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Small Things to do Consistently as a Parent

Small Things to do Consistently as a Parent

The power of small things done consistently is real and needs to be applied to all areas of our lives, especially as a parent.

Parenting is a long game. It’s very easy to get distracted by the dramatic ups and downs of daily behavior and moods when the longer term trends are what really matter. We aim to instill character traits we hope our children have when they’re adults. Our actions today should reflect what we hope those traits are in the future.

Therefore as parents, we should focus on what we can control now, which are our actions.

These actions are organized into three categories: actions we do that we hope they emulate, activities we do with our children, and feedback we give them to encourage and discourage certain behavior.

As a parent, teaching the power of small things done consistently starts by leading by example.

Leading by example as a parent should include:

  • Reading
  • Eating healthy
  • Exercising
  • Minimizing screen time
  • Using manners
  • Saving money
  • Delaying gratification
  • Practicing gratitude
  • Getting enough sleep

For example, if my children see me regularly eating lots of fruits and vegetables, getting exercise, and minimizing the amount of junk food then they’ll probably see my body composition improve as a result. The practice of modeling good behavior to our children is arguably the most important long-term commitment to being a parent. The phrase “Do I say, not as I do” has significant limitations as a parent and should be used only as needed.

Also, there are activities that we can do with our children that are good for all who are involved:

  • Showing up and being present
  • Read to them
  • Cook healthy food with and for them
  • Play with them
  • Explore something new with them

For example, learning to read doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a lifelong process. I still find tips and tricks to improve my reading speed and comprehension.

Lastly, giving them regular, consistent feedback is also a huge responsibility we have as parents. This feedback should include:

Consistent feedback to our children will reinforce our other parental actions. The impact of these regular actions will have tremendous positive influence in our children’s lives for years to come.
The Power of Saying No to Your Children

The Power of Saying No to Your Children

The other night as I was putting my four year old to bed, and he started asking some questions about Santa. The one that I remember the most and which has no perfect answer was, “Dad, why doesn’t Santa get us all the presents that we ask for?”

This question could be replaced with many things my son asks for. “Dad, why didn’t you let me watch another TV show?”  or “Dad, why didn’t you let me have another cookie?” These represent the daily tension we currently have in our house with a four, almost five year old. He asks for things, and sometimes we say yes and sometimes we say no. And often when we say no, the drama, questions, and conflict come quickly. It is almost guaranteed to come when it involves snacks, treats, TV, or going to bed.

“Dad, can I have another cookie?”

“No.”

“Dad, you are not my friend. I hate you. You can never play with me again!”

All for just a cookie?  Sheesh.  What’s gonna happen when I tell you can’t have a phone or car in a few years?

We teach our children to ask good questions and be willing to challenge the answers so they can be independent, thoughtful people. I love to foster my children’s questions and encourage them when they ask thoughtful ones. As they get older, I will encourage them to occasionally challenge authority in a respectful, and peaceful manner.

But then our children quickly turn these new found skills around on us when we tell them no! We are immediately being tested as they ask us questions that are skeptical of why we denied their request. Why cannot I not watch another show dad?  But mom said.. But so and so got…

Why does saying no as a parent have to be so hard?

Saying no is hard, but, it’s also powerful. It’s exhausting and it tests our patience and memory. It requires my wife and I to over-communicate so that we can be on the same page. And it requires resolve.  And did I say patience yet?

But in my heart and soul as a father, I relish at this opportunity. I want nothing more than the ability to shape my children’s character for the good. These are some of the best moments to do so, even though the emotional turmoil we feel in the moment tries to tell us otherwise.

The moments when we give them presents and say yes is not how we shape their character. It’s when we choose to say no and how we communicate it that will leave a bigger impact on their character. It allows us an opportunity to help them be grateful for what they do have. This test and challenge helps make me a better man by often testing my convictions and consistency.

These moments and conversations with us are the training grounds for real life. Sometime life isn’t fair, doesn’t make sense, yet we still get the short straw. Sometimes our children need to be told no without a rational explanation and learn just deal with it.

But saying no is hard. We don’t want them to be mad at us. We don’t want them to miss out on many wonderful experiences life has to offer. We want to be cool and like us as a friend.

This inner conflict can test our judgement and throw us into emotional turmoil. We need to acknowledge that we feel this way and we’re a bit afraid of making our child upset, especially in public. But we want to do the right thing which often requires us to stick to our guns and say no.

