Dads, you are the standard by which all men are to be judged

Show your little lady how a gentleman treats a lady. Give her flowers of her own from time to time.

By: Peter Sessum

This is one of the duties that men must take seriously. Children look to their fathers as examples of how men should be and how they should be treated by men. You have one chance to set a good example, don’t waste it.

Do as I do is the best way

The parenting style of “do as I say, not as I do” is not an effective one for raising a boy into a good young man. All they learn is that as long as they are small they have to follow the rules, but at some point they can do what they want. That is an excellent way to raise a little douche, but not a man of value.

It will also teach your daughter that men are not good for their word or that men have different expectations for themselves than for others. The last thing any good man should want is to have his daughter date a trifling man. Someone that can go out to the strip club with his friends but expects her to wait for him at home. Why wouldn’t she go along with it? After all, rules not applied equally is how she was raised.

Your little man will be his own man some day

How you treat women, especially his mother, is going to be the example for how he treats women. If women are treated as valued, he will value women, if you treat them like pieces of meat then he will do the same. Of course men who do not respect women won’t think that is bad but it doesn’t set him up for success. Especially in love. Yes, douchebags can find dates and occasionally even with quality women. But I have rarely seen them find longtime happiness if they do not treat their women well.

What kind of Prince Charming will your little princess look for?

In the nature vs. nurture discussion, you have the most control over the nurture aspect. How your little girl sees you treat women, especially her mother, is how she is going to think relationships work. If you want her to be with a partner that treats her well, you need to treat her and her mother well.

This can be difficult after a split, but that is when it most crucial. When she is older she will understand how a good man will be in difficult times. It is also important to be good to a woman you say you love. You are setting the bar for how men should treat her.

What better treat than breakfast in bed? Treat your girl well and she will expect to be treated well later. It will save her from substandard partners in the future.

Anyone looking to court my daughter has a high bar. I observe birthdays and holidays properly and do nice things at random moments. I even bring my daughter flowers from time to time. Since her mother does not like breakfast in bed, Anna sometimes is the happy recipient of a wake up waffle. She now understands that someone that has a romantic love for her should treat her better than her father does.

Keep in mind, I consider this the minimum standard. The minimum standard is a starting point, not a goal. So at bare minimum, any romantic interests need to be nice to her for no other reason than to be nice and make her smile. In any long term relationship she should feel like it is the best she has ever been treated. If they aren’t better to her than I am, they need to go.

There is some good news

If a guy is a piece of trash and does not set a good example there is some good news. It is possible that he will be viewed as a cautionary tale of what not to do. To be a good man and father I pretty much do the opposite of what my father does. It has worked out great so far so I see no need to change. You can also sit now a young child and explain why that kind of behavior is bad.

However, if you are one of those men setting a poor example it is your duty to do better. If you want your little one to be happy later in life, it is time to set that example. After all, you are the standard for how all men will be judged in the future. A good lesson can be that if given another chance a person can do better. It might inspire your own kid to not give up and give something another try.

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Punish for every infraction

go to your room

If they do the crime they should do the time, no exceptions.

By Peter Sessum

As a headline it seems harsh, but as parents we are in the business of raising children to be productive members of society. Anything less than that is a disservice to our children and society as a whole.

I remember reading about a parent who let his kid run rampant all over the playground. He didn’t want his kid to limit himself so he didn’t want to tell the kid no or let him think he was a bad kid. Of course that kid ended up in jail because he never learned that life has limitations and if your parents don’t punish you when you are little, society will punish you when you are older.

What if they are a good kid

Yes, not only should you punish a good kid but you should especially punish a good kid for doing something bad. The last lesson you want to teach a child is that rules only apply sometimes. What you end up with is an entitled spoiled brat.

I have seen this first hand. I had a couple siblings that were a handful, but my sister got good grades. She was polite to the parents so they put all their eggs in her basket. She was going to college and the rest would have to fend for ourselves. If she would break a rule it would be ignored because “she was a good kid” and they would let it slide. What it taught her was that the rules didn’t apply to her. Worse, it made another sibling resentful of the parents. Not a good relationship to have with your child.

