Rookie Report: A Manny’s Guide to Fantasy Football

Little guys.  Big game.
Little guys. Big game.

It’s my favorite time of year. The weather relaxes from blistering to nice. Summer clothes are on sale. And, if you listen closely, you can hear Peyton Manning’s voice calling out “Omaha!” in the wind.

Football season is back. And equally important, fantasy football is back.

Fantasy football leagues are tight-knit communities, and if you can be in one with your children, I highly recommend it. There are several reasons the N.F.L. supports and promotes fantasy football for adults, and here are four reasons it’s good for your kids too.

Competition

Beau Coffron wrote on Lunchbox Dad about never letting kids win. I agree with his take that the everybody-gets-a-ribbon, never-let-our-kids-feel-any-disappointment façade is harmful. Always letting them win doesn’t give our kids the chance to improve their skills.

Furthermore, we want them to hone their behavior regardless of the outcome. We want them to win with humility and lose with grace.

Last year was the first year the twins, my former charges, joined my league. After several seasons of them questioning my roster decisions, there was an open spot in the league and they had the chance to put up or shut up.

They put up.

And stole the last playoff spot right out from under me.

This is a league of adults who have all been playing for years. Nobody set a dummy roster the week they faced the twins or offered them some cupcake trade, and when the twins sent out some rookie, lopsided proposals, no one bit.

We can’t just let kids win because it’s lying to them. It’s telling them they earned something when they didn’t. But since we gave it our all and they gave it their all and they came out on top, that’s something the twins could legitimately feel good about.

Discussion Starters

Josh Gordon is suspended for marijuana use. Ray Rice for spousal abuse. Robert Mathis for trying to conceive a child with his wife.

I’ve seen parents shield their children from R-rated movies and related subject matter. But they are going to hear about drugs, sex, and rock ‘n’ roll eventually. You can either create a stigma around those subjects and blow them out of proportion, or you can frame the discussion and share your perspective. Then the child is more likely to understand the situation in context and act responsibly down the road. Even the Church doesn’t skirt these issues: the Bible contains more sex and violence than Game of Thrones and the Church simply uses those stories to structure meaningful conversation.

When Ray Rice comes off the board in our draft, if a kid asks why he’s suspended for two games, then I’ll respond that it’s because he’s a lowly, contemptible shell of a human who attacked a woman and because the N.F.L. was too obtuse to punish him appropriately… I envision something like Ronda Rousey using his face as a speed bag.

Don't forget to set your lineup!
Don’t forget to set your lineup!

Math

I learned my 7’s multiplication table from playing Madden on my Sega GameGear.

If you want a child to learn math, let her play some fantasy. If you ask a child to divide two-hundred seventy-five by twenty-five and add six times three minus two, you’ll be sitting there a while. Tell her Tony Romo’s stats were 275 yards, 3 touchdowns, and an interception, she’ll tell you it’s 21 points before you can make an add/drop.

Critical Thinking

Fantasy football is like poker. Yes, there’s luck involved, but the better players understand the game and how to work the system to optimize their chances of winning.

It requires critical thinking to understand why, despite scoring the most points, quarterbacks have less value than other positions. Assessing good players in bad systems or average players in good systems makes or breaks seasons for fantasy owners.

Ultimately, research, scouting, and speculation all boils down to one score. That one score does not belie the complexity of the game. And those who play haphazardly limit their probability of victory.

 

The twins playing in the league has been a great way to keep in touch with them since I no longer work with them.

Before they found me, my current family asked my agency if they had anyone who could talk about fantasy with their football-obsessed son. My trial day with him was spent tossing the ball around and going over our rosters. He asked me to join his league this year.

That mutual interest is a part of our relationship that endures long after my employment. In the Practice Life Method, your strong relationship with the child is the reward of having children. Fantasy football can be a great hobby to share towards building that relationship.

It’s all fun and games.

Until the trash-talk starts.

Then it’s just games.

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Teacher’s Attention Deficit, Ensuing Disorder

At a group dinner  at a Mexican restaurant, I sipped my margarita and talked with my neighbor, an eight-year-old boy.  And, because I’m a manny, I take a particular interest in youths and their rearing. We covered the most important topics—Star Wars Legos, our favorite PlayStation games, and which X-man’s powers we most coveted—when I asked him about school. He reported that his favorite subjects were, of course, recess, and, encouragingly, science. Then his mother interjected herself to the conversation.

“But what have you been doing in class that you’re not supposed to do?” she said, leading him into a trap.

