Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Sunday, June 13, 2021
Fatherhood, Co-Parenting and Child Support information. Get a better of understanding of your rights as a parent before you go to court. We will also give you information on how to be a better father and co-parent with the mother. Our goal is to increase father's involvement in the family structure.
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.
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.
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.
Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Wednesday, January 13, 2021
6 Things I Wish I’d Known About Fatherhood
When My Kids Were Still Young
Some advice from a dad who's been there.
By Claude Knobler Apr 25 2018, 4:03 PM for Fatherly
Here’s the shocking thing about being a dad: One day, just when you’ve started to get good at the job, your kids leave. When the youngest of our three kids headed off to college, I remember feeling like I’d just been term-limited out of the best job I’d ever had. I’d spent so much time learning how to raise my kids, that I was completely blindsided by the fact that one day they’d actually be adults. Well, sort of adults. I’m pretty sure one of them eats pizza for breakfast. On the other hand, he’s a straight-A college student with a better resume than mine, so who am I to judge?
But there were things I realized over time that really stuck with me. Things that, in the slog of every day, I let go of. Or kept fixated on. Or messed up with. And here I am now, with three adult children, thinking about all of the things I could have and should have done.
1. Everything You’re Worried About
Today Will Seem Silly In Two Years.
When my kids were toddlers, I worried about that pacifier stuck in their mouth. Two years later, my kid had moved on, and so had I. They turned five and I can’t believe I ever worried about their binky. At that point, I wondered why they were the only kindergartener who hasn’t mastered Dr. Seuss. And then, two years later, they’d moved on and so had I. Whether it’s sleep schedules, bad play dates, or the fairy tale princess I hired for my kid’s fifth birthday party showing up drunk, whatever it is I worried about then seems so silly now. I wish I had saved myself the misery, and laughed about it then.
2. Write Everything Down.
You Won’t Believe What You Won’t Remember.
One day I was stuck in the single worst traffic jam that the world has ever seen, probably. As I sat there fuming, trying my best not to mutter four-letter words I’d have to explain to my then 3-year-old son Clay, who was sitting in the back, he suddenly said, “Daddy, are you thinking about what I’m thinking about?” I figured I wasn’t but asked anyway.
“I don’t know Clay. What are you thinking about?” He stared out the window for a moment at the car in the lane next to us, and then said, “butterfly wings.” (To which I immediately replied, “why yes, that is exactly what I was thinking about.”) It’s a cute story, right? Here’s the thing, my 3-year-olds said and did cute things all the time. If I didn’t write them down, I wouldn’t remember a single one. I put a reminder into my calendar and spent literally five minutes a week, every week, jotting down little cute stories in The Book of Clay, The Book of Grace, and The Book of Nati, one notebook for each kid. A friend of mine just kept a list on her phone. Whatever. When the kids were still living at home, I could entertain them at a drop of a hat by pulling those books out and reading with them. Worked when they were in grade school, worked when they were in high school. Now that they’re all away, I take the books out to entertain myself. Don’t judge. One day, you will do the same.
3. Beware The Long-Term Yeses.
My daughter wanted a cat. I’m allergic to cats. My daughter now goes to UPenn and I’m still sneezing. It’s great to say yes. You want breakfast for dinner and dinner for breakfast? Sure thing! They want to try bangs or baseball? Great! But some yeses are easy in the moment and awful for much longer than that and yes, I am still thinking about that cat but the principle is true for other things too. Telling your child it’s okay to flake on a commitment they’ve made can be the right thing at times, but often it’s not the best lesson. Say yes often, but think first. (Also, if anyone wants an aging cat, please DM me).
4. The Years Fly
(but Some of the Days Really Drag).
My kids live in North Carolina, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia these days. I miss them more than I can say. I’m 53 years old and every time I see a dad holding his kid on his shoulders I sigh far too loudly and then wonder if my 22-year-old son would let me try to carry him just one more time. But I also remember how bored I was when I had to push him on the swings. I miss getting to kiss my daughter good morning, but I really don’t miss the way she’d complain that her socks “felt funny” every day for eight months. Being a dad is the most important thing you’ll ever do and it’s also, at times, the most boring and exasperating thing you can imagine. Yes, you have to cherish the good stuff but don’t forget to give yourself a break for being bored. Peeking at your phone sometimes on the playground won’t emotionally cripple your kid.
