DIY Trust

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deacon  

Daddy Do-Over DIY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OPPORTUNITY

by: Edward Rowland Sill (1841-1887)

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

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

Deacon

Public, Private, or Homeschool part 3

Your child’s education is a serious matter and investment in their future. Today in this final post of comparison, we will address homeschool as well as a summary of your choices. If you have not read part 1 or part 2, I invite you to do so by clicking on the link. In the chance that you may have any questions or comments, please send those to deacon@thedadmanual.com 

Homeschool to me is like gravity. I have seen its results, but I am not one that can do more than to report on what I have experienced with those in the field. Most of those that I know who have chosen homeschool have a history with it or have tackled the task as a result of their desire to keep their children out of the public education system. Most of those that have an academic plan catered to them do see many benefits. Those that I have encountered are particularly bright as well as inventive. 

On the downside, I have noticed a struggle with many of these students to navigate social circles unless they are part of a co-op that keeps the students engaged in group activities such as the arts and sports. It appears that the more social interaction that they acquire, the better they do in future endeavors. 

The only other downside that I can see with homeschool is the struggle that they may encounter in being accredited, thus enabling the students to be able to merge directly in a four-year college should they seek to do so without the transition of junior college. However, many of these programs have and are changing to benefit these students as well as others with alternative education documentation.

Every educational system will have its pros and cons. There is no such thing as a perfect situation when it comes to this topic. The best thing that you can do is to complete your due diligence. Educate yourself. One of the dumbest things that dads can do is to assume that we know it all. We are living in changing times. Not only is education like it was when you were young, but your kids are not just a mini version of you. You are your kid’s primary advocate, not the system. “They” do not know what is best for your child, nor do I. You do. This means that much of the responsibility is yours.

Fortunately for us today, we have the technology, information, and answers at our fingertips. Much of the information that you need is online. However, you must remember that online information is NOT unbiased. This information must be put there by individuals. These individuals are doing so with a purpose. They are either trying to promote a program or tear it down. Both of these should be taken with a grain of salt. Don’t hang your hat on all that you read.

You need to compare information and consider the source, especially when it comes to rating the program. As I posted earlier, ratings are the most subjective bits of info that you can read. Those that praise and give five stars are usually associated with the organization. Those that slam organizations can be isolated cases or just a disgruntled former employee or parent that discovered that junior was not the genius angel that promoted him to be. Most of the negative press that I read concerning the organization that I worked for over twelve years came from one of three sources. 1. A parent of a child that got kicked out due to behavior 2. A former student that was mad for being expelled 3. Or the disgruntled former employee. This does not represent a general consensus. It represents those with an ax to grind.

After you take information with a grain of salt, interviews, and face to face encounters are a must. Gather information from other parents, as well as meet school officials. I recommend developing a list of questions or concerns. After you research these questions online, take them to the school administration. Many parents may feel awkward about scheduling such meetings. You have to get over this and remember that this is for your child. 

In conclusion, I would not rate one particular form of education over another. There is however one that is best suited for your child and your family situation. It ultimately comes down to knowing the facts and making a decision. They need your involvement regardless of what you decide. Be a part of the journey. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon  

Public, Private, or Homeschool part 2

While educational options are constantly developing, according to the Huffington Post, “in 2021, it is projected that private schools will have 9% of the US student population. That being said, the majority of young people attend public school. Whether this is a preference or a status held begrudgingly, many parents may not have the down-low on private school life enough to make an informed decision as to if this to be considered. 

Today, I will specifically give you my evaluation of this environment for your consideration. The first assessment that many parents consider is the cost. However, if you find an educational environment that best serves your child’s needs, consider the cost after you weigh the pros and cons…obviously putting the cost as a con. The first element to consider is safety. 

The larger the population, the higher the risk of an incident. This is sheer numbers and common sense. More students to manage is more difficult than a smaller group. Secondly, most private schools have application and interview processes for admittance. Schools will have automatic disqualifiers such as a history of violence, emotional disturbance, drug use, or other behavioral issues. Is this evaluation full proof? Absolutely not. Although school records are required, letters of recommendation acquired, and a trained interviewer assessing the child, information can go undiscovered. Most of the time in my experience, parents of troubled students will cover up or even lie for their child to get them into the school. 

Private schools in general also have a higher standard of behavior as well as academic performance that students must adhere to or risk being removed. The counterpart to this guideline is that private schools rely strongly upon tuition. Depending upon the financial stability of the institution, there may be strict or lax adherence to admittance guidelines. Ask for a financial report. Pay special attention to the endowment amount as well as the annual budget for the clearest picture as to the health of the institution. The healthier they are, the less they need numbers and are therefore able to be more selective of their student population.

