An Interview With Ponyboy: Resiliency

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“Why do we fall, sir? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.” -Alfred, from Batman Begins

This week, I want to share with you about a topic that fascinates me more than any other. If I spent the rest of my life learning about this topic, I don’t think I would regret a single minute spent. This topic is resiliency. I admire this trait immensely, even though I have a lot of room to grow in this area. Resiliency, to me, is the heartbeat of humanity. It’s what drives us to achieve what we have not yet achieved; it keeps us from staying in the shallow end of the pool; it draws meaning from our pain; it tells us to fight when everything else is telling us to throw in the towel. Resiliency is a beautiful, awe-inspiring gift to mankind. I hope that what I share with you this week may give you a deep desire for resiliency as well.

Back during my days at the residential center, I remember asking one of the boys what his favorite holiday was. I expected to hear something like Christmas, his birthday, or maybe Easter. I was surprised to hear him say, “Halloween.” I had never heard someone say Halloween before. I asked him why, not prepared for the answer that I was about to receive. He told me, “Everyone says Christmas, but you have to have money to buy all the presents under the tree. I grew up never having any money. But Halloween is different. When you celebrate Halloween, all you need is a container and a goofy outfit. Then, you can enjoy the holiday like everyone else.” I will be honest, I was fighting back tears. This young man understood a world that I knew little of. What impressed me the most about this guy was the fact that I never saw him without a smile on his face. He had a way of seeing the best in any situation. He went through a lot during his time in the program, and he had faced many hardships prior to his time with us. Still, he always found a way to bounce back.

In contrast, there were other guys that seemed to have everything lined up for them- school was easy for them, they had loving parents, friends, potential, you name it. However, I often found myself scratching my head when these same guys would jump from one poor decision to another. Often times, they would just tell me sob stories of how people had wronged them in little slights here or there. They bickered, complained, and had an overall negative outlook on life. I questioned if they were going to be successful in the adult world they were soon to face. It left me wondering- why did these guys have such trouble staying afloat while the guys with real problems were staying on their feet no matter what hit them? In my opinion, I think it’s resiliency. When you can’t find the strength to get back up, it doesn’t matter how good your circumstances are, you are finished.

When I say, “resiliency,” I am talking about the ability to keep your head focused and avoid becoming defeated by negative emotions. A person that has strong resiliency gets stumped, but rarely ever stays stuck. I believe resiliency is something that can be acquired by anyone, but it is not learned merely by demonstration alone. A person who sees resiliency in others may admire what they see, but that doesn’t mean that they will adopt the same mentality. A young man or woman must not only see resiliency in others, but build it in themselves. Developing resiliency is like building muscles through challenging struggle. When one finds it within himself the willpower to resist the forces against him, he becomes stronger. With each trial persevered, the person is more ready to take on new challenges.

I have come to the realization that there are two ways to respond to hardships, whether big or small: we either grow from them or they tear us down. My encouragement to dads is that we find within ourselves the desire to push forward when life has us down. We can get through the circumstances that life throws our way. To help our children develop resiliency, we can guide them toward sticking with the smaller stuff. By doing so, we can aid them in growing the mental and emotional muscles needed to take on the bigger things later on down the road. I am voicing my opinion again, but I truly believe that one of the greatest weaknesses that our country suffers in this day and age is the inability to bounce back when things get hard. We are a long way from the Great Depression and two world wars. We are not familiar with the tribulations that our grandparents and great-grandparents have had to endure. Instead, we live in a culture that gives us everything at our finger tips, brings comforts straight to our doorstep, and tells us over and over again that life is about having it our way.

Let us not as men, and the leaders of our home, become so comfortable or so disheartened that we are unable to stay on our feet when challenges come our way. It is our duty to lead our family toward strength, not only of body, but also of mind, will, and character. Life is not easy, but that does not mean that we throw up a white flag. We must press on and teach future generations to do the same. If resiliency is part of your story, someone that you know, or you have something that you would like to offer others related to the topic, then please share your comments. I still appreciate them.

Don’t Sweat It

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This week, I am going to be talking about not “sweating the small stuff.” Life is too short to be letting every little issue that comes our way occupy our thoughts and control our emotions. This post is going to be for my benefit just as much as for yours. I have found that as I get older, it is much more tempting to simmer over every little “offense” that I experience.  As a result, I tend to care about things that really don’t matter. I hope that I speak for more than just myself when I say that we put much more weight on the little frustrations of life than they deserve. If you are like me in this regard, then this message is for the both of us.

When my wife and I first got married, I immediately picked up on some pet peeves that were common things my wife did. One of my pet peeves I noticed came from my wife would leaving kitchen cabinet doors open. It bothered me because I am taller than her (and I don’t pay attention to my surroundings very well, but that’s between you and I). Another issue involved the way my wife put movies and other disks away. I like to put the disk back in the case, and then put the case back in its assigned location. My wife, however, will either leave the disk where it can be easily scratched or she will put it in the wrong case. In both of these cases, I talked with her about my concerns and we came up with a compromise. With the cabinets, I close cabinets only when they are immediately in my way and leave the rest alone. My wife has chosen not to complain when she has to reopen doors. With the disks, we have agreed that I quit nagging, and, in the case that one disk would be ruined or lost, I have permission to replace the item if we can afford it. In both cases, she and I have had to accept some changes to make things work. My wife and I have had to do the same with the behaviors that I frustrate her with.

Fast forward about 5 years, and now I am fighting the same kind of battles with my children. However, children are not as easy to negotiate with (this is especially true with very young children). This means that I can’t work out some clever deal with them and resolve conflicts with the same kind of fairness that I can with my wife. Therefore, something has to give. Either I #1 learn to live with some of the things that drive me crazy or #2 I sell the children to the circus. No matter how much my children act like clowns, my wife will never let me get away with option #2, so option #1 it is. Now before anyone starts sinking their teeth into me in the comments section, let me say that I am totally joking. My wife is on my side about the circus option. 😉

The truth is, when we become parents things change. We are going to be late to events when every kid needs to go to the bathroom at the last minute. Our valuable collection is going to get tampered with. We will need to let go of some dreams (if only for a short time) so that we can meet the needs of our family. If these kinds of setbacks are going to happen, then we are left with two choices- we can either let them drag us down and embitter us or we can accept the uncertain and the undesired. Like, I said, this is a challenge for me as well. I have found that as I get older, I have a tendency to get stuck in my ways. Change too often feels like an archenemy. Yet, raising children forces change into our lives. You and I can’t get around it. So, instead of throwing a fit when things don’t go our way, we need to have patience with our family. We need to give grace and mercy regularly. We need to to make sure we aren’t letting the small things dictate our attitudes.

