Parenting – Our greatest contribution

I was driving home today after dropping off my youngest daughter at soccer camp, thinking of which top country music concerts I wanted to attend that year. I was using my wife’s car so I had turned the station over to JR Country. She hates it when i do that, she is a Top 40 kinda gal so it is an ongoing radio war.

Anyhow, Alan Jackson’s “Small Town Southern Man” was playing when I fired up the old Subaru and drove out of the parking lot. As I pulled into traffic, my favourite line in the whole song rang out and I immediately thought to myself… “Self, what a great blog topic!” So when I got home I started penning this post.

Now before I go any further, I suppose I should explain to those who are country phobic and never listen to gods music, “Small Town Southern Man” is about an old guy who lives his whole life working hard for his family and doing the best he can to be a good person. When his time comes and his days are numbered he is at peace with it because he knows “his greatest contribution. Is the ones you leave behind” the sentiment in this single line is golden.

Just think what the ramifications would be if we all parented with that verse as our mantra? I think we would be living in a much better world. Instead we live in a “what’s in it for me world” that pays lip service to this line but if truth be told, it gets harder and harder to find people who truly live up to its sentiment.

Our media, our financial institutions, our political leaders and yes even some parents, are teaching kids by example, to take first and give back later BUT only if it suits them. To do no good deed, unless someone has done one for you first and of course he or she who dies with the most things wins!

In North America, kids are taught that immortality is found in fame, money and possessions. Making a contribution to this world has become all about taking as much as you can, then turning around and yelling “LOOK AT ME!”

But as Alan Jackson’s song so correctly spells out, a good life is pretty simple… Treat others with kindness and generosity and your greatest contribution WILL be the ones you leave behind.

If you parent with this in mind, you can’t possibly go wrong.

More Old School Parenting Wisdom: The Narcissists Among Us

Bang! Bang! My Kids Are Gun Safe

Gun SafetyI had an outstanding time this past week camping with friends. There is nothing quite like being content sitting on a dock, staring out onto the water for hours or gathering about a campfire and staring hypnotically into the flames. What was even better was that the kids were happy with it too. It took about 4 – 5 hours for the “I’m bored” stare to drift from their eyes and get into camping mode but after that… They were off the grid and into the elements.

The other cool thing we got to do, was learn all about gun safety. I know ((~~GASP~~)) but it was a good experience for both parents and kids.

I couldn’t be more pleased, that my children’s first exposure to guns (that we’d bought from the gun source) was safe, simple and done in the presence of responsible adults. I feel that hands on experience is a far better way of teaching them about guns then turning them loose on a first person shooter video game or letting them watch some Hollywood gangsta, cappin someone’s ass doin a drive by in a pimped out Escalade. It was simply an excellent opportunity for the kids to learn how guns worked, how to use guns safely and how to be safe in the presence of guns.

Now I didn’t do this myself, fortunately I have a friend York Furstenwald who is a certified firearms instructor and gun safety expert who could make this all happen. I don’t own a gun nor had I fired one in more than 20 years, so I was happy Mr. Furstenwald was willing to do this.

York spent a good deal of time going over 4 vital elements of gun safety or ACTS before the kids even touched the firearms.

4 ACTS of Gun Safety

Assume every firearm is loaded.

Control the barrel direction at all times.

Trigger finger must be kept off the trigger and out of the trigger guard until ready to fire.

See that the firearm secure, unloaded and safe.

Even after our gun safety briefing out of the deck, we walked out to the range and went over the ACTS again as it related to the environment they were in at that very moment. He went over range safety and commands and ensured the kids had a complete understanding of what was expected of them. What I was most amazed about was that the kids were completely absorbed for more than an hour in the blazing sun. By the time York was done talking about gun safety, the kids were at greater risk of getting melanoma then getting hit by a bullet (thank goodness for 60 sunblock). I was more of a problem student then the kids. I just wanted to SHOOT but it was safety first and I had to learn it all, just like the kids.

What liked most about the whole event is that my kids went away from it, with a solid understanding of how guns work, what they can do and how to be safe around them. Even if my kids never pick up another gun for as long as they live, they are now able to identify safe gun use, especially in a situation where they are in the presence of a firearm but are not in control of it.