Next, you should be granted access to student body testing results as well as a report of academic achievements, college acceptance rates, military enlistment, and sports or other competition results. Although these numbers do not guarantee success or the healthiest environment, it is a good indicator. 

Next, talk to other parents. Don’t rely on online ratings, as these are usually dictated by extreme situations as well as staff testimonials as a part of marketing to offset negative remarks. When you do speak with other parents, it is easy and expected for you to hear about what they “like”. Ask the parents what they would change, or to give you an example as to any struggles that their children have faced at the school. Any report that is completely one-sided cannot be trusted.   

Finally, let’s get to the money. Why does private education cost as much as it does? The answer is simple. They must pay the salaries of their employees, pay the bills, and they do not receive state funding like public schools. Please keep in mind that teachers in private schools normally make around $10,000 less than their public school counterparts. This is good and bad. The reasoning, I will mention tomorrow in my 3rd and final post on this topic.

While the money is definitely a determining factor, keep in mind that most private schools have financial assistance. There are donors, programs, alumni, and even family that may be willing to assist you. The question is how badly do you want it. If getting them into a private school environment is what you want, you will try to find a way. Keep in mind my comment in part one of this series (click here to view). Vocational opportunities at many private schools come with tuition advantages for the children of employees. This is how I was able to manage our costs.

Your child’s education is a serious matter. It is one that takes assessment and investigation to arrive at an educated decision. Take the time to do your due diligence. Be well informed. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon    

Public, Private, or Homeschool?

School choices are not always on the menu for parents. Depending on the many factors of the family make-up, many if not most kids find them having to survive the academic years without any advantages from the starting line. They will have to succeed with their intelligence and home support systems. 

Today is the first of a series that I will address on this very important topic. There is just too much information to contain the information needed to optimize your child’s success. Therefore this will be followed up in 2 more posts. Today I will intro some pros and cons.

As a former educator in the private school sector, I can validate only through what I have witnessed, the pros and cons of different educational environments. How can I evaluate the public schools and home school education, only by the performance evaluations, testing records, and testimony of those that came from those sectors to our private institution? I was a part of the admissions department for a time that would interview families and students prior to enrollment. Due to this, you may surmise that I would have more negative things to say about those environments due to the fact that those I encountered were seeking to move to private education. This is not in itself true.

I grew up as a product of the public education system. My kids all began their academic careers in the same. In hindsight, I would only say that 1 of my children “needed” a private school education. The other 2, while they did see benefits, could have succeeded just as easily in a public school setting, and in some areas, more so than their private school could provide.

When you are evaluating schools, the first thing that you need to do is to assess your options. Before you move to the evaluation of your child’s needs, explore if there are ways that you could increase those options. I could not afford a private education for my kids. However, many private schools offer discounts if not free tuition for the children of employees. This was the route that I took once my kids were through elementary school. We did not have the education background, connections, or the financial means to choose to homeschool. Therefore, at that time, we only saw 3 options. 1. The local school 2. Moving to a district of a school that may have a better reputation, or 3. Private education.

Knowing your options, you then must assess your child’s needs. This is not only academic but social in nature as well. My oldest child was a loner. He was not big for his age and had struggled with bullies in elementary school and the beginning of Middle School. Being able to provide him with an alternative was a true blessing. In a more controlled environment and a smaller student/teacher ratio, he was able to flourish.

My younger two were more social, street smart, and made friends easily. They desired to attend our private school because they liked the environment. A smaller population allowed them to stand out in many ways that public schools may not share the limelight. For organizational and sporting activities this held true. However, when it came to their overall class rank, it hurt them. Let me be specif as to how that works.

One of your child’s measurement of collegiate opportunity is their grades. However, the other aspect is how they compare with the performance of others. Public education in the United States is free. We must offer it regardless of a child’s abilities, resources, or even behavior (within certain limits). Due to this fact, the number of kids that attend public schools vs. private schools, this makes public school ranking far less competitive. It is much easier to rank in the top quarter or even the top 10%. Thus, these students have an advantage over private school students, where the majority will attend college, and the margin of competition is much closer due to the lack of numbers.

