PicturePhoto: Wallpapertvs.com
I suggested something in my book, The Power of Dadhood, to make a point. The statement was, “Don’t think of a camel.” You may ask why I would say something like that, especially in a book about fatherhood and parenting. As I am about to answer that question, I ask you... “Did your camel have one hump or two?”

While my request was to NOT think of a camel, most of you did think of a camel in varying degrees of detail. The point being that human mind does not pick up on negative descriptors such as “don’t” or “isn’t” to the same degree as the subject or object of a sentence. The same thing happens when talk to your kids.  Tell your six year old ballplayer, “Don’t strike out!” and you've put the thought of striking out in his head. Better to say “Keep your eye on the ball!” a much more positive and helpful suggestion.


This example was to show how negativity can sneak its way into our conversation. But negativity can also be as obvious as...well, ugly on a camel (see photo) .  So what can we do to avoid negativity in the home? 

Buddha said "what you think, you become".  The Swami Vivekananda was quoted as saying "We are what our thoughts have made us; so take care about what you think"
.
We are what we think about! Too often, what we think about is what we hear all day. Your children are exposed to negativity quite a bit these days and the least you can do as a parent is to not add to the negativism they will face in the world. 

Be Aware and Beware of the Negativity 

Before I get into more specifics for the home, here are some examples of how we react to the negativity that's continuously reported in the hyper-present media.

  • Parents become over-protective of their children due in part to the frequent news of child-abductions. No doubt there are children that have been saved by this over-protectiveness, but far more have been restricted from fun adventures and stimulating experiences like those I had as a child playing on my own and with friends. The dangers then were likely the same, and if it was safer in my day, it is only because fewer people have abducting children introduced into their thinking.
  • Every day you hear about the persistent threat of terrorism, then one day a strange looking man walks into your church. The service is almost over yet he walks in late, with a briefcase…and we wonder, if not worry. Fleeting thoughts of danger comes to one's mind about the man and his briefcase. It is true that terrorism is more common in today's world, but the likelihood of you being injured by terrorists is less than your chance of winning the lottery. 
  • Police are held to a higher standard, and when we see them make a mistake or act in a roughish manner, we assume more of them are inept or acting illegally than truly are. Their acts to protect and serve us are taken for granted and often forgotten.
We are affected by the constant barrage of negativity and bad news that now surrounds us with the twenty-four hour news cycle. 


Minimize Negativity in Your Home

In the home, parents are the equivalent of the media. If you focus on the negative, so will your children. If you tell them they are bad, they will come to believe you. If you tell them over and over that they are lazy, they will accept that they are lazy and may become so in reality.

I’ve read in various articles on language that positive statements must outnumber negative statements three or five to one, otherwise the conversation will be harmful to the person you are talking to. There is always a better way of saying something if you care enough about the person to whom you are speaking.
  • Instead of saying “How can you be so stupid!” say, “Can you explain to me why that happened?” 
  • Instead of saying “You look terrible in that dress!” say, “I think your blue dress would look even better!”
  • Instead of saying “I am so disappointed in you!” say, “I know you can do better than that.”
Beyond what you say, it is how you act, react, and treat other people that will paint a picture for your children. We are not often aware of how we look to others. That requires some self-awareness on our part. It takes an incident, a comment, or self-reflection to see ourselves as others may see us.

An article in Psychology Today gives this advice: "choose your words wisely and speak them slowly. This will allow you to interrupt the brain’s propensity to be negative, and as recent research has shown, the mere repetition of positive words like love, peace, and compassion will turn on specific genes that lower your physical and emotional stress. You’ll feel better, you’ll live longer, and you’ll build deeper and more trusting relationships with others—at home and at work."

Translated—THINK before you speak, especially when it involves correcting your kids. Try to be positive even when the situation is not. You and those you are speaking to will come out ahead.

At the extreme end of a negative environment, where excessive shouting and even violence can occur, children can be traumatized. Being exposed to such behavior disrupts children’s brain development and impairs their later health and well-being. This must never happen! Be honest with yourself and get help quickly if this happens too often.


Lastly, humor has a way of relaxing any atmosphere. Be humorous, or at least lighthearted, as often as the situation allows. With that said;

What do you name a camel with NO humps?

Humphrey! 


Get it?  :)

 
 
PictureThe North Shore of Oahu. Photo: M.Smith
This is a follow up to my last post -  The entire point of the story was that all kids growing up need oversight! This involves being proactive, providing a little, maybe a lot, of mentoring. Some kids need oversight more than others and many need more than you might think. Parents are the ideal teachers and are in the best position to provide the help their children need, but only if they are aware of their children’s weaknesses. Regardless of their weaknesses, or strengths, all children could use help with basic life skills to succeed. The life skill I’d like to discuss here is “looking ahead and planning”.

Life is complicated, busy, and demanding. At least it is for those that are really living! One technique most of us use to deal with a busy schedule or faulty memory is a list. There are grocery lists, to do lists, top ten lists, honey-do lists, lists of goals, lists of suspects, Christmas lists, checklists, emergency lists, etc.

The Launch List Revisited

I wrote an article a few weeks back, Six Suggestions for Success: The Ultimate Fatherly Advicein which I brought up the idea of a “Launch List”. This idea revolved around having a list of things to learn which would help to launch your adult life or a career. Whereas a bucket list is about completing one’s life, a launch list is preparing for one’s life.

