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The Finale: 9 Ways That Dads Create Angry and Discouraged Children…and How to Prevent It!–Part 3 of 3

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Camping together is fun. Father and son reading book and smiling while lying in tent together

This past week has been oppressively dark and heavy in our country, and if you’re anything like me, you may have had moments where you felt helpless and powerless, and asked yourself, “What should I do…if anything? What CAN I do to? How can I make a difference?”

Though there are many answers to these questions, there is one thing I know for sure:

Whenever we men love and lead our families well, we make a significant difference. We move the planetary “peace-dial” forward a click. Things change for the better.

Ironically, in the past 2 articles we have been discussing the growing epidemic of angry children in our society, particularly angry boys, and how both the CAUSE and the SOLUTION is linked to “intense father involvement.”

After dissecting 2 biblical passages in Part 1 and Part 2 , here is the bottom line:

  • When dads provoke and aggravate their children consistently over time, it is usually intensely personal, immensely damaging, and results in a child feeling helpless and hopeless. The child’s spirit breaks, and he/she internally begins to shut down.
  • But when a dad “brings up” his child (instead of “pushing down” his child), he releases into the world a strong, mature young adult who can stand on his/her own two feet and add great value to the world.

In this final article I want to leave you with at least 9 nuggets of relationship gold. I want to take you behind the curtain of several young adults’ minds and hearts, and hear some of their perspectives on how we can STOP causing anger and discouragement, and START adding major value to their lives. 

I challenge you to rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 in each of these areas.

#1 LISTEN

Men, this one is HUGE! Maybe the most important of the 9.

Here’s what my 20 year old daughter shared with me.

  • “Stop trying to fix us.”

She said: 

“90% of the time we just need to vent. We just need someone who will listen to us without trying to fix us. Most of the time we feel better by just being able to rant.”

I read about a dad who designated an old, weathered chair in the basement as the “Listening Chair.” Whenever any of his kids needed to talk, they would ask him to sit in the “Listening Chair.” The rule: as long as he was in the chair, he couldn’t talk unless the child asked him a question. His mouth remained closed and silent, allowing the child to “dump the whole dump truck.” It was an epic relationship builder.

Start: Simply listening. When your son or daughter begins to share something with you and you have this indomitable need to interrupt and start correcting or fixing, don’t do it. Just listen. If they want your advice, they’ll ask for it. If you listen, they’ll likely ask for your advice.

How are you doing in this area? Rate yourself: 1-10

#2 RELAX

Why relax? Because of well-meaning over protection…smothering, overly restrictive, rarely trusting them to do things on their own, doing things for them, frequently questioning their judgment. It is often meant to protect and help them, but it backfires. It creates weak, fearful, dependent kids, who become angry and discouraged kids.

Stop: Communicating “I don’t believe in you” and “You are too fragile to be able to bounce back from failure” by hovering and protecting and controlling and “helping.” Back off. You’re kids are amazing! Really!

Start: Believing the best about your kids. Let them try things…let them flail and fail. When they succeed OR bounce back from failure, it breeds confidence. And when you are there to help them up after a fall, to debrief and instruct, it breeds relationship. Both are wins!

How are you doing in this area? Rate yourself: 1-10

#3 EXPLAIN YOUR “NO’S”

From my 18-year old son: 

“It makes me angry when someone says ‘No’ but doesn’t give a reason. Give a reason.”

Stop: Saying “No” without giving a good reason. So often it’s because saying “Yes” will be inconvenient, or we haven’t adequately thought through the issue, so we take the easy road. Not okay. This really tweaks them, and wreaks of laziness and selfishness.

Start: Saying “Yes” whenever possible. And when you are obliged, because of conviction or values, to say “No”, have a clear, logical and loving reason, and be willing and able to share that reason with your child. They might not agree with your reason, but the conversation will likely end up in educating, building trust, and strengthening the relationship.

How are you doing in this area? Rate yourself: 1-10

#4 HONOR THEIR DREAMS

Manfred von Richthofen was hated by the Brits during World War 1. As a fighter pilot for the German Air Force, he was known famously as the “Red Baron”, who pummeled the morale of the English by shooting down 80 of their planes.

Kids love to dream. They have lots of them. This is one of their most endearing traits. Thinking big…imagining impossible things…believing the unbelievable. And they love to share them with us. And we shoot them down…because they aren’t realistic…or practical…or what we had in mind for them. And their morale drops. And they lose a little of their shine.

Stop: Dad, don’t be the Red Baron with your kid’s dreams. Stop telling them what they “can’t do”, “can’t be”, “shouldn’t want”, or “won’t have.” Stop shooting down their dreams.

Start: Honoring and cultivating their dreams…even if you’re not passionate about them and think they are ridiculous. Cheer them on! Be their greatest fan. They just might shock you. It’s happened before…many, many times before.

How are you doing in this area? Rate yourself: 1-10

#5 STAND UP

Braveheart

“Men don’t follow titles; they follow courage.” That statement, spoken by William Wallace to the wishy-washy nobleman, Robert the Bruce in Braveheart, rocked my world. I walked out of that theater in Portland, Oregon, stood in the parking lot, and howled at the moon. I was so inspired that I felt like I was going to explode.

Start: Brother, your kids want a dad who has courage, who stands for something, who inspires them and makes them want to be better, stronger, braver.

