Menstuff® has compiled information, books and resources on the issue of fathers. Here's how people around the world say "father": Afrikaans - Pa; Czech - Otec; Danish - Fader; Dutch - Ouder or Vader; English - Father; Esperanto - Patro; Estonian - Isa; Finnish - Isa; French - Pere; Frisian - Heit; German - der Vater; Hungarian - Atya; Hebrew - Abba; Latin - Pater, Norwegian - Far; Portuguese - Pai; Spanish - Padre; and Swedish - Far.
Photos above are from left to right by Amanda Currey, George Silk, Matsuzaki, Dorien Grunbaum, Bruce Davidson, J. H. Lartigue, Charles Biasiny Rivera, Georg Oddner, Guy Gillette, Howard Sochurek, David Strickler, Jill Freedman, Bob Willoughby, James H. Baker, Burk Uzzle, Bruce Davidson, and Donald McCullin from The Family of Children See Parenting also.
Newsbytes - Recent news for
Tips for Raising Safe and Healthy Kids
Be a Dad - A moment here, a moment there:
Louis C.K. on Father's Day
Be an Adoptive Dad:
What Is A Father?
What Is a Father? II
The Simplicity of Fatherhood - Ya gotta see this!
A New Kind of Family
How much it will cost to raise a child
Top Ten Father Facts
So You're Going to be a
Help Fathers Be Dads
Avoid Raising a Serial Killer
Things a Man Should Know: About Fatherhood
Tips for All Fathers
Convey your affection in minutes flat
12 smart things every father should teach his kids
Fathers & Daughters
Fathers & Sons
Raise Kids Like a Man
Raise Your Daughter Right
Quality Time With Your Kids
Mothers - Help Fathers Be Dads
11 Smartest Things Ever Said About Fatherhood
The Fatherless Household
Raising Another Man's Child
How do we forgive our Fathers?
Dads Have Postpartum Depression, Too: Depression in Father Doubles Risk of Child's Later Behavior Problems
What is the cost of raising a child?
Take Our Kid(s) to Work Day
Taking Your Kids Out of the U.S. (New rules)
Guns & Kids
The Best Gifts
Parental Leave Act
The American Psychologist reports "Mothers aren't essential to the well-being of children."
Where to Put a Fire Extinguisher?
Being a Man
Stay Clear of Stay Clear
Teenage Substance Abuse
Ouch! Body Piercing and Tattos
The Alcohol Issue
The Divorced Father's Quilt
A Look at IRAs
Answering the Hard Questions
We're Going to Prison to Find Out How to be Better Fathers
Parenting & Forensic Testing
Halloween Safety Tips
In Fathering, First Things First
Languages - Over 100 different ones
Fathers Make a Difference
Legal Aid for Duped
Mom. Do you Want a Healthier Husband?
The Daily Husband Blog
Related Issues: Talking With Kids About Tough Issues, Adolescence, kidstuff, children, fathers & sons, fathers & daughters, single fathers, step fathers, military fathers and fathers stories
Other related issues: circumcision, fraternities, gangs, hazing, sexuality-general, sexual harassment, tv violence.
Dictionary for Dads
Resources on public changing tables, families, gangs, parents, father's rights, urgent, Fatherhood Aptitude Test to check if you're ready to be a Dad.
Books on: children, circumcision, communication, divorce-general, families, fathers-general, fathers & stepfathers, fathers & daughters, fathers-single, fathers & sons, gay fathers or gay children, stepfathers, marriage, parenting-general, parenting-single, relationship, ritual-initiation, sexism, sex roles, sexuality-general, sexual harassment, gangs, abuse-boys, abuse-child, sexual-incest, abuse-ritual, abuse-sexual, violence-rape, violence-sexual
Journals - on Child, Emotional, Religious, and Sexual Abuse and Trauma
Periodicals - Children, Parents, Teens
Slide Guide: Gangs, testicles, stds, aids, safe dating.
