Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Why the Daddy Network?

The basic premise of the Daddy Network is that to have better kids, we need to be better parents. Yes, the Daddy Network is about fixing parents.

Most fathers (parents) in the Acton-Boxborough community care deeply about the well-being of their children. We have excellent schools because education is important to us. We have great extra-curricular activities and sports programs. We freely donate our time to coach sports and volunteer for Boy Scout activities, chaperone field trips, etc.

But there are two areas we neglect:

1.    When it comes to the social lives of our kids, something very important to them, we give our kids a safety speech and send them off to "who-knows-where" (we all know that it is not always where they say they are going).

2.    When it comes to dealing with the problems of youth, such as problem grades, disobedience, defiance, alcohol and drugs, we have limited skills to draw on, generally what our own parents did, and apply these limited techniques over and over again, with diminishing results. We then feel inadequate and stress over the resultant family friction.

The Daddy Network started due to a lot of exasperation and a small glimpse of inspiration when I was dealing with a problem with a child at home. Instead of "sucking it up" and“keeping it to myself”, I opened up about the problem and asked another parent "what would you do"? It took a while to get past the "it's not my place" and "I don't want to advise you", etc. to finally get some suggestions. And they were helpful, on two levels: The actual advice was from outside my experiences, which brought freshness to the problem, and I had started, unknowingly, a moral support network.


Over the weeks and months that followed, I did not hesitate to call parents of my kids friends and ask them for advice. They soon asked me for my opinions, too. Then I started to realize that we each have 1, 2 or maybe 3 great parenting techniques. As we talked about problems that were common to us all, I was exposed to many techniques to help be a better parent (remember, better parenting makes better kids).


Let me give one example of this in practice: I was speaking to another father about his 17 year old son. The father told me the craziest story, and I remember his story very clearly: "My son snuck out last night, took his bicycle and went to visit his girlfriend.” I asked “How did you find out”? The answer will surprise you: “He told me about it the next day". I replied, “What??? He admitted he snuck out?” "Yes, he always tells me". Huh? How? Why? This was way, way outside of my personal experience. "So you punished him, took away his bike, what did you do?". He replied, "I gave him a lecture about safety, but no punishment". At the time, I did not fully understand the power of this approach, but it really got me thinking about (and wishing for) this type of open relationship with my children.

You probably were like me, thinking “this is crazy”. Well, his experience morphed into what soon would became my #1 parenting technique, which I called "amnesty". My boys knew that word, understood its usefulness to them, and used it as a noun. Here is a real life example: "Dad, I have an amnesty". I replied, "What is it, tell me about it." My son replied: "I found this pocket knife in our neighbors yard". Hmmm... "You know, it our neighbor 'found' your bike in our yard, would it be his? And would you be happy with him"? "Not my bike, NO!" "OK, so you know you made a mistake, so what should you do now"? My son returned the knife (I think he just left it in their yard where he found it). And there was no punishment. This is key. If there is punishment, they will avoid the amnesty and the honesty that goes with it. And that is far more instructive than any punishment. I share "Amnesty" with all my friends, and it will change your relationship with your kids forever. It has for me.

But that is just the point of the TDN. I would never have "amnesty" if that other parent did not *share* his story. The more we share, the more we all benefit, and the better parents we become.

How do we share? This is a bigger question than it seems. Many people are reluctant to open up about their family problems because they are uncomfortable and feel it makes them look less than adequate. Well, get over it! Have enough self-confidence to say "I am having a problem with my child and I don't know how to deal with it. Perhaps you have some ideas". Practice this in the mirror, it will be useful.

The start, as in all problem solving, it defining the problem. That takes work. "My son/daughter is disrespectful" may not be the problem. Talking about it with others will help shed light on the issue until you have identified the real problem and find an approach you feel good about. Warning: This could take more than one discussion. This is not a quick fix, "go to your room", solution. It takes time, patience, and love, which can all be ground down in the midst of the struggle.

