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Earth Manager

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Brad Washburn, Do the Dad Thing bloggerI’m writing this during the Corona Virus Pandemic, also known as the Global Covid-19 Crisis or other great names that combine those terms.  I’m sure future generations will read this blog and race to their holographic encyclopedias and see recreated images of people stuck in their homes using social media on handheld phones.

Oh, yeah, and view holographic images of people reading this blog. — How meta.

I’m not sure how much the prevalence of memes will make it into the future holographic history curriculum.  If you get on social media much during this quarantine, then you are aware that people have nothing better to do than to make funny pandemic memes, and to eat snacks.

Many of the memes I’ve seen reference one of the pleasant repercussions of a majority of the populace being confined to their homes:  Nature is flourishing.

If I can believe what I see on social media (note to future generations, you actually can’t believe MOST of what you see on social media), then dolphins have been seen swimming in the canals of Venice, Italy – an area with water pollution so bad that hardly any marine life would visit the area.  I saw a picture today of a swan also in Venice.  Someone posted a picture of deer in a different city, and baby ducks crossing the road in another metropolis.  Nature is abounding everywhere in the absence of people and pollution.

The pictures might be fake, but I hope they aren’t.  Because . . .  and here is the tie-in to Dads . . . it’s our job to take care of the planet.

You probably think I’m talking about that one time that your daughter found a baby bird that fell out of the nest and you spent all night making a wooden nesting box for it and helping her feed it with an eye dropper.

Or the time that your son came to you with a moth crawling on his arm and wanted you to help find a box to keep it in.

But actually I’m talking about the Bible.  Yes, again.

Genesis 1:28 — God blessed humans and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

This verse is a command from God at the very beginning.  “increase in number” – that part is pretty easy and humans have done that well.  We’ve ‘filled the Earth.’  Check.

The other part of this directive is a little more subtle.  “Subdue it.”

I live in West Virginia currently and like to poke fun at the general populous.  I’m not worried about teasing West Virginians in this blog.  You know why?  Most of them can’t read.

See what I mean?

There are probably a group of ‘good ol’ boys’ that populate the hills that would read the Bible verse above and think that “subdue” means to dominate, kill, trap, pen up, and subjugate.  No, scratch that; they wouldn’t know what subjugate means. . .  (yes, I did it again).

The word subdue in this verse actually translates better to “manage.”  As dads we are managers of the kids.  My blog talks about that a lot.  We manage their activities and resources.  We wisely guide them into success.

No good manager wastes resources, abuses their employees, and purposefully demoralizes them.

The command to ‘rule’ over the animals is in the same spirit.  God wants us to be a benevolent king over the animals.  We should be the kind of ruler that we wish we were if we were ruling over us.  –How very very meta.

Any time is a good time to emphasize this with your kids.  If it’s a moth or a baby bird, it’s our job to be a good manager or kind ruler to the environment God gave us.

Let me emphasize this with an analogy:

Zucchini.  You mulch and till and fertilize some soil, then you plant zucchini.  If you then plant zucchini in your garden it grows, and fruits, and pretty soon you are swamped with zucchini.  After you’ve eaten it, and frozen it, . . . and given it away to your neighbors . . . and secretly put baskets on your neighbors doorsteps . . .  then, it’s time to throw some out in the garden and let it become nutrients for the wild animals and till it into the soil next year.

Yes this is an analogy about being a ruler.   West Virginians would probably miss it, but you didn’t.

You can eliminate some zucchini and it helps the rest of the zucchini grow.  You can share zucchini and use zucchini.   You can appreciate, grow, and cultivate zucchini.  – all of these things are part of being a king or ruler of the zucchini garden of our Earth.

How can you, as a dad, help your kids be benevolent dictators to our environment?

Kid:  Hey dad, I’m roasting ants with a magnifying glass.  Isn’t it cool?

Dad:  Actually, if I was an ant, I’d hate to be roasted.  Maybe we could see if the magnifying glass will start a fire with this dead wood?


Kid:  Hey dad, look I caught a whole jar of fireflies!  I’m going to keep it by my bed tonight as a nightlight.

