One Big Key to Effective Discipline—and How to Use It

 

Correcting and disciplining children will always be challenging for fathers. In today’s busy times and with so many outside forces competing for our children’s attention and allegiance, training our kids has never been more important.

In the moment, we want them to obey us, stop fighting with each other, and/or avoid destroying property. But we know discipline has a bigger purpose: we want our children to end up as responsible, caring adults who are prepared to thrive in the world.

Here at the Center, we have some helpful articles and recommended resources on discipline, and you’d be wise to do some research and figure out what works best for you and your family.

That really is the most critical action point when it comes to discipline: have a plan. Your children’s future (and their children’s future) is at stake. I often use the Benjamin Franklin line: “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail,” and it’s so applicable here! You can’t afford to father by the seat of your pants … so to speak.

One Big Key to Effective DisciplineWhy is a plan so important? Because it sets clear boundaries and expectations for your children: “When you do this, this is the consequence.” And as a father, when your plan is fully developed, no situation will catch you (or your child) by surprise. You won’t find yourself negotiating with your child or trying to think of appropriate consequences; the plan is in place. Furthermore, you can relate to your child with empathy instead of anger, since the plan is what is making his life difficult, not you.

What are some qualities of a good plan?

1) It is developed together by the child’s dad and mom, if possible, and can include input from the child.

2) It is clearly communicated to the child before it is implemented, with explanations about how it applies to specific situations.

3) Then, of course, the plan has to be used. The child can’t be let out of the negative consequences. The parent calmly makes it clear that the child, by his actions, chose those consequences. (That’s a big part of learning responsibility.)

4) It is flexible and adaptable as needs and situations change.

Here are a few examples that might illustrate how this works.

A dad has a 15-year-old daughter who isn’t doing well in her school work and her behavior. The dad wants to help her learn to be responsible, so he takes away her cell phone. The daughter is furious and doesn’t speak to him for two weeks.

Taking a teenager’s cell phone for poor choices is an appropriate consequence. But having a plan in place beforehand may have helped this dad avoid a major rift in their relationship.

Imagine how things would go if a dad and mom sit down with their daughter when she first gets her cell phone, and together they lay out a plan: Having a phone comes with conditions related to her behavior, her school work, and demonstrating responsibility in other ways. Maybe they even ask her, “What kind of behaviors will demonstrate that you’re responsible enough to have a cell phone?” They lay out the plan in specifics, and she agrees to it as a condition of having her own phone. That’s the plan.

Then, when the daughter starts slipping, it won’t be a surprise when things get hard for her. Dad and Mom are just working the plan, and it isn’t very likely that she’ll be mad at them—at least not for very long. She’ll be more likely to see that she’s the one who made the poor choices and she needs to make changes going forward.

The steps apply to situations with toddlers, ten-year-olds and beyond.

For example, after talking with your child’s mom, you might tell your child, “We’re having trouble getting you out of bed and ready for school. So from now on, if you don’t make it down in time for breakfast, we’ll assume that means you don’t want to eat. And if you can’t get up and be ready in time to leave, that probably means you aren’t getting enough sleep. We’ll just move your bedtime to an hour earlier. The child will either get up earlier, or he’ll expect some changes in his daily routine.

Dad, there’s no better time than right now to sit down and start putting together your plan.

Which of these examples rings true for you? What are your best practices when it comes to discipline? Please share your thoughts either below or on our Facebook page.

Action Points for Dads on the Journey

  • Make your expectations of your children’s behavior very clear. Spell them out in minute detail, if necessary, so there’s no doubt.
  • Be eager to notice and point out your children’s strengths; celebrate their accomplishments; toast their successes.
  • How does discipline and correction look with teenagers? Read about the “Good Neighbor” approach.
  • Make every effort to be united with your children’s mother in your discipline approach. Don’t leave any room for your kids to bring in doubt or manipulate the situation.
  • Think of a new area of responsibility to give your child, even if it’s on a trial basis.

 

Carey CaseyCarey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who lives out loving, coaching and modeling for my children.

 

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How Dads Can Build a Close Bond

 

In last week’s blog I highlighted some recent research about the most important factor when it comes to passing our faith and values on to our children…

It isn’t regular teaching sessions, or setting the right example, or involving kids in larger communities that promote those values, like a church.

