The Political Child

Kids align themselves with politics as a status of belonging. Very rarely do you see little kids interested in politics. If interest does arise, it usually happens towards the end of high school or upon the baptism of collegiate social realms. When kids turn into young adults, they will strive to know who they are without mom and dad. More specifically, they want to know where they belong now that they really don’t belong at home, or at least that is what society can portray.

Who are they and what is there cause? As with all children, they don’t like being told how to think, what to say, or how to act. Regardless of how much we may guide, the desire for individualism will arise to some degree. This is of itself not an unhealthy thing. However, without the correct preparation, it can also spell out the most regretful times in a young person’s life in retrospect. Whether you are a young or older parent, take some time to think back at the ideas you had when you were of college-age. Think about things you said and did. Ponder a bit about the arguments that you had. 

After you have had your cringe moment, it is time to read on. I don’t know many adults that don’t have those eye-rolling sensations about their young adult days. Your kids will most likely have the same. So what can we do to minimize the pain, disgrace, and feelings of remorse? This will depend on your communication relationship. Whether you are right or wrong, many times a parent’s ideas, suggestions, or statements can be met with resistance because it is not their own.

During this time, politics can present them with a choice. This choice is in their mind, totally their own. However, if they do not have a heart and mind of discernment, they can get caught up in ideas, causes, and even relationships that can be unhealthy. The best example that I can give you of this matter is one of dissent or protest.

Once they are 18, they are given a voice, a vote. Many of them take their “say” as very important. They may align themselves with issues that have a strong social following. Although this game uses recruitment and group dynamics, your child may associate it as an individual choice. Dissent and protest in of itself is not a bad thing. Unfortunately, there are masses of young people involved in these activities that have not done their homework. They only know generalized ideas that ultimately make them look stupid. A small example of this could be college students protesting a conservative speaker’s event…calling him a nazi while he religiously wears a yamaka.

Let’s take the 2018 March for Our Lives. This took place in response to “Gun Violence” stirred by the tragic events of recent school shootings. However, upon studying this group and the true nature of its participants, it may interest individuals to know the following:

According to Professor Dana R. Fisher of the University of Maryland and the author of American Resistance, only 12% of the crowd was new to protesting. That indicates that 88% were experienced protestors. Upon further review, 79% of the crowd was female. Of that dynamic, 89% were left-leaning or claimed to have voted for Clinton in the 2016 election. 

If those numbers and percentages mean little to you, observe the matter closer. Some may say that 79% of a crowd being female is not significant. I would disagree, but consider the fact that the Women’s March of 2017 was 85% female. Why is that significant? Well, when the majority of the crowd states that they are marching against Trump instead of “Women Rights”, the cause appears to be misleading.

Back to the March for Our Lives, of the 12% who were new protestors, it was reported that 56% were inspired to march for “peace”, another 42% stated they were marching against Trump. Only 60% of the veteran protestors claimed to be marching for “Gun Control”. The remainder reported strongly to be protesting Trump. This means that 40% of the participants had another agenda other than gun control, but were using the platform of those inspired by gun violence to promote their own cause.

If we want to go deeper into the findings, examine the source of the data. Who is she? What are her affiliations? Do those affiliations have any bias to the cause of any particular party?

This is not to support or criticize any particular affiliation or agenda. It is, however, a thought process, that if taught to young people, may steer them clear from making uneducated statements or affiliations. This holds true even if the critique is of those that you have supported in the past. Kids that turn into young adults need to be taught to examine ideas, groups, studies, and agendas. If they would do so, I would whole-heartedly support their independence and desire to make a difference. They need to be heard. They are the future, therefore it is so imperative that we discuss such matters while they are at home. 

Kids need to make decisions. They need to be heard. However, by encouraging our kids to truly study, they will be a more vital part of making change and progress in their futures. Be the best dad possible. Show them how. For further information about teaching discernment, please check out

Deacon

The God Foundation

I believe that God is the giver of life and my children are a blessing from him. I don’t make any apologies about my personal convictions. I struggle with the thought of people talking about their faith, then making an apology for what they “say” means so much to them. Do we really believe what we proclaim, or is the desire not to offend others greater than our convictions.

