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Category Archives: Fathering

To Men in Hardhats – with Love

My town is in a growth boom.

Buildings going up everywhere.

Everyday I see men (mostly men) carrying steel rebar, pouring concrete, and operating heavy machines.

Out in all kinds of weather (mostly rain) and using their bodies rigorously.

When I spoke of my admiration at a recent parent evening, I could see that one of the men had a strong emotional reaction.

When I asked, he said, “Thank you. Thank you for recognizing the work we do.”

Yet who has that dream for their son?

Who of us says, “My boy is going to grow up and operate a sky crane… or pour concrete…” ? (Even though it’s okay (and pretty darn cute) for him to adore dump trucks when he is little).

Our very feminine view is, “Of course, he’ll go to college. Of course he’ll be a doctor or lawyer or an IT guy.”

Interestingly, when I visit my dad at his assisted living home, parents talk of their grown kids with great pride, “He is a lawyer. She is a veterinarian.” I haven’t heard anyone say with great pride, “He operates a back-hoe.”


How do we begin to RE-HONOR the vocational trades, and the skilled craftsmen, who have the work ethic that built our roads and bridges?

Not to get political AT ALL, our current president wants to reinstitute training programs – where youth can learn specific skills for specific jobs while they earn a living wage. Obama’s Commerce Department found that apprenticeships are not being used as widely as they could. There is lots of work to be done in this area but the first hurdle may be just changing the way we think about hands-on jobs and skilled job training programs.

Father’s Day is about honoring ALL the men around us. On this day, can we recognize and commend the strength and magnitude of what men do for us everyday?

As women, we yearn for our men to “be more emotional,” “show their softer side,” because that’s the way WE relate and connect, the way we’re most comfortable.

This Father’s Day, I say THANK YOU – to the men who mow our lawns, grow our crops, build our homes, repair our roads and empty our garbage.

You are our bedrock.

We need you.

Thank you.

POST UPDATE: Only a day after this has been posted on the interwebs, I’ve already been receiving your messages.  Here are just a few:

  • “What a beautiful, beautiful piece…A quick read that had me tearing up!”  L.E.
  • B.F. shared a link to this very pertinent testimony of Mike Rowe (Dirty Jobs) before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation in 2011.  He tells of his grandfather, “For most of his life, my grandfather woke up clean and came home dirty. In between, he accomplished things that were nothing short of miraculous.”

and then this from my colleague Jennifer Fink of Building

“My Dad was one of those who operated a backhoe & bulldozer, and then started an excavating company.”

“And I wanted to share this story with you: A few weeks ago, I was working at a coffee shop. There was a LOT of road and sidewalk construction going on nearby. Outside the coffee shop window, a concrete truck was pouring concrete and 4-5 guys in hard hats were spreading the concrete, etc — and groups of men in suits kept stopping to watch. Made me smile.”

–>Makes me smile, too.  Thanks for sharing!

You are invited to join the boy-friendly conversation in our Boys Alive! Facebook group!


My Family Hunts

Gun Play.

They will.
You’ve tried to make them stop (repeatedly).
They won’t.

What if you could add life-lessons into their fascination with shooting things?

A Boys Alive! friend in Montana eagerly responded to my query about families that hunt and how they deal with gun play.


Embracing a “true hunting” ethic — even if we never pick up a rifle and go to the woods, means we can honor the hard-wired impulses of many boys — while fostering deeper development of their natural urges to provide and protect.

True Hunting

John, father of 2, explains, “True hunting is a collection of actions prior to the act of harvesting.”

True hunting is: “when you walk with the stealth and strength of the mountain lion and hike with the stamina and determination of the wolf.

It is where you think like your prey, you know their habits and understand the country.”


True Hunting communicates family values:

· Safety – following rules, respecting adults, learning to operate and handle dangerous weapons with care
· Honor – honoring the animals, the land, the wisdom of elders
· Respect – of self, of others, of animals, of land
· Challenge – pushing self physically, emotionally, spiritually
· Teaching & Learning – listening and applying knowledge hands-on

Hunting is a legacy that John wants his sons to have. He wants them to “experience what the natural world has to teach.” He hopes his children will carry on what he has taught them and that they will teach the “same or better” to their children.
It is important to John and his wife, Laura, (who didn’t start hunting until a few years ago), to know that their sons understand their place in the food chain.

“Hunting and harvesting teaches the lesson that in order for you to eat and live something else has to die:

They learn the hard work involved in harvesting food.

They experience the weariness of long hours walking through the woods.

They know the exhaustion of carrying hundreds of pounds of meat over miles of rough country.

They endure the tediousness of butchering meat for hours on end.

They learn the skill needed to prepare a meal.

