The Important Things p.2

Today is a follow up to my last post called “The Important Things”. If you haven’t read that piece, I encourage you to click on the link before proceeding here. Today is not about a lot of legacy instructions for a child to be the conquering hero. As a matter of fact, it may seem dull to those that are not yet fathers, or fathers of small children to which some of these points may not apply. However, as I think of things that would be beneficial for kids to know beyond part one, here are some ideas that I hope will be helpful.

Keep in mind that these points are obviously more geared to a specific time or season of life. I hope that you can make the obvious connection. Let me know what points you would add to your list. For now, here is my top 20 for practicality.

  1. There are certain body parts that need extra care for the aging process and thus should be a focus of a proactive lifestyle. However funny a few may sound, just think about what it would be like to have a lack of healthy function for the following: 
  1. Good dental hygiene
  2. A healthy back
  3. Healthy feet
  4. Healthy hands
  5. And good G.I. or gut health (from mouth to pooper)

       2.   Be mindful of safety. This allows you to do more of what you want tomorrow.

       3.   You will never be a specific athlete, performer, or artist. Improve YOUR game.        

             Be known for what You do, not that you are Like someone else.

       4.   Don’t brag about yourself. Let others do that for you.

       5.   Being respected and being popular does not always coincide. 

       6.   Do you want people to think you are smart? Speak less

       7.   Don’t be quick to respond. Say, “let me get back with you” if you need to think.

       8.   Learn how to manage money and credit.

       9.   The “field is greener” on the other side of the fence because it has more crap.

     10.   Chivalry is never a mistake.

     11.   Date someone that is LOW maintenance.

     12.   Discipline yourself and your children.

     13.   Try to maintain fresh breath and lack of body odor. 

     14.   Getting help is not a sign of weakness.

     15.   Taking medication is not a sign of weakness.

     16.   Being honest means you have to remember less.

     17.   The opinions of others rarely make a difference in your life.  

     18.   Be proactive at work. It speeds up the day and makes your boss quieter.

     19.   Arrive early, this eliminates stress.

     20.   Learn how to say “no”.

The lessons that we want to give our kids can grow in length and complexity over time. However, these are a small list that you may be able to draw from. It is important that we take from each other and learn when it comes to knowledge and skill. Like any acquired abilities, these items must be reinforced and practiced with repetition. For example, if you were to instill the “Golden Rule” as a priority in your home, this would not be a one time lesson. As opportunities or even trials present themselves, this standard should be reinforced. Over time, it is more likely to take root and be adopted with other important standards of living.

Let me stress, that depending upon the phase of life they are in, our children will do better with the appropriate lessons being taught at the onset of a particular time in life. Teaching the Golden Rule should not be introduced to kids when they are entering high school. Likewise, practicing good dental hygiene should be stressed before the age of 30. You get what I’m talking about.

It is our job as parents to set the standard for our children. As they grow, hopefully, they will adopt healthy habits and standards that they will not only practice in their daily lives but will one day pass down to their children. Be proactive and consistent when it comes to teaching your kids. From the moment they are born, they are watching, learning and taking in information. Be a good example. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon  

The Important Things

Life as we know it is very fragile and never guaranteed. Although we put all our chip into a bet on tomorrow, according to the United Nations World Population Prospects report, approximately 7,452 people die every day in the United States. People of all ages have their lives halted where dreams and plans were just forming. This being stated, what message would you leave for your children or even your grandchildren?

We as men don’t like the heavy conversations, at least those that instill emotions and or doubt. If you like these things, you are rarer than you realize. None of us will beat the clock, or should I say timer. When your timer sounds, there are no more do-overs and second chances. So what do you want your kids and future generations of those you love to know? I challenge you to formulate your own list of priorities, lessons, etc. Don’t feel that you have to dream everything up or your own. I encourage you to adopt ideas from as many resources as possible. To encourage you to do so, I am going to share with you my challenge, lesson, and hope for my own family. Many ideas that you have maybe the same, others not so much. Some of my thoughts or ideas you may laugh at, roll your eyes, or even disagree. That is okay. You need to formulate your “important stuff” for your family. Here is mine.

