inspiring fathers at every stage of life

Poptism - inspiring fathers at every stage of life

Connecting with your child as a working parent

image credit: Marcin Moga

It is a daily battle for me to connect with my kids. It is not an instantly obvious desire. My instincts when I get home typically revolve around self-preservation, so I need to work to be giving, and thoughtful towards my kids. Maybe for you this is not a challenge, and you come home ready to dive in to lego’s and playtime – then awesome, not sure why you are here.

But if you are a working dad, and you want to connect with your child, but don’t know how – or maybe you are just fresh out of ideas.  I hope this post can help. These are a few things I like to do – and I need more ideas too – so if you have any ideas, please share them in the comments!

Connect with your child during:

  1. Bath time!  Since my kids are just 14 months apart, I combine their bath times. It is a typically stressful experience, honestly. But, it is very valuable time together. I get to play with toys, talk to them. Make them laugh, and play in the bath. One of my favorites; trying to find the HexBug Aquabot as it swims under the bubbles – I get nothing for promoting this. I genuinely love the toy. Great for tubs that aren’t steel since it has magnets!
  2. Errand Runs: Kids love getting out of the house. It is easy to just run out and go grab something and not want to bring your kids along for brevity’s sake. However, a car ride together is great connecting time for kids. Sing a song on the way to the supermarket, or post office. Talk while you shop – take a moment to let them help you pick items that you need.
  3. Dadurday! I call Saturday, Dadurday. It is just an easy day to set apart time for your kids. After breakfast I love bringing my boys to this awesome park that has a fenced toddler area. Typically I run into many dads doing the same thing – connecting with their kids. Movies, ice cream runs, hiking, even your jog – these are all moments where your kids could be with you. Get ideas for Dadurday activities in the Bay Area here.
  4. Dedicated 1:1 time: look, I am no dad-guru, but at it’s most basic, if you work in a job you get 1:1′s with a boss, at least once a month if not more frequent. If you have multiple children, make one on one time so you can connect with each child. Each child you have is unique, and making time for each of them now, will pay dividends as they mature. If you give your children dedicated time and respect their individual needs, they will expect the same treatment from others as they mature and will know that their dad values them. It fills up their feelings of self-worth and you can never start too young. As much as I hang with both of my boys – I need to make sure I give them each dedicated one on one time.
  5. Digital connections: Text them, email them, FaceTime them, Skype, whatever it takes. Reach out to your kids. Don’t just call them. I personally hate VM’s – I love talking to my parents and love hearing their voices – but they always wait for me to call them. I wish they called me more. I have a son across the country, and I do my best to FaceTime him and connect at least 3X a week, besides my trips out East. Play video games together – be interested in them – that will teach them to engage with others and their interests – including yours.

It is hard when you have a Full-Time job, or two or more jobs, to make time for your kids. But you really have to make it a priority. These are connections that will pay dividends for years, not just for their lives, but for yours. You won’t ever wish you stayed at work for one more hour, you won’t ever hope that you got to send one more email – no. What you will wish for is one more hug, one more laugh and one more smile from the ones you love.

Make. The. Time.

Your kids may already be craving connection time. Try it out – and if you have tips or feedback, please come back and post it below.



Top 12 Dad-Friendly Employee Perks

Father and son fishing

For dads, most jobs just meet the basic function of providing a way to be a good provider. Others, however, offer employee perks that strengthen a dad’s ability to take care of the home and family, outside of paying the bills.

Here’s a list of dad-friendly employee perks, and the companies behind them, from Business Insider’s list of 2013 Top 50 Employers.


These companies and perks are strengthening families through offering their employees parental superpowers.

Note: Click on the links below to search for open opportunities with these companies.

