One of my favorite authors is Malcolm Gladwell. If you're not familiar with his name, perhaps you've heard of his books. They include The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, and What the Dog Saw. His latest book is David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants. What draws me to his work is his insane ability to see what most people miss when it comes to what makes people and organizations successful.
In David and Goliath, Gladwell describes why underdogs win so often. (For a great summary of the insights in the book, read this interview of Gladwell.) Underdogs include, oddly enough, successful entrepreneurs. Why? Because entrepreneurs often succeed against formidable odds. The typical entrepreneur fails many times before they succeed, and often take a lot of flack from family, friends, and society before they succeed.
One of the characteristics of successful underdogs is that they have "desirable difficulties." In the case of entrepreneurs, it might surprise you to learn that a great number of them are dyslexic. Gladwell points out that dyslexic entrepreneurs often see their dyslexia as an advantage despite it difficulties. Overcoming dyslexia, they say, helped them to face the challenged inherent in starting and growing their businesses. They learned to see their dyslexia as a desirable difficulty, quite a difference from how most people see it.
Another desirable difficulty of successful entrepreneurs is that they're usually "disagreeable." What Gladwell means is that they don't seek the social approval of others—they don't need anyone's approval to forge ahead in pursuit of their dreams. I am convinced that this insight has an important lesson for parents.
As parents, we should cultivate disagreeableness in our children. Does that seem odd to you? It should given that most parents would bristle at the notion their children should be anything but agreeable. Disagreeableness is a characteristic that smacks of a child who is an embarrassment to their parents—a child a parent can't control, a "problem child" that will act up in class, a teenager who will never find a date to the prom. Basically, every parent's worst nightmare.
But do you want children who are captive to what others think of them and who won't pursue their dreams in spite of the difficulties they'll face? Exactly. Unless you cultivate disagreeableness, you might end up with children who are, dare I say it, wimps. Here are 5 things you can do to raise disagreeable children:
1) Take every opportunity to ask your children what they think. Parents are so often enamored with their own thoughts that they fail to ask their children what their children think. As soon as their children ask a question, their parents blurt out an answer and think, "Wow! I'm so smart!" Instead, ask your children what they think are the answers to their own questions. Simply asking your children what they think sends a clear message that their views matter. This approach takes patience because children, especially young ones, don't always have an answer. If they don't have an answer, it's vital to ask them what they think before you answer. If they don't have an answer, throw out some possibilities for them to consider so that they come to their own conclusions. If they still don't have an answer—and an answer isn't an immediate need—tell them to think about it and come back to you with their answer.
2) Encourage them to challenge you and their other parent. Tell your children that it's okay if they disagree with you, but that they must do so respectfully. Children who are comfortable with challenging their parents are more likely to be comfortable challenging others. Tell your children that they must respect your guidance for them if, ultimately, you can't come to a resolution that everyone agrees with.
3) Create a safe environment for disagreement. Tell your children in clear terms that it is okay and safe for them to share views that are different from yours. When your children disagree, listen to what they have to say, let them say it, and then respond in a normal voice and calm manner. Watch your body language. Avoid harsh reactions even if you're surprised or shocked at their views. If you find your blood pressure rising, take a deep breath or two before you respond.
4) Encourage your children to not worry about what others think. This advice doesn't mean that you teach your children that the views of others don't matter. You don't want to raise children who are insensitive and inconsiderate. It means that you should tell your children to listen to and respect others' views but that they should be comfortable in their own skin and stand behind their beliefs even when others don't approve.
5) Encourage your children to pursue their dreams. While this might be obvious advice, it's easier said than done. Children often want to pursue interests their parents disapprove of. When your children want something for themselves that you don't necessarily want for them, you must let go of your expectations for their lives. Unmet expectations have a nasty way of damaging relationships.
What's the most recent thing you've done to cultivate disagreeableness in your children?
This post is from Samuel Wakefield III. Samuel is a husband and father of two young daughters. A former public elementary school teacher, he now works to support other teachers in low-income communities. Follow him www.samuelwakefield.com on Twitter @swakefield3. Interested in blogging for us? Read our guest blog guidelines.
