How Marriage affects Your Children

Marriage is a topic that has unfortunately been under-rated and not respected as it should by many young adults today. Perhaps this is due to our social environment as well as our failure as parents to teach the importance of this union to our children. I realize that many readers have beliefs that may differ from this writer, but as I will respect your right to voice your opinion, I will also exercise my right to express my beliefs and hope they will meet with equal respect.

I believe that the health of a marriage is crucial in the lives of children. It is the foundation of what they know as security and trust. They want to believe in mom and dad as individuals and as a team. This is a foundation that they walk on although rarely vocalizing its importance. We don’t talk about air much, but how crucial is it? Kids are resilient and adaptable, but no alternative situation is more ideal for a child than living with a mom and dad where there is a healthy marriage.

As men, we like to feel and act like we are strong, sometimes more so than we actually are. We want to think that we can do everything for our kids. You can’t. You can’t be a mom. You can perform duties and roles, but there is an emotional and spiritual connection between mothers and children that you cannot fake. They need a mom. We need to recognize this and nurture this relationship. We need to cherish our wive’s role and strive to treat this relationship with respect.

Now, let me lay a heavy point on you dads. You are the example to your children of how a woman should be treated. This is true for your boys and girls. You set the example. They are watching you. Many dads, especially those that struggle in relationships don’t like the weight of this fact, but it is true. The responsibility lies within your words and actions. 

I realize that there are women out there that can be a nightmare to live with. This is why I stress to you, that if you are single, do not get married for the sake of marriage. Being with no one is better than the wrong one. You need to realize what it is that you are committing to and spend much time in prayer and consideration before diving off into a relationship that is designed to be life long.

Now to soothe the minds of my lady readers. Men, I believe that 80% of failed marriages are the fault of the husband. When you get married, you give your life to another. This means that you cannot live selfishly. You cannot live for #1 and be successful. To me, the perfect example of how a husband should be can be found in scripture. Now, those that are not religious may want to skip over this part. However, I challenge you to read the following and then examine women and marriage according to this standard if you adopt these principles.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 English Standard Version (ESV)

4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[a] 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.

If we do nothing, but desire and strive to live this way, I cannot see the woman you love to not say, “I’m in”. “IF” we love this way. I believe that most ladies would respect and love this quality in us. The problem is that we think we can do this and maintain “I am man, hear me roar”. Do you want to be loved and respected? Then it starts with you, not with your wife. If you look at scripture we/men are given the command to love. So, not to burst your bubble, but if you are not feeling loved and respected, are you loving and living as the scripture definition above describes?

Our role as dads and husbands lie in our responsibility for our words and actions, NOT in the response of those around us. This is something that must be given effort and time. You can’t expect to live according to scripture definitions for a week and everything will be better. This is a commitment to your bride and to your children. We must be selfless, not selfish. We need to be the best husbands and dads 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

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

Do Kids need Respect and Privacy?

Can you respect someone and not allow them privacy? That question in of itself seems apparent. Obviously, if we don’t allow someone their privacy, we are not being respectful. However, in the world of parenting, this can get complicated really quick. We want our children to be respectful of the privacy of others. The obvious specifics of this include bathroom privacy and the changing of clothes. I mean that should be realized without a lot of explanation. We don’t want to embarrass others.

Respecting privacy is a broad subject. It can be as simple as leaving someone alone when they use the bathroom to more complicated issues of refraining from discussing sensitive matters. There are some unspoken and unwritten rules depending upon your culture and or social setting. Not walking into someone’s home or their bedroom without knocking would appear to fall into those categories. We as parents expect them to understand these things, but there are other ways of showing respect that they must learn over time. This, of course, has to do with expected words or behaviors that differ according to one’s environment. 

What about your kids’ privacy? Well, as babies, there is none. We change diapers, feed them, clean them, and determine there coming and going. Privacy at this stage really does not exist. I can remember when my children were babies. There was a ritual at our house when it came to our evenings before bedtime. My wife and I would feed them, then I would go get in the shower, hurry to get clean myself, then I would hear my wife say those famous words, “okay daddy”. The shower curtain would open and I would be handed a naked baby. After a relaxing shower, I would hand them back to my wife, who would dry them and put their pajamas on. Then they were ready for bed.

As kids begin to walk and able to do more for themselves, the natural progression came to give them more space. This freedom included the ability to choose and the right to basic privacy. The more they grow and their world expands, you as a parent will have to guide and determine their ownership and control over objects, their speech, and behavior. Once you do establish these boundaries, it is important for you as the parent to initiate respect for these boundaries and led by example. This means knocking on the doors of the bathroom or bedroom in order for them to establish their first steps of independence.