Dad:  That’s cool, but I bet those lightening bugs won’t be able to breathe in that jar and will miss their families.  Let’s show everyone your light jar for a moment and then let them go out in the woods.


Wife:  There is a spider the size of a small dog in the bathroom.  Go kill it.

Dad:  Are you kidding, I’m not going in there with a scary spider.


As much as I like to make fun of people in West Virginia, there are a lot of great people here.  One guy that came into my office and was talking about hunting, fishing, and trapping.  He expressed how much he loved being in God’s creation.  On his outings, he took his kids to have the experience with him.  Sometimes he shared that hunting and fishing were helping new baby animals survive and have enough food to eat.  He emphasized that you had to be responsible and maintain your traps every day, and was very stern about his role of being an outdoorsman that cared about the environment.

You may not agree with hunting, fishing, or trapping, but I definitely agree with the way he emphasized sharing the importance of managing the environment with his kids.

This command God gives us to ‘fill the earth and manage it’ is the first instruction he gave to humans on our planet.  It’s our job as dads to pass on this first instruction to our kids:  be a kind king to the biology and environment of our planet.

That way, we won’t need a global virus to remind us to manage nature well.

After you’re done reading this article, brainstorm with your kids on how to manage your personal environment well.  You might live with acres and acres of yard, or you might be in an apartment limited to a potted plant on a shelf.  We all have ways in which we rule over earth, and parents have the responsibility to model being a good earth manager.

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Science Fair Push-Back

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Brad Washburn, Do the Dad Thing bloggerTeaching our kids to be assertive is one of the most challenging tasks of being a dad.

 Having an assertive adult as an end result is great!  Raising an assertive kid . . . is not so great.

 First I probably need to clarify this word “assertive.”  I’ll do it, using the 3 Little Bears analogy (which is, one of the great analogies of all time):

 . . . And Goldilocks tried being Aggressive, means being hostile, exploitive, and coercive to get what you want – but that was too much and she drove people away.

Then Goldilocks tried being Passive, which means deferring to other people, even when you have strong opinions or desires, but that made her have low self-worth and low self-esteem.

She even tried being Passive/Aggressive, a technique that involves deferring to people (giving in) . . . but then finding some other way to get what you want. — usually through means that include being quietly hostile and exploitive.

But then she tried being Assertive.  It’s speaking directly and honestly about what you want and trying to get it by collaborating with people and communicating clearly.

And it was juuuust right.

 After that, the three bears came home and wondered why this blond girl was in their house debating active ego communicative strategies . . .

The point is that we’d obviously all love to have our kids grow up and be assertive.  We want them to strive to achieve without achievement being their identity, and to tell the truth they believe boldly, and to work toward solutions that include others.  Learning that process throughout childhood is rough on parents for several reasons:

Kids go to each extreme while they are trying to find the sweet spot of ‘assertive’

How do kids achieve the ‘balance’ of assertive?  They try out being aggressive.  Then they evaluate the effectiveness.  Then, they try being passive and evaluate the effectiveness.  Each one of their ‘tries’ results in a swing of both mood and communication.

Kids want to practice with you . . . at home

As a dad, you’re safe.  So, kids want to use your relationship as a ‘sandbox’ to try out different kinds of communication strategies.  If they work on you, then they try them on their friends.

Parents are not assertive themselves

Some parents never really adapted the ‘just right’ of being assertive.  So, knowing how to respond to a kid that is being aggressive, forthright, or passive creates an internal struggle.  Many parents that grew up in an abusive household react with anger or let their kids become the dominant force in the home.

Parents get offended by kid assertiveness

Some people, and I’m calling out ‘Boomers definitely,’ were raised with the idea that anything less than quiet docile obedience was wrong.  “Why in my day, I’d be slapped across the room if I said that I didn’t like castor oil.”

There are positive strategies to help your kids develop positive self-esteem and self-worth through practicing and learning assertiveness:

Reward their assertiveness

When your son/daughter hits that ‘just right’ area of assertiveness, point it out and praise them.   “Hey, I noticed that you told your friend that you didn’t like gummy worms even though all your other friends were saying they were good.  That’s good to speak up directly for what you like and don’t like.”

