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5 Great Dads from History (And What You Can Learn from Them)

5 Great Dads from History (And What You Can Learn from Them)

History is filled with fantastic fathers who have not only kept their kids out of harm, but also gave them the room to grow and flourish as individuals. Fatherhood doesn’t come with an instruction manual, but a look through the history books can provide a wealth of information. Let’s take a look at the traits of great dads from history and what you can learn from them.

1. Li Yanwen

Li Yanwen was a Chinese doctor who lived around 1500 A.D. His son was Li Shizhen, another doctor who would become the greatest Chinese naturalist. But Li Yanwen originally wanted his son to go into the government. However, Li Shizhen was more interested in medicine than state bureaucracy—in fact, he failed the civil service exams three times.

Li Yanwen eventually gave in and mentored his son in Chinese medicine, and it’s a good thing he did. Li Shizhen went on to author the Bencao Gangmu, a medical text that featured extensive details about over 1,800 herbal drugs and their prescriptions. The text has been translated into countless languages and remains the foremost reference for herbal medicine.

The Takeaway: Support your kids’ passions, even if they don’t line up with what you want for them.

2. Charles Darwin

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The father of evolutionary theory was also a great dad to 10 of his own kids. He was a 

doting father who had an integral role in raising and educating his kids. He was active in his children’s lives, encouraging their freedom and raising them at a time when childrearing was considered “women’s work.”

The Takeaway: Be actively involved in your kids’ lives.

3. Charlemagne

King of the Franks, Emperor of the Romans, Charlemagne had a whopping 20 children, but he made sure all received a thorough education, regardless of gender or social stature. Charlemagne treated his son, Pepin the Hunchback (named for a spinal deformity), with great love and care.

When he wasn’t chosen to be his father’s successor, Pepin plotted Charlemagne’s assassination. The plot was exposed, but instead of ordering Pepin’s execution, Charlemagne took pity and sent him to a monastery to live out the rest of his days.

The Takeaway: Love your kids for their similarities, but love them even more for their differences.

4. Lieutenant-Colonel George Lucas

Lieutenant-Colonel George Lucas had a daughter named Eliza Lucas (later known as Eliza Lucas Pinckney). He recognized early on that his daughter was special. Instead of forcing onto her the mediocre schooling that upper-class British girls received at the time, Lucas ensured that she gained a real education.

The Lucas family eventually moved to South Carolina from Antigua. By the age of 16, Eliza was running the family’s three plantations. George, who had to return to Antigua, sent his daughter seeds to test in the South Carolina land. Through much trial and error, Eliza successfully grew indigo, launching a successful cash crop that was second only to rice.

The Takeaway: Sometimes, the best thing you can do is step aside and let your kids experiment and recognize their own greatness, but remember to always be there when they need help.

5. Jim Henson

Jim Henson created the Muppets and Sesame Street, so it’s hard to imagine him as anything but playful, fun, and positive. Henson was a loving, supportive father, who, above all, was always ready to play with his kids. The only complaint that his kids had was his long work hours, which they got around by joining the family business.

The Takeaway: You’re never too old to have a great time with your kids.

There are no hard and fast rules to being a dad, so don’t worry if you don’t perfectly line up with history’s great dads. All you need to make sure to do is love your kids, provide wise advice, and always be ready with a well of groan-worthy “dad jokes.”

 

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4 Fun Fall Activities for You and Your Kids

4 Fun Fall Activities for You and Your Kids

The leaves are changing colors and piling in your backyard. School has started. Sweaters and pants are replacing t-shirts and shorts. Fall is here, but that doesn’t mean the fun has to end. Let’s take a look at some fun activities you can enjoy with your kids this autumn.

1. Have fun with leaves.

The leaves are the highlight of the season, but they also provide plenty of opportunities for fun.

  • Arts & crafts – Make a leaf collage or mosaic. String some leaves up and hang them across your window. Take some scenic pictures of the trees around your neighborhood and create a scrapbook.
  • Start a collection – Try to find as many different leaves and colors as you can. Compare the shapes and colors of the leaves in your collection and see how many different varieties you can collect.
  • Rake them up – Rake up the leaves in your yard and teach your kids the simple joy of jumping in a pile of leaves.

2. Go camping.

Fall is all about nature and enjoying the outdoors. If you live in a more temperate climate or urban setting, you may not have immediate access to the changing leaves, but never fear: the outdoors is but a state park away. Weekend camping with your kids is a great opportunity for you and your kids to unplug and get some fresh air. Remember to pack some warm sweaters, a camera, and plenty of marshmallows—no camping trip is complete without some s’mores!