There may be those that read this that believe differently from me. Your beliefs do not offend me. I am not angry if you disagree. Should I, therefore, worry about what others may think? If you have rights, then so do I. If I can share my beliefs, so can you. Why do we fear the judgment or being different from the rest of the world? In this writer’s opinion, I cannot be a strong dad and be timid about what I teach my children, especially if I “really” believe it.   

Our homes and the lives of our children must have a foundation. For me and my family, it is the belief in Jesus Christ and the authority of His word (the Bible). Some may say that love is the foundation of their home. To me, I agree with the statement, but the source of that love is a God that is bigger and more sovereign than my fallible existence.

Perhaps your view is that we should live and strive for our kids to live moral lives. I can find nothing more moral than that of what I find in the Bible. Its teachings have served my family without fail. This has been a source of hope in many hopeless situations. It has brought assurance when life offers us none. A prayer time and learning together has served as a glue for our family bond. 

Let’s be honest. You will let your family down from time to time. You will fail. Your love will not be enough. These are times that we must look beyond ourselves. This is when we need a peace that passes all understanding. That being said, I cannot explain to you, nor prove to you what I have discovered to be Truth. This is an experience and a journey that cannot be put in a simple explanation. For me as a dad, it has all come down to an element of faith. However, this faith can convict you more than any shred of evidence that you could experience.

This faith has become a staple for my life, my marriage, and my children. We live in such crazy times. Our world is broken and hurting. The foundation of God is the only source of love, hope, and assurance that I have seen to answer the needs of people. Many people, however, reject the idea for various reasons. Whether you want to relate to this as a choice or divine appointment, the heart of man wants to do what it wants to do. To surrender to this concept is to give concession to our lack of abilities and faults. 

Although many may argue, it is my conviction that children are happier, less stressed, and strengthened by faith and that of faith exercised in their parents’ lives. This is not to desire contention with other viewpoints, however, it is one that I stand by and will not apologize for. If you are moved to investigate the God foundation further, I hope and pray that you will. If you need guidance, have questions, or desire to connect with faith as your family’s foundation, there are many resources that you can reach out to. However, I would advise that you compare your information to the source of faith. Just because someone claims to have spiritual answers does not mean that you should simply rely on their words. 

For me, I advise those with questions and interest in the Christian faith to compare teachings to the Bible directly. Unfortunately, there are those out there that would lead you astray. There are those with personal agendas and teachings that promote the ideas of a cause that is not in line with that of the Bible. Avoid these individuals, but don’t give up on your journey and seeking to find truth. Some individuals feel as if it is bad to question teachers, the Bible, and even God. However, I submit to you that you only grow stronger in relationships that you can have a dialogue with. On a personal note, I am convinced that God is not afraid of your questions. 

This subject needs to conclude with a challenge. The challenge is, will you follow the truth where it leads you? Will you follow it regardless if it is different from what you believed growing up? Will you challenge yourself? Do you desire to have the strongest foundation for your home? Do you desire to be the best dad possible?

Deacon

Are they Ready to Adult?

Do your children know the value and reward of work? What do you allow them to do around the house? Is there a set of chores that they are responsible for? Kids who are part of the function of the home are better-prepared adults ready to take on the world. How do you get them started? What should they be responsible for? Do you know what you should teach them in order that they are sufficiently functioning adults?

Families can be quite diverse. However, children need developed skills and a work ethic to make it in the real world. This is not something that you teach them towards the end of high school but start as soon as they can walk. I have to admit that I did not do a very good job of this on my first child. This is why I am writing this. I’m hoping for some readers to have an ah-ha moment and not fall short as I did. What did I do wrong for my first child? I did too much. I loved him. Wait. That is not a failure. Loving him?…no. However, by doing too much for him I handicapped him for when he would be on his own. He didn’t know how to perform some basic tasks that most people would not consider vital, but they were.

My son knew how to do dishes and pick up his room. Probably the reason for that is due to the fact that he was a clean freak. Pretty much everything else, he had to learn way too late in life…crammed in before graduation. This caused him stress and anxiety that he should not have encountered. I myself am not the greatest mechanic or handyman. I had to learn a lot out of necessity. Unfortunately, this was passed down with a list of things that he had to tackle on his own. The question is what specifically would I have done differently? It easy to say everything. That, however, would not best serve you the reader. 

