How to Help Your Children Handle Their Emotions

If every moment has the potential to lead to an emotional breakdown, emotion coaching could offer a solution.

Before we tried emotion coaching, my son used his feelings as a weapon. Every moment was an emotional breakdown. If he was a little bit hungry, he would erupt into tears. If he was tired, he would throw himself onto the ground. It was like living with a Shakespearean actor who never quite caught the concept of overselling it.

Everyone in the family had a theory on what we needed to do. “Just ignore him,” was the grandparents’ suggestion. “He’s just trying to get out of things. If you ignore him, he’ll stop.”

“It’s biological,” was my wife’s view. “My brother did the same thing when he was child. There’s nothing we can do about it.”

“He needs to learn that big boys don’t cry,” was mine. “Let’s just let him bottle things up.  He’s not going to have aneurysm just because he didn’t let having a brown spot on his banana reduce him to tears.”

We tried everything, and everything just made it worse. The more we ignored him and the more we encouraged him to be tough, the more he cried and the worse the problem became. By trying to shut down his emotions, we weren’t letting him learn how to deal with them – and so they just become more and more explosive.

Then we tried something different. Desperate for a solution, we scoured the web for answers. We learned about emotion coaching and tried it for ourselves – and it really worked.

Emotion coaching is a way to encourage children to acknowledge their emotions and deal with them. Instead of teaching kids to hide them or to explode them everywhere, the kids learn to understand the root of their emotions and deal with them in a constructive way – and it really works. In fact, one study had 244 families try it out, and almost every one ended up with less emotional outbursts.

Here’s how it works:

Acknowledge the emotion first.

Your child has just thrown a toy across the room. Or maybe they’ve done something worse – maybe they’ve thrown it right at you. If you’re like most parents, common sense is going to tell you to discipline your child immediately – but research shows that might not actually be the best thing to do.

Instead, your first step should be to acknowledge your child’s emotions. Children don’t understand what’s going on instead of their bodies. They don’t know why they’re reacting like this either. There’s a good chance your child is watching his bad behavior with the same mystified confusion you are and, just like you, has no idea what provoked him to do this.

Your child is going to have to learn how to deal with this, and you’re going to have to the teacher. You’ll discipline him – but you have to acknowledge that emotions are the root of the problem, first.

Label and validate the emotion.

Giving the emotion a name can help a child handle it. Since they have no idea what’s making them act out, they don’t know how to stop themselves from doing it. Labelling the emotion is the first step in learning how to do that.

If your child seems to be angry, let them know. If your child is sad or frustrated or disappointed or jealous, tell them. Saying, “I can see that you’re angry” or asking, “Are you feeling jealous?” lets them know that there’s a real emotional reaction happening that they can learn to handle.

This will have a major effect on their lives. Children who learn to handle their emotions endure negative feelings for shorter times, relate to people better and have stronger friendships – so as difficult as this is now, it’s going to pay off in the future.

Discipline your child.

Your child isn’t getting out of this unscathed. You’re going to validate their emotions – but you’re not going to let them get away with being bad.

Tell your child it’s okay to have emotions – but that bad behavior is not. You might say, “It’s okay to feel angry, but it’s not okay to throw things.”

Then, discipline your child.

Berkeley University recommends sending your child to a time-out, which makes a lot of sense. This way your child’s not only getting punished, but they’re getting time to calm down and reflect on what they did. They’re going to look at what they felt, and there’s a good chance they’ll work through most of the problem on their own.

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More About Time-outs

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When time’s up, let them come out and make them apologize for what they did. Then it’s time to tackle the emotion.

Identify the source.

Try to help your child understand why they’re feeling this emotion. A great way to start this is just by asking. Let your child tell you why they’re feeling this way, and try to help them understand what might be making them feel angry.

Sometimes this is easy. Sometimes a child is angry because someone stole his toy, and that can be easy to point out and validate. Of course, as every parent knows, sometimes your child is angry because of something completely insane. No matter how ridiculous it is, though, it’s a big deal to your child – and you have to let them feel like that’s okay.

Talk about how to deal with it next time.

Just like children have to learn to read, they have to learn how to be good. It’s not something that comes natural. You’re going to need to teach them.

Once your child understands why they had the emotional reaction they did, you’re going to have to talk to them about how to deal with it. Share ideas about what to do next time – and let your child share a few of their own.

You might suggest talking about your feelings. You might suggest taking a walk, or stepping from the problem and coming back to it, or asking mom or dad for a hug. The key is to find a solution that makes sense to your child – because if it makes sense to your child, they’ll actually use it.

Emotion coaching takes a little bit more time than regular discipline – but not much. When you sit down and talk to your child about what they’re feeling, you’re giving them the skills to handle these problems when you’re not around. When you just discipline your child, they’ll only be good when you’re around.

More importantly, emotion coaching actually works. Our son is getting better at handling his emotions every day, and now when we see anger or sadness creep onto his face they’re aren’t followed by tears. Instead, our child is starting to suggest the solution that makes the most sense to him:

“Can I have a hug?”

When Marriage Fails, Parenting Can Save You

While divorce is the end of a marriage, it is also the beginning of a new relationship with our kids. One father reflects on how that bond grew stronger.

