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.



Time Doesn’t Come from a Store

Christmas is coming. Time for me to get all anti-commercial goods on you! I am serious about it though. I always think my girls have too much stuff. I have too much stuff. We all have TOO MUCH STUFF! I love giving and receiving presents. Most of us do. I am not saying this should stop, but a monetary exchange, a gift draw, or the like, really puts me off.

The greatest gift is time. This is true on all levels. Your time is solely yours (it may not feel that way sometimes, but it truly is YOURS TO GIVE). 

I saw the direct impact of giving time to underprivileged kids when I coached football for 10-12 year old boys from da’ hood. Many were tough nosed kids from single parent homes, with very few positive male role models. This was a rough lot, with an “F” the world attitude.

Yet, with the gift of my time-I saw actual positive change.  whether it was teaching one how to throw a spiral, or how to shave-they developed a sense of worth.  They saw they could accomplish things, as individuals and collectively. They experienced that someone believed in them, cared about them and wanted to teach them and spend TIME with them. This is huge!

I know some of these boys have since gone on to do great things. Go to university, become realtors, lawyers and teachers-role models and people of influence.  I had the honour of assisting a kid (now man), buy his first home this past summer. Some have likely ended up in prison too, but I know I helped turn some in the right direction. I maybe, just maybe, helped to save a few.

I know the power of time first hand-I know it is the greatest gift you can give. So, why not give it to your own kids, your nieces and nephews-your loved ones?

Instead of new Barbies, a Lego set, or a new high end coat-plan a family day hike in the mountains. Actually go, pack a lunch. Make a memory and use the experience to teach about nature. The questions of discovery that come from kids will be more than worth it.

Take your nephew skating all winter-pick him up, get him on the outdoor rink. Plan a weekly bike ride with your niece-each week try a new route for new adventures. Cook with your mom (someone better learn her recipes!)

Go fishing with your dad-or work on his car. Set aside time with your spouse, even a glass of wine once the kids are asleep-that is a set meeting-that you cannot skip (because you have too many more important things to do). Plan an exercise get together with your friends, where you try something new-like yoga, or spin class.

For my family, we make sure the holiday season is filled with outdoor fun. A skate night at Olympic Plaza, or sled races on the toboggan bowl in Bridgeland are worth far more than any wrapped gift.

Just give a time commitment and stick to it.  A few less gifts under the tree will not ruin Christmas-it just might make it better. If time is money-set the spending limits high this year.

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!


A Lession in value and other things…

Should a five year old have access to an iPad-maybe? I mean it certainly has some apps that kids love. And Steve Jobs did help my eldest learn to count when she was 2. I am sure child experts will say limited screen time is a must, or that they shouldn’t be on it at all. I am no expert and I am worried kids are too into gadgets (but adults are the worst example!) This is not about the appropriateness of iPad usage-it is about what to do when your child breaks said iPad.

Our daughter dropped ours and the screen smashed-I mean Charlotte’s Web style. This was an accident though-she literally dropped it. So, anger is not the right reaction. Here is an opportunity for a lesson.

The first question from her scared self-“Can we fix it?-can we get a new one?”

The right answer-“No, we can’t-not now.” The iPad is expensive, it costs a lot of money and we can’t afford to go buy one right now. We need to live WITHOUT this now.”

Whether we could run out and buy a new one, or not is irrelevant. What we can TEACH in this moment is that things cost money-money has value and things that cost money have value. Money has limitations and sometimes we do not have the resources to just buy something.

So, I asked my daughter-“What do you think we can do here?” her first response “Ask Santa for a new one for the next 6 Christmas’s”

This is pretty good, but I followed up with another question “Well, you broke it, so what do you think YOU could do to help fix the accident?”

“Well, Daddy, I could do more chores, I could save my money and I can help buy a new one.”

I responded “Yes, you can, but it will take a really long time to have enough money to get a new one.”

And here is where the life lesson sinks in.

“I have to be okay with that Daddy, it costs a lot of money and i’ll help-we can live without an iPad right?”

“You bet we can darling-you bet we can.”


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.