Creative Stuff, Parenting and Empathic Fathers, Relationships, Society

Your Home in Chaos? Time to Declutter!

MessUsually once a month I get it: the declutter-my-life-and-environment-virus. Don’t worry, normally it’s not contagious. It’s like a good fever: high and short. In the way my body tells me to get rid of things in order to feel better. And often the kids’ bedroom is my target. My wife and children don’t mind, as long as they don’t have to help me in my mission.

The cleaning out or let’s say – the healing process – involves: picking up all sorts of things and elements (blu tack, bits of sellotape, string, pens, books, food) from the floor; sorting the books (I think my boys own more books than me and the local library put together); dividing broken, half-broken and playable toys (yes, that’s where my eldest starts to argue: That toy is not broken, it just had an accident!); and to make the room generally more accessible (at least for the coming hour).

I find this cleaning out helps my inner peace and balance. Yes, it has something zen  (please tell me if you’re Buddhist and I’m wrong). And it reminds me of the simplicity of life. When I go through all this stuff, I often think: hey, we need so little, but have so much.

Leo Babauta, author of the Zen Habits Blog, brings it to the point when he says: “And when I’ve gotten rid of clutter, I’m freed. I can forget about those things, and live instead in this moment. … Decluttering can be a beautiful process of helping ourselves let go of the things we don’t realize we’re holding on to.”

I don’t think my children are overloaded with toys. We really try to keep it balanced and spend a great deal outdoors in the woods or by the sea. Every time we run over fields or collect millions of stones at the beach (to make the stones and pebbles collection we already have at home just a tiny bit richer), I pause and think: yes, that’s also what parenting is about: to see and to appreciate those little things; to enjoy that very moment and to take it home.

 

Don’t get me wrong: this is not a post saying how bad toys are. No, not at all. It’s fine for me, after spending so much time outdoors, to come back and get the train set out and play. It’s good fun and I love playing with many toys my children own (did I really say that?). At the same time I want to keep that thought of a free, running-through-the-woods, awesome childhood. Because that’s what I did when I was little. So, my children deserve the same, at least!

Did you get infected now? Sorry. Should have warned you earlier.
sign


 

Guest Posts, Parenting and Empathic Fathers, Relationships

100 Ways To Be A Better Father

I love reaching out to other fathers/parents! Back in May I discovered Derek Markham’s blog NaturalPapa.com and I re-posted his great article about how to be a better husband.

I find Derek’s blog very inspirational and I love his writing. He talks about attachment, natural parenting, co-sleeping, natural living and so much more. Please visit his site and enjoy reading his awesome stuff!

Today I would like to share his post about 100 Ways to Be a Better Father. I agree with most of the points Derek has made. But when he talks about praise, I see that issue in a different way and refer to Alfie Kohn’s work on ‘Unconditional Parenting’. Have a read yourself and enjoy!

Fatherhood: 100 Ways to be a Better Father

100Fatherhood is a tricky proposition. We all want to be great dads, but chances are, our fathers never sat down with us and taught us how to be one.

And we don’t necessarily want to be our fathers. I mean, we want to emulate their positive influence on us, but we also want to do it our own way. And because children tend to spend more of their time with their mother, not being the greatest dad ever isn’t as obvious. No matter who we are, though, we can always improve our relationship with our kids and our spouse, and we can redefine the meaning of fatherhood each and every day.

There’s not as big of a movement toward better ‘fathering’ as there is toward better mothering. No big fancy fatherhood magazines, no Oprah for dads, no real exchange of fatherhood improvement programs. There’s just Natural Papa. (I’m kidding. There’s a bunch of great dad blogs out there.)

I’m a crappy dad sometimes, yet I hope that I’m always learning how to be a better father, so I felt moved to put some of my thoughts on fatherhood down in words to share with you.

I read a post called ‘Tackle Any Issue With a List of 100′, by Luciano Passuello, a couple of weeks ago, and then later I came across ’100 Ways To Live A Better Life, by Dragos, which was inspired by ’100 Ways to Be a Better Leader’, by Mike King, which was inspired by ’100 Ways To Show Boldness’, by Armen, which was originally inspired by…  You guessed it, Luciano’s post about lists of 100. Whew. Got that straight?

