No Bacon for You!

My 5yo didn’t eat his sandwich at lunchtime today, so he was obviously extra hungry after school. First, he told me he ate it and when I showed it to him in the bag he said: “that’s nothing.” So I said, “that’s what you have to eat, nothing else until dinner.” He chose to finish his goldfish crackers – all 6 of them. Fine.

He circled back for more snacks so I said: “finish the sandwich.” Initially, he didn’t want to eat it because he said he doesn’t like the meat in it. Alright, I hear that, but he has been eating it so I’m not just going to let that slide. If I do I risk it becoming a trend, “all I have to do is say I don’t like it and I get out of eating it.” I pushed back. Eventually, he took it and showed it to me as he took a bite. Perfect! Then he quietly wanders out of the room for a minute. When he returns he proudly tells me that he ate it all really quickly!

Duh! “Did you put it in the garbage?… Tell me the truth.Read More »

Child Leadership

My 15yo was promoted to sergeant last June. This rank brings with it leadership opportunities. She very much wants to be a leader in her squadron, but it’s hard. Leadership is difficult in general, and in a youth setting it’s no easier. 

For clarity: Her cadet unit, like all others, is built around youth leadership. The officers (reservist adults/CIC members) train the senior NCOs (sergeants and up) on how to deliver the program to the junior cadets.

This year she is captain of Range Team 1, which is composed of the top shooters, and she is very likely the best shooter (by scores). Since June I’ve been working with her on what I consider good leadership. 

To prepare for that I read Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink. What a fantastic book! Get it, read it, then teach it to your kids. 

To get things started today she was late to range. Right away she went to the coach and apologized, then told him it wouldn’t happen again. BAM! Chapter 1: she took ownership (of being late).

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Creative Food Ideas

Changing a child’s eating habits can be so incredibly difficult and the older they get the harder it is. Start early and avoid the troubles.

Here are some fun and cute ideas for making snack time more appealing. And, some ideas that are just nuts!

Keep Kids Busy at Home

When my 5yo is home from school the day can drag on and on because he is bored. When he is home sick he is low energy, or so low that I am taking care of him. But, when he it’s a day off, or even a weekend, he is off the walls!

Here are some ideas for young kids that we can help them put together for their time at home. And I do mean that we help them make it, rather than we do all the work.

If you want more, check the credits on each pic and dive in!

Our Kids Need Our Attention

They don’t need money, presents, devices, or any other THING. They just need us to spend time with them. Just us and the kid – no one else.

And when we are with them –only them– they don’t need a lecture or a lesson. They need a big heart and an open ear. Just listen to them unload their lives onto us and show them that we understand by saying the simplest things like, “that sounds fun” or “I bet that was frustrating!

This is called Validation. It is a game-changer and I wish I learned it 16 years before I did. When you validate a person you are telling them that their feelings matter and that those feelings came with reason. So many times my kids have said, “I should not feel <this way>,” when it was perfectly logical to feel exactly that way.

There is a trick though. You validate how the person is feeling, not the action(s) that go with it. Because, when our kids screw up we don’t want to validate the mistake they made. Instead, we want to validate how they feel, which may be embarrassment or guilt. Yea, you ought to feel like that right now, it’s normal and I am here with you guide you through it.

Something that goes along with this is Judgement, and it is a sneaky bastard, too. When we make judgements we are making value statements. Something has more value than another thing. This is obviously true, but when dealing with people, if you can remove judgements, you can leap forward so much faster. Instead of saying something was good or bad, right or wrong, use facts.

Your child rolls her eyes at you. “You don’t care, do you!?
Your child rolls her eyes at you. “It looks like you just rolled your eyes at me; are you frustrated with me?

The first statement judges the child’s action and implies their feeling/intent. It pushes them away. The second statement points out what you saw and demonstrates that you see their frustration, then asks for confirmation. It draws them in.

Your child will screw up, and so will you. Do you want to be judged for it every time, or do you want someone you can talk to about it? If you’re the one that your kid can talk to, then they will.

TL;DR:
Our kids need us to spend time with them where we just listen to them talk. We validate how they feel, not their actions. We don’t judge them, their ideas, or their actions. This will open them up to spending more time with us where they talk more to us, and we bond so tightly that nothing can get between us.

UPDATE on taking every electronic away


Yesterday marked the 2nd week since I removed all electronics following my 5yo’s meltdown. I had interrupted him playing Minecraft to take him to BJJ and he lost his shit for 1.5hrs. That prompted me to ban electronics.