The worst day of my life was the day my wife and I decided our marriage was beyond repair. 

We had a precious three year old son. He didn’t deserve the life about to be thrust upon him. Little did I know then, but the worst day of my life was also the best day of my life.

My wife and I quickly realized the most important thing to do was put our son’s interests above our own. We weren’t going to hang on to our old wounds. We weren’t going to try to tear one another down. We weren’t going to try to hurt each other. We were going to co-parent our son in the nurturing and functional way he deserved. He would have two loving and complete households.   

We proceeded with the amicable divorce, ever cautious of opening new wounds. I felt fortunate to share fifty percent legal and physical custody. Yet, I mourned the loss of time with my son more than I had mourned anything in my life to that point. I also knew, however, that it could have been much worse. I decided that our time and life together would be just as good and full as any other household’s, if not better.

I decided that I would be cautious about dating, and likely remain single in order to maintain stability for my son. I didn’t want mother-figures coming in and out of his life. So, when he was with me, I’d take on the roles of both mother and father. I worried about creating and maintaining a complete household for my son.    

In today’s age, the traditional roles of mothers and fathers have been blurred, given the evolution and maturation of our society. But when one parent is absent, the remaining parent takes on both roles, regardless of tradition. I was not the traditional father to begin with, but at least there were two individuals in the home to share all of the duties that go with raising children. I was concerned nonetheless about my effectiveness of taking on such a responsibility.

The adjustments were difficult at first – for both of us. It was difficult for my son to understand why he was going back and forth between households. It was emotionally difficult for me when he wasn’t with me. It was difficult for me physically and logistically when he was with me.

I wasn’t used to taking care of a child by myself. I wasn’t used to doing everything for him. I was tired. I had a demanding job. I had to take care of a household. I had to take care care of my son. I had to take care of myself. And each one was interconnected with the other. If I faltered in one area, the others were affected. Life seemed precariously balanced. I worried, and I worried a lot.

At first, I was resentful of the situation, and angered by the difficult path for the both of us. I wanted the traditional family, for me and for him. How can I do everything that needs to be done? Can I meet all of his needs? But, as I became accustomed to the new norm, I found myself relishing in the fact that I was succeeding in being a single parent, and that my son was succeeding in this circumstance.

Not only were we succeeding, but we began to thrive. I discovered I was bonding with my son in ways that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. He looked to me for everything when he was with me. I began to feel empowered.

What I thought were going to be struggles at first, actually became privileges. I had the privilege of being both mother and father to him in our home. I found myself enjoying things like picking him up from school, packing his lunch, and taking him to the doctor’s office. I felt closer to him through all of those activities.

Worrying about things like putting a nutritious dinner on the table allowed me to feel connected to his health. Holding him when he got hurt allowed me to empathize with his pain. Brushing his hair allowed me see his beauty and tenderness. Washing his muddy jeans allowed me to visualize him on the playground. Helping him with his homework allowed me to feel connected with his cognitive development. Snuggling with him at night allowed me to feel all of his love and goodness. I’d like to think I would have done all of these things regardless of the makeup of our household, but this situation absolutely demanded it, and that was a blessing.

When I lost fifty percent of my time with him, I though I’d be losing out on experiences, joys, and time – and I did, to a degree. I discovered, however, that I gained so much more. We’ve had the opportunity to form an undeniably close relationship. The time we had was just our own. The rules we had were uniquely ours. The customs and norms we established were sacred.

I was involved in so much more of his life than I ever thought possible. And when he wasn’t with me, I found ways to still be a part of his life. I had lunch with him at school. I was an assistant coach on his various sports teams. I attended parent/teacher conferences, birthday parties, and family functions. Our close relationship transcended the time gaps. We were connected before the divorce, but our relationship blossomed after it.

At times, as I was going about various tasks, I wondered if my son would ever fully appreciate the efforts gone in to raising him, and why I joyfully took them on. He certainly didn’t owe me anything. I brought him in to this world, and it was my responsibility to take care of him, to give him the best childhood. But I wondered if he would ever fully comprehend the level of dedication, caring, concern, worry and love I had for him. Maybe he would, but probably only after having children of his own.

As he grew older, we continued with our happy norms and customs, taking life’s ups and downs as they came. The one constant we always had was each other. No matter how tough a day I had, when I saw my son, everything else was put in perspective.

It was bittersweet watching him go off to college. But as with everything, we adjusted. We kept in constant contact. I took joy from afar in seeing him make new friends, find new interests, go on new adventures, and have new successes. I missed him horribly, but that was okay. He had his own life to lead, and I would be doing him a disservice in not allowing him to lead it.

He called frequently, but the one call I never expected to was the one I received on Mother’s Day. I’d considered texting him that morning, to remind him to call his mother. He was 19 years old and sometimes, like most 19 year olds, he was distracted by his day-to-day activities. I resisted the urge to remind him. I felt confident he would remember, and I wanted to give him that autonomy.

Later that night, when my phone rang and I saw it was him calling, it crossed my mind: Is he calling me on Mother’s Day? Has he made the connection?  No, I thought, he just wants to touch base.

