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6 Summer Projects That Will Keep Your Kids Productive and Engaged

Derek Maul | June 13, 2019

With the end of the school year approaching, who doesn’t look forward to the long, lazy days of summer? Well, parents for a start! Most of us can barely remember what ten days of unstructured time looks like let alone ten weeks. Besides, the world has changed and the last thing we want is children at a loose end when trouble is so easy to access. Our kids need summer projects.

Some kids have camp experiences, some hang out with mom or dad, some have a sitter, and some hold down part-time jobs. We want them to have fun but we also want them to learn. Your child’s age will obviously be a factor, but check out the following 6 summer projects that will keep your kids productive and engaged.

1. Their room (nothing so pedestrian as, “clean your room!”)

This job starts with emptying (everything, including furniture), moves into cleaning (even baseboards), then adds a fresh coat of paint. Next is sorting between “trash” “donate” and “keep”. Finally, the room is put back together and it is a room your child has ownership in.

2. The garden

(If you don’t have one, substitute an herb garden in a few pots). Jobs, like mowing and edging, may have age restrictions, but every child can weed. Assign a manageable area. This can be as little as one hour, twice a week. Your child learns the value of preventative maintenance and has an achievement they can be proud of.

3. Lunch duty

Daily, or a couple of times a week. Your child can be responsible for a plan (submitted weekly), shopping for ingredients, and preparation. Lessons include responsibility, math, cooking, and thoughtfulness.

4. Neighborhood trash patrol

Again, this can be assigned at fixed intervals. Gloves are a must, along with plastic bags. Begin with a one-block radius around your home then expand. Lessons include community service, the pride of place, cause and effect, and possibly community outreach.

5. Junk-cleaning yard sale

Meld responsibility, organization, entrepreneurship, frugality, service, math, creativity and more. Begin with projects similar to #1 (their room), add storage areas and the garage, then see what can be done with what they have. Include a family meeting/huddle for planning purposes and give the kids as much responsibility as you can. Tailor-fit this to the scale that works for you and consider letting them keep the profits.

6. An old-fashioned “Job board”

All of these ideas and more can be displayed on a poster-board with the children’s names, responsibilities, day and time, and more. The kids can make this too, with your supervision and guidance.

Children are capable of much more than we typically allow.All these “projects” can come with as much or as little direct involvement from the parents as you wish. The point here is that children are capable of much more than we typically allow. But the payoffs, over the course of the summer, are potentially huge.

Sound off: What have you found helpful for your children in the summer break?

The post 6 Summer Projects That Will Keep Your Kids Productive and Engaged appeared first on All Pro Dad.

Parenting Tech-Savvy Kids

Timothy Diehl | June 11, 2019

Parenting tech-savvy kids is challenging. Sure, there are lots of ways technology makes our kids’ lives better. Tech simplifies communication, provides ways for us to connect easily if we’re working and they’re home alone, offers immediate access to information at the touch of a screen, etc. But there are downsides: lack of focus, access to harmful content and increases in symptoms of anxiety and depression, to name a few. In fact, sometimes it seems the bad outweighs the good. And the real problem is that while we have tech-savvy kids, we are often not-so-tech-savvy parents.

Author Andy Crouch, in his book The Tech-Wise Family, observes, ‘When previous generations confronted the perplexing challenges of parenting and family life, they could fall back on wisdom…that had been handed down for generations. But the pace of technological change has surpassed anyone’s capacity to develop enough wisdom to handle it.’

We have tech-savvy kids and not-so-savvy parents. And the gap is widening. So how do we develop wisdom? Well, in part, we learn from each other. That’s why you’re here, right? While my wife and I have made a ton of mistakes around parenting tech-savvy kids over the last 18 years, I’d like to share some wisdom that’s been passed on to us that has served us well. For their protection, here are 3 boundaries to keep when parenting tech-savvy kids.

1. No phones until twelve and no smartphones until 16.

This is counter-cultural. The average child gets his or her first smartphone at 10 and by 12 about 50% of children have social media accounts. However, we’ve felt that there is little reason for our children to have their own cell phone prior to the point they would be spending large amounts of time getting around on their own (after school activities, etc.). This enabled us to focus on developing lots of other habits when they were younger – such as reading and playing games together when bored. Sure, ‘all’ their friends got smartphones before they did and we certainly heard about it, but we’ve never once regretted that decision.

