Tag Archives: Present Moment Parenting

Downloading positives with extended family

Over the last month, my boys got to spend a lot of time with their cousins at the family cabins. There was fun and games in abundance as well as all the foibles and fumbles that happen when families get together for extended periods of time. Even slightly differing values around parenting and guidance approaches can make for interesting dynamics.

If things are getting a little crazy and you’re feeling the need to intervene but don’t want to make things worse by correcting another parent’s children, there is something you can do that almost always has a positive effect. Begin to download positives into the situation using “When you _______ I feel _______ because” as a script.

Here are some examples:

  • “I really appreciated it, Jeff, when you were careful to with the little kids during that game. It made them feel safe and they had a lot more fun.”

You can say this to Jeff even if it would be good for him to be a little more gentle, because it will help reinforce in him his prosocial skills.

  • “Jane, it was nice of you to give your older cousins a break. It helps them have more energy to play with you later when you give them a little space.”
  • “Steve, it made Buddy feel really special when you took special time to do that activity with him. Thanks a lot.”

It’s important to download the positives especially when things are getting tense. It helps to refocus the situation and bring a breath of fresh air. Grab the smallest possible positive thing you can find and maximize it. Sometimes we need to “create” a positive by mentioning one that isn’t quite manifesting yet. It’s amazing how powerful this can be at transforming situations.

One thing that was really important for Braden and I over the 4th of July weekend was to take regular father-son breaks. For us, these were imaginary hunting trips with his toy bow and arrow. It gave him a break from the competition with his cousins for attention and status. When he came back from his safaris, he got to tell his uncles about the animals he had bagged. Great fun for both of us.

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Posted by on July 18, 2010 in Present Moment Parenting


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Play Ideas from Minute to Win It

I’d never watched Minute to Win It before today, but when I did I was thrilled with some of the great family play ideas I saw. One game I saw today was for a player to dip his nose in a spot of Vaseline and then pick-up cotton balls with the the tip of their nose and move six of them to another bowl without using their hands. Another game was to strap an empty Kleenex box on (using a belt) and put six or eight ping pong balls in it. The player has to get all of them out without using their hands.

We all know that one of the greatest things a family can do together is play. If you’re short on ideas, take a minute to watch the show or look at the show’s website for a great idea. If you’ve got kids who are reluctant to participate, let them watch the show, pick the game, and prep it for the family.

Have Fun!


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Real Boys or War Against Boys?

This turned into kind of a long book review, so I’m going to give a quick summary at the beginning. You only have to read the whole thing if you want all the details.

I’ve been reading two books:

  1. Real Boys by William Pollack
  2. The War Against Boys by Christina Hoff-Sommer

Pollack says many boys are sad, lonely, and confused because society tells us we should treat them like little men and raise them through a toughening process. This drives their true emotions underground and forces them to put on a tough, cheerful and confident mask, which ends up being very harmful. Only when we understand what boys are really experiencing can we help them learn to deal with issues.

Hoff-Sommers says that boys want to be tough and confident and treated like little men and that the real problem is that society is trying to raise boys to be like girls. If we would just let them be boys they would be better off. She identifies a systematic agenda to make education and child-rearing a form of non-surgical castration that is harmful to boys.

I think there’s truth in both books. I’ve seen first hand trends in parenting and education that are harmful to boys, but I think the answer looks much more like Pollack’s approach than Hoff-Sommer’s. Read on if you want to hear more.

Hoff-Sommer begins by presenting a pretty convincing argument. Her sources are very credible, and main point is that some of the more radical feminist leaders are promoting programs and policies that don’t simply stop at furthering the cause of girls and women. The go beyond promoting equality and the ability of girls and women to live and work up to their full potential. In fact, these “misguided feminists” (her words, not mine) actively demean, disadvantage, and discriminate against boys and just about anything that smell of masculinity or testosterone. They knowingly and unknowingly endorse practices, opinions, and perspectives that overtly and covertly harm boys. She explains that while the original motives of some in this movement were very good, it has developed into something that is contrary to the original positive intention. Rather than lifting up girls, they are putting down boys.

