If you’re like me, some of your most difficult moments have come from raising children. No matter how much blood, sweat, and tears you invest, you may always feel inadequate and imperfect. Because you’re reading this, I’m sure you want to improve as a parent (as do I).
Yet even with our pure motives and diligent efforts to improve, I have noticed a disturbing trend among us parents. Too many of us say we want to improve and change — but only if it fits into our assumptions and experiences. However, the number one thing you can do for your children is to seek truth and then parent accordingly. Yes this is simple, but not at all easy. It will be the hardest thing you will ever do.
Let me share a few of the many ways in which this occurs.
I Turned Out Okay!
Every semester I hear the same thing from several students who challenge a parenting idea that they personally disagree with. They may take issue with the fact that traditional time-outs or bribes are counterproductive to character building. Or that you don’t have to punish to discipline a child. The rebuttal comes in many shapes and sizes, but it usually comes down to one idea:
“But my parents did ____________ with me growing up (fill in the blank), and I turned out okay!”
Even if we don’t say it or think it, we’ve probably fallen victim to this philosophy more than once. Research and common sense have made it pretty clear that—for better or for worse—the way we were raised will be the primary source for how we will raise our children. Too often these built-in biases go undetected.
I get the “I turned out okay” challenge so often from students and parents that I preemptively address it by inviting them to seriously reflect on four questions:
How am I defining “okay”?
Am I really okay, and could I have been better than okay?
Don’t I want better than okay for my children?
If I am willing to dismiss research and doctrine because of my own biases, am I really as okay as I think?
Before I go further, I need to offer two important disclaimers. First, I believe that the majority of parents love their children completely and second, they are doing their very best with what they know. I believe that’s true for both you and your parents.
Conscious & Unconscious Traditions
In her book For Your Own Good, the psychoanalyst, Dr. Alice Miller observed: “Many people continue to pass on [false ideas, unhealthy attitudes and parenting practices] to which they were subjects as children, so that they can continue to idealize their parents.”
She goes on to say that we have a powerful, unconscious need to believe that everything our parents did to us was based in love, informed, and in our best interest. We often use the same parenting strategies with our kids to ensure the truth of our assumptions.
However, there are traditions and are based in truth and their are false traditions based in habit.
Case in point:
The Power of the Anecdote
Another barrier to accepting truth is the almighty power of the anecdote or personal experience. In the documentary Minds of Our Own, recent electrical engineering graduates of an Ivy League school could not solve a basic electrical problem in trying to light a light bulb. The reason is simple: their personal experiences and assumptions had overridden 4 years of training. They were ultimately unwilling—consciously or not—to let go of those assumptions.
Frankly, I get a little tired of debating with students who reject research simply because it doesn’t fit into their personal experiences. Even more frankly, although this seems to be part of human nature it can be somewhat egotistical.
When the opinions others conflict with our own, we often assume that the other person is misinformed, crazy, or even purposefully trying to deceive. We fail to consider the possibility that their ideas could actually be useful! Unfortunately, this tendency can spread to all areas of our lives—anywhere from sports to family relationships.
Now you may be asking, “Dr. Tim, aren’t you egotistical because you think that you have the truth and most parents don’t?” Although I’m passionate about learning and living truth, I am also flawed and human. I have to constantly work through my own misconceptions!
If we really want to improve as parents, we have to be willing to throw out tradition or personal experiences that aren’t evidence-based. That is the challenge!
Truly we can resist the change that we need most without even being aware of it. So I have to ask a question. Are we causing unnecessary problems and pain because we fail to see our parenting biases clearly?
Doctor, is There a Cure?
I hope that none of us wait until our children are grown to be humbled by our false beliefs about parenting. Just like our food choices, let us go after healthy sources for our parenting nourishment.
May each of us have the heart and the courage to change what is necessary. Let our traditions, upbringing, and experiences be held to the candle of what is best and proven rather than what is automatic and comfortable. I know this is within the reach of every parent because this is the most important work you will ever do.
While it may be uncomfortable, carefully examining your parenting practices can make all the difference. After all, your kids deserve to turn out better than just “okay.”
Please help us strengthen families by sharing this article with your friends and family! Likewise, to see more of Dr. Tim’s articles (as well as articles by Dr. Rob), please also check out the rest of our blog and our Facebook page.