It is okay to teach your kids that they are different from each other, but you should never teach them that they are better or worse than the others. Or that they are better than other people. People who think they are better are rarely kind to those they think are lesser. It is bad when a popular high school student calls other students ‘little people” but it is downright pathetic when a grown woman says that about others.

Time off for good behavior

Yes, everyone gets punished, but that punishment can be mitigated based on previous behavior. Even in the court of law a first offense is given a lighter sentence. You have to explain why the punishment is lighter. If the kid is given a 10 minute time out and you want to let the kid go early you have to explain that it was because they did something good. This reinforces that punishment will always happen but gives positive reinforcement for good deeds.

It is no secret that I have an exceptional child. I often say I have problems most parents wish they had. Despite that fact, I still punish my child for every infraction. I will, from time to time, pull her aside and talk to her about it. A performance review if you will. I let her know all the good things she does and puts her punishments in perspective. It lets her know she is not a bad kid because she gets punished more than her friends. Speaking of her friends, on a group outing when they were about 9-years-old one of her friends was yelling at her dad and called him stupid.

I looked at my angel of a child and said, “You know I would end you if you talked to me like that?”

“I know,” she said.

“Good kid.”

We have never had that problem. Even at 16 she doesn’t talk to me like that. If she disagrees with me, even if she is upset, she points out exactly what it is she disagrees with. This means that when she clashes with her parents she never gets punished for it. It also means when she gets punished, she knows why and takes responsibility.

Parenting is a journey, the last thing you want to is be responsible for raising an asshole.


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It Might ‘Take a Village’ but Raising Your Kid is Your Responsibility

Carrots and raisins? Do you want my house to get egged?

Carrots and raisins? Do you want my house to get egged?

By: Peter Sessum

I get it, your child is your special little snowflake and the most important person in the world to you. Unfortunately, your kid is just another of billions of children in the world to me and pretty much every other parent out there. As we move about the world we only occupy about one square meter of space. There is nothing wrong with thinking your one square meter, and that of your child, are the most important to you, but you can’t expect that of other people while saying their square meter doesn’t matter.

It must suck having a kid that is allergic to nuts. Your child will miss out on the simple joy of a proper peanut butter and jelly sandwich. There is nothing more synonymous with childhood eating. I suggest dipping one in milk, it is a life changing culinary event to a child. It saddens me to know that some children will never know that joy. Unfortunately, for the person posting signs, which I seriously hope are fake, the sign is not perceived as the act of a caring parent, but an obnoxious person raising an entitled brat.

When your kid has special concerns, it is your job to observe them, not the public’s. The idea that the neighborhood has to look out for the dietary needs of a single, faceless kid is ludicrous. Hundreds of children could visit a single home on Halloween so which one is your special little snowflake? Especially when they are already spending money on something to give to the little beggars. The entire situation is not only silly, but it is poor parenting. The lesson is that the world must change to fit you and not that you have to adapt to the world. This child is going to be in for a rude awakening someday.

There are, of course, better solutions and all of them are actually good parenting. First, take the preventive measure to have the trick or treat bag to have “allergic to nuts” clearly written on it. In fact, there is a good chance that there are other parents that would buy that so look for it next year. No fair stealing the idea before I can get it on Shark Tank and make my millions. Next, as a good parent you should be looking at your kid’s loot in the first place and removing the dangerous treats. It is called the “dad tax” and if you don’t know what it is you are failing your child. Third, if you want to be nice, buy a variety of acceptable treats and trade them out with you child. In the end, it is up to you to ensure your child doesn’t consume any normal treats that he or she is allergic to.

Hopefully, this sign is a hoax and not actually real. Of course, with the way some people are going, I would not at all be surprised if it was real. However, the overall message still stands. It is up to the parent to actually parent their own child. I say this as a parent of a child that has to be careful because she has asthma and has a retina issue. So it is up to me to make sure she is safe and not the responsibility of the school, district or other parents to make sure there are activities that she can do. While she is very special to me, in the large world she is just another special snowflake in a snowstorm, just like your kid. If you want it to be my responsibility to take care of your kid I’ll do it, but you might not like the fun things I teach the little snowflake when it gets home.