3. Go apple-picking.

Autumn is apple season, so find a nearby orchard and pick yourself a whole bushel of apples. Aside from being delicious, apples offer a ton of health benefits:

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  • They are packed with dietary fiber, vitamin C, calcium, potassium, and more.
  • They have antioxidants that reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol, and promote heart health, lowering the risk of coronary disease.
  • They can boost your immune system and protect your brain against neurodegenerative disorders.

Even better, apples are an incredibly versatile food. Bake them into a pie, make some homemade apple sauce, slice them into your salads, or simply enjoy them alone. No matter how you prepare apples, your kids are sure to want more.

4. Visit your local pumpkin patch.

Pumpkin patches embrace all the great things about autumn and often include corn mazes, hayrides, and more, but you can’t walk away from one without at least one pumpkin in your arms. Your kids can carve the pumpkins into Jack-o-Lanterns (with your help and supervision). Throw the seeds into the oven for a magnesium-rich snack, and use leftover pumpkin in soup, cookies, or the ever-popular pie.

This season offers plenty of surprises. Do a little exploring with your little adventurer, and you’re sure to find some great memories waiting just around the corner.

 

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How to Help Your Child Transition to High School

high school How to Help Your Child Transition to High School

 

The passage from middle school or junior high to high school can be a difficult and even scary one for your child. However, with help from dad, your child’s introduction to high school can be a happy and successful one. Here are some tips for a smooth transition into those first weeks of high school.

Before School Starts

If school hasn’t started yet, follow these back to school tips for a successful start to the school year. If it has, remember them for next year.

    • Attend any orientation or other pre-first-day event that you can. Every orientation event that you go to with your child will help acquaint both of you to the new people and places that will create your child’s school life for the next four years.
    • Set a school routine a few weeks before the start of the school year. Knowing when to get up and get ready and when to settle down and get to sleep is one thing. Actually doing it is another. Getting you and your teen into the habit before the first week of school will make those days easier and less exhausting. Also, a quiet time in late afternoon or early evening of reading will prepare your student for homework time.
    • Encourage some independence and self-responsibility. High school students have more freedom and responsibilities than ever before. Helping your child establish good habits and strong boundaries before being faced with keeping track of belongings, assignments, chores, homework, and social obligations all on her own will ensure some measure of success when the time comes.

After School Starts

Keep the momentum going with these tips after the first bell of the school year has rung.

Stay Connected

Many schools now offer parents a way to track their children’s grades online. If your school gives you this opportunity, take it. Your child may feel as though their space has been invaded, but it can alert you to problems that need to be addressed before they become serious. It can also aid you in seeing where your child needs tutoring or a less challenging course. On the flip side, you can revel in your student’s academic successes long before that report card comes home.

Talk to your child’s teachers, principal or head teacher, and coaches. Get to know them. One of the biggest complaints from most professional educators is that parents often excuse themselves from the school system. Contacting teachers, even when there’s no problem, shows that you care and that you play an active role in your kid’s life.

Make time for spending time with your child, too. Talk, play, shop, work—just be together. Your child is now a young adult, and while that means that your relationship may be changing, you are still needed and wanted, and for more than just the car keys and spending money.

Help Your Child Stay Connected

Encourage extra-curricular activities that appeal to your child and provide support for him or her to participate. Set up a study area in the home that allows your student a place to tackle that homework quietly and peacefully without interruption or distraction.

If your teen makes a special friend or two (or twenty) or finds that first “love,” set boundaries, but make every effort to make your home a welcome and safe place for the kids to hang. You’ll feel better knowing that your teen isn’t someplace he perhaps shouldn’t be, and you’ll also get an idea of the kinds of peers your child is spending time with and what they are doing with that time.

 One of the biggest and most important ways you can help your child through the change from middle school to high school is just to be there. Let him or her know that, despite this newfound young adulthood, dad is still in the picture and will be there for the issues, concerns, and yes, the good stuff too. High school needn’t be the end of the good times, or even the end of childhood. Help make it the fun and happy time it should be!

