I Tried ‘Peaceful Parenting’ and It Turns Out I’m an Angry Dad

March 30, 2018 in Fatherly, Parenting



The word “peaceful” is not the first thing that comes to mind when a child creeps into my bedroom at 2 a.m. attempting to snuggle. Peace is also incompatible with whining and car breakdowns. One could argue that it is an impossibility within a nuclear family. One could argue that is a dream.

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Peace might be hard to achieve — impossible even — but it was nonetheless my destination after I received a copy of Dr. Laura Markham’s new Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids Workbook. Markham is an outspoken proponent of parenting with a huge dose of mindfulness and love. She does not believe in discipline. She believes in connection and empathy. She’s a super smart and nice lady I talk to sometimes. I like her and I wanted to believe that I could put her strategies to good use. I wanted to have faith in both her and myself.

Why? Because I found her vision of parenting — one of joy and cooperation between parent and child — deeply compelling. That, my friend, is Shangri-La. Her workbook offered to illuminate a path I was ready to walk. But it’s dark at night and easy to get lost.

My week of peaceful parenting began with the 2 a.m. bedroom invasion.

“Get out,” I grumbled, pushing my youngest away from the bed. I then proceeded to ignore his tearful retreat. Sleep did not come easy after that. Guilt pressed down on my chest. Prior to bed, I’d been studying a workbook chapter on rewiring my brain to respond to my kids with patience and love rather than disdain. I tried to internalize it. Clearly, I failed.

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This was going to be harder than I thought.

Markham encourages parents to approach behavioral adversity the same way they might approach being accidentally set on fire. Her version of “Stop. Drop and roll,” is “Stop. Drop and breath.”: Stop what you’re doing, drop your agenda and do some thoughtful breathing. Only then can you address your anxieties, approach your child with empathy and look for a solution.

Picking up the workbook the next morning, I realized much of Markham’s method requires that parents take a hard look at themselves. What triggers the anger? Is there grief? Anxiousness? You can’t expect to approach kids with kindness, the workbook suggested, if you can’t approach yourself with kindness. It was a powerful idea. And one I wanted to get into. But I didn’t have time.

I told myself that I’d get back to it later and skipped ahead. What I wanted were tools to use when my kids were being jerks. And I found them, but only after a serious shift in perspective.

The fact was, according to Markham, that a good deal of the problem was based on the fact that I believed my kids were being jerks. What I was failing to understand was that they were neither that sophisticated or petty. Unlike me.

What I was lacking was an essential empathy for my children. What I lacked was listening and understanding. Reading through the workbook, it struck me that my oldest had only been on the planet for 7 years. And yet, I was expecting him to act like a well-mannered forty-year-old. That was something I could barely do having lived 40 years.

Oof.

So in the middle of the night when my kid said he was scared, I used the experience of my 40 years to dismiss his fears outright (“There’s nothing to be scared of. Stop being ridiculous.”). What I should have been doing was empathizing that there are a lot of unknowns for a 7-year-old, or exploring why and what he was scared of.

I suddenly realized how big and powerful I was compared to my children. And I’d been using that power irresponsibly on these little boys. Instead of connecting, I’d been a brute. And I didn’t want to be a brute. I’d been raised by brutes. I didn’t like it much.

So for the next few days when problems arose, I followed Dr. Markhams prescription. I would get down to their level, bring them close and empathize. I would attend to them, actually listen and repeat back what I’d heard.

Often, this was enough. One evening the five-year-old stubbed his toe. In the past I would have given him a modicum of sympathy, told him to shake it off and the crying would continue for a half hour, leading to me becoming frustrated at his overreaction. This time, I pulled him into my lap.

“Ouch, you stubbed your toe,” I parroted. “That hurts and it’s frustrating right?”

He nodded. Wiping his eyes.

“Yeah,” he whimpered.

“What should we do? Wait until it feels better and go play?”

“Yeah,” he said more confidently.

And then we sat. And then he wiped his eyes once more, hopped off my lap and went back to playing. It was a revelation.

In fact, it was enough of a revelation that I kept it up throughout the week. I also took Markham’s advice, meditating on the love I have for my boys. Really falling in to the beautiful presence of them. I said yes more often. I built Lego kits with them and marveled at how well they could follow the complicated directions.

