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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How to Drastically Improve Your Child’s Behavior In Public

Are you 100% satisfied with the way your child behaves in public?  Awesome.  Stop reading and go enjoy a latte.  If not, keep reading (you might still want to get that latte)

We’ve all been there.  The shame.  The embarrassment.  The Anxiety.  You just wanted to go pick up a few things at the grocery store.  In and out.  It was supposed to be simple.  But these beasts you’ve brought along with you.  They’re…They’re…What are they doing?  Why are they on the floor?  Why are they touching that?  Get back over here!  God, now they’re screaming.  STOP SCREAMING!  No we’re not getting ice cream.  No were not getting fruit snacks.  We have fruit snacks at home.  I know they’re not dinosaur fruit snacks.

It can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be.  There was a time when I dreaded taking my kids anywhere in public.  I just couldn’t deal with the judgmental looks, and the shame of feeling like a bad parent.  But I have since learned a secret that has revolutionized our trips into the wide world.

It was my anxiety, tension, fear, and dread that was feeding their undesirable behavior.  We were caught in a vicious cycle.  I would be stressed before they even had a chance to do anything wrong.  They would pick up on that negative energy, get restless and irritable, and then start doing things that bothered me.  I would over-react (since I had already been stewing in my head over it) and then the problem would get even worse.  The only way to stop this cycle is to relax.

It almost sounds too simple, but it works.  And the more you do it, the easier it gets.  It can be as simple as remembering to breathe, giving yourself a pep talk before going out (and probably a few times while you are out.  and over and over in the car on the way there and back.  Positive self talk can be extremely helpful)  It also helps to be prepared, and to prepare the children.  Let them know where you are going, what will happen, what your expectations are for them, and what positive thing they can expect to get from the whole experience (Maybe some dinosaur gummy snacks?  Snacks are super important.  Next to a tense parent, low blood sugar is probably the top tantrum causer)

The kids will be far from perfect, especially the first few times.  But it will get better.  Be patient with yourself, and with the kids.  Smile, breathe, and relax.  (and when you have some time for a little self discovery, maybe you can sit down and ask yourself what about their behavior really bothers you anyway, and why)

~Dadosaurus Rex

http://www.facebook.com/thedadosaur

 

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)

Daddy Performs For the Neighbors; Yardwork; Happiness

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I Am The Sun

It’s Springtime, and there are all kinds of projects to be done (or more likely half-done) in our yard.  One such project involved the use of bricks as landscaping material.  As this particular project was in the “half-done” column, there were still a few bricks strewn about the yard.  My son, Stegosaurus (2.5 years old) had moved these bricks into a line, and was cautiously standing on the first brick, one foot on the brick, and one foot raised slightly above the ground.  We made eye contact, and the look on his face told me that some brilliant idea had just popped into his toddler brain.

He hopped down and said, “You stand on the brick.” I quickly obliged (This being my fourth two year old, I knew I really didn’t have much of a choice) and stood as he had, on the brick.
“Now sing.” he ordered.
“Sing?” I asked, “Okay…what would you like me to sing?”
The Planet Song.”

Stegosaurus settled in on the porch.  I cleared my throat and began.  Just as I belted out, “I am the Sun,” I noticed my neighbor walking by.  I was not too far from the sidewalk, and in plain view.  Stegosaurus (still on the porch) was obscured by a wicker rocking chair, and was also the only other person outside at the moment.  So there I was.  Balanced on a brick and singing (apparently) to myself.  I couldn’t bring myself to finish the song until the neighbor was out of sight.

What Is That!?

While we were outside, I took some time to clear off the bit of sidewalk that goes from the porch to the road.  When I had nearly finished, Little T-Rex (7) walked out and exclaimed, with both shock and excitement in his voice, “What is that!?” Pterodactyl (5) followed closely behind him and shouted, “It looks like…a walkway!”  I guess I had neglected the yard work for a little longer than I thought.

Setting An Example

I had a friend, who has recently passed, that I spent a good deal talking to about..well..everything.  I had once told him that I wanted my kids to be happy (Isn’t that what we all want?), and without missing a beat he asked me, “Well, are you setting a good example?” I had never thought of it that way.  But, just like anything else, if we want our children to be happy we need to model happiness.  We need to take care of ourselves, and we need to be aware of our emotions, habits, and thoughts, and their effect on our overall well-being.  The best way to have happy kids is to be happy ourselves.

