Mark Brandenburg has a Masters
degree in counseling psychology and has been a counselor,
business consultant, sports counselor, and a certified life
and business coach. He has worked with individuals, teams,
and businesses to improve their performance for over 20
years. Prior to life and business coaching Mark was a
world-ranked professional tennis player and has coached
other world-ranked athletes. He has helped hundreds of
individuals to implement his coaching techniques. Mark
specializes in coaching men to balance their lives and to
improve the important relationships in their lives. He is
the author of the popular e-books, 25
Secrets of Emotionally Intelligent Fathers
Your Wife in 30 Days or Less (And Improve Yourself at the
Same Time ).
Mark is also the publisher of the Dads Dont Fix
your Kids ezine for fathers. To sign up, go to
Encouraging Your Children
Your children need to play.
They need to play for many reasons. Many fathers today
remember spending countless hours playing with siblings or
friends during their childhood. Parents would drop you off
somewhere and your imaginations would take over as you
became soldiers, famous ballplayers, dinosaur hunters,
There are many factors that make it more difficult for
children to play in todays world.
There is an emphasis on early academics. There is more TV
watching today by children than ever before. There is the
seductive attraction of video games.
There is also the need for constant supervision of our
kids in urban environments.
These factors and others have helped to create children
who sometimes have forgotten how to have imaginative play.
Theyll have a house full of toys but say
Im bored or that they have nothing to do.
They may look to their parents to entertain them, rather
than creating their own play.
What is the importance of having your children engage in
creative play when theyre young?
Creative play is believed by many child researchers to
form the foundation of emotional, creative, and intellectual
growth in later years. It should be considered a normal part
of a childs development.
Sadly, many young children do not have the opportunity to
engage in much creative play because they are presented with
alternatives like video/computer games or
excessive TV watching.
While some of these alternatives claim to benefit
children (train your child on computers early to get a head
start!), there is nothing like creative play. Other
alternatives do not allow your childrens fantasies to
The idea of replacing your childs creative play
with academic work may be based on good intentions, but will
rob your child of a precious opportunity.
How can fathers help to encourage imaginative play in
their children? Many of us are not knowledgeable about this
topic and have left this work to others. Here are some
- Be willing to be fully involved with your
childs creative play. Yes, that means that you will
be a wild horse running through the desert (your living
room) at times. Too adult for that? Get over it!
- Realize that you dont have to entertain your
kids all of the time. When they start to expect to be
entertained, they will be less likely to engage in play.
Set them free in a room without TV or video games and let
them go to it.
- Get them into nature when possible. Let them play
with the soil, the sand, or the water whenever you
- Consider tapering down the quantity and
types of toys that your children have around the house.
Having huge numbers of toys that leave little to the
imagination does not encourage creative play. Children
often do best with simple toys, or even household items
that are readily accessible (wooden spoons, pots and
- Provide artistic opportunities for your child to
express what he/she is feeling.
- Tell stories with rich images to your children and
read to them often. Reading fairy tales is a wonderful
way to provide these images as well.
- Consider the amount of TV watching that your child is
engaged in each day. Explore alternatives to watching TV
that would involve more creative play. You may have to be
the catalyst for your child if there is initial
resistance to this.
All around us, the adult world is being thrust upon our
children at earlier and earlier ages. We are encouraged as
parents to help our young kids get ahead
academically or to buy them the latest fads in toys.
As fathers, it is our responsibility to look beyond all
of this to what our children truly need. Our children need
to do what they do very naturally when they are given the
They need to play.
Give your children the chance to prepare themselves for
life as an adult in the best way possible.
Its the only chance that theyre going to
Taking Your Kids
"As a child, the critical eye of my father seemed to follow
me around wherever I went." (Arthur C. Clarke)
It's quite easy for most fathers to look at their kids
with a critical eye.
And why not? There's a lot riding on the outcome of your
kids' development. There's the nagging worry that you're not
doing your job well enough and that your child will develop
"problems." There's also the fear of being judged as an
incompetent or uninvolved father by others. And there is the
relentless presence of your children, making mistakes by the
truckload while you watch.
They do make mistakes. Lots of them. And you have a
number of choices about how you respond to those mistakes
and how critical you are of your kids. Let's consider some
different ways of looking at this issue to see if we can get
A Different Angle
If you're a father who's really honest with yourself,
you'll acknowledge that much of the judgement and criticism
that you have towards your kids is really your own critical
judgement about yourself. It's usually easier to be critical
of your kids than to turn the spotlight on yourself, isn't
it? If you're not careful as a father, you may run the risk
of "teaching" your kids low self-esteem through your
criticism and judgement of them.
Doesn't seem fair, does it?
Fathers who see their kids as capable and whole, on the
other hand, will find far fewer opportunities to be critical
of their kids.
There are other reasons why you should be more
understanding with your kids. One reason is to consider what
it's really like to be a child. For instance, can you
imagine the formidable combination of having a brain that's
not yet able to exhibit emotional control and living in a
house where you're constantly told what to do by your
Think about it for a minute. How many times do our kids
get told what to do each day? How do you handle getting told
what to do all the time? It's a wonder that kids respond as
well as they do.
How About Teenagers?
How about your teens at home? They certainly should be
able to respond better to parents based on their experience,
right? Not according to a recent study by the National
Institute of Health.
A large study of teenagers found that as the brain
develops, it trims away excess cells so that what's left is
more efficient. One of the last parts of the brain to
complete this process is the prefrontal cortex, which
controls planning, judgement, and self-control. Many
teen-agers have not experienced the "maturation" of this
part of their brain.
"[Adolescents] are capable of very strong
emotions and very strong passions, but their prefrontal
cortex hasn't caught up with them yet. It's as though they
don't have the brakes that allow them to slow those emotions
down," said Charles Nelson, a child psychologist at the
University of Minnesota.
Researchers say this may help explain the often
irrational behavior of teenagers: the mood swings, and the
risks they're often too willing to take.
"If I walk into a class of kids who are 14 or 15," said
Nelson, "those kids have a level of brain maturity that just
does not map onto the kinds of emotional decision- making
that a lot of those kids are being asked to make by teachers
and parents. Added Nelson: "The more teachers and the more
parents that understand that there is a biological
limitation to the child's ability to control and regulate
emotion, [the more] they might be able to back off a
little and be a bit more understanding."
It can be quite easy for us to judge our kids harshly.
But when you can begin to enter your child's world and
consider the developmental limitations that exist, the call
to a kindler and gentler way is undeniable.
Your kids will continue to make mistakes.
Your job is to stay calm, love them, and gently show them
a different way.
And to be thankful that your kids are here to challenge
you to become a more patient person.
The Top 10 Ways to Keep Your Kids
1. Ignore Their Fighting. Fighting is often a way for kids
to get you to notice them. If you ignore their fighting
(unless weapons are involved) there will be less incentive
for them to do it.
2. Treat Your Kids the Same When it Comes to Fighting If
you get into who started things, you may be training your
kids to be victims and bullies. Put them in the same boat
and don't take sides.
3. Give your kids positive reinforcement when they are
cooperating. Let them know that they're doing a wonderful
job when they get along. This one's easy to forget but
vitally important. Give them attention when they're behaving
the way you want.
4. Limit your own fighting and arguing. Your kids will
learn how to be peaceful from you. Don't expect them to do
it well if you don't show them how.
5. Create an environment of cooperation. Do projects
together as a family that involve cooperation. Talk about
how important it is for the family to cooperate. Avoid games
or activities that promote fighting in your kids.
6. Train your kids in peacemaking when they're away from
conflict. Talk to your kids about fighting at a time when
they're relaxed and open. Ask them about what other options
they might have taken rather than to hit their sister. Help
them to brainstorm better solutions.
7. Avoid punishing your kids in general. Punishing kids
usually just creates angry kids who are more likely to
fight. Do your best to give choices and give time outs.
Punishment may bring short term solutions but will also
bring long term problems.
8. Control how you react to their fighting. When you must
intervene, make sure you stay calm. If you're angry and
shaming, you actually make it more likely that fighting will
9. Limit the number of fighting opportunities you give
your kids. Think about what has the potential to start
fights. Don't buy a red ball and a blue ball, this may
result in a fight by your kids. Buy two red balls--no fight.
Don't have them close to each other when they're tired and
hungry if you can help it.
10. Love your kids for all they're worth Every day tell
them you love them and more importantly, show them. Kids who
feel loved are the least likely to fight. This won't
eliminate it, but the alternative isn't pretty at all.
Your Childrens Feelings
Weve all heard about how important it is to "honor
your childrens feelings." This concept is so vague,
however, that it is hard not to dismiss it as just another
piece of psychological mumbo jumbo.
If we look at the particulars and the benefits of paying
close attention to your childrens feelings, however,
it may become an idea that has a great deal of merit.
Lets face it, we all want to raise kids that are
well adjusted, happy, and successful. How can we improve our
chances of raising kids that have these qualities? One place
to start is to acknowledge the growing body of evidence and
research that indicates that a persons "emotional
intelligence" is of great importance.
In fact, it has been shown in large research studies that
a persons emotional intelligence is a better predictor
of job success than that persons IQ. (It is reasonable
to assume that a persons personal life would also be
more enhanced by a higher "EQ" as well).
Emotional intelligence measures things like awareness of
your own feelings, the ability to empathize with other
people, listening skills, etc. Once we understand the
importance of these qualities we can ask how fathers can
help to foster these qualities in their children.
The first step in fostering emotional intelligence in
your children is to make a fundamental shift in your view of
parenting. Many fathers see their role as someone who
responds to their childrens bad behavior and attempts
to mold them into certain ideals.
Not only can this be ineffective; it can actually
increase the "bad behavior" by giving it extra
A different way of fathering is to commit oneself to
helping your children to become connected to their families,
their emotions, and their spirit. This approach acknowledges
that your kids will be experiencing powerful emotions every
day for the rest of their life and allows them the
opportunity to learn to manage these emotions.
