Tag Archive for father

Fathers…Who Needs ‘Em?

If you watch TV very often you might find yourself asking, “Fathers, who needs ’em?” Fathers, according to the sitcoms, are the bumbling, awkward parents who need a woman to save them and their family relationships. Even in Disney movies fathers often fall short. They need their daughters to save them from their fearful, “dark age thinking” (think Little Mermaid or Moana). Fathers are consistently taken advantage of by the antagonist of the Disney movie (think of the Sultan in Aladdin or Jane’s father in Tarzan). Fathers also play the “bad guy” by restricting their children’s growth and exploration (like Chief Powhatan in Pocahontas or Mr. Banks in Mary Poppins).  Don’t get me wrong. I love Disney movies. But, if they give a true representation of fathers, who needs ’em (fathers, I mean)?

Wait, I know the answer to that question. Who needs fathers? WE ALL NEED FATHERS!!! In spite of the representation we see of fathers in film, we need fathers. In fact, these representations are far from accurate. They dramatically misrepresent fatherhood…and do not show the true value of fathers.

Case in point, consider the findings of meta-analysis consisting of 34 studies on fatherhood completed by William Jeynes’, professor at California State University. The studies in this meta-analysis involved a total of 37,300 participants and highlighted the unique role of fathers in childrearing. Contrary to the depiction that children had to bring their fathers out of their fearful, “dark-age” thinking, this meta-analysis revealed that fathers play a crucial role in the “preparatory aspect of child-rearing.”   In other words, fathers played an important role (over and above the role of mothers) in helping children successfully move into the world as independent adults. Fathers also tended to communicate higher expectations of their children than mothers, helping them become ready for the world outside of home. Rather than restrict their children’s growth and exploration, fathers encourage their children’s growth and exploration. While encouraging exploration, a father’s active involvement still led to lower rates of delinquency and substance abuse in their children. As these few results reveal, we all need loving fathers in our lives! (For more on the impact of fathers in the family read A Father’s Surprising Difference and Fathers: “Committed to a Precious Responsibility”)

So, if you’re a mother, encourage your children’s father to become actively involved in your children’s lives.

If you’re a father, get off the couch, turn off the TV, leave work at a decent hour, and get involved in your children’s lives.  Their success in life depends on it. And, you will never regret that you did it! (The Best Advice for Dads…Ever to learn the best thing I ever did as a father!)

The Work of Dad

I recently read an interesting article by John A. Cuddeback entitled Reclaiming a Father’s Presence at Home. In this article, he makes a “radical suggestion” that we measure a man’s success in life, his manhood even, by the quality of his presence in his home and with his family. Based on a historical analysis of the diminishing presence of the father in the home, he describes how the success of children and the ongoing success of family are impacted by a father’s presence or lack of presence. Without the active presence of a father, family relationships weaken. The depth of connections become more superficial. Beliefs around productivity and leisure change, succumbing to the more readily available cultural trends that also weaken the family unit (like technology, busy-ness, adult-organized and run activities). It was a very interesting article. I see the validity of his perspective.

Fortunately, the author did not stop with the description of how a father’s lack of presence impacts children and families. He also offered some excellent suggestions for reversing this trend. In my mind, these suggestions reveal the most important work of a Dad, the work that will transcend any other work he will every do. These suggestions reveal a work that will make all other activities of a Dad pale in comparison. Let me briefly share these suggestions for the work of a Dad.

