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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You Can Be a Good Dad Even in Tough Situations

 

A while back, I was talking about Championship Fathering on a radio program. I told my stories about the importance of Loving, Coaching, and Modeling for your kids, Encouraging other kids, and Enlisting more dads to join the team.

After the program a dad wrote to me and said, “How can someone be a ‘Championship Father’ when the system and the mother won’t let him?”

hisp-dad-son-hug-smiles

For a growing number of dads today, this dad’s question is the only one that matters because they don’t have access to their kids; they don’t have opportunities to be the dads they want to be.

I don’t fully understand how dads feel when they’re shut out from the lives of their children, but I do hurt for them.

In today’s culture it’s easy to lump all non-custodial dads together. We talk about custody battles and child support and we forget that these are individual dads who love their children and are fighting for the chance to be involved fathers. That’s real, and it’s a tragic consequence of the divorce culture that we live in. The impact on children is even more tragic.

These dads already know there are no easy solutions, but they don’t give up calling attention to their challenges and the injustice they feel.

If you can relate to this situation, I hope you’ll keep reading, because I want to offer three pieces of encouragement that can apply to whatever fathering challenges you may be facing:

First, focus on your long-term commitment to your child. That will help to see you through daily ups and downs or even major roadblocks to your fathering.

One dad we know was separated from his three kids by a very bitter divorce when they were school aged. Barred from direct contact with his kids and faced with parental alienation, he remained steadfast in his attempts to connect with his children. His oldest daughter eventually sought contact and moved in with him when she was able to do so independently. Just a few months ago, after seven years of separation, his son expressed a desire to connect and reestablish a relationship.

No one wants to go through something like that, but some dads do, and an unwavering, steadfast commitment will a huge factor in making the best of it.

Second, find ways to keep practicing the fundamentals of Championship FatheringI do believe in the validity of the research behind loving, coaching and modeling, and I know they can make a difference for you. Every dad needs to soak these in, practice them, and make them part of his skill set. These fundamentals can be creatively applied to just about any situation.

Years ago, one dad worked on a submarine for 90 days at a time, and he had to cut off all communication. That was a huge fathering challenge. So ahead of time, he wrote postcards to his children for every day of his trip, then had a friend drop them in the mail every day. So his kids had messages just about every day from their dad, and they felt special that he thought enough to do that. He adjusted his fathering for his situation, and found ways to be effective despite his challenges.

So what about the dad who doesn’t have access to his children because of divorce and his custody agreement? That dad will have to live out loving, coaching, and modeling in different ways from other dads.

For example, if loving the child’s mother isn’t part of the equation, that dad can at least work on respecting her, cooperating with her, and giving his children access to other people who are modeling healthy relationships. Maybe the best coaching you do is through email and texts.

If you aren’t able to be an everyday role model for your kids, keep doing what’s right in your work and other areas of your life, and do all you can to stay positive with your kids. Trust that your high character and poise will make a difference in the long run, and that through the months and years your children will notice and appreciate how you carried yourself despite horrible circumstances.

Those are just a few examples. You may face a challenge of different a kind, and you can find ways to make the principles work. That goes for active duty dads, stepdads, dads who travel a lot, dads in prison, and so on. Loving an infant is much different from loving a 12-year-old. Coaching a daughter will likely require a different approach than that involvement and insight with a son.

If you want more specific tips for applying Loving, Coaching, and Modeling, you’ll find some on our website.

Finally, I encourage you to get together with other dads in your situation.

You may be a divorced dad, a single dad, an adoptive dad, stepdad, traveling dad. You may be very busy. I know there are dads out there like me that struggle in this area at times, trying to find a balance. Find a dad who’s a step or two further along, and ask him, “What’s working for you?” “What have you learned?” “What’s the best way you show consistency for your children?”

Dad, no matter what, don’t let frustration get the best of you. Other dads in your situation have found ways to stay connected with their kids. You can do it too.

Help other dads by sharing. What adjustments have you made or creative solutions have you used to connect with your kids despite a challenging situation? Please join the discussion below or on our Facebook page.

ACTION POINTS for Dads on the Journey

  • Write a letter to your child where you share about a significant memory from your life and an important lesson you learned from it.
  • In whatever situation you’re in, communicate unconditional love and blessing to your child—through letters, emails or texts, or verbally. Say, “I love you for who you are, no matter what happens or how often we get to catch up with each other.” Tell him often that he’s special to you.
  • When you are with your kids, make as many deposits into their “emotional bank accounts” as you can, since time apart gradually drains that account. Read more on this.
  • Are you denied access to your children? It may be that you could see them more by getting involved at their school. (Check out our WATCH D.O.G.S. program for one great way to do this.)
  • Does your child use social networking websites and apps? Join in and learn about those, and use them as a way to connect, especially when you’re apart.
  • If you’re in a challenging fathering situation, try to maintain healthy routines with your kids—but also allow some flexibility. Be very understanding when they don’t handle the challenges in the same way you do.

 

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.

Away But Not Apart: How to Be a Good Dad Despite Separations

Do you find yourself often separated from your children? Whether it’s due to job demands, divorce, military service or some other challenge, this is a growing issue for today’s fathers … including me.

I travel a lot for work; I’m away from home much more than I would like to be, although my family knows that I have a calling on my life. Still, I have to accept the fact that as a road warrior dad, my absence can add to today’s crisis of fatherlessness.

For all of you guys who love your kids and can’t be there as much as you would like, you can be “away but not apart.” Here are 3 thoughts that have helped me stay connected at home. I know many of you have other tried-and-true strategies that work. Please share your ideas at our Facebook page.

1. Have a heart-to-heart talk with your family members. Is your absence weakening your relationships? You might be ignoring some warning signs or losing touch with your wife and children more than you realize. Sometimes I’ll ask Chance, “Son, am I gone too much?” And he’ll say, “No, Dad, I’m okay. I know what you’re doing.” Ask your bride, too. That feedback also helps you to keep your priorities straight when you are together. Your time and attention becomes more focused.

Also, dad, be open to the possibility that changes may be necessary. If your family relationships are suffering or even dangerously at-risk, it’s worth checking into a different position at your company or even changing jobs. That might seem like an extreme option, but it’s much easier than a divorce, if you’re married, or seeing your children go through major struggles without you (or because of your absence).

2. Find ways to stay in touch while you’re apart. Invest some extra effort and expense, whether that means texting, video conferencing, or your preferred way of staying in touch. Set up regular times for phone calls, so everyone can be available and expect your call. Be creative and find new ways to connect.

3. Conduct yourself with integrity. This might seem totally separate from your role as a father or a husband, but it’s all connected. Doing what’s right when you’re away from your children makes you a better man, which makes you a better father. Your self-discipline and character will make a difference in you life in many ways, and will spill over to your kids.

Even when you aren’t with your children or you have legal challenges with their mom, do the right thing and keep your poise. You will bless your kids by maintaining a high reputation and a virtuous life.

I know many of you have other tried-and-true strategies that work. Please share some of yours below or at our Facebook page.

See more articles on this topic.

 

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.