Model assertiveness

As a parent, do a self-check on how you interact with others, especially when they are demanding.  Practice being assertive with others and your kids will see you.

Have them practice assertiveness at school

This point is where the title of this article has been generated.  It involves a story . . .

One summer in Florida a turtle crawled out of the swamp and laid eggs in our front yard.  Right place/right time – we filmed it.  Then, to our horror, when we were taking the dog out in the evening, we caught a raccoon in the process of digging all the eggs up and eating them.  We chased the ‘coon’ off and rescued 4 eggs.

I came up with the idea, “Why don’t you incubate these eggs, two inside and two outside, and document it for this next year’s science fair?”

So that started the process of carefully incubating, measuring, and checking two sets of turtle eggs . . . for months.  Seriously, turtle eggs take 3 ½ months to hatch.  When fall came, my youngest son had an incredible biology-focused science fair project.

. . . . then, someone complained to someone, and someone went to the bureaucracy, then . . . someone from the School District called me.  The concern was that, in the future, kids might try to do experiments with animals and accidently hurt them.  So, my son would have to do a whole new Science Fair project because turtle hatch was not allowed.

My feelings were not assertive at that point.  Nor were they ‘passive.’  I immediately defaulted internally to Incredible Hulk mode.  However, I needed to model how to maintain composure, and thank God (thank you God) that He gave me the strength to clearly outline how punishing my son currently for a policy they were making for the future was inappropriate.  I had to ask to speak to the District Superintendent, and went through the whole thing again.  The Superintendent deferred to the local elementary school for how they would ‘enact this new policy.”

That’s when my son was suddenly on the front lines with having to be clear and forthright to his teacher.  He had to stick to the work that he did.  He had to clearly say that he wasn’t doing a ‘whole new’ experiment, and he had to boldly, but kindly, defer any teachers to talk to me.

Then we both had to go and meet with the Principal.

Two points to this:  Never do a science fair with turtles!  And the other point:  I’m SO GLAD that he practiced being firm and forthright with someone else rather than me.  I was with my kid almost every day telling me “I don’t want” and trying to negotiate a change in my decisions, and giving up on speaking up with kids and his brother.  I was elated that he was doing all this practicing with someone else for a change.

I’d rather the school personnel, that I pay, deal with my kids learning assertiveness – that way I can

  • Back my kids up
  • Advise them from the sidelines

Advising from the sidelines could be another whole topic in itself.  This is going to need at least a follow-up article.  I can see many of the dads that read this column plunging into the realm of Assertiveness totally unprepared.  Which, is actually the main idea with ‘practicing’ assertiveness.   Once again, let me know how it goes with your kids.  The comments are open; assertiveness is a project just like a science fair.

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Opposite Logic

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Brad Washburn, Do the Dad Thing bloggerToday’s article is up for you, the reading audience, to ratify.  It’s all based on logic I learned from the 90’s sitcom, Seinfeld.

Jerry Seinfeld : If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.

George Costanza : Yes, I will do the opposite. I used to sit here and do nothing, and regret it for the rest of the day, so now I will do the opposite, and I will do something!


I thought of this when I was switching roles with one of my counseling clients.  Dads do certain things.  Moms do certain things.  If a mom comes in and has a hard time getting a grasp on the dad perspective, I ask us to pretend and switch roles.

It’s a helpful technique if a mom is singly raising kids, because she has to routinely act in the role as both dad AND mom.

. . . I even have a ladies’ wig I put on during session to do the play acting.  — Yes, I’m a riot.

Anyway, I hear a lot of women say that their instinct and role is to be “the caregiver” — the one that keeps the kids safe and protects them.

So, using the Seinfeld logic, the Dad role would most likely be the opposite of the caregiver:  letting kids be independent and having them experience dangerous and unsafe situations.

It’s just a working theory at this point.  I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments or e-mail me.  But let’s look at how such logic would flesh out for Dads (or dad-figures) . . .


