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.

 

Leave a comment below.

  • The first comment form is connected to Facebook.
  • If you aren’t a Facebook user (or you prefer not to use that form to make your comment), look further down the page to “Speak Your Mind.” That form is exclusive to this blog.

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.

 

Leave a comment below.

  • The first comment form is connected to Facebook.
  • If you aren’t a Facebook user (or you prefer not to use that form to make your comment), look further down the page to “Speak Your Mind.” That form is exclusive to this blog.

Being a Father Is a Great Privilege and Responsibility

 

Every child needs a dad.

That’s what keeps us going here at the National Center for Fathering. We want to help create a Championship Fathering culture where there’s an actively engaged father or father figure in the life of every child.

We’re not out just to build up men, and we are definitely not about starting a gender war; we’re out to improve the lives of children, and dads are an important part of that picture. Statistics shows that children thrive when they have involved fathers; many of the ills in our land can be addressed on some level by inspiring and equipping men to be the involved fathers their children need.

How to Be a Father Great Privilege ResponsibilityYou’re probably very aware of the importance of your role as a father. We hear about it convincingly from thousands of kids every year in our essay contests. We also hear it from dads.

Let me tell you about what one dad told me recently: At the end of the school semester, his 9-year-old son brought home a stack of papers and projects. One was an assignment to draw pictures representing different aspects and events in his life. On one page, under the heading “The Most Important Thing In My Life,” the boy had scribbled an image of his dad.

Just imagine how that dad felt! He actually said he wasn’t too flattered by how the drawing portrayed his receding hairline and pudgy mid-section, but most of all he savored that feeling of being appreciated.

He talked about the everyday investments he’d made in his son’s life up to that point—the evenings kicking a soccer ball at him so that he could sharpen his goalie skills, or their regular time going to get ice cream and talk about life together. Clearly, those investments were making a difference; he was connecting with his son and influencing him in positive ways.

This dad’s experience was actually rare, because usually we don’t get a chance to see that we’re making a difference in our kids’ lives until years later. Other than maybe on Father’s Day, there isn’t a lot of recognition or appreciation for what we do. (And we’re trying to change that!)

But this dad didn’t pull a muscle trying to pat his own back. After just a few moments those good feelings led to a renewed sense of commitment, as well as being awed and humbled by the great privilege and responsibility of fatherhood.

He thought of all the other great opportunities he has to invest in his kids—like helping with homework, being more purposeful in doing the bedtime routine, and teaching them skills around the house or wherever they were together.

What about you, dad? As you reflect on the past year of your fathering, you’ll probably recall some great times with your kids. Maybe you’ve even seen tangible evidence that you’re making a difference in their lives. Soak those in and enjoy them. And of course, for every dad there are also challenges here and there.

Whatever you think about and feel as you reflect, remember that you play a pivotal role in your child’s life. You do make a difference. You are tremendously important in the life of your child.

If you’re like me, when you read that statement, “Every child needs a dad,” you see even more ways to invest yourself in the New Year. So I say, look forward with hope and confidence, and follow through. Call it a resolution if you want to, but I challenge you to make it a new, positive fathering habit—and start it today.

Action Points for Dads on the Journey

  • Ask your kids, “What’s your favorite memory from last year that involved both of us?” Then start planning some similar activities for the coming months.
  • Have you saved cards from past Father’s Days, or other souvenirs where one of your kids expressed appreciation for what you do? Go get them and look through them—without dwelling on them for too long. It’s good to be reminded about the important role you play.
  • What opportunities do you see where you can have even more positive impact on your children? List a few possibilities, and keep them in front of you every day.
  • There are more great ways to make a difference for kids around you: encourage a child without a dad, and/or reach out to a father who may need your support in some way.
  • Thanks to everyone who gave to support our efforts to inspire and equip dads. If you’re interested in helping us continue and expand our work, just go to fathers.com/getinvolved or fathers.com/donate.

Guys, when have you seen evidence that you’re making a difference in your kids’ lives? I know a lot of other dads need to be reminded and encouraged. Please share about your experiences either below or on our Facebook page.

 

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.

 

Leave a comment below.

  • The first comment form is connected to Facebook.
  • If you aren’t a Facebook user (or you prefer not to use that form to make your comment), look further down the page to “Speak Your Mind.” That form is exclusive to this blog.

