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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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.

 

WATCH D.O.G.S. featured on the TODAY Show!

 

Watch the fantastic story about WATCH D.O.G.S. from Matt Lauer and the TODAY Show, aired 2/11/13, featuring the great WatchDOGS of Martinsburg, WV.

 

Thanks to all the dads and everyone involved in the program who are helping to make it a success!

Find out more about WATCH D.O.G.S.

Join the group on Facebook.

 

Be a Good Dad: Make Education a Big Part of Your Kids’ Dreams

 

As we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., my mind goes to the topic of education.

Over the years I’ve studied the life of Dr. King—and I sometimes imitate his voice and his cadence. I know that his father was a huge influence in his life, especially when it came to education. Martin Sr. really pushed his children educationally, and Martin Jr. finished high school at age fifteen and went to college. There he was very intentional about getting the education he needed to live out his calling; later he was able to do what he did largely because of his educational background. Many times he was honored or asked to participate in an event because people saw that he was smart and capable.

Even when I was a kid, the dominant theme I heard in the African American community was: get education. We knew it was something valuable that no one could take away.

As I grew older, “I had a dream” of playing big-time football in a Division I program and then the pros. I eventually learned that going to class was a very important part of that dream, and it was reinforced again when I messed up my knee and had to pursue a different dream. That’s when I really grasped the importance of getting an education. It has equipped me to reach for even bigger and better dreams.

Be a Good Dad Make Education a Big Part of Your Kids DreamsThanks to Dr. King and others, all people have much greater opportunities for a quality education. But in today’s culture, I fear there’s a different tragedy taking place: this tremendous asset is too often taken for granted. Some don’t even value the privilege of getting an education, which people were struggling so hard for years ago.

I guess it’s no surprise that American students continue to fall behind their foreign peers in academic achievement. We’re not doing our best in this area, and I believe we have to be more intentional educationally.

There are many different ways to address this issue, and involving fathers is one great one. Research has shown that parental involvement contributes significantly to a child’s success in school, and this is particularly true when fathers are involved in their kids’ education, demonstrating through words and actions that education is very important.

Dads, we have to take a leading role in encouraging our children in their education. Don’t buy into the notion that they’ll do fine if they just get by. There are so many benefits to a good education, and maybe the best one is the process itself—growing from the challenges and experiences along the way.

In our culture today, technology has brought our children some great shortcuts, but they are not substitutes for the greatness and the depth of the process of learning. And so many people want to “make it big” and find instant success and fame—and get paid, of course—without paying their dues.

Every night after dinner, my wife and I try to read a little bit with our teenage son. Sometimes he tries to skip out, but it’s important to us. We know he is being positively shaped by both the wisdom he’s reading and the practice of making that time a priority.

See the Action Points below for some specific ways you can be more active in your children’s educational pursuits.

ACTION POINTS for Dads on the Journey

  • If you don’t already, check in with your kids every night about their homework. Clear some time and be ready to jump in and help with the spelling list or science project if necessary.
  • Let your family members see you reading—a lot. Make it a habit to talk with them about something you’ve been reading lately.
  • Of course, one great way to be more involved is to volunteer a day at your child’s school through our WATCH D.O.G.S. program. Find out more or learn how to start a program at your child’s school.
  • Check in with your child every month or so about how he’s feeling about school in general, including challenging subjects, friendships and other involvements.
  • Ask your child, “What is your dream?” Then talk about how a good education will help prepare him for that—or another direction he may choose later on.
  • Ask your children about what they’ve heard at school about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Talk about other information you may know and why he’s an important figure in our nation’s history.

We want to hear from you. How are you making a difference in your kids’ educational pursuits? Please join the discussion below or on our Facebook page.

 

The 21-Day Dad’s ChallengeDuring the month of January, we’re offering a special price on our most recent book, The 21-Day Dad’s Challenge. It would be a great “challenge” to take in your fathering this year, and it’s perfect for men’s groups—especially in churches—with specific action points and follow-up activities for you and the other guys in your group. (There’s also find a free discussion guide you can download.) Now only $9.99 for orders in quantities of 3 or moreClick here to find out more and place your order.

 

 

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.

Utilize Moms (and Others) to Help You Be a Good Dad

 

One evening Melanie and I came home to find our 15-year-old son Chance lying across our bed with his nose in a science book. He was waiting for us because he’d come upon a roadblock in his chemistry homework.