  1. The knowledge of and serving Jesus Christ is above all else. This includes your spouse, children, wants, and desires. If you strive for this, the rest will fall into place.
  2. Move forward. Do “something” toward your goals every day. It is like climbing. Do one step at a time. Eventually, you will turn around and say, “wow”.
  3. The easiest way has the most regrets.
  4. Instant gratification has the second most regrets.
  5. Listen more than you talk.
  6. Take time to respond
  7. Get your rest. This is not only good for you, but for those around you.
  8. Accomplishment means SO much more than possessions.
  9. Doing the right thing can be lonely…but it is still right.
  10. You are going to have people angry with you regardless of your decisions, beliefs, words, you choose, or the way you go. When you can get over that, life is so much better.
  11. Do you want to be a hero? Be a good husband/wife and parent.
  12. Do you want to feel better about yourself? This comes as a result of showing compassion and kindness to others. However, having your own feelings as inspiration for doing right will rob you of this value.
  13. People are going to hurt and disappoint you. Guess what…you will do the same to others. Learn to forgive and seek forgiveness.
  14. Most people don’t care about your opinion. Therefore, reserve it for when it is solicited.
  15. Read…read…read
  16. Use “please, thank you, sir and ma’am”. It is always in your best interest to do so.
  17. Take risks. No, I’m not saying to do stupid stuff. However, taking a chance and failing, many times has less regret than not trying.
  18. You are going to fail at times. Get up! Move forward. Try again.
  19. Refuse to live afraid. Doing so is a prison type of existence. 
  20. Life is not about how long you live, it is how you live.

I hope that this will help you formulate your wishes, desires, and important lessons to be passed on to your children and generations to come. It is important to communicate your heart to your kids. They need to hear from you. Things don’t need to be left unsaid. That is a recipe for regret. Your children are a gift from God, Take time to cherish and teach them. Love them as God intends for you to do so.

Be the best Dad possible.

Deacon

Getting out of God’s way

As a man, I can tell you that I have made so many mistakes and stupid decisions because I kept jerking the wheel when God is driving. I don’t know about you, but I have a false sense of security when I am behind the wheel. Ask my family what makes me nervous and they will tell you “other people’s driving”. I feel as if I have to be in control. I feel that somehow, I can prevent bad things from happening. I actually relax. If you think about it, it’s a really stupid concept, much like the idea that an inch and a half, to two inches of wood (the average front door), keeps us safe from all the bad people out there.

Most men are not very trusting creatures, by their actions. What we say may be totally different, but …umm…no. Obviously we must use discernment in our daily activities and judgments. However, a good dose of faith and trust can empower us in ways that can go beyond reason. As a professing Christian, I know what the bible says about worry. I am aware of the promises that are in the scriptures. This doesn’t mean that my knee jerk reaction is to trust, regardless of how many times the evidence has been there that I should. Now, add my kids into the mix, and I can become even more controlling, or feel as if I should. It takes a constant effort to trust them and God, get out of the way. I think too many times that I have the answers.

I have heard so many times in my life the phrase, “don’t dwell on your past”. Well, maybe I shouldn’t dwell, but I should be mindful. I’m not always right, and history proves it. Now, as a dad of adults, I hear the voice in my head that says, “are you sure you need to say that?” “Don’t give advice at this time.” “Just express your support and love.” This is not that we should live our lives in neutral or be complacent on every subject. Some times, your kids, even when they are grown, need for you to be the immovable rock, as I have discussed in other posts.

We have to realize that we are dad until we die. That does not change. It is a lifelong journey of love, support, and guidance. The key is to know when to speak and act. This is where faith comes in. If I accept the reality of God, then I believe he knows more than I do. As a believer, I want God to be pleased with me. That being said, I believe that he knows what best for my children. I believe that he guides them. Many times that involves me. However, there are times that I need to let go and trust. It is in these times that I have a tendency to screw things up if I don’t get out of the way. In my family, we relate a lot to soccer. If you have ever played the game, you are aware that the referee has to be mindful of his place on the field. Although he is in charge, he can get in the way. He can even impact the game in a very unfair manner.

