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Our children’s Upbringing is Not Our Own

Our children’s Upbringing is Not Our Own 1440 810 Jason Stadtlander

Fifteen years ago, I saw my son emerge into the world and it was the first time I can really remember getting choked up at the emotion of an experience. Here was this tiny living person that I had helped create, someone that was part of me and part of someone I loved. A tiny person that could not even feed themselves, had yet to learn to walk or speak. Activities that his mother and I had the responsibility to teach. Elements to living that we would not even realize we were teaching, things like compassion for others, learning to pet an animal gently, or showing respect.

Among the more interesting things have been hiking, biking, learning to swim, and learning to climb. Being able to live my own childhood again through my children’s eyes. Sitting on a deck while drinking coffee as they chase a duck down by the pond and remembering my own years of sneaking up on a turtle or trying to pet a rabbit. It’s easy to get wrapped up in your child’s childhood, to want them to experience everything you experience. I’ve taken my children on trips all over the United States and tried to show them things that I experienced.

A few months ago, I asked my son some of his favorite things we had done. He rattled off places like Cape Cod, Maine, Montana, giving specifics of going to beaches and going on whale watches and it got me thinking. I have strived to always take him to places that I loved while growing up, like Ohio, Lake Erie, and Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. Don’t get me wrong, he enjoyed Mammoth cave and liked some of the things I did as a child, but they were not his favorite. For a moment I got a little upset, I didn’t let him know it, but I was very annoyed that he didn’t enjoy the things I did as a child.

One of the most rewarding experiences about being a parent, especially beyond the elementary years is not having your children relive your own experiences, but watching them live through their own.

How could he not absolutely love the Air and Space Museum in Dayton? As strange as it sounds, it was the first time that I really stood back and realized that it was because he was living his own childhood, not mine. My son was his own person and was experiencing a childhood through very different eyes than mine.

Some of my greatest experiences have not been things that my parents taught me, but have been discoveries I’ve made on my own. Like traveling the country, the world, and my own inner journey to understand myself better. Sure, my parents laid the foundation and that was critical, but I am the one who stepped off our shores and found out just what the rest of the world sees in America and what part I can play in this whole thing called the human experience.

This led me to another line of thought, what part was I to play in this? My oldest son may be fifteen years old now and I tend to be a little slow to come to realizations on things, but I do think I still have a big part to play. My job in being his father is to expose him to as many things as I can. Not things that I have personally experienced, but things that are new for both of us. Teach him to explore his own world and experience his own discoveries. This is a problem I have seen with my own father and many other parents – trying to force your children to love the things you loved instead of embracing the uniqueness of their own lives and experiences.

One of the most rewarding experiences about being a parent, especially beyond the elementary years is not having your children relive your own experiences, but watching them live through their own. So I will endeavor to help my children face their own future, make their own discoveries and I will strive to realize that their experiences are their own, not mine and there is nothing wrong with that.


Jack and Elaine – Lost

Jack and Elaine – Lost 764 432 Jason Stadtlander

Every year the county fair fell around Elaine’s birthday making it the perfect birthday gift. Her friend Jack and his family would be joining Elaine and her parents this year. She would finally be able to share the collection of wonder and amazement that she loved so much. Perhaps she could even get her parents to try and get her a prize at one of the many carnival games – something her parents never seemed to give in to. Elaine salivated at the thought of the delicious food and rides as they danced in her head.

This year she read in the newspaper about a giant pumpkin that won grand prize; 1,260 pounds. It was hard to imagine how big that must be and Elaine was very excited to see it, moving it to the top of her ‘must see list’. She loved the animals, dog shows and frozen bananas which for some reason always tasted better in the crisp autumn air of the fair.

Sitting in her father’s minivan as they entered the gate she wore a grin from ear to ear as did Jack sitting next to her. They parked the van and she and Jack leaped out. Even from out here, the smell of French fries, fried dough and Italian sausage were overwhelming, instantly making Elaine hungry. Within two minutes, she convinced her parents to stop at the first few games – throwing darts at balloons and winning her a stuffed pig and some large fake dollar bills. She was having a blast!

