Yes, Dad, It’s Okay to…

…tell your child that something they’re wearing makes them look ridiculous.

…tell your child that you love them, whether girl or boy.  Kids need to hear more of the corrections for them to learn – which can be tough on the ego – and knowing that they’re loved will at least take some of the sting out of it.  It’s probably something you should tell me more than anything else and as I write this, I’m realizing that I don’t do it enough.

…tell your child that what they’ve done is bad or dumb.  Many adults no longer want to take the time and effort to do so for fear of offending or upsetting the parent, which means that  the kid isn’t going to hear unless you deliver it.  As I’ve told any of my own kids on any number of occasions for a smart kid, that was an incredibly stupid thing to do.  You know better than that.

…take action about the bad, dumb or poorly done thing.  There are consequences to behavior and sheer stupidity and it’s not going to damage them to get called up short and it  could frankly save their lives.

…tell your child that he can do better.  That said, be ready to provide concrete and hard details as to deficiencies and then be ready to assist with how to improve; surprisingly, many kids will appreciate it.  As one teen once told me, when I want praise on something that I’ve done for school, I take it to my mother.  Then I take it to my father to see what needs to be improved.

…raise your voice and/or speak sternly to your child.   Many fathers don’t realize that their voice is a valuable disciplinary tool that can be used to help maintain some order and discipline before things get completely out of hand.

…tell your child that it’s time to move on to something else, especially in terms of dealing with the electronics.  Kids typically have no sense of when to stop and electronics, particularly games, aren’t designed to help develop that so it’s up to the parents to say enough.  I’ve had to really work on handling the resulting whining that accompanies such a directive and I still have testy moments, but kids need to do more than just sit in front of a screen.

…squelch your child when they’re older and frankly, the teen ego sometimes needs it in order to be brought back into line.

…take privileges away even when they’re older.  They’ll survive without the car, cellphone and iPod for a period of time.  That said, it’s usually helpful to lay out such a prospect with the original groundrules so that you don’t come off as arbitrary and capricious.  I expect you home by 10 pm and if there’s a problem, contact me immediately.  If you’re late without contacting me, then you lose the use of the car for the next two days/the trip to the beach with the Jones family/the cellphone for a week/whatever works in the situation…

talk and share information with the parents of your child’s peers.  Kids and teens usually hate it when parents want to call other parents because it appears to limit their independence and at the worst, prevents them from conspiring to do something phenomenally stupid.  But a brief chat at least eases some of the angst and reassures that there are others who also pay attention and try to monitor what’s happening.  My son and his friend, Opie, were embarrassed when the boy’s father came to our front door to meet me one evening before his son’s first sleepover at our house.  I frankly appreciated it and could easily defend it to the two boys, who grumbled afterwards, and thoroughly understand why that father did what he did.  Thank God, I’m not alone here.

ask about what adults are overseeing things and nix plans when you’re not comfortable.  Hell, I did it last week.  Stupidity is contagious and in an adolescent brain, one of the last things to mature is that part which controls judgment and risk assessment.

Let the Kid Decide?

When is it appropriate to let the child make a decision of importance?  I’m fairly clear that as the parent, I have the final say in whether something happens or not, but when and how do I start to let the kid make some important decisions of his own?  Perhaps the most critical decision of a teen’s life is what happens after high school and if there’s no experience there because the ‘rents make all the decisions, then what happens?

The question raised it’s head – again – with Youngest, who’s entering fourth grade.  He was playing right field on a local little league all-star team in a double-elimination tournament several weeks ago, and the team was forced to play four games in four straight July days with no breaks.  He came off the field at the end of the first game, limping, and we noticed a limp after the second game as well.  By the afternoon before the third game, he came up to me limping and we treated it immediately with ice and ibuprofen; that third game went well for his bat but again, he came home with a slight limp.  Because this was now the fourth game in four straight days, our plan was to have a quiet day with a lot of rest and that’s the way the day went.  The problem arose, however, during the pregame warmups as he was shagging fly balls in the outfield and as I watched, I could see – in a single instant – when the look on his face showed that something had definitely gone wrong.  Since the coach was still busy with the other outfielders, he limped over to me and said that the knee hurt too bad to play.  Let’s be frank about what went through my mind.  The team only fielded ten players for nine positions, so there was no bench of which to speak and where would leave the rest of the team in 90+ degree heat?  Should I pull the Knute Rockne/Vince Lombardi take one for the team speech?  Honestly, what are people going to think of the boy for not going through and of me as well? 

