Monthly Archives: August 2015

The Law of Toddler Want and Need: A Not-So-Scientific Breakdown

This may stun some of you, but sometimes kids throw tantrums. Even the calmest and sweetest of kids are going to have fantastic meltdowns. They will yell, cry, kick, scream, and otherwise let the world know of their dissatisfaction with current parenting procedure or world events. Obviously, these meltdowns only happen over the most important offenses like the wrong color spoon, or you as a terrible parent being unable to produce warm ice cubes.

The reason these meltdowns are so over the top, and relatively frequent is because of how toddler’s view the things they want or need in this world. With this in mind, I would like to present my not-so-scientific theory I have creatively titled David’s Law of Toddler Wants and Needs. Now keep in mind that I have basically no education in child development, psychology, or anything else particularly useful (seriously, I studied English, Philosophy, and Music… it’s like the holy trinity of unemployment). In short, I’m sure this has been written about by far more qualified people with real credentials. I would even bet they used crazy things like “research”, and somewhere in their writing the word “hypothesis” even shows up. That being said… I don’t care, I’m doing it anyway.

David’s Law of Toddler Wants and Needs

David’s Law of Toddler Wants and Needs is really quite simple. The theory has three closely related main rules, and it puts into perspective why toddler wants and needs are so extreme, and why meltdowns so frequently occur. So let’s look at the these rules…

Rule #1 – There Is No Want, There Is Only Need

This is a pretty simple distinction, but it is the cause of so much trouble. Your toddler does not separate want from need. As rational adults we understand that your toddler only wants a cookie. If he/she does not have that cookie (or if said cookie looks like Big Bird and not Elmo), nothing bad will happen. However, from the toddler’s perspective that cookie is the be all and end all of everything right now. This is why not getting the cookie is such a massive meltdown. In the screaming, snot covered kiddo’s head this cookie was not something they wanted, it was something they absolutely had to have for survival.

Rule #2 – All Needs Are Equally Important

Toddler’s don’t have a range of need. It’s a flat line, and that line is always at “100% must have or the world will end”. This is very different than how adults view needs. As adults we understand a range of necessity. Some needs are immediate, such as going to the hospital due to major injury (which probably occurred because your kid decided they needed to carefully organize their marble collection at the top of the stairs), and some needs are more passive. These passive needs may include repairing the wall a child was using for “hammering practice”, or going grocery shopping for the 17th time this week because somehow after 16 shops, there is still absolutely nothing to eat in the house.

Your child does not make any of these distinctions. Your child needs everything at the same level of “I NEED THAT MORE THAN I HAVE EVER NEEDED ANYTHING EVER!” Now consider this rule along with rule #1, and we can quickly see why the frequency of toddler tantrums is so high. If everything is a need, and every need is completely equal, then if even one of those “needs” is not fulfilled we can easily dip into meltdown territory. Just remember, when your toddler is losing their mind over you blowing a bubble out of the wrong end of the wand, they needed you to use the other end of the wand as much as they need a roof over their head.

Rule #3 – The Most Recent Need Trumps All Other Needs

I know what some of you may be thinking. If all needs are equally important, then shouldn’t a parent be able to replace one need with another? Although it is worth a shot to suggest other things instead of the current life or death need, the conversion rate of redirecting a hyper-focused toddler is somewhere around the Mendoza Line (that’s a pretty obscure reference for die hard baseball fans… you can read about it here), and there is a reason for this. Toddler’s live in the moment on a level that is really a sight to behold. There is no past, there is no future, there is only the now.

Within that now, there is a need. That need could be anything from the need to paint a picture even though you are currently on the highway to the need to clean your phone in the bathtub. So even though all needs are created equal, the current need has a big shiny star next to it on the list of “Things That Are Totally Worth Melting Down Over” in their head. Once it passes, it will revert back to being as equally important as all other needs. That is until the next time your child remembers the joy of pouring water all over your expensive electronic equipment… and then that need will come roaring back.