In Atlanta, we’re in the midst of finalizing a school board election that has gained national attention. You’ve probably heard, we’re the school district that has failed scores of our low-income students through the largest cheating scandal in our nation’s educational history. At any rate, there are a number of candidates who ran on a platform of education reform. Given the contention these days between education advocates on both side of the isle, some claiming to speak for students, others speaking for teachers, here’s my question: who is speaking for the parents (particularly fathers)? And are any of these folks talking about the same thing?
As a parent myself, and educational advocate with Teach For America, I know how difficult it is for parents to navigate the minutia of school district expectations for their child. When your kids are young, you’re their primary advocate. How do you know when your child is being cheated out of an excellent education? As fathers, we’re already at a disadvantage because society rarely expects us to be heavily involved in child-rearing.
Here are 5 tips to prepare you to be an equal partner in advocate for your child’s education:
Tip #1: Know your end game
This simply means, know what opportunities you want for your child. Every parent typically wants what’s best for their child, however not every parent knows what’s possible. If you really want your precocious son to attend that Ivy League school, then he’ll need the academic rigor necessary to prepare him. Does your public school offer that?
Tip #2: Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the academic rigor of your child’s class
A lot of parents assume that their child’s teacher knows best. Sometimes that’s wise, but other times it’s not. Take a look at the assignments your student is completing. And then go to wherever your state has standards posted for each grade level. Most states have begun to adopt Common Core Standards so this should serve as an initial guide of what your child is expected to learn in each grade. Your job is to hold your child’s teacher accountable, through partnership, for teaching your student at the highest level possible.
Tip #3: Spend time in your child’s class
Nothing cements a partnership better than face time. I can tell you from teaching experience, the parents I worked best with were the ones who were present. We were able to more easily communicate and be on the same page about our expectations for their student. Even now, I serve as a classroom helper for my daughter’s pre-k class, and just simply being there makes a ton of difference. I’m sending a message to both my daughter and her teacher that I value her education enough to take time off for field trips, or participate in after school activities. You’ve heard the old adage, actions speak louder than words. Well, this is one action that will echo for years to come.
Tip #4: Know the quality of your child’s school: Do your research on what an excellent school looks like
It’s so difficult to have a clear picture of what a quality educational experience looks like (particularly if you didn’t have one yourself growing up) unless you see it in action. Your job is to find such as school and if possible, observe a class in action, talk to a parent there, and research what makes this good school tick. Websites such as Great Schools, School Digger, and US News High School Rankings all allow you to search and find schools based on criteria such as parent feedback, test scores, and other elements that determine the quality of a school.
Tip #5: Get involved in your local school governance
At the end of the day, sometimes the challenges at your school are more systemic and go above the pay grade of your child’s teacher or principal. If moving isn’t an option and you’re committed for the long haul to making change in your child’s school, then perhaps you should consider getting involved in your local school governance structures. This could mean becoming a member of a local Parent Teacher Association (PTA) board. For more information visit The National Parent Teacher Association to learn how to get started. It could also mean running for school board yourself or supporting a specific candidate you care about. Here’s a great resource for thinking about how to choose a great school board candidate from GreatSchools.org: How to Choose a School Board Candidate.
Ultimately, it’s our responsibility to ensure that our children have a great education. Don’t be fooled. The number one determinant of how well a child does in school is how active the parents are in their education. Be the difference maker for your child.
Poverty sucks. It places adults, families, and, saddest of all, children at risk for a host of poor outcomes. If you're at all familiar with the literature on father absence, you're well aware that children in father-absent homes are much more likely to grow up in poverty.
A recent study published in the journal Science sheds more light on just how much poverty sucks. The researchers concluded that poverty reduces the "cognitive bandwidth" poor people need to make the kinds of decisions and engage in the kinds of activities necessary to lift them out of poverty. Poverty's negative effects on the brains of poor people only adds to the burden imposed by a lack of money. The researchers noted that these negative effects are likely to include a negative effect on parenting in part because of the chronic stress created by living in a constant state of scarcity.
Chronic stress "short circuits" parenting. A child in a father-absent home is at a greater risk of being raised by a parent under chronic stress. This kind of stress—as opposed to situational stress—debilitates the body's natural response to stress. Just as a circuit that gets overloaded can no longer handle its normal function of allowing an electrical current to pass through it, parents who are under chronic stress become overloaded with the activities required of day-to-day survival, which leaves little or no time for the critical function of parenting their children. Parents who are under constant stress can react with "harsh, highly reactive parenting" or "disengage" from their parenting duties and "ignore" their children.
Father involvement is a vital part of the solution to poverty and the chronic stress and poor parenting it creates. We know, from a macrolevel perspective, that communities with higher levels of father absence have higher levels of poverty. We also know, from a microlevel perspective—and common sense, that an involved father provides the human capital families need to perform the parenting functions that parents, children, and families need to avoid chronic stress and thrive.
But it's not enough just to have fathers present in their children's lives. They must be involved, responsible, committed fathers. That's where the resources of National Fatherhood Initiative help. Whether you're a father looking for tips and guidance, you work in a community-based organization, correctional facility, or military installation that serves families and need an effective fatherhood program to facilitate, or a mother who wants to share fathering information with your husband or partner, we have the resources you need to be successful. Visit fatherhood.org and fathersource.org to get this help.
When was the last time you thought about poverty's effects on parenting and children? What are you doing about it?
This post is from LeVar Burton. LeVar is the Actor/Producer who Co-Founded Reading Rainbow Kidz. Interested in blogging for us? Read our guest blog guidelines.
As a father of two, I know from personal experience how difficult it is for working dads to find time to spend with their kids. Time really seems to be the scare “currency” of the 21st century. So when we do spend time with our children, spending it wisely is imperative. It probably comes as no surprise to you that for me, reading is one of the best ways I know to make great quality out of scarce quantity.
Reading to our young children provides two critical components to their lives: the closeness that comes from sharing stories together; imagining, pretending and learning that few other activities provide. It also gives them proven educational advantages they will gain from for the rest of their lives. Study after study demonstrates a clear correlation between kids whose parents read to them consistently before kindergarten and greater scholastic achievement.
So back to Dads. Any parent can (and should!) read to their kids, but why are Dads so important? Kids are remarkably aware of the world around them, much more so than we give them credit for. They role model after both parents and they have a keen eye for where priorities are in their family. Moms in our society tend to be the caregivers (even when they are also the breadwinners)…the “go to” for so much of the personal, intimate attention kids need.
Dads tend to be less about closeness and more about “play.” Reading is by nature a very close and personal way of communicating. At bedtime or on the couch (instead of TV), Dads curled up with a young one reading offers a great chance for men to be close to their kids; connected through books to the greater world around them.
Taking this time “just for them” also offers a more subtle message about their priority in a father’s life. They know we dads are busy and often tired when we come home. Kids hear and see it. When a Dad takes the time away from other activities, when we make that special effort to read with just them, we teach them quietly how very important they really are to us. They see that we use precious time, that scarce currency, not for football or returning phone calls or the internet, but for them.
So Dads, pick up a book or a tablet tonight and read with your kids. Read to them in silly voices, make up new endings to familiar stories and look into their eyes afterwards and see just how much return you get on the investment of 15 minutes of our scarce but immeasurably valuable time.
Reading Rainbow’s mission is to inspire a love of reading in children and connect them to the world they live in through quality literature so they believe that they, “can go anywhere, be anything.”
Try the app for FREE on your iPad (at the iTunes App Store) or Kindle (at the Amazon App Store), download any of our Classic Reading Rainbow episodes on iTunes or learn more about Reading Rainbow and all our digital products at www.readingrainbow.com.
This post is from Richard Beaty. Richard is the father of three who directs TEAM DAD, a Responsible Fatherhood program of Douglas-Cherokee Economic Authority. Find Richard at www.team-dad.org or on Twitter @TeamDad1. Interested in blogging for us? Read our guest blog guidelines.
“How do you take your coffee?”
“Black,” I reply without hesitation.
There are lots of health reasons for drinking coffee black. Fewer calories, greater appreciation of the full flavor of the bean etc.
But here are three reasons why I drink my coffee with no cream and no sugar:
- Black Coffee is Manly, Seriously: People always look you in the eye and reassess you when you order your coffee black. They think: “dude’s a man”. I am not really good with tools or engines or weapons...so I can use the man cred. (what does the fact that I have even typed the phrase “man cred” say about my total lack of it?)
- Black Coffee Makes Life Easier: It makes life easier for the preparer of the coffee. Any other coffee order results in needless dialog and concern about pleasing the drinker. "How much sugar? Cream, milk or that non-dairy powdery stuff?" Immediate pressure is put on the coffee offerer. Or they give up and just provide the possible accessories and have to admit defeat. But if you order it black, they think “this guy’s easy to please, must be a good guy.” I like being thought of as a good guy.
- Black Coffee Gives You the 'Coffee Face': My kids noticed years ago that when I take my first sip of each cup of coffee I make a face. It’s a squinchy-eyed-this-will-be-hot-and-bitter-but-I-am-gonna-go-for-it-anyway face. In my mind, that face makes me look a little like Clint Eastwood. So being associated with a man’s man is a good deal. Plus even today, my kids giggle when they see that face. And the sound of your children giggling is worth many cups of hot bitterness.
Here's my point: what's an everyday task, like drinking coffee, that you can use to connect with your child? Yes, this isn't simply a post about coffee. It's about fatherhood. Dad, we make this dad-thing too complicated. Connecting with your child is simple. As simple as black coffee.
So, how do you take your coffee?
"We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give." —Sir Winston Churchill
I trust you enjoyed Thanksgiving with your family. First, there was "Black Friday." Then came "Cyber Monday." Today is "Giving Tuesday!" Whether you shopped in-store or online in the last few days, today is for giving instead of getting!
Giving Tuesday is a movement that started a few years ago to encourage folks to support the causes that are important to them. For this #GivingTuesday, NFI wants you, our dedicated blog reader, involved in generating support for our work to connect fathers to their children.
Here are two ways you can help us make #GivingTuesday a success:
- Share our official #GivingTuesday webpage. Click the share buttons on the left of the page, making it easy for you to spread the word about NFI's page. Share our page with your followers using #GivingTuesday. Here are a few sample posts you can use to share with your followers:
- Need help not overspending this holiday season? #GivingTuesday is here! http://bit.ly/nfigivetues @TheFatherFactor [Tweet this]
- So you wanna "give back"? What are u waiting for? #GivingTuesday http://bit.ly/nfigivetues @TheFatherFactor [Tweet this]
- Take advantage of the post-holiday deals. But spare some cash this year. http://bit.ly/nfigivetues @TheFatherFactor [Tweet this]
- Generate donations to NFI. Go to our online donation page, share it with your network, or make a donation.
You read our blog, but you may not realize just how much work we do to strengthen fatherhood. Here are a few recent accomplishments we are especially proud of:
- We just delivered over 117,000 resources to 69 Army bases worldwide to build Army dads’ skills.
- We have now distributed over 6.6 million fatherhood skill-building resources.
- We have trained over 13,400 practitioners from over 6,200 organizations on how to deliver our programming into their communities.
- Our program for incarcerated fathers was just listed on the National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices.
Disney has done it again. I'm not sure if it's the music (yeah, I admit, I want the soundtrack; you know, for my daughters!), the setting in Norway (I want to go to there), or the story of two sisters (I'm the dad of two daughters), but Disney's newest epic adventure Frozen tugs on my heart-strings. While watching the film, I sat "cold" in my seat, partially because Disney pulls you into another world with it's 3D version of Arendelle, but mostly because I saw my daughters in Elsa and Anna. Here's what I mean...
At NFI, we often point out that a father's role is unique and irreplacable in a child's life. As a dad of two young daughters, I was reminded of one thing while screening Frozen. That is, what I teach my daughter's matters. My actions, my words...they matter. More to the point, what I teach my daughter's now, right or wrong, echos into the future.
Before watching Frozen, I don't recall asking myself: what will my daughters remember about me if something happen to me? Whether it's from an accident or life-stage (college or the like) this is a stirring thought worth considering as a father.
As I pulled my sugar-crazed youngest daughter out of the theater, I was thinking: the things I say to her matters. What I say, and do, these are the things my girls will remember about me when I'm not in their presence.
My point is, I don't always parent with the end in mind. This changes the intentionality of how I do things. It changes my actions now.
If I understand that what I do today matters, I will do things differently, better, more kindly, more lovingly. Parenting with this new and bigger picture in mind will cause me, will cause us as dads, to see what is really important.
All of a sudden, for me, it's not a big deal to jump down to the floor and do piggy-back rides.
Perhaps your child is older, guess what? Then, homework becomes "time together" instead of a chore to pass off to mom.
For the dad of a college student, weekends are no longer "too busy." No, weekends are now left open and available to make a last-minute roadtrip for connecting with your son or daughter. You probably get my "drift" by now, pun intended.
As you take your son or daughter to watch this movie, and you should...once you get seated with your popcorn, watch carefully as a dad, and be reminded, like I was, that the "Frozen" girl (Elsa) spends years with her father's protective voice telling her what not to do such that she keeps her gift hidden from the world.
In her father's mind, he was "protecting" her and her younger sister (Anna) from harm. However, what he was really doing, while noble in his intentions, wasn't noble. May we not live to "protect" our sons and daughters so much that we make them miss using the unique gifts they possess.
How are you "helping" your child find his or her gifts? Share in the comment section.
Walt Disney Animation Studios, the studio behind “Tangled” and “Wreck-It Ralph,” presents “Frozen,” a stunning big-screen comedy adventure. Fearless optimist Anna (voice of Kristen Bell) sets off on an epic journey—teaming up with rugged mountain man Kristoff (voice of Jonathan Groff) and his loyal reindeer Sven—to find her sister Elsa (voice of Idina Menzel), whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom of Arendelle in eternal winter. Encountering Everest-like conditions, mystical trolls and a hilarious snowman named Olaf (voice of Josh Gad), Anna and Kristoff battle the elements in a race to save the kingdom.
FROZEN (In 3D)
Genre: Animated Comedy/Adventure
U.S. Release Date: Today, November 27, 2013
Voice Cast: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Santino Fontana, Alan Tudyk, Ciarán Hinds
Directors: Chris Buck (Tarzan, Surf’s Up), Jennifer Lee (screenwriter, Wreck-It Ralph)
Producer: Peter Del Vecho (Winnie the Pooh, The Princess and the Frog)
I was speaking to my buddy Hank Baskett (NFL, Kendra On Top) the other day, who told me that when he’s out and about in public with his son without his wife Kendra, he constantly asked by strangers if he is "babysitting" his son, and he always replies “No, I'm taking care of my child…babysitting is something that one is paid to do for other people’s children!” Well said Hank, I say!
Why I Need Your Help—And Why You Should Care…
Most dads with whom I speak have experienced this condescension; this attitude has no place in 21st Century parenting, which I advocate (as those of you who read my free online magazine Every Little Thing Birth and Beyond 360 already know) is best served by the full inclusion and involvement of both parents in the parenting process. The involvement and recognition of the role of dads in parenting benefits entire families, and, therefore society as a whole.
The statistics that there are 24 million dads who have no contact with their children, and that in some sections of society as many as 80% of children are growing up without a dad, are frightening; this scenario needs to be changed, for the sake of a generation of our children.
So I want to change that, now! Here's how I'm doing it...
The Every Thing For Dads Convention in March 15 2014 in Sarasota, Florida
This is my call to action to all of the committed parents who support the mutual aims of my Every Thing For Dads Convention 2014, and my friends at National Fatherhood Initiative to come and join us on March 15 2014 in Sarasota Florida. This is a one day celebration of a new beginning for modern dads, where you’ll be educated and entertained!
First off, have a look at the video, and learn a little about why I’m spending all my waking hours to fulfill this dream! Join me and show that you too have the heart and with passion for the cause of better parenting!
AME Media Group is staging the first national Dads Convention on behalf of the Every Thing For Dads Foundation 501c www.everythingfordads.com in March 2014, hosted by NFL and TV Reality Star Hank Baskett, with VIP Guest NFL Superstar Plaxico Buress (and his wonderful wife Tiffany Glenn Buress), and Reginald Roundtree, Senior News Anchor from Tampa Bay 10 News.
So we have very cool dads who are celebrities, expert presenters, speakers and every day dads like you and me and it’ll be great time to bring your family and visit beautiful sunny Sarasota, SW Florida, which also has the #1 rated white sandy beach in the country!
I am also making a unique documentary film project and series about fatherhood, so you are also invited to come and be filmed to express your views and give your best tips, if you’re not camera shy!
What Does the Convention Include?
- Conference admission
- VIP Celebrity breakfast meet and greet, Lunch, Dinner with VIP Celebrity Guests
- Attendance to the 2014 Mega Dads Awards
- Networking party with VIP Celebrity Guests
- Fatherhood Panel Q and A with live Twitter interaction
- Access to all presentations, workshops and key note speeches
- Admission to the Dads Chill Zone™ Evening entertainment
- Giveaways, prizes and surprises
- …and if you can’t get there, or afford to get there (tickets are at as low cost as I can make it, and you can get a discounted ticket for 2 or more people for $129 each until Christmas, and spaces are limited), I’ve not forgotten you either! The event will be on a Live stream that you can view from the comfort of your own home and Twitter feed.
Call Me, Maybe…
There is still time for you to nominate any great dads, from any walk of life who you think deserves recognition for a MEGA DAD award—make your nomination here. You might want a particular subject included at the event, in which case send me your ideas; or I’d love you to tell me who you would like to see speak at this event, and I’ll do my level best to get them to come! Life is about pursuance of dreams, and big dreams can come true – the proof is the very existence of this convention, which was merely the seed of an idea at the beginning of 2013! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Well people, the lack of fatherhood skills and involvement of dads in this generation of children’s lives (coined “The Father Factor” by National Fatherhood Initiative) is, in my personal view, one of the most enormous problems that society faces right now—but it is one that is capable of one of the quickest remedies, if the problem is recognized, faced down and truly practical advice and solutions applied.
So let’s make the changes happen - come and join us…
I’m a person who finds his motivation from taking action rather than quotes, but this one resonates with me as both a reflection of my short journey putting this celebration together:
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "Press On" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race” —Calvin Coolidge
Press on with me, people!
National Fatherhood Initiative and National Pork Board partnered for this guest post. Fatherhood and Pork? It just make sense. Find more tasty recipes at www.PorkBeInspired.com. Interested in blogging for us? Read our guest blog guidelines.
Thanksgiving is a day we look forward to all year; one we embrace for the opportunity to feast on good food and enjoy quality time with friends and family. However, as delicious and heartwarming as it can be, Thanksgiving can also become time-consuming and stressful if you’re the one hosting the meal.
Luckily (whether you’re feeding 5 or 15), pork can be your Thanksgiving Day dinner hero. The simple recipe ideas below minimize prep time—leaving you with more time to spend with the people you love—and will help keep your countertops free of dozens of ingredients and clutter.
Have a happy and stress-free Thanksgiving with pork!
Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato Bruschetta
Cornbread, Sausage and Apple Stuffing
Root Beer Glaze Ham
Chocolaty Hazelnut and Bacon Crescents via Pillsbury
This post is from Kyle Bradford. Kyle is a divorced father and founder of ChopperPapa. He hosts the monthly podcast, Fatherhood Wide Open and lives in Atlanta, Georgia. Interested in blogging for us? Read our guest blog guidelines.
If you’re a single or divorced father I feel your pain. I’ve been one for almost a decade and during that time have had the pleasure of experiencing every emotion men in our situation go through. I know what it’s like to have your soul ripped away Sunday evenings, I understand the helplessness, frustration, and wondering if a toss of the towel wouldn’t be best for everyone. I’m intimately familiar with the hidden dangers masquerading as shiny objects lying in wait for the single dad—looking to drag him away from what really matters.
Being a single father means we may never have a ‘traditional’ relationship with our children; we cannot always be there to tuck them in at night or band-aide every scrape and bruise. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be any less extraordinary; being fathers who have tremendously positive impacts on our children’s lives. Regardless of the claims made by many in the larger culture, fathers are a vital component for the long-term success of children and that fact isn’t contingent on our marital or relationship status.
Regrettably, I began my single fatherhood journey alone, refusing to connect with other men who have walked the path before me, choosing instead to strike out on my own. As a result I made terrible mistakes; choices, looking back, I would gladly change. My only saving grace was the age of my children. Both under the age of three when I divorced, I was able to hide many of those poor decisions behind their naivety and naptime. Most fathers aren’t so fortunate.
Certainly, I have been burned by these rings of fire and have the scorch marks to prove it, but one thing about mistakes are the lessons they hide, if only we pay attention. As a ‘seasoned’ single dad, I’m often asked for advice by those just beginning the single fatherhood journey, and while there is no ‘one size’ answer to solve all of our problems I have come to recognize certain stops we all should make along the journey if we wish to be the father our children need.
1) Responsibility: I’m referring to all areas of single fatherhood, especially the financial. Arguments can be made for and against the fairness of child support. But there can be no doubt that our responsibility to provide for our children, and their mother, is not subject to relationship status. Being accountable means fulfilling the emotional—and the financial—needs of our children. A great single dad does not look to avoid or ignore these responsibilities.
2) Reliability: Children from broken homes already have an uphill climb, they don’t need an inconsistent father to make things worse. A great single dad is a reliable single dad. That means being a consistent presence in our children’s lives, attending sporting events, recitals, and the annual daddy-daughter dance is just a start. And the following is of special note, if you say you will be there—be there. Too many children are left sitting on the front porch waiting for a father, who said he would come, that never shows.
3) Guardrails: While "Disney-Land dad" might appear more the grumblings of a jealous mom, many single dads are prone to let kids get away with too much simply because it’s easier. Kids need healthy boundaries and this is especially so of kids from broken homes. Set out clear ground rules with your children that correspond with what is happening at mom’s house. If they can’t do something at her house, they shouldn’t do it at yours, either.
4) Family: You’re a family whether there’s a mom in the home or not. So as fathers, we should do our best to make our home feel like their home. Children shouldn’t think they’re staying at a hotel when they come to dad’s house. That means keeping our home clean and kid friendly with snacks, books, and games they enjoy. If possible, it also implies giving our kids a space of their own. A room or, if nothing else, a corner where they can feel secure. Additionally, being a family means doing things as a family and that starts with regularly eating dinners together, in our technology-riddled world there may be no better place to pour our lives into our children than around a table.
5) Respect: Your children’s mother may not be your best friend. Co-parenting is rife with emotions that lead to deep scars but it is vital that fathers NEVER speak negatively about their child’s mother, including snide remarks, off-color comments, or innuendos about her, her behavior, or her partner. Even if she chooses not to return the favor, fathers should set the example by taking the high road. Anything less is selfishness whose purpose is persuading kids to choose sides.
Parenting in what I call the ‘modern family’ isn’t without significant trials and challenges, it’s enough to make parent, dad or mom, want to give up. But it’s in these times of turmoil that children need the strength of a father, to have a man they can look to for inspiration and wisdom, a man who can impact them in healthy ways. Because the fact of the matter is, as single fathers we will have an influence on our children; it is for us to decide what that will ultimately be.