Tag Archives: Parenting

Raising Independence

When our kids are first born the level of dependence they have on us is incredible. A newborn flat out cannot survive without their parents. Yet so many other species on this little blue marble do not operate like this.

A giraffe can begin to walk nearly 60 minutes after birth! My last child didn’t walk until after his 1st birthday… A number of reptiles will lay their eggs and never return to the nest. My kids can’t watch a Halloween movie and not sleep in my bed for the next three nights. Sea turtles somehow always manage to find their way back to the ocean. My kids get lost in clothing aisle at Target…

photo cred: Picsea

There’s plenty of reasons things are this way though. Our species has the luxury of being able to raise our children with minimal threat to their well-being. There’s also a plenty of mental development that occurs in those early years, as opposed to the physical development we see in nature for other species.

And from that first day, we are required to give that high level of care and attention to our children. There’s no other way to go about it. Our children simply require that we are there caring from them 24/7. However, the mistake we make as we raise our kids is transitioning from this dependent care to independence.

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Our kids get older and we still get them a glass of water, cut up their food, help them get dressed, do their chores, clean up after them… and before we realize it, we’ve gone from parenting to nannying. Instead of doing things because our children can’t, we start doing them out of convenience.

We tie their shoes for them because it’s just faster. We keep changing their diapers because potty training is so difficult. We bail them out of situations when they get in trouble. We let them sleep in our beds because we’re just tired too. We continue to baby them and baby them as they grow older, creating more and more dependence on us.

And then what do we do? We send them out into the world and expect them to be functional adults. We expect them to be able to organize their lives, build relationships, start a career, be home owners, know how to balance a budget… the list goes on and on because as parents we’ve failed to smoothly transition them from dependence to independence.

We’ve let our children grow up in a world that doesn’t really reflect what life is really like. Now don’t get me wrong, every child deserves a childhood free of worries BUT if we’re raising our children to think that life is care-free and someone else will always be there to do it for them, we’re setting them up for a difficult adult life.

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Our childhood is just a small fraction of what our lives are and what good is it to have a great childhood and then grow up and spend the other 75% of your life miserable because you don’t have the tools and training you need to make a better life for yourself?

So… the best way I’ve found to allow your kids to still have a childhood and also give them what they need to be successful adults is to start teaching them independence. Start small and look for opportunities.

When they’re old enough, let them pay for their own snacks at the store with their own money. Give them an allowance so they can learn the value of a dollar and give them chores to earn that allowance. If they’re thirsty, teach them to get their own glass of water. If they’re hungry, teach them to make their own PB&J.

photo cred: Chloe Skinner

They won’t be perfect at it, they’ll fail, and they’ll screw it up BUT that’s all a part of the learning processes. We learn by failing, let them fail now, early on in life, when you can still be there to guide them. Don’t wait until they’re 25 to teach them how to manage their money. Start teaching independence now. You’d be surprised at what your kids can actually do at a young age, on their own.

How to Get More Out of Everything

How many people have woken up on a Monday before work and thought, “Ugh… here we go…” How many people have looked in the mirror and thought, “Ugh… why can’t I just look like them…” How many people have looked at their partner and thought, “Ugh… why can’t you be a better husband/wife…” How many people have taken their kids somewhere and thought, “Ugh… why can’t you kids just be good…

It happens all the time, in all facets of life. We’re dealt a shitty hand and no matter what we do, things just don’t seem to ever get better. We’re stuck in a job we’re unhappy with. We can’t see how some people are so blessed to be skinny and in shape while the rest of us are cursed with extra weight. We’re stuck in a relationship with a partner that doesn’t deserve us or we’re unlucky enough to have kids that just won’t listen.

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And no matter what we try, these situations never seem to improve. Our job throws us another curveball each week just piling it on. Then we’re so burnt out and exhausted from the day we’ve only got enough time to get dinner and take a few minutes to rest at night. Our partner can’t seem to understand how rough our day is and our kids can’t keep quiet long enough so we can just get a minute to clear our minds.

It feels as if everything is constantly acting against us.

photo cred: Nik Shuliahin

The truth is…

You’re getting out of life, exactly what you’re putting in.

And for some people, that’s a tough pill to swallow. For some, they’ll read that and instantly say, “Bullshit! I bust my ass everyday” or “I try all the time with my husband/wife/kids” but I’m here to tell you, it’s not enough.

It really does not matter what you think about the job you’re doing and how well you think you’re performing. It really does not matter what you think about how good of a job you’re doing.