It starts in your home every day. It starts when we stop
ignoring our kids feelings by saying things like,
"Come on, its O.K., dont cry," or "You should be
excited to go see your relatives."
Its very difficult to see our kids when
theyre sad or angry and to be patient with them. But
when we deny their feelings and help them to bury their
feelings inside we further disconnect our kids from being
able to identify and deal with these feelings.
In other words, we lower their emotional
To raise the emotional intelligence of our kids we can do
a number of other things. Here are some ideas:
- Start making it a habit to identify your own feelings
as well as the feelings of others. Try not to label
people. Instead of saying "He was a real jerk," you could
say, "He seemed very angry."
- Stop trying to cheer your kids up when they are
upset. They need to feel these feelings to truly learn
from them and just need you to be there to listen or to
- Do all that you can to keep your own emotional life
balanced so that you can be there for your kids. If you
are overwhelmed or off balance you will not be a source
of emotional support for your child.
- Be a great listener for your children. When your
child has something to say, try to drop what youre
doing and focus completely on what they are saying.
Skillful reflection back of what they have just said to
you will show them theyve been heard, and being
heard is a great help to kids wrestling with intense
- Help your kids to identify the feelings they are
feeling by being specific with your questions. This
technique may bypass the common emotions (sadness, anger,
etc.) It is often helpful to ask something like, "Are you
feeling left out?" or "Are you feeling betrayed?" Respect
your childs response to your questions or comments
about their feelings. Your judgement may be wrong and
whats important is for your child to be helped in
processing the emotions he or she is experiencing.
Our kids would live in a happier, healthier world if they
were all raised in an environment in which their feelings
were honored. They would flourish if they never believed
there was something defective about them for feeling a
certain way. They would grow up to be as great as they truly
are. Hey dads, lets start being a part of that!
Give Your Kids Their "N"
Dear Dads and Friends,
What is our main purpose as fathers?
Isnt it to prepare our kids to be happy, healthy,
successful people in their own lives?
For the sake of this newsletter lets say that it
is. How do we do this?
One effective method of preparing them for their own
lives is to give them a heavy dose of the medicine that not
enough kids are getting today. That medicine is N"
medicine, or the word "No."
We deal with a certain amount of frustration in our
everyday adult lives. We are frustrated at our jobs, in our
relationships, and by circumstances that we have no control
over. Over time we learn to handle frustration and to
transform it into challenges that we work through. People
who can handle frustration successfully tend to have happier
and more successful lives. They learn to be resilient and to
appreciate what they have accomplished and what theyve
Are your kids being frustrated enough? Are there high
enough expectations being placed on them? Are you saying no
enough and are you allowing them to have opportunities to be
frustrated but to work through it?
Many kids today are receiving a lot of gifts, privileges,
and praise from their parents without doing very much.
If youre not allowing your kids to be exposed to
responsibility and frustration, and if youre not
liberally giving out "N" medicine to them, you may be
creating monsters within the confines of your home.
One of the exercises we do with parents at workshops is
to have them write down all of the material possessions that
they would ever dream of having. We then have them go back
and circle the things that they could reasonably acquire
within the next five years.
Most parents find that they circle about 10 to 20 percent
of those items.
We then have these same parents write down everything
their children will ask for during the next twelve
months-toys, concerts tickets, designer clothes,
electronics, etc. (Keep in mind the gifts that their kids
will also get from relatives and well-meaning friends.)
When the parents go back over this list and circle what
their kids will probably or definitely get in the next
twelve months, they universally find that it is 75 percent
It is clear that many parents are preparing their kids
for a life that is out of touch with the real world. These
same kids who have so many material possessions often
dont appreciate or take care of what they do have. Why
should they? There will probably be more goodies coming
Fathers who say no to their kids on a fairly regular
basis take a big step towards ensuring that their kids are
happy, responsible, and successful citizens.
Here are some specific actions that dads can take:
- If youre married, consult with your wife about
what your dose of "N" medicine will be. Creating a
unified front will strengthen your position and cause
- Never do things for your children that they can do
for themselves. Allow them to be frustrated and to learn
to be more resilient.
- Consider an allowance for your kids, even if
theyre quite young, so that they can develop a
sense of responsibility with money and a sense of taking
care of their things.
- Take stock of your childrens possessions. Do
they have way too many things? Are their some things that
might be better suited for Goodwill?
- Foster an environment of appreciation for the things
you have. Model this appreciation in your own care of the
things that you own and how you use them.
- Limit your childrens (especially young
children) exposure to TV and other mass media. It will
help to reduce their belief that they "need" more
Its difficult at times to see your kids
struggle with the many challenges of being young and
inexperienced. Its also difficult to have them angry
with you for not doing things for them.
Some day theyll figure it out, and some day
theyll thank you for it.
Training Your Kids
Dear Dads and Friends,
Have you noticed that professional sports teams can have
significant improvement in their performance when a new
coach takes over? It isnt uncommon for a new attitude
and philosophy instilled by a competent new coach to
completely change the way a team performs.
Fathers can also significantly change the behavior of
their children through the use of timely training and
One of the things thats easily forgotten by parents
is that our kids dont always know how to behave in
certain situations and that they can easily forget. The
result is "misbehavior" in restaurants, stores, or even in
The problem is that parents often scold their kids for
behaving poorly when they havent bothered to coach
their kids around what the proper behavior is! This method
doesnt seem to be very fun or effective.
The answer to many of these problems can be training your
kids about the proper behavior to use when they are in a
receptive state. Here are some ideas on this training that
will help it to be more effective:
- Train your kids when they will be receptive to it:
when everyone is relaxed and there are few
- Make it fun. Use a role-play format and be creative
"Lets pretend were at a restaurant!" is a
good way to start this out. Just talking to your kids will
often not be as effective as "doing" the behavior.
- Dont underestimate the age at which training
this way can be effective. Two year-old kids can benefit
from this training if you are creative and
- If the behavior after training isnt acceptable,
remember that actions speak louder than words. Take them
out of the restaurant, put them in a time out, whatever
the situation calls for. Be firm and kind. Explore
whether the training needs to change or whether a
privilege needs to be taken away.
- Make sure that you tell them what you noticed about
the improved behavior if and when it happens. Be specific
about what they did that you approved of, this will help
to "lock in" the behavior.
Hey dads, remember how easy it is to blame your kids for
misbehavior. Sometimes its not really their fault.
Sometimes its a lack of coaching.
After all, kids dont really want to get yelled at
and disapproved of. They just dont know some of this
stuff yet, theyre just learning it.
And dont believe for an instant that your kids are
going to learn anything from you when youre scolding
them about their behavior. Actually, I take that back! They
may learn that youre angry or that youve got a
Now you can do something about this. Go train your
Raising Daughters (Understanding
When my daughter was born I must admit that there was a
distinctly different feeling to it than when my son was
Part of me was thrilled and part of me was unsure of how
to deal with a gender that I still couldnt quite
understand. When my son was born there was a clear sense
that this was territory that I knew; there will be
wrestling, playing ball together, playing with cars, and, he
has a penis! There was a sense of security from all of this
and a deep sense of knowing.
Raising a daughter creates different issues for many
fathers and is even more challenging considering the
cultural background that exists today.
To better understand these issues it is helpful to
explore the expectations of girls that we have as fathers,
many of which may be expectations passed down from your own
Some men feel a strong need to control their daughters
and expect them to act "nicely" at all times. Others shower
their daughters with all of the gifts and "things" that
theyll ever need and see them as weaker than boys (not
encouraging strength and discipline in them).
It is quite easy for many fathers to treat their sons and
daughters differently. They can be rough-and tumble
with their sons but treat their daughters with kid
In fact, research has shown that fathers that wrestle and
play physically with their daughters when they are younger
help produce young women that have higher self-esteem.
Our culture often shows us that we value girls and young
women if they are beautiful, thin, talented, etc. It also
tells us that girls should be happy, agreeable, and that
they shouldnt be angry. This cultural backdrop may be
partly responsible for the alarming statistics concerning
the rates of depression, anorexia, bulimia, and other
disorders for girls when they are approaching or have
entered their teen years.
So how can fathers overcome some of these barriers and
help create daughters who become strong, secure women?
If fathers want their daughters to grow up to be strong
and secure women, it is absolutely essential that they both
like and respect women. No matter how negative and pervasive
the cultural messages are, your daughters self-esteem
depends largely on your attitude.
If fathers think that women are weaker and need
protection, they will help produce a daughter who is weak
and dependent. To a great degree, your daughters
success in life and in love are in your hands. As we fathers
go through the process of raising a daughter, we may have to
question everything we thought we knew about the sexes and
the difference between men and women.
How is it that we learn about these things?
We learn by allowing our daughters to teach us about them
every day. We learn by not attempting to control or protect
our daughters who dont need it. We learn by opening up
our hearts and not having the answer all of the time for our
If we as fathers can allow our daughters to enjoy their
gender as much as we enjoy ours, and if we can let them be
in the world as they see fit, we will be able to enjoy a
life-long friendship with them. We will also know a lot more
about women than we did before.
Here are some action points for fathers with their
- Explore fully your expectations for your daughter and
see where you might be wanting more control in her life
or are overly protecting her
- Create special time with your daughter alone each
week when you can ask her questions about her life and be
more fully aware of who she is
- Expect your daughter to be strong and competent;
shell know that you are and shell respond to
- If your daughter is a teen-ager or close to it,
explore your attitude about your daughters
sexuality; many fathers are uncomfortable with it and
leave their daughter emotionally when she needs them the
- Be a great model for how men treat women in your
relationship with your wife
- Talk to other fathers who have had daughters and find
out how they have dealt with the challenges of raising a
Memories of Our Children
Last week my three-year old son Michael and I settled in for
the last stage of his good night routine. It had been a good
day for him, he had been very active and had spent a great
deal of time in the sand and in the water. Right now he was
tired, and that made two of us.
