Friday, January 23, 2009

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.

Learn more @

© Joe Kelly

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Ten Tips for Dads to Promote Daughters' Sports

Why should your daughter or stepdaughter participate in sports & physical activity? To be more healthy (in mind & body), feel better about herself, learn new skills, stay off alcohol & drugs, defer sexual activity, and, TO HAVE FUN! Sadly, some people worry that girls are too delicate, unskilled, or inadequate to play sports. To which the smart father and stepfather reply: "Baloney." In anticipation of February 4, National Girls and Women in Sports Day, here are 10 Tips to help Dads provide the kind of support Daughters need.

1. Make sports fun from an early age. Keep a relaxed approach when she's young. For example, have athletic-theme parties, like kickball and pizza.

2. Demonstrate interest in her athletic programs and activities. Attend her games and other extracurricular activities. If you live away from your daughter, be sure to talk with her after every game to hear how it went.

3. Learn the importance of physical activity for girls. Read research from organizations like the Women's Sports Foundation (e.g.: "Go Out & Play") and Kids' Sports Psychology.

4. Leave coaching to coaches. Tina Syer of the Positive Coaching Alliance says, "You're there to fill the kids' emotional tanks and make sure they bounce back from mistakes, not to tweak their throwing motion or tell them where to be on the field." Be smart about choosing coaches tuned in to her age and skill level. If there's a lack of adequate coaches, sign up to volunteer!

5. Be a model fan. Cheer hard for your girl, and then cheer for everyone else who is playing, too. Think about what you would look like on the sidelines if someone were videotaping you instead of the game. Be sure you (and your daughter) would be proud of what you'd see. Every kid (and parent) should remember why they call it "playing" sports. And then encourage her to be a fan of college and professional women's sports like the WNBA--by becoming a fan yourself!

6. Ask, "What do you and I hope to get from the experience?" Then tell her what you hope she gets. If you don't talk (and listen), she may assume all you care about is a winning record or how good her stats are. Make sure she knows you want sports to be a fun place to make friends, test herself, be healthy, and feel good about herself.

7. Let her play with boys. In "Raising Our Athletic Daughters: How Sports Can Build Self-Esteem and Save Girls' Lives," Jean Zimmerman and Gil Reavill suggest utilizing coed or single-sex programs according to your daughter's comfort level and what will contribute most to her learning and growth.

8. Help her use "mistakes" productively. When she messes up, she'll look to you first. So illustrate how to put mistakes in perspective by a) showing her how to let go of them and b) encouraging (but not demanding) her to use them as motivation to improve her skills.

9. Make sure girls and boys have equal sports opportunities and resources. Support Title IX and encourage school and other sports programs to be aware of and promptly address inequities.

10. Keep a relaxed, fun approach. Team sports teach girls how to be self-reliant while also working collaboratively to be competitive. If she loses interest in sports, you and she can still be physically active together--and books like The Dads & Daughters® Togetherness Guide have plenty of other ways to relate and have fun together.
Learn more about healthy fathering of daughters @
© Joe Kelly

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

That Little Camera

So many memorable images on this historic Inauguration day. But the one that was most striking to me as a father was Malia Obama taking pictures with her pocket-sized digital camera (this photo is from the other day—she’s been snapping all weekend).

This Inauguration may be the most photographed event in human history, and anyone can find thousands of professional photos of the day. But seeing Malia photographing gives me the sense that she’s present—fully experiencing the remarkable events as a kid would experience any other special event in her life—like an aunt’s marriage or a Grand Canyon trip.

She’s just going through this experience in a remarkably normal way. If I was Malia’s father, my greatest hope for her over the next four years would be a profound, rooted sense of “normal” in her life. The fact that Malia is snapping pictures with a small camera (and is home tonight watching “Bolt”) tells me that she’s being very lovingly and well-raised by her parents and grandmother.

That’s a great blessing, when seen through this dad’s eyes.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Are girls still being held responsible for dating violence?

That’s a hard question to ask—because it speaks to both our tendency to re-victimize victims of violent crime and to our ongoing struggle to develop healthy concepts of masculinity.

Thanks to my friends at Hardy Girls Healthy Women in Maine, I learned about a commentary in American Prospect by Courtney E. Martin, a young writer I’ve known for many years. Martin makes a pretty compelling case for rethinking our efforts are ending dating violence.

She cites the example of Boston, where The Boston TenPoint Coalition and Boston School Police put on a program that tells girls “you must prevent your boyfriends from becoming violent”

What is your take on dating violence and its prevention? Share your thoughts below.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The “I’ll Always....” Agreement

If we want our daughters to make smart, healthy decisions, then we have to do the same ourselves. That’s not always easy to do—but here’s a possible solution to help both Dad & Daughter.

Draft an agreement in which you and your daughter each commit yourselves to take care of yourself. For example, you might vow to quit smoking and she vows to not start. You could promise to get a yearly physical and your daughter might promise to avoid parties where alcohol will be consumed. Plus, the document can include steps that each of you can take to help look out for the other. Your daughter could encourage you while you quit smoking, and you can promise to always come get her if she finds herself at a party where people are drinking or doing drugs.

A contract like this encourages communication about specific (and often difficult to discuss) situations like alcohol, drugs, peer pressure and being healthy. Continuous and open father-daughter communication is critical in helping your daughter make healthy decisions.