Brothers Try to Take a Mother’s Day Photo

My three sons can barely do anything together at home without it involving a headlock. While they have been surprisingly good about creating greeting cards and artwork, this year, I can imagine them creating a Mother’s Day video like this, if they had to collaborate on it.

Posted in Anger Management, Blog, Humor, Mother's Day, Video | Leave a comment

April Highlights Autism Awareness and Child-Abuse Prevention

April is both Autism Awareness Month as well as Child-Abuse Prevention Month. Both of these concern the welfare of children and deserve our attention whether they affect us directly or not. As a father and educator, I have met a number of children who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or autism. As I write this posting, I know I need to teach my own children more about the friends they have who are affected by autism, though we have had discussions about the need to include people with differences in our lives rather than separate from them.

The Autism Speaks site explains that, “Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.” The site goes on to explain that “the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identify around 1 in 88 American children as on the autism spectrum–a ten-fold increase in prevalence in 40 years.” The CDC also cites statistics to show that autism is diagnosed more commonly in boys than in girls. To learn more about autism, a couple of key Web sites include the one for Autism Speaks and the Autism Society.

With regard to child-abuse prevention, this topic is more relevant than ever, given our needed increase in sensitivity to children bullying other children. One reason bullying exists is because kids are abused, either physically or psychologically by the adults in their lives. A new book is coming out that has an interesting approach to making us all more sensitive to the subject. Written by Magdalena Gómez and María Luisa Arroyo, Bullying: Replies, Rebuttals, Confessions and Catharsis (Skyhorse Publishing, May 2012) is an anthology of stories, poems, and plays that help illuminate the experience for children, from an inter-generational and multicultural perspective.

Please share your thoughts and suggestions about these topics by posting a comment whenever you wish.

Posted in Anger Management, Blog, Books, Child Development, Health, Protecting Children, Special Needs | 1 Comment

Would You Make Your “F” Student Wear a Sign?

Recent parenting news focuses on the dad who shot bullets into his daughter’s computer for misusing Facebook and a father who sent his 7th-grade kid with a sandwich board announcing the three F’s on his report card. In an interview, the Miami-area 7th-grader, Michael Bell, Jr., said he planned to do a lot better after spending time at a busy intersection where people could see him in all his shame.

Is this tough love or too tough? While I accept that it’s entirely possible that the two aforementioned dads might have felt that the ends would justify the means, my worry is that, whatever short-term gains a parent might get in pushing a child to act more responsibly, the long-term reality is that more bad stuff could happen. Much of this feels like parenting theater, discipline for a YouTube world rather than truly effective character building.

Like a lot of parents, I get to the end of my rope. I’ve yelled, jumped up and down, even tugged out the power cord on my teen’s laptop (while making sure I wasn’t actually damaging it). What did it do for me? It scared my child for a minute and made me look foolish and out of control. So, I apologized for my behavior without condoning my son’s (he had played a video game instead of doing homework for one too many times). And then we talked about ways he could balance his priorities better. This included my commitment to checking his daily planner more regularly to help him manage his time. I won’t do his homework for him, but I can assist in getting him more organized, at least for a little while.

My plan — my hope — is that by returning to a calm, civilized approach, I’m teaching my son how to weather frustration as well as mistakes in judgement. I don’t want my child to feel shame — I want him to feel in control of his responsibilities for his own sake.

Posted in Adolescence, Anger Management, Child Development, Perspective, Tweens | 1 Comment

Taming the Hulk Within

By Gregory Keer

On this particular weekday morning, it’s my turn to take Benjamin to kindergarten. I awake upset because I hit the snooze button one too many times. As I stumble toward the bathroom, my wife Wendy half-consciously warns, “He’ll get upset if you’re late.” She falls back asleep.

In the shower, I go from spousal pressure to water pressure as Herbal Essence floods my eyeball. Then my son startles me to ask, “Can I watch The Sav-Ums?” I compose myself to answer, “Go turn it on.” He whimpers, “I’m too tired to do it alone.” I get out and escort Benjamin to the den for his favorite show on The Learning Channel.

