Monday, September 29, 2008

Unique Online Community for Girls

If you haven’t heard about or seen, you have got to check it out right away—especially if you have tween or teenage daughters.

Full disclosure: I was one of the co-founders of the company doing this site—New Moon Girl Media, which has won SEVEN Parents Choice Foundation gold awards for its New Moon Girls print magazine—which is edited BY and for girls 8-12.

They have done an unbelievable job with this site. The foundation was laid by a group of tween and teen girls themselves, and you can instantly tell that this is a safe place for girls to be themselves, create, have fun--and be sheltered from the marketing culture’s crap that young girls have to swim through ever day.

The site is less than a month old (and still in beta), but Common Sense Media is already praising it as “a stellar online destination for girls 8-12.” (See

Just so you know, it’s NOT a social networking site like MySpace or Facebook. Unlike those sites, doesn’t allow girls to post personal information and all comments are moderated by well-trained adults. Basically, is a safe (and advertising-free!!) forum for tween girls to post writing, video, audio, artwork--and then share them (or not) as they please, and comment on other girl’s creative efforts.

New Moon Girl Media also has a blog for older girls, called orb28, which is itself a fascinating place for teenage girls to visit—although it isn’t as fully developed yet as the site for younger girls.
Every parent I've heard from says that their tween girl loves the site...and that's the true test of whether it's good for your daughter or stepdaughter.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Art of Giving and Asking Part 2

Each family has a heritage of how we give to others and how we ask for what we need.

Below (building on my post from the other day) is another series of questions to help you get to know you and your teenage daughter and/or stepdaughter talk about this important topic.

Individually, write down your answers to these questions. When you’re both done, share you answers with each other and then ask (don’t preach) and talk to learn more.

What’s been your most surprising experience with giving?

What have been your most surprising and pleasant experiences with asking for help?

As a child, when did you first become aware of the idea and benefits of giving to others? What did you see? What were you curious about?

As a child, when did you first become aware of the idea and benefits of asking others for help? What did you see? What were you curious about?

How is your giving and asking for help similar to that of your parents and siblings, and how is it different? How much are you influenced by them?

You can also adapt these questions for a younger daughter; tween girls like exploring issues like this.

BTW, this article is adapted from my book
The Dads & Daughters Togetherness Guide: 54 Fun Activities to Help Build a Great Relationship, which you can buy by clicking on the title.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Art of Giving and Asking

Giving, asking, receiving—all important things our daughters and stepdaughters need to learn. Below are a few questions to help you get to know your daughter’s attitude about giving, and help her learn about yours.

Individually, write down your answers to these questions. When you’re both done, share you answers with each other and then ask (don’t preach) and talk to learn more.

Have you ever wanted to ask to get your gift or generosity back? Have you ever done it?

If someone is pressuring you to give, how do you usually start feeling?

How often do you say yes to giving help, when you really want to say no? Why do you say yes when you want to say no? When was a time that the person asking made it easy to say no and you said no?

Remember three times when you’ve had to ask for help. If any part of it was hard, what was hard about it? If any part of it was easy, what was easy about it?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Using Dads

Hundreds of therapists, physicians, nutritionists and family members gathered this past weekend in Austin, Texas to talk and learn about eating disorders at the annual conference of the National Eating Disorders Association. I was there are one of the keynote speakers, but it was surprising how rarely the power and potential of fathers and stepfathers arose during discussions about prevention and treatment of serious problems like anorexia and bulimia. In fact, I don’t know that I heard that it come up at all in conversations in which I wasn’t already a participant.

Fathers and stepfathers tend to be invisible to most people working to help families with difficulties like mental or physical illness. This despite the fact that a father or stepfather’s meaning and influence is unavoidable at home.

It is a mystery why dads remain our culture’s greatest untapped natural resource—hidden in plain sight.

I speak about and train professionals on how to start recognizing – and making smart use of—this resource with such incredible potential. So, I spent a lot of time conversing with therapists and representatives of treatment centers, urging them to quickly learn how to integrate fathers more centrally into their work—if for no other reason that the fact that their work will get done more efficiently if they make smart use of this “new” tool!

It’s a safe bet that those organizations and institutions who do learn to more fully tap the power and potential of fathers will quickly (and deservedly) get the reputation for helping their clients get healthy quicker and stay healthy longer. I hope more of them start. You can learn more about this—and how to get training—at

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Dads & Moms & Marketing

I attended an inspiring evening at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis last night—about 30 parents gathered with Twin Cities Public TV producer Daniel Bergin to discuss media, media literacy, and our kids. The conversation kept coming back to marketing—for example, how most US children’s TV programs and websites are so tightly tied to retailers selling toys and food (far too much of both being junk).
Many of us struggle to strike the “right” balance for how much time our kids spend in front of a screen. There’s particular concern for daughters, who are hammered SO hard and SO often (on screen and off) with the dangerous message that their primary value resides in their external appearance (the technical term for this phenomenon is “bigotry”) and how “sexy” they act.
The conversation among this very diverse team of parents was inspiring and filled with practical ideas, like the “no pressure” birthday party—invitations say “your child is not expected to bring a present, and will not be coming home with gifts (aka swag).”
Yet I was also reminded how useful it is to see marketing itself as an organizing principle for analyzing and managing our children’s media consumption. After all, the drive to sell stuff is what motivates and pays for most children’s media. So, look at media (our kids’ and our own) through the critical lens of “how is marketing—especially selling us stuff we otherwise wouldn’t want or need—playing out in this situation?” That approach will give you lots of insight…and open up new possibilities for healthy responses to the ubiquity of media in the lives of our culture and families.
The best places to go for help with this are the Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood and the National Institute on Media and the Family, both of which have extensive information and resources on their sites.Thank you Daniel and the Walker for bringing us together!
Learn more @

Monday, September 08, 2008

What Little Boys Learn About Fathering

It’s a sad fact that few boys in our culture get hands-on training in child-rearing.

Our society doesn’t invest nearly as much time and attention preparing boys to become fathers as it does preparing girls to become mothers. To illustrate, let’s look at two esteemed organizations dedicated to developing kids into well rounded adults: the Boy Scouts of America and the Girls Scout of the USA. Since they began, both groups have offered badges in outdoor, craft, and industrial skills.

But what badges teach a Scout about parenting and family life?

In the Girls Scouts of the USA, young women have earned badges in child care, cooking, and home health since 1913. In ensuing years, GSUSA created badges in Family Living Skills, Food Power, Healthy Relationships, Consumer Power, Sew Simple, Toymaker, Fabric Arts, and "Food, Fibers, and Farming.”

In the Boy Scouts of America, the only parenting-preparation merit badges a young man can earn are: Family Life, Cooking, and Textiles. The number of Boy Scouts earning a Family Life merit badge is less than half the number earning Woodworking, Archery, Fingerprinting, and any of 35 other merit badges.

My goal is not to bash the Boy Scouts; indeed, the thousands of Boy Scouts with Family Life badges are better off than most young men. The point is this: we dads need to consciously seek guidance because of the way many people (ourselves included) perceive fathers and the role of fatherhood.

For example, what does it mean to “mother” a child? Terms like nurturing, feeding, and comforting readily spring to mind. But when someone talks about “fathering a child,” we’re more likely to think he did no more than deposit some sperm--slam, bam, thank you ma’am.

Here’s another example: When you were a boy, did you learn to change diapers? If you did, the odds are slim that your father was the one who taught you.

Think about what you learned from your father and/or stepfather about parenting. You probably learned a lot from his example, even if it was a bad one. But how much did he ever say to you about how to be a father, or about how his life was enriched by having you as his son?

This lack of words--father silence, if you will--is important for dads to acknowledge. Because we tend to start out with less training and information in fathering than our partners have in mothering, we have to recognize our need to actively reach out for knowledge.

It is also important to break this generational cycle of father silence. Our own parenting will be better and easier if we start talking about fathering, asking questions, and sharing our experience. But we’re not the only ones who will benefit. The other fathers we talk with will also be ahead of the game. More important, our open discussion of fathering gives our own children words and wisdom they’ll need when they take their turn as fathers and mothers.

Share what you're doing to break father silence!