Pressure Cooker

How many dads out there are old enough to remember what a pressure cooker is? We don’t mean your workplace, although that may describe your office to a T. We mean the kitchen appliance that mom used to use to cook roasts and other homemade delicacies. A pressure cooker is a kitchen apparatus that uses intense heat in a confined space for cooking food. The heavy steel container has a lid that seals tightly. There is a metal gauge on top of the lid. When the heat builds to a certain level, the only way for the hot air inside to escape is through a small opening on the gauge. When that happens, the gauge shakes, rattles, dances in circles and emits a hissing sound. The pressure cooker has blown its top! At least, that’s how we remember it.

Sound familiar?

Dad, have you said any of the following pressure-cooker statements to your teenagers?

  • How can you expect to win first place with that kind of attitude?
  • Is that really the best you can do?
  • If you can get a 3.8 grade point average, then you can get a 4.0!
  • If I can do it, then certainly you can do it.
  • Don’t mess up—everyone’s watching you.
  • Bring home that trophy!
  • I expected a lot more from you.

At first glance most of these statements seem OK, constructive and instructive. We parents use some variation of them, as do coaches, counselors, teachers, and employers. We’ve all used them. It’s part of living and surviving in a competitive society. It’s part of our drive for excellence. Go! Fight! Win!

What behind the push?

It also explains the stress, sometimes unwarranted and unreasonable, that we parents place on our kids. As dads, as parents, we should ask ourselves: What’s my motivation for exerting pressure on my son or daughter? Do I have his or her best interests at heart? Or am I trying to fill a void in my own life? Am I mindful of the fact that my teenager is already putting immense pressure on him/herself in order to find acceptance and belong?

Push with finesse

Pressure isn’t necessarily bad. Occasionally we all need a nudge to keep us on our toes — from being too satisfied with where we are. It helps us to look forward so that we can advance and improve and achieve in a smart way. This is where finessecomes into play. Parents, teachers, coaches, counselors—all of us are supposed to apply just enough pressure to challenge our kids to stretch. But there’s a limit. As adults and as mentors, we need to handle with care and know when pressure may become destructive.

Let’s teach our kids to stretch, to reach beyond their grasp. That’s the way they grow. Let’s also recognize their limitations. Unreasonable expectations—pressure without finesse—are just a lot of hot air.

By dads2dads

Teen Brain

Being a father of teens is an exasperating, patience-stretching, bewildering, scary experience.  Our teens are often perplexing, sometimes worrisome, and frequently unpredictable. Often, we dads will find ourselves saying, “What were you thinking?!” meaning, “You weren’t!” We can’t understand why teens make the decisions they do or act in such risky and uncertain ways.

Teen Brain Imagery

A fascinating article in the National Geographic provides some insight. Technology has now shown us a window into the teen brain. Imagery has illustrated how our brain takes much longer to develop than we had ever thought. It turns out that the brain reaches 90 percent of its potential by the age of six, and it spends adolescence reorganizing, making new pathways, integrating experience and decision making, and just generally becoming quicker and more efficient.

Why They Do What They Do

Through brain imaging, scientists have discovered that there is a physical reason why our sons and daughters act as they do. They are works in progress. It is important to remember this when we are wondering why they frequently forget to pick up their dishes, drive in neutral down a steep hill at night with their lights off, eat nothing but cabbage soup and grapefruit for two weeks, or date the boy who brags that he’s bedded every candidate for homecoming queen. It’s “immature brains.”

But looking more deeply, it turns out that adolescence, often seen as a period of self-centeredness, angst and impulsiveness, is also a period of adaptation. Where we see trouble, scientists are beginning to see children building the skills necessary for a successful life.

The Risky Teen

Teens take risks. We frequently describe it as … stupidity. Again, we wonder, “What were you thinking?!” But according to recent research, teens view risk differently than adults. Risky behavior usually reaches its pinnacle in the mid-teen years. It is driven by the value teens place on reward. Experiments have shown that when the reward is high or when peers are present and acceptance or rejection is close at hand, teens engage in greater risk. Social rejection is a threat to your teen’s existence. S/He places a great value on being accepted by peers.

So the next time your teen does something you judge as foolish, bone-headed or risky, try to remember that s/he is trying to successfully move into the larger world, outside your safe and comfortable home. Your teen is building successful life skills, learning to be more adaptive, reaching out and making connections.

Your teen’s quest is to become more socially comfortable, overcome challenges and thrive in new environments. Indeed there is a purpose behind what teenagers do. It is important to understand that. However, it remains our job, both dad and mom, to provide the structure and guidance to help teens get to that larger world in a safe manner.

By dads2dads


Remember the “Occupy” movement — an overall rejection of greed in financial institutions, unfairness in pay and work, and self-interest in politics?

Same Old Same Old

From New York to Berkeley and in many cities in between, citizens demanded that their leadership (we used to call it “the establishment”) be more accountable, responsible, honest and altruistic. People grew tired of what they sensed was the same old rhetoric that spilled onto a teleprompter and out of the mouths of well-rehearsed and programmed politicians and advertisers and marketers.  Must we forever be subjected to the hackneyed promises that things will get better if only we give “our plan” a chance? How long do we wait for our elected officials to work together for the benefit of the people they serve? Isn’t there a better way?

The Great Divide

While many Americans are still waiting patiently for things to get better, the wealthy are getting wealthier, venerable institutions—banks, government and even universities—are showing signs of insensitivity, callousness, poor judgment, and formerly respected leaders are proving to be fallible or incompetent. Americans declare that they are growing tired and weary of business as usual. They not only want change—they demand a complete transformation in the way people relate to one another, personally and professionally.

Where this will end up, we’re not sure. While the “occupy” enclaves have been dismantled, the anger remains, the feeling of unfairness is palpable, and the desire for change is real.

Family Values

Another venerable institution we know something about is the family. Many people believe the family unit is not only following the other institutions down the tubes but is leading the way. Half of marriages end in divorce. Too many children are being raised in one-parent homes. Too often, kids are left alone between school and dinner. Too frequently, children exist in uncertain, unpredictable environments.

Unlike financial institutions and corporations, the solidarity of your family foundation is in your hands. We can make our family stronger. We can set the ground rules and create an environment where both freedom and responsibility reign, where fairness is balanced with discretion and compromise, where kids feel valued, listen to and care for others, and learn to think for themselves

Occupy Your Teens

It’s time to start an “occupy” movement at home. Choose to become a larger part of your teenager’s life. Stand for values and high expectations. Voice your concern for their welfare. Stage a sit-in around the dinner table and talk about an issue, a school assignment, a personal interest. Declare one night a week as a time to listen to each other’s concerns. Be an example to your children.


By dads2dads

Trust is Everything

Tom remembers that day long ago when the family went to a park. He climbed aboard a swing, put his older daughter, then about 4 or 5 years old, on his lap, and soon they were soaring through the air. Suddenly, the chain broke on the swing.  Tom clutched his little girl as they collided with the ground, with dad serving as shock absorber. He remembers clearly his daughter, more scared than hurt, looking into his face with tears streaming down her face and screaming, “Daddy, how could you do that!” An accident, yes. Still, Tom had betrayed her trust.

That same daughter was petrified of jumping into the swimming pool. Teaching her how to swim tested the patience and nerves of both mom and dad. Tom stood in the shallow end of the pool, arms outstretched, beckoning his little girl to jump. Instead, she stood on the side of the pool frozen in fear, convinced that if she jumped in, dad would drown her. It took weeks of coaxing to build that trust. (Interestingly enough, that same daughter took SCUBA lessons years later and became certified.)

We Are the Trustees

Our children have very little choice but to trust us. They invest their total feeling of security in us. There is no one else in the world to whom they turn for complete safety and assurance than to mom and dad. That’s why it’s so devastating when the swing breaks. In spite of the fact that dad held her tightly and all was right with the world, she crashed to the ground. And she let dad know that he let her down—and not so gently.

Our teenagers trust us, too. Yes indeed, they grow too big for their britches (Tom’s teacher once said that about him. What the heck does that mean?) They get mouthier, don’t listen, know absolutely everything, and they want to be left alone. Yet, despite the fact that most teenagers don’t trust many grown-ups, their trust in Mom and Dad remains as strong as it is silent. Grownups must back up that trust by being there for their youngsters—holding on tight, standing up, running interference, protecting—and they must do all of those things while letting go. Hold tight and let go. Some assignment, eh? 

Broken Trust Breaks Everything

Today’s news is a sad commentary on trust. Without going into specific examples or speculating on the guilt or innocence of anyone, it’s accurate to say that grown-ups don’t always come through for kids. We let them down. We turn a blind eye to them when we should be standing up, running interference, protecting.  The tragedy in these incidents is that a deep trust in someone who represented unquestionable safety and security may have been shattered. No one knows if that kind of unwavering trust—trust in anyone—can ever be fully repaired and restored.

Kids of all ages need grown-ups they can trust completely and unconditionally.


By dads2dads

The Spousal Connection

We hear from dads who feel they are doing all the right things but still struggle to connect with their teen. They wonder why there is a short circuit in the connection. We usually deal with ways dads can bridge that gap, open a dialogue, set an example or resolve an issue with their teen. But how about you married dads and your relationship with your spouse?

One of the most important aspects of being an effective father is being a good husband. Your relationship with your wife is the most influential model for your teenager. Yes indeed, men are from Mars and women are from Venus. However, we believe that you, as mere earthlings, can create a strong relationship with your spouse by following some important guidelines.

Making The Connection

Love. Dad, you need to express it not only through words but actions. Compliment her. Fix a dinner or take her out for a meal. Clean the bathroom. Wash the dishes. Iron your shirt. Do the laundry (well, maybe skip her stuff. We’ve had some issues with that!). We work hard to attract, impress and keep the attention of someone we’re interested in. We often forget that part of the relationship when we get married. It remains important. And your kids are watching.

Listen. Often we guys are incomplete listeners. We hear a voice but we don’t pay enough attention to the details. We’re oblivious to the feeling behind the content. Ask for clarification if you’re unsure of something she’s said. Repeat what you hear so she knows you’re getting it. Your kids are listening.

Look. Be aware of what’s going on in your home and in your relationship. Be sensitive to her mood, her worries, the strain of her work, possible frictions with your daughter or son. Watch for things that need to be done around the house and do them. Your kids are observing.

Light. Be a light in her life. Your positive attitude and pleasant demeanor can go a long way to ease the tension or worry that she may be experiencing. Use humor (not sarcasm!) when it’s appropriate. Assure your mate that you will work with her to handle any concern. Your kids are learning from you.

Link. You and your spouse should be on the same team. This is important since teens sometimes try to divide and conquer. Adults who talk with each other about the expectations and limitations they see for their children are in a stronger position to parent effectively. And your kids’ values grow stronger.

A good relationship between mom and dad makes for better parents. When you nurture each other, understand one another’s needs, balance the workload and clarify the parameters and approaches you see for your teen, success is more achievable.

Your kids couldn’t ask for a better model app.


By dads2dads

Perception Is Indeed Reality

When teens speak and act they send signals. From these signals, people draw conclusions, perceptions about who you are. These perceptions, formed by people your teen may never know, will stick like glue!

I Don’t Know You … and I Already Know You

Perceptions lead to judgments. We all do it. We judge people by appearances, by what they say and how they say it, by how they carry themselves, how they dress, sit, eat, laugh, and talk. We don’t have to know someone to judge and form an opinion. We’re experts at it. Is it fair? Perhaps not. But we think about others according to how we perceive them. Your teen may be a wonderful person, but that nose ring can be a turnoff.

