Posts Tagged ‘ advice ’

Teaching Coping Skills To My Toddler

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

17 months.

I’ve heard several fellow critics of medicating kids for ADHD say that those children never really learn to cope with their problems; therefore explaining why 23% of the 6 million plus children currently on these untested-yet-FDA-approved psychiatric drugs go on to test positive as bipolar.

Actually, I never really thought of it before, but yes, at some point a child needs to learn coping skills. But how and when?

Leave it to me, Mr. Overkill, but for the past couple of weeks now, I’ve been deliberately teaching “coping skills” to my 17 month-old toddler.

My son Jack is in a stage now where he is testing me on whether I will help him when he doesn’t actually need my help.

For example, he will roll his Hot Wheels car underneath the couch where he can still reach it, but he will whine and look at me, as if I should save the day. He hears the same thing from me each time:

“Son, use your coping skills. You can reach it.”

Similarly, I recently helped Jack harness his bravest coping skills to learn how to pull himself up on our coffee table. It’s now a new hang-out spot; along with the fridge.

Other times, he whines about something neither he nor I can control. Like when I’m driving him home and he drops his book on the floor.

“Son, use your coping skills. There is nothing we can do about your toy until we get home.”

The simplicity of what I am hoping to teach him is this: I will help you unless A) you can figure out a way to deal with it yourself or B) it’s something no one can control.

I guess ultimately, my “coping skills” concept is a blatant rip-off of the famous Serenity Prayer:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.”

If you are familiar with The Dadabase, then you know I am a huge advocate of letting your infant “cry it out” in order to sleep through the night. While Jack has been sleeping through the night for the past 10 months of his 17 month long life, he still tests me during his weekend naps.

You guessed it: I say it all comes down to coping skills.

“Son, use your coping skills. I’ve wrapped you up in this blanket and held you for a minute. You’re very tired and you know you need sleep. I’m setting you down in your bed now and you’re going to learn to fall asleep on your own.”

He “copes” for about 5 minutes then he’s asleep.

My son will experience a life full of “no’s.” Whether it’s me, his friends, his teachers, future employers, and even God Himself.

I know this because at age 31, I’m still struggling with my own coping skills.

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Dadvice #3: My Wife Wants Me To Be A Mind Reader!

Friday, March 9th, 2012

15 months.

Today I help out a fellow dad whose wife has revoked his ability to help with their kid and the housework… or has she?

“Nick, what advice do you have for me on this? Since our infant child arrived several months ago, my wife complains (or mutters under her breath) on a daily basis that I’m not helpful enough with the baby or the housework, then complains when I do try to help.

She tells me it’s just easier to do it herself. I can’t win! Help me dude!”

Let me guess. Like me, you’ve always been a pretty laid-back guy. You’re friendly. You tend not to let things bother you, for the most part.

I say, that’s a great way to be; except for all the times that being aggressive and proactive come in to play. As a dad and husband, that actually ends up being a lot of the time.

Your wife is ultimately upset, not because she would rather do things herself, but because she’s having to take on the majority of the household duties, including caring for your child.

She needs you to take charge, even if you have to figure it out as you go along.

I get it. You don’t know as much about where the mixing bowl and the pasta strainer belong; nor do you know exactly how to fold the kitchen towels the right way.

You’re a man, so it’s frustrating that you don’t naturally know as much about the world of Home Ec; much less what to do with a crying infant who at this point can not tell you exactly what he or she wants or needs.

I understand how you feel when you say your wife wants you to read her mind. There’s a Colbie Collait song called “Realize” that sums it up for me:

“I can’t spell it out for you. No, it’s never gonna be that simple.”

Whereas in an ideal world, your wife would just simply make you a checklist of exactly what she wants you to take care of each day, here’s why that’s pretty unlikely to happen:

The #1 item on that nonexistent list of hers is for you to figure out for yourself all the other items on that list.

But isn’t that reading her mind? 