There was less shouting. It honestly felt like there was more peace.

Then the car broke down in the parking lot of the swim school. It was a battery issue. One we’d ignored. And now we were stuck after swim class with two hungry boys who were losing their minds.

The logistics of the situation were maddening. It would require friends, a failed jump start and a late night car battery purchase. Even with all the recent love it proved too much.

With the hood opened, belching out a tangle of jumper cables to a neighboring vehicle, My five-year-old kept repeating, “We’re all gonna die.” While factual in a broad sense, it wasn’t helpful. The seven-year-old tearfully worried we’d never get home. I turned the key.

The car went click-click-click and the children moaned. I knew I should be looking into their eyes and reassuring them but this moment required expediency. My gut was tight. I wanted to tell my kids it was okay. But it wasn’t. I was angry with myself because I’d neglected a problem and now shit had to get done. I turned the key.

Click-click-click.

“We’re all gonna die.”

“We’re never going home again!”

“Just be quiet,” I snapped at my boys viciously. “Just shut your mouths.“ There was no kindness in me to be found. No empathy or joy. Everything felt like it was falling apart around my ears. I was an idiot and the whole thing was my fault.

That night there was more crying and frustration and more snapping. And it wasn’t until I was in bed, quiet and thoughtful when I realized maybe I shouldn’t have skipped that chapter.

So I’ve gone back. Being a peaceful parent, I’ve discovered means being peaceful with yourself, too. That peace has to be the foundation. I’m finally working on it.

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Bear Grylls on Fatherhood, Masculinity, and the Rewards of Risk

March 29, 2018 in Fatherly, Parenting



Bear Grylls, British Army survival instructor-turned reality TV wild man, is bringing his adrenaline-filled brand to social media with his new Facebook Watch show, “Face the Wild.” It’s the kind of heart-pumping journey we’ve come to expect from Grylls, in which he guides people to remote places and proceeds to put them in situations where they test their mettle.

But where does Grylls, always cool on screen in the face of danger, get his mettle tested? We can only assume at home with his three boys, ages 9, 11, and 15, where he lets them run a bit more wild than your average parent. Grylls has been outspoken about exposing his kids to risk. “Let’s not deceive ourselves into thinking that removing risk makes our children ‘safe’,” Grylls recently wrote in The Times. “It doesn’t.” His most public threat was a little more than three years ago when his then 11-year-old son, alone on the rocks off the north Wales coast, needed to be rescued in a (carefully planned) stunt. The public condemnation was swift, but Grylls response was just as strong: “I am determined to stand beside them on that journey,” he wrote. “And yes, it can be dangerous.”

We recently corresponded with Grylls, asking him about what we can learn from our limits, what kind of dad he is, and how he models masculinity for his boys.

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Why is it important for all of us to “face the wild”?
I often say how the wild exposes us wide open and we can’t hide — that’s the pain but also the magic. So often I have seen unlikely heroes emerge and those we might think invincible often crumble. The hardships and the camaraderie that we experience on these adventures builds a pride and confidence that is hard to explain.

What do we learn from adventures or experiences that push our limits?
When a group is under pressure, tired, cold, hungry, thirsty, being devoured by sand flies and mossies, you see who the heroes are pretty quick. But also learning that the pain never lasts forever and once through it then we are always stronger for it.

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I have always felt that you can sum parenthood up in three words: example, example, example.

When you first became a dad, how did your life change?
This one I can’t explain. As they say, “If you have to ask the question, you’ll never understand the answer.” It changes everything for the better, fuller, funnier, messier and your heart overflows with love and pride that knows no limits.

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What kind of dad are you? 
I try to tell them to go for things, to have dreams and to embrace failure as a way to where you want to get to. To be kind and courageous and to never give up. I have always felt that you can sum parenthood up in three words: example, example, example.

Life is all about attitude and heart. It’s not about physicality, or gender, or exams or trophies, it’s about having the courage to follow that fire inside.

How do you model masculinity to your three boys?
I’ve tried to do what I love and say that it’s ok to show your feelings and it’s ok to struggle with stuff as it’s the struggle that develops our strength, and that’s the way I’ve tried to operate. If that’s masculinity well, good.