Finally, one last word for the skeptics in the room. My purpose was not to create my very own mini militia in preparation of some kind of inevitable Armageddon nor do I have any desire to turn my children into mighty hunters. I just wanted the kids to learn about guns and how to use them safely. I don’t even intend to make this sort of thing a regular family activity BUT if they happen to show an interest in competitive shooting or perhaps biathlon, I would be more than happy to facilitate that but for now, I am just happy that we has such a good time with friends out in the bush.

For some video clips of our shooting sessions. Head to Family Gun Safety

Great article on shooting as a civilized activity

Check Out: Charity & Parental Modeling

The Demise of Guys – Why Girls Rock While Boys Mold

As a father of two girls, I have to be honest. I like the idea of a world where women have the upper hand. A world where men haven’t a chance in competing with them and their opportunities are unfettered by male meddling. This is not to say that I feel that they can’t or wont be able to hold their own as it is, both are frighteningly bright and could go toe to toe with any of their male peers, I just think this is the age of the woman. Sure this this may sound a little sexist but hey, what has been good for the guys for the last handful of centuries has to be good for the gals, don’t you think!?

It wasn’t that long ago that this would have been considered complete fantasy, crazy talk and virtually impossible to achieve without a major social revolution but it turns out that this shift in gender dominance might be quietly happening right under our noses in the dark recesses of our homes.

Last March, Philip Zimbardo did a Ted Talk about The Demise of Guys where he speaks (briefly) about how addiction to digital media is turning young males into social, emotional and academic eunuchs (my worlds not his). During his talk, he provides us with some starteling statistics which have been concerning educators for a number of years now but what is most important is that he links these statistics to the consumption of digital media, ranging from gaming to internet porn. Some might say that this is a bit of a stretch linking the two but if one simply looks around, you can see real life examples all around.

Demise of Guys

Philip Zimbardo, March 2011

As a teacher, I am fortunate enough to spend my summer months schlepping around with my kids. We cover a lot of ground and see all sorts of kids in a variety of social, sporting and regular every day situations and what we see is very very sad. Even before this Ted Talk came across my desktop, I had a blog post in the works because of what I was witnessing day after day. Boys by the dozens, focused on on their digital distraction devices while waiting for swimming lessons, at the playground, with day camp groups, on road trips and in restaurants… Virtually everywhere we go, my girls and I are seeing boys focused in on some type of digital device.

In my own little community, where my kids run around and have fun all summer, there is a startling absence of boys playing out side. Even though we have a pretty even gender split in our neighborhood, on any given summer day, I would say girls out number boys 5 to 2. Girls are out interacting with others, solving social issues, getting exercise, developing physical skills and boys are held up in their basements interacting with their digital game console. It is a strange and sad state of affairs.

It is staggering how disconnected with the real world our young male population seems to be becoming and it is appearing that it is all because of a dependence on the digital media. What is perhaps even more staggering is how parents seem to be oblivious to how unhealthy digital dependence can be. If Zimbardo is correct, women will be ruling this world in very short order, all the while, the Demise of Guys continues right under our noses. Sure it is great opportunity for my girls but I am not sure having half of the worlds population incapacitated due to digital stupification is a great thing in the long run.

Although the Demise of Guys to the extent where the entire male population is reduced to blubbering bunch of worthless flesh is unlikely, I do think that there is a thread of truth to what Zimbardo has said. It is undeniable that something is happening to our boys and it could very well be the excessive exposure to digital media.

  • We know that the young brain hard wires itself to that which it is exposed to the most.
  • We know that watching a TV or playing Video Games shifts Brain State from Beta (active) to Alpha (passive) almost instantaneously.
  • We know that digital media has serious psychological effects as the findings from the Day A Day Without Media study points out.
  • We know that childhood obesity can be linked to sedentary life styles associated with excessive video game playing

What I don’t understand is the resistance of parents, media regulators and other stakeholders to even consider the possibility of this digital link in the “demise of guys”. We have nothing to lose in studying this further or heaven forbid just restricting children’s use of digital media but instead we choose to ignore the obvious.  At the very least,parents need to start asking themselves, why they are allowing their children so much exposure to something that might be contributing to the Demise of Guys and turning their children into social and academic equivalent of fungi?

