Leah and Niels

Leah and Niels

I’m an anthropologist and have worked on four different continents. I have observed and participated in family life in Europe, Africa, The Americas and Papua New Guinea, earning my doctorate from Northwestern University in the process. I have been children’s advocate, play mate, clown, comforter, advisor and friend. I’ve taught college students, made theatre, camped all over California, lived in 120˚ temperatures, and taught parenting classes. To some I am better known as Mr. Angela Jernigan. And I am Leah’s favorite punching bag. She’s my step-daughter.

I am a member of the National Association for the Education of Young People (NAEYC) and a member of the Children and Nature Network.

I was that energetic boy. I played hard, fought with friends, climbed trees, got uncontrollably angry, laughed and cried. I was a serious kid, old for my age and always standing up for the younger ones. The outside was where I went when things got too much. It’s where I grounded, by the water, in the wind.

This is what I want for your child. Play for the sake of play, they don’t have to know it’s good for them. Nature to ground them and make them feel part of the world. Connection so they won’t have to feel lost and alone when life gets hard and friends get mean—or they get mean to friends.

And as a coach to you and your family, my main goal is to bring you back to that place inside yourself, where you know that who you are is enough. In fact, it is more than enough.

You have all that you need, all that it takes to be a great parent, stepparent, and partner in life.

EnergeticBoysCover2My Recent Book

Their Aggression Is Not Theirs: Energetic Boys at Play

In the Fall of 2015 I took 4 boys 4 days a week out of town into the wilds, as they called it. These chapters are reflections on that experience. I sent them out as daily emails and some have let me know that these were the favorite thing they go to read each day. That’s why I present these stories here for you. I had a lot of fun and I hope that these stories will give you joy too.

Here are a couple of responses to the book.

I have so enjoyed getting Niels emails over the last few months and am glad that he decided to put it in book format. This isn’t a traditional parenting book, with references to studies or an academic tone, it is more like raw and authentic meditations on what it is like to spend time with boys at this age.

Niels offered a free copy of the book to subscribers, but I am so appreciative of his work that I bought the kindle version. It is food for the parenting soul and has helped me to cultivate empathy for my six-year-old. I wouldn’t describe my little guy as an energetic boy (more of an introvert who loves legos) but the stories as still so relevant for me. Parenting through this phase is tough stuff and we need to find emotional nourishment wherever we can.


Niels is able to put down in words what we all know but won’t let ourselves fully act on. Here are some stories that make it so clear that our boys need our attention and understanding, that they need us to literally drop down to their level. I strongly recommend this book it made me laugh and cry; well worth the read.

You can find the book on Amazon and in the Apple iBook Store.