Great
Fathers
Archive
2004

 

Mark 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 , and Fix Your Wife in 30 Days or Less (And Improve Yourself at the Same Time ). Mark is also the publisher of the “Dads Don’t Fix your Kids” ezine for fathers. To sign up, go to www.markbrandenburg.com or email him at:mark@markbrandenburg.com.

Accepting that I am the Problem


It’s not an easy place to start a newsletter. As a father that thinks he is pretty warm, loving, and competent, it’s not easy for me to admit that I’m sometimes the problem with my family. It’s true and it’s 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 can’t see my own contributions to whatever problem is happening.

Here is the reason that I am the problem, and it’s an idea that can be used in any relationship in your life: In any relationship that you’re 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 aren’t 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, that’s 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 won’t be very bright. Do you see how I’m the problem here?

What I’m not suggesting to you dads out there is that you should never have any negative thoughts about your family. We all do and they won’t 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 can’t always see the best in our kids.

So what can I do when I begin to see my kids or my family as “the problem” and my relationships suffer?

  • Be committed to staying aware of this tendency and to get support around staying away from it.
  • Don’t try to change your kids; they’ll know what you’re 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 possible.
  • 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 it.

Happy Fathering,

Meals Together


In the last 3 decades, American families eat 33% fewer meals together, and couples have an average of 22 fewer hours of family/free time each week.

This makes the practice of rituals in your family even more important. What are the rituals you practice in your family?

Eating meals together, having family meetings, or regular weekend outings are all ways in which a family can have the time to air differences, acknowledge each other, or just spend some time together.

This tells your kids in a very strong way that they're important, and that they're a priority.

Can you think of a message that's more important?

The Big, Mean Dad


It was a time each night that I cherish.

It was bedtime. I snuggled in behind my six-year-old son, to spend some time chatting before he went to sleep. As I pulled him closer to me, I could smell his sweet breath and his freshly washed hair. During these moments, I felt closer to my son than at any other time. It was a time to share thoughts and the experiences of the day. Bedtime was when Michael talked more openly, and this night was no exception.

"Dad, you're so mean," he said. "You're always telling me not to do stuff, and you never tell Sarah. You like her better!"

I groped at the dagger in my heart. And as I did, I was aware of the two feelings I held simultaneously. The first one was guilt. I had lost my patience with Michael a couple of times during the day, and I had set boundaries that I needed to enforce. Had I been too strict with him? Could I have done it differently?

Is there heartbreak as great as the feeling you're not being the father you could be?

The other feeling I experienced, welling up deep inside me, was anger. "How dare you question what I do, after all I've done for you?" Neither feeling was very helpful, so I tried a different direction. I calmed myself with a deep breath and plunged ahead. "What is it that makes you think I'm so mean?" I asked.

"You just are making me do stuff I don't want all the time!" he said.

"I'm sorry you feel that it's mean, Michael."

There was a pause, and he muttered something else. I saw my opportunity. "You know, Michael, what you really ought to be concerned about is the spiders in your bed." As I said this, I ran my fingers up his legs and back. He howled in laughter. A few moments later, he was chatting about what he was doing in school.

The "dark side" of our evening was over.

It's likely that your kids will regularly harbor angry feelings toward you. They'll bring you face to face with guilt, shame, and anger from an earlier phase of your life. What can you do with these feelings?

The first thing to do with them is to take comfort in the fact that you're probably doing a good job as a parent. Show me a child who never complains about his parents being mean, and I'll show you a child who's parented by a saint or spoiled rotten. It's an important part of your job to be "firm" (mean) with your kids. After all, you live in a country where over two billion dollars is spent each year advertising to kids. There's more to say "no" to as a parent than ever before! And if you can combine this firmness with love and compassion, you have a great formula for parenting success.

Here are some other ideas on how to handle your child's message that you're "mean."

  • Ask them specifically what they mean when they say you're being "mean" or unfair. Listen to their response closely.
  • Tell them you're sorry they think it was mean. Don't apologize for any of the things that happened earlier in the day-apologize at the time of the incident. If you apologize twice, this will only help your child feel like a victim.
  • Be aware that you'll have some feelings of guilt or anger. Realize that these won't be useful, and don't beat yourself up about your mistakes.
  • Give up the myth that you'll be a perfect parent. Kids don't need perfect parents, just parents that try to get better.

Michael rolled over and kissed me softly on the cheek. "I love you, Dad." he said.

I wondered what he'd have done if I'd been nice to him?

What's Wrong with Your Kid?


As a coach who helps parents to be more effective, I'm often asked the same kinds of questions. "How can I get my kid to listen?" "How can I motivate my kid to do homework?" Or, "why does my child get so angry with me?"

While there isn't a simple answer to these questions, there is a path that parents can follow.

They can simply take a close look at themselves.

One of the fascinating things about working with parents and kids is to see how parents help to "create" problems in their children. And one of the sad things is that parents often aren't aware of how they contribute to the problem.

They use controlling tactics, and wonder why their kids aren't respectful and don't obey them. They nag at their kids endlessly, and wonder why they don't listen. And they constantly lose their temper with their kids, and wonder why their kids lose their temper with them. In fact, parents often help to create the very behavior in their kids that they say they hate.

Children are born with vastly different temperaments and styles. Some are clearly more difficult for parents to handle than others. And today's fast-paced and media-crazy culture creates many challenges for parents to hurdle. But if we're really honest with ourselves, we can stop asking questions about why our kids have problems.

Instead, we can ask how we're helping to contribute to the problem and which of our own issues needs work. This is the biggest step towards improvement that parents can take. It moves the problem from "over there" with your child, to "all of us together," where it belongs.

To get started on this road to take responsibility as a parent, here are some ideas:

  • If you don't know what your issues as a parent are, ask yourself what makes you the angriest about your child. The answer is close by.
  • Have a heart to heart talk with your child. Ask them what you could do better and what bothers them the most. But don't let it get in the way of being a firm, loving parent who uses boundaries with their children.
  • Let your child know that you're working on improving, and that you realize it needs some work. Kids don't need perfect parents, just parents who try to improve
  • Let your child know that while you work on your issues, you also have expectations for them. Convey the message that you believe in them.
  • Don't beat yourself up for your imperfection. Realize that your children give you the perfect opportunity to improve yourself. Be grateful for it.

Among the difficult choices we have as parents, one stands out as particularly important. It involves whether we choose to see the problems our kids develop as "theirs" or "ours."

The first choice carries with it a hint of blame and disconnection. It prevents parents and their kids from fully connecting, and it allows parents to feel "above" and apart from the problem. Choosing to make it "our" problem takes more courage, and it gets better results. It allows us to help our kids while we improve ourselves.

Isn't that what we were meant to do?

Ten Ways to Avoid Parental Arguing


As soon as my wife said it, I could feel the tension.

My “trigger point” had been hit, and an argument was waiting to happen.

But our kids happened to be in the same room. And if you listen to the experts on parental conflict, you learn that arguing in front of the kids is something to avoid.

"Many parents think that kids get used to parents' arguing, but that is not true," says Mona El-Sheikh, a psychology faculty member at Auburn University, who researches how aggression between parents affects children. El-Sheikh says most parents don't understand the damage they can do to their child if they argue frequently, and the child can hear or see. "Many parents think that children will understand that parent's are just letting off steam, or that the child will not remember, but that is not true," she says. “Kids who are exposed to repeated conflict are sensitized to arguments, not desensitized.”

And while arguments can be done with less anger and more negotiation, most arguments do your kids a great disservice.

To limit the arguing you have in front of your kids, here are some ideas:

1. Be concerned with being kind more than being right. If you’re kind to your spouse and treat them well, you'll experience fewer arguments.

2. Develop the fine art of keeping your mouth closed. There will be many occasions when you'll want to respond to a comment your spouse has made, and an argument is waiting to happen. Take a hard swallow, and notice that no argument occurs.

3. Talk with your spouse about making the effort to avoid arguments. Have a specific plan in place you both agree on when things gets tense. If you know you’re both committed to improving, it's easier to stay committed.

4. Raise your own standards. What kind of person do you really want to be? In view of how useless arguing is, wouldn't you rather hold yourself to a high standard, and spend time doing something else?

5. Just walk away from the argument. Walking away allows you some time to gather your thoughts and to cool down. When your perspective is better, you can continue the discussion from a more objective place.

6. Date your spouse regularly. A lot of arguments result from things that haven't been fully explored. It’s crucial to have a way to stay up to date, and create rituals that have the two of you talking. Make the time sacred.

7. Bend the truth now and again. If it's between being honest and being kind with your spouse, be kind every time! You can tell her the dinner is awful when she asks, but you increase the chances of conflict. Smile, and tell her it's delicious.

8. Compliment your spouse twice a day. One of the major reasons for arguments between couples is that people don't feel acknowledged. Acknowledge your spouse regularly, and they'll feel appreciated. Appreciated people are less likely to argue.

9. Know your triggers around arguing. Familiarize yourself with what comments and situations trigger your anger and argumentative behavior. What are these about? When do they occur? Learn how you can avoid getting trapped in the future.

10. Make yourself accountable for your arguments. Have other family members hold you accountable for your behavior. Tell them your working on improving, and would they please remind you if you're starting to argue again. This puts some teeth behind your commitment.

Ultimately, we choose whether we argue in front of our kids. Shall we think about winning the argument, or should we think about them?

Marriage, Divorce, and Kids


Are men to blame for the divorce problem in this country?

It’s been said that one of the reasons for the high rate of divorce in this country is the manner in which men choose their wives. Specifically, they choose their wives in a fashion similar to how they choose their next car.

They get the best-looking one available, and hope there’s not much maintenance down the road.

While this may occasionally be true, there are also practices that married couples need to follow to avoid adding to a divorce rate hovering around 50%. These practices are important for the success of your marriage, and they’re also essential for the well-being of your children.

In Maggie Gallagher’s book, “The Abolition of Marriage,” she states that, “Half of all children will witness the breakup of a parent’s marriage. Of these, close to half will also see the breakup of a parent’s second marriage.”

Can we possibly continue with a system in which half of our children witness the breakup of their parent’s marriage? Is a divorce rate near 50% enough to have us consider new ideas about how we decide about marriage and divorce?

One idea we might consider is educating young people about the qualities of a successful marriage. The best way to do this is to model these qualities for your children. In addition, we can talk to them about the specific qualities and actions which make a marriage successful.

Here are some of those qualities:

1. Commitment—According to one definition, “Commitment is a freely chosen inner resolve to follow through with a course even though difficulty arises.” How do we show our children what to do when difficulty arises? Do we move to where the grass is greener? Commitment is a daily discipline. It’s the chat after dinner, and the kiss before work. It’s the core from which we respond to difficulty. It’s what makes our lives richer and deeper.

2. Emotional Awareness—If we know what’s really bothering us, we can have effective and meaningful conversations with our spouse. We can be genuine, honest, and open with each other. And we can discover that much of the pain we feel in our relationship is actually our past emotional history coming back to haunt us.

If you’re planning on getting married someday, you need to be aware of what your emotional issues are. Because If you’re not aware of them, you’re a great candidate to add to a divorce rate that’s already staggering.

3. Be Kind, Not Right—We tend to have a tremendous stake in showing our loved ones that we’re right. An enormous amount of time is wasted in our relationships by arguing over who’s right or wrong. This excessive arguing is just an indication of our low self-esteem. A much easier and more effective way to be in a relationship is to commit to kindness. When you’re kind, you don’t need to be right. And it’s so much easier for others to be with you!

There certainly are divorces that are respectful of children, and many may be “justifiable.” But the number of divorces that damage children’s lives’ is stunning, and the trail behind them is strewn with actions and decisions that reek of childish self-interest.

It’s time for people to grow up. It’s time to stop looking to “get your needs met” in your relationship, and to start looking to meet the needs of your family. It’s time to stop running away when things get difficult, and to start persevering through the pain.

And most importantly, it’s time to see the impact of divorce on children.

Because the cost of not doing these things is beyond measure.

The 21st Century Parent


John was a 43 year-old sales manager at a large company. He's married and has 3 children, ages 7, 9, and 12. His wife works part-time as a nursing assistant, and they both do as much as they can to parent their children well.

John has developed serious doubts about his ability to be an effective parent in the last couple of years. All of his kids are involved in after school activities, and his demands at work are greater than they've ever been. His lack of time with his kids bothers him a great deal, but he doesn't dare take more time off from work. He's also bothered by his inability to get his kids to listen to him, and he's resorted to yelling and threats as measures of discipline.

John's family seems rushed all the time, and the routines in the morning and at bedtime are almost always chaotic. He often doesn't have the energy when he gets home from work to spend quality time with his kids, and he feels his relationships with them are growing more distant. In particular, he's struggling with his teenage daughter's behavior. John feels he has little in common with her at this stage in their lives.

Welcome to the life of an American parent in the 21st century.

There are many reasons that parenting today is more difficult than in years past. Here are a few of them:

  • The typical, middle income married couple family works 3,885 hours - that's an increase of 247 hours, or nearly six weeks, more than their counterparts ten years ago.
  • Working couples lost an average of 22 hours a week of family and personal time between 1969 and 1999.
  • In the last three decades, American families are eating 33% fewer meals together as a family.
  • In 1990, the American advertisers spent 100 million dollars advertising to children. In 2000, they spent 2 billion dollars in their advertising to children.

Alvin Toffler once said, "Parenthood remains the greatest single preserve of the amateur." For too long, parents have taken on the most important job they'll ever have with little or no training. Parents can't afford to be amateurs anymore. They must arm themselves with the knowledge, support, and discipline needed to parent their kids effectively. They must take responsibility for the impact their parenting will have on their children. And they must recognize that in today's culture, their kids need them to be there more than ever.

In John's case, hiring a coach helped him to:

  • Simplify the life of his family, so they could spend more time together
  • Learn positive discipline skills, so the daily routines went more smoothly and there were fewer conflicts
  • Develop a plan to put in place when he got angry, so he wouldn't do or say something he'd regret later
  • Learn how to be less judgmental with his daughter, and to find specific ways to be more connected with her.

Though parenthood can be extremely difficult and challenging at times, it can also be incredibly fulfilling and enjoyable. Most of us would never think of starting a new career without the information and training necessary to be effective. Do we think our job as a parent is less important? Effective parenting skills can be learned by anyone who cares enough to commit to them, and by anyone who knows the importance of their parenting to the future of their kids.

It's time for parents to get some help. It's the best investment they'll ever make.

