When it comes to setting good and consistent examples for our children, the old adage, “Do as I say, not as I do,” often comes to mind. Not so much because we are intent on being hypocrites, but because while we so emphatically urge our kids to do, give and betheir best, we simultaneously can be struggling to do, give and be our best.
When displaying everything from healthy eating/exercise habits to healthy social skills, it is critical for parents to remember that young eyes are always watching. Always. For better, or for worse.
The years in which we find ourselves parenting younger, extremely impressionable children, are crazy enough. Add to that fact, our current society, which tends to over-schedule families’ lives with ball practices, music lessons, church activities, tutoring and civic obligations. All of these things can cause parents to slip into survival mode, rushing from work to school to practice, with a quick run through the fast food joint for dinner.
But, overscheduling is not the only culprit. Most of us have heard the term “adulting,” and the stress of “adulting”…being responsible for so many things, and other people (primarily our families), can cause us to justify “stress eating.” The stress-induced junk food binges and busyness-induced “no time to work out” excuses for simply crashing on the couch at the end of a long day take their places in our lives so quickly that we can easily fail to see how our kids are beginning to make their own excuses. While we may reach for the remote to see what is happening on ESPN, ESPN2, U…3…4, and so on, our sixth grader is most likely heading for the gaming system. Or, our teen is off to check in on social media.
And speaking of social media. Isn’t it ironic that in this “great age of social media,” the age that is to have us better connected with one another than ever before, we are realizing a generation of young people who painfully lack healthy social skills? Many are so accustomed to living and communicating from a cyber-world--one in which you can look and be any way and anything you wish to portray through a “filter app”-- it is even more difficult for our young people to be confident in who they truly are. This is especially so when face to face with another human being in the real world. As parents, we have to be increasingly mindful of our own “worlds,” whether that of work-related emails, or checking our Linkedln account. Are we modeling good, one-on-one communication skills--the kind that happen in the human flesh? No devices, no apps . . . just people?
Believe me, I still struggle with this, and I struggled as a young father of three boys. There were days the thought of bills, taxes and impending college tuition drove me to extra hours of work, which prompted an edge in my countenance that was anything but helpful and constructive. I am grateful for a wife who prodded me -- okay, poked and pushed me, to see that we were just in a season. A season that would be over all too quickly, and a season that would set the stage for our boys’ own life choices. I started taking time, when and wherever I could. We tried to have at least three family dinners a week at home with healthy food around our table. Three doesn’t sound like a lot, until you’ve had three boys in three different schools, in three different sports and playing three different instruments. We also started limiting the electronics. At first, it was as if we had ripped fingernails from young hands. But, we stuck to it, and we saw some pretty sweet results. Dinnertime conversations grew longer, while creativity sprang from internet-free rooms, filled with Legos and Lincoln Logs.
It wasn’t, and isn’t perfect. I’m not, neither are our boys, who are now young men, starting families of their own. We seem to always be learning and growing, but the commitment to healthy physical and social/communication habits in our home has paid off in spades. Even when “healthy” time was an electronic free conversation on the way to school with a seven-year-old, while eating a fast food breakfast sandwich. Everything in moderation. Well, everything except your love and intentionality in modeling not perfection, but you’re very best for your kids.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
One morning I had to accept that teaching 4-year-old twin boys how to brush their teeth was both harder and more time consuming than training for the Springfield Bass Pro Marathon. Dried spit caked on both sides of the sink where they didn’t rinse like I told them and spots of toothpaste “spray” covered the mirror since they didn’t close their mouths when brushing.
It was a hassle! It was messy! And yet, my sons had to learn to brush their teeth. My wife and I drew a line in the sand and said, “This is going to happen!”
Role Modeling Doesn’t Always WorkMaybe you have the 1 in 1000 kid who likes to brush his or her teeth and does it perfectly. If so, awesome! For the rest of us, it’s clear there are some habits like teeth brushing that aren’t going to happen when the kids simply observe Dad’s behaviors. They ignore our frantic brushing and go on reading or playing. I have to demand they brush their teeth, or they simply won’t do it.
Taking a bath, for instance – water, water, everywhere! I ask my older son, “Were you trying to turn the shower into a Slip ‘n Slide?” Bathing is one healthy habit that has to be described and demonstrated by engaging the child, rather than me performing the behavior in front of him or her. I can tell them I do shower, shave, and clean up especially after exercise or a hot day. They can hear the shower water running and observe the steam when I open the bathroom door after finishing. As they get older, I have to trust that when I hear the water running and observe the steam when they open the door that they too have done everything correctly as I told them. Then I hand them a towel to mop up the floor.