Parent However the F*** You Want

 

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Please.  I’m seriously people.  I need you to do me a favor.  Go ahead and raise your kids in any way you see fit.  Are you a helicopter parent?  Fantastic.  May your rotor never cease its turning (Unless you want it to).  I’m glad you are keeping your children safe.  Or maybe you are sitting on a park bench, eyes fixed on your smartphone while your kids navigate the playground equipment.  Whether it’s because you value independence, you just need a break, or you really do have something important to do on there (really.) is none of my business.  You are doing what you need to do to survive and thrive in your parenting journey.  I appreciate that, and I thank you for it.

Parenting isn’t an exact science, a lot of times we have to go by feel.  What’s best for one family may not work for another.  That’s fine. In fact, it’s so much more than fine.  It’s a darn beautiful thing.  There is no sense in nit-picking, labeling, or tearing each other down.  We’re all doing the best we can in our difficult and oftentimes confusing roles as parents, and we would do well to support each other, even if we have a few variances in style and technique.  Because at the end of the day were all trying to do the same thing:  What’s best for our families.

The only thing that I could offer you in the way of advice is this:  Whatever you do, do it out of love, and not fear.  Act out of compassion, and not compulsion.  Follow your instincts.  Trust yourself,  trust your kids, and parent however the fuck you want.

More things that won’t affect my respect for you as a parent:

  • Your 6 year old uses a pacifier
  • 4 bounce houses, 7 clowns, and 10 piñatas at your kids birthday party (I hope I’m invited)
  • The age your kids potty train
  • Where and when your kids sleep
  • Where (or if) your kids go to school
  • You push your 10 year old in a stroller
  • You nurse your 3 year old
  • You only allow your kids to watch 20 minutes of television a week
  • Your kids binge watch 3 seasons of Pokemon in one weekend
  • You’re religious
  • You’re not religious
  • You eat at Mcdonalds
  • The number of children you have
  • The frequency with which you acquire said children
  • What kind of toys or electronics your kids have

Thanks for reading.

~Dadosaurus Rex

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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)

There’s More Than One Way To Draw A Person

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A recent piece of artwork from Pterodactyl (4)

On my first day of art class in elementary school, I died a little inside.  It doesn’t seem like a big deal in retrospect, but at the time it was soul-crushing.

I was sitting at the long wooden table with my classmates, filled with excitement.  I already enjoyed drawing, coloring, and creating, so I figured this would be my favorite class.  Our first assignment was to fold a sheet of paper in half and draw a person on it.  No other directives or instructions, just draw a person.  Great.  I got this.  I took my time, paying attention to every detail.  Face.  Clothing.  Appendages.  Hair.  Yes!  What a work of art.  I sat in awe of my creation.

For the next half of the assignment, we were told to flip our papers over, and the teacher would now show us the correct way to draw a person.  Circles.  Rectangles.  Ovals.  Measuring.  Erasing.  Re-drawing.  Erasing.  Erasing.  (for some reason I could never get those blasted erasers to work, they just left gray smudges all over my paper).  We then opened up the paper, so we could see both drawings at the same time, and the teacher explained to us why and how our first drawing was rubbish, and the second drawing was phenomenal.

What would possess a person to make a career out of crushing children’s creativity?  And how boring would this planet be if we took these people seriously?  All four of my children love drawing, and each have their own unique style (and yes their own way of drawing a person!).  They also enjoy exploring new techniques, and learning different methods.  But I couldn’t imagine telling them that there is a right and wrong way of creatively expressing themselves.

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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.

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Replacing Your Unfounded Parenting Fears With Empathy for Your Child

If I had to sum up what is wrong with our society in one sentence it would be this:  “Too much fear, and not enough empathy.”  This is especially true in our dealings with children.  I struggled for far to long (and still do at times) with the misguided and unfounded fears of parenting.

What if someone yells at my child?
What if he turns out to be ungrateful?
What if people think I am a bad parent?

All these concerns are not centered around the well being of my child, but my own personal fears, prejudices, and desire for comfort.

I strive now to replace these with more important questions.

What is best for my child?
How must my child be feeling in this situation?
What might she be thinking?
How would I feel if it was me?

