How well do you know your child?

Source: single-parenting.families.com

I’ve talked about love languages in the past. Knowing our children’s love language is so important to giving them the love they need. But we must also take it a step further to determine how best to fulfill their love language.

Recently, a friend told me that her son requires daily morning snuggles. One day, they were having a difficult homeschool day, and she realized that he hadn’t gotten his morning snuggles. She said it’s the equivalent of her having her morning coffee. Nothing earth-shattering happens if he doesn’t get his snuggles, but he feels a little off without it.

Physical touch is also Lucas’ love language. When we start our homeschool day, I have him sit on my lap during our calendar time. And I noticed just today that the child will sit on my lap any chance he gets. Whether we’re doing school work or waiting at the doctor’s office, he will sit on my lap even if there’s an empty chair nearby. I like that he seeks this physical touch from me and doesn’t simply wait for me to offer it.

William’s love language, quality time, is a little more difficult to satisfy. With Lucas, I can just have him sit on my lap as we go about our day. For William, I have to take time out of my day to give him quality time. Our bedtime reading certainly accommodates his love language. And interestingly enough, he seems to be fine with quality time from his brother as much as from his parents. They play so well together, and as long as he’s not alone, he seems fine.

If you’re still uncertain of your child’s love language (it could take a few years to figure it out) be patient but always keep an eye out. And then once you do figure it out, find real-world activities that help satisfy that love language. Whether it’s morning snuggles or a strange love language quirk, figure out what the child needs and show him love in the way he will receive it.

First-time obedience in front of others

By Bethany Lynch, TheGracefulMom.com

As a mom with a full-time occupation outside the home, I am still quite passionate about requiring first-time obedience. Sometimes that means we have to put in a lot of effort to require first-time obedience or address the lack thereof very promptly. We often do not have all day to work on attitudes, so it feels like we have to work double time. It is extremely tempting to make excuses for not working on it…I have already put in over 8 hours of work outside of the house, people will understand that I have been gone, I feel guilty for being gone so I let my children get away with more, and so on.

I try really, really hard to limit that line of thinking. I knew before we had children that we believed in first-time obedience, and I knew that I would most likely have a full-time occupation. The only surprise was just how much time it can take to reinforce obedience. I think one of the hardest times to require first-time obedience is in public or in front of others.

When I have limited time to run errands, the last thing I want to have to do is leave my cart full of carefully selected items to take a screaming toddler out of the store. When we actually find a night to get together with friends, it is so easy to let children run around like tornadoes just so the adults can talk for a few uninterrupted minutes. What if we come across as overly strict in front of others?

I can tell you from skilled personal experience it is well worth it to take the high road and stick to your beliefs. Don’t give in just because it is hard or uncomfortable to work on obedience in front of others. The after-effects and amount of work that is required to make up for giving too much freedom can take a lot more time than I have to give.

Here are some of the ways we have decided to handle first-time obedience in front of others:

  • Foremost, we try to stay rested ourselves. There is no way a tired mama can properly deal with disobedience when she is exhausted. Make sure you get the sleep you need, and you will have much more energy to work on FTO and other priorities.
  • Be prepared ahead of time. Maureen has written before how to stay consistent and recommends having rules for being out in public. Whether it is an immediate consequence now or later, know ahead of time how you will respond. Ideas could include: hand folding (we use this a lot! Even my 2 yo is learning), loss of privilege to talk, time out away from others or in car, no special treats. Note: I would not recommend buying treats often on trips so that you end up bribing or threatening.
  • Prep your kids before going to someone’s house or the store. Don’t give threats or set them up for failure, but simply encourage them to follow the rules. Go over what is expected and how they should handle any particular situations. If they are struggling with hitting, for example, go over other options to express their frustration instead of hitting…not that we have ever struggled with that.
  • Act. You prepared to be consistent. Your kids knew the expectations. Now it has to be enforced. Consistency of the parent is parallel to the expected consistency of the child to obey. If both parents are there, I believe one parent should handle the consequence immediately. We have done timeouts outside of the furniture store, outside of the pizza restaurant in winter, oh and timeouts at the wedding this past weekend with all of our extended family watching to see how we handled it. Many times both parents are not there so Maureen also has given ideas on how to do timeouts at home after misbehaving in public.
  • Praise your kids for making a conscientious choice to obey. This doesn’t mean bribing them with a small $1 toy every time you go to Target. Make sure you verbally take time to tell your kids how proud you are of the way they handled a challenging situation. For a 4-year old, keeping hands folded at someone’s house with breakable items is challenging so make sure they know you noticed!

