Pay Attention There is a lot going on.

My wife and I were in a Dairy Queen one hot Kentucky Sunday in June having ice cream. It was busy. We were in a booth near the counter and a dad walked up to place his order for the four kids with him. One was probably his and the rest neighbors or teammates.

This good dad was trying to figure out the menu, what to offer the kids, how to say “no” to banana splits while convincing them of another choice. Lots of confusion as these ten year olds were jumping and pointing and pulling.

Amid all this confusion, one boy sees the ice cream cakes displayed in the brightly lighted case. He points to the cakes and says, “Hey Dad look at these! We should get you this for Father’s Day!”

Regrettably, this dad was too busy to hear this and continued on course to place his order. Mary Jane and I have told this story many times. This enterprising kid was trying to get an ice cream cake into his house by “treating” his dad to it for Father’s Day. Very cute.

Now I am not in any way criticizing this dad for not paying attention to this request. But I know that if it registered at all in his consciousness, it would bring him a smile. And what a joy it would have been to the family, if on Father’s Day this dad showed up with an ice cream cake from Dairy Queen!  That kid would have been so proud and would feel so important.

All this is to say, that no matter how distracted you may be, or busy and hassled, try to hear and notice what is going on with your kids. Look for the little gems that are dropped each day, and let them know you hear them and you care.

Finally, please do not take away from this that I am suggesting that you spoil your kids! No. Never. What I am saying is that your little ones are always reaching out to you for attention and respect. Try to always find ways to make sure they get it.

Happy New Year! Take a Bow! It’s Father’s Day!

The wise Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living”. To do this we must examine our actions to evaluate how we are meeting our personal ideals and goals. If you are reading this you are sure to be one who is serious about living a purposeful life, so here is a thought about Father’s Day.

Why not look at each Father’s Day as the beginning of a New Year as a dad? Take a little time out of the day to examine what you are doing as a dad and what you want to do better during the next year. Things I try to always improve on are being a good listener, being thoughtful and caring, patient and kind — being determined and focused, strong and courageous. All of these are virtues of a good dad. And none of us is perfect at them all, but we can continue to practice. Examine yourself, be kind to yourself but firm, and do this all out of love and respect for your children.

You might ask your kids, “How am I doing as your dad?” Make this a playful question and expect playful answers, but listen to what they are not saying, too. It is important to point out here, if there are any real family problems going on, Father’s Day is not the day to explore them. This is a day to show happiness and gratitude without any rancor or discord.

It is a good day to tell your kids how grateful you are to be their dad! Tell them that you love them and always try to do everything for them that is in their best interest. (Don’t be too surprised if they roll their eyes at that.) Remember you can celebrate Father’s Day only because of your kids! Once again they are at the center of this celebration and let them know it.

Finally, take a bow! It is not easy to be a good dad. A good dad is always present to his kid’s needs and concerns, and that takes its toll on a guy. A dad has to “make it up” as he goes because no one has ever faced exactly the demands he deals with daily, and that takes its toll. So as you examine how you are doing, take time to think about all the good you are doing each day — and take a bow.

Have a wonderful day Man. Happy New Year and take a bow.

Give Dads a Break

In the news right now there is lots being said about kids who have done terrible things. The recent shootings in Santa Barbara by Elliot Rodger are just one example. On the CNN website his parents are described as “living in hell” since the event.

There are other examples also. Edward Snowden’s father is at a loss to describe the motives of his son. And whether we think Snowden a hero or villain we can only imagine his father’s confusion and anxiety over what comes next.

We so often say that “the apple does not fall far from the tree” and to some degree that is true. Kids usually turn out like their parents. But it is not uncommon that dangerous kids come from good parents. Kids sometimes do things that a parent cannot imagine where the idea came from.

So when a kid does something criminal should we blame the parent? And the answer is no, at least not all the time. Sure if parents neglect, abuse or give only bad example to their kids, the kids have a good chance of having real problems in the future. They can become bad parents themselves, who have difficulty with relationships.

But often parents do everything right. They are loving, supportive, understanding, and yet their child just becomes someone they don’t really understand or know. This can be the result of mental illness or some other maladjustment in the child that leads to this behavior.