5. Your Kids Won’t Remember Everything
(but You Never Know What They Won’t Forget).
First, the good news: You don’t have to take your kids to Paris, museums, or sign them up for Space Camp. You can if you want to, of course. I loved taking my children to art galleries and we did travel with them, but honestly, most of that culture was for me, since my kids don’t remember much of it. But the bad news: Kids remember weird stuff and by weird, yes, I do mean that one time you yelled at the cat.
Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Wednesday, January 13, 2021
All Parents Offer Empty Promises and
Hollow Threats. But Do They Do Harm?
When a child acts out, it is all too easy to make a promise or threat a parent has no intention or ability to keep. But that could hurt your relationship in the long run.
By Jillian Mock for Fatherly Dec 26 2019, 10:50 AM
The hollow threat or empty promise is a near-unavoidable tool of parents. It’s not a good tool — most parents understand this — but it’s one that sometimes feels necessary. Say you’re in a restaurant trying to get to the end of the meal, or you’re late and simply have to get out the door. It might seem like the only way to move forward is to incentivize (or dis-incentivize) your kids: “If you don’t stop acting up, I’m going to take away your Pokemon cards.” Conversely, “If you are good for just 15 more minutes, you’ll get a prize at home.” So you’re not going to take away their precious Pokemon cards, and that “prize”, if not forgotten, will end up being some piece of candy you find lying around. No harm, right?
Not so. Research shows these statements have consequences, eroding the trust between parent and child. “Once you open your mouth, you need to follow through,” says Michele Borba, an educational psychologist and author of UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World. “Because kids are very smart and they have radar detectors and they will find out if it’s a false promise.”
Research shows that young children keep their promises and they expect others to do the same. They also take cues from adult behavior. A 2012 update of the classic marshmallow test conducted at Rochester University showed that having reliable interactions with adults influenced what children did later. Kids who interacted with adults who followed through on what they said they would do waited far longer on average before nibbling a marshmallow than children who interacted with adults who didn’t do what they said. The children seemed to be making a decision about how likely that promised future reward actually was, wrote the researchers in a post about the experiment.
When parents break their promises, it can also teach a child that this kind of behavior is acceptable, says Borba. “If you want your child to be trustworthy, then you’ve got to be trustworthy.”
Hollow threats, on the other hand, can have even deeper consequences. When parent use empty threats all the time, they undermine a kid’s understanding of rules and consequences by suggesting that “rules” are actually can be obeyed or not obeyed depending on the context of the situation. Furthermore, on the surface they stress a child out, making it even more difficult for them to have the self-control required for good behavior.
Instead of leaning on empty promises and hollow threats, there are many other strategies parents can deploy to deal with misbehaving kids, especially if you’re worried about an outburst at the family holiday party.
The first strategy is to take steps to minimize outbursts from the get-go. Kids misbehave four times predictably, says Borba, when they are hungry, bored, tired, or in need of attention. Taking steps to anticipate those needs can help avoid an outburst altogether, she says. It also helps to reduce your own stress around the holidays, because children will mirror what they see in their parents, which could also cause them to act out.
Also, if you have a specific way you want your child to act in a given situation, like acting excited to get a sweater from grandma, for example, Borba recommends practicing that action with them ahead of time. This will allow the child to meet your expectations and head off a potentially negative interaction.
If your child’s behavior does start to escalate, it can be challenging for a parent to slow down and think about their response. But it’s important. “Trust is really easy to snap and really hard to reconstruct,” says Robert Zietlin, a positive psychologist and author of the book Laugh More, Yell Less: A Guide to Raising Kick-Ass Kids. In these moments, he says it can help to “zoom in” to empathize with how your child is feeling in this moment, or to “zoom out” to focus on the big picture rather than how angry you feel right then and there.
Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Friday, November 27, 2020
The 20 Most Common Parenting Mistakes I See
By Mike Leary Jan 25 2016, 10:28 PM
What are some common mistakes parents make that could actually hurt their children’s mental and physical health in the long term?
I have seen so many good intentions go horribly wrong over the years that can result in self-harm, suicide and, in extreme cases, even murder. Here are some of the most common mistakes that can be really harmful to kids.