Kid:  Wants to learn to skateboard

Motherly instinct:  Protect child at all cost!  Skateboards = death.  Child should instead pursue quilting.

Dad:  Do it!  Bones heal and chicks dig scars.


Kid:  gets a role in the school play

Motherly instinct:  Help them rehearse their lines and help them make a costume

Dad:  “Break a leg.”   I will come to the play and film the whole thing.



Kid:  another kid is teasing them on the bus.

Motherly instinct:  Let’s call the school and arrange a meeting to work on a strategy to keep you safe.  Better yet, I’ll drive you to school the rest of the year.

Dad:  Stand up to them!  If you fight and get suspended, I’ll let you play Xbox all week . . .


. . .  I’m so far noticing that this might be a workable theory.  I’m also thinking that good Dad role responses probably fall into three categories:


  • Give a sense of autonomy (which will help build self-esteem)
  • Figure things out

One thing that combines both of the roles of Dad and Mom is to share the emotions.  Guys sometimes instinctively do this different than ladies, but the idea is still good.  If you look at kids like a cup filled with emotion, many kids have emotion running over and spilling out everywhere.  If Dads or Moms . . . or moms/dads acting as both mom and dad, can prompt kids to share their emotional experience, then the cup doesn’t spill everywhere; instead it ‘pours’ where you want it.

Kid:  Wants to learn how to skateboard

Mother:  Oh, tell me about that, how does skateboarding make you feel?

Dad:  Let’s go look at skateboarding videos and you can tell me all about it.


Dads and Moms have different methods, and that’s ok.  When it comes to opposite logic, both protectful caregivers and dangerous risk takers can agree on hearing and understanding the emotions of our kids.

What we do after we hear those emotions? . . .  Well, that might be a topic for another day with a better sitcom analogy.  Hmmm, were there any words of wisdom in The Office . . .?


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The Long Game

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Brad Washburn, Do the Dad Thing bloggerSometimes as a parent you have to play the long game.

I like expressions, but I realize that I use many of them and don’t actually know what they mean.  Take the idiom, “Easy as Pie.”  Does that mean baking a pie is easy?  Or eating pie is easy?  In this 21st Century I can microwave a frozen pie — that’s easy.  I’m not sure that baking pies from scratch ‘the ol’ fashioned way’ was easy.  Maybe stealing pies from windowsills is easy . . .

Luckily there is Google.  I am currently looking up the expression ‘the long game:’

The Urban Dictionary says the long game is having a long term plan, long term goals, or doing things now that set you up for the future.

That’s what I hoped it meant.  Still don’t know where it originated, but that will be a Google for another time.

I’m using the expression ‘the long game’ with parenting because sometimes we don’t get immediate results from our parenting interventions.  When kids are little there is more of an immediate turnaround on parenting instruction.


Me:  Eat your spaghetti-o’s

Kid:  [munch munch]


As they get older there is more of a delay in what your kids experience as the payoff of parent instruction.

  • You’re the worst Dad ever!
  • I’m going to do it my way.
  • Dad, let me make my own decisions!
  • I’m going to rent a house and move in with three friends that have no morals.

All the above statements are versions of the same thing.  It’s natural for your kids to want to be independent and find out things for themselves.  This is especially true as they get older.

As a Dad, I can tell my kid not to play in the road.  The immediate consequences are extreme.

As kids get older, I can tell my kids not to try drugs . . .  the mid-term consequences are extreme.

As my teenage kids contemplate moving out into ‘real life’ I can advise them to make a budget, manage their time, to not use credit cards, to not be alone for copious amounts of time with people of the opposite sex (until they’re married) . .

The consequences from these actions might not be immediate or even mid-term . . . but they can have some extreme long-term effects.

A budget is a great example.  Right now, my 18year old son is working at Dairy Queen.  We, mostly my wife, have been stressing to him to build a budget and put money toward the things that are important; like education.

However, he gets paid a pittance at Dairy Queen and doesn’t want to save money.  According to him, he barely has enough money to cover his necessities.

