I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about being in a car with someone that brings out just a little bit of their inner child. Jerry Seinfeld takes a ride with a comedian and some of the most off-the-wall observations start coming out of their mouth. Television comedian James Corden takes off with a singer in the car and he can get them so sing, well, just about anything!
While watching the professionals yuck it up can be pretty entertaining, I still say the absolute best comedians are right there in your car’s backseat every day . . . your kids!
My little ones are now 6- and 9-years-old, but pretty much since they could talk I’ve been enjoying the daily randomness coming out of their mouths on the way to day care, school and back. Sometimes they’ll come up with their own topics and sometimes I’ll throw something out.
"What would happen if you drove a convertible through a car wash?"
"What if everything was made of cheese?"
"Do the dogs and cats do chores during the day while we’re gone?"
One of my favorite parts of the Good Dads lunches is when we get a chance to break into small groups and hear how other dads make the most of their time with their kids. Even though everyone has different schedules the best advice I hear is that wherever you are with your kids, be there! Be present. Give them your full attention and what you’ll find that sometimes even a talk about nothing is the best kind of talk there is.
Brian Tyndall is married to Diane and the father of two boys. He is also a Good Dads board member. He can be reached for question or comment at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have looked at social media for even a minute during this, or the past few school years, it can seem that there is a constant stream of “look-what-my-kid-did” announcements. Our society has become more competitive than ever, and the drive to “be the best” can become overwhelming. Hopefully, as dads we always love and are proud of our children, but how can we encourage them to push themselves to succeed . . . without pushing them over “the edge?”
We all know that every one of our kids is different. We all know they learn at different paces, and respond to different strategies, so why is it we so often “push” them to succeed in the same way as others? Sure, there are non-negotiable standards and rules that do apply to all, but we somehow have to balance this with the fact each child is unique.
So, how can we best approach a new school year with its new challenges and new opportunities? By balancing the practical with the personal.
Practical Tips for School Success:
Sleep. Big surprise, right? But, especially with this electronic age our young are coming up in, getting a kid’s brain to truly rest takes almost a Herculean effort. Maybe your teen won’t drift right off to sleep like he/she did as a first grader, but calling off screen time a good hour before bedtime, might just help him/her wind down and towards a better night’s rest.
Nutrition. My wife and I struggled with this as the kids got older and busier. Our respective minivans and SUVs saw many a drive-thru window on the way from ball practice to band concert. We get it. But, we also tried to make sure the boys were getting plenty of the good stuff, too, e.g., the water, the veggies, and the fruits.
In addition, we purposed to have at least three, sit-down meals a week. Some years, we had to get up even earlier (collective groan) to share a breakfast because not one of us would make it home before 8:00 p.m. in the evening. Each family has to figure out their best chance for a healthy, hopefully happy, “sit-down.” It may be more difficult to plan than a carpool schedule, but so incredibly worth it.
Learning Reinforcement. Notice I didn’t say “homework?” That’s because I live with an educator and have been hearing that there is a lot of debate regarding the pros and cons of the classic school-related term. So, I say let’s just call it “learning reinforcement.” “LR” can be anything from checking the backpack as soon as the kids walk through the door, to making sure everyone has at least a 15-30 minute reading time.
Realistically, if you have been at ballgames, or piano lessons, or club meetings until fairly late into the evening, reading or anything school-related may be the last thing on your kids – and your – minds. That’s okay. Weave some “educational” talk into your “How was your day?” If they mention that they did the dreaded “fraction” lesson, tell them a little about how you learned to do them. They are reading “The Outsiders?” Groan and tell them that when the book was made into a movie, Tom Cruise was a teen . . . and so were you. Maybe they will mention an assignment they did on the computer, or submitted through Google Classroom. Laugh and tell them about the time your dog really did eat your paper homework, or about your first experience with a slow, giant box of a thing you also called a “computer.”
Personal Tips for School Success:
Know your kid. You already love and want what’s best for them, so if you don’t feel like you also truly know what makes them tick, do whatever it takes to get you there.
Once you know your kid, encourage them in a way that will best speak to their natural likes and abilities. Drive them to soccer; just go into the other room when they practice the trombone; and hang the masterpiece on the fridge.
And perhaps the biggest, yet easiest tip I can leave you with simply would be to keep on letting your kids know that you love them. Because you can bet on this fact, a kid who heads off to school in the surety of their dad’s love, already feels successful.
Kevin Weaver is a Springfield father of three.
Thank you for allowing me to share a few ideas on starting the school year by encouraging success. One of the things I love about Good Dads is the organization supports us all on our journey to become better fathers. On my own journey to trying to become a better dad I have been thinking about ways I can help my 10- and 12-year-old children have the best school year possible. I’m sharing three questions I have been asking myself about the new school year in the hopes it might spark a useful idea or two for you to use in your own parenting journey.
First, how can I help my children set goals for the new school year? I think it is important for children to have a few goals they are trying to accomplish each year and to put those goals in writing. I also realize while academics are important it takes life skills such as grit and teamwork to be successful. Therefore, I encourage my children to set an academic goal and goals for their activities and their character. For example, my kids have set goals for making a certain grade in math, trying out for a solo in choir (courage/grit), and trying to earn the Kid of Character Award (citizenship/teamwork). Throughout the year we will periodically talk about how they are doing and discuss things we can do to improve. By the way, my wife and I will also set goals for the school year in order to model the importance of goal setting. My goals for last year included reading a book a month, serving at school as a WatchDOGS (Dads of Great Students) volunteer, and leading All Pro Dads at McBride Elementary.
Second, how can I set high expectations for my children this school year? A simple thing I do each morning as my kids are leaving for school is to tell them to “Keep being leaders and learners!” I like to throw the word “keep” in there because I want them to know I already see them as leaders and learners. I want my kids to view me as their biggest cheerleader. In addition, we try to have a family meeting each Sunday during lunch. This is a short visit because I don’t want them to dread a weekly sermon from Dad. However, we do share a success from the past week and a goal for the coming week. This gives us a chance to look back and look forward as a family each week and reinforce our expectations. We also play games and plan fun activities for the coming weeks. We do like to have lots of fun together, and I think forming these close relationships as a family also helps with success at school.
Third, how can I be an involved parent at school this year? I have seen how dads who are involved in school support children in being successful at school. This one seems to get harder as my children get older. I definitely try to be there for Open House, conferences, performances, etc. However, beyond that I have found it beneficial to participate in the McBride Elementary WatchDOGS program. WatchDOGS is a program that allows dads to volunteer at school one or two days per year and help in a variety of ways from greeting students in the morning, to being present at recess, to helping students with their school work. I also found it rewarding to serve as our school’s All Pro Dads captain the past few school years. All Pro Dads is a time for dads and kids to meet together for breakfast and discussion before school. If your school does not have an All Pro Dads chapter you might consider starting one this year (Good Dads can help with this). I found that All Pro Dad days quickly became some of my kids favorite days of the year.
I am not a perfect dad. I let my kids have too much screen time. I feed them too much sugar. I lose my patience at times. My kids might say I am a little too competitive during our family games. I just see it as helping them learn to endure smack talk in the face of adversity. Anyway, I appreciate the way Good Dads reminds us we do not have to be perfect dads. If we are simply good dads our kids will reap the benefits for a lifetime. What are some things you will do to contribute to the educational success of your children? Have a great school year!
Pat Bauer, EdD
Pat Bauer, EdD is an educational specialist and regional leader for the University of Missouri’s College of Education. Prior to working for MU Pat was a teacher, principal, and assistant superintendent in the Lebanon School District. Pat is married to Sheri and they have two children, Nick and Lindsey. Pat’s favorite things to do include spending time with family, cheering for Mizzou, and supporting his children in their various activities.
Adults have to make transitions several times each day. Most of the time, transitions are made smoothly and without much thought. For children, however, transitions can be much more difficult. Kids are still learning how to deal with their emotions, and can lash out when asked to stop one thing, in order to do another.
Parents play a very important role, in helping kiddos learn to deal with transitioning from one thing to the next. If you have ever taken a child to a party or an amusement park, and had to tell them it’s time to leave, you’ve probably had to deal with a tantrum or outburst. I learned early on, the best way to handle such a situation, was to give the kids a countdown or let them know ahead of time, exactly what time we would have to leave. When kids have some advanced idea of when they will have to leave, they can prepare themselves for the transition.
We were at a Chuck-E-Cheese birthday party for a child who just turned 5. Obviously, there were several 4- and 5-year-olds attending the party, including mine. The children were rounded up from running around playing games, to come eat cake and watch the boy open gifts. One parent had to leave and abruptly told their child it was time to go as he took his first bite of cake. He was clearly not ready to leave and very upset at the idea of having to go. His first emotional response was to pick up his piece of cake and throw it! As soon as the dessert left his hand, there was instant fear in his eyes. He knew he had made a mistake. He began to cry as Mom grabbed his hand and pulled him away from the table. In hindsight, I’m sure this parent realized, she should have just said, “Finish your cake, and then we need to leave.”
Children can function and transition more easily when they have a routine or schedule. My kids know that when they get home from school, they are to do homework before playing games or watching TV. If they beg to do something else before homework is done, don’t give in. If you give in to their requests once, then they know there is opportunity in the future which ends up in unnecessary arguments. The same goes with bed time routines, video games and TV time.
As our children grow, they become more equipped to deal with their emotions, and therefore, are able to accept the many daily transitions.
Herb Cody is a husband and father of three. He is a part time Uber driver and full time caregiver of his spouse, who suffered a traumatic brain injury after an auto accident November, 2015. Herb loves football and is a St Louis Cardinals fanatic. He and his family live in Nixa MO. Herb can be reached for questions or comments at email@example.com . You can check out Herb's own blog at, www.thecodylife.weebly.com