In Defense of Rebound Relationships
What They Are and How to Get What You Want from Them
What I’m about to say could cost my Lady Card. It’s on par with the type of blasphemous behavior that’ll get your buddies revoke your Man Card. Committing high treason against all womankind by condoning and encouraging rebound relationships breaks all 10 of the Feminists’ Commandments.
Look, I’ve been there. On both sides. I was a rebound. And I’ve had some. I don’t have a problem with them. Other women largely deny ever participating in (what some may call) such a demeaning notion. I don’t see it that way. But I wouldn’t go shouting out like the town crier either. My past is my business. And if it helps struggling dudes navigate the ins and outs of post-committal-non-committal life, then my Lady Card can stay gone for all I care.
Most members of my gender will deny that they’ve had or have been the rebound-ee in one or more rebound relationships all day long. Why do most chicks outright lie about it? Society places undue expectations on women. Double standards are to blame here.
Elite Daily once claimed, “Rebounding Is The Cruelest Thing Men Can Do To Women.” For as long as women are made to feel victimized, it’s going to have a stigma behind it. For crying out loud, women are often the rebound-ers.
Now, I get that there are instances in which men genuinely use women. They lead them on all the while their minds, hearts, and emotions are firmly locked on their exes. Playing with someone’s mind that way is vile. I would know! So if you’ve done that to someone, I’m here to vouch for the whole, “…cruelest thing you’ve ever done…” jazz being spot on.
Defining Rebound Relationships
When handled correctly, rebound relationships are different from the game playing crap I described above. (Again, seriously, it’s mean!) Rebound relationships revolve around expectations.
The term was officially coined in the 1830s by the English author and playwright, Mary Russell Mitford when she wrote, “…nothing so easy as catching a heart on a rebound.” Someone “on the rebound,” as it were, is believed to lack the mental fortitude to reasonably choose a suitable new mate due to their emotional baggage resulting from a breakup.
Generally, such relationships don’t tend to last long.
In 2006, a study out of Princeton University researched the “rebound effect” by conducting a study. The results? The scientists found no evidence supporting the existence such an effect. I’m not one to argue with science. But, I’ve lived it. It’s real.
When Rebound Relationships are Good for You
Relationships operate under the “The Consenting Adults” rule of thumb. As long as both people know what they’re getting into, what their expectations are, and what the relationship is really about, then, there’s nothing wrong with pursuing rebound relationships.
They can provide a broken heart with a much-needed distraction from the aches and stings of breakups. While it’s important to process discomforts due to the loss of an important relationship, taking a break from the depression can provide healing benefits.
Think about what the benefit is for your to pursue it. Then don’t hide or lie about your past. Be real about what you’ve been through and where you want to be. Be honest with yourself and your partner about what you’re after.
If you can learn to be happy in your own skin without having someone around, chances are you’ll probably benefit from a rebound. Generally, they aren’t a good idea until you’ve reached this stage of the breakup process.
When Rebound Relationships are Crap for You
Why do rebound relationships have such a bad rep if they’re helpful? Because people often hurt others as a result of their selfish need to medicate their internal, emotional pain. I don’t think anyone ever intends to hurt anyone. But in the first few moments of a breakup, all you feel is a deep longing for your former partner. It doesn’t go away easily.
People tend to get into rebounds full of emotional baggage. A dubious chain reaction begins when they dump their emotions on others only to split from them soon after.
Lonely? Get a dog. Rebounds shouldn’t be used as an excuse to have companionship. Consider the other person’s feelings. Being willing to explore helpful distractions can help, but be careful what you do to people!
Don’t expect rebound relationships to replace the person you lost. There’s only one you, right? And there’s only one love you lost. It will never exist again. Anything you have with anyone else won’t ever be like it. Don’t even try.
Disparities in the amount of energy each is putting into the rebound get felt and are sensed easily (especially by women). Don’t put in more than you’re willing to get back. If you feel that she’s putting in more than you are, and you’re not willing to meet her, say something about it. The last thing you should do is break someone’s heart.