It can be hard to follow through with others watching, but I promise they will remember the way that you followed through. You will not be the first mom to ask the manager to take her grocery cart, and your child will learn that you have consistent expectations.

Do you relate to your child?

Source: femeo.bayt.com

Did your child come out of the womb looking and acting different from you? Does he take after your distant Uncle Bernie more than you? Our kids are born with their own little personalities. And sometimes, their personalities are far different from our own.

If this is the case, it’s important that we take the time to understand the world from our child’s perspective. We need to relate to our children so we can fully meet their social and emotional needs.

I struggle with this a bit myself. William, my oldest, is the spitting image of my husband. They even have matching personalities. When I describe William, several words come to mind: extroverted, social, smart, always happy, inquisitive, easily excited yet laid back at the same time, bold, and friendly. Sadly, I would not use these words to describe myself. I’m an introvert to the core. While William is adventurous, I like to play it safe. While he likes to try new things, I like to stick with what I know is good. Lucas is the one who looks and acts more like me.

Do I just recognize our differences and call it done? No. I need to find a way to relate to William. I need to understand his needs so I can find a way to meet them (or find someone who does). While the thought of going to a party sounds completely draining to me, I need to realize that a party may be just what William needs to recharge his batteries. And when his inquisitiveness comes out, rather than answer his endless questions with “I don’t know,” I need find it in me to be just as interested and tell him that we’ll look it up later.

Whether your child is just like you or you’re polar opposites, take the time to understand your child and the motivations behind his thoughts and feelings. It’s only by trying to relate to our children that we can truly understand them and give them what they need.

Obedience offers acceptance and approval

Source: childrensbehaviorproblems.com

I came across a wonderful passage in Growing Kids God’s Way that summarizes the need for a high standard of obedience. We don’t train our children to obey us for our own convenience. Obedience offers so much more. Consider this:

“A child’s feeling of acceptance and sense of approval is directly related to the standard of behavior required by his parents. This is true for all areas of character development and is especially true with first-time obedience. The child whose parents require first-time obedience and encourage him in the process has a greater sense of parental approval, love, and acceptance than a child in a permissive or authoritarian household. Permissive parents tend to ignore the standard for obedience, while authoritarian parents eliminate the need to affirm their children.

“When a child meets a high, established standard and receives parental approval, obedience becomes attractive, and the child knows his parents accept him. The higher the standard, the greater the confirmation and sense of approval. The lower the standard, the weaker the sense of approval and, ultimately, the weaker the parent-child relationship,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 129).

Isn’t that incredible to think that a little work put into training our children in first-time obedience can yield so many amazing results?! Approval, acceptance, character, and a strong parent-child relationship are all important parenting goals.

As I’ve said many times before, laying that foundation of obedience opens the doors to so many opportunities. It’s time well spent.

P.S., The July 4th eBook sale ends today! Order before midnight Pacific time to get your copy of Live in Harmony with First-Time Obedience for just $7.99.

 

Surprise them with praise

Here's Lucas the first time he tried riding a bike (almost two years ago).

Here’s a great quote to remember:

“Surprise your kids with praise,” (On Becoming Childwise, p.204).

I have discussed the power of encouragement and how much it can affect our kids. There are certainly times when our kids expect our praise and they even seek it from us at times. My kids love to come to me with stories of their good behavior and hear the praise that I give them.

But I have found that the praise that I offer at unexpected times has an even greater effect than the praise they know is coming.

“We have found that the most effective praise is that which comes when the child is not expecting it,” (On Becoming Childwise, p.204).

I have a story that illustrates the power of surprising kids with praise. We have been trying to get Lucas to ride his bike for quite a while. William was riding without training wheels months before the age Lucas is now. Well, Lucas is a sporty kid, but he’d much rather play soccer or baseball than ride a bike. That’s all well and good, but he needs to learn how to ride a bike. We went for a walk this morning, and I wanted to walk fast to get some exercise. My husband and William rode their bikes. Lucas had to ride in the stroller. He wanted to ride his bike, but I said he needs to practice more. He can run faster than he can ride.

