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GreatDad Blog

Paul Banas

Are you giving your child too many cookies?

Paul Banas
Submitted : 06.18.15

“Parents’ Denial Fuels Childhood Obesity Epidemic,” is the title of an article in the New York Times yesterday. In it, the NYT explains that a lot of parents either don’t see or don’t want to see signs of incipient obesity in their own kids.

Despite widespread publicity about the obesity epidemic, parents increasingly seem to be turning a blind eye as their children put on pounds. In a recent study in Childhood Obesity, more than three-quarters of parents of pre-school-age obese sons and nearly 70 percent of parents of obese daughters described their children as “about the right weight.”

via Parents’ Denial Fuels Childhood Obesity Epidemic – The New York Times.

We’ve written about this before; it’s such a touching story of our times. Those of us older than 30 grew up with an idea of how family eating was supposed to be with lots of fried chicken, pie, cookies and milk after school, hot dogs, a never-ending smorgasbord of tasty treats all made with love by stay-at-home moms dedicate to putting smiles on the faces of their kids.

Now the stay at home moms are gone but all these treats are still available in ready-to-eat versions found through-out the market. It’s not that we love our kids less, but it’s damn hard to feed them well. First, moms (more than dads) are programmed to stuff their kids to guard against the famine on the horizon. They freak out if junior isn’t eating everything on the plate, whether it’s pasta with cheese and butter or a plate of green beans. Dads and mom, after a long day at work, also want things that satisfy them.

So, what’s the answer? First, give yourself a break. You don’t have to fix your kids’ eating habits  today. That in itself is probably a big mistake loaded with potential for rebellion. But you do owe yourself and your family a few minutes in the produce aisle buying stuff to offer as options for lunches and dinners. For us, that means a fresh vegetable with every meal, even if it raw baby carrots (again!).

But perhaps most importantly for the long term health of your kids is taking a long look at them tonight.  Is there a chance that you have an issue larger than an extra cookie or two? If they were taking drugs, you’d be watchful and ready to seek help. If they have a weight issue at 6 or 7 years old, you owe it to them to seek counseling and find a more determined way to teach new eating habits for them and the whole family. This shoudn’t involve shaming them since they can hardly have any responsibility at their age, but a lot of love and concern that only mom and dad can channel the right way into action.

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Paul Banas

100 pushups a day – an update

Paul Banas
Submitted : 06.9.15

Well, it hasn’t been for lack of trying but 9 weeks on, my daughter and I have still not made it to 100 pushups a day at one go as we described in an earlier post. I’ve failed at Day 1 of Week 6 and my daughter has failed several times at the first day of Week 5. Finally, I had the bright ideas of creating a Week 5A with an increase in pushups over week 5, but less than Week 6. That went fine and I reached super-human levels of 140+ pushups in one session (not in a row). However, again the first day of Week 6 was a FAIL. There’s something about the final week when the schedule becomes this:

Set 1: 25

Set 2: 30

Set 3: 20

Set 4: 15

Set 5: At least 40 (!)

It may be that at 30 pushups, it just becomes mentally too much of a challenge because it’s dead-boring after the initial rush of 10-15.

This means back to the drawing board which may involve creating a Week 5B.

On the other hand, as predicted, this has been a fun project for my 15 year old daughter and me. We keep each other going and now have plans to start a chin-up program. My younger son has also gotten into the act and now regularly gets down with us to push-up with us.

I will definitely provide an update when we get to 100! We are undaunted but confused at the moment.

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Paul Banas

Adrian Peterson returns to the Vikings

Paul Banas
Submitted : 06.4.15

For Minnesota Vikings fans, last fall 2014 was a disaster. After four winning preseason games to lose our star running back was a huge loss. But even worse were the accusations of child abuse during punishment of his son. As a fan, I was very disappointed by how the situation played out. Let’s be clear; there is no excuse for child abuse in 2015. We’ve long past those dark days when beatings were common discipline. However, we need to acknowledge that this is still a common way for many parents to handle child discipline problems. But, can we understand how a dad, who was also beaten by a loving father when he was a boy, could hit his child hard enough to leave bruises and scratches? Yes, I can. That is the nature of the cycle of all types of abuse. And I’m afraid a lot of our culture supports and reaffirms a culture of heroic survivors who overcame challenges. Sadly, a lot of people who endure abuse of any type do not overcome but suffer from the aftermath of these events for the rest of their lives. Understanding is not acceptance however. Adrian still has that cross to bear for quite some time.

For that reason, I was saddened that Adrian hasn’t fully embraced a new role as a model for reformed dads who come to realizethat hitting your child is just plain wrong. In his press conference today at Winter Park, it’s clear that Adrian loves his kids and his family. He told an emotional story of how is son suggested they run away together because he still loves him. That’s normal of course. Kids will do a lot of things to stay with, and protect their parents even if they are getting hurt in the process. That’s what makes the job of being a father such an awesome responsibility (in the dictionary sense of the word); we have to use our power, size and strength to protect our kids, even when that means protecting them from our worst impulses on how to “teach them a lesson.”

Given the NFL, contracts, agents and PR specialists, I doubt Adrian really had or has the independence to speak freely about this issue, or to open the Adrian Peterson Center for Non-Violence, but we have to hope that the issue continues to dog him now, if only because it will help more dads understand the difference between discipline and abuse.

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Paul Banas

100 push-ups a day: an activity to do with your teen

Paul Banas
Submitted : 03.29.15

Lately, my 15-year old daughter has been on a “self-help” phase, fueled by tons of website showing clickbait titles like “4 simple ways to memorize anything” or “Try this to have fuller eyelashes.” That has interested in her in other tricks or “hacks” to achieve new things.

My daughter and I share a lot of things including what others think is an odd sense of humor. However, I don’t play soccer and she doesn’t like to go on my daily bike rides. It’s been hard to find overlapping exercise routines, other than tennis which we only play when on vacation.

She’s in 9th grade and part of the curriculum is a mandatory conditioning class. Not “gym,” but “conditioning,” which I guess is more geared toward understanding how to eat and exercise rather than how to feel clumsy around your peers. This class has made her want to be in better shape. Today, she was doing jump rope. Tomorrow, she may actually go on that run she has been promising to do with her mother.

But starting 3 days ago, she and I have been following an online schedule to achieve 100 push-ups. This may seem like a crazy objective to some but I’ve tried it, and with some perseverance, it’s amazing how quickly you can make massive progress. You can find an excellent and free routine at hundred pushups.com. I’m sure they are selling something but they don’t try to grab your email so you’re free to see all the content without getting snagged into a newsletter. A 40-year old dad should be able to do 27 push-ups. If you can do that many, you start the program with a head-start.

What I like about this is that for a dad/daughter (or dad/son) project, the objectives are both doable and long term. After a quick push-up test, you’re given a starting routine with your 100 push-ups a day objective off in the distance, 6 weeks away. Each push-up session, every other day, only takes about 10 minutes, which is relatively is easy to schedule.

But this is where the magic comes in, at least for this dad. This project has 4 (!) benefits:

1. It schedules time to spend with your teen, and perhaps hear about other stuff between push-up sets

2. It teaches the value of partnership to stay on track, useful for other times when it’s wiser not to go it alone (studying, weight loss)

3. It introduces the idea of habit as a way of self-improvement. I shared with my daughter a story that’s been going around the internet lately about Jerry Seinfeld’s advice to a young comedian to write one joke a day and put a big red X on a calendar for each day he achieved that goal. Keep at it and there will be a string of big red X’s. Keeping that string of red X’s going becomes the motivation to achieve your daily objective. My daughter loved that story and we quickly adapted our routine to still do 5 pushups on our off “rest” days so we could keep our string of X’s (we still need to buy that calendar though!)

4. At the end, it has a positive benefit and if you keep at it, you’ll be able to do 100 push-ups per day for the rest of your life, an exercise the New York Times says is “the ultimate barometer of fitness.” I can feel my stomach getting tauter, my biceps bigger, my chest expanding, and it’s all going quickly to my head.

We’re only three days but already we’re reminding each other that “it’s time to do the push-ups” and rather than a unpleasant grind for both of us, we’re both kind of looking forward to it each day. And isn’t that the kind of thing we’re all searching for all the time in activities to do with our kids?

Click here for our 9 Week Update

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Paul Banas

Zipper won’t stay up? Here’s a hack to keep the cows at home

Paul Banas
Submitted : 03.25.15

I love the cut and styling of my Lee jeans. While I always said I’d never wear elastic in my waistband, their Modern Series has just the right amount of stretch for a good fit. And the orange threading is just enough styling for my anti-brand consciousness.

However, their zippers suck. I have 2 pair and both zippers are constantly falling down. There’s not reason for this. The zipper was invented in 1917, and from what I can tell the locking zipper that locks when the pull tab is down, is as recent as the late 1940’s. Maybe Lee didn’t pop for the added locking feature, but it’s not even worth pulling my zipper up since it’s down again within five minutes. And don’t suggest I should get a larger size. That is not the issue in this particular case, though losing a few pounds would never hurt.

What’s worse than a down zipper is that I’ve picked up that embarrassing tic of looking down at my crotch when I go into a coffee shop or a parent-teacher meeting just to make sure I haven’t left the barn door open. Sadly, I have this same issue with a pair of Levis so it must be a cost-cutting thing that’s going around.

That’s where this hack a woman friend told me comes in handy. If you have jeans with a failing zipper, try this to keep your zipper securely in “up” position.

1. Get one of those cheap little key rings you get when you valet your car.

Set of keys

2. Put one end in the zipper pull.


3. Now when you zip up your pants and before you button the top, put the ring around the button.

IMG_5412 4. Button the top button of your jeans as usual, covering the ring.

5. Voila! All is safe and secure.

The only inconvenient thing about this is that you have to undo your jeans button each time you use your zipper. But it’s still better than throwing away a pair (or 2) of good jeans.

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Paul Banas

Why my son doesn’t want to have a playdate at your house

Paul Banas
Submitted : 03.3.15

We weathered allergic reactions to friends pets, but weren’t ready for a new obstacle to social situations.

At some point, maybe even at three or four, your child will say they don’t want to go to someone’s house, perhaps because the adults are boring, or they have a big dog that scares the bejesus out of them. Later on, as for adults, the dynamics are more complicated. Perhaps they like someone at school or during soccer, but the idea of a playdate with them or a sleepover, is just too much of a good thing.

For a while now, in our house, we’ve had to deal with my son’s severe allergies to dogs and cats. What started as a some sniffling after a visit to a friend with a dog, turned into hours of tearful, heavy breathing recovery until we finally had to limit playdates with certain friends to our house or to a neutral territory.

But that’s not what I’m writing about. We have a problem with the omni-present iPad. Like most middle class families, we now have several iPads in our house. They are off-limits to my son except on weekends when he usually far exceeds his allotted limits. We prefer him to be playing outdoors, practicing his piano, or for once, getting his homework done ahead of time. IPads are good for protracted alone time when the boredom of childhood is too much to bear and since we use them a lot as well for recipes and reading, it’s hard to be too preachy when it comes to absolute bans.

However, the area where we do draw the line is during playdates. At our house, we try to enforce a hearty mix of co-play adventures including Nerf gun battles, LEGO building and even some LEGO Star Wars on the Wii. What we don’t allow however, is iPad use. Apparently, we are in a small minority to the extent that my son now says there is only one person he wants to do playdates with at their house. Every other friend just wants to play on the iPad.

Additionally, since my soon to be 11 year old son doesn’t have an iPad or iPhone, he often just has to sit and watch. Yesterday, his best friend told him during a three hour playdate that all he wanted to do was play on the iPad and that it was his house and he didn’t have to share. That sealed it for my son; No more wasted Sunday afternoons watching someone else play on a device all day.

Every family has to decide how they will deal with screen time and it’s not easy. At the same time, if you want my son to agree to a playdate at your house, you might have to figure out a usage policy when guests are over. That’s not me being preachy. That’s a post-millenial 11 year old boy saying he’s had it with people who can only interact when staring at their screens. And to that, I give a big thumbs up.

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Paul Banas

Freaky or cool?

Paul Banas
Submitted : 01.5.15

Pod-like massage beds I spotted in Las Vegas. The users looked comatose.


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Paul Banas

Hooray for Hyundai’s Dad’s Sixth Sense Super Bowl Ad

Paul Banas
Submitted : 02.6.14

I did not see this coming from Hyundai. This new ad from Super Bowl hit all the right chords. While some of the dads’ lif-saving moves were slightly over the top, any father who’s doing his job knows how close his kids have come to bad falls and collisions. When your kids are 2 and 3, in fact, it’s almost every day if not every hour. And that’s why this commercial is so strong; it shows strong dads who doing what dads do. We are with our kids and we are watching out for them, protecting them, making sure they don’t kill themselves before they’re ready to take care of themselves.

