The Most Important Thing You Can Do For Your Kids

Taking care of your own emotional health and well-being is the single most important thing you can do for your kids.  Period.

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Blurring The Lines

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(www.facebook.com/thedadosaur)

Our society has a bizarre way of handling children.  Kids spend the bulk of their time preparing to enter this mysterious “Real World” which they are (more often than not) not allowed to participate in.  They are stuffed with facts in a vacuum, sorted by age, neat and still.

Even at home the “Adult World” and the “Children’s World” seldom meet.  Instead of learning how to cook, or learning how to fix, young children are given toys to play with.  They are told to “Go outside” or “Get out of my hair” or “Give me space.”  They are in the way.  They are an annoyance.  A hindrance.  A bother.

Humans are not meant to live this way.  They are meant to live in families that spend time together.  That work together.  That solve their problems and accomplish goals together.  Children learn from working side by side with an adult.  Someone they respect.  Someone they trust.

You want to change the world?  You want to make it a better place?  You want to solve our societies problems?  Blur the lines.  Our society will never change until we change the way we treat children.  Involve them in your work.  Involve them in your hobbies and passions.  Welcome them.  Understand that they are still growing and learning, and are going to screw things up occasionally.  That’s how they learn.  That’s how we all learn.  And don’t just bring them into your world.  Take an interest in their interests.  Learn about their passions.  Listen to them.  REALLY listen.  You might learn something.

~Dadosaurus Rex

(www.facebook.com/thedadosaur)

It’s OK to Have Unlimited Screen Time

11141203_708424129269470_6321678382145679367_n“But if I let them do whatever they want, they’ll just watch TV and play video games all day!”

This is a very common reaction to the idea of allowing one’s children complete (or even partial) freedom.  They will spend the whole day with eyes locked to a screen, completely cut off from the real world.  I understand this concern.  I have felt the anxiety that comes along with it.  I have tried limiting “Screen Time” in the past, and it has resulted in a painful power struggle that has only two possible outcomes (as is true with any power struggle).  Either I overcome and defeat my children, forcing them to bend to my will, or they are victorious, and I cower in the corner, rocking back and fourth in the fetal position.  I do not find either of these to be desirable.

So, what did I do?  Two things.  One:  I changed my perspective.  Even as adults screens are a very real part of our daily lives, and I would challenge you to add up the amount of “Screen Time” you have in one day.  It took some time, but I realized that my children’s brains would not turn to soup if they spent some time with the TV, computer, or tablet.  (I also found out that the more I relaxed, the happier everyone was)  I allowed them the freedom to choose, and, for a while, they chose to binge watch their favorite TV shows.  But after a while, when they realized that it was no longer a scarce commodity, they relented, and began exploring their other options.

Which brings me to the second thing:  I gave them other options.  There are so many things that most kids would rather do than watch TV or play video games.  Below is a list of things my kids consistently choose over a screen.

  • Light-saber battling
  • Painting
  • Looking for bugs
  • helping to prepare a meal
  • Riding bikes
  • Playing with play dough
  • Recording videos for their YouTube Channel
  • Playing in water
  • Racing
  • “Nature Talking” (An activity invented by parasaurolophus [8] that involves sitting quietly with eyes closed and listening/talking to trees)
  • Going to the park
  • Writing stories (Its even more fun If I staple together a few sheets of white paper, with a colored piece for the cover so they have a little book to write in)
  • Going for a walk
  • Building a snowman
  • Collecting leaves
  • Taking apart broken/old electronics (Last week was the toaster)
  • Doing mazes
  • Reading or being read to
  • Watering the plants
  • Building forts
  • Playing tag

I could honestly go on forever, but you get the point.  Sometimes it just takes a little creativity, initiative, and involvement on my part, but honestly watching movies and playing video games has become a last resort for them, when all other options have been exhausted.

~Dadosaurus Rex

(Be sure to check out my facebook page at http://www.fb.com/thedadosaur)

Summerhill

I stumbled across this while perusing the vast caverns of the interwebs.  It is a chapter of a book called “Summerhill” written by an educator named A. S. Neill, and the message resonated with me so strongly, I couldn’t help but post it here.  Enjoy.

