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Here’s one way to truly “man up.”

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2014 in Present Moment Parenting

 

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E.Q. Tips for Boys

Bad Day

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2014 in Present Moment Parenting

 

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When boys want us to tell them to apologize.

canstockphoto2807075In my previous post shared a story in which I told my son I wanted him to apologize to his friend. Some people will disagree with this on the grounds that it’s not best practice to force a child to apologize.

I understand the reasons behind this belief and agree that a huge power struggle complete with punishments for not apologizing is certainly counterproductive. However, like most things, there’s more than one way to intelligently look at asking children to apologize.

The assumption that I see in a lot of the “don’t make your kids say they’re sorry” articles is that the children don’t want to apologize. This isn’t always an accurate assumption. Nor is it always true that asking them to say it doesn’t make them feel it, that it doesn’t teach social skills, and that it automatically makes them feel unhealthy shame and embarrassment. Let me explain.

During any given backyard or playground romp with buddies and brothers, my sons will accidentally or on purpose hurt, get hurt by or have some sort of conflict with the other kids. That’s normal and healthy. It’s how children learn to get along (aka social skills).

Wrapped up in all of this is an interesting dance of status, posturing, testosterone/amygdala driven emotions, and face-saving. Most of the time it all works out well in the end. Sometimes, one of the fellas gets a stinger that hurts more than they can just shake off, or someone throws an insult or angry words that are more extreme.

Here’s the truth: When a boy hurts someone physically or emotionally, he feels sorry. Really. Boys are not emotionally bereft. They are actually very sensitive. Often the bravado we see is self-protection. To sort out and respond to all the emotional data on the spot, in front of others, can just be too much. In our culture it’s much easier to drop an F-bomb and walk off in a cloud of smoke.

But all those unresolved emotions don’t just go away. They stick in our bodies and minds. Sometimes they get all twisted up. Eventually they cause problems. One way to help with this is to apologize. When the mess of emotions and stories is too knotted up to quickly sort out, being able to simply say “I’m sorry” is a great way to take some of the pressure off. It says, “There’s more to this than I can figure out, but I see I hurt you and I wish I hadn’t.”

Many times boys WANT to be able to express compassion and regret for their actions, but rules of status and the boy code get in the way. When that’s the case, sometimes boys really need an adult to give them the chance to apologize by telling them that it’s time. It can be an incredibly kind thing to create this container for them.

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2014 in Present Moment Parenting

 

Apologizing and Forgiveness

canstockphoto17001941The neighbor boys were over to play: a 12-year-old and his 9-year-old nephew, an 11-year-old and his 8-year-old brother, and a 7-year-old. My boys, 7 and 5 years-old, were having a blast. While listening in on their play, I heard one friend make a boy-tragic error. It was something like: “That sword is way too short.” Without a moment’s notice, my son shot back: “That’s STUPID. It’s not a sword. It’s a KNIFE.”

I didn’t care about the sword/knife differentiation. However, I did care about the fact that my son called his neighbor stupid. While I let many of these situations work themselves out in the normal give and take of neighborhood friendships, for some reason I felt like saying something this time.

Me: “Braden, you just called your friend stupid. I’d like you to apologize.”

Braden: “I’m sorry Tavis. You’re not stupid.”

This much I had predicted. It was what happened next that caught my attention.

Tavis: “You’re forgiven.”

I didn’t know Tavis’ parents very well at this point. When I heard him say that, I decided I wanted to get to know them more. Kids don’t just say “you’re forgiven” if they haven’t had a little bit of instruction.

I had a talk with Tavis’ dad on the playground near our house a few weeks later. During our conversation, I brought up this story. He said, “Yeah, our family has a lot of emotion. One rule we have is that it’s always okay to apologize and forgive each other.”

I loved that! I loved it for two reasons. First, it recognized that normal families have all sorts of emotion. Second, because it recognized that emotions can be messy and family members need to forgive each other.

As a side advantage, I think it also means that the boys in that family will hopefully be more inclined to forgive my boys when they do things that need forgiving (which my boys do all the time).

Final shot:

  • Emotions in families are normal.
  • We all need to have grace (forgive) each other’s emotional mistakes.
  • Parents should model apologizing and forgiveness to children by asking for forgiveness when parents make emotional mistakes.
  • Parents should teach children to apologize and forgive and allow them to make the mistakes that all children make when learning these skills (think of all the mistakes you have made).
 
 

Dads, Sons, Discipline and Adrian Peterson

dad son talkI’m a little late to the Adrian Peterson discussion, and that’s probably good timing. The media frenzy has settled a little bit, and we’re left with the more productive work of reflecting on ourselves.

First, let me say that this is not a rant against Adrian Peterson. Primarily, this post is going to be about fathers and the unique role we have in disciplining (word chosen intentionally) our sons.

I think it’s impossible for men to understand childbirth. Not just because of the pain involved, but also because of the brain and body chemicals present during labor and throughout the entire time a mother is carrying her baby. To a lesser degree, I think there are aspects of the father-son bond and discipline relationship that are very unique. Some of it seems alien and incomprehensible if you haven’t experienced it first-hand.

Just in case you were getting worried, let me say up front that I do not defend or excuse whipping a four-year-old boy repeatedly until he bleeds or punching a child in a car seat. That’s not discipline.

Let’s talk about terminology. In child development circles, the term “discipline” isn’t popular anymore. It has largely been replaced with “guidance.” Guidance accurately describes what great teachers, coaches, youth workers and many others who care about children engage in on a daily basis. There are all sorts of trendy and effective ways to do this. A few of my favorites are Jane Nelson’s Positive Discipline and Jim and Charles Fay’s Love and Logic.

The word “discipline” has taken on a negative connotation. It generates thoughts of punishment like spanking, whipping, switching, isolation, withholding needs, causing pain, physical abuse and in extreme cases causing severe bodily harm, even death.

In truth, discipline isn’t any of these things. I believe that healthy discipline is one of the most positive, affirming, and life-giving things a son can experience from a dad. True discipline is the core of what the father-son relationship is all about. In fact, for boys, I will go as far as to say that it is what sons want MOST from their dads. Let me explain.

Discipline provides the skills and strength we need to succeed. Discipline shows you a vision of your best and encourages you to get there. Discipline breaks an impossible goal into manageable steps. When we’re living and behaving in ways that hurt others and ourselves, discipline gets in our face and says, “Enough!” When we are slacking at life, discipline kicks us in the butt. When we disrespect others and ourselves, discipline holds a mirror in our face and says, “YOU are better than THAT.”

The father-son relationship is a rare container for discipline. When a dad does it right, the power it holds for a boy is incredible, thrilling and transformational. It can refine and support you like nothing else can. It gives you the courage to do anything.

On the flip side, the pain it carries when a dad drops the ball on this sacred role is devastating. Hurtful words from a father or father figure are searing. Neglect is withering. Abusive, torturous actions can send boys to a very dark place. I’ve been with boys who were there, and cried for ones who couldn’t see their way out.

Any time we, as fathers, choose abuse, fear and rage, we risk sending our kids down that road. It’s an awful exchange. It’s like losing our home to the bank when we have a winning lottery ticket in our back pocket.

When we use violence to train our kids it’s like trying to slice cheese with a chainsaw. It doesn’t do a very good job and makes a horrible mess of things.

None of us had perfect fathers. Some of us had rotten ones. The good news is that no matter where we start from, there are plenty of people and resources out there that can help us get better. There’s always room to grow. Contact me if you want a few ideas.

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2014 in Contemplative Parenting

 

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How To Be A Perfectionist Dad

I’m a perfectionist. It’s part of my personality. My standards are impossibly high. I can’t help it. It’s difficult for me if I don’t manage it, but for my kids’ it’s a living hell.

There are many people who have high standards, attention to detail, and a persistent dedication to quality…but that’s not perfectionism. My Jung Typology is INFP. I’m an idealist. If I’m not careful, I will NEVER judge anything as ideal. I just keep wanting things and people to be better. Nothing is good enough

No matter how careful I try to be, sometimes my son falls victim to my out-of-whack standards. Little boys always want their daddies to be proud of them, and he knows that I am. However, he also knows when I’m not satisfied. I’m not talking about when he has done something mean to his brother or made a mistake. I’m talking about when he has done something GOOD and my inner perfectionist thinks it’s not good enough.

It happened at karate the other day. My seven-year-old had a long day, and he was tired. He went to karate anyway, and he was a little slow and dull throughout. After the lesson, he came out the door, looked at me and said, “Sorry.” He thought I was disappointed in him. I realized I had been wearing an unimpressed stare throughout the lesson. I think I had even thrown in a few head shakes. It was a poignant moment.

So what’s a perfectionist parent to do? We all love to watch our kids do their best, right? After all, it’s a competitive world out there. If they don’t get top grades, make the “A” team and keep up with the pack, they’ll never make it, right?

Wrong. There are some very good reasons why our hyper-achievement culture isn’t healthy and may actually produce the opposite of what we really want. For more on this, take a look at the above trailer for Race to Nowhere.

Here are some thoughts for us perfectionists to remember if we want to keep ourselves from projecting the wrong message to our kids:

  • “Good enough” is a responsible option.
  • Our children’s performance should not define our success or identity.
  • Making mistakes is ESSENTIAL for healthy learning and development.
  • It’s O.K. to just participate (and not win).
  • Realize the hypocrisy of the phrase, “I just want you to do your best.”
  • Let them define their best rather than you.
  • Show them they belong and are loved when they lose and under-perform.