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Six Months of Dad Lunch: Some Announcements About DadLunch’s Future (Don’t Worry, It’s Not Going Anywhere)

So six months ago I decided to start a blog. I did it mostly because I love writing, I love being a dad, and frankly it’s the only way to make sense of some of the ridiculousness both in my household and in the grand scheme of parenting. In those six months, I have gotten almost 20,000 hits. That may not be a lot by Huffington Post standards, but I am pretty happy with it on my little corner of the internet.

This brings me to what is next for DadLunch.com…

My idea from the beginning was to make this more than just a place that I would rant (which it will continue to be), but also a place other dads could share their stories. We all parent differently, and come from different walks of life. I can’t see the world from your perspective, but that doesn’t mean I (and others) wouldn’t like to read about it.

Going forward I would like to open the proverbial DadLunch.com doors (or I guess “Lunch Box”… yeah, we’ll call it the “Lunch Box”) to other dads from all walks of life. I know there are a lot of dads out there who don’t necessarily want to start a blog, but may have a story, lesson, or anecdote they want to share. I encourage you to send it in. I have some other ideas for the future if this works, but for now let’s just start here.

Some quick notes:

1) I don’t care if you are a world class writer, I will touch it up for massive grammar errors, but I won’t be heavily editing stories overall. You can be a great dad and a bad writer. Also, the more you write the better you get, so by all means, send something in. If English is not your first language, I would be happy to help you get your ideas out, and make sure English readers can understand your thoughts.

2) Dads come in all types. Older dads, younger dads, step-dads, single dads, etc. I don’t care what age, race, sexual orientation, etc. you are. The more diverse stories, the better. All I ask is that you are either a dad, or a dad to be (in the more impending sense of the word, not in the “someday” sense).

2) Suggested length is 400-750 words. If you have something way longer for a special topic, by all means let me know and send it in, but people stop reading at about that 750 word limit from what I’ve seen. If there is a specific picture you want included, let me know or I will probably find som

ething as close to associated as I can.

3) Some topics are inflammatory, and although I touch on those from time to time, I really try to keep it pretty light around here. I encourage you to write whatever you want, but if I just think it’s too extreme in any direction it probably won’t get posted.

4) Swearing- I swear constantly in real life, but not around my kid. I also seem to extend that to here for some reason. It started that way, and I will probably keep it that way. You can send in writing with swearing, but I’ll probably do the old  $*@&#^ over the curses.

5) I can’t promise everything will be posted, or exactly when it will be posted. That being said, I want to try and get received stories up. It really just depends on how big a response I get to this and where it goes from here.

6) Keep personal info to a safe minimum. Putting an e-mail or a link to your own blog/facebook/twitter is fine, I just don’t suggest putting your kids full names all over the internet. I will print what you send me, but this is a personal suggestion.

7) If this falls flat on it’s face, I will just continue Dadlunch.com the way it is 🙂

So send in your stories to Lunchboxstories@gmail.com, and I look forward to reading them.

My Child is Lucky: Discussing Privilege With Our Kids

The idea of privilege has been a hot topic in the news lately. It’s important to discuss these ideas with our kids. However, to do that, we have to come from a place of honesty. The simple truth is my daughter is a very privileged little girl. Compared to all of the situations in this world that she could have been born into, she exists in the upper echelon of privilege. Most people reading this blog are also privileged, some in more ways than others, but I would suggest that almost all of us are in a better position than most of the world.

The word “privilege” itself has developed a negative connotation, and if you are someone who is missing basic privileges than that negative application is very real. However, to many of us privilege is not a negative. It is simply a truth of our existence. What is infinitely important, and the message we need to instill in our children is the importance of how we use our “luck of the draw” privileges. My daughter does not have every birth benefit in the world (for example: she is female, and unfortunately being a man in America is still a more privileged position than being a woman), but she has a lot of them. To illustrate the point, here are few ways she was born very fortunate, and how it has or may impact her life…

1) Medical Care

Right from the beginning my daughter was privileged. She was born 6 weeks premature in a situation that usually does not come with a happy ending. Our story does have a happy ending though, and a large reason for that was our proximity to world class health care. I don’t even mean good healthcare, I mean one of the best NICU’s in the country is located a mile and a half from my home. If my daughter was born in other parts of this country, or even this state, her story would be different. The lesson here is that privilege does not mean that nothing in life is hard or dangerous, it’s that when those hard and dangerous times occur you have access to the means to overcome. My daughter’s access to medical care from before she was even born gave her the ability to survive and thrive. She needs to know this, so that when she gets older she can realize that overcoming adversity is an accomplishment of both personal determination and being surrounded by the means to succeed.

2) Money

By the standards of the American Northeast

, my wife and I are the definition of middle class. We are both full-time working parents, and we have to watch our budget on some level. That being said, by the standards of the rest of the world, we are comically wealthy. If I want food, I can dial a number or press a few buttons and make it appear at my home. If I am hot I power up my own personal air conditioner. If I am dirty, I get into a shower that at the turn of a knob sprays me with clean water while I wash with a bar of soap.

These are all privileges, and our children should grow up with an awareness of these gifts we don’t think about. The lifestyle difference of my family and the richest man in the world is infinitesimally small compared to the lifestyle difference of my family and a starving family somewhere else in the world. If on a scale of 1-100 of wealth worldwide, if Bill Gates is a 100, my little family in Central Massachusetts exists at about a 92. Most people I know are in this ballpark as well. Middle class in America is still a massively privileged existence. I am very happy my daughter has access to these things we take for granted, but it is very important that she realizes that even these day to day minor activities are not a reality for many people.

3) Education

My wife and I are educated people. I like to think we are also reasonably intelligent, but part of that is our access to education. We went to good schools growing up, and both graduated from college. Are we smarter than people who don’t have a similar background? No, but we have more access to the educational system, and understand how to be successful in a school environment. When my daughter has homework as she gets older, mom and dad will be able to help. When she is old enough, she will be able to study functionally whatever she wants.

These are not gifts that everyone gets. Some kids go to awful public schools, or have to drop out to support a family. This doesn’t make them less intelligent than my daughter, but they aren’t given the tools to achieve. Privilege doesn’t mean you are going to succeed, it means you are given reasonable means to attempt success. A good education system on the road to success is stepping up the plate with a bat, and a poor education system is stepping up to the plate with a branch. Both can get a hit and both can strike out, but there is no debate over which situation has the better odds.

4) Health

I work part-time with teens with severe disabilities. My wife is a therapist for adults with severe mental illness. There are plenty of kids out there who have a plethora of illnesses, physical disabilities, etc. My daughter is a smart, healthy little girl. Most of the kids I work with don’t even have a chance at total independence. They are great kids, and with the proper assistance can live happy and productive lives. However, they will never have the options that my daughter does. They will never be able to be scientists, doctors, lawyers, teachers, therapists, etc. The ability to choose her own path, and one day be independent are part of her privilege. With this comes a responsibility to help others without all the same options.

5) Race

There is a truth in this country that for some reason people hate to admit. Being White in America is easier than being a minority, specifically Black or Hispanic. I wish this wasn’t the case, but it is foolish to think otherwise. This extends to many aspects. My daughter will have an easier time getting a job, she will not have to worry about being judged by her skin color before her actions, and the justice system as a whole will treat her far more fairly. There are many other aspects of her life that this will affect in one way or another.

Hopefully, by the time she is older, many of these advantages will begin to even out. One of the ways to help this process is by developing an awareness of these inequalities. My daughter needs to be mindful of her innate advantages. The term “white guilt” is sometimes used in this context. This is a foolish term. It is not about feeling guilty, it is about understanding the world around us. This understanding and awareness is the key to progression. That way when situations for change arise, she can be prepared to say “This isn’t right… we need to fix this.”

So the bottom line is this. We all have some advantages, and some of us have more than others. In turn, we must teach our children about these unearned benefits that they have been born with. Not so they can feel guilty, but so they can recognize them and extend a helping hand to those who may need it along the way for whatever reason. Without awareness of their privileges our children can develop an ugly arrogance, and arrogance is not a privilege my daughter will have.

Thank you for reading. If you enjoy DadLunch, please take a moment to like us on Facebook here… DadLunch.