What do you want your boys to know about what it means to be a man?
I just want them to know that life is all about attitude and heart. It’s not about physicality, or gender, or exams or trophies, it’s about having the courage to follow that fire inside, that steely determination to keep going when we face opposition or hardships and then ultimately to never give up! And that comes from inside, it’s not a male or female thing.

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The 4 Most Damaging Myths About Kids, Screen Time, and Technology

March 29, 2018 in Fatherly, Parenting



The arc of technological advancement appears bent toward placing more and more sophisticated tech devices in the hands of young children. But the pace of advancement doesn’t necessarily allow for careful consideration of tech’s impacts on kids. In lieu of that careful consideration, parents are left to make up their own minds, be swayed by powerful anecdotes, or act with unreasoned panic.

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But the truth of effects of children using technology is more nuanced than many parents would prefer to believe. Here are seven misconceptions that need to go away so parents can introduce kids to technology in a responsible way.

Interactive Learning Apps Help Kids Learn Faster

There a major problem with interactive learning apps: Some app developer’s, out to make a quick buck from parents, have little understanding of how children learn. The problem is compounded by parents who are too busy to do the research just take the educational claims of some apps at face value. The kids are then caught in the middle. Occupied by a screen? Sure. Learning? Depends.

Consider a recent study from Vanderbilt University attempting to discover if interacting with a learning app via swiping or tapping, helped preschool children learn. Using a University-built word-learning app, researchers found that while girls did benefit from tapping a screen for visual rewards, boys did not learn as much. In fact, boys were more likely to tap willy-nilly without prompting.

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This makes sense when you think of the difference in development between preschool boys and girls. Between 2 and 5-years-old girls not only have better impulse control, but they also have better coordination. So not only are boys fighting their ability to self-regulate with an interactive app, they also may have to spend more time concentrating on the dexterity requirements than learning.

So while it might seem like a safe assumption that an interactive learning app will help a kid learn, without good enough research into the appropriate learning mechanisms, it’s just an assumption. Not a fact.

Introducing a Child to Technology Early Helps Prepare Them for the Future

Introducing tech early to prepare kids for a techie future misunderstands the importance of all the crucial interpersonal skills kids need to develop before the age of six. No matter how sci-fi the future becomes, children will still need to develop emotional intelligence and communication skills that can’t be built in front of a screen.

Interpersonal skills require interaction with real, breathing, emotional and reactive human beings. And in order for a kids brain to be optimally wired for interpersonal skills, those interactions need to occur during the first crucial years. That’s why pioneering researcher in the psychology of computers, Dr. Tim Lynch, recommends parents hold off until about Kindergarten before introducing children to computing in any form.

Moreover, early introduction to tech also appears to be changing kids physically, and not for the better. Based on a recent study, British researchers found that early exposure to screens had an adverse effect on a child’s dexterity. The effect was so profound that some children were unable to hold a pencil.

So maybe it’s better to hold off on the tablet until the kid gets into school.

Screen Time is Inherently Bad

While screen time panic has reached a fever pitch, there is increasing research that screen time itself maybe isn’t so bad, as long as it is approached thoughtfully by parents.

One of the first major studies to the effects of the biggest screen in the house — the TV — found that engaging with television program can actually be beneficial as long as the content is educational. For instance, researchers found that watching Sesame Street was as beneficial for some kids as years of preschool education. And shows like Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood have been shown to increase emotional intelligence in children who regularly watch.

But research also suggests that it’s not enough for parents to simply place their kid in front of a screen and hope they learn. In fact, screen time is even more helpful when parents are an active guide and partner in the content. At least that the learning from a Georgetown University study that found kids were better at learning on a puzzle app when coached by an adult than when following an on-screen tutorial. The reason for the success was that adults became a “social-scaffolding,” which is essentially a support for their child learning. Studies like this are what help define the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines on screen time, which stress parental involvement in media consumption.

So what is actually bad about screen time? When screen-fed media is over consumed by kids, they tend toward inactivity. So parents need to make sure kids are getting outside as much as they are staring at a screen. Also, the blue-light from screens are known to interfere with sleep patterns. So screens should be off at least an hour before bed.