Well, he has been amazing! Of course, there are moments every other day, sometimes more than once/day, where he inquires about the electronics. The first day was the worst. He loops back around to it because he is trying to understand what happened and how long until he gets it back. In the past, he HAS gotten them back. I was taking them away as a consequence of poor behaviour and returning them following him upgrading his thinking/actions. That’s why we thought it was working. Now that he has not gotten them back he ends up angry; I don’t budge on the ban and I’m very matter-of-fact about it, and that anger varies from mild to holy crap who’s child are you!?

Usually, he starts off quietly asking about it, to which I reply flatly, “I’m sorry bud, I know you like them -they’re fun- but I’m not putting them back.” That sets him off, even though it’s delicate. He usually tells me that I WILL put them back, and if I don’t then he will do some consequence. Isn’t that a great example of how kids copy us!? He is doing to me what we do to him: consequences for non-compliance.

Today I put the TV back (my wife wanted to use it), but no gaming options are on it. Technically, the Apple TV is connected, but the remote is hidden. This lets us send shows to the TV from my phone or her iPad, or from my work MacBook. Also, he has no say in what it is used for. The new –permanent– rules are:

For my 5yo:
1.) Electronics are invitation-only.
-If you ask for it, you don’t get it.
-If I invite you to use it with me, you may use it.
2.) Zero access to tablets, phones, consoles, and PCs.
3.) Absolutely ZERO YouTube!
-Gawd that site is pure poison for kids!
-If we invite him to watch a show or a movie, we’ve already selected it, or worked out a choice with him. We ultimately choose.

For my 15yo:
She already had her iPhone permanently swapped with a flip phone.
1.) Electronics are for cadet and school work.
2.) Don’t use them in front of the 5yo (unless it’s obviously work).
3.) Fun uses of any device ONLY after completion of responsibilities.

The results have been WAY more human interaction because there are no screens to park the kid in front of so that I can go clean up or take a break. Sadly, he doesn’t seem to care about the activity and learning books I got for him, which surprised me. He likes picking out stickers and putting them in all sorts of places OUT of the book, though. So, board games, cards, toys, crafting, pillow fighting, running around like kids, shoveling snow, cleaning up together, etc. are what we end up doing. No peace for me, but satisfaction in seeing him stabilize his attitude and ability to have normal human interactions.

My 15yo often tells me that there are so many kids in her cadet unit or school who has social problems, like anxiety, and she just doesn’t get it. She is observing the results of getting too much screen time growing up – there is so much less actual human interaction that the kids are literally deficient in this aspect of life. No wonder they can’t handle human interactions – the screens that raised them have been devoid of all the emotions that go with dealing with people.

I Took the TV, PS4, Wii, DS XL, & iPad Away

Today I suddenly realized we were late for Jiu-Jitsu so I jumped up and told my 5y/o that it was time to go to BJJ. He was playing Minecraft and didn’t want to stop (because he was not done building yet). I said what I always say, and what he has always understood: “It’s ok, bud, the game will wait for you; it will be there when we get back.

Surprisingly, this time he protested – hard. When I was first teaching him the idea that if he is obedient, then the thing he wants will be available, he struggled with it. But, he did get it and we have been doing it very well. That was perhaps a year ago now so I wasn’t expecting a 1.5 hr meltdown that lasted the trip to BJJ, 3/4 of the lesson (on the bench; we left early), the drive home, and still once we were back.

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Jocko Willink on Parental Leadership – You Can’t Help Your Kids

Skip Ahead

Go ahead and watch/listen to the entire video, it is best to get it all in the proper context. But, if you’re in a hurry, here are some shortcuts to key points:

Ben: What’s the #1 thing you look for in a leader?
Jocko: Take Ownership (of the problem) @ 15:56

Ben: Are there times where you just HAVE to “chew someone out”?
Jocko: There are very few occassions @ 19:36

Ben: What do you do with kids (the challenges)?
Jocko: You gotta give’em guidance, but you have to let them brush up against the guardrails of failure @ 21:18
This is where Jocko discusses NOT helping your kids.

Jocko: Your kids aren’t going to be who you want them to be…
They’re gonna be who they ARE @ 24.37.

After this point the focus is less on kids and more on leadership, so go ahead and check it out.

Think Like a Mosquito

If you think you’re too small to make a difference try sleeping with a mosquito in the room

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Never Be Bored Again

Smartphones will make sure that you are never bored.
Never being bored will make it more difficult to find your creative passion.
Lack of passion will make you boring.

While wasting my time swiping through yet another “shower thoughts” post I bumped into this and it struck me. Is ironic the right word here? While trying not to be bored I find a post telling me that by doing this I am making myself boring. Clever.Read More »