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  

Suicide

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the #2 killer of individuals between 10-34. The #1 being accidents. In 2017, suicides (47,173) more than doubled the number of homicides (19,510). These figures appear to be epidemic and are still on the rise.

Suicide affects so many families. The odds are that many of my readers have already been hurt by this horrible tragedy. As dads, what do we tell our kids when they encounter news or have questions about this topic? Is there a way that we can make any sense of it? 

When I was a kid and still to this day, I have heard the statement that suicide is one of the selfish things that an individual can do. Now, I only believe this to be true as long that the individual is rational. Perhaps you caught my approach. To those that are not hurting and suffering, putting those whom you are close to through such an ordeal is awful and selfish. I believe that suicide or any taking of human life is wrong. However, through my study on the subject, I’m not so sure that I can hold these individuals in contempt as I use to. I would like to share with you a process of thinking that may help you address this issue in your own mind and also have a way to explain it to your children.

Please note that I am not an expert in mental health, but merely share with you as a person that has been affected by suicide and as a dad who has had to discuss it with my children. Studies have shown that the same part of the brain that detects physical pain deals with emotional pain. That being said, part of my study on this subject has to do first with physical pain.

On the tragic day of 911, Americans witnessed the horror of the World Trade Center towers burning and ultimately collapsing because of an act of terrorism. Cameras captured not only the destruction of the buildings but the last moments of many trapped by the fire and building damage. As the heat became unbearable, several individuals lept to their deaths. Firemen in the lobby heard the horrific sounds of bodies hitting the ground. One stated in an interview that he could not imagine how bad it had to be up there that the idea of jumping was the solution.

In moments of pain, our natural instincts are to flee the source. Whether it is a knee jerk reaction, taking cover, or running while on fire, we want to get away. Is there really any rational thought process? Although it is different when we think of our feelings and emotions, the same part of the brain registers the pain. Can the pain become like the fire of those trapped in the WTC towers? Do we blame those at the fire’s edge who jumped? What about those with time to consider their pain in times of illness who say, “no more”?

Perhaps as dads, we should express to our children that there are those that are hurting so bad, that some people seek the end as a means to end the pain. However, not being an advocate for suicide, I believe we should instill within our children that there are things that we can try to do to help those that are hurting. Let them know that communication needs to always be encouraged and that we should not see such individuals as those who should feel shame. Our children should know that it is important to report any signs or words of self-destructive behavior. We should discuss with our children potential warning signs for them to be aware of when it comes to mental illness. 

Pain is real to those that experience it. Our kids need to understand that it is okay “not” to have all the answers but to be aware that there are those that are desperate and hurting. We cannot always see their pain. There are illnesses that some people have on the inside. What we can do for them is to make sure that we are NOT quiet. Secondly, we should not try to address the issue alone. We need to tell someone like a teacher, counselor, or even police.

Suicide and mental illness a problem that we should not avoid talking about. When kids have questions, they need answers. Don’t hide the ugly or painful truth. Kids are resilient and can handle more than we give them credit for. As someone that has dealt with mental illness in my family, I can boldly state that the answers are not always clear. Not understanding it has taken me through a period of anger and frustration. This never helps the situation.

We need to teach our kids about tough things. We need to teach compassion. Sometimes compassion is not just being kind, but taking action to. Teach your kids to be observant. Keep the lines of communication open and encourage their expressions of concern. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon

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 

Learn from your kids

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deacon

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Prepared for the Birds and the Bees

Are you prepared for your child to notice the opposite sex? How are you going to teach them proper behavior? When are you going to give them the talk? Sexuality is everywhere in our culture. Kids are getting exposed to it at a younger age all the time. What is going to be your response and or role in dealing with this? Here are the facts. Your kids are going to learn above sexuality, love, and romance either with you or without you. If you don’t take an active role in this area of development, their understanding and behavior can be far less healthy than you hope.

We live in a society that has a double standard when it comes to relationships. We tend to worry about our daughters far more than our sons. As a matter of opinion, it appears that many boys live in a high five world, wild girls try to avoid shame. More difficult than when I was in school, our kids and young people have their private lives more and more on social networks. Branding and labeling have cost young people their self-esteem and in some cases, their lives. Dads, it is imperative that you become involved and not shy away from the uncomfortable discussions. 

First of all, remember that you are the example for your children. How women are to be treated will be learned by your example. Own it. The next point is that your child’s interaction with the opposite will directly correlate with their self-esteem and self-worth. For your daughters, when you tell them how much you love and cherish them, this will embed a standard that they will insist on being met. The more important they feel, the more respect they will demand. Your boys need to learn chivalry and gentleman ways that will increase the amount of respect that he gets from others. 

I taught my boys that they needed to treat girls the way that they wanted boys to treat their sister. I had no problem with them getting the attention of the young ladies. To be honest, I thought it was cool. The issue becomes, what are you going to do with that attention? I always put the responsibility on them. I insisted that if a mistake was going to be made, it was on them. Some of you may disagree. However, I believe that honor, respect, and accountability was always theirs to manage.

For my daughter, I started earlier. “You are beautiful.” “You are strong.” “I love you.” “I am so proud of you.” These statements and more became truth for my daughter. She was/is important. She was worthy of a gentleman and nothing less would do. There would be no tolerance of a self-indulged loser. If you wanted to hang around her, it was on her terms. I will tell you that my daughter also required more mental discipline than the boys. She needed reality checks to keep her from developing an attitude that would drive people away. Guys, this was much more difficult for me than dealing with boys. However, it was soooooooo worth it.