Let me state clearly that I have changed my position on the mandatory college way of thinking. For the longest time, I associated college with success. In itself, this statement just is not true. Many people without a college degree have more success than that of graduates. A degree does not mandate that you are smarter, more skilled, or are more financially secure in the future. Depending on the field that you pursue, it serves as a notch in your belt but means nothing about your character, or what kind of an employee that you will be. The important thing is to discuss your child’s strengths and weaknesses. Explore together what options and directions. You cannot “make them” achieve goals. You can, however, walk with them. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon

Stay tuned for part 2

Teaching Kids to Argue?

Is it important for kids to know how to argue? When we default to the idea of kids arguing, we generally think of them misbehaving. I would, however, stress that there is a huge difference in making an argument and showing disrespect. Children need to know the power of debate and verbally striving for their goals, and what they feel is right? The question is, how could we, or why would we encourage them to argue their point. Please notice that I did not say encouraging them to be argumentative. If you are arguing a point, aren’t you being argumentative? I believe yes and no.

As parents, we don’t want a child challenging our authority on every issue or request. We want them to be obedient. Getting back to my double edge answer of yes and no, I believe that the word argumentative is associated with misbehavior. Arguing a point could be a completely positive and healthy mode of communication. We have to develop an understanding with our kids as well as laying a set of ground rules to develop this skill without losing control in our homes.

The foundation begins with knowing right from wrong. So, what is right and wrong? On what we call the big DOS and DON’TS, most of us would probably come to an agreed consensus. Do good. Don’t hurt. Show respect. Don’t lie…etc. Since these principles align with biblical teachings, many of us can and do refer to these rules for living as God’s rules. 

After the “biggies” which has to do with life, the secondary list of rules could be the rules of the home. What are some examples of these? Establishing a curfew, chores that must be performed, and restricted activities such as the use of electronics could serve as a start. Many of these house rules are handed down from generation to generation. Some of these rules have to do with the established character of the child as well as the conviction of the parent.

In my home, I would not put up for debate the idea of God’s laws or the “biggies”. However, if my children ever wanted to argue for an amendment to the home rules, they were allowed to do so if they did not break the big rules in doing so. Some dads may think it ridiculous to open up this hornet’s nest. Dad’s word is final. Well yes, I understand that. However, it is your job as a dad to assist your kids in all manners possible that will benefit their future. That being said, they don’t need to be puppets for in the world that they live. Their ideas and words are important. Especially, when it is for the rights of others, reaching healthy goals, and the benefit of the family.

As a dad, I encourage my kids to challenge ideas, requests, information, or attitudes that don’t promote a fair opportunity, Godly behavior, or honor the family. I have to be the first to admit that I don’t always get it right. Everyone needs to be held to a standard. The desire of my wife and me is that they would stand for these issues. 

Importantly, your kids need to understand that arguing a point, even if they are right can be viewed as disrespect by others. This is why it is so important to discuss ideas. Your kids need to know where you and your faith lies on a plethora of topics. They need to know that you will support them should they argue a point in school, community, or even a place of worship. 

In our society/community, there are those that will abuse power, deny fair opportunity, try to silence us, or violate standards that we believe in. They need to be heard. They need to be supported. This support and encouragement can take your relationship of trust with your kids to another level. However, MUST stand firm on your foundational rules and beliefs. NEVER compromise your principles to be popular with your kids. This will backfire on you in the long run.

Your kids need to show respect, be truthful, and seek truth in their discussions and debates. Making an argument for what is right needs to be viewed as a healthy and honorable action as long as it is done showing proper respect. There is nothing disrespectful to say that a hurtful action is wrong. Therefore, they need guidance as to how to fight for what is right and possibly show dissent.

Arguing is an art that takes time and a compass of morals to do properly. Help them to be independent and strong. It is important that you show them proper and improper examples of both. This can be done easily with today’s technology. Tell them what you will support. Show them what behaviors and actions that you will not support. Give them the tools needed to a strong representative of the values that you hold dear. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon 

Getting Help Follow-Up

Trying to do everything by ourselves is a foolish way to live as well as a poor example for our kids. Today is a follow up to my blog post yesterday entitled Teaching Kids about Getting Help. In that article, one point was to encourage our kids to be problem solvers. Now, I want to look at the extreme opposite of this approach. 

Do you have any men in your family, now or in the past, that refused to go to the doctor? I say men because we are usually the most guilty of this particular mindset. I call this the “rub some dirt on it crowd”. It is composed of 3 kinds of men. 1. Stubborn 2. Scarred 3. Combo of 1 and 2. Everyone has fear. Unfortunately, old school thinking says that men are not supposed to feel or show it. The outright stubborn man usually dies earlier than he should. Whether it is stubbornness or fear, it is the wrong message to portray to our kids.

