Superman! Revisited

Almost a year ago I featured this blog post that a lot of readers liked. Here’s a re-post in case you missed it.

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.

All About You…

Tis the season of rushing, gifting, eating, drinking and trying to be jolly. All the anticipation and all the responsibilities of being a Dad during the holidays can be real hard to deal with. So in this post I am going to encourage you to look after yourself as you look after others. Enjoy the season!

Try to do what you can to keep things cheerful and pleasant.
You will be more relaxed if you do.

Try to show others a good time. You will be more satisfied with the results.

Try to do things that make everyone you meet better because they met you.
You will be in charge.

Take time to listen to others, carefully and thoughtfully and respond sincerely.
You will be appreciated.

Give time to others, children, spouse, family and friends.
You will feel their joy.

Read to your kids and grandkids while sitting close to them and speaking in soft tones.
It creates lasting memories of you.

Try not to correct your children in front of others. Realize they are excited and tired and really often not on their best behavior on holidays. Go easy on them. A gentle father, understanding, loving and supportive is the best instruction a child can receive.

You will enjoy the holidays if you look after yourself, not by indulging yourself by being the boss and the center of everything. Rather you will make a mark during the holidays and throughout the year if you consider the impact you have on your children. Successful dads have self-esteem and self-control and they teach their children more by what they do then by what they say.

By the way, if you know other dads who would like to know about The Manual for Dads please tell them. And let me know what you think. Remember Better Dads, Better Kids, A Better World for All.

Be a Gunboat

With all this stuff going on in the NFL with violence on and off the field I wonder how it comes across to kids and their dads.

Commentators and pundits alike talk about how football is a violent sport. And some go so far as to say that treating your kid violently once in a while is good for him. Sean Hannity of FOX praised his own dad for beating him with his belt and punching Sean in the face. Hannity explained that he deserved that sort of treatment, and it has made him a better person.

When men hear such things, what are they to think?! Well let me talk about violence. Some of you know that my academic work was in Philosophy, and the work of philosophy is to pursue wisdom. So let’s pursue some wisdom here.

Violence is any thought or action that violates the rights of another. Violence has no place in the life of a good person. There is no case when a person has the right to violate another. It is that simple. Now you say, what happens if someone comes after me, and I crack him on his head to protect myself or others? What about war? The violence in each of those situations is at the hands of the aggressor.

The guy who comes after you on the street is violating your rights, and you have the right to protect yourself with force equal to the challenge. Same thing in war. If an aggressor goes to battle to take away the rights of others, those attacked have a right to fight back. The aggressor is violent not the victim, even if the victim hurts the aggressor in defending himself.

So what does that have to do with football and other sports? Well since it is unworthy of any human being to violate another, football should be rough but not violent. In other words, defense players need to prevent the offense players from scoring, and they can be rough doing it but never violent.

Players should not be applauded for injuring other players. Sure, get them out of the play but don’t send them to the hospital. When the play is over, players should show sportsmanship with the other team. After all it is a game, and games should not lead to a lifetime of injury and death. When games do that, then the barbaric nature of man is taking over, and civilization is in the balance.

My Dad loved to play football. He made a name for himself in high school, and that name was Gunboat. Years after high school, his buddies still called him Gunny. My dad took everything he did seriously, so he played football to win. But when it came to telling me and my friends how to play, Dad said that you never want to hurt anybody. Hit them low and hard, play by the rules, be in great shape, and love the game.

And Dad rooted for his favorites, Notre Dame and the Chicago Bears, but as long as they played their best, he considered them winners in life—because they played the game.

So my fellow dads, let’s unite to stop the praise of violence. Let’s get back to the business of life showing respect for all─even on the football field─ just like Gunboat did so many years ago. And never, ever be violent to a child.

Be a leader─ just like Gunboat was for me and my friends.


School’s back in session which means Dads get “nothin”!

When you come home from work, you walk in the door and say to your school-age kid, “what did you do in school today?” and your kid says: “Nothin” and keeps on moving.

So what’s a dad to do with “nothin”? Here is my trick. First of all don’t always challenge them on the spot. After all your kid is into his afternoon, and maybe this isn’t a great time to talk. So say something like, “I want to hear more about nothing later”.

Then when the time comes, if you are able to sit down and eat together, which I hope you try to do often, say, “OK let’s talk about nothing”. You may get a smile, or a ”Daaaad” in frustration, but you will get their attention. If they insist still “nothin’” take step two.

That is, ask your kid for the teacher’s phone number or email address. Tell them that you are going to call and complain that they are doing nothing in school and you want to know why. By this time you usually have your kid’s attention and usually they are smiling with embarrassment and will tell you something about school. But be prepared for what you are going to hear.

It may deal with homework that needs to be done. Or social issues they are dealing with. Such as, “Mandy was my best friend this summer, and now she won’t talk to me at school.” Or “Todd is such a jerk; he’s always trying to pick a fight with me.” Or “my first period teacher is really great, but I hate my third period teacher and he doesn’t like me either”. Or “I hate chemistry!”

So what do you do when “nothin” becomes “somethin”? First, take what they say as serious to them and second listen in a way that shows you care. Your caring and listening are what is most important. By the way, sometimes they have something good or funny to report, so you want to share the joy.

Remember never any put-downs. Always encouragement. Things like “I know you can handle this,” or “I’ve seen you in situations like this before and you usually make the right decisions.” And always leave your kids with the feeling that you are there to help and support them, and that you will always be there to help them face a difficulty or solve a problem.

Finally, almost never should dads solve the problem for the child. Dads need to empower their kids to solve their own problems. Give advice, encouragement, support, guidance and other forms of aid, but don’t jump in and make everything all right. If you do jump in, your kid will not develop problem solving skills and will know deep down that you don’t think they are capable of solving their own problems.

So there is a lot to “nothin”. Good luck with this fall semester. Have some fun with your kids and always show them respect even if they are doing “nothin”.

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.