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5 Signs You’re Neglecting Your Kids

BJ Foster | May 21, 2024

Whenever my daughter leaves a room, she tells me she loves me. It’s something I cherish because it’s such a perfect picture of her sweetness. This weekend was the first time she ever did it and it made me sad. As she entered the room, I was playing a game on my phone. With excitement, she told me about a conversation she had with a friend. I looked up for a second and said, “That’s great, honey.” After 30 quiet seconds, it came: “I love you, Daddy.” I looked up and told her I loved her too, but I felt sad. Had I missed an opportunity? I thought about her story. After my brief and half-engaged response, the smile disappeared from her face. In the moment, it didn’t occur to me. I missed it. I missed her. She wanted to connect, and I was so consumed with playing a dumb game that I neglected her.

The last thing most of us want to do is neglect our kids. Well-intentioned we may be, but busyness, distractions, and maybe even laziness have a way of keeping us from being the dads we strive to be. Without intentional thought and awareness, we can easily take opportunities for granted. We need to look for any signs of neglect so we can refocus. Here are 5 signs you’re neglecting your kids.

1. Your screen use has gone up.,

Does your phone notify you of your screen time? Mine does and I’ve had consecutive weeks where my screen time increased. That’s a bad sign. It shows me where my focus has been. Yes, there could be plenty of other reasons for the increase. Maybe your screen time was so low it had nowhere to go but up. Perhaps you’ve been doing more of your work there during working hours. But more than likely, it’s going up because you’re neglecting some important people. Let that information serve as a reminder of what’s important. Prioritize your kids and take pleasure in your screen time notification decrease.

2. You’ve missed or have been late to a number of their activities.

When we become dads, we don’t set a goal to miss our kids’ activities. It happens one decision at a time. We typically think it’ll be a one-time decision to get the promotion at work or impress our boss or to get some of our responsibilities checked off the list. Then we cave to the same pressures or temptations again. Habits form and we miss more and more. This is one of the clearest signs of neglect. Set clear boundaries and goals around your kids’ activities and events. Missing one here and there is understandable. And sometimes there are seasons when the family needs you to work. I get it and have been there. Do what you can to be there, and if you legitimately have no way of being there, call your kids and ask them all about it. Ask someone to take videos. Be excited for them as they relive it with you.

3. Your child asks, “Did you hear what I said?” and you didn’t.

Again, this will happen from time to time. After all, there are millions of bits of information going through our brains every day. But it’s important that our kids know that they are being heard. So, if you hear these words and miss what your kids said, stop what you’re doing and thinking about and focus on them. Or at least explain that you have to finish what you’re doing and then you’ll be able to focus on them. Here’s the deal though—make sure you don’t forget to come back to them.

If you want to have a good relationship with your kids when they’re older, then you need to be with them now.

4. You didn’t notice your child left or entered the room.

This makes our kids feel invisible. Typically, when our kids come to a room we are in, it’s to connect with us in some way. Unless of course you’re in the kitchen and a teenager enters. Then they’re probably just there for food. Even then, they still want to be noticed. So be mindful of where they are, and if they enter the room, make eye contact; react with the same energy as if your favorite celebrity just came into your house.

5. Your kids expect you to be absent or say no.

If you want to have a good relationship with your kids when they’re older, then you need to be with them now. One of the obvious signs of neglect is when your kids expect you to not be there or to say no to spending time with them. It’s an indictment, and you need to change. In Joshua 1:9, the writer says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” He draws strength from God’s presence. Our kids draw strength and self confidence from our presence. Be there.

Sound off: What are some other possible signs of neglect?

The post 5 Signs You’re Neglecting Your Kids appeared first on All Pro Dad.

7 Threats to Your Kids’ Curiosity

Bobby Lewis | May 01, 2024

My son came out of his bedroom one Saturday morning with an unexpected request. “Can I make a fire and cook breakfast outside?” I’m sure my eyebrows raised a bit. We can make toast in the kitchen. Is it really necessary to rub sticks together to prepare a meal in the back yard? My first inclination was to say no, but I nodded, and he ran off to find his flint and pocketknife. A few minutes later, he’d gathered sticks, cut up ham, and was browning breakfast in a skillet over the firepit outside. He served us food on the porch, and we had a great morning.

