Dear Jack: Our “Skateboard and Stroller Vs. Sprinters” Race!

6 years, 4 months.

Dear Jack,

This weekend I was supposed to take you to go watch the new Power Rangers movie, but you were satisfied with watching Trolls from Redbox. So instead, our family made the most of the wonderful spring weather in our cul-de-sac.

It all started when Mommy decided to push you and your sister in the double stroller, while I skateboarded alongside you all. But that didn’t last long…

Because you soon realized you didn’t want me to be able to move faster than you. There’s too much competition running through your veins to be okay with me going faster than you, in any capacity.

This quickly evolved into a series of official races.

You sprinting versus me pushing your sister in the stroller while I skateboarded.

There were some close ones, but you beat us every time. You are truly a fast runner.

And I was legitimately trying to win! I’m not the kind of dad who lets his son win. I suppose that only adds to your competitive spirit. You have to earn a win with me.

Then Mommy wanted to see if she could run faster than you. She’s fast, but not fast enough for you. So it stands, you are the official champion of the “skateboard and stroller vs. sprinters” race in our cul-de-sac.

For anyone happening to drive through our neighborhood this weekend, just casually looking for houses on the market, I’m sure they were in for a surprise when they saw a family conducting a series of wacky races! It had to be such a strange, yet fun-looking event.

But hey, it’s our cul-de-sac. Our neighbors are used to our antics by now.

Though we’re often on the go, when we are home, we’re bound to be doing something that’s not quite so normal.

By the way, let our “skateboard and stroller vs. sprinters” race serves as proof that you undeniably having really cool parents!

Love,

Daddy

The Awkward Paradox of Gender Roles in Parenting (in a Society Now Less Divided by Gender)

Last week I published Top 10 Masculine Traits of Men (Plus, “I’m a Masculinist, Which is Not the Opposite of a Feminist”), in which presented the theory that a man’s masculinity is subconsciously and collectively judged by society based on what extent he is perceived as being a confident, decisive, funny, healthy, physically active, emotionally intelligent, committed leader who respects women, helps his fellow man, and finds his identity in his skill set.

I had more than one woman respond by agreeing with these masculine traits, but adding that these traits would be good and beneficial for women as well. One told me, “I would say that perhaps we should change our expectations as a society so they are less divided by gender.”

Well said. So true. Very relevant to the conversation.

I feel that out of necessity and by default, our society is becoming less divided by gender. I find it simply irrelevant and outdated when advertising agencies (as well as people) make comments to insinuate that men hate and/or fear changing dirty diapers. Or when people call it “babysitting” when a dad takes care of his own children for the day while his wife goes out running errands.

Sure, I admit there is some personal awkwardness in always understanding my role in the household- to be both “the man” my wife needs me to be and at the same time for me to assume roles that would traditionally have been feminine.

It used to be that if a man was heavily involved in his children’s lives, as well as household chores, that man would be praised by society, and even by his wife, while she would be merely expected to do those things.

But it’s no longer ironic to see the opening sequence of Who’s the Boss?, as the ever-masculine Tony Danza vacuums the drapes.

Men clean toilets. Men do the dishes. Men feed babies. Men sit on the carpet and play with their kids.

None of this is ironic.

In fact, I would be willing to present a theory that a man who is a father and husband, but who is not heavily involved in household chores and the care of his children, is not considered a good dad or a good husband by his wife.

By today’s standards, a good husband is not simply a man who loves his wife, but who also is extremely actively involved in chores and childcare. The two roles are inseparable, now more than ever.

A failure to see that shift in culture is a failure to be relevant as a spouse and a parent.

To me, that’s obvious. To me, it’s not a theory. It’s simply fact.

But then again, this is coming from a happily married man who cleans the toilets and changes those dreaded dirty diapers.

I, Nick Shell, Have Been Chosen as One of the Top 40 Contenders for the Live with Kelly and You Co-Host Search… Now I Need Your Help!

I, Nick Shell, Have Been Chosen as One of the Top 40 Contenders for the Live with Kelly and You Co-Host Search… Now I Need Your Personal Help!

I see myself as a pretty average guy, but fortunately, the producers for Live with Kelly disagree with me on that…

Because today, I received a call from Live with Kelly, asking me if I had heard the news on their show today, or seen the news on their website: I have been chosen as one of the Top 40 Contenders for the Live with Kelly and You Co-Host contest!

It was just two weeks ago that I shot my initial submission video in the park. To my amazement, the producers felt that out of all of America, I am worthy of being in the Top 40.

Yes, I admit, I’m currently in shock; at least a little bit. I’m so happy and honored just to make it this far; even just to have any producers at Live with Kelly know who I even am.

