TEACH YOUR CHILDREN WELL

Remember the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song a long way back that told us to “teach your children well”? Great lyrics and I always liked what they did with them. We all realize we need to teach our children well, but how do we do that? The role of The Manual for Dads is to give dads practical knowledge not just words of wisdom. So let’s take a look at how to teach your children well.

How does a dad teach his children? Well, the first answer is obvious. He tells them something they don’t know or understand and makes it clear to them so they have the knowledge to use from that point on. He can teach them how to wash dishes, how to pound a nail, perhaps how to do a problem in math, or how to be polite. These are all examples of passing on skill. But we are looking for the answer to “teaching them well.” What does well mean?

I think well refers to how you teach them to become a good, competent, self-aware, capable person. How you teach them well is by example and by discipline. Now some younger dads, I am told, roll their eyes when the word discipline is mentioned so let’s unpack that term “discipline” and see what’s inside. I think you will agree it is a good term we can use to help understand a dad’s role as teacher.

Discipline means to teach. A disciple is a student or follower. The good dad uses various techniques to properly teach his kids, or discipline them so they develop life-skills that lead them to acquire good habits that turn into virtues which serve them their entire lives.

Discipline is not bossing kids around. It is not intimidating them. It is not punishing them. It is never unreasonable or vengeful. Discipline is an act of love and respect that you use to help your child grow and mature and develop self-reliance and self-respect.

In blogs that will follow I will talk about discipline and why kids misbehave and how to stop the misbehavior as well as prevent it from happening in the future. Sound good? Please stay with me in the time ahead and please join in the conversation.

As you know as a reader of this Manual, dadding is more than fathering kids. Being a dad requires that you devote your entire life to your children by learning how best to parent and putting to use all the wisdom and practical knowledge you can learn.

Your children want and deserve to be taught well. Don’t you agree?

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5 Things You Should Know About Working Dads

Originally posted on TIME:

My wife and I both work, but since she is a musical theater actress, sometimes she has to work late, really late. On those days, we get my son up, fed, dressed and ready for school before we go to work. At my job, I put in a full morning, work through lunch at my desk, leave a few hours early while taking work home—all so I can get back in time for the afternoon bus. At home, I help with homework, cook dinner, play light-sabers and Legos, supervise bathtime, cuddle my son and tuck him in. My wife comes home just in time for a good-night kiss. I spend an hour or two working on my laptop and my wife chills out with Downton Abbey before we go to bed. Some days, she’s home earlier; on others, we’re all home for family game night. Each day is a little…

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Superman!

The other night I watched a movie on Netflix called “The Other F Word.”  It is a documentary that is really well done. (We all know the meaning of The F-word so this other F-word is Father.)

Since it features screaming guys in bands performing songs that deal with the misery of life and the use of the F-word to express it, this movie would not have been a choice for me if it had not dealt with dadding. But I began watching it out of duty to my cause and found it inspirational and uplifting and here is why.

First of all the guys it features, several different lead singers from different bands, are all beyond being the kids they were when they began their bands. Although they have continued with their financially successful bands, they have the perspective of mature men. They are each now married and have kids, and that changed their lives completely.

However, what struck me is that each of these men featured talked openly about having had terrible fathers. They spoke of neglect, abuse, and a host of other problems they had with their dads. But instead of being like their dads, these guys decided to be good dads—actually great dads. They have relationships with their kids they never had with their own dads, and they each talk about how they love it. They love being good dads.

I have several tag lines I use from time to time in my blog, and when I am talking about dadding. One is “better dads, better kids, a better world for all.”  Another tag line is “A dad is the most important man in his kid’s life.”  What these point out is that dads are essential to the well-being of their kids—repeat, essential.

It is very hard for a kid to grow up well-adjusted and able to live a happy, productive life without having had a good dad. If you did not have a good dad, there is nothing that can be done about that, however you do not have to repeat the performance and be a bad dad yourself. Dads are the foundation upon which a strong life is constructed.

I called this edition of the blog, Superman. That’s because a dad is Superman to his kids. Kids expect their dads to do no wrong and be powerful enough to help them deal with this frightful world.  So when they grow up they are adjusted to life and don’t need to form bands that sing out The F-word.

Taking Care of Number One

Often we hear the phrase, “gotta take care of number one.” And it is true— you do have to take care of yourself first. It is the foundation of being self-reliant.

However there is a flip side to this and that is, if you always put yourself first in everything, you are selfish, self-centered and not someone who is fun to be around.

So I think the rule is—take care of your personal needs, look after yourself, but when it comes to the needs of others, apply the golden rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated.

How does all this involve dadding? Well, the first place in life where being second is necessary is with your kids.  In other words, your kids come first. OK I am not suggesting that they get their way all the time, or that you jump anytime they want something. What I am saying is that their need for you as their dad is fulfilled before you fill your own needs. And that can be demanding, but it has to be so.

I always say that a dad is the most important man in a kid’s life. When the kid needs support, advice, comfort, or direction from his or her dad, the dad stops watching TV, stops his working on-line, stops dealing with emails, and gives the kid the support, advice, comfort and direction he or she needs.