Practical strategies for perfectionists:

  • Since nothing will ever satisfy our need for perfection, we need to clearly define realistic goals in partnership with our kids so that they can know when they have succeeded. For instance, my son can choose one skill to improve on at karate and feel good about rather than feeling like he needs to be Bruce Lee then entire lesson.
  • Focus on the process by asking them to think about something that worked and something that didn’t.
  • End the day by sharing the three best things from the day (you too) without any evaluation (just acceptance).
  • Instead of only celebrating successes, surprise your kids by going out to celebrate THEM sometime when their effort was less than par.
 
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Posted by on June 25, 2014 in Present Moment Parenting

 

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Father’s Day: For dads of boys when…

Joshua KoeppFor Fathers Day, here’s my advice to dads about the three situations that regularly bring out the worst behavior from dads of boys at child-care programs. Providers ask me about these at nearly every boys workshop I present.

For dads of boys when… (from a dad of two boys)

  1. your son wears “fancy” or “girly” dress-up clothes at daycare.
  2. …you want to tell him to stop crying and take it like a man.
  3. …you’re temped to tell him it’s okay to “hit back” to stand up for himself.

your son wears “fancy” or “girly” dress-up clothes at daycare. Don’t worry. It’s normal. It can’t “make him” gay any more than dressing up for Halloween makes him a ghost. Dress-up play is one way boys grow their brains and make sense of their world. It helps them experience and understand what other people think and feel. In fact, boys are more likely to be confused if they DON’T get to play dress-up.

Resist the urge to disapprove or tell him “boys don’t dress like that.” In his little mind all that would do is make him feel like Dad is upset and there’s something wrong with him for playing and having fun. It can also send the message that women are inferior and anyone who does certain jobs or roles doesn’t deserve as much respect. Ironically, when we teach children not to fully respect others, they end up thinking they don’t deserve respect themselves.

…you’re temped to tell him it’s okay to “hit back” to stand up for himself. Give him more credit. Soldiers and martial arts experts know it takes more strength and skill to solve conflicts without force. “The strong survive” only works for wild animals. Human evolution actually favors the males who learn to make friends, get along and solve problems. Even bullies respect the kid who knows how to make friends. Living by the sword only ends well in movies. In real life, there are better ways to feel capable, safe, strong, and win a fight.

If your son gets physically assaulted by another child, he doesn’t need you to give him boxing lessons. Rather, he needs you to let him know there’s no shame and you still respect him. Teach him that you both have skills to handle what comes without regressing cave-man status. True strength and authentic manhood can start young, and Dad is the one who gets to model it. Giving-in to violence is a cop-out that makes more problems than it solves.

I know first hand how emotionally charged and difficult these situations can be when you’re in the middle of them. Send me an e-mail if you’re seeing red and want a set of fresh eyes.

…you want to tell him to stop crying and take it like a man. Be careful. Crying is the body’s normal, automatic expression of emotional processing and release. (It can also be a way children try to manipulate and control adults, but that’s a different story.) In the first case, telling him to “man-up” and stop the crying makes emotions even more confusing and sends the message that men and boys should be ashamed of something that’s normal. Living in an emotional straight jacket causes all sorts of problems, but to understand and manage our emotional landscape has huge benefits.

My son and I have discovered a counter-intuitive formula that is healthy and actually seems to help tears end sooner. I call it C.A.P. Connect. Acknowledge. Protect.

Connect: For boys, this is most often done non-verbally through physical proximity. To just stand or sit near him is often enough. Sometimes an arm around the shoulder or hug for the little guys helps. Don’t get too close if he’s not ready.

Acknowledge: A short phrase. Usually something like: “You seem sad, angry, upset (fill in the blank).” “That was pretty tough.” “Do you feel? I can understand if you do.” The key is to recognize that he has emotion and give it a name if possible.

Protect: Let him know he is safe with you (from ridicule, judgement, shame) and protect him from embarrassment. When necessary or possible, find some privacy for him.

In many cases, this whole process only takes us a manner of seconds, but you don’t want to rush it. The counter-intuitive part is that it usually helps him stop crying in a few seconds. That’s not the goal, but it usually works that way. Which makes sense, when you think about it, because it helps to process the emotion. Once the emotion is processed, crying is unnecessary.

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2014 in Present Moment Parenting

 

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Cullen, 4, wants to be a…

CullenDadJump1:50 P.M.        Me: “Existentialism can help you figure out what gives you the will, the drive, the courage to continue pushing through all of the challenges you’ll face during your college journey. That’s what experiential values, creative values, attitudinal values, transcendent values are all about. That’s why you’ll tell me about them in Assignment 2…”

(Must wrap-up lecture. Cullen’s pre-K graduation. Must leave by 2:00)…

1:55 P.M.        Student: “Professor did you get my email…?”

1:59 P.M.        Me: “I’ll be sure to look at that grade again…”

2:01 P.M.        Walking to parking ramp. On the road soon.

2:45 P.M.        Ms. Ann: “Next we have Cullen…”

Today, I had the pleasure to attend Cullen’s graduation from Roseville Friendship Connection’s Jump Start to Kindergarten program. I went to Braden’s ceremony two years ago and wrote a post about the importance of rituals. This time, however, the change hit me a little harder.

Cullen was born early, and it wasn’t an easy road for him or my wife. I took a leave from work, and we decided, because of the shape our lives had taken, that I would stay home with the boys and not return to full-time career life.

I moved into the wonderful and challenging world of being a full-time dad. Honestly, I find that term disingenuous. Sarah also became a full time mom, AND she worked full time. While some don’t think it’s possible, I know that many dads and moms work full-time AND parent full-time. But I do believe there is an experiential difference when you are not committed to a full time job.

I say experiential very intentionally. There was a difference in my EXPERIENCE, not in the quality, the significance, nor the emotional investment between me and other fathers and mothers. It was different…different because I’m a man, and male culture attaches a lot of meaning to careers. It was different because I was frequently figuring-out my next paycheck. It was different because I’m unique, just like all of us.

Today, however, I didn’t think about the differences. Instead, I thought about how happy I was to have enjoyed the gift of the last five years with my boys. It was wild. It was joyful. It was frustrating. It was rewarding. We were real.

It all came together when Ms. Ann called Cullen up for his certificate and reported the 2 things he said he wanted to be when he grew up.

“Next, we have Cullen. He wants to be a doctor when he grows up and a DAD.”

I couldn’t have asked for a better endorsement.

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2014 in Present Moment Parenting

 

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Boys: Testosterone and Emotional Repression

9947161_sIn Wave Riders we talk about boys, testosterone, and the effect it can have on their emotions and actions. It shouldn’t be minimized, and Noah Brand, an Editor-at-Large at Good Men Project, explains his take on it below. Follow this link to read the full post Five Important Things Women Don’t Know About Men

 

Short version: testosterone is a hell of a drug. Those who’ve taken it as adults as part of a gender transition tend to report intense cravings for physical catharsis, flashes of inexplicable rage, and similar effects. And that’s taking it on purpose, knowing that it’s a drug, with an adult level of brain development and emotional maturity. Now imagine that happening to you without warning when you’re thirteen and have no idea what’s going on.
 
Almost every adult man walking around spent at least part of his adolescence dealing with sourceless, purposeless anger and a desire for violent catharsis. It’s like having a little devil on your shoulder constantly making the same unhelpful suggestion.
 

“I don’t know how I’m going to deal with this test Friday, I can’t cope.”

“Have you considered… VIOLENCE?”

“Shut up, shoulder devil, nobody asked you. Hmmm, what do I want for lunch…”

“Have you considered… VIOLENCE?”

“Shoulder devil that is NOT EVEN A FOOD.”

And so on. We spend years learning that our immediate emotional responses to things are absolutely not to be trusted. The first response to an emotional impulse must be to ignore it and repress it, just for safety. The men who didn’t learn that reflex? They’re the ones with criminal records for assault.
 
Once we mature out of adolescence, the hormones calm down and we’re fine, but by that point the cultural conditioning has been drilled in beyond repair, a million repetitions of “man up” and “crying is for girls” and on and on and on. What was a safety precaution in high school becomes a socially mandated norm.
 

 

The message to stuff emotions starts long before the teen years in early childhood with dire consequences long term. In Wave Riders we talk about how we can help boys understand and appreciate the full spectrum of their own masculinity and unique style.

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2014 in Present Moment Parenting

 

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Feedback on Wave Riders: Nurturing Boys for Emotional Health

Joshua KoeppThe 5 week online offering of Wave Riders: Nurturing Boys for Emotional Health just concluded and I thought I’d share one of the final reflections I received.  If you’re interested, the course will be offered again in November. Here’s the Eager to Learn Link.

Reflecting on this course it is wonderful the amount of information that was covered in such a sort time period. I feel I have gained a greater understanding of what makes boys, boys. I am more comfortable talking to boys about their emotions and helping them process their emotions. Lastly I have a more concrete understanding of emotion intelligence.

During this course I learned about the difference in brain development between girls and boys. This has been very useful and was very meaningful to me. Having the knowledge that boys brains develop differently helps to have an understanding on why they behave the way they do sometimes.

The verbiage I learned from this class has been very beneficial to the boys and has helped give them the words to describe their emotions. The boys in my care seem to understand their own emotions more and are improving on being able to label their emotions. I also feel more comfortable with my overall knowledge on emotional intelligence, what tools to use in supporting boys’ emotional health and regulating emotions. I can see that my comfort with discussing emotions is passing on to the boys in my care. They are becoming more comfortable with handling their own discussions.

Reflecting on the class and the learner goals I set for myself, I believe we covered all of them with this class! I can now identify how boys are “programmed” and what causes them to behave the way they do. I learned tools/tips to use when managing boys and their behavior. I know how to support boys to process their emotions and to support them with their emotional health.