Being empathetic toward your children not only allows you to care for and protect our societies most vulnerable individuals, but also shows your child the importance of being compassionate.  It empowers them, and helps them to realize that it is okay to have feelings and emotions, and they are not something to be afraid of, hidden, bottled up, or dismissed.  It creates a healthy environment where burdens are shared collectively, and conflicts are resolved respectfully.

Conversely, hitting, time-outs, yelling, control, bribery and artificial rewards (which in my experience are almost always rooted in fear) let children know that their feelings are unimportant and insignificant.  Children learn to keep their emotions, desires, and thoughts to themselves.  Either out of fear of being labeled a whiner (or worse), or simply because they don’t think anyone cares.

Daddy, Why Aren’t You Helping Me?

When I was a new father my wife and I lived quite far from our families.  We made a trip to our home town when our first child was about a year old.  Her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins were excited to see her.  So when someone reached to take her, I gave her up right away.  She grabbed onto my shirt and started to cry, but was pulled away into the arms of someone who to her was a stranger.  She looked at me, confused at first, then her eyes filled with terror as she continued to cry and reach out to me.  My family assured me that this is just what kids do, and you have to let them cry sometimes.  But she wasn’t “just crying,” She was telling me something.  She was trying to communicate.  “I’m scared, daddy,”  “I don’t know what’s going on,” “I’m not sure who these people are,” “Daddy, why aren’t you helping me?”  But her pleas fell on deaf ears.  I did not want to make waves or upset my family.  What would they think of me or say about me if I wouldn’t allow them to hold my child?  I figured it wouldn’t do much harm, so I did my best to ignore her crying.  My wife, however, did not share this sentiment.  She put our daughters needs before her own fears, and refused to ignore her desperate cries.

The Result?  I severely damaged the relationship I had been building with my daughter, and she learned that she couldn’t trust me.  She didn’t feel safe with me anymore.  For some time after if I was holding her, and something made her feel uncomfortable, she would seek out my wife, someone she knew would listen and understand.  Someone she could trust.

Even though a lot has changed since then, we still don’t live in a perfect house where it’s all daisy chains and unicorns.  We are haunted by the ghosts and scars of fear and control.  But every day we increase the love, the compassion, the respect, and the empathy, and every day we grow a little closer.

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BREAKING NEWS: Portland Diner Owner Comforts Toddler

Breakfast PancakesA few days ago the owner of a diner in Portland Maine took it upon herself to yell at a one year old who was crying too loudly.  She admits, however, that the biggest issue was the parents ordering the child (who she refers to as “it”) “3 fucking pancakes.”  It took forty minutes for the pancakes to be served, and when they finally did arrive, the owner suggested that they take the pancakes to go.  When they didn’t take her suggestion, she began to yell at the child.

The mother left a bad review on the restaurant’s Facebook page (for obvious reasons), to which the owner responded with a psychotic rant. (You can check out the full story, as well as screen shots of the Facebook review and response here)

In the wake of this nonsense, there has been an outpouring of support.  Not for the family, or the child, but for the owner of the diner.  Her Facebook page has gone from a little over 1000 likes to over 40, 000 in a matter of days.  They have also received 11,000 5 star reviews from people across the country and the globe.

I was shocked that the vast majority of the comments were  bashing the parents and praising the owner, and I didn’t know what to make of it.  My friend Josh Spicer at DaddyEngine summed it up quite nicely, “What the past few months online have taught me is that hate sells.”  It makes me wonder what would have happened had the story played out differently.

I don’t think, “Portland Diner Owner Comforts Toddler” is a headline you will ever read.  Had the owner made an effort to connect with the parents, or comfort the toddler, given her some crayons, or offered something else to eat while she waited for the pancakes, we never would have heard anything about it.  On the off chance that someone did decide to write about it, no one would care.  There would be no outpouring of “likes” there would be no avalanche of reviews, there would be no one calling the woman a hero, or making plans for a visit to Portland.

How sad it is that in our society hatred is idolized and encouraged, and kindness is ignored.

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UPDATE:  The Washington Post has now posted an article written by the mother, giving her side of the story.  You can read it here.  After it was published, the pendulum started swinging the other way in the review section of the Marcy’s Diner Facebook page.  There are still far more “5-stars” than “1-stars” but there is not nearly as much as a disparity as there had been.