Anyway, after reading those, I thought I would format my ideas on fatherhood into my own list of 100. If you have something to add, I’d love a comment about it.

100 Ways to be a Better Father

  1. Be present with your children.
  2. Heap lavish amounts of praise on your kids.
  3. Focus on the positive when speaking to your children.
  4. Say I love you. A lot.
  5. Don’t be afraid to show your emotions to your family.
  6. Work on improving your relationship with your wife or partner.
  7. Take time out from work for family time.
  8. Laugh at yourself. All the time.
  9. Listen to your kids with all of your attention.
  10. Learn new things by teaching your children about them.
  11. Start a personal journal.
  12. Hold your kids accountable for their actions and words, but don’t use punishment to teach..
  13. Leave your watch and daytimer on your desk sometimes.
  14. Make a meal for your family.
  15. Do something wacky and unpredictable in front of your kids.
  16. Spend some time one-on-one with your child.
  17. Get moving. Have a fitness plan in place and get your kids to join in.
  18. Take more walks, and leave the car at home.
  19. Fall in love with your wife. Again.
  20. Admit you’re wrong when you are.
  21. Forgive your dad for any grudges you hold against him.
  22. Teach a new dad what you’ve learned so far.
  23. Take time for yourself, so you can bring that sense of fulfillment with you to the family.
  24. Remember what you hated to hear from your parents as a kid and vow to be different.
  25. Read out loud to your children.
  26. Leave your work issues at your job. Don’t dump on your kids because your day was bad.
  27. Drop your change in a jar each day. When full, open a savings account for your child.
  28. Once in a while, ask your kids what you can do better. Then do it better.
  29. Hugs and kisses are golden. Be generous.
  30. Let your kids make their own choices.
  31. Get out in nature with the family.
  32. Count to 10 before you react to your children’s actions.
  33. Remember that kids mirror our actions, so watch what you say to or around them.
  34. Parenting is a shared responsibility. Jump in and do something mom normally does.
  35. Learn from your elders – ask them what they’ve learned as fathers.
  36. When a child does something not so nice, separate their actions from them in your mind. A child is never bad, even though their actions may be.
  37. The next time you feel like giving up on something, do it anyway and use it as a teaching moment.
  38. Remember that everyone is somebody’s child.
  39. Listen to yourself. Do you sound like your dad? Is that a good thing?
  40. Give yourself a break. I haven’t met a father yet who doesn’t make mistakes.
  41. Unplug the TV and pretend it’s broken once in a while. Or hide it.
  42. Go with your child to school once in a while. Meet the teacher and ask how you can help.
  43. Make your health and fitness a priority so you’ll be around for your kids for a long time.
  44. Teach the value of service to others by volunteering in your neighborhood, church, or school.
  45. Write love notes and leave them for your kids to find.
  46. Read a book about fatherhood.
  47. Write a book about fatherhood.
  48. Make some snacks for the kids as a surprise.
  49. Speak as one with your wife, so your kids don’t play you off on one another.
  50. Do you say yes all the time? Use no when you mean it, even if they don’t like it.
  51. Do you say no all the time? Say yes once in a while.
  52. Snuggle with your kids.
  53. Show your wife respect always. Make sure your kids do also.
  54. Take the time to really explain things to your children. Don’t just say “because I said so.”
  55. Ask for help if you need it. Don’t suffer from excess pride.
  56. Accept who you are, but don’t settle. Strive to improve yourself every day.
  57. Smile at your children and your partner.
  58. Make amends when you’re wrong or grumpy or harsh with your kids.
  59. Periodically assess your life and change course if needed. Don’t be unhappy just because you think you can’t change.
  60. Take a class or learn a new skill with your kids.
  61. Act as if you’re the best dad ever.
  62. Imagine you’ve only got one week left to live. How would you treat your kids? What’s stopping you from doing that right now?
  63. Let your kids see you cry.
  64. Explore every park in your town.
  65. Once in a while, take a day off just because, and spend it with your family.
  66. Find out about your family history and start sharing it with your kids.
  67. Give high fives for each tiny accomplishment they make.
  68. Get out of debt as quick as you can, and teach your kids about the value of being debt-free.
  69. Take a big leap when you see an opportunity, and show your children about trust, faith, and the virtue of following your dreams.
  70. Get down on their level and try to see things as they do. Chances are, you’ve forgotten what it’s like.
  71. Learn some really corny kid jokes and use them often.
  72. Hold a family meeting and get your kid’s input on important decisions.
  73. Don’t just give your kids the answers to questions. Show them how to find the answers.
  74. Remember, they’re never too old for piggyback rides.
  75. Have patience with your children. Don’t expect them to be perfect.
  76. Don’t insist on conformity. Let your kids follow their dreams, not yours.
  77. Hold their hands, literally.
  78. Remember to let your children save face. Embarrassing them in front of their friends is not cool.
  79. Keep your relationship issues between you and your wife. Don’t let your kids take on all your crap.
  80. When your children were babies, you gushed over them. Do the same thing for them now.
  81. Don’t gossip around your kids.
  82. Stand up for the weak, the oppressed, the underdog.
  83. Grow a beard. (Actually, I just put that in to see if you were paying attention.)
  84. Take your child to work with you and explain what you do for a living.
  85. Make something by hand with them. Don’t worry about perfection, just enjoy the process.
  86. Once in a while, give them a “get out of jail free” card.
  87. Tell your children how much they mean to you.
  88. Follow through on your promises to them.
  89. Give your kids responsibilities.
  90. Speak to your children as your equals. Give them the respect you ask for.
  91. Plan surprises for them and keep them guessing.
  92. When speaking to other adults, act as if your kids were listening.
  93. Play games with your children. Let them win sometimes, but don’t make it obvious or easy.
  94. Before you walk in the door from work, take some deep breaths and leave your work outside.
  95. Give mom the day off once in a while, and get the kids to help you pamper her.
  96. Be generous with your time, your energy, and your money. Give freely to those in need.
  97. Cultivate your fatherhood Superpowers.
  98. Don’t let other adults get away with unacceptable behavior around your kids.
  99. Remember the Golden Rule. It does apply to your children as well.
  100. Find your center and define what truly matters to you. Make that your inner retreat when life throws you a curve ball, and share that with your kids.

