Category Archives: Fatherhood

In these posts, I share the struggles, the victories, and lessons I’ve learned as the father of a fourteen year old daughter and a three year old son

How To Handle Baptism for Children?

A reader asked me a question about handling baptism for children.

(not my kid)

(not my kid)

Out of curiosity (you don’t have to answer), how did you handle baptism for the children?

I know families that say, Oh, well, we will let the children decide when they are old enough.

Next, I know families that baptize their babies in the belief that “they can’t decide! they’re children! If they don’t want to do their chores, we make them. So much more so when it comes to their souls.” Those children go through Confirmation when they are old enough, where they declare their vows for themselves.

Finally, I know families that believe that children cannot be baptized until they are old enough, but they must be so strictly trained that they (the children) worry about what happens if they die before they are old enough to be baptized into their church.

No one ever thinks about how much the parents wrestle with this decision, only with the children wrestling with it.

Thank you for your question!

My wife and I wrestled with this decision with our daughter. I’m sure when my 3 year old son is old enough we will wrestle with it again.

My daughter got baptized when she was 12 years old, but she started asking about being baptized around 8 or so. Both my wife and I were baptized before our 9th birthdays. I have often wondered how authentic my early conversion experience was, and I have rededicated my life to Christ on at least three other occasions. I still struggle with the decision to be baptized again.

What is baptism at its core?

It’s an outward sign of inward, spiritual change. It is declaring to the world that the person being baptized has chosen to be a follower of Christ.

Chosen.That’s was the key element to us. Our daughter had to be of an age where she could understand the decision she was making.

Let me qualify that in two ways.

  1. I’m not sure anyone truly understands what a decision to follow Christ will mean for their lives when they first come to faith. Grace and salvation are free, but they will cost you everything.
  2. I also don’t believe you have to have every point of doctrine completely understood when you get baptized. The Christian life is a journey. The Apostle Paul likened it an Olympic race.

Having given those caveats, what we needed to see from our daughter was an understanding of what she was doing.

  • She had to be able to explain to us and to our pastor that she understood the difference between doing the right thing and doing the wrong thing.
  • She also had to admit that she sometimes did the wrong thing.
  • She had to clearly state her belief in the divinity of Christ (Jesus is the Son of God and Jesus is God).
  • She had to say with authority that she believed he died and came back to life three days later.
  • She had to explain to us what it meant to live the rest of life in the way God wanted her to. That she would study what he said in his word and do her best to obey it

It took a couple of years for my daughter to get to the point where we thought she understood her choice well enough to proceed. Most of her early interest was driven by seeing friends getting baptized. If you are on the fence, my advice would be to to err on the side of grace and allow them to be baptized.

Babies being baptized / Parents deciding for their kids

I don’t think anyone can decide on salvation for anyone else. God has no grandchildren. When we stand before God, we will do so either with Christ at our side or totally alone. Mom or Dad won’t be around.

Each person must come to a moment in their life when they decide to follow Christ or reject him. These are the moments where they are presented with the gospel and the Holy Spirit is tugging on their heart. They can accept, and become followers of Christ, or they can reject God.

We do dedicate babies and have dedicated both of our children, but baby dedication is much more about the parents dedicating themselves to teach their kids to love Jesus than it is about the baby.

What if they die before they are old enough to be baptized into their church

Every child comes to what is commonly referred to as the “age of accountability”. This usually happens somewhere between 10 and 14, sometimes earlier, and sometimes later. Certain medical disabilities may prevent someone from EVER reaching this age.

What happens to children who die before the age of accountability?

The story of David losing his infant child (2 Samuel 12) clearly shows they go to heaven. After the infant dies, David says, “I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” The context is clear that David wasn’t talking about seeing his child again in the grave, but about seeing the child in paradise/heaven.

What is someone dies after they are saved but before they baptized?

Baptism is not necessary to complete the transaction. The moment the person places their faith in Christ they are saved. The baptism is a outward sign of that inward change. But it is not strictly required as the Thief who was crucified next to Jesus shows.

But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”

Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:40-43 NIV

If you are a parent struggling with this decision or know someone who is, this would be my advice.