In my driveway, we have an adjustable basketball standard or hoop. When my son Carter was 10, he liked to lower the basket to 8 feet when we shot hoops. That way he could easily make a basket. After about 5 minutes, I’d raise it a couple of feet and he would usually protest. But I knew he’d never improve his game or himself with a low standard (pun intended).
Permissive social mores have ‘let men off the hook’ as it were, so that many think it acceptable to father children out of wedlock and to cohabit rather than marry. Dodging commitments is considered smart, but sacrificing for the good of others, naive.
Unfortunately, many of those who lower the standard for dads—claiming that fathers are useless buffoons—are likely individuals whose fathers were mostly dead-beats.
The Ripple Effect of Absentee Dads
While camping near a lake, my son tried to skip a rock across the water. As it plunged into the lake, it was remarkable to watch how one little rock could cause ripples to spread for quite some distance.
When men father children and then check out of their fatherly duties, it doesn’t just impact that child. The “ripple effect” goes through both society and generations. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America, or one out of three children, now live in a biological father-absent home. Here is just a small sample of the ripple effect of absentee dads:
Infant mortality rates are nearly 2 times higher for infants of unmarried mothers than for married mothers.
Children in father-absent homes are almost four times more likely to be poor. In 2011, 12% of children in married-couple families were living in poverty, compared to 44% of children in fatherless families.
Youths in father-absent households still had significantly higher odds of incarceration than those in mother-father families.
Father involvement in schools is associated with greater academic success and achievement in their children.
There are many today who—in the name of equality—are attempting to erase any differences between men and women. However, a whole raft of research has shown the biological and psychological differences between boys and girls that are evident from birth. Boys and girls see, hear, think, feel, and learn differently. Of course both genders have much in common, but many individual and societal problems have come from trying to make men and women the same. Professor David Popenoe summarizes what this gender research means for parents:
“We should disavow the notion that ‘mommies can make good daddies,’ just as we should disavow the popular notion…that ‘daddies can make good mommies.’… The two sexes are different to the core, and each is necessary—culturally and biologically—for the optimal development of a human being.”
Because of their distinct gifts and abilities, men and women each bring a unique perspective to family life. Dads think and act differently than moms. Some of these distinct differences are in the areas of regulating aggression and general activity, cognitive skills, sensory sensitivity, and sexual behavior to name just a few.
For example, think of raising children like a person’s stability in standing, walking, and running. An individual with only their left foot (due to birth defect, amputation, or accident) can probably stand upright, especially with assistance. A person with 2 left feet (not likely, I know) may have more support. But a left and a right foot both compliment and stabilize each other.
A mother and a father is the most ideal scenario for raising children. Yet, with our current culture and laws we send the message over and over again that dads are optional.
Fathers Be Good to Your Daughters
Mounting evidence demonstrates that girls whose fathers are absent and uninvolved are much more likely to become sexually active, sexually exploited through pornography and prostitution, struggle with their male/romantic relationships, and become mothers as teens—perpetuating the cycle of children without fathers.
“Fathers, be good to your daughters. Daughters will love like you do. Girls become lovers who turn into mothers.”
Daddy-daughter dates are a terrific way to build and teach healthy relationships. I try to take each of my 3 daughters on a date every other month, and I consider it a great honor. I want them experience the kind of treatment they deserve from boys so they won’t settle for anything less. Here is a beautiful example of a dad who gets it:
Raising the Standard
Let’s help raise the standard for men. If you’re a dad like me, regularly evaluate the time (quality and quantity) you’re investing in your most important work—your family. Have consistent one-on-one chats with each of your children where they can talk to you about anything and everything. Get into your child’s world and truly understand them! William Shakespeare has said, “It is a wise father that knows his own child.”
Additionally, if you’ve fathered a child and are living with your child’s mother, please consider marriage! Professor Robert P. George wisely wrote:
“Marriage increases the odds that a man will be committed to both the children that he helps create and to the woman with whom he does so.”
If you’re a divorced father, make an effort to heal the relationship with your children’s mother. That doesn’t mean you need to remarry her. But it does mean you should try to make peace with her. The best predictor of divorced dads being involved in his children’s lives is the quality of relationship he has with their mother.