I know of one family with two boys, and one has followed the usual path to success with school, friends and family. The other was a thief at an early age, and despite love and support of his family he has ended up in prison. Another family I know has three children and two have turned out like their parents, responsible, productive and supportive of others. The third is without direction, cannot get any traction to start his life and is now an adult completely unlike the rest of his family. I am sure each of you could add to this list.

The point is we need to show love and support for all dads and moms. When we hear of a tragedy or of someone going astray we should not blame the parents. And as difficult as it is if we are the parents of the kid who goes astray, we must not blame ourselves. Of course we should always examine our behavior, and if we have not fulfilled our obligation as a parent then take responsibility and make amends.

Being a dad is not easy duty. It is important to be the best dad you can be, however things can happen that were beyond your control. We must have respect for ourselves and our vocation as a dad and show that same respect for other dads as well.

Guest Post – “He let me be me.”

Until I was a sophomore in high school, my Dad tried every way imaginable short of physical compulsion to get me interested in sports. I just wasn’t. Don’t ask me why. It was not a conscious choice. It was just the way I was wired. At the beginning of sophomore year, Dad asked if I was going to try out for JV football. I summoned my courage and said, “No, I’m going to try out for the school play.” Dad was visibly disappointed, but he didn’t pursue it. When I got a good part in the play, he was curious. He came to every performance and was proud as could be! That was the best gift Dad ever gave me. He let me be me.

-Dan Conway

Chris And Jake’s Dad

Kids don’t choose their dads, that’s why dads must be the best they can be to their kids. Please read on and see where I am going with this.
First I am going to tell a true story. I know a guy, I’ll call Chris, who was the firstborn of a couple who discovered that they could not birth another baby but wanted more children. They especially thought it would be great that Chris would have a sibling. So they adopted their second child. And this child happened to be another boy, I’ll call Jake.
As the boys grew Chris was very interested in drama, art and dance. Jake liked baseball, track and all sorts of outdoor activities. The boys’ dad liked outdoor activities too and really could not quite figure out where his first son got his interest in drama, art and dance.
Only a few years apart in school, Chris helped his brother with his school work and cheered him on in sports. However Jake did not show much interest in his brother’s activities and neither did their father. Their father never encouraged Chris and seldom went to any of his performances at school. Needless to say he did not show Jake how to show interest in or respect for his brother.
As the years have passed, their father never did take time to understand or appreciate Chris. Throughout his life he showered Jake with praise and adulation. Chris did well in school and went into publishing. His brother married and has a career is sales.
Chris never had much of a relationship with his father so that when he died there was little grief. All that could have been so different. Had the dad taken the time to recognize the gifts of Chris, he would have spared that boy a lifetime of anxiety and self-deprecation. The dad would have shown Jake the richness of the life of his brother, even though they liked different things.
Everybody lost here. Both boys lost because they were not equally loved and supported. The dad lost because he failed to appreciate and love Chris for who he is. And their mother lost by having to deal with a dysfunctional family over which she had little control. It was not a happy family.
The moral of the story is: be a dad to the kid you’ve got. Each person is different and worthy of love and respect. Our kids are not accessories. We should discover them as they discover themselves. Remember your kids did not choose you, so don’t give them reason to wish they could have.

Happy Mother’s Day, Dad

Just a short post today as we celebrate Mother’s Day.
First of all we all need to show our own mothers special love and respect on this day. Our kids are always watching us so they will notice how you talk about and treat your mother or the memory of her if she is gone.
Next it is important to make sure your kids do something special for their mothers on this day, no matter how old they are. If it is late in the day and your college kid has not called or something, get on the phone or text them and remind them to call Mom.
I fully realize that some families have all sorts of problems surrounding parenting. If the mother is missing from the family this is no time to badmouth her. Speak of her with compassion and understanding. She may be troubled or have other problems that don’t allow her to function well but she is still your kid’s mom and worthy of respect. Kids need to be reminded that they are not the cause of their mother’s problems.
Mother’s Day is a day for joy and love. Try to find a way to help your kids celebrate their mothers. And if nothing else tell your kids about your mother, step-mother, grand-mother. They will love hearing about her or them, and you will be revealing something about yourself.
Have a happy Mother’s Day, Dad.

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?