Jack and his parents headed for the restroom, while she and her family made their way toward the giant pumpkin in the Fruits and Vegetable hall, weaving their way through the crowds of people. Elaine held her piggy in one hand and dollar bills in the other. Someone bumped into her and a few of the massive dollar bills fell out of her hand. She grabbed at them as they started to blow away. Elaine ran after it for about thirty feet and caught it, then stood up to rejoin her parents but they weren’t in front of her. They had not seen her stop and kept walking. Panic set in, she looked to the right, then to the left. Suddenly she felt very small, a little girl surrounded by a towering, moving mass of people. She dropped a dollar bill, she quickly grabbed it, she suddenly felt like it meant everything that she not lose what her mommy and daddy won her. She grabbed it and squeezed it and her stuffed piggy tightly, standing alone in the crowd as it ebbed and flowed around her in a frightening blaze. For a fleeting moment she saw her mother, then realized it was a woman with similar hair but not her mother. The woman looked at her and saw the fear in Elaine’s eyes, looked away and paused; tapping the man on the shoulder next to her she looked back again. She came back to Elaine and knelt down.

“Sweetie, are you lost?”

Elaine’s blue eyes filled with tears and she nodded, squeezing the pink stuffed animal tighter. She didn’t say anything to the woman because she was told to never talk to strangers, but she was so scared she didn’t know what to do.

“What’s your name?” the woman asked her.

“Elaine.” She replied, trembling.

“Elaine, I’m Julie, this is Nevin. Are you here with your parents?”

She nodded.

“Where did you see your parents last?”

She said nothing, though she wanted to tell them that she had seen them at the entrance to the building.

“It’s okay, we’ll help you find them.”

Elain began, “We were going to the giant pumpkin and then…” she looked around nervously.

“Julie, the lost children’s booth is just around the corner. Let’s take her over there.” Nevin said to the woman.

Julie looked at the small red head who was trembling, she put her hand gently on the girl’s shoulder.

“We’re going to help you find your parents. Okay?”

Elaine nodded, feeling the world spinning, her heart racing and uncertain.

Walking towards the lost children’s booth, Nevin spotted a police officer and walked over to him, explaining the situation. He looked down at Elaine and smiled, “Elaine, I’m Officer Tom. Your parents are looking for you. Will you come with me?”

Elaine squeezed Julie’s hand. Julie bent down, “It’s okay. He’s a policeman. He’ll help you find your mommy and daddy, okay?” and she softly passed Elaine’s hand over to Officer Tom.

The two walked to the lost children’s booth, but her parents weren’t there. For thirty minutes she sat at a small chair at a table, playing with a puzzle with her right hand, gripping piggy tightly with her left hand. She tried to act like she wasn’t scared, but the fear was overpowering. Officer Tom talked to her and told her about his own little boy. “I remember a time when I lost my son when he was three. We were at a really big store that sold coats. He was really scared, but we were scared too. You’re parents already checked in here and they went back to go see if they could find you. They’ll be back soon.”

Finally, her father showed up at the door to the booth and the police officer greeted him. “She was found over near the entrance to the picnic area.”

“Oh god Elaine! We were so scared!” He bent down and hugged her tightly. She wrapped her arms and legs around her father and for the first time let go of the piggy and started to cry, relieved to have found her parents.

Checkout Jack and Elaine’s other adventures

Our Legacy and What We Leave Behind

Our Legacy and What We Leave Behind 1707 1280 Jason Stadtlander

The movie “The Road” starring Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee is a movie based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Cormac McCarthy’s book, “The Road.” For those who haven’t seen the film, it is an extremely powerful film about hardship, the love of a child and survival instincts. The book is also an incredible read, but difficult.

That movie – and my novel, The Steel Van Man – have made me wonder about the connection to our children and families, and to ask myself what lengths I might be willing to go to protect my family.

I can attest to my own experiences and feelings toward family, children and the overwhelming need to protect them.

