Monthly Archives: August 2011
I have to be very honest with you guys… I’m exhausted. It’s Tuesday night and I’m trying to get my brain to work and come up with a cool and creative idea for a blog post and nothing. AAAARRRGGGHHHH… This whole thing about going from no regular job in two years to 10 hours working with children in two different jobs all of a sudden makes me very happy and extremely tired.
The day was really rough today and I decided to go for an easy way out and guide you guys to a cool top 10 list published at the Rolling Stone site a couple of months ago. It’s a Top 10 Songs About Dads list celebrating this year’s father’s day. If you saw it already I’ll let you just stop reading now and I’ll try my best to come up with a real post for Friday, but you haven’t seen the list it’s worth checking it out.
There are some classics from Eric Clapton (who actually appears twice on the list), Bruce Springsteen, Cat Stevens and John Lennon among others. You should also read the comments on the article because as most top 10 ten lists, readers disagreed with the selection and added their own choices in the comments section. Check it out for yourself here: Rolling Stone Top 10 Songs About Dads.
Potty training. Every parent has had to deal with this moment. It might be more or less difficult depending on various factors: your level of patience, the amount of time you can dedicate, your child’s personality, and why not, a dose of luck.
There are some parents that choose to start early, really early. I don’t know. Who am I to judge. But me and my wife decided to wait until Lucas turned 3 to really focus on potty training. Lucas now understands clearly when we tell him that he needs to ask us to go potty. He understands but that doesn’t mean he does it.
It’s been a struggle. We got him cool looking undies he has a portable potty that we can carry around the house and we spend as much time as possible motivating and reminding him “to go” in the potty. There was even a period that we bribed him with small gifts for each time he went in the proper place.
This past weekend we decided to intensify this transitioning by buying some more undies and reminding him every 5 minutes to “go pee-pee” in the potty. It kind of worked.
I have an approach a little more strict than my wife. I don’t get angry at all but I’m very firm when telling Lucas to use the potty. I keep asking him questions such as “Lucas, do you need to go pee-pee in the potty” or “Lucas, where do big boys go pee-pee?” and he always answers.
Yesterday he had already wet 2 undies when I told him that he had to let me know when he needed to go potty. Fifteen minutes later I asked him again and he decided to sit on the potty. I thought, “great, he’s progressing now.” He sat there for about 10 minutes and then said “no pee pee daddy”. I said, “ok” and pulled his undies up. I then go to the kitchen for no more than 5 minutes and when I come back he had peed himself.
I took a deep breath and looked him in the eyes “Lucas, you must tell daddy when you need to go pee pee. Look at you cool undies, they’re all wet now. Daddy is going to put you in time-out for three minutes because you know you have to ask to go pee pee and you didn’t. It almost broke my heart to see his face sitting in time out for something I know it’s hard for him to control. (see photo above). But you know what? It did make a difference. For the rest of the day he was more focused and aware of his urges. He still got two more undies wet but both times he got up and said “pee pee, wet” and we still had time to rush him to the potty so he could finish his business there.
We now decided to get pull ups for him to wear at day care and whenever we’re at home with him we’ll keep him wearing his undies and applying the reinforcement techniques of reminding, praising for achievement, and giving time-out if necessary. Let’s hope it works.
Like I said in the beginning of this post, every parent has to go through this and there’s no magic formula. Patience, understanding and love are crucial to help your child learn this new and very important skill.
How do/did you deal with potty training your kids? Let us know in the comments section bellow or send me your story at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When I went to pick up Lucas from day care yesterday his teacher tells me him (and all the other 3 kids) refused to help clean up today. I didn’t make that much of a deal but I told him that he needs to help when asked to. I did it in front of her to show that she could see that her feedback was understood.
Lucas turned 3 in June and he’s still too little to understand that when he leaves a mess behind him someone will have to end up cleaning up for him. All he cares about is that his toys are there; organized or not. However I don’t want to create a messy monster in the future so every time there’s an opportunity to get him to help put his toys away or take his dirt dishes to the sink, or throw a little piece of trash in the garbage bin I have him do it.