Sometimes the best remedy to dealing with the “small things” that bog us down is to put into practice these three strategies: 1) Think with flexibility, 2) Learn to let go, and 3) Embrace change. Here’s an example of what I mean to think with flexibility: The last time that I went to the beach, I kept myself busy building a sand castle off to the side. I am a baby when it comes to cold water, so there really aren’t too many other things for me to do. The girls saw me building the castle and decided that they wanted to make their own contributions. People kept asking how I was able to keep my patience as the girls routinely undid my work. The answer was simple. Once I saw that my original goal wasn’t working, I made an alteration to the goal- I would build a goofy-looking sand castle. Once my mind could bend to the situation, I was able to make peace with what was happening. The next strategy, learn to let go, means that we accept that the world doesn’t spin around us. We must be willing to abandon our false sense of control. The third strategy, embrace change, refers to a willingness to see the changes coming in our lives and choose to accept them rather than fight them. Change is not necessarily a bad thing. Change only becomes our adversary when we choose not to embrace it. There are issues worth standing our ground on. However, the “small stuff” I am referring to here are not the kind of battles that are worth fighting.

There are enough real problems in this world as it is; we don’t have to go around making new ones for ourselves. If we find ourselves getting overwhelmed by things that are not going to change, then it is for the best that we make some changes of our own. If you are in need of assistance with addressing stress related to the “small stuff” that we as fathers experience, then I encourage you to return back to a previous post titled, “Stressed Out.” Here, I go over some strategies/tips to help identify and manage stress. In the meantime, let’s practice not sweating the small stuff this week. If you have any comments or questions regarding our topic this week, feel free to leave a comment. I am thankful for any feedback that I receive.

Counting the Cost

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This one is going to be a strange one, and will require a little explanation, but bare with me. Here is something that you need to know about me- I dream some pretty vivid dreams (I mean insanely vivid). Sometimes it is like watching a movie or reading a book. The other night, I had one such dream, and I thought that it was worth sharing.

In my dream, a man (we’ll call him Jerry for the sake of the story) was sitting in a prestigious business class, taking notes from a professor that he held in very high regard. Jerry looked to be in his early to mid-twenties and full of spunk. After class, he chose to follow his professor home to ask some questions. The professor did not seem to catch on to what was happening as Jerry followed in his car behind the professor’s. While Jerry was driving, his wife called and asked when he was coming home. He gave a lie and said that he was staying after class to finish an assignment. His wife, thinking that he might be having an affair, became defensive. Jerry pulled the phone away from his ears as his wife raised her voice. While she was talking, Jerry pulled up to the house, where the professor had stopped. This was the place. Seeing that the professor had gotten out and was walking up to the front door, Jerry promptly hung up the phone and got out to follow. Jerry caught up to the professor at the door and explained to him that he wanted to “talk shop” and get some pointers on how to successfully run a “business empire.” The professor replied, “don’t you have a family to get home to?” Jerry said, “To be honest, I can’t stand my wife. She doesn’t get what it takes to get things done. But, hey, marriages aren’t meant to last forever, right? I’ve got my own life to live.” The professor gave Jerry a long, piercing stare. He told Jerry, “Son, come on in, we need to talk.”

When the two settled down into some chairs, the professor said, “I want to make sure we are clear on this. Don’t you ever show up to my home again! Got it!?… But, since you’re here, I want to tell you something that you won’t find in your textbook. Everyone thinks that climbing the ladder and getting to the top is the finish line; that once you’re up there you’re done, you’ve won. But their wrong! Many men have climbed that same ladder you are on now and, if they were here, they’d tell you that you are in for a world of hurt if you don’t stop. You see, if you make it to the top, but you do so by stepping on the the backs of all those people who stood by you, you’re gonna find yourself up there alone. Up there, family become assets; up there, friends are just a liability. It won’t be long before you realize that everything you did to make a life for yourself has smothered everything worth living for. Do you see what I am telling you, son? You are at a crossroads, and the way you’ve got your nose pointed is just a dead-end.” The professor paused for a second to let his words sink in, then he said, “Go home to your wife. It’s almost time for dinner.” Jerry, unable to give any kind of response, got up and made his way to the door as the professor saw him out.

This is where my dream ended.

About a year ago, I started getting heavily addicted to a video game- Destiny 2. If you have ever played the game, what I am about to share with you won’t be much of a surprise. Every season the game designers would release hundreds of hours worth of pursuits. There were new guns and gear to collect, new places to explore, and new challenges to face. I am a completionist at heart, so I had a hard time limiting myself. Eventually, I was playing like it was a part-time job- clocking in something around 20+ hours a week. My wife made it clear one day that she was feeling left behind. I needed to make a choice about where I wanted to put my time, energy, and heart. I chose my family. I have no doubt that I made the right choice. This isn’t the first time that I have stood at the crossroads and asked myself which way I wanted to go. In fact, it seems like every day is a test of my loyalties. We fathers have some tough decisions to make, but I want to keep hammering on this- IT IS WORTH IT!!!

Being a dad isn’t easy. Sometimes the sacrifices that we make really hurt. Looking back on the last five years of parenting, I can recall many changes that I have made to accommodate the needs of my family. My family cannot be replaced by wealth, success, fame, or pleasure. Neither can yours. I want to encourage anyone who is counting the cost. What you give to your family is a sound investment. I hope that each person reading this post will have the strength and courage to let go of what doesn’t matter to hold onto what truly does.

As before, please share your thoughts in the comment section if you want to go a little deeper or you have something you would like to offer to others.

King of the Castle

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Have you ever heard a dad describe his role in the home as “king of the castle?” I’m not sure if the phrase is quite as popular now as it was a decade ago, but I still hear it from time-to-time. Though I doubt that everyone would be on board with comparing the modern day home to an archaic style of leadership, I do believe that comparing our role as fathers to running a kingdom does have some merit. So, that’s what I want to focus on today. I want to answer the question, “How are we, as dads, like a king running a kingdom?” I did a little research on the role and responsibilities of a king during medieval times. I don’t claim to be an expert now, but it did stir up some thoughts I believe are worth sharing. So, with an introduction to our topic of discussion for the day out of the way, here is what I observed.