In my wet feet, I strain a groin as I dash to the boys’ bedroom to collect Benjamin’s outfit, taking pains to not wake Jacob. I dump off the attire and pull on my own get-up with 10 minutes to spare.

Out in the den, I urge Benjamin to dress. He doesn’t hear me. He doesn’t hear anything when the tube’s flickering. Maintaining my blood pressure, I push the clothes into his lap and he absently puts them on. “I’ll get you some cereal-in-a-baggie,” I say to the child too busy laughing at the claymation heroes.

I enter the kitchen where my cats whine frantically for food when I hear Jacob calling from the crib. As soon as I reach him, Jacob’s face screws up as if he’s seeing his worst enemy. “I – want – MOMMY!” he wails. With my toddler screaming, I place him with his brother. As I turn my back, Jacob scrambles for the master bedroom. Valiantly trying to prevent his breach of Wendy’s fortress of extra sleep, I scoop him up — too late.

“What are you doing to him?” she says, scowling at me like I’m her worst enemy. Fortunately, the nasty words in my head stay there as I look to Benjamin, “We have to go.”

“But the show’s almost over!” he moans. My voice wavers: “Let’s go, now.”

I beeline for the door, my son running after me as he tries not to cry. I hoist him up with one arm, my other grasping a bag of textbooks, and step outside. “Damn, it’s cold outside,” I grouse. “You need a sweatshirt.”

“No I don’t,” he retorts. “Yes you do, “ I fire back as I hurry to his dresser to find summer shorts where the longsleeves should be. I grab a red fleece thing and put it on Benjamin. It doesn’t fit.

“I can’t wear this,” he says. “Tough,” I growl as I sprint to the minivan. Benjamin’s sobs escalate and—as I put him in his seat—he throws off the sweatshirt…I go stark raving “Hulk.”

“Aaarrrggghhh!” I boom. “Why do I bother trying to keep you from freezing your arms off? We’re both going to be late! Now, get – in — the car!”

Benjamin climbs in quietly. As I drive off, I rant at my son as if he were an adult, explaining all the ways he could have prevented our tardiness. He just sheds tears the Crocodile Hunter would yearn to wrestle.

I finally cool enough to shut my mouth. My head spins like a clothes dryer as I ponder my miscalculations in the last 45 minutes, imagine my students picking on me for the hypocrisy of preaching punctuality, and glance at the fragile kid in the back seat.

At the school, I kiss my son a hundred times, saying, “I’m sorry I got so mad. Daddy makes mistakes sometimes.”

Benjamin hugs my neck, “I’m sorry too.”

As I later drive to my own school, I catch a look in the rear-view mirror at the unhealthy green tinge in my cheeks—I am my own worst enemy. Must make New Year’s resolution to not get so mad.

In approaching this resolution, I require three things: more patience, more laughter, and less perfection. Stressed out by work and family responsibilities, I carry pressure that reaches epic proportions around those times my kids repeatedly ask why they can’t have Scooby fruit chewies before dinner. I need to take a deep breath before boiling over, and realize that I’m standing in front of adorable, dependent creatures, not competitors or enemies.

I also need to laugh. When I recognize the absurdities inherent to parenting, I stay loose. As I’ve done on occasion, I should catch myself in mid-tirade and crack a joke or make a funny face to show them that I’m still a safe guy. When I holler, it intimidates more than teaches.

Lastly, I have to accept imperfection. I’m gonna yell, pound a table, even throw french fries once in a while. But if I admit my mistake to my kids and get back on track, they will see that anger is normal and controllable.

Later on that day of my morning explosion, I picked up Benjamin at school. I looked for signs of trepidation in him, but the first thing he said was, “See, Daddy, it was a warm day. I really didn’t need my sweatshirt.” Hulk laugh. Hulk hug son. Hulk plan a New Year of not being so angry.

Posted in Anger Management, Columns by Family Man | Leave a comment