Editor's note: FoxNews.com is pleased to present an excerpt from "All Pro Dad: Seven Essentials to Be a Hero to Your Kids" the new book by Mark Merrill and Tony Dungy . (Thomas Nelson 2012)
KNOW YOUR MIND-SET
What’s My Purpose?
For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.
They call it the “Bogeyman.” It’s a mind-set that many professional golfers have that causes them to putt more accurately from all distances when put¬ting for par than when putting for birdie. Why? Because the players fear the bogey more than they desire the birdie. In a 2009 Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania study, the researchers who came to these conclusions estimated that this determination for avoiding a negative, a bogey, more than gaining an equal positive, a birdie—known in economics as loss aversion—costs the average pro golfer about one stroke per 72-hole tournament, and the top twenty golfers about $1.2 million in prize money a year.
How golfers think, their mind-set, affects how they play. It’s no different with dads. Many fathers, due to influences we’ll explore, just focus on making par as a parent, rather than going for the win. A fear-of-failure mind-set often causes fathers and kids to lose precious opportunities for greatness in their relationships.
Mind-set is simply your way of thinking, your mental atti¬tude, or your state of mind about something. Your mind-set as a man and a father is greatly influenced by your past. You are, to a certain extent, a product of your past. By past, I mean the time from your conception until the last word you just read on this page. Your upbringing, family, friends, books, our culture, and the media are just a few of the things that shape your current mind-set. Aside from your genetic disposition, two of the greatest past influences on your mind-set as a father are your father and the culture. So let’s take a brief look at those influences that sometimes drive us to mediocrity in our thinking as fathers and then focus the rest of our time in this chapter on a new course of thinking that may just give you the winning edge you’ve been searching for with your kids.
INTERNAL INFLUENCES—YOUR FATHER
While we don’t want to dwell on it, it’s important to understand that your father, good or bad or in between, greatly influenced your life. Your answers to questions like these impact how you think about fathering: Did you grow up with your father involved in your life? Was he physically present? Was he emotionally present? Did he spend much time with you? What were his beliefs? Were he and your mother married? How did he treat your mom? Did he drink too much or abuse drugs? Did he discipline you? Did he do it in anger? Did he affirm you?
Most men are not neutral about their fathers. If they had a loving example in their dad growing up, they are more likely to want to be and parent just like him. If their father was not there at all, or emotionally absent, some guys, unfortunately, will just follow in his footsteps. Others will want to be the exact opposite, sometimes out of bitterness, anger, or even hatred. But a man should want to be an All Pro Dad not to spite his father, but out of a compelling desire to love and lead his children.
EXTERNAL INFLUENCES—THE CULTURE
Former NFL player Joe Ehrmann, in the book Season of Life, says you and I have been influenced and taught by our culture that it takes three things to be a man: athletic ability, sexual conquest, and economic success. When those three things are checked off the list of life, then you are supposedly dubbed a man. But you and I know that if those are the marks of a man, then we will be left with a sense of despair, emptiness, and unhappiness once we get there. Ehrmann says that definition our culture teaches us is false masculinity.
Real masculinity, he says, is based on two things—relationships and having a cause beyond yourself. First, Ehrmann says masculinity “ought to be defined in terms of relationships” and “taught in terms of the capacity to love and to be loved.” Second, every man should have some kind of cause or purpose in life that’s bigger than his own wants and desires. We’ll talk more about this in our chapter about your Message.
There is also a lot of false thinking in our culture about the role of a father. The media definitely has shaped the way we think as fathers. Out of all the programs on TV right now, how many depict a strong man loving and leading his family? There are a few shining fatherhood lights from the past, like The Cosby Show, but for the most part, dads are portrayed in Homer Simpson–like buffoonery.
And this is not just limited to television. Musicians often sing about things like one-night stands with women they meet in bars, hoping their wives don’t find out. Many sing or rap about men degrading women. And many Internet advertisers do their best to entice you away from being a “one woman” kind of man and to find “personal freedom” away from your family.
In addition to these media messages that downplay the importance of fatherhood and attempt to lure us from our most important job, we’ve been taught by our culture that a father is relegated to being a provider, protector, and punisher. And while it’s true that a father should meet the financial needs of his family, protect them, and appropriately discipline his children, if that’s all he does, he will have failed as a father.
