Parents Put Down the Smart Phone

I’m not perfect at this myself. I work from home online & the iphone is part of my working life.

However I will say that in my view the best thing you can give your children, your partner, your family, your business conversations, and even when talking with strangers …  is your complete undivided attention.

True attention and focus is one of the scarcest resources in the world.

It’s also creates the space for the magic of life to happen.

Our children are watching how we use technology.

What does our behavior around smart phones teach them … or not teach them?

The Dolphin Way: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy, Happy, and Motivated Kids – Without Turning into a Tiger

indexIn her new book, Dr. Kang takes the approach of offering an alternative to the controversial Tiger approach to parenting.  She very clearly identifies the many challenges and stresses of raising a family in today’s modern rush.  She spends some time dissecting why many parents have come to be Tigers – stressing out their children, stressed out themselves, rushing, pushing, striving.  And then, thankfully, Dr. Kang offers many solutions, tips, scenarios, and true-life experiences to teach and remind how to reconnect with a gentler, kinder, ultimately more effective way of parenting and living.

There are many useful pieces of Dr. Kang’s book.  One piece that I sticks with me and that I have shared on multiple occasions with friends (parents and not), is regarding the importance of free play in life.  Free play is what kids do when given the opportunity to be kids (it is what adults do to with free time if they still know how).  Free play is what schools, extracurricular activities, ivy-league college goals, sports, and a host of other overly-structured, time-hogging activities steal from kids and parents. Research shows that free play is essential to the development of problem-solving skills, creativity development, and social skills.  Turns out, those kids who lived completely structured, planned, scheduled, achieving childhoods, look really good on paper; but they don’t have the skills to be competitive in today’s creativity driven, problem-solving, entrepreneurial marketplace.  Employers are noticing too; they are changing hiring processes in search of children raised with plenty of opportunities to pursue free play.

Tonight, while putting my 4 and 2 year old girls to sleep, I asked them what they wanted to do tomorrow.  They both rattled off a flurry of sentences, each beginning with the word play; play in the garden, play outside, play at the park, play with blocks.  Kids learn and explore through play; it is the ultimate learning tool.  Free play is also just plain old fun!  You should try it some time.  With and without your kids.  You will all benefit.  I saw a t-shirt sporting mom recently who’s shirt proclaimed, “when mom runs, we all win”.  True in my family!

Another part of Dr. Kang’s book that really resonated with me was about intuition and the importance of self-care.  When we can push aside the stress, concerns about public perceptions, and influences of modern culture and connect with our true intuition we can usually make good choices and decisions for ourselves and our families.  The more we are over-worked and under-played, the harder it is to make that connection with our intuition.  A headline in a parenting blog caught my eye recently, If you find yourself yelling at your children, you’re probably not taking care of yourself, it read.  So true!  As parents, if we don’t take care of ourselves, there is no way we can do a good job of meeting the needs of our children.

Dr. Kang reminds us that we can’t make decent decisions when we don’t eat, forget to drink water, don’t exercise, don’t take time to unwind and refill, don’t take a moment to watch the sunset.  These things make us human and parenting is an immensely human task.  As she herself admits, what she is teaching in The Dolphin Way isn’t rocket science; we can all attain the methods she presents IF we feel our way back to the little things that are really important in life.  Listen to your kids, talk to your kids, enjoy your kids, enjoy your kids enjoying themselves, trust in nature, trust yourself, trust your kids, let your kids be kids and let them be themselves. 

Thank you Dr. Kang for providing a tool to help us all be a little more human.  Our kids thank you too!

DrDr. Kang is an award winning Harvard trained psychiatrist and author of The Dolphin Way: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy, Happy, and Motivated Kids Without Turning Into a Tiger. She is currently the medical director for Child and Youth Mental Health for Vancouver and a clinical associate professor at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Kang has helped hundreds of children, adolescents, and parents move toward positive behaviors and better mental health.


How to Start Your Backyard Organic Vegetable Garden

phil-nauta-the-smiling-gardenerDid you ever want a quick introduction to backyard organic vegetable gardening?

Phil Nauta (the Smiling Gardener) just released an online organic gardening course on Organic Life Guru about how to round out your backyard organic gardening skills for personal use or larger production.