“I hold that the aim of life is to find happiness, which means to find interest. Education should be a preparation for life. Our culture has not been very successful. Our education, politics and economics lead to war. Our medicines have not done away with disease. Our religion has not abolished usury and robbery. The advances of the age are advances in mechanism – in communications and computers, in science and technology. New wars threaten, for the world’s social conscience is still primitive.

If we feel like questioning today, we can pose a few awkward questions. Why does man hate and kill in war when animals do not? Why does cancer increase? Why are there so many suicides? So many insane sex crimes? Why the hate that is racism? Why the need for drugs to enhance life? Why backbiting and spite? Why is sex obscene and a leering joke? Why degradation and torture? Why the continuance of religions that have long ago lost their love and hope and charity? Why, a thousand whys about our vaulted state of civilised eminence!

I ask these questions because I am by profession a teacher, one that deals with the young. I ask these questions because those so often asked by teachers are the unimportant ones, the ones about French or ancient history or what not when these subjects don’t matter a jot compared to the larger questions of life’s fulfilment – of man’s inner happiness.

How much of our education is real doing, real self-expression? Handwork is too often the making of a wooden box under the eye of an expert. Even the Montessori system, well known as a system of directed play, is an artificial way of making the child learn by doing. It has nothing creative about it. In the home the child is always being taught. In almost every home there is at least one ungrown-up grown-up who rushes to show Tommy how his new engine works. There is always someone to lift the baby up on a chair when the baby wants to examine something on the wall. Every time we show Tommy how his engine works we are stealing from that child the joy of life – the joy of discovery – the joy of overcoming an obstacle. Worse! We make that child come to believe that he is inferior, and must depend on help.

Parents are slow in realising how unimportant the learning side of school is. Children, like adults, learn what they want to learn. All the prize-giving and marks and exams side-track proper personality development. Only pedants claim that learning from books is education.

Books are the least important apparatus in a school. All that any child needs is the three R’s the rest should be tools and clay and sports and theatre and paint and freedom.

Most of the school work that adolescents do is simply a waste of time, of energy, of patience. It robs youth of its right to play and play and play: it puts old heads on young shoulders.

When I lecture to students at teacher training colleges and universities, I am often shocked at the ungrownupness of these lads and lasses stuffed with useless knowledge. They know a lot: they shine in dialectics: they can quote the classics – but in their outlook on life many of them are infants. For they have been taught to know, but have not been allowed to feel. These students are friendly, pleasant, eager, but something is lacking – the emotional factor, the power to subordinate thinking to feeling. I talk to these of a world they have missed and go on missing. Their textbooks do not deal with human character, or with love, or with freedom, or with self-determination. And so the system goes on, aiming only at standards of book learning – it goes on separating the head from the heart.

It is time that we were challenging the school’s notion of work. It is taken for granted that every child should learn mathematics, history, geography, science, a little art and certainly literature. It is time we realised that the average young child is not much interested in any of these subjects.

I prove this with every new pupil. When told that the school is free, every new pupil cries, “Hurrah! You won’t catch me going to lessons!”
I am not decrying learning. But learning should come after play. And learning should not deliberately seasoned with play to make it palatable. Learning is important – but not to everyone. Nijinsky could not pass his school exams in St. Petersburg, and he could not enter the State Ballet without passing those exams. He simply could not learn school subjects – his mind was elsewhere. They faked an exam for him, giving him the answers with the papers – so a biography says. What a loss to the world if Nijinsky had really to pass those exams!

Creators learn what they want to learn in order to have the tools that their originality and genius demand. We do not know how much creation is killed in the classroom with its emphasis on learning.

I have seen a girl weep nightly over her geometry. Her mother wanted her to go to university, but the girl’s whole soul was artistic.

The notion that unless a child is learning something the child is wasting his time is nothing less than a curse – a curse that blinds thousands of teachers and most schools inspectors.

Classroom walls and the National Curriculum narrow the teacher’s outlook, and prevent him from seeing the true essentials of education. His work deals with the part of the child that is above the neck and perforce, the emotional, vital part of the child is foreign territory to him.

Indifferent scholars who, under discipline, scrape through college or university and become unimaginative teachers, mediocre doctors and incompetent lawyers would possibly be good mechanics or excellent bricklayers or first rate policemen.

