Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Helping Your Children with "Firsts"

At the first of the year, my mind is often brought back to the many “firsts” I have been blessed to witness my children experience. There are those “firsts” with which most dads are familiar – the first steps, first words, first days of school, first bike ride without training wheels, first driving lesson, and first date. Most of the aforementioned are joyous firsts, but of course we experience some hard firsts with our kids as well. First illness, first bumped head, first scraped knee, first fender bender, and first heartbreak. Other “firsts,” such as the first fall the eldest child is off at college, are a little bit of both – bittersweet in many ways. And as much as I like to think “firsts” are just for kids, I know they indeed are not. Life is full of what we adults call “changes,” but in truth, they are simply an endless stream of “firsts.”

Because of the nature of my job, a very real “first” my wife and I had to help our sons navigate came by way of moving. We had to work at giving our boys the opportunity to both experience all of the wonderful benefits of living in various cities, small towns, and even one other country, while maintaining a consistent sense of “home.” Many adults struggle with the change that moving brings, but to a child, it can be downright scary. While the majority of you reading this may not see yourself ever having to move your family from where you currently reside, some of the principles applied to making a move to a new place as smooth as possible can apply to so many other “firsts.” Especially “firsts” such as going from middle school to high school, leaving for college, or first days on a job. So, with that in mind, here are a few things I’ve learned along the “firsts” trail of life…

     Remind yourself and your children – often – that getting used to something new takes time.
Before any move, we would tell our kids, “A year from now, you are going to love this place! You’ll see!” Okay, I know a year sounds like forever to our kids, but too many parents say unrealistic things such as, “You are going to have great friends on the very first day!” Um, more than likely, you won’t. But, when a kid is thinking 12 months, and 12 days later they make one, really good friend? Golden. Again, this also can apply to something such as a student simply moving from one grade level to the next.  If we focus on this reality, we can find joy in the journey – guaranteed!

·      Build knowledge and excitement for the adventure ahead!
Study, explore and discuss various aspects of the upcoming “first.” Nervous about the first day of school? Call the school and see if you can take your child on a private tour of the building to get acclimated without feeling overwhelmed. Rent a fun James Patterson movie based on one of his middle school novels. Share your own experiences – both good and embarrassing, as your child will love hearing them. If you’re moving, get online, search the local parks, history, festivals, and events. If you’re moving before the school year begins, see if there are some summer programs you can get your kids in that will help them get to know other kids so that “first day” later on is easier to look forward to than dread.

        Stay Gold . . . and Silver
My wife drove us nuts singing it, but there’s some solid truth to the old Girl Scout song, “Make new friends, but keep the old . . . one is silver and the other’s gold.” She was forever telling our boys that with each new experience was the opportunity to gather more friends. At the same time, we worked hard to make it as easy as possible for the boys to maintain the cherished friendships they already had . . . and don’t underestimate the Gold and Silver of your own family.  With each new adventure, we were poised with the opportunity draw closer to each other like never before.  As a dad, that’s what I treasured most!

Whatever “firsts” you are facing as a family, more than any other tried and true advice I can offer is simply the reminder that when facing the “firsts” together, remember that they can be the firsts of many great things to come.

Kevin Weaver, CEO of Network211 and father of three sons, lives with his wife KyAnne in Springfield, MO. He enjoys spending time with family, hunting and watching University of Kansas basketball with his boys! He can be reached at kweaver@network211.com

Thursday, January 12, 2017

A Dad's New Year Resolution

A man goes through quite a few stages as a father. Each stage has unique challenges that require any you can be an even better dad by just giving a little thought to your child’s needs and your responsibilities.

The beginning of a new year is often accompanied by resolutions, by many, to make needed changes. The change necessary could relate to eating habits, exercise, or to being a kinder, gentler person. A resolution I think could be the greatest asset to your family would be to be the best father you can be!

Below are some thoughts on minimal steps to be a ‘good dad’, if not a great dad! These thoughts are from my experience as a father, grandfather, and author, and my wife's experience as a ‘Parent Educator’. I don’t recommend depending on this advice alone! There are many awesome parenting books out there (including mine) and I recommend that you read them! But for you dads that don’t or won’t read parenting books, here is a shortcut. Of course, it’s not as simple as reading a checklist. A lot of work and interpretation is involved! It is also very important to communicate clearly with your child’s mother regarding all aspects of parenting.