I think it is a good idea for parents to talk to their children about such a list, e.g. “What is it that I need to do to prepare for my next challenge?”  Take the phrase, “…my next challenge”, and replace it with whatever is important to you (school, a job, my career, a sport, my marriage…). This could be a Master List which then could consists of sub-lists. As an example, the Master List could be “What should I do to be well-rounded and a desirable employee in my chosen career? Let’s call it “My Career Checklist”

My Career Check List

·         What am I good at?
·         What do I enjoy?
·         What are some options?
·         What are my strengths and weaknesses?
·         What schools are best for me?
·         Should I go to college near home or far away?
·         Is college right for me, or should I go to trade school?
·         Am I on the right track in my current studies?
·         Will I have help with tuition or will I have to work and borrow?
·         What will my resume need to look like to apply for college or a trade school?

Now let’s take the last bullet as an example and start a sub-checklist. Let’s call it:

Resume Preparation

·         What are necessary preparations for applying to college/a trade school?
·         What summer jobs are available for money and/or experience?
·         What are the requirements for an internship at XYZ?
·         What credits do I need to graduate?
·         What civic duties can I perform to match my interests and future employment?
·         How do I write a proper resume?

You can now create a list from a bullet in ‘Resume Preparation’. It can go from very general to quite specific. It depends on the individual and what works for them. The more you dig, the better prepared you will become.

Now are the actual lists critical? That all depends on how organized you are, how your memory works, or how hectic your schedule may be. The idea of a list is all about thinking ahead and preparation. It may be that after writing a list, you rarely look at it again! But writing the steps down helped you make decisions in an organized manner.

Gen Eisenhower was quoted regarding his preparations for the Normandy invasion, “The plans were useless, but the planning was invaluable.” It may be that you end up in a different place than your original plan had intended, but not because of inattention or lack of planning. A plan that can never change is likely not a very useful plan.

Live for the Present, but Plan for Tomorrow

As mentioned in my previous article, I stopped looking ahead after receiving my pilot wings. What I should have done was plan on being the best pilot in my unit, volunteering for extra duties, extra missions, and being available when substitutes were needed. While I certainly believe in the axiom “live in the moment”, that doesn’t mean wandering about aimlessly. Living in the moment includes awareness of the future. I could have set my goal as being an instructor or check pilot. I took none of these actions because I didn’t know what I wanted out of my Air Force career outside of flying. I found that in life, succeeding is just a step that necessitates more success to keep moving forward, which is not a bad thing. Why stop at good when excellent is better? Why not strive for being the ‘best’!

When you are the fastest runner on your high school track team, you stand out. But when you join all the other fastest high school runners in college, you compete at a different level. Continued success is more difficult. To make the Olympic Team as a runner, you now must beat the fastest runners from all the colleges. You can’t settle too early if you have the talent or you will have ultimately failed to be your best. You can be a success at whatever level you choose. You will be praised for making your college track team—by those not knowing you had more to give. On the other hand, if you had no desire to succeed as a runner, that is okay. But strive for something worthwhile.

Succeed from your Failures

Plan to be the best at where your talents and desires take you. I missed my chance at being a better officer on active duty. I took that lesson and applied it in the Air National Guard. I also put it to use to write a book, which was much more difficult for me than what it would have taken to be a better pilot. But had I become that great pilot, I may have never written my book. Lesson being, you can always succeed from your failures!

It’s the person who plans and prepares, who dreams and acts, who fails and recovers, that creates advantages for themselves and finds success.


 
 
PictureIn the AIr Force and with Kathy and our grandkids.
This is a story about looking ahead. But to tell it, I have to look back to my past. Way back when, when I was a teenager and in my early twenties, I had a lot of obstacles to overcome and I succeeded in doing so. But after overcoming those early obstacles, any future successes I had were average at best. I will tell you why I think that happened. Part of that reason was not having some basic life skills.

One of the responsibilities of a parent is to nurture their children. Nurturing is a step above loving them. It is preparing them, or better yet, it is teaching them ‘how to prepare’ for their future adult lives. For instance, men aren’t always prepared to be fathers, nor are women always prepared to be mothers--sometimes even minimally. This is often due to not being taught about those responsibilities by their own fathers and mothers. Those opportunities to teach/mentor, when lost, will multiply with each generation if allowed to continue. 

One of the best things your children can learn from you is how to think and plan ahead for themselves. Very few young people prepare properly for anything. I fell into the trap of not looking ahead myself and I regret it.


My Story

As a twenty three year old lieutenant in the Air Force, I knew I would be attending survival school after graduation from Undergraduate Pilot Training. But for some reason (and I now know why), I did not prepare for this challenge. To no one’s surprise, it was a very physically and mentally challenging course. I was not in peak physical shape and lagged my peers more than I should have. I also was not mentally prepared for training situations that simulated potentially grave circumstances of survival or capture. Don’t get me wrong, this was not Seal Team training, but it was tough enough, especially when you are not prepared. I passed the course but I was disappointed with myself and in my performance.

