I first started this post a month ago and then put it to one side. I didn’t consider a terrorist attack would be imminent. Of course, the threat has always been there but the longer that nothing happens the less likely it seems it will happen in our country, our city, on our street.

There’s much sadness about the senseless loss of life in Manchester. The month of May 2017 will be etched in our memories just as July 2005. We should remember those who lost their lives, support those whose lives have been shattered, and commend the bravery of so many people who tried to help.  

 

As the terror threat is raised to ‘Critical’ the question of how we protect our children is at the forefront of every parent’s mind. 

 

But how do we protect them against something as barbaric as a terrorist attack, designed to create the most hurt and carnage possible? 

The first thing to remember is that, while these things happen, they are fortunately quite rare. In fact, society is safer than at any time in our history. Read Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of our Nature for further background. And try to take some comfort that we live in a progressively peaceful world.

 

There are a few small precautions that may help protect our families and others around us if we are ever caught up in an incident.  

 

Be aware of your surroundings.

Our field of reference shrinks when we focus on things immediately in front of us, particularly phones. When we take pictures of friends or selfies, our view is limited to only the things closest to us. If you’re in a busy place or at an event, take a moment to be aware of what’s going on around you. Especially where our children are concerned. Where are they? Who are they talking to? Who else is around? Quite simply, is there anything out of the ordinary? We’re surprisingly well-attuned to the unusual, our brains subconsciously pick up on it. Of course, it may not be possible to spot danger, but at least being vaguely aware of what’s going on may help. If something doesn’t feel right, report it.

 

Learn about the place you are visiting. 

Try to take in some basic information about the place you are in. If it’s a big event, take a moment to read through the safety information. If it’s simply walking around a shop or eating at a restaurant, identify where the key officials are. Are you travelling on a train? Read those safety signs just in case. This is why the safety drill is repeated every time we take a plane journey. If we know what to do in a crisis we are better able to respond. 

 

Know your exits. 

If you are with your family and something terrible happens, your job is simply to get away where it’s safe to do so. Moving away from the affected area is the best option, and often you don’t have to go far to be in relative safety. Wherever you happen to be, it’s important to be mindful of your exits and how you can get out if you need to. For example, when walking through a shopping centre pay attention to the green fire exit signs that lead directly out of the main building. The same applies in a shop. Most fire exits are towards the back of a department store. If you know the exits you can help to direct other people, too. 

 

Check official advice. 

The emergency services often issue advice about how to respond in an emergency situation. You can read about it here. A lot of the advice pertains to getting to safety and staying out of the way to let the emergency services do their jobs. They are trained to respond to these situations and, if a crisis occurs, it’s important to follow their lead. 

 

Learn first aid. 

This may seem a simple one, but if we all had basic first aid training we would all be a lot safer in our day-to-day lives. Most first aid training isn’t designed around a terrorist attack, but the recent course I attended did include some additional points that were helpful. Can you get on a work first aid course for free? Or sign up to the Red Cross or St John’s Ambulance. Read more in my other post on this topic. If you are able to assist in delivering first aid to someone it may be the difference between life and death. 

 

None of these points may have made a difference in Manchester against the relentless determination of one person to hurt indiscriminately. There’s nothing anyone could have done to change things but there were so many examples of human courage and bravery in the moments afterwards.

These are just my observations and don’t represent official advice. In all cases refer to the official guidance and follow the lead of the authorities; and try to stay vigilant without letting fear rule our lives. 

 

 

 

“I’ve never found anyone who didn’t want to help me if I asked them” – Steve Jobs.

As children we are taught to be polite, to always say please and thank you, and to wait patiently for our turn. It’s the oil that lubricates the wheels of our society. We simply cannot function as a group if everyone acts only for themselves. As parents, we try to instil those same fundamental values of decency in our children.

The best way we can teach our children common manners is to embody them ourselves.

Kids watch everything we do and soak it up like a sponge. The other day I found myself in the unusual situation of being in my daughter’s nursery without her. It was parents evening. An opportunity to catch up for ten minutes with the teachers on her progress. I’d missed the first one last term and was looking forward to learning about another side to my daughter when I wasn’t around. This time we organised a friend to sit with our daughter in the car outside while we went in.

On arrival we waited patiently in the main area. Unfortunately, due to an error another couple were sent in ahead of us. And then the couple due after us turned up, but they were late for another meeting and somehow managed to get in ahead of us, leaving us to speak to the teaching assistant instead. We came away late feeling like we’d wasted our time.

I was cross with everyone that evening. Most of all I was cross with myself for not being assertive enough in getting what I wanted. Especially as it affected my daughter who had to wait outside in the car for nearly an hour.

The thing I realised is that I can’t control everyone else’s behaviour but I can control mine.

The big thing that I should have done differently is be more assertive. I needed to make sure the staff knew we’d arrived and highlighted that it was our turn for our appointment. Instead, I acted too politely putting other people’s needs above mine.

Parents are responsible for educating children in their image. They will learn the example that we set them. I wonder if some of us are too deferential to others that we don’t get what we want, and that we might pass that on to our children.

