The Decline of Play and Rise of Mental Disorders by Dr Peter Gray (Video)

There’s no doubt kids don’t play as much as they used to. At least not in the conventional sense. Can this really be linked to the rise in mental disorders?

Every parent should want to know if their child’s mental health is being affected by having less playtime, more homework, greater preschool requirements and the endless list of extra-curricular classes and activities to super groom them.

What’s the Big Deal about Play?

Apparently, a lot. As Dr Gray explains:

In play we develop fit bodies, develop critical skills, learn to cooperate with one another, develop social skills. Learn to take risk and manage fears.

Researchers have done experiments where they deprived young animals of play. And the result is that they turn out to be emotionally and socially crippled.

Play is where children learn that they are in control of their own life. Where they learn to solve problems. Where they experience joy. Where they learn to get along with peers. By definition it’s creative and innovative.

Taking Away the Ultimate Gift

He goes on to highlight:

Play is the ultimate gift to children, and over the last 50-60 years we’ve been gradually taking it away.

At the same time, over the decades we’ve seen in children:

  • Increased anxiety and depression
  • Decline in internal focus and control
  • Rise in narcissism & Decline in empathy
  • Decline in creative thinking

And there are reasons to attribute all these to play deprivation.

Do take a few moments to watch this TEDTalk in full.

Shocking, isn’t it?

Keeping Up with our Kids, the New Generation, the Lingo and the World they Live In

For some reason, i’ve been getting quite a few joke-filled messages recently. This one is an amusing wakeup call for parents to get in tune with the world that our kids are growing up in.

THE NEW GENERATION!!

Daughter: “Dad, I’m in love with a boy who is far away from me. I am in Australia and he lives in the UK . We met on a dating website, became friends on Facebook, had long chats on Whatsapp, he proposed to me on Skype and now we’ve had two months of relationship through Viber. Dad, I need your blessings and good wishes.”

Father: “Wow! Really!! Then get married on Twitter, have fun on Tango, buy your kids on Amazon and pay through Paypal. And if you are fed up with your husband….sell him on Ebay”

And that’s if you have a daughter who’s already a young adult now.

Those of us with young kids have a lot more keeping up to do. Facebook, WhatsApp and Viber may be archaic by the time they need our blessings and good wishes, but …

… there’ll still be PlentyOfFish and services to Match them up with an ideal partner in SecondLife or IRL as they SnapChat and KIK away to find friends with common Pinterests that they Digg.

Yahoo! :)

4 Marriage Jokes to Keep Husbands Smiling and Help Us See the Funnier Side of Things

Being a new husband or dad isn’t easy. One minute you’re your own man and the next, you have an impossible to please wife and little people to dictate influence your decisions. And that’s for those who still get to make decisions.

If you’re feeling it a bit, or need some pick-me-ups in hand when things get tough, just have a laugh at these jokes I came across:

1. “If you want to change the world, do it when you are a bachelor. After marriage, you can’t even change a TV channel”

Forget sports. Just develop a taste for cooking shows and Disney channel!

2. “Listening to your wife is like reading the terms and conditions of website. You understand Nothing, but still have to agree”

But try to remember some of the terms even if you don’t understand them in case you get tested on what you agreed to.

3. “Chess is the only game in the world, which reflects the status of the husband. The poor King can take only one step at a time, while the mighty Queen can do whatever she likes”

I’ve always wondered why the King is so useless in Chess!

4. “All men are brave. Horror movies don’t scare them, but 5 missed calls from the wife and …”

There must be a direct correlation between missed calls from the wife and men’s blood pressures.

Know any good crackers to keep our fellow brethren sane and strong in their journeys through life, marriage and raising a family? Please share them below in the comments.

The Husband Store Joke: Are Women Really that Impossible to Please?

Most husbands and fathers with daughters know the challenges of trying to keep the women in their lives happy.

The naive noobs may think it’s a give and take juggle. The seasoned men know that you’ll ultimately have to give in but just to play long. Sometimes though, it can be jawdroppingly shocking how far they can push the limits.