Video Games Are Inherently Bad

“Video Games” writ large have received a bad rap from parents who only see mindless button-mashing and politicians who only see violence. But conflating a game like Minecraft with a game like Resident Evil is dumb and wrong.

It is true that the child psychology community is conflicted regarding the effect of violence in video games. But not all video games are violent. And besides, the reason violent video games might lead to violence is that they act as simulators. And simulation in video games can also be used for good.

In fact, studies have shown that fast-paced video games can increase reading speed in dyslexic children. Video games that rely heavily on strategy promote problem-solving skills. There are also games that promote creativity and world-building, like the aforementioned Minecraft. Finally, controlling the main character and seeing the world through their eyes can help build emotional intelligence. The truth is that as with books or educational television programs, video games can also be used as a learning tool.

But as with television and books, video games benefit from parental involvement. The problem of antisocial behavior connected to gaming is likely couched in the fact that parents allowing kids to go into their virtual worlds on their own and unguided. In fact, parents would be better off to join them in those worlds.

Kids will benefit from parents who recognize the feelings of achievement in learning how to master a game. And parents will be more empathetic about their children’s gaming behavior if they recognize the passion of attempting to achieve a difficult task, even it that task is in a digital world.

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How to Talk to Kids About Racist, Drunk, and Terrible Relatives

March 28, 2018 in Fatherly, Parenting



Many parents wind up having to field questions from their kids about a distasteful or offensive relative. Perhaps it’s the creepy cousin who makes a parents skin crawl. Maybe it’s the serial liar aunt. Perhaps it’s the one-upping sister-in-law or the archetypical drunken uncle. Whoever it is, interactions with these jerks are often unavoidable and a bit hard to parse for children.

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If parents have a history of engaging in fierce, uncensored debates with these people, when children are around it might be time to take a step back and swallow some pride. Denise Lang-Grant, a professional counselor and author of How to Stop Your Relatives from Driving You Crazy, says that parents should focus on not perpetuating that hostility through the next generation. An argumentative habit, however, is hard to break.

“People don’t change,” Lang-Grant says. “We get together at these family gatherings—some of which are unavoidable, and many of which we’d like to do—and we expect it to be different. But it rarely is.”

Lang-Grant notes it’s e helpful to coach kids on what to expect. Tell children that it’s fine to respectfully disagree with older relatives and that those relatives are stuck in their ways and unlikely to change. If the kid is beginning to feel uncomfortable during a conversation, then it’s fine to leave the situation and go somewhere else for a while. All they need to do is show an appropriate level of respect.

But awful relatives can also cast a black cloud over any gathering by smack-talking other family members behind their backs, rather than direct confrontation. But passive-aggressive family members can actually provide parents with a teachable moment, Lang-Grant says. If a kid hears someone talking ill of someone else, it is an opportunity to intervene and explain why that behavior is not OK.

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Four Ways to Prepare Kids for Dealing with Bad Relatives

  • Develop a pregame strategy. Rehearse the conversations you’ll have with toxic relatives so your kids know how to avoid getting sucked into unpleasant interactions.
  • Emphasize how your immediate family should act. Use a passive-aggressive or vindictive family member as an example of how your family should not conduct itself.
  • Model respectful conversation. Just because your relative wants to lambast you, try not to reciprocate, and take the high ground when kids are in earshot.
  • Communicate with your kid. Find out why they are uncomfortable around certain family members, and give them advice on how to deal with them.

“One of our responsibilities (as parents) is communicating with kids what the values of your immediate family are,” Lang-Grant says. “You can say ‘In our family, we don’t criticize others in front of other people. Yes, Aunt Sissy does, but we don’t have to accept it and we certainly don’t have to emulate it, and she is not part of our immediate family.’”

Of course, it isn’t always possible to avoid difficult relatives, especially at functions and events. If parents get stuck sitting next to a hyper-political racist grandpa at a wedding, for example, it might feel impossible to let statements go unchecked. In these types of situations, parents can deliberately use the confrontation to model respectful debate to their kids. This shift in the way parents engage in these arguments can set a great example for observant children, says Dr. Jane McGregor, a founding member of the Society for Research into Empathy, Cruelty, and Sociopathy and author of Coping with Difficult Families. McGregor says that if parents can display a position of mutual respect when defending their views from a shitty relative, they are showing their kids a positive and assertive form of communication that they can emulate. “One can stick to this position even when the other person is hostile and unable to,” McGregor says. “This is assertiveness in action!”