As I looked at him, I quickly considered that I’d seen him play in the past with blistered feet and a shiner from taking a ball in the face.  He’d also been limping for three straight days with no qualms and while 98% of kids whine about little things, he’d come through some big ones without a whine.  As we talked with the coach, his options were to play in entirety, not at all or at least play for two innings and then sit.  The boy was clear that he couldn’t play and when I briefly revisited the question again, he was certain that he could no longer play.  The other aspect is that this is a child who’s playing for love of the game.  While there’s certainly responsibility to the team, there’s also a responsibility to protect that love of the game.  There’s no pay and to make a 9 year old play through even worse pain when he’s clearly played through some already would only damage that desire to play further.  I looked at the coach and confirmed what the boy said and like that, he was on the bench with ice on his knee.

So how do you handle such a situation?  There’s a fine line between understanding when to demand more of the kids and when to step back.  How do they respond to pressure?  What else is at stake for the options?  Are they prone to needless whining?  If they actually get their way, are they giving up something else that they obviously like?  Life can be damned hard and what our kids will have to face in the future is likely to be harder than ours and we do a disservice by letting them slide or coddling them.  The kids learn that they can manipulate us to avoid unpleasant situations and once they’re in the world, they’ll run into someone who is going to hand them their heads.  Yet if we repeatedly force the situation, then they’re defeated and learn that they have no ability to make an independent decision; there’s value in learning how to make a decision.  I’d like to enumerate any number of easily remembered bulletpoints, but it simply comes down to your own sense of the child and the situation at hand.  And like many times with children, there are probably going to be miscalls – and God  knows that I’ve made them.

As of now, Youngest is out of all running and impact sports for the near future as the orthopod to whom he was referred found legitimate damage to the knee.  The kid made the right call and frankly, I’m proud of how he handled the situation.  But that doesn’t mean that he gets a pass for the household chores.


PracticalDad Price Index:  August Index Up 1.1% in One Month

With the data crunched from the August pricing forays into three separate stores, the average cost of the 47 item grocery marketbasket rose to $187.05 from July’s $185.00, for a single month increase of 1.1%.  The August price index is now at 104.85 – from November 2010’s baseline level of 100 – for a 10 month rise of 4.85%. 

What’s notable about the August data is that of the 47 items in the basket, 17 – more than one third of the basket – saw their prices rise and six of these had price increases greater than 5%. 

Below is a summary chart of the final average prices, index levels and three month moving average of each month.


PracticalDad Price Index – Summary as of August 2011
Month Price ($) Index 3 Month M A
Nov 2010 178.39 100  
Dec 2010 180.30 101.07  
Jan 2011 179.51 100.63 100.56
Feb 2011 179.51 100.63 100.78
Mar 2011 180.51 101.08 100.78
Apr 2011 181.91 101.97 101.56
May 2011 182.10 102.08 101.71
Jun 2011 184.07 103.18 102.38
Jul 2011 185.00 103.71 102.99
Aug 2011 187.05 104.85 104.06