We lay down together in his undersized bed and after a
few moments he said, "Daddy, when I get big can I live with
you?" I assured him that he could live with me any time he
wanted to. A moment later he said, "Dad, when you die
youre going to feel something on your face and it will
be me touching your face." Then he added, "I will kiss you
on your cheek." He then moved over and kissed me lightly on
the cheek and cuddled in next to me.
I was aware of tears suddenly welling up in my eyes and
rolling down my cheek. I was also aware that I didnt
want to have to explain why I was crying to Michael and as I
opened my eyes to look at him I noticed he was fast
I spent some time just looking at him and lying there,
savoring the moment and wondering about the depth of the
reaction I had just had to what Michael said. It occurred to
me later that I didnt remember having this kind of
tender moment with my own father, and I felt both happy for
a chance to experience it with my own son and saddened that
I didnt remember it with my father.
It also occurred to me that this was a time in our lives
that would be extremely short-lived. This time of innocence
and of the magical moments that make up a three year
olds life would soon be gone forever.
What will remain, however, will be my memory of this
moment that we had together. It was a moment that made all
of the difficult work of parenting worthwhile. It was a
moment worth remembering. Being a committed father can at
times feel like an incredibly thankless and unending job. It
can feel like you are no more than the janitor, chauffeur,
and handyman in the house where you live. And then you will
have "a moment." A moment like this in which your child
expresses absolute, pure, and unconditional love for
When my kids are gone someday and I look back at these
years, it will be one of the memories strung together with
many others that make up the recollections of my
As we collect these important memories it seems
worthwhile to discuss how it is that we remember them, both
for ourselves and for our children. Here are some ideas:
Write a letter to each of your children in which you
remember the experiences that you had with them and also
some reflections on what you were experiencing while they
grew up. It can be a valuable way to remember these
experiences and also a wonderful gift to your children when
they get older.
Regularly tell your children about some of the most
memorable times you have had with them and some of the
entertaining/funny things that they said or did. Kids
generally love to hear stories about themselves from Dad or
Mom, so have a boatload of them on hand.
Form rituals around your children whenever possible,
whether its for some event in their life or a changing
of the season. Using rituals will be a great way for all of
you to remember these things and to make them more
Start your own parenting journal in which you chronicle
the joys and struggles of being a father. It will not only
give you a priceless piece of reading years down the road
but will also help you to better understand yourself as you
reflect on your own joys and struggles.
Encourage your children to start their own journal when
they are old enough. This is a great way for your kids to
help themselves process their own feelings. Theyll be
more likely to do it if they see you are doing it as
There will be a time soon after our kids leave home when
all well be able to "hold" is our memories of them.
May you find a way to hold them that honors these precious
Accepting your childrens
One of the most difficult parts of being a father is to
learn to accept your childrens mistakes. Its
certainly easy to be loving, supportive, and helpful when
your children are mistake-free, but most fathers who are
paying attention dont find too many mistake-free
periods of their childrens lives.
Lets be clear about our kids and their mistakes. I
dont believe there are many kids who get up in the
morning and rub their hands together and say, I wonder
how I can screw up today and really bother my Dad!
Kids dont enjoy or want to make mistakes, its
just one of the ways that they learn about things in the
world. Kids generally do their best; its just that
they are doing their best considering the resources that
they have at the time. Sometimes theyre tired,
sometimes theyre easily distracted, and sometimes
theyre strong-willed, but they generally do the best
that they can. Its very easy for us to judge them
according to a standard of what theyve done
When our kids make mistakes we have choices to make.
Fathers can either make choices that help to create kids
that are defensive and who lie to them or they can make
choices that help to create kids who can learn from their
mistakes and improve upon them.
Kids who fear punishment or the loss of love in response
to their mistakes learn to hide their mistakes. These
children live in two different places; one place where they
have the love and support of their father (parents), and
another where they feel that if their mistakes were
discovered they would be undeserving of that love. It is
hard for these kids to fully accept their parents love and
support even when it is there. It is also difficult for
these kids to set high standards for themselves because they
tend to have a lot of fear about themselves failing.
These are some ideas for fathers who are committed to
helping create kids who can learn from their mistakes and
who are not afraid of making a few:
Absolutely accept the notion that your kids are doing
their best and that they will learn faster about their
mistakes if they are in an environment that accepts
Understand that your difficulty with your kids mistakes
is in fact a reflection of your own difficulty dealing with
your own mistakes-be aware of this and deal with your own
Know the shaming messages that we can all give so easily
to our kids; messages that can do a lot of damage to them
and help them to feel unworthy. Heres a few of
How could you have done that?
- You dont listen to me
- You can do better than that
- Whats the matter with you?
Keep providing your kids with learning experiences but at
the same time make arrangements so that they arent
making too many mistakes (having expensive glassware around
the house where children might break it is not their
Provide a great model for your children around how you
react to making mistakes-do you get defensive or stretch the
truth, or do you own the mistake and learn
something from it?
We only have one chance to show our kids the patience and
discipline necessary to allow them to make the mistakes that
weve all made. Your opportunity to improve just
started now; lets give our kids the room that they
need and deserve.
Rewarding Your Children
Lets say that your boss just told you that you were
going to have to work all weekend. You would probably not be
particularly motivated to do this work. The boss then told
you that you would be receiving triple your normal pay for
the work you did on that weekend. Would this improve your
motivation? Probably. Rewards do work, and they work well
with kids if done with skillful timing.
Do you use rewards to help motivate your kids? My
experience with my own kids tells me that it works better
than punishment. When my kids are punished they seem to
learn one thing better than anything else-REVENGE!
Whatever you put your attention on will tend to grow.
Focusing a great deal on negative behavior from your kids
will almost always get you more negative behavior. When you
focus on positive behavior, thats what youll get
more of from your kids. Rewarding your kids is a way to keep
the focus on their positive behavior.
Rewards and positive acknowledgements are important
because without them it is possible that your kids are
hearing a lot of negative acknowledgements from you. It is
easy to get into this kind of communication with your
children, especially when you are stressed out and not
taking good care of yourself. Here are some examples of
negative acknowledgements that we can use with our kids:
- Dont be so loud!
- Your room is a pig sty
- When will you act your age?
- Youre not listening
- Stop whining so much
- Dont run around right now!
If your kids dont want to listen to you right now,
it may very well be that theyre getting too many
negative acknowledgements coming their way and they need to
hear some positive ones like these:
- Thanks for staying quiet while I was on the
- You play so nicely together
- I really appreciate your help at the store
- You are really fun to play with
- I enjoy being with you
- You are really smart!
So tell me, Dads, whats your ratio of positive
acknowledgements to negative ones? Is it 1:1? 2:1? Its
certainly not too late to try and improve your ratio.
To successfully reward your children you may want to
think of all of the activities that they truly enjoy and
that would be suitable rewards for them. Reading time, play
time, making art projects, or going to a friends house could
be examples. These rewards can be used most effectively when
your kids are not cooperating and are not at their best.
Youll end up saying things like,If you clean
your room now well have time to play outside
afterward. Even teenagers will respond to rewards like
an unexpected ride to their friends house or a trip to the
store to buy CDs.
If rewards are used sparingly and if you dads are using
positive acknowledgements with your children, I dont
believe that kids will want to receive rewards for
everything that they do (Many parents think theyll
create a monster who wants rewards for anything that they
do). Its also important to link the reward with the
activity or behavior that you are asking the child to
change. For example, if your child does clean their room you
really will have more time to play outside.
Remember that your kids really do want to cooperate and
to please you, its as important to them as anything
else in the world. Its also easy to forget this when
they are acting out and arent having their needs met.
Try to always have a reward in your back pocket
when youre with your children. You can bypass a lot of
conflict and have the sailing go a lot smoother.
Rules for Fathers
Dear Dads and Friends,
I watched a father and his thirteen-year old son play
tennis for awhile the other day. When the father would miss
shots he would often get angry and talk about how terrible
his shot was.
When the son began to miss shots and to get discouraged,
his father called over to the other side, "Dont get so
It was a reminder to me how important we are as role
models to our kids and also how easily we can become blind
to the impact we have.
Fathers can impact their kids in a profound way if they
pay attention to how they serve as models and if they use
good sense in their parenting. Here is a list of "rules"
that fathers can follow to improve their parenting
Rule #1 Expect a great deal from your kids. If your kids
know that you expect a lot from them they will rise to the
occasion. Everything from saying please and thank-you to
effort in school or on the athletic field, if expectations
are there in a loving atmosphere your kids will know that
you think a lot of them.
Rule #2 Always be willing to be the problem. When you are
convinced that someone in your family is causing "the
problem" and you are blaming them for it, realize that this
problem wont get better until you accept that you are
making it worse by blaming them for it. It may feel good to
blame, but it never improves a thing. Loving and accepting
that person will improve it.
Rule #3 Know your childs life intimately. Get to
know all that you can about your kids. Know what their
favorite toys and colors are, who their best friends are,
who their heroes are, etc. By showing interest you are
showing you love them. By not asking you show that its
Rule #4 Say no to your kids. Theres an awful lot of
stuff out there for kids these days. They want to have it.
Kids who get almost everything that they want typically
dont turn out to be very happy kids. Kids learn
discipline, self-control, and how to delay gratification
when they are told no by their parents. It may be a
difficult struggle, but saying no and meaning it will help
you to have happy, healthy, and cooperative kids.
Rule #5 Hitting or spanking your kids doesnt work.
There are plenty of studies that show that kids who are
spanked have lower self-esteem. Spanking your kids will also
be likely to increase the very kinds of behaviors that you
are spanking them for. As a father, do you really want your
child to be afraid of you?
