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  

Daddy Do-Over DIY

There are not many times in life that we get a “do-over”. Unlike childhood games or a reset button, relationships don’t work the same way. This is primarily because forgive and forget does not exist. People can forgive, but memory will always serve as a reminder to our failures, hurts, and disappointments. As fallible human beings, we will hurt and be hurt by others. In the case of so many dads, even if they get an opportunity for a fresh start, they don’t know where to begin.

There are some situations, especially that of divorce that carries with it a lot of pain. Kids are usually hurt the worst. Due to the fact that children of broken homes usually live with their mother, a dad’s opportunity for reassurance and relationship repair can be limited. So where should a dad begin a do-over if given opportunities?

As a young man and even into my 30s and early 40s, I believed that so many people should “get over it”. It was like I actually believed that people could choose to be okay. I treated human beings as if they had a reset button. To keep this in technology terms, people don’t have a reset but must have a new operating system installed, with programs and software after that. For those of my readers that understand computers, the computer looks the same but is not the same after this process. This is how people are. Features will be familiar, but there is just something that makes all applications different. 

This rebuild takes time. Sometimes, it takes several attempts for everything to load. Kids caught in a divorce situation can be this way. Getting frustrated will not help. We have to be methodical in our approach for the best results. So what are these methods? If you are a dad dealing with the pain of divorce, let me assure you that everything is effort and attitude. These 2 things are always in your control. You are not responsible for the response that your kids have, nor that of their mother. You must control you.

Rule #1 in this kind of do-over is to avoid bad-mouthing the mother of your children. Even if they do, it is not an invitation nor a license for you to do the same. As men, we are programmed to fight. However, I promise you this is NOT productive in this situation. Rule #2 is for you to be there and make every effort to keep your word. Whatever you have to do to be there for them, you need to do. When I was divorced, my son lived 2 hours away. There were times I had to borrow cars, hitch a ride, or even ride a motorcycle in the rain. Don’t miss the chance to see them.

Rule #3 is simple but difficult. Admit when you are wrong. Apologize when you make a mistake. Don’t blame others, even if it is not all your fault. Your children don’t need your excuses. They need a transparent dad, even with his faults. This being said, be careful not to make promises that you can’t keep. An honest response of “I don’t know” or “I can’t” is better than breaking your word.

Have you noticed that the challenges of a do-over all boil down to effort and attitude? Recently, I came across a poem that after reading several times, means a lot to me. It is called Opportunity by Edward. R. Sill. I hope that it speaks to you the same way.

OPPORTUNITY

by: Edward Rowland Sill (1841-1887)

HIS I beheld, or dreamed it in a dream:–
There spread a cloud of dust along a plain;
And underneath the cloud, or in it, raged
A furious battle, and men yelled, and swords
Shocked upon swords and shields. A prince’s banner
Wavered, then staggered backward, hemmed by foes.
A craven hung along the battle’s edge,
And thought, “Had I a sword of keener steel–
That blue blade that the king’s son bears, — but this
Blunt thing–!” he snapped and flung it from his hand,
And lowering crept away and left the field.
Then came the king’s son, wounded, sore bestead,
And weaponless, and saw the broken sword,
Hilt-buried in the dry and trodden sand,
And ran and snatched it, and with battle shout
Lifted afresh he hewed his enemy down,
And saved a great cause that heroic day.

Many men give up because they don’t believe that they possess the tools to succeed. I love how one man was nothing but excuses and the next man seized the opportunity for victory. You may not have much to offer. You may feel like you don’t possess what it takes to make a situation better. However, in the life of a child, you can start with the will of not giving up and the words “I love you”. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon

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  

HOW to address Racism

Race is a subject that appears to be one that is simple to talk to your kids about. However, it has so many levels of approach that it most likely will not be a one-time discussion. This is a topic with a lot of bias and passion. Its history is littered with war, bloodshed, and even blind convictions. Depending upon your approach and your personal race, there are many issues to keep in mind when addressing this topic with your kids.

I don’t believe that we must approach the subject from an apologetic point of view. “IF” we are all equal, then I believe honest and unbridled discussions can take place. Discussing this topic without bias is difficult. Even if we say that we are open-minded to differing points of view, we have all had experiences and been taught by those that we “trust” to tell us the truth. 