Of course, every situation is different and there are a variety of reasons why this rule may not be the best for your specific circumstances. But in general, waiting on a smartphone until the teen years is a smart move.

2. No screens at the dinner table.

There is no reason I can think of for a child to have any electronic device with them at the dinner table. Parents either. I know, you’re kind of a big deal at your workplace and people need you. But at this moment your family needs you more. Put the devices away. Granted, you might be chuckling over the notion of a ‘family meal’. While doing this daily may be impossible, prioritizing frequent family meals has a big payoff. (If not a meal, why not try a regular snack before bed where you all check-in about the day? Whatever you do, make it device-free.)

3. You have the right to check your child’s device.

You should have access to your kids’ passwords (teens included) and they should know you can check-in at any time. They won’t love this, and you’ll need to negotiate privacy and expectations based on age, but as much as you lack wisdom with tech, your kids’ lack it more. They need you engaged. Talk with your children about having access to their devices early on so this expectation is built into the privilege of having a device. None of this is easy and all of us are groping in the dark a little. But this is what we signed up for as parents. Being on top of tech is hard, but important, work. And know this – you’re not alone in it. Trust your gut. Ask for help. Give yourself (and your tech-savvy kids) some grace.

Sound off: What is one step you can take to grow some wisdom around parenting tech-savvy kids?

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How to Correct Bad Habits in Your Child

All Pro Dad | June 03, 2019

There I was picking up my 17-year-old daughter’s towels off the floor (yet again), and it occurred to me in a flash: I have failed miserably in this aspect of parenting. She’s an awesome kid. Straight A’s. Never gets in trouble. Just a delight. Yet, here I am picking an honor student’s towels up off her floor. What happened here? How did these bad habits form?

Turns out, my sarcastic wit and guilt trip method I’ve been leaning on all these years is wholly ineffective.Those questions led to a Facebook discussion with a few moms. That’s when I learned there are actual practical solutions to resolving negative habits in children. Turns out, my sarcastic wit and guilt trip method I’ve been leaning on all these years is wholly ineffective. Let’s take a look at 3 common bad habits in kids, and we’ll offer some practical tips to help rectify the situations.


Tidiness is a learned trait that comes by doing and not hearing. Start a child off early with age-appropriate cleaning tasks,  such as putting away their toys when they’re finished playing. A mom friend keeps a chart on the wall, and every time her 6-year-old picks up her towel, she gets a star. When she gets 30 stars, they will go to her favorite ice cream place. It’s slowly working. Be proactive with hands-on teaching and rewarding.

Poor Diet

We’re on the move, they’re on the move, and fast or processed food is the quickest remedy. That’s alright in a pinch, but when it becomes the standard, we begin to see health issues like sluggishness and obesity. If the core issue here is family busyness, the first step to take is to start making cuts that will create time for the kitchen and dinner table. Maybe Junior doesn’t need to play year-round baseball, but he definitely needs proper nutrition as he’s growing big and strong. There are many great cooking tutorials online, and anyone can cook healthy and fun meals if they make the effort. Invite your child into the kitchen to help you. This teaches valuable life skills, teamwork, creativity, and open-mindedness as their tastes evolve.


Lying is a particularly nasty habit, and we need to be able to distinguish from fun fantasy and deceitful manipulation. If your 5-year-old daughter is adamantly telling you she’s a mermaid? Cool. Roll with the fantasy. If that same daughter is screaming that her brother conked her in the head, and you know he’s over at the neighbors? This is when a bad habit is starting. The key issue at stake here is trust. When she’s 17 will you be able to believe her when she tells you something? This is delicate, and we need to avoid being too accusatory. For instance, do not say, “You’re a liar. I know your brother isn’t here.” Instead say, “Do you want Daddy to be able to trust you?” When she answers, “yes,” then you ask, “Then why are you telling me a fib right now?” Opening the dialogue builds the bonds of trust. This takes time and patience. Generously praise your child for being truthful. The cycle to follow is to reward, nurture, and encourage honest dialogue.

Sound off: What are some bad habits in your own kids, and how are you dealing with them?