Thanks to all you fathers who hold themselves to a high standard of commitment. We can all feel their positive ripple-effect. Be one of those dads, and your children — as well as generations to come — will thank you!
Have you ever been frustrated with your children when they don’t help or clean up after themselves? Are you tired of nagging them to pick up their mess? You’re not alone! Dr. Tim teaches that how parents see their children matters more in these situations than how the kids (or the parents) act. Watch Dr. Tim’s video to learn more.
Hey there, folks! Dr. Tim here from Family Good Things. Just reporting live (as if you’re watching this live, this isn’t Facebook Live). It just seems like I’m supposed to say that, because that’s what news people do. Dr. Tim reporting live from Channel 5 . . . I don’t know. This isn’t live. This is just a video I’m recording.
I’m in Mesa, Arizona. As you can see, I’m sweating profusely. I’ve been out in 110 degree temperature walking around. I’m also repping Porn Kills Love, which is Fight the New Drug, our friends over there. They do tremendous things in helping us understand the harms of pornography to the individual, to relationships, and to society at large.
But that’s not what this video’s about. I’m here with my wife. Well, she’s not here right now, but we’re in Arizona because I’m working with a couple different organizations that are doing phenomenal things. The first one is NAFFA. It stands for the Native American Fatherhood and Families Association.
I first came in contact with them when I was recently at the United Nations. Well, last March. I was speaking there and I met Mark, who works with NAFFA, and they do tremendous things.
They’re working with hundreds of tribes across the country, native American tribes, strengthening fatherhood and families within those tribes. They have rock a solid program, and more and more people are flocking to it. They’ve asked me to work with them to help it with research, and making the program even stronger, and I’m just honored to be part of it.
So I came down here because I thought it would be a great opportunity for me, and for my students who may intern there, work for them as well.
Second organization is called the Anasazi Foundation. It’s a wilderness therapy program that was started back in the . . . I want to say 80s, working with troubled teens, but also troubled parents. Many times when people think of a troubled teen, they think the teen is troubled by themselves, or the child’s behavior is just the child’s issue. I think Anasazi gets it, and they get it really well.
So the teens go out in the wilderness for several weeks, living off the land and learning more about life, and meanwhile, back at headquarters, here in Mesa, the parents are getting instructed on tremendous principles that are paradigm shifters. In fact, their paradigm or their framework that they’ve used is from The Anatomy of Peace, by the Arbinger Institute. If you haven’t read that book, you need to. It’s one of the primary texts in my parenting class. Phenomenal book.
So I was meeting with them, picking their brain because I’m wanting to know how to make my parenting class better, especially as I’m creating it for online.
So on that note, while I’m sweaty and stinky — it’s a good thing smell doesn’t come through the speakers and through the screen. On that note, wanted to share just a couple things from The Anatomy of Peace, mostly just a personal experience I’ve had. And it’s something that you all experience every day.
A Clean Home
As a father of four children, I value . . . honestly, I value a clean home. I don’t . . . if you were to ask me, away from everything, I’d say, “Yes. I value my children much more than I value a clean home.” But it’s really easy to have something become bigger than our relationship with our children.
So, for instance, my wife had to go to a meeting for something, and I was home with the four children. And after she left, I was finishing cleaning up the dishes. And everybody has their own dish job, and they were doing it pretty good, whether it’s loading the dishwasher which is everybody’s least favorite, or setting the table, which is everybody’s most favorite.
I was rinsing the dishes and getting them ready to load in the dishwasher. And it was summertime — it is summertime, and so they’re wanting to go off and frolic outside and play. And these feelings . . . you have to be aware of your feelings.
Pay Attention to Your Feelings
Lesson number one: always pay attention to your feelings, to what is welling up inside of your heart. These feelings of almost entitlement, of I deserve, like if I’m doing all of this work, I deserve children who will . . . you can fill in the blank. In this case, I went to the living room and it had just been destroyed. Not that big of a deal, but in that moment it became a bigger deal than it needed to be.
So, inside I was kind of warring toward them. And this is the moment you start to see your children as objects and not as people, meaning their desires and their agendas and their passions and their hopes and dreams and fears, they’re not legitimate. They’re just objects. They’re objects or obstructions in the way of your agenda, which in this case was a clean living room.
