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Raising Tech-Wise Kids

Raising Tech-Wise Kids

I have been wanting to write on the topic of raising tech-wise kids in this technology age we live in for a while but have struggled to gather my thoughts so I can bring it all together into something that would even make sense. I have said it before, but for me, writing helps me make sense of my thoughts and also helps me convert those thoughts into ideas.

Those of you who know me know that I am fully emersed in technology. I have two smartphones, a smartwatch, a tablet, a laptop, computer, Kindle reader, cameras, gaming consoles, and more within reach every single day of my life. I have made a side business out of getting to spend time with technology with my YouTube channels State of Tech and Ditch Auto. I also have three young children ages 8, 6, and 4 who take notice of the endless tech options I have around me. So what am I doing to raise my kids to be wise consumers of technology? This is a question I have to continuously ask myself almost every day.

You are not going to like this, but raising tech-wise kids starts with your own behavior in regards to technology. I am approaching the ripe age of 40 and am realizing more and more each day the habits I gleaned from my parents when I was a child. Our kids will learn many of their behaviors from us and carry them into adulthood. I am in no way qualified to speak as though I have achieved some perfect balance of technology in my home but I am hyper-aware of what is going on and am doing my best to stay on top of it.

Before we can parent a child we have to be able to parent ourselves. We no longer have parents telling us to turn off the game and go to bed or to stop scrolling Instagram. It is our turn to be that person for our children but if we can not be that person for ourselves, we will simply become the thing we hated most about our own parents which was when they told us to do as they say, not as they are doing.

Children Learn Patterns

Around the age of 3-4 years old, our children start to notice patterns and are able to guess what the next item will be. Remember those pattern worksheets from your childhood? Square, circle, square, what comes next? Our children will mirror our behaviors. If we can’t spend an idle minute without checking our phones, our kids are not going to be able to sit still either. We have to give our children healthy behaviors as patterns for them to follow. The little brains of our children are being wired using the patterns and behaviors we model for them.

Remember when you used to be creative? Some of my best memories as a child was building with Legos. I never bought the Lego sets that came with instructions. I wanted to build something from nothing and even though my Lego creations were not perfect replications of things in the real world they took creativity to make. These days we reach to our phone for inspiration rather than trying to make something on our own. No need to come up with an idea for our child’s birthday lets just scroll Pinterest for “5-Year-Old Boy Birthday Party Ideas.” We’re teaching our kids that kind of behavior people!

We also need to keep control over the compulsions we find ourselves often giving into. What I mean is that there are things we compulsively do. Some of these things are healthy, some are addiction-driven. We have lost the ability to be idle because we grab our device in hopes for a small kick of dopamine. We have become so conditioned to receive that little jolt in the pleasure center of our brains that we can’t handle being disconnected. Our brains learn that Disconnection = Being Alone and that Being Alone = Sadness.

Lately, I am trying to be mindful of how everything affects my heart and how things affect the hearts of my children. I recently removed a lot of influences from my social media accounts. Some of it was affecting my heart in a negative way. Removing it felt like a weight lifted off of my shoulders. If I can’t see how the things of the world affect my heart, how can I guide my child’s heart?

Technology Is Not A Replacement For Creativity

Yes, you can be very creative using technology. I have built a business on it, so I know this very well. I also recognize that technology has limited my creativity. When I use technology to find inspiration for creativity I often end up taking shortcuts that take away from what could have been a good idea. There is nothing wrong with using technology to vet your ideas, but often the best way to be creative is to disconnect and sit down with a notepad. A pen and paper, not the notepad app on your PC! This means that you might fail, and boy do we hate that. Finding the ideas and the ten steps to make it happen on Pinterest sure make it easier, but what do we learn when we do that to ourselves.

When I was in high school, I was in charge of our senior class float. We had a general idea of what we wanted to do but none of us really knew how to pull it off. We did it ourselves, no help from parents and it sure looked like it. Guys, our class float was horrible. The freshman beat us. It was sad, but it taught me some lessons I wouldn’t have learned if we had let our parents do the work for us.

Technology Is A Stimulant

I spoke to this above, technology is a stimulant because of how we use it. We use it to connect to information and information feels good. Information is not inherently bad, but we can become addicted to it. Over stimulation + Isolation leads to addiction. When we constantly allow ourselves to be stimulated by the pretty pictures and information of the internet we start to feel isolated. We are constantly reminded about what we don’t have or what we haven’t achieved. As an entrepreneur, I see others in my industry achieving more than me and it can make me feel like I am a failure somehow.

People turn to their technology to connect to whatever makes them feel something. It used to be tabloids and magazines, now it’s Instagram and Pinterest. We are surrounded by it. Though it often makes us feel insufficient, we are drawn to it like a moth is to light. We scroll Facebook or Instagram for hours hoping for a connection to something. Those apps are designed to make sure we receive some sort of reward from time to time for using them.

Technology Can Isolate Us

If we allow our technology to over stimulate us we crave more and will find ways to consume more of it. This leads to us deciding to spend time on our devices rather than with others who edify and build us up. When we are over stimulated and isolated, addiction takes hold. We need to make sure we recognize this before it becomes a problem because we are not only isolating ourselves from our peers but also from our spouse and children.

How To Raise Tech-Wise Kids

I often get asked by other parents about healthy limitations. How should I limit the time my children spend with technology they ask. To be honest, I am no sure I like the idea of limitations. Setting limitations mean focusing on lack rather than abundance. I believe that what we need to do is make sure that there are enough healthy and edifying things in the lives of our children that technology is just one of the many things that makes up their lives.

I find that when I get lazy and don’t make my children my main focus in our home, they want technology. When I am constantly checking my phone and busy on my laptop, my kids want to be busy playing games on theirs. It is not fair to them to see me constantly on my phone and not allow them to do the same. I knew I had a problem when my oldest told me that he can’t wait until he turns 18 and moves out so he can surround himself with all of the technology that I have. That hit me like a brick to the face. How can I teach my kids about being “tech-wise” when I don’t appear to be tech-wise myself?

This has led to me making some other changes in my life. I am currently working to free up the clutter in my life so I have more mental bandwidth to assure I don’t get blindsided again.

Healthy Boundaries vs Limitations

We don’t let our kids take technology into their rooms. Their rooms are for sleep and play. This is an area I need to work on myself. I go to bed with devices next to me and I need to create some separation. This is going to become more important as I transition back to working from home. Our kids need these same healthy boundaries in place. There is a time for technology and there is a time for it to be put away.

Most devices these days have the option to set limitations which shut them down after a certain amount of time. While this is a nice safety feature, I want my kids to be able to moderate their own use of technology without having to rely on the device to disable itself. What happens when they are old enough for their own device? They will just turn that limitation off and let freedom ring!

We should be starting the day and ending the day technology free. When we are with other people, we should be interacting with them rather than burying our faces in a game or an app. I think virtual reality is neat, but I fear what it will do to the family if that is the future of consuming content in the home. We all slip on our headsets and forget about each other. That freaks me out!

But They’re Bored!

When attempting to moderate my kids use of technology I will offer up suggestions on how they can spend their time. Are you really a parent if your child hasn’t told you, “That’s Boring!?” I get it. Playing Legos just can’t hang with the latest updates to Fortnite. What my kids will choose every time is uninterrupted time with me. When I chose to play with them, they don’t care about the games and the apps. They want to spend time with me.

