Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Respecting Your Elders/ Respecting Authority -- Kevin Weaver, Springfield Father of Three

The legendary coach, Vince Lombardi, once said, “Football is like life – it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority,” and most from the Baby Boomer and Gen X generations would agree. However, in the past few decades we have witnessed a growing American mindset that often embodies the spirit of disregard for authority and disrespect for elder society members. Before anyone dismisses what I’m saying and chalks this up to another rambling opinion from an “older and out-of-touch” Gen Xer, hold on. I am fully aware that in many regards, this country that offers us the freedom to share our opinions was in some ways very much founded on rebelling against authority. 

Authority, as history records, that had little regard for the common man and sought ultimate power. At the same time, authority, in and of itself, cannot only be a good thing, but in its purest form . . . a necessary thing. In conjunction with demonstrating and teaching our children about authority, we have the opportunity to also model respect and honor for our elders. But, as with anything in parenting, or our current world in general, balance plays a critical role.

How can we lovingly and effectively display the proper use of authority and the values of respecting elder members within our family and community? Perhaps it is in our understanding and communication of the meaning of these things. I recall my wife retelling of the time she was pulled over for a speeding infraction, with all three of our then young sons in the car. Not only was she embarrassed, she was both mad at herself and upset about the impending consequences, such as fines and increased insurance rates. Tears ensued as she meekly took the ticket from the officer’s hand.

Initially, our sons sat in stunned silence, but eventually one piped up, “Mom, are you mad at the police officer who gave you that ticket? Is he bad? He made you cry!”

My wife replied, “No, I’m only mad at myself. The police officer was simply doing his job. I broke the law, when I wasn’t watching how fast I was going. The police officer was enforcing rules that are put in place to protect us, not hurt us . . . they serve to do just the opposite.”

This little anecdote serves to paint the bigger picture of what real authority should look like: the people and guardrails put in our lives to guide and protect us. With this understanding of “authority,” it becomes easier for us to model and teach our children to adhere to it. Are there abuses of authority? Of course. As parents, along with the good aspects of anything, we have to navigate our young to identifying the bad.

When broaching the subject of authority, often we think of our “elders.” Traditionally, in almost every culture, the elders of a community have been held in high regard. Again, in these modern times we do not always see this. There are instances of elder abuse, and complete disregard for someone deemed as no longer “contributing” to society. But what rich experiences we can give our children in the way of connecting them with those older than themselves. Remind children the “old people” or “grandpas” they see in the store have a life story. Was he a teacher? Was she a scientist? Did he climb Mt. Everest?

Also remind your young they will one day be old. It is important to live each day well and to honor those who have gone before them. Create opportunities to have your children hear the exploits of your great uncle who served in Korea, or your mom’s cousin who was the first girl at her school to make the golf team. My wife once had a student whose aging grandmother ran in the Olympics. No teacher had ever asked the grandmother to come share in a class setting, so imagine the awe and wonder of the students at being able to hear from a real, live Olympian! Not only that, it made her a person, not just a grandma or “old lady” to the young children.

Look at your family, your neighborhood. Find those treasures in your life that have so much to share with your children. For it is perhaps as the journalist Andy Rooney once said, “The best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly person.”

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

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Why I Don't Care to Be a Substitute Teacher Anymore -- Good Dads Staff, Rhonda Andersen

After 24 years of teaching in parochial schools, my husband, Larry, and I retired and moved to the Springfield area.  Our daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter live in Willard, so moving to Brookline was ideal.  We were close enough to see each other and yet far enough away that we wouldn’t run into one another every time we went to the store.

Larry and I had discussed ideas of what we would be doing to supplement our income.  We made some plans and God laughed!  Our plans were not His plans! Larry decided to be a part-time school bus driver for the Republic school district.  His part-time changed within the first few months of school--he now has a daily route driving each morning and afternoon!  So much for sleeping in every morning!  He is also a trained Fatherhood Development Curriculum facilitator for Good Dads.  I even got him involved!

My plans for retirement were to be a substitute teacher.  I loved being a teacher and I love working with kids.  I thought with Springfield Lutheran School, as well as the other parochial and private schools in the area, I would be able to pick and choose when and where I wanted to teach.  My first stop in my quest to be a substitute in Springfield was at Springfield Lutheran School.  To me, this stop was the most logical because of my experience in Lutheran Schools in California, Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri.  I thought this born and raised Minnesota girl could spread “Minnesota Nice” to the Springfield Lutheran School.  At SLS I had the pleasure of meeting principal Mr. Paul Baker.  We had a delightful visit and I agreed to send him my contact information.
That was in early August. By mid to late August I had a few sub dates set up with SLS.  These dates were not all meant to be. After church services, Paul Baker mentioned to me several times that his wife Jennifer needed some help at her office. He told me, “She runs a non-profit and could use some help.  I should have her talk to you.”   I said that would be fine.  I would be open to talking to her about helping her out. 

