Dad, Don’t Let Rules Diminish the Relationship

 

Training and disciplining kids is tough. It’s even harder when you’re in a complex family situation, and more and more dads are finding themselves in that place.

Our staff recently heard from several dads whose stories illustrate this (and whose names I have changed here).

James is a partial-custody father. His 12-year-old daughter is acting out—taking things from a relative’s house, and generally being irresponsible at school and in other ways. James is trying to address these issues, but finds it hard to make any progress with his daughter since his time with her is limited and her mom takes a softer approach to discipline that he doesn’t agree with.

Kevin works long hours, which really limits his opportunities to spend time with his 6-year-old stepson. The boy sees his biological father mostly on birthdays and holidays, but Kevin says the other father is very lax in his rules and expectations. So, while the other dad gets to be the “fun dad” when he’s around, Kevin is afraid the boy sees him as the “mean dad” since he’s the one who’s handling many of the everyday behavior issues.

And really, most all dads deal with similar questions from time to time: How do I balance the hard side and the soft side of being a father? When does my child need more love as opposed to discipline?

How to Be a Father Don’t Let Rules Diminish the RelationshipThere are no easy answers, but I’m reminded of the classic wisdom for parents: “Rules without relationship leads to rebellion.” That might even be more relevant for dads and kids in these complex situations, but it’s a great reminder for me and surely many other dads, no matter what the family situation.

Kids do need the rules. They benefit from being held accountable to a standard of behavior and learning from their poor choices and disobedience. They need to learn proper respect for authority, and that starts at home.

But I think it’s easy for dads to forget the relationship side. When a child is misbehaving, we need to start asking ourselves, Does she know she’s loved? And, Have I demonstrated that love and spoken it into her life regularly? Those should be among our top goals with each of our kids.

Dads, we really need to go the extra mile when it comes to building relationships with each of our children.

With that foundation, dads in difficult situations can influence their child more than if they’re just “laying down the law.” After all, the daughter will go to her mom’s house and “the law” will change. So building a strong relationship is another powerful way to influence her character.

There are no quick fixes—and it could take time—but a good place to start is to simply tune into your child’s interests. Find a common hobby or activity you enjoy. Come up with ways to just have fun together.

Those positive interactions will show your child that you genuinely care for her, and you’re not just trying to win a battle or teach a lesson. She’ll grow to trust you more and more, and her behavior will likely change because she’ll have a greater desire to please you. Talking about household rules and expectations won’t involve a major confrontation. It will be much easier to ask, “Would you do something for me?”

She may even start coming to you with big questions and issues, even though she knows others in her life are more likely to give her what she wants. You’re consistent and you keep your promises.

Even more, you’re an involved, creative, positive force in her life. You invest in the relationship. She trusts that you really do have her best interest in mind, and she looks forward to that time with you.

Hang in there, dads. You’re playing a huge and vital role in your children’s lives.

What have you seen in your kids? Are they better behaved after you’ve done something fun together? Share your experiences and ideas either below or on our Facebook page.

Action Points for Dads on the Fathering Journey

  • Plan an activity that helps your child discover—or rediscover—the simple joy of childhood. Even in the daily battles of life, don’t let him forget that being a kid should be fun.
  • Are you a stepdad? Make sure to work closely with the children’s mother on discipline issues, so you don’t have to be the “bad guy” enforcer.
  • As much as you can, work together with other parents in your child’s life, so you’re sending consistent messages about expectations and consequences.
  • Does your job severely limit your time with your children? Take a hard look at changes you might make so you can make more consistent investments in their lives.
  • Make it your goal to laugh—really laugh hard—with your child or teenager at least a couple times each week.

 

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

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Boundary Battles: How to Be a Good Dad

 

Do you ever get into boundary battles with your kids? From my experience, it’s just part of being a dad.

Your kids see something and they want it … but they really shouldn’t have it. Or their friends are allowed to do things that you don’t think are appropriate for children at their age. It’s an ongoing battle for parents.

We might not like hearing that our kids are the only ones who don’t get to do something. At the same time, it’s our job to protect them from dangers … and there are a lot of dangers in the world today. This is a huge issue in today’s culture. Kids are growing up faster than ever, getting “grown-up” privileges—and often experiencing “grown-up” consequences—at younger and younger ages. Sometimes I’m amazed at what parents today allow their children to see and hear.

We have to protect our children’s minds—their innocence.

One common example is with media. Kids hear a song on the radio or from one of their friends, and they want to download it and listen to it all the time. Or they ask to see a PG-rated movie when they’re five, then a PG-13 flick when they’re nine. Or maybe it’s a news story about an actual event, and the details or images are R-rated.

Different parents will set different boundaries. It’s up to you and your child’s mother to decide where the boundaries should be. But I hope you’ll take seriously the right and responsibility to set strict boundaries about what goes into your children’s minds, and protect them from dangers.

Kids aren’t prepared to handle adult issues and information in a positive way. They don’t need to see gratuitous violence and sex and forms of abuse. The heavy issues of the world can wait. We have to protect their minds.

So, dad, don’t back down in the face of your child’s tantrum because she can’t attend a sleepover where they’re showing a movie you object to. Don’t feel bad about restricting your son to video games that are rated for his age and not teens or adults. Courageously change the channel or block the website when something inappropriate comes on.

Your kids will give you grief—again and again. They’ll call you unfair and out of touch. They’ll talk about what their friends’ parents allow them to do. You won’t feel like a “cool” dad. But that’s okay. It’s your job to protect them even from dangers they don’t recognize.

Action Points for Dads on the Journey

  • When you have to say “no” to something, explain your thinking to your child. Include some likely outcomes for people who disregard the truth behind that approach.
  • Next time your child objects to your boundaries, try this response: “I love you too much to let you do things that aren’t good for you.”
  • Actively seek out positive, appropriate alternatives to some of the questionable media choices or activities that your child wants to enjoy. Suggest a fun family activity; help her discover a different music group with more wholesome lyrics; introduce him to an old movie that doesn’t have any rating concerns; etc.
  • Tell your kids that they can use you as an “excuse” if they feel uncomfortable about being with a certain friend or going to a particular event.
  • Reward your children for showing good judgment—when they choose to live within your boundaries on their own!

Please share your ideas and help other dads. How do you protect your children’s minds on a day-to-day basis? 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.

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.