The Greatest Risk of All: Losing Quality Time with Our Kids

As I work to support my wife and kids financially, and build a career for myself, I feel something far more important is slipping away.

I am lucky enough to spend time with my boys every day, but that time is filled with cooking and baths, cleaning up and getting them ready for bed. Lots of doing. There’s not much sit down and be in the moment play time with Max and Joss – and it’s breaking my heart.

Right now I’m working six days a week and there’s no guarantee that any of it will amount to anything more than next week’s paycheck. But what in life is a sure thing? Nothing is risk free.

And as my kids fight over toys and which video game they’re going to play with, they’re getting older. I find myself wishing that everything would just stop for a while and we could just play.

But that’s my choice, isn’t it? Sure, the kids have to cooperate and buy into it – but it’s my choice whether my next day off is filled with to dos, or time well spent with my family.

Have you spent a quality day with your kids lately?

And remember, you are not alone …

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The Romance Challenge: Learning to Date Your Wife Again

When was the last time you went on a date with your wife?

Did your conversation include talking about the kids, the bills or some other type of responsible discussion?

If so, then there’s a good chance you’ve lost the romance in what’s supposed to be the most romantic relationship in your life. I’ve never been overly romantic, but compared to how I was when I was dating my wonderful wife, I’ve slipped even further away from my romantic side.

Do I still love my wife? Of course. Do I sill find her sexy, interesting and attractive? Indeed I do.

But if I don’t take the time to be romantic with her, there’s a chance the connection we have will wither away. In other words, I can’t let stress, exhaustion, work, caring for my kids, my speaking career, mowing the lawn and all the other stuff in my life get in the way of keeping the romance alive in my marriage.

I have a friend who recently got divorced. Last time I saw her, she told me that the marriage ended because her and her husband had simply become friends. There was no fire left, no spark. If we don’t procure the romance in our marriage it might just disappear forever.

It’s time to begin the romance challenge. First up, making a date, and learning how to actually treat it like a date.

Who’s with me?

And remember, you are not alone …

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Wisdom from Theodore Roosevelt

I felt compelled to share the wisdom I discovered in the cap of my Honest Tea bottle today:

“Do what you can,

with what you have,

where you are.”

This is great advice for dads and moms, not matter what their situation.

And remember, you are not alone …
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Enjoy Life

Are you a super-busy, stressed out parent?

If so, you may often forget to enjoy your life and your family.

It’s easy to get caught up in work, paying the bills, caring for the kids, caring for our spouse, the house AND working on building a better future for ourselves and our family.

Sometimes we lose sight of the blessings we have and get lost in the things we’re striving for.

But what’s the point of attaining the next goal, the next paycheck or a clean kitchen if we’re not enjoying our lives?

I challenge you, and myself, to enjoy every moment we can. Because one day, we’ll run out of moments. I for one want to look back with a smile on my face, not regret.

And remember, you are not alone …

The Hidden Secret Ingredient to a Great Marriage, by Jason Kotecki

I found a great article on marriage that I’d like to share with you. It was written by my fellow speaker and friend, Jason Kotecki, who is the co-creator Escape Adulthood, along with his wife Kim. They have a fantastic program that helps cure people of  “adultitis.”

Here’s the link to the article: The Hidden Secret Ingredient to a Great Marriage.

I hope you enjoy it!

And remember, you are not alone …

Peace Begins at Home: 6 Tips for Siblings

In our home there seems to be a constant struggle to have our boys play together peacefully and respectfully. Although our younger son (4) shares very well, his older brother (7) has a hard time with it. There’s also a constant battle for control between them. The result? Stress for everybody.

The following article by Charlotte Reznick, Ph.D., sheds some light on how to help our children’s interactions be more peaceful and pleasant. I’m grateful she’s allowed me to repost it here …

“Haven’t we evolved and learned war is not an answer?”

The state of the world has been on the mind of so many of the families I work with. Too many wars, too much aggression, too much not caring about each other and the planet. It’s created an underlying anxiety even for the youngest kids who are exposed to the news in their living rooms. One tense teen asked, “Haven’t we evolved and learned war is not an answer?” In his mind, it’s hard to fight someone who doesn’t want to fight you back, so if everyone would decide not to fight, war could end.

Although we may not be able to do anything about what’s happening across the globe, surely we can do something about what’s right in front of us. Peace can begin at home – starting with brothers and sisters.

Like nine-year-old Lars. All he wanted from his big brother was peace. He hated arguing over video games and TV, and was hurt and angry at the older one’s constant teasing. Or six-year-old Taylor’s jealousy of her three-year-old brother. Although she longed for a sibling, it was different once Riley was born. Taylor flip-flopped between loving hugs and dangerous squeezing.

Kids tell me they want positive interactions with their siblings. But buttons get pushed, defenses go up, and friction abounds. We all play a crucial role. Cooperation, empathy, kindness, fair play, and self-control don’t always come naturally to children; they are skills taught through practice, just like making a bed and riding a bike.

If you want to encourage kindness and generosity, let kids see yours. To foster self-control, watch how you respond to frustration and anger. Each conflict is a learning opportunity and a child’s imagination makes a great study partner. Even ten-year-old Melody, who couldn’t speak up to her big bossy sister, conjured up an imaginary Wizard who coached her to say “No” in a strong and clear voice.

