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5 Fears You Could Be Passing Along to Your Kids

Frank Brennan | June 13, 2022

“Daddy, can we sing?” My daughter begged me to get up on stage with her to sing a karaoke song. “No, Daddy doesn’t feel well,” I lied. I didn’t want to feel embarrassed trying to sing a song I barely knew with my pitchy voice. Yet, at that moment, I communicated to my daughter that it’s OK to run away from a challenge. She hasn’t asked me to sing with her since.

As parents, we quickly can pass our fears to our children without knowing it. Here are 5 common fears we pass on.

Fear of Taking Risks

By the time I was 8 years old, I had fallen out of a treehouse, shimmied up the water pipe of a maintenance building, and climbed multiple barbed wire fences. Yet, I can’t imagine ever allowing my children to do those dangerous activities. Kids are natural risk-takers, though, eager to test the world’s limits around them. A lot of kids don’t think twice about skateboarding off stairwells or getting tossed 20 feet into the air while cheerleading. No dad wants to see his child get hurt, but if we act like helicopter parents, always trying to protect them, we can pass along our fear of danger, and they may stop taking risks. But risks can bring great rewards for our children because they find out what they are capable of accomplishing.

Fear of Failure

Our children watch how we respond when our favorite sports teams lose. If we get in a bad mood, unable to let the loss go, we tell our children that failure is a bad thing. If your kids become afraid to fail, then they won’t be willing to pursue their dreams. According to Smithsonian Magazine, when Thomas Edison was asked about his failure in making the lightbulb, he famously said, “I have not failed 10,000 times—I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.” Michael Jordan has also said he failed over and over again, which is why he was successful. Failure can be a learning tool and it can help you get better. We must celebrate failure more so our children don’t fear it but instead, learn from it.

Fear of Embarrassment

My wife and I randomly text “30 Second Dance Party” to each other. No matter where we are or what we’re doing, we have to do a small dance for 30 seconds. At first, I was so embarrassed to do this, but my daughter caught on and forced me. She started telling my wife to text me so I would be caught off guard. I began to enjoy it because my daughter was paying attention. What used to embarrass me bonded me closer to my daughter. I see how overcoming my fear of dance has helped her be brave in school auditions and singing competitions. We may be embarrassed by minor things, but we never know what may stick with our kids.

Don’t let your perfect standards ruin your child’s enjoyment.

Fear of Not Being Perfect

Everything from how I prepare my kid’s lunches, brew coffee, or play a musical instrument must be perfect—I suffer from perfectionism. And I am watching my daughter suffer from it too. She is learning to play guitar but gets infuriated when she misses a note. She loses interest in playing if she can’t be perfect. Teaching her to play is like holding a mirror to my face. Perfectionism may breed excellence in the long run, but it snuffs out joy. Don’t let your perfect standards ruin your child’s enjoyment. Teach yourself to breathe, stay calm, and let things go. Your life will never be perfect, so don’t try and make theirs perfect either.

Fear of Conflict

The only way to get past conflict is to push through it. Your son is watching how you stand up for yourself in an argument with your buddies. Your daughter wonders why you won’t tell the server that your order is incorrect. It’s easy to excuse trivial problems because confronting them doesn’t seem worth it, but you’re sending your kids a message. You’re telling them to avoid conflict at all costs. And as your kids grow, they may never fight for their place and just accept whatever spot they are given. Most conflict does not lead to arguments or violence. It is mostly about being willing to speak up for yourself.

Sound off: What are some other possible fears we pass on?

The post 5 Fears You Could Be Passing Along to Your Kids appeared first on All Pro Dad.

4 Steps to Show Your Kids You’re Actually Sorry

Ryan Sanders | June 13, 2022

One of my kids, who will remain nameless, has a hard time admitting fault. Recently, I had the chance to model taking ownership. I overreacted about a small thing and turned it into a big deal. It was an opportunity to say sorry and to model the steps of showing I’m sorry to my kid.

There are good and not so good ways to say sorry. It’s crucial we understand how to apologize as dads if we are ever to teach it to our kids. o you know how to show someone you are truly sorry? Here are 4 steps for how to show your kids you’re actually sorry.

1. Take full responsibility.

When you start to apologize, it’s natural to inject words like  “if,” “but,” or “maybe.” But you’re on the wrong track when you say “I’m sorry if I hurt you” or “I’m sorry for yelling, but you made me mad.” The moment you say things like this, you’re taking the blame and shifting it away from yourself and onto the other person. To avoid injecting “ifs” and “buts,” practice saying your apology out loud before you say it to the other person.

When you specifically admit your wrongdoing, you show humility that your kids may not otherwise see.

2. Admit specifically.

When you specifically admit your wrongdoing, you show humility that your kids may not otherwise see. It’s easy to be general and gloss over specifics. But we show care when we are precise in admitting what we did wrong. Learn to say, “I’m sorry, son; I overreacted back there and I shouldn’t have said X, Y, or Z.” Pointing out specific wrongdoing shows you’ve thought about it, you care, and you’re taking your apology seriously.

3. Get to the ask.

The next step that makes an apology on point is simply asking for forgiveness. Here’s the clincher: After you ask, close your mouth and don’t say any additional words. Leave the answer to the other person. You want the offended person to respond and take ownership in their forgiveness. You’ll say, “I am sorry for what I did and for how I hurt you. I was wrong. Will you please forgive me?” That’s it. You then leave it up to the other person to forgive or not. You are at his or her mercy.

4. Change your behavior.

Proverbs 28:13 says, “The one who conceals his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them will find mercy.” We renounce our wrongdoings by changing our behavior. It’s one thing to ask for forgiveness and accept the consequences, but if this is all you do, you’ve only said some words. There must be a plan of action to stop the wrong behavior and replace it with better behavior.

Maybe it’s a simple change that can be made immediately. It may be something like anger or how you speak that needs more of a plan and will take time. But make the plan and stick to it so the person you apologized to sees the improvement. A good plan will address what, when, why, how, and with whom you will complete changes: “The next time I am tempted to overreact, I will step away, pause, and cool down, or even talk to my wife about the situation before I blow up at my kid.”

Sound off: What do you say when you need to say you’re sorry?

The post 4 Steps to Show Your Kids You’re Actually Sorry appeared first on All Pro Dad.

4 Things You Can Say in One Second for a Better Family Life

Scott Gulbransen | June 13, 2022

I was stressed and running late, and my mood was tanking fast. “Who moved my wallet?” I screamed angrily at my kids as they ate breakfast and got ready for school. My face red, my fists clenched, the room was suddenly silent. My wife and kids all froze with looks of surprise and uncertainty on their faces. I felt the wallet in my pocket and realized—I had never lost it; I just forgot it was already on me. I left hurriedly, not thinking of the ramifications of my actions and my final words to my family in anger before hitting the road.

Words are powerful and have a significant impact on our families every day. My words were accusatory and jarring and I regretted them on the commute to the office. I had set a negative and uneasy tone for my family that day in just one moment. But there’s also a way to make a day much better just as quickly. Here are 4 things you can say in just one second for a better family life and more peaceful moments at home.

1. I love you.

Many of us say this to our wives and kids often, but it’s always meaningful and the most powerful reminder to your family members that they matter. Growing up, I was lucky my mom and dad said it often and set a great example. The more we say it with meaning, the more those around us feel loved. Making sure your family members know they’re loved shows them how we’re always on their side and they can count on us no matter the situation.

By modeling humility, you help your family do the same, leading to increased understanding and harmony.

2. You’re right.

Nothing frustrates others like seeing you stand your ground when you shouldn’t. By telling your wife or kids when they’re right, you exhibit humility, express trust in them and their judgment, and support their points of view. If it’s during a disagreement, admitting when we’re wrong or conceding a point shows that we’re actively looking for a solution. By modeling humility in everyday situations, you help your family do the same, leading to increased understanding and harmony.

3. I’m sorry.

Despite our best intentions, we sometimes choose the wrong path and make decisions that negatively impact our families. When we do it and recognize it, nothing’s more influential than a genuine apology. We set a tone of reconciliation and cooperation in our families by simply and sincerely apologizing. Just two short words can help resolve and start toward family healing.

4. Can we talk?

It’s a simple question that allows for open dialogue, not a lecture. We often keep things to ourselves even if they’re bothering us. Instead of allowing these things to fester, asking to have heart-to-heart conversations on any subject is vital to better family life. This also ensures families talk more and sharing becomes the norm to help sift through and solve problems in and outside the home.

Sound off: Are there any other things we could say as dads that will make a better family life?

The post 4 Things You Can Say in One Second for a Better Family Life appeared first on All Pro Dad.

5 Harmful Narratives We’re Teaching Our Kids

Timothy Diehl | May 24, 2022

One night, my daughter came home from drama practice complaining about a guy who couldn’t keep his hands off of her. It wasn’t overtly sexual. However, it made her uncomfortable that he always had to touch her when he was around her. He did it to other girls too, but they all told him to knock it off and kept their distance. Our daughter felt bad for him, though, and didn’t want to hurt his feelings.

Suddenly, we realized that always telling our kids to “love other people” wasn’t enough. In fact, by itself, it had become a harmful narrative. There are lots of these kinds of things. We teach partial truths because they sound good or they’re effective in getting the behavior we want. But in the long run, these can end up hurting our children. Here are 5 other harmful things we’re teaching our kids without realizing it.

1. Don’t be different.

You may not say this exactly, but you might spend a lot of time and money helping your child be like everyone else. To be sure, feeling like he or she fits in can be an important piece of a kid’s identity, so I’m not suggesting you make him or her the person who is always on the outside looking in. However, many parents (and I’m guilty of this) simply cave to their child’s demands because “everyone else is doing it.”

Help your child learn to make choices that are good regardless of whether he or she is popular.

And yet, the people who tend to make the biggest impact are those who do things differently. It’s not just about self-expression, but about doing what is right. Help your child learn to make choices that are good regardless of whether he or she is popular.

2. Just follow the rules.

This is challenging because a society needs rules and it needs people who generally agree to follow them—think traffic laws or checking out at the grocery store. Our school system is largely built to encourage rule following. Many times, as parents, we default to “because I said so” in the heat of the moment because, well, sometimes that needs to be enough. This isn’t all bad, but if we’re not careful, we can teach our kids to be unquestioning of authority, especially when that authority benefits us.

Instead, we should look for ways to help our children discern what is a “good rule” and what isn’t. No rule should be unquestioned. And while you don’t have to like a rule, there are some rules that are unjust that need to be called out—even if it’s a rule you made.

3. Childhood is your time for fun.

Of all the harmful things we’re teaching our kids, this probably seems like an odd choice. However, I do think there is a way we detrimentally can overemphasize a child’s need for a carefree life. Of course, we can also take childhood too seriously: They have to get the best grades, they have to be the best on the team, and so on. But I think we can also underestimate how healthy it can be for our child to take on responsibility.

As early as possible, I believe it’s good for kids to begin to help around the house. Requiring them to clean up after themselves, asking them to help wash the dishes, and having them do the laundry are all important life skills they need to learn from us. Yes, childhood shouldn’t be burdensome, but children also need to learn that they are making the world in which they live.

4. The world is dangerous.

This is tough because there certainly are dangerous things out there. Adults do unspeakable things to children. Kids hurt themselves. Some spiders apparently float in the air with “web balloons” (shiver). All of that is true, and yet if we are hammering our kids with messages of fear, we distort reality. For the most part, we are much safer now than ever before. Institutionally and individually, we’re better at recognizing unhealthy adult behaviors around kids. We have much better safety measures for kids in almost every area. (Still working on the spider thing.)

When we teach our kids to be afraid, we risk paralyzing them with fear. We decrease the likelihood that they’ll take healthy risks and they’ll frankly miss out on some of the best parts of life. We need to teach our kids risk assessment. Some things are worth the risk and others aren’t.

5. School is the most important thing.

Don’t get me wrong—school matters. It matters a lot. At the same time, many parents can put an unhealthy emphasis on school as the most important thing in a child’s life. This can play out by allowing them to stay up late studying routinely, pushing themselves to the point of exhaustion. Or we emphasize grades so much that a hard-working, responsible child who manages with great effort to pull B’s and C’s feels “less than” because her sister is a straight A student.

Work-life balance is a common conversation among adults. We need to make sure our kids have school-life balance. Good rest, space for play, and even opportunities to miss days of school for a family field trip all can be great ways to help our kids hold the tension between being responsible with school, and being attuned to their health and well-being.

Sound off: What are other harmful things we’re teaching our kids?

The post 5 Harmful Narratives We’re Teaching Our Kids appeared first on All Pro Dad.

3 Fatherhood Approaches I’ve Tried So You Don’t Have To

Ryan Sanders | May 23, 2022

While waiting at my gate at the Atlanta airport, I noticed some grandparents flying with a 5-year-old. These grandparents asked questions when the girl seemed frustrated. They gave her options when she wanted a snack. They were calm and collected throughout the layover, creating an atmosphere around this girl that allowed her to express her feelings. These grandparents weren’t doing the typical give-the-grandkid-whatever-she-wants routine. It was a beautiful example of parenting.

After seeing these experienced grandparents at work, I questioned my own fathering. My fatherhood feels frustrated and frazzled. Do you feel like your approach is working? I can tell you some parenting mistakes to avoid. Here are 3 fatherhood approaches I’ve tried so you don’t have to.

1. Bribery

When my kids were young, it started out innocently. Go potty and get M&M’s. Don’t cry on the airplane, get M&M’s. But chocolate works until it doesn’t. As my kids matured, I didn’t stop at chocolate. I’ve tried money, more time on iPads, you get the idea. I’ve said to my kids with urgency, “Clean your room before your grandparents visit and I’ll give you five bucks.”

This approach is among the parenting mistakes to avoid because, aside from the bribe having to get better and better, your child doesn’t learn to sacrifice, serve others, or be under any authority in life. Bribery rarely helps your kid learn integrity, character, or responsibility. Bribery is a short-term play that may not bring the long-term heart change we want.

2. Using Irrelevant Consequences 

Typically, this approach is impulsive and happens in frustration. I’ve known dads who’ve said to their kids who simply made a bad grade, “You’re grounded for the entire summer.” How does that punishment fit the crime? What did the child learn from the consequence?

Focus instead on the behavior and on what your kid can do to make the wrong behavior right. Grounding him or her for the weekend may work well for the kid who stayed out past curfew. It’s OK to take the iPhone away when it’s misused. The problem is when we use consequences that don’t teach kids—consequences that aren’t related to the bad behavior.

3. Rationalizing

It’s easy to rationalize our behavior as dads, to tell ourselves that “my dad treated me this way and I turned out fine.” If your dad was uninvolved, you might rationalize that it’s OK to be passive as a dad. If your dad was overly critical, maybe you rarely give compliments to your kids—and you think that’s fine.

You can’t parent the way your dad did because your kids aren’t you.

You can’t parent the way your dad did because your kids aren’t you. You do damage when you rationalize your parenting because you miss the point of engaging and teaching in a way that fits your kid. You can parent based on the age and stage of the child and by experimenting with what works and what doesn’t as a dad. Your kid needs a dad who does what’s wise rather than doing whatever he feels like doing and then finding ways to justify it.

Sound off: Which one of these three approaches is your go-to option?

The post 3 Fatherhood Approaches I’ve Tried So You Don’t Have To appeared first on All Pro Dad.

3 Unappreciated Things That Matter to Kids

Ryan Sanders | May 23, 2022

My son’s in kindergarten and has had some trouble with another boy in class. As my wife and I sat with his teacher on a video call, his teacher gently pointed out, “You know, it’s nice when the things we teach at school are reinforced in the home. Thankfully, your son has good influences outside of school. But not every student has that privilege.” During the parent-teacher meeting, my only interest was how the school was treating my son.

But after the call, I had a newfound understanding of a father’s influence, which kids don’t always appreciate. Between classmates, movies, and iPad apps, you might wonder as I do how much influence you really have on your kids. Every day, my son comes home saying and doing things he didn’t the day before. The influence of other kids is seen. A dad’s influence isn’t as seen, but it matters a lot—even when kids don’t appreciate it. Here are 3 other unappreciated things that matter to kids.

1. Structure

From a list of household chores to boundaries, kids need structure. Your kid will never come to you and say, “Dad, thank you for all the structure you give me.” In fact, your kids either won’t notice it or they’ll complain about it.

But what do we show our kids about their God-given value through structure? We show them we were designed with great purpose and structure. We’re made to crave order. Without it, kids experience stress and insecurity.

2. Following Through on Promises

I’ve written a ton about my failures as a dad on this blog. So, you know I’m not perfect. But one thing I take pride in is this: If I tell my kids I’ll do something, I do it. Don’t be the dad who makes promises he can’t keep. Kids might not appreciate it, or notice its value, but your word must be your bond. I believe you’re a reflection of God to your kids. If their dad doesn’t follow through on promises, they’ll have a hard time believing anybody else does, including God.

But I’ve learned that God does follow through on his promises. I take comfort in Psalm 9:10, which says, “Those who know your name trust in you because you have not abandoned those who seek you, Lord.” When I follow through, too, my kids can take comfort knowing they can rely on me. That kind of trust can go unappreciated, but your kids’ trust in you will ultimately help them know they can trust God.

3. Time and Attention

Kids whose dads don’t spend time with them or show up for them don’t feel valued.

We know from research one of the things that matters to kids is getting the right amount of attention. When kids get the attention they need, they thrive. They perform better on tests in school, have better relationships, and are more likely to keep learning with confidence. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received came from a business mentor. He told me not to spend more than two nights away on business trips. Why? Does traveling three days instead of two make you a terrible dad? No. But it’s a good practice to consider all you’re missing when you’re away that extra night.

Don’t make work your priority when you’re home with your kids. What we give our time and attention to shows what we value. When you focus on your child through good and bad times, you’re giving your child something invaluable—you’re giving love (1 Cor. 13:7). Don’t make a habit of missing recitals and practices. Kids whose dads don’t spend time with them or show up for them don’t feel valued. But God values all of us. And we should treat our kids as valuable—even when they don’t appreciate it.

Sound off: Was your own dad good or bad at keeping his promises when you were a kid?

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