He sighed. “I talk or make noises.”

I considered this for a moment, and then I asked, “Do you feel like the teacher calls on you as much as you’d like?”

“No. I mean, I get called on sometimes, but not very often.”  Just what I suspected.

It’s been a while since I was in school but I clearly recall that bubbling urge to whisper something to my neighbor. Sure, Mr. Saslow is talking about Piggy in Lord of the Flies, but I have a funny comment NOW! I wanted to be heard. I wanted somebody to notice me.  It took place in my subconscious in a way I’m only now aware of but it was there: I wanted attention. I wasn’t a bad kid, and neither is this boy.

I’m concerned that this teacher’s intent was to have the parents rectify a classroom issue. Teaching is hard, and I have the utmost admiration for those who undertake the challenges of the profession. But the golden rules for effectively applying consequences are that they must be immediate, directly related to the misbehavior, and, you know, actually able to be enforced. A parent punishing a child at home for speaking out in class meets none of those requirements. A teacher is responsible for the structure in his classroom, and therefore should have a clear method for dealing with infractions. Informing the parents of the situation is one thing; expecting them to fix it is completely different (and unrealistic).

The bigger takeaway from this all-too-common problem is that as social creatures, the desire for attention is completely normal. When we are busy and can’t give the child our attention at a particular moment, we adults must be prepared to patiently and consistently ignore them if they attempt to use destructive attention-seeking behavior. This informs the child of circumstantial restrictions. The other side of the coin is to give the child your attention when it is available and they seek it constructively. So, if your child is needlessly and incessantly screaming in the other room while you’re cooking, keep cooking. But, when you are sitting at the table eating a family meal, put your freakin’ phone away and talk to your kids!

If a teacher told me that my child whispers to her neighbor or speaks out of turn during class, I’d ask the teacher what his strategy was for dealing with the situation. Afterwards, I might choose to share my authentic feelings about the situation with my child: “I’m disappointed to hear that you aren’t paying attention in class;” or positively if there’s an improvement: “I’m happy to hear that you are sharing only when it’s your turn. If your relationship with your child is strong, they will care about your opinion. But the most a parent can do to influence the situation is to ensure that parental attention is ample at home and that social needs are met in a healthy way.

I worry that in this type of situation we often discourage a child’s completely natural need for attention. If we beat the desire to speak out of them, we are both teaching something harmful—a fear of speaking—and not teaching situational awareness—share when it’s your turn, pay attention when it’s some else’s. The Practice Life Method regards social skills as quintessential. And if we’ve taught our kids the balance of giving and sharing attention, they’ll thrive in any group situation.

Tricks Aren’t for Kids!

In my effort to keep up with mommy blogs and the constant flow of parenting information, I keep coming across a disturbing word: “tricks”. Sometimes tricks are grouped in with trendy “hacks” or packaged as advice from psychologists. But all tricks strive to do one thing: to get your child to do something. The Practice Life Method does not endorse any type of parenting “trick.” There isn’t a gimmick for developing constructive members of society.

When I talk about the Life element of P.L.M., I use it to emphasize that we want our children to live in the real world as opposed to in some parallel “kid dimension.” A clear example of this is children’s food. Why do parents serve their children chicken nuggets while they themselves are eating a well-balanced meal? And when those parents get their courage up and dare to offer the kids vegetables, they disguise them by mixing them in with other foods or smothering them in sauce or covering them with cheese. These are examples of “tricks,” the unwittingly manufactured walls of that alternative “kid dimension.” Just give them their veggies!

She wants Trix, not veggies. But tricks won't help.
She wants Trix, not veggies. But tricks won’t help.

Kids need to learn to face the challenges of reality head on. Once the child has experience in dealing with situations like vegetable consumption or acceptable social behavior—inconceivable expectations to many modern parents—then they can progress to dealing with actual problems. Why not master the rudimentary as soon as possible?

In addition to distorting reality, the other reason I don’t like tricks is that they rely upon your child being gullible. I want my kids to be smart. Parents who use tricks want their kids to be smart, just not smart enough to figure out when they’re being tricked. These parents hope for and play into certain intellectual discrepancies. Relying on the child’s inferior intelligence is blatantly disrespectful. Moreover, it’s unsustainable: kids will learn what’s what as they mature

I don’t try to get a child to do anything. When I talk about “shaping behavior”—which is the closest phrase in my vocabulary for what you might think of as trying to get them to do something—I’m talking about establishing a structure, ignoring destructive attention-seeking behavior, applying consequences when necessary, and then praising them when they exhibit constructive behavior. I’m waiting for the child to choose good behavior, not forcing it to happen. I don’t just do this because it’s the clearest way to shape behavior, but because it lets them find the motivation within themselves to make that same, good decision every time. When the child chooses the acceptable behavior on his own, he’s actually matured and will repeat the behavior.