However, I don’t have much time to process this exciting news. Instead, it’s time for more work for me- and for you…

This weekend, I will be making my submission video for the next level of the contest; which if I made it through, I would be part of the Top 20; to further be decided by America.

Even now though, I need your support.

You can easily help me in a tremendous way by doing any (or, preferably, all of) the following things:

  1. Click on this link to visit the LIVE with Kelly Facebook page
  2.  Once you’re there, “like” my video
  3.  Next, leave a comment on it, telling everyone how you know me and specifically why I would be the best choice
  4. After you’ve done that, share that link, promoting me as your top choice on your own Facebook page
  5.  Also, tweet that same link on Twitter as your choice: @nickshellwrites

I need your help as members of family; as my friends; as members of my hometown of Fort Payne, Alabama; as fellow neighbors in my current town of Spring Hill, TN, which also represents Nashville; as fellow graduates of Liberty University; as blog subscribers; and/or as YouTube subscribers, to prove through your pro-activity in social media that America truly does support Nick Shell as the most-obvious choice for the Live with Kelly and You Co-Host contest.

Will you do that for me? I don’t need money. I don’t need you to buy anything. I just need you to help create and sustain a social media buzz to help “elect” me for Kelly’s co-host for a day.

I thank you in advance. Thank you for celebrating with me today that I even made it this far. I feel humbled, yet quite eager to prove myself to America!

Dear Jack: Scrubby Man to the Rescue!

5 years, 7 months.

Dear Jack: Scrubby Man to the Rescue!

Dear Jack,

On Saturday afternoon before your nap, you agreed to go help Mommy get rid of all the “roly poly” bugs in the garage while I was cleaning up the kitchen from lunch and while your sister Holly was asleep.

By the time I got out to the garage, I discovered you wearing swim goggles, with a broom in your hand. When you saw me, you declared, “Scrubby Man to the rescue!”

I’m still not sure whether Scrubby Man is a super hero or just someone people hire to clean their garage. You looked like and acted like a perfect mix of the two.

In case I haven’t mentioned it, you have a Mommy who is… very into cleaning. I don’t mind that at all. I think it’s a great thing.

It’s just that on my own, I wouldn’t have thought to spend 20 minutes sweeping away all the pill bugs in the garage on a Saturday afternoon. But Mommy is wired to consider things like that.

And it’s good that she is instilling those traits in you.

I seriously love your choice to wear the goggles, though. You never know when dust or roly poly bugs might get in your eyes while sweeping.

Later that afternoon while I was out running an errand for Mommy at Kirkland’s (I wish that sentence sounded manly), you and your sister kept Mommy entertained back at the house.

You put on your famous felt mustache, which made Mommy and your sister laugh.

Now that I’ve had a smart phone for about 8 months, I admit that I still despise having one. I instead wish I could have no phone at all.

But perhaps the one thing I actually appreciate about having a smart phone is the ability to use Instagram. While I own a very nice, high quality camera to take most pictures, sometimes an unplanned Instagram speaks a thousand words that a planned picture with my $600 never could.

Love,

Daddy

5 Simple Psychological Steps to Winning an Argument, by Nick Shell

5 Simple Psychological Steps to Winning an Argument

Being a dad, and working in a customer service department by day, for several years now, I feel I have taught myself the art of winning arguments.

I should point out, though, that winning an argument isn’t exactly what you might think. It’s not simply convincing the other person to agree with you and to officially admit they are wrong and you are right.

Because that would simply be superficial.

Instead, my definition of winning an arguments is this:

Establishing yourself as the leader of the current conflicted conversation and helping the two of your move forward together in the same positive direction.

With that being said, here are my 5 simple psychological steps to winning an argument:

1.       Let the other person carry all the emotion, which in contrast, sets them up as the unstable, irrational person.

2.       Do not rebuttal their claims. Instead, remain silent, look into their eyes, while not shaking your head “yes” or “no”, nor saying “mmm hmm” or “okay” to imply you agree or disagree, all while mentally collecting their most incriminating and accusatory statements against you, which will likely include them using illegitimate and impossible claims like “you always” and “you never”. Make sure you don’t smile, as smiling can be perceived as insincere and/or condescending.

3.       Instead of you bringing up any offensive actions on their part which led to this confrontation, when they finish speaking, ask them to clarify statements only from the existing conversation, asking, “I just want to make sure I am hearing you correctly. Are you saying…?” Keep it in question format, which prevents your words from becoming a claim against them. Apologize for the confusion on your part if they disagree with the question you ask based on their statements.

