When Kids Walk Away

Sometimes kids go their own way. This can be positive or devastating depending on the situation. Let me clarify when I say kids, I mean your kids or mine. This has nothing to do with age since your kids are your kids all your life. We can guide them as dads only so far in life. Many fathers think they can force changes in the ways that their “kids” think or interpret life. There are standards and guidelines that we can implement or even demand under our roof. However, there are times when we can meet the brick wall. What do we do then?

Sometimes kids take a turn in their areas of interest and passion. This could be a healthy situation that we may initially interpret as bad. An example of this could be choosing a different path after high school graduation than what “you” planned. This happened with “ALL” 3 of my kids. However, all of them are more successful now than they probably would have been on “my” plan. It was not they “rebelled” against me. It’s just that they took life in a different direction. I’m so glad that I did not become a force of resistance or difficulty.

On the other hand, there are times when kids can walk away from our guidance in a very destructive way. There are those that will resist and not listen to anyone. I have one buddy whos son is battling alcoholism and legal battles. I can tell you that this does not stem from a lack of love on the part of the father. It is baffling to make sense of it. It is like the boy has completely gone deaf to correction or common sense.

Another situation hits closer to home for me. My wife had 3 daughters from her first marriage. Around 2005, they began to disassociate from her. We had no understanding as to what was happening. One by one from the oldest to the youngest over a period of about 4 or 5 months, they walked away and she has not seen them since. 

I have to confess that as a stepfather and a husband I was at a loss. There was never anything that could be interpreted as mistreatment by either my wife or myself. They just pulled away. My wife decided not to do a hard confrontation with either the girls or their other family. To this day we still don’t know what happened. I know it sounds weird and to me, a bit pathetic. I am a “fixer”. I want things to be right and make sense. Well, this time I had nothing to work with. I had no explanation, plan, fix, or understanding. Only dads that have been in this situation would understand.

As dads, we have a huge impact on our children. However, we cannot control and fix everything. Having an understanding of this did not come along until my kids were grown. I definitely did not have a clue while they were young. I was dad. Hear me roar. I saw other dads struggling and viewed them as weak or as not having it all together. My kids were going to stay on the path that I had envisioned in my head.

Does this give us an excuse to not assume responsibility for our role? Absolutely not! I believe that as a dad, we will be held accountable for our advice, parenting, and guidance beyond the years that our kids are at home. However, we must realize that these kids are individuals and not a mere extension of us. They are going to make mistakes. Choices are going to be made that would not have been ours. This does not mean that we should condone or enable them to live unhealthy lifestyles. Therefore we must examine the true nature of their decisions. If they go their own way on a topic, that is not always negative. If they choose a destructive path, that is altogether different. 

Unhealthy lifestyles are those that negatively impact them or those around them. What do you do? I first advise that you pray. Secondly, I advise that you develop a support system of family and friends that are willing to partner with you in addressing the situation. Finally, I advise that you get professional guidance and or clergy to run your ideas by. Develop a plan to best impact your wayward child. Gather information and discuss it with those you trust.

Some problems will not work out no matter what we do. This is a sad reality. It does not mean to give up on your kids, but sometimes we must seek damage control for the well-being of all those involved. Sometimes it requires us to make difficult and unpleasant decisions. This does not mean that we love them any less. Sometimes it means being willing to do anything to be the best dad possible.

Deacon

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I have a Say in This

Elementary age kids should not be introduced to gender studies. I am a dad that doesn’t want kids dealing with these issues at such a young age. As I have been doing blog research on topics for dads, trying to gather resources for fathers that are truly committed to the health and development of their kids, I run across several articles and podcasts that address the issue of gender studies. This is an agenda that is coming for your kid. It is already here. If you are a new dad or have young kids, you need to listen up.

The responsibility of sex and gender education is yours. Now, that being said, there are many parents who do not teach these matters to their kids. I’m not saying that sex education is bad. However, it should be biological and not a moral argument in the school system. Morals should come from you. It definitely should not be at the elementary level. Today class, we are going to work on spelling, multiplication tables, art, and why Timmy has 2 dads. NO!

Regardless of my beliefs or your beliefs on gender roles and sex, elementary school kids don’t even know who they are yet. Besides the basics of academics, they should be putting into practice good manners, kindness, and maybe a touch up on hygiene. Little Suzie is not allowed to mess around in the kitchen and you want her messing around with gender politics?