YOUR MIND-SET—A NEW WAY OF THINKING
I can’t erase your way of thinking about fatherhood. And I don’t want to. My guess is that you’ve learned many things over the years that have proven to be beneficial in your jour¬ney as a dad. Instead, I’d like to shift your thinking. I don’t know your story and your mind-set, so I don’t know what kind of shift you’ll need to make. For you, it may mean a slight shift. Or it might be a 180-degree about-face in your thinking as a father—a brand-new way of thinking. While there may be some truth to us being products of our past, it does not mean that we are prisoners of our past. The old chains can be broken. But you have to know that there’s not a single key to doing so. It will take a chisel and some time to break free from the old mind-set. Your past does not have to prescribe what you will be in the future.
So what’s this new way of thinking? It’s thinking of your role as a father as being your job—your most important job— because it is. That should be your mind-set.
You also have to understand your ultimate purpose and responsibilities in your job. What would you think of an executive if he didn’t know the mission of his company? What about a football coach who didn’t know the purpose for his team? What would be your reaction if a military general said he didn’t understand his objectives on the battlefield? If a manager was never given a job description, do you think he’d understand the responsibilities of his position? You’d expect all of them to fail, and in some cases, maybe even be fired, right?
So if you agree that being a dad is your most important job and that you must know your purpose in that job, you need to be able to answer the following questions: What is my mission as a father? What are my goals and objectives as a dad? What daily or weekly tasks will I undertake to accomplish those goals? What is my job description as a father?
Are you going to be fired if you don’t have all the answers? Of course not. But without an understanding of each of these things, you won’t be the kind of dad you’d like to be to your children.
Before we address all of these items you need for your job, I’d like to make clear what your job is not. Your job is not that of a general contractor. A general contractor over¬sees a bunch of subcontractors who usually have skills in specific trades.
Some parents think that it’s the schoolteacher’s job to teach their kids everything. While it’s true that a teacher instructs our children in certain subjects, his or her job does not include teaching our children manners. The Little League coach should help instruct a child in skills of throw¬ing, catching, and hitting, but a father should support that instruction by playing catch in the backyard with his child. Hiring a running, throwing, or hitting coach can help, but it is not the only answer, especially for younger children. A youth pastor is to help the youth in a church with les¬sons and fellowship, not to be the lone source of your child’s learning about faith and virtues of life. Your child’s friends should be just that. Friends should not have to instruct your child about sex education, what movies to watch, and what music to listen to. You—not your neighbor, coach, friend, or youth pastor—have direct and ultimate authority over your child. Your job is that of a CEO in your home. You’re the team leader.
Now that we have the mind-set that being a dad is our most important job, let’s spend the rest of this chapter learning about our mission, goals, job description, and management responsibilities as a father.
When I think of the most mission-minded people I know of, I think of the Navy SEALs who have chosen that very lifestyle to protect their country. They are highly dedicated men who are in top physical and mental shape and are elite professionals in their field because they are sold out to their mission. The SEALs were created in 1962. The SEAL acronym stands for “Sea, Air, and Land,” the elements in which they operate. No matter what the conditions, they will not be deterred.
To enlist as a Navy SEAL, one must first go through the rigorous and grueling SEAL training. Only 25 percent of those who enter into the thirty-month SEAL training become Navy SEALs. And one of the important lessons SEALs learn early on is the importance of mission and teamwork.
But what makes these men an elite force? Howard Wasdin, former navy sniper and SEAL Team 6 member, says it is this: “Mental toughness. I can take just about anyone and make them physically strong. A lot of people showed up at [training] who were much more physically capable than I was, football players and athletes in phenomenal shape, and they were the first to quit. Mental toughness is a must to make it through training, much less through combat.”
SEAL Team 6 is made up of the top men in the SEAL pro¬gram. These men from Virginia Beach, Virginia, seem like ordinary men on the surface, but they are heroes underneath. On May 1, 2011, in Abbottabad, Pakistan, SEAL Team 6 killed Osama bin Laden. Team 6 had a clear mission and began pre¬paring for that mission well in advance in an exact replica of the two-story structure they were to invade. Leading up to the mission in Pakistan, Team 6 considered as many contingencies as possible.