  1. A Dad’s work begins with loving his wife well. A home begins with a man and a woman who love one another. With this in mind, a man’s presence in the home, a Dad’s work, begins with his presence to his wife. In loving his wife and being present to her needs, a Dad sets the stage for his children’s sense of security. From a loving, nurturing marital relationship flows the love and nurturance children need to thrive. When the marital relationship is marred with antagonism, mistrust, and harshness, children lose their sense of security. They experience the world as antagonistic, untrustworthy, and harsh. They become more vigilant, more skeptical, and more self-protective. When a man loves his wife well, his wife flourishes. Their relationship overflows with love and kindness. They function as a team. Children experience the world as loving, trustworthy, and cooperative. Truly, a Dad’s work in the home begins with loving his wife well.
  2. A Dad’s work involves engaging in “home arts” with his family. “Home arts” include activities in which parent and child engage together, generally with the parent acting as mentor. These activities often involved learning together and always mean sharing time together. “Home arts” may include cooking, gardening, carpentry, mechanics, landscaping, music…whatever the interests of your family happen to be. For other families “home arts” may also include activities such as reading, writing, historical explorations, biology, or similar pursuits. Whatever the “home art” that fits with your family, it will involve the Dad making an investment of time and energy in the lives of his children and spouse. It will require spending time together negotiating and pursuing common interests. That is the beauty of Dad’s work in the home. It involves time shared together pursuing a common interest and goal…which leads a third work of a Dad in the home.
  3. A Dad’s work means prioritizing shared activities. Shared activities differ from “home arts” because they often do not involve learning as a goal. Shared activities do allow families to enjoy time together and may, at times, overlap with “home arts.” But the main goal of shared activities is to have enjoyable time together sharing fun and life. One shared activity that research has shown to have a positive impact on family is the family meal. Another shared activity research has shown especially impactful when Dads participate is reading together. Other shared activities can include praying and worshiping as a family, singing together, and outdoor activities like playing catch, bike riding, or hiking. These shared activities provide fertile soil for conversations and deepening relationships as your family solves problems and overcomes obstacles together.

The work of Dad in the home involves his intentional presence. It begins with loving his wife well. From there it flows into “home arts” and shared activities.  Although this work takes intention, it culminates in joy and reveals man at his best! So, Dad, let’s get to work.

If Looks Could Heal…

I stole the title for this blog from the title of a research study exploring the impact of a non-residential father’s involvement in his children’s lives (If looks could heal: Child health and paternal investment). This study explored the relationship between non-resident fathers, their children, and their children’s health. It found, among other things, that “a typical visiting father” who invested one extra day of time per month in his children’s lives “enhanced their health by just over 10% of a standard deviation.” Although this study dealt only with fathers and children who did not live together, I believe it points to an important principle of father-child relationships. A father’s investment in his children promotes their overall health and development in a positive way.  In fact, a father’s investment in his children’s lives promotes healthy children, healthy families, and healthy communities. This particular study suggests a father’s investment impacts physical health. Other studies have shown that a father’s involvement impacts other areas as well. For instance, a father’s involvement in his children’s lives will impact their:

  • Academic Life. School-age children with involved fathers become better academic achievers. They are more likely to have better quantitative skills, better verbal skills, and higher grade point averages.
  • Emotional Life. Father involvement is positively correlated with children experiencing more overall life satisfaction and less emotional stress or mental illness.
  • Social and Emotional Life. Children who have involved fathers are more likely to score high on self-acceptance as well as exhibiting greater personal and social adjustment as young adults.
  • Future Employment. Children who have involved fathers have a greater chance of becoming more successful in work as adults.
  • Social Life. Father involvement is positively correlated with children’s overall social competence and ability to relate to others.
  • Social and Community Involvement. Children with involved fathers are less likely exhibit conduct problems. They are less likely to engage in negative behaviors such as substance abuse or delinquent behaviors that might result in jail time.

A father’s presence in the family and investment in his children’s lives pays dividends for their children’s whole life. A father’s involvement benefits his children, his family, and his community. Get involved today!

(For more specific statistics related to these findings see the following sites: The Importance of Father Involvement, an interesting infograph from the University of Texas; 10 Facts About Father Engagement, from the Fatherhood Project; and The Effects of Father Involvement: A Summary of the Research Evidence, from the Father Involvement Initiative-Ontario Network.)

Friendships in Middle School Begin at Home

Researchers from Penn State University followed 687 families for three years. Each family consisted of a mother, a father, and an adolescent child. The three year period spanned the adolescent’s 6th, 7th, and 8th grade years…the dreaded middle school years. (Read more here.) The study examined whether family relationships impact friendship during middle school. Of course, the short answer is “yes,” “you betcha,” “without a doubt.” But, the study did expose a couple of very interesting nuances to that “yes.”

