Category Archives: Values and Morals

Where Are Our Heroes?

Children look up to heroes. Young children look at fairy tale or fictitious heroes. Harry Potter, Superman, and Batman –  we can name hundreds of heroes in fiction. But as children  grow, they graduate to real heroes. These could be sports stars  or people in the news. This is a sad time for children since we  have so many fallen stars. Barry Bonds, the biggest home run  hero of our time, cheated by using steroids. An American  cyclist, Floyd Landis, came back to victory in the Tour de  France only to have his victory clouded under doping  allegations. Our President is usually an obvious choice of a  hero yet our last two Presidents failed our children. Clinton  is famous for his cheating on his wife and Bush made up reasons  for war and has made America famous for torture. Hollywood  props up movie stars as heroes but then we hear about their  drunk driving or their prejudicial remarks or both.  Unfortunately, there are only a few Tom Brady’s around. We hope  that our newly elected officials live up to there promises and  reputations, though we are losing faith.

Kids need heroes. But more importantly, they need adults  that they can look up to and respect. I once heard in a  parenting conference that what children need is an “influential  adult” outside their family who becomes their local hero. These  “influential adults” can be teachers, coaches, or community  leaders. They aren’t famous heroes because over time kids turn  away from their infatuation with distant heroes and turn their  attention to real tangible, respectable adults who are involved  in their lives. To that end, adults in every community need to  respond to this era of poor examples of heroes at the top. We  have to become the heroes on the bottom. Every adult in every  community needs to evaluate how he or she is demonstrating him  or herself as an example to young adults. What child will look  up to you as an “influential adult” in their lives? At home,  are you there for them or do you disappear too often to ensure  you have your fun? Do you provide examples of good community  work? Do you volunteer or donate time or money? Do you expect  returns for your good works or is it truly given like real  heroes do? Do you simply act in kindness so children see and  live kindness around you?

You can’t ask “what is happening with kids today?” without  asking what is happening to heroes for kids today? We, the  adults, can make a difference inside and outside of our homes.  We need to start in our small communities. Do good work in your  community. Donate time to worthwhile projects. Work with food  pantries, or help the elderly. Don’t expect praise but let your  children and other kids witness your good acts. Be kind. Live  a well-valued life – especially those of us that work with  children. If we start at home and in our communities we can be  heroes for our children. They need them. We can build a  community of “heroes” pitching in and helping each other. Maybe  over time local heroism will filter up to where we need them for  our children the most in the high visible places of our country.

Whatever Happened To Sportsmanship

I am a sports fan and enjoy watching games like many  Americans. In October, I was thrilled when the Red Sox won  the World Series. I am enjoying the Patriots season, and am  interested in how the Celtics can rebuild. As I revel in  Boston’s great sports world, I have become very concerned  about the environment and what we are teaching kids about  sportsmanship.

Just think about the images of sportsmanship that were  on display in the last six months. During the playoffs and  World Series we saw objects thrown onto the field, police  in riot gear lining the stands, overzealous celebrations  leading to burning cars and a couple of deaths. No sooner  do we turn the page on that season when we witness NBA  players fighting with fans during a game. These are the  images that come to mind when you get away from the idea of  who won and focus just on sportsmanship.

We may want to rationalize our thoughts about  sportsmanship. I have heard phrases like, “well, a series  with the Yankees is always like that” or “what do you  expect, we haven’t won in 86 years” or “there always have  been bad examples of sportsmanship”.

But think about sportsmanship even at the high school  level. I have been embarrassed by some of the behavior of  parents in the stands at some high school games. We have  had murders caused by our “friendly” competitions between  rival towns. And on the field, some players have not  learned how to be good sports. Where can our children get  good examples of sportsmanship? How can we teach our kids  sportsmanship so the next generation of fans won’t be worse  than this one? Here are some suggestions.

1. Increase access to “pick up” games. These are games  where kids decide on the teams and referee themselves.  It is in these settings that kids have to set the  rules, be fair, and respect each player for their  worth. Perhaps some “leagues” should serve this role.  Get the coaches and parents out of the way and let the  kids learn through this valuable learning tool – pick  up games.

