3 Times Your Kids Need You to Back Off
As a teacher and coach, I am often reminding my students and players that it’s all right to make mistakes. I remind them that it’s part of the learning process, that if they aren’t making mistakes, they aren’t pushing themselves hard enough. The important thing is that they recognize their mistakes, learn from them, and improve.
Unfortunately, as a dad, I often forget the importance of mistakes. I become a helicopter dad, constantly jumping in to try to keep my own kids from making mistakes before they happen. There are many times I need to step back and allow my kids to go through the learning process. Here are 3 times I’ve learned that kids need us to back off.
1. When the Kids Are Arguing
If you are raising more than one child, you have experienced this more times than you can count. You’re in your house doing dad stuff and you hear it—the bickering that only happens between siblings. It’s loud, abrasive, and usually about something insignificant. Your instinct is to fix the problem like a ninja or Navy SEAL. You burst into the room, assess the situation, and lay down decisive action to solve the problem.
As nice as it would be to put a quick end to the situation, there are times when we need to let them work it out on their own. These are opportunities for kids to learn to communicate and negotiate during a disagreement. If you do burst in, instead of being a helicopter dad, use it as an opportunity to set some ground rules. Remind them that they need to avoid raising their voices, avoid using degrading or taunting comments, and work to come up with a solution.
2. When the Child Is FrustratedWe have to let our kids struggle and fight through frustration.
Everyone’s kids go through frustrating moments. Often, it happens when they are working on homework and there is a problem they just can’t solve. As dads, we want to be the hero. We’ve been in their shoes, and we know their struggle. But now we are on the other side, and we want to help them. It’s important to remember that it is possible to help too much. We have to let our kids struggle and fight through frustration. If we bail them out, we don’t allow them to develop perseverance. Instead of being a helicopter dad and solving their problems, we need to be there for them and encourage them to keep working to solve their problems on their own.
3. When the Kids Are Making a Mess
This one is near and dear to my heart. My youngest daughter loves to do projects. Painting may be her favorite hobby. For her birthday, we bought her a set of paints, brushes, and canvases. She used to do her painting at the kitchen table where we could watch her, but she set up her new supplies in a room in our basement.
A week or so after getting her the supplies, I walked into her “art studio.” Wow! It was a mess. My first reaction was to take her art supplies away and only allow her to use them under close observation, but after some time to reflect, I realized that this was an opportunity for me to teach her how to take care of her materials and how to clean up after painting. Many activities are inherently messy. We need to allow our kids to make some messes while also holding them accountable for cleaning up when they are done.
Earn some points: Are you married? If so, share this iMOM article with your wife: 4 Roles Your Kids Need You to Play.
Sound off: When is a time you found yourself “hovering” even though your kids needed you to back off?
5 Attitudes Your Kids Need When They Go to School
Recently, I was reading the book Toughness by Jay Bilas. In it, he tells a story about going to law school and being intimidated because everyone else seemed to show up with more background knowledge than he had. When he expressed his concern to his dad, his dad said, “You don’t get a prize for knowing it first. You get a diploma for knowing it at the end.”
In this case, a simple shift in his mindset made a huge difference for him. Rather than being worried about what he didn’t know, he could focus on what he was going to learn. When we send our kids off to school, whether it’s the first day of kindergarten or we’re dropping them off at college, we need to make sure our child’s attitude reflects our values. Here are 5 attitudes your child needs to take to school.
1. Learn as much as possible each day.
When our kids go to school, it’s very easy for them to focus on outcomes: earning good grades, completing the assignment, maintaining a quality GPA. While doing those things is important, we need to make sure that they are a byproduct of learning and that our kids have an eagerness to learn.
Encourage your child’s attitude: Ask your child what he or she is learning about in class. Focus on the answer and ask follow-up questions. If your kid doesn’t know the answer, spend a few minutes together researching it.
2. It’s good for people to be different.
When our kids go to school, they will meet people who come from different backgrounds who have different experiences, different hobbies, and different ideas. If your kids have the right attitude, learning about others’ differences can be an enriching experience and can allow them to develop an open mind.
Encourage your child’s attitude: Talk to him or her about the differences in people. Display attitudes and actions to show them the value of being different.
3. Be yourself.Talk to your kids about what makes them different, unique, and special.
As our kids are exposed to others, it is important that they maintain a positive belief in themselves. While we want our kids exposed to the positive aspects of others’ differences, we also want them to see the value in their own uniqueness.
Encourage your child’s attitude: Talk to your kids about what makes them different, unique, and special. Be positive about these characteristics so they will have confidence in themselves.