Created by Jovan Hackley

  1. Unlimited Sick Days and Free On-Site Health Care – SAS Institute

  1. Free Yacht Rentals for Family Relaxation – JM Family Enterprises

  1. 6 Paid Weeks Off – Autodesk

  1. On-Site Farmers Market and Veggie Subscriptions – QualComm

  1. Free Flights for the Entire Family – Southwest Airlines

  1. Paid Time Off for Field Trips, Parent-Teacher Conferences, and More – Mattel, Inc.

  1. Private Concierge to Help You Tackle the Chores – Johnson & Johnson

  1. Winter Recess and 12 Holidays – Boeing

  1. Fitness Centers for the Whole Family – The Hershey Company

  1. 3 Weeks of Leave from the Start – General Mills

  1. On-Site Doctors, Physical Therapists, and More – Cisco Systems

  1. On-Site Kindergarten and After-School Programs – Campbell’s Soup Company

If you’re a dad, these could be a few cool places to work. If you’re an employer, use this list to inspire adjustments to your perk list and benefit offerings to help strengthen dads and families.

Love – as defined by a dad.

dino_loveI love the way my little guys smile in the morning.
I love when they look up, arms stretched, reaching for me.
I love hugging them and knowing that love was the seed that made them possible.

I love the smile on all of our faces when someone is silly.
I love the sound of laughter and stomping feet through our house.
I love picking them up when they fall down.
I love making wrongs – right.
I love saying good night, good morning and hello.

I love seeing me and my family in their eyes, smirks, face, words and actions.
I love making things that you will enjoy.
I love taking you to out to explore nature and the world.
I love seeing you make your own discoveries.
I love teaching you things that will be with you forever.
I love seeing you grow and learn.
I love dreaming about your future – what kind of men you will all be.
I love the thought that one day, you will be a dad loving your kids even better than I loved you.
I love when you jump into bed to wake me up.
I love that you have a clean slate of life ahead of you – go for it.
I love when you cuddle in and get cozy on the couch.
I love tucking you in.
I love that you aren’t restricted by my reality.
I love how you inspire me.
I love when you teach me to love the moment.
I love – you.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

tips for talking with your child

I think the first time I realized my kid didn’t speak english was when he was 2 or so.

Think about it – they are born, and we talk to them…. but they have no idea what in the world we are saying. We just sound pleasant. Our tone is nice, we can soothe them by humming or whispering – but the actual words we say – mean nothing. We literally sound like a Charlie Brown teacher – PWAH-PWA-WAH-WAH…

Eventually, they actually do start to communicate. Through trial and error, and by combining tone and facial expressions with actions they witness, suddenly they understand you!

Or so you thought…

Because then one day you say, “tilt your head back” – and they have no idea what that means. What does tilt mean? Did I ever establish this word in his life? And back? usually associated with their back, or give it back etc. So, you gently nudge their chin up, and EUREKA – “tilt your head back” is established. yet, I bet you $100 they have no idea what tilt means.

So you want tips – that’s why the mighty Google brought you here. Well, here is the best I have – and no I am not a language expert, I just have 1, 2 and 5 yr old children that frankly communicate really well these days. I don’t write these as an exhaustive list, just some tips, please add your own below in the comments.

Here are 7 tips for talking with your child:

1) Replace the action you want, with their perspective:
- “tilt your head back” changes to “look up”
- “swing your legs back and forth” changes to “put your shoes on the sky”

2) Ask for one thing at a time so as not to confuse them and build confidence.

3) Use shorter phrases and simple explanations

4) Get down to their level – ensure you have eye contact. Literally crouching down and speaking to them is really effective in establishing trust and building their confidence when they speak.

5) If you yell, they will yell louder. Use calmer tones – when possible, we all have our moments.

6) Don’t ask a question if you want them to do something – questions should always allow them to say “no” and mean it. If you ask questions just to be nice, then argue with them when they don’t do what you asked – don’t get mad:
- “Do you want to go potty?” vs. “lets go potty, or Please go potty now”
- “Do you want to go outside?” vs. “let’s go outside”

7) Offer a choice if a command is met with resistance:
- parent: “Please sit in your chair”
- child: “no.”
- parent: “Okay you choose: sit in your chair, or…”(no toy, it’s bedtime, timeout, etc.)

8) establish a pattern of consequence, and don’t deviate.
We like to use “1, 2, 3″ meaning – not our idea, it’s magic that we read in this book given to us and used by a bunch of our friends – it freaking works!

I hope these tips helps you talk with your child and have easier communication. If you have any things that work in your family, please share below!

I suck at fatherhood, and that’s okay.

I want to be an awesome dad. Yet chasing the ideal of fatherhood can be a supremely discouraging act – because in the end, no one is perfect.

So do I give up? Do I throw my hands up and say, “screw it, I am not going to try anymore!” Or do I wake up the next day, and go after it again?

I think this is the point that many men get to – (or maybe I am speaking for myself and it is just me. Either way, I shall go on...) I have a choice today and everyday:

- Face the truth of what I feel, talk about it, get it out of my heart and seek encouragement.

-OR -

- Stuff my feelings and hope they go away after a beer, some wine and some football, (insert random vice here)…

I think I bounce between the two, though frankly I turn to video games more than anything else.

Nevertheless, as we do this – as we deny the feelings of inadequacies, or the actual pressure we feel. We are slowly hardening our hearts to the emotions we feel and little by little the pressure of fatherhood can drive us to make bad decisions.

Decisions seemingly inconsequential,  from looking at porn, to the more serious infractions of cheating on a spouse (be it emotionally or physically), drug and alcohol abuse, or perhaps straight hand in crotch, Al Bundy style, disregard. Whatever it is we do and make excuses for, the root of it is avoidance and self-medication of feelings and past hurts.

To sum it up – it is quitting at the work of being a father.

What does quitting in fatherhood look like? Well, only you know the answer. It is not as obvious as literally abandoning your child, or leaving your family. It is different for every man. For me, it looks like a man engrossed in work, responsibility and just doing enough to get by. That may be good enough for some, but in my heart of hearts, I know I could do more if I just let myself make mistakes.

So how can we break through? Here are some things I try to live by that help me when I am down or discouraged:

  1. Be honest. When you mess up, just look at your kid and apologize.
  2. Talk to other dads. We have all been through it in some way. Join our Meet-up group for San Francisco Bay Area Dads
  3. Get a mentor. Maybe there is a dad out there that is good at X and you are good at Y – buddy up and help each other out
  4. Talk to anyone who will listen. Feelings of inadequacy can lead to a lot of bitterness and anger. Are you angry a lot? You need to talk about it, get it out.
  5. Vulnerability is good. There is much strength in weakness. This is when true growth can occur. When you share the truth and move on.
  6. Don’t quit (or stop quitting). Put down the “vice” or self-medication, and face the challenge that you are avoiding daily. You may surprise yourself and realize you can do it!

What I have learned so far with 3 boys 5, 2 and 1 is that there are good days and bad days. My actions, everyday, are creating traits and honing the characters of my boys. That pressure – is true. But I don’t need to be perfect, I just need to love them and be honest. Then they can learn that being perfect is not the goal, the goal is to run the race and come out better than when you came in. Victory through doing your best and not giving up, even when you fall down. (and no I don’t believe in medals for last place – but we are talking about life here, not a potato sack race)

This is a very personal post, and I make no apologies for it. But I am under the assumption that many men, feel the same way. Share your thoughts below – let’s have a dialogue!


My Kids are My Hobby

My kids are my hobby

My kids are my hobby – Ken Shuman

I recently reconnected with an old friend and it has been more than 10 years since we chatted. When I asked him what was new he said “my kids are my hobby.”

I have never used this term before but I could relate.

Today is my four year anniversary and it is amazing how quickly my life has changed. During the past four years, Nicole and I have bought a home, had two amazing children and she launched her own company. During this time, my old hobbies like golfing, going to live sporting events and concerts have all tapered off – and I have hardly noticed. My old hobbies are on “hold” but that is because I want to spend as much time with kids.

They are my new hobby.

On Saturday mornings I take Eli and Audrey to San Rafael gymnastics so we can run, jump and bounce around to start the day. Most afternoons we take a walk to the park and play on the swings and dig in the sand. On Sunday mornings we go as a family to the farmer’s market where we buy fresh produce and veggies, sample tasty foods and dance to the live music being played. This is my weekend routine and I couldn’t be happier.

A few weeks ago I took a bike ride and Eli was on his little scooter following along. It was the first time we did this and it amazing. It gave me a glimpse what it is going to be like as the kids get older. I look forward to soccer, baseball, etc…

Spending time with my kids are my new hobby and I couldn’t be happier!


Guest Post: Learn how to MANUP with Dennis Daniel

Screen Shot 2013-09-03 at 1.57.51 PMI would like to thank Pierre Calzadilla for allowing me to guest post on the POPTISM page.  This is a first for me, so hopefully I won’t say or do anything stupid to ruin our budding relationship.

Earlier this year, I published a book entitled MANUP! – A Practical Guide to Being a Dad.  In it, my wife and I try to share some bits of wisdom that we have learned over the years.  Our hope was to help prepare Dads for some of the things they will face as their kids grow.  It really isn’t a “you should do it this way” book as much as a guide to “be aware of these things, because they are coming at you!”

Anyway, Pierre thought it would be a good idea to share a few words on my definition of Manning Up and to perhaps give a few simple steps to put it into practice–so here goes.

In my view, to MANUP is to shoulder your responsibilities to your family and kids.  Our society is full of men that father kids and walk away, that fail to help around the house, or fail to provide the guidance, discipline and coaching that kids need in order to grow.  Today, kids are exposed to adult issues at a very early age.  The exposure to danger and risk is much greater than has been the case in the past.

Men and women have a role to play in guiding their kids, showing them where the pitfalls are and helping them to navigate through all of the stuff of growing up.   So to MANUP is to really do your part to help your kids grow to be healthy and complete human beings.  And yes, both Moms and Dads need to MANUP!

Step One – Develop and Align on Your Parenting Philosophy – while this sounds like two things, the basic presumption is that single or not, most parents have a partner, spouse or significant other that plays a role in the raising of your child.  If you and that person are not on the same parenting page, your kids will either be confused, or play one of you against the other.  It is important that the adults are consistent and see things from the same point of view so that the kids know where they stand.

You don’t have to decide right away on every possible scenario that will come your way, but you should at least develop some common sense guidelines that will serve you.  A few examples: setting boundaries and discipline, what are the important lessons that you want to impart to your child, how will you respond when your kids interact with other kids.  These things are going to happen, and you would rather have the discussion before hand, rather than after the fact.  If you are living apart from the other parent, you need to get aligned with them too.  You don’t want your child living under two sets of rules because surely, one parent will lose out.  Figure out how to set your differences aside for the sake of the kids.

Step Two – Recognize that your role is that of a parent, not always your kid’s best friend.  If you can manage to do both, great for you!  But, if you have to choose to be one or the other, you have to be the parent first.  Anyone can be your kid’s best friend, but you are the only one that can be the parent.  The parent is there to love, protect, provide for, teach, guide and sometimes discipline the kid.  You have to recognize your role and realize that your role is different than any other adult that your child will ever come across.  You are responsible for that young life.  Recognize this and act like it.

Step Three – Love First and Always.  The first and foremost rule of a parent is that everything you do should be done out of love for the child.  The child will try your patience, challenge you, break most of your rules and, at some point, probably lie to you as well.  He will force your hand and push your buttons incessantly.  But in any situation, you must always make sure the child knows that you love them.  Even when discipline is to be applied, the child needs to know that the reason for the discipline is that you love them.  Discipline is only a response to their inappropriate behavior.  The child must learn what behavior is acceptable and what is not and it is your job to teach them.  Using discipline on one hand and love on the other provides the most powerful means for doing just that.

Step Four – Provide rules and consistent application.  Many people don’t recognize that rules are there to protect the child.  Children don’t have the same “It’s not Safe Filter” as adults, so establishing rules within which your child is to operate is absolutely critical.  But, part of a kid’s job is to push the envelope.  In other words, they learn by pushing up against those rules and stretching the boundaries.  But since a kid doesn’t know what is safe, you have to make sure age appropriate boundaries are set– and enforced.  You can’t allow the child to break rules that you set.  If a child learns they can break the rules, they lose respect for you as their parent.  They also learn that no rules are important.  They have to learn the rules so they can interact in society and they have to learn that their behavior has consequences.  It is your job to teach them.

Step Five – Shoulder Your Responsibilities … all of them.  This one is a pretty broad category but as a parent, you now are responsible for a life.  You need to act like it.  It is not about you.  It is not about you and your spouse. It is about the family, as a whole, and raising your children to be happy healthy adults.  A life has been placed in your hands.  You are responsible for the physical, emotional, spiritual and mental development of that young child.  Children are not a burden.  Children are a gift.  It is your role to develop that gift and give that child every opportunity to have a healthy life.  Regardless of what you have experienced in your own life, you have the chance to make a difference.  Take the good that has happened in your life and build upon it.  Take the bad that has occurred in your life and avoid it.  You have the ability to better, not only your own family but society . . . by helping your child to be the best person they can become.

The greatest gift that you will ever receive is the love of a child.  Being a parent is an opportunity unlike any other.   I hope that these simple steps, from a seasoned Dad, help you in your quest to MANUP! and be the best parent you can possibly be!

DAD (Dennis A Daniel)

Dennis – thanks so much for this wonderful post and your great book. We wish you success! If you liked this post, pick up a copy of Dennis’ book – MANUP! A practical guide to being a dad.

Guest Post: The death of a word

We love hearing from dad’s across the World. We were contacted by Stephen Greene who writes for headoftheheard.com and I was honored to welcome his post:

The Death of a Word – by Stephen GreeneBlack bow

Recently on this site there was a post called The birth of a word – A toddler speaks.  It truly is an amazing thing to witness your child learning language and experimenting with new words.  Those first stumbling steps on the road to communicating ideas and desires are a wonder for both the child and any proud parent.

In our family, though, we have recently experienced something entirely different.  It is as important as the birth of a word, but rarely written or even talked about.  It is potentially just as big a milestone, but instead of pure joyous celebrations it is tinged with regret.

I am talking about the death of a word.

I am British but I live in Brazil with my Brazilian wife.  We are trying to bring our two-year-old son up to be bilingual English and Portuguese and this means that he comes up with some strange words from time to time.  A couple of months before we went to the UK for the first time he had taken an interest in cars and had started calling them ‘brum’ because of the sound they made.  While we were in the UK, for no reason that anyone could discern, this word changed from ‘brum’ to ‘abudah’.  It happened overnight and the word caught on.  Vans, cars, trucks, bikes and motorbikes were all ‘abudah’.

Everyone loved this word.  On our arrival back in Brazil we had to translate ‘abudah’ into the Portuguese word ‘carro’ so that our family and friends would understand what he was talking about.  Strangers on the street would give us strange looks as our son enthusiastically shouted ‘abudah’ at every passing bus.

And then, one morning, we woke up and ‘abudah’ was no more.  It had been replaced by the English word ‘car’.  And then, along came ‘tractor’ and ‘tru’ for truck.  But ‘abudah’ was never heard of again.

We all missed this strange word.  Friends that we hadn’t seen for a few weeks would come in and say ‘abudah’ to our son without a glimmer of understanding from him.  It was as if it had never existed.

We do have one small consolation.  A bus is ‘Mimi car’ and a motorbike or bicycle is ‘pies’.  While everyone loves these words, especially ‘Mimi car’, we know that at some point they too will go the way of ‘abudah’.

Stephen Greene blogs on (not just) the life and times of a bilingual family in Curitiba, Brazil at headoftheheard.com

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