 

 

Getting More Involved as a Dad will Change You

We’re always hearing great things about our WATCH D.O.G.S. (Dads Of Great Students) program. It’s such a simple idea, but something about dads giving a day to volunteer and get involved at their children’s school inspires people in amazing ways.

In the past few weeks, we’ve heard testimonies from two different dads who said that getting involved in this way has changed them as men and fathers. These are the kinds of stories that bring me to tears.

So today I’m featuring these two guys’ comments. They’ve said it better than I ever could anyway.

AA-WD-Dad-hi-10This first one is from Mike, in Kentucky. (I’m giving you pieces of what he wrote on the WATCH D.O.G.S. Facebook page. It’s really great stuff—I’d encourage you to go read the whole thing here.)

A few years ago, the idea of spending time at school was not in my thoughts. Work was work, play was play, and school was a place for kids. I was a dad that went to school whenever my wife told me to.

But Mike’s daughter invited him to the Pizza Night to learn about the program, and he reluctantly signed up. Then the big day came. As he wrote:

My daughter was so excited as we entered her school. [Then] everything was happening at the speed of light. Stand here, look there, wave at the kids and their parents. Have my picture taken, stand at attention for the pledge of allegiance and be introduced to the school as the WatchDOG dad.

At that moment I think I changed. I had never had a day go so quickly, been so fun, and been so impressed. Everywhere I walked that day I experienced the best our schools can be. I was amazed! As I left that afternoon, I stopped at the official calendar [and] decided I was coming back. No one needed to sign me up this time….

I often think back to those days, and wonder about what could have been, and how lucky I am to have the opportunity to walk through those doors…. I changed that day. I realized that my daughter was a whole lot more important than work….

I also realized that I could make a difference. My presence at school was a positive. I could engage and inspire. I can lead by example….

This is my new normal, and it’s happening all across our great country, from shore to shore as we fathers and father figures sign up, show up and become involved.

Pretty amazing stuff. Now, here’s a brief comment from a dad who volunteers regularly at his child’s school in Ohio:

Being a WatchDOG has changed me completely—as a man, as a husband, and as a dad. I have much more patience with my own son now as well as other children, and I better understand his academic struggles. I also go home every day [after volunteering at the school] in a good mood.

I believe every dad, uncle, grandpa and father figure should sign up and be involved in this program—or bring WATCH D.O.G.S. to a school in your community if it isn’t there already. There really is something special that happens to dads when they become “heroes of the hallways.” You can find out more at fathers.com/watchdogs.

But I’ll also admit that there’s a bigger truth behind this. When we dads get a taste of how much we can make a difference—how much children thrive on our presence and involvement—it can have a motivating, challenging, sometimes even life-changing effect on us.

Maybe you’re reluctant to dive into something with your child—like Mike was at first. Maybe you’re a new dad who’s still adjusting to the idea of having kids and how to be a good dad. Or a dad who’s settled into a routine with your kids, and it’s all fine, but nothing outstanding for you or for them.

I would challenge you to try something new with your kids. WATCH D.O.G.S. is a great option. One dad we know—a single, long-distance dad—found a deeper relationship with his daughter when he just happened to be with her to soothe her after an accident at a hotel swimming pool. He called that moment, “The Hug that Changed My Life.”

A few years back, we were able to interview a committed military dad who was serving our country overseas at the time. He gave us this inspiring statement: “My relationship with [my daughter] has helped to define who I am. I am a better man because I’m a father.”

When you take that first step—showing that you’re faithful and reliable in your involvement with your child—it often leads to a breakthrough. Your relationship will be changed, and I believe that as you become a more engaged father, you’ll also become a better person in significant ways.

How has being an involved dad changed you or made you a better man? Share your ideas either below or on our Facebook page.

Action Points for Dads on the Fathering Journey

  • Ask your child, “What’s something new we could do together that you’d enjoy?”
  • Volunteer at your child’s school—a whole day or half day as a WatchDOG, as a field trip chaperone, or for a specific in-class project. (This is a great way for all dads—especially non-custodial dads—to learn more about their children’s world.)
  • Take over a daily childcare task that your child’s mom typically handles. Try to make it special “daddy time.”
  • Join your son or daughter in a project that he or she is working on. Ask a simple question like, “Can I help?” Then make it more than just a project; really give yourself to being in the moment with him or her.

 

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.

Please leave a comment below.

