Thursday, October 30, 2008

Voting & the Blood of Children

You’ll usually find me reading more than one book at a time, almost always nonfiction, and now is no exception. I’m reading “A New Age Begins,” Paige Smith’s engaging history of the American Revolution and “The Race Beat” (by Gene Roberts & Hank Klibanoff), a compelling look at media coverage of the US Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 60s.

It struck me this morning that both books are important reminders about what’s happening during next Tuesday’s election.

We are often urged to vote because the blood of soldiers on foreign soil purchased that precious privilege. With PSAs and bumper stickers, we parents are often urged to vote for our kids because our kids can’t vote for themselves. Some folks dismiss these exhortations as platitudes.

But my two books (among many others) remind us that daughters and sons also died on our own soil in pursuit of the right to choose their leaders. During the 1770s, citizen soldiers and militia died from Georgia to New Hampshire for a nation that didn’t yet exist. In my own lifetime, people (mostly young people) died to secure full voting rights for all of that nation’s citizens.

The majority of sacrifices in both battles were made by people younger than my own two daughters. The fact that lives were sacrificed here on our own soli—and even within the last generation—makes the responsibility of voting very vivid for me. And it’s what motivated me to sign up as a county election judge for Tuesday.

So I’m thinking today of those who sacrificed life and limb for our fascinating experiment of a Republic—most of them young people not unlike our own children.

And I’m asking you to vote.

If you feel annoyed about having to wait in line or frustrated by the bureaucracy of voting, you could comfort yourself by picturing how many more hours I’ll be at my polling place.

But better comfort and inspiration will come from picturing the greater sacrifices your own child might have been called to make 50 or 200 years ago—and may be called upon to make in her own lifetime—to secure the privilege of having that line you’ll stand in.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Men FOR Title IX??? Are you kidding?

No, I’m not kidding. It’s beyond me that any father of daughters would be anything OTHER than a vigorous supporter of Title IX, the US civil rights law that prohibits gender discrimination in education. There’s a guy who (for a few more months) lives in a big house on Pennsylvania Ave in DC with 2 daughters who hasn't supported Title IX—which I've never understood.

Anyway, it’s a no-brainer for dads of daughters to support gender equity for girls and women—all we have to do is put our own daughters’ faces in the picture. Would we stand for them being denied opportunities JUST because they’re female? No way, so we shouldn’t stand for it with anyone else’s daughter either.

Fortunately, we don’t stand alone among men, as this NCAA video shows.

If you’re a man, be sure you’re speaking up for your daughter or stepdaughter—making sure that her school and world are safe and fair for girls. Learn more at

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Corporal Punishment Debate

There's a fascinating discussion underway about discipline and corporal punishment at the DadTalk list on Yahoo ( If you have any doubt that fathers are thoughtful and concerned and passionate about raising good children--you MUST read these conversations.

Here are some examples:

I have recently started giving my 14 YO time outs again. Sit for 5 minutes and then tell me why you are there and why it was bad. Was she ever shocked the first time I did it (she hadn't had or needed a time out in years)! The point is it seems to be working, she is learning self control. I gave her a time out in a restaurant once but it was far from home (we were camping) I would never do something like that in front of her acquaintances.
I think this issue is highly charged with emotion and judgment. But I'll state this clearly up front: I am in favor of spanking at a certain age. Until a young child is able to actually "reason" the "whys" of appropriate behavior, a physical reminder - issued with love and thoughtfulness by a parent - can be very effective.
I think we are agreeing on far more than we disagree. Not reinforcing bad behavior is the goal, the difference being an understanding of how to achieve it, and the implications of different methods. And we differ how much we believe over-coddling is possible or how dangerous it is.
Use the comment section below to share your insights & experiences on discipline. We can learn from you!

Monday, October 20, 2008

More Than Your Daughter’s Hair

Years before I started working on fathering issues, I worked for 1.5 years in a domestic violence shelter in Omaha. It was a radical education for a guy like me, and relationship violence has been clearly on my radar ever since. So this story in today’s Star-Tribune (my local paper) caught my eye. Here are some excerpts:

[A] national program called Cut It Out, which trains stylists to recognize signs of domestic abuse. Advocates for battered women are using the training to create a new line of defense in the fight against domestic violence -- the stylists who see hundreds of women slide in and out of their chairs every year.

