Break Bread Together

There are many studies on the importance of family meal time.   For kids and parents the social activity of having a family meal builds closeness, better eating habits, confidence and helps with academics, physical and mental health and overall well-being. My favorite quote on the importance of dining together comes from the late Anthony Bourdain:

“We know, for instance, that there is a direct, inverse relationship between frequency of family meals and social problems. Bluntly stated, members of families who eat together regularly are statistically less likely to stick up liquor stores, blow up meth labs, give birth to crack babies, commit suicide, or make donkey porn. If Little Timmy had just had more meatloaf, he might not have grown up to fill chest freezers with Cub Scout parts.” 

― Anthony Bourdain, Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook 

However, in a busy household nightly family dinner is not always easy (or even possible).  With school, extra curricular activities and work schedules getting the family together is not a simple task.

What is important is that it is the time together that matters, not the meal.  If a nightly dinner is not going to happen, strive for something like a proper Sunday meal with candlelight and all!

Another option, is skip the dinner idea altogether.  Do family breakfast.  20 minutes together to kick-start your day with some proper triggered conversation starters:

“What is one thing you are look forward to today?”

“What is one thing that you are concerned about today?”

“Before we head out the door share one thing that was good yesterday and one thing that was bad?”

“What was one thing you did today or yesterday that helped someone else?”

The meal matters for the nourishment, but the conversation matters most.  The conversation also needs to be with the kids talking (hopefully more than the parents)

When we share a meal, we often play a game. Some examples below:

Word association game: to help with vocabulary, state a word and then have your kids call out as many words with similar meanings.

The compliment game: each member states two things they like about other family members and they cannot be the same as what has been stated.

What happened today game: name one thing that made you happy, one thing that made you sad, one thing you did to make the world better and one thing you could have done better.

If you can- get around the table, enjoy a meal and each other.  It is amazing what you will learn and enjoy about your family by making family meal time a priority.

That’s the Goal

Another year is winding down and 2018 is just around the corner.  Of course New Year resolutions are being thrown out like free t-shirts at a sporting event.

Don’t state resolutions, but do set goals.

This morning, each member of my family wrote down three goals.  Why did we write them down?  Because studies have shown you are at least 40% more likely to achieve written out goals.

Why did we share them and do the exercise collectively?  Because the success rate of achieving goals again grows exponentially, simply by sharing them.

We all had fitness goals.  However, the key is to make them precise.

I am committing to a 100 push-up/day for 100 day challenge and taking boxing classes at a studio across from my office.  My wife, is going to do ballet classes on Saturday mornings and my eldest daughter is going to achieve her dance splits by doing stretching exercises on her yoga mat (set right next to her bed) first thing in the morning and just before bed.

Beyond the classic post holiday, “time to get in shape” goals.  Setting specific school, or career goals and personal achievement goals will help keep 2018 on track.

My five year old is committed to do more around the house to help the family (how she came up with that is beyond me, but awesome!)  She wants to wash dishes and feed the dogs daily.

Focus on areas that you need to work at and have the goals written down.  Better yet, re-write them daily, or weekly to keep them top of mind.  In my business, I can get bogged down and forget the basics to my early career success.

One of my career goals is simply blocking an hour each day, to “smile and dial” to simply call my clients. I want to make sure I am personally connecting with them to check in and check up on their mortgage and life needs (and not through email or text.)

Goals are the start, the set up and ultimately the end destination.  You may get there without setting them out, but by doing so-writing them down and sharing them, you will creat accountability and a road map to not only getting there, but getting there together-and isn’t that the ultimate goal?




Money Tip for Kids

One of the best life lessons my parents taught me was the value of a dollar.

From a very young age, I had a comprehensive concept of budgeting, savings, spending and prioritizing. Although there were a lot of methods my folks used to teach, the simple mantra from my father was “put money in your kid’s hands early.”

They figured out what they spent on me annually and put that money in my control. By the time I was ten years old, I was responsible to pay for everything (school clothes, hockey registration, entertainment-everything.) There was a limit on the money I had, and this forced me to really understand what things cost.

The cool shoes became less important, when I realized they ate up half my school clothes budget (besides they would go on sale in October, so I could wait until then to snag them). My parents let me fail and make stupid purchases-better to do this at 15 than 30! They gave me support and advice, but the money was mine.

I am sure if I suddenly didn’t want to be active and play sports and just spent my money on candy and toys, they would have stepped in. However, the great thing is my mind had developed to create a sense of responsibility, self worth and self-reliance. The result, I made the right choices more often than not.

I am a strong believer that children can handle money concepts and teaching needs to start early. Financial literacy is not something that can easily be learned in your twenties or beyond. A good first step is to set up a pay plan. By 4 or 5 years old, a child can earn money with chores and then learn how to use this money.

With my own young children, we have a chore/good human chart and weekly allowance.  Chores are just part of helping as a member of a household, but acknowledge effort and kindness is also important (so go ahead and expand the chore chart idea). From this allowance, a portion goes into spending (living), a portion into savings and a portion for charity (giving).

The savings portion goes into their own bank accounts. The spending portion is fine to be in a piggy bank (and if they want to buy a fidget spinner, or save it to purchase a Lego set, so be it). The charity portion allows them to develop a great sense of humanitarian responsibility and actively choose where they want to contribute.

It may sound cliché, but kids are the future and it is our responsibility to ensure they are prepared.



So, I’m a Dance Dad

My two daughters just finished their year end dance recital and after watching two hours of dance-I have come to the conclusion that I am a dance dad and I love it.

Why I love it is not about the dancing. I love music and art, so I do enjoy dance, but it is more what I am seeing come from within my little girls. They both have danced since she age 3 (their mom danced and did professional theatre, so trying dance as a little girl was inevitable).

However, what I have seen in both is such growth- measurable growth as an athlete, artist and person-a desire to compete, to be better, to work harder. Becoming stronger, both physically and mentally, as well as a real growth in responsibility and commitment-has all further developed thanks to dance. A beaming smile to be able to go on stage and DANCE!

Success in life is so important and the way to measure success is really very simple. Are you BETTER today than you were yesterday-and what are you doing to be even better tomorrow? That is all that matters. It is not about being the best. It is not about money or fame-it is an internal measurement. Are you better?

Watching my daughters dance is inspiring. It makes me ask myself this very important question. AM I SUCCESSFUL? AM I BETTER TODAY THAN I WAS YESTERDAY? I am not about to put on a ballet leotard and dance-but how am I better in my life?

What can I do to be better as a father, a husband and friend? What can I do to better hone my craft? Most importantly, what can I do to be a better citizen-to make the world better? What can I do to better share my gifts, my time and knowledge-to contribute? To give. To be successful.

I always say my kids inspire me and when the final curtain closed on Gotta Dance 2017, my daughters, had once again inspired me more than they even know. Dance-so much more than music and steps-success is in every breath.


Slaying the Tickle Monster

I no longer attack my daughter with tickles.

She doesn’t like it because she says it makes her feel like she is going to pee. Sneaking up on her and attacking her with the “tickle monster” while she was frantically telling me to stop, seemed to me to all be in jest. That is until I realized that I was giving her voice no power. She was saying “NO, STOP, I DON’T LIKE IT, OR WANT THIS.”

By continuing to tickle her, I was saying with no words at all, I can overpower you, I can do what I want to your body and person and I don’t need your consent. How awful is that?

In social development a clear understanding of consent must be learned at a very young age and it is important that as parents, and responsible citizens, we teach it. I think we ought to be even more cognisant of how young boys deal with consent. A boy being tickled, or wrestled with more often than not, has his voice ignored. Just a little rough housing has no harm, unless said boy doesn’t want it. A boy, just like a girl, needs to know if he says no, it means no. If he hears no, it means no. If we as adults, reject his voice, how can we expect him as a grown man to respect the voice of someone else?

This past school year a group of boys tried to kiss girls in my daughter’s class. Why the boys wanted to do this is irrelevant-what mattered is many of the girls didn’t want to be kissed. The boys would chase, girls would scream. What might seem to be 5 year olds being silly kids is a root to a much deeper problem. The understanding of control of your body, respect of another’s and fully understanding any advancement towards another person is not acceptable without their consent, is fundamental in social upbringing. Why is this such an important lesson that must be instilled consistently, and from the start?

Rape. Just writing it makes me cringe. Having two young daughters I am more aware of rape culture than I ever used to be. The fact that rape culture is even a description of an epidemic sweeping our society is an awful reality, but is a reality that cannot be ignored.

Unwanted sexual advancements and assaults, especially in schools (places that should be held in the highest regard in society), are occurring at staggering levels-with many cases never being reported at all. We cannot be silent about it. When you have college campuses draped with banners proudly boasting appalling messages of RAPE, you’ve got a major problem on your hands.

It is not all in good fun to flaunt “thank you fathers for freshmen daughters” or “fresh meat” or “you’ve been her daddy for 18 years, we’ll take it from here” or the worst of the bunch, “NO MEANS YES”.

No should be the most powerful word anyone can say to another person. NO doesn’t just mean NO, it means STOP. The problem is somehow, especially with a mob mentality, consent is seen as an ambiguous concept that is up for interpretation. When in fact, consent should be and is the clearest damn thing that exists. If a person doesn’t say yes, then they have said no.

Let’s make sure our little boys and little girls know this while learning their ABC’s and 123’s and if you have to slay the “tickle monster” to help teach this lesson, bring out the sword.

Like a Girl

I am blessed to have two little girls. I must admit when I imagined fatherhood, I never thought I would have two girls. I have an older sister, so I imagined having a girl, but I always saw a son as well. I think this is pretty natural for men. However, having girls is a real eye opener for a man. I really cannot imagine my house filled with anything but girls, now that I have them. Seeing the bond between sisters is just beautiful. However, when I tell people I have two girls, or when they see my two little ladies, I often get these sorts of responses:

“Wow, I feel sorry for you when they are teenagers”

“Now you have to worry about all the boys. I am lucky, I just have to worry about one boy”

“Good thing you own a shotgun”

I know these comments are mostly in jest, but they are really bad gender stereotypes. I am honoured to have the responsibility to raise, thoughtful, smart, confident and beautiful women. Women-that will have a sense of self-worth. Women-that will know what love is and what it means to be loved. Women-that will know what a good man is and how they ought to be treated. Sometimes, I may have to wear fairy wings and paint toenails, but what is more manly than that? I am not worried about boys, or hormones. I look forward to these stages ahead and the growth I will experience as a father and man raising my girls.

Now, if you are a father with boys in this coming generation, I hope you are teaching your sons to cry like a boy, express emotions like a boy and nurture like a man. You better, so your sons are prepared for girls like mine. If you ask my daughters to speak like a girl, you are going to get a precise and confident opinion. If you ask one of my daughters to do ladies work, she’ll change your flat tire and frame your basement. And if you ask my daughters to throw like a girl-watch out, because they’ll bring the heat!


Man, Step Your Game Up!

Men, we need a pep talk. Fatherhood is not a job-it is a choice. You chose it-whether you were ready to or not. As such, be a dad. It is easy to be a father on a birth certificate, but to be a dad- now that is manhood. What do I mean by be a dad? I mean, be present, not just be there. Present means listen to your kids, relish in their dreams and goals, encourage them, guide them-BE WITH THEM (and please put down the smartphone!) Love their mom. She is their source of breath. They will learn love from how you love. Even if you have a failed relationship-show love. Remember half of your child is your partner or ex-partner . Do not keep score with your spouse. Kids are not a weekly chore list. No dad deserves a medal for giving mom a break. THEY ARE YOUR KIDS! That said, give mom a break. Motherhood just might be the toughest thing to do in this world-because for a child, mom is the world. I get you work and are tired, but weekends are not just for you. I can’t believe how many dads I know that go out drinking on a Friday and leave it all on mom. Go ahead and have a few pops with the boys, but you better get up first thing in the morning and experience the hangover with a toddler jumping on you (because there is nothing like it!)

Okay Dads, that is enough of a rant-but do yourself a favour and be a MAN.