1. Giving Them Too Many Choices
Many parents think children always should have endless choices, when the reality is kids can be overwhelmed if they’re always given so many options.
2. Praising Them for Everything They Do
It’s very common now to see kids who are almost junkies for praise. They won’t do anything unless there is a payoff for them.
3. Trying to Make the Child Happy
Their job is to learn to make themselves happy, and you can never force a child to be happy.
4. Overindulging Them
They will almost always end up believing acquisitions lead to happiness. This sets up chasing the never-satisfying carrots, and can result in addictions and compulsions.
5. Keeping Them Too Busy
Most commonly with sports. Many parents wrongly believe “activities” will keep their kid out of trouble, but often times this will lead to the child being burned out or even becoming a bully.
6. Thinking Smart Will Save Them
It can be tempting for parents to promote smart as the end-all-be-all. Yet this can lead to a child becoming arrogant, thinking everyone else is stupid or secretly believe that they have to put on an act and are a fraud. As a result, nobody likes them.
7. Thinking a Strict Religion Will Give Them Perfect Values and Save Them
The first time they see hypocrisy in their parents or the touted beloved leaders, the house of cards start to fall.
8. Withholding Common Information About Important Topics — Like Sex
Many parents are terrified of talking about sex, and believe avoiding discussing it with their children will save them. But I’ve seen 13-year-old girls get pregnant, sometimes just to flaunt it at their parents.
9. Being Hyper-Critical of the Child’s Mistakes
It can be easy to assume intense scrutiny promotes success and makes kids better. But kids raised this way are driven to perfection in everything from looks, likability, sports, smarts, or you name it. When a mistake happens, they are worthless as a human being and start getting so angry that in some cases they will resort to self-harm even to the point of suicide.
10. Using Shame, Shunning, or Threats
Never imply that there is a chance you might not love your child due to their actions, as some parents do so in order to get their kids to achieve compliance. It is a short term gain with abandonment lurking in the shadows. Then the child doesn’t care either.
11. Making Kids Do Things Inappropriate for Their Age
I have 3 patients right now who, by age 4, were having to feed themselves and or had to be in charge of a sibling also. I’ve seen many who didn’t have children of their own because as they all said; “I raised my family.”
12. Not Limiting Screen Time
Whether it’s TV, video, games, phone or texting. I know a family where the mom and teenage son text each other constantly and no one else can get into their relationship link.
13. Not Letting Kids Get Bored
Some parents think children are supposed to be stimulated at all times and it’s their job to avoid boredom. Then kids don’t learn to be creative and find the way out of boredom in themselves.
14. Protecting Kids From Their Own Consequences and Loss
I see parents with good intentions get their kids everything, from a simple toy to buying them out of legal trouble, and suddenly are surprised when the child respects nothing. All of us need to learn losing is just another way to gain wisdom and experience about what not to do.
Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Wednesday, October 21, 2020
How Dads Can Get More
Involved in Education
By Saron Messay from National PTA'S
A father’s involvement with his child plays a vital role in their development and the socio-emotional and academic functioning within their lives.
Research shows that when dads and other father figures are engaged in children’s education, student grades and test scores improve, attendance increases, and students are more involved in school activities.
While fathers are spending more time with their children, many feel they’re still not doing enough. Roughly half (48%) say they spend too little time with their kids. Only 25% of mothers say the same.
Dads + Kids = Improved Milestones
Active and regular father engagement with children impacts a range of positive outcomes, including enhancing cognitive development and decreasing delinquency and poverty in low socioeconomic families. It is important to educate men about the benefits of their engagement and support, not only at home but in their schools as well.
With more fathers stepping up in their daily roles and becoming more active with their children, the change of roles has introduced a new form of fatherhood in America.
With fathers taking a more active role within communities and schools, it is important to share these values with other dads through engagement programs and various projects. Here are some programs that encourage dads to be involved:
- The Black Star Project’s Million Father March asks fathers to take kids to school
on the first day as the beginning of a year-long commitment to supporting children’s education.
- The National Compadres Network facilitates
involvement of Hispanic and Latino fathers and men.
- The National Partnership for Community Leadership (NPCL)
hosts an annual fatherhood conference on fatherhood research and programs.
