4-Hour Parenting – plus – Sports Doping

First, An Email

This short post was inspired by an email.

John Heltzel, who’s on the non-profit board of Hand in Hand Parenting, sent me the following:

I was recently having dinner at Los Altos Grill with a CEO. He lamented that he travelled a lot and was having trouble re-connecting with his kids when he returned. I said: “When you get home, take out your iPhone, set the timer for 10 minutes, and say ‘you are now the boss for the next 10 minutes’ and see what happens.”

He wrote me back: “I did the ’10-minute boss’ exercise with my kids yesterday. They loved it. First started with ‘Get me some Skittles’ and then ‘Play school with us.’ Thanks for the tip!”

I’d love to hear from readers on other simple tricks for keeping connected to kids. As a some-day parent and driven person, it seems like the little things are the big things.

What do you think?

Second, Sports Doping

I was recently asked by The Next Web “[In the future]… will winning in sports be determined by technology?”

Here is my answer:

I would go so far as to say that nearly ALL future record-breaking athletics will depend on technology. This assumes we broadly define ‘technology’ as innovative tools for solving problems… like normal limitations of the human body. The 1980’s were the ‘golden age’ of steroids, which partially explains the records during that period. Moving forward, athletes’ coaches will use better tracking for Moneyball-like approaches to incremental gains; they’ll also use advances in medical and black-market biotech for massive gains.

The human body hasn’t evolved much over last 100 years for Olympic weightlifting or sprinting, right? This can be overcome a few ways: better scientific selection from massive populations (e.g. current day China, Cold War USSR), gene doping, cutting-edge medical treatment for faster recovery from injuries (Platelet-Rich Plasma injections, etc.), mechanical advantage (e.g. compression suits for swimming), and tweaking systems largely neglected in a sometimes anabolics-myopic arena (think acetylcholine optimization for 50-meter sprints). At the highest levels of power- or endurance-dependent sports, *everyone* is doping in some capacity, whether using EPO injection (banned) or high- altitude simulation tents (100% allowed but expensive, and the effects are nearly identical).

The options they choose are determined simply by how rich or poor they and their countries are. There is no such thing as a level playing field. Never has been and never will be.

Competitors with $1,000,000+ bonuses from big brands will always have more resources than the drug testers. It’s an easy game to beat…

[Read the full article here, including answers from others.]

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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180 Replies to “4-Hour Parenting – plus – Sports Doping”

  1. I wanted to help my mum connect better with my kids, though she lives on the other side of the world (UK vs Australia). The phone was OK, Skype was better but the kids wouldn’t talk for much longer than a few minutes.

    So I built an app to help keep my kids talking to my mum for longer than 2 minutes – it works !!!

    Still early days yet but we now can keep my 6 & 4 year old boys talking to my mum for 20+ minutes on the iPad. We also started to use it to help practice our words & reading which has been very useful – just the simple fact they are practicing a little bit more often has made a big difference.

    If you are interested check it out http://kck.st/17dZnJ6

  2. The 10 minute tip was great! My son first started throwing things around to see if I would tell him to pick it up or stop. And when he seen that I just smiled and said your the boss he told us to get down on the floor with him and help him color his coloring book! 🙂

  3. My favorite thing about my life is being a Dad, and this leads to a chicken and egg type of situation of having good kids.

    I think the best thing you can do as a Dad is approach things from the perspective of mentorship.

    I feel like Mom is here to make a grownup, and Dad is here to pass along all of the stuff that he has figured out so far- from one kid (himself) to another (his kid).

    This point of view never becomes irrelevant because you are always connecting with your kids in a “in the moment”, relevant way.

    No BS, no manual necessary.

    Your job is to go through it with them, and become a trusted resource and guide. You have been there- and if you always do it this way your kid will know you are 100% legit.

  4. Hi Tim,

    I think you’ll appreciate this advice: in the same way that “if you want to be a great swordsman, become a painter,” I would say “if you want to be a great parent, become a great husband.”