For me, I believe that our Creator has created each man with purpose and value. I do not believe that one life is more precious than the next. However, the character of a man or woman may determine their impact on a larger group of people or culture. Each man and woman should be judged by their character, not the color of their skin, nor the history of their race. Believing that one individual is bad or of less value based on their appearance or heritage is ignorant. I want my children to treat others with dignity and respect, and to only judge individuals by their character.

To deny that people gravitate towards what is familiar is a given. We trust what we know more than what we do not understand. In a crowd, we choose to speak with or sit by those that we feel are like us. Does this mean that we value others more or less? It may mean that we are more comfortable with those of our own race simply by default. This of itself has no bearing upon the likelihood of this initial comfort serving one’s interest well.

Our kids need to realize that the actions of one or even a group of people at a particular time and place can predict the thoughts, words, or actions of a similar person or group in the future. If we are judging the character or actions of a people, it is the character or actions that must be judged and not associate that said characters and actions as an inheritance. 

Slavery is bad. I believe that we can agree on this statement. Slavery is not bad when it only affects one particular group of people during a specific time period. No, slavery is bad no matter the recipient or when it happens. If we look at the history of mankind, this is a matter that has harmed all races. I one wished to be contentious with this matter, I would refer them to the works of Dr. Nell Irvin Painter. She has an amazing book on the subject.

Racism is any platform that promotes one race as superior or any words or actions that uses race as a means to acquire a privilege that is not offered to people outside of that particular race. Finally, racism is a mindset that blames the success or failure of individuals because of their race instead of their intelligence and work ethic.

Our kids need to believe that they are responsible for their own future. They need to work hard, educate themselves, and strive to denounce any mindsets, statements, or actions, that either harm or favor a person on the sole merit of race. As a Christian father, I believe that all mankind has an invaluable soul. I have taught my children that all men and women have value and that the life of one race is just as precious as the next.

Sadly there are those that abuse this issue through evil and or ignorance. I believe that those who commit blatant acts of racism and those that default contention of ideas to race are both guilty and narrow of mind. The problem lies within individuals and is not systemic. For us to believe so is to concede that a media, community, culture, or government has the right and power to dictate what we think, say, and do. 

We need for our kids to act responsibly. Not only should they condemn racism, but also the default accusations that feed adversity and insight hatred. Our responsibility as dads is to be an example and to teach our children to live by the golden rule. We may not be able to change society, but we can change and affect the culture of our home. If we all did so, we would probably be in a different situation than we are today. Be the example. Teach what is right. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon

Suicide

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the #2 killer of individuals between 10-34. The #1 being accidents. In 2017, suicides (47,173) more than doubled the number of homicides (19,510). These figures appear to be epidemic and are still on the rise.

Suicide affects so many families. The odds are that many of my readers have already been hurt by this horrible tragedy. As dads, what do we tell our kids when they encounter news or have questions about this topic? Is there a way that we can make any sense of it? 

When I was a kid and still to this day, I have heard the statement that suicide is one of the selfish things that an individual can do. Now, I only believe this to be true as long that the individual is rational. Perhaps you caught my approach. To those that are not hurting and suffering, putting those whom you are close to through such an ordeal is awful and selfish. I believe that suicide or any taking of human life is wrong. However, through my study on the subject, I’m not so sure that I can hold these individuals in contempt as I use to. I would like to share with you a process of thinking that may help you address this issue in your own mind and also have a way to explain it to your children.

Please note that I am not an expert in mental health, but merely share with you as a person that has been affected by suicide and as a dad who has had to discuss it with my children. Studies have shown that the same part of the brain that detects physical pain deals with emotional pain. That being said, part of my study on this subject has to do first with physical pain.

On the tragic day of 911, Americans witnessed the horror of the World Trade Center towers burning and ultimately collapsing because of an act of terrorism. Cameras captured not only the destruction of the buildings but the last moments of many trapped by the fire and building damage. As the heat became unbearable, several individuals lept to their deaths. Firemen in the lobby heard the horrific sounds of bodies hitting the ground. One stated in an interview that he could not imagine how bad it had to be up there that the idea of jumping was the solution.

In moments of pain, our natural instincts are to flee the source. Whether it is a knee jerk reaction, taking cover, or running while on fire, we want to get away. Is there really any rational thought process? Although it is different when we think of our feelings and emotions, the same part of the brain registers the pain. Can the pain become like the fire of those trapped in the WTC towers? Do we blame those at the fire’s edge who jumped? What about those with time to consider their pain in times of illness who say, “no more”?