I have been using certain techniques learned from TV shows such as Super Nanny and the ones I learned from my boss in the classroom with our students. It’s simple and the secret is being firm without being angry and being consistent without micromanage.
Here are some useful tips:
- Let your kids know in advance that they can play but they are expected to put the toys away before or right after a certain time (dinner, shower, etc..). I would avoid doing it right before bed time because the kid might be too tired and a simple task could turn into a war.
- Make sure they know where each thing is supposed to go. You can help by separating the toys and moving them closer to where they should go.
- If you have more than one kid you can motivate them to work as a team. It’s a great opportunity to promote sibling cooperation, teamwork and caring.If you have a single child you can be the helper. Tell him that you are going to help and ask which toys should you help with.
- Constantly cheer them up. Tell them that they’re doing a good job (if in fact they are) or reinforce the directions if you feel they’re losing focus. Be like a coach, cheer them up but make sure the job gets done.
- Praise them when they finish the job. Hugs, “good job”, high fives, etc… Make you child know how much you appreciate the help.
I know there might be days or nights that nothing will seem to work. Stay cool. Try not to lose your patience. If the job doesn’t get done as fast or as smoothly as you expected I’d recommend leave it there and get back to it later or even the next day if that’s the case. You child may cry, scream, protest but this is a small battle that it’s worth fighting. You’ll reap the benefits of it when your 15-year old knows that his stinky shoes should not be left in the middle of the living room as part of the decor.
Have a great weekend,
Life sometimes can bring you down. Work can be tough, or boring, or both. Recently I can’t complain much. I just got a job that brings me the best feeling of doing something that is bigger than myself (we’ll talk about that some other time). I waited until things got back on track in my life to decide to write about how life can actually feel bad sometimes because I didn’t want to give you guys the feeling that I was just a whining loser crying and complaining about things.
But yes, there are moments that you wish you could just leave everything behind and run without looking back. You look at yourself in the mirror and you can barely recognize the young, adventurous guy that you once were. You see wrinkles, gray hair, less hair, more gut but less guts.
Everything seems kind of bland, plain, insipid.
But then you see that smile. That recognizable face that you met not too long ago. That person that came to you without knowing anything and amazes you each day with something new he learned. You look at that face smiling at you. You feel loved. You feel loved by a person who has never read the word love in his life but yet he’s absolutely capable of showing and understanding and feeling it.
Happiness has just arrived.
Lucas got another great gift from his grandparents this weekend: “Everything I need to know before I’m five” by Valorie Fisher. It’s a very colorful picture book with categories and words that are recommended to be part of your kid’s vocabulary when he goes to kindergarten.
If you go back to my very first post on this blog you will see that I dread those moms that meet at playgrounds and brag about their 3-year old math geniuses. Kids will eventually learn all the basics they need to be successful at school. This book is not about making your child better than the others or elevate his IQ whatsoever. It’s a fun way to check what your little one already knows and what you can help add to his or her vocabulary.
The alphabet, numbers from 1 to 20, colors, simple opposites, basic shapes and even some not so basis are shown in some vivid colors that will get your child’s attention.
But all of this means nothing if you, as a dad, don’t stimulate your child’s brain. Give him (or her) little challenges such as trying to say the numbers out of orders, or point to a color (red for example) and ask “Is this green? Is this yellow? So, what color is this?”
There’s no need to get frustrated if your kid makes mistakes. Simple correct the mistakes and make sure he/she repeats the right answer. It’s a simple routine that you can create before bed time, before story time that can not only help your child develop but also give his/her brain a little work out before going to sleep.
In the end you’ll see the results. Suddenly your child will be recognizing numbers in other books, making connections between objects and colors and as a result of that feel more and more confident and prepared for kindergarten.
Today was my first day as an Instructional Aide at a public middle school. It feels good to have a (almost) full time job after more than two years of unemployment. Even though I spent the past year working as a substitute teacher it still didn’t give the safety net to know exactly how much money I was going to bring home in the end of the month so to have this job now it’s certainly a relief for me and my family.
There has been some debate in the past few years about the real efficiency of charter school over their public counterparts and I’d like to bring up some points of view and obviously ask you all to pinch in your opinion as well.
But what exactly are charter schools?
Well, in very simple words a charter school is a cross-breed between a private and a public school. But that’s in VERY SIMPLE WORDS.
Charter schools are free, just like public schools. They receive public money – which means they’re funded in part by taxpayers – and also private donations but are not subject to the same restrictions as traditional public schools. For example, charter schools have more freedom than public schools when it comes to hiring and firing teachers; they don’t have to follow state-approved curriculum; and they are able to decide how long their school days and years will be.
Some recent criticism from opponents to the growth in the number of charter school across the US is the fact that by virtue of their autonomy, they can be vulnerable to financial turmoils and mismanagement. Indeed, the fiscal arrangements of charters can be inherently problematic, in part because, in many states, charters’ access to facilities and start-up funds is limited.
In 2009 there about 4,600 charter schools in the United States spread among 40 of the 50 states serving around 1.4 million students. I’m pretty sure we’ll find among these numbers some excellent institutions and some that would be considered bad even in a third world country.
On the positive side, charter schools provide an option for families that are looking for a different approach in education. Many charter school focus their curriculum on specific areas (mathematics, science, language arts…) while others offer a more general education. Either way charter school can also help educators who have experience and expertise but don’t meet government requirements to teach in a public school get a job. I’m a good example of that. I’m a bachelor in social communications with a degree in journalism, I have taught English as a second language in Brazil for 10 years however, I don’t have a teaching credential which prevents me from getting a teaching job (reason why I’m working as an instructional aide).
Education in the US faces some real challenges. We could be on our path for losing the status of most powerful nation in the world and one of the solutions for this serious issue is the level of knowledge our next generations will have. We’ll need to form leaders with world vision. Leaders that can clearly understand that America is more than just corporations, political disputes, Hollywood and junk food.
Constant and unbiased evaluations can help government assess the efficiency of charter schools. The one who are doing a great job will get their contracts renewed, the bad ones should receive an intervention or, in extreme cases, be shut down.
Public schools also need to be constant checked and improved. Teachers need to be motivated and receive frequent feedback and training. That’s one area that we can’t spare efforts. Education is the future of this country.
SOME MORE READING ON THIS:
Charter schools pros & cons: http://www.ecs.org/html/issuesection.asp?issueid=20&s=pros+%26+cons
The NY Daily News | The charter school problem: http://goo.gl/qeBNj
Wikipedia | Charter Schools: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charter_school
Private Schools vs Public Schools | http://www.greatschools.org/find-a-school/defining-your-ideal/59-private-vs-public-schools.gs
but are not subject to the same restrictions as traditional public schools. For example, charter schools have more freedom than public schools when it comes to hiring and firing teachers; they don’t have to follow state-approved curriculum; and they are able to decide how long their school days and years will be.
Some of know you may have noticed that I frequently post recipes here. My wife thinks I’m a good cook and so far Lucas hasn’t really complained about the taste of anything I served him. Cooking is easy and fun. It might have been harder in the past when some of the best recipes were passed from mothers to daughters by word of mouth or written in old secret notebooks. Nowadays it takes about 30 seconds of a simple Google search to find out the ingredients and the preparation of that grandma style meatloaf you loved so much.
What I’ve heard from some of my fellow dads is that they don’t cook because they don’t have time. I can’t argue with that. It does take some time to look up a recipe, get the ingredients together, prep them and them cook the dish. I’d say the total time to cook a good dinner for three takes about 45 minutes to 1 hour if you already have all the ingredients you need. However it’s not a waste of time. You’ll be doing something to your family, something to put a smile on their faces and if your kids are old enough you can get them involved in the process and that is a great opportunity for bonding.
If time is reeeeealy a big issue maybe you could choose one day of the week to be “dad’s cooking day”. Pick a day that you’re lees stressed, you can also ask the family to choose from pre-determined menu options the day before so that you have time to check the recipe and if you have everything you need.
I also suggest you to be creative. Pizza, burgers, hot dogs, fries,… yes, these are all kids’ favorites but why not introduce new flavors, colors and give your family some healthier and tastier. I suggest visiting AllRecipes.comif you want to find some easy recipes. I find a
lot of stuff there.
Once you feel comfortable in the kitchen it’s time to think outside the box. Add or change the ingredients of a recipe to make it healthier or even tastier. Replacing sugar for stevia in a cupcake or muffin recipe, for example, won’t change the flavor but it will substantially drop the amount of calories.
We all want our kids to grow healthy and strong and food play a huge role in doing that. It truly saddens me when I see an obese family eating at a fast food place. I have nothing to do with anybody’s lives or decisions but I can’t help thinking that those parents are showing their kids that eating junk food is normal even if it makes them sick. Well let me stop here before I get too worked up.
People like to say that their kids are picky eaters and that no matter what they do they can’t get them to eat veggies, or fruits, or this or that. I’ll tell you this: if you cook flavorful food they will eat. Don’t just steam some broccoli and give it plain to a child. A little bit of soy sauce makes a lot of difference.
This is something you can start doing as soon as they start eating solids but if you already have a picky eater in your house what you can do is work together on a list of foods (fruits, vegetables, meats, carbs, juices, etc…) that they would like to add to their menu. Give them options but tell them that they have to come up with a certain number of vegetables and fruits that they like and in different colors as well.
I know this might be a tough task (not to say annoying at times) but it will bring joy to you and your family in the end.
(PS.: I just got a new job after more than 2 years of unemployment and sub-jobs and intense fruitless searching. I’ll start tomorrow from 7:45am to 2:00pm as an Instructional Aide for emotionally disturbed children. Not the easiest jobs on the planet but it’s fit for me. I’m looking forward to making a difference in those kids lives. The blog will continue but the posts might be up later in the day from now on. Thank you)
Youtube is arguably the most versatile tool created for the internet in the last 10 years. Sunday afternoon is perfect for spending a few hours watching some hilarious stuff and put you in a better mood to face the grind ahead of you.
If you didn’t watch anything funny this weekend here are five very funny videos featuring dads (either on camera or videotaping the action) and their kids.
PS.: the videos were ranked solemnly based on my opinion. But they all have their level of “funniness”. If you have more funny videos with dads and their loved kids please put the link in the comments section or send me an e-mail at email@example.com
Number 5: Dad skateboard FAIL but redeems himself.
Number 4: Dad gives more than just moral support for 18-year old daughter to get the tattoo of her dreams
Number 3: Baby laughs at daddy ripping off job rejection letter
Number 2: Dad videotapes David after the dentist
Number 1: How to throw the perfect temper tantrum.
BONUS VIDEO: Mini Darth Vader needs some help.
Children are normally a blessing. They’re so happy and full of life. They speak their mind freely and act silly. They have their unique personalities and they can be super cute or super mean and we’ll still love them. Right? Right! But sometimes they go overboard and we can’t explain why. Some kids are overly happy and act out too much, some speak their mind too frequently, some personalities go beyond unique and are actually odd, some are way past cute or mean and end up being too petty or cruel. What should we do when we believe our kids may have a real psychological issue? Where’s that fine line the defines acceptable or deviant behavior?
A few weeks ago I wrote a post about how my all time favorite comic strip: Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson. The blond little boy who can’t stay still for five minutes, who has conversations and adventures with his stuffed tiger, who’s the teacher’s nightmare in class and who drives his parents to exhaustion. He’s the epiphany of what would be classified here in the USA as your typical ADHD kid.
Every parent dreams of having the perfect child. Healthy, happy, smart, social, well-behaved. But kids come in different packages and some packages are more unique than others that’s for sure.
One of my soccer buddies, Chris, was telling me yesterday about his little daughter’s behavior. According to him she has some social issues that need to be worked on. He enrolled her in a Montessori school to help her develop her socialization, interaction and overall psychological self-construction. What’s interesting in this case is that Chris has two kids and in the eyes of society as a whole his daughter would be the “normal” one. Chris’s son was born with down syndrome.
I absolutely believe Chris is an amazing dad and the decision of putting Hannah in a school that will give her better tools to develop her personality in positive way is the result of a well thought and mature decision. But not all parents choose or have the option to go that way.
About ten years ago I was working at a summer camp at the YMCA in Houston, Texas and I saw a 6 year-old little boy almost completely destroy my supervisor’s office because after acting out for the 10th time that day he was send there for a little one-on-one chat with her. Apparently the conversation wasn’t going well and she told him she was going to call his parents. That’s when the child lost it and went on a rage rampage kicking, screaming, throwing around everything he could get his hands on.
The next day he came back to camp looking like a zombie. His eyes had no glare, his body was limp. I asked my supervisor and she told me that his parents took him to the doctor and his ritalin dosage was increased.
I immediately went back in time and thought of all my mischievous behavior in school. My temper tantrums, my fights, my back talking… Hmmm… Did ritalin exist in the 80’s? If so I’m really glad my parents went a different way to deal with terrible behavior. I would hate to look back and think of myself as a zombie kid.
Anyway, parents will very often do things they believe to be the best for their children. They’ll do whatever they think will provide their kids with a better chance to succeed in the future. I just really hope they do a very throughout assessment of their child’s conditions before deciding on what method will be the best.
Some medication might even help your kids concentrate better and reduce their hyperactive and fix their “odd” behavior but the side effects can be disastrous. Goodbye spontaneity, goodbye imagination, goodbye happiness. Just imagine Calvin on ritalin and you’ll see what I mean.
Spending more time with your child and trying to see the world through his point of view might be more effective than medication and most of cases. Some therapy may be necessary. But please do everything, I mean, everything you possibly can to avoid the zombie-making drugs. Your child will thank you later.
Have a great weekend,
Me and my wife both lost our jobs in 2009 due to the financial crisis here in the U.S. and to keep on the positive energy (which was/is hard sometimes) we kept reminding ourselves of the simplest things we still have: water, food, a roof above our heads, family support, friends, good health and above all is our son’s smile, happiness, kindness. That’s why we rarely complain about our situation.
But there are a lot of people around the world that are looking around themselves right at this moment and asking themselves – “How long will we stay alive?”. Somalia is the most current example of human suffering that has hit the news.
A country that has already suffered with a brutal civil war in the 90’s that led to genocide and is constantly having to deal with lack of provisions due to a extremely irregular rainfall now faces the most severe drought in decades.
The lives of more than 11 million people — especially young children — are at risk. Famine has been declared in parts of southern Somalia, and threatens to spread further if nothing is done to prevent it. Kenya and Ethiopia are also severely affected by the crisis, with millions in critical need of food and water.
The U.S. government already approved $105 million for humanitarian efforts in the Horn of Africa to combat worsening drought and famine.
You can also help by simply spreading the word (on twitter, facebook, etc..) or if you feel like listening to good music and making a real difference you can go to the Save The Children website and download Bob Marley’s 1973 song “High Tide or Low Tide” by clicking on the iTunes banner on the left side. You’ll pay $1.29 and that, my friend, will make a lot of difference.
If you’re able to do more you can also donate a larger amount.
I never meant this blog to be something political, or to stand up for causes but as a father I can only sympathize with all the other fathers in Somalia and the other countries affected. Something very human in me makes me forget all the differences and raise my hand to help another human being.
We must act now. Please help save lives. Please be a friend.
Please join me, download the song, donate, spread the word.