When I picked up the phone he jubilantly said, “Happy Mother’s Day!”

I was taken aback. “Are you calling me why I think you’re calling me?” I asked, rather cryptically. He understood my question, and answered in his own light hearted manner, “Yeah, you’re like a second mother to me.”

I laughed, and welcomed the sentiment, loving my son that much more. As men, we tend not to dwell on the sentiment, and we didn’t talk in-depth about the past. What we had to say was already understood. We laughed, we connected, and we embraced the moment.

After we hung up the phone, I thought about the days when I used to wonder whether my son would ever fully understand the passion and dedication that went in to his upbringing.

I reflected on that fateful day we decided to divorce, the worst day of my life. And I thought about all of the special times my son and I have shared since then, and the enduring relationship we’ve formed.

I’m grateful I’ve had the opportunity to parent him to the fullest extent possible. Second to my son himself, it’s the greatest gift I’ve ever received. And with one phone call on Mother’s Day, I knew my son was deeply grateful for the of the gifts he’d received as well. 

How to Watch This Weekends Rounds of The Open Championship on TV

Find out when and how to watch the 2016 British Open on television and streaming live online from Thursday through Sunday as it emanates from Royal Troon in Scotland

Round 3 — Saturday

Live TV coverage: 4-7 a.m. on Golf Channel, 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on NBC

Round 4 — Sunday

Live TV coverage: 4-7 a.m. on Golf Channel, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on NBC

Source: British Open 2016: How to watch live online, TV coverage from Royal Troon – CBSSports.com

6 Things to do When Your Kids’ Sport Season is Over

Coach Justin’s list of how to decompress when the sport season ends.

We’re a hockey family: I play, and my two boys play. Mom does not play yet, but her skating has come a long way on the backyard rink. I get asked all the time what my boys are going to do in the off-season.

It’s a question for the ages. Just to begin, there is no perfect answer. Every kid and athlete are different – some can’t get enough of a particular sport, some just want to be done, and this can change year to year.

An athlete may not want to hang up their skates for the spring when the season is going well. But if the season has been a long one, they may be counting down the minutes until the gear can go back in its bag for the summer. Either way, younger kids (especially ages five to 15) need a break. If they don’t want a break, too bad. Time for some tough love. They will thank you for it.

Either way, younger kids (especially ages five to 15) need a break. If they don’t want a break, too bad. Time for some tough love. They will thank you for it.

This leads me to my list of how we decompress when the season ends and how we start to plan for next year now.

1 | Communicate.

Ask your athlete how they felt about their season. Maybe start a journal with your younger athletes. If your kid is older and heading into high school, they should be tracking their performances anyway. Now would be a good time to start. Here are some sample questions I like to ask:

  • What aspect of your season did you like best?
  • What skill did you improve upon the most?
  • What do you wish you could do over?
  • What are two things you want to improve upon before the next season begins?
  • Now that the season is over, is this a sport you would like to continue?

2 | Plan the gear for next year.

Quickly go through your kids’ gear and see what will fit them for another season and what they’ll need new for next year.

Consider your kid’s skill level when assessing his or her equipment needs. Are they getting good at a particular sport? If so, will they need better than average – or even custom – gear? This type of gear typically takes longer for fitting and ordering purposes so plan ahead.

I order my kids’ gear about four months before the start of the season. This allows enough time for fitting, any possibly delays in delivery, and a couple of months for them to break in the new stuff.

The downside to planning ahead is the risk of buying a bunch of gear that your kid outgrows before the season starts. My kids are growing a ton right now and they can outgrow equipment over just a summer. If any of you have suggestions about handling this kind of snafu, I am all ears!

3 | Play a different sport. Or lots of them.

Again, my boys play hockey, and a lot of it. They start in October and finish in May. Now that our last spring tournament is complete I’ve switched my boys’ hockey gear out for a baseball glove and bat.

In Vermont, our baseball season is only five weeks long, maybe six. So once the flash of the baseball season has passed, what do we do? Well, we do everything. Fishing, golf, play lacrosse in the backyard, driveway basketball games, hiking, wiffle ball is a big hit,We also encourage our kids to get in plenty of swimming at the pool, lake, or ocean during the summer – whatever we can do together as a family to stay active and continue to build and learn about our athletic abilities.

I hear coaches talk all the time about the importance of playing multiple sports and building athleticism – I couldn’t agree more.

5 | Try a new sports camp.

We are a household where both parents work. We have a great family support network during the summer, but we also rely on sports camps to expose our boys to new types of activities that they might not discover on their own.

My youngest goes to a skateboarding camp, and my oldest wants to try a survival camp. Our goal as parents is to make sure they’re learning new things and experiencing new adventures each and every day of summer if possible.

6 | Work on skills for next season.

First, don’t specialize you child until at least high school – maybe even after their sophomore year, depending on your child’s development. They may think they want to be in the NBA at age nine, but other factors will eventually decide their favorite sport. Let them figure that out.

One way to help them along that path is to use just a little bit of off-season time for skill development. My boys typically do one week of power skating in the summer.

My older boy, who is eight, is going to learn about athletic training at a twice weekly training program for younger athletes. Each summer this program will progressively get more and more intense.

