The Moments It’s Alright for Dad to Be a Pushover
Guilty as charged. My two daughters have me completely wrapped around their fingers. I knew this the first moments I held them in my arms in the hospital. The memory is still vivid of holding my firstborn and promising her that I will never let her down. When my second came around, she was in ICU for her first 3 days on earth. The determination I felt to get her past that moment and into my safety has never waned. When it comes to my daughters, I am a total pushover.
We are defining pushover to mean that our kids are angling for something they want, and we (dad) allow them the victory. They own our loyalty. Not towards negative results and unhealthy activities that kids face, as to those we stand firmly against. But to our kids knowing with full confidence that when they need Daddy – We are there without fail. Here are 4 moments when it’s totally alright for Dad to be a pushover.
Genuine Time Spent Together
Whatever is being asked of you, such as a visit to an amusement park, a camping trip, or even just taking them to the playground, the first thing we should consider is – Will it allow for genuine quality time spent with my children? If the answer is yes, then try to make it happen. All the things that get in the way like finances, work, and busyness, will have their say, but in some form or fashion, don’t lose the opportunity. Those are the times when lasting bonds and deep relationships blossom.
Creating Lifetime Memories
It’s the little things that separate the good from the great. Big things like a trip to Disney will, of course, become lifetime memories. However, it’s the smaller moments kids truly cherish in their hearts. One of my favorite memories of my dad was him taking me to a rock concert that I badly wanted to see at 12 years old. I was too young to go alone, and he hated with a passion the music, but he chose me over him and we went. His loving gesture is what I keep in my heart. Not the concert. By the way, the band was – Kiss. Awesome show.
When They’re Hurting
It is an inevitable fact of life that hurt and pain is going to come. In these moments with our children, the best thing Dad can be is a pushover. Our instinct is to lecture, but that’s not what they will be seeking. They want a safe landing spot. Hold back that instinct, for there will be plenty of time later to sort out what went wrong and how to correct the mistakes. At the moment they are hurting? Dad should be the face they know with certainty is the one on their side. The best kind of pushover.
In some instances, we just have to give our kids what they are pushing for and let natural consequences be their teacher. We have life experience in our parent tool belt. Our kids don’t understand why we keep saying no to what they want, but we are aware they will likely lead to negative consequences. A simple example of this is a 5-year-old asking – “Dad, why can’t I eat my cereal in front of the tv?” We know the odds of the bowl spilling all over the floor are at about 95%. In some instances, we just have to give our kids what they are pushing for and let natural consequences be their teacher. After he spills the bowl, has to clean up the mess, and feels your disappointment, he will have learned what words can’t teach.
What are some of the ways you’ve been a pushover as a Dad?
5 Ways to Give Your Kids an Inner Strength
Devon Still grew up in a tough neighborhood in Wilmington, DE. There were temptations and dangers all around him. Unfortunately, a number of his friends and acquaintances didn’t make it out. They either had trouble with the law or worse, ended up dead. Surviving that type of environment took several acts of grace, but it also required an inner strength. It was a fortitude that was passed onto him by two parents who both protected and equipped him for life. The resolve they imparted lead him to avoid trouble, get a college scholarship, and have a successful football career that allowed him to make it all the way to the NFL. That same inner strength was especially needed when he faced the hardest challenge a parent can go through. He shares in his new book, Still in the Game that when his daughter Leah was just four years old she was diagnosed with stage four cancer.
After surgery and a difficult stretch of chemo, his daughter Leah is doing well today. But in order to be a source of support for a daughter fighting for her life, let alone persevering through the heart-wrenching experience as a parent, Devon drew on that inner strength given to him by his parents. I identified 5 things they did that helped to instill that power. If you apply these 5 things you will create an inner strength in your kids.
1. Be There For Them
One of the most painful things in Devon Still’s life was his parent’s divorce. However, one of the things that saved him from the pitfalls of growing up in a rough place with parents that split was that his parents were a constant presence. His mom and dad invested in him with both their time and their money. Be there for your kids. Carve out time to play and have fun, but it is especially important to be there when times are hard. Kids need a source of stability in their lives and most of that depends on the parents. The best way to do that is to be a consistent and powerful presence, physically and mentally.Kids need a source of stability in their lives and most of that depends on the parents.
2. Discipline Them
When Devon and his siblings stepped out of line, they were disciplined, especially by their father. Having clear boundaries and holding them when they are violated gives kids greater confidence. Again, it makes their world seem more secure. Being disciplined, when done with love, will give your kids greater self-discipline in the future. Being inconsistent or lacking borders will make a child feel like a helium balloon blowing the breeze.