Now, if you know Paul Baker, you know that he can be persistent.  If you know Jennifer Baker, you know that she doesn’t like to be pushed into anything.  With Paul’s persuading, Jennifer and I spoke and sent up a time to meet at the Good Dads office.  After talking with Jennifer for about an hour, I was hired as the newest assistant at Good Dads!

I could end here and be done.  However, there is SO much more to this story!  I have worked at Good Dads for 4 ½ months and I LOVE it!  I have learned so much about the needs of dads and kids.  My own attitudes and opinions have changed as I have gotten to know the dad we serve.   I realize the importance of training facilitators to help men be better dads.  I am excited to compile facilitator manuals and participant binders for the dads.  I enjoy making phone calls to dads reminding them of an upcoming class or checking in with them to see how things are going.  I love hearing the stories when a dad gets to see his child for the first time in a very long time.  I enjoy getting teary-eyed when a dad receives a Christmas gift from us.  I look forward to seeing what a difference love, kindness, and respect can make in dad’s life.
I thought I would be doing the giving as a substitute teacher--I was wrong.  I have received so much more than I could possibly imagine.  My co-workers, Janice and Lisa, are a joy to work with each day.  The camaraderie we share is amazing.  Working for Dr. Baker is such an exciting opportunity.  Her knowledge and insight to the dilemma of fathers in today’s society is second to none.  I am honored to working her. God has placed me where He wants me to be.  His plan is most definitely the best plan.  Who knows, maybe someday I’ll go back to substitute teaching.  But, for now, I’m right where I need to be. 

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Prime Good Dad -- Daniel Skidmore

In February Daniel Skidmore was driving his truck in Illinois in when he got the call his wife, Kerry, was in early labor. Her water had broken and she was headed to the hospital. He quickly got on the phone with his fleet manager at Prime headquarters and was told he could bring his load into Springfield, Missouri and catch a flight out of the airport there. Jackson Daniel Skidmore was five weeks early, but he still waited just long enough for his daddy to arrive.

Daniel recalls, “I made it to the hospital less than two hours before my first born was delivered via emergency C-section. Prime is and will always be a family-first company, and I’m so grateful to be a part of it. Who knows, in 21 years I might be training him how to drive with us."

Daniel has been driving for Prime since December 2015. He began his career with another company, but says he quickly changed to Prime when learned of the great benefits there. In 2016 he became a CDL instructor, something he has enjoyed doing for the past three years. He sees driver training as both an art form and skill set. “You can teach someone the skills necessary to pass the Missouri Department of Transportation test, but knowing how to drive under different conditions and a variety of settings—that’s an art form that can only be learned in real life situations.” This is what Daniel hopes to teach the new drivers he trains.

A native of central West Virginia, Daniel initially sought employment in manufacturing or warehousing when he moved Florida in 2015. The jobs available did not pay well. At some point, he started thinking about driving and consulted Kerry about the opportunity and possibility. He found both her and his parents to be both encouraging and supportive. “She wanted to be a stay-at-home mom and my driving allows it.”

Even though he’s on the road and Kerry is at home with Jackson, Daniel sees his wife’s ongoing support as vital to his success and happiness as a driver. “Kerry,” he insists, “is my emotional rock” and explains how he found talking with her reassuring while recently driving in wintry conditions.

“Today,” Daniel says, “I can’t imagine doing anything else. The view outside my ‘office’ window changes every mile. I like the challenge of driving—the multiple calculations I need to make with fuel, hours of service, and parking to be successful. It makes me think!”

Daniel typically drives four to six weeks before returning home for a break. In order to stay happy and healthy on the road he recommends the following:

1.  While on the road, find time for “you,” that is your own space even when you have another driver with you. It’s important to preserve at least some personal space.

2.  Plan “daddy days” when you’re home. For Daniel this means taking full responsibility caring for his son. “It gives my wife a break and allows me to bond with my son,” He explains. He acknowledges that Kerry’s help in making a detailed list and schedule goes a long way to helping him be successful in this regard.

3.  Help out your wife when you’re home. She carries the burden most of the time when you’re gone.

4.  Arrange with your fleet manager to be home for special occasions, e.g., Christmas and birthdays.

Although he can’t be home as often as he likes, Daniel still thinks a great deal about what he wants for his son. He has strong ideas about how he plans to train and influence Jackson. “He needs to know how to properly treat a woman. I want him to treat his partner with love and respect. I want him to know that home is a safe place, even when he’s made mistakes. Kerry and I will try to be firm and fair no matter what has happened.”

With an attitude, aspirations and support like this, it’s easy to see how and why Daniel is a Prime Good Dad.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Teaching Good Manners -- Nixa Father of Three, Herb Cody


I grew up with a brother who was less than two years younger than me. We were raised by our hard working, single mother, along with equally hard working grandparents. I never really remember being taught “manners.” We kinda just learned as we went along. My brother and I were the worst when it came to table manners while at home. We spent the majority of the time trying to entertain each other with constant toots, belches and jokes. We spoke with our mouths full of food and our elbows on the table. 

As we grew older, our mom remarried and our baby sister came along. We began to eat out more. This is when we began to learn how to act more appropriately while around others. Still, I don’t remember being given any speech about manners, just being threatened after we did something inappropriate in public. 

Now, here I am, an adult father of three . . . and in charge of teaching my kids about manners. My oldest daughter, now 15, does a great job at home and in public. I couldn’t be more proud of the young lady we have raised. I really don’t think I can take much of the credit; she just gets it.

My boys, on the other hand, are a work in progress. My fourteen-year-old makes conversation at the table as if he is trying to speak to a room of 200. I’m constantly trying to get him to bring his voice down. Rather than cut a steak or chicken breast with a fork and knife, he prefers to pick up the slab of meat with his fork and gnaw on it like a caveman. When he does attempt to cut something, he ends up sawing at it while other items on the plate go flying everywhere.

My soon to be eight-year-old is a complete mess at home, but somehow pulls it together when in public. At home, he spills a beverage at least once a week. When he puts something in his mouth he doesn’t like the taste or texture of, it almost immediately comes right back out onto his plate. Both of my boys love to burp and fart, and I get it. My brother and I acted the same when we were young. I constantly point out to them, if they were to do these things in public, it would be inappropriate and they would get in trouble.

For the most part, I allow them to be comfortable and free to be themselves at home, with the understanding they are to be respectful in public, or in other homes. Our only rules at dinner time at home are no TV or device use. 

Fortunately, so far, there have been no complaints, and I’ve actually had people compliment me on how well behaved they are. My children have seen other kids act out in a public setting, and understood how wrong and ridiculous those kids looked. I think I’ve just been blessed with kiddos that get it, and I’m very thankful for that.

Herb Cody is a husband and father of three. He is a part time Uber driver and full time caregiver of his spouse, who suffered a traumatic brain injury after an auto accident November, 2015. Herb loves football and is a St Louis Cardinals fanatic. He and his family live in Nixa MO. Herb can be reached for questions or comments at herbie05@yahoo.com.

You can check out Herb's own blog at, www.thecodylife.weebly.com

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Teaching Good Manner -- Crystal Roberts, Good Dads Board Member

When I told my husband, Tobi, that I’d be writing a blog about courtesy and good manners he immediately said, “I’m not reading that, I hear you talk about it every day”, and he’s right.  I’m a stickler about manners; table manners, physical manners, manners with communication showing respect for your elders, neighbors and friends and being a courteous person.  All three of our children know this all too well. 

When I was younger, my mother was adamant about table manners.  If we chewed with our mouths open during dinner then we would sit on our hands for the remainder of the meal and observe the manners of others.  We were allowed to eat after everyone else finished, but she wouldn’t force people at the table to be subjected to our bad manners if we were unable to behave after being warned.  At the time I thought it was cruel and unusual punishment but as an adult, attending dinners for business, I have been grateful.  But please . . . don’t tell my mother I said so.

I’m not quite as strict about table manners, but I regularly say, “Is your nose stopped up?” when I see or hear open-mouth chewing.  In our house, it is only acceptable to chew with your mouth open when you cannot breathe out of your nose and you may be unable to breathe otherwise.  This basic question has become such a regular occurrence that I no longer have to tell them why I’m asking.  I get an immediate apologetic look, and the “see food” at the table ends.  It’s a parenting win!

When Libby was young, we began manners simply by calling others by a respectable name, Ms., Mrs. or Mr. (insert first name here).  As she got older, we added more expectations when it was age appropriate.  We put our napkin in our lap.  We say "excuse me" after accidental “gas leaks."  We hold the door open for others.  We respect our elders.  We use utensils, without scraping our plate or our teeth, instead of fingers.  We use good manners in stores and at restaurants:  no screaming, no whining, no tantrums and we are kind to our waiter/waitress.  We talk about making good choices and the consequences of rude behavior.

We expected Libby to say please and thank you with her requests and to answer with "ma’am" or "sir" after her yes or no responses.   She caught on quickly to the difference between respectful and rude behavior and garnered attention from nearby ears when we were in public.  Libby was delighted in the positive feedback she received from being so polite and she continued on her own.  I was always surprised by how many people were listening to our conversations and how freely they offered their feedback of how I parented and how she behaved.

When our family became blended, and we added two wonderful little boys, the expectations continued, and they gladly complied as they loved the attention received for a job well done.  Children who have good manners get to make their own choices in every day tasks and they love “being big” and deciding things on their own!  Our children (Libby, Brady and Colin), have become so familiar with the expectations that when they ask for something and forget their manners we just wait until they realize what they forgot and they try again without being asked.  “I want milk” is ignored and within seconds it is followed up by, “May I please have milk?"  We are attempting to raise productive, caring and respectful adults and our most important job is to teach them the results of their actions so they will know how to make their own good choices.

Another area where we have been consistent since the children were young was with manners in public.  If we are in a store and the children ask us to buy them something, they will be told "no."  If they ask for nothing and maintain good behavior throughout the entire trip, we may talk about getting something special at the checkout.  It is a rare occurrence, but getting something not on the list at the store is understood to be a special occasion.

Teaching the children good manners isn’t an easy task. Some days are better than others, and everyone has the occasional bad day, but the most important thing is to be consistent.  Our hope in enforcing, teaching and expecting courteous behavior and good manners is that our kids will know what to do even when we aren’t there to provide guidance.  We believe that all children are good and can do their personal best if they just know why they should put forth the effort.

Crystal Reynolds Roberts is a mother to one daughter and a bonus mom to two boys, a partner in Pinnacle Consulting, CPAs, and a member of multiple boards, including Good Dads.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

"No Thank-You!" -- Dr. Jennifer Baker, Good Dads Founder

“No thank you. I’ve had an excellent sufficiency. Anymore would be a superfluous animosity. However, your cuisine would please the most fastidious gourmet.”

These are the words my father taught us to say when we had had enough to eat. We learned this expression when my sister exclaimed, “I’m so full I’m about to bust,” at the dinner table.

“Young ladies and gentlemen," he said, “do not express themselves in this way.” And then he offered the above alternative. We really were not certain what it meant, but we memorized and used it because it was a lot more fun to say—specially to extended family and visitors, than the “about to bust” declaration.

My father’s admonition was mostly tongue-in-cheek. He didn’t really expect us to use the “excellent sufficiency” statement on every occasion. After all, we were farm kids and dinner was hardly a formal affair. Nonetheless, my parents expected us to learn and practice good manners. Polite conduct, they believed, would help us make our way in life.
And so we learned how to sit at the table, the proper way to use silverware, to place our napkin in our lap, and how to ask for something we wanted. No one picked up a fork until everyone was seated and grace said. At the end of the meal, we requested to be excused before we left our seats. We were expected to eat at least a small bite of everything and express our appreciation to the hostess (typically our mother). Rude or rowdy behavior was strongly discouraged, but good conversation was welcomed. 

By today’s less formal standards, it might seem as though those farm family dinners were restrictive, but I recall them fondly. As the five of us (my sister, brother, mother, father and I) enjoyed a meal we all helped produce, we often laughed, talked and shared stories of our day. I’m sure I took it for granted at the time, but years’ later friends remarked to me about how much they enjoyed sharing dinner time with us. Good manners, that is, the courteous way we were trained, encouraged and required to treat each other, were part of this.

My husband and I also thought it important to teach our children good mealtime manners. We were familiar with the research on the importance of family dinner time to a child’s well-being (e.g., children do better academically who eat dinner with their families several nights a week). I’d like to say it was a joy to teach them table manners, but it wasn’t always fun or easy. Children, it seems, have many peculiar habits related to food, eating and “natural gas.” I’m not certain why belching and farting is such fun activity when the family is gathered, but this was the way of things at our house. We tried to get them to “squelch a belch” or “silence flatulence” and they told us they were about to explode. Eventually, we ceased our efforts to stop them, borrowed from my father’s creative instruction, and simply required them to do one of two things: 1) Go outside and run around the entire house three times while we watched from the window; or 2) Stand at the far end of the house inside and count to 100 loud enough for all of us to hear before returning to the table. Either way, the inconvenience of interrupting one’s dinner to exercise or recite greatly diminished the fun of farting at mealtime.

Today when our family gathers, there are six adults and eight children. Learning and demonstrating good manners is part of that activity. We enjoy each other’s company. We linger at the dinner table. We compliment the host. The adults are in pretty good form when it comes to courteous behavior; the kids have a ways to go, but they’re learning. It’s not easy to teach children how to conduct themselves at the dinner table. Sometimes it feels both frustrating and fruitless, but learning how to do so can go a long way to creating and increasing self-confidence in our young people. 

Think about how you want your children to relate to others. With what kind of people—adults and children—do you prefer to spend your time? Do your children have the skills to competently manage an enjoyable meal with others? How would you like them to behave?  Get together with your spouse or support system and talk about how you can work together to make 2019 a year of good manners.