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Tip #41: Find Creative Means of Communication

20141009_070045By Peter Sessum

There comes a point, I believe, that the voice of the parents stop being the voice of authority and more like white noise to be ignored. If you have ever spent time around a cat or a teenager you know what I am talking about. You are just a big, dumb human making noises. It can be especially difficult when trying to communicate a message that isn’t timely. If you yell to a teenager that they are about to be hit by a train, they will leap out of the way. But if you tell a teenager to stay off the tracks because a train might come you will get a soft “what-evs” and then they will walk along the rails listening to their iPods until they get run over.

20141021_070145So parenting can be a challenge but that does not mean it can’t be effective and sometimes amusing. For a while I was having a problem getting my child to clean up after making a bagel for breakfast or a sandwich for lunch. I would get a soft eye roll when I would tell her that we have cutting boards for a reason and that using a paper towel for a single use layer was wasteful. These solid pearls of dad wisdom were falling on deaf ears.

20141105_070226Fortunately, she is old enough that instead of getting frustrated that she isn’t listening I instead think, “How can I use this situation to amuse myself?” And amuse myself I did. Here are the messages she found for going off to school without cleaning up.

20141105_070211To her credit, she is a good kid and has been making her own lunch since she was about 4-years-old. But she does know what kind of dad I am and to her shame she let this go on far too long before learning. She knows that I use annoyance as a tool for behavior modification so she really should know better. However, it turned out to be an effective communication tool since this behavior has ceased months ago and it only made her think I am a marginally bigger dork than before so it was worth it.


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Tip #40: Let Them Learn the hard Way

And now she knows to verify information.

And now she knows to verify information.

By Peter Sessum

As parents we love our children and want to protect them from everything, but at a certain point it becomes overbearing. The best lessons are hard learned so sometimes it is good to let children learn the hard way. There are even times when you can help that along, and if you get a little amusement out of it, all the better. Of course, your child may not talk to you for a while.

Not all the time though…
There are times when children just need to trust you. When you say the stove it hot, they need to know not to touch it. Don’t let them touch it once “just to be sure.” Yes, they will never touch a hot stove again, but they might also never touch a cold one again either. The idea is to reinforce messages, not psychologically scar your child for life.

As a parent there are certain warnings that must be heeded. Anything with a safety concern should be taught sternly. However, if it is no big deal, let the kid learn the hard way and that message will be reinforced. In addition, it will teach the kid that you really do know what you are talking about when you warn him or her about lessons in the future.

Learn on your own or father knows best?
There are times when it is good to let a child learn on the fly. One of my favorite examples of this is from a Chicken Soup for the Soul book about a child that spilled milk and rather than get mad his mother asked him what he should use to clean it up. He tried a couple different things before he found the best thing to soak up milk off the floor. Then she filled the bottle with water and let him practice carrying it. It was great, it taught him problem-solving and he credited it as being one main reason why he became a scientist.

I encourage my child to learn her own way of doing things. I think it encourages independence and preparation for the big bad world when the time comes that no one will hold her hand. However, there are times to step in. I tried Big Fun v. Little Fun for a while to get her to speed up her chores, but as she got older the problems stopped being attention span and started being process. As a teenager her weekly chore list grew to decent size and her lackadaisical way of going about her chores was inefficient and took all day. While it is her time she is wasting, I didn’t want her to lose a whole Saturday cleaning the kitchen.

After a while of letting her do things her way, I stepped in and told her to do it mine. I gave her specific directions and then left. Not just the room, but the building. When I returned, she didn’t want to talk to me for a while. Not because I had her do something stupid, but because it was so efficient she felt silly. She didn’t want to admit that “my way” was better than her way especially since she had attitude when I explained how I wanted her to do it. That was when I shared with her my philosophy as an Army leader: “There are two ways to do things, my way and the hard way.” Doing things the hard way is stupid, so if anyone ever showed me that my way was the hard way I would change my way. So now Anna gets to call her way of cleaning the kitchen her way and not Dad’s way.

Sometimes teaching lessons can be fun
Of course procedural things like cleaning are easy to teach. There is a quantifiable difference in cleanliness or time saved. But how do you teach intellectual lessons the hard way? Make it suck a little. Or in my case, amuse yourself.

