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How to Talk to Your Kids About the Coronavirus

Benjamin Watson | March 26, 2020

The Coronavirus hit so fast. Two weeks ago, my family and I were in Miami for the NFL Players Association meeting. I attended the meetings and my wife took care of the kids, who got to lounge at the hotel pool. By the time we returned home, the European travel ban had been issued and school had been canceled indefinitely.

That’s when the severity of the situation sank in and the kids started to ask questions. We sat them down and started a conversation that has helped educate them (and ourselves) and alleviate their fears. Here are 5 things we’ve done while discussing the Coronavirus with our kids that have worked well.

Set the tone.

The best way to give your kids a sense of peace is to have a sense of peace yourself.

Remain calm. That may be more easily said than done, but it is important. Kids will take on the fear, anxiety, or confidence of their parents. Remember that your kids are watching. The best way to give your kids a sense of peace is to have a sense of peace yourself.

Be honest.

While we want to make our kids feel secure, it is much better to be trustworthy and honest than to hide details. They do need to know what is going on and the reality of it. Keeping information from them only will create more anxiety. Since my wife and I didn’t know much about the Coronavirus, we read an article by a doctor to our kids. Then we answered questions about the risks and what we will do to keep ourselves and others safe.

Check in every day.

This has to be an ongoing conversation. Make sure you check in with your kids daily. Chances are they have heard something on the news or from a friend that will bring more uneasiness. Ask simple questions, such as, “How are you feeling about everything that’s going on? Have you heard anything lately that has made you nervous or scared?”

Include them in the process of helping others.

This is a great opportunity to teach your kids about caring for others, especially their siblings. Encourage them to comfort one another when someone gets upset. Teach and model patience while being in close quarters. Talk to them about regularly washing their hands and being in quarantine as ways to care for others. Tell them about ongoing efforts to provide basic needs to those impacted by this crisis.

Pray as a family each day.

This is something we do as a family every night. We pray for protection, we pray for healing for those who have the virus, we pray for those who have lost loved ones, and for the pandemic to end. We also pray for wisdom and discernment for our local and national leaders, medical personnel, and first responders, as they make decisions daily that affect millions of people. Praying every night has made our kids more empathetic to the pain of others. More importantly, praying together as a family has provided them peace and comfort knowing there is a loving God in control.

Sound off: What questions have your kids asked about the Coronavirus pandemic and how did you answer?

The post How to Talk to Your Kids About the Coronavirus appeared first on All Pro Dad.

How to Discipline Children Without Destroying Them

Joe Martin | March 16, 2020

“Dad, what is the toughest thing about being a parent?” This is a question my son, Kendall, asked (who was 15 at the time). And I told him: “Trying to love, teach, and discipline your children without destroying their spirits.” Of course, he didn’t quite understand what I meant, so I explained to him how grandma and grandpa were as parents. I told him they had a lot of rules and harsh consequences if I broke them.

However, I never received their discipline as being love, but rather, mistakenly, as abuse. Because they never explained why their rules were necessary, and they never asked me what I thought about their rules or their punishments. I told my son, “My fear is that I would unconsciously and unintentionally do the same.” Here’s how to prevent that.

Define your boundaries.

As a public school teacher for more than two decades, and later as a teacher trainer, one of the first lessons I learned and taught about disciplining children is to clearly define your boundaries for their desired behavior.

We train people on how to treat us based on the boundaries we set and how we respond to them.

The truth is, we train people on how to treat us based on the boundaries we set and how we respond to them. I’m not talking about one-sided, heavy-handed, unrealistic boundaries that provoke rebellion, but rather mutual agreement on boundaries concerning basic values like respect, sharing, caring, responsibility, gratitude, and honesty—just to name a few. We should demonstrate what each of those values looks like in reference to our children’s behavior.

Define the consequences.

Consequences are our responses to our children if they choose to ignore the boundaries we set. As parents, not only do I put our boundaries in writing and have them signed by our children, but the consequences are in writing, too. Just like in real life, signing a document is communicating to all involved that we’re in agreement.