Which, but the way, there is some disagreement regarding the definition of the late-teenage version of ‘necessities.’  Both my wife and I have to frequently restrain ourselves from reminding him about REAL LIFE and bills and mortgage and health insurance.  Right now his necessity is gas for his car and money to frequently go to McDonalds.

So, doing a budget isn’t a high priority to him now.  We stress it for the Long Game; we want him to have a budget in the future when he has real necessities.


Future Daughter in Law:  I’m really glad that you learned how to budget from your parents, or else we’d never have money to pay our insurance deductible.

My Son:  Yeah, my Dairy Queen salary really is stretched to the limit.

Ok, that was supposed to be funny.  Dairy Queen.  Salary.  If you’ve ever worked fast-food you might be laughing.

Here are some tips to keep in mind as you plan to Dad the Long Game:

Start as early as you can:  How early is too early?

“Look Emily, I got you a cute little budget-shaped pacifier . . . “

Seriously, the things that you want them to know when they are in their 20’s you should start mentioning now.

Here’s a verse from the Bible (Proverbs 22:6) that is comforting to many parents parenting for the Long Game:

Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Reinforce Reinforce Reinforce:  I’m sure ‘training up a child’ in the above verse is more than just mentioning it once.  If you want your kids to wait to have sex until marriage, start repeating ‘when you get married’ any opportunity regarding the opposite sex.   Keep repeating the important long-term wisdom you want them to absorb.

The Bible talks about some extreme measures for doing this with the truths in the Bible

Deuteronomy 6:6-9 New International Version (NIV)

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Be patient: – it’s a “Long Game” remember?  This, and the next point are probably the hardest things to do as your kids get older.  You may notice that they are making unwise or even unrighteous decisions as they are becoming independent.  Sure, you can advise them to get back on track, but after that, you have only to wait and . . .

Trust God and your actions.  Every boy and girl can get heady and throw out ALL of our instruction, wisdom and righteousness.  But, through God’s mercy there are times where our training kicks in, or our conscience reminds us of things our Dads taught us, and it keeps kids from screwing up . . . or screwing up so badly.

We just need to do our part for the long game, then, when it’s out of our control, we watch the game play out.  Come to think of it now, clearly this analogy of the Long Game is related to the game of Monopoly.  Have you ever really finished a game of Monopoly? – Especially before EVERYONE got in a fight.  So much like raising kids . . . .

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The Timbuktu Question

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Today’s blog article is for exhorting and empowering us dads and thereby setting an example for health and balance for our kids.

I’m going to use another one of the Great Counseling Analogies — I should do a series (three-armed man, Christmas Bicycle, the Playground, . . – actually I did one on the Playground — it was great and you can read it here )

 The analogy involves Timbuktu; a city in Mali . . . which is a country . . . um, in Africa.  I’m not so good at geography — especially geography for different continents.  Which is the point:  Timbuktu used to be the city people would mention when they were talking about somewhere very remote on the ‘other side of the world.’*

 Plus, Timbuktu (Tim – Buck–Too) is fun to say.

 Timbuktu, Timbuktu, Timbuktu.

 But the idea of the analogy is that you consider the question: What you would do if you were starting over with a new life after moving to Timbuktu – the farthest reaches of the world where no one would know you?.

 My wife typically ruins analogies at this early point by asking too many detail questions.  “Why would I move to Timbuktu?”  “Do you get there by boat or did I fly?”

 She’s like that.  The point is – you are starting over.

  • No one would know you there
  • You wouldn’t have easy access to all your old habits
  • You’d have to focus on the basics to start over
  • All your old social connections would be gone

 . . .  You could start fresh

What would you do?

Many people have a desire to make a change, but they think that their current circumstances hold them down; their habits, their job, their feelings, their responsibilities are hurdles to their goals and desires.  A transfer to Timbuktu would thrust you out of all your current excuses for life change.  You may not be able to pick up and move to Timbuktu, but you can give your mind a fresh perspective by thinking this way.

Ask yourself some related questions:

  • If I had to form all new friendships, what would be important to me?  Are these attributes reflected in the friends I have now?