At the end of the day, sports are about the experience.

Our sons also attend one week of hockey camp in the off-season. Some of my best memories as a hockey player growing up are from sleepaway hockey camp. Even with the non-air-conditioned dorms and bad food, camp was always where I grew the most as a player. It also gave me the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. I got to try different camps and go to different places, which helped me as a kid to get out of my comfort zone and find new ways to engage with sports.

At the end of the day, sports are about the experience. Just look at baseball: only 1 in 1,000 kids that play in high school even get a shot at the big leagues. The odds of your kid becoming a professional athlete in any sport are incredibly small, so try not to make that the focus – for them or you.

Give your kids the chance at a young age to grow and learn to love athletics for what they do to enhance our lives. Maybe that’s working toward a career as a pro athlete, but maybe it’s just learning how to be the best you can at a particular task, and then repeat. Kind of like what the real world asks of us every day.

As a parent of two very athletic boys all I can say is I want them to work hard and have fun when they are doing it. Sometimes working hard and having fun is just taking a step away to reset their athletic clocks for the next long (or short) season.

9 Caddyshack Quotes I Use Everyday as a Dad

Parenting is such a roller coaster ride. There are times when we need to be serious, times when I need to teach my boys, and a time to laugh.

Parenting is such a roller coaster ride. There are times when we need to be serious, times when I need to teach my boys, and a time to laugh.

The longer I do this parenting thing, the more I realize the sage advice sprinkled throughout the great comedy “Caddyshack.”

1 | “You’ll get nothing and like it!”

Let’s start with one of my favorites. I’m a dad to a five- year-old and an eight-year-old. It seems as if my life is just a series of questions, since one of my two boys is always asking me for something. A new toy, candy, water – all those annoying things they constantly nag me for. I just reply with this.

2 | “Well, the world needs ditch diggers, too!”

My next observation as a parent and coach has to do with work ethic. I am constantly hearing kids nowadays proclaiming what they want to be when they grow up: I’m going to be a wide receiver for the Colts! I’m going to be a pro hockey player! etc. Once the time comes and the hard work begins, the excuses start flying: I’m tired! I already did blah blah blah! I want you to do it with me! One quote usually snaps them back to reality:

I always enjoy the look I get, sometimes from my wife, too.

3 | “A flute with no holes is not a flute, and a donut with no hole is a danish.”

At times as parents we just need to wax poetic. This is always one of my go to scenes; makes me sound enlightened and stuff.

4 | “Next time be more careful!”

Stuff is always getting broken in our house. Windows, frames, beds, glassware, I seem to utter this phrase daily, and twice on the weekends

Thanks Judge Smails!

5 | “Oh, it looks good on you though…”

So we as humans are all different.  We have different hair, eyes, skin complexion, age, beauty…One thing we try to teach our boys is to treat everyone with respect, and treat them as you would want to be treated…Even if that means stretching the truth a bit to make someone feel welcome and good about themselves…

“But it looks good on you though…”  Ah Al Czervik aka ”Rodney” we miss you.

6 | “Mom! Mom! Danny saw me naked!”

Privacy. We all need a little more of that in life, don’t we? My kids are at the age where they are running around the house naked – getting dressed, post-shower, whatever – and neither wants to let the other see them naked. So rather than just closing the door to their room, or to the bathroom, there’s a screeching fest. Always takes me back to “Caddyshack.”

7 | “So? So? Let’s dance!”

Life is too serious sometimes. My kids are great at reminding me what life is all about. Yes, we all have to work, we all have to volunteer to help others, but there are times when we just need to get down and boogie.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8G-NHFELaw

8 | “Cannonball coming!”

As parents, our lives are busy. Very busy. T-ball to this, rush to that, pick up this kid and bring him here. By the end of the week my spouse and I are like…

9 | “Stop thinking. Let things happen. And be the ball.”

In this age of enlightenment that I keep reading about, we as humans are supposed to be more in touch with our spirituality than at any time in the modern era. Not sure I am seeing that with my kids, as we are constantly working on focus, staying on a task and completing that task. At times challenging them to be in sync with what is happening around them…

Wiser advice has never been given. Thanks, Ty!

How I Bumbled Through the First Months of Fatherhood

My first emotions were fear, joy, terror, wonder, shock, excitement and panic when first I learned I was going to be a father.

My first emotions were fear, joy, terror, wonder, shock, excitement and panic when first I learned I was going to be a father.

The world as I had known it just ended. Yet a new, sure to be marvelous yet uncertain world awaits. Am I ready for this? How am I going to pull this one off? How am I going to be responsible for another human being? Ninety percent of the time, I’m an idiot at best. This isn’t something you just bumble your way through. Or so I thought.

The pregnancy was the slowest nine months of my life. As scared as I was, I just wanted to get started. I was like a racehorse, albeit a slow one, locked in the starting gate. My mind was in overdrive.

I never felt totally ready for my son’s arrival, but when he did finally arrive, I was amazed at how much I loved my son. I was amazed by the fact I had never felt love like that before. I also had a strong, more practical emotion—one of being overwhelmed and underprepared.