  • The first comment form is connected to Facebook.
  • If you aren’t a Facebook user (or you prefer not to use that form to make your comment), look further down the page to “Speak Your Mind.” That form is exclusive to this blog.

 

Viral Video: Dad, Celebrate Your Kids

 

If you haven’t seen it yet, you have to check out this viral video taken by a teenage boy in the U.K.

To set the scene, the boy, Aria, is about to show his father his report card…

 

 

Now that’s one proud and excited dad! Maybe the best part is the look in Aria’s face through the whole thing. That’s one affirmed young man!

To give you more of the story, Aria had been failing “maths,” and he needed at least a C to be able to get through the class and move on with pursuing some of his other goals and dreams—which are not math-related. Here’s a feature and interview with more details.

ReportCardDadThe video is getting so much attention because the dad is a bit over-the-top with joy, but I’m moved and challenged by it. Mr. Shahrokhshahi is clearly an emotional guy, but if he can get that excited when his son achieves something that’s “satisfactory,” can’t I also find reasons to celebrate and affirm my son for the things he accomplishes?

Do you express pride in your kids?

I’ll never forget the time my dad was visiting our family, not long before he died. One day he rode along to see where I worked. We went into my office, and the building where I worked at the time overlooked the baseball stadium. It was an amazing view.

Dad sat down in my chair and swung around and looked out the window to take it in. He glanced at me, and quietly looked out the window. I could tell he was soaking it all in and was moved by what he saw. Then finally he said, “You know, I am proud of you, Son.”

Not quite the reaction that Aria received, but that isn’t who my Pop was. Still, I’ll never forget that moment. And I’m blessed, because Pop said those words to me many times in different ways through the years.

But I also know many men have never heard those kinds of words from their fathers. If that describes you, you probably have no idea how your father’s pride looks, sounds, or feels. And then showing pride or celebrating your own children feels totally foreign.

It seems to come easily for Aria’s dad, and every can’t be like that. But please remember that all children—at any age—need that blessing and affirmation from their dads. They long to hear that they are respected and appreciated. Something isn’t quite complete without it.  As Aria said in Today Show interview, that interaction with his father was “a very important moment” in his life.

Don’t fake it here. If you’re insincere as you gush over your kids, they’ll know something isn’t quite right. But please find appropriate ways to celebrate your children for who they are and what they are doing in life.

And let me add one more brief caution: so many people today are all about getting into the spotlight and seeking glory for themselves. And kids are picking up on that; many of them could use a dose of humility. There’s a balance we have to find as dads: praising our kids and finding ways to celebrate their successes, while also coaching them to stay humble and work hard for what they achieve.

What memories do you have of your dad showing pride in you? Or what reasons can you think of right now to celebrate and show pride in your child? Please share with us and other dads either below or on our Facebook page.

Action Points for Dads on the Fathering Journey

  • Look at your son or daughter squarely in the eye and say, “I am proud of you.” Or, “It’s a privilege just to be your dad.”
  • Start tuning in more to when your child is making some extra effort or finding a measure of success in something new they’re attempting—and go just a little overboard with positive encouragement.
  • If you can, be specific with your praise. You might say, “I saw how you helped that other boy, and I’m really proud of you.”
  • How do you handle report cards with your kids? Even if they have some areas to improve, make sure you also point out the good grades they’re getting and praise them for that.
  • Even while celebrating your children, keep them grounded in the real world. Whenever I did something noteworthy, my Pop would be like, “I’m proud of you, Son…. Don’t forget it’s your turn to take out the trash when you get home.”

 

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 who 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.

 

Please leave a comment below.

  • The first comment form is connected to Facebook.
  • If you aren’t a Facebook user (or you prefer not to use that form to make your comment), look further down the page to “Speak Your Mind.” That form is exclusive to this blog.

 

Be a Dad Who ‘Pays It Forward’ with Your Kids

 

Did you hear about #AJO? It’s a fantastic story, although it’s also quite tragic.

A.J.O. are the initials of Alyssa Josephine O’Neill, an 18-year-old who died during an epileptic seizure just last month. On September 3rd, she texted her mom and asked if they could go to Starbucks the next day for a pumpkin spice latte.

They made the plans, but they never got the chance to follow through because Alyssa died early the next morning.

