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I’ve Been Profiled

When I think of profiling or stereotyping I usually think of the racial type.  I am thankful to have never encountered the significant consequences of being profiled.  My experience consists of being the only Caucasian boy on a baseball team made up of all Hispanic boys; they gave me the nickname “white boy”.

Today however, I discovered that I had been profiled based on my religious beliefs.  I received a message from a fellow dad blogger saying that he owed me an apology.   He had read my twitter profile beginning with “I am a follower of Christ” and instantly wrote me “off” based on his previous assumptions about Christians.  He went to my blog and discovered that most of my posts began by quoting a bible passage.  This was more evidence in his mind that I fit the profile he was thinking of.

I am not exactly sure what assumptions were made about me based on those words, “I am a follower of Christ”, but I spent the day wondering about it.  I wonder if he expected my blog to be full of articles railing against homosexuality, gun control, and President Obama?  I wonder if he expected to read about the evils of abortion, or a call to boycott some movie, company, or product?  I wonder if he expected my blog to feel argumentative, judgmental, condescending, or arrogant?  Maybe he just didn’t want to read about how good God is when there is so much crap going on in the world.

To my delight, this dad blogger has written a post telling the story of how after his initial visit to my blog he had a separate conversation that provided him with increased insight regarding his profiling of Christians.  Following this exchange he returned to my blog for a second look and wrote this about his experience;

 I went back to that first blog. This time, rather than flee at the sight of scripture, I stayed a while and read his last three posts. Turns out, he’s just a guy trying to live a good life. That life, for him, is rooted in his faith. His posts may play off of the selected bible verses that precede them, but mostly he just writes about being a dad.

            I really appreciate that this blogger took the time to get to know me.  He spent time listening rather than talking and made a true effort to understand my perspective.  He discovered that I was not what he thought I was.  Through my writing he was able to discover the true picture of who I am.  I am just a guy living a life rooted in faith trying to be a dad.

            I fully believe that a posture of listening, understanding, respecting, and loving could change our society.  When we truly get to know someone we begin to realize that they are a unique individual separate from assumptions based on labels and appearances.  Thank you dad blogger friend for beginning a dialogue and moving beyond your previously held assumptions.  

Do As I Say Not As I Do?

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children, and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us. Ephesians 5:1

I learned another important lesson of parenthood the other day, and like many other lessons this one was the direct result of something involving my child.  My family and I have had the wonderful blessing of spending this Christmas with my wife’s family.  Her brother is here, her sister’s family, parents, and of course, the associated kids.

One of the great things about visiting with family is watching the children play together.  They spend the days outside playing with bicycles, searching for treasures, and building friendships.  Two days ago however we ran into a little snag.

My wife and I had left the house to run an errand with two of our children.  We got a call from my mother in law that something had been broken at the house.  It appeared that one of the two boys we had with us was the culprit.  Driving home we decided that the “suspect” would have a private talk with grandma before he moved on to any play activities.   We knew that she was not upset but that she wanted to reinforce the lesson of confessing and apologizing if you have damaged a piece of someone else’s property.

As we pulled into the driveway I parked my father in laws truck next to my brother in laws relatively new car.  Since it was the holidays and we had two kids with us it was a bit of a struggle to get out of the car.  I opened the door and began unloading the boys and the packages.  As the “suspect” jumped out I leaned to my left and bumped the truck door pushing it further open into the passenger door of my brother in laws car.  I put down my belongings, pulled the door partially closed, and surveyed the damage.  I had left a dull silver/grey scratch the size of a quarter on the dark black paint.

My first thought was, “Oh Sh*t”. My second thought was, “he may never notice, maybe I could wipe it off.”   My third thought jumped right to my poor son marching his way to a private discussion with grandma about the stone cross he had broken.  To be a father with any integrity and character, to be the father that I claim to be, I must tell my brother in law what had happened.

I went inside and watched as my son sheepishly spoke with his grandmother telling the story of how the stone cross came to be broken.  As expected, she was not upset with him.  She only asked that next time he tell her when something at her house was broken.

Moments later my brother in law walked in the house and I sheepishly told him about his car.  I apologized as he walked outside to check on the damage done.  As expected, he was not upset with me and only thanked me for telling him that it had happened.

I wonder who learned the bigger lesson?  My son won’t remember this experience and I am pretty sure “not me” will be blamed again in the future.  I think this lesson was a Christmas gift for dad.  I learned that the way I live my life speaks much louder than the words I say.   This was a simple reminder that in order to raise children with integrity, honor, and love for Christ, I must first possess that which I hope to pass on.

I pray that my boys see more of Christ in me than they do of me.  I know that it is only through His grace that any child of mine will become a child of His.

 How do you experience God’s grace in parenting?