The reason I was not prepared is because I stopped looking ahead. My goal since childhood had been to be an Air Force pilot. When I attained that long-lived passion, my life of unexpected achievement stopped. My friends and family had always looked at my goal of flying as a pipe dream. Up until that point, and basically on my own, I had gone from the oldest of six children in a single parent, very low income home, to a college scholarship from a great university, a commission in the US Air Force, to the day my wife and mother pinned on my silver pilot wings. Then I lost my way.

I was pushed by a passion, not by a philosophy or life skills. I did not have a great deal of confidence. I was not prepared for either the interaction or competition of others, or the loss of a passion to pull me forward. It was a weakness of mine at that time and I was just not ready for such things. But this is not about me blaming myself or others for my naivety.  It’s about opening our eyes to the notion that we often assume too much of others, ignoring or not being aware of their needs. While I grew up without having to be taught responsibility, I never had experiences that taught me confidence. To become an Air Force pilot without having confidence, while competing with self-assured, even some cocky Air Force Academy graduates who already had four years of military training, was a near miracle for me. My passion had carried me through. But what would I do without passion to keep me going?

I’m sure my father thought he loved us, but he did not nurture nor did he even take care of his family. He did not prepare us for everyday challenges or for our lives ahead of us. My mother was seventeen when I was born and was raising six children by the age of twenty-seven.  She did not have the time, assets, or experience at that point in her life to nurture or prepare any of us. Day to day survival was often difficult. Beyond that, my mother thought I was the least of her worries among her brood--and I was.

As a boy, I appeared to have it together. I was never in trouble. I did my homework. I helped my mom with my brothers and sisters. My grades were good and I was relatively respectful to my elders. So the little demons in my world were invisible to most. I’m sure my mom knew I was overly shy and tentative, but compared to truancy and troublemaking by my rambunctious siblings, not a big deal.

Although I understand why, and I’m not the least bitter about it, too much was assumed about my maturity. I stood out in some ways that made it look like I was okay, which I was in many respects. But I had no idea how I would have escaped my situation if I didn’t have a passion.

So now I was an Air Force pilot. I loved it and all seemed well for me and my chosen career, but I began to spin in place. I still did not feel comfortable in my own skin. I hid my lack of confidence as best I could, but it was manifested in my lack of aggressiveness. After six years of flying, I left the active Air Force not really having a plan. I still have regrets about that decision to leave, but I will not expand here. For the next twenty years I lived in mediocrity with regard to professional achievement. I always worked hard and responsibly, but rarely did I do so with passion. When you have nothing shiny (appealing) in front of you to reach for, you don’t reach. I didn’t know what was wrong with me and my choices.

Nurturing/Teaching/Mentoring

Moms and dads, if your child has a passion, let them ride it. If they don’t have a passion, help them explore possibilities. In either situation, teach them to always have goals to strive for and plans to get there, pushing those goals higher and higher as they near each one. And look for weaknesses in your children’s character that you can help them to overcome. Don’t expect a child to come to you and ask for help with their fears.

While I survived professionally with modest success in those twenty years, it remained a very rewarding period for me because my wife Kathy and I were raising our children. After my dream of being a pilot, I had a new dream of being a good father. While I failed in some aspects of that most important of responsibilities (after all, I had no model) my love, dreams, and respect for my children were real.

By my mid-forties, I had learned the confidence and self-assurance that, when missing, had made my life so tentative. Yes, it took quite a while as I read some wonderful self-help classics. Today, many people can’t fathom how I used to be. I became more assertive and forward-looking. My latest passion is helping men to be good dads through my writing. Now, as a grandfather, I have all these great thoughts on what parents can to do for their kids. Thoughts that I was not aware of myself as a young father but came to me as I have seen what can work as a dad and what can work for his children. I now want to share those thoughts through my book The Power of Dadhood, and this blog Helping Fathers to be Dads’. If my experiences can help a parent understand their roles better, I am very happy to do so!


Conclusion

The theme in this article, beyond the need for parental nurturing, was looking ahead, planning ahead, and never allowing a goal to be reached without having another goal to continue towards. In my next post I will expand my ideas on teaching your children how to plan ahead. I hope you continue to read and share my thoughts on parenting, on fatherhood, on ‘Dadhood’! Thank you! And yes, I do have other goals ahead of me!


 
 
Picturephoto: Michael B. Smith
Somehow it became chic for some to look down on people with advantages. I’ve never been jealous or resentful of anyone with advantages. I have, however, been very disappointed with those who don’t take advantage of their advantages.

People with advantages do have it easier, and there is nothing wrong about that. Advantages bring success when used properly. Every success brings more advantages, allowing for even more success. That’s what parents are supposed to do for their children--to give them the advantages of an education--both formal and informal, a belief in themselves, and a safety net to catch them and throw them back into the fray as failures occur—and they will.

I made a comment in one of my recent posts about winners--meaning those with a positive attitude and termination. What I said was, “winners without advantages will beat losers with advantages almost every time”. I was encouraging ‘positivity’, something that isn’t always easy to have when you are constantly swimming upstream, but necessary if you desire to reach your goal.  

Surprisingly, I was admonished for saying that by some men who also blog about being dads. One said this,

“Tell my dad that a winning attitude made him a winner as he cleaned human feces off of bathroom walls because the men he worked for despised him based only on his phenotype.”