Perfect Practice--The Art of Correction “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it,” is from the Book of Proverbs. I’ve always understood this phrase to mean my children will do whatever they are trained to do, good or bad, and when they are older they will keep doing it. That’s good if the behaviors are positive, but there’s no guarantee that everything they do will be a healthy habit. Correction is often necessary.
It’s not enough to do something over and over wrong and hope it gets better. A good band director or coach will tell the group, “Try it again but go slower this time; move this way instead of that; take the music pages or playbook home tonight and study it.” The old saying, “Practice makes perfect” should be tweaked to say, “Practice makes PERMANENT.”
Some may think it is old-fashioned to say that a Dad is “head of the house.” But I believe that title means no one else owns that privilege of correcting children’s behavior like we do. It’s our duty to correct when needed--not the teacher, the school principal, the band director, or the sports coach. These professionals are on our team to assist, but they don’t replace us as the head of the family.
Winning with a spouse and family teamMy wife is my partner, so whenever we decide it’s time for our kids to do something, we back each other up and help ensure it gets done. Even when it’s something simple like going to bed at our established bedtime we have a plan in place and agree that the task has to be done on time. There’s no point setting boundaries for children if they know they can go behind Dad’s back and have Mom excuse them. Also, it’s confusing when Mom says, “No” and Dad undermines her saying, “Well, maybe.” Good communication with my spouse heads off a lot of problems, and being ready to “tag in” when my partner is at her wit’s end keeps her from going crazy.
Not every family is blessed to have both a father and mother in the home. In this case, it’s key to ensure that family members and friends—even dear-hearted grand parents—don’t over-rule Dad’s wishes by letting grandkids get away with not staying inside the boundaries we establish. I’m not talking about occasionally staying up an hour past normal bedtime when bunking over at Papa and Nana’s house here. We want to make sure everyone is informed and respectful of the rules we’ve established for our kids. That’s why they are our kids and not someone else’s.
Asking for HelpI encourage my kids to join me exercising as I jog, bicycle, and swim. That’s the level of my skill. If they want to get their exercise through basketball, football, or any sport involving a ball, I’ll have to hire a coach. Not all of us Dads are skilled enough to train our children by example in every activity. That’s okay; there are many good people who can help. It’s very loving for a Dad to admit his limitations and go find a proper teacher.
Task-Master or Role-Model? Sometimes both!
If I want my sons to brush their teeth, I may have to force them and clean up a lot until they learn how and why it’s important. If I want my daughter to stop fiddling around on her phone at the dinner table, I must put mine away and make family meal time an “electronic device free zone” for 30 minutes every day, no excuses. We Dads own these tasks, and it’s a solemn and delightful privilege to shape a child into the person he or she will be. Asking for help when needed is wise and courageous. So is standing up to those who try to derail your plan, even if it’s with good intentions. We’re all in this together, so if I can be an encouragement, let me know!
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 email@example.com or on Facebook (www.facebook.com/WiseSteward).
The best athletes have a coach. Peyton Manning, Jordan Speith, and LeBron James all have a coach. Children need and benefit from coaches, too.
A good coach can see what the athlete can’t. He guides, directs, and even corrects behaviors and attitudes that hinder his athlete and the success of the team. A good coach inspires and motivates his athlete when the athlete is tired and not doing his best.
A good Dad is a good coach. A good Dad can see what his children can’t. He can share from his life experiences and what he has learned along the way. He can guide, direct, and even correct behaviors and attitudes that hinder his children and others. A good Dad motivates and inspires his children when they are tired and struggling.
I used to coach my children’s soccer, hockey teams, and track teams. I’ve put away my whistle and clip board. But I continue to coach them in life.
Coaching takes lots of time and lots of practice. Achievements do not happen overnight and great athletes will tell you there are more failures than success. Baseball great Babe Ruth once held lifetime records for home runs at 714 -- and strike outs at 1,330!
Good Dads coach their children to handle defeat with grace and humility. I was a good wrestler in high school and was hoping for an undefeated season. But one night I lost. I threw my headgear and stormed into the locker room without shaking my opponent’s hand. My coach made me pick up my head gear, walk back to the mat, and shake my opponent’s hand. I am grateful to my coach for teaching me how to handle defeat –- a lesson I’ve not mastered yet but continue to learn.
Like any coach I have good seasons and not so good seasons. I want to keep learning and I am asking you for help. Pro athletes have coaches. Dads need coaches, too. We all benefit from each other and someone to help us keep our head in the game.
Here is a look at my playbook. Perhaps some of these plays would work for you. Perhaps you would share some of your plays with me? We Dads are all in this together.
Coach Sippy’s Parenting Playbook
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