Dad, Shape Your Kids’ Character—Help Them See the Bigger Picture

 

Some recent events in the news really got me thinking …

One of the roles of a father is to coach his children to see the bigger picture.

I’ve talked before about how my Pop did this for me and my brother and sister with one word: “Watch.” He said it all the time, but especially when we heard about someone in our town getting arrested or hurt, or even dying because of a poor decision. “He wasn’t watching,” Dad would say.

When we were teenagers he would say, “Watch! Don’t be at some party where you don’t need to be.”

Dad Shape Your Kids Character Help Them See the Bigger PictureHe said it to us over and over, and back then it was irritating, but today I see the benefits. He wanted me to think ahead and anticipate potential problems and dangers before I went somewhere or did something.

More than that, he was shaping my character.

He knew that children live in the here and now, and they don’t often think ahead. It’s hard for them to anticipate what will likely happen a minute into the future—or tomorrow or next week or next year—because of what they are about to do now.

And when you realize that a lot of teenagers and adults have not been trained in this way … well, just look at the headlines. How many tragedies, crimes, or arguments could be avoided if people could learn to slow down and consider the bigger picture before they do or say something?

Dads, we have to coach our kids in this way. Help them see the bigger picture.

I’ve tried to school up my children this way. They were always good kids, but I would often tell them things like, “Be careful who you hang out with. If you’re running with the wrong crowd, you could get in trouble even if you didn’t do anything.”

Or, “If you’re out when it’s dark, don’t act in suspicious ways. Don’t give people any reason to think you’re up to something bad.”

I also told them, “If you expect the worst from people, that’ll change how you treat them and you’ll probably get something harsh in return.”

“Everybody deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, no matter how they look or what their position in life might be.”

Now, I realize that coaching our children with the right information isn’t always enough. Sometimes when kids or young adults get into trouble, it’s more a matter of their pride, or arrogance, or a spirit of rebellion. Sometimes they need real-life experiences to learn about humility and respect for others and the like.

That’s part of a dad’s role, too! And I will likely write more about that. (In the meantime, here’s an article from our website about nurturing civility in children.)

For us more mature men of the world, we’ve learned to see the bigger picture. Maybe you had a dad like mine or another father figure who drilled it into you. Or maybe you learned those lessons the hard way, by making your own mistakes and going through the hard consequences.

The things I’ve talked about might not be revolutionary truths for many of us, but they can be for our children. And it’s vital that we prepare them—to help protect them, to set them up for greater success in life, and so that they can become positive agents for change as they go out into the world.

I’d love to hear from you. What “big picture” sayings and truths did you often hear from your dad or another father figure? And what are the most important things you’re teaching your children? You can leave a comment either below or on our Facebook page.

Action Points for Dads on the Journey

  • Talk with your kids about a recent news story where someone got into trouble. Ask questions like, “What bad decisions did he make a long time ago that probably led to this?” “Where do you think she probably got off track?”
  • Come up with a positive word or phrase to repeat often to your children that challenges them to have high character, like “Watch,” or, “Remember who you are.”
  • Teach your child values by modeling them. For example, for humility, when you’ve messed up (as we all do), be willing to go to your child and simply say, “I was wrong. Will you forgive me?”
  • Recognize and honor your child for her accomplishments, but also give her plenty of opportunities to contribute to the family by working and taking on responsibilities.
  • Getting a lot of disrespect from your child? One great strategy is to take away privileges—but be gentle and respectful about it. “This makes me sad. But I do special things for people who treat me with respect. Maybe next time.

 

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.

 

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For Fathers, Being a Role Model Is 24 / 7 / 365

 

Several dads I admire have gone out of their way to help other people.

For example, one dad took an eleven-day trip halfway across the world as part of an outreach project for his church. I learned that another dad spends a couple hours on many Friday evenings transporting supplies for a local soup kitchen. Maybe you do similar things.

They aren’t doing these things for recognition from me or anyone else, but it struck me that they were modeling for their children even though in these cases they didn’t take their kids along.

Don’t get me wrong. Volunteering and helping others are important things to do with our children. Those hands-on experiences as a family can be powerful.

And I know that a family character-building experience or lesson isn’t the only goal or even the best reason to do those things. I hope we try to make a difference in our world and our communities because it’s important to us; it’s part of our character; it’s the right thing to do.

If we can model altruistic values for our kids in the process, that’s a great side-benefit, and it’s one way we can give our children a bigger vision of who we are.

how to be a dad Role Model 24 7 365It goes hand-in-hand with one truth that all dads need to really grasp and live with every day: we’re always modeling. Our children are constantly watching us and taking mental notes. They notice what we do, and it affects them big time. Our character is always “on stage,” and that means we should be purposeful about what we do—and what we don’t do.