I would rather Summerhill produce a happy street sweeper than a neurotic prime minister.

In all countries, capitalist, socialist or communist, elaborate schools are built to educate the young. But all the wonderful labs and workshops do nothing to help Jane or Peter or Ivan surmount the emotional damage and the social evils bred by the pressure on him from his parents, his schoolteachers and the pressure of the coercive quality of our civilisation.

The function of the child is to live his own life, not the life that his anxious parents think he should live, nor a life according to the purpose of the educator who thinks he knows best. All this interference and guidance on the part of adults only produces a generation of robots.

We set out to make a school in which we should allow children freedom to be themselves. In order to do this we had to renounce all discipline, all direction, all suggestion, all moral training, all religious instruction. We have been called brave, but it did not require courage. All it required was what we had – a complete belief in the child as a good, not an evil, being. Since 1921 this belief in the goodness of the child has never wavered: it rather has become a final faith.

A. S. Neill MA, Hon MEd, Hon Dr. of Laws, Hon Doc.

Shifting My Focus Away From Perfect Parenting

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I’m call myself an unschooler.  A gentle and peaceful parent.  An empathetic parent.  And most of the time, I am.  But sometimes my actions don’t quite line up with my declared parenting style.  Honestly, there are times when my actions are diametrically opposed to my declared parenting style.  I’m selfish.  I put my own needs before the needs of my children.  I yell.  I get agitated by things that don’t matter.  I fail to see things from my child’s perspective.  My fear of imaginary things that might happen causes me to harm the relationship I have with my children.  Sometimes I worry that by the time I figure out how to be a decent parent, my children will be grown.

Since achieving parental perfection seems to be out of the question, my focus is now on three main areas.

Admitting and Apologizing

What I did was wrong.  I shouldn’t have behaved so poorly.  I’m sorry.  No reason to try to cover it up, justify it, or ignore it.  We all make mistakes, and my children appreciate my willingness to be open, genuine, and vulnerable.

Learning and Improving

I am committed to constant improvement as a parent, and nothing helps more than making mistakes and learning from them.  Its hard to feel down about being a bad dad when I look at how far I have come in such a short amount of time.

Remembering and Empathizing

My imperfections remind me that we are all human.  Remembering this helps me to be more understanding when others exhibit imperfect behavior, and to respond appropriately.

So, I can’t teach my children how to be perfect, but I can set an example in repairing relationships, using failure as a stepping stone to success, and showing empathy and compassion to broken, hurting, imperfect people.  And I think that is just as good.

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My Kids Are Better Teachers Than I Could Ever Hope To Be

10257268_768654803153707_6684229888910505074_oChildren.  Kids.  The next generation.  Progeny.  Offspring.  The genetic mashup of you and your partner.  The little people who completely change your life, who completely change you.  Children.

I am in absolute awe of my children.  For as long as I have known them, they have been teaching me, and helping me grow as a person.  I owe them a debt that I can never repay, and I am deeply grateful to them.

As they were growing inside of their mother, locked away where I couldn’t see, they taught me that there are some things I cannot control.  When they decided to break free, and join us on the outside, they helped me to see what an amazing person my wife is; and what it is like to care for someone who offered you nothing in return.  As I changed diaper, after diaper, after diaper, after diaper, My intestinal fortitude increased dramatically, and as the urine splashed me, an unsuspecting new father, I learned to change those diapers with lighting ninja speed.  When I was waiting anxiously for the next milestone, they taught me to be patient, that life is not a contest, and that everyone learns at their own pace.

Soon they began walking, and talking.  they taught me to watch, and they taught me to listen.  I learned that an ounce of prevention was worth a pound of cure.  I learned the number for poison control.  I learned to follow my instincts, and ignore the critics, to do what is best for my family.

And as they grew older, they showed me how to play, sing, dance, and laugh without being ashamed.  They modeled creativity, and originality.  They taught me that its okay to make a mess, and that most things come out in the wash.  I learned to love what they loved, only because they loved it.  They taught me sacrifice, and over and over they taught me unconditional love.  They showed me that I have something to live for, that I matter, and that I am needed.

Every time I hear those little voices saying, “Will you play with me,” or “Can you get me a glass of water.”  When I find a sandwich in the couch.  When I am at my wits end, I try to remember how much they have taught me, and how much they have given me, and what my life would be without them.