The most important thing we can do to be happy and get the best for our children is to be assertive, to ask for what we want with purpose and clarity.

Too many of us, especially in reserved English society, are concerned with making others happy and taking a step back. We are often taught this from an early age and are passing this attitude on to our children. The problem is we will always be at the back of the queue. Some of us are the opposite and go after what they want even if it means stepping over others. This is just as bad. It’s a fine line between assertiveness and arrogance.

All parents should learn about and practise the art of assertiveness. We should teach ourselves to have self-value and clarity of what we want. And then we should ask for those things. If people ask for what they want they are much more likely to be fulfilled. Take a look at this short video interview of Steve Jobs who talks about how he asked the Chairman of Hewlett Packard for help when he was a kid, which then got him into computers.

Sadly, there are too few of us who act with true assertiveness. This results in frustration, lack of fulfilment, and confusion from other people who can’t read our minds and don’t understand what we want. Thankfully there are a number of resources we can go to as well as courses online.

As a father of a daughter I feel this even more keenly. I know that women are traditionally more self-deprecating that men. Women don’t always speak up. They either won’t, or they can’t, or they just don’t, but we’re living in a world that raises women to feel like they don’t deserve everything they want. That has to change.

So every day I try to be more assertive, for my daughter’s sake, to get what I want. I will make sure that I am at the front of the queue when I know I deserve to be. I will ask for what I want confidently and treat others with respect.  

Assertiveness is not about trying to overcome shyness, rather it’s about learning how to be ourselves around others. And I can’t think of a better gift we can give to our children.

I was at a birthday party recently where we played a few old-fashioned children’s games. I say old-fashioned because several other parties I’ve been to didn’t feature any party games at all. In fact, there’s a whole array of party themes to negotiate and it seems you can’t just have a few friends around anymore. Perhaps that’s a post for another time…

The thing that struck me was when they all sat down to play pass the parcel.

On previous occasions I’ve seen pass the parcel where everybody got a present and won a prize. On this occasion there were only about 5 prizes and 12 children. The parcel went around and the music played and each time it stopped another child tore open the wrapper and pulled out a little toy or sweet. One child in particular was getting increasingly upset the parcel hadn’t stopped on her. As it got to the very end of the parcel it was clear she hadn’t won and she threw a massive tantrum.

In response to the tantrum her mother rushed over, picked her up, and cuddled her.

Now I’m aware that I’m very new at this blogging thing and I shouldn’t be commenting on other people’s parenting practices. So I’ll try not to judge any further and will just get my point.

It’s important that kids should know the value of losing.

Resilience is one of the greatest skills we can give the next generation. It’s an ability to withstand rejection, criticism, and even abuse. The millennial generation were the first to grow up with computers and the first to create social media.

It is only now that the true extent and power of social media on children is becoming apparent.

Every day there are cases of cyber bullying and persecution with Twitter trolls hiding behind anonymous names and people thinking that anything goes online. Wherever we look there’s a barrage of abuse, uninvited opinion or judgement. Perhaps I was guilty of it myself earlier in the story about the pass the parcel girl.

When we are taught that everything is possible for us and we deserve to always get something to be equal with others, we are not teaching our children to live in the real world.

Equality is an aspiration but in the end not everybody is the same. Some people will be better at things than others. Some will run faster, will be better mathematicians, will be better musicians. The purpose is to nurture our children’s skills and interests but not to make them feel that they can do absolutely anything.

It is essential that children should be allowed to lose and know what it feels like to lose when the stakes are low.

It may not seem a trivial thing to miss out on a pass the parcel present if you are a child but actually it is a safe environment to experience what it means to lose and not come first. Later on in life it will be a valuable skill. The ability to know loss and to be able to turn that into a drive for something else is crucial to success in the world.

It is never more important than in today’s society to teach our children the value of resilience.

We can do all we possibly can to protect and shelter our children from social media, from predators or day-to-day people taking advantage of them. But if we focus on teaching our children the value of resilience it will build character to shield themselves from these people. After all we cannot protect our children for ever, they have to stand on their own two feet.

What are we going to do now to prepare them for the world are going to live in?

I haven’t read many children’s psychology books. I’m sure there’s an awful lot about this topic written about far more eloquently. If you have any comments or can point me into any interesting directions for further study, I would be grateful.

Thanks, P.

 

This post has been inspired after reading the Guardian article Globalisation Once Made the World Go Around. Is it About to Grind to a Halt?

We’ve all been caught off-guard by the big political events of 2016. Brexit was a surprise at home and in the international community; a lot of those who voted to leave the EU didn’t actually see it coming. And then there’s President Trump; who knew that he would come from the back of the pack to winning the US presidential election? Any doubt about his motives were put aside after his inauguration speech and the recent ban on immigrants entering the country. He is cutting off from the world and putting America first. So where does this leave globalisation and what does it mean to how millennials will bring up their children?

The millennial parent has grown up in a world of increasing globalisation.

