May 9, 2012

Top 10 Parenting Mistakes

Posted in Parenting tagged , at 8:18 am by Andrew

Three facts: 1) America loves lists. 2) There are millions of parents. 3) Parents make a slew of mistakes. So it’s only natural for DwyerTime to publish a list of the Top 10 Parenting Mistakes. Regular readers know this is a service-oriented web site, so I’m happy to help parents get back on track.

As you read this Top 10 list, you’ll notice an obvious trend: Most parenting mistakes stem from laziness. Parents generally know the right option in any given situation, but they’re just too weak to choose it. Why? Because parents use the difficulty of parenting as an excuse not to do the right thing. But quit making excuses, and start parenting!

So here are the Top 10 Parenting Mistakes. If you only make 8 of them, you’re way above average.

1. Talking baby talk.

When your toddler says “waw-waw,” and then you say “Here’s your waw-waw,” you know what your kid thinks? “My parent’s a moron.” Don’t you get it? A kid’s mind says “water” but his mouth can only say “waw-waw.” Quit modeling stupidity to your kid and speak like an adult.

2. Rushing in to pick up your toddler when she falls.

If you don’t want your kid to fall…don’t let her walk! Otherwise, let the kid deal with some struggles. Frantically picking up the kid as if she fell onto a bed of nails only teaches her that she can’t handle anything…ever.

3. Letting them watch TV.

Whether it’s a 3-year-old watching two hours of TV every day, a 10-year-old watching sitcoms seeped in sexual references, or a 15-year-old watching R-rated movies, it’s bad bad bad. Wake up and take responsibility, people! Are you really so ignorant that you don’t realize the negative effect on your kids? The material is inappropriate for children, but you’re just too laaaaazzzzzyyy to step up and take control. Shame on you.

4. Losing control of technology.

Again, there are too many examples to name, but here’s a sampling: 9-year-olds with unlimited texting, 12-year-olds with Facebook accounts, and ANY AGE KID with Internet access or a TV in their room. Seriously? Face it, you’re an absentee parent. Quit catering to your kid’s whims and say “no” more often. And don’t tell me “kids are tech-savvy these days.” Parents are failing their kids by abandoning them in an over-sexed, vitriolic media world…and there’s nothing virtual about the danger.

5. Failing to enforce bed times.

I don’t care if your kid is 2, 10 or 16…they need sleep…more than they’re getting…and you’re flat-out lazy or ignorant to think otherwise. Decades of scientific research (not to mention common sense) confirm the hazards of lack of sleep. From surliness to reduced capacity for learning, you’re doing your kid a disservice. So why do you do it? Because it’s easier on your schedule to let them stay up, and you’re too weak to enforce a bed time.

6. Holding your kid back in school.

Parents who wait until their kid is 6 to start Kindergarten should be ashamed of themselves. They’ll claim the kid is “emotionally immature” or “socially awkward” or “he’s just not ready academically.” 95% of the time, the real answer is this: “My kid’s fine, but I’m weak.” As mentioned in #5, decades of research prove a child’s brain is ready for kindergarten-level academia at age 5. You hold your kid back out of fear. You’re afraid he’ll struggle. And it’s just so darn easy to ensure “success” for your kid by holding him back. But quit kidding yourself – that’s not good parenting, it’s cheating. Then again, maybe your idea of “success” is an 8-year-old completing homework designed for a 7-year-old, or a 12-year-old running back blasting through a defensive line of 11-year-olds. After all, as the saying goes, “it’s not how you play the game, it’s whether you win or lose.”

7. Ignoring the caffeine facts.

Sure, let your 7-year-old drink caffeinated soda. Let your teenager drink Starbucks…because you’re a cool parent, and you and your kid are coffee-drinking buds. That’s so fun…and ignorant. You can bury your head in the sand, but facts are facts: adolescent brains don’t process caffeine well. But then again, the scientific research probably doesn’t apply to your kid…because he’s just so special.

8. Succumbing to the Sports Industrial Complex.

Youth sports have run amok. That’s not hyperbole, urban myth, or a quaint complaint from a throwback parent. It’s just a fact. Youth sports start at a very young age and accelerate rapidly until they command the majority of your time. Here’s a typical situation: A group of 1st-graders play a traditional soccer season, consisting of spring and fall. Then the coach or a parent suggests “we keep the team together” and play an indoor winter league. That’s how the treadmill starts, and it’s nearly impossible to disembark. Gone are the days of “football season” and “baseball season.” Instead, every sport involves a 9- to 12-month commitment. Any off time is filled with camps, clinics and endless practicing. We tell our kids to resist peer pressure, yet we parents follow along shamelessly as youth sports devour family time, dinner time, down time, and play time. There are very few phenoms in this world, but there’s no shortage of parents who are too weak to admit their kid is not one of them.