I can look back on the events humorously now, but then, it was anything but. I felt like a little league baseball player facing a Hall of Fame pitcher. I was vastly overmatched by my young son. I knew it and he knew it. He was small in stature, but I sensed big problems on the horizon.

Upon our arrival back home, I quickly realized he needed a lot of attention. I quickly realized that what I thought I had learned didn’t really help. I also realized I was the weak link in the parenting chain. I thought I knew what to do, my wife knew what to do. And she was good at it. She apparently ran in different circles than I did. Thank goodness. She was a natural. I was the anti-natural. But that was OK. I was desperate. I saw coattails that I could ride and I jumped on them. At this point, pride was out of the window.

Survival was all that mattered. Mine and his.

One of the most surprising things I realized was that I really didn’t feel a bond with my son. I loved him. I loved him more than anything, but I really didn’t know him nor did I feel very connected with him. He and his mother had been essentially one for nine months and had a nice little relationship formed. I felt like the third wheel. Oh sure, I was serviceable to a degree. I played much needed roles like towel boy and errand man. But I was on the outside looking in.

I really felt bad and guilty that I didn’t feel a connection to my son. I tried to connect with him every way I could. There were some good times those first few weeks, but mostly, the times were rocky. And what made it even worse was he wasn’t even trying. I thought relationships were supposed to be reciprocal. My son was very bad at reciprocating relationships.

He was angry a lot and I had no idea why. He never said thank you. Quite the opposite. He was demanding and rude. I was trying really hard, but I was being treated like a very bad waiter and he was a bad tipper. He never smiled and that disturbed me greatly. Have you ever been around someone who never smiles? It gets old. It’s not normal.

But he is my son and I love him, so we’ll work on the smiling thing.

What was more disturbing than the not smiling, was the keeping of odd hours. I had never met anyone up to that point that would sleep so much during the day and stay up so much at night. And if they did, at least they were happy about it. He wasn’t happy at all in the middle of the night. The last person who woke me up so much during the middle of the night was my college roommate, and we ended up fighting about it.

My son didn’t care I had to go to work the next day. Didn’t care. I don’t do well on little sleep. I hallucinated a little. I cried during commercials—even the funny ones. I stopped pronouncing vowels. Night after night after night. He must hate me I often thought. He must really hate me.

The nights, and days for that matter, were filled with screaming. Short screams, long screams, high screams, low screams, choppy screams, flowing screams, screams within screams. I didn’t know all of those screams were possible. Now I know.

I thought I had to learn tactics and information as a parent. And I did to a certain degree. I didn’t know I had to learn coping mechanisms. One of the coping mechanisms I learned at this point was to not have any expectations. Give everything and expect nothing.

I was in a dysfunctional relationship and that was just the way it was. Keep your head down, your nose to the grindstone and really embrace your six and a half minutes of free time a day. Your life is not your own, but that is OK. Your purpose is something bigger than you now, or in this case, smaller.

Then something miraculous happened along the way. He smiled. He smiled at me. True, he may have been planning something evil, but it was a smile nonetheless. I’ll never forget it. It was a marvelous, wry, crooked, sparkling-if-he-had-had teeth smile.

Over the next days and weeks, he smiled more. He even laughed some. With each smile and laugh my love for him grew. We were bonding! We were actually bonding! It was like he was rewarding me for making it through the darkness—literally because I went to his room a lot in the middle of the night. Or did he actually teach me the first of many lessons to come? It was the latter.

It wasn’t a reward because I bumbled my way through those first few months doing nothing spectacular. But what I did do is I learned to sacrifice.

I learned to focus on something more important than my own path. I learned I didn’t have to be an expert, rather I just had to keep trying and persevere and want to do the best thing for my son. I learned unconditional love. I learned that to be a good father is to give everything and to expect nothing. I learned the rewards of parenting weren’t things that were going to enhance me, but rather the reward was watching your child evolve and experience moments of happiness.

Our relationship has continued to grow and to prosper. We have been best friends ever since. My truest joy is still watching him grow, seeing him live his life and watching him experience whatever happiness life has to offer. He has taught me many lessons since, but those first lessons still stand true today and they have made me a better person.

I still bumble my way through most things, but I have learned to keep trying, to keep giving, and to keep loving.

father

A Mouse in the House

Not everyone is qualified to be President. But anyone can give her opinion as to who that person should be. My 8-year-old daughter, for example.

Promises, promises, promises. That’s all presidential candidates ever do.

And as you are very much aware, once they win the election they proceed to their victory party and their promises are thrown out the window. Together with the country. I analyzed all the candidates to see whose nose was growing as they spoke. Did you ever wonder where they receive funding for their campaign? Wouldn’t it be great if a bright banner from the Huggies Corporation would be hanging in front of the candidate’s podium?

“And you can trust me,” the candidate roars. “There will be no leaks in our security databases when I take office.”

What commitments are required to be made from these presidential hopefuls? What can the candidates promise already to their sponsors that have them so eager to contribute? An extra salami from the local deli? A sales tax exemption from all purchases at the 99 cent store? I know. Free cleaning help for a week!!! My biggest question is what does the candidate report back to his team after he loses the election?