This man continues,

“A winning attitude in life can change a lot of things but there are some things, many things, that will require much more than a smile and happy-go-lucky demeanor to bring change. There are many whose voices we will never hear, who had winning attitudes but were eventually beat down by life and a system meant to keep them from achieving their best. Tell those people not to take a handout when they've no hope left. If you've never been truly hopeless, I have a hard time hearing you tell people to have a winning attitude. If you have... I mean truly hopeless and spent time in that place where you thought it would never end... preach on.”

You know what? I have also washed feces off bathroom walls as a young man. It’s an honest, if not desirable, job which allowed me to earn money as I was attending high school. That job was an early step in my journey to succeed.

I have to admit, I had to look up “phenotype”. I think the writer means his father was a minority. I admit I did not have this burden. People who despise others, only for their phenotype or race, are disgusting, heartless, reprobates (look it up)! Those people are out there in every size, shape, and color. You can’t let them be the focus of your life. The burden for minorities is greater in some circumstances, and certainly so in years past. However, in the western world, there a very few healthy individuals who are actually in a position to have “no hope left”.

This gentleman said a winning attitude doesn’t help when we have a “system meant to keep them from achieving their best”? I’m not sure which system he is suggesting that would do this in 2014, but there are also systems which are designed to help the disadvantaged. One system, that helped me, gave college scholarships to economically disadvantaged students. Who, by the way, usually had to have winning attitudes to be in a position to get those scholarships.

Another comment I received:

“A winning attitude? That's the key?? Not more money for education, not police unfairly targeting minorities, or the proliferation of guns in this country?

More money for education will do NOTHING until more parents get involved and more students buckle down. The US already spends more per capita towards education than any other country, but we are far down in world rankings of educational achievement. Even the children of Viet Nam beat American students in educational achievement. Why is it that Asian youths in our own country do so much better than children of other races? Because education is emphasized in their families.

Police unfairly targeting minorities? Yes, unfortunately it happens. But it is not near as prevalent or irresponsible as some would have you believe, especially in 2014. Minorities targeting themselves through gangs and drug use is a much larger problem and contributes to their having a light shone upon them by law enforcement.

Proliferation of guns? My question is who has illegal guns? Not people with winning attitudes!

These two men who responded to me have a very negative view of life’s possibilities. I’m sure they believe what they say and there is some modicum of truth to it. Life is certainly not fair, but there are ways to tilt it in your favor. The notion of a winning attitude is ‘Pollyanna’ if you take little or no action. It’s real if you add determination and will power.

In his book, Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill named thirty-one major causes of failure. Let me name a few.

·         Lack of a well-defined purpose in life.

·         Lack of ambition

·         Insufficient education

·         Lack of self-discipline

·         Lack of persistence

·         Inability to cooperate with others

·         Possession of power that was not acquired through self-effort

Of all the thirty-one reasons for failure, only one could not be "easily corrected"  by any individual. That reason was “unfavorable hereditary background”. He did not mean race or national origin, he meant those with a “deficiency in brain power”.

If you wait for advantages to come your way or fret that others have them, if you blame others for your fate, if you constantly say, “it’s not in the cards for me”, if you are cheated, deceived, or overlooked and agonize over it, YOU LOSE!

Take any reason for failure that exists in you, outside of “a deficiency in brain power”, and add ambition, education, self-discipline, persistence, and cooperation, while not depending on others, then you will be a success by your very nature! One of the best advantages anyone can have is a positive attitude--and the most effective advantages are those you create for yourself!

These are lessons that parents should live by and teach to their children.


 
 
Picture
This is what good dads looks like.
He has a bald spot on the back of his head. He is overweight and misses his days as a smoker. He never finished high school, but he has an honest, difficult job and works very hard every day. He has a charming habit of mispronouncing words and has a hearty laugh. He has two children who are adored by him and their mother. They are getting the education and fatherly attention he never had. They have been encouraged, loved, guided, and corrected. You will not find a more dedicated father. This is what a good dad looks like.

This next dad is quiet. He loves sports but will pass up a big game for family. Growing up without a loving father, he was fortunate to have a mother and aunt who worked together to raise him and his sister. His aunt took him to basketball and baseball games, cultivating his love of sports. He waited into his thirties for the right person to marry and they now have a young son and a daughter on the way. You should see the look in his eye when he talks about, or plays with his two year old son. He makes sure he has lots of balls around, just in case his son takes to them. 
Diapers, cooking, laundry, he pitches in no matter the chore. This dad will be the dad he never had. His dedication to fatherhood and family are as obvious as his soft-spoken nature. This is what a good dad looks like.

Thankfully, the third dad did have a loving father. This dad is hard working, staying up late to catch up with a work-load that could never be caught. When he does take a break, he researches his interests in nature, science, and a myriad of other things. But he is never too busy to teach his two young daughters about different kinds of bugs, the constellations, or plants. He combs his older daughter’s hair in the morning, not as well as her mother, but not bad. Often he speaks German to his girls to spark their interests in language, even his one year old. This dad talks up to, not down to his daughters. He teases, hugs, bathes and loves. This is what a good dad looks like.

These are men I know in my life that are worthy of being symbols of excellent fathering. So what does a good dad look like? He’s tall and short, fat and skinny, Black, White, and Brown, bald or bearded, quiet and loud, but most of all proud—to be a dad!