What have I missed? Please leave a comment with your addition to this list.

 

About Derek

Personal, Parenting and Natural Living Bio:

I’m a husband, a father, and a carrier of things.

I think peanut butter on anything is great.

I love big mountains and little kids, ’cause they make me smile, and I drink a double americano almost every day.

I’m a nature boy, a tree-hugging dirt-worshiper. I try to live with reverence for our web of life.

I like big trees and large boulders, cold mountain streams and redrock desert, the smell of pinyon and sage. I’d rather be sitting in a canoe in the wilderness than the backseat of a Rolls Royce.

(As long as the canoe had an espresso machine and a wireless connection…)

Derek Markham

Things I dig include: simple living, natural fatherhood, attachment parenting, natural building, unassisted childbirth (homebirth), bicycles, composting (sawdust) toilets, organic and biodynamic gardening, vegan peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips, bouldering, and the blues.

In my life I’ve been a factory worker, a farmer, a grocery clerk, a handyman and jack of all trades. I’ve worked at fast food joints and car washes, for temp agencies and day labor hire, for moving companies and landscapers. I’ve driven forklifts and bobcats, and I’ve installed solar panels and sold fruit at the farmers market. I spent 10 years in the natural foods industry, most recently as the general manager of a natural foods co-op.

I support local food production and am a regular at the farmers market and our local food co-op. The dream of a sustainable homestead is still alive for us, and our self-sufficient zero-energy input green home is being planned. Our permaculture oasis is a sustainable small-scale village. Single-speed bicycles, drumming, and DIY anything can really make me grin.