During the grieving process for her parents and her siblings, they came to a point where they wanted to honor their daughter’s memory in some way. So, they came up with this idea: they went to Starbucks and bought pumpkin spice lattes for the next 40 people—just whoever happened to come by. At their request, the Starbucks staff wrote #AJO on every cup they handed out. Then, moved by the gesture, the managers gave free lattes to 50 more people.

how to Be a Dad Pay It Forward with Your KidsFrom there, this small effort to honor a daughter and the Twitter hashtag #AJO turned into a worldwide “pay it forward” movement. People went nuts with random acts of kindness! They started buying meals and gift cards and paying bills for others. Some people went to a local hospital with a bunch of coins and maxed out all the parking meters. On Twitter, #AJO continues to show up in photos from Mexico, Germany, Afghanistan, Australia, and many other places around the globe.

Alyssa’s dad, Jason, has said that just when he thinks, Nothing can top this, he hears about another incredible act of kindness that was inspired by their story. And while nothing can replace his daughter, it helps to know her legacy is about helping other people.

You can get more details about the story here (and many more places on the Internet).

Now, dad, if you’re like me you’re inspired by this story, and it leads me to ask, What do you think your kids would do with an idea like this?

I would challenge you to get them thinking in this direction and then see what happens. Who in your neighborhood needs some encouragement? What could they do to create a spirit of selflessness and kindness at their school? What would happen if you took five, ten or twenty dollars and went out together in your community simply to see how many people you could bless in some way? (Don’t you think that experience for you and your kids would be worth the money?)

You never know what kind of impact that could have on your kids. It might rock their world; they might start doing nice things for their siblings; they might stop complaining about chores. Hey, it could happen!

One of my heroes, George Washington Carver, said this about the importance of being kind to others:

How far you go in life depends on your being
Tender with the young
Compassionate with the aged
Sympathetic with the striving
Tolerant of the weak and the strong
Because …
Some day in your life,
You will have been all of these.

I think you’d be surprised at what can happen through simple acts of kindness. We need a lot more of that in our world, and in our families.

What other examples do you know of, where kids and families do not-so-random acts of kindness? And what benefits have you seen in your kids when they do these kinds of things? Please join the conversation either below or on our Facebook page.

Action Points for Dads on the Fathering Journey

  • Teach your kids to see a need and respond: The yard is full of leaves, therefore I need to go get the rake. Plant similar ideas in their heads before the need arises, and then give all kinds of positive reinforcement when they do respond.
  • Talk with each of your kids about who in the family is especially busy right now, or who is struggling in some way. Ask, “What can we do to help or encourage him?” “How can we make her life a little easier?”
  • Dads, we have to model this “pay-it-forward” way of life, demonstrating with our lives that we aren’t here just to be served or take up space; we’re here to make a difference in some way.
  • Help your kids develop sensitivity for a friend who’s been left out, a needy neighbor, and so on. Create the impression that kindness and thoughtfulness are natural responses, and reward them when they take initiative.
  • If you have found something useful to your fathering journey—a resource, a skill, a truth—pay it forward to another dad you know.

 

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 who 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.

Pure Inspiration: A Boy’s Notes to His Dad

 

You may know that our mission at the National Center for Fathering is to inspire and equip dads. I’ll tell you up front: today’s blog is pure inspiration. When you see these photos, I think you’ll agree….

Here’s what happened not long ago when a dad named Lane came home after a week-long work trip. His nine-year-old son Andy, without his mom helping or even knowing about it, created and left a series of handwritten notes around the house, like a scavenger hunt for his dad.

The first note was on the front door:

 

“Dear Dad, I know right now as you are reading this I am asleep. I have had a very good week. Especially when I got that Bionicle set. Tomorrow morning may you please leave a letter of how your week went? Love, your son Andy.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few steps into the house, Lane got his first clue:

Andy2

 

“First clue: Go to the kitchen [for] a bite to eat. Then go [to] the loft for your second clue.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I just love it that Andy thought about his dad being hungry when he first got home. Here’s the second clue:

Andy3

 

Second clue: Go to the kids’ room and you will find your third clue.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then this in the kids’ room:

 

“Third clue: Go to the loft again and find the fourth clue.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re wondering where all this was leading, you can imagine Lane’s sense of anticipation. Back in the loft, he found this:

 

“Fourth clue: Hooray, you found the surprise!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What was the surprise? Four more handwritten pages, taped together to form a little book. First was the title page:

 

“You Are a Great Father, by Andy.” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Second page:

 

“When I am down, you help me up. When I get hurt, you help me out of pain.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Page three:

 

“You are good. You keep us healthy. You keep us safe. You keep us happy.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last page:

 

“You are a great father.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How can your heart not be stirred by that? Lane says his heart just melted.