This is a good course if you’re looking to improve your organic gardening skills or food security position. You can discover more about:

  • How to choose your garden location
  • Companion planting
  • Succession planting
  • Crop rotations
  • Creating polycultures
  • Saving seed
  • Building and designing raised beds
  • Specifics on growing many different vegetables

This video course is a stand alone part of his 12 month program called The Smiling Gardener Academy.

3 Bonus Organig Vegetable Gardening Tips from Phil Nauta

Country vs City Living

Growing Kids and Corn in Suburbia

Growing Kids and Corn in Suburbia

Until recently, I assumed that country living was better than city living. Now I’m having second thoughts.

When we first got together, my wife and I were bona fide city slickers. Then one day we left the smoggy sprawl of Southern California for a town in Colorado where we learned to garden and make babies. Soon we bought a truckload of manure, rototilled the front lawn (to the shock of our neighbors), and explored edible gardening. Our passions grew – along with our chickens, vegetables and children – until eventually we bought a seven-acre organic farm in the Appalachian Mountains, where … we lived happily ever after.

Well, not exactly. The kids are moving out now (wow – that was fast!) and the place is suddenly too big. So we’re poised for one “last” move. I’m tempted to buy a piece of paradise way out in the country. Instead, we are discovering that our best move just might lead us closer to town.

These are some of the factors we have considered when searching for the “perfect” location:


Nature is much more important than many people realize. Nature brings joy and actually adds years to life. Exposure to sunlight raises Vitamin D levels, strengthens bones, alleviates stress, and lowers susceptibility to heart disease, diabetes, and many health problems [source]. Research shows that the closer people live to traffic, the higher their risk of atherosclerosis, due to air pollution and noise [source]. The incentives to exercise outdoors are much stronger in a clean, natural setting.

Other Health Considerations

City dwellers have higher anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia. Children in cities have nearly three times as many serious emotional disorders [source]. Crime rates are higher in cities – a problem that could become significantly worse in the days to come. Additionally, the harms of city water, EMFs (electromagnetic fields), pollutants, and constant noise (as mentioned above) all subtract years from our lives. Conversely, access to healthcare is better in cities. It is important to note that the risks of living in the inner city are much greater than in the suburbs, so where you live in the city really matters.


Friends and family are as essential as the air that we breathe. Socially isolated people are at higher risk of depression, heart disease, dementia, and premature death [source]. People will easily drive 10 minutes to see friends and family for fun and food, but a 30 minute drive is a difficult decision. I am tempted to buy beautiful, affordable property a half hour from our urban-oriented friends and family, but we do not wish to spend our days alone in the country. (This may not apply to you, if your tribe typically gathers in a rural setting.)


Jobs are perhaps the strongest force drawing people to cities. We recently visited an off-the-grid eco-community in the Appalachian Mountains. Despite its many benefits, income opportunities are scarce there, living as they are an hour’s drive from the city on winding mountain roads. Even e-commerce is hindered by restricted access to the Internet.


Urban dwellers obviously have easy access to community events, shopping, healthcare and more. Burning an hour’s worth of gasoline on a round-trip to town each day is neither economical nor ecological, but some people have no choice – at least for a period of time.


This is the rope that tethers our soaring dreams of the “perfect” location to reality. I dream of a 20-acre farm right at the edge of town with bass ponds and daisy meadows; unfortunately the vision turns to smoke when I see the price tag.

So what is the right choice?

Well … that depends on what compromises you want to make. My wife and I boiled down everything we wanted and needed in property to a list of non-negotiable items that include peace, quiet, beauty, no huge health hazards (e.g., freeways, factories, mega-power lines), enough dirt for our dreams, about 10 minutes from friends and family, hopefully within walking distance of shops, and an affordable price [see footnote].

Bottom Line:

it is likely that our “perfect” property will be near the edge of town. Yours will likely be somewhere entirely different. As for us, we’re in no hurry for our little farm to sell. So let’s wait and see how this dream materializes…

About the Author

james-werning-writerJames Werning and his family manage the Fox and Fiddle Inn and organic farm in the mountains of Western North Carolina (

footnote: I have said nothing about the structure(s) on the land because: 1) we believe the location is the most important thing, and 2) we are prepared to fix up, tear down or rebuild within reason. But that’s a topic for another discussion.

Thank you James for sharing your perspective on the classic country vs. city debate!

This is an important decision for people and families at all stages. And like you so wonderfully illuminated, the decision is often not as black and white as it can seem on the surface. Thank you for sharing your wisdom here!