Dad, what are the signs of puberty?

I’ll never forget the morning my thirteen-year-old son asked me, “Dad, what are the signs of puberty? How will I know when I’m in it?”

I answered in as informational-dispensing, flat, so-as-not-to-embarrass-my-son kind of tone I could fake, “Well, you may feel and see some changes in your body such as feeling some growing pains, perhaps emotional changes such as more highs and lows, growing hair under your arms and here (I pointed to myself through my pants) above your penis called pubic hair, and you may notice your voice changing some, taking on a deeper tone.”

I appeared completely stoic, calm, and educated, I hope. Inside, I was thinking, Are you kidding me? Are we having this conversation over a breakfast sandwich? Our little ones grow up so quickly. How would you have answered this question?

Let’s Look it Up

In a second effort to keep my composure and alleviate the potential weirdness for my inquisitive son, I simply said, “You know, I’m certainly no expert on puberty; it’s only been about a hundred years since I went through it. Why don’t we look it up and see what we can learn together.”

He laughed, probably less at my attempt at humor and more to let some tension out of the air, and enthusiastically said, “Great idea, Dad.”

The first article we found was a good one. I read it out loud to him as he finished his breakfast.

Their good information is worth sharing. That post listed some of the more typical signs of puberty in boys. “Keep in mind that these stages may appear gradually, and it may take several years for your child to completely cycle through all the phases of puberty. In general, boys begin puberty at some point between the ages of 9 and 14. Girls begin puberty between the ages of 8 and 12.”

My son said, “Well, I must be in it if that’s the age range.” We both smiled, sharing what felt like insider information. Here are the lists they posted:

Physical Changes

  • Growth spurts
  • Appearance of facial hair
  • Broadening of shoulder muscles, development of chest muscles
  • Body odor (I raised my eyebrows at him, and we both laughed at that one)
  • Pimples or facial breakouts
  • Hair growth in pubic area and underarm area
  • Growth of testicles
  • Erections or wet dreams
  • Deepening of the voice, although this is more likely in the later stages of puberty

Emotional Changes

  • Interest in the opposite sex
  • Mood changes
  • Anxiety or excitement about the changes he’s going through
  • Less talkative and open with parents
  • Shy, nervousness around girls, or flirtatious with girls

“What are wet dreams, Dad?”

Of course, you guessed it—his first question. So I got to answer that one next.

“Well, you know that to make a baby, a man has to get his seed called sperm inside the woman where his sperm meets up with her egg and when that happens, a baby starts to grow inside her, right?” He nodded his head like a deer caught in the headlights, clearly a little afraid of where this was going.

“Well, if it hasn’t started yet, it will soon, but your testicles—you know what those are, right?”

“You mean your balls?”

“Right, your balls. So that’s where the sperm factory is in a man. Your balls produce millions and millions of sperm. But your balls are only this big.” With my thumb and pointer finger I formed a small circle. “So your balls can hold millions and millions of sperm, but they can’t hold millions and millions and millions and millions of them. Right?” He nodded slowly, barely tracking with me, but obviously fascinated.

“So the body’s way of keeping your balls from exploding is to release the build up of sperm.”

He laughed out loud, and I relaxed more, seeing that using some humor was making this easier for both of us.

He looked at me with this I-can’t-believe-we’re-having-this-conversation expression, but I also saw the relief on his face. He was getting some answers from someone he trusted. His dad was talking to him man to man, and he loved it. So I continued.

“So when you’re balls are full and about to explode, the body sends an impulse to release some of those sperm. That can happen when you’re a man and you put some of those sperm inside your wife, or when you touch yourself and it feels good and some of the sperm come out, or it can happen at night when you’re asleep. One morning you may wake up and your pajamas or underwear might be wet with some sperm, which will look like white goo. It’s totally normal and nothing to be embarrassed about. It happens to all young men who are going through puberty. Make sense?”

He just smiled and said, “Yeah, makes sense. That hasn’t happened to me yet.”