Technically, but let me translate this scenario into guy language: Imagine if every time before you and your wife had sex, she said, “The reason I’m doing this is because I know it’s one of the things you want me to do as your wife.”

[Insert screeching brakes sound effect here.]

Regarding your help with the housework and baby, she wants you to show the initiative of making that list yourself, then taking care of those tasks as needed, and not ever referring to this list to begin with. She doesn’t want you to be passive, not instead, proactive.

She wants you to want to figure out what needs to be done; which is the very thing that frustrates you.

It’s like that episode of Seinfeld where Kramer is the Moviephone guy and says to George, “Why don’t you just tell me the name of the movie you selected?”

It may involve some trial and error, but figure out what stuff you can take care while she’s caring for the baby and everything else. Observe what specifically is that “everything else” and add it to the list.

Pretty soon, you’ll have “the list” memorized and make a daily habit of checking off those items naturally by habit.

Washed dishes and emptied dishwasher? Check.

Folded laundry? Check.

Rock the baby to sleep for afternoon nap? Check.

Observed that your wife has stopped complaining about you not helping out enough because you care enough to figure out how to lighten her burden? Check.

Would you like to ask me for “dadvice” to be featured here on The Dadabase?

Just shoot me an email to nickshell1983@hotmail with the word “dadvice” in the subject line so I’ll know it’s not spam. Even if I decide not to use your question as part of my Dadvice franchise, I’ll still at least privately answer you; whether you’re a mom or dad.

Keep in mind it doesn’t have to be about communication in marriage. It could be about organic foods and health remedies, methods on getting your baby to sleep, a re-occurring dream about your kid; just whatever kind of weird parenthood related thing you are wondering about and want this dad’s quirky opinion on.

Image: Psychic Reader neon sign, via Shutterstock.

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Dadvice #1: Why Doesn’t My Husband Help More With Baby and Chores?

Friday, February 24th, 2012

15 months.

New dads are much more helpful when they are properly prepared, positively motivated, and publicly praised. Otherwise, expect frustration.

This week I received this email asking for my “Dadvice“:

“Hey nick-

Ok….so you said you can tell me why new dad (15 week baby boy) is so easily frustrated and why I feel like he isn’t helping with baby or house work enough and how to improve it if possible!

> Love your facebook!”

I’ve got some good news here- I’m pretty sure I can help. After all, it was only about a year ago that my son was 15 weeks old… now he’s 15 months. That “new dad” was me about a year ago.

There’s this popular belief that men have sensitive egos. Miranda Lambert even references this in the first line of her hit, “Baggage Claim.”

Well, the stereotype is true and, as a dad, I’m not ashamed to admit it. I figure I must be wired that way for a reason. So I say, be the one to build up a man up he’s sure to show his appreciation for it.

But how? Three easy steps:

1) Properly prepare him. Think of your man as a soldier trying to prepare for battle. He wants to know what his expectations are, but if he feels ambushed, he will deem himself defeated and start to retreat or shut down

I know, parenting is by nature, full of surprises. But let new dad know what his tasks are. I recommend writing them down for him in a list; that way, he can memorize them and even mentally check them off in his head as he does them.

So ask yourself, what things can your husband do each day that if you knew they were taken care of, you can handle the rest on your own decently?

Here’s a secret: he likes feeling/being in charge of stuff. So put him in charge; make him Captain Diaper Changer, Boss Bathroom Cleaner, and Lord of the Laundry.

2) Positively motivate him. To speak positively is to speak clearly. Avoid using the words “that” and “those” and instead be very specific; telling him the color, shape, size, and exact location of whatever it is you need him to go get from the nursery or kitchen or diaper bag for you.

Remember, your man already has a secret “dad complex” that he doesn’t know how to be as good of a parent as you the mom naturally are. He’s already paying the “dad tax” in his mind.

So when he does anything right when helping you, make sure it doesn’t go unnoticed. By saying, “I like it that you are able to distract him while I can take a long hot shower.”

