Unbelievable “suggested Christmas shopping list” circulating on the net

Moderation might be a thing of the past, even though we’re still coming out of the slowest recovery from a recession in history.

Here’s the suggested list for kids 10 and up:

Beats by Dr Dre audio accessories (Apple) – standard headphones start at $169.99
Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Super Heroes (Disney Interactive) – starter pack: $74.99
Galaxy Tab tablets (Samsung) – starting at $159.99
GoPro cameras (GoPro) – starting at $199.99
iPad (Apple) – starting at $499.99
iPhone (Apple) – starting at $99.99
MiP Robot (WowWee) – $99.99
PlayStation 4 Console (Sony) – $399.99
SIMON Swipe Game (Hasbro) – $15.19
Skylanders Trap Team (Activision) – starter pack: $99.99
Xbox One Console (Microsoft) – $399.99

Despite the sticker shock, I know parents who already have made some of these purchases and are likely to round out the list in time for the holidays.

So, I have to hear my envious kids complain again this year.

I remember getting mostly clothes for Christmas presents! I wonder if and how my parents would have handled the Holidays if high-priced, high-tech gizmos were available 30 years ago.

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.



I hear “fu-h-dge” from my kids at least twice a day.  I even find myself using it when I’m slipping.  I’ve also picked up the pharse “Shi-t-ake,” as in mushrooms, from them.

Too close to the real thing?  I always try to remember that whatever I say (in anger or frustration) will eventually come out of my kid’s mouth.  Now, I find myself uttering these kid-friendly versions of profanity.  I think that’s why I dislike those stupid “shut the front door” commercials so much.

In our profanity-laced pop culture, I don’t imagine “darn” or “shucks” will make a resurgence anytime soon.  Gosh darn-it all…

Image Problems for Girls Introduced At A Very Young Age (Great YouTube Video At The End)

Another factoid from the Girls Leadership Institute: Girls are exposed to hundreds of images a day suggesting what they should look like.  These images are impossible to filter out, and girls are inundated by them from every form of media out there (TV, magazines, commercials, toy stores, etc.).

Here are some disturbing examples, and then a list of some tom-boy and girl power movies/shows to watch together to remind girls they don’t have to look perfect or, worse, like a bimbo…

640px-Bratz-bratz-dolls-23272890-1352-803 113609_max 428093_390701994292259_1418724410_n liv-dolls-300x300 monsterhigh-300x286






























Now, for some good wholesome suggestions for your girl to remind her that she doesn’t have to be: really skinny, show lots of leg, have lips the size of balloons, wear lots of make up, and have a “come-hither” expression on her face at all times.

  1. Bad News Bears: Jodie Foster kicks butt.
  2. Harry Potter Books & Movies: Hermoine Granger shows girls can be smart and non-conforming to beauty stereotypes.
  3. Malala: MalalaYousafzai’s story is inspirational and focused on the inner person.
  4. Hunger Games: Books more than movies, because Katniss comes off more as a tomboy in the books.

And, check out this incredible video from a would-be beauty queen who choses to be her natural, pretty self.

America the Sexy: A look at beauty standards




Why it’s so hard to raise pre-teens these days? Technology & Standards

Are we busier parents than our parents?  Do we feel guilty because both spouses work?  Is there just more access to ‘bad stuff’ with the fast-paced development of portable technology that allows access to the internet (unsupervised) all day and night?


Although all of these issues are no doubt contributing to your child’s increased exposure to ‘bad stuff,’ I believe the biggest factor is the other parents around you.  I’m not making a weak argurment that everyone else but you is to blame.  I am simply pointing out that the lowest standards required by another parent when filtering out inappropriate material becomes the floor for tolerance, not the ceiling.

Let me put it more simply.  For example, do you let your eleven year-old watch “The Walking Dead” or “Breaking Bad?”  If not, chances are high that another parent in your social and/or school circles does allow it.  Maybe, they sit down as a family to watch “it.”

Every parent has heard the argument from their child, “but, everyone else gets to watch it.”  But, in our fast and loose pop culture, there will inevitably be the parent that allows it, ignores it, or is oblivious to it.  All of a sudden, some of the kids start discussing it at school.  Other kids want to be in the discussion about it.  Other parents, under consensual peer pressure, will allow their kids to watch it.  Now, it has become acceptable viewing material.

About half of the kids in my eleven year-old son’s 5th grade class watch “The Walking Dead,” an incredibly violent, graphic, and disturbing show.  I happen to really like “The Walking Dead,” but I don’t want my pre-teen exposed to decapitations, arrows in eye sockets, and blood everywhere.

I know I sound like a self-righteous, up-tight parent.  But, when did it become ok for a kid to watch a zombie chomping on the throat of a person??  Really?

Like my daddy used to say, “don’t tell me about a problem without giving me some sort of solution.”  Well, I don’t have one here.  I don’t even have any suggestions.

Maybe, if enough parents think about it, parental control of what kids watch (at least at home) might improve a bit.