I was recently sent this joke, which sums things up perfectly:

A store that sells new husbands has just opened downtown, where women may go choose a husband. Instructions for shoppers say: “You may visit this store ONLY ONCE! There are six floors and the number of products increase floor by floor. Once you go up to the next floor, you cannot go back down, except to exit the building!”

So, a woman goes to the Husband Store to find a husband. On the first floor the sign on the door reads:

Floor 1 – These men Have Jobs.
Floor 2 – These men Have Jobs and Love Kids.
Floor 3 – These men Have Jobs, Love Kids, and are Extremely Good Looking.

“Wow,” she thinks, but feels compelled to keep going.

She goes to the fourth floor and reads: Floor 4 -These men Have Jobs, Love Kids, are Drop-dead Good Looking and Help With housework.

“Oh, mercy me!” she exclaims, “I can hardly stand it!” Still, she goes to the fifth floor and sign reads:

Floor 5 – These men Have Jobs, Love Kids, are Drop-Dead Gorgeous, Help with the Housework, and Have a strong Romantic Streak.

She is so tempted to stay, but she goes to the sixth floor and the Sign reads:

Floor 6 – You are visitor 31,456,012 to this floor. There are no men on this floor.

This floor exists solely as proof that women are impossible to please. Thank you for shopping at the New Husband’s Store.”

They’re certainly not impossible to please but they do tend to want more and more. It’s just human nature and guys are like that too.

The answer? Manage their expectations well and keep the giving on a trickling slow release.

Choosing the Right School is one of the Most Important Decisions Parents have to Make

Finding the right school for our children is stressful. Some of us frantically research all the possibilities during the preschool years, or even younger during the kindergarten period, while others only pay full attention after elementary school, or before their kids go to college.

There are just so many decisions to make. Private vs Public schooling. Regular vs Alternative Education Systems. Waldorf vs Montessori. Homeschooling vs Traditional Schooling. School A vs B vs C.

Quite frankly, it’s overwhelming, especially if you’re a perfectionist who’s paranoid about making the wrong choice for your child (who is totally depending on you).

Schools Affect Parents Too

As we’ve already explored, Educating Kids at Home is More Important than Finding the Perfect School, but choosing a suitable school definitely makes a world of difference, and this quote sums it up perfectly:

Choosing a school for a child is one of the most important decisions parents make. The school — its teachers, curriculum, educational philosophy, and values both explicit and implicit — will affect the child’s day-to-day life. It will help shape the child’s personality, view of life, behavior, and destiny as an adult. And it will also deeply affect the lives of the parents and the life of the family as a whole.

–Ronald Koetzsch

We normally focus on the impact on our child of selecting an unsuitable school, but the reality – as pointed out by Mr Koetzsch – is that “it will also deeply affect the lives of the parents and the life of the family as a whole”.

Private Education Costs

A key consideration is the cost of private schooling. We all want to give our kids the best education that money can buy. But at what cost? Will you be willing to sacrifice your family’s quality of life? Get into debt that will take years or even decades to pay off? Move to a smaller home in a less desirable part of town?

Here’s an interesting account of how Julia Goldberg and her husband spent $140,000 over 12 years for their daughter’s Waldorf education from 3-years old through to 8th grade. She explains that “$140,000 could have bought a lot of other things instead, and certainly would have meant much less household debt”, and concludes that “But for $140,000, we bought our daughter a beautiful childhood. It was worth every penny.”.

And if you can’t make that financial commitment, or simply don’t have the means to consider private schools as an option, then what will be the cost of putting your child through the public education system which has failed so many students?

Be your Child’s Best Teacher

At the end of the day, there is no definitive answer. Every child is different. Every family operates on different dynamics. There are kids from wealthy homes who have gone through the best private schools but turn out poorly. While there are dropouts and people who haven’t been to school who end up being extremely successful in life.

One thing’s for sure – parenting is just as important and in most cases, much more important than schooling. And that’s in your control, regardless of whether you have money or not.

So make sure you don’t neglect your children now as you worry about their education or work tirelessly to save up for their college fund. You can be teaching them everyday, and helping them to learn key life lessons from your words, your actions and the guidance they so dearly need from you.

