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  

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

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 

Learn Grow Love!

I love the movie Driving Miss Daisy. It came out in 1989. If you haven’t seen it, you must. If you have seen the movie, you will recall the wonderful story of friendship and love that developed throughout the story. The part that I love so much about the story is the raw honesty, verbal battering, and understanding that developed in the story.

Miss Daisy, played by the amazing Jessica Tandy was a stiff-necked widow and retired school teacher. Morgan Freemon played the role of Hoke, the man hired by Miss Daisy’s son to be her driver. Miss Daisy was a rude and snobbish old lady at the onset of the film. In one scene, Hoke revealed to Miss Daisy that he could not read. Miss Daisy fussed at him, gave him a brief grammar lesson to enable him to find a specific headstone in a cemetery. During the “lesson”, Miss Daisy said, “I taught some of the stupidest children that God ever put on the face of this earth…”. 

Although it commanded a chuckle of “amen” from many old school teachers in the theater, it made me do some serious contemplation about kids and their learning. I started to look into their development. I always looked at kids as young, but rarely as unable to comprehend. I’m not talking about toddlers, but young teens…middle and high school ages. When looking at their behavior, there were many times that I pulled out my stupid rubber stamp. I never took the time to consider how they think and their brain development. 

In a book entitled The Teen Whisperer by Mike Linderman, the author states, “Many teens, because their brains are still growing aren’t capable of the kind of higher-level reasoning, abstract thought, formulating a vision of the future, and feeling empathy for others the way adults can”. I had heard the suggestion and claims many times throughout the years, but never put 2+2 together. Perhaps I was the one with the incapability. Not of the tasks in his statement, but truly understanding kids and teens.

One thing I hate is excuses. I try not to make them because I can’t stand them when they come to form my students. I had to come to a place where I owned my own lack of understanding. I always viewed those that gave excuses as weak or dismissive of responsibility. I had to learn. The first step in learning is to shut up. That’s right…eyes and ears open…mouth shut. After that, you can question for clarity, not to debate your own convictions. I had to ask myself what it was that I truly wanted to learn and why. 

I needed to learn in order to grow as a man, teacher, and dad. Only then could I give my kids and students the type of love that they needed which would open their minds to learning. Remember, where there is hostility, little learning takes place. Where there is misunderstanding relationships don’t grow. Lastly, only through compassion and love will you ever reach a child’s heart and mind. Please note that I never removed discipline from the equation. Discipline and guidance must be present for a child/teens sense of security. It is up to you as the dad however, to balance the other elements for their development.

Does this mean that I would need to embrace excuses? Never. What it means is that by understanding grow and abilities, it allows me (the adult) to make sure that I am communicating and teaching with the proper tools and language. I think giving kids an audience for excuses increases their likelihood of more failures throughout their lives. I think it says that failing is okay. Failing is only okay when you react to it properly, owning it and trying again.

When my middle child went off to college, it was a very proud moment. He had graduated high school and worked very hard to get a college to draft him as a soccer player. Guess what. His college career lasted one semester. He traveled a lot with the soccer team and did not put the time into his school work as he should have. He failed. I told him this as he sat on my couch between semesters. He needed to own it. This was painful. He flushed the chance that he had wanted for so long. “Now what?”, I asked him. “You are down now. How are you going to get up?” His “formulating a vision for the future” was not there. I could not believe it and wanted to dismiss his lack of drive to be stupid. I was the stupid one. He needed me to understand what he could not put into words, have compassion, and guide him. “I” had to learn how to help him.

Dads, you are going to struggle with your kids/teens as long as you sit on your dad throne. Humble yourselves and learn. Then through love, compassion, and guidance, you can grow. Your children can grow. The relationship can grow and you can be the best dad possible.

Deacon 

When We Doubt Ourselves as Dads

I have heard the statement that there are no bad kids, just bad parents. While I agree that yes, there are some crappy parents out there, how long do we give kids a pardon for poor behavior? The, no bad kids statement has troubled me for a long time. Whenever your kid makes a mistake or royally screws the pooch, are we supposed to blame ourselves? When are they responsible? I mean if there are only bad parents, should mom and dad be punished when junior burns the living room rug because he was playing some matches?