I really enjoyed this class. It was helpful to have a variety of people in class to network with. Hearing other providers and teachers experiences is nice to know I’m not alone. I felt the structure of the class was smooth and the content/material was very useful. I am thankful I participated in this class.

 
 

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Testosterone Tip #2: Let him fight monster.

Let him fight a “monster.” One provider I know really turned up the gas on this to help solve some problems she was having with fights in the block area. There were some cool castle blocks that all the boys wanted. Even before the little guys were in the block area they were sparring about who should get them.

She made it into a story and said to her little guys, “We have a monster in block area. This monster makes boys get into fights and hurt their friends. Here’s a picture of the monster (she printed off a silly cartoon monster from the internet).”

She said that she needed the boys to fight the monster and that only little boys had the power to make him go away. She said that the monster would go away of little boys would hiss at it. She taught them to take really long, deep breaths and let it out slowly with a “sssssssssssss.” Every time you feel like fighting over the blocks, you need to make the “ssssssssssssss” and the monster will go away. “Every time we scare the monster away and get along with our friends, I’ll put a monster on the chart. Lets see how many monsters we can scare away this week!”

Of course, the snake breath is one of the most basic coping techniques for dealing with emotions, but the boys don’t need to know that for it to work. They’re probably still hissing!

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2014 in Present Moment Parenting

 

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Turning Testosterone Around in Childcare

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I talked recently in one of my workshops about some of the ways testosterone affects boys on a physical and emotional level. In this post I will give a short-list of some of those, and over the next several days offer suggestions for ways childcare providers can turn the power of “T” to their advantage. If you don’t work in childcare, adapt the ideas or get in touch with me about your individual situation.

In boys testosterone is associated with:

  • A tendency toward risks
  • Aggressiveness
  • A tendency to compete/boast–fight/argue
  • Linear problem solving (there’s only ONE way rather then choosing from multiple solutions)
  • Immediate release (no delayed response)

Those things can all cause problems, but testosterone can also inspires boys to:

  • Rescue
  • Protect and serve
  • Defend
  • Be Loyal
  • Assert
  • Stand Up For Others
  • Plan
  • Get Stuff Done
  • Take Action/initiative
  • Fight for a Cause
  • Make a Difference
  • Go on a Mission.
  • It can relate to executive function, the ability to break something down, figure out the steps, and make it happen.

All of these are good things if we can steer them in the right direction. Here’s one practical idea.

Idea #1: Give him a mission. You can do this in simple ways or complex ways. Just telling a boy that you have a special mission for him can be a great way to get some help with a little job. It also gives him a sense of purpose and accomplishment. He will be proud that he has helped you. But you can make it much more fun than that.

I talked to a provider who had a problem with a wet area on her playground. The boys were ALWAYS magically drawn to the water and mud and she was sending them home with muddy clothes daily during the springtime. It’s great to let boys play in the mud sometimes, but it’s okay to know when to say when.

I recommended that she have a talk with the boys and tell them she needed their help. Tell them that she had a special mission for them. It was their mission to keep all the kids safe from “quicksand mud hole.” She asked them for some ideas and if they could help her teach the other children how to stay clear of the water.

They really got into it. They made yellow triangle caution signs, put up cones and ropes, talked to all the kids about the “danger,” and in general became the mud hole lifeguards.  Naturally, they had to set an example for the others as well. In the end, the number of plastic grocery bags being sent home full of muddy, wet clothes was greatly reduced, and the little guys got to have a meaningful role they could be proud of.

 

 

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2014 in Present Moment Parenting

 

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The Mask You Live In

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2014 in Present Moment Parenting

 

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The Difference Between Men and Women

For my Wave Riders course participants, this story is a pretty funny illustration of this week’s course material from Dave Barry.

Let’s say a guy named Fred is attracted to a woman named Martha. He asks her out to a movie; she accepts; they have a pretty good time. A few nights later he asks her out to dinner, and again they enjoy themselves. They continue to see each other regularly, and after a while neither one of them is seeing anybody else.

And then, one evening when they’re driving home, a thought occurs to Martha, and, without really thinking, she says it aloud: “Do you realize that, as of tonight, we’ve been seeing each other for exactly six months?”

And then, there is silence in the car.

To Martha, it seems like a very loud silence. She thinks to herself: I wonder if it bothers him that I said that. Maybe he’s been feeling confined by our relationship; maybe he thinks I’m trying to push him into some kind of obligation that he doesn’t want, or isn’t sure of.

And Fred is thinking: Gosh. Six months.

And Martha is thinking: But, hey, I’m not so sure I want this kind of relationship either. Sometimes I wish I had a little more space, so I’d have time to think about whether I really want us to keep going the way we are, moving steadily towards, I mean, where are we going? Are we just going to keep seeing each other at this level of intimacy? Are we heading toward marriage? Toward children? Toward a lifetime together? Am I ready for that level of commitment? Do I really even know this person?

And Fred is thinking: …so that means it was…let’s see…February when we started going out, which was right after I had the car at the dealer’s, which means…lemme check the odometer…Whoa! I am way overdue for an oil change here.

And Martha is thinking: He’s upset. I can see it on his face. Maybe I’m reading this completely wrong. Maybe he wants more from our relationship, more intimacy, more commitment; maybe he has sensed – even before I sensed it – that I was feeling some reservations. Yes, I bet that’s it. That’s why he’s so reluctant to say anything about his own feelings. He’s afraid of being rejected.

And Fred is thinking: And I’m gonna have them look at the transmission again. I don’t care what those morons say, it’s still not shifting right. And they better not try to blame it on the cold weather this time. What cold weather? It’s 87 degrees out, and this thing is shifting like a garbage truck, and I paid those incompetent thieves $600.

And Martha is thinking: He’s angry. And I don’t blame him. I’d be angry, too. I feel so guilty, putting him through this, but I can’t help the way I feel. I’m just not sure.

And Fred is thinking: They’ll probably say it’s only a 90-day warranty…scumballs.

And Martha is thinking: Maybe I’m just too idealistic, waiting for a knight to come riding up on his white horse, when I’m sitting right next to a perfectly good person, a person I enjoy being with, a person I truly do care about, a person who seems to truly care about me. A person who is in pain because of my self-centered, schoolgirl romantic fantasy.

And Fred is thinking: Warranty? They want a warranty? I’ll give them a warranty. I’ll take their warranty and stick it right up their…

“Fred,” Martha says aloud.

“What?” says Fred, startled.

“Please don’t torture yourself like this,” she says, her eyes beginning to brim with tears. “Maybe I should never have…oh dear, I feel so…”(She breaks down, sobbing.)

“What?” says Fred.

“I’m such a fool,” Martha sobs. “I mean, I know there’s no knight. I really know that. It’s silly. There’s no knight, and there’s no horse.”

“There’s no horse?” says Fred.

“You think I’m a fool, don’t you?” Martha says.

“No!” says Fred, glad to finally know the correct answer.

“It’s just that…it’s that I…I need some time,” Martha says.

(There is a 15-second pause while Fred, thinking as fast as he can, tries to come up with a safe response. Finally he comes up with one that he thinks might work.)

“Yes,” he says. (Martha, deeply moved, touches his hand.)

“Oh, Fred, do you really feel that way?” she says.

“What way?” says Fred.

“That way about time,” says Martha.

“Oh,” says Fred. “Yes.” (Martha turns to face him and gazes deeply into his eyes, causing him to become very nervous about what she might say next, especially if it involves a horse. At last she speaks.)

“Thank you, Fred,” she says.

“Thank you,” says Fred.

Then he takes her home, and she lies on her bed, a conflicted, tortured soul, and weeps until dawn, whereas when Fred gets back to his place, he opens a bag of Doritos, turns on the TV, and immediately becomes deeply involved in a rerun of a college basketball game between two South Dakota junior colleges that he has never heard of. A tiny voice in the far recesses of his mind tells him that something major was going on back there in the car, but he is pretty sure there is no way he would ever understand what, and so he figures it’s better if he doesn’t think about it.

The next day Martha will call her closest friend, or perhaps two of them, and they will talk about this situation for six straight hours. In painstaking detail, they will analyze everything she said and everything he said, going over it time and time again, exploring every word, expression, and gesture for nuances of meaning, considering every possible ramification.

They will continue to discuss this subject, off and on, for weeks, maybe months, never reaching any definite conclusions, but never getting bored with it either.

Meanwhile, Fred, while playing racquetball one day with a mutual friend of his and Martha’s, will pause just before serving, frown, and say: “Norm, did Martha ever own a horse?”

And that’s the difference between men and women.

http://www.davebarry.com/book-page.php?isbn13=9780449910269

See more awesome stuff by Dave Barry in his ‘Complete Guide to Guys’

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2014 in Present Moment Parenting

 

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Teach Boys Emotional Regulation with the 5 Point Scale

5-Point-Scale-Dunn-Curtis-2003During my Wave Riders workshop tonight I mentioned that I would post information and links to the websites about the Incredible 5 Point Scale. This is a great tool to help boys learn to assess and regulate their emotions.

I will plan to do a more in depth post with some ideas  you can use, but for now, here are links to the original website as well as a few samples from Google searches that I’ve found helpful.

The Incredible 5 Point Scale

Some Excellent Printable Resources from Indiana University

David’s Scared/Afraid/Trembling Scale

Superman Self Control ScaleSuper Behaviors Deserve Super Visuals

Super Behaviors Deserve Super Visuals

Google Search Results

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2014 in Present Moment Parenting

 

Dad teaches son emotional intelligence

I love the way this dad teaches his young son emotional intelligence in this video. The boy is crying about a sad song. Dad stays connected to his son, but doesn’t force him cheer up. He asks him what he wants, and the boy doesn’t want to change the song. He lets him fully experience his emotional response and shows him that it’s okay for boys and men to be sad without having to stuff, mask, or dull the feeling. No shame.

