Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Dads, Deployments, and Discipline

I think  a lot about my friends who are away on deployment around this time of the year. While many of us are slowing down to spend more time with family folks in the military don't get that option at times. I tip my hat to my many friends in the armed services. I've seen some of my closest buddies spend months away from family and it's not easy at all. Their life of deployments is something I don't know if I could ever get used to. Military families have to make lots of sacrifices and adjustments in order for brave soldiers to do their jobs. Yet most of the soldiers I know along with their families make their lifestyle look easy. Deployment after deployment means these families have to adjust and re-adjust constantly. In speaking with some of my friends they've consistently mentioned parenting as being one of the struggles they face as they return home. Not only has their child matured since the last time they saw them but the parenting technique that their spouse has been using might have changed as well. That brave father or mother can return thinking one way about parenting that might have evolved while they were out to sea for the past 17 months. This dynamic can cause a fair amount of conflict. The spouse serving on the home front can easily have some discomfort as the returning deployed spouse comes back home seemingly messing up their program. The truth of the matter is that when a dad (or mom) is holding it down on the home front, they kind of operate like a single parent playing the part of mother and father. The opposite is true for the deployed soldier who is finding themselves in a pseudo-single person's way of life with only themselves to keep up with. Being able to turn off that switch is not that easy for either spouse once they return home. Making that adjustment isn't always easy.  How can the happy homecoming be a bit smoother? That answer isn't a simple one, but here are a few suggestions that might help:

1. Establish Rules of Engagement-Parenting isn’t exactly warfare…well maybe if you have a teenager….but having a good plan can help make things smoother for all involved. Using tips from a book or working TOGETHER to create your parenting rules of engagement can help create accountability for the deployed spouse and the spouse at home. Hopefully, this could lead to less confusion and less disagreements.

2. Be a Unified Front-It’s no surprise that kids sometimes try to play parents against one another. Keeping this in mind is vital when returning home from a deployment. The parent that’s been away will likely be viewed as the hero which means the child might try to exploit that unassuming parent to get his or her way. The recently returning spouse might also not want to see their child that they’ve missed for so many months get into trouble. You might hear them say, “oh cut him some slack,” or “she’s just being a kid.” If this is the 5th time that little Johnny has pushed his sister over the past couple of months, punishment might be in order. This is where the deployed spouse needs to make sure they’re on the same page with their partner. Supporting the at-home spouse’s decision to discipline the child in a situation like this works to keep the unity between both parents.

3. Resist Radio Silence Being away for months can naturally challenge the communication skills of any couple. Sporadic emails, video chats, or phone can help maintain a relationship during deployments. Once the deployment is over the day to day communication can seem extremely intense compared to when one spouse

4. Call for Back-Up There’s no shame in calling for back-up when a solider is on the battlefield. The same is true when it comes to parenting and family relations. Sometimes we just need someone to help us get out of a tough spot. There are resources out there for those families that might have a hard time with reintegration after a deployment. Several branches of the armed services have programs to help soldiers and their families. If you or someone you know is in the military and needs some support, get in contact with a unit in your area.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Baking Up Success

About a year ago my daughter started begging me for her own social media accounts. Being the protective dad that I am, I said no. In the age of cyber predators and cyber bullying, I'm sure many dad of daughters can relate to my reluctance with releasing her into the world of social media. Eventually she and her mother wore me down. Once I got over my fears of "turning my kid over to the mean streets of social media, I began to understand her plans.  My then 9 year old had dreams of using social media to showcase her cooking and her love for toys. She began to explain how she wanted to be a baker and NOT a YouTube star. If she got followers that would be fine but she says she just wants to inspire other kids on her journey to becoming a professional baker. At that moment I realized that her desire to be a business owner was very real. I could no longer deny her the right to be online.

"It's vital that dads allow their children to develop their own interests. I see too many dads attempting to force their career goals onto their kids only to find out later in life that their kid was miserable."

She's a year older now and her love for baking has intensified.  Unlike me, my daughters have grown up watching two parents run their own businesses. To top it all of she and her sister live in a time where ADULTS have become millionaires by doing the mundane task of simply opening up toys. So, it's easy to see how this focused intensity has taken root. She does have some interests in being a typical kid on social media, but she is also extremely driven to use the internet for business. My girl now has her own cooking Instagram page, YouTube channel and is actively writing her own cookbook for kids. As a media professional I'm thrilled that my now 10 year old has interests in using media to promote her business. If I'd grown up with parents that had entrepreneurship in their veins, there's no telling where I'd be right now. From a business stand point I was a bit of a late bloomer. It wasn't until the college years that I started my own business.