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15 Signs Your Child Has An Anger Problem

Susan Merrill | May 31, 2019

We were watching old videos of my children the other night. In one scene, my then 2-year-old daughter became upset because she didn’t have a ball her baby brother was playing with. She was angry. So she marched over to him, grabbed the ball, and threw it across the room. My wife and I looked at each other and were thinking the same thing, “That’s the famous temper we grew to know so well!”

Over the years, she’s gotten a lot better, but I wish we would have had these 15 questions to ask to see if your child has an anger problem. Take it with your children in mind, and then follow the suggestions for dealing with children with anger issues.

Take the Test

The following inventory covers the more common signs of anger in children. All children manifest these signs, but if several of them are persistent or if your child evidences many of them, you may have a problem.

Rate each statement according to the following scale and enter the rating in the appropriate space:

0= My child never or rarely does this

1= My child occasionally does this (no more than once a month).

2= My child often (once or more a week) does this.

3= My child does this frequently (daily or several times a week).

_____1. My child blames others for his or her troubles.

_____2. My child throws or breaks things whenever he or she feels frustrated or irritated.

_____3. Whenever my child gets angry, calming him or her down takes a lot of placating.

_____4. My child does not like change of any sort and becomes angry when change is forced on him or her.

_____5. My child changes the rules of games when playing with other children.

_____6. My child says spiteful or hateful things whenever he or she is thwarted.

_____7. My child is negative, deliberately slow and resists doing what he or she is told to do to the point that discipline becomes a standoff.

_____8. My child seeks out arguments or reasons to become upset, even when everything is at peace.

_____9. My child ostracizes, scorns, and complains about others.

_____10. My child loses control when she or he is angry and shows it with facial expressions or body language.

_____11. My child uses foul language whenever he or she gets angry.

_____12. When my child is learning something new, he or she easily becomes frustrated and wants to do something else.

_____13. My child is stubborn and refuses to do what he or she is told to do unless you use the right tone of voice or approach.

_____14. My child’s friends don’t like to play with him or her because he or she is such a bad sport.

_____15. My child gets into fights with other children and has great difficulty controlling his or her temper when teased.

Test Interpretation

0-5: Your child is remarkably free of anger and is not prone to frustration. If anything, he or she may be a little too passive but don’t try to change this!

6-10: Your child is showing a normal degree of anger and irritation, but a higher score (nearer 10) is more appropriate for younger children ( under 6) and lower score (nearer 6) is more appropriate for older children.

11-15: Your child is beginning to show an above-normal degree of anger response. Again, a higher score is more appropriate for younger children. Some attention to your child’s response may be needed.

16-20: Clearly your child has a problem with anger and should receive your attention.

Over 20: Your child has a serious problem with anger, especially if he or she is already of school age. Take immediate steps to help your child cope with his or her anger, and seek professional help, if necessary.

What You Can Do

1. Help Your Children Be Aware of their Anger

How often are you aware of your children being angry? What situations do they encounter that might make them more vulnerable to anger? How do their bodies respond to anger? What are their physical manifestations of anger? How do they treat others when they are angry? What is unique about the ways in which each of your children experiences and expresses anger?

2. When Your Children are Aware of Being Angry, Help Them Process their Anger.

Make sure you pick the right time to talk to your children. Take into account their personality types, most extroverts like to process things externally. They like to talk about things right away. Most introverts prefer to process things internally. They like to think about it before they talk about it. Being insensitive to your child’s preferred way of processing anger could only increase frustration and thus increase his or her anger, making it more difficult if not impossible to deal with.

Eventually, you will be able to help your children develop other words for their anger. When your children say, “I’m angry,” you can respond by asking, “Do you think your anger is from being afraid, hurt or frustrated?”

3.  Help Your Children Admit their Anger and Accept Responsibility for it.

One of the characteristics of a godly person is the ability to take responsibility for his or her actions.One of the characteristics of a godly person is the ability to take responsibility for his or her actions. We can teach our children that when we are angry, it is easy for us to blame someone else and say, “It’s your fault; you made me angry.” This is especially true with brothers and sisters. If your child has a brother or sister, that child has a built-in cause for all of his or her problems.

But as our children see us take responsibility for our anger, as they see us be angry and yet not sin, as they see us speak the truth in love, it is more likely that they will follow our example. Over time we can teach our children that though other people can say or do things that cause hurt or frustration, we are responsible for how we choose to respond. If we are angry, the anger is ours and choosing how to express it is our responsibility.