    All marriage opinions/dogma/expectations aside, I have a son just about to turn 1 year old. Starting very early, he recognized his Mom and me as a the unit that together takes care of him. The 20% of your actions/reactions/attitude as a husband/partner/etc will dictate the 80% of your relationship with your child.

    He knows when his Mom and I are arguing/having a tiff and you can see the concern in his face. He also joins in our happiness when we’re all spending quality time together. Kids take notes on how you treat your spouse, and they can’t invent behavior that they don’t observe (within reason). Giving them the security of stable parents is invaluable at giving them a stable outlook on life and the ability to emotionally engage with others in a healthy way.

    This is not to say that if your parents divorce you’re screwed (both mine and my wife’s are) but I will say that even though my parents have been divorced for over 20 years, my siblings and I still have to pay the price in the currency of split time, over-obligation to a double-sized family, awkward situations, etc.

    If you (collectively) can get over yourself as a husband/spouse, then getting over yourself and understanding your role as a parent is infinitely easier.

  5. Any ideas on how to cure a shellfish allergy? I’m missing out on life and I want to experience the other side of the culinary world, without dying of anaphylaxis. HELP!

  6. Hi,

    I have few questions please.

    1. in terms of minimising time on phone, using autorelpy on emails and time/bulk manage communications. what are your thoughts and use of Unified Communications tools such as Lync and mobile devices where you can do things on the fly while your in the lift, waiting for taxi, standing in a que etc.

    2. any suggentions of time optimization for life and business but when you have kids and when you are still in a job but looking o get out. I am practising the email, phone management and it is working very well, more time for kids and to complete my 3 vital tasks per day. (to get out of employment is the first goal) problem is the free time I win now I cant make use of as Kids have shool and nursery and while at work I endu sitting off time as I cant get remote working approved by my boss. I am more effective at work but the free time is killing me. Hence witing this post at work.

    I can see how things will change when I reach my first goal here soon. But since you and this 4 h work week book is a big inspiration. . . help please 🙂

    All the best


  7. I’d really like to translate your work to Portuguese. I cannot get tired of extending your knowledge to my friends in Brasil. Please gimme a chance.

  8. Parenting is chauvinist. The whole idea of training someone (who is not disabled) is worse than male chauvinism itself. 99.9% of people think parenting is as simple as MNOPQ. Parenting is something, I would advice someone who I care about, not to get involved with.

  9. Hundreds of years ago, nobody read silently. It was too difficult. Isaac Newton was considered a freak because he could read to himself without moving his lips or speaking. Now, silent reading is the norm, and few people now know it was ever difficult.

    Of course you’ve heard of the Roger Bannister effect — that once we’ve seen something isn’t impossible, everyone starts to be able to do it. Humans seem to be generally getting better at everything, and neither technology nor the body seem to be limiting factors. 


    Technology: When Einstein’s theory of relativity was published, it was believed that only three or so people in the world could understand it. Now, it’s taught in colleges and high schools around the country. Millions of people understand it. I don’t think this is because our performance technology (nutrition, smart drugs, etc.) is better, as those millions of high school students aren’t using it. Many of them are eating McDonald’s.

    The body: People are doing skateboard tricks that were considered impossible fifteen or so years ago when Tony Hawk did the first 900, and it’s not like our bodies could have evolved in that span of time (nor is advanced technology too relevant in skateboarding).

    Anyway, I suspect that as our beliefs about what is possible change, and as our skill in applying attention and effort where it most counts increases, and as our willpower and ability to focus increases as a result, our abilities will change. In other words, we’ll collectively pursue more unreasonable goals, and reach them.

    To say that sports improvement will henceforth depend on technology seems cynical, and seems to disregard the fact that technology hasn’t been responsible for a great many recent and rapid increases in human ability, from silent reading to skateboarding.