All those things are important, but the biggest key is a warm, close connection between the child and his father. I have kept thinking about this ground-breaking insight, and I believe there’s more I can do to help you apply this in practical ways with your children.

How Dads Can Build that Close BondFor example, what is a “warm” relationship with your child? What does it look like? How can you tell if you have one?

I was talking with another dad on our staff about this, and our discussion led to questions like, What’s the atmosphere when you’re together? Are you approachable as a dad? Is there a general feeling of easiness and acceptance, or tension and distance?

All relationships go through seasons where we feel more distant or more comfortable being together. But I think you probably know the overriding mood between you and your kids.

I think this is a real challenge for dads—based on my own experiences as a father and conversations I’ve had with other guys. We too easily get caught up in the daily schedule and the challenges of life, or we get distracted by our gadgets, or there’s some other factor that makes us impatient or snippy with our kids. Or we get into negative patterns that we don’t think we can change, and so we settle in and just get through the days. If our children aren’t getting our very best, well at least we’re providing the basic things they need.

That’s understandable, but it isn’t our best as fathers, and it isn’t ideal for children as they go through life. They need us to be fully engaged, creating the kind of bond that gives them confidence and security. They don’t need to be worrying with questions like, What’s up with Dad? Or, Why can’t I ever do enough to please him?

So, how do we create the kind of warmth that brings the other great benefits? Every relationship is different, and I’d be foolish if I said there was a four-step formula. But I also want to share what seems to work for me, and I hope these will be helpful for you:

- Make your kids a high priority, and let it show. I know you love your kids, but I also know they can tell when you’d rather be doing something besides hanging out with them.

Just imagine what they’re thinking and feeling when you’re willing to put aside what you’re doing because you really do enjoy being with them! That’s when they start trusting you more, opening up about what’s going on in their lives, and seeking you out to do things. Sure, it takes a lot of effort and energy, but it’s worth it.

- Enter their world. Your children probably have hobbies and interests that are not what you naturally enjoy. The kids can do things for hours that would bore you in five minutes.

This is a real challenge for me, but the times when I really invest myself in finding out more about what my son enjoys and why he enjoys it, pretty soon it becomes interesting and fun for me, too. And I often see a side of him that I hadn’t noticed before. I can tell that my effort to enter his world is affirming for him, and it adds a sense of greater understanding and comfort to our friendship. I’m less likely to talk down to him as a silly, immature kid, and I’m more likely to show respect for who he is.

- Push things deeper and risk discomfort. There are some situations that are easier to avoid or let someone else handle. But if you’re going to have that close connection with your children, you can’t sit on the sidelines or assume they will get the wisdom they need on their own. You have to be willing to push beyond the everyday, ordinary interactions and address the tough issues.

Maybe it’s having an involved discussion about your beliefs or about dangerous behaviors that other kids are getting into. Maybe it’s taking a stand and holding your child accountable with hard consequences.

On the other side, maybe it means expressing love and appreciation for your children from your heart, even though, based on your personality or your upbringing, it might feel unnatural or “unmanly” to say, “I love you” or give your kids hugs and kisses. Don’t assume they know how much you love them! Go deeper and speak those words they need to hear. Or start with fist bumps and squeezes on the shoulder as you work up to bear hugs.

- Maintain a steady demeanor—not too high or low. My dad really had this one down. He didn’t get overly excited when I did something well, and he didn’t go crazy when I messed up. I definitely knew when he was happy or disappointed with me, but nothing really changed the overall mood of our relationship.

This is also important because your kids will go through a lot of changes and adjustments. Your five-year-old might think you’re the coolest guy on the planet, and then your teenager might want nothing to do with you. Stay consistent and keep doing what you know is best through all the ups and downs. The relationship may change through the years, and it will probably feel different, but your child doesn’t need you any less.

Dad, what’s have I missed here? What is your secret for building that close bond with your kids? Please give me some feedback either below or on our Facebook page.

Action Points for Dads on the Journey

  • Take genuine interest in something your child enjoys, especially if it isn’t something that naturally appeals to you. Spend a good half hour checking it out and asking your child about it, what appeals to her, etc.
  • Ask someone who knows your family well—your child’s mom or another close friend—“Would you say my kids and I are close?” “What makes you say that?”
  • Make plans for a one-on-one outing with each of your kids in the next few weeks—something they enjoy, where you can just have fun and laugh together.
  • Initiate a discussion with your child—in terms appropriate for his/her age—about a topic that’s important to you or a lesson you learned the hard way.
  • Get feedback on 13 specific areas of your fathering—and action plans for the ones you may need to address—using our Championship Fathering Profile (CFP).