To begin, let me share a little about the medieval times and why I leaned toward this time period rather than another. The medieval times, also referred to as the Middle Ages, is commonly understood to have started after the fall of Rome and lasted until the beginning of the Renaissance period. Since there is some complexity as to when the Renaissance period is understood to have begun, let’s say that the Middle Ages were between 700-1000 years in length. I chose this period because, when many men think of a king sitting on his throne in the royal court of a massive castle, it is during this time period that they are likely thinking of. More accurately, they are probably thinking of a king during the last half of this time period. I promise I will try not to geek out on the topic much more than this, for the sake of appealing to a more general audience, but it won’t be completely unavoidable.

The first thought that came out to me during my research was the oath made by some of the kings during the time period. The oath was called “tria praecepta” (three precepts). During his coronation, the king would agree to uphold these three core responsibilities: to preserve the peace, to prevent wrongdoing, and to rule with justice and mercy. I believe that we, fathers, would be wise to live with this same code of conduct.

As fathers, we lead the household by maintaining peace in the home. We do so through modeling peace with our own actions/words and through teaching our children how to make peace with each other. We also lead through disciplining our children when they break the rules or cause harm to another. Having clear rules for the household that are consistently upheld is crucial to preventing wrongdoing. If a child, or parent for that matter, doesn’t understand the rules and how they should be followed, it is unlikely that the child will follow them successfully. Finally, a father, like a king, must be willing to view the day-to-day decisions he makes through the lens of both justice and mercy. Practically speaking, he must have a firm stance on following the “laws of the kingdom” (rules for the home) while also taking into account the needs of those that he is serving. Here’s an example- you are responding to a child that has acted out of character him or her. We, as a merciful and just “king” might ask ourselves, “Why is he/she acting differently this time? What does he/she need from me before I work on righting the wrong that was done?” To be a good king, we need to be intentional, selfless and insightful. If we are going to provide justice and mercy, we need to be able to look beyond ourselves and understand the needs of others.

One of the roles that a king would have during the Middle Ages was to be a protector over the people he ruled. During this time period, it was very common for other groups of people to raid an area, desiring the goods and land of the people settled there. A king would give land to lords, buying their loyalty, and the lords would lend out this land to serfs to work it and bring a yield from it. When war time came, the king would go out and lead the army of lords and militia to fight off the threat to the land. In the current times, we don’t have to worry about enemy invaders seeking to sweep the land and possessions of our family from under our feet. However, protection is something that we are still responsible for as a leader of the home. We protect our family from home invasion, child predators, safety hazards, and from the negativity of others. As a father, I understand that there are threats in the home and outside of the home that I need to protect my family from. At times, I must even protect them from my own self-centeredness and harshness.

Another role that a king had was to be a face for the kingdom. His wealth represented the prosperity of the kingdom; his rule was a reflection of the quality of the people to neighboring territories. If a king was weak, the kingdom was vulnerable. If the king was a tyrant, then others might fear him, but they also might not respect him (or those that he governed over). When we leave the home, we are a reflection of our family. I remember many times growing up hearing other men tell me that my father was a “good man” and someone that they respected. There were times when I would have to turn down free meals at a restaurant, because the owner knew my dad and wanted to show appreciation for what my dad had done. I can’t tell you how much pride that made me feel as a son. My father honored our family by the way that he acted when he worked and when he interacted with the community. I want people to say the same to my girls when they get older. I want them to know that their father represented our kingdom well.

The last thought that I had when reflecting on my reading was on the relationship between the king and the laws that governed the people. Contrary to what movies and books might leave us to believe, a king was responsible to follow the rules that were set in place, just as his subjects were to follow them. A good king lead his people by example, as should we. A few days ago, my daughter popped in to see me eating on our “new” couch. A few months before, I had told the children that we were not to eat on this couch, as this had led to the old one becoming damaged. My daughter, rightfully questioned why I was not following my own rules. I had failed to be a good example to my children. I jumped back into gear by saying, “you’re right” and finished my food where I was supposed to. When we don’t follow our own rules, we run the risk of sending confusing messages to our family, which in turn can often lead to bitterness. If you ever wonder what it might have looked like when a embittered people got fed up with a poor example of a king, just Google, “The French Revolution.” To paint a quick picture, they took the idiom, “heads are gonna roll,” very much to heart. We need to make sure, as leaders, that we are not abusing our power by holding double-standards.

These were some of the thoughts that stuck out to me during my reading over the roles and responsibilities of a king. I hope that this fresh approach to fatherhood met you well. If you have any questions, concerns regarding the topic, or you just want to say “hi,” feel free to leave a comment. I appreciate any feedback that I receive (it lets me know that the posts are getting some attention). I want to leave you with two questions for discussion in the comments, should you want to personalize this topic: What are some examples of good or poor leadership that you have seen growing up? Also, how does this affect the way that you want to be a leader in your own home? Thanks for tuning in, catch you next time!

 

 

 

Mind, Body, and Soul

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It’s hard to care for someone else when our own tank is empty. When we haven’t cared for ourselves properly, we often start dropping the ball at home, work, with friends, and in other areas of our lives. Caring for ourselves requires meeting our own needs holistically: mind, body, and soul. Unfortunately, when many of us think of filling our tank, we often seek after things that give a quick release, but fail to have any long-lasting benefit on us. When we are feeling spent, many of us commonly pursue things that provide immediate gratification, such as junk food, entertainment, drugs, sex, or an adrenaline rush. The problem with these pursuits is that they are like caffeine, they give us a quick burst of energy, but it isn’t too long before we are in need of more to keep up with life’s constant demands. Today, we are going to explore what we can do to fill up our tank effectively so that we can keep ourselves going longer.

I want to stress the importance of making holistic choices as we pursue long lasting care for ourselves. It is not enough to eat right and stay fit (though these are both an excellent place to start). We not only need to exercise our bodies, but also our minds and souls as well. Focusing on only one aspect of our being is like feeding only one of our children. The one child is going to be healthy and  strong, but the rest of the kids are going to be crying out in desperation. I know that this is a pretty weighty analogy to be making. However, when we don’t take care of ourselves holistically, it can be just as detrimental to our children’s well-being as it would be for us to stop feeding them. When parts of us are empty, we are likely to decrease the positive quality time we spend with family, we often say and do things we later regret, and we may even fail to take care of our children’s basic needs. These are all things that our children, and our partner can’t live without. That is why, if we are going to take caring for ourselves seriously, we need to do it holistically.

Let’s begin with discussing some ways that we can care for our bodies. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise (75 minutes of strenuous exercise) per week and 2 sessions (working each major muscle group as a set, for 12-15 repetitions each) of strength exercises per week. Here is how I break down aerobic and strength exercises: aerobic exercises refer to activities that focus on increasing our lung/heart efficiency, giving us access to energy needed to accomplish strenuous tasks; strength exercises refer to activities that help build our muscles to meet greater demands on them, such as lifting or carrying heavier objects. We should be getting, at minimum, 30 minutes total of exercise per day.

Diet is another way we can care for our body. Here are the serving suggestions for an adult male per day:

  • 5 servings of fruits/vegetables; 6 servings of whole grain breads, cereals, and or starchy vegetables; 2 servings of low-fat dairy products; 2 servings of lean meat/fish/chicken.
  • A serving would be as follows:
    • 1 cup of fresh vegetables or fruit
    • 1/2 cup of starchy vegetables or dried beans
    • 1 slice of bread
    • 1 cup of dry cereal or ½ cup cooked cereal
    • 1/3 cup of rice or pasta
    • 1 cup of low-fat milk
    • 3 ounces of lean meat, chicken, or fish

(https://www.everydayhealth.com/mens-health/building-a-healthy-diet.aspx)

Finally, we can increase our physical health by getting the amount of sleep that we need each night. For those of us that work the night shift and sleep during the day, the same concept applies. It is recommended that an adult male get about 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night/day.

Keeping these three physical goals in mind well help keep our bodies in tip-top shape.

Next step, we need to take care of our minds. My first recommendation is to be honest with yourself. When there are discrepancies among what we say, do, and believe, a build up of stress and fatigue will likely follow. Another way we can care for our mind is to take mental breaks as needed. It is recommended that for every 45-50 minutes of work, there is a 15 minute rest period. Third, we can care for our minds by challenging our brains with new tasks/stimulus. When we try something new, our minds create neural pathways that allow us to increase our problem solving skills, understood vocabulary, visual/spatial reasoning, attention span, and memory. Finally, we can care for our minds by increasing our awareness. Often, we jump from task to task, without taking in the plethora of information around us. We miss the little intricacies and nuances that make up the world we live in. As Sherlock Holmes said, “You see, but you do not observe.” Taking time to observe the world around us will help to focus our attention and collect useful information for making wise-minded decisions.

I would say that out of all the different areas of our life that need attention, our soul is the part that is left starving most often. As I mentioned before, I view the world through the perspective of my relationship with Jesus Christ. I realize that not everyone shares my perspective. My goal here will be to share from my own experience what I have needed to care for my soul. Please take from this section what you find most helpful.

When caring for my soul, I have learned to address the following concerns. First, I pursue healthy relationships with other people and with God. Relationships allow me to build trust, pull away from self-centered thinking, share my hopes and concerns openly, and to ask for help when needed. Second, I find new ways to development character and virtue. I have found that my thoughts and feelings are most disturbed when I am not growing in my relationship with God. I am not meant to remain stagnant, but to grow in maturity and wisdom. Third, I seek opportunities to commune with other Christ-followers. People who share my beliefs are an encouragement to me and help keep me grounded. Finally, I put my faith into practice by following the example that Christ has set for me. Christ was active in caring for others, taking God’s scripture to heart, conversing with his Father, and offering discipleship to those that were willing to listen. Christ knew that I needed these things as well to care for my soul.

I want to finish by saying that not all days will be alike. Some days, we will be able to push through without having to take as much time for ourselves. Other days, we may need to pull back and recharge more. This may be especially true when we are met with devastating circumstances. Though we need to care for others during challenging times, we may need to give ourselves some grace when we do not have as much to offer as we usually would when we are at our best. I try to remember that I don’t need to be perfect, I just need to give it my best.

I am interested to hear what you do to care for your mind, body, and soul. Feel free to leave a comment below.

Dad’s Toolbox Series: Family-Friendly Movies

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This will probably be the easiest post I will ever write. I love movies! Watching and discussing movies is one my greatest passions. If you ever want to get me off topic, just ask my opinion of a movie that I’ve seen. I am going to pull the reigns back on myself for your sake. I thought this post could serve two purposes: 1) discuss some movies that would be good to watch with your children; and 2) offer some alternatives for an older audience. I won’t be providing summaries of the movies, but instead sharing why I believe these films are worth a watch. With that said, let’s grab some popcorn and jump right into it!

Movies to watch with your children:

  1. The Lion King (animated version): The new live action movie is “okay,” but it doesn’t have near the depth that the original had. If you are not familiar with this movie- Spoiler Alert: the dad dies. What I really enjoy about this movie are the multiple themes relevant to the relationship between a father and son that are well depicted. It talks about a father’s unfailing love, discipline, parental guidance, loss of a loved one, taking responsibility, standing for what’s right, supporting your friends, and many more valuable lessons as well. It doesn’t get any better than this!
  2. Finding Nemo: This is about the lengths that a father will go to care for his child. If you have ever been accused of being a helicopter parent, then you will likely relate well to Marlin (dad). Marlin learns many valuable lessons in his journey to find his captured son, and his son learns some lessons as well. This movie is one of those rare specimens in which you are likely to enjoy the movie just as much as your children will.
  3. Inside Out: I realize that many of the selections I have chosen are produced by Disney, but this movie needed to be on the list. I swear Disney is not paying me to write this review. I truly appreciate the level of thought that the writers give to Inside Out. It is one of the best portrayals of the human psyche that I have ever seen in film. Ask any mental health clinician, they will agree that this movie is a marvelous representation of how our emotions work. That’s not to say that this movie is so deep that it can’t be enjoyed. What makes the movie so great is the artistic efforts put in to take complex thoughts and present them in a way that even children can pick up on. I believe that the world is a better place for having been given this film.
  4. Megamind: Megamind is one of those movies that takes all the superhero tropes this latest generation has become accustomed to and flips them on their head. The main character of the movie is not the stereotypical superhero that crash lands on earth, falls in love with a damsel in distress, and saves the day with his vast array of supernatural powers. Instead, the story focuses on the “not-so-super” villain. I have a soft spot for redemption stories. Megamind is one of the best examples of this story arc that I know of. Let me also say that I find this movie to be absolutely hilarious. My poor family probably hears me quote this movie at least once a week. Trust me, this film is a must-see.
  5. How To Train Your Dragon: This film translates well the experience of a son seeking to find his place in world, and a father learning to guide him along the way. I think this movie also helps us fathers better understand how we can be a support to our daughters as well. Hear me out, I know this may sound like a stretch. The main character isn’t much like his father. His father is strong, hard as a rock, and stubborn in his old ways. Instead, Hiccup (the son) is nurturing, full of ingenuity, and insightful. When dads raise daughters, we also have to overcome our own paternal way of thinking to better understand a perspective that may likely be much different than our own. Just as Hiccup’s father had to broaden his views, so do we as dads with our own children. There are two other movies in the series I am aware of. I personally enjoyed the second the best.
  6. Kung Fu Panda: Why? Because it’s a panda that does kung fu. What else would you want from a film? I also would highly recommend the second Kung Fu Panda. The first and second movie are very, very deep for movies aimed at children. The third in the trilogy was not quite as well-produced (in my honest opinion). The second movie, in particular, has a arc around Po’s (main character) upbringing as an adopted son and touches heavily on finding peace through personal tragedy. Like I told you, there’s some pretty deep lessons in Kung Fu Panda.
  7. Despicable Me: I can’t say that Despicable Me is one of the greatest movies I have ever seen. In fact, I don’t even like the movie. However, I can appreciate the fresh take on the relationship between a father and his daughters. The main character slowly grows to become a likeable character as you see him take on his role as a father. Don’t get me wrong, I think Despicable Me has some funny moments. Children find the movie hilarious. Most people I know say they really enjoy this movie. If you and the kids can get into the first fifteen minutes of this movie, then I would say that it’s worth finishing.
  8. Angels In the Outfield: This movie hits you from both angles (I said angles, not angels). First, there are some heart-wrenching moments in which you see a father abandoning his son, as well as the impact that his actions have on the boy. Second, you see a man, who did not have a strong example of fatherhood leadership in his own life, soften and become the father that the protagonist (as well as his friend) need.
  9. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse: This is a beautiful movie, and I mean a BEAUTIFUL movie! I have never seen a film use sound and picture as artistically as this movie does. The relationship between father and son plays a huge role here. The protagonist, Miles, struggles to value his father’s straight-and-narrow lifestyle as he is led down a different path by his more laid-back uncle. Not only is this a great movie for kids, it is also a true cinematic masterpiece as well.
  10. Beauty and the Beast (animated version): Not sure why Disney feels the need to re-write movies that were perfect the first time, but this seems to be direction they have chosen. I may lose my man-card for saying this, but Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite movies of all time. I don’t think there is a single part of the movie that I don’t like. Belle is a great example of a strong-female character that is balanced in love, intelligence, and courage. This is something our culture struggles to convey to young girls. Belle isn’t a female plot tool that simply exists to give the male protagonist something to pursue, but she’s also not an arrogant thrill-seeker that cares only for herself. Instead, she is an intriguing character that propels the story along with every action that she takes, always making the world around her a little better. I wish we still made movies this good.

Movies for teens (13+ at least):

  1. Karate Kid: Daniel, the protagonist, doesn’t have a father in the movie. However, he finds a father-figure in Mr. Miyagi (the wax-on, wax-off guy). If you want to know how to mentor your children well, Mr. Miyagi is a great model to follow. He balances sternness with graciousness better than any other character I have ever seen in cinema. I also appreciate the depiction of Daniel becoming a man under Mr. Miyagi’s guidance. It is clear that, by the end of the movie, Daniel’s view of the world and his response to it has drastically changed.
  2. Remember the Titans: There are some powerful themes in this movie that I believe deserve having a conversation with our teens about. As the story progresses, people make some difficult decisions to stand up for what they believe in. During our current struggles as a nation, I can’t think of a more appropriate movie to watch with your son or daughter, given they are old enough to understand the content.
  3. To Kill a Mockingbird: I will be honest, I have not seen the movie. However, I have read, and love, the book. I have heard that the movie captures the heart of the book like few other adaptations have. Atticus Finch is one of the best examples of moral character that I can think of. In fact, if I were to have had a boy, I would have named him Atticus. Atticus’s daughter, Jean Louise, is a very relatable character. She represents well the trusting relationship that a father and daughter can have with each other.

Bonus: For fathers to watch themselves (not with children)

  1. Click: I must be out of my mind to recommend an Adam Sandler movie as a “must watch.” The humor can be very crude at times. Still, I can’t get over how great this movie is at showing the importance of being available to our family. This movie is the Christmas Carol for fathers (which I can only imagine was the inspiration for the film). If this movie doesn’t wake you up and get you back to the dinner table, I don’t know what will.
  2. Cinderella Man: If you ever find yourself struggling to keep life afloat as a dad, watch this movie. Based on a true story, James Braddock fights his way through the Great Depression, literally. He’s a boxer. James is challenged with many setbacks, but he always remembers what he’s fighting for. He has a vision of seeing his family pull through there tough circumstances, and he gives that vision everything he has. Watch this movie, and see the heart of a champion at work.
  3. Bridge of Spies: If you felt compelled to do the right thing in light of a difficult situation, but everyone else was against you (including your own family), what would you do? That is the premise of this movie. The father has to make hard choices, many of which lead to even harder choices. There are very few scenes in movie history that leave you feeling as satisfied as the last few scenes of this movie. This movie not only shows you how to be a better father, but also how to be a better man.

I’m sure there are many more classics and treasures that I have missed, but this is a good list to get you started on your toolbox. I hope you enjoy!

 

Stressed Out

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I have observed over the years that stressful times come in two forms. The first is like a steady stream that slowly wears away at anything in its path. This stream is made up of minor inconveniences, unpleasant conversations, and a subtle stack of piling responsibilities.  These are the times when stress build up is barely noticeable at first, and often find ourselves surprised when we eventually blow a gasket. The other form of stress is more like a crashing wave ripping through our lives in mere moments. When life hits us with devastating events that leave us reeling, it can be hard just to keep our head above the water. Stress is a common part of every man’s life. As our family grows and life progresses, the stressors we experience may change, but stress in both of its forms will always remain. You and I are not immune to hardship. So, today we will be talking about some strategies that we can use to address the stress that we will inevitably endure in the not-so-distant future.

A good place to start in managing our stress is to increase our awareness of when we are becoming stressed. The better we are at reading the signs, the earlier we can address the issue. Think of stress like a cancerous growth of cells. If we can make an early prognosis, we can mitigate the damage that the stress would have on us. Thankfully for us, our bodies, behaviors, and emotions provide us with indicators that let us know when we stress is taking over. As we learn to pick up on these indicators,we become more effective at identifying a build up of stress early on.

Our bodies are one of our first indicators. When we are experiencing stress, we often start feeling hyper-aroused or fatigued. Our bodies, when under stress, will release chemicals, such as adrenaline and cortisol, that help us stay active and alert. Over time, too much of these chemicals will wear us out (kind of like running your engine hard over a long period of time). We are not built to be at a constant state of panic, which is why stress eventually leads to exhaustion.

Stress also has an effect on us emotionally and behaviorally. When we are stressed, we tend to make hasty decisions and act more on our emotions. Often, we find ourselves behaving in ways that are uncharacteristic of ourselves. If a friend, co-worker, or loved one points out a change in our mood or behavior it is possible that we are undergoing some level of stress. Finally, our willingness to take care of ourselves when we are stressed typically goes down. Can you remember a time when life became so overwhelming that you began “letting yourself go?” That is a common response to stress. When we are overwhelmed, our minds start tossing out tasks that don’t appear to help resolve the immediate problems we are experiencing. As an example, we may stop showering or exercising when the bills pile up, because our minds are trying to save mental focus for the challenges that we find most pressing for the moment.

Once we have identified stress in our life, whether it hits us in the face or we see that subtle change over time, we can then work toward alleviating the stress. Here are some evidence-based strategies that have been proven to help reduce stress:

  • Maintain a healthy routine: as was mentioned previously, it is a tendency of ours to let go of our daily functioning when we are experiencing stress. It is important for us not to allow stress to break us away from our healthy habits. It is hard to keep going sometimes, but ask anyone who has made it through a difficult life circumstance, and they will tell you that getting back to the basics is a must. A healthy routine consists of good hygiene, regular exercise, eating nutritionally, maintaining our social connections, pursuing spiritual wellness, and setting achievable goals for ourselves.
  • Avoid making big decisions: because we are inclined to make hasty, emotional decisions when stressed, it is good practice not to extend ourselves out too far when we are not at our best. It isn’t too uncommon for someone to get married, buy a luxury item, break off a relationship, or move out of town when they feel overwhelmed. Giving ourselves time before making decisions like this will keep us from adding more stress to our lives. Instead of making decisions that will likely alter the core of our lives, we can focus our attention on the here-and-now. I like to ask myself, “What is one small thing I can do right now that will help?” Making a check list, blocking out time for breaks, and ordering my concerns based on importance have all helped get me back on track.
  • Use your supports/delegate: this isn’t the first time I have mentioned a support system and it won’t be the last. When times are tough, it is foolish for us to think that we can do it alone. We must have the courage and humility to reach out to others when we we are feeling overloaded. Our support system can help keep ourselves steady, bare some of our burdens, and guide us toward hope when we are at a loss. It is also good to remember that “many hands make light work.” If we delegate tasks that are too strenuous for us to manage ourselves, we minimize the stress that would likely result.
  • Take breaks when needed: sometimes the best remedy is a little bit of rest. When we take breaks, we allow our minds time to unwind, our bodies the ability to regain stamina, and our emotions an opportunity to return to baseline. Rest rarely ever solves the issues that cause stress, but it does position us in a way that we are better prepared to resolve our conflicts. Let me address a common mistake that is often made when resting. It is possible to go through the motions of resting, but not truly benefit from the time invested. When we engage in activities that continue to stimulate us, and when we carry the stressors with us in our thoughts while we are resting, then we are not likely to give ourselves the respite that we need. This means that we may need to shut off any distractions and clear our minds during our rest time. I often tell myself, “The problem will still be there when I get back. For now, I am going to leave it at the door.”
  • Know when to seek professional assistance: experienced mental health providers are equipped to offer us tools and strategies to further aid us in managing stress. Even during my time as a therapist, I would often seek the counsel of my colleagues when I found myself stuck. There is something deep-seeded in each man that tells us that we need to rely on ourselves to solve our problems. This natural response is what drives us toward self-reliance and independent thinking. Though these qualities are not “bad,” they can keep us from resolving issues effectively. When we are stuck, sometimes the best course of action is to call in an ally to help us establish and execute a sound plan of action. Let me put it this way- managing severe stress often requires a competent, dedicated team, not merely one stubborn individual.

Finally, I would like to conclude this topic with a more proactive approach to managing stress. As boxing champion, William “Jack” Dempsey said, “the best defense is a good offense.” The best way that we can deal with stress before it hits us is to plan for it. It goes without saying that we can’t plan for every challenging endeavor. However, there are some situations that we can foresee if we are intentional. Here is a trick that I have learned: whenever we take on a new task, opportunity, or responsibility, we are likely to experience setbacks along the way. For instance, when we buy a new car, we can likely assume there will be some added challenges we will face later on down the road (wear and tear on the vehicle, accidents, car payments, etc). The same is true for caring for a newborn, buying a house, taking the next step in a relationship, saying yes to a promotion… you get the idea. There is nothing wrong with wanting these things in your life; in fact, these are the kinds of things that make life worth living. Still, it is important to remember that these game-changing events often come with some degree of added stress.

So, how do we plan for the upcoming stress? Whenever we take on something new, we can ask ourselves early on, “when things take a turn for the worst (which they will given enough time), what will I need to get back on track?” Once we come up with some ideas, we can then set aside the resources needed to address our concerns. Imagine the water heater in your house goes out (again, I’m telling you that if you have one, it will). If you haven’t planned for it, then you have a big problem. Water heaters can be expensive, and you will likely experience some anxiety trying to figure out how you will account for that big dip in your wallet. However, if we thought ahead and set aside the money to replace the water heater, it will have less of an impact on us when the problem arises.

Sometimes, we will be caught off guard. Part of life is learning from our mistakes. If we find ourselves stressed out by an unforeseen circumstance, then we can make a plan for the next time it comes up. The problems of today can help us better prepare for tomorrow if we gain wisdom from our past. It is also important to practice flexibility and forgiveness. When our thoughts are too strict or we hold ourselves and others to too high of a standard, stress will have all the elements needed to grow. If we were to think of stress as a fire, then challenges we face in life would be the igniter, and inflexible thinking and a judgmental attitude would be the fuel.

I am not even going to pretend to have given all that is needed to help you and I deal with the day-to-day stressors we face, let alone the heavy-hitting events that really knock us off our feet. However, I hope that what I have shared with you will help get the wheels spinning in a constructive direction. Feel free to contact me or someone you trust if you would like help getting through stressful times. As always, stay Rock Solid, dads!

An Interview with Ponyboy: Trust

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I would like to return to a series that I started a while back called, “An Interview with Ponyboy.” For this post, we will be exploring the effects that a breach of trust can have on a youth, and what it may take to gain the trust back. I want to share some insight that I was given by the young men I had worked with, many of which had experienced lying, manipulation, and others failing to follow through with their promises. For those of us who might be seeking to repair trust which has been broken by ourselves or others, I hope this may be of help. For others, stay tuned, because we all let our children down from time to time. This post is going to help us get back on the horse when those times come. What I am sharing may not be relevant today, but it will be eventually.

The first lesson the boys taught me about this topic is that each person is affected differently by a breach of trust. What might be easy for you or I to shrug off may wreck someone else’s world. I remember many times when I would listen to the young men share of what was hurting them the most (keep in mind that these boys had been through a lot). Surprisingly, the guys would say things like, “when my mom said that she would come see me a few weekends ago and didn’t show up” or “when my grandparents didn’t send Christmas presents last year.” Of all the things that they could have said, these were the things that had stuck with them the most. There are many factors that come into play here, which I do not have the time or expertise to fully address. However, what I will say is that we must be willing to adjust our own perspective when it comes to the hurt that we have caused another. We must not assume that we fully comprehend the impact that our actions might have on our children. If it is a big deal to them, then it needs to be a big deal to us as well.

Another thing that I learned from the boys is that gaining back trust takes consistency over time. When we lose the trust of another, repairing the damage doesn’t come instantaneously. We have to show through our actions and our words that we are not likely to offend our child again in the same way. We do so by going back to the basics for when we make a mistake: 1) apologize, 2) compensate/correct the damage, 3) make changes to keep from making the mistake again. If we can show a pattern of following through with what we say and do, then the building blocks for healing will be available to our child. It may also be good to keep in mind that trust and forgiveness are not the same thing. In some circumstances, it may be easier for our child to forgive us than it will be for him/her to trust us. We have to be willing to accept this reality. When we cause a breach, we have a responsibility to go at the speed our child needs.

The third lesson the boys taught me was that it is not healthy to trust everyone. Some people abuse trust when given it. Our worldview becomes tainted when we put trust in a few undeserving individuals, and then generalize our beliefs based on the resulting negative experiences. As a father, we can equip our children for success by teaching them how to trust in a way that is safe. When I worked with the boys on building healthy trust, I would give them a brief illustration. I first handed them a paper heart. I then explained to them that giving our hearts fully to another would be foolish, because we don’t know how well they will take care of it. Instead, we would break off a tiny piece of the heart. In a real world sense, an example of a tiny piece could be: sharing an opinion or personal story that we would be comfortable giving a stranger. I told the boys that if a person took good care of the piece that was given, then we could give a slightly bigger piece the next time. If the person didn’t take care of the piece given, they would get another tiny piece. If the person continued to lack good judgement with the pieces given, they were eventually cut off. As you can see, trust given over time can be a healthy way of building trust.

Lastly, I learned that trust is a two-way street. When I was working at the residential center, it wasn’t too uncommon to hear the phrase, “Why should I trust you if you don’t even trust me?” It’s a fair question. Obviously, it is difficult to put trust in our children when they have proven over and over that they don’t deserve it. Still, can we really justify asking something of someone that we are not willing to offer them in return? That is why I suggest that we look for opportunities to give our children a chance to prove themselves. When an opportunity arises, we can ask ourselves, “if things go south, can I accept being let down.” If the answer is yes, then let’s take some risks. Hand them the keys to the car and send them to the store with a shopping list. Let them stay a few more hours with a solid group of friends. Ask him/her to plan the next vacation. We can narrow the gap between us and our child by building a bridge on our end. By doing so, we are modeling for our child what it looks like to give someone a chance. Some children will continue to make poor choices, even when given every chance in the world. When this happens, we can go back to setting necessary boundaries. Just remember that we also need to explain to our children why trust is not a viable option for the time being.

My hopes are that none of us would do anything to our children that would cause them to distrust us. But, we live in a world where mistakes happen. When we let our children down, we need to help guide them through the process of recovery. It will take time and energy from us and our children. We aren’t likely to see progress over night. When I was in college, I remember taking a course on working with inner city youth. One of the guest speakers shared that it takes approximately 3 years for a child to feel comfortable opening up to an adult. Through my work, I can say that this statistic has held true. If we have a healthy relationship with our child prior to a breach, it may take less time. But, this is a good rule of thumb for the amount of work that may be required of us before we really start seeing results. For those of us that are fighting to get back what was lost, whether by out own hand or another, know that it is worth the struggle. Don’t give up. Keep going at it with Rock Solid strength.

 

The Worst of Times

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Kids can drive you crazy. My wife says that kids use cuteness as a defense mechanism. It helps keep them alive. I imagine that’s how I made it through childhood. That’s how my children are getting by as well. This concept rings true today more than usual. My wife and I started sleep training  our youngest daughter a few weeks ago, with the hopes that we would break away from the long ritual that has gotten her to sleep in the past. Let’s just say it’s not going well. I am behind in sleep far more than a pot of coffee can compensate for. It has been exhausting! Thankfully, my daughter is one of the cutest creatures I have ever seen. This serves her well. Being a dad tests your will sometimes. Many men say that being a father is one of the best ways to teach a man patience and discipline. Getting to this point is no easy journey, though. That is why I want to share with you some thoughts that have helped me get through the challenging parenting days.

When the kids are at their worst, I try to remember that my current struggles are only for a season. If I can endure the storm, then I will see sunshine when everything settles. It’s not always easy to remember the good days, and sometimes it’s hard to believe there will ever be another. Regardless, they will come. In the meantime, I grab onto whatever can keep my head above the water. For me, personally, I rely on prayer and draw from my relationship with God. I remember truths about life that steady me when the ground under my feet is shifting and giving way. I can’t tell you what that steadiness might look like for you, but I can say that I have found a lot of peace in dark times this way.

Another lesson I have learned through parenting is to roll with the punches. Parenting is harder when we fight it kicking and screaming. When I approach a situation with bitterness or anger, I tend to make things worse. Instead, we lessen the impact that the hard times have on us by embracing the momentum of our circumstances. Practically speaking, we don’t allow negative thoughts to fester in our heads, we avoid acting with emotions, and we discover how to find acceptance in what is taking place. As an example, last night I told myself, “there is no use in becoming angry that the baby is crying. I can’t make it stop, and I can’t take it out on her. I am going to be tired at work tomorrow, but I can make it through the day. So, I guess I can live with this setback tonight.” Once I got myself in a foxhole and prepared for a battle, the rest of the night came easier.

It is also important to grow from our mistakes. We try our best to handle each situation with love and wisdom, but it doesn’t always pan out well. There are going to be times when we question if we have done enough or if it could have been better if we had done things differently. “Should have’s,” “would have’s” and “could have’s” can be suffocating if left unchallenged. We could spend a lifetime second guessing ourselves. However, there is another way we could approach this: we acknowledge to ourselves (and our children when age appropriate) when we make mistakes, then we draw benefit from them. I heard in a movie or cartoon once that there is as much to learn from failure as there is from success. There’s a lot of truth in this. Embrace failure, grow from it, and you will be more a disciplined man today than you were yesterday.

Raising children comes with some challenging days. Thankfully, we are not alone in the struggle. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed with frustration or are uncertain how to move forward, feel free to reach out. There are seasoned fathers out there that can relate to the struggles that we go through. I am more than willing to talk with you and be an encouragement if you need it. You can use any of the contacts provided to get in touch. Don’t feel like you have to go it alone.

Keep strong, Dad! You may not wear a cape, but it’s days like these that truly demonstrate the hero inside of you.

 

Win or Lose?

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When I was younger, my parents used to tell me that I should be a lawyer, because I could talk my way out of anything. Even now, I am pretty hard to debate with. I wouldn’t call myself a master at proving my point, but more accurately I am, as many would suggest, obnoxious. Due to this, I have had to learn a very valuable lesson about getting into arguments: It is possible to “win” and still lose. What I mean to say is that I can represent myself well, and even leave others feeling defeated, yet still experience suffering over issues left unaddressed. “Winning an argument” is a dangerous phrase. It takes us away from the ideal end-goal of conflict: resolution. Conflict is unavoidable. No matter how seasoned and tempered our nature might be, there will be times where our perspectives will clash with others’. Learning to handle conflict responsibly is a necessity for Rock Solid fathers. Therefore, we are going to explore the bells and whistles of healthy conflict resolution.

One of the most challenging barriers to resolving conflict is losing focus of the issue. Often times, we start to bring up unrelated concerns as a quarrel progresses. We might also have a tendency toward trying to hurt the other person, instead of staying on topic. This becomes especially likely when we become hurt by something that was said or done. If we are going to make any progress in a disagreement, then we have to stick to the topic and avoid causing harm. Yelling, name calling, sarcasm, threats, and any other forms of aggression may shut the conversation down, but it will not solve the problem. It’s not easy to be respectful when others are fighting dirty, but that is how we remain honorable. We cannot shame ourselves and our partners by engaging in tactics that are meant to hurt. There is wisdom in asking two questions often in a conversation, “What do I need?” and “What does my spouse need right now?” We must remember to keep our eye on the prize at all times.

I have picked up a tool to resolving conflict that has been a tremendous help in my own marriage. Along with asking what my spouse and I need, I ask myself another question, “What am I willing to give up to make things work?” This is the heart of the term compromise. Few arguments ever truly get anywhere until compromise is given on both sides. Some hills are worth dying on, but not as many as we would like to believe. What often holds arguments in place for hours, days, months, and years is our desire to have everything go our way, with no give. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to live in a world where I got exactly what I wanted all the time. But, we don’t live in that world. And think about it, would you want to live in a world where it all worked my way? Would I want to live in your “dream world?” Absolutely not! That’s why compromise has to take place. Sometimes we think to ourselves, “he/she doesn’t deserve an inch.” This may be true, but what good will come of starting a war when a treaty can be made? Rock Solid Fathers must be comfortable with compromise.

Another crucial element of conflict resolution is a willingness to let it go. When others hurt us, we have a deep rooted desire to strike back. If we let ourselves run on auto-pilot when we find ourselves in a quarrel, we are likely to get defensive. Therefore, arguments cannot be done effectively if our response are not chosen intentionally. Remember that Aesop’s Fables that I had recommended during the first of the Dad’s Toolbox posts? In one of the fables, a bear is stung on the nose by a bee. The bear reacts by striking at the log where the bee has retreated to. He is rewarded with an angry swarm of bees that drive him into a nearby pond, stinging him harshly along the way. The message of the fable is to consider allowing one slight to be left unchallenged to avoid many more unnecessarily. Letting go also means that we need to consider the possibility that we don’t see the whole picture and/or we are not seeing it clearly from another’s perspective. Staying stagnant in our thoughts will not serve us well. We can’t go through life without having our beliefs challenged. We must be willing to use some introspection and explore new territory. If we don’t alter our perspective every once in a while, then something has gone horribly wrong. Facts are facts, but opinions can and should be held loosely. Treating an opinion like an irrefutable fact is the bread and butter of foolishness.

Thirdly, another tool for effectively navigating conflict is to obey the rules. Before we even begin starting a fight, we have to lay down some ground rules. What does fighting dirty look like in your home? Do family members feel offended when there is trash talking, yelling, sarcasm, passive aggressiveness, and swearing? Most families do. Does physical intimidation make your skin boil? Don’t blame you. I don’t want someone threatening me either. That’s why rules are so important. A code of conduct has to be followed so that the environment for the conflict can be safe for all parties involved. I recommend that every family have written rules somewhere around the house so that everyone is aware of the expectations for when a conversation goes south. If someone is breaking these rules, it is appropriate to call them out on it. If they continue to fight dirty, then the situation may be one where stepping away is necessary, even for a short time. We have the choice whether we want to stick with it or pull out when we need to. We can maintain relationship by letting the other person know that we intend to come back to the situation and letting he or she know why we are choosing to pull away from the conversation: it’s not safe.

Lastly, I wanted to address how we can respond when someone else is not abiding by the rules of engagement. There are four types of stances when an action is taken against us: aggression, retreat, passive aggression, and assertiveness. When we are aggressive, we are choosing to put our will and safety before the will of others. When we retreat, we are choosing to save face with the goal of trying to keep from things getting worse. Passive aggressiveness is a stance that allows us to harm without outwardly appearing to be a threat. Assertiveness (what I believe to be the best approach) puts us in a position where we are best prepared to hold our ground. We are not allowing others to push us around, but we are not playing the aggressor either. We send a clear message, “I’m not here to hurt you, but you are not welcome to treat me like a punching bag either. If you can’t stick to the rules, then this conversation is over until you get your act together.”

I hope that each of these tools will be helpful the next time that a conflict arises. Stay rock solid, and remember: be willing to compromise, let it go when you need to, and obey the rules of conduct.