About mistermomblog

at-home dad, and happy to be one!

Anybody know a good rehab center for child iPhone addiciton?!

In any elevator or line at Starbucks, almost every adult is in the smartphone prayer position; head tilted down, elbows bent at a 90 degree angle, reverently holding their smartphone talisman.

people-using-their-smartphones

We were out to dinner as a family Saturday night, and the young couple sitting next to us spent the majority of their dining experience on their iPhones.  I was turning to my wife to attempt a witty comment, when I noticed my own kids were bent over their iPhones and iTouch, madly swiping away with manic concentration.

That’s when it hit me – my kids were i-Addicts…We all know of the epidemic, and we are complacently allowing our children to get hooked.

Children using smartphones

drI thought my solution to the problem was straight-forward.  I put a basket on the kitchen counter and told the kids that, from now on, all devices go in the basket.   I told my kids they need permission from a parent to take a device out of the basket.

An onslaught of tears, outright insubordination, and claims of unconstitutional parenting ensued.  A family meeting (intervention) did not help the situation.  Their reaction is likely not dissimilar from taking drugs away from an addict…almost.

I looked up a couple of articles that deal with smart phone addiction.  Interestingly, I also exhibit many signs of an smart phone addict.  I guess the first step in solving the problem is leading by example.

In a follow-up post, the symptoms of an iPhone, Crackberry, or Android addict will be summarized.  Just watch where you’re driving…my posts aren’t that important.

drive text

 

 

 

Why do parents drive themselves nuts during the early morning routine?

If we just try leaving our kids to their own resources in the morning, what’s the worst that can happen?  If they are late to school or forgot their homework, they will get in trouble with a respected authority figure..their teachers!

angry teacher

 

Teachers can have a big impact on discipline, so give your kids enough rope to hang themselves.  Well, not literally.

I’m not suggesting that we outsource the discplining of our children to their teachers.  But it doesn’t hurt to let them fail and face the consequences.  Once they incur the wrath of a teacher, It probably won’t happen again.  At least, not for a couple weeks…

angry teachers 2

 

Apparently, my daughter’s feet smell so badly…

I just found out her best friend’s mom sprayed Febreeze on her socks during a sleep-over this past weekend.  She did not inherit this trait from me…really

smelly feet

 

The decandent, chinese-food eating wonder twins are back…

Moms and dads, do not try this at home…please…
chinese food kidsA previous post about poor eating habits we pass along to our children showed the wonder twins relaxing in between courses, if you recall…

fat kids 4 This has been a public service announcement brought to you by your local Chinese food restaurant.

“All of the other kids in my class have an iPhone…And, lots have iPads, too.”

Hey porky! The new kids of America…

The following article gives good insight on how today’s food conglomerates mirror the addictive additive techniques and shameless youth-targeted advertising of the infamous tobacco industry: The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food.  

Because a picture is worth “a thousand words…”

fat kid 1 fat kid 2 fat kid 3 fat kids 4

Please be offended unless you’re raising your kids to be Sumo Wrestlers…

kid sumo

What ever happened to boys like the Beavers…

thin beavers

Morning roll call…Get their keisters in gear

If you haven’t already, try some of these ideas for the morning routine:

Be the secondary alarm clock.

I figure the average kid will take at least 30 minutes from the time their alarm goes off to the time they actually get their feet firmly planted on the floor. I also figure it takes an average kid about an hour to get ready. So, in total, I budget 90 minutes before they absolutely have to be out the door to make school on time.

After the alarm goes off, I first tell the kids somewhat gently that it’s time to get up. Because they will go back to sleep as soon as I walk out the door, I come back in 15 minutes, turn up the lights and do my best drill sergeant impersonation to get them fully awake. I won’t leave the room until they actually get out of bed.

drill sergeant

“I am Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, your senior drill instructor. From now on you will speak only when spoken to, and the first and last words out of your filthy sewers will be “Sir”. Do you maggots understand that?”

Sometimes, I have to repeat that part of the process more than once!

Do not allow your kids to eat breakfast before they get dressed.

Some parents may already do this as a rule, but often there is so much whining and complaining in the morning that kids are given time to ‘wake up,’ get some breakfast and watch TV to get them to shut their traps.  But, they will soon learn to get dressed quickly if they are hungry.

Since I cut out TV in the morning, my kids litterally get ready in about half the time.

My kids turn into TV zombies and watch life insurance commercials with the same vigor as an episode of Sponge Bob Square Pants…

The pay-off/reward incentive.

It’s simple. The quicker they get ready, the more time they will have before they go to school.  I let them do whatever they want as long as they are 100% ready to go.  

Tell your kids to get ‘pumped,’ not ‘stumped.’ Why some kids flip out while others can handle stress…

Some useful take-aways from a really longgg article in the New York Times titled “Why Can Some Kids Handle Pressure While Others Fall Apart?” If you want to read the whole thing: NYT article on kid stress

How ‘elite’ athletes view stress/pressure: “There are many psychological and physiological reasons that long-term stress is harmful, but the science of elite performance has drawn a different conclusion about short-term stress. Studies that compare professionals with amateur competitors — whether concert pianists, male rugby or female volleyball players — show that professionals feel just as much anxiety as amateurs. The difference is in how they interpret their anxiety. The amateurs view it as detrimental, while the professionals tend to view stress as energizing. It gets them to focus.”

Also, about 65% of students who were told anxiety/stress would actually make them perform better on the test did better than those who hadn’t been introduced to this notion. This reinforces the idea that how stress is viewed (positively or negatively) is key to performance.

The doctor conducting this studying is quoted as saying, “When people say, ‘I’m stressed out,’ it means, ‘I’m not doing well.’ It doesn’t mean, ‘I’m excited.”

Tell your kids to get ‘pumped,’ not ‘stumped.’

 

Feedback from a 15-year veteran stay-at-home dad…

When asked to comment on the mistermomblog.com site, this veteran at-home dad had some choice words:

I wonder who is your target audience. I suspect women would not be very interested in the site as they have tons of their own sites and probably are unimpressed by guys doing stuff they have done for ages.

probably not this guy...

probably not this guy…

Well said!  But, we’re all parents stumbling our own way through the child-raising process. Some parents are more accomplished, some parents try hard, and some parents can get very creative.

Which is why, here at mistermomblog.com, we’re very interested in hearing about different approaches and perspectives on parenting.  I know I could use all the help I can get.  And, wtih the merger of tradtional gender roles in the household, navigating through the multi-faceted responsibility of keeping the kids, routines and activities more challenging than ever.

I know ‘m not inventing anything new here. And, I am not claiming to be a guru on managing the household or raising kids. In fact, the whole experience has really opened my eyes and motivated me to help create awareness among the male population about how difficult and challenging it is to be the stay-at-home spouse.

Managing the household, paying bills, and keeping food on the table is really secondary and misses the point.

Our kids and their development is the really important part. How we interact with our children on a daily basis is the focus of this site. To be nurturing, but encourage self-reliance. To be a disciplinarian, but also provide key emotional support when needed.

not like this guy...

not like this guy…

I certainly do not have all the answers. In fact, I don’t have many. But, I think I’m good at making observations and relaying them in written format. It was this notion that inspired me to start writing a book called The Survivors Guide to Being Mr. Mom™.

Admittedly, I started writing to provide an outlet for my frustrations. The experience has taught me to laugh at myself and those around me doing the same thing. There is an entirely different set of rules in the world of the stay-at-home “caregiver.” The politics are fascinating, and reveal the flaws of human nature and personal character as they do throughout the workplace.

The real purpose of the site is two-fold: what everyone participating can learn from each other, and how we can make each other laugh.  No, the two are not mutually exclusive…

Who really manages the household when both parents work?!?

In this post-recession period (if it’s really over), money is tight, job security is a thing of the past, and both men and women are working longer hours.  What hasn’t changed?  In dual-income families, women still perform a disproportionate amount of child-raising and household tasks regardless of which spouse works longer hours or has a higher income.

overworked mom2

That’s not to say fathers don’t contribute.  But, the mother will typically take the lead when it comes to arranging play dates, signing up for activities, managing babysitters and nannies, grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, and the list goes on…

Changing years of traditional gender-specific parenting roles is not easy.  However, dads are participating in child-raising duties more than at any other stage of our evolution.  The age of coming home, kicking back, and catching up on the news is a thing of the past…

lazy dad

Many dads cook, clean the kitchen, and even (shudder) fold laundry.  Dads read bedtime stories and tuck the kids in for the night.  But, when it comes to meeting with teachers, organizing activities, and working out car pool logistics, moms usually still take the lead.

But, now this is all changing with the emergence of competent & confident stay-at-home dads.  Kid of sucks for the traditional couch potato.

To be continued…

When told by a reader that the expression “Mr. Mom” should be dead…

The connotations associated with the term “Mr. Mom” are on life support and will soon become a thing of the past as at-home dads become more prevalent in our society.   Labeling is wrong, and both genders need all the support they can get, irrespective of experience and comfort level with the ‘caregiver’ role. After all, it <em>is</em> a tough job…

I think our conscious and subconscious psyche as a society tends to apply stereotypes and labels to non-traditional concepts in an attempt to process them. Let’s face it, at-home dads are still new enough to have some novelty and, unfortunately, some prejudice. Even with the growing trend of at-home dads, Parent Magazine recently reported that less than 4% of US households have an at-home male caregiver. And, there is still no accounting for how much of this segment is voluntary.

Societal views on traditional gender roles are developed (and encouraged) at an early age. But, it is time to break the mold and embrace how men can add a unique quality to child-raising (hence the post with attached articles). That said, although the reality of “Mr. Mom” is dying, the self-effacing humor in the way men approach the profession long dominated by the opposite sex should live on…

We dads have to lighten up a bit and stop judging one another, and I think that is your point. A lot of traditional moms already dominate this territory already…(ouch, but it’s all in the book).

 

Shame: coping with the emotional roller coaster ride that can be high school

This blog was inspired by this week’s New York Magazine cover article, “High School is a Sadistic Institution” (January 28, 2013).”

Shame is an all-too familiar by-product of the high school experience. The self-conscious emotions of guilt, embarrassment, and insecurity can transcend the high school experience and stay with a person throughout their life.

loser

Unfortunately, our minds in high school contain the most vivid and longest-lasting memories, according to Brené Brown, PhD, and a professor of research at University of Houston. Says Brown, “…And this incredibly painful feeling that you’re not lovable or worthy of belonging? You’re navigating that feeling every day in high school.”

So, how does a parent help their child navigate the high school experience? If your child is encountering rejection, torment at the hands of a bully, or difficulty making friends, it is important to remind them you suffered through the same experiences and survived.

Empathy and listening skills are your key tools to help your child during this chapter of their life.

Be careful to keep your own feelings under control. In the article, Brown remarks how many parents of teenagers experience “secondary trauma.” According to Brown, a child’s experience with rejection can evoke familiar and painful memories for a parent.

You’re kids might just end up being way cooler than you ever were in high school…

nerd is cool

 

 

Is “Mr. Mom” dead?

I think not. There are two distinctly different breeds of “at-home dads,” in my opinion. No doubt, there is an increasing trend of young couples with very young children making the decision to have dad take the role of the at-home caregiver. Mom is the one hunkering down in the workplace to generate the family’s income.

But, within this group exists a subset of unemployed investment bankers, lawyers, and businessmen who have little to no experience running the household. I would not call this subset inept or bumbling. However, the enthusiasm of a new parent combined with the conscious decision to stay at home and raise the kids can make all the difference.

These dads want to stay home – which is awesome.

nycdads

(NYC Dads meet-up)

This group of men really dislike the moniker “Mr. Mom” and the term ‘stay-at-home dad’ or ‘SAHD.’ Personally, I don’t think at-home dads should be overly sensitive to the “Mr. Mom” moniker. As I’ve said before, from time on-end, mothers have performed the role of primary caregiver quite admirably. The image invoked by Michael Keaton’s character in the movie “Mr. Mom” is fading, replaced by the presence of truly engaged and competent at-home dads (see my link to the National At Home Dad Network). At-home dads are now organized and increasingly confident in their chosen role.

My recent link to the WSJ article “Mr. Mom is Dead” does not address the swelling ranks of recently unemployed, middle-aged men with older kids (tweens and teens). It is this segment of ‘at-home dads’ that have a lower comfort-level and enthusiasm in their new-found role of caregiver and household ‘manager.’

header001 2

“Mr. Mom” is not dead, just evolving…

 

 

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‘Chore Monster’ rocks!! You have to check this out…

This iPhone app came to my attention while listening to Bloomberg Radio, of all things!

CM logo

I had been mulling over today’s ‘Art of War’ inspired battle strategy with the kids, when I heard a segment about this app that helps you get your kids to help out around the house.

In the past, I had tried many of my own hastily concocted systems to get the kids to do basic chores and to help out around the house.  All of them were futile.  I had spent  hours putting together spreadsheets with title like “complete these items and get a star;  five stars equals one dollar.”  Out of desperation, I even tried a much different approach with, “You do [this] bad thing and you get a red ‘X.’  Five red X’s means you owe me five dollars…”

Pathetic, really.

But, someone with a lot of time and creativity has finely honed a more engaging and entertaining system of tracking chores and doling out rewards.   I think the concept works so well because of its simplicity, fun graphics, and its transparency.

cm 2

 

To begin, I prioritized the chores that were most important to us.  Picking up ‘stuff’ around the house was a top priority.  Books, clothes, toys and various electronic devices had taken over our floors and kitchen counters.

The key in assigning chores is to keep it short and simple, in my opinion.  We tried to keep the list from being overwhelming.  In a stroke of genius (if I can say that about myself), I assigned the largest allocation of points to a bedtime of 9pm.  Walking the dog once per day, 5 points.  Picking up clothes and dirty underwear off of the bathroom floor, 10 points.

You can set frequency, due dates, and make special notes for each chore.  If a given chores exceeds the due date, the icon becomes enveloped in bright flames.  When your child submits a chore as completed, you have control to verify and approve the taks’s completion.

Now the key part: REWARDS.  We wanted to be creative with the rewards to keep our children  enthusiastic.  It was also important to fairly allocates enough points to a given chore so that our kids could reap the benefits.  When you accept the chore as completed, your kids get a very satisfying “good job done” graphic on their end.  Then, the child is prompted to select from the available awards.

cm 3

We offered up 30 minutes of ‘screen time’ (Xbox -ughh, TV, computer games,etc) for 25 points.  The beauty here is that you can control how many ‘screen-time’ awards are available.

 

Other reward offerings include ice cream, sleep-overs, and choosing the family movie of the week.  If you give this app a test run, you will see that the goal-oriented enthusiasm is contagious.

To really make it a race to the top, we set a bonus of $20 for 500 points in a given week.  Not quite a bribe, this goal-oriented economic incentive has made all the difference in the world for us.

We now give fewer ultimatums, engage in less browbeating, and have more time to relax…with the kids!

cm 4

The only drawback: your entire family needs to be in possession of Apple-based devices.  Which, quite frankly, means your kids are already spoiled and in need of some serious chore-doing anyway.  An Android version is coming soon.  But, you will not get the immediate, real-time point accumulation and resultant reward endorphin rush unless your kids have iPhones or iTouches.

 

What does parenting have in common with Newton’s Laws of Motion and Tzu’s “The Art of War”

In a recent post, we discussed a key principle of Newton’s 3rd law of motion which can be applied to how we approach our children.

Newton’s third law: “When a first body exerts a force F1 on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force F2 = −F1 on the first body. This means that F1 and F2 are equal in magnitude and opposite in direction.” Your kids can certainly exert force enough to match your biggest push.

250px-Skaters_showing_newtons_third_law.svg (1)

 

So how do we discipline our children, teach them life lessons, and try to get them to do stuff around the house? Strategy. And, this is why a review of some battle tactics outlined in the “Art of War” can be very helpful. Basically, we want to get our kids to do homework, chores, etc. while not overtly exerting our will (F1), because our kids (F2) will resist in equal measure.

