The Real Meaning of Dad

Before we can assess our impact as dads, we must first examine ourselves as men worthy of the title. To be a biological father, one only has to donate selfishly to his own desires. It doesn’t take any measure of character. To be a dad, especially a good one takes much more than an animal rutting season to achieve. It takes dedication, suffering, patience, selflessness, love, and learning.

We can’t be the dads that God has called us to be if we embrace the American dream. Okay, wait a minute. I believe that America is the best place to live in the world. However, the majority of the American Dream that is preached today is about what you get or have; owning a house, having your degree, owning a business, or making a lot of money. However, none of these things bring about true satisfaction in life. None of it means that you are better, more important, more desirable, more respectable, or even successful. Yet, we chase these things.

One particular program that I like to watch is the Joe Rogan Experience. If you are not familiar with it, just check it out on youtube. Joe has many really interesting guests on the show that discuss not only their area of expertise or fame but also the emotions, drive, as well as the struggle that these guests have or are currently facing. In a conversation that was taken from episode #1038, Joe was talking to Billy Corgan, from the Smashing Pumpkins. In this interview, I found it very powerful when Joe asked Billy, “when you reach a certain level and are selling out giant arenas and you are one of the biggest bands ever, where the f%@# do you go?” Billy’s response was “madness”. When Billy was told by a corporate individual that they were probably going to be #1 (back circa 1995), he literally responded with, “Isn’t there something higher?”

No matter how much we get, have, or possess, it will never be enough. This is because we are made to serve, give, love, and glorify God rather than ourselves. We always want that thing or a better thing. However, it never satisfies. One of my favorite quotes is by St. Augustine who once said, “Oh greedy men, what will satisfy you, if God himself will not”. Winston Churchill said. “…we make a life by what we give”. 

As a musician, I always had dreams of being famous or at least famous enough to hit the road and play music for a living. There is nothing wrong with that idea. However, there is a cost that comes with it. Being on the road, many times means being away from family. In a song entitled I don’t mind by Falling in Reverse (a rock band), the singer says the following…”Mama you are an addict and you passed it down to me

But who am I to cast a stone with a daughter I never see

And honestly this honesty is getting way too hard to sing

I’d trade it all, I would give it back to be a decent human being”. 

When my kids were little, I remember coming home from work and they would yell with joy and run into my arms. My brothers and fellow dads out there, there IS NOTHING that the world could offer me in exchange for that. Having guy time, a dream career, or the latest man toy will NEVER bring joy to your heart like loving your kids and knowing that they know…” daddy loves me and will never abandon me”.

Don’t waste your time chasing after titles, awards, possessions, and everything that will mean nothing in the long run. There is no selfish indulgence that will bring you the joy that is yours as a dad, especially a God-fearing dad. You will never be respected or remembered as a great man/human being for what you get in this life. Yet, the chase goes on. Hearts are broken, families are torn apart, and men are left with nothing but a neon light that blinks an arrow pointing at them.

Don’t wake up in your 30’s or 40’s to an epiphany. Start changes today. Learn from the mistakes of others. Stop the vicious cycle that is spinning out of control in so many homes across our country. Evaluate what really matters. You are going to go out of this world just as you came into it. Make your mission to give, love, and honor God with your life. Be a man of character. Be the best dad possible.
Deacon  

Who should your kids believe?

More Americans get their news from social media, rather than a direct news source such as newspapers or news television programs. The problem with this fact is that social media is an open platform. What is an open platform? It is one that allows opinion to be expressed without any corroboration. People can say almost anything they want without facts to support their claims. 

Why would I bring this up in a blog or book that focuses on the role of dads and or parenting? It is because of the masses of young people that are led astray by the agendas of those online or in social networks. I personally do not believe that there is any such thing as bias neutral information. Every writer, speaker, or artist wants something. At the top of the list are self-preservation and promotion. We will usually support those that support us. We don’t normally bite the hand that feeds us or pays us. 

If you look at traditional news sources, they are owned by individuals or groups of individuals that believe and support different agendas. Their reporting process will usually lean towards that agenda. This means that they will overemphasize or continually report on subjects that serve their agenda. They will also minimize reports that do not serve their interests or will argue points that will discredit those that oppose the agenda. Now, this is organized news media. So, what about open formats with no requirement of corroborating evidence? What about articles, speeches, or propaganda that are strictly opinion? Do Americans really follow these sources blindly? Yes!