All This Over Breakfast

This conversation reminded me about the mythical contrast between quality time and quantity time—a clever distinction a likely guilt-ridden father created years ago to justify not spending lots of time with his kids. The reality is that without quantity time, there is little quality time. You can’t schedule quality time with your kids—or orchestrate it on your calendar. And here’s why. Kids don’t spell love G-I-F-T-S, or A-D-V-E-N-T-U-R-E-S, or even P-R-O-V-I-S-I-O-N. Sometimes we wish they did, but countless stories of lonely children will tell you otherwise.

We busy dads need to face the well-established reality that children spell love one way: T-I-M-E. And as one of my other sons added one day, “You should tell them we spell love D-A-D-T-I-M-E.”

This seemingly random conversation I had with my thirteen-year-old son about puberty at breakfast that morning reminded me that if we were not having this time together, and if it was not simply one more moment in a very long string of them, we might never have developed the kind of friendship and closeness in which he would feel comfortable asking such a vulnerable question. He knew I wouldn’t make a complete joke out of it, or make fun of him, or be embarrassed myself and shy away from or avoid it. He knew he could trust me to answer him honestly, and with love, and with some humor, as I did that day.

The relationship we developed over years of quantity time paved the way for that potentially awkward yet important and honest conversation that morning. And I couldn’t be more grateful.

“Thanks, Dad. That would be kind of a hard question to ask Mom, ya’ know?”

“I do know, Son. That’s kind of a dad and son thing to talk about.”

He smiled and shifted the subject, “What are we going to do now?”

End of biology class.

Beginning of a new phase of father-son relating.

Dad Teen Thumbs UpYour Turn

When your kids ask you such questions, are you prepared to answer? Does the relationship you have with your children allow for—even invite—these open, honest, vulnerable conversations?

If you want or need some help, I’m here. Please leave a comment and I will respond.

Close relationships with your kids that allow for and invite these fathering moments do not happen by chance. They are planted as seeds early on, nurtured throughout their lives, and carefully managed when your kids need a father’s love. I’ve coached and taught hundreds of dads how to do this. I’m here to help you if you want help. The easy-to-master fathering skills I teach work wonders for busy dads, married or not, who want to be great dads. Check out my FREE training videos for more.

Great Dads Shape Great Kids.

Be a Great Dad Today.


 

To read more from Keith, take a look at his book:

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How I Know I’m NOT a Super Cool Dad

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We might all secretly want to be like Charlie and Andy (www.howtobeadad.com)—witty and handsome and casually brilliant, the quintessential young, hip dads. And there are definitely moments when I still believe that I just might be a lot like them, like when I step out of the shower and catch my reflection in the mirror, flexing my muscles and pretending I’m Superman. I make smoldering expressions and set my jaw, momentarily enjoying the imposing reflection looking back at me. But then something interrupts my fantasy, like my seventeen-year-old son walking by my door and casually remarking that my once washboard stomach now looks like a pouch where I store my extra cookies.

There was a time when I thought I was super cool, when I thought, Hey, I’ll bet all those other dads on the playground are jealous because I’m so athletic and young and handsome and so good with my boys. I like to live in this unrealistic, parallel universe as often as possible, relishing in the memory of the stud I like to believe I was before I had kids. And it’s in this altered state of consciousness when I often make my biggest mistakes.

Kids have a fantastic way of reminding you that you are now a Yoda shell of your former self—like the time I took my teenage boys snowboarding for the first time. I said to myself, You are a former Berkeley Rugby Champion who led his team to a national title. You’re an athlete. You got this. You can certainly snowboard. So I took to the hill with the same wild abandon as my boys, only to realize that no, perhaps my body doesn’t move in the same limber, noodle-like way that comes so effortlessly to teenage boys. I lost my battle with the board, caught an edge, and slammed my body face-first into the ice, breaking three ribs. I spent three weeks silently cursing my hope to be a super cool dad, each breath like a shard of glass in my chest—but even more so to my ego.

A second time I realized that I wasn’t such a super cool dad was when I learned that my boys’ favorite way to impress new acquaintances was to tell them stories about my delinquent past. “Oh my dad is so awesome,” they’d say, huge grins on their faces as my chest swelled with pride, only to finish the sentence with “Dad, tell them about the time when you got arrested at Stanford for stealing the sign off the Maples Pavilion!” There was an awkward silence after that as the new pastor for our church quickly excused himself to “attend to an important matter,” and I wondered at the lessons my children had picked up about the art of social graces, quietly concerned that they may have in fact inherited my delinquency themselves.