We will be tested, after a stressful day at work, when we’re tired and sick, or when we’re distracted with something else going on in life. This all the more reason to be present when we’re with our children.

We’ll also be persuaded. The puppy dog eyes and manners will come out in full force. Promises of chores and obedience will rain down like we’ve always dreamed and hoped of.

But sometimes we need to just say no. Often saying yes is easier, but that doesn’t mean we should.

Saying no is a habit or a muscle that requires practice and training. And it should get easier over time. Our children will learn where the regular boundaries are and if we’re consistent, they may not ask for the same thing over and over again.

We also need to stop negotiating all the time. When they are emotional about a situation, we will not be able to persuade them effectively to understand why we say no. We do not have to continually provide detailed explanations. Sometimes this is hard in the moment but we have to remind our children that they do not run the house.

Younger children will benefit by hearing us say no to certain things to older children. They may learn to not even ask for them or if they do, not put up a fight knowing it’s futile.

Currently my kids are asking for more cookies, more TV, more french fries, and to stay up later. Soon it will be sleepovers, staying up even later, and video games. Then it will become cell phones, graffic video games, and fancy clothes. Later it will be a car, no curfew, and money. I imagine that the conversations will get harder as they get older as their intelligence grows. This makes it all the more important to set the standard now on what no means.

So as we approach the holidays, ask yourself this question, is saying yes to every request our children ask really loving them after all, or is just easier in the short-term?

The Importance of Unity

The Importance of Unity

We live in a divisive world these days. The recent political elections here in the U.S. have highlighted this reality. We feel divided by our income, gender, race, heritage, and even who we root for in sports.

Divisiveness is not only ugly but it’s terribly destructive. It ruins countries, churches, friendships, and families. It is a poison that if left untreated will ruin everything in its wake.

We need more unity.

Unity means:

 – We don’t judge each other.
 – We act with love first.
 – We respect each other.
 – We listen to each other.
 – We are generous with each other.
 – We support each other.

 – We fight for each other.

I firmly recall the strongest sense of unity I have experienced as an American very clearly. It was our response as a nation after 9/11. We got attacked by terrorists on our own soil and lost thousands of American civilians and heroic civil service members. Afterwards, as a country, we felt vulnerable and afraid. We were angry.

And we were united. We felt and acted as one. In those moments, we deserved the name that our country bears, the United States of America.

Since that time, I’ve felt that our unity in our country has slowly eroded. You see it in our politics, on the news, in hate crimes, and the way we view income inequality. The beliefs that differ us are primarily not about who is right or wrong, yet we let those differences divide us anyway. The root of this reality is that we don’t respect how others feel and think. We are too focused on our self.

We need to be careful to limit our consumption of information that fosters divisiveness. Most media news organization’s fosters divisiveness. Media companies primary objective is to make money, and they succeed when there is controversy. Controversy is often the seed that grows into divisiveness and the news channels use this to generate interest. Interest equates in revenue. To put it frankly, controversy sells. The news often takes a subject that typically unifies the majority and finds a way to throw in some controversy to generate more interest. So instead of fostering unity, new channels primarily foster divisiveness.

Unity needs to be a focus in our lives. To achieve unity, we must start with those closest to you.  It starts in our home, in our marriage and with our children. We need to be united within our homes so that it is a place of comfort and trust. Of peace and love. If we can’t have unity there, then we’ll struggle to find unity and trust in other places.

As a father, I feel responsible for setting the tone for that unity primarily by leading by example. My mood and disposition affects the entire household and that is a responsibility we shouldn’t take lightly.

Beyond our immediate family unity needs to extend to the rest of our family and friends. Then our neighbors and community.

Unity needs to extend in our places of worship and between our places of worships. We need to not let minor philosophical differences dilute our united value of love.

We need unity in our schools. They need to be places of acceptance with no bullying or shaming.

We need to have a sense of unity within our companies and with our coworkers.

We need our cities, counties, states, and country to be unified.

We also need unity as civilization. We all have more in common than we recognize. We do come from different backgrounds, have different beliefs and values, but we’re all human. We all deserve love and respect and opportunity to find happiness in this world. We all should stand united to help each other pursue that happiness, regardless of our differences and views.