Good Dads in Movies and on TV

In an earlier post, I discussed how the entertainment and advertising industry do a good job at making dads look bad. But I was reminded by an article in the Orange County Register that there have been some really good dads in the entertainment world. So with full credit to Amy Bentley, Contributing Writer to the Orange County Register, here are the good dads from movies and TV. 

(Tell me if you notice anything about this list, as I did.)

Atticus Finch from "To Kill a Mockingbird"


Single dad Atticus teaches his children dignity and integrity when he defends a black man from the racist justice system in Alabama in this classic film.

Daniel Hillard from "Mrs. Doubtfire"

The memorable Robin Williams disguises himself as a nanny to spend more time with his children in this comedy film.

Chris Gardner from "The Pursuit of Happyness"

Chris ends up homeless with his son while pursuing a career as a stockbroker but never abandons his dream of a better life.

Marlin from "Finding Nemo"

This caring clown fish searches the ocean to find his lost son and teaches him to be strong and independent.

John Walton Sr. from "The Waltons"

This TV family patriarch was a hardworking man who would do anything to protect his kids.

Matt King from "The Descendants"

Matt copes with difficult circumstances while trying to do the right thing by his kids – and his ancestors – in modern-day Hawaii.

Guido Orefice from "Life is Beautiful"

When this Jewish-Italian man and his little boy are sent to a German concentration camp during World War II, Guido convinces his son it's all a game to shield the boy from the horrors of the camp.

Charles Ingalls from "Little House on the Prairie"

Michael Landon's portrayal of the industrious, protective and wise dad from this TV series made the show an all-time pop culture favorite.

Widower Steve Douglas from "My Three Sons"

Steve did a great job raising his kids, including an adopted son, with help from his father-in-law, in this TV sitcom.

Howard Cunningham from "Happy Days"

Who wouldn't want Howard for a dad? He was funny, fair-minded and easygoing – a great 1950s dad.

Mike Brady from "The Brady Bunch"

In one episode, Marcia Brady nominates Mike for a Father of the Year award, which he wins. Most "Brady Bunch" fans would agree this down-to-earth dad deserved the award.

Ward Cleaver from "Leave it to Beaver"

Ward taught morality and always had time for his children, in this series about an idealized suburban family in the 1950s.

Philip Banks from "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air"

This family patriarch was actually the Fresh Prince's uncle in the hit 1990s sitcom, but his stern and loving manner earned Uncle Phil plenty of fan love.

Jim Anderson from "Father Knows Best"

Jim was the nurturing patriarch of a TV family that became ingrained in American pop culture for its idyllic presentation of family life in the 1950s.



A good dad (or mom) can look exactly like you!

 
 
PictureA painting at a US Post Office in St. Louis
There is an article below I would like to recommend to you. But first…

I am a 64 year old father and grandfather. I have written a book about what it means to be a dad and I blog about fatherhood as you are aware if reading this. I am confident in discussing parenting and fatherhood issues, especially how to raise children in a positive atmosphere. What I am not confident about is discussing the issues of race. With the incidents which occurred in Ferguson MO this year, race is the big topic--but I see it in a different light. I see it as an issue with the core family, and the significance of having fathers in the home. Being White, I could never see the issues Blacks endure as they can. But a father is a father in any culture.

In the aftermath of the tragic Michael Brown shooting, and after the Grand Jury decision, Ferguson erupted in riots. Scores or hundreds of mostly young Black men and women broke windows, looted, and burned businesses. Is this kind of behavior “Black”? Of course not! I think this very small subset of the Black community lacks values and respect for themselves, their community, and others because of broken families.

When my book, The Power of Dadhood, comes out in April 2015, you will not find any opinions or comments on race, because I didn’t consider race. I look at children, families, and fathers--and their relationships, responsibilities, and challenges. Race is relevant to the discussion of fatherlessness only when you consider the likelihood of a fatherless family situation. It just so happens that fatherless homes are much more prevalent in Black homes.


PictureUnwed Childbearing soared for Blacks during the 60s
I said something similar to this in a post a few weeks ago:

“When 72% of black children are born without a father (in the home) compared to 28% of white children, you're going to have more (young) black males (and females) out of control. It's more about responsible parenting than what race you are.”

It wasn’t always this way. Fifty years ago, Black families were many times more likely to have a father in the home. Why this changed is a debate many have. (see chart)

I know the town of Ferguson quite well. I live nearby and my brother lived there for years. It is also where my father-in-law had a business in the 1970’s and 80’s. Ferguson has the same issues that many lower social-economic towns do--youths without direction with many families that are not whole. It’s my theory and contention that if there was a way to interview every thief, arsonist and opportunist who participated in the riotous behavior in Ferguson, almost all would be from broken homes, will have had little or no mentoring, and/or were influenced by the wrong people. They didn’t care about Michael Brown or the Grand Jury decision, and if they did, justice was not on most of their minds as they broke windows, torched businesses and stole everything from hair extensions to beer. 

My quote above was interpreted as racist by several people with whom I communicate--all but one were White men. Their basic contention was that “I should not blame Black men” (fathers), I should “blame systematic racism”. It seems that any mention of race clouds the issue and many people become both offensive and defensive—one of the reasons the issues of race are never resolved. As soon as I say “Black” in any sentence, my real message of “missing fathers” is lost. Every family of every race has more potential for success when there is a strong male presence in the home. Crime, drugs, suicide, dropping out of school, all increase significantly among children who don’t have this basic need of a concerned dad.