Kids need to know how to:

  1. Do laundry
  2. Cook
  3. Shop 
  4. Change a tire
  5. Diagnose simple vehicle issues
  6. Unstop a toilet
  7. Handle a leak
  8. Put out a fire
  9. Balance bank account
  10. Understand credit
  11. When and how to write a “thank you note”
  12. First Aid
  13. Dos and don’t of travel
  14. Self Defense
  15. Face to Face communication skills

There are obviously more things can and should learn, or sub-categories of what I listed. However, the point is that this is a process and a long list of “know-how” that they not only should be taught but also comfortable to perform on their own. With most things, repetition is the key to being proficient. Not everything is feasible to rehearse or practice. However, when learning opportunities present themselves, maximize the opportunity.

Sometimes the difficulty in teaching our kids is the lack of knowledge on our part. Perhaps there are some skills that you want to develop in your children, but you are not the expert on a specific matter. My suggestion is that you reach out. One of the best things that I did as a dad was to recognize that I may not be the best teacher on a particular subject. This is when you network. Find the individuals that can do a better job than you and introduce them to your kids. Obviously you want to do your due diligence, but you want their world to expand with relationships that can serve them well.

When my youngest 2 children were at a super intense soccer club, their schedule was insane. The practices, travel, games, and balancing school was crazy. With no intentional pun, I wanted them to have someone to talk to as a matter of mental training. I knew that as athletes, it was important that they were able to discuss and process all the pressure that they were involved in. Therefore, I reached out to a great counselor friend. I wanted them to be able to air out and dump anything that they needed to. Sometimes kids will hold back frustrations because they don’t want to disappoint their parents. This tactic worked like a dream and served them well.

You should be the main source of information for your kids. If you are not the right choice, you should find the source they need. Your kids are depending on you to prepare them for adult life. Be there for them. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon

Discernment part 2

We need to be ready and able as dads to further assist our children in processing information. For those of you that wish to look at my first article on discernment, click here. For the article on processing information, you can find that here. So why do a continuation on this topic? What your child interacts with will formulate their opinions, convictions, and who they are. For dads that want to take this topic to another level, this article is for you.

What is good and bad? What is right and wrong? These two questions govern so much of what your child will think, say, and do. Some individuals believe that parents can over-analyze things. I agree to an extent, especially when it comes to worrying. The last thing that I want to do is to encourage paranoia in dads about what their kids see and hear. You are their dad. Where they go, who they are with, and what is acceptable information in “mostly” in your control for the early years. However, the more that they engage the world, the more conflicting information they will digest.

As discussed in previous articles and with common sense, we can conclude that trust is a HUGE factor in what our children will accept and reject as being right or wrong. Left to their “feelings”, most of the time they will gravitate towards their default settings…mom and dad. However, as their gratitude and peer pressure buttons are pushed, you will begin to see a separation between what you have taught and some of their individual convictions. Please note that this does not usually speel out a morale abandonment, but their attempt to be individuals and to be a part of different age, gender, or social groups.

One thing that I found helpful through the years was to ask questions whenever any of my children entertained morales or ideas that conflicted with our family values or convictions. There are definitely several issues that are serious enough to invoke appropriate opposition. However, if it does not conflict with your moral standards, try not to directly oppose or dismiss your child’s opinion, inquiry, or comments. Instead, take the time to grow a closer and stronger relationship with your kids by listening to them. By doing so, you validate their worth to you, therefore establish more trust, and open them up to a different point of view.

On the other hand, as their dad, you are supposed to be a rock. There are some ideas, actions, policies, or lifestyles that you view as unhealthy or wrong. Remember that your main task is to be their dad, not their friend. There are some things that you should not compromise or even entertain. If you meet with resistance on these issues, you should affirm your love for your children, but state an immovable opposition on their behalf. This can be difficult to implement, especially if you and your spouse are not on the same page.

Given that the information is debatable, find a time to discuss the issue. For example, your kids may develop odd tastes in music or a political view than what is accustom to the home. Calling your children wrong, weird, or stupid doe not help the matter. To be perfectly honest it can have a reverse effect. Many times, saying something is wrong or stupid is interpreted as you saying that they are stupid, dumb, etc. Do your best to separate their ideas or information from them as someone that you love very much and care about. Dads can have a really bad habit of dismissing a child or labeling them as simply right or wrong. Above all, your love and commitment to them should shine through. When that is established, productive conversations can take place, thereby encouraging your relationship as a priority and giving their individualism a dose of respect.