I have and do doubt myself as a dad. I believe that most of us do. Is there anything that I could have done differently to prevent this? Did I do enough? When my kids failed at anything, was that because of me? If my kid gets in trouble at school, is it my fault? There is no doubt that a child’s behavior, success, and failures reflect on us as dads. If they misbehave we are embarrassed. If they lose, we feel like we lost. When they win we feel like winners. Is that just an association?

I want to let you know that I know some wonderful kids/teens that have morons for parents. I also no amazing parents that have “Damien” for a kid. When does free will come into the picture. When can a child decide for themselves? Can a child choose to not obey? I know that I sure did as a kid. I was awful at times. My sister and I were talking about it the other night. She is the oldest. I am the youngest of the siblings. We both were rebels. Our other siblings were more like Little House on the Prairie kids. The point is that our parents loved and supported us. We still wanted to be bad at times.

The idea that if you are a good dad that your kids will be angels is just not right. The idea that if you are a bad dad that your kids will be losers does not completely wash as well. I do support the idea that there are contributing factors. When I say factors, I also mean facts. There are facts and statistics about the “likelihood” or “odds” that children face that relate to fathers. Where we draw the line between what we assume to be typical and atypical is probably a matter of interpretation. For me, all the reports that I have read show that children with loving and supportive fathers have the odds in their favor when it comes to a healthy and successful life. With that in mind, I’m so glad that these statistics were about perfect fathers/dads. If it were, I think we would all be in trouble.

Being concerned about your status and/or performance as a dad is healthy. If you think you are always right or the perfect dad, I would say that there are some other things that you should be worried about. The first would be that you are delusional or just full of crap. The second would be that you don’t know how to read the faces or responses of your children at all. Being concerned means that you want to do better. It means that you want to grow and improve. This is an attitude that can only benefit our kids.

I don’t want to ever be complacent about my parenting, and I am now an empty nester. I still want to grow even though my kids are not “under my roof”. I still have a responsibility to love and be there for them. I want to be a resource of encouragement and Lord help me, wisdom. My role has changed throughout the years. Your role will as well. As they grow, you must grow. Search out ways to learn. Read, discuss, debate, and pray. Take time to evaluate yourself. Are you a fresh spring of resources for them or a stagnant pond? Listen. Really listen to them. Take time to respond instead of reacting. 

I have never been a big reader growing up. Now it is definitely one of the things that I would do over if given the chance. Right now I am reading Just Listen by Mark Goulston. I will put a link to the book below. It is not just an amazing how-to, but an in-depth study about how people process information. I highly recommend it to dads out there.

Doubting yourself means that you care. You want to do better. You want more for your kids. If we don’t question and challenge ourselves, growth will not be possible. We can doubt, but we can’t stay there. We have to DO something about it. We must take action, or else it is just feeling sorry for yourself, which never helps your kids. As I always say, start from where you are. Rise to the challenge. Set small goals for growth as a Dad. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon

Get Your Rest

Dads need to take time to sharpen their ax. What I mean is that you need to find a way to rest and refresh yourself. This can be very difficult but is paramount for your abilities and attitude. My biggest problem is usually an attitude issue. When I am exhausted, I’m not the best person to be around. I am less sympathetic, empathetic, and just a cranky young “old fart”. I have to schedule times of quiet if not an outright nap.

I did some research on famous people that were religious nappers. Here are the top 10 that I found:

  1. Winston Churchill 
  2. Salvador Dali
  3. Albert Einstein
  4. Leonardo Da Vinci
  5. Napoleon Bonaparte
  6. John F. Kennedy
  7. Thomas Edison
  8. Ronald Reagon
  9. Aristotle
  10. Margaret Thatcher

Getting a nap or rest time can be very difficult. Most of the time it takes some very active planning. Whether this is with your spouse or place of work, you need to find a way to recharge. 

One of the ways that I found to make this scheduling easier was to seek out to be a source of relief for others. For my wife, I would arrange a time to “take the house”. This meant unless the house was on fire, I would deal with all issues and needs. Whether it was for a mid-day nap, early bedtime, or sleep in day, I would make sure that my wife was undisturbed and the house was as quiet as possible. Just the effort and willingness to do so made it naturally easier for me to rest, both in the mind of my wife and mine. For work, I would seek to give others breaks. This made it very palatable for them to respect time for me to recharge.