Be there for them now. Be concerned about the future but don’t let it be at the expense of the present when you can already be schooling them at home to groom their mental, physical and emotional well-being.

Children are Better Behaved and Do Better Academically when Fathers Read to Them

Bedtime stories are one of the best ways to build a strong bond between fathers and their young children. Kids love it and dads who don’t do it should make more of an effort, especially since it can help them gain skills that they don’t normally get when mum reads to them.

Perhaps it’s a little harsh to say that Dads who don’t read to their kids are idiots, but it’s really quite sad how many dads don’t connect with their kids in this way. And of those that do, how it’s not done often enough.

I just came across a very interesting article that gives dads 3 very compelling reasons to pick up the habit. Apparently, when fathers read to their children:

  1. the child’s verbal skills can increase by up to fifteen percent
  2. they are better behaved –  have better attachment, have higher self esteem, and show better social competence
  3. they do better academically – enjoy school more, are less likely to repeat a grade, and have a more positive perception of their academic abilities

Wow, that’s incredible. Most of us know how reading to our child is good because it gets them away from overstimulating screens, helps them to improve their reading skills and allows us to spend quality time together, but these facts are really shocking.

I’m sure most dads would definitely spend more time reading to their little ones if they knew this. Regardless of whether you’re a mum, a dad or a child who wants your father to read to you more, make a note of these points and use them to ensure there is more daddy-child reading sessions in your home.

Ready to give it a shot? Here are a few tips to develop reading as a fun activity for both fathers and children:

  • Make sure there’s plenty of good reading material. This means interesting books that will capture your child’s imagination and prevent dad from falling asleep at the same time.
  • Have certain fixed times for these reading sessions. Bedtimes are the norm but you can always slot in others around the day when it suits your family.
  • Daddies – if you’re not a good storyteller, orator, or can’t read out loud very well, then try to practice reading as interestingly as possible. A monotonous tone will bore you both very quickly. Go to YouTube and listen to how other storytellers do it or do a search in Google to get some tips.

There are lots of things that dads are not very good at doing when it comes to parenting, and plenty of areas where they suck at caregiving to young kids, but reading could be one of the best things for men to excel at. It’s fun, easy and you can even do it lying down with your precious one in your arms.

Want some more inspiration? Head on over to Amazon.com and buy some cool fun books to suit your child’s age. Build up a mini library and try to instill a love of books in your son or daughter. One thing’s for sure, if you’ve got a range of great books that both of you want to read, it will make your reading sessions a lot more appealing.

What I Learned in the First Few Months of Writing a Daddy Blog

I started this blog last month 4 months ago and aimed to publish a post once a day. It was an ambitious goal but i really wanted to push hard to get some momentum going.

I know myself – if no targets were set, i would either take weeks to write a post, or have an endless list of excuses why i don’t have time to sit down and write. And then – like most of the blogs on the Web – it would have got off to a spluttering start and then just free rolled without any direction until it came to a complete standstill.

So, i devised a plan that ensured constant attention would be devoted to it:

  • 1 Post a Day for 365 Days
  • Each Post to be Published Daily
  • No Set and Forget Scheduling
  • Decent Length & Non Spammy Posts

In addition, i also tried to track how long it took to write each piece, and constantly tested different ways to write as efficiently and quickly as possible.

30 Posts in 30 Days

Well, i successfully managed to complete the first month. I wanted to get a taste of what it takes to publish a blog, and i think i got a good idea of what’s involved in writing the posts. But i get the feeling there’s actually a lot more that needs to be done.

Each post was taking between 1 to 2 or more hours to write, and by the time they were checked, formatted, and had an image inserted (when there was one), an average of 90+ minutes was spent per day before the publish button could be clicked. In fact, i think it was more like 105 minutes.

An hour or two a day may not be a lot if this is a full-time gig, but when you’re juggling a proper job, and trying to make as much time as possible for the kids, it does push you to the limits a bit.