  • Talk to her and see what her level of understanding is
  • Have her talk to a trusted elder / pastor / priest/ another adult
  • Continue to point her to a relationship even after she is baptized. Baptism is not the end of the journey, it is the beginning. We constantly strive to know Him more, and become more like Christ every day. It is likely she will come to a moment in early adult life where she rededicates herself to Christ and maybe even gets baptized again.

All of us, Skeptics, God seekers, and God followers are on a journey either closer to God or further away from Him. Encourage your kids every day to take one step closer.

Also remember, that as parents, it isn’t our job to ‘save’ our children. That job is always God’s alone. We have the responsibility (and may I call it a privilege) of guiding our kids towards faith. Fathers have a special responsibility. Our children’s conception of God the Father will be deeply influenced by their relationship with us, their earthly fathers. Pray for wisdom to teach your kids about God in a way they will understand. We can only do this with God’s help. He loves you (you are after all, His child) and He loves your kids.

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The Relationship Fractal

My friend Paul shared an observation with me recently and the more I grasp it the more I see it challenging everything in my relationship pyramid (better man, better husband, better father). As always, Paul’s outstanding teachings can be accessed on iTunes.

It starts with understanding the concept of a fractal. The best definition I’ve read of a fractal is a self-similar, repeating pattern.

Math, Science, Nature

Mathematicians illustrate with this with the Sierpinski Triangle. Wikipedia calles it “a mathematically generated pattern that can be reproducible at any magnification or reduction.” Exactly the definition of a fractal.

sierpinskiclear

They are all around us in nature. One example is lightning.

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The bolts are not random. They are governed by fractal equations and repeated on every branch.

From the world of agriculture, we have the brocolli sprout. Romanesco_Broccoli_detailTake a look at those spirals. Everyone is the same shape and proportion. Spirals have spirals in them. If we could zoom in, we would see the same spiral pattern repeated in the smaller spirals as we do with the larger ones.

Peacock is a beatiful example.Peacock_Milwaukee_County_Zoo

Rivers, creeks and trees are governmed by fractals.

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What is that a picture of? Maybe a tree? It’s actually the Baja River in California. Why does it look like a tree? It is because they are governed by the same fractal equations.

Sometimes shapes are repeated in completely unrelated parts of nature but governed by the same fractal equation. Things like the galaxy and the hurricane.

NGC_1232_galaxy named-hurricane-fran

 

This same pattern repetition is also observed when comparing brain cells and a nebula, or the natlius and the Milky Way.

Some fractals are so universal they repeat even within themselves. They look the same at virtually any scale as the Koch snowflake so beautifully represents.

Kochsim

Fractals form the fabric of reality. It is almost as if an unseen reality is trying to make itself seen.

Body, Soul, Sprit

God himself is a fractal. He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus said “he who has seen me, has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Jesus is the perfect, self repeating pattern of the Father.

Our very composition represents another smaller fractal of God. We are made in His image, and we are also three part entities made up of Body, a Soul and a Spirit.

The Body is the easiest of the three to understand. It’s the one we can see (or probably don’t want to see). Our body is the vehicle we use to interact with the natural world. It uses the five senses to convey information to us and help us understand our enviroment.

Our soul in our inner being and sentience. It is the seat of emotions, and our thought life. It is from our soul that imagination springs. It is our soul where memories are stored. The soul speaks to us through our conscience. We know some things are wrong or right almost intriscially. C.S. Lewis surmised it was because our soul is connected to a greater, unseen reality.

The inputs of the both the Body and the Soul are intergrated and passed to the Spirit. The Spirit is our true selves. It is immortal. It is in our spirit that we find our faith. Hope wells up from the spirit. Prayer and worship must emmenate for the spirit. Jesus said we must worship Him in sprit and in truth. (John 4:24)

Relationship Fractals

What does all this have to do with being a better person, husband, or father? 

Philipians 2:5 says “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus”

The life of Christ becomes a FRACTAL for our lives to REPEAT. – Paul Rienzo

Jesus is the fractal. We are smaller versions of Christ. “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church.” Christ is the big fractal, we repeat it. Christ loves the church. We love our wives in the same manner, repeating the fractal.

Husbands are fractals of Jesus. Dads are fractals of Jesus.

The Bible puts forth a fractal shape, fractal “equations” (if we can use the word loosely) that tell us how to live our lives at every level. To follow Christ (to be a Christ One, a Christian) is to look to the principles of God and repeat them in every area of our lives.