Simple Living in an Age of Materialism


We were sitting in the family room. My kids had finished their first day back at school after the holiday break, and my wife was working late. Michael, my six-year-old son, was finger knitting. Sarah, my eight-year-old, was knitting a scarf. I sat near them and folded clothes. Occasionally someone would share something that had happened during the day, but otherwise it was quiet.

And as we sat there doing our chores, I began to appreciate this time we were spending together. The orgy of presents, travel, and Christmas cookies was over. The routines and rhythms of the work week had begun again. My kids needed structure as badly as I did. We were getting it by being together in this quiet, simple way.

As I sat there folding clothes, I marveled at how little we really needed to be happy. It was quite enough to just be together as we did our work. Many of the toys my kids received for Christmas were already put away. As often happens, there is a brief flurry of excitement when the toys are first discovered. Shortly after, the thrill of ownership grows hollow.

And while my kids may be too young to understand it, I'd like them to know someday that possessions don't really make them happy. When you live in a consumer-driven and materialistic society, it's just the message you receive. As author Christopher Lasch states, "A mass advertising culture creates consumers who are perpetually unsatisfied, restless, anxious, and bored."

I'd like my kids to know someday that the pursuit of possessions has made more people unhappy than happy, and that it actually ends up limiting their freedom of choice in the world. I'd like them to know that possessions can keep them focused on their own self-interest, rather than focusing on how they can benefit others. And I'd like them to know that one of the keys to a happy life is the pursuit of simple pleasures, which, in today's day and age, is an act of courage.

I thought about all of the possessions I had somewhere in the house. How many of them had I really used in the last 6 months? How many of them really had an impact on my life or made me happy beyond the first few minutes of receiving them?

Only a handful.

And as I sat there with my kids enjoying our time together, I could see that some more trips to the Goodwill were in order, as well as a greater commitment to simple living in our family. John Burroughs, the nineteenth-century naturalist, observed that "the number of things we can really make our own is limited. We cannot drink from the ocean be we ever so thirsty. A cup of water from the spring is all we need."

As parents in America today, we're often made to feel thirsty. We're made to feel as though we need to provide the latest gadgets for ourselves and for our children. It seems as though at the rate we're going, these gadgets will cost us all of our time and all of our money.

Don't be fooled. All that you and your kids really need is a "cup of water from the spring." It may not impress your neighbors, but your family will feel happier.

It may even change your attitude about folding clothes!

Have We Reached the Bottom?


The questions are all so compelling: Did Janet Jackson do it on purpose? Was it all planned, or was it really a "wardrobe malfunction," as stated afterward by Justin Timberlake?

These are the questions that have been asked by the national media and by millions of citizens of this country. We're hearing more information about "nipple shields" than we'll ever want to know.

And not surprisingly, we're hearing far more about these two performers after this incident than would have been the case after a "normal" performance.

But with so much attention being paid to the mind-numbing idiocy of this act, we seem to have lost touch with another, more sinister story. While people spend their energy blaming two artists who have no clue as to the impact of their action, we've taken responsibility out of the hands of a number of people who should know better.

Somewhere in this mess there are television executives who made the decision to present a song with the lyrics, "I'm gonna have you naked by the end of this song."

In front of 89 million viewers, and this was what they came up with.

Somewhere in Ohio, a man with his 8-year-old daughter was watching the half-time show of the Super Bowl. What does this father say to his daughter after seeing this song performed on what is probably the "biggest stage" in the world? On a stage that's big enough to lend acceptability to these kinds of songs and lyrics?

After all, this isn't some seedy video shown late on a weekend night. This is the Super Bowl-this is the showcase of American culture.

I hope that this father would have the courage to talk to his daughter about the values that are important to him and how unhappy he was with the half-time show. It's too bad that a conversation like this would have to occur during the middle of the biggest sporting event in this country.

And while this conversation was happening, there were TV executives blaming Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake for their "deplorable stunt."

I wonder if they have any young daughters at home?

Finding Speicall Time with Your Kids


As I planned an all-day trip last weekend with my daughter, I remember going down a list of "critical" projects that would have to wait for another day: visiting my parents, a work project, mowing the lawn, cleaning the house, getting some much-needed exercise, and weeding the "jungle" that was once our garden. All of these things would have to be put on hold for awhile.

My daughter Sarah, her cousin Annie, and Annie's father Bill and I went on a day trip to the birthplace of Laura Ingalls Wilder in Pepin, Wisconsin. It was a day of simple pleasures and discussions about what frontier life must have been like. The imaginations of our daughters were soaring, and they had a day they'll remember forever.

I think their fathers did, too.

And while we had a wonderful time, I'm aware that this day almost didn't happen. This wonderful day that will be etched in the mind of my daughter forever almost didn't happen, because life almost got in the way. I had almost given in to the voices that told me that there were "too many other things" that needed to be done.

All across this country fathers (and mothers) are being squeezed by the demands of work and family. Our free time each week to spend with our families has steadily decreased. In a society that continually promotes products that will save us time, we have less time than ever before.

In her book, "Embracing Your Father, Building the Relationship You Want with Your Dad," author Linda Nielsen, Ed.D, points out some interesting statistics:

Eighty percent of the fathers in our country earn most of the money for their families.

Counting the time spent commuting, working, doing house and yard work, and being with the kids, the average father has 5 hours less free time each week than the average employed mother.

On average, employed fathers work 10 more hours a week than employed mothers.

Most fathers want to spend more time with their kids but don't feel as though they can "afford" it. And when they do spend more time with their kids, they feel themselves falling behind in other areas of their life. This "squeeze" can prevent us from making the kinds of decisions that allow us to be closer to our children.

Sarah bounded up the stairs after our trip, her eyes beaming and wearing the Laura Ingalls Wilder bonnet that I'd bought for her. As she jumped up into my arms she said, "Thanks for the great day, daddy, I love you."

As I lingered there for a moment after she'd left, it all became clear to me. This day with my daughter, this beautiful day, had been lumped in with all the other "responsibilities" I have in my life.

And it has no business being there.

It belongs in a place that's untouched by other duties and responsibilities we face in our lives. A place that we absolutely commit to and hold as sacred. Because it's a place that will touch our hearts like no other.

I think we can all afford to fall behind in our other duties.

How about you?

Promises to Your Kids


I was bringing my kids home from a long day of play one summer night not long ago. It was a difficult ride home, and they were tired, hungry, and whiny. I wanted to get them home as fast as I could.

As we neared our house, my son exclaimed, "You said you'd take us for ice cream!" I cringed when I heard this, because I remembered that I'd promised that I'd take them for ice cream. I began to give excuses concerning why we needed to go home.

They would have none of it.

I turned the car around, and we went to get ice cream.

We got home past their bed time, and they were tired. But there was something that felt good about this ice cream trip. I kept my word to my kids. And my word is something that I always want them to be able to count on.

Your kids will have an incredible memory for the promises you make to them. In fact, you can assume that any promise you've ever made to your kids has been remembered.

It's important to know why this is so. When kids are younger, they have very powerful emotions that dominate their lives. Can you remember how excited you were as a young child when you went to a ball game for the first time or went on a trip?

Kids live in their emotions, and when they hear something promised to them, they get very excited. They can picture the promise happening and keep it with them in a way that's much more powerful than we're able to. For this reason, they won't forget what you promise them. Ever! So don't even think about making a promise that you might not be able to keep.

It doesn't take too much for kids to begin to lose trust in you. A few broken promises can have a big impact on a child. Very simply, one of your jobs as a father (parent) is to keep your promises. Treat them as sacred, and do what's necessary to keep them.

Some day your kids may grow up and have their own kids.

Wouldn't it be nice to see that they've learned the importance of keeping their promises with them?

Are Your Kids Okay? How About You?


When you work in the "helping professions," you often hear people describe their loved ones. They sometimes let you know how much their loved ones mean to them and some of the wonderful things they've done.

But the truth is that people often see their loved ones as problems. They see their loved ones as causing many of the difficulties that occur in their life.

And the thing that marks people who are doomed to struggle with their loved ones is the exaggeration of their loved ones faults. I recall the surprise I experienced when I met the spouse of clients while doing counseling.

"So this is Jack the Ripper?" I wondered, when a perfectly reasonable man would appear with his wife at the counseling sessions. I had been hearing him described by his wife for five months, and what I experienced with him was vastly different than the person I had heard about.

This tendency to exaggerate is particularly common with parents. Parents often believe that their kids have serious troubles, are incorrigible, or will never make it in the real world.

Sometimes they're right, but most of the time they're just afraid.

Parents have a lot riding on the outcome of their kids' development. There may be no closer or more intimate reflection of who you are than when you look at your kids. And parents feel the pressure of their own failure when their kids perform "badly."

Most often, the problems don't start when kids have struggles in their performance. The problems start when parents exaggerate their problems and completely overreact to them. They start when a parents' fear overpowers their sense of reason and patience.

You see, the development of a young person is a process that demands a great deal of patience from parents.

I've spent a great deal of time personally and professionally developing strategies to help parents to take responsibility for their relationships with their kids. And since worrying about your kids and seeing them as flawed is tremendously ineffective, it's also the only choice when you're trying to be an effective parent.

Here are some ways to avoid exaggerating your kids' problems and taking responsibility for a successful journey through parenthood:

  • Talk regularly with other parents, you'll find out they have big struggles and challenges, too! This is a wonderful way to normalize things for you.
  • Pay very close attention to how you're seeing your kids. One of the biggest factors in how your kids turn out is how you see them-do you see them as flawed and needing fixing, or do you see them as wonderful and capable?
  • Talk to other people who have close contact with your kids. Their teachers, coaches, and friends' parents will often have a different perspective than you will.
  • Remember that kids develop at different speeds. Some kids learn to walk or read earlier, and some don't. If your child is struggling with something, don't make it worse by panicking and calling in the cavalry. Doing so may make it clear to your child that you don't feel they're capable.
  • Remember that there will be times when you don't like your kids very much. This is normal stuff, but just don't let them know it! It will pass with time.

Effective parents worry about their kids and sometimes wonder whether they're doing the "right" things. And although they have periods when they have their doubts, they have a core belief in their kids that transcends most of the "problems" their kids run into.

Remember the advice of so many parents who've already raised their kids. "It will all turn out all right, they'll be just fine!" they say.

They'll be especially fine if you see them as the beautiful children of God that they are.

Moments to Remember


It was a fathering moment to remember.

My 8 year-old daughter and I were playing around on the driveway when I popped the question. "Do you want to try your two-wheeler bike?" "Sure," she said, "I'll go get it."

I was surprised by her willingness to try. Even though I believed she could have learned to ride a two- wheeler years ago, I had stayed patient and hoped she would develop a desire to try.

I flashed back to many of my experiences with her when she was younger. So often I was confused about how to respond, especially when things got messy emotionally. Her mom often saved me and came to the rescue.

I felt more in my element now. There was teaching to be done. Clear steps would be taken with a desired result. This was the territory of a father!

"Daddy, keep it steady!" As I helped her to balance on the bike, I wondered what the instructions should be to help her on her first ride. Should I fill her head with instructions, or should I just push her and let her go? "Daddy, let's go, push me!" She answered my question, and I started to push.

So here I was, pushing my daughter towards a little more independence. Helping her to learn a skill she'd have for the rest of her life. One small step away from dependence on her parents and towards an eventual life of her own.

I ran alongside her, and then I let her go.

She wobbled a bit, but she started down the road. I felt excitement, exhilaration, and sadness all at once. "Keep pedaling, keep pedaling!" I shouted.

She stopped abruptly and turned around. "Daddy, stop yelling that, you're making me almost fall!"

The hissing sound was the deflation of a fathers' pride. "Sorry, honey, go ahead." I muttered.

It looked like I'd still be waiting for my first "perfect" fathering moment.

Moments later, Sarah came by on her bike and gave me a look that showed pure joy and excitement. She had overcome her fear and was bursting with pride. It brought a tear to my eye and an immense gratitude for being so lucky.

I won't soon forget the look she gave me, and I hope she won't ever forget this moment we shared together.

It may not have been perfect, but it certainly was enough.

Fathers and Holidays


This year, it’s going to be different. Like many fathers, I’ve felt a bit disconnected from the holiday season. It’s not that I don’t buy my presents and help with decorations. And it’s not that I don’t spend some wonderful time with my kids. It’s something deeper than that.

My eight-year-old daughter ran up to me the other day with great excitement and anticipation. “This Christmas is going to be the best ever!’ she shouted. I marveled at her excitement, and I wished I could match her enthusiasm. She’d already found the spirit of the holidays, while I was mired in “things that I must to do.” The list was long. This holiday season, I’d be buying presents, coordinating family visits, updating lists and writing cards, doing decorations outside the house and in, volunteering, running a business, etc., etc.

There are times when it all seems like too much.

Fathers (and males in general) have a tendency to focus on goals. Rather than looking at the “big picture” of the holidays, we break things down into “what tasks need to be accomplished.” When one task is done, we move on to the next. And while this style does get some things accomplished, it reduces our capacity to capture the “spirit” of the holidays. The result is that many fathers have a sense of being on the “periphery” of their families during the holidays.

The tasks are done, but the spirit isn’t captured.

This scenario mirrors what happens to many fathers in their families—they feel outside of the “emotional core” of the family, and aren’t able to experience the depth of warmth, closeness, and love they want. They don’t have the skills of “emotional intelligence” that women have been learning from a very early age. And this dilemma is further complicated by the fact that fathers are working longer hours than ever before.

According to the International Labor Organization, Americans work 1,978 hours per year, or a full nine weeks more that the average Western European. Thirty-eight percent of fathers reported that they usually worked fifty or more hours per week.

It’s easy to see why fathers can have a difficult time capturing the spirit of the holidays.

And while this may be a challenging dilemma for fathers, there are a number of things that fathers can do to enrich their experience this holiday season:

• Shift your thinking away from a “things to do” mentality to a “what does the family need this holiday” mentality. See things with a wider lens. Give this approach a week and see what happens.

• Volunteer to help someone in need this holiday. Take the kids and spend time enriching the life of someone who needs it. There’s no greater way to capture the spirit of the holidays than being of service to others. And your kids will experience something they’ll never forget.

• Do something this holiday that you haven’t done before. Bake some holiday cookies or create your own cards to send out. Expanding your creative skills can help you to “receive” the spirit of the holidays.

• Simply choose to have more joy, openness, and spirit this holiday. After all, most of it is choice! And, your kids are watching you very closely!

I crept up behind my daughter and tackled her, pinning her down onto the couch. “We’re going to have an amazing Christmas this year, you’re right!’ I told her. “What do you want your Christmas to be like?” She sat up and began to tell me all of the things she wanted to do for Christmas, and about all the presents she wanted.

I sat there with her and listened, forgetting all of the work and the errands that had been on my mind most of the day. She could sense that I was right there with her as she spoke.

And as I sat there listening to her, I felt like a spark of the holiday spirit was already on its way.

Being Open for 'The Moment"


I was worried my kids wouldn't get to bed on time. It was close to the time they'd normally get their pajamas on, but it was a special night. Tonight was the night to decorate the Christmas tree.

When I saw the excitement in their eyes, my concern with their bedtime ended. While my thoughts were fixed on how crabby my kids would be the next day, their thoughts were on hope, promise, and the excitement of the holidays. On this night, hope and promise won out.

As I watched them running from the decorations to the tree, I began to feel their hope and excitement. I felt further and further away from the "everyday worries" that had bothered me moments before. And as I watched them working together to create something beautiful, something else happened.

I began to be filled with love for them.

I watched them for a while longer, then said, "You know, you guys are great." Michael, my 6-year-old son, hesitated for a second. "You are too, Dad," he said.

It was my turn to hesitate. For a moment, I felt numb, and then the feelings came. Tears of joy and gratitude streamed down my face. "Thanks, buddy," I whispered back. Sarah, my eight-year old daughter, glanced at me and asked me if I was crying. "Yes, Sarah, I'm very happy right now," I told her. She walked over to me and gave me a hug. A second wave of feelings came, and I struggled to compose myself.

As I sat there hugging my daughter, there was a part of me that was concerned about my kids taking "emotional care" of me. It felt a bit uncomfortable to be crying in front of my kids, and it felt a bit odd having my daughter comforting me.

But there was something bigger here.

We were having "a moment." It was a moment where we felt how close we could be, and it was a moment when my kids were seeing my authentic joy and gratitude. A moment that we would all remember for the rest of our lives.

After "the moment" passed, we continued to decorate the tree with lights and ornaments. When we'd finished, we got back into the "daily routine" of bedtime preparations. When my wife and I had gotten our kids to bed, I reflected on the moment that had passed and on my life as a parent.

I thought about how easy it was for all of us to feel unappreciated, disrespected, and taken for granted as parents. It sometimes seems that we do so much for our kids, and we don't get the recognition we deserve. When life gets hard, we often long for the past, or look to the future, but we avoid the beauty of the present.

And then a moment like this comes along. One of the moments that creates meaning in your life. The kind of moment that reminds you why you're doing all that you're doing. And when you experience this kind of moment, it's easier to live each day and each moment with joy and gratitude. It's easier to face the occasional drudgery of everyday life. And it's easier to remember why we were put on this earth: to love each other and to help create a better world through that love.

As you move into this holiday season, remember to open yourself to your own "moments." They can happen at any time, and they'll appear when you have the courage and awareness to open yourself to the present moment. These moments may be filled by joy or pain, but they should not be judged by how happy they make you feel. They should be judged by whether you open yourself to that moment, and whether this moment fills your heart and your spirit.

May your heart and spirit be filled with "moments" this holiday season, and may you teach your children to open themselves to this spirit as well.

150 Things Fathers can do for Their Kids


"I'll bet you can't do all of these before the holiday's over!

There are a lot of things that we can do for our kids if we just think about it. You may already be doing many of these things. The important thing is that you're thinking about improving who you are as a father.

As you go through this list, choose the ones that fit your family needs first. Each new idea or activity can help to spark a new and improved relationship with your kids. It's a long list, you may want to keep a snack close by.

All the best to you as you continue to improve.

150 Things Fathers Can Do for Their Kids

1. Set up rituals in your family and hold to them
2. Ask them their opinion on things
3. Create a family play or skit
4. Get down to their level when possible-squat, kneel, or sit if needed
5. Ask a lot of questions about their friends-get to know their world
6. Take a walk with them
7. Tell them you love them at least once a day
8. Tell them what you expect of them in a clear manner
9. Give them praise, but be gentle with your corrections of them
10. Let them know about you and your history
11. Give them tons of hugs
12. Take on new jobs together as a team
13. Be honest with them, unless they're not ready to hear something
14. Call your kids from work and tell them you miss them
15. Listen to them with all your attention and reflect back what they said
16. Show your excitement when you see them- every time if you can.
17. Have a smile on your face often
18. Get them involved in your conversations if you can
19. Introduce your child to friends and tell them something about your child
20. Enjoy doing nothing with them and make time for doing nothing
21. Figure out and make decisions together
22. Allow them to be kids, don't get into the "stern parent" thing
23. When they accomplish something, be their biggest booster
24. Laugh at their jokes, even when they're not funny
25. Participate in their fantasy play-be a prince in a castle in the woods
26. Have high expectations for them-but be satisfied when it's not perfect
27. Make plans to spend time together as a family
28. Eat as many meals together as you can
29. Help them to become really good at something
30. Build something with them and let them make decisions
31. Keep work separate from home-be available to them
32. Make your home feel like a safe environment for them
33. Let them participate in household chores- even when they're very young
34. Be silly with them
35. Hide treasures and surprises for them to find around the house
36. Do the things that they like to do
37. When you do errands take them along and let them help somehow
38. Show them the learning when they screw up
39. When they start something, be there to follow their lead
40. Put their artwork around the house for all to see
41. Say "thank you" when they do something for you
42. Laugh really hard with them
43. Keep written memories of the things they do and say when they're young
44. Share your feelings with them
45. Treat your wife really well-show them how it's done
46. Be very consistent with them but stay flexible
47. Tell them about the things that are important to you
48. Let them know about your faith
49. Ask them curious questions rather than telling them what to do all the time
50. Get them out in nature whenever you can
51. Involve them in your extended family-show how a community really works
52. Gently repeat what you want them to do, especially for young kids
53. Avoid excessive TV viewing-they'll know they're more important than the TV
54. Say no frequently but in a loving manner
55. Tell stories to them about your childhood
56. Get your parents or other family members to tell them stories too
57. Tell your kids often how important they are to you
58. Ask for their suggestions and use them when possible
59. Show them how to help other people-model it for them
60. Surprise them by showing up when you're not expected
61. Use the car as a great place for conversations
62. Get to know their friends and be nice to them
63. Have your own secrets you share with them
64. Tell them you're sorry when you screw up
65. Remember you have two ears and one mouth- do more listening
66. Be at their events, tell them what you thought about it
67. Listen and learn from them-let them know what you learned
68. Keep your promises to them, no matter what
69. Tell them what you like about them specifically
70. Tell them what they can do, not what they can't do
71. Wrestle with your kids-girls or boys
72. Cook meals with them, let them help
73. Show them you have domestic capabilities- help around the house
74. Be vulnerable-show them men can be both gentle and fierce
75. Find something in common you can do together
76. Make a great effort to see things from their perspective
77. Talk to their teacher and get their perspective
78. Be involved in their school and be an advocate
79. Figure out their learning style and help them learn most efficiently
80. Give them space or time when they need it
81. Set boundaries and enforce them
82. Train them in the proper behavior and practice it with them.
83. Let them play the music and show some interest in it.
84. Read with them often
85. Believe what they tell you and stand behind them
86. Realize that you're often the problem if you blame them-practice being blame-free
87. Keep their life relatively simple
88. Don't try to be right so much
89. Be kind instead of right.
90. Take their hand when you walk with them
91. When you talk to them, look them in the eye
92. Have a secret code you use with them
93. Write letters to them-send them in the mail
94. Have family meetings and include them in the decisions
95. Limit their activities, especially when they're young-mostly they need you
96. Don't give them violent video games just because the Jones' do-find alternatives
97. Take a serious look at your kids perspective- it's as legitimate as yours
98. Hang out with your kids in a relaxed way
99. Respond to their misbehavior with gentleness and firmness
100. See them as capable all the time-even when they screw up
101. Educate yourself about their culture
102. Keep their number of toys and gifts at a moderate number
103. Don't intervene in your kids fighting-let them figure it out themselves
104. Remember the important things from their lifetime-birthdays, first steps, first day of school, etc.
105. Teach them about a "mistakes as learning" philosophy in life
106. Use choices with them
107. Use a plan when you're angry--leave, breathe; show them self-control
108. When things are tense, only talk to them when everyone's calmed down
109. Learn to interpret what you're child's saying underneath their words
110. Say, "That must be hard" to them often. It's better than, "please quit whining."
111. Never do things for your kids that they can do for themselves
112. Improve your relationship with your own dad- it will help your own relationship with your kids.
113. Give your kids time outs when they misbehave without making it punishment-just time to work through feelings until they're ready to come back
114. Help with their homework and be available for them
115. Have five positive interactions with them to every one negative one
116. Use natural consequences with them-if they're slow to get ready for bed-no stories!
117. Show them what you do at work-take them with you some day if possible
118. Let them pick the discussion topic for dinner
119. Have your own "secret passwords" with each of them
120. Give them back massages or scratches-let them know the wonder of touch
121. Ask them what they'd like more of from you
122. Talk about the book you read together
123. Hang the telephone up during dinner
124. Play musical instruments with them-form a band
125. Teach basic first aid to your kids
126. Teach basic emergency procedures and fire safety to your kids
127. Tell your stories to them by candlelight
128. Tell them about your family tree
129. Write a poem about them and read it to them
130. Slow down your life enough so that you can enjoy and be with your kids
131. Draw pictures with them--do art projects together
132. Watch a kid-friendly movie together and talk about it afterward
133. Play silly rhyme games with them; see how many you can come up with
134. Give them money to take care of by themselves
135. Teach them about saving, spending, and donating money
136. Help them to make the house a place where other kids like to play
137. Build them a tree house or fort where they can have a "secret" place
138. Let them cook a meal-then enjoy what they made
139. Let them choose what the meal is once a week-as long as it's reasonable
140. Brainstorm with them about how to make things in the family better
141. Find out who their heroes are-talk about why they are heroes
142. Spend some time together helping others less fortunate than you-show them that this is a part of your life
143. Teach them about how to take care of themselves when other kids are mean
144. Share a story from your childhood about reacting to someone mistreating you
145. Contribute to the collections that they've made
146. Be fascinated by the things that they find interesting-small rocks, insects, etc.
147. Let them be in charge of something that's alive-a flower, fish, plant, etc.
148. Tell them that it's OK to be angry with you but not OK to be disrespectful to you
149. Give them something from you that symbolizes your love for them
150. Treat every day with them like it might be your last-let them know how much they're loved

I hope you're able to use some of these and that this list stimulated some ideas of your own about things you can do for your kids. It's never too late to improve!

Have a great holiday!

When Your Kid Ticks You Off


Do you really want to improve as a father? Here's one way to do it.

Think of the one thing your child does that ticks you off more than any other. The thing that makes you boil over.

Then, take a good, hard look at yourself and ask what this anger is really about.

The chances are that what you're disliking about your child's behavior is really something you don't like about yourself or about your history. Fathers who have painful memories of fighting in their families of origin, for instance, may have great difficulty dealing with fighting from their kids. The fighting may bring back strong feelings of being powerless, which may cause tension and anger.

When you know what your anger is "really" about it's easier to deal with it and plan for it. Otherwise, it's a knee-jerk response that can distance you from your children and keep you "stuck" in place.

A Thank You to My Kids


Fatherhood has a way of pulling you in and engulfing you in a sea of activities and emotions that you didn't expect. It doesn't often lend itself to quiet reflection about what it means to be a father. But as I look back on the fathering I've done so far, I'm struck by the changes that my children have helped to create in me.

Changes that will last forever.

And if I reflect on it further, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for their assistance on this path of change.

When your child is born, it's a moment in which you have no other needs. Your children are born perfectly, and they provide all that you could ever want. Because they're perfect, they call on you to meet that perfection. It's the beginning of a journey to become a part of a bigger plan, one that's much bigger than you are. And to meet this perfection, you're forced to face the demons that are a part of your life.

For many fathers, there is no pain greater than falling short of the expectations of your children. It's a reminder that these demons still exist, and that they're passed on to our children if we don't face them. My children remind me of my demons often, and for that I am thankful. For I can be blind to my own issues, and there is no greater incentive to improve than knowing that what isn't healed in me will show up in my children as well.

I'm thankful for what my children have taught me about my parents. They have allowed me to understand my parents better and to honor them for all that they did. I have an appreciation for decisions made by my parents that I didn't agree with at the time. I now know these decisions as acts of love. And I feel an increased desire to return the love and kindness that my parents showed me.

My children have helped me to increase my hatred for war and conflict. They've helped me to know the importance of teaching my son that the model of manhood based on showing power over others is outdated and destructive. And they've sharpened my eye for what's worth fighting for in this world.

I want to thank my children for showing me the power and beauty of innocent, pure love. The kind of love that can take fathers outside of their own importance and into the life of another of God's creations. The kind of love that is devoid of selfish interests and wishes.

Within the deep love that I have for my children, I've found some responsibilities and hardships. But mostly, I've found freedom. I've found the freedom to love others unconditionally. I've found the freedom to look at the world through different eyes. And I've found the freedom to expand my capacity to experience both joy and pain. Through all of it, I've had the freedom to experience a love for my kids that words don't adequately describe.

It's easy to get stuck on how much you do for your kids.

Let's not forget that this is a path that goes both ways.

Fathers who "Fix"


Fathers are notorious for being "fixers." When something goes wrong or isn't working well, fathers want to jump in and fix it. This works very well for sinks, but not so well for sons and daughters. Kids who often feel as though they're being fixed tend to suffer from low self-esteem.

To be an effective father, it helps to focus on the positive aspects of your kids, not on their faults. If you think about your child's faults and try to fix them, you'll end up seeing more and more faults.

You'll also end up further from your child.

Yet millions of fathers across this country are trapped in the "fixing box" with their children. They pay no heed to the parenting law of the universe, which states, "what you think about expands." The more energy they produce in thinking about their kids "problems," the more problems their kids produce.

This vicious cycle is not only frustrating and damaging; it eliminates the possibility that fathers can deliver to their kids what's most important.

And what's most important is that fathers accept their kids.

There are certainly many other important things that a father does for his kids, but none is more important than his acceptance. Nothing is more important than his ability to see past the "mistakes of childhood," to the vast potential that exists in his children.

One way to accomplish this is to commit to having more positive interactions with your child-hugs, winks, acknowledgements, etc. These kinds of things will then expand in your child. A ratio of five positive interactions to one negative interaction will help ensure that your child feels accepted and more closely connected to you.