On April 30, 2011, the team experienced a delay in the operation due to bad weather. While waiting, Team 6 reviewed the details of the plan once again. Team 6 would not be deterred from its mission. After the weather cleared, Team 6 boarded two helicopters and traveled to Abbottabad. The journey was clear, but upon landing, one of the Black Hawk helicopters clipped the compound wall, causing it to crash inside the compound. Thus the team was required to alter its plan to get to bin Laden. The SEALs from the second Black Hawk got onto the building by “fast-roping” from the chopper. Upon entering the compound, Team 6 encountered an armed Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti. He, his wife, his brother, and bin Laden’s son were taken down during the mission. Osama bin Laden was found on the top floor in his room with his youngest wife. He gave no indication of surrender. As a result, he was shot with two rounds and killed. After only thirty-eight minutes, the mission was accomplished.
Only a small group of military advisors and officials knew about this covert mission. And no one outside of SEAL Team 6, not even the president of the United States, knows who pulled the trigger. We just know that the mission was accomplished.
For a Navy SEAL, the mission is all-important. Other branches of the U.S. military boast the same thing. The United States Department of the Army Leadership Handbook out¬lines the Soldier’s Creed, which in part states: “I will always place the mission first.”
For a father, the mission is all-important and should always come first. Like a SEAL, the key to accomplishing that mission is mental toughness. It’s a toughness that says, “No matter who is firing at me, even if it’s friendly fire from my wife or children, I will not be deterred. I will take a bullet and even die for my family. My mission is all-important.” And like a SEAL, much of the fatherhood mission is stealth.
No one will know the blood, sweat, and tears that you’ve poured into your mission, sometimes not even your wife. And there will be no parades for your heroic efforts and no Purple Hearts awarded to you. But when all is said and done, you’ll have the reward of knowing you gave it everything you’ve got and the reward of watching your children pass your love and leadership on to the next generation. And, hopefully, your greatest reward will be the words you hear from God in heaven: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
Pastor Tim Kizziar said, “Our greatest fear . . . should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.” A father’s mission matters. So, what is our father¬hood mission? It’s clear and straightforward: love and lead our family.
At Family First, when I’m working on developing our strategic plan with our team, I do my best to ensure that all of the goals stated in the plan will move us toward accomplishing the mission. The goals we establish as fathers should also help us achieve our mission of loving and leading our families.
In their best-selling book 'The Love Dare', authors Stephen and Alex Kendrick state that love is built on two pillars, patience and kindness. They suggest that other characteristics of love are extensions of these two attributes. Being patient and kind fathers are goals that many of us struggle with, but they are goals we need to reach for that will help us further our mission. Let’s start with something I really struggle with—patience.
We live in a world of instant gratification. We want it all, and we want it now. We’re a nation of express lanes, fast food, high-speed Internet, and smartphones. Sure, there are benefits, but it’s a problem when we impose those same expectations on people. We demand instant acceptance from our peers, instant response from our employees, and instant help from our spouse, regardless of the circumstances. And when we don’t get the immediate response we expect, we react negatively.
My kids have taught me a lot of things, and I can tell you, it’s a very humbling experience. One thing that they’ve shown me over and over again is my lack of patience. For example, they’ve pointed out my impatience with the grocery store cashier during checkout, with the waitress at a restaurant, and while hurriedly driving them to school. You get the picture. It’s kind of embarrassing to admit, but I was even impatient while in traffic today when my son Marky was with me. When my children point out my impatience or other faults, I can respond by being defensive and telling them to be quiet. Or, I can listen and thank them for pointing it out to me and ask them to keep reminding me. I’m pleased to report, I’ve been patiently doing the latter.
My wife also knows my struggle with patience. It was October 11, 2010. Susan was sitting across the table from me in the conference room at a Family First leadership team meeting. I received a text from Susan during the meeting at
10:47 a.m. I know the exact time because I saved the text as a constant reminder. It simply said, “Patience, kindness.” She saw how I was being short and cutting people off in the meet¬ing and gave me a gentle nudge in the right direction.
As I interviewed the business, sports, and other leaders I’ve quoted in this book, I determined that I’m not alone in my challenge to be patient. When I asked each of them, “What is your greatest weakness?” the vast majority answered, “Impatience.” Norm Miller, founder and chairman of Interstate Batteries, may have provided at least one reason for this lack of patience: “It’s hard when you are a driven person to be patient when someone is not thinking along the same line as you are or the same speed you are.”
Tony Dungy and I were on a deep-sea fishing trip and brought several other friends with us. We had been fishing for quite some time in the same hole and hadn’t caught any¬thing. Several of us type-A personalities started to get antsy and suggested we pull up anchor and find another spot to catch fish. Tony calmly said only three words: “Patience, men, patience.” Well, shortly after that, we started hauling in some big grouper. Patience often reaps rewards. In this case, it certainly did.
Patience is a choice. When you’re patient, you choose to hold your tongue instead of releasing its venom. You choose to have a long fuse instead of a quick temper. Patience is choosing to control your emotions rather than letting your emotions control you.
Patience has to do with your attitude toward others.
Kindness, the other pillar of love, has to do with your actions toward others. Authors Stephen and Alex Kendrick further say, “Kindness is love in action. If patience is how love reacts in order to minimize a negative circumstance, kindness is how love acts to maximize a positive circumstance. Patience avoids a problem; kindness creates a blessing. One is preventive, the other proactive.”
Author Leo Buscaglia once wrote about a contest he was asked to judge. The purpose of the contest was to identify the most caring child. The winner was a four-year-old boy whose next-door neighbor was an elderly man who had recently lost his wife. One day, the little boy saw the man crying. So, he walked into the old gentleman’s yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there. When his mother asked him what he said to the man, the little boy said, “Nothing, I just helped him cry.”
That little boy showed kindness to the old man. And kindness is one of the great pillars of love. Author Rick Warren says there are four things we need to do to show kindness to others:
1 See needs of people all around us—physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. That means you and I need to stop and look. Be observant. The little boy saw the need.
2 Sympathize with people’s pain and struggles. We’ve got to identify and empathize with them, feel what they feel. The little boy sympathized with the old man.
3 Seize the moment. Do what we can, when we can. Don’t wait. It’s okay that you’re interrupted. It’s okay that it’s inconvenient. The little boy promptly went to help the old man. He seized the moment.
4 Spend lavishly to meet the need. We should give our time, talent, and treasure to others without expecting anything in return. The little boy spent time just sit¬ting there in the old man’s lap and helping him cry.
The little boy loved that man. He saw, he sympathized, he seized, he spent.
It was halftime at the Plant High School junior varsity football game. Plant was leading by a wide margin. My son had been playing strong safety the entire first half. I was fired up about seeing him come out the second half and, hopefully, make some big plays. As the whistle blew and the ball was kicked off to start the remainder of the game, I couldn’t find my son. “Where is he?” I asked my wife. She shrugged her shoulders. Then we looked down on the sidelines and spotted him out of his uniform.
After the game our son, a man of few words, did not give much of an explanation. But another parent had heard what happened. There weren’t enough uniforms for all the boys, so Marky had given up his uniform to another boy who hadn’t played all season so that he could play. Admittedly, my son probably realized he wouldn’t have played much, if at all, in the second half because of the lopsided score, so that made doing what he did a bit easier. Nevertheless, Susan and I were so grateful for what he did. He saw, sympathized, seized, and spent.
An Iowa truck driver named Mark Lemke wrote to Sports Illustrated several years ago. He nominated his nineteen-year¬old son, Cory, for an award the magazine gives to exceptional athletes. Lemke said Cory had set all kinds of golf records and he wanted to honor his son who had just died the week before in a tragic motorcycle accident. Sports Illustrated then wrote about Lemke’s story.
Hundreds of miles away in Indianapolis, Indiana, Tony Dungy, then head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, read the article, was moved by it, and called Lemke to encourage him and see how he could help. You see, Dungy had lost his son James about six months earlier. After the call, Dungy continued to keep in touch with Lemke, brought him as his guest to the Super Bowl, and even spent time visiting with him the day before the big game. Tony Dungy saw the need, sympathized with him, seized the moment, and spent his time to shower kindness upon Mark Lemke. And that’s just one stranger whom Tony Dungy has helped. I know of many others. This extremely busy man gives of himself, all with no pay and no expectation of reward or anything else in return. He loved that man with his kindness.