Oh, and they taught me to play Minecraft.

Looking back at the person I used to be, I can’t believe I have made it this far.  There is no way I could have done it without them.  Thank you kids.  Thank you.  I love you.

Want more Dadosaurus Rex? Check out my facebook page www.fb.com/thedadosaur

“The Elements” Coloring Pages

(UPDATE:  More element coloring pages can be found here by clicking here)

I am so excited about this!  When I was a kid I loved learning about the elements.  There’s a sort of mystery to it.  A magical world populated by strange and fantastic creatures, too small to see even with a microscope, AND THEY ARE ALL AROUND US!  So, I am really enjoying watching my own children discover the elements, atoms, and everything that goes along with them.  To aid in this process, I decided to prowl the web for element themed coloring pages.  But my search proved to be unfruitful.  Disappointed but determined, I decided to make my own.  One page for each element, and here are the first three:  Hydrogen, Helium, and Lithium.

(Along with the coloring pages, we are also reading an incredibly awesome and beautifully illustrated book called The Elements (By Theodore Gray), and putting four elements a day (one for each kid) on our giant periodic table.)

Enjoy!

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Hydrogoen Coloring PageHelium Coloring Page  Lithium Coloring Page

3 Reasons People Are Complaining About Your Parenting

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When our children were younger, we were very conscientious about their care.  They didn’t drink “Kool-Aid.”  We mixed their juice half and half with water.  There was not often candy in our house.  We didn’t have network or cable television, and they would occasionally watch something from our collection of age appropriate DVDs (and by age appropriate, I don’t necessarily mean G rated, Cartoons, or Disney movies, many of which are extremely confusing and traumatic for a very young child)  We weren’t denying them anything they were asking for, but simply not giving them anything that was potentially damaging to their health and happiness when they weren’t even asking for it.

For some reason, this upset people.  A chorus of “You can’t shelter them forever!” was constantly ringing in my ears.  A phrase that never made much sense to me, because all parents “shelter” their children to a certain extent.  You don’t sit your 3 year old down to watch hard core pornography.  You don’t offer your 5 year old a shot of vodka.  You don’t drop your 2 year old off on the outskirts of town and see if they can find their way home.  Oh, and then there was the story of so-and-so.  You remember s0-and-so, don’t you?  Their mother never allowed them to have such-and-such, and when they finally got ahold of it they were obsessed with it and never did anything else!  You don’t want your kid to be like so-and-so, do you?  People were also constantly trying to undermine our parenting decisions.  Thrusting spoonsful of ice cream toward my 8 month old daughter, or putting on movies they knew we wouldn’t want the kids watching.  In short, it was extreme disrespect for my children’s wellness, and extreme disrespect for my wife and I as parents.  Obviously, we didn’t know what we were doing, so they had to correct it for us.

Well, some years and a few kids later, things have changed.  The kids are older, candy is inevitable, and we now have a TV with Netflix and a computer with the internet.  But one thing hasn’t changed, we are still upsetting people with the way we raise our children.  The problem now?  Too much freedom.  We don’t force them to dress a certain way, we let them eat when and what they would like, they do not have a fixed bedtime, they decide who they do and don’t want to hug and kiss, and we have no limits on screen time.

Why then, are people still upset?  Isn’t this what they wanted?  For us to stop sheltering our children and to stop being so “controlling”?  But that was never really the issue.  The issue was that we were doing something different.  We were going against the grain, and we still are.  That is a problem for three reasons:

1. By doing something different we must be implying that the way they raised their children was wrong.

2. They are jealous because they wanted to do something different, but gave in to pressure to maintain the status quo.

3.  Society has taught them to fear what they do not understand.

So, to all you different parents out there, I say be yourself, do what’s best for your family, and don’t listen for one second to the jerks who try to bring you down.  Your children will thank you, and you won’t have to ever wonder what would have happened if you had raised them the way you knew was right.

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The Dinosaur Family (Never Lose Your Dinosaur)

You may be surprised to find out that Dadosaurus Rex is more than just a catchy title of a insanely fabulous blog, it is also a lifestyle.  My family is proud to be a dinosaur family.  So, what does that mean exactly?  and why does it matter?  Lets take a look at some dino characteristics.

