Raising Kids in 'Merica

I recently stumbled upon ‘Why are American Kids so Spoiled?” in The New Yorker and have been thinking about it a lot since.
The premise is that today’s American kids are spoiled with too much stuff and too much authority. Parents have over invested in their children in almost all aspects of life, including trying to clear every obstacle in a child’s educational career and making sure their kids are never bored or frustrated. This has led to a large number of kids who have a dangerous combination of incompetence (in terms of everyday living, since they were not expected to pitch in) and a sense of entitlement. This has been referred to as “adultesence.”

The article goes on to compare American parents from France, England, and Matsigenka, a tribe in the Peruvian Amazon. There is a stark difference in the amount expected from kids, as well as how far these parents go to teach their kids how to deal with frustration and not getting their way.

Madeline Levine, a psychologist, on American parents:

“Never before have parents been so (mistakenly) convinced that their every move has a ripple effect into their child’s future success,” she writes. Paradoxically, Levine maintains, by working so hard to help our kids we end up holding them back.

I’ve been fascinated by this topic, since our kids are getting to an age where they are starting school and we’ll have to start dealing with many of these issues as they grow up.

Luckily, Melisa and I have similar goals for what kind of skills we want to foster in the kids: independence, creativity, and good critical thinking/decision making/problem solving skills. I am really convinced those three areas are keys to success in what ever you choose to do with your life. Combine those traits with some aspects of Buddhism (empathy, discipline, and self awareness) and I think our kids will have a solid foundation for their future. After all, I think that’s our job as parents: give them a solid foundation, love them unconditionally, and get the heck out of the way.

To date, there’s no doubt we’ve been inconsistent while working toward these goals (with three kids so close in age, the quest for sanity prevails most often), but I do think we’re getting better at focusing our efforts and how we teach these skills.

This summer’s focus has been pitching in, as well as doing things for yourself. We’ve also been working on the big three behavioral issues that have cropped up over the years:

  1. Using words and a normal voice (no whining, screaming, or moaning!)
  2. Politeness (using your manners)
  3. Patience (waiting for your turn to speak and not expecting instant results)

We’re slowly making progress on all three fronts, as well as encouraging the girls to make their own fun, rather than relying on us (or anyone/anything) to entertain them all of the time. It has been a transition, since we’ve dedicated so much time and attention to the girls over their lifetime, given how close in age they are.

In the end, it’s all a learning process. Parenting requires an enormous amount of inner strength: patience, humility, and flexibility. I think good parents are the ones that persistently work on improving those skills and are interested in being a better person/parent. It’s certainly the most difficult (and rewarding) challenge I’ve faced so far..

If you have kids, how do you balance the urge to protect and advocate for your child in all circumstances versus allowing them to fail, struggle, and learn on their own?

There will always be more work

In his recent post, Be Fierce With Your Time, Jonathan Fields writes:

There simply aren’t enough hours to get everything done.
Which is precisely why you shouldn’t even try.
Life’s not about getting everything done.

He goes on to recommend picking those things that (potentially) make the biggest impact and stripping out the rest (or finding someone else to do it).

This really fits what I’ve thought about since my last post on time management and busyness:

There will always be more work to do, but there won’t always be time to spend with those you love.

I am not sure if I read this quote somewhere and it stuck or if I came up with it on my own. Regardless, it resonates and drives a lot of my recent decisions.

It’s the approach I take to my day job. Unless there is something urgent that is due today (and even in that situation, if the project plan was correct, scoped accurately, and I managed my time well, it will be done on the due date by the end of the standard work day), I check out at the end of my scheduled time and don’t think about work again until the next morning.

It’s the approach I take with side projects: I turn down anything that doesn’t excite me or have high potential. It isn’t fun to turn away money, but if the project doesn’t meet those guidelines, I’ve found they generally become those projects you wish you didn’t take a month or so into the process.

It’s why I spend so much time thinking about productivity and using technology to improve my work flow. (I’ll write more on that soon.)

And, finally, it’s why I have the pleasure of spending so much quality time with my wife and kids. That’s what life is about, right?

Friday Fifteen Links: July 13th Edition

Each Friday I am going to attempt to give you high quality reading material for the weekend, in the form of fifteen links from the previous week.

Here we go — I hope you enjoy:



A few bonus posts, since it’s Friday the 13th.

Rev25 NYC Lineup Announced

Here’s the lineup for the Revelation Records 25th Anniversary shows in NYC (Irving Plaza) this October 11 to 14th:


  • texas is the reason
  • underdog
  • shades apart
  • gameface
  • on the might of princes


  • chain of strength
  • mouthpiece
  • damnation
  • curl up and die


  • chain of strength
  • bold
  • battery
  • shai hulud


  • into another
  • supertouch
  • youth of today
  • iceburn

$46 a night or 160 for a 4 night pass… tickets on sale this Friday, July 13th.