My point is one of age and the responsibility of parents. Dads, you need to step up in this role. It is okay to answer a question on any topic if that child brings it to you. However, you don’t want a stranger to teach your 9-year-old about gender. Today, there is a war going on between adults on the political left and right. It is in the news, in our places of shopping, and within various families that our child may be associated with.

You need to be active in your child’s education. The sad part is that many fathers are not involved. When I say education, I mean their learning about life as well as their academics. You need to set boundaries on what is appropriate and acceptable. Trust me when I say that I know people on both sides of the war. I know parents that never verify the lessons taught to their kids by school teachers. I also know parents that unduly smother their kids and become the hated parent of every educator. Balance and communication are key issues.

I don’t want my kids receiving mixed messages. If they are, I want to be prepared to address them. When I disagree with a school’s agenda, I condone it with my silence if I do not speak out. There are venues for these issues; parent-teacher conferences, principal meetings, and even the school board. Beyond meetings, there are elections that can remove those that may have an agenda in which we disagree with. Finally, there are plenty of educational options these days with private schools, co-ops, online, and others. 

In many countries, there may not be an educational menu that allows you to dictate how your child learns. In America however, there are more options surfacing every year. My suggestion to you when it comes to sensitive issues like sex or gender discussions is for you to determine what is right for your household. If contentious matter arrises, you must be willing to engage it. Communication efforts within the family and with school officials may offer a solution to matters that arise. 

Secondly, educate yourself. Know what is going on in society, the school system, and other organizations that serve young people. Read books and articles from opposing viewpoints. This can strengthen your convictions and arguments. Talk to other parents, teachers, clergy, and or counselors. Never charge the hill without gathering information. This is foolish.

Finally, have it in your heart and will to fight for the innocence and emotional health of your child. To do what is right is never popular with all. So, be prepared for opposition. You only have an average of 18 years with them to install the values that you want them to learn. This learning needs to take place in the correct order and in the correct dosage. Dads, your kids need you on topics like these. Be there for them. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon 

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Teaching Kids Discernment

Small children, teens, and grown-ups want to trust their parents. There is no age limit for this desire. Parents are supposed, to tell the truth, protect their children, and especially to young children are supposed to be right. We obviously know that no one is right about everything. However, children develop a blind faith in parents that they really don’t want to be challenged.

As I became a dad, I have become amazed as to the strength of a child’s faith. The image that comes to my mind is of a child that I saw on a diving board. Her dad swam out to the center of the pool. From being within hearing distance of this event, it was made known that this was the little girl’s first time. She had no evidence that dad would be able to save her. She had never experienced this before. However, when her dad lifted his arms to catch her, she dove into his arms. You could tell she was scared, but her faith in dad was greater than her fear.

Children need to believe in their parents for their sense of security. Through provision and love, this bond grows quickly. This bond is protected. As an educator, I found that most students (I will say 90% in my observations) will not side with an idea that opposes the beliefs of their parents. When we get into debating ideas, many will defend the ideas, beliefs, and proclamations of parents without any sources of merit. To begin questioning ideas or beliefs is not comfortable. It almost comes across like a taboo. Many of these students feel as if I am inviting them to betray their parents. Why?

I have challenged teens with a thought process. 1. Is there anyone that is always right?…no. 2. Does everyone make mistakes?…yes. 3. Have you ever been wrong about something or someone?…yes. 4. Do you know anyone that is perfect?…no. 5. Could your parents have wrong about something they have taught you?…silence. When one or two students finally say “yes”, things get dicey.

As parents, we want our kids to have faith in us. However, it is important that when we are wrong or unsure about something that we let it be known. We need to teach our children that questioning information is okay. We also need to show them the importance of qualifying information. This has nothing to do with love or the lack thereof. If we don’t teach discernment, our children can potentially fall victim to unfounded and false information. So how do we begin?

The first thing to do is to install a passion for truth and learning in your child. This (in my opinion) should start with books. We also need to separate emotions from facts. Being wrong is an opportunity to learn. Celebrate when your child finds the answer to a problem or question. As a child, I can remember doing bible drills at Sunday school. Learning how to find the verse or find the answer is important. When kids find or discover answers, they remember them more than when they are merely told. 