So this afternoon, we went out again (for a slow walk) and Lucas rode his bike. He had the motivation, but there were times when he was ready to give up. First, he couldn’t get the brakes right, so he walked the bike down a hill. Then he was ready to give up as we crossed some gravel. I quickly discovered that a little praise was all he needed! I praised and encouraged him the entire way, and he ended up mastering the brakes, riding up a pretty big hill, and standing on the pedals while riding! I am still so proud of him. He was so focused on riding the bike that at no point was he paying attention to me or expecting any bit of praise, so every word I said had great power.

The next time he starts to get a little discouraged by a difficult task (bike riding, homework, whatever), I’ll know that a little bit of unexpected praise will go a long way!

 

Encourage meaningful, life-long learning

Source: kidsmug.net

On Monday, I talked about how important it is to focus on cultivating critical thinking in our children, in favor of rote academic learning. If you haven’t already, take a minute to go back and read that post. This one will make more sense if you’ve read that one.

In that post, I talked about the two scenarios of successful school experiences, one where the child learns through worksheets and another where the child learns by acting out characters from literature. My suggestions today will encourage more of the latter.

Your primary goal with this type of learning is to make learning a joyful, meaningful experience. You want your child to learn because it’s fun, not because he’s required to or because he gets some sort of treat out of the deal. Teach your child how fun learning can be.

For learning to be meaningful, set aside the worksheets and flash cards, especially for your toddlers and young preschoolers. Even for older kids who are in school, this is an important exercise, especially if you’re working against a serious distaste for learning. Unfortunately, many public schools don’t encourage a love of learning. Take the summer to try some of these tips and to follow his lead.

Ideas for meaningful learning that encourages critical thinking

Literature

As you read a picture book, or when you’re done reading, ask your child to tell you what she heard. Charlotte Mason homeschoolers (read this link if you haven’t heard of Charlotte mason) call this narration. You might prod her with a few questions like, “Who was the main character?” or “Where did this

story take place?” But ultimately, you want her to make the connections. Instead, try asking open-ended questions like, “Tell me what you think of the story,” or “Describe the place where they live” or “What was your favorite part of the story?” You want her to decide what components of the book have meaning to her life. Something like, “Little Bear is like me because he has lots of friends who like to be silly” is perfect. Get into the habit of having her narrate every book you read. Start simple but allow her to go on and on if she wants. If she does go on and on, make note of the book and find more like it.

Bring characters into your home. One of the Little Bear stories describes the characters making “birthday soup.” Make an activity out of this. You can make real soup and call it birthday soup or you can just make pretend “soup” and allow her decide what ingredients to put in it. Find other books that talk about soup (like Stone Soup).

Act out the stories together. In the Frog and Toad series, Toad is usually pretty grumpy. You might spend your day acting grumpy. Make grumpy faces and look

at yourselves in the mirror. Your feigned grumpiness will bring out lots of smiles and laughter.

Take turns telling the same story. We did this last weekend while roasting marshmallows in the back yard. It goes like this: Me: “Once upon a time there were two little boys who always had a smudge of dirt on their foreheads.” (I’m relating it to my boys.) “Their mom tried to rub those smudges off, but no matter how hard she tried they would always come back.” I’ll give a few more sentences and then pass the story to William. He’ll talk about the same boys and mom and take it in a completely different direction. He might make it scary or silly. Then he’ll pass it to Lucas, and Lucas will pass it to my husband, and so on.

Vocabulary

Use rich language in your daily interactions. Don’t dumb down your words. There will be times she’ll pick up the meaning from the context of the situation, and other times, she’ll ask you what it means. Just today, I told Lucas that we didn’t say goodbye to his preschool friends because they were “concentrating on a story” that was being read to them. He asked me what “concentrating” meant (hard work pronouncing it correctly). I’ll give a simple answer and a more complex answer. So I’ll say, “Concentrating means focusing or listening intently.” Then he might ask, “What does intently mean?” We might go on like that with several words.

Math

There are so many real-world math scenarios in our world. You just have to keep your eyes out for them. Here are some examples:

After baking a cake, cut it up together. First you cut it in half. Then in quarters. Then in sixths and so on. Don’t necessarily tell her about “fractions” as this won’t have meaning for her, but she can see how cutting in criss-cross ways makes several pieces. Count the number of pieces you cut.

Count the steps as you walk upstairs. Or “count” by naming letters of the alphabet for every step.

Practice estimating by guessing how many steps it will take to get from the front door to the car. Then count and see whose answer was the closest. See how many steps it takes when taking tiny steps versus giant steps.

Teach “addition and subtraction” at dinner time. (The quotes here mean that these are the actual topics, but you won’t be calling them by name.) Be silly with it. Say, “My what a good pea eater you are!” Ask her how many peas she has left. Count with her if she needs help. Then ask her what happens if she eats two more. Count how many are left. Then ask her what happens if you give her three of your peas. How many does she have now?

Teach “division” at snack time. Start out with a plate of cookies for you and her. If there are 5 cookies, ask her how many cookies you will each get. Then ask her if there will be any leftover (for daddy). Or if she doesn’t want to save the last cookie for daddy, see if she can problem-solve to figure out what to do with the last cookie so you can share it. Can she think critically enough to figure out to cut it in half?

Teach the value of money by having a lemonade stand. Make the lemonade together (start with frozen juice and count the number of cups of water to add). Decide how much you’ll charge. Count the money together. Sell something like chips along with the lemonade. Figure out how much each bag of chips costs and how much she’d have to charge to make a profit.

Science

Go outside. Take a nature walk. See what strikes her fancy. If she stops to watch a trail of ants, let her sit and stare at them. If she asks about ants, talk about them. But just have a conversation; take care not to lecture her. Again, it’s all about making it meaningful to her. Or do the same with bees. Just sit and watch the bees as they buzz from one flower to another. Continue on your walk acting like bees, buzzing and flying (and maybe even stinging each other!).

Bring her into the kitchen with you. As you’re making your “birthday soup” (see above) show her how the soup will boil when it gets hot. Show her how it bubbles up. Show her how steam comes up. Or better yet, just let her watch it simmer and see if she notices and asks you about it.

Go to the zoo or pet store on a regular basis. Learn about all the different kinds of animals. See if a local animal shelter or vet’s office will let you volunteer or at least watch how they work.

Go on a night walk on a clear night. Turn off the flashlights or leave them at home. Let your eyes adjust so you can see all the stars in the sky. Point them out and then see if she has any questions. She might just look or it might inspire a weeks-long study of planets and stars. Let her lead you, but be ready to introduce resources. Take her to the library and show her how she can ask the librarian for stories on stars. Teach her how you can Google a topic to learn more. Or find a documentary that she can watch to learn more.

History

Sit down with grandparents or great-grandparents and ask them to tell stories about what life was like when they were kids. If you don’t have any grandparents nearby, see if a local nursing home will let you visit and volunteer. Exposure to older, wiser people is healthy for the mind and spirit.

Read novels that are set in a particular time period. Or read biographies of important people. Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, etc. Find books that tell the story in an interesting, age-appropriate way. There’s a series of books by Ingri D’Aulaire that is great.

Geography

Talk about where you live. Talk about where friends and family live. When you go on vacation show her on a map (or better yet, a globe) where you’re going and where you’ve been.

Send a package to someone and use UPS so you can track its progress online. Then you can look on the map or globe to see where your package is as it travels to its destination.

And again, incorporate this into your literature time. Read novels that discuss geography in an interesting way. The Holling C. Holling books are great for this.

Other thoughts

As you work on these things together, be careful not to narrate your day. You narrating would sound like, “That’s a flower. It’s a yellow flower. It has 10 petals on it. It has a green stem with 4 leaves on it. It grows out of the ground and needs sun and water to grow.” Blah, blah, blah. If she asks the color of the flower or wants to know how flowers grow, then by all means, tell her. But don’t narrate or lecture. You want her to make the connections and for the learning to be meaningful to her.

You might even start your new learning life by asking her what she wants to learn about. I asked William (age 7.5) this recently, and he quickly answered, “Dinosaurs!” He said he wanted to know all about the time period in which they lived, how they became extinct, etc. At the farmer’s market on Saturday, we came across an Usborne book on dinosaurs. Flipping through it, he was fascinated to see how small people are in comparison to dinosaurs (the book had pictures drawn to scale). Interestingly, Lucas said he wanted to learn about spelling. At 4.5, he’s at that natural pre-reading stage! He’s constantly saying things like, “Puh, puh, puh. Popcorn starts with P!”