I cannot think of a better way to teach them to not be wasteful and to appreciate each mouthful of food they consume.”

He continues, “To be a good hunter, you have to be a good marksman. This means understanding your gun and its limitations. It also means understanding the importance of choosing when to take a shot and, more importantly, when not to take a shot.”

Meat comes from WHERE?!

Contrast this honest, strength-filled, life-enriching picture of hunting with the parental information given to a former student of mine (age 9):

“The animals we eat are the ones that get old and die or the ones that get sick and die.”

Imagine his surprise (and distrust of adults) when he eventually found out where most meat comes from!

Let Him ‘Hunt!’

Many parents that I work with have a strong aversion to guns and the violence they evoke. It is important to realize that children do not have this connection to guns – unless they have been exposed to explicit gun violence via real life, media, or video games.

What if you helped him incorporate some of the qualities of True Hunting into his play?

Guide him to connect with animals, spend time in nature looking for tracks, and listening for animal sounds. Research animals, explore their habits and habitat.

Encourage his sense of adventure and curiosity.

Teach him (or find someone to teach him) how to make arrows or carve a sword, cutting, sanding and polishing it with great care.

Set up targets for practice. As John says, “To be a good hunter you have to be a good marksman.” You must understand your equipment and how and when to use it safely.

Even if you don’t live in Montana, or have a family legacy of hunting, you can guide his ‘gun play’ to have deeper meaning while nurturing his hard-wired nature to provide and protect.

Have you read the other gunplay-focused posts?
Voices on Gunplay – Parents have asked about and shared their personal experiences with their sons who make everything into a gun.
Guidelines for Gunplay – They’re going to play, what boundaries will you keep?
Aggression. Violence. What’s the Difference? – Reassurance that just because he likes gunplay, he won’t be led to violent behavior.
Gunplay at School – How teacher’s handle gunplay at school may vary from how you handle it at home.

Join us on Facebook for lively conversation about all-things-boys.

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Father’s Day

The Powerful 10%

How do you get along with your father?

When Steve Biddulph, author of The Secret Lives of Men, asks this question in parenting seminars, men’s responses were similar, whether they were from China, Colorado, or New Zealand:
30% (or so): Barely speak.
30% (or so): Prickly. Easily hurt with wounding comments and awkward exchanges.
30% (or so): Looks good – from the outside. Surface involvement but not much intimacy.
10% (or so): He’s the best!
What are you doing now so that your son will be among the rare 10% when he is asked this question?

I absolutely encourage you to seek resolution with your own father – whether he’s been present or absent in your life. (More about that another time.)

This month, with Hallmark images of ties, cars, and fishing with dad flooding every store, make this month the moment YOU take a stand.

Take a stand for the generations that will come after you, so they can answer that question with, “He’s the best!”

This Father’s Day, Take A Stand For:

  • Protecting partner and children by being an involved father – positive, loving, and firm
  • Valuing the wisdom of your elders and passing it on to your children
  • Relating with partner and children with emotional honesty
  • Providing for partner and children to the best of your ability

In 99% of our human history, elders – fathers and sons – hunted together, passing down age-old, hard-won wisdom which ensured the survival of the tribe. In our 1% of NOW, many boys and men suffer from the lack of guidance, mentoring, bonding, hardship, challenges, and connection. They yearn to have this deep, hard-wired connection and supply it in less-than-productive ways when they join together to form gangs or other groups. Often these are peer-directed and lack the wisdom teachings that they so deeply crave.

Take a stand for fostering and recognizing ways that men and boys can regain their feelings of being whole – down to their core.

One deeply male trait that has run into trouble (especially with moms) is the desire to play with guns – be they real, made to look real, toast, sticks, or fingers. Find out what this is all about – including what parents are saying about how they deal with it.

This month’s blog posts feature:

Your Voices on Gun Play, “It’s our nature, Mom.” Parents speak out about their son’s gun play, reassuring and offering their seasoned perspectives.
Guidelines for Gun Play Set healthy limits for gun play so you won’t have to ban it completely – which, according to one dad, made him feel like a bad kid when his parents banned it and he played at a friend’s house instead.
Aggression. Violence. What’s the Difference? Imaginative play, whether with guns or not, helps boys understand and process their world. When does it cross the line?

With More to Come:

Gun Play at School – What’s a Teacher to Do? Gun play at home is a family choice. How to manage gun play at school and channel it in a developmentally healthy way.

My Family Hunts. A Montana family shares the family values instilled with “true hunting.” How can you incorporate true hunting into your son’s gun play?

Father’s Day can be filled with joy and fun with your own son but may harbor so sorrow because of less than joy-filled relationship dynamics with your own father. Now, is the time to make the change(s) that will transform generations to come.