“But your kids are still young,” you say. Yes, they are, which means I still have time. This is why I am making major changes in my work life right now to allow for more time with my kids. When they get older, they will choose technology over me if I spent their childhood doing the same to them. Your kids will never get bored of you engaging with them in fun activities they can take part it. It’s when you trade out that time for other distractions that it becomes hard to win them back later on. They will fight you when you try to separate them from their devices because those devices have been their comfort. I never said this would be easy.

Becoming Tech-Wise

Intention is going to be the biggest tool you have in your arsenal. If you make a device the top priority in your own life, your kids will as well. It is also important that your kids’ friends parents know your stance on technology use as well. One of my favorite things about my kids still being young is their accidental spilling of information. They know they are not allowed to play games endlessly at home and that goes for when they are at their friends’ houses as well.

We need to set healthy boundaries between us and our technology. I recently moved my phone across the bedroom. I have kept my phone on my nightstand for as long as I can remember. My first business used to get broken into occasionally so I had this fear that I would get a call in the middle of the night from the alarm company and police and that is when the habit of having my phone next to me while I sleep started. Now, I simply wear my smartwatch to bed and put it on “Do Not Disturb” mode. If someone from my contacts calls me, my watch will notify me of a call, otherwise, it will not disturb me. I have slept like a baby and grabbing my phone when I wake up before even putting my feet on the floor has changed my attitude in the morning. These are healthy boundaries I want to pass on to my kids and that can’t happen if I am not practicing them myself.

Avoiding Technology Addiction

As I eluded to before, technology provides us with a stimulant we use to feel something. When we start to isolate so we can spend more time in an app or game, that leads to addiction. We need to recognize what that looks like in our own lives. Are we addicted already, or on our way?

What does video game addiction and recovery from that look like?

ESports and The Professional Gamer Movement

There is a new category of sports if you haven’t already heard and that is the sport of Electronic Gaming. There are gaming competitions and events where professional gamers go head to head just like in the world of physical sports. It’s fun to watch, especially if you enjoy the game they are playing. Gamers stream live each day so others can watch them play and be entertained by their commentary. This is a huge emerging market where gamers are making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and getting major sponsorships just for playing games on their computer.

Kids watch these streamers and are envious of their skill and the lifestyle they get to lead because of their skill at the game. It would be easy for our kids to become addicted to video games because there is an online community that enjoys the same thing they do. However, online gaming communities are nothing more than a community around that game. Outside of that, it is rare that any real connection or personal growth will come out of those communities.

We not only have to guide our children toward healthy technology use but we have to guard them against the false realities that exist out there. Just like we enjoy following people on Instagram and Pinterest who are amazing at certain things, kids want to follow those who are pros at their favorite games. We have to make sure our children understand what being a professional gamer means and how that differs from spending too much time playing games as a child.

As adults, we can fall into the same traps by getting too caught up in the lives of celebrities. Our kids are getting caught up in the lives of gaming celebrities and it is much easier for them to fall into the addiction of gaming than it is for an adult to carry out a shopping addiction. We have to look at our own lives and make sure that we are not projecting addictive behavior onto our children. If we are addicted people, our kids are going to become addicted.

Check out this short review of a book called “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products.”

External vs Internal Triggers

As you now know, we live in a world of external triggers. These are the things that are marketed to us that look great and promise to make us feel better. Technology companies have perfected the trigger. Look at how Apple has triggered millions of people into purchasing new phones each year that only contain small updates.

If our children are not strong enough, they are going to give in to those external triggers when they have their own internal negative triggers. We all have negative triggers such as feeling down or lonely. If we do not model for our children how to create healthy boundaries between us and our technology, our kids are going to have the behavior patterns that lead to turning to those external triggers that are the first step to creating a technology addiction.

Technology Fasting

It’s impossible to avoid technology altogether and if we do not allow our kids to explore technology, they will likely be left behind. We now live in a connected world, but our minds have not adapted to that kind of existence. We are community driven and need to connect with others.

This summer I took my family camping and decided to go completely off the grid. That is a hard thing to do as a business owner but I told my clients that I would be unreachable for 8 days. During those 8 days, I did not touch my phone at all. The first four days were torture. When I didn’t have something to do I felt the desire to go grab my phone. Even without a connection to the internet, I was sure something needed my attention. Thankfully I resisted and spent that time reading instead. It was a nice break and part of me wished I didn’t have to reconnect.

To drive home the point about setting healthy boundaries we need to make sure we are building planned separation from technology. This means taking a technology fast. In the book, “The Tech-Wise Family, author Andy Crouch shares that in his family they take an hour a day, one day a week, and one week each year completely free from technology. Here is what that might look like:

One Hour Dialy- Dinner time no technology. Dinner lasts an hour. Instead, we take our time to enjoy our food and each other through conversation.

One Day/Week – Sunday, no technology. We go to church, maybe go to the park to play, and then do some yard work. It’s not that hard to fill a day with activity.

One Week/Year – Camping or disconnected vacation. We like to go camping so we go camping up in the mountains away from Wifi and cellular connection. For me, I need to be completely disconnected. That means no signal at all!

Be a Leader to Your Children and to Others

I could go on forever on this topic. Each paragraph I write I think of something to add to a previous paragraph. Writing helps me think and I learn through the process of converting my thoughts into written word. I want to encourage you to look inward and consider the behaviors you are displaying to your children. They are going to grow up with those patterns gleaned from you ready to be put into practice when they encounter situations. This goes for so much more than just technology.

We need to be the leaders our children need. Only by understanding ourselves will we be able to equip our children with the patterns and behaviors they will need to navigate the world they are growing up in.

Here is a list of books that have added insight into my own life and thus resulted in me being able to recognize my own behaviors so that I can build upon or correct to better equip myself to raise tech-wise children.

Books:

Podcasts:

There is no one book or podcast that will give you all of the answers to life. I have read hundreds of books and recognize that each book introduces me to a key nugget of information or a concept that I had not considered. All of these books are available in an audio form which is how I consumed them.

You’ve Got This!

You’ve got this Mom or Dad. I know you came here hoping for a 5-step plan to raising tech-wise kids, but that just isn’t a thing and if it was, it would be rendered useless almost immediately when the next pleasure centered device hits the market. The key is to be the example you want for your children. They are going to grow up to be just like you whether they want to or not. You have the power to set a baseline for healthy behaviors in their lives and it goes so much deeper than just technology use.

Obviously, I am pretty passionate about this topic and plan to write more on it. If you have any thoughts, please share them in the comment section below. I would love to hear your opinion. We all learn from each other. If you want updates from me, please consider sharing your email address in the “Get Updates” box on the right column or bottom of this website.

Thanks for taking the time to read my long post. I appreciate your time and your desire to invest in the lives of your children.

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Parenting Is Not For The Weak

I’ve been a dad now for a little bit over eight years. I have three kids. Two are boys, and the youngest is a girl. I absolutely love my kids and I love being a dad. Everything that I’ve done over the last 10 years has been to try and provide a good life for them without exchanging my presence in their lives.

I have been self-employed since I was 20 years old, so for about the last 18 years. There are many different things that I have taught myself how to do that have turned into revenue streams that has provided me the life that I have today. I’m usually pretty quick to figure things out. If there is something that I want to learn how to do, I can read a couple of blogs and watch a couple of videos and know exactly what I need to do. With a little bit of practice, I almost always have it down solid. I’ve just always been good at getting hands-on with things and figuring them out.

Parenting on the other hand has been the biggest challenge of my life. Marriage has definitely been a challenge also, but at least you’re dealing with another adult there. With parenting, you’re dealing with ever-changing little beings that are also trying to figure out what this world is all about.

I have always been an observer. I tend to stand back and watch while I take in what’s going on around me. I try to do this with my kids, especially when they are having a hard time with something. With my boys, they would get frustrated and lose their composure over something but I was able to see what was happening, empathize with them, and bring them out of it rather quickly. My daughter on the other hand I just am often at a loss with. I do not know how to handle her. I didn’t grow up with many girls around me so I just don’t know how to deal with them. Girls are different than boys, and handle things completely different than I am used to.

My wife had her Street Market tonight so I took most of the day to handle her responsibilities with the kids. That included picking up my daughter and our friends boy at noon and then returning at three to pick up my boys and their other son. We do a carpool with our neighbor friends. I told my daughter that we would go on a lunch date together. It had been a while since our last one. She said she wanted to go somewhere fun for lunch so I thought I would take her to John’s Incredible Pizza for lunch and a few games. She was pretty excited.

We had a good time and used up all of our tokens and left to go run a couple of errands before picking up her brothers from school. Right when we got into my truck she said to me, “Dad, I actually didn’t have a nice date with you.” I was confused. It seemed to me like we had a lot of fun together. We had pizza, chocolate vanilla swirl ice cream, and played some fun games together. It was just her and I and we didn’t worry about anybody else.

I asked her why she didn’t have a good time and she said to me, “John’s Incredible Pizza was dumb.” I explained to her that I thought we had a pretty good time together. She persisted by reiterating once again that she did not have a good time and then ended her statement by saying that she didn’t think she wanted to go on anymore dates with me for a while. Talk about bringing back old highschool rejection wounds. Where was this coming from?

I explained to her that when someone who cares about you takes you somewhere that you wanted to go, you need to be appreciative. If you didn’t have a good time, it’s OK to share that, but it’s not OK to make somebody feel bad. At this point she was giving me the cold shoulder and I didn’t want to start an argument with a four-year-old.

While we were running a couple of errands I started to notice that she was most likely exhausted so I am sure that she was not simply being mean to me but that she was feeling tired and that translated to her not having a good time. I know she had a good time, but she’s tired and when my daughter is tired the filters come off. She’s 4.

Fast forward to later in the evening, we went downtown to check out my wife’s market. I just started drinking coffee again and got a coffee from a friends coffee booth and was enjoying my fresh coffee. My wife wanted to buy my daughter a hand made bag from one of their junior vendors so we were at his booth. My daughter was holding her bag and for some reason decided to swing it at me knocking my coffee out of my hand and all over my arm and right side of my body. I was livid. My daughter is lucky that there were hundreds of people around us or my filter may have came off. Though my wife had 1000 other things going on, I was ready to force her to take her daughter because I was done. I took a couple of deep breath’s and composed myself, and then used her blanket that I was forced to carry by her to dry my coffee soaked body off.

Now my boys also operated on pretty narrow wavelengths around that age. I recognize that there is a lot of changes in the brain going on at that age. I also remember the family dynamic that I grew up in. There were three of us kids and I remember my younger brother having a pretty short fuse. Having three kids is pretty tough. Two play together well, and the third always is the odd man out. My daughter is even more at a disadvantage because she’s the only girl. The boys are really good about playing with her in her world, but they are boys and would rather be doing boy things and lately they have wanted it to be all about the boys.

As a parent, I don’t want to micromanage my kids’ childhood. They need to figure some things out on their own without coming to my wife and I all the time. I want my kids to be able to manage conflict and resolve situations on their own, even though they are young. I haven’t always been perfect in this area and still am not anywhere near it. Sometimes I don’t have enough bandwidth to handle their situations and it’s much easier to shut them down immediately then to understand and hear them out.

I recognize that days like this happen to me because it is mostly my wife that takes care of them throughout the day. Today was a disruption of the norm for them. I haven’t picked them up from school in forever and been with them all afternoon, so it was totally different and for my four-year-old daughter, that’s a big deal, especially at the end of the week when she is tired.

Now, they are all in bed and sleeping and I’m sitting on the couch ranting into a blog post, trying to make sense of all of my thoughts and what happened today. For me, writing helps me process my thoughts. Parenting is not for the week. It would be very easy for me to live in the frustration that was today and decide that limiting my work so that I could spend more time at home with my kids was a bad idea. You see, I’m trying to free up more time by limiting work so that I can spend more time with my wife and kids. I want to be done with work when they come home from school. I want to play with them in the afternoon before dinner. I don’t want to miss out. But after a day like today it would be easy to find more work to do so I could avoid the craziness.

I know that it is not under my own power that I am able to see my thoughts and emotions for what they are shortly after a situation like today and understand the deeper meaning in all of it. It would be very easy to take everything personal, but it’s not personal, it’s parenting.

Many people think that their kids are doing things like this to them on purpose and that their kids must just spend all of their free time trying to come up with ways to torture them. Honestly, I don’t think that our kids think about us enough to do that, nor are they capable of that at such young ages. Their little brains are literally just firing and reactions are happening. They are young, and are unable to fully control all of their emotions. They are still trying to figure it out and it is up to us as parents to guide them, even when we are the ones being attacked.

I am very thankful for the ability that I have to see the bigger picture most of the time. If it was not for that, I would have nothing but resentment built up from situations like this. I just went in to my daughters room and kissed her on the four head. I also made the mistake of inhailing through the nose right next to her blanket. Which is utterly disgusting and still covered with coffee.

Parenting is the hardest job that I have ever had. When people say that parenting is hard, they are not kidding. When they follow that up by saying that it is also the most rewarding job, they are not kidding either. I had my turn as a child and young adult. I’m not saying that I can’t still enjoy my life, but it is their turn. My kids need the best that I can give them at all times. When I fail at being the best for them, I need to be humble enough to share with them my shortcomings and apologize when necessary. None of us are perfect nor do we have all the answers. There are no step-by-step guides to raising perfect children.

So I guess I am writing this as a reminder to myself but also as an encouragement anyone else out there who has children that go sideways sometimes and blast you with hot coffee in the middle of a street market. Remember that your kids are young and are not fully in control of their emotions. They need guidance and understanding, and patience. Heck, adults these days are rarely in control of their emotions. Kavanaugh much?

The next time you see me with my kids and a crazed look on my face, know that this Dad is doing his best with what he has in that moment and I’ll do my best to encourage you in your moments.

Do it for them, because being a dad is important. It might be the most important role there is in a child’s life and there are so many dads out there not showing up for their kids these days.

Show up for your kids in all moments. You’ve got this Dad!

Note: The image I used in this post is a stock photo and not a photo of my daughter, though it is a pretty good representation of how she was looking at me earlier today. I’ve made a point not to shame my children by posting their vulnerable moments to the Internet.