We’re still at the point where we have to celebrate just a bit every time a dad isn’t shown as a hapless buffoon disconnected from his family, and reality.

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Paul Banas

Back to school night

Paul Banas
Submitted : 09.20.13

Last night we went back to school night for my sons fourth-grade class. We have an eighth grader’s we’ve already been through this before. Most of our questions focused on changes from the routine from what we experienced four years ago. Something look harder and some things are easier, but it looks like our son will have a full day. We were struck by sex differences in study habits that may be our most evident at this grade level and beyond. Increasingly, studying becomes important, even when there isn’t a specific assignment. As parents of the young boy, we were eager to see more clarity in nightly assignments and expectations. While the kids are supposed to read 10 minutes per night, many of the parents, perhaps of boys, requested that this be more explicitly spelled out as class homework.

In our daughters eighth grade class, we hear parents even more adamant about the need for this explicitness. It’s not enough to say to some kids, “be sure to study for the test next week.” They need a reminder every day in their lesson plan that they should be devoting some time to studying ahead of the test. For those kids, luckily my daughter is in one of them, the parents need to review that list with their child every evening and make sure they’re staying on point.

As a father of a younger boy an older girl, I’m very aware of how they will have different styles of studying and preparation. I’ve already been exposed to how expectations for how a girl will act in elementary school might make a little boy seen at least temporarily less than capable. But I also know that my high school, sex differences in how we perceive more assertive, extroverted behavior will make the boys stand out. It all makes me think how, as a parent, you have to constantly modulate your style and approach, not only for each child, but for their different stages of development.

this new year will bring renewed focus to study and discipline. We’ve already upped the ante on piano practice. We been told that the extra reading we did last year for fun now must become routine. And finally, one of the major hurdles of childhood education, the learning of the multi location tables, we now know should be accomplished by the end of the calendar year. This will all mean more pain and suffering for a little boy, unless we add in all the extra tasks is just part of another average day and not develop in him a long-term distaste for learning.

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Paul Banas

iOS 7.0: the beginning of the end for Apple?

Paul Banas
Submitted : 09.19.13

Our entire family has now downloaded the new iOS for iPad and iPhone. I should say to start out that I’ve been an Apple user since 1992, and one of the faithful few even during the dark days. Our love for Apple has always stemmed from the human side of the product, and what Steve jobs try to medicate with the slogan “the computer for the rest of us.” While “real” engineers have always promoted the openness of Microsoft, and recently of android, it was the operating systems of Apple products that made us users feel that we were the master of the device rather than the other way around.photo.PNG

While I know many people in the past 10 years, since the beginning of Mac OS X, had sniggered about the faux leather look of applications like address book and calendar, these treatments, while I agree they are hokey, made us feel strangely secure in retrospect. When I look at my iPhone with a new iOS 7, I see a device that could easily be for Microsoft or from Google. Whether you like the new design are not, whether you like the flat colors or not, there is not a lot of humanity left in the design. Where former icons were made to amuse and delight–remember the joy to see it first snowing in the Weather app?– the new icons are now just visual treatments to communicate a concept. There are no icons for screens I’ve seen yet that make me smile, or appreciate the change. What is lacking also, is any type of brightness since all of the colors are so light and bright. In setup screens, is completely unclear where the important parts are; even in color, it almost looks monochromatic.

On the second day after its launch, my family already wonders if there’s a way to go back to iOS 6. So far, we have found few features to make us glad we switched. My daughter likes the new Apple radio feature that mimics Pandora, with the potential to make lots of money for Apple. I like the fact that Safari now stores passwords. But these are not real game changers and could’ve easily been integrated into the last graphical interface.

I have a nagging fear that this may be the beginning of the change everyone feared after Steve Jobs passed away. That without Steve, the company would sink to the temptations of the marketplace, milking as much cash as they can, and imitating the worst of their competitors. I have yet to read any other reviews expressing these opinions so my family may be alone in its revolt. Still, we now worry about the new OS X Mavericks coming out this fall and whether it will also start to destroy the relationship we have with our laptops.

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