Before Kids
 1. Find a wonderful mate
 2. Fall in love (not infatuation.)
 3. Marry this loved one (highly preferred.)
 4. Really WANT to have a child!
 5. Have intimate relations with your mate (you are on your own here.)
 6. Be mentally ready (If you are fortunate, you will have a healthy child which will change your life)

Baby Baby
 7. Keep them safe! (This includes a proper car seat.)
 8. Hold the baby, feed the baby, and talk to the baby!
 9. Change the baby’s diapers! (If you don’t, you’re a wimp!)
10. Read to the baby! (The baby will associate snuggling, comfort, and love with books)
11. Continue to help the mother in all aspects of parenting!

Toddler Time
12. Watch closely as your toddler will be adventurous! (Stairs, small objects, sharp objects are all dangerous)
13. Read to your toddler! (Always very important!)
14. Love and comfort your toddler (but don’t pick them up at every whimper)
15. Assist them in standing and walking (make them work at it a bit)​
16. As they get a little older, talk to them about potty training (maybe show-time for boys will help)
17. Don’t push them too hard in getting out of diapers (but don’t be lazy about it)

Pre-school to Tween
18. Some things get easier and other things get tougher as a parent (e.g. no diapers, but more attitude)
19. Buckle their seat belt
20. When you get home, ask them how they’re doing (and listen!)
21. Check school work (help them learn but don’t solve problems for them)
22. Take them with you on errands (it may take twice as long but it will make memories and connections)
23. Experience stuff together (fishing, ballgames, camping, swimming, whatever creates memories together)
24. Praise their efforts, especially their persistence
25. Challenge them with tasks just beyond their perceived capability (give them enough help that they don’t give up)

Teen Time

26. Buckle your seat belt! (You know what I mean.)
27. Be a good example (you can no longer fool them.)
28. Continue to do stuff together as much as possible! (It may be tough but not so much if you have developed traditions.)
29. Give them some space and show them trust (but verify, verify, verify)
30. At some reasonable point in time, talk about bird and bees and real life. (You might learn something!)
31. Be willing to be “hated” for doing the right thing for your teens.
32. Be conscious of likely peer pressure. (As a teen, impressing their friends will likely take precedence over being straight with you.)
33. Help them when it makes them stronger. Don’t help them if it makes them weaker.
34. Expect solid contributions from them to maintain the household.
35. Teach goals, integrity, and education

Your child will have become the person they will most likely be the rest of their life. Not everything they do right is to your credit, nor is everything they do wrong your fault. Some life experiences will change them, but your influence on their childhood will be a significant influence on who they are. Remain involved and give advice when asked.

Becoming a father is a blessing for a man. Being a Dad is a blessing for his child. Be involved, be knowledgeable, be loving, be consistent, be fun, and have principles!  But most importantly, ‘be there’ for your children when they need your reassurance, help, love, and understanding. Read about parenting. There is always something to learn. You will always be very influential in your children’s lives but you won’t always know when it has or will happen. Be sure your influence is something of which you can be very proud! Never be satisfied, always challenge you children and yourself!

Michael Smith, the author of The Power of Dadhood: How to Become the Father Your Child Need, is the father of three adult children and grandfather of four. He is a retired US Air Force officer and resides with his wife in St. Louis, MO. Michael can be reached for question or comment at mike@michaelbyronsmith.com

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Teaching "New" -- by Jeffrey Sippy, a Dad-in-Training

The New Year is a time “New.”  But New is not always so nice.  New means change and change means challenge.  New might not be fun for you.

New represents the unknown—from a child’s first day of school to a Dad bringing home his baby for the first time.  The unknown stirs questions of who we are and how we feel: Will I be liked?  Will I know what I am doing?  Will I be any good?  

These questions are just a few when it comes to the New.  There are girls who do not want to go bowling on a date because they don’t want to be laughed at.  There are boys who do not want to go skiing for fear of falling down.  The New does not always seem so good for you.     

There is a temptation to fight the fear of the New with a Herculean bravado.  There is a saying that   “When the going gets tough the tough get going.”  This is not always true.  Throwing children off the high dive is not the best way to overcome a fear of heights. 

New can be good for you.  But new isn’t easy—not for me, not for you, and not for our children.  So here are some encouragements for Good Dads helping their children find the good in the New: 
  • Set aside some time to talk about the New.  The answer may be the same in the end, but don’t be too quick to get there.  Go out for lunch.  Snuggle up on the bed.
  • Listen.  Really listen.  Don’t say, “You don’t need to be afraid.”  Acknowledge feelings.  “Wow.  I can see this is bothering you.  This would be hard for me, too.” 
  • Empathize.  Remember a time you were afraid of the New, too.  You might ask for permission, “May I share a story with you?”  But do not presume the feelings or the outcome is the same.  Your only goal is to say, “I have been afraid, too.”
  • Choose your battles.  Your child does have to go to school.  But your child does not have to play soccer, stay in the band, go out for cheerleading, or go on a date.  Good Dads are gracious Dads, patient Dads, and accepting Dads.
  • Be proud.  When your child does something New tell him, “I am really proud of you for trying something New.  Tell me, now do you feel?”    

The New is not always easy—not for me or for you.  I don’t always feel I am a Good Dad or good at other things.  It doesn’t help me when people say, “You shouldn’t feel that way.”  It does help when people say, “What can I do to help?” and “I am proud of you.” 

You are a Good Dad and what you do isn’t easy. Every day is new for you.  I am proud of you.  

 Jeff Sippy, a Dad-In-Training, is the father of three young men and the husband of Cindy. He enjoys sailing every chance that he gets. He is the senior pastor at Redeemer Lutheran in Springfield, MO and can be reached for question or comment at jsippy@rlcmail.org

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Year-End Reflections on Happy Family Outcomes -- Springfield Grandfather Mark Mildren

I am a 67-year-old grandfather, married to one woman, Lynda, for almost 45 years. I have a 38-yr-old daughter and a 36-year-old son. Both are happily married and each has children. I am proud of my family, and the fact both of our kids have turned out to be successful in their individual lives.

Lynda and I waited to have children for six years after getting married. We wanted for me to finish seminary education at SMU and for us to have some time married before having children. And we wanted, if possible, to have a son and a daughter. Our plans worked out pretty well!

Our hopes for our children to make it on their own have been fulfilled. They have found intelligent mates to marry. They have their own homes, and they work hard at parenting. How did our kids turn out so well?
I reflected on that question this week. There is no single thing that created them becoming good people, but rather many things. It began with us wanting to have children, and waiting for a good time where we could more easily care for them. Lynda was a stay-at-home mom until both kids were in grade school, so she could devote her full attention to them. Once in grade school, she just worked part-time so she could send the kids off to school in the morning, and be home when they got out of school. That was very intentional. We could have used the extra money if she had worked full time, but we both thought it would be better for the kids to do it this way.

At dinner time we sat at the table together and talked about the day. Mealtime became an important part of our family routine. Lynda was awesome in helping the kids with homework as they grew older. On Sundays we all went to church together, and all of us went to Sunday school. As a pastor that was just expected, but had I not been a pastor we would have done the same. That’s the way it was when I grew up in my family. I realized that being a pastor greater scrutiny would be given to our kids by parishioners. We heard plenty of stories of rebellious preacher’s kids! We wanted to make our home life as normal as possible and not put greater pressure on our kids to conform to some image of what a “preacher’s kid” should look like. I think we did pretty good on that score.

The first half of my ministry my salary wasn’t too great, but we saved so we could always take a relaxing, week-long vacation somewhere nice, either in Florida or in Colorado. We still talk about those road trips and how much fun they were. Likewise, we took our kids to appropriate movies we could all watch together, like E.T. or Back to the Future. We lived close to the kids’ grandparents and decided to live in Missouri just for that reason. We wanted our children to really know their grandparents. That, too, had a significant effect with our children who grew up loving their grandparents, and extended family of aunts, uncles, and cousins.

I think our kids turned out very well because we invested ourselves in their lives while they lived at home. We taught our values to them, and demonstrated those values in everyday living. Perhaps one of the greatest gifts we gave to our kids was a stable and loving marriage that Elizabeth and James could observe every day. I cannot overstate how important that is! While many people in their thirties have rejected church, both of ours attend United Methodist churches in Kansas and Michigan. I am very happy knowing that. In mostly little ways we became a close family that loves being together. The investments were worth it!

