Homework — Is It Your Child’s or Yours?

parent doing child's homework

parent doing child's homeworkDear Mr. Dad: I’m an involved dad and I often help my kids with their homework. Sometimes, in the interests of speeding things along, I give them the answers. Over the past year, both kids (11 and 9) are coming to me more and more often, asking for help even when I know they don’t need it. I tell them to figure it out, they whine, and eventually I give in to the pressure. How can I get them to start doing their work by themselves?

A: It’s great that you’re an involved dad—and it’s great that you’re taking an active role in your kids’ education. But by doing their homework for them (let’s be honest—that’s exactly what happening), you’re undermining their ability to learn good study habits. What’s far worse is that you’re sending them the very clear message that you don’t think they’re smart enough to do their own work. From what you say, they’re starting to believe you, and that’s tragic.

So the question you asked: How can you get the kids to start doing their work by themselves—is the wrong one. The real issue is: How (and when) are you going to stop caving when they ask for help that you acknowledge they don’t really need?

The answer is pretty simple: You need to stop cold turkey and you need to do it now.
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Lexus ES300 Hybrid

Lexus ES300h - 2

I’ve never stolen a car—even though the “Fast and Furious” movies and “Gone in 60 Seconds” make grand theft auto seem so glamourous. But after spending a week with the Lexus ES300 hybrid, I was more than a little tempted (yes, Lexus loaned me the car, but that in no way influenced my opinions).

Really and truly, there’s not a whole to say about this car except that it is absolutely amazing. But of course, one wouldn’t expect any less from Lexus. So I’m going to skip over the typical review items and focus on a few lesser-known features.

lexus es300It’s a magnet. As a single guy, I’ve noticed over the years that the amount of attention women pay to me changes depending on the circumstances. When I’m out and about by myself, women often smile at me (despite my fantasies, I’m sure most are just being polite). Going out for a walk with my dog (who’s, admittedly, cuter than I am) doubles the number of smiles. And when my daughters were little, going out with them probably tripled the smiles. I always thought that the combination of me + dog + daughters was the best thing ever. But me + dog + one daughter (the older two are all grown up) + the ES300 was complete insanity. I am, however, still single.

It makes the roads safer for everyone. The ES300 has all the latest and greatest safety features: blind spot sensors, lane change alerts, more air bags than you can count, anti-lock brakes, and on and on. But after testing out the zero-to-70 factor (which was really impressive) a few times and working the suspension by taking a few turns faster than I should have, I found myself actually obeying the speed limit. The reason? Because it’s such a joy to drive that I wanted to make the ride last as long as possible.

lexus es300h clockIt has a clock. Yes, the ES300 is gorgeous to look at (even without my daughters, my dog, or me in the picture), and the interior styling is sleek and stylish. But one of the classiest features of all was the analog clock. For some reason that tiny touch of retro made the whole car seem even more luxurious.


lexus es300h interiorIt’s beyond comfortable. As an NPR addict, I often stay in the car after arriving at my destination so I can listen to the end of an interesting segment. With the ES300, I’d frequently take the long way to wherever I was going and, when I arrived, I’d sometimes just sit there, usually with the radio off, reveling in the luxurious interior. My passengers, whether they sat in the front seat or the rear, said very much the same thing. And somehow, driving around looking for parking became a pleasure instead of the trigger for a murderous rage.

Bottom line? At $50,000, it’s a bit out of my price range, so I’m saving my pennies. But it might be cheaper to just hire one of those “Gone in 60 Seconds” guys to do their thing.

Five Ways to Get Your Child Enthusiastic about Learning Music

music lessons

music lessonsIntroducing children to music early in childhood—regardless of their musical aptitude—has a lot of advantages. One of the most important is that it greatly enhances their coordination, concentration, and cognition. It also instills the love of storytelling and teaches them to appreciate art and its different forms.

Exposure to music also helps kids explore new cultures and appreciate cultural diversity. Still, getting your child excited about learning music isn’t always easy. Here are a few ideas that should make things a little easier:

Recognize Talent
Your first step is to recognize your child’s aptitude and support it. This might take a little bit of trial and error. It may not be immediately obvious, but every child has some kind of inclination, whether it is percussion, violin, guitar, singing, chimes, or something else. Don’t expect your child to follow in your footsteps—you may love digeridoo, but that doesn’t mean he or she will.

Get Professional Classes
Once you’ve figured out the instrument that strikes your child’s fancy—guitar, for example—the next step is to find a professional who offers guitar lessons for kids. Getting the right teacher from the start is important if you want to make music education fulfilling and engaging for your child. Getting a recommendation from someone you trust is ideal, but if you can’t, there are a number of websites where you can search for music teachers according to your zip code.

Whether you enroll your child in a group music class or hire a teacher for private, in-home lessons, the teacher should be inspiring, encouraging, and have a good command of technique. Getting good instruction now could pay off in the long run: some studies indicate that children with musical skills do better with college admissions.

Make it Interesting
Scales, chords, and etudes are an important part of learning any instrument. But you can make things a little more interesting by asking your child’s teacher to incorporate some of the child’s favorite songs. Being able to play something recognizable is a great confidence booster. And in the hands of a good teacher, there’s something to learn in just about every piece of music, pop, classical, jazz, or hip-hop.

Invest in Good Equipment
Having a quality instrument is important, even for children, in part because it’ll be easier to play and will sounds. In the beginning, it’s a good idea to rent whatever instrument your child is learning. You can always buy later. Whether you rent or buy, make sure your child learns to treat the instrument with love and respect.

Help Your Child Set a Goal
What’s your goal in having your child learn music? What’s your child’s goal? For you, it should be to get your child to appreciate music and, perhaps, learn a skill that could give him or her a lot of enjoyment. For your child, it may be to be a rock star, to entertain friends, or just to play along with favorite tunes. Get your child involved in this goal setting process, and help him or her establish both short-term (learn to play a particular song) and long-term goals. Most importantly, keep those goals reasonable. The more accessible and achievable they are, the more your child will enjoy making music and the more motivated he or she will be to practice and learn more.


Poop. Nothing to Us, But CARE Knows How to Use it to Save Lives

CARE knows how to save lives with goat dung

care knows how to use goat dungThanks to CARE for sponsoring this post. We flush our own down the toilet, but there’s something amazing about animal poop.

For decades, anyone who’s had a garden knows the value of horse manure and steer manure. More recently, conservationists have been raising money to save African elephants by creating and selling artwork from elephant poop. A few days ago, I read an article about a guy in India who’s trying to save endangered rhinos (who are being killed because ground-up rhino horn is supposedly an aphrodisiac) by giving poachers an alternative way to earn money from rhinos: make paper out of their dung and then sell it.

But perhaps the best use of animal feces I’ve come across is happening in the village of Haji Pur of Rajanpur, Punjab, Pakistan, where goat poop is literally saving lives.

CARE knows how to save lives with goat dungMalaria is one of the leading causes of death among children in rural Pakistan. But apparently, burning goat droppings in a special container made of mud drives away mosquitos, which are carriers of malaria and other deadly diseases, including dengue fever. This is especially important in places like Hiji Pur, where the nearest hospital or medical facility is so far away that most residents can’t afford to make the trip. As a result, many people who might otherwise have survived don’t have access to potentially lifesaving treatments.

I don’t think we’ll be seeing goat-poop mosquito repellent here anytime soon, but in Pakistan, where burning it at night allows people to go to bed confident that they won’t get bitten, it’s a low-cost, highly effective way to save lives.

CARE, a wonderful organization that has boots on the ground in impoverished countries around the world. They’ve discovered that innovation isn’t always a top-down kind of thing. In many cases, great ideas come from the bottom up (in this case, the great idea literally comes from the bottom…)

Here’s where you can help—and don’t worry, it’s not very expensive. For only $45, you can buy a goat for a family. The milk that goat produces will provide much needed nutrition—and a way to make some extra money. And CARE knows how to use that animal’s dung to save lives.

Read more about this story and many of the other remarkably inspiring ways CARE knows how to make the world a better place for people who need our help more than we can imagine.

A bit more about CARE. CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty with a commitment to empowering women and girls. CARE is committed to its mission to serve individuals and families in the poorest communities in the world. CARE seeks a world of hope, tolerance and social justice, where poverty has bene overcome and people live in dignity and security. How could you not want to support this organization?

3 Lessons From March Madness to Teach Our Kids

march madness 2015

march madness 2015March Madness. The biggest basketball event of the year and a sporting spectacle that rivals even the Super Bowl. The NCAA Tournament is the ultimate single elimination, win-or-go-home clash of 68 teams, and at the office it keeps most of us more focused on filling out brackets and sneaking game highlights than working.

On the surface, it’s all “just basketball,” but college athletics can demonstrate some pretty big life lessons to our kids. Every season produces great stories and the NCAA Tournament is no exception. In fact, it’s where the best ones are made. Our children would do well to learn these life lessons:

Kevin Ware: The Value of Perseverance

The 2012-2013 Louisville Cardinals were looking hot in the NCAA Tournament, and many brackets had them in the Final Four and beyond. Louisville guard Kevin Ware was one of the first players off the bench and producing impressive numbers in March Madness. That is, until it all came to a terrifying halt in an Elite Eight matchup versus Duke.

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Initiating a Divorce: The Proper Steps, Part 2

In the first part of this article, we talked about the importance of separation from your soon-to-be-ex, working with an attorney, and keeping your spouse in the loop on what’s happening. Now we continue with the next steps in the process.

It’s Time for Negotiations

The negotiations can quickly become the most overwhelming part of your divorce. In most cases, a trial is set for a year away, and you’ll need to participate in a temporary hearing to establish child custody and support issues. From requesting exclusive use of the marital home and temporary custody of minor children to who gets the car, everything will be covered.

What Happens if You Can’t Agree?

If at this point you cannot agree, the attorneys involved may submit your issues in question to the Judge during what is known as a pretrial conference. Pretrial conferences are held in the Judge’s chamber, and both of your attorneys will need to be present.

Your attorney will present their position to the Judge, and the Judge will make an educated recommendation for settlement. It’s important to remember that the Judge’s pretrial recommendations are not set in stone, but they’re a sign as to how the Judge thinks the case should be settled. In most cases, the pretrial conference is the greatest motivation for agreeing on a final settlement without needing to prepare for a full trial.

The Final Step

Once you’ve made it into the divorce court, it can become ugly in no time at all. Your attorney’s job is to win the case for you. Are you worried about a jury? Don’t be. Most divorce trials are held with only a Judge present. Once you get through the part where you promise to tell the truth, things take a serious turn. You’ll have to settle on the entitlement to divorce, child custody/visitation rights, distribution of property, child support, spousal support, and much more. Of course, if you don’t have children, you only have to worry about a few of these things. If your spouse isn’t happy about the results, they possess the right to appeal. If the Judge grants the appeal, it’s back to the courthouse to start over.

Divorce is Not for the Faint-hearted

Divorce isn’t easy, but no one ever said it was. If you think divorce is the only option you have in your marriage, be sure to prepare yourself for a year-long battle. While you and your spouse may not disagree on a lot of things, divorce has a way of bringing out the worst in anyone. Choose your stance wisely, and make sure you get what you deserve.