This is all an introduction to an article a good friend sent to me. I cannot speak for or against the causes, fears, or feelings of other races, nor do I want to point fingers at anyone, other than irresponsible parents. I can speak for fathers and to fathers. It is difficult for me, however, to admonish any father who is Black, because I am White. I get it. Therefore, here is an article by a Black pastor who says the things I cannot say about the topic of fatherhood as it relates to the Black father and his family.

Please take time to read this outstanding article, Thoughts on Ferguson, by Voddie Baucham, the pastor of preaching at Grace Family Baptist Church in Spring, Texas. You and/or I may not agree totally with all of the pastor's views, but when he discusses fatherlessness and its impacts, he is right on target!

Finally

Here are facts about crime and families, without any reference to race.

A review of the empirical evidence in the professional literature of the social sciences gives policymakers an insight into the root causes of crime. Consider, for instance: *

  • Over the past thirty years, the rise in violent crime parallels the rise in families abandoned by fathers.
  • High-crime neighborhoods are characterized by high concentrations of families abandoned by fathers.
  • State-by-state analysis by Heritage scholars indicates that a 10 percent increase in the percentage of children living in single-parent homes leads typically to a 17 percent increase in juvenile crime.
  • The rate of violent teenage crime corresponds with the number of families abandoned by fathers.
  • The type of aggression and hostility demonstrated by a future criminal often is foreshadowed in unusual aggressiveness as early as age five or six.
  • The future criminal tends to be an individual rejected by other children as early as the first grade who goes on to form his own group of friends, often the future delinquent gang.
On the other hand:
  • Neighborhoods with a high degree of religious practice are not high-crime neighborhoods.
  • Even in high-crime inner-city neighborhoods, well over 90 percent of children from safe, stable homes do not become delinquents. By contrast only 10 percent of children from unsafe, unstable homes in these neighborhoods avoid crime.
  • Criminals capable of sustaining marriage gradually move away from a life of crime after they get married.
  • The mother's strong affectionate attachment to her child is the child's best buffer against a life of crime.
  • The father's authority and involvement in raising his children are also a great buffer against a life of crime.
*  Reference: The Real Root Causes of Violent Crime: The Breakdown of Marriage, Family, and Community

 
 
PictureMy wife Kathy with the main course!
To all those who read my blog, I want to say HAPPY THANKSGIVING and thank you for taking time to read my thoughts on family and fatherhood. What a great time of year it is to rediscover your family and reevaluate how you treat and communicate with each other.

It’s difficult sometimes to be with loved ones, even during the holidays. Many live out of town, some are serving in the military. There are also in-laws to consider for married couples, multiple grandparents, and unfortunately for children, divorced parents and often two homes for them to celebrate. We are stretched to see all, or too far away to see anyone. But reach out however you can to show your love and concern. 


I know of some sons and daughters who call their mother every day, and some mothers who expect and need it. I think that is great that they do this! However, I don’t call my mom every day--not even close, but we have a relationship that does not require that kind communication. My mom has no doubt of my love for her and knows I would be there for her at the drop of a hat. I know she is safe because my brother lives with her and my sister lives within two miles. 

PictureUsually, extra tables are required for large gatherings
I bring this up because you must treat each loved one differently. Some need attention, some are uncomfortable with attention.  Some are easy to be with and others can be difficult to be around. There are also perceived jealousies to deal with and sibling rivalries that come and go while others last forever. 

In light of all these factors, I suggest, that at special times and during certain events, you go one step further than you normally do with relatives and loved ones.

PictureA little touch football before enjoying our dinner.
  • Say “I love you” if you rarely do.
  • If you never hug, do so. If you do hug, hold it just a little longer.
  • Don’t carry any grudges. Forget any current issues while you are together.
  • Recall and discuss good times of the past. Don’t bring up old wounds.
  • Be sincerely interested in everyone and their families.

These are not revolutionary thoughts, just reminders. And while you may say we should be this way at all times, you are right. Realistically, however, we will not. Just go that one step further than you normally do and be thankful for all you have.

Again, I appreciate any and all of the support you have given me. Please recommend my blog and/or upcoming book to any father who is young, new to fatherhood, or seems lost as a dad. Healthy parental-child relationships go a very long way towards happy and successful lives and make events like we have seen this past week, less likely.

PS. Play touch football before eating or you'll NEVER get to it! Enjoy your turkey!

 
 
PictureJust this photo, alone, makes me think this child will be a winner!
Home! Home can be many things--your country, city, neighborhood, family, or--basically, home is where you feel comfortable. We trust home and believe in it because it is what we know and understand. However, home can be encouraging and challenging, or home can be overly comfortable and patronizing.

When we come into the world we are completely helpless, but we learn at a tremendous rate! It is important where we are and who we are around these early days, weeks, months and years of our life because it makes us who we are at our core. When I was a child, there was a story about a little boy in the wild west of Texas who fell out of the back of a wagon and was found and raised by coyotes. His name was Pecos Bill. Bill didn’t look like the other coyotes but his home was the prairie and his favorite pastime was howling at the moon. Of course this is a tall tale, but it goes towards the point.