Finding a resource is not proclaiming a feeling. You don’t have to be emotional in researching information. This allows for the bond to stay strong with the parent without the demand for the parent having all the right answers. Information that merely stirs emotions can be dangerous. Hitler was quoted saying, “I use emotion for the many and reserve reason for the few”. We need to teach kids to seek the truth. They need to have a discerning spirit. Develop games for learning. Learn together. Encourage your child to teach you something. Doing so minimizes the chances of your child falling victim to false narratives and misguided information.

Have a show-me attitude. The world is at your fingertips with modern technology. Show your kids how to research and discover. Teach them about taking someone’s viewpoint with a grain of salt. They need to know what questions to ask and when. This is developed over time. Through this process, they can come to know dad as a man that seeks the truth. To me, this is a much stronger bond than the idea that dad always knows best. The truth is that many times, you won’t have the answers. However, you can find them together.

A discerning child is a strong child, much less likely to be taken advantage of. If you don’t strive to develop this in your child, then they can be swayed more easily by emotion which is not a solid foundation for learning. Celebrate their questions and search for truth. They can only benefit from doing so, and you move closer to being the best dad possible.

Deacon

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Fatherly Dad Advice

Fatherly Dad advice does not have to only come from biological Dads. There are young people that you will encounter in your life that will need your guidance. If they have the courage to approach you, stop and pay attention. Through my career either as a youth pastor, coach, or teacher, I have had many young people that have approached me with concerns from A-Z.

Why would a kid approach a dad figure outside of his/her family? There are many reasons. Sometimes they just want a second opinion, when they have already spoken with their own parents. Everything comes down to the subject matter. We all know that not every question is paramount, yet can be important to the young person who is asking. This may have to do with topics as trivial as music, sports, a workout, or even current events. While expressing your thoughts on these matters is usually harmless, there are personal pieces of advice that triggers my “go-to” question. 

Anytime we talk about issues such as relationships, health, or anything intimate, I always ask, have you spoken to your parents about this matter. If the subject matter makes you uncomfortable, or you feel that such discussions would not be appropriate, you need to be honest. Another option is to discuss such issues only if there is a witness to the conversation. There have been times when I have responded that “I am probably not the best resource for them on this matter”. You must be the one to judge the situation and know when it is best to get involved or not.

Many of my students have heard this response from me. “Well, I can’t tell you what you should do. I can, however, tell you how I would handle the situation if I were facing it”. You must remember that you are not them and they are not you. You can only assess situations as you, not them. 

To give the best advice means that you are informed well about the situation. With your own children, there should be fewer questions just because you know them better. For kids outside of your household, it is important to ask questions. It is important to take mental or even literal notes to have the best opportunity to help them correctly. Sometimes, the mere listening to the kid will allow them to see their situation with more clarity. Talking through an issue can allow clarity on an issue or let things process in a helpful manner.

A huge piece of advice that I will give to the temporarily adopted dads is to respond with questions instead of a statement. There is a discipline that I have become a strong advocate for. It is to resist the urge to blurt out a solution or answer. A wonderful book for those of you desiring to be the best advice-givers is Just Listen by Mark Goulston. Obviously you will do more than just listen. However, the discipline is to get individuals to expand on their situation and feelings in order to make them feel heard or understood. Saying things like, “tell me more”, or “hmmmmm” can make them feel important and or worth your time. Most of us dads like to jump in with our “Obi Wan Kenobi” advice. We think we have the answer and we cut them short. Be careful not to do this. Without a clear picture of their problem, you could make things worse. Then you would be “Obi Wan K-dumbass”.

Always encourage a healthy relationship with parents. I try to explain to the students/kids that approach me for advice that while they may not feel understood by a parent, that it is also possible that they (the kid) may lack some understanding of the parent. Unless there is something abusive reported, always be a proponent of the parent/child relationship.

If there is abuse reported, you need to get help from a professional and report the situation. To be completely clear, you can jeopardize yourself as well as the child if you fail to do so. You need to know what the law requires and respond accordingly. This is NOT betraying the child’s trust. Their safety and well being must be the top priority.

Remember that reading the situation is more important than having an answer. You need to know what response or lack thereof best serves this youngster. There are times when you will not be the best resource for them. Try and connect them with someone that can help. The situation of giving dad advice is not about you. It is taking the time how to best serve them. Be there for them. Be the best “adopted” dad possible.

Deacon 

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