I really hope more bands are added for that price. Who else would you like to see? Just scrolling through the Rev bands, I’d be interested in (no particular order): Burn, Kiss it Goodbye, GB, Quicksand, Farside, Dag Nasty, Judge, Orange 9mm, Sparkmarker, and Statue. One can hope, at least.

Who’s going?

State of the Blog – 10 month edition

With 2012 half way over, I wanted to take a few minutes to post another state of the blog update. I’m not up to 10 months and 84 posts for an average of twice per week. Not too bad.

Some days I am still surprised at the number of folks who read what I write for this site. I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who visits. It means a lot to me!

RSS Subscribers

Peak: 63 (after I combined both my tumblelog feed with the .org feed)

Current: 29

I’m a little disappointed this number went down since my last update, but Feedburner stats are so wonky I have very little confidence this number is accurate anyway. I am thankful 29 people know what RSS is and want to read my posts, however.

Plug: if you do use RSS (and haven’t subscribed already), why don’t you hit the RSS subscription link on my site and add it to your feed reader? And if you don’t do RSS, why not try the email subscription or Twitter links instead?


  • 909 unique visitors to the site since August
  • 1,747 total visits
  • 4,244 pageviews
  • Peak Day: February 6th, 2012 59 visits

Monthly Visits

  • August: 120
  • September: 108
  • October: 128
  • November: 57
  • December: 125
  • January: 157
  • February: 170
  • March: 209
  • April: 241
  • May: 176
  • June: 196

Overall, 2012 has been pretty good to this blog. And April was really good, specifically.

Most Popular Posts (by unique pageviews)

June Love List Update

Hello, July. Nice to see you again. Time for a Love List update!

Last month I mentioned being overwhelmed in May, so I wanted to give a few updates on things I mentioned: I finally finished up my big freelance project (yeah!) and the day job change unexpectedly didn’t work out. That was disappointing, but I’m kind of glad things turned out the way they did considering how it all went down. Anyway, long story short is I am starting July feeling relieved and ready to get things done.

So how did June turn out?

Love List Items I Accomplished:

  • Got things done! Had to re-prioritize some things, but everything I needed to get done, I did.
  • Move my career forward. This is still unfolding, but promising changes are on the horizon.
  • Exercised. Not as much as I want, but I did do a few long-ish bike rides, ran a few times, and I was generally more active.
  • Purge stuff. Two garage sales! We had our block sale and another one (since the block sale got washed out) a few weeks later. Sold a ton, donated a ton, and made $400+.
  • Saw Prometheus, Madagascar 3 and Moonrise Kingdom. Liked the first and the last. Madagascar 3 had some laughs, but overall wasn’t that great.
  • Blogged. 10 posts in June.(Best post: Being a Dad)

The rest, not so much. Overall, I feel like I got a lot done, considering.

With the second half of the year in front of us, I am going to review the Love List concept and figure out how I want to proceed. I’ll work out those details in the next week or so and post an update.

I’ve been thinking about doing a monthly habit (or 30-day challenge) where I focus on one specific thing and try to implement it is as lasting habit. I kind of feel like the Love List concept is a little too un-focused in a “throw a bunch of spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks” kind of way.

How are your Love List or New Years resolutions coming along?

Friday Fifteen Links: July 6th Edition

Each Friday I am going to attempt to give you high quality reading material for the weekend, in the form of fifteen links from the previous week.

Here we go — I hope you enjoy:



Something New

I would like to try something new: a good, old fashioned newsletter. Something that doesn’t rely on Facebook, Twitter, or Google.

Just you, me, and our email inbox. You’ll even be able to respond to me right from the newsletter, so we can continue the conversation.

I am initially planning to send this newsletter once per month and include the best posts from this site, any important news, and possibly some newsletter-only stuff you won’t see from me anywhere else online.

I’d like your help in testing this out, so please subscribe by following the link:

(You’ll get a confirmation email, so please look out for that…)

Thanks in advance!

Crazy Busy

If you live in America in the 21st century you’ve probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are. It’s become the default response when you ask anyone how they’re doing: “Busy!” “So busy.” “Crazy busy.” It is, pretty obviously, a boast disguised as a complaint. And the stock response is a kind of congratulation: “That’s a good problem to have,” or “Better than the opposite.”

The Busy Trap by Tim Kreider on NYTimes.com

I love this post. Go read it and come back… I’ll wait.

The entire thing is quotable, so I won’t waste time and space with them (you read the post, right?) and just dive in to what it means to me.

Bottom line is: busyness if not a badge of honor, something to strive for, nor something I will force on my children.

Idleness and boredom lead to creativity. To crazy projects. To imagination. To passion.

I want more of that in my life. Not busyness or doing things strictly for money. From now on, my free time will be spent A) with someone I love or B) moving forward some crazy project or idea that I love. Simple as that.

Busyness leads to excuses for not doing all the things you really want to do deep down.

No more excuses.