Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Getting Away From Your Kids

Last weekend my wife and I took two nights to get away from the kids to enjoy our hometown of San Diego. Since we don't have family in town it is not always easy to pull off the logistics but when we are able to get our parents to fly down from Seattle we love to get away.

Getting away with your significant other is not only fun for you, it is an important piece of parenting your kids. Taking some time to get away from your kids while you enjoy vacation comes with the added benefit of teaching the following values to your kids:

1) How to treat women (for boys) or how to expect to be treated (for girls).

Our kids need to see how healthy relationships function. They need to see that healthy relationships require intentionality. They need to know that once kids are in the picture the relationship does not go "on hold" for the next twenty years. You may feel guilty or selfish for enjoying life for a weekend without your kids but you are actually not doing your offspring any favors by never leaving their side.  One 2011 study found that healthy relationships between parents directly correlated with healthy relationships between those parents and their kids.

Getting away and investing in your relationship with your wife teaches your boys that they will one day need to keep investing with their spouse. It teaches your girls that they should not settle for a guy who does not want to keep pursuing them. It is no surprise that the behaviors you display in marriage are often the behaviors your kids will repeat in their own marriages so feel free to model a marriage where you take time away from your kids to be with each other. (One day you will be grateful when your own kids ask you to hang out with your grandkids so that they can get a vacation). 

2) You teach your kids they are not the center of the Universe.
Most of the free time (I use the term free-time loosely) as a parent is spent helping kids with homework, watching/ coaching/ teaching recreational activities, helping out at school or church events, or other work related to raising kids. This involvement is important for the development of our kids but if we are not careful we may unintentionally teach our kids that they are the center of the universe.

Some parents actually believe their kids are the center of the universe but a day will come when they discover that this is not the truth. The sooner we help our kids learn that other people have needs, desires, and pleasures that may not directly benefit them the better off they will be.

When we take time to focus on our own relationships as parents, our kids learn that thinking of others is okay and not always getting what we want is okay. In a healthy situation your kids will know you love them and they will learn that loving them does not mean you never take time for yourself. When they learn the importance of allowing others to have needs fulfilled, they learn to be people who are able to naturally think of others and make sacrifices for the good of others. Parenting involves a lot of teaching perspective and getting away is a very practical way for your kids to learn perspective.

3) Extended Family is Important. 
Having your parents or siblings help out with your kids while you get away also helps your kids build relationships with the people who helped shape you. I understand that for some of you this is not possible or even desirable so in those cases your family might include long time friends. For us, we love when our kids get to be with their grandparents and they always like those experiences as well.

My parents dumped me off with the grandparents every summer and would send post cards from places like Hawaii and the Carribbean. I never felt angry or jealous that my parents were enjoying some travel while I enjoyed the beautiful mosquito and humidity infested summers of Minnesota because I was having fun with my cousins and other family members. Your kids will likely afford you the same freedom so go for it.

4) Marriage is fun.
There is no doubt that kids raised in homes with both of their biological parents tend to do better in school, engage in fewer destructive behaviors, become more successful in their careers, and in turn, have healthier marriages of their own and continue the cycle of raising healthy kids.

When we take time to get away with our spouses, we increase the joy we have in our own marriages and we provide happier, healthy environments for our children. They will see the benefits of loving marriages and will be more likely to believe in the institute of marriage and provide the same environment for our future grandchildren.

My wife and I love travel and we love food. When we get away we can do the things we love to do together thus strengthening our bond. Plus we have the added benefit of eating the food we like regardless of what our kids think (even though are kids are also foodies and usually like what we like) and the other added benefit of being able to afford dinner with three fewer mouths to feed.

If you have not taken a weekend or a week away from your kids in a while, look at your calendar and do your kids a favor by doing your marriage a favor. Find a way to get away and teach your kids these valuable lessons. You might also find some other very nice benefits of being in a hotel without wondering if your kids will walk in your room in the middle of the night. (That last one is for you and your spouse to figure out on your own). 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

When Parenting Styles Differ

The Following is a brief article addressing differences in parenting styles. I am a cross between a "authoritative and permissive" parent... oh, and sometimes authoritarian. I guess I have a lot to work on. 