If we get in the way, we can prevent our kids from taking that “shot”. We can prevent goals and victories. Even if we are not on the field, we can pressure them from the sidelines of life. Sometimes we want success for them that we add pressure. This can frustrate them, cause them to make errors, and cost them a potentially great performance. That is right. Being a dad is tough. Barking out commands and orders may make us feel more secure, much like my driving analysis. However, allowing God to work in our children’s lives, developing a trust relationship, and letting them work it out can be empowering for them. So what do you do? How do you find that balance? Your walk with God must be a daily journey. That relationship must be a priority. Then you can be an example to your kids and cultivate your relationship with them. If you don’t, you will always be grabbing the wheel. You will referee poorly. Finally, you will see a building frustration no matter how much you truly want to help them.

So is it really that simple? In concept, yes. Execution can be extremely difficult. My advice is to read God’s word. Read other books. Listen to wise counsel and learn from your mistakes and the mistakes of others. You don’t have to be caught in a mindset and cycle of behavior that so many fathers have found themselves in. You don’t have an infinite amount of chances to get it right. How many chances will you get? I don’t know. I have seen many a father screw up enough times or for such a duration that recovery was unlikely.

Does this mean that I have all the answers? Ask my family and they will verify that I do not. However, I am committed to learning, listening, and trying not to repeat my mistakes. Perhaps that is a start. What I want is to trust God and quit trying to control everything. I was my relationship with my adult children to continue to grow and strengthen. Sometimes, this means words and actions. Sometimes, it just means to love and support them. Being a dad is such an important job. It’s important that I keep learning, and that I am the best dad possible. 

Deacon

DIY Trust

Many dads believe that they have to micromanage the lives of their children. However, the more control that is asserted can many times have the opposite effect than intended. This is very common, especially with new parents. Due to ignorance and an implied American image of manliness, there are those fathers that view themselves weak if they can’t control as many areas of their child’s life as possible. They may not come out and say this, but it can be inferred upon taking a closer look at the home.

What I want to discuss in this article/post is how developing a relationship of trust and faith can give you more control than that of a home of many rules. How a child thinks and values your relationship can determine more of their choices than your rules ever could. As I write this, I can’t help but think of a friend that I have known for many years. His style of parenting could not be more opposite of mine. He is a controller, in title and action, whereas I like to plant seeds that develop into mindsets that my children can own and align with there decision-making processes. 

If you have young children, this method can be applied now. Like the planting of a tree will produce fruit in the future, it is a process. If you are aware of the process, it can serve you well. Unfortunately, this is a difficult process to implement once they get older. Not thank good results are beyond your reach, but the best results seem to appear when these practices begin before going to school, especially before the middle school experience.

So what is the process? It starts by giving them small areas of responsibility and freedom. When they handle the situation well, praise it and try to replicate it. Be careful not to give them more responsibility and freedom than what they can handle. Over time, slowly increase these opportunities. At the same time, you must be immovable if they screw up or fail to perform at the level required for the responsibility or freedom to become a staple. Notice that I did not say, shut them down without the opportunity of redemption. An example of this could be to give them a task like picking up their toys. As a result, they could be allowed more time at a fun activity. If they fail to perform, the time is not granted…no matter how emotional they respond. Several days or even a week later, give them a chance for redemption. When they succeed, be true to your word. 

Showing your kids that freedom is something that is earned. My kids went for this “hook, line, and sinker”. They wanted control. Okay, no problem, they had to perform and act in a manner that ensured their reward. The reward or lack thereof needs to be granted or denied without emotion. When you have an agreement about tasks and behavior, they will earn or forfeit the freedom or rewards based on their decisions. Dads, your word has to be solid. You cannot reward or deny it based on your mood. It’s like, Johnny mows the grass. Johnny gets paid. Johnny doesn’t mow, he does not get paid. Feelings should not be a factor. Your word and their decisions should be the only factor.