Your environment has a way of dictating to you your options for rest. At work, you have to be creative. I would usually fire down a sandwich on the way to my resting spot, a meeting room that was never being used. I used a lumbar support pillow that I kept in my office chair for head support, put my phone on airplane mode, set an alarm, and laid on the floor. I would put my feet and calves into a chair to flatten out my back. For me, this worked. I told the key people that needed to know where I was should there be an emergency. Note – you don’t have to announce your naptime to the world.

I have some friends that go out to their car and crash. Personally, I don’t want to sweat while napping, so unless it was cool weather, my abandoned conference room was perfect. 

Whenever I had/have days off, I still get up early before the rest of the family. Many times I will cook and serve my wife breakfast in bed. I do this very often. Henpecked you say? I call it genius. It makes a nap time later in the day indisputable. It’s like Calgon take me away…without the tub. I just think I showed my age to those of you that got that.

Being able to take time to recharge and unplug really does help you refocus and get another level of energy. I personally believe that it is just as important as your eating habits. We can discuss diet later. Does it affect the way you “dad”? Yep!

I don’t care for the phrase “you owe it to yourself”. I prefer “you owe it to your family” to do whatever it takes to maximize your performance during the day. You know the levels of stress and the demands on you. Let me end this with my favorite illustration concerning rest. It has to do with 2 lumberjacks. They are trying to get a job with a lumber company, so they are given a cutting contest. Both men are given a large ax. The competition was simple. The winner would be the one that could fall the most trees in 2 hours. The first man went at it with a vengeance. He went from tree to tree, swinging the ax constantly. The second man would stop after every 3 trees to sharpen his ax. This also gave him time to catch his breath. The second man ended up cutting with a sharp ax all the way through the challenge. Although he paused, he won and got the job.

Dads, take time to sharpen your ax. Figure out a way to unwind, recharge, and replenish yourself. Do this to 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

A Strong Marriage Benefits your Children

Dads, there is a secret to starting off your dad career right. Be a good husband. This is before kids prep and after kids transition. The way you treat your wife will be the most important example for your boys on how to treat women. It also teaches girls the way they should be treated by other boys/men.

The love you have for your children and wife is obviously different. However, both forms of love are able to simultaneously exist, loving both and all with your 100%. This is confusing to young people. However, I’m sure that the moms and dads reading this can relate. For the younger readers, let me assure you that you will get it in time. In the meantime, thanks for being here and having a desire to learn.   

When I was teaching in the classroom, I spent a lot of time on relationships, especially the topic of marriage. The school was a private college prep academy. Many of the teachers including myself knew that there were real-life applications that these young people needed to be successful. It was obvious that so many kids in the public school system in our area were failing students. They were not graduating prepared. 

Before you, public educators take out some stones to throw, let me acknowledge the overwhelming task that many of you face. I also wanted to re-iterate that my colleagues and I were stressing on the public school in our area that had been ranked as unsatisfactory by the ISD. I mean, it was really bad.

I had a bit of knowledge that I wanted these teens to know. I wasn’t really an expert but had learned a lot from failure in my first relationship, my parents being marriage enrichment counselors (oops), and some redemption that I had experienced in round 2. First of all. My wife (#2) and I were probably the worst suited for each other. We both had failed marriages, children with our X’s, and not a lot of maturities. To be perfectly honest it was a recipe for disaster and almost was. Then we found out the secret that made things click. Therefore, I wanted my students to have the knowledge prior to their diving into a committed relationship.

The first secret or step to success was that I needed to deal with myself first, not try to fix a relationship or another person. I needed to work on my own character, strength, wisdom, etc, and I wanted to make myself what my wife needed. I turned to a passage of scripture to remind me of how I was supposed to be, how I was supposed to love, and how I was to focus on being the best husband possible, so I could strive to be the best Dad possible.