The original article can be found here on WEB MD
WebMD Magazine - Feature
Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD

When your parenting style differs from that of your partner, tensions can run high.
Take the case of Leigh Henry, 37, of San Antonio, Texas. Leigh doesn't always agree with her husband, Ryan, also 37, on how best to parent their toddler and preschooler. Ryan, an attorney, makes "empty threats," she explains. "He'll threaten to not take our son on a promised adventure if he doesn't behave -- or to leave him in a store. But he won't really do it. He believes that's OK because that's how he was raised." Stay-at-home mom Leigh, conversely, believes in following through on consequences and can't bear the idea of threatening to abandon a child in a public place.
Her dilemma isn't unusual. Many couples differ on the best way to raise children and are often surprised at how strongly they feel about the matter. "Most of the couples I see who have children have differences in parenting styles," says Barbara Frazier, MSW, a licensed clinical social worker and therapist in Gainesville, Fla. "It's really a matter of how great the difference is," says Frazier, who also founded The Successful Parent web site. 

Three Kinds of Parenting Styles

Family counselors divide parenting styles into three categories: authoritarian (a parents-know-best approach that emphasizes obedience); permissive (which provides few behavioral guidelines because parents don't want to upset their children); and authoritative (which blends a caring tone with structure and consistent limit-setting). 
In an ideal world, both parents have an authoritative style, because that's what fosters the healthiest relationships. What makes differences in parenting styles particularly hard is they often stem from forces that are "largely unconscious," Frazier says. "Some people study up on parenting before they have kids. And some consciously work against what their own parents did. A lot more people unconsciously act out exactly what they saw their own parents doing.
"Having differing parenting styles can be a good thing," she adds, "as long as styles aren't too far apart. This gives children a wider view of grown-up values and a chance to have a special relationship with each parent. As long as parents come together as a united front, it's healthy."
Leigh and Ryan aren't yet entirely united. But "we've been working on offering the kids clear messages about what we expect from them and what the consequences will be," she says.

Coping With Different Parenting Styles

What can couples with different parenting styles do to help their kids thrive? Frazier offers moms and dads these pointers:
Get counseling. A professional therapist can help both parents understand how their upbringing drives their parenting styles, as well as how to handle disagreements in a healthy way.
Keep the kids out of it. Asking children to take sides -- or arguing in front of them -- is incredibly destructive, Frazier says. Instead, agree to disagree later, when the kids are out of earshot.
Read all about it. Frazier recommends Between Parent and Child by Haim G. Ginott, MD, and Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman, PhD, with Joan Declaire.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Renaissance Dads

Renaissance: re-nais-sance. n. :a period of new growth or activity.  (French word for "re-birth"). 

Let's face it, being a dad today is different than it was for my dad and his dad. I wouldn't say it is more difficult because the task of being a hero, a role model, a faith instructor, a teacher, a coach, a dicisplinarian, a drill sergeant, a mechanic, a gardener, a punching bag, a sensei, a confidence builder, and a how-to-treat-women instructor has always been a tall task for every man daring to attempt success at Fatherhood.

The difference is the wired and connected world we live in raises the stakes for each task we face as dads. On one hand we have increased access to knowledge so we are better equipped to succeed (Youtube has saved me thousands on car repairs), and on the other hand we are bombarded with the images and stories of dads who are more fit, more stylish, more successful, and who have perfect kids. The connected world has allowed us, or possibly compelled us, to expand our interests and develop in multiple disciplines as we read stories and see images of our peers being loving husbands, involved fathers, gourmet chefs, professional coaches, expert travel agents, community activists, and all-around-perfect people. Filtering through the noise and learning to be the best version of who we are (and not what we see in others) is the most important and perhaps the most difficult thing in this era of information overload.

During the Renaissance of the 15th Century in Europe, mankind was experiencing a "re-birth" of culture as great gains in science and the arts led to another explosion of information. This new access to a range of information led to the existence of the "Renaissance Man". This was a person who acquired knowledge across multiple disciplines rather than simply focusing on one area of expertise.

Fatherhood in the 21st Century is experiencing the same re-birth that occurred in the 15th Century.  We live in a world where the lines of traditional gender roles are blurred and where equality and independence are prized. The new reality compels us to pursue our own interests while at the same time it calls us to look for ways to support our wives and our kids as they pursue the things that make them thrive.

