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15 Ways I’m Making Sure My Son Grows Up to Be A Real Man

Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Monday, April 26, 2021

15 Ways I’m Making Sure My Son Grows Up to Be A Real Man

My truths for raising a strong, loving, compassionate, caring and empathetic dude.

Father and Son at the Beach



By Ryan Link for Fatherly

It has been more than two years since I first read the Huffington Post blog entry by Justin Ricklefs titled 15 Things all Dads of Daughters Should Know. The 15 things seem like no-brainers when you read them. But in practice, I find it difficult to feel like I am successful in all of those areas on a regular basis. So, I’ve revisited the article every month religiously (I have a monthly reminder set) in an effort to remind myself of the importance of being a positive role model for my daughter, and as a regular check on how I am doing.

While I am still working toward perfecting my role as dad to my daughter, I have been thinking more about what 15 things I should focus on in raising my son as well. After reflecting on my own childhood and the past 10 years of raising my son, I have identified 15 truths for raising a strong, loving, compassionate, caring and empathetic dude.


Teach Him the Power of Love by Telling Him “I Love You” Every Chance You Get

He wants to be loved by you just as much as any daughter. He may shrug it off during his teen years, but he wants to hear it on a regular basis. Our family started saying “I love you” regularly from the beginning (props to my incredible wife for bringing this practice from her family to ours). Now, my son and I rarely end any discussion, phone call or text exchange without those 3 powerful words. Sometimes he says it first, sometimes I do. But it is a regular reminder that our love for one another is there, regardless of the situation, and it is the norm for males to openly express that to each other.


You Are a Direct Influence on How He Acts With Other Boys and Men

He is watching, whether you know it or not. Teach him that everyone on this great planet is equal and deserving of love and respect. Be the man, friend, and partner you want him to become.


As He Grows Up, Go All-In

I did some really stupid things growing up, he will too. There is a fine line between being overbearing and letting him learn from his mistakes. Science tells us that the male brain takes longer to mature than the female brain, this is partially why teenage boys do stupid things. But we should not let this be an excuse. You can be his friend during the teen years, but that should not stand in the way of your being his dad first and foremost.


Treat His Mom Well — He Is Watching

The way you treat his mom will shape how he treats women throughout his life, including his future partner. To paraphrase Justin Ricklefs, “One of the best things you can do for your daughter [or son] is to love [their] mom well.”


Let Your Feelings and Emotions Show, and Show Him It’s Alright to Cry

This one is huge, and I say that from personal experience. I grew up in a very loving family, but somehow I came out as an adult that was not confident in showing his emotions. God bless my wife — when I met her 25 years ago I didn’t have much to say, didn’t voice my own opinions and was emotionless. To this day I wonder what she saw in me. There is still resistance by males in this world to show emotion as if it is some sign of weakness. Steer your son away from this mindset, by all means necessary.


I remember one time my son and I both cried together, initially in sorrow and then in laughter. I am embarrassed to admit that it did happen in a rather stereotypical male way (over the Baltimore Raven’s losing their playoff game in 2012 that sent the Patriots to the Super Bowl). Since then we have seen each other shed tears during movies and other emotional times. It’s not a sign of weakness, but a sign that we are human and we care.


Teach Him How to Stand Up for Others and What Is Right

Now more than ever it is important for him to have confidence in standing up for what is right and to know that his dad supports him. Whether it is standing up for a cause he is passionate about, a friend, his sister, or an innocent bystander. He needs to know that there are certain things that are worth fighting for.


Make As Many Memories As Possible

And they don’t have to occur in a “man cave.”


Make Sure He Knows It’s Not Always About Him

As good citizens and humans, we have the opportunity to make a difference in this world every day. But in the overall scheme of things, we are insignificant — but a speck on the universal time line. He will be remembered not for how cool he thought he was but for the type of person he truly was and how he treated others.


Show Up to His Events (He Will Remember)

To this day I don’t remember the score, opposing team or outcome of the majority of the lacrosse or soccer games I ever played growing up. But I vividly remember glancing to the sideline while I was on the playing field and seeing my dad leaning on the fence cheering me on. The first person a boy looks to for approval and acceptance is his dad — he needs to know that you are paying attention.


Be Present

I still struggle with this, I’m sure I am not the only one. Mobile phones are a daily part of our lives and jobs. Teach yourself to put them away and give him your undivided attention. Do play plenty of non-violent video games with him, but leave your phone somewhere else.


Show Him How to Clean Up Well

Teach him to wash, wear deodorant and brush his teeth properly, every day. There is something to be said for not worrying about this at a young age, but our sons need to know that this is part of being respectful and considerate to others.


Teach Him the Meaning and Importance of Beauty

It is important for him to appreciate the beauty in other people and the world around him. As dads, we need to help our sons understand that beauty is more than just looks. The sooner our sons understand this, the sooner they will shift the paradigm for the better.


Encourage Him to Be Friends With Boys and Girls

Growing up I was never friends with girls — boys were friends, girls were girlfriends. As a result, I was very awkward around girls throughout my school age years. I see this same dynamic play out with boys and girls today. Make sure your son knows how to be friends with girls from a young age and treats them the same as anyone of his boy friends. They could turn out to be the most valuable long-term friendships he has. He will thank you for it one day.


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National Child Abuse Prevention Month – 6 Tips to Help Keep Children Safe

Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Friday, April 09, 2021

National Child Abuse Prevention Month

6 Tips to Help Keep Children Safe


April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Five years ago, we kicked off National Child Abuse Prevention Month with a series of child abuse prevention trainings across Delaware. We are now in 23 States doing the work that was so important to Beau.

During the past year, our lives have been turned upside down. For a child who spent the last year living and learning in a dangerous place – perhaps with their abuser, cut off from their schools and support networks – it has been a nightmare. Horrific situations like this along with the increased time children now spend online is the “perfect storm” for child predators.

It is critical that adults – parents, caretakers, families, teachers, counselors, and coaches – support and protect children emerging from a year of intense trauma.

Here are a few quick tips and resources for you to keep the children you care about safe.

  1. Ongoing and age-appropriate conversations with children and teens are key to their protection. Open and honest discussions about abuse, sexual abuse, healthy relationships, and online safety help establish and build trust. Maintaining that trust may lead a child in trouble to open up to you in the future. Just be sure to react calmly and responsibly should a child divulge their abuse or online interactions with a predator. Our free eBook – Seven Things You Don’t Know About Your Child’s Digital Life [link] – can help you get the conversation started.

FAST FACT: Most children are exposed to pornography by the time they are 11 years old.

  1. Find out what your child’s school is doing to protect children from abuse. Children have all been thrust into virtual learning environments and hybrid classes over the past year. It’s imperative that schools and youth-serving organizations that use video conferencing platforms to teach and interact with children adhere to best practices and a well-established and published Code of Conduct, specifically every organization must commit that all interactions with children be continuously observable and able to be interrupted at any time.  

The Beau Biden Foundation created an accredited workshop – Protecting Children in a Virtual Learning Environment [link] – that has helped schools across the country ensure teachers can assess a child’s safety in their online interactions with students. Ask your child’s school if they have training and policies in place that address this issue. If not – ask them to contact the Beau Biden Foundation.

DID YOU KNOW: Reports to Child Abuse Hotlines have dropped by nearly 50% while children and teachers were out of physical the classroom during COVID-19 restrictions. Why? Because teachers, counselors, and school personnel are among the number one reporters of abuse. Without seeing their students regularly, these frontline professionals could not recognize the signs of abuse and make the call to get that child the help they need.

  1. Know and check the apps children and teens are using on their digital devices. Potential harm can come from anywhere — social media and online gaming apps open doors to child predators. Knowing how children and teens spend their time on their smartphones or tablets (and with whom) is critical in keeping them safe. A list of 19 Apps Parents Need to Know is available on our site at [link] to help you navigate this ever-changing digital landscape.

DID YOU KNOW: Federal and local law enforcement agencies are working together to track down and apprehend child predators through popular social media and gaming apps. These joint efforts have led to thousands of arrests. Charges include: Luring a Minor; Attempted Child Abuse, Neglect, or Endangerment; Engaging In Solicitation for Prostitution of a Child; and Facilitating Sex Trafficking. These criminals range in age from early 20s to late 60s. 

  1. Know the acronyms children and teens are using in their chats  predators are using them, too. Learning and recognizing some of these critical codes and acronyms can save a child from a predator. You’re probably familiar with “LOL” (Laugh Out Loud) or “SMH” (Shake My Head), but there are many more acronyms that predators use to chat with children and teens to “KPC” (Keep Parents Clueless) when they “WTTP.” Read our blog – 30 Acronyms Parents Need to Know – to help familiarize yourself with these terms: https://www.beaubidenfoundation.org/blog/30acronyms/.
  2. Know the signs of grooming. Be on the lookout for requests for images, videos, personal information from a child, or to connect in a private chat. These requests, even seemingly innocent ones, could be a predator testing a child. Other questions to keep in mind are: Is the child often making a deal or exchange for game tokens/currency? Is the child being lured into a private chat? Are they keeping secrets or say they have a “special friendship” with someone new online? Does the child suddenly have new items like clothing, jewelry, or a phone that you did not buy for them? Our free eBook – Online Predators: What You Need To Know To Protect Your Child Today [link] – can help you recognize the signs of grooming and offers more advice on how to combat online predators.

FAST FACT: There are at least 500,000 child predators online each day. One in 5 children reports being solicited or contacted by a predator in the last year. 

  1. What to do if your child has already sent an explicit photo or fallen victim to an online predator or cyberbully? Call the CyberTipline: 1-800-THE-LOST. If the child is being cyberbullied, or if there’s an immediate threat or risk of harm – call 911, otherwise seek the assistance of the school counselor, make a report on the platform being used, and preserve any evidence (i.e. screenshot, save chat). If your child is being solicited to send personal information, help them to say ‘no’ and move on, and report the other user(s) involved. If the child has received a request for explicit photos or videos, report to law enforcement. As always, if you have reasonable suspicion of abuse, please click here to find the child abuse reporting line in your area and make the call.
As we often say, the keys to protecting children from abuse, both off and online, are not complicated. Adults need to continue talking to our children.  The tips above are a start in the conversations and one way to ensure children can grow up safe in a world free from abuse.

The Biggest Financial Mistakes Parents Make — And How to Avoid Them

Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Friday, April 09, 2021

The Biggest Financial Mistakes Parents Make — And How to Avoid Them

Financial planners told us the most common financial regrets parents have — and how to change course before it's too late. 

By Adam Bulger for Fatherly.com

 

Apr 07 2021, 5:52 PM

 

With its high levels of stress and few hours of sleep, becoming a parent is a surefire recipe for sloppy financial planning. Everyone, from neighbors to relatives to predictive algorithms for Facebook ads, wants to scare you into spending money.  Meanwhile, the bare necessities — diapers, clothes, cribs — are expensive enough on their own. 

While the stress of parenting mellows, the ad hoc approach to spending often remains. Parents spend years spraying a dollar hose at camps, sports leagues, after school activities and whatever else crops up. After decades of indiscriminate spending, they’re unprepared for major life events ranging from college tuition and retirement to disability and death. Financial regrets? Like the great economist Frank Sinatra, they have a few. 

But that regret isn’t inevitable. We asked financial planners about the biggest financial regrets they heard from clients who are parents. Many said their clients with kids wished they’d started financial planning sooner, which is unsurprising (honestly, only rich people start saving when they should). But they also shared counterintuitive advice about how to prioritize money over the long term. Here’s what you should know about the biggest financial mistakes, and how to change course before it’s too late. 



The Financial Mistake: Pre-Baby Spending Sprees

Louisiana-based financial planner and father of four Alajahwon Ridgeway notes that eager parents-to-be overspend before their baby arrives. After covering the basics — crib, car seat, diapers, bibs and clothes — they don’t know where to stop. 

“You never know exactly what you need and what is a luxury to have,” Ridgeway says. After a couple of months as a parent, though, it’s easy to see what’s collecting dust. “All the bottle warmers, newborn shoes, and baby bags were rarely, if ever used.”

How to Correct it: Ridgeway advises first consulting experts who have your best financial interests at heart. “Make a list of things you need by asking a trusted family member or friend,” he says. It’s better to react to needs as they arise than to try to predict them. “When the baby arrives, then buy any additional things as needed. I know a changing table sounds nice, but when you are in another room and you only got three hours of sleep, a towel on the couch will do just fine.”

As the head of a large household, Ridgeway’s bonus advice is to keep baby gear in good condition to avoid unneeded repurchases. “Babies grow out of things quickly, and you may just have four like me,” he says. “Which makes it easy to pass down old clothes that the baby wore for one Easter picture.”

The Financial Mistake: Not Starting to Save Sooner

With the money drain of diapers, daycare, and more, the early years of parenthood leave little wiggle room for savings. But as Michigan financial planner and father of four Paul Fenner says, parents who don’t find a way to start saving money early inevitably regret it. “The number one regret I hear from parents is that they did not begin saving earlier in their lives,” he says.  “Whether that is saving for retirement or college, they regret or second guess the decision not to get started planning sooner.”

How to Correct it: The best time to start making your money grow is 10 years ago. The second best time is today. So, start socking away cash. Now. Ask someone you trust about how to make your money grow over time and follow their advice as quickly as possible. As Fenner says, the first step is the hardest. “[Parents can be] afraid of taking the first step or that their ambitions were unclear to where they did not know where to start or who to turn to support their family,” he says.

The Financial Mistake: Going Big on Your Kid’s Wedding

Weddings set the tone for a marriage in more ways than one. Couples want to launch their new lives together with joy and celebration and parents want to help. “Weddings bring in the whole family, and are discussed for decades afterward,”  Ohio financial planner Curtis Bailey says. “Parents want the best for their children and offer to help foot the bills.” But joy and celebration don’t come cheap. “When the budget begins to go overboard, it is often the parents who continue to write the checks.”