Vlog

Parenting In A World Of Technology

Parenting in a World of Technology Fortnite Gaming

I decided to make this video for a couple of reasons. The first of course was prompted by another video that I saw on the subject of flat-out forbidding your kids from experiencing certain things in this world without giving them valid reasoning.

The second reason is that this is long overdue. For years I have wanted to film some videos and perhaps even to a podcast on the subject of parenting and Technology. My kids are still relatively young but they are getting to that age where kids at school are introducing them to things. The big eye-opener for me was when my son and I started having a conversation about the game Fortnite. I thought I was being the cool dad by talking to him about this game that I’m sure he had heard of only to find out that he had already played it at a friend’s house. As parents, I think that we all eventually have one of those awakening moments when we realize that we should have talked to our kids about certain things earlier. It’s never going to be easy but if I don’t do the hard work I’ve trying to understand my kids and the things that they are interested in, I am failing them.

In this video, I talk about how I feel about certain Technologies and how I plan to introduce them to my kids. I don’t plan to expose my kids to everything. I want to be remembered by them as a person in their life that took the time to explain things to them whether they were allowed to experience them or not.

If you have the time, watch the video and let me know what you think in the comments section below. I am also interested in knowing about topics that you would like to know more about in regards to technology in parenting. As in life, parenting is a Non-Stop learning experience which at times is like drinking from a firehose.

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Looking Back at 2017 Moving on to 2018

Looking back at 2017 Moving on to 2018

At almost this exact time last year, I remember telling myself that 2017 was going to be an amazing year. I thought about all of the projects I wanted to finally get completed and how they were going to change my life. I was going to get back into a gym routine. There were several ambitions I had planned in my head. However, 2017 kind of took me by surprise. What I thought was going to be a fantastic year, turned out to be probably the most challenging year I have had yet in my life.

Since around the age of 30-31, my health started to change. I became aware that I have an underactive thyroid and I was experiencing a lot of acid reflux issues. My doctor started me on medications for both of those issues which I was not thrilled about. All of the sudden I was taking two medications daily when prior to that I would take a Tylenol maybe once every other month. The next several years I would spend trying to figure out what was causing those issues. During 2016 I seemed to have figured out what was causing the acid reflux and managed to somewhat fix the problem without the continued medication. I was feeling pretty decent as 2017 approached.

The year even started out pretty good with a lot of new business coming in. I had a good feeling that January was giving me a good idea of what the rest of the year would look like. My wife and I had been working on our adoption paperwork and the only remaining items were my blood test and an in-home study before we could enter child search.

I typically have my labs ran every year but I had not had labs drawn in a few years. My labs ended up coming back with a few abnormalities. Nothing life-threatening, but I was not expecting the results I received. Up to this point, I thought that I was gaining distance from health issues, but there were lab results showing me otherwise.

Off and on during my 30’s I have felt kind of defeated in the area of my health. I was never battling anything major but the constant acid reflux and bloating really affected me emotionally because I generally didn’t feel like myself. With these new lab results, I ended up depressed and anxious about my current situation. I couldn’t get myself to the gym because I didn’t feel good both physically or emotionally.

Parenting got more challenging this year as my kids grew and become more independent thinkers. My struggle is mostly with finding the right balance as a parent. My oldest is now in second grade and I am starting to see that he holds in his emotions as much as a seven-year-old can. He has struggles and has not come to me with them. I want my kids to know that they can come to me with anything. The challenge is figuring out how to do that within the constraints of their personalities. This will be a lifelong process but it was tough this year because it was the first time I became aware of it.

My marriage also got really hard this year. This is my ninth year of marriage and my wife and I have discovered a lot about each other this year which started with me feeling the need to really open up in some areas. We have never been good communicators and that has allowed a lot of assumptions to build up. There are also a lot of things we found we have resented each other for that would not have been a big deal at all had we just communicated about it in the first place. We started counseling which has been really good for me. I have always left the past in the past but I am realizing that it is hard to understand why I am the way that I am without analyzing the past. It has been an interesting journey this year looking at myself in this way. It has not been easy and it has led to more depression and anxiety. As a married couple, counseling is helping us become better communicators and we have never been so close to being on the same page with everything. It’s truly liberating.

With all of that said, my business has seen ups and downs this year too. The year started off really good but took a dive during the summer. I think that since summer vacation was shorter for most schools in this area most people went off radar through summer. Once school was back in, I was flooded with new business and was once again busy. What made it tough is that I did not expect it to go the way that it did. On top of that, I did no marketing for photography so I did not have much photography business to supplement the lack of clients for Hill Media Group. Because the first half of the year had been so busy and stressful, I did not have any time at all to work on my side projects, so they suffered a lot. I lost a lot of ground that I had with my side income.

There were some great moments in 2017. We had some fun trips with the kids, despite our camping gear getting stolen. There were memories made in 2017 that rise above the difficulties.

Looking back at 2017, it would be easy to call it a bad year. It was a tough year and not what I originally expected it to be. Regardless, I have learned a lot and am far enough removed from it all to know that 2017 was actually a pretty good year. Just because I felt that the year had defeated me doesn’t mean that it was bad. I am sitting here a few days into 2018 writing this and thinking about how much more aware of things I am. Everything that happened last year has made me a better husband, father, friend, and business owner. It was not easy by any means, but building character never is.

Going into 2018 I have some decent momentum behind me. I dealt with everything that happened in 2017 and am wiser because of it. I plan to continue to invest in myself in 2018 because if I am not healthy I cannot be the kind of man I want to be for those in my life. I can’t let anything that afflicted me in 2017 or the years prior determine who I am in 2018 and going forward. I am excited about this year, not because I think it’s going to be an easier year, but because I believe it will lead to more growth.

How did your 2017 go?

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Learning to Ask For Help

Asking For Help

I have written many posts and filmed many videos about how to do a variety of different things from learning to use a camera to fixing a hacked website. Giving back to the internet community that has given me so much is very important to me. I enjoy helping others. However, working for yourself can be quite lonely at times, so can being a husband and a parent.

This year I have had to ask for help in a variety of different ways. I have had to ask for help with work, with parenting, and with my marriage. It has been a tough year. I fought asking for help up until this point and I am still working on why that was the case.

It’s easy to travel the path alone, especially with so much information at our fingertips. We can carve our own path using information and insight from others who have gone before us. The problem is that we often end up implementing that information incorrectly or not having the complete picture. Think about the Pinterest perfect recipe you downloaded that resulted in a direct hit to your confidence level as a novice chef. We take the information made available but lack the years of experience needed to pull it off.

In working with clients, I have found that when I lack information to perform a task for them, asking for help or assistance is the best option. Some people fake it until they figure it out. I prefer asking for the information needed. Other areas in life I have not been good at asking for help. I have not asked for much if any help with my business, my marriage, and with my kids. I have relied on information gathered from books, blogs, or podcasts. Gathering information from sources such as those is not wrong, but you often don’t have the right context to implement it. Sometimes it lines up and works perfectly, most of the time it seems like something out of right field.

