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.
Kids are people. Now that seems like an obvious thing to say. But dads sometime seem to forget that.
For example you’re at a store and you hear a man say sternly to his kid loud enough for all to hear, “stop acting so stupid” or “shut-up you are really getting to me” or…well you know just fill in the blanks.
These are put-downs. They are remarks to insult the person and “show him/her who the boss is”! Put-downs have no place in a dad’s bag of tricks.
Sure kids need correction and sometimes need to be admonished but there is a way to do that that shows love and respect for the kid. The first thing to remember is that kids are people, vulnerable people at that. As children they are completely dependent on you. Sure they want their way but they also want to please.
When I say kids are people what I am talking about is that they have feelings and can be embarrassed and hurt and in fact can be damaged by what you say and how you say it.
Think about it. How do you feel if someone who is important to you or in a position of authority says something insulting to you? Do you laugh it off or do you feel violated?
No one likes to be put-down, especially kids. So when you need to correct them, do it with respect. You can bend down and quietly say into his or her ear what you expect of them. But don’t make it rough. They need your tender love and respect.
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Some weeks ago a follower of this blog and a longtime friend, Patrick Ward sent along a link to a song in his Irish tradition that I want to pass along to all my readers. The singer will tell you the back story of the song before he sings so I won’t go into that here.
The reason I want to send it out to you is because it shows the lifelong love of a father for his family, and the longing he has to have his family together. The father in the song understands his son’s need to move on in life but also helps to keep him anchored to his family and to the love that rests there for him.
Some of us had fathers like this one in the song but many of us did not. Whether you did or didn’t isn’t important now. What is important is the father that you are. The father in the song is a model to be followed.
In a recent post I put up the video of the young man counting back from 21, recalling his life with his alcoholic father. The powerful video reminds us that a father is the most important person in his kid’s life. The father shapes the son and daughter, so we must always take care to treat our children with the love and respect they deserve.
As you listen to the song here, think of ways you can support your kids with simple love and attention. Think about what those letters meant to the son so far away.
Now here is the link. And if you like you can Google the title – “Kilkelly Ireland Song” and see and hear several different artists performing it.
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.