And I don’t know what situation you’re in today. Maybe your experiences as a dad involve a lot more struggles than expressions of love. Maybe you’re at odds with your kids much more than you’re enjoying each other. Or maybe you aren’t able to see your children for some reason. It could be that you’re traveling for work and missing your kids right now.

Whatever situation you’re in, I hope you feel the pride in Andy’s notes. Lane will tell you he’s no perfect dad, but it stirs my heart to see that little Andy knows his dad plays an important and valuable role.

You may never have a son or daughter do a special surprise like that, but I hope you’ll hear Andy’s words as if they were coming from your child: “When I am down, you help me up. When I get hurt, you help me out of pain. You’re good. You help keep us healthy. You keep us safe. You keep us happy.”

Dad, know that your efforts as a father are noticed and appreciated—even if your children never tell you. They really do need you, and they would be much worse off without you. Soak in those positive feelings of love, awe, humility, pride, accomplishment, or gratitude. Then, translate that into a greater commitment to be the dad your children need. Do all you can to live up to the best that they think of you.

Has one of your children done something like what Andy did for his dad? How did it make you feel? Please add to the inspiration by sharing your experiences with me and other dads either below or on our Facebook page.

You’re a great father to your kids! Keep up the good work, dad.

Action Points for Dads on the Journey

  • Do something surprising and creative to show how much you appreciate each of your children.
  • Encourage your kids to do something special to appreciate their mom—or a teacher or coach who is special to them.
  • Take some silly photos with your child.
  • Does your child have a stressful or challenging event or day coming up? Do something extra to help make it go better.
  • When you come home from work, devote the few minutes to reconnecting with each family member before you go relax or start on other responsibilities.

 

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 who 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 loves, coaches, mentors, and inspires my children.

 

 

Please leave a comment below.

  • The first comment form is connected to Facebook.
  • If you aren’t a Facebook user (or you prefer not to use that form to make your comment), look further down the page to “Speak Your Mind.” That form is exclusive to this blog.

 

Fifty Years Later: Fathers’ Dreams for Their Children

 

I had to call my brother on Wednesday. I wanted to talk about his memories about our pop and what happened fifty years ago on August 28.

I was seven years old on the day of the March on Washington and the “I have a dream” speech. But my dad was there. He took off work at the Veteran’s Administration hospital to travel four or five hours to Washington, and that took courage.

MLK-Dream-MarchWhat I remember most was the feeling that Dad was doing something important. And when he walked in the house afterward, he showed us a white button that he brought back—just like the one on Dr. King’s lapel in the photos. More than that, I remember the atmosphere in the house as he visited with my mother. It wasn’t a wild celebration or anything, but there was a sense of joy and hope, like a new day was coming.

Ever since then, I’ve been fascinated by the details of that day in Washington fifty years ago. I’ve studied the lives of many of the people who were there, and I’ve learned to imitate Dr. King’s cadence when he spoke.

Much of the talk I’ve heard this week has been about whether things have changed in fifty years—or whether things have changed enough. Clearly, our nation still has room to improve in many areas. As I’ve often said, I believe that if Dr. King were alive today, the fatherhood crisis that affects so many children and families would be one of his top concerns.

And I think about what my dad would say if he were alive today. When I dropped my son off at his high school on Wednesday, the thought came to me:

That’s Ralph Casey’s grandson, doing what his granddad dreamed and desired that his descendants would do. He’s going to school with kids of all different races, learning about the world, talking about where he’s going to go to college and dreaming about what type of career and future he’s going to have.

Have all racial issues been solved? Is it a perfect situation for everyone? Definitely not. But I believe my pop would be smiling at the progress.

My daddy shaped the content of my character—and that of his children’s children. The basics of who he was live on through us and his grandkids, and I’m grateful whenever I think about that. As my brother told me, our dad had courage, he was consistent, and he was humble.

For all of us dads, we have to keep coaching our kids. Dr. King’s father kept his son in line and helped set him up to be a leader. He made those daily investments just like my Pop did with me.