So, now you are red in the face with anger thinking: I do not want to spoil my kids! I am not going to always stop everything anytime they say they want something.  Well cool down. I am not saying that you need to immediately respond to each and every request that your kid makes. On the contrary, that would spoil your kid.

What I am saying is that you need to let your children know that you are always there for them.  When and if necessary, you will drop everything to come to their side. You will put them first when they really need you. You are their backstop and downfield blocker, (to draw on two sports metaphors).  In short they can count on their dad.

It can be tough to give up taking care of number one for your kids. But it will pay off handsomely. You will give your kids the confidence that they are valued and important—especially to you—the most important man in their lives.

More on Yelling – Guest Post

This was sent in as a comment but I think it has so much to tell us about yelling I am making it a guest post.

Dan Conway has commented a good bit on this blog and his messages are always thoughtful and insightful.

He is the father and dad of 5, now young adults.  Here is what he had to say about yelling and discipline:

Sister Mary Clare Ann, my 8th grade teacher, never raised her voice or visibly lost her temper. We were a large class and fond of misbehaving, but she was a superb disciplinarian. None of the stereotypes of nuns using rulers or intimidation fit Sister Mary Clare Ann.

She was soft spoken and serious with a small but genuine smile. We never heard her yell. In fact, the more serious the situation, the softer her voice became. But we listened to her. We obeyed her.

Why? Because we respected her. She had earned our respect by showing in a thousand small ways that she respected us and cared about us as individual persons and as a class.

As a Dad, I wish I were more like Sister Mary Clare Ann. I hope my children know how much I love and respect them, but I know I didn’t always show it. I have made lots of mistakes as a parent, but I’m not giving up. I owe that to my children–and to Sister Mary Clare Ann.

Yelling

My mentor in parenting education is Dr. Linda Albert. And she was fond of saying that “yelling at your kids is like trying to drive your car with your horn!”

That is a cute way to call attention to the fact that yelling is not a good way to give kids direction.

Yelling is done out of frustration and anger. Your kid does something that you have told him or her not to do many times, you see it and yell, “what are you doing?!” The yell is sometimes ignored by the kid, which makes you yell even louder; or the child cowers in fear of you, which does little to foster a healthy relationship.

I do think that a yell is called for sometimes. Let’s say you see your kid getting too close to a flame, or they are about to cause something to fall on them. It is natural to yell to catch their attention and get them out of danger. But other than this sort of situation, yelling has little place in dadding.

A yell is something you do to satisfy an urge. When you yell you are letting the kid take charge of the situation. Remember, as the dad you set the emotional tone of every situation. Yelling indicates that you have lost control of yourself and you do not ever want to lose control.

So what else can you do than yell? Here are just a couple suggestions that I know work. Be serious and speak softly. Tell kids exactly what is troubling you about what they are doing and let them know you will not tolerate it.

Another tool is to move closer to them. Lean in if you are already close and whisper in their ear. If they still don’t respond simply repeat what you have said and let them know things will not go further without a change in what they are doing.

Finally do not embarrass your kids when they have done something wrong. Always try to correct them in a private manner and never call their behavior into question in front of others. Dads are teachers not drill sergeants. Dads are guides and not masters. Dads need to show respect for their children’s feelings.

These are all guidelines and suggestions. They are offered in an effort to help you be the best dad you can be. It is not always easy but it is always satisfying.

Looking back and forward–the New Year

The wise Saint Augustine is known to have said something like, “we live life in the forward but understand it by looking back”.  That can be said as well of all the pieces of our lives, can’t it?

We do something and then look back upon it and sometimes smile with delight and other times cringe with embarrassment.

Although the noisemakers and fireworks are quiet from the New Year celebrations, there is still time to reflect on the past in order to prepare for the future. Looking back, think about how your dadding helped your kids be all they can be. The questions I ask myself are, did I present a good example of what a good man is,  not only to my kids but to all the children I came into contact with? Did I take charge of situations emotionally to prevent them from spiraling down into fights and family discord?  Was I a man for others or only for myself?

I don’t think it is worthwhile to feel guilt if the answer is “yes” to any of these questions. But if the answer is yes, then there is most likely a disconnect between your values and your actions, because anyone reading this blog holds being a good dad as a priority.

Back in the sixties, a very smart guy, Dr. Milton Rokeach, an acclaimed psychologist proved the fact that if we see that our actions are out of line with our values, we will change our actions to be consistent with our values.

I hope you see yourself as a good person and a good dad. Whenever you come across something that you are doing that is inconsistent with that notion, stop and think about how what you are doing goes against what you value. You will find it a lot easier to change your behavior if you realize what you are doing is contrary to what you value.

There used to be a popular poster that you would see here and there that said: “Today is the first day of the rest of your life”.  Actually, each moment of our lives is a new beginning.

So let’s all recommit ourselves to the realization that better dads make for better kids and result in a better world for all.  That is what we value so let’s all bring our actions in line with our values.