As I have stated in other posts, I was able to get my kids to the point that they were in charge of the level of freedom and reward that they received. This made them want to take care of their responsibilities as well as keep their attitude in check. The results of this practice greatly increased the level of trust between my children and myself. Learning that dad would allow or disallow based on their actions and attitude, put them in control…or did it?

It does not matter if your kids realize that it is a game, practice, or the commandments of the home. The key is your consistency and giving your plan time to take root. My friend that I mentioned earlier in this article operates on “I am dad, hear me roar”. While this may put some kids into a mode of submission, eventually they will experience life that is beyond your control. I have seen many situations like this, where the kids went ape#### once they were out from under daddy’s thumb. If you squeeze too hard, they may run out of your grasp into the mouth of the lion that is life. This has been the case with my friend.

Being a dad is like a healthy lifestyle. The best results come over time and consistency. The earlier that we implement good practices, we tend to minimize damage, thus living with fewer regrets later in life. I realize that you are a dad and should be in control of your household. However, without proper planning and execution, you can lose control quickly. More punishment, emotional responses, and parental pressure do not mean that your children will respect you or will, in turn, be successful. Like your health, your relationship with your children should be an investment. Be who they need you to be. 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

Fathering Older Children

We never stop being a dad, no matter how old our children are. Your children still need you, but in different ways…obviously. It is important that you adjust to this role in order to be the most effective dad possible. The adjustments need to be done by you, not your kids. They will naturally evolve into their new world. It is us, the creatures of habit, that need to learn new things. We have been used to doing things a particular way for at least 18 years. Most of us don’t like change.

What is it that we need to do for our children, once they leave the nest? You will hear ideas about letting them go. Let me assure you that this is a poor choice of words. Yes, we let go…but we NEVER let go. Our desire to help, fix, and do for them is still strong. The real plan of attack is to address how this is done at this point in life.

For me, I had learned that the most important thing I could do was to be a listener. This is hard because I am so opinionated. I KNOW how I would fix all their problems. Most of my ideas may actually be correct. What I have to remember is that you don’t give an adult a baby bottle. You need to teach them how to if you have not already. You can give them suggestions. However, for their growth and confidence, they must achieve due to their own efforts, attitudes, and decisions. You need to be a source for their success, but not the sole reason. If you don’t let them own their own victories and failures, they will never grow and will be dependently disabled.

Notice that I included their failures. I don’t know about you you, but I have learned so much from my failures. No lesson stands out so much as one that you own 100%. The overcoming and self-confidence that a person can attain by correcting mistakes and conquering failure are invaluable. This gives your child a clearer picture of their own identity and what they are capable of. Bailing kids out of a jam just reinforces the idea that they can’t do it without you. I do recognize that situations may arise in which you are the only source for assistance, but this needs to be extremely rare and not commonly sought as a cure-all.

I have several friends that have grown children. Those that try to do everything or will do everything for their kids are hindering their growth and making them weaker adults. If they have an unhealthy lifestyle, your assistance can make us enablers. Dads need to be very careful in offering assistance. The other and many times more difficult discipline has to do with advice. We have been telling our kids what we think all their lives. This needs to be monitored and reigned back when they are older.

My father is a doer, fixer, and unwarranted advice giver. Let me assure you that his heart is to help, but regardless of his intentions, he does this too much. One of my sisters is 65. My 87-year-old father still cannot help but dive into the adviser role. This is an ongoing understood joke amongst my siblings. While I am grateful that we can joke about it, there has been damage done to relationships regardless of intent. He also becomes very hurt, any time his help is rejected or not coveted. This has had a huge impact on me and my relationship with my children. I have purposely held back from giving advice unless it is solicited. Even then, I ask my children if they are sure that they want my advice.

