Dr Keith Brownlee is a Fabulous Father

Brothers Alistair and Jonny Brownlee are going for gold in London tomorrow in the same race. As a father, I am blown away by the relationship these two young men seem to have and contemplate the likelihood that their relationship is a reflection of their parenting. Keith and Kathy Brownlee already have a lot of which to be proud. For me as a father, one of the most appealing parts of their story is at an event they were both racing in earlier in June in Oxfordshire, the gap between the brothers was so tight that they decided to cross the finish line arm-in-arm.

This got me thinking about my family's parenting efforts and our goal of making the most of our daughter’s individual talents, even when they have talents in common. Here are some of the things we do. Check back in 20 years to find out if we were successful in creating a sibling relationship as successful as the Brownlee’s.

Do not compare: Eventually some kids reach a place in their own minds where they think if anyone is better at something than they are; it means they ought to just give up at developing that skill. Comparisons are as damaging as labels. Encouraging self-competition seems to work better for our daughters. Improving on their last score or performance time, their personal best, encourages them to improve and keeps their sense of value intact. We set our girls up to cooperate. For example, they race the timer to pick up toys, instead of racing each other. We try to celebrate each child’s varied successes. We also tell them to remember no matter how good you are at something, there is quite likely someone somewhere, better, doing is not about being the best, it is about doing your best. Anyone can improve on his or her own best. Learn to enjoy your experiences and improvement without continually comparing yourself to your siblings.

Avoid Labeling: Yes, everyone is different. One child may be slightly faster with maths, another runs a bit faster, or has a lovely singing voice or especially beautiful eyes. However, allowing children to sort themselves based on this is limiting. Starting a pattern of seeing themselves through the eyes of others. It can limit children from trying something labelled as a sibling’s strong point. Labeling can also limit a child’s confidence in almost all other areas, they may be fearful of being less good at something else.

Equal Time: Make an effort to spend equal time with both of our daughters, without over focusing on the child who needs the most help at spelling, or math, or the child currently performing the best.

Family Strengths: Donnell and I avoid categorizing each other as good or bad at things because we think kids seeing parents as people full of possibilities and strengths means that regardless of which parent they identify with, their options to develop their skills stay open. We are aiming for a family culture that says we expect all our children to be smart and value challenge and this seems to create an environment where our daughters encourage each other.

Acknowledge Feelings: When one child feels insecurity about personal value because of a sibling’s success, we acknowledging those feelings and encourage our child to discover unique talents of their own. Both of our daughters love art and helping them understand the value of personal style has helped them stop the conversation about which of them might be better, and now they encourage each other to create new and different ideas and collaborate much better. We also ask them once in a while what some of the positive things their sister does that they really like and what are some of the things they do that might bother them or make them mad. This helps us track their relationship, and reminds us they have some positive feelings for each other.

Keep it fair: When one of the girls weeds a bucket more than the other we keep the performance scale realistic. The one who did more is paid more. Effort and attitude count.

Competition: It exists and we cannot change that, but we can encourage an environment where our daughters feel that we as a family are the home team. One member’s success touches us all. Cheer for your sibling and they will cheer for you. Donnell fondly remembers the girls on a playground at two, challenging themselves to reach a goal they kept saying to each other, “you do it, you do it.” We think they were mimicking our “You can do it” mantra.

We are encouraged by Keith and Kathy Brownlee’s sons. In an interview, Dr Brownlee commented about his sons, "They have been supportive of each other. They both recognise that neither would be where they are without the other. I try and persuade them to think about it as a family business. Kathy and I both just want them to finish the race healthy, intact and content. We're so proud that they've got this far. What comes next doesn't matter."

What a fabulous father.

LeapFrog, Michael Milken, Lowell Milken, and Larry Ellison, Sponsor Education.com

What new parent has not heard of Leap Frog? We have a Leap Frog Globe, Full set of Leap Frog DVD's, Leap frog Phonics thing that attaches to our magnetic kids pin board, Word Whammer, 3 readers with lots of books and cartridges in Spanish and English. We live in New Zealand. Why do the kids need Spanish? Donnell as anglo as she is, was born near the Mexican Border and with very strong SoCal links, thinks it is good for the kidlets to have an ear for the accent. LeapFrog Enterprises, is a leading developer of technology-based learning products and today announced its sponsorship of the new Learning to Read center on Education.com as part of LeapFrog's ongoing commitment to providing parents the best learn-to-read tools for their children. This new reading resource will provide easily accessible, high-quality educational and developmental reference and editorial content that address the critical and often challenging topic of learning to read.

The publicly traded company is majority owned by Knowledge Universe, Inc., a private company with worldwide interests in education-related businesses. Knowledge Universe was founded by financier Michael Milken, his brother Lowell, and Larry Ellison, founder of the software firm Oracle Corporation.

As a trusted leader in creating fun and engaging learning experiences for children, LeapFrog is uniquely positioned to team up with Education.com, a comprehensive, one-stop destination that allows parents to take an active role in their children's education from pre-school through grade 12.

"LeapFrog is excited about our work with Education.com on this important initiative that delivers on our core mission of making learning fun while helping children reach important educational milestones," said Zachary Fisher, vice president of corporate strategy and business development at LeapFrog.

The LeapFrog learning brand is trusted by parents, valued by teachers, and loved by children around the world. With almost 35 million educational platforms and almost 90 million interactive books and games in homes worldwide, and multi-sensory technology in over 100,000 U.S. classrooms, LeapFrog looks forward to sponsoring the new Learning to Read resource for parents who want to take an active role in their children's education.

"Every parent has questions concerning their children's education but is unsure where to find answers. Those who turn to the Web find that educational resources are fragmented and inconsistent," said Ron Fortune, CEO of Education.com. "The ultimate goal of Education.com is to empower parents to help their children. Education is not strictly limited to academic instruction, so whether it's helping parents choose a school or helping keep kids happy, healthy and motivated, our hope is to provide a resource that minimizes the time spent searching for answers and allows for more time to focus on a child's education."

According to a recent Education.com survey conducted by Harris Interactive(R), 74 percent of parents of children ages 18 and under said they wished they had a single resource they could turn to for information and answers about education and 96 percent of parents believe they need to take an active role in their children's education in order to fill in the gaps in public school education. LeapFrog looks forward to building on the relationship with Education.com to find unique and effective ways to assist parents with learning solutions for their children.


Our babies are soooo cool, fun and happy. We fell very blessed/fortunate/happy and totally and utterly intrigued. It is hard to believe they are really ours!  ( The 'real parents' haven't turned up so we've still got them!) Sienna...loves 'D' words like Dad, duck, dog....if only we could send the sounds this child makes!

Marlana....such a lover of life, as she says to the question, have you had a good day? "All day!" she replies.

We're currently packing up what turned into a big event for us. Donnell and I had an anniversary. We built a stage and put up a concert rig for NZ's top jazz band...and we built a dance floor too, all in our garden with the background of our almost finished house. It was a beautiful night. Our girls loved the music and the dancing bit. Sienna exhausted herself and went to bed gratefully....Marlana giggled, sung, chortled and Rocked till she dropped. She loved the singer....and Caitlin (the singer) loved having Marlana sharing the spot light.

Parenthood - Living Life At Autobahn Speed

Saw 'Something's Gotta Give' a few weeks ago and got nostalgic for Sagaponack, NY. Work has been full on.  I'm sort of trying to catch-up with 2003.... yet 2004 is galloping along at a autobahn rate. Our baby girls are 'princess' material from the day they were born. It was and unexpected and pleasant surprise when Sienna and Marlana started to get baby gifts and flowers from clients all over the world, household names, that certainly could be forgiven for having too much to do than spend a few minutes thinking about our girls.  As Donnell says, It's always nice to find out someone really cares for you, more than you realized they did.

Our files are next door at our house that used to be our home/office.......currently an extraordinary building site...our sweet little 3 bedroom batch of a place is being transformed in to a 5 bedroom Donnell design 'American' dolls house with reasonably large Kitchen living out the back. We're putting on an entire 2 story nursery etc. We're recycling the timber from a 2 stored home in St Heliers, and if we're successful will add wonderful features.

Donnell is successfully feeding both babies as I write....sort of out of necessity...they were both screaming at once! I do the 6:00 am feed with expressed milk, and help with the others as I can....but the twin feed I haven't seen very often........it's not as easy as it looks.

We are in a different club now!  Everyone would always assume I had children....now it's true!!