  • What disciplines would I like to include in my life if life didn’t get in the way?  How could I eliminate commitments so that life doesn’t get in the way?

  • I don’t really need much to survive, what could I cut out of my life to make it simpler?

  • What’s my schedule like in Timbuktu – do I sleep in every day or work long hours?

When you start to answer these questions, you can get a new perspective on your current life-state.  Thinking and considering the Timbuktu question is the first step.  Then you need to take action.

In all honesty, having to move to Timbuktu would be easy.  You’d HAVE to do all the things that change your life.  You’d be FORCED, by external circumstances, to make changes.

But, if you’re like me, you don’t like to be forced.  It’s also really hard to imagine how a move to Timbuktu would even be feasible in ‘real life:’

Boss:  Well, we are opening up our Mali office next month and we want you to helm the initiative of the company there.  So pack your bags, you’re moving to Timbuktu!

Rather than wait around for an external stimulus to galvanize you into some Timbuktu changes, you’ll have to do it yourself.

One option is to create an external circumstance of sorts.  You can create a change event.  Pick a date on the calendar and designate it as ‘Timbuktu Day” – the day you make changes.  I always encourage people to plan for a Timbuktu Day in many of the same ways they’d plan for a trip to Mali; tell your friends that you are having a life change, cut out all the unnecessary commitments and downsize stuff you own.  Maybe have a ‘going away’ party to start a new life.

By the way, a Timbuktu Day is a great time to incorporate some of those disciplines that are hard to maintain with a hectic life:  meditate, take some margin, enjoy a Sabbath, and take some of the extra time to read the Bible.

Joshua 1:8

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

I didn’t add that “prosperous and successful” part – that’s 100% Bible

Plan your Timbuktu Day with enough time to start planning for the trip.  Try some new schedules and disciplines now.  And, let me know if you do Timbuktu – either as a real, physical move to Mali (you would be one of my first Dads to actually do it), or as a life change in your current location.


Very geeky addendum that I couldn’t resist because of the recent Star Wars movie:  Luke Skywalker needed the Timbuktu Question.  He needed a good reason to be assertive to his Aunt/Uncle and stop whining about Tosche Station and go join the Rebel Alliance.  Don’t wait for a bounty hunter to roast your relatives before following your dreams!

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Life Long Learnin’

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Brad Washburn, Do the Dad Thing bloggerSo, I’m old now.

And I’ve been trying to do the fitness thing and stave off ‘feeeeeling’ old.  I get up in the morning and do yoga (what could also be considered ‘stretching’) and I try to go to the gym several times a week.

 In the past I’ve also tried jogging periodically.  However jogging poses two major problems:

#1:  I hate running.  Ok, yes, so I was a track athlete in High School.  But that was sprinting.  Sprinting is fun and has the real-life application of keeping you safe from alien abduction.  Long distance running or fitness jogging is an extreme method of torture.

#2:  I’ll be jogging along and hating jogging along.  I’m nearing the point where I’m thinking, “I’m just going to walk for a bit” and then suddenly, my high school track coach, Mr. Lightfoot, is standing up ahead along the road with a clipboard in hand.  He emphatically throws it on the ground and shouts, “Dag-gonnit Washburn, FINISH THE RACE!”

 And of course I dig deep and finish jogging at a dead sprint.

(then I’m in a great deal of pain for several days and vow to never run again . . . until the next time).

 So jogging for health isn’t my thing — Sorry Mr. Lightfoot.


 Mr. Lightfoot also was the High School weightlifting coach.  (and the Senior Social Studies Teacher  . . . which actually is another unrelated story of how he convinced the whole class the Christopher Columbus’ middle name was “Rosco” . . but I digress)

Largely because of his inspiration, I’d get up at 5:30 am to go to lift weights.  In Sr. year, I actually took ‘Bodybuilding’ as an elective.

 And That.  That stuck with me much better than trying to run along backroads.  Actually if you look at it either way, whether he is yelling at me in my pain induced visions while jogging or in the inspiration to hit the gym several times a week, the impact that Mr. Lightfoot made on me for lifelong fitness, has been . . . lifelong.

