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What Parents Need To Know About Permissive Parenting

Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Tuesday, November 16, 2021

What Parents Need to Know About Permissive Parenting

Permissive habits are grounded in virtuous characteristics, but they need some structure


 
Aug 27 2021, 9:35 AM

Most people would feel like they’d know a permissive parent if they saw one. According to the definition from American Psychological Association these are the moms and dads that are warm but lax. Their failure to set firm limits, monitor children’s activities closely, or require appropriately mature behavior, cultivates kids who tend to be impulsive, rebellious, aimless, domineering, and aggressive. In other words, kids that don’t respond to punishment or praise and who lack respect. 

 


But is permissive parenting so terrible? It turns out the answer is nuanced, and there are good ways to turn permissive parenting into something far more healthy for everyone. 

The Origins of Permissive Parenting

Unlike pop-culture parenting “styles” (see: helicopter, tiger, lawn mower), permissive parenting is grounded in the research of University of California at Berkeley psychologist Diana Baumrind. In her work in the 1960s, she categorized parenting into three different types: authoritarian, permissive, and authoritative based on the amount of demand and care a parent shows their child.  

Authoritative parenting hits all the right notes: High expectations accompany their consideration of each child’s individual needs. Authoritarian parents demand a great deal from their kids, but don’t consider their child’s needs and often pair expectations with the threat of punishment. And permissive parents? They cater to their child’s needs (they’re highly responsive) but demand very little. 

 

Dr. Leela R. Magavi, a child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist, and Regional Medical Director for Community Psychiatry + MindPath Care Centers, explains that permissive parenting can reorient the parent/child relationship to look more like peer interaction. “ Children may perceive permissive parents as friends and may be more likely to confide in them,” she explains. “I have witnessed parents becoming much more permissive during the pandemic as they are afraid that their children are devoid of normalcy and will become depressed.”

It should be noted that while Baumrind’s work was grounded in academic research, her insights came almost exclusively from observations of white parents connected to Berkley. Later in her career, she would expand her studies into more diverse communities, and researchers who built on her work could continue and expand on that practice. Nevertheless, academics generally agree that her psychological styles do remain reasonably consistent in terms of outcomes.

Positive Traits of the Permissive Parent

While permissive parenting is unlikely to cultivate the most desirable traits in kids, it doesn’t mean that a permissive parent’s heart is in the wrong place. On the contrary, Magavi points out that permissive parents have some positive underlying traits. 

“Permissive parents tend to be empathetic and compassionate,” she says. “They identify their child’s emotional state and attempt to address their needs. Permissive parents tend to validate their child’s feelings and are more likely to listen to their children and address their needs actively.”

Those are traits that any parent should strive to embody, and they provide a solid foundation for permissive parents who want to add structure to their relationship with their children. Focusing on what parents do well and how those things can benefit their child can help them stay positive as they navigate the ups and downs of adapting to a new parenting style. 

“I advise parents to practice daily self-compassion and remind themselves that perfectionistic parenting could cause their children to perceive every shortcoming as a failure, which may lead to longstanding self-esteem concerns,” Magavi says.  

She also notes that parents may find it helpful to limit their time on social media to strengthen their self-compassion. “On social media, everyone looks like a perfect parent. Reframing thinking and identifying the good and bad in each individual and behavior helps decrease catastrophizing and rumination.”

How Can a Permissive Parent Add Structure to Their Parenting?

Adding the structure is a big adjustment for everyone. It can take time for a child to realize that these changes are intended to keep them safe and healthy. They may perceive more rules and structure as a raw assertion of power and respond negatively. 

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This is where the permissive parent’s strengths of empathy, compassion, and active listening come in to play. Magavi suggests utilizing opportunities for verbal support. “Providing love and support and encouraging open conversation while simultaneously maintaining house rules and safety protocols is of utmost importance,” she says. “I advise parents to create family rules and expectations and incorporate frequent validation and positive reinforcement.”

And, of course, getting on the same page with a partner or co-parent helps. Considering changes and making a coordinated effort gives a better chance for success and makes things easier on kids. “I recommend both parents share changes to rules and regulations to align their parenting, so children have some consistency and do not begin to perceive one parent as the ‘good cop’ or ‘bad cop,’” Magavi says. 

Helping Kids Adjust to Changes

A move away from permissive parenting is good in the long run, but it can be a tough adjustment for kids. They’re used to having things pretty good. So they will feel annoyed and maybe even abandoned when parents start expecting them to do something for themselves.

Magavi encourages parents to explain the benefits of following some rules and regulations. “This allows children to reframe their thinking and identify the benefits of rules. Subsequently, it is helpful to discuss family rules and the reason behind each one,” she says. “Similarly, it is important to explain the consequences of breaking the rules. Parents who were formerly permissive may find that their children are not taking them seriously, and it may take time for their children to conceptualize and follow through on rules and routines.”

The Biggest Financial Mistakes Parents Make — And How to Avoid Them

Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Friday, April 09, 2021

The Biggest Financial Mistakes Parents Make — And How to Avoid Them

Financial planners told us the most common financial regrets parents have — and how to change course before it's too late. 

By Adam Bulger for Fatherly.com

 

Apr 07 2021, 5:52 PM

 

With its high levels of stress and few hours of sleep, becoming a parent is a surefire recipe for sloppy financial planning. Everyone, from neighbors to relatives to predictive algorithms for Facebook ads, wants to scare you into spending money.  Meanwhile, the bare necessities — diapers, clothes, cribs — are expensive enough on their own. 

While the stress of parenting mellows, the ad hoc approach to spending often remains. Parents spend years spraying a dollar hose at camps, sports leagues, after school activities and whatever else crops up. After decades of indiscriminate spending, they’re unprepared for major life events ranging from college tuition and retirement to disability and death. Financial regrets? Like the great economist Frank Sinatra, they have a few. 