A Family to Live or Die for . . .

protect-the-childrenFor those of you who do not know, I have two children of my own, and I can say without thinking about it, I would kill to protect them. When I am gone from this world, all that will remain of me will be the words I leave behind and my children. Although I hope my writing endures, my children are paramount in all that I do, see, breathe and speak.

In The Road, a father is trying to guide his son to safety, and in doing so,  shows him what is right and what is wrong. At one point, attempting to protect the boy, the man steals the clothes from another man who has just robbed them. The boy later encourages his father to return the clothes to the man and leave behind food for him, showing the father what it means to retain a level of humanity during a time of distress and societal collapse.

At what cost do we allow humanity and society to influence our families? If you have children and are at home reading this, look at your children right now. If you are at work reading this, look at a picture of your children – I’m sure you have one around. What are their lives worth? What is their safety worth? Looking at your child playing on the floor or smiling up at you from that photo. You know that you will do absolutely anything to protect that innocent life. Your needs are (should) be secondary to theirs. You will carry the world on your shoulders, plow through any obstacle and face any challenge to help that little person – that little human who is part of you and someone else. You will help them to become someone special, to be more than you are right now.

Now, look at this from a different perspective. Times are constantly changing, rules of society changing. Some rules for the better and some not. How far will we allow humanity to dictate the final outcome of our children? How much do we allow society to control and skew the perspectives of our children for the betterment of society?

We as a species fight all the time over politics, race, gender classification, and religion. Your race doesn’t matter; neither does your class, gender classification, your spiritual denomination or your job. I know that sounds harsh, but it’s true. It matters to you, but in the great scheme of things none of this matters when it comes to the responsibility of raising your child. Hell, none of them really matter even when you don’t have children. In the end, when you are gone from this world, you are gone for good. Take control of the world around by starting with yourself and your family. Concentrate on what you can change in the immediate, then focus on what seems impossible to change.

Complicated Times – Simple Rules

family-time-is-most-importantWe live in an age of over-stimulation, an age of instant information, social media and media overload. These access points are constantly trying to change our perspective on the world around us. Worse, they are trying to change the perspective of our children, parents be damned.

In our home we have five (primary) rules:

  • Treat others with respect
  • Expect respect, but fight for it if you don’t get it
  • Eat dinner with no television, computers or phones while sitting AT the table – every night
  • Never hit someone, but know how to defend yourself
  • Never, ever lie to those you love

The most important thing to take away from all of this is; Believe in yourself and what you feel is right deep down in your heart, and what you know will guide your child in the right direction.

Because in the end. . . they are what we you leave behind. Our children are what we all leave behind.


Being Positive in a Negative World

Positive Thinking in a Negative World

Positive Thinking in a Negative World 1024 768 Jason Stadtlander

All around us negative things are going on.

Here in the U.S. we are in the process of impeaching our leader and if that is not the current topic, then there is an array of topics that both liberals and conservatives will be happy to throw at you. Shootings are regularly occurring (again, mostly in the U.S.). In other parts of the world, Britain is plagued with Brexit and a few violent eruptions that have recently been occurring, and there are talks of Prince Andrew having ties to Jeffrey Epstein. Iran has an onslaught of protests over government-set fuel prices and we won’t even start on what’s going on in Hong Kong.

All over the world, the economy is on the edge of a precipice that we are uncertain of. This coupled with concerns over retirement and handling our aging parents creates one giant snowball of stress, heartache, and pain.

In a nutshell, the world levels of negativity and pressure are a constant barrage on our daily lives. As a society, we try not to pay too much attention to these problems but historically we have chosen not to pay enough attention to them.

So, the real question is how do we cope with today’s problems and violent confrontations while continuing to raise children, embrace our families and still attempt to mitigate the violence and negativity all around us?

In a single word – communication. Communication with your family, your kids, your family, your friends, and even your co-workers.

I am not proposing that you go and complain about all the problems in the world. There is a significant difference between complaining and discussing.

  • Complaining envolves you walking into a room and verbally vomiting a negative spew of problems at someone.
  • Discussing, on the other hand, would be going to someone you know and trust and letting them know you’re concerned about XYZ and asking how they cope with it. Seeking their advice.

