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  

Public, Private, or Homeschool part 3

Your child’s education is a serious matter and investment in their future. Today in this final post of comparison, we will address homeschool as well as a summary of your choices. If you have not read part 1 or part 2, I invite you to do so by clicking on the link. In the chance that you may have any questions or comments, please send those to deacon@thedadmanual.com 

Homeschool to me is like gravity. I have seen its results, but I am not one that can do more than to report on what I have experienced with those in the field. Most of those that I know who have chosen homeschool have a history with it or have tackled the task as a result of their desire to keep their children out of the public education system. Most of those that have an academic plan catered to them do see many benefits. Those that I have encountered are particularly bright as well as inventive. 

On the downside, I have noticed a struggle with many of these students to navigate social circles unless they are part of a co-op that keeps the students engaged in group activities such as the arts and sports. It appears that the more social interaction that they acquire, the better they do in future endeavors. 

The only other downside that I can see with homeschool is the struggle that they may encounter in being accredited, thus enabling the students to be able to merge directly in a four-year college should they seek to do so without the transition of junior college. However, many of these programs have and are changing to benefit these students as well as others with alternative education documentation.

Every educational system will have its pros and cons. There is no such thing as a perfect situation when it comes to this topic. The best thing that you can do is to complete your due diligence. Educate yourself. One of the dumbest things that dads can do is to assume that we know it all. We are living in changing times. Not only is education like it was when you were young, but your kids are not just a mini version of you. You are your kid’s primary advocate, not the system. “They” do not know what is best for your child, nor do I. You do. This means that much of the responsibility is yours.

Fortunately for us today, we have the technology, information, and answers at our fingertips. Much of the information that you need is online. However, you must remember that online information is NOT unbiased. This information must be put there by individuals. These individuals are doing so with a purpose. They are either trying to promote a program or tear it down. Both of these should be taken with a grain of salt. Don’t hang your hat on all that you read.

You need to compare information and consider the source, especially when it comes to rating the program. As I posted earlier, ratings are the most subjective bits of info that you can read. Those that praise and give five stars are usually associated with the organization. Those that slam organizations can be isolated cases or just a disgruntled former employee or parent that discovered that junior was not the genius angel that promoted him to be. Most of the negative press that I read concerning the organization that I worked for over twelve years came from one of three sources. 1. A parent of a child that got kicked out due to behavior 2. A former student that was mad for being expelled 3. Or the disgruntled former employee. This does not represent a general consensus. It represents those with an ax to grind.

After you take information with a grain of salt, interviews, and face to face encounters are a must. Gather information from other parents, as well as meet school officials. I recommend developing a list of questions or concerns. After you research these questions online, take them to the school administration. Many parents may feel awkward about scheduling such meetings. You have to get over this and remember that this is for your child. 

In conclusion, I would not rate one particular form of education over another. There is however one that is best suited for your child and your family situation. It ultimately comes down to knowing the facts and making a decision. They need your involvement regardless of what you decide. Be a part of the journey. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon  

Public, Private, or Homeschool part 2

While educational options are constantly developing, according to the Huffington Post, “in 2021, it is projected that private schools will have 9% of the US student population. That being said, the majority of young people attend public school. Whether this is a preference or a status held begrudgingly, many parents may not have the down-low on private school life enough to make an informed decision as to if this to be considered. 

Today, I will specifically give you my evaluation of this environment for your consideration. The first assessment that many parents consider is the cost. However, if you find an educational environment that best serves your child’s needs, consider the cost after you weigh the pros and cons…obviously putting the cost as a con. The first element to consider is safety. 

The larger the population, the higher the risk of an incident. This is sheer numbers and common sense. More students to manage is more difficult than a smaller group. Secondly, most private schools have application and interview processes for admittance. Schools will have automatic disqualifiers such as a history of violence, emotional disturbance, drug use, or other behavioral issues. Is this evaluation full proof? Absolutely not. Although school records are required, letters of recommendation acquired, and a trained interviewer assessing the child, information can go undiscovered. Most of the time in my experience, parents of troubled students will cover up or even lie for their child to get them into the school. 

Private schools in general also have a higher standard of behavior as well as academic performance that students must adhere to or risk being removed. The counterpart to this guideline is that private schools rely strongly upon tuition. Depending upon the financial stability of the institution, there may be strict or lax adherence to admittance guidelines. Ask for a financial report. Pay special attention to the endowment amount as well as the annual budget for the clearest picture as to the health of the institution. The healthier they are, the less they need numbers and are therefore able to be more selective of their student population.