This fractal has to echo throughout the entire relationship pyramid.

How do I become a better man and serve and love my fellow man better? Look at how God loves.

How do I love my wife better and become a better husband? Look at how Christ loves his Bride, the Church.

How do I love my kids better and become a better father? Look at how God the Father love me, his child.

 


Credit for helping to understand the Body, Soul, and Spirit comes from Dr. Clarence Larkin, “Rightly Dividing The Word

Image credits: 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sierpinski_triangle

http://geology.com/hurricanes/named-hurricane-fran.gif

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0d/Peacock_Milwaukee_County_Zoo.jpg

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d1/NGC_1232_galaxy.jpg

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/26/Romanesco_Broccoli_detail_-_(2).jpg

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koch_snowflake

 

 

The Kindle Fire: A Year Later & What I’d Do Differently

Last year about this time I was struggling with what tablet/ereader device to buy. I eventually settled on a Kindle Fire.

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The core question came down to spending the money on a device that would only read books, or spending a little more to get a device that would also play movies, music and games?

On the whole, it’s been wonderful to have a device that does all that. When I took a business trip, all I needed in my carry on bag was my Fire. I could watch TV1, read a book, or play a game. On the return trip, I was dog tired and not up for much reading. I turned on my Google Play Music app, leaned back (as much as possible in those seats) and enjoyed the flight home.

Fire as an eReader

I have loved being able to download a variety of ebooks during the year. Ebooks tends to be much more economical than print, and there were a few books that I could only get as an eBook, or books that had a free Kindle version.

One of the reasons I wanted a Kindle was that we were simply running out of space in our house. My wife and I both enjoy reading and as you might expect we have a bookshelf full of books in nearly every room in the house. Even our kids’ rooms have bookshelves (albeit smaller ones).

I’ve download a couple of books for my wife. She loves cozy mysteries, and is always looking for new authors. She loves Agatha Christy, Mary Roberts Rienhardt, Richard Castle and has recently gotten into a series by Joanne Fluke (that has GOT to be a pen name).

She’s not big on technology and wasn’t interested in the Fire, but I was hoping she would warm up to the idea once she had the Fire in the house. She has been reluctant to try the Fire as an ereader and she still prefers to get real paper books from the library or bookstore.

Glare

The biggest problem I’ve had with the Fire as an ereader has been glare. I thought since I read so much on my computer screen and on my phone that glare wouldn’t be a big problem. I could not have been more wrong. I tried to do some reading on our trip down to Florida this summer and it was nearly unusable. My wife tried to play one of her games and had to put a blanket over her head to see. Inside the house, its fine, but anywhere with natural light turns into a problem.

There’s an App for That, Maybe

One of the concerns with the Fire was Amazon’s App Store. It has a more limited selection than Google Play.

On the whole, I haven’t had much trouble with the Amazon app store. Most of the time, I’ve been able to find the app I want. There have been a half dozen instances where an app that was available on Google Play wasn’t available on Amazon. This is somewhat mitigated, in my mind, by the fact that Amazon offers one paid app for free per day. This is how I got Cutie Mini Monsters Counting Game, which quickly became my 3-year-olds favorite game on the Fire.

Sharing is Caring

Not long after I purchased the Fire, I accompanied my wife and kids to one of their doctors’ appointments. I brought along the Fire to read. My three-year-old got bored fast and started getting into all kinds of trouble. He saw me reading the Kindle and tried to climb in my lap. At first, I was reluctant. I wanted to read my book! But eventually it was clear that unless he was happy, nobody else woudl be. I downloaded an ABC game he had played on my Droid RAZR, and let him play. The game kept him relatively happy the rest of the visit. He now has several games on the Fire.

My wife and daughter both have their favorite games and my daughter loves using the Watch Disney Channel app and Tiny Death Star. My wife’s favorite it Word Wrench. I’m hoping that playing games is a first step to her using it as an eReader.

I do LOVE Kindle FreeTime. I setup a profile for each kid and control the apps, music and books they can see.

The downside of this sharing is the Fire has become more of a family device. When I go to read a book on it, I first have to find it, and then most likely plug it in to charge. I’m reluctant to take it to work to read a book on my lunch break because I know my kids or my wife might want to use it as well.