Positive interactions might be things like hugs and encouraging words, while negative interactions would be criticism, a stern look, a "correction," or harsh words. Paying attention to this ratio will also have you paying attention to the type of energy that exists during your interactions. Does your gut tell you that this interaction was positive, or is there an uncomfortable feeling that tells you your ego was involved?

Here are some other ways to help fathers to be more accepting of their kids:

  • Take a good look at yourself. What's all the criticism about and why is it so easy for you to fix your child? The chances are good that your own esteem issues are getting in the way. Figure out what these are-how do they show up and in what situations?
  • Plan for success with your child. Keep him/her in situations where success is likely. Avoid putting your child on sports teams where they'll be the youngest. Create projects that rely on small steps that your child can accomplish.
  • Practice the comments you'll use when your kids make mistakes, and pay close attention to how positively you react. "Hmm, what happened there?" or "That can be pretty hard to do, I'll help you clean it up" might be appropriate comments to your child after a mistake.
  • Tell them about how you accept them. Some fathers take it for granted that their kids know they accept them; don't make this mistake! Tell them, "I feel really lucky to be your dad." Let them know specifically what you appreciate about them.

Your most important job as a father is to accept your kids. It's to be gentle with the inevitable "mistakes of childhood."

Is your ratio of positive to negative interactions close to five to one? Do you want your child to become a young adult who's secure, confident, and happy?

Much of it's in your hands.

Family Down Time


There is an old zen koan that says, “don’t just do something, sit there.” It has wonderful application to family life today. We’ve created the most overscheduled and busiest society in history. Our kids are moving from one activity to another, and they seem to have more schoolwork, more choices, and more pressure than they ever have before.

My work with kids in the last decade has shown me a snapshot of the life of many of today’s kids:

Being involved in a number of different activities outside of school, a huge increase in the intensity of many of these activities, having many hours of homework each night, and getting far less sleep than they should for someone their age.

While having a busier life with more responsibility isn’t always harmful for kids, what is harmful is the lack of “down time” that kids have. Kids need to recharge their batteries just as adults do. In fact, they need to do it more. And when stress builds up in kids and they aren’t allowed to “do nothing” with enough regularity, problems start to occur.

Effective parents take a long look at their kids’ lives and see what the big picture is. Kids may often take on too much in their lives if you let them. It may be because their friends are doing it, or because they enjoy a number of different activities in their life.

But it may not be serving them well, and this is where parents need to step in and limit the busyness in their kids' life. In cases where a child absolutely thrives on a busy schedule and is happy and healthy, this needs to be recognized as well. More often the child wants to do more than is healthy for them.

How does a parent help their children have some“down time” in an incredibly busy world? Here are some ideas:

• Show your kids from an early age that you know how to have down time yourself. Lounge around the house at times, or have a regular “kick back and relax” time at your house when your kids are young.

• Explain the benefits of down time to your kids and let them know that it’s a very important part of having a healthy life.

• Take a good, hard look at your child’s schedule and make sure that it will be manageable. Make sure that a difficult school schedule doesn’t happen at the same time you decide to put your child in three new after-school activities. Review the schedule of teams: how much travel is there, how many practices a week, what else is involved in being on the team?

• Make family time sacred and make it a big part of your “down time.” A family dinner is a wonderful time for the family to relax, recharge, and reconnect. Unplug the phone if you have to, and try not to compromise in having the whole family present.

• Don’t criticize your kids for hanging around and “doing nothing.” If they do nothing consistently, a discussion is warranted, but in most cases, kid are just doing what they need to do.  

• Try to avoid having TV as the source of much of your down time. TV doesn’t recharge a child’s batteries as well as things like reading or drawing.

When kids watch a lot of TV, they’ll become more restless and less active at the same time. Encourage activities at home that will keep them engaged but away from the TV.

Providing “down time” is one of the best things parents can do for their kids. Teach your kids that most of their best ideas will come to them during “down time.” Teach them that being busy all the time takes a big toll on your enjoyment and your health. And know that you’ll be more successful at providing it if you educate them about it early in their lives.

Do your kids a favor by “living” down time and teaching it. Remember that there are times when it helps all of us to “just sit there.” 

A Father’s Gratitude


Fatherhood has a way of pulling you in and engulfing you in a sea of activities and emotions that you didn’t expect. It doesn’t often lend itself to quiet reflection about what it means to be a father. But as I look back on the fathering I’ve done so far, I’m struck by the changes that my children have helped to create in me.

Changes that will last forever.

And if I reflect on it further, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for their assistance on this path of change.

When your child is born, it’s a moment in which you have no other needs. Your children are born perfectly, and they provide all that you could ever want. Because they’re perfect, they call on you to meet that perfection. It’s the beginning of a journey to become a part of a bigger plan, one that’s much bigger than you are. And to meet this perfection, you’re forced to face the demons that are a part of your life.

For many fathers, there is no pain greater than falling short of the expectations of your children. It’s a reminder that these demons still exist, and that they’re passed on to our children if we don’t face them. My children remind me of my demons often, and for that I am thankful. For I can be blind to my own issues, and there is no greater incentive to improve than knowing that what isn’t healed in me will show up in my children as well.

I’m thankful for what my children have taught me about my parents. They’ve allowed me to understand my parents better and to honor them for all that they did. I have an appreciation for decisions made by my parents that I didn’t agree with at the time. I now know these decisions as acts of love. And I feel an increased desire to return the love and kindness that my parents showed me.

My children have helped me to increase my hatred for war and conflict. They’ve helped me to know the importance of teaching my son that the model of manhood based on showing power over others is outdated and destructive. And they’ve sharpened my eye for what’s worth fighting for in this world.

I want to thank my children for showing me the power and beauty of innocent, pure love. The kind of love that can take fathers outside of their own importance and into the life of another of God’s creations. The kind of love that is devoid of selfish interests and wishes.

Within the deep love that I have for my children, I’ve found some responsibilities and hardships. But mostly, I’ve found freedom. I’ve found the freedom to love others unconditionally. I’ve found the freedom to look at the world through different eyes. And I’ve found the freedom to expand my capacity to experience both joy and pain. Through all of it, I’ve had the freedom to experience a love for my kids that words don’t adequately describe.

It’s easy to get stuck on how much we do for our kids.

Let’s not forget that this is a path that goes both ways.

Wrestling With Your Kids


"Bring it on," I yelled to my kids. "I'll pin you both at the same time!"

"You think so?" my daughter yelled back. "You're gonna get what you deserve!" My son came at me from the front, while my daughter snuck around behind me. I spun to the ground, and was assaulted on both sides. It was only a matter of time before they each had a shoulder pinned to the ground.

While they celebrated their victory, I planned my next attack, knowing that the "results" of the battle were far less important than the battle itself.

Do you want to be an effective father?

One of the easiest ways to be effective is to wrestle with your kids. Not only is it loads of fun, but its' benefits go a long ways towards teaching your kids some valuable lessons.

When your child wrestles with you, they learn many things simultaneously. They learn that you care about them enough to spend time with them. They learn that you're strong, and that if you wish you can pick them up and throw them out the window!

And they also learn that you can be very gentle with them at the same time.

Wrestling with your kids allows you to set very clear limits on what's allowed. Research has shown that wrestling with your kids helps them to develop self-control and to gain more discipline.

When a limit has been violated, you can gently and firmly let your child know what's allowed and what isn't.

It's extremely important to wrestle with your daughter as well as your son. When you avoid wrestling with your daughter, you run the risk of showing her that you don't believe she's capable of handling it. She can handle it, and by doing it you show her you think she's strong and capable.

If you have more than one child, you can have some great wrestling matches with the whole family, including mom! But as fathers, we'll often have a special place in the family as the "fun, physical guy." We'll often be the ones who show our kids how to play. In this case, we need to be able to show our kids how to play "rough."

Many fathers have wrestled with their kids because it just "felt right," or because they remembered their father wrestling with them when they were young. They had no knowledge of any research associated with it or that it had great benefits for their kids.

So keep looking for opportunities to tackle your son or daughter and take them down to the floor!

It won't be long before your opportunities are gone.

Does Your Family have Down Time?


"There is an old zen koan that says, “don’t just do something, sit there.” It has wonderful application to family life today. We’ve created the most overscheduled and busiest society in history. Our kids are moving from one activity to another, and they seem to have more schoolwork, more choices, and more pressure than they ever have before.

My work with kids in the last decade has shown me a snapshot of the life of many of today’s kids: Being involved in a number of different activities outside of school, a huge increase in the intensity of many of these activities, having many hours of homework each night, and getting far less sleep than they should for someone their age.

While having a busier life with more responsibility isn’t always harmful for kids, what is harmful is the lack of “down time” that kids have. Kids need to recharge their batteries just as adults do. In fact, they need to do it more. And when stress builds up in kids and they aren’t allowed to “do nothing” with enough regularity, problems start to occur.

Effective fathers take a long look at their kids’ lives and see what the big picture is. Kids may often take on too much in their lives if you let them. It may be because their friends are doing it, or because they enjoy a number of different activities in their life.

But it may not be serving them well, and this is where fathers need to step in and limit the busyness in their kids' life. In cases where a child absolutely thrives on a busy schedule and is happy and healthy, this needs to be recognized as well. More often the child wants to do more than is healthy for them.

How does a father help their children have some “down time” in an incredibly busy world? Here are some ideas:

  • Show your kids from an early age that you know how to have down time yourself. Lounge around the house at times, or have a regular “kick back and relax” time at your house when your kids are young.
  • Explain the benefits of down time to your kids and let them know that it’s a very important part of having a healthy life.
  • Take a good, hard look at your child’s schedule and make sure that it will be manageable. Make sure that a difficult school schedule doesn’t happen at the same time you decide to put your child in three new after-school activities. Review the schedule of teams: how much travel is there, how many practices a week, what else is involved in being on the team?
  • Make family time sacred and make it a big part of your “down time.” A family dinner is a wonderful time for the family to relax, recharge, and reconnect. Unplug the phone if you have to, and try not to compromise in having the whole family present.
  • Don’t criticize your kids for hanging around and “doing nothing.” If they do nothing consistently, a discussion is warranted, but in most cases, kids are just doing what they need to do.
  • Try to avoid having TV as the source of much of your down time. TV doesn’t recharge a child’s batteries as well as things like reading or drawing.

When kids watch a lot of TV, they’ll become more restless and less active at the same time. Encourage activities at home that will keep them engaged but away from the TV.

Providing “down time” is one of the best things fathers can do for their kids. Teach your kids that most of their best ideas will come to them during “down time.” Teach them that being busy all the time takes a big toll on your enjoyment and your health. And know that you’ll be more successful at providing it if you educate them about it early in their lives.

Do your kids a favor by “living” down time and teaching it. Remember that there are times when it helps all of us to “just sit there.”

School's Back, Now What?


Now that school's upon us, there's a natural tendency to breathe a sigh of relief and let your child's school "take over" for awhile.

For your kid's sake, don't kick back too much.

There are a number of things you can do to help your child's experience at school. Here are a few of them:

  • Help to establish a good relationship with your child's teacher. Even if you don't like this person, it's important to have a solid working relationship with him/her. (If you haven't met your child's teacher yet, that would be the first step!)
  • Send your kids to school with a healthy breakfast and with a decent amount of sleep.
  • Know your child's core subjects, and how much time will be spent on them.
  • Show your child your own love of learning, and show a genuine curiosity about what they're learning. They'll be more likely to want to do their work if you show some enthusiasm for "being there" with them.
  • Get to you child's conferences and be prepared with questions about what's happening.
  • Help support them with their homework, and have an awareness of what they're expected to do.
  • Pick a couple of days to surprise your child by picking them up after school. Let them know you're thinking about them and ask them about their day. They'll love to know that you care enough to be there.

Finally, keep in mind the importance of having family rituals to keep the family emotionally connected. This is especially important when school starts and things get more stressful. They'll have things to say at dinner if you listen and provide them with an opportunity!

There's an endless amount of research that says that parents involvement has a huge positive impact on their childs' experience and success in school.

Are you doing your part?

Can You Occasionally Take Your Kids Perspective?


"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’s 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 some perspective:

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 parents?

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.

How are Your Family Rituals?


A few years ago, my four-year-old daughter was starting to say our grace before dinner. “Daddy, fold your hands like this!” she shrieked. Everyone else at the table was stunned at the intensity of her outburst.

But if we consider the world from the standpoint of a four-year-old girl, it may make perfect sense. Sarah wakes up in the morning and isn’t always sure if she’s going to school or not. She’s not quite sure of which clothes she should wear, and she’s not always sure who she’ll be spending time with each day. She’s not all that comfortable with the language yet, so it’s not always easy to get her point across.

In other words, she lives with a lot of uncertainty in her life. Having rituals in your family creates an opportunity for your kids to feel secure and to feel equal in the family. It’s a time in which nobody will tell them what to do and everyone knows their role. It represents certainty for kids who live in a sea of uncertainty.

Contemporary American families are entropic, meaning they drift toward falling apart," says William Doherty, head of the Marriage and Family Therapy program at the University of Minnesota.

"Rituals combat that entropy and help hold families together. Whenever you do a ritual, you are saying `No' to other activities or people, and becoming what I call an intentional family. Most of us just drift into habits, doing what is most convenient. But ritualizing means to take a hold of activities and ask: does this meet the needs of our family? If it's something like sitting in front of a TV night after night for dinner, then the answer is `No.'"

So whether your kids are toddlers or teens, make sure you’re holding and creating rituals which have meaning for your family. Family dinners, weekend trips, or family laundry day on Sunday can all have an important impact on your family.

And remember that it may mean a lot more to your kids than it does to you! One of your jobs as a father is to create some rituals that hold meaning for your family.

Here are some ideas:

  • Create a time each week to do a family chore together and then order pizza
  • Plan a “recreation time” for your family at the same time every week, and rotate who chooses the activity
  • Create your own special activities on established holidays—on Thanksgiving Day, bring food or clothing packages to families who may need them
  • Have a regularly scheduled family meeting in which you talk about problems, negotiate solutions, plan fun activities, and acknowledge each other. Make it sacred. Turn off the phone and make it happen.
  • Make sure that you include your kids in planning the rituals. The more invested they are in creating it, the more meaningful it will be.

There’s a tendency for parents today to throw up their hands when “together time” with the family is mentioned. With dance lessons, baseball practice, piano lessons, and homework getting in the way, there may seem to be little time left for the family. Those in the middle of a chaotic family schedule seem to have lost the choice along the way.