  10. I’m writing PhD on sports doping – would really appreciate your further thoughts if you have a moment. This is really interesting stuff, Tim.

  11. Parenting is a 24*7 activity. To call it anything else is to miss the point about it and to show an excess of ego. To contemplate 4 hour parenting shows a complete lack of preparedness, interest or commitment to being a parent.

  12. Variations on the 10-minute boss idea worked great for me when I was farming full time and single-parenting half time. I found that a few minutes of very focused attention on a somewhat-scheduled basis provided a really great connection with my daughter when she was 7, and still does now that she’s 13. You have to salt in some additional, bigger engagements, and spending time together weekends and evenings is huge, but these short bursts are great ways to connect and re-establish connection.

  13. I get my 6 yr old to set me homework most evenings. He usually gives me his own version of his including tests. So I’m across his school learnings and he learns more by teaching me. Plus we all make food together to eat so that’s how we stay connected after absences & FaceTime…

  14. Reminding myself daily that my daughter will do as I do, not as I say.

    Praising when she attempts to negotiate or outsmart us in a situation (valuable life skills)

    A “peaceful corner” – a cushion that she can go to when she needs emotional space.

    Teaching and allowing her to say “I need space” and respecting that

    Praising actions and outcomes – positive or negative because they are both learning experiences

    Always encouraging imagination and art and free play by having a never ending supply or supplies (which usually includes things most would call trash)

    Dance parties in the mornings.

    Letting her know there is always the option to opt out.

    So many.

    1. Facing my own fears (like spiders) – to not pass them on

      Not having a TV

      Rituals- most of which she started. (I read to her as she falls asleep every night)(when we use the blendtec, we do a blender dance) (saying “I love you and I like you and I love myself and I like myself” every night before bed)

      Cooking together (kids knives- curious chef, my 3 yo now knows how to use a 8″ kitchen knife)

      Learning new things to help expose her to (learning to skateboard at 31)

      Letting her eat at fancy restaurants. Kid can eat some sushi and high end steak.

      Cooking new things. Like octopus. An adventure for us both. Which really is a bullet all in itself- doing things we have both never done before.

  15. Hey Tim,

    As a newish parent to an 18 month old son who is absolutely my world right now, I would 100% agree the little things are the big things. Pushing him on the swings, the first time he gave me a kiss, said dada an understood it was me, first hi-5 etc etc

    However it can be difficult to appreciate them all at times, especially when he’s up screaming between 12-4am, teething with 6 more teeth coming through at the same time and you know you have to get up at 5.30am to commute to London for work!

    However, having had a brief 6 weeks off work transitioning between jobs and looking after my Son most days, I personally actually found it even more difficult to appreciate all the great moments then!

    It certainly gave me a huge appreciation for all stay at home mums and dads! It’s definitely not the easy option.

    My biggest tip would be teamwork. I’ve no idea how single parents manage, I hope they have supportive friends and family around, because I really do think raising kids is a 2 person job, minimum!

    I would also highly suggest time for everyone apart, time for everyone together, and then time for just two – mum+dad, mum+son, dad+son because those can be some of the best moments of your life!

  16. A “lateral thought” on the future of sports and technology innovation… Popular music in the developed world has, in my opinion – like sport – also suffered from a culture of “master, faster” over recent decades. Music is taught in elite conservatoires and there are competitions and polls for “the world’s best” (guitarist, drummer, etc…). There is only so far that this can go before the human element is stripped out and what is left is meaningless and dull. The outcome is that the public has gotten bored and switched off not to music per se – as this is fundamental to the human psyche – but certainly to western pop music. Back to sport — for all the technical progress that has happened in football (soccer) in 40 years, I still hear people hark back to the “days of the beautiful game”, to the 1970 World Cup and Brazil as an epitome. One can argue that Formula 1 grand prix are less exiting nowadays compared to two decades ago, same too with tennis – who cares if the players can serve at 200 miles-per-hour, when they look and sound like dullards? Give me excitement! … I just wonder if technology is really the future of sport as is claimed, or whether a paradigm shift will take place – driven by falling public interest – regarding the purpose of sport, towards audience engagement and spectacle rather than anodyne “master, faster” record breaking?