9. Dismissing parenting guilt.

Our society has become fond of the concept of “no regrets”…or saying “I wouldn’t have done anything differently.” You know what that is? Self-indulgent idiocy. Same goes for parenting. Parents are told not to blame ourselves or feel guilty. Poppycock! If you can’t shoulder a little guilt, get out of the parenting business. Parenting is hard, and we all make mistakes, but what happened to “learning from our mistakes”? Hold yourself to a high standard, admit your failures and do better next time. You let your kid stay up too late, you failed to enforce the rules, and you ignored what you know is right. Own it, regret it, improve it!

10. Not enough hugs!

Let’s end on a positive note, because this is the easiest mistake to fix. We need to hug our kids more. Sure, we hug our 3-year-old, but I’m thinking about the teenagers. Dads, hug your 16-year-old son…every day. Moms, don’t ever think your son is too old for a hug. You may be uncomfortable with it, you may think your son doesn’t like it, but you both need it. And of course, daughters of every age need hugs…especially from Dad…that last a minimum of 10 seconds, preferably 20. Granted, I don’t have research on this one, but are you really going to argue with me about hugs? Despite our best efforts and everything we do right, we also fail our kids routinely (thus this column.). So think of a hug as confession from someone seeking absolution. We’re all dopes – parents and kids alike – but a hug at the end of the day says “I love you and you’re special, and any troubles between us…they’re nothing more than a few clouds on a beautiful day.”


October 15, 2009

About That Hip-Hop Music…

Posted in Father Time, Parenting tagged , at 10:00 pm by Andrew

I’m not going to say my old FatherTime columns drew throngs of adoring fans, or that I was a rock star among the moms who worshipped the parenting publication. But I will say this — a couple people may have read it. I think.

On occasion, someone will reference an old column or remind me about something I wrote. And now I’ve been asked to post one of my columns from 2006. (The request may or may not have come from my wife, but who am I to say? Or you to know?) So here’s the piece I wrote about modern pop music (which would now be 3 years pre-modern):

You know how every generation of parents complains about the music their children listen to? And yet time ultimately proves these worrisome parents to be naive. Elvis, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix were not only harmless, but spectacular.

Now it’s our turn. As parents, it’s time to cast a skeptical ear toward today’s music. Like generations before us, will we judge too quickly? Judge too harshly? Or will we be the “cool” parents who bop along in rare appreciation of youthful Top 40? I don’t know what your answer is, but I’ll tell you what it should be — We’ll make history by being the first generation to be justifiably shocked by modern music.

My oldest child is 10, and he thinks I’m cool because I plug him into music. He knows the likes of Green Day, Maroon 5 and Avril Lavigne. He’s happy now, but I’m preparing for the storm.

Reality is this: Much of today’s pop music is hard-core, sexually explicit and wildly demeaning to women — and girls.

Lend an ear to the local Top 40/Hip-Hop station. (And don’t call it “rap,” or you’ll lose all street cred with your kid.) Gone are the days when songs merely alluded to sexual encounters or cleverly described a woman’s body. In my day, J. Geil’s centerfold and Madonna’s virgin astonished adults and intrigued teens. And before that, Elvis’ hips and James Brown’s cold sweat convinced parents that an age of risque had begun.

And the fact is, that music did coincide with periods of increased sexual activity. But I would argue the music advanced in tandem with morals. Vastly to the contrary, today’s music is leading the way. And that’s why you, the parent, must get involved.

By today’s standards, Guns n’ Roses’ 1987 “Sweet Child O’Mine” could pass for Romance poetry, with Axel Rose praising his loved one. But listen to Eminem’s current song “Shake That,” and you’ll hear praise of a much different variety!

As teenagers, we were warned of the risks of objectifying. Yet today’s musicians feast on an entirely new process — specifying. There’s no subtlety or double entendres anymore. Most hip-hop artists talk in raw detail about their unlimited prowess, women’s unbridled sexual desire, and frankly, little else.

Twenty-five years ago, Billy Joel raised eyebrows by chiding us that “Catholic girls start much too late.” He left it at that — quite gentlemanly by today’s standards. But if you ever wondered exactly what Joel was referring to, you’ll hear all the details in Gwen Stefani’s “Crash.”

Are these the worst examples of today’s music? Maybe, but that doesn’t make them rare. In fact, they turn up as often as every other song on the radio. In my youthful days, hard-core lyrics existed, from groups like NWA, for example, but they certainly didn’t make it onto the radio. Yet today’s pop music is riddled with specific and degrading lyrics. What REO Speedwagon only alluded to, Ludacris and Nelly now spell out in crude detail.

Am I overreacting? Definitely not. The Scorpions wanted to “rock you like a hurricane” in the early ’80s, and the meaning is clear now, but as a 14-year-old, frankly, I didn’t catch the reference. Today’s teens can’t possibly miss the sexual content.

Ironically, I’m a big fan of hip-hop. Musically, it’s great to listen to, fabulous to run to. But the lyrics are trouble. Maybe your children listen to pop music and you feel safe because they don’t like hip-hop. Maybe they’re fans of the likes of Kelly Clarkson, Mariah Carey and Coldplay. But guess what? The same station that plays mostly innocent pop also plays raw hip-hop.

So what’s a parent to do? It’s unlikely you can shield your child from this music, and we probably shouldn’t want to. Fortunately, there is some antidote out there. Listen to Pink’s “Stupid Girls,” for example. But as with most parenting, we simply need to do our best to prepare our children for this ugly reality, then offer continuous support.

In this case, I think that requires listening to today’s music; recognizing the names of the artists I’ve mentioned here; understanding terms and phrases like “X,” “crib,” “grill,” “20s,” “my humps,” and “back up on it.” We need to make clear that we find the lyrics offensive but the music palatable. If our children can compartmentalize such music — see it as a glimpse into a small segment of society, rather than attributing it to their entire peer group — we may help our children feel less pressure to have their lives imitate art.

October 6, 2009

When Parents Choose Halloween Costumes

Posted in Parenting tagged , , at 9:05 am by Andrew

Several years ago on Halloween, a boy came to the door wearing a long white robe, a tunic-type thing and a huge grey beard. I like to guess who the kids are dressed as, so I said, “Wow…cool…I’m thinking you’re either Obi-Wan Kenobi…or maybe Zeus, right?” The kid looks at me and says “No, I’m Moses, the prophet.”

Clearly, too many parents are choosing their children’s costumes. I’m guessing young Moses’ dad has quite a religious bent, or for the purpose of this column…is a religion geek.

Every Halloween I encounter at least one poor child who has a “geek” parent — be it Bible geek, football geek, chess geek, etc. The parent convinces the kid that “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool to dress up like Gary Kasparov?” Or…”You know what would be really scary?…Beowulf!

 Scary cool? No. Scary lame? Yes. 

If you’re a geek parent of one genre or another, I’ve compiled a non-encompassing list of poor costume choices you should not make for your children, conveniently categorized by geek topic. Again, this is meant to be a disincentive…not a brainstorming session for even more bad ideas.

Political Geek (right-wing)
Costume: Raggedy suit, tussled hair, dirty face
Best guess: “Cool hobo, dude.”
Kid: “No, I’m a small-business owner who lost his business because I can’t afford Obama’s socialized healthcare.”

Political Geek (left-wing)
Costume: Raggedy clothes, tussled hair, dirty face
Best Guess: “Are you Oliver Twist?”
Kid: “No, I’m a member of the poor working class who doesn’t have healthcare…and my in-grown toenail turned gangrenous.”

English Major Geek, Part I
Costume: Dapper Suit, tie, brimmed hat, wing tips
Best Guess: “Are you, like…Dick Tracy?”
Kid: “No, I’m Jay Gatsby from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s seminal American novel, The Great Gatsby.”

English Major Geek, Part II
Costume: Baggy pants, long hair, sloped shoulders, bad attitude
Best Guess: “Whaddup skater dude”
Kid: “No, I’m Holden Caufield from Catcher in the Rye.”

Military Geek
Costume: Fatigues, holster, helmet
Best Guess: “Lookin’ good, GI Joe.”
Kid: “No, I’m Douglas MacArthur, the best damned general this country’s ever known!”

Classical Music Geek
Costume: Powdered wig, ruffled shirt, red long-coat
Best Guess: “Are you George Washington?”
Kid: “No, I’m a young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, around the time he wrote his Violin Concerto #3.”

Broadway Musical Geek
Costume: Standard cowboy costume.
Best Guess: “Howdy Cowboy!”
Kid: “No, I’m Curly McLain, lead character from Oscar and Hammerstein’s musical, Oklahoma! I can sing it for you, if you like.”
(A lesser writer would say something about how “both of the kid’s dads loved this costume.” But I’m better than that.)

Astronomy Geek
Costume: Black turtleneck, black pants, with white dots all over.
Best Guess: “Uhmm…what are you?”
Kid: “I’m the Pegasus constellation.”

Chemistry Geek
Costume: Black turtleneck, black pants, with white dots all over.
Best Guess: “I actually know what you are…you’re the Pegasus constellation.”
Kid: “What? That’s stupid! I’m a calcium sulfide molecule.”

Art Geek
Costume: Frilly blouse, makeup, lots of exposed skin
Best Guess: “Are you supposed to be the girl in that famous Degas painting?”
Kid: “What? Who the heck is Daygah? Dude…are you a geek? I’m Lady Gaga. Just give me the candy, freak.”

And there you have it, parents. Be careful when guiding your kids to certain costume ideas. What you consider clever, the rest of the world considers awkward, weird and bizarre.

We may be geeks, but our children still have a shot at being normal. So I don’t care if you’re an amateur ventriloquist, basement botanist or have a Masters Degree in library science. You don’t want to be sitting with your grandkids 30 years from now and hear your son say, “Hey Dad, remember that Halloween you made me dress up like the Dewey Decimal System?”

September 11, 2009

Whose Muse?

Posted in Just Darn Clever, Parenting, Top 6 tagged , , at 10:35 am by Andrew

I was listening to an interview with a musician talking about his new album. He answered the usual questions about inspiration, muse, etc., and the musician said something along these lines: “When I started writing songs for this album, I wasn’t sure what direction I’d go, but I had enough courage to let the inspiration take me where it wanted.”

OK, so my first instinct, like yours, was to ridicule such talk. “Courage to let the inspiration take me”? Isn’t that just artsy speak for “I wasn’t very motivated”?

Mock if we must, but problem is, it works. The artist lobby has succeeded in convincing the rest of us that art and artists are other-worldly. A strand of copper wire may be a strand of copper wire, but place a tag in front of it with the words “Modern Rage,” and suddenly it’s art. Deeply moving, emotionally complex art.

So I realized my attitude was all wrong. Rather than ceding to artists the exclusive rights to “following their muse,” the rest of us need to change course and find our own inner artists. Indeed, it’s time to saddle-up the muse and ride him wherever he takes you.

Next time you fill out that monthly sales report for your boss, “let your spirit lead you” as you artfully create numbers based not in fact (or revenue), but in spirit. It’s not about how much you sold…how much do you feel you could have sold?

When the police pull you over for doing 40 in a 30…just say “I was following my muse, officer, and she was doing at least 50.”

Perhaps those examples are too rogue for your taste…too modern artsy, and you’re more of the subtle impressionist school. Hey, that’s cool. There’s a muse for that too, and you’re less likely to get fired or a speeding ticket. Try these muse-infused efforts:

  • Next time you mow the lawn, instead of the boring back-and-forth or shrinking perimeter (you know that one), spend a few moments channeling the yard gods. Have some courage, and soon you’ll be artfully guiding your lawnmower through some free-form swaths that reflect the oppression of the working class in emerging post-revolutionary Mexico. Your neighbors will be amazed.
  • Stuck in a rut with your kid’s lunches? Still making that boring ham and mayonnaise or PB&J? Or worse, Capri Sun and Pop-Tarts? Be brave and run with the culinary spirits, people. You’ll be cranking out cashew-encrusted bologna with seared raisinets. Or pan-fried seasonal gummy-bears in a kool-aid reduction. Teachers will be so impressed, you’ll become a guest lecturer in art class.

 So yes, it’s time we all show some courage and follow our muse. Place your faith in the spirits and let them guide you to new levels of delusionment…I mean, enlightenment. That’s what I did. In the beginning of this piece, I didn’t know what to write…where to go with it…what to say. But I trusted my muse, I got out of the way, and enjoyed the journey with my inner word nymphs. And look where they took me?


August 18, 2009

When to Pull That Looth Tooth

Posted in Fun w/Photos, Parenting tagged at 3:22 pm by Andrew

I’m always ready to help a fellow parent (and on rare occasion, non-parents), so I want to pass on some new-found knowledge about teeth. As you know, kids’ teeth are always coming loose, often falling out and sometimes causing trouble. Many of you struggle with such situations — is it loose? which tooth is it? is it loose enough? should a tooth be that color?

While I’m not technically a dentist, I suggest you look for the following visual cues to determine looseness (or as dentists call it, “money for my boat”):

  • Change in gum color, from light crimson to pale reddish purple (i.e., from pink to pinker)
  • Swelling of the gums, to the tune of 5 denti-meters, measured diagonally at the vortex of the center of the mid-point

That may be too dense for many of you to understand, so I’m posting visual evidence of the tell-tale sign of looseness. Here’s what you’re looking for — when the tooth in question moves from its standard vertical position…to the highly not-standard horizontal freaky-looking position shown here:

I suggest you print out this photo and carry it on your person for ready reference the next time your child claims tooth looseness.

As always…You’re Welcome.

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