One particular question that I ask my kids is where they learned a particular source of information. Then, like a book, I tell them to examine the author of the information. For example, right now I am reading the book, Who Rules the World by Noam Chomsky. This author has opinions and claims against people that I have respected all my life like Ronald Reagan. What do I do with this information? I have always viewed Reagan as one of the best presidents that our country ever had. Chomsky views him as a monster. When I came across this information, I paused and did some research on the author. Ah-Ha! When I came to understand his background and his many political ventures, I was able to process his information with a better view of his mindset.

Discussing and dissecting ideas, statements, movements, and agendas can be a great learning experience for you and your kids. They need to know that you are willing to listen to them, not because of their idea or statement, but because of how much you value them. Then you can address things together in a way that can strengthen your relationship. Your kids are individuals, not your mini-me. They are going to develop their own ideas, likes, and dislikes. You just need to show them how to process information. You need to be the best dad possible.

Deacon  

Get More from Serving

One of the greatest joys I have ever experienced as a dad is teaching my kids the joy of serving others. There is a lie that many of us in society have bought, not only for ourselves but for our kids to follow. The lie is that loving and taking care of #1 is the most importance. I have been briefly happy, but never full of joy by serving and loving myself. I have however witnessed a lot of people that live fulfilled lives by serving others with their time, resources and talents.

My family is unapologetically Christian. We have a very strong belief system and are compelled to serve in our home churches. While many people will not associate gratification with anything that they are compelled to do, let me state that for us, this is not the case. I believe that we are created to love and serve others. I have never experienced more of a sense of purpose in life than putting faith in action. My prayer is that my children and their children will hold fast to this wonderful lifestyle.

I started out with my children, identifying people in need. We would discuss it together. I would ask my kids if they noticed the same need that I did. Many times this would be a family that had either material needs or needed someone to helo them with a personal task. I would ask my children what they thought God would want us to do in that particular situation. Without exception, their response was to give or to work help those with the need, for the need to be met. 

On one occasion, we encountered a family that had been wiped out by Hurricane Katrina. They literally came to our communities with what they could stuff in the car. Everything else was gone. My oldest son noticed that an elderly parent who was bound by a wheelchair just sat around doing nothing in their small apartment. My boy asked me if he could give this elderly man his t.v. I was so choked up with pride. What an amazing experience that this was for our family. To see your children set an example for others in a selfless manner elevates you as a dad to the mountain tops. When I have told that story before, I have had people say, “well, you didn’t really let him give away his t.v., did you?” Of course, I did, and he was happier for it.

Something that we need to keep in mind is that an accomplishment contains more satisfaction than a material object. This is because it allows oneself to identify their character. In the book, The Price of Privilege, by Dr. Madeline Levine, it is discussed how possessions or lack thereof have very little to do with happiness, but the sense of knowing oneself has a significant impact. 

Another part of this lesson is for your kids to come to understand what “greatness” is. Albert Einstein was quoted saying, “The value of a man should be seen in what he gives, not in what he is able to receive.” To this day, I am never awed by those that have a lot. However, I am moved by those that give sacrificially. When we live in a world that takes and takes, it is wonderful to see people that will do all they can to help those in need, especially strangers. The “value” of those people is unmeasurable. Do you want your kids to be respected and admired? This comes hand in hand with acts of selflessness, never self-elevation, possessions, or desired social status. It is very simple. Love and serve people. The respect is automatic. However, when the desire is to be respected above serving others, the two never co-exist. Those that do for others only to be praised, are usually viewed with less regard than those that do nothing. In my personal view, those who serve to serve themselves not only fail to achieve respect but also rob others of the joy of serving in that specific capacity at that time. The bible states that only in humility is there true exaltation. “For those that exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

As a Christian, I look to the example that Christ gave, taken upon himself the role of a servant, washing the feet of the disciples. This action lacked any glory. There was nothing of prestige by serving in this capacity. Yet, he demonstrated it to show the disciples how they should serve others. 

