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).
If it is true that confession is good for the soul let me confess to you: I am a meddling parent. I am a helicopter. I involve myself where I don’t belong. I hover around where I am not needed. Forgive me.
I mean well. But my best intentions do not always turn out with in the best way. Sometimes I embarrass my children in ways that they wish I wouldn’t. They forgive me and accept that this is “just the way Dad is.” On worse occasions, however, I have completely crossed the line. I have hurt and angered my children. This is not the way to be a Good Dad.
For our children to succeed in school and life they need us close by. They need us invested and involved. But they do not need us meddling in their lives or hovering about. For our children to succeed they need us to be there for them, but they do not need us to be in the way.
There is a very important and fine line between “being there” for our children and “being in the way.” We must be willing to admit when we are wrong; say “I’m sorry;” and ask for help and advice.
Without going into gory detail, I am learning – slowly. You can learn, too:
Trust your children. When we truly care for our children we will value what is important to them. We are not looking for our children’s success to affirm us as parents. We are looking to help our children succeed, to grow in confidence, independence, and feelings of self-worth. They will survive disappointments. They will be o.k.
Our children do not need us fighting every battle for them or paving every path. Our children need our love and support. But they also need us to let them fail on their own and try new things. With increasing age and maturity children can make increasing decisions for themselves. They might make mistakes. Who doesn’t?
It isn’t easy being a parent. It isn’t easy being a Good Dad. We are going to make mistakes. But we can do better when we do it together. For our children to succeed in school and in life they need us to be there for them; they need us to be close by; but they do not need us to be in the way.
Good luck. You are a Good Dad.
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 email@example.com