But that regret isn’t inevitable. We asked financial planners about the biggest financial regrets they heard from clients who are parents. Many said their clients with kids wished they’d started financial planning sooner, which is unsurprising (honestly, only rich people start saving when they should). But they also shared counterintuitive advice about how to prioritize money over the long term. Here’s what you should know about the biggest financial mistakes, and how to change course before it’s too late. 



The Financial Mistake: Pre-Baby Spending Sprees

Louisiana-based financial planner and father of four Alajahwon Ridgeway notes that eager parents-to-be overspend before their baby arrives. After covering the basics — crib, car seat, diapers, bibs and clothes — they don’t know where to stop. 

“You never know exactly what you need and what is a luxury to have,” Ridgeway says. After a couple of months as a parent, though, it’s easy to see what’s collecting dust. “All the bottle warmers, newborn shoes, and baby bags were rarely, if ever used.”

How to Correct it: Ridgeway advises first consulting experts who have your best financial interests at heart. “Make a list of things you need by asking a trusted family member or friend,” he says. It’s better to react to needs as they arise than to try to predict them. “When the baby arrives, then buy any additional things as needed. I know a changing table sounds nice, but when you are in another room and you only got three hours of sleep, a towel on the couch will do just fine.”

As the head of a large household, Ridgeway’s bonus advice is to keep baby gear in good condition to avoid unneeded repurchases. “Babies grow out of things quickly, and you may just have four like me,” he says. “Which makes it easy to pass down old clothes that the baby wore for one Easter picture.”

The Financial Mistake: Not Starting to Save Sooner

With the money drain of diapers, daycare, and more, the early years of parenthood leave little wiggle room for savings. But as Michigan financial planner and father of four Paul Fenner says, parents who don’t find a way to start saving money early inevitably regret it. “The number one regret I hear from parents is that they did not begin saving earlier in their lives,” he says.  “Whether that is saving for retirement or college, they regret or second guess the decision not to get started planning sooner.”

How to Correct it: The best time to start making your money grow is 10 years ago. The second best time is today. So, start socking away cash. Now. Ask someone you trust about how to make your money grow over time and follow their advice as quickly as possible. As Fenner says, the first step is the hardest. “[Parents can be] afraid of taking the first step or that their ambitions were unclear to where they did not know where to start or who to turn to support their family,” he says.

The Financial Mistake: Going Big on Your Kid’s Wedding

Weddings set the tone for a marriage in more ways than one. Couples want to launch their new lives together with joy and celebration and parents want to help. “Weddings bring in the whole family, and are discussed for decades afterward,”  Ohio financial planner Curtis Bailey says. “Parents want the best for their children and offer to help foot the bills.” But joy and celebration don’t come cheap. “When the budget begins to go overboard, it is often the parents who continue to write the checks.”

How to Correct it: Don’t give your kids carte blanche for their big day. Be generous, but be generous with a single lump sum payment. “I have seen a few parents simply write a one-time check,” Bailey says. “That’s it. It sets the budget and gives the couple their first opportunity on how to spend it. Tradeoffs become more real for children when they write the check from their own bank account for wedding expenses.”  

The Financial Mistake: Not Maxing Out a Roth IRA

Anthony Watson, founder of Michigan wealth management firm Thrive Retirement Specialists,  finds that his clients often wish they would have funded a Roth IRA earlier in their career while both their income and taxation rates were lower. While contributions to traditional IRAs are tax-deductible and your earnings grow tax-free until you pay taxes when you start withdrawing from the account, Roth IRAs are subject to taxes while you contribute to them. “Plus, the ability to contribute to a Roth IRA gets phased out at an Adjusted Gross Income of $125,000 if single and $198,000 for couples,” Watson says. 

How to Correct it: After maxing out their employers matching provisions to their 401(K), prioritize funding a ROTH IRA. “High growth assets like stocks in a Roth IRA early in life can put people in a great position later in life by giving them a sizable tax-free income source to fund retirement,” Watson says. “Combined with qualified retirement vehicles like a 401(k) or IRA that get taxed at personal income rates when withdrawn in retirement, an individual can craft a superior tax-efficient withdrawal strategy later in life adding tremendous value to their retirement situation.”

The Financial Mistake: Investing too Heavily into Bonds Over Stocks

Watson finds that his older clients wish they earned better returns by holding more stock and fewer bonds in their portfolio.  

“Young people often naively hold bonds in the portfolio because they think it provides them with needed diversification,” he says, adding that the ability to work for steady pay and make steady contributions to an investment portfolio over time serves the role bonds would play in the portfolio. 

But, please note: This doesn’t mean betting on individual stocks in hopes of beating the market.  “While it is possible to have success occasionally timing markets or picking stocks, the probability of slowly and steadily growing your portfolio and allowing compounding to do its work is low,” he says.

How to Correct it:  Watson advises following a simple index-based approach to investing, saying parents will have better luck using low-cost, diversified ETFs rather than following the crowd and trying to time markets or hit home-runs through stock picking. And yes, Reddit dads, that includes Gamestop stonks. 

The Financial Mistake: Not Teaching Kids Financial Literacy

When kids enter young adulthood, they often struggle with financial concepts. Student loans, credit, and investing are elusive for them. “Many parents regret not teaching their children more about finance,” South Carolina financial advisor and father of three Charles H Thomas III  says. “The hesitancy often comes from parents who aren’t sure themselves.”

How to Correct it: It isn’t easy to tell your kids that you don’t know something. But Thomas says sussing out how money, debt and credit works can bring your family close together.  “Take it as an opportunity to learn together,” he says. “For example, if a bill comes in the mail, offer to look at it with your child and talk through what makes sense and what doesn’t. It will benefit everyone to talk it through.”

The Financial Mistake: Under-Spending on Life and Disability Insurance

Nobody likes paying for insurance. It’s a drain on your wallet that has no benefit the vast majority of the time. But when emergencies happen, which happens more frequently as you age, the cushion of insurance can make a vital difference for families. Megan Kopka, a North Carolina financial advisor specializing in advising families of children with disabilities, says that not having any or enough disability or life insurance can lead to major regrets. Often with disability comes large medical payments,” she says. “These two insurances are often overlooked or downplayed. In worst case scenarios, that can be the biggest regret.”