“I want to thank all my supporters, especially Ed who singlehandedly donated 20 million dollars that he had saved up from his piggy bank towards the campaign. You know we tried our hardest. But someone’s bound to lose and inevitably if I wasn’t the winner, chances are, I probably lost. You’re the best, Ed.”

And we aren’t just talking about a few people that donate their time and services. There is an enormous committee involved. These include: spokesmen, strategists, marketing agents, field representatives, college campus recruiters, social media experts, computer technicians, hair stylists, make-up artists, fashion designers, and hot dog vendors (everyone has to have one of those).

I love it when towards the end of the campaign, a representative comes out of nowhere and announces that he or she has decided to run, as well. This idea, seemingly, popped into this nominee’s head spontaneously. When asked about the sudden decision, they tend to provide the typical vague response.

“Well, when I saw how the debates were panning out and the propositions that were being suggested, I said to myself that I couldn’t possibly allow the American people to be subjected to such madness. Who knows better how to run a country than I do? I have run a pizza shop now for three years. Lines are out the door.”

Let’s face it. Not everyone is qualified for the position of the President of the United States. But anyone can give her opinion as to who that person should be. My eight year old daughter, who has been attempting to absorb as much as she can on the election, provided some valuable insights.

“Daddy, what makes a good President?”

Happy as I was that my offspring was interested in politics which would ultimately lead into a prosperous career (and hopefully the ability to support me some day), I proceeded on providing an age-appropriate response.

“In short, we want someone, my dear, who will help make sure that people have jobs to support themselves and who guarantees that everyone will live in a happy, peaceful, and safe environment.

“Well, I know the best candy date,” she exclaimed.

“CAN-DI-DATE,” I enunciated.

“Whatever.”

“And who might that be?” I asked

“Mickey Mouse!” my daughter remarked proudly.

I wasn’t exactly sure how to respond. My first reaction was despair. Maybe my daughter wouldn’t enter into politics (and support me) as I had hoped. But in truth, if you contemplate a bit, it really would not be such a terrible idea if this iconic figure leads our nation. His revenues will, certainly, aid in pulling us out of over 18 trillion dollars in debt. And talk about job creation!

So many more shows, rides, and attractions can be added.  There would be such an abundance of venues you wouldn’t choose the hopper but be forced to spend more time and purchase a stopper. The sky is the limit (not mentioning air rights). Mickey is a hard working character who seems to have already taken the shirt off his back. This renowned rodent has the states of California and Florida in the palms of his white gloves. With all of the present nominees, I seriously wonder if our lovable Disney friend is not the fan favorite.

But there is a deeper lesson over here and after I digested what my daughter had said, I couldn’t stop thinking of how brilliant her idea was. A child that visits Disneyworld is overwhelmed by a field of fantasy where wishes come true. The dancing lights and captivating sounds pull you into another dimension, one of happiness and love. Every age, race, ethnicity, gender, and religion walk harmoniously throughout the park, enjoying the brilliant atmosphere (and may I dare say the long lines). My daughter was right. It most definitely is a happy, peaceful, and safe environment.

So get out and vote and make sure to consider Steamboat Willie. One thing is for sure. Mickey will have a magnificent time building his presidential library and museum….

As A Dad, How I Work to Unplug

Is it me or does life seem to be speeding up? Every year, month, week, day, hours – even minutes – feel as though they are just flying by.

Is it me or does life seem to be speeding up? Every year, month, week, day, hours – even minutes – feel as though they are just flying by.

Because of this warp speed feeling, I’ve recently been making a concerted effort each day to live an analog life and unplug from technology. Some days I am more successful than others.

It is cliche with my generation (Gen X) to speak of days when we would go out and play until the street lights came on, and most of the time our parents had no clue where we were or what we were doing. Landlines, VCRs, cassette tapes, records, film cameras; almost nothing in our lives was digital.

Nowadays I work for a digital media company. In our family we have two cell phones, two laptops, two iPads, two iPods, a Smart TV, smart appliances, digital alarm systems, etc. We are all connected, all the time, and can locate our loved ones within seconds.

This technology will only continue to evolve. Who knows – my kids generation could have RFD chips implanted into their bodies and we will all be human computers. It seems like something straight out of a science fiction novel but it’s the reality of the world we’re living in today. It can be overwhelming.

(Think I’m paranoid? Feel free to read this article to help the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.)

As an adult I understand the crutch that technology has become for my wife and me, as well as for our kids. It is hard to imagine a day without internet, power, or a phone to pacify my children when we’re in pubic and they’re being little PITAs. I am one of the fortunate ones who still gets to just unplug a few weekends each year.

The reason I try to force myself out of the digital world as much as possible is for my own sanity. Ever find yourself sitting and talking with someone, and all of a sudden you are unengaged in the conversation and scrolling through your phone. Happens to me unconsciously every day. My wife is constantly calling me out on my cell phone use, and for that I love her. She can call me on my own bullshit when I attempt to justify why “I have to check my phone.”

Sometimes I find I have too much swirling in my head to meditate or work on controlled breathing, or just focus on a single task or idea. Much of this mental chaos, I think, comes from the amount of information we now have at our fingertips.