I want my kids to be valued and respected. I want them to have joy and fulfillment in life. How ironic it is that both goals can be achieved by selflessness, giving, and a servant’s heart. Teach your kids the true source of value and joy. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon

Kids and Pets

The journey of caring for a pet teaches kids so many wonderful and important lessons in life. I am a dog lover…okay, fanatic. They just make me happy, and my kids have been raised around them. Let’s just say that we are a Fido family. It’s not that I hate cats, but I am taken back by the excitement and love that dogs can show.

As a child, I struggled with allergies and asthma. AlthoughI wanted to be around animals SOOOOOO much, my immune system and modern medicine were not up to par. Therefore I had to admire them from a distance or rush myself into scrub like a surgeon if I ever pet one. Praise the Lord that I grew out of that and that my children were not allergic.

We decided that we would have dogs as we raised our children. In that decision, we also included our children in every aspect of this responsibility. My wife had been a veterinary technician for many years and was as redneck as they come. Due to this fact, she was in charge by default. She was also stronger when it came to the circle of life and could take the lead on unpleasant tasks. This may not be the same for your family, but as for us, my wife was Dr. Dolittle.

As you can imagine, dogs have brought us a lot of joy, but equally as much of a pain in the butt due to the fact that dogs will be dogs. While young and learning, they all had a tendency to be destructive, forget where the bathroom is, and perform escape acts that would impress Houdini. Then there was the added stress of enjoying your pets while trying to prevent them from intruding on the neighbors, who may like them a lot less. This can range from barking late at night or very early in the morning to expressing their love or lack thereof for neighbors and their furry friends.

I must say that one of the biggest advantages that we experienced as a family was the protective nature of our dogs along with the unconditional love that they showed. This really gave my wife and me a peace of mind and an additional sense of well-being as our children were living at home. The downside was dealing with the circle of life.

Kids must understand about death. I have to admit that this has been the worst part of being a pet owner. However, it is a powerful teacher. My advice is that you NOT shield your child from these times. It royally sucks but does so much to teach about grief and compassion. I have to admit that I have to lean on my wife’s strength during these times. Losing a pet emotionally wrecks me. Perhaps my grief allows my children to be a part of the comforting factor. They know that it is a REAL sensitive area with me.

It is at this point that I want to stress the importance of vulnerability. Kids need to understand what makes us tick and hurt. There is a point of being tough for your kids. I understand that. I condone that strength. However, they need to see that dad “feels, hurts, and can show sadness”. These moments allow us to bond together in a unique and special way. Dads that resist this are missing out on a blessing as well as being a healthy example for their children. 

The other important lesson that kids can learn from caring for animals is that service is an expression of love. We feed, water, clean, clip, medicate and even pick up nasty stuff because we love our pets and want them to be as healthy as possible for as long as possible. In addition to this, kids can see that discipline can make for a happier animal. An animal that is taught to behave is more welcomed, included, and appreciated. This is an amazing opportunity to talk about your children’s happiness.

The last point to make is that there are times when the best thing to do is to NOT buy, adopt, or grow your animal family. We all love the sweet puppies that we come across. However, the discussion needs to be held about responsibility and what is best for the dog. There are many situations that do not lend the best care to an animal. Therefore, refraining from bringing them home can in of itself be an act of love.

The concept, love, and learning experience that our kids can have with animals are amazing. However, we still need to guide during this time. We need to have open communication with our kids concerning the benefits and hurdles that this lifestyle has. We need to examine the needs and resources of the family to make the best decisions. I hope you can enjoy this amazing experience with your kids. I hope that it can be a small part of YOU being the best dad possible.

Deacon  

Getting Fit for the Kids

Being a loving dad means that you take care of yourself in order to care for your family. If you are a loving father, it most likely shows. However, being there for your kids means that you do all that you can to “be there” for them. Dads need to make it part of their mission to live healthy lifestyles. Failure to do so can rob your children of one of the things that they need the most…you. 

At the time of writing this article, I am 50 years old. Wow, I had to pause and look at that number. This has got to be a mistake. How did time fly by so fast? It will happen to all of us. When my children were living at home, I was fortunate to have good health. I was no amazing athlete, nor did I always maintain a workout schedule or the best diet. However, I was always mindful and enjoyed healthy foods.

Now that my children are grown, I am noticing their reliance on me to “be here”. They are all amazing adults, but I am still a part of their lives as a fail-safe or idea checker. We have wonderful discussions about life, goals, and struggles. The subjects have added weight because they are doing life without a dad in control. Therefore it has been made clear to me that I need to do all that I can to live in a manner that will allow me to fulfill my new role in their lives.