So this is a reminder of something I’m coming back to more and more as the years pass: your legacy is also made up of who you are when you’re not with your kids. They may not see everything you do, but they can learn a lot from hearing about what you do—from yourself and from others, and maybe even years after you’re gone. All the things you do help to make up your character.

This applies to how you conduct yourself at work. Your integrity there is part of your legacy. Like with the two dads I mentioned, your efforts to make sacrifices to try and help others are also part of the picture. If you’re a non-custodial dad or in another situation that doesn’t allow you to be with your children as much as you’d like, I believe that keeping your poise and doing what’s right when you’re apart will still influence your children in some way. It’s part of who you are.

Dad, I would challenge you to get involved in helping other people—and that can include mentoring a younger dad, investing in a child who needs a father figure, visiting someone who needs a friend, or something that we more commonly associate with “volunteering.”

Do include your children in these efforts when you can. But know that even when you don’t, you’re still modeling for them and creating a fuller picture of what a man and father can and should be.

You’ll be showing your children that some of the important things in life are bigger than you and your family. You’ll help take the focus off of your family’s issues and desires, and make them more sensitive to other people’s situations. With that bigger vision, your children will be more likely to get involved in serving others more. And when difficulties do come their way, your children will likely handle them with poise and confidence.

Dad, how have you seen your character—or your mistakes—copied by your children? And what effect did that have on you? Share your insights with other dads either below or on our Facebook page.

Action Points for Dads on the Journey

  • As we start a new school year, help your child look for opportunities to help people or be part of a program that makes a positive difference. Rachel’s Challenge is one good example.
  • Are there areas where you need to recommit yourself to integrity? Maybe related to your job or money, or specific relationships? Make it a priority to really address those. (It all makes a difference in your fathering.)
  • Take one or more of your children along when you run errands. They’ll get plenty of chances to watch you and learn from how you interact in different situations.
  • Here are five virtues to focus on, where your modeling has extraordinary power: honesty, respect for others, humility, self-control, and being willing to admit you’re wrong.
  • What are you modeling at your child’s sports events and other performances? Is winning or doing well more important than affirming high character?

 

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.

Lance’s Descent Teaches Us About How to Be a Good Dad

 

Lance Armstrong had a lot riding on his reputation.

His story was so inspiring. He was so easy to cheer for and admire. You might respect what he accomplished on a bicycle, which was unprecedented … the stuff of legend. Combine that with the fact that he’s a cancer survivor and “livestrong” activist, he and the yellow wristbands have been an inspiration to millions around the world.

But now it appears that’s all gone. The courageous hero has been exposed as something much less noble, and possibly even criminal.

Lance is an easy target right now, and it’s not my purpose to try to bury him or the other professional cyclists who admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs. Years ago, the Center actually applauded Lance because he was a great story and he appeared to be a committed dad. For me, it always comes back to the powerful influence of a father, and it grieves me to see men using that power irresponsibly.

I’m sure Lance Armstrong will get by even without a good reputation in the eyes of the public. It’s a tragic development for cancer patients—many of whom viewed him as a hero—and I certainly hope that community continues to gain momentum.

But more than anything, I keep thinking about what he is surely losing with his children in terms of character and integrity. That’s where his reputation matters most, and they have to be questioning their dad’s character. If not today, they will some day.

It shows me once again that although results are important, how we achieved those results and how we carried ourselves along the way are even more important. Great results attained by dishonesty or taking shortcuts really aren’t great results, right?

This speaks directly to the Championship Fathering fundamental of modeling—setting an example for our children to follow. And it starts with dads, each of us, getting our act together. We are always setting an example; and we have to be intentional about making sure it’s a good example.

Men, we have to guard our integrity. We can do honorable things with our lives, help thousands of people and be great men 99 percent of the time, but it only takes one bad mistake to bring it all crashing down. We can’t be too careful when it comes to doing the right thing. One poor decision or indiscretion could cost each of us dearly. We should eliminate or avoid anything we wouldn’t want to show up in our children’s lives.

I never want to be in a situation that would be hard to explain if one of my children showed up. I can’t always control their choices, but I can do something about mine! We need to pay attention to what our kids are picking up from us, and make corrections where we can.

I would also add: when you’re separated from your kids for days or weeks, or only for hours during the day, commit yourself to integrity all the time. Doing what’s right in your work, having high character, and treating people with dignity all make you a better man, which makes you a better father. It’s all connected! How you carry yourself in your other areas of life will spill over to your kids. Even when life is against you or if your kids’ mom is making your life difficult, do the right thing and keep your poise. In the long run, your kids will notice and appreciate you for maintaining a high reputation and a virtuous life

Dad, you too have a lot riding on your reputation! Character is everything.