 I currently have two teenage boys that used to come with me to the gym on a regular basis.  They surpassed my abilities a long time ago (remember I said that I am old), so they’d rather go separately from me.  But they still go.  I’m hoping they continue going lifelong.

There are many disciplines that dads could pass on to hopefully achieve ‘lifelong’ status for our kids.  I hear many parents putting their kids into sports, or piano lessons, or dance — and none of those are inherently bad.

 But there are some disciplines and skills that need to be introduced toward them becoming activities your kids choose for doing their whole life.


 Bible reading:  Seriously, this is an activity that is more important even than fitness or knowing chess.  Many people come to me each month and make the comment, “I wish God would talk to me.”

Umm.  He did.

Teach your kids to read the Bible on a REGULAR basis.  For lifelong habit of reading the Bible, you can’t just know it’s important — adults that read the Bible do it every day or the same day every week.  Make Bible Reading Lifelong (MBRL is my election slogan).

 Praying: is a little easier to create a lifelong habit.  Pray with your kids before bed, before meals, and before anything important.

The other day my youngest son lost his wallet at the movie theatre.  We looked, visited, and called periodically for a week.  I thought it was long gone.

We were in the area and he asked if we could swing by the theatre again and see if they found it.  We did again.  The manager went away to a back room to check ‘lost-and-found;’ again.

As we were waiting, my son spontaneously started praying.  “Jesus, please let him find my wallet.”

The manager came back.  Not only did he have the wallet, but he said, “I checked the lost and found again and it wasn’t there.  But then, I just decided to check and see if someone put it on one of the storeroom shelves and it was there.” Read More→

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Dad the Fashion Guru

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Brad Washburn, Do the Dad Thing bloggerI’m taking a total departure from some of my usual topics to focus on something that is a big ingredient in being an interactive Dad AND something that has surprisingly become ‘close to my heart.’

Being a fashion Guru.

First of all, to clarify:  I’m colorblind.  So if I can enter the fashion realm as a Dad, then you DEFINITELY can.  I’m not so good at matching clothes.  In fact, when I was in college dating this hot girl that ended up becoming my wife; I’d put on some clothes and ask my roommates if I was matching.


“Yeah, you look great.”

“Lookin’ good.”

 . . . so you can probably imagine my lack of surprise when I’d meetup with my girlfriend and she’d say, “Good God, what are you wearing?!  That doesn’t match at all.”

My roommates didn’t often have ‘my back’ in the fashion department.

But after I had kids, and after those kids started caring about what they wore . . . I needed to connect with them with my limited fashion abilities.

When the boys were younger, they’d throw on anything that was available and comfortable, which I’d still advocate as some of the main goals of fashion.  They’d make any strange combination of outfits ‘cool’ because they had the confidence of not caring.  But, as they grew older, they started caring.  So they wanted to ‘match’ and ‘wear shoes’ (we lived in Florida), and buy brand names.

I didn’t want to be one of those ‘fuddy-duddy’ Dads, that didn’t understand style or the fashion dynamics of kids, because how you look is a BIG DEAL to preteens/teens.   To connect with them, I had to learn fashion.

Below is a list of things that helped me and things I tried.  There were failures of course; these are the wins that I can share on this topic.  What about you?  You can probably see color and have some good ideas to share as well.  Drop me an e-mail or comment.

Oh, and before I do the list.  You’re probably wondering what the Biblical or Spiritual tie-in is for anything regarding fashion.  Usually I have a quick Bible answer for questions, even if it’s a corny Bible joke, but in this case I had to do some research.

[Brad surfs the net with his theology hat on]

 . . .  well, actually the Bible doesn’t have a lot of positive to say about adornment or clothes or looks being important.  In fact, there is a lot of the opposite.  BUT, in doing the research I discovered that the negative part about fashion, adornment, and looks, is that they shouldn’t become a focus to detract you from what’s really important.

So, don’t let that happen.  Keep your focus on what’s important in life.