What matters is the results. So ask yourself, has what you’ve done worked? Hmm? Has, “busting your ass” worked for you?” Has, “trying all the time” worked with your husband/wife/kids? Have you achieved results?

The reason you haven’t achieved results is because you haven’t put in enough. It’s that straight forward. If you want to stop waking up on Monday and feeling like, “Ugh…” then you need to put more into your job. You need to go up in there, sit down, and be the most bad ass employee in that place. Get shit done, go the extra mile, help other people out, and flat out be a boss. Try it. Do it for one day and tell me how you feel.

photo cred: Jordan Whitfield

Can’t seem to lose your weight or get in shape? Put more into your diet and exercise. MAKE TIME to do it. Start meal prepping, start walking, start exercising, put more into it. Do it for one day and tell me how you feel.

Stuck feeling like your partner in your relationship isn’t acting right? Maybe you feel like they’re not trying hard enough or at all? Maybe you feel like your relationship has gone stale. PUT MORE INTO IT. MAKE TIME for them. Love them. Even if they don’t return that love. Love them anyways. Are you with them only because they love you? Or are you with them because you love them? Do it for one day and tell me how you feel.

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Do you feel like you’re struggling to get your kids to listen? To get them to do their homework, brush their teeth, to behave? MAKE TIME for them. Take them to the park. Sit down with them and do their homework with them. Instead of yelling at them or sighing and saying it’s just the way they are. Spend time talking to them about their behavior. Put more into it. Do it for one day and tell me how you feel.

If you’re not happy with a situation in your life it comes right down to what you’re putting into it. You get out what you put in.

If you’re not happy with what you’re getting out, then you need to be putting more in.

You Get Out What You Put In.

Legacy – What was Passed to You and What You Pass Down

Legacy is such a neglected word. When we hear legacy we often think of incredible people through history. People who lived such amazing lives that they live on long after they’ve died. Their legacy carries on for generation to generation.

We think that legacy is something that is reserved for only the greatest of lives, the biggest of people. We tend to forget that we have a legacy ourselves. Because our legacy is not famous or known by millions we think it doesn’t exist. But our legacy is actually deeply intertwined with who we are, who are parents were, and who our children are.

Legacy is more than just what we’re known for. Legacy is a part of who we are today and it’s a part of who our children will be tomorrow. Legacy is something that is passed down from one generation to the next. It’s what your parents handed to you when you were born and it’s what their parents handed to them. And eventually, it will be what you hand to your children.

photo cred: Laura Fuhrman

Our legacies are the things that each generation of our family is passing on to the next. Think about things that were passed on to you from your parents. Maybe the way you talk or the way you do a certain thing. Maybe you drink coffee every morning, and so did your parents. Maybe you sleep in late, and so did your parents. Maybe you get up early, and so did your parents. Maybe you smoke, and so did your parents. Maybe you drink, and so did your parents.

These things are the things that are being passed down to you and represent what your families legacy is. Often times these things are passed down from generation to generation to generation. A cycle that’s never broken and repeats time and time again. And sometimes this can be good, right? Maybe our parents passed down love to us or maybe they passed down healthy eating habits.

But sometimes that legacy can be bad. Sometimes we can be passed down abuse or unhealthy habits. Sometimes we’re passed down a terrible work ethic or selfishness. Legacy isn’t always something positive but it is always passed to the next generation.

What makes legacy so important is that once you recognize the legacy that was passed to you. The good and the bad that came from your parents. You can start getting to work on growing that legacy. You can decide to say, “I’m not just going to repeat the same short comings of my parents and their parents before them.” Once you start to recognize the things that your legacy has brought you, you can start to build an even better legacy for your children.

The value in seeing the bigger picture like this is that not only can you start to improve and make your own life better, but you can start to develop a Selfless Why. Not only will you improve yourself, but that legacy will then be passed down from you to your children. And if that legacy is powerful enough, it will be passed down to their children and their children.

And one day your children and your grandchildren will look back at you and say, “Damn, grandpa was a bad mother fucker” or “Wow, grandma really knew how to bust her ass.” Your children and grandchildren will remember your legacy and they will strive to carry that same torch on to their children. And if your legacy is powerful enough, they too will be inspired to improve that legacy.

photo cred: Paolo Bendandi

Don’t get caught up thinking that your life is just your life. Recognize that a legacy was passed on to you and now it’s time for you to decide what legacy you will pass on. Will you continue smoking, and drinking, and living an unhealthy, selfish life or will you change that legacy so that your children and their children can be handed a better legacy than you were handed?