I’m glad I didn’t let my adult rigidity squash his innate childhood urge to experiment and try something new. A Disney poll suggests most kids’ “sense of wonder” starts to decline before age 10. I don’t want that to be the case for my kids. Wonder and curiosity are gifts to be nurtured, not stages to outgrow. Here are 7 threats to your kids’ curiosity.

1. You

What would have happened if I told my son he couldn’t cook us breakfast outdoors? We would have eaten sooner, but my son would have been robbed of learning by doing and loving by serving. We stifle kids’ natural curiosity when we insist on doing things the quickest way or doing them ourselves. Resist the urge to flex your already-developed brain. Kids are curious. Let them learn, even if it takes longer.

2. Friends

I believe God created us to live life to the fullest. That means perpetually seeing, touching, tasting, and trying new things. This will be easier for your kids if they surround themselves with like-minded people. Encourage your children to make friends with people who are equally excited to live life to the fullest.

3. School

I have one child who could read for hours and another who only wants to build stuff. It can be tough for teachers to engage multiple learning styles at the same time in the classroom. What happens if your kid feels left out? School should be about maximizing the students’ learning experience, not trying to get all minds to work the same way. A disengaged student is in danger of losing her curiosity. Keep an open dialogue with your kids’ teachers. Encourage your students to do their best, and ask lots of questions.

4. Routine

Structure is good for kids, but routines can become rigid. Break out of the same old, same old by building some “nothing time” into your kids’ day. What do I mean? Give them time to explore and apply what they already know. This helps them grow in maturity. If they don’t love it at first, remember that boredom isn’t your enemy.

Unless kids try new things, they will stay inside their comfort zones, where they aren’t going to grow.

5. Stimulation

I saw an illustration recently of two children sitting side by side. One was watching TV. The other was reading a book. The kid staring at the screen had an empty thought bubble over his head. The girl flipping pages had animals, spaceships, and more adventurous symbols running across her mind. Engage your kids’ curious side by encouraging active play and lessen the mindless stimulation provided by digital devices like TV, tablets, and video games.

6. Safety

I don’t recommend letting your child do backflips off a bridge just because he’s curious. But, I also don’t think covering kids in bubble wrap is good, either. Find a middle ground. There is a story in Exodus 3 about Moses seeing a burning bush. Instead of running away, he walks to it and sees that it’s not devoured by the flames. I want my kids not to fear what they don’t know but to investigate and learn. That interaction brought Moses closer to God and eventually led him to free an entire nation from slavery. Monitored risk can be good. Unless kids try new things, they will stay inside their comfort zones, where they aren’t going to grow.

Sound off: How can you foster an environment of curious exploration for your kids?

The post 7 Threats to Your Kids’ Curiosity appeared first on All Pro Dad.

5 Things to Do When You Don’t Feel Like an All Pro Dad

Mike Landry | May 01, 2024

As a sport, baseball can be tough on one’s self esteem. Not only does a hitter have a fraction of a second to judge a pitch and choose his swing, but he’s also still got to hit the ball past a team of players wearing the equivalent of oven mitts. No wonder the best players only get a hit one out of three at bats, and they often hit slumps where they’ll go multiple games without getting a hit.

Knowing that slumps are going to come, there are certain tactics a professional athlete will employ when things aren’t going the way he wants them to. Some of these might also be helpful encouragement for all pro dads who feel like they are in a slump. Here are 5 things to do when you don’t feel like an all pro dad.

1. Keep showing up.

Wayne Gretzky is the greatest player in hockey history and is often quoted as saying “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” What he means is that even if you haven’t scored in a while, you still need to show up and play the game. For a dad this means getting out of bed each morning and engaging with your kids every chance you get. It might be that the next effort is the one that reconnects you with your kids.

2. Get back to the basics.

Athletes who are in a slump will focus on the basic skills that have made them successful. In the same way as a baseball player on a cold streak might spend extra time in batting practice, a dad who’s not feeling it can get back to basics. Get on your knees and play with your kids. Offer to help with their homework, or just generally spend time around them.

3. Focus on the things you can control.

The best athletes don’t spend time making excuses for slumps, blaming teammates, the officials, the schedule, or the weather. They instead worry about the things they can control: their effort, their attitude, and the mechanics of their sport. You can’t control your daughter’s attitude, your work schedule, or other things going on in your lives. Focus on what you can control: your effort, your attitude, and your willingness to be present to your kids to the best of your ability.

Focus on what you can control: to be present to your kids to the best of your ability.

4. Change things up.

Professional athletes are notorious for sticking to routines. On game day, they have a time to get up, a specific meal they eat, and a pair of “lucky” socks they might refuse to wash. When a slump drags on, there’s nothing they won’t consider changing. For a dad in a slump, it might be time to change things up. Get up earlier or stay up later with your son. Plan a mid-week adventure rather than waiting for the weekend. Try a no rules night and see what happens.

5. Find a skills coach.

Players who are slumping will often look for help from a skills coach, someone who can help identify and correct things in them that are out of sync. Dads can reach out for extra help from friends, mentors, therapists, or pastors to help us deal with those areas of our lives that don’t measure up. Let someone else look at the places you’re struggling and help you to make some changes.

Sound off: What’s some other encouragement for all pro dads who need a boost?

The post 5 Things to Do When You Don’t Feel Like an All Pro Dad appeared first on All Pro Dad.

6 “Good Intentions” That Fail Our Kids

Benjamin Watson | May 01, 2024

I saw an upsetting video on X (formerly Twitter). A group of young football players squared off with a partner and proceeded to fight at the sound of the whistle. They didn’t do it instinctually. Nope. The coaches were the ones urging the tiny teammates to throw punches and kick each other. “Keep whoopin’ him!” one coach yelled, with a few curse words sprinkled in. That’s not football.

I’m sure the goal of this “drill” was to teach kids to be tough but all it really taught them was how to be angry and disrespectful to opponents. Even if I give the coaches the benefit of the doubt, their good intentions didn’t land. But, we’ve all been there. Maybe not exactly like this, but how many times have we tried to do the right thing but saw it go the wrong way? Too often. Here are 6 “good intentions” that fail our kids.

1. Keeping Them “Safe”

Your desire to keep your sons and daughters safe is innate. Fathers have an obligation to protect their families. But, that doesn’t mean following your kids around with bubble wrap. You’ve probably heard the term helicopter parenting, and there can be good and bad aspects to it. But there is such a thing as going too far in the pursuit of keeping our kids from danger. Training wheels are necessary for a season. Eventually, we have to let kids go so they can grow. Holding on too long is really holding our kids back from turning into the young men and women they are meant to be. Don’t let your desire to keep them safe prevent them from escaping your shadow.

2. Solving Their Problems

It does my son no good if I do his math homework for him. The work would get done, but he wouldn’t learn a thing. It not only hurts him today, it also hurts him tomorrow because everything he’ll be learning next year builds on what he’s mastering this year. Kids will be in constant catch-up mode if they don’t learn to solve their own problems. It will stretch them. They’ll probably fail a bit, but that’s OK. Failure facilitates growth, and it just feels better knowing successes are a product of your own hard work.

3. Paying for Everything

Why do animals born in the zoo rarely get released into the wild? They lack crucial survival skills. Every meal has been made for them. Every day is controlled. They’ve never had to work to survive. The same sort of thing happens to kids when we pay for everything. Clearly this doesn’t apply to little ones, but as kids get older, there is great value in letting them earn and manage money. They get to see firsthand that hard work nets rewards. I don’t want my children expecting things to be handed to them.

4. Downplaying Difficulty

Every child will face struggles. It could be hard to make friends. They may not make the varsity team. They could experience the death of a loved one. Minimizing or downplaying the hard moments won’t harden their resolve. It will put a wedge between you. I want my children to come to me when they’re hurting. Every time I belittle or take lightly their struggles, it plants a flag in their mind that they’ll recall during future setbacks. If you want your adult kids to lean on you during strife, let them do it now while they’re still little.

Kids won’t develop their own voice if all they hear is yours.

5. Expecting Great Grades

Some houses demand straight A’s. Others are looser. If A’s are the requirement and anything less is considered failure and leads to your disapproval, you have heaped enormous pressure on your child, even if unintentionally. Those expectations are accompanied by the stress to perform, anxiety, fear of underachieving, and seeking approval through performance. It’s a recipe for disaster emotionally and mentally. Yes, we want our kids to do well in school, but we need to be careful not to base a child’s worth on our (sometimes unrealistic) academic standards.

6. Speaking for Them

Kids won’t develop their own voice if all they hear is yours. Give them a chance to express themselves. We think we are doing them favors by speaking up in their presence, but it’s really muzzling them. When kids speak for themselves, they learn to form, express, and defend their opinions. These are valuable skills.

Sound off: What is one of those times your “good intentions” missed the mark?

The post 6 “Good Intentions” That Fail Our Kids appeared first on All Pro Dad.

5 Hurdles Kids Need to Overcome to Persevere

BJ Foster | May 01, 2024

Angela Duckworth, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, studied the factors that make people successful. She and her research team observed people in various environments and different walks of life. They looked at West Point cadets, teachers, private company employees, and more asking which people would be successful. The characteristic that emerged among thec most successful people was grit. The people who had “passion and perseverance for long-term goals” succeeded. It reminded me of when, after the St. Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V, the French ask him if he’d like to surrender before he’s “easily overthrown.” His answer? “I bid you, achieve me and then sell my bones.” Translation: He will never surrender and never stop.

We all want our kids to have perseverance. They are going to face obstacles, and if they are going to be successful, they’ll need to overcome them. That will take the exact type of determination Duckworth talks about. But there are a couple of things that may threaten our kids’ ability to persevere. You can help your kids by addressing those things. Here are 5 hurdles kids need to overcome to persevere.

1. Fear

When I was in seventh grade, I entered a race. A quarter of the way in I started to feel tired. Immediately, I was hit with fear. I wondered how people would look at me if I performed poorly and finished the race worse than expected. So, I did something I had never done before—I quit. I stopped running and held my leg like I was hurt. For as long as I live, I’ll never forget how I let fear stop me from running. Our kids will be hit with many fears in their lives. They’ll wonder how they’ll be defined if they fail, what it will mean for their identity, and perhaps even their place in this world. They’ll probably fear pain. We have to teach them that it’s OK to fail and to experience pain and suffering. It teaches us, helps us grow and mature, and develops humility.

One of the greatest gifts you can give to your kids is to believe in them.

2. Low Self-Esteem

A lack of belief in themselves is like a self fulfilling prophecy. It’s subtle, but their energy and efforts drop. In the 1980 Olympic ice hockey miracle game between the US and the Soviet Union, one of the Soviet players commented about how the young American players skated with incredible energy. They believed in themselves and that they could win. One of the greatest gifts you can give to your kids is to believe in them. If you believe, there’s a much better chance that they will believe in themselves. Then they’ll be less likely to wonder how to persevere. They’ll just do it.

3. Cynicism

I’ll be honest; I struggle with this one. It’s an internal fight for me not to think that the worst possible outcome will probably happen. It’s closely related to the last point, but a little different. A child may believe in his or her abilities while also thinking that the task ahead is insurmountable. Sometimes it is, but more often the goal can be achieved. Again, a cynical outlook ultimately affects our effort and performance. If our mind is telling us the outcome will be negative, it makes it easier to quit. Encourage your kids to be hopeful and optimistic. One of the best ways to do that is modeling it yourself. I’m writing this to myself more than to anyone else. Proverbs 23:18 says, “There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.” Let’s all remember that and live it.

4. Lack of Resources and Support

When I was 11, my family moved from a place I loved to a new city. My adjustment was rough. I didn’t want to be at a new school. I wanted my old one with all of my friends. So, day after day, I went to the nurse and told her I was sick so I could be sent home. My dad finally came and told me he understood how hard it is, but he encouraged me to try. I went back to class and did exactly what he asked. It worked. My attitude changed, I made friends, and my situation improved. Our kids need our support, encouragement, and guidance. It’s a lot easier to persevere when we know there are people behind us.

5. Us

As strange as it sounds, we might be the biggest obstacle to our kids persevering. In an attempt to keep our kids from pain, we remove obstacles and resistance. But resistance builds strength and obstacles produce creativity and problem-solving. However, potentially worse than that, when we take care of the challenges in front of our kids, it communicates to them that we don’t believe they can do it. It shows such little faith in their abilities, strength, grit, or even their capacity to handle failure. Yes, there are times when we should step in, but we need to be really careful about when and how much. James 1:2–4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Our kids need to experience that joy.

Sound off: Do you know how to persevere through difficult challenges? What has helped you?

The post 5 Hurdles Kids Need to Overcome to Persevere appeared first on All Pro Dad.

4 Crucial Times to Be Intentional as a Dad

Kirk Cousins | April 25, 2024

On game days, I feel like I have a clock constantly ticking in my head. From the moment the ball is snapped, I’m earnestly counting.

“One.” I scan the field. My first option is covered. Tick. Tick. Tick.

“Two.” My eyes move to the next guy. I hear linemen footsteps. Tick. Tick. Tick.

“Three.” Decision time. Throw the ball or else. Tick. Tick. Tick.

If I get to “four,” I’m probably already getting tackled.

I recognized early on in my NFL career that in order to be a successful quarterback, I had to learn to manage my time well. Get it wrong, and I’d usually end up on the ground. It’s a pretty simple task that applies off the field as well. Football has taught me something about parenting with intention. As a dad to two small boys, I know prioritizing every moment well will benefit my kids. Getting distracted or fumbling with my parenting duties definitely won’t help my kids flourish. It’s tough for us as pro football players because we have very demanding jobs, interviews to do, meetings to attend, and travel multiple weeks out of the year. It feels like that clock is always ticking, but that’s no excuse for us to leave our kids with the few seconds we have left over. We have to handle the clock with purpose. Here are 4 crucial times to be intentional as a dad.

1. When We Only Have a Minute

During the season, I feel like I practically live at the team facility. I’m getting treatment, in meetings, or practicing. I’m there for long hours, but I always make it a point to start or end my day with my boys. Sometimes that means a quick book in the morning before school. During big game weeks, maybe that’s a FaceTime call at bedtime. Our kids need to know they matter more to us than football or any other job we do. Even if you only have five minutes to spare, spend them with your kids. That touchpoint matters. It’s a check-in that they’ll remember during your busiest seasons.

2. When We Only Have a Few Hours

Your schedule is probably crazy, just like mine. But it’s not so full that you can’t carve out time for your family. My kids know every Friday night at our house is movie night, and they look forward to those few hours together. We can’t always do family dinners seven nights per week, but three nights are better than zero. Your calendar says a lot about your priorities. Is your family on it?

3. When We Get The Whole Day

Bye weeks always get circled before the season. They are great because that week off means I get entire days to spend with my boys. But even during game weeks, I can still maximize time with them. On Saturday mornings I take the kids to their tennis lessons or take them to birthday parties. I make sure to leave my phone in the car so I’m not distracted. I want them to know they have my full attention. My mind does sometimes wander back to football, but I have to remind myself to focus back in on what matters to them and be present.

4. When We Still Have Them at Home

Our boys are 17 months apart. Our oldest is in kindergarten. My wife, Julie, and I like to say we are navigating the “first third” of the boys’ time with us. The way we handle the next two thirds of their childhood will be crucial to the men that they’ll become. So, we lock in on what’s most important about each season.

Do they need help learning respect? Are they struggling with compassion? Am I modeling for them how to be a good man and husband? If I fail to lead them now, it will be harder to course-correct later. I believe their future maturity requires my present intentionality. I won’t get these years back, and time invested today will pay dividends. They’ll leave our home before we know it. Maximize your impact by filling your kids’ needs in every season.

Sound off: What advice would you give to a dad who wants to learn more about parenting with intention? 

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