Growing up I always felt that I needed to fight to overcome any weakness others saw in me. I was ok at sports, not the best, but not the worst. Most of my family did not see me as the child most likely to succeed. My grades in school were average. I already felt that I was at a disadvantage so asking for help made me feel like I was showing my weakness.

Most believe that asking for help is a sign of weakness. I definitely did, and at times I still do. Asking for help, however, is a sign of humility. Often humility feels like weakness because it requires letting others in. The truth is that it takes a lot of courage to ask for help when you need it.

The other issue with our world today is that it is easy to make it seem like you have it all figured out. We handcraft our social media feeds to show a carefully curated life of success and good times. It is easy to believe that you are alone in your struggles, which is so far from the truth. I believe this is why dramatic television shows are popular. These tv shows are displaying real struggles that we can relate to and since we are not relating on a personal level with good friends, we find our acceptance in tv instead.

The path I started on this year is far from over. I am working on being better at asking for help when I need it and on building up a personal network of people that can be more than superficial friends. This was not modeled for me growing up so it has been and will continue to be hard work for me.

There is no valor in taking on unnecessary pain in life. We were put on this Earth together to be in community. My generation is the first generation where our network is not the people in our neighborhood, meaning we do not have people close to us that are literally close to us. When you are having a tough time with something, ask for help. The resources are limitless and I believe people are yearning for it more than ever.

What are your thoughts on asking for help? Do you have a good network of people around you that you can go to or that can go to you when they need help?

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Our Stuff Got Stolen But It Was NBD

Our-Camping-Stuff-Got-Stolen

Life is a series of situations unfolding and I believe that the way we react to those situations is what defines our quality of life.

Last Sunday we had planned to load up our food into an already loaded trailer and head off for six days of tent camping. What we found was a cut lock and 80% of our stuff missing.

Now we don’t pack light. I rented a 12-foot trailer and I loaded it with plenty of stuff to keep us busy for the week. Besides clothing and camping basics I had new archery sets for my kids cause we were going to shoot some stuff. We had that mouth spreader card game. Plenty of other things. We were dialed in.

While I was gathering my thoughts and deciding what the plan was going to be, I saw my son sitting on the edge of the trailer looking sad. He had just experienced loss of his material possessions for the first time. He was aware of toys that were already loaded and clothes of his that were now gone. He was bummed out.

As a Dad and someone who as a kid had made some poor decisions of his own, I immediately knew that this was a teaching moment where I could help my kids better understand the emotions they were feeling in this moment. I knew where I could have easily gone with this. It would have been easy to talk bad about the people who robbed us. We could have spent the day calling them names, imagining what kind of people they were, and wondering what they were doing with our stuff. I didn’t allow that to happen. Instead, I explained a few key things to my kids, mainly my boys. My daughter is still a bit young to understand much of what happened. Some of these things I wish I knew when I was younger. I will continue to use this situation to teach my kids about loss, selfishness, and being content. In time, I will disclose my past in regards to dishonesty and theft with my children. It is important to me that they have a better connection to theft than I did as a kid so they can understand it on an emotional level.

Some People Don’t Know Any Better

I explained to my kids that some people steal because they don’t know any better. They didn’t have a good role model in their life that told them that taking things from other people was wrong. Even if they did, they probably had people in their life that thought it was ok. They might have believed that people who live in certain neighborhoods are rich and have more than they need. Taking from them is not a big deal because they can just go buy more stuff. Rich people have insurance and will get paid for the stuff that was stolen so it’s no big deal.

Some people were raised with the understanding that taking from others is ok. They didn’t have a mom or dad that taught them how to respect others and their property. Some people just simply don’t know.

As a child, I was told that stealing from others is wrong, but that was about it. It was never explained to me in a way that would help me understand what was really going on when you took from others. I don’t blame my parents for this, they didn’t know what to do with me and my behavior.

Some People Feel They Don’t Have A Choice

I explained to my kids that some people feel they have no choice but to steal from others. They might have had a bill to pay or needed money to put food in the mouths of their family. Some people choose to steal from others instead of working for an honest living. It’s easy to assume that people are stealing so they can buy drugs. That may be the case, but knowing the real reason is not important. I didn’t want my kids to dwell on the why of what happened.

Stealing is Selfish

Taking something from someone without their permission is one of the highest forms of selfishness. By taking something from someone else you are telling that person and the world that you deserve it more than the other person did. There are many reasons why this kind of selfishness might exist in someone and I didn’t go into that with my kids. I did, however, explain that selfishness is a disease. When we are selfish, we are robbing someone else of experiencing something.

When Someone Steals They Are Making a Choice to Disrespect Someone

I know that when I stole as a child, it was not for money to buy drugs. I didn’t steal to turn that item around for cash. I stole because I wanted something so bad that I was willing to take it from someone else instead of working hard to earn it myself. I am very thankful for the fact that I obviously sucked at it and was caught each time. I quickly learned that taking from others not only disrespects them but it cheated me out of the joy of ownership. I was able to understand this because each time I was forced to make amends.

Stealing is an empty shortcut

People who steal things that they want are taking an empty shortcut. As a young child, if we want something, we grab for it. I often see one of my kids take something from one of the others because they wanted it. It may have been their toy to begin with, or for some reason, they just wanted it in that moment. Regardless, the act of taking the item without using any words is a selfish shortcut that only causes hurt and pain to all parties involved.

As I grew up and started earning money I quickly realized the joy in legitimate ownership. Though I hated letting go of hard earned money, when I bought something with money I had earned, there was a real connection to that item. You don’t get that kind of connection when you take the item from someone else.

It Really Is No Big Deal

We need to protect our assets, but as an adult, I have never been someone that was so attached to their things that when something happened to those things, I would fall apart. I take measures to assure my investments don’t grow legs and walk away, but when they do, I get over it fast. I want my kids to understand that the things of this world are replaceable. What is not often replaceable are experiences and relationships.

Though we had planned to leave around eight that morning to head to our campsite, my wife and I purchased all new items from the store and we were on the road early that afternoon. We were not going to let this stop us from spending time together and from creating memories. I filed a police report online and contact my insurance company, and we left for the lake.

The bottom line is this: I want my kids to grow up understanding that bad things are going to happen in life, but when they do, we have a chance to grow. I am fortunate enough to have learned my lesson quickly as a kid and to have the self-awareness to see a situation like this as a teaching moment. We could have let something like this ruin our week, but we turned it into an opportunity to thrive and give the benefit of the doubt to those who wronged us. It’s easy to be cynical and play the victim card. Doing that gives the situation more power than it deserves.

I decided to write about this not to boast of this parenting moment, but to encourage other parents to look at every situation they go through with their kids as an opportunity to teach their kids something before they have to learn the hard way like I did. As parents, we have a finite amount of time to imprint on our kids. It’s easy to bark orders at our kids and give them short reasons why things are the way they are. When we do that, we are not giving them the information they need to understand and empathize.

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Grace, but not all the time. A Parenting Blog

Little Red Hen

A couple of weeks ago I was reminded of a book from my childhood called “The Little Red Hen.” In the story, the Hen invites his friends to help her bake a cake, but her friends are too lazy to help her. At the end of the book, the lazy friends wanted to share in the hard work of the Hen, but the Hen decided not to share and enjoyed the fruits of her labor while her friends stood there in shock.

We live in a world where everybody expects something for nothing. It didn’t become that way overnight. It’s the way many have been raised. You work hard at something and people are quick to expect you to share it with them when they didn’t do anything to deserve it. You can blame it on the way Baby Boomers raised their kids, but as an adult, I take responsibility for myself and what I expect from this world. I don’t want this post to turn political, but fewer people are trying to make something of themselves these days because they simply don’t have to.

We exercise a lot of grace with our children, probably too much at times. When demonstrated properly, Grace is an amazing thing. It shows the recipient that though they did nothing to deserve what they are receiving, they are given it because of love. We love our kids so it makes sense to pour out grace to them whenever possible. Grace is cool because it is not something that can be earned. If it was, it would be a reward.

What I love most about the book “The Little Red Hen,” is the unexpected ending. Reading through the book you realize that the cat, dog, and mouse are being lazy. What you don’t expect is that the Hen ends up eating the cake all to herself while her friends stand there with their jaws on the floor.

The Little Red Hen Book

The Little Red Hen doing work while her friends were being lazy.

Last night I had my wife and kids around me as I read the book. My wife remembered the book, but not how the story would end. When the Hen decided to withhold grace from her friends, my wife and kids had the same “jaw on the floor” expressions as the cat, dog, and mouse did. The Little Red Hen is an old story. It was adapted from an old folk tale most likely made up to teach kids about pitching in.

The Little Red Hen Book

The Little Red Hen eating her cake while her lazy friends watch.

The response my wife and kids had to the story was what I had expected. Most stories have a happy ending, and in this story, they expected that the Hen would have given her friends grace and allowed them to eat her cake. That just didn’t happen, and I love that it didn’t happen.

The story ends with the Hen’s friends being more than willing to help because they want to eat next time. It’s kind of a harsh story by today’s standards, but I think it’s just what the world needs. There is a time for grace and there is a time for a lesson.

The cool thing about grace is that it is not something you can earn. In life, when you do good, you usually get rewarded. When you do bad, you often get punished. At least that is the way we expect it. When you receive grace, you are receiving it out of the loving heart of the one offering it to you. This is why grace is so significant and why it shouldn’t be misused. Judgment and reward are something you earn, grace is something unearned.

I want my kids to be able to recognize grace when it is handed down to them. I do believe that grace is something that is handed down to you, and it can come in many forms. I only know this because I have received it, and recognize that the grace I received was unearned (insert spiritual undertones here). Grace is something that is unmerited. You get grace because someone wants you to have something you didn’t or couldn’t earn on your own. Kids need a lot of grace because they are learning their way in this world. However, I believe that there is a limit to the amount of grace we should pour out to our children and not allow ourselves to get too carried away. I don’t want to get into a discussion about what would be considered an act of grace and what doesn’t, but I do believe there are limits, and I think that we as parents have blurred the line between what giving grace is and what constitutes as enabling.

What do you think about this book? Have you read it? Was it read to you as a child? I think it’s a fantastic book and I love that my kids enjoyed it. They need to know that life is not a free ride. They need to understand that hard work pays off. I want to make sure that what they see in me is a person who works hard and that they are able to recognize when grace is given to them, whether it comes from my wife and me, or God.

 

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How To Keep Your Pokemon Go Playing Kids Safe

Pokemon Go Safety Tips

Pokemon Go is what most would call an overnight success. The game takes advantage of wireless technology to allow the user to capture Pokemon and battle other Pokemon in real life. The game has received praise while at the same time been seen as controversial due to it’s augmented reality aspects. The game itself takes place on your phone, but it uses real life elements to augment the gameplay. The idea is to go out and walk around in search for Pokemon. The game uses Google Maps with a Pokemon world overlay in which you walk the streets, park or local mall in search for Pokemon to capture. It’s quite fun and a bit addicting especially if you used to watch Pokemon on tv. Pokemon the show was a bit after my time as a kid, but the game has been a lot of fun to play.

Played responsibly, the game is harmless. There isn’t any real violence in the game and a Pokemon battle simply consists of using the power of your Pokemon against another. In the App Store, the game is rated 9+ for Infrequent/Mild Cartoon or Fantasy Violence. If you are considering allowing your young children to play the game, I would recommend watching a gameplay video on Youtube first. However, it is far less violent than a Power Ranger episode.

The game is very consuming. Like most games, you have to be looking at your phone to play the game. The difference with Pokemon Go is that you have to be walking around to play the game, and this is where things can get a bit dangerous. The game also promotes interaction with other players. To power up, refuel or battle, you must be near Pokespots or Gyms, which are the same for everybody throughout the game. My family and I walked down to the local Junior College and saw 40-50 others walking around playing Pokemon Go. Each player was walking around looking at their phone. Prior to this game, you would simply think everybody was texting. Now if you see someone walking around looking at their phone, there is a good chance they are playing Pokemon Go.

Businesses are also using Pokemon Go to lure in game playing customers. Many businesses are located near a Pokestop and use Pokemon Lures to make that Pokestop more attractive to Pokemon hunters.

There have also been a few news reports of people getting mugged or robbed while playing Pokemon. Savvy criminals can use a game like Pokemon to determine where others may be due to the landmarks in the game being the same. Pokespots and Gyms are located at actual landmarks throughout your town or city such as a church or statue. There are hundreds of Pokespots and Gyms throughout my town.

My kids are too young to be allowed to go off on their own let alone go off to play a game such as Pokemon Go on their own. I have allowed my six and four-year-old boys to play under my supervision. I only let them catch Pokemon and powerup at the Pokespots. I would not consider a Pokemon battle to be too violent for them, but they have not leveled up past level five yet so no battles for them anyway.

Regardless, there are several things to look out for and to do to help your kids stay safe while playing Pokemon Go. Let’s take a look at what those are.

Remain Annonymous

I recommend not allowing your children to use their real names in Pokemon Go. Nobody can see your children on their Pokemon map, but if your children start to battle other Pokemon at gyms, their name could show up at that gym. Time will tell whether or not people actually get upset enough about losing a Pokemon battle to seek them out in real life, however, the possibility is real. For most, they will have to sign in to Google in order to sign up for Pokemon Go.

The developers of Pokemon Go have recently updated the game to require very few permissions from your child’s Google account. Depending on your level of technical knowledge, I would recommend that many of you create a specific Google account for your child’s gameplay. Pokemon Go may only require a few permissions for game play but there are other games out there that ask for permission to all of your Google account data for some reason.

Pokemon Go does not display any of your child’s or your information publically. The closest public information it will display is the username of someone who holds stature at a Pokemon Gym. There is speculation that in the future Pokemon Go will allow users to trade Pokemon in a similar way that kids would trade Pokemon cards in real life. If that becomes the case, the account holders username will become much more public, which is why I recommend using made up names over real names. Like most other games, the username is game specific and will not allow others any access to your Google accounts. For me, using a made up name for my children on Pokemon Go is good enough and I do have Google accounts created for my children so their gameplay of Pokemon Go and other games can stay specific to their own accounts. My oldest is getting to that age where he does not want his younger siblings ruining the hard work he has put in on some games.

Set Boundaries

The first thing you need to do with your child before you allow them to play Pokemon Go is to set boundaries. Chances are that your kids already have boundaries you have set for them such as how far away from home they can travel on their own. My kids are young so their boundaries are our yard. That would not make for a very interesting Pokemon Go session so if you are going to let your kids play, you want to make sure they understand where they can go and where they should refrain from going.

The map on Pokemon Go shows all streets, parking lots, alleyways and more. If it appears on your Google Map, it will appear in Pokemon Go. In the game, all paths look the same. A perfectly lit street can appear the same on the map as a poorly lit alley. Dead ends look harmless on the game until you find yourself at the end of one. It is important that your children understand where they are allowed to go and where they are not. Being that my kids are so young, we stick to parks and make sure to keep away from busy roads.

If you take your kids somewhere to play and plan to allow them to wander around a bit, make sure they know where to meet or what to do should they get lost or find you out of their line of sight. Use one of the in-game Pokestops as a meeting spot. It’s most likely a noteable area or landmark which will make it easy to find.

Pay Attention

It is easy to get fully engrossed in this game. More active areas with a higher amount of Pokestops and Gyms are more exciting. It is not common to see someone mindlessly walk across a driveway or parking lot with their eyes glued to the phone. Many players have headphones on so they can listen to music while they play or more easily hear Pokemon alerts.

I recommend you disable the in-game music. Disabling the music takes nothing away from the game and will prolong battery life. You can leave sound effects and vibration turned on. To get to settings, tap on the Pokeball at the bottom center of the screen. At the top right of the screen on the next page, a small gear will appear for “settings.”

It’s one thing to let your kids wander the streets with headphones on when they are paying attention to where they are going but when they are playing Pokemon Go, they will often be looking down at their screen. It is hard to be aware of your surroundings when you have headphones on and are looking down at a screen. I suggest you have your kids leave their headphones at home. They can hear just fine with sound effects and vibration on.

Stay Aware

Playing the game often means being near roads. Make sure your children stay on alert. If you are constantly reminding them to look both ways for cars without a phone in their hand, they will be even less likely to remember while playing this game. Big parks are your friend as Pokemon can often be found at parks.

Don’t allow your kids to go out in the evening in dark clothes. Make sure it is easy to see them by making sure they are dressed in bright clothing. We just returned from camping and gave our kids bright glow sticks to use as they wandered the campground at night. I couldn’t imagine letting my children play Pokemon Go after dark, but if you are going to allow your children to do so, light them up.

Stay On Your Feet

I mentioned before just how easy it is to get caught up in the catch of Pokemon Go. Don’t let your kids play the game while they skateboard, bike, or scooter. It’s just dangerous. They need their full attention to skateboard, bike, or scooter, and if they are playing the game, they can’t focus on being safe.

I live in Central/Northern California where it is set to reach 112 degrees this week. Playing Pokemon outside means it’s even more important to keep hydrated and protected from the sun. If you let your kids play outside in the summer heat, make sure they stay hydrated and properly protected from the harsh sun

Beware of Strangers

Millions have signed up and are playing Pokemon Go and the game draws all of us to similar locations known as Pokestops and Gyms as I mentioned before. Because of that there will often be other people at those locations. Unless there is a Pokemon lure at a Pokestop, people often don’t hang out at a Pokestop for long before moving onto the next one. Gyms however, can keep people around longer as they battle other Pokemon. The other day apparently someone drove into the back of a parked cop car while playing Pokemon Go. Go America!

It might be common for a group of people to go in the same direction in search of Pokemon. Kids need to be taught not to follow strangers even if they say there are more Pokemon where they are going. Don’t let your children follow anyone without you there.

Safety in Numbers

Don’t send your child out alone. Make sure they are with siblings, friends, other parents, or yourself. The game can be a lot of fun when played together, so keep everybody close. If there are Pokemon nearby, they are typically nearby for everybody. My boys and I all caught the same Pokemon from the same spot at the park. There are a limited amount of Pokemon at any given location, but there seems to be the same amount for everybody.

My kids do not have iPhones so they play Pokemon Go on iPods which require them to be tethered to the internet on my phone. If they wander too far away from me, they lose their internet and the gameplay stops. This is also another good way to keep kids close to you.

Keeping Tabs

There are a couple of ways to track your children’s whereabouts while they are on their phones. If they are on iPhones, you can use the “Find Friends” app to track their location or if their devices are signed into your Apple ID, you can use “Find My iPhone” to track their location.

Android phones give you a bit more data. Make sure the Google Maps app is installed and signed into on their phones. You can go to the history page in Google Maps to see everywhere they have been. Google also has a device manager app that will allow you to track all devices signed into your account.

The Pokemon Go game also has a player journal which shows all of the Pokemon collected, Pokestops and Gyms visited. You can review the locations they visited that way as well and verify the times in which they were playing by looking at the timestamps listed in the journal.

Highly Addictive

The game is designed to promote play. It is easy to get engrossed in gameplay and find yourself miles away from home. Be aware that your children can become addicted to this game. The game has only been out for about three weeks and there already has been a few players who have captured all of the Pokemon that there are to be captured in the game thus far. That would require at least a few hours of gameplay every day. School is out for most, so spending a bit more time in a game than usually might be ok, but the next school year is right around the corner. It will be interesting to see how this game changes the way kids wonder around with their mobile devices while on School campus. Even if school is not currently in for your kids, I recommend setting limits on the amount of time they can play the game. When school starts again, I would suggest tightening up those limits.

If your child becomes combative over playing Pokemon Go, it’s time to take a break.

Does Pokemon Go Cost Money To Play?

The game is free to play but there are in-app purchases that can be made. In most towns and cities there are plenty of Pokestops that you can visit to replenish Pokeballs and other powerups. However, there is plenty of money to be spent inside of the game so I recommend you set restrictions accordingly if you think your child will attempt to purchase upgrades from within the app.

On an iPhone or iPod Touch you can enable restrictions from within the Settings app, check out this video on how to do that. Once enabled, you can turn off the ability for your children to make in-app purchases. One of my Youtube channels “State of Tech,” has some additional videos to help parents manage their children’s mobile devices. Here is a playlist of a few videos for parents of children with mobile devices. I plan to keep this playlist better updated: http://bit.ly/stateoftechparents

Play Together

The game is quite fun. I enjoy playing it and really enjoy hunting for Pokemon with my kids. As parents, it is easy to prevent our kids from experiencing things simply because we do not understand them. Pokemon Go will be all that kids talk about once school starts back up so use this time to teach your kids how to play responsibly. Use this as a teaching moment with your children to help them better understand the world and how to be safe. Use Pokemon Go as an opportunity to get your kids out of the house and playing outside. Sure they are glued to a screen while playing, but at least they are outside getting accidental excersise.

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How Wives Can Help Their Husbands Parent Together

Parenting Together

It’s been a slow go, but I am trying to chip away at the questions that were given to a few of us to answer during a men’s panel that I was on. I thought I would handle the topic of parenting together next.

Here is the question: How can a wife help her husband feel that they are parenting together?