How to Correct it: Sign up for life and disability insurance. Pay the policy every month. Complain as much as you want when everything’s fine and pat yourself on the back when everything goes wrong and you were prepared. “If you are not on track for retirement and the kids are older and college isn’t covered then get life insurance in case your household income is decreased by disability or death,” she says.

The Financial Mistake: Prioritizing Kids’ College Over Own Retirement

Believe it or not, putting your kids first can be a huge mistake. Ohio financial planner John Bovard and father of four says his older parent clients frequently realize they erred in supporting their kids too much.

“Often, they were concerned about their kids going to a good school,” Bovard says. They worried about paying their tuition and making sure there wasn’t any student loan debt. And then they come to realize that they probably should have used that money for their own retirement.” 


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How to Teach Kids to Listen, Change Their Minds

Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Tuesday, March 09, 2021

How to Teach Kids to Listen, Change Their Minds

Listening is more than paying attention. It is about understanding the story being told.

By Matthew Utley Jun 05 2020, 1:41 PM

It can be hard to truly listen to other’s perspectives, particularly if they are far removed from one’s own experience or document pain that has been ignored for generations. But much of the pain and anguish displayed in cities across America today are the result of pleas falling on deaf ears, and ostensible allies dismissing the daily experiences of millions of fellow citizens because it seems so far outside their norm. It is a failure to listen and empathize with other perspectives. This is an oversimplification, but when people listen — really listen — and empathize, things can improve.

 

nd that makes it all the more important to teach children how to listen and empathize. Today’s children will still be sorting through these issues of justice when they enter adulthood, and the way a child is raised helps determine the kind of adult they become. So what can parents do to help raise kids who listen with empathy and emotional intelligence and can change their minds? It requires an ongoing conversation at every age. Here are some things to know.



 

Infancy: Be There For Your Baby


The seeds of empathy are planted during infancy, when neurological development is very sensitive to parental behavior. In fact, so many systems are developing in babies that even something as simple as changing a diaper reinforces socialization.

“A basic concept here is ‘neurons that fire together wire together’ – so when there is a diaper change, for example, all sorts of things happen: eye gazing, soothing speech, and relief of displeasure of a mushy diaper,” explain Dr. Brit Creelman, a licensed clinical psychologist at Allendale Association’s outpatient therapy clinic in Chicago.

Dr. Creelman adds that these social interactions happen in the context of needs being met, and regulation being supported, “with all this coming together in such a way that neurologically the brain starts to develop and become hard wired for well-regulated social interaction – the foundation building blocks for empathy.”

 

Early Childhood: Lead By Example, Focus on Empathy


Children in early childhood tend toward an egocentric moral position; they only understand the world from their own perspective, and form their moral positions based on what their family rewards as good behavior. This isn’t an indication of a bad kid — it’s simply how kids figure out the world. But it also presents parents with an excellent opportunity to nurture empathetic behaviors by modeling them. “The best way to raise empathetic kids is to do so by example,” says Dr. Lea Lis, a double board-certified adult and child psychiatrist and author of No Shame: Real Talk With Your Kids About Sex, Self-Confidence, and Healthy Relationships. Express emotions, talk about feeling sad, discuss making mistakes, listen intently to your kids and others, and your children will learn from watching you. Modeling is paramount. “Children often understand their emotional reality only in the context of others,” notes Dr. Lis. “They also understand if they will get into trouble, but have not really internalized why they must behave.” Parents, therefore, must model and explain why it is important to do the right thing, even if they won’t get into trouble.

Certain tools can help young children better understand empathy and the world in general. Reading fiction and discussing the feelings characters might have experienced during a particular moment. Feelings charts can help increase emotional vocabulary. Dr. Lis recommends social stories, which are narrative templates that allow children to run through various social situations and understand how to navigate them. Social stories often offer perspectives, discuss the feelings and opinions of multiple characters.  “They help children grasp social norms, routines, and expectations, like walking down the hall, using restroom facilities, following lunch procedures, using manners, using greetings, asking for help properly,” she says.

 

Grade Schoolers: Model Behavior, Validate Feelings


As children grow older and enter grade school, the social circle that influences their ideas of morality can expand. And while that can create problems, parents still wield an incredible amount of influence. Even older kids who are internalizing their ideas of right and wrong still watch parental cues. Moms and dads must therefore reinforce those cues by asking questions and genuinely listening to their children. Parents should make sure that listening includes allowing their children to feel their feelings, even if it is unpleasant.

Validating feelings is crucial, as brushing them off teaches kids to ignore and internalize them. “When a child is afraid, for example, it is probably more helpful to say things like ‘I see you are scared, tell me about it’ rather than glossing it over with comments like ‘Don’t worry you don’t have anything to be afraid of,’” says Creelman. “When a parent acknowledges and names feelings, this helps a child feel understood. Feeling this from others helps build the ability to do this when interacting with others later on, which is a foundational component of empathy.”

Adolescence: Get Your Kids Involved


Adolescence is often when kids start to address more complicated moral ideas, such as the concept of the ‘white lie.’ Once they are able to consider another person’s perspective, lying to preserve their feelings becomes a legitimate moral question. This is not the time to shelter kids. It is a time for them to read more, to get involved, to learn from experience. 


Great Communication Starts With Understanding Your Kid

Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Tuesday, March 09, 2021

Great Communication Starts With Understanding Your Kid

The first five years are an explosive time in terms of development. Your little one understands more than you think. Here's how to talk to them.

By   

How to Save Money for Kids: 5 Accounts All Parents Should Know About

Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Tuesday, March 09, 2021

How to Save Money for Kids:
5 Accounts All Parents Should Know About

Creating a financial foundation for your kids is essential. These are the accounts that will help you build it

By Daniel Kurt Mar 05 2021, 2:19 PM


The question of how to save money for kids has led to its fair share of sleepless nights and sour stomachs. There is just so much to figure out: How do I save for college? What accounts are best for creating a small nest egg for my kid? All the questions are good to ask because failing to give kids a cushion as they enter the real world can create a big emotional strain.