PracticalDad Price Index – August 2011
Item Size Category 6/11 7/11 8/11
hot dog rolls (ct) 8 bread 1.18 1.20 1.20
loaf, wht bread, store brand (oz) 20 bread 1.22 1.22 1.22
spaghetti, store brand (oz) 16 bread 1.21 1.21 1.24
child cereal, sugar flakes, store brand (oz) 17 cereal 2.90 2.90 2.90
cereal, rice chex, store brand (oz) 12.8 cereal 2.74 2.74 2.74
oatmeal, one minute, store brand (oz) 42 cereal 3.24 3.26 3.26
milk, 2% (gallon) 1 dairy 3.89 3.98 4.01
butter, unsalted, store brand (lb) 1 dairy 3.49 3.49 3.49
vanilla ice cream, store brand (qt) 1 dairy 2.01 2.01 2.01
grated parmesan cheese, store brand (oz) 8 dairy 3.08 3.08 3.08
American cheese, deli (lb) 1 dairy 5.52 5.52 5.52
peanut butter, store brand (oz) 28 grocery 2.96 2.96 3.06
grape jelly, store brand (oz) 32 grocery 1.92 1.92 1.99
kidney beans, dark, store brand (oz) 15.5 grocery .87 .87 .93
can green peas, store brand (oz) 15 grocery .92 .94 .96
can diced tomatoes, store brand (oz) 14.5 grocery 1.01 1.01 1.01
can cut green beans, store brand (oz) 14.5 grocery .92 .94 .96
can corn, store brand (oz) 15.25 grocery .92 .94 .96
spaghetti sauce, store brand (oz) 26 grocery 1.22 1.22 1.22
cola, store brand (L) 2 grocery .96 .96 .96
caffeinated coffee, store brand (oz) 13 grocery 4.15 4.15 4.32
diapers, store brand (ct) 100 hlth/bty 18.28 18.63 18.63
formula, Enfamil Premium , Lipil (oz) 23.4 hlth/bty 22.94 22.94 23.29
child ibuprofen, OS, store brand (oz) 4 hlth/bty 4.96 4.99 4.96
adult ibuprofen, caplet, store brand (ct) 100 hlth/bty 6.89 6.89 7.41
shampoo, Suave (oz) 22.5 hlth/bty 1.71 1.71 1.81
pads, long/maximum, Poise (ct) 42 hlth/bty 16.09 16.09 16.09
bath soap, Dial (ct) 8 hlth/bty 5.39 5.39 5.39
aluminum foil, store brand (sq ft) 75 hshld 2.97 2.97 2.97
kitchen trash bags, store brand (ct) 26 hshld 4.24 4.16 4.31
paper towels, 2 ply, store brand (ct) 8 hshld 7.26 7.26 7.26
hot dogs, meat franks, store brand (oz) 16 meat 2.56 2.69 2.69
ground beef, 80% lean (lb) 1 meat 3.39 3.46 3.46
eggs, large (doz) 1 meat 1.69 1.81 1.78
lunchmeat, deli ham, chopped (lb) 1 meat 4.06 4.06 4.39
chicken, roaster (lb) 1 meat 1.59 1.56 1.66
fish sticks, Gortons (ct) 44 meat 7.86 7.66 7.49
tuna, water packed, store brand (oz) 5 meat .81 .81 .81
bananas (lb) 1 produce .59 .59 .59
apples, Red Delicious, bag (lb) 3 produce 3.76 3.76 3.99
carrots, bag (lb) 2 produce 2.39 2.39 2.39
OJ, non-concentrate, store brand (oz) 64 produce 2.76 2.76 2.79
potatoes, Russet (lb) 5 produce 3.99 4.32 4.32
sugar, store brand (lb) 5 staple 3.22 3.22 3.22
flour, All Purpose, store brand (lb) 5 staple 2.09 2.20 2.20
canola oil, store brand (oz) 48 staple 4.52 4.46 4.39
rice, white, long-grain, store brand (lb) 2 staple 1.73 1.73 1.73
                           Total     184.07 185.00 187.05


Toast and Blessing:  Public Praise of the Kids

The knock on men is that we’re typically uncommunicative and insensitive, whether with our mates or our kids, and this is especially the case with public praise.  It might stem from uncertainty of knowing what to say, but more likely from a fear of sounding too sentimental or simply dumb.  But the kids want your approval – certainly private if not public – and there are very few children who don’t want to hear it.  When we fathers pass on these rare opportunities, we’re forgetting the Principal Law of Fatherhood – that it’s no longer about us – and doing a real disservice to our children.

If you doubt the impact and value of these moments, I wish that you could have witnessed such a moment at a graduation party that I recently attended.  The party was to celebrate the high school graduation of a young man, the last child in his immediate family.  After time for visiting and eating, the father approached the front of the room and took a microphone, at which time the crowd grew quiet.  After thanking everyone for attending, he told the young man that he had a few words for his benefit.  The son advanced to the forefront of the crowd and stood directly and attentively before his father as the older man withdrew a simple index card from his shirt pocket. 

The father read from the card in an unadorned style with no apparent deviation from what he’d penned earlier.  What he’d written was straightforward and simple but the content of his message had a noticeable impact upon his son, who perceptibly straightened as he listened.  The words were a combination of blessing and toast, an acknowledgement of his passage into manhood and the pride felt for the man that he’d both become and into which he would continue to grow.  It concluded with a few short words of simple and heartfelt advice.  The remarks probably lasted no more than two minutes but the brevity didn’t detract in any way.  For the young man, the effect was clear.  He walked forward at the conclusion and swept his father into a bearhug that caused the older man to stumble and recover before the two of them collapsed in a heap. 

Children, whether boy or girl, crave the attention and affection of their fathers and such a public proclamation of love – and respect – will carry the youngster a long way, no matter what road is chosen.  It’s a practice based upon ancient traditions when the parent would finally acknowledge that the children who they’d raised were now adults and equals, deserving of their own respect outside of the family shadow.  When I left for college decades ago, my own father wrote a long letter that he packed into my trunk, to be found when I unpacked.  I’d long ago decided that such a communication would go to each of my own children, but watching this event has me rethinking the format of the message.  Perhaps I’ll have to work up the courage to seize such a moment  as it appears in the future.