It's vital that dads allow their children to develop their own interests. I see too many dads attempting to force their career goals onto their kids only to find out later in life that their kid was miserable. Some kids find that living out their parents' career goals simply isn't for them. They need space to pursue their goals. Dads must prepare their kids for and direct them towards success. As a father, I have very little interest in baking. However, my wonderful daughter does.  So... guess where a good portion of my money goes to? Baking supplies of course. I've been put on notice to not buy toys, instead bring home those baking supplies. Where has my baby girl gone? I have to believe she's growing up to follow the path of success. For whatever she accomplishes in this life, I'm thankful to have had a part in helping her get equipped for her journey.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

What Did You Say!!??

"So dad my nails didn't turn out right. I tried to use this new zig-zag template and then tried an abstract design but neither worked. The abstract was too thick and ended up being all tacky," she said as dad listened with eyes glazed over. It sounds like a page out of a novel, but that quote is actually from a conversation I had with my daughter the other evening.  If you have daughters like me you know like I do that there's hardly ever a shortage of words being spoken on any given day. With the abundance of words there have been plenty of times that I've missed some detail that I was later interrogated on, but came up clueless. One of my dad superpowers is the ability to tune out female voices. My wife can confirm this. It has gotten me into trouble over the past 13 years of marriage and 10 years of parenting, but I'm learning to use my powers for good. LOL. When I get home from work there are times all I want is for complete silence, but that's normally not the order of the day. The kids give me space but they often want more so I have to comply. It's not always the easiest but their desire to connect with their "guy" usually overrides my desire for space. I know these moments will pass by quickly and I will wish for them one day. So here are a few ways that I intentionally make sure that I am connecting with them.

Dinner Together-I safeguard my schedule to ensure that I am home to have dinner with entire family at least 3 times out of the week. We're together so much that if I miss dinner at least one of the kids will complain.

High-Low-One of the conversation starters we use is a game called, "High -Low." We each take turns discussing the high points as well as the low points of our day. A lot of times playing this game leads to other conversations as we discover what one another is going through. The main rule of this game is that we make eye contact and keep our devices away from the table. It's great when there are nothing but "highs," but be prepared for the lows. While the lows are uncomfortable and demanding, they are also the times that my daughter needs me the most.

Take Notes-I recently added this one. When my daughter is "spun up" and going on and on and on about something that is important to her-(like zig-zag patterned nail polish that didn't turn out right) that I cannot relate to I stop what I'm doing and listen. Not only do I listen but I give her full eye contact and right after the conversation I make a note on my phone about what we discussed. This is nothing extravagant other than a few bullet points to refer to later. This way if I forget what she said, I have a cheat sheet. Having a daughter means as her dad I have to value what is important to her even I'm not remotely into whatever she's expressing to me. I'm convinced many kids grow up with emotional issues because their parents never actually listened to them. Dads it's never too late to start being intentional about being emotionally connected to your kids. It also helps me when it comes to remembering things so that I can be more thoughtful with  birthday gifts or be more sensitive to what the kids are facing. Hopefully some of these tips will help you keep from saying, "What did you say?" a little less often."

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Compassionate Kids

Finding children that are focused on themselves is pretty easy thing to do. I just saw the most absurd story about a 16 year old who posted videos of himself on YouTube biting into a Tide detergent pod. YouTube removed the video, but immediately posted it to Twitter, When asked why he was so determined to endanger his health just to get this video out, he mentioned he just wanted to get more hits. Social media is filled with kids doing some of the dumbest most dangerous stuff all in the name of SELF.
But what about kids that are looking out for their fellow man? It makes me feel good as a person to see kids being assets to society. Nothing brightens my day like an "end of the newscast" type story about a young child helping someone out. I was recently blown away by my own child doing just that. As we were putting our daughters to bed, my youngest began to cry uncontrollably. I thought at first it was the normal not wanting to go to bed shenanigans that flare up from time to time but I would soon find out this was something out of the norm. My daughter went on to inform us that she was really sad because she keeps thinking about the homeless people who are living outside while the temperatures are freezing cold. She went to say that she wanted to do something for them. So the next day, my wife took her to the store to buy supplies to start her homeless handout drive. She picked up bottled water, a hat, a pair of gloves, hand warmers, an applesauce cup, and a pack of tissues. All of these items were spread out on our dining room table so that we could begin the assembly line that would place these items in big freezer bags for the homeless. They were then loaded into the trunk of the car and eventually handed out to random homeless people as we encountered them. Wow! I was totally blown away to think that my 8 year old has that much compassion for a complete stranger. It kind of made me feel like I got something right and that she has been listening to her mother and I as we've tried to teach her about being compassionate towards others like God called us to. It also made me feel good that I gave her the benefit of the doubt that night she cried right before bed. We would've all missed out on an opportunity to do something great for a fellow human being if I'd simply dismissed her. So make sure you're listening and showing empathy towards your kids. You just never know when they're going to blow you away with something amazing.