In Real Boys, William Pollack uses his own clinical experience and solid research to identify and address what he sees as a negative “myth of boyhood” in our culture that requires boys to detach from their caregivers and their feelings in order to be tough or what society would label a “real boy.” This disconnection results in repressed/unprocessed feelings, stunted emotional development, and sometimes psychological disorders. Pollack has treated boys who have been violent, bullies or antisocial in other ways as well as boys who are depressed and suicidal. In most of the cases he has discovered boys who are in distress emotionally and whose pain could be traced back to early trauma with toxic beliefs about what boys are supposed to be like. He goes further and says that while only some boys may exhibit pathological consequences, most boys suffer from the negative consequences of the myths of boyhood.

The conflict between these two books is that Hoff-Sommers argues that we need to stop trying to make boys act more like girls. If we do, then boys will be better off. As a culture, we don’t need to put up with boys acting inappropriately to girls, women, and each other, but we do need to let them relate to work, play, learning, and life in ways that are consistent with their biology. There’s nothing wrong with being stereotypically male. She thinks that people like Pollack are most likely trying to make boys be something that males naturally are not.

Pollack, on the other hand, would say that it’s great for boys to be authentically male, but that our society has developed an incorrect idea of what that is. To raise healthy, real boys, according to Pollack, we need to allow boys to develop the emotional intelligence that they are born with and express it with an authentically masculine style. There’s no need to force them to be artificially tough, jaded, cocky or chauvinistic.

To sum up, it is good that Hoff-Sommers raises awareness about some very scary, radical trends in feminist social activism (PLEASE NOTE, I AM NOT OPPOSED FEMINISM. RADICALISM IN GENERAL TENDS TO HAVE LESS THAN POSITIVE RESULTS, REGARDLESS OF HOW GOOD ITS FOUNDATION MIGHT BE) and education that are directly harmful to boys and indirectly harmful to girls as well. We shouldn’t stifle boy’s energy, creativity, and personhood to make classrooms more manageable, playgrounds “softer,” backyards quieter, or sports less competitive. For girls to achieve, they don’t need society to squash boys. This line of thinking maintains a low opinion of both boys and girls.

However, Pollack provides a much better path forward. Real boys are not destined to repeat a stereotypical “boys will be boys” pattern of behavior and repression. We can raise our sons to be true to themselves as well as authentic, healthy men by fostering emotional intelligence and debunking cultural myths of boyhood in a way that embraces all the wildness and wonder that naturally comes boys.

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Posted by on May 3, 2010 in Book Reviews


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The Pastor is 50 Points

Today at church, when it was time to share the peace, Braden slipped out of the pew and walked the aisle until he could shake the hands of two pastors. It reminded me of a game that a guy in our Wednesday night small group played with his dad as a kid. They went to a very large Catholic church, and they had a game they played with each other when it was time to shake hands. Different people were worth different point values. Pastors were 50, nuns 25, and others had different values. When they were back in their seats, they would compare scores. Now doesn’t that sound like a really fun game to play with your dad! Who says church can’t be fun?

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Posted by on April 26, 2010 in Present Moment Parenting


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Is this bullying?



I watched a segment on the Today show yesterday about Phoebe, a teen who committed suicide. Bullying from classmates is identified as what pushed her over the edge. Some of her classmates are facing charges.

Another story I saw was about a teen boy who was dowsed in alcohol and lit on fire by some other boys over a disagreement about payment for a video game. He’s doing well now, but was burned over 60% of his body.

Last night my three-year-old was at the park with my wife. Like always, he asked a couple boys (one his age and the other little older) if they could all play together. They said no, that they hated him, and kept telling him that they were higher (on the equipment) and better than him.

Experts on the topic consider all three of these situations to be bullying–any time there is intimidation or dominance, whether is siblings, friends, parents or strangers. Bullying is most harmful when it continues for long periods of time, the victim can’t predict when it will happen, and the victim has no control over what happens.

The harm, pain, and death caused by bullying warrants a strong response, but not always the response we automatically jump to. It’s tricky to find balance. On one extreme, parents can hover and be uber-vigilant. On the other side, parents can miss red flags and children are physically and emotionally harmed. Given only these two choices, most of us would pick uber-vigilance, but the consequences of pampering and hovering are significantly harmful as well.

The approach I’ve chosen is more proactive. All bullying resources share this belief in common: People who have inner strength, confidence, and courage are best equipped to handle situations when they come up. It also really helps if a kid has a lot of assets like a network of people at church, sports, hobbies, extended family, and other caring adults in their life.