How to Correct it: Don’t give your kids carte blanche for their big day. Be generous, but be generous with a single lump sum payment. “I have seen a few parents simply write a one-time check,” Bailey says. “That’s it. It sets the budget and gives the couple their first opportunity on how to spend it. Tradeoffs become more real for children when they write the check from their own bank account for wedding expenses.”  

The Financial Mistake: Not Maxing Out a Roth IRA

Anthony Watson, founder of Michigan wealth management firm Thrive Retirement Specialists,  finds that his clients often wish they would have funded a Roth IRA earlier in their career while both their income and taxation rates were lower. While contributions to traditional IRAs are tax-deductible and your earnings grow tax-free until you pay taxes when you start withdrawing from the account, Roth IRAs are subject to taxes while you contribute to them. “Plus, the ability to contribute to a Roth IRA gets phased out at an Adjusted Gross Income of $125,000 if single and $198,000 for couples,” Watson says. 

How to Correct it: After maxing out their employers matching provisions to their 401(K), prioritize funding a ROTH IRA. “High growth assets like stocks in a Roth IRA early in life can put people in a great position later in life by giving them a sizable tax-free income source to fund retirement,” Watson says. “Combined with qualified retirement vehicles like a 401(k) or IRA that get taxed at personal income rates when withdrawn in retirement, an individual can craft a superior tax-efficient withdrawal strategy later in life adding tremendous value to their retirement situation.”

The Financial Mistake: Investing too Heavily into Bonds Over Stocks

Watson finds that his older clients wish they earned better returns by holding more stock and fewer bonds in their portfolio.  

“Young people often naively hold bonds in the portfolio because they think it provides them with needed diversification,” he says, adding that the ability to work for steady pay and make steady contributions to an investment portfolio over time serves the role bonds would play in the portfolio. 

But, please note: This doesn’t mean betting on individual stocks in hopes of beating the market.  “While it is possible to have success occasionally timing markets or picking stocks, the probability of slowly and steadily growing your portfolio and allowing compounding to do its work is low,” he says.

How to Correct it:  Watson advises following a simple index-based approach to investing, saying parents will have better luck using low-cost, diversified ETFs rather than following the crowd and trying to time markets or hit home-runs through stock picking. And yes, Reddit dads, that includes Gamestop stonks. 

The Financial Mistake: Not Teaching Kids Financial Literacy

When kids enter young adulthood, they often struggle with financial concepts. Student loans, credit, and investing are elusive for them. “Many parents regret not teaching their children more about finance,” South Carolina financial advisor and father of three Charles H Thomas III  says. “The hesitancy often comes from parents who aren’t sure themselves.”

How to Correct it: It isn’t easy to tell your kids that you don’t know something. But Thomas says sussing out how money, debt and credit works can bring your family close together.  “Take it as an opportunity to learn together,” he says. “For example, if a bill comes in the mail, offer to look at it with your child and talk through what makes sense and what doesn’t. It will benefit everyone to talk it through.”

The Financial Mistake: Under-Spending on Life and Disability Insurance

Nobody likes paying for insurance. It’s a drain on your wallet that has no benefit the vast majority of the time. But when emergencies happen, which happens more frequently as you age, the cushion of insurance can make a vital difference for families. Megan Kopka, a North Carolina financial advisor specializing in advising families of children with disabilities, says that not having any or enough disability or life insurance can lead to major regrets. Often with disability comes large medical payments,” she says. “These two insurances are often overlooked or downplayed. In worst case scenarios, that can be the biggest regret.”

How to Correct it: Sign up for life and disability insurance. Pay the policy every month. Complain as much as you want when everything’s fine and pat yourself on the back when everything goes wrong and you were prepared. “If you are not on track for retirement and the kids are older and college isn’t covered then get life insurance in case your household income is decreased by disability or death,” she says.

The Financial Mistake: Prioritizing Kids’ College Over Own Retirement

Believe it or not, putting your kids first can be a huge mistake. Ohio financial planner John Bovard and father of four says his older parent clients frequently realize they erred in supporting their kids too much.

“Often, they were concerned about their kids going to a good school,” Bovard says. They worried about paying their tuition and making sure there wasn’t any student loan debt. And then they come to realize that they probably should have used that money for their own retirement.” 


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About DFFC

The Delaware Fatherhood & Family Coalition is an extension of the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program and the Responsible Fatherhood Initiative created specifically to give a voice to fathers and the importance of their involvement for the well-being of their children.


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