Even Before You Open Your Mouth

A potential employer interviewing your teenage son will be influenced by how he sits in the waiting room even before greetings are made and handshakes are exchanged. If he is slouched in his chair or resting his face in his hand or biting his fingernails, an employer may not be thinking kind and generous thoughts. If your daughter’s hair is hanging in her eyes and she’s dressed for a night at the club, a potential employer may not be impressed. If she’s barely articulating her words because her gum is getting in the way, she will not make the short list.

If your son uses a double negative or punctuates every word with a sniff or starts every sentence with the prefix “uh,” …  the, uh, interview will, sniff, be, uh, brief. If your daughter shifts or rocks nervously in her chair, accompanies every shift or rock with a giggle, her competitive edge will be seriously dulled.

If your son’s resume contains misspellings, he might as well keep filling out job applications. He’s fired before he’s hired.

If your daughter sports a tattoo or a purple swath of hair, she’ll have to work to wow in every other category in order to be taken seriously.

It’s Not Fair—and It’s Not Relevant

Nope, it truly isn’t fair. These other people don’t know your teen. Plus isn’t it content rather than impression that counts? Yes, but perception comes before content and makes it hard to overcome. That is why you want image working in your favor. Whether it’s a prospective employer, a new teacher or a potential date’s parent, your first impression may be the only impression.

Teach your teen that as soon as she or he climbs out of bed in the morning, the perception machine shifts into high gear. No, it’s not fair but paying positive attention to perception will make it easier for others to see the good qualities that make your teen terrific.

By dads2dads

Teens and Money

National Public Radio spent a week a while back talking about the relationship between young people and money. They cited a poll by a financial education group that said 70 percent of teens indicate that their parents are the most important influence on their spending habits.

What are you teaching your kids about money, particularly now that so many families are struggling?

Key Issues

The following are some of the important points brought out in the discussion:

  • Teach kids early.
  • Include them in discussions and give them a voice.
  • Don’t give in to every advertising influence. Delay gratification. This skill produces greater success in life.
  • Every penny ought to have a purpose.
  • Kids want structure even though we and they think they don’t.
  • Credit card use can be dangerous.
  • Teach children that they are valuable because of who they are, not what they have.
  • Don’t pay for basic chores or good grades. Those are part of being diligent and responsible. Pay for special work or major projects.
  • Children live what they learn. They are watching you whether you know it or not.
  • Share your values and teach your children to follow them. Their use of money will begin to reflect those values.
  • Nobody has or needs everything. We should make wise and healthy choices.

 They’re Comfy When You’re Paying the Bills

It is important to have your values reflected in what you teach your kids about money. Those lessons should begin early. Your teenagers develop pride by doing things themselves, and they grow when they’re not smothered in stuff. Money and possessions don’t provide much lasting happiness. Placing value in doing for others makes for success.

Teach your child to be self-reliant. Life is comfy-cozy when kids live at home. Food, shelter and other resources are plentiful and easily accessible. But eventually kids have to rely on their own wits and wisdom. Help your teen understand and be prepared for that transition. At their age they’re targets for comfy and cozy credit card pitches. But plastic cash can lead to disaster.

Freedom Isn’t Free

Administer a dose of reality. If your child is old enough to drive, he or she is old enough to buy gas. That’s a crash course (no pun intended) in understanding the difference between subsidized living and independent life.

For teens who go off to college and spread their wings, this is Economics 101. Whoopee, I’m free! Whoopee indeed. You want freedom? Freedom in any form isn’t free.

In this day and age, all of us need a good lesson in economics. We’re suffering from a mishandling and misunderstanding of money, credit and debt. Our legacy to our kids, therefore, should be honesty and clarity about money. Mom and Dad need to set the standard. Yes, Virginia, there is a real cost of living—and that can best be managed by using the “pay-as-you-go” plan.


By dads2dads

Fads, Fashion, and Frustration

In conversation one exasperated Dad shared his dismay, disappointment and embarrassment all at the same time. His daughter, a high school freshman, decided to wear a tank top to school that left little to the imagination. Dad sent her back to her bedroom three times before the daughter decided to cover up.

“I know what guys think when they see a girl’s bra spilling out,” Dad groans. “My daughter’s underwear is staying where it should be—under!”

The Long and the Short of It

Tom recalls those shorter than short skirts that his daughters used to wear to school. Where in the world did they buy those swatches that passed for clothing? Were those apparel stores legitimate? Even legal? But Tom knew also that every girl in school was wearing them that short. And yes indeed, the length was apparently just within the parameters of an arm’s length, which was the rule of the day. So why were his daughters’ arms so short!

Teenagers want to do their own thing and fit in. (An oxymoron if there ever was one!) Without firm guidance at home, they’re going to follow the trends, fads and fashions as dictated by two tough adversaries—pop media and advertising. As a result, the battles that ensue at home can be fierce.

Dads finally discover that they have to choose those battles carefully. At some point in their teen years, your kids are going to be captivated by Kim, Beyonce, Hilary, Selena and Britney. They will also view Mom and Dad as just plain old, out of step and you gotta be kiddin’!


When it comes to imparting values, it is essential that parents start early. Kids need to know how you feel about certain big issues like honesty, work, loyalty, love, compassion, charity, humility, patience and, yes, morality and sexuality. They learn best by watching you.

What you do is much more important than what you say. Parents need to let their expectations be known, model those expectations and make them stick. As kids get older, they develop their own code of behavior, but the early attention you give to their development increases the chance that their code will be similar to yours. 

Critical Thinking

As kids grow, it is important to help them develop their skills and to critically review situations. Ask questions that encourage them to think about what they have experienced. “How did you feel about that?” “When have you had an experience like that?” “If you were that person, what would you have done?” “How could you have handled that more successfully?”

Helping your son or daughter to analyze and apply information wisely teaches your teen to develop clear thoughts, consider what is heard and read, be inquisitive, develop good thinking skills and understand values, limits and how he or she relates to a larger world.

By dads2dads

Making Decisions

The teenage years present opportunities that are particularly challenging. How do we dads teach the skills to make good decisions? Regardless of the circumstances, the influences or the feel of the moment, how do we prepare our kids to come up with the “right” choice when they face a challenging situation with a variety of options—and consequences?

The Challenges of Teenhood

Teens are faced with countless new challenges. Who should they befriend? How should they spend their money? Should they get a job? Should they study hard or cheat on the test? They also face difficult issues such as conflict, faith, bravery, humility, morality and sexuality.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse notes (2017) that over 60%  of students have consumed alcohol by the end of high school. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports (2017)  that 40% of high school students have had sexual intercourse.

Many of our sons and daughters move out after high school and live in a college dorm or apartment. The challenges only become more complex. How do we feel about the possible choices they will face and how do we make sure our kids are prepared to make good decisions? We can’t put a protective shield over them. We have to teach our kids good decision-making by example. We also have to drive home the point that there can be devastating consequences as the result of a bad decision. If we have appropriate, personal examples of the latter to share with them, we should.

Fostering Direction

Know that you play an important role. Regardless of what you think, the actions you take, the attitudes you adopt, and the problem-solving methods you employ serve as a huge example.

Be an example. You’ve acquired a lot of experience and hopefully some wisdom. You can take those occasional opportunities that arise to impart some of that wisdom to your kids. Give them something to emulate.

Always be there. Establish a good relationship by your presence, your willingness to listen, and your respect for your child. 

Be proactive. Step in when it is appropriate. While this can easily be overdone, it is important to know when to gently take an active role and prevent bad decisions from becoming worse.

Rehearse situations. If your son or daughter is going out on a date, listen to his or her feelings and excitement. Together create options for addressing potential concerns.

Teach consequences of decisions. Make sure your teen knows s/he is responsible for individual actions taken or not taken. Actions do have consequences, and teens need to experience the result of theirs.

Don’t overprescribe. Let your teen assume more responsibility as decision making gets better. This shows respect and builds trust.

Cornell University has an excellent report entitled, “Adolescent and Risk: Helping Young People Make Better Choices,” that provides good advice. It is available on the web at

As the report says, poor choices can have terrible consequences. Make sure you help your child build the capacity to make the best choices now.

By dads2dads

Listen Up

Sometimes we dads aren’t too good at listening. It requires us to stop talking. We have to:  (A) put on hold the brilliant comment we were about to make; (B) stop thinking about a clever response; (C) stop thinking of ourselves, and (D) give up control or at least the appearance of being in charge.

Easier to talk

Sometimes we’re the worst teachers of the art of listening. We delight in having all faces turned toward us as our coworkers, family members and friends, thirsty for knowledge, drink in our wisdom. The reason why we dads talk more than we listen is because real listening takes work, concentration.  It’s easier to talk.

Imagine how much we would learn about the world around us and our kids, especially, if we focused on what they said as intently as we zero in on the 4th-down-and-a-yard-to-go drama on our 75-inch TV. What might we learn about our teenager if we pretended that he or she were sitting atop a golf tee and we really wanted to connect! What if we turned off our minds and stopped thinking about tomorrow’s task, the weekend trip or the neighbor’s new Lexus and gave our complete attention to what was being said to us at that moment?

Listening is good for you

Wilson Mizner, an American dramatist, once said, “A good listener is not only popular everywhere, but after a while he knows something.”

Dad, your work is cut out for you. We’re not sure it can be done but sometimes you need to keep quiet. Listen to your teenager and teach him or her, by example, how to be a good listener. We all want to be listened to. But how often are we? How many times do you look your kid in the eye and demand, “Now you listen to me!” How is your offspring supposed to tune in when you yourself haven’t been the best role model of good listening? Teens don’t listen effectively when they’re being shouted at. No-one does. Think of a boss you’ve had sometime in your life who was shouting at you. It was hard to listen wasn’t it?

OK, just because we write this column doesn’t mean we’re experts on this subject. After all, we’re guys. We like to be in control. We hold the TV remote close to our hearts. We insist on driving to anywhere.  We prefer to screw up whatever it is—and then decide what repairman to call. We’d rather get lost than ask for directions. We admit it. It’s worse than a disease. It’s genetic.

Yet, the only hope for teaching our teenagers to listen and learn is to dig deep and practice what we preach. So here’s a tip from a couple of non-experts: Don’t wait for your teenager to have nothing to say to you because he or she is grown and gone. Treat each day that you’re with your teen as a privilege. Listen. You may hear something new.

By dads2dads

The Power of Nice

Be A Carrier of Kindness

A father recently wrote: “Dear Dads, I was in the grocery store and asked a ‘sales associate’ where I could find something and all I got was a shrug. I went to check out. The person at the register carried on a conversation with the bagger the whole time about how she had to work a double shift, got stood-up at the ballgame and couldn’t wait to get off work. These two ‘public servants’ hardly knew I was there. I was tempted to say something nasty, but my teenage son was with me. Which would have been the better example to set for my son— share a piece of my mind or to keep quiet?”

Standing Up vs. Standing Down

We dads have tender egos. Our self-image gets pricked when we aren’t treated well. In this case, Dad was not receiving the service he thought he deserved. He felt ignored, unimportant and unappreciated. Sometimes we blow things way out of proportion. When confronted with a similar incident, we need to step back, remove our personal feelings from the mix and make sure our response is appropriate.

In this case, Dad doesn’t want to endorse bad behavior and feels slighted at how he was treated. At the same time, he wants to be reasonable and model mature behavior for his son. Dad could ignore the bad behavior, complain to the manager, or scream at everyone. We all carry around a bucket full of slights, difficulties and hardships. Sometimes our reaction depends on how good we feel about ourselves or how full our bucket is.

The Power of Nice

Often it is more important to teach our children a good lesson about behavior than it is to make a point because we feel ill-treated. We want to interact with individuals who treat us well and often we can serve as the best example by taking the kindest route.