Top Ten Father Facts
Fact # 1
From 1960 to 1990, the percentage of children living apart from their biological fathers more than doubled from 17 percent to 36 percent. If this rate continues, by the turn of the century nearly 50 percent of American children will be going to sleep each night without being able to say good night to the dads. 1
Fact # 2
Children who grow up with only one of their biological parents (nearly always the mother) are disadvantaged across a broad array of outcomes they are twice as likely to drop out of school, 2.5 times as likely to become teen mothers, and 1.4 times as likely to be idle out of school and out of work as children who grow up with both parents. 2
Fact # 3
Fifty-two percent of all adolescents aged twelve to sixteen who were living with separated, divorced, or remarried mothers had not seen their fathers at all in more than a year, and only 16 percent saw their fathers as often as once a week. 3
Fact # 4
For girls whos fathers are not involved, many positive character and personality traits fail to be developed. Girls deprived of strong relationships with their fathers tend to grow up with the perception that men are irresponsible and untrustworthy. As adolescents they commonly become obsessed with heterosexual relationships. In a desperate search for substitute forms of male affection, some have inappropriate sexual contacts, become overly dependent on men, and allow men to take advantage of them. 4
Opinion # 1
Dad, dont try to fix your daughter. Relate to her. Get to know her. Stop trying to solve your daughters problems. She doesnt want you to fix anything. She just wants you to understand. 5
Opinion # 2
It is easier to build a child, than to repair an adult. 6
Opinion # 3
There is nothing wrong with success in and of itself. But to obtain it at a time or in a manner that requires sacrificing our relationships with our children is far too dear a price to pay. 7
1 David Popenoe. 1996. Life Without Father: Compelling new evidence that fatherhood and marriage are indispensable for the good of children and society. New York, NY: The Free Press, pp.2-3
2 Sara S. McLaanahan. 1994. The Consequences of Single Motherhood. The American Prospect, 18:48-58, esp. 49.
3 Frank Furstenberg, Jr. and Christine W. Nord. 1985. Parenting Apart: Patterns of Childbearing After Marital Disruption. Journal of Marriage and the Family 47(4):893-905.
4 David Popenoe. 1996. Life Without Father: Compelling new evidence that fatherhood and marriage are indispensable for the good of children and society. New York, NY: The Free Press, p.159
5 Kevin Leman. 2000. What a Difference a Daddy Makes: The Indelible Imprint f Dad Leaves on His Daughters Life. Nashville, TN: Tomas Nelson, p. 83
6 Audrey Jeanne Roberts. 1997.
7 Michael Farris, 2004. What a Daughter Needs from
Her Dad: How a man prepares his daughter for life. Bloomington, MN:
Bethany House, p.24
What Is A Father?
"Blessed indeed is the man who hears many gentle voices call him father." - Lydia M. Child
"It doesn't matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was." - Anne Sexton
"I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father's protection."- Sigmund Freud
A father is a guy who has snapshots in his wallet where his money used to be.
"A man knows when he is growing old because he begins to look like his father."-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez
"If the new American father feels bewildered and even defeated,
let him take comfort from the fact that whatever he does in any
fathering situation has a fifty percent chance of being right." -
So You're Going to be a Dad
Marriage and fatherhood are two of the most exciting things that can happen to a man but getting married and becoming a Dad are like getting hit over the back of the head with a semi-trailer.
Enter author and speaker Dr Peter Downey, a self-confessed ordinary bloke, husband and dad who put pen to paper to write three "survival guides" for men who find themselves about to take the plunge into the often scary world of weddings, marriage, pregnancy, childbirth, and life with babies and toddlers. His best-selling books, (published internationally by Simon and Schuster and Fisher Books) are well known for their practical advice and down-to-earth style. Here is an excerpt from his latest book, So You're Going to be a Dad.
Before we go further, I must make one point clear. The point is this. Childbirth is PAINFUL. Very. Very painful. God was not kidding when he said, "With pain you will give birth to children."
There is nothing in a man's natural span of life that even comes close to the searing agony which accompanies a baby tearing itself from its mother and into the world. Sure, there are industrial accidents involving heavy machinery and testicles, but there is nothing that inevitably lies in our biological routine. Unfortunately, we have fallen victim to pathetically unrealistic television portrayals of labour. These tend to convince us that labour is little more effort than a rigorous afternoon aerobics session. The hapless woman pants a few times, blows a few breaths between clenched teeth and then with a herculean effort and a final gasp, the screaming baby is born. The woman has merely shed a light sweat.