I remember saying, “Chemistry … Do you need some help?”
He said, “I do.”
So, I turned and called out, “Melanie!”

Now, before I go on, you probably know that we place a big emphasis on fathers getting involved in their children’s education. Our WATCH D.O.G.S. program—where dads spend a day in their kid’s school—is a great way to do that. But we want dads involved at home, too.

In this case, my bride Melanie happens to be an elementary school teacher, and that night she was able to plug in right away and get our son moving in the right direction with his chemistry homework. She’s gifted that way, and I am not.

I stood there thinking, Boy, if I wasn’t married to this woman, where would I be? (I’m slow, but I’m not real slow.)

As dads, we don’t have to go at it alone. It pays to surround ourselves with other people who also care about our kids and who are gifted in ways we are not. In most situations, their mom is the ideal person for that role. The positive effect of that teamwork can be like using two hands for a task that would be frustrating and inefficient if you were using just one.

That’s the example provided by Cedric Finley, a man who is making a difference among young, often challenged dads through his work at Connections to Success here in Kansas City. He’s one of the men we proudly claim as a certified trainer for our Quenching the Father-Thirst program.

Recently Cedric stopped by our offices, and we had the privilege of hearing from him for a few minutes about some of his experiences as he works with fathers. He said that one of the most powerful sessions in the Quenching curriculum is focused on the partnership between moms and dads, and he mentioned an exercise using LEGOs® that helps to make the point. See the video:

 

This is an ingredient to excellence in fathering that sometimes gets pushed aside. And I can understand it. Divorced dads and men who are in a struggling marriage can be very dedicated to their children and involved in their lives—sometimes more than dads in strong marriages.

And I know that sometimes, despite a man’s best efforts, the children’s mom isn’t willing to cooperate with him in this way. That’s tragic for his kids, as Cedric points out in the video, and it wouldn’t seem fair to refer to that kind of committed dad as working with one hand behind his back. He’s doing great at making the most of a tough situation.

Still, I also can’t deny the great advantage it is to dads when we can work as a team with our children’s mother—married or not. Melanie and I have done that, and I know my children are better off for it.

Whatever your relationship with your children’s mother might be like, there are all kinds of other people who have their own way of getting through to your child—helping him, encouraging him, challenging him to go to the next level. It could be a teacher, coach or dance instructor; a youth leader at church; maybe one of your adult friends; a neighbor who has real-life experience in a field in which your child has an interest; maybe a professional tutor.

We dads are key players. We need to be monitoring what’s going on in our children’s lives and make sure those other influences really are positive—consistent with what we believe is best for them. We’re wise to utilize other people and take full advantage of their gifts, but together with our children’s mom, we’re the gatekeepers.

It’s all part of being an engaged, Championship Father who’s seeking the best for his children.

Action Points for Dads on the Journey

  • Thank your children’s mom for the role she plays in your children’s lives. Recognize specific things she does for them that you aren’t gifted to do.
  • Keep an open dialogue with your child’s mom about parenting and household responsibilities … and give each other a lot of grace. Find ways to make her role a little easier.
  • Be that additional caring adult for kids you know. Show genuine interest in them; ask them questions; and don’t be afraid to offer some fatherly wisdom every now and then.
  • What dads do you know who need some assistance you can give? Maybe a friend who needs to know he’s not alone in the fathering journey; a younger dad facing a challenge that you’ve been through as a dad; or an employee who needs a more flexible work schedule so he can be more involved in his children’s lives.
  • Share your experiences with other dads. How has your partnership with your children’s mom been a benefit to your fathering? (Or an additional challenge?) Please join the discussion 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 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.

 

Everyday Heroes: Good Dads Make a Difference for Other Kids

 

Kids are looking for heroes. Are you worthy of the title?

On this third week of honoring everyday heroes for Father’s Day, I have to mention WatchDOG dads—men who volunteer at their children’s schools to have fun and be positive role models. We know that a large percentage of dads reading each week’s email have volunteered as WATCH D.O.G.S. (Dads Of Great Students).

I believe all dads are already heroes to their kids—or they could be. But WatchDOG dads take it to another level, and we’re hearing amazing stories from all over the country. Numerous WatchDOGS have won awards as fathers and as leaders, and their involvement in the program is often a prominent reason why. You can see many of those stories and videos here.

Now, what will a WatchDOG dad do at the school to make him a hero? Leap a tall building? Not quite. But he’ll walk around the school building to make sure everything is okay.