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2014 in Present Moment Parenting

 

For dads of boys when…

SibblingBullies1For Fathers Day, here’s my advice to dads about the three situations that regularly bring out the worst behavior from dads of boys at child-care programs. Providers ask me about these at nearly every boys workshop I present.

For dads of boys when… (from a dad of two boys)

your son wears “fancy” or “girly” dress-up clothes at daycare. Don’t worry. It’s normal. It can’t “make him” gay any more than dressing up for Halloween makes him a ghost. Dress-up play is one way boys grow their brains and make sense of their world. It helps them experience and understand what other people think and feel. In fact, boys are more likely to be confused if they DON’T get to play dress-up.

Resist the urge to disapprove or tell him “boys don’t dress like that.” In his little mind all that would do is make him feel like Dad is upset and there’s something wrong with him for playing and having fun. It can also send the message that women are inferior and anyone who does certain jobs or roles doesn’t deserve as much respect. Ironically, when we teach children not to fully respect others, they end up thinking they don’t deserve respect themselves.

…you’re temped to tell him it’s okay to “hit back” to stand up for himself. Give him more credit. Soldiers and martial arts experts know it takes more strength and skill to solve conflicts without force. “The strong survive” only works for wild animals. Human evolution actually favors the males who learn to make friends, get along and solve problems. Even bullies respect the kid who knows how to make friends. Living by the sword only ends well in movies. In real life, there are better ways to feel capable, safe, strong, and win a fight.

If your son gets physically assaulted by another child, he doesn’t need you to give him boxing lessons. Rather, he needs you to let him know there’s no shame and you still respect him. Teach him that you both have skills to handle what comes without regressing cave-man status. True strength and authentic manhood can start young, and Dad is the one who gets to model it. Giving-in to violence is a cop-out that makes more problems than it solves.

I know first hand how emotionally charged and difficult these situations can be when you’re in the middle of them. Send me an e-mail if you’re seeing red and want a set of fresh eyes.

…you want to tell him to stop crying and take it like a man. Be careful. Crying is the body’s normal, automatic expression of emotional processing and release. (It can also be a way children try to manipulate and control adults, but that’s a different story.) In the first case, telling him to “man-up” and stop the crying makes emotions even more confusing and sends the message that men and boys should be ashamed of something that’s normal. Living in an emotional straight jacket causes all sorts of problems, but to understand and manage our emotional landscape has huge benefits.

My son and I have discovered a counter-intuitive formula that is healthy and actually seems to help tears end sooner. I call it C.A.P. Connect. Acknowledge. Protect.

Connect: For boys, this is most often done non-verbally through physical proximity. To just stand or sit near him is often enough. Sometimes an arm around the shoulder or hug for the little guys helps. Don’t get too close if he’s not ready.

Acknowledge: A short phrase. Usually something like: “You seem sad, angry, upset (fill in the blank).” “That was pretty tough.” “Do you feel? I can understand if you do.” The key is to recognize that he has emotion and give it a name if possible.

Protect: Let him know he is safe with you (from ridicule, judgement, shame) and protect him from embarrassment. When necessary or possible, find some privacy for him.

In many cases, this whole process only takes us a manner of seconds, but you don’t want to rush it. The counter-intuitive part is that it usually helps him stop crying in a few seconds. That’s not the goal, but it usually works that way. Which makes sense, when you think about it, because it helps to process the emotion. Once the emotion is processed, crying is unnecessary.

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2014 in Present Moment Parenting

 

Can boys love their friends?

You Me

This is a picture one of my son’s first grade friends, another boy, made for him. I couldn’t help but smile at the honest, fearless expression of friendship captured in the drawing.

There are some unspoken guidelines for showing affection that boys and men begin to follow at a young age. My first grader already resists hugging, sometimes even touching, his younger brother. Of course, some of this is the normal dynamic between brothers. Some of it is the “boy code.” Some of it is just his natural style. While it’s okay for boys to have different comfort levels with and ways of expressing affection, I believe it’s important for ALL boys to show and experience brotherly love.

Love? Yes. In Greek they call it phileo: brotherly love, the kind that friends, teammates, soldiers, and sometimes even coworkers develop for one another. It’s the kind of love that gets lost in a culture that’s irrationally preoccupied with image, achievement, and homophobia.

The truth is, boys are lost without phileo. It’s one of the ways they find their place in the world. I honestly think they NEED it for healthy development. If we were really honest with ourselves, most men would acknowledge that we suffer from the lack of it as well. We need to stick up for our buddies. Defend them. Support them. Care for them. Feel sadness for them and compassion. We need to know that our comrades feel the same for us.

Phileo is like a magic coin. When you give it away, you find two more in your pocket. I’m thankful that my son’s friend got to enjoy the happy feeling that comes when someone receives and appreciates your expression of brotherly affection. At their age, it’s still okay to do. But even for first graders, fear starts to creep in.

For boys, fear begins to whisper questions like:

  • What if they laugh?
  • What if they say, “Eeeww, they’re holding hands.”
  • What did (insert well meaning adult) mean when they said I shouldn’t give pictures like that to other boys?
  • Am I weird because I feel affection for a friend?
  • Is there something wrong with me?

For dads the questions can be the similar:

  • What if someone teases him?
  • What if others see his drawing?
  • Am I doing my job if I DON’T tell him not to give cards and hugs to other boys?
  • Will I raise him to be gay if I let him do that?

All of these questions come from fear, and living in fear is a crummy way to parent and an even worse way to grow up. It’s important that we lay a foundation of healthy love for our sons and help them feel safe to show their feelings to us and their friends in smart ways.

Here are a few ideas:

  1. Tell your son you love him at home. Yes, it can feel awkward. That awkward feeling is fear, and men face their fears. If a side hug and “I love you” aren’t part of your interactions, figure out a way to work it in. Use humor if that makes it easier. Try something like, “What would you say if I told you I loved you?” The more you do it, the easier it gets.
  2. Make a code word. This is especially helpful for downloading love to your son if he needs it when you’re out in public.  For me and my son, the code phrase we agreed on goes like this. I say: “Do you want some coffee?” He knows that means “I love you.” Then he says: ”No, I hate coffee.” I know that means, “I love you too.” Now that it has become a mutually recognized code, he will sometimes initiate and say, “Dad do you want some coffee?” I’ll respond with, “Yes, I love coffee.” I suppose it’s an odd little ritual, but it works for us.
  3. Encourage your son to appreciate his friends. Talk about practical ways to do this, such as:
  1. Do something nice for a friend for no reason (aka pay it forward)
  2. Notice when a friend could use help…and then help.
  3. If someone helps him, encourage your son to tell the person about the difference they made.
  4. Stick up for or defend a friend.
  5. Be loyal, even if others aren’t.
  6. When others reject or mistreat his overtures of friendship (which some will), let him tell you how it feels. Acknowledge the feeling without trying to fix it (“Ouch, that hurts”). Encourage him to keep being a good friend. When boys take the high road, it’s not uncommon for good friendships to grow out of these situations in the long run.

What ideas do you have?

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2013 in Contemplative Parenting

 

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Star Wars Snowflakes

DSC_0009Had a great time with Braden this afternoon making snowflakes for the window while we watched football. For the cool “Star Wars” snowflake designs, check out Anthony Herrera Designs.

 
 

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Happy Thanksgiving!

This little guy may reflect the feelings of many on Thanksgiving.

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2013 in Contemplative Parenting

 

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Way to go, boys. Welcome to one of the best feelings in the world.

One of the greatest feelings in the world is taking a standing for a friend. “Either men will learn to live like brothers or they will die like beasts.” –Max Lerner

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2013 in Contemplative Parenting

 

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Tips for Boys: The Art of Getting Out

little league fanWhen I played as a kid, getting out was assumed, at least for me. When I started working with children, cooperative games became the focus. I understand the benefits of noncompetitive cooperative games (heck, I teach workshops about them), and last night, I was also reminded of the incredible benefits of getting out.

My seven-year-old son Braden had a Cub Scouts Pack meeting last night. There were about 35 boys present, ages 6-10. The activity for the evening was basketball. We started with 4 stations; at one station the boys played H-O-R-S-E.

I won’t go into detail about how to play HORSE. If you aren’t familiar, look it up. The main point for this post is that in the game of HORSE, you get out after missing 5 shots (one for each letter in the word HORSE). Like his dad, Braden isn’t basketball star. Even though there are public hoops that we can see from our house, we’ve never gone over to practice our jump shots. Given my lack of fatherly encouragement and coaching, I wasn’t surprised when most of the B-mans shots sailed under, over, beside and past the hoop without touching it.

The other Tiger Cubs weren’t much better, so he didn’t show too much disappointment in his performance until he got out. Now, there are many different ways I could have handled this. I’ve seen many different techniques used to “soften the blow” of getting out in a game. Here are some of the most common.

  1. Don’t keep track. In this one, you play HORSE, but don’t keep track of the letters. Nobody gets out.
  2. Keep track, but let the players continue to shoot after they get out. Their shots don’t count, but they aren’t “left out.”
  3. Pick a different word. Instead of HORSE, go through the entire alphabet. Then people usually get tired of playing before anyone gets out.

Since it was my own son I was dealing with, I didn’t choose any of those. After he missed his 5th shot, I told him he was out. He looked at me with a nervous question mark on his face as if to say: What does that mean? I said, “You missed 5 shots, so you’re out of the game.“

I knew this would be hard for him to deal with. It was his first Pack Meeting. He was playing with boys that he barely knew. He hadn’t made any shots, and now he was the first one out. He was embarrassed, and Dad wasn’t helping. Tears came to his eyes. His lips quivered, and he made them tight and sucked them in to keep his emotion from showing. He didn’t want to cry in front of the other boys, so he scooted up to me and stood stiff as a board with his face tucked between my arm and my body.