The more that their world expands, the more items of respect, ownership, and their rights will come into play. You establish what these rights are. They can and will differ from other parents’ rulings on several subjects. As you delegate to them what their rights are, it is paramount that you as a parent respect those rights outside of any rule violations by your child. Obviously, when rules are broken, rights and privileges can be lost. So where do we begin after the basics? Much of this will be determined by your child’s personality and maturity level. 

When my kids were old enough to go to school, my wife and I showed them how to help with laundry. If they helped with laundry, we would allow them to choose what they wore to school (obvious exceptions noted). We would respect them to express who they were with style and hair (again…within limits). The more freedom, respect, and privacy that they wanted came with a new responsibility. If they managed the responsibility, my wife and I would grant more freedom, privacy, and respect to them as individuals. I know that it can be quite complicated for many parents. For us, it was simplified. If they wanted to do, choose, and be respected, they had to obey the rules and be responsible. As long as that understanding was met, they enjoyed more control, respect, and privacy.

A key to ensuring this was to be consistent in discipline. If they violated the rules or your trust, the freedom, choices, and a good amount of privacy were forfeited. The problem that we as parents saw in others was that redemption was not always offered. If you are a parent, your child will screw up. However, it is important that you allow them to learn and grow from the experience. Discipline does matter, but so does forgiveness and redemption. Your kids must see that you are not going to hold mistakes over their heads and prevent them from progressing. Parents that do this will not experience a healthy relationship with their child/children. As a matter of fact, it can encourage them to shut down communication. 

Eventually, your kids are going to leave home. Do you want them to desire a relationship with you? If the answer is yes, you must initiate respect. I did not say to let them do as they please. What I am saying is that you work together through mistakes, showing them that you not only want to restore them but want them to have more. As a dad, I have come to the place where I must turn over the decisions to my children. They have all left the home. I need to continue to respect them and grant them privacy. This means not being so quick to offer advice. This means reaffirming that they are now in charge and are responsible for their own decisions. This took a lot of hard work and time. To be honest, it is an ongoing struggle for me. I want to do for and fix things when it comes to my kids regardless of how old they are. This journey with your kids is not easy at times, but it is essential for them to develop correctly. Take the time, communicate, and be consistent. Be the best dad possible.   

Deacon  

Prepared for Fear

Dads need to be prepared to deal with all sorts of crisis in the lives of our kids. That does not mean that we can “fix” all of the crisis, and at times, nor should we. In this short series about “Being a Prepared Dad,” we will discuss many situations that our children will or may face. To make more sense of this series, please go back and read yesterday’s post at thedadmanual.com.

One of the best places we can start is helping your child to deal with or conquer fear. This is or can be an issue that they will turn to you for help or guidance as long as you are alive. As an empty nester, trust me when I say that your job is not done when they leave home. It is also not an issue that only your child may turn to you for an answer or comfort.

One particular year, I was driving a school on a morning that we were having some substantial rain. As we began to drive, one of the students got a message from her parent that a tornado was spotted in or near the town that we were traveling to. Most of the time, this can be an overreaction to a nervous Nelly mom that lives on the planet Paranoia…not on this day. As we approached the town, I knew that if things got worse, I did not want to have these kids on the road. I needed to pull over and find shelter. 

As we got off the highway, the sky became green and the rain and wind started coming at us from our right side. I pulled the vehicle over next to a gas station along with other vehicles that were grasping the seriousness of the moment. With the vehicle parked, I was looking out the windshield as this storm surge began to rock the bus. All of a sudden I had a weird feeling. It was not the storm, but of something behind me. One of the kids, a usual cool cat was sitting right behind me…as close to me as possible. I know the moment was serious, but I laughed. How was “I” going to keep him safe from the storm? If the wind tosses the bus, will he be unharmed if he is next to me?

Not to leave a storm in mid-crisis…everyone was okay. What this situation drove home for me was that I was there. There was no evidence to support that I could fix anything about our situation. I was just there. As I look back on the lives of my own children, this was probably the most comforting thing that I ever did. I promised and proved to them that I would not leave them. I was prepared to endure with them the situations that I could not fix or should not fix. I will expand more on that concept in a moment.