Next, you should be granted access to student body testing results as well as a report of academic achievements, college acceptance rates, military enlistment, and sports or other competition results. Although these numbers do not guarantee success or the healthiest environment, it is a good indicator. 

Next, talk to other parents. Don’t rely on online ratings, as these are usually dictated by extreme situations as well as staff testimonials as a part of marketing to offset negative remarks. When you do speak with other parents, it is easy and expected for you to hear about what they “like”. Ask the parents what they would change, or to give you an example as to any struggles that their children have faced at the school. Any report that is completely one-sided cannot be trusted.   

Finally, let’s get to the money. Why does private education cost as much as it does? The answer is simple. They must pay the salaries of their employees, pay the bills, and they do not receive state funding like public schools. Please keep in mind that teachers in private schools normally make around $10,000 less than their public school counterparts. This is good and bad. The reasoning, I will mention tomorrow in my 3rd and final post on this topic.

While the money is definitely a determining factor, keep in mind that most private schools have financial assistance. There are donors, programs, alumni, and even family that may be willing to assist you. The question is how badly do you want it. If getting them into a private school environment is what you want, you will try to find a way. Keep in mind my comment in part one of this series (click here to view). Vocational opportunities at many private schools come with tuition advantages for the children of employees. This is how I was able to manage our costs.

Your child’s education is a serious matter. It is one that takes assessment and investigation to arrive at an educated decision. Take the time to do your due diligence. Be well informed. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon    

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

Don’t Forget to Get Your Copy of My New Book

Are you a Prepared Dad?

One of the best things that you can do as a dad is to be prepared. Whether it is the scouts, military, businesses, or first responders, the motto is the same. Are you prepared? The lives of your children are paramount. The raw truth is that you most likely care about them than those outside of your home. That being the case, what are you preparing for? There are people, places, and circumstances that you need to think about. What is it that you need to know? You must have  knowledge of the tools and skills you will need. You must also have knowledge of the environment.

This may sound like I am trying to make you think negatively. On the contrary, being prepared for the good, unexpected, and bad is a very positive thing. What is it that you must possess or be able to perform to be a good dad? This article will be a first in a series discussing different needs or problems that you will or may need to address while your kids are home. These issues may require your presence, advice, verbal intervention, or action. So before we dive off into specifics, what resources and or skills do you need to bring to the table to be a prepared dad.

  1. Love
  2. Sacrifice
  3. Protection
  4. Provision
  5. Praying
  6. Teaching
  7. Counseling
  8. Supporting
  9. Listening
  10. Correcting
  11. And laughing….or being fun.
  12. Etc.

Along with these resources and skills, there needs to be a knowledge of any environment that your children may find themselves in. Examples of this are 

  1. Home
  2. Off with Extended Family
  3. Friends’ Homes
  4. Church
  5. School
  6. Sports or Social Groups
  7. Common Places
  8. And New Environments

No matter who you are, your kids are going to have needs, problems, serious issues, and even emergencies. How do we become prepared to assist or help them in their time of need?

We must start out by being observant. In the book Visual Intelligence by Amy Herman, you are taught to observe things that you may typically overlook. This is an amazing read. I highly recommend it. We need to take time and observe, really see and know the environments in which our kids interact. These environments are “where” their needs are going to surface. Depending on that environment, you may call on different resources and skills to best provide for them. 

Communication is key to know what to do when to step up or restrain yourself from getting involved. Many times, your kids won’t even know they need help. On the other hand, there are times when they will want it, but the best thing for them is to work it out on their own. How do you know what is right?

Before we move into this little series let me make a qualifying statement. Besides a physical threat, you and your spouse will rank these issues differently. The FIRST time you encounter a particular issue, it can appear larger than it really is. Let me quote from the Complete Survival Manual. “STOP. 1. Stop 2. Think 3. Observe 4. Plan”. Most people don’t realize that outside of an imminent threat, YOU HAVE TIME…use it. Give yourself time to respond instead of reacting. A sense of calm not only allows you to see more clearly but also calms others down. Whether you are on the inside, a display of calm spirit says you have some amount of control in the situation. This comforts others.

Over the next week, I will be posting different scenarios that you may encounter with or concerning your kids. Let’s serve our children well by being prepared, or as much as we can be. Thinking, communicating, and planning can go a long way for you to be the best dad possible. Don’t miss tomorrows post.

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