Remember, you never know where your children will go or what they will accomplish. Are you coaching those youngsters eating at your dinner table in such a way that they will grow up to have great marriages, make important contributions to society, come up with new discoveries, and/or be part of a much-needed cultural change? And then raise the next generation to do the same?

Being a dad is not just about our individual kids and their future. Through the way we coach them for life, we’re making investments for the greater community; we’re contributing to a better future.

What are your dreams for your children? How do you keep those long-term goals in mind every day? Please leave a comment either below or on our Facebook page.

Action Points for Dads on the Journey

  • Talk with a sibling or another childhood friend about your father’s influence and his character.
  • What historical or personal events have shaped who you are? Share those memories—and the way they changed you—with your children.
  • Challenge your child to take on a new level of leadership in one of his or her pursuits. (And be there to coach him along if he does.)
  • Dream with your kids. What will the world be like 50 years from now? What changes would benefit the most people?

 

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 who 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 loves, coaches, mentors, and inspires my children.

 

Please leave a comment below.

  • The first comment form is connected to Facebook.
  • If you aren’t a Facebook user (or you prefer not to use that form to make your comment), look further down the page to “Speak Your Mind.” That form is exclusive to this blog.

 

Fathering Challenges Demand the Right Attitude

 

Perseverance in the face of challenges …

It’s one of the qualities I appreciate most when I study our founding fathers in America as we celebrate Independence Day this week. And it’s a virtue I see in many committed dads today.

A few weeks back I told you about Rob, a dad who considered it a privilege to have a special-needs child, and who described how that child has changed his entire family for the better.

© Volare2004 | Dreamstime Stock Photos &Stock Free ImagesNeil is a dad in a similar situation who contacted us recently, and he has a similar approach to life. And I was so inspired by what he shared that I want to pass this along to you. If you’re anything like me, this will challenge and motivate you as a dad.

Neil wrote about what happened during his wife’s pregnancy for their third child. A routine sonogram revealed an indicator for Down Syndrome, and after a few more tests, it was confirmed. It was a bit overwhelming to hear, especially since one of their older children has a different condition that requires special care.

But notice Neil’s attitude in what he wrote to friends and family about the situation (emphasis added):

“A natural reaction from people (including our doctors) that we have talked to is that they are ‘sorry.’ Please don’t be. None of you did anything wrong. Neither did we. It’s called life.

“My father taught me many great lessons in the 27 years I had with him and was a tremendous role model for me. He taught me to work hard for what I want in life. He taught me that he wasn’t perfect, and nor am I. He taught me to learn from my mistakes and not to repeat them. He taught me to step up to challenges, not run from them. He taught me to treat others the way that I would want them to treat me. He taught me to take care of those who need our help. But most importantly, he taught me to love unconditionally and to appreciate the blessings that surround us every day.

“It is hard to describe what [we] have been through with our [other daughter]; there have been many trials and tribulations along the way, but the blessings that she has brought to our family, and all that know her, are immeasurable. She is a gift, a perfect gift. I trust that whatever God brings us … will be the same—perfect in its own unique way.”

Neil goes on to describe a powerful speech he heard several years ago by Roy Spence, co-founder of GSD&M Advertising Agency in Austin, about the power of attitudes to change actions and how, on the road of life, “you become what you look for”:

“If you look for enemies, you will find them. If you look for hate, it will live in your heart. If you look for gossip, it will consume you. If you look for fear, it will follow you. On another road, if you look for friends, you will be befriended. If you look for love, it will lift you up. If you look for truth, it will set you free. And if you look for hope, it will take you to higher ground.”

Pretty good stuff, don’t you think? This time of year, I can’t help thinking that those early leaders of our country had a similar approach to life.

And as fathers, I know many of you are facing challenges right now, whether it’s a physical issue, a behavior concern, maybe not being able to see your kids, or something else. Life has thrown you some curveballs.

To encourage you, I can’t offer any thoughts more profound than what Neil sent us: look for love; look for hope; look for truth; lean on faithful friends. As I often say, your attitude determines your altitude, and that’s very much true when it comes to our fathering.

What fathers have inspired you through their perseverance? Please encourage other dads by leaving a comment either below or on our Facebook page.