Two books come to mind that outline the importance of kindness in the workplace: The Power of Niceby Thaler & Koval and The Kindness Revolutionby Horrell. As Thaler & Koval say in their book:

“It is often the small kindnesses—the smiles, gestures, compliments, favors—that make our day and can even change our lives. Whether you are leading your own company, running for president of the PTA, or just trying to conduct a civil conversation with your teenage daughter, the power of nice will help you break through the misconceptions that keep you from achieving your goals. The power of nice will help you to open doors, improve your relationships at work and at home, and let you sleep a whole lot better. Nice not only finishes first; those who use its nurturing power wind up happier, to boot!”


By dads2dads

Driving Me Mad

According to a recent survey by Liberty Mutual Insurance and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), 68% of teens have had a near crash and more than half of those surveyed have experienced more than one close call.

Starting Off

Bill remembers when his youngest son took the wheel for the first time. They made it through some local streets and drove back into their driveway. Bill went to get his wife who recalls seeing their son at the wheel of their family sedan and thinking it was like a scene from outer space. She knew their son would need to drive at some point but she had a hard time adjusting to the vision of her youngest son sitting at the wheel of an automobile. It just didn’t compute.

Tom recalls vividly the jolting experience that made him realize he and his wife had entered the “auto zone” with their daughters. Both had accidents … one week apart. Both rear-ended someone else … one week apart. Tom had anxiety attacks … one week apart and beyond. Yet, how fortunate they were that there were no injuries in either incident (except Dad’s internal trauma).

The driving experience

Driving is dangerous. Teens are four times more likely to get into accidents than older drivers. Nearly a quarter of the time, distracted driving is the cause.

In 2009, 3,000 teens died in car accidents and 350,000 were injured, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Not only does your teen have to master the rules of the road and coordinate the view with the operation of the vehicle and those rules, but he or she must watch for all the other crazy drivers on the road and anticipate what they might do, not to mention pedestrians.

Preparing your teen

What can we do to prepare our kids for the risks of the road?

Explain the operation of the vehicle.

Review, talk about and test the rules of the road with your teen.

There will be peer pressure to drive. Wait until your teen is ready. Don’t rush.

Give your teen experience driving in a variety of settings. Experience builds confidence.

Praise specific good driving habits and correct poor ones.

Stay calm.

You can instruct your teen on safe driving, but ultimately it is up to your son or daughter to obey the laws of the road and your rules. You provide the instruction and the experience, but they are on their own (although there are now mobile apps that monitor the driving experience of your teen and where the vehicle is traveling).  Teach your teen the necessary skills. Require lots of practice. And don’t release your teen until you are comfortable with the skills and ability to use good judgment. It’s a matter of life and death.

What model do you drive? Dad, your answer needs to be … a good one.

By dads2dads

Teens Need Structure

If your teen is challenging your authority, rebelling against the classroom teacher, pushing the limits of your curfew, or talking back, s/he may be craving structure.

Huh? Come again?

While it may seem counterintuitive, teens who work against the structure of their world (and most do) — the rules at home, the policies at school, the status quo – are actually longing for structure. We’ve seen enough examples of teens who have little structure and the chaos that ensues that we can say this with some authority, as crazy as it may sound.

Chaos – the opposite of structure

Many parents are tempted to use force or loosen the limits when they have struggles with their teen. They may raise their voice or raise their hand. Or they may cut out curfew, dis the dinner hour, or give up on grades as requirements for teen behavior.

Neither of these approaches is effective. We have talked before about giving teens more responsibility as they earn it. Neither clamping down nor dropping expectations works in the long run. In fact these responses often result in more resistance, acting out, and general difficulty.

Teens will normally rebel. It’s in their nature. The existence of a clear structure allows them to do this in a safe and secure way.

How to establish structure

Teens live in a world of structure. It is essential for smooth operations. Their school, sports team, club, etc., all have rules they must obey. What makes the home situation special is that you can develop some of the structure with them and they can have a say when they feel something needs to be changed.

Structure consists of expectations that are fairly developed, clearly communicated, and consistently applied. This is not done by force. Rather it is accomplished in a calm manner so that teens know what the expectations are, why they have been developed, and what consequences will befall them if they don’t comply. A key ingredient in developing successful structure is to be clear in explaining expectations and reasonable in responding to questions or concerns raised by your teen.

Moving forward

As we said, teens will rebel against structure. It is part of the growing process. We need to give them something to rebel against. At the same time teens need to have the opportunity to make their case. If the request to change an expectation seems reasonable, we need to be responsive to that request. In this way your teen can see that a reasonable argument, delivered in a calm manner, will receive a considered review and that, in this way, your teen can affect the structure by which s/he is judged.

Teens are learning how to operate in the adult world. Creating a reasonable structure for them, one that moderates as they mature and one that is responsive to their needs & requests, helps them to move into successful adulthood.

By dads2dads

Second Fiddle

A famous conductor once commented that playing second violin is the most difficult instrument to play. Everyone wants to be first violin—no one wants to be “second fiddle.”

That’s probably true for all of us. But let’s face it. Being a teenager is tough enough. The exterior often exudes confidence, while the interior is a circuit box of uncertainty and insecurity. It’s a fact of life, but still not a pleasant reality, that your teenager, no matter how hard he or she tries, will hear “almost,” “not quite,” “try again” or “sorry, not good enough.”

Thick skin

Mom, Dad, you’ve been there. You’ve experienced occasional disappointment after investing a lot of years in striving for success. Because you’ve developed a thick skin from the wear and tear of life experiences, you bounce back and keep on keeping on. Your teenager, however, is just starting that long journey of discovery. Rejection is hard to take, especially for teenagers who have a hard time separating one aspect of themselves from their whole selves. Often when teenagers fail at something, their entire personal software temporarily logs out.

Screen door on a submarine

That’s when you need to step forward and share a time in your own life when you played the role of second banana or fifth wheel—or felt about as useful as a screen door on a submarine. Tell your teenager the story of when you auditioned for the musical or tried out for the team and didn’t make it—and ended up an understudy or bench warmer. Point out that you survived to audition another day. Life didn’t end. In fact, it’s possible that when a door shut in your face, another door opened that introduced you to a smorgasbord of new opportunities.

The best second fiddle of all

Share those temporary setbacks with your teenagers. And follow them up with stories of perseverance, survival and triumph. As parents, we can’t audition for our kids. We can’t save them from falling on their faces. We can’t and shouldn’t fight their every fight. However, we can teach them that (1) someone has to play second violin; (2) every instrument is an integral part of the orchestra; and (3) second chair violin can lead to first chair violin with hard work and determination. For you Thespians, you’ve heard the adage, “There are no small parts, just small actors.” (That’s still tough to swallow.)

Has there ever been a doctor who wasn’t first an intern? A teacher who wasn’t first a student? An executive who didn’t start out as an errand runner? In today’s world where a premium is placed on superlatives—most, best, highest, greatest, fastest—it is important that we parents teach our children the value of being the best second fiddle they can be on their way to first chair violin.

James Barrie, the Scottish novelist, once said, “We are all of us failures—at least, the best of us are.”


By dads2dads

Restoring The Personal Approach

Good grief, it’s time to be nice. We know, we risk being accused of being soft, of being marshmallows, pansies. We might even be accused of eating quiche! But we have to say it because we believe it. It is time for a return to civility in our culture. It’s time to go back to practicing politeness, good manners, kindness, even—dare we say it—gentleness. And for goodness sake, it’s time we parents pass that on our teenagers, if it’s not too late.

In your face from afar

We live in an in-your-face world and we operate in isolation. Social media has allowed us to be bold and brazen with our fingertips—to be mouthy or tell someone off in absentia. To share our opinion – any opinion – at will. We confront people from our sofas. We have forgotten how to converse & to listen. Don’t have to. We’re uncomfortable having to face anyone and speak honestly. It’s all done by remote. Every man and woman is an island. We stand alone with our e-devices, and we fool ourselves into thinking that we are socially more engaged than ever before.

We’re not. We’re consumed by gizmos. We’ve been chewed and swallowed. And we’re socially disengaged.

In your face close-up

Our teens are engaged through keypad and touchscreen. They have become so adept at it that they don’t see any real reason for forming words with their lips. But when they must form words, they are more in-your-face, more abrupt and abrasive, than ever before. When confronted with a public appearance, they interact as if they’re still on the sofa at home. Bang! Bop! Wham! (Reminds us of the old Batman TV show.) Fast. Efficient. To the point.

Our e-devices have permitted us to communicate by syllables, acronyms and two-letter words. Let’s not forget the heart-warming …  🙂   All we can say is — Rly? Yks! Hlp!

The day the earth stood still

Invite your teenager to hold a moratorium on e-device use for just one day. You, too. Let’s just try it and see if it’s a day the earth stood still … if the body snatchers emerge from their cocoons and take over. We can hear Rod Serling already: You’re standing among a civilization that is frozen in time. They’ve put down their e-toys and suddenly found themselves devoid of words and thoughts. Their minds are indelibly etched on miniature screens that lie on desks, reside in pockets or are suspended from waists. What was once a thriving society, with chatter around the office water cooler and over the backyard fence, has devolved into scrawls and scrolls on glass plates. This once conversant civilization no longer talks or turns the pages of books or newspapers. Their gods reside in cyberspace. They have erected e-idols and now stand idle … in a distant app called The Twilight Zone.

Yes, we know. Silly. Crazy. Outrageous. But maybe we can restore a bit of personal conversation  & kindness. Until then, chk u l8tr. BFN.


By dads2dads

We Interrupt This Program

A huge fire broke out today in a block of tenement houses on the city’s east side. Police reported that parents were throwing their small children from two- and three-story windows to friends below—and then jumping after them. The death toll is mounting as most of those children and their parents perished in the fire or in the fall.

“There’s just too much homework, and the teacher never explains anything.”

Violence erupted today at a religious festival. An angry mob pulled an opposing leader from his car and beat him to death with rocks and fists. They hung his lifeless body from a utility pole for all to see.

“I can’t believe that texting while driving is a crime. What’s next?”

Authorities found two children living completely on their own for almost a year in an abandoned warehouse. They were surviving on garbage scraps and what they could steal from stores and restaurants.

“This lousy computer is too slow. I want the new zipbop337Varoom!”

Change the channel

It’s not that we and our kids don’t have a right to complain. It’s just that there are people in this world—in this country—in your town—maybe next door to you—who have nothing to complain about. In fact, they have nothing at all.

So next time you want to complain, or your kids are crabbing about something, change the channel.  Pull in a new perspective. Reflect on other situations and realize you don’t have it that bad. We could all use an attitude adjustment sometime and the best way to get one is to consider others who fight a bigger battle, run a greater risk, or carry a heavier load.

The road to appreciation

We can easily get into the habit of complaining, taking our situation for granted, not taking time to appreciate what we have. But life sometimes has a way of presenting us with a new direction. We hear a story on the news about kids our son’s age who were arrested for drug trafficking. Or we read an article in the paper about a baby fighting for her life after being born three months early, kids trapped in a cave, or children separated from their parents. Or a coworker gets a life threatening disease, and we see the challenge she faces each day as she deals with treatment and worries if she will be here to see her daughter graduate from high school.

Hey, Dad, you’re a lucky guy. Be grateful for little irritations in your life, for the troubles of teens, the worries of work, and the labors of living. In your work, home, and social life, we’re sure you have an impact on more people than you know. Be a comfort to others and a positive influence in your world. And be sure to let your loved ones know how fortunate their lives are. Help them get a glimpse of another world out there, and remind them that their own world is pretty darned good.

By dads2dads

The Pursuit of Happiness

An article The Atlantic by Lori Gottlieb a while back discussed how parental obsession with a child’s happiness can make the child into an unhappy adult.

Parents want to do the right thing.  We try to keep kids safe. We want them to feel loved. We long for them to be successful. We hope they will grow into happy productive adults. But how do we do that? It turns out that’s a harder question than we might imagine.