Conclusion

I don’t regret the getting the Fire. As a tablet, it does the job very well. The limited app store didn’t end up being much of an issue. I haven’t used Amazon Prime, nor have we watched any movies on it. I’d need someway to hook it up to the main TV or Laptop. 7″ screen seems a little small.

Regardless if I had bought the Fire or another 7″ tablet, it doesn’t function as well as an eReader as I had hoped. I still would like to have a dedicated eReader device (like the Paperwhite), and I will probably buy one soon.

 

image: Amazon.com

1Direct TV supplies Wi-Fi satellite TV on most Southwest flights

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Should Christians Celebrate Halloween

ID-10053912Halloween is upon us once more and parents have to decide if they will allow their kids to join in on the holiday. My own view on Halloween has evolved over the years.

I Used to Think

In our early years as parents, we didn’t participate in Halloween. We had been taught about the Celtic and Wiccan origins, and we wanted no part of something that clearly wasn’t honoring to our faith. We would turn out all the lights in the front part of the house, especially the porch light, put on a movie and ignore the doorbell.

We also saw it as an opportunity to show our young daughter that being a Christian made you different. It caused you to value different things. Sometimes it meant making sacrifices. It was a good idea, but looking back, I think some of those life lessons might have been lost on my six-year-old.

But I also have to confess that underneath the veneer of obedience was a very real spirit of pride. We were going to puff out our chest and prove we were super duper Christians. We didn’t even stoop to going to “Fall Festivals”. We would shake our head and wonder about those heathen ‘nominal’ Christians who participated in Halloween. We were simply better people.

The Turning Point

One year, we came home on Halloween night from running an errand. My daughter was around six or seven years old. We planned to run in the house and quickly start dousing the lights. My daughter looked out the car window and saw all these kids in costumes walking up and down our street. I don’t remember our street ever being so busy on a Halloween. She asked about participating in Halloween.

My wife and I had suffered our second miscarriage days earlier. We were tense, and hurting. I snapped at my daughter. WE don’t participate in halloween. I wasn’t angry at her. I was hurting and lashed out. It was stupid.

She slunk back in her seat, and then she uttered a simple sentence that shot us right through the heart.

“Gee, it sure looks like fun.”

We realized in that moment that my daughter didn’t have the first clue about Celts or Wiccans or any of the other origins of the holiday. All she could see was candy and costumes and kids her age having fun. That’s all it was to her.

I apologized for snapping at her and we told her that she could throw on some of her dress up clothes and go across the street to our neighbors.

We didn’t have much candy in the house except for a stash of suckers that we had collected from a series of birthday parties. That night we gave out every one of them.

The next year she dressed up as Belle and we went to a local mall where they were passing out candy. We’ve celebrated every year since. A couple of years later, our church started its own Fall Festival and we helped out every year until my son was born. The past couple of years we carved pumpkins. My daughter draws a design and my wife and I cut it out.

I’m still not a fan of Halloween. I don’t like how every show on TV has to put something spooky or scary on. I’ve never been a huge fan of horror movies, vampires, or zombies. I look forward to October being over and those guys going away (mostly) for another year.

But we always celebrate because gee, it sure looks like fun.

 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Circle of Friends

Organize Your Life into Four Spaces

Circle of Friends

Today, I’d like to relate something that my friend Paul Rienzo (@PaulRienzo) taught me. It has been a great metaphor for understanding my world and the relationships I have with the people around me. It helps me understand not only how to act, but also explains why I feel certain ways in certain situations, and it also helps me understand how others may be feeling.

There are many times when I have wanted to use this metaphor to explain what I think about a particular topic, but before I do that, I have to be sure that my audience will understand it. Today, I’m going to explain the metaphor. My hope is that you will find it as useful as I have.

I’ve been able to apply this in both my personal life as a friend, husband and father, as well as a guide to how the characters in my story should act.

Socially Aware

Human beings are by nature social creatures. We form relationships of varying degrees with the people around us. This is normal and natural. You relate differently with a close friend of 8 years than the French model you just met, on the Internet.

Over the past 50 years, various studies by social scientists and cultural anthropologists have shown that we tend to move in four different kinds of spaces as we relate to one another. These spaces are the Public Space, Social Space, Personal Space, and Intimate Space.

Public Space “Red Space”

This is the space of the big crowd having a common experience. We tend to speak only in pleasantries. We reveal very little, if anything, of our true selves. Trust with people in our Red Space is nearly zero. Our shields are up and our masks are on.