So, being a well-educated father about parenting, and being an “expert,” I matched my behavior to what I should say, even though inside I was warring at this room that had just been cleaned maybe an hour earlier. You all know this. Trying to clean your home while your children are growing is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing. If you haven’t heard that phrase before, there you go.
So I asked them, and they started whining, and complaining. “It’s not my mess!” You guys know it. “It’s not my mess!” “She did that!”And then it’s all this accusing. And that only increased my feelings of, “Hey, I deserve you to clean this up because, after all I do for you . . .” You may not voice all these things, but that’s why you have to pay attention to these feelings. In The Anatomy of Peace they’re called justifications, sort of feeling why I was justified to have these feelings toward them.
And so my tone got more bite in it, and I increased my volume, and then it just invited more war and people were arguing with each other . . . We got the room cleaned up, but I’ll tell you what: the feeling in the home was not good, the feeling in my heart was not good, and they didn’t have good feelings about me.
So in essence, what happened was the living room, or the cleaning of the living room, became more important than my relationship, and really my way of being towards them, how I am towards them. And I guarantee you, your children know when they’re feeling like objects, when they’re being treated as that, when you see them as that.
Behavior Vs. Relationship
Now here’s a pointer. You have to read the book to really get this. In fact, you really need to read it several times, and you have to read it with a lot of meditating. Otherwise, you’ll just skip over these. “Oh, I don’t do that! I don’t do that.” One of the best things parents can do is spend time really pondering on when I keep running into problems — whether it’s your children eating their vegetables, cleaning up their room, bed time routines, anything else — what are my feelings like towards them and how do they perceive me perceiving them?
And if you pay attention to those feelings, you’ll start to see them more clearly and your love will help you have a more . . . a softer response, and you won’t jeopardize the relationship just for a dang room to get cleaned up, or somebody to get to bed on time.
We have to catch ourselves doing that. A lot of times we want to just use some behavioral tactic. What sort of punishment can I inflict? What sort of bribe can I give them? That doesn’t solve the problem that parents have internally. And that is, maybe I’m carrying around some sort of justification for being angry with my children or upset or . . . How come my children keep doing all these things? Or how come they . . . A lot of times we’re inviting those things by the way we see them.
Dealing with the Problem
I’m not trying to sound really philosophical, but that is absolutely one hundred percent true. So what did I do? I apologized to my children. The next day when that room needed to be cleaned up, I approached it from a much more loving way — and they were invited to join it.
And if that problem kept coming up, then we’d have to have a family meeting where I ask them questions to try to understand their perspective, because I see them as people, and their opinions are legitimate. It doesn’t mean they can get away with whatever they want, but I need to listen and learn, build my relationship, but most importantly I need to work on what’s in here.
Alright! Spend time reflecting, be honest with yourself, don’t let yourself off the hook just thinking that your children are always the problem. The problem is not the behavior. It’s always underneath behavior. Alright! See you next time!
I’ve heard this from many friends, students, and neighbors when I tell them that punishment usually doesn’t work in the way that most parents think. This question is also assuming that discipline and punishment are the same thing. They are not. Punishment is a form of discipline. Just like all apples are fruit, not all fruit are apples.
“But don’t your children have to learn consequences? How are you going to prepare them for the real world?”
Again, sincere questions but also coming from a false premise. Often times the punishments we actually give our children are not like the real world at all.
Let me give you an example. Recently on social media, I learned of a story of a child who had allegedly disrespected his teacher. The parents found out about this disrespect, and to punish him, made the child hold books over his head for an incredibly long period of time, repeating over and over “I won’t disrespect my teacher, I won’t disrespect my teacher!”
So in the real world, let’s say you get a little snippy with your spouse, or your child, or your co-worker. Do you have to hold something like your purse or your child’s bin of toys over your head and chant things like, “I won’t disrespect my child!” Is that how it is? Is that what it’s like in the real world? So at this point, you’re probably thinking,
“Well, what do I do instead?”
Great question. For more on discipline, check out my blog posts in the link below.
Please help us strengthen families by sharing this video with your friends and family! Likewise, to see more of Dr. Tim’s articles (as well as articles by Dr. Rob), please also check out the rest of our blog and our Facebook page.