Preparation is key for parents and children, and that prep might even require a bit of role play. “Sometimes rehearsing scenarios and ways of dealing with them can really help,” McGregor says. “I have rehearsed difficult or anxiety making scenarios out myself and it helps and gives one confidence to deal with things in new ways.”

Both Lang-Grant and McGregor emphasize that kids should never be forced to show affection towards a family member. Forget rudeness or respect for elders here. If they don’t want anything to do with them, respect that, and find out what makes them so uncomfortable.

“If a child has real concern and angst over having relations with someone, their concern should be taken seriously,” McGregor says. “It is never right to force relations of any sort.”

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Eggs en Cocotte

March 28, 2018 in Family, SayYes.com


The best version I’ve tried is from this This Little Paris Kitchen video. You essentially add a spoonful of crème fraîche  a bit of nutmeg and salt, crack an egg over it, and then whatever fresh herbs like chives or dill on top.

Using crème fraîche is the traditional method in France, but they don’t usually have it at my normal grocery store (although I’ve seen it in Trader Joes occasionally). In a pinch I’ve found you can also use a little flavored cream cheese (like onion and chive or garden veggie) which you can get at your normal grocery store.

Place the ramekins in a pan filled with water so they cook evenly. Bake for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees. The length of time depends on how well you want your eggs to be cooked. I cooked them until the whites became opaque, and then just 2 or 3 minutes longer.

Add other fun toppings like sauteed spinach and mushrooms, or even some smoked salmon. I also love the idea of mixing the smoked salmon into the crème fraîche before spooning it in. Yum!

A couple other delicious Easter recipes: Mini Cadbury Eggs Easter Bark and Natural Tea Dyed Easter Eggs



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6 Fathers on the Potty Training Tricks That Made the Process Easier

March 28, 2018 in Fatherly, Parenting



It does not come as a surprise that potty training is one of the more trying parts of raising a toddler. It’s frustrating. It’s messy. It’s frustrating (that one warrant repetition). The good news is that, when a kid is ready to begin potty training, there are lots of tricks parents can use to help them out. Most of these aren’t new and there’s no need to reinvent a wheel that is literally thousands of years old, but it is worth listening to tips from parents who have had more recent successes. If nothing else, it’s reassuring.

Here, then, are eight recommendations from fathers who recently made it through the potty training process with their sanity intact. 

1. Watch That Daniel Tiger Potty Training Episode

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At least three dads mentioned their success with the Daniel Tiger Potty Training Episode. Titled “Daniel Goes Potty,” it reminds kids that when you gotta go, you STOP and go right away. “We used it when we were potty training my son and it helped him a lot,” said Brian, a father of two in Rockland County, New York. “It was instructional, yes, but the most helpful part was that it was coming from a character he knew and related to. It made him feel comfortable.”

2. Embrace the Tot-on-The-Pot

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Billed as a creative “play-based” potty training program, Tot-on-the-Pot includes a soft doll with her own personal mini toilet, a comprehensive parenting guide, 20 laminated activity cards, and a Tot on the Pot board book. Fatherly editor Dave Baldwin said the game was an excellent “Partner-In-Poop” for his daughter. Not only does it provide a way a kid to play out potty time with a doll, but the game-based incentives help kids conquer the toilet. Other role-playing potty training games help, too.

3. Turn It Into Target Practice

When potty training boys, several dads swore by turning potty training into target practice. Giving their son something to aim at — and making a game out of going — helped them conquer the commode.  You can buy targets online, or make your own. “I draw boats and ducks on tissue paper and the goal is to sink the target,” said one dad. In any case, it’s a good tactic for those working not just on potty time, but accuracy and independence.

4. Read Sesame Street’s “P is for Potty”

This board book, in which Elmo teaches little kids the art of going potty is not only written in simple, straightforward, silly language but it also has more than 30 interactive items to pull or push on each page. Several dads mentioned how useful the book was in introducing the idea of potty training and encouraging and reassuring them in their potty pursuits.

5. Buy a Travel Toilet Seat

“We had a travel quite a bit when our first daughter was potty training; considering how important consistency is, this was the biggest help,” says Kevin, a father of two in Louisville.