 


 

Parenting and Empathic Fathers, Relationships, Society

Our Obsession With ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You’

IMG_0391You hear it wherever you go with small children: playgrounds, supermarkets, nurseries, playgroups – you name it. And it always follows the same structure. A child wants something – a certain food, a toy or even just the permission to go on a swing. You can actually often see and feel the vibrant excitement in that child awaiting the parent’s/adult’s response or approval. And then, the child is just bursting for impatience, the parent bends down, raises an eyebrow and shoots that one arrow straight into a child’s heart: ‘What DO YOU say?’ or even sometimes in decrypted adult language and with a cunning smile: ‘What’s the MAGIC word?’ Watch that child again. The excitement has gone. The bubble of curiosity has burst. One question can destroy so much.

Instead of looking forward to a nice food/drink, a toy or an activity, the child is caught in a guilt trap. Observe that child again. You see them thinking hard. One, two, three…. Damn, what is it Mum wants? What is the magic word again? Sometimes the child is near a crying breakdown or just emotionally blocked to say anything. Some adults then say ‘SAY Thank you’ or ‘SAY Please’ as a ‘reminder’.

Forget it. The adult knows the answer already, but he/she won’t give in until he/she gets her f***ing ‘PLEASE’ or ‘THANK YOU’. And you know what, they call it ‘teaching manners’ or ‘being polite’. I call it bribery, blackmailing, emotional manipulation or short: rubbish.

We don’t teach children anything by enforcing so-called manners or made-up rules by society. Yes, I want my children to be kind and polite people and I tell you what, they’re lovely, kind and caring boys. That’s without any pressure or blackmailing.

The secret (not sure if it is a secret, actually) lies in the way we role model. Children (especially the younger ones) WANT to copy us. The way we live, talk, respond is our children’s ‘classroom’. They watch us and will integrate our words and habits into their daily play and interactions. So, you want polite and well-mannered kids? Well, set the example yourself. Be friendly, don’t shout, be polite, say ‘Please’, say ‘Thank you’, don’t f***ing swear (never!). Easy, isn’t it?!

 

Recently I talked to a very experienced speech- and language therapist. She and various brain development researches confirm, that kids at the age of two or three (but I have actually seen parents who tried to train even their 18-months-old toddler) are not ready at all to understand or to follow our codex of manners. What they really want in that moment is that apple, toy or attention. ‘Teaching’ them by enforcing ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ can have an damaging impact onto their self- esteem and confidence (and speech development).

Children won’t learn gratitude and respect that way either. A ‘Please’ or ‘Thank you’ should come from their and our hearts, not in order to get praised or to please anyone. That’s why it is so important for parents and other key adults to be positive, friendly and polite. Let’s create that warm, nurturing environment and atmosphere for our kids. No bribery, no punishments, but unconditional love.

So, my wife and I never asked or forced our kids to say ‘Please’ or ‘Thank you’. But, in our home we are friendly and polite to each other. When we have dinner and I ask my wife or my kids for the butter, then I use ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’. Again, I role model. Maybe not all the time, but most. Guess what, it works! My eldest, now six, says very often the not so magic words. Because he’s seen it many, many times and has now understood, that it’s actually quite nice to be nice to each other. Awesome, isn’t it?! Sometimes, he forgets, but I’m not worried (and certainly won’t remind him), I trust that he does what feels right to him in our family (and outside) culture.

sign

 

 

 


 

Parenting and Empathic Fathers

The First Weeks and Months – What Fathers Can Do

After writing a Letter to a Father-to-be, I gonna look at the first weeks and months of emotional, fantastic, confusing, sleepless, energetic, awesome fatherhood. What is it, that new fathers can/should/could take on their journey once the little one is there?
Here are some awesome tips:

• Make an effort to learn the language and feelings associated with the motherhood mindset. It is important for you to understand that you are witnessing a natural and almost inevitable change shared by most new mothers (Daniel Stern).

• The opposing demands of work and family can feel stressful, as there isn’t enough time for either and you end up being tired and exhausted. It is important for you as a father to take some time to recharge too. Once your child is in bed, can you go out, once a week, do something you love? Don’t feel guilty doing it, your partner needs you fully recharged.