 

 

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Dads: 3 Ways to Help Your Teen Daughter Through Tough Times

Although dads and daughters should be bonding at every age, the teenage years can be the most tumultuous for parents and their kids alike. As children start to bridge their childhood years into adulthood, it can be a confusing, difficult, and emotional time. When it comes to dads, daughters may seem downright impossible to communicate with or understand during the teenage years. But this is the time when “little” girls need their fathers the most, so don’t give up on her. 

father and daughter Dads: 3 Ways to Help Your Teen Daughter Through Tough Times

Take a look at a few simple ways to reach out and help your daughter get through the tough times of teenaged life.

Be a constant presence. No, you shouldn’t go with her on her dates or show up randomly when she is hanging out with her friends. Technology has made it easier than ever to let her know that you are thinking of her, even when you aren’t there in person. Send text messages and emails, and even goofy selfies to keep her smiling. Let her know you are always just a text or call away and that you are always thinking of her.

Share your stories. It may seem like an ancient history to you, but relating your own struggles as a teen and young adult may ease some of her own anxieties. Talk about the times you faced challenges, or made poor decisions, and how you picked up and kept on going. Emphasize that things that seem like a big deal in the moment will not matter down the road. Even if she rolls her eyes at your outdated stories and assures you that you can’t possibly understand, tell her anyway. It may make more of an impact than she is willing to share with you.

Step in when it’s warranted. Part of growing up is making your decisions, but occasionally teens need their parents to back them up. If your daughter is fighting a battle that seems to be over her head, step in and help her through it. This may be something as simple as a difficult math class that she is too prideful to ask for help to get through, or could involve peer pressure to engage in dangerous activities. While it is important to give her room to make the right decisions on her own, remember that you are still her parent and that it is okay to intervene when needed.

What advice have you heard about dealing with teenaged daughters? Use the comments below to share your own advice or experiences to help out other dads going through the same challenges.

 

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6 Spur-of-the-Moment Adventures to Bond With Your Kids

Some of the most memorable parent-child adventures don’t take a lot of planning. Simple spur-of-the-moment adventures are often the ones that kids remember most!

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Take a look at just a few ideas for adventuring with your kids at a moment’s notice.

Go for a bike ride. It sounds simple, but hopping on your bikes and hitting a local road or trail is both exhilarating and easy. Let your kids pick the routes and then follow their lead. Be sure to stop to take in the sights along the way, from trees and lakes to buildings of interest.

Camp out. Pack up your car for a weekend camping with your kids, or just pitch a tent in your backyard. Sleeping under the stars even just 20 feet from your house will give you and your kids to a different perspective on the world and each other. Pack a flashlight to share scary stories after dark, and all the ingredients you need to make s’mores. Hint: try making s’mores with peanut butter cups instead of regular old chocolate!

Plan a scavenger hunt. Turn your home, yard, or neighborhood into one giant puzzle by giving your kids clues that lead to a treasure at the end. Depending on your kids’ ages, the end prize will vary—and it doesn’t need to be anything extravagant. The hunt itself is the adventure. It presents a fun way to show your personality and wit to your kids and teaches them work together toward an end goal.

Visit a local flea market or garage sale. Show your kids that there are plenty of cool products in the world that do not come directly from a store shelf. Give them a budget and let them peruse the items at a neighborhood garage or yard sale, or head to a flea market to see many unique items in one place. Pack a lunch, or make ordering lunch at the flea market part of the adventure. At the end of the day, everyone has a trinket to remember the adventure by.

Head to an amusement or water park. Research discounts at theme parks in your area and then surprise your kids with a day trip. Be sure you get in on the fun by hopping on the rides they like and getting wet on any slides or water attractions too. This adventure costs a little more than the others—but with the right planning, a day at an amusement park can be a reasonably priced way to surprise your kids with an in-the-moment adventure.

Sit around a bonfire. You don’t need to commit to an entire night or weekend of camping to enjoy its most cherished tradition: sitting around a campfire, sharing snacks and stories. Dig a bonfire pit in your backyard, or head to a local park or beach that allows bonfires. Roast hot dogs and marshmallows, and if anyone is musically inclined, sing songs around the campfire!

What simple adventures have been favorites in your house?

 

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6 Summer Activities to Do with your Kids

The summer months are synonymous with relaxation, family time, and having good old-fashioned fun. Even parents who do not have much time off from work can find ways to sneak in some warm-weather fun while the kids are out of school. Take a look at just a few fun activities you should schedule with your kids this summer below.

Go Camping

Even if all you do is set up a tent in the backyard and make S’mores in your fire pit, enjoy the warm weather the summer months afford and spend a night outside. For those kids that are more adventurous, you can take them on a weekend long camping trip. Along with your sleeping bags and bug spray, don’t forget to bring along some flashlights and your favorite ghost stories.