Will that T-shirt make him faster than a speeding bullet? No, but he’ll get to work with students on math problems or reading, and he will help them become faster and more proficient in those important areas.

Will the dad become more powerful than a locomotive? No. But more important than that, he will have a powerful positive influence on kids in the school—especially kids who don’t have a dad. So many kids need someone to talk to, or just need a good word from someone who cares.

It’s like WATCH D.O.G.S. founder Jim Moore says: “On the playground, you’re Michael Jordan! In the classroom, you’re Albert Einstein. In the hallways, you’re Superman!”

I would say you’re even better than that, and we’re hearing similar testimonies from people involved in the program. One principal wrote this:

The WATCH D.O.G.S. fill the school with a positive spirit that is contagious…. They patrol our hallway, engage students at recess, work with small groups, help with lunch supervision and enrich the lives of everyone. We’ve seen an increase in daily attendance, parent/community involvement and fewer discipline issues. These men are my heroes for seizing this opportunity.

And we get amazing stories from WatchDOG dads. One dad named Keith worked with a boy in first grade who already had a very troubled life. He said, “This kid and many more are the ones we need to be there for. After [talking to] that boy, I went to the school’s office and penciled in a date to be a WatchDOG again.”

As Chuck was helping in his son’s classroom, his son would proudly call him “Daddy” as they interacted. Another boy noticed and asked if that was his name. Apparently he didn’t know what the word meant. Chuck explained it, and then the boy asked if he could call Chuck “Daddy” also. Chuck said, “It broke my heart.”

As Mark walked the halls, helped in the lunch room and playground, dozens of kids ran up to give him a hug and tell him how cool he was for being in the school. Mark says, “I know I am far from cool, but you cannot imagine the amount of kids who have distant dads, no male role model in their lives, or just live in an environment of discouragement. Taking a workday out of the year to pour into these students may just change a life forever.”

That’s the difference you can make for kids at your neighborhood school!

So, for all WatchDOG dads, thank you. You truly are a “hero of the hallways,” as the slogan goes.

I believe all committed dads make a difference for their kids and other children they influence. So even if you aren’t involved in this program, I hope you’ll find ways to encourage a child who needs a daddy. Make Father’s Day a time to reach out and show more children what a Championship Father is like.

Do you have a similar story to from your day serving as a WatchDOG, or have you reached out to unfathered kids in other ways? Please leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.

Must-do Action Points:

  • Ask your child, “Who is your hero?” Find out why he admires that person.
  • Are you already a father figure to a fatherless child—as a coach, youth sponsor or neighbor? Write a note of affirmation and encouragement to him.
  • Talk with your family about another child who needs encouragement, and take your whole family to watch and cheer for him or her at a sports event, recital, performance, etc.
  • This Father’s Day, identify a father figure who was instrumental in your growth and make plans to honor him in a special way. (Even if you had a great dad and he’s still around to honor, too.)
  • Your involvement in your children’s education isn’t done when summer starts. Find ways to keep them thinking and growing. Pay them to read books that are good for them; take “field trips” to local points of interest that will expand their horizons; help them hone a skill that will be useful for them in the future. Please share your ideas below or on our Facebook page.

 

Carey 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.

Being a Good Dad Outside Your Home

This week, I’m coming to you with a challenge …

It’s one thing to be a committed father in your own home to your own kids. But this week, can you take your commitment to Championship Fathering a step further and reach out to another child outside your home who needs a father figure?

I thought of this after a mom named Kim wrote to us and told us that her husband, the father of her four children, died seven years ago. But Kim is well aware of the need her children have for a father’s love.

One of her sons, Jonah, was at a family gathering when he asked his uncle: “Do you love me?”

“Sure I do,” was Kim’s brother’s response.

Just then, Jonah’s cousin jumped on his dad’s lap. Jonah looked at the father/son pair and said to his uncle, “But you probably don’t love me as much as your own son, do you?”

This exchange showed Kim very clearly how much kids need fathers.

Dad, if you are reading this story, it means that your kids do have a father. Not all kids are so fortunate. In fact, only about 50 percent of kids will spend their entire childhood living under a roof shared by both parents.

So dad, here’s your challenge: Reach out to another child who needs a father or father figure. Even if you still have kids at home and are busier than ever, extend a kind word or a helping hand to a kid who isn’t as fortunate as your kids.

If you need some simple suggestions, here are our 7 Action Points for Being a Good Dad Outside the Home:

· When you’re at your child’s school, on your child’s field trip, at church, a youth sports event or somewhere else, expect kids who need a dad to gravitate toward you, and be ready! Show genuine interest in him and be willing to speak words of hope and encouragement.

I’ll say it again: show genuine interest in kids you meet. Ask them questions; say something positive about what they do; maybe even include an “I’m proud of you for hanging in there and doing your best.”

· Be intentional about reaching out to kids in your neighborhood who need you. Make time to be part of those driveway basketball challenges, backyard water fights, and sidewalk-chalk art festivals. Encourage them to join your family for occasional activities.

· Here’s an idea that comes from Kim, who took her family to the pool one day. Her same son Jonah walked up to a father playing with his boys. He said to the dad, “Your boys are so lucky that they have a dad to play with them.”

This stranger took the time to include Jonah in what they were doing for the rest of the afternoon. Then he even invited Jonah and his family to share a meal with their family.

· In today’s world, we have to be careful about showing physical affection to other people’s kids. But there’s still room for an encouraging handshake, fist bump, or pat on the back. Even small gestures of approval can go a long way!

· Participate in our WATCH D.O.G.S. (Dads Of Great Students) program, where you can be a father figure to many other kids, many of whom need a positive male influence.

· Take on a child as a pseudo “big brother.” After getting approval from his or her mother or guardian, plan special days where you, your child, and the other child do fun things and just hang out.

· Next time you’re teaching your child a new skill, allow his or her friend to join you.

One more thing: be sure to leave a comment and let us know what you did to be a great dad outside the home!

Carey 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.

Four Strategies: How to be a Dad Who Pays Attention to School

It’s always the same this time of year …

Work obligations slow down a bit (if you are lucky) and family obligations start picking up.

So let me ask you a question:

How much time are you spending in your child’s life? Specifically, how involved are you in your child’s academic future?

Seriously, think about it. How often do you take your child to school? How often to you just hang out talking about his teachers and favorite subjects? How much do you know about your child’s school?

So as an end-of-the-year request, I want to challenge you to hike up the amount of time you spend focusing on your children’s education in the coming year.

Here is one great way to do this: Plan a day right now to volunteer at your child’s school as part of our WATCH D.O.G.S. (Dads Of Great Students) program—or help bring the program to the school if there isn’t one. We currently are on track to having about 230,000 fathers who volunteer at least one day each year at their child’s school. Join us, and make it 230,001.

In addition to WATCH D.O.G.S., here are four other Action Points for being a great dad who focuses on education, brought to you by Eric Snow, the national director of Watch D.O.G.S..

1. Spend some time creating something with your child to give to his or her teacher and/or principal before Christmas break. It doesn’t have to be expensive. A homemade card, poem, story, plate of cookies, or drawing would be perfect.

During this time, talk to your kid about school. What subject does your child like best? Least? Who are his or her friends?

2. Make a New Year’s resolution to read to your child and/or help him or her with homework at least four nights a week.

3. Remember that most schools ignore some big components of education: budgeting and family life. Ask your kids to help with the shopping list, and the grocery shopping. This is a great opportunity for real life lessons on planning, organizing, and budgeting.

In the same vein, make sure your kids get to help with meal preparation. Even if you are going to a relative’s house, you can bake and frost some cookies together to take with you.

4. Don’t forget to make GIVING a major emphasis for your family. You could:
• Go to the mall or Wal-Mart with your child and find an “Angel Tree,” which provides details (name and gift suggestion) of a child whose parent is incarcerated. Include your child in every step of the process: Ask your son or daughter to help you pick out a present for this child, have your child pay for the gift and drop it off with the Angel Tree representatives.

• Take your child with you when you ask your church if there is a family that you could help in some way during the holidays. Include them in on whatever assistance you provide. Depending on how old your child is, you might even put him or her in charge of coordination.

• Ask a younger child to drop money in the Salvation Army kettle.

• Finally, create a plan to be involved in your child’s academic life year-round.

You can learn more about our WATCH D.O.G.S. program—including tons of success stories from around the country—on our website -www.fathers.com/watchdogs - or the WATCH D.O.G.S. group on Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/groups/40568192109/.

Carey 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 –www.fathers.com/cf. 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 father who loves, coaches, mentors, and inspires my children.”www.fathers.com/weekly