What Legacy will you pass on?

Sports and Youth

Ahhhh… youth sports… the best place to find one generation ruining sports for the next. The only place you’ll find parents slugging it out over whether or not the teenage umpire made the right call at home plate. The number one place to find parents living out their unfulfilled dreams through their children. Too bad we don’t get this fired up about our kids education…

But really, this isn’t what youth sports is. These are outliers and rare occurrences. Most games are actually much more boring than this… I know because I’ve been to about 167123,123431245,21354 tee ball games…

Youth Sports is so much more than any of that though. Youth sports is one of the best opportunities to teach your children a number of highly valuable life lessons. You see while they’re at school, your child’s life lessons are coming from the world. From their teachers, from their classmates, and from their experiences that you’re not a part of. And these are good as well but you really don’t have any say if your kid learns to pick his nose in kindergarten or comes home from 2nd grade and asks what a ‘vagina’ is because he heard some other kid say it at recess….

That’s just life and you just have to get over it. But sports, and specifically youth sports, provides a huge opportunity for you to actually get in and get involved with your child’s growth. Not as an athlete but as a strong, resilient, highly motivated individual. No I’m talking about screaming at your kid from the sideline because he dropped a pass on 4th and 3. That’s not it. Don’t be that person…

What I’m talking about is teaching your children how to grow on their own and how to handle adversity. These two key points are infinitely valuable in living a happy, successful life. Let’s take a look at why each of these two points is valuable in it’s own regard.

Let’s First talk about adversity as I feel it’s more valuable and beneficial to our mental health in the long run. Facing Adversity is the ability to over-come incredible challenges that are presented to us by life. I say incredible because most the time, we don’t truly face adversity. Having a tough day at work is not adversity. Getting bullied everyday at school is. Adversity is facing something that has no clear cut answer or solution. Adversity is a challenge that makes others question if it’s even possible to over-come.

Youth sports provides one of the best training grounds to teach your children how to deal with and over-come adversity. When they lose, when they strike out, when they make a mistake, when they try hard but still lose… each of these moments, in our children’s eyes, is adversity. And because it’s on a level that is relatable to our children it’s the perfect opportunity to start teaching them how to deal with that.

So how do we actually do that? How do we teach them to handle and over-come this adversity? It’s two-fold, or as I like to say, it’s Good Cop, Bad Cop. We first need to provide positive reinforcement. At that first moment of failure no kid, teenager, adult, or person wants to hear any criticism. So first things first, let’s get our mindset in a positive place. I do this by just following up with my kids and saying, “Hey good try buddy.” That’s it… it’s that simple. And it can be more than that but it honestly doesn’t take much to set the right tone.

Now one of two things happens after this. Your child accepts the failure and moves on OR they hang on to it, they don’t let go of it, and they dwell on it. They pout or throw a fit. They cry or complain… and this is where it gets tough but it’s also where you have to be the Bad Cop.

photo cred: Kelly Sikkema

This is where you have to come in and say, “look, we’ve still got a lot of game to play. We’ve got other opportunities and a chance to try again. We are NOT going to sit here and dwell on this.” And as children they may or may not respond to this. We have to remember we’re dealing with children that can’t always make themselves make the right choice. Shit as adults how many times do we make the right choice?

So keeping it in mind that we are dealing with someone who is, by nature, very immature we then have to help them make the decision for themselves. If they are still dwelling, still pouting, still throwing a fit because they struck out or because they lost. Now is the time to remove them from the situation. Literally, pick them up, tell coach BRB, and go sit in the car. Let them vent, throw down, cry, whatever they’ve got to do. And when they’re ready, when they’ve gathered themselves back up. Ask them, “Are you ready to go back out and try again?”

If you repeat this process. If you stick to it and stay on it, your child will learn how to deal with adversity. They will start to learn that just because something bad happens doesn’t mean life is over. It doesn’t mean I have to let 10 seconds of my day ruin the other 24 hours. It also teaches them to first respond to adversity with positivity. This is what your teaching your child. You’re teaching them the process to over-coming adversity. Positivity first. And if that’s not good enough, take a break from the situation and when you’re ready, go try again.