The PTA MORE Alliance is helping PTAs get more men involved in students’ education. The partnering organizations The WATCH D.O.G.S. (Dads Of Great Students) program can also help you reach and engage your dads as can All Pro Dad, Strong Fathers-Strong Families and 100 Black Men of America, Inc. These four programs make up
All of these programs and resources have proven to be effective tools in bringing fathers and father-figures into schools in unique and powerful ways in order to build PTA membership and capacity.
Eric Snow, president and cofounder of WATCH D.O.G.S.—and a dad shares the countless ways dads can be involved in their child’s education at all ages that will make a difference.
Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Wednesday, October 21, 2020
Why Fatherhood Is
Important to a Child’s Education
by Letise Dennis from Family Living, Parenting
Fatherhood may not be a rare gift, but it is certainly one to be highly valued and carefully guarded. When a new life is created, the child brings to the mother and father not only exponential joy but also a lifelong commitment and interdependent relationship.
Fathers play many important roles in a child’s life, varying in each individual family based on the provisions of the father and needs of the child. An area in which our society is significantly suffering, though, is the involvement of fathers in the education of our children.
Many fathers are doing an excellent job of participating daily in the education of our nation’s children, but there is still a large percentage not engaging with teachers, homework, schools, and academic development.
Before going any deeper into why and how fathers should get involved in education, a definition of fatherhood should first be explained. Sticking with a formal definition, fatherhood can be simply stated as a state-of-being in relation to being a father. For the context of this article, though, let’s take it one step farther.
Children do not stop needing their fathers because life circumstances or relationships change, because they get older, or because lives get busy. Once a man enters into fatherhood, he is a member for life, and whether he is man enough to take on that challenge or not is up to him. The impact a father has on a child is irreplaceable, as numerous studies have shown, the absence of a father can result in negative consequences that can affect all areas of a child’s life.
One of those significant areas is education. Children with involved fathers tend toward achieving academic success across the board, higher IQs, improved test results, and better attitudes toward school. They are less likely to drop out, fail classes, or develop behavioral concerns.
Knowing children with involved fathers have such a clear academic advantage, here are some ways in which fathers can become actively involved with their child’s learning.
The National Center for Fathering has created a program called Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) to help connect fathers with their children’s schools. They volunteer a day of their time doing varying activities around the school such as assisting teachers, helping to monitor the car line, patrolling the school, and other various tasks as assigned. This is not only a huge assistance to teachers and school staff, but it also helps the children know that their fathers care enough to take a day off from work and invest in the betterment of the school. If Watch D.O.G.S. is not available as an option, ask the school administration or teachers about other volunteer opportunities to get involved.
Find out from the child’s teacher what topics they are covering right now at school. Check out a book from the library or download one online that relates in some way to what is being taught at school. As a part of the bedtime routine, read together this book and discuss anything newly discovered or learned. This will develop a healthy habit of reading every night, will open up communication regarding school and learning, and will create very special memories shared between father and child.
If weekdays prove impossible for a father to engage in many school-related activities, plan to take full advantage of the weekends. For every weekend, base at least one outing or adventure on something connected to either a lesson learned at school that week or something new the child has always wanted to try. This will reinforce learning at school, enable a more hands-on educational experience, and facilitate bonding time.
Ride to School
Mornings are often the most hectic time of the day, but if at all possible, arranging schedules to allow for driving children to school in the morning will open the door for some great conversations along the way. What do you have going on today? What are you most looking forward to? Are you nervous about anything? If it is possible to take the few extra minutes to walk the child to class, too, this makes it easy to speak with the teacher and other school staff. If this time in the morning is impossible to do, a quick appearance at lunch will make a world of difference in a student’s day and allow for the same communication with teachers and staff.
Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Friday, October 16, 2020
The Effective Stepfather:
A Check-List to Live By
by Ron Deal from Fathers.com
Anyone who has been a father and then a stepfather knows that they aren’t the same. While many aspects of these two roles are similar, it is the unique ones that lead to disillusionment. Franklin put it this way: “I’ve been to every Promise Keepers conference and I’ve studied fathering with my men’s group many times. But nothing has prepared me for being a stepfather. With my own kids I have a natural leadership authority that allows me to teach them and be directive. With my stepchildren I constantly feel like I’m one step behind, like I have to establish myself each time I engage them.”