I let him stand there for a few seconds and squeezed his shoulder. Then I said, “I know it’s disappointing. I used to get out every time when I played horse.” After another few seconds I let him in on they key to getting out gracefully. I leaned down so I could see his face and said, “One of the best things you can do right now is to give one of the other guys a compliment. It will make you feel better. When you’re ready, go over there and do it.” It took him about two seconds to blink away the tears and turn back to the group. As he called out, “Nice shot, Ben!” he ran back over with a smile enjoyed the rest of the activity.

For boys, the art of getting out is learning that there’s no shame in it. It’s not a rejection; it’s part of the game.

Tips for helping boys get out with style:

  • Give compliments. When you compliment the play of others, you’re always in the game.
  • Welcome others. More players will get out. Welcome them with a high five (or whatever is cool now) and say something like, “Nice try” or “Close one.”
  • Make a plan. Think about what you will try different next time. Watch how the other players are keeping themselves in the game.
  • Try again. Learning from mistakes and failures is fun, challenging, and the key to success.
 
 

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Wave Riders: Here’s the post about crying.

Here’s the post about crying that I mentioned Wednesday night during the workshop. http://mommasaid.net/2013/11/19/when-the-cry/

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2013 in Present Moment Parenting

 

Dads, mentors, caregivers of boys: Watch this.

Warning: This is kind of heartbreaking, but important to see. It shows 30 seconds of one of those “boot camp my kid” shows. I’m opposed to such shows and think they exploit children for entertainment and financial gain. However, this kid’s answer to the drill sargeant’s question is profoundly revealing and brings the drill sargeant to tears. Dads, mentors, caregivers of boys, don’t let the message slip by you. (You’ll need to turn the volume up)

 
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Posted by on November 17, 2013 in Present Moment Parenting

 

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Wave Riders: Boys football team scores with emotional intelligence

 
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Posted by on November 15, 2013 in Present Moment Parenting

 

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Karate kids don’t want ninja parents

First BoardMy son started karate when he was 5 years old. His school, National Karate Arden Hills, has a viewing gallery for parents. The instructors at the school have developed a curriculum they call “Little Masters” that is fun, challenging, and gets the youngest students started with a strong foundation. I guess it worked, because when he was six, only five months into his program, he broke board a board in front of a crowd of people. I think he was almost as shocked as I was.

During the first year, I watched almost every lesson.  While watching the lessons, I was able to think about what kind of “karate parent” I wanted to be. I had the opportunity to watch other parents and reflect on their style as well. Sometimes I realized that I was putting on too much pressure and getting too involved. Other times I saw opportunities to intentionally inject some strategic parenting to juice up his performance and take advantage of the growth opportunities karate provides.

This post is the first of three about being a black belt karate parent. In this one, I talk about why you shouldn’t be a ninja parent (aka helicopter parent).

In the next, I’ll share some successfully tested ideas for getting the most out of karate when it comes to social/emotional development and transferring that to home and school.

The last one will wrap up with strategies to harness karate’s potential to help with ADD/HD

Ninja parents are the karate version of helicopter parents. They’re always watching and jump out of hiding to rescue their kid and fight his battles. While I don’t really consider myself a ninja parent, I realized I was starting to act like one when I caught myself making comments from the parent gallery. In hindsight, there are only a couple that I would repeat. These comments are usually a bad idea. Why?

  1. They embarrass and disrespect your kid.
  2. They steal their opportunity to learn (yes, even if you’re just trying help).
  3. They undermine the role of the instructor.

Think back to when you were a kid and your parent stuck his or her nose into you and your friends business. How embarrassing, right? Even if you have a very young child in karate, it’s important to remember that this is a time when he wants to see himself as strong. He may be nervous under the surface or even outwardly, but this is his chance to put his game face on. There’s no better way for me to screw that up than to chime in with advice about how to correct his form or execute his move.

Even “encouragement” isn’t really all that helpful. If he does something good, he already knows it. I need to let him enjoy his moment of accomplishment and soak in the satisfaction that comes with it. If I bust out with all sorts of praise and affirmation (even non-verbal), I run the risk of making my kid’s success dependent on my approval. He can start to always look to me for a thumbs up or thumbs down about everything he does. I’ve learned to save my affirmation for after the lesson and let him relive the moment again in the car on the way home.

I learned this lesson the hard way with my son. I had the bad habit of shooting him a frown during the lesson if he was being lazy or sloppy. I’d also give him a nod if he did something good. He started looking over at me after every move to see what I was thinking. This caused the most problems when he was sparring, because in the moment that it took for him to look over and “check in” with me, his partner usually threw a kick or punch and scored a point. Besides that, he wasn’t rating his own performance and self correcting. He was constantly looking to me.

But what if my young karate kid gets frustrated and starts to cry? What if the instructor is being too hard on him? What if he loses it and gets angry? I observed this a few times with students. For the record, in case someone from the school is reading this, I was impressed with the way the parents responded.

When these situation come up, it’s important to keep in mind that the student/instructor role is a subtle dance, especially in karate. Karate instructors are like coaches, teachers, role models, and trainers all wrapped into one. When they’re working with little kids, they walk the line between pushing and praising. Let your child and his instructor develop their own relationship. It will be something they value. Sometimes instructors might tough on them (just like you). Sometimes they won’t push hard enough. That’s okay. Karate instructors are long-term. Kids often stay with the same teachers for many years. They grow up with them. This kind of long term relationship has GREAT benefits and goes through different seasons at different times. Unsolicited “help” from the parent gallery sends the message to your child that you lack confidence in his or her ability to understand the relationship and grow with it. It sabotages the subtle dance between student and instructor.

I don’t watch every lesson anymore. I stop to observe now and then, so I can be connected and help my son celebrate his achievements.  Children learn best when they work out their challenges and solutions themselves. Especially in a karate lessons, they are combining cognitive and physical learning that integrates fine motor, large motor, right brain, left brain activities. It takes time. It can be frustrating; I know because I tried to learn one of my son’s forms. But it’s also very rewarding.

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2013 in Present Moment Parenting

 

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Boys Boys Boys

SibblingBullies1 I’m the featured speaker on the Dakota County Technical College Early Childhood and Youth Development blog this month. Follow the link above to hear me talk about boys and emotional development tips.

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2013 in Present Moment Parenting

 

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Rescue

I love the way this illustrates the desire to rescue children from the small box and share with them the life, energy, spirit, and flow that their hearts, minds and bodies long to find in nature and play. To see more amazing work by Ransom and Mitchell, check out their website.

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2013 in Present Moment Parenting

 

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Play these games with the kids

ultimate_camp_resourceI came across this brilliant website when I was looking for some fresh activities for my Power of Play workshop. The section on games is especially EXTENSIVE.  It’s the kinds of activities that we should be doing with kids and even trying out and modifying with other adults, at work, with our families. This kind of play helps us experience community and remember what it’s like to have fun and feel joyful.

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2013 in Present Moment Parenting

 

What Should a 4 Year Old Know?

Joshua Koepp:

Great stuff to remember at the beginning of the school year.

Originally posted on A Magical Childhood:

What should a 4 year old know?

It’s back to school time and children all over are starting preschool.  Many parents are frantically searching the internet to find out if their little ones are “on track” and know everything they should.

I wrote this article about what a four-year-old should know many years ago but it continues to be the most popular page on the Magical Childhood site.  I don’t think a week has passed in the past eight or so years when I have not received a letter from a parent, grandparent or teacher about it.  Parents and principals especially have said they wish more parents realized these things.

So in honor of the new school year, I’m posting it here…

What should a 4 year old know?

I was on a parenting bulletin board recently and read a post by a mother who was worried that her 4 1/2 year old did not know enough…

View original 1,194 more words

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2013 in Present Moment Parenting

 

Project Wild Thing cinema release in 3 months

Joshua Koepp:

This looks like a really neat project.

Originally posted on Outdoor Nation:

Only three months to go…

The countdown has begun. We’ve got just under three months to go until the release of our new documentary PROJECT WILD THING.

In conjunction with the film we are be launching THE WILD NETWORK – a new movement made up of people dedicated to reconnecting kids with nature.

Project Wild Thing film poster

Project Wild Thing film poster.

Spending time in nature makes children happier. The shift to indoor living has been linked to a serious decline in wellbeing.  Earlier this week, the Children’s Society’s Good Childhood report threw a black cloud over our lovely summer. 1 in 10 children under 17 in the UK experience low levels of wellbeing.

But the report contained a wonderful glimmer of light through the cloud.

Children who are more aware of their surroundings and their local environment are significantly happier.

More evidence (if you needed it) that increasing child happiness through time…

View original 508 more words

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2013 in Present Moment Parenting

 

Comments on “You Just Broke Your Kid”

14511567_sI just read a blog post from Dan Pearce on his blog Single Dad Laughing. The name of post was “You Just Broke Your Child. Congratulations.”  It tells the story of an angry dad he saw at Costco who was emotionally and physically abusing his son while waiting in line. He goes on to give a pretty impassioned exhortation to all of us dads to be present with our kids, understand our impact, and learn to control our emotional lives.

I know there are many of us who have done and said things to our kids that we deeply regret. I know there are many dads out there who would like to do better and be better. If you’re interested in judgment free coaching to improve your skills, get in touch with me.