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


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



Doll-faced girls teetering in 8-inch wedges; watch out!!

After attending a couple of  high school graduations this Spring, I’ve now had time to reflect on the popular style sported by many girls.  And, I have to ask the question – what were their parents thinking?

I’m sure we all remember the crushing angst of high school and the burning desire to ‘fit in.’  Fashions change over the year.  Girls will always want to wear an obscene amount of make-up.  I saw girls with enough mascara to even make Ozzy Osbourne feel out-done.

But, the most alarming fashion item this year, aside from the preponderance of skin tight dresses barely covering little bottoms, were the ‘platform wedges.’


These things don’t look like they were designed for walking.  I was on the edge of my seat as I watched girls precariously strutting up to the podium to receive their diplomas.  An apt analogy would be watching NASCAR – you don’t want to see a horrible wreck, but it seems as if one is always on the verge of happening.

So it goes for the teenager with little to no practice walking in high heels.  Yet, it seemed some girls were really trying to out-do each other with the height of their wedges.  I was reminded of the band KISS strutting out in crazy platform boots from outer space.

As parents, we just want our kids to be happy.  We want them to fit in.  Maybe, by the time they’re ready to graduate from high school, we’re just sick and tired of trying to talk sense into them.  Of course, falling flat on your face during a graduation ceremony would be much more traumatic than wearing flats to your graduation and after-parties.

Yes, as I guy, I had it easy – and still do.  Dress shoes with a blazer and khakis is the perennial favorite (thank goodness!).  But, I have a daughter.  As such, I have a vested interest in spotting fashion trends.

However, there were plenty of confident, self-assured and height-challenged girls wearing flats or something with heels 2 inches or less.  They looked lovely – in many ways much more so than the girls trying to be fashionable.  It gave me hope.







The ‘real’ importance of educational growth in this new Age

A quote from Tony Wagner, an educational specialist at Harvard, sums it up perfectly…

“Today, because knowledge is available on every Internet-connected device, what you know matters far less than what you can do with what you know. The capacity to innovate — the ability to solve problems creatively or bring new possibilities to life — and skills like critical thinking, communication and collaboration are far more important than academic .”

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?

Been enjoying the writing, so who cares about not making money? Joan Rivers knows…

“People say that money is not the key to happiness.  But I always figured if you have enough money, you can have a key made.”  Joan Rivers

I think she had that smile made, too…joan rivers

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?!


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.


“My throat really hurts…can I play X-box?”

There’s one sure-fire way to make sure a sick day is not squandered if you have a tween/teen boy…tell them no X-Box or TV while convalescing.  If they really feeling like crap, then they won’t care.

xbox boy

If their condition is borderline, it’s a judgement call.  If you’re on the fence and they’re unsure as to the need for a sick day, having them read a book serves two purposes; either it will put them to much needed sleep, or it will enable them to at least get some of their homework done.

If they look truly miserable by lunch-time, than fire up the TV.  Hey, I’m not a monster…

Does the word “sorry” have any meaning with kids?


I had asked my daughter to clean her room the other day.  The instructions were simple – put dirty clothes in the hamper (not on the floor), and put away the piles of clean, folded laundry that had been stacking up throughout the week.

About an half-hour later, I walk into her room and it’s still a mess.  I locate my daughter and ask, “what the what?”  “Sorry,” she says.  I lead her back to her room.

Again, an half-hour later, no daughter in her room and only a slightly smaller mess.  “Sorry,” she says again when I find her in the kitchen.  I tell her not to use the word sorry unless she means it.  “Sorry,” she says…this time with a hint of annoyance and sarcasm…

At-home Dad = Ghost…and not the kind Demi Moore was into…

It’s kind of funny.  A mom who would normally talk your ear off pretends you don’t exist if she is in the company of one or more of her friends.  And, when I say talk your ear off, I’m talking about situations where you find yourself feverishly inventing an exit strategy.

Some at-home moms feel awkward when it comes to the idea of a man doing what they do.  One-on-one is cool.  But, you can quickly become the ghost in a group settings.

I think this is a major factor behind the formation of so many at-home dad blogs and groups have formed over the past couple of years.  We all need a support structure, especially when it comes to the challenging and often monotonous role of at-home parenting.

I often compare my at-home dads experiences to the movie “Mr. Mom,” which usually infuriates most serious at-home dads.  But, there is one part of the movie that was progressive – Moms playing poker (using coupons instead of cash) and drinking beer with the lone at-home dad in the neighborhood…


 Now, that’s pretty cool.  I’ve got a big wad of coupons…








“Why do I have to empty the garbage?!” my son asks…

I’m stepping up the chore delegation, and this is the response I received.  When I explained that someone has to do it, I was told that I’m more than capable!

Well, so are you my children.  “But, I have homework, after-school activities and ‘stuff’…”

When I went through the litany of ‘stuff’ I do for them, I almost won them over.  Allowance did the rest, of course.

Signs of smart phone addiction (kids and adults)

Drum roll, please…


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?”