Everyone should know to check their sources. As a journalist, verifying information is critical. Reporting on incorrect information can end a career. For law enforcement, acting on wrong information can be deadly. The challenge of teaching a teenager to not blindly follow information was actually quite easy, but required a lot of patience on my part.

One night I received an email alert that my daughters had sent her first tweet. You can see part of the text exchange. It happened because I told her it was time for bed and she just went, no questions asked. Worst of all, it was a weekend so she could have stayed up a little later anyway. Needless to say, she was not pleased that her dad had tricked her.

I then had bad news for her. That was not the first night I had done it. In fact, for about the previous two or three weeks I would randomly tell her it was time for bed and she went. Not once did she look over her shoulder at her clock or change her gaze a degree to stop playing on her phone long enough to see the time in the corner. As you can imagine, she was pissed! Unfortunately, I couldn’t stop laughing and it still cracks me up to this day.

As far as dad jokes go this might be my crowning achievement. It took so long to set up and the reveal was so subtle but it was totally worth it. You can bet that my daughter doesn’t believe everything she hears now. She double checks all dubious information and gave me side eye for a month when I said it was time for bed. Each day she looks as a clock just to be sure.

It didn’t cost her anything except maybe some TV time. At most she lost a couple of hours staring at the ceiling, but that lesson is going to stick with her for the rest of her life. Much more so than if I just said, “Don’t believe everything you hear.”

Some lessons are best learned the hard way. They are the ones that stick with you for the rest of your life. If you are handed all the information it isn’t earned and as such is not respected. So when it is safe, let your children learn things the hard way. It will serve them in the end and maybe as a bonus you will get some entertainment out of it. I know I did and it was one of the most amusing thing you can do to your kid without having someone call child services.

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You Can’t Deny That Anti-Vaccination People Love Their Children

Measles_pneumonia_-_HistopathologyWith the first measles death in 12 years being reported recently and California’s blocking the personal beliefs exemption has brought up the anti-vaccination discussion. The people who oppose vaccinations have come under fire again. In everything I have read, one important fact about the so called anti-vaxxers has always been left out. The fact that they love their children.

While their detractors make a lot of noise and call them names, no one will recognize that these people love their children and truly want what is best for them. The anti-vax crowd are not devoid of intelligence, instead I would say that they do more research and speak with other people more than most of the people that let the doctors inject their children without question. That research is their strength but also their biggest downfall.

Too much research without the proper context or full understanding is bad. Yes, there are chemicals in vaccinations but the level is so incredibly small that they can’t do any harm. Putting a few drops of bleach in a gallon of water will help purify it in a survival situation but drinking bleach straight is deadly. Same with vaccinations. It all has to do with the amount, not the just the substance. Google Dihydrogen Monoxide to see what happens when something is overhyped incorrectly.

This need to research was their downfall because the research they based their beliefs on was wrong. We are supposed to trust doctors when they publish because their studies have to have strict controls, be peer reviewed by other experts in the field and have mountains of data to support their findings. So the finding, no matter how dramatic, should be trusted. So when a doctor comes out with a study that says something horrible about vaccinations it should be solid.

And that is what happened, smart people that love their children and did the research had real, legitimate concerns about vaccinations. At one point it was all over the media with celebrities jumping on the bandwagon and supporting the manufactured claims. Then the anti-vaccination bubble burst and those that trusted a source that should be trusted were attacked for their beliefs. That kind of made them go underground. So take a normal, rational person and make them afraid to talk except to those that won’t attack them and they go online and find like-minded groups. These groups will share “proof” that big pharm discredited a legit source in an effort to make billions off vaccinations. And when everyone around is saying the same thing it can be easy to lose sight of what is true and what is not.

It seems to me that when someone is “outed” as being anti-vaccination they get attacked. And that makes them defensive. When people feel like they will be attacked for their beliefs they tend to keep those beliefs to themselves and only talk with like-minded individuals. The problem with that is a form of intellectual stagnation. When you only talk to people that agree with you it is difficult to learn.

“A dumb man surrounds himself with smart people and a smart man surrounds himself with smart people that disagree with him.” That is a quote that a friend and I often remind ourselves of to keep growing as individuals. We can’t fully explore a topic or have a deeper understanding of our own beliefs unless we listen to people that challenge those beliefs.

There is also a touch of conspiracy theory in the anti-vaccination crowd. Just a touch. But most of them are against the medical industry and not necessarily the government. The problem with any kind of conspiracy person is that their arguments become lazy. The accusation that “Big Pharm” is out to make us sick while reaping in huge profits is too easy of an excuse to dismiss real information.

Unfortunately, now, the anti-vaccination crowd is in a full on, dig in your heels, defensive mode. Attacking them won’t do any good, in fact it will make things worse. So instead I say this to the people that are against vaccinations. Please do your research with credible sources that might disagree with you and weigh all the information. I understand the concept of the protection of the herd because I rely on it. The medications I am forced to take every month make me immune compromised. So doing all that you can do to prevent the spread of disease will keep your child safe and will save my life. Just like it would have saved the woman that died. She was also taking medications that compromised her immune system. I know she might not be from my neighborhood, but being in the same state is too close for my comfort. Especially since I just got out of a five day stretch in the hospital.

If you are pro-vaccination, please do not attack those with different beliefs. Calling them names has never convinced anyone to change their position. Ever. Instead, let them know that you respect their love for their children and maybe they will enter a respectful dialogue. It is great that some people do the research out of love for their children and I respect that. If they feel that they are respected, they might be less defensive and be moved to change their mind and protect their children. I love my child, and that is why I had her vaccinated. I hope others will do the same.

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The Last Word on Public Breast-Feeding

Seriously, what is the big deal? The only thing she is doing wrong is that she might be more comfortable sitting down.

Seriously, what is the big deal? The only thing she is doing wrong is that she might be more comfortable sitting down.

By Peter Sessum

Since August is National breast-feeding Month I thought it only appropriate that I address it in a parenting blog. So here it is, the final word on breast-feeding. OK, maybe not the final word, although it would be nice if it was. There will still be people arguing that it is natural, a distraction or that it is obscene and sexual. But if there was a last word that would put an end to the public breast-feeding debate it would have to be compromise.

I know that in our current all or nothing society that compromise is a forgotten word. People want to get their way and all of their way or they are offended on a base level. There is never an opportunity for both sides to win. If a company has a health plan that will deny one form of birth control out 20 possible prescriptions it is branded of hating women. Since when is getting 95 percent of what you want a loss? We need to embrace compromise especially in the breast-feeding debate.

Breast-feeding is natural

I don’t mean in a hippie, organic, free-range, GMO free kind of way. I mean that it is literally a natural bodily function. You can forget about all the arguments about breast milk and nutritional benefits for a baby or how that time is used for bonding or any of the other pro breast milk arguments. I am not trying to dismiss those points, but let’s face it, if the other side hasn’t listened to those arguments by now, this post won’t convince them.

The point is that under certain circumstances the body literally naturally produces breast milk. If a woman was unable to produce milk, for whatever reason, but still had her baby latch onto her breast to bond in public there would be a an argument for picking a different time and place for that artificial bonding. Or that there is another way to bond with a child both in public and in private. Also, if the female body couldn’t produce without plastic surgery and breast-feeding was a completely unnatural act I would agree that they should not do it in public. But babies get hungry. Often. And there is a readily available food source that have benefits for both parties there is no logical reason for denying that child food.

And possibly offending someone is not a good reason. Mainly because people are offended by far too many things that there is no way to keep track and we can’t possibly accommodate everyone. So some people are going to have to suck it up. Expecting women to stay inside until the baby is weaned or to have to go to a public bathroom is unreasonable, and in the case of the bathroom, unsanitary. To me this is like someone saying that they can’t walk means that everyone should have to be in wheelchairs because watching free movement offends them. Just expecting the general population to incur an additional cost of acquiring wheelchairs makes this stupid. So asking families to have to pay for formula to feed in public when there is a natural source is stupid.

The compromise is a little discretion. A woman can throw a blanket over her baby for a few minutes or sit in a corner table with her back facing everyone else. Is it a hassle? Yes, but it is a reasonable request and anyone upset with a baby feeding that isn’t obvious to everyone is too sensitive and should have to endure it because life is going to eat them alive if the act of unseen breast-feeding offends them.

An image from a very old patent application so clearly this isn't anything new.

An image from a very old patent application so clearly this isn’t anything new.

It is a disruption

If I owned a restaurant and a woman stood on a table, ripped off her shirt, yelled “leche league forever bitches!” and attached a baby to each boob I would ask her to leave. Not because she was breast-feeding, but because she was making a scene and standing on my table. On the flip side, if woman was quietly feeding a baby with a blanket thrown over her shoulder and someone started bothering her I would throw that person out for disrupting another customer. Remember, just because you are offended doesn’t make you right.

My family went camping with a couple other families a few years back. I don’t know how long one of the women had been breast-feeding before I realized what was going on. Her husband handed her the baby and she casually threw a little blanket over her the baby and one shoulder. I didn’t think anything of it. We were all sitting around in a circle talking and at some point it hit me that the baby was feeding under there. There is nothing disrupting about that. She didn’t say anything, just casually and discretely fed her child. I think that is a good compromise.

On two occasions, one private and one public, women have asked me if it was OK to feed their child/children in front of me. Once was in public where her back was to the rest of the restaurant but was right across from me on the round patio table the other time was at my home when a friend asked if it was OK to feed her twins. In both cases I said it was fine but I appreciated that they asked. It was a bit of common courtesy that is rare in today’s society. Neither one did a big show of feeding their babies so it was no big deal.

If anyone would have said something that would have been a disruption. Making a commotion and drawing attention to it would be a disruption. Approaching a table of strangers to tell them how much you disapprove of public feeding doesn’t make you a concerned citizen, it makes you a jack-hole. That is the compromise, if someone is discretely feeding their child, the compromise is to ignore it and go about your day. A little bit of discretion mixed with a little minding your own damn business will help everyone get along better in this world.

It is a sexual act

There is nothing sexual about breast-feeding. I will say that again, there is nothing sexual about beast-feeding. And for the cheap seats, THERE IS NOTHING SEXUAL ABOUT BREAST-FEEDING!!! I say this not as an enlightened male, I say that as a former knuckle dragging grunt that loves boobs. Seriously, I am a guy that loves boobs. I wish women would randomly flash me just to put a smile on my face. Boobs are awesome. But as soon as you put a baby on one it goes from being someone fun and sexy to utilitarian. In other words, they become udders pretty damn fast.

I have talked about this with other men, including other former grunts, and we all agree that there is nothing hot about a woman feeding a baby. Breastfeeding actually de-sexualizes breasts. If you find something sexual about a woman feeding her child you might want to keep your freaky stuff to yourself. I don’t want you to think I am judging you, but I am judging you. Women have a lot of tools in their tool belt to be sexy and that just isn’t one of them. If a woman thinks that breast-feeding is sexy I am going to tell you that you are wrong. Of course everyone has their thing and there are men that have the fetish. But as a general rule, anyone that wants to complain that there is something sexual about breast-feeding is weird to me and needs to stay quiet. As long as a woman isn’t doing a striptease prior to feeding her baby, there isn’t anything intentionally sexual going on.

Of course, this only covers the debate in broad strokes. I think that most of the women that feed their babies in public are not trying to make some sort of political message, they are just trying to feed their child. Just on the off chance that it is a woman that is already having a tough day and is just trying to get their kid to eat and be quiet so she can enjoy five minutes of silence to eat a now cold meal we should leave her alone. The other side of that is if you are against public breast-feeding, just ignore it and the people that are super militant about it will eventually shut up. If you haven’t learned that the worst way to get an angry woman to be quiet is to tell her to shut up then you are in for a hard road my friend.

Breast-feeding is a completely natural function. The female body is designed to produce milk for a baby to consume. There is no reason for them to be shamed. There is no reason for them to have to go to a public restroom to accommodate people that are overly sensitive. But everyone should also acknowledge that it does bother some people and so they should not make a big production of it. A little discretion with some minding your own business is a good compromise. There are too many real things going on in the world that public breast-feeding should be pretty far down on the list of things that are bad in our society. I will make you a compromise, if you can wait until war, crime, hunger, homelessness and poverty is resolved to make the anti-breast-feeding debate I will stop thinking you are petty and stupid.


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