Consider this: More than six in ten college students graduated with student loan debt in 2019 and their average bill was $28,950, according to The Institute for College Access & Success. Couple that with chronically higher unemployment among recent graduates, and money issues can be a heavy burden for any young adult.

Building up savings now can help ensure that, when your children get a little older, they will not have to worry as much about crippling student loans or where their next rent payment is going to come from. So, to the question of how to save money for kids: Put a little bit a way as often as you can in the right account. Here are the five accounts to consider.




1. Custodial Accounts

Federally insured child savings accounts and debit cards can be a great way to encourage your son or daughter to build healthy financial habits. But you can also open a custodial account in their name, which may be an even more effective way to save long-term. Unlike child-managed bank products, kids do not control custodial accounts — more formally known as UGMA/UTMA accounts — until they reach legal adulthood. While they legally own the account, you serve as its “custodian.” Any money you put in is an irrevocable gift to the minor, so there is no takebacks.

Any funds deposited, from summer work money to Bat Mitzvah gifts, will stay put unless you make a withdrawal on their behalf. Once they turn 18 or 21, depending on your state, they will have a nice little reserve to fall back on.

2. Brokerage Accounts

Parents (and grandparents) looking for another smart way to save, with the potential for juicier returns, might want to think about a custodial brokerage account. Instead of their money sitting in a savings account generating tiny amounts of interest, you can invest in a range of stocks and bonds. There’s always a risk that those stocks can fluctuate in value, so you might want to steer toward less volatile securities unless you have younger children with a longer time horizon. And unlike 529 college accounts, earnings are taxable (although at the child’s tax rate). But if you’re looking for a vehicle with a lot of investment flexibility that puts you in the driver’s seat until they’re grown, custodial accounts are a pretty solid choice.

You can open a UGMA/UTMA account at pretty much any of the main brokerage houses, including TD Ameritrade and Schwab. There is also a new mobile app called Early Bird, which lets friends and extended family contribute to your child’s investment account for a small fee. It will not provide the same instant gratification as getting cash for their birthday, but in the long run letting the account grow will often provide a much bigger impact.

3. Trusts

Whereas UGMAs and UTMAs are built around ease, setting up a trust for your kids can be a more complex (and costly) undertaking. That does not mean they don’t have important upsides, however. Custodial accounts give kids 100% control over the funds when they reach the age of adulthood. But handing an 18-year-old unfettered access to larger balances, especially, can be a recipe for disaster.

Trusts mitigate some of that concern by enabling parents to spell out exactly how they want the funds dispersed. Perhaps you want to give your children funds in a series of installments or would like for the assets to be used only on tuition. You can spell all that out in the trust.

Again, you do not get the same tax benefits as a 529, but the degree of flexibility that trusts offer is hard to match. Do not let the cliché about “trust fund kids” fool you— they can be a useful tool for middle-class families, too. 4. 529 Accounts

When it comes to heading off the massive tuition bills that likely awaits your kid in a few years, 529 savings accounts are still the go-to savings vehicle for most parents. The fact that students can withdraw money tax-free for qualified expenses—including room and board as well as required textbooks—is a big draw.

4. 529 Accounts

When it comes to heading off the massive tuition bills that likely awaits your kid in a few years, 529 savings accounts are still the go-to savings vehicle for most parents. The fact that students can withdraw money tax-free for qualified expenses—including room and board as well as required textbooks—is a big draw. But, depending on where you live, parents get a nice perk, too. More than 30 states let you deduct at least a portion of your 529 contributions, according to SavingForCollege.com, so you can often reduce your own state tax bill while helping your kids save. Do 529s give you all the investment flexibility you would have with a brokerage account? No. But the target date funds that most plans offer will keep a lot of parents happy. Keep in mind that 529 plans are not just for college, either. Families can withdraw up to $10,000 a year, tax-free, to help pay the cost of private elementary, middle or high school tuition.


5. Roth IRAs

If you have a teenager at home, you are probably more a lot more concerned about your retirement than theirs–and rightly so. But if you are already on track with your own investments, starting a Roth IRA for child who works part-time is not such a crazy idea. Part of it is simple math: because of the time value of money, even small amounts that they kick in now have the potential to experience decades of growth by the time they leave the workforce. And for younger investors, the tax benefits are especially potent.

Like any Roth account, kids cannot deduct contributions on their tax return. But unless your high schooler has a particularly lucrative job, they probably do not have a tax liability at this point anyway. Money grows tax-deferred and, long as they do not make any withdrawals until age 59½, they will not have to pay a penny to Uncle Sam on the back end.


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How to Comfort a Child After Mom or Dad Gets Angry

Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Monday, February 01, 2021

How to Comfort a Child After Mom or Dad Gets Angry

Parents aren’t supposed to lose their temper, but everyone does. It’s still possible to be a good parent afterward.

By Matthew Utley Jul 23 2018, 8:55 AM for Fatherly.com

It’s hard being a calm parent. The lack of sleep, the uncertainty of inexperience, the social pressures from other people — all of it undermines the effort to stay chill. Parents aren’t supposed to lose their temper, but they inevitably do. And that’s upsetting to children. If it happens a lot early in life, research indicates that the stress of exposure to anger can create behavior patterns that affect future socialization, emotional management, and self-esteem. Exposure to volatility can even lead to anxiety issues and OCD. Though the ideal solution may be to remain calm, the more workable solution is to know how to calm a kid down.


“Children constantly learn from their environments, especially their primary relationships,” explains Shanna Donhauser, a family therapist and childhood mental health specialist in Seattle. “Rupture and conflict are inevitable. But repairing those ruptures strengthens relationships and builds the foundation of trust, comfort, and safety.”

Donhauser has identified four steps to help parents help their children work through the frightening experience of witnessing a parent’s anger. And it is work — acting like it didn’t happen isn’t a solution. Left to process those emotions and experiences on their own, kids may draw some very unhealthy conclusions.