In theory, it’s all quite doable. However, here are some of the real issues i came across:

  1. More often than not, you sit down and can’t think of much to write.
  2. On other occasions, you write but you’re not happy with it, and end up deleting it all.
  3. If you aim to post 7 days a week, that means no weekend breaks, which is quite tough.
  4. There are some days when you just don’t have that hour or two. Or they’re unproductive.
  5. You need to always have at least one or two articles in hand to cover for emergency days.
  6. You have to constantly be working on lots of ideas, outlines, and half-written posts.
  7. It’s not as simple as sitting down for 2 hours a day and then hitting publish. The whole process is very non-linear – it depends on your inspiration, mood and available time in the house for a bit of peace and quiet.

Each Post Takes More Time than you Think

For those of us who don’t write for a living, blogging can be a very interesting experience. I found myself constantly working on article titles and ideas in my head. Almost everything around me became a topic for discussion or analysis. In a way, it made me more aware of my surroundings, although it was sometimes at the expense of not hearing what my wife said.

Basically, trying to put out a post per day can completely absorb you. You’re jumping out of bed when it’s still dark in order to get some quality writing time before the kids wake up. You’re running through which idea to work on first as you fall asleep. You’re trying to create bullet points in your head while waiting at the traffic lights. You’re trying to make a mental note of relevant talking points you think of when you’re in the supermarket checkout.

In short, it’s not just about sitting down for an hour or two. Your mind is constantly at work throughout the day to develop and refine ideas. And when these thoughts are coherent, the words will flow a lot more smoothly when you sit down in front of the laptop.

Anyway, it was extremely useful for me to go through the 30 days. Nothing beats doing it yourself, and the experience gained is invaluable. You can sit down and read countless blog posts (like this one) to try and figure out what posting frequency you should aim for, but ultimately, you’ve got to try it yourself, and keep on monitoring your progress.

Some people have more ideas, some have a better command of the language, some express themselves better, some type quicker, some have stricter quality controls, and some are just much better writers. It all varies from person to person.

Even if you try writing 5 posts over 5 days or publish 10 articles over 10 days, you’ll get to know yourself better, in terms of your writing abilities.

Post Length

One thing that will have a similar effect for most bloggers is the targeted post length.

Some bloggers can take 15 minutes or less to create a post that contains an image or an embedded YouTube video together with a few sentences. I averaged about 100 minutes because i had a 500 word minimum target, and aimed for 750+ words to produce longer articles. I think some of them ran on to over 1200 words.

In hindsight, this is the main thing i’m going to change, as I don’t think it’s the best way to spend my time – ie. spending all my ‘blogging time’ to write long posts every single day.

Even before i got to day 30, i knew some changes needed to be made. It just wasn’t efficient. There are lots of other things that need to be done to make the blog successful, and if all my available time is spent writing, many of these other tasks will be neglected.

Marketing your Blog & its Content

Google claims that bloggers should focus on creating high quality original content and their search engine will automatically send us relevant visitors. After all, content is king right? Well, it’s not that easy.

I knew this already, but still wanted to test it out for myself. Since PapaBlogger went live, i have not promoted it at all. No announcements on Facebook, no emails to friends and family members, nothing. I wanted to see if i could get traffic naturally, and that’s partly why i went all out to publish fairly detailed posts, so that low quality content wouldn’t be the reason why i don’t get many visitors.

And when i checked my traffic stats, it confirmed my suspicion. Every day, there were only a few visits to my blog’s homepage, and those were probably a mix between me and search bots. Bottom line – bloggers need to market themselves, their blog, and their content to generate traffic. You can’t just post content – which you think is brilliant – and then expect them to come.

Okay, so that’s why it’s not wise for a blogger to spend all their available time on content creation. There needs to be a healthy balance between writing, responding to reader comments, reaching out to fellow bloggers, commenting on other blogs, replying to emails, and testing out the ever-growing number of ways to promote your blog online.

I only have a maximum of about 2 hours per day for my blog, and in the first 30 days, i was spending almost all of it writing articles. This isn’t a viable strategy going forward, which is why i decided to refine the plan.

No doubt it will be continually tweaked in the future, and when it does, i’ll share my thoughts and reasons for doing so.

NOTE/UPDATE (2nd August 2014)

I wrote the article above in May 2014 but forgot to post it. That’s what happens when you push too hard in the first month and then take your foot off the gas in the subsequent weeks!

In the 3-months following the initial 30 day blitz in April, i’ve published less than 10 posts. That’s an average of 3 per month versus 30 in a month. It’s a huge and embarrassing difference, but one that’s worth documenting to illustrate the realities of starting a blog.

There are a few almost completed articles and quite a few half written ones in the works, but without a fixed posting schedule, it has been all too easy to just slack off. Hopefully, there will be a more balanced approach over the next 4 months.

From Newborn to Preschooler – How to Get Through One of Life’s Toughest Challenges

Some people have dream kids who are super easy. Others are dealt a hand full of colic, sleepless nights, constant crying, moodiness, tantrums and a mix of other challenges. It’s just the luck of the draw.

If you’ve got a tricky one, you and your partner will just have to be stronger, more patient and extra determined to get through it with all of you – including the child – unscathed.

“Having a first child is like throwing a hand grenade into a marriage.” – Nora Ephron

Our first born was quite a handful. We were tested us all the way. But recently, she decided to grow up and become ‘a good girl’. It was amazing how it happened, and we’re so glad to leave those trying years behind. If we hadn’t kept a level head and been strong for each other, things could so easily have come apart at the seams.

The Hard Times will Get Easier

If you’re having a tough time at the moment with a newborn, infant or toddler, take a few moments to think things through. What you need is a lot of mental strength to fuel the determination required to stay calm and keep your emotions under control.

One thing to bear in mind is that this period in your life – however challenging – will definitely come to an end. So just bear it out. Your child will grow up, and once they are somewhere between 4 and 6-years old, they’ll be a lot easier to handle.

“If your baby is beautiful and perfect, never cries or fusses, sleeps on schedule and burps on demand, an angel all the time, you’re the grandma.” – Theresa Bloomingdale

Every day may feel like a week when you’re short of sleep, and surviving for two or three more years may seem like eternity, but simply knowing it will eventually end gives you something tangible to focus on.

In addition, things will get easier along the way. Your kid will learn and improve. You and your partner will also get better at taking care of your child. And, you’ll get used to having less sleep and be able to change diapers in the dark when you’re half asleep.

Bottom line – it will definitely get better.

Don’t Ruin your Lives

All too often, parents who have a difficult child get so frustrated that it affects their marriage as well as the way they treat and view their baby.

When you combine a lack of sleep with a new mother’s hormonal changes, daddy’s feeling of helplessness whenever the baby cries, a home that’s been turned upside down and a young family that’s filled with too much anxiety, it’s a potential recipe for disaster.

It’s absolutely imperative that you don’t let it all cave in. The best way to do this is to be prepared and have various strategies in hand to deal with the situations that will inevitably crop up. Know yourself, know your partner, and get to know your child as well as possible. Then react accordingly with a positive mindset that’s focused on easing any tension when it arises.

“We’re either getting a dog or a child. We can’t decide whether to ruin our carpets or our lives.” – Rita Rudner

A good way to be mentally prepared is to reflect on the millions of other parents who have gone through the same experience as you. Many of them have it much worse but still survive without compromising the child’s well-being or their marriage. If parents who are less educated, and in a worse financial situation can do it, surely you can too.

A Great Achievement

Regardless of whether you’re going through it now, or whether you’re about to embark on the journey in the coming months, hopefully you can get yourself into the right frame of mind to manage the challenges of caring for a baby until she becomes a preschooler.

It’s a wonderful feeling when she finally grows up. You’ll feel an amazing sense of achievement and be very proud of yourself for getting through one of the hardest challenges life has to offer.

Teach them Well and Even Challenging Children will Blossom when they’re Ready

Raising children is one of the hardest things most of us will ever do. If you’re going through a particularly challenging period and feel like pulling your hair out – or theirs – just remember that it will eventually come to an end, even though it doesn’t seem like it when you’re in the thick of it.