I want my children to be strong. I can’t have them become so and protect or control them. My job is to love and pray for them. Interestingly enough, this method has actually prompted them to ask my opinion in many situations. However, when they do come to you, let me not encourage you to tell them what they want to hear. Tell them what you are convicted of as the truth. You must remain if not intensify your foundation and resolve. While you may not have instant gratification or happiness, you will develop more trust and joy in your relationship.

Consistency in parenting does not change in parenting, regardless of their age. You must be solid. If you are solid, they will value you more. Just don’t walk away. Keep telling them that you love them…and that you are proud that they belong to you. That makes you the man they can count on. I don’t know how you can get to a higher position in life as a man. 

Develop your listening skills. Read and learn as dads, no matter how old you are or how old your children are. Restrain your words and opinions. Pray for them, Love them, Encourage them. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon

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 

Dare to be Weird

Being a dad requires a professional balancing act. There are so many roles that you play. It is hard to be supportive, maintain rules, be a counselor, a defender, a teacher, and yes…fun. We all want to have fun with our kids. We hope that our kids will desire to hang out with us because it is cool to do so. The sad part is that there are not many dads that I know who are willing to be weird. Let me explain.

Weirdness as a dad has everything to do with timing. We can’t be known as a joke. I mean, our kids have to take us seriously when things are serious. However, we must embrace laughter, fun, and crazy times to bask in the joy of life. Therefore, why don’t I just say “have fun when you can?” I like doing fun things that are different. For that, you have to care more about the laughter smiles, smiles, and fun, then you do about how outsiders see you. 

So what is weird? What is out of the ordinary for you? Do something most people may not choose to do or go where others would not go. By the time I had my little girl, and she was 3, I can’t tell you how many times she would want to paint my toenails on a Saturday night. Some of you may say, “what’s weird about that?” Did you ever wear sandals to church the following morning? Have you ever given your teenagers some spraypaint and a mask and allow them to go crazy on their walls in their room? Have ever had a junker car and let them paint it?

Go out to eat at places you have never been to before. Are you into rock-n-roll? Go to a ballet. Take your kids to a museum if that is rare. One thing that we liked to do is to locate where the food trucks would hang out in a given town to find something new. Do charitable projects with your kids. Giving and doing for others together is awesome. Google and research things to do within a 30mile radius of the house. I use to take to my kids to weird places for photoshoots…like at a graffiti wall, railroad stations, and bridges. 

One thing that several of my adult friends found unusual about me as a dad was my encouragement of my kids’ self-expression. Many fathers want to control so many things about their kids’ lives. In many cases, I believe it is a concern on how they (the fathers) are perceived by others  and not a fear of their children being judged. With everything, it must be kept in due bounds, but a hairstyle, clothing choice, and art can be a very freeing thing for them to find out who they are. That being said, none of my kids overdid it. My buddies that had much more strict guidelines found their kids testing and destroying boundaries. As a matter of fact, the tighter they squeezed, the worse behaved their kids were.

Growing up has a lot of pressure these days. Kids have to let off that pressure somehow. Finding healthy outlets for them, being okay with a mess or controlled stupidity lets them know “I get it. Go for it”. One time my oldest son was playing bass in a talent show with a drummer friend of his. My son had a couple of basses, so when the drum solo part came up, he took his bass off and threw it across the stage to a friend waiting behind the skirt of the curtain. Luckily, the kid caught it. My son grabbed another bass and came back in shredding. When he did it, everyone in the crowd was like “whoa”. I was like “yes…..rock on”. His jazz teacher found me a few days later and told me that he had never seen a kid so “free” in a performance. 

My second boy is a daredevil that likes to jump off things like bridges, cliffs, climb high stuff, etc. My daughter is an amazing judo and jiu-jitsu fighter. They are also talented artists. One day, a cowboy friend of mine said, “I can’t believe you let your boy do all those stunts”. I laughed at my friend and reminded him, “you let your boys ride bulls”. Kids and teens can encounter some confusing and frustrating times. I’m not advocating fighting, stunts, or throwing musical instruments, but they have to have an outlet. Be a part of that. Encourage the unusual and for them to be different. That along with the suggestions earlier in this post can have some amazing results for your kids.

