Create Opportunities to Be a Good Dad
Have you seen the “Rules Kids Won’t Learn in School”? Here’s the main point from about half of them:
Rule #2: The world won’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself.
Rule #4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.
Rule #5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping: they called it opportunity.
Rule #6: If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault, so don’t whine about your mistakes. Learn from them.
Rule #9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself. Do that on your own time.
Rule #10: Television is not real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.
Rule #11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.
If you’re like me, you can’t help uttering a hearty “Amen” when you read these. I know I have sometimes wondered whether my kids would ever “get it” on some of these points.
Before I offer an applicable thought or two for dads, I want to make a few disclaimers:
- First, while there’s a lot of truth in these that our kids need to hear, I don’t love the preachy attitude that’s behind many of them. There’s a lecturing tone that will probably turn kids off instead of enlightening them. We have to show our children respect, even while we’re bringing some truth into their lives.
- Also, I don’t want to sell our children’s teachers and administrators short. (My bride is a second-grade teacher.) They do a difficult job, and I’m sure many of them are passing on these kinds of lessons when they have the opportunity.
Now, my main reason for bringing these up is to remind all dads of their important role as their children’s educators, and I’m talking about education in a broader sense. As we all adjust our routines to the new school year, be sure to get involved in homework and school functions. But also recommit yourself to being a life educator for your children.
Whether they attend private or public school, whether they’re in a special needs class or an advanced program, in kindergarten or college, your children’s education needs to extend much further than the formal classroom environment. You can help them to become “students of life.”
Expand the educating of your children to include lifestyle, character, manners, morality, and virtue, as well as skills they will need for life. Some of that might happen at school, but it isn’t the school’s job. It’s our unique privilege and responsibility as fathers.
And it all starts with being engaged in our children’s lives, so we’re there to comment on everyday events and issues, take advantage of the teachable moments that come along, and teach skills that go way beyond book learning. We can pass on street-smart life lessons and everyday skills they will need, like how to deal with adversity, how to reconcile differences with siblings and friends, how to budget their money, how to change a flat tire, and so on.
So, add some rules of your own. You probably don’t need to come off preachy like some of these rules do, but there are things you’ve learned that you can and should be passing along. Maybe you can call them “Dad’s lessons for life.”
Action Points for dads involved in educating their children:
- Discuss expectations for the new school year. Decide together what’s reasonable to expect with regard to A’s and B’s, but also what they learn and achieve, relationships, clubs and sports, etc.
- Put school events and deadlines on your calendar so you can stay in touch and offer encouragement.
- Especially for non-custodial dads, get to know your child’s teachers, coaches, dance instructors, and so on, and work out a system to help you stay informed and involved.
- Keep your eyes open for jokes, news items, videos, anything your child might find interesting, and regularly text, email, or mail them to your child and ask, “What do you think?” Then follow up and discuss it later.
- Get a copy of a book your child is assigned to read, and read it at the same time.
I never miss an opportunity to remind dads that one great way to be involved in your child’s education is to sign up for our WATCH D.O.G.S. (Dads Of Great Students) program at the school or help bring the program to the school. Find out more.