And while it’s inevitable that family life will be busy these days, parents can never afford to lose the choices available to them. Because the very “soul” of your family is expressed in meaningful rituals that parents choose to undertake.

It may be hard to decide against the extra piano lessons that your son or daughter could be taking, or to have your child participate in only one sport instead of two. But by doing so, you’ll teach them a lesson that’s far more important than the ones they’ll learn from these other activities.

You’ll teach them that their family comes first.

And as their parent, it’s your responsibility to see that it happens.

Top Ten Ways to Keep Your Kids from Fighting


Fighting among siblings is as natural as the changing of the seasons. And contrary to what many parents believe, sibling rivalry is a sign of mental health in a family. While there may be times when it’s difficult to deal with, there are some simple things you can do to limit fighting and make it tolerable:

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’re 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. Continually telling them to stop may actually be creating more fighting!

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 or excessive competition 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. While some consequences are inevitable, do your best to give choices and alternatives. 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 occur again.

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 can easily result in a fight by your kids. Buy two red balls—no fight. Be familiar with the times in which fighting occurs the most—when they’re hungry or tired. Take precautions, like having dinner ready before the “bewitching hour” occurs.

10. Love your kids for all they're worth. Every day, tell them you love them, and more importantly, show them. Kids who feel emotionally connected to their parents are the least likely to fight. This won't eliminate it, but the alternative isn't pretty at all.

Fathers and Sons


As a personal coach for men and the publisher of a newsletter, I’m sometimes blessed with personal stories from readers that touch my heart. This story sent in from a father helped me to remember why I’m doing what I do. I’d like to share it with you:

“As a father of two teens, I've enjoyed your insight on fatherhood. I was raised in a loving family environment, but just as you indicated, my father was the primary breadwinner and the "backbone" of the family, not an emotional type.

As a child, I never saw him cry or appear weak, nor did he ever utter the words "I love you". It was just not in his vocabulary, though I never doubted his love for any of us.

It was not until his last hours on this earth, nearly 9 years ago, that I saw him cry for the first time. Suffering from the side effects of leukemia, I was visiting him in his hospital room.

As I sat on the side of his bed feeding him ice chips and jello cubes by spoon, it occurred to me that we had reversed roles. He was no longer caring for my needs, but I was there to help him with a basic need.

We talked about things that we'd never discussed previously and as I was preparing to return home to my family for the night, I turned to him and said "I love you". He smiled and nodded his approval as I exited his room for the last time.

Unfortunately, he'd been experiencing internal bleeding, though he never complained or mentioned it to me, and he expired some three hours after I left.

I feel fortunate to have spent those last hours with him and that I could express my love to him, though I felt out of character in doing it. I only wish that it had occurred years earlier.

As a father myself, I’ve broken the male mold. I freely express my love not only for my wife but for each of my children. Rarely does a day pass that I don't talk with my kids, always ending the conversation with an "I love you".

I'll be the first to admit that life is not always a bed of roses, and that developing strong family ties requires patience and perseverance. But I’m incredibly proud of the family relationships that we've developed and nurtured in our children.”

Millions of today’s fathers grew up with fathers who were unable to express their love directly. And yet so many of these fathers have been able to express their love to their own children.

They’ve done it because they know the pain of not receiving that love. They know how absolutely vital their expression of love and acceptance is for their kids. And they’ve moved past the discomfort of expressing their love for their kids so that they may thrive.

This is an acknowledgement to the courage of all the fathers who have ”broken the mold.”

If our world is to change, it won’t be without love from our fathers.

Fathers, Sons, and Masculinity


My five-year-old son had a quirky smile that showed a mixture of pride and anticipation. He’d shown me his art project from school, and he was waiting for his mom. “Come on over and look at what Michael made,” I shouted to my wife.

Michael ran out of the room crying.

“What’s wrong?” I asked. “What happened?”

“I wanted to tell Mom myself!” he yelled. “You ruined it.”

Part of me felt empathy for him and sadness that he couldn’t “surprise” his mother. But another dark voice in my head was louder. “Why can’t you grow up?” “Are you going to act like this your whole childhood?”

I was filled with visions of a son who was incapable of dealing with the challenges and frustrations of daily living. And I felt the responsibility of showing him how to be “tough enough” to live in a world that delivers plenty of tough times. At the moment, I felt like I was failing badly.

Masculinity is supposed to be passed on from father to son. It can’t be taught by their mothers, no matter how incredible they are. And our society still struggles with how to define masculinity.

When I counseled men years ago, it became clear to me that those men who hadn’t felt accepted by their fathers would “compensate” for it. They would compensate by becoming workaholics, womanizers, drinkers, etc. Although many of them would accomplish a great deal in their lives, they never felt as though they were “man enough.”

So what are the rules for fathers in raising a son?

They’re really quite simple, but it’s easy for fathers to forget them when they get lost in their own fears about their son being “wimpy.” Here’s a list of these simple rules:

  • ·Be there for him. Share in his success and in his failure. Share yourself with him, including your failures--he needs to know that you’ve failed and turned out OK.
  • Know that your son is studying you very closely, and act accordingly. He won’t miss much, and he’ll most likely end up quite a bit like you. So be a person that you want him to end up like!
  • Approve of him. Approve of him during the good times and the bad. If you let him know after some of his worse moments that you still think he’s great, you’ll get fewer of his worst moments.
  • Develop common interests and spend time on them. When your son becomes a teenager, his interests may change significantly. Have some common interests that will transcend these changes and give you a place to “meet” during those teen years.

As I remembered some of these thoughts, Michael brought his head up from his hands. His face was wet with tears. “I’m sorry, buddy. I didn’t know you wanted to surprise your mom. That must have been disappointing.”

He got up, grabbed his artwork, and ran to his mother to show her.

He may not be the toughest kid around, but I think he’s going to be OK.

A Fathering Moment to Remember


It was a fathering moment to remember.

My 8 year-old daughter and I were playing around on the driveway when I popped the question. “Do you want to try your two wheeler bike?” “Sure,” she said, “I’ll go get it.”

I was surprised by her willingness to try. Even though I believed she could have learned to ride a two-wheeler years ago, I had stayed patient and hoped she would develop a desire to try.

I flashed back to many of my experiences with her when she was younger. So often I was confused about how to respond, especially when things got messy emotionally. Her mom often saved me and came to the rescue.

I felt more in my element now. There was teaching to be done. Clear steps would be taken with a desired result. This was the territory of a father!

“Daddy, keep it steady!” As I helped her to balance on the bike, I wondered what the instructions should be to help her on her first ride. Should I fill her head with instructions, or should I just push her and let her go? “Daddy, let’s go, push me!” She answered my question, and I started to push.

So here I was, pushing my daughter towards a little more independence. Helping her to learn a skill she’d have for the rest of her life. One small step away from dependence on her parents and towards an eventual life of her own.

I ran alongside her, and then I let her go.

She wobbled a bit, but she started down the road.

I felt excitement, exhilaration, and sadness all at once. “Keep pedaling, keep pedaling!” I shouted.

She stopped abruptly and turned around. “Daddy, stop yelling that, you’re making me almost fall!”

The hissing sound was the deflation of a fathers’ pride. “Sorry, honey, go ahead.” I muttered. It looked like I’d still be waiting for my first “perfect” fathering moment.

Moments later, Sarah came by on her bike and gave me a look that showed pure joy and excitement. She had overcome her fear and was bursting with pride.

It brought a tear to my eye and an immense gratitude for being so very lucky.

I won’t soon forget the look she gave me, and I hope she won’t ever forget this moment we shared together.

It may not have been perfect, but it certainly was enough.

Top Ten Ways to be a Better Father


The expectations for fathers are increasing both at work and at home. Here are ten ways for fathers to be more effective in the most important job they’ll ever have:

1. See your kids as capable. The achilles heel of many fathers is to see their kids as “not good enough.” Your kids will feel this, and they’ll live up to these expectations. The more you approve of them, the greater they’ll be!

2. Make time for your kids. There will always be more work, but you won’t always have the chance to be with your kids. Are there ways to include them in chores around the house? Your kids will know if they matter to you by the effort you make to include them in your day.

3. Use positive forms of discipline. Punishment is not very effective. It tends to create more of the very behavior that fathers are seeking to eliminate. Use natural and logical consequences instead—if you don’t pick up your toys, they get put in a bag and taken away for awhile. Give them choices. Positive discipline methods help kids learn responsibility, punishment helps them learn to dislike you.

4. Have a great relationship with your wife. You are the main role model for your kids, and this is the main source of information for them about how to have a close relationship. They’re watching very closely to learn how to do it.

5. Be aware of your kids lives. How much do you really know about your kids? Are you aware of their hopes and dreams? Do you know what inspires them? Do you know their friends names? What they like and dislike about you? If there are things you don’t know about your kids, you can always ask!

6. Be nurturing with your kids. Hug and kiss your kids, and let them hear plenty of “I love you’s.” And also don’t forget to wrestle with them. Both boys and girls benefit from wrestling with their dads. Kids need to see your “soft” side, so show it to them frequently.

7. “Really” listen to your kids. Put down the newspaper and look your kids in the eye when they talk to you. Be aware of your own tendency to “filter” what your kids say. Reflect back what you heard from them. If you want them to listen to you, you’ve got to show them the way.

8. Examine your relationship with your own father. A poor relationship with your own father will affect your ability to be an effective father. Are there things you want to say to your father? Ultimately, forgiving your father will go a long way towards allowing you to father to the best of your ability.

9. Take care of yourself. It’s difficult to be kind and nurturing to your family if you’re not kind to yourself. Find ways to take the time to relax, exercise, and keep your stress levels lower. And use friends and family to support you—don’t become an “island” in your family. Your family will appreciate it.

10. Have a plan for your anger. Men can have a difficult time with the overwhelming emotional intensity that families can experience. The result is often anger, which breeds anger in your kids and creates a vicious cycle. Make a plan with a specific relaxation technique that helps to defuse your anger. Remember that one bad episode can impact your kids for a long time.

Do You Really Want a Relationship?


With a divorce rate in this country that approaches 50%, and a fairly sizable percentage of marriages that aren’t particularly blissful, it’s difficult to avoid searching for the answer to the battle of the sexes.

Would you like to stop searching?

We’ve moved through the old paradigm of getting your needs met in relationships and it has proven itself to be a miserable failure.

Why?

Attempting to get your needs met in your relationship causes some troublesome things to happen. First, it causes you to focus mainly on your needs and not on the desires of your partner. Secondly, it sets you up for disaster because it has you believing that you deserve something that may well not be delivered.

All across this great country of ours, battles are raging between men and women: she needs to talk and connect, and he needs his space and independence.

Who wins here?

The answer, of course, is that both lose because of a flawed view of what a successful relationship is all about. What also happens is that both people start to blame the other for not meeting their needs.

For men who are really serious about success in their relationships, it’s important to understand how blaming your partner is an enormous problem itself. It creates a bigger problem and has you convinced that you are not part of the problem.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Blaming has never worked and never will. It may have you feeling justified in your position, but it will always hurt your relationship.

It’s particularly important to develop the realization that your feelings can deceive you in your relationship with your partner.

This can be difficult for people raised during the honor your feelings era of relationships. Your feelings tell you things like, “I can’t believe she could do something like that to me,” or, “How could she treat me so badly?” These feelings are the result of your own low self-esteem and your own personal history of victimization.

While it’s true that your partner may treat you in a way you don’t like sometimes, it’s not true that you need to react to it with strong negative feelings. These strong negative feelings are a reflection of your own esteem issues.

They also have a way of keeping your partner engaged in the struggle with you so that you can continue to blame each other.

When you’re both engaged in the struggle, you’ll believe that she needs to be fixed. She’ll think the same of you. Nobody wins and everybody loses.

This isn’t very smart or effective.

What would happen for men in their important relationships if they gave up defending themselves and believing their needs needed to be met? What would happen if they worked at being kind and caring with their partners?

I’ll tell you what would happen. They’d have great relationships!

After all, the only thing that you can do to improve a relationship is to improve you.

So stop looking over at your partner and seeing all of her flaws. Stop blaming her. She has issues just like we all do. But if you see her as a collection of flaws you’ll have no chance at a successful relationship.

And it’s successful relationships in life that make us truly happy.

Knowing Your Child’s Language


As a father, you all know that you will occasionally be hearing earfuls from your kids.

These earfuls will sometimes be responded to in a calm, measured fashion and sometimes they will be reacted to with our primitive, reptilian brain.

These latter occasions will unfortunately result in mean-spirited things being said and battles being waged.

While your ego calls for winning some of these battles, you know in your 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 your kids is not only frustrating, but it can have long-lasting negative effects on them.

So here’s 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 become more aware of the “language” that children often use. It’s really not that tough a choice, is it?

So how do you become more adept at interpreting what your kids are saying to you?

A good place to begin is by becoming aware of the fact that your kids really do have a different language that they will use with you.

Your job is to look “underneath” what they are saying.

For instance, your child may say something like, “I can’t believe that my curfew is 11 pm, everyone I know gets to stay out later than that!”

You may certainly see this comment as a challenge to your authority and as a criticism of your policies. This is one of the choices that you have.

When you see the comment in this way you will respond with defensiveness and anger, which will be responded to with anger from your child. This conversation will spiral around blame and anger and will probably not result in a positive outcome or any good feelings anywhere.

These kinds of conversations are destructive and completely avoidable.

If you look underneath this comment and get to the real meaning of it, you can see that your child is wanting you to have more faith in them and to allow them to stay out later. An appropriate response to this comment might be, “It sounds like you want us to have a little more faith in you.

Let’s sit down and talk about it.”

These kinds of conversations build more trust and more positive feelings between fathers and their children. They are available to you at any time if you are willing to make the right choice.

They will not only increase understanding between fathers and their kids but they will reduce the number of conflicts as well.

Remember that kids are experiencing some very big feelings and that most are not able to defuse these feelings and to respond rationally in highly charged situations. (We’re often not able to either, are we?).

They are going through what is probably the most emotionally charged time that they’ll ever experience.

This doesn’t mean that you allow them to say anything that they want to you, but it does mean giving them a bit of leeway in saying things that have some emotional content.