2. Parents and coaches need to recognize the diversity  of skills. Our culture of focusing on star players  demonstrates an overemphasis of personal athletic  prowess versus team play. All players should have a  role on the team. After all, that is how the Red Sox  and Patriots have won their championships!

3. Point out, criticize and punish displays of poor  sportsmanship – even by star players. Have the player  sit out a game. There should be clear rules for  sportsmanship on every team at every level. And those  rules need to be enforced. Many high schools have  players read and sign a sportsmanship pledge. Parents  should read it and agree to it as well.

4. Recognize, praise, and encourage displays of good  sportsmanship. Everyone likes it when you see an  opposing player help their opponent off the ground.  Good sportsman should receive high praise and rewards  at the end of every season.

5. Parents – Be Cool. Cheer your child on. But get  over the idea that your child’s accomplishments are a  reflection on you. Their accomplishments are theirs  – not yours. They don’t need to have extra pressure  from you to keep their level of accomplishment high.  They don’t need a second “coach” in the stands. It is  your child’s game to succeed or fail in. Be there to  share the joys or the sorrows. But please keep it in  perspective. It is their game not yours. Overzealous  parents are an embarrassment to the player and the  team.

6. Parents and coaches need to remember that it is only  a game. How we act towards the sport is the greatest  way for our children to learn sportsmanship.

7. Emphasize sportsmanship especially with rivalries.  I love the fact that we can have “United We Stand”  bumper stickers on our cars but don’t take this to  heart when our children are playing a rival town. We  all need to keep a perspective that we are united  despite having a rivalry. If both sides work on it we  could keep all rivalries “friendly”.

8. Competition is valuable. It teaches our kids to work  hard and earn what they receive. But sportsmanship is  more important than competition. Because if we don’t  learn sportsmanship, we as a society will never learn  to embrace peace.

What The Tsunami Should Teach Us

The devastating tsunami in Asia has an impact on all  of us. We cannot look at these images without recognizing  that these hurt people need help. That help comes to those  Asian communities by having those in need increase their  circles of helpful communities. The whole world recognizes  this – some countries faster than others. We are hearing  phrases in the press such as the “world community” or  “community of nations” in discussions about the response to  disaster, and so it should be. None of the local  communities in Asia will fix themselves without the aid  from the world community.

I am personally hit with the images of this disaster.  I have worked in different areas of the world and know how  poor communities receive the brunt of natural disaster. In  1998 a hurricane devastated Honduras. I visited the  country months after Hurricane Mitch flooded communities,  caused mudslides, and washed sections of plantations away.  As part of a medical team assessing the status of medical  relief, I could see with my own eyes that poor communities  got hit the worst and that Honduras would not recover  without years of aid from the world community. Today,  Honduras is better, (though still impoverished) largely due  to the aid it received from many countries. It will take  years for the Asian countries to recover with aid from  around the Globe as well.

Each disaster I witness reminds me of lessons learned  from previous disasters. Many of these lessons are basic  and logical. It is a wonder why we don’t listen and take  these lessons to heart between disasters. These lessons  should serve to guide us in decisions both personal and  communal. Here are the lessons I have learned.

1. It is easy to break things down.

2. It is harder and more costly to build things up.

3. It takes cooperation to make things better.

4. To make things better, we must rely on a community of  people to be sources of aid.

5. We hold human life in high regard. Human life is the  greatest value we have and we feel this most with  tragedies and unreasonable unexpected deaths.

6. We respect those who help others the most. Unselfish  people are great blessings.

7. Tragedies lead us to times of unselfishness.

Think about these lessons for a moment. These lessons  are applicable to many situations. Whether we are talking  about the war in Iraq, the tsunami in Asia, or the deaths  of family members in an auto accident, these lessons hold  true. These are really rules of life that everyone should  heed, not only in times of tragedy but all days of our  lives.

If we thought of these as a basic of how we live our  lives, we would work to build better communities. Better  communities would be in better position to withstand  difficult times. Better communities would help support  stronger families. Today, as we live in a society which  emphasizes “ownership” and the individual, we need to step  back and listen to the lessons of the tsunami. Rather than  emphasizing the achievement of individuals, our society  needs to emphasize unselfishness, cooperation, and  community.