Please share: It’s easy to see and judge mistakes by public figures. How have YOU made changes in your life so you can set a better example for your kids? Join the discussion either below or on our Facebook page.

ACTION POINTS for Dads on the Journey

  • Tell your wife or a close friend one habit you’re going to change because you want to be a better dad.
  • When you’ve been cruel or insensitive to your child, be quick to confess your mistake, apologize, and talk about better ways to handle those situations.
  • What kind of man do you want your son to be? What kind of man do you hope your daughter marries someday? Be that kind of man!
  • How do you handle frustration and anger? Check out our articles here and here, which should be helpful.
  • Think of positive virtues that your children need to develop, and intentionally start new habits that will demonstrate those virtues.

 

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.

Street Corner Fathering and Four Steps to Better Discipline

Another dad is in the news for “going public” to address an issue with his child…

One day during spring break, he took Michael, his 7th grader, out to the corner of a busy intersection wearing a sandwich board sign.

The issue was the son’s poor grades. Michael brought home three F’s, and his teachers reported that he’s a class clown. This is how his father decided to “send a message.”

The front of the sign read, “Hey, I want to be a class clown. Is it wrong?” Then, on the back: “I’m in the 7th grade and got 3 F’s. Blow your horn if there’s something wrong with that.” From the video it appears he got plenty of honks.

See the video …. (Note: the title on the video is not mine.)

 

Maybe you’re like me… You empathize with this dad’s concern that his child could be come a “statistic”; you’ve probably shared his desire to do something decisive that will get his child’s attention. I do affirm him for taking action. Too many children today aren’t held accountable for their behavior, and many of them don’t have involved fathers or father figures.

You can never know for sure, case by case … but I would expect actions like this to have some negative long-term effects, whether in the child’s life or the trust he feels toward his dad.

I believe there are positive actions we can take in these situations. We can teach our children powerful life lessons without resorting to public embarrassment. There are important principles to keep in mind when we’re correcting our children and seeking to shape their behavior.

1. Don’t make it about you. I know many dads struggle in this area, including me. When a situation comes up with our kids, sometimes our default responses aren’t healthy. We might be more concerned about getting some peace and quiet, putting the child in his place, or maybe even asserting our own right to be “in charge.”

But those things are more about what we feel than what is best for our children. The goal is for our children to view us as teammates or cheerleaders on the road of life, not adversaries. Some have even described healthy correction as rescuing our children from the danger that comes with a life of disrespect and disobedience.

2. Do use consequences to teach your child. Sometimes he won’t learn unless he loses a privilege or his life gets much harder for a day, a week, or longer in some cases. Consequences get his attention and can have powerful results. They also prepare him for the real world, where irresponsibility and disrespect will cost him in very real ways.

At a young age, your child needs to know that you mean what you say. If he gripes and complains, that’s when you know it’s working! Just make sure the responsibility rests squarely on his shoulders to fix the situation; that increases the chances that he’ll learn something.

3. Don’t embarrass or humiliate—even as a last resort. It’s okay to show some emotions; often it’s good for a child to see that you’re disappointed, sad or even angry because of what he has done. Just make sure those emotions don’t lead you to go too far. It may seem contrary to what seems natural, but the best approach with a behavior issue is to be objective and calm—giving your child real-life consequences while expressing confidence that he or she will do better next time.

A child who has messed up should feel remorse and sadness, but those negatives should quickly lead to positive motivation. If our actions as a father shame or humiliate him, his lasting memory from the event will likely be more focused on about the intense emotions than any lessons he can use in the future.

4. Do stay positive. Keep your ultimate, big-picture goal in mind: to help your child learn and grow from mistakes. Everything you do should be about that.

Positive discipline is done out of love and leads to hope. It’s an expression of nurturance, not just correction—and that makes sense, since both have the same goal of helping our children become confident, well-adjusted people. Even in correction and discipline, our children should come away from the experience with a clear impression that “Dad loves me.” “He’s doing this because he wants the best for me.”

Discipline is a big topic, and this is only a brief outline. What other ideas or tips are useful for you in tough situations with your kids? Please leave a comment below.

Also, you can get more of our ideas on discipline issues here … as well as in our new ebook, 5 Things Every Kid MUST Get from Dad. Get it free here.

Also, see my previous message about the dad who responded to his daughter’s Facebook rant with a video where he ended up shooting her laptop with a pistol. Many of my comments there also apply to this example.

 

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.