Action Points for Dads on the Journey

  • Talk about the virtue of perseverance with your children, using an example from history, such as the early American leaders.
  • Dad, you can set the tone for how your family copes with challenges. Try to always be positive, interjecting hope and humor into your family life.
  • Your children will reflect the personal values you consistently live. How can you do a better job of modeling the virtues you believe in? Talk with your children’s mother and make appropriate adjustments.
  • For whatever challenges you’re facing as a dad, make sure you have a support system in place—especially other dads who experience similar things, who will let you bounce ideas and keep encouraging you.
  • In all families, communication is vitally important. Trials and tension points are going to be there; learn how to bring them out in the open and address them in a healthy way.

 

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 who 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 loves, coaches, mentors, and inspires my children.

 

How to Be a Dad Who Turns Difficulties into Blessings

 

How is fathering a child with special needs a “privilege”?

Rob is a veteran father of four whose oldest child has Down Syndrome. Recently we were both in a group of dads, and Rob made this startling statement…

He said that, despite all the physical, emotional and financial stresses, “If any of you ever get the privilege [of having a Down Syndrome child], it’s the greatest gift to your family, because it creates the sensitivity and the awareness of others that kids just don’t have…. It was a real gift to us; it made all our kids more compassionate, more aware, more sensitive.”

How to Be a Dad Who Turns Difficulties into BlessingsDid you catch that? Having a special-needs child made Rob and his entire family more perceptive about the needs of each other as well as people outside their family, and now they are more willing and able to jump in and help someone when they see an opportunity. They are better people because they were part of a family going through unusual circumstances.

Now, I know Rob made those comments with a bit of trepidation. He doesn’t wish difficulties on any other dads, and I wouldn’t either.

On the other hand, who defines what is a difficulty and what is a benefit or blessing? Do we look just at our own convenience? Or our long-held hopes and dreams? Or should we try to see things more from a larger perspective—where life isn’t about pursuing happiness, but rather making the world a little better for those around us?

And that goes for our kids, too! Maybe the best condition for them to become mature and responsible isn’t a life where everything works out great and there are no challenges. Maybe dealing with unexpected surprises and trials is the best way to grow. (And we know that meeting challenges also prepares us to help others to face those same challenges.)

In our family, one of my children experienced struggles in school and was found to have a mild learning disability. Not a major trial, but it set me back for a while. And it wasn’t long before those more self-centered thoughts turned to love and concern for my child. My consuming thoughts were: Hey, this is my time to step up. I have to be a father. I need to be there for my child!

Ever since then, I keep growing in admiration and respect for dads who have special-needs children and step up to the challenge. If you have children with similar issues—like autism, Down Syndrome, a life-threatening disease or something else—I know you’re very familiar with this. It’s often dads like you who set the mark and help us define what it means to be a committed dad. When the needs of your child required some extra sacrifices, you stepped up. You put your child’s needs before your own, and you’ve never regretted it.

For the rest of us who face the routine rigors of being a dad—but aren’t facing the overwhelming exhaustion of raising a child with more pronounced disabilities—I would say: Dad, take a page from the playbook of the most committed dads you know. Make the radical decision to sacrifice your own desires and goals for the sake of your children.

And then: no matter what your children’s gifts, abilities, and weaknesses may be, cherish them for who they are. Be flexible, and grow with them. Let them teach you what it means to be a committed father.

Action Points for Dads on the Journey

  • Coach your children through situations they perceive as trials. When they complain, help them see a different perspective and challenge them to step up and meet the task head on.
  • Remember that you set the tone for your family. Stay positive during challenges; inject hope and humor into your family life; your wife and children will follow your lead.
  • Be ready to adjust to your child’s unique situation and find new ways to interact with him or her. Maybe your child needs more physical affection, or more verbal interaction. (Talk about the specifics with his or her mom.)
  • If you’re married, continue to invest yourself fully in that relationship. Difficulties with a child so often lead couples to withdraw and eventually divorce. Get whatever help you need to maintain a strong marriage; it’s a huge benefit to your children.
  • It’s critical to have other men who will support you through challenges—similar to the group I was in with Rob. Find another dad who’s been through your situation, and ask him lots of questions.

What about you, dad? How have you become a better dad—or how has your family changed for the betterbecause of a trial or challenge you’ve been through? Please leave a comment below or on our Facebook page. You can encourage another dad who may be going through that difficulty right now.

 

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 who 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 loves, coaches, mentors, and inspires my children.