Saturday, September 25, 2010

10 Parenting Tips - Part 2

(Continued from September 18, 2010) ...... 

4. Develop an ear and an eye for what your children are absorbing. Children are like sponges. Much of what they take in has to do with moral values and character. Books, songs, TV, the Internet, and films are continually delivering messages—moral and immoral—to our children. As parents we must control the flow of ideas and images that are influencing our children.

This is much tougher now than when we were kids. With the Internet and cable TV, our kids are potentially exposed to all that is wrong. Monitor their TV watching; monitor their song listening; monitor their Internet usage; monitor your child’s friends and their parents.

Decide the values that you want your kids to develop and then work at it 24/7 to ensure that they absorb what you want them to absorb and that they are shielded (at least for now) from the undesirable elements that are available to them.

5. Use the language of character. Children cannot develop a moral compass unless people around them use the clear, sharp language of right and wrong.

When I was a young whippersnapper, I had a friend whose dad never yelled and never used foul language. This was unusual in a neighborhood where parents used profanity on a seemingly regular basis. I once asked my friend to tell me the worst word that his dad ever used. The answer: THUNDER! Yes, THUNDER was the worst word that his dad had ever used.

So, when my own kids came along, guess what became my “profane” word of choice – yes, THUNDER! I’ve also added such ridiculous words and phrases as, “Jiminy Cricket”, Sweet Biscuits and Gravy”, “Sweet Pearl Jam”, “Holy Rat’s Elbow”, etc. Yes, those are the words that I use when I am upset! Guess what words my kids use when they get angry about something in life – yes, they are as lame as dad and I am grateful for that!

6. Punish with a loving heart. Today, punishment has a bad reputation. The results are guilt-ridden parents and self-indulgent, out-of-control children. Children need limits. They will ignore these limits on occasion. Reasonable punishment is one of the ways human beings have always learned. Children must understand what punishment is for and know that its source is parental love.

Set the limits and NEVER let them cross the lines. To paraphrase Dr. James Dobson, ‘Establish absolutes – lines that you will absolutely never cross’. As Dr. Ryan indicated, children need limits and they will ignore these limits on occasion.

We had a rule in our home when the kids were growing up (a rule that still seems to have some value to this day). The rule was that our kids represented the entire family. If they were outside of the home and did something less than acceptable, it would be a black mark against mom, dad, and siblings. One time, through a teacher’s note, I learned that one of my kids had misbehaved in school. I talked to him about it, he quickly confessed, and suitable consequences were were handed out.

To this day, I fully believe that, if I had not dealt with that particular issue on the spot with suitable consequences, it would have opened the door for him, and perhaps the others in the family, to further cross the lines of the absolutes that were established in our home. 

(Please come back next week for Part 3)

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, September 18, 2010

10 Parenting Tips - Part 1

Over the next three weeks, I will be sharing 10 Parenting Tips from Dr. Kevin Ryan of the School of Education at Boston University. From the BU website, I learned the following abut Dr. Kevin Ryan:

Kevin Ryan is the founder and director emeritus of the Center for the Advancement of Ethics and Character at Boston University. A former high school English teacher, Ryan has taught on the faculties of Stanford University, the University of Chicago, Harvard University, Ohio State University, and the University of Lisbon. He has written and edited eighteen books, among them Moral Education: It Comes with the Territory; Reclaiming Our Schools: A Handbook for Teaching Character, Academics, and Discipline (with Ed Wynne); and Building Character in Schools: Practical Ways to Bring Moral Instruction to Life (with Karen Bohlin). He received the University of Pennsylvania National Educator of the Year Award, the Paideia Society's Award for Educational Excellence, and the Character Education Partnership's Sanford N. McDonnell Lifetime Achievement Award. 

Dr. Ryan's tips are in italics with my follow-up comments in regular print after each tip:

1. Put parenting first. This is hard to do in a world with so many competing demands. Good parents consciously plan and devote time to parenting. They make developing their children’s character their top priority.

Ah, yes, the time factor. Working, taking care of the house, cutting the grass, paying the bills etc., all provide excuses and issues that will take you away from your kids. My solution: do what you need to do to keep your family going and leave the rest until later – even if later means 20 years from now!

By way of example, if the choice is to read with your child or do the dishes …. READ WITH YOUR CHILD! Yes, the dishes need to get done and the house needs to be clean. But the dishes will always be there, while your child WILL grow up and move away (of course, don’t wait 20 years to wash the dishes, but you get the idea!).

