I love being a Dad and I love doing things with my boys – from carving pumpkins at Halloween to carving out time for their events. Whatever my boys have wanted to do, well, within reason I was happy to do it with them.
There was the time the boys wanted to bleach their hair and I said, “Sure, what could it hurt?” If you are a young Dad please make a note: Doing what your kids wants is not always what your wife wants.
The hair product I purchased had a label that read, “Extreme Bleach.” The package called for a pinch of product and about 10 minutes. I think we used a handful of product and about thirty minutes.
It wasn’t pretty. The boys threw me under the bus. “Dad made us do it!” “What have you done?” My wife shrieked. I wanted to tell her, “It wasn’t all my idea!” But I didn’t.
Then there was the time they wanted to take up boxing. I boxed in high school. So I said, ““Sure, what could it hurt?” If you are a young Dad please make a note: If your kids get hurt your wife is going to hurt you!
We bought some used gloves at Play It Again Sports. They laced them up, the fists started flying, and boys started falling. My oldest son decked my middle son. My middle son decked my youngest son. They were still dazed and crying when my wife got home. They threw me under the bus. “Dad bought us boxing gloves.” What have you done,” my wife shrieked. I wanted to tell her “It wasn’t all my idea?” But I didn’t.
Here’s the bottom line: We are Dads. This is the greatest thing in the world. Do things with your kids. It doesn’t matter what it is so long as you do it together.
I asked my wife “What are the five coolest things I’ve done with the boys?” She didn’t say bleaching their hair or teaching them to box. That surprised me. But she did say, “The annual Polar Bear Plunge on New Year’s Eve; learning to play Hockey with them and allowing them to teach you to skate; taking them to climb the 14,000 foot mountains in Colorado; taking them on hospital and home visits with me; and going to all their events whatever they were and wherever they were.”
I love being a Dad and I love doing stuff with my kids. I want you to love being a Dad, too, and I want you to love doing things with your kinds whatever it is. Create your own list. Ask them what they like to do. It doesn’t matter what it is so long as you are doing it together.
I am proud of you. You are a Good Dad. If I can help in any way I would love to do it together.
Jeff Sippy, a Dad-In-Training, is the father of three young men and the husband of Cindy. He enjoys sailing every chance that he gets. He is the senior pastor at Redeemer Lutheran in Springfield, MO and can be reached for question or comment at firstname.lastname@example.org
“Parents can plant magic in a child's mind through certain words spoken with some thrilling quality of voice, some uplift of the heart and spirit.”
~ Robert MacNeil--novelist, journalist
The early education of a child is a very crucial aspect of future success and happiness. Many parents, especially first-time parents, miss the greatest opportunity they will ever have to influence their children. It comes in the first five years of their lives, when they are ripe for learning, hungry for knowledge, and malleable. In that time, they are like sponges, ready to soak up the environment around them. It’s your responsibility as a parent to provide an environment that is rich and fertile.
A pilot who has lost an engine knows that the most useless thing there is the sky above him. Similarly, the years you do not spend time reading to and otherwise preparing your child for school and beyond are lost forever. You’ll never know how much better your children would have performed in school, or life, had they been better prepared. There are two major areas of preparation for school and life in general, those being academic and social readiness.
A dad is crucial in his children’s early education! He provides an alternative view and new approaches to learning and often a fresh face. There are customary and magical ways to prepare them for their future. A dad can provide both, but he can be particularly effective in the magic. What your child knows is secondary to their curiosity!
Reading and Talking to Your Child
Studies have shown that “a child from a high-income family will experience 30 million more words within the first four years of life than a child from a low-income family…and 125,000 more words of discouragement than encouragement. When compared to the 560,000 more words of praise as opposed to discouragement that a child from a high-income family will receive, this disparity is extraordinarily vast.”
The preparation of children from high-income families has the advantage of being spoken and read to. A lack of spoken words and mental stimulation hurts children of low-income families more than a lack of money! Welfare can help with money but it can’t help with the environment in the home. So we see that if low-income families could just embrace the idea of emphasizing reading and imagination in their children, they would do much better in school and possibly escape the predicament of their parent(s).
Magical Activities to Prepare Young Children for Learning
Socially, your children need to know how to play, share and cooperate with other children. Ask their friends along occasionally and observe their interactions. Social experience is important so they are not afraid of school or people. Friends are important for them both to enjoy, and to learn to deal with them. Get your kids involved in group activities that can be found in parks, libraries, and in the neighborhood.
Your children should know that the world is limitless in its beauty and variety. They should feel confident in themselves having been challenged enough to work, but within their capability. They should be outside as much as possible experiencing, not just watching, looking for four leaf clovers more often than watching Nick Jr. on television. Television should be a side dish, not the main course.
Children who have parents that read to then, notice them, listen to their questions, take them on small adventures and wallow in creeks, who take them on hayrides, look at clouds, and make snowmen together--these are the children who are stimulated with a love of learning. They are also learning they are loved They have an interest in many things. They are learning to love wonder and wander. What a beautiful way to start a life!