Perhaps as dads, we should express to our children that there are those that are hurting so bad, that some people seek the end as a means to end the pain. However, not being an advocate for suicide, I believe we should instill within our children that there are things that we can try to do to help those that are hurting. Let them know that communication needs to always be encouraged and that we should not see such individuals as those who should feel shame. Our children should know that it is important to report any signs or words of self-destructive behavior. We should discuss with our children potential warning signs for them to be aware of when it comes to mental illness. 

Pain is real to those that experience it. Our kids need to understand that it is okay “not” to have all the answers but to be aware that there are those that are desperate and hurting. We cannot always see their pain. There are illnesses that some people have on the inside. What we can do for them is to make sure that we are NOT quiet. Secondly, we should not try to address the issue alone. We need to tell someone like a teacher, counselor, or even police.

Suicide and mental illness a problem that we should not avoid talking about. When kids have questions, they need answers. Don’t hide the ugly or painful truth. Kids are resilient and can handle more than we give them credit for. As someone that has dealt with mental illness in my family, I can boldly state that the answers are not always clear. Not understanding it has taken me through a period of anger and frustration. This never helps the situation.

We need to teach our kids about tough things. We need to teach compassion. Sometimes compassion is not just being kind, but taking action to. Teach your kids to be observant. Keep the lines of communication open and encourage their expressions of concern. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon

Teaching Kids about Prayer

Having a child that is reverent is a blessing. No matter what your upbringing or background, I would argue that a child who prays is a positive thing. I am a Christian. To me and my family, prayer has been a source of strength, peace, and growth. I realize that various readers have a wide range of beliefs. If you are not religious or a professing believer, thank you for being a part of this blog and being open-minded to keep reading. I do think that it is important that writers not only give resources to their readers but also a “personal” message to people.

The older I get, the less I think I have to prove myself to others. I hope that this allows for an honest heart that wants to help people, instead of some authority that people should listen to. That being said, I have a heart for fathers and kids. I pray for my children regularly and have always emphasized to them the importance of prayer. 

I believe that we are physical, emotional, and spiritual beings. Prayer, therefore, is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. We teach our children to eat right and get exercise. We encourage them to pursue positive and encouraging relationships. These things are many times within our control, but requiring discipline to maintain. So what do we do about those things that are beyond us? Supernatural means that which is beyond nature. I attribute these things to God. I believe in a creator. We can discuss or debate this, but for me and my family, we acknowledge the sovereignty of a God that knows us, loves us, disciplines us, and is ultimately in control.

When my kids were little, this belief gave them a real source of comfort. Prayers, especially before bedtime became their desire. They would pray about the most amazing things. They expressed their compassion for others and a sense of thankfulness for what they had. It was beautiful. It blessed me just as much as it did them. I am so thankful to have been a part of it. I hope that one day, I will be able to hear the prayers of grandchildren. It all starts with a practice knowing that they can tell God anything. It instills a grateful and compassionate heart. That quality in a child is a wonderful thing. 

As they grow older, their perception of God will grow with reading and asking of questions. This is where you as a dad need to be the best example to them. Because of their trust in you as the dad, many kids will adopt your belief system. Does this mean that you are responsible? Yes. God gave these children to you and expects you to be the example of truth. Through their spiritual growth, they will want to know how and why things work as they do. They will want to know what God wants in their lives. Let me give you two things to remember. Read and listen.

Perhaps you have given or received the comment that says, “you can’t learn if you are talking”. I encourage my kids to read the bible and to make listening a part of their prayer life. In Ecclesiastes 5:1-2 it says, “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.” So what do they listen to? God speaks to us when we read his word, and through the words of others. This is where I would refer you back to my blog on discernment. Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Prayer and discernment will help them filter the good vs. bad advice.

My wife and I taught our kids that prayer is an opportunity more than an obligation. Both our children as well as ourselves have been blessed by prayer and doing it together. We have seen God work in our lives, in those of our children, in addition to the relationship that we share. It has been a bond between us and has strengthened the family tie. We realize that there are those with differing faiths. However, we can only hold to what we know to be the truth and our experiences with it. 

As our kids develop, they will have needs. It is our job as dads to address these needs. The knowledge and practice begin with us. As in many situations, it is our job as dads to have our act together, before we address others. Although your spiritual growth is a life long process, the foundation must be laid, and it needs to start with you. Your kids are looking for answers. They want to be able to trust dad. Therefore, it is so important that we work on ourselves to continually give them the best guidance. Read, pray, and share. 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