This does not sound like great preparation for a crisis. It seems like you are doing nothing. I would strongly disagree. This is living in a commitment. Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you or forsake (abandon or give up on) you.” I have never seen a more supportive statement than “I won’t leave you no matter what”. Did you notice that this does not promise to “fix” or make a problem “go away”?

Dad’s, your kids need to know one thing for sure. They need to know that their dad won’t leave. No matter what they are going through, having a dad that is always there is a top priority. You can’t take away all their fears and concerns. You don’t have all the power nor all the right answers. So how do you prepare to “be there” for them? First of all, you must be observant. Remember that things which are no big deal to you can be scary for a child, or a teenager, or a young adult with little experience in a given situation. Don’t belittle their fear. Don’t blow it off and tell them to grow up. Stop and listen.

If you refer to the word STOP in my last post, you will see Stop. Think. Observe. Plan. Part of the correct observation is to read the situation by looking and listening. Just because you are the adult, it does not mean that you understand everything that your child is feeling. Stop and be there. Please note that the phrase “be there” may mean literally or figuratively. Be prepared to do whatever you can to meet their need. Many times, however, the greatest thing you can do is to be there. 

When my daughter was at my house, she knew that my arms were always there to hold her. As a married woman and living over a thousand miles away, she knows that I am there for her, anytime that she needs to talk with me or come see me. My boys know this too. They know that their dad doesn’t have all the answers. They do know that I will never walk away from them.

Lastly, there are times when you should knowing “not fix” a problem for a child, even if you can. Supporting them emotionally but letting them “deal with” a struggle helps them develop. These situations are like problems with friends, making the team, making the grade, getting a job, and other possible situations. This is being prepared to let them struggle. Notice however that you are still “there” loving them, supporting them, giving advice, or restraining yourself from it.

Stop and think about it. What do we want from those that we love? Want them to be there for us. We don’t need them to fix all their problems, nor can they. You also don’t have to be the fix for your child’s every concern and struggle. Be there. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon

When to Discipline a Child

Discipline is not fun but it is mandatory for your child’s safety and success. It also keeps people from hating you and your kid. I can remember so many times being in a restaurant and a child would be going off. I’m not talking about a child that does not feel well and the parents are addressing the situation the best they can. I’m talking about those little darlings that go into brat mode and are throwing a fit. This situation is heightened by parents that do nothing. I want to go over to the parents and politely explain that little Damien would stop ruining the meals of everyone in the restaurant if they would take the child to the bathroom or outside and deal with it. 

That kind of behavior was never tolerated at my house when I was little, nor did I tolerate that from my kids. It’s not a matter of beating and terrifying a kid. It is a matter of setting the rules early. It is also about being consistent. Not every kid needs corporal punish, some DO. You will have to gage that need for your specific child. 

All three of my kids were different in the discipline category. My oldest wanted to be a parent pleaser. He was easy to steer in the right direction. My middle child, just the opposite. It was like he could not sleep well unless the evening ended in his demise. My baby girl, I could say her name and it would stop her in her tracks.

So when do you start? You start from the moment that you find out that you are going to be a dad. You and your bride need to have discussions. The two of you need to make a plan. You must also realize that there will be a different reaction from the child depending on who is the one who executes the discipline. This is just a fact. Dad will get a different reaction from his child than mom will. Maybe not the initial reaction, but in follow up and instructions. You will understand when you get there.   

To be quite frank, it is a good idea to discuss child rearing issues before you commit to one another as a couple. Being at odds with you mate over discipline is a real thorn in the side of the relationship. I can remember times when my wife completely disagreed with my disciplining of the kids, especially my wild one…the middle child if you have forgotten. This kid knew how to push my buttons. There were many times that I had to give myself let alone him a timeout. 

Having a cool head is difficult. Our kids can anger us. It is a lot easier to discipline a child when you are emotional. That is why it is crucial that you give yourself appropriate time prior to implementing discipline. A child running into the street or trying to touch the hot stove is not one of these cases. I suggest the “go to your room” or escorting the child away from the situation whenever possible before letting the “lion roar”. Depending on if the situation allows, the time will allow you to calm down, or even to consult your spouse about the next steps.

They must know that you are in charge. Your kids need to know what the rules are and that you will act if those rules are violated. You are their parent, not their friend. You can be friends when they are grown, out of the house, and paying their own way. Through the years of teaching in the classroom, I would ask the kids (teenagers) if they received corporal punishment or time outs as little kids. During those years, I only had 1 teen that said they would parent differently when they had kids. The kids who received corporal punishment were not mad about it. As a matter of fact, most of the times they would say that there were times that they should have received worse than they received. I thought this was odd of this generation. This was exactly the way I felt as a child of the 70s…teen of the 80s. 