But perhaps nothing drives home for a man that he is not super cool more than the day when he loses his hair. I was very proud of my Afro in my twenties. I took great pride in shaping it and using a pick to make it perfect. (Ok maybe I’m admitting too much here). But I’ll never forget the day when, at the tender age of 27, I went to the hairdresser and asked for a trim, same length all over and let it curl back in. My bold, imposing, female, black hairdresser leaned down, looked me straight in the eye and said, “Boy, you keep cuttin’ your hair like that and you gonna look like Bozo!” That was the day I knew: it was time to shave it all off. But if that weren’t enough to kill my already fragile ego, these days when I casually remark that I need to go and get a haircut, my boys love to say, “Why? You don’t have any hair.”

Kids definitely have a way of driving home the fact that you might not be a super cool dad. But whether I ever again may be considered cool or not, I do know how much I love my kids, and that they love me. And maybe that’s all that really matters, anyway.

Here to Help

If you want or need some help being the dad you want to be, even if it doesn’t mean being super cool, I’m here. Please leave a comment and I will respond.

Close relationships with your kids that allow for and invite these fathering moments do not happen by chance. They are planted as seeds early on, nurtured throughout their lives, and carefully managed when your kids need a father’s love. I’ve coached and taught hundreds of dads how to do this. I’m here to help you if you want help. The easy-to-master fathering skills I teach work wonders for busy dads, married or not, who want to be great dads. Check out my FREE training videos for more.

Great Dads Shape Great Kids.
Be a Great Dad Today.

P.S. My oldest son just started martial arts. I think I might try that next. I’ve heard you don’t even need hair for that.

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To read more from Keith, take a look at his book:

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When Our Kids Amaze us

Have you had one of those moments when one of your kids amazed you with how grown up they seem, how articulate they are, or how mature they’ve become, as if you missed a few years of their development somehow? And there they are now, standing before you as a wonderful young man or woman. Where did the time go?

Who is this lovely creature?

I had that experience last May when my two oldest boys, JD and Cal, then sixteen and nearly fifteen, went to their spring formal dressed in sport coats and ties. I looked at these two handsome young men in wonder. And truly they looked like men, and they carried themselves that way. I shook my head, and I felt so proud of them.

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I had that wonder-filled experience again a few weeks ago when a friend of mine, Dr. Lori, suggested she interview my youngest son, Kai, about an experience he and I had with one of my painting customers (I’m bi-vocational). She heard Kai tell the story earlier and thought it would be great for other dads to hear. They had so much fun planning it together, and the idea quickly grew to include several other subjects, all related to The Great Dads Project.

I shot the video, and stood there with my mouth hanging open most of the time. I could hardly believe this was my twelve-year-old son still in braces. His thoughts, ideas, suggestions, insights, humor, and his way with words floored me. Seriously, this kid could be an actor. He was so comfortable on camera, and carried himself with such poise, grace, and presence. I’m not kidding. I know, I’m his dad, I’m bound to think he’s great. But seriously, check this out for yourself, and see if you don’t think he’s as great as I do. Enjoy.

 If you like this, leave a comment below, and share a story about a time one of your kids amazed you.


 

Should I Help My Kids with Their Homework, or Not?

I’m currently reading Annie Fox’s book, Teaching Kids to be Good People. It’s a delightful anthology of parenting ideas, tips, helpful examples, and scenarios to consider. Annie will be interviewing me for her podcast in a couple of weeks and I wanted to read her book before the interview. I’ve asked her permission to post one of her sections as my Great Dad Tip of The Week this week. Well worth the read in pondering the question, Should I help my kids with their homework or not?

Here are Annie’s thoughts and words below. Thank you, Annie, for sharing.


“Auugh! I don’t get this stupid homework!!!” your seventh grader wails. Devoted parent, you rush in and . . . do what? What kind of help is the right kind? Depends on your endgame, right?

Your basic job description: “Prepare your child to become an independent, fully functioning young adult.” (If you’ve never read that anywhere, look at the bottom of your kid’s birth certificate. It’s there in the fine print.)

So . . . when your daughter groans or your son bellows, your most helpful move should be in the direction of supporting and encouraging them to work things out on their own. If your brand of “help” means you’re doing the heavy lifting, crisis after crisis, year after year, you’re not being all that helpful.

But we are parents and we like helping our kids. Of course, we do. In fact, on a cellular level, we’re programmed to help and coach them, which is how they learn. And if we want them to grow into cooperative, good-hearted people, we start by helping them. That shows them what helping looks like and what it feels like to be on the receiving end of a helpful act.

Well-intentioned as our help may be, the “Let me tie your shoes” variety isn’t supposed to last forever. Each time we help a child, we ought to provide instructions for identifying the problem, thinking through options, and making smart choices. That way, the next time, that child is more likely to resolve the challenge on his own, wisely and with confidence.

But when the only tool in a child’s problem-solving kit is “get Mom/Dad to do it,” it’s harder to develop the skills and self-esteem that comes from being independent and responsible. Seems obvious, right? But less obvious is the fact that when we rush in with solutions, we might also teach kids they aren’t capable of helping themselves or anyone else. Let’s think about that one.

If I’m a kid who routinely turns to Mom/Dad, who is all too happy to “save the day” (again), I may start believing that I’m helpless, hopeless, and useless. I might resist tackling my own problems. (“I never do it right.”) I may also hold myself back from stepping up and helping others. (“Why bother? I’ll just make things worse!”)

To teach kids the value of helping, we need to catch them in the act of following their kinder instincts. Let them know that what they just did for you, their sister, their friend, was very cool and you’re proud of them. When they’re stumped or frustrated, we need to resist the urge to jump in. Instead, we encourage them onward while we step back, little by little. Celebrate their “I did it!” moments and they will eagerly look for other things they can do on their own.

Will kids who are more independent need us less? Well, yeah! From the very beginning, that’s always been the point of this parenting gig. We taught them how to walk and . . . they started walking away from us. It’s true, they won’t always need us, but they will always use what we taught them. And while we’re teaching them self-reliance, we’re also reinforcing our perception that they are the kind of people who care about others. Our perception of them colors their self-perception. We are teaching them that compassion translates into help and being helpful is what we’re all here for.

Quoted by permission from Annie Fox’s book, Teaching Kids to Be Good People.

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To order Annie’s ebook, click the image of the book to go to Amazon.

 


 

Playful Parenting—Notes on the Seminar

There has been some good feedback to my last two posts about Playful Parenting. So I’ve decided to share the notes I took at a wonderful and practical seminar I attended many years ago by Dr. Lawrence Cohen. The information below is expanded in his book by the same name, Playful Parenting. I’ve used most of these great techniques over the years (and still do) with my three boys, and I’ve found them to be immensely helpful. I recommend them to you here.

What are the purposes of play?

  1.      To connect with your child.
  2.      To develop confidence and mastery for your child.
    We shine light (attention) on them through engaged play.
  3.      To recover from life’s upsets (little and big ones).
  4.      To show themselves. They reveal what’s inside them through their play.

Specific tools:

  1. Playful wrestling with kids really connects for them (especially boys).
  2. Reversing the roles in play (you be the child, they the parent).
    This brings conflicts and problems into a play zone and helps you work through them.
  3. Lose your dignity to find your child. Be incompetent (for a change), fall over, lose, fail, etc.
  4. Follow your child’s lead in play. They get to be in charge.
    One-on-one time is so important in this.
  5. Invite the behavior you hate.
    “Let’s all do some whining for five minutes.”
    “Could you kids start a fight right now. You usually do it when I’m out of the room or busy, but I’m here now with nothing to do.”
    “I’m sure we’re going to have a melt down some time later this afternoon, so let’s just do it now and get it out of the way.”
  6. Join in (enthusiastically) on games you don’t really enjoy.
    If we resist, it gets worse. If we join, we can actually introduce other elements and themes (friendship, loyalty, rescue) to the play we don’t like (war, guns, etc.).
  7. Use play to repair a damaged relationship. Thumb-wrestling can work well: seems like battle, but you are holding hands, close, laughing together.

