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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Parenting: Straighten Up and Fly Right!

And now, behind Door Number 1 …

Really now, as men, we were probably not as interested in what was behind Door Number 1 as we were interested in the model. Right?

Well, this post is about models, but not THAT kind. I want to go two directions with this, so be a little patient. Jesus said that when a student is fully taught, he will be like his teacher (Luke 6:40).

I was blessed to have a few significant parenting models apart from my own parents. Now don’t get me wrong, I guess that my parents did a pretty good job in raising us 5 kids. My dad was a service station owner and my mom did not work outside of the home (a common situation, right up until LBJ came up with the “Great Society” and fired up the inflation that made it necessary for so many moms to work for a paycheck!). From them I learned about commitment and hard work. I learned about truthfulness and integrity. I learned about public service from their work in the Lion’s Club.

But my parenting skills needed strengthening.  While I felt that my parents had done an OK job of parenting me, I came to believe that there were areas where my parenting skills might be better than what I had learned from them.

I first noticed this about the time I was 18 and I perceived that my girlfriend’s family had dynamics that were missing in my own and I decided to watch and learn. I thought I would marry that girl, but I did not. Nevertheless, Bob and Doris W. and their family had a profound impact on my life, not the least of which was the faith I developed in Christ – a faith which has shaped my life from that point forward.

A few years later, I got to know several “older” couples in the church where I settled and later served. One stands out, though lessons were learned from many others. But it was Willis and Ethel K. who became close friends and it was Willis who later became Jeremy’s “adopted” grandfather after my dad and my wife’s dad died.  I imagine that some of my future posts will reflect some of the conversations that I had with these dear couples – and reflect some of the observations that I made about their parenting and their families.

The point is, if you think hard about it and wonder if your upbringing may have left some holes in your experiential parenting education, look around and find some families you admire – and then figure out why.

Now the other direction … How are you as a teacher? If your child turns out just like you, would that make you happy? Would that make you proud? Or are you of the “do as I say and not as I do” mindset? Fair warning: Your kids likely WILL turn out like you. If you cheat on your taxes, they will probably lack integrity. If you cheat on your wife, they will probably have commitment issues. If you drink to excess, expect to visit them at the drunk tank after their prom. Do you get the picture?

As a new parent, now is the time to straighten up and fly right! Your kids will idolize you and try hard to be like you. If that will not make you happy, now is the time to fix it.

When the student is fully taught, he will be like his teacher. Be the model you want your children to be like!