Three Principles for Fatherhood

Howdy! My name is Rob, and I will be blogging for the Parenting Success Network. I’m happy to be here and I hope that you will find my posts useful.

I am father to four daughters, and one thing that is often pointed out about me is that I am male. In my other job, I work with children and families at a Relief Nursery. This is maybe more unusual than it should be. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2012 less than 6% of people who work in childcare were men; in Preschool and Kindergarten, it was less than 2%. There are a number of reasons for this, and this is not the time to go into them. But I find it disheartening, given that around 100% of fathers are men, and they have real work to do.

I wanted to start with a couple of principles to which I subscribe in my role as a father. I didn’t make them up, and I can’t say that I stick to them with anything like total compliance (we all have days, right?). But I think they’re important and worth discussing.

  1. Be on the same page with your wife or partner.

This may take some explaining. My wife and I decided while the first one was on the way, that it was absolutely essential we were both on board with the hows, whens, and whys of raising our children. Having had no experience as a parent, or really being around kids at that point, I took it as a given. Anyway, she seemed to know what she was talking about. It turned out to be one of the most important decisions we have made as parents.

On what did we need to agree? It started before the birth, as we were lucky enough to be able to choose a natural birth with few complications. She wanted to stay at home, at least for the time being, so this required my cooperation (to say the least). I signed on to such practices as breastfeeding and co-sleeping with at least a partial understanding of the work this would entail. And later, the importance of consistent routines such as mealtimes and bedtimes. Later still, decisions about potty training, discipline, and education were made with mutual and conscious deliberation. This is not to say that what we had decided to do always worked, and that we didn’t have to go back to the drawing board again and again. The point is, fathers need to know what the plan is, and what it entails, in order to provide the support that the mother and the children need. We are a team, after all.

  1. Share the duties.

I can’t stress this enough. Fortunately, I have the research to back me up. A recent study found that, when men take part in housework and chores, it has a clear and positive effect on the child—specifically, that “when fathers take an active role in household work, their daughters are more inclined toward picturing themselves in leadership and management roles in potential jobs, as opposed to stereotypically feminine careers.” I was okay with doing the dishes before, but knowing that it actually expands the horizons for my girls’ future lives takes the edge off.

  1. Be present for the kids.

What does present mean? A colleague once shocked me by telling me that my kids were so lucky to have a father like me because she went on, I was there. Like, physically there in the house. That’s present. Go me. But as I am reminded more often than I’d like, just being there leaves room for improvement. Am I distracted by work? Am I focused on getting the beds made and pajamas laid out for the night? Am I thinking about the episode of The Sopranos I’m going to watch on my phone later? Am I conscious of the fact that, though I just worked an eight-hour day, my wife’s job runs to 24, with no overtime?

Kids need time with their father. They need him to ask about their day, to look at their drawings, to listen to what the warrior princesses were doing outside under the picnic table, and how the tea party went. They need him to be patient with bedtimes and give the extra hug, tell the extra story, and know that Tony Soprano will still be up to his shenanigans later. That’s presence. And it’s hard.

School Success Starts Early

“How do children become ready for school? It starts at birth, with the support of parents and caregivers, when young children acquire the social and emotional skills, knowledge, and attitudes necessary for success in school and in life.”


So how can parents and caregivers help set children up for school success? The latest Ready to Learn post on the website, does an excellent job outlining the following 5 basic themes for supporting school readiness:

  1. its all about relationships
  2. everyday experiences shape early learning
  3. emotions
  4. the importance of play
  5. what a school-ready child looks like

Check out the link to for more details about ways to support your child’s school readiness from the first days of life.

Use Your Words…

Language development is one of the most amazing capacities of the young mind. Researchers have studied the brain during this phase and continue to uncover new and exciting things about how language is acquired and developed. Did you know:

  • Around 18 months, many children can say about 50 words. At this age, most children also begin using new words after hearing them only once.
  • Whether children learn words in a rush or more slowly, by the time they reach their second birthday, they’re typically using between 250-350 words.
  • Only six months later, the word total nearly doubles to about 600 words.

I was amazed every time I watched my own children go from wordless to nonstop talking in a matter of months.  And the best part of language development for me, besides the fact that I had yet another conversation partner, was that it took a lot of the guesswork out of parenting. My children could finally express their wants, needs, and feelings (for the most part).

This is known as expressive language. Expressive language is defined as the ability to communicate thoughts and feelings. It is a powerful communication tool and there are things parents can do to encourage their child’s development of expressive language. LBCC’s Healthy Families & Healthy Start Early Literacy Program is a great resource for tips and activities that will build expressive language in young children. The newsletter is written in three parts that correspond to various age ranges of language development (babies, 2-3 year-olds, and 4-5 year-olds) and gives expectations and ideas for each. Check out the newsletter and remember that the best thing parents can do to encourage language development is use your words.

Making the Most of Mealtime

There is much more to eating with our children than meets the eye. Eating with your child is an opportunity to strengthen your relationship as well as set the foundation for lifelong good eating habits. There are basic things that parents can do to  make the most of mealtime with their child starting from birth. The tip sheet titled: Healthy From the Start, brought to you by, offers the following 7 tips to guide parents as they work to make the most of mealtime with their little ones.

  1. Remember: Meals are about more than food.
  2. Create routines around mealtime.
  3. Offer 3 or 4 healthy food choices (that your child likes) at each meal.
  4. Don’t force your baby or toddler to eat.
  5. Don’t give up on new foods.
  6. Turn off the TV (and computers etc.) at mealtimes.
  7. Healthy eating and exercise go hand in hand.

New Interactive School Readiness Resource for Parents

As the parent of two elementary school children, I can still remember wanting to do whatever I could as a parent to prepare my children for school before they entered. In fact, I was looking for creative and fun ideas for activities and experiences for them as soon as I brought them home from the hospital. Okay, that is an overstatement because all I wanted for my newborn babies (and myself) was sleep.

Anyway, the more we can do to give our young children readiness skills for school, the better prepared they are to take advantage of the opportunities that school will provide. The website Zero-to-Three has recently released a fabulous interactive learning tool designed to help parents and caregivers encourage their young children’s early learning.

This Tool Includes:

  • Core information about how children develop school readiness skills and how parents and care givers can nuture and support these skills in young children.
  • Video clips that show children learning these skills through everyday interactions with their parents.
  • Parent-child activities which provide fun ideas for helping children develop school readiness skills.
  • Frequently asked questions that offer answers to common questions about learning.

If you have a newborn through preschooler check out School Readiness Interactive brought to you by  ZERO TO THREE.

Thinking About Thinking: Supporting your baby’s thinking skills

  • Children need many skills to grow up to be successful adults. Some of the most important skills that will serve all children well throughout life are thinking skills or the ability to use brain power to solve a problem in one’s environment. There are a lot of things that we can do at to encourage and develop these skills in our children, and we can start VERY early. Some ideas are offered in the Zero to Three Parenting Tips Library. The tip sheet is titled, Thinking Skills: What You Can Do to Encourage Your Baby’s Thinking Skills from 0-12 months offers ideas such as those listed below. For more detailed information about each suggestion check out the link to the full Tip Sheet brought to you by
  • Offer objects to explore.
  • Respond to her efforts to communicate. 
  • Delight in your child’s discoveries. 
  • Provide the help your child needs to solve problems
  • Play disappearing and reappearing games.
  • Encourage your child to explore objects and toys in different ways.
  • Provide support for reaching goals.
  • Model problem-solving.
  • Take “touching” walks.
  • Make the most of daily routines.
  • Give your child some everyday “toys”.


Teaching Children to Self-Regulate is Setting Them Up for Future Success

“I want it now!”

I can still hear the screams in my head as I think back to my daughter’s reaction to the fact that she can’t have the dolly on the shelf at the store. I know it is my job to help her work through this impulse successfully as she falls out on the department store floor kicking and screaming. But how? And what reaction should I realistically expect from her at the tender age of two? What I did not even consider was that my reaction in the moment — that “teachable moment”– would play a huge part in laying the foundation for her future success.

In a past post we discussed a current “hot topic” in child development– self control. The development of self-control, impulse control, or self-regulation in young children has been linked to success later in life. So this has many parents asking, “What do I need to be doing to help my child develop these skills?”

Before we begin to answer this question we must first begin to understand a few things that can have an impact on self-control such as:

*a child’s temperament

*the child’s development of executive functioning skill development

*children’s context (the situation the child is currently in)

*child’s mood

*child’s experience of a particular event (such as schedule change, life change, trauma)

*and most importantly, the relationship that the child has with the primary caregiver, the person that teaches the child how to manage and regulate their behavior as well as models how they manage their own.

As parents, we want to do what we can to ensure future success for our children. The good news is that there are a lot of simple things that we can do to set them up for success. And most of them are FREE! For more information about what parents can do to promote healthy development of self-regulation skills in young children check out the podcast Beyond “Use Your Words!”: How Babies Begin to Develop Self-Control in the First Three Years Featuring Brenda Jones-Harden, Ph.D. brought to you by


Now you see me, now you don’t. Peek-A-Boo, I see you.

The games we play with our babies are fun for baby and adult alike. They promote bonding and feelings of contentment and belonging. But many of the “baby games” we play serve educational purposes as well. Peek-a-boo, for example begins to give babies experience with object permanence, or the knowledge that an object is still there even when it is covered up or hidden behind something. This understanding develops over time with repeated exposure to experiences that reinforce this concept. Many of the games we remember from our own childhood are equally as educational and oftentimes they are also simple and fun. So why not have some fun while reinforcing basic concepts with your baby? Plus its fun to watch their faces as we “disappear and reappear” behind our hands. For more tips and ideas for playing learning games with your baby, check put the tip sheet titled Easy Learning Games to Play with Your Baby by Shari Steelsmith. This archived tip sheet is brought to you by

What games have you played with your baby lately?

To Leave or Not to Leave

The latest parenting debate is currently swirling around a mother who chose to leave her 10 week old with caregivers while she went on a 6-day vacation in Mexico. The mother, Rebecca Eckler, a journalist wrote an article about her vacation plans for and received heavy scrutiny and criticism from readers. The question readers are asking is “When is it appropriate for parents to leave a newborn?” Some readers are even questioning whether or not newborns should be left in the care of anyone other than the parents for any length of time.

This debate has led me to consider what the research shows. We know that newborns need bonding experiences with mommy and daddy. This requires plenty of attention and time together. But does that time together have to be constant? Will a 10-day break really make a long-term difference in the quality of attachment between the parents and baby?

In thinking about these issues consider the working mother that leaves her infant with responsible caregivers after her 6 week maternity leave. This daycare schedule is oftentimes daily and for eight hours or more at a time. More often than not, these mothers report that their babies have grown up to be bright, responsible, well-adjusted children.

Additionally, mothers that take care of themselves oftentimes report that they feel better about caring for their babies and families. So a 10-day break for mom and dad (at any point in parenting) can be good for the entire family.

The most important thing to remember when leaving a newborn is the quality and trustworthiness of the childcare provider that you have chosen. Family is best, but not always an option. So if you are leaving your newborn with a non-family member (for any length of time) do your homework first. Ask for referrals and references and visit the location where your child will be cared for whether it is a home or facility. If you do not feel comfortable immediately, dig deeper or find a new childcare provider.

Finally, as parents, let’s try to support each other rather than judge other parents’ choices. Parenting is not an exact science. At times it can even be described as “trial and error”.  All we can do is what we feel is best for our children given our own personal set of circumstances. What works for one family may or may not work for another and there is nothing wrong with that.

So as the debate rages on, it is worth it to consider what works for you and your family. If you are interested in watching an interview with Rebecca Eckler and two “experts” in the field of parenting and women’s health check out this link to