I did find a plethora (a.k.a. ‘a bunch’) of information about how much God cares about creating beauty and aesthetics on the Earth.  It seems like God is the ultimate fashion designer.  God even made the first clothes (read Genesis) out of leaves – I’ve never seen that done, even on Project Runway.  Here is an example of how much attention God gives to creating beauty upon the Earth . . . almost like tailoring the best outfits for us.

Psalm 104

Praise the Lord, my soul.

Lord my God, you are very great;
you are clothed with splendor and majesty.

The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment;
he stretches out the heavens like a tent
    and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.
. . .

He set the earth on its foundations;
it can never be moved.
You covered it with the watery depths as with a garment;
the waters stood above the mountains.

I also found some pretty good articles related to the God/Fashion topic:

Ok, now back to the list of practical Dad fashion tips.  Don’t forget to e-mail me or comment with your own:

Retro is always good:  You grew up in an era that will cycle into being ‘cool’ at some point.  I grew up in the 80’s and Stranger ThingsDark, and popular sitcoms highlight some of the fashion that is now becoming popular again.  Thank God that some things never came back in style as far as hairstyles like the mullet or the 5ft-tall Aquanet tower of hair that some of my female friends had.  But clothes; clothes come back to popularity.  Fashion from 10 years in the past can always be used as a retro fashion statement.

Use the terms:  Find out what joggers are.  And jeggers.  And jorgers.—ok, I made that last one up.  But find out what your kids are calling rolling their jeans legs, or what a ‘snapback’ is, or how Gucci plays a role in fashion.  Also, learn how to pronounce ‘Gucci’ correctly.

Shape is important.  Boys are shooting for the overall shape of a ‘T’ and girls are trying to look like the general shape of a number ‘8.’  So, give any feedback or insight on the clothes that do well with bringing out your kids’ qualities. Read More→

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The Question with a Question

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questionBrad Washburn, Do the Dad Thing bloggerAfter many long days the kid has climbed to the top of the mountain to reach the mystic guru of all knowledge:  The Dad.

The kid has journeyed past the Forest of Despair, through the Pits of Insecurity, and has taken the arduous climb over the Boulders of Persistence.  All to reach the top, and ask the question; the question that burns most deeply in the souls of all children:

“How do I make blueberry muffins?”

The great sage of all time, The Dad, breaks his gaze away from contemplating the cosmos, and sagely answers,

“How would you find that information?”

His deep curiosity being satisfied, the kid begins the long journey back down to civilization with new insight . . . .


There are many reasons that kids ask questions.  When they are young, they are curious about EVERYTHING and there is an endless stream of fact gathering questions.  How does a toaster work?  Why do people get haircuts?  Etc. etc.

As kids get older, most of their questions are about the rules of society and your authority:  Why do police give people tickets?  Why do I have to go to bed?  Etc. etc.

But there comes a time (usually around middle school age) where the questions are both practical fact gathering questions AND questions about society and values.  They are questions that beg for answers that are both useful and important.  . . . and that’s exactly why we shouldn’t answer them.

Sure, we definitely want to pass on knowledge and teach values, and most Dads are an endless storehouse of useful facts – these are the things that Dads do best.  But, one of our important jobs as kids get older is to:

Help kids think for themselves.

Which, to put in the vernacular:  really sucks.  Our offspring finally get old enough to be curious about the things that we actually know, and it’s largely our job the help them find the answers themselves.  Urgh.

If you think about it.  We don’t want to train our kids to come running to us throughout their adult life to answer questions.

Did Napoleon ever visit the United States?

Where can I buy a snow blower?

How do you make blueberry muffins?

What CAN you do when you get asked a question?

Turn it back to them.  Answer their question . . . get this:  with. a. question.  It’s genius in simplicity.  Usually a “How would you find that out?” is enough to both frustrate them and put them on the path to research so that they can find out all the knowledge in the universe.  They will someday be the gurus sitting on the mountain full of knowledge – knowledge that they have gained themselves.

Here’s how it works.  When you son/daughter is getting older and has access to their own reason, and access to the library, and access to Google, and access to the Bible; you ask a question that puts them on the path to pursue their own answers. Read More→

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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


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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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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