Category Archives: Parenting

The Power of #DevelopmentalAssets

Last week I had a staff training at my after school job and it was nice to see the Y focusing on the 40 developmental assets. My supervisor presented a pretty interesting video on how simple everyday positive experiences can help kids and teens develop values and skills to avoid risky behaviors and thrive in life.

That’s pretty much what the 40 developmental assets are. They represent everyday wisdom about positive experiences and characteristics for young people. Research has found that these assets are powerful influences on adolescent behavior—both protecting young people from many different risky behaviors, and promoting positive attitudes and actions.

There are many ways you can start building assets for the children and youth around you. Whether they’re in your family, school, or community, Search Institute has resources you can use to create a better world for kids.

The Developmental Assets are divided in different age groups and you can check them out HERE. You will see that there are external and internal assets. The external ones are those that focus on the child relationships with other children and adults in different daily scenarios. The internal assets focus on the child’s feelings about herself.

Knowing all the assets and making sure your child  is exposed to them can be a fantastic tool for any parent to make sure his child has what it takes to become a happy, healthy and successful adult.

For more on the 40 developmental assets visit the Search Institute website. Just click HERE. And also watch the video below on the power of the 40 Developmental Assets:


Potty wars! Your weapons should be patience and compassion. #pottytraining

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




A little help can avoid a big problem … #teachyourkids

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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,




Public School vs Charter School, which one is the best for my child?

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.

In 2006 and 2007 I worked as a soccer coach at a charter high school in Los Angeles and I could learn a little bit about the way they operate and more importantly, the type of education they provide.

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.





Charter schools pros & cons:

The NY Daily News | The charter school problem:

Wikipedia | Charter Schools:

Private Schools vs Public Schools |


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.

Don’t drug me, dad!

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.

Wow, I thought. A medication that turns hyperactive kids into zombies.Later I found out about cases in which kids died as a result of years of use of ritalin.

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,


Back to School Shopping Made Easier

Back to school shopping can be a great way to help your child learn about responsible finances. You (and your significant other) work hard to provide your kids with all they need to succeed in school but sometimes they seem not to understand that having a Justin Bieber notebook won’t make them learn more. On the other hand we might be the ones forgetting that going to school is not only about learning math, science or English, it’s also about socializing and maybe that Justin Bieber notebook could mean the difference between cool and uncool.

A quick “save on school supplies” Google search will bring up a lot of results and it might be overwhelming to decide which advice to listen to. I did that for you and found a blog with very clear and useful tips to make the school supplies shopping experience much easier. The blog is called Organized Home and you can read the article about school supplies shopping tips RIGHT HERE.

A couple of points that I found more interesting about it were:

  • Find out what you already have: make an inventory of  what you have left from the previous school year and put it all in boxes. You will normally find that out that you have pencils, pens, pencil sharpeners, erasers, rulers and maybe even notebooks that can still be used.
  • Make a list of what you REALLY need before you go shopping.
  • Buy early but don’t buy everything at once. Some items such as markers, crayons, glue, etc… are marked down at the end of summer. So be patient and make sure to stop by the stores once in a while just to check.
  • Use and abuse of discount coupons. I found this website with a lot of Target coupons for back to school shopping. CHECK IT OUT.
  • Take your kids with you. Now you might be thinking – “This guy is insane! My kids will ask for every single expensive item in the store!” I know that, and you are absolutely right. But that’s also an incredible opportunity to teach kids a little bit about home economy and financial planning.

That’s not only my opinion. The post at the Organized Home blog  suggests that. Well, I, myself, wouldn’t really know much about this experience in the flesh because Lucas is still a couple of years away from going to kindergarten but in my experience as a teacher I tend to agree when the blog says that you can do some horsetrading with your kids. If they insist on that Justin Bieber notebook remind them that they can get the notebook but they’ll have to get a simpler pencil case. Negotiation skills come in hand here. Be firm but be fair!

I’d suggest giving them their own budget (make it age appropriate) and letting them decide how they want to manage it. You can give suggestions, help them compare prices and products and I’m sure that if you keep your patience you and your kids can enjoy this experience together.

I really wanted to hear from other dads that already went through the school supplies shopping experience and how they dealt with it. What worked and what didn’t. Share your experiences. You can write it in the comments section bellow or send me an e-mail at

Have a great weekend,


To leash or not to leash this is the question

I’m sure I’m about to talk about a very touchy subject here. I’ll try my best to be fair in my opinion on using a leash to walk kids around. But to make things clear from the get go I need to tell you all that long before Lucas was born I have told my wife that no matter how active he turned out to be I would never have him on a kiddy leash. So there you have my personal position on the theme.

However I’m not here to say that my parental decision is the best one for you. As a dad you’re free to make the choices you feel will suit your children and your family.

These kiddy leashes are normally advertised as “child safety harness”, “stay-close harness”, “safety strap”, “mommy’s helper kid keeper” and I have to say that they do work. They serve their purpose of keeping the child close to you by limiting how far the little one can go. If they try to run to the streets and get to close to any other dangerous spot you can just give the strap a little tug and the problem is solved.

If you’re a parent with a mobility limitation, something that prevents you from being able to outrun your super active 4-year old I can understand why and how the kiddy leash could provide you with some peace of mind. If it’s because you have 5 kids and this way you can maintain a better control of the situation at an amusement park then although understanding your point I have to say that I completely disagree.

I have worked as a summer camp counselor for many years and had as many as 15 kids under my supervision (with ages varying from 5 to 10) overly excited at Six Flags field trips. So believe me, with a little bit of patience, time dedication and support your kids can be trained (without any leash) to walk around freely and stay under control.

What bothers me the most about the harnesses on kids is the psychological effect that this could have later on the child’s life. This leash thing is something relatively new so we still don’t know how these 3, 4, 5-year olds will deal with this later in their lives.

The pictures on this post bother me a lot. But I had to put them here not only to illustrate the post but also to show that using a leash is more common than not. It was very easy to find tons of pictures. And even the image taken from “The Simpsons” implies that a large number of people condemn the use of the leashes. However during my research I landed on a website that had a poll asking the readers if they thought that the kiddy leashes were “OK” or “NOT OK” and to my surprise, out of the 472 votes 54% voted “OK”.  (see pic bellow)

What do you think? What’s your opinion on this controversial topic? Let me know in the comments bellow or send me an e-mail



Give your kid the gift of music

About 500 thousand people already watched the cute video of 24-year old Jorge Narvaez and his 6-year old daughter Alexa singing “home” by Edward Sharpe. The video is 6 months old so it’s not an internet novelty anymore. However it’s always admirable when a dad enjoys sharing his music with his kids. Music can create bonds and memories. You don’t need to be a great singer or play any instrument. You can just put a CD on and sing along, pick a song and sing and dance with your child. Have fun.

Another great way to develop your child’s interest in music is having them play an instrument. No, I’m not talking about giving a 2-year old a guitar or a drum set and make them practice until they become a rock star. I mean just get some pots and pans and have them bang on it. Or play some air guitar, as pretending and using your imagination is always a great experience for your child. But if you do have a real instrument, let your kid touch it, feel it. Let the make some sounds, teach them how it works and let them explore. It’s also a good opportunity to teach them how to be careful (you don’t want your child destroying your precious Les Paul).

If your child is not so much of a child anymore and has his/her own musical choices now you should try to get to know what he’s listening to these days but without any judgement (I know it’s hard sometimes). Then talk about new and old music, ask questions and give your child the chance to express his opinion too. Maybe you’ll find some tunes that you like in common.

Oh and here is the video I mention in the beginning of this post.

Keep music alive in your house. Make it fun for everyone and go with the flow.