4. Help Your Children Decide Who or What Will Have Control.

When our children become aware that they are angry, we can help them learn that they are faced with a choice. A simple yet powerful response can be, “Honey, I can tell that you’re feeling a lot of anger right now. It’s OK to experience anger, I’m glad you are able to talk about your anger. It sounds like you’ve got some good reasons to be angry. Now you need to decide: Are you going to let your anger control you, or do you want to control your anger? Do you remember what happened last week when you let your anger get out of control? Do you want that to happen again? Would you like me to pray with you to ask God to help you deal with your anger in a healthy way?”

5. Help Your Children Identify and Define the Cause or Source of the Anger.

Children get angry for many of the same reasons adults get angry. Anger is a normal response to all kinds of daily events that can produce fear, hurt, and frustration. Be careful not to overreact to your child’s anger. Remember that anger is a secondary emotion. Ask yourself these questions: Where is the anger coming from? What’s the real issue? What is his or her anger about? Often a child’s anger is communicating a need that he or she may not be aware of. Your son or daughter may be frightened, sad, insecure or confused and it comes out as anger.

6. Help Your Children Choose their Responses and Develop their Own Solutions.

As much as possible, allow children to develop their own solutions to their problems. You may have to prime the pump a bit more with younger children, but as they get older they will develop their own wide range of responses to choose from. If Julie didn’t have any ideas, you could say, “I can think of four different ways you can handle frustration. If you want to hear them, I’d be happy to share them with you. Think about it and let me know.”

7. Help Your Children Review Their Response to Anger.

This is a step that many parents leave out. For years I was one of those parents. After a couple of days have passed, ask your child what he or she learned about dealing with anger from what happened. What went well? What would he or she like to have done differently? What did he or she learn? What would he or she like to do next time?

This conversation doesn’t need to take more than a few minutes. It should involve what the child learned and now what you as a parent think the child should have learned. The brief conversation can easily turn into a lecture; if that happens, you’ve undermined the process and robbed your son or daughter of a great learning experience.

Remember that learning how to understand and deal with emotions is a lifelong process. I know I am still working at understanding and dealing with my own emotions, and so are you. It takes time, trial, and error, but the product is worth the process. Encourage each little step your child takes and congratulate your child whenever possible. Praise him or her for even making an effort in a healthy direction.

Sound off: What types of anger problems have you had with your kids?

Used with permission from the book Raising Kids To Love Jesus by H. Norman Wright and Gary Oliver.

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Parenting Your Kids through Sad Moments

All Pro Dad | May 30, 2019

Recently, a good friend of mine went through this type of moment when the family dog died unexpectedly. Their beloved pet was only 6 years old and seemingly healthy, but sometimes life does what it does and we lose things that are precious to us. The family was a wreck. Their young children couldn’t comprehend why their dog was taken away, and the parents were struggling with the same feelings. When facing moments like this, someone in the family needs to take the lead. That someone is Dad.

We need to prepare our children to thrive in a world that will always provide plenty of hurt.Is there anything more heartbreaking than having a sad child? It brings out all the feelings in a parent, and it’s in that where we find some of our most important teaching moments. We have to be ready to help our sad child learn to process, learn from, and move forward. We need to prepare our children to thrive in a world that will always provide plenty of hurt. Here are some essential tips for parenting your kids through sad moments.

1. Isolate the Root Cause

What specifically is making your child sad? In the case of my friend, the root cause was easy, the family dog. Yet, there are plenty of things that cause sadness in our kids, such as losing a good friend, bullying, or tension inside the home. Sometimes kids may not even know why they are upset or are reluctant to share. Like finding lost car keys, help them calmly retrace the steps until we get to what’s really bothering them. It’s our job as a parent to get to the root of why our child is sad. Then we can begin to move forward in helping them.

2. Grieve with Them

Empathy is necessary to establish. Grieving is ok; give them time to do so. In fact, you should grieve with them. If they are sad, you are sad, and together, you will process the emotions. Give them space to tell you how they are feeling. Allow those emotions to be legitimate. Hurt along with them, but remember that you are the adult who has a healthy perspective. If their perspective is out of balance, help them bring it back. You want to lead them out of the hole…not go down it with them.

