Loveable Characters

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and chances are, you probably haven’t bought your turkey yet. But we’ll bet you’re already on the lookout for Holiday presents for everyone on your lists. Here are some fun options that will bring a smile to everyone’s face.

rilakkumaRilakkuma (Aliquantum)
We know, we know, it sounds like something from Pippi Longstocking (who lived in Villa Villekulla), but Rilakkuma is the latest in a long line of adorable, collectable characters from Japan to have finally made it to the U.S. If your kids (or you) are into anime, all things Japanese, or simply cute plush toys, this one should be on your list. Some people have called Rilakkuma a “mysterious brand,” which is odd, considering that he’s been quite popular in their homeland for more than a decade. Here’s the backstory: Rilakkuma (a bear) and his friends Korilakkuma (another bear) and Kiiroitori (a chick) appeared out of nowhere in the Tokyo apartment of a hard-working woman named Kaoru. The three friends—each with a different personality—go on adventures and make mischief while Kaoru is at the office. All three are soft and sweet for little kids to cuddle with, plus Rilakkuma has a secret zipper pocket in his back for hiding small treasures. But, anime and Japanese crossovers are popular with plenty of tweens and teens too. Available at FAO Schwarz and Hot Topic, from $8.99 to $199.99.

snoopySnoopy, Charlie Brown, and many, many more figures (Schleich)
Schleich makes a dizzying array of realistic figurines and toys, including animals (from chicks and frogs to whales), mythological creatures (including elves, dragons, unicorns, and Medusa), and your favorite cartoon characters. Some of the most popular items are the riding sets and Peanuts. The riding sets come with a harness, saddle, rider, and a horse, of course. The Peanuts characters—Charlie Brown, Lucy, Snoopy, and the rest of the gang—come individually or in “scenery packs,” which include several characters and scenes from the comic strip featuring those characters. Definitely not your average plastic toys, Schleich figures are high quality, solid, and beautifully hand painted with amazing detail. Collectors will love Schleich, as will kids ages 3 and up. The figures come individually or in beautiful sets with buildings, vehicles, and other accessories. Prices vary widely, depending on the size of the figure and the size of the kit, so check the site.

rumble fistsRumble Fists and WWE John Cena Spar Bag (Tech 4 Kids)
Playing with gorgeous collectible toys is great, but after a few days cooped up in the house, the kids are going to be climbing the walls (and you won’t be far behind). Tech 4 Kids’ Rumble Fists and WWE Spar Bag are perfect for making playtime more active. Rumble Fists are giant WWE-themed “gloves” that fit over kids’ hands and make noise (a punching sound and adoring fans cheering) when they touch anything. Kids can choose from John Cena, Dolph Ziggler, or the Rock. Rumble Fists are squishy so they won’t do much damage, but you should have some safety rules in place.

spar bagRumble Fists go perfectly with the WWE John Cena Spar Bag. It’s about three feet (or a meter) high and has a full-figure image of John Cena in mid-punch. Inflate it, fill the bottom with water, and flail away. The heavy base makes it pop right back up after every smack. It’s a great way to work up a sweat, and it’ll give kids bigger kids an alternative to tormenting younger siblings. Rumble Fists are $24.99, the Spar Bag is $9.99. Available at your favorite retailer or

3 Ways to Deal With a Teen Who Really, Really Loves Video Games

mrdad - kids love video games

mrdad - kids love video gamesIt’s no secret that teenagers love video games—the Palo Alto Medical Foundation reports that 97 percent of teens in the U.S. today play video games, and sales of video games are steadily growing. However, at times, it can be hard to deal with your teen’s love of video games in a reasonable way. To help this common problem, here are just a few ways you can deal with a teenage video game fiend without losing your mind.

Set Boundaries

One of the first things you can do to head off future problems with video games is to set boundaries. Set clear times for when gaming is allowed such as after homework or chores are done or on weekends. Additionally, it’s important to be clear about the kind of game content you will allow in your home as well as games that are simply off limits. By setting these boundaries clearly and early on, you can avoid your teen pushing the limits of the rules.