There are many issues that we should not try to face by ourselves. Health (physical and mental) issues obviously would rank #1 to this author. Other situations could be those that we lack the proper knowledge or expertise. An example of that for me is mechanics. If I work on a car, there is a big chance that I will cause more damage than good. I need to defer to the professionals. My kids will shout amen at this one. Lastly, there are situations in life that are much better to handle with the support of others. These could be issues of weight loss, addiction, or spiritual growth. 

There are issues that we will face that are beyond our abilities to conquer or cope with. We need to understand that getting help is essential. For men especially, this can be embarrassing. We don’t like to admit weakness. For many of us, we only turn to others for help when we have hit rock bottom. This is especially true when it comes to unhealthy lifestyles. 

The other night I was researching addiction by observing online forums and chat rooms for alcoholics. It is designed for a 24/7 resource for those that are trying to stay sober. While I must agree that we spend too much time plugged into technology, I believe that a resource such as this is amazing. However, as I was reading, I ran across several participants who were complaining about the “God” references in AA’s 12 step programming. One individual posted, “I think AA is great, but I wish it did not have religious overtones”. 

According to an interview that I watch on the Jackass star Stevo’s struggle with drugs and alcohol (see the interview…viewer discretion advised), he said that only 5% of alcoholics will be victorious in their struggle and recovery. That being said, why would someone NOT want to invoke God for help? If you knew that most people will fail in their attempts to get healthy. Would you want to place your success rate in the hands of those that will most likely fail? I say this for 2 reasons. 1. I know that I am sober only by the grace of God. 2. If I REALLY want help, I want it from those that have the highest probability of success, not those that I may be the most comfortable with.

I feel strange combining the scripture with a Stevo quote, but I believe that there is a great visual in these examples. Bare with me and see if these make sense to you. John 15:5 New International Version (NIV)

5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. Stevo said that we are like refrigerators. We must remain plugged in, or everything goes bad. 

We need others. That does not mean that we should rely on other people for everything. As the last post stated, kids need to struggle and try to fix their issues. This, however, does not negate the idea of God and the community. Our kids need to know that both approaches to problem-solving are important. As a Christian, I believe that invoking the help of God is important whether you are alone or in a community. I pray that God will empower me, or that he will give me the wisdom to conquer a particular task or struggle. The answer may be revealed to me to fix the issue with or without others. However, I need to utilize the resources provided.

Pride can a real killer. We and our children need to understand humility and the grace that can come from having such a spirit. Others will have a much easier time coming to our aide when we are humble. This is also scriptural for those who follow biblical teachings. Show your kids how and when to invoke the assistance of others. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon

Teaching Kids about Getting Help

Dads need to teach their kids where to turn for help. This may sound like a no brainer. However, turning to the wrong sources for help, or always seeking help can actually hurt them in the long run. As dads, we want to be the one to help our children when they need it. We like to fix problems and have the right answers. The problem with this way of thinking is elementary. We are and will not always be around. Secondly, although we may be brilliant, there are topics beyond our expertise and places where we have little authority. Finally, we want our kids to learn how to fix problems on their own when possible. This will make them independent and stronger as they become teenagers and young adults.

The key is for your child to know when he/she cannot remedy a situation on their own, to be willing to ask for help and to know the best resource for the remedy that they need. This lesson starts with us as dads being honest about our own levels of knowledge, ability, or the lack thereof. Some may think this shows weakness, but I would argue the contrary. Honesty builds trust regardless if the information is good or bad. The other part of that scenario is that we have to remember that providing our kids with resources is part of helping them solve problems.  

When they are babies and little, you as dad will have a more hands-on solution to their needs. This is because their needs are basic: food, shelter, protection, and love. However, as they grow and their world expands, so will their need for others that can assist them with their goals and struggles. 

No man could love my kids more when they were little. However, regardless of how much I loved them and wanted them to have their heart’s desire, there were some things that were beyond me. There were some situations that I was powerless to assist them. An example of that was “making the team”. If you have read many of my other posts or my book, Surviving the Smiles, you know that 2 of my kids had quite impressive soccer careers. I was a soccer coach for little kids, as well as a licensed select team coach. As a former player myself, I had the knowledge of all the basics for them to learn the game and enjoy themselves. However, as they got older and their skills developed, they grew beyond my abilities to take them to the next level. I had to seek out the right people who could meet their desire for something bigger. In a sense, I had to turn them over to the professionals.