  17. Make the kids the most important part of the homecoming. I generally will have bags to bring in, coolers to unpack, and a bunch of other stuff that has to be done. However, I will leave that all in the van until I’ve had a chance to kiss my wife and kids. Coming home after a few days on the road, it’s hard for me not to immediately deal with the stuff that accumulates, but I make a decision to make them the most important thing, and deal with cleanup and unpacking later. I also make sure that when I am home they get the first part of my day, and the last. So many emails can wait, but I love making breakfast and lunches, and I have no shame in cutting the workday short to hear about school.

  18. I prefer laissez-faire approach like my Dad. But my Mom is a Nazi. There were a lot of suppression to my throat chakra (explains why I’m like this). I’m not a Mother yet but if my anti-depressant doesn’t interfere with my fertility and Universe willing I have a baby, I imagine democracy should rule the family. Oh by the way, in 2013 when I first diagnosed, I started singing (nothing dramatic, normal singing tune).

  19. Suggested interview with Chuck Stratton of Vanderbilt U. and David Wheldon, two followers of Lida Holmes Mattman, who taught at Harvard and Case Western Reserve, and was nominated for the Nobel Prize. Mattman proposed an alternative to current medical theories. The very power of her approach may be the greatest obstacle to its general acceptance.

    As noted by T.S. Kuhn, the drawback of new overviews, e.g., that of Copernicus, is that they require far-reaching changes in conventional thought. The conventional thought of our day is that auto-immune diseases like MS “attack” parts of our bodies. It’s an almost religious view, positing that there are unexplained malignant forces at work, much as the teleological argument for God’s existence once posited a benign force underlying natural phenomena.

    What Mattman showed – and this is not a matter of debate – is that the immune system attacks hard-to-detect bacteria that parasitize a variety of cells, causing chronic illnesses for which the medical community has developed ad hoc but often ingenious remedies. The “drawback” here is that taking Mattman’s path requires jetitsoning or at least reinterpreting a host of current medical theories.

    In one interview, I heard Tim disparage doctors who prescribe long course of antibiotics, as if the medical evidence were against such doctors. The post-Mattman medical evidence is on the other side of the scale. Tim is right that long courses of antibiotics are damaging. The proper course here would be to politely confront practitioners like Stratton, to weigh the clearly deleterious impact of their treatment protocols against these protocols’ demonstrated successes.

  20. I teach and perform improv and clown, and I find the tools of improvisation to be exceptional in raising my 2 (and 1 on the way) sons. Listen. Play. Connect. Try to say Yes more than No. Love. Pay attention. Respect. Team. Play. Listen. Laugh.

  21. Hey Tim,

    I wanted to comment about the kid-thing, because this is my line of work..

    Connection to your kids happens when you are connected to yourself. Like full emotional connection.

    And not in some spiritual bypass’y kind of way.

    How does this happen?

    Full self awareness and breaking your own trauma cycles that you got from your own parents and generations.

    Healing all the early trauma and developmental stuff too. If we don’t, then we have blind spots.

    No tricks or quick fixes that can be hacked here Tim.

    But it’s totally possible with nervous system regulation work. Most parents use tactics, like the one above, and they work on the surface, but real deep connection is something that can’t be articulated – it is felt.

  22. re:tips to connect with kids

    in this case i think the principle of dosing is relevant. like other ‘minimum effective doses’ e.g. kettlebell swings for fat loss, they extend from larger principles. i think this tip is an extension of larger principles (80/20) that are important to all parents. here are some relatively well validated parent child relationship mechanisms.

    strong parent child relationships are built through credibility, play, and autonomy granting. credibility (aka i trust you) = you get me, and can control yourself (set expectations, and are responsive instead of reactive), play = you let me take the lead, and you don’t judge, autonomy granting = you let me take risks and help me cope when they don’t work out.

    if it’s the time for play, 10 minutes of play makes sense. if there is a problem to solve, work on your credibility (don’t just cherry pick fun time, helping kids and or your partner work through distress is just as important as play). and when kids want responsibilities, facilitate them. obviously these are interrelated, and as simple or complicated as you want (less complicated better).

    credibility? read ross greene/stuart ablon, and adele faber

    play? read http://incredibleyears.com/parents-teachers/for-parents/

    autonomy granting? read michael ungar

    -not the be all and end all. just the simplest answer i could come up with.

  23. Wow! Le monde est petit. John H gave me the identical advice over coffee about a year ago. It totally works. Love the 4-h advice for parents, keep it coming!

  24. For me, as I’m getting my 2 yo ready for bed at night, I’ll kneel down on a knee, where she and I are eye to eye, and just ask her about her day. Taking that 5 minutes before I tuck her in is like using a fire hose to fill our cup, I think, but it’s just so pure, simple, and real.

  25. 4 hour pareting is a good idea. You could really help “the cause”. Do you know that the first 3 years of life are the most important ones regarding brain development? And that language and love plays a key role on it?

  26. Giving over control for a period of time and making it a game or play-acting is excellent in several ways. The kids love being the boss, modeling what they’ve experienced, and they know what to expect when the real life situation arises. When my then 5-year-old daughter and I were going on a trip, her first airplane trip not as an infant, we rearranged our kitchen to resemble the security screening at the airport and practiced the steps of a security screening from taking shoes off to going through the metal detector. She was scared at first because I had told her it was serious, but as we practiced she began to gain confidence and giggled a lot. It turned into a game of cops and robbers. The next week, when we actually were at security in the airport, she didn’t even hesitate in going through. They make the experience their own and thrive through play and with attention, rather than with just direction.

  27. The quality, no phone in-hand time with the kids is really important. My wife and I have started a “date night” tradition with the kids (almost 3 and 1 1/2). The older one is old enough to understand that we go out on dates without them every week or two, so we’ve established date nights with the kids once a month — I’ll take one of them out solo, and my wife takes the other, then we switch the following month. That gives us a few hours to do something fun – a movie night, baseball game, or just getting dinner and dessert. It’s a great way to reconnect and share experiences.

    Feeling really brave? Travel solo with one of the kids. If it works out and you can arrange childcare, take them on a business trip. Or just a 3 day weekend somewhere. You get to really bond when you’re on the road.

  28. 4 hour parenting? I wish 🙂 I’m a very driven person and in the past year became a single mom. It’s been the most chaotic, sleep-deprived, awe-inspiring and meaningful period in my life. All my pre-baby routines and getting things done strategies went out the window. I am sure the experience is different for men vs. women. I am hard wired with a zillion years of patience and neurologically pregnancy makes women much more efficient and able to prioritize the important things. However, there are still only so many hours in the day and at this period in my daughter’s life I prioritize 1:1 bonding time. The entire first year was 24/7 mommy and me and working from home was very difficult if not impossible. I am sure it would be different if there was a partner, but my main focus is that she gets biologically what she needs at this point: safety and security. Somehow I have survived single pregnancy and new mommyhood with very little support and have been able to achieve what is most important to her development.

    Here are some tips for busy parents (based on 20 years of autism training and child/neurodevelopment):

    1) If you have limited time with your child, put the screens away. Don’t be distracted, they know when you aren’t present.

    2) Touch and hug your child. Touch is important for emotional regulation and providing a sense of calming and safety.

    3) Smile and make eye contact (pupil to pupil) with your child. Notice your tone of voice, your affect when you come home. A stressed facial expression can make a child think you are angry all the time. Be conscious of what you put out to them emotionally, they will reflect it back to you.

    4) Create routines that can be continued long distance if possible. If dad is on a work trip, maybe he can video conference and read a story before bed time. Consistency is important.

    5) Focus on experience-sharing and not performance. Avoid saying things like “Good job” and praise. This actually makes children not want to take risks and decreases motivation to try new things. Share with them in a nonjudgmental way so they know you are interested but your love and approval is not based on their performance, skill or grades in school. Saying things like “I know you put your best effort” is better than praising for a certain grade.

  29. Before arriving home in the car always listen to a “good mood” / uplifting song. I usually listen to audio books in the card but for the last few mins put myself in a good mood with a great song so i come in the door happy for my wife and kid.

  30. The 10 minute trick is like the Pomodoro timer technique. It’s a trick to get you to focus. Especially with little kids. Take a bit of time to zone in on their level whether it be cars or writing comic books 📖. See what they do and take them to the next level. Be their personal YouTube because they will follow. After 10 minutes of 100% engagement, they are typically more than satisfied and/or you’re hooked into the fun of being a kid again. It’s the best

  31. Hey Tim-

    Our favorite way to connect with the kids (we have 3) is playing dinner table games in order to get further than the “how was your day?” routine and grow some imagination and reflection. A couple of our favorites:

    1- “…and you’ll never believe what happened next!” One person starts telling a creative story and comes to a climax by saying “and you’ll never believe what happened next!” Then the next person takes over from there. You can go as many rounds as you want. Our kids love the spotlight and come up with some hilarious twists and turns.

    2- “Best, worst, funniest” We go around the table and each person says what the best part of their day was. Then the worst, then the funniest. Helps to put the day behind you and get a cathartic laugh.

    3- Bucket filling. We have to think of someone who “filled our bucket” during the day. This is a child friendly gratitude exercise. Bonus points for saying a time you filled someone else’s bucket, or a time when you saw someone fill a bucket that wasn’t yours.

    We have 100 more, but each of these helps us foster meaning conversation as well as build listening and speaking skills.

  32. 4-Hour Parenting Suggestions:
    1) Figure out your emotional issues (what presses your buttons) and resolve them while you are still getting amazing sleep (never the same after they are born- your brain just always is on alery)
    2)Read the book Facing Codepency by Pia Mellody. Everyone complains that there isnt a book to raise children. This is it. While it does talk about codependency issue (you may or may not have) it talks about how to treat babies and children in a precious way, setting healthy internal and external boundaries, etc.
    3)Be attune to your kids. Just when you think you have them figured out (eating, pooping, things they like/hate), WHAM they change. Get used to it but constantly talking to them and being around and PRESENT!
    4) Giving them too much physical stuff backfires in two ways a) they get greedy and dont respect their toys/others toys and b)they get overwhelmed, cranky, and don’t play with them.
    5) Parents should have a healthy relationship. If you dont the kids get sucked into an unhealthy situation and will cope in detrimental ways. Fix it before kids or when it goes south after kids.
    6)Food- feed them insanely healthy foods from the beginning and don’t stop. Educate them on why they eat fruits, veggies, etc. over processed foods and sugars (have a nutritional book that you read to them when eating- an adult Reader’s Digest Food Encyclopedia has great pictures and real facts… not cutesy facts).
    7) People are going to suggest, pressure, argue, etc. that you do things differently. So educate yourself, talk to and respect your partner (on-going), and have clear goals of what kind of adult you would like to have raised. Set the large goal and then break it down into little baby steps, but keep the goal in the front of your brain. For example- We are raising compassionate, love to learn, healthy girls. So we dont condone violence or eat meat. We homeschool with an emphasis on creativity and curiosity. Lots of health, fitness, meditation incorporated into their lives.
    P.S. Tim- love your blog and books (finish Tools of Titans). I am rediscovering my wants now that my kiddos are older, and all of your contributions have helped. You share so openly all of your how-tos, so I had to share some of mine. Peace and love