The Second opportunity you have to teach your children is how to grow on their own. At a young age, this isn’t very realistic so it’s important that as parents we serve as coaches towards this end goal. We do this be coaching our kids up. Once our kids are able to over-come their loses and adversity you can start to teach them how to grow from those moments. All you really need to do to accomplish this is to be involved. It’s so easy to walk up to your child in the dugout and say, “Hey great play on defense buddy you were right there. Next time let’s try to get our glove all the way down into the dirt and stop that ball, okay?”

photo cred: Keith Johnston

And if you repeat this. You do this over and over and over in a positive, growth oriented manner your children will grow. They’ll improve and even better, they’ll learn the process of growth. They’ll learn that it’s really all about hard work and practice. It’s about doing it over and over and over. That’s all it is.

So get your kids into youth sports. Get them out their competing, facing adversity, winning, losing, growing, learning, getting exercise and get yourself involved. Be positive and focus on taking advantage of this short time you’ll get to spend with your kids in Youth Sports.

Take Pictures, Build Moments

From the moment I stepped into the role of a parent it has been a whirlwind through time and space. As each bundle of joy came along I’ve found that the whirlwind just got faster and faster. The days start flying by and most of the time we’re playing catch up.

When I did stop to take a minute to catch my breath and look back on where the last year had gone I found these little moments. Small moments that I had spent with the kids like, Christmas morning, them opening a birthday present, seeing them get their first hit in baseball, or a time we had a good laugh, like when my son wanted to be a pickle for Halloween…

And as I look back on these moments I realized that I’m only really remembering a small portion of that moment. I’m remembering a small fragment of what really happened and I can’t help but think for that whole year that went past, I’ve only got this handful of moments to look back on?

I decided that wasn’t enough for me. I felt that if a whole year had gone by I should have more moments than just the handful I could pull off from the top of my head. So I made two changes to give myself more to look back on in life:

  1. I started taking pictures. Allllllllllll the pictures. I figured if I was going to have more moments to look back on I needed to capture more of them.
  2. Every couple of months, my wife and I would print our pictures and put them into a scrap book.

This had profound affect on how I looked back on my life and how I shared my life with others. Instead of this handful of fleeting moments I could hardly remember I had an entire book to represent my life. Each picture, each moment, brought on a wave of additional memories that I would have so easily forgotten without the picture to capture the moment.

I noticed that digital pictures didn’t quite have this same affect. I think part of the reason is that when we are building the scrap book of our lives we are much more selective of what moments make the cut. Not every picture can land in the book, there’s just not enough room, but the best of the best always seem to make it.

Now you might be thinking, “Wow, you made a scrap book, let’s hold a parade! Big deal…” and you’re right. It’s just a scrap book. Front and back cover with a stack of pictures in between… but what I hope, what I hope this book becomes is something more than that.

When I sit down with my kids and flip through the pictures from time-to-time I hope that it reminds them of where they came from. I hope that they remember those moments like I do and I hope that it fills them with love and inspiration. I hope that it motivates them like it motivates me and someday, someday long in the future when I’m not around… I hope that my kids open that book, look back, and say, “I remember this picture, I remember Dad always taking me for bike rides” and “I remember this game, I remember Dad always making it to every practice and game.”

And then I hope they pass building that scrap book on to their kids.

Good Cop, Bad Cop

Raising kids is one of the most challenging things I’ve ever had to take on in my life. Even before your first child is born your life begins to change dramatically and you’re called to step up to the challenge of Parenthood. And damn is it a challenge… always… from Day: -280 until forever…

the sandlot GIF

But hard work comes with big payouts and the payouts I’ve received as a parent far exceed any of the difficult times I’ve experienced as a parent. And at the end of the day, it’s always worth it to work hard at being a great parent.

So I want to share one of the most effective approaches I’ve had in my journey as a parent. It’s something I’ve learned through trial and error and it very much works like the ol’ Good Cop, Bad Cop routine. If you’re not familiar with this routine it sort of goes like this:

  • Cops catch 1 of 3 robbers, they throw him in into a room, and try to get him to give up who his buddies are.
  • The first cop comes into the room (Bad Cop) and he’s a real hard ass. He starts laying into this robber telling him they have him on tape, they’ve got his finger prints, they’ve got all the evidence they need and they are going to lock him up for life.
  • The job of this first cop (Bad Cop) is to instill fear into the criminal. That’s his only purpose. To make this criminal start to worry, start to be concerned, start to care… and then the cop leaves.
  • After a bit of time, the next cop comes into the room (Good Cop). This cop comes in and he sits down with the robber and he starts talking to him in a calm voice. He says, “Look man, I know the judge on this case. I know this is looking bad for you, BUT… if you can work with me, if you can cut a deal with me on your buddies. We can make something work. We can get you back on track”
  • This cops purpose is to instill hope. By inspiring this hope within the robber he brings him back from the low of the Bad Cop and in return the robber is encouraged to cooperate. He feels motivated to help the Good Cop because he feels the Good Cop is looking out for him.