 

Carey CaseyCarey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who lives out loving, coaching and modeling for my children.

 

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The Secret for Passing Your Beliefs on to Your Kids

 

What’s the best way to pass your faith and your values to your children?

I know that’s a huge concern for many fathers. One of my top goals as a dad is that my children would embrace the faith that I have tried to live out. And even if religion isn’t your thing, today’s message still has a big insight for your fathering, so please stay with me.

Families and Faith: How Religion Is Passed Down Across GenerationsIn the recent book Families and Faith: How Religion Is Passed Down Across Generations, Vern Bengtson presents some eye-opening discoveries about “religious transmission.” Based on his research involving more than 3,500 people whose lives covered more than a century, he found that the pivotal factor” in whether children continue their parents’ faith is a strong bond with their father.

When it comes to training kids in matters of faith and morals, we might typically think of teaching them right from wrong, emphasizing obedience to specific rules and expectations, and being a reliable role model for right behavior.

How to Be a Father Secret for Passing Your Beliefs on to Your KidsBut Bengtson found that, while all those things are significant, they aren’t sufficient if there isn’t a strong emotional bond between the parent and child. A warm, close relationship with one’s father makes the most difference in regard to passing on religious faith—even more than a good relationship with one’s mother.

The same also appears to be true in nonreligious families: a strong emotional father-child bond creates the best chance for transmitting beliefs and values on to the next generation. (And while my examples and illustrations here describe a religious home, you can apply these principles to different approaches to faith and values.)

Doesn’t his point about relational warmth make perfect sense?

How many people do you know who were raised in religious homes, but through the years their fathers were too busy—at work, doing hobbies, or even serving in the church—to build a strong relationship? It’s typical for those kids to resist their dads’ desires, especially in faith matters. They will likely resent their fathers’ efforts to be leaders in faith matters, and may view their dads as hypocrites.

Since the religious training isn’t backed up with a solid, caring relationship, the children may fight against everything Dad stands for. Some of that will happen with teenagers anyway, but as dads, we need to learn from this.

One of my favorite sayings is, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” It’s especially true among the people in our homes. To pass on a legacy that includes faith or a system of values, we have to focus on building solid relationships with our kids.

They need much more than a list of rules and principles. Those times of teaching, worship and/or prayer are certainly important. But don’t forget, dad, to also build a strong relationship, so your children will want to follow in your footsteps. They need love to hold it all together.

How can you build that closeness in practical terms? Here are a few ideas in this week’s Action Points:

  • Set up a habit of doing something together, one-on-one, that your child will look forward to. It could be breakfast out on Saturdays, frozen yogurt every other Monday, or something similar. Let your child choose the food or activity.
  • “Take a kid along” when you head to the hardware store, the auto mechanic, the grocery store. Away from the rest of the family, you’ll have more of each other’s attention. And if something happens where you get to model honesty or service to someone else, that’s a bonus.
  • Tell your stories to your kids—about experiences, events and conversations that have shaped your beliefs through the years.
  • Talk about dreams—yours and theirs. What is happening in your community or in the world, and how do your beliefs provide hope and meaning even in uncertain times? And how might your child be able to make a difference during his or her life?
  • Be involved in whatever ways you can. When you’re there through the ups and downs of life, you’ll become a reliable point of reference for your child.

What’s your secret for building that close bond with your kids? What has worked when it comes to passing on your beliefs? Please help other dads by leaving a comment either below or on our Facebook page.

 

Read Carey’s “part 2″ of this blog, “How Dads Can Build a Close Bond.”

 

Carey CaseyCarey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who lives out loving, coaching and modeling for my children.

 

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7 “Simple” Ways to Handle Conflict (& Prepare Kids for Life)

 

How well do you handle conflict, dad?

When faced with tense situations, many guys withdraw or avoid confrontations. Some do the opposite—they lose control or explode, and do damage to those around them.