The problem is that most dads start thinking of this too late in life. Living healthy is so much easier when it is put into practice at a younger age. However, you can only start where you are. The biggest stumbling block for most dads is that we like to conquer. Therefore we try to launch ourselves into our “healthy practices” overnight. Let me tell you that this method sucks. If you are out of shape, you got that way over time. The same will be true for the healthy you. Start small in your journey. 

If you are not in “gym” shape, don’t dive off in the gym. I have done this several times and it was never long-lasting. Start by adjusting your schedule. Start by designating time to get out of the house, off your butt, and moving. What does this mean? It may be a walk, yard work, chores, or anything that makes you mobile. Repetition is the key to lifestyle change. As you become accustomed to your new activity, other steps will come more easily. 

When it comes to diet, I am no authority. However, I have found that having the mindset of introducing healthy foods instead of a pledge to avoid foods worked for me. I slowly started substituting a variety of “healthier” meals and snacks. After some time, this became the norm. I noticed that I was avoiding unhealthy foods by default. I am a man. I don’t like having things taken from me. Therefore, I gave myself healthier things. This means that I just added healthy choices instead of trying to eliminate the bad. Eventually, eliminating unhealthy foods became a matter of doing it because I wanted to.

This mindset can also be applied to your vices. We all have something that holds us back. For some people, it could be alcohol, tobacco, too much computer time, or television. Again, my method for addressing this was to “add to” what I was used to, not to simply eliminate. My vice was alcohol. I love beer and or cocktail hours, which could be anytime that I had “downtime”. So, I added tasks to my schedule to have less downtime. I know this may sound weird, but it worked for me. As a result of not having as much downtime, I noticed not only productivity but also my energy level rise. Thorough time, this gave birth to more rewarding activities and reaching more goals. In turn, this has served my children well. It suggests that I will be around longer and more productive for them and their families. 

As I have stated in a prior blog post about the “Secrets of Life”, there is no secret. You have to “move forward”. This is done by one step in front of the other until you turn around and look down from the mountain that you just climbed. For your sake and that of your family, you need to move forward. Just “add” the little things. Eventually, you will have a new and healthier lifestyle. There is no magic pill, best exercise machine, or miracle diet. You do not have to waste money to live better, strengthen yourself, and benefit your family. You need to get busy.

Making changes takes dedication, but it does not have to be overwhelming. It is easy for us dads to love our kids, so let them be your motivation. I know so many fathers that would take a bullet for their kids. I’m sure you are one of them. Therefore I want to challenge you, not to take a bullet, but to live healthily for them. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon 

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Teaching Kids about Variety

Introducing variety to your kids will broaden their world and expose them to their own personality cookbook. The last thing that I wanted for my children was for them to be clones of myself or my wife. I wanted them to have their own recipe for what makes them unique. The best way for them to understand the spices of life is to experience them. So what are the spices of life? Am I talking about living in a manner that throws caution to the wind? The answer to that is no. However, fun and experience can be somewhat adventurous.

For your kids, let’s start with the senses. What they see, hear, smell, taste, and feel are paramount to their development. It is important that we introduce them to experiences that can mold them as individuals. For my family, this started with taste. You don’t have to venture much further than your grocery store to find new food and taste ideas. It can be a lot of fun to shop and cook together something new. I have found that it is a very healthy thing to switch up the diet and not stay with the same thing all the time.

Take time to go to places that are new. You don’t have to spend a lot of money. One thing that my wife and I wanted to do was to travel. However, when money is limited, you can always bring the world and even a time capsule to you by visiting museums. Being able to see history and creations from all over the world are amazing learning experiences for your kids. Take the time to ask them what they like. Ask them to explain why they appreciate a specific exhibit or piece of art. Don’t tell them what is good or not. Don’t express to them what art is or is not according to you. Tell them what you like if they ask. Express to them how awesome it was to see those pieces or exhibits with them. Applaud their interpretations, insight, and imagination.