Related Posts

TV & Video Games = Serious Learning Issues Part 1

TV & Video Games = Serious Learning Issues Part 2

Why Boredom is Good For Your Child

Geocaching – High Tech & Hide & Seek

First Find

Figured I would try something different this post and that is, provide a positive uplifting experience for my readers. Ok, every word won’t be a ray of sunshine but the main thesis will be all warm and cuddly.

Every summer, at schools end, I try to grab something fun for the kids to do outside during the dog days of summer. Not because I am a soft over indulging parent who can`t say “NO” to my kids but because my kids are usually well behaved conscientious students who try hard at school and I like to show my appreciation for doing as is expected of them.

geocaching.comThis year I grabbed an Apisphere Geomate Jr. Handheld Geocaching GPS, a nifty little device which they can do some high tech treasure hunting with. It is essentially orienteering except with a GPS. I know, it is cheating but I will teach them the finer points of using a compass later… When I have one.

What is Geocaching

The object is to find caches that have been hidden somewhere out in the big bad scary world, uncontrolled by a hovering parent or controlling teacher.  They can be virtually anywhere, out in the bush or right in the downtown core of the largest cities.

These caches are hidden by other geocachers, who have have gone beyond just finding them and now are planting and maintaining caches for others to find. The caches usually follow some type of theme and contain various treasures that you trade for. They also have a log book so you can note that you have been there AND if you are really lucky, you might find a travel bug or geo coin.

Travel BugA Travel Bug or Geo coin are trackable items, which people will place in a cache for others to find and then in turn place in another cache somewhere else in this world. When you find one, you log onto, type in the unique ID number on the trackable item and you will see all the places in the world the item has been. The travel bug shown here originated in Darwin Australia and showed up in a cache a 5 minute walk from our home. Now we will place it in another cache when we go to Vancouver Island later this summer.

Geocaching is fun activity the whole family can enjoy and the hunts can range from easy to find to death defying.  It is a true marriage between high tech and good old fashioned outdoor activity. Most importantly, it gets the kids outdoors mucking about instead of rotting their brain playing C.O.D. in a dark dingy basement for two solid months. Come into the sun, and give it a go.

To learn more about Geocaching, go to



Interesting Year For Parenting Old School

I like to look back every once in a while and check out which of my blog post have been most popular over the year and this has been a relatively good year for Parenting Old School. This blog has been around in various forms over the past few years but has only existed as Parenting Old School for little over a year and in this time it has been steadily growing in readership. Although the number of comments have been a wee bit disappointing, I feel that things are steaming along rather well.

In looking at my stats for the past year, the numbers would indicate that parents are looking to get back to some kind of reality based parenting. Of course this is not an exact science but my top posts for the year would indicate that people are looking back rather than forward when it comes to parenting well.

Fifty Dangerous Things

Modern Parent = Neurotic Child

Why Is My Teen So Trashy?

Swiss Army Knife – Child’s Play

Teaching Your Child Commitment – Part I

Hyper Parents & Coddled Children

It would seem that parents are coming to realize the absurdity of modern parenting. How obsessive, over indulgent, forever enabling, habitually hovering and constantly coddling our children could be creating a generation of neurotic, overindulged wimps.

I am hoping that this is some indication that people are realizing the modern world isn’t all that it is cracked up to be. That there is value in the way things were and that children are not a project in building the perfect person. That teaching our children independence and self reliance is not served by running around and ensuring your little darling’s wants are met as expediently as possible. That commitment to others and social responsibility come before our self centered needs. That the mindless emulation of superficial media driven media icons is a worthless and demeaning pursuit.

It has been a good year for my blog and in turn I have a little more hope for the future of the family and our children.


What a Riot – Youth off the rails

By now, you have more than likely heard about the Riot in Vancouver that followed the Vancouver Canucks loss to the Boston Bruins in the final game of the Stanley Cup.

When I first started penning this blog post, I was so pissed off about what happened, much of what I was writing was complete gibberish. (I know not much different than normal) I needed to digest what had happened and get some perspective. I needed to remove the expletives and slanderous remarks from the original content and formulate a rational thesis. I am still angry about the stupidity which oozed from the pours of so many that night but I think I can be objective now.

In my original version of this post I laid the blame for the mayhem we witnessed squarely on shoulders of piss poor parents. I mean really, would any individual raised in a half decent family environment participate in such lawless acts with the reckless abandon and glee as was witnessed on June 16th? I still have to say No but I think the issue is much bigger than just poor parenting. I think it is a problem endemic of a  society in which soft, indulgent parenting philosophies are the industry standard and inappropriate behaviour is rationalized away or simply ignored.