6. Make a Decision and Stick With it

“Don’t switch between underwear and diapers. We moved to underwear all day (including nap time) and then pull-ups at night (we call them nighttime underwear). The differentiation is huge, and we don’t use the restroom in any time of underwear, daytime or nighttime,” said one dad. When you begin the potty training saga, it may be tempting to have a transitional period where you switch from diapers to underwear and back again depending on the time of day. But that can confuse a kid, and the decision to do underwear all day — including during nap time — helped his kid get with the program. 

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Let’s Bike Around San Francisco

March 27, 2018 in Family, SayYes.com


I was so excited to find out about the brand new Uber Bike service. Here’s what you need to know about it: 

Right now it’s only offered in San Francisco, but hoping they’ll be expanding to other cities soon.

They’re powered by JUMP bikes and are parked around the city on regular bike racks that you rent through your same Uber app. You can see the locations of the bikes near you, then you choose one to reserve on the app. Once you get to the bike, you enter a code given through the app to unlock the bike.

The bike has a motor so you can charge up those San Francisco hills easy peasy.

The cost is $2 for 30 minutes, and when you arrive at your destination, you can lock it back up to any bike rack.



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Fatherly Advice: Vaccines Are Totally Safe and Not Listening to Your Wife Isn’t

March 25, 2018 in Fatherly, Parenting



“Fatherly Advice” is a weekly parenting advice column by the experts at Fatherly. Need hard-won insights and scientific facts to resolve a parenting dilemma or family dispute? Email advice@fatherly.com. Need justifications for parenting decisions you’ve already made? Ask someone else. We’re far too busy for that nonsense.

 

Fatherly,

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I’ve heard a lot of parents who say that vaccines can be dangerous. Not so much that they can cause autism. I don’t believe that. But some of these stories about vaccines causing other health issues are really frightening. Give it to me straight. Are vaccines dangerous?

Lyle
Boulder, Colorado

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***

Short answer: no. And if you’re deciding whether or not to listen to the overwhelming consensus of scientists and doctors by vaccinating your kids according to the schedule recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the short answer will suffice. It’s safe.

But, if you promise to vaccinate your kids anyway, I can provide a longer answer. There is some risk to every medical intervention. The only interventions that don’t carry risks are ineffective (we’re looking at you, homeopathy and acupuncture). In exceedingly rare cases, vaccines can cause severe allergic reactions and neurologic complications that can lead to death and debilitation. This isn’t a secret government conspiracy, either — the CDC maintains a list of conditions presumed to be caused by vaccines and The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program has awarded nearly $2 billion over the past 25 years to parents who have been able to demonstrate that vaccines harmed their children.

Still, the risk is minimal. Vaccine Court pays out an average of 155 claims per year and —setting aside the fact that a legal win is not the same as establishing causation — few come in the wake of death or serious injury. Before the introduction of the measles vaccine, measles caused an estimated 2.6 million deaths per year. The math here is not particularly tough.

It’s also worth noting that no parent has ever won a case in Vaccine Court by claiming that the MMR vaccine gave their children autism. There’s a simple reason for this: Vaccines don’t cause autism. Major public health organizations, courts all the way up to the Federal Circuit, and even the journal that published the fraudulent paper that initially set off the MMR vaccine scare all agree on that. Researchers recently studied 95,000 American children and were unable to find any association between vaccines and autism. I could go on.

So is it “at all dangerous” to vaccinate your kids? Sure it is. But your unvaccinated child is far more likely to die from a vaccine-preventable illness than from the vaccine that prevents it. So get your shots and don’t let the kooks put your family in danger.

 

Hey, Fatherly

I’m about to take a vacation with my wife and 1-year-old son to visit her in-laws in California. It’s going to be a crazy long flight and I am freaked out. Is there any way I can make sure my kid won’t cry on the flight? Or at least reduce the risk of disaster?

Vince
Charleston, South Carolina

***

Vince, I’m incredibly proud of you for sucking it up and taking your 1-year-old on this adventure. I think you’ll find that with a little planning and forethought things won’t be too terrible. In fact, you have something important going for you: your kid is not yet mobile.