Visit a Fair

Head to the county fair or a local festival and split a corn dog and an elephant ear together. See if there will be any bands or musicians and enjoy an evening of live music and dancing too. The great thing about summer fairs is that not much has changed since you were a kid. You may find fair favorites of your own that you’ve forgotten over the years!

See a Movie—in the Middle of the Day

Escape the hottest hours of the day by heading to a matinee showing of a big summer blockbuster. Some theaters even offer reduced or free family movie days, so take advantage of the discounts and the quiet time with your kids.

Play Board Games

It can be difficult to pry electronic games and entertainment from kids’ hands, even toddlers. Set aside some time to disconnect from technology for the entire family (including parents) and take turns picking out board games to play.

Go Berry Picking

Summer is ripe with some of the year’s best fruits, including strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries. Find a local picking farm and then head out to harvest your own fruit. To make it a full experience, choose a few recipes—a cobbler, muffins, etc.—to try out with your spoils.

Work Together on Home Projects

Find a few fun ways to spruce up the home for the summer and get the whole family in on the fun. Summer is the perfect time to rearrange, repaint, redecorate kids’ bedrooms, and create serene outdoor spaces. Getting your kids involved helps them to learn new skills, contribute to the home, feel good about their work, and enjoy the new space even more.

To kick it up a notch, take any of these suggestions and turn them into a yearly summer tradition! Give yourself and your kids something to look forward to every year—spending quality time together and having lots of fun in the process.

Happy summer!

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8 Things Your Kids Should Know by the Time They Turn 18

There is no way to teach your kids everything they will possibly need to know by the time they set out on their own, but there are some basics that will take them a long way in life. Take a look at a few things you should teach your kids before they leave home below.

How to Cook

Allow your kids to come into the kitchen with you and create meals, and then give them the reins to plan a few meals of their own for the family. Talk to them about nutrition and healthy choices, and lead by example through your own healthy eating habits.

How to Budget

Talk to you kids as early as kindergarten about the basics of money—how it is earned, how it is spent, how it is saved, etc. Before they leave your house for the real world, make sure they know how to properly maintain a checking account, pay bills on time, and responsibly use a credit card.

How to Say “Thank You”

Whether they email it or send a hand-written note, be sure that your kids understand the importance of gratitude and how to properly express it.

How to Change a Tire

Don’t wait until they call you from the side of the highway to talk them through the basics of safely changing a tire. Spend an afternoon in your driveway practicing and then make sure they know to always keep the right tools in their vehicle.

How to Ask for Help When it’s Needed

Whether in a college course, on the job, or in the midst of an unhealthy relationship, be sure your kids aren’t embarrassed to ask for help when they really need it.

How to Maintain a Residence

Obviously there is a lot of ground to cover here, but make sure your kids understand the basics of living on their own, including setting up a cleaning schedule, putting security measures in place (as simple as locking the doors), and who to call in an emergency.

How to Travel Alone

Be sure that your kids know how to make travel arrangements and set out on their own when needed. Cover everything from booking the best air travel to researching the places they will visit before they arrive.

How to Give Back

They may not always have money to donate to causes that need it, but show your kids how their simple actions, like recycling or volunteering a few hours per month, make a difference in their worlds. Instilling gratefulness in your kids is a great way for them to learn to give back. Make it a point to plan at least a few family outreach projects together and encourage them to find the causes that interest them too. 

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Kids and Allowance: Tips for Success

Teaching kids about financial literacy is important, and the lessons should start at an early age. Experts say that as soon as a child can differentiate between different types of bills and coins, they are ready to start receiving an allowance. This can be as young as preschool for some kids. So what do you need to determine in advance before you start doling out the cash?

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  • The chore connection. Will the allowance be earned and based on helping with chores around the house? Or will there simply be a set amount that each child receives every week? It is a bigger responsibility for both parent and child to attach chores to the money, but for many families, it is important to teach how pay is determined in the real world.
  • The amount. You certainly don’t want to break the bank by handing out allowance, but you want it to be fair. Parents who already have established allowance amounts suggest anywhere from 50 cents to $1 for every year of the child’s age. You want them to be able to save for bigger purchases that won’t take them years to attain, but to show them that money really doesn’t “grow on trees” either.
  • Set spending rules. How will you allow your children to spend their allowances? Will you require them to save some of it, or will you give them the whole thing to spend as they wish? Determine if there are any items that are a definite “no” and discuss some money-spending options with your kids in advance of handing them the money.
  • Create an allowance schedule. Decide when you plan to pay out the allowance every week, and then stick to it. Show your kids that just as they are expected to complete their end of the deal in a timely fashion, you are committed to holding up your end too.
  • Pay with small bills. This is just a suggestion – but kids will be able to wrap their mind around the money more easily if they can divide it up and spend it in segments. Make sure they pick a safe place to keep the cash until they spend it, and set aside an envelope for any allowance they determine that they want to save.