Music is another element that needs to be experienced. This is where I have seen most parents struggle. We have our own tastes and many of us like to stay in this comfort zone. However, music is art whether you interpret it as such or not. For me, I appreciate many forms of music and try to keep my own listening spectrum as broad as possible. This to me is also like food. I don’t want to be a meat and potatoes man. I want to have different experiences that feed the mind and soul. Your kids may find other forms of music that they connect to. I DO NOT condone dismissing this experience to chance but suggest that you listen with them and discuss. Just as there are unhealthy diets, there are unhealthy messages that need to be monitored. Do your best to discern from content and taste.

Take your family’s entertainment away from the norm when possible. Walks, picnics, parks, plays, concerts, community events, church events, and many other activities will widen their perspective of the world around them. When possible, get them away from the “screen”. Encourage interaction with nature and other people. One thing that I use to do was to make a fire. We lived in the city, but I bought a small portable fire pit that we could use to roast hotdogs, smores, or just watch the fire. My kids would invite friends over. Believe it or not, this was a best seller in the entertainment area. Obviously it is more fun when it is cooler outside, but not mandatory. This was a great time to just “be” with my kids, their friends, my wife, and our friends. If you ever want to host an informal dinner party, make a fire. It is awesome and encourages conversation.

Activities that encourage human interaction, imagination, debate, and learning are awesome at providing your kids with the spices that will be their “dish” in life. Take time to discover the little things that others may fail to see or experience. The other day, we had our first cool front of the season. This came with rain, a breeze, and an obvious clothing change. I opened the garage door, sat outside, and listened to the most beautiful symphony. As I was covered by the garage, I could get close enough to the rain without getting wet, hearing the rain, wind, wind chimes, and birds. I was taken back to the times when my kids were young and the profound moments we experienced entranced in our own entertainment.

The last point is one that I personally would have wanted to do better at. When my kids were young, I did not have a passion for reading as I do today. I wish I would have encouraged reading more than I did. My daughter naturally gravitated towards books, but my boys and I were deficient. I used to think that life was all about doing. To my ignorance, I did not realize how much of a world that books could open up for me. I would have encouraged them to read, to read to me, and evaluate literary works. Bravo to you who are already doing this. You won’t regret it.

Take the time to introduce variety to your kids. Be a part of expanding their world and helping to find the spices that will form them into amazing individuals instead of part of the common crowd. Learn and experience together. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon 

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Learn from your kids

I have learned more about life, love, and more interesting stuff from my kids and students than in any classroom. When I first became a dad and a teacher, I had adopted a lie by default. The lie was that I was the one with all the answers. I was the teacher. I was the authority. I was the one who should be listened to. This was how I was raised. The teacher teaches. Kids are supposed to remain quiet unless the teacher calls on you to speak. Do you remember raising your had to ask a question or give your answer?

Learning for me as a child was watching and listening. Not that these elements were bad, but were structured through history and tradition as the role the learner would play. No one really questioned that method as far as I could remember. It was not until the development of learning technology that further interactions were encourage. The caveat to this was biology dissecting or art class projects.

Fortunately for me, I was surrounded by seasoned fathers, teachers, and educators. I in comparison fell short of the clout that would label me an expert on anything. However, I wanted to be better. I wanted to have more of an impact on the lives of my children and my students. My goal was to have better results and relationships than the grey-haired dads of old or the teachers with Ph.D.’s. How was I going to accomplish this? Play with them and listen.

I saught for my children and students to challenge me. I wanted them to go outside of our little circle of information and learn something they could teach me. This requires 3 things to see results:

  1. Give them extra points, attention, and or rewards for bringing you information.
  2. Have a humble spirit as a teacher. Be willing to learn or be proven wrong. Dare them to challenge you.
  3. When they rise to the challenge, thank them for making you a better dad or teacher.

This task is definitely aided by the internet and answers being at their fingertips. However, experience, debate, and reading are timeless resources for learning. In order to avoid a default click of the button and regurgitating someone else’s information. I needed for my kids to apply the information or expand on it. I needed to see that they made the data their own.

An example of this for my children was for them to research and learn advanced skills in their area of passion and teach it to me. For my oldest that was to learn something musically that I was unaware of, or to develop a technique that I was unfamiliar with or unable to reproduce. My middle and youngest kids were soccer players. They would bring skills, techniques, drills that would help me as a coach to teach other kids. It worked! They learned. I learned. As a bonus, we grew closer together.