The great thing about meaningful learning is that when the time does come for them to learn abstract concepts like recognizing letters and numbers or learning the sounds of letters, they’ll already have been exposed to the topic. When Lucas learns subtraction in school, he’ll be able to say, “This is like what we do at dinner time with my peas!”

 

Are you the opponent, teammate, spectator, or coach?

Source: soccerfieldss.com

In every sport there are the opponents, teammates, spectators, and coaches. Imagine your life as a sporting event. What role do you play? Are you the opponent, teammate, spectator, or coach?

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you likely know what the answer should be, but let’s examine them all.

The opponent

When it is the parent’s job to monitor the child’s actions, attitudes, and beliefs, it is far too easy to become the child’s opponent. In many ways, you have differing attitudes and goals. With opposing viewpoints, you become the opponent.

Particularly in power struggles, specifically a “battle of wills,” it is easy for the parent to take on an opposing stance, thus becoming the opponent.

My husband and I have fallen into this trap, establishing an attitude of “us vs. them” or “parents vs. children” in our home. Do not become your child’s opponent. You will quickly find yourselves at odds, and you stack the deck against yourselves. Coming to an agreement on attitudes and beliefs with a child who sees you as his opponent is difficult to say the least.

The teammate

The Ezzos and I take a very firm stance that not only is the child not to be the center of the home, but more than this, the child is not to stand on equal footing with the parent. The child is not the parent’s friend or peer. Parents must hold a position of authority over the child. Parents must avoid establishing a democracy in the home.

As your child’s teammate, you are not his opponent, but you lack the authority to guide and direct his actions and attitudes. Imagine two teammates on a soccer field. They work together toward the same objective, passing the ball between each other to get the ball in the net. But neither player has the authority to direct the other’s actions.

The spectator

No professional sporting even can exist without its fans. But let me assure you, there are no spectators in the sport of parenting. Children need parents to actively participate in their lives, not stand back and watch. I have discussed the importance of preventing behavior problems in our children. If you act as a spectator, you are essentially waiting to see how your child will behave. You are then left to deal with behavior problems after they happen. If you find yourself in a spectator role, stand up and join the game.

The coach

If this was your guess, you’re right. You want to be your child’s coach. You are your child’s teacher, even after you have sent him off to school. You hold authority over your child to train him, teach him, hold him to a standard (hopefully a high one), set limits, redirect or correct him when problems arise, stand in support of the child, and offer encouragement and praise where it’s due.

Evaluate your role

Take a minute to step back and evaluate your role in the game of life. If you see yourself as your child’s opponent, teammate, or spectator, take that as your cue to work on your relationship. Change your course and do all that you can to solidify your position as your child’s coach in life.

Use the power of encouragement

Just last night, my oldest, William, demonstrated very clearly the power of encouragement. It’s fitting since my last post talked about using your relationship (love and encouragement) to motivate children to obey.

Here’s the story. Earlier in the day, the house had gotten to be quite a mess, and I needed to find a way to motivate my kids to clean up. As funny (or sad) as it sounds, the sun was finally out, and I wanted this cleanup job to happen very quickly. (Here in Seattle we need to get outside the minute the sun comes out.) So I told them I would set the timer for 10 minutes and they needed to clean up as much as they could without stopping (or stopping to complain).

After the playroom was clean, we moved upstairs to clean bedrooms. Again, I set the timer. This was all great encouragement, but when I passed by William’s room, he was cleaning very intently. In fact, he was in the process of neatly folding his pajamas and putting them on top of his dresser. He was very deliberate about it. I told him what a great job he was doing.

He also earned extra marbles for the great job he did. (We have a marble system that enables them to trade one marble for 10 minutes on the iPad or iPhone.) Lucas got three marbles for cleaning up, and I was sure to tell him that he would have earned more if he hadn’t complained. William did such a great job that I gave him five marbles. (Understand that they only earned marbles after the fact, so it was a reward, not a bribe.)

This was all so great, but I’m not done yet. Later that night, I sent William upstairs to get started getting ready for bed. He knew he needed to take his vitamins, brush teeth, and get in the shower. By the time I got upstairs, he was in the shower. What put a smile on my face were his clothes, folded ever so neatly and placed in a pile on my bed. They went right in the hamper anyway, but usually, he leaves them in a heap on the bathroom floor.

Plus, he had set the egg timer that was sitting on top of my dresser. When he got out of the shower, he checked and found that he had 10 minutes left. He had challenged himself to get ready for bed before the timer went off (much like our timed cleanup job).

It’s so refreshing to me to see that just a small amount of encouragement (verbal praise and a few marbles) can have such great power to motivate my kids. Try something similar in your home and see if you get the same results.

Does your child have motivation to obey?

Source: parentinghopes.com

Do you give your child enough of a motivation to obey? I’m not talking about reward charts and potty training incentives. I’m talking about your relationship.

Yes, our children should obey (the first time) because we expect them to. We expect them to obey our word. But when that obedience isn’t happening, we should ask ourselves whether the child has enough motivation.

When you spend your days angry and frustrated by your child’s behavior, imagine how he feels. He spends his days with an angry, frustrated mom who does nothing to encourage or show love for him. He spends more time in timeout than playing, being silly, or being loved. Sometimes, in these times of frustration, mom’s expectations are unreasonable and unfair. Mom’s inconsistency complicates the matter.

Our children will rise to whatever expectation we set for them. But they must have motivation to do so. If they’re not feeling loved or encouraged, they’re not going to go out of their way to please us. If they expect that we’ll be disappointed, they figure they may as well not even try.

It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The child misbehaves. You’re disappointed. He misbehaves some more. You’re all the more disappointed. You try to buckle down, eventually setting inconsistent, unrealistic expectations. The child is exacerbated and misbehaves more. Weeks or months go on like this, and the child loses all motivation.

Who will be the first to break the cycle? The parent, I hope. The child is a child and is only following the path you set for him. If you find yourself in a cycle like this, consider tossing aside all of your discipline for a day or two. Cancel all meetings, play dates, etc. Just be in the moment with your child and do all you can to show your love. Be silly. Go on walks. Let him stop at every twig and leaf that interests him. Go out for ice cream. Snuggle while reading books.

Don’t think of these things as rewards for his misbehavior. Think of them as the necessary lifeblood for your relationship. Inject life and love back into your relationship. Lay that foundation of love and encouragement, and then if he continues to misbehave you can correct in love, not frustration.

Always remember that our ultimate goal is not perfect obedience, but a loving relationship between parent and child. Parenting is nothing without a child who wants to please us. Lose that and you lose everything. So do all you can to encourage obedience, but always make sure your child is motivated to please you.

Dads are parents too

New Daddy

It’s Babywise Blog Network Week! All week, we’ll be featuring blog posts from other Babywise-friendly blogs. The schedule is as follows:

·     Monday: Valerie Plowman, Chronicles of a Babywise Mom 
·     Tuesday: Maureen Monfore, 
Childwise Chat 
·     Wednesday: Hank Osborne, 
Daddy Life
·     Thursday: Rachel Rowell, 
My Baby Sleep Guide
·     Friday: Bethany Lynch, 
The Graceful Mom 

Help us promote solidarity within the Babywise/Ezzo community by subscribing to these blogs.

______________________________________

By Hank Osborne from DaddyLife.net

There is no greater calling for a man than that of being a husband and then a father. Dad has a responsibility to love, protect, and provide for the family. The Daddy Life podcast and blog was created to help dads fulfill those responsibilities and more. The choices a dad makes directly affect the future of the family, the community, the nation, and the world. Our society often portrays parenting to be a spectator sport for dads. This is unfortunate and yet is too often an accurate description. Some kids grow up with their dads not even being fans of parenting at all given the overwhelming evidence available as listed in The Father Factor. It doesn’t have to be this way and it shouldn’t. Parenting works best as a team sport rather than as a solo sport or a tag-team sport.

If you read enough material authored by Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo you will learn very fast that they put a premium on the husband-wife relationship. Mr. Ezzo goes as far as to say that you will only be as good of a parent as you are a spouse. I agree with this and encourage you to work to keep your marriage strong. This will be a great live demonstration for your children while also keeping you and your spouse tuned in to each other during this parenting journey and for when your children are grown.

There are some other things that dads in particular need to be intentional about that will help him maintain his role as a key player in parenting. The following are four out of the eight items that Gary Ezzo calls The Father’s Mandate:

1. A father must give his children the freedom to fail. Your children need the freedom to fail–in front of dad. So many adults are haunted by the fact that they feel like they could never live up to their dad’s expectations. Achievement and relationships are areas that every person will experience failure. Dad’s job is to help them find the good in those failures so their kids can learn and move on.