Our world is the most technologically advanced society in the history of humans. Just think about that for a second, we live in pretty cool times. In addition, most of this technology advancement has come in the past 100 years…CRAZY!

Here is what I do to calm the storm on a daily basis. (I also make a point of taking a long weekend once a year in an area where cell phones don’t even work. Yes, those places do still exist.)

1 | Disconnect for short periods of time.

I try to build this into each and every day. Think of this exercise as your first baby step. Your goal should be to just turn off your phone. Go for a walk with your family and leave all devices at home. Dinner time – no phones or technology at the dinner table two nights per week. Kids sporting events, leave your phone in the car. At church, same thing, technology stays out of the building.

You will be amazed how quickly your focus will sharpen up and how much your brain is able to just relax. I will warn you, when you start to build these periods of time into your week, you will constantly get pulled back in – you hear a buzz from a new text, you want to check Facebook, or wondering what is happening in the news. Just be mindful of these distractions, recognize them for what they are, and then move them aside and reengage with your non-tech time. Baby steps!

2 | Disconnect for a day.

Scary right? You can do this. Go camping, a buddies weekend, fishing trip, golf day, etc. There are a ton of activities you can do that do not require technology. Just leave your cell in your car, and DO NOT CAVE! Believe me, the world will still be there when you wake up the next day. Enjoy and engage in conversations with your friends and get to know them again – not through technology but actually listening to their stories. Seems simple, but does take some work.

I also recommend trying to meditate, pray, write, read, do puzzles, or something besides a digital object for you to give your 100% attention to.

3 | The long weekend.

Okay, this one is tough. You have to find a safe environment to accomplish this. This means for an entire long weekend, three to four days where you are not checking your phone once. I go to a family hunting/fishing camp in the middle of nowhere. There are no phones, or even electricity. We run our camp off a solar panel and car battery and get warmth through a wood stove.

My dad told me last year he found an area where he can get a signal. I told him to keep that information to himself… Love ya, Dad! There is no better feeling than coming out of the woods and actually learning about all that I have missed. Most of it, no big deal that I missed it.

As we get older and look to understand why we are here and what our mission on this ball of mud really is, silence and focus will be harder and harder to attain. The longer you go without unplugging the harder it will seem to do. Just rip off the Band Aid and give it a shot. Start forming new habits today. I would be amazed if not every single person noticed a profound increased appreciation for this technology, as well as an appreciation for what the world was like before we were all digital.

C’mon Daddy, You’re Better Than That!

It’s amazing, and sobering, how the unfiltered and unbiased voice and action of a child can keep you in check.

It’s amazing and sobering, how the unfiltered and unbiased voice and action of a child can keep you in check.

On a cold and damp Tuesday morning in early February, six words from my 5-year old son annihilated my very being as they shattered my ego and reminded me of the critical importance that integrity and personal accountability play in each moment of every day.

The coffee dripped, the rain poured, and my mind was flooded with the day’s to-do list. Bring the kids to school by 8:35am, get back in time for a 9:00am teleconference, finish a proposal by 12noon, meet a business colleague at 12:30pm, call in some prescriptions, pay a couple bills, edit an article sitting on my desk for too long, stop at the grocery store, and something else I was forgetting.

I glanced at the coffee pot and was momentarily mesmerized by the blissful image of sipping on a fresh cup after the kids departed for school. Five minutes of organically brewed caffeinated serenity before the first call of the day …that was going to happen. “Daddy, can I have more orange juice?” my youngest boy, a spirited five-year-old, piped up. Snapped back to reality from my mental oasis, I immediately fetched the OJ. His brother put in an additional request for some more breakfast, as I navigated the kitchen with the swiftness of a short-order cook. Keep in mind; precision is essential in the morning.

I was fully immersed in Phase 1 of “Operation: Get the Kids to School on Time.” My head was foggy. I felt the morning fluster as I fielded requests from my boys, and as a flurry of competing demands floated around in my mind.

There are three phases of this operation in case you were wondering:

  • Phase 1 is pleading and feed.
  • Phase 2 is clean and clothed.
  • Phase 3 is the on-time drop (off at school).

Now there are nuanced subtleties to all these phases. For example, in Phase 1, you also have making breakfast and lunches, getting school bags organized, and making sure homework was done.

Maybe more organized people drink their hot coffee as they get their kids ready. Perhaps people with more discipline get up earlier in the morning than I do. Both are logical options, but have yet to pan out for me, or my wife, I might add. We’re morning procrastinators, you know, the kind of people that play cat-and-mouse with the iPhone alarm snooze button until one of us wakes up gasping for air, arms flailing about, trying to temper a potential aneurism or heart attack. The ability to jump out of bed with the ferocity of an awaked Grizzly and make sense of one’s surroundings is a downright talent. It’s taken years of conditioning to get there.

“Eat up boys. After breakfast let’s wash our hands, brush teeth, and get clothes on for school.” I said. I could sense my boys, even at ages 5 and 7, rolling their eyes and saying to themselves “yeah, yeah, OK dad,” as if they had heard my line a thousand times before.

