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

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

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

Fathering Older Children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deacon

Letters from Dad

Written affirmations and encouragements are invaluable tools that will go beyond you. How can you optimize your impact on your children? Put it in writing. To me, this has been especially apparent in the life of my daughter. By no means am I saying that it cannot have a huge impact on your boys, but I am convinced that daughters have a special treasured place in their hearts for such things.

Dads, your kids have different needs for guidance and teaching. However, they all need affirmation. This encouragement needs to be spoken and written. You don’t have to be a great writer to create notes of affirmation. “You are awesome.” “I love you.” “I’m so glad you are mine.” “You make my life so much better.” These will do more for the confidence and self-worth of your child than anything you could buy them or provide for them. 

More than ever, we are seeing how the role of dads is crucial in the lives of kids. This does not take away from the loving mother, but it does impact their lives in very specific ways. Kids with loving dads are shown to perform better in school and sports. They are less likely to develop unhealthy dependencies, less likely to develop a criminal history, and less likely to experience pregnancy prior to graduation.

Obviously, more is required than our presence. We need to be that rock for them. We also need to strive to be great communicators. My father, now 87 years old told me that his father loved him. He knew this. However, he could only remember his father saying “I love you” once. To me this was tragic. This also meant no cards or letters of admiration and affirmation. My dad did his best to do a better job for me and my sisters. However, this was difficult for him due to the fact that he had no personal model of this behavior.

One time, my dad told me of a time that he got into a fight in grade school. Back then, corporal punishment practices were much more severe. There was not a whole lot of positive reinforcement. However, he remembers his teacher taking him into the classroom and giving him a hug. My father wept. It is indescribable what love and affirmation do for a child at any age. We cannot rely on what they should know or their memory of the last time you encouraged them.

I know that you probably are encouraging and loving. However, this needs to take a higher priority with fathers in general. To me, I have found it invaluable to write things that will go beyond me, meaning my unpredicted lifespan. I may live to be a very old man. I may be gone tomorrow. That is why it is crucial for me not to wait or delay in getting on this train. My kids will need sources of referral when I am no longer around. What a treasure it could be to have letters, notes, texts, emails, etc. 

Another reason that I have found for implementing this practice, is that I don’t want to create an excuse for my children to fail. We live in a society where few people don’t blame others for their problems and failures. I believe it is important for my kids to own these times in order to grow and prevent an unhealthy cycle of excuses. Dads, if you don’t know by now, a lack of father’s affection is a default button for kids to dwell in mistakes and failures. Don’t allow this in your family. Your written affirmation will give them the “I can” attitude to pull themselves through the difficult times. 

The final benefit or “win win win” is what such practices will do for your marriage. Your kids are going to grow up and leave. Your wife will most likely still be around. You need to understand how a practice of love and affirmation affects your spouse. Your love for her children is by default an additional show of love for her. It brings peace to the home, makes you more respected, makes you more attractive…yes I said it. It makes you appear to her as the man she is proud of.

We don’t have any guarantees for tomorrow. Time is not on our side. Don’t let chances pass you by. Take time to write a note, send a text, a card, or an email. The benefits are overwhelming. Be who you need to be for your kids. 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 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

When Kids Walk Away

Sometimes kids go their own way. This can be positive or devastating depending on the situation. Let me clarify when I say kids, I mean your kids or mine. This has nothing to do with age since your kids are your kids all your life. We can guide them as dads only so far in life. Many fathers think they can force changes in the ways that their “kids” think or interpret life. There are standards and guidelines that we can implement or even demand under our roof. However, there are times when we can meet the brick wall. What do we do then?

Sometimes kids take a turn in their areas of interest and passion. This could be a healthy situation that we may initially interpret as bad. An example of this could be choosing a different path after high school graduation than what “you” planned. This happened with “ALL” 3 of my kids. However, all of them are more successful now than they probably would have been on “my” plan. It was not they “rebelled” against me. It’s just that they took life in a different direction. I’m so glad that I did not become a force of resistance or difficulty.

On the other hand, there are times when kids can walk away from our guidance in a very destructive way. There are those that will resist and not listen to anyone. I have one buddy whos son is battling alcoholism and legal battles. I can tell you that this does not stem from a lack of love on the part of the father. It is baffling to make sense of it. It is like the boy has completely gone deaf to correction or common sense.

Another situation hits closer to home for me. My wife had 3 daughters from her first marriage. Around 2005, they began to disassociate from her. We had no understanding as to what was happening. One by one from the oldest to the youngest over a period of about 4 or 5 months, they walked away and she has not seen them since. 

I have to confess that as a stepfather and a husband I was at a loss. There was never anything that could be interpreted as mistreatment by either my wife or myself. They just pulled away. My wife decided not to do a hard confrontation with either the girls or their other family. To this day we still don’t know what happened. I know it sounds weird and to me, a bit pathetic. I am a “fixer”. I want things to be right and make sense. Well, this time I had nothing to work with. I had no explanation, plan, fix, or understanding. Only dads that have been in this situation would understand.

As dads, we have a huge impact on our children. However, we cannot control and fix everything. Having an understanding of this did not come along until my kids were grown. I definitely did not have a clue while they were young. I was dad. Hear me roar. I saw other dads struggling and viewed them as weak or as not having it all together. My kids were going to stay on the path that I had envisioned in my head.

Does this give us an excuse to not assume responsibility for our role? Absolutely not! I believe that as a dad, we will be held accountable for our advice, parenting, and guidance beyond the years that our kids are at home. However, we must realize that these kids are individuals and not a mere extension of us. They are going to make mistakes. Choices are going to be made that would not have been ours. This does not mean that we should condone or enable them to live unhealthy lifestyles. Therefore we must examine the true nature of their decisions. If they go their own way on a topic, that is not always negative. If they choose a destructive path, that is altogether different. 

Unhealthy lifestyles are those that negatively impact them or those around them. What do you do? I first advise that you pray. Secondly, I advise that you develop a support system of family and friends that are willing to partner with you in addressing the situation. Finally, I advise that you get professional guidance and or clergy to run your ideas by. Develop a plan to best impact your wayward child. Gather information and discuss it with those you trust.

Some problems will not work out no matter what we do. This is a sad reality. It does not mean to give up on your kids, but sometimes we must seek damage control for the well-being of all those involved. Sometimes it requires us to make difficult and unpleasant decisions. This does not mean that we love them any less. Sometimes it means being willing to do anything to be the best dad possible.

Deacon

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