4. Respect and comply with adults, but don’t expect them to be perfect.
This is pretty easy when we send our kids to elementary school. They generally view these teachers as almost perfect. However, as our kids become adolescents, they will start to notice that adults have flaws.
Encourage your child’s attitude: Let your child know that teachers are human and they will make mistakes like everyone else. Also, remind your kid that he or she may not agree with all classroom rules or policies, but the teachers have to deal with a lot of issues beyond the ones the students are aware of.
5. Everyone deserves to be treated with kindness.
Our children will be around many different people in school including older students, younger students, teachers, teachers’ aides, administrators, custodians, bus drivers, lunchroom workers, guidance counselors, and others. All of them are dealing with their own issues.
Encourage your child’s attitude: Make sure your children are prepared to be kind to everyone, whether it is the shy kid who sits behind them on the bus, the custodian who has to clean up spills in the hallway, or the student who seems to spend more time in the principal’s office than in the classroom.
Sound off: How much do you know about your child’s day at school?
5 Good Ways to Discipline Your Kids
An older mentor told me a story once of how his daughter had made some regrettable decisions in high school and was caught. When he and his wife sat her down to discuss what happened, they asked her what she thought her punishment should be. The punishment she suggested was way worse than what he would have done. Still, after she shared, he asked her, “Would you rather take the punishment you just suggested, or instead, come down and give me a hug and a kiss every night for the next month?” She obviously chose the latter, and my mentor said it had a profoundly positive impact on their relationship. He knew a thing or two about positive discipline techniques.
Admittedly, disciplining my kids is not one of my strongest skills. Too often, I get tired, annoyed, or worse, angry when my kids misbehave or make poor decisions. I don’t want to be the dad who’s constantly exasperating his kids with negative discipline. But I don’t want to be the dad who abdicates his responsibility to discipline his kids, either. Using positive discipline techniques is a skill we must hone and grow in if we’re going to keep our kids pointed in the right direction. And we should never discipline our kids at the cost of our relationships with them. Here are 5 positive ways to discipline your kids.
1. Check your emotions.Never discipline kids out of anger, frustration, annoyance, or laziness.
We’ve probably all disciplined poorly out of our feelings, but this is the first positive discipline technique that sets up all the others. Never discipline kids out of anger, frustration, annoyance, or laziness. I realize this is easier said than done. We need to calm ourselves within the first few moments of an event when our kids need to be disciplined. Our aim is to discipline out of clarity, patience, and wisdom.
2. Focus on the behavior.
One mistake I’ve made is blurring the lines between behavior and my kid’s identity. If your kid is caught lying, it’s essential to call out the lying (the behavior) and not the child personally. Instead of saying “you’re a liar,” we should say “what you said was a lie.” This positive discipline technique is a great way to call out poor behavior and reinforce a strong identity. I’m starting to say things like this to my kids: “Lying is not who you are. We tell the truth in our family.”
3. Find the root.
I’ve noticed poor behavior in younger kids is usually rooted in their emotions. However, as kids get older, poor behavior is typically tied to their hearts’ deeper issues. I once caught a student bullying another kid in my ministry. As I sat down and began talking with him, I discovered that he personally was having a problem being bullied at school and had no one to turn to. This left him feeling powerless. As you can imagine, that insight helped me to discipline my own kids in a different way. Find the root causes of your kids’ behavior issues. Believe me—there are root causes.
Remember, your kids are young and they’re still learning. The aim isn’t to get our kids to simply submit to our authority. We’re trying to help them learn how to make good decisions independently. A great question to ask yourself every time you discipline your kids is, “How can I prepare them for the future?” Explain why their behavior upset you and why it could lead to negative consequences in the future. Help them see a better path forward or what alternative decision they could have made.
5. Praise good behavior.
An often overlooked but positive discipline technique I have found effective is praising good behavior when I see it. If all we ever focus on is negative behavior, we only give our kids half the picture of what they should (or shouldn’t) do. When I see my son sharing with his sister on his own or holding the door for others, I always try to give him a fist bump and say, “Thanks for sharing with your sister and loving her well!” or “Well done. Proud of you.” We want our kids excited to behave well, and when they get positive encouragement and attention, this reinforces that.
Sound off: Which of these five positive discipline techniques are your strongest and which are your weakest?
3 Mistakes Dads Make With Kids and Fear
Two of my boys are scaredy cats. They will remain nameless. Their childhood fears often get the better of them. The other day, they yelled from outside for me to kill a bug. As their dad, one of my roles is to give them the confidence they need to fight bigger giants. So I told them from inside the house to kill it themselves. Otherwise, fear might have my sons being scared of bugs for the rest of their lives.
I’ve heard it said that fear is F-E-A-R: False Evidence Appearing Real. Fear will make us see things that aren’t even there. We all have fears and it’s important to face them. But what happens if our kids never face their childhood fears in the right way? Here are 3 mistakes dads make with kids and fears.
Mistake 1: They overprotect their kids.We can’t protect our kids so much that they’re too afraid to do anything.
When I was younger, I played football with guys who made the team but, while standing on the sidelines, with all the pads and protection, were afraid to get on the field and play in the game. What were these guys there for? This is not the mentality we should have for life. We can’t protect our kids so much that they’re too afraid to do anything.
We need to recognize when we’re trying to protect our kids too much. Has your child ever experienced failure? When your child is in kindergarten, you may walk him to class on those first few days. But at some point, you have to let him face it himself. If you step in too much as a dad, you risk leaving your kids on the sidelines, afraid to get hurt. We need to be fine with failure as long as our kids are in the game. Let’s encourage our kids to battle their giants rather than have us do it for them.
Has there been a time when you protected your kids, but in looking back, it was best to let your kids learn instead?
Mistake 2: They don’t see fear as an opportunity for kids to win.
When I was a rookie in the NFL, I tore my ACL. I realized my own limitations quickly. I was afraid to get back on the field. And I could’ve stayed on the sidelines after my injury. I almost felt like doing that. I know from experience that fear will inhibit you.
But I didn’t stay on the sideline. And you know what happened? Getting back on that field gave me more confidence. The next time your child is afraid of something, recognize it as an opportunity for her to win. Yes, fear inhibits, but when you overcome it, it gets less powerful. You can give your child hope to overcome her fear. The dad who gets this right will raise kids who have a healthy confidence to face fear.
Are you equipping your kids to confront their fears?
Mistake 3: They minimize fear.
When childhood fears come, it’s not time for you to poke fun, make jokes, or be sarcastic. I’ve made this mistake with my boys in the past. Even though they can be scaredy cats, when I’m at my best, whether my kids are afraid of the dark or facing a friend’s rejection, they don’t need me to minimize their fear. They need my encouragement. They need to know I believe in them—that their fear is real.
Dads can keep from minimizing fear by doing several things. At my house, we read stories from books of people who overcome fears. My wife and I tell about past experiences of fear and how we overcame it and what we learned. The point is, instead of cutting our kids’ legs out from under them, we can use our experiences with fear as opportunities to connect and equip our kids for life.
Is there an experience of fear that you can share that will connect with your child in a meaningful way?
Sound off: What do you think is the most important way we can help our kids with their fears?
3 Things to Remember When You Introduce Your Kids
Recently, my son and I were waiting to be seated at a local restaurant when an old friend came walking out. I hadn’t seen him in years, and we talked for several minutes, catching up on each other’s lives. It was a quick conversation, but we touched on several topics including jobs, mutual friends, and our families.
After he walked away, my son looked at me and asked, “Dad, who was that?” Immediately, my heart sank as I realized that I hadn’t introduced him. What could be worse for a kid than listening to his dad fill someone in on the important things in his life without even introducing him? Always make it a point to introduce your kids. In fact, not only should you introduce your kids, but you should also do these 3 things.
1. Prepare them for a handshake.
Learning how to properly shake someone’s hand is a life skill that needs to be taught. It may seem simple to us as adults, but like many other skills, there are small details that can improve the impression. Make time to talk to your kids about shaking hands (or, in a post-COVID world, maybe about an elbow or fist bump), and teach them to do the following:
- If seated, stand up.
- Make eye contact
- Have a firm but not aggressive handshake.
- Make a note of the other person’s name.
- Say something like, “It’s nice to meet you.”
2. Avoid embarrassing them.
I tend to use self-deprecating humor in these types of situations. Unfortunately, I have caught myself extending this to my son. Although I want my son to be humble, this is not the place for that type of humor. Make an introduction an opportunity to build your kids up.
It’s not OK to say, “This is my son. He’s running track, and he’s as slow as I was.” It is OK to say, “This is my son. Luckily, he’s faster than I was.” But it’s better to say, “This is my son. He’s running track and I’ve been very impressed with his work ethic.”
3. Mention a reason you’re proud of them.Every time we introduce our kids to somebody, it is an opportunity to make them feel valued.
As part of our All Pro Dad Chapter meeting each month at my daughters’ elementary school, we start off every morning the same way. Each dad takes a turn introducing his kids and himself. As part of the introduction, we give a reason why we are proud of our son or daughter. I always enjoy that part—even more than I enjoy the donuts. As each dad talks about his kids, it’s fun to watch the kids’ faces. Some try to hide a smile while others let a smile shine brightly.
Every time we introduce our kids to somebody, it is an opportunity to make them feel valued. Whether they have been helping with household chores, being kind to their siblings, getting good grades, learning to play the guitar, or simply giving their best effort to pass a spelling test, they need to know we see the good that they are doing and that we are proud of them.
Sound off: Have you done a good job introducing your kids?
4 Fatherhood Lessons I’ve Learned From Football
Imagine you’re the quarterback in an NFL game. You just called the next play from the huddle. You broke the huddle and now you’re walking to the line of scrimmage. Listen, there are some guys in the NFL who make playing QB look easy. It isn’t—trust me. Right before the football snaps, you have a ton of information to process.
I’ve learned being on the field for game time is much like being a dad. At any given moment as dads, we have just as much information to process. As I think about it, there are 4 fatherhood lessons I’ve learned from playing football.
1. See the opportunities.
Before the snap, you must know your play. That’s a given. It’s why you’ve practiced all week. Beyond the practiced play, the better QBs understand all the possible opportunities within that play. It’s a delicate balance to take what the play will give you. Players often get themselves in trouble trying to get more out of a play than is designed.Maybe you can’t take your kids to Disney on a whim, but there is some simple way you can connect with them today.
Among fatherhood lessons I’ve learned, the first is to see the opportunities in front of you. What’s the simple opportunity in front of you right now? Maybe you can’t take your kids to Disney on a whim, but there is some simple way you can connect with them today. What is it? You don’t need an elaborate plan for bonding. You can do something simple—you just need to be intentional with your time. See the opportunity in front of you like you have the best running back in the league and you’re playing a terrible defensive line. No Hail Marys needed—just steady pounding of the run game.
2. Read the defense.
What’s the opposing team’s defense and what’s the connection to my called play? This is crucial—and tough to know in advance. Knowing the defense means you not only know your side of the ball but you also know as much as you can about the other team’s defensive setup.
Do you know your kid’s emotions well enough to call an audible when needed? Do you know where your child is feeling under pressure? Maybe there’s pressure coming from friends at school. Maybe it’s pressure from you. Maybe it’s internal pressure from themselves. Spend time learning what you have to protect against and make a plan to protect against it. The point is to learn to read the defense. With experience, you’ll figure out when to encourage, when to discipline, and when to simply listen.
3. Recognize the weaknesses.
Before snapping the ball, you must know the flaws in the play you’ve called. In practice, you’ll learn what works and what can go wrong. From position to timing to weather, there are a thousand variables you can’t control. But your job is to know they exist. Knowing will help you recognize what you’re seeing in the game and take action.
Your weaknesses as a dad can be tough to spot. Your kids will tell you how you’re doing in certain areas. They will reach out to you for connection in different ways. It’s crucial here that you know your weaknesses as a dad. Are you prone to being overly busy or valuing things you shouldn’t? As your kids grow, it’ll be vital to know your weaknesses so you don’t repeat them. And you can use them to connect with your kids, helping them realize they aren’t alone in having weaknesses.
4. Know the strengths.
At the time of ball snap, you have to know where to attack the defense. Like having a six-foot, six-inch receiver matched up against a shorter cornerback, if you know your strengths well, you can find the small seam that could pay off with a score. If you know where your player is strong and your defense is weak, then boom. You can win.
The fourth fatherhood lesson I’ve learned from football is to know your strengths. No, this isn’t super easy. It’s not like you can expect compliments from your kids. But you can learn to ask questions to help you assess your performance. Knowing your strengths, while tricky, might be the difference between winning and losing. In an ideal game, knowing your strengths shouldn’t have anything to do with the defense. When your team is doing well, you can simply play to your strengths, whether that’s pounding with the run or throwing bombs downfield. As a dad, maybe you’re a good listener. Awesome. Know that and go all-in on that trait by using it well and wisely.
After you’ve run all the calculations in those key few seconds on the field, it’s time to give the command. Are you ready? The play’s been called. You’ve been practicing. You see the opportunity. You’ve read the defense. You know your strengths and weaknesses. It’s go time. Boom. Ball snapped.
Sound off: Which of these four lessons do you need to work hardest on right now?