When it comes to children, you might be surprised how much the world’s actions are weighing even on their minds. Most likely, they have a very different perspective than you do. They are hearing things from their friends or their teachers. So it helps to see their perspective and hopefully impart your own wisdom or concerns.

Turning Things Positive

I’ll admit, this is something I struggle with. It is so easy to let the world around you bring you down or squash you. Here are a few things I do to maintain a positive outlook:

  • Appreciate your health. Even if you aren’t the healthiest or even if you’re battling a terrible disease. At the moment, you’re on this side of the ground and you are able to fight. That is always a good thing.
  • Embrace those you love. It may sound silly. But the next time you’re at home, hug your child or your husband or your wife or your girlfriend or your boyfriend. There doesn’t have to be a reason. A hug can do HUGE things in a negative world. It connects us – human to human and touch is a critical thing.
  • Talk to those you care about and ignore those who bring you down. There are always the Debbie Downers out there, keep your conversations with them short. Look to those who you care about and reach out to them even if they don’t reach out to you. There will come a day that you will wish they were there to reach out to.
  • Help others. Research shows that helping others actually creates endorphins which is a brain chemical that will improve your mood.  We are selfish creatures by nature. The act of helping others not only makes their lives better, but it gives you a feeling of self-worth.
  • Resolve problems. Conflict resolution is critical. If you are angry at someone or irritated, approach the person and let them know you’ve been upset. But don’t forget to tell them the reason you are coming to them in the first place is that you don’t want to be upset anymore. Especially if they are someone that you care about.
  • Ask for help. Definitely the most important of all these. If all the negativity around you is feeling too overwhelming, go back to the “communicate” idea. Talk to someone that you care about. Let them know that you’re having a hard time with it.

The world is an amazing place, has a lot of positive elements and will continue to be, long after we are not around to be plagued by its problems. It is how we cope with the world around us and how we take it in that ultimately determines what kind of impact we can make.

The Opinion Driven War of the Media – Fears for my Children

The Opinion Driven War of the Media – Fears for my Children 1600 784 Jason Stadtlander

The Great Media War is underway and we are their front line.

In the James Bond movie “Tomorrow Never Dies”, media giant Elliot Carver is attempting to take over the world through media (successfully I might add). Watching this back in 1997 I thought it was entertaining but found it hard to believe that anything like that could ever happen. I will also admit I never thought of the true implications that the filmmakers were making.

I’ve always considered myself open to listening to objective opinions. Especially more in recent years. I hear about a problem, I listen to the person telling me about the problem and then I seek out additional opinions or solutions and try to objectively come up with my own opinion.

Listening to (NPR) National Public Radio, Fox News and the BBC, it is becoming increasingly clear that there are no longer any objective opinions out there. Very few people are flat out stating the true facts of the world. I encourage you to stop and take a moment to listen to them. Not just your favorite news media, but all the other ones too. If you really stop and listen to what specific stories the outlets are choosing to tell you, whose opinions they are choosing to share and the tone of the reporter’s voice, it becomes quite clear – the leading that is going on. When you listen to them, does what they are saying rapidly anger you or irritate you? This is exactly what they are counting on.

This morning I tuned into NPR and listened to them talk about D-Day’s 75th anniversary (which was the one thing I was glad to hear about) as well as President Trump’s proposed tariffs on Mexico. To listen to the reporters on NPR, they make it sound like the tariffs are a done deal and President Trump will be meeting with Mexico officials in D.C. to hopefully come to a resolution. Trying to decipher the truth, reading various outlets and trying to piece it all together I have found that the tariff threat at the moment is just that – a threat. To listen to Fox News the reporters are all talking about the “crisis” on the southern border. Their voices are quickened and panicked (nearly all of them). Just listening to them gets you feeling nervous.

The Real Point

My point here isn’t whether the Mexico tariffs or even immigration are indeed real threats. My point is the danger of the media itself as well as the lack of available non-opinionated facts to the public. We are living in a time when people are no longer making objective opinions based on educating themselves in the world around them. Instead, society is making ‘drop of the hat’ impulsive opinions based on a thirty second (or 280 character) blip of information. The more emotional the person stating the opinion can be on the news, in the tweet or on a Facebook post, the more they will sway public opinion. If they can even throw in some people that are in dire circumstances (and let’s face it – all over the world media can find someone in dire circumstances somewhere and convince the public that it’s related to their story), then they can garner strong opinions.

What I am most concerned with is our future as a community, a nation and ultimately a world society. How can we as a people, raise our children to come to their own opinions and objectively look at the world around them so that they can improve it? How can we encourage them to see out the real facts when they are so slyly hidden or camouflaged by those with money and power (and I’m talking about the media here, not specifically politicians)?

What can we do?

I think the most critical thing to do is to ensure that our children do not blindly follow any opinions. As parents, we need to encourage our children to listen to liberal views, conservative views, centrist views, and then read historical precedent on the issues at hand before they arrive at their own conclusion. We need to ensure that our children are reading, processing and reading again, as much as they possibly can. Because, if you look at all the opinions, the facts and compare them all together – the truth is hidden in there. It’s hidden in between the words and the emotions that are being blasted out at us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s buried under emotional outbursts and dramatic photos and videos and skewed facts. The Great Media War is underway and we are their front line. We just need to make sure that our children are well trained to see around it all.

The Dos and Don’ts of Monitoring Your Children Online

The Dos and Don’ts of Monitoring Your Children Online 1151 661 Jason Stadtlander

I have been asked about monitoring children for decades. It’s a very real concern that parents, educators and privacy advocates have. Although I do bring it up every few years here on my blog, I thought I would re-approach the topic and shed some light on monitoring today’s children.


The primary concern most parents come to me with is “I want to respect my child’s privacy and I don’t really feel it’s ethical to monitor what they are doing.”

Let me be blunt here, and this comes from years of working with educators and law enforcement:

 there is and should never be any expectation of complete privacy when it comes to a child living under your guardianship.

If you are their parent or guardian, your primary responsibility is their well being and also teaching them right from wrong. Before the Internet did our parents just leave us to our own devices for days on end? No, of course not. If we were going out (even if it was all day) we would let our parents know where we are going and our parents, being responsible would reply “Ok, but I want you back by [fill in the blank].”

Why should this be any different online? In today’s world, social media and our online presence are just as important as our physical one and children are finding ways to assert and understand this online presence early on. We as parents need to understand that this is normal behavior and it is how our children are communicating with their peers and ultimately how they learn to communicate online will reflect how they function in today’s society. We as parents must know (and explain to our children) that we are not ‘dictating’ terms for their online use, but we are guiding and ensuring that they show respect and communicate in channels that are safe for them.

Reasons to Monitor

When I first started working in computers and parents first came to me, they had concerns that their child might be communicating with a child predator or visiting porn sites. We have moved way beyond this when it comes to our children being online. I’m not downplaying either of these concerns, but in today’s world, watching what children do online is more about understanding the people that they are becoming with their online presence. How they behave online can have long term repercussions with their future schooling and even their job employment.

We have moved from a generation of parents that don’t understand why or how children chat online to a generation of parents who not only understand chatting online but do it themselves. We are now not as overly concerned with our children being online as much as where they are going online and what they are posting. Monitoring your child is not solely about installing software on their computer or phone. It’s about communicating with your child, asking them up front, where are they going? What are they using the Internet for? And then checking yourself with their Twitter account, Facebook account or Instagram posts.

Here are some important facts to consider when monitoring your child:

  • Who are they talking to online? Do they know them in person? – This is one of my personal rules with my children (who are under 16). I have no problem with them chatting with friends. But they have to be friends that they know in real life (at least at this point). Stranger Danger is a real concern and it’s something that most schools teach. It’s important to know exactly who your children are talking to. There are times I have seen my children talking online with someone and I regularly will walk up and ask “who are you talking to”. If they can instantly tell me the name and it’s someone they go to school with then I am ok. If there is hesitation, then I know they are thinking up a lie and that it will need further investigation.
  • What apps are they using to chat with? Some of the more popular apps out there are Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, Kik, GroupMe, WhatsApp, Instagram, Tik-Tok, Tumblr, Twitter, Houseparty, Live.me, YouNow and MeetMe are just a few of the apps children are embracing for social connections.
  • What are they talking about? – Most parents that monitor their children’s online activities find they are completely innocent, searching for things that they are curious about, chatting with friends about other friends and activities at school. It’s about being aware, not reading every line of text that flows through their fingers.
  • What are they posting? Ensure that they aren’t posting anything in a public space that can reveal personally identifiable information. Make sure that what they are posting is age appropriate for them. If it is not, ask them to take it down.