How to Calm a Kid After Mom or Dad Fight

  • Calm down. Parents need to regulate their own emotions before addressing what happened.
  • Reflect on what the child has seen and experienced. Parental anger is very frightening and possibly threatening to a child. Parents should imagine it from the child’s perspective.
  • Explain what happened and how the kid experienced it. Be explicit with emotions, and ask for the kid’s help for finding ways to avoid it.
  • Connect. It’s not making up or covering up what happened — it’s having a normal parent-child connection

Calm Down

“It’s like the airline safety rule – ‘secure your own oxygen mask before attempting to help others,’ ” explains Donhauser. “You cannot support your child when you are still angry or in the process of calming down.”
If it takes time to calm down — if a long walk or trip to the gym is in order, or at least a prolonged cool-down period — it’s okay for parents to explain to the child what is happening, where they’ll be, and to reassure them that they’ll return to talk about what happened.


Reflect on What the Kid has Experienced

Parents should see the situation from the children’s perspective — a parent is bigger, stronger, and louder. Were there aggressive gestures or posturing? Was something thrown or broken? “Don’t do this until you are calm,” warns Donhauser. “It will likely reactivate your emotions a little.”


Repair the Damage

Once calm and having reflected on their child’s experience, parents need to make a sincere effort to reconnect. Inviting the child to sit in a safe and comfortable space is a good start. Some kids won’t want to talk directly about what happened and will want to play as they work through their emotions. That’s okay.
“Share your intentions and emotions,” advises Donhauser. “Then bring your child into the repair process so that they can co-create solutions to this problem. Children are creative and often come up with great solutions when given the opportunity. When invited to create solutions, they are also more likely to remain cooperative and follow through.”


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What Parents Raising Boys Need to Do Above All Else

Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Sunday, December 06, 2020

What Parents Raising Boys Need
to Do Above All Else

This is what it takes to raise compassionate, resilient men who
are accountable to themselves and to others.

By Andrew Reiner for Fatherly.com

George was similar to many high school-aged boys I interviewed for research on my book, Better Boys, Better Men about the new brand of resiliency boys and men need to thrive at a time when their traditional masculine identity no longer serves them. The then-17-year-old junior from Baltimore said that he had a few girlfriends in whom he could confide the feelings he “couldn’t” share with guy friends — sadness, shame, fear. When his first girlfriend ended the relationship and he was “devastated,” he refused to turn to his parents.


“I learned not to share my struggles with [them],” he said. “They’re always telling me I need to toughen up and learn how to handle things on my own.” So, he did. He sought guidance from a guy friend he “admired,” which was well-meaning but ineffectual. After all, the boy was 17 years old. Eventually, George attempted suicide.

Many boys today know what ultimately gives them greater emotional resiliency: a masculine identity that permits access to the full range of their human emotions.

But this isn’t the script we — parents, teachers, coaches and even the male friends they look up to — hand them, because we fear raising ‘incompetent’ men.

More than any time in the past, however — when boys are more anxious, depressed and suicidal than they’ve ever been — embracing these qualities has devastating consequences to boys’ well-being and ability to thrive and, increasingly, survive. In turn, they have serious repercussions for the rest of us. Yet we still aren’t raising boys in a way that anticipates or meets their most immediate emotional needs.


As soon as boys are born, we, their parents, begin preparing them for ‘manhood.’ Psychologist and researcher Edward Z. Tronick was one of the first researchers to discover this — inadvertently.

Back in the 1970s, the research associate in Newborn Medicine and faculty member at Harvard’s medical school and school of public health began using the Still-face paradigm, which he invented and is still widely used globally. In Tronick’s research — which has always focused on the emotional and physical stress in infants — that meant having mothers sit directly across from their babies for two minutes, stoic and silent, no facial expression. What he discovered was that boys had a radically different reaction to their mother’s seeming emotional withdrawal than did girls. The boys fussed, their facial expressions revealed anger, they twisted and turned in their infant seats, trying to “escape or get away.” They cried and gestured to be picked up more than girls.



In other words, the emotional stress was literally too much for many of the infant boys to bear. They behaved exactly as many of us, if not most, might have expected girls to behave. Tellingly, many of the mothers preferred interacting with their daughters when their sons grew emotionally ‘needy.’

Since the 1990s, Tronick and his research colleagues have also discovered that when mothers are intentionally removed from their infants’ sight for a few minutes, and their children don’t know if they will return, it takes boys far longer to warm back up to them during the reunion stage. It’s as if a degree of trust has been broken for the infant boys.

Allan N. Schore believes it is. The neuropsychologist and faculty member in UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine has observed that when mothers aren’t attentive enough, infant boys can develop “separation stress,” which can cause “an acute strong increase of cortisol and can therefore be regarded as a severe stressor.” Other researchers have found strong evidence that “the attachment style developed in childhood remains relatively stable across the life span and may even be transmitted between generations.” All of this points to neural pathways boys are taught to create at very young ages that set up emotional distance, and in turn, distrust for boys and, eventually, men.

“The ‘manning-up’ of infant boys,” Tronick said in an email to me, “begins early on in their typical interactions and long before language plays its role.
If only it stopped there.


Widely touted research from Emory University biological anthropologists Jennifer Mascaro and James K. Rilling found that fathers reacted far differently to their one- and two-year-old daughters than they did their sons of the same age. Fathers sang to their daughters but not their sons. They used more analytical language and words related to sadness with daughters, whereas the words they used most often with sons encouraged competition, dominance. What’s more, their brains showed a more positive neural response to their daughter’s happy facial expressions, whereas their brains responded favorably to their sons’ neutral facial expressions. And, sadly, this: Fathers responded far more often to their young daughters when they cried at night than they did their sons.

These gender-based responses are nicely framed by a 2018 study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family which found that “despite changing expectations for fathers, hegemonic masculine norms continue to shape fathers’ behavior.”


More research is showing what a 2014 study from the British Journal of Developmental Psychology found — that many mothers unwittingly play into these binary divisions, too. During a play-related storytelling task, mothers used more emotional words with their four-year-old daughters than they did with their similarly aged sons. It’s not that mothers are pushing boys to follow the same traditional masculine norms that too many dads do. But these norms are so deeply ingrained they are reflexive, to varying degrees, in all of us.


Even when children are injured, both fathers and mothers follow the same playbook. A 2016 study examined the language parents used with children after visits to the emergency room for non-life-threatening injuries. The study found that parents spoke to their sons and daughters differently afterwards: They were nearly four times more likely to counsel daughters about the need for caution than they were sons. This sends a message to boys — in addition to teaching them that they aren’t emotional beings, we teach them that unhealthy risk-taking with their bodies is part of who they should be.


It’s no coincidence that boys and men are at the fore of the loneliness and suicide epidemics. They are keeping pace with girls and women when it comes to anxiety and may even experience more chronic depression. (If more healthcare practitioners would use diagnostic scales that more accurately measure such mental illness as it manifests in males, we would see the parity between genders.) The script we teach boys throughout their lives — over which they have no control — plays a large part in these public health crises.


If any of us asked boys what messages our society sends them about what it means to be a ‘man,’ it would likely echo the findings of the 2018 report “The State of Gender Equality for U.S. Adolescents.” Many of the 10- to 19-year-old boys surveyed said that society defines “masculinity” through physical strength, toughness and the willingness to “punch someone if provoked,” as well as to make sexual comments and jokes about girls. The “State of American Boys,” part of an October 2020 report for the nascent Global Boyhood Initiative, found that 72 percent of adolescent respondents felt pressure to always appear “physically strong” and that 61 percent felt pressure to play and excel at sports. Talk about stereotypes.


Then there’s the expectation that boys handle things on their own. Everything. Jake, a 22-year-old college lacrosse player told me that his father was far more helpful with his younger twin sisters than he was with Jake when it came to homework. “He doesn’t think twice about sitting down with them and talking things through. With me? He used to say, ‘Figure it out. You’re a guy.’” Jake told me that his father has always given his sisters affection and nurturing on demand when they’ve needed it, but he stopped turning to his father for this. “He made it clear pretty early on that this wasn’t something I should need from him.”


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The 20 Most Common Parenting Mistakes I See

Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Friday, November 27, 2020

The 20 Most Common Parenting Mistakes I See

By Mike Leary Jan 25 2016, 10:28 PM


What are some common mistakes parents make that could actually hurt their children’s mental and physical health in the long term?

I have seen so many good intentions go horribly wrong over the years that can result in self-harm, suicide and, in extreme cases, even murder. Here are some of the most common mistakes that can be really harmful to kids.



1. Giving Them Too Many Choices

Many parents think children always should have endless choices, when the reality is kids can be overwhelmed if they’re always given so many options.


2. Praising Them for Everything They Do

It’s very common now to see kids who are almost junkies for praise. They won’t do anything unless there is a payoff for them.


3. Trying to Make the Child Happy

Their job is to learn to make themselves happy, and you can never force a child to be happy.


4. Overindulging Them

They will almost always end up believing acquisitions lead to happiness. This sets up chasing the never-satisfying carrots, and can result in addictions and compulsions.


5. Keeping Them Too Busy

Most commonly with sports. Many parents wrongly believe “activities” will keep their kid out of trouble, but often times this will lead to the child being burned out or even becoming a bully.


6. Thinking Smart Will Save Them

It can be tempting for parents to promote smart as the end-all-be-all. Yet this can lead to a child becoming arrogant, thinking everyone else is stupid or secretly believe that they have to put on an act and are a fraud. As a result, nobody likes them.


7. Thinking a Strict Religion Will Give Them Perfect Values and Save Them

The first time they see hypocrisy in their parents or the touted beloved leaders, the house of cards start to fall.


8. Withholding Common Information About Important Topics — Like Sex

Many parents are terrified of talking about sex, and believe avoiding discussing it with their children will save them. But I’ve seen 13-year-old girls get pregnant, sometimes just to flaunt it at their parents.


9. Being Hyper-Critical of the Child’s Mistakes

It can be easy to assume intense scrutiny promotes success and makes kids better. But kids raised this way are driven to perfection in everything from looks, likability, sports, smarts, or you name it. When a mistake happens, they are worthless as a human being and start getting so angry that in some cases they will resort to self-harm even to the point of suicide.


10. Using Shame, Shunning, or Threats

Never imply that there is a chance you might not love your child due to their actions, as some parents do so in order to get their kids to achieve compliance. It is a short term gain with abandonment lurking in the shadows. Then the child doesn’t care either.


11. Making Kids Do Things Inappropriate for Their Age

I have 3 patients right now who, by age 4, were having to feed themselves and or had to be in charge of a sibling also. I’ve seen many who didn’t have children of their own because as they all said; “I raised my family.”


12. Not Limiting Screen Time

Whether it’s TV, video, games, phone or texting. I know a family where the mom and teenage son text each other constantly and no one else can get into their relationship link.


13. Not Letting Kids Get Bored

Some parents think children are supposed to be stimulated at all times and it’s their job to avoid boredom. Then kids don’t learn to be creative and find the way out of boredom in themselves.


14. Protecting Kids From Their Own Consequences and Loss

I see parents with good intentions get their kids everything, from a simple toy to buying them out of legal trouble, and suddenly are surprised when the child respects nothing. All of us need to learn losing is just another way to gain wisdom and experience about what not to do.


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The Effective Stepfather: A Check-List to Live By

Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Friday, October 16, 2020

The Effective Stepfather:
A Check-List to Live By

by Ron Deal from Fathers.com



Anyone who has been a father and then a stepfather knows that they aren’t the same. While many aspects of these two roles are similar, it is the unique ones that lead to disillusionment. Franklin put it this way: “I’ve been to every Promise Keepers conference and I’ve studied fathering with my men’s group many times. But nothing has prepared me for being a stepfather. With my own kids I have a natural leadership authority that allows me to teach them and be directive. With my stepchildren I constantly feel like I’m one step behind, like I have to establish myself each time I engage them.”


Step fathering can be challenging. Perhaps that’s why many stepfathers disconnect from their stepchildren emotionally and withdraw from daily responsibilities. The unmapped territory seems to have many land mines and it’s easier to just retreat than to engage the “enemy.” But stepfathers can have profound and important leadership roles with stepchildren. Like Joseph, who wasn’t Jesus’ biological parent, stepfathers can offer guidance, love, and encouragement to the children under their care. Here’s a map for the territory and some practical action points for stepfathers.


Get a Lay of the Land

All stepparents need to understand the emotional climate of their stepchildren. Stepfathers are no different. For example, being aware of the child’s emotional wounds and hurts from past losses is vital to coping with the sometimes angry or oppositional attitudes of children in stepfamilies.

It is also very important that stepfathers recognize that gaining respect and leadership from stepchildren is a process; you earn the right to lead by developing trust and connection with stepchildren. You must be willing, for example, to enter the child’s life as an “outsider” who slowly finds acceptance, at the child’s pace. For many men it is very disturbing to realize that their stepchildren get to determine the pace at which they find acceptance in the family. And it’s true—you don’t get to control your parental status—the children do. They will open their heart to you when they are ready. Until then, you must cope with feeling out-of-control and find ways to work within the system as it is. Here are some tools that might help.


Tools for the Stepfather Tool Box

Initially Provide Indirect Leadership

There are two kinds of influence (or power) in relationships: 1) positional power and 2) relational power. Initially as a stepfather you have positional power because you are an adult in the house who is married to the children’s mother. Much like a teacher at school, you have positional power. As your relationship with the children grows, often over a period of years, you gain relational power because they now care about you personally. Your opinions matters more, your validation is sought after, and your warm embrace feels safe.

In the beginning, when limited to positional power, effective stepfathers provide in-direct leadership in their home by leading through their wife who holds a great deal of relational power with the children. Work with her behind the scenes to establish boundaries, expectations, and the values that will govern your home. While she might be the one to communicate the values and hand down discipline, you can still be very responsible to set a godly tone for the family.


Express Your Commitment

Articulate your commitment to your stepchildren’s mother. Keep in mind, however, that early on this won’t necessarily be considered a positive by your stepchildren. In fact, they may be threatened by it. Children who hold a strong fantasy that their parents will reconcile can find your commitment a barrier to life as they would have it. Additionally, mom’s remarriage (whether following a death or divorce) is often perceived as another loss to children, not a gain (as you see it). Be patient with their adjustment to your marriage, but communicate your commitment to the permanency of the marriage nevertheless.


Communicate Your Role

It’s important to verbalize your understanding of your role. Children need to hear that you know that you’re not their dad and won’t try to take his place. Communicating that same understanding to their father is also very helpful to him; hopefully this will help him to not fear your involvement with his kids. As his fear decreases, his cooperative spirit about your presence may increase. Finally, tell your stepkids that you are looking forward to your growing relationship and that you know how awkward that can be for the child. Let them know that if they feel stuck between you and their dad, they can make you aware of it and it won’t hurt your feelings.


Be a Spiritual Leader

Many stepfathers discover that sharing faith matters is, in addition to spiritual training for the child, a good way to connect emotionally. Processing the moral content of a TV program or “thinking out loud” about your decision not to spend money on a bigger fishing boat helps children see your character and learn important spiritual values at the same time. Show them you are a person worthy of respect and they’ll eventually give you respect.


Be Approachable

As a therapist I always know I’m going to have a tough time helping a family when the stepfather is defensive and easily hurt by the typical reactions of stepchildren. Part of being approachable and accessible to stepchildren is knowing that not everything is about you. In fact, most of kid’s negative reactions to stepparents are really about the child’s losses (stepparents just happen to be the easy target for child’s heartache). Until you have worked through the struggles of building a relationship, most of what a kids throws at you is a test of your character. Show yourself not easily offended and able to deal with their emotional ups and downs. This will make it more likely that they see you as someone they can trust.


Show Appreciation

If you want to win someone’s heart, give them a thousand compliments (even when they aren’t asking for it). Showing appreciation is the quickest way to build someone up and help them to feel comfortable in your presence. By contrast, be cautious with criticism. Words of affirmation go along way to engendering safety and closeness.


Spend Time Together

Find time to be with your stepchildren, but do so with wisdom. If a child is not welcoming of your presence, join their life at a distance. This means taking them to their soccer game and cheering from the sidelines, but not being too much of a coach. It also means knowing what’s important to them and gently inquiring with interest: “You studied for three hours last night for that science exam. How did it go?” “I know you’ve got a big date this Friday. I noticed a concert in the paper today that you might consider attending. I think she’d like this, but it’s your call whether you go.”


Also, if you say you’re going to be somewhere, be there. Don’t disappoint a child who is deciding whether to let you in their heart or not.


As your relationship grows, you can spend one-on-one time with the child, go on special retreats together, and serve side-by-side in your church’s summer work camp. Focused time will deepen the trust and emotional bond in your relationship.


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HOW THIS BLACK MAN IS CHANGING THE NARRATIVE OF FATHERHOOD ONE POSITIVE IMAGE AT A TIME

Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Friday, June 26, 2020

How This Black Man Is Changing The Narrative Of Fatherhood One Positive Image At A Time

SEAN WILLIAMS AND HIS DAD GANG ARE SHINING A LIGHT ON LOVING BLACK FATHERS.

You’ve heard them all before, endless jokes and memes about absentee fathers, women with daddy issues, and men whose involvement with their kids don’t go past that one night of passion that created them. But for this Black man, these jokes are far from funny, especially not when it comes to his definition of fatherhood.