The training runs through a predictable list of problems that stylists should be on the lookout for -- bruises, cuts, burns -- while also highlighting that indicators of abuse may be more subtle -- an anxious tone from the client when her partner calls; concern over how her partner will react to a new hairstyle…

The Cut It Out program grew out of a statewide initiative in Alabama that was started in 2001 by founder Dianne Mooney and the Women's Fund of Greater Birmingham. Soon after, Clairol Professional, the National Cosmetology Association and Southern Living At HOME created a partnership to take the training nationwide. Since then, almost 40,000 stylists have participated in the program…

"Before this class, I never would have thought twice about it," said Stacy Hoff, a recent Empire
[Beauty Schools] graduate. "Now I can see the things to pick out in the conversation -- if he's constantly calling, your client doesn't have any friends or they can't change their hair color."

So what does this have to do with a blog for Dads & Daughters? I think our kids need to get the same training that these stylists got—and get it from us.

We need to talk to our daughters & sons about relationship violence and abuse. You’re your kids learn the signs of “power and control” in dating (and other) relationships—and how to tell the difference between that and a loving & supportive relationship.

These messages have extra oomph (IMHO) when they come from Dad or Stepdad. It’s another example of how we hold a unique position of leverage in our daughters’ lives…whether we realize it or not. So let’s use that leverage to make their lives better.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Stepping Up or Stepping Away

Elena Delle Donne strikes me as a brave young woman. There’s a story At Pinnacle, Stepping Away From Basketball in today’s New York Times about Elena, an elite basketball player from Delaware. She left the powerhouse University of Connecticut program after only a few days because “I was overdriving myself because I was so into becoming the best…. It wasn’t fun. It was like a job, and it was a job I wasn’t getting paid for.”

Elena is now playing volleyball at the University of Delaware. Her dad, Ernie, thinks big factors were homesickness and the need to be near her older sister, who has cerebral palsy.

From the little bit one can glean through a newspaper article, Ernie seems to be displaying great fatherly wisdom in how he’s supporting his daughters.

According to the Times, Ernie posed a couple of hypothetical questions to Elena:

If she could play volleyball at a powerhouse like Stanford or basketball at
Delaware, which would she choose? If UConn played basketball in Newark, Del.,
instead of Storrs, Conn., what sport would she choose?

It strikes me that those are the right kind of questions for a dad to ask—instead of asking something like: “How could you give up? How could you do this to me? How could you abandon a scholarship?””

Also wisely, Ernie isn’t looking for final answers—probably because he knows his daughter is still a teenager, and that there will be a lot of change ahead in her life. Just as there will be many new and good things ahead for the most skilled of our athlete daughters, like Candace Parker Tamika Catchings.

“I want her to watch the Final Four,” Ernie Delle Donne said. “Hopefully, Geno
Auriemma is cutting the net down. And I hope Elena says, ‘Thank God I’m not
there.’ Then it was the right decision. We’ll see. I honestly couldn’t tell you
within 30 percent what her reaction is going to be. I feel more confident
predicting the stock market.”

Take a few minutes to reflect on your perceptions of your daughter’s talents, looking at how much she is driving herself and how much others (maybe including yourself) are driving her.

And then ask her some hypothetical questions, like Ernie asked Elena. Use the comments section below to let us know your insights and conversations. And remember that, no matter what our daughters do this week or this year, we hope that there are many more years of unfolding, challenging, unpredictable new experiences ahead in her life. And that’s a GOOD thing!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Turn Beauty Inside Out & Leadership

Tomorrow, the Turn Beauty Inside Out (TBIO) campaign holds a National Leadership Summit for teens in partnership with The White House Project.

TBIO is one of my favorite things—a project of the nonprofit Mind on the Media. This year. TBIO and MOTM are focused on portrayals of women in politics and leadership roles.

According to the TBIO website:
The TBIO Leadership Summit aims to encourage girls and boys ages 10-17 to consider careers in politics and civic engagement, where they will have an impact on our nation’s future. Teens and their parents, mentors, chaperones, youth professionals and advocates from across the United States will gain leadership skills and meet with women leaders, advocates and policy makers whose actions have left an impression on the world. Interactive sessions and speakers will include Young Elected Forum, Understanding the Influence of Media Biases in Politics, Making Media, Community Organizing and Social Change, and Take our Daughters to the Polls.
Take some time tomorrow to talk with your daughter or stepdaughter about her leadership and her inner beauty. Then share what happens in the comments section below.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Hidden Baby Gate

Moms and dads do things differently. In fact, any two parents will do things differently (regardless of gender) because they are two different people. Kids benefit from the difference, so we parents have to make sure that our kids are exposed to both parenting styles.

To calm a crying infant, you may sit with perfect quiet in a rocking chair, slowly easing her to sleep. To calm that same crying infant, I may walk the floor, jabber nonsense, and bounce her on my knee until she tires and goes to sleep.

One way isn’t better or worse than the other, since both methods got the baby to stop crying and go to sleep. Even better, she learned that there is more than one way to nurture and to bond with more than one nurturer.

Parenting research indicates that a father is more likely to carry an infant so that she is facing away from him, while a mother is more likely to carry the baby facing towards her. Your baby needs both perspectives. It’s good for her to explore the world and it’s good for her to know her family intimately. It doesn’t matter which parent provides which—and it’s probably best if both parents provide a little bit of both.

Nevertheless, we tend to judge or rank different baby-care strategies, not based on whether they work in the end, but rather on how closely they mirror our method or the method we grew up thinking was the “right” one.

That vision is usually one that conforms tightly to worn-out stereotypes about which gender is supposed to do what when it comes to child-rearing. That limited vision is arbitrary, counterproductive, and completely inadequate to the demands of raising children in today’s world.

The key is to remember that most infants have more than one parent for very good reasons. Don’t let either parent be locked out, because that’s not good for the child.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Voting Like Our Kids Depend on It

“Our children are our country’s future”

“Kids can’t vote, but we can vote for them.”

Repeated often during campaign seasons, these start to sound like tired old clichés. But they are clichés only because we’ve too often given lip-service—rather tan resources—to our children, both here and abroad.

Take couple of minutes top look over some great material from the nonpartisan Children’s Defense Fund to get a sense of where the candidate you’ll be choosing stand on one important issue: health care coverage for kids.

  1. For candidates that are currently a Member of Congress, check out the CDF Action Council Nonpartisan Congressional Scorecard. You can find out who are the best and the worst Members of Congress for children and access past CDF Action Council scorecards to see their entire history on voting for children.

  2. Find out which candidates have signed the CDF Action Council Pledge so far to support health coverage for all children in their campaign and once they are elected. If your candidates have not yet signed the pledge, send them an email today (and encourage your friends to join you) urging them to do so.

  3. Learn more about the 2008 Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates' overall Scorecard scores. A look at the voting records of the candidates.

  4. Find out how the 2008 Presidential candidates' plans compare when it comes to children's issues (pdf).

If you haven’t registered to vote, do it immediately. And if you feel like your vote won’t make any difference, or that there should be a pox on every candidate’s house, I encourage you to do two things:

  • Look your child in the eye and then decide whether you can really afford to blow them off by blowing off your vote.

  • Read a popular history of the Constitutional Convention, Civil War or Supreme Court…you’ll never look at the political process the same way again (or ever again devalue your own vote).

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

This excellent piece of news arrived in my inbox today from the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood:

"Our successful campaign to get Scholastic to stop selling Bratz items in schools has spurred an international discussion about the sexualization of children, including a widely syndicated story in Canada, and articles in the New York Times and the British daily, the Guardian. (You can read all the press coverage here).

"In addition, our campaign is fomenting public discussion about the presence of excessive commercial content in Scholastic's Book Clubs and Book Fairs, including this great editorial in the Tampa Tribune. Thanks again to the more than 5,000 of you who wrote to Scholastic to demand Bratz-free schools."

Please keep speaking up against the hyper- and pseudo-sexualization of girls, in all of its forms. Why? Because it's bad for YOUR daughter.