Dad, Help Your Kids See the Bigger Picture


Good dads help their kids by teaching them to anticipate problems; in effect, by teaching them to see the bigger picture.

One of the roles of a father is to coach his children to see the bigger picture.

I've talked before about how my Pop did this for me and for my brother and sister with one word: “Watch.” He said it all the time, but especially when we heard about someone in our town getting arrested or hurt, or even dying because of a poor decision. “He wasn't watching,” Dad would say.

When we were teenagers he would say, “Watch! Don’t be at some party where you don’t need to be.”

He said it to us over and over, and back then it was irritating, but today I see the benefits. He wanted me to think ahead and anticipate potential problems and dangers before I went somewhere or did something.

More than that, he was shaping my character.

He knew that children live in the here and now, and they don’t often think ahead. It’s hard for them to anticipate what will likely happen a minute into the future—or tomorrow or next week or next year—because of what they are about to do now.

And when you realize that a lot of teenagers and adults have not been trained in this way … well, just look at the headlines. How many tragedies, crimes, or arguments could be avoided if people could learn to slow down and consider the bigger picture before they do or say something?

Dads, we have to coach our kids in this way. Help them see the bigger picture.

I've tried to school up my children this way. They were always good kids, but I would often tell them things like, “Be careful who you hang out with. If you’re running with the wrong crowd, you could get in trouble even if you didn't do anything.”

Or, “If you’re out when it’s dark, don’t act in suspicious ways. Don’t give people any reason to think you’re up to something bad.”

I also told them, “If you expect the worst from people, that’ll change how you treat them and you’ll probably get something harsh in return.”

“Everybody deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, no matter how they look or what their position in life might be.”

Now, I realize that coaching our children with the right information isnt always enough. Sometimes when kids or young adults get into trouble, it’s more a matter of their pride, or arrogance, or a spirit of rebellion. Sometimes they need real-life experiences to learn about humility and respect for others and the like.

That’s part of a dad’s role, too! 

For us more mature men of the world, we've learned to see the bigger picture. Maybe you had a dad like mine or another father figure who drilled it into you. Or maybe you learned those lessons the hard way, by making your own mistakes and going through the hard consequences.

The things I've talked about might not be revolutionary truths for many of us, but they can be for our children. And it’s vital that we prepare them—to help protect them, to set them up for greater success in life, and so that they can become positive agents for change as they go out into the world.

I’d love to hear from you. What big picture sayings and truths did you often hear from your dad or another father figure? And what are the most important things you’re teaching your children? 

Action Points for Dads on the Journey

  • Talk with your kids about a recent news story where someone got into trouble. Ask questions like, “What bad decisions did he make a long time ago that probably led to this?” “Where do you think she probably got off track?”
  • Come up with a positive word or phrase to repeat often to your children that challenges them to have high character, like “Watch,” or, “Remember who you are.”
  • Teach your child values by modeling them. For example, for humility, when you've messed up (as we all do), be willing to go to your child and simply say, “I was wrong. Will you forgive me?”
  • Recognize and honor your child for her accomplishments, but also give her plenty of opportunities to contribute to the family by working and taking on responsibilities.
  • Getting a lot of disrespect from your child? One great strategy is to take away privileges—but be gentle and respectful about it. “This makes me sad. But I do special things for people who treat me with respect. Maybe next time.

Written by Carey Casey

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