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When it Comes to Divorce, Sharing is Caring

Dear Mr. Dad: I’m getting divorced, and the only thing my soon-to-be ex-husband and I agree on is that we want what’s best for our children. He’s been talking about joint custody and co-parenting and I’m leaning in that direction. But a friend of mine who went through a nasty divorce a few years ago says that joint custody never works out and that I should go for full custody. What do you suggest?

A: At the risk of sounding harsh, my first suggestion is that you spend less time with your friend. She may have had a bad experience, but that has nothing to do with you. The fact that you and your nearly ex are putting your children’s need first tells me that you’re going to prove her wrong.

Assuming that there’s no history of violence or abuse (and I’m sure you would have mentioned it if there were), it’s almost always in the best interests of the children to spend as much time as possible with each of their parents. The best way to accomplish that goal is with “shared parenting” (sometimes called co-parenting). Joint custody sounds nice, but it can mean anything from having the kids live half time with each parent to having them live 80% of the time with one parent (usually the mom), with the other relegated to visitor status. With shared parenting, both parents have the right—and, maybe more importantly, the obligation—to be actively involved in their children’s lives and to agree on major decisions that affect the children (the big ones usually involve health and education).

Joint custody benefits everyone, according to Wake Forest University Professor Linda Nielsen. She cites research showing that children in shared parenting situations do better academically, emotionally, psychologically, and socially. As young adults, these children have better relationships with both of their parents than those who lived primarily with one parent (again, usually the mom). Shared parenting benefits the parents as well. Former couples who share parenting are overwhelmingly happier with their custody arrangements than those who don’t. They fight less and are more satisfied with the overall outcome of their break-up.
Shared parenting does not mean that you have to spend huge amounts of time with your ex or that you have to agree on everything. A study that followed 120 shared divorced-and-co-parenting couples for 20 years found that half of the couples were “cooperative but not friends,” meaning that they made decisions together but didn’t have much contact with each other. Twenty percent were “dissolved duos” who cooperated with each other but had no other contact, and 10 percent were “perfect pals” who saw each other frequently. Only 20 percent were what the researchers called “angry foes.”

Judges tend to like shared parenting too, because they have to deal with fewer angry, squabbling parents.

Some critics of shared parenting—such as your friend—have claimed that it’s used as a way for one parent (usually the dad) to decrease child support payments. There is absolutely no reliable data to support that claim. In fact, mothers who share parenting with their ex are “just as satisfied as the sole residence mothers with the money they were receiving from the father,” says Nielsen.

On a different note, many readers know about the Mr. Dad Seal of Approval, which recognizes products and services that support and encourage father-child relationships. We’re gearing up for our 2014 Winter awards, and the deadline is looming. So if you know of a company that has products that fit the bill, direct them to

How Believers and Non-Believers Can Create Strong Marriages

Dale McGowan, author of In Faith and In Doubt.
How religious believers and nonbelievers can create strong marriages and loving families.
Issues: Negotiation tips to set the stage for harmonious relationships; dealing with pressure from extended family; helping kids make their own choices about religious identity; handling holidays, churchgoing, baptism, circumcision, religious literacy.

Successful Co-Parenting + In Faith and In Doubt

Karen Bonnell, author of The Co-Parents’ Handbook.
Raising well-adjusted, resilient, and resourceful kids in a two-home family
Issues: Building a mutually respectful co-parenting relationship; keeping children at the forefront while protecting them from adult conflict and concerns; helping children build resilience and competence in the face of family change; successful strategies and protocols for living in a two-home family.

Dale McGowan, author of In Faith and In Doubt.
How religious believers and nonbelievers can create strong marriages and loving families.
Issues: Negotiation tips to set the stage for harmonious relationships; dealing with pressure from extended family; helping kids make their own choices about religious identity; handling holidays, churchgoing, baptism, circumcision, religious literacy.