They want a dad who is gentle, but won’t be walked over and disrespected. They want a dad who they know would give his life for them, and who does so in a dozen ways every day.

Stop: Being a jellyfish dad–glued to a screen, standing for nothing, believing in nothing, caring deeply about nothing except himself…discouraged, depressed, whiny, needy.

Jellyfish dads create angry and discouraged kids. Don’t be that dad. Rise up, brother.

How are you doing in this area? Rate yourself: 1-10

#6 WALK YOUR TALK

My dad was so consistent that you could set your watch by him. There was not a day that I wondered if he would come home, not a situation where I wondered if he was telling the truth, not a moment when I suspected him of any sort of wrong-doing. He was, and still is, a man of absolute integrity. Commitment made, commitment kept. Word given, word kept. I was so blessed to have him as an example for me. He walked his talk.

Stop: “Do as I say, not as I do.” This kind of dad creates angry children…and, believe me, our kids are watching us…constantly. They are looking to us as examples of what integrity looks like.

Start: Being a man of your word. My brother, let’s show our kids what integrity looks like.

How are you doing in this area? Rate yourself: 1-10

#7 ENCOURAGE

“The power of life and death are in the tongue.” So says King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived. Words create. They have power to build up and to tear down.

In 1986, I was the Oregon State Wrestling Champion at 191 lbs., and I believe I won that tournament because of words spoken to me the day before the tourney kicked-off. I had had a great season, but nonetheless still lacked the confidence to believe that I could win the whole shooting match. At a rest stop in Canby, Oregon, moments before loading up and driving the last few miles to the venue at University of Portland, my coach, Bob Bergen looked at me and spoke powerful, life-giving words. He said: “Big Russ, I’ve been looking at the bracket, and I really believe you can win this thing.” That belief exploded in me. Three days later I stood at the top of the podium with a gold medal around my neck. “The power of life and death are in the tongue.”

Stop: Being an assassin with your words. Dad, verbal abuse is like injecting poison directly into your kids’ veins. It is so damaging. Angry, abusive words create angry, abusive kids.

Start: Using words to breathe life into your kids. Dad, encouragement is virtually a superpower! What you can speak into your kids is mind-boggling. You literally have the power to “breath courage into” your kids. Use your tongue to create something great!

How are you doing in this area? Rate yourself: 1-10

#8 GIVE THEM TOOLS

Colleges are now offering “Adulting” and “Life Skills” classes for incoming freshmen. These kids have been pressured to take all the Advanced Placement courses in high school so that they can get into a great college, but they don’t know the first thing about survival in the real world once they get there. 

how-to-organize-tool-belt

They are book smart, but are fearful, frustrated, anxious, depressed, and eventually even suicidal. College mental health counselors are overwhelmed.

Stop: Neglecting to equip your kids for life. This creates anger and resentment in our kids.

Start: Putting together a checklist of skills–physical, relational, emotional, mental & spiritual–that your kids need to leave the house with. And then create a schedule to teach them. Dad, get those kids tuned up and ready to face life in a very tough world. They’ll thank you profusely for it!

How are you doing in this area? Rate yourself: 1-10

#9 TALK ABOUT GOD & THE NEXT LIFE

My uncle Harold was handsome, successful, wealthy, fun, athletic, a black belt in Judo, smooth, and cool. Normally, a lean, tanned and muscular 200 lbs, he died of colon cancer, an 88 lb. shadow of himself. Before he died, he recounted all that he had done for his only son, Jimmy, recalling how he had taught him to fish, hunt, ride motorcycles, make money, get the girl. But as he concluded his comments, he spoke with deep regret: “But I have failed as a father, for I failed to teach him about God. I failed to prepare him for the next life.”

Stop: Dad, I’m going to make this short and sweet, but I ask you to at least ponder on it for a moment: You can prepare your children to absolutely “kill it” in this life, but if you don’t prepare them for the next, it will all be in vain. The angriest and most discouraged children will be the ones who thought they were well-prepared, only to realize that they weren’t. The most important part of their existence had been neglected by dad.

Start: Dad, it is your responsibility to get your kids ready for eternity.

For many men this is totally out of their wheel house. I know this. I would be happy to help. This is what I do.

How are you doing in this area? Rate yourself: 1-10

Final words: Dad, your presence and influence is immense in the lives of your kids. “Positive, intense father involvement” is vital to building strong, healthy young adults. I truly hope these 9 action steps have been a help and an encouragement as you work hard to be the great dad your kids need and want. My heart is with you. My prayers are for you. You can do this.

And if you are struggling with any of this, know that you are not alone. Many of us are right there with you. I would encourage you to read through my free resource “6 Actions of Men Who Are Winning At Home.” I think you will find it helpful. I stand ready to support you in anyway that I can.

Which of these 9 actions spoke to you the loudest? Feel free to share your thoughts on this in the comments below. I learn as much from you as you do from me.

Are you struggling at home?

I would love to talk with you about building a Strong Family!

Is parenting harder than you ever thought it would be? Have you and your wife drifted apart and lost that “spark” that you once had? Are you battling with toddlers or teen-agers that are about to push you over the edge? Do you feel tired and overwhelmed when you think about going home after work? If any of these describe you, I would love to spend an hour with you going through my FREE Home Leadership Audit. You will leave this call more focused and inspired…with practical action steps to see immediate improvement with your wife and kids! I can’t wait to talk with you!

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