(That reminds me – I have about 7 more years to wait before I can refinish the floor of my garage!

2. Review how you spend the hours and days of your week. Think about the amount of time your children spend with you. Plan how you can weave your children into your social life and knit yourself into their lives.  

To be sure that I spend as much as possible with my kids, I try to include at least one of them in everything that I do. Need to go the bank? Somebody is going with me. Headed to the store? At least one whippersnapper is along for the ride. Working in the yard? At least one offspring is there with me, partially to help and to learn the value of hard work and partially to spend time together.

By way of example with their lives, if one of my kids needs to get up at 5:00 a.m. on a Saturday to get to a Cross Country meet, guess who sets the alarm and gets him up? Guess who drives him to the event? Guess who watches the whole event and then brings him home?

Yes, it would be MUCH easier to have him get himself up; have another parent drive; and for me to sleep and then later refinish the garage floor. But, I want to be with him in everything that he does, partially to monitor everything and partially to be involved, so that he knows that he is loved and supported.  

3. Be a good example. Face it: human beings learn primarily through modeling. In fact, you can’t avoid being an example to your children, whether good or bad. Being a good example, then, is probably your most important job.

How many times have I written on this subject? Too many to count. But, know this: YOUR KIDS ARE ALWAYS WATCHING YOU and they will adopt your behaviors as their own. Drink too much? Your kids will probably drink too much when they grow up. Smoke too much? Ditto for your kids someday. Read the Bible each day? Your kids are likely to follow. Have a strong work ethic? Guess who else will have a strong work ethic when they grow up?

Even when you think that your kids are not paying attention, they are watching and learning from you!

(Please come back next week for Part 2)

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Dad and Child - Together!

Long before my children were born, I decided that I wanted their biggest influence to be ... ME – not their friends, the drug users, the drinkers, the kids who never tried to succeed in school, etc., but their greatest everyday influence was to be their favorite DAD!!

So, as a part of my journey toward becoming their biggest influence, I decided that, whenever I ventured out of the house to run an errand, I would ALWAYS take at least one child with me. In this manner, irrespective of what might be happening in the hustle and bustle of everyday life in the home, I could always escape with at least one child for a focused conversation, lesson on life, or just listening to the tales of their trials and tribulations.

One day I needed to travel to the local hardware store, about a 2 minute drive from our house. As I gathered up my oldest son (about 8-years-old at the time) to make the trip with me, I was looking forward to the isolated time together, the conversations that would ensue, and the possible lessons that my son would learn from me, including shopping for the necessary part and interacting with store employees.

However, as we were about to leave the driveway, I noticed that he looked a little concerned about something. When I asked him if all was O.K., he told me that he was fine. But, the look on his face told me otherwise.

I made a quick decision to bypass the local hardware store for the 2-minute drive and continued to the chain hardware store about 15 minutes away, thereby allowing me a total of 30 minutes of focused drive time to delve into my son’s obvious annoyance with some issue.

During the trip to the store, we talked about a variety of topics, including his upcoming baseball season, the Detroit Tigers, school, etc. He was quite chatty, but it still appeared as though something was bothering him. We arrived at the store, did our shopping for the needed part, and then got in the car for the ride home.

As we closed in on the 10-minute mark of the 15-minute drive home, my son suddenly asked me, “Dad, would you ever get drunk?” Well, somehow I managed to keep the car on the road as I told him that I would never allow myself to become inebriated. Of course, I then did the obvious. As this question came completely out of the dark with no lead-in or even an iota of purpose to me, I asked him why he would ask me such a question.

He then told me of his friend Mike (not his real name) in his 3rd grade class. Mike had told my son that his dad regularly gets drunk, beats up the mother and kids, and then leaves the family for a few days at a time. They never know if he is coming back!! Mike also told my son that ALL DADS do this, so he should be careful about me. To say the least, my son was conflicted, as he had been living in a loving home, yet his friends told him that ALL DADS do this!

Ah ha!! So I had my answer as to my son’s obvious concern about something. I then turned our drive home of less than 5 minutes into a few more errands that took over an hour, just so we could be alone to discuss this important topic. I assured my son that I would never be drunk, that I would never beat up our family, and that I would never disappear for days at a time. My reassurances did wonders for him, as his mood became brighter and he even suggested that we stop for ice-cream (a favorite activity in our family!). I also told my son that I would try and get help for Mike and his family (more about this in a future post – all is now well with Mike and his family!!).