We have come to a place in today’s society where we are cranking out kids that exist in a bubble that is so disconnected from reality, that when they are turned loose in the  real world, they haven’t a clue how to behave or even understand how their actions affect others. Today’s children grow up in a world where there is no personal responsibility, no consequences or expectations. In today’s world, if a child is unhappy, board, misbehaving or god forbid hurt in any way, people immediately start to look for the adult who failed to engineer that child’s environment so that only good, happy and positive things happen.

Parents Responsible For School Performance

Who speaks such Blasphemy you are asking?

Well the New York Times said it, so it must be true. In a may 20th article called Who’s Failing Grade Is It? columnist Lisa Belkin looks at the growing trend of state governments, trying to fix the problem of declining schools by creating laws, which punish parents when their kids don’t perform at school.

The thinking goes like this: If you look at schools that “work,” as measured by test scores and graduation rates, they all have involved (overinvolved?) parents, who are on top of their children’s homework, in contact with their children’s teachers, and invested in their children’s futures. So just require the same of parents in schools that don’t work, and the problem is solved (or, at least, dented), right? (Belkin May 20, 2011)

When I read this I couldn’t believe my eyes. I figured I was going to have to add hallucinating to the long list of my mental deficiencies because what Belkin suggests is just straight up crazy talk.

Who woulda thunk it, parents are going to have to be responsible for how their kids perform in school. That is absolutely amazing! but wait… isn’t that how it is suppose to be? I know that is how I grew up and that is how we are raising our daughters. When our eldest child brought home a less than acceptable report card last term, the conversation we had with our daughter never even came close to broaching on what the teacher did or did not do in the classroom.

On the rare occasion that we speak with our daughters teachers, it is never for the purpose discovering what that teacher has done to serve our children’s needs. The conversations always revolves around what WE as parents and our daughters as a students, can do to improve there academic performance.

I have to say that it is very refreshing to see that people are starting to once again look at parents as agents of learning in their children’s lives. The teacher bashing of the past 30 years has become a bit tiresome and quite frankly, completely illogical.  Today’s teachers are more educated than ever before, with the knowledge gained from amazing advances in learning theory over the past 20 years, at their disposal. The teaching profession is constantly improving and moving ahead all the while it is the family that has been going to hell in a hand basket.

Whether legislating how people parent is a good idea? I am guessing it will not go well but the saddest part in all this is that common sense, now has to be legislated.

What Do You Mean I Can’t Connect W/My Kid 24/7

Parenting Old School is  pleased to feature a guest post by Annie Fox, a celebrated author and speaker on parenting and the world of the Teen. Annie brings to her writing, a reasoned and level headed look at the realities both Parents and Teens face in the wacky world we live in. Although not necessarily “Old School” Annie has my respect for her work.

In this post Annie writes about the omnipresence of the cellphone in our schools and plays devils advocate, in favour of parents having constant contact with their kids … Well I hope this is what she is doing!


In a rare but not unprecedented move, we sent our intrepid Time Traveler back to the late 1980s to report on the historic role of parents in their children’s education. What she uncovered may be hard for us 21st Century parents to believe, but we’ve verified her account by cross-referencing it with archival documents as well as first hand reports from today’s Elders and young adults who swear this is the way it was. Her report is excerpted here:

On weekdays during the 1980s, parents kissed their kids goodbye at the front door and sent them out into the world. The children either marched themselves to a bus stop, walked to school or rode a bike (yes they had helmets, though nowhere as cool as the ones we’ve got) From the moment they turned the corner, parents could not directly communicate with their kids.

WARNING: If you find yourself feeling anxious reading the above, we recommend putting your head between your knees and breathing in slowly through your nose and exhaling slowing through you mouth. If that doesn’t alleviate your symptoms, shut down your computer and take a warm bath, with or without bubbles.

All during morning classes, lunchtime, recess, afternoon classes and onsite after school programs, kids were incommunicado. You’re probably wondering, “What if the kid left a lunch, a book or assignment at home? How could Mom or Dad rush to school to help if they didn’t know there was a problem?” The teachers and school administrators of the ’80s had a simple answer for that one: If the kid doesn’t bring something (s)he needs to schoool, then the kid figures it out and deals with the consequences. Period.

Cruel and unusual punishment, granted, but that’s the way it was.

In case you’re shaking your head thinking, “That sounds like a lockdown!” 20th Century schools weren’t entirely lacking compassion. For example, if a kid complained of a headache, (s)he asked the teacher’s permission to go to the office where she’d plead her case to the school nurse and likely be given an opportunity to rest quietly. If the nurse felt the situation warranted it, the school placed a call home or to the parents’ office and the problem was solved. Are they for real?! Think of the precious moments lost using that antiquated system!

Today, thankfully, we can call and/or text our kids at any time, including 9-3 and we do…often! Yet, apparently, some schools are cracking down on in-class cellphone use. They say the constant ringing and buzzing is a distraction to teachers and any students interested in receiving an education. (What kind of lame excuse is that?) In addition, schools limiting students’ cellphone access also justify it by saying the policy reduces in-class cheating and cyber-bullying. Hmm. Well, maybe we can see some logic there, but who cares?! Schools have no right to prioritize education over a parent’s access to their children. This is the 21st Century, Ms. Principal, and these are Anxious Times.

Your thoughts?

Swiss Army Knife – Child’s Play

Swiss Army Knife

Swiss Army Knife

Ah the Swiss army knife. The ultimate utility tool. Knife, bottle opener, corkscrew, tweezers, screwdriver, pry bar, saw, stick sharpener, bug dissection tool… The list of uses is endless.

I have had one close at hand for as long as I can remember. I was given one as a kid and in my list of life’s big events, I think it ranks in the top 10.

That Swiss Army Knife meant a number of things. Most of which I didn’t realize at the time but recently, I was afforded the opportunity to reflect on just how important that knife was in my growth into adulthood. It was the first stepping stone toward independence, feeling trusted and logical consequence.

Let me explain further. I had a very short conversation the other day with a neighbour about my daughter and her pocket knife.

“Hey Keith, do you realize that your daughter has been using your Swiss Army Knife in the forest?”

“Actually it is her Swiss Army Knife and yes I am quite aware”

“Do you think that is safe?”

“Just as safe as it was when I was twelve”

With that, I got a quizzical look but it got me thinking, what are all the good things that came out of having my very own pocket knife at my disposal when I was a kid?

Independence: Owning a Swiss Army Knife of your own, meant that you didn’t have to ask your dad for his or to have to ask permission to use the household one. You had the freedom to take it out and use it whenever necessary. Believe it or not, I even remember using it in class during Chemistry to fix some piece of science apparatus in about grade 11. Can you imagine doing that today?

Trust: It meant that your parents trusted you to responsibly use this sharp object without doing inappropriate damage to people, places or things. They also trusted that you were responsible enough not to impale yourself… too often.

Logical Consequence: Knives can be very unforgiving. Use it inappropriately or incorrectly and chances are you are going to get cut. Flesh wounds  are a great learning experience, especially if they end up with a trip to emergency for stitches.

Nowadays, if you give a kid a knife… It is a cardinal sin. A tool with which a felony is sure to be committed but with that being said, I have given my eldest daughter one anyhow. Actually she has had it for about 2 summers but now she has free reign over its use.

She uses it for everything. It is an essential tool in her outdoor activity and she has been very responsible with it but why do so many parents think that modern day children should hot have access to such benign tools of the childhood experience.

It begs the questions

  1. Since when are kids incapable of being safe with inherently “dangerous” things?
  2. How are kids ever going to learn how to handle “dangerous” items if they never get the opportunity?
  3. If you can’t trust a twelve year old with a pocket knife, at what age can you trust them?
  4. Why wouldn’t you teach a child how to make sure potentially dangerous things, do not become dangerous?

We are raising social eunuchs, incapable of handling any kind of danger or risk. If we continue to “sterilize” our children’s world in the name of keeping them “safe” then what is the point of living? If we deny our children any rights of passage into adulthood which reach beyond the safety bubble we create for them, they will forever live as children in the eyes of society.

Simple risk activities and items can mean so much in the growth of your child, let them live a little. Even if it means a cut a bruise or an abrasion on occasion it is worth it in your child’s growth into an adult.