Last month, that miracle happened for us. After a few years of proving why the toddler years are called ‘the terrible two’s and three’s’, our daughter suddenly turned a new leaf at 4-years and 10 months.

We were amazed, delighted and emotional. Our baby was a baby no more. She’d moved on to being an inquisitive, clever and extremely loveable little girl. Part of us still wanted to hold on to her innocently cute past, but we were also ready to embrace the magic she had in store for us.

So what happened?

The transformation seemed like it was instant. Overnight, she just grew up. She got out of bed and suddenly had a totally different attitude. She even said “i’m a big girl now” and went straight to her height chart to be measured, convinced that she had grown taller. “Look, my legs are longer Papa”, she said excitedly. It was priceless.

The best part was how she acted towards her little sister, and when we asked her to do something. Previously, she had very selective hearing, where getting her to do simple things like brushing her teeth or clearing up her toys needed multiple requests and reminders. All of a sudden, she was doing most of them on cue.

And this new her also took on the big sister role in a much more positive way. Rather than being jealous of having to share our attention and constantly competing with her 18-month old sibling over everything, she became more secure and confident. She started speaking to the little one in a caring, sisterly, and even motherly way at times.

How did it happen?

The big turning point was definitely that morning. But it wasn’t some mysterious miracle. She had absorbed most of the things we had taught her in the months before. When it appeared that she wasn’t listening, she was. Only, she chose not to show it.

I read somewhere that children are always testing adults. Testing their parents to see what they can get away with. Testing the world around them to see how things work. All the while, learning via trial and error.

She had sponged up everything and knew what it took to ‘be a good girl’. And when she woke up that day, she simply decided she was ready to be that girl.

Looking back, there were a number of events that triggered her desire to blossom into the next phase of her life. Of course, she’s always wanted to grow up quicker and be an adult. We’ve fielded numerous questions on why it takes such a long time for her be bigger. But this wasn’t the main driver for the change.

We’ve also constantly played the ‘let’s see how good a girl you are first’ card whenever she’s asked for a new toy, or pleaded to go somewhere fun. This certainly motivates her to be better behaved, but it wasn’t’ the deciding factor.

I think what did it was a casual chat we had while driving in the car about how she has to help us teach her little sister lots of things. I explained that there’s no one who will show the little one what to do if ‘big sister’ didn’t. And if she didn’t know how to be a good girl herself, she wasn’t going to be able to take the lead in being a big sis.

This really got her thinking, as there was an extended moment of silence and no ‘but this’ or ‘but that’ after i shared this message with her.

And the moral of the story is …

Don’t give up when you’ve given your best and talked all the sense you can to your child but still don’t get the result you’re hoping for.

Keep on at it. Keep on earning her trust. Keep on giving her the patience she needs. Keep on mixing up your life lessons together with healthy doses of fun. Teach her in different ways. Respect her like you would another adult. Try to understand her language and how she interprets your words. Test alternative ways of getting a message through to her, or to reinforce requests you’ve already made.

Children are really smart. They’re absorbing most of what you say and a whole lot more. It’s just that they may take their time in turning your advice into action. The key is getting them to want to do something, instead of forcing them to do things your way and at your command.

The Father Effect: 9 out of 10 People have a Father Wound

There are a lot of dads who are getting much more involved in their children’s lives today. Unfortunately, there are far too many who aren’t.

As Tony Dungy (former NFL head coach) summed up:

We have a whole generation of men who don’t understand how much they mean to their kids.

We all know that father’s play a critical role in building strong families, but it’s horrifying to learn that children with absent fathers are:

  • 5 times more likely to Commit Suicide
  • 7 Times more likely to Drop out of School
  • 15 Times more likely to Commit Rape
  • 7 Times more likely to Become a Teenage Mom
  • 24 Times more likely to Run Away
  • 15 Times more likely to End up in Prison while a Teenager

The Father Effect

Stories about the impact of fathers:

Mums and kids – show this video to your husband or dad.

Dads – it’s never too late to start.