Step fathering can be challenging. Perhaps that’s why many stepfathers disconnect from their stepchildren emotionally and withdraw from daily responsibilities. The unmapped territory seems to have many land mines and it’s easier to just retreat than to engage the “enemy.” But stepfathers can have profound and important leadership roles with stepchildren. Like Joseph, who wasn’t Jesus’ biological parent, stepfathers can offer guidance, love, and encouragement to the children under their care. Here’s a map for the territory and some practical action points for stepfathers.
Get a Lay of the Land
All stepparents need to understand the emotional climate of their stepchildren. Stepfathers are no different. For example, being aware of the child’s emotional wounds and hurts from past losses is vital to coping with the sometimes angry or oppositional attitudes of children in stepfamilies.
It is also very important that stepfathers recognize that gaining respect and leadership from stepchildren is a process; you earn the right to lead by developing trust and connection with stepchildren. You must be willing, for example, to enter the child’s life as an “outsider” who slowly finds acceptance, at the child’s pace. For many men it is very disturbing to realize that their stepchildren get to determine the pace at which they find acceptance in the family. And it’s true—you don’t get to control your parental status—the children do. They will open their heart to you when they are ready. Until then, you must cope with feeling out-of-control and find ways to work within the system as it is. Here are some tools that might help.
Tools for the Stepfather Tool Box
Initially Provide Indirect Leadership
There are two kinds of influence (or power) in relationships: 1) positional power and 2) relational power. Initially as a stepfather you have positional power because you are an adult in the house who is married to the children’s mother. Much like a teacher at school, you have positional power. As your relationship with the children grows, often over a period of years, you gain relational power because they now care about you personally. Your opinions matters more, your validation is sought after, and your warm embrace feels safe.
In the beginning, when limited to positional power, effective stepfathers provide in-direct leadership in their home by leading through their wife who holds a great deal of relational power with the children. Work with her behind the scenes to establish boundaries, expectations, and the values that will govern your home. While she might be the one to communicate the values and hand down discipline, you can still be very responsible to set a godly tone for the family.
Express Your Commitment
Articulate your commitment to your stepchildren’s mother. Keep in mind, however, that early on this won’t necessarily be considered a positive by your stepchildren. In fact, they may be threatened by it. Children who hold a strong fantasy that their parents will reconcile can find your commitment a barrier to life as they would have it. Additionally, mom’s remarriage (whether following a death or divorce) is often perceived as another loss to children, not a gain (as you see it). Be patient with their adjustment to your marriage, but communicate your commitment to the permanency of the marriage nevertheless.
Communicate Your Role
It’s important to verbalize your understanding of your role. Children need to hear that you know that you’re not their dad and won’t try to take his place. Communicating that same understanding to their father is also very helpful to him; hopefully this will help him to not fear your involvement with his kids. As his fear decreases, his cooperative spirit about your presence may increase. Finally, tell your stepkids that you are looking forward to your growing relationship and that you know how awkward that can be for the child. Let them know that if they feel stuck between you and their dad, they can make you aware of it and it won’t hurt your feelings.
Be a Spiritual Leader
Many stepfathers discover that sharing faith matters is, in addition to spiritual training for the child, a good way to connect emotionally. Processing the moral content of a TV program or “thinking out loud” about your decision not to spend money on a bigger fishing boat helps children see your character and learn important spiritual values at the same time. Show them you are a person worthy of respect and they’ll eventually give you respect.
As a therapist I always know I’m going to have a tough time helping a family when the stepfather is defensive and easily hurt by the typical reactions of stepchildren. Part of being approachable and accessible to stepchildren is knowing that not everything is about you. In fact, most of kid’s negative reactions to stepparents are really about the child’s losses (stepparents just happen to be the easy target for child’s heartache). Until you have worked through the struggles of building a relationship, most of what a kids throws at you is a test of your character. Show yourself not easily offended and able to deal with their emotional ups and downs. This will make it more likely that they see you as someone they can trust.
If you want to win someone’s heart, give them a thousand compliments (even when they aren’t asking for it). Showing appreciation is the quickest way to build someone up and help them to feel comfortable in your presence. By contrast, be cautious with criticism. Words of affirmation go along way to engendering safety and closeness.