Rule #6 Treat your wife extremely well. This is where
your kids get their most important information about
relationships between men and women. Make a great effort not
to fight in front of the kids. Remember to be kind more
often than trying to be right.
Law #7 Actions speak louder than words. Many parents
spend time threatening their children when their kids
arent cooperating. If actions arent carried out,
you can threaten till the cows come home. Your children will
learn to ignore the threats. They will understand action. If
certain privileges are taken away because of their lack of
cooperation, they will learn very quickly that you mean
business. Try your best to align the consequences with the
action. ( If you dont clean your room in time, you
wont have time for stories before bed ).
Rule #8 "Really" listen to your kids. Dont just
hear what they say to you, learn to understand the meaning
behind what they say as well. "Im picking my own
clothes!" might mean that your child wants more
responsibility or independence. Be able to reflect back what
your child says to you. If you want your child to listen to
you, you absolutely must listen to them.
Rule #9 Give your kids responsibility as they grow older.
When your kids are very young, maybe they just help you make
their beds in the morning and help keep their room clean. As
they get older, add things to their list. Tell them that
this is how a family works
everybody has certain things
that they do. If you do it when theyre young its
more likely theyll do it when theyre older.
Dont reward them for things that should be expected of
Rule #10 Tell youre kids theyre great
all the time. It is especially important to tell them this
when theyre not at their best. Its easy to tell
them when things are going well. Make it a point to tell
them specifically what you think is great about them. This
will be more meaningful than just telling them theyre
There are many more rules that could have been added to
this list. I hope you find them helpful. Is there an area
where youre falling short? Let me know if there are
rules that have been helpful for you in your fathering.
Changing the Legacy of Violence
Fathers have come a long way in terms of their effectiveness
as parents. An examination of history shows that fathers
have often been brutally abusive and violent.
Burial sites in Rome have revealed the bodies of
literally hundreds of thousands of young boys who were
killed by their fathers for disobeying them. We have moved
away from such horrible treatment of our children but we can
still see evidence of violence and fear tactics in our
Why do some fathers still use hitting their kids and fear
tactics to attempt to change their behavior? One of the main
reasons is that they havenít learned a different way
and it becomes their "last resort" of choice. Fathers who
have been hit or beaten by their fathers are much more
likely to use it on their own children. They are much more
likely to use fear tactics in general as well ("You just
wait till we get home!") What is becoming increasingly clear
is that these methods are ineffective and damage the
self-esteem of your children.
Years ago when children were not allowed to be awakened
to their feelings the tactics of violence and fear were more
effective. Kids were to be seen and not heard and threats or
actual violence were ways that they could be controlled.
Today children are allowed to express themselves and are
much more "open" with their feelings. This can be more
challenging at times for parents but it creates kids with
higher levels of self-esteem. These more "open" kids do not
respond well to threats and violence; it will cause them to
feel a loss of control and they will respond back with
violence in order to regain this control.
I have talked to many fathers who still cling to the
belief that a "swat on the butt" or a good spanking works
just fine with their kids. It certainly seems to work on a
temporary basis. These same fathers often feel that since
they were spanked that ìit was good enough for me so
itís good enough for my kids too.î My
difficulty with this logic is that it also seems to:
- Teach your kids that hitting is O.K.
- Say that it's O.K. not to control your anger
- Teach that "might makes right"
- Create kids who are afraid of you (is that what you
- Perpetuate the legacy of violence onto the next
We live in a society that is profoundly affected by
violence. Violent images are everywhere for our kids to see.
When kids learn in their families that they are bad and
deserving of punishment they will be much more adversely
affected by violent T.V. and other factors.
Letís do our part to change the legacy of violence
that fathers have been involved in. Stop it in your own
families. Let other fathers know how you feel about it. Get
support to help yourself in getting this done. Your kids
will remember it always.
What Fathers Want?
This has been a difficult newsletter to write and even to
think about because it will consider what fathers really
want in their lives.
I know that fathers want a number of things in their
lives to feel as though they are fulfilling their "duties."
They want to be role models for their children and to show
them the way to be a caring, responsible adult. They want to
show love to their children and to receive love in return.
There could be a very long list of the things we want as
fathers. As I thought about what I really wanted as a father
I found myself first wishing to rid myself of a lot of the
baggage that I (and others) carry around. I wanted to
eliminate the worries and fears that I have about my
children. I wanted to stop thinking about and being in
"work" mode when I am home. I wanted to rid myself of the
persistent feeling that I am not an essential part of the
emotional core of the family. And I want to stop saying and
doing things with my kids that have me saying to myself, "My
God, I'm becoming my father!"
If fathers were to continue to eliminate this baggage I
believe we'd eventually get to the place that we all really
want to reach as fathers. The place where we give up our old
routines, judgements and stories and we can simply "be" with
and enjoy our kids. The place where we absolutely stay in
the moment and squeeze every ounce of life out of it. Where
we can experience the joy, satisfaction, and fulfillment of
being a dad who has an open heart and is who giving his
children pure love.
I've been to this place a number of times with my kids
and it has always been marvelous. What can be encouraging to
other fathers who are looking for this place is that it is
available to us on almost a daily basis. The problem is that
we often miss it for the various reasons stated above; we
miss out on the enormous potential of the moment with our
There will come a day when all of us will look back at
our lives as fathers. Our children may be out of the house
and what we will have left will be the memories of the
precious moments we shared with them. Savor these moments.
Search for them. Know that each day can create extraordinary
memories for you and your children if you allow it and don't
let the pace of modern life convince you otherwise. When
will you start your new string of memories with your
Riding the Ups and Downs Are You Really
Involved With Your Kids?
There are times when I really just want to leave the family
for awhile. Im not sure for how long but I know that I
sometimes want to leave. Rotten father? Perhaps. But I
believe that if most of us committed dads were really honest
wed say that there are times when we just want to run
from it all.
Why is this so? It may be that its just an
incredibly demanding job to be a committed father. It may be
that most of us have more stress from work than weve
ever had before; it may also be that relationships between
men and women seem to be more complex and demanding than
ever. What I know is that the combination of these factors
is quite potent. Where would I go? Should all of us meet
somewhere for a runaway fathers conference?
I can truly understand the tendency of fathers from the
previous generation to keep an emotional distance from their
kids. They didnt have the skills or the role model to
rely on in this huge undertaking. Yet it is precisely the
difficulty of this role that gives it its richness.
Yes, we are pioneers! We will not only affect our own kids
by our committed fathering but also their kids and right on
down the line.
So how do we break the cycle of distant dads and usher in
a new era of involved fathering? Here are some ideas:
What To Do:
- Get some support. This may be getting a group of dads
together for regular meetings or hiring a coach or
mentor. However you do it, its important that you
talk to other fathers about the challenges of
- Identify the areas of fathering that you struggle in.
Use your support group or coach to help you to improve in
these areas and to hold you accountable for them.
- Find the time to be a committed father. A lot has
been written about "quality time" with your kids and not
enough has been written about "quantity time" with them.
Show them that you care by making the time and getting to
know their world.
- Make peace with your own father. Have a dialogue with
your dad (if possible) about his fathering. Dont
shame or blame him. Acknowledge your own faults as a son
and forgive him. Tell him that you love him. If this is
not possible, you may have to get some help in working
through the anger that you still carry around. Dont
wait to do this, you may lose your chance.
- Do what you can to lessen the impact of cultural
garbage. Theres only so much we can do here, but it
can have an impact. Monitor your kids friends and their
parents, know what your kids are watching on T.V. and
what theyre looking at on the computer. If your
kids are young, shield them from as much of the garbage
as you can, and remember that your own habits in
navigating the culture will have a big impact on them.
Dont worry what neighbors, friends, relatives, etc.
think about it. (The old "kids will be kids" attitude).
These are your kids, respect them; the culture
One of the amazing differences between men and women that
Ive noticed over the years is the ability of women to
meet and within a few moments to be talking about the most
intimate details of their lives ( This is about noticing,
guys, not superiority). Men, on the other hand, seem to
dwell on things like sports, business, etc. I am as guilty
of this as anyone, yet my family is clearly the most
important thing in my life. Whats wrong with this
To be pioneers in fathering we must begin the difficult
process of bringing our emotional lives with our families
into view. We must start a dialogue with other fathers who
we know care as much as we do but may lack the skills to
show it. And we must then "walk the talk" when it comes to
our own fathering. Generations of future fathers and mothers
will reap the rewards.
"No man can possibly know what life means, what the
world means, what anything means, until he has a
child and loves it. Then the whole universe changes
and nothing will ever again seem exactly as it
seemed before."--Lafcadio Hearn
On this evening things certainly didnt
seem to be like they were before. This evening had
been difficult. As I was trying to get my kids to
bed, my daughter was whining and crying about
tomorrows school clothes while my son flopped
around on the floor without a care in the
It was well past their bed time and I was
simultaneously: upset with myself for getting
behind schedule; preoccupied with a project I was
late on; angry with my kids for not cooperating;
and worried that theyd have another crabby
day from back-to- school stress and a lack of
I could feel the tension envelope my shoulders
and jaw. My mind was moving at a dangerous
Then the "moment" happened.
My four year old son looked up at me as
innocently as humanly possible and said, "Dad, what
do snails eat?"