TDN is not a list of quick fix solutions to apply. It is about tackling problems one-by-one, with advice and support from other parents, with an emphasis on the fathers, who need to engage more and play a bigger role than a simple disciplinarian. My personal take is we are happy to spend 3 hours on the ball field, and sometime, many times, family problems will also take 3 hours, too. Just like cheating or copying homework does not help you learn, quick fixes do not help us as parents really learn how to be better parents.

Communication is Key

Part 2 of TDN is communication with other daddies (parents). Share your email and cell phone number with the parents you come in contact with. Write your cell phone number on the back of your business card and give it to parents when you drop off your kids. Encourage them to email or text you. I found that if I wrote the first email or the first text, other daddies would start to do the same, but many were hesitant to be first to do so.

If your child is going over to a house in TDN, and you are not sure if you are getting the whole story, email or text the parent. Be direct and you will get better answers. If you are worried about drinking at a house, don't write a text that says "my daughter is coming over, will you be home"?, if what you really mean to say is "I am afraid there will be drinking there. What do you know"?

Remember, our kids are all using text messages and Twitter and Facebook to work around us. If we do not communicate with each other, we are at a significant disadvantage, and they will exploit this weakness.

To summarize, The Daddy Network is a moral support network to share parenting skills to make us better parents. And better parents do make better kids.

A quick post-script on lectures: Keep them to 140 characters. Yes, texting makes has trained our kids to have short focus spans. After a long winded 20 minute lecture, I found myself saying, “In 140 characters, if you keep coming home at 2:30 AM, I can't get sleep, can’t goto work, and can't pay for your college tuition. Be home by midnight."

If you want to contact me to discuss how to build your own Daddy Network, email me at frank@maysoft.com  Include your phone number if you want me to call, or we can just exchange ideas over email.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Twitter used to help parents keep up with their kids

Kids use technology like Facebook and texting to keep one step ahead of parents. What are parents doing to keep up? Not much. Most parents only use the phone, a one-to-one medium, so it takes a long time to get the word out. Twitter changes all that, and levels the playing field, so parents can all see what is happening as it is happening.

read more | digg story

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Fellow Friends on the Journey of Parenthood

I am passing this along as another reason why we have to be diligent and work together to keep our kids safe. Who knows what could have happened at this party, although the mess and violation were certainly enough!
BTW The original email is getting responses from all over the country! Some are posted here as replies.
Frank Paolino

Dear fellow friends on the journey of parenthood,

Rob and I are writing to let you know about a party that happened at our house on Friday night, October 24th (the night the LHS party was canceled). Neither Rob nor I were home that night and we had no knowledge of the party. I went to a conference in New Bedford for the weekend, and Rob took our two daughters to Vermont to visit his mother for one night. Our son Noah asked if he could stay at the home of a friend for Friday night. I spoke with the mom and everything was all set. Noah and this friend then hoodwinked the mom and told her they were going to another friend's house to spend the night there instead. They invited a few friends over to our empty house for a party. Word of the party spread like wild fire and before long there were over 60 LHS teens (including seniors and some graduates) at our house.

When my husband got home Saturday afternoon he found the house a mess, despite their best efforts to clean. The floors were covered with dirt, grime, beer, and other substances. People had been throwing eggs, and there was egg goo all over the place. Our beds had all been slept in; one of the smoke detectors had been ripped out of the ceiling, and a thermostat had been destroyed. Two fire extinguishers had been discharged and thrown away. A nice BOSE radio/CD player and our 13 year-old daughter's womens black "Specialized" mountain bike had been stolen. My camera was found in a neighbor's yard. Our 9 year-old found a black bra in her bed. Other smaller things had been destroyed or stolen as well. The damages so far add up to well over $1,200, and Noah will be paying for everything.

Noah was charged with cleaning the entire house in a fashion that would please a USMC drill instructor. Cigarettes, pot, and beer cans were found in some amazing places. The word amongst his friends seems to be that Noah is not in trouble; this is not true. In addition to being grounded indefinitely, he'll be handing all of his job earnings over to us until all expenses have been paid off, and obviously Noah won't be having a social life for a long time. The good news is that our pet fish is still alive, and they ate all of our leftovers so at least they ate well!