The writer Anais Nin once said, “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” People do not like to be told that they are wrong. As a matter of fact, we will gravitate to those that speak what we want to hear. We will affirm information that supports our own beliefs. We count them as fact. However, what if we are wrong? What if our source of information is wrong? Will we search for truth if it leads us to a different conclusion than that of our own convictions? I would dare say no.

What does this mean for our kids? Do we want them to follow the truth or us? What if we are wrong? Kids develop a trust for those that raise them. They desire to believe in them to a fault. When I use to work with kids that were removed from the home due to abuse, 90% of the kids wanted to reunite with their abuser. They wanted to see someone that loves them. They wanted to be worth loving. This need was/is so strong, that the horrible truth of their scars could not convince them that mom, dad, or guardian were bad people.

As we experience life, we develop these relationships and needs. We know what we believe, and don’t want to listen to those that have a different opinion or evidence that would threaten our beliefs or needs. This is why I believe that the problem does not lie with social media as much as it lies with us. We must teach our kids not to fear opposition. They need to discern by listening, observing, and questioning information. Where did this information come from? What do we know about the source? Can we corroborate this information with evidence to support the claim or idea? Sadly, we live in a society that fears offending people more than the fear of being wrong. We feel that if we challenge some information or its source, we are being disrespectful, and somehow denying peoples rights by doing so. This is a lie. Kids can be taught to challenge statements and information in a polite manner. If someone becomes offended by their inquiry, we need to reassure them that this is okay. It is impossible to please everyone because not everyone believes the same way. 

When my kids were little, I wanted to teach them good questions to ask. “Where did you read or hear this?”, was always a good start. “Is this something you have found evidence of or is it your opinion?” could be another. Please note that common sense must come into play. There is always an appropriate opportunity and those that are given to more conflict. Discuss controversial topics or current events. See if your kids can develop a good sense of testing information and processing it search of the truth.

Dads, your kids will naturally want to trust you. They will want to believe in you so much that they will take your words as fact. The problem is that you are not always correct, and they will encounter other adults and information that stands in opposition to you or what you have taught them. The trust relationship between child and parent is crucial, but they need to get to a point where they can understand that truth should be the goal over opinion. Work together and search for the truth together. Build an even stronger bond in the process. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon  

New Year Resolutions for Dad

As years come to an end, many of our thoughts go to the upcoming year. During this time, resolutions are made for self-improvement. We make personal pledges that we are going to do better at diets, workout routines, or goal achievements. It is a natural time to start new adventures or projects, no matter how brief they may actually end up being a focal point of our time. Parents need to do take advantage of this season to set goals for the family. Quality time and development of the family should always be a top priority. However, how should we approach these goals in order that we will actually see them take shape?

Parents must begin the process by taking stock of their current situation. Moms are usually better at addressing these issues. Sorry guys. The first hurdle is one of communication. Whether it is a date, or just taking the time before going to bed, couples need to make a list of the things they want to achieve. I would suggest that dads and moms make separate lists, then exchange the lists and discuss them. This may feel unnatural for some dads. Get over yourself. If you love your family, you need to examine feelings as much as you do your possessions. What do you as a dad need to do better?

After years of interacting with new dads, I can tell you that the amount of money that you make is NOT and should NOT be in your top 5. How do you spend your time? How do you communicate your love to your family? These are priorities. These are the measure by which you will be remembered. Dads want to be loved and respected. Just as we should teach our kids, our efforts and attitude spell out who we are as husbands and fathers. We must put them and their needs above our own. Notice that I said needs, not wants. Wives and kids NEED to know they are loved by words and time. They don’t NEED lots of things. They may want this and that, but things will never make their hearts joyful. It is your job as a husband and dad to identify these things.

Dad’s need to take care of themselves. They must manage their bodies, minds, and spiritual health. It is difficult to care and love your family when one of these is not being attended to. For me, I start with the spiritual. Getting right spiritually makes me want to do the right things for my body and mind. I have a quiet time in the mornings, reading my bible and having coffee. This sets my mind and drives me to tackle the rest of my day. The next thing that dads need to address is their calendar and watch. Does your calendar say that you prioritize your wife and family? Don’t know? Ask someone to evaluate it.

Please note that as a dad, your relationship to the mother of your children GREATLY affects your children’s sense of security. Yes, how you treat mom is expressing love for your children, whether you intend for it to or not. If you are a couple, it is paramount that you work on that relationship. If you are not, it is important that your kids see your respect for her role in their lives. Tearing down their mother is NEVER the right approach, regardless of her performance as a wife or mom. She is still a mom. Even if the kids are angry with her, do not chime in negative comments. It will hurt them later.

The journey to making goals as a dad starts with your self-evaluations. What are you doing or need to do to be a better husband and father? Then evaluate what you and your spouse need to do as parents? Are you on the same page? What do the two of you need to do in order to be better as a couple or the parents of your children? After the aspect of self-evaluation and that of the relationship with your spouse, look at what the kids need. No one outside the two of you should see this more clearly than the two of you. If this is not the case, then the problem lies with you and or your spouse. Address these things first. It will give you a more healthy platform to parent from.

Now, be specific with your kids. Let them in on your making of goals. Ask them their opinions, as they are able to understand. There opinion matters. What do they think you should do in order to be the best dad? What do they think you and your spouse or their mother need to do to better that relationship? Lastly, what do they think they need? Do they know the difference between need and want? This is a great conversation to have and can lead to some genuine growth.

People will make all sorts of New Years Resolutions. Most of them will not last long or will fail. Is this because we are unable to commit? Perhaps it due to the fact that the goals may be selfish or really just wants instead of needs. Maybe we are not taking the best inventory before we dive off into a new adventure. Take the time to make the right resolutions. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon

Kids and Patriotism

Dads need to do a better job teaching patriotism to their children. While I agree that there are grateful families in the USA, the lack of regard by so many young people and college kids is embarrassing. I truly believe this is because these young people have no idea what it means to suffer for a nation. Most of them don’t know real suffering at all. Due to that reason, they also have no idea what honor means or the price that strangers have paid for their right to act like morons.

I have a boy in the Navy, and one in the Marines. My daughter is also married to a Marine. Can you tell that I am biased? We as a nation are free because of shed blood. We are free because of the bravery of men and women who were and are willing to stand in harm’s way. We owe them our gratitude and respect. 

I understand that people can have issues with different aspects of government. They have the right to address their concerns and even protest what they perceive as injustice. However, this has nothing to do with our troops or our flag. Take a stand on policies, leaders, laws, etc. However, this country is the best place you could ever live and your rights are due to the fact that they were fought for. Stand in respect for those that have and will fight for you. That includes the flag, which is a symbol of that honor, fight, and sacrifice.

Your children can only benefit from a sense of patriotism and respect for their country. Take time to watch documentaries, movies, and read books about our nation’s history. Answer the easy and tough questions. If you don’t know the answer, find it together. Take them to patriot events and places of honor. As a child, I remember when my parents took me to Washington, DC to see the various memorials. This left a huge impression on me. It made me so proud to be an American. 

Recently, I had an opportunity to go back with my father and many veterans of WW2, Korea, and Vietnam. It was amazing to listen to their stories and to witness their presence at the various memorials. If you have little kids or teenagers, find these men while they are still around. They are living history and will bring to life what exists in the movies and history books. This opportunity is fading fast.

Don’t let “thank you for your service” be a phrase without reverence. Many times we let things that are patriotic to be automatic or done in passing. Show your children why these gestures and pledges are so important. Talk about the freedoms that they enjoy. Discuss different situations and countries that don’t have such freedoms. Then, correlate those freedoms to the flag and the men and women it represents.

Finally, it is important that your kids understand the importance of current events. I never understood this as a kid. However, I am thankful for my teachers that stressed such awareness. Make sure that they understand government, politics, and the opposing arguments of various parties. This awareness gives them a sense of belonging. It is hard to relate or understand your involvement in something that you have little or no knowledge of. They need sources of information. It is important that they understand your view as a parent and citizen, as well as those ideas that oppose your view. Discuss why you believe as you do. When did you come to your conclusions, and what sources of information did you base those beliefs on. Did these beliefs and or convictions change over time? If so, what led to these changes.

Many parents believe in only offering the argument over ideas that align with their convictions. I personally believe that to be a mistake. They will hear the other side from someone. It is important that you maintain an open dialog and trust with your kids. There are those out there that will take ideas and actions of a few and make them look like a mass opinion or a stereotypical issue that is an American issue. Whenever they lump ideas and issues to the greatness or lack thereof of America, this is when we should step in and point out that internal American struggles have nothing to do with the greatness of this nation as a place to live or with those that have for our rights to disagree and debate. 

We are Americans. This comes with a plethora of ideas, opinions, and people. We all need to be proud of our citizenship, of the flag, and those that it represents. Being a patriot will instill a sense of pride in a home that is healthy. Do your best as a dad to help develop this in your children. They are the health and strength of this nation for tomorrow. Be a part of this important teaching. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon 

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The Secret of Life

We all want our children to have the best life possible. However, it is what they learn and not what they possess that is the secret for success. There are so many products for sale that are geared to make your life happier, better, or easier. None of them in of themselves bring fulfillment and true joy. Therefore, the question is what do you want for your children? Is there a secret to living the best life? I believe there is, but you may smirk when I tell you what I believe to be the truth. However, I have never known those who have tried it to be disappointed. Are you ready?

The Secrets of Life:

  1. God is in control…not you.
  2. Your purpose in life is to glorify God…not yourself.
  3. Reaching goals is achieved 2 ways. Hard work and consistency.
  4. Joy is found in achievement, not possessions.

God is in control…not you:

You are not in control of life. Good and bad things happen. You will not have all the answers or solutions to fix everything, and you were never meant to. I understand that there are several readers who are not people of faith. I wish I had a statement to satisfy all, but I believe that anything else would be void of truth. Luke 12:22-26

“Do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?”

Your purpose in life is to glorify God…not yourself:

Life is not about you. You are only a few generations from being forgotten by your own blood relatives. I know that sounds horrible. However, in most cases it is true. Do you know the full name of your great-great-grandparents without looking it up? How about when they were born, their occupation, where they lived, how they died, or a great story about their achievements? Most people cannot.

Bring all who claim me as their God, for I have made them for my glory. It was I who created them.-Isaiah 43:7

Reaching goals is achieved 2 ways. Hard work and consistency:

If you look at any longterm goals such as a degree, certification, getting into shape, or making the top team, it typically is not achieved outside of hard work and consistency. A lot of people want to be great or achieve a goal or status. However, very few people are willing to pay the price to do so. We want instant gratification. When we don’t get it, we become discouraged and give up. This is especially evident when it comes to physically getting in shape. I remember a trainer being asked how long it takes to get in shape. His response was, “how long did it take you to get out of shape?”

Joy is found in achievement, not possessions:

Those who have the most are not happier than those with less. The affluent suffer from more depression than those of modest means. Joy comes from acquiring a skill, learning, and achieving goals. None of these disappoint. Possessions are part of the instant gratification world. They are short-lived and only desire you wanting more. Guess what, when you get more, that will never be enough. 

Your kids are going to be so much happier in life by achieving goals and serving others. This comes from hard work and a charitable heart. Both of these attributes are learned, mostly by example. So the question is dads, what are you doing to be that example? Include your kids in work, goals, and charity. Celebrate and encourage their participation.

Well, it appears that the secret of life is really no secret. However, people want to waste time, money, and worry. That is because the truth may not be what they want to hear. People want to be in control. If faith, hard work, and a passion for others instead of possessions are not what they desire, then they will stay on the hamster wheel of life. Encourage your kids to know the real reward. Support them in their learning and labor. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon

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The Dad Evaluation

What kind of dad are you? Recently, my wife and I moved to a new community to be with my father, who is at this time 87. As empty nesters, we walked away from our normal grind and relocated to a new community, church, and environment with only each other. As I began to connect with some local men in my church, I met with a young man that inspired me from a bible study that I attended. Not really knowing many people, I reached out and met with him over coffee. 

During our conversation of introduction and scoping out our direction in life, He asked me a question that I had never been asked before by another human being. He asked me, “so what do you bring to the table of friendship?” I felt like I just applied for a job. I wasn’t offended, but was just taken back. This guy wanted to know if I was worth his time and investment. I was wowed and impressed. “This guy is direct”, I thought. I had to think. What kind of a friend was I? Why would this guy want me to be on his list of buds?

This made me ask the question, “what kind of dad am I?” My potential new friend was a new father/dad himself. He got me thinking. Dads come in all flavors and sizes. We have different skills, potential, as well as environments. If you watched television in the 50s and 60s, dads were very cookie cutter in nature. At least that is what the programs depicted. In reality and given time, you will run into all kinds of dads. I know so many that are so much the opposite as myself, with kids that think their dad is superman.

Do we have to have a particular style, attitude, or belief system? I would say “yes” and “no”. I believe that there is a foundation that we all need to be great dads. After the foundation is laid, it just matters what kind of house you want to build. The foundation must be a passion to put our children’s needs above our own, to be firm, yet loving, willing to sacrifice our ego to learn, and a good listener. After that it is up to your recipe. What do you want to create in your children? What are your goals and aspirations for them?

Remember that it is important to understand who you are before you can translate ideals to your kids. Understand that we ALL have biases. We have learned by our experiences and exposures over time. This shapes who we are. Combine this with personality, culture, and goals, you will start to see who and what you are. What is “your” character like? Do you look in the mirror (figuratively, or literally) and evaluate yourself? You should do this before you begin your dad journey.

I don’t like to look at my faults. I don’t like to admit my insufficiencies. I like to think that I have it all together and know what is best for my kids. This attitude is a huge disservice to your kids. I must have a spirit of learning. Only when we strive to learn, willingness to admit our mistakes, and tame the alpha male can we truly grow. This does not make us weak. On the contrary, it strengthens us. Like steel in a forge, you must go through the heat to make yourself stronger. Our forge is humility. Please not that I did not say weakness. You can be humble and strong. Your kids need your strength for them and in some cases against them.

Some may disagree, but I don’t think humility is natural for most men. This may seem funny or weird, but for me humility came in the form of God’s voice and a line from the movie, The Princess Bride. In the movie there was an evil character that thought he was a genius. He thought he was the smartest guy around. He kept using the word, “inconceivable”. Later in the movie, another character said to the “smart man”…”You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means”. One day, God said to me, “you know…you are not as great as you think you are. You need to humble yourself and seek wisdom”. 

I can have a contentious attitude. I’m a fighter. I’m not afraid to go to battle, especially if I believe myself to be right. One day a wise boss of mine said, “you know, you can be right and yet still be in the wrong”. Our ideas may be correct, yet the way we communicate may be wrong. If we do so, we don’t prove our point. We prove that we are poor communicators and in translation are probably just jerks. I have known many jerks that were super smart. No one listened to their facts. All they heard was the jerk saying “blah blah blah”.

As dads we need to evaluate ourselves and turn away from practices and beliefs that don’t serve others well. We need to speak and act through our passion and love, not through our egos. Self-discipline is essential for you to be the best dad possible.

Deacon 

The Mistakes that Dads Make

Last night I wanted to be someone else for a few moments. My wife and I were at a worship service. Standing in front of us (everyone was on their feet) was a family. It consisted of a macho looking cowboy, his wife, 2 boys, and 1 girl. The kids were from ages 8 down to 3 (the girl). Both my wife and I were having flashbacks. We are now empty nesters watching this amazing family. All of the children were hugging and holding on to their parents with equal love and admiration. Wow, I was in tears. I was looking at the richest man in that room. I don’t know if he knew how fortunate he was/is. I just knew that this rough-looking guy had a gentle and caring touch. He was a hero.

This got me to thinking about the other dads. I pondered all of the fathers that did not “get it”. They screwed up, wasted time, and lived selfishly. It made my heart hurt. I don’t know how many men I have encountered that now live in regret. They shattered relationships because of a lie sold to them by the world on top of selfish ambitions. The lie was/is the perceived definition of what a real man is and the American dream (what you achieve and possess).

There is a way of thinking that we as men must get away from. That being said, I put together a list of the top mistakes that I believe men and dads make that prevent them from being the best dads possible.

  1. Your alpha male needs to be in check. Assert your dominance by being in control of your emotions.
  2. Life is about the glory of your creator, not you. The idea of “you”… do what is best for you, loving yourself, putting yourself first, looking after #1, is the epitome of evil. We should put others before ourselves.
  3. You will never be cherished in the memories of others because of your achievements and possessions. Only your love and giving will achieve this.
  4. You don’t know everything, quit acting like it.
  5. Winning an argument is not always winning.
  6. Avoiding issues does not make them go away. Sometimes it requires difficult and unpopular decisions for the betterment of those you love.
  7. The grass is greener on the other side of the fence because of the crap that comes with it.
  8. Immediate gratification usually ends up in regret.
  9. Doing what is right can be a very lonely feeling.
  10. Listen….stop….and really listen. Learn the ancient Chinese art of shut up. We talk too much. That is why we don’t learn.

The minute that you turn off your ears, mind, and hearts, you lose. “Pride comes before the fall.” – Proverbs 16:18. You can try to do things your own way. After all, we men, like kids, don’t like to be told what to do. We are even this way when people want to help us. It sounds kind of stupid, doesn’t it?

As a Navy Seal, the goal is to achieve the mission, not to demonstrate how tough you are. Don’t believe me? Check out Raising Men, by Eric Davis. I think we can all agree that the SEALs have the market cornered on being a badass. However, they will not engage or “make contact” if they don’t have to. This has a great lesson for us men and dads. Unfortunately, most of us care too much about how we are perceived by others. This gets in the way of doing what is in the best interest of those we love. 

You are called to love, provide for, and protect your families. You are not called to be the roaring lion or a dictator in your home. Are you tough? Show your strength by doing what is right regardless of opinion as well as having restraint. Power is being in control, this includes your attitude and words. We must be disciplined to put others before us. Evaluate yourself and be the best dad possible.

Deacon

Rites of Passage

Do American boys have any rites of passage these days? Is there any significant time, ceremony, or feat that says, “you are a man”? Today I am going to talk a lot about boys becoming men. Across the world and time, civilizations have had a tradition, ceremony, and even trials that must be faced for a boy to be recognized as a man. Aside from a bar mitzvah ceremony for Jewish boys, I can’t think of anything prevalent in modern western culture. I am not Jewish, but cannot find any significant task or requirement that truly sets the boys apart as men. I do realize that there certain communities that require fasting. I don’t think it is anything significant or grueling. Please comment in response if you have any information to the contrary. This is not a blite on any religion or group. It is about manhood.

As I researched traditions and rites of passage for boys on their quest to be a man, I was shocked and grossed out at some of the indigenous tribe traditions. Some I have been aware of for years. Some were a new source of learning and a resource for my gag reflex. Let’s be honest and say that torturing a child does not make the child a man or worthy of respect. However, American kids have gone to the other end of the spectrum with regard to the coming of age and responsibility. These days, young people seem to be extending their adolescence into their 20’s and beyond. They are not “growing up” as they should. Why is this? Many of us as parents have not required them to do so.

Boys must be shown how to “do it for themselves”. Look at the joy that a young boy gets when he experiences accomplishment. This may be something as simple as tying his own shoes, riding a bike, catching a fish, or making a good grade in school. The joy and the satisfaction are much greater than when he receives a gift. As men, we have a desire to be respected. We want to achieve. To complete a task that requires work feels good, yet it is avoided in many cases.

In her book, The Price of Privilege, Dr. Madeline Levine discusses how important it is for a child to “find themselves”. They need to know who they are and what they are capable of. For those that live in a life of “privilege”, where everything is given to them, yet whose parents have high expectations in performance, these kids are depressed. If you get a chance to check out this book dads, it is worth the read.

Young people, and not more so but specifically boys need to develop a sense of value in who and what they are. For them to accomplish this, we must allow them the opportunity to succeed and fail on their own. This does not mean that we inflict, but allow them to experience pain. This may come in the form of disappointment, a bruised knee, or a fall. They will be okay. Kids are resilient. They must be allowed to struggle and figure it out. We actually can do our boys a real disservice by giving them the answer or doing it for them. They need to view us as empathetic and encouraging. We need to fan the flame of wanting to try again and not quitting.

Young boys need to be given responsibility. They need to work. Hard work is one of the greatest teachers they will ever have. Both of my boys are in the military. They both initially went off to college and found that they were destined for an initial different path. I tried to always present the idea that their plans may not always work out. If they don’t, what are they going to do about it? To be successful and respected, they had to be willing to pay the price. Today, my boys have my undying respect for their grabbing the bull by the horns and taking on the challenges before them. Perhaps that was their rite of passage.

I know that as their father, I suffered watching them face life head-on. I knew that they were going to take the hits. I tried to give them a heads up. I wanted to warn them and have that warning be sufficient. No. They had to take the hits. Both of them had to struggle for what they want. This has been my most intense struggle as a dad to this date. Not only for my boys but for my daughter as well. 

I love the statement made by professor and author Jordan Peterson when he asked, “do you want your kids to be protected or strong?” That really hit home with me. Regardless of if there are labeled and celebrated rites of passage, they must find it and struggle. I wish that modern western culture had more traditional methods to recognize our boys becoming men. Until then dads, it is up to us to teach them, not to give to them. Empower your kids. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon

Teaching Kids about Fighting

Kids are going to fight. To what degree lies with the individual child or teen. My middle and youngest child were fighting before they could speak intelligently. Most of the time “fighting” meant aggravation and fussing. Elevated voices, growls, cries, and screams were common. As long as they were at home, my wife and I tried to make them work it out. The parent referee was not the first choice. There was not enough vallum in all of the pharmacies for that. If I got up and ran into a room every time my daughter growled her brother’s name, my Fitbit would register 10 miles before lunch without leaving the house. 

As they got into school, they had to adapt more to frustrations and the “little darlings” from other families. I have to admit this was interesting. My son was a tall and athletic kid. He really wasn’t much of a target. My daughter was not super tall, about average height for most girls, but VERY strong. My daughter was also the one with the temper. She obviously gets it from her mother. 😉

The school experience was interesting because now other adults could tell them what to do, and what not to do. Obviously, I’m talking about elementary. We got our baptism early to the principle’s office. That is right. Your kid does something and you the parent get to go to the principle’s office. When we got our first summons, my wife called me and said we had to meet at the school. “What did he do?”, I asked. “No, it was YOUR daughter”, she said. 

My daughter was/is my baby, my princess. She fought with her brother at home sometimes, but she would not cause trouble at school. This had to be a mistake….NOPE. We arrived with my daughter sitting just outside the inner office as we were called in to face the “judge”. It seems as if my daughter had been walking to her seat. Do you know the square desks with the tiny chairs? Anyway, a boy lifted up her dress, exposing her undergarment. A few kids laughed, then there was a crash. My daughter hit him over the head with her chair. We are talking WWE off the top rope SMASH. 

Okay dads, here is lesson one. Don’t laugh in the principle’s office if you receive this kind of news. However humorous it may be at the moment, your character takes quite a beating. I mean…regardless if the little fart deserved it, we should never advocate violence.

Lesson two. If you receive the news that your daughter whooped a boy for being a little perve, it is important to wait until you leave the school office before getting down on your knee in front of your princess and say, “you are the coolest kid I have ever met”. Yes, I know it was wrong…sort of. 

I never advocate violence to my kids. What I taught them was to never be taken advantage of or let another kid be bullied. I told them that they could and would face consequences at school for their behavior whether it seem just or not, but I would always be supportive of them defending themselves and others. Some don’t believe that affirming my little girl’s actions were right. They say that it was not defending herself, but retaliating. I have the right to disagree. I think she was standing up for other girls, not just herself. 

One other time, my oldest boy was in junior high or middle school. He sat in a class with desks pressed together by fours…they all faced each other. Next to him in the class was a girl that was slow. Forgive me for using that term. I don’t know her diagnosis. I just knew that she had special needs. Like the perve kid in my daughter’s elementary classroom, a bully lifted up her dress and yelled out the color of her underwear. My oldest boy had never been in a fight. He was extremely passive. However, he hated bullies with a passion. He flew across the desks and decked the kid, knocking him flat. We of course “got the call”.

This time as we made it to the jr. high school office, we heard a woman yelling. It was the mother of the special needs girl. She was threatening news media, lawsuit, and the apocalypse if they punished my son. We just stood there. My boy just sat there. Then a lady that looked liked she had just changed back into her human form walked out of the principle’s office. She saw Daylon, walked up to him and gave him a bear hug and a thank you. We pretty much just all walked out after that.

I taught my kids to never be a bully. I wanted them to stand up for themselves and for those that would or could not. I don’t know when the appropriate time for action is for your kids. I just know that it is a discussion that you must have. Edmund Burke once said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”. Not everyone will agree with your view on this subject. You and your kids can face consequences for actions that some may deem noble. You have to set the standard. You will set the values in your home. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon 

Making Kids Proud of their Dad

I have to admit that I want my children just as proud of me as I am of them. I have read many articles and have seen many a television show or movie when the topic came up. “I just wanted my dad to be proud of me”. I’m sure you have heard it many times. Many of you may even feel the same way. Perhaps your father did not show or verbalize his pride in you. This breaks my heart every time I witness it. There is no way to undo wasted opportunities. 

Perhaps you were a father that has failed in this area. Start where you are. That’s all we can do. How do you start? Humble yourself. Apologize for missed opportunities. Assure your kids that you are proud of them. Lastly, make an effort to regularly affirm your kids. Unfortunately, you can’t force the response that you want. Perhaps they will be accepting of your efforts. In some cases, they will not, or it will take time. Most of the time, I believe that kids programmed to “want” to believe that your dad is proud of you. Therefore, when they receive it, they grab it. Many kids that even abused or neglected don’t want to view their parents as bad.

A dad once asked me how long I thought it would take for his kids to “come around”. He had come to the realization that he had failed at affirming them. I told him that was hard to say, but I gave him an illustration that a fitness trainer gave me when I asked how long it should take to get in shape. The trainer said, “I don’t know. How long did it take for you to get fat?” I did not take offense to it. To me, it became the perfect visual (no pun) for the phrase “it will take time”.

For me, and I bet for many dads reading this, we want our kids proud of us too. This does not get the same amount of attention in articles or entertainment, but for me it is huge. Many of you may not know this, but at one time I was the most popular man in the world. I would come home and the most beautiful girl in the world would run and jump into my arms. I would not give that up for anything in the world. There was no way to elevate me higher. I would never be as important as that time. I was addicted. That same little girl also chose to sit with me at lunch every day her senior year of high school. I worked at the school she attended. Did you hear what I said? She CHOSE ME! It still chokes me up today.

My boys show their adoration in the form of respect and seeking me out on decisions that they are about to make. They want my advice. They value my words. It is very humbling. Especially now that they are grown. They don’t have to listen to me. They don’t have to do what I say. I feel very honored when they seek me out. Again, I would not trade it for anything. 

Having my children proud of me is something that I attribute to 2 things, the grace of God, and having a dad that affirmed me. I have to admit that I was and am blessed. However, some of the best dads I know had crappy fathers. It does not have to be a vicious cycle. You can learn what to do and what not to do. You have the ability to decide to turn left or right. You have the ability to say “I am going to do a good job as a dad”. Then you have to start the process. Just start from where you are. Just as my daughter did for me, you can CHOOSE them. That is what they want. They want to feel their worth and importance. This, in turn, will make them proud of you. 

When kids are proud of their dads, it becomes an addiction. Can I get an amen from some of the dads? If you haven’t experienced it yet, I’m sure you will be addicted the first time it happens. I love to see young dads get kisses from their little ones. I think to myself, “he’s hooked”. They are your children, but they will “own you”. It is what makes everything worth what we go through in our daily grind.

Through the years I have been asked by my students what it is that I want more than anything on this earth. I tell them that I want my kids proud of me. Most of the time this causes a look of confusion. I either get 1 of 2 responses. 1. “That’s it?”. My response: “Yep”. 2. “Your kids already are proud of you”. My response: “Then I guess I have everything that I want”. I just want to do all that I can to be the man that they need. I also want to be the best dad possible.

Deacon