Finally, learn to laugh. You have to laugh at yourself, life, and yes…at each other. Show me a kid/teen that can laugh at themselves and okay when others laugh, I will show you a pretty solid kid. The same thing goes for dads. Drop the egos. Drop the concerns about outsiders perception of you. Laughing with my kids was, and still is my favorite thing to do. Love life. Express yourself and encourage your kids to do the same. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon

Dads are Not Secondary

Do dads really understand how important they are? I don’t believe that parenting is complete without a mother and a father’s contributions to the child’s development. My view is shared by many psychologists and angers some single parents. Not all the time, but for those that have a chip on their shoulder, angry at their spouse, their “x”, or the world, I have been known to be at odds. I don’t know why this is a contentious issue for some people. 

It really isn’t a competition. According to child psychologist Eric Erikson, “a mother’s love and a father’s love are qualitatively different”. We as dads don’t bring the same elements to the table. On the other hand, you could just say that we do it differently. Men and women communicate, educate, and encourage differently. One example of this is the nature for men to encourage risks more than women. Dad’s tend to push their kids to test and challenge their limits. Moms are usually a bit more protective. 

I remember encouraging my kids to climb higher, go farther, and push the boundaries of failure. One time, my middle child was about 9 or 10. He was a climber. Okay, honestly he was a daredevil. My wife blames me for this (laughing on the inside). We were at a motel that was close to the beach. This particular motel (single story) had a pool that was particularly close to the building. I could see that my boy was thinking how cool it would be to get on the roof and jump to the pool. He stared at the pool, then at the roof, then looked at me. I told him, “sometimes a man has to do some crazy things”. He smiled.

I forgot about our interaction until later that evening. We had been to the beach and were getting cleaned up. We noticed that my boy was not around. He was a good swimmer, so we were not in a panic. My wife walked to the door of the room and opened it just as her boy fell from the sky and made a huge cannon ball splash. She yelled at our boy for the act. He responded that “dad” said it was okay. She immediately knew that it was true. She looked at me and said “idiot”. My boy and I did a fist bump when she wasn’t looking.

Another time, we were at a soccer game. I was the coach and my boy was the star of the team. That particular day, we were starting the second half of the game with a strong wind at our backs. My boy had the kick off. I knew what a powerful shot he had. He looked at me and I said, “just score from there”. This was not exactly a smart game tactic. What I conveyed to my boy was that I thought he could. The other coach rolled his eyes and told his defenders to get ready for a quick possession. So, my son to a few steps back and launched it. Goal! My boy and I locked eyes in the midst of a primal scream with our hands in the air.

Dads don’t always make the best decisions, but I believe we have a bit more of a “go for it” attitude. Sometimes our children won’t succeed at our suggestions. However, risk taking does encourage them take on the world. Dads play rougher, enforce rules, and are the best examples for their kids to understand what a man is supposed to be. This doesn’t mean that we always are the best examples or teachers. Just as any human is fallible. We can always fall short of our goals as parents. However, dads have a way of loving, teaching, and encouragement that looks and feels quite different from that of a mother. 

I don’t like speaking or writing apologetically. People should not always have a pre-qualifier or caveat. There are moms all over the world that do a wonderful job giving their all for their children. I think most people would agree that moms screw up less than dads. However, this says nothing about the importance of one love and care over another. Kids need both. A lot of kids don’t get both and that breaks my heart.

Kids are in need of protection, comfort, nourishing, and teachings of moms. What I don’t think many people understand is the equality of a dad’s love for his children as well as their developmental benefits it has on his children. Research shows that children of a nurturing 2 parent home have an advantage. They need to feel secure, accomplished, loved, and affirmed. They need to be encouraged to grow, take risks, and reach beyond their comfort zone. All of this forms them into what kind of adult they will become. A mother’s love is paramount, but no more or less important to the balance that a dad’s love provides for them. Fathers need to understand their crucial role. They need to love as a dad should. They need to 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