Don’t mistake fear for respect (and vice-versa)

I’m still astonished with the story of the 13-year old Christian Choate from lake County, Indiana. His body was found cemented and buried in a shallow grave. His father and stepmother accused of beating him frequently, abusing him psychologically and keeping him locked in a cage deprived of food and water for long periods of time. I don’t want to go further describing the horrors of this story but you can read it all at

I just brought this up to illustrate how much damaged children can suffer if we all don’t understand the difference between respect and fear; discipline and cruelty. I’m all in favor of disciplining kids from an early age. That means, teaching them to make wise choices and holding them accountable for consciously misbehaving.

Even though I’m the male parental unit of our home (aka the dad) I think that Suppernanny TV show is a good example on effective “discipline training” kids. The whole idea of house rules and consequences for breaking them, age appropriate time-outs and positive reinforcement seemed to have worked with many of the children on the show and it works for me, my wife and my son too.

The main tip I can give a father is: don’t use excessive “force” of any form. That goes for yelling or physical punishment. I’m not 100% against some sort of physical punishment. I remember giving Lucas a little slap on his hand when he first attempted to stick his tiny 8-month old chubby finger in the electric outlet. The slap was not hard at all and it came accompanied by a firm and direct NO!

Lucas never played with the outlets again and we never even had to use those little covers. Anyway, remember to be consistent when disciplining your child. Give a clear warning and make sure to ask them if they understood the warning and the consequence. If they insist on breaking the rule don’t give them extra-chances. Explain that they broke the rule and give them the punishment. And DO NOT LET THEM OFF THE HOOK. They need to take the punishment until the end. That’s why age appropriate time-outs and punishments are necessary.

But stay in control, keep your cool. Think that you’re the boss but a fair one. Think about the boss you’d like to have at work. Someone who is firm, but also just. You, dad, more than anyone else can help build your child’s character. This is probably the job you most want to succeed in.

If you have any further questions and if you want to share any other suggestion please leave a comment or email me at

Cheers and for those in the USA, Happy 4th of July.


Is your kid reading yet?

If your child is at least 5 years of age or older you will probably be answering yes to the title question. No big deal. However, more often than not I hear moms asking each other this question in playgrounds everywhere. Here is the stereotype: She will have some fancy huge sunglasses on, a Starbucks cup on one hand and her smartphone on the other. Sounds familiar?

I rarely see dads doing this. When I go to the park with my 3 year old I try to focus on watching him, playing with him or if he’s safe and interacting with the other kids I may or may not chat with some other parents.

Chatting with other dads is fun. We talk about how cool and how hard it is to raise kids, how much fun we have with our children, then we talk about sports, work, economy, etc… but when talking with moms you may come across the type I mention above. She will use any opportunity she can to let you know her 2-year old is a math genius because he knows how to count to 20 since he was 18 months old. That without saying that she believes her 4 year old daughter will become the next Shakespeare because she’s already reading full 30-page books and writing her own name. Wow!

As a dad I normally like to focus on who my child is as a person and not on what he can do. Yes, like every parent I also think my kid is a smart little boy but more importantly I like to tell how caring he is, how gentle he’s towards other kids and that he says “hi” and “thank you” to everyone he meets.

If you choose to put your kids through the school system they will eventually read, write, learn math, science and play sports but moral values such as being considerate, respectful, honest, polite and humble must be taught at home.

If you are a dad and you happen to be listening to one of these moms bragging about their kids try to think about the qualities your child has as a person. Or you can also bring to the picture some of the flaws of your child. That will disarm the bragger immediately. Imagine the conversation:

YOU: They grow so fast uh? Soon they will be going to school.

Bragging Mom: “I knoooooow… But I know my princess will be amazing in school, OMG my daughter is only 3 and a half and she’s already reading, can you believe that?”

YOU: “Wow, that’s great for her. My son has just turned 3 and he’s super clumsy. He can’t even kick a soccer ball without tripping on himself. But he’s very gentle and loves to give hugs.”

Bragging Mom: “… … … Crazy weather, uh?”