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.


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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.


Teaching Kids to be Grateful

Everyone loves a grateful child. I would also go so far as to say that most of us would rather avoid the ungrateful ones. A child that has manners and appreciates what they have and receive is on a rocketship for success. Let me explain. Not every child is going to be successful. However, those that show their appreciation are twice as likely to have supporters than the ingrates and spoiled brats. Are we on the same page?

Being thankful and expressing it is a “no-lose” art form. If you are a dad, think about how a grateful child makes you react. You want or wish to do more for them. For those that don’t express their appreciation and just take, we are far less to “desire” to give them more. Depending on your convictions or personality, you may or may not make manifest these thoughts. 

Being grateful is a lifestyle. There are so many benefits that directly affect you as a result. Grateful individuals are people who live with their eyes open. They also have a more grounded and honest since of self. Let me address these qualities first. Living with your eyes open means that you can see the blessings around you, no matter how small. It also means that you find blessing more than others. “Look and you will find it – what is unsought will go undetected” – Sophocles. Contrary to blessings, there are those that always find disappointment. It is like they always find something wrong no matter what they encounter or are offered. I think we all know someone like this. 

The second point, having an honest sense of self, acknowledges our strengths and weaknesses. In view of our inabilities or struggles, we are able to avoid the curse of self-entitlement. When I was a kid, there were bullies. Not that they don’t exist today, but bullying has been socially condemned. Kids and teens these days tend to struggle with self-entitlement. At least they do from this writer’s viewpoint. I don’t think it is because they “really” think they are better. I think it is what they portray in their insecurities. In the book, The Price of Privilege, by Dr. Madeline Levine, She discusses the depression of the so-called privileged youth. One element was a lack of “finding oneself”. For these kids to think they are better than others, yet have no clue of who they are would not add up.

Teaching a child to be grateful is like most lessons, the sooner the better. Showing them, and yes requiring them to express gratitude develops a healthy habit. Once they learn the benefits of such behavior, they are more likely to repeat it. So what are the benefits? You develop a child that looks for blessings and the opportunity to express gratitude. Your child becomes someone that adults like having around. You will look like a much better parent when your child shows appreciation. People will want to do for your child over others that do not show gratitude. Finally, it pays to be thankful.

Let me expand on my last point a bit further. This is something that I have always told my kids and my students. We should live in gratitude just because it is a healthy and more pleasant way to live. It is the right thing to do. However, I have challenged both my kids and students. “Do you want to be chosen? Would you like to receive grace and mercy? How about second chances and more opportunities, would you like that? Thank you pays. It is smart in relationships and the business world. I wanted to prove it to them. During several years of my time in Christian education, I helped with fundraising. I invited some of my students and my kids to an event that I started before the Christmas break called the “Thank-a-thon”. The school wanted to have a final effort to raise funds. Originally, they would call and ask for pledges. When it was given to me, I raised more money than ever before. How did I do it? I asked for nothing and just said thank you.

I achieved this task by getting a list of the donors for that specific year. I chose about 8 well-spoken students, 8 phone lines, and gave them a simple script. “Hi, Mrs. Smith. This is (student’s name). I’m a junior (or whatever grade) at the Academy. We are just calling tonight to say thank you for all you have done for the academy and we wanted to wish you a very Merry Christmas. Now, to make a long story short several things happened EVERY year. 1. The kids had a blast. 2. Many of the people on the other end of the call would engage them in very pleasant conversation. 3. Some elderly people would actually cry. 4. After the holiday break, we would come back to school to a new stack of checks made out to the school as a result. When kids saw all the envelopes upon our return, they were amazed. “Thank you pays”, I said.

The goal is not to teach your children to manipulate people but to understand that it feels go to be appreciated. Humans will usually repeat actions that result in a pleasant experience. Do you want your children to look for blessings in life, to appreciate others, and to benefit from a healthy lifestyle? Stress to them the importance of thank you, the win-win way to live. Give your children the tools to achieve and be the best dad possible.


Rites of Passage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Your Kids should be your Hobby

Do you have a hobby? Do you golf, workout, hunt, bowl, or paint? I have been a musician most of my life. I LOVED playing live and hanging with my bandmates. Unfortunately, it became a part of my life that I could have used to spend more time with my kids. I’m not saying that hobbies in of themselves are bad, but your time with kids is more important. Does your hobby cause stress at home, fights with the Mrs., or incur an expense that could be better used to help the family? If so, I want to encourage a change.

Let’s say that you are going to live for 75 years. Optimistically with today’s medical advancement, probably more. However, let’s just say 75 years. Having a child in your home until they are 18 years old is only 24% of your life. You have 76% of your life to do you if you want to put it in those terms. If 76% of just you is not enough, perhaps you could develop a hobby that coordinates with or for your children.

I really only knew 2 things, music, and soccer. My oldest son gravitated to music. My younger 2 towards sports. This was fortunate for me. I had something I could contribute towards both of them. However, the band thing that I wanted to do was more exclusive than inclusive. Kids have a way of being a “buzzkill” for bandmates that don’t have kids. This is not to mention the late hours and traveling that can accommodate such hobbies. 

I decided to step away from band life. I jumped into coaching with my younger 2 kids, while playing music with my oldest son in church and helping him with some of his music writing. This transformed who I was, and what I was. Chances were that I was never going to build a better life them the way I was. Now we were doing life together, and it was awesome. It was so much more fulfilling. In addition to this, it GREATLY improved my relationship with my wife.

Love is about time. You can be the best golfer, biker, tennis player, or out of shape church league softball team member, but if you suck at being a dad none of your “victories” and/or achievements will mean much later in life. You will never be more famous than in the embrace and heart of your kids. Thousands can chant your name. It will never compare to how your children feel about you.

What if you don’t have the knowledge or skills that it takes to be incorporated into your child’s activities? Start from where you are? Can you learn? Even a consistent effort is viewed as a cool thing to your children. Talk to them. If there are no hobbies or passions in place and active, search one out. Learn how to do something new together. 

Many dads have crazy work schedules. I understand that and God bless those of you that do what it takes to provide. I would like to submit that I believe kids have a formula in their heads that allows for that. However, it is the time “you have” that counts. What do you do when you CAN be with them? For you workaholics out there, kids have really good b.s. meters. Don’t try to justify yourself. When there is an opportunity for family, what do you choose? I use to choose the band. You know those guys. The… I’m never gonna make it big anyway but I gonna waste precious time and money to try to convince myself that I am or could… You get it. 

Hobbies can be a wonderful tool to get the family together. Some people have many hobbies. The important take away from this is your time. Does your hobby promote time with and for your kids? Does your hobby tell your kids that you prioritize them? I encourage you to dive in and incorporate your kids or begin a new journey together. 

For me, the ironic part of all this is my kids, now that they have left home, they are encouraging me to do music again. I’m not going to try the “band” stuff anymore, but my church has an amazing program. So last week I booked an audition to be part of their program…and made it. Guys…you have plenty of time for you. I pray that while your kids are at home, don’t focus on yourself. Don’t be selfish with your time. Give of yourself to your kids. Be the best dad possible.


Explaining Mass Shootings and Tragedies

Over 29 people were killed this weekend in Texas and Ohio. The barbaric actions have the nation grieving once again. These all too common actions of sickness have people asking questions. The answers to those questions will not bring back those that were lost. However, I believe that it is a natural question for coping with a horrible situation. 

If no answer can soothe the hearts of those affected, what possible answers can we dads give to our children that may ask the same? How can we give them clarity and understanding? These actions confuse and go against the values that we teach our kids about human life. They are looking to us for answers. We are supposed to have answers and be right.

My first experience with this happened on 9/11. It was a Tuesday. I can remember, why, but I was off work that day and had just fed my daughter. I was playing with her on the couch and the phone wrang. It was my dad. “Are you watching t.v.?”, he asked. “No”, I replied. “Turn on the news…quick”. At that particular moment, both of the World Trade Towers were in flames. Shortly thereafter the first one fell…followed by the second. 

My daughter was a baby and unaware of the events. My oldest boy was at school. Somehow they heard the news or saw it. We only lived a few blocks from the school. Around 3ish pm, He ran through our front door. “Dad…what happened? Why? How many people were killed? Who did it?”, he asked. Every bit of his attention was on me. He had heard a bunch of stuff at school, but his dad would have the truth. His father would know the correct information and could tell him why.

All I could tell him was what a terrorist was and some possible reasons that they chose to attack the USA. The conversation lasted until dinner time. He had so many questions. Most of the were prefaced with “why”. All I could do is to tell him as a Christian, that the heart of man is deceitful and sick. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9) I told him that there are those with no regard for anything other than their “cause”. Taking another person’s life is the ultimate act of selfishness, and under no immediate threat is despicable.

Two years prior to this, the Columbine shooting happened. Now it was 9/11. I told him that in both cases it was a tragedy that few people could understand. Many years after the Columbine tragedy. The mother of one of the shooters Sue Klebold came out to address the public in a TALK . Click on the word Talk on the left to see her speech. She had no answers for the victims. This was her son. How could she not know? As I watched her speak, I truly began to hurt for her.

Approximately 20 years and many mass shootings later, we are a nation of the same questions repeated in desperation. Now, young parents have to make sense of these tragedies for their kids. Dad’s, they are looking to you. What are you going to say? Even if you were not part of the families and community affected by such violence, kids will want to know why? They will have questions. 

Teenagers are a bit different. They may get caught up in the moment briefly and have an opinion. Unfortunately, such news has become commonplace that most reactions are not an uproar unless it happens to them or someone they care about. Most young people don’t think such things will happen in their town, neighborhood, or school. 

As an educator, I have had 2 students come through that faced murder charges after leaving our school. One, in particular, I worked with daily. I was his religion teacher at this private school. Believe me, when I heard what this young man was accused of some years later, I began to question myself. He was a tough kid with a rough background…no dad. However, very kind and cordial in my class. As a matter of fact, he aced his final in my class…a test that most common churchgoers would probably fail. Did I miss something? Did I fail to see something? Did we the school fail him? 

My kids shared classrooms with at least one of these boys. My oldest, the one with the 9/11 questions, is in the Navy. He had to call me one time to let me know that there was a shooter on base…but that he was okay. These tragedies affect everyone. They raise the same questions and speculations. Be transparent with your kids. It is okay to say I don’t know or to quote your conviction. Ask them what they think about it and what do they think are solutions. Keep the lines of communication open. Events like these are not likely to go away. We live in a hurting and broken world. Give your kids the time. Give them your ear. Give them a voice to express themselves. Be the best dad possible.


Teaching Kids about Fighting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Learn Grow Love!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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