Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Boy with No Fear and his Cowardly Father

For some reason the operator of the Ferris wheel at the local carnival had stopped our car at the very highest point of its rotation. At the same time, the power to this rickety ride went out. We were stuck at the top. All I could think was, “Are you kidding me?!?!” I do not enjoy heights and I don’t particularly trust the rides at most traveling carnivals (let me pause for a moment and say, if you are a carnival owner or employee, please accept my apology, but seriously, could you clean and oil those rides once in a while? They really don’t inspire confidence!) Nonetheless, here I am, about three stories off the ground, slowly swinging back and forth on an old, run-down Ferris wheel with my son at my side.

Now don’t start questioning my wisdom, instead blame my wife, my son, and my pride. My son saw that Ferris wheel from the road and started begging for us to get on the ride before we ever got out of the car. I was very hesitant (see my concerns listed above), but my wife said, “Yeah, daddy, why don’t you take your son for a ride?” Now what is a REAL man supposed to say to that challenge? “No honey, I am frightened of heights and feel that I might plummet to my death, or worse yet, pee my pants!” So, like any real man, I bought our tickets and got in line for the ride. The operator seemed like a nice enough guy, but his young age didn’t build my confidence. We loaded into our car. I questioned the maximum load the car could carry and the operator just gave me an evil laugh. As the ride started to spin, my fingers grasped the railing so tight that my knuckles were turning white. I was sweating and shivering at the same time. I felt queasy and a little dizzy. That is about the time the power went out and I looked over at my son sitting next to me as he was enjoying a good belly laugh. You see, my three year son has no fear. I, on the other hand, have a healthy dose.

The difference is, I have had a life full of experience and know the risks associated with certain activities. I have had more stitches than I can count and many broken bones and casts. I lived a boy’s life to the fullest and now I am older and wiser. My son, on the other hand, can crash on his bike, cry for a few minutes and get back on it like it never happened. The truth is, as much as I want to keep him safe at all times, there is a balance between our two philosophies. What is a life without risk and sometimes pain? How do we learn if we never push ourselves and find out where our limits are? How do you experience the highs that come with adventure, if you don’t run the risk of the lows that can accompany those adventures?

At the same time, there is a difference between a measured risk and complete insanity! My life experience can protect my children from unnecessary risks (like when he tried to jump off the back of the couch, over the dog, and onto our hardwood floors), but sometimes they need to experience them firsthand. My wife and I may argue about exactly where a traveling carnival Ferris wheel with no power rates on this scale . . . I vote for complete insanity. But we both agree that part of a child’s growth is in adventure. So next year, you’ll probably see me getting on that old, broken down Ferris wheel again - just pray that we don’t lose the power again. For more information about how you and your children can keep a balance between risk and safety, contact us at or 472-9876.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Fat Guy Finishes the Race - with the Right Supports

As many of you know, I committed to running the Country Music Half Marathon last weekend in Nashville. Last December I weighed almost 300 pounds and the idea of me completing a 13.1 mile run seemed unlikely (at best). But I committed to the idea for one reason – my family. You see, if left on my own, I would much prefer pizza, barbecue, and biscuits smothered in butter and NOT working out, but I knew that if I kept that good ol’southern lifestyle that I wouldn’t be around very long to enjoy my children growing up.

However, even having the Grim Reaper as a motivator, it just wasn’t always enough. Because of my weaknesses (which consists of most fried foods), I needed an external motivation. The best external motivator can be the people you love. You see, if my wife regularly made the food that I was so tempted by (everything fatty, tasty, and not good for you) and ignored my efforts to live a healthier lifestyle, it would have been impossible. When my son would yell things like, “I want to run the race with Daddy!”, it just pushed me that much harder. External motivation, combined with an internal desire to make change is the key to success.

I recently read a book that highlighted this challenge, “They popped my hood and found gravy on the dipstick”, by a gentlemen who used to live locally, Todd Starnes. Todd’s external motivation was a doctor telling him that as a young man he needed a heart valve replacement because of his weight and unhealthy lifestyle. I recently had the opportunity to meet this man at a book signing here in Cleveland. He has lost over 150 pounds and has been running regularly ever since his heart surgery. But in the book he shares his struggles with the temptations of our favorite foods. He points to his faith in God and the support of his family and freinds in overcoming these obstacles. We all need support.

Many of you have asked, so I will give you the results. I did complete the Half-Marathon, running all 13.1 miles in 2 hours and 24 minutes (six minutes better than my goal). But it was hot, it was hard, and it did hurt. But none of it compared to the sense of accomplishment I felt when I came across that finish line knowing that I had met my goal and that my family was there every step of the way to help me. Life changing goals must have supports. The best supports are the people you love. If you are considering making a life-changing commitment (quiting smoking, losing weight, stopping drinking alcohol), pull together a support system. Approach your family, your co-workers, your church, and your friends and ask them to help you accomplish your goals. This will offer accountability and support and make it more likely you will succeed in meeting your objectives.

I’ll never forget the look on my son’s face as they met me at Mile 12, only 1 mile from the finish line. The look of pride and excitement in his face brought tears to my eyes (however, he didn’t seem to enjoy the sweaty hug I gave him). That final mile was the easiest of the race for me as I was flying on the wings of support my family gave me. You can have that same feeling of accomplishing what seems like an impossible goal if you have the right supports. With those supports, nothing is impossible. For more information about how you can set and meet your personal goals, contact us at 472-9876 or email at

To Spank or Not to Spank, Is that the Question?

My mom was a fan of using the wooden spoon (she especially preferred the spaghetti stirrer with the hole in the end of it – she must have believed it gained velocity that way), my dad preferred the belt (it was always handy to him no matter where we were). My grandma was a “softie” and would only use a flimsy fly swatter, but my grandpa was the king of the spanking. He would have me pick a switch from the big weeping willow tree alongside the house. If I happened to pick the wrong switch, he’d send me to pick another, only this time the end result would be worse.

Let me qualify this first paragraph. My family was not abusive. This was simply the way a parent disciplined their children in that time. My principal in elementary school used a paddle and I knew many friends that received their punishment with an assortment of tools ranging from the rolled up newspaper (you thought it was only for puppies) to the traditional open hand. However, I only received a spanking when I earned it. Apparently I was a slow learner, because I earned it a lot.

I have shared my stories at speaking engagements and I have heard many of you respond with your own stories. However, as time has passed, spanking has become a controversial topic. To spank or not to spank, is that the question? Many groups advocate that spanking is abuse, while others believe it is the only way our children learn. The truth is, I don’t know. As you have already heard, I was spanked nearly on a daily basis, but I also believe many times my behavior warranted it. However, my wife and I chose not to spank and have found that other means of discipline have been effective for us. It is certainly a personal and a family decision. This morning we asked my 3 year old his feelings on the topic and he said, “Spanking is mean!” I suppose if I was potentially on the receiving end, I would argue that point as well.

I am guessing many of you experienced discipline the way I did, through good ol’fashioned spankings. While some of us support spanking as a “right” for parents to discipline their child, the real question should be, does it work? Would it surprise you that a recent study at the University of Michigan of over 100 years of research shows that in the short term, spanking can correct bad behavior, but in the long term, it can make kids more defiant and aggressive? It’s true. Imagine the confusing message that is being delivered, “Don’t hit your sister and as a punishment, I am going to hit you!”

Many pediatricians advise against spanking children as a method of discipline. But whatever method of discipline we may choose, there are a few simple suggestions to make it more effective; Keep the rules simple. After you set the rules, be consistent and enforce them. Be a good role model because children learn by your example. Show that you can deal with frustration and anger without resorting to violence. Use time-outs so a child can learn the consequences of misbehavior. Emphasize rewards for good behavior instead of always punishing a child for bad behavior. Punish in private to avoid embarrassing the child, be firm and don’t punish in anger. Provide a positive, supportive and loving relationship. Use positive reinforcement. When punishment is necessary, use time-outs and other alternatives to spanking or physical punishment.

For more information about disciplining your child, contact us at 472-9876 or email at