Now - and here’s the big point - if I had just traipsed off to the local hardware store alone (which, by the way, would have been much easier and faster), I might have never heard about Mike’s story and my son’s concern that it could happen in our home. But, by consciously seizing every single possible moment to spend time with my kids, the situation allowed for the comfort zone in which my son could tell me of his concerns.

If I had not had those moments alone with my kids, it is possible that a stronger influence in his life (a friend, perhaps?) might have confirmed the story and confirmed that my son had better watch out for his dad!!

But, by being the strongest influence in my son's life, he knew where to go to find the truth ..... HIS DAD!!

How about you? Please pass along your suggestions as to how you have become, or plan to become, the strongest influence in your child’s life. After all, if you’re not the strongest influence in his/her life, somebody else will be!!

Hang in there and spend quality and quantity time with your kids!!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, September 4, 2010

"I Dunno - I Fuhgot"

Our oldest two children had progressed rather nicely in the development of verbal, reasoning, and communication skills. Since our house was always in some state of communication, it seemed natural for them to develop those skills at an early age.

However, during the ages of 2 and 3 years old, our 3rd and youngest child seemed to not be developing the same skills at anywhere near the expected rate of our home or the expected rate of normal childhood development. Anytime that we asked him for an explanation on anything (such as, “Why are your toys in the middle of the floor?”, “Where is your blanket?, or “Why didn’t you tell us?”), we were always met with the following response, “I dunno, I fuhgot” (Translation: “I don’t know, I forgot”)

Well, to say the least, we were a little concerned about his seeming lack of development with his verbal and expressive skills. In our family, all of us spoke in clear and expository terms when discussing a multitude of issues. As such, he had plenty of exposure to the proper examples of communication. Yet, we continued to be hit with a barrage of “I dunno, I fuhgot”!!

We actually discussed the possibility of his sandbagging or scamming us on the issues, but, at the same time, we couldn’t believe that a 2/3-year-old could actually scam his parents on a regular basis. The look in his eyes seemed to indicate intelligence, but his lack of ability to verbally express his thoughts was of great concern.

So, was it really a case of “I dunno, I fuhgot” or were we dealing with a CHILDHOOD SCAMMER? We discussed this issue on a regular basis and we talked about the possibility of getting assistance with his oral language.

Near the end of his 3rd year of life, however, we received our answer to the “Dunno/Scammer” issue. I had a series of audio CD’s from various ministers, including Joyce Meyer, Ed Young, John Hagee, James Dobson, etc., all neatly arranged on shelves according to the presenter. One day, I noticed that the CD’s had become substantially discombobulated on the shelf, as the ministers’ CD’s were all mixed up! How could this happen? I asked my two older children and they indicated that they knew nothing of the mix up.

I then asked my youngest child, expecting the usual, “I dunno, I fuhgot” response. His actual response stopped me in my tracks – I then picked myself off of the floor, got a cold drink of water, retrieved a tape recorder, and asked him to answer the question again about the mix up of the CD’s.

His verbatim response is as follows: “Well, I noticed that Joyce Meyer, Ed Young, John Hagee, and Focus on the Family all had messages on the topic of “Love”, so I rearranged the CD’s to put all of the “Love” messages together. I then did the same for “Money” messages, “Jesus” messages, “Conflict messages”, “Healing” messages, “Delivering” messages, “Attitude” messages and so on and so forth. You see, dad, by arranging the CD’s in this manner, you can easily find all of the CD’s on “Love”, for example, instead of searching through each minister’s collection and then possibly even missing one. This way, they’re all together! This is my small way of helping the family. So, why don’t we listen to a Jesus message together right now? We have 7 to choose from. Which one is your favorite, dad?”

Well, alrighty then - the hours, weeks, months, even years of concern that our youngest child was not developing the necessary oral skills were all for naught, as we were dealing with a CHILDHOOD SCAMMER the whole time!!

I then told him that I was very proud of his rearranging of the CD’s and that I was proud of his explanation of the process. I told him that I had been expecting him to say, “I dunno, I fuhgot”. I laughed, but he looked a tad embarrassed, as he realized that the scam was over for the rest of his life!

I then told him that I had just received a new “Jesus” CD from Joyce Meyer. I asked him if he had filed the CD already. His answer: ………. You guessed it …… “I dunno, I fuhgot”!!!!!!

Aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!! Parenthood – gotta love it!!

But, to this day, several years later, if somebody in our family does not truly know the answer to a question, we respond with, yes, you guessed it again, "I dunno, I fuhgot"!!!!!

Paul W. Reeves