Tag Archive for father

5 Surprising Ways Children Learn Self-Control

Self-control is a skill that will serve our children well for a lifetime. In fact, the classic “Marshmallow Experiment” suggested that preschoolers who had enough self-control to delay gratification and wait for a bigger reward had higher SAT scores as late teens. They were also more likely to be described as positive, self-motivated, self-confident, and persistent at the end of high school. We all want that for our children, right?  So how can we teach our children self-control? There are many ways to teach our children self-control, but I want to share five somewhat surprising ways to promote self-control in our children.

  • Model self-control. I know that doesn’t sound so surprising. In fact, it’s rather obvious. It’s so obvious we probably need a little motivation to do it…AND that brings me to the surprising part of modeling self-control. A study that followed almost 1,000 people from the age of 3-years to 45-years found that children who exhibited a higher level of self-control walked faster, had younger looking faces, and had healthier bodies when they became adults! In other words, practicing self-control not only teaches our children a great life skill, it also helps us look and feel younger. Want to look and feel younger? Practice self-control and model it for our children.
  • Encourage your child to talk to themselves. One study found that saying the name of an object while looking for it made the person better able to find the object than simply thinking about it. (I have tested this one and it works for me.) Another study suggested that talking to oneself about a task increases that person’s ability to restrain impulses (AKA, practice self-control). Encouraging your child to talk to themselves as they engage in an activity can also help them restrain impulses and remain focused. This also means that yelling at our children may interfere with their self-control. Why? Because our yelling will compete with their own self talk. Our loud words will silence their self-talk and interfere with their self-control, leaving them open to more impulsive behaviors. Stop yelling at your children and encourage them to talk to themselves.
  • Give your children time to play with their father. According to a review of 78 studies, children who played with their fathers had more self-control as they matured. Fathers tend to engage in “rough and tumble play” which helped their children learn to better regulate their feelings and behaviors. Overall, children who played more with their fathers exhibited better emotional and behavioral regulations as well a lower risk of hyperactivity. Dads, teach your children self-control. Play with them.
  • Teach your child to practice gratitude every day.  Research suggest that daily gratitude increases self-control and reduces impulsive behaviors.
  • Keep your promises and prove yourself reliable. A study published in 2013 repeated the marshmallow study with a variation. In this study, the children either experienced an adult who followed through on his promise or one who did not. Then the children were presented with the opportunity to wait with one marshmallow to get a second one or simple eat the one marshmallow. Those who had previously experienced a reliable adult practiced more self-control. They were better able to wait for the second marshmallow. Keeping your promises to your children helps them learn and practice self-control.

Practicing these five surprising tips will help your children develop self-control. And that self-control will benefit them for a lifetime. Isn’t that a great gift to give your children?

Adolescence, Depression, & Technology

Two recent studies explored the relationship between adolescents, video games, and internet use. Unwrapping the first study reveals a surprise. A research team from UCL, Karolinska Institute, and the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute reviewed data from 11,341 adolescents born between 2000-2002. At the age of 11 years, these adolescents answered questions about their time spent on social media, time spent playing video games, and general internet use. They also answered questions about their mood, any loss of pleasure, and levels of concentration at the age 14 years. After ruling out other potential factors, the research team found that boys who played video games most days at age 11 had 24% fewer depressive symptoms at the age of 14 than did boys who played video games less than one time a mouth. Somewhat surprisingly, moderate video game playing at 11 years of age was associated with fewer depressive symptoms at 14 years of age.

A second study, published in Child Development, gathered data from a study involving 1,750 high school students over a three-year period, through the ages of 16, 17, and 18 years. This study explored risk factors contributing to problematic internet use (or internet addiction). The research suggested three harmful effects of problematic internet use and each of these effects had a reciprocal relationship with internet use. In other words, problematic internet use increased these negative outcomes and these negative outcomes increased problematic internet use. The negative outcomes included higher levels of depression, increased substance abuse, and lower levels of academic achievement. We all want to avoid those outcomes. So, what risk factors contributed to problematic internet use? And what can you do about it?