So the next time you want your child to do something, consider if you are putting a cartoon character band-aid on a problem or actually solving it. Yes, it requires patience and resolve, but the long-term benefits far outweigh the immediacy of sticking your finger in the dam. And you can trust me: I wouldn’t try to trick you.

Game of Porcelain Thrones

429px-Game_Of_Thrones_Renovation_2011_Iron_Chair_Frontal
In the game of porcelain thrones: you pee… or you try again later.

Potty training is a very exciting time in a parent’s life. It’s exciting because, once complete, your child can be dramatically more independent. And, you don’t have to buy diapers (though maybe some still for nighttime). Potty training is also exciting because you are constantly on your toes, waiting for your child’s body to… function.

It’s important to remember that the purpose of potty-training is three-fold: to develop body recognition of the sensations of needing to use the bathroom, muscle conditioning to hold bodily functions until getting to the bathroom, and an understanding of appropriate bathroom conduct. With all the tricks and gimmicks and “Three-Day” promises available, it’s important to keep the focus on these goals. In my experience, I’ve found that implementing the following five principles will help you train more effectively and sustainably.

Toy-let

Many parents let their children have books or toys or even electronics while they sit on the toilet to make them comfortable. But we don’t want them comfortable. We want them attentive.

If we want their brain to sync up with their body so that they can learn when and how to control it, we can’t distract them. Recently, a mother I worked with told me that I potty trained her son so well that he’s dry through the nights. I attribute this at least partly to my unabashed expectation that his potty-time was that chance for him to develop those neural pathways that manage bodily functions.

“But I don’t have to go!”

I was working with a four-year-old who kept reaching down and grabbing.

“Okay, Liam, it’s potty-time,” I said.

“But I don’t have to go,” he responded.

“Okay, but it’s potty-time.”

He walked into the bathroom. “But I don’t have to go.”

“That’s fine, but it’s potty-time.”

In the bathroom, he pulled his shorts down and then instantly back up. “Okay, I tried,” he said as he turned to leave.

“Oh, it’s potty-time right now.”

He did it again but added a quick hip thrust.

We went back and forth a few more rounds. Then, I heard a steady stream flowing into the bowl.

Whether it’s inspired by visual cues or adhering to a schedule, when it’s potty-time, it’s potty-time. Listen to them, but trust yourself.

No M&Ms

If I was being potty-trained and I got a candy every time I went, I’d try to go and make a few drops every couple of minutes. This is not an original idea. I stole it from a three-year-old.

I’m not a fan of using anything that’s unhealthy as a reward, especially with potty training. Reward-based training is not a sustainable practice because, at some point, you’re going to discontinue the reward. And when you do cut them off, you may experience some backlash (“Why should I pee for free?”) or setbacks.

Captain Underpants

One morning, I came in to work and saw that the father had allowed his son to put his underwear on over his diaper. So he got to wear undies but he could still go in his diaper whenever he wanted. Why would we grant a child the privilege of wearing underwear if we aren’t concurrently asking the discipline required of them? I quickly rectified the situation.

Underwear is special. I hammered this point in so much when I began potty-training my niece that my sister began mocking me to anyone who inquired about how potty-training was going. “Do you know how special it is that we get to wear underwear?” she’d exaggerate. But, the child needs to care about the honor of wearing them to not want to soil them.

It is important that the child gets to pick her pair, at the store if possible, and definitely her pair for the day, so that she’s invested in keeping them dry.

I.P. Freely

Letting your child run around naked and pee on trees is not the same as potty training. That’s like saying you sat in a Jacuzzi yesterday so you’re ready for the 200-meter freestyle.

Is peeing on a bush in an emergency situation better than going in the pants? Yes. But for general application, this free-spirit mentality is not the same as the recognition, control, and calculated release required of true potty training.

 

Understand that negative experiences can discourage the process.  So don’t shame or force, just guide.  Remain emotionally detached from challenges but stay committed and consistent to your process. This is all practice, so bear in mind that it’s not about how quickly they’re potty trained, it’s about how well they’re potty trained.

And remember: Rome’s plumbing wasn’t built in a day.