This question can mean something different depending on your household dynamic. I will do my best to be as general as I can and get specific when need be. In my home, my wife runs the day-to-day of the household. I work during the week and she is at home running the house. My wife spends a lot more time in the home than I do and a lot more time with our kids than I do as well. It is the current state of our household. I work outside of the home, she takes care of the family and our home. I help as much as possible around the house, but sometimes I feel like it is her house that I am living in. I know this is not true, but sometimes it can feel like it. I am trying to work to change the amount of time I spend at work. Right now, I work a typical 8-5 day. Now that we live closer to my office, I often come home for lunch. I used to photograph a lot of weddings on weekends but have cut back a lot so I can be home on as many weekends as possible.

My goal is to be able to reduce the amount of time I spend working during the hours my children are awake. I love my business, but I am missing valuable time I could be spending with my children. My kids are young and want to spend time with me. When they get older, they will have friends and other activities which will leave me plenty of time to work more if I want to. So let’s get back on topic.

Most men work and are not around the home as much as their wives are. This is the case in my household. Some households have a working husband and wife, but often the wife still runs more of the home than the husband does. My wife spends all day with our children. I see my kids for about an hour in the morning and for a few hours in the evening before bed. I get the weekends with them as well, but weekends are a different dynamic than the work/school week. I feel like more parenting happens during the week and the weekends are more fun and activities. During the week, my wife does most of the parenting on her own. When I get home, I help with dinner, play with the kids for a while and help put them to bed. Part of my evening routine with my wife these days involves relaxing. By the end of the day, we are both tired and just want to chill.

In business, there have been situations where I become part of a project that was already in motion. Though I feel I have a handle on the project and understand where it needs to go, taking action without knowing every nuance could lead to a blow up down the road. This often happens at home with the kids. I find myself in situations with my kids and parent the way I feel is right in the moment, but sometimes my method ends up clashing with something my wife has already tried or set in motion. I get frustrated because I was not informed. It’s hard to stay on the same page when the majority of my time is spent at work and my wife’s time with the kids.

There have been other instances where I have attempted to parent a certain way and then my wife contradicts my method by directing the children in another way without taking me aside and asking me about it first. This happens to all of us. I do it to her as well. Many times we are reacting to a situation. Something happens and we swiftly deal with it. I feel that sometimes we respond maybe a bit too swiftly.

It really comes down to communication. My wife and I do a pretty good job of recapping our days to each other. By the end of the day when I come home, my kids are usually tired. They only have a few hours left before bed so they have had a full day. I often get to deal with the meltdowns that happen during those hours. When I get home from work, my kids are hangry (hungry + angry). Not really. I just wanted an excuse to say that work in this blog. My kids are pretty great and only occasionally have meltdowns the moment I walk through the door.

Parenting on the same page takes communication. Without communication, you are walking into a war zone. The home can be a war zone sometimes. If I was not communicated to, there is unknown intel that I need to navigate the landscape that is our home. My daughter may have had a rough day that involved missing some of her nap and getting disciplined recently for hitting her brother. She could still be upset when I come in the door and try to love on her.

On occasion, my wife will text message me to let me know what is going on. Sometimes it’s during a phone call on my way home. It helps me understand what is going on and what to expect. Knowing what to expect helps me prepare myself and I am able to be what I need to be for each of my children when I walk through the door. Most of our parenting related frustrations with each other has to do with discipline. My wife and I both have our good days and bad days when dealing with disciplining our children. It’s not a simple job and we both kind of hate having to do it.

Big Picture Parenting

Most married couples are on the same page when it comes to the bigger picture. They know how they want to raise their kids and what they want their kids to experience. Some couples may have a few differences in the big picture area, but it’s easier to work on those differences because they are part of the bigger picture. There is a lot of time between thinking about those things and having to act on them. Bigger Picture items could include what kind of school we will send our children to and whether or not we will allow our kids to drink soda. These are not typically “in the moment” decisions we have to make.

In The Moment Parenting

Most parenting decisions are made in the moment. They are responses to situations that transpired. This is where differences start to become clear between a husband and wife. Decisions made in the moment lack communication. We feel that we need to act right away, so we make a decision. This decision may be a new one, which was not discussed prior to acting on it.

Because we feel that we need to shut down the situation in the moment, it often ends up being a sole parent decision. Usually, that has to do with discipline. My wife and I have most of our issues there. We often see pretty eye to eye, but we have our moments.

There are other decisions that we make in parenting that end up being in the moment when they could have waited until later. Not everything has to be handled in the moment. I recognize that sometimes it is just easier for my wife to make a decision on something at that moment. At work, I make decisions all day. If I had to stop and check with someone else before making my decisions, it would drive me crazy. I do understand that it is often easier just to say yes, or no, or sign up for something at that moment because it seems right. It might also seem like a small thing that doesn’t matter to you, so you deal with it in the moment.

All of these “moments” throughout the day are often something the other spouse misses out on. Those moments add up and can make a person feel like they are not really doing any parenting. I have moments of my own like that, but I realize that my wife and I have our jobs and we are the CEO’s of our individual jobs.

CEO, CFO, and CPO’s

As mentioned before, my wife pretty much runs the home. She is the CEO of the house. That doesn’t mean she can do whatever she wants. I am the CFO of our home, because I handle the majority of the finances. My wife and I are both CPO (Chief Parenting Officers). It’s a joint position run as a team. She brings her years of Early Childhood Development training and being a Nanny for many years to the table. At the time of writing this, she also has almost six years in the trenches with our children. I am a very observant person who also reads a lot, so I have some of my own tactics and methods that I have developed. I also try to stay very in tune with my children emotionally. I am better at this with my boys than I am with my little girl.

As a team, we are continuously learning what we do well and what we do not. To the best of our ability, we try to do this together. This means that one person is not doing everything while the other watches sports. My wife spends most of the time with our children, but I make sure that I get opportunities to be with all three of my children alone as well. When I am home, I am with my family. I don’t watch sports or other tv shows while my kids are awake. My wife and I do watch shows we like after our kids are in bed. I will watch shows with my kids sometimes. Shows of their choosing (Power Rangers). I make an effort to be involved.

Proactive Parenting

It really does come down to communication. Actions speak louder than words. If you come home from work and don’t contribute, you are not going to feel like you are an equal parent. We are a parent to a child or children. We are a spouse to another adult. It takes intent and you have to prioritize your family over other things to be as involved as your spouse is.

With better communication, you can parent proactively. Talk about your kids together. Tell your spouse about the cool things your kid is doing and the things he or she may be struggling with. Don’t let these things come up and blindside your spouse.

As you can see, it takes effort from both sides. Don’t attack your spouse because you feel that she isn’t including you in parenting decisions. Turn off the football game and talk to her about it. Don’t attack your spouse because he isn’t as involved of a parent as you. If you don’t share much with him, how can he feel as invested as you are?

It’s all about the children. I deeply care about my work, but it will not get in the way of me being an involved parent. Right now it is very popular to work your tail off to achieve in your career. Everybody wants success, and they want it yesterday. The concept of work-life balance is all the buzz right now because people find themselves working most of their waking hours and realize their family is left off in the distance. It’s sad. You can start a hundred companies in a lifetime, but you can only start one family. Sure it is common for people to start second, and even a third family after failing the first few times, but is that healthy? I think not. Give all you have to your family. You can find a way to work and find success. We live in an extremely pliable world these days.

Do you have some tips on how to better include your spouse in the parenting role? If so, share them in the comments below.