When faced with these challenges, the important thing for you as a dad is to research their options and find the right people/resources. Although you may not have a direct impact in every situation, introducing and supporting outside help carries a lot of responsibility. There are good teachers and coaches, and there are those that suck. Keep in mind that what determines this is not how your kid performs, but how they develop. Growth is key. Your kids won’t always win and there is usually someone better…somewhere. Don’t blame teachers and coaches if your kid messes up. Just because Junior didn’t make the team, that doesn’t mean the coach is the one with the problem.

Kids need to have a work ethic that drives them to want to be and do better. The responsibility lies with you as a parent. These lessons come at an early age. Secondly, the truth is that kids can accel in certain areas and fall behind in others. Are you trying to force something that is beyond their capabilities? Should efforts and time be placed in a different area?

We need to encourage our kids NOT to rely on others to fix everything. They need to struggle. Yes, they need to work out, work through, fight for, and learn to solve problems. They also need to learn how to seek out resources and research those resources. By teaching them to do these things, you are setting them up for success. This is accomplished by you showing them how.

Lastly, I have found an absolute truth that ALL kids need to know. They need to address adults as sir and ma’am. They also need to show gratitude. Adults want to help respectful and grateful kids. Most of them will go out of their way to help this type of kid/teen. It is an art form. Do you want your kids to GET more, be considered above others, and to keep resources? Teach them manners! Sir, ma’am, thank you and please are GOLD! Show them how to show appreciation, write thank you notes, how to speak, and how to conduct themselves. This is a WIN-WIN. Doing this alone will give them such an advantage. It also helps you to be the best dad possible.

Deacon

Kids, Movies, Music, and Media

According to studies at the University of Michigan med.umich.edu, children between the ages of 2-5 years of age spend an average of 32 hours per week watching television, DVDs, DVR, or on a gaming console. For kids ages 6-11 the average reported was 28 hours per week. In addition to this, it is reported by marketwatch.com that teens spend an average of 8 hours on their phones per day.

Let’s take a look from a different perspective than most writers would address. I have spoken about the importance of getting outside and imagination. Let’s look at the input. More specifically, let’s think and talk about the information that your kids are subjecting themselves to, whether this is with or without your blessing and enabling. Your kids are being taught. Their teachers are not only you or those adults in a classroom.

Information is all around us and gets in our heads whether we want it to or not. Think of a commercial jingle or a song that you don’t like, but can sing it almost without flaw. We don’t have to like or agree for it to process. To me, I have always told my kids that information was like leftovers in the refrigerator. You need to be aware of them and use them or discard them in a timely manner. If you don’t, they will deal with you by creating a mess and/or smell that you don’t want around other items.

So what is the information that we need to use or discard? Primarily these are new pieces of information that either you have not addressed or do not want your child to process at a particular time, due to the maturity of your child and the topic. The other reason for concern could be information that opposes and or challenges your sense of values. Again, the amount of time that you allow or enable your kids to spend unsupervised with the various sources of information is something that you have to judge and balance. 

As a side note, the data presented in the reports that were stated at the beginning of this post alarms me. My primary concern is in simple math. According to the studies, these media sources inform and teach my kids more than I do. What about you? Do you personally engage your child 32 hours a week where they sit in front of you to watch, listen, and interact? How about your teenagers? Do they check on you and interact with you 8 hours a day? Forget for a second “what” they are seeing, hearing, and interacting with. We learn by experience, which means we learn the lessons that are reinforced time and time again. Repetition is key to learning and development. So where and with whom or what is your child learning from?

One of the urgent messages that I hope you pull from this article is that we need to be aware of what the media promotes as values and important. This again can easily stand in opposition to what you wish for them to adopt as healthy and moral. Your children will receive conflicting messages. The scary part is that they will see, hear, and interact with media more than with you if you allow it. 

So what specifically are they learning? Songs, commercials, online ads, movies, television, and even games reinforce an attitude of entitlement. Watch television commercials. “Get what YOU DESERVE”. You will not watch an evening of t.v. without hearing it. “It’s your life”, “You have to look out for #1”, “You have to take care of yourself first”, “Be true to yourself”, are all combined to promote quite a narcissistic way of thinking. Let’s not forget ideas about sex, marriage, violence, body image, and the definition of “what makes us happy”.

I realize that you have probably developed a bond of trust and love with your child. However, like old leftovers in the “frig”, it is impossible for the information in media NOT to affect your kids. Therefore, it needs to be managed and discussed. This means that you need to be aware of what they are watching and listening to. In some cases, you may need to prohibit a particular form of media. Outside of that, I encourage you to ask questions.

Asking them what they think and get them talking about what they see and hear gives them a sense of value when it comes to their opinion. This in turn (when they are heard) can make them more receptive to your thoughts and ideas. Don’t get me wrong, you are the parent and set the rules. However, when you see an opportunity to listen to them, this builds trust. The better the sense of trust, the more they will heed your thoughts and directives. Use listening as a tool.

Taking the easy road is to let them do what they want to avoid conflict. THIS IS NOT GOOD PARENTING. It is you being lazy and not loving them enough to go through difficulties for their betterment. If you want your child to have a healthy and productive education, you must be involved. This goes beyond setting rules. It means YOU learning and developing with them. Take the time to manage the “frig”. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon  

Don’t Lie to Your Kids

Every parent wants to protect their children. This is not just true about physical safety, but their emotional well being. Unfortunately, many people choose to lie to their kids with the intent of shielding them from pain and/or disappointment. In the long run, this can do more damage than good. While we think of protecting them, we are also being untruthful. In many cases, this can break trust or fail to arm them with the ability to address difficult information.

I have referred to this before in earlier writings, but one of my favorite quotes was in a lecture given by Dr. Jordan Peterson. He asked the question, “do you want your children protected or strong?” We need to prepare our kids for life. This not only has to do with loss and struggle but also personal limits.

Your kids, as well as mine, are not the best at everything. They will have certain gifts. However, the idea that they can accel at anything is just not true. This is something that I needed to face with my own kids. My oldest child was/is an amazing musician. When it came to sports, um…not so much. So, what do I do? Do I try to convince him and myself that he is? Do I set him up for disappointment? 

My advice is to be honest with your kids. This doesn’t mean that you have to just tell them that they suck at something. It is, however, important to classify an activity or ability as a pleasant past-time or for competition. Music could be an example to address. There are those that love music. They collect it, sing at their house, go to concerts, or even join a church choir. I don’t believe in squelching a love for a particular thing. However, when it comes to pursuing music as something to “hang your hat on”, anything less than an honest assessment is not serving your child’s best interest. If they lack true performer qualities, I would suggest that you present them with alternatives.

Another point is to know your child’s “thick skin” or lack thereof. My daughter loves music. One day when she was approximately 10, she was messing with my guitar and singing. All of a sudden, she stopped, looked at me, and said, “I suck at this, don’t I”. I nodded. Before you throw me under the bus and drive forward…and back up…and drive forward, I said, “do you love music”? She nodded. I said, “me too. However, I’m not the best guitar player”. I suggested to her that she was an amazing drawer, athlete, and speaker. I pointed out that I believe it was one of those areas that she could stand out and shine. She did.

I took an approach with my kids that I would not tell them what they wanted to hear if I believed it to be untrue. I would tell them what they needed to hear, and what I believed to be correct. This did wonders for our trust relationship that is intact to this very day. Above all, I wanted my kids to believe that dad would be honest. This meant that I would value this principle over a brief smile or happiness based on an untruth. Please take special note that I said “honest”, and not “correct”. I can be wrong. There are some things that I don’t analyze correctly. The important thing is that I set aside my bias as much as possible to give my children my best assessment.

What can a harmless lie do to a child? Go on youtube and watch the auditions for American Idol. There are people that have been lied to about their abilities, only to be crushed publically. Many times I believe that the parents must be in denial. Perhaps they can’t see past their bias opinions. To me, I would view such encouragement as an outright failure as a parent.

Television shows are just a visual of what is going on in every community. Let me restate that there is nothing wrong with having a love and a passion. However, children must have the tools to develop and accel. If they do have the basics and wish to sharpen, polish, and fight for something, I would say let their passion push them to it. Whether they fail or succeed, praise them for their courage and encourage them to move forward.

Finally, it is important to teach your kids about the “pond”. They need to understand that in a small community, they may be the talented one. However, this talent is in comparison to the other fish. As they move to a “bigger pond”, they will find more competition and bigger fish. In that new pond, they may not be the stand out fish that they were. This requires another assessment to evaluate ability and passion, and you as the parent may not be qualified to give an accurate judgment call. Be honest with your children. Let them know that you may need to defer to those with more experience in this particular situation. 

Set your children for success. Don’t hide them from the truth about life or their abilities. While honesty may have an initial sting, they can grow to trust you above all others. Be willing to be strong enough for them. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon