Walking a Different Path

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  “Our children give us the opportunity to become the parents we’d always wish we had.”
– Dr. Louise Hart, American psychologist, speaker, and writer
     My own father entered the foster care system very early in his life. He was one of many children, who were separated from each other for most of their childhood. My father often bounced from one unhealthy home environment to another. Often, he was used as a cheap form of labor and regularly experienced physical/emotional abuse. Eventually, he landed in a good home with a loving foster family. These are the people that I now call grandpa and grandma. Though the story “ends” well for him, my father had mixed messages about what it was like to be a father, as many of the examples that he had received were horrid. As a result, he had a lot of self exploration to do before he would become the man that he is now. The process was not only burdensome for himself, but my siblings and I had received much of the collateral effects that came with my father’s journey toward a healthy parenting style. Now, I find myself as the third generation of this cyclical pattern. As you well know, I am a parent myself, and I have the responsibility to decide how I am going to parent in light of what I have been shown. This is a challenge that each of us men must face.
     Some of us grew up in homes that were loving, where dad was present and involved, and where we felt safe at all times. For others, this is not the case. However, the truth is, due to the simple fact that each of us has or had a father (whether we know/knew him or not) we have been given a message about what a father is and does. We then must choose if we will continue this message to the next generation or if we will initiate a new one. Whether we believe it or not, we do have the ability to choose. Let me put this as succinctly as possible- regardless of the example that our father was for us, we have the responsibility and capability to be the fathers that our children need us to be.
     So, how do we determine what we want to keep and what is worth discarding? To answer this question completely and accurately for each person is impossible. However, there are some general guidelines that we can follow that may get us closer to the vision that we have for our own parenting style. These guidelines are simply that, guidelines. They are not an inflexible rule that we must stick to in order to care for our children properly. Take what you need from the information provided and make it your own. The optimum we hope to achieve here is for our home to be loving, safe, educational, and constant.
     With this in mind, here are our guidelines:
1) Primum non nocere: This is Latin phrase given to us by Hippocrates that translates, “first, do no harm.” If our actions are meant to hurt our family, then we are off course. We must always seek to build up those we care about, not to tear them down or cause them unnecessary pain. Examples of this might be: verbal, sexual, emotional, or physical abuse. Unlike the other guidelines, this is a hard rule with little, if any, flexibility.
 
2) Others before self: The desire to put ourselves first is within all of us. Daily, we must fight the desire to feed our own well being at the expense of our family. This is not to say that parenting should be a practice of constant suffering, but it does require us to have the discipline to say “no” to ourselves in order to meet the needs of our family.
 
3) Follow through: Canadian author, Matshona Dhliwayo, said, “Never make a promise you can’t keep.” If we say we are going to do something, whether it is a punishment or a reward, we need to do it. If we don’t, we teach our children that we cannot be trusted or that there will be no consequence for misbehavior. All of us say things without giving thought. Sometimes our words just seem to slip out of our mouths. When this happens, we need to apologize and explain that we misspoke. This needs to happen right away, not when our children are asking us to pay up.
 
4) Stay consistent: It would be unwise for us to stay stagnant in our growth as parents. “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”- Albert Einstein. We have to adapt as we gather new information. However, we must also keep in mind that too much change leaves our children uncertain about how we will respond to a situation and may lead to anxiety. We can combat this by letting the expectations and plans be known. Then, go back to guideline number 3.
 
5) Create a safe learning environment: Kids need to explore. They require a safe place where they can put things to the test. They tinker, manipulate, destroy, and build. This is crucial to their early development. Teenagers don’t play in the mud anymore (kind of), but they need to explore as well. We create a safe environment for this by setting clear boundaries with room for adventure and mistakes to be made.
     Changing the path that has been laid before us is no easy task. It will require dedication on our part, wise input from others, and access to the resources we may need. Keep in mind that if your relationship with your father was healthy or at least partially healthy, you don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Use what worked for your family, but do so with an open mind. Times change and people are unique. It’s okay to carry on traditions and its just as okay to start new ones. Get feedback from your family. With humility and a willingness to change, you can be the father you hope to be. I believe in you!

Dad’s Toolbox Series: Bedtime Stories

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     Together, we have covered some heavy, yet essential topics related to being a Rock Solid father. It is my desire to balance these topics with others that present the same practicality, but with a lighter tone. The Dad’s Toolbox series, as I am calling it, will consist of some tips, tricks, and resources “of the trade” that I have gathered over the years. These tools come from my readings, research, and from brushing shoulders with other fathers like yourself. To give a feel of how the toolbox series might look, I introduce you to our first tool: bedtime stories.
     I doubt that I even need to share the importance of reading to children, especially during the earlier years of their development. Just in case- It’s very important. With that out of the way, here is a small list of some bedtime stories for various ages that you might consider checking out at the library the next time you are in town. I have also provided a short synopsis of each book, just so you know what your getting into.
 
1) Love You Forever. Written by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Sheila McGraw.
I may have a bias on this one, as it is the book that my mother used to read the most to me when I was a kid. The story follows the life of a young boy as he grows up over the years. His mother continues to rock him and sing a special lullaby that he, as he becomes a man, sings to her in her old age. Finally, he passes on the tradition when he sings to his child as a new father. The lullaby is catchy; the book is a classic.
 
2) Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch. Written by Trinka Hakes Noble, illustrated by Tony Ross.
I think you will enjoy this story as much as your children will. It follows a husband as he goes about his every day sort of business, all while the wife is experiencing unbelievably good fortune. The irony in their contrasting experiences is what makes the story engaging. This is one of those books that leave you thinking, “yeah, that’s a winner.”
 
3) The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
This is a chapter book. The Chronicles of Narnia series, of which this is the first book, is one of the best examples of writing meant to appeal to child and parent simultaneously. It is simple and adventurous enough to keep a child engaged, but we as fathers can appreciate the deeper messages hidden within. The first book follows the experiences of four siblings as they stumble upon a fantasy world found in the back of a wardrobe (think coat closet) as its mythological residents prepare for the return of their benevolent king and the long-awaited restoration of the kingdom. If you find yourself liking this book (as you probably will), keep going, the whole series is worth the time investment.
 
4) Hello, Lighthouse. Written by Sophie Blackall
I recommend showing the pictures for this one. I still can’t believe how much story you get with so short of a book. You’ll see what I mean as you read it. Within, we get a brief description of a light keeper’s experiences on the job, share in a few touching moments, and then say goodbye to the lighthouse as the keeper is replaced by new technology. Though this may not sound like the makings of a good book, the book as a whole is so well put together that you can’t help but feel drawn into the light keeper’s beautiful, yet simple world.
 
5) Aesop’s Fables. Illustrated by Charles Santore.
I’m cheating with this one. Aesop’s fables, as the title suggests, is actually multiple short stories with the purpose of conveying a concise philosophical thought. Some are better than others, but if you want to know where we get a lot of our sayings and illustrations from, look no further. The Lion and the Mouse, The Hare and the Tortoise, The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing- you will find them here. Not only are the stories memorable, but they are short (like a paragraph or two).
 
6) Don’t Push the Button. Written and illustrated by Bill Cotter
This one is for the younger kids. It lets them interact with the book itself by telling them to and not to push the button on the page. It’s clever, and brief. You can read this over and over again with a smirk on your face every time. I believe that the best kind of bedtime book is one that you can read a hundred times without losing your mind. This is one of those books.
 
7) Guess How Much I Love You. Written by Sam McBratney, illustrated by Anita Jeram.
It’s a feel-good book about a father hare and son hare creatively sharing their love for each other. You can’t go wrong with this one.
 
8) If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. Written by Laura Numeroff, illustrated by Felicia Bond.
If you didn’t have this book read to you as a child, you have been missing out. The book engages the audience by taking them through a ludicrous chain of events that all stem from the simple catalyst of giving a mouse a cookie. My kids love this one as much as I did when I was their age.
 
     Bonus: While I was refreshing my memory on some good bedtime stories, I came across two resources that I thought were worth sharing. If the idea of well known celebrities reading bedtime stories for children intrigues you, check out Cbeebies bedtime stories on Youtube and Storyline Online (https://www.storylineonline.net). I’m talking bedtime stories read by James Earl Jones, Kevin Costner, Tom Hardy, and Betty White. This is top-notch stuff.
 

When the Lights Come On

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     Have you ever been caught in the act of a really poor decision? If you have not, congratulations! You truly are a rare breed of human being. For the rest of us (I’m guessing all of us) there are multiple times in life that we look back on and shudder as we think of that awkward moment when we were first discovered. When I think about this topic, I go immediately back to the time my mother found a swimsuit magazine underneath my bed. Note that I grew up in a conservative Christian home, so this was a huge “oh-no” moment for me. We were looking for something together in my room, but for the life of me I can’t remember what it was. It was only a few minutes before my mom had pulled the magazine from under my bed. I immediately went into creative mode. I was trying desperately to think of a logical scenario for why I, the boy who rarely stepped out of line, would have this blatant contraband hanging out in my personal living quarters. That’s when my mother said, “Which one?” I was confused. She said it again, slightly different, “which one do you like?” I pointed to one of the women that I found the most appealing, still shocked by the turn of events. She gave a little, “huh,” and then said “she’s pretty.” For whatever reason, this is where my memory cuts off. Though the incident took place many years ago, I can still feel the same dread I felt then whenever I think back to that moment. This was one of those times when I was reminded of the virtue I had lacked, integrity.
     According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, integrity means “firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values.” I often describe integrity as “maintaining consistency in our words and actions at all times.” Thomas S. Monson, American religious leader, said this, “Be the same person in the dark as you are in the light.” Put differently, your behaviors should not change whether or not you believe they are being observed by others. Think about all the athletes, movie stars, politicians, and other public icons that have had to take a stand and share a humbling apology for their lapse in judgement. When we first hear about this atrocity on the news, our immediate thoughts go to, “You see, these big shots are all corrupt.” However, when we look into our own lives, the same temptation to give in “just this one time” lingers in all of us.
     So, what does this have to do with being a father? What if I were to say to you that broken families and damaged relationships rarely happen by choice? What if instead, the likely culprit is one instance or, more likely, many instances of abandoned integrity? When we don’t keep a promise that we make, that’s an integrity issue. When we swear at the neighbor’s dog after telling our children not to use foul language, we are not displaying integrity. When we choose to engage in illegal activity or “bend the rules” in our various roles, we have an integrity problem. When we decide to “chat” with the co-worker that keeps flirting with us, even when we are already in a relationship, we are lacking integrity. Though these decisions may not be the proverbial “final nail in the coffin,” they do reflect the heart of a man that is allowing his own desires for the moment to get in the way of caring for others. When we make a habit of these behaviors, we start to harm those that depend on or rely on us. Not only this, but it becomes difficult for those we have hurt to trust us. I can’t think of a more shameful revelation than to know that I would not be trusted by those who know me best.
     Now that we have concluded the importance of maintaining integrity, let us discuss ways in which we can work on this virtue. Here are a few areas that we, as fathers, can grow in integrity:
1) Keep our promises. If we say that we are going to do something, we need to stick to it.
2) Consider others. Ask ourselves, “how will this decision affect others?” before making one.
3) Be honest with ourselves. We can pretend that what we do in secret will stay in the dark. However, the truth is, we never really know when the lights will come on.
4) Be honest with others. The saying, “what they don’t know can’t hurt them” is an ingredient for disaster. We must stay transparent and true to ourselves.
5) Stick to our guns. Peer pressure doesn’t go away after high school. We still receive influence from co-workers and friends. We must do what we feel is right, even when others around us choose not to.
6) Know when to leave. It takes a strong man to pull out of a bad situation. If we are likely to give in to temptation by staying, it’s time to bail.
7) Do as we say. People remember what you do far more than what you say. It is our responsibility to make sure what we say and what we do match.
     It is not possible to be perfect. All of us will make mistakes from time to time. When we do, it is our responsibility to right our wrongs. We can do so with three steps. First, we must apologize to those we have harmed. Second, we provide restitution as needed. This means that we restore that which was taken, lost, or damaged by our actions. Finally, we make every effort to change our behaviors to make sure that the offense does not happen again. By doing these three steps, we are not guaranteed to receive immediate forgiveness or trust. However, when we take responsibility for ourselves, we begin the process of healing for the person we have offended and the relationship between that person and ourselves.
Remember this: A Rock Solid Father is a man with integrity.

A Few Tips for Financial Success

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     When I first ask fathers what three topics that they would most like to discuss when we start our mentorship experience, finances is almost always among the three. Why does this keep showing up? I believe it’s because we men have a deep-seeded desire to provide for our families, and learning how to manage our money is one of the best ways we can do so. Yet, there’s a problem that often trips us up: How many people do you know personally who do it well? We all like the idea of being financially stable. However, our culture teaches us that going into debt, spending money on things we don’t need, and keeping up with the Jones’s are all crucial parts of the American dream. I don’t claim to be a financial guru, but I can tell you that these habits are not the answer to your money problems. So, let’s talk about some habits that will help you to succeed financially. These “tips,” as I am calling them, are in no particular order.

     Tip #1: Get out of debt. Okay, I know that feels like a blanket statement, but that’s one of our primary goals. If we have any forms of debt hanging over our shoulders, we need to do all that we can to rid ourselves of these financial parasites. This may mean that we have to drastically change how we live for the foreseeable future, but keep in mind that it is worth the current suffering.
     Tip #2: Stay disciplined. Dave Ramsey, quite possibly one of the most highly revered financial speakers and writers of our time, shares this- “If you live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.” This means that by having the discipline to tell yourself no now while others are feeding their unhealthy desires you are more likely than others to enjoy financial freedom later.
     Tip #3: Lose the credit cards. Don’t get me wrong, credit cards aren’t inherently wrong in and of themselves. Still, most people are not using them with financial effectiveness and are hurting themselves with them far more than they’re worth. If you are in debt, then there is no reason to be using credit cards, period. Credit cards are a great way for established users to gain from a rewards program by paying off their card every time, on time. You cannot aggressively attack your debt while you are trying to keep up with a credit card payment every month. Also, credit cards can throw your credit score way back with just a few late payments. There may be a time for credit cards to work for you, but if you are in debt, this is not the time.
     Tip #4: Shop full. The long-running tip for a successful grocery trip is to shop while you are satisfied. If you go in hungry, you are likely to pick up more junk food and fast food style dishes. Not only should you not go into a store physically hungry, but it would be just as unwise to go in emotionally hungry. I can speak from years of personal experience that impulse buying is way harder to avoid when you have had a bad day or when you feel (key word here) like treating yourself to something good.
     Tip #5: Don’t spend more than you make. This one is easy to explain. If you don’t have the money, don’t make decisions that reflect that you do (a.k.a. taking on debt). I guarantee that every conversation you will ever have with a financial expert will contain this phrase: Spend within your means. That’s because this is one of the most important pieces to financial success.
     Tip #6: Use cash often. When we use cash, we are able to see the money go from our pockets to someone else’s. This creates a very important visual of where our money is going. It helps us track our spending by showing us just how fast those few dollars disappear. It’s healthy to tell ourselves, “Once this is gone, it’s gone. I need to figure out how I best want to spend what I have.”
     Tip #7: Make a list. When we plan our spending, such as developing a budget, we lessen the likelihood that we are spending impulsively. We also provide ourselves with an opportunity to determine where our priorities lie. If I can’t pay the bills, but I keep buying lottery tickets each week, then I can easily see where correction in my spending habits might take place. When I go shopping, carrying a list of the items that I intend to buy will help me keep my focus when I start seeing all the flashy packaging. Again, we need to discipline ourselves to say, “No, that is not what I came here for.”
     Dads, I must confess that these tips are a struggle for me to follow perfectly. That is why I can tell you that sticking with these tips works, and refusing to use them can be disastrous. There is plenty more ways to grow in the area of finances, and I’m sure that we will get back to this topic at a later point. However, I think that, by using these tips, you have some early stepping stones to providing for your family financially.
     I hope you found this post helpful and feel encouraged to start using these financial tips today.

Get In There!

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     I can only imagine that, after being 6 posts in now, you are wondering when we are going to start discussing being a father- you know, like raising kids. Well, I hear what you’re saying. Obviously, I wanted to do a little ground work before we jumped in, but as the title says, it’s time to “get in there.” In this post, we will discuss some of the do’s and don’t’s of engaging with our children.
     Have you ever sat next to you child, and after about five minutes felt yourself start to pull away? Do you often “watch” your children while you are browsing the internet on your phone? Do you keep a countdown of the hours before your children go to sleep? If so, you are in good company. I think most of us can relate to this. I find it difficult to play my thirtieth game of “Ring around the Rosie” with my oldest daughter or wait for my middle daughter to get her shoes and coat on (which she believes she doesn’t need help with anymore). Taking part in the early stages of child development is challenging. Spending time with your children can feel intimidating, awkward, boring, and draining. It’s so easy to give up and move on to something a little more “your pace.”
     Caring for our children in the early stages is kind of like starting a new sport or playing a new video game. At first, you have no idea what you are doing. You don’t know where to stand, when to jump in, and when to let someone else take over. We men, we don’t like feeling inadequate at something, and so we often pull away toward other parts of life that we are good at or makes sense to us. However, just as you can’t get better at a sport or video game without “getting in there,” the same is true when engaging with children. Spending time with your children will feel clunky and maybe even embarrassing at first, but if you stick with it, you will start to develop a flow. With practice, you learn the tricks that help you succeed.
     With all this in mind, let’s explore some application. Here is a short list of some do’s and don’t’s when engaging with children.
Do
  • Read books, tell stories, and take part in interactive play.
  • Share what you are seeing. Make comments like “you picked the purple crayon” or “now you have the big dinosaur and the small dinosaur.” Think Blue’s Clues, but you are talking to your child, not an audience.
  • Re-frame what is said or seen in play. If your son says, “Dad, I caught it! Was that a good catch?” you can say, “Yeah! That was a great catch. Nice job, bud!” Kids love this stuff.
  • Act silly and playful.
  • Set a start and stop time if needed. Let the child know when time is getting close, such as a 1 minute warning, so that the child knows what to expect.
  • Roll with it. You may go from one activity to the next. If your child is young, he or she might not have the capability to stick with a task for long periods of time. This will get better as the child gets older.
Don’t
  • Have media playing in the background that is unrelated to the play. Interactive play time is not effective when dad is messing with his phone or watching a show. There is a time and place for these activities as well.
  • Dictate the style or content of play. If barbie is getting married to a giraffe and rides a toy hamburger to school, let it go. This is creativity at work.
  • Get frustrated when things work out differently than planned.
  • Force a lesson out of each interaction. This is especially true when the children get older. It’s okay if something is learned while play takes place, that’s the whole point. However, becoming rigid in play will lead to the child feeling unheard.
  • Play in a way that harm’s the child physically or emotionally.
  • Question or challenge the decisions made during play. A child will shut down when they believe they have done something wrong. A question such as, “why would you choose that paint?” might not send the message you were implying.
     As always, this is not a master list. Feel free to check out some books or take a parenting class if it helps. Teachers have a great wealth of knowledge in this department. If you are experiencing special circumstances, there are clinicians that specialize in play therapy and can help you create a bond with your child. Just as we benefit from seeking advice from a coach in a sport or an experienced player in a video game, brushing shoulders with those that have picked up a few tricks along the way is a great way to get started. With all this, I have one last thought. The goal here is to increase the joy that you and your child have with each other. Obviously, your experience is going to be different than that of others, so don’t feel like you have to keep up with every piece of advice you hear. In time, as you “get in there” you will learn what works for your family and what doesn’t. The key is to stick with it.

On the Same Page

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     There is a scene from the movie “We Were Soldiers” that I believe reflects the relationship that many husbands have with their wives. The scene goes something like this: The LZ (landing zone) becomes overwhelmed after North Vietnamese troops surround Lieutenant General Hal Moore and most of his battalion where they have set up base camp. This leaves Moore without needed reinforcements. After a large scale North Vietnamese offense is called on the base camp, LTG. Moore is forced to call in “Broken Arrow.” This means air assistance is needed to assault the enemy force close to where his own men are struggling to hold their position. During the attempt to repel the enemy soldiers, there is an incident in communication leading to an American aircraft dropping napalm bombs onto their own troops. Obviously, once the mistake was realized, corrections were made, but the loss of American ground troops was catastrophic.
     So, what does this have to do with relationships? In my experience working with couples, as I listened to the partners share their concerns and hurts, I would often think to myself, “I don’t think these two realize that they are on the same side.” When there are some breakdowns in communication, we start experiencing casualties and loss. Far too often, we develop feelings of bitterness and resentment toward our ally, our partner, and start attacking them. It is during these times that I get the picture of Moore and wonder what would have been rolling through his mind if he hadn’t viewed the bombing as an unintentional error. He might have said things like, “my own allies did this?,” “why would they want to hurt me like this,” and maybe, “they won’t do this to me again, I’ll make sure of it.” That is where our pain takes us when we start viewing our partner as the enemy.
     If we are going to work with our partner to love and discipline our children, we can’t treat them like enemies that we are living with. When I would counsel couples and realized that the “enemy mentality” had settled in their hearts, I would share with them a challenge. If you have ever found yourself treating your partner as an enemy, I give this challenge to you now. Before engaging in any conversation with your partner, pause and say this phrase to yourself in your head, “she is not my enemy, she is my ally.” The conversation should be framed in a way that reflects this statement. If you start feeling heated halfway through, go back to this statement. You may have to gently remind your partner that you’re not the enemy too from time to time. This might sound too simple to have any meaningful effect, but give it a try and see how much different your conversations go. If you can keep this thought in mind, you will be surprised how much easier it becomes to find common ground and to support the decisions of one another.
     Once the enemy mentality no longer dictates conversation, then it is time to start taking ground together. Discuss everything. As long as you and your partner remain a team, then talk about the details of life: chores, responsibilities, parenting styles, traditions, money, plans, faith, fears, dreams, you name it. These topics only become barriers when we treat our partner like they are against us, that they do not want what is best for us. If you feel hurt, give your partner the benefit of the doubt. Ask questions to try to figure out where a breakdown in communication may have taken place. If hurt was intentionally caused, then apologize to each other and take steps to make sure the incident doesn’t happen again. Learn from past mistakes and be willing to compromise. Use a tone of voice and body language that reflects love and not judgement.
     These are some ways that you can work with your partner instead of against her. As the old saying goes, “behind every great man, there is a great woman.” This means that if we are to do great things, we are going to need the support of our partner. Rock Solid men are strong because they remain united with there allies. Always remember, your partner is not your enemy, she is your ally.

A Game of Tug-of-War

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     I was the oldest of four growing up; one sister and two brothers. My sister, the next in line, is 5 years younger than I. As many older brothers have done, I often used the advantage of my age and experience to prey upon my poor, innocent siblings. One of the worst tricks that I can recall is when I made money “trades” with them. I imagine you know where this is going. Whenever they would earn a quarter or find one on the street, I would trade them five pennies or a few nickles. I understood the value of the change in their pocket much more than they did, and because I did, I took from them more than what they got back in return.
     I share this piece of family cruelty for more than a confession. I wanted to paint a picture of how we as people, when not properly informed, can get confused about the value of our limited resources and the return that we get from them. Every person has a decision to make about where they invest their time, money, energy, and attention. We all have 24 hours in a day, no one has access to more. I can only do so much before I am exhausted. So, why does it seem like some people are getting along better than we are? Why are there people ending their life happy, and we are struggling to keep the ship afloat? The answer may surprise you. Its because they are cheating.
     The concept of cheating is not my own idea, I got this from a great book called, “Choosing to Cheat” by Andy Stanley. In his book, Andy discusses how we can’t be fully invested in every area of life all the time. There are many, many people and situations that demand of us what little we have to give. Our work and our family are, by far, one of the hardest games of tug-of-war to be caught in the middle of. With each decision that we make, we can feel the pull on each side, seeking to claim victory. No matter how hard we try to keep everyone happy, some people and situations are not going to get the best of us by the end of the day. The secret that successful people often make is choosing what will get cheated for the day, what will take priority. They intentionally start their day with a plan and they execute that plan. Most importantly, they are aware of what is going to give them the best results over an extended period of time. They see past today and far out into the future. They make the decisions now that will help them get to where they want to be later.
     So, if we can’t be all and do all for all, where might our priorities best lie. I suggest that we must learn the value of giving the family our best. When we measure that against the other things that compete, over the long haul, we will get the biggest bang for our buck when we invest in our family. You will have to trust me when I say that our family is a more lucrative investment than giving to work, recreation, material “stuff,” or the public eye. It may not seem that way at first, but that is because we still see things like a child who just got five pennies for their quarter (no offense intended). We like watching the money roll in, the attention of our peers, and the praise of our co-workers. Yet, in 20 years from now, what is going to have any lasting value? Money gets spent, people forget our accomplishments, that sports car sitting in our driveway is going to rust. If we think these investments are going to pay over time, we are falling for one of the oldest tricks in the book.
     In conclusion, I encourage you to invest wisely. Give to your family with generosity. The return may not be obvious right away, but your involvement + family = lasting joy; ask anyone who is over the age of 60 and happier than yourself, they will tell you the same. If life is making demands of you that keep taking away from family, don’t fall for the trap. Your children are going to grow up quickly, they need their father present. The world is always going to want more from you. If you try to solve every problem or finish every task, you will be taking from what belongs to your family. As hard as it might be, a good father is comfortable with cheating the world out of what it believes it is due to make sure the family stays strong. You don’t have to sacrifice your integrity, but you do have to say no every once in a while. It is okay to walk away from an opportunity, even if it seems hard to pass up. Believe me, when you put your family first, it will be worth it in the end. I promise.

Who’s Got Your Back?

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     Even the Lone Ranger needed Tonto. We are no different. Every man needs someone to lean on. No matter how tough of an act we try to pull, we are fooling ourselves if we think that we can get by all on our own. To be the father that we want to be, we have to understand that there is benefit in having others around to lend a hand from time-to-time.
     After getting my feet wet in the world of counseling, I quickly realized one need that, if not addressed, was a bane to any success my clients might hope to make. That need is a support system. Merriam Webster Dictionary defines support system as: “a network of people who provide an individual with practical or emotional support.” Our supports can come from home, school, work, religious affiliates, clubs, groups, community, or general places of recreation. In other words, supports can come from anywhere. A good support is someone who not only has their own interests in mind, but considers yours as well.
     One of the best supports in our life could and should be your partner. If you’re married, then you have made a commitment to stick with this person through thick and thin. Your spouse has made that commitment to you as well. Your partner, in the context of a healthy relationship, is someone that you can go to for wisdom, rest, and insight. If it affects myself and my family, I try my best to run everything past my wife before making a final decision. It can’t hurt to get a least one extra set of eyes on the situation.
     While we are discussing things that I have learned through counseling others, let me share another one with you. People tend to like to help us. It feels good to swoop in and save the day. In most people, there is a drive to want to nurture or be the hero for others. If our partners believe that something can be done to meaningfully meet our needs and there are no barriers (emotional or other) holding them back, they are likely to give us aid.
     The friends that we have developed over the years are another support that we can look to. Now, I’m not talking fair-weather friends, I mean real friends. The kind of friends that are there for you when they have nothing to gain. Men struggle to make these healthy relationships, especially as they get older. If you can’t name at least two or three guys that you could call today if you lost your job and needed to talk, then you are missing out on something huge. My encouragement for every man is that they do all that they can to maintain healthy friendships with a few upstanding gentlemen. Make sure you are there for your friends as well. If it has been a while since you have last spoke, call them up this evening and tell them that you are thankful for them. It might sound sappy, but if you want to have real friendships, you must do this often.
     Finally, it might be in your best interest to connect with your community. There are men and women all over the world that have made it their profession to help you and I get through the trials of life. Do you need food, housing, further education? Many communities can help you with these basic needs. Are you wanting to start up a new business or take on a different career path? Look up a few businesses in your area and ask if you can chat about taking the next steps. These people might be the same people to help you get your foot in the door.
     Most of the jobs and important opportunities I have gotten over the years have been from the recommendation of someone I have met along the way. Talk with any successful businessman, and they will tell you that networking is key. You’ve probably heard it before, “it’s good to have connections.” Let me say this again, having a support system is crucial to success as a father. There is a wise saying that goes, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Make maintaining strong connections a high priority in your life; this is where your rock-solid strength lies.

All According to Plan

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     Hilary Hinton “Zig” Ziglar, American motivational speaker and author said, “If you aim at nothing you will hit it every time.” That’s the reasoning for why many companies will make it your first priority to memorize and adopt their “mission statement” when you begin working for them. Alongside this, many companies will also provide an accompanying set of “core values.” These two pieces together give each employee a clear understanding of the vision that the company hopes that you will follow, with and without oversight. In order for a company to be successful, it needs to have two things: 1) a plan; 2) adherence to the plan. The same applies to military operations, sports plays, and cinematic masterpieces. I suggest that the same could apply to a family just as well.

If you are anything like me, you hate planning ahead. Though it’s rough when things don’t go well for me, I rarely ever do anything to prepare for a favorable outcome. It’s easy to watch life go by and take things as they come. However, if you want your children and your relationship with your partner to succeed, you are going to need to commit to something. Whether it’s easy to admit it or not, it is our responsibility as men to lead our household. Your mission statement for your family, as well as your core values, need to be understood by each family member. Is education a priority to you? How about maintaining a moral code of conduct? Without a plan, you are likely to miss opportunities along the way to instill the basics needed to achieve these aspirations.

     Let’s start small. First grab a paper and pencil. It is beneficial to write these things down, because it increases the solidity of what you are committing to, and it will likely help you remember what you decide. Next, ask yourself, “What do I want most for my family?” If you can narrow your response to a sentence or two that can clearly be understood by others, then you have for yourself a mission statement. Now take one more step, ask yourself, “what values support the vision that I have?” If you are struggling with this part, here is a small list of some values you might consider:
– Discipline              – Honor                    – Strength
– Integrity                – Dignity                   – Courage
– Honesty                 – Respect                  – Resourcefulness
– Diligence               – Passion                  – Dedication
– Responsibility      – Zeal                         – Persistence
– Leadership            – Adaptability          – Loyalty
– Mastery                  – Justice                   – Grace
– Love                        – Faithfulness          – Wisdom
– Curiosity                – Will                         – Contentment
     This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it should give you a good place to start. The last step is to write down a few opportunities that you don’t want to miss in order to guide your family toward these values. Think of these opportunities as “openings.” This is how we adhere to the plan.Try to catch as many openings as you can while your child grows up. The more you can make the most of these, the stronger those values will stick. Openings to consider are meals at the dinner table, moments before bedtime, sports games/meets, car rides, after school activities, or family vacations. Again, these aren’t the only opportunities. If you can think of others, write them down. Most importantly, be the example for your family. No one wants to follow a leader that doesn’t follow his own teaching. Children are more likely to do what you do than what you say. Your partner is more likely to value what you value if it is apparent in your behavior. With a mission statement, some core values, and adherence to a plan, then you have one of the greatest tools for your success; you have direction.

A Journey Toward Rock Solid Fatherhood

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For the first post, I wanted to give you a little background behind the blog and the person writing it. The concept of starting a blog came from the challenges created by the COVID-19 outbreak. I had just started my efforts in getting the fatherhood program on its feet when the outbreak hit. As a result, I had found myself sitting on some excellent resources, a plethora of topics to cover, and few clients. And so, I found myself needing to get creative with a medium for communicating information that I have been gathering. That is how this blog came to be.

I have never been a blogger before. In fact, I don’t think I have written much that wasn’t for a class. However, I have a strong passion for seeing men become the fathers that they crave to be. One of the most motivating responses I have received over the years from past clients has been, “yeah, I actually think I can do that!” I found power behind messages that are clear in content and application. I am not aiming to write a best-selling novel. I want you, as the reader, to feel like each post is a simple reminder of timeless truths that can be put into action today. I seek to share whatever wisdom I may have attained from others in a way that does not condemn, but respectfully calls us to action. Make no mistake, I will be challenging myself with these messages as well. We all have room to grow as fathers.

When I was a teenager, I was poured into by a youth pastor that spent a great deal of time teaching me not only what to think, but how to think. Often, we would sit at Outback Steakhouse or the local diner discussing life. We talked about faith, relationships, hobbies, passions, career paths, movies, music, and dreams. That is the vision that I have as I write to you. Though I may never get the chance to sit with you personally and enjoy some steak while I hear about the real you, I want you to know that I write each word as if we were. Additionally, I want you to know that I am living this out as best as I can myself. I too wish to be a better parent today than I was yesterday.

Let us grow together in our role as fathers. Come with me on this journey of self-discovery and personal development. It is my privilege to share what I have learned so far. I hope that you may always find freedom, hope, and encouragement with each message. Feel free to write back and share your thoughts; I want to hear them. Most importantly, may the foundation that you make for your family hold strong through all of life’s challenges.

Sincerely,
Brian J. Faust