Our potential intelligence, skin and eye color, blood and body type are set and are inherited from our parents. On the other hand, our education, motivation, values, beliefs, and appearance are not inherited but highly influenced by society and whoever raises us. So what we have is a combination of givens and variables.  Our mothers and fathers are irrefutably involved in both, even if they are absent after birth! The ‘givens’ come about through nature (genes) while the ‘variables’ are the result of nurturing (memes).

If you look at the extremes of civilizations, you can clearly see the influence of culture--that being how and where one was raised. Aborigines have a lifestyle that we in the western world would call backward while the Aborigines would say our lifestyle is frightening and too complicated. Even your religious beliefs are formed by your family and surroundings more than any research, logic or visions. While a few people change religious beliefs when they are older, it is often because they weren’t immersed in their original beliefs in the first place, again due to the influence, or lack thereof, of those who raised them.

If children and teenagers come from an incomplete environment that hasn’t taught social mores, nor the value of self-esteem and the lessons of a successful life, their odds of getting out of their environmental rut are stacked against them. We are shaped by both our genes and our memes.

From, 
The Power of Dadhood: A Better Society Starts with Dad

It is in the home...

  • ...where children should learn kindness, goodness, values, discipline, and manners.
  • ...where children should find understanding, caring, and comfort.
  • ...where successful lives should begin, with open minds, encouragement, and love.
  • ...where compassion should exist, where the safety nets of our children’s failures are made of rubber bands, ready to sling them back into the world — stronger, wiser, and with new momentum.

If we were to find these characteristics in all homes, what kind of world would we have? Certainly most homes have some of these characteristics, a lucky few have most, and some have none. I don’t have to spout statistics, although they are readily available, to convince you that in those homes where fathers are present and involved, the chances for success and happiness are much greater.”

Families are implicitly involved in forming the attitudes of their children. If you see yourself as a winner, you’ll be a winner. If you see yourself as a victim, you’ll be a victim. Winners with no advantages will beat losers with all the advantages just about every time. 



 
 
PictureRachel and April on Rachel's Wedding Day
Girls need their mothers to learn from, to believe in, and to challenge. Girls will become their mothers in many ways even though they would often deny that fact. Girls need their fathers too! Fathers are sounding boards and relief from their mothers. They have different attitudes with their fathers. Often girls approach their mothers with built-in tension. If they have a caring father, there is much less tension involved simply because men and women don’t compete at the same level.

My wife and I have two of the most perfect daughters anyone could ever have! They are even perfect in their imperfections. They both have those down perfectly! But their imperfections are the things that make them perfectly normal. When it comes down to the important things in life, they are all a parent could hope for. They are now both married with children.


PictureApril's family
April is the oldest of our three children. She is the academic, graduating Summa Cum Laude as a journalism student at the prestigious School of Journalism at the University of Missouri. She went on to get a Masters in Counseling. We always thought April would lean towards having a career, and she did, waiting to thirty years of age to marry. However, being mother is her chosen priority as of now, with a six year old and a one year old daughters. Both of whom have stolen my heart!

April works as a Career Counselor at Washington University in St. Louis, part-time as of now. The campus atmosphere and the academic aura is very appealing to her. She thrives when helping others! April and her husband Mike are matched perfectly. That’s not to say they don’t have to put up with a few small things, like we all do with our spouses. Mike is one of those guys that knows everything, I mean literally! Although I’m much older, I go to him to educate me on most matters.

PictureRachel's family
Our youngest child is Rachel. Like her sister, Rachel’s occupation involves helping others. She graduated with Master Degree in Occupational Therapy. Her specialty is working with patients who have had serious brain injuries. Because of the injuries she sees, Rachel is not happy that I own a motorcycle. She scolds me whenever she sees me or anyone climbing too high on a ladder. 

Rachel was the one that wanted to be a mom since she was a little girl, but she didn’t get married until she was twenty nine years old. As it turned out, she had a great life prior to marriage. But she used to ask me, “Dad, will I ever get married?" I told her there was no doubt. She was quite a catch!

What strikes me about Rachel is the number of close friends she has made over the years, and they never seem to part ways. She’s a real people person. Her husband Kevin is the easiest going guy to be around, quiet and unassuming. He loves sports and has made Rachel a baseball fan after I was unable to get her to be interested.  Kevin and I talk sports and go to baseball, basketball, and football games together. 

Rachel and Kevin have a son, our only grandson, who is almost two years of age. His name is Ryan and he is my buddy. Ryan loves trains, planes, and automobiles. When we babysit him, I spend hours sitting in my truck with Ryan, in the driveway, where he pretends to “drive-drive”.  Kevin and I can’t wait for Ryan to join us playing and following sports. Rachel is now pregnant with her second child, a girl. How she can be as cute and wonderful as the other three grandkids, I don’t know. But somehow they always are! My wife and I so thrilled to be blessed with these children.

Kathy and I sometimes stop and thank our lucky stars for having children who are happy with families and careers they love. Our family life has had turmoil like many do. Our kids had to put up with some of their parents antics, and we had to put up with theirs (and still do). But there was never any doubt of our support and love for each other. My daughters’ love for their brother is unparalleled! When he has been in hazardous duty situations, serving in the Army, they had difficult months worrying about him. And while my son Mike is not as open about his love for his sisters and their kids, it’s definitely there! They all have each other’s’ back.