For those born from the 1980s onwards we have only ever known life inside the European Union. We barely remember the last days of the Cold War, but we may recollect images of the Berlin Wall coming down. This was a world of increasing technical connection, with the advent of the world wide web, instantaneous access to information and communication. I presumed this would simply continue; that I was a global citizen and the UK was a global hub where people came together and did business. I assumed this was a world that my daughter would inherit when she becomes an adult in 2030.

And then 2016 happened and we have started to witness the end of the 20th century globalisation experiment.

My daughter is four years old and she will only know a UK outside the European Union. She will spend the next four years of her life learning about and hearing from a President of the United States who preaches protectionism and division with the words “America First”. And she will see as other European countries start to challenge the system and shout “[My country] first!

How do we explain this new world to our children? More importantly, how do we prepare them for it?

Whatever our views there’s no sense debating the outcome. We simply have to move forward. With hindsight, I think the backlash against globalisation is entirely natural and we should have looked out for it. We are not solitary animals. We live in family units of 2, 3, and 4+ in our homes around the world. We choose to join with other family units through friendships, shared interests and backgrounds and through these we form communities. We are part of local regions, each with their own sense of identity. And on a wider scale we live in societies with elected governments. Those governments then represent us as whole and make decisions on our behalf.

The problems come when our sense of belonging, so important to the family unit, is removed and the decisions and powers that govern us become centralised.

People have seen this form of swift globalisation and seen their choices and powers eroded. Take the wonky banana story as an example. I think the world is being pushed together too fast and people are beginning to revolt against it. It’s not that people want to be apart from the rest of the world, but their core sense of identity has been degraded. People want to be connected to others but they’re not ready to be thrust together quite so soon; we still have too many differences.

So how do we prepare our children for the years ahead?

The UK is out of the EU and our country has to renegotiate its relationships not just with our European neighbours but also with other countries around the world. It may take many years and the children of millennial parents may even be adults by the time it’s sorted. But it may never be truly sorted. Maybe this isn’t a bad thing; it will force us to look at the world afresh and decide how we want to engage with others. In order to help our children grow into this new world, we must be increasingly engaged with one another. We should make an effort to show them the world from another point of view. This doesn’t mean simply googling information on other cultures and interests, rather we must make an effort to meet people from all different backgrounds. We should teach them the importance of working with others and cooperating. We should tell them to be proud of who they are, to have a sense of identity and belonging, and an obligation to live their values. We hear a lot about the importance of patriotism from people like Trump. Pride in your country is a good thing as long as it’s not at the denigration of others. Our children should have pride in the good that their country does in the world, not just in how powerful their country is.

The first attempt at globalisation in the 20th century was a good start but it hasn’t quite worked out yet.

Maybe it was forced on people too soon. The millennial parent has grown up in a semi-globalised world but now we’re back to the drawing board. If we bring up our children to be global citizens, they will hopefully make positive decisions when they are in charge. So let’s look forward, not back. And outwards, not in.

 


New Year’s Day came and went. I was a grumpy old man/exhausted parent and simply stayed in to relax. I decided not to do any particular resolutions in my day-to-day life but I’ve come up with three goals for the Millennial Dad blog and wanted to share them with you. 
1. Define my vision.

Have you ever watched the famous Simon Sinek TED talk video on leadership? If not, leave this blog now and search for it (but please come back later). In the video, he talks about how truly innovative companies inspire people to become involved. He says “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”. I didn’t create this blog solely to capture my daily thoughts; I’m not that interesting and can’t write as well as many pro bloggers. But I did start the Millennial Dad blog because I believe there’s a new generation of fathers who are redefining parenting. I want to write about this and I want to help them. So one of my first goals for 2017 is to define the vision for what I want to achieve. If I can get that right I may just start making sense to people like you, who are kindly reading my blog!

2. Publish my book. 

The idea for this blog started with me sketching out the plan for a book on what the Millennial Dad is and tips for modern fatherhood. So far I’ve written a short book and I keep adding to it. I want to craft and edit it to perfection but I know the best thing to do is to just get it out into the world and refine as I go along. After all, I want to start a conversation not write a masterpiece. So goal number 2 is to get the book done!

3. Establish my web presence. 

This is a tough one and something I’ve been struggling with. I’ve started to follow lots of fantastic parent bloggers with wonderful websites, Facebook pages, Twitter profiles and Instagram. It’s all a bit overwhelming. For example, if I have a photo to share, do I put it on Twitter or Instagram? Should I use Hootsuite to post to many places at once or is this cheating? One thing I’ve learned from reading many brilliant blog posts is that content is king (or queen) so I’m practising my blog-writing skills and trying to learn as I go. By the end of 2017 I want to have an established web presence. That doesn’t necessarily means lots of followers, but I want to have something that shows who I am and what I’m trying to achieve. 

So there we have it. I’ve written it down now and put it out there. If you happen across this post over the course of the year, please do help me out by emailing phil@millennialdad.co and asking “how are the goals going?” There’s nothing like a bit of accountability to spur us on. 

Thanks, Phil.