If you ask people, some will say that they don’t really ever remember being bullied. I don’t think this is because nobody every tried to intimidate or dominate them. In many cases, it is because their internal strength and support network were so good that they didn’t perceive and internalize their experiences that way.

To be clear, I don’t blame the victim. I’m not saying that bullying is all about the way that the victim interprets it. We should respond vigorously to bullying when it happens, especially if we see signs, symptoms, and red flags that are being kept secret. We should keep at it until we get to the bottom of what’s going on.

More importantly, however, we should be building our kids up in their confidence, inner strength, social skills, and courage. The Coaching I provide is incredibly effective at this. Get in touch with me, even if you’re not interested in coaching. I’m happy to help you find resources that will work for your situation.

One final point before I wrap up. As a parent, it’s my job to show my kids how they deserve to be treated. If I’m a bully to them, then I’m teaching them that they don’t deserve to be treated any better. Why should they be surprised or stand up to abuse, belittling, and punishment from others if they’re getting it at home from their own dad? We need to honor our kids, respect their dignity, and love them incessantly. If we do, then they’ll know who they are and that they don’t deserve the treatment they’ll get from bullies.

We can’t (and shouldn’t) control every experience that comes to our children. We can (and should) make sure we’ve given them the tools to be strong, confident, and courageous.

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Posted by on April 22, 2010 in Present Moment Parenting


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Energy Match for Emotional Repair

Emotions are important, and not just for all the touchy feely reasons that people might automatically think about. Emotions are important because we now understand the power of emotional input to create neural pathways. I mentioned in my post, “I’m the Angry Dad,” how experiencing anger from a parent (specifically me) affects children. Rather than getting built up in their confidence, good behavior, ability to achieve, and sense of belonging, parental anger reinforces brain pathways that tell kids: “I screwed up. I don’t deserve respect. My family isn’t a safe place. I don’t like myself.”

Lets be clear about one thing before we go any further. Learning techniques to help kids overcome anger or any other negative influence doesn’t remove the responsibility I (or you) have to do personal work so those negative influence don’t happen in the first place. I’m the dad. If I get angry a lot, I need to learn to overcome. Get in touch with me for resources.

Now I’m going to share a powerful technique for turning things around. By reinforcing brain connections to the good stuff, we can transfer energy from the negative connections created by anger and other junk. With time, the new, good connections get stronger, and those old, unused, negative pathways get weaker and weaker until they don’t fire automatically. Creating new connections for kids is surprisingly easy to do and incredibly effective. We start by using the script “When you ______, I feel ______, because.” For example:

  1. “When you brought your plate to the kitchen I appreciated it. It helps cleaning up go much faster.”
  2. “I love it when you drive your sister to dance because then I can finish up other things.”
  3. “When you unloaded the dishwasher and took out the garbage without being reminded, I feel so proud and happy about how responsible you were being.”

Using the script as a guide can get you started until it comes more naturally and you can use your own words. Try to match as much energy to the positive things kids do as your anger did to negative brain connections. While this technique may seem too simple to be effective, you’ll be amazed at the huge difference it makes when used consistently.

Of course, this is only the first (but a very significant) step toward great parenting and turning around negative patterns. Don’t hesitate to contact me now for more. I don’t promote the parent coaching I provide for personal reasons. I promote it because there’s not enough time, space, or personal contact here to teach you how to do it effectively. Don’t let another day go by before you transform your family dynamics and children’s behavior. 651-274-0031


Posted by on April 20, 2010 in Present Moment Parenting


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Fun Friday: Go Hunting with Your Kids!

Scavenger hunts are a great way to have fun with your kids. Think they’re just for little ones? Take a look at this website for REALLY COOL ideas that even teens will enjoy. You can do one of these deluxe mysteries, or just tape up a few clues around the house that guide your youngsters to one of their favorite treats, a present, or a gift certificate for a transportation any time any where (tweens like this). Other ideas for prizes at the end can be a night out with Mom or Dad or taking them and friends to one of their favorite places. The nice thing about scavenger hunts is that it’s fun just to do it, regardless of what they get at the end.

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Posted by on April 16, 2010 in Present Moment Parenting


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