2. A father must be the encourager of the family. We’re not just talking about encouraging words but a spirit of encouragement. Dads can leave little notes for the kids in their lunch boxes telling them you love and are thinking about them. Dads can write a letter each year on their child’s birthday telling them how much the child means to them. How many of us wish we had just one single letter like this from our dads? Ladies, remind your husbands about this one!

3. A father must guard his tongue and his tone and learn to measure his response against the excitement on their faces. Mr. Ezzo does such a great job explaining this one. In Daddy Life podcast episode 17 I included a clip of him telling a story about how he learned the importance of this mandate in his own home. It had to do with the 1980s and his wife and daughters getting “perms” for the first time. I promise, you will laugh out loud at this one. Dads and moms need think before they speak. Keep in mind that your kids might be trying to be helpful. They might be following instructions given by the other parent. Try to understand the context of the situation before responding too quickly.

4. A father must routinely embrace his children. This sounds so simple, but it can be difficult, particularly for some dads who are not the hugging type. Mom’s hugs most often provide a feeling of comfort and love. Dad’s hugs deliver feelings of security and safety. Dads of girls need to be sure they do not change how they treat their daughters in this area when their bodies begin to mature. Don’t be afraid of your girls just because their bodies are changing. Continue to show them love in the same way, otherwise you might be setting them up to look for that safety and security in someone else’s arms. I recently had a guest (Stacy Ratliff) on the Daddy Life podcast. He is the father of three teen girls and he reemphasized this one during the interview.

So those are some of the macro-level things for dads and even moms to work on. I want to wrap this post up with a short scenario and some tips to help dads remain a team player in the parenting journey on a day-to-day basis.

These are the ways I’ve learned over the years to help me become more of a team player.

Do your Couch Time! – Yes it IS that important.

If dad has a job situation that allows for occasional calls from mom, then show an interest and give your wife the freedom to call when she needs input from you. This is a way to engage in the game of life with your wife and children when needed. Occasionally things have happened that prompted my wife to call me at work during the day to ask my opinion on how to respond. It might have been a behavior issue, a feeding/nursing problem, or even a health issue that she wanted a different perspective on before taking action. It makes me feel valuable when she truly wants my input in a problem area. My wife is in the trenches solo from the time she gets up until I get home in the evening. She has found herself in situations where she couldn’t see the forest because of the trees. My wife knows that she can call me. Dads should be willing to take these calls.

We have learned from the Ezzos to be thinking parents, and to do this effectively as a team we need to agree to a game plan. That means we need to regularly communicate so that neither of us are making important decisions in a vacuum and we are both working off of the same game plan. Call your wife on the way home from work. This helps you to know what your wife is working on with each of your kids and what the issues of the day might be. Mom sometimes needs to alter the game plan a little to work on a specific behavior issue and dad can undo all the ground that has been gained in that area by giving different consequences (or none at all) when he comes home. Know what the issues are, what encouragement or discipline is being used, and be ready to reinforce it when you get home.

Choose what you listen to on the way home carefully. It should be something that would help you transition out of your workday. Also be ready to turn your work off so to speak. This may require a few minutes at home to change clothes and regroup before fully engaging with your wife and the kids. Let your wife know what you need when you come through the door at the end of the day.

Be fully involved. Pick a single sport game to watch during the weekend and then turn off the TV. If you like to watch a sport with your kid(s) then record it and watch it with your child later when you can fast forward through the commercials. If you are anything like me you don’t want your little ones watching commercials for Hardees’s, Victoria Secret, or GoDaddy just to name a few.

Take a child with you when running errands. My oldest is beginning to realize that riding along to the big box store is not always the most fun for him, but the younger ones don’t care what you are doing with them as long as you are together. My oldest is getting to a point where he wants to have input into what we do when we spend time one-on-one.

Take care of all of the kids solo. Let your wife go out for a day or even a weekend. You will not do things perfect and the house might be a wreck by the time the weekend is over, but give your wife a break. Walk a day in her shoes. You will get a whole new appreciation for the job she performs while you are off “killing it and dragging it home”. You will gain a whole new level of respect from your wife by even attempting this one. Call in a grandparent for reinforcements if necessary, but at least give it a try once in a while.

Dads are parents and they should act like it. Be weird. Be different. Be more than just a biological father to your children. Be a Daddy.