When you enter into rebound relationships with expectations, you set yourself up for disaster. Think it through. Don’t adjust yours or make it okay for her to do so. Stick to your rules and maintain an honest dialog.
How to Pull Off the Perfect Rebound
Years of a love life well lived have taught me that there is indeed a right way and wrong way to have a rebound. It all boils down to expectations.
No matter how you meet your rebound, establish rules from the get-go. Don’t wait for the right time to explain who you are, and what you’re about. You’re not looking for (nor are you in any kind of mental state to deal with) a serious relationship. Say so!
Your rules should include an easy way to get out of the rebound when either one of you is ready. And it should be a no-feelings-hurt-and-I-wish-you-the-best kind of thing. Anything else, will only sour each of you and send you back onto the search for yet another rebound.
Be honest! <–Note the exclamation point. It’s important. Reveal some of your story. Talk about some of your drama. Rebounds are not who you unload on. Therapists and counselors are great for that. Your rebound should be someone you only have a great time with. No more.
Make clear your emotional unavailability. You just ended a deep and profound relationship. Even if you’re taking it well, you’re not in any state to pick up and try again. Don’t think or pretend you are.
See other people. Hang out with friends. But (HEED my words) be honest about it. Give the new gal in your life a heads up when you want to hang out. Make actual plans. Don’t pop up at her place expecting a booty call! Check in, and go from there.
When It’s Likely to Turn Into a Real Relationship
A message board I recently checked said that something like four out of five rebound relationships ends as quickly as it started. The remaining one in the group of five makes it the distance. While the odds are 80% not in your favor, there are times when it does happen.
The Spontanaety Myth is the belief that good, long-lasting relationships only begin spontaneously – as in when you’re not expecting them. I believe that. Every meaningful relationship I’ve had happened when I wasn’t expecting it. I won’t claim I was ready for anything that came after. But in the beginning, I didn’t think the new people I had met at the time (respectively) were going to be around any longer than a few months.
But I also forged a long-lasting relationship with someone I started a rebound with. We eventually married and built a crazy life together. But you already know that story.
They don’t last. It’s the nature of something that fueled by energy – energy from your split, from your sadness, from your strife. It’s a fire that burns itself out quickly.
Give it six months before you start looking. These are the ones that tend to make it. It doesn’t seem long. But truly, if you’re going to start a rebound, that’s the time to do it.
You might be on your way there if she’s matching the amount of energy you’re putting in. Don’t discount this as just a part of what you agreed to do if it’s been happening consistently. Give it a few months. Then, ask her about where she thinks you are. If you care that much about it, you’re not bored. That’s always a good sign.
Rebound relationships are a thing. They’re a thing you should think about. While they won’t do any more than mask your emotional pain, it’s a neat distraction. One you might need more than you know.
Your rebound won’t make you feel less lonely. And you’ll never replace your ex. Set your rules and expectations, and watch how much energy you’re putting in. Don’t agonize over anything. Jealousy won’t help anyone at this point. So be real about what you want. Then, let her explore what’s out there. If she should meet someone she’s entranced with, let go. And be nice about it.
If you’re willing to be honest, you’ll have a great time with your rebound. And you’ll help temporarily medicate some of your ache.
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Four Ways to Protect Against Divorce and Achieve Emotional Intimacy
Gender roles are changing. Men are as immersed in the care of hearth and home as their wives or partners. Although recent data claims divorce rates are falling, they still occur frequently. Gender equality in the home improves the quality of a marriage or partnership for both parties. Despite that, something is still amiss.
When it comes to preventing divorce, the ability to translate tasks into meaningful, emotional communication is the missing piece. I’ve seen it again and again in my coaching practice.
You may wonder how taking out the trash isn’t just that and seems to be such a complicated, multi-layered issue during an argument. Buckle in and pay attention to what people really need in a relationship to feel valued and to be honestly committed.
The three parts of a successful relationship:
- How you express how you feel and act.