This is the basic run down of Good Cop, Bad Cop routine and in parenting we sometimes call this Tough Love. In practice, this technique is extremely effective in parenting and the balance between these two roles or the failure of that balance, is the real key to parenting success.

Anytime I’ve watched other parents struggle with raising their children it’s because they lacked effort in one of these two areas of Bad Cop, Good Cop. Either they are too often the Bad Cop or they are only the Good Cop.

Bad Cop parents are always coming down on their children. Always being hard on them, always pointing out their flaws, or jumping at the opportunity to punish them or correct them. And what happens in these cases is the child grows rebellious or becomes submissive lacking the ability to stand up for themselves.

Good Cop parents aren’t in any better position either. These are the parents that can’t say No to their children. They can’t find the fault in their child’s mistakes or they spoil their children at every chance. As the child grows older they learn they can do anything, say anything, and there are no consequences for their actions. And then what happens when they have to go out into the real world with this approach to life? They aren’t ready.

So why does Bad Cop, Good Cop work so well and what does it really look like? I’ll share a real example of how this has been applied in my life and why I feel it’s so effective.

One bright and sunny day my 7 year old stepped off the school bus and he came running up to me, tears streaming down his face. When I asked why he was crying he said it was because he got a bad grade and I thought, “Okay… a little dramatic but whatever…”

The next day I get a call from his Principal. Come to find out, this little rebel got the idea to draw on the school bus with a permanent marker. Now, in the scope of things, I could really care less about this happening. He didn’t hurt anybody and he clearly didn’t realize what he was doing was going to upset people (also he wrote his own name… so not to bright on his part).

What I was really mad about though was that he lied to me about what had happened. You see, to me, that trust, knowing that my kids will tell me the truth when it really counts is incredibly important to me. It’s the only way I can guarantee that as my kids get older and life gets hard, they will honestly tell me how things are for them and when they need help. Many teens and young adults struggle at these stages of life and pride or embarrassment keep them from getting the help they need. It’s important your kids can be honest with you.

After talking with the principle I was pretty pissed that I’d been lied to and out came the Bad Cop. I approached my son and let him know that I’d learned the truth. I let him know I was mad and that I was mad he lied. I dished out a punishment and I walked away. And even at this moment, I could see how much of an impact this had on him. He wasn’t just upset he was in trouble, he was upset because he’d burned a bridge with me by lying. THIS is what you want your children to feel. The guilt, the shame, the regret not because they are in trouble, but because they’ve wronged someone they love. And this only happens if you’re both the Bad Cop AND the Good Cop.

After some time had passed and I’d let go of what had happened I approached my son again. This time as the Good Cop. I sat him down and in a more calm voice I explained to him why I was mad. I asked him why he lied to me and I talked with him about how that lying made it harder for us to be best friends. That the lying, would ruin our trust and damage our relationship (now these are big concepts for children BUT I’ll tell you, start teaching them now. Don’t wait until your children are already teenagers to try and teach them about honesty and trust. If you do you’re already behind the game).

During this conversation we talked about his mistake, what he could have done better or different, and then we gave each other a big hug and reminded each other that we loved each other. I told him I was proud he was able to be honest with me in the end and that I hopped he learned his lesson but that also (Bad Cop) he still needed to make amends for his mistake, apologize, and make it right. He wasn’t happy about having to do those things, but he was ready to make it right with my support.

This approach to parenting is so effective because it gives children what they are really looking for in their parents. Discipline and Love. These two pieces are crucial to leading a happy, successful life and children need both. Discipline to help them stay on track until they are mature enough to discipline themselves and Love to remind them that they aren’t alone in their journey.

If you’re new to parenthood or you’ve been doing it for some time. Take a look at your strategy. Are you mostly Good Cop, mostly Bad Cop, or have you found a good balance between discipline and love?

Welcome to The Hardest Work

I’ve recently become motivated to share my journey through life, my experiences, my failures, and my successes in hopes to inspire others as I’ve been inspired.

Since this is my first post I’m still working out the details of setting up this blog. I’m hoping to cover a wide variety of content and topics including:

  • Productivity
  • Motivation
  • Parenting
  • Programming
  • Fitness
  • and More!

I don’t have a set plan yet but I hope to share as much as I’ve learned about various topics and that readers of this blog can share their experiences back with me.

If you have suggestions for content or topics you’d like to hear about please let me know!