For my students, I wanted to meet them in 3 areas that they would be willing to engage me:

  1. Technology – I gave them extra points on exams or exercises when they would bring me a new app or technology that I was not using, but could be applied to our subject matter.
  2. Battling the teacher – I invited them to challenge and prove me wrong. I also rewarded them for finding me information that strengthened my argument on a matter.
  3. Feelings – I engaged their feelings regardless of if it was for inclusion or a slight rebellion in order for them to become stronger thinkers and young people. We applied an analytical approach to something that they were passionate about. When tied into a topic of discussion, they were all over the idea that the teacher was willing to engage them, listen to them, and would not allow others to ridicule their ideas.

This idea for me was a win-win. Listen to your children and or students. Give them your ears. Challenge them to examine their own ideas. Challenge them to teach you. This will grow your relationship. It will also make you the best teacher or dad possible.

Deacon

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Get your Kids Outside

If you are a parent of young children, It is imperative that you get them outside. A developed love of playing outside makes a happier and healthier child. According to an article published by Sanford Health, kids today only average 7 minutes of unstructured outdoor play as opposed to 7 or more hours in front of a screen. I am definitely a fan of technology. However, today’s emphasis on it (even in academic settings) can lead to an unbalanced and unhealthy life if not counteracted by outdoors playing/time.

The benefits of playing and spending time outside range from better physical health, immunity, social/emotional development, better attention spans, and even happiness. This discovery is well documented and accepted by professional health and child development communities. However, these practices are becoming less common. What does that mean for our kids? Well, duh… perhaps the opposite effect on their lives. So why are parents NOT emphasizing what is best for their kids? That is easy. It takes time.

The technology screen is our go-to babysitter. Outdoors takes supervision. It makes us stop what we consider productive and feels like a chore. We don’t have to “deal” with the kids as much when they are glued to a screen. It has become a new pacifier. Without it, kids may fuss, complain, be a distraction, or make what we are doing more difficult. Am I right? Parenting is work. At times it is not convenient. It may mean being able to multi-task. We actually may have to schedule better. Am I hitting a nerve or getting an amen?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, despite efforts to raise awareness of the need for healthy diets and exercise, the average annual number of kids that would be marked as obese is around 13 million. This puts undue stress on their bodies and sets them up for adult health problems. I want to acknowledge that there are genetic and even economic issues that may attribute to these numbers. However, when these numbers reflect a sedentary lifestyle and poor diet, the fault falls to us as parents. We must invest the time and effort towards a healthier life for our kids. 

Outside play not only helps your child develop a healthy body and mind, but also may lessen the likelihood of them being bullied. Now wait a minute, everyone has heard of the playground bully. You may think, “this is where the bullying happens.” However, I want to submit to you that overweight children are far more likely to be bullied, left out, or made to feel unwanted. Fat-shaming does not need action or words. When it comes to academic and social groups studies show that overweight kids are chosen last more often than other children.

When my oldest child was 10 years old, he had spent 5 years living with his mother upon our divorce. At this particular time, he was overweight and was constantly dealing with school bullies. He came to live with me and told me that he was tired of being picked on. I immediately took steps to improve the situation. This did not include going to the school and yelling at the teachers and school officials that my kid was experiencing fat-shaming and that they needed to do something about it. I changed my boy’s diet, giving him healthy foods and GOT HIM OUTSIDE. This drastically changed his appearance in a matter of months. The bullying came to an end. He was healthier. He had more energy. The change was amazing, yet simple. Kids were meant to explore and learn. They are meant to have adventure and wonder. The digital screen does not give them the same exploration or experiences. 

As dads, we have a profound effect on our kids. We can determine the lifestyle that is implemented in our homes. This takes discipline, time, and selflessness to establish. We need to be a part of it. Unfortunately, many dads just say “go”. Get off your butts and be a part of the process. It will make you healthier as well. The result can be a stronger relationship, better obedience, and respect.

Unlike so many of the babies in the animal kingdom that are born and up on their feet and going within hours, our kids take much more time to develop. They need to be shown what to do. They need you. The healthy dad/child relationship relies on many factors. Yes, you may provide for them and protect them. However, they need to experience fun and adventure with their dads. It develops a healthier, happier, and better adapted young person. Give your kids the time they need. Get them outside and be a part of a healthy lifestyle. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon