Learning about Fatherhood from the Kung Fu Panda

kung fu panda+dadDads play a unique–and vital–role in their children’s life. And a dad’s children play an equally unique–and equally vital–role in his life.

Being a dad is a big deal. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. There are plenty of dads out there who struggle with the job; it is not uncommon at all. Whether you are a new dad or an old hat, you and I know one thing for sure: the moment you became a dad, your life changed forever. It is a big commitment but it is also one of the biggest blessings that life can hand you.

The more involved a dad is, the more successful his children are. A dad’s guidance can determine a child’s social life, academic success, and future accomplishments. And being a dad is no doubt a very tough job. But spending time with them, that is a no-brainer. How a dad spends his time tells his kids what is important to him. By sharing time with your kids, you are showing them they are important to you.

I think we can all take a little guidance from Po the protagonist and his father. They have a special relationship, and with the love and support of his father, Po is able to overcome some unique challenges.

Eighty-six percent of dads spend more time with their children today than their own fathers did with them, but a majority of dads (7 out of 10) also reported that they could use tips on how to be a better parent, according to a national survey conducted by the Ad Council. Children with involved, loving fathers are significantly more likely to do well in school, have healthy self-esteem, exhibit empathy and pro-social behavior, and avoid high-risk behaviors such as drug use, truancy, and criminal activity compared to children who have uninvolved fathers.

There is no instruction manual for how to be a good dad. You can read the books and glean lessons from them, but you have to put dad-ism into action. It is all about what you do, today. And listen, for your kids, it probably doesn’t even matter WHAT you do, as long as you are enjoying time with them. It could be something as stepping into the kitchen and making a meal together. Pack up a bag and head out on a hike or a short road trip. There are thousands of age appropriate things that can be done with your kids to soak up that quality time.

If you know someone who is struggling as a dad, share this message. Fatherhood.gov and the Ad Council are asking dads everywhere to make an effort to inspire and support men in their commitment to responsible fatherhood. Involvement in the lives of your kids is essential to their well-being.

Preventing Concussions is a Real No-Brainer

Dear Mr. Dad:  My kids (7, 10, and 12) are excited to sign up for sports in a few weeks, but with all the talk about concussions, I’m more than a little concerned. Plus, I just saw the new Will Smith movie, Concussion, which scared me even more. Short of not allowing them to play at all, is there anything I can do to lower the risk that my kids will get a concussion?

You’re absolutely right to be concerned about concussions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2009, nearly 250,000 children under 19 were treated in hospital emergency departments for a sports-related concussion or traumatic brain injury (TBI). There’s no question that many, many more young athletes suffered concussions but didn’t seek medical treatment.

Not all that long ago, people—especially coaches and athletes—didn’t take concussions very seriously. Athletes (mostly male) who “got their bell rung” were often encouraged to get back in the game as soon as possible. Today, scientists know that concussions are far more serious than just a bump on the head, and only about 10 percent of concussions involve a loss or consciousness (which includes “seeing stars”). Concussions are actually a type of brain injury that happens when the brain gets banged against the inside of the skull due to a sudden impact. They can cause a variety of short- and long-term damage, including memory, language, and concentration problems; irritability, moodiness, and other personality changes; difficulty making decisions; and more.
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2016 is Going to Be a Big Year for Binge Watching on #Netflix

Disclosure: I’m a member of the #Netflix #StreamTeam and receive occasional product and early access to programming. But every word I write is my own.

Oakland, California, where I live, is blessed with some of the greatest weather on the planet. Okay, so we’ve had a pretty nasty drought for the past few years, but we’ve had dry spells before and we’ll have ‘em again. Anyway, we’re getting slammed with rain, which is a good thing. But I’m not complaining about the weather. Quite the opposite. In fact, I’m watching all that east-coast snow and feeling a little envious. I know blizzards can be life threatening and are no fun for the people they actually affect, but from out here on the west coast, there’s something almost magical about the prospect of being snowed in (assuming, of course, we’ve got plenty of food and the power’s not down).

What it comes down to is that I could really use a long break, one that would give me a no-guilt excuse to just hang out with the family, talking, reading, playing, and catching up on some of our favorites on Netflix—or discovering some new ones.

Here, in no particular order, is what’s on our must-watch list—and by “our” I mean mine and my 12-year-old daughter’s. There will undoubtedly be some that we’ll watch together, a few outbursts (from each of us) of “how can you watch that crap,” and plenty of dismissing something as “crap” but then creeping back into the room and standing silently in the doorway watching it anyway.

Making a Murderer

netflix - making a murderer

House of Cards, Season 4

netflix - house of cards

Mad Men

netflix - mad men


netflix - izombie

The Blacklist

netflix - blacklist


netflix - flash

Being Human

netflix - being human

Robin Hood

netflix - robin hood

How to Build a Better Teacher

Elizabeth Green, author of Build a Better Teacher.
How teaching works and how to teach it to everyone.
Issues: Everyone agrees that a great teacher can have an enormous impact. But is it simply a matter of natural charisma, or can it be taught to millions of people who make up the American teaching workforce?

Emotional Safety + How Teaching Works

Joshua Straub, author of Safe House.
How emotional safety is the key to raising kids who live, love, and lead well.
Issues: Why emotional safety matters; understanding your parenting “story” and how it affects you and your child; building a safe house with four walls: explore, protect, grace, and truth; the science of emotional safety.

Elizabeth Green, author of Build a Better Teacher.
How teaching works and how to teach it to everyone.
Issues: Everyone agrees that a great teacher can have an enormous impact. But is it simply a matter of natural charisma, or can it be taught to millions of people who make up the American teaching workforce?

Are We Having Fun Yet?

It’s still cold outside, but there’s still plenty of family fun to be had. Here are a few winners of the recent Mr. Dad Seal of Approval (mrdad.com/seal), plus some other great options.

Spanish for Kids: The Ultimate Collection (Whistlefritz)

Spanish-Ultimate-CollectionThis cute video features an adorable, animated mouse and a Spanish-speaking senorita who have teamed up to help you learn Spanish. It’s really sweet, and has fun and upbeat music that the kids can enjoy while learning a new language. The one drawback is that it’s entirely in Spanish, which can make it a little hard for kids to follow along unless they already know some Spanish vocabulary. We worry that the kids might give up too quickly. That said, this Collection would be great to use in conjunction with other Spanish language learning sets (including those made by Whistlefritz). As the kids become more fluent (which shouldn’t take too long), you can use this DVD more regularly. Ages 2-6. $115.00. Buy it at www.whistlefritz.com

Happy Wrap (Happy Baby Wrap)

happy baby wrapBabywearing is an easy and effective way for dads (and moms) to get tons of cuddle and bonding time with baby while boosting those all-important feelings of competence and confidence. These lightweight, breathable wraps have no buckles or rings and are one-size-fits-most, so you and the baby-mama can share one wrap. They come in a variety of prints and can safely and ergonomically support a baby up to 25 pounds (translation: less back pain for ma and pa than many baby carriers). $48-$55. www.happybabywrap.com

Shampoo & Body Wash (Nature’s Baby Organics)

nature's organics shampoo and baby washToday’s dads are involved in every aspect of parenting, and bathing the kiddies is no exception. In fact, it’s one of the best jobs ever. Really. But some of the “baby” shampoos and bath products out there have a—there’s no nice way to say this—stench. That’s not a great thing under normal circumstances. And it’s especially unpleasant if anyone in your family is sensitive to scents. Nature’s Baby has figured out a way to clean and moisturize our littlest monsters, leaving them smelling delicious–like coconut and pineapple. Also comes in lavender-chamomile and vanilla-tangerine. $17.95 for a 16-oz. bottle. www.naturesbaby.com

King’s Gold (Blue Orange Games)

blue orange king's goldThink Yahtzee meets Jack Sparow. Pirates take turns rolling the five custom dice (instead of numbers, the faces have coins, skulls, cannons, or crossbones). You can roll up to three times, keeping some or all, trying to make certain combinations, which allow you to take coins from your opponents (or the king, who gets a cut of all your winnings). Play wisely and you’ll become the richest pirate in the Caribbean. About $14.00. 2-6 players, ages 8 and up. www.blueorangegames.com

Draw 4 (Blue Orange Games)

blue orange draw 4The dig starts by creating an excavation zone, consisting of face-down dinosaur bone cards and action cards. Players take turns removing cards from the zone, trying to assemble complete dinos. The action cards can speed things up or cost you your turn—or your bones! About $13.50. 2-5 players, ages 5 and up. www.blueorangegames.com

X6 Zoom Rocketz (Zing)

zing zoom rocketzThere’s no strategy, no stealing cards from your opponents, and nothing to assemble here. Zoom Rocketz is all about competing to see who can send six rockets the farthest. The harder you stomp on the launch pad, the better. Depending on the angle of the launcher, you can go for height or distance. Comes with one launcher (which automatically rotates and loads the next rocket) and six rockets. About $20 at your favorite retailerFor kids 8 and up, and definitely for outdoor play only. www.zingtoys.com