Here are some ideas to use to increase the chances that you won’t be “sucked into” your child’s angry comments:

  • Try to remember that you were there yourself as a kid and that it can be very difficult for children to ‘hold back” from making outrageous comments. It can sometimes be a healthy sign that your child feels safe enough to make these comments to you.
  • Write down some of the common complaints that your child has and try to figure out what the “real” meaning of it is. This will improve your ability to interpret what is really being said.
  • Use a deep breathe after your child makes an angry comment, this will give you some ability to compose yourself while you think of a response.
  • When you are around an emotional and angry child who may be flinging comments around, make sure that you’re centered and ready for it. If you’re not feeling calm it may be better to leave the area and wait for a later time to respond.
  • Practice with your wife or another willing participant. This skill will work in a number of areas in your life!

It may be helpful to remember that these comments from your kids are really just a test to see how well you’ll respond to them. If you respond with anger and resentment, your child will remember nothing about the outrageous comment they made to you, but everything about how angry you are!

Knowing this makes your choice about how to respond rather clear and simple. One choice is to discipline yourself and work on staying calm after speaking with your child. This will give you an opportunity to improve or maintain the relationship.

The other choice is to become angry and to damage the relationship, making it more likely that this same scenario will occur again.

Not much of a choice, is it?

Children and Television


A large study of over 2,000 3rd through 12th graders by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that kids today are using recreational media an average of 6 hours and 21 minutes each day (nonschool use of TV and videos, music, video games, computers, movies and print).

In the year 1990, American advertisers spent 200 million dollars on ads aimed specifically at kids in the U.S. In the year 2000, they spent over 2 billion dollars on ads aimed specifically at kids.

Whether you know it or not, the mass media culture is battling for control of your kids. Don't give in! You can win the battle if you limit media access to your kids when they're young, and if you connect with them emotionally.

Have the courage to say "no" to your kids, no matter what the neighbors are doing. It will be good practice.

Good parents do it a lot.

Top Ten Ways to Raise Emotionally Intelligent Kids


Having a high level of emotional intelligence in your children is the best way to ensure that they live a happy, successful, and responsible life as an adult. Here are ten ways to help your kids attain a high degree of emotional intelligence:

Model emotional intelligence yourself

Yes, your kids are watching very closely. They see how you respond to frustration, they see how resilient you are, and they see whether you’re aware of your own feelings and the feelings of others.

Be willing to say “no” to your kids

There’s a lot of stuff out there for kids. And your kids will ask for a lot of it. Saying no will give your kids an opportunity to deal with disappointment and to learn impulse control. To a certain degree, your job as a parent is to allow your kids to be frustrated and to work through it. Kids who always get what they want typically aren’t very happy.

Be aware of your parental “hotspots”

Know what your issues are—what makes you come unglued and what’s this really about? Is it not being in control? Not being respected? Underneath these issues lies a fear about something. Get to know what your fear is so you’re less likely to come unglued when you’re with your kids. Knowing your issues doesn’t make them go away, it just makes it easier to plan for and to deal with.

Practice and hone your skills at being non-judgmental

Start labeling feelings and avoid name-calling. Say, “he seems angry,” rather than, “what a jerk.” When your kids are whiny or crying, saying things like, “you seem sad,” will always be better than just asking them to stop. Depriving kids of the feelings they’re experiencing will only drive them underground and make them stronger.

Start coaching your kids

When kids are beyond the toddler years, you can start coaching them to help them to be more responsible. Instead of “get your hat and gloves,” you can ask, “what do you need to be ready for school?” Constantly telling your kids what to do does not help them to develop confidence and responsibility.

Always be willing to be part of the problem

See yourself as having something to do with every problem that comes along. Most problems in families get bigger when parents respond to them in a way that exacerbates the problem. If your child makes a mistake, remember how crucial it is for you to have a calm, reasoned response.

Get your kids involved in household duties at an early age

Research suggests that kids who are involved in household chores from an early age tend to be happier and more successful. Why? From an early age, they’re made to feel they are an important part of the family. Kids want to belong and to feel like they’re valuable.

Limit your kids access to mass media mania

Young kids need to play, not spend time in front of a screen. To develop creativity and problem-solving skills, allow your kids time to use free play. Much of the mass media market can teach your kids about consumerism, sarcasm, and violence. What your kids learn from you and from free play with others will provide the seeds for future emotional intelligence.

Talk about feelings as a family

State your emotional goals as a family. These might be no yelling, no name-calling, be respectful at all times, etc. Families that talk about their goals are more likely to be aware of them and to achieve them. As the parent, you then have to “walk the talk.”

See your kids as wonderful

There is no greater way to create emotional intelligence in your child than to see them as wonderful and capable. One law of the universe is, “what you think about expands.” If you see your child and think about them as wonderful, you’ll get a lot of “wonderful.” If you think about your child as a problem, you’ll get a lot of problems.

Having a high IQ is nice, but having a high “EQ” is even better. Make these ten ideas daily habits and you’ll give your kids the best chance possible to be happy, productive, and responsible adults.

A Father's Day Gift - Touch


My five-year-old son and I were finishing up a dinner at a small restaurant recently. Nearby, a father and his teenage son embraced as they got up from their table. "Isn't it nice that that man and his son hugged?" I asked him.

"Isn't that what they're supposed to do?" he shot back.

"Well, yes they are, Michael, but it doesn't always happen that way."

"Why not?" he asked.

Indeed, why not?

Fathers have a responsibility to touch, hug, or cuddle with their kids. They have a responsibility to know how important this is to their child's development. And they need to fight the taboo in our society about males touching each other and showing affection.

It's amazing to learn how many fathers still have concerns about turning their sons into "wimps" or "mamas boys" if they show them a lot of physical affection. Most of these fathers struggle with issues about closeness from their own families of origin. And when boys haven't received physical touch and nurturing from their own fathers, they may have a difficult time giving it to their own kids.

There are a lot of reasons to give your kids physical affection. Most of you will see the day when your kids experience the hormonal explosion called the teen years. And many of you have concerns about how volatile that stage will be.

Are you interested in a plan that will keep the teen years for your kids as peaceful as possible?

Here are some ideas on how fathers can use touch to benefit their kids and to prepare for the teen years:

  • Have a ritual of cuddling in the morning with your kids, even if for a short time. It's a great way to reinforce your connection with them before you start the day. If you leave before they're awake, you can do it when you come home.
  • Give your kids back rubs, leg rubs, or foot rubs. Help them learn the wonders of touch and show them the art of giving. You'll end up on the receiving end of some of these eventually!
  • Wrestle with your kids often. One of the best ways for fathers to connect with their kids is to get on the floor and go at it. Make sure you do this with your daughter as well as your son-show her that she's capable of handling it.
  • Try to hug your kids at least twice a day. When you establish this pattern, you'll notice that your kids will come to you for hugs. If you notice that they don't seem happy, always offer a friendly hug. Don't take it personally if they decline.
  • If you're married, show physical affection to your wife. Your kids are watching closely, so show them how it's done.
  • Commit to hugging your kids through their teen years. They may not agree to this plan, but keep at it! Let them know that you'd like to hug them, and stay with it through all the rolling eyes and disgusted looks. You can't make them hug you, but you can let them know you'd like to.
  • Be particularly aware of how you respond to your teenage daughter when she develops physically. Many fathers are scared off when they find themselves faced with a daughter who's matured sexually. She still needs you, don't go away!

The most effective way to ensure that your kids pass through the teen years smoothly is to create a strong emotional bond with them when they're young. Physical touch with your kids is an essential part of this emotional bond. Your kids will thrive on this touching, and so will you.

We live in a society that doesn't encourage touching and nurturing for men, but we all need it. Your kids need it, too.

This Fathers Day, give your kids the gift of touch. And then just keep on giving.

Saving Memories of Your Children


A few years ago, my three-year-old son and I settled in for the last stage of his good night routine. It had been a good day for him, he’d been very active and had spent a great deal of time in the sand and water.

Right now he was tired, and I was as well. We lay down together in his little bed and after a few moments he said, “Daddy, when I get big can I live with you?” I assured him he could live with me any time he wanted to.

A moment later he said, “Dad, when you die you’re 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 moved over, 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 cheeks. I was also aware that I didn’t want to have to explain why I was crying; as I opened my eyes to look at my son, I noticed he was fast asleep.

I spent some time just looking at him, savoring the moment and wondering about the depth of the reaction I’d just had. It occurred to me later that I didn’t remember having many of these kinds of tender moments with my own father.

I felt both happy for a chance to experience it with my son, and saddened that I didn’t remember more of them with my own 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 the magical moments that make up a three-year-old’s 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 being a father worthwhile.

Being a committed father can at times feel like an incredibly thankless and unending job. It can feel like you’re 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 you.

When your kids have left home and you look back at these years, it will be what you have left—all of these memories strung together to make up the recollections of their lives with you.

As we collect these important memories, it seems worthwhile to consider how you remember them--both for yourself and for your children.

Here are some ideas:

  • Write a letter to each of your children, in which you remember the experiences 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‘ve had with them and some of the entertaining/funny things that they said or did. Kids love to hear stories about themselves from their dad or mom, so have a boatload of them on hand.
  • Form rituals around your children whenever possible, whether it’s 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 meaningful.
  • 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 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’re old enough. This is a great way for your kids to help themselves process their own feelings. They’ll be more likely to do it if they see you’re doing it as well.

It seems that most parents lament the speed at which their kids grow up and leave the house.

There will be a time, soon after your kids leave home, when all you’ll be able to “hold” is your memories of them.

May you find a way to hold them that honors the precious times.

Is There Hope for Overwhelmed Fathers?


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 didn’t 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 tomorrow’s school clothes while my son flopped around on the floor without a care in the world.

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 they’d have another crabby day from back-to- school stress and a lack of sleep.

I could feel the tension envelope my shoulders and jaw. My mind was moving at a dangerous rate.

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 caring manner.

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 easy for fathers who are stressed at both work and home.

The challenge for many fathers is how to deal with the stress that accumulates while attempting to balance their busy lives. 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 time.

This study and many others show that it’s often difficult for men to handle the emotional intensity that occurs in modern family life. This is particularly difficult for men who are feeling stress from work both work and home.

The result of the sense of overwhelm that men feel 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 for men in dealing with overwhelm in today’s busy world:

1. Raise your standards: Commit yourself to improving your own skills in dealing with overwhelm and don’t blame others.Realize that it always starts with you. Better time management is a good place to start.

2. Take time outs when the tension gets strong. These will help give you some time to get perspective on the situation. This will also show your kids you’re working on it. You can’t expect your family to work on their “stuff” if you don’t 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. Train the kids for every scenario that might occur.

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 what’s necessary for you to create a healthier response.

5. Stop and take stock of what your work and family schedule is right now. What can be cut out or what needs to be more efficient? What’s causing the most stress for you and what are the specifics of changing it? How about spending more time at work so you’re not thinking about work when you’re home?

What irrational thoughts are you holding onto?

Fathers are often known as the fixers of things in their household. While it may be challenging, dealing with the stress of balancing home and work life is a fixable problem.

But it will take tough choices and new ways of looking at things.

The kind of tough choices that benefit both you and your family.

Are you convinced that you're a good father?


Do you believe you do the right things and make the right decisions regarding your kids?

Sorry to burst your bubble, but effective fathers often question their own virtue. They realize the danger in feeling like they're "right" all the time. They realize how useful it is to "let go" of being too sure of themselves.

So, the next time you feel like you've got this fathering thing figured out, realize there may be someone in your family that wishes you didn't.

A "Moment" With my Son


I'd like to share a short story with you. My five year- old son and I were together at the health club the other day when I saw a friend. As she met my son and shook hands with him, she told him that it was nice to meet him.

He took her hand and looked her in the eye and said, "It's nice to meet you, too, Debra." I got a tear in my eye (it's typical, I hide it well) and wondered at what age I was first able to meet someone in the manner that he had just shown. Age 17 or 18?

All of our experiences as parents aren't wonderful. We have challenges that take us to the very edge. But we also have moments like these when all of the challenges you've had with a child dissolve in an instant.

Take these moments in. Cherish them. Write them down. They're worth it!

Spare the Child, Ditch the Rod?


Spare the rod, spoil the child! This philosophy's been around a long time.

In fact, a study done by Zero to Three, a nonprofit child-development group, found that 61 percent of the adults who responded condone spanking as a regular form of punishment. The percentage of parents who actually use spanking is believed to be much higher.

And when my seven year old daughter's behavior went beyond annoying a few days ago, I briefly felt inclined to join the majority and swat her to "teach her a lesson."

Most parents reach this point with their kids. We feel as though we just can't take any more of their behavior. It usually happens when we're tired, stressed, and overdone.

So what are our choices when we reach this point?

Spanking certainly can take care of things quickly and can temporarily change your kids behavior. But there are many reasons to question the practice of spanking your kids. Here's five of them:

1. Do you really want your kids to be afraid of you?

Kids will sometimes obey more readily when they're afraid of you. Is this what you really want? What happens when they're six feet two and two hundred pounds? Effective parenting is based on love and respect, not fear.

2. Spanking shows your kids that you lack self- control

The huge majority of spanking incidents come when a parent is angry. What is quite clear to your child is this: when my Dad or Mom gets angry, they hit me. And when the same child hits his sister when he gets angry, do you demand that he shows better self-control?

Something's wrong with this picture. We teach our kids best through our own actions.

3. You may breed resentment and anger in your kids

Kids who are spanked usually don't learn a great deal about "correcting" their misbehavior. They don't usually sit up in their rooms and say, "Gosh, I can really see after getting spanked that I was wrong. I'll do better now." They do think about how angry their Dad or Mom is, and they can develop a good deal of resentment for their parents.

4. Spanking shows your kids that "might makes right"

Adults make mistakes in their lives too, right? Can we use our imaginations and feel what it would be like for someone four times our size to pick us up and swat us on the butt? What would we learn from that? Would we feel any injustice? You can bet that your kids are feeling some.

5. Spanking isn't effective in the long run

Parents who are asked why they spank will report that they use it to "teach their kids a lesson," or so they won't misbehave again. Many kids who are spanked will go underground with their misbehavior and become more cunning to avoid being caught. (Wouldn't you?) If you're spanking your kids fairly often, doesn't this show that it's not working very well?

I don't believe that kids who are spanked occasionally are ruined for life. Nor do I believe that spanking is necessary to discipline a child. There are countless examples of disciplined and responsible young people who were never spanked by their parents.

Parents who don't spank their kids use time outs, re-directing, or distracting with their kids. They can pick their kids up and let them cool down, or simply leave the area themselves so they don't do something they'd regret later.

While these methods aren't always perfect, they help to form the foundation of a certain kind of household: One in which violence is not "taught" as a means to better behavior.

After all, we live in a world that's filled with violence.

Can't we provide a place for our kids where there isn't any?

Skiing With My Kids


"Daddy, help me, I can't get up!"

I watched as my five-year-old son flopped around in the snow with no intention of trying to get himself up. The makings of a classic father-child conflict were perfectly in place.

All at once I felt compassion, disgust, understanding, and anger. I was also in the middle of a campaign to let my son "take care of himself" and not depend on his dad to take care of him.

My daughter pleaded with me to pick him up so we could ski back to the park headquarters and get something to eat. "I know you can do it," I said for the tenth time that day. But he couldn't--that is, he wouldn't.

In the battle of wills between father and son, there's an intense urge to hold your position and to be "the victor." It feels as though any kind of compromise is a loss. In this case, I was sure that if I helped my son again I'd be enabling him to be weak and incapable.

Could there be anything worse for a father?

As my daughter's pleas became louder and my son's cries more dramatic, I quickly considered my options. It's difficult to think creatively when you're playing the role of Patton, and now the screams were coming from both sides.

I was headed for anger and overwhelm in a hurry.

"I'll tell you what, Michael. If you give it one more good try and you can't get up, I'll help you. But you have to try." He gave it one more awkward flop and settled down into the snow.

For a reason I'm not aware of, I put a smile on my face.

"That was it? That's your effort?" He caught my smile and began to laugh. I toppled onto him to tickle him and trade playful punches. The anger, disgust, and concerns of a few minutes before were completely gone.

As we sipped hot chocolate later inside, Michael confessed, saying "the more you wanted me to get up, the more I wanted to stay down."

He knew that I wanted him to get up as much for my sake as his.

Kids are smart that way.

I hope there's a day soon when I'll be smarter that way too.

A Father and His Son


"As a father of two teens, I've enjoyed your insight on fatherhood. I was raised in a loving family environment, but just as you indicated, my father was the primary breadwinner and the "backbone" of the family, not an emotional type.

As a child, I never saw him cry or appear weak, nor did he ever utter the words "I love you". It was just not in his vocabulary, though I never doubted his love for any of us.

It was not until his last hours on this earth, nearly 9 years ago, that I saw him cry for the first time. Suffering from the side effects of leukemia, I was visiting him in his hospital room. As I sat on the side of his bed feeding him ice chips and jello cubes by spoon, it occurred to me that we had reversed roles. He was no longer caring for my needs, but I was there to help him with a basic need.

We talked about things that we'd never discussed previously and as I was preparing to return home to my family for the night, I turned to him and said "I love you".

He smiled and nodded his approval as I exited his room for the last time. Unfortunately, he'd been experiencing internal bleeding, though he never complained or mentioned it to me, and he expired some three hours after I left.

I feel fortunate to have spent those last hours with him and that I could express my love to him, though I felt out of character in doing it. I only wish that it had occurred years earlier.

As a father myself, I've broken the male mold. I freely express my love, not only for my wife but for each of my children. Rarely does a day pass that I don't talk with my kids, always ending the conversation with an "I love you."

I'll be the first to admit that life is not always a bed of roses, and that developing strong family ties requires patience and perseverance. But I'm incredibly proud of the family relationships that we've developed and nurtured in our children."

I'm so thankful for this father's willingness to share his story. And I'm inspired by fathers who make love and connection an absolute must in their families, whether they've had a role model to follow or not.

This story also illustrates one of the reasons we're on this earth: to learn to love each other and to spread our love to our children. And while it may not be easy, here's one father who will tell you it's all been worth the effort.

So how about you? Is there anything you want to say to your father? Your kids?

Every day there are new choices to make. May your choices help produce young men and women who are grounded by your love.

We could use a little more of that in this world.

TV, Video Games, and Your Kids


There's been a great debate in our country for the last number of years concerning violent TV and video games.

There are thousands of studies indicating that there's a link between violent video images and increased aggressiveness and violence in children.

There are also studies that say there's little relationship between the two, and that there may even be some visual/spatial benefits that kids receive from video games.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the average child in this country will see 200,000 acts of violence by the time they're eighteen. Common sense tells me this is probably not benefiting them.

But the truth is that it's difficult to prove the exact impact that these images have on kids.

For parents, this may be the wrong question to be asking. Perhaps there are other issues here that would be useful to consider.

As a coach who works with parents, I see the frequent power struggles that come up around video games and TV watching. When I see young kids in front of a screen, I wonder about all of the other things those kids might be doing.

But it's extremely difficult to be a parent without the "electric babysitter" these days, especially considering how busy parents are today. There is also the added complication of other parents who allow greater access to video games and TV to their kids.

So what do you do about this issue?

How about using your gut instinct and taking a firm stand?

A while back my wife and I decided that when our kids were young we'd like them to spend the large majority of their time interacting with other human beings, not screens. We also realized that at some point in the future this may change. But because of this decision, we're sometimes looked at as peculiar by people we know.

And while it does cause some hardship, we haven't regretted it for a moment.

It simply seemed like the right thing to do.

I would challenge all of you to look at this issue and to make a decision about what kind of family culture you want. And don't base it on what the Jones' are doing across the street or what popular culture tells you to do.

Make your decision, set your limits, and do your kids an enormous service by standing by your limits, no matter what. Firmly and respectfully state that, "this is what we do in our house" and then stand by it.

I don't know if video games and violent TV make kids more violent. And I don't think TV or video games are inherently evil.

I just want the best for my kids, because they'll only be kids once in their life.

Be Smart With Your Children’s Feelings


All of you have heard about how important it is to “honor your children’s feelings.”

While this seems like a worthy endeavor, it is a rather vague notion and can easily be dismissed, especially if your child is crying or whining at the moment.

If we look at the particulars and the benefits of paying close attention to your children’s feelings, however, it may become an idea that has a great deal of merit.

We would all like to raise kids who are well-adjusted, happy, and successful. How can we improve our chances of raising kids who have these qualities?

One place to start is to acknowledge the growing body of evidence which indicates that a person’s “emotional intelligence” is of great importance. It is becoming more clear that having a high emotional intelligence is a great predictor of job success and also seems to predict one’s success in their personal life as well.

Emotional intelligence measures qualities like awareness of your own feelings, the ability to empathize with other people, listening skills, etc. Once we recognize 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 children’s bad behavior, and attempts to “mold” them according to certain ideals. Not only can this be ineffective, it can actually increase the “bad” behavior by giving it extra attention.

A different way of fathering is to commit yourself to helping your children become more connected to their own emotions and to their families. It recognizes that your children will be having intense emotional experiences almost every day of their life. It calls for you to assist your kids in learning how to manage these powerful emotions and to model this behavior yourself.

It begins in your home every day. It begins when you stop dismissing your kids’ feelings by saying things like, “Come on, it’s OK, don’t cry,” or “You should want to go to your piano lesson.”

It’s very difficult to see your kids being sad or angry, and to be patient with them. But when you deny the validity of their feelings, you further disconnect your kids from being able to identify and deal with those feelings. In other words, you lower their emotional intelligence.

To raise the emotional intelligence of your kids, there are a number of things you can do.

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’re upset. They need to know their feelings are being acknowledged, and need to know you are there to listen and understand.

· 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 cannot be a source of emotional support for your child.

· Be a great listener. When your child has something to say, try to drop what you’re doing and focus completely on what they are saying. Skillful reflection back of what they have just said to you will show them they’ve been heard, and being heard is a great help to kids wrestling with intense feelings.

· Help your kids to identify what they are feeling by being specific with your questions. It’s often helpful to ask something like, “Are you feeling sad?” or “Are you feeling picked on?” Pay attention to your child’s response to your questions or comments about their feelings. Your goal is to help your child process their feelings and to work through them, not to fix anything or to tell them if they got it “right.”

One of the most difficult things about being a father is being with children when they aren’t at their best. Whining and crying from children seems to bring out the worst in many fathers.

The great irony of this is that the more fathers encourage their kids to “get over” whatever emotional difficulties they’re having at the time, the more of these emotional difficulties will crop up.

Kids who don’t feel “heard” emotionally tend to either shut down or to get louder.

Neither of these seems like a very good choice.

Our kids would live in a happier, healthier world if they were raised in an environment in which their feelings were honored.

When dads learn the secrets of creating that environment they will be an important part of that process.

Gifts from Fathers


The holidays have passed again and my kids have received enough gifts to fill a small house. And while they’re happy to receive them, what I know is that these are gifts that probably won’t last for very long.

If you’re a father who’d like to give your kids gifts that are truly valuable, give them gifts that will stand the test of time. Give them gifts that will strengthen your relationship and will someday help them to be happy, healthy adults.

Here are three gift ideas to consider:

The Gift of Discipline

The term discipline is often misunderstood. It comes from the Latin word “discipulus” and means a follower of truth, principle, or a venerated leader. Disciplining your kids doesn’t mean punishing them.

Your kids won’t learn to follow truth and principle when they’re being punished. They’ll learn to resent you and learn the principle that “might makes right.” In the case of fathers who strike or spank their kids, your kids will learn to fear you. Is that really what you want?

A more effective way of disciplining your kids is to model self-control yourself and to utilize time outs. The use of time outs is not a method of punishment, it’s an opportunity for your child to work through their feelings and to be ready to resume their activities.

Using time outs in a non-punitive way fosters security in your kids by teaching them that when they can’t control their feelings, their parent will keep them safe.

My children taught me the ineffectiveness of punishment years ago when I would tell them to “sit here” for their time out. They would sit down for a brief moment and then they’d get up and go somewhere else. Were they defying me or were they incorrigible?

No, they were just saving face and asserting their own power of choice. After awhile I gave up this battle; it wasn’t that much fun to run after them and catch them, anyway!

Your kids need firm boundaries that are enforced consistently and lovingly. They need limited choices. They don’t need to be punished.

The Gift of Acceptance

While it’s true that fathers are improving in the area of acceptance of their kids feelings, there is still work to be done for most fathers.

One of the most important things a father can do is to accept and try to understand their child’s feelings. Psychologist Dr. Haim G. Ginott, who wrote the popular book, “Between Parent and Child,” wrote “When children are in the midst of strong emotions, they cannot accept advice or consolation or constructive criticism. They want us to know what is going on inside of them.”

For you fathers out there who’d like to improve--It helps your kids when you’re aware of what they’re feeling! Even when you don’t know what they’re feeling, fake it!

In other words, “Would you stop crying right now!” is probably not effective.

“You seem really sad right now,” would be a much more effective response.

It may be helpful to remember that kids’ brains are not as well-equipped to control emotions as ours are. What they need is parents who try to understand and who accept their emotions—no matter how unreasonable they may seem to you.

Fathers don’t have to agree with their kids feelings. To be a more effective father, you just have to make an effort to be “with them” in their feelings. A simple statement (“that must be upsetting for you”) can mean all the difference in the world.

On the other hand, demanding that your kids change their feelings or stop feeling a certain way is guaranteed to create more distance between the two of you. It also reflects on your own insecurity and increases the chances of your child becoming upset again.

Which choice seems more effective to you?

The Gift of Time

We live in an unusual time. Never before have fathers been as busy at work and at home. There are still alarming statistics that come out about the state of the American family, in particular when fathers are not involved in family life.

For instance, according to the Index of Leading Cultural Indicators, teenagers watch an average of twenty-one hours of television a week. By contrast, they spend only 35 minutes per week talking with their fathers.

The gift of time to your children is beyond measure. And while it’s essential to spend some time in self-care for your own mental health, there are few fathers who couldn’t afford to give up at least one thing each week for their family.

How about you? A round of golf, a TV show, a night of cards with the boys.

Fathers will do well to remember the words of so many other parents who talk about how fast the time goes with their kids.

You’ll have plenty of opportunities to play cards when your kids are gone.

Dads, Give Them Household Chores


You have a chore to do around the house and your kids want to help out somehow. At this time of year, it might be holiday decorations.

You know that it might be nice for them to help but you're feeling a bit impatient. And you know that it might turn into a two hour project and there might be a big mess to clean up. A mess that could be avoided if you did it yourself.

We've all been there, haven't we?

It can be so much easier to do the household chores and projects without the assistance from your little friends. After all, who's got the time in today's world to make a project longer than it needs to be?

You do.

Why is it important to include your kids in household tasks?

Once in a while there is some research that unveils something that's so important and relevant that it screams for parents to hear it.

Researcher Marty Rossman at the University of Minnesota studied a group of young adults from the time they were young children. The startling results of the study were that the young adults who had participated in household chores when they were age 3 and 4 were more successful as adults than those who didn't.

Specifically, these young adults were more likely to complete their education, get a good start on a career, develop adult relationships, and avoid the use of drugs. The early participation in household chores was deemed more important in their success than any other factor, including IQ.

On the other hand, if children did not begin participating in household chores until they were teenagers, the experience seemed to backfire and had a negative effect on their success as young adults, using those same measures.

What does this really mean?

When your young kids feel as though their dad (or mom) believes they're capable of handling simple chores around the house, it is an incredibly powerful message to them.

Dad believes I can do it!

If your kids believe that's how you feel about them as they go through life, you're a genius.

You'll also be the father of confident, responsible, happy kids. That's what is created when you choose to see your kids as capable and you believe in them. But wait! You can't just see them as capable. You also have to show patience with them when they tackle these chores. You can't take over for them when they struggle or "correct" what they did.

This will only serve to undermine their confidence and discourage them.

Imagine the difference you can make with your kids by allowing their participation in the family chores. Imagine the difference in your kids esteem level that results from encouraging them rather than criticizing them.

You do have time to include your kids in chores and projects at home.

Tell every other father and mother that you know that they have time, too.

It's too important not to.

Is This the Bottom?


The questions are all so compelling: Did Janet Jackson do it on purpose? Was it all planned, or was it really a “wardrobe malfunction,” as stated afterward by Justin Timberlake?

These are the questions that are being asked by the national media and by millions of citizens of this country. We're hearing more information about "nipple shields" than we'll ever want to know. And not surprisingly, we’re hearing far more about these two performers after this incident than would have been the case after a “normal” performance.

But with so much attention being paid to the mind-numbing idiocy of this act, we seem to have lost touch with another, more sinister story.

While people spend their energy blaming two artists who have no clue as to the impact of their action, we’ve taken responsibility out of the hands of a number of people who should know better.

Somewhere in this mess there are television executives who made the decision to present a song with the lyrics, “I’m gonna have you naked by the end of this song.”

In front of 89 million viewers, and this was what they came up with.

Somewhere in Ohio, a man with his 8-year-old daughter was watching the half-time show of the Super Bowl.

What does this father say to his daughter after seeing this song performed on what is probably the “biggest stage” in the world? On a stage that’s big enough to lend acceptability to these kinds of songs and lyrics?

After all, this isn’t some seedy video shown late on a weekend night. This is the Super Bowl—this is the showcase of American culture.

I hope that this father would have the courage to talk to his daughter about the values that are important to him and how unhappy he was with the half-time show. It’s too bad that a conversation like this would have to occur during the middle of the biggest sporting event in this country.

And while this conversation was happening, there were TV executives blaming Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake for their “deplorable stunt.”

I wonder if they have any young daughters at home.

Charity Starts With Us


My intentions were really quite noble. It was the aftermath of the holidays. It seemed as though my kids had enough new toys and “things” to fill a large building.

As a responsible father, it was becoming clear to me that the true meaning of the holidays was being lost beneath an avalanche of gifts, materialism, and greed.

I came to the conclusion that something must be done.

My children would learn the important values of giving and generosity by actually doing it. I decided that my kids would round up all of their old and “not much used” toys and we would take them down to the local Goodwill.

How could we lose here? We would feel the wonderful feelings that giving to others creates in us, and children with fewer material goods than ours would benefit from receiving these great gifts.

I approached my seven-year-old daughter with my decision.

“No!” she shrieked. “I don’t want to give away my stuff!”

This response was surprising coming from my daughter, who is so often generous with her belongings. It appeared that she just needed a rational explanation concerning the reasons she would do such a thing.

As I unsuccessfully attempted to have her “see the light” around this issue, her gaze locked onto me in a tight hold.

“What are you giving up?” she asked.

The sensation I was most aware of was the burning feeling in my face and the back of my neck. The kind of feeling you get when you’re embarrassed and uncomfortable and there’s no escaping. For quite a long time, no words came to me.

“You have a good point, honey, let’s give this a little thought,” I heard myself say. My daughter went away feeling she’d been heard (And I suspect victorious), while I needed some time to gather my thoughts.

The realization that I’d not been active lately in charitable giving to others was tough enough to swallow. The tough part was that my daughter had exposed my ego, which I had disguised as nobility.

Not only had I expected my seven-year-old to have a social conscience, I had forgotten the best way to teach my children.

I’d forgotten how to show them the way.

Thank goodness my daughter was there to remind me.

Dads, Know What Your Family Needs


Fathers these days are trying to do what no other generation of fathers has ever done. They are trying to stay in the emotional core of their families while maintaining their uniqueness as men. There have certainly been some bumps along the way.

If we ask questions and really listen to fathers, we’ll see some common themes. Prior to the last ten years, there wasn’t a whole lot of research or literature on men’s experience as fathers. There is now a clearer picture. While there certainly are countless benefits to being a father, there’s a flip side that sometimes sounds like these comments:

“No matter what I do, it doesn’t seem to be good enough.”

“I’m always on the outside looking in.”

“What am I, a janitor?”

“I’m constantly sacrificing for this family and nobody notices.”

“This family life is overwhelming, sometimes I just can’t take it.”

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 they’re 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 fathers is that they are really “inessential” to the family.

If they were to go away, the “emotional core” of the family would still be in place.

Why is this feeling so prevalent with fathers? What can we do to help ourselves to enter the “emotional core” of our families?

Fathers can easily 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 very different things than a family environment.

Things that are stressed in the work environment include following orders, an importance placed on objectives, setting and achieving goals, and doing things that are of a more impersonal nature. There is an ever-present focus on the bottom line that colors almost anything that is done.

The family environment stresses very different things. It stresses taking care of people’s needs. It stresses taking actions with an eye on how that action impacts others at all times.

The most important difference with the family environment is that it stresses love, kindness, and caring for each other.

It’s pretty easy for fathers to bring their “workers’ hat” home to their family. It involves an intense focus on goals and on results. What families need, however, is for you to have the “big picture” and to ask what the family needs at the moment. This is not something that seems to come naturally for most fathers.

How can you become more able to assess the needs of your family and to begin to enter its “emotional core?”

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 you’re married, learn from your wife (they often do this better than we do)
  • Any time you’re coming home to your family, make an effort to get into “family mode” and out of “work mode”—use a relaxation technique to help move you into a more kind and loving way of being
  • 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
  • Start now with the process of understanding your needs and the needs of your family; a lot of dads feel like they’re just starting to “get” how to be a better father by the time their kids are leaving for college

You could blame other family members for not allowing you to feel closer to your family, but you know that this would only make the situation worse. This is often the first instinct for fathers who are upset about not feeling closer to their family.

What will work is to improve your ability to determine the needs of your family and to act on them.

The information you need is right before you.

Ask the questions and the actions will become clear.

Fathers Tell Your Stories!


I must admit to having a fear that I believe I share with many fathers. I fear that I will some day be insignificant to my children. It’s not as though they’ll completely forget who I am; it’s that what I stand for and what I believe in won’t be a significant part of their lives.

Perhaps popular culture will take over…or perhaps they just won’t care. The fear is there because it’s so important to me that my children have a moral compass to live by, and that they have a value system that honors and respects others.

So what are fathers to do? We live in an increasingly complex society and the answers to our children’s questions are neither easy nor simple. Many of these questions may be difficult to answer and may show your kids that ideas about what’s right and wrong are not always very clear.

What fathers can do is to wish and hope that things turn out for your children--or you can have the courage to make passing on your values an absolute priority in your family. You can challenge yourself to pass on love, faith, courage, freedom--the eternal truths that will have meaning for your children for generations to come.

There will certainly be some bumps along the way and it won’t always be a smooth ride. After all, there’s an entire culture out there that’s telling your kids that what they wear and what they buy is the most important thing in their life.

There’s a way for fathers to succeed here. They can do it through the stories that they tell their kids and also through how they models for their kids.

You can start by taking a different and closer look at the daily events that happen in your life. Your life is filled with significant happenings that you can sometimes pass over if you’re not paying attention or if you get too busy. These events can become stories that your children will cherish.

Why is it important to tell your stories to your children?

One important reason is that it serves to connect your children to previous generations and to help them to feel a part of the larger whole of your family. Perhaps a more important reason is that telling your children your stories helps them to deal with the difficult challenges that they’ll be facing in their life.

The truth is that your kids will go through some real struggles. As parents, it can be painful to watch--and it is seldom useful to try to come to the rescue. What can be helpful to your kids is to know that their father, and other significant people in their lives, have gone through similar struggles and have survived.

Stories are often about struggles and failures. Your children love to hear stories about these struggles because they have them often in their own lives. They know failure and struggle extremely well; that’s a lot of what being a kid is about.

The stories you tell them will ultimately be comforting. That you have had these struggles and have come back and recovered is encouragement to them; your kids will need a truckload of encouragement to navigate their way through life.

It is truly a gift to be able to communicate to your children what is in your heart through the use of stories. Stories can not only be used as a vehicle to pass along your values, but they are likely to inspire your children to repeat the same process with their children.

Here are five suggestions to help you come up with stories for your children:

  • Tell stories to your kids when they are the most attentive to them--when they are in bed, or settled down so they can sit still for awhile.
  • Make sure to include stories of you failing miserably. These are particularly useful to your kids. We’ve all got a few of these, don’t we?
  • Have your parents tell your children some of their own stories if they are able--a great way to show the connection that exists between generations.
  • Use stories to answer your kids’ questions about difficult issues. They need to know that you have faced these issues yourself, and that there are many choices available.
  • Realize that you don’t need a history of storytelling in your family to get started, and you don’t need to be a great storyteller. Give some thought to experiences you’ve had that might relate to some of the issues your kids are facing right now or in the near future.

There is a short window of opportunity in which to tell your children the stories of your life. Many fathers fail to tell their stories because of a lack of a story-telling tradition in their family of origin. This can be a wonderful opportunity to begin your own tradition with your own stories.

Teaching your kids about life through telling your stories will be a whole lot more effective than lecturing any day of the week. Your kids will want to hear your stories, the lecturing they could probably do without.

Being Kind, Not Right


There are a couple of things that I’ve noticed about being in a close relationship that keep coming up. One is that it demands a great deal of attention and nurturing to be successful.

The other is that everyone seems to have a huge investment in being right.

When you think about all of the time that you can spend arguing with your wife or kids about being right, it can be pretty absurd! What did all of this arguing get you? It gave you a bit of ego satisfaction for a short while but a more troubled relationship with your wife or child. Where does this intense investment in being right come from?

It may come from the fact that our lives are hard, we sometimes feel victimized, and that we have a great deal of insecurity about being wrong. Parental garbage from another era, perhaps.

What’s important is the realization that you will do great damage to your children if you have to be right all the time. What’s also important is to commit to kindness to your family at the expense of being right.

Being right and committing to kindness towards your family are two ideas that cannot easily share the same space. When you commit to kindness--rather than being right--you will find your number of conflicts significantly reduced.

Family life in general is not about something as black and white as being right. It is a blend of colors, and is all about negotiation and compromise. As you learned in secret #7, you may be coming home from a workplace where “right” and “wrong” are the determinants of your decisions and you’ve been trained to look for solutions. This kind of thinking doesn’t usually serve you well at home.

Here are some action steps to help you become less invested in being right:

  • Acknowledge that you enjoy being right (we all do) and that you are committed to improving on this issue
  • Have someone in the family help you to be more aware of when you’re wanting to be right (your wife can gently remind you when you are arguing with your child).
  • Commit to being more kind. The flip side of ego is pure kindness. It can be a nice concept to grab on to when you’re stuck in wanting to be right.
  • Ask your family if they notice that you often want to be right. They will be your best teachers if you’re willing to swallow your ego and learn.
  • Practice acts of kindness both in and out of your family. You can become so busy that you convince yourself you don’t have time to be kind to others. You do, and you can. The more kindness that you give, the more you’ll receive.
  • Pay close attention to what happens when you give up being right so often. You may notice your relationships improving and that people are treating you better. You may even notice a feeling of freedom that comes from giving up the hold you have on being right.

Ego work is always difficult. You’ll make some progress, and then take a step back. What’s important is that you’re able to keep your awareness of where you want to be, and to have a system to keep you on track.

Using friends or family as a means of accountability is an excellent way of keeping yourself on track. It is also risky emotionally, but it shows that you have the commitment necessary to be a father who succeeds in becoming more kind with your family.

When you become more kind with your family, the “miracle” will occur. The “miracle” is about being shown kindness in return when you show kindness to others. It has always been that way and always will be.

Pay very close attention to being kind rather than being right. It will give you and your family benefits that you never anticipated.

May your ego continue to shrink with each passing year.

A Father's Value


It happened when I least expected it. During an afternoon in which I had been lamenting my role as a “janitor” with my family, my seven-year-old daughter put things back into perspective for me. “You’re the best daddy in the world,” she whispered to me as she gave me a big hug.

I was thankful as she ran down the hall, for I was too overwhelmed to respond to her comment in a reasonable manner. My vision of myself as an unappreciated victim had been extinguished in a flash; in its place I felt a joy and sense of gratitude that was overpowering.

On further reflection I was reminded of a painful law involving family life: The more you believe you deserve appreciation, the less you’ll get. Seeking appreciation and gratitude from your kids won’t lead you anywhere but to resentment. But if you stay involved long enough, you’ll find moments like this one that are worth hanging on to.

It’s easy for fathers to feel unappreciated and to feel like they inhabit a place outside the emotional “core” of the family (mom and the kids). But the value of involved fathers to their families is becoming increasingly clear. Recent research has pointed out the absolute necessity of a father’s positive influence on his children.

The first bit of research is from a collection of agencies, including the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Department of Justice, the Center for Disease Control, and the National Principals Association. The translation of these studies show just how valuable fathers are to their kids. The statistics are remarkable:

Children from a fatherless home are:

5 times more likely to commit suicide

32 times more likely to run away

20 times more likely to have behavioral disorders

14 times more likely to commit rape

9 times more likely to drop out of school

10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances

9 times more likely to end up in a state operated institution

20 times more likely to end up in prison

Enough to convince you?

Perhaps even more interesting was the pooling of parenting research that the Wall Street Journal did in June of 2003. The research suggests that “interactions with a father are equally, if not more, important than interaction with a mother in a child’s positive development.” While we don’t want to turn this into a debate about who’s more important, the fact that this notion is now being talked about is a testament to the vital importance of fathers to their kids.

So the next time you’re questioning your value to your family and whether you’re more than just a handyman around the house, remember that these are just feelings from your past that have very little connection to the present moment. Your value to your kids is immense.

Know that they need you to be involved and that they need your approval. And then give it to them.

Top Ten Ways to Get Your Kids to Listen to You


There are times when every parent feels as if they might as well be talking to a block of wood. As with many other things, the harder you try to get your kids to listen, the more resistance you get. Here are ten things to consider when you want to get a message across:

1. Make sure your relationship is solid. If your kids don’t like you, they’re a lot less likely to listen to you.

2. Remember that actions speak louder than words. If your kids know that what you say won’t be backed up with action, they’ll more easily tune you out. Having natural consequences for not listening (toys disappear if kids don’t listen and they’re not picked up) has a way of having kids pay better attention.

3. Talk about listening to them. Make it a point to discuss the importance of listening occasionally when your kids are receptive. Talk about how nice it feels when someone else listens to you completely and what a great quality this is.

4. Have a sense of timing when you talk to your kids. Don’t expect them to listen well when they’re in the middle of something, when they’re extremely tired, or when they’re hungry. Find a time when they’re reasonably relaxed and you have their full attention.

5. Model great listening yourself. Give them your absolute attention when they speak to you and try to reflect back what you heard so they can see how focused you were on what they were saying.

6. Each child listens in a unique way, get to know their preferred style. Your child may be a kinesthetic learner who listens and understands by writing something down or by walking through something. Find the way to reach your child in the way that works best.

7. Avoid Lectures. Many parents have a lecturing style that they’re unaware of. Their kids are very aware of this style however, and tune them out. Speak in a casual and pleasant tone that you would use when talking with a friend

8. Limit their TV watching. Kids who watch a lot of TV tend to be more easily distracted and have a more difficult time listening. This may also help to improve your relationship when you spend more time with your kids!

9. Talk to your kids in a non-judgmental way. The more they feel judged by you, the more shame they’ll feel and the less they’ll hear. See your kids as great and they’ll listen as though they are!

10. Be genuinely interested in your children’s lives. Ask them curious questions about what’s they’re experiencing. When your kids know that you have a real interest in their life, they’re more likely to look forward to what you have to say.

 

© 2004 Mark Brandenburg

Other Father Issues, Books, Resources

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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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