4.       State no opinions of your own. Speak only using undeniable facts as well as direct quotes that they used just minutes earlier in the conversation. Get them to agree with these facts and quotes, by asking, “I want to make sure we’re on the same page right now. Do we both agree that…?” Then state an undeniable fact or one of their quotes, not an opinion or claim; which helps back up your own point using statements they either already agree with or having at least stated already on their part. At this point they will likely begin back-peddling  their claims against you as they begin to hear how extreme and emotional their earlier statements were.

5.       Make it clear you want peace with them and want to bring positive closure to the incident. Apologize for offending/hurting their feelings by acknowledging exactly what you did their hurt them emotionally; which is often the actual issue; their own perception of an emotional attack.  Ask them, “What can I do right now to work together with you to resolve this? I want to move forward together with you. What I can do differently on my part? I want to take responsibility here.”  If they give you no answer, offer your own suggestion, beginning with, “I feel that maybe what I can do differently on my part is…” Then follow up with, “How do you feel about that approach?” Even if they at best indifferently agree to your proposed solution, finalize the deal by closing with, “I could definitely be wrong about the solution here, but based on our conversation today, it seems like the best option right now. We’ll try it- and if it doesn’t work after a few weeks, we’ll try a new approach.

By default, you have just won the argument. You have clearly and sincerely demonstrated that you have listened carefully without attacking them, using their own “ammunition” in a more proactive, positive, constructive way as you recognize it as something you yourself are willing to specifically and personally address and alter your own behavior accordingly.

From there, it makes it quite difficult for them to see you as an adversary, but instead, a stable and confident leader who is worth trusting. Even though you “won,” you have much responsibility to actually carry out the solution, in addition to having helped the other person mutually discover, understand, and agree to that solution with you.

Here’s the 4 minute video version:

For My Dad on His 59th Birthday: 5 Ways He Influenced Who I Am Today

To My Health Nut Dad on His 59th Birthday: 5 Ways He Influenced Who I Am

This morning as my wife and I were getting ready for work, we were talking about the concept of how parents can influence their kids, even without trying to.

For example, no matter how much you praise your child on their abilities, talents, and looks, they can be just as influenced by the way you, the parent, see yourself.

As Bekah on The Wally Show explained yesterday morning, a mother who picks herself apart in front of the mirror will often, by default, teach her daughter to do the same; no matter how much the mother compliments the daughter.

We learn so much from our parents.

Today is my dad’s 59th birthday. So naturally, having just had this conversation, I’ve been thinking all day about the ways my dad made me who I am; whether he meant to or not.

I easily thought of 5 ways:

1)      Diet:

The first story that comes to mind was back in the late 80s one time when my dad stopped to get gas for his Ford Ranchero.

I asked him if I could get a candy bar inside the gas station. He reluctantly said yes, but went on to explain how unhealthy candy bars were, because of “all that sugar”. He told me how little boys my age needed to be eating healthier foods.

That made me curious. I then asked him when the last time he had eaten he candy bar. He replied, “Years… I probably was a boy. But I shouldn’t have, because those things aren’t healthy.”

Similarly, I can also specifically remember, around the same time, we were watching 20/20 on TV and there was a special about how kids were having heart attacks because of their diets.

My dad warned me if I didn’t start eating healthier foods, I could end up like those kids on TV who had heart attacks.

1To My Health Nut Dad on His 59th Birthday: 5 Ways He Influenced Who I Am

In our house, we never had white bread; only wheat. I felt deprived.

Granted, those elementary school years passed, then my teens, then my college years, and I ate horribly the whole time; whenever it was up to me. I didn’t heed his advice.

But by the time I reached my late 20s, I started seeing my processed food diet catch up with me…

Now, look at me. I am the strictest vegan anyone personally knows. If it weren’t for my dad, though, I wouldn’t currently be the healthy man I am.

(And when I say I’m healthy, that’s based on Dr. Thomas John at Vanderbilt Primary Care in Spring Hill, TN; during my visit with him back in April.)

If it weren’t for my dad, these days I would be a highly medicated guy: I would take something daily for severe allergy and sinus issues; and I would still constantly be suffering eczema, paying for prescription medicine to attempt to alleviate it, but not cure it.

That all went away when I became a vegan 2 and a half years ago; not to mention I’ve effortlessly remained in the perfect weight range for my height and weight since then.

I am confident that my dad’s “you better stop eating candy cars or you’re going to be a kid who has a heart attack” comments greatly influenced me for the good; even if I couldn’t appreciate it at the time.

It was ingrained in me from my dad that it’s important to prevent cancer and disease; not simply focus on the cure.

Here’s a webisode that he and I made with my son; which hints on the fact we don’t trust microwaves:

2)      Being active:

Plus, my dad was always physically active. During my entire childhood, he participated in martial arts; he was a black belt. Back in 1992, he even won 1st place in the sparring competition, for his division in northern Alabama.

