Dads Helping Dads Figure Out Being a Dad

RESPECT – What does it mean?

R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Find out what it means to me …

Aretha had all the answers! But how do we go about teaching our kids a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T?

Since I am past the child-rearing years, I have some observations, and some questions.

As I have shared before, I am pretty happy with how our kids turned out. But neither of them were always as respectful as we wished they would be. They were not the worst, either. I think, for the most part, they were more respectful to others than they were to us, and if a parent has to choose, I expect that it would be preferrable to having kids who speak their minds at home and behave when away, to having kids who are polite at home and mouth off to others.

There are cultural issues too. I observed when I was in Texas that many of the children there routinely addressed adults as “sir” and “ma’am” – frankly, it was pretty nice. In contrast, so many of the children here in Southern California are just “lippy” as a matter of course. To quote Tony Hillerman, “They behave as if they have no family.”

But the kids in Texas grow up to be just like the adults here. Some are great and some are scum. But they are polite! They even call the arresting officer “sir”.

We worked to make our kids independent and strong, and I think we did that well. How do you balance that goal with that of instilling a polite humility and respect for others? I do not know. It is a “gray area” anyway, as success or failure seems to change moment by moment and there is a wide range of “normal”.  Any suggestions?

We need to avoid unhealthy guilt or shame if we are not going to quench their spirits or cause other future problems. Reinforcing and encouraging the positive and ignoring or when possible discouraging the negative was what we embraced as an overall philosophy – but there were many bumps along the way. The only REAL consistency in life is inconsistency.

And what part of this is “caught” and not “taught”?  Are we adults respectful to others in front of our kids?  At times I was not – and I regret that now.  Language, tone of voice, attitude are all communicated even before the kids understand what they mean.  Yelling at drivers, criticizing the pastor or teachers, even our political opinions can easily teach our children about our own disrespect for others.  Our kids catch it from us if we are not careful!

I think that we perhaps overlook the idea that we owe respect to others – some because of their position, and some just because we have no reason (yet) to disrespect them. But how can we teach that? Or do we even have consensus that we should?

I look forward to your reflections and suggestions. I will soon have another go-round with my grandkids — I want to get it right!

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“Daddy Fitz It” (translated, “Daddy, can you fix this?”)

All of my various experiences combined to enrich my ability to parent and to contribute to family life – at least in the eyes of my son (which really means a LOT to me!). It seemed to him like whatever got broken could be repaired by the magic words, “Daddy fitz it.”

Somewhere around age 4, Jeremy had a little toy dog that would open its mouth and bark and walk … and what ever. In Jeremy’s creative mind, it even ate. Cheez-Its. Lots of ‘em. Eventually the little thing was so full of crackers that they jammed up the mechanism and the puppy “died”. Jeremy held the thing  up to me, looked at me with his puppy-dog brown eyes and said, “Daddy fitz it?”  What’s a parent to do?  In a child’s eyes, we are omnipotent.  Gotta try!

Well, I did not know what the problem was. Until I used a razor knife to remove the stitches from the puppy’s “skin” and peeled it away to reveal the “skeletal” mechanism inside. Then I laughed out loud! We cleaned out the Cheez-Its, gave it a transfusion of WD-40, and gave it to my wife to “close”. The puppy survived the surgery with a little reduced range of motion, but it survived. And I was a hero in the eyes of my first-born.  It was a real “chicken soup” moment for this parent!

A few words of encouragement. First, you cannot break it if it is broken. Your choice is, trash it or fix it.  Be a parent!  Give it a try! Second, a little time and common sense will often repair precious things. Third, you won’t know if you can “fitz” it until you investigate and see what is wrong. And, most importantly … Four, twenty-five years from now, your son or daughter will remember you for the things you do – and that is entirely under your control!

You are parent!  You can do it!  Enjoy the adventure!

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