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Over at Stories For Speakers And Writers, Geoff introduces us to a book Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortensen, in which Mortensen pays tribute to his parents and reveals the secret to how he was inspired to be a mountaineer and then a builder of schools in the remote parts of Pakistan:

‘As a child in Tanzania, my parents Dempsey and Jerene Mortensen, read fastidiously to us at bedtime by candlelight and, later, electricity. These stories filled us with curiosity about the world and other cultures. They inspired the humanitarian adventure that shaped my life.’ – Greg Mortensen and David Oliver Relin, Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time (New York: Penguin Books, 2006), 334-335.

Geoff has also posted a review of the book at Reviewing Books and Movies.

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The recent kerfuffle about the new afternoon broadcast time for Playschool indicates many parents really care about children’s TV. But there are much bigger issues at stake. The Australian Communications Media Authority is carrying out a review of Children’s Television Standards that has attracted a wide range of submissions, covering everything from junk food advertising to a new digital children’s channel. However, industry veteran Patricia Edgar says the debate should be about content and adapting to the new media environment, which has changed dramatically since the standards were introduced in the mid-1970s. Listen here.

This podcast is an interesting discussion on different parenting styles. Psychotherapist Katie Altham offers some insights into our archetypes and how they shape our lives. She suggests that our parenting style doesn’t come from what we know, but from who we are.

Over at A Family Runs Through It, Phil has posted a really helpful synopsis of the final chapter of Ben Stein’s book, Tommy and Me. I thought they were so cool that I ordered the book straight away … for the bargain price of £0.06. I also thought that Phil’s synopsis deserved reposting so here they are again:

Ben Stein’s Ten Commandments of Fatherhood:

1. Time is of the essence. Spend large amounts of time with your child. Kids don’t want “quality time”… They want you to be there all the time.

2. Share your strength with your child. Be an ally, not an adversary. Share with him stories of your own fears, failings, and anxieties and how you overcame them.

3. Do not expect your child to make up for your own losses when you were a child. Let your kids pursue their own hopes and dreams.

4. Look for the good in your child and praise it. Children are nurtured by praise as plants are nurtured by water. Deny it to them at their peril and yours. Children who are told that they can succeed in fact usually do succeed.

5. Do not allow your children to be rude. Being polite is a basic foundation of human interaction, and kids will not succeed in life if they’re surly and disrespectful.

6. Patience is indispensable. Children’s behavioral flaws cannot be corrected by flipping a switch. It takes a long time and a lot of patience to teach positive behaviors. If you are an impatient, demanding, short-fused dad, you will get that irritable, demanding kind of kid.

7. Teach your child and let him teach you. Children will tell you what they want and need. Dads get into trouble when they do not listen to their kids and dismiss their feelings as not important. Also, your child should get the benefit of your wisdom and experience about life, so tell him what you know about the world around you. Learn from your children and let them learn from you.

8. Value your child for what he is, not for what you think he should be. I want my son to know that whatever he becomes in the future, he is prized just for being my son, right now.

9. Raising a child is a job for Mom and Dad. Children with absent fathers are wounded for the balance of their lives. Dad should and must be in there pitching along with Mom, helping out as an equal partner in the tough job of raising children. The true heroes of our generation are at home with their kids.

10. Being a Daddy is priority number one. When you decide that your kids come before your sales quota or your poker-playing schedule or your overtime to make partner, then you will find that all of the other pieces of Daddyhood fall into place – teaching and learning, patience, looking for the good and praising it. When you put your kids first, you are far less alone in this world. What’s more vital, so are they.

Thanks Phil.

The first post on a new blog always feels weird. Am I meant to be trying to set a tone, or outline parameters, or provide some sort of justification for why this blog exists and why people might be interested in reading it, or just get stuck into writing some thoughts?

Today is my own father’s birthday. It’s also the day after Father’s Day here in Scotland. Yesterday, my wife and 14-month old daughter took me out to lunch. Thinking that the restaurants would be booked-out with families celebrating Father’s Day, we pre-booked a place. In spite it being a great place that’s usually packed for lunch, we were the only one’s there. Of course, there may be a plethora of reasons for this that I don’t want to list here, but it does make one wonder what is going on and whether it is indicative of broader trends in our society.

And then this morning, I began the day with reading some discouraging and frightening statistics. Of course, for better or worse, statistics can’t tell the whole story, but they can reveal something. In this case, some disturbing trends:

  • On Mother’s Day the most phone calls are made. On Father’s Day the most collect phone calls are made.
  • In the last twenty years the percentage of single dads has more than doubled, from 10% to 23% of all single-parent households.
  • And this from today’s Time magazine:

Worldwide, 10% to 40% of children grow up in households with no father at all. In the U.S., more than half of divorced fathers lose contact with their kids within a few years. By the end of 10 years, as many as two-thirds of them have drifted out of their children’s lives. According to a 1994 study by the Children’s Defense Fund, men are more likely to default on a child-support payment (49%) than a used-car payment (3%). Even fathers in intact families spend a lot less time focused on their kids than they think: in the U.S. fathers average less than an hour a day (up from 20 minutes a few decades ago), usually squeezed in after the workday.

In Australia, the figure of about 4.5 minutes per day has been cited. OUCH!

Whichever group of statistics and studies you believe (see, for example here or here), the almost unanimous consensus is that dad’s are important. This blog exists to do one thing: encourage dads in their dadding – biological dads, stepdads, single dads, all dads. It’s not about a men’s movement, nor about undermining the role of mothers. It’s about the irreplaceable gift that fathering is – to kids, to mums, to society, to dads – not only when the kids are at home, but before they get there and after they leave.

An Israeli study found that the more frequently a father visited the hospital of an infant who is prematurely born, the more rapidly the infant gained weight and the more quickly the infant was able to leave the hospital. U.S. studies show that by the age of six months, the more children have contact with dad, the higher their levels of mental competence and psycho-motor functioning, and the greater their level of trust and friendliness.

So what I hope to do with this blog is to pass on stories, books, sites, films, music and ideas that I find around the traps that encourage me with my dadding. I’m pretty new at this dad thing. I really hope that others might be encouraged to contribute what they find useful or otherwise and have learnt – or are learning – along the way. None of us are experts. Nor, do I suspect, do any of us want to be. We want to be good dads … whatever it takes.