You might not think about this a lot, but handling conflict is an important responsibility for fathers. Our family members often take their cues from us; our actions and our overall mood during those times can inflame a situation or lead to resolving it.

how to be a dad Simple Ways to Handle ConflictI know many of us don’t handle conflict in the best way. I struggle with it myself sometimes. But I love simple solutions; often the best ideas are the simple ones, although simple often does not mean easy.

So here are seven simple ideas. These would fit well in the category, “all I really need to know I learned in kindergarten,” but I’m afraid too few of us really learned them well even if we heard them early in life.

And these actually came from an elementary school playground. One dad noticed them when he was volunteering as a WatchDOG at his child’s school, and he sent them our way. The dad thought they had a lot of application to his fathering, and I agree.

See if these uncover any areas where you need to grow when it comes to conflict in your family relationships:

1. Listen. By listening, you avoid flying off the handle, and you’re more likely to handle the situation without a lot of misunderstanding, which almost always makes things more difficult.

2. Talk it over. Once again, too many conflicts are based on not really understanding each other. Make sure you express your concerns without blaming or a lot of wild emotions.

To me, #3 and #4 go together: Share and take turns. In other words, think about the other person’s perspective, and be willing to compromise. Work toward a win-win solution.

5. Apologize. This is a big one for dads. An apology needs to include a sincere “I’m sorry,” and more. Show that you truly do regret what happened and you want to do your part to make things better.

6. Walk away. We don’t want to avoid conflict, but we also have to realize that we can’t always solve every issue right away. Sometimes, because of heated emotions or other reasons, it’s good to agree to take a break and talk more later.

7. Get help. Sometimes you need an outside perspective or more qualified expertise to help get past a sticking point in a relationship. Have the courage to get that help when you need to.

Sometimes the best answers really are things they teach in elementary school!

Just remember: good fathering isn’t always about doing things right; more often, it’s about learning from our mistakes and growing through the tough times.

Conflict resolution is so important in many different areas of life—in families, in work environments, and just about everywhere. And if we can coach our kids to use these skills, they will be spared a lot of trouble and heartache. Many of us can surely look back on issues and challenges we’ve been through, and see that these tips and skills would have made a big difference.

So, which of these is most relevant for you—for your own life or as you seek to teach your children about life? Share your thoughts and join the discussion either below or on our Facebook page.

Action Points for Dads on the Journey

  • When talking with your child (and his or her friends), make a conscious effort to be less hurried, less preoccupied. Focus on listening, learning something, and looking for positives.
  • Remember that good can come from conflicts. When a child hits an emotional peak, positive or negative, that’s precisely when a word of comfort or apology or encouragement can lead to a closer bond between you and him or her.
  • A great question to ask yourself during a conflict: “Is this more about my pride or my need to be ‘right’?”
  • Remind your kids often of attitudes and actions that will help them avoid conflict, like: “Treat others like you would want to be treated.”
  • Let your kids work through many of the minor, everyday disagreements on their own. Those can be good opportunities to develop problem-solving skills.

 

Carey CaseyCarey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who lives out loving, coaching and modeling for my children.

 

Image: © Paha_l | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

 

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Only from Dad: 5 Things to Teach Your Child

 

One of the main goals of this blog is to encourage and challenge you to make the most of every opportunity you have with your children, because your time with them is fleeting.

They grow up so fast, and before we know it they’re moving out and getting on with their lives. Also, it’s sobering but true: none of us have a guarantee that we’ll be here tomorrow. You never know when something tragic could happen.

I’m not telling you all this to bring you down, but to remind you how important it is to have your priorities straight. It’s too easy to get caught up in the busy-ness of life and coast along.

A while back, I heard about a great idea from a committed father named Bob—a way to be purposeful about the time he has left with his three sons at home. Part of living out that commitment includes leading regular family meetings, where everyone has a chance to talk about what’s going on and share any concerns they may have.

Father and son in garageOne day Bob came to the family time with this exercise: each of the boys had to come up with five things they wanted to learn before they leave home. Bob and his wife came up five things they thought their sons needed to learn as well.

By the next meeting, the boys had listed things like: how to fix various things on the car; how to manage their time; how to find a job; how to cook eggs and French toast; how to fix or replace a faucet.

What would your kids say? Maybe it’s time to ask.

I know teenagers often act like they already know everything, but eventually all kids realize that they don’t. They’ll leave home one day and there’s a lot of information and skills they’ll need if they’re going to do well on their own.

A big part of our job is coaching them now as we prepare them for that time. There are hundreds or even thousands of things our children need to see and do and learn, and as dads, we’re in the best position to teach them many of those things. It’s a never-ending task, so we need to get started.

So, your number one action point for today is to follow Bob’s lead and ask your kids what they want to learn from you. Start with five things for now; you can always add to them later, or start a new list once you have the first one checked off.

It’s a great exercise to help get some specific goals in front of you for each of your kids. And it might help you keep them as a high priority and make the most of every opportunity you have with them.

I’ll also mention that there are several helpful books that go hand-in-hand with today’s topic, and you might want to check them out: 1001 Things Your Kids Should See and Do—Or Else They’ll Never Leave Home and 1001 Things Every Teen Should Know Before They Leave Home.

What are the most important things you’ve taught your children—and what do they still want to learn from you? I hope you’ll join the discussion either below or on our Facebook page.

Action Points for Dads on the Journey

  • Talk with your children’s mother about an age-appropriate goal or skill for each of your children to learn (and for you to work on with them) during the next month—tying shoe laces, doing dishes, mowing the grass, finding useful information on the Internet, checking the air in the car’s tires, etc.
  • Give your children a glimpse of your budget and regular bills you pay, so they gain a better understanding of how much it costs just to keep the lights on and food in the pantry.
  • No matter what your child’s age, recruit him or her to assist you this weekend as you take care of a routine home maintenance task.
  • Help your kids find authors that they love to read.

 

Carey CaseyCarey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who lives out loving, coaching and modeling for my children.

 

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What the Best Coaches (and Dads) Do


The NCAA tournament is going full speed, and for many families spring sports leagues are ramping up—if they ever slowed down.

I’m getting ready to speak to college basketball coaches at the NABC convention at the Final Four in a few weeks, which is always a great event. Those guys face some unique fathering challenges, and it’s my privilege to try to help them in some small way. (If you’re interested, you can read my column in the latest Time Out magazine, published by the NABC, here—see page 20.)

I’m convinced that we dads can learn a lot from good coaches as we strive to raise our own budding all-Americans. One of my favorite coaching quotes actually comes from a football coach, the legendary Vince Lombardi. Looking back on his coaching years, Lombardi noted that what he missed most wasn’t the winning or the competition or the crowds. What he missed most was the camaraderie, the relationships that were forged and tested on the battleground. He said, “It’s a binding together…. It’s like fathers and sons, and that’s what I miss. I miss the players coming to me.”

What-the-Best-Coaches-and-Dads-Do

The best coaches, including Lombardi and many of you, recognize that they also play an important role as father figures. There are many ways fathers and coaches have similar roles, and here are 3 ways I believe we can improve our fathering by imitating coaches.

1. A good father (like a good coach) is aware of his children. He watches closely and gets to know them well; he learns about their gifts, attitudes, weaknesses, and tendencies, then he helps them develop their abilities and perform their best. He tries to put them in situations where they can succeed, giving each member a role so he or she can make a valuable contribution to the team.

2. He builds strong relationships and a sense of family among the group. He leads in such a way that everyone wants to do well for the benefit of the entire group. They know they can trust each other in the heat of battle; they don’t want to let each other down.

3. A good coach (and father) provides motivation and encouragement. In life, as in sports, there are great plays and dropped balls, winning streaks and slumps, good seasons and bad. A good dad is ready to celebrate enthusiastically or exhort his children to keep fighting—to dust themselves off, learn from the setbacks, and get back in there. He tells his children, “I believe in you,” win or lose.

Dad, what have you learned about being a dad from your coaches or mentors in life? Encourage other dads by sharing your thoughts either below or on our Facebook page.

Action Points for Dads on the Journey

    • Help your children set goals for their upcoming seasons. Then ask, “What’s the best way I can help you?”
    • Enter all your children’s games and some one-on-one practice time on your calendar.
    • Point out the coaches’ behavior to your kids when you’re watching on TV or in person. Ask them questions like, “Why did he do that?” “How would you feel if he said talked to you that way?”
    • Consider volunteering as an assistant coach or team manager, or fill another position of need for a youth sports team in your area—even if your children are grown or very young.
    • Talk with your children’s mother about a “game plan” for training each of your children in terms of morals and values.

 

Carey CaseyCarey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who lives out loving, coaching and modeling for my children.

 

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A 5th Grader Describes 3 Ways to Be a Better Dad

 

We get to read a lot of priceless comments about dads written by kids as part of our Father of the Year Essay Contests, and I want to share an example from a 5th grader named Brennan. He’ll probably make you laugh, but I think you’ll also be challenged to be a better dad:

5th Grader Describes 3 Ways to Be a Better DadWhen I talk to my dad, he never says “uh-huh” like some people do before you’re even done talking. Dad really listens; he never criticizes me or yells at me.
   Dad holds the door open for women—this shows that he respects them. Mom never has to open any door when he’s around or carry anything heavy. Dad says she works hard all day and if he can help her in any way, he will.
   Sometimes Dad and I will have a father-son day—this means we go to Home Depot and do “man things.” We look at tools that we don’t have any idea what they are used for and maybe one day we will buy them just to have them around just in case.
   When he gets really old, like 45 years old, I will be taking him on a father-son day and wheel him into Home Depot just to look around and touch things, just like he used to do when I was just a kid.

Sometimes I wish I had someone pushing me around Home Depot in a wheelchair, don’t you?

But let’s not miss the powerful ways this young man is learning from his dad what it means to be a father. Let me drive home Brennan’s three points:

- Listen to your family members. Brennan’s dad is quick to listen and slow to become angry, and it makes a difference in their relationship. It may seem obvious, but we too often forget: good listening requires us to stop talking, pause, and let a child finish her thought even when her talking has become long and tiresome, or even when we already know what she’s going to say. We need to listen to what they are saying on the surface and what they are really saying from their heart. Good listening informs our actions as fathers.

- Show respect for women—especially the mother of your children. Through your actions and your words, show that you place high value on her role and all she does. How are you doing at this? If you’re married, does your wife know you’re there to serve her, and that you respect her for who she is and the role she plays? This is an important area of modeling for your kids.

- Be actively involved with your children. Brennan mentioned having father-son days when they can do “man things.” Kids treasure that time together, whether it’s planning a special day together or just bringing them along while you run errands. But it’s important—for a day or even for a few hours—to escape everyday responsibilities, break up the routine, and create those opportunities when you can really connect and make memories together. Your child needs to know that during those hours, your time is like a big buffet—he can have all he wants, and no cell phone or work demand will distract you or pull you away.

Those are your fathering objectives for the next week, dad, straight from a 5th grader: listen, show respect, and be involved.

Which of these areas is the biggest challenge for you? Or, what have you learned that has helped you address them? Leave a comment either below or on our Facebook page.             

Action Points for Dads on the Journey

  • Really listen to your child. Draw him out conversation. Say, “Let’s make sure I understand. Do you mean …?”
  • Give your wife a day off by taking your kids somewhere, or care for them while she goes out with her friends.
  • Clear some time for a father-child day—or at least an afternoon—and discover or renew an activity that’s special for just the two of you. Consider letting her plan all the activities; just focus on having fun together.
  • Ask your child, “What qualities would make a great dad?”

 

Carey CaseyCarey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who lives out loving, coaching and modeling for my children.

 

Photo: stockimages / freedigitalphotos.net.

 

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3 Ways to Really Be There for Your Wife

 

Do you have thoughtful, creative plans in place for Valentine’s Day?

I know some guys go all out for it: “This is one more opportunity to demonstrate how much I love her, and I’m making the most of it.”

Others practically boycott the holiday: “It’s just a trumped-up excuse to get people buying cards and chocolate; besides, we should be demonstrating our love in creative ways all year long.”

And surely many guys are somewhere in between. There are valid reasons for the different approaches. And instead of dwelling too much on what happens February 14th, today I’m turning my attention to your relationship moving forward, and how you can make it better.

How to be a father 3 Ways to Really Be There for Your WifeThere has been some interesting research through the years on men and women, and how they handle job-related stresses. It’s no surprise that men and women handle stresses differently: men will often bring work home, but they can leave work-related emotional issues at the office or worksite; women are typically more likely to worry longer about interpersonal issues and interactions from work.

And here’s what’s especially relevant to dads who are married or in romantic relationships:

In a UCLA study, the women who said they had a good marriage did much better at relieving the stress of the day than women who said they weren’t in that kind of relationship. There are three common factors that make a difference, and I’m going to give you these as Action Points for dads and husbands.

And please note that these can also apply to at-home moms, who definitely work hard and deal with stressful encounters every day. Keep these in mind to help your wife relieve day-to-day pressures:

Be ready to listen. Women need us to allow them to vent in some detail about the ups and downs of their day—and unless they ask for it directly, they probably don’t want our advice. Women typically need to talk more than we do, guys. They need us to be patient listeners.

Get busy. Help with household duties and childcare tasks. Shouldering a share of the work should come naturally for any man who wants to be a sensitive husband and committed father.

Change the mood. Demonstrate love and affirmation in a variety of ways. Give her a hug and a kiss, and tell her how special she is to you. If she arrives home—or you arrive home—and she’s carrying a lot of emotional baggage from the day, you can give her a clear indication that your relationship is a safe haven, a refuge from the other worries and stresses of the day.

Another great benefit of all these actions is that they set a great example for your sons and daughters. Your children are watching you, and when they see your acts of devotion and service, they’ll gain a lot of security and will take those positive pictures of your marriage into their own relationships someday.

Okay, I’d like to get your feedback. What do you do to relieve stress for your kids’ mom—and what results have you seen? Leave a comment either below or on our Facebook page.

2 More Action Points for Dads on the Journey

  • Whether or not you celebrate Valentine’s Day, make sure you schedule meaningful, regular times together as a couple, away from the kids. Let the kids know why you’re doing it, and that you’ll be having a great time together.
  • Either today or in the coming weeks, enlist your kids’ help in doing something special for your wife, whether it’s making a gift, or shopping for one, or cleaning the house (including the bathroom).

 

Carey CaseyCarey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: I want tips on how to be a great dad who lives out loving, coaching and modeling for my children.

 

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Olympic “Undude” is Committed Dad: “Life is just beginning”

 

What does being a father mean to you?

As the Winter Olympics begin, I want to highlight some committed dads who will be competing there in Sochi, and some comments they made about their role as fathers.

Billy Demong (Nordic Combined Skiing) said, “Fatherhood has made me much better with time management. It’s about striking a balance and prioritizing and focusing on what’s important.”

And Heath Calhoun (Alpine Skiing – Paralympian) commented, “In my spare time, I like to spend every minute possible just being ‘dad’ to my three kids!”

Todd Lodwick (Nordic Combined), who is the first six-time Olympian, said this about his role: “I grew up [spending] all of my free time outside. I’m now sharing that tradition every chance I get with my kids, hiking, camping & fishing.”

Photo courtesy of David Wise.And I want to tell you more about David Wise (pictured at right), a competitor in Freeskiing – Halfpipe. David is 23 years old, married, with a 2-year-old daughter. A recent New York Times article dubbed him the “undude” because he stands out as very different from many others in the skiing and snowboarding culture. As the Times reporter said it, David is “surprisingly grounded for someone who makes a living flying through the air.”

Fatherhood is a big part of that. He says, “Being a dad is an amazing experience. It is an equal share of intimidating responsibility and overwhelming reward.”

He thinks it may also be an unfair advantage over his rivals. Being a family man has given him a different perspective on his life and his competitions, so he’s more relaxed and able to push himself when he’s skiing. And failing or losing wouldn’t be the crushing blow that it might otherwise be since he has other, higher priorities in his family.

Here’s another quote from David in the Times article: “People look at me and say: ‘Man, you’re married and have a kid? Your life is over.’ And I think, My life is just beginning.”

Now, let me ask again: What does fatherhood mean to you? How are you different or better because you’re a dad?

Maybe you’ve gradually become comfortable with the idea that making sacrifices is part of fatherhood; you’re giving up some things you enjoy because duty calls. You’re reigning in some career ambitions, hobbies or other pursuits because you’re a dad. Only you’re finding that these really aren’t sacrifices, but simply ways you’re living out your priorities.

For some, a life-threatening situation wakes you up to what’s most important in life, or what you’ve been taking for granted.

Or maybe you’ve been doing some reflecting about the good things you learned from your dad—or even the things you learned because of your dad’s influence. Now you want to figure out ways to pass those values and lessons on to your children.

A few years back, a study concluded that fathers are significantly more likely to be outward-focused and service-oriented compared to men who are not fathers. Fatherhood changes us; it helps to make us more selfless and empathetic, and more responsive to the needs of others in our neighborhoods and communities. (This is particularly true for highly involved fathers.)

Those are a few factors that might help some dads answer the question, but I’m also interested in how you would respond—what being a dad means to you. I hope you’ll leave feedback either below or on our Facebook page.

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a committed dad. Let that role help define you more and more. Through the challenges of life—and especially when something seems too much to handle or determined to go against you—think of your kids, your love for them and your commitment to them. Being a dad gives great meaning and purpose to your life; it shouldn’t be your only purpose, but it’s a great one to have near the top of your list.

Action Points for Dads on the Journey

  • Enjoy the snow with your kids in some kind of backyard Olympic-like competition. (Let them come up with the “sport” you’ll try.)
  • Get online with your child and look up an athlete or two that you can learn about and then watch together when they compete. Check out NBCOlympics.com and TeamUSA.org for more information.
  • Set aside time every day to help your child develop a skill, whether you’re rolling a ball back and forth with your infant or helping your older child practice a sport or finish his homework.
  • Plan to spend a solid hour this next week with each of your children, one on one. Tell each one, “Let’s do something together. You choose.”
  • Arrange to bring pizza during your child’s lunchtime at school. (Bring enough for a few friends too.) Or volunteer to help with the Valentine’s party in your child’s class.

 

Carey CaseyCarey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who lives out loving, coaching and modeling for my children.

Photo courtesy of David Wise.

 

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Dad, Laugh with Your Kids—You Both Need It

 

I have always loved to laugh with my kids. Who doesn’t, right?

A dad named Richard tells about one night when he was reading books with his 4-year-old son. Little Matt wanted one more book, but Richard said it was time for bed.

Now, Richard and his wife typically offer their children choices to help shape their behavior; the two choices, both of which are agreeable to Richard and his wife, establish appropriate boundaries while giving the children a sense of power in day-to-day matters.

Well, on this night Richard found out that Matt was catching on to his system … sort of. When Richard said again, “Sorry, son, that’s enough for tonight,” Matt came back with, “Okay, Dad. Would you rather read me another book, or have me poke your eye?”

Fatherhood brings lots of those priceless moments of humor and joy to our lives—among many other benefits. But too often, the serious and sober realities of raising responsible children overwhelm our spontaneous, witty and playful sides.

Parents Reading to Laughing BoyBut we need to remember that humor and laughter promote health—physically, developmentally, and relationally. Physically, laughter relaxes muscles, releases stress hormones, reduces pain, and may even enhance our immune systems—according to Paul McGhee, Ph.D., who has done extensive research on humor.

As children grow, if they learn to appreciate humor, they will develop higher creative skills because humor and creativity both draw on divergent thinking—they bring new and unique insights to problems and situations. That capacity also helps children deal well with the unexpected, which is beneficial for coping in day-to-day situations.

Surely you’ve surely seen the power of laughter in relating to your children. In tense situations, a good dose of laughter can open doors and restore a sense of hope. When you’re having fun with your child, you both let your guard down and you’re likely to have better communication and just enjoy each other’s company. Laughter makes you more approachable—especially if you can laugh at your own shortcomings.

What are some ways to do this? From what I’ve seen, play and humor come natural for most dads. I’ve provided some suggestions in the Action Points below, but I’m really hoping you’ll provide me (and other dads) with a bunch more ideas by leaving a comment either below or on our Facebook page.

Please let us know: How do you and your kids have fun and laugh together most often?

Action Points for Dads on the Journey

  • Humor is a great strategy with children of any age, if you know how to get to their funny bone. Figure out how to have fun on your children’s level by immersing yourself in their world. Hang out together, read their books, play their games, listen to their stories, etc.
  • Play make-believe with your young child. Let yourself go! Shake hands with “imaginary friends”; use your silly voice; make the chair talk and the flowers sing.
  • When something funny happens, capture it on video, audio, in a photograph or in a journal. Re-live that memory when everyone is frustrated, depressed, or just needs to laugh.
  • What common interests do you have with your child when it comes to humor and what you enjoy? What causes laughter and silliness in your daughter? What brings that mischievous grin to your son’s face? Find out, and then capitalize on it for the benefit of your relationship.
  • Tell each child about the joy you felt at his or her birth. Recall other specific times since then when they have brought you joy.

 

Carey CaseyCarey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who lives out loving, coaching and modeling for my children.

 

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