Some parents need to “parent up”

Like any decent post, this diatribe will likely resonate with some parents and anger others.  I feel compelled to point out that a whole new generation of “push-over” parents are raising a new generation of brats with an over-the-top sense of entitlement.  There seems to be an emerging trend of parents who want to be friends with their kids.  I want to have a good relationship with my kids, but one has to draw the line at some point.

Parents know that parenting can often be a real drag.  Continually displining your kids and setting boundaries can be exhausting and unpleasant.  But, as discussed in other posts, I think kids need and want boundaries no matter how much they protest.  Obviously, parents have to pick battles selectively.  However, what happens when parents don’t pick battles at all?

Obnoxious brats.

kid-yelling-at-mom-e1311649360391 shutterstock_103529144__1376054441_74.134.205.46 zzsnotty1

 

This becomes an issue for other parents because 1) it can rub off on your own kids if they spend enough time with these darlings, and 2) it makes social situations with multiple families unpleasant and awkward.  Who wants to listen to another parent’s kid argue, berate, or entirely ignore that parent?

We need to find a happy middle ground between Dr. Spock (the pediatrician, not the  pointy-eared guy) and our own parents’ old-school tough parenting.

 

“Girl Power” – Some useful tips from the Girls Leadership Institute

Powerpuff_girls_characters

When the inevitable “fight” occurs between your daughter and another girl, I’m reminded every day how little I understand girls.

Girls, seem to file away each slight (intended or unintended) and have the uncanny ability to recall the most minute details years later.  Boys seem relatively easy and straightforward in comparison.  They will act like bone-heads towards each other, but they seem to get over it quickly.

As pointed out by our speaker from the Girls Leadership Institute (GLI), this attention to detail, coupled with a proclivity to hold grudges, creates a “snow ball” effect with girls.  Essentially, a minor dispute can quickly turn into drama of gigantic proportions.  The result more often than not is a hysterically crying daughter feeling like her soul is being crushed by the weight of the world!

So, what is a parent to do?  The speaker of GLI introduced the concept of “contribution.”  For the younger girls, the concept is described as a “double sorry.”  In my words, the concept is describing the old adage “it takes two to tango.”  The key here is for your daughter to recognize her own role in the dispute, take ownership, and put the actions of her offender in perspective.  For younger girls, GLI describes a double sorry as a way of making both girls realize there is something for each of them to be sorry about in a conflict.

The contribution concept is a very powerful one, in my opinion.  Instead of being the victim, your traumatized girl needs to understand what her role was in the confrontation.  You can ask her what she contributed to escalate the situation and how she could have prevented the escalation (well after the sobbing has stopped).

This exercise is meant to empower your daughter, not to make her feel she is to blame.  By recognizing that the elements behind a confrontation are not one way and straightforward, your girl can begin to think beyond the knee-jerk emotional response.  By examining her own contribution to a confrontation, your girl is in a better position to identify the actions and words that really upset her.

Admittedly, this is no easy task.  One of the hardest things for a girl to do is to approach a peer and talk about her feelings and how the other girl had hurt them. The GLI recommends role-playing with your daughter to help her practice so that she can choose her words and tone of voice in an appropriate manner.  As GLI pointed out, this process is difficult for anyone.  The only way to muster the confidence needed for good delivery is through practice.

I find the concept both powerful and enabling.  The ability to discuss hurtful comments with the person who made them is a useful skill and will serve your daughter well throughout life  The goal here is simple: help your daughter find her own voice and the confidence to use it.

For more information about the GLI, check out http://www.girlsleadershipinstitute.org/about-gli/The-Power-Of-Girls-Leadership-Institute

Can Kids Be Self-Sufficient These Days?!?

We justify doing a LOT for our kids during the school year.  After all, they have more homework than we ever had.  Kids also participate in a wide range of time-sucking activities.

But, we are in the dog days of summer now.  I find myself questioning whether my ‘tween and ‘teen could manage on their own for a couple of days.  I fear the house would be littered with half-eaten and rotting food.  I can’t imagine the milk being put back in the fridge.

To highlight my concerns, we recently asked our kids to clean their shared bathroom.  We keep the door closed because the view is too similar to a restroom in Grand Central Station.

To our surprise, there were no less than eight empty bottles of shampoo and conditioner in the bath tub.  At least ten depleted toilet paper rolls littered the floor.  Two empty tubes of toothpaste were stuck to the sink.

I’m continually asked for lunch options when the answer is in the fridge.  They can’t seem to be able to find anything in the kitchen or their rooms.  My kids also ask me what to wear in the morning.  They both have iPhones and have the same weather app I use.

The effort to look for anything themselves is too taxing.  These are the same kids that will spend furtive hours searching for game apps or popular YouTube videos.

to do list

I believe the answer to fostering some semblance of self-sufficiency with kids begins with refusal.  Refusal to help look for food, clothing, and misplaced items in ALL circumstances.  This means, at times, they will be late for camp or a playdate.  They will plead with tears of frustration in their eyes.

Life’s most valuable lessons are learned by making mistakes and facing the consequences.  The drama factor alone can propel any parent to just do it themselves.  It’s tempting to go with the path of least resistance in many situations when our children (feign) helplessness.

I have to continually remind myself of the quote, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.

 

 

 

Play-date? Anyone? Gotta get my kids out of the house… #parenting #mrmom #summer

The inevitable summer doldrums are setting in.  Kids look forward to summer with much anticipation, only to realize how boring life can be outside of the carefully structured school-year.

After all, kids get to see their friends, play at the park, and eat lunch together during school.  Now, friends are at summer camps, on vacation, or at their parent’s beach houses.  That is, the lucky ones…

How does a parent keep their children entertained, especially when they themselves are busy throughout the day?

Nowadays, it seems that kids will not spontaneously wander around the neighborhood looking for a pick-up game or for other equally bored kids to play with.  In fact, the entertainment default seems to be powering up the Xbox or going off to a remote corner of the house with an iPad or iPhone in hand.

We have some relief now that our kids’ summer camps are starting at the end of the month.  Whatever your situation, here are some ideas I’ve put into play during the limbo..

  • Make a schedule for each day: I like starting the day out with homework and some light chores.  If they knock that part out, then they’re free for the rest of the day.  This is particularly helpful when trying to keep kids on top of their summer homework.
  • Set a fixed routine for the start of the day and bedtime: Kids have a way of pushing the envelope at bedtime and sleeping in as late as possible.  They can do that in college…
  • Arrange play-dates days or weeks in advance: If you can put up with screaming kids running around your house, nothing beats the doldrums like have some pals over.
  • Sleep-overs: Same as above.  But, sleep-overs come a major downside – late nights for both adults and kids, and cranky kids the next day.  So, I keep these to a minimum – say, once or twice a week.  And, I usually make it an award for doing the bigger chores/projects.
  • Big chores/projects: Kids can never be too young to learn some hard work and responsibility.  The chores have to be age-appropriate, of course.  Since the concept of what is age appropriate varies and can be a subject of intense debate, I would recommend both mom & dad are on board with the projects (I had to learn this the hard way…).  Some examples – shredding stacks of bills/bank statements, basic landscaping, throwing out 25 unused items cluttering the basement or their bedrooms, grocery shopping, etc.
  • Ice Cream breaks: I try to do this pretty much as often as possible, particularly when the kids complete a respectable amount of chores and/or homework on a given day.
  • Day-trips: When the week is getting painfully monotonous, a day trip to the beach, hiking trail, movies, or the dreaded theme park can provide a welcome reprieve from incessant complaining.  If such trips are put on the schedule at the beginning of the week, you are providing an incentive to get kids cracking on the homework and chores earlier in the week.

This is all basic and obvious stuff.  But, somehow putting it all on paper as a schedule seems to have struck a positive chord with my kids.  Without some kind of structure, I think  kids morph into malcontent blobs.

bored kid

 

 

What if we could turn back the clock on intrusive technology?

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m a huge fan of tech.  Maybe I’m too much of a fan…

old phoneBut, there are times when you want your kids to be in the ‘now.’  You want them to pay attention, listen, and interact with you.

Dinnertime is traditionally the sacred time where no interruptions are tolerated.  Why do I often have to spy the phone concealed under the table while my kids try to covertly text their friends?

“Dad, it’s so unfair,” my kids say.  “All of my friends are allowed to have their phones at dinner.”  Yeah, and monkeys can fly.  I’m sure parents out there have heard similar accusations that “you” are the only parent setting limits.

Theoretically, we could take the cordless phones, smart phones, cell phones, tablets, etc. and lock them in a closet.  We actually have an old land-line phone in the basement for emergencies (i.e. power outages).  It’s the only reason why we haven’t jettisoned the home phone – a growing trend with younger generations who don’t see the purpose of a land-line phone (or have never seen one!).

Imagine only having a land-line phone in the house.  No voicemail or caller ID.  How would your kids deal with this situation?  I think my kids would go through the common stages of mourning – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and more anger.  I don’t think they’d ever reach the stage of acceptance.

How could they?  We can’t go back in tech-time, nor do we want to go back.  But, our senses are continually assaulted by text chimes, ringing phones, flashing icons, and devices vibrating incessantly.

The point of the exercise would be meaningless.  We would hope our kids realize that it’s OK to let that one text message wait until the end of dinner let that one call go into voicemail.

Until we adults can overcome these urges, how we can’t expect our kids to do the same? Good luck with that…

 

Try this…”If you don’t do your chores, than I don’t make your lunch for school, sweetie.”

thumbnail of children doing chores-thumb-200x200-72896Kid’s are wonderful, and we love them.  However, kids can be self-centered monsters.  This is actually normal.  It’s just where their minds are developmentally.

Keeping the attitude in check AND getting kids to do what they’re told are two entirely different matters, however.  As parents, it’s amazing how much we do for our kids on a daily basis.  And, most of our efforts go unnoticed or can be taken for granted.  That’s just how things work, and we’re o.k. with it because we love our children.

But, when the clutter in the bedroom gets to be knee-high, the dishes aren’t put away after meals, and you start finding dirty socks in every corner of the house, it’s time to get serious…

Try harmless retaliation through delgation of certain tasks.  For example, tell your kids they have to get up early and make their own lunch for school.  Remind your children why you are withholding this service:

You help me, and I’ll help you…

So, your kid wants or needs new sneakers?  But, they haven’t taken out the garbage or cleaned their room in over a week?  Make a list of neglected chores that require attention, and the sneaker shopping will happen when the list is completed.

I’m amazed at how much time I’ve spent asking my children to perform certain basic tasks (repeatedly).  The time and energy spent making sure these tasks get done inevitably drives me to complete them myself.

We have so many weapons in our arsenal; play dates, transportation, lunch preparation, etc.  Why not simply use this as leverage?

Going deep here…Book recommendation

Obviously, we have a lot of influence on our kids.  Man, I’ve acted like a jerk sometimes.  But, consistently acting as a functional role model is all that matters…

A boy observes how his dad resolves conflicts, cooperates, and works as a partner in marriage and family, in the community, and at work.  In all arenas of his life, a father’s actions speak more loudly than his words, and a boy is listening carefully to both.  If a father can be emotionally honest, candid, thoughtful, and flexible in his responses, then a son’s respect will follow.  A man who idealizes his strengths and accomplishments distances himself from the reality his son inhabits – a world of more varied emotions and experience.

Ok, a bit long-winded.  But, I really like the message.

raising cain2

 

“You need to wear a helmet!”…”but none of the other kids do,” says my son. What the what?!

skateboarder

This is Shaun White, by the way.  He gets paid to be a lunatic, and even HE wears a helmet.

All of the tween/teen boys in the neighborhood are officially skateboard lemmings.  They ride their boards everywhere.  They try do out-do each other with fancy tricks.  One kid wears homemade gloves with steel spikes so he can make sparks as he cruises.

Leave it to the moms to introduce some safety into the equation.  All of the moms made a pact to enforce helmet-wearing while skateboarding.  Moms acting together are a powerful force and not to be trifled with…

When my wife informed my son he had to wear a helmet, he quickly replied that none of his friends did.  Of course, she was armed with several examples of (a few) kids in our neighborhood who actually wear helmets.

His reply, “You’ve always told me not to do what other kids are doing.”  Priceless…

And, yes, he is now wearing a helmet.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOOs8MaR1YM

Signs of smart phone addiction (kids and adults)

Drum roll, please…

letterman

10.  A full battery charge barely lasts the day.

My kids have ingeniously procured these nifty battery pack/cases.  They are a protective case and double the battery life.  Pretty cool, right?  Not when you find them under the covers at 1am still ‘gaming.’

9.  You download apps just for the fun of it.

My kids easily have over 200 apps, and counting.  Unfortunately, I think the latest roll-out of Apple’s iOS (with folder function) theoretically allows the user to downloand something like 2,800+ apps.  Why?  Because they say it’s fun to download them.

8.  You actually use more than 10 apps on a regular basis.

Some apps are necessary and useful (contacts, calendar, online banking, maps, etc.)  Other apps have become a part of our lives (Facebook, Twitter, Kindle, iTunes, etc.).  Do you really need and use all of the apps you have?  My kids literally have more than 10 different game versions (apps) of ‘Tomb Raider.’

7.  Realizing you forgot to bring your phone with is a panic-inducing.

On a recent trip to do some day-hiking, my son left is iPhone at home.  Close to tears, he wanted us to turn the car around when we were almost at our destination (about 30 minutes drive).  When she forgets her iTouch, my daughter has been known to just stare at my son’s iPhone while he plays it.

6.  You’re on your smart phone even when hanging out with friends.

When my kids hang out with your friends, say at the park or at the house, I’ve noticed times when everyone is on their smart phone.  Sometimes they can play the same game online – the “virtual play date.”

5.  You take your phone to the bathroom.

My kids’ bathroom visits have lengthened considerably since they started taking their devices in with them.

4.  You “dress up” your smart phone.

Simply put, you own more than one smart phone case and change them regularly just to mix things up.

3. You feel the need to respond immediately.

When that chime goes off or the phone rings, my kids immediately rush for their phones.  When this behavior interrupted dinner, I initiated the basket rule (they need permission to take out their devices).

 2. You feel restless and/or bored when your phone is not in your hands.

If you experience intense curiosity or even anxiety when you can’t check your texts, Twitter, Facebook, or whatever, you are hooked.

And, the number one reason you know your kid (or you) are a smart phone addict –

1. You are oblivious to where you are and who you are with.

When I had to start repeating everything 3 or 4 times, I knew distraction-prone smart phones had to go.  When I noticed my kids (and myself) unintentionally ignoring or neglecting family members and friends, I realized we all had a problem…

 

inspiration for signs of addiction from: Huff Post article by Carolyn Gregoire, iMore.com, allgrownup.com (all of these signs were aimed at adults…until now)

Good quote from the writer on allgrownup.com  “Is what I’m looking at my phone for more important than what I’m choosing to look away from?”

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

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…

 

 

20130201-102741.jpg

‘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.