The Book of the Dad
By: Mark Anders, Steve Calechman, Ben Hewitt, Greg Melville, and T. Edward Nickens
Mar 10, 2007 - 10:01:38 PM
Thirty-five simple rules for surviving the toughest 18 years of your life
1 REDUCE SIDS ANXIETY. SIDS deaths have declined more than 50 percent since the
American Academy of Pediatrics started its Back to Sleep campaign, which recommends
always putting your baby to sleep on his back in a crib with no blankets or toys. This
approach is equally important for daytime naps, according to a new study in the
International Journal of Epidemiology. If you have a helicopter wife, one who constantly
hovers over the crib, consider a Halo SleepSack, a sleeveless blanket/swaddle that takes the
place of loose clothing that can bunch up around the baby's nose and mouth. It is the first
product endorsed by the SIDS Alliance ($33; halosleep.com). After six months, you can
ease up on the worry. SIDS isn't a concern at that point.
2 INDUCE FASTER SLEEP. It has long been suspected that a consistent bedtime routine
helps babies fall asleep better, and a study supported by Johnson's presented at the 2007
Pediatric Sleep Medicine Conference confirmed it. Babies treated to a soothing regimen--a
bath and a massage, followed by quiet activities--fell asleep 37 percent faster, stayed asleep
23 percent longer, and spent 50 percent less time awake during the night.
3 LEARN LIFESAVING SKILLS. Six hours of classes sounds bad, but in about the same
amount of time you would burn watching a baseball double-header or racing a half
Ironman, you could learn CPR and first aid--skills that can save a life--at your local
American Red Cross. Prioritize to make it happen. It's worth paying the $75 to get your
favorite babysitter certified as well.
4 AVOID SYMPATHY FLAB. Up to 65 percent of expectant fathers exhibit some of their
pregnant wives' symptoms, whether it's weight gain, nausea, or headaches, according to
various studies. New evidence indicates that this tubbing up isn't psychosomatic--it has
ancestral roots. Expectant male monkeys show significant weight gain during their mates'
pregnancies, suggesting that they're preparing for the rigors of fatherhood in the jungle,
reported Biology Letters. Since the missus will be tired a lot, use her naptime to become
reacquainted with the rowing machine in the basement.
5 TRAIN HER MEMORY. Changing just one component of your baby's over-crib mobile
every week exercises her memory by forcing her to compare what's there now to what was
6 SERVE HIM BRAIN FOOD. Just as visual cues nurture your toddler's intellect, so can
nutritional stimuli. Babies who are breast-fed for at least six months have a significant IQ
advantage over babies who are weaned early, according to neurologist David Perlmutter,
MD, author of Raise a Smarter Child By Kindergarten. That's because human breast milk is
the world's best source of DHA, a fat that triggers the brain to produce brain growth
hormone and build cells. Not possible? Other DHA-rich foods: fish (in limited amounts),
cod liver oil, and formula mixes that include algae-derived DHA supplements, such as
Enfamil Lipil and Similac Advance.
7 PLAN FOR COLLEGE PAYMENTS. As dizzying as the tax codes have become, it's now
easier to figure out how to best save for your child's college tuition: Invest in a state 529
plan. Last August, Congress made permanent a law that allows qualified withdrawals from a
529 to be free from federal income tax. Plus, the savings you have in a 529 don't count
against federal financial-aid calculations when it's in the name of the dependent student.
Each 529 plan is different, so do some comparison shopping at morningstar.com. The
Chicago-based mutual fund rating service has a 529 section that lets you compare all 50
plans. Check what benefits exist for in-state residents and look for plans that offer low fees
and index funds.
8 GET MORE SEX (PART ONE). First step: Don't try. She already has one person pawing
her. Expect a three-month postpartum window in which to seduce her all over again, says
Greg Bishop, author of Hit the Ground Crawling: Lessons From 150,000 New Fathers.
Your best move? Bathe the baby. It gives your wife back some time and makes a good
visual--you washing the baby's hair, wrapping her in a towel, dressing her. "That's the guy
she'll be in love with again," he says. Your second big job? Stop any crying. Treat it like any
troubleshooting problem and run through a checklist of possible causes: empty stomach,
wet diaper, too hot, too cold. When all else fails, go for a walk or drive. Motion is
soothing, and new visuals are engaging. At the very least, you're getting the bawling out of
the house and giving Mom some peace--and a chance to save up some energy that might
possibly be redirected at you.
9 GET MORE SEX (PART TWO). You've shown yourself to be the baby-washing, noise-
diffusing superdad--now you're ready to re-engage in what made you parents to begin
with. What will follow is foreplay that will rival the Godfather trilogy. Think exquisitely
slow plot development. Be patient. When the moment finally arrives, remember that her
body has changed and your tried-and-tested techniques may no longer be what she likes.
Embark on a voyage of rediscovery. Be sure to have lubrication handy and consider
encouraging her to be on top: It gives her more control--something Don Michael Corleone
10 RAISE A JUNIOR SHAKESPEARE. Your kids will ignore your advice for most of their
lives, but right now they're at their most attentive. Indeed, in families with two working
parents, fathers had greater impact than mothers on their children's language development
between the ages of 2 and 3, according to a new study published in the Journal of Applied
Psychology. The researchers advise dads to use a diverse vocabulary when speaking, but that
doesn't mean you should start reciting Herodotus. Instead, provide creative and dramatic
play-by-play, which describes both the activities you are doing and the surroundings, giving
your child an aural context for what he or she is seeing.
11 WIN OVER A PICKY EATER. Be persistent. It takes longer than previously thought--
eight to 15 exposures--for a kid to accept a new food, says a study in the Journal of the
American Dietetic Association. So if your tot tries something and spits it out, don't push,
but don't give up either.
12 CEMENT YOUR AUTHORITY. Admitting mistakes not only feels good--it is good.
"The way to gain true, lasting authority with your child is by being truthful and emotionally
honest--not by hiding your screw-ups," says Marc Zimmerman, professor of public health
and psychology at the University of Michigan. If you yell at your kid and later wish you
hadn't, say so. If you forget your daughter's soccer game and feel bad about it, tell her.
Your emotional honesty is a bridge to your child. Cross it often.
13 CALCULATE THE APPROPRIATE PUNISHMENT. Base your penal code around
privilege withdrawal, and calculate your sentences depending on age, advises Larry J.
Koenig, PhD, author of Smart Discipline: Fast, Lasting Solutions for Your Child's Self-
Esteem and Your Peace of Mind.
Ages 3 to 5: Measure in minutes. It might be as short as a few minutes (for instance, if the
infraction happens during a car ride, you might take away a privilege for the duration of the
trip) or as long as 180 minutes.
Privilege withdrawal: Take away what is logical. If a toy is being used as a weapon,
Ages 6 to 12: Measure in hours. It might be until "after lunch" or "bedtime" or "tomorrow."
Privilege withdrawal: Toys or watching TV.
Ages 13 to 18: Measure in days, but don't go over a week. Your kid may lose sight of the
end date and try to break free.
Privilege withdrawal: Cell phone, computer, socializing with friends.
14 QUELL A TANTRUM. Don't try reasoning, bribes, or threats. If your child is having a
meltdown in a grocery store, he has no capacity to hear you. Your best bet is to scoop him
up and let him purge outside, says psychologist Lawrence Cohen, author of Playful
Parenting. Cohen also advises taking preventative measures: Schedule 30 minutes of
playtime before running errands--it gives him quality time with you and will tire him out.
Lock eyes before leaving for the store. If your connection is strong, he won't feel the need
to erupt in the cookie aisle.
15 RAISE THEIR EQ. Emotional quotient (EQ), the social intelligence marker that
corporate headhunters value so highly, can be nurtured in your children, says Dr.
Perlmutter. Here's how:
Name feelings. Kids have a hard time giving names to their feelings (e.g., fear, anger,
jealousy). By helping them identify their feelings, you're helping them gain control of them
and recoginze them in others.
Endorse emotions. It's almost intuitive to soothe our kids by denying their feelings
("There's nothing to be scared of"). Instead, validate their feelings ("I can see that you're
scared--what are you afraid of?").
16 PRAISE WITHOUT SPOILING. Rampant, unearned praise is not only ineffective, but
also detrimental--your kid can become addicted to praise and measure her self-worth
accordingly. The key, says Koenig, is to follow a three-part script that points out exactly
what your child did to earn your praise ("I see you're helping your little brother with his
homework"), labels the action with a positive characteristic ("That shows me you really care
about your brother and want him to succeed"), and expresses your approval ("I like that
17 SHOW THE LOVE. Studies show that kids who receive physical contact and one-on-
one attention grow up to be more secure, says Kyle Pruett, professor of child psychiatry at
the Yale School of Medicine. To make it happen, schedule a weekly slot in your calendar
and surprise your kid with "spontaneous" playtime. There should be no distractions; shut off
the BlackBerry, the TV, heck, even your landline--this is damn hard. Submit. Follow your
child's lead and show him you're interested in what he wants to do. Pruett also advises dads
to get in the habit of whatever physical-intimacy rituals they're comfortable with, whether
it's European-style cheek kisses or personalized handshakes.
18 FUEL HIS COMPETITIVE STREAK. Boys as young as 4 years old start to compete with
their fathers, whether it's sprinting to the car or wrestling on the sofa. Nurture that spirit.
Let him win a lot and slowly ramp it up, so that he has to work harder for the victory. "It's
a way for a kid to develop a sense of being strong, and it lets him test his muscles," says
Justin Richardson, assistant professor of psychiatry at Columbia University. He'll start to
walk more confidently and be less of an easy mark for bullies. This might also bridge a
philosophical difference with your wife: You're not teaching fighting, but you're satisfying
your need to help him stand up for himself.
19 STAY CONNECTED EVEN WHEN YOU'RE ON THE ROAD. Some tasks of
fatherhood are tough; this one is easy. Skip the extravagant gifts, which only put you in the
impossible position of outdoing it on your next trip. More important is to make a habit of
touching base once a day. "You don't have to say a lot," says psychologist Anthony Wolf.
"Just describe your day and ask what your child is doing. It's the feeling of connectedness
20 TEACH THEM TO RESIST PEER PRESSURE. Think of role-playing as character-
building karaoke--perfect for helping teach your children strategies for resisting harmful
peer pressure. Make a family night of it: Order pizza, get all the siblings in on the game,
and hand out the parts. 1 Let your kids be the bad guys. Have them offer you drugs or an
invitation to an underage kegger. 2 Teach them to "know their no's." Answer their
invitation in four different ways. Aggressively: "No way! Are you nuts?" Passively: "Uh, I
dunno. Not really." Judgmentally: "No, and you shouldn't either." Assertively: "No. I don't
want to do that." 3 Ask the follow-up: "Which of these would work best?" The answer is
the assertive response, because it puts an end to the pressure. If your child responds, "I
don't think I could say that," ask what he or she could say or do. 4 Have them model you.
Prop up a full-length mirror. Present the bad habit and have them watch themselves say no.
Encourage them to stand up straight, make eye contact, say it quickly, and end with a
disarmingly positive spin. "No. But I'll see you at the game, right?" 5 Suggest a follow-up.
Teach them to follow "no" with creative alternate activities.
21 TEACH THEM PERSONAL FINANCE. The best way to learn about money is to gain
experience with the real thing. For most kids, that means an allowance. Instead of simply
forking over the Friday cash, turn it into a teaching tool. Set a time and place for the
transaction, say, Friday, 6 p.m. sharp, at the kitchen table. An appointment underscores
that this isn't a frivolous matter. Give a specific amount every week, and ask for a weekly
accounting of your kids' finances. How much is in the piggy bank? How much was spent
over the last week? Where did the money go? The point is to teach your children how a
firm grasp of personal finances, no matter the scale, can increase purchasing power. Have
them set savings goals for down-the-road purchases--a new iPod, a wakeboard--and keep
written accounts of how much is saved and how much more is needed. Consider setting
aside a weekly percentage for charitable giving--to a church, a soup kitchen, an
environmental group, perhaps. Steer the results--you shouldn't let an empathetic child
earmark half the allowance for the local animal shelter--but give them plenty of real
decision power over their personal finances.
22 CORRECT WITHOUT CRITICIZING. If your kid is blowing off her math homework,
it might be because she's lazy. But don't tell her that. "Criticism can destroy relationships,"
says Koenig. "When you're trying to correct a behavior, you need to stick to the facts and
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