The things you praise are the things he will be the best at. The things you “nag” him about will be the things he is the worst at.

Yes, you have that kind of power over him. No exaggeration.

3) Publicly praise him. Yeah, I know- I just finished talking about the need to praise your hubby privately. Well, it’s just as important to do it in front of other people.

You may think it’s cute to tease him about his petty shortcomings as a new dad; especially in the presence of friends or family.

He doesn’t.

Now he may not let you in on this fact, but there’s a good chance that your innocent playfulness is tearing him down inside. Because honestly, it’s pretty emasculating as a man to admit that your “feelings were hurt” because your wife made fun of your lack of parental competency.

So that’s my initial “dadvice” on this subject. Sure, there’s a lot more to it, but if you can prepare, motivate, and praise “new dad,” you will be able to get him in a position where he wants to help you.

And having a man who wants to help you means having a man who does help you. Because he knows you’ll brag to your friends about it.

Would you like to ask me for “dadvice” to be featured here on The Dadabase?

Just shoot me an email to nickshell1983@hotmail with the word “dadvice” in the subject line so I’ll know it’s not spam. Even if I decide not to use your question as part of my Dadvice franchise, I’ll still at least privately answer you; whether you’re a mom or dad.

Top image: Young new dad, via Shutterstock.

Bottom image: Young man unhappy with washing machine, via Shutterstock.

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A Parent Obsessed with Constructive Criticism

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

Seven months.

I am fixated on being the best version of myself I can be; especially when it comes to being a parent.  So I seriously wonder if anyone else in the world is as excited as I am to receive constructive criticism?

baby hat Good HousekeepingIt’s nearly hilarious how in the unsupervised playground of the blog comments world, some adults instantly become childish.  Some are only there to pick fights with either the author or other commenters, trigger-happy to name-call a random stranger; including but not limited “idiot,” “moron,” and “naive.”  If these blog comment snipers can find an angle to make another person look less intelligent than they are, it evidently gives the blog comment sniper a feeling of superiority.

There is a school of thought among some blog authors that by allowing these dog fights to occur in the comment section of their post, it will at least help drive traffic to their site- therefore, nearly anything in the comments section is allowed.  Well, I am not one of those blog authors and this is not one of those kinds of blogs.  If a comment is malicious, condescendingly sarcastic, or deconstructive, I simply won’t approve it.  Just because we are in the seemingly imaginary avatar world of the blogosphere, it doesn’t mean that the tradition of treating people with respect should disappear.

Note: So far, out of 102 posts here on The Dadabase, no one has left an inappropriate or disrespectful comment, so thanks for being cool!

I do allow comments with constructive criticism; just not deconstructive criticism. In fact, as the title’s message conveyed, I love and appreciate constructive criticism.

Constructive criticism truly never hurts my feelings or makes me feel bad about myself.  I never take it personally.  Because I am constantly overly aware that in each area of my life, there is still room for improvement.  I depend on people telling me exactly how to improve- whether it’s what I do at work, at home, relationships with people, etc. So while I don’t go around fishing for constructive criticism, I always am excited to hear it. Because it means I get to become better at something.

baby in overallsHowever, constructive criticism means giving specific advice.  If I am told, “You need to work on this,” without being given exact instruction on how to get better, I will in that case, get offended and frustrated. That would be an insult because the person is not respecting me enough to tell me exactly how to help myself.

I live by the belief that if you’re willing to bring up a problem to another person, you need to A) provide a proposed solution and/or B) ask that person to help you find one.

The way I see the world, everyday is filled with constructive criticisms anyway- whether or not it is spoken to me directly by another person.  In fact, much of what I deem “constructive criticism” is actually just daily observational self-teaching. Sometimes it’s little things I observe in my social interactions; like what not to say in a conversation, after receiving a weird look from another person, or an awkward moment of silence. Sometimes it’s learning a better way to interact with my son as he is going through a new phase.  Or learning a quicker way to rock him to sleep.

Each morning when I wake up, it’s like there’s an invisible scorecard that pops up in my head.  It consists of a dozen little empty boxes, ready to be checked off each time I learn something new about myself.  If I don’t learn anything constructive that day, then subconsciously I feel that day has been wasted.  I thrive on constructive criticism; it gives me a sense of validation.

baby puppyWhen someone has the guts to be bold enough to teach me how to improve at anything, I feel an enormous amount of respect for that person.  Why get offended if someone tells me that I have a black bean skin stuck on my tooth?  Instead, I would thank them and respect them for letting me know.  But the importance of constructive criticism doesn’t just apply to after-lunch moments. For me, it applies to all situations in which my world can be improved.

Call it a superhero type of ability, but I literally am immune to being hurt by any criticism that’s constructive.  There is not one tiny fiber anywhere in my body that is the least bit injured when I learn to do something better than the way I’ve been doing it.

I’ve asked other people about how they perceive constructive criticism and some have told me though it would be unwise to ignore good advice, they feel disappointed in themselves for not already doing it the best way to begin with. While I do recognize that as a valid way to feel and while I try to empathize, I simply can’t relate to that mindset.  Because I evidently am wired weird and it seems most people I’ve talked to can not relate to how my mind works regarding this issue.  So I fully acknowledge that I’m weird for thinking the way I do.

Yes, it’s an obsession of mine, but I have to know that I am the best man I can be. I see it as a frivolous goal to try to be better than any other person.  So as a father and husband, I’m not competing with other men.  I am competing with myself.  I am in competition with tomorrow’s version of myself, because tomorrow’s version is more improved than today’s version.  So the one person I am trying to better than is me.

I’m not a perfectionist.  That to me, would be a waste of my energy.  I’m not chasing that magical unicorn of perfection.  I just want to be better than myself and I refuse to let any amount of pride or self-conservation get in the way of that.

BONUS- Wikipedia’s definitions of the two major kinds of criticism:

Constructive criticism aims to show that the intent or purpose of something is better served by an alternative approach. In this case, the target of criticism is not necessarily deemed wrong, and its purpose is respected; rather, it is claimed that the same goal could be better achieved via a different route.

Negative criticism (or deconstructive criticism, as I call it) means voicing an objection to something only with the purpose of showing that it is simply wrong, false, mistaken, nonsensical, objectionable, disreputable or evil. Negative criticism is also often interpreted as an attack against a person.

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Parenting a Tongue Tied Baby

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

Week 5.

I chose not to go public about Jack being tongue tied, maybe in a subconscious attempt to avoid being overwhelmed with polarizing schools of advice before my wife and I had time to assess the situation ourselves and learn what would truly be best for him.  We realized after just the first couple of days after Jack was born that he wasn’t able to feed like other babies.  He could never get a good latch nor could he take more than a few sips of milk before crying and making a gurgling sound.  Actually, I never knew that being tongue tied was a real thing.  I just thought it was a phrase people used to describe momentarily not being able to successfully speak.  In case you haven’t already clicked on the Wikipedia link in the first sentence or already know this, some babies are born with that “skin bridge” attached too closely for them to stick out their tongues very far.

In Jack’s case, it meant extreme difficulty in feeding.  For more extreme cases, a tongue tied baby may grow up to become a child or adult with a speech impediment.  So last Thursday, we drove back to Vanderbilt in Nashville and had Jack’s tongue clipped.  I consider it a 2nd circumcision of sorts.  In fact, I was offered the chance to watch the procedure, so I did.  It was everything you would imagine. Just a few quick cuts.  I highly recommend it if your infant or child is tongue tied.

Since Thursday, the silver coating the doctor sprayed on the lacerations has been slowly peeling off.  So in a few more days, he should be out of pain and be able to begin learning to feed normally, with a tongue that can reach past his lips.  So if you have a tongue tied baby, and you’re asking for my opinion, just get it clipped. It’s no big deal and it sure beats having to wonder how much easier feeding could have been and whether your child will have difficulty speaking.

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