Stuff Dads Say is a FREE BOOK

 Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. Proverbs 4:1

I am always a little shocked by how much my children actually hear what I say.  It is even scarier to realize how much they watch what I do.  Several years ago I had picked our boys up from school and was driving home when from the back seat I heard my oldest say the word stupid.  I quickly turned around and said,  “Son we do not say stupid.”   Later that same evening the boys and I ventured into the back yard to play in our sandbox.  As I dragged off the cover, designed to keep the neighbors cat from pooping in our sand, I discovered a nasty deposit.  I scooped out the poop and said under my breath, “stupid cat”.   My son came running over from about 15 feet away, tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Dad, we do not say stupid!”  Ouch, the painful humility of realizing my own hypocrisy.  I was reminded of how powerfully the words and actions of a father impact the lives of their children.

I strongly believe that the messages fathers send, stated and unstated, have a profound impact on how their sons (and daughters) come to view the world, God, themselves, and others.  “Stuff Dads Say” is a short and encouraging read covering the top ten most important messages all children need to hear from their fathers.  I believe these messages should be sent over and over again throughout a child’s life.  They are paying attention and will gain understanding.  The question is, understanding of what?  This challenging E-book will be available Free for the next three days only.  Browse the list below for a sneak peek.

The most important messages every child needs to hear from his father:

  1.  No kicking in the face
  2. Where does it hurt?
  3. Come on, I need your help
  4. Let’s go on an adventure
  5. Oh, Let’s try that again
  6. Let’s go help mom
  7. How are you going to handle that?
  8. I’m sorry
  9. What do you think about that?
  10. How do you ask nicely?

I have caught myself saying each one of these phrases.  Before having kids I never imagined that they would become part of my parenting vocabulary.  I am excited to share with you how they have shaped my journey as a father and how I believe they continue to shape the way my sons view the world.

ANGRY ART

Several weeks ago, my son became very angry with me.  It was a slow Saturday morning, and a bit cool outside.  I was attempting to find some indoor activities that would keep the “wheels” on for a little while.  We have a large roll of butcher paper in a closet that was purchased precisely for these types of days.  So, I got the roll out cut a piece about my son’s height and asked if he wanted me to trace him.  He said yes and things were looking up.

I completed tracing his body and right away I knew something was wrong.  I noticed a certain tone in his voice when he said, “daaaaad.”  I checked in to see what the problem was and he said, “you did it wrong!”  I could see the emotion beginning to overwhelm him.  His face was a little red, his eyes were filling with tears and I am pretty sure a crayon flew by my head.  “What did I do wrong?” I asked.  “You traced my hand wrong!” he yelled.

The next few seconds consisted of me trying to understand what had upset him and he yelling through tears, pacing around the room.  The intensity and speed with which he felt this anger surprised me.  What he did next was also quite a surprise.  He sat down next to the outline of his body and began to furiously scribble over the entire thing.  At first it seemed he was doing this to upset me.  He looked at me as he scribbled waiting to see if I would react.  When I did not react however he just kept scribbling and scribbling and scribbling.  As he scribbled he seemed to gradually be getting calmer and calmer.  He changed colors several times until he had filled up the entire sheet of paper with ANGER.

In this moment I was a little angry myself.  I had attempted to create a nice memory and it turned into something quite uncomfortable.  As I have reflected on what happened however, I have become thankful for the experience.  I have learned several valuable lessons about my son that I hope to never forget.

My son experiences his emotions quickly and intensely.  No matter what he feels, he feels it to the full.  When he is happy, excited, sad, angry, or frustrated his cup is one or two drops away from over flowing.  This truth will be a great strength for him, he is passionate, hardworking, physically active, engaging, and fun to be around.  This truth may also be a challenge for him; he can by hyper, impulsive, rough, and reckless.  Most importantly I learned that when he is allowed to express his emotions he will be OK.

As he scribbled I could see the anger pouring out of him, I could feel his upset as he glared in my direction hoping to get a reaction.  But the longer he scribbled the less intensely he felt this anger.  Children need parents that are not afraid of their intense feelings.  They need parents who can “contain” them even when they cannot contain themselves.  When their cups are over flowing with anger, sadness, energy, or excitement they need parents to accept their expressions of these feelings and to help contain the overflow.

I am not perfect at this, my son is not perfect at this, but I think we are learning more and more about it every time he is overwhelmed.  Each experience of these intense emotions is another opportunity to practice the ANGRY ART.

What emotion does your child feel most intensely?

How does your child express this emotion?

"Stuff Dads Say" E-BOOK

This is the final post in my Series “Stuff Dads Say”.  What I thought would take a couple of months wound up taking more like six but I am excited to have covered what I believe are the most important messages that dads send their children.  I am even more excited to let you know that I have compiled all of my “Stuff Dads Say” posts into a very affordably priced E-book.  This book is a short and encouraging read that would be a perfect “virtual stocking stuffer” for a husband, son in law, grandpa, or new father.  Check out the links below to read more about it.