My blog is about being a dad! I hope you can see, through my words, what a wonderful thing it can be. Son’s need a dad to see how to properly be a man. Daughters need a dad to show them how to be properly treated and fulfill a need they all have to be accepted by a man as a woman. While my wife Kathy was the primary care taker of our children, as is the case in most families, I was a very important part of their lives and I took that very seriously. Any man that doesn’t look after the needs of his family has abandoned maybe THE key role of his life. I can’t say I understand it, but I know it is not always the fault of the father alone. Still, to not stand up to your responsibilities as a father, or to fight against all odds to do so, means something is missing in their heart. That could have been caused by the lack of a real father of their own.

I like to think I had an intangible influence on my daughters’ choice of husbands. Certainly they are different than me, but there is one common thread. We all three are totally absorbed in and committed to our children! We want to be with them, teach them, and prepare them for their futures. Yes, girls need their mothers to learn how to be women. And they need their fathers to know what kind if men they want in their lives. Hopefully your daughters will want men like you, dad, if you are a good example. Hopefully they will choose men unlike you if you are not a good example. 


The trouble is this. If you are not that good example, where will your daughters find one, and will that person be trustworthy?

 
 
PictureVisiting my son in Hawaii. (His backyard!!)
I believe in certain things, as we all do. For instance, I believe America is flawed but the greatest country on earth. I believe I am responsible for my own happiness. I believe the New England Patriots cheated in the 2000 Super Bowl. I could find many who would disagree with me on any of these beliefs. After all, a personal belief is often just an opinion, not always founded on a certainty.

Opinions come about through a combination of facts, rumors, bias, family history, country of origin, religion, convenience, experience, and that one thing that you would like to add I have not mentioned. The point is this. With this combination of factors, there is little if any likelihood that we could have the same opinions or beliefs. With that said, I’m going to tell you what this father believes about our impact, as fathers, on society.

My beliefs are mine, but the basis of my beliefs come from much research, statistical analysis, and life experience. The bottom line if you do not want to read any further is this; most societal issues have, as their root cause, a decline of the family, too often, because the father is not involved with his children--if he is around at all.

1.       I believe that too many teen aged girls get pregnant because a boy wants to prove his manhood and a young girl is looking for male approval. Both are the result of a family with issues, most often because the father is not involved.

2.       I believe crime is caused by a need for drugs, disregard of honest work, and machismo.

           a.       I believe drug use is an escape from reality and caused by peer pressure, lack of self-esteem, and lack of caring or guidance.

                      i.      I believe peer pressure is strong when there is no respected higher authority.

                      ii.      I believe lack of self-esteem is due to a lack of a support structure.

                       iii.      I believe a lack of being cared for, or lack of guidance is also due a lack of a support structure.

           b.      I believe a disregard of honest work is due to that principle not being instilled in youth.

           c.       I believe machismo is a release all boys need, but with guidance.

           d.      All the above are largely the result of a family with issues, most often because the father is not involved.

3.       I believe poverty is often caused by family patterns, lack of education, and/or lack of incentive or pro-active habits.

          a.       Family patterns are what you may believe to be the norm--when you only do what you know and see. When a family is in despair, the cycle can continue if nothing is done to break it.

          b.      Lack of education is an obvious impediment to success.

          c.       Lack of incentive or pro-active habits can be brought about by being comfortable in your situation, not knowing how rewarding work and accomplishment can be. Welfare contributes to a lack of incentive for many.

          d.      All causes are largely the result of a family with issues, most often because the father is not involved.

4.        I believe suicides and homeless rates are higher, and drop outs from high school are more likely when families have issues, most often because the father is not involved.

5.       Here is a twist. I believe that police profiling is (for the most part) a result a statistical analysis that points to a much higher likelihood for young black male to commit a crime than, for example, an elderly white Mormon (for exaggeration). This is terribly sad for the vast majority of young Black males who are innocent victims of this methodology, whether it is formal or not. But any anger towards police should also be directed at those young Black males, who do commit crimes much more often than other demographics. If not for them, the innocents would not be victimized nearly as much.

           a.       And why do young Black males perpetrate more crimes than young white males? I believe it is because 72% are born without a father in the home compared to a much lower 28% of Caucasians that are born without a father in the home. It’s not a race problem, it’s a fatherhood problem.

           b.      Profiling is done everywhere, from advertisers, to college admissions, to warfare.

6.       I believe that:
  • Mothers, in general, are much more dedicated to their children than fathers.
  • Most children can be molded to be good citizens.
  • Adolescents need a leader, and they need a good man to be that leader.
  • All children deserve both a loving male and a loving female influence.
  • Families are in decline and we need to act in a grassroots manner to fight against it. 
  • Fatherly involvement is the key to a better society

Clearly, there are many other reasons, other causes, differing philosophies and disagreements as to why we have the societal issues we do. But can anyone deny that if the majority of families had a decent, caring, and mentoring fathers in the home, our issues would shrink into a manageable and healthy level? I hope to impact at least a few men, who will wake up and embrace this all-encompassing responsibility to their children. If all men would take this pledge, then society would then heal itself.