Monitoring vs Awareness

As my two previous points have summarized, it really all boils down to you as a parent knowing where your children are going and what they are doing online. It’s not about watching their every move. Children do absolutely need a small amount of privacy, otherwise, they cannot discover who they are and how they fit into this ever-changing world.

Communication is key with children. If they know you will talk to them at any point about anything, then they will be more likely to make sure they aren’t doing something that would be inappropriate. In turn, they also will be more likely to come to you if they have a problem.

I monitor my children with a small piece of software that allows me to control what they access (if I choose) and it allows me to see what they search for online, and what chat apps they are using and even who they are chatting with. I do not generally look at it unless I have cause for concern (changes in their behavior or acting evasively). There are times I have gone in and quickly scanned it just to make sure it’s still on par with their normal online presence, but I generally give them their freedom to be themselves.

My children know I have monitoring software and that I can use it if I need to. But they also know that if they keep an open line of communication with me, I will give them more personal space.

Software Available

There are several good parental software on the market. One of my favorites is Mobicip as it forces all of their network traffic through a single VPN proxy (routes all of their online use through a single entry point). It’s not completely free, though it does have free options, I believe you get what you pay for when it comes to technology. It cannot be removed without the parent removing it (and believe me, my kids have tried). A few others that I have personally worked with are Net Nanny and  Kaspersky.

Generally, when it comes to software, you want software that will help you look back at a history of what your child has been doing online – not necessarily monitor them in real time. You also should look for software that has reviews from a reputable source such as PC Magazine or even check with your local law enforcement.

YouTube addition with children

What Your Child is Watching on YouTube Might Surprise You

What Your Child is Watching on YouTube Might Surprise You 2124 1416 Jason Stadtlander

Tech addiction is a serious problem and any parent in today’s age is aware of this. YouTube is the drug of choice for most children. Dr. David Greenfield, founder of The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction explains that children (and anyone spending a lot of time on the internet) are often just “Looking for a little bit of dopamine.

If you have a child that is old enough to hold a mobile device, you most likely have a child that watches YouTube. Children are not watching television like we did growing up, they are watching their favorite YouTuber. I’m not going to go off and be an old ‘fart’ and say “when we were kids we played outside all the time and we never would have been stuck to the screen.” for two reasons, 1. It would be a partial lie. One of my favorite past times as a kid coming home from school was putting on the TV and watching HeMan or Transformers. 2. No matter how much any parent wants to admit it, times change and so does the entertainment for children – almost on a generational basis.

Whether you have a little girl or a little boy, nearly all the kids like the YouTube stars that do silly skits, funny songs or real-time video game commentary. Often times (unbeknownst to parents) the YouTube stars (especially the more amateur ones) use inappropriate language or discuss things that are outside the realm of what a child should be listening to (topics, discussions, etc.).

Now there are plenty of YouTube stars out there that are respectable and work hard to make sure that they stick to their audience. It’s very important that parents look at what YouTube shows their kids are watching and that they watch some of them on their own time (at least a few minutes). I also highly advise installing a parent monitoring software such as MobiCip that will let you see what videos your children are watching when you’re not around or that you might have missed them watching. It does cost a little bit of money but it’s a small price to pay to help keep an eye on your children’s technology.

One important note on parent monitoring apps such as MobiCip: Tell your children that you are monitoring them. My son is well aware that I can see what he views on the internet, I don’t hide that from him but I also don’t hover over him either. I respect his privacy and only if I feel he’s being sneaky or might be viewing something he should not be viewing, do I actually go look through the history.