  • Real World: Movie theatre
  • Church: Sunday morning Church
  • Online: A webinar
  • Bible: The Sermon on the Mount
  • Writing: Keynote at a conference

Social Space “Yellow Space”

(Look at me. We are going to pretend that heading is yellow. It’s not really yellow. Your eyes are thanking me, trust me.)

The Social Space is a little smaller than the Public space, but not as small as the Personal Space. Here, we being to present a small part of our true selves. Trust with people in our Yellow Space is small. Our shields remain up, but our mask is not quite as tight.

  • Real World: Sports Bar
  • Church: Community Gathering / Pot luck / Dinner on the Grounds
  • Online: Forums
  • Bible: Wedding at Cana
  • Writing: Large breakout session

Nearly all relationships start in either a Public “Red” Space, or a Social “Yellow” space. Over time as the relationship deepens, we allow people to come closer to us, and reveal more of our true self.

Personal Space “Blue Space”

The Personal Space is smaller than the Social space. This is the first space where we exert control on who enters. The people allowed into the “Blue space” are close to us both physically and emotionally. We feel safe enough to reveal who we really are and share private struggles. Trust is high. Our shields are weak and the mask is partially removed.

  • Real World: Group of Friends
  • Church: Small Groups / Sunday School Class
  • Online: Chat Room / Twitter Chat / Guild Chat
  • Bible: Disciples
  • Writing: Critique Group

Intimate Space “Green Space”

You can usually count the number of people allowed into your Intimate “Green space” on one hand. This is a place of total disclosure. You open yourself up completely, and you are totally venerable. The shields are down, and the mask is completely off. You are most vulnerable and can be hurt the most. It is a simultaneously euphoric and terrifying experience.

  • Real World: Husband and wife, your best friend, your wingman
  • Church: Accountability partner
  • Online: Private chat, private message
  • Bible: Jesus and Nicodemus
  • Writing: Critique Partner

All of us need people at every level, but we have an acute need for someone in the Green Space. We were made to do life together. It’s hard, almost impossible, to jump levels. You can’t go from a Red Space relationship to a Green Space relationship overnight. It takes spending time and earning trust.

If you’d like to hear Paul’s original teaching on this, you can download his podcast: http://www.crosstownonline.us/2011Audio/CrosstowneTheChurchPart9(2011-11-13).mp3

 

Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Friday Funnies

ID-100117554Back in the day, when I was but a young lad, we didn’t have blogs or
Twitter or Facebook. We just had email. That was about it.

One favorite past time of that long forgotten era was to share jokes through email. Things went viral back then just like they do now. I was cleaning out some old emails when I came across these.

I hope they put a smile on your face this Friday.

Little Girl and Jonah

A little girl was talking to her teacher about whales.

The teacher said it was physically impossible for a whale to swallow a human because even though it was a very large mammal its throat was very small.

The little girl stated that Jonah was swallowed by a whale.

Irritated, the teacher reiterated that a whale could not swallow a human; it was physically impossible.

The little girl said, “When I get to heaven I will ask Jonah.”

The teacher asked, “What if Jonah went to hell?”

The little girl replied, “Then you ask him.”

What Does God Look Like?

A Kindergarten teacher was observing her classroom of children while they were drawing. She would occasionally walk around to see each child’s work.

As she got to one little girl who was working diligently, she asked what she drawing was.

The girl replied, “I’m drawing God.”

The teacher paused and said, “But no one knows what God looks like.”

Without missing a beat, or looking up from her drawing, the girl replied, “They will in a minute.”

Honor Thy Father and Mother

A Sunday school teacher was discussing the Ten Commandments with her five and six year olds.

After explaining the commandment to “honor” thy Father and thy Mother, she asked, “Is there a commandment that teaches us how to treat our brothers and sisters?”

Without missing a beat one little boy (the oldest of a family) answered, “Thou shall not kill.”

Going Gray

One day a little girl was sitting and watching her mother do the dishes at the kitchen sink. She suddenly noticed that her mother had several strands of white hair sticking out in contrast on her brunette head.

She looked at her mother and inquisitively asked, “Why are some of your hairs white, Mom?”

Her mother replied, “Well, every time that you do something wrong and make  me cry or unhappy, one of my hairs turns white.”