I looked at the two bags of trash near the back door. Then I remembered, it was trash day! And of course, it was raining outside. All mornings, especially school days, are hectic. And for some reason, trash day seems to magnify the frenzy. There are trash days when it is picked up very early, and then those that the pick-up is later in the afternoon. I’ve never been able to figure out the schedule. But instead of playing a game of trash-roulette with what time the waste hauler will arrive, I’ve resided to put out the trash first thing in the morning, before the boys go to school. This is likely a male-based fixation (and limitation) about when the trash gets taken out, but for whatever reason I’ve stuck with it.

As the coffee dripped in unison with the second hand of the clock, my entire existence felt as if it were being mocked. Isn’t it amazing how quickly time seems to pass when pressed for time and sits still when you are anticipating the future? This day was no different, and somehow thirty minutes flashed as if they were thirty seconds. We were now flirting with the fine line between being either right on time or late to school. Right on time would mean the boys had to finish up breakfast quickly and head upstairs where mom would help them complete Phase 2 of “Operation: Get the Kids to School on Time.”

With affirmation, I spoke out, “I will be right back. I’m taking the trash out. Please head upstairs so mommy can get you ready.” Begrudgingly I picked up the bags, opened the door, and let out a selfish wail of frustration, “uhg, arr, trash, bla bla, cold, wet, arrrg, bla bla.” I don’t remember the exact sequence of verbal drivel I had used, but it was the tone had said it all. Kids pick up on tone and temperament as much, if not more, than what the actual words are.

With trash in tow I opened the door, stepped off the back porch and proceeded up the driveway. The trash containers are conveniently located behind the detached garage, some 20, maybe 30 yards away from the house. On a sunny (and relaxed) day, the walk is great. Smell the spring air…hear those birds chirping…feel the warm rays of the sun upon your face…not today. Needles of mixed precipitation shot at and stung my face as if I were being blasted by a water gun. As I marched from sidewalk to driveway, I thought about the next five tasks needing to be accomplished to successfully accomplish “Operation: Get the Kids to School on Time.”

No sooner did my feet hit the driveway when I heard the backdoor swing open. The next sequence of events felt almost mystical, isolated within time. I swung my head and looked over my shoulder. My 5-year old, dressed in his pajamas, stepped onto the porch. He looked out at me and shouted, “C’mon daddy, you’re better than that!” He then retreated inside the house.

At first, I was perplexed, unsure of what my son was trying to say. Then, within a millisecond, it hit me like a ton of trash. I let out a hearty laugh to myself. When real truths are spoken, they can have a profound impact on one’s emotions. In this instance, my release was laughter. The frustration I had felt, fleetingly fighting time, and being caught up in my head instead of the moment, immediately lifted. My son’s words, innocent and honest, hit my heart and jugular like a dagger. My son had reacted to my raw emotion. He was right; I am better than that. Why was I so caught up in my mind? And why did I not see (let alone allow) my negative emotions reveal themselves? After all, I’m the adult, and should have been behaving like one.

I took the trash to the curb and then pulled the car down the driveway. A few minutes later my sons came outside, dressed and ready for school. As they hopped inside, I helped my youngest with his seatbelt. I looked him in the eyes and said, “thank you, you’re right, daddy is better than that, and I’m sorry for acting frustrated.” He looked at me and simply said, “It’s OK, I just want you to be happy.”

Happy. A simple word but one of the deepest emotions and behaviors humans can have. Happiness can be attained, but more often than not it is a deliberate emotional choice we have to make.

Negativity is insidious, and it likes company. That’s why negative emotions are often worn on one’s sleeve, to selfishly draw in an audience, letting them know that you are in pain or frustrated. But the self-centered martyr that seeks attention, only pushes others away, ultimately manifesting a reality marked by undesirable (and unintended) relationships and loneliness. Thus, when the ego thrives on negativity, one’s reality is rewarded in-kind, with a negative reality.

I’m guilty of having had moments in my life where my best self was subdued by a negative ego seeking spectators. I’m ashamed that my son felt the need to shake up and awaken my higher sense of self. I’m also quite embarrassed to share this story openly. But as someone who believes deeply in personal integrity, accountability, and trust, I believe it’s necessary for me to not only learn from my experiences but to open up and share them as well.

Think about your life and where you spend your time, energy, and personal attention. Consider the relationships you have, and who you believe you are as a person versus how others may perceive you. Ask, “do you present yourself, fully, and in your highest sense of self, with the utmost integrity and dignity?” How does that channel to through your character in all that you do? Are you a positive influence and role model for your children, your spouse, and in your community?

I think about my son’s words daily now. I cannot say I’m perfect by any means. I’m trying not to fixate on time or the hurriedness of life. Too much is lost in that futile exercise. And the most important things, such as love, relationships, and life itself are diminished when we allow the critical mind to propagate negative behaviors. Whenever I sense myself sliding down the slippery slope of ego-driven negativity, I think of the back door swinging open, seeing my son’s beautiful face emerge, and hearing his enlightened words, “C’mon daddy, you’re better than that!”

Whether it’s a daily chore or a life-long ambition, always be true to yourself and those around you. Allow your best self to shine through in every waking and the living moment you have.