Words of Wisdom

  • MOST IMPORTANT: Talk to your child calmly. Ask them what they are watching and why they enjoy watching it. Diving straight in and stopping them from watching any YouTube is not the answer (no matter how much you might like to do that). That will just force them to go watch something on a friends device (when you’re not around) giving you no knowledge of what they are watching.
  • Google your child’s favorite YouTube stars. You are bound to find an overview of what the YouTuber talks about, what kind of language they use and what their target audience is.
  • There are several good video blocker extensions in Chrome and Internet Explorer that can be added to block specific YouTube channels. If you if you see something your child shouldn’t be watching, block it with one of these utilities.


Educators Should Educate – Not Manipulate

Educators Should Educate – Not Manipulate 1024 926 Jason Stadtlander

In October of 2016 I picked up my children one day from school and my son says, “Daddy, who are you going to vote for?”

I remember looking at him with an expression of concern. “Why do you want to know?”

“Because my teacher said everyone should vote for Clinton.”

I immediately felt a flash of anger. Not because I dislike Hillary Clinton, but because I believe it is vital for children to come to their own conclusions and hear unbiased perspectives, especially from educators. I do not think that any teacher or principal has a right to try and sway my children one way or the other with politics.  I have no problem with them unbiasedly discussing what the political platforms are, and why they (politicians) choose different platforms, but the children should be allowed to come to their own conclusion regarding their own political views.

I got down at eye level with my son and gently grabbed his shoulders, “Son, I will vote for who I feel is the correct person to put into office as the President. Your teacher will do the same, and one day, when you’re old enough – you too will choose the person that you feel is the correct person. Voting is a very personal thing. It is our right granted to us by those who founded our country. Three things you should never discuss until you understand what you are talking about are religion, politics, and money. They are all very personal things, and everyone has a right to believe what they want to believe without it being ridiculed or forced down their throat.”

There is “education,” and then there is “influence.” Influencing causes children to go home and question their parent’s choices that they have spent a lifetime establishing. I’m not saying that a child questioning (or developing their own beliefs) is terrible. What I am saying is that their questioning should not be due to outside manipulation.

It is a parent’s job to teach children about faith (or lack of), political views (both sides – preferably without pushing one or the other), finances and what is right or wrong with regards to sexual preference especially since a parent’s faith can lead this. I can honestly say that any parent that doesn’t teach these things are doing a disservice to their children. A child needs to have the foundation they are raised with and needs to be objectively taught each of these views to be a well-rounded member of society.

I believe it can be handled unbiasedly as follows:

You can explain the liberal platforms, the desire for social programs, their belief in how healthcare should be managed and civil rights – Then you can explain the conservative platforms and how faith sculpts some of their views and how they feel about various political issues.

An educator can explain something without injecting their own personal views. Yes, I know it can be difficult – especially when dealing with children who are curious and want to know their teacher’s views. But there is wanting to know, and needing to know, and I do not feel they need to know. At least not in the classroom environment.

In the meantime, as a parent, I will do my best to try and educate my children on the platforms, what people are hoping for and what people (and myself) want in leaders and world issues. I hope that you as parents will do the same.

Our "It's All About Me" Communication

Our “It’s All About Me” Communication

Our “It’s All About Me” Communication 2048 1536 Jason Stadtlander

Humans are very selfish creatures; this is not exactly something new. My good friend Doug Obey wrote in his book “Money and the Human Condition” that capitalism works so well because it harnesses our selfish nature to better our society. As hard is it is to accept, this statement is true.

It is my personal belief that as our technological society advances, our selfish nature is showing itself more and more and there are far too many tools to help us become even more selfish.

It’s About Them

Typically, when I go to text someone, especially someone I communicate with regularly – I tend to (want to) blurt out whatever my question is. I am trying to change this etiquette to embrace a more altruistic perspective. For example, instead of just stating the first thing that is on MY mind “How do I get this to work?”, I try to preface it with “Hello [name], how are you? I hope all is well.” THEN I add my inquiry.