3. Give Them Responsibility
If your kids aren’t given any responsibility they will never learn how to be responsible. Those muscles have to be formed and shaped in order for them to be dependable when they are needed. Give them age-appropriate chores and increase their responsibilities over time so they can handle more weight.
4. Shield Them
Having grown up in a tough neighborhood, Devon’s parents knew there were things happening all around him that he wasn’t prepared to deal with, physically and emotionally. So they made him stay inside the house immediately after school. Protect your hearts and minds from subjects they aren’t ready for. Experiencing adult content before they have the maturity to make sense of it can cause confusion, instability, and in some cases, shame. All of that can lead to a lack of confidence and a weakened sense of self.
5. Let Them Experience Consequences
When Devon was a child he stole a bike. The school ended up calling the police. Devon’s father took him to the police station where he spent the entire day in a jail cell. That day changed him forever. He never stole anything again. When our kids are young, allowing them to feel the consequences and pain of their actions enables them to make better decisions for the future.
Bonus: Nurture Their Faith
This is one that Devon’s grandmother passed onto him. She used to bring him to church, which at the time didn’t seem to make much of an impact. However, when Devon started to face situations far greater than himself he turned to God in prayer. Sooner or later we all face struggles, a sick child, an aging parent, financial difficulty, etc., and we will be desperate for help. My question is, why wait for the big things? Why not invite the God who created life into the daily life you and your kids are living? If He has the power and wisdom to influence our desperate moments, don’t you think He has answers and a perspective to add to your daily life as well? Wouldn’t that make all of us stronger?
What has made you strong in your life?
How to Help Kids Articulate Their Feelings
Have you ever talked to a child and wanted to help them through something they were struggling with, but found it seemingly impossible because they just wouldn’t open up or have difficulty expressing feelings?
As a parent and a pastor, I’ve counseled many kids over the years, and one of the great struggles is getting some kids to talk, especially when they don’t want to. While you can’t force a child to share their heart or their feelings, there are some practical practices that sometimes help to get them to open up, whether with your own kids or with others’. So whether a child is hurting, dealing with relational issues, has made a huge mistake, or is trying to deal with things completely out of their control, here are a few strategies to help them open up and share their feelings.
Show genuine concern.
This is huge because a child will rarely open up to someone until there is an understood level of trust and security. Listen to whatever it is they are willing to tell you and show them you are truly interested in their situation or problem. The more you are willing to show patience and grace, the more likely they will be to open up to you. However, trying to make them talk or guilt them into talking will cause them to be less likely to open up and more likely to simply shut down. Children want you to understand what they are feeling, but they will easily get frustrated if you do, and will seldom share their deepest feelings until they are convinced that you truly care. Here’s a few examples of how this might sound in conversation:
- I’m really sorry about what you’re going through right now.
- I feel for you in this situation. Tell me how this makes you feel that this has happened to you.
- What you’re telling me makes complete sense. Tell me more.
Ask lots and lots of questions.
Questions are the window to see into a person’s heart, and especially with a child. And it’s very important that you don’t just ask yes or no questions, but instead, questions that require a thoughtful answer. Because oftentimes, kids know what they are thinking and feeling, but they just don’t know how to put it into words. This is where our thought-provoking questions can help unlock the emotions going on inside to help them find a way to express them. Here are some examples:
- What bothers you most about this situation?
- Can you help me understand more of what you’re feeling right now?
- Who do you think is responsible? Is there anything you could or should have done differently?
Once you get an answer from your questions, create more questions off of their answers that allow you to dig deeper into their feelings. While it would be nice if we could just passively wait for kids to share their feelings with us, we must instead proactively give them reasons to. It’s kind of like playing in a ping-pong match, where you begin to feed off of each other as you hit the ball of conversation back and forth. Here are some examples of dig-deeper questions:
- You told me that this whole thing makes you feel angry…What do you feel like doing when you get mad? What do you think is the right thing to do when you feel that way?
- It seems like you want to be able to control what’s going on right now…Even though you can’t change everything, what is one thing you could do to help make this situation better? Who do you think you need to talk to about this?
- I completely understand why you feel so hurt right now…What would help you to feel better? Who else in this situation do you think is hurting right now? Is there anything you could do to help them?
When it comes to helping kids articulate their feelings, the old statement is very true, that “people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
How do you get your kids to open up?
How to Discipline a Child
When it comes to how to discipline a child choosing the consequences is very important. When I was growing up, my dad did a couple of things that got through to me. My dad spanked me a couple of times and I kind of got the message through that. Then as I got older, he came up with a different punishment that may seem a little strange. When I became more active and started playing sports he made me sit down on the couch, watch TV, and not move until he told me. For me, that was the worst thing in the world; I was squirming because I wanted to be outside with my friends. I wanted to be active and sitting in front of the television was punishment.
