Papa, yoooou in timeout!

Listening to my children is very important, especially when it is time for me to go to timeout.  I’m not sure when it was within the last several months, but my youngest didn’t break eye contact when she looked up at me and said, “Papa, yooooou in timeout!”  “Me?” I thought and asked, “What did I do?” with a grin followed by some hugs with, “Oh, you are angry with Papa, aren’t you?”  She confirmed, “Yes – Yooooou in timeout!  I’m angry.”

I love the fact that my two daughters, especially the youngest, can express themselves (It isn’t in the genes and takes a lot of reinforcement to get here).  When she sent me to time out, rather than get stuck in a battle, I changed course and we took some time out together to chat.  It took about thirty seconds for my little one to say she didn’t like sitting alone.  Thus, a new plan was needed.  From that little chat, I adopted and modified the successful system, Positive Parenting with a Plan (, taught by Matthew A. Johnson (I came to know of this system through a seminar I attended).

While the system is designed for an age group beyond the ages of own children (ages three and six), creative modification resulted in great success.  For example, instead of “reward cards” (cited in the book, Positive Parenting with a Plan (Grades K-12): F.A.M.I.L.Y. Rules), I use "tokens" purchased from the local education store (e.g.,  And, each child has her own Tupperware (approximately 3.5" x 3.5"), which each decorated to include smiley faces and flowers, etc. There is a third Tupperware with a sad face on it (which I took the liberty to draw myself).  From there, I use a modified counting method of another author, Dr. Thomas Phelan of Yellow-1, Yellow-2 and Yellow-3 as warnings.  The levy of a “fine” can happen on either Yellow-1, Yellow-2 or Yellow-3, thus capitalizing on the children not being able to predict the outcome, i.e., Will a fine happen on Yellow-1 or Yellow-3…. Do you feel lucky (insert your best impression of Clint Eastwood here without the ‘Punk’ part)? I use this “Yellow-1” method so my children are NOT traumatized through life whenever they hear anyone counting, or playing a game, as in Hide-and-Seek, or when they are adult business owners and counting the day’s receipts, 1 – 2 – 3 – etc.  I wanted the counting to be so unique, they would likely not hear it again anywhere else and thus be free to enjoy numbers in any other situation.

The children earn tokens for things they do on their own, getting dressed fully (one token for socks, shoes, etc.). So, my three year old will likely cash in on 4-5 tokens before school.  Also, she earns one token and much praise for going to the potty on her own spontaneously.  More often times than not, I hear, “Papa, guess what? I went to the potty without telling you!”  I always give praise, and sometimes a token, unless that is our specific agreement.  For every 10 tokens, they earn a trip with Papa to yogurt, ice cream or the store to purchase of a coloring book, etc.  For infractions, one or more tokens is (are) required to go back into the sad face Tupperware.  When the infractions get personal, i.e. an attack from the upper bunk bed to the victim down below, then "I'm sorry" with handing one or more tokens over to the victim, which cures a lot of tears and results in big smiles (Of course, we insert, “Do you forgive me?” and “Yes, I do” followed by encouragement toward hugs depending on the severity of the transgression).

Who would of thought that listening to my three year old would result in constructing a plan to “shape” (I prefer this term over “discipline”) their behavior in positive ways?  The children find great pleasure in counting how many tokens they each have, and by happenstance there is one gold token that made its way into the mix, which is very much sought after).  After implementation of this plan, there has been about 1 to 3 timeouts (due to my learning curve).

That’s my story and I’m stick’n to it.  Now, if you will excuse me, I have some tokens handout.


Pinkalicious vs Protective Papa

It’s pretty humbling to have my three year old set me straight on what is important to her in the way of attire. Apparently little “Pinkalicious” dresses are much more important to three and six year old girls than “protective papa” thinking denim pants to protect little legs and little knees are what is important from the bumps and scrapes inherited on the playground.

Okay, yes, I want my daughters to be active, assertive and able to leap tall buildings with a single bound. Evidence of that is our play time, and each of my daughters trying to tackle me. I tell you, I’m not sure there is anything more fun to watch than my daughters run out a good five yards, turn around, and with determination of miniature 300 pound football players showing in their faces run toward me full speed to do a half-tackle semi-jump kick to the stomach. They get a real “kick” out of it (or, I should say, I get the kick out of it), resulting in both of us laughing for quite a while with every one of their attempts. To date, they have worn me out every time! I have to say, “Okay, that’s enough…” which is good for about two more attempts at tackling me. They have yet to give up!! I should do an experiment to see if I can out last them, but I’m afraid of the medical consequences of being struck so often by little projectiles with fast feet.

These kinds of play lead me to think my daughters needed protection, and denim pants were just the thing. But after my three year old looked me straight in the eye one morning while I was helping her get dressed, she said, “Papa, I DON’T like pants. I like dresses.” There was something in that self-determined voice I could hear out of my love for her that said I better listen, as I was setting, in part, the foundation for our communication, i.e., her ability to speak her mind, and her perception about being heard and respected after voicing her preferences (Now, I do know what issues matter, and this one is more important to her than me).

Given our little chat, the other day I took my three year old to Ross thinking I’d zip-in and zip-out after buying a couple dresses, to offset the denim pants hanging in her closet. “Okay,” I thought to myself, “This is about a 30 minute activity.” Boy was I wrong. I held up little dresses in front of my daughter one at a time, while she stood in front of the mirror and waited for me to ask the age old questions that great philosophers have not found the perfect way to determine the answer to, “What about this dress? Do you like it?” My little one apparently didn’t like my taste since she liked about two for every thousand I presented. I realized I wasn’t in the right store and there was not enough selection when she said, with a frown, after holding up the last dress, “It is not pink enough, Papa”. Hmmm, that ended my affinity for Ross. “This place”, I grumbled under my breath, “Is just not going to cut it.” So, I put the dresses back, we held hands and I was now tasked to make multiple attempts to answer her question on the way out of the store, “Papa, how come we’re not getting dresses?”

What did I learn? Well, if I watch my little girls’ faces, I can see immediately when the dress selected is going to be a struggle to get on. Whatever is programed into my daughters already has preferences and a sense of what makes them feel good. And, it does me no good to push the issues and say, “Come on, you’ll like it when it is on.” Conversely, without any effort, I can see in their sparkling eyes and blossoming smiles, when I have struck gold and selected the right dress for them. Their faces light up in a way that that makes me feel good inside, to know that I am spending time with my daughters shopping (and not watching the clock) and finding what is important to them.

I’m not sure I will ever know what that perfect dress is. It will likely remain a mystery. But, that’s okay, because I love waiting for their happiness to come and show in the reflection of the mirror we both stand in front of. It is likely a time that is fleeting, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Now, I know how important Pinkalicious is to my daughters and how important their preferences will be to them for the rest of our lives.

Catholic Single Parents Welcome

Out reach to San Diego Catholic Single Parents follows efforts to reach Catholic dads on the Internet and spread the message that "Faith Formation is job #1", if we as dads are to have any confidence that our children will find a secure way in life.  Outreach to Catholic dads formally began in November of 2008, but the laying of the foundation had taken nearly a decade if not longer.  Since November 2008, has received over 50,000 page views.  While the numbers are minimal to website developers, the outreach is significant to parents and their children.

Today, launches outreach specifically to San Diego Catholic Single Parents (see our Facebook page for upcoming events).  Why? It is quite simply because being a single parent is not for the faint at heart, and being a Catholic single parent comes with unique challenges, especially in a world where the divorce rate is what we all know it to be, on a very personal level.  As single parents, we are challenged in so many ways, both temporally and spiritually.  And, to go it alone, sets up a struggling family to be vulnerable in many ways we will discuss at another time.

San Diego Catholic Single Parents will undoubtedly go through some changes and growth, but with the fellowship of other Catholic single parents, and in support of our respective families, I am sure the changes will be positive for parents and their children.

This effort in part is born from faith in today's scripture reading:

"Moses spoke to the people and said: 'Now, Israel, hear the statues and decrees which I am teaching you to observe, that you may live, and may enter in and take possession of the land which the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you...[and] teach them to your children and to your children's children'" (Deuteronomy 4:1, 5-9).

As single parents, we are all the more challenged to teach our faith to our children, and their's.

The challenge is substantial, and thus was the reason the picture of Mary (taken at Whispering Winds, Julian, CA) is our icon and point of focus.  Even though Mary faced a path uncertain, I imagine her determination and faith in God is found in her simple words, "And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to your word" (New Advent Bible, Luke 1:38).  How often, perhaps as single parents, we must simply have this confidence for God to do wonderful works in our respective lives.   How often, can we be even more confident with others, San Diego Catholic Parents, to find the determination needed to grow ourselves and in turn nurture the growth of our children, and by extension our faith community. 

Welcome San Diego Catholic Single Parents!

Find us on Facebook (San Diego Catholic Single Parents).