  1. A lack of satisfying relationships or the perceived inadequacy of social networks contributed to problematic internet use. In other words, loneliness predicts problematic internet use. With that in mind, involve your children in community. Enroll them in scouting, sports, dance lessons, theatre, or other group activities. Involve them in a local church youth group. Give them the opportunities to develop relationships with peers and other trusted adults in the community.
  2. Parenting practices, as perceived by the teen, contributed to the level of teen internet use. Parenting perceived as warm, empathetic, interested, and close led to healthy internet use. Parenting perceived as neglectful, being inconsistently available and consistently unresponsive, predicted problematic internet use. This draws attention to the need to build a positive connection with your children. Take time to develop a warm, loving relationship by spending time together and engaging in activities together. Talk, go on outings together, worship together, attend their concerts and sporting events, share meals together. Invest time and attention in developing a positive, loving relationship with your children. (By the way, did you know your parenting style could be killing you?)
  3. Paternal neglect, neglect by a father, had a particularly strong relationship to problematic internet use. Dads, get involved with your children. If you need ideas for involvement in your children’s lives, check out the “cheat codes for Dads.”

A Father’s Superpower

Every father has a superpower. No, he cannot leap over tall buildings in a single bound, run faster than a speeding locomotive, or fly through the sky like a plane. Still, every father has this unique superpower. Actually, this superpower is more practical and more powerful than those displayed in the movies. A father’s superpower is much more important than those superpowers. A study published in 2020 revealed this superpower after analyzing data collected on 5,000 children…and now we need to encourage fathers to use it. What is this superpower?

The study revealed that a father’s involvement in his children’s lives between the ages of 5 to 15 years was a superpower. It’s true. This superpower saved his children from the villains of behavioral and emotional problems as they matured. The superpower of involvement included participating in activities like feeding his children, playing with his children, reading to his children, and helping his children with homework. Involvement also included providing noncash items like clothing, toys, food, and other necessities for his children. This superpower of involvement was more influential than mere monetary support. Monetary support is a fake superhero, an imposter trying to elicit the joys of the true superhero without the sacrifice and love, a greedy villain.

The true superpower of a father is involvement in his children’s lives. His involvement protects his children from the villains of depression, worrying, bullying, and other insidious crooks (aka, negative behaviors).

So, forget the cape (unless you really want to wear one), toss aside the mask (well, when COVID is over), and get involved in your children’s lives. Then, “Bam…,” “Boom…,” “Kablam…,” the villains are out and Dad is in the house! And, he’s enjoying a lifetime, loving relationship with his children.

A Dad’s Crucial Role Starts Early

A study published in the Social Service Review (September 2020) confirms the importance of a father’s presence in their children’s lives. This study used data collected over a 10-year period (starting at five-years-old) to explore the impact of a father’s involvement on the behaviors 15-year-old children. They discovered that a father’s social engagement with their children as well as time spent with their children led to fewer behavior problems in 15-year-olds. A father’s quality involvement in their children’s lives impacts their behavior for the better. But how much will it improve their behavior?

This study (read a review) found that increasing father involvement among families from lower socio-economic-status (SES) reduced the differences in behavior of 15-year-olds from higher SES groups. Specifically, a father’s involvement with his children reduced the gap between lower and higher SES groups in behaviors like aggression, depression, and delinquency by 30-50% in children who did not live with their fathers. Their involvement reduced that same gap by 80% for those children who lived with their fathers. Even more powerful, this study suggests that a father’s active presence in his children’s early life has a significant long-term impact on their adolescent behavior.

Interestingly, cash support did not have this significant of an effect on adolescent behavior. Children need hands-on, time invested, social engagement of fathers to really make the behavioral difference we want, not cash. (Father’s still need to support their children financially. Children need the financial means to meet daily needs. But a father’s active involvement in their lives can impact their behavior beyond what simply throwing cash their way does.)

Fathers, your involvement is crucial, pivotal to your child’s future. Get involved. Experience the joy of engaging your child today and you will experience the joy of a relationship with them for a lifetime.

Dad’s Superpower & Children’s Self-Control

Fathers have a superpower, a superpower that contributes to their children’s emotional future. What is this superpower? Play! Yes, play. Researchers at Cambridge University and the Lego Foundation uncovered this superpower in a review they completed of 78 studies. Each study examined the impact of fathers playing with their children (zero to three-years-old). The results were published in the Developmental Review in September, 2020. Let me share two of the findings from this review.

  1. Father-child play tended to be more physical than mother-child play. Fathers were hands on. They liked to pick up their infants and engage in rough and tumble play with their toddlers. They enjoyed playing chase and wrestling, swinging, and bouncing.
  2. Father-child play improved emotional and behavioral outcomes. Specifically, more father-child play was associated with less hyperactivity and fewer behavioral problems in school. More play with fathers contributed to the children exhibiting a better ability to control their aggression. The children also exhibited fewer emotional or physical outbursts during disagreements at school.

It  seems that physical play with dad helped children develop better emotional and behavioral self-regulation. The authors believe this improved self-regulation occurs in at least three ways.

  • During the rough and tumble play, fathers model self-regulation by controlling their own strength, actions, and words. Children also control their own strength, actions, and words to avoid “hurting” their dad. Of course, seeing self-regulation modeled and engaging in self-regulation themselves is a wonderful practice in self-control.
  • During rough and tumble play, a father or child may experience an accidental minor hurt (a foot gets stepped on, a ball bounces the wrong way and smacks someone in the face). When such an accident occurs, that play stops momentarily to make sure everyone is OK. Then the fun continues. Both have survived the minor accident. Both have learned to better control themselves to avoid similar hurts in the future.
  • During father-child rough and tumble play, children may also experience times in which they “get carried away” and Dad must slow the play down. Their children follow suit, learning to better regulate their behavior and emotions.

This all adds up to children who learn better emotional and behavioral regulation from their Dad’s superpower, play! Now get out their Dad and put that superpower to use. Play with your child today!

Baseball Reveals the Power of Dad

I read an interesting article that was initially published in 2016. It described the findings of “Called Out at Home” from the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture. In this study, I learned about the surprising increase of African American plays in Major League Baseball (MLB) between 1947 (when Jackie Robison became the first African American in the Major Baseball League) and 1981 when 18% of the players were African American (which was higher than the percentage of African Americans in the general public). However, the percentage of African American players declined to 7% through the 1980’s and 1990’s. Why did this drastic decrease occur? That’s the questions asked in this study.

To answer that question, the researchers looked at the birth data of about 85,000 college and professional baseball players. They sampled over 600 current Major League Baseball players and researched their families’ structure. They discovered something interesting.

  • 80% of the African American professional players came from a home in which their father was present (compared to 40% of African Americans in the general population).
  • Children who live with their father had about a 25% greater likelihood of playing baseball than those who lived in a home without a father. More specifically, 20% of those living with a father played baseball compared to only 16% of those living without a father.
  • While African American players in MLB declined, players from Dominican Republic and Venezuela increased…and many of these plyers had grown up in poor communities. This suggests that the decrease in African American MLB players was not determined by money or socioeconomic status alone.
  • As an aside, the researchers also discovered that high school students living with their fathers were actually less likely to play basketball than students without a father in the home.

As the authors of the study considered these findings, they suggest that some sports require a great deal of support and finances, like football, hockey, and lacrosse.

Other sports require little support or finances, like basketball and track. Kids can excel by practicing alone or with a group of peers in a “pick-up” game at the park.

Baseball falls in between these two extremes. In baseball you need one other committed person, a ball, a bat, and a glove (preferably two). The authors make the case that the best person to be the committed person in the case of baseball is a father!

Whether a father is in the home or not may not be the only factor explaining the decline in African American players in the MLB, but it does point to the power of a Dad. I’m not suggesting that a child can become a professional ball player simply because he or she has a dad at home either. But this research supports the idea that having a father at home helps a child thrive. Whether it be in the sports their children choose or the life choices their children make, a father makes a powerful difference. So, get your child and grab a ball and glove. Go outside and play some catch. After all, the real goal of playing catch is not just learning to catch and throw a ball. The real goal is to develop a relationship, impart life, and promote values of love and compassion.

**After I published this blog, a friend told me about another African American player who played in the Major Leagues 6 decades before Jackie Robinsons. Read the fascinating story of Moses Fleetwood Walker here. And thank you for correcting me and helping me grow.

The Digital Bedtime Story?

I love to read. When my daughters were young, I loved reading to them at bedtime. I also loved lying in the bed with my wife and children listening to my wife read Little House on the Prairie or The Chronicles of Narnia to our children. We read physical books to our children…you know, books made of real paper as opposed to e-books. I’m not sure we had the choice of using e-books when my children were young. Still, the smell and touch of the paper, the sound of a turning page…it all has a certain beauty to it.

Today, you might think to read bedtime stories from an e-book, a nook, or a kindle to your children. But before you do, consider this small study published in 2019. This study involved 37 parent-child pairs. The children were an average of 29-months-old. The researchers observed and recorded behaviors while these parent-child pairs read stories together. In fact, each pair read each story in three different formats: a physical book, an e-reading tablet, and an e-reading tablet on which the story was interactive (touching added sounds, enhanced pictures, read words).

After observing and coding behavior, the researchers found that parent-child pairs using e-readers battled for possession of the tablet more often than they did when using a physical  book. Children moved so the parent could not see the e-reader more often, controlling the parent’s ability to read. Children and parents touched the book more often, pushed the other person’s hand away. Parents and children grabbed the book or attempted to move it out of the other’s range as well. In other words, parent and child exerted more effort to control the e-reader. They exhibited more behaviors aimed at “managing possession” of the tablet.

Why? The researchers note that tablets are generally for solitary use. For instance, parents may use the e-reader as an electronic babysitter for the child, letting their play with it alone while they clean the kitchen. This may increase the difficulty of using it collaboratively as a pair. Children also love to explore what is generally off limits to them. So, when an e-reader, which is generally off limits to them or turned off so they cannot use it, is suddenly presented to them, they may want to possess it. The researchers also suggest that both parent and child may be “mesmerized” by the screens that invite each one into a solitary interaction with the screen. In other words, in the long run, we really do not know why parents and children battled more for control of the e-reader when they can collaborate and share with the physical book. Perhaps that will be the next study we read.

But, whatever the reason, physical books led to greater interactive sharing versus attempts to control and possess. I like what the author of Bedtime Stories in the Digital Age concluded after reviewing this information: “if our parent-child interactions shape our future behaviors (and they do), we might want to read physical books with our children. Doing so is a more collaborative, less controlling interaction.”  And, if our world needs anything right now, it needs more collaborative, less controlling people. So, pick up a couple of physical books and enjoy reading them with your child.

“Cheat Codes” for Dads: Your Daughter’s Sense of Security

If you play video games, you know the value of a good “cheat code.” They help the player advance to a new level or gain a special power. Other “cheat codes” help the gamer obtain a special tool or weapon you’ll need in the game.

If you’re a Dad of daughters, you may feel as though you need a “cheat code.” You may want inside information to help you move toward an advanced level of understanding in relation to your daughter. You likely desire a “cheat code” that will provide a gateway to a special power to influence your daughter toward maturity.  If so, I have just what you’re looking for: “cheat codes” for dads raising daughters.

Previous “cheat codes” discussed included:

The next “cheat code” involves making your daughter feel secure!

The Cheat Code: A Sense of Security.

Purpose: Giving your daughter A Sense of Security will…

  1. Increase your daughter’s confidence in the world outside the home.
  2. Give them the freedom to learn habits promoting happiness and success throughout their life.
  3. Decrease behavior problems.

Value: Children need a sense of security. Having a sense of security frees children to explore the world around them so they can learn and grow. A sense of security includes a sense of belonging, both of which promote confidence and courage to try new things. A sense of security will also promote positive behaviors in your daughter, decreasing the need for discipline.

Instructions: Practical actions that will give your daughter A Sense of Security involve…

  • Investing in your relationship with your daughter’s mother. Your daughter will feel more secure when she knows you and her mother have a secure relationship. Invest in your marriage. Keep it strong.
  • If you are divorced, your relationship to your daughter’s mother still matters. Build a positive, congenial relationship with your daughter’s mother. Do not make negative statements about her.
  • Whether married or divorced, do not says negative things about your daughter’s mother. Support her in her parenting efforts. Defend her if your daughter says something negative about her. Build a strong relationship for your daughter’s sake.
  • Express your affection for your daughter in word and action. Tell her you love her. Compliment her. Show her physical affection.
  • When you need to discipline your daughter (and you will), take time to reconnect with her afterwards.
  • Develop rituals of connection with your daughter. Spend time with your daughter. Read “Cheat Codes”: Time and “Cheat Codes”: Confidence for more.

“Cheat Codes” for Dads: Household Chores

If you play video games, you know the value of a good “cheat code.” They help the player advance to a new level or gain a special power. Other “cheat codes” help the gamer obtain a special tool or weapon you’ll need in the game.

If you’re a Dad of daughters, you may feel as though you need a “cheat code,” inside information to help you move toward an advanced level of understanding in relation to your daughter. You likely desire a “cheat code” that will provide a gateway to a special power to influence your daughter toward maturity.  If so, I have just what you’re looking for: “cheat codes” for dads raising daughters.

Previous “cheat codes” discussed included:

The Cheat Code: Household Chores.

Value: Household Chores involves helping around the house. When you help around the house you will discover many positive results.

  • When men get involved in household chores, they set an example for everyone else in the family. They also portray the kind of man they hope their daughter will marry, a man who models leadership through service.
  • Studies have shown that daughters who see their fathers engaged in household chores broaden their perceived career options. Daughters who see their fathers engaged in household chores are more likely to become in involved in careers involving leadership, management, or professional positions.
  • One last benefit which has nothing to do with your daughter. Your wife will love you for doing the chores and you’ll discover what it means that “sex begins in the kitchen.” Of course, a stronger marriage will also benefit your daughter.
  • Learn 3 other ways that doing household chores will help your daughter in The Top 6 Reasons for Men to Help Around the House.

Instructions: The instructions for Helping Around the House are simple.

  1. After dinner, help clear the table and wash the dishes (or load the dishwasher).
  2. Help complete the laundry. Put clothes in the washer. Switch clothes from the washer to the dryer. Fold clothes. Put the clothes away.
  3. Take out the garbage.
  4. In the morning, help make your bed.
  5. Run the vacuum, clean the bathtub, or mop a floor.
  6. You get the idea. You don’t have to do all of these. You don’t even have to do the same one all the time. However, doing household chores on a regular basis will have a tremendous and positive effect on your daughter. It’s a powerful “cheat code” for dads of daughters.

“Cheat Codes” for Dads: Shared Rituals

If you play video games, you know the value of a good “cheat code.” They help the player advance to a new level or gain a special power. Other “cheat codes” help the gamer obtain a special tool or weapon needed in the game.

If you’re a Dad of daughters, you may feel as though you need a “cheat code.” You may want inside information to help you move toward an advanced level of understanding in relation to your daughter. You likely desire a “cheat code” that will open a gateway to a special power of influencing your daughter toward maturity.  If so, I have just what you’re looking for: “cheat codes” for dads raising daughters.

Previous “cheat codes” discussed include:

Now it’s time for another.

The Cheat Code: Shared Rituals.

Purpose: With Shared Rituals, you will…

  1. Increase the time you and your daughter spend together. This will help you build a more intimate relationship with her.
  2. With rituals in place, the need to discipline negative behaviors will decrease. (How to Discipline Before You Even Need To.)
  3. In addition, your daughter’s sense of security will increase. She will feel safer in a home with predictability.
  4. Because she feels safer, your daughter will have greater freedom to explore and learn about her world and herself. In fact, The Gift of Freedom is Wrapped in Safety.
  5. Rituals will also help your daughter pursue goals and have a greater sense of purpose in life. (Routines & rituals Add Meaning To Life.)
  6. Your daughter will gain a greater sense of independence and mastery with appropriate routines in place.

Value: Creating shared rituals with your daughter has two great values. First, your shared rituals will guarantee that you spend time with your daughter. Spending time with your daughter in a shared ritual deepens your relationship with her and increases her sense of security. Second, shared rituals build predictability into your relationship and your home. This predictability will increase your daughter’s sense of security. With the knowledge of her close relationship to you and the predictability of her environment, your daughter will feel safer to explore her world and herself. She will pursue greater goals. All in all, routines will deepen your relationship with your daughter, empower your daughter to explore her world, and increase your daughter’s sense of competence. Who doesn’t want that?

Instructions: ThreeShared Rituals to create…

  1. “Daddy-Daughter Time.” Set aside one time a week (an evening, an afternoon, a day…whatever time works best) as time dedicated to your daughter. This will become known as “Daddy-Daughter Time.” Let nothing interfere with that time.
  2. Find out what your daughter enjoys doing. If you don’t know, ask her. If she’s not sure, ask her what kind of activities and foods she would like to try or places she would like to visit. Each week during “Daddy-Daughter Time,” do one of one of those activities with your daughter. Or, go to one of the places you have agreed upon. You might play Barbies, go to a movie, get ice cream, or go rock climbing. Your options are as broad as your daughter’s potential interests and creativity. These first three steps represent what I believe to be one of the most powerful shared rituals you can do with your daughter. You will never regret having engaged her in this way.
  3. Become involved in your daughter’s bedtime routine. This may include reading with her, talking about the day, sharing things for which you are grateful, and giving her a simple hug and kiss goodnight. Bedtime is an amazing time to bond with your daughter.
  4. Create a shared mealtime ritual with your daughter and your whole family. Strive to eat one meal a day together. If you can’t do one meal a day, do at least 3-5 meals a week. Establish the nights and keep the “meal date.” The shared ritual of eating together offers a wonderful opportunity to talk, share, and bond. (Learn the benefits of eating as a family in The Lost Art of Family Meals.)

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