Weathering The Pre-Teen Tirade

Your once compliant and loving daughter suddenly becomes  your worst critic. From the hats you wear to the way you drive  to how forgetful you are, you cannot catch a break from your  twelve-year-old expert in everything. What has brought on this  reign of terror from your lovely daughter? She’s wonderful to  her friends. She’s a teacher’s dream. Other parents love her.  But all you get is criticism. No, you can’t sell her to another family. But you can do something.

There is a stage in young teens where they begin to  question. They have heard your values. They have seen the way  you treat people and now as they approach early adolescence they  begin to question. They may often directly confront you about  some of your values. “Dad, you say we should help the poor but  you just walked past that guy who asked you for a dollar.  You’re just being a hypocrite!” Those direct challenges may be  answered rationally. But what about all the other opinions they  throw at you.

The first thing to recognize is that this state of  questioning is normal. Part of questioning the world, your  actions, and your values is to criticize. It really isn’t meant  to be a personal affront. It comes across that way but it is  not.

The time of early adolescence is a dramatic time of change.

To weather this time parents have to develop a tough skin.  Have confidence in your values and stand by them. “I do give to  the poor – more than you know, dear – but now was not one of  those times.” Don’t defend yourself too strongly. Show pride  in yourself and what you stand for. Take their criticism with  your head held high. It is more powerful to your kids that you  cannot be shaken by their challenges. This may be what they are  really looking for. Seeing you stand firm gives your kids a  stronger basis for the further challenges that lie ahead in  their teen years. They see your pride in yourself and may be  able to model that for themselves when others challenge them.

So don’t take it personally. Your young teen needs to  challenge and test you. Hold your head high even if your child  doesn’t want to be seen with you anymore. Keep your chin up  even if your twelve or thirteen year old thinks you’re a dweeb.  This is only a test, and how you pass it provides a stronger  base for their later challenges.

Teaching Respect

“Kids just don’t respect their parents like they used  to. Boy, when I was growing up if I spoke to my parents  the way kids speak to their parents today; I’d get a slap  from my father. There would be no way that I would use  such tones or make such faces to my father.”

I hear this kind of quote from parents often these  days. It sparks an interesting conversation about  parenting the old way versus the new way.

The old way of parenting was authoritative. Parents  commanded respect from their children by the threat or use  of force. This style of parenting caused children to treat  their parents a certain way purely out of fear. The image  that is recalled by adults is that they showed their  parents respect. This is usually the truth – they “showed”  their parents outward respect while in reality these “kids”  resented their parents’ use of force to gain “respect”.

Today, use of force at home is frowned upon. In fact,  use of corporal punishment is not necessary. Use of force  only gives parents a false sense of being in control while  it creates fear, insecurity and resentment in children. We  all know the issues that occur in households where force is  taken to the extreme and all of us should work to decrease  those risky situations.

So how do parents win respect from their children?  First, parents need to realize that you don’t gain respect  by making someone afraid. Like anywhere else in the world,  you get respect when you deserve it over time. And you  deserve it when you respect them for who they are. Parents  should view their children as people with wills and  desires. They are like a block of granite waiting for the  sculpture within to be exposed to the world. We the  parents are the sculptors and our work demands patience.  To let the best show from that raw block, parents must  respect the process children need to go through. Children  must try behaviors out to see if they work. Overtime they  have to learn to express themselves in positive ways. So  if we can respect them and the process they have to go  through they will learn respect.

Here are some guidelines for parents to gain respect  over time from their children.

Parents need to respect their children even when they  don’t respect you. This can be difficult. When kids don’t  respect us, we tend to react strongly. But our reactions  need to be controlled. One moment of disrespect will not  make our kids disrespectful.

When your child treats you in an openly fresh manner,  state your feelings and offer the cold shoulder.

Respect people inside and outside of your family.  Your children watch your behavior in the world and mimic it.

Don’t treat your children or others in demeaning ways.

Teach your children manners and use them yourself!  Manners are the cultural norms of respect.

Look into yourself and see how you disrespect  yourself, your kids and others. Turn over a new leaf of  respect. It starts by showing yourself respect by taking  care of yourself.

Be a good role model. Use your manners. Recognize  people for who they are. Respect the fact that all people  are struggling with their own issues. Meet people where  they are not where you want them to be.

Doing all this, respect will come. You will have  spared them a lot of yelling and anger. The frustration in  trying to make them respect you will have given way to a  more mature way of getting respect. By using  respectfulness in your life your child will be more likely  to find themselves, and show respect to others. At that  point you will receive their respect because you will have  earned it.

Teaching Our Kids About War’s Horrible Images

I have watched with too much interest at the images coming from Iraq. In fact, my sleep has been disturbed by the horrible images that we all have seen. At one point, I stopped reading the paper and started avoiding the news as if not witnessing it makes the horror go away. It doesn’t. But while I rested better, I turned to a new concern. What are we teaching our kids about these events?

There has been enormous interest in the war events. We receive daily front page reports and, now, horrible images about torture and abuse. The high level of interest may be misinterpreted by kids. They may think since these events hold our interest that they are worthy of their interest too. There can be further confusion in our criticism and discussion of the events. Our kids want us to “win” the war. They want our side to be the “good guys”. How could it be that our “good guys” are doing bad things? Even as adults, many of us try to rationalize these horrors by explanations such as “a few bad apples” or “lack of training”. No matter how we look at it, these images coming from Iraq make the war more real for us and for our kids. Since our children see many unreal images of war through video games and movies, we must take this opportunity to be honest and clear to our older children about the realities of war (younger children should be shielded from these horrible images). Here are some samples of questions and answers for parents to use with their older kids.

(child) Mom, is it good that we are fighting this war?

(parent) War hurts a lot of people. Many people die. War is never good.

(child) Why are we fighting this war anyway?

(parent) We thought we were getting rid of a bad man who was hiding weapons. We did get rid of the bad man but we didn’t find any weapons.

(child) Why can’t we stop this war then?

(parent) Well, this is an important lesson for all of us. Wars are easy to start but very hard to end. Many people get angry with war so it is hard to bring back the peace.

(child) Why did our soldiers do those nasty things to those people?

(parent) Behavior like that is hard to explain. Many  people all over the world are upset with that  behavior. We should never treat people like animals the way our soldiers did. That behavior was inexcusable and will be punished.

(child) Well, their bad man Saddam Hussein did worse than that. So, our guys are still the good guys, right?

(parent) A majority of our soldiers are good people trying to do the right thing. Most of our soldiers are good and shouldn’t be blamed for those bad things. But the way those soldiers treated those prisoners can not be excused.

(child) Well, I just hope we win this war.

(parent) I’m sure we are going to be safe. War is not good for anyone.

Our children should not hear rationalizations or false statements. We should all know by now that false statements do not justify aggressive action anywhere – not on the playground – not in international affairs. We need to be honest with ourselves and our kids about this war in order for the next generation to learn what is right. Expressing distaste, sadness and even anger at improper events are important for us to teach moral lessons to our children.

Our kids have heard enough falsehoods. They play with unreal games. They see make believe wars on TV and in movies. Now with these real images of war coming at us, they need to hear the truth and have it put in honest moral and ethical context. War is not a fun game to play.  And I, too, hope it ends soon.

Supporting Special Love From Special Mothers

In all societies special children with unique medical problems exist. We know some of these children by special  names such as “autistic” or “retarded”. We say they have  cerebral palsy or brain damage. In England, some children  are openly called “spastics” and are supported by the  “Spastic Society”, the equivalent to our Cerebral Palsy  Society. Many times when my family encounters a family  with a special child, one of my children will ask me  (hopefully out of earshot of the child’s mother) what is  wrong with that child”. We all want to know how to label  the child. What we outsiders don’t realize is that these  children are the special loved ones of dedicated mothers no  matter what label we want placed on the child.

Through my whole career I have witnessed care given to  special children by their incredible mothers as a unique  kind of love. I came into my practice life with many  assumptions about these children and their parents that  were proven wrong through my experiences. Because many of  us have wrong impressions we say or do the wrong things to  mothers of special children. Perhaps by sharing some  lessons I have learned we can support these mothers and  fathers better.

Over the past twenty years I have had children in my  practice with various neurological and medical disorders  that required twenty-four hour vigilance from parents. I  have seen many of these children succumb to their illnesses  at early ages. It is in the losses of their special babies  that you learn the value they held for their families.  Time and again I was surprised at the extended mourning  process these families entered. Families heard phrases  from people such as, “now you can get on with your life” or  “it must be a relief not to be burdened anymore.” Each  time I heard from parents that these comments were wrong.  The parents made it clear to me that these children were  never considered a burden by the family. Often the family  bonded together in the service of their special child.  There was a special bond or love between these mothers and  their child. There was never any “relief” in their child’s  death. The deaths were huge losses for these families and  required months or years of recovery especially after years  of dedicated service to their child.

It is from these lessons of death that we can learn to  support the living. We can support families of special  children in a number of ways.

1. Respect them and recognize the special love that exists in the family bonds.

2. Get over your discomfort. We love to label  children with problems. It helps distance us from them. Accept that mentally retarded, spastic, and brain damaged children exist in every community. We need to accept them as they are.

3. There is no room for assigning fault. There is  no fault. This is very important for extended families. There is no use in declaring whose side of the family the problem “runs in”. Or that “I knew she smoked too much during her pregnancy”. These children exist and there is no need to assign fault or blame.

4. Listen to these families stories. Their stories  can be frightening and amazing. I know families that have rejoiced at every small sign of progress in their child – often a thing others take for granted such as a first step. Some of their stories are the most heartwarming you will hear.

5. Offer little things to help. No family of a  special child expects you to take over their child’s care. But doing something small such as offering to pick up things at the store for them while you are out shows kindness and understanding to that family of a special child.

6. Be a friend to them. Families of special children  get isolated in society and feel that isolation.  Stop by for short times or call to check in. I  know that it helps the family feel part of a  bigger community.

I remember in Honduras when a very ill child, Angela,  with a severely damaged brain from birth died at an  orphanage. The director of the orphanage gave a  wonderful eulogy explaining that Angela made her needs  known to those who were closest to her. And all of  Angela’s caretakers cried because they knew it was  true. The director went on “They knew Angela’s moods.  They felt her love.” It is through these words that  we must remember the value these children hold in the  hearts of those who care for them. And that value  demands respect from the rest of us.

Squashing The Rudeness Epidemic

Dance instructors have asked me “Why are kids so rude these  days? If you reprimand a child in dance class for their  attitude you can expect a phone call from their parents later.”  Coaches have told me similar things. “Heaven forbid I sit a  star player for being a poor sport. The parents would have my  head.” Major magazines have had articles on the “rudeness  epidemic.” Is there any wonder why there is an epidemic if  parents don’t hold their kids responsible for their rudeness and  unsportsmanlike attitudes?

Certainly we don’t always have the best examples. Our pro  sports players have had numerous noteworthy displays of being  poor sports. But putting that aside for the moment, we must  think about how our kids display themselves to other adult  authority figures outside our houses. How do they represent you?

Keeping our kids from being rude takes a multifaceted  approach. We have to address rudeness from our children  wherever it occurs – at home, at school or at extracurricular  activities.

At home, parents often are at a loss on dealing with  rudeness or disrespect. We often react with anger, lectures and  worst of all, physical punishment. But these actions don’t  teach respect. Respect teaches respect. And this is one of the  toughest lessons for parents to learn. We must try to respect  them even when our kids don’t respect us. This doesn’t mean we  have to be nice! But yelling, lecturing and being physical can  be demeaning and not respectful to your kids as a person. When  we can respond to their rudeness to us with coolness we remain  in a respectful place yet give them the cool response rudeness  deserves. To top things off they learn that rudeness won’t get  a rise out of you. That decreases their motivation as well.  (And of course, decreasing a privilege or decreasing your  service to them may be very appropriate to go along with to your  cool responses.)

Children can learn a lot from parents by how you treat  people outside your house. Do you yell at people on the phone?  Are you short with people in stores? Children watch this and  mirror your actions as they face the outside world. Your kids  will take a page from your book and it won’t look pretty. We  need to model good respectful behavior for our children. So  when you hang up on that telemarketer do it with class and  respect.

When we hear about our child’s rudeness to a coach, teacher  or instructor, support that adult in sitting them on the bench  or excluding them from class. Yes we pay for those sports and  dance classes. But so do the other parents. So why should all  children be distracted and suffer due to your child’s rudeness?  They shouldn’t. Support the action of coaches and teachers.

Finally, all coaches, teachers, gymnastic instructors, and  dance teachers – all adults acting in authority over children in  their activities – need to have the authority to correct  children when their mouth speaks inappropriately. Foul  language, unsportsmanlike behavior, bad hand signals and  inappropriate outbursts should have repercussions. At the  beginning of the season or year, send home a behavior contract  for all involved in your program. Be clear on what your actions  will be. A fair warning is always well received and then your  authority should not be questioned when you have to act.

All adults need to work together. Parents need to support  other adults in authority. Communication between parents and  those surrogate parents is important. Be respectful. Respect  kids by using appropriate language yourself. Respect them as a  person even if they don’t deserve it. Be calm but firm.  Isolate the offender by your action. And if we all do this  together, perhaps we will squash the rudeness epidemic and raise  respectable children.

Why Limit “Giving” to a Season?

We call the holiday season the “Season of Giving”.  Certainly Americans give more to charities during this  season than any other time of the year. Yet, I feel  troubled about this “season” due to the perceptions we  leave with our children. We start the fall with Halloween  where children receive tons of candy simply by walking up  to a neighbor’s house in a funny costume. On the next day  in school kids ask each other, “How much candy did you  get?” We follow that holiday with Thanksgiving where we  give “thanks” by eating until we are full and sleepy.  Certainly this is a wonderful family holiday. But let’s  face it, the giving of thanks and appreciation is often  hidden behind the questions about how good the meal was.  And finally, we finish the holiday season with Christmas.  We all have wonderful memories of Christmas. Yet, parents  lament afterwards about the amount of gifts their children  received. When do we teach our children about giving rather  than receiving and why should it be limited to a season?

It is my opinion that we need to stop squeezing in  this lesson. This lesson of giving of oneself, some money  or effort to a good cause should be a year round lesson in  all families. In this “Season of Giving”, perhaps it is time  to start participating in yearlong projects of giving. The  biggest stumbling block is where to start. Here are a few  suggestions.

The first thing parents need to do is get information  about an area where you may want your family to make an  effort. Your children will not be able to decide on efforts  for the family although they may have certain interests. If  they are interested in animals perhaps volunteering at an  animal shelter would be worth your time. However, for most  families, the choice of your giving effort is the parent’s  responsibility. This is an opportunity to teach your  children where you have values and where you want to expend  your efforts.

Kids won’t want to instantaneously start in a project  of giving. Your family will need to process this into your  normal family life. Once you’ve chosen an area of concern  (i.e. hunger) find out about that issue in your area.  Perhaps, there is a food pantry in your area! Then provide  your children information about that issue and talk about  how you can help.

Parents should start working on the concern by  themselves. Let the children know why you are interested  in the work. Be clear about what you are doing – no matter  how small. Continue your commitment all year and be clear  to your kids that you have a long term commitment to help.

After some time ask your kids to join you with your  commitment – even in small ways. It’s hard to force it on  them. At some point with enough exposure to your effort,  they may want to join in. By all means let them. If  interest doesn’t develop with exposure to your area of  concern, be clear about your reasons and ask them to play a  role.

In the book, Parenting for Peace and Justice by Kathleen  and James McGinnis, the authors talk about the “two feet”  of Christian Service. On the one foot there are acts for  social change. These are works of justice. Included in  this are actions such as helping to organize a good co-op,  educating the public on social needs, and even inspiring  people to get out and vote. The other foot of service  is direct service. These are works of mercy that include  direct volunteer work such as working in food and clothing  centers, visiting with the elderly, tutoring children  or contributing to known worthy causes. These are some  categories where families can contribute their time and  efforts. And there are many more.

How can families get off the dime? Families need to  start somewhere. Besides the local food pantry, schools  need people to help tutor and read to children. You can  contact your town’s Senior Services to help with the  elderly. Many older people need help getting groceries or  need a ride to their doctor. If you want a more worldly  area to contribute, sponsor a child at the orphanage in  a foreign country. I work with an orphanage in Honduras.  Check their website at Your family  can sponsor a child and receive letters and photos  from that child regularly. Look into other world wide  organizations such as OXFAM, Doctors Without Borders, or  Habitat for Humanity. No matter where your efforts take  you, make sure your kids know what you’re doing, where you  are helping and why.

Even in small ways, families working together can help  develop a society of givers. You will be surprised how your  yearlong efforts will improve your holidays, your spirit  and your family life. Happy Holidays!

Our Role As Fathers Has Changed – Have We?

There is little to contend with the statement that our role as fathers has changed. A generation ago we sat outside the delivery room awaiting news of our child’s birth. Today we are involved from  the start. As children grow we are involved in getting them to and from school, and often caring for  our kids during our “shift” at home. I often wonder whether we had the right role models for our job  today? Where did we learn to be fathers? Perhaps we had good teachers but more than likely our  fathers parented differently than we do today. It may be interesting to reflect on your role models in  parenting, your personal nature as a man and how these relate to your parenting.

First think about your parents and what you learned about parenting. Many fathers in the past  parented in an authoritative – because I said so – manner. We often feared our father. Perhaps a threat  of physical punishment was always there. That manner of parenting is out for many reasons involving  abuse and fear. Today, a more sensitive, and understanding manner of parenting is in. It involves  more listening and measured responses.

This manner of parenting may not fit with the stereotypical male. Men often think of  themselves as “fixers”, problem solvers, who are so in control we don’t need directions. We can figure  out the solutions! We like to be spontaneous and love to play. We may not be the most organized but  who needs organization – that is like asking for directions in normal life.

This nature of man (and I realize that it is not all men) may run counter to the needs in fathering  today. Because organization isn’t natural to us and spontaneity is important we may be put into more  of a reactive mode when caring for our kids. We may not understand everything our kids will throw at  us. As a result, when our kids act out, instead of being measured in our response we may fall back into  an authoritative, controlling mode that we were taught when we grew up. Does this summarize your  nature and parenting style? Is it working? What is your nature and style? Have you thought about  how it works in your family? With your kids?

As fathers today we need to think about how our responses affect home situations. Do our  reactions contribute to solutions or make situations worse? Today, in a non authoritative world of  parenting, it is our responses to situations that affects how our children respond. It takes a while but  over time in fatherhood you too, may recognize that strong reactions often make situations worse. As  you escalate your tone, our children escalate theirs. Or if you are too strong, they act subdued and  learn to work around you to avoid your responses. If you are functioning this way, you are parenting  by using fear. This leads to dysfunctional relationships. How can a father change and make things better?

First, you may be mister fix it at home but don’t try to fix your child’s behavior or their emotion.

When your kids bring up their issues at school or home don’t solve their problems. Respect  them enough to coach them about how to solve their own problems as much as possible.

Work with your spouse to set appropriate limits. This takes discussion, listening, understanding  and planning. You do not own the solutions to all problems. A better understanding can lead to more  appropriate solutions.

Praise your kids whenever you can. Praise from a father is a powerful influence on children.  Use this tool and you will gain respect in your children’s eyes.

Correct your children when you need to but don’t berate them. Don’t be overly critical.  Children are fragile and don’t need to be humiliated. Make your correction and leave it be. You don’t  need to make your kids understand all the points you would like to make. They will understand your  reasoning over time.

Learn to be a listener. It is not our nature. But we learn to be better fathers if we listen, involve  others and not jump to quick fixes.

Recognize that you will make mistakes. It is O.K. to admit them and even apologize for them.  Your kids and spouse will respect you more if you are mature enough to do this.

This is a tall order. But by taking these lessons to heart, a man will be in a better position to be  a good father in today’s parenting environment.