Trust Children When Engaging in Risky Play

Helicopter parents. We all have seen them at the playground, hovering around their child’s rear end as they climb a ladder. Or constantly reminding their child to be careful at various platforms throughout the jungle-gym.

I’ve been there. The last thing I want to experience is my son or daughter getting hurt, and it’s only parental instinct to want to protect them. Playgrounds offer a chance to explore, push limits and learn to interact, often without the boundaries of adults, depending on children’s age of course.

There is a nature center I visited recently where the rock has been sculpted and formed as the play area. There are caves, a climbing wall and various cliffs that can be scaled and stood upon.

But before entering any sort of elevation, if you want to call it that, there is this sign:

Let go

This is a tough thing for a new parent to learn. Again, I’ve felt the fear of my son or daughter hurting themselves, especially the first born. As a new parent, I knew absolutely nothing.

But what I’ve slowly come to realize is that this sign is true. As my baby girl, our second child, was learning to explore the playground, she approached a step head first. I began to make a move forward to stop her, when she stopped just in time, turned around and inched herself backward.

My five year old climbed up a side of a cliff and sat there. Legs dangling down and enjoying the view. Fortunately I wasn’t around when he decided to stand up and jump off. The ledge was probably four feet. And for a five year old, that would be like a six foot tall man jumping off a seven foot tall ledge.

The point is to trust, let kids learn their own boundaries and grow. Pushing my own fears on my kids, whether that’s about falling or acceptance by childhood peers, need to be kept where they belong. To me. A goal of mine is to allow my kids to develop and grow with their own fears, rather than share mine with them.

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Giving the Gift of Free Choice–Or At Least that Perception

Defiance lerked around every corner when my son was in what I called the terrible threes. (Which in my opinion are much worse that the so-called terrible twos.) Everything seemed to provoke a stand off.

Brushing teeth, getting into the car, getting dressed or asking to leave the sticks and rocks outdoors could all cause a fight.

I remember sharing with a co-worker of an above example of this. Her response was, “At least your son is still young enough where you can pick him up and bring him to the car.”

While I definitely used this advice more than once, it would never feel good, for me or my son. Say it was the car battle, we would both end up upset, bothered and irritated by the time the wheels were rolling. Not a way for anyone to go about their day.

Then I started deploying options. “Would you like to walk to the car or be carried to the car?” Simple, straight forward. We are going to get in the car. But he at least was able to feel some power or control in the situation being able to decide how he would get there.

Reading Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, I was reminded of this when they describe boundaries as giving others free choice. They say our real concern with others should not be, “are they doing what I would do or what I want them to do,” but rather, ” Are they really making a free choice?”

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Giving my son the navigator seat while in a canoe. 

They go on to explain how if children are forced into a yes, then they can become externally compliant, which seems to conjure up an image of a robotic, cordial walking dead for me.

As a father with the goal to grows spiritually, I hope I can give my kids choices and ultimately empowerment. Let’s face it we all make choices everyday, but my goal is to give my kids the ability to make choices based on their internal desires, rather than external people, places and things.

Let’s face it, many choices need to be made for them to keep them safe. But there are ways we as parents can help give them the gift of choice. What to wear, healthy options to eat, how to get to the car, or how they want to spend playtime?

Keep it simple, especially for my one year old. “Would you like to get up or down?” Choices. Because someday the choices will be based on peer pressure and cliques, rather than what her mother or father advise.

Watch the Struggle and Watch Growth

My kids are now five and 15 months. No matter how hold they get, it is hard to watch them struggle. Whether it’s using a fork to eat raspberries or working their way across the monkey bars, I have this fatherly urge to jump in and help them along.

I’m a fixer. This is what dads do, right? I’m here to help, love and support. But what if all this helping is actually doing harm.

There is an on going debate in the world of raising chickens whether a farmer–backyard or commercial–should jump in and help the chicken hatch.

I’ve read that helping the chicken along can actually cause death, whether that’s by ripping off skin with the shell or taking over for mother nature and not building the perseverance needed to break through the shell.

And let’s face it. Doesn’t breaking through the shell define so much of childhood, whether that is the first three years or the teenage rebellion?

My one-year old needs help in the water. It’s safety. She’d crawl in head first without even being aware of the consequence. But there are times where I should let her work on zipping away at her shell.

A Helping Hand

My five year old pushes her buttons, until she screams in fury. Typically, I jump in and help her, reprimanding her older brother about space and respect. But after reading about the chicks hatching out of their eggs, I wonder if I jump in a little too soon.