 

How Do You Ask Nicely?

“A kind man benefits himself, but a cruel man brings trouble on himself” 
Proverbs 11:17

I live in a house with three sweaty, stinky, rough and tumble boys.  They love to wrestle, play in the mud, eat lots of food, and make funny noises.  Being an older and hopefully more mature version of these creatures I have sometimes found it difficult to know the appropriate level of manners to require of them.  I am thankful for the high standard that their mother has helped me to set and the lessons our boys have learned from it.

Early on in our parenting experiment my wife began to require our children to say please and thank you at the appropriate times.  We had never really discussed this expectation but since she was from the south it was something that had been stressed in her home as a child.  At first I thought it was a little over board, “come on, the kid can’t even talk and we are teaching him signs for please and thank you?”  Being the laid back person that I am I followed her lead and persisted in this expectation.

As the years have rolled by and the children have multiplied I have fully embraced the expectation set in those early days.  I regularly find myself saying, “how do you ask nicely” as a way to remind my children of there appropriate manners.  They always know how to respond and more and more lately they have not needed the reminder.

It seems today that manners are less and less of a priority.  I have met 5 year olds that say words not even adults should utter out loud.  Many times people are surprised to here children speaking with respect.

I may be a little idealistic but I firmly believe the above scripture, “A kind man benefits himself.”  I am not teaching my children to say please and thank you to  get them a better job, or more money.  I think the scripture could just as easily say, a kind man respects himself, controls himself, befriends himself.  When we set high expectations for our children’s manners and behavior they begin to see a picture of who they can be.  They can’t be perfect but they can be self-controlled, respectful, kind, generous, and a good friend.  These are qualities that I hope my children learn from saying there please and thank yous.

What Do You Think About That?

A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son grief to his mother. Proverbs 10:1

There are parents all across the U.S. struggling with the foolish decisions of their children.  I myself have often wondered about my own son, “why did you do that?”  I really wish that children came out of the womb with all the tools they needed to make wise decisions.   Unfortunately children are born ill equipped for the thousands of decisions they will make in there life time.  How then do we as parents train our children to make wise decisions?

I believe that we train children to make wise decisions by asking the question, what do you think about that?  When children become teenagers they are suddenly required to make many decisions.  If when they get to this stage they have never thought through the consequences of a decision or solved a problem on their own, they are in for a lesson.

I like to start out small and young.  Asking children at a young age what their favorite color is, food, movie, game, friend etc…  All of these questions require a child to think about their wants, desires, and at some level what is valuable to them.  These are not the ultimate values of life but they are the beginnings of determining the ultimate values.  One of the most important things to focus on as a parent during these conversations is truly seeking to understand your child’s inner life.  The more you are engaged with understanding your child’s thoughts, opinions, and values, the stronger they will hear the message, “what you think is important to me.”  If you value their opinion then they will see value in it as well.

As a child increases in age and practice it is wise for parents to begin asking their opinion in more significant ways.  What sport would you like to play? What assignment would you like to do first?  What do you think about this bible verse?  What is important to you in this?  The more opportunity they have to express their opinions about a wide variety of topics the more confident they will be in their opinions.  The more confidence they have in their own opinions the more likely they are to make decisions based on their values rather than those of their peers.

It is not possible to guarantee that our children will always make the right decision.  It is possible however to provide tons of practice and rehearsal for the moments when their values are really tested.  When the pressure is on they will rely on what is most comfortable and familiar to them.  Parents can influence what is most comfortable and familiar by engaging in thoughtful and challenging conversations.

More articles available at http://www.parentingboysraisingmen.com

The Secret of Power and Control

My wife and I are in serious trouble! Today my five year old discovered the most well kept and important secret of the parenting world.  I was hopeful that my boys would not discover this secret for several more years.  Now that the middle child has figured it out however, it will not be long before the other three catch on.

He has discovered that when it really comes down to it, I cannot MAKE him do anything.

We stopped at a local restaurant to grab dinner following his soccer game.  I was rushing home to pick up his older brother so that I could take him to his cub scout meeting.  As we left the restaurant he stopped, just outside the door.  I was walking ahead of him and looked back to see him propped up against the wall scraping his soccer cleats on the ground.  I said, “come on buddy, let’s go” He said, “No” and just stood there.  He looked at me with a knowing smirk; he saw that my hands were full, I was in a hurry, and that I had few parenting “tools” at my disposal.

Thankfully, I had gotten off work a little early today so I was in a pretty patient frame of mind.  I remained calm and began racking my brain for the best way to handle this situation.  We stood there looking at one another for nearly a minute.   It began to feel like the stand off at the OK corral, whoever moved first, was doomed to lose.  After searching for the most helpful tool in my bag for this situation, I came up empty.  I was unable to think of a logical or enforceable statement to convince him that he should move on his own.  So, I walked back to where he stood, took his arm and walked him to the car.  Eventually he decided to walk on his own, and climbed into his seat.

As I reflect on this situation I am struck by the simple truth, I CANNOT MAKE HIM DO ANYTHING.  At this point he is only five, I am bigger than he and I can take him by the arm and walk him to the car.  In ten years if he decides to take a similar approach about going to school things will be different.  I will not be able to physically move a fifteen year old as I did my five year old today.

This was a power struggle, he realized that I was in a hurry and short handed; he decided he was going to exercise his personal will.  I am reminded of how important it is for parents to admit and be OK with the fact that we cannot MAKE our children do anything.  All we can do is state what we are going to do.  We cannot control our children, instead we must explain the expectations or limit and then manage our own responses accordingly.  When the child does not meet the expectation the parent can let go of forcing him to “do” something and provide a logical consequence for the decision.  If the child meets the expectation he learns a lesson about responsibility, if the child does not meet the expectation and experiences a consequence, he learns a lesson about responsibility.  Either way the lesson is learned and the parent maintains sanity by understanding, “I don’t have to control my child, only my self.”

Over what has your child power struggled?
What are your favorite enforceable statements?
What are your “go to” phrases for enforcing limits?

I’m Sorry

I totally screwed up the other day!  It had been a long week, a long day at work, and when I arrived home things were a bit chaotic.  I lost my temper, and snapped at my oldest son.  My tone of voice was angry, the words were shorter than normal, and I am sure my facial expression was scary.  I cannot recall what pushed me over the edge, but I can see the look on his face.

            I now see that my angry response triggered an angry response in him, which only made the whole situation worse.  As I have reflected on my anger over the last few days I am reminded of something I once heard a speaker say.  He said that the most important thing he ever did as a parent was to apologize when he messed up.  I have tried to keep this advice in my mind specifically for times like these.

            A couple of times in my experience as a parent I have apologized to my children and seen the immediate calming, and healing effects of the words, “I am sorry.”  Another time that sticks out to me is a situation in which I jumped to conclusions about my son’s actions.  I walked into the house thinking I knew exactly what happened and began handing out consequences before getting the facts.  As the injustices of my uninformed decisions mounted I could sense my son puffing up with defensiveness and frustration.  His reactions got larger and the tears began to roll.

            As I came to my senses and began to learn more about the situation I realized my mistake.  I had misunderstood, over-reacted, and been wrong.  Due to the wise words of the previously mentioned speaker,  I realized my mistake, apologized to my son and immediately saw him deflate.  He calmed down, relaxed, and opened up to me about what had happened.  He could put down his defenses, as he was no longer being attacked.

            Apologizing when we make mistakes disarms a situation; it demonstrates humility, strength, and honesty.  If we as parents are willing to apologize our children will be more willing to apologize as well.   “I’m sorry” is a crucial message to send to your children.  It allows them to understand that you are not perfect, you are doing your best but make mistakes.  Saying I’m sorry also gives them permission to make mistakes.  They will learn to handle their own mistakes by following your model.

 What is your experience with apologizing to your children?
          

The Wisdom of Solomon???

My kids fight!  I am not sure why, I am not always sure what about.  All I know is that sometimes just when I think things are going really well and I have got it all under control, people start hitting each other.

Most of the time these fights, and other crazy things occur when I am not in the same room with my children.   They are downstairs and I am trying to catch a moment of stillness, or I am changing the baby while they are playing in the other room.  Typically one of them will run to me and begin to recount the story of what happened.  These are the moments of parenting that I find most difficult.  What do you do?  It feels good to support the crying child, tear into the other room and bring “justice” to the situation.   Unfortunately, I am not really sure what happened,  Who hit who?  Why did he hit you?  It can all be quite disorienting.

Someone told me once to never place myself as the judge in these types of situations.  I was told that these scenarios are lose, lose for parents and children.  If we choose the crying child, the “hitter” feels unloved.  If we choose the “hitter” the “cryer” feels unloved.   I was advised, instead to intervene with comfort and then a question to both parties.  Provide comfort to the hurting child and then ask the question, how are you going to handle that?

I really like this question it can be used in many situations and it always provokes thought.  It is so tempting, and usually easier for parents to give answers, provide solutions, or give instructions.  Asking, How are you going to handle that creates discussion, it allows your child to think through their choices and hopefully to make one.  The best part is that when they make a choice and act on it, no matter how it turns out they are responsible.  If they choose wisely and the situation turns out well, they are responsible experiencing a wonderful sense of accomplishment and joy.  On the other hand, if they choose unwisely, they are also responsible for those actions.  They are left to face the natural consequences of their behavior with no one to blame but themselves.

What other questions do you find yourself asking your child?
How do you promote thought in tough situations?