutting, eating, decorating or anything else to make an event really special, keep you from spending simple time with your kid, then the point has been missed.

2.) Save your energy and do something incredibly simple. You know, a box that we got off the curb was some of my kid’s best time when they were little. We spent $.0000000000001 in marker-juice drawing doors and a window on it. Go to the airport and look at airplanes. Ride a bus together. Build a blanket fort with your kids and read inside it. These things are the best memories for your kids. Read More→

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Dec
07

The Experienced Sailor Dad

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beach playI follow some sailing folks on Instagram.

I don’t know how it happened. I usually follow friends, Star Wars posts, and people with unique animals, but somehow I started following some sailors that were posting about their life on large cargo ships. Then, I started to get other boat crews and sailors following me. Some of the pictures are facinating . . .

Like most of Social Media, there are ‘business’ groups that post things as well. And since I follow some sailing people, you can imagine that I get a lot of ads for sailing merchendise.
One of the popular expessions sold on t-shirts, mugs, bags, bandannas, hats — is the quote: “Smooth sailing never made a skilled sailor.”

It’s a cute saying. And I’m sure real seawomen and men are tired of hearing it. But I was thinking quite a bit lately about how this saying definitly applies to parenting.

Some parents win the behavior lottery with their kids–kids that never push the envelope, or kids that are compliant, or submissive; kids that can be left alone for hours and never think of nefarious things to do, or ways to antagonize others. Good for them! There are some parents out there with smooth sailing.

Hopefully they aren’t writing parenting blogs.

My kids push the envelope. And their imaginations concoct all manner of ways to bother people, get what they want, and test boundaries and relationships. My kids don’t walk on water . . . they sink under the water and breach like sharks when you least expect it.

Easy kids never made a skilled parent.

I know that you don’t always have easy kids. That’s why you’re reading this blog. Parents with complient kids are out enjoying a latte somewhere and wondering what to do with all their extra time. I can’t seem to sit down long enough to watch a 25min show on Netflix.

Believe it or not, this is an encouragement to you. You could be a Dad smooth-sailing through ‘training up a child in the way it should go’* . . but you wouldn’t be learning any real parenting skill or growing deeper as a parent. You would miss out on all the emotions, all the techniques, all the wisdom, all the hard-won successes of being a skilled parent. Most of all you’d miss out on the massive analogy of how God is the Best Parent to each of us, despite none of us being an ‘easy kid.’

Take a minute and consider how many rough waters you’ve sailed so far with your kids. Consider what you’ve learned. Think about what good company you keep with other ‘parent sailors’ that braved some of the turbulent waters of parenting. And be proud:

Every failure, every hard time — is making you a skilled sailor.

Now, I suggest we all go out and get some sort of signifying tattoo — you know, like sailors do. Something like an anchor or ship or something. Or we should start wearing a captain’s hat. I’m not too good with needles, so look for me in a large admiral hat – you might even see me beating my kids with it.

(*Proverbs 22:6)

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Jul
23

Covert Code for your Kids

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I wrote a previous article about teaching your kids a code of ethics/values.  It was awesome and you can read it here.   

This article is about the type of code that is a lot more clandestine . . . that is to say “secret,” and can help your kids manage social interactions without their peers becoming aware.  It’s especially valuable in helping your kids stay safe as they start visiting other friends and are out of your watchful eye.

Here is a situation:

Mel has been playing over at your house all afternoon.  You, being the great dad that you are, have been helping your wife make dinner (or, maybe she’s helping you) while you keep an ‘eye’ on the kids playing.

At some point, Mel, asks your kid if he can stay overnight for a sleepover.

Your son/daughter still sleeps with a stuffed Snoopy, and doesn’t want to have to explain that to Mel because he/she will be the laughingstock of the school the next week.

So, your offspring comes to you:  Dad, can Mel spend the night?  We can put up the old camping cot in my room . . .

You have arranged a secret ‘code word’ with your kid . . . and “camping cot” is the term that means:  “please say no to a sleepover.”

So, you reply, “Oh I’m sorry, but we have to [_insert excuse_] and you can’t do a sleepover tonight.

Your son/daughter turns to Mel, “Oh rats! Sorry, maybe next time.”

Crisis averted!

