Originally posted on TIME:
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Originally posted on TIME:
View original 691 more words
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here’s a guest post on dads, kids and working at home…
I recently left the firm I was with for the last 10 years. I had a defined job with an office that kept me away from home most of the waking hours of my kids’ lives. Now, I’m working from home without defined hours.
I’m much more hands-on and involved in the day-to-day of my children’s lives.
I experience their ups and downs first hand. I’m there when they learn something new. I’m part of each failure and success.
My children are much more hands-on and involved in the day-to-day of my work life. They experience my ups and downs first hand. They are there when I learn something new. They are part of each failure and success.
The other day my 4-year old daughter was ecstatic to show me some toy she was playing with. She’s still used to the boundaries of my home “office” and has no concept of the work day. Even fully aware of this, I put her off quickly and abruptly, saying, “Bella, please! Be quiet! I have a very important phone call.”
A day or two later, my 1-year old son crawled over to his sister, wanting to play with her. She grabbed her plastic toy phone and said to him, “Oliver, please! Be quiet! I have a very important phone call!”
This highlighted a very simple fact: kids want to be part of everything you do, and because of this, they will learn from whatever you are doing.
Maybe you work at home and maybe you don’t. Either way I’m guessing your kids have seen you work: the stress you bring home (even though you try not to), phone calls from your family room, or answering emails while walking through the house.
I’m not advocating you leave all work at the front door— I know that’s impossible for most. I’m urging you to involve your kids in your work, even in very simple ways.
Take the time to explain to them what you are doing and why it is important. If they are young like mine they won’t get it. But that’s okay. They will know you talked to them about something important in your life. They will know that you included them, and that’s something that excites every kid whether they show it
I hear my daughter running around above me. I need to go get her and a couple of toy phones so that she and I can have a very important phone call.