The very nature of email and text allows us to be much more informal than we otherwise might intend to be in a professional environment. And yes, I know what you’re going to say “But if I’m just texting my brother a question, why ask how he is?” etc. The answer; For the simple reason that it is more important to put their needs before yours. From a selfish point of view, being unselfish begets what you want faster. Seeing someone ask how you or stating their hopes for your well being before they ask you a question is more likely to grab your attention than an intrusive question that you would prefer to get back to later. Keep in mind, we send texts and emails because we know they are less invasive, but the fact is, someone is stopping whatever they are doing – even if for only a moment, to give you the attention you are asking. So we need to respect that time that they are taking and begin by asking how they are.

Pause Before You Send

Even when you do not intend to be self-centered, it’s easy to quickly type up something and hit that send button – only to wish you had waited and formulated your thoughts better.
Most email programs have the ability for you to set up a “delay” of a minute or so (which I have implemented on my emails). This delay allows you to reconsider what you sent, go back to your “outbox” and check that the email is worded in a way that will accomplish what you are trying to convey without offending. Unfortunately, you cannot do this with texts. So I urge you (and me) to stop before hitting that send, read through what you have written – it only takes a few extra seconds, and consider how it will be perceived from the other end.
Coming to Terms with Our Digital Past

Coming to Terms With Our (Digital) Past

Coming to Terms With Our (Digital) Past 2000 1333 Jason Stadtlander

We all have ghosts in our closet, whether we want to admit it or not. And the digital age (the last 15-20 years) has created many new elements in our lives including the creation of massive amounts of digital photography, videos, and historic (digital paper) trails.

Hiding Under Your Nose

I recently purchased a NAS (Network Attached Storage), which is just a fancy way of saying “storage server” that holds all of my family photos, videos and every file I’ve ever created. I’m not going to go into the technical side of things with regards to this unit at the moment, but I will say that after combining all my hard drives onto this unit, I now have over 700,000 photographs. Before you freak out, understand that I’m the keeper of our family archives and there are photos going back to the year 1865 on this NAS.

This unit has facial recognition, location recognition, and several other organizational tools on it. In looking through these photos, I found images hidden to me for years (sometimes decades) and I became acutely aware of the fact that there are hundreds (maybe thousands) of pictures of awkwardness; ‘happy families’ now divorced, ex-girlfriends/boyfriends I never wanted to see again, friends that had become enemies and even photos of myself when I was clearly less than happy. I’m not talking about a ton of them, but enough that it makes me stand back and think about things for a moment.

It is incredibly tempting to select all of these photographs and hit the delete key, after all – that is another marvelous capability of the digital age. However, in doing so, I would deny three things:

  1. The ability to see other people that are still very dear to me that are also in these photos.
  2. The ability to look back and for a moment say to myself, “I may not like them, or like the relationship we (or they) now have (or do not have), but at that moment… that brief moment in my life, I was happy with them and they were important enough for me to capture that photo of.”
  3. The fact that one never knows where life will go and what doors may be opened and closed. Many years down the road, do I really want to regret having deleted a photo of this person or this situation?

Coming to Terms

No matter where we go in life from here on out, there are bound to be photos or connections in your collection, someone else’s collection, out on Facebook, on Twitter, news articles or elsewhere. Sometimes you will have the ability to delete these, but most times you won’t. You can choose to ignore these elements that show you (or others you care about) in situations you may not want to remember, but it doesn’t change the fact that they exist. It is in our nature to pretend that elements in our life don’t exist, to ignore them, to cast them aside if they hurt or cause us pain. The reality is, we are only fooling ourselves. To ignore something doesn’t make it go away, it just makes it easier for us to cope.

So I propose this; At some point, you too will go through your old photos, or you will see an article or post online that has you in it. Step back for a moment and instead of ignoring the post, the photo, the video or the connection – instead, ignore the pain. Think about the positive elements that caused you to be a part of that photo, post or article and allow simply to be. It is part of your past, and there isn’t anything you can do to re-write history. Instead, it is how you choose to deal with your past that allows you to handle the present and the future.

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