Spend Time Together
Find time to be with your stepchildren, but do so with wisdom. If a child is not welcoming of your presence, join their life at a distance. This means taking them to their soccer game and cheering from the sidelines, but not being too much of a coach. It also means knowing what’s important to them and gently inquiring with interest: “You studied for three hours last night for that science exam. How did it go?” “I know you’ve got a big date this Friday. I noticed a concert in the paper today that you might consider attending. I think she’d like this, but it’s your call whether you go.”
Also, if you say you’re going to be somewhere, be there. Don’t disappoint a child who is deciding whether to let you in their heart or not.
As your relationship grows, you can spend one-on-one time with the child, go on special retreats together, and serve side-by-side in your church’s summer work camp. Focused time will deepen the trust and emotional bond in your relationship.
Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Thursday, August 06, 2020
What I Wish I Knew When I Was a New Dad
Thirteen experienced dads share some of the words of wisdom they wished they heard when they were first starting out.
By Matt Christensen Mar 11 2019, 2:04 PM
New dads have one thing in common: They don’t know what they don’t know. That is, until they’re not really new dads anymore, and what they know now becomes what they wish they would’ve known then. A lot can happen during those years between the trip home from the delivery room and, well, what comes next. And it’s those years that experienced fathers often look back on with precise hindsight, wishing not for a do-over, but maybe for a do-wiser.
To provide some insight to those of you who are just starting down the road of fatherhood, we talked to a variety of experienced dads about what they wished they knew when they were just starting out. If you’re a veteran dad, read on and reflect. If you’re a new dad, take notes.
1. Give Their Growing Brains More Credit
“I wish I knew how absorbent kids were. Not for cleaning up spills [laughs], but how much stuff they’ll remember about being a kid. Their brains are just constantly taking stuff in. My son is 12 now, and he reminds me about stuff we did when he was, like, three years old. Not detail-by-detail, but definitely much more clearly than I can remember some of those things. The rub is that he remembers the good — like pony rides and the ceramic owl that inspired his first word — but also the times when his mother and I were going through rough patches. Again, he doesn’t remember exactly what was said or anything, but he says he remembers the feelings around the house. Looking back, I wish I would’ve given his growing brain a little more credit.” – Keith, 43, Ohio
2. Time Goes by Very Quickly
“I wish I knew how fast the time really went, and how to be more present in the moment. You think they’re going to be little forever and you’re always going to have enough time to play and just do silly kid stuff. And then, all of a sudden, they’re driving themselves to the movies with friends, or you’re bringing them to their girlfriend’s house. I loved their childhood, but I wished I’d slowed down a bit more and really took stock of how fleeting those years really are. Because they’re definitely gone now.” – Jeremy, 44, New York
3. There’s Never Enough Space
“I wish I knew how much storage babies required. We had a nursery, and I thought that would be good to go. But, man, babies require stuff! All kinds of stuff. There’s the basic lot of diapers and toys and clothes, but then there’s space you need for the strollers, the car seats, the gates, the special furniture. It’s a lot! And the bummer is, most of it is obsolete after about six months or a year because the baby just keeps growing. Thank God for Craigslist, ya know?” – Jonathan, 39, Maryland
4. Relax, Poop Isn’t that Bad
“I wish I knew that poop isn’t that gross. Before your first kid, poop is sort of a mythical element. You only experience it in very private situations, or during rare, extraordinary events. With a new baby, though, it’s literally shit all the time. I was terrified to have to change diapers — I believed all the hype. But, it really wasn’t/isn’t that bad. It’s like watching the Saw movies or playing Mortal Kombat. You just get desensitized to it after a while.” – Brian M., 38, Ohio
5. Not All Arguments Need to Be Won
“I wish I knew how to pick my battles. For some reason — I say some reason, but really it was crappy parenting blogs and friends with kids — I thought I had to ‘win’ every argument with my daughter when she was young. I felt like it was necessary to establish myself as an authority figure. I had to be my own iron regime, or my kid would start taking advantage of my weakness, exposing my flaws, blah, blah, blah. The truth is, it absolutely did not matter if she ate all of her vegetables or stayed up an extra 20 minutes. In fact, lightening up and not arguing with her about every little thing probably would’ve saved me a few wrinkles.” – Brian R., 38, Ohio