Kindness is contagious. You may have seen the Liberty Mutual television commercials that show how one act of kindness begets another act of kindness, which then begets another and another. One of the spots shows a man picking up a doll for a little girl in a stroller. Later, the mother of the little girl is in a coffee shop and sees a man’s coffee on the edge of the table. She pushes it in so it doesn’t spill. Another man sees her act and helps a guy who falls on the sidewalk in the rain, and so on.
If it’s true, as Stephen and Alex Kendrick suggest, that love is built on patience and kindness, then the foundation upon which those pillars stand is selflessness. As we’ve seen in this chapter, patience and kindness can only stand if we are serving and giving to others, looking not just to our own interests but also to the interests of other people. Those pillars collapse when we’re only thinking about what we’ve got to say, what we’ve got to do, and where we’ve got to be.
YOUR JOB DESCRIPTION—CEO OF THE FAMILY
As you pursue this new mind-set as a father—that being a dad is your most important job—you’ll want to have a job description that outlines your duties as you serve in the distinguished role as CEO of your family. Just remember, your job description doesn’t cover everything you do; it simply provides an overview of your responsibilities.
Here are ten essentials of your position.
1. Love Your Wife
Actively loving your wife will radically strengthen your marriage and will also be incredibly beneficial to your children. The number one source of security for kids is when they know that their dad loves their mother and is steadfastly committed to her for life. If you are not married to your child’s mother, you can still exhibit patience and kindness in your relationship with her no matter what she says or does.
2. Spend Time with Your Kids
How you spend your time is a reflection of what’s important to you. If you value your kids, you’ll want to be with them. Build monuments with and for your children that will create memories that will last a lifetime. We’ll talk more about how you can build those memorable monuments in our chapter on knowing your Method.
3. Be a Role Model
It’s impossible to underestimate the importance of a father modeling the type of behavior he desires to see in his children. Role models don’t just talk the talk; they walk the walk of an honorable man. A great place to start is consistency. We’ll talk more about this in our chapter on being a role model. Want to be your children’s hero? Then be what you want your children to be.
4. Understand and Enjoy Your Children
Like you, every child has unique DNA, unique fingerprints, and a unique personality. We discussed that in the chapter on Makeup. In order to be the best father you can be, you’ll need to understand your children as individuals. You’ll also want to know what each of your children needs from you the most. One may need encouragement. Another may respond better with affection. Remember, too, how quickly your kids grow up, and just enjoy being with them.
5. Show Affection
Children long for a secure place in this fast-paced world. They find it most often in the warm embrace of a parent. As children grow, so does their need for acceptance and a sense of belonging. Such a need is met when a father offers a hug, or a kind word, and expresses his appreciation and love for his children. But showing affection doesn’t stop there. Make sure to say, “I love you” every day.
6. Secure Your Family’s Financial Future
Financial stress is one of the leading factors that tears families apart. In order to put your family in a position of strength, you have to shore up your finances. First, hate debt. Do everything you can to get out of it as quickly as possible. Then, make sure you establish a budget that not only trims expenses but also allows you to save and share with those in need. Have proper insurance. Finally, make sure you live and teach these frugal principles to your children as well.
7. Eat Together as a Family
Most children today don’t know the meaning of a family dinnertime. Yet the communication and unity built during this time is integral to a healthy family life. Sharing a meal together—breakfast, lunch, or dinner—provides structure to an often hectic schedule. It also gives kids the opportunity to talk about their lives. This is a time for fathers to listen as well as give advice and encouragement.
8. Discipline with a Gentle Spirit
True discipline is a function of a father’s love for his children, which is why it should never be hard-nosed or harsh. The role of discipline is not to intimidate or tear down but to mold and correct. Correcting your kids should be done in private, and you and your wife should be unified in how you discipline. Strive to be consistent.
9. Pray and Worship Together
Families that have a healthy prayer life and take worship¬ping God seriously help their children understand that there is an ultimate authority in their lives—an authority who provides moral absolutes for them to live by. Every child needs to know that there is right and wrong, good and evil. Living under the authority of God will give them that knowledge.