In this day and age that would probably not be an effective punishment. So I need to think about other things for my kids. Here are the strategies I normally use.
Taking Away Electronics
For most of my kids, unfortunately, taking away their electronics – no iPad, no video games – that’s the worst thing I can do. It’s especially painful for my boys.
Take Away Something That Hurts
You’ve got to think about something that is going to impact your kids and give them something to think about the next time they have a choice to make in their behavior. That’s what it really comes down to thinking of something that hurts them in a way that they will think, Gosh I don’t want to lose this privilege so I’ll think before I act. You need to know how each child thinks and operates to know what’s going to make that light bulb go off in their head. That’s how we handle it in our house.
How to Evaluate Your Relationship with Your Child
Most engaged parents want to know that they have a good relationship with their son or daughter. But sometimes, it’s tough to tell just how solid that parent-child relationship really is. You might think things are going great, but your child might think otherwise. Or, your child might feel like things are fine, but you feel like you’ve fallen short as a mom or dad.
Well, the best way to evaluate your relationship with your child isn’t to take an exam or ask someone else. The best way is to ask your child. So, here are 20 questions for kids to answer to help evaluate where your relationship needs improvement and where it’s thriving. You don’t have to formally ask them all these questions in one sitting. You can just casually ask as many as you’d like when the timing is right.
The best way to evaluate your relationship with your child is to ask your child.
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- How do you know I love you?
- Would you say I’m a bad, okay, or good listener when you talk to me?
- Do I make your mom/dad happy or sad? Do we fight too much?
- What are some areas where I can improve as your mom/dad?
- How often do we spend time together? Do you wish we spent more time together?
- Would you say I’m better at giving compliments or at criticizing?
- Am I fair when I discipline you?
- How often do I hug you? Do I hug you enough?
- On a scale of 1-10, do I do a good job getting to know your friends?
- Do you trust me in everything?
- Have I broken any promises to you? If so, which ones?
- Do I treat you and your brothers/sisters equally?
- What’s the most fun thing we’ve ever done together?
- What is one thing you wish I would stop doing?
- What is one thing you would like me to keep doing?
- What things would you like to learn from me that I have not taught you?
- If you could change our relationship in any way, how would you?
- How have I helped you over the last couple of months? How can I help you more?
- What do you want most from me?
- What do you wish I would say more often?
If you have more than one child, I encourage you to pull each of them aside separately and ask them this series of questions. For more ways to communicate with your child, check out The Best Conversation Starters for Teenagers.
The Story of Christmas
If you asked your child where they should go to find the true meaning of Christmas would they answer, “The mall”? Gift-giving was a noble part of the Christmas story, but there was a lot more to it. Many kids view the Christmas story as something that happened in ancient history that has little relevance to us today. However, if Jesus is who he claimed he was, then the Christmas story has everything to do with our lives now. We need to learn how to tell the story to our kids so that they are engaged and understand what it means for us.
However, if Jesus is who he claimed he was, then the Christmas story has everything to do with our lives now.
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The Story of Christmas tool will help you take your children on a journey to the heart of Christmas. The story has 7 parts and takes place in 7 locations. There are lots of ways you can use the story. We have listed some, but I encourage you to list your ideas in the comments below. Here are 8 ideas for using The Story of Christmas.
1. Use the Manger Scene
Use your own manger scene figures with the story, or cut out the figures we have provided.
2. Stage each part of the story in a different part of the house.
For example, the angel may have appeared to Mary in the kitchen. Today’s version of the manger could be the garage. The shepherds would be outside in the yard. King Herod would be in your best room.
3. Read one part of the story every night for a week before Christmas.
Or load up the camel (that would be you, Dad) and give the kids a ride from place to place all in one night.
4. Have the kids act it out.
Give each of the children a story figure to hold and allow them to act out the story as you read it.
5. If your children can read well, allow them to narrate the story.
You can read it sentence by sentence and have them put it into their own words. It will help them remember it.
6. Use household props to make it fun.
For example, a dishtowel with a shoelace tied around a child’s head makes a great shepherd hat. Crowns can be cut out from this template for the kings. A pastel sheet wrapped around a child and tied with a rope makes a great Mary dress. Wrap your angel with a white sheet and put a little garland on her head.
7. The Magi were the gift givers from which we get the gift-giving tradition of Christmas.
An effective way to limit gifts and point children back to the real meaning of gifts at Christmas is to tell your children they will get 3 gifts just as Jesus received 3 gifts. If your children believe in Santa you can throw in the fourth gift from him or have Santa fill the stockings.
8. End your story with a birthday celebration.
Get some cupcakes, or perhaps make them together. Discuss why Jesus’ birthday is worth celebrating. Most likely you will also need to explain why Easter is also worth celebrating.