No, this is not an article about your favorite band, One Direction. Sorry to disappoint. 🙂 But keep reading, and you’ll see why the title is quite appropriate.
Who Do You Know?
How much do you know about your parents? Your grandparents? I know you probably grew up with them. But that doesn’t mean that you know the intimate details about their lives . . . especially before they were parents.
I have found that even in my closest relationships, you can learn a great deal about a person from asking them the right questions. It is so easy to take those we care about for granted. To assume we know everything there is to know about them. This has certainly been the case with me. I live about 2 ½ hours from my parents, but I visit them fairly often. Recently, I have tried to ask them more questions about their lives, their feelings, their stories, and so forth. Then I just listen. And then ask follow-up questions. Wow!
My father’s health has been slowly deteriorating for several years. Things are not looking promising. So I’ve decided to sit down and interview him in order to glean as much wisdom and as many experiences as I can. I hope this can be part of our legacy as a family. My children, my wife, my siblings, and beyond will benefit greatly from these stories. But don’t just take my word for it.
Connecting Generations Through Story
Family stories, such as those passed from previous generations, act like a chain that link together family members throughout time. It gives children a sense of who they are and how to approach life. Generational stories also have several other tremendous benefits.
When 2 psychologists from Emory University worked with children before and after the 9/11 terror attacks, they found that “the ones who knew more about their families proved to be more resilient, meaning they could moderate the effects of stress.”
The researchers concluded: “The more children knew about their families’ histories, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher self-esteem, and the more successfully they believe their families functioned.”
But we can’t just pass on the greatest hits of our ancestors; they need to be real individuals with real challenges. The bitter with the sweet. For example, “We’ve had ups and downs in our family, and here is how we overcame our trials.”
Not only do inter-generational stories help in the long-term, but they also have more immediate benefits as well!
A study from Oxford University showed that teenagers whose grandparents were actively involved in their lives werehappier. They had fewer emotional and behavior problems and got along with their peers better. “Close relationships between grandparents and grandchildren buffer the effects of adverse life events,” the researchers said.
Another study from the U.S. showed that grandparents have a positive influence on their grandchildren that is distinct from parent-child relationships. When grandparents stayed connected and involved with their grandkids, the children in both single parent and two-parent families “were kinder to others outside their immediate family and friends — and, in some cases, smarter.”
The bottom line: if you want a happier family, create, refine and retell the story of your family’s positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones. That act alone may increase the odds that your family will thrive for many generations to come.
Great Granddaddy Knew
One of the primary reasons that generational stories are so impactful is that they tell about love and sacrifice. Indeed, leaving a lot of wealth to posterity may be desirable for some, but leaving a legacy of love will go much, much further. I share a portion of the lyrics from a song written by one of my best friends (who’s also an old bandmate):
Some people leave lots of money For their children when they go But no, not my grandfather All we got from him was love.
Late a couple nights ago, my youngest on his tippy toes, overheard his daddy cryin’. I was sayin’ something to the Lord Like “I wish I could give him more” when my baby intervened.
He said: Daddy why are you crying? Stop apologizing All that I’ve ever wanted was to be loved by you. Cause that’s what your daddy gave you And that’s what his daddy gave him Great granddaddy knew, that you would love me too. Great granddaddy knew.
So What Are You Waiting For?
When and how can parents and grandparents share these stories with their children? If you aren’t currently holding annual family reunions, take the bull by the horns and get on it. It only takes one person to start a fire.
Set aside time to do interviews with family members! One author gives the following recommendations:
Well-crafted, open-ended questions can yield fruitful results when you interview family for purposes of family history. Take time to tailor the questions to the person you are interviewing.
When you are ready to conduct an interview, have the questions in front of you to make sure you are getting the information you desire. Conversations about family can go many directions. When possible, record the interview on audio or video.
The article goes on to list 150 possible questions you could ask! I highly recommend you use this reference as a guide.
Don’t wait until they’re sick or gone. You never know what the future holds. Start today with a few drips, and then over time, it can become a flood of family stories for you and your posterity.
Please help us strengthen families by sharing this article with your friends and family! Likewise, to see more of Dr. Tim’s articles (as well as articles by Dr. Rob), please also check out the rest of our blog and our Facebook page.