When we grew up, our parents were pretty much focused on discipline. Over the last decade or so there has been a focus on so-called “self-esteem,” which has included an aversion to competition, criticism and correction in favor of praise, promotion and potential. We want our kids to be happy. However, Gottlieb quotes Barry Schwartz, professor at Swarthmore College, who notes, “Happiness as a byproduct of living your life is a great thing. But happiness as a goal is a recipe for disaster.”

Our Discomfort With Discomfort

Dan Kindlon, child psychologist and lecturer at Harvard, who Gottlieb quoted in her article, refers to our “discomfort with discomfort.” He says if kids can’t experience painful feelings they won’t develop “psychological immunity.” As a result they won’t know how to deal with not getting the starring role, being cut from the team, or receiving criticism on a class paper. Faculty and administrators are spending quite a bit of time responding to parental involvement in what should be a student’s responsibility to study hard, be prepared, and, on limited occasions, raise warranted concerns on his or her own behalf.

The Adult Journey

In the adult world, everyone does not get a trophy. Everyone is not super at everything. The world of the adult, while full of possibility and reward, is also rife with uncertainty, frustration and disappointment. Certainly, we need to love and encourage our children, but we need also to prepare them for the future. When we rush in to protect our kids from a bruised knee, a failed tryout, a broken relationship or a less than stellar research paper, we may do so out of love and concern. However, our involvement often complicates their ability to handle things on their own and weakens their belief in their own personal resources.

Kids develop self esteem by tackling challenges, recovering from uncertainty and striving to do well. They build self-esteem by overcoming adversity. Parents stunt their child’s growth and development by lowering those hurdles and expectations.

All kids are not good at all things. All kids are good at something. Our job as parents is to help our children identify those things at which they excel and help provide the resources for them to be successful.

As Gottlieb states, “We can try to protect them from nasty classmates and bad grades and all kinds of rejection and their own limitations, but eventually they will bump up against these things anyway. In fact, by trying so hard to provide the perfectly happy childhood, we’re just making it harder for our kids to actually grow up.”


By dads2dads

Teen Depression

We have been struck, again, by celebrity suicides. How could it have happened? They had so much to live for. They were so successful, so popular. And yet it continues.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, since 1999, the suicide rate in the U.S. has increased nearly 30 percent. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the US, accounting for the deaths of nearly 45,000 Americans over the age of 10.

Forty-six percent of suicides involved a diagnosed mental condition. Common contributing factors to suicide include: a relationship problem, a personal crisis, substance abuse, a physical health problem, or a job or financial problem. The CDC emphasizes that suicide is rarely caused by any single factor, but rather, involves multiple factors.

Often when a high profile suicide occurs, other suicides follow.

A teen’s environment can be a minefield of uncertainty, anxiety and worry. A new school, the ebb and flow of friendships, academic workloads, the worry of an insecure world, the latest school shooting, can all add pressure to a teen’s life. Some parents have told us they feel that their child may be depressed but are unsure of what to do about it. Counselors we have talked to tell us they see a lot more cases of anxiety and depression in teens at school. It’s a troubling trend.

What’s a parent to do?

If your child is experiencing impact from serious stress, your first response should be to listen. Ask open-ended questions. Find out how things are going. Ask her about her classes, inquire about his friends and social activities. Try to uncover any special challenges that are plaguing her. Provide space for your child to respond and listen carefully without judgment.

Watch for withdrawal from friends and social activities, uncharacteristic silence, or unwavering focus on a recent suicide or traumatic event.

Don’t hesitate to seek help from a professional. This may be a teacher, counselor, minister or mental health professional.

It has been shown that parents can have tremendous influence on teens when they encounter difficulty. Dr. Jill Suttie from the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, points out that scientists are developing a better understanding of teen depression and how to prevent it. Suggestions include providing parental support, modeling strong social skills, encouraging positive peer relationships, helping teens to seek a purpose, and improving the school environment.

Parental involvement can be key to the health of your child. Don’t wait to involve yourself or seek outside help.

The known unknowns

We need to provide a strong system of love and attention for our kids, keep open lines of communication, know what is going on, and seek outside help when needed. In this unpredictable, uncertain, changing world, perhaps that is the best knowledge to have – the knowledge of what we don’t know.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255) or the Crisis Text Line (text ‘home’ to 741-741) can be of enormous help. Don’t go it alone and don’t ignore signals.

By dads2dads

That’s Different

“That’s different.” These are two of the most frequently uttered words in the defensive lexicon of the frustrated, perplexed, at-the-end-of-your-rope parent. Dad, you’ve reached for this phrase and pulled it out at the showdown around the kitchen table. You’ve grabbed those two words just as frantically as a man would a rope to keep from drowning. You’ve reached into that depleted reservoir of comebacks and let those feeble words roll off your lips just so you had something—anything—to say within the bounds of civility.

“Hey, Dad, you tell us to hang our coat in the closet. Yours is on the arm of the sofa.” “That’s different, honey—Daddy’s in a hurry.”

“You’re going over the speed limit, Dad. You always tell me to watch my speed.” “That’s different—Dad has a lot on his mind—I’ve got a busy day tomorrow—I’m a lot older than you—and watch your tone.”

Greater Consequences

It’s amazing and amusing to hear how silly we sound sometimes. But what if our hypocrisies yield more serious consequences?

What if your teenager reels off a string of obscenities, echoing your own obscene rant at the ballgame a few days ago? What if you hear your son bragging about how he cheated on his time sheet at work because he heard you boasting about fudging on your taxes? What if your daughter starts smoking because you smoke? What if your teenager slaps or punches someone at school because that’s how you get their attention and demand their obedience at home?

Parents Plant the Seeds

We parents really need to monitor our own behavior as much as we think we need to monitor the ways our kids behave. We will sow what we reap. The seeds we plant today will bear fruit sooner or later—and that fruit may be good or rotten.

We parents can think our kids are deaf and blind to things we do or say. Not true. They are processing their experiences and filing them away for future reference. They may discard some things over time, but they will more than likely assimilate most of what they see and hear. We decry the negative influences that pervade our children’s lives and rightfully so in many cases. Those influences can be overpowered by parents who understand their responsibility to model good behavior.

It’s Not Different

In order for well-meaning parents to have that kind of impact, the phrase “That’s different” needs to be laid to rest. It’s much harder but nobler to respond with “You’re right and I was wrong” or “I should practice what I preach.” Young people are incredibly intuitive and insightful. They live in a world full of hypocrisy. They see and hear it in the news, at school, in church, at work and in their social circles. The one place where they need to trust that the rules are fair and apply to everyone is at home.


By dads2dads

Help Wanted

Someone to judge others. Must think fast, draw quick conclusions, be eager to criticize and offer unsolicited opinions.  Superior evaluation skills but only average accuracy required. Single-mindedness is essential—narrow-mindedness a plus.

A judge of others should have sharp eyes, keen ears, an active imagination and be ready to improvise on the spot. The ideal candidate should possess the highest of moral standards and be willing to seek out and destroy immorality in others.

A judge of others must be willing to work alone. The position offers no pay, benefits or support staff. Personal advancement will be difficult. Being a judge of others is strictly a nonprofit endeavor.

You Be the Judge

How many of us adults could apply for this position? Be honest. Sure, when you read the job description, it’s a put-off. But when you think about how we think and behave in many of our daily routines, perhaps we’re better suited for the job than we think.

Society is so diverse these days. We don’t talk much about our similarities as human beings, but we sure do hold up our differences. Whether it’s our educational level, belief system, ethnic background or economic status, we like to think that we have the upper hand—a position of superiority and privilege. We tend to put people down in order to elevate ourselves. We know the way to truth, the way to peace and prosperity, the way to happiness. It’s our way.

Dots on a Ball

And yet there are seven billion of us on this blue ball in this vast … vastness. We’re blips in time, blinks of an eye. We make such a big deal about our differences, when, in fact, we are mostly alike. What separates us is our keen ability to stand in judgment of one another. It’s difficult to be the chosen ones when all of are convinced that we are.

Maybe it’s too late for us grown-ups. But let’s try to pass on a new legacy to our kids. They will already inherit our debt, our greed, our polluted air and contaminated land. Is it possible that we could hand over acceptance and tolerance and a new nonjudgmental attitude?

Youth More Accepting

A professor received a grant that will take him to the Middle East to study young people and how they are acquiring the skills to use multimedia to promote better understanding between conflicting cultures, even to seek forgiveness and discover commonalities. He says adults have passed judgment on one another and are stuck in the quagmire of their prejudices. Young people, however, are utilizing the new media to connect, share stories and seek understanding

Mom and Dad, the finest gift you can pass on to your teenager during these impressionable years is an ability to drop the gavel and shed the heavy robes of judgment. It’s funny how the word “love” is the most used word in song, in religious practice and in every self-improvement seminar on the face of the earth. And still, it’s the least practiced.


By dads2dads

Social Media Can Bring Dad and Teen Together

Tom is too old to be embarrassed anymore. He’s secure enough to admit that he is a techno-idiot when it comes to emerging social-media trends and developments. And he’s just crotchety enough to doubt the effectiveness and longevity of any of it. Remember Andy Rooney on Sixty Minutes? He’s beginning to sound like him. He still pines for his portable Underwood typewriter that got him through college, which then was replaced when an IBM Selectric was foisted upon him. It had its own “erase” key! What in the world was Tom to do with all his bottles of Wite-out! Then came his first word processor. He thought processors chopped celery and made juice! He just wanted to write—not process words.

Your teen as teacher

We’ve written before about how social media has created a lot more communication but far less community. Well, we’re here to admit that this may just be the perfect opportunity for dads and teenagers to relate to one another.

If Bill’s sons were starting their teens again, they would already be head and shoulders above him in social-media literacy. What great teachers they would make—and dad would be their pupil. They could patiently instruct him about writing on walls, snapping,  and “friending” or “unfriending” someone. He would be learning from his sons, and he and his sons would be involved in constructive (if not humbling) communication.

Work in a life lesson

So, dad, let go! Admit that you’re a bit behind your teenagers in Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, and YouTube, not to mention those thousands of apps. By the way, Wikipedia currently lists over 200 social network sites. Ask your kids to help you get up to speed. At the same time, you can be learning all the caveats of the social media craze—the pitfalls to knowing and seeing all. Grown-ups don’t have to be techno-whizzes to understand how this kind of open access to people’s lives can be harmful, even devastating. So while you’re learning from your teenagers, you also have the opportunity to teach them to be careful, to be smart and not to allow social media to steal their privacy and degrade their humanity.

Exchanging knowledge and wisdom—a darn good deal

Quite frankly, that’s the beauty of this tutoring arrangement between parents and their offspring. Today’s kids can open worlds with a click, a swoop, a link, an up or download. They know the mechanics. They can make A, B, C and D connect, interact and go viral! Mom and dad can offer some wisdom in what should and shouldn’t be copied, pasted and plastered throughout cyberspace. Parents have been around for awhile. They have experienced such unvirtual and sometimes unvirtuous monsters as accountability and consequences … those avatars that materialize as the result of acting without thinking.

Sounds like a win-win arrangement!


By dads2dads

Teens Can’t Weight

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), obesity among pre-teens climbed from 6.5% in 1980 to 19.6% in 2008. Researchers at the University of North Carolina have found that 20% of young adults have high blood pressure. Thirty percent of young people are obese today, according to Suzanne Steinbaum at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. She says, “We’ve usually thought of this population as being healthy, and these are people who shouldn’t be sick and they are.”

The Problem

Obesity is on the rise and our kids are at risk for hypertension, diabetes, gallstones, sleep apnea, kidney complications, loss of bone mass, high blood pressure and heart disease.

This is an issue of critical importance and it is our responsibility as parents to help stem the tide.

An article in the March 9, 2011 issue of JAMA states that childhood obesity affects approximately 12.5 million children and teens in the U.S. (17%) Obesity tripled in the 1980s and 1990s. Twenty years ago, Type 2 diabetes in teens was virtually unheard of. Now, it is estimated that 15% of new diabetes cases among children and adolescents are of this type.

U.S. adults, on average, weigh 24 pounds more today than they did in 1960, and they are at increased risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Approximately 9% of all medical costs in 2008 were obesity-related and amounted to $147 billion, twice what it was 10 years before.

The Causes

Greater access to fast food, less available time, more sedentary activity, lack of self-discipline and increased marketing of fattening food to children have created an environment conducive to obesity. The ability to eat whatever, whenever, is everywhere. Emphasis is on quickness not quality.

What Parents Can Do

Serve more fruits, vegetables and whole-wheat products. Cut down on highly processed and high sugar foods and drinks. (Did you know that a 12-oz. Coke—considered a small size today—contains 9 teaspoons of sugar?)

Decrease time spent sitting and viewing and encourage more activity.  Place limits on television and video time.

Engage your kids in physical activity. Play ball, take an evening walk, go swimming or ride bikes.

Encourage child-care facilities and schools to provide healthy foods and drinks. Policies should promote the health of our children instead of providing high-sugar, high-fat products that harm our kids.

Resources for Action

A good resource for talking to your kids and for approaching your school is the School Health Nutrition Guideline list from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention <;.

Michelle Obama started the move to healthier kids with her “Let’s Move” Initiative  which called on parents and kids to eat healthier and move more. The USDA has revealed MyPlate < > which replaces the food pyramid.

You can make a difference. Take an active role in your child’s health. Help clarify the critical importance of food to current and future health.  It’s an investment in your child’s future.

By dads2dads

The Depth of Beauty

A dad wrote recently that his daughter, Julia, was upset because she overheard someone at school criticize her looks. She was quite hurt since she had considered that person a friend. The dad told her “Beauty is only skin deep.”

The fact is, “Beauty is only skin deep” is a skin deep saying. 

What is beauty?

We say it without really thinking. What we are saying isn’t really what we mean to say (we think). It’s with the best of intentions that we utter those five words. The implication is that we need to look beyond the surface to discover a person’s core value. Yes, precisely. And therein lies a person’s real beauty! It isn’t quite as poetic-sounding but what we actually should say is, “Beauty is deeper than skin.”


It’s not only inaccurate to judge beauty by the exterior covering—it’s impossible. Real beauty isn’t skin-deep at all. What’s on the outside of any of us is simply the covering on our bones. It’s our wallpaper. Real beauty is the character and composition of the inner person.

But try explaining that to your teenager. Good luck! The more you think about the meaning of that statement, the harder it is to put into simple words and have it make sense to a young person whose world, in many ways, is based on superficiality.

A Wallpaper World

When do teenagers not worry about blemishes that are the result of body chemistry and can only be slightly controlled with lotions and medications? In this country we are obsessed with wallpaper. It determines, in many cases, our friendships, associations, memberships, and, certainly, special recognitions and honors. Wallpaper meets the eye first, and often it becomes the gauge for evaluating the total worth of a person. In the social quagmire of a teenager’s world, what you think of me, based on my wallpaper, is how I feel about me— all of me. Sometimes Mom and Dad don’t help because they, too, can easily get caught up in the popularity game living through their kids.


So how do we teach our sons and daughters not to be concerned about the wallpaper but instead the infrastructure? Ask them what qualities they look for in a lasting and meaningful friendship. Hey, son, if you were in a difficult situation and needed someone to talk to, who would it be? Hey, daughter, if you reached out your hand and needed to be pulled to your feet, whose hand would you want to grab? If you needed a shoulder to cry on or someone’s ear to listen to you, whose shoulder or whose ear would you most wish for? The importance of wallpaper diminishes, perhaps disappears.

Dad and Mom, try answering those questions yourself. We think you’ll discover what your teenagers will also find when trying to answer — a glimpse of the depth and complexity of what real beauty is.

As beings who are human through and through—we often look in the shallows for those things that reside in the deep.



By dads2dads


We get so busy we often fail to notice the qualities of others. We look past people, barely hear what they have to say, and hardly give them another thought. It’s truly troublesome to see how quick we are to form judgments and to dismiss others. 

A lot of heat, little light

We are so self-absorbed today, rushing in a hazy fog. We can confuse a crammed corporate calendar and an active cell phone with success. We can think that a working professional means constant motion, frequently creating heat but very little light. There is a difference.

Reaching out

What does this pattern do for creative thinking? And what behaviors are we modeling for our teenagers?

Many pre-teens and teens walk around under the influence of digital hypnosis. Their world is 120 characters long. It’s their little window on their little world. Could this be our legacy — more and more means of communication, less and less community?

Teach our children well

We think dads should teach their sons and daughters that their lives are enriched when they refrain from snap judgments, take time to understand others, and realize the privilege of rubbing shoulders with people of all persuasions and backgrounds. We believe connections are made, problems are solved, and society is made a bit better when we reach out, recognize the special qualities of others, and take time to ponder.

Take the time to take the time

We want to share a poem that we hope you’ll share with your teen. It is based on a real experience about a high school boy who was considered so ordinary that he blended into the background, was barely noticed, and quickly discarded.

“What Was His Name Again?”

You were just another face

that blended into the collage of impish smiles.

No one should be just that,

Being alive means more than

to be a fixture

in a crowded classroom or hallway.

When you fought bravely

and finally fell victim,

we turned around just in time

to ask your name.

How many of us really knew you

or cared to know you

until it really didn’t count anymore?

Somehow your absence

should take something from us all.

We should feel an emptiness

that can never be replenished.

You were alive. We are alive.

Strange how we take our most precious possession for granted.

You had your dreams for the future.

It’s a shame that now

we have to find someone

who may know

what those dreams were. 

When Dale succumbed to cancer at the age of 16, it became important for all of us to learn who he was. Maybe we had to feel that we knew him in order to miss him. Looking back, one wonders why we didn’t take the time to get to know him.

Right now we have the time to stop, snap out of our hypnotic haze and look at life in real time. We need to take the time … to take the time.


By dads2dads

Trust Me

Whatever happened to fidelity? That quality of faithfulness, dedication, loyalty, and constancy seems in short supply as we see politicians, movie stars, and business moguls regularly betray trust and exhibit bad judgment.

The professed reasons are plentiful: “just couldn’t help myself,” “wasn’t getting enough attention at home,” “momentary lapse in judgment,” or” need for treatment.” How about this one – “didn’t think I’d get caught.”

This epidemic has made us a more suspicious people.

Let’s Hear It For Trust

We firmly believe that the greatest and most important ingredient to a successful relationship is trust. If you don’t trust your boss, how can you perform well? If your boss doesn’t trust you, how far will you go in the company no matter how well you perform?  If you’re not faithful to your spouse—or if you think your spouse is not being true—how can the marriage thrive?

Imagine a world where you didn’t trust your priest, doctor, lawyer, business partner, banker, police officer or teacher. Even worse, what if you couldn’t trust your car mechanic to tighten all the bolts?—your pharmacist to put the right pills in the bottle?—your utility engineers to purify your drinking water? The fact is we assume these keepers of the trust are performing with clear minds and the best of intentions. Do we know for sure? No. We quite simply place our trust in them.

Too often we read about people on all levels of the socio-economic ladder who betray the public trust. It may be blamed on a personal failing or a lapse in moral certitude. It might be attributed to greed. Or envy.  Or jealousy. The worst part about this increasing lack of trustworthiness and fidelity is that those who should be among the best role models for your teenage son or daughter keep falling like turkeys in a shooting gallery.

Be The Hero

So how do you teach your kids to be trustworthy and faithful in a world seemingly filled by people who have the moral fiber and backbone—not to mention the hot air—of a blow-up doll? Is there anyone left who isn’t on the take—who isn’t making a deal under the table—who isn’t bending the rules to get ahead? Have we diluted our values to the point where we can comfortably shrug our shoulders, utter a feeble apology and go on as if nothing has happened?

Dad, we’re here to tell you that while we all are far from perfect, we’re still the most important models of trust and fidelity for our sons and daughters. If we’re looking outside of ourselves for a hero who walks among us, we’re wasting precious time that we could be spending being the hero. The lesson we dads need to teach over and over to our kids is that a breach of trust is a broken relationship.  Once you break the trust, it can never be fully restored.

By dads2dads

Patience & Perspective

“What’s the matter, can’t she push that piece of junk any faster? There are people out here who actually want to go somewhere!”

Tim is in a hurry. It seems to his wife Cynthia that he’s always in a rush. “If she wasn’t yakking on the phone,” Tim rattles on, “she might have an inkling of what’s going on.” They drive closer to the railroad tracks.

Suddenly the bells sound, and the gates slowly descend. “Keep going! Keep going!” Tim bounces back and forth between the steering wheel and the back of his seat. The woman in front of him stops and waits—and continues her phone conversation. “Oh great,” Tim exhales. “Here’s another 20 minutes.” He rolls down his window and yells out. “Another 20 minutes, thank you, lady!”

“Maybe we can think of this as an opportunity,” his wife encourages.

“An opportunity? Tim responds. “For what? A stroke?!”

“No,” she says, a bit hurt. “To relax. Relish the moment.”

Relish the moment. Is she kidding?

Slowly the train appears and crawls across their view. Tim fumes. Cynthia is puzzled and hurt. A cold silence falls over them.

Gain perspective

Often situations we deal with seem so critical at the time—making it through a traffic light, being first in line, seeing our team win. Yet, sometimes our insistence on a certain outcome prevents us from truly enjoying the activity in which we’re engaged. On reflection we find our perspective was skewed or our sense of crisis was misdirected. Some events, although not critically important, can produce negative outcomes by the importance we place on them.

Tim is still delayed by the train, and now there is a tense silence between his wife and him. What if Tim and Cynthia’s nine-year-old son Trevor had been in the back seat? What would the boy have learned? 

Role Model 

We recall a professional basketball player who refuted the idea that he was a role model. He was a basketball player, that’s all. His contract required him to help win games, not to be a role model for kids. He was dead wrong. Anyone who makes his or her living on that large a stage inherits that role. Like it or not, the ball player was a role model. Kids looked up to him and patterned their behavior, good or bad, after him.

 Be an example

As we’ve said before, fathers don’t operate separately from their children. We serve as role models in everything we do. Eyes are watching and ears are listening. It’s important to remember that we play a significant teaching role to our children in how we handle everyday situations. They learn from watching us.

So the next time someone is driving too slowly, the sport shop is out of your size, or your team loses, grab some perspective. Think of the other people involved, and remember the reaction you have can cap a great day and send a child a message about the best way to act.

By dads2dads

The New Dad

According to the Sloan Work and Family Research Network at Boston College, the landscape of work, family, and caregiving has changed over the past several decades.  Moms spend more time at work and the detached dad who has little connection with his family is a thing of the past.

According to the Network, over the last forty years housework & child care time among fathers increased six hours per week. Over the last ten years, the number of days that dads missed from work for family responsibilities went from .8 days to 6.3 days. When asked why they used paternity leave afforded them, 97 percent of the fathers said it was because their family was a priority and they wanted to stay home with their child.

We know the role of the dad in today’s society has changed. On average, we are different from our own dads and certainly our grandfathers. For us, it started with birth. When our dads had children, they took their wives to the hospital, settled into the waiting room, and some hours later received word of the birth where they went down the hall to see their new baby through the big glass window. With our children we were in the delivery room, we changed the diapers at home, we burped and cuddled and were involved in decisions about child care. Today dads strive for more balance in their lives between work and home. We focus on our families. We’re concerned about what goes on with our kids and we try to think of solutions to some of the problems they encounter.