First, a mother’s rejection, a father’s rejection, and the overall family climate not only predicted changes in the quality of the adolescent’s friendships but their sense of loneliness as well.

Second, feeling rejected by one’s father in 6th grade predicted social anxiety in 7th grade and social anxiety in 7th grade predicted loneliness in 8th grade. This was significant for rejection by one’s father but not so much in regards to one’s mother. It seems (in agreement with other research) that rejection by one’s father impacts how confidently a person moves into the world outside the home.

So, if you want your children to have the ability to develop and maintain high quality, positive friendships in middle school, nurture and strengthen your relationship with them. Their ability to form positive relationships outside the home begins at home…with you. Dads, this seems to be especially true for your relationship with your teen. Here are a few key ways to strengthen your relationship with your children.

  • Spend time together…lots of time together. Enjoy uninterrupted time with your children. Put aside the distractions (cell phones, papers, TV) and get to know your children. Learn what they like and who they like. Talk about classes, interests, strengths, and fears. Learn about their struggles in the community and which peers present them with the biggest challenges and why. Enjoy fun stuff and endure boring stuff…together. You’ll be surprised by how much you learn. And, you’ll be amazed at how cool your children really are.
  • Listen more than you lecture. The more you lecture, the less they’ll talk. The less they talk the less you will know them.  On the other hand, the more you listen, the more they’ll talk…and the more you’ll get to know them. Listen intently. Listen patiently. When they say something that arouses your urge to lecture, Don’t Do It! Instead, show empathy for their feelings around the topic. And, get curious about their thinking about the topic. Ask them questions out of a genuine curiosity to know them better. As you do, they will continue to talk…and you will get to know them better.  They will continue to talk…think…and learn. They’ll learn about the topic and you’ll learn more about them as they review their approach to the topic out loud.  All you have to do is listen and….
  • Problem-solving together. Our children will approach us with concerns and struggles when they know we will listen and empathize. As they recognize our efforts to understand their concern and their point of view, they will open up to discuss and problem solve with us. We will have created an environment of mutual respect that allows for cooperative problem solving. In the process, we will also deepen our relationship with our teen.

Practice these three actions and you can help prevent pervasive loneliness in your middle schooler. You will also increase your middle schooler’s confidence in making friends and the quality of their friendships.

Denzel Washington’s Wisdom on Fatherhood

Denzel Washington’s most recent movie is Roman J. Israel, Esq, a film about a lawyer, the law and America’s justice system. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I –have enjoyed hearing Denzel Washington’s quotes about fatherhood during interviews about the movie. Here is the quote getting a lot of notice.

“It starts in the home. It starts with how you raise your children. If a young man doesn’t have a father figure, he’ll go find a father figure.  So, you know, I can’t blame the system. It’s unfortunate that we make such easy work for them.” He added, “If the streets raise you, then the judge becomes your mother and prison becomes your home.” (Read more in Denzel Washington on Fatherhood, Family, and Family Values)

I’d like to add something wise and inspirational to his statement, but I really find nothing to add. I completely agree with his statement. If I were to add anything it would be a call to action. If you want to improve our communities and our country, step up as a Dad. Don’t let the streets raise your children. Don’t leave them empty and searching for a father figure. Become actively involved in their lives. Teach them values that will cultivate personal integrity, strengthen family ties, and enhance community stability. Let’s get started today!

4 Traits of Great Fathers

While studying for a Sunday School lesson recently, I ran across some very interesting words to describe the role of fathers. Paul used them to describe his own care for the Thessalonians. He said, “You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers; just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:10-11, NASB; italics added). That description struck me. In it, Paul gives several characteristics of a great father.

  1. A father lives the life he wants his children to live. He leads by example, behaving “devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly.” He lives “free of wrongdoing” and gives “no cause for censure or blame” regarding his own behavior. His strives to develop an upstanding and faultless reputation. That is a tall order. But fathers strive to teach their sons and daughters “to walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls them.” That lesson begins by example. Our children need to see us live a devout, upright, and blameless lifestyle before they can learn to walk in it themselves.
  2. A father exhorts. Some versions translate the word “exhort” as “encourage.” The Greek word literally means to “call to one’s side; to call near” so you can comfort, exhort, instruct, or encourage. To me, the interesting aspect of this word is the basic idea of “calling to one’s side.” A father does not parent from a distance. He parents up close. He invites his children into his life. He comes alongside his children and walks through life with them. He invites his children to walk beside him through life’s summer days and winter storms so they can observe his actions and words. He walks with his children through good times and bad, leading by example.  This requires an intimate involvement in all aspects of his children’s lives as they encounter a full variety of life situations. In each situation, a father calmly walks by his children’s side, instructing through word and example how to best respond in an upright and blameless way.
  3. A father encourages. The Greek word used in this instance is used only three other times in the New Testament. In one instance Paul uses the word to instruct others to “encourage the fainthearted” (1 Thessalonians 5:14—NASB). The other two instances are found in the passage describing Lazarus’ funeral. The townspeople were “consoling” Mary and Martha for the loss of their brother. Fathers comfort their children. Fathers encourage children when they become discouraged. They strengthen their children when they feel weak. They build their children up, especially when the world beats them down. Fathers walk with their children through grief and hardship, toward a hopeful future.
  4. Finally, a father implores. The Greek word translated “implore” means to “affirm what one has seen, heard, or experienced.” In other words, a father teaches his children based on his life experience and knowledge. There is vulnerability in this. To teach from experience a father has to remain open. He exhibits a willingness to reveal embarrassing mistakes and failures, not just successes, so his children can learn. He accepts his own mistakes and even apologize when necessary, teaching his children to take personal responsibility for wrongdoings and make amends. A father is also willing to affirm what he sees in his children, both areas of strength and areas of need, in a gentle and loving manner.

Think about what this passage tells us about a father. A father lives the kind of life he wants his children to live. He takes the time to come alongside his children and he invites them into his life. He spends time with his children; and, within this intimate relationship, he can encourage and comfort, instruct and teach. That is a GREAT father!

What We Can Learn About Parenting From FDR’s Father

I recently started reading a biography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), the 32nd president of the United States. (If you’re interested, I’m reading FDR by Jean Edward Smith.) Self-assured and optimistic in the midst of hardship, FDR “rescued the nation from economic collapse” and “led the nation to victory” in WWII.  Elected for four terms, FDR “proved to be the most gifted American statesman of the 20th century.”  The author of this biography made several very interesting observations about how FDR was parented. Perhaps we could learn some lessons from FDR’s parents for our own generation. After all, we could definitely use any suggestions that might produce men and women of character in the world today. We can learn lessons from FDR’s mother and from his father. This post will share two ideas we might learn from his father. (Read What We Can Learn About Parenting from FDR’s Mother for more parenting ideas.)

Speaking of FDR’s father, the author said, “The regard in which he (Franklin) held him (his father), amounting to worship, grew out of a companionship that was based on his ability to see things eye to eye, and his father’s never failing understanding of the little problems that seem so grave to a child.”

  • FDR adored his father for two reasons. First, they spent time together engaged in mutual, meaningful activities. His adoration “grew out of a companionship.” Children spell love T.I.M.E.  Spending time with our children will communicate how much we love them. Second, his father took the time to understand his child’s problems, even if they seemed insignificant through his own adult eyes. By “understanding the little problems,” FDR’s father accepted FDR’s concerns as important enough to address and thus FDR as significant as well. He validated FDR’s significance and value in his own life and as a person. All our children need that.

“Sara was asked if she had thought her son would ever become president. ‘Never,” she answered. “The highest ideal I could hold up before our boy [was] to grow to be like his father: straight and honorable, just and kind.”

  • This, to me, is a beautiful description of the kind of fathers we need in our world. We need fathers who live a life of character, a life worth emulating, a life that is the “highest ideal” one could hold up for our children. Fathers need to be men of character—”straight and honorable, just and kind”—so our sons have someone to admire and emulate and our daughters have an image of how a “good man” lives his life and treats women.

Our world needs fathers like FDR’s father today; fathers that might help produce men of confidence and kindness.  Great fathers live out the three aspects of parenting mentioned in these quotes:

  • They spend time with their children.
  • They take time to understand and empathize with their children’s problems (no matter how small the problem might seem to our adult senses).
  • They exhibit personal character that represents the “highest ideal” we could hold up for our children to emulate.

As fathers practice these three aspects of parenting, they will prove great fathers…and great fathers produce great children.

The Power of a Father’s Example

I remember watching my father when I was five or six years old. He greeted people as they left the worship service. I watched him closely. I saw the way he shook hands. I listened to how he spoke to people. I observed how he moved and the tone of his voice. I wanted to be just like him.  Several years later, as a teen who wanted only to be myself, I volunteered at Father Daughter Chata nursing home where my father worked as chaplain. One of the residents saw me walking toward her and said, “You’re the chaplain’s son aren’t you?”  “Yes I am. How did you know?” “I could tell by the way you walked,” she replied. “You walk just like him.” I had watched my father closely and become like him, even in actions as subtle as walking.

Fathers play an enormous role in their children’s development. They teach, guide, and discipline their children toward maturity. They also influence their children in subtle ways. Specifically, they teach their children through example. Children watch their father’s closely…very closely. They imitate their fathers. They long to be like their fathers. And, they become like their fathers.  Fathers can respond to that responsibility by carefully considering what behavior they exhibit for their children to imitate.  Strive to exhibit positive behaviors like respect, service, honesty, humility, kindness, and love.

I want to offer one more caveat in this regard. Children not only imitate the good, the trivial, and the bad in their father’s behavior; but, they imitate it without adult constraint. In other words, they will take their father’s behavior “to the next level.” A Jewish story tells of a young man who was caught stealing an apple from the merchant. Upon examination, it became apparent that he did not become a thief “out of the blue.” It began generations ago. His grandfather read from the Torah and related commentaries while exhibiting a false sense of humility. All who saw him praised his pious humility. In effect, he “stole” the admiration of his followers. With his false humility, he became a thief of the people’s praise. His father, following the grandfather’s example, read various commentaries and took credit for the wisdom they offered. He had stolen the ideas of others and passed them off as his own, a thief of intellectual property. The grandson, following the example of his ancestors, stole an apple from the merchant. Each generation followed a downward spiral of imitation.

Very few of us need worry about how we read the Torah and related commentaries. However,…

  • Do your children hear you speak badly about other people? They will likely learn to do the same, but without adult restraint and caution.
  • Do you children see you get tipsy at a party? Perhaps they will see nothing wrong with smoking marijuana or popping a few pills as they enter the teen years.
  • Do your children hear you lie and so breach trust with your employer by saying you are sick so you can miss work? They may learn to lie to cover a breach of trust with their spouse.
  • Do you speak harshly to your wife? Your child will learn to disrespect her as well. Your child will learn to ignore her requests, disregard her rules, and speak to her rudely.
  • Do you come home from work to sit around the house and watch TV rather than remain active in maintaining the household? Your children will learn that helping around the house is not important. In fact, it is useless, not their job. They will come to believe that housework and maintaining a household is their mother’s work. In response, they will become couch potatoes avoiding all housework and playing video games.

You get the idea. Your children are watching…and learning. They will imitate your behavior without adult constraint, taking it to the next level. So, make sure you leave a positive example for your children to imitate. Let them imitate your respect, service, helpfulness, and honesty without constraint. Your home will be a happier place.

A Father’s Surprising Difference

FatherPerfectFathers, check this out—more proof of the significant difference you make in the lives of your children! Researchers from the University of New Castle followed 11,000 British men and woman for 30 years. They asked the parents of these men and woman how much quality time their father spent with them as children, activities like reading with them and organizing outings with them. They compared the level of a father’s quality involvement in their children’s lives with their lives as adults. The results suggest that the more involved a father was in their children’s early life, the higher the children’s IQ.  In addition, children who experience greater father involvement were more socially mobile and upwardly mobile in their career. I love this quote from Dr. Daniel Nettle, the lead researcher:

“What was surprising about this research was the real sizeable difference in the progress of children who benefited from paternal interest and how 30 years later people whose dads were involved are more upwardly mobile.”

Fathers, you will leave a lasting legacy for your children, a legacy that will impact their educational life, social life, and career! Don’t squander that responsibility. Invest in your children. Spend time with them. Read to them. Enjoy activities with them. Have some good old fun with them. In so doing, you create a legacy, a “real sizeable difference” that will extend into your children’s adulthood

The Power of “The Dad Joke”

happy pirate familyMy daughters have accused me of telling “Dad jokes.” I don’t know what they’re talking about. Even some of their friends have accused me of telling dad jokes. I asked for clarification of the “Dad joke” and knew their answer could not describe my jokes…”lame,” “silly,” “sarcastic,” “uncool.” Well, maybe I do that once in a while, but is that really so bad?  “No,” my daughters reply as they roll their eyes. “Keep it up, they’re stupid.” So confusing…lame, silly, even stupid and uncool yet embraced, laughed at, and asked to continue. I really don’t know what they’re talking about. But, it did make me think about “the Dad joke.” I think the Dad joke really carries a great deal of power. By the way, what happened when the cow jumped over the fence? I heard it was an udder disaster.

 

Dad jokes teach children to use humor when navigating the world of disappointment and momentary failures. Dad jokes help set the stage for seeing the disappointing situation in a fresh way and then thinking about the problem in a new way. Like the father whose son was thrown out at third. The father tells him, “That’s because it takes longer to get from 2nd to 3rd than it does from 1st to 2nd. There’s that shortstop in between.” Suddenly, the disappointment is a little less painful.

 

Dad jokes also help our children cope with fear. Mom and Dad can comfort, but sometimes it’s the Dad joke (“don’t worry about seven, he eight nine and is full now”) on the way out the door that makes children smile and lay down to sleep.

 

Dad jokes also nurture intimacy and connection. Laughing together bonds people…and it’s just plain fun. Who doesn’t like to have fun together? And what parent does not crave moments of laughter with their children? By the way, no running in your campsite. Why? Because you can only “ran” when it’s past tense.

 

Dad jokes lighten the moment and make time go faster, building anticipation. In our family we pass a cemetery as we near our church camp. Knowing my children need to learn a little about death, I seize the teaching moment to announce, “People are dying to get in there” and point at the cemetery. Amidst the “Aww Dad” and groans, I hear a chuckle. I recognize a new spark in the voice and hear a response that acknowledges, “We’re almost there, yay.”

 

Dad jokes help our children see things from a fresh perspective, too. They help our children think about words and communication. After all, many Dad jokes are simply a play on words or a pun that force us think and see the situation in a slightly different way. To hear “A steak pun is a rare medium well done” encourages the listener to think about the meaning of words and how context impacts that meaning. These skills are important in social interactions and business interactions later in life.

 

Dad jokes also help our children see the irony of situations and, in turn, they encourage critical thinking. “I asked a salesperson in the local bookstore where the self-help section was. She said if she told me it would defeat the purpose.” Think about it…the irony, the critical thought…aha, there’s the laugh.

 

So, I guess I don’t mind being accused of a Dad joke now and again. Every Dad joke is just a moment of learning, bonding, growing, and sharing. So what’s your favorite Dad joke?

  • We’re going for a walk. Don’t go running. I want to be Roman, not Russian, on this walk. Slow down.
  • “Dad I want hands-free on my phone.” “Then delete all the Germans from your contact list.” “What?” “Then you’ll be Hans free.”
  • I heard the energizer bunny got arrested. He was charged with battery. (It keeps on going and going.)
  • Why can’t you hear a pterodactyl go to the bathroom? Cuz its “p” is silent.
  • How do you make a hankie dance? Put a little boogie in it. Now blow your nose.

Enjoy Jimmy Fallon’s favorite Dad jokes from #StopItDad.

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