6. It’s Okay to Ask For Help
“I wish I’d asked for more help. Not just to lighten the load of raising a child, but because I was surrounded by people who knew what they were talking about. I was so determined to, like, forge my own path that I think I put a lot of pressure on myself — and probably my wife — that I really didn’t need to. There were people around us who loved us and wanted to help, and we did let them, but I definitely could’ve been more flexible, I think.” – Adam, 44, Georgia
7. Your Bed Is No Longer Yours
“I wish I knew that our bed — mine and my wife’s — wouldn’t be ours anymore. As soon as our son was old enough to start running away from nightmares and monsters in the closet, he was in our bed just about every night. I can’t really complain, though. Those memories — just lying there with him and my wife, rubbing his head while he fell back to sleep — still melt my heart.” – Jordan, 35, Florida
8. Screen Time Isn’t As Evil As It’s Made Out to Be
“I wish I knew how full of shit baby boomers are when it comes to technology. ‘Oh, your kid is always in front of that screen! He should be outside playing with his friends!’ Why can’t it be both? In fact, why can’t one help the other? My son’s hand-eye coordination is probably better because of all the apps and games he loved playing on our iPad when he was little. And when he goes outside to play, he finds bugs, plants, wildlife – all sorts of things that he wants to learn about. And guess what? Now he knows where and how to look them up. There is a balance between Angry Birds – that’s what he played when he was little – and tapping a metal hoop down the street with a stick, old farts.” – Allan, 37, California
9. It’s Okay to Make Mistakes
“I wish I knew it was okay to drop a baby. Now, let me clarify: it’s not good to drop a baby. But, despite what your first-timer parent fears will tell you, it’s not the end of the world if your baby rolls off the couch, falls off your lap, or even just gets a cut or bruise. As soon as your first kid is born, the absolute worst case scenario is anything having to do with that baby being harmed. If you even come exponentially close to something like that, you’re beating yourself up for weeks. Maybe months. Don’t. There’s a chance it won’t happen. But there’s also a chance it will. And, if it does, it’s important to remember that, if it were something you could’ve prevented, you would have. And, for the record, when they get older, kids love hearing the stories. Especially if they happened to siblings.” – Rudy, 41, Ohio
10. There’s A Lot of Nonsense to Keep Track Of
“I wish I knew how much there would be to remember about kid culture. When your kid starts getting into stuff — like how we got into Transformers, Ninja Turtles, etc. — it just becomes this flood of ridiculous names, and logos, and noises, and songs, and toys in which you can never, ever get sure footing. You have to know the difference between Shopkins, Hatchimals, Fingerlings…these are all real things. That brain we used to have for remembering comic book issues and baseball card stats? It’s gone. You’re lucky if you can get part of it back. It’ll help in a big way.” – Al, 44, Pennsylvania
Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Tuesday, August 04, 2020
How I Stopped Being an Angry Dad
I used to be angry. It took me a long time to admit and even a longer time to improve, but I've finally arrived at a better place.
By David Willans Jul 15 2020, 2:51 PM
I used to be an angry dad. I remember the moment I realized it, feeling as though I’d slapped myself in the face. It was a cold morning, but I was sweating through my work clothes, carrying three bags, stomping along after my children on their scooters. In my rush to get out of the house and to school and work, I got angry.
Not just raised voices, but really angry. I lost control of myself, physically manhandling them into their coats and shoes, picking them up and putting them outside the front door. Later, I remember the deep feeling of shame, guilt, and regret. My only saving grace was that nothing really bad actually happened, but it could have. I wasn’t in control.
I’m an angry dad, I thought. Something I never wanted to be. I needed to fix it fast. That was five years ago. Since then I’ve worked very hard to become patient and understand what it means to be a good dad. I’ve learned about child development, what happens in our brains and bodies when we get angry, and how to create the space between emotional reactions and real-world actions. There are some important takeaways.
When we get angry, two things happen. We focus on ourselves and the moment — how they’ve made us feel, how much we’re trying — and we assume malicious intent.I’ve realized that kids aren’t really trying to wind you up. It’s not about you, it’s about them.
The trigger for their action is either:
Something physical. They’re tired, hungry, thirsty or need the bathroom.