The task of supporting our kids and wives, as well as pursuing our own interests, leads modern dads to a broader range of experiences. A typical week for me often includes coaching baseball, cooking dinner, praying with my boys, being the homework police, fixing something on the car, reading with my boys, surfing with my friends, walking on the beach with my wife, volunteering at the school, working in the yard, and watching "Burn Notice" with my oldest son. All of this does not even mention the routine tasks at home or work. (I know the women out there will say this is what many of them have been doing since time began but this site is about dads so please sustain judgment for the time being.)

This variety in the week is the same for most of my friends experiencing Fatherhood. We are Renaissance Dads who get to, and often are required to, acquire knowledge and experience across disciplines. It is part of the process of loving our wives and our kids and it is often more rewarding than sacrificial.  Being a Renaissance Dad is a challenging and rewarding endeavor but one that real men, modern men, will embrace with fervor.

So welcome to this site about Renaissance Dads. Laugh with us at our failures, find encouragement from our stories, and accept the challenge to be a man and do what it takes to love and support the people in your life that God has blessed you with. Feel free to join the conversation and be a part of the re-birth of Fatherhood.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Summer Corn Chowder


The end of summer is near so it is time to take advantage of the last of the summer ingredients available. (Never mind that I live in San Diego and can get any ingredient, any time of the year).  This week I wanted to make some corn dishes and I stumbled upon a great recipe that only needed a small amount of tweaking. (The original recipe is courtesy of The Amateur Gourmet )

Ingredients

  • Kernels from 4 ears of yellow corn (rinse and slice off all kernels as close to the cob as possible). 
  • 5-6 slices of bacon (5oz) (use fewer slices for less fat) , cut into 1/3-inch dice
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 yellow onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 red pepper, cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 5 sprigs thyme, leaves removed and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin 
  • 1/8 teaspoon turmeric (gives everything a nice yellow color)
  • 1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice (Add more potatoes if preferred)
  • 4 cups chicken stock (enough to cover everything)
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons minced chives (Plus more for the garnish) * Can use green onions as a substitute

Instructions

  1. Start by rendering the bacon in a 3 to 4-quart heavy pot over low/medium heat. (I do not add any oil to this but you can add a tiny splash of neutral oil (canola, vegetable) to get the bacon going.) Turn up the heat to medium and cook until the bacon is crisp. Pour out all but a tablespoon of bacon fat.
  2.  Add the butter, onion, bell pepper, thyme, cumin, and turmeric along with a pinch of salt. Continue to cook for about 8 minutes, stirring every so often, until the onion is translucent. 
  3. I love the colors in this dish. I used half of a red pepper and half of an orange bell pepper just for the visual appeal. 
      This is the best part when all the aromatics fill the pot.... and the air.  
  4. Then add the corn, potatoes, and stock; turn the heat to high, bring to a boil, and cover and cook for 10 minutes.
  5. Smush some of the corn and potatoes against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon to thicken the chowder. * The original recipe calls for corn starch but I do not like adding it to soups and it really does not need it. If you prefer a very thick chowder, take the time to smash most of the potatoes and it will thicken up the soup. 
  6. Reduce the heat to medium and taste for salt and pepper. Off the heat, add the cream and the minced chives, and adjust for salt. Serve immediately in bowls with the chopped chives.

I prefer chives but did not have any this time so I used green onions as a garnish. 

This is from the first time I made this. This version used chives and slightly more cream.                                      

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

How to Let Your Son Know You Are Proud of Him

Check out this clip of a dad finding out his son raised his grade in Math from an F to a C.




The cynics out there will say the father over-reacted. Some will say the problem is he is putting too much emphasis on one grade. The point here is not whether the whole system of giving grades is effective or a worth while measurement of this boy's abilities. 

The point is, as dads, there are times we need to push our kids to achieve more because we know they can do it. In these times when our kids make a change and progress in their maturity, we need to let them know that we are proud and we do not care how emotional we get when letting them know that. Kids love to please those who love and care about them so go ahead and let them know when you are proud of their efforts.