Our reason for writing is that we believe that we parents are as much of a community as our kids are, hopefully even more so. The African saying "It takes a village to raise a child" is very appropriate here. We hope that we are teaching our children the meaning of community by our example, and that as a community of parents we want to send the loud and clear message that this type of behavior is absolutely unacceptable, no matter whose home it is. We're sending this email to any LHS parents who's email we happen to have. We would also like help in finding the black Specialized mountain bike and the Bose radio/CD player.

Please pass this along to other LHS parents who you think may want to know.

Thanks & Blessings,


Thursday, November 13, 2008

With a Little Help from my Friends!

Here is a blog on a little positive community activism. In Acton, MA, where I live and work, two of the Mobil stations were selling an energy drink called "Cocaine". Besides 3 1/2 times the caffeine of Red Bull (=3 shots of espresso), its name bothers some of us. In particular, Chris Tejeda, a father of 4 in Acton did not like it. It is available in 2 Mobil stations near his home. So he started a small movement, simply by standing up to be counted, that resulted, in less than one week's time, in Mobil corporate pulling the products from stores nationwide!

Below is his original email, and my follow up to the owner of one of the stores, who replied immediately, and removed the product.
Well done, Chris!

(Email from Chris Tejeda Subject: "A little help from my friends")

Hello everyone; You will, no doubt, be surprised to find that this Email does not come from my wife. I am writing this email to ask for your support with a minor issue that I have not been able to solve by "nicely asking".Here is the problem: Both the West Acton Mobil and the RT 2A Mobil sell an energy drink called "Cocaine". Many of you might have seen it because they are prominently displayed on the fridge doors. I have asked both locations twice to remove that product. The last time I advised them that they had lost me as a customer. As of this weekend, the product was still being sold at both Mobil stores. The states of Connecticut and Texas have banned the product, 7/11 stores have banned the drink and the company that manufactures the product promised to rename it last year, but never did.
Because of their convenience these Mobil stores are a place that many of our children go often, either with their parents or in a group. Do I think that if they buy this drink they will go out and do cocaine next? No.Do I think that Mobil has every right to sell whatever it wants? Yes. But I will not be a customer.

In any case, if you agree, walk into these stores and complain.
Thank you.
(Email from Frank Paolino to Mobil station owner)
Edward,This email below was sent to about 100 people in Acton, MA. We respect your decision to sell whatever you like, but we also have the option of buying gas and sundries wherever we like.
As a good community member. I respectfully request you to remove these products.
Frank Paolino
(Immediate Reply from Mobil station owner)
Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I was not approached by anyone about the product. I am not in the business of offending customers. I will gladly remove this product from my store. I was informed by the vendor that whatever the original problem was that caused the product to be banned was corrected. Would you please let Chris know that I will be removing it from my store and to please feel free to give me a call anytime. I am curious who he spoke to and why they didn’t bring it to my attention. My cell phone number is 978-265-xxxx.
Thank you again.
Ed Booth

(Email from Frank Paolino to 100 concerned citizens)
Ed Booth from East Acton Mobil gave a very good reply, and I think it was the correct and responsible one. He is removing the product from his store.
Thanks to Chris Tejeda for standing up on this issue.
Frank Paolino

(Email from Acton Mobil station owner)
Hi Frank,
Just wanted to drop you one more note. I spoke with Paul over at West Acton Mobil. He is removing the product from his store as well. As I mentioned before, we did not intend to offend anyone. We both attended a trade show together and were informed by the vendor that it was ok to sell the product now. Thanks one more time for your feedback.
Ed Booth

(Email from Chris Tejeda with incredible news... note the understatement)
Thank you very much, Frank. I also received a phone call from Exxon/Mobil Corporate that they will be removing this product from all stores nationwide. Chris Tejeda

Parties - How to Monitor that they will be safe?

Do you call parents before allowing kids to go to parties? List other ways you know you they are safe - and how you have been fooled.

How do you get your kid to do homework?

Post replies here to discuss techniques (any techniques) that work to get your kids to do homework.

Suggest a Topic

Put any topics that you want as a separate blog here.

- Focus on Real Techniques that Work
- There is a "New Topics" blog to start new threads
- Post any of your kid's techniques to "teach" other parents