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2013 in Present Moment Parenting

 

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iDad

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Play at Home Today: Arrow Paper Airplane

Joshua Feb 27 2013I’m writing this post with my son, Braden. We decided to share this idea together, since it is a project that we enjoyed doing together. In addition, it was one of our best flyers. Let me explain.

Braden gave me a calendar for Christmas (he wanted to make sure I mentioned that). It was the Paper Airplane Fold-A-Day Calendar by David Mitchell and Kyong Lee. Today we did the January 12 & 13 page. Arrow, as the design is called, was our fastest plane and best flyer yet.

This calendar is brilliant. It only costs about $15.00 and is a ready go-to activity for playing at home. The image above shows how it looks. You follow the directions on the current day’s page to fold the previous day’s page. Each page is printed with fun colors and neat designs that make the final airplane look really cool.

The image and the link above go to the publisher’s website, but it is also available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Incidentally, the publisher, Accord Publishing out of Denver, CO, looks like the have lots of really neat titles for children.

Here’s what Braden had to say:

Me: What do you like about the calendar?

BK: That you get to make paper airplanes.

Me: Anything else?

BK: That we get to do it together.

Me: Me: Anything else?

BK: It was a Christmas present from me.

Me: If you were going to tell somebody else why they should get one for their dad, what would you say?

BK: Because it’s a nice and quiet thing to do. It’s relaxing. It’s good to do when someone is napping like your little brother so you don’t wake ‘em up.

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2013 in Present Moment Parenting

 

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Responding to “I HATE YOU!”

9947161_sFew phrases are more difficult for me to hear as a parent than “I hate you.” Whether one of my boys directs it at me, his brother, or even a toy, hearing “I HATE YOU” always triggers a response.

It’s important to be able to stay in the “parent place” when it happens. Here are some tips and insights that help me.

First, (as always) be self-aware. I use Daniel Siegel’s C.O.AL. acronym for this.

  • Curiosity: What feelings am I having? Why did he say that? Did I ever say that as a kid?
  • Openness: Can I respond with humor, insight, compassion, silence etc.?
  • Acceptance: His emotions are valid. My emotions are valid. I can’t change the past. The future will be fine. Stay in the present moment.
  • Love: Connect with my heart. Follow its lead.

What it feels like “I HATE YOU” means:

  • He hates me.
  • He doesn’t appreciate everything I do for him.
  • He can’t handle his emotions.
  • He’s going to grow up to be a violent kid.
  • Him and his brother will never get along.
  • If he says that here, he’ll probably say it in public.
  • He’s depressed.
  • I’m depressed.
  • The list goes on.

It’s important to note that many of my automatic emotional reactions above are fueled by fear, anger, or sadness.

What “I hate you” REALLY means:

  • I don’t like the boundary you set on my behavior (even though that’s what I thought you’d say).
  • I’m sad (mad, afraid etc.) and don’t have the words to say it another way.
  • I need to save face, so instead of crying I’ll be angry.
  • Will you always love me, even if I say this?
  • Since you can read my mind, I know you’ll understand what I really mean.
  • I feel powerless, and saying “I hate you” gives me the power fix I need right now.
  • I want attention, and this usually gets some.
  • I’m having a testosterone surge and it’s making me crazy.
  • My brain can’t process emotional data fast enough, and I need to say something  NOW.

Responding during the situation:

  • Keep your cool. By keeping my response calm, I stay in the parent role and model for my boys the best way to handle strong emotion and maintain their dignity.
  • Remove energy from “hating.” By responding with as little energy as possible (not yelling, jumping up, making faces etc.) I send a message to my son’s brain that there is no reward for that kind of behavior here. For more info on the energy match, check out Nurtured Heart Approach and Present Moment Parenting.
  • Validate his emotions: “It sounds like your frustrated.” “Is it a tough day?” “I know this is disappointing.” By acknowledging his feelings, I show my son that it’s okay to have emotions and that I have respect for what he’s feeling and processing.
  • Use non-verbals. Observe his body language and subtly mirror it by being calmly present with a similar (appropriate) posture, position, or action. If he needs space, move away, but don’t disconnect.  Give a pat on the back, or just sit. These nonverbal often communicate better than words that I care, I understand, and I’m here for you.
  • Use humor.  No demeaning sarcasm, but don’t miss the chance to lighten the mood if you can. “You hate me? Well I HATE MUSHY PEAS!”
  • Do something unexpected. This is one of my favorite Adlerian Child Guidance Principles. Have fun as you tailor it to your own style and relationship. For instance, I might start singing loudly “I am Henry the Eighth I am. Henry the Eighth I am I am. I got married to the widow…” If he says, “SHUT UP, I HATE THAT SONG,” then I might say “Well, at least you’re not hating me now.” Start throwing popcorn in the air and catching it in your mouth. Do the cinnamon challenge.
  • Delay teaching and lecturing until later. When emotions are high, the lizard brain is in charge. There’s not much higher-level thinking, learning, or emotional processing going on. Wait for calmer times to do your instruction.

Responding after the situation:

  • Especially for boys, set up teaching moments in the right container. Doing some kind of physical activity, eating, or driving often works well. Barry MacDonald has great resources on Action Talk.
  • Teach feelings language. For boys in particular, avoiding phrases like “I hate you,” requires that they be given the right words to use. Help them think about what their feelings really were and what shades of emotion best describe it.
  • Make a plan. Think together of a couple different ways he could respond to the things that stress him into hating. Give him some of the basic strategies like deep breaths (for younger kids I use snake breaths), positive self-talk, or taking a break. If I don’t use these techniques often enough myself, I start modeling them.
  • Practice other responses. Actually play out a situation or two and have him practice the new response. It’s amazing how powerful and effective this is. This can even be done with older youth, especially if points 5 and 6 from above are used.
  • Try using the Incredible Five-Point Scale. Talk about what it looks and feels like when emotions are at a 5. What it looks and feels like when they are at a 4, 3, 2, 1. Collect ideas about how to move down a step.  Then, during heightened moments say, “It feels like a 5 right now, and I’m going to bring myself down to a 3.”
  • Provide healthy opportunities for power. If “I hate you” gets an angry response, it’s a real power trip for him or her. Learning to get power in healthier ways reduces the need to automatically to hating.  (See the Adlerian Mistaken Goals Chart for specific ideas on this).
  • Provide healthy opportunities for attention. Similarly to the above point if the mistaken goal of saying “I hate you” is attention, consider healthier ways to meet the need for attention.
  • Give energy to success. Whenever I see my son managing emotions, I always recognize it and let him know he’s using his skills. In fact, even if I know he’s likely going to need to manage emotions, I try to set him up for success by reminding him of how much I appreciate it when he uses his skills. This is a proactive approach from the Nurtured Heart Approach and Present Moment Parenting. After all, why should negative behaviors have all the fun! Right?
 
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Posted by on March 8, 2013 in Present Moment Parenting

 

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Saturday Morning Sing Along

Here’s a video from this morning. Love it when the boys make up songs. Cullen is notorious for it. Not exactly sure where the idea came from, which is what makes it so fun.

 

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2013 in Present Moment Parenting

 
Link

Parenting Across the Ages from Core Parenting

The link above is to a great blog post about fundamentals of good parenting that hold true across the ages and stages. An excerpt is below.

Fundamentals that hold true across the ages and stages:

For our kids, these writers encourage us to:

  • Support their emotions
  • Respect their space/bodies
  • Trust their intentions /ideas/abilities
  • Let them climb, let them fall
  • Share their journey
  • Maintain expectations (boundaries) with love and support

And similarly, for ourselves, they encourage us to:

  • Be aware of our own emotions
  • Respect our own space/body
  • Trust our own intentions/ideas/abilities
  • Take some risks, understand that sometimes we will fall
  • Know that this is our journey, too
  • Accept and honor our own expectations
 
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Posted by on February 20, 2013 in Present Moment Parenting

 

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How Siblings Bond

Joshua Koepp:

MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS IDEA:

This is a really neat piece about sibling attachment. I like the idea that sibling attachment is an important part of secure attachment. Obviously, Dr. Neufeld has done far more research than me on the topic, but my gut reaction is that the “6 stages” might be a little arbitrary. One could probably figure out one more and make it seven or cut one out and still get the same idea across. I also think that, rather than this being a single, sequential development that starts young and goes through adulthood, sibling probably go through ALL the stages several times as they grow older and pass through different developmental stages. It might be more of a spiral that continues up be also doubles back on itself a few times. I bet that each time the sibs go through the cycle, the attachment experiences set them up for the next go round. Just a thought. I do think the information is very useful for helping us foster better interactions between siblings.

Originally posted on Parenting From Scratch:

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The importance of a secure parent-child attachment is not a new revelation; this is what sets the foundation for all future relationships a child will have in his life. But there is also something to be said for security between siblings. A connected relationship between brothers and sisters also provides a foundational context. It is an opportunity to develop the groundwork for peer relationships in a child’s life.

Dr. Gordon Neufeld, developmental psychologist and co-author of Hold On To Your Kids, has devoted his life’s work to studying attachment and to helping parents and children resolve relationship struggles. According to Dr. Neufeld, there are six stages of attachment: six levels of development that a relationship must go through before the participants have reached secure attachment. These stages start simply and build consecutively to deepen the level of attachment over time. To successfully navigate all six stages is to develop…

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Posted by on February 20, 2013 in Present Moment Parenting

 

Parenting Ideology Falls Short

Joshua KoeppI read a reflection from the Center for Action and Contemplation today and was again impressed with the connections to parenting.

I’m an idea guy. Good ideas are exciting to me even if they’re unrelated to my work or interests. I’m also passionate about parenting and child nurture, growth and development. I’ve observed that some people become very ideological about parenting approaches, almost like a religion.