She’s coming into her own, and her own involves a big brother to navigate. Lord knows she is going to need perseverance to draw boundaries with him.

Let’s take shoe tying as an example. My son isn’t there yet, but let’s just say that every time he was to get frustrated, I jumped in and said, “here, let me help by tying these for you.” Would he really learn to tie?

Humans learn by trying and failing. Getting frustrated and pushing through. Asking for help after surrendering defeat. These are all natural ways of growing.

There is a balance I’m working toward lately, and that is to support my kids when they are struggling or going through a hard time. I care, and I want them to know I’m here to help guide them through their struggle. But I’m not here to make their struggle any easier.

Life is a struggle at times, and the sooner they accept it or even embrace it, the better off they may be.

Many backyard farmers watch their chicks struggle to get out of their shell for over 24 hours. I’m sure that can seem like a lifetime when you want your chicken to hatch. But if it wasn’t for the 24 hours or more of struggling to get out, they wouldn’t have the strength or confidence to grow into a healthy chicken.

Falling Down is Learning to Walk

Later this month my daughter will be 15 months old, and we are waiting for her to walk on her own. My thoughts swing from wanting her to be my baby forever to wondering if there is a developmental delay.

According to babycenter.com’s Baby Milestone: walking writeup:

“Most babies take their first steps sometime between 9 and 12 months and are walking well by the time they’re 14 or 15 months old. Don’t worry if your child takes a little longer, though. Some perfectly normal children don’t walk until they’re 16 or 17 months old.”

So she may be on the tail end of “most” babies, and I’m not (overly) worried, but the important part is her willingness to fall down.

fallingdown

May we all learn from the youngest among us. Babies fall down hundreds of times as they learn to walk, but how many say, “Forget it. I’ll just crawl for the rest of my life.”

None. Unless of course there is an underlying developmental issue. Babies keep pushing through until they get it.

Whether you are in sales, engineering, farming, a full-time stay at home dad, making your way through school, or even if you’re taking on a potential hurdle in retirement, keep the walking baby in mind.

We can all benefit from keeping the walking benefit in mind. Fall down on your face. Get back up. Fall down on your butt, get back up. Repeat ad infinitum until you’re able to chase or be chased.

May there never be a time when you feel like staying down after falling. But let’s be real, there are those times. There is nothing wrong with asking for help. My daughter does that, too. Just reach out, let me know what you are going through that compares with learning to walk.

 

 

Ninety Percent of My In-Person Time with My Kids is Happening Now

Raising young kids takes up time. Lots of time, as an understatement. So much time is spent feeding, changing, cleaning and playing with them that when I rented The Force Awakens from the library, the DVD was never even inserted before the week loan period expired.

Time. We are here for a short time. You hear it all the time. But recently a blog title Wait But Why popped up in front of me with an article titled The Tail End.

He uses visual charts to display how many months, days and weeks are given to a person who lives to be 90. The charts also display things like how many more times he will see The Red Socks play or how many more chances he will have to swim in the ocean or eat pizza.

The thing that stood out to me was his stat that by the time he left for college, he had used up the 93% of his in-person parent time.

This stat applies to me in the fact that I’m 37 and the majority of my in-person time with my parents has been used up. But applying this to the time with my own kids, this big picture perspective makes me want to spend more time with them.

Time with the kids

My wife and I do a good job putting the kids before dishes, reading to them every night and taking things slow on most weekends.

This idea that 90% of the time I’m going to have with my kids in-person is happening right now makes me want to shut off the phone more, drop what I’m doing when they ask for something, and play. Just follow them around and play. This precious time–as stressful and chaotic as it can be at times–is just that:  precious.

My son is five. My daughter is one. We are in the thick of raising two kids. In the thick of constantly running the dishwasher, tears being shed regularly, short nights of sleep. Sweeping the floor at least five times a day, wiping butts and the inability to have a grown-up conversation for more than a minute and a half.

But we’re also in the thick of the 90% of our time with them. God help me be present and content with our time together. And thanks Tim Urban for writing The Tail End.

Coaching from My Four Year Old on Detachment from My New Car

I’ve been car shopping for months now. My reliable 2003 VW Jetta is tight to say the least when a family of four needs to jet around town. Sure, it’s manageable, but if we want to go out of town and enjoy the outdoors, we needed something a little bigger. That and the list of repairs well exceeded the value of the car.