My advice and rule about mingling with the opposite sex came down to a simple practice. Be public. Privacy is where screw-ups happen. Just be in the public eye. This does not lend a hand towards questionable behavior. No one of the opposite sex was allowed in our home if a parent was not there. The same held true for when they visited the homes of their friends. This really takes the pressure off and deters the suspicion of others. 

For today’s parents, let me say that socializing your children to the opposite sex is good. Sheltered kids usually make more mistakes. They are more naive and victimized more. Education and open communication is a must. When they can grow to see that you are in favor of healthy interactions instead of the opposition, it will keep communication open and lead towards healthy development. Make no mistake that I am throwing caution to the wind or encouraging you to take the “it’s natural” approach. That would be stupid. Children must be guided and communicated with. Discipline is necessary. To take the “it’s natural” approach is a cowardly way for a parent to avoid saying what is right and wrong. If you want to argue the point further, left to nature, a male will try to mate with as many females as possible. Let’s not go down that road.

It is not easy being a dad during this stage of development. It requires not only communication but displays of trust and encouragement for appropriate relationships. Your children must see you as an example and a guideline, but not their adversary. Once you get to that point, communication will break down. Then you are left with “nature”. Be there form them. Be the example that they need. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon

Prepared for Bullies

Bullies are the diaper stain of mankind. They don’t even get to be called p.o.s. in my book. Your kids may face these morons rather early in life. If not before they enter school, by this time they will have a face to go with the term. Whether they are the direct target or not, I can guarantee exposure. Bear in mind that bullies are not limited to the thrills of childhood. As many of you know, there is a plethora of them in adult life. They like hurting people physically, emotionally, or vocationally.

How do you prepare your kids for dealing with bullies? Although it is a public taboo and denounced, it is ever thriving in our society. Differently from when I was a kid, now we have cyberbullies. At least when I was a kid, the jerk had to have enough guts or stupidity to perform a public act. Now, these little cowards attempt to ruin lives from the safety of their computer or smartphone. The Greek fable writer Aesop once said, “It is easy to be brave from a safe distance.” I might add “or from anonymity”. Therefore, the best way to address them is as they are, cowards. Our kids need to know that bullies are cowards that are trying to convince themselves and others that they are brave, strong, in control, cool, or should not be picked on themselves.

Due to the fact that they are cowards in their hearts, our children need to learn that while an action or word can harm anyone, the “person” should not be feared. Everyone has the potential for harming another. However, if they need a visual, think of the almighty chihuahua. They can be one of the most aggressive breeds of dog on the planet, but should we really fear them.

When my father was young, there was a big boy in his class that feared by all. This bully, we will call Ted liked to step on and kick the heels of those in front of him. Kids back in that day were reluctant to “telling on” bullies because they didn’t want to get beat up. I also, can’t state this as a fact, but it appears that teachers and principles didn’t have the zero tolerance that they proclaim today. 

One day dad encountered Ted. He had run-ins with Ted before, but this time Ted scraped down dad’s leg with his shoe, taking a layer of skin of his Achilles tendon and heel area. Dad had already told him to stop. They were going upstairs to the music room at the school. Once they reached the top of the stairs, my dad turned around and hit Ted as hard as he could in the nose. The two of them tumbled down the stairs. When they reached the bottom, fortunately for dad he landed on top of Ted, not underneath him. As fast as he could, dad hit the boy several times hoping to hurt him bad enough so that Ted could not get up and beat him to a pulp.

Both my dad and Ted got licks (the paddle) for the incident. My dad thought it was a huge injustice, but could not do anything about it. Oddly enough, Dad and Ted became buddies after the fight. This type of result is more common among boys than girls. According to the author and Dr. Leonard Sax in his book Why Gender Matters, although boys tend to fight more often, there is usually not an ultimate end to the friendship. With girls, however, although their physical aggression happens less than boys when it does happen, the friendship is usually over.  

As you prepare your kids to deal with these individuals, note that boys and girls can feel quite differently about the situation. There can also be a difference in how your child reacts to a bully that may be different from how you would react regardless of their sex. Dads, trust me when I say that just because you have a son, does not mean that he is a mini-you. Your boy may have a much more passive or aggressive response to these individuals. Let me give you a visual on this point.

My oldest can get angry, but it takes a LOT to set him off. My middle child…well let’s just say that when we met his Marine drill instructor and HE asks me if my son has anger issues, it can be significant. I find myself in the middle. I’m not really like either one of my boys. Therefore, it was important that I approach the topic of bullies catering to the specific boy I was addressing. You need to know how they are going to act to frustration. 

A few bits of advice that I have given to all my children concerning bullies are as follows: 

  1. Physical bullies are usually less intelligent. Hang out with the smart kids and strive towards academic achievement. Upper-level classes rarely have such individuals.
  2. Be in public or well-populated areas when possible. You don’t have to be a part of a crowd, just in it. This is like insect repellent for bullies. Be around or in the view of adults.
  3. Be aware of your path throughout the day. Bullies may take transition times as an opportunity to pick on people. This is particularly is true for those kids that walk home from school or ride the school bus.
  4. There are consequences for defending yourself. This has nothing to do with justice. If you choose to defend yourself, know that although there may be consequences at school, you will not be in trouble with your mom and myself.
  5. Befriend and defend those that cannot defend themselves. Watching someone being hurt and doing nothing is just as cruel as the one hurting them…and in a way, more so.

Support your kids. Plan ahead. Be the best dad possible.

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