The scripture was 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails. I wanted to follow this as closely as possible. In my class, I read this to the students. Then, I put it on the board. I said, “ladies if your husband had these qualities, could imagine ever leaving a man that treated you this way?” “What about as a dad to your children?” ALL of them were on board. “That guy would be perfect, but he doesn’t exist”, one girl said. “Okay”, I said. “What if your man was committed to doing his best to meet all these descriptives every day? He won’t be perfect, but this is his goal and drive”. They were all on board. 

Dads, your relationship with your wife is crucial. However, two imperfect people don’t make a match made in heaven. It must start with each of you getting your own act together and putting the other ahead of your own needs. This will plant a seed that will grow into a rich and healthy environment for your kids. This will make them feel safe, loved, and encouraged before you try to teach them anything.

My wife (#2) and I got off to a rough start. We had a lot of baggage. It took a lot of work to get to where we are today. It was not an issue of working for each other. It was an issue of both of us working on ourselves. This proved to be successful and served our children well. Start with yourself. Make yourself the man you should be. This will make you the husband you should be. When you are the husband you should be, it will have a huge effect on the lives of your kids. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon

Dads can be Heroes

The hugs and kisses that you get from your children are more valuable than gold. There is no such thing as a richer man than one that is the target of a child’s embrace. I wasted have of my life thinking about what success was and getting wrong. Chasing what is supposed to be the American Dream is crap because it is about what you have. It is materialistic or vocational status. 

My father was/is a very “decorated man”. He has built hospitals, been a big dog in Rotary International, the man of the year, an employee of the year, founder of several charitable organizations. He has been huge in his church and community. He was/is a go-getter. At 87, he works 2 jobs because he “wants to”. He also can drive a car like a pro. He is always on the go. However, he keeps telling me that none of the recognition and awards mean anything. What means the most to him is family. He looks back his life with regret concerning his schedule, wishing he would have spent more quality time with the kids. Ironically, he was always there as far as I can remember.

When I became a father in my early 20’s I was still immature and had no idea what I was doing. I don’t think that most young dads embrace the little things that make life wonderful. I became a quick learner. Being with my kids became the most awesome and valuable time I was spending at home. I loved getting trampled by them when I would get home from work. After dinner, it was playtime that usually resulted in tickling and wrestling. This was usually followed up by the dad trampoline. This was quite simple. I laid down on the floor and the kids would practice diving onto me. It was like we had our own pro-wrestling league and they would come off the top ropes to the roar of the crowd, which was actually the laughter of the others.

We would laugh, love, chase, wrestle until we were all pooped out. Then it was time for showers/baths. Once “jammies” we on, it was snuggle and veg time. My boys had energy from sources unknown. Any efforts to get them to sleep was a chore. However, my daughter would crawl up into my lap and lay her head on my chest/shoulder. She was OUT…lol. I never wanted those moments to end. I was a King! I was the richest man on the planet. Keep your riches and gold. I had everything I could ever want.

There are so many dads that miss out on this time. I feel so sorry for them. This is a time that sets up a success and open relationship that can continue for a lifetime. You need to start as early as possible. However elementary or basic these things may sound, don’t pass up these opportunities if at all possible. This when you can become a hero. Play with them. Do embarrassing and stupid stuff. Show me a dad with a daughter that never wore nail polish, make-up, or a crown at his daughter’s request, I will show you someone that has missed out.

So what if you missed those opportunities? Then you start from where you are. You will hear me say this many times. You can always start the race from where you are. This is the wonderful cheat of the dad world. I would never want to default to it, but it is there. However, I want to give you some clues on how to get on the hero list of your kids, whether they are biological or not. So here is a list that may help:

  1. Listen more than you speak. Dads like to give advice. Be cautious before you dive into this trend.
  2. Kids want to be heard, not necessarily having every issue solved for them. The one that listens to them is golden.
  3. Don’t dismiss their fears and anxiety. This is a common dad screw up.
  4. Be a ROCK. Don’t give in to things and ideas that you know are unhealthy or don’t serve the child’s best interest.
  5. Love them more than your popularity with them.

Being a dad is awesome but difficult at times. If you love your kids without limits, you will need to endure times that are difficult and uncomfortable. You must put yourself through the wringer so that they will have the best chances at success and growth. Dads, you can be the hero, but it will cost you. It won’t be a title given but earned. You can do it. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon