Teaching My Kids How to Date Before They Date
I think every young man has some trepidation about meeting his girlfriend’s father for the first time. Many of these dads relish the chance to make the young men who date their daughters question their dating skills and quake in their boots. I have a friend who has a sword collection mounted in his house for precisely that purpose. The day I met my future father-in-law featured a set of calf pullers and a rifle.
The shoe is on the other foot now, as the oldest of my three daughters recently turned 13. While she’d admit she’s not ready to date yet, I know the day she’ll want to is coming—sooner than I’d like it to. My wife and I have been planning for this for most of my daughter’s life. We’ve employed three simple strategies to help all five of our kids more easily navigate the eventual adventure of dating. You can use these strategies, too.
1. Take your kids on dad dates.
My kids love going out on dates with me. They often involve food and some adventure, but always one-on-one time with one of my kids. Whatever we do, they can expect that I’m going to hold the car door open for them and that wherever we go, I’ll give my “date” my undivided attention. My hope is that dad dates will exemplify dating skills and establish what a date ought to look like. By now, my eldest daughter should expect that anyone who takes her out on a date is going to do the small, chivalrous things for her, that his phone shouldn’t be the third wheel on the date, and–most importantly–that she is the focus of his attention, not the waitress or someone else who happens to be attractive and in his line of sight.
2. Monitor the media they consume.
We’ve always been vigilant about what sorts of media and books our kids consume and we’ve been mindful of what’s appropriate and what’s not. But we’ve become more sensitive lately to the way the shows, songs, and stories our kids consume present relationships. One of the lingering impacts of the sexual revolution is that our society doesn’t know the natural progression of a relationship. It’s not uncommon for couples in media to go from “Hi, what’s your name?” to “Let’s have sex.” in no time flat. As a result, many teenagers feel pressured to imitate this in their own relationships. We can filter out a lot of this. But watching the latest blockbuster or an episode of a show on Netflix that presents relationships that don’t match up to our values also provides an avenue for conversation about what healthy, holy relationships ought to look like.
3. Model it in your marriage.It’s critical to give our kids an example of what fidelity and faithfulness look like in word and action.
The last tactic is actually the simplest. It comes down to the example my wife and I present to our kids. One of the lasting lessons I’ve learned about being a father is that my kids imitate what they see me doing. It is therefore tremendously important that I give a good example to them in the way I love and date their mother. I need to be deliberate in the way I talk to and about my wife, in the effort I put into spending time with her, and in the example we give of healthy, affectionate touch. It’s critical to give our kids an example of what fidelity and faithfulness look like in word and action. Ultimately, this example may be the most effective way we impart dating skills on our kids—long before they are actually ready to date.
Earn some points: If you are married, earn some points with your wife by sharing this article from iMOM: Is Your Child Ready to Date?
Sound off: How are you preparing your kids to date?
The Netflix Effect
It’s movie night at our house. The pepperoni pizza has arrived. The orange comforter is on the floor. Netflix is ready to stream. What to watch? My 5-year-old daughter has me peruse the plethora of curated kids’ movies, sparking no interest. I get through the entire first carousel of content with no luck. Then the second, and the third. She still hasn’t chosen. I suggest eight different movies, but a fear of missing out on a better option fills my daughter with anxiety.
The pizza is getting cold as my nerves begin to wilt. Why does Netflix have so many choices for children? After 30 minutes, we finally settle on a movie—Frozen, which she has already seen a hundred times. Every parent has experienced this: the Netflix Effect, the barraging black hole of choices that never seems to satisfy. Experts call this “choice paralysis” and it is damaging our children’s ability to make decisions. Can we change that? Yes. Here’s how.
1. Curate the curation.Requiring your kids to commit to their decisions helps build the skills to make good choices.
Pick two films your child can choose from on movie night. Don’t even allow them to see the Netflix carousel. This limits their choices. Explain both of the movies and maybe show them the trailers. When they’ve chosen, watch the film from beginning to end, whether it is high quality or poor quality, and discuss it afterward. Requiring your kids to commit to their decisions helps build the skills to make good choices.
2. Play strategy games.
I bought my daughter a hand-carved chess set right after my wife and I discovered we were pregnant with her. Chess is an excellent game to teach your child the consequences of choices and our influence on future outcomes. Strategy games help children think about how a small decision now will have a substantial impact later. If they are too young for chess, try Battleship. It visually shows how smart decisions can lead you to victory.
3. Talk it out.
As a parent, think through your decisions out loud so your child is privy to your thought process. If you are trying to decide whether to go to the mall first to run an errand or to visit grandma first, say it all aloud. Talk the options out with your spouse so your child can see how decisions are made and why it’s essential to think through them.
Sound off: What decisions do your children have a hard time making?
Raising Generous Kids in a Black Friday World
How do we raise a child to be a generous person in a Black Friday world? You know, Black Friday: the day each year when half of us lose our minds and make a run on Wal-Mart like it’s The Purge. Meanwhile, the other half sit at home only to watch the video of it on YouTube on Saturday morning. Kinda makes you feel all warm and fuzzy, doesn’t it? The problem isn’t that there’s one day a year when stores sell stuff really cheap as a marketing gimmick to get us in the door. Rather, the problem is that it’s easy to live the rest of the year with a Black Friday mentality.
Our culture is awash with the message that happiness is simply one transaction away. That’s a lie. Granted, there’s a shred of truth–buying new stuff makes you happy for a minute. But soon enough, the shine wears off and if the research is correct, you find yourself just as dissatisfied as ever, if not worse. The antidote to this obsessive consumerism is generosity. But how do we cultivate generosity in the lives of our kids? Here are 5 suggestions.
1. Budget giving.
Look, I know this is about as anticlimactic as a dental cleaning, but sometimes the magic is in the mundane. Aristotle is credited as saying, “We are what we repeatedly do.” And he’s right (he is Aristotle, after all). The key to generosity is developing habits of generosity.
Make a point to set aside a portion of your income to give to a cause you believe in and involve your children in the conversation. Also, if your kids get an allowance or have jobs, require them to budget a percentage of their income to give away to something they believe in, too.
2. Practice gratitude.
Gratitude and generosity are connected. When we are generous with what we have, we become increasingly grateful. Likewise, when we practice gratitude we become a more generous person. Take five minutes each night to practice gratitude as a family. Ask each person to simply share one thing they are thankful for that day.
3. Start something new.
Teaching our kids to give also can be a lesson in entrepreneurship. Identify a cause with your children and plan a project that will raise money for it. This could be as simple as a lemonade stand, a lawn mowing business, or offering car washes.
4. Listen to outside voices.
Read a book together (depending on your child’s age, you could read Just So Thankful by Mercer Mayer or Grateful by Diana Butler Bass). Watch a series like The Kindness Diaries or the Minimalism documentary. Take in positive content together from outsiders and talk about your child’s response to it.
5. Sell out…sorta.
When all else fails, go Black Friday shopping, but make it a trip for someone in need. Contact your church or a local homeless shelter to find specific items that would be beneficial. Make a budget with your children and take them with you, knowing that the haul they bring will go to someone with legitimate needs.
If we primarily become consumers, it’s not by accident. It’s the result of lots of little prompts and habits. Kids are born into a Black Friday world, but they don’t have to wind up with a Black Friday mentality.
Sound off: What other habits could you implement to cultivate generosity in your children?
3 Steps For Raising Peacemakers in a Violent World
Is raising peacemakers in a violent world even possible? I believe it is. In fact, I believe it’s more than possible. It’s necessary and it is our calling. In a world full of violence, from wars to domestic abuse, we need to become and raise peacemakers in a violent world.
Let’s begin with definitions. A peacemaker does the work necessary to bring about peace. This is different from a peacekeeper, who is focused on maintaining the status quo. On the other hand, peacemakers are willing to do conflict, have hard conversations, and come up with innovative ideas to help warring factions (literally or figuratively) work toward reconciliation. The peacemakers are building a future in which we all can flourish. So let’s raise our children to be peacemakers in a violent world. Here 3 ways to do it.
1. Look in the mirror.
It’s easy to look at the violence of the past and shake our heads in judgment over those who went before us. However, a much better response, in my opinion, is to understand why they made the decisions they made. Then I can ask myself what I would do if that same situation presented itself to me now. What would it require of me?
It’s easy to shake my head in judgment over white folks who remained silent during the Civil Rights era. But if the majority of my neighbors and family members, and even my employer, held a belief strongly that I felt was morally wrong today, would I risk my relationships and perhaps even my well being for what I believed was right, or would I quietly disapprove, but be sure not to rock the boat to ensure my and my family’s security?
We need to help our kids to do more than just know history, but to do the hard work to develop moral courage so we don’t repeat it.
2. Have moral courage.It takes courage to have convictions. It takes even more to live by them.
Of course, this leads into the next need: having moral courage. It takes courage to have convictions. It takes even more to live by them. Therefore we need to prioritize the cultivation of moral courage in our kids.
Here are some ideas: Identify local community organizations working for peace (domestic violence shelters, churches, NAACP chapters) and volunteer along with your child. Teach your children about courageous people who have sacrificed for the sake of others. Help your child take steps to stand up and say something if they see bullying or injustice. Help them know how to stay safe, but not silent.
3. Love your neighbor.
It’s easy to focus on global issues. The harder and, in my opinion, more important work is learning to live at peace with the people next door and under your own roof. How are you teaching and modeling conflict resolution with your neighbors and your family members? Are you practicing hospitality? Are you working to make your home and neighborhood places of peace?
It all starts there. Peace begins at home. It begins with you. None of this is easy, but raising peacemakers isn’t a choice if we want a world where our children cannot just survive but flourish.
Sound off: What are other ways you’re working to raise peacemakers?
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Teaching Your Kids How to Have Hard Conversations
If we want our kids to become stable, healthy, well-adjusted adults, we need to do a good job of teaching them to have hard conversations when they are young. It’s hard enough for spouses to have hard conversations, so our kids need our help before they leave the nest. The advent of social media and mobile devices made communication easier but has also made effective communication more difficult. Messages are easily misunderstood, incomplete, or inflammatory.
So before our kids have to break off a relationship with someone, apologize for a wrong, ask for forgiveness, or share some difficult news with someone, make sure they have understood these important principles for having hard conversations.
Communicate in person if at all possible, not digitally.
We need to avoid using social media, direct messages, emails, or texts for difficult conversations. We’ve become so reliant on electronic communication that we are tempted to use it at the worst times or in the most delicate situations. These tools are great and appropriate for quick info, encouragement, and brief connections, but should be used sparingly, if at all, for emotionally-filled or important situations. Here’s why:
- You can’t fill in the emotional, relational gaps in Twitter’s 280 characters.
- You cannot communicate nuance and context and emotion in written words.
- People fill in the blanks without context. For example, what you meant to sound sincere may be easily misinterpreted as facetious.
- Digital communication can lead to impulsive and regretful communication.
- Digital communication is easier to ignore.
- In digital communication, complex issues have to be reduced to unhelpful levels of simplicity. That’s not wise.
- Digital communication tends to elicit reactive responses, not thoughtful ones.
Bottom line: Nothing can replace face-to-face communication, especially when having hard or challenging conversations.Nothing can replace face-to-face communication, especially when having hard or challenging conversations.
Role-playing can be helpful. Take turns playing the role of your child, or the person they are talking to, and give it a go. Help your child think through the strong emotions that come with the conversation, to anticipate the reactions, to process and respond to such a conversation, and to get through any awkwardness.
Determine the best time, place, and environment for the conversation.
We know from marriage that there are good times and very bad times to bring up sensitive issues. But our kids may not realize how important the setting and frame of mind can be. Help your child determine the best situation and environment that would be most appropriate for the conversation. Just by working through some of these basics, we can help our children be better at resolving conflict and relating to others. For more questions to ask your child, check out our Q & U app.
Sound off: What other tools do you give your kids when they need to have a hard conversation?
6 Questions to Open Conversation with Your Child About Bullying
The core elements of bullying, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, include “unwanted aggressive behavior; observed or perceived power imbalance; and repetition of behaviors or high likelihood of repetition” (CDC, 2014).
Bullying happens with disturbing frequency, but numbers do not begin to tell the whole story. The most alarming statistic has to do with the fact that the majority of bullying goes unreported, even when the victim suffers injury (study funded by the U.S. Department of Education).
A critical first step in creating safer learning environments, according to The Center for Safe Schools, is more complete and immediate reporting.We cannot console, help, equip, or empower if we do not know what is happening in our kids’ lives.
Encouraging children to talk about intimidation is not about tattling, it is about our collective responsibility to work toward safe schools, to empower children, and to overcome bullying.
We cannot console, help, equip, or empower if we do not know what is happening in our kids’ lives. Try the following 6 questions to open conversation with your child about bullying:
1. “Tell me, what were the best two things about today and the worst two things about today?”
Listen to your child, don’t lecture. It is important to get in the habit of having open communication. Our children should not be nervous about sharing anything that happens in their lives. Overreacting tells children to hide their real thoughts and feelings.
2. “If you could be a superhero and help other kids, what powers would you have?”
Role playing can set up a safe place for honest communication. Ask for more details as the conversation continues.
3. “I’m not sure I really know what a bully is, can you describe one?”
Kids love to be “in the know.” Let them be the expert and talk you through. Ask your child how they know what they are telling you.
4. “Who are the adults you can talk to if you are scared?”
Answers may include teachers, bus drivers, coaches, friends’ parents. Follow up with, “Do you ever wish they could help you more?” and “What things make you scared?”
5. “What happens when you see other kids get pushed around?”
Sometimes it’s easier for your children to talk about what’s happening with other kids than themselves. Follow up with, “Do you ever get pushed around?”
6. “What do you think parents or teachers can do to help stop bullying?”
Again, put your child in the role of expert. Given that bullying is acknowledged, what do you – the kid – think adults can do to help?
The question is not “if” bullying happens but “how?” It is so important to have regular dialogue with your children about their behavior towards others and how they are being treated by their peers.
Here are some additional resources that may help you in talking with your child:
- Stopbullying.gov: https://www.stopbullying.gov/media/facts/index.html
- American SPCC (American Society for the Positive Care of Children): https://americanspcc.org/our-voice/bullying/statistics-and-information/
- Center for Safe Schools: http://www.safeschools.info/bullying-prevention/bullying-prevention-news/73-study-finds-most-bullying-not-reported
Sponsored by the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the State of Florida, Department of Children and Families.
This project was supported by Contract No. LJ990 awarded by the state administering office for the STOP Formula Grant Program. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the state or the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.
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