The little girl thought about this revelation for a while and then said, “Momma, how come ALL of grandma’s hairs are white?”

Circulation

A teacher was giving a lesson on the circulation of the blood. Trying to make the matter clearer, she said, “Now, class, if I stood on my head, the blood, as you know, would run into it, and I would turn red in the face..”

“Yes,” the class said.

“Then why is it that while I am standing upright in the ordinary position the blood doesn’t run into my feet?”

A little fellow shouted, “Cause your feet ain’ t empty.”

God is Watching

The children were lined up in the cafeteria of a Catholic elementary school for lunch. At the head of the table was a large pile of apples. The nun made a note, and posted on the apple tray:

“Take only ONE. God is watching.”

Moving further along the lunch line, at the other end of the table was a large pile of chocolate chip cookies.

A child had written a note, “Take all you want. God is watching the apples.”

 

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Four Stages of Fatherhood

My friend Paul (@PaulRienzo) taught me something one Father’s day that has stayed with and helped frame the way I look at being a father. He taught me about the four stages of fatherhood. These stages are called Commander, Coach, Counselor, and Consultant. Sometimes the lines get a little blurred and you vacillate between stages, but main distinction between them comes down to a question of control.

Commander

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Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Throughout the early childhood years, fathers occupy the Commander role. We make all the decisions for our kids because frankly they would much rather play with their toys than have you change their stinky diaper and honestly can’t decide if they like carrots or yogurt today. They really need us to make the decisions. Otherwise, they would run out to the sandbox in nothing but a diaper when its 20 below outside.

Aside #1 I honestly have no idea what 20 below would really feel like. It never gets that cold in Charleston. If it did, I would live somewhere else.

Aside #2 Kids are amazing. They don’t seem to feel heat or cold the way adults do. Bugs don’t bother them. They let nothing stand between them and playtime!

Commander is the easiest stage for most dads. We are in charge. We like that. We make the rules, and we have the final say on what our kids do. “Because I said so” is a perfectly acceptable answer during the Commander stage. The kids don’t yet have either the experience or mental capacity to understand some of the reasons behind Dad’s decision, and maybe at that point they don’t need to understand.

But some Dads really struggle to transition out of this phase. In my experience the sooner you start working into the next phase (the Coach phase), the better. I love quoting Tanis Half-Elven from the Dragonlance Chronicles. He sagely said, “We raise our children to leave us.”

The fact is I can’t command my kids their whole life, and really I wouldn’t want to try. Trying to hang on to the Commander role after your kids are ready for you to move into the Coach or even Counselor stage will only serve to strain your relationship with them. Like Grand Moff Tarkin, the harder you squeeze your grip on them, the more they slip through your fingers.

Coach

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Image courtesy of digitalart/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In the coach stage, Dad begins to allow the child to make some of the decisions, but with coaching. The Dad presents the options, and gives the pros and cons of each one. If the child starts leaning toward what Dad feels like is a poor choice, Dad can emphasize the cons of that choice, and talk up the pros of the other choice. Sometimes it necessary to override their choice, but still explain why the choice you made was the better one. “Because I said so” rarely works in the Coach stage.

These need to be choices where the child can truly choose option A or option B. I start with fairly innocuous things like which game we are going to play. It doesn’t really matter, but I’m letting the child have some control by choosing. If it is truly a situation where there is only one right choice, it is probably a better candidate for Command.

The goal of the Coach stage is to show your child how to make decisions. What factors should she weigh? Where should he look for insight? If there is a Christian principle that applies to the situation this is where I try to mention it. I want to show my kids that my faith is a big part of my decision making process. I’ll also ask the kids if they want to pray about the decision. I want them to see early on that believers have resources that go beyond just facts and intuition.

Every kid is different but I usually start the transition to coaching around 5 or 6 years of age. There are still decisions where I need to slip back into the Commander stage, but even for those, I try to explain my reasoning as best as my child can understand. I’m not looking for their permission or even their agreement, but I want them to understand the methodology I use even when they don’t have any input.