Everything slowed down and relaxed. The drama of
the moment disappeared. My worry and concern had
been revealed as a hoax. All that seemed to matter
now was getting my kids down to bed in a warm and
After stumbling through a "snail diet" answer
and thanking my son for putting things in
perspective for me, I marveled at how quickly my
emotions could change. Unfortunately, this shift is
not always very rapid or easy for fathers in
The challenge for many fathers is how to deal
with the overwhelm that can be a constant in modern
family life. In his book, "Why Marriages Succeed or
Fail (1994)," John Gottman found that men produced
much higher heart rates and raised their blood
pressure higher than women during emotional
discussions with their wives. These higher rates
also tended to stay higher for longer periods of
The result of this sense of overwhelm for men
can be any number of reactions, including:
disengagement, the "silent" treatment, angry
outbursts, or excessive attention to work. Of
course, everyone loses when these reactions become
commonplace. And the truth is that these reactions
can be improved upon and eventually avoided.
Here are five ideas to help in dealing with
overwhelm with your family:
1. Raise your standards: Stop blaming others for
your overwhelm, this only makes things worse.
Commit yourself to improving your own skills in
dealing with overwhelm and realize that it always
starts with you.
2. Take time outs. These will help to put some
perspective to the situation and theyll also
show your kids youre working on it. You
cant expect your kids to work on their
"stuff" if you dont work on your own.
3. Plan ahead and train your kids. A lot of
stressful situations can be avoided by being
prepared. Get things ready the night before and be
very consistent with routines.
4. Raise the bar for yourself by having your
wife or kids (or both) keep you accountable. Tell
them to remind you if they see you getting
overwhelmed and angry. Then do whats
necessary for you to create a healthier
5. Use a well-practiced and routine relaxation
response for your overwhelm. Whether its deep
breathing or counting to ten, have a tool to use
when the going gets tough. It beats yelling any
Fathers are often the fixers of things in their
household. While not an easy task, the "flooding"
that fathers feel during overwhelm is a "fixable"
The choice is clear: point fingers at your
family or deal with your own issues?
What do you think is best for your
Are You Training Your
Dear Dads and Friends,
Have you noticed that professional sports teams
can have significant improvement in their
performance when a new coach takes over? It
isnt uncommon for a new attitude and
philosophy instilled by a competent new coach to
completely change the way a team performs.
Fathers can also significantly change the
behavior of their children through the use of
timely training and coaching.
One of the things thats easily forgotten
by parents is that our kids dont always know
how to behave in certain situations and that they
can easily forget. The result is "misbehavior" in
restaurants, stores, or even in your home.
The problem is that parents often scold their
kids for behaving poorly when they havent
bothered to coach their kids around what the proper
behavior is! This method doesnt seem to be
very fun or effective.
The answer to many of these problems can be
training your kids about the proper behavior to use
when they are in a receptive state. Here are some
ideas on this training that will help it to be more
Train your kids when they will be receptive to
it: when everyone is relaxed and there are few
Make it fun. Use a role-play format and be
creative and enthusiastic.
"Lets pretend were at a restaurant!"
is a good way to start this out. Just talking to
your kids will often not be as effective as "doing"
Dont underestimate the age at which
training this way can be effective. Two year-old
kids can benefit from this training if you are
creative and enthusiastic. If the behavior after
training isnt acceptable, remember that
actions speak louder than words. Take them out of
the restaurant, put them in a time out, whatever
the situation calls for. Be firm and kind. Explore
whether the training needs to change or whether a
privilege needs to be taken away.
Make sure that you tell them what you noticed
about the improved behavior if and when it happens.
Be specific about what they did that you approved
of, this will help to "lock in" the behavior.
Hey dads, remember how easy it is to blame your
kids for misbehavior. Sometimes its not
really their fault. Sometimes its a lack of
After all, kids dont really want to get
yelled at and disapproved of. They just dont
know some of this stuff yet, theyre just
And dont believe for an instant that your
kids are going to learn anything from you when
youre scolding them about their behavior.
Actually, I take that back! They may learn that
youre angry or that youve got a nasty
Now you can do something about this. Go train
Disciplining Your Kids
Are You Effectively Disciplining Your Kids?
The landscape of fathering has changed forever.
We not only need to spend more time with our kids
today, we need SKILLS! One of the most valuable
skills for us fathers to develop is the ability to
positively discipline our kids. (Whats that?
You missed that section of your extensive training
for fatherhood?) This newsletter is designed to
help you develop skills and gain information to
improve your ability to effectively father your
Lets start with discipline, shall we? We
can start with some things that probably
arent working well.
- Screaming at your kids
- Threatening them
- Being overly permissive
- Repeatedly punishing them
- Watching T.V. while your kids do what they
- Letting your kids watch T.V. all day while
you do what you want
Lets face it, all of us have lost our
temper with our kids before and have resorted to
"power" to resolve a difficult situation. There is
What to do
Step #1 Realize that if you want to change your
childrens behavior, youll need to
change your own behavior first. (Dont you
just hate this step?)
Step #2 Provide choices for your kids. It is
essential that you use a tone of voice that is
calm, respectful, and accepting. ("Get out of here
or Ill ground you for a year," is not an
effective use of choices!). "John, you may either
take your ball outside and throw it or you can play
in here without throwing the ball. You decide on
what you want to do."
Step #3 If the misbehavior continues, apply the
consequence and tell them that they can try again
later. If John continued to throw the ball in the
house, you may take the ball and tell him that he
can have it back in a short while. Attempt to match
the consequence with the misbehavior as much as
possible; instead of shaming John and sending him
to his room simply take the ball for awhile.
Step#4 If there is a repeat of the misbehavior,
extend the period of time before the child may try
again. Use a calm, respectful tone of voice and
realize it is natural and normal for a child to
Top 5 Reasons This Method is Successful
- It is respectful, and to receive respect you
must first give it.
- It teaches children to make their own
- Power struggles are discouraged
- Children are helped to be responsible for
their own behavior
- Fathers will gain more confidence in their
Although there is a lot more to disciplining
your kids than this, Dads, you have a starting
point from where to launch your new discipline
program. If you take a look around at the cultural
garbage that exists today Im sure that you
can make a strong argument for the importance of
effective discipline for your kids. Lets all
do a better job of it, myself included. Even if
youre a beginner at it or youre not
comfortable with it at first. Your kids may thank
you for it someday.
Anger in Fathers
What's up with this anger?
It's amazing to me to experience all of the
emotions that occur when we run into a power
struggle with our kids. I am aware of two
conflicting feelings when I run into these kinds of
situations. One is to empathize with my child and
to wonder what is needed at the moment to make him
or her more comfortable. The other is more
primitive and asks the question, "Who are you to
question my authority?" It's as though there is a
reservoir of resentment that is stored up from all
of the sacrifices we make for our children that
rears its' ugly head in times like these. I think
we all want to rid ourselves of the anger we carry
around with us but often don't know what to do
What's all of this anger about?
We could explain this anger away as many do in
saying it's just that "He's got a temper" or "He's
just an angry guy". On closer inspection I believe
it 's something deeper than that. Underlying all of
our anger is FEAR. It's even hard for us guys to
say, isn't it? Come on, fffff.. Oh well. We are
trained as men that fear is not part of who we are.
Fear is weakness. Better to break a chair than to
admit fear. So how can we understand this better
and use it to be a better father?
Top three fears:
Here are what I believe to be the top three
fears and how they can appear in your
1. Fear of not being good enough: This can
appear as anger or sadness when your kids prefer
mom to you or when they complain about the way that
you do something.
2. Fear of not being in control: This can appear
as anger when your kids whine, cry, or complain for
3. Fear of being judged by others: This can
appear as anger or embarrassment when your family
is evaluating something you do around the house
(probably not as well as mom).
There are a lot more fears out there but these
are the ones that seem to keep coming back to me.
How about you? Any of these look familiar? I am
affected by the first two on a daily basis. What it
means for me is that it can be difficult for me to
be with my kids during the times they're whining or
complaining alot. It's easy for all of us to just
blame them and to make them "the problem", isn't
it? Yea, but it just doesn't help it to get any
better. What does?
What to do about the anger
Step #1: Understand it better. Know what your
fears are and your "hot-button" issues. Knowing it
won't make it go away but it will allow you to be
aware of it and that's always the first step.
Step #2: Devise a strategy for when your anger
is going to boil over. I use a breathing technique,
you may use something else (leaving the area,
counting, etc.) but have a defined strategy for
those times. When you do screw up, apologize to
your kids. That's never easy, but they are the most
forgiving beings in the world if you just give them
Step #3: Have some accountability. Whether it's
your wife, a friend, or a coach have some way of
seeing your progress. And don't beat yourself up if
you screw up; you will and beating yourself up
For many years fathers have had a tendency to
have a certain reaction when we became
uncomfortable with certain elements of family life:
We left either physically or emotionally. It's time
to stop. It's too important. What will you do? When
will you do it?
How our culture teaches us to raise boys.
Mommy, I fell down, said the 5-year
old to his mother during a recent soccer practice.
Were you tough? asked his mom.
Yeah, he said and walked away with his
I was at this soccer practice with my daughter
and as usual feeling just a bit out of place as the
only dad there. When I heard this exchange it
reminded me of the ways we can blindly follow the
code concerning how we raise boys. The
code says that boys should be tough and independent
and to move away from their feelings of being weak
or fearful, etc. When I heard this mother ask her
son if he was tough I wanted to say, All he
wants is for you to ask if hes
What does raising tough and
independent boys create?
Dads, Im going to make a gross
generalization, I hope you dont mind. Men are
less in touch with their feelings than women are.
Not all of them, but most. When we employ the code
of raising tough and independent boys we
effectively cut them off from being closely
connected to others and from their own awareness of
their feelings. We get fathers and men who are
often successful (they make a lot of
money) but they are disconnected from their own
feelings and are unable to nurture themselves or
their children. In the workshops that Ive
been associated with about one half of the men
report they either dont remember being hugged
by their fathers or they have never heard their
father say I love you to them.
Thats the picture were dealing with.