Consider these 6 tips to squelch sibling squabbles and develop more loving connections:

(1) Don’t Underestimate Stress:
When pressure is high, patience for little annoying behaviors fall. Teach your children to use the 0 to 10 Scale for stress check-ups (0 = no stress; 10 = the most stress). Then, use Balloon Breathing (slow deep breathing about two to three inches below the navel) to calm and re-center, lower reactivity, and raise tolerance.

(2) Find Out What’s Under the Big Bad Feelings:
Start by accepting and validating whatever your child is feeling about his sibling. Then gently guide him to the core issue. Listen to whatever he offers for angry or hateful feelings, then advise, “Close your eyes, and be surprised at what’s under your anger (jealousy, betrayal…).” Taylor found sadness under her hate for her new baby brother – she was sad because she missed the attention and time with her mom that she used to have. When your child faces the emotions under his distress, you can help him make a plan to release them and make peace with his sis or bro. Taylor’s mom invited her to help with the new baby – Taylor got to spend time with mom and feel proud of helping out.

(3) Use Animal and Wizard Wisdom in a Pinch:
Suggest calling in a wise imaginary Animal Friend or Wizard for advice for any sibling disputes. Taylor’s Blue Bird flew in and recommended instead of pinching her brother or pulling his hair, she pinch and pull her pillow. And Mr. Magic offered her the gift of a magic eraser – it erased her bad thoughts about her brother.

(4) Have Feelings Talk to Each Other:
Your child probably has a range of emotions about his siblings, some of which are as distinct as love/hate or happy/mad. Having his feelings “speak” to each other can result in a creative compromise. Once they get the hang of it, kids can practice together or role play, as the Anger of one negotiates with the Sadness of the other, helping them understand each other even more.*

(5) Give the Marble Jar a Chance:
This usually works like a charm. To encourage your kids getting along, let them know you appreciate and want to acknowledge their efforts at being kind to each other. Then take a jar, and every time you “catch” them being “neutral or nice,” drop a marble (or pasta piece or colored glass bead) in the jar. In the beginning, lots of reinforcement is important to encourage their positive behavior. When the jar is filled up (about a month) offer some terrific fun time. And along the way, say each quarter up (about a week) reward them with something simple but enticing (picking the videos you rent, special ice-cream, whatever you decide together).

(6) Unique, Not Equal:
It’s okay to treat your kids differently. They are different – likely different ages and certainly different personalities and needs. Talk to your children about how and why you make your choices. Listen to any hurt feelings, and let them know what you can change, what you can’t, and why. At the same time, try to avoid favoritism and comparison. Celebrate each child’s uniqueness, and encourage cooperation, not competition.

Charlotte Reznick, Ph.D. is a child educational psychologist, an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology at UCLA and bestselling author. In addition to her private practice, she creates therapeutic relaxation CDs for children, teens and parents, and teaches workshops internationally on the healing power of children’s imagination.

You can visit Charlotte’s Web site at: www.ImageryForKids.com. You can also check out her book, The Power of Your Child’s Imagination: How to Transform Stress and Anxiety into Joy and Success, at Amazon.

Collective Bargaining for Dads

Over the past few weeks, teachers and parents across America have banded together to keep collective bargaining alive so that teachers have a voice in their own future.

But what about dads?

Did you know that in Wisconsin there was a bill called the Equal Placement Draft that was proposed during this same time period? The bill proposed that dads who were willing and able to take care of their children 50% of the time should be able to do so. Overshadowed by the the issue over teachers’ collective bargaining rights, also an important issue, the bill got lost in the shuffle and was not passed.

How did we arrive here? How is it that our government does NOT find it overwhelmingly just and fair that a dad who is WILLING AND ABLE to take care of his kids should be allowed to do so?

Yet thousands of dads are sitting home right now without their children. I can assure you that some of them are in tears over it. These dads work hard, and they deserve to be an equal parent to their kids – yet they are not allowed to do so.

Who wins? Not the kids. Not their dads. I’m sure that there are moms who are happy to have their kids around most of the time. That’s only natural. But is this arrangement benefiting the child when dad is a man of integrity that mom just doesn’t get along with anymore?

Our schools and our communities aren’t winners when they have to deal with children that have behavior problems because there is no male role model to guide them.

Taking a long term view, who wins?

It looks to me like the courts are the only winners, because it’s far more simple to give dads 4 days a month to see their kids (just over 10% visitation) and 100% of the child support than it is to give a couple who are disgruntled with each other a settlement that is fair to the CHILD. It’s a classic case of dad being treated like a second-class parent, and it is shameful.

When a marriage does not work out, that doesn’t mean that bitterness and negative feelings should overtake a parent’s responsibility to put their child’s welfare at the top of their list of important things. This is true whether the parent is a man or a woman. Yet the courts have conditioned the process to strip dads and children of their rights.

There was an amazing response by teachers and parents, alike, when it was proposed that collective bargaining be taken away. But here’s my question:

Where were the dads and dad advocates?

Why was downtown Madison, WI, devoid of people shouting for dads’ rights? Are divorced dads so defeated that they believe they don’t deserve to be heard?

And remember, you are not alone …

Appreciate Your Mate on Valentines Day

Remember to kiss your sweetheart on Valentine’s Day.

And don’t forget to take a minute to think about how different your life would be if he/she wasn’t there for you. This is a great way to appreciate them, which is not always easy to do when we get caught up in the daily routine of life and survival.

Beyond money, beyond possessions, stress and pain – there is something that truly does make life worth living. Love.

Our mate is the person who gives us the love and support we need to carry on. No matter how big a problem may seem, having my wife by my side to solve it is one of the greatest gifts I can ask for.

And remember, you are not alone …