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Top 6 Rules For Social Media Now That You’re A Dad

Social media networks are everywhere – with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and many more. They can be a great way to keep track of friends and colleagues, share pictures, or just to vent about how much of a pain traffic has been this week.

But when you're a Dad, there's an added layer of thought that needs to go into your social media habits, because you can also affect your children's lives in a very real way.

Here are six rules to live by in the world of social media.

It's not just about today – Even though my daughter is too young to go online right now, that won't always be the case. When that day comes, all of my old posts will still be there, and odds are she'll be smart enough to find them. Aren't you the LEAST bit embarrassed by those party photos from college? My daughter doesn't need to find tons of embarrassing online material about her exists before she even opens an account

Set rules for kid users – As much as this is advice about how not to embarrass your kids, fatherhood also means you need to keep them safe. There are lots of creepy people out there, so – more than once – tell your kids not to give out personal information to strangers. And make sure it's not one of those conversations they ignore.

If it's in the bedroom, keep it offline – There is no need to share sex details publicly. None. While you may think it's different, this also applies if you're trying to get pregnant. Whether or not it's beautiful, everyone else looking at your post is saying "TMI" (Translation – Too much information).

No clothes, no posting – If you have an infant or toddler like me, odds are you have lots of naked or mostly naked pictures of your kids on your phone. If you want to take them and keep them, that's fine. Want to create a private online album with them? That's OK too. But there's no need for everyone else to see your kid's privates. Online bullying and teasing is real, and you don't need to create any ammunition.

Follow your kids, but stay out of their discussions – While it may initially create some father and daughter tension, it is a good idea to make your kids "friend" you so you can see what they're doing. You should, however, use that power carefully. If your kids are clearly having a fun conversation about something, stay out of it. Even if you have something to say, use discretion and only comment on things you "should" be involved in. If you start showing up all over their posts, they're just going to stop posting where you can see it. My own father is terrible at this, and it drives ME crazy.  I can only imagine what my daughter would say.

Live in real life – If you see something online that worries you, don't comment. Go and talk to your child in person about it. There are lots of things that don't belong in an online conversation. This also makes it so they know they can come and talk to you about things they're worried about it.

In the end, following some basic online rules can help you keep an eye on your child without embarrassing them, which should help create a better offline relationship at the same time.

Do you have any other tips on how to coexist with your kids online?

Kids and Pets: Making it THEIR Responsibility

"I want a puppy (or kitty/pony)"

Whatever variation that will eventually come out of my daughter's mouth, those four words are among the most dreaded fatherhood milestones.

It's also personal, because I wanted a dog growing up – as did my father – but my mother didn't. Mom won. I don't want my daughter her to feel like I'm denying her, but I also definitely don't need to add the list of more things I have to deal with on a daily basis. Because while I love my wife, I know taking care of a pet won't be something she really wants to do either.

So how do I make it so this turns into a positive father and daughter thing, rather than a "Dad does everything" nightmare?

Start with an easy pet

The worst thing to do is to jump right into a dog irresponsibly. Dogs need need to be walked, groomed, given attention… and then there's the poop.

On the other hand, fish are a great starter pet. Yes, you need to work out a feeding schedule, and find time to clean the tank every once in a while, but fish don't really need a whole lot of maintenance. Plus, once you get past the startup costs, the actual fish – assuming you're not going for crazy rare varieties – are cheap. As such, the cost of flushing away a mistake isn't so bad.

The next steps after that are hamsters/turtles, etc. Once my daughter has mastered the art of hamster care, maybe she is ready for a dog after all (if she still wants it, that is). As the pet gets more complex – and my daughter gets more mature – so does the list of chores that goes with it. By the time she's 10, she should be able to manage most pet care steps without much fatherly help.

Take advantage of friends

Before we make that fateful trip to the pound, however, I'm going to give her a chance to pet-sit the real thing. One of our close friends has a bulldog, and I think the final test will be some pet sitting with him. I know bulldogs aren't usually listed as kid-friendly, but she's familiar enough with him already. The important thing is to make sure the pet you're sitting for is good with kids before you attempt it.

Letting her learn how to walk with the dog, getting up with it on the weekends to go to the bathroom, and picking up all the toys will let her understand how much work having a dog is – before she jumps into it for real.

In the end, whenever you are thinking about bringing a pet into your life, make sure you're able to care for it in the long-term – physically, emotionally and financially. The ASPCA says 5 to 7 million pets end up in shelters every year, and most of them are euthanized. Taking responsibility for a pet is a big deal, and if your kids don't live up to their responsibilities, you need to be prepared to pick up the slack.

What do you think? Any more tips to help kids take responsibility for pets?

Choosing the Right Daycare Center

Right now, my wife’s on maternity leave with our daughter, and while we have some help coming from in-laws, in the next couple months we’re going to need to answer the ever-worrisome family planning question about daycare.

In a perfect world, my wife and I wouldn’t even have to worry about daycare. However, like many families, neither one of us makes enough to just up and leave the workplace behind. So until I win the lottery, it’s not an option. Plus, daycare gives us the option of some peace and quiet if we’re home.

Maybe daycare is not such a bad thing. A study completed by the National Institutes of Health found there were a number of benefits to childcare, including better academic and cognitive achievement scores among kids.

At the same time, it’s a big fatherhood worry. For the first time, I’ll be entrusting our daughter’s safety to someone we don’t really know. Mentally, that’s a giant hurdle. So here’s a few things we’ve heard from friends about choosing the right daycare provider.

Certifications – Is the daycare certified or licensed – or even better, accredited? Do they have the proper insurance? There are lots of people who set up unlicensed daycare centers in their backyards and basements, so be sure to check.

Ratios – Beyond basic safety, the number of staff members that will be on-hand to deal with the children is the most important consideration. Every situation is different, but the general guideline in terms of an “ideal” is a ratio of one adult for every three babies, up to about one adult for every seven toddlers.

Consistency in staff – You also want your kids to develop a relationship with their caregivers, which means that having the same people there consistently is important. Ask how long each person has been at that location, and how much turnover they usually get.

Ask about policies – Once you’re comfortable with those two areas, you want to make sure that the daycare’s policies coincide with your parenting choices. Do they use the television to occupy kids? What’s the policy around sick kids? What kinds of snacks are available for bigger kids? Do they use timeout as punishment, or some other method? Think about the behaviors and approaches you care about, and make sure the daycare you choose is a match.

Pop In – If you want to further put yourself at ease, pull a Cosmo Kramer and pop in on occasions when you aren’t necessarily expected. This impromptu check-in can help you see what happens at the daycare center from day to day. Most of the time, it will probably be fine, and you’ll see your kid playing or napping peacefully – but if you aren’t happy with what you find, and discussions with the provider don’t satisfy your concerns, don’t be afraid to find a new location.

Choosing the right daycare center is a big decision, but it doesn’t need to feel like an impossible one. Once I find it, I know that when I pick my daughter up, she’ll be happy to see Dad, but also happy they get to go back to daycare the next day.

Building Proper Self Esteem

A child's self-esteem is one of the most valuable aspects of their social development, and a crucial part of fatherhood. It helps them build confidence as they grow older, and allows them to work through life's difficulties easier.

That being said, however, I also recognize that there's a very fine line between creating healthy levels of self-esteem in my daughter and turning her into a spoiled little princess (which, despite my fatherly doting, isn't a goal).

Here are some guidelines to help build true self-esteem without creating a monster.

Stop Over-Praising

Where many fathers go wrong in terms of building self-esteem is that they think their child needs to feel like everything they do is perfect, and shower their child with praise like confetti at a ticker-tape parade.

That creates a couple of problems. First, while they're young, children aren't stupid. If you keep praising them for everything – especially if their achievements were less than stellar – your children will  realize that you're full of it, and start tuning you out.

Over-the-top compliments also builds the mindset that your child can't do anything wrong – even when they do – which is exactly the kind of attitude that can turn them from sweet innocents into spoiled brats.

Giving compliments to your children is important, but they need to be credible.

It's OK to Fail

You also need to avoid the mindset that you should completely insulate your child from loss and failure. A big part of self-esteem is having the confidence to recover after failures. Almost by definition, that means kids need to face failure from time to time.

Make sure your children are aiming for appropriate goals, and then support them along the way. If they make mistakes, make sure they know that it's OK.

When children make a mistake, focus on correcting the errors. General criticism can leave kids feeling bad about their error, and helpless about what to do.

Instead, show them how they can work to correct the error and move forward. While you're at it, talk to them about some of the mistakes you've made, and how you've worked to overcome them. That conversation can reinforce the idea that, while they aren't perfect, neither is Dad or anyone else.

Identify Their Strengths

You can also help by identifying your children's strengths, or what the Center for Parenting Education calls their "Islands of Competency." This can be any area where children have shown a particular skill or interest, or a moment of success they have seen in the past.

When children are faced with a challenge, reminding them of their past achievements in other situations can help them approach their latest endeavor with confidence.

Look Inward

As part of the discussion, you also need to be prepared to look inward, and make sure you're being a good role model for your children. It sounds cheesy, but just as your child is a special individual, who is worthy of love and affection, so are you.

Don't forget that aspect of it.

Feel good about yourself, and that will help set the bar in promoting self-esteem in your children every day.

Using Games for Learning (In Ways Kids Will Like)

An important part of any child's development is the idea of play. There have been numerous scientific studies that suggest continued play has a crucial role in the development of language skills as well as academic achievement. While we won't get too deep into the research data here, if you want to learn more of the science of children and play, check out this article by Dr. Gwen Dewar on Parenting Science.

Games can promote learning and mental growth in kids of all ages. So here's a fatherhood roadmap to help identify the different kinds of games kids should try as they grow.

Babies/Infants

Obviously, babies aren't up for much in terms of critical thinking – but you can still use play to help improve their development. Games like peek-a-boo – even if they seem like mere silliness – help children develop the concept of hiding, set the foundation for other mental tasks, develop the concept of object permanence, and even help their vision. 

A baby's sense of touch is easy to stimulate. You can also give them swatches of different fabrics and materials to let them play with varied textures. Picking up the fabric and waving it around can even help build their arm strength.

Toddlers

Once a child has started to talk, then the role playing can begin. Whether my daughter wants to be a princess, a cowgirl, or an alien from outer space, that father and daughter playtime will help stimulate conversation as well as social skills. Number line games – such as Life – also stimulate basic Math. 

As children get older, you also need to be careful about how you introduce learning games. Just like eating their vegetables, kids may not want to do something if it's "good for them." So don't harp on it and keep it natural.

Young children

Further on, the games parents can introduce also get more complex. Card games like Uno develop attention and the cognitive relationship between objects and numbers (which, believe it or not, is the building block of algebra). Games like Monopoly also teach strategy, as well as money skills. Even the junior version, which uses amusement park rides instead of properties, is a good stepping stone.

Pre-teens/teens,

Once kids start to approach middle school, pretty much anything is fair game (pardon the pun). Scrabble – or any of its 8 million smartphone-based cousins – develops vocabulary and math skills at the same time. A game like Clue, meanwhile, can push kids to use their deductive reasoning, while Risk creates a dual-focus of geography and probability.

Above all – no matter what age – tailor games and activities to your child's interests. That way, the games – and the learning that comes with them – stays fun.