Its incredibly easy as a father to fall into
the trap of the code for boys. I find myself
struggling at times when my son cries or just
isnt tough enough. Part of me
wants him to just dust himself off like John Wayne
and spit before returning to whatever roughhouse
activity he was engaged in. The other part of me
doesnt want him to divorce three wives, all
of whom he blames for the failed marriages, and to
buy a red sports car and hang out at singles bars
when hes age 50.
What we fathers can do to raise an emotionally
1. Examine your own ideas and practices
concerning how you raise your son. Do you allow him
to express his full range of feelings or do you
push him away emotionally if hes showing
sadness, weakness, vulnerability, etc?
2. Practice, practice, practice. Catch yourself
when youre in the old patterns and start
saying things like, that must have been hard
for you or boy, that must have been
rough. (These work on my wife, too).
3. Share your feelings with your son in an
honest and open way; this will encourage him to
feel safe enough to share his feelings with you.
Dont be afraid to tell your son that you were
afraid at times as a child and that you still get
4. Be involved in your sons life enough to
know who else might be enforcing the
code. That could include teachers,
coaches, day-care providers, other family members,
etc. Since the code is all around us, have the
courage to step in and make change happen even
though youll be judged by others
(You re gonna end up with a wimpy
5. Show physical affection to your son. Hugs,
kisses, wrestling, whatever you can muster. All
sorts of research shows that boys that receive this
from their fathers are happier, healthier, smarter,
etc. Show your son that you can hug or put your arm
around other men as well to demonstrate your
affection. Are you squirming? Youre a good
candidate for this one.
My hope for my son is that one day he is able to
be both sensitive and strong. That he is able to be
both fierce and gentle. My hope is that he is able
to be aware of his own feelings as well as the
feelings of others. This is only possible if we
give up the notion of the tough and independent boy
and rid ourselves of the code that has done so much
damage to the development of strong, sensitive, and
nurturing men. Its time, dont you
An Investment in Your
in the Belly author Sam Keen writes, In
the quiet hours of the night when I add up the
accomplishments of my life in which I take
considerable pride - a dozen books, thousands of
lectures and seminars, a farm built by hand, a
prize here, an honor there I know that three
that rank above all the others are named Lael,
Gifford, and Jessamyn (his three children). In the
degree to which I have injured them by being
unavailable to them because of my obsessive
preoccupation with myself or my profession, I have
failed as a father and as a man.
When I read this quote for the first time the
part that hit the hardest was my
preoccupation with myself or my profession.
How easy it is for us fathers to become so
preoccupied with our jobs and careers that we lose
a balanced perspective concerning our kids and
families. How easy it is for us to deny that our
kids need us to be there emotionally for them on a
consistent basis. In a 1994 survey done by the
National Center for Fathering involving more than
1,600 adult men, more than 50 % of those surveyed
said that their fathers were emotionally absent for
them while growing up. Is it any wonder why men
sometimes have a difficult time expressing their
The challenge for us fathers is to forge a new
way of being with our children that ensures that we
are there both physically and emotionally. It
involves risk, hardship, and sacrifice. What is
difficult to remember is that our fathering often
does not involve the semi-instant gratification
that fathers can get at the workplace. Our
fathering is a long-term investment in our
childrens lives that will impact them long
after we are gone from this earth.
A perception exists that fathers cant
really experience great success at the workplace
and at the same time be an involved father. Studies
by James Levine, the director of The Fatherhood
Project at the Families and Work Institute in New
York found that more involvement by fathers at home
enhanced their work life. Levine reports that when
men are comfortable at home, their sense of
accomplishment and confidence carries over to the
workplace. If we put this research on top of other
research that exists we can figure out that being
an involved father means you will probably be: A
more productive worker
A better partner with a more stable relationship
Generally more confident and accomplished in your
own abilities Enhancing your childrens lives
in too many ways to mention Healthier
So lets define involved, shall
It has amazed me to hear how fathers differ in
their definition of what an involved
father looks like. I know fathers who believe
that they are involved when they are watching T.V.
or reading in one room while their kids are in
another room of the house. Even proud fathers who
spend one hour a week of personal time
with a child should know that in the eighteen years
that this child is living with you that you will
have spent a grand total of 39 days with that child
during that personal time. It just doesnt
seem like enough, does it?
To define involved fathering I want to go back
to Sam Keens comments about preoccupation
with ourselves or our profession. Involved
fathering seems to be about spending time with your
children in which you are preoccupied with them,
not you. Everyones ideas about what is enough
time with their kids varies, but lets just
say that generally more is better. Yes, were
all going to have days or periods where we turn
into zombies and arent involving ourselves
with our kids like we could. But if we keep our
eyes on the investment were making over time
with our kids, well get a payback thats
worth many times what we put into it.
How Do We Nurture
Something occurred to me the other day while I was
having a particularly difficult time with my
children. I could easily get by as a father using
three phrases over and over again. They would be:
No whining! Could you be more
careful please? And, Could you just
give me some space please?
This would do two things for me. It would make
it easier on me and it would keep my children from
really feeling accepted by me and close to me. I
could certainly leave that messy emotional
stuff to my wife, then I could go and read
the paper, do work, or whatever else I do if I want
to feel more comfortable.
What is this tendency for us fathers to move
away from the emotional stuff all
Keep in mind that over 50% of fathers in studies
say that their father was emotionally absent for
them when they grew up. When we havent
received nurturing from our fathers while growing
up it can be quite difficult to be nurturing to our
children. This shows up for us fathers when we are
faced with a whining, complaining, or crying child.
You may have noticed that just asking your child to
stop is not real effective. So what is more
Diving into the emotional stuff
There are certain things that can be done to
help you on the road to being a more nurturing
father, among them reconciling your relationship
with your own father, learning how to nurture
yourself (how do you do it?), and learning from
experts (my wife). However, at some point you have
to dive in there and do something. Heres a
simple plan for it:
Step #1 Figure out the pattern that now exists
when you are falling short as a nurturing father.
What are your triggers. How do you react? Having a
better awareness of the patterns is always a good
place to start.
Step #2 Make a concrete plan for yourself. If
you normally avoid your daughter when she is whiny
or crying, look for opportunities to jump in and
be there with her during those times
when shes not her best. Remember that
its crucial that she knows that you accept
her in both her good times and bad.
Step #3 DIVE! Notice at first how difficult
being nurturing can be. It can produce shame,
anger, and sadness in fathers who have not had much
nurturing themselves. Make no mistake about this
action, however; it is an act of great courage.
Those fathers who continue to avoid their children
when theyre not behaving well all
of the time are missing out on a chance to
experience real closeness with their kids.
Be willing to be an amateur nurturer
with your kids and have the courage to learn some
painful lessons about yourself and how you can
improve in this area. Thats leading with your
heart in your fathering, and its a gift that
your kids will never forget.
Using a Family Meeting
Has anyone else noticed that our lives are moving
faster and faster these days? It seems that almost
everyone I talk to talks about how difficult it is
to find the time to spend together with their
family. This affects not only how much time we
spend together as a family but also how we function
as a family; things like planning, encouraging each
other, and just keeping track of each other and how
were really doing.
How can we fathers create a way to keep the
family intact and together while the
speed of the world seduces us at every turn? The
answer? The Family Meeting! The whole family sits
down for a regularly scheduled meeting in which you
can talk about any or all of the things that are
affecting family members.
Family Meeting Rules
- Make it a regularly scheduled time for each
week or every two weeks, whatever you think your
family can manage.
- Make the time sacred, only emergency
cancellations are allowed.
- Everyone gets to be heard and
everyones opinion is valued.
- Be encouraging and recognize the positive
things that are happening in the family.
- Plan for fun and for recreation.
- Focus on the real issues and get
to the point.
- Agree to a meeting length and stick to
- Have someone record the plans and decisions
made, post them as a reminder. (This job can be
rotated, as can the job of meeting
- Skipping meetings or meeting only when
theres an emergency
- Only focusing on complaints or
- Not listening well or not being
- One member dominates the meetings
- Meetings are limited to job assignments and
- Agreements are not put into action
Family meetings accomplish many things at the
same time, including:
- Keep the family in better touch with each
- Efficiently plan for all of the tasks that
need to be done in a family
- Help to make your kids feel that they are
being heard and that their opinions are
- Improve the ability of your family to
Allow a forum for your family to express
positive feelings about each other
I know that some of you dads may be thinking,
How am I going to find the time to hold these
meetings? The paradox is that by taking the
extra time to hold these meetings you may actually
free up more time for you and your family.
Youll also show your family that you have a
clear priority in your life
Theyre worth it, arent they?
Learning from Crisis
Weve all had a little time to recover from
the events of September 11th. Routines are getting
back to normal and we are able to look back and
gain some perspective on what it has meant and what
we have learned. What have we learned?
One thing we have learned is how compassionate
and caring the American people are in a time of
crisis. The support they have given in the form of
money, blood, donations, etc. has been inspiring
and heartwarming. We have been moved by this
tragedy to access our best selves and
to support those who needed help. I also believe
many of us have been moved to reflect on how we are
living our lives and what our priorities really
As a father I have chosen to look at my life
more closely and to see if there are areas where I
could improve. Do we need to wait for a crisis to
reassess what were doing as fathers and to
make changes? Weve all heard of stories of
people who have had near-death experiences and
survive them.. What do they seem to commit to after
they survive? They commit to their families. They
stop spending time on the unimportant parts of
their lives and focus on what touches their hearts
If youre a father who is committed to his
family consider these ideas as ways to enhance your
Have a date with one of your kids
each week; spend time with only that child and show
them how special they are to you. (If you have
eight kids this might get challenging)
Increase the number of PDAs (public
displays of affection) that you show to your kids
Find ways to increase the amount of time you
spend with your kids and family, whether its
arranging work schedules, planning a vacation, more
family dinners together, etc. (Yes, youll
have to give something up to do this)
Read a book or two about being a parent or
father. Theres SO MUCH to know and
theres so little time for us as fathers to
understand each stage of development that our kids
are going through.
Increase your own emotional intelligence so that
you can pass it on to your kids. How do you do
this? Share your feelings with your kids and ask
them how theyre feeling about different
things. Examine how you express anger and how often
you express love to them. Teach them empathy for
others through your actions. There are countless
ways to show emotional intelligence, and we are
only now beginning to understand the importance of
Remember that kids are all about making mistakes
and then making more of them. Its a big part
of how they learn. DONT SWEAT THE SMALL
Dont wait for a crisis to happen in your
family to make you look at your priorities. Know
what they are now and act on them. Your kids are
It is a time in which most Americans have been
watching quite a bit of T.V. to keep up on the
events in the war. My purpose in todays
article is to talk about a different crisis; the
war on American children in the form of excessive
Id like to be clear about a few things
before proceeding. I am not anti-T.V. and I do own
a television. I also do not preach to others about
turning off their T.V. There are a number of
statistics that are undeniable, however, and as
fathers we have an opportunity to learn from these
statistics and to stay aware of our options. Here
are some of the more alarming ones:
The average child age 5-18 in this country
watches an average of 30 hours of T.V. a week,
approximately the same amount of time that they
spend in school each week.
By the time they are 18, the average child has
witnessed around 10,000 killings of people and
countless assaults while watching T.V.
In the average American family the T.V. is on
about 42 hours a week, or six hours each day.
The average American couple spends less than 30
minutes each week engaged in meaningful, one-to-one
conversation. These same people will each watch
over 20 hours of T.V. per week. When asked what
single area of their marriage needed the most
improvement, this couple tended to agree that it
was (You guessed it!) Communication!
T.V. watching is happening at an unprecedented
rate in our society and it is affecting our kids.
The symptoms of all of this watching can include:
Shorter attention spans, more aggressive behavior,
less respect for parents or adults in general,
diminished self-esteem, etc.
What can we fathers do to help our kids to feel
more connected to us and less connected to the
tube? Action steps could include:
Screening of the T.V. that your kids do watch,
in particular young children
Watch less T.V. yourself, especially when the
kids are around-there is no greater model for how
important T.V. watching is than you are
Put the T.V. in a less prominent position in the
Stay with your child when theyre watching
T.V. and ask questions about what you are
seeing-questions that get kids to think about the
consequences of many of the actions that they see
on T.V. help to make it more human
Dont let your kids have a T.V. in their
rooms; I know its popular but many kids are
not able to discipline themselves with the tube
Dont have a T.V. on during family dinners;
Theres no better way to kill a conversation
and to reduce the connection in the
Dads, I realize that a lot of these steps may be
difficult for you. When your kids look back on
their time with you, however, they probably
wont be thinking about the shows you watched
together. Theyll think about how you took
them camping or taught them to wash dishes or to
throw a baseball. No video program is as effective
as good ol dad is. Your kids and their kids
after them will reap the benefits for
Battling the Closeness
Since I never got training on how to get close to
my family I am winging it on most of my days. My
wife helps me by her example and she seems to do a
great job of being with my children when they are
not at their best.
I have been examining my ability to be with my
kids when they arent at their best and
listening to other fathers talk about their
struggles. What I know is that it is essential for
us as fathers to find ways to show our children
that we love them and accept them even when they
are whining, crying, or complaining. If we want to
develop close relationships with our children we
cant just send them to their room when
theyre not acting the way that we want them
to. (Wouldnt a device like a T.V.
remote-control for your kids be great at times,
just click and theyd be gone?)
The benefit of all of this acceptance will be
that your children will be more likely to talk to
you about their problems and will confide in you
concerning their life. Theyll eventually feel
more comfortable about confiding in and trusting
other people as well. Why? Because they have
learned that you accept all of them, not just the
parts of them that are easy to like. When your
child feels totally accepted they dont have
to bury the parts of themselves that they
dont feel good about. When kids bury those
kinds of feelings, we get boys who are
tough but not very aware of their own
feelings and girls who are nice but who
have lost touch with their own assertiveness and
the desire to get what they want. What can we do as
fathers to accept our kids whole
- Acknowledge your own buttons
with your children and try to understand them.
What is it that makes this behavior hard to be
- Get support from someone to help you to
respond to your kids difficult behaviors in a
more supportive manner; your wife, a group of
fathers, a mentor, etc.
- Try to figure out what your kids
behavior means; If they are annoying you, it
probably means they need some attention, if
theyre often angry, it probably means you
need to work on the relationship.
- Model how others handle kids difficult
The research is clear that developing a close
relationship with your children early on will
foster a closer relationship during their teen
years and beyond.
Lets take this opportunity and run with
Interpreting your childs
I must admit that when I talk to my children I
often find myself in a difficult position. While I
love them dearly I find myself becoming angry when
they oppose me or when they just want to test me.
Part of me wants to understand their position and
part of me wants to say, Who are you to
question my authority?
While my ego calls for winning some of these
battles, I know in my heart that these are not
battles to be won. These are just instances of kids
being kids. To be in consistent conflict around
these everyday issues with my kids is not only
annoying but can have long-lasting negative effects
on them. So heres the choice, dads: you can
feed your ego and win a lot of these battles at
your kids expense or you can choose to
educate yourself and be creative about these issues
and both you and your kids win. Tough choice? Not
really. So where do you start? Heres some
typical comments or complaints from kids that can
get us into trouble if we see them as a challenge
to our authority rather than
interpreting what the real message
Comment: Im not wearing those stupid
Typical response: I just got those out for
you and you will wear them.
Interpretation: You really like to pick
out your own clothes.
Comment: This isnt fair. All of my
friends are going to the party.
Typical response: Life isnt always
fair. We dont care what your friends can do,
youre not going
Interpretation: We know youre
wanting us to trust you more. Tell us more about
the party, and well talk about it
Comment: Billys stupid. Im
never going to play with him again
Typical response: Dont call someone
stupid. Youll feel better about it
Interpretation: It sounds like your feelings
were hurt. Maybe it would help to talk about
Every day we have opportunities to defuse
conversations that could lead us into conflict with
our kids. Using this interpretation is
a start to reduce the number of these conflicts and
also to foster a better understanding of the things
that your children are going through. You will
probably mess it up a bit as you first try it but
it will get better. Remember, youll have a
whole lot of chances to improve so be patient and
remember that youre benefiting both you and
your kids. Gifts like that make for extraordinary
fathers and extraordinary kids.
Accepting that I am the
Its not an easy place to start a newsletter.
As a father that thinks he is pretty warm, loving,
and competent, its not easy for me to admit
that Im sometimes the problem with my family.
Its true and its both wonderful and
terrifying to accept this idea.
I can easily get to a place of judging my son or
daughter harshly and thinking about the problems
that they have. I can also easily get to that same
place about my wife as well. In this scenario that
I build for myself I am a hard-working dad who
cares about his family and I am doing all of the
right things for my family. I just
cant see my own contributions to whatever
problem is happening.
Here is the reason that I am the problem, and
its an idea that can be used in any
relationship in your life: In any relationship that
youre in, the other person really knows how
you feel about them! When I am not feeling good
about my son or daughter, when I am feeling they
are embarrassing me or arent living up to
my standards I am letting them know in
some way how I really feel. When I allow my
feelings to be known to them in this way I have
noticed that I will get more of the very behavior
that I hate. Yes, thats right. If I see my
son as incapable, I will get an incapable son
coming right at me. If I see my daughter as not
very bright, she wont be very bright. Do you
see how Im the problem here?
What Im not suggesting to you dads out
there is that you should never have any negative
thoughts about your family. We all do and they
wont totally go away. What is possible,
however, is to improve on your ability to be aware
of this tendency on your part and to take steps to
lessen its impact and length. The most important
way we can do this is to love our kids
unconditionally. We can see them as the wonderful,
resourceful, loving people that they are and not as
their flaws. Our egos have a way of manipulating
things so that we cant always see the best in
So what can I do when I begin to see my kids or
my family as the problem and my
- Be committed to staying aware of this
tendency and to get support around staying away
- Dont try to change your kids;
theyll know what youre up to and
will resist you.
- Always look at what you can do to change-
this takes a lot of courage.
- Get support; fathers have for a long time
thought that they should be able to do it all on
their own. Enlist other fathers or a coach or
mentor to help you to be as effective as
- Find a way that you can practice
the skill of loving your children
unconditionally-whatever works for you; but
practice it consistently.
Since any of us can remember we have looked at
others in our family and believed that they are the
cause of problems that we have. There
is another way to view this that demands more
courage and is much more effective. Will you have
the courage to face your problem? Your loving
relationship with your kids may be depending on
Using Time Outs
There seems to be a pretty strong consensus out
there that kids are more difficult to discipline
and have less respect for authority today than in
There is help for you dads that are wanting to
be more effective in raising kids that are
respectful, responsible, and cooperative. They are
called time outs!
Effective use of time outs lets kids know that
the parent is in charge. This works a whole lot
better than having the kids in charge. Kids will
resist us and will sometimes lose control of
themselves emotionally. Thats just what kids
do. Dont take it personally, dad. Kids need
to push up against limits now and again to see
where theyre at and to feel secure.
Lets talk about the purpose of time outs.
The main purpose of time outs is not to punish your
kids. The main purpose of time outs is to allow
your kids to feel their emotions and then to
release them. This is a skill that is vital to the
emotional health of kids but it is misunderstood by
many parents. When kids feelings are supported by
parents they will become richer and better
understood. When they are not supported they will
become volatile and out of control. The best way
for kids to develop better emotional control is to
have the space provided to experience negative
emotions and to release them. This is where the
time out comes in.
Here are some points about time outs that you
may find helpful:
- Use time outs as a last resort, there are a
lot of creative ways to nip problems early if
you can come up with them.