“You aren’t raising a little boy, you’re raising a man. And the world needs you to do that well.”

Click here for your Boys Alive! Free Report: “6 Keys to Parenting Success”

Lazy Parenting = Less Than

Feeling less than?
Remember > and < symbols from math class? (I could never remember which was which.) Less than.
Greater than.

Parenting encompasses the full range.
Sometimes in the space of ‘less than’ a minute.

From parenting zen to parenting nightmare in less than 60 seconds. Has that ever happened to you? Our confidence is totally shot as our kid is melting down on the floor or pounding on our bedroom door – where we’ve taken refuge!

Finding grace in these moments can be tough.

Sometimes it isn’t until we are completely flattened with illness, depression, divorce, or overwhelm that we realize that doing less than actually adds up to greater than.

I’ve advocated “Lazy Parenting” for years.
Lazy Parenting means less than while actually adding up to greater than, in the end. When you do less, be less, accomplish less, you are opening up the world for your kids to do more, be more, and accomplish more – or at least feel like they have the know-how, if they choose to use it!

Before illness flattens you – lighten your load.
What can your kids be doing for themselves?
When my girls were in 1st and 3rd grades, I was teaching (and very stressed) and we had a 30-minute commute to school. Mornings were NOT pretty at my house. I did not like making lunches and I guess that was pretty obvious to my girls. Without conversation, they began to take over lunch preparations. Viola`! They got what they wanted in their own lunches AND mom was a little nicer to be with on the morning commute! Do I advise this approach? No.

Learn from my mistakes and take a serious look at what your stressors are. And then ask for help and permission to be less than.

When we let go, our kids step up. As long as we are filling the vacuum, they will default to, “Mom will do it. Dad will take care of that. I don’t have to.”

Recently, a parent shared with me experiencing the pleasure her son had in cleaning up the mess he had made (milk know). Instead of doing it herself, she gave him soap, sponge, towels, bucket…and showed him…and then let him do it.

Viola’! He continued to clean the floor even after the mess was taken care of — because he could and because she let him!

She might have been out laying in her hammock…you get the idea, right?

Where will you be less than?
Send me an email – tell me about it!
JOIN OUR CONVERSATION – Our private Facebook group is open to you! Join us as we help each other, share successes, and feature ideas and advice for making life with our children at home and school even more fun and successful. JOIN US!
(photo from Hammock Stands Australia)

Click here for your Boys Alive! Free Report: “6 Keys to Parenting Success”

GOOD FORTUNE this Season

‘Tis the season…of DOING.

Is this you?
“A wise man saw a woman running in the street and asked, “Why do you run?”
She replied, “I am running after my good fortune!”
The wise man tells her, “Silly woman, your good fortune has been trying to catch you but you are running too fast!”

Want to stop running and make it a “Season of Being” instead?
You can. Right. Now.
Here’s how:

1. Create some quiet time for yourself. (Takes HUGE willpower but do this, you won’t regret it.)

2. Now write, draw, or simply make a movie in your mind: Fast forward yourself to January 3, 2015, pause there and look back. What will matter the most to you? The cleaning, shopping, wrapped presents, hustle…bustle…? OR will it be “THE MOMENT”? You know the one: a look, a touch of the hand, a smile.

2. Amplify YOUR MOMENT as you look back by ‘turning up the volume’ on the mood you’ve created – yes, the one your deepest heart yearns for.

3. Roll up your sleeves, this might be hard for you, time to write down exactly/specifically/in great detail WHAT YOU WANT. (NOT what you don’t want). The more you “color” the images, the more likely they will be to unfold as you have pre-determined. (May sound a little “woo-woo” but try it, and prepare to be amazed!)

4. Now write down what is EXPECTED of you – or what you THINK your partner/kids/parents expect of you. Ouch – this could be a long list.

5. Time to get real – what can you comfortably and honestly do LESS of? What do you want MORE of? Consult with your partner, your family…and make some agreements.

Trust me, your kids will NOT remember the mountain of gifts, the groaning table of home-baked goodies – they WILL remember the mood you created, the connections you deepened, and the moments when you were fully with them in the present.

Try this list on for size:

Enjoy your Good Fortune this season!

And speaking of presents: In his book, Simplicity Parenting, Kim John Payne says, “Too much stuff leads to too many choices.” And that can lead to: sibling conflict, overwhelm, wanting more because nothing satisfies, and is a HUGE contributor to YOUR frustration with- and nagging about- STUFF.

Interesting to contemplate: As toys became marketed in all seasons of the year (only since 1955), children’s play became less focused on activities and more focused on the THINGS involved – the toys themselves, as reported by Howard Chudacoff in his history of play.

Check out this blog for how you can have more with less. Toys, that is.

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