Mark Mildren, father of two adults children and grandfather of three, is a retired Methodist minister. He spends part of almost every week working at Good Dads. He can be reached for question or comment at mark@gooddads.com.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Raising Givers or Takers

Someone recently asked me how my wife and I raised sons who are what they deemed as “givers.” Keep in mind, our family is flawed and faces many of the challenges all families face, but when asked this question I had to agree that giving seems to be a lifestyle for our boys. Later, when I told my wife about the conversation and asked her what she thought the key to living a giving lifestyle was she simply replied, “Kids can’t become givers until they stop being takers.”

Her sentiment stuck with me for days. Our current society is definitely one which breeds “takers.” It is fostered; it is championed; it is cheered. Thoughts of self quite often supersede thoughts of others. When it comes to parenting, I feel as if I am a broken record. But raising selfless, generous kids – kids who think of others before they think of themselves – takes teaching, training, exposure, and as always, modeling. When my boys would fight (yes, siblings sometimes fight) and become upset over not getting what they individually wanted, I had to ask myself about the kind of example I was setting. Was I griping about my job? My coworkers? The fact that I wasn’t being heard, or promoted, or lauded, or compensated, or served? And if all of this grumbling was indeed taking place in my life, was it taking place within earshot of my children? Conversely, were they hearing me speak of the needs of others? Were they hearing me make plans to donate to those less fortunate or to serve, in various capacities, my community? Were my children hearing “they” more than “me” come from my own mouth?

For years, I thought generosity was most difficult for very young children to understand. However, as my boys grew, I quickly realized that while some people seem to naturally be more “giving,” training our sons and daughters early on in the ways of generosity helps break the cycle of “me-ism” that will certainly bombard their world in their tweens, teens and beyond. Take a toddler to visit lonely “grandparents” in the nursing home. Let a preschooler tag along as you ring a neighbor’s doorbell to deliver goodies. Help a first grader make a “bank” out of an old 2 liter pop bottle, and then challenge him or her to fill it up with change to donate in order to provide blankets for the local homeless shelter.

Over the past couple of decades, all sorts of innovative ideas have surfaced regarding how to give. Everything from “you purchase a pair of shoes, a shoe-less person in another country gets a pair of shoes, too” to “buy a goat for a family in a far-off village for your Christmas” have brought awareness and “care-ness” to homes all across our country. There is no shortage of things that can be given, just a shortage of parents willing to take the time to make sure their kids get the opportunity to give.

In this season of giving, I am inspired by the words of Martin Luther King Jr. and Winston S. Churchill. May you be inspired as well.

“As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation—either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.”
Martin Luther King Jr.
“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”

Winston S. Churchill

Kevin Weaver, CEO of Network211 and father of three sons, lives with his wife KyAnne in Springfield, MO. He enjoys spending time with family, hunting and watching University of Kansas basketball with his boys! He can be reached at kweaver@network211.com

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Cultivating Thanksgiving at Christmas

*As a kid, my favorite of all the Holidays was Thanksgiving. We always celebrated at my Grandparents' house. It wasn’t out of the question to have 35-40 people gathered around five or six different tables. Their house was always full of laughter and love. Everyone would eat to their full. The parents would catch up on each others lives; the kids would catch up on play. It was a tradition I counted on, one I needed.

Thanksgiving evening, my Aunt Beckie would sit down at the old piano next to the kitchen. Like clockwork, you’d see most everyone shift their attention in her direction. She’d start playing old hymns from times past. Grandpa would always stand to the side of the piano singing with her. Pretty soon, ten other voices chimed in. If I close my eyes, I can still hear those sounds; I can still see a few tears rolling down thankful faces. It made me appreciate what I had. It helped me understand what it meant to be thankful for life and family.

With today’s fast paced culture, I’ve learned I have to be a bit more forward in how I encourage my kids to have an attitude of gratefulness. Technology, though it has it advantages, has watered down social interactions, and I want more than that for my children. I want my kids to feel the joy that sitting down at a big table with those they love, and lots of food, brings. I want them to have memories of playing outside with their cousins and friends without the burden of a cell phone. I want them to experience the unmatched feeling of giving to those who can do nothing for them in return. Twenty years from now I want them to be able sit down with their children, with watery eyes and a full heart, telling them stories of how it used to be. Just thinking about that kind of legacy makes my heart overflow.

So as we go into this Thanksgiving Holiday, here’s my wish for us all:

May our hearts be open.
May our burdens be lite.
And in all things, Be Thankful.
*We were unable to include Chris's post at Thanksgiving, but we thought much of what he said also applied to the Christmas holidays.

Chris Moss, with his wife Tiffany, keep company with five lively children. He currently resides on the outskirts of St. Louis, Missouri. Chris is the Missional Co-Founder of the grass-roots community organization The Serve Movement. He's a writer, a dreamer, and a voice for the underdog. He can be reached for comment or question at thechristophermoss@gmail.com or on Facebook (www.facebook.com/thechrismoss).

Monday, December 5, 2016

Promoting Generosity

Merry Christmas!

I think about promotions in three ways: 1) an advertised special purchase price, 2) a behavior we encourage, and 3) a position of higher responsibility in a career field.  All three apply to our role as Dad’s helping promote our children’s generosity.

I’m straying into the topic of business for a minute.  When a business thinks of promotions, it’s typically related to item 1 and 2 above.  This holiday season, Black Friday and Cyber Monday (and Tuesday, and Wednesday, and yes, I was still getting emails on THURSDAY after Thanksgiving!) are some of the biggest times of year when businesses put marketing into high gear to promote what they are selling.  Many hours and dollars are spent in a highly intentional, well-planned process, to get customers to behave a certain way. 

I think that’s a great place to start when considering how to teach our children to be generous.

Planning.  How are we dads generous?  Do we plan ways to give our time, energy, and money to others?  How about our spouse—that person we promised to love more than any other person for a lifetime?  I figure if we dads can remember our wives’ birthdays, Christmas, Valentines, Mother’s Day, and the ever-critical anniversary dates that is our bare minimum standard. 

Do whatever it takes—write it on a calendar or plug the dates into your phone.  The mother of our children should not be left wondering if we remembered to be generous with her.  It should be something we plan for, not a hastily thrown together scheme at the last minute.  Kids are watching.  If a week before the big event, Dad invites the kids to help in a “secret” project to make Mom a home made card for her birthday or to help hide her Valentine’s chocolate box, they’ll understand this generosity concept is a big deal!

Modeling Behavior.  If we want our kids to be generous, we need to be generous.  Recently, as we enjoyed some donuts downtown at the local Hurts Donut shop I asked my twin sons, “How should a Dad teach his children to be generous?”  Interesting responses:

  • He should be kind.
  • He shouldn’t get mad too easy or stay that way long.
  • He can give his money to church and help his kids give their money too.
  • He can volunteer time with Convoy of Hope (we did this one!)
  • He should make sure to put giving money in the budget.
  • He should keep working at something even if it doesn’t help himself out.
My 10-year-old boys who normally think of nothing but Minecraft and robots said these things.  Lots of active “doing” in there.  It takes a lot of work to display kindness, patience, giving, volunteering, having a plan and sticking to it.  I think these boys may have a future in business.  I definitely think they’ll be great dads some day.

Position of Responsibility.  I like to think of myself as an asset manager for God.  In my local church, we use the word “steward” to mean a person who takes care of things that belong to someone else.  The key to all of this generosity, for me, is looking at the role model of the greatest giver, my Lord Jesus Christ, and seeing a responsibility he has entrusted to me.  When I’m tired and the kids are whiny and demanding, it’s hard to think about being generous to them, my wife, or anyone else.  Some days I’d rather sit in a comfy chair, crack open a beer, and watch TV.   But I’m called to be a servant leader, and nowhere in that job description do I see, “Sit in the corner and suck your thumb until you feel better about yourself.”  Instead, by giving attention to the people around me, the selflessness that Christmas reminds us of is front and center of my calling and career as a Dad. 

Generosity starts at home.  I may not be the handsomest or fanciest Dad when the day has been a rough one, but a smile, a pat on the back, a hug, a “glad to see you today” goes a long way to showing my family how to be generous.  Sometimes a surprise trip by their favorite donut shop is more than enough to model the thoughtfulness we would have our children display toward others, and all that sugar can spark some interesting conversation!

I’m a career Dad, an asset manager who has been graciously given a wife and three kids to help “manage.”  To love, cherish, pray for, encourage, teach, and enjoy.

Sid Whiting is the father of three and the husband of one. He lives with his wife Gail and their children in Springfield, Missouri. He also enjoys real estate investing, serving in the 135th Army Band as a percussionist and bass guitarist, and plays in the Praise Band "Soul Purpose" and the "Hallelujah Bells" hand bell choir.  He can be reached for comment or question at sid.whiting75@gmail.com or on Facebook (www.facebook.com/WiseSteward).