What do I mean? People frequently attach themselves to a certain philosophy, technique, style or personality. Once we find our guru or ascribe to an approach, we evaluate everybody else through that lens.

At this point, we are still on the edge of being thoughtful and reflective parents, caregivers, practitioners. What we do next determines whether or not we go down the rabbit hole into ideological wonderland or stay on the path toward healthy child development.

A contemplative approach to parenting keeps the door open. It appreciates the value of every approach. It rigorously filters the flash of gold from the mud. It recognizes that what triggers aversion likely irritates the raw nerve of our own exposed shadow. That’s often where we will find our learning edge or, more importantly, a wound waiting to heal.

The reflection I read stated: “A great disappointment in our time is that organized religion itself has become more ideological than transformative.” The same can be said for parenting approaches.

We’re at our best as parents when we do our own work first. Helping our children overcome challenges and gain strong life skills follows naturally. It’s a journey toward mutual transformation. When this is true, no single philosophy, approach, or technique will be an exclusive, comprehensive or permanent fit.

 

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Power of Play

Joshua Koepp:

Play is one of my main topics, and this is a great series of photos and quotes (not to mention that it share the title of my best workshop).

Originally posted on Steve McCurry's Blog:

ETHIOPIA-10152

Ethiopia

It is a happy talent to know how to play.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

FIJI-10001

Fiji

Creative people are curious, flexible, persistent, and independent with a
tremendous spirit of adventure and a love of play.
- Henri Matisse

TIBET-11024

Tibet

The true object of all human life is play.
- G. K. Chesterton

CHINA-10140

China

 

AFGHN-10195

Afghanistan

 

INDIA-11305

India

 

CAMBODIA-10118

Cambodia

Men do not quit playing because they grow old;
they grow old because they quit playing.

– Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

TIBET-10799

Tibet

 

INDIA-10801

India

Play is the exultation of the possible.
- Martin Buber

INDIA-10749

India

A child loves his play, not because it’s easy,
but because it’s hard.
- Benjamin Spock

MAURITANIA-10015NF2

Mauritania

People tend to forget that play is serious.
- David Hockney

AFGHN-12441

Afghanistan

 

INDIA-10717

India

In play a child always behaves beyond his average age, above his daily behavior.
In play it is as though he were a head taller…

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Posted by on January 31, 2013 in Play At Home

 

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Today: Play at Home Scavenger Hunt (with update)

Toy Shelf

Toy Shelf

My Desk

My Desk

Window Sill

Window Sill

This morning was kind of stressful getting the boys ready and out the door. I feel sad about the less-than-happy energy that we had, so I want to prep something fun for us to do this evening. I have the idea of a scavenger hunt with clues that lead from one place to the next with a surprise at the end.

Since my oldest is in kindergarten and just learning to read, I will use pictures instead of words. I just walked around the house and snapped close-up photos of different locations in the house. I figure that five stops will be enough to make it fun, yet not too long. Also, since it will most certainly destroy the fun factor if my youngest is left in the dust by his older brother, I will prepare two different hunts.

I’ve got my ten photos printed on plain paper, and am about to tuck them in their locations. I’ll show them the first photo. Then they will find that place in the house. Once they get there, another photo will be waiting, and they will go to the next spot. When they get to the last spot, their prize will be waiting for them.

I haven’t decided what the prize will be yet.

Check back to find out how it goes. I’ll report later this evening…(time passes)…

SUCCESSFUL HUNT!! The boys had a blast. Fun to notice the difference between how a six-year-old and a three-year-old recognize places in the house from the photos. It was challenging for little brother. Next time, I’ll use some written clues for our kindergartener.CullenBraden

 
 

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BOY, 6, HEALS DAD WITH LIGHTSABER: EXPERTS STUNNED

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I watched Star Wars with my oldest son yesterday afternoon after days (maybe months) of requests to do so. Of course, he wanted to play “lightsabers” afterward. I’ve moved past the debate about whether or not this kind of media and follow up play teaches kids to be violent. The jury is in on that topic, and the verdict is: wake up. Children’s physical, social, and emotional development is much more complex than that.

During our follow up light-saber battle (which was postponed until dinner was eaten, dishes were done, and rooms were tidied) I tried to follow my son’s lead as much as possible. I wanted to see where he would go with it. We used Nerf™ brand foam swords, which I love, because they let the boys experience the painful natural consequence of hitting too hard without anyone getting really hurt. Truthfully, there are very few more effective ways to teach gentleness.

If one of us maneuvered past the other’s blocks and made contact with a body part, the “injured” player had to stop using that body part. To get the use of that body part back, we designated the basement step as the goal. We had lots of laughs watching each other hop, creep, slide, and inch our way over to the step.

Tiring of that, my son made a new innovation. After making contact and “cutting off” an arm, leg, butt, etc., the swordsman had to flip the sword over, grab the blade, and “heal” the other player by touching him with the handle of the sword. After being healed, both players resumed full “health” and participation.

How profoundly this one simple rule of play demonstrated the difference between violence and rough-and-tumble play. Violence is vicious, self-serving, and hurtful. Sport and rough-and-tumble play recognize the importance of caring and keeping all players in the game. The wisdom of many traditions teaches that our wholeness is often, sometimes only, found by being wounded. Even more so by healing and being healed.

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2013 in Present Moment Parenting

 

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Snow time should be play time

Joshua Koepp:

As Minnesotan’s, we know that this is the only way to survive winter. Mr. Collins does a great job of capturing the wonder of playing in the snow.

Originally posted on Outdoor Nation:

Mike Collins, Senior Press Officer at the National Trust, on why snowy days are a great opportunity to spend time outdoors.

©National Trust Images/John Millar

People enjoying snow at Box Hill, Surrey ©National Trust Images/John Millar

Whenever it snows I think back to my childhood. Hours spent in the freezing cold with my fingers tinkling as we built snowmen or had snowball fights. Those were the days when memories were made that would last a lifetime.

Waking up this morning my two kids were so excited and opened the curtains to whoops of joy. Around 10cm of snow fell overnight and it’s been snowing continuously, sometimes vertically, since first light.

When we ventured out in to the garden and beyond two things stood out. The sheer joy of the kids as they played in the snow and their cheeks gradually went red. And the total silence. The background noise of daily life changed as cars remained…

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Posted by on January 20, 2013 in Present Moment Parenting

 

Modern Parenting’s Contemplative Roots

250_New-Fiddlehouse-SigI was reading Richard Rohr’s Saturday meditation from the Center for Action and Contemplation today and was impressed by how well it complimented what we know to be the best of “current” parenting. Should I be surprised by this? I suppose not since over and over again I’ve found the parallel between the ancient and timeless contemplative wisdom and what we think of as the “new best practices.”

In his reflection “Moralism Instead of Mysticism” Fr. Richard points out that moralism tells us we need to change and “do things right” in order to be loved and accepted. Many of us were parented this way and heard this message in church, school etc. It’s easy for our own children to get this message from us (even if we don’t mean to send it) and the world in which we live, work, and learn.

The contemplative perspective is inspired by the mystics who tell us that “what empowers change, what makes you desirous of change, is the experience of love and acceptance itself. This is the engine of change.” Fr. Richard continues, “when you fall into God’s mercy, when you fall into God’s great generosity, you find, seemingly from nowhere, this capacity to change.”

It’s not much of a stretch to paraphrase the message above and hear the voice of what I’ve come to call contemplative parenting.  When we immerse our children in generous acceptance, love, and encouragement, they gain capacity to change, grow, thrive and overcome all of the challenges they face. To use the language of the Nurtured Heart Approach, we nurture their greatness. Present Moment Parenting would say we are downloading positives into their heart. The foundation of the parent coaching I offer, both of these approaches are INCREDIBLY effective with challenging behaviors, including ADHD.

Even parenting approaches that emphasize natural and logical consequences, boundaries, and an authoritative stance are most effective with a foundation of unconditional love, acceptance, and positive regard.

Get in touch if you’re interested in more information about personal or parent coaching.

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2013 in Present Moment Parenting

 

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Are Kids Responsible for Sexual Abuse Prevention?

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I’ve been taking an online Eager to Learn professional development workshop through the Minnesota Childcare Resource and Referral Network. The name of the course is Stop It Now! Understanding and Responding to Children’s Sexual Behaviors can Help Prevent Child Sexual Abuse. Stop It Now! is an organization that has developed an innovative approach and many resources to help adults stop child sexual abuse. One of the hallmarks of their program is shifting the responsibility of child sexual abuse prevention from children to adults.

It seems strange that it would be necessary to CHANGE the focus to adults when it comes to preventing sexual abuse. Isn’t that where it should have been all along? On the most basic level, is seems to almost go without saying that it is the job of adults to protect children. But when we think about what has been done in the past, we have been putting a lot of responsibility on kids:

  • Don’t talk to strangers. (Except police officers, doctors, your new coach, rarely seen relatives, anyone your parents seem to be embarrassed in front of when you don’t talk…etc.)
  • Say “no” if someone touches you inappropriately. (What does inappropriately mean?) In your private area. (Why would they want to do that?)
  • Tell an adult if someone does something that makes you feel uncomfortable. (You mean like when Grandpa passes gas?)

It’s the job of children to play, learn, be curious, pick up their toys, do their homework, help around the house. The job description for being a kid should NOT include the responsibility to figure out how to stay safe from confusing, unpredictable, strategic assaults from under-cover individuals who are disguised as people they love and trust. Can anyone think of a better recipe for child anxiety? It’s absurd almost to the point of daftness to tell kids that there are people out there who we don’t understand that want to do things to them that they have no context or developmental capacity to comprehend, and that it’s their job to know how to be safe.