Giving kids a modest allowance is a smart way to prevent yourself from spoiling your kids and also to explain the give-and-take of financial matters. This could even open the door to talking about your own family’s budgets and household bills.

Do you give your kids an allowance and have any philosophies? 

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6 Cheap and Fun Summer Activities for Kids

Summer break is a great time to reconnect with your kids and gain back some of the family time that is given up during the school year, especially if summer means extra time spent with your kids. Lining up daily activities can get costly—but it doesn’t have to be that way. Take a look at these six ideas that do not take much planning or money to pull off:

  1. Build a fort. Even older kids will get a kick out of this activity that takes creativity and teamwork to complete. You can either start by drawing up a plan, or just make it up as you go along. Pull out old blankets and pillows, some cardboard boxes, and a flashlight and let your imagination do the rest.
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  2. Go camping. Find an off-peak time to rent a campsite and spend a few nights away from your normal routine. The best part about campgrounds is that they usually have some built-in activities for the price of a site, like hiking trails, canoeing, or even a swimming pool. Don’t forget to plan for a campfire and another summer tradition: making s’mores.
  3. Find a free movie. A lot of theaters offer special showings of movies during the summertime that are completely free. Usually they are older movies but you still get the big-screen experience for a fraction of the price.
  4. Watch fireworks. This is the ultimate summertime activity, whether they happen on the Fourth of July or for a different summer celebration. With the exception of paying for parking in some areas, this activity is completely free, and a completely carefree way to enjoy a night under the stars with your kids.
  5. Head to the library. Summertime is perhaps the busiest time of year at local libraries. There are summer reading programs, kid-centric crafts, and visiting authors who stop by to read from their books and sign copies. You can usually pick up a summer brochure from your library, or even see what is available by going online.
  6. Play board games. Kids are so into electronic gaming nowadays that dusting off a few board games may actually be a nice change of pace. Introduce your kids to your old favorites, and pick up a few secondhand titles from garage sales or thrift shops.

What inexpensive ways have you found to have fun with your kids in the summer months?

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Growing Up: Preparing for Your Child’s “Firsts”

There are a lot of “firsts” in the very early years of parenting. First smiles, first words and first steps are among the many new things parents get to witness and document. While those are exciting milestones, perhaps some of the most important “firsts” in children’s lives come when they are faced with decision-making for the first time, outside of their parents’ shelter.

Sleepovers, R-rated movies, school dances, dates, and time driving alone are just a few of the nerve-wracking firsts parents face. While parents cannot be involved for every new experience their kids encounter as they grow, they can empower their children to make smart choices, be safe, and still cultivate their own independence.

Here are some tips for preparing your child, and yourself, for the inevitable firsts of growing up:

Outline expectations.

Do not assume that your kids know where to set boundaries. Before they head out on that first date or attend the post-prom party, remind them what you expect in their behavior. Try to make it a conversation between the two of you, and less of a lecture. Do not threaten them with punishment, but let them know that there will be time to experience grown-up things, but in the meantime, they should enjoy being young safely and responsibly.

Have an open door.

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Make sure that your kids feel comfortable coming to you to ask the difficult questions of life without fear of punishment. This does not mean that you should let every action slide but you should make sure that if they make mistakes, you are there to help pick up the pieces.

Talk to a friend.

Perhaps you are friends with the parents of some of your kids’ friends—take advantage of your shared knowledge and camaraderie to make it through “first” experiences. If you do not have these connections, seek out family members or colleagues who have older kids that can give you some firsthand advice.

Remember that growing up happens to everyone. It is bittersweet for parents to watch their kids transform into young adults but there is no way to slow the process. Instead of trying to hold your kids back or keep them in a bubble, show them how to be responsible in adolescence so that when they finally do leave your nest, they are ready to be successful adults.

Above all, keep in mind that parenting doesn’t stop when kids start to enter adulthood—it just changes. With the right adjustments, you can ensure your child blossoms into their young adult years and that you make it out in one piece, too.

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