The importance for children of exposing their emotions openly and freely:

  1. Bad feelings feel so bad we want to bury them, but that keeps them inside. They need to come up in order to come out.
  2. Kids sometimes choose a “little” thing to get upset about because the real thing is too painful (seems too big to them and scary). Then, once the crying or upset starts, they can pour out their real feelings (though they may still be directing those feelings at that small thing). As a parent, don’t be fooled by this. The thing they seem upset over may not be the real or deeper issue.

A light-hearted approach to some of the very difficult challenges of parenting:

We parents can be so hard on ourselves. We are often quite self-critical (sometimes even condemning). Give your kids focused time one-on-one. Give 100% of your energy in blocks of time rather than giving 80% all day long. Then, by the end of the day, you are exhausted and the kids still feel like they didn’t get enough of you or all of you.

Resource: www.playfulparenting.com


 

Boys to Men Father-Son Weekend

I had the good fortune of meeting Craig McClain, co-founder and executive director of Boys to Men, an organization working with at-risk boys to help them make the transition to manhood while most of them have no father in their lives.

Craig shared with me a video of their father-son weekend that was so moving, so powerful and beautiful, I just had to share it with you. After you view it, please let me know if you would like to attend a retreat like this. As The Great Dads Project plans such a father-son experience, I will let you know when and where it is and how you and your son can participate. Please share a comment about what you found most compelling.


 

 

Parenting With Love and Logic

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This post is a review of one of the best parenting books I’ve ever read (and I’ve read plenty). I say it’s one of the best because it transformed how I fathered my children, and sticks with me even today. I still use it constantly with my boys (who are now 11, 13, and 15). The book has the title of this post: Parenting With Love and Logic, and is written by Forest Cline and Jim Fay

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What the Book is About:

The parenting philosophy these books (Parenting with Love and Logic and Parenting Teens with Love and Logic) offer focuses parents on developing loving relationships with their children through which parents help their kids grow into responsible human beings by experiencing the logical consequences of their own choices. Hence, Parenting with Love and Logic encourages and trains parents to give as many choices to their children as possible, rather than making choices for them, and then to allow their children to either endure or enjoy the logical consequences of their own decisions while showing empathy for how hard it is to endure consequences of bad decisions (hence, both love and logic). In this way, by demonstrating love yet allowing logical consequences, we parents enable our kids to think, reason, decide, and live with the decisions they make.

Cline and Fay believe that too many parents control their children, make decisions for them, and inadvertently cripple their kids’ decision-making ability, thus producing children who are not able to make good decisions when they have to—kids who are not confident to think on their own. More kids, Cline and Fay argue, get into trouble in their teen years because of this parenting failure early on than because of rebellion. The authors suggest that it is because young children were not properly trained through Love and Logic to become responsible decision makers who could think for themselves that peer pressure becomes so influential in adolescence. Children who have essentially been told by their parents what to do, what to wear, what to eat and drink, how to wear their hair, when to go to bed, and how to act are most susceptible to allowing themselves to be told such things as teens by their peers, and perhaps the rest of their lives.

Keith’s Reflections:

I have read many parenting books, but something about Parenting with Love and Logic captivated my attention and led to immediate application. Without question, Cline and Fay’s book on parenting is one of the best I’ve read. When I witnessed the significant impact the application of it’s teaching made on my boys, almost immediately, I purchased and read Cline and Fay’s second book, Parenting Teens with Love and Logic. Though a good portion of the philosophical section of this sequel is understandably a repeat of the first, many of the useful examples are specific to the teen years and struggles. The first book is focused mostly on school-age children though it is clearly illustrated how the teaching of this book can be applied to toddlers as well.

Parenting with Love and Logic helps parents give their children the gift of responsible, thoughtful decision-making that produces maturity, wisdom and confidence. I have become a Love and Logic parent, and my boys are growing beautifully as I learn to more consistently apply this practical and helpful parenting philosophy. I could write a book of stories about how well this philosophy works but I don’t need to. That book has already been written. Buy Parenting with Love and Logic and Parenting Teens with Love and Logic. Learning to parent like this is a must.