It Takes Two

We’ve heard from many fathers who feel a bit lost, are searching for an answer, or just want to talk to somebody. We know they’re involved, they just don’t have a lot of guidance or support. It often takes more than an individual dad’s resources to raise a child. Dads parenting alone have a difficult time. Dads who are married have the tremendous advantage of a partner who can lend so much to the challenge of child rearing. But often you need a male perspective and the chance to talk over some issues with another dad.

Teach Your Children Well

We’re providing a place where we share some “wisdom” and dads can talk about their concerns and find they’re not alone. Check out our book, Dads2Dads: Tools For Raising Teenagers, available on CreateSpace or Amazon. You’ll get some insight, a few tips, a bit of humor, and a few touching moments. What more can you expect for $14.95?!

By dads2dads

Kids Fathering Kids

It’s something you hope never happens. Your son, too young, too inexperienced, too unprepared, becomes a father. What now?

A report from the Guttmacher Institute shows a pregnancy rate of 7% among teens for 2006. While attention has focused on teen mothers, there are few resources for the teen dad. Yet, Prudence Brown of the Ford Foundation notes that many teen fathers want to participate in the parenting of their children but “they need a lot of help and support to help them assume a responsible father role.”

How do boys get that support, become responsible for another life and deal with this new relationship with the baby’s mother?

The Teenage Pregnancy and Parenting Project in San Francisco has found that teenage fathers usually have lower incomes, less education and more children than do men who wait until age 20 to have children. They often remain poor because they drop out of school to work, solving an immediate need (income) but locking in a long-term difficulty (lack of education and limited job skills).

Parenthood is an equal opportunity prospect. It is provided to the prepared and unprepared alike, the rich and the poor, the educated and the uninformed. Our value as parents is what we make of the opportunity.

It is fair to say that a teen boy who becomes a father is unprepared. Caught between adolescence and adulthood, he falls into a bigger role than he has ever experienced. Or he runs irresponsibly from the challenge.

Rights and Responsibilities

It is our feeling that babies should be born to parents who are mature and effectively prepared. But if that is not the case, we still believe the teen father has a responsibility to care for that child, be a part of the baby’s life, and participate in important decisions.

A few things for the teen dad to keep in mind:

  • Sort out issues through honest dialogue with the baby’s mother.
  • Be certain you are the father.
  • Be aware of custody or visitation rights.
  • Get the legal, medical or spiritual help you need.

Reach Out

You can be a partner for a few moments; you’re a parent for the rest of your life. There may be few family or community role models. Television shows too often reflect what has been called a universal television network allergy to responsible dads. But teens need to find behaviors they can model. The public library or local church are good places to start. Programs such as Teen Fathers ( offer a chance for boys to share feelings, build skills, serve as role models to each other, deepen the relationship with the child’s mother and find resources for improving fathering skills and continuing an education.

If you are a father of a teen who is now a dad, you can support your son with love and help him find resources to improve his parenting skills. Dad, you can encourage your son to be a full partner in raising his child.




By dads2dads

When Does a Dad Stop Being a Dad?

When does water cease being wet? When does time stand still? When will Tom disavow a Fat Mo’s burger?

As dads of young adults, sons and daughters who have graduated from their teens, we easily acknowledge that parenthood never ends. Perhaps the style of parenting changes, the gap of life experience narrows, and parenthood becomes more of a partnership. But no matter how old your children are, you never stop being a dad.

When your son or daughter is a teenager, that experiential gap is more like a chasm. When they move into their early to mid-20s, there is still a gap but there is some evidence that they have matured thanks to your “wisdom” and “sage advice.”

Forever daddy’s little girl

A father placed a call to his high-school daughter’s boyfriend because, according to his daughter, the boy lost his temper and came within an inch of planting a backhand on her face. Even though they had dated for some time and seemingly enjoyed each other’s company, something snapped and the boy revealed a dark side to his character. For the first time ever, the young girl felt genuinely scared in her boyfriend’s company. That was all dad had to know. On the phone dad promised the young man that he would call the police if he ever went near his daughter again. That was the end of it.

Once a dad, always a dad

Another father answered his phone to his tearful 30-year-old daughter on the other end. She was frightened by her abusive husband and didn’t know what to do to extricate herself from what had disintegrated into a disastrous marriage. That day the angry husband had locked the doors and gone to work. She was calling from someone else’s phone because she could not get in her own house. Dad didn’t hesitate. He drove an hour to where his daughter was and together they “gained entrance” to her house. Dad helped his daughter pack her things, loaded the car and whisked her away. Because of her hasty departure, she left some of her treasured furnishings. At that point, she didn’t care. She left her home, and she left her marriage.

Dad against all odds

There will never come a day when you won’t worry about your kids no matter what their age. You will always want to fix their leaky faucet or patch up a relationship, rescue them from harm. You will forever be tempted to go to any lengths to spare them hurt or anguish. You will run to their aid even when you don’t know what you might find when you get there. You will worry about them, defend them, soothe them, run interference for them. You’ll run through fire and slay dragons—against all odds and contrary to common sense—to keep them safe. You’ll sometimes poke your nose into matters where you have no business because when it comes to family, the role of dad is played for life.


By dads2dads

Capturing Memories

Bill’s family recently moved and he handed some boxes to a boy who was helping out. They contained pictures and writings from his sons’ childhood. A handwritten Christmas poem, the drawing of Pandora and her troubles, the Christmas ornaments too delicate now to put on the tree, the book report on “Tanglewood Tales.”

There were favorite books too –”Benny Bakes A Cake” and “Goodnight Moon”, and a few misplaced photographs in Halloween costumes their mother had made that had lost themselves on the way to an album.

Bill heard the teen say softly, “I wish my mom had saved some of my old school projects.”

Bill was astonished. His family had always done that – captured memories.

For Tom, it was a garage sale that brought back treasured memories – Sunday school projects, school awards, old cassette audio tapes. (What are those?)

“Here’s that food-pyramid chart from 3rd grade. That was about the time she broke her tooth.”

“Remember this old hat? She wore it with that fake moustache when she went trick-or-treating.”

“Here’s her little white Bible. She got that when she started Vacation Bible School when we lived in Kansas.”

While the monetary value in many of those items is zero, the intrinsic value is priceless.

A child’s school project from the 1st grade, a faded drawing, worn doll or broken toy leads to connective memories of a family picnic, a vacation, trip to the zoo, the new bicycle or car, an open house at school, the new playmate who moved in next door, the broken arm or tonsillectomy—maybe even the new baby brother or sister. Those re-discoveries are open doors to entire chunks of family history!

Keeping Track

Memories inform our children’s sense of themselves. All of us have them. Some are saved in boxes like Bill’s, some are in our minds as we look back. Others are in neatly organized albums with careful notes about who, what, where, and when. Still others are loose in a box under the bed.

Think about the memories you’ve formed together. Try to capture these important reflections of life, relationships, and feelings. Freeze the picture for a moment, take in the significance of an event, remember the faces, and hold the words and images in your mind.

Getting It Done

Start now by taking school projects, photos, drawings, or whatever and pulling them together into a collection. If you don’t have much, start with what you have. If you don’t have anything, start making something together. Write a story, make an invention, cook a meal, try an experiment, take some photos.

If we’ve learned one thing, it is that time moves swiftly. As Helen Hayes, the American actress, said, “Childhood is a short season.”

We’ve all poked our heads and hands inside closets and boxes and recovered those irreplaceable treasures that trigger laughter and tears. Make some memories together. And think twice before you toss out those old items that “clutter” your lives. Some of that clutter just may rekindle cherished memories for every member of your family.


By dads2dads

Sometimes you feel like a flop

Spend a few minutes and think about a time when you really flopped, laid an egg, royally screwed up. To jog your memory, allow us to suggest a handful of examples taken from the annals of fatherhood (things we’ve heard from other dads).

Did you ever get caught sneaking a book out of the library in high school? Miss the shot at the buzzer that would have been the game winner? Drop the offering plate at church? Hit “reply all” when you didn’t intend for your sarcastic retort to be read by all? Keep one of those gems in mind and we’ll come back to it.

Teenagers feel like flops much of the time. It’s part of their youthful DNA. They try so hard to fit in. And they’re painfully self-conscious. If someone looks at them, they cringe with guilt. If they hear laughter and they’re not the ones laughing, someone must be mocking them. Nearly every move they make is accompanied by embarrassment because they are at an awkward age between adolescence and adulthood, and they flop in either role.

Driving the Point Home

Share with your teenager the story about the woman who holds the record for being the fastest person to fail a driver’s test. It took her just seconds to climb into the car, greet the examiner, turn the key and stomp on the accelerator instead of the clutch. (You may have to explain what a clutch is.) She plowed right through the wall of a building. And this was her ninth try! True story.

Fantastic Flops

Point out that a flop can be a stepping-stone to great accomplishments. Babe Ruth was a home-run machine—but he also had 1,330 strikeouts during his career, plus another 30 strikeouts during World Series games. The strikeout king is Mr. October himself—Reggie Jackson—with nearly 2,600. Most of Thomas Edison’s experiments were bigger flops than triumphs but he used them as learning opportunities. During the French and Indian War, a young Army officer gave up and surrendered his troops to the enemy. That same man, George Washington, went on to do pretty well.

From Flop to Fulfillment

Share your own “flop” story with your teenager. If you’re like us, you have a repository of them! Point out to your teenager that when a person flops, he or she is seldom a total flop. There are usually aspects of what went right as well as what went wrong. Tell your teenager to allow some space to be a flop. Replay the situation and see what could be done differently next time. There are many flops on the way to success.

That way your teen will also have room to try again and grow. Mistakes are stepping-stones to growth. Teens (and Dads!) who are afraid of making mistakes, never take that first step. And that would be the biggest flop of all.


By dads2dads

The World of Friending

More communication less community

With the prevalence of social networks, our teens live more publicly than ever before – certainly more so than we did when we were teens. They establish robust public profiles and broad personal friendships. They easily share what we would consider very personal thoughts and images. A level of knowledge is created among friends, some of whom barely meet the definition of acquaintance. We’ve developed a sort of over-sharing culture.

The need to unfriend

Sometimes teens need to “unfriend” someone who’s become obnoxious, threatening or less important in their lives. How do you do it?

The proper process for unfriending is a bit unclear. An article in The New York Times a while back quoted Michael Pilla, a marketing director. “In real life, friendships die a natural death: you simply stop seeing someone until both of you barely remember you were friends in the first place. On Facebook, that person you barely know or no longer can put up with is there, all the time, taking up space on your home page, filling you in on all the mindless minutiae.”

In the old days you could avoid an encounter or ignore a phone call. If you didn’t write it down, it only existed in conversation. Today with ubiquitous email, cell calls, texting and social networks, and image apps galore, opinions take on a different context; thoughts and images exist in a much longer timeframe; unfriending someone becomes a complicated task.  

Why do friends unfriend

Christopher Sibona, a grad student at the University of Colorado, surveyed 1,500 people on Facebook and Twitter and found that the top three reasons for unfriending a person are:

1) persistent, inane posts

2) posts about controversial topics like religion and politics, and

3) racist or vulgar posts.

To this we would add threats and offline relationship problems.

When and how to disengage

When online problems make teens uncomfortable or offline issues make an online relationship difficult, it may be time to call it quits. How to disengage? Perhaps we can offer some suggestions.

  • Be purposeful is creating a profile. Know the reason for your identity in the social network world.


  • Select individuals who can legitimately qualify. Focus attention on quality not quantity.


  • Be vigilant in culling lists of friends. Don’t leave someone on forever if you had just one conversation very late in the evening.


  • Be respectful of self and others in what is shared and what comments are made.


  • Don’t share everything. What is shared will exist for a very long time under circumstances that can’t be predicted.


  • Be careful whose invitations are accepted. Know who your friends are.