Please allow for some liberal interpretation…

Tzu said, “If words of command are not clear and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, the general is to blame.”  We need to make sure our kids really understand what they must do and how they must do it.

“He who relies solely on warlike measures shall be exterminated; he who relies solely on peaceful measures shall perish.”  A couple of themes come to mind here.  ‘All bark-no bite,’ and ‘all carrot-no stick,’ for example.  As parents, we can not go ballistic on all transgressions, both big and small.  The intended effect will become diluted.  Also, threats and aggressive tone without promise of reward will increasingly become futile over time.

sun-tzu-the-art-of-war

 

In a way, I think Tzu was so effective because he was flexible in his strategy.  “…when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believer we are near.”

I am not advocating waging mental warfare on our children, and I am not implying that our kids are the enemy.  However, the results we want can be obtained by playing our ‘hand’ differently than predicted.  In fact, the mere fact that we can be unpredictable will give an advantage in procuring desired results.

“Feign disorder, and crush [him].”  Well, we don’t want to crush anybody.  We just want teeth brushed, clothes picked up, back-packs packed, homework done on time, dinner plates cleared, etc.

In my opinion, the key to successful behavior modification lies in the risk-reward trade-off.  As Tzu aptly observed hundreds of years ago, “Rewards are necessary in order to make the soldiers see the advantage of beating the enemy…”  For them, the enemy is chores, homework, going to bed at a reasonable hour, and (of course) constantly being told what to do by general mom or dad…

paris-hilton-reading-the-art-of-war-by-sun-tzu

 

 

 

Let it flow and let it go when dealing with your kids…count to 10 or go punch a hole in the wall

I have read and reread “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff (and It’s All Small Stuff) by Dr. Wayne Dyer several times.  It is a nonsensical, zen-like approach to dealing with stress.

In “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff,” Dr. Dyer spends a lot of time trying to instruct the reader how to put things into perspective. Some of my favorite concepts from the book are the following:

“We overreact, blow things out of proportion, hold on too tightly, and focus on the negative aspects of life.” This raises an interesting question for parents. Do we spend more time praising or admonishing your children?

“When you don’t sweat the small stuff, your life won’t be perfect, but you will learn to accept what life has to offer with far less resistance.” Over time, taking a less-overbearing approach with our children will not only reduce friction, but we may find your kids surprising less inert when it comes to behaving in a manner that is more to our liking.

Our kids are always going to misbehave, disappoint, and do things that will meet with our disapproval. It is the way in which we respond to our children that will effect the outcome.

not like this guy...

not like this guy…

When taking the angry-scary parental approach, we exhaust ourselves, upset our children, and create a negative environment in the household. We are better off counting to ten and choosing what we say very carefully in a steady, no-nonsense tone.

I sometimes just stare at my kids for a couple of seconds. This can be much more disturbing to them. After all, they usually know they’ve done something wrong, and they are waiting to see how we will react.

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Now, I’m not into mind games or mental warfare with my children. The take-away is not what you say. Rather, it is how you react to your child’s latest transgression. As parents, we must pick our battles carefully, or we dull the effect on our children the next time around.

 

 

Happy New Year! Have a rebuttle from the kids…resolutions they’d like to see their dad make…

1. Stop telling us to do stuff

2. Get a job

3. Relax

4. Don’t make us do homework

5. Install flat screen TV’s in our bedrooms.

Best wishes to everyone for the New Year

New Years resolutions I’d like my kids to make

1. I won’t leave my clothes scattered on the floor throughout the house.

2. I will put my dirty clothes in the hamper and put my clean clothes where they belong (ie. I won’t leave them in the laundry basket until you do it).

3. I will clear my place after meals without being asked.

4. I will turn off any electronic device (TV, iPhone, I touch, computer, Xbox, Weii, etc) when YOU TELL ME THE FIRST TIME.

5. I will not wait until the last minute to start my homework.

OK, I know I’m dreaming.. But, there’s always next year.

HAPPY NEW YEAR