The biggest consideration you’ll need to make (if you haven’t already purchased a ticket) is for the travel to work with your baby’s schedule and not the other way around. With a year under your belt, you should be pretty aware of when your kid is most sleepy, active or cranky. You want to try and plan the travel time around when your kid is sleepy and not when they are most likely to be active and cranky. It’s also okay for departure times to be around feeding time, particularly if your child is breastfeeding. The comfort of feeding, as well the sucking motion, will likely help your kid stay calm and equalize the pressure in their head as you get up to altitude. An added bonus is that an airplane can act as a giant white-noise machine lulling a kid into la la land.

But given the length of your flight, it’s very likely you kid will wake up somewhere in route. That means you’ll need something to keep them busy en route. There are a couple of great ways to keep your kid distracted. One good tip is to bring a baggy of dry finger foods that require your baby to concentrate to grasp and put in their mouth. Think O-shaped cereals, here. Luckily, the resulting mess won’t be your issue.

Another tried and true method of baby distraction is to hit up a dollar store pre-flight and snag some cheap and novel baby-safe toys. Wrap them up individually in paper and dole them out, one-by-one, during the flight. Pack some tape in your carry on too. Because when the toys get old, you can tape them together. Thanks to where your baby is developmentally he’ll experience the mated toys as a completely new object.

Finally, don’t go crazy with making goodie bags for your fellow passengers. It’s a nice thing to do and all, but you’ve no need to apologize for being on the plane. If things get tough then you can always offer to buy your immediate neighbors a drink. Lord knows you might need one too.

Safe journey!

 

Hey Fatherly,

I have come to the realization that I’m struggling with listening to my wife. It pisses her off. I get it. She asks me if I’m listening to her all the time and if I’m honest, sometimes it’s difficult. I get distracted. So how can I be a better listener?

Louis
Albuquerque, New Mexico

***

Listen up, Louis! You’re not a bad person or a terrible husband. Sometimes people just need some intentional practice to be good listeners. Hell, therapists have to go to school to really get it right. In fact, it’s pretty remarkable your copping to your poor listening skills at all. So, first things first: forgive yourself. It’s time to wipe the slate clean and start practicing.

Attending to your wife when she’s talking may take a conscious and exaggerated effort from the outset. That’s totally okay. You need to start making this a habit. So when she is talking to you or asking a question, then face her, make eye contact and be present. If you there is something you totally can’t pull yourself away from, or will continue to distract you as you listen, there’s no shame in asking for time. Just make sure if you ask for 10 minutes, you get back to her in ten minutes. If she’s not willing to grant you time, understand that it must be pretty important.

It’s important to remember that listening does not require silence on your part. In fact, it’s a good idea to respond with some simple three-word comments: “I hear you,” or “that sounds terrible,” or “Oh man,” are all appropriate things to say, depending on the circumstance. You don’t need to offer advice. And if you feel like you need to offer advice, but aren’t sure that’s the right path, you can always ask if your wife wants you to offer advice or just listen.

Finally, if your wife is talking about something you’re doing and it’s pissing you off, feel free to call a timeout so you can calm yourself. You can’t listen to anything when you’re angry. It’s also possible that what you’re hearing and what she is trying to tell you aren’t the same thing. There’s nothing wrong with asking for clarification. Repeat back to her what you’ve heard. Ask if what you’ve heard is correct and ask for clarification if it isn’t.

This si a lot to keep in mind, Louis. And hopefully, you haven’t drifted away during the answer. Did you? Louis? Hello?

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To Watch Sports With Kids, Adult Fans Need to Calm Down

March 23, 2018 in Fatherly, Parenting



Watching sports with a preschooler can be a great bonding experience. It’s an opportunity for parents to share time with a child, teach them about the rules of a game, and instill the values of being a gracious winner and loser. But it can also be a tough experience for parents unused to keeping their emotions in check while watching basketball, football, or soccer. That’s why it’s important for a parent to prepare to be mindful and have a few talking points prepared for when someone scores and they lose their damn mind. The goal? Getting kids excited about sports without allowing fandom to become an excuse for bad behavior. No one wants to raise a hooligan (except maybe some dads in Philadelphia).