Counselor

counselor

Image courtesy of asd-hs.wikispaces.com / asd-hs.wikispaces.com

Then somewhere during the teen years, Dads transition from Coach to Counselor. This could also be called the Mentor stage. Whereas the Coach has the most influential voice on a team, the Counselor’s voice is more of a teammate. Dads continue to help frame decisions and demonstrate how to make decisions, but now Dad’s voice is one of many. Friends become an important influence in this stage – hope that you “coached” your kid well in choosing them. For the first time in your child’s life, your influence has to have been earned, and they can, to a small extent, ignore your sage advice.

Consequences start to ramp up in this stage as well. Most mistakes in the Command and Coaching stages can be rectified in minutes or hours or at the worst, days. Mistakes in the Counselor stage might have lifelong impact.

There are still occasions, even in this stage, to bring out the “Because I said so” Commander hat, but they are fewer and farther between and pretty much better involve eminent danger to life or property. Think of it like capital, choose your battles, and expend it wisely.

Consultant

 

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Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As your children head into the late teen years, and into early adult life, the role of Dad transitions again to the Consultant. The tables have turned and all control is completely gone. The kids will make many decisions without feeling the need for Dad’s input. Consultant has to be earned and it is a great privilege for your child to solicit your advice.

The relationship that was built from Commander right through Counselor will determine just how much Consulting ‘work’ you get in this stage. Bringing out the Commander hat at this stage is almost always detrimental to the relationship and can lead to years of not communicating.

 

Understanding these stages helped me prepare for each one, and helped me understand my role better.

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Better Man, Better Husband, Better Father

My major goal in life to be a better man, a better husband, and a better father today than I was yesterday. I used to think of these three goals as three separate, but equal pillars in my life.

bettermanbetterhusbandbetterdadpillarsBe a better man. Be a better husband. Be a better father. But that’s not the way it works. What I’ve learned is that these aren’t separate at all. Instead of free standing pillars, these three goals are more like a pyramid.

bettermanbetterhusbandbetterdadBetter father is the pinnacle. Long before I can even think about being a better father, I have to be a better husband. I can’t even start on better husband before I work on being a better man.

Better Man

Being a better man is why I talk about faith on my blog. My faith has made the biggest positive difference in my life in the way I treat other people, but especially how I treat my wife and my kids. I know who I was before I started applying the principles of my faith to my life. It wasn’t the man I wanted to be.

I’ve also found this incredible community of other believing men. They have shared wisdom, and their experiences with me. I have two or three guys who I feel like I could pick up the phone or email if I needed to talk to them about something going on in my life. If you don’t have at least one guy like that, I highly recommend cultivating a relationship with one.

Better Husband

The greatest act of love I can perform for my children is to love their mother. If my relationship with their mom is healthy that will rub off on my kids. They are incredibly perceptive, even more than I know sometimes.

My kids are always watching me. I think about how I want men to treat my daughter when she reaches dating age. I’m setting the expectation in her mind of how she should be treated by how I treat her mom. I’ll also setting the example for my son on how he should treat future women in his life.

I have to be careful about what I watch on TV, or look at on the Internet. My daughter is watching, and so is my son. I’m sending messages all the time about what is valuable in a woman by what catches my eyes. In this case, my kids look at what I do way more than what I say.

Better Father

At the top of the pyramid come better father. My kids are a top priority in my life. I want them to always know they are valued, and loved.

 

 

What questions do you have? Feel free to contact me!

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Why a Dad Blog?

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What’s my motivation? How can I make a difference? What do I have to offer the world? How can I connect the blog to a real passion in my life?

Divorce

When I was around 13 or 14 years old my parents split up. This is hardly a unique situation. Most of the people I know have either been through a divorce themselves or were a child of divorce.

Yet in my little world, it was devastating. I came out of that experience with a mission for my life. I had to guarantee that I never put my kids through the pain and hardship I went through.

My first brilliant plan to accomplish this was to simply never get married. If I didn’t get married, it would be rather impossible to get divorced.

Voila, problem solved.

Then I met this incredible, beautiful, and loving woman who had this strange attraction to geeky guys. Back when I grew up, being a geek wasn’t the cool thing it is today. My greatest weakness had suddenly become my greatest strength. Sure, she could find someone smarter, or funnier, or who could make more money, but I could geek with the best of them.

Now the whole ‘don’t’ get married plan’ was pretty much out the window. Okay, no problem. I can get married, I just won’t have any kids.

Boom, problem solved!

If I don’t have kids that means even if my wife and I end up getting divorced, there won’t be any kids to put through the pain of it. It will just affect me and my wife.