I asked those with strict parents how they felt about their upbringing. I received answers like “I knew they loved me”, “I always felt safe”, and “if my dad would not have taught me that way, I probably would have ended up seriously hurt or worse”. Those who had inconsistent discipline, if any would say things like “my parents don’t give a crap about what I do”. What? That was heavy. I understand that cultures can be different. I know that all homes can be different. However, this was my finding throughout the years in front of a classroom. Those that had strict parents felt loved and secure. They never said that they didn’t get mad at their parents. They were saying that their parents did the right thing.

Let’s discuss the elephant or a$$hole in the back of mind. What about abusers? What about crappy dads that beat/abuse their kids? I get it. These fathers need a lesson that is best for me not to talk about here. They do exist. I hate it. However, it also upsets me to see dads that won’t discipline. They give some of the lamest excuses. Check out this article from Very Well Family about the excuses given.

Your kids need for you to be strong. They need a dad that not only loves them but one that will also install the proper lessons for their well-being…even if the lesson is not pleasant at the time. Being the best dad possible means hard work. Some of the work is not fun or pleasant. However, your kids need you in this manner. Whether they know it or not.

Deacon  

Developing Character in Children

According to studies, the first 4-5 years of a child’s life are crucial in their development. These are the years that the personality is formed. These are the crucial years for learning. However, a character is something that continues to develop throughout life. It is a compass that guides them in their decision making. It is the part of them that will be judged by others all of their lives.

Will your child act honorably? Will your child make you proud? Will you others compliment you on their outstanding character? Children learn by observation. What is your character like? Please notice that we are not talking about personality. We are talking about the morals, ethics, and convictions by which we speak and act.

Character can be identified in day to day words and actions of people. However, it is best measured by trials. In times of difficulty, our true nature is more evident. This is usually because we are not acquiring an opportunity to perform or make ourselves look good. Kids will reveal more of their character in difficult times. Experiencing trials strengthens character much like stress of working out strengthens our bodies. 

As dads, we want to protect our kids. We want to do for them. We don’t want them to hurt. It kind of goes against our nature to let them deal with it. However, working through and conquering trials does more for their strength. Obviously, we are not going to stand by and watch our kids be injured. However, they need to see that they can handle stressful issues. They need to know that you are there, but you believe in their abilities to rise above a challenge.

It is through their dealing with pain, disappointment, and difficulty that will register the most with observers outside of your family. In the book Raising Men by Eric Davis, he discusses how SEAL Team instructors rate seals in their lowest moments and in their failures. This is when they can know that this individual can still focus on the task or not. He said, “Nobody gives a damn how you act when you are winning”. Not as extreme in most cases, difficulties hone the attention of others. They want to see how you or junior will behave. 

When we observe someone, especially a child that refuses to give up or rises above a bad situation with a sense of honor, it wow’s us. We expect kids to NOT handle frustration and pain as well as an adult. So how do you develop this trait in your children? I wish it was more complex than adopting what they observe. However, that really is the case. They learn through time what is right and wrong. They adopt the values of those they trust. If that example is not clear or reinforced with discussion and correction, they will adopt the mindset and behaviors of society and environment without your guidance. 

So it starts with us. We must square ourselves way. We must get our act together. We also must realize that we ARE setting an example, whether good or bad. We ARE responsible. Knowing this brings a certain frustration to my mind when I see weak parents pon off their kids on a teacher or coach to develop what was their responsibility. I understand that we all face challenges. I know that we all can have different circumstances. However, this is YOUR child. You signed up for this the moment you found out that you would be a parent. 

What can you do to develop your own character as an example for your children? Perhaps you had no dad around or a lousy one. Is it still on you to give your kids what they need? Yes! If you had a great dad, that’s wonderful. If you had no dad or a bad one that sucks. However, regardless of the situation, you know what you had or should have been given. Your performance as a dad does not have to be determined by what you experienced. Wait a minute. I did say that we develop character by example. So what are you going to do? Are you going to make excuses, be a victim, and not give your child the dad he or she needs?

Be determined under conviction and love for your child to give your best. This is a character and a good one for them to observe. Let your children see you rise above disappointment and adversity. You can choose to be the example they need. You either know what to do and/or what NOT to do. What if you screw up? Show a character of owning the mistake, seeking forgiveness, and never quitting. You can do this. They need you to do this. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon