Tag Archive for involvement

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.

After School Questions Your Teen Might Even Answer!

Ever notice how frustrating it can be to ask your teen, “What did you do today?” and hear, “Nothing.” “Nothing!” All day with friends, all day at school, all day…and “Nothing!” Maybe we need to ask a different question, one that might surprise them, even elicit some thought on their part. Here are some ideas:

  • What made you laugh today?
  • What new fact did you learn today?
  • What was the hardest thing you had to do today?
  • What did you do during lunch/recess/before school/after school?
  • What part of the day was the most fun? What made it so fun?
  • Did anything happen today that made you feel bad/sad/angry?
  • What did you do that made you feel most proud of yourself today? Why did that make you proud?
  • What is the kindest thing did you do for someone else today?
  • What kindness did you show yourself today?
  • What was the least boring part of the day for you?
  • What are you grateful for today?
  • What did you do to help a friend today?
  • What was the most enjoyable thing you did today?
  • Who inspired you today?
  • How did you help somebody today?
  • Who did you encourage today and how did you encourage them?
  • Who encouraged you today?
  • What can I do for you right now?
  • What is happening tomorrow that you are excited about?
  • What do you wish was different about today?

That’s 20 questions you can try instead of the usual “How was your day?” or “What did you do today?” Try different ones. Mix them up. And, add to the list. Please, share with us any new questions you ask your children about their day.

Your Family Can Save What Loneliness Kills

Cigna made a surprising discovery when they utilized questions from the UCLA Loneliness Scale to create a survey taken by 20,000 people 18-years-old and older. ( Read about the survey here.)  The surprising discovery? Young people are lonelier than elderly people. Even more disturbing, those between 18- and 22-years-old (those tied into social media connections) noted more feelings of social isolation than older people. It seems that even though social media offers digital connections, people still long for face-to-face conversation and interactions. Without this face-to-face connection, people feel lonely.

“So what?” you ask. “I’m sorry young people feel lonelier than elderly but what does it matter?” Good question. Here’s the concern. Loneliness is deadly. Studies suggest that loneliness has the same effect on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or drinking more than 6 alcoholic drinks a day! (Social Relationships & Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review). Loneliness is comparable to obesity and physical inactivity in its impact on the longevity and quality of life. Lonely young people can translate into less quality of life, less joy, even shorter lives!  Families can help prevent this type of deadly social isolation and loneliness. Here are five tips to help:

  1. Engage in meaningful family activities like eating meals together, playing games together, going on vacations, making day trips. Enjoy time with your family every day. Build positive relationships with your children, spouse, parents, and siblings.
  2. Get involved. Involve your children in various community activities. Whether you involve them in sporting activities, theatre and the arts, or debate clubs, find a way for your children to become involved in positive activities with other people in the community. Don’t just involve your children. Involve yourself in positive community activities as well. Join a reading club or the booster club. Become involved in a positive group of peers in your community.
  3. Involve your family in a local church. Churches encourage us to worship as a family and as a community. They provide us opportunities to find our place in “something bigger than ourselves” and become part of a supportive, loving community and reducing loneliness.
  4. Volunteer as a family. You might even make your volunteer efforts a weekly, monthly, or quarterly ritual. You will strengthen family bonds and provide the opportunity to meet other people outside the family, decreasing loneliness.
  5. Turn off the technology and play some games face-to-face. Nothing beats loneliness like gathering with other people and engaging in some plain-old-fashioned fun. You can get together to play cards, a pick-up game of ball, a picnic, or a board game. Whatever it is, face-to-face interaction and fun beats loneliness every time!

If you follow these tips, you’ll discover great joy in relationship. Your supportive community will grow. Your family will become more close-knit. And, as Cigna found out, your health and the health of your children will improve. You will live longer…and that means you can enjoy one another’s company and love even longer!

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.)

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!

How to Spend Quality Time with Your Children

Our children crave quality time with us, their parents and families. In fact, they need quality time with us. Quality time is the currency of love in our children’s world. It purchases their sense of security and it is crucial to their emotional and mental health. Quality time creates a sense of safety that allows them to explore their world, learn about their life, and grow more mature. One of the best ways to spend quality time with your children is to enter their world rather than expecting them to enter your world. When you enter your children’s world of play, imagination, and thought you learn so much about them and you help them grow more mature. Of course, sometimes we find it difficult to enter our children’s world. After all, it’s just so… well…childish.  But the benefits to their emotional and mental health are enormous. Here are some tips to help you enter their world.

  • Let them lead the play rather than you leading them. As they direct the play, you can narrate what is happening like a sport’s caster narrating the play. When you do this, your children feel valued and appreciated. They know you consider them significant enough to pay attention to. (Investing Time & Attention in Your Children will give you more ideas for letting your children lead the play).
  • Let your children choose the toy. When children are expected to play with a toy not of their choosing, they quickly become bored. Their attention span shortens and their interest wanes. You actually help increase your children’s attention span when you follow their lead and let them choose the toys and objects of play (For more read Nurture Your Child’s Attention Span).
  • Be available during the play without imposing your desires on them. Instead of suggesting what your children “could do,” delve into what they are doing and enjoy it. Enjoy their imagination, their ideas, and their activities. Your children will learn the importance and power of their ideas.
  • Allow children to enjoy independent, unstructured play while you remain available to them. Studies suggest that children allowed to engage in independent play have higher IQ’s than those who engaged only in adult led and structured play (Read Make Your Child “a Head Taller than Himself” for more).

In other words, a great way to have quality time with your children is to let your children teach you rather than trying to teach them. When we allow our children to teach us, we let them have the joy of discovering themselves.

4 Marital Weapons of Mass Destruction

Father and BridePeople often enter into marriage armed with weapons of mass destruction. (We also possess tools to help our marriages flourish. Read about them in 4 Tools for a Happy Marriage.) These weapons will sink your marriage if you do not disarm them. Unfortunately, many people do not know the potential danger of these weapons. Many do not even know they carry such dangerous weapons into their marriages. As a result, they accidently discharge them with their spouses and sink their marriages. To avoid the dangers these weapons present to your marriage, you must become aware of them and disarm them. What are the weapons of mass destruction in your marriage? Let me briefly describe four.

  • Disrespect can blow your marriage apart. Disrespect does not appear all that dangerous when seen one “tiny” incident at a time. However, these “tiny” incidents add up. Words and actions of disrespect, no matter how small, accumulate. Your spouse may ignore disrespectful words and actions for a time, even laugh them off. Still, those disrespectful words and actions are not forgotten. They lodge deep within your spouse’s heart and mind. Like a time bomb waiting to explode, they build up pressure and move forward in a silent countdown until…they blow your marriage to smithereens from the inside out. Disarm this dangerous weapon with respect.
  • Passivity will destroy your marriage as well. A lack of involvement in the practical, day to day activities of nurturing and maintaining your marriage will leave an emotional emptiness in your spouse. As you give away your responsibility to care for your marriage, the emptiness in your spouse will grow larger. If you do not become actively involved in nurturing, caring for, and growing your marriage, the emptiness in your spouse will become a vacuum. Nothing can fill that vacuum but your active involvement in your marriage. If you do not step in and become actively involved, that vacuum will grow until your relationship implodes. The foundation of commitment and trust will disappear as the walls of love collapse inward into an empty abyss of darkness. Prevent this collapsing vacuum from destroying your relationship by becoming actively involved in your marriage.
  • Resentment will also sink your marriage. Any anger you harbor against your spouse or parents will grow into resentment and bitterness. That resentment will distort your vision. It will interfere with your ability to see your spouse’s positive contributions. Instead of recognizing acts of love you will perceive self-seeking benefits. Instead of admiration you will see manipulation. Instead of cooperation you will see nagging demands. I know it’s hard to believe, but resentment and bitterness will distort your vision dramatically. Eventually, you will blindly fire this resentment at your spouse like a torpedo. You will repeatedly fire torpedoes of resentment into your spouse’s loving, admiring, collaborative efforts and sink your marriage in the deep waters of bitterness. There is only one way to disarm resentment—forgiveness (read 5 Steps for Forgiving Family).
  • Pride will also devastate your marriage. Pride will render you insensitive to the needs of others. An exaggerated sense of your own self-importance blinds you to the needs of others, makes you disinterested in their pains and their joys, and leaves you insensitive to their needs and desires. You will trample on your spouse’s feelings while focused on your own needs and desires. You will crush opportunities to connect as you revel in your own sense of importance. And, as you do, your marriage will experience nuclear devastation. Avoid this nuclear devastation by humbly seeking your spouse’s best interest.

These four weapons of mass destruction can destroy your marriage if left armed and unattended. Take the time now to disarm them. Humble yourself. Forgive those you need to forgive. Get involved in your marriage. Show your spouse deep respect. In so doing, you will save your marriage and build a great, lasting joy!

My Child Is So Immature!

Have you ever looked at your children and wondered what they were thinking. They seem to do the strangest things and do so without even thinking. Sometimes they even act like two-year-olds (although the other day my daughter said I was acting like a 5-year-old…maybe the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree). You may have even said to yourself, “They are so immature!” I have; and, I have heard many other parents say similar things. In my more rational moments, I respond to that statement with one word…GOOD! Yes, good! Children are supposed to be immature…they are, after all, children. They are learning and growing. Our job, as parents, is to help them become more mature. Character is one important area of maturity that we help them develop. When our children develop positive character they become trustworthy and reliable, which fosters better social relationships. Children with positive character also work hard, learn from mistakes, persevere, and experience more success. How can you help your children develop the character that you can be proud of? Here are a few things you can do to help your children develop a strong and positive character.
     ·         Become actively involved in your children’s character development. If you do not instill positive character traits into your children, someone else will. If you do not model and teach your children the character traits you value, they will learn the character traits modeled through the media, their peers, or from others in the community.

·         Notice and acknowledge acts of kindness. When your children do something nice, acknowledge it. When another child or a neighbor does something nice, notice it. Doing so informs your children that you value kindness. While you are at it, model kindness in your interactions with your children and with others you meet throughout the day. Children learn more from our actions than our lectures and instructions. Let them see you put kindness into action toward family, friends, strangers, and even those you “are not particularly fond of.”

·         Encourage your children to include others. Teach them to be inclusive rather than exclusive. Reinforce the idea that love reaches out to others, regardless of skin color, clothing choices, interests, beliefs, music preference, grade achievement, or any other marker we use to establish our “groups.” Let your children know they can disagree with someone and still treat them with kindness, respect, and gratitude. Practice this in your own life as well.

·         Promote responsibility in your children. Involve them in “running the household” by giving them household chores to complete. Hold them responsible for their decisions. Teach them to finish what they start.

·         Learn to give together. Talk about various charitable organizations and the work they do. Pick one or two organizations your children seem interested in and donate your time, energy, or finances to those organizations. You may volunteer for the organization or raise money for them. I especially like the idea of volunteering. Volunteering allows your children to get to know the people they help. It also teaches them that, in spite of circumstances, the people they help are people with strengths and weaknesses just like you and me. 

·         Watch the TV shows your children like. Listen to the music they like. Play the video games they like to play. Do all three of these activities with them. Use the TV characters, the music lyrics, and the video game concepts as opportunities to learn about their interests and how they think. These “media adventures” provide excellent opportunities to discuss the character of the person on the TV show, the message of the song lyrics, or the goals of the video game. Enter these conversations from a point of curiosity, not lecture, and your children may surprise you with the character they reveal through their mature answers.
 
I’m sure you have more ideas to help your children develop than the six ideas listed above. How do you help your children develop character? What activities do you and your children share in an effort to develop character? Let us know in the comment section below. Your comments can help us all grow children of strong, positive character.