Before they sign our agreement, we allow our children to add, question, modify, or remove any consequence they deem unfair, unrealistic, or unloving. The consequences aren’t meant to punish them but rather to protect them from future bad behavior. But after the document is signed, it cannot be changed unless all of us agree to the revision.

Honor your children’s choices.

I believe the key to effective discipline is consistency—consistency in honoring the agreed-upon boundaries and honoring the agreed-upon consequences of our children’s choices. This is why having clearly written, signed, and agreed-upon boundaries and consequences is so important. It eliminates unnecessary arguments and takes the emotion out of tough parenting decisions.

In our home, all consequences come with a “first warning.” We call it a “grace warning.” But there is no second warning. There is only follow-through on the first consequence of the choice. We’re honoring the choice they made. So, like we all do, they now have to live with the consequences of their choices.

Look for the lessons.

The root word of “discipline” is “disciple.” Disciple means to teach. No one likes to live with the consequences of their bad choices. But discipline should never be used to punish. It should be used to teach. Even in a less than ideal household, some of the best lessons I learned in my childhood were results of the discipline I received from my mother.

However, my mother never explained the “why” behind the consequences. So, to me, the consequences always felt like punishment. I knew I had to do better for my children. So, I always urge my children to look for the lesson in the discipline:

What did you learn from that?
What would you do differently?
Why do you think I responded that way?
If you were the parent, what would you do?

There’s a great scripture in the Bible that says, “For the moment, all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11)

So, always discipline your children to teach them, rather than to punish them.

Sound off: What is your biggest struggle when it comes to discipline? 

The post How to Discipline Children Without Destroying Them appeared first on All Pro Dad.

3 Things Dads Need to Do Consistently

Matt Haviland | March 02, 2020

What are the things dads do that make them great fathers? One expert may say this or that while another takes a different approach. Not all may be wrong, but where do we start and how do we filter through the avalanche of parenting advice coming at us every day?

Our children hunger for the best from us as fathers and we long to give it to them. To break it down into the simplest of terms, if we want to give our kids our best, today’s fathers should consistently do these 3 things.

1. Love

The impact of a dad who loves his children consistently can last for generations. Men, tell your children you love them—early and often. Explain that you love them simply because they are your sons and daughters. In addition to telling them directly, try small but spontaneous acts of love, like leaving a note in your child’s locker at school or writing a message with a dry erase marker on his or her bathroom mirror.

Of course, love goes beyond just words. Setting household rules and expressing fair discipline lets our children know they are valued and protected. It also sets a standard for when they are adults. Our children may never know or see many of the other sacrifices we make on their behalf, but the impact it will have on them is invaluable.

2. Learn

When we grow as our children do, we set a strong example for them.

Life keeps going and we must continually adapt as our children grow and the world around them changes. As parents, we always should seek to keep learning. In fact, the choice not to keep learning puts us behind at an increasingly rapid rate. Consider the importance of staying up to date on the latest technology, increasing your knowledge of child development as our kids transition from childhood to adolescence to adulthood, or even going back to school yourself to advance your career.

Keep learning. When we grow as our children do, we set a strong example for them. Our willingness to do so conveys that we notice and take interest in their lives and that is a message all kids need. A teachable parent is an engaged parent—one who is actively attached rather than detached.

3. Lead

The words “do as I say, not as I do” should never come from a parent’s mouth. Because more often than not, our children will do as we do. That should be like a power surge to our awareness of how we are leading our families—both inside and outside the home. How we incorporate loving and learning are representative expressions of our leadership.

Leadership comes in many forms and research shows that when parents become leaders, not only do they themselves benefit, but their children also assume similar age-appropriate roles. Lead in the home through responsibility, finances, faith, and values. Lead in the community through active engagement in your child’s school and community volunteering. Don’t take this for granted. Sometimes the most obvious and mundane tasks can be the most influential upon our sons and daughters.

According to Goethe, “Things that matter the most must never be at the mercy of things that matter the least.” Yes, we will fail at times. Still, the things dads do to be loving, learning, and leading builds a solid legacy for their children. The man who seeks to grow in all three ways has one of the most valuable of all treasures in his sights: his child’s heart.

Sound off: How can you continue to grow as a loving, learning, and leading father?

The post 3 Things Dads Need to Do Consistently appeared first on All Pro Dad.

Creating a Nurturing Environment for Your Kids

All Pro Dad | February 26, 2020

When my husband and I had children, we talked about the kind of home we wanted to create for them. Since we had both come from somewhat turbulent backgrounds, we set a goal of having a peaceful home. A peaceful and stable environment is what is nurturing to children—the less stressful the better.

Of course, every home has stress at some point, but I try to make it the exception rather than the rule. There are little things we can do daily to help create a nurturing environment for our children. Here are 7 of them.

Handle conflict well.

This applies to conflict with your spouse and conflict with your children. Anger expressed through loud yelling, flared tempers, and dramatic outbursts creates inner stress in a child. They will learn how to handle conflict by watching you. Does how you handle conflict teach them to do it wisely and calmly? Plus, resolving conflict maturely signals stability to your children. They learn that even when people disagree, relationships can emerge unbroken.

Give them time.

Children feel important when we give them our time and attention. If they have to compete with Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest, they’ll think you don’t care about them as much as you care about your social media. When your children are with you, put down your phone. Ask them questions, hug them, and leave your phone in another room.

Accept your child.

Acceptance and nurturing go hand in hand. You can show your child acceptance by the things you say, such as, “You are such an awesome kid.” or “I’m so glad you’re my daughter.” You can show your child acceptance by supporting his or her interests—even if they’re different from yours. We never want our children to feel like they’ve disappointed us because they’re not what we expected or hoped they would be.

Set boundaries.

What is nurturing? Structure. Children need us to provide structure. Children feel nurtured and safe when we create a world for them that is orderly and predictable. This doesn’t mean you have to be a good housekeeper (I’m not!), but it does mean your rules and expectations should be consistent. Explain the “why” behind each rule. Even if your children don’t understand it, they’ll learn from your process of deciding what’s important to you and your family.

Love.

The safest, most predictable, most peaceful home cannot be nurturing without love. Tell your children you love them. Carve out time from your day to really connect with them. A nurturing environment begins and ends with love.

Sound off: In what creative ways can you express your love to your children today?

The post Creating a Nurturing Environment for Your Kids appeared first on All Pro Dad.

Teaching Your Kids Empathy

All Pro Dad | February 26, 2020

Do you wish to make a positive difference in our world? It would be a dream come true to counter the anger and division that often surrounds us. As parents, there’s a way we can do it: by teaching empathy to kids.

Teaching empathy to kids is as essential as teaching them to have good hygiene or nutrition. It’s a skill necessary for a person who wants to live successfully. To sincerely recognize how other people feel and view the world is key for creating peace. We raise a generation of peacemakers when we teach our kids empathy. Here’s how.

Practice listening with your children.

Everyone wants to be heard. But are we truly listening? Or do we formulate our responses to others instead of actually hearing what they say? Reading stories to your children presents an opportunity to teach them to listen, which makes empathy possible. Stop reading regularly during a story to ask your children what they think the characters must be feeling about what’s happening in this chapter. This equips children to notice other people’s feelings—and to be considerate of them.

Expose your children to different cultures, people, and places.

To help our children learn about and appreciate cultures and peoples different from them, we’ve got to expose them to cultures and people different from them. When teaching empathy to kids, look for volunteer opportunities with organizations that serve different communities or help your child sign up for inclusive activities and camps. There, kids learn that different people have different needs—and they learn to be sensitive to those needs. Take family trips to places that display and honor other cultures’ histories and significance, and to places where children can meet people of other cultures. That shows them that all people and cultures are valuable.

Model generosity.

Our kids watch our actions every bit as much as they hear our words. If we want to raise children who have empathy, we must have empathy for others. Allow your children to see you regularly sharing your resources, time, and hearts with people in need. Make donating and volunteering routine for your family. This helps children understand the value of taking action to help others because we never know when we may need that help ourselves.

Practice kindness instead of judgment.

How are we to react to a person who stands out in some way as different from us? We teach our kids to be kind and respectful. To be open and warm. How can we judge what we do not know? Our worldviews are shaped by our experiences and we don’t always know what others have been through. It takes empathy to accept them as they are.

Sound off: What experiences have helped your children learn to have more empathy for others?

The post Teaching Your Kids Empathy appeared first on All Pro Dad.

5 of the Best Movie and TV Dads

All Pro Dad | February 20, 2020

I’ve recently noticed that many movie and TV dads serve one purpose: comic relief. While Homer Simpson has left a mark on popular culture over three decades as the dad who just doesn’t get it, there are many other shows that have turned dads into a punchline. From Peppa Pig to Big Bang Theory, the scenes we do see involving fathers portray them as oblivious, incompetent, or downright foolish.

But a number of heroic fathers have popped up in a variety of film and TV stories—fathers whose best qualities we all ought to imitate. Here are 5 of the best movie and TV dads.

1. Philip Banks (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air)

A successful judge and lawyer, Philip Banks is one of the best TV dads. He was the patriarch of the Banks family. He had three children of his own: Hillary, Carlton, and Ashley. When his nephew, Will, needed a place to stay, “Uncle Phil” readily took him in and treated him as one of his own. Although each of his children—biological and chosen—had unique gifts and struggles, Philip related to each one with courage, with care, and with great compassion. For any dad who struggles to love each of his kids in the midst of their own unique struggles, Philip Banks is a good role model.

2. Alfred Pennyworth (Batman)

In every incarnation of Batman’s story, it is Alfred who grieves alongside Bruce because of the loss of the boy’s parents. He cares for Bruce as his crime-fighting brings new wounds (physical and otherwise). The relationship between Alfred and Bruce grows so deep that Alfred is the only one who can challenge Bruce in those moments when the younger man will not listen to anyone else. We can look to Alfred as an example in those moments that our children are suffering and we don’t know what to do—as well as times when a child needs to be challenged.

3. Bryan Mills (Taken) & Marlin (Finding Nemo)

There are a lot of parallels between the original Taken and Finding Nemo. In both stories, a father finds himself in a crisis when his only child is taken away from him. He then needs to engage all his skills and travel around the world at great personal risk to bring the child home. What both of these dads can teach us is that there are moments when our kids need us to set aside our plans and be all in with and for them, whatever that might entail. We need to engage all our skills as dads: the practical ones, our paternal instincts to protect, and even something as simple as our full and undivided attention.

4. Tony Stark (Avengers/Spiderman)

At times our fatherhood will extend beyond our biological kids.

While other versions of the story also include Peter’s Uncle Ben, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe we see Peter without any father figure whatsoever. Enter Tony Stark who, in spite of himself, steps into a fatherly role for young Peter and tries to teach him about life as a superhero. Peter’s “death” in Tony Stark’s arms is one of the most moving scenes in the MCU. Tony’s love for Peter is rivaled only by his care for his daughter, Morgan. These relationships are the clearest signs of Tony’s growth since the original Ironman. We can look at Tony and see two things. First, we can grow beyond our weaknesses. Second, at times our fatherhood will extend beyond our biological kids.

5. Guido Orefice (Life is Beautiful)

This movie, which is hard to watch, tells the story of a family imprisoned in a concentration camp during World War II. In what is a simultaneously beautiful and haunting story, Guido uses his imagination to shield his son, Giosué, from the horrors of the camp. Guido is able to help his son find joy even in the midst of the darkest of circumstances. Guido’s perseverance, his creativity, and his devotion to his family ought to encourage us in those moments when hope is fading and circumstances seem to be growing darker.

Sound off: Who is a good model as a dad in popular culture today?

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