You can see by the above example that the idea is simple:  Set up a secret code with your kids to give them an appropriate social ‘out’ if a situation is tense, uncomfortable, or unsafe.

I suggest having a family meeting and arranging some codes.  The sleepover one is good.  You might also want to construct one for friends that ask to stay for dinner, etc.  You might need to have the codes work both for kids wanting to stay at your house, and transversely when kids invite your child to social engagements. 

Codes can be non-verbal also.  Rubbing your head (I’m bald and this one works for me) could mean ‘come rescue me from this conversation.’  Rubbing your elbows could mean ‘say no to anything I ask.’  Rubbing your forearms could mean ‘steal second base.’

Quick note:  Kids need to learn how to be assertive and tell people ‘no’ and speak honestly.  However, there are always those situations where visiting kids don’t pick up on social cues, or beg, or situations that might involve protection from social ridicule or embarrassment.  It’s probably a good idea to discuss the difference with your kids in a family meeting. 

There are many uses for a family code and one of the best is to keep your child safe.  When kids are teens, they are sometimes invited to social engagements that turn illegal or illicit.  What if your kid rode with several other kids to a party?  Then, the party gets ‘out of hand’ and drinking/drugs are involved?

Peers:  Come on!  Stay, it will be fun.

Your Child:  No, I think we should go.

Peers:  We’ll I drove, and I’m going to stay for a little while.  I’m not going to drive you home and come back.

This is a great opportunity for your kid to call to check in (because you have set up that they check-in on a regular basis throughout the night – good job Dad!), or to have your son/daughter drop you a quick call/text that includes the code.

For phone calls, the code can even contain a prompt for you to start asking questions.

[Ring]

Child:  Hey dad, I’m checking in. (dramatically rolls eyes to friends to show that he hates having to call to check in) I’m excellent.

Dad:  [Recognizes that your child used the code word “excellent” instead of fine] Do I need to come and get you?

Child:  Yeah, we are just messing around playing ping-pong and stuff.

Dad:  Ok, I’ll come.  Do I need to create some emergency text and excuse to get you?

Child:  Sure, I’ll check in again later.

Dad:  [Hangs up.  Waits about 15 minutes, then texts “Hey, something came up and I have to come get you.  I’ll explain in the car.  Tell your buddies sorry.”

Child:  [Shows friends the text and feigns disappointment while cursing all parents for being ‘losers’]

I recently read online about using a similar system where the code is just a texted ‘X’ to mean “make up an excuse to come get me because things are ‘not good.’  The article even added a little suggestion that is worth including.  If you have to rescue your teen/pre-teen from a “not good” situation via the secret code, then don’t ask any questions about the situation on the ride home – that way your son/daughter won’t have to elaborate how they got into a rescue situation.  They can bring it up on their own time.  (Kids will always bring things up later if they can trust you.)

Codes don’t just have to be for extraction.  In our house, we have the accepted code “for real” to mean “tell the truth.”  If my wife or I think that there is a lie involved in something we are hearing, we say, “for real.”  That gives our kids, or each other, the prompt to tell the full, gritty truth because it will be worse if they don’t. 

Wife:  Did you kill that enormous spider in the bathroom?

Me:  Yeah. Guts went everywhere.

Wife:  For real.

Me:  No, It was freaky-big.  I was trying to figure out how to kill it, then the little sucker ran at me and I panicked.  Turns out it was just a feint and it ran under the cabinet to escape.

Wife:  Great.  Now we have to burn down th bathroom.

Here is something you might find interesting:  They used secret codes in the Bible, and early Christians also used a code to stay safe.  When the idea of ‘church’ had just started after the first Easter . . .  the FIRST Easter, the one where Jesus rose from the grave and ascended into heaven . . . people that followed Jesus and met together could be arrested or killed by the Roman government.  Christians would draw a fish on their door as a secret code.  The Greek word “ΙΧΘΥΣ” means “fish” and those letters are also the initial letters of the phrase, “Lesous (Jesus), Xristos (Christ), Theou (God), Yios (Son), Sotare (Savior).  If you saw the fish drawing, then you knew there was a secret meeting of Christ-followers that met at that location.

Well, either that or a bass angler lived there . . .  which probably led to some awkward situations. Read More→

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