Somebody will say to me, “Hang on there! Don’t we want to teach children how to be SAFE? We don’t want them to be getting in the car with strangers.” Of course we don’t. But it’s not strangers in black vans baiting children with candy who are the problem. Lets face it: If “those people” have a bead on your kid, they’ll probably succeed. Just ask Shawn Hornbeck, Ben Ownby, or the families of Jacob Wetterling and Johnny Gosch.

Over 90% of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by the respectful, helpful, caring friends, relatives, and neighbors that we come in contact with every day. As much as 30-40 percent of it is perpetrated by other children and youth. Our children’s playmates. Sorting all that out isn’t a job for kids. It’s a job for all of us.

One of the most innovative things about Stop It Now! is the focus on talking to adults about their own sexual feelings and behaviors. As difficult as it might be for us to accept, there are clearly many adults who are sexually attracted to children. Many of them never act on their feelings, and some do. If we truly want to prevent the sexual abuse of children, adults need to let go of naïve denial and start talking to each other about the complex nature of sexual attraction and how to be individually and socially responsible.

If adults don’t have the experience and tools to handle this issue, how can we expect children to have them? If adults find child sexual abuse emotionally uncomfortable and mentally challenging, how must children feel when we tell them to be safe? How confusing must it be for a teen who feels sexually aroused by children who are younger than him or her?

Adults who abuse children have years of experience figuring out how to hide their intentions and desires. The time they have spent living in society and thinking about their desires makes them a predator far overmatched to its prey.

Sniffing out suspicious behavior and intentions is the job of adults who have at least had enough experience to know when something is a little rotten. Taking advantage of Stop It Now! resources can help us to be even better at spotting problems early and responding in a way that helps ALL parties.

 
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Posted by on December 5, 2012 in Present Moment Parenting

 

Great Post from Parenting from Scratch

I found a great post from a blog called Parenting from Scratch. It hits all the keys that are important to me: brain science, an Adlerian perspective, and most importantly being intentional about parenting in the face of social/peer disapproval. I’ll let you read it from the author by following this link to It’s OK to Cry. One of the thing that I love the most about this perspective is that it doesn’t pamper children, but gives them credit for being able to solve their own problems and the room within which to do it.

Thanks for your great thoughts, Kelly Bartlett.

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2012 in Present Moment Parenting

 

Reggio Reflections from The Hundred Languages of Children

The child has

a hundred hands

a hundred thoughts

a hundred ways of thinking

of playing, of speaking.

A hundred always a hundred

ways of listening

of marveling, of loving

a hundred joys

for singing and understanding

a hundred worlds

to discover

a hundred worlds

to invent

a hundred worlds

to dream.

–Loris Malaguzzi, from No way. The Hundred is There.

     My brother-in-law,Ryan, tosses scoops of sand into a mound at the wooded patch we call a beach on the shore of a small lake in Northern Wisconsin. It’s an overcast day at the cabin. Occasional raindrops dot my page, and when they hit the water they make patterns that remind me of solar systems with concentric orbits expanding from the center. It may not seem like an ideal beach day at the cabin, but the water feels warmer than the air, which makes it perfect for digging, packing, building in the sand with our four kids: my two boys, three and five-years old, and their two cousins, girls, also three and five.

There are some clumps of grass in the mound of sand, and my oldest is patting it with a short canoe paddle. “What are you making?” I ask.

“A castle.”

“Tell me about your castle.”

“It’s an underground castle ’cause, see, it has grass on it.”

“Wow! I want to hear more about the underground castle.”

“They’re really, like, strong because they are underground. Underground castles are really important because they can’t get broken easy. Water and force fields protect them.”

“Who lives in underground castles?”

“Water people,” he says pointing to the puddles seeping up to fill the bottom of the trench Ryan is digging.

Turning to my son’s oldest cousin I ask her what she thinks about the castle. She tells me that she was thinking it could be a castle for Barbie and Ken and Jasmine and Ariel (you know that Ken, he’s such a lady’s man). As they played, they worked out the dynamics of melding Anya’s ideas with Braden’s. It became a castle that worked for both of them.

I’ll wrap this up with the words of Jerome Bruner taken from the preface of The Hundred Languages of Children: The Reggio Emilia Experience in Transformation.

     Here we were not dealing with individual imaginations working separately. We were collectively involved in what is probably the most human thing about human beings, what psychologists and primate experts now like to call intersubjectivity, which means arriving at a mutual understanding of what others have in mind. It is probably the extreme flowering of our evolution as humanoids, without which our human culture could not have developed, and without which all our intentional attempt at teaching something would fail.

     To cultivate it requires an atmosphere of reciprocal respect and support, the type of respect that distinguishes schools that achieve success–like the municipal preschools of Reggio Emilia.

 

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Centering Prayer CLP Day 1

I’ve decided to take another step in my journey into contemplative practice.  Several months ago I purchased year one of the Contemplative Life Program from Contemplative Outreach.

I’ve experienced a lot of benefits from Centering Prayer in the past, both for drawing closer to God and managing the stress. I thought I’d share a couple practical benefits I’ve experienced since starting the 40 day immersion journey (part of the Contemplative Life Program).

First, there’s a time in the evening after Cullen gets up from his nap and before dinner, bath and bedtime when the boys are pretty crazy. I’m prepared for this, and try to be intentional about my response. Sometimes I’m more successfully than others. Yesterday I noticed a new level of control, patience, humor, and grace with the boys.

Second, this week we’ve had a perfect storm of events between getting ready for visits with extended family, preparing for pre-K graduation, jobs for both parents, and my wife’s VERY busy week with the National Lutheran Choir and Chorus America. There were several times when I was surprised by my level of composure, grace, and presence with everyone in times of stress.

When I say I was “surprised by my level…” I’m not taking credit, but rather noticing how the added time in prayer helped me carry that presence into my life and be a better dad and husband.

Many people who practice meditation report the same kinds of results, and there are certainly many similarities between meditation and centering prayer. There are also some important difference, but more on that in another post.

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2012 in Present Moment Parenting

 

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Super-Hero Star Power

I took the boys to “Free Comic Book” day at Source Comics and Games today. For those unfamiliar with the comic and gaming subculture, this is a big deal. The event has its own website which describes the day like this:

Free Comic Book Day is a single day – the first Saturday in May each year – when participating comic book shops across North America and around the world give away comic books absolutely FREE* to anyone who comes into their stores. *Check with your local shop for their participation and rules.

My brother-in-law introduced me to this event. He’s the geek that I never had the courage to be when I was a kid, and my sons are lucky to have an uncle that’s got the inside scoop on everything super-hero and comic related. I’ve come along for the ride and am getting pretty into the whole adventure. Braden and I have “Justice League Nights” every Tuesday and have watched the complete series a few times by now.

When we arrived at this event, I wasn’t expecting the crowd, and was really surprised by the reaction of my boys. Normally, they’re pretty outgoing and it’s hard to keep track of them. This is even the case with big crowds like at the Minnesota State Fair. But when we hit the ground at Free Comic Book day, they both changed. I wasn’t sure if it was the four-block walk from our eventual parking place or the full-sized real-life superheros that were gathered for pictures near the door, but both of my guys were suddenly very shy. Braden didn’t want to leave my side to take pictures, and Cullen didn’t even want me to put him down. Something had frozen them up like a blast from Iceman.

I noticed that many of the other kids were the same way, and then it hit me. They were star-struck. Sure, if I’d have said “Wow, I think that’s really Wolverine” my five-year-old would have set me straight right away. Even though his experience with the complex kid-social structure is still at the pre-K level, he’s already got an edgy “I’m exasperated with my parents” tone of voice down pretty good. I can almost hear it: “Dad. Come on. It’s just a costume.”

But in spite of that, for this moment, in this place, both of my boys were so nervous that they didn’t even want me to suggest that they get their pictures taken. Sure, they weren’t REAL superheros, but if you get to dress up like one, there must be something pretty awesome about you. On our way to the back of the store to pick up our free comic books, we passed Storm from X-men, Superman, Batman, Loki, Wolverine, Thor, Luke Skywalker, Darth Maul, Princess Leah, a Storm Trooper, Anakin Skywalker, and Spiderman in the black suit.

On our way out, Braden mustered up the courage to get his photo taken with Wolverine. It was at that point that I saw through the crowd, the long walk, the waiting in lines, and tired kids to the blessing that was being bestowed on me by the geeks dressed up in costumes for this event.  They made it possible for my boys to understand that it’s okay to keep wonder, imagination, and playfulness alive in a world that forces kids to be grown-up way too young. They were giving my kids the chance to muster-up the courage to have a picture with an imaginary hero. These guys were embracing their own sense of wonder and playfulness to provide something that I couldn’t ever reproduce for my kids. Thanks Wolverine.

 
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Posted by on May 6, 2012 in Present Moment Parenting

 

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Daily chores: (1) Tell me what you are proud of?

I saw this comment on the Positively Kids facebook site:

When I was little my Dad would tell me “as long as you’re proud of yourself, those that matter will be proud of you also.”  One of our daily chores was to do something that made us proud of ourselves, and we talked about it at dinner. Now we do this with our kids.

This idea struck me as a powerful way to help kids learn an internal locus of control. Kids who rely on others to tell them when they are doing a good job don’t develop authentic confidence. Instead, their confidence is always dependent on the praise and affirmation they’re getting from others. Any sense of achievement they get can be stolen if somebody else puts it down or doesn’t affirm it for them.

We want kids to know in their own hearts who they are. While data from outside sources plays a part, they should be their own best critic and encourager. The idea above is a great family ritual that can help kids develop the intrapersonal intelligence and skills necessary to be healthy and confident.

 
 
 
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