- Never negotiate time outs, actions always
speak louder than words.
- Dont tell your child to think about
what they did wrong; your kids will just learn
to feel guilty. Trust instead that if you ask
for specific behaviors and cooperation that they
will learn naturally what is right or
- Realize that some kids may need a number of
time outs every day and that some will need only
a few each month. There is nothing
wrong with the child that needs
more, they just need a bit more help controlling
themselves. If you see them as a big problem,
youll end up getting just that.
- Dont expect your child to sit still
and be quiet during their time out. They will
naturally resist it. Time outs work because they
give the child the opportunity to resist more.
Dont tell them to stop being upset. Know
that they will learn from the ability to
experience their emotions.
- Dont use a time out as a threat- the
time out then becomes a punishment and will be
less effective in the long run.
What I often see is that many fathers want to
have kids who are good and who
behave well. They mistakenly try to
control these kids and their emotions by making
them feel that having negative emotions is
wrong. The irony is that by attempting
to control their emotions they often dont
allow their kids to practice the skills
of experiencing and releasing their negative
emotions, causing these kids to have much less
control over their negative emotions. This can make
for very frustrated and disappointed dads and for
kids who have to live with this disappointment.
The effective use of time outs can be an
incredibly useful tool for dads in helping their
kids to be cooperative and to exercise emotional
control. The punishment methods of the past
dont serve kids well today, they just help to
create kids that are angry and resentful.
Lets spread the word to other dads that
theres a better way to discipline our kids
today. They deserve it.
How We Benefit From Our
My previous newsletters have focused heavily on the
benefits that your kids receive when dads are
committed to developing a close relationship with
them. What about us? What do we get out of all of
the time, sacrifice, and energy that is spent on
our kids? Read on and find out.
- Involved dads have better health. Rosalind
Barnett, a research scholar at Radcliffe
College, found that involved fathers were
actually healthier than fathers who were distant
from their children. It was also found in her
study that fathers who had the fewest worries
about their relationship with their children had
the fewest health problems.
- Involved fathers seem to have a way of being
more active than uninvolved fathers. Dads who
are hiking, biking, and fishing with their kids
will tend to have a healthier lifestyle than
those who arent. How about you, dad? Chips
and dip while watching the tube all
- Involved dads perform better at work When
involved fathers are happy at home, they feel
less stress and actually perform better at work.
James Levine, the director of the Fatherhood
Project at the Families and Work Institute in
New York, found that when men are comfortable at
home, their sense of accomplishment and
confidence carries over into the workplace. We
are just now beginning to understand this
incredibly important relationship between men at
home and at work. It is no longer reasonable or
effective to compartmentalize our home and work
lives; each one affects the other in important
ways. Levine found that fathers who have more
autonomy and control at work and who have
supportive supervisors tend to demonstrate a
greater acceptance of their kids at
- Dads self-esteem improves. Dads who are
involved with their kids tend to feel better
about themselves. There is a great sense of
satisfaction and pride when youve taught
your child to cook a meal, hit a baseball, or to
be generous to others. Your children will teach
you a great deal about yourself and will extend
you to your limits. They will also perfectly
reflect back all of the love and caring that
theyve received from you over time.
Involved fathers who have invested a lot of time
and energy in their kids will be the recipients
of all of this love and caring that comes back
to them. Fathers who have a lot of love and
caring coming their way will tend to have higher
self-esteem than those who dont. I believe
weve passed the time in which we judged
men to be successful based solely on
how much money they make or their occupation.
Ive talked to many men who were seen by
society to be highly successful but who were not
able to maintain a close relationship with their
children. When they are able to talk candidly
about their children they talk about a
hole that they feel inside of them
that they deeply regret. These men will have all
of their physical needs met in life, but their
emotional needs will have a huge void until they
"get it straight" with their kids.
- Involved dads have happier marriages.
Fathers who are very involved with their
children tend to have happier marriages. It is
pretty clear that women who feel stressed out,
overburdened with child care, and overwhelmed
will not have particularly positive feelings
about their marriage. Dads that help out a great
deal with the kids will help to balance their
relationships with their wives and to share in
the satisfaction of raising their children. Most
of you out there know about the many benefits
that kids receive when their dads are very
involved in their lives. These kids tend to do
better in school, tend to have fewer emotional
problems, and lead happier, more productive
Lets not forget all of the benefits that
dads get when they are a big part of their kids
lives. When we open up our hearts to our kids we
receive the greatest gift imaginable; we see their
hearts open up as well.
Problems for Dads
This issue will focus on some of the challenges and
problems that can be overwhelming for dads trying
to do something that no other generation of fathers
has done; to be in the emotional core of their
family while retaining their uniqueness as
If we ask the questions and really listen to
fathers well see some common themes. Prior to
the last ten years there wasnt a whole lot of
research or literature on mens experience as
fathers. We now have a clearer picture, and here
are some of the things that fathers say:
No matter what I do it doesnt seem
to be good enough
I feel like Im always on the outside
of the family
I feel like a janitor or handyman a lot of
No one is aware of all of the sacrifices I
make for the family
I dont feel appreciated at work or
I never seem to be able to please my kids
or my wife
Do any of these sound familiar? One of the
patterns that seems to come up often for fathers is
the feeling that no matter how involved they are
with their families, they feel like theyre on
the outside looking in. It is as though the
emotional core of the family consists
of mom and the kids with dad nudged to the outside.
The greatest fear of many of these fathers is that
they are inessential to the family. If
they were to go away, the emotional
core of the family would still be in
Why is this feeling so prevalent with fathers?
What can we do to help ourselves to enter the
emotional core of our
Don and Jeanne Elium, who wrote the book
Raising a Family, talk about how easily
fathers can get out of sync with the real purpose
of a family at home, which is meeting personal
needs. Fathers can fail to understand the
differences in thinking and attention that are
required within the work and family environments.
The work environment stresses these
- Motivated by goals and achievements
- Impersonal actions
- People expect to follow orders in an
The family environment stresses these
- Motivated by love and care
- Personal actions
- People contribute according to their
Its very easy for fathers to bring their
workmind home to their family. It
involves a single focus and an understanding of the
bottom line. What families need, however, is for us
to have a wide and diffuse focus and to ask what
the needs in our family are at the moment. This is
not something that seems to come naturally for most
fathers. How can we become more able to assess the
needs of our family and to begin to enter its
Here are a few ideas:
- Become familiar with your own needs and let
your family know what they are (everyone close
to you deserves to know )
- If youre married, learn from your wife
(they often do this better than we do)
- Any time youre coming home to your
family make an effort to get into
familymind mode and out of
- Help your family members to know and express
what their needs are
- Get support from other fathers who are also
interested in being effective dads
- Be patient with the process but start now; a
lot of dads feel like theyre just starting
to get how to be a better father by
the time their kids are leaving for
We can blame other family members for not
allowing us to feel closer to our families but we
know that this will only make the situation worse.
What will work is to improve our ability to
determine the needs of our family and to act on
them. The trail we leave will allow our sons to do
Savor Your Family Now
This particular newsletter will be different from
the others. It is being written in the wake of my
oldest brothers death three weeks ago. Rob was
swimming with his wife, three sons, and friends in
Cancun when he suffered a massive heart attack. He
was fifty-two years old.
Rob was successful in many ways and was a
devoted husband and father for his teen-age sons.
He had developed a Parkinson's-type illness about
two years ago that forced him to retire and to make
many changes in his lifestyle. Through it all he
never complained and used the extra time to be with
his wife or kids at home and to go to all of the
various games and functions that the kids had.
Rob's greatest enjoyment was to have family or
friends out to his house to show them a great
I've often thought about all of the times I had
spent with him. I have found myself wishing that I
could spend one more day with him so I could
adequately express how much I cared about him and
to savor every moment with him. I know that his
wife and kids wish that they could have more time
with him, too. The morning after his death his
family gathered together on the beach where he
died. They each tossed flowers into the ocean near
the area where Rob was pulled onto the shore.
Oldest son Eric tossed his flower and said, "Daddy,
I didn't know how much I loved you until now."
The pain of Rob's loss is still strong yet I
know that it will subside with time. My thoughts
have often been with his wife and three sons and
how they will deal with their lives without the
husband and father that they loved. Through the
mourning of his loss I have noticed other things
happening that I did not anticipate. One of them is
how my family has pulled closer together. Another
is the tremendous love, support and kindness that
so many people have shown to us. These things have
reminded me of the potential of all of us to
improve ourselves and to live the kind of lives
that we can look back on and be proud of. I know
that it has profoundly affected the way I want to
be as a father and as a person.
As my brother's death shows, we live our lives
knowing at some level that our life can be taken
away at a moment's notice. Even with this evidence
it's so easy for us to get busy with all of the
things that take us away from our families; working
a little more to get in a position to get the
raise, doing house projects, playing more golf,
etc. When crises come, these things fall by the
wayside and don't seem very important anymore. All
that really matters is your family. How will you
honor your family and serve them best in the time
you have remaining on this earth? Here are some
questions you can ask yourself:
Have you told all of your family members
lately how you really feel about them? (Yes, even
you guys with teen-agers)
Are you really aware of your children's
lives? Do you know what they like and dislike, who
there heroes are, what their learning style is,
what their goals and dreams are?
Is your family taken care of financially
if something happens to you?
Are there things about your fathering
that you're not quite satisfied with? Have you been
stuck on these things for some time and haven't
Know that all of you have the ability to be an
even better father than you are right now. All it
takes is desire, awareness, and persistence. Every
day we have on this earth is a gift. Every moment
we spend with our children can be savored. When we
bring this gift to them we help them become the
people that they were meant to be. May each day be
lived like it was our last.
© 2003 Mark Brandenburg
Other Father Issues,
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To this day I can remember my father's
voice, singing over me in the stillness of the
night. - Carl G. Jung
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