3. Display Resiliency

If your child truly believes you are hurting with them, they are going to be carefully watching to see how you respond. This is how a child either learns to become resilient or begins a habit of falling to pieces anytime something negative happens. They will face countless moments in their lives, the same as us, when it will be vital they have learned to be resilient. My dad used to tell me in these type moments: “It’s important to keep living. We wake up, put our pants on, eat, and we go do the things we’re supposed to do.” I have never forgotten that teaching.

4. Reintroduce Joy

You’ve isolated the root cause, you’ve given them time to grieve, you’ve shared their pain, you’ve taught them how to bounce back, so now, it’s time to reintroduce joy. Begin to point out the abundance of good things in our lives. From the simple things like a beloved stuffed animal to the bigger essentials like a roof over the head, food to eat, a parent who loves them. We want our kids to always have hope that stays lit within them. Though hard times will come the blessings will see them through.

5. Allow Closure

Good mental health requires that we find closure with the thing that is hurting us. We accept that the hurt happened and we experienced it fully, and now, we must move forward. Doing something tangible and visible will help them find this closure. For example, having an official funeral for your pet. This provides finality to the event. Closure can be more difficult for things like bullying or a lost friend. It may be a good idea to seek professional child counseling to help them complete this final step.

Sound off: How have you handled sadness in your kids?

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6 Things You Absolutely Need to Know When Children Need Discipline

Derek Maul | May 24, 2019

Not only did my wife and I somehow manage to raise two children but I worked two decades as a behavior specialist in Florida’s public schools. Now we have two grandchildren (six and seven) who are beyond wonderful. But our grandkids are also – just like all the other children in the world – a handful on occasion. Parent or grandparent, children need discipline.

Our grandchildren live just a couple of hours away so we spend a lot of time together. But what is a grandparent to do when it comes to discipline? What is the protocol when they act up and their parents are in the room too? And what should divorced or separated parents do when faced with the same circumstances? Chances are, everyone’s not going to be on the same page, but we can all agree on some essential ground-rules when it comes to behavior. Here are 6 things you absolutely need to know when children require discipline and correction.

1. Consistency is job one.

Children learn what is acceptable fast when they are crystal clear on exactly what is expected. When I taught school some teachers had complex charts measuring upwards of twenty behaviors in ten-minute intervals. That was far too complex for me! Instead, I kept things simple so I could be as consistent as possible. Children learn what is acceptable fast when they are crystal clear on exactly what is expected.

2. Never contradict another responsible adult in front of the child.

It’s okay to disagree with your spouse, the grandparents, your ex. What’s not okay is to undermine anyone else’s authority. Remember the goal here is discipline that works. Correction will never work when adults undermine one another.

3. Learn the difference between “firm” and “yelling.”

When I was a teacher I observed an inverse relationship between volume and effectiveness. The louder a teacher yells, the less respect they earn. The same is true at home. Yelling is a clear indication to the child that you are not in control. Slow down, lower both pitch and volume, and work on the “stern” in your voice.

4. Find the right punishment.

Understand the definition of “punishment” and why what you’re doing may actually be a “reinforcer”. A punishment is an intervention that reduces the likelihood of the targeted behavior reoccurring. A reinforcer increases the likelihood the behavior will happen again. If what you believe is a punishment is not reducing the behavior, then stop and find something else. This requires thought and creativity, not anger and yelling.

5. Identify acceptable behaviors rather than continually berating those we don’t like.

When we constantly berate we are giving attention to behaviors we don’t want to see. Our attention is very often a reinforcer. Make a big deal out of positive behaviors. Reward acceptable behaviors with your attention and your words.

6. Reinforce behaviors that are incompatible with those we want to stop.

I taught children with autism. My team successfully eliminated self-injurious behavior by ignoring the self-hitting and encouraging (reinforcing) responses incompatible with self hitting (such as coloring, playing ball, modeling clay, learning sign language, etc.). It turned out the children were craving attention and they got a lot when they hurt themselves. Before long, the positive behaviors were self-reinforcing. Find things that are incompatible with your child’s inappropriate behaviors and pay attention to that.

Sound off: What are some principles you have found helpful when it comes to discipline?

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