• You might feel that no-one at work quite understands how you are feeling. Men need to off-load too. Some find it difficult to ask for help, especially with emotional issues, but please do, find someone you feel comfortable with (a friend, a relative or a professional) and let go, it will be a great relief.

• Spent as much time as you can with the baby and don’t be offended by your partner when she suggests you do things differently (she might be totally right, and then you’ll find out for yourself anyway or you invent “your” way, that she has not tried yet, that’s fine and could work equally well – just give it a try!). The more you do it, the more confident you get!

• Don’t ever underestimate the importance of you being around, especially in the early days it can seem like you are not “needed”. You are, every time you interact with your baby you are building a bond. Every time you support your partner, you are strengthening the family bond and therefore your child’s secure and safe “nest”.

• Acknowledge your partner’s work and appreciate what she does, formulate it in a clear and precise way. “When a father expresses his understanding and appreciation of his wife in her new role as mother, it moves her profoundly…fathers speak from a unique perspective, and their praise is dynamic” (Naomi Stadlen)

• Enjoy it!

I’m sure you’ll be fine. Be authentic and take in as many magical moments of fatherhood as you can.

 

Have you checked DADS TALK on facebook? Come and join us HERE.


 

 

Parenting and Empathic Fathers, Relationships

Checklist To Start The Weekend

  • Allow enough playtime for and WITH your kids
  • Surprise your family with a new dish that you cook (or even cook together)
  • Build a den
  • Make some musical instruments out of shoe boxes, elastic band, old yoghurt pots filled with rice or lentils – and have a family concert
  • Run over fields and chase cows
  • Have time to yourself (read, sleep, meditate, dance, do what you like)
  • Turn TV, laptops, phones etc. O F F (no stand by, no quick check, no cheating – off means off)
  • Invite your neighbours for a tea or coffee (they’ll bring the cake)
  • Say THANK YOU to your partner, or your parents, or to a friend or a stranger
  • On Sunday night meet with your family and talk about all the things that happened this weekend

rainbow

Parenting and Empathic Fathers

The Monthly Declutter Virus

Usually once a month I get it: the declutter-my-life-and-environment-virus. Don’t worry, normally it’s not contagious. It’s like a good fever: high and short. In the way my body tells me to get rid of things in order to feel better. And often the kids’ bedroom is my target. My wife and children don’t mind, as long as they don’t have to help me in my mission.

The cleaning out or let’s say – the healing process – involves: picking up all sorts of things and elements (blu tack, bits of sellotape, string, pens, books, food) from the floor; sorting the books (I think my boys own more books than me and the local library put together); dividing broken, half-broken and playable toys (yes, that’s where my eldest starts to argue: That toy is not broken, it just had an accident!); and to make the room generally more accessible (at least for the coming hour).

I find this cleaning out helps my inner peace and balance. Yes, it has something zen  (please tell me if you’re Buddhist and I’m wrong). And it reminds me of the simplicity of life. When I go through all this stuff, I often think: hey, we need so little, but have so much.

Leo Babauta, author of the Zen Habits Blog, brings it to the point when he says: “And when I’ve gotten rid of clutter, I’m freed. I can forget about those things, and live instead in this moment. … Decluttering can be a beautiful process of helping ourselves let go of the things we don’t realize we’re holding on to.”

I don’t think my children are overloaded with toys. We really try to keep it balanced and spend a great deal outdoors in the woods or by the sea. Every time we run over fields or collect millions of stones at the beach (to make the stones and pebbles collection we already have at home just a tiny bit richer), I pause and think: yes, that’s also what parenting is about: to see and to appreciate those little things; to enjoy that very moment and to take it home.

2013-07-06 17.10.44

Don’t get me wrong: this is not a post saying how bad toys are. No, not at all. It’s fine for me, after spending so much time outdoors, to come back and get the train set out and play. It’s good fun and I love playing with many toys my children own (did I really say that?). At the same time I want to keep that thought of a free, running-through-the-woods, awesome childhood. Because that’s what I did when I was little. So, my children deserve the same, at least!
Did you get infected now? Sorry. Should have warned you earlier.