10. Realize You’re a Father Forever
Someday every father must let go. As he allows his children their freedom to direct their own lives, a good father realizes that he doesn’t abandon them at a dorm room, a wedding altar, or the door of their first job. He continues to encourage, coach, and convey his wisdom to his children forever.
4 CS FOR THE CEO
Most CEOs have certain management responsibilities. As CEO of your family, part of your responsibility is to manage your children well. A father has to have a manager mind-set. Let me illustrate. How do you handle management at the office? You probably meet regularly with those who report directly to you and spend time training them. Your goal is to train them so well that they’ll be able to take your job one day and hopefully do an even better job than you did. That’s what we should want as fathers too.
Here are four Cs to help you in your management responsibilities of your children.
“Communication has been the number one thing in our family,” Grammy Award–winning Michael W. Smith said to me with great confidence. “Just being able to always communicate what you’re feeling is so important. I think a lot of times families get in trouble when they stop communicating. Somebody gets his or her feelings hurt and then somebody gets defensive and then you just stop talking. You start doing that for long periods of time and the gap gets wider and it’s just always harder to recover. It’s always about communicating and keeping the lines of communication open with Deb and me in our marriage, and with our kids.”
Part of managing your home is communicating well with those you have authority over. Connecting with younger children is a bit easier. Staying connected with your teens is more challenging. Here are four things you can do to effectively keep the lines of communication open with your teen.
1. Be calm. When you approach a teen while filled with a lot of emotion, such as anger, anxiety, or enthusiasm, the teen may feel pressured to comply. That approach doesn’t work because teens crave independence. They see themselves as older and capable, and as a result they want to make more decisions for themselves. In¬stead, try approaching your teen calmly and be open to discussion. This will take the pressure off the teen and keep the conversation from escalating into opposition.
2. Be confident. Teens can be very persuasive, and as their persuasive ability increases, you may lose your confidence and begin to doubt yourself. If your teen is persuasive and persistent, the confidence goes even more quickly as the teen wears you out. Stand firm and know when you are weakening. Enlist your spouse to pinch-hit for you and interface with your teen for a while. Another option is to have a friend be a sounding board for your doubts and encourage you.
3. Be clear. Make your request clear and have the details of the request firmly in your mind, or better yet, writ¬ten out on paper. All children know how best to win over, or distract, their parents. Teens are children with a lot of years of experience. Do not let them distract you with other issues; stick to the clear request you have outlined.
4. Be concise. Long, complicated speeches are exasperating to teens, especially after listening to seven teachers for seven hours every school day. Present your request calmly, confidently, clearly, and concisely. Do not make it a big deal. Listen to your teen’s response, acknowledge what they say, and then either modify your request or restate it again. If they agree to your request, acknowledge it positively. If they do not agree, do not engage; simply tell them you will discuss it with them again in a few days. Then walk away and let them think about it.
Any good CEO and communicator also monitors those who report to him. The same applies to our children. Here’s a GPS device to help you keep track of your children. G stands for Geography. Know where your kids are going. P stands for People. Know who they will be spending time with. S stands for Specifics. Know what they will be doing and exactly when they’re expected to be home. Know your child’s GPS at all times. Just the other night, my son asked, “Dad, can I go to John’s house?” My response was typical. Since I already knew where he was going, I proceeded to ask, “Who else is going to be there?”
Marky responded, “Robert and Paul.”
“And what are you going to do?” I asked further.
“Okay, please be home by 11:30.”
And then I closed with my signature phrase, “Have fun, honor God.”
Perhaps you’ve heard it said, “People don’t do what we expect, they do what we inspect.” That applies to our children as well. Another part of monitoring and communicating with our kids is to inspect things. We need to inspect their home¬work and report card to ensure they’re getting their job done. We need to monitor what they’re doing on the Internet and smartphone as well.
A typical day for parents can be hectic:
6:00 a.m.—get the kids up
6:15 a.m.—try again to get the kids up
6:30 a.m.—breakfast, get the kids dressed
7:00 a.m.—take the kids to school
7:05 a.m.—go back home to get the homework they forgot, back to school, off to work
3:00 p.m.—pick kids up from school
Then ballet, baseball, football, piano, and help with home¬work. Cook dinner, do homework again, then to bed.