(As for me in modern day, I regularly run and go mountain biking; plus I take at least two 10 minute walks outside during my breaks.)

Quite regularly, I when I was a kid, I would go with my dad to his Tuesday night practices and workouts. I knew that he would let me get a cheeseburger at Hardee’s on the way home if I went with him.

Here’s another webisode that my dad and I made with my son; which features my dad in one of his classic karate uniforms:

3)      Letting me make my own decisions

And perhaps that’s another way he influenced me: He let me make my own decisions, even sometimes when he knew there was a better way.

I’m not sure I’ll be as hands off with my own son. I don’t know that I can be as Libertarian with my son as my dad was with me.

But had my dad not been so laissez-faire with me (a policy or attitude of letting things take their own course, without interfering), there’s a good chance I would rebelled and acted out as a kid, teenager, and even a young adult.

So twenty years ago, during the reign of grunge, I had the long hair and the baggy jeans; and my dad never once revealed he was concerned about it.

Of course, my dad also taught me, by default, to be calm-assertive.

These qualities are only the tip of the iceberg. In all this, it was not only his words, but more importantly, his actions that inspired me how to live my life.

4)      Faith

Going deeper, I grew up with my dad reading me stories from the Bible for my bedtime stories, teaching my Sunday School classes at our church, and leading the youth group at church.

Therefore, I do my best to lead my own family in the teachings of Christianity; not out of tradition, but as a way of life- serving others, not judging them.

I seriously doubt my blog would be called Family Friendly Daddy Blog if it weren’t for him. He never cussed, so neither do I. Curse words never seemed necessary in order to communicate something worth saying.

For My Dad on His 59th Birthday: 5 Ways He Influenced Who I Am

5)      Politics

And when it comes to politics, I see that I have become my dad as well:

“Vote for the lesser of the two evils; whether that happens to be a Democrat or a Republican.” I remember he told me that a couple elections ago and it’s stuck with me.

A mindset like that requires an individual to use critical thinking beyond what they are taught by either the left wing or the right wing.

After all, they are both wings of the same bird.

Ultimately, he taught me to question the norm. And I do. That is a huge part of who I am.

It’s even one of  the main reasons my wife started dating me, as she has told me before, “You always seem so confident in what you believe, even if it not what most other people believe.”

So really, the way I see it, it’s undeniable that my dad greatly influenced who I am. Today he turns 59 years old. Despite whatever gift card my wife and I mailed him for his birthday, these words today are my gift to him more than anything else.

It Looks Like My Facebook Friends Are Questioning Bipartisanship

This week on Facebook, during the midterm elections, I’ve been watching something refreshing and basically atypical for the social media network: I noticed an overall lack in faith and loyalty to bipartisanship.

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Instead of watching people try to convert each other to vote Republican or Democrat, I saw people questioning the American bipartisanship system.

I watched people remind each other through their status updates that it’s irresponsible to simply vote blindly either all Republican or Democrat.

It seems like I’m witnessing a large enough group of the voting population gravitating towards Libertarianism; in other words, it appears people are beginning to vote what they believe is right for our country, not what is simply and easily right for the Republican or Democratic agendas; which are undeniably financed and promoted accordingly; via Fox News or CNN.

If you find yourself already getting apathetic about the next Presidential election because you’re tired of seeing a back and forth game between the two main political parties, there’s a good chance you’re actually closer to being a Libertarian more than anything.

Often it begins with a person saying they no longer care about politics.

However, that apathy is most likely towards uncompromising bipartisanship itself. I think that now, enough people are tired of being forced to pick the candidate they dislike the least; because that’s a horrible way to look at our election process.

I think enough people are realizing that the main 2 candidates are ultimately puppets who are simply endorsing either the Republican (backed by Fox News) or Democratic (backed by CNN) parties.

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By 2016, we may not be ready for a Libertarian candidate… but I do believe we’re getting much closer to have that collective mindset as a nation.

I predict that it will begin when a future elected President will identify as a Libertarian, but run as a Republican.

From there, the slippery slope will begin and the door will be open for American Presidents to rely less on bipartisanship to win the election.

And then eventually, it will no longer be considered “just a wasted vote” to endorse a Libertarian candidate.

My prediction for the 2016 Presidential Election: If Ben Carson runs as a Republican against anyone else, he will win. I believe he’s the most “middle of the road” candidate we’ve seen in a long time and people are ready for that.

However, I believe if he doesn’t run, and Hillary Clinton does, that she will win.

This could actually get pretty interesting…

Ben Carson vs. Hillary Clinton 2016