All of those parts are necessary to create teamwork and a lasting partnership. As most of us want that bond with another, we only need to understand how to use the tools at our disposal and begin practicing the habits required to instill these into our daily lives.
Start by learning why doing isn’t always the same as feeling and being felt. Yes, it’s another to-do on the list, but when you begin to see a difference in your life and your partner’s responses, it’s one task you will happily focus on daily. That’s how you live the life you want with the intimacy you deserve.
Practically speaking, how does this work? How does one achieve a balance between:
- Doing chores and tasks to show you care,
- Making sure you’re not sabotaging all of it with your communication (which can be the greatest expression of your love that matters to your partner)?
Well, it is possible! Pay attention to:
- Your feelings – no more hiding out from them.
- Your actions – yes, you do need to do some stuff.
- How you express what you like and dislike about those very things in your partner – what they feel and do.
Create an intimate bond by sharing your softest, most vulnerable feelings in a way that is not threatening to your spouse. It can be done while getting your needs met, too.
Studies suggest exhibiting these behaviors is the greatest predictor of divorce:
- Defensiveness, and
Noticing that each one involves feelings, whether allowing them or not, is critical to bringing about positive change. Let’s address each as a way to prevent, or at least, protect against divorce.
1. Contempt is thinking that your partner is beneath or inferior to you.
Once this attitude of disgust mixed with anger develops, it’s extraordinarily difficult to change – although not impossible.
A Simple Scenario
When your partner does a task in a way that differs from how you would have done it, do you:
A.) Talk about it in a relaxed and friendly moment?
B.) Find out why they do things the way the do them?
C.) Give them some freedom and respect to do it their way?
D.) Either immediately complain about the way they’ve managed something?
E.) Not say anything at all but keep it at the forefront of your mind?
You should make every attempt to understand your partner’s methods and reasonings. If you don’t, you risk losing respect for your spouse. Try to share their perspective.
It’s critically important to continue to see your loved one as your equal and not your subordinate.
This isn’t to suggest you can’t each have unique ways of accomplishing tasks. It only means you need to get on board with the view from their eyes. Understand their unique modes of living and embrace them.
Sounds simple. But if you think you’ve missed the mark on this, give it a try and let yourself open up to their methods. See how your feelings change after a week. You’ll develop a new appreciation for your spouse.
2. Criticism is making what your partner does a statement about who they are.
Organize a weekly check-in with your spouse to assess the state of your marriage. Preventing divorce requires that you commit to evaluating your behavior and that of your spouse regularly.
Once there, assess your conversation’s tone and determine if you:
A.) Can talk about things (like their avoiding the laundry hamper, for instance) in a calm, cool-headed way?
B.) Just complain again and again about a non-changing behavior?
If the latter is true, your feelings about what’s bothering you can lead to bigger resentments that will seem insurmountable in the way you view and value your partner.
Check-ins are for talking about issues that appear small but are ongoing. Figure out what can and will work for both of you.
If you think you can’t find time for this, remember that a divorce will consume loads more of your time than a weekly meeting with your spouse.
If it’s not worth a try, perhaps that speaks to where you are already within the relationship. Try again and see if your ability to avoid criticism improves after a month. If it doesn’t, consider relationship counseling. Some couples need structure and the neutrality of a third party to help alleviate anxieties.
3. Defensiveness is playing the victim in all your dealings with your partner.
A.) Is it always their fault when something goes wrong?
B.) Or are you able to see that most situations involve two people and each contributed to what occurred?
If you play the role of the one always wronged, the way you view your partner will negatively change.
Acknowledging one’s fault is uncomfortable. Still, try it. Share what you might have done differently. Your partner likely will, too. Shared responsibility builds teamwork. And that’s exactly what you need in a marriage.
Repeated practice leads to developing healthy habits in around two to eight months. Try out this new behavior until then. If it’s second nature, you’ll likely be pleased with the results.
4. Stonewalling is the repeated inability to communicate one’s feelings.
You may avoid an argument at all cost to keep from feeling emotionally hurt. It may seem like you’re taking the higher road. After all, who wants conflict?
Instead, preventing the discussion’s occurrence may have as large an impact on the state of your union as too much criticism.
You are entitled to your feelings. If you communicate what’s happening to you on the inside, it’s a way to start figuring out how you can realize what role you play in all of it. That’s a start to figuring out a solution that works well for both of you.
Allow your vulnerability to come through. Express it. Let your partner in even when it’s hard. Carry your share of the workload. Avoid the pitfalls in your emotional expression:
- Defensiveness, and
As a result, you will begin to see how your behavior plays a role in your personal level of satisfaction with the relationship. Change prompts change. It’s going to provoke a new way of thinking in you and your spouse. Preventing divorce is about changing your reactions and your spouse’s reactions to you.
Start building new habits. Consciously change the way you relate to your spouse. Plan and hold weekly check-in sessions to assess the state of your marriage. Notice if your feelings improve as you implement real changes in your actions.
Equality is terrific! But so is the ability to respect your spouse. The changes may feel forced (even silly) at first. Preventing divorce isn’t about being cool. Changing your behavior will save your marriage. In the end, who doesn’t want that?
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Why Entrepreneurs Divorce
Five Reasons Successful Professionals Suck at Love
As I write this, I’m thinking of a few famous self-starters who’ve managed to make it the distance. But for every Bill and Melinda. there are 10 or more Trump and Ivanas out in the world. Divorce is annoyingly common. But among work-obsessed, empire-builders, it can be almost a sure-fire ending to a marriage.
I did some research to get the truth straight from Tinseltown’s most famous (and infamous) entrepreneurs. Each one has made marital mistakes. Some have been bold about admitting them. Those who haven’t, have had plenty written about the demise of their marriages. They reveal real insight into why entrepreneurs divorce.
The Five Big Reasons Entrepreneurs Divorce and What You Can Do to Avoid It
Here they are. And they come straight from entrepreneurs who lived through divorce. Who better to learn from, right? In no particular order, entrepreneurs divorce for the following major reasons:
In the 90’s, Donald Trump made himself the poster child of wealth, power, dating models, and naming buildings and airplanes after himself. Whether or not his documented philandering was an extension of his self-admiration and megalomania, I’m not qualified to say.
While married to his first wife, Ivana, The Donald began a years-long torrid love affair with the woman who would eventually become his second wife, Marla Maples.
The gotcha scene played out on the Aspen ski slopes. And it was a buffet of fodder for the media who were quick to cover the betrayal, sparing no graphic detail. Don’t wanna end up like Trump? I don’t blame you.
Here’s how you can prevent it. You ready?
Don’t marry someone if you’re not done exploring what’s out there! Voila! Problem solved, eh?
Get married when you’re serious, when you’re sure that this one person is 100% worth whatever possibilities are out there. If you’re still thinking about exes or the one that got away, do not, I repeat, DO NOT get married!
2. Physical and Emotional Distance
Daymond John launched his first clothing line, Fubu, in the 90’s. The hip, urban brand gained massive success! Seeing dollar signs ahead, he put all of his time and energy into traveling and networking to promote his new label.
When asked about his regrets, John said that though he’d circled the globe several times, he regrets treating his home more like an airport than his space.
Wealth is secondary. Building cash hoards is secondary. In hindsight, he says he could’ve done it better. In an interview with GQ Magazine, he said:
It’s never been about money. Money will come when you love each other. Money will come when you’re having fun. But it’s never been about money.
The intoxicating high of success and a healthy bankroll is as addicting as heroin! Numbed in just the right places, it makes it difficult to feel and see the damage that emotional and physical distance does to a family.
The task of building the empire swallows everything else. Originally meant to provide for the household, instead the business acts more like a jealous monster. It replaces them.
Distancing yourself from your loved ones is easy. Get in there and grab on tighter when you feel yourself slipping away. Let your successes be theirs. Share your good fortune by including your family in your travels and in your decision making.
3. They Can’t Not Be the Alpha
As an entrepreneur, I’ve been called, “difficult,” “a control freak,” “distrusting,” and “motivated by money.” At one time or another, they’ve probably all been true.
It really is lonely at the top. There’s so much you keep to yourself – a lot you can’t say. You live in a bubble remain guarded for fear of trusting in the wrong people.
Elon Musk struggles with that too. His first wife, Canadian author Justine Musk, reports that on their wedding day the Tesla company founder said, “I am the alpha in this relationship.”
She claims to have shrugged it off. But soon found out he was serious about it.
To overcome it, you have to shut it off at some point. Hand over control. Run your company with an iron fist, but run your home as part of a cohesive family unit. Sit down with your spouse and agree to split up responsibilities. Then, hold up your end.
Too busy to keep track of all there is to do? Hire an assistant and delegate professional duties out wherever you can. Your family is everything.
4. They Outgrow Their “Starter” Marriage
Aston George Taylor is a successful musician and DJ on the party/nightclub scene. His first wife, Monica Joseph-Taylor stars in her own brand new reality show on TLC called, Starter Wife Confidential.
As part of a cast of several other “starter” wives of successful men, she talks about feeling like she and the couple’s children were simply outgrown. As Taylor achieved success, he disconnected from his family, as if bored by domesticated life.
Disillusioned, Joseph-Taylor filed for divorce.
It’s human nature to want more and better than what they have. This one’s tough. In case you were wondering, what I just described is called greed. People who assess the value of their home lives and compare that to the value of their businesses need counseling.
People aren’t appraisable objects. Counseling can help couples get through tough spots and better involve their families in their uphill climb. Stay in and get excited about your family! Stay that way.
5. They Fail to Treat Marriage as Seriously as They Do Their Business
Shark Tank‘s Kevin O’Leary said it better than I ever could in his interview with Kim Lachance Shandrow for Entrepreneur Magazine:
The number one reason for divorce is not infidelity or falling out of love. It’s money. It’s one partner outspending the other. It’s going into debt. It’s not respecting the joint finances. If you avoid doing all of that, you’re in it for the long haul. If not, forget it.
The father of two and married man of 25 years nearly found himself divorced. After a two-year split from his wife, they reconciled and reunited their family. Now, he advises other parents against getting divorced.
O’Leary (author of Cold Hard Truth: On Family, Kids and Money) says all marriages hit rocks. Instead of walking away, respect the partnership you formed. Honor your side of the bargain. And treat your marriage like you do your business. Devote time to its maintenance. It’ll pay off!
Entrepreneurs divorce for a myriad of reasons. Infidelity plays a part as much as isolating oneself from the union. If you’re not willing to put in the time to go the distance, don’t bother with marriage at all. Staying together is tough. Bill and Melinda Gates are a real rarity. And achieving that is a possibility.
Use these five tips from the pros to help you build both a long-lasting marriage and business. Learn from their mistakes. Behave yourself. You’re an adult. Be mindful of your distance. You don’t need to be the alpha in every situation. Feeling like you’re outgrowing your family is symptomatic of needing serious family counseling. And finally, treat your union like its a partnership. That’s how you make it last!
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Declining Divorce Rates
Seven Reasons Fewer Americans Seem to Be Calling It Quits
In the last 20 years, divorce rates have dropped dramatically.
According to The New York Times:
|Couples Married In
Don’t be deceived by the table deceiving. Drastically declining divorce rates are logically the result of a rise in successful marriages going the distance.
Declining Divorce Rates: The Seven Factors That Contributed to the Drop
The divorce surge is over. Americans beat the long-held belief that 50% of all marital unions end like a coin toss. Identifying the cause of declining divorce rates requires that look at several different factors independently and as a whole. Each of their societal contributions affected the way Americans view and treat marriage.
1. Americans Are Waiting Until They’re Older to Marry
Individuals who marry in their later 20’s are likely to have a college degree. They’ve had plenty of time to work out their adolescent, game-playing behavior. And most have been through enough failed past romances to give them a more profound appreciation for their mate.
|Year of Wedding
||Man’s Average Age
||Woman’s Average Age
Both genders are waiting the same amount of time. They’re focused, problem-solving, retirement-planning, mature adults. Each can meet his or her financial needs without anyone’s help. When/if they enter into The Odd Contract that is marriage, it’s only after they’ve thought it through from a logical perspective.
Women initiate divorce proceedings 69% of the time. They’re statistically more prone to changing their minds than men. They should consider all of their partner’s qualities while the couple is still dating.
Contrary to what Benjamin Franklin allegedly said, save for tomorrow that which you could do today!
2. Truths About Successful Women
They earn 75 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts. Yet, despite their mostly uphill trek, more women are achieving financial independence and success. They’re even getting there faster, younger.
The myth that women who are driven, ambitious, and successful are more likely to end up divorced is not true.
Women worked hard for a long time are more selective when choosing a mate. Selectivity pays off in a big way! Successful women are only 20% likely to divorce.
Financially independent women have stronger marriages. There may be a correlation between successful women and happier unions.
3. Single People Are Skipping Marriage Altogether
In 2014, Forbes reported that half of the US population was single. It’s an incredible increase! The 2010 US Census’ data claimed 45% of adults 18+ were single. That’s an increase of 5%!
Fewer folks are making the trip down the aisle. No clear end to the decline is in sight. And there’s no way to know if and when the situation will rebound.
4. Increase In the Number of Single Parent Households
Say what you want about ’em, but single parents well-respected as people who do it all. And they still manage to pull off miracles. We all have at least one close friend, raised by a single parent. This kid is usually the smartest friend we have.
Fifty years ago they were looked at as anomalies. Being widowed was the only socially acceptable form of single parent. Time has moved us forward.
Starting families out of wedlock (and without intentions of ever marrying) is normal today. Single parents are less inclined to marry as singles without children.
An Increase In In-Home Instability
Declining divorce rates don’t reflect across the board positivity. Fewer women are “waiting” until after college to get married, start families, and begin their married lives, opting not to go through any of it.
Economically challenged women who opted not to marry when they became pregnant were financially worse off at the end of their non-married relationships creating an unstable situation for the child.
“Experts have shown…that the children of single parents are at greater risk of everything from poverty to school failure to imprisonment. Their large numbers will almost surely help perpetuate inequality, poverty, and immobility.”
– Kay Hymowitz, Divorce Rates Are Falling – But Marriage Is Still on the Rocks, Time Magazine, December 3, 2014
Some single parents deconstruct mentally deconstruct their families. Separating one’s marriage from the family unit can create distance. Since you can theoretically have either one without the other, single parents tend to compartmentalize them individually.
The reasons for it are understandable (i.e., people compartmentalize multiple stressors to avoid constantly thinking about them). But Kay Hymowitz thinks it’s a primary cause of poverty among children.
5. Religion’s Popularity has Declined
Declining divorce rates are tied to the decline in the popularity of religion. As most religions condemn divorce, the opposite should be the case. It’s not.
The most popular faiths in the US operate under a patriarchal hierarchy. Women are taught to serve and obey their husbands without question.
Progressive Millenials have a more liberal view of the world than most other generations. They grew up surrounded by the controversy over legalizing same-sex marriage. Their values and their views were shaped by these events. They’ll slowly pull away from religious activities.
Relationships (romantic or otherwise) are based on:
- Equally sharing duties and responsibilities
- Moving as far away as possible from patriarchal households
They feel one of two ways about marriage:
- Either marriage is too intense or serious a commitment to enter into lightly, or
- The struggles over legalizing same-sex marriage have left them rejecting the institution of marriage altogether
6. Regular Use of Contraceptives Prevents Shotgun Weddings
Look it up! It’s 100% true!
Shotgun weddings rarely work out. Forcing a child to marry because of a pregnancy borderlines on abuse.
The de-stigmatized use of contraceptives has changed the fates of millions of young men and women. Teen pregnancy rates have dropped 50% and are at the lowest in 20 years!
It’s possible that it occurred in direct correlation with declining divorce rates. Fewer shotgun weddings equal fewer divorces.
People need to be free to choose their mate.
7. College Students and Graduates Are Less Likely to Divorce
More Americans than ever are crossing the stage on graduation day…in college!
- In 1965, only 5.92% of the population was enrolled in college.
- That figure climbed to 20.24% by 2015.
What does the number of college enrollees have to with the declining divorce rate? If you’re thinking it’s because educated singles are less likely to marry, you’d be wrong!
According to a Pew Social Trends report, divorce and education are linked. Based on research done in 2008 using 2007’s data:
- 2.9% of all married individuals lacked a college degree or advanced training.
- Comparatively, 1.6% of similarly aged college educated people divorced in the previous year.
The results reveal a correlation exists between a person’s educational level and their ability to maintain a stable relationship.
College students and graduates have developed the patience and discipline to work through disagreements.
A number of reasons exist for why divorce rates declined over the past few years.
Many of them relate back to changes in gender-related, societal expectations of people over recent decades.
Declining divorce rates can be attributed to a number of things. People are getting married later than before, shot-gun weddings are all but a distant memory as more and more young women gain access to birth control, and smarter, the population of smarter, more educated spouses is on the rise, bringing with it husbands and wives who are more patient than before and more willing to cooperate to resolve their conflicts.
The decline doesn’t show signs of stopping. OECD, the Organisation for Economic C0-Operation and Development forecasted continued yearly increases through the year 2030!
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As a mother of seven, I’ve developed my own unique way of raising kids. It didn’t come to me overnight, and I certainly didn’t learn it from a guru or pick it up from a book. Sixteen years of raising babies, kissing boo-boos, and wiping booties taught me how to do this. And I’m pretty damned great at it (if I do say so myself)!
And although I’ve talked about and have written about my methods of raising kids in the past, I’ve never thought to study the science of parenting until recently.
The Objective of Fatherhood and Parenting
I’ve been known to make jokes about the point of parenting being trying not to kill your kid. While you laugh out loud at that, remember how true it really is.
From infancy, our sole job (for a few years, at least) is to keep our newest creation alive. Then, as they grow it becomes our job to keep them from killing themselves by keeping them away from the stove, the knives in the dishwasher, and furniture corners. If we’re successful, they’ll pretty much do the rest without a whole lot of intervention from you.
If you did your job correctly, you’ll end up with a compassionate, caring, and responsible adult capable of navigating around furniture without having bumps and bruises to show for it later.
Here are four simple things science says you can do to turn your chubby toddlers into thoughtful, caring adults.
1. Chores Build Responsibility, Even In Toddlers
No matter how cute their fat cheeks and button noses are, as a father, you have to get past their deceiving inability to follow directions. Trust me, they know more than they’ll let on. Toddlers are smart, wicked smart! They’ll pretend not to know the meaning of the word no until they’re five! Why? Call it convenience or laziness or both. But, and I’m telling you the truth here, give your children something to do, a job or chore, as soon as they can walk.
If you have older minions, they too must have chores they do regularly. And you have to be the supervisor of said chores. I know that’s hard when you only get to hang out with them on a schedule, but trust me when I say that a child with responsibilities gets used to having to tend to them.
In my house, my toddler picks up his toys at bedtime and throws away his rolled up, dirty diapers in the trash. My sixteen-year-old has a regular job she goes to on the weekends. My younger teens tend to the garbage and dishes. While my younger ones vacuum, clean their bathroom, and manage the laundry. It’s not perfect and requires supervision on my part, but we get it all done.
I’m not wrong either. In 2015, the University of Minnesota conducted a study on this subject. It turns out that kids three to four years old who participated in household chores were more self-sufficient as adults and were more likely to achieve success in their careers.
Give your kids something to do. It’ll only benefit them in the long-term.
2. When It Comes to Time You Spend With Them, Think Quality Over Quantity
You probably expected this one. And you should!
Men tend to think about time being some sort of universal currency. In a way it is. But would you rather your paycheck be cut in American Dollars or Japanese Yen?
The amount of time you spend with your brood is nowhere near as important as what you do with it. Nor does it require you to spend any of your American Dollars.
Kids remember who showed up more than they recall the specific activity. It all hinges on stories that begin with, “My dad came to my school play last week,” and not, “My dad always gets us court side tickets to the Spurs’ games.”
Plan your activities around what comes easy, financially and otherwise. You want them to enjoy their time with you, and you want to enjoy it too. Hear me now, kids are the most intuitive beings on the planet. They’ll know right away if you’re over-extending yourself.
The Journal of Marriage and Family put out some solid evidence claiming you don’t need to be there for everything they do. Their study determined that the amount of time you spend with them bears little to no impact on behavioral issues.
Instead, make sure you are engaged and do your best to create positive memories by reading to them, write to them and ask that they do the same, or play around outside with them.
3. Always Praise Their Efforts
Here’s one I’ve learned only recently.
It used to be that I would go on and on about my kids’ Honor Roll or overall class rankings. To me, it’s the prize that matters. It’s what I aim for as an entrepreneur and what gives me direction. The same applies to kids, right?
While it’s important to teach your kids to have goals, and to give them strategies to meet them, you need to understand that their brains don’t think like ours. Where we might think that getting better at math is an attainable goal, kids think that you praising their good grades means they should work on solving easier problems rather than challenge themselves.
Life is full of challenges – at all ages. You want them to be equipped to face the big and bad as adults. In fact, in 2013, researchers at Stanford University came up with a solution after conduction a study looking into this issue.
Lead researcher, Carol Dweck said in the report, “When children are taught the value of concentrating, strategizing and working hard when dealing with academic challenges, this encourages them to sustain their motivation, performance and self-esteem.”
Praise the amount of time, work, and effort your child puts into learning or mastering something new. Don’t focus on the end result.
4. Be Honest About Your Feelings of Disappointment When They Disobey You or Fail to Hold Up Their End of the Bargain
To rock single fatherhood, remember that fostering compassion and kindness in your kids is something you’ll do better if you vocalize your feelings of disappointment when they fail to meet your expectations. Anger isn’t an effective feeling for getting this done. Anger only breeds anger. It doesn’t solve or achieve anything. Instead, work with your kids to show them why you’re disappointed and how they can do better in the future.
Kids have a very shallow and simple way of interpreting adults’ feelings. To them, we grownups are either happy or mad. The intricacies and complexities behind our feelings aren’t known to them until they’ve reached adulthood. While the reasoning behind this happens is important, it’s not something we need to focus on right now.
Never shame your child or yell at them when they misbehave. Talk about what he or she did wrong and express a genuine desire that they do better moving forward. This, according to a study by the Department of Psychology at Ohio State University, is the best way to instill good morals and a sense of self in children.
The cliche is accurate, your kid is different from anyone else’s child. Their situation and how you teach them to handle their new single-parent household will determine who they become as adults. While you don’t want to raise a bunch of whiny and incompetent adults, you do want them to care about the people in their lives, pay their bills on time, and pull over to help a stranded lady change her flat tire.
Often, dads tend to forget that their kids came into their world, and not the other way around. They joined you in your life and are riding the same crazy roller coaster you are. While you want to be sympathetic to their plight as individuals, don’t coddle them. No good comes from being an overbearing, helicopter dad. Also, you won’t get anywhere by being the distant guy your kids see twice a year.
The solution lies somewhere in the middle. Give them chores as soon as they’re walking and teach them the right ways to get them done. Quality time is everything, so remember to make the absolute most of your visits by engaging your kids in activities by actively participating in them. Don’t forget to praise their efforts before their talents. And share your feelings of disappointment with them when they misbehave or fail to hold of their end of the bargain.
I know it my unconventional thinking might seem odd to you, but this is just what I’ve learned from 16 years of doing parenting. While they might not be perfect little angels, but my minions are responsible, caring people who work hard and have strong values.
Try out one of these or all four and let me know how it works out!
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