The Best Laid Plans

That worked great for about 4 years. We traveled. We ate out. We enjoyed being D.I.N.Ks*.

Then one day some switch flipped in my wife. She wanted to have a baby — like yesterday. She looked at me with those baby blue eyes that looked like the perfectly still sea after a storm. How could I deny her? I told her, in the not so immortal words of Big Boss Nass, “wesa ready to do oursen part!”

Next thing you know, I’m holding this adorable little baby girl.

I Love It When a Plan…Wait What Plan?

What was the plan now? If this married thing doesn’t work out, I’ll do exactly that thing I promised myself I would never do. I’ll put another kid thorught the painful experiences I went through.

Not. Going. To. Happen.

I read every study on marriage I could find looking for that silver bullet, that one thing I could do to ensure my marriage would last. It wasn’t there. Nothing I found gave better than 50/50 odds at success. At the same time, I fell more and more in love with my new daughter. I wanted to be the very best father I could be to her.

Getting It Right

Fast forward thirteen years or so. I’m still married, and I have a great relationship with my kids (plural now that I have two) and my wife. I don’t get many things right in my life, but being a dad and husband are two things I seem to be doing well.

I never want any child to have face the pain of divorce. I want every child to have a great relationship with their dad. I’m dedicating the majority of my online space to that end. To the best of my knowledge and ability, I’ll share with the world how to be a better man, a better husband, and a better father.

I would never call myself an expert, and there are lots of really great husbands and dads out in the world. I don’t claim to have it all figured out, but I can tell you what worked for me and probably just as important what hasn’t. Every situation is different. Every kid is different.

Some people love to cook. Some people love to write. I love being a dad and a husband. I will still occasionally post about my writing. That’s a journey I remain on. I’m just not sure that’s a journey that’s going to help anyone.

If something I write on this blog can help even one dad stay married to his wife, or be a better father to his kids then all of the time, and all of the money I have put into my online space will be worth it.

 

*D.I.N.Ks = Double Income No Kids

 

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Why Can’t I Just Be a Prodigy?

Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. – Kevin Durant

Our kids have a way of being much more honest than adults, and by their honesty, sometimes they can show us our true feelings.

My daughter and I were riding in the car talking about her ‘new’ harmonica that she inherited from her Great Grandmother. We started talking about where she could get lessons and the importance of practicing. That’s when she looked at me and said,

“Why can’t I just be a prodigy?”

A prodigy is defined as a person, especially a child or young person, having extraordinary talent or ability.”

What she meant was why couldn’t she just open the box and sound like she had been playing the harmonica all her life. I had to smile and chuckle in that way that parents do when our kids prove that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

I’ve had the same thought many times myself, just not with a harmonica, but with writing. Why can’t I just skip the whole learning, and growing stages and start right out at mastery.

One of the first things I did when I decided to get serious about writing was to enter a short story contest. My thinking at the time was that if I was ‘truly talented’ I would win the contest on my natural ability alone. Who needed to worry about learning story structure, characters arcs or all that stuff? If I was gifted enough to make it as a professional writer, and if I had the special pixie dust that all profession writers must have, then that talent and magic would show through, and I would win.

I wanted instant success. I wanted weight loss without diet and exercise. I wanted to be able to run a marathon without getting off my couch.

I might as well have been trying to fly.

Reality has a way of slapping you in the face when you are running completely contrary to it. Of course, I didn’t even make it out of the initial round of the contest. I could have given up right there, but I decided to keep learning, to keep writing, and to press forward on the journey.

Prodigies are rare, and what we don’t see is even the prodigies have to work and practice. Tiger Woods, a golf prodigy, was the first man on the practice tee when he ruled the golf world.

Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. – Kevin Durant

Kevin_Durant_dunkKevin Durant is an preternaturally talented basketball player. He’s won numerous awards, and has taken his team to the brink of championships. He’s a man who knows he has tremendous, world class, God given talent, yet he points to hard work.

That’s the real lesson I was reminded of when my daughter made her declaration. Talent is  something outside of my control. Hard work isn’t.

Hard work isn’t flashy. It isn’t going to go viral. It’s old fashion. It’s what your grandmother would say.

I hope the message got across to my daughter. I also hope the message was remembered by her father.

 

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