“Watching sports with children isn’t just watching sports. It’s communicating values, attitudes ideas about sportsmanship,” says Dr. Jim Taylor, sports psychologist and author of Positive Pushing: How to Raise a Successful and Happy Child. “If you get upset once in a while, that’s ok. If there’s persistent overinvestment, your kid is going to pick up on that. If you’re a rabid fan, that fanaticism is going to be handed down to your children, just like every other attitude and value you espouse to your family.”

Parents should treat watching a game as an opportunity to show kids good manners in competition. But that’s a lot easier said than done when dad’s alma mater is about to flop out of March Madness or an NFL referee is making an incomprehensible call. And — as if that wasn’t hard enough — Taylor says it’s also important for a parent to praise the opponent when they perform well. That’s a daunting task, especially where deep-rooted sports rivalries are concerned. Especially when it means praising the winners when the favorite team loses.

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“On a day-to-day basis, that loss has zero impact on your life,” Taylor says. “But the message your kid is getting is ‘oh my gosh, this game is really important to dad or mom.’”

The negative impacts on extremely emotional sports viewing are myriad. The most obvious are unhealthy attitudes about competition. Kids end up talking trash or, way worse, getting way too down on themselves after a loss. If kids become overly focused on results too early, it may poison sports for them. Caring too much can turn into caring not at all — people are smart about protecting themselves that way.

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“If you swear, trash talk, get upset, you’re modeling for your child that not only should you hate this other team — which, to the child, is just a bunch of guys and girls in funny uniforms — but beyond that you’re showing that when you don’t like something, it’s ok to be rude, disrespectful, angry, and mean about it,” says Taylor.

And at the very worst, children could view a parent’s reaction to the sports they watch as a preview of how the parent will react when the child underperforms in their own sporting endeavors. “Here’s the scary thing: what happens if your child starts to think ‘oh my gosh, what happens if I lose at tee-ball, or I drop the football in flag football: Are my parents going to get upset?’” Taylor posits.

How to Watch Sports with a Preschooler

  • Keep your cool when things are going poorly for your team, kids will pick up and sometimes mimic your anger and frustration.
  • Find something good to say about the opposing team, even if your favorite team is losing.
  • Talk to your child about a player that has both athleticism and good sportsmanship.
  • At live games, point out those individuals who are enjoying the game and behaving appropriately.
  • Take kids to games where other children are playing to show them what’s possible.
  • Don’t get too upset when a team loses. A kid needs to know that losing is a part of life and it’s not the end of the world.

Parents, fortunately, have more advanced brains than children and can control their emotions to a certain degree in order to model positive behavior. But watching sports with a group or at a stadium is something else altogether. Yet this, too, can be a teachable moment, one where a parent can point out good and bad behavior and show children the right and wrong way to become excited about the game.

“You can explain to them, especially if they’re very young, that when you go to baseball games or other games, people can get excited,” Taylor says. “The ultimate messenger is you. Even if the world around you in the stands is going batty, if you’re cool calm and collected or reasonably fired up, they’re going to get that message.”

Another factor to consider is picking positive role models in the ranks of the teams. Often, Taylor explains, great players behave badly, and kids engage in hero worship to the degree that they’ll emulate their favorite players, leading to bad behavior on and off the field. That means parents should take time to cultivate interest in players who exhibit good sportsmanship in addition to athletic skill. (The easiest solution here is just to have all kids — and everyone generally — just root for Lebron all the time.)

“If you as parents don’t communicate healthy messages about who they might want to root for and why they might want to root for them, then they’re gonna get their messages about what’s cool from our sports culture, and our sports culture is toxic,” says Taylor. “It tends to aggrandize the worst kinds of players: the ones who do the touchdown dances, the ones who taunt. The camera tends to focus on the bad behavior.”

Sports fandom for the very young isn’t limited to the big leagues, either. Taylor suggests taking kids to watch other children engage in a sporting activity, whether it’s a tee-ball game in the park, sitting courtside at a high school basketball game, or sitting in the stands of a youth soccer team.

“If you can, take kids to a high school game where they can see what’s possible… you might create in your child a tremendous passion that drives them to be the best they can be,” Taylor says. “Passion for sports is a wonderful antidote to a lot of the problems we have in a society where kids are doing things that are unhealthy because they’re not doing something that’s healthier.”

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