Dinosaurs are hard to ignore.

No one ever asks, “Hey, did you happen to see the stegosaurus that was standing behind us at the market?”  They don’t have to ask.  They know you saw it, because you were both quivering in awe of its majesty and greatness.  You were filled with a mixture of fear and confusion at the sight of the colossal beast .  When you meet a dinosaur, (should you survive) it is not likely an encounter you will soon forget.

Dinosaurs are big.

They are indeed “terrible lizards”, and you will know it when you see them.  Gargantuan, not always in mass, but in style and panache.  When a dinosaur is near, you can feel the earth shaking with each magnificent step.  But don’t let this intimidate you, they are ferociously friendly, and love meeting new creatures.

Dinosaurs are often misunderstood.

It is a sad fact, and it is painful to admit, but the world isn’t exactly crawling with dinosaurs.  Because of this, there is a lot about dinosaurs that the average citizen may not understand.  This results in rumors, lies, confusion, and fear.  The best thing you can do to avoid all this is go straight to the source, and ask a dino.  Dinosaurs aren’t shy, and they are perfectly willing to patiently answer your questions.  Stay and chat long enough, and you will find that you and the humungous reptile have become fast friends.

Dinosaurs are diverse.

At present over 700 different species of dinosaurs have been identified and named. However palaeontologists believe that there are many more new and different dinosaur species still to be discovered. ~The Dinosaur Museum, Dorchester

Dinosaurs are not cookie cutter creatures.  They don’t break the mold – They pulverize it.  Each one is unique and unashamed.  Why should they be afraid to be themselves?  There is no need to conform, compare, or compete.  (Because of this, it is good to get to know Dinosaurs on an individual basis, what is true of one may not be true of another.)

The Dinosaur lives within you.

Somewhere, deep inside, you can feel it.  There is a roar that is longing to blast through your jowls.  There are times you just can’t resist the urge to stomp.

Pump your massive clawed fists in the air, and let it out.  Let the world know you are a dinosaur, and you are not going to hide it anymore.

“Never lose your dinosaur”

Now please enjoy this video clip  and get on with your bad dinosaur self.  (BE WARNED: There is a small bit of questionable language!)

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My Kids Are Better Teachers Than I Could Ever Hope To Be

10257268_768654803153707_6684229888910505074_oChildren.  Kids.  The next generation.  Progeny.  Offspring.  The genetic mashup of you and your partner.  The little people who completely change your life, who completely change you.  Children.

I am in absolute awe of my children.  For as long as I have known them, they have been teaching me, and helping me grow as a person.  I owe them a debt that I can never repay, and I am deeply grateful to them.

As they were growing inside of their mother, locked away where I couldn’t see, they taught me that there are some things I cannot control.  When they decided to break free, and join us on the outside, they helped me to see what an amazing person my wife is; and what it is like to care for someone who offered you nothing in return.  As I changed diaper, after diaper, after diaper, after diaper, My intestinal fortitude increased dramatically, and as the urine splashed me, an unsuspecting new father, I learned to change those diapers with lighting ninja speed.  When I was waiting anxiously for the next milestone, they taught me to be patient, that life is not a contest, and that everyone learns at their own pace.

Soon they began walking, and talking.  they taught me to watch, and they taught me to listen.  I learned that an ounce of prevention was worth a pound of cure.  I learned the number for poison control.  I learned to follow my instincts, and ignore the critics, to do what is best for my family.

And as they grew older, they showed me how to play, sing, dance, and laugh without being ashamed.  They modeled creativity, and originality.  They taught me that its okay to make a mess, and that most things come out in the wash.  I learned to love what they loved, only because they loved it.  They taught me sacrifice, and over and over they taught me unconditional love.  They showed me that I have something to live for, that I matter, and that I am needed.

Every time I hear those little voices saying, “Will you play with me,” or “Can you get me a glass of water.”  When I find a sandwich in the couch.  When I am at my wits end, I try to remember how much they have taught me, and how much they have given me, and what my life would be without them.

Oh, and they taught me to play Minecraft.

Looking back at the person I used to be, I can’t believe I have made it this far.  There is no way I could have done it without them.  Thank you kids.  Thank you.  I love you.