So many of us have an “airlines approach” to scheduling. Airlines routinely overbook their flights and often end up having to bump some stressed-out passengers to different flights. We can become a little stressed ourselves when we leave no margin and overbook our children’s schedules and our own schedules. An overly booked schedule can be the culprit that causes pressure in a family. Our busy schedules plus our children’s busy schedules equals missed opportunities to enjoy life and one another. To release some of that pressure, an effective CEO says no to more things outside the home and yes to more things inside. When our children were younger, Susan and I found that youth sports were a good thing, but even too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. So our general rule was one sport at a time. Just remember, your family’s calendar and activities reflect what’s important to you.
And managing the family calendar is not just mom’s responsibility. You have many important work appointments on your Outlook calendar, so why not include appointments for your kids? Parent/teacher conferences, sports, extracurricular activities, exams, doctor appointments, trips, work days in the yard, and nights out with your son or daughter should all be part of your calendar as a father. I’ll talk more about this in the chapter on knowing your Method.
Are you tired of getting no response when you ask your kids to take out the garbage, do the dishes, or pick up their room? Well, as you manage your home well, you’ll want to have a chore chart and be sure to assign age-appropriate chores to your children. When our kids were growing up, we made a chore chart. In the vertical column on the left, we listed all their chores, including things like taking out the garbage, washing the dishes, yard work, making their beds, and cleaning their rooms. On the horizontal row at the top, we wrote each of their names. As they completed a chore, they checked it off and then we reviewed it with them at the end of the week and awarded them with an allowance.
By doing chores, our children learn the value of hard work and its rewards. As they do chores, we also have opportunities to teach them important life lessons. I remember doing some weeding in our yard with my children when they were young. When I noticed them getting bored, I tossed out a question: “What would happen if we didn’t weed?”
“Well,” said my oldest daughter, “all the good stuff would die.”
I went on to explain how that’s true in our lives as well, and had them tell me some of the “weeds” we all need to watch for. They came up with things like calling people names, lying, and being mean to other children. We talked about how weeds choke out our joy and hurt our relationships.
I wrapped up this mini life lesson by sharing this truth: “Just like in the yard, if we don’t get rid of the weeds in our lives, the weeds will get rid of the good stuff.”
Financial issues are among the most prevalent reasons for marriage failure. According to a 2009 Utah State University study, one of the best indicators of marital discord is what it terms “financial disagreements.” Couples who “reported disagreeing about finances once a week were over 30 percent more likely to divorce over time than couples who reported disagreeing about finances a few times per month.” People tend to be emotional and reactive, rather than strategic, when discussing finances. But it’s imperative to have a plan to avoid pressure. Financial expert Dave Ramsey suggests three initial goals in your plan: establish a $1,000 emergency fund, eliminate debt, and have three to six months of savings set aside so that when the pressure starts to get too high, you have an avenue for release.
As you start to get a better grip on your finances, show your children how to be good stewards of money as well. Teach your children how to save, spend, and share wisely. In our home, as our children were growing up, each of our children had three mason jars for the allowance or “commission” they earned for doing their chores. They received a fifty-cent increase each year on their birthday. So a ten-year-old would receive five dollars per week. Two dollars would be placed in the spend jar. Two dollars and fifty cents was deposited into the save jar, and fifty cents in the share jar, to be given to church.
Love your children well as the CEO of your family. Train your children well by focusing on the 4 Cs for the CEO— Communication, Calendar, Chores, and Checkbook.
As a father, you must have the mind-set that being a dad is your most important job. And like a Navy SEAL, your mission comes first. You must execute your fatherhood mission of loving and leading your children with unwavering resolve and sheer determination. Your goals, your job description, your responsibilities as CEO of your family should exist only to enable you to accomplish that ultimate mission as a dad.
HUDDLE UP AND ASK YOUR CHILD:
1. What is one thing you’re really afraid of? Why?
2. On a scale of 1 to 10, how patient am I with you?
3. What is one thing I can do to be more patient?
4. On a scale of 1 to 10, how kind am I to our family?
5. Do you remember a time when I wasn’t kind? When? How did I handle it?
Text copyright © 2012 by Mark Merrill.