This is crap. Total and utter crap. If you think about it, childbirth is like trying to push a camel through the eye of a needle. The camel is very big. The needle is very small. The needle will experience a lot of pain. There is no such thing as painless childbirth. This concept only exists in the mind of males who are timelocked in the fifties. A few months ago, a friend of mine lent me a cassette - it was one of those motivational ones by some American business guru. There is one phenomenal part of the tape where he says in a thick Texan drawl, "With thuh burth of mah furst chahld, my wahf and ah had uh paaynless layburr." I played this to my wife. She didn't think it was very funny.
I mean, not only did this fool believe that labour could be naturally painless, but he also had the audacity to assume that it was his labour as well. Although I'm not a medical giant, I am a veteran of almost three births now and think its fairly safe for me to claim that generally speaking, childbirth is not really very physically painful for the male.
That is, unless your wife grabs a soft fleshy bit and twists it just to let you know how she's feeling. This next story may help you come to terms with the pain of childbirth. Soon after I found out that my wife and I were going to be parents, I naturally became quite inquisitive and anxious about the whole labour process. But aside from textbooks, I had no source of information.
Then, one day at an afternoon tea, we met an old friend who had just had a baby herself. What a perfect opportunity ! Unashamedly, and in retrospect stupidly, I opened our conversation by asking her if childbirth was "painful". The look on her face betrayed the fact that quite clearly she knew that I was the most stupid man on earth. Fixing me in her steely stare, she began our conversation: "Imagine that you are holding an umbrella." Mmmm, OK so far, I thought to myself. "Now," she said, pausing for dramatic effect, "insert it into your penis."
At this, my legs involuntarily crossed and my eyes began to water.
I tried to break eye contact, but she could see that her words were
cutting me like a knife. She held me in her gaze and pushed on
mercilessly. "Now open the umbrella," she hissed. With alarm bells
clanging loudly in my head, I staggered to my feet in a feeble
attempt to escape the anguish I felt in my groin. But there was no
escape. She grasped my arm and snarled in my ear, "Now pull it out.
Yank it.... hard." She was revelling in the paralysing effects of her
words. And her words had had the desired effect. "That's what
childbirth is like," she snickered as I hobbled off. In that one
single moment, I had a slight glimmer of the pain of childbirth.
Taken from "So You're Going to be a Dad" See www.peterdowney.com
A New Kind of Family
Here is Gina's latest email and document. Thank you. - Michael Gurian
Tomorrow will be a special day in Mexico as we´ll celebrate Teacher´s Day, and despite the distance I needed to say that you will find it a nice gift to know that the Batsi tribe is still alive!... this is our second year running and we are working with 28 families and a Patriarchs Council formed by 6 families that stayed from the first generation. I also started a womens tribe under the name of Xnutsi (which means girl in a local dialect), it is a small tribe but moms and daughters are finding it really special.
I decided to write the letter you'll find attached, which I hope shows what I have learned from your books and my experience in our Tribe so far.
Her letter follows:
Dear Father of Family,
We are the Batsi Tribe, a community of families in which we have proposed to recover the fathers mission within family circle and which, thanks to the wisdom of men like Michael Gurian, we understand as equally sacred to the role of the mother. Above all, it is indispensible for the construction of mankind, exceptional men and women, capable of generating the best version of themselves.
To discuss the importance of fatherhood, we would like to share a reflection about something written more than 2 thousand years ago by a wise King named David. He dedicated a prayer of praise to God addressing Him as his shepherd. It begins by saying, The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing . (Psalm 23)
This image of a shepherd, simple and profound at the same time, has inspired us in this journey of understanding parenting. What would happen, for example, if from the heart we were to utter the words, my father is my shepherd, I lack nothing. Its possible that the soul would resonate with arising feelings of security and confidence that we desire to have in life. As fathers, we should strive to achieve conveying this to our children.
We know that its impossible to arrive at a precise definition of fatherhood, however, following this image of a shepherd we have conceived a fathers sacred mission as having 3 basic functions: Provider, Protector, and Guide.
Provider, because the father as shepherd is responsible for bringing his sheep to lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul...As the provider it is important to .
Protector, the sheperd possesses the rod and staff which provide security for children to make their way in life, meet others, face the world and their adventures and cross fearlessly through dark places. As protector, it is important for the father to provide .
Guide, the father is like the shepherd who walks ahead of his sheep, not behind because they may become dispersed and lost, he knows them by name making each and everyone unique and special, and children follow him because they hear his voice, a voice that is caring, consistent, and recognized as the source of authority and trust, able to keep the herd together as a holy brotherhood. As a guide, the father .