So I fell in love with the Toyota Highlander Hybrid. The style and space of a large SUV but close enough to the economy of a Jetta that I validated the larger vehicle. After all, I strive to be conscious of our worlds natural resources. Plus I look cooler in this than a minivan.

The sticker price, and I’m shopping used here, was more than I had ever spent on a car in my life. But Consumer Reports voted this vehicle as the best used SUV car buy, and the space sure was something my family can utilize comfortably.

The day finally came and it looked like we were going to land this car before a spring break road trip to a northbound hotel, when the car had to go into the shop for break work. Just in the nick of time, with bags packed ready to head north, the car came out of the shop. We loaded it up and took it 2.5 hours north.

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Boy the ride was smooth. The sound system is unbelievable. Gas mileage lives up to expectations, and we were able to fill it comfortably with our bags and gear. How quick it does fill up. This car is so nice it barely feels like it should be mine, ‘er ours.

I must admit my pride was boosted a little, driving around in its midnight black paint job, leather seats, quiet electric motor and all. And a few comments from a neighbor and in-laws didn’t help either.

And then my son says, “It’s pretty much the same as your other car.” He points out that it still gets us on the road from here to there. I almost threw in a counter but, but, but argument pointing out the size and luxury. However, I decided to agree.

It says in the bible, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19-21 ESV.)

And then I was completely locked out of the car. In this case it was the computer and electronic components that destroyed. The rear hatch malfunctioned and locked all the doors with a continuous pulsing sound that drained the battery. I was pissed, frustrated and ready to return the car.

But with much reassurance from family and my son’s words in mind. I say to myself it’s just another car. Thank you, son, for reminding me of what matters most. It’ll come back from the shop with a new tail gate in a week and I’ll have a new outlook toward my sweet new family car.

The Art of Leaving Your Kid in the Car to Make Drop-Off Smoother

Your son or daughter probably never resists going to school or daycare, but if they do, this could help. At least, I found something that worked for me in this particular situation.

Cease the fighting. My initial reaction can be to say something to the effect of, “You better get your butt out of the car,” when my pre-schooler defies going into school (or insert destination here.)


So today, I let go. I went the opposite direction of my instinct. I said, “O.k., I’m going to go in to drop your sister off,” and I closed the door. I held my one-year old in an arm and we both waved at him, still sitting in his booster car seat.

It was at least five minutes of me going through the morning routine with my daughter’s daycare moms and watching the growing baby settle in to her happy home away from home before I returned to the car. The empty car.

Turns out he had decided to head into his preschool classroom on his own. With no one there to tell him what to do, he made his own decision. The right decision at that. 

One of my son’s friends had pulled up after us and while I was gone my son decided to join up with him into the school. I didn’t have to entice, cajole or even carry him in to the class.

Kind of reminds me of my initial reaction to “have to.” If anyone told me that I “had to” do anything when I was a teenager, my initial reaction was always to think, “I don’t have to do anything.” 

So rather than force my son into a situation, I find the art of getting him to do what needs to be done is to creatively present options, so that he feels like he had a role in making the decision.

It’s kind of like asking the toddler if they’d like to walk or be carried to bed. Either way they are going to bed, but at least they feel like they’ve had a choice in the matter.

The Power of Reverse Psychology

There is some innate force inside us that doesn’t want to listen to direction. Or maybe it is just me and my genes, but I like to find things out for myself. I’ve also noticed my four-year old going against what I ask in what seems out of spite.

I’m sure your kids always listen, so please send me your tips. If they sometimes don’t, well maybe you want to try a little reverse psychology to get things moving along a little easier for all.

Blame it on Adam and Eve. They didn’t listen either. Maybe its the serpent devil speaking to my son. Let’s face it. There is a bit of good in the worst of us and bit of bad in the best of us.

One thing I have noticed though is that as fathers (and mothers) we can use our kids’ desire to go against what we say to our advantage, at least while they’re young.

My son has this habit of whining and often screaming when rinsing his hair of shampoo in the bath. It’s unpleasant for all involved, and no matter how much I tell him it’s okay or to shhhhhhhh, he continues the stream of angst.

Father Through Me

Then just yesterday, I heard my wife speaking to him while rinsing his hair, and their wasn’t a sound coming from him.

She was making various voices, pretending to be an audience watching the hair rinsing. Members of the audience were hoping to hear and see my son scream. And there he sat resisting. Going against what “the crowd” wanted him to do.

“I want my money back,” shouted one of the onlookers in what sounded like an Irish accent. “He’s not screaming. I thought we’d get to hear him scream.” Against the will of the people, my son showed them that he wasn’t going to listen and give them what they want.

And I think my wife enjoyed the process just as much. (My wife does some great European accents.) I know I would have enjoyed the bath that much more since there wasn’t a screaming bloody murder contest going on.

So next time, try it. I’d say take advantage of it as long as you can. My kids are young, and I plan on milking it as long as I can. Soon, they’ll probably be reversing reverse psychology, and trying it out on me.

Raising a Bold Daughter

“I don’t see a third leg,” I recall the ultrasound technician saying. The little pang of hope that wanted another boy evaporated in that fleeting moment.

There are four years between my son and daughter, so my wife and I were pretty used to boy clothes, toys and ways. It’s difficult for me to pinpoint exactly why I wanted a boy. Partially, because I can relate to being a boy. Partially, because I know how rude the world can be to women. I joined a fraternity in college for God sakes.

The world is full of examples on how parents treat their sons and daughters differently. Pink clothes for girls. Blue for boys. Boys get trucks and cars. Girls get dolls. Boys get sports gear. Girls get arts and crafts.

As a father, I can’t imagine not having my daughter. I fell head over heels in love with her the minute she was set into my arms. 

I can’t even bring myself to think about how boys and men can be. My almost-one-year old girl stands up to her brother, tells us how she sees it (in her own crying way) and shares her joy with the world with 100’s of smiles every day.


I make sure to evenly distribute wrestling. She has already taken a liking to grass and dirt (much quicker than her older brother ever did). And I can honestly say that we haven’t filled her room with the color pink or dolls.

Are those steps in equality? I think so. Treating offspring differently is the beginning of a separation between men and women. But there is something to be said of the fact that men and women think differently. We have different energies and leadership styles, which according to this Business Insider article are better, women are better at.

International Women’s Day has been celebrated since the 1900’s. Crowd counting experts estimate that three times as many people turned out for the Women’s March, January 21-22 than President Trump’s inauguration.

The ratio of the human population is about one to one. The world depends on the collaboration of men and women, not only to procreate and continue human life, but to advance the big issues of our time.

So I can only hope that my daughter is brought up to be bold, say what she means, and live honestly to help our communities.

God willing, I’ll do my best to raise her that way, along with the help of my wife of course.

Tour Campus Help Campus Selection–for Kindergarten

I used to sell book to educators at various districts in my surrounding metro. I pulled up to one school in particular, and I will never forget the banner they had hanging from the exterior brick. “Your Pathway to College.”

This is an elementary school. Reading, writing and arithmetic. I am no expert in public education, but there is something inside of me that recoiled from the pressure of being in elementary school and having to think about what college I will be attending someday.

And fatherhood has now brought me to the point to usher in a kindergarten student this fall. Between my wife and I, we have attended four different school information sessions and that wasn’t even everything available.

I’m grateful we have such options. Magnet schools focusing on arts, science, technology, math, language immersion or a charter school, focusing on Core Knowledge curriculum. And then there is the “home” public school. There are five elementary schools in our area, and that doesn’t even count the private schools.

crayons-coloring-book-coloring-book-159579-1

The pressure is again felt on my shoulders. Although, this time it is as a father questions what school is best for his son.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, the magnet and charter school are lottery based, so the immediate decision isn’t up to me. I’m forced to hand that piece over. The lottery is coming up this week, but I’ll be handing over the final decision then, too.

I’m reassured by this top 10 how-to list of helping your child in elementary school. If you’d like me to sum it up for you, be involved in your child’s education. Everything from knowing the school layout to what was played at recess to parent/teacher conferences, be an involved parent is the driving force behind success or failure in school.

That being said, I can’t discredit the support and environment an elementary school does provide. If the teachers are focusing more on keeping order and meeting test scores, what does that do to the environment?

The “home” public school has 69% if its students on the free and reduced lunch program. I love the diverse community in which we live. I want to raise my kids in an environment where they get to learn about the worlds’ spectrum of colors and cultures.

But I do want the best for my son, and there are rumors that this “home” elementary school has some challenging students. Neighbors who sent their kindergartner to the school moved out three years ago because of the school, so they could be in a different district.

So, I have choices. I have the ability to take it one day at a time. And I can let go of my fears and trust God. Life has a funny way of coming into focus as you look back, and I trust that when I look back on the route my son takes to elementary school that it will be the route he was supposed to take.