Something emotional. Friendship problems or not getting enough of your attention, because a sibling, work or something else is getting more of it. Remember: You are one of the few people they love and depend on more than anyone else in the world.
Something evolutionary. They’re growing, their job is to learn about the world. The only way to do that properly is to try new things and see what happens. While the unintended consequence of their action might be your angry reaction, it wasn’t the motive.
Often when we get angry, we separate ourselves from the people around us. We say ‘Just give me some space’, or ‘I can’t deal with you right now’. We need this space to get back in control, but we need to create it in a way that our children know we will come back to them.
Our children need our love and attention. When we get angry at them, we attribute blame to them. This leaves them feeling regretful, sad, and, at worst, ashamed. These are heavy emotions for a child to be left alone to deal with, especially a little one.
And try to give yourself some grace. It takes some maturity to think back over a situation, realize what went wrong, admit your role in it, and tell yourself you can do better next time. It’s much easier to accept the story that you’re a bad person. When I learned this was the impact of my anger, I felt ashamed, but I used that feeling to help me change.
We’re going too fast. Emails, WhatsApp messages, deadlines and to-do lists rule adult life. There’s always more to do and get done faster. Children move at a different pace. They’re learning how the world works and how to get what they need and want in it. That’s a big job.
They’re learning to emotionally self-regulate, to start and grow healthy relationships, they’re learning self-respect, perseverance, resilience and they’re learning about themselves. This is hard work. It takes time. We’ve forgotten how hard and how long it takes because it’s mostly, automatic for us now.
When we put our expectations ahead of what our children are developmentally capable of, we create a gap that gets filled with our impatience, frustration, anger, blame, and their shame, because they haven’t met our expectations. When we expect a 2-year-old not to act like a 2-year-old, the fault is ours. We may as well get cross because the moon doesn’t glow green. You overcome this by learning where to accurately set your expectations.
I had an opportunity to put these lessons to practice recently. I only left the room for a few minutes, when I did, my two boys, aged 10 and 8, were reading quietly. When I returned, one had the other pinned to the floor with his forearm. I reacted calmly, something that hasn’t come naturally to me over the years, but something I’ve worked very hard to change.
I walked in, told one to get off the other, then lifted him off. I knew I needed to separate them before we could come to any sort of resolution. But the son I’d picked up saw my physicality as an injustice. We’re being very careful to teach our children to respect other people’s bodies and physical space. I’d seen the need to physically intervene as perfectly valid, to end the suffering of the one on the floor, but the son I’d picked up saw it as an act of aggression towards him and stormed off.
Upon reflection, I realized I was in the wrong. Every behavior is really an act of communication that’s louder than words. Despite the fact that I believed my actions to be justified in the name of my son’s safety, to my son they were unforgivable – an infringement on his personal space and autonomy, despite it being exactly what he inflicted on his brother.
I know from my work in behavior change that getting someone to behave differently means meeting them where they are. With children, this means acknowledging their point of view and feelings. Not validating, but acknowledging how they felt and why they did what they did. There’s a subtle difference, but an important one.
After checking the one on the floor was fine, I got his version of events. “I asked him to give me my book back, when he didn’t, I went over and grabbed it. Then he pushed me over and sat on top of me because I wouldn’t let go of the book,” he said.
Then I turned my attention to the one who had stormed off. I had given him, and myself, a bit of time to cool down, which is crucial, few things escalate quicker than two opposing points of view mixed with a temper. I went and spoke to him, getting down on his level, so I could look him in the eye. This always helps me get into a calmer, more empathetic role, because it reminds me of how grown up I am in comparison. I apologized for my actions first off, acknowledging his feelings so he knew I understood him. That feelings bit is a critical step because it helps rebuild, or build a relationship.
I explained why my physically removing him was wrong, and I gave the reasons for my actions. He listened quietly, no talking back or exchanging cross words. This doesn’t always happen. Then I asked him to apologize to his brother, and once he’d had a bit more space, he did. I set a natural consequence, of no borrowing of brother’s books for today. It wasn’t a big thing, but did make logical sense — if you can’t be sensible with your brother’s stuff, you don’t even get to ask for any of it. His brother would have probably set this boundary himself, but by me doing it, the chances of repeat problems were reduced on a day when the last thing I wanted was to do more than mess around with my kids.