To conclude, we would like to mention that this is not intended as
a model to follow, but simply words to show what we have learned thus
far as a tribe and that we hope will inspire other fathers in search
Convey your affection in minutes flat.
So we have to figure out quick ways to show our deep, abiding love for our kids without actually having to interact with them much. Here are a few ideas for maximizing the "you matter" message in minimal minutes.
Leave a Note
If you're up and out before they get up, leave messages in their cereal bowls. Before they can read, a funny drawing will do. And after, even a one-liner is proof that Dad was thinking of them. That, all by itself, is a paternal endorsement. It makes them feel important to you.
Get Sleepy With Sendak
I know, you'd much rather catch the end of Cards-Cubs, but make yourself read to them in bed before they go to sleepjust for 10 minutes or so, five nights out of seven. First, once you surrender to it, it actually is relaxing; a kid in the crook of your arm lowers your blood pressure. Second, the physical closeness synchs heartbeats and knits you together. Third, books are a common ground, which isn't easy to find between little children and grown men. And finally, they'll get better grades later on, so you'll spend less money on tutors.
Every Saturday, have breakfast with the kids. It can be pancakes
at homecomplete with strawberries and M&M'sor a
ritual at the diner. "How but in custom and in ceremony," wrote
Yeats, "are innocence and beauty born."
Source: By Hugh O'Neill, Best Life, http://men.msn.com/articlebl.aspx?cp-documentid=2784267
Avoid Raising a Serial Killer
Temper your reactions
When something disturbs you about your child -- a drawing, an attraction to guns, a violent fantasy -- don't outwardly freak. "It's instinctive to respond to images of violence with fear and anger, and to have a desire to suppress them," says Gerard Jones, a media-studies advisor for MIT and author of Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Super Heroes, and Make-Believe Violence. "Think past that knee-jerk reaction and poke a little bit at what's going on. And don't make kids feel that they can't speak up. When you have an angry adolescent, you don't want to make him feel cut off and disliked."
Remember, your kids are not you
Some parents wonder, If these violent images disturb me, why don't they disturb my child? "We want to believe that kids are more sensitive and innocent than we are," says Jones. "Accept that kids go through a callous period, acting tough and insensitive. Just because they're in a different place now doesn't mean they're not going to grow up to share your core values later. A 10-year-old doesn't think like a 30-year-old. We shouldn't ask him to."
Understand what they're trying to learn
"Whether it's in a video game or in real physical play, make-believe is a kid's way of controlling something that can be scary if it's uncontrolled," says Jones. "If you're not letting kids learn that they can control it, then the thoughts and imaginings grow even bigger."
Help them distinguish between fantasy and reality
"In a wild game, it's not that hard to go from having fun to
getting angry and wanting to inflict pain," says Jones. "That's one
of the functions of make-believe violence: learning how to modulate,
be aggressive and conflictive, and take a risk without forgetting
that boundary. Which is a pretty good life skill. Kids learn by
doing, not just by being told."
International Take Your Kids to Work
Taking Your Kids Out of the U.S. (New
Getting or renewing a U.S. passport to travel the world is as simple as getting a couple of photos taken, get proof of citizenship (birth certificate) and a photo ID, scrape up $60 for a new adult passport (age 16 and older), $40 for renewal, and $40 for a child's passport and ask your local post office where the closest location is that is designated to handle passport applications for the State Department.
No regulations or fees have changed in the past year, but this
change is coming. General passport information is available 24 hours
a day from the National Passport Information Center for a fee of 35
cents a minute, charged to the caller's phone. It takes about seven
minutes to hear all of the general information. 900.225.5674. Forms
and information also can be accessed from the State Department's
Internet site: travel.state.gov
and click on Passport Information. You can obtain forms from the web
site or at the post office. Bon voyage.
Parental Leave Act
NEW YORK - There were snide comments and many, many jokes. And when Maryland state trooper Kevin Knussman won his four-year legal fight this week against the bosses who denied him parental leave, only a couple of colleagues called to congratulate him. Knussman's victory highlights the rights of working fathers to take time off with their babies. But his isolation shows how balancing a job and a family remains a silent struggle for many men. "Much of the progress is still going on underground," says James Levine, a leading researcher on fatherhood and co-author of the book "Working Fathers."
Fearing - often with reason - that they'll be labeled slackers, fathers cobble together sick days and vacation time to create leave time after a baby is born. When they want to go to a school play, they dash for the door, under cover of attending a "late meeting."
Ben, a New York city money manager and father of a 3-month-old, carefully left his computer on and his desk lamp lit not too long ago when he took his wife to the hospital for a sonogram. "It made it look like I was still there," said Ben, who refused to be further identified, fearing for his career. "Plus, it made me feel better."
Over the years, attitudes have changed. Asked 15 years ago how much unpaid parental leave time was reasonable for men to take, 63 percent of business leaders at large companies said, "none." Even 40 percent of executives at companies with a parental leave policy at the time nixed the idea of actually using it, according to Catalyst, a nonprofit group that studies women in business.
Today, half a million men take some sort of parental leave each year to care for a new child, under the auspices of the 1993 federal Family and Medical Leave Act. That compares with 1.4 million women. A total of 20 million people have taken leave under the federal law, which says all employers with 50 or more workers must allow up to 12 unpaid weeks off to care for a new baby or seriously ill family member. The law also allows workers to use sick time and vacation so they can get paid during their leave.
Knussman, a helicopter paramedic, sued the state police after he was denied 12 weeks paid leave following the birth of his daughter in 1994. He was given 10 paid days off, but sought more time because his wife experienced childbirth complications.
On Tuesday, a jury awarded him $375,000 in damages for mental anguish, in the first sex discrimination case under the Family Leave act. Attorneys for the state police said they may appeal. "There's still a presumption that women are going to be the primary caretaker," said Sara Mandelbaum, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who represented Knussman. "Those attitudes are hard to change, especially in a male-dominated organization like the state police."
Some companies do encourage fathers to take parental leaves - and more men are taking them. AT&T offers new parents up to a year, unpaid, with a guaranteed job upon return. About one man takes advantage of the program for every 18 women. That's up from a 1-to-400 ratio a decade ago.
Howard Nathanson, an AT&T computer analyst, says his coworkers and bosses fully supported his decision to take nine months parental leave in 1996. "There was never any grief about this," he said. But for other men, obstacles, both perceived and real, prevent their making use of work-family programs.
Not only do men fear career trouble or teasing if they openly make family a priority, but they feel, sometimes rightly so, that work-family programs are mainly pitched to women.
Money also plays a role. A few companies, including Merrill Lynch and the software maker Lotus Development Corp., offer paid leaves for men. But most don't, and since men are major breadwinners, it's hard for them to take unpaid time off.
Nathanson and his wife, for example, both felt strongly that one parent should be home with their daughter for a year. Since she earns two-thirds of the household income, he stayed home. "Financially, I wasn't burned by the fact that if I took off, there goes the family income," he said.
For now, many men choose to do what they can, when they can. Clark Adams, chief executive officer of Needham, Mass.-based Mulberry Child Care Centers, says fathers pick up or drop off 25 percent of children at the company's 55 centers daily, and more are serving on parent advisory committees.
Still, Knussman is glad he took a stand. After he filed his suit, the state police gave him a full 12 paid weeks off following the birth of his second child.
"Biting the hand that feeds you is never easy," he said by telephone as his daughters giggled in the background. But taking three months off was "just a great, great time. I will never, ever regret that."
Where to Put a Fire Extinguisher?
Have a Fire Drill. Each year more than 1,000 youngsters 9 and
under die in home fires. To safeguard your family, follow these tips.
Make a family escape plan: Draw a floor plan of your house,
identify two escape routes from each room, and mark them with Xs.
Post the plan on the refrigerator or bulletin board. Choose a meeting
place: Pick a safe spot away from the house where family members
can meet. Mark this spot on your plan. Hold a dress
rehearsal: Adults and children 5 and older should leave
immediately using the designated exits. Younger kids should stand by
a window and wait for a parent or firefighter to get them. Practice
going to the meeting spot and reiterate that each family member
should wait there until everyone arrives. Also, be sure to update
your escape route regularly. Parents
Tips & Tricks
Stepfamilies - The
Statistics are Staggering
Therefore, we have already become a nation of step-relating
individuals. However, most graduate schools of psychiatry,
psychology, and social work provide no specific training in dealing
with these particular dynamics of stepfamilies. Often, the methods
and information appropriate to the nuclear family can be destructive
...if applied to the highly specific dynamics of the stepfamily
system. According to Elizabeth Carter, ACSW, Family Institute of
Westchester, "Our culture provides no guidelines...It is our
experience that this is one of the most difficult transitions for
families to negotiate." Carter continues, "Our cultural forms,
rituals and assumptions still relate chiefly to the intact, first
marriage family, and the most ordinary event, such as filling out a
form or celebrating a holiday, can become a source of acute
embarrassment or discomfort for members of remarried families."
Stepfamily Foundation, Inc., 333 West End Ave, New York, NY 10023
212.877.3244, Fax 212.362.7030/ 24 hour information line
Also, Stepfamily Assoc of Am, 215 Centennial Mall S #212, Lincoln, NE
68508 - 800.735.0329. See books for stepfathers.
Clear of Stay Clear
The trend of strange continues in the facial care category with
another product designed to fight acne - pHisoderm 4 way Daily Acne
Cleanser (2). It uses the headline "It's better to use" and shows a
young woman with a "Zit Be Gone" construction grade disk sander to
remove the zits from her face. Has the advertising industry lost its
ability to reach our youth creatively without violent or abusive
images. Apparently so.
Ouch! Body Piercing
Where to Pierce: Oral piercing, the practice of inserting adornments in the tongue (most common site), lips, cheeks or a combination of oral sites would be obsolete if it rested solely in the hands of the American Dental Association. Citing oral piercing as a public health hazard, the ADA passed a resolution opposing the practice. The risk of the procedure includes pain, infection, scarring, a permanent hole or semi-permanent hold, and social stigma. During a tongue piercing a needle is used to insert a barbell-shaped piece of jewelry through the tongue mid line. Symptoms following a piercing may include pain, swelling, infection and increased salivary flow. Healing requires four to six weeks, in the absence of complications. There is no anesthesia during the procedure. The National Institutes of Health have identified oral piercing as a possible conveyance for blood borne hepatitis transmission, says Dr. Timothy Rose, president of the ADA. Other problems associated with oral piercing include tooth trauma, interference with chewing and speaking, hypersensitivity to metals, foreign debris in the piercing site, allergic reactions, altered taste buds and breathing difficulties due to swallowing the adornment. The ADA's resolution calls for ongoing review of scientific literature on oral piercing and public education programs on risk.
The Law: In California, teens must be 18 years of age (ID required) or have parental permission for body piercing. Piercing establishments are required to register with the state for licensing purposes, as well as have annual health inspections. Inspections check sterilization equipment and piercing tools and help to ensure the cleanliness and safety of each studio. Unregistered practitioners are subject to civil penalties.
If you've given the green light on body adornment or your teen is of legal age, make sure they do their homework. Only a professional should perform the piercing. And, understand the risks: possible transmission of hepatitis, HIV an other blood-borne pathogens. Have the teen locate piercers in the area. Talk with people who have had a piercing done, and find out who did them. Check out examples of a piercer's work. Meet the piercer's clients. Discuss techniques. Ear-piercing guns should never be used to pierce anything other than ear lobes. And, ask questions. A legitimate piercer will be happy to address your concerns. Get concise written instructions for the aftercare of the piercing - before the procedure.
Costs: The cost of piercing procedures varies widely, but expect to pay between $25 and $45 for above-the-waist piercing, and $35 to $55 for below-the-waist procedures. Jewelry is additional and is available in many styles, but should be smooth with no rough edges and made of inert, nontoxic substances. Surgical stainless steel, pure gold, and titanium are among the choices available for a new piercing. Piercing jewelry is personal and should not be exchanged or reused on others. Make sure you do not receive used jewelry.
The Future: Today, body art has stamped its legacy on
the teens of the '90s. Pierced tongues and navels and shiny
adornments stabbed through various body parts are considered
desirable. We adults, tough, still find it hard to let our offspring
exhibit an individuality that differs from our perceptions of
acceptability. As parents, we will take great pleasure in
anticipating the trends of our children's children. Our grandchildren
will one day torture these body-pierced teens with their own brand of
individuality, as each subsequent generation makes its mark on the
world. See also Tattoos.
A Look at IRAs
Answering the Hard Questions
It's our job to interpret the world for our children on a level they can understand. But being an interpreter can be a tall order when we're not comfortable with the very things they are most curious about. And sometimes it can be downright embarrassing, exasperating or frustrating.
To young children, all questions are the same. They're just looking for information. "Why is that lady in the red dress fat?" is no different to a three-year-old than "What's in that pretty box?"
Most parents cringe when their child points out someone with an obvious disability. Be clear, honest and true in your response but don't give any more information than the question requires. And don't reprimand your child for staring or looking at a person with a disability. It's probably your discomfort and you can use their questions to help you learn empathy. How else is a child going to learn about people who are different if they don't ask questions? Besides, the more opportunity a child has to experience difference and diversity, the more accepting and tolerant the child will become as an adult.
Usually the questions we perceive as difficult are the ones that push our buttons, the ones that make us aware of our own anxieties. It is vitally important for parents to make the effort to control their emotions and not project their own fears and discomfort on to their children. We often want to shelter our children from unpleasant subjects like homelessness, poverty, death and violence. Children learn more than we wish they did from radio and TV, from talking to friends and from observing people on the street. If we don't answer their questions, it leaves a void that children will fill with their own imaginations. When that happens, children frequently come up with scenarios or fantasies about themselves because they have no other context for their concerns. If they see someone begging on the street, it's easy to imagine themselves in the same situation and become scared.
What should I teach about strangers? The relentless media coverage of the Kevin Collins and Polly Klaas cases had a deep impact, raising fears in parents as well as children. When questions about such cases arise, parents have an opportunity to both educate and reassure their children. Putting the Polly Klaas case into perspective is important. Although you can't make a blanket promise that nothing like this will happen to them, abductions are quite rare.
Strike a balance between concern for personal safety and raising children who are afraid to go out into the world. You don't want them to become so frightened that they assume anybody who says "good afternoon" is going to do them harm. On the other hand, you don't want them to be so trusting that they disregard potential risks.
Make a clear rule that you and your child really stick to: Do not talk to strangers unless Mom or Dad is right there. The key is to teach children to recognize the unlikely but real danger a stranger might pose, while still allowing them to exchange pleasantries in safe situations.
When your child asks difficult questions, it's important not to
deny or belittle the feelings that prompted the question. The goal is
to respond honestly giving children the tools they need to feel
empowered rather than helpless.
We're Going to Prison to Find Out
How to be Better Fathers
In Fathering, First Things
When we started the route, Ben was not quite a toddler but more a teeterer and lurcher, requiring his own security force. During my weeks home with him, we did a lot of veering from wall to wall. We also spent hours crawling around on the floor playing, singing and dancing. We dug lots of holes in the dirt, started a garden, captured whole nations of snails under the nasturtium and released them into someone elses yard after intense interrogations. We sat on the sidewalk watching the ants go marching one by one, hurrah! Sallying forth into the neighborhood, architecture, trees, shrubs and flowers became the objects of our affection. We rated displays in store windows, made friends with the local merchants, examined imported objects from everywhere, studied trucks, cars and bicycles. I was his trusty steed as he happily rode my shoulders and hips through successive adventures. In the playgrounds, the magic of the swing, the ball, the stick, the flag and the kite became known to us. We splashed and squealed through countless baths together and often took naps so deep, the thunder god himself couldnt wake us.
These were days of pure poetry. They gave Ben a much stronger start in life than most of his little playmates. They gave me immeasurable gratification and growth as a man and, Im convinced, broadened my ultimate capacity for assertiveness and entrepreneurship much later downstream when I finally did focus on my career. For my money, deep, connected fathering is a far better school for business leadership development than Harvard or Wharton. Whats more, we dont necessarily owe our kids $40,000 a year college educations certainly not if were going to sacrifice a critical phase of our relationship with them to save for it. What we owe them is a great childhood from the earliest moment. If we give them that, theyll make their way in the world just fine, with or without an Ivy League diploma.
Bob Kamm is an author, poet, songwriter and
family-friendly business consultant. This article is adapted from his
book new book, Real
Fatherhood: The Path of Lyrical
Parenting. He is also author of The
Superman Syndrome: Why the Information Age Threatens Your Future and
WhatYou Can Do About It. www.realfatherhood.com
Life doesn't come with an instruction book. That's why we have fathers.
You're never too old to hold your father's hand. - Gordon Clay