For Brooklynite Sean Williams, fatherhood is a job that he takes very seriously. With three beautiful children of his own, Williams finds pride in being hands-on and heavily involved in his children’s lives. Yet, he once struggled to escape the overwhelming narrative that Black fathers are non-existent dudes who breed and dash aka impregnate and vanish. After weeks of strolling his daughter around his predominantly white Long Island neighborhood, William noticed that he was constantly being congratulated by random people who was glad he “stuck around” and didn’t “split” on his children. After one too many unsolicited comments, Williams decided enough was enough and The Dad Gang was born.

The Dad Gang is a movement with a mission to change the narrative of Black fatherhood one positive image at a time. With over 36,000 followers on Instagram alone, Williams and his ‘gang’ have encouraged and supported men across the country to be “better” fathers and redefine their individual definitions of fatherhood. ESSENCE recently caught up with the Head-Dad-In-Charge to talk about changing the game, being #dadgoals, and learn why for The Dad Gang and their children, the sky’s the limit.

What is The Dad Gang and what led you to start it?

Sean Williams: The Dad Gang started as an Instagram page focused exclusively on reflecting positive images of active Black dads, in an effort to shatter the negative stereotypes that have shadowed Black fathers for years and still affects us today. When my youngest daughter was about 15 months old, I worked from home five days a week, so I spent a lot of time with her running my daily errands and living my best dad life. I also live in a predominately white suburban neighborhood, so while on our daddy-daughter errand runs, I was met with two reactions from strangers: either complete shock and awe at the ease and attentiveness I had while handling my baby or a barrage of “wow, good job dad” compliments.

PHOTO CREDIT: KEVIN JEAN-JACQUES

It was cool at first until I realized this happened everywhere we went without fail. I felt like these people had seen a unicorn. You could almost hear necks breaking as we practiced naming all of the fruits in the produce aisle. But the compliment that broke the daddy camel’s back came from an elderly white woman who stopped us and began by saying she was so disgusted with the way that cops treated “my people” (I wish she would’ve stopped right there), then she went on to say that she was also “glad to see that I stuck around for my baby because most Black men would’ve split. *insert jaw drop here.*

PHOTO CREDIT: KEVIN JEAN-JACQUES

“Excuse me, ma’am?” I’m pretty sure my daughter felt the heat rising off my body. The woman looked confused, not realizing that what she said was the furthest from a compliment. At that moment I realized that a lot of people still bought into the whole Black dads are deadbeats nonsense. A lot of these people that hurled compliments at me left and right had still never seen a young Black dad like myself loving and living my best dad life. So instead of getting upset, I created The Dad Gang page that night. It has since evolved into a conscious social community of dads on a mission to change the way the world views Black fatherhood by getting together, capturing real dad moments, sharing useful parenting tips and hosting fun, socially impactful events centered around celebrating active dads and their children.

What’s the biggest misconception about Black fathers

The biggest misconception about Black fathers is that most of us are inactive and uninterested in raising our children, or just straight up deadbeat dads. This couldn’t be any further from the truth. In 2013 the CDC did a study that revealed Black fathers were actually the most active fathers of all ethnic groups.

PHOTO CREDIT: KEVIN JEAN-JACQUES

What are some standout memories from your childhood with your father?

Definitely giving my father a back massage, as a kid, by walking all over his back, which is something that I do with my kids now. I also remember my sister and I hanging from his arms as he spun us like a helicopter.

What are some differences you’ve noticed between the older and younger generations when it comes to fatherhood?

Since becoming a dad and observing the way my friends and I are raising our children, I’ve noticed that our generation does not hesitate to educate ourselves and break away from our family’s traditional way of doing something if the new information obtained, whether via social media or by asking google (we’ve all done it), proves to be more effective or beneficial for the child and parent.

PHOTO CREDIT: KEVIN JEAN-JACQUES

Gone are the days when the reason for doing something when it pertains to raising our kids can be justified by saying “Well that’s the way my dad did it and his dad did it, so that’s how I’m going to do it.” Sure, they may say that we’re “letting the internet raise our children,” but it definitely beats some of their pre-historic ways of doing simple things.

PHOTO CREDIT: KEVIN JEAN-JACQUES

What does being a Black father mean to you?

I’ve always thought that the phrase having a chip on your shoulder was a bad thing until I looked at it thru the lens of Black fatherhood. Due to this negative stereotype that has haunted Black dads for generations, the Black fathers of today have something to prove. Many of us are parenting with a huge chip on our shoulder, whether it be from a negative relationship with our own dad or from mainstream media constantly depicting Black men as unfit fathers. So that chip on my shoulder that only a Black father can have, actually makes me a better dad. That’s what being a Black father means to me.

PHOTO CREDIT: KEVIN JEAN-JACQUES

What legacy/memories do you want to leave for your children?

Aside from being financially sound, I want my children to understand the value of building strong relationships. I want them to remember the effort I put into cultivating an individual bond with each of them like my mother did for my sisters and me.

PHOTO CREDIT: KEVIN JEAN-JACQUES

How does The Dad Gang go about inspiring absentee fathers to get more involved with their children?

I truly believe that a major part of an absentee father’s problem is that he hasn’t bonded with his child. It’s easy to be selfish or absent when there isn’t a strong bond to hold on to, and for some, these bonds are difficult to create. They don’t just happen out of thin air or share obligation.

PHOTO CREDIT: KEVIN JEAN-JACQUES

To try and get absentee dads to be more involved, we try to share a lot of content that specifically highlights the relationships that other dads were able to create with their kids and show how over time they’ve grown into the best friends you’ll ever have when these relationships are properly cultivated. We also repost captions where dads describe how their kids make them feel. Words are powerful. Last but not least, most of our events are heavily focused on father and child participation, like our “Dope Dads Karaoke Brunch” where we urged dads to do duets with their kids for prizes, which is one of the most incredible things you’ll ever see, and by far the most fun you’ll ever have with your kids at the brunch table.

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About DFFC

The Delaware Fatherhood & Family Coalition is an extension of the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program and the Responsible Fatherhood Initiative created specifically to give a voice to fathers and the importance of their involvement for the well-being of their children.


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