It’s always been a matter of quality, not quantity. It still is. It doesn’t matter if we write messages to one another on stone tablets or send them off into the realm of cyberspace. One real friend—one authentic friendship—is worth more than 10,000 faceless e-friends.

By dads2dads

The Independent Teen

Independence. It’s what we’ll all celebrate this coming Tuesday. It’s what was called for in July 1776 by 56 representatives in the General Congress. It’s what our teens strive for today. They clamor for more freedom. They plead for bigger responsibilities. They make a lot of noise about having more say-so over their own lives. Is it any wonder we celebrate Independence Day with fireworks?!

Those Feisty Rebels

We live in a society founded on the principle of independence. In fact, it is our children’s job to exercise freedom from us. It is not an easy task. Many teens feel trapped, burdened and controlled. Many parents feel surprised, resentful, angry and disregarded. This road can be marked by restlessness, rebellion and rejection. Teens can move quickly between a need to be part of the family and a rejection of its value. It seems their whole purpose is to be confusing, unpredictable and difficult.

Guideposts for the Journey

Ultimately, we want our kids to be independent, to be able to thrive on their own, to grow up and be successful. We can help this transformation along by remembering the following:

Responsible behavior begets increased responsibility. Many teens (and adults!) have not learned this.

Work, get paid; don’t work, don’t get paid. You may have heard Dave Ramsey say this and it’s true. You get rewards for honest, hard work. You don’t get rewarded very often for laziness and substandard contributions.

Be clear on expectations and consequences. Allow your teen to participate in creating rules — for staying out, going on dates, balancing study and social activities, using the family car and driving responsibly, among others. These need to be discussed and determined together. While teens can’t set all their own rules and consequences, they do tend to follow rules a little better when they’ve been involved in establishing them.

Teach your kids how to make decisions by considering options and thinking about how their actions will reflect on them and affect others.

Your teen is still an important part of the family and must work within the construct of the family. While resistance is normal, cooperation is essential. Excessive disregard of family members tears at the family fabric.

Be consistent yet flexible in sticking to the rules and the consequences for not following them

Expect some rebellion. Decide what to curtail and what to tolerate. Excessively strict monitoring of your teen’s actions is nearly as damaging as tolerance of all “independence behavior.”

Building a Bridge

Understanding the rules, having a say in their creation, and recognizing the impact that actions have on the family and others helps teens become successful members of a broader society. You can begin to build this transition to independence by the actions you take now and the respectful environment you build together.


By dads2dads

Build A Bridge and Start the Discussion

Hey, dad, when you really think about it, sometimes it pays dividends to be downright honest with your teenager. It’s OK to admit that you’re just as human as they are. You have your foibles and faults, too. You don’t always finish what you start, pick up after yourself or listen carefully.

Here are a few observations that we have put together that might serve as discussion starters for you and your teenager or for the whole family. Some of these are great levelers. In other words, they put you and your teenager on equal footing when it involves certain aspects of life. It’s not always comfortable being on equal footing with your teenage offspring because you have to look at each other straight in the eye and face some facts head on. But it’s a good start into adulthood.

We think several of these will apply to you and your teen. They certainly applied to us.

For example, everybody breaks the speed limit sometimes. With that in mind, we’re all occasional lawbreakers.

The other person is just as nervous as you are.

Always brake for brick walls. (You can’t argue with that bit of practicality.)

In the case of some people, wearing a cross on a chain around their neck is as far as their religious precepts take them.

Most of us are bumbling idiots when it comes to saying, “I love you.”

As objective as teachers are in grading their students, there are few who forget the little extras you do. The same is true with a good boss.

Contrary to what you may believe, the less you have, the greater the chance that more people will like you for who you are.

Likewise, contrary to what you probably think, hardly anyone notices when you goof up.

This may astound you, but if a poll were taken, 99 out of 100 people probably think you’re OK.

There’s a part of your teachers, parents or bosses (perhaps even police and politicians) that think that some of the rules are just as dumb as you think they are.

An obnoxious person needs a hug most of all.

You’d be amazed if you knew who was looking at you in silent admiration.

As you get older, you’ll be able to tell the difference between baloney and food for thought. There’s a lot of one—and a tremendous lack of the other.

When your personal faith is shaken, think about the miraculous precision and timing of birth. Something that wonderfully awesome just can’t be an accident. It really doesn’t matter what you believe or if you believe. It just seems hard to imagine that there isn’t a power beyond us.

Hopefully one or two of these observations will help start a conversation between you and your teen that will lead to meaningful dialogue and beginning to see each other in a new light.


By dads2dads

Brandon’s Party

When Brandon got invited to a party at the end of football season, he knew he wanted to go. It sounded like a blast–a big party at a remote cabin in the woods to celebrate the season.

One day Brandon heard a couple of guys talking about bringing drugs to the party. Brandon’s decision had just become a bit more complicated. He’d always had a close relationship with his dad so he brought it up one night after dinner.

“I’m worried that there could be trouble, and I could lose my scholarship for next year,” Brian told his dad.

“What options do you have?” his dad asked.

“Well, I could go to the party and try to steer clear of any trouble that might come up. Or I could just skip it and get a lot of flak from my team.”

“What else?” his dad prodded.

“That’s pretty much it,” said Brandon.

“How about telling the student who is throwing the party what you heard?”

“Yeah, I guess. I just don’t want to be a wimp.”

“And you think your teammates will think you’re a wimp?”

“Yeah, if I don’t go or if I make a big deal about it. I mean, I don’t even know if it’s true about the drugs. I just heard a couple of guys talking.”

“Well, what if it is true?” his dad persisted.

“Then I guess I could always leave,” Brandon responded.

“Well it’s possible you’ll be found guilty by presence or by association.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, if you’re there and something bad happens or somebody reports the drugs, you’ll share guilt just by being there. Even if you leave, you were there with the whole team and others saw you there.

“Thanks for cheering me up, dad,” Brandon said dryly. “So you’re saying I shouldn’t go because of what might happen.”

“I’m saying you need to think of all your options and the consequences of what you decide,” his dad returned.

Teenagers often make decisions alone. Or they rely on friends for advice. But often they need additional help. That is why we always say, “keep the communication open.” Look for resources that can help your teenager. Hook your teen up with an outside expert—a relative, pastor, counselor or someone else who can provide independent, reliable advice and to whom your teenager will listen.

Once your teen makes a decision, help him or her reflect on the options. Is it a good decision? Does it get your child where he or she wants to be now and in the future? What are the consequences of each option? Have all the choices and possible pitfalls been assessed?

Sometimes it can help to explore hypothetical situations with your teen before the real deal arises so that when there are difficult decisions to make, the skills are already in place for assessing the options and doing the right thing. We didn’t say the fun thing … but the right thing.


By dads2dads

The Power of a Positive Outlook

Bill’s father was a college president. He was also regularly called upon to give guest sermons at his church. One sermon Bill remembers clearly was about the power of light overcoming darkness. In the middle of the sermon was a poem Bill’s dad had written and Bill’s son used to recite when he was little. Part of it went, “No deep darkness in the world
 can overcome the light, a single candle flame will burn
 against the darkest night.”

How often are we impacted by a negative interaction, a critical opinion, or a rude encounter? And how frequently do we let this darkness overcome the light in our lives by carrying home our disappointment, frustration or anger?

Making Impressions

We make impressions wherever we go and whatever we do. They may be unseen by us but the impressions are nonetheless real and important. This is as true at home as it is in the workplace and the community. If it is important for us to make a good impression, operate competently, and perform professionally at work, isn’t it equally important to make a positive impression at home?

The actions we take, words we use, and emotions we express as fathers have a big impact on our children. It is important for us to remember that we are role models for them. And as role models, we should believe that no amount of darkness can overcome the light.

Dealing With Meanness

We often face those dark, negative interactions in our lives with a feeling of resignation. We frequently feel that negative, impolite, and counterproductive behavior is stronger and outweighs all other approaches. We can feel beat down by a dark encounter. And it can seep into our personal lives and impact those around us.

Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval co-authored a business book a few years ago entitled, The Power of Nice. In it they state, “We completely disagree with the conventional wisdom that ‘nice guys finish last’ and ‘no good deed goes unpunished.”

We agree. We think niceness can win and its power can have a transformative effect on you and your family. Understand that individuals who are mean, rude, or insensitive operate our of fear, insecurity, or their own sense of hurt that they’ve been unable to overcome. All of us have been hurt. It’s how we deal with it that makes the difference. Some people never get over it. Some move on.

Bringing The Light Home

When you come home from a tough day or a difficult encounter, remove the darkness and reflect light. Focus on the value of your family. Remember their importance in your life and the gift they are to you. Breathe twice before entering your home after a hard day. Think twice before speaking. Remember the importance of your words and actions and the impact they make. Your children are listening… and watching.

By dads2dads

Searching for Balance

Jamie, 14, was starting to get more text messages and calls from guys. They’d ask her to go to a party or just out for a walk. Mom and Dad worried. They gave their daughter more chores to do around the house. After school, she had to clean her bedroom. On weekends her parents asked her to stay close to home in case either one or both might be called into work. Jamie knew that would never happen. She wondered why her mom and dad were being so restrictive.


Soon Jamie was feeling like Cinderella, trapped in her house, held hostage by over-protective parents. She could only use her cell phone between certain hours. Her time on the computer was restricted. Late phone calls were rare, but when they came, Jamie’s parents treated them with suspicion. Jamie felt more and more isolated. Why were her parents sheltering her so much—no, smothering her.

When her dad refused to let her go to the school dance, Jamie tearfully confronted both her parents.

“Why are you doing this? You don’t let me do anything anymore.”

“Because you’re not old enough to take care of yourself,” they shot back. “There’ll be lots of time for dances and parties and guys later—don’t be in such a hurry!”

“It’s only a dance,” Jamie said. “Everyone’s going.”

“Not everyone,” her dad said sternly. Then his tone softened. “Honey, your mother and I love you. We just don’t want anything to happen to you.”

Letting Go

Over time and after many conversations with other parents and relatives, Jamie’s mom and dad started to realize they had to loosen their grip on their daughter or she would eventually pull completely away. In time, they indeed relaxed their hold on her.

As a result, Jamie opened up and included her parents in her social life. She told them about the parties and the dances and the guys who flirted with her at school. The three of them developed a relationship of mutual trust and respect.

We parents try like crazy to hold on to our children—and for good reason. After all, we’ve spent a lot of years watching them learn and grow, stumble and fall, get up, wipe away the tears and keep going. They’re part of us. It’s hard to give up part of ourselves. But let them go we must. Otherwise, our kids will never get a chance to shape their own identities.

“Letting go” isn’t the same as “kicking out.” Letting go involves holding on out of love and concern while also releasing our grip out of love and concern.

Every parent can remember painful experiences. It’s only natural to want to keep those same things from happening to our teenagers. However, when we try to keep them in a cocoon, we enclose ourselves in a cocoon as well. And that’s a very small world inside.


By dads2dads

Living Through Our Kids

If only we parents were as successful as we demand our children to be, a dad recently remarked to us. At first glance, that sentiment seems reasonable, even admirable. Why wouldn’t we want our sons and daughters to excel, even surpass our accomplishments?

Some Parents Step Out of Bounds

It’s not so much the sentiment as it is the motivation behind it. That same dad remarked about the embarrassing scene that some parents make at their youngster’s soccer matches. Their children are involved in healthy activity and robust competition. The parents, on the other hand, are engaged in coaching and cajoling from the bleachers—screaming at the officials, berating their own son or daughter for letting the opponent steal the ball. The poor sportsmanship that some parents display is childish and shameful. What’s even worse is that some red-faced, loose-lipped parents are totally unaware of their behavior because they are so obsessed with winning. If only they could trade places with their kid. Wait … that’s exactly what they’re doing!

Winning Is All the Rage

It’s how you play the game. We’ve all heard that expression. More often than not it’s an expression that is mocked and ridiculed by those who believe that winning is everything. Vince Lombardi used to say that winning isn’t everything … it’s the only thing. Perhaps when it comes to the immense expectations and corresponding huge salaries of professional athletics, that message has some validity. But to beat that attitude into the heads of youngsters at an age when competitive play should be fun—to scream obscenities because of a youngster’s miscue or an official’s missed call—turns a joyful community activity into a public verbal lynching.

Living Vicariously

When Tom’s daughter showed real promise of going to New York and testing her vocal mettle on the stage, he got all excited. He encouraged her—no, he urged her—to go for it. He reminded her how good she was and how much potential others said she had. When she explored the possibilities and decided against it—even passing up a scholarship to a performing arts school—Tom felt let down. Dad’s ego was bruised because when he had the opportunity years back to “follow his dream” to the Big Apple, he didn’t pursue it. When he faced the truth, he realized that through his daughter’s opportunity he might, albeit indirectly, fulfill his own unrealized dream. Broadway! What an ego trip that could have been!

Sure moms and dads should encourage their kids. We want our sons and daughters to succeed. As the adults in this scenario, however, we should recognize when and why that encouragement starts to turn sour—when and why the yelling turns to anger. We’ve read about what can happen when rooting turns to rage.

When parents try to fill the voids in their own lives by jamming unrealistic expectations down the throats of their kids, it’s not pretty. And it can leave scars.


By dads2dads

Teens Watch What Parents Do

Stephanie writes, “My daughter has been sullen and withdrawn lately. She talks back and it’s not at all like her. My husband’s been going through a particularly stressful time with his job and we’ve been arguing more than normal. Do you think that has something to do with her change in mood?”

Teenagers watch their parents and how they treat one another. While it’s hard to know why a teen’s mood has changed, you should know your teen tracks your actions and reactions. Sullen silence may not be a sign that your teen is oblivious to home life. Instead, silence may indicate that your teen has raised the antennae and is picking up on your cues.

Modeling Behavior You Expect

We can both point to times when our children recalled instances in vivid detail of how they responded to a remark we made or an action we took. We are surprised to learn that something we did or said made such an indelible impression when the kids were younger. Sometimes the behavior our children mirror is beneficial. Sometimes it is not necessarily pleasing.

Bill is reminded of his insistence that his grade-school-age sons do their homework first before running off to play. Today that lesson has become a habit in his sons’ households and in their work. Tackle the “unfun” stuff first, get it behind you, then whatever follows will go down more easily. Throughout all the complaining, the moaning and groaning, Bill planted a seed that took root.

Tom’s penchant for being obsessive-compulsive when it comes to order and cleanliness has surfaced in a daughter’s behavior. When he can’t imagine why she’s so, so tidy, he only has to reflect a little closer to home.

”Chores were a weekly routine, like clockwork, and now I’m a clean freak,” Tom’s daughter recently told him. Immediately after she said it, her husband of 18 months quickly nodded. If something like that stuck, imagine the impact of irresponsible or negative behavior by a parent on a child.

Planting Seeds

Once again, if that’s true of positive behavior, it likewise follows that negative behavior begets negative behavior. Children, even teenagers, are incredibly impressionable. While they resist and rebel, they are also absorbing and processing. And much of what teens say they don’t like or want becomes the foundation for their adult life.

Of course there are no guarantees. Some parents are astonished at negative behavior by their offspring, behavior that mom and dad would have never condoned. He was from such a nice family, we sometimes hear it said about a teenager who commits a crime or does something completely counter to his upbringing. We all know the power of peer pressure, and many times we have seen examples where the pressures to belong to the group and to be “popular” produces inappropriate actions and sometimes devastating consequences. All the more reason for mom and dad to be the very best role models possible—planting seeds, creating balance.


By dads2dads

Love’s Labors

February 14 was Valentine’s Day — a time when we get all soft and buy a card or candy or flowers (sometimes all three) to show someone how much we like/love them. It’s a great day for lovers. But it’s a good opportunity to also express our feelings to our family.

Expressing Love

We’ve talked before about how we as dads don’t tell our teens enough that we love them and how we should do it more. It’s free, it’s needed and it’s highly effective. There doesn’t have to be a particular reason, and your teen needn’t have done anything earth shattering. Valentine’s Day gives us the okay to say, “I love you.” Try it out. Watch your teen’s reaction. On Valentine’s Day, it’s approved. How about at other times?

Some fathers and teens have a pretty good way of talking to each other. For some, it’s a hard sell. If you struggle in conversation with your teen, plan your time together around some event like making breakfast, going to a movie, reading a story aloud, going to the gym, eating lunch or getting a cup of coffee.

This weekend plan to do something together—just you and your teen —to follow up on V Day. It could be a meal at a restaurant or fixing dinner together at home. It might involve a trip to the public library. You could volunteer together, go to a local museum, take in a sporting event, or get tickets to a play. The important thing is not what you do but that you do something to show your love. Take this tradition of romance and translate it into an opportunity to re-engage with your teen. Love is the dynamic that solidifies the family. Now is the time to show it.

Love and Power

Love is its own power. Express it to your teen and watch the reaction. As the Bible says,

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

Try it out and let us know how it works. After all, what do we need more of in the world today than love? As Shakespeare wrote, Love lives not alone immured in the brain but with the motion of all elements,
 courses as swift as thought in every power,
 and gives to every power a double power, above their functions and their offices.

By dads2dads

Setting Limits

We received an inquiry from a mother about the marketing of makeup to ever younger girls. Wal-Mart had started carrying a new line of makeup for tweens called “geoGirl.” Targeted for girls ages 8 to 12, it caused a firestorm of debate. The mother asked, “I know you guys usually deal with teens, but how do I handle a 9-year- old when she says all her friends will be buying this new makeup and Wal-Mart is promoting it?”

Accelerating the Adult World

We have seen this tendency to market the “adult” world to younger and younger kids through television shows, magazine ads and commercial products. It really comes down to parental judgment and setting limits. Why does your daughter want to wear this makeup? Is it because all her friends are doing it? Is it to dazzle a boy at school? Does she feel the need to wear makeup to fit in or be accepted? Ask your daughter and listen to her answers. Why she wants to wear make-up will give you direction for deciding whether or not she will.

We’ve always had girls wanting to play “dress-up.” Makeup for young girls has ordinarily been seen as “play” and been found in the toy aisle. What is different now is that this makeup line is being marketed not as play but as a pre-adult “grown-up” activity, and the products can be found next to the adult stuff. The 8 to 12-year-old girl market is huge.

A few guidelines.

It is important to create limits for our kids so that they know what is okay and what is not. We do this all the time, whether it’s makeup, dating, diet or schoolwork. The fact that Wal-Mart comes out with a new line of cosmetics for pre-teens doesn’t change this. Limits are still important, and parental responsibility for setting them is key.

It might be helpful to have some guidelines for setting limits. Here are our “top four”:

  1. Base limits on the child. How old is she? How mature is she? What can she handle? Don’t base your child’s limits entirely on those of her friends.
  2. Be open to your child. Let her express her thoughts. She needs to have a say even if it doesn’t always carry the day.
  3. Create consequences for not following the rules. Consequences should be realistic and fair. They should be known up front.
  4. Be consistent in enforcing consequences when rules are not followed.


Talk to your child – and listen. Try to keep a handle on how she is feeling. Know her friends and her friends’ parents. She should understand your thought process and why you created certain limits. While her acceptance will be particularly difficult if her friends have a different set of less restrictive limits, it is important to attain some degree of mutual understanding. And it starts with talking and listening.


By dads2dads

Fatherhood: It’s Practice Not Perfection

Throughout our tenure as parents, we’re often privileged to attend school athletic contests, plays, musicals, variety shows, etc., in which our adolescents and teenagers are participating. Mom beams with pride realizing that the dress she helped sew is holding together during her daughter’s dance number. Dad just knows that his kid is the star of the show or game, even if his son is playing the tree or warming the bench. Those days of picking up our young singers, actors and athletes after practice or driving them to school or church in the evening for rehearsals finally pay off when we see and celebrate the results of their preparation and hard work.

From preparation to performance

Practice. Preparation. Hard work. We can’t think of a better terms to define the process of growing up. We have heard it said that the early years of a person’s development comprise the preparation. Later, it’s all about performance—education, career, marriage, parenthood, community service. A successful performance is the result of practice and preparation.

Dad as coach

Dad, think of yourself as a coach. Think of your parenting years as practice. It’s not so important that you get everything right. After all, it’s called practice. What is important is that you realize it’s practice for you and for your son or daughter. If practice is simply demanding that your teenager mirror everything you do and say, then you’re not allowing space for your child’s creativity and individuality. If being a parent-coach is laying down a set of inflexible rules and shouting orders, that might be considered practice to produce an automaton, but it’s not preparation for creating an independent-thinking son or daughter. Success in life comes from being prepared to improvise and adapt to all the U-turns and hurdles that life will present.

Parenting is practicing

Dad, be fair to yourself, too. Those years when you are driven to the brink of madness because your teenagers are practicing acting grown-up, experienced, brilliant and all-knowing –take it easy, back off and practice your responses. Dads love to control and fix things. But we need to practice leaving things in pieces and allow our teenagers the freedom to pick up those pieces and put their own puzzles together. Dads, we could use a little practice at unfixing things.

A performance of a lifetime

It goes back to each of us having a personal public relations program. Along with practicing, we parents have earned the right to do a little preaching. While we are helping our children prepare for their life performances, they must also understand that their youth will purchase a measure of forgiveness only for a while. There will come a time when they will be thrust into the spotlight and held accountable for their performance. What they do with what they have learned through years of practice, preparation and hard work will have a lasting impact, and will hopefully make you proud.

By dads2dads

How We Got Started

Hey, dad, how often have you wished that you and your teenage son or daughter lived on the same planet? Spoke the same language? On some days, liked each other? How many times have you felt puzzled, frustrated, angry, hurt or just plain perplexed but weren’t sure where to turn?

Our friendship and collaboration took root over lunch a few years ago when we were exchanging war stories about fatherhood and discovered that our teenagers were raising us in the same identical manner. And we did not appreciate some of our upbringing! We were stuck by how common our feelings (some not so admirable) and challenges (some monumental) were regarding our relationship with our kids.

Throughout many more lunches, the floodgates opened and out poured all sorts of issues and concerns. We met with other dads and learned that all of us shared many common frustrations and doubts about our role in the family and our relationship to our teenagers. We just needed permission to air those feelings and a venue where we could be open and honest.

So we moved out of the café and on to the page. We write for dads about dads by dads. It’s practical advice from guys who have managed to survive the typical minefields of “Dad-hood” and emerged scarred but alive.

We focus mostly on teenagers because that’s where our kids were when we started this journey – Tom with two girls and Bill with two boys – all about the same ages. We offer some tips and introduce some perspectives through our syndicated column, this blog, and our workshops. They say that confession is good for the soul. We sometimes serve up some soul food as well. And, yes, moms are welcome, too. In fact, Mom, you may need to tap Dad on the shoulder and introduce him to us. Use your elbow, if necessary.

We want to emphasize that we are not professionally trained therapists or counselors. If you are experiencing a serious problem with your teenager, something beyond the typical pitfalls of generational misunderstanding and misfires, then the extent of our assistance, if warranted, will be to refer you to an appropriate agency or organization.

It’s a rare event when fathers share deep feelings. It seems to us that moms have more opportunities (and are more inclined) to share with other moms. Dads, on the other hand, don’t seem to have either the will or a way to open up to one another. We appreciate and are grateful to The Daily News Journal for this opportunity. Dad, we hope our posts will provide you with a guide to the uneven road of fatherhood. And we hope you’ll join us. Let us know what’s on your mind. You can reach us at

Now back to posting.

By dads2dads