Michael Smith, the author of The Power of Dadhood: How to Become the Father Your Child Need, is the father of three adult children and grandfather of four. He is a retired US Air Force officer and resides with his wife in St. Louis, MO. Michael can be reached for question or comment at email@example.com.
Is one really lost if they don't know they are lost? That is a question I have returned to again and again after a recent incident at the State Fair of Minnesota.
As Minnesotans living in the heat of Texas, the annual explosion of Facebook images at the end of August from the Great Minnesota Get-together causes me and my wife severe pains of nostalgia. This year we remedied that with a trip back to Minnesota.
We spent the weeks before our arrival making plans to attend the fair with friends, just like in the old days. Unlike the old days, we would be making this trip with friends . . . and children. Among the six adults there were eight children ranging in age from 18 months to 8 years to keep track of. Since my brood accounted for half the children present we were playing zone defense. This is not uncommon, but the degree of difficulty increases when you consider the unfamiliar and expansive nature of the terrain and the 180K people in attendance that day
At the start of the day, I recognized the chance of losing one of my three boys and we all made plans for what to do in the event this happened. My oldest, in particular, is super independent and one of those kids who is always running ahead, whether it be at the mall, the trail leading into the Grand Canyon, or even the dentist (we have an awesome dentist, but still). I specifically pulled him aside when we got to the grounds to remind him where to go and reminded him to stay put if he lost contact with us at any point.
Skip ahead to the end of the day. We are watching the tail end of the midday parade head off into the crush of humanity and packing up to start back to the bus that will take us to where we left our car. Sawyer, our oldest, tells Sarah that he is going to start walking. She calmly tells him "No," asks for him to wait, and returns to getting the 18-month-old buckled into the stroller.
When she turns around Sawyer is nowhere to be seen. Assuming he just started walking down the street we start heading that way. When we get to the end of the street where he should be waiting for us, like countless time throughout the day, he is nowhere to be seen. I am annoyed; Sarah is fearfully annoyed; and his younger brothers are angry because they want to play baseball with their uncle waiting at home (they wanted to leave him at the Fair).
We divide and conquer, another dad and I looping in the directions we think Sawyer might be headed. Two moms head back to the meeting spot and Sarah heads to the police station to report a missing child.
After an hour and a half of looking, I finally locate him at the very bus stop we arrived at earlier in the day. This was over a mile away and involved navigating the entire length of the fairgrounds. Obviously, I was relieved to have found Sawyer, but he was not the least bit bothered by being separated from everybody else for over an hour.
When he couldn't find us, he returned to the designated meeting spot and didn't see anybody so figured we all headed to the buses. He remembered the Skyway was located where we came in, so he just followed the tracks through the 180,000 people the entire length of the fairground and out the gate.
He reasoned "I knew you wouldn't leave me, and you would have to get on a bus eventually so I just came here and waited." I have to admit part of me was proud of his independence, but he also inconvenienced everybody else and people were genuinely afraid for him.
The next day we talked through the whole event and recapped what had happened and what choices he could have made differently. I did this with his brothers present. Although they are unlikely to get lost, if they did accidentally get separated, they are also not nearly as independent. They needed to hear how Sawyer solved problems and kept himself safe. They also needed to know what he could have done differently.
Independence is a double edged sword. We want our kids to be independent eventually, but how much is too much? Sawyer never got upset because he never considered himself lost, even if the rest of us did. As parents we are continually given chances to help our kids gain confidence and independence that will serve them well as they grow up, but sometimes we wish it wasn't in such stressful situations.
a. minor baker
A. Minor Baker is the husband of Sarah and father of four, currently residing in Austin, Texas. When he's not working as a research assistant at Texas State University or riding his bicycle, he can be reached for question or comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The other day my wife and I overheard a conversation between two young moms regarding preschool. We were amused by the fact it sounded more like an exchange comparing the virtues of Harvard and Yale, than it did one contrasting the arts and craft time at two early childhood programs—ones, I might add, which are held in church basements.
We were amused because we so vividly remember painstakingly mulling over such things, especially in our early years of parenting. You would be hard-pressed to find a parent who does not wish to see his or her child succeed. I am not talking primal parental competitions, such as “my kid has to crawl before your kid.” I am talking about the sincere desire to simply see children find their way in school and life by a competent, confident and complete means.
Research regarding achieving success has been done to death. There are books, seminars, conferences, and TedTalks from which we can gather information on helping our kids make it in both school and life. While many of these things are indeed helpful, we have to keep in mind that each one of our children is unique, just as each of his or her parents.
Like most parents, I wanted my boys to succeed. I want them to find their passions and fan them into flame. In theory, that sounds lovely. In reality, it is tough. Fortunately, I can share a few things from my hits and misses, which I hope will encourage and challenge you in efforts to support your own children in achieving success, not only in their schooling, but also in life!