The Authors:

Co-Author Foster Cline, M.D., is an internationally recognized physician and adult and child psychiatrist who has successfully parented four children. He is a consultant to mental health organizations, school systems, and business and parent groups across North America. He specializes in working with difficult children and is founder of Evergreen Consultants in Evergreen, Colorado.

Co-Author Jim Fay is also co-founder of The Love and Logic Institute and a former school principal. He has 30 years experience as a speaker and consultant. Jim Fay has become one of America’s most sought-after presenters in the fields of parenting, positive discipline, and classroom management

About the Love and Logic Institute: 

(info quoted here from www.loveandlogic.com/aboutus

Trusted for over 30 years, Love and Logic is a philosophy founded in 1977 by Jim Fay and Foster W. Cline, M.D. It is the approach of choice among leading educators, parents, and other professionals worldwide.

The Love and Logic Institute is dedicated to making parenting and teaching fun and rewarding, instead of stressful and chaotic. We provide practical tools and techniques that help adults achieve respectful, healthy relationships with their children. All of our work is based on a psychologically sound parenting and teaching philosophy called Love and Logic.

Target Audience:

Cline and Fay target all parents in general in both books, but the titles help focus parents as to which book might be most appropriate for them. Parenting with Love and Logic is primarily for parents with young school-age children, pre-school to middle school. Parenting Teens with Love and Logic is of course for parents of teenagers. However, in both books, the authors lay out the Love and Logic Parenting Philosophy. It’s primarily the examples they use which differ. The practical sections (which are extensive and very useful) use illustrations targeted for the age of children each book addresses.

For More Information:

See www.loveandlogic.com

See also Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood: Practical Parenting from Birth to Six Years, by Foster Cline and Jim Fay (2000).


 

A Father First: How (Dwyane Wade’s) Life Became Bigger Than Basketball

Dwyane Wade bookI recently completed reading Wade’s fantastic and compelling book. Here’s a review for your benefit. I hope you choose to get the book and read it from cover to cover as I did. You will not be disappointed. Read below and decide for yourself. Enjoy.

The Author:  

Dwyane Wade is a three-time NBA Champion with the Miami Heat and a single father to three sons, Zaire and Zion, his own biological sons, and Dahveon (Dada), a nephew who mixes it up with them.

Target Audience:

This book has an intentional wide reach. Though Wade holds Christian beliefs he makes clear in the book, nothing about the book, the story, or the writing appears preachy or exclusive. He intends to reach all dads to inspire them toward more engaged and loving fathering.

What the Book is About:

This book tells three distinct and moving stories woven together to reveal the life, character, and passion of one remarkable man—Dwyane Wade—childhood survivor, basketball superstar, and devoted father.

Keith’s Reflections:

This was a compelling, informative, and inspiring read. I highly recommend it, especially if you’ve seen Wade play basketball but do not know the backstory. Wade survived a terrifying childhood of poverty, violence, drugs, abandonment, and fear, in large measure due to the persistent and sacrificial love and protection of his older sister, Tragil whom he clearly adores and for whom he is beautifully grateful.

The book opens with his very public and sensationalized divorce and custody battle which he eventually won to have his sons returned to him and to come live with him in Miami. Soon after, his nephew Dada joined them.

Woven throughout is Wade’s basketball journey from a very young hoopster on the streets and playgrounds of Chicago, through his formative years as a player and young man in high school, to his big transition to college hoops at Marquette, and eventually to his star-studded career in the NBA.

Throughout, we read of his love for his sons, his commitment to grow as a father, the help he receives along the way from so many, and the many playful, loving, serious, and adventurous moments with his boys that light up the pages and the reader’s heartstrings. Wade shares insights and points of encouragement regarding fathering, especially as a single dad, for dads who live with their kids and those who don’t.

A wonderful collection of stories and a heartfelt piece of encouragement to be a father first, no matter what you do to make a living. Click on the picture of his book above to go to Amazon to order your copy.