Time. I know, I know. The experts are always telling us dads to spend more time with our kids. But, in order to clearly see the talents and desires in our children’s hearts, we have to spend time with them. There are no shortcuts to this one.
Discernment. How much money have therapists made off of adult children bemoaning jobs and lives they feel trapped in because it was what “my father wanted?” Use wisdom in discerning if what you are encouraging your child to do is what he or she wants to do or is gifted to do…or what you want him or her to do.
Tools. It’s virtually impossible in both time and money for the majority of dads to spend large amounts of these resources on a myriad of interests and activities, but there are hints to guide us. If you start to notice your little football/baseball/soccer/tennis player whines about going to all of his or her practices, except for tennis you might want to cut back and focus on giving him or her all of the tools you can in that one area. I’m not suggesting your children not try various things, or not be well rounded. Just consider scaling back on doing a little in a lot of things, and instead do a lot in one or two.
Sidelines & Bleachers. This really could be called “Discernment Part II.” Above all else, know when to be a sideline supporter and when to be a bleacher supporter. Sometimes, our kids need us right beside them, cheering and jumping up and down. But sometimes, especially as they get older and make more of their own choices, they need us to sit up in the stands of life, quietly giving our support. We need to let them know we are there when they need us, but let them shine on their own.
I think of those preschool moms holding hands with their children just entering the stadiums of school and life. I think of myself in an airport traveling home from briefly visiting a grown son and his wife. Now is the time when I sit in the bleachers, at times wanting to shout out what he should do, but remembering it’s his time to carry the ball. I have to trust that the time I spent with him, the discernment I tried to use, and the tools I put in his toolbox, have given him all the support he will need, no matter where I stand or sit in his life. I think that’s a big part of being a “Good Dad.”
Kevin Weaver, CEO of Network211 and father of three sons, lives with his wife KyAnne in Springfield, MO. He enjoys spending time with family, hunting and watching University of Kansas basketball with his boys! He can be reached at email@example.com
How do we measure our children’s success? Straight As on a report card? Starting player on the football team? Popularity among their peers? Moving out of the house after finishing high school or college? These are all fine things, and we can encourage them to a healthy level. But do any of these things equal success?
I know a Dad whose son who will never get straight As, will never be a starting player on the football team, won’t fit the typical definition of “popular” among his peers, and will likely never move out of the house. His son suffers from severe autism and is confined to a wheel chair. He requires 24-hour-a-day monitoring, feeding, bathing, and can only communicate his needs through moans and gestures. How will this Dad measure and encourage his child’s “success?”
As an aspiring Good Dad, I am a life-long servant of those who depend on me and, to a greater or lesser degree, my children will never stop depending on me. I need to set my expectations for each of my children based on who they are and what they need. Some children may launch from the nest early and succeed more than I ever will. I try to imagine being a Dad of such legends as Microsoft founder Bill Gates or former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. Those “kids” probably won’t ever ask Dad to spot them a $20 for groceries or gas to get to work. But does that mean they still don’t need a Good Dad?
A common characteristic of all Good Dads is availability—at whatever stage in life, to serve their children’s needs and be an encouragement to them. Unlike the Dad mentioned above with a special needs son, most of us aren’t required to serve ALL their needs for a lifetime. If our kids are able to work, then they ought to work. If they’re able to provide for their family, then they ought to provide for their family. But what if their marriage is a mess or their kids are rebellious and they haven’t got a clue what to do? Perhaps our adult kids get sick and need us to care for them. We must be prepared to speak with wisdom and caring into their lives when asked, and that means having a solid relationship built on trust.
Dads just a few generations ago needed their kids to stick around to help with the family farm and to care for them in their old age. Having a solid relationship with one’s kids wasn’t optional: it was necessary for survival! As Americans, we don’t have that tradition any more, for the most part. In an ironic twist, we’ve gone 180 degrees opposite. Today it’s awkward to talk about kids sticking around home past their early 20s. I know some Dads have an “18 and out” rule that says once you’ve finished high school you are out the door. Is that kind of attitude going to help me establish the relationship I want, and if not, what would I do differently?
First, I intend to get rid of what anyone else says I ought to be doing and take a good look at who my kids are. I’m learning about their interests and abilities. I’m taking stock of their strengths and weaknesses. I encourage them to try new things, but always let them know that lack of success in one area doesn’t equal lack of success as a person.
It may take a hundred set backs and failures before finding success, and even after achieving success, who is to say that particular success will last forever? That’s when my kids need a Good Dad to talk to, to build them up in a world that will constantly try to tear them down and wear them out. In the end, I’ll measure my kids’ success by whether or not we have a quality relationship.
Sid Whiting is the father of three and the husband of one. He lives with his wife Gail and their children in Springfield, Missouri. He also enjoys real estate investing, serving in